Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 402

The Cullen Campaign By belladonna1472

http://www.fanfiction.net/s/5853742/1/

Chapter 1: Leaving the District EPOV The problem with having a sister who's psychic is that everyone in the family expects you to blindly follow her advice, even when it makes no sense. So, when Alice predicted late last night that a blizzard in Massachusetts was going to delay my flight into Boston this afternoon, my family demanded that I take the train instead. Arguing with my family on any matter is usually a lost cause since they're all seasoned debaters; I was outnumbered to say the least. Now here I am at Union Station in Washington D.C., about to purchase a two-hundred dollar Amtrak ticket to Boston, something I would rather not do. "The weather forecast said nothing about bad weather conditions in New England," I complain to my brother-in-law and best friend, Jacob. Yes, my sister sent her husband to make sure I actually buy a ticket and get on the train. "Dude, do you really want to bet against Alice?" he replies, not looking up from his BlackBerry. "She says Logan International will be chaos later today. You'll miss your meeting otherwise, and you've already rescheduled it twice. Let me remind you that Esme wants you to ditch the part-time teaching. She thinks it's a waste of time." My meeting tonight is for a reporting gig with an up-and-coming political blog based in Boston. It's pretty obvious that they were originally only interested in me due to my family connections, but I think they've seen some merit in my freelance writing. After taking a break from studying to go traveling, I decided to

enroll in a Master's degree program in International Relations at the University of San Francisco. As a particularly good student, the faculty asked me to teach undergraduates on the side. My parents, especially my mother, would prefer it if I toed the family line and worked for the party, as in the Democratic Party, but I'm going to do what I want. I shake my head at Jacob. "The Cullen women have you wrapped around their little fingers. You're supposed to be on my side," I say jokingly, ribbing him. "What happened to bros before hos?" He looks up from his BlackBerry, an amused expression on his face. "Did you just call your sister and mother 'hos'? That's a sound-bite waiting to happen. I mean, Alice is " "Please do not talk about your sex life with my sister," I warn. "Okay, fair enough, but you can't call your mother a ho." He smirks. "We're not going to be able pass this bill when Congress gets back from recess if the Speaker of the House is being painted as a whore by her own son." "It's seven-thirty in the fucking morning, the day after Christmas," I point out. "Be my best friend, not my brother-in-law and not my mother's deputy press secretary." "Those roles are not mutually exclusive," he says, defending himself. "Another word about tax reform and I'm going to kick your ass." "You sound more and more like a closet Republican every day, Edward." "Bite me." "I will, when you come out of the closet." I snort. I think about putting him in a headlock, but then I remember that we're too old for that shit. The ticket line moves forward. The line is short because Capitol Hill is quiet at this time of year; everyone is still back home for the holiday period. Except my family, who insisted on staying in D.C. this year instead of congregating back in San Francisco. I was the one who had to trek out here. According to my family, it was the least I could do, since I don't actively help out in my mother's congressional office, either here or back in San Fran. Jacob nudges me. "Charles Swan's daughter is in the line," he whispers. "What the fuck is she doing taking a train?" I glance behind us and see that Isabella Swan is chatting away on her cell phone, probably to one of her father's staffers or someone equally Republican. I haven't seen in her in person for quite awhile. She's looking good, I'll give her that, but it's not like I should be looking. The major parties currently control one chamber of Congress each. The son of the Speaker of the House of Representatives should not be ogling the daughter of the Senate Majority Leader. Yeah, not going there.

Not unless I am a closet Republican. My dad is also President Banner's Chief of Staff, and the Banner Administration doesn't get along with Senator Charles Swan. They think Swan will run for the Republican nomination for the next presidential election, and if he does clinch that nomination, he could pose a serious threat to Banner's chances of a second term. I give Jacob a sidelong look. "I think the question is still 'what am I doing taking the train?'" I respond. "Not that I'm above taking a train, but I'd rather be on a plane, you know." "She could be spying on you," Jacob suggests. "Maybe she wants to eavesdrop on your phone conversations." "Yeah, right. Because I'm going to spend the whole of this eight hour train ride talking to my mother about a bill that I'm tired of hearing about?" He shushes me, as if I'm talking about State secrets or something. "She used to date Senator Hale's son, you know that Texan who Alice had a major crush on in college," I tell him. He pulls a face. "That's a low blow, bringing up Jasper Hale. You know what? You buy your goddamn ticket. I'm going to the bookstore." He's hilarious when he's fake angry. He starts walking to the bookstore that's to the left of us. "Buy me a copy of The New York Times, will you?" I ask him as he walks away. "So you can pretend to be liberal, right?" he shoots back, smirk on his face. I roll my eyes just as I get called up to the counter. I know I shouldn't complain about being part of such a well-known political family I am indeed privileged in many ways but sometimes the expectations can be a burden. My parents used to think that it was independent of me not to work on either of their staffs, but now they think that I'm just an aimless non-Ivy League grad student who's deliberately trying to appear indifferent to the family legacy. I purchase my ticket, and just as I begin to walk away to meet up with Jacob, I hear Isabella's voice: "Cullen, wait for me. It's been ages since I've seen you." I raise an eyebrow at her, before moving to the side of the counter to wait for her to purchase her own ticket. I'm not going to be a jerk and ignore her some banter might actually brighten my morning. She's dressed rather casually for such a wealthy woman, but I suppose it is the holidays. I'm wearing a doublebreasted black coat and dark jeans; any detail where I've one-upped her will help me get the edge in this conversation. "Laundry day, Swan?" I taunt her smugly as she wheels her Louis Vuitton suitcase over to where I'm standing. "Had I known you were going to be here, I would have dressed differently," she says in a sassy tone.

She opens up her plain jacket to reveal a t-shirt underneath. It's emblazoned with the slogan 'Women belong in the Houseand the Senate.' I dazzle her with my trademark smile. "My mother would be impressed," I tell her. "What with her being the first female Speaker of the House. Minor detail, really." "Like I said," she replies, matching my smug grin. "I wouldn't have worn this today if I knew you were going to be here." "No t-shirt if you'd known I was going to be here?" I jest. "I've always had a secret thing for topless Republicans. I'm flattered." "What would your mother say if she knew you were picturing me naked right now?" Hmmm. Her comment makes me think of her naked. For a millisecond. A glorious millisecond, but still, I'm not one to delay my comebacks. "She'd probably tell me to seduce you, actually take a naked photo and then see how much money the Republican National Committee would put up to keep it under wraps." She scoffs. "Please, you'd keep the photo for yourself," she responds, not to be outdone. "Oh yeah, definitely. Especially if I look good next to you." "Under me, you mean." I'm too busy picturing being under her to come up with anything witty, so I just chuckle in amusement. There's something really hot about a confident woman. Unfortunately, Isabella will only be undressed in my thoughts and not in reality. Unless there's an argument to be made for bipartisan unity. "So, why are you taking the train?" she asks, dropping the innuendo. "Where are you going?" Similarly, I switch back to being sincere. "I'm headed to Boston. I hear Logan will be chaos later today, so I guess this will have to do. How about you?" "Heading back to New Haven early." "Ah, of course. Yale Law, right? I read that somewhere. You're almost finished." "Yep." "Go Bulldogs," I cheer weakly, pumping my fist. "You said that with as much enthusiasm as a Harvard student." Apparently the banter is too hard to resist this morning. I shrug nonchalantly. "I like to save my energy for other activities." She purses her lips, obviously holding back a naughty comment, which is a shame because I wouldn't have minded hearing it. After giving me a rather obvious once-over she clears her throat and says in a more measured voice, "If you don't mind me saying, Edward, you are looking good these days."

"I get that a lot," I respond. "Cocky bastard." She laughs and then grabs hold of her suitcase. "I'll see you on the train." "Now that you know that I'm going to be on the train, feel free to lose the tshirt." She winks before walking away. Damn, that was hot. I would like politics a lot more if C-SPAN covered this type of debate. I grab my own suitcase and turn around, just as Jacob walks towards me with a newspaper in his hand. "Headline," he announces, "Edward Cullen forgets which party he belongs to, all because of a piece of ass." He whacks me with the copy of The New York Times. "That was just some harmless flirting," I reason. "Calm down before you report me to the FBI." "Don't joke about law enforcement," he chides, taking a sip of the coffee he's just bought himself. "Senator Swan used to be FBI." We start walking towards one of the nearby bakeries. I'm going to need provisions for this trip. I've taken this train line before and the food carriage always has such average choices. We're talking snack packs with cheese and crackers, or sad-looking reheated hot dogs. You'd think I could've packed leftovers from last night's Christmas dinner, but no, we actually managed to polish off most of the food. "Hey, where the fuck is my coffee?" I ask Jacob. "You're so selfish." "I'll buy you coffee when you stop flirting with the other side." He loudly slurps his coffee, just to be a jackass about it. "What if Alice had been Republican?" I ask him. "Oh wait, then she'd be with Jasper Hale." "Fuck you, Cullen." I laugh evilly. We enter the bakery, and I put my train ticket in my coat pocket to free up my hands. I grab a plastic bag and start filling it with assorted breads. I also go over to the fridge to pick up a bottle of orange juice. "You know, Jake, there's more to life than politics. It doesn't always matter if you're blue or red," I say half-seriously as we approach the checkout. I'm not really in a position to talk about transcending party lines or expectations, but let's just say, hypothetically, if Isabella Swan was the love of my life, I'd make concessions for her. Possibly. Maybe. Okay maybe not.

Getting involved with her would cause a shit-storm, especially since our families have hated each other for at least half a century. If my sister can predict blizzards in Boston, then she can predict shit-storms, and with that kind of forecast, my family would have me committed before I could do anything that would cause a scandal. "Don't talk to me about being red," Jacob says. "My dad is head of the Congressional Native American Caucus." I snatch the newspaper away from him and whack him on the arm. The girl at the checkout tries not to laugh at my immaturity. "Stop talking politics." "That's a strange thing for a Cullen to say." "You sound like my mother. Man, I really need to get out of this town." After I've paid for my food, Jacob reaches into his coat pocket and pulls out a novel. I give him a quizzical look it's a thick novel and it's weird that he's walking around with a book in his inside pocket. He doesn't need to pad his coat and pretend he's more buff than he actually is. I hit the gym more often these days because he makes me feel self-conscious. "Alice told me to buy this novel for you," he says reluctantly, handing it over. I glance at the cover. The title of the novel is American Wife and the cover is a photo of bride, the focus on her white gown and gloves. "Did you buy this just then?" I ask him. "This looks like chick lit." "I don't know why she wanted me to buy it for you, but she's going to know if I don't hand it over. She'll sense it with her ability or whatever," he explains. "Yes, I actually had to buy this for you. That's why you don't deserve a coffee." "You are so whipped. I don't want this book." "Take it," he says forcefully, brandishing it in front of my face. "As if you're going to read the Amtrak magazine they provide for you on the train, unless you're interested in crappy travel tips and interviews with B-grade celebrities." "I'm not reading that book," I insist, pushing his hand away. "I have work to do, anyway. On my laptop. Besides isn't this the book that's loosely based on Laura Bush? A fictionalized account of what's happened in her life so far?" This revelation makes Jacob change his tune. He scans the blurb, and on seeing that I could be right, stashes the book back in his coat. He'd rather I didn't start sympathizing with the former First Lady. "You're off the hook," he declares. "You know, Laura Bush, for a First Lady, had one of the highest approval ratings of all time," I tell him. "It's true." "Well, now you're definitely not getting the book." "Wait, I don't think you'll want to face an angry Alice," I point out. "Why don't I just put it in my luggage so you don't get busted?"

"Okay, that's not a bad idea. You're a good friend." He bends down and puts the book in my suitcase. "I wonder what's so important about it." "Laura Bush was a Dem back in the day, did you know that? Maybe Alice is endorsing my earlier decision to flirt with someone from the other party." He snorts. "It could be a cautionary tale about compromising your principles." "Relax. I'm not going to read the book, anyway." It's true that I actually have work to do. I'm writing a journal article about one of the clauses of the First Amendment, and since I'm not a legal scholar, I need to be thorough about my research. I'm looking at the issue from a governance point of view, in terms of public policy, comparing the issue to the position taken in other countries. I don't really want to get bogged down in the politics of it all, though that might be unavoidable. If anything, I'll be accused of predictably endorsing the liberal side. A cop out, my mother would call it she wishes I was more aggressive, advancing rather than endorsing. "Sure, Edward. Just keep your hands off Isabella Swan. Esme would totally kill you. Carlisle would laugh first, but he'd also kill you." "Such a homicidal family," I remark. "Aren't you glad you married into it?" "You should start looking for a wife, instead of looking at Isabella Swan." "I'm twenty-six. There's still lots of time to find a wife." Plus, it's hard to find someone genuine these days. There are a lot of power hungry women out there who only want me for my looks and my name. You'd think that being part of a political legacy would've given me some ability to judge whether someone is full of shit, but maybe I'm just old-fashioned and too trusting. Women want more than casual sex from me though I'm sure some skanks would settle for less. They want power, family connections and my decent-sized inheritance. "Behave yourself on the train," Jacob advises. I roll my eyes. "I can't join the mile-high club if I'm not actually in the air. Although, the train bathrooms are less cramped." He doesn't look impressed. "Don't turn into a liability. Your mother will have a coronary." "Good thing Dad used to be a practicing surgeon. She'll be in good hands." The blank look on his face signals that he doesn't know whether I'm joking. "Jake, seriously. You need to chill out," I assert. "I'm just kidding. I plan to stay far away from Isabella Swan. I know she's off-limits. Okay?" He seems to be ashamed that he doubted me and my intentions. "Sorry, man. I've just been high-strung lately. It's the tax bill." He claps me on the back. "Have a good trip and let me know how the meeting goes." "Ah, there's my best buddy. I knew he was in there, underneath all the bullshit." "Ha ha. Very funny."

We say goodbye to each other and I walk over to the waiting area for my platform. Judging by the amount of people milling around or rather, not milling around the train will be less than half full. I'll try and stay on the opposite side of the train from Isabella, so I don't get tempted to start flirting with her just for kicks. Although, I guess we would've both purchased business class tickets. Opposite sides of business class, then. Opposite sides. I need to remember that. God, help me remember that.

Chapter 2: In Transit BPOV If Edward Cullen were Speaker of the House, C-SPAN's ratings would increase exponentially. Forget NCIS or whatever the top rating show is on prime-time you'd want to see Edward Cullen keeping order in the House, presiding over the makings of legislation, and looking damn good in a suit. You would, wouldn't you? Fuck, I'd turn Democrat for him. Actually, no, I wouldn't. But I would think about it for a second, at the very least. That's a big admission coming from me, what with my father being a key Republican figure on the Hill. I'm still trying to figure out how Edward got to be this hot. I mean, we've crossed paths numerous times throughout the years. He was average looking as a teenager, and progressively became more handsome as he got older that was certainly what I was thinking the last time I bumped into him on Capitol Hill. But he's not just handsome now. He's totally fucking gorgeous. He's lost that boyish look that some men carry into their twenties. No wonder he's brimming with more confidence. It also probably helps that the Cullens benefited big time from the 2008 elections, with the Dems winning back both the White House and the House of Representatives. I've only been on this train for thirty minutes, and I'm already dying to get up and go find him just so I can interact with him again. I tell myself to stay in my seat. I also tell myself that the regular person would deem me mentally unstable for thinking C-SPAN could ever be sexy. Those people have not met Edward Cullen. I try to distract myself by reading the complimentary newspaper that all business class passengers have been given today The Washington Post. It just so happens that today's edition has a picture of my dad on the front page with the headline 'Republicans to Oppose Tax Hike on Estates'. It's not the most original headline, but at least the picture is good. It's a shot of him with the Senate Majority Whip, Bob Newton, in front of the Russell Senate Building.

I read the article about the proposed tax hike, and it reminds me that I'm not supposed to be fantasizing about Edward Cullen. I should stop picturing him in a suit. Or out of a suit, for that matter. It appears that his mother, the Speaker of the House, has been insinuating that certain Republican senators can't afford to piss off their now left-leaning constituents. She'd love it if the Dems won back the Senate at the next mid-term elections, wouldn't she? Needless to say, my father can't stand her. She has a really good-looking son, though. There are only three business class carriages to this train, and Edward is not in this one. I avoided him when everyone was boarding earlier. My guess is that he's in the first carriage, the one after the dining car at the front. Eventually, I will probably have to get up and go to the dining car to get some food. It's too soon for a coffee and snack right now, but I will have to go for a wander later in the journey. And if I happen to bump into Edward, it would be rude not to talk to him. The side benefit of verbally sparring with him is that I get to look at him. Don't get me wrong though, I'll still be trying to take him down a notch. About an hour later, after I've read the newspaper in its entirety, I get out of my seat and start to make my way to the dining car. Since I know Edward is not in this compartment, I bypass everyone and head straight to the link between this carriage and the next. I push open the door to the second business class carriage and tell myself to act confident and unflappable. It's really not fair that he's from a rival political dynasty. Though neither clan has produced a president, it's clear that both my father and his mother have their eye on the top job. Of course, Esme Cullen can't run for the Democratic nomination until President Banner is out of the picture. Historically speaking, the Cullens have held more congressional seats, but the Swans have had more governorships and cabinet appointments. Both our families are fundraising powerhouses, and have serious clout within their respective parties. I have heard, however, that out of all of the Cullens, Edward is the most politically inactive. He only shows up to key Democratic rallies or fundraisers not much more than that. It's a bit mysterious as to why this is the case. Some people on the Hill say he's too sensitive to run for office, apparently lacking the ambition that his strong-willed mother has. Really, he could just be biding his time, waiting for the right moment to dazzle America with his presence on the political stage. Edward isn't in the second carriage. When I reach the door for the first business class carriage, I feel a pang of guilt. Edward isn't an object. He's a person quite an intelligent guy, if I recall correctly who I'm obsessing over this morning because of his looks. Stalking him like this is a little conceited and immature. I'm not a teenager. Perhaps I should just turn around and walk back to my seat. Then again, I suppose I'm not going to appreciate him as a person unless I actually talk to him. I should aim to have a conversation with him it's been ages

since we last conversed properly. Talking will help me fight the objectification of him in my mind. I'll probably end up confirming that we don't have anything in common, thereby reminding me that being involved with him is just the stuff of bipartisan dreams. Incredibly fucking hot dreams, but dreams nonetheless. I peer through the window in the door. Edward must be having a psychic moment, because he turns around and looks towards the back of the carriage. He spots me and smirks before turning back around. Now I have no choice but to enter the carriage, because he's already seen me. I'll lose face if I turn back now. I push open the door and make my way down the aisle, reaching his aisle seat in no time. "I'm not stalking you, Cullen," I tell him, turning around to face him. I point down to the dining car. "I'm tired and need a cup of coffee." The smug look on his face indicates that he totally thinks I'm stalking him. "Well, have fun redeeming your complimentary non-alcoholic beverage," he says with an amused grin, before looking back down at his laptop. He's going to ignore me, is he? Well, I can't have that now, can I? I don't leave. I take the moment to look at him. He's taken off his coat; the light blue button-up shirt he's wearing makes him look to-die-for. He's even rolled up his sleeves since it's warm on the train. "Is there something I can help you with, Isabella?" he asks, still typing away. "I'm just wondering what you're working on," I respond lightly, stepping back so I can look at his computer screen. "Lemon v Kurtzman. Odd. I thought you were studying International Relations." Lemon is a Supreme Court case from the seventies, dealing with the First Amendment and the separation of church and state. It set out a three-pronged test for determining if there's been a breach of the guarantee. "This isn't for grad school," he explains, still not looking up at me. "Are you writing an article?" "I'm trying to." "Trying? What's the problem? Don't know enough about Lemon?" He pauses before finally looking up at me with those beautiful green eyes of his. He's probably gathered that I'm just trying to prolong the conversation. "I know plenty about Lemon," he assures me. I raise an eyebrow. "Well, I'm a law student, so I obviously know more than you do. I'm very familiar with this topic." "Go on, take the opportunity to quote Rehnquist or Scalia. I'm sure you're dying to," he suggests good-naturedly.

I put my hand over my heart which is beating faster than usual just from the excitement of being in his presence and begin to recite Justice Scalia. "Like some ghoul in a late-night horror movie that repeatedly sits up in its grave and shuffles abroad, after being repeatedly killed and buried " " Lemon stalks our Establishment Clause jurisprudence once againIt is there to scare us, and our audience, when we wish it to do so, but we can command it to return to the womb at will. When we wish to strike down a practice it forbids, we invoke it; when we wish to uphold a practice it forbids, we ignore it entirely," he finishes. He wasn't reading off his screen. Yep, he's definitely got a brain. I fan myself and pretend to be thoroughly overwhelmed. "Wow, there's nothing hotter than seeing a liberal recite a conservative judge by heart." I'm actually staring at his mouth. I bite my lip, wondering what it would be like to kiss him. He sees my reaction to him and can't help being suggestive. "You might have to rethink that coffee if you're already hot and bothered, Isabella." "You did tell me earlier to take my t-shirt off," I reply. "No," he corrects, "I didn't tell you to. I said you should feel free to. There's a difference. If you want to take your t-shirt off for me, then go ahead." "I'm sure you'd like that, wouldn't you? Are you imagining me topless again?" I ask. I touch the table that his laptop is resting on. "Aren't you lucky that this table is hiding your lap?" Edward leans back in his seat, confident that he has the upper hand in this exchange. "Let me assure you. If there was something interesting under this table, I'd be sure to share it with you." Oh. That was naughty. He's got me. I've been thrown off my game. He's now staring at me intently with those green eyes. It's unfair that he's armed with this weapon. It's completely disarming. "I guess I should get my coffee now," I manage to say, trying to disguise how flustered I am. "Have fun with that." I quickly walk away and enter the dining car to buy a cup of coffee. I sit down at a booth there aren't many people in here and try to regain my composure. The coffee is weak, but I don't mind. I drink it while staring out the window at the snowfall. I shouldn't have tried to flirt with Edward, but it's been over six months since I last got laid, so I'm sexually frustrated. In any case, flirting with someone I can't have is an irrational thing to do. But I suppose there's something incredibly exhilarating about trying to impress someone who's on a rival team. It's the thrill of doing something you're not supposed to be doing.

My coffee-drinking is interrupted when my brother Emmett calls me on my cell phone. "Miss me already?" I ask in greeting. "Yes," he says with conviction. "Liar." He chuckles. "Okay, I'm calling because I have to ask you something. Someone just called me. Don't get mad." "Go on." "I got a call from Rosalie Hale" "Please don't tell me that you're calling to ask permission to hook-up with her. You're thirty-years-old. Do what you want," I respond, slightly irritated. "I knew you'd get annoyed," he replies, ribbing me. "As long as you and Jasper are definitely not going to happen again. I don't want this to be weird. I mean, it's not like I'm trying to rush things, but I thought I'd check with you." "You've got the green light. Jasper and I are done. Never again." It was a bit of an ugly break-up, to be honest. I'm glad Jasper has already finished up at Yale he was a year ahead of me. I'd rather be sexually frustrated than get back into that relationship. HellI'd rather satisfy my own needs while thinking of Edward Cullen than get back into that relationship. "Alright, I'll take Rosalie out to dinner the next time she's in D.C," Emmett says. Emmett lives in D.C. because he works for Dad. Mom kicked up a fuss about the four of us not spending Christmas back home in Philadelphia, but it was Emmett who convinced her that Dad really had work to do, even though Congress doesn't reconvene until January. "Good for you, bro. Think you can handle her? She's a bit intense." "I'm a big boy, Bella." "Yeah, yeah." "Text me when you get to New Haven." "I will. Bye." The phone call ends up depressing me a bit. I'm happy that Emmett has a love interest, but he's reminded me about my failed relationship with Jasper. Mom was so excited when we got together she gets along swimmingly with the Hales but it didn't work out. Jasper was so focused on planning his rise to political power that I began to doubt why he was actually interested in me. I'm not a trophy. I was the one who broke it off. I can do better. I look up when I hear the sound of the inter-carriage door opening. Edward Cullen walks in, notices me, gives me a concerned look, and then heads over to

the counter. I see him purchase an orange juice. I go back to looking out the window, even though the weather is horrible. He sits down across from me. Of course he does. Minutes ago I would've been pleased, but after Emmett's call, I'd actually prefer not to talk to Edward. I should talk to someone with whom I'm allowed to connect. Someone I'm allowed to look at. He misreads the look on my face. "I'm sorry if I upset you," Edward says apologetically. "With that last comment, I mean." I glance at him quickly before turning my attention back to the snow. "I'm not upset with you," I say tightly. "Oh." He doesn't get up to leave, which annoys me. In the reflection in the window I can see him drinking his orange juice and fiddling with the lid of the bottle. We don't say anything for over a minute. Edward keeps fiddling with the juice bottle lid. He's now tapping it on the table, in time to a song I don't know. "Stop that," I tell him, turning my head so I can glare at him. "It's annoying." "You're cute when you're mad," he comments. Cute? I gulp, wondering whether he's trying to flirt with me, or if he's just messing with me for fun. The tapping continues. I try to stare him down, but he just grins at me, and slowly I feel a smile tugging on my own lips. "Stop," I demand, trying to stay mad, but I know that the tone of my voice doesn't match the command of my words. He pouts, acting hurt. "I'm not used to hearing that word from women." Oh, he's flirting with me. He's definitely flirting with me. I clear my throat and shoot him a look that says you-know-that-our-families-areenemies. I need this to stop, because it's stupid to get my hopes up. I can't pursue him. "Stop trying to push my buttons," I warn him. "Can I undo them instead?" I look at him incredulously. My imagination gets the better of me and I think about him unbuttoning my jeans. "A couple minutes ago, you were apologizing for being inappropriate," I say pointedly. "But you said you weren't upset with me, so you had to be upset about something else," he says in his own defense. "I'm trying to cheer you up."

He's irresistible. I am so fucked. My brain tries to tell me something, but the message is lost in the midst of all the sexual tension. "Edward, I think undoing my buttons would cheer you up," I counter. He licks his lips after taking a sip of orange juice, which makes me focus on his tongue. "Yeah, I guess it would." "You guess?" I ask, acting offended. "Well, of course I'm guessing," he says cheekily, throwing up his hands in surrender. "It's not like you'd actually let me go there" He trails off. We're staring at each other again, and I try not to gape at how forward he's being with me. I try to justify the situation by telling myself that we're hinting at sex, not a relationship. The message my brain was trying to send to me earlier finally starts to make it through: our families have a lot invested in their political careers, and while little games like this can be fun, Capitol Hill is a much larger game, with very significant players and much higher stakes. My brain tells me to change the subject quickly before I think about his tongue tasting me in places that haven't been explored in awhile. "So, why are you headed to Boston?" I ask, telling him with my eyes that we should take a step back. "I can't remember if you told me." "Ah..." He clears his throat. "I have a meeting." "What sort of meeting?" He hesitates. "Um I'm not sure I can tell you, to be honest." "Because I'm a Swan?" "Yeah, pretty much." I nod, understanding his position. So much for trying to steer the discussion in another direction. I wrack my brain for a new topic of conversation. "Am I allowed to ask why you're interested in writing about Lemon?" "Yes, I can answer that," he replies. "I find it fascinating that other jurisdictions have less rigid boundaries between church and state, constitutionally speaking, and yet end up with a reality that is arguably more tolerant and workable than the situation we have under the First Amendment." "Okay." He tilts his head, curious at my reaction. "You're a Yale law student and all you have to say is 'okay'?" "I don't think I should say more than 'okay'," I admit. "Even if you're looking at the Establishment Clause from a governance or public policy angle, politics is still

involved. The case examples may not be as in your face as the Free Exercise Clause, but, you know, I'm probably not going to agree with whatever conclusion you come to at the end of your research." "True." "Have you read through O'Connor's endorsement test in Lynch v Donnelly? Or Kennedy's coercion test from County of Allegheny v ACLU?" I inquire. "Not yet, but I plan to," he says. There was a flicker of recognition in his eyes when I mentioned the cases, so I know he's not bullshitting. "Okay." I don't know what compels him to, but he starts tapping the juice lid on the table again. "Again with pushing my buttons," I chide. "I could go back to my laptop and read Lynch v Donnelly," he begins, sounding like there's a second option that he would actually prefer. "Well, if you do, then make sure you read Scalia's dissent in Kiryas Joel. I know O'Connor was a swing vote, but Scalia was right about her test being useless," I tell him. He snorts at my overtly right-wing comment. "What happened to just saying 'okay'?" I shrug. "Sorry, it just slipped out. What were you saying? You could go back to your laptopor?" I wonder if he has the balls to suggest that we do something about this sexual tension. In a bathroom, perhaps. He has a really conflicted look on his face. "Or?" I prompt. He bites his lip while he thinks. "Never mind," he finally says. And then he smirks. I reach over and playfully smack his hand, sending the lid flying. It spins across the table towards the window. He gapes at me, acting upset. I roll my eyes, and then kick him under the table for teasing me. "What?" he says. "Come on, Isabella. I'm the enemy." "Yeah, you've got that right," I respond, bitter about the fact that we can't do anything about the sexual tension. He pouts, mocking me. "Aw, poor little Republican girl can't get what she wants." "You don't know what I want," I retort. The self-assured smile returns. "Oh, I'm pretty sure I do."

I can't take being mocked anymore, even though I'm pretty sure he wants me in that way, too. I roll my eyes at him and then motion to get up. "I'm going to go back to my seat now," I tell him. "Have fun trying to solve the Lemon conundrum." "What if I need your help?" he asks once I've stood up. I place my hands on the table and lean forward, trying to show him that he's not the only one who knows how to make a power play. He raises an eyebrow. "If you want help, come find me," I say seductively. "We're still three hours out from New Haven. Plenty of time for me to cater to your needs." And with that, I swipe his bottle of orange juice and strut out of the dining car. Toying with Democrats. It's in my blood. Chapter 3: Self-fulfilling Prophecy EPOV The problem with having a sister who's psychic is that she expects you to blindly follow her advice, even when it makes no sense. Two minutes after Isabella Swan walks no, sashays out of the dining car, I receive an embarrassing text message from Alice. I'm so shocked by the piece of advice she's dispensing that I simply sit in stunned silence in what was formerly Isabella's booth in the dining car. I reread the two word text: Use protection. Seriously? So, to recap the last two minutes: Isabella Swan walked away from me. She challenged me to go after her. She stole my drink. And then my own sister suggests that I'm about to do more than just retrieve my bottle of orange juice, if you know what I'm saying. What happened to avoiding Isabella? I tried to ignore her earlier, but she sought me out under the guise of wanting a cup of coffee from the dining car; I'm pretty sure that she got out of her seat for me and not the Amtrak-grade coffee. I attempted to remain resolute when she approached me, smartly rebuffing her. I tried to focus on my research. However, she refused to leave, starting up a conversation on the jurisprudence I was sifting through. With the law obviously being her strength, I was practically cajoled into responding. I won that round with a rather suggestive comment about my own lap. Then I began to wonder whether the comment was the last thing I would ever say to her for a very long time to come. I mean, before today, the last time I saw

her was years ago. She was flustered enough to leave and proceed on her way to the dining car; I wasn't a hundred percent sure at the time whether she was just embarrassed or whether she was offended, but it bothered me to think that I could have offended her. After ten minutes or so, I followed her into the dining car, where I noticed that she had actually purchased a cup of coffee. I sat down to talk to her. Even with what I figured to be expert teasing, she upped the stakes by winning that round of banter with her offer to 'cater to my needs'. Argh. Use protection. I stare at my iPhone for another thirty seconds before deciding to man up and call Alice to confront her about the text. "Edward. Hello," she says, sounding very entertained. I clear my throat. "Would you care to explain that cryptic text?" Frankly, I'm quite embarrassed. "It was a pretty self-explanatory message," she replies before giggling. I do have a condom in my wallet I admit to that. But Alice should not be trying to predict my sex life. That's really, really wrong. If her visions were like television channels, then my sex life should be a restricted one. Not because it's as creative as pay-per-view, but because it's inappropriate for her to foresee, period. "I'm not following, Alice," I say, feigning ignorance. "Oh, you will be following. You'll be following her. Use protection. Because if you knock her up, Senator Swan will have you hanged, drawn and quartered." Yep, she's definitely referring to Isabella. Let's say I did go thereI can't help but picture the murderous expression on Senator Swan's face if he were to find out that I touched his daughter. He used to be FBI. He could get one of those global positioning satellites to track my every move for the rest of my life. Or are those controlled by the CIA? It doesn't matter, anyway, since I'd be a dead man. Senator Swan could get his friends at the FBI and the CIA to work together in order to murder me. Inter-agency co-operation: my legacy to America. "First, if this is one of your predictions, why aren't you trying to talk me out of it?" I ask Alice, determined to find out what game she's playing at. "And second, it's really disturbing that my younger sister is giving me advice onsuch matters." I'm mortified right now. It's like the Christmas where I arrived early to the San Francisco house because the cab driver drove like a maniac, and I ended up walking in on her and Jacob getting redressed after having sex. I didn't even know they were sleeping together behind my back. That pretty much ranks as my number one what-the-fuck moment. To this day, I'm still relieved that it wasn't a mid-fuck moment. Even after all this time, Alice still claims that her ability was thrown off by the cab driver's last second decision to take a shortcut, hence why she didn't foresee me arriving early. Her talent is actually subjective; the future she foresees at any given time is subject to change, based on the choices a person makes. I don't think that I've

actively made the decision to capitalize on this opportunity with Isabella, but maybe I have and I just refuse to admit it. "I don't foresee any harm from what you're about to do," Alice says reassuringly. "As long as you don't tell anyone. You'll most likely end up telling Jake, and he won't be pleased at first, but then he'll find it amusing. But you can't tell anyone else." I've been rendered speechless. Unfortunately, since I can't find any words, my mind starts to wonder what it would be like to have sex with Isabella. Argh. "Um," I begin unsurely. "She's craving you right now," Alice insists. "I don't even know why you're still talking to me. You should go. And use protection." "Stop saying those two words like that," I respond, still flabbergasted. "I'm not the type of guy whoyou knowdoes stuff like thatimpulsively. And she's offlimits." "Oh, it's just sex. When was the last time you got some?" "I don't mean to sound arrogant, but I don't need help scoring women," I remind her. "You know what? I'm going to ignore your 'prediction' and work on my article. I'm not going to seek her out. Maybe you're just putting the idea in my head to mess with me." "I love how you always doubt my predictions. It's very entertaining." "And another question, dear sister. What's with that novel that you got Jake to buy for me?" I ask. "Oh, I'm a fan of the author," she gushes. "American Wife is a must-read. I think you'd like it. I also love her first book, Prep." I don't say anything. Does she really expect me to read American Wife? I hope she doesn't buy me the other book, Prep, or whatever it's called. Prep makes me think of prepared. Be prepared. Use protection. I start to get suspicious of Alice. Maybe this entire train ride is some sort of set up. "Wait a minute," I say to her, "if I get to Boston and there's no blizzard, I'm going to be very annoyed with you." "Bye, Edward," she says in a sing-song voice. "Have fun." She hangs up. Great. Now I can't stop thinking about having sex with Isabella Swan. Argh. I figure the best thing to do is to head back to my seat and try to focus on my research. I need to stay seated and not do anything rash, at least for the next three hours, which is the estimated time it'll take for this train to reach New

Haven. After that, Isabella will be literally, and not just figuratively, out of my reach. After returning to my seat, I reopen my laptop and bring up a particularly dry legal article. This should be a turn off, right? Jefferson wrote a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802 in which he asserted that the First Amendment erected a wall between church and state. He claimed that the wall 'must be kept high and impregnable' and that 'we could not approve the slightest breach'.The fact that the metaphor was conveyed in such absolute terms should not be ignored; it arguably set the expectation that a strict separation was both desirable and achievable, and that anything less would amount to a breach of the guarantee (See Black J in Everson). Being male, the word 'erected' in the first sentence of this paragraph does not help me in my quest to not think about sex. Come to think of it, though I'm generally blas when it comes to a lot of things, I'm actually a passionate and aggressive lover. I haven't really done anything pay-per-view worthy recently, but I suppose sex on a train would fall into that category. Not that I would want anyone to watch, mind you. Perhaps the part of the paragraph I should be focusing on is this: strict separation was both desirable and achievable I tell myself to stop envisioning what it would be like to have train sex. I open another PDF, this time a case ruled on by the Supreme Court in 1947: Everson v Board of Education. Unfortunately, Justice Hugo Black, in his interpretation of the Establishment Clause, also happens to quote Jefferson's 'erected' comment. I scold myself for being so juvenile, but it's hard to concentrate when most of my brain power is actively being spent on trying not to think of Isabella Swan naked. The male brain is a talented organ. It can sexualize pretty much anything. My Lemon research is being perverted by my mind. Now I think it's amusing that the Lemon Test has three prongs. I'm trying to analyze a problematic test and its three prongs. I have one prong, and thinking about Isabella Swan is making things problematic enough for it maybe I really am lucky that this table is hiding my lap! Despite the distractions, I do manage to read a few more cases. Unfortunately, I'm not learned enough to understand some of the finer aspects of the judges' legal reasoning. I want to concede that I may need help, but since Isabella rather explicitly informed me that I should find her in such a situation, I become torn once again. I don't want to look desperate. Should I or should not I seek her out? After another forty minutes of being confused both about the law and about my situation with Isabella I give up and decide to pay her a visit. I do this with full knowledge that there's a condom in my pocket. Alice's suggestion that I'm about to have sex with Isabella Swan could end up being a self-fulfilling prophecy. I wonder if I have the will power to merely ask my legal question, hear her answer and walk back to my seat. Thing is, she and I clearly can't converse without descending into sexualized banter at some stage. In my head, I'm already trying to justify train sex on the basis that it's not like we'd tell anyone about it. Alice doesn't count because she's psychic. Telling Jake is an extension of that since Alice is probably giggling like crazy back in D.C. I don't find Isabella in the second business class carriage, so I continue on to the third carriage. I find her sitting near the back, in a window seat, reading a novel.

She's so busy reading that she doesn't see me approach until the last moment when I sit down on the vacant seat next to her. I also notice that my bottle of orange juice is sitting on her fold-out table. I reach over and take it back, drinking the rest of it before stashing it in the chair pocket in front of me. "Well, well, well," she says smugly, shutting the book and placing it down on the table. "If it isn't Edward Cullen to my left." "Well, to be fair, if I were on your right, I'd probably be a fascist," I joke, referring to our positions on the political spectrum. She tosses her beautiful brown hair over her shoulder as she turns to give me an unimpressed look. I meant what I said to her earlier she really is cute when she's mad. "There's right-wing and then there's too far," she says, berating me. "Don't accuse me of being a nut-job." "Oh, don't be mad." I reach out and run my fingers through her hair, surprising her. "I came to ask for your help. Just like you wanted me to." She grabs my wrist, although her smile indicates that she's pleased that I'm hitting on her. "Is touching my hair part of your legal question?" I really like being around this woman. I really like that she's touching me. "No, that's just me trying to placate you." I wave my hand around in the air. "Are you going to let go of my wrist?" "Do you want me to?" she teases. "Well, there are better places for your hand to be," I quip. She looks down at my lap. I shift under her gaze, worried that I'm about to have a problem. I did just spend the last hour imagining her naked, and though I keep telling myself that I've sought her out to ask an academic question, I'm struggling to remember which case I needed help understanding. Isabella looks back up and stares at me intently. She frees my wrist, but then she places her hand on my chest and slowly runs it down towards my jeans. When she reaches my waist, she pulls her hand back and smirks. "I suppose you're right," she concedes, mocking me. "What was your question?" I'm drawing a mental blank. If she asked me what I'd like to do to her right now, I'd be able to answer, but alas, the part of my brain which has been storing anything academic seems to have shut down. Maybe those brain cells think it's Spring Break or something. Spring Break. Girls Gone Wild. Argh. "Um, I had a question about a case" The fact that I've completely forgotten what I was going to ask makes Isabella laugh. I need to stop thinking about sex. Although, thinking about sex is better than thinking about the fact that my sister is convinced that I'm about to have sex.

This is the moment where I have to decide whether I'm going to do anything about the sexual tension between me and Isabella. We're just under two hours out from New Haven. I'm only staying two nights in Boston, and then it's back to San Francisco. I don't know when we'll next bump into each other in D.C. or elsewhere. Even if we do bump into each other again, it'll probably be at some bipartisan event where we won't be alone. If anything, our parents will be shooting daggers at each other. I decide to go for it, which means I have to regain my footing in this conversation. I want to initiate this on my own terms. "No question, then?" Isabella inquires, sounding smug. I chuckle, having now read the title of the book she was reading. I grab it off the table and hold it up to make my point. "Here's my question. Why are you reading a book titled The Man of My Dreams?" I taunt. "Seems like a rather strange choice, especially since it's clear that I'm the one in your fantasies." "Is that right?" she swiftly responds. Her defensiveness suggests that I've rattled her a bit. "You're the man of my dreams?" I ignore her question and pretend to be in deep thought. "Tell me, Isabella," I say, adding an educated lilt to my voice so that I sound like a psychiatrist. "The Edward in your dreamsdo you let him do ungodly things to you?" I can tell that she's flustered. This time, however, she can't walk away. Oh, how quickly the tables turn. Her comeback is delayed. "How appropriate that your party's symbol is a donkey, because you're acting like an ass," she says darkly. "You know, if we're talking about party symbols, I suppose we should discuss the elephant in the room," I suggest. She grins mischievously. "Oh, yes, that elephant," she answers. "You mean the fact that you want to do ungodly things to me?" "No, I mean the fact that you want me to do ungodly things to you," I counter, pointing at the appropriate moments. "I'm starting to resent the use of the term 'ungodly'," she muses while giving me an appraising look. "I'm a values-based Republican." "Yes, I'm sure your fantasies are very wholesome," I say wryly. "Although, maybe I should stop using the term 'ungodly'." I pretend to fix my hair, acting vain. "I kind of look like a god, don't you think?" "I'm not supposed to worship other gods," she says pointedly. "Well then," I respond. "I guess you've broken a commandment today."

I sit back in my seat, basking in the finality of my comment. After a moment, she nods, conceding that I've outwitted her on this occasion. I give her back the book, and she sets the table tray back into its upright position, enabling her to put the book in the backseat pocket. She turns to me with lust-filled eyes. The look drives me insane. I want her so badly. "You win, Cullen." "I think we both win." She smirks. "I suppose you want to claim your prize?" In a bold maneuver, I lean over the armrest and reach down to put my hand on her thigh. I want her out of her jeans. Now. She leans towards me. I'm close enough to kiss her - my lips graze the soft skin of her cheek, teasing her. "I want to claim my prize right now, actually," I whisper huskily while squeezing her thigh. Her response is just as playful. "I want you claim it too. Against the bathroom wall." I move my hand to the top button of her jeans, touching it but not undoing it. "It'll have to be a quickie. I don't want to draw any attention to us. We have to be discreet." She tugs on the front of my shirt. "Let's go. You already made me wait an hour. I can't believe you actually researched Lemon instead of finding me straight away." I rub her thigh soothingly, an action which prompts her to pull back and look at me with a wild look in her eye. "You sound a little frustrated," I tease. She traces a finger down my chest. "So un-frustrate me. Now," she commands. Isabella is ready to go she just ordered me to get on with it. I glance down at her jeans, at the buttons I want to undo. She follows my gaze and isn't pleased that I'm looking instead of touching. She literally gives me a push, shoving my arm. She must be hornier than I am. "Now, Cullen," she repeats. "I want it now." I'm all too happy to cooperate. I lick my lips in anticipation and nuzzle her neck while I answer. "Yes, ma'am." Taking orders from a Republican. There's a first time for everything.

Legal citations: Everson v Board of Education 330 U.S. 1 (1947), Black J at 1516.

Other references: -Thomas Jefferson, 'Reply to the Danbury Baptist Association, 1802' in Arlin M Adams and Charles J Emmerich, A Nation Dedicated to Religious Liberty: The Constitutional Heritage of the Religion Clauses (1990), University of Pennsylvania Press; -Passage from 'dry legal article' is not actually from anywhere. I wrote that using the above sources. -Curtis Sittenfeld, Prep: A Novel (2005), Random House.

Chapter 4: The Lemon Test BPOV No matter how badly I want Edward Cullen to fuck me and I want him more than anything right now I have to make sure that it's not like he's 'conquering' me. It's not about him getting what he wants. It's about the both of us getting what we want. I have to come out of this with my pride intact. He puts his hands on my hips and pushes me against the bathroom wall, pressing his body against mine. It's been far too long since I've let a man touch me, and even though we're still fully clothed, the contact is enough to drive me insane. My back arches to maximize contact, pushing my breasts against his chest. He groans in appreciation. I'm already wet. You would be too if God's gift to the earth had his groin pushed against you. I bite my lip, desperate to get going but needing to set some ground rules. I place both hands on his shoulders and push him off me in an act of assertiveness, something I wouldn't have been able to do if I'd let him continue touching me any longer. He steps back, but puts his hands on the wall behind me so that I'm still trapped by his arms. I raise an eyebrow. "We need to set some rules first, Cullen." "How congressional of you," he teases, fingering the hem of my t-shirt. "Are we sending this to the Rules Committee?" "Technically, the Senate abides by a set of standing rules." He chuckles. "Is that why you want me to fuck you against the wall?" He gives me the most smoldering look a man has ever given me, and I'm completely mesmerized. It's like I've been temporarily paralyzed; my limbs don't respond when I tell them to push him away. He leans forward and starts to kiss my neck, and I don't protest immediately the feeling of having his lips on my neck is unbelievable. He moves a hand to the waistband of my jeans, pulling on the belt loop to bring me towards him. My body is aching for him, not liking the fact that I pulled away from him in the first place. It's only when he deftly undoes the buttons of my jeans that I snap out of it. I poke him in the chest with my finger. "Will you listen?" I scold, albeit playfully.

"Depends on what sound you're making," he quips, reaching under my t-shirt and lightly touching my bare stomach. He knows he's completely irresistible. I bet he's not used to women setting conditions for him. "I'm not going to strip for you," I tell him. "I don't need to be topless for this. And I've just decided no kissing on the lips either. You're not my boyfriend. You can talk dirty, but nothing too offensive." Part of the reason I'm being so business-like is that I don't want this to be romantic. As much as I hate to admit it, I'm actually a little worried that even kissing him will make me want him again when this over. This is purely fun, driven by our sexual attraction and the insatiable urge to do something we're not supposed to do. I can't afford to feel any sort of attachment. This will only happen once I can't chase him after this. "Take the t-shirt off," he negotiates. "Keep your bra on." I think it over. The bra I'm wearing isn't that sexy. I decide to agree since I still won't be completely naked. "All right," I concede, yanking the t-shirt over my head. "We have been joking about the t-shirt all morning." "Anything else, Isabella?" he asks, reaching out to touch my bra. He brushes a finger over the swell of my breast. "We need to be quiet, Cullen." His mocking smirk is becoming a permanent feature. "That's going to be more of a problem for you," he declares. "Is that right?" "Yes. And I will be listening," he asserts, referencing my earlier demand. "Oh, ever the gentleman," I counter sarcastically. He puts his hands back on my waist, pushing me roughly against the wall. "I don't think you'll be calling me gentle after this." I scoff in amusement. "What makes you think I'll be calling you at all?" He laughs, his green eyes sparkling with amusement. "You got me there." "I've got you here," I correct, grabbing the waistband of his jeans so I can pull him closer to me. With my jeans unbuttoned, his hand slides down into my panties and teases my wet folds with two fingers, then slips them inside of me. I gasp from the delicious sensation of being fingered my nerves are in overdrive from how desperate I am for sex. I buck against his fingers as he pumps me several times. But he's only testing how wet I am he removes his digits, and then grabs a hold of both my jeans and panties, pushing them downwards. I immediately step out of them. There's no point being slow about it. As soon as the garments hit the floor, he pushes me against the wall again, groping my breasts.

He starts sucking on my neck, biting me softly. I want to scold him he's going to end up marking me if I don't stop him but it feels so good that I let him continue. I whimper softly, instantly hating how passive the sound makes me seem. He pulls away to take a condom out of his pocket, and I my gaze becomes fixated on that little foil packet. He unzips his jeans and pushes them down along with his boxers. I gape at his red and swollen cock as it springs free from his pants. Oh my god, he's big. I feel myself getting wetter, and I part my legs slightly in anticipation. He's right. I am going to have trouble staying quiet. I help him unbutton his shirt, which he then decides to take off. I run my hands over his magnificent chest, admiring how toned he is. After putting on the condom, he steps forward and grabs me, surprising me with both his strength and his aggressiveness. He lifts me against the wall, his hands now under my butt, and I instantly wrap my legs around him, his hardness hot and ready against my thigh. I put my arms around his neck, grabbing hold of his shoulders and trying to find the right amount of leverage against the wall. I can feel the reverberations of the carriage, the vibrations making my body buzz with excitement. The movement of the train also makes the wall jolt every now and then, creating unexpected contact of varying force. No wonder people like doing it in moving vehicles the friction will be even more intense once he's inside me. "I forgot to tell you something," he says huskily as I push against him urgently, wanting him to enter me. "What's that?" I ask, annoyed that he's teasing me now of all times. His groin is already coated in my juices. "I make women beg for me." The commanding tone in his voice is so hot that it takes me another second to realize what he actually said. I don't think I can describe how desperate I am for him right now. I'm horny as hell; I haven't had sex in over six months. The hottest guy I've ever met is ready to take me, but he won't. Not unless I beg for him. "I won't beg," I argue. But my voice betrays me, breaking and thus giving away how much I need him. "Beg, Isabella," he demands, a wicked grin on his face. "Or you won't get it." I clench my jaw, unimpressed with his game. The carriage jolts again, and I clutch onto him as his hardness knocks against me, taunting me. He's probably getting the biggest thrill from this power trip of his. I shoot him a desperate look. "Will you just fuck me, Cullen?" But he doesn't want me to order him around he wants me to beg. Leaning forward, he speaks directly into my ear. "Beg for it. Do you want me or not?" "Don't make me beg," I reply hotly. "That's demeaning."

Steadying me against the wall, he uses a hand to direct his cock so that it pushes delightfully against my entrance. I buck against the brief contact, crying out in frustration when he won't penetrate me. "I'd hate for my erection to go to waste because of your precious pride." He sucks on my earlobe, the hot, moist sensation driving me over the edge. The lust overrides my anger. I can tell him off later for making be beg for it. "Please, please, fuck me, Edward," I plead. "Please." "What was that?" he teases. "Say that again?" "Please, just fuck me already." He finally penetrates me, impaling me so quickly that it takes me a moment to register that his cock is already inside of me. I can't scream or moan loudly all I can do is gape and try to breathe. It's incredible. My nails dig into his skin as he begins to thrust. His first few thrusts are slow, but they quickly become much more rapid. I throw my head back in pleasure, hitting my head on the wall. I don't care about the pain it's overwhelmed by how fucking good it feels to have his length stretch me like this, to have him pound into me with such force. It's amazing to be filled like this. The heat between our bodies is fantastic; I relish the contact between my chest and his. I'm pinned against the wall, so he rocks my pelvis back and forth. Inching away from the wall a bit, he then allows me some room to move against him. I concentrate on the sensation of having him slam into me. The train's unpredictable movements make his cock hit me in unexpected ways, sometimes pushing him in a particular direction, other times changing up the force with which he's plunging into me. I squeeze my legs, making sure I'm tighter for him. He reacts by picking up the pace and thrusting harder, driving into me so satisfyingly that several drawn-out moans escape my lips, letting him know how much I'm enjoying myself. Though he has that dazed look that men get when they're fucking a woman, he still has that self-indulgent smirk on his face. He watches gleefully as my breasts bounce with our movements. I clutch onto him tighter, running a hand through his hair as I look over his shoulder. "What's it like to let a Democrat fuck you?" he taunts. "You mean, what's it like to let a Democrat service me?" I shoot back. He chuckles, not minding that I'm insinuating that he's here just to get me off. I try to concentrate on my breathing to make sure I don't pass out from how blissful this is for me. But I do let a strangled scream out as I start to quiver around him. I want him to make me come. "You are so fucking wet and hot," he raves, groaning from pleasure. "Fuck." He's also trying not to groan too loudly. The sounds of his guttural groans and ragged breathing spur me on. He's enjoying me just as much as I'm enjoying him. He clutches onto my ass more tightly, and I angle myself so that I can generate more friction for us. I don't mind the way that the train's motion disrupts my rhythm. My eyes roll in the back of my head as I start to feel the tightness in my abdomen that tells me I'm almost there. I will myself to lose any remaining

irritation I have with Edward over making me beg for this: I don't want to be too tense to orgasm. "Make me come," I plead unashamedly as I feel it nearing. "Please, Edward. Please." "Well, since you're being so polite..." I can't reply because his fingers press against my clit and I'll scream if I open my mouth. The sex is so gratifying that I start to see stars, my eyes rolling into the back of my head again. He's fucking me senseless. The quivering becomes more frequent and I start to clench around him uncontrollably. "Oh my God,"I moan loudly. "Fuck, you are godlike." "We agree on something, then." For a moment I think I'm going to pass out. But I don't I'm too aware of how much I need to experience this. I won't ever get this from him again. Knowing this makes me buck harder against him, something that makes him curse with delight. His fingers trace firm circles against my engorged clit, and I take in sharp breaths as my climax keeps building. I don't want this to end it's the best sex I've had in a long time but I need the final event to happen. I let myself lose control, convulsing almost violently as my body explodes around him. I throw my head back, gasping frantically for air as I ride out the orgasm, relishing how fucking heavenly it feels. I end up crying out, not caring if anyone overhears the screams I can't hold back. The waves of pleasure hit me one after the other, and I become so overwhelmed that I struggle to hold myself up any longer. I moan softly over and over in his ear, completely satisfied as the ride comes to an end. Knowing he needs to come too, I muster any remaining strength I have to help hold myself up as he takes a couple more strokes to find his release. "Fuck. Oh, Isabella." I delight in hearing him draw out my name like that. He makes a strangled noise, and I know that he's climaxed. Panting against my neck, he takes a moment to cool down; his arms begin to shake with the effort of holding me up. He finally pulls out and sets me down, but I'm so weak from being so thoroughly fucked that I can't stand without assistance. He does the gentlemanly thing and holds me up as I try to regain my footing. It's a bit awkward, what with him standing with his jeans still around his ankles, but he holds me at the waist, helping me balance. I put one hand on the wall and the other on his forearm. The look in his eyes tells me he's fully sated. We both got what we wanted. I try to regain my breath. "I can't believe you made me beg," I complain half-heartedly, panting. "I got caught up in the moment," he explains, sounding amused. "Don't be mad." "Trust a Cullen to go on a power trip." Edward grins at me, not wanting me to hold a grudge. "Come on, you can't blame me." I like that his hands are still on my bare skin. I also can't help but check out his abs. I mentally scold myself it's over.

"I forgive you, but only because you fucked me so hard that I'm having trouble standing." "You should be okay now." He takes his hands off me, thinking I'm all right to stand now, but my knees buckle, so he grabs hold of me again. It's not a good sign that I didn't like that he let go of me. He doesn't even look that tired holding me up mustn't have taken that much out of him. "Whoa, there," he says. "Steady." I break out into a tired smile. I have to give him credit for reducing me to this state. "Thanks for fucking me." His hand travels down to my ass. "Thanks for taking it." "Cocky bastard," I reply in good humor. "Emphasis on the cock." He chuckles quietly. Touching the wall for balance, I reach down so I can put my panties which are a bit wet, mind you and my jeans back on. Edward lets go of me so that he can dispose of the condom, then he, too, pulls his jeans back up. He retrieves my t-shirt the infamous t-shirt that started this all. Before handing it to me, he leans forward and kisses me on the cheek. He obeyed my rule; no kissing on the lips. Still, the kiss was softer than I think he intended it to be. I start to freak out. It's his last gesture, and here I am thinking how it's romantic when it isn't meant to be. Flustered by how much I liked the kiss on my cheek, I panic and remind the both of us that this was just about satisfying needs and nothing more. "It's a pity you live in San Francisco," I tell him as I put my t-shirt back on. "You'd be the perfect fuck buddy. You wouldn't expect anything other than sex. Everything would definitely be kept secret you'd hold your tongue." "Depends where my tongue is," he replies with a wink. He steps over to the sink, washes his hands and then makes sure his hair doesn't look too disheveled. "God is checking his hair, is he?" I tease. "You messed it up," he says, defending himself. "Thought you were going to pull it out at one stage." "As if I'd want to pull out anything of yours." I see his reflection smirk in the mirror. I take one last look at him before he puts his shirt back on. Who knows when I'll see him again? I certainly won't get another opportunity to see him like this. The overgrown but sexy hair, the green eyes, the great bodyand his brain. Damn.

"Your father would shoot me if he knew I made you beg for sex and then fucked you like that," Edward says as he buttons up his shirt. I turn to face the mirror to check my own appearance. "I'm sure your mother would shoot me first." He scoffs. "No way. She believes in gun control." "She also believes in overtaxing the dead," I reply smartly, referring to the Estate Tax bill. This round of banter reminds us of the reality that we have to deal with: our families wage political war against each other. We're not going to exchange numbers or anything like that. What just happened is an isolated incident that won't be repeated. Edward changes the tenor of the conversation, going back to being more playful. "Do I get to charge you a Service Tax for what I just did to you?" he jests. "No, I'm treating your service as a donation." He laughs. "A donation?" "Yes. Like a contribution from a Political Action Committee," I explain. "Key word being action." "Pretty big contribution, wasn't it?" he says suggestively, waggling his eyebrows. I look down at his package. "It was indeed." After we've stopped laughing, Edward gives me a more serious look, and I know it's time to wrap up proceedings, for lack of a better political or legal metaphor. "Okay, we probably shouldn't have done that," he states. "But we did. We just have to ensure that it doesn't happen again." "I completely agree," I confirm, sounding just as stern. "That was a one-off. It was fun, but reckless. We're obviously not going to tell a soul. Let's leave it at that. I promise not to refer to this the next time we bump into each other, whenever that may be. No trouble." He nods in sincerity. "I promise the same thing," he says. Even though we just agreed to never do this again, and to never speak of it again, there's an odd undercurrent to the conversation. It's like we're both striking a deal that we dislike. I'm not supposed to want to see him again, but I think I'd definitely like to. I think he feels the same way. One hour and forty minutes later, when I disembark at the station in New Haven, I can't help but think of one thing. One thing other than the mind-blowing sex I just had. Whether you're Democrat or Republican, one thing often holds true: campaign promises tend to get broken.

Chapter 5: Fortune Cookie EPOV Ten days after my encounter with Isabella Swan, I meet up with Jacob at our favorite dim sum restaurant in San Francisco's Chinatown. It's D-Day: Discussion Day. Alice told him a few nights ago what she'd encouraged me to do, and needless to say, he wasn't happy that I'd broken my pledge to stay away from Isabella. As soon as his trip was scheduled, he called me to suggest that we get together and talk man-to-man, best-friend-to-best-friend. That, and he loves the pork dumplings here. Really, the man can eat a ton of them. He's like a machine. The restaurant is currently experiencing the lunchtime rush, since many business folk trek over from the neighboring Financial District. We request a more private table on the balcony of the second floor overlooking the street. Usually, I don't buy into the whole 'my mom is a really important person' crap, but the owners really like her and I'm not going to pass up the opportunity to move this particular meeting to a more private area. Jacob pours himself some more jasmine tea and then starts the conversation I've been dreading for over a week. For ten days, I've been trying to get Isabella Swan out of my head, and I've been failing miserably. Whether it's thinking about how smart she is or how much I enjoyed taking her against that bathroom wall, she has completely dominated my thoughts. If my brain were a cable news channel, she'd be the only news story. "Okay, Edward. Let's talk about Amtrak-gate," Jacob says with a disappointed sigh. I pull a face. "I don't think something can be termed 'something-gate' unless it's actually a scandal." He rolls his eyes at my whining. I shift uncomfortably; I'm going to be interrogated. "Let's hope this never turns into an actual scandal," he says patronizingly. "Are you going to be my best friend in this conversation or my mother's press secretary?" I ask defensively. He shrugs. "A little from column A, a little from column B." I'm not mad at him for being upset with me. I did something that I shouldn't have. I get that. The problem is that I enjoyed doing it, and since there's no harm done, I'm not going to renounce what I did. "In my defense, it was your wife who totally set the whole thing up. The weather didn't end up being that bad in Boston." It's true. The flight I was meant to take into Boston that day was only delayed by forty-five minutes. I could've caught my flight and still made it to my meeting on time. "Alice won't tell me why she encouraged you," Jacob reveals, a little irritated with his other half. "I mean, other than she thought you needed some fun. I can't believe you banged Isabella Swan. On a train of all places!"

"Give me a break," I implore. "No one is going to find out. What happened on the train, stays on the train." Jacob's comeback is delayed because a waitress arrives with a selection of dumplings. After she leaves, he shakes his head at me and speaks. "That doesn't even make any sense." The incredulity in his voice signals that he is reluctantly amused by what I did. "It stays on the train? So it's traveling up and down the north-eastern seaboard on a daily basis? Fuck, man. That's some serious mileage." I'm not sure how many people know this, but my sharpened wit is a by-product of my long-time friendship with Jacob. This interrogation of his is bound to descend into a repartee of sarcastic cheap shots and pointed remarks. I point my chopsticks at him, shaking them once to emphasize my point. "Don't blow this out of proportion. This isn't a big deal. I had my fun. It's over. No one will find out." "What makes you so sure?" he quizzes. He laughs at my apparent navet. "She could be telling people that you sexually harassed her!" "No way, she totally wanted it," I say dismissively. "We don't have to worry about her telling anyone anything. Mutual deterrence, Jake." His brows knit in confusion. "Where have I heard that term before?" "Mutually assured destruction. You can't strike the enemy because everyone loses if you do. Everything gets destroyed." I fold my arms across the table, miffed that I have to explain such a key concept in International Relations. "If she tells someone, it's the apocalypse for both of us." He snorts. Okay, I didn't have to explain it to him. He's setting me up "Let me get this straight, Cullen," he says. "You're comparing fucking Isabella Swan to the threatened use of our nation's nuclear arsenal during the Cold War?" "Uh" He has a real talent for making me look stupid. Best friends can be so annoying. "Are you trying to tell me that your dick is a nuclear weapon?" he asks with a smirk. I can't help but laugh. "Well, the sex was explosive." He almost chokes on his mouthful of food. After swallowing uncomfortably, he shakes his head, and I know instantly from the look in his eyes that he really is reluctantly entertained by this whole thing. "I can't believe you fucked a Swan." I frown. "Don't say it like that. Makes me sound like I fucked a bird." His eyes light up. I'm handing him ammunition. "First Republicans, then bestiality," he declares excitedly, acting like a tabloid reporter. "Edward Cullen craves action. Watch out, San Francisco. This man is on the prowl."

"I am not on the prowl." He then imitates the narrator in those National Geographic documentaries, perfecting that pompous but dry tone. "Watch as he tries to attract the enemy with his green eyes and perfectly coiffed hair. The female specimen finds him difficult to resist in his natural habitatthe Amtrak train." I try to hold back my laughter, but he sounds so ridiculous. "Dude, shut up." "Dude, you're totally asking for it," he responds, switching back to his normal voice. "Imagine if this got out during mid-term elections. Or worse, the presidential election. It could be Banner versus Swan in 2012, or your mother versus Swan in 2016. You'd be the douchebag who banged Swan's daughter for a trophy fuck. Though I guess we'd spin it to make her look like a slut." I give him a hard look. "First, it's not going to get out. Second, she's not a slut," I insist. "Third, it wasn't a trophy fuck." He disagrees. "It kinda was. You wouldn't have done it if she wasn't the enemy. It was part of the thrill, wasn't it? A notch on your belt." "Stop making me sound like such a predator." I realize that I sound whiny and immature. I'd make a really crappy defense lawyer, that's for sure. My mother is still annoyed that I never took the LSATs, but I knew I didn't want to go to law school. Jacob has a thoughtful look on his face. I surmise that he's thinking about something politics-related. I leave him to his thoughts as the waitress comes over to deliver some potstickers and fried squid tentacles. My parents see in Jacob the enthusiasm for politics that they wish I possessed. He's a natural when it comes to playing the game, and he's eager to learn the ropes from those in the know. His acumen comes from his father, a well-spoken and seasoned campaigner, but he also has a talent that's distinctly his own. He's an excellent strategist and communicator, and he's been likened to my own father. It's no wonder he fits perfectly into my family. "What are you thinking?" I ask as I swipe the complimentary fortune cookie that has been sitting on his plate since we started eating. I already ate mine. The fortune in it said to 'Work on Your Communication Skills'. I want a less insulting, and more specific, fortune. "Hey!" Jacob exclaims, coming out of his reverie. "That's my fortune cookie." "You're married to Alice. You don't need a fortune cookie." "She's your sister," he retorts. "Something I'm sure you knew years ago when you started sleeping with her behind my back," I counter, pleased he walked straight into my trap. Now he's pointing his chopsticks at me. "That's an old comeback and you know it. I fell in love with her. She's my wife now. You can't use that against me. You think it's awesome that I'm your brother."

I'm sure it's not manly to pout. Let's just say that I grimaced and went quiet. "Go on," he urges, pitying me now. "Read your fortune." I break the cookie open and take the fortune out. "It saysFollow your heart," I reveal. "That's a bit generic, isn't it?" "Note that it says follow your heart and not follow your nuclear-weapon-of-adick." His comment makes us both break out into raucous laughter. Passersby on the street below probably think we've lost our minds. "I cannot help that I am that well equipped," I respond, getting back into the game. Jacob starts to lecture me. "Every time you think about what you did to Isabella, I want you to think of four letters: NNPT." I smirk. "Technically that's three letters, with one repeated twice." "NNPT, Edward. NNPT." "Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty? I see where you're going with this" He's using my own field of study against me. The Treaty is meant to limit the spread of nuclear weapons. "You can't just go around doing whatever you want," he emphasizes. "There are people around you in elected positions. You might even run for office one day!" "I highly doubt that," I say in response to the latter assertion. "Stop using your weapon on high-profile Republicans." "That doesn't make any sense. Isn't the whole point of a weapon to use it on the enemy?" I joke. Now he's really finding me entertaining. "Oh, is that why you got confused? You knew Senator Swan was Cullen enemy number one, so you launched your nuke against his daughter?" "She wanted me to launch the weapon!" "This is why Democrats get accused of being weak on national security. Because people like you don't know shit about military strategy," he jests. "Who the fuck is running your operation?" "There is nothing wrong with my military operation." Okay, I shouldn't have stolen his fortune cookie. He's really enjoying this opportunity to grill me, going in for the kill. "You know what it's like, Edward?" Jacob asks. "It's like your commanding officer wrote a note complaining about 'those fucking Republicans', but you only read the last two words. And then you took it literally and carried out the order." "As if that would happen," I argue. "I can read."

"Do you want me to applaud you for being able to read?" he says condescendingly. "I'm pretty sure most nuclear weapons come with a warning saying 'Caution: Absolutely Fucking Dangerous. Handle with Care'." "My weapon is always handled with care." He casts me a doubtful look. "Did you let Isabella handle the weapon?" "No. And because you're giving me such a hard time, I'm not telling you anything about my military operation." "Classified, is it? Pentagon level? Wow, the secret must be a matter of national securityOh wait, that's what I've been trying to tell you: if you don't do stupid shit, then you have nothing to hide." I pick up my napkin and wave it; it's my white flag of surrender. "Okay, I get it," I insist. "When it comes to Isabella, consider my weapon disarmed." "Good. Now give me back my cookie." I hand over the two halves of the cookie, which he proceeds to pop into his mouth, eating both pieces at once. However, I keep the little piece of paper that's my fortune for the day. The cookies are actually made locally I wonder what the odds were of me getting this particular fortune. I'm not sure how many different messages they bother to produce. Then again, it's technically Jacob's fortune; I just stole it. Either way, the piece of advice still bothers me. Follow your heart. Usually when I can't stop thinking about a woman the way I haven't been able to stop thinking about Isabella, it means that I'm interested in her. But I guess it was just sex. I shouldn't confuse lust with something more. I resolved the sexual tension. I suppose I'm just thinking about her because the sex was great. Really, really great. And Isabella said it herself: I would be the perfect fuck buddy for her. I haven't made any more progress on my article about Lemon because every time I sit down to work on it, I end up getting distracted by thoughts of Isabella. There's a stack of cases and commentary that I still haven't read. I know there's no strict deadline on the piece I will shop it around at the major journals when it's ready but it's out of character for me to suddenly lose focus like this. I take my freelance writing seriously. I'm still mulling over the offer from that political blog based in Boston. The meeting went rather well. I was able to freely discuss a number of topics with the editor and two of his staffers. They even told me that I wouldn't have to relocate; I could periodically check in if I chose to, but I could reside wherever I wanted as long as the articles I wrote were current and well-written. Of course, San Francisco isn't exactly the pulse of the political world, so I may need to move if I decide to cover some domestic issues. The thing that still bothers me is the fact they may just be courting me in order to gain favor with my family; my father is Chief of Staff for the President and my mother is Speaker of the House. Maybe the offer is too good to be true. Maybe they just want an inside source on the goings-on in the White House and on the

Hill. I want them to want me for my own talent, not for my connections or my name. I need to earn my career. I turn my attention back to my lunch. "You might as well tell me the details," Jacob says, his tone conversational now rather than combative. "It's not like you can confide in anyone else. Unless you want to talk about it with Alice." "I don't really want to talk about it," I admit. "Better not to think about it." He frowns, picking up on the fact that I've suddenly gone a bit sullen. "What's wrong?" I stall by pouring myself some more tea. "Edward? Come on," Jacob prods. "You're not sulking over the fortune cookie are you?" In a way, I am. But it's not like I can admit that to him. "No, it's not that. It's Isabellashe's smart, funny and pretty. But she's a frickin Swan. That's not really fair, now is it?" "There are plenty of women out there," Jacob reminds me. "Even if you liked talking to her before you fucked the shit out of her, I doubt you two would click if you talked about a contentious issue. You'd see that it wouldn't work, that you don't really have that much in common." "We did kind of talk about a contentious issue," I tell him, brightening a little at the memory. "We talked about my research on the Establishment Clause." "Are you serious?" Jacob exclaims, alarmed. "Do you know how many ultraconservative judges the Swans have helped appoint to federal circuit courts over the years? I bet you they'd all tell you that the separation of church and state is just a product of judicial activism from the Supreme Court bench." Though the comment bothers me a bit it's probably true remembering the banter from the train trip is making me feel a strange mix of happiness and regret. "You didn't exchange numbers, did you?" Jacob checks, narrowing his eyes. Damn. I must have a wistful look on my face. "No, definitely not," I assure him. "We're not stupid. It was just a one-off ." "Okay, good. Just making sure." I try to lift my own spirits. "I'll be fine," I insist. "I'm just a bit bitter about everyone around me having a significant other." "Alice always says you'll find someone." "Yeah, she does say that." But why did she put me on train with Isabella Swan? Is this supposed to be my wake-up call? Is it time to stop screwing around? Am I supposed to be looking for a wife?

"Hey, did you ever end up reading that book that Alice made me buy you?" Jacob asks. "American Wife? No. I refuse to read it." "She told me to remind you about it. When I left D.C., she started rereading one of the author's other books." I click my fingers, trying to remember the other title that Alice mentioned. "Prep," I recall. "I remember that." I remember that because it reminded me of being prepared, which reminded me to use protection when getting it on with Isabella. Jacob, however, shakes his head. "No, not that one," he says. "The other one." "What other one?" "That Sittenfeld lady has another book. What's it called? Shit, that's going to bug me" "I have no idea, man." "ManThat's it!" Jacob exclaims, as if he's just won a prize. "The Man of My Dreams. Pretty lame title. It's probably a shit-boring book, but Alice kept talking about it yesterday." I gape at him. "Are you shitting me?" That's the book that Isabella was reading on the train. When I teased her about the title, I was too busy thinking about getting her naked. I failed to notice Sittenfeld's name when Jacob bought me American Wife, and Alice never referred to the author by name. Thinking that I'm agreeing with him on the point about the lame title, Jacob nods vigorously. "If I worked in a publishing company, I would make sure that there was someone specifically employed to veto lame-sounding, clichd titles." "Yeah," I manage to say, unable to articulate any of the questions running through my head. What is Alice doing to me? This is such a mind-fuck. This is why I can't enter the political arena. I can't deal with people messing with me. "Anyway, don't ask her about it," Jacob advises. "She'll start giving you a rundown on the character's quest for true love. Blah blah blah. I love her, but I really didn't need to hear it." "I haven't called her today." "I think Esme is up to something, so don't ask Alice about whether she can predict when the tax vote will be scheduled, or what the outcome will be, either. It'll give her a headache." Alice doesn't always like using her ability to try and gauge how legislative initiatives will fare in Congressional votes. When there are too many people

changing their minds at any one time, following the outcome can be exhausting for her. It's like C-SPAN on crack. "I won't ask her about the tax bill," I promise Jacob. I want to ask her about Isabella. Great, now that I've made that decision, she'll probably know that I'm going to call her. My phone starts to ring. No surprise there. I show my iPhone display to Jacob before answering the call. "Hi, Alice." "Hello!" She sounds super excited. It always makes me nervous when she's this excited. "I'm having lunch with Jake right now," I tell her. "You probably already knew that." "Yeah, he'll call me when you're done. What are you guys talking about?" "Nuclear disarmament," I say dryly. Jacob snorts. "That's a bit intense," Alice replies. "Are you calling to tell me something?" I prompt, fishing for a relevant answer. "Yes, of course," she says, acting like I'm being silly. "Make sure you check your email regularly this week." "I check it all the time anyway. And which account are you talking about? My college one or my personal one?" Am I going to get an important email? Does this even have anything to do with Isabella Swan? "The USF one. Duh. As if you could Google your personal one." I don't know what she's talking about. I don't even think my email address is listed on the University of San Francisco website, despite the fact that I do teach part-time for the College of Arts. Maybe I should check that. Maybe I should make it available. "Okay" "I'll let you get back to your lunch," she chimes. "Talk to you later. Bye!" I stare at my iPhone in confusion after she hangs up. "Sometimes I wish she'd fill me in on what her visions are about," I complain to Jacob. "Her directions increasingly don't make any sense. You have to have blind faith." He shrugs, obviously having great faith in Alice's visions. After all, she did know they were going to get married years before it happened.

"Just go with it," he advises. "She's way more accurate than a fortune cookie." "Most things are." I start thinking of Isabella. I miss our banter. And I'd like to have sex with her again. Jacob, again, senses that my mind has wandered. "NNPT, Edward." "Yeah, yeah," I say before calling over the waitress to order some rice noodle rolls. I might ask for some more fortune cookies too. Maybe I'll eventually get a message I can use. It would be interesting to know how many different fortunes the cookie factory actually distributes. That being said, there's one thing I know for sure: I bet none of them refer to nuclear weapons.

Legal citations: - Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, aka Nuclear NonProliferation Treaty (NPT or NNPT). Signed 5 March 1970. Three Pillars: NonProliferation, Disarmament, and Peaceful Use of Nuclear Energy. (I prefer to call it 'NPT', but I thought 'NNPT' was funnier in this chapter.) Other references: -Curtis Sittenfeld, The Man of My Dreams (2006), Random House. -The fortune cookie factory referenced is Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Company, San Francisco. You can go on a free tour, actually, but I never got around to it when I visited San Fran. They say the first fortune cookies in America were served at the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. The Tea Garden is awesome!

Chapter 6: Google Me, Baby BPOV Two weeks after my encounter with Edward Cullen, I meet up with Emmett for Sunday lunch at our favorite pizza place in New Haven. Winter recess ended on Wednesday, so I'm in the midst of the examination period. However, it's not the stress of studying that made me ask my brother to come visit me to cheer me up it's the fact that I'm in a constant state of irritation over my Edward Cullen situation. Of course, Emmett knows nothing about my sexual exploits with Esme Cullen's son, so my cover story is that Advanced Constitutional Law is giving me a headache. In a way, that's not a lie. I know there are many clauses to the First Amendment, but every time I think about the Establishment Clause, I think about Lemon v

Kurtman, which in turn makes me think about Edward Cullen fucking me against a bathroom wall. Then I remember that I'm never going to be fucked like that again, a depressing thought at the age of twenty-five. Every time I reread cases that might help him in his research, I'm also reminded that the man has a brain, and that pisses me off even more. I want him as a fuck buddy. Dammit. I'm mortified that I can't move on from what happened two weeks ago on that train. I have moments of frustration where I convince myself that this entire situation is the fault of the United States government and everyone involved. If the Cullen/Swan rivalry didn't exist, then I would be free to pursue what I want. Yes, I'm turning into one of those conspiracy theorists who get coverage on second-rate news programs on television. Dear United States Congress, You're cock-blocking me. Don't make me come down to D.C. to force you to get out of my way. It would be embarrassing for the both of us. Not to mention, the nation. Kind regards, Isabella Swan I fail to stop the sigh that slips from my lips. Emmett gives me a concerned look. "Sis, I've never seen you this tense before finals," he comments, passing me the menu even though we always order the same thing pepperoni with extra cheese. "Is there something else going on?" "Not really," I lie. I try to think of something else that could explain my irritation. "Although, it does bother me that tax-and-spend liberals keep saying that Dad doesn't know shit about fiscal policy." "Chill out, Bella," he advises. "Word on the Hill is that the tax bill is just a stunt. Esme Cullen playing mind games or something. Banner hasn't accomplished anything since he took office. The Dems are restless, and everyone is concerned about mid-terms." "Gotta love partisan gridlock," I say wryly. The waitress delivers our drinks; I ordered a coke even though it's freezing outside. The weather is horrible today, though that at least guaranteed that the line outside the restaurant wasn't as bad as it usually is; Frank Pepe's doesn't take reservations. The other famed pizzeria on Wooster Street is Sally's. There wasn't a line there today when we walked by, but they do accept reservations. Some people say that you can only be a fan of one or the other. Pepe's or Sally's. Pick one. Even pizza is partisan. "I'm tired of studying," I complain, playing it up.

"Aw, come on, Bella. Cheer up," Emmett urges. "In six month's time, you'll be sitting your last set of examinations ever. Well, besides the Bar Exam" I groan. I should ask him about Rosalie, but I don't really want to talk about the Hales. Jasper has been trying to call me, leaving messages about how he's not happy that his sister is interested in my brother. I haven't returned any of the calls; I couldn't care less. I've been fixated on Edward Cullen. I'll ask Emmett about Rosalie when I'm not feeling so cranky. He changes the subject, suddenly excited about something. "You know what will cheer you up?" he asks. Sex with Edward Cullen? "What?" I ask. "There's a benefit coming up in Philly," he answers enthusiastically, thumping the table with his fist. "Dad can't go, so you and I should go with mom. I tell you what the day of the benefit, we'll have a brother-sister day. Go to all our favorite childhood spots. Eat everything in town. Go to the Zoo. Watch a movie. Stupid stuff like that. Catch up with everyone we didn't see at Christmas. Eh? Eh?" I reluctantly give him a smile. "Yeah, that actually sounds good. But when will this be?" "Saturday the twenty-third. Something to look forward to," he tells me. "It's a fundraiser for diabetes. We'll sit with the Senate Republicans." "I do like getting dressed up," I admit, brightening a little. I'll buy an expensive dress, get dolled up, and find a new guy to obsess over. Excellent plan. "And after this, we'll go over to Libby's Pastry Shop, and I'll buy you an icecream," Emmett adds. "You can have a cannoli too." "Aw, thanks, Em." "Anytime, sis." The waitress delivers our thin-crust pie. Emmett immediately takes two slices. "Do you ever think that we should try Sally's?" I ask Emmett after the waitress walks away. "Nah. The pizza is better here. No need to cross the street." He gives me a curious look, but then shrugs. "Don't be a traitor, Bella. I went to Yale, Dad went to Yale, Grandad went to YaleSwans have always been Pepe's regulars." Tradition. Can't argue with that right now. I try to dispel any traitorous thoughts. "Yeah, you're right." I eat my pizza and try to think of what gelato flavor I want to order from Libby's, even though I'll probably stick to what I always get.

Trying new things isn't working out so well for me. I should not be missing Edward Cullen.

A few days later, I still haven't come out of my funk. Though I'm sure I aced my Advanced Civil Procedure exam, I end up lying on my bed in the evening, staring up at the ceiling of my bedroom at nothing in particular. I live by myself in an apartment near campus. I like my independence. With Emmett back in D.C. and my classmates all preoccupied with finals, no one else has really noticed how out-of-sorts I am right now. I'm worried that I'm going to do something stupid, like try and contact Edward Cullen so I can engage in some banter with him. I could email him. Send him a thank you email. Oh, what am I thinking? That's an awful idea. He'll think that I'm desperate, trying to stalk him. He'll accuse me of wanting cybersex. Maybe I should just Google him and see if there are any recent images of him. Looking at photos might take the edge off. What is wrong with me? Maybe I should just do it. Find his email address. I can't stand this anymore. What if I don't seem him for another couple of years? Perhaps we can be friends, secret friends. I can continue to help him with any legal questions he has. He could pay me back for such help in certain ways. I am craving him right now. I grab my laptop and open up Google on my browser. Since I know he attends the University of San Francisco, I Google that with his name. Conveniently enough, the first result is a page from the university's website; it's a list of contacts for the College of Arts, split into discipline groups. I scroll down to International Relations and Foreign Policy, and right there is Edward's email address, just screaming for me to use. Since the address is listed for academic purposes, I decide to draft an academicsounding email, which means I have to come up with a relevant topic. I open up a new tab in the browser and click on one of the legal databases in my bookmarks, the ones that have exclusive access. I manage to find an article that may help him with his research, a paper that was originally published in the Yale Law Journal several years ago in abridged form. I stop myself. I think I've lost my mind. Who in their right mind tries to reestablish contact with someone they had sex with on a train by sending them a journal article? Flustered, I hastily switch back to the other window, only to find that I have the sudden urge to click on the 'Images' link for the search engine. Don't do it, Bella. Those green eyes are evil. If you see them, you'll die.

Dieand go to heaven. It's like I suddenly have no self-control, or self-respect for that matter. I click on the link and the page loads with all these photographs of Edward, some recent and some not. The recent ones conjure memories of how satisfied I felt after having sex with him. He's not smirking in these photographs, but my memory does the job for me, tricking me into seeing what's not actually there. Hallucinations. Wonderful. In fact, my mind is now thinking up vivid images of him taking me againstwell, anything. Another bathroom wall. The outside of an Amtrak train. The Washington Monument (which if you look at it, kind of resembles a phallus). A newsstand. Esme Cullen's podium in the House chamber (not when she's speaking, of course). A coffee cart. Any of the five sides of the Pentagon. A mailbox. The shelf in the Yale Law School Library that Emmett once spilt cocacola on, resulting in him being banned from the journal section for two weeks while the librarians replaced the fourteen issues of the Harvard Law Review that he damaged. Oh, and the White House. I go back to looking at my laptop screen, and I notice there are a few photos from years and years ago, mostly family shots. There's even one of him and his sister, Alice, with the Clintons. Oh, Bill Clinton. No one believed him when he said that he 'did not have sexual relations with that woman.' I wonder if anyone would believe Edward if the truth came out about what we did and he denied it. I need to shut down my laptop. But I can't do it. Like a woman possessed, I log into my email account and furiously type away. It's as if my brain subconsciously knows that if I take the time to think this through, I'll realize how desperate my behavior is. Articles could be written about me and published in psychology journals. I should be committed for being obsessed with the enemy.

To: eacullen(at)usfca(dot)edu From: isabella(dot)swan(at)yale(dot)edu Date: 12 January 2010 7:31 EDT Subject: Lemon Attachment: Lee&Lemon(dot)pdf 1.4MB Dear Edward, Attached is the extended version of an article written by one of my professors here at Yale. It discusses Lee v Weisman, the case where the Supreme Court declined an invitation to either reconsider or overrule Lemon v Kurtzman. I think the discussion of the various reformulations of the Lemon Test will help you. It appears to cover a number of cases post-Lee, as well.

Consider this a thank you gift for your services. Kind regards, Isabella Swan

I hit 'send' without pausing to think. Oh. My. God. You know that relieved feeling you get when you realize that a major mistake of yours can be fixed? Yeah, I don't have that feeling. It was an implied condition of our fucking that we not contact each other afterwards. That's why we didn't exchange numbers. I don't know how to hack into computers, so unless I can teleport to San Francisco and take a sledgehammer to the University's server, I am doomed to humiliation and disgrace. He'll print out the email and keep it as a token of how desperate he made me. Maybe he can frame it, add the train ticket if he still has it and make some sort of hilarious collage. Scrapbooking they call it these days. Why not Google me and find a particularly bad photo stick that in there with a picture of the Supreme Court, maybe a photo of an actual lemon, and to top it off, the GOP logo. I referred to his 'services'. I must have a death wish. I slap my forehead and walk away from the laptop, leaving it on my bed, and go to the kitchen to get a glass of water. I glance over at the television in my living room; Fox News is running through the latest headlines. I imagine the latest news story running across the ticker: 'Isabella Swan stalks Edward Cullen. Entire Democratic Party laughs its ass off. No pun intended.' Maybe I should check my outbox to see whether the email actually sent. I return to my bedroom and I've got mail. There's a reply sitting in my inbox, like a ticking bomb. I don't know anything about defusing bombs. I'm a law student, not a CIA agent. I have to open the message. It's time sensitive. I have to go into major damage control. I take a deep breath and click on it.

To: isabella(dot)swan(at)yale(dot)edu From: eacullen(at)usfca(dot)edu Date: 12 January 2010 4:37 PST Subject: RE: Lemon

Dear Isabella, I must admit that I am very surprised to hear from you. Though I thought we agreed that the service was a donation, thank you very much for the kind gift. I'm sure it will aid my research greatly. Best wishes for the future, Edward Cullen P.S. I wasn't aware that my email address was a matter of public record. Could you please tell me where you found it? I do not wish to be contacted by people who are interested in my services.

It could be worse. He's expressed his surprise, but he's not taunting me. He even made a joke about his services. Although, on rereading the post-script, maybe he is making fun of me. He must know that I Googled him. Best wishes for the future. That's a rather dismissive statement, isn't it? And he specifically made a comment about not wanting unsolicited emails from people wanting to be serviced by him. The psychosis has receded. Reality hits, and boy, does it hurt. It shouldn't hurt that he's not interested; after all, how can we be fuck buddies when we don't live near each other? Then there's the other small matter of our families being enemies. I decide to reply with a succinct and final email. I'm never going to live this down. It's fortunate that he stays away from most political fundraisers and bipartisan events; otherwise, I'd be forever dodging him. I type my reply:

To: eacullen(at)usfca(dot)edu From: isabella(dot)swan(at)yale(dot)edu Subject: Email Listing Cullen, Your email address is listed on the USF website. Isabella

I click 'send,' feeling very deflated. Not expecting a reply, I open up another tab and start looking for a dress to wear to the upcoming diabetes benefit. Shopping is therapy online-shopping counts too. But Edward does reply:

To: isabella(dot)swan(at)yale(dot)edu From: eacullen(at)usfca(dot)edu Subject: Sorry Dear Isabella, That was a rather cold email. Did I offend you earlier? I'm sorry if I did. I don't want you to be upset with me. Although, you are cute when you're mad. Kind regards, Edward

An idea pops into my head. Challenging him through email is not ideal, as it is not as fast-paced as speaking in person. However, this will have to do.

To: eacullen(at)usfca(dot)edu From: isabella(dot)swan(at)yale(dot)edu Subject: Memory Loss Dear Edward, Offend me? You made me beg for sex, remember? Isabella

To: isabella(dot)swan(at)yale(dot)edu From: eacullen(at)usfca(dot)edu Subject: RE: Memory Loss Dear Isabella, Oh, I remember. I definitely remember. But you forgave me for that! And I'm pretty sure I made it up to you. Edward

To: eacullen(at)usfca(dot)edu From: isabella(dot)swan(at)yale(dot)edu Subject: Never Again Dear Edward,

I'm just messing with you. I'm not mad. But I'll have you know that I'll never beg for you again. In fact, if there is a next time, you'll be begging for me. Isabella

To: isabella(dot)swan(at)yale(dot)edu From: eacullen(at)usfca(dot)edu Subject: My Services Dear Isabella, That's an interesting theory you've got there. I wonder if we'll get to test it. Should you require my services once more, please feel free to contact me at my private account, cullencampaign83(at)gmail(dot)com. Please address the subject line so that it reads 'Expression of Interest'. Note that there is no guarantee there is a long waiting list of women who want me. Kind regards, Edward

To: eacullen(at)usfca(dot)edu From: isabella(dot)swan(at)yale(dot)edu Subject: VIP Status Dear Edward, If I am not important enough to be given priority, then I am not interested in your services. Kind regards, Isabella

To: isabella(dot)swan(at)yale(dot)edu From: eacullen(at)usfca(dot)edu Subject: RE: VIP Status And if I give you priority?

To: eacullen(at)usfca(dot)edu From: isabella(dot)swan(at)yale(dot)edu Subject: One and only

You'd have to give me sole priority. Ignore the rest of these potential clients.

To: isabella(dot)swan(at)yale(dot)edu From: eacullen(at)usfca(dot)edu Subject: Possessive, much? I shall amend your client file so it reads that you are interested in being my only client.

To: eacullen(at)usfca(dot)edu From: isabella(dot)swan(at)yale(dot)edu Subject: What file? Hold on a second, I never specifically said I was interested. What information is stored in my client file? I wish to be privy to my records. If you do not produce the file, I will be forced to subpoena its contents. I remind you that there is no such thing as gigolo-client privilege. Kind regards, Your favorite client, Isabella

To: isabella(dot)swan(at)yale(dot)edu From: eacullen(at)usfca(dot)edu Subject: Disclosure Dear Isabella, I'd prefer it if you didn't use the term 'gigolo'. Such terminology is both outdated and demeaning. In the interests of full disclosure, here is the file note you have requested: Client Name: Isabella Swan Last serviced: 26th December 2009, in a bathroom on an Amtrak Train (Northeast Regional Line). Notes: (1) Client did not want to be kissed; (2) Client did not remove bra; (3) Client protested against 'begging' requirement before acquiescing; (4) Client had trouble staying quiet; (5) Client couldn't stand after fucking completed; (6) Client stole bottle of orange juice prior to service; (7) Client sent thank you gift on 12th January 2010. Payment: No payment necessary. Service was a contribution to her campaign fund.

Status: Client claims that she does not wish to be serviced again. Humor her. She wishes to be the sole client of this business. Annexes: Performance Review of client. Kind regards, The Man of Your Dreams, Edward

To: eacullen(at)usfca(dot)edu From: isabella(dot)swan(at)yale(dot)edu Subject: UmNO. Dear Mr. Gigolo, First, the theft of your orange juice is completely irrelevant and should be removed from the file note. Second, contrary to what is written in the 'status' section, I did not confirm that I wished to be the sole client of your business. Third, I wish to subpoena the Performance Review annexed to my file. I was unaware that I was being graded. Kind regards, Isabella

To: isabella(dot)swan(at)yale(dot)edu From: eacullen(at)usfca(dot)edu Subject: Performance Review I await your subpoena. And any other way you wish to serve me.

To: eacullen(at)usfca(dot)edu From: isabella(dot)swan(at)yale(dot)edu Subject: Service of Subpoena Dear Mr. Cullen, You have been served: AO 88B (Rev. 01/09) Subpoena to Produce Documents, Information, or Objects or to Permit Inspection of Premises UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT for the

Northern District of California Civil Action No. 122609 Isabella Swan, Plaintiff v. Edward 'Gigolo' Cullen, Defendant SUBPOENA TO PRODUCE DOCUMENTS, INFORMATION, OR OBJECTS OR TO PERMIT INSPECTION OF PREMISES To: ' Production: YOU ARE COMMANDED to produce at the time, date, and place set forth below the following documents, electronically stored information, or objects, and permit their inspection, copying, testing, or sampling of the material: Performance Review of Miss Isabella Swan from 12/26/09. Place: Wherever possible Date and Time: As soon as possible The provisions of Fed. R. Civ. P. 45(c), relating to your protection as a person subject to a subpoena, and Rule 45 (d) and (e), relating to your duty to respond to this subpoena and the potential consequences of not doing so, are attached. Date: 12th January 2010 Signature of Clerk or Deputy Clerk Attorney's signature Isabella Swan

To: isabella(dot)swan(at)yale(dot)edu From: eacullen(at)usfca(dot)edu Subject: Whoahold on Dear Isabella, Surely we can settle this matter without the court's involvement. Perhaps there is a number I could contact you at? Kind regards, Edward

To: eacullen(at)usfca(dot)edu From: isabella(dot)swan(at)yale(dot)edu Subject: Medicine, Taste of Your Own Beg for the number.

To: isabella(dot)swan(at)yale(dot)edu From: eacullen(at)usfca(dot)edu Subject: This is me begging Dear Isabella, I beg you to give me your phone number. Please times a hundred. And because I know you're going to say 'beg harder' Please times the number of representatives in Congress, times all their constituents. Even the Republicans. In fact, the Republicans can be counted twice (which is essentially what happened in Florida in the 2000 Presidential Election). I apologize for that last joke. Please give me your number. Please? Kind regards, Edward

To: eacullen(at)usfca(dot)edu From: isabella(dot)swan(at)yale(dot)edu Subject: Directory Assistance Is that what happened in 2000? How about Kerry in 2004? Oh wait, you need to be close to winning in order to be entitled to a recount. (Yes, I know Banner won Florida in 2008. Let's call it even.) You may contact me immediately at the following number: (203) 879-5716.

Sure enough, my phone rings within thirty seconds. I figured it was prudent not to give him my cell number, just in case I end up sending him texts about how much I want him. Plus, I don't want him to be able to call me whenever he wants. I find it hilarious that I was the one who caved and contacted him, yet I now have the upper hand. "Isabella speaking." "You Googled me, didn't you?" he says knowingly, sounding very amused. "Okay, here's the deal. You forget that I Googled you, and I forget that you begged for my number," I negotiate, going into lawyer mode. "Wait a minute," he argues. "This isn't your cell number. You cheated." I'm unapologetic. "Deal with it, Cullen." "Okay fine," he says amiably, backing down. I assume he's just happy I gave him any number at all.

"By the way," he adds, "that subpoena looked alarmingly real. How did you draft it so quickly?" "I used the real form," I say proudly. "I don't do things half-assed." He laughs. "You use your whole ass, do you? Well, it is a cute ass. I'll give you that." "I'm sure you'd like to give me more than that." "And if I don't?" "I'll lodge a notice with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals," I respond. "In other words, you'll literally sue the pants off me?" "Is that a legitimate cause of action in California?" I ask, acting surprised. "My, my, you live in an interesting jurisdiction." "You should visit sometime," he says suggestively. "See how interesting it can get." Banter is much quicker without the typing. I'm happy to be talking to him. His voice sounds just as sexy over the phone. "I don't think I'm allowed into your congressional district," I tell him. "I'd have to be invited in, like a vampire." "Well, I've breached one of your thresholds, so it's time you breached one of mine." He can breach my threshold anytime he wants to. "I'm in the middle of exams, Cullen. Maybe you should meet me on my home turf. Come to a fundraiser just before the start of spring term. We can discuss this performance review you're withholding." "A fundraiserIn Philadelphia? Or in New Haven?" "Philly, of course. Are you up for it? I mean, when it comes to me, you should be up for it." "Email me the details. I'll think about it, but I can't promise you anything. I'm a busy guy." "Yeah, busy thinking about me." I certainly hope he's been thinking about me. I don't want to be the only obsessed one. "I find it endearing that you miss me," he teases. "If I miss you, I'm only missing a certain part of you," I clarify. He chuckles. "Send me the details of this fundraiser. And use an account that's not your Yale one." "Will do." "Have a nice night, Isabella. I'm sure you'll be dreaming of me later."

"Yeah, Dream Edward begs for it," I counter. "Does he now?" he challenges. "I find that difficult to imagine." "Of course you do. They're my dreams," I reason. "I have to study, Cullen. I'll email you during the week." "Sounds good. Bye, Isabella." "Bye." I put the phone back in its cradle and grin in satisfaction. Finally, I can stop fretting and start hoping that I will be able to see him soon. I'm aware of what he said: there's no guarantee that we'll be getting it on again. In fact, I might even change my mind, for whatever reason. But for right now, I like the plan so much that I think a subpoena is the wrong kind of court document for this situation. What I really need, Your Honor, is a summons.

Legal citations: - Lee v Weisman 505 U.S. 577 (1992), 587. - No, you can't email a subpoena. For content/service of a subpoena see Rule 45, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. - Form used is Form AO88B Subpoena to Produce Documents, Information, or Objects or to Permit Inspection of Premises (for U.S. District Court). - U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has appellate jurisdiction over the Northern District of California. (Court is based in San Francisco, actually). Other references: - Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, Sally's Apizza and Libby's Italian Pastry Shop are all located on Wooster Street, New Haven. - Chapter title is taken from 'Google Me', a song by Teyana Taylor. It was featured on a Season 2 episode of Gossip Girl. (Not that I watch that show anymore)

Chapter 7: The Separation of C and S EPOV Most Congressional representatives try to fly back home on the weekends my mother is no exception. So just days after my email exchange with Isabella, my mother and I meet up at the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park to attend an exhibition she's been dying to see. I don't know why someone would die to see a collection of American Silverware, but here I am, very much alive, and very much bored. Don't get me wrong, I love art, but there are only so many silver teapots and spoons I can look at without wanting to stab myself with somethingwell, silver.

What I'm dying for is a response from Isabella I sent her an email this morning telling her that since Jacob's dad has been slotted in as a last minute guest speaker for the benefit, both my family and Jacob's family will now be in attendance. I really want to know her reaction to this development. Thing is, I can't really check my email in front of my mother, even if she does reply soon. I should really find something else to think about. Like this silver soup tureen from the early 1900s. Kill me now. We move on to the next item in the exhibit, an antique silver vase. "Mom, why did you drag me to this exhibition?" I complain. "I feel like I'm in the dinnerware department of Macy's, except everything is a hundred years old and not for sale to the general public." "I remember taking you to Neiman Marcus once," she counters, stepping forward to take a closer look at the vase. "It must've been for Alice's wedding registry. You didn't complain then." Trust a politician to dodge a question. I give the vase a cursory look. "I'm pretty sure I did complain then. I think you just blocked me out, like you do with the House Republicans when they're complaining about your legislative initiatives." "Don't be ridiculous. I listen to them before I disagree with them. And I don't always disagree." "Sure you don't." I know what the next point of conversation will be she hasn't heard anything about what I intend to do about the offer of employment from the blog, so I'm sure she's planned a lecture on how I should take the opportunity to get more involved in political sphere. I'm reminded of the impending lecture when we move on to a collection of silver serving platters from the 1800s. "Hey, I like this exhibit," I say with mock excitement, pointing at one of the platters. "It helps me make the point about not wanting things handed to me on a silver platter. I want to earn my own career." I'm met with a reproaching look. She's not impressed with my attitude. "Are you going to take the job?" she asks. "It was a good offer, but I think I'll stick to freelancing," I tell her. "I don't want to place limits on what I write. I also don't want to feel compelled to write on domestic issues, especially those that are hot-button topics, like healthcare or gun control. That's not my fort. I'm not a rank-and-file member of the liberal intelligentsia. You know I don't like pushing ideas on people." She raises an eyebrow. "You're researching the Establishment Clause. That's not your fort." I'm trying not to get irritated. I need to deliver my argument without sounding like a defensive jerk. "I'm not covering it from a political perspective."

"Yes, well I still want to talk to you about your options," she informs me. "Your father would love it if you worked with him in the White House. The President also thinks very highly of you. It wouldn't be a handout; you're qualified." "It would still be a handout," I argue, though the mention of Dad softens my tone. He understands my need for independence more than my mother does. "Don't get me wrong I think the President is doing a great job. I just don't want to be a West Wing staffer." "What have you told USF? Are you going to continue teaching?" "I'm cutting my teaching load in half so I have more time to write," I explain. "I'm still going to keep in touch with the blog, but I like being a freelancer it's better than being on someone's payroll." My mother nods, and I can tell from the look in her eyes that she's going to back off. Well, for now at least. "I do want you to be happy, you know," she says, not unkindly. "I have an opinion because I care." I'm not intimidated by her, but I wish she'd let me do my own thing and figure out my own path. There's such a thing as too much help. Still, she's coming from a well-intentioned place it's easy to forget that sometimes. "I'm really glad I'm not a House Republican," I comment wryly. "You can be very tough." She arches an eyebrow in amusement. "Hmmm. Wait until I lecture you about not having a girlfriend," she says. "I haven't found the right woman," I say preemptively. My iPhone vibrates in my pocket, telling me I've received either a text or an email. I check the display and find out that someone's sent me an email, but since it could be from Isabella, I reluctantly put my phone back in my pocket. It would be a bad idea to read an email from a Swan in front of my mother. My mother has a wistful look on her face. That's not a good sign. "Maybe I should ask Alice about your love life," she says. "I want you to get married. I want to pick silverware for your wedding registry." I scoff. "When it comes to my love life, Alice doesn't know what she's talking about." Psychic or not, I really don't think Alice knows much about my future love life. I mean, lately all Alice has done is encourage me to have sex with Isabella Swan. I admit that her latest clue about checking my email turned out to be useful, as I waited for Isabella to contact me, but again, the line of communication is about sex, not love. Love and sex aren't the same thing. The next display is a set of three candelabras from the Civil War era. The engraved patterns on the silver are pretty intricate, but again I quickly lose interest. I walk over to the next item. It's a silver chamber pot. Somebody actually commissioned a silversmith to make them a pot to urinate in.

"Hey, mom," I call out, pointing to the chamber pot. "When the time comes, make sure you put this on my wedding registry." She walks over, reads the explanatory note for the display, and then rolls her eyes at me. "Edward Anthony," she chides, "stop taking the piss." I laugh heartily. "I'm serious," she adds. "I want you to start looking for a wife. Are you ready for my lecture?" Her BlackBerry starts to ring. "It's Jacob," she tells me. "Must be about Philadelphia." "Ah, saved by the Liberty Bell," I quip. I really don't want to talk about finding a wife. Why is she putting so much pressure on me to settle down? My mother answers the call, but it soon becomes clear that Jacob is calling about something other than the diabetes benefit. Something else is being scheduled. She excuses herself and walks out of the main exhibition area to discuss the matter in a more private location. At least it isn't Alice calling to give my mother an update on my non-existent love life. Jacob would want to remind me of NNPT, but he's inadvertently given me an opportunity to check my email. It turns out that the email I just received is indeed from Isabella. So much for not thinking about the fact I had sex with her. NNPT fail. That's the problem with international treaties: they're very difficult to enforce.

To: Edward Cullen cullencampaign83(at)gmail(dot)com From: Isabella Swan bellainthemajority(at)gmail(dot)com Date: 16 January 2010 4:31 EDT Subject: RE: Philly Don't poke fun at my email address. My dad has been Majority Leader since 2002. Your mom has only been Speaker for a year. I honestly didn't know your family was attending. My brother told me about the event I was never privy to any guest list. Are you thinking of not attending now?

Communicating would be easier if she gave me her cell number, but she doesn't want to afford me that luxury. I can see where she's coming from that kind of contact could get us into trouble. I'll settle for Gmail. After checking that my mother hasn't walked back into the room, I start chatting with her using Google Talk: Edward says: Jury is still out on whether it's a good idea. Odds are I might make an appearance just to taunt you with my presence. Isabella says: Oh, come on. You want to explore my Bay Area. Edward says: I've already gotten past your Golden Gate. Isabella says: Yeah, I remember. You struck gold, didn't you? Edward says: Oh, Isabella. So desperate for another Gold Rush Isabella says: I'm sure you'll be applying for a miner's permit, Cullen. Edward says: No need. I already staked my claim. There's just no guarantee that I'll drill there again. Isabella says: What an inefficient enterprise. I should sue for specific performance. I have to study now. Leave me alone. Oh wait, that's apparently what you want. To leave me alone. Don't blame me if someone trespasses on your precious mine site and starts drilling Edward says: As if you'd let that happen. You wouldn't want me to abandon the area all together, now would you? Isabella says: If you abandon the area, I'll conduct my own gold surveys, and you won't receive any of the profits. Edward says: Whoa, did you just threaten to take care of your own needs if I don't show up in Philadelphia? Isabella says:

I'm not talking to you anymore. Edward says: Aw, why not? Are your hands too busy to type? Isabella says: Ha! Wouldn't you like to know? Edward says: Leave the site alone. We'll negotiate options in Philadelphia. I'll be at the benefit. Isabella says: See you then, gold-digger. -end of chatI'm still smirking by the time my mother reenters the exhibition room, but as it turns out, she's also amused about something. "What are you smirking at?" she asks. I shrug, trying to act nonchalant. "Just discussing local history with a friend." "Is there something particularly funny about San Francisco's history? "Personal joke, mother. Sorry to exclude you," I say casually. "What is it that you're smirking at?" "I'm going to be a guest on The O'Reilly Factor," she reveals. I look at her like she's crazy. Fox News is known to favor conservatives. Well, that's what most Democrats will tell you. When Bill O'Reilly interviews someone he doesn't agree with, he usually ends up berating them, often not letting them get a word in edgewise. He'll probably yell over my mother a difficult task, but not impossible and then cut to a commercial. "Why would you accept an invitation from Fox?" I ask, unable to comprehend what her strategy is. "Declining the invitation is a bit cowardly, isn't it?" she reasons. "I don't shy away from a debate, Edward." "Is this about the Estate Tax bill?" "Oh, it's about this year's legislative agenda in general. We've got other bills that we're working on. Our energy plan. Income tax. Funding for education. I'm going to blame the gridlock on Senator Swan. I want to convince America that the Republicans aren't doing anything to help the nation. They're just shooting things down without trying to negotiate." "No one who watches The Factor is going to buy your argument," I dispute. I may not have the strategic brain that say, Jacob, has, but I have studied political theory. People are usually socialized into their allegiances. Once party identification has taken hold, each voter has a 'perceptual filter' that screens all information they receive. Their perception of ads and interviews is often colored by what party, if any, they identify with.

This is probably why I have a natural disposition against the show. To be 'fair and balanced', it is the number one cable news show in the nation, and has been for many years now. "Did I say I wanted to convince America? I meant I wanted to convince swing voters and weakly-aligned Republicans," my mother corrects. "That, and I want to show Swan that I'm not afraid of him. We're going to take the Senate back this year, Edward. He's nervous." The current split in the Senate is 50-49 in favor of the Republicans. There's one independent he used to be Republican and he steadfastly refuses to caucus with either party. The last election was very close; Senator Swan himself was aided by the fact Banner lost Pennsylvania. "Okay, as long as you know what you're doing, mom. When is the interview scheduled for?" "The Monday after the diabetes benefit. It'll air at eight." "Two days before the State of the Union? Wow, Fox is gunning for a fight." "And I'm going to give it to them." I get an uneasy feeling in my stomach. Whether I get any action from Isabella in Philadelphia or not, my mother is still going to take a few shots at Senator Swan on national television. My mother can be a very aggressive debater. It could get ugly. There's no other way to paint it. Caution: You're entering a no spin zone.

I sit down the next afternoon in my living room and review some of the ideas I have for a foreign policy feature article. The shortlist includes antigovernment protests in Thailand, Google's problems with China, and the upcoming renewal of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty between Russia and the United States. Can you tell that the last idea was Jacob's? Even with these new ideas, I'm still trying to work on my Lemon research. I've just been avoiding it because it reminds me of Isabella. The other thing is that I'm beginning to realize what a quagmire this area of jurisprudence really is. Some of the conservative judgments in these Establishment Clause cases also grate on me. That being said, at least I take the time to appreciate where judges like Scalia and Rehnquist are coming from; a lot of people wouldn't bother hearing what the other side has to say. At dinner last night, my mother suggested that I write about Salazar v Buono, an ongoing legal battle pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. Again, I told her I didn't want to get political; I don't know much about the case, but I do know that she'd want me to attack the right for their role in creating the mess. My mind goes back to what Jacob said when I had lunch with him last week. He told me that maybe I wouldn't like Isabella so much if I talked to her about a contentious issue. I decide to email her to ask for her opinion on Salazar.

To: Isabella Swan bellainthemajority(at)gmail(dot)com

From: Edward Cullen cullencampaign83(at)gmail(dot)com Date: 17 January 2010 2:31PM PST Subject: Salazar v Buono Hi Isabella, I'm just wonderingdo you know anything about Salazar v Buono? It's the Mojave Cross case a cross was erected on Sunrise Rock (in Mojave National Preserve here in California) in 1934 to honor war dead. In 1999, the National Park Service determined it wasn't purely a historical site because it was also used for religious purposes as well as commemoration. They sought to remove it, but Congress (as in a Republican Congress) stepped in. So, even though it started off as an issue of church and statewhat's the deal with the case now? I read a New York Times article from October that said the Supreme Court largely avoided any discussion of the Establishment Clause. It's kind of beyond my legal understanding, I think. Ignore this email if you are busy studying. Edward

I didn't write anything even remotely suggestive in the email. I go back to my other research and wait eagerly for a response. It takes her half an hour to reply:

To: Edward Cullen cullencampaign83(at)gmail(dot)com From: Isabella Swan bellainthemajority(at)gmail(dot)com Date: 17 January 2010 6:01PM EST Subject: Salazar in a Nutshell Cullen! I have time for a brief discussion. I've been studying all day :) For various reasons, I am familiar with Salazar. I must admit, I figured you wouldn't touch the case - not unless you want to complain about how this legal mess wouldn't have arisen if Democrats controlled Congress in 1999. There's a good reason the court didn't look at the Establishment Clause issue in October. Let me explain. As I understand it, somebody wanted to install some other sort of religious memorial on the Preserve and applied to do so in 1999. The NPS denied that request, but the individual pointed out that the presence of the cross could be in violation of the First Amendment, as it arguably established religion. The NPS investigated the purpose and use of the Latin cross. (I'm sure you've read Black J in Everson. Generally speaking then, there is to be no preference of one religion over another (or of religion over irreligion) or the support of a religious idea with no identifiable secular purpose.)

On finding out the NPS wanted to remove the cross, Congress stepped in and passed legislation to prevent its removal. A former NPS employee, Buono, started a lawsuit in 2001, claiming the Establishment Clause had been breached. In 2002, the District Court granted a permanent injunction restraining anyone from permitting the display. Defense appropriations bills were passed by Congress in 2002 and 2003 deeming the cross a national war memorial and disallowing the use of federal funds to remove such a remembrance. A land exchange was proposed the public land where the cross is located was to be given to a private Veterans entity in exchange for five acres of land. The government would still keep a reversionary interest in the Cross land. In 2004, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the permanent injunction granted by the lower court, but steps were taken by the government to make the land exchange happen. Buono sought to enforce the injunction, or deem the land exchange unconstitutional on the grounds that it inherently commemorates soldiers of one religion over another. The District Court ruled that the land exchange was not allowed. The Ninth Circuit agreed. The government chose not to appeal. Last February, the Department of the Interior was granted a writ of certiorari, and it was in October that the Supreme Court heard arguments that arose from a second round of litigation. It was contended that Buono had no standing to sue in the first place. It was also argued that the transfer of land should be allowed because it remedies any constitutional breach. I believe Buono was represented by lawyers affiliated with the American Civil Liberties Union. Judgment is pending. Sooooyeah. xx Isabella

A part of me is disappointed that she didn't pick a fight because now all her email has done is remind me that she's very intelligent. I like intelligent women. It's one thing to want to have sex with her again it's another to start thinking of her as a love interest. Maybe I should stick to thinking with my nuclear-weapon-of-adick. That being said, I decide it's best to use my brain when I respond.

To: Isabella Swan bellainthemajority(at)gmail(dot)com From: Edward Cullencullencampaign83(at)gmail(dot)com Subject: Nutting it out Isabella, While that might have been basic to you, I must admit that I'm a little intimidated by your brain right now. So the oral arguments were about standing and the validity of the property exchange. I guess that's why it doesn't seem like a case on the Establishment Clause per se. What is a writ of certiorari?

This might sound predictable, but was it really appropriate for Congress to intervene in the first place? I get why they did it the cross is a war memorial. I don't think it was harming anyone. But unfortunately its presence breached the Establishment Clause. To be fair, the Constitution is the Constitution. The document is sacred; we can't just go around exchanging land to cover up violations. Now there's this circle of land in the middle of the Preserve that is privately owned! One commentator called it a donut hole. Edward

To: Edward Cullen cullencampaign83(at)gmail(dot)com From: Isabella Swan bellainthemajority(at)gmail(dot)com Subject: Insert nut joke here Edward, Don't feel bad for feeling confused. It's a messy set of facts. The cert grant allowed the Supreme Court to review the lower court's decision for legal error. Is this the sort of situation you want to cover in your article as an example of how untenable our constitutional position is? You said other jurisdictions have more workable and tolerant ways of dealing with the relationship between church and state. Arguably, if the separation wasn't so strict, there wouldn't have been any grounds to sue for the removal of the Mojave cross in the first place. Is it fair that the other memorial was denied? (I think it was Buddhist?) I'm not sure I'd have to read the trial judge's decision. The NPS got spooked the cross should have been left alone. Buono is Roman Catholic. What injury has he even suffered? Just so you know, Justice Scalia was the only judge who was really interested in bringing up the Establishment Clause issue in October. He made the point that a cross is the most common symbol of the resting place of the dead. No one was trying to promote one religion over another. There is some room to assess to Lemon let's face it, it's not a strong test when looking at the land exchange, but I don't think the court will actively try to fix the uncertainty in the test's application. Justice Stevens is retiring this year. I wonder who Banner is thinking of putting up for nomination? Your dad probably knows. Your side won't be able to nominate someone too liberal he or she won't be confirmed by the Senate! I like donuts. Krispy Kreme, especially. xx Isabella

To: Isabella Swan bellainthemajority(at)gmail(dot)com

From: Edward Cullen cullencampaign83(at)gmail(dot)com Subject: Insert wittier nut joke here Isabella, I guess it could count as an example of how the strict separation made things worse. In other jurisdictions, there is some level of allowed interplay between church and state. It certainly reduces the amount of litigation. I don't know, maybe I'm just one of those people who hates getting into arguments. Are you sure you don't want to rant about people suing the government left, right and center on the religion clauses? (Well, the right more than anything). I know conservatives think the ACLU is overrun by liberals, but even if they are a little zealous at times, ultimately they are trying to do what their name suggests: protect our civil liberties. In a hypothetical scenario, are we supposed to wait for the emergence of a plaintiff who has been more directly injured before undertaking such a case? My dad probably does know who Banner is thinking of nominating. Not sure if they're vetting people yet. Even if I did know, I wouldn't be allowed to tell you. Stevens won't retire officially until June anyway. I like donuts too. Edward

To: Edward Cullen cullencampaign83(at)gmail(dot)com From: Isabella Swan bellainthemajority(at)gmail(dot)com Subject: Last word Trust me, Cullen, I have some choice words for some of the cases the ACLU has taken on in recent years, especially when it comes to religious displays. And don't get me started on the number of alarming cases on the Free Exercise Clause. Maybe you can hear my rant some other time. I should get back to studying. Does it feel strange that we had a conversation void of innuendo? Do you want to say something suggestive to remedy this? xx Isabella

To: Isabella Swan bellainthemajority(at)gmail(dot)com From: Edward Cullen cullencampaign83(at)gmail(dot)com Subject: Wink, wink I want to drill you so hard that you'll have trouble standing afterwards. Oh wait, that already happened.

To: Edward Cullen cullencampaign83(at)gmail(dot)com

From: Isabella Swan bellainthemajority(at)gmail(dot)com Subject: LOL Cocky bastard. I suppose I asked for that, didn't I? (Yes, I literally asked for it). (Yes, I want you to wipe that smirk off your face). Okay, I really need to study. If you have more Lemon questions, feel free to email me :) I'll try to reply when I'm not too busy. (No, not busy as in touching myself. Busy as in studying). (No, you cannot make a joke about getting 'busy' with me).

The woman is very smart and very sexy. She's preempting my humor. I'm going to have to step it up when I see her. I don't want her to have the last word. I think about calling her New Haven number. I don't actually know whether she lives alone, but I figure it's worth the risk. I can always hang up if need be. After waiting half an hour, I dial the number and wait for her to pick up. "Hello?" "Hi, may I please speak to Isabella?" I ask politely. "This is Isabella," she answers, sounding suspicious about the call. "Is this who I think it is?" "So you are thinking of me." "Cullen!" she scolds. I laugh. She is so cute when she's mad. "Oooh, I like it when you scream my name." "Why are you calling me? You shouldn't call me unless I tell you to. What if I had friends over? Or a family member. " I proclaim my innocence. "I was just checking." "Checking what?" "That your hands are free. You picked up the phone after three rings, so I'm satisfied that your hands weren't busy." She scoffs. "Satisfied? I think the reason you're calling is that you're feeling a little unsatisfied right now." "Hmmm." I pause, pretending that I need to think about it. "No, I'm pretty sure I'm good." "Oh, I know you're good," she says suggestively.

I'm thrown off by her compliment; I was expecting a comeback. My thoughts return to Amtrak-gate. "Lost for words, Cullen?" she teases. "Let's hope your mother is also lost for words when she's interviewed by Bill O'Reilly." "You heard about that already?" I ask, regaining my composure. "Yep. I do hope she gets questioned on her Robin Hood tax policies." "Robin Hood?" "Steal from the rich to give to the poor. This Estate Tax amendment bill is just another form of wealth redistribution," she argues aggressively. "It's practically socialist." I try not to get too defensive about my mother. I've heard it all before from Republicans anyway. "Well, you're entitled to your opinion." "Yes, I am." An awkward silence results from her pointed barb. I scramble to think of something to say to diffuse the tension, but she gets in first. "I guess I shouldn't blame you for her policies," she says. "I do believe in a lot of her policies," I respond. "Generally speaking, at least the Dems are trying to combat the culture of inequality that exists in today's society." "Republicans care about helping people too. We just have a different idea of how to go about it." "Yeah." There's another silence, but it's more the result of us not wanting to fight about politics. "Soyou don't think I'm the devil for being conservative?" she broaches. "The devil?" I chuckle. "I'm sure I'll meet him when I get sent to Hell for what I did to you on the train." "That was very sinful." "You liked being naughty," I taunt seductively, knowing exactly how to make her flustered. "Sodid Dream Bella make Dream Edward beg last night?" She's silent for a few seconds before clearing her throat. "Cullen, I'm going to fail my Federal Income Tax exam if you don't let me study," she replies, trying to be brusque. "And wipe that smirk off your face. I know you're smirking right now." "I'm sorry, Isabella." I deliberately said her name slowly just to get her a bit more hot and bothered. "You can punish me if you want." "Punish you?" she asks, thoroughly amused. "Listen carefully, Cullen. This is your punishment."

She then proceeds to taunt me. "Oh, Edward," she moans breathily. "Touch me. More. Please. Yes." I almost drop my phone in shock as she continues to pretend that I'm touching her. Hearing her moan my name is absolute torture; I'm on the other side of the country, and I can't get to her. My arousal is wasted. "Stop," I instruct, unable to take anymore. Thankfully, she does. "I'm going to go back to my tax study," she declares smugly. "You go back to researching church and state." "Okay, okay," I say hastily. "Good luck on your exam." "Good luck trying to get those sounds out of your head." I suddenly remember that the whole point of this phone call was for me to get the last word. I have to win this round of banter. I chuckle. "Good luck trying not to think of me making you make those sounds." "You have a problem with me getting the last word, don't you?" she asks. "Maybe," I respond, sticking to a lighter tone. "I'd also like to add that if I were actually touching you, you'd be moaning a lot louder than your demonstration earlier." She scoffs. "You mean the demonstration that had to be cut short because I was making things hard for you?" Ah, touch. I decide to stand down. I'll dazzle her in person and win our next round of banter. Philadelphia is when it'll really count. That's when I'll be seducing her. "You should get back to studying Income Tax," I advise. "You'll have to do well if you want to work for the IRS." "Yes, that is my dream," she says, being sarcastic. "I like to dream big, which is why Dream Edward is so well-endowed. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a date with the Internal Revenue Code, which also happens to be very big." "Okay, have a big night." "I will. Goodbye, Cullen." "Bye, Isabella." It's fun to talk to her. It's also fun to have sex with her. I should not be this attracted to Isabella, but I am. I can't wait for Philadelphia. However, I still don't have a solution for the fact that I'm probably going to be cock-blocked at the benefit; there are too many family members, friends and colleagues in attendance. Chasing Isabella won't be easy.

As it turns out, the enmity between our families is just as problematic as the inconsistent application of the Lemon Test in Establishment Clause cases. Forget church and state. It's the separation of Cullen and Swan that's killing me.

Legal citations: - Ken L. Salazar, Secretary of the Interior, et al., Petitioners v. Frank Buono, Docket No: 08-472. - Argued October 7 2009. Decided April 28 2010. 502 F. 3d 1069 and 527 F. 3d 758, reversed and remanded. (5-4 decision in favor of the land transfer). Other references: - NY Times article: Adam Liptak, 'Religion Largely Absent in Argument About Cross', The New York Times, New York, October 8 2009. - Cert grant article ('donut hole'): Prawfs Blog, 'Salazar v Buono', Prawfs Blog(dot)blogs(dot) com, Florida [online blog], February 24 2009. -The de Young Museum is a fine arts museum in San Francisco. I made up the exhibition, but I'm sure there are many interesting ones currently showing. -The O'Reilly Factor airs weeknights on Fox News at 8pm and 11pm Eastern.

Chapter 8: Philadelphia Convention BPOV Edward Cullen isn't here yet. The rest of the Cullen family has already strolled or should I say strutted into the ballroom here at the Four Seasons Hotel in Philadelphia. Yet Edward is nowhere to be found. I'm perfectly aware that there are over three hundred guests here at the benefit, and that I don't have special binoculars or the assistance of global positioning satellites, but I'm pretty sure he's not here. I suppose I could deliberately bump into Alice Cullen, comment on how I haven't seen her in a long time, and then ask where Edward happens to be. But I don't think I can do that. I'm a little tense right now, and I know I won't react well to a bad outcome. That's why I haven't emailed Edward to ask where he is. Do you think the FBI would take me seriously if I asked them to conduct a manhunt? Probably not, right? They'd call my Dad and ask him why I'm looking for Edward Cullen. I'd have to plead the Fifth, forcing my Dad to ask what crime I possibly could have committed, which in turn will force me to plead the Fifth again, and the cycle would continue until he loads his gun and decides to get the answer out of Edward himself.

However, if it turns out that I have been stood up, I'll do more than plead the Fifth. I'll go after Edward myself. After telling myself to relax a seemingly futile action I try to tune into the conversation that Emmett is having with Senate Majority Whip Bob Newton. We're standing near our table; Mom, Emmett and I are sitting with Senator Newton, as well as a few other Senate Republicans and their spouses. They seem to be discussing something related to the work of the Senate Ethics Committee, but I've missed too much of the conversation to know what they're really talking about. They both start laughing at an inside joke. I join in on the laughter, not wanting to feel excluded. Normally, I hate people who have no idea what's going on but then laugh anyway because everyone else is laughing I'm now one of those people. Perhaps I'm entitled to laugh hysterically. Here's a joke: What do the White House, the House of Representatives, The New York Times and my sex life all have in common? Answer: They're all led by a liberal Democrat. Ha ha ha. I've been here forty minutes. Most people showed up at six-thirty, knowing that the pre-function period is valuable networking and socializing opportunity. Forty minutes of valuable banter time has already been wasted. In fact, in those forty minutes, Edward Cullen could've done me against a wall several times providing of course that I was able to stand after the first time. I scan the ballroom once more. He's not here. I feel humiliated. I might just cry tears of frustration in front of the Senate Republicans. It's my Party and I'll cry if I want to. "Bella, are you okay?" Emmett asks. Senator Newton is also looking at me with a concerned expression. "I think I overdid it on the candy," I lie. "Kind of stupid considering this is a diabetes benefit." Emmett explains the candy to Senator Newton. "We went to the movies today." The Senator nods in understanding before looking at me sympathetically. "Maybe you should sit down. You look a little pale." "Paler than usual," Emmett adds. "Maybe you're worn out from finals? I don't remember you eating that much candy." "Yeah, that could be it," I say. I wince, playing it up. "I'm going to go to the bathroom. Send a search party if I don't return before we're supposed to be seated."

Emmett goes into protective brother mode. "If you're not back in fifteen minutes, I'll send Mom. I'll drive you home if need be." "Thanks, Em." After smiling apologetically at Senator Newton, I turn on my heel and walk towards the exit. On the way out, my BlackBerry beeps. I retrieve it from my clutch and see that I've received an email. I stop in my tracks. It's an email from Edward. Oh fantastic. He's probably sitting at home in San Francisco, laughing maniacally at how he's fooled me into thinking that we were going to have sex tonight. There should be rules about really good-looking guys making fun of women who are interested in sleeping with them. I'm a Republican, so I believe in limited government, but this is one instance where I would encourage more government regulation and oversight. I want an inquiry investigating why Edward played me, and then I want him to be reprimanded. I take a deep breath and open the email, expecting the worst. However, all it says is call me, followed by a cell number. He wants to make fun of me over the phone? But I already feel so disappointed. I'd rather not talk to him. I ignore the instruction about calling him. I send a text instead, consisting of one exclamation mark. Honestly, it would really take twenty to more accurately express my alarm, but that would take a while to type, and I've already wasted a lot of time tonight. Of course, since I've sent him a text, he now has my number. My BlackBerry starts to ring. I decide to pick up, just so I can call him a jackass. "Isabella speaking," I answer, swiftly walking out of the ballroom. "You look absolutely gorgeous tonight," he says in a sexy voice. "How would you know?" I challenge, dodging a few guests who are on their way back into the ballroom. "You're hard to miss in that red dress." How does he know that I'm wearing a red dress? I look around frantically; there are a number of people congregating here in the foyer, some talking in small groups and some on their cell-phones. Then I see him. He's twenty feet away from me, standing next to the staircase, leaning casually on the banister. He's here. Wearing a tuxedo. And his trademark smirk. Oh my God. He looks even hotter than when I last saw him.

I want him. I want him. I want him. I want to run my hands through his bronze hair. I want him to steal me away and fuck me like he did last time. And even though I set that rule about no kissing on the lips, I want him to kiss me. He sees me checking him out, which makes him grin wider. I narrow my eyes at him; I just spent the last forty-five minutes wondering where the hell he was. I end the phone call and toss my BlackBerry back into my clutch. After striding over to him, I fold my arms across my chest in a sign of irritation. I glare. He smirks. "Where have you been?" I ask, enunciating each word. "Do you mean 'Where have you been tonight?' or 'Where have you been all my life?'" he asks. "Because if it's the latter, I should remind you that we've already met several times, the last time being the most memorable." I stare at him, waiting for an explanation. "I've been stuck backstage with Congressman Black and his family," he explains. "They wouldn't let me leave. I only just escaped." "How Prison Break of you," I remark dryly. "Did you dig your way out with a spoon? Or did you tie bed sheets together and climb out of a window?" "There aren't any windows backstage." "Cullen." He raises his hands in innocence. "But there are spoons in the kitchen, which is where I was released so I could get a drink of water. That's when I peered through the window of the kitchen door and saw that you appeared to be looking for someone. I broke out so you could find me." He's been watching me. He knows how much I want him. But he's here now, which is the important thing. I take a deep breath and exhale. "Okay, I believe your story." "You're cute when you're mad," he says, repeating something he's said to me before. He drops his hands back down to his sides. "You should do something to relieve all that tension." That last word was said so sensually that I have to remind myself that I can't jump him right now. He tilts his head, probably curious as to whether I have the capacity to verbally joust with him. I could just stand here and take his innuendo while I gape at how amazing he looks tonight, but I think it's better if I respond. I take a quick look around to make sure there isn't anyone I know in this foyer. Satisfied we're okay for now, I turn back to Edward. I take a deep breath and will myself to relax he's here now. "I'm not mad," I say, trying to act casual. "Yes, you are. You're annoyed because you thought that I might not be here tonight," he says knowingly. He pouts. "Aren't I allowed to be upset that you doubted me?"

Edward keeps pouting at me, and I can't help but smile at him. "Stop being cute," I scold half-heartedly. He goes back to being his cocky self, his green eyes sparkling with amusement. At least he's following my orders. "You're easy to read," he says. "Like a book." It's my turn to smirk. "I'd say I'm a library book" "What makes you say that?" "Because you check me out." We both laugh, and I feel the mood lighten. "I don't think you're as common as a library book," he says. "Maybe a book in the Library of Congress?" "Right, because books in the Library of Congress can't be loaned out to the general public," I respond, catching on. "Exactly." "Somehow I don't think your mother would appreciate you using her library card to borrow me." "Oh, please. What makes you think I'd bother taking you home?" I guffaw. "So you'd use me in the library and then put me back on the shelf?" "On second thought, a library isn't a good place for you," he says, backtracking. I laugh, thinking I've won the round. "Why not?" He looks at me really intensely before responding. "Because you have trouble staying quiet." The comment renders me speechless. How ironic. I recall exactly why I had so much trouble staying quiet on that train, and my craving for him gets even stronger. "Careful," I warn in a teasing voice. "I might suspend your borrowing privileges." "No, don't do that," he replies, acting upset. "You're my favorite hardcover." Oh my. "I'm flattered that I'm your favorite," I reply, too flustered to say anything with more bite. "Has anyone else been borrowing you lately? Jasper Hale, for instance?" he asks daringly. "No," I tell him. I go for the more direct approach for the reciprocal question. "Have you been fucking other women lately?"

Please say no. Otherwise I'll have to hunt down the competition. Note to self: renew NRA membership. "No, I haven't," he responds smoothly. I feel elated, but I try not to show how pleased I really am. "Are you done with your power play, Cullen? This is my hometown, remember?" I remind him, trying to gain back some ground. He's proving hard to outwit tonight. "You should be playing by my rules." "To be fair, Philadelphia is heavily Democratic." He pauses for effect before continuing, his mouth twitching as he tries to downplay his smirk. "You would know a little something about campaigning for a Democrat. Or for his services anyway." "I don't like Dems being in power," I say. He gives me a confused look. "Really? I recall one particular instance where you seemed to accept it. I daresay you enjoyed it." "There are times when bipartisanship is in everyone's best interests," I assert. "How typical for a Democrat to try and take all the credit for a joint resolution." He chuckles. "It's appropriate to take credit if you're the one who did most of the work." "Just because one side does more work doesn't mean the other side didn't have the skill or fortitude to do so," I say seductively. "Maybe they wanted to take advantage of the situation and let the other side do the work." "I suppose that is a valid strategy," he concedes. "Yes, especially if everyone is satisfied with the outcome." I glance around again. A few stragglers walk past us in order to enter the ballroom. The foyer is emptying quickly; we're supposed to be seated soon. "Let's work out the logistics later," I tell Edward. "We have to get back in there." "I'm sorry, what did you say? All I heard was 'get back in there'," he responds. Oh, I definitely want him to get back in there. "How are we going to solve this cock-blocking problem?" I ask. "You have my number now. Let me know what the late-night plan is. Be creative I can't take you back to my room at The Rittenhouse." Edward spots something over my shoulder and then shoots me a warning look. I turn around and see Emmett approaching. My brother has a stern expression on his face; he isn't happy that I'm out in the foyer talking to a Cullen. I'm supposed to be feeling unwell. I wonder why he didn't send Mom.

Tensing, I go back to glaring at Edward. He employs a similar stance, taking a step back to put more space between us. "Emmett," Edward says cordially, extending his hand. "Your sister and I were just discussing my mother's upcoming appearance on The O'Reilly Factor." Emmett shakes his hand and responds in a cooler tone than I expected. "Yes, I'll be tuning in. Sorry to interrupt your debate, but the dinner is about to begin. Senator Weller told me Isabella was out here. I suggest we go back to our respective seats." Shit. I wonder what Senator Weller saw. Probably not much, considering he just had an operation for cataracts. Edward nods. "Apologies for keeping Isabella. I got carried away." I make sure to give Edward a disapproving look. "Nice talking to you, Cullen." "Likewise," he says curtly, aware that my brother is glaring at him. He walks off, heading to his family's table inside the ballroom. I motion to start walking, but Emmett tells me to wait a second. "I don't like the way he was leering at you," he says protectively. Dammit. He obviously saw that Edward was eyeing me. "He wasn't leering. He was trying to psych me out. We had a good debate. I feel better now energized. Must be a law student thing." Emmett won't let it go. "He was leering, Bella." I shrug. "People like to look at what they can't have." "If he bothers you tonight, let me know, okay?" Emmett puts his hand on my shoulder. "I'll kick his ass from here to November." "Don't kick him into the future. He'll get the inside word on the mid-term elections and relay the information back to the Democratic National Committee." "Well, I've often said the DNC is stuck in the past." The joke diffuses the tension. We walk back to our table, and I take my seat inbetween Mom and Emmett. Once again, I tell myself to relax. I should be able to enjoy the night now that I know I'm really going to enjoy myself after the event. I just need to come up with a plan. The ballroom looks very classy. It's a soft gold theme, which suits the chandeliers and the rose carpet too. Funnily enough, the Cullens and Blacks are sitting on the far left of the room, near the front, while our table is on the right. The master of ceremonies takes the podium at the front and gives a general introduction of how the evening will proceed and who will be speaking. Soon after, the appetizer is delivered while a string quartet begins to play on stage. Before I can start eating, my mother turns to me and asks about Edward Cullen.

"Is it true? You were talking to Edward Cullen?" she asks, surprised. "He never shows up to events. I said hello to Esme Cullen earlier to be polite and she didn't say anything about her son being here. Then again, it was a very quick hello. I shook Carlisle's hand and then excused myself. They weren't interesting in talking." "Edward is best friends with Congressman Black's son, remember?" I remind her, thankful there's a plausible reason for his appearance. "Oh, that's right. I remember now." Mom looks to the left, craning her neck to see him for herself. She turns back and gives me a bewildered look. "Well, will you look at that! Edward Cullen all grown up," she says approvingly. "I hope he's not thinking of running for anything in the future. Imagine how many voters would swing in his direction." I can't help but laugh. Emmett shakes his head. "He'll never run. It's not enough to be a pretty face," Emmett says. "Aw, come on," I reply. "He has a brain. He's not an idiot." "He is if he thinks he can get away with looking at you." Actually, he's getting away with a lot more than that. "Oh, Emmett, calm down," Mom advises. "Bella can look after herself." "I definitely can," I agree. We drop the subject. Mom starts talking to Mrs. Newton, and Emmett checks his BlackBerry. Inspired by Emmett, I take out my own phone. "Who are you texting?" I ask him casually. "Rosalie?" "Yep," he replies. "Just telling her it sucks that she couldn't come. Who are you texting?" "Friend of mine. Forgot to reply earlier. And no, it's definitely not Jasper. I texted him the other day to tell him to stop calling me." "Thanks, sis. I'm sure he'll give up eventually." "Yeah. Give it some time." Even though I'm not sure if Edward has his phone still switched on, or whether he's in a position to respond, I send him a text anyway: My brother wants to kill you on the basis that you were 'leering' at me. Surprisingly, I get an immediate reply: I wasn't leering. I was remembering how good it felt to be inside of you. Oh dear God. I know I should stop using the Lord's name in vain, but such infringements are nothing compared to what Edward and I will be doing later tonight.

After the quartet finishes their set, the president of the association gives a heartfelt speech about how important it is to support diabetes research and the initiatives that raise awareness of the condition. I make sure that I'm paying attention, refusing to look to my left for the time being. This event is a worthy cause I shouldn't diminish its value just because I'm obsessed with one of the other attendees. When Emmett excuses himself to go to the bathroom, I take the opportunity to send a text to Edward. I put my clutch in my lap and surreptitiously use my BlackBerry while Mom talks to Mrs. Newton about a new restaurant that's opened up in D.C; I'm trying to be sneaky. Is it okay if I pick you up from The Rittenhouse later tonight? Not surprisingly, he doesn't reply immediately. Emmett returns just as the servers get to our table with the entre. We eat dinner and talk about my chances of securing a Supreme Court clerkship for the Court's 2010 October Term. We also discuss what Esme Cullen is likely to say about Dad on Monday night. After the entre has been cleared, I receive Edward's reply. I'm careful not to look in his direction. In fact, it's likely that he excused himself from his own table in order to reply anyway. Can we have sex in the car? I would love to fuck you in a car. Actually, I'd love to fuck you anywhere. We might have to do it in the car, but the problem is I took the train from New Haven. My car isn't here. Emmett also took the train from Washington, D.C. He drove us here tonight in Dad's car; both Emmett and Dad have newer cars in D.C. The other option is to take him somewhere. However, it's now too late to get a hotel room of my own; I could've booked one earlier, but it seemed presumptuous. A hotel room at a major hotel would've been risky anyway; I'm sure a third of tonight's attendees are from out of town. However, a small-time motel as sketchy as that sounds might be doable. For some reason, I like the car idea better. No paper trail. But that means using one of my parents' cars Clearly, I have no shame when it comes to Edward Cullen. I decide to think it over a bit more before making such a rash decision. Then again, Edward was a rash decision on my part. Congressman Black delivers one of two keynote speeches. His personal accounts are actually quite moving. He's also a good orator. The master of ceremonies then returns to introduce the second keynote speaker. I send a reply to Edward. I'm going to commit to the car idea: Maybe I should fuck you? In the passenger seat? I'll make it worth your while. I hope he lets me. I know he prefers to be in charge. The second speaker delivers her speech. After she's finished, dessert is served banana pecan parfait, vanilla waffle tuile and bitter chocolate sauce.

"This is really good," I say after tasting the parfait. "Aw, I was hoping you'd hate it," Emmett says. "I'm still hungry." Mom rolls her eyes at him and offers him her dessert. "Here." "Thanks, Mom," he says in a sing-song voice, taking the extra plate. "Just like your father," Mom adds. "Did you know he asked for extra pancakes at the Leadership Breakfast earlier this month? The House Majority Whip agreed with him. It's the only bipartisan decision Congress has made in months." Emmett and I both laugh. Speaking of Democrats, I receive Edward's reply. If he responds positively, it'll help me pull this off it will fit perfectly with the cover story I have concocted about meeting a friend for a drink later. I look at the screen quickly so that neither Mom nor Emmett can read it. If you take off your bra this time, I'll let you be on top. I want to see your tits bounce up and down while you fuck me. Note to self: bipartisanship is not dead. I consider the counteroffer and decide to accept: It's a deal. I'll call you later tonight. I decide to tell Mom and Emmett that I am meeting a friend for a drink after the benefit. That way they won't ask questions when we get home. I'll change my clothes, drive out and return in the wee hours of the morning. "Hey, I'm going to meet a friend later tonight for a drink," I tell them. "They can't meet me tomorrow morning, and you know I'm leaving for New Haven at around midday." "I thought you weren't drinking because you felt unwell," Emmett replies. I act nonplussed. "I'll have a mocktail. And before you ask, yes, I'm okay to drive." "She'll be fine, Emmett," Mom says. "She's good with your father's car." "Well, all right," he says, turning to me. "Remind me to give you the keys when we get home." "No, I want to take Mom's car." I figure it's a lesser crime to use her car than Dad's. I can't have a Cullen in the Senate Majority Leader's car. I'll make it up to my Mom, even though she won't know what I did. I tell myself to feel guilty later. Emmett gives me a funny look. "Mom's BMW is being serviced tomorrow morning. There's something wrong with it. Weren't you there when Mom and I talked about it before we left?" "I felt something was wrong after I drove back from the salon," Mom explains.

Mom's car needs to be serviced? I have no recollection of any conversation discussing this piece of news. I'm willing to bet the nation's GDP that I was fantasizing about Edward at the time. "Was I there? I must've been thinking of tonight," I tell Emmett. "I guess I'll have to use Dad's car." I'm going to have sex with the enemy in Dad's car? When did I get so naughty? Oh yeah. When I let Edward Cullen fuck me on an Amtrak train. I tell myself that Dad's car is an okay option. He doesn't use this car as much as his other one, and Mom uses her car every day. Maybe I should have chosen his car in the first place it does have tinted windows. I could do Edward in the backseat and not be seen. It also has a history of being used to sneak around it's a decommissioned FBI vehicle. Looks like I'm not the only one going back into service tonight.

Legal citations: - This is kinda obvious but anyway, re self-incriminationFifth Amendment (Amendment V) of the United States Constitution (Part of the Bill of Rights). Other references: - Chapter title is a reference to the Philadelphia Convention (aka Constitutional Convention, the Federal Convention, or the Grand Convention at Philadelphia). It was held from May 25 through to September 17, 1787, to discuss problems in governing the nation under the Articles of Confederation. The result of the convention was the Constitution. - NRA= National Rifle Association. - GDP= Gross Domestic Product (market value of all final goods and services made within the borders of a country in a year).

Chapter 9: Secret Service BPOV You know when you're watching a crime show and the FBI agents stakeout a location by parking across the street? How can they be so sure that they won't be seen? I've been parked outside Edward's hotel for a mere thirty seconds, and I'm already freaking out about video surveillance and eye witnesses. There are a lot of businesses here in West Rittenhouse Square; I don't know how many cameras are currently pointed at me. The windshield isn't tinted, so I put on a pair of sunglasses when I stopped the car. Yes, sunglasses in the dead of night. I just texted Edward to tell him I'm here; I gave him a description of the vehicle and the license plate number when I called him earlier. I haven't told him about

the fact that we'll be desecrating my father's car. It's going to enhance the thrill of sneaking around, and I know that he's going to get all cocky about it. I spot Edward coming out of the front entrance of the hotel. He's wearing the same black coat that he wore when I bumped into him in Washington D.C. He dashes across the street and walks around to the passenger side very stealthy. He gets into the car and immediately smirks at me. "That was impressive, Agent Cullen," I tell him. I'm going to ease into the whole 'this is my father's car' thing. "Why, thank you, Agent Swan," he says in his sexy voice. I remove my sunglasses. Now I can look at Edward. He takes off his coat, revealing a gray v-neck sweater over a collared shirt he's far too suave to be an agent. How can you be stealthy when you turn heads with your looks? I pull out of the parking spot and start driving towards Walnut Street. I'm relieved that the pickup went smoothly. This is going to be okay. "Buckle up, Cullen." He chuckles before putting his seatbelt on. "I'm looking forward to the ride." "I'm sure you are," I reply seductively. "Caution: wet conditions ahead." "Really? I should check." Out of the corner of my eye I see his hand moving towards my thigh. "Don't touch me while I'm driving," I scold. "I'll crash this car and we'll be on the local news." "Now there's a public service announcement: don't drive horny," he quips, pulling his hand back. He starts fiddling with the radio, which I turned off earlier. The preset buttons are set to talk radio and easy listening stations of course, he doesn't know this. I ease up and approach the intersection with more care than I would usually take; the last thing I need to do is run a red light. "Seriously, I need to drive carefully. We're totally screwed if we get pulled over or snapped by a red light camera. This isn't my car." My plan of 'easing into it'? Yeah, I just threw it out the car window. Edward suddenly stops trying to find a radio station he likes, leaving it on a sappy love song something completely inappropriate for this situation. "This isn't your car?" he exclaims, his voice accusing me of being irresponsible. It sounds like he doesn't know whether to be panicked or amused. "UmMy car is back in New Haven; I took the train here." "Whose car is it?" My silence on the matter makes it exceedingly obvious that Mariah Carey's 'Hero' is playing. I would've preferred a New School Mariah song something

promiscuous or upbeat because Old School Mariah tends to sing more emotional songs. Including love ballads. Epic love ballads. There's a hero/If you look inside your heart/You don't have to be afraid/Of what you are I cannot listen to this right now. I panic and hit one of the presets, changing the station to a conservative talk show. The commentator is bitching about the Estate Tax bill. I panic again and hit a random button. I've never been so relieved to hear static. "Whose car are we in?" Edward asks more forcefully, probably puzzled by my silence and also by my actions with the radio. "Uh" The light turns green, so I turn right and continue along for a bit, stalling. "Isabella, answer me," he demands. "Whose car is this?" "SoumyeahThis is my dad's car," I reveal reluctantly. "It's a decommissioned FBI vehicle." I glance at Edward to see his reaction. It's priceless: a mix of shock and lust. "Oh my god!" He slaps his knee and laughs in disbelief. "This is the Senate Majority Leader's car. Holy shit. I'm going to have sex with his daughter in his own car." "I'm such a bad daughter right now," I reply, trying to stay calm. "Oh, you are so naughty," Edward says huskily. "Pull over." When I don't immediately comply, he puts his hand on my thigh and squeezes slightly. "Now," he commands. I gasp from his touch, as well as from the effect that his suggestive words have on me. "Let me find somewhere to park first," I rebuke. "Take your hand off my thigh." "No," he argues. He runs a finger over the inseam of my jeans. "This will make you pull over faster." I whimper, desperate for him. After six more blocks, I pull into a deserted parking lot next to a grassy area. It isn't the most secluded place, but I can't hold out for a better spot. Edward is turning me on too much; this will have to do. At least it's mostly dark; the streetlights line the adjacent road only. Edward unbuckles my seatbelt, and I immediately take my off my long-sleeve top.

"Get in the backseat," I order hurriedly. "The back windows are tinted; the windshield isn't." He hesitates, being infuriatingly stubborn. "It'll be so much better where I am now. The thrill of getting caught?" "We could actually get caught," I argue, unzipping my jeans and taking them off. "Do you want someone to write down my dad's license plate number and report two people having sex in the middle of the night? Taxpayer money bought this car, and this is how it's being used now!" Realizing I'm right, he climbs over the seat. Within seconds, he's sitting in the middle of the backseat watching me take off my bra. He stares at my breasts for a few moments, completely transfixed. He looks up at my eyes, shoots me a look that says 'I am so glad you invited me', and then looks down at the thong I'm wearing. "Get on my lap. Now." There's that hot commanding tone again. I move the driver's seat forward before climbing through the gap in the front seats. Edward immediately grabs hold of me, helping me to straddle him. The sensation of his hands on my bare skin causes a surge of wetness to pool between my legs I've waited a month to see him again and my body has been craving him that whole time. "Since you've taken your bra off, you might as well let me kiss you," Edward says. I jerk back before he can lean in for a kiss. After Mariah Carey tried to inspire me ten minutes ago, I need to remind the both of us that this isn't anything more than sex. "You're not my boyfriend, Cullen," I remind him in a firm voice. "I'm not interviewing for that position. I don't want it to be filled." "But you want something else to be filled," he says cheekily. "What position does that involve?" "I'm already on top. Let's move this way so we're better hidden," I say, urging him to shift over to his left. We slide over so that we're behind the driver's seat. I help him take off his sweater before unbuttoning his shirt. I run my hands over Edward's sculpted chest as he retrieves a condom from his pocket and places it on the seat next to us. His hand grabs my bare ass and pushes me upwards so that he can pull his jeans and boxers down. Republicans going up, Democrats going down. That's the way it should be. I look down at his cock. His big, hot, swollen cock. I gape at it and remember what it felt like last time to have him inside of me. "It's okay, Isabella," he says with a smirk, moving his hands to my waist. "It'll fit. It has before."

I roll my eyes at him. But before I can deliver a comeback, he lifts me up and pulls me closer so he can suck on my breast. He flicks his tongue over my nipple and then takes it into his mouth, sucking and pulling at it at the same time. It feels fucking unbelievable. He bites me softly, and I immediately feel my wetness soak through my panties. With his other hand he grabs my other breast and massages it roughly there's nothing sweet or caressing about his touch, which is what I want. "Oh!" I moan loudly, placing my hands on top of the backseat to steady myself. "Cullen, I've missed you." Edward groans on hearing me speak his name. He removes his mouth from my breast, and the cool air on my wet nipple makes the tip harden again. "I've missed you too, baby," he says hungrily. He latches onto my breast and starts sucking, massaging the left breast with his hand at the same time. With his thumb and forefinger, he pinches my nipple. I moan for him over and over, relishing his touch, his tongue, his presence. Releasing my breasts, he moves one hand downwards and traces the black lace front of my thong. "Why did you even bother wearing this?" he asks, playfully scolding me. I figure it's a rhetorical question, so I don't answer. My gaze becomes fixated on his long cock again. My mouth starts to water. I want to put it in my mouth and see how far I can take him in. I want to feel his tip on the back of my throat. But I can't taste him. Even though I'd have power over him if I had him in my mouth, he'd play it as a Republican getting on their knees. I snap out of my trance when Edward speaks again. "Answer me," he demands, pulling at the string of the thong. "What? I didn't know I wasn't supposed to be wearing panties," I answer, shoving him playfully. "It's from Victoria's Secret. I thought you'd like it." He responds by using both hands to literally rip the garment off me. I gasp as he holds up the torn remains. "Cullen!" I shriek. "They were in the way," he says. "In the way of my cock being inside of you." The man is irresistible he makes me want to submit to him. I completely understand why I begged last time. I can't believe I had the resolve to argue with him at all in that bathroom. "You owe me a thong," I announce in a matter-of-fact way. He raises an eyebrow as if to say 'Whatever'. We stare at each other as I reach down and grip his hard length firmly in my hand. I grin smugly at him it's the first time I've touched him. He hisses but doesn't break eye contact as I pump my hand slowly. I use my other hand to stroke his tip, teasing him with my fingers. He groans, tightening his grip on my waist. Now I'm in charge. He likes it but at the same time he doesn't.

"I know you want to taste it," he taunts after seeing me lick my lips. "Go on, put me in your mouth." "No," I say indignantly, continuing to rotate my grip on his shaft and making him hiss again. "You've imagined it, haven't you?" I smirk. "I've imagined many things. Like doing you on the House floor," I reason. "It doesn't mean I'll actually do it." He waggles his eyebrows. "Ooh Floor Action." "I'm not going down on you. Your cock doesn't belong in my mouth," I tease. "It belongs somewhere else." "You mean here?" he asks mockingly, sliding two fingers into my pussy. Having a part of him in me any part sends me into overdrive. I cry out as he teases me by rubbing my clit for a few seconds before removing his fingers from me completely. I whimper. I need him to be inside of me. "If you won't taste me, Isabella," he says, "I'll taste you." He puts his fingers into his mouth and sucks my juices from them when he slowly pulls them back out. It has the intended effect I'm now imagining sucking on his cock. Not that I'm going to tell him that. "How do I taste?" I ask, running my hands over his chest again. Edward pretends to think about it, licking his lips. "Not that I would know, but you taste like a naughty Republican. My naughty Republican." I grin at the term of ownership. "So you own me now, do you?" I shift myself so that I'm hovering above his cock. Every part of me is throbbing with anticipation. I'm dripping for him. My breasts are exposed and my nipples hard. My skin is hot to his touch. His green eyes flash with intense lust. "I don't want anyone else fucking you," he declares. I know what I want. I want him. I don't want any other woman to have him. Mine. "I won't let anyone else fuck me if you agree to be my fuck buddy," I offer. "Exclusively." "Agreed." "Good. Now put on the condom so we can get going."

He obeys the order, not bothering to get me to do the task. As I gaze into his gorgeous green eyes, I sink down onto him, holding his cock in my hand so I can guide him into me. The head of his cock slips between my lips, making him curse with delight. Unlike last time, I want to savor the moment when he impales me, although this time it's more like I'm impaling myself on him. Slowly, I lower myself. My walls stretch for him, welcoming him back, and I gasp at how thick he is. He's so hard, and I've been waiting so long for him, that I shudder in delight when he's only halfway in. Impatient, he uses his strength to buck up into me. I cry out when his pelvis meets my own, overwhelmed by how deeply he's penetrated me. I moan at how blissful it is to have him inside of me again. "Oh, Cullen. I really have missed you." He groans in response, his eyes fluttering closed for a moment. Opening his eyes, he arches an eyebrow questioningly. "Just a certain part of me, right?" "Hmmm. The rest of you isn't so bad," I reply, ribbing him. He chuckles, amused by my answer. I lean forward slightly, trying to find the right angle. I've yet to move up or down and already we're moaning and groaning with satisfaction. "You're so deep," I whimper. "So, so deep." "So hot and wet. So fucking tight," he says throatily. "You're perfect." Knowing that I have to do the work, I slowly start to move on him. His length hits me so deeply when I come back down that I begin to speed up, wanting to feel the almost uncomfortable pressure of having him that far inside. Replacing my hands on the top of the backseat, I test out whether I need any leverage. I decide it's better for me to lean back with one hand on his shoulder. Edward holds my waist. "Oh, fuck. Fuck," he cries. "I belong in you, you know that?" "I know, baby. I know." I throw my head back in delight as I continue moving. Sex has never felt this good with anyone else. "And here I thought we could clean up politics," he quips. "Some things are better dirty," I point out. "We're better dirty." In response, I squeeze my legs a bit tighter. I rest my head on the back of the driver's seat, and Edward shifts forward so I can gyrate my hips to create friction. He groans in approval. I lean forward, making the angle sharper as I move on him. I quicken the pace. Edward's next groan is so guttural that it takes me off guard. It sounds like he's growling, like he has an animalistic urge for me. He tightens his grip on my waist and watches gleefully as my tits bounce up and down.

"How am I doing?" I ask teasingly between moans. "Is this okay?" His smirk widens. "You may be bouncing up and down, but your approval rating is only going up," he answers huskily. "Good poll results for such a bad girl." "I am being bad, aren't I? This is what you do to me, Cullen. You make me do naughty things." "Fuck me harder, Isabella," he requests. "Say please," I taunt, remembering how he made me beg last time. "Please," he pleads, his eyes rolling back into his head from obvious pleasure. "Pretty please with a Republican on top." I laugh and start bouncing up and down on his cock with more force, taking him in hard. So hard that my moans turn into screams. I like that we don't have to be quiet this time around. My pace quickens as realize that I'll be able to come in this position without manual assistance he's hitting all the right places inside of me, and our pelvises are bumping together with the force of my gyrations. "Faster," he urges, his breathing becoming more ragged. "Okay, baby," I reply, my voice breaking from pleasure. "Come on, Cullen. Come inside of me." I move faster yet again, taking him in harder and deeper. My walls are beginning to ache from being stretched by his hardness, and my back aches from the tension of being on top. I close my eyes, concentrating on how it feels to have him inside of me. I need this from him. I need him. The familiar, uncontrollable quivering intensifies. Edward tightens his grip on my waist even more. "Edward!" I scream, knowing the sound of his name will drive him insane. "Say it again. Say my name again." "Edward." I move slightly and find the perfect angle that will stimulate my clit. I go back to work, bouncing up and down, unashamed that he's enjoying watching my tits. The quivering turns into clenching, and the pleasure from the buildup is so intense that I start to see black spots. Edward's cock fills me so completely. He groans over and over, letting me know he's almost there himself. Grabbing hold of his shoulders, and ignoring my backache, I slam down on him, worried he'll finish before me. "Oh fuck!" I yell, throwing my head back. I'm there. I keep trying to gyrate as my orgasm slams through me. My screams drown out Edward's groans as waves of pleasure crash into me, hitting me over and over again and making me come just like I wanted to. The ache in my back is exacerbated by the intensity at first, but then it's offset by how fucking good it

feels to lose control. I feel like my body is going to break apart into a million pieces; I quiver and shake uncontrollably until I finally collapse onto his chest. I needed that so badly. Edward puts his arms around me and squeezes me tightly. I rest my head on his shoulder, panting and gasping for air. Closing my eyes, I concentrate on the fact that he's still inside of me. "Did you come?" I whisper. "Yeah," he whispers back. "At the same time you did." "II was worried you wouldn't be able to hold on." "Me too, baby." He reaches up to brush my hair from my cheek. Then he smiled his cocky smile at me. "You surprised me by how hard you fucked me." I originally whispered because I couldn't muster the breath to speak at normal volume. But now the hushed tones make the moment seem intimate. This release was different from the first time we fucked. It makes sense that it would be the location, the position, and the time of day are all different. It's not our first time. I'm also completely naked. Perhaps all this explains why the satisfied feeling I have is different. Does it mean more than last time? Does it mean anything? As we both come down from our highs, Edward holds onto me and even starts caressing my back as if he knows where I'm aching. Panicking that he's being so gentle, I sit up so he can pull out. He kisses me on the cheek before releasing me, the same kind of soft kiss that he gave me on the train after the inaugural fuck. It does, however, feel a bit softer. And the sensation of his lips lingers this time. I quickly get off him and shuffle over to the other side of the backseat. I can't have feelings for this man. The onset of panic also brings forth the realization of just how brazen I've been tonight. What am I doing? I'm in a car, naked after having sex with a Cullen. And now I'm worrying about developing feelings for that Cullen. To make matters worse, we're in my father's car. Turns out I'm only conservative in one sense of the word. "Are you okay?" Edward asks after awhile. "Yeah, I'm fine," I say reassuringly, looking over at him. "Now get dressed and make sure you dispose of the condom properly. There should be a bin outside." "Okay." He pauses. "You'd tell me if something was wrong, right?" His voice sounded so kind just then; void of innuendo. The compassion I see in his eyes freaks me out a little.

"I just need a minute to compartmentalize the guilt that comes from doing this. But it's fine, really," I explain. "And I would tell you if something was wrong." He seems to accept my explanation. I climb back into the driver's seat and put my clothes back on. After throwing away the evidence, Edward gets back into the passenger seat. He hands me my torn panties, and I shove them into my jeans pocket. I start the ignition, eager to drop him back at his hotel. "Sorry about your thong," he apologizes. "I got carried away." I huff and pretend to be more annoyed than I really am. Our dynamic has to stay the same, or our arrangement will come to an end. I decide to bait him into some banter. "The next time I see you, I expect a replacement," I inform him. "The next time I see you, I expect you to have no panties on," he counters, his trademark smirk reappearing. "Speaking of next time it's your turn to visit my hometown." I shake my head. "I have no plausible excuse to come to California. You'll have to come to New Haven." "The Governor is a Republican." Arnold Schwarzenegger is married to Maria Shriver, a Kennedy. I don't want to think about bipartisan marriage right now. Or ever. I turn the key in the ignition and start driving back to The Rittenhouse. "I don't think there are any events in Sacramento that require my attention," I say carefully. "I require your attention. In San Francisco." I smirk. "When the cravings get bad, I'll redeem my frequent flyer miles. We'll have to make a weekend of it." "My naughty Republican in a hotel room," he says excitedly. "My back aches," I complain. "Next time, we're using a bed." He snickers. "That's what you get for being on top." "Don't laugh at my pain, Cullen." "You'll be aching somewhere else tomorrow, I'm sure," he teases. "Actually, I already feel a bit tender. My Bay Area needs a rest," I admit. "Maybe it's a good thing you live so far away. Keeps us in check. I also think the wait made the sex better." "You're going to visit me next month," he declares. "Case closed." "Legs closed," I correct. "I'll visit you when I want to visit you."

"Don't be difficult." "I'm not difficult that's the problem," I say self-deprecatingly. "When I'm near you, I'm easy." "I wouldn't say you're that easy. You still boss me around." "Damn straight, I do." We sit in comfortable silence; he knows I have to concentrate on the road. To my irritation, he starts fiddling with the radio again. "Stop touching the Senate Majority Leader's radio," I chide. "I touch his daughter," he immediately replies. "Ah, I walked into straight into that one, didn't I?" "Does it hurt when you walk?" I give him a sidelong look. "You are such a cocky bastard." "I know," he says smugly. "That's why you'll have trouble walking tomorrow." He sits back in his seat, laughs in a carefree way, and looks out the window at late-night Philadelphia. I smile at how happy he looks. "I didn't mess up your precious hair this time," I point out. "You made a mess on my lap." "Not apologizing for that, Cullen." "Don't want you to, Isabella." I turn onto a road that will eventually lead to Chestnut, where I'll then take 19th to get to Walnut, which is off West Rittenhouse. We'll be back at his hotel in no time. Edward in Philadelphia. I'm fine with him being in my hometown. What scares me is the possibility of feeling at home with him.

- 'Hero' written by Mariah Carey and Walter Alfanisieff, performed by Mariah Carey. From the album Music Box (1993).

Chapter 10: Situation Room EPOV Philadelphia for the win. That particular statement must sound slightly predictable coming from a Democrat especially considering how liberal the city is but did you also know that Philadelphia used to be a bastion of the Republican Party? It's true. Same goes for Pittsburgh, which was the birthplace of the national GOP. Registrations

started to increase after the Depression, and eventually, both cities were converted. Speaking of conversions, Isabella Swan certainly swung my way tonight. I guess I already converted her on the Amtrak train, but tonight really clarified our allegiance to each other. We're fuck buddies now. It's exclusive. Partisanship is taking a backseatProviding that backseat isn't already occupied, of course. Even though I'm physically drained I had a nine hour flight on Friday, woke up far too early this morning, and just had intense sex with Isabella Swan I don't think I'll be able to sleep just yet. I'm on a high from having seen her. All of her. Bouncing up and down on top of me. Right now I'm relaxing on the bed here in my room at The Rittenhouse, having just changed into fresh boxers and a t-shirt after showering. There's an interesting report on CNN, but since all I can think about is Isabella, I'm not giving the program the attention it deserves. I get up to retrieve the room service menu that's sitting on the desk on the other side of the room perhaps a late-night snack is what I need to distract myself. Despite the fact I'm not a strategist, I did run a good campaign here in Philly. For a start, I managed to circumvent Jacob's attempt to cock-block me. He quarantined me at the beginning of the benefit, keeping me backstage under the guise of helping his father practice his speech. Don't get me wrong, I love the Black family. Congressman Black who I call Uncle Billy has known me since I was a kid, and Jacob's two sisters, Rebecca and Rachel, are also really good company. But my help wasn't really necessary; Jacob just wanted to stop me from finding Isabella before the dinner officially started. It took me forty minutes to escape. Alice dragged Jacob away to speak to Congressman Crowley in the ballroom, and then Rachel allowed me to leave to get a glass of water. I obviously couldn't enter the main room, so I peered through the window of the service door to see what was going on. And that's when I saw her. She looked stunning. The last time we were together, she was dressed casually and had little make-up on. I didn't care at the time she's naturally gorgeous anyway. But seeing her all dressed up tonight in that red dress It was breathtaking to say the least. She really is a beautiful woman. I maintain I wasn't 'leering' as her brother put it; rather, I was fully appreciating what I saw. In terms of our verbal sparring, I did manage to get the upper hand. But the latenight plan was more important. The strategy was to secure a plan that worked for the both of us, and I think we negotiated quite fairly, counter-offering when appropriate. It helps when you want the same thing something apparently out of reach for the current Congress. Once I had my hands on Isabella tonight, I didn't want to let go. I really, really didn't. Did I expect to feel that possessive? No. I guess the feeling is easily explained by the fact the sex is too good to quit. After I asserted my claim on her which in retrospect was a little 'caveman' of me she suggested a permanent arrangement. I accepted readily. Now it's not a question of if we'll fuck again, but a question of when and where.

So to summarize today's campaign experience, I don't really consider Pennsylvania to be a battleground state. There may have been a few power plays, but ultimately we both won. I am aware, however, that there may be another battle looming. Alice may want to talk to me about what happened, and just like last time, she may choose to tell Jacob. Though she didn't specifically say anything to me this time around, Alice did help facilitate my escape from backstage, and she gave me a knowing smile when I said goodnight to her after the benefit. If she tells Jacob, I'm not sure he'll be as amused this time. Total NNPT fail. He'll also be unhappy with Alice for facilitating my activities once again. I'm glad now that she thinks I need to 'have fun'. I can deal with meddling as long as she doesn't try to screw with my head too much. And it's not just a matter of whether Alice keeps quiet tomorrow. Since I don't actually start teaching until the second week of the term, my family suggested that I come back to Washington, D.C. for a little bit. I initially resisted this is a busy week for them. Not only that, but it's a particularly important week for everyone. Mom will be taping her O'Reilly interview by video link on Monday afternoon. Jacob will be busy helping her senior staff deal with the publicity. Alice will be back at work for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. And Dad who insisted on coming to the benefit because of Uncle Billy's speech will be holed up in the West Wing making sure the State of the Union address goes smoothly on Wednesday. I finally relented because I didn't want to argue with all four of them. I can research and write while they're at work; it's not like I need to be back in San Francisco to do that. I'll stay at Alice and Jacob's house. Dad has already requested that I visit him at work this week, something I'll do because I want to spend a bit more time with him, not because I want to be working at the White House. As for my motherI won't agree to spending time at her office in the Cannon House Office Building, but I will, however, agree to have lunch with her in one of the House cafeterias. We've been doing that for years. We fly out tomorrow at around midday. Admittedly, I didn't tell Isabella about the fact I'm going to be spending the week in Washington, D.C. It was a last minute decision to begin with, but more notably, it's a decision rooted in family and politics. Since my arrangement with her is strictly about sex, I don't have to report my whereabouts to her unless we're going to meet up again. I don't want to be conned into sneaking out to New Haven of all places to fuck her, which is something that could happen if she knew my whereabouts. So, by not telling her, the temptation is removed. Besides, I want her to come to my hometown. I came all the way to Philadelphia so we could fuck, so it's only fair that our next time be in San Francisco. I return my attention to the room service menu and decide to order a snack and a glass of wine. I should get to bed after that who knows what tomorrow will bring. Who knows what this week will bring. Hopefully nuclear fallout isn't on the horizon.

I wake up to the sound of someone knocking insistently on my door. Feeling incredibly groggy, I check the alarm clock and see that it's six in the morning. Did

I order breakfast or something? Who else besides room service would bother me at this hour? Family. That's who. I get up slowly. Whoever it is knocks again, obviously irritated that I'm taking so long. I stumble to the door and open it to find Jacob, who looks very unimpressed with me. Oh shit. Alice must've told him. Fuck. He raises an eyebrow. "Feeling tired, Edward?" "Generally, that's how people feel when they're woken up really fucking early by their best friend," I say, trying to be funny. It's not like he's shaking with anger and clenching his fists, but I can tell that this time around he's more angry than amused. I really, really don't want to have this confrontation now. I knew there was a possibility of this happening, but I thought Alice would've given me a heads up as a courtesy. Apparently not. Somehow I don't think Jacob will be receptive if I ask him to reschedule. I give him a onceover he's wearing one of the hotel's dressing gowns over his pajama pants and t-shirt. The outfit doesn't matter though; he could wear a potato sack or a Spongebob Squarepants costume and still be intimidating. "We need to talk," he says in a stern voice. "You're not breaking up with me, are you?" Jacob doesn't appreciate the joke, rolling his eyes before trying to push past me into the room. I let him pass me and close the door once he's inside. I sigh in resignation. I want to go back to sleep. So I can dream about my naughty Republican. Jacob stalks across the room to the desk near the far window, where he stares me down. It's dim in here the curtains are closed, and sunrise is still an hour away. I stand at the foot of the bed and wait for him to lecture me. He throws his hands up in the air, in complete disbelief that this has happened again. "I don't know what to do with you," he declares, acting like I'm delinquent child who can't be straightened out. "It's not a big deal," I tell him, rubbing my eyes. Apparently, this is the wrong thing to say. Jacob clenches his jaw and gives me a scathing look before launching into a tirade. "Not a big deal?" he asks, incredulous at my indifference. "I know Alice insists that nothing bad will come of this, but you do realize that everyone in this family lives and breathes politics, right? What the fuck is wrong with you? Just because you don't give a rat's ass about your own election prospects doesn't mean you can go around jeopardizing everyone else's. Alice is not infallible. Do you want to

be that guy? The Dem who everyone laughs at after reading about them in The National Enquirer? Seriously, Cullen. You're putting the 'Edward' in 'John Edwards!'" The former Senator and Vice-Presidential nominee finally admitted two days ago that he fathered a child with his mistress. Like everyone didn't already know. It's practically old news. "Whoa, that's going a bit far, don't you think?" I respond. "Well, you would know a little something about stepping over the line," he shoots back. I know I shouldn't take the comparison too personally Jacob is angry and I do understand where he's coming from but I do need to defend my actions. "If I were actually putting my mother's career or anyone else's career for that matter in jeopardy, Alice would warn me and I'd stop," I reason. "Let's not panic about this. I know Alice isn't infallible, but you have to admit she's reliable." "I'm not happy that she's enabling you," he gripes. "You have to stop. Eliminate the risk." "I'm being careful. This isn't going to affect anyone else. I'm just the son of a politician." "It's not just about Esme. Your father is the President's Chief of Staff." "Yeah but " "You don't think people will laugh at me if you get caught?" he asks pointedly. "I'm your best friend." "Jake, come on," I implore. "You lied to me. You said you wouldn't do this again. What the hell happened to NNPT?" "I'm sorry. I couldn't help myself." I shrug weakly. It's not a strong defense. I know that. But, at the same time, it's essentially true. I'm met with another reproaching look. The mood really is different this time around. He feels betrayed on multiple levels as my best friend, as my brotherin-law, and as a member of my mother's staff. Jacob clenches his fists. He won't hit me, but he might inflict damage on something else if I'm not careful. He takes a deep breath in an attempt to calm down before speaking again. "So, where'd you break the treaty?" I hesitate. "I'm not going to give you a play-by-play." "I'm just checking whether you could've been seen," he says, exasperated. "Nobody saw us," I insist, getting frustrated. "Where did you do it?" he asks again, gritting his teeth.

"We fucked in a car," I reveal with a huff. "Don't worry. We weren't seen." "First a train, then a car? What's next? A plane? A hot air balloon? A Winnebago?" he asks sarcastically, folding his arms across his chest. When I'm attacked with sarcasm, I tend to respond with immaturity. Yet another reason why I would make a bad politician. "Where the fuck would I find a Winnebago?" I retort, unable to clamp down on the urge to fight back. "When was the last time you saw an RV?" "I'll have you know that there are many people who are into the 'home on wheels' thing," he says, pointing his finger at me. "Personally, I hate it, because I prefer registered voters to stay where they are. It's easier for polling purposes." It always comes back to politics, doesn't it? "Well, an RV would have a bed," I point out. "Stop that train of thought," he admonishes. He balks at his own words. "Oh my God, what am I saying? No more trains for you. Get off the train. If I see you within fifty feet of a train, I'm going to call the Feds." "Is that why we're flying back to D.C? Because I'm a security threat to Amtrak?" I ask sarcastically. "Why don't you just put me in the corner and make me face the wall until I say I'm sorry?" His reply is swift but to the point. "Because if a Republican gets between you and the wall, we're going to have a problem." Jacob's mouth twitches he wants to laugh at his own joke, but he doesn't want me to think any of this is amusing. "Is she driving back to Yale today?" he asks condescendingly. "In the car you had sex in?" "It wasn't her car," I reveal. Maybe I should try and amuse him by telling him the truth about whose car it was. "So, no, she isn't driving back to Yale in the car we had sex in." He looks aghast. "You stole a car?" "Please don't tell me that you actually think I stole a car," I respond, unimpressed. "I can't even play Grand Theft Auto on PS3." "That's because you've gotten progressively worse at video games as we've grown older. But that's not the point. Whose car was it?" I pause before telling him the truth. He waits for my answer, eyes flashing with anger and disappointment. "Senator Swan's." As angry as he is, I can tell that he's at least a little bit amused by this tidbit of information. Jacob shakes his head in disbelief and then smiles. However, it's not a genuine smile. It's one of those 'everything is so fucked that all I can do is laugh' smiles. It's kind of creepy, actually.

"I have a piece of paper back in my room. It's a list of talking points for your mother, for The O'Reilly Factor," he informs me. "Let me get my pen and write down a new one." He starts scribbling with an invisible pen in the air. "My son fucked the Majority Leader's daughter in the man's own car. Take that Republicans! I told you to get fucked." "It's not like the man uses the car every day," I point out. "He has another car in D.C." "Are you going to have sex in there too?" "No." Jacob narrows his eyes. "He used to be FBI," he reminds me, gesturing with his hands. "That vehicle could be bugged. Maybe there's a tracking device or a camera of some sort." I choose not to tell him about the fact the car also used to be FBI. That would make him even angrier. I look at him like he's lost his mind. "It's just a car. It's not the frickin' Batmobile." "Maybe it is, Batman," he shouts. "Maybe you think you're a superhero. You think you can do whatever you want, you think no one knows your true identity, and then you fly away from the consequences of your actions." "That's a stupid analogy," I retort. "Batman can't even fly." That probably isn't the strongest point I've ever made. Jacob glares at me and continues to shout. "You're an idiot, Cullen!" "I'm serious. He can't fly," I reiterate. "It's one of his major shortcomings, especially when compared to Superman." "Superman, hey?" He points to the ceiling, pretending it's the sky. "It's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's a political scandal in the making." "There won't be a scandal. No one is going to find out." "This isn't Comic Con!" he exclaims. "This is me telling you off for being stupid." "You're blowing this out of proportion," I enunciate. "And I don't think I'm a superhero. For a start, I don't wear my underwear on the outside of my pants." "That's because you keep dropping your pants!" he yells. "For a certain Republican!" "I'm sorry, are you trying to tell the whole of Philadelphia?" I ask. "Because if you are, I suggest you schedule an appearance on a morning show. As hard as you're trying right now, I don't think your voice will carry across the city on its own." There's a knock on the door. "Oh look, that's probably Matt Lauer, come to get the exclusive," I jest. "Maybe it's time to do a double feature with John Edwards. Edward and Edwards: The Delusional Jackasses of the Party." He huffs. "You're right about the delusions, bird-fucker."

"Hey! Do not call me that," I warn. There's another knock on the door. "It's probably Alice," Jacob says resignedly. "Open the door for her." We stare at each other for an extended moment before I stomp over to the door to let Alice in. She looks cranky too, but her anger is directed more towards her husband than me. I close the door and watch as she approaches him and puts her hands on her hips. "Enough yelling," she says to Jacob. "Do you not trust me on this?" "Don't make this about your visions," he says, shaking his head. "Alice," I interrupt, walking over to stand next to her. "I can stand up for myself." She rolls her eyes at me. "Fine, duke it out. I'll be over here watching TV." Jacob gives me a hard look while Alice sits herself down on the couch. "This is serious, Edward," he says emphatically. "I will not have the Cullen dynasty brought down by your penis." "That is not a very fair assessment," I respond. "Isn't it?" "There won't be a scandal. Surely Alice would see trouble coming." His gaze flickers over to Alice before he returns his attention to me. "She can't predict everything. And as for her encouraging youYou should know better," he argues. "You shouldn't have boarded the train at Platform Nine and Three Quarter Inches in the first place!" "Excuse me," I reply hotly. "I'm longer than that." "Yeah? Let's give She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named a call to double check! She might not pick up the phone though who knows how many other Dems she's screwing besides you." Something inside of me snaps. "She is not a slut," I roar. "Ooh someone's a little touchy," he replies mockingly. "Pun intended." "Fuck off, Jake. She really isn't that type of woman. I'm the only person she's sleeping with Democrat or otherwise. I know that for a fact." Infuriated at my defense of Isabella, Jacob's looks at me with the cold look he usually reserves for his enemies. "You're taking her side over mine?" he asks slowly. "It's not about taking sides," I answer firmly. "Listen to yourself, Edward!" He turns away from me, as if he can't take the sight of me anymore. He looks down at the floor and takes another deep breath before

looking back up at me. "Yeah, you're right. It's not about taking sides. We've already taken sides!" I'm silenced by his assertion. I look over at Alice, but she's busy watching television. "If the Republicans do well in November, we're screwed," Jacob declares. "Banner's presidency won't achieve anything. Swan assuming he's the nominee has a good chance of beating him in 2012. The party will peg Carlisle as the guy who staffed a weak administration and couldn't get his man reelected. And I don't know what will happen to Esme's chances of winning the White House." Reminded of just how vested my family is in this game, I take a few steps back and sit down on my bed. It doesn't feel good to betray people, but I really do think that I can get away with this without causing harm to anyone else. "I'm not the bad guy," I say slowly to Jacob, rubbing my temples. "I'm not trying to bring down my family with my penis." "You just like having sex with Isabella Swan," Jacob says, trying to understand me. "I like her as a person too," I reluctantly tell him. "You know how much I hate it when things are painted as red or blue only." "At the risk of sounding like a Crayola spokesperson, this isn't a 'shades of purple' thing, Edward. We're blue all the way, remember? You can't fuck her again." "I can see her again if I want to." Jacob looks over to Alice, who's already aware that he's about to ask her something. "Is he going to see her again?" he asks her. Alice glances at me with an all-knowing look before turning back to Jacob. She shrugs. "Not all the relevant decisions have been made." I interpret that to mean the 'time and place' haven't been set. I don't know how Jacob is taking it. He returns his attention to me. "This is over, Edward," he declares. "If you see her again, I'll tell Carlisle and Esme about your 'fun-raising' activities." My heart sinks. Even though he's my best friend, I can see him doing such a thing on the basis that it's in my best interests. I change tack, emphasizing the temporary nature of the situation. "It's not like this is going to go on forever," I reason. "What's wrong with seeing her a few more times? I'll get it out of my system and then move on." Jacob snorts. "Yeah, who's next? Ann Coulter?" I jump to my feet, standing up again. "Maybe you can give me some pointers on how to hide a secret affair," I challenge, taking a cheap shot.

He slept with my sister behind my back for months before they told me. "Hiding is not enough. This has to end," he insists. "Otherwise you'll be putting the 'public' in 'Republican'. Everyone will know about it." I scowl. I don't want to get in trouble, but I don't want to stop sleeping with Isabella Swan. Not knowing what to say, I simply stay silent for the time being. Jacob probably thinks that I'm sulking. "Oh, you're upset," he remarks dryly. "Putting the 'emo' in 'Democrat' now, are we? Grow up, Edward!" "I'm entitled to make my own decisions!" I snap. "Everyone in this family loves to lecture me. I'm sick of it." "So this is your revenge?" There's a knock on the door. Hopefully it's not hotel management following up on a complaint about noise. "It's Dad," Alice informs us. "He heard shouting." Jacob and I both take a moment to try and calm down. I tell myself to suppress my frustration and put on a more pleasant disposition for my father. I saunter to the door and let my third guest enter the room. Dad strolls in wearing his royal blue pajamas and immediately inquires as to why we've all congregated in my room. "What's going on here?" he asks, concerned. "I heard yelling. What are you all shouting about?" Jacob makes a point of looking at me it's up to me to provide my father with an answer. "Uh" I respond, scrambling for a topic. "Batman. We were discussing superheroes and their powers." "Batman?" Dad repeats. He thinks for a moment, puzzled. "He can't even fly." Jacob snorts but doesn't offer further explanation of why we were arguing. Dad shakes his head, still bemused. "Yeah, that's what I was trying to tell Jacob," I explain weakly. "Yep, these debates can get pretty heated." Had Dad overheard what Jacob and I were actually arguing about, I would be in serious trouble right now. Serious, serious trouble. I feel bad for hiding something from him, but I can't tell him anything. "Breakfast at 7:30," Dad reminds us. "In the restaurant downstairs. Please remember that you are adults. I'd like to eat breakfast without you two fighting about cartoons." "7:30. Got it," I respond, somewhat chastened by the concerned look on my father's face.

He knows Jacob and I weren't really fighting about superheroes. He'll probably ask Jacob about it when they leave the room. Alice stands up and tilts her head toward the door. "Come on, Jake," she says. "Okay," he agrees, keeping his voice level so as to not appear suspicious in front of Dad. The three of them motion to file out of my room. The action reminds me of the possibility of them actually walking out on me. Last night was fun, but now I'm dealing with the consequences. This uneasy feeling is probably what Isabella experienced last night in the car after we had sex. What we did was shocking. As if the State of the Union and my mother's interview weren't enough to stress out my family, I've created a third issue, albeit one that only Jacob and Alice know about. They may be versed in how to run an issue-based campaign, but this situation is arguably more about a candidate going rogue. "Jake, stay a second, will you?" I request. Jacob acquiesces. Dad and Alice leave, closing the door behind them. The two of us endure another awkward silence. I'm the one who speaks first. "I'm sorry for stressing you out," I apologize. "And for my cheap shots. I also don't want to cause problems between you and Alice." He doesn't respond verbally. His face is remarkably hard to read right now. I think he's trying to gauge my level of regret. Thing is, I'm still trying to gauge how sorry I am. I honestly am sorry for the fact Jacob has to deal with this. It's not a good feeling to go behind people's backs and break promises you've made. And I would definitely feel awful if any trouble did come from my secret arrangement with Isabella. But if I could turn back time, I don't think I'd take back anything I've done with her. Jacob clears his throat. "I'm not going to apologize for trying to put you in your place," he explains. "I'm trying to look out for you. That's what friends do. I do apologize for the insults that went too far. Now, I'm guessing you think I'm a bit of a hypocrite for lampooning you about a sleeping with someone in secret " "I didn't mean those things I said," I interrupt. "I was annoyed. I'm sorry." He sighs, frustrated. "I can't support what you're doing. This is ridiculous. The sex can't be that great. Find somebody else." "The sex is unbelievable," I tell him, unashamed. "Because it's the ultimate trophy fuck," he asserts. "You're on a power trip." I shake my head. "Last night I gave her control let her be on top. Jake, seriously. As my best friend, believe me when I say the sex is that good." "You let a Swan take the top job? The way you talk about her makes you sound like an addict."

"Maybe I am addicted," I admit reluctantly. One of the awful things that happened after I found out about him and Alice was that my relationship with both of them suffered from all the secrecy and lies. Perhaps that was what prompted Alice to tell Jacob this morning it's better if he and I discuss this. And Alice herself couldn't keep the secret from her own husband after already not sharing what she foresaw last night. But in terms of everyone else, there'd be instant nuclear fallout if the secret was uncovered. Even if it was only my parents, and not the general public, who found out, it would still be catastrophic. And if everyone did find out, let's be honest: I'd have no chance in hell of cleaning up a mess of that magnitude, and judging by their response to recent disasters, we all know FEMA won't be much help. "You're going to get caught," he states simply. "Alice might not warn you in time, or maybe she won't warn you at all. She might let you pay for your mistakes." "Alice says I'm just having fun. I mean, if she sanctions it, can't you accept what I'm doing?" Jacob looks at me gravely. "I don't mean to lecture you, but as often as you visit, you don't know what it's truly like in Washington these days. Maybe this week will open your eyes." "Hmmm." I bite back anything more defensive. Perhaps I am a little nave or ignorant, as the case may be. "Okay, I better go talk to Alice," he says, adopting a softer tone. "See you at breakfast." I wave awkwardly. "Yeah, see you then." When he gets to the door, he turns around and smiles weakly. "Try not to fuck any Republicans in the meantime," he advises. "There aren't that many in this city," I point out, relieved at his conciliatory attitude, however forced it may be. "Not to mention, I'm very selective." "Yeah. Clearly." After he leaves, I sit down on the couch and try to absorb everything that just happened. Isabella said something last night about compartmentalizing the guilt that comes with our deception. Maybe I need to handle this guilt stuff better. Isabella is lucky that no one on her side knows. I'm sure Jacob and I will revisit this matter in the upcoming days. Alice might even pull me aside for a talk. I'm relying on her ability as a defense for my crimes, a mitigation of the risk involved. Yet I'm still mortified on some level that she knows what's going on. I may not be psychic like Alice, but I have a feeling this is going to be a long week.

Other references:

- Chapter title refers to the White House Situation Room. - FEMA: Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Chapter 11: Word on the Hill EPOV It's lunch hour on Tuesday the day after my mother's appearance on The O'Reilly Factor. I tried my best to convince her to postpone our traditional lunch until another day, because the Republican half of Capitol Hill is especially displeased with her today, but in typical Esme Cullen fashion, she gave me a miffed look and then overrode my concern. Damn Congressional overrides. I feel like I'm back in high school. Except the school is the United States House of Representatives, and I'm one of the Queen Bee's minions, holding her lunch tray as she fishes around in her designer handbag for her meal card. Of course, I'm not really one of my mother's minions, or should I say staffers. I don't mind holding her lunch tray. But the way some of the people here are glaring at her and talking in hushed whispers, it really is like she's the most illustrious and most hated girl in school. I obviously can't identify every House Republican and their respective staffers, but it's pretty obvious which party someone belongs to when they're looking at her like she's the devil incarnate. Then they look at me like I'm literally the son of a bitch. I should be glaring at them. They don't support our social programs, but they do want to give a tax cut to the rich, protecting their million-dollar estates from being taxed. They're wrong when they call my mother a socialist or a communist. Ironically, today it's making me see red. Those dirty looks would be directed my way if anyone found out about me and Isabella. Since our argument on Sunday morning, Jacob has tried to be amicable towards me, but despite Alice's advice, he's still mildly upset. I'm trying to handle the situation as best I can. It's not like Jacob and I haven't argued before; I know from past experience that he just needs more time to cool off. After all, he's my best friend. He won't stay mad at me for long. The three of us have yet to revisit the Isabella issue there are other matters stressing everyone out at present but I'm sure a conversation on the matter is pending. In fact, I'm actually hoping to get a bit of insight from Alice. I'd like to ask her why she's on my side, but I don't want to look like I'm desperate for information or anything like that. The question can wait. At least until after lunch. It's not just the death glares that are irritating me right now; I'm also annoyed because someone snatched the last pre-packaged ham sandwich off the fridge shelf. Admittedly, I stood there for an extended moment while I was eyeing it it was a toss up between that and something more interesting. Yet I contend my hand was already raised when a middle-aged man swooped in and took my sandwich. I'm going to assume that he was a Republican who knew I was a Cullen, because I don't think a Dem would have done that to me.

I ended up getting a burger and fries. "I really wanted that sandwich," I gripe as my mother takes back her tray. She smirks then shakes her head. "Here I am trying to fix the nation, implementing initiatives to help my constituents, and spearheading the liberal causeyet all my son wants is a sandwich," she remarks. "Well, I'm not going to apologize for being easier to please than the average voter," I reply. "My question for you, Madam Speaker, is this: Why weren't there more ham sandwiches in stock?" After paying for our meals, we find a table for two in the corner. My mother isn't fazed at all by the fact that Republicans are turning up their noses at her. She's unflappable. All this hostility doesn't seem to bother her; I daresay she's thriving on it. There's a steely look in her eye that signals she doesn't like being messed with, and that she's not afraid of messing with others. The hustle and bustle of the cafeteria the collective noise of everyone talking, cutlery clanging on plates, chairs scraping, and cell phones beeping coupled with the hostility, is making me a little edgy. I tell myself to relax. I'm not waging war with the Republicans my mother is. I have to remember that. Thank God we're not in the Senate cafeteria. In the past, Senate staffers tended to prefer this cafeteria to their own in the Dirksen building, but recent improvements have changed that. I honestly don't know how I'd react to bumping into the Majority Leader. Over the weekend, I fucked his daughter, in his car, in his hometown. I don't know whether I'd smirk at him or look suspiciously guilty. And if I were to bump into Emmett, I'm sure I'd get another warning look about the way I 'leered' at his sister. As ludicrous as it sounds, I imagine being attacked by two angry swans. They're squawking and flapping their wings wildly as they peck angrily at me. It would make a good reality show: When Swans Attack! As I hold back a laugh at the absurdity of the picture my mind has conjured, the image morphs into two angry Swan men; the senator has drawn his gun and is pointing it at me while Emmett encourages him to shoot first and ask questions later. And once they ask me what I was thinking when I was looking at IsabellaWell, let's just say that the answer to that question would prompt them to finish me off. Yeah, that picture is a little scarier than the first. Once my mother and I have settled in our seats, I shake the violent image out of my head. She decides to revisit the issue of my sandwich. Or rather, the sandwich that should have been mine. "Do you want me to draft a submission to the Committee for House Administration?" she jests. "They're in charge of the cafeterias." "I just think that the Speaker's son should have lunch privileges," I assert, playing along. "In fact, forget congressional action. I'll take it up with Dad when I visit him at the White House later today."

"You want your father to secure an executive order from the President of the United States, demanding adequate supply of your preferred lunch option in the House cafeteria? Namely, a ham sandwich." I nod, picking up my burger. "Yes. That's exactly what I want." "Well, if that isn't pork barrel, then I don't know what is," she responds, her eyes twinkling with mirth. I roll my eyes at her. "It's not pork, Mother. It's ham." "Same animal," she says, digging into her salad. She continues after eating a mouthful or two. "Although, I tend to reserve comments about pigs for when I'm talking about the other side." I quirk an eyebrow. "Judging from yesterday, your reserve must be running low. You didn't hold back on O'Reilly. It's appropriate that your office is in the Cannon Building, because you certainly fired some shots." My mother looks at me smugly. "What was your favorite comment?" she asks indulgently. I run through some of the options in my head: The Senate Republicans are stonewalling. If you want tips on inefficiency, ask the Majority Leader how it's done. I think some people in Congress spend more time calling me a tax-and-spend liberal than actually doing something of merit. I don't know, Bill maybe Senator Swan is more concerned about 2012 than 'right now'. For the record, I want to help America now. The House is going to vote on this bill in two weeks, and it's going to pass. I believe in getting things done. We'll have to see whether the Senate even lets the bill go up for debate. The Republicans don't like the Estate Tax, period. They want to protect the interests of the rich. Well, when it comes to my constituents, I try to serve everyone, not just the millionaires. "Hmmm, let's see," I say, mulling it over. "Actually, I think my favorite line was the one about Philly." My mother grins. "Yes. What did I say? Oh, that's right. 'I was in the Majority Leader's hometown over the weekend. Apparently, my approval rating there is almost as high as it is in San Francisco.'" "That's the one." Of course, she doesn't know that I'm angling for a particular Philadelphian to visit our hometown. Senator Swan's response to my mother's comments has been mainly dismissive. From what I've gathered, he's trying to take the high road, downplaying the comments as Democratic frustration. I'm sure the counterstrategy is to make my mother look like a hot-headed, crazy woman.

"No love lost between you and Senator Swan," I proffer, the comment designed to cover any suspicion that I'm going soft on our enemies. "There was never any love to begin with," my mother quips. "True." My iPhone beeps. "That was you," my mother says, glancing at her BlackBerry. "Yeah, I know," I say, taking my iPhone out from my pocket. I have a text from 'MNR'. My Naughty Republican. Logic tells me that I should ignore the text and check it later, but I'm so curious about what she might have to say that I consider opening up the message straight away. Perhaps Isabella wants to comment on my mother's appearance on The O'Reilly Factor. "Who is it?" my mother asks. "One of my friends from grad school," I lie. "I need him to email his class notes to me this week. I don't care that much I'm more concerned about prepping for the classes I have to teach next week but I should call him later to ask about what I missed. I'm sure it's just introductory stuff." I read the text: Umwhy am I hearing that you're on the Hill? Ah shit. That's the problem with this town. Spies are everywhere. People are always on the lookout, sticking their noses into other people's business. I didn't think there would be a reason for someone to report my presence to Isabella, but I guess the grapevine in general has been focused on my mother. Someone probably mentioned something about Esme Cullen having lunch with her son and seemingly gloating about last night's war of words with O'Reilly. I wonder if Isabella is pissed that I didn't tell her I was going to be in D.C. this week. In any case, it's a bad idea for me to reply with a lie. I decide to confirm that I'm here, but without suggesting that I'm available this week. I type a reply: Probably because I am on the Hill. She replies straight away: How could I not have known this? I glance at my mother, feeling like I'm being rude. "Sorry about this." "Not a problem, Edward." I send another text to Isabella: I didn't think it was need-to-know information. She immediately disputes my opinion: It IS need-to-know. We're sleeping together I should know where you are. I shoot back the reply: Do you want me to wear a tracking device? I'm not sleeping with other women, if that's why you're freaking out.

Her reply indicates she's not happy with my omission: Edward Cullen, I want an explanation from you. Kind regards, Your Fuck Buddy (who happens to live on the EAST COAST). She's inadvertently pointed out that she's overreacting to my omission. Fuck buddy is a term that implies that the sex is simply that sex with no attachments outside the bedroom. Or the train. Or the Senate Majority Leader's car. So why is she suddenly demanding to know where I am? I'm going to have to clear this up. Frankly, I'm annoyed that she seems intent on attacking me over this. I can't offer her more sex this week. That should have been clear from the fact that I didn't tell her where I was. I'll call you later today to explain. I turn my attention back to lunch. Thinking about Isabella isn't appropriate at present. "I'll call them back later," I say, putting my phone away. "You can call them back now, if you want," my mother offers. "Nah, it can wait." It really can't wait, but it's not like I can call Isabella while I'm in the same room as all these House Representatives and their staffers. Not unless I have a death wish. And I don't think being murdered in a cafeteria by either Republicans or Democrats is a particularly dignified way to go. Okay, so it's overdramatic of me to think I would actually be killed for sleeping with the enemy. At the very least, I'd be heckled and called all sorts of names. That being said, who knows, maybe someone would hand my ass to me on a platter and that's a cafeteria special I'd rather not see. Judging by the fact Isabella appears to be annoyed with me, maybe she's the one of whom I should be afraid. I must look a little worried all of a sudden, because my mother gives me a concerned look. "Are you all right, Edward?" "Yeah, I'm fine," I reply, lying again. "Just pissed off about that ham sandwich." "You worry me sometimes. You fixate on unexpected things." She's definitely right about that. I never thought I'd be this fixated on Isabella. "I'm full of surprises," I reply. "In this town, Edward," she says knowingly, "surprises aren't always welcome." "Maybe that's why I feel so uncomfortable here," I quip. It's uncomfortable on the Hill. It's uncomfortable at Jacob and Alice's house. And now things are uncomfortable with Isabella. What a mess.

Maybe I should've returned to San Francisco, after all.

By the time I get back to Jacob and Alice's house two hours later, I've worked myself up into a state of anxiety over Isabella. I grew increasingly worried after lunch. Luckily, my father didn't notice how agitated I was everyone in the West Wing was too busy to notice. Even when we had coffee in his office, his assistant kept popping in with notices about phone calls, appointments, and general problems. I pace around the guest room, anxious about the fact Isabella and I are probably going to get into an argument. I man up and call Isabella's cell. "Well, if it isn't Edward Cullen," she answers dryly. Oh, she's annoyed, all right. "If it wasn't, I'd be concerned," I joke. "This isn't a good time for me to be the victim of identity theft." "No, because that would mean that I had some random guy's 'disco stick' up my vagina on Saturday night," she says in a scathing tone. "Disco stick?" "It's from a Lady Gaga song, Cullen." "Lady Gaga has a song called 'Cullen'?" "Are you deliberately trying to be stupid?" she asks, even more incensed. My attempts at humor are backfiring. I should've learnt my lesson after my argument with Jacob. "You're upset with me," I say, stating the obvious. "Yeah, you or whoever is impersonating you," she snaps. "Why didn't you tell me that you were headed to D.C.? I'm your fuck buddy. I'm entitled to know where you are. You should've just said 'Hey, Isabella. By the way, I'm not going straight home to San Francisco. I won't be available for the rest of the week so feel free to whip out your vibrator when you think of me, but I look forward to seeing you again sometime soon.'" "Whoa, hold on," I request, trying to calm her down. "Hold onto what? My vibrator? Guess what? I don't have one!" This is not going well. "Stop yelling at me. I'm trying to explain myself!" "Then hurry up and do just that." "Well, I'm a little lost for words now because you keep mentioning your nonexistent vibrator," I say defensively. "Find the words. Put out an APB. Take out an ad for the side of a juice carton." "Milk carton," I correct.

"What?" she snaps. "I think you mean 'milk carton'." "Whatever. I accidentally said juice because I know you like orange juice." "I also like milk." "Just fucking explain yourself, Cullen," she demands, exasperated. "Or you'll end up listed as a missing person on the side of a milk carton." I take a deep breath and tell her what I have to say. "Look, why are trying to keep tabs on me? We're just fuck buddies. The whole thing was your idea, wasn't it? Besides, I didn't think it would be a big deal. I thought it would be better this way. This is a big week for my family. I really don't want you and I to do something risky and get caught. I didn't actually mean to malign you in any way, okay?" I run a hand through my hair, tugging it in a sign of stress. "That's not good enough," she replies with a huff. "You just want our next time to be in San Francisco, and on your terms. You always have to be in control, don't you? The Cullens and their goddamn power trips." "I think you're overreacting," I argue, unwilling to take all the blame for the fact we're not seeing eye-to-eye. "Are you sure you're not just taking your anger towards my mother out on me instead?" I should have phrased that accusation more carefully. It's hard to think when I'm this frustrated. Why doesn't she see that there wasn't any ill intent on my end? "God, you Cullens are unbelievable!" she shrieks. "Isabella, look at what's going on this week. The O'Reilly Factor. The State of the Union. The Republican Response to the State of the Union. This is clearly not an ideal week for you and I to be seeing each other, anyway," I point out, emphasizing the greater political climate. "You should've disclosed your whereabouts, regardless of that fact," she counters. "Your omission isn't technically a lie, but it's still dishonest. How would you feel if you found out that I was in California and didn't tell you?" "What you do with your own time is your business, not mine. I can't believe you're attacking me over this. You're so quick to judge me!" I accuse. "Yeah, well, you're so quick to deceive me!" I sigh in frustration. "I don't want to fight." "Why not?" she snaps. "Because this fight isn't on your terms?" I groan, weary of her attacks. "I'm sorry I wasn't more upfront with you. But I didn't think I had to be I'm not your boyfriend; I'm just your fuck buddy, remember? Some things are my own business. Plus, I wasn't exactly thinking with my head on Saturday night. And by head, I mean the one on my shoulders, if you know what I'm saying. We didn't really talk that much. You and I were too busy fucking." "Whatever, Cullen."

She doesn't sound like she's going to forgive me. I want to resolve this. I just don't know how. I huff in frustration. "Calm down, and let's talk rationally about this. "I can't talk to you. I'm too pissed off," she yells at me. "I'll let you know when I'm over it. If I get over it." "Isabella,come on " She hangs up on me. I immediately try to call back; she ignores the call. What the fuck? I'm so infuriated that she might want to break off the agreement before it's even gotten going that I throw my iPhone across the room, flinging it so it hits the far wall with a sickening thud. Cursing, I stomp over to retrieve it, and find that I've cracked part of the display. Thankfully, the phone is still functional. Not that it matters, anyway, since I doubt Isabella will be calling me back anytime soon. Fuck. As the minutes drag on, I begin to realize how dire the situation really is. She and I don't have a strong foundation. We're fuck buddies our bond is only based on sex. She's free to walk away if she wants. Shit. I only just got her. How could I have lost her so quickly? I didn't think. I should've thought about how she'd feel if she found out about the omission from someone else. I don't know whether she's going to forgive me. Swans are predisposed to hating Cullens. Maybe she's feeling guiltier than she lets on, and doesn't want to risk being involved with me anymore. Watching my mother tear into her father must've been a strange and infuriating experience for her. The thought of her wanting to break off our arrangement is devastating, especially since I was willing to put my friendship with Jacob to the test by refusing to stop seeing her. It frustrates me that I can't tell her about how I stuck up for her for us. It's a secret that Alice and Jacob know. Why does she doubt me so much? I made it clear on Saturday night that she was the only woman I want to sleep with. By the time Jacob arrives home early, mind you, at four o'clock I'm an absolute wreck. Self-pity and helplessness have eaten away at me. He finds me slumped over the dining room table, a half-eaten bowl of soggy cereal to my left and a glass of orange juice to my right. I'm sure he can spot the damage I've done to my iPhone, which is sitting next to the glass. Still no response from Isabella. I look up at Jacob briefly before going back to staring at the bowl. Cheerios. How ironic.

I can't even be bothered being embarrassed. It is what it is. I'm a grown man, bemoaning the fact that his fuck buddy isn't talking to him. Fucking pathetic. Interestingly, Jacob doesn't appear to be surprised at my brooding. He remains silent. After he sets down his suitcase on the table, he sits down across from me. Finally, after what seems like half an hour or so, he clears his throat and starts talking. "I had an interesting discussion with Alice today," he reveals. I look up again. Jacob hasn't even taken his suit jacket off. I feel like we're in a corporate boardroom. Accordingly, I feel like some loser employee who's about to get fired. "Oh?" I ask in a despondent tone. Jacob gives me a hard look, but after a few seconds I see a softness in his eyes. He appears to be conflicted over something, most likely unsure as to whether to say 'I told you so'. I bet his discussion with Alice was about me. Why else would he mention it? "I don't want your pity," I mutter, putting my head back down on the table. "You don't have to worry about anything anymore. I fucked it up." Have I always been this fatalistic? I hear Jacob take a sharp intake of breath before exhaling. "You and I have been best friends for a long time," he begins. "Yes." I don't know where he's going with this, but it doesn't sound good. "It pains me to do this. Trust me, it does," he insists. "But I can't have you resenting me." "What are you talking about?" I ask, confused at his last sentence. "I'm going to trust Alice on this one," he declares, sounding a little unsure of himself. He sighs heavily. "I hope she's right, Edward. I'm going against logic here. I really am." I hear him opening his suitcase, and then he pushes something into my line of vision. I lift my head up and see that it's a train ticket. "You're kicking me out?" I ask, shocked. "Dude, seriously?" "Read the destination, Edward," he says, a little impatiently. New Haven, CT. Now he has my full attention. I sit up properly and look at him, incredulous. Jacob purses his lips and shakes his head slightly. Then he takes a deep breath and shrugs. "I'm trusting Alice," he repeats, perhaps more for his own benefit than mine. "I don't understand," I splutter.

"Neither do I, to be honest," he says in a resigned tone. "But Alice has changed my mind." My curiosity gets the better of me. "What did she tell you exactly?" He gives me a shrewd look. "Things I didn't want to hear but had to accept. Now go pack an overnight bag and get your ass to Union Station. I'll drive you. Alice and I will cover for you if your parents ask about where you are." I glance at my phone and then look back at Jacob. I can't help but wonder why he's not angrier. Alice must've said something very sobering; he looks a little shell-shocked. "I'm not going anywhere," I insist. "She's not even talking to me." "When I blew up at you on Sunday, I didn't knowno, never mind." He shakes his head again. "What?" "I'm sorry I crucified you," he apologizes. "I stood in your way for a reason. I wasn't trying to be a dick just for the sake of it." I look at him inquiringly. This is surreal. "What do you know that I don't?" I ask him, leaning forwards, desperate for a response. Yes, I actually want to know what my sister said about my sex life. "Dude, this is rough for me," he says slowly. "I'm going to ask you not to push me on this. Just accept that I won't mess with your business, as long as you're super careful. But if Alice tells you to stop, you have to listen to her, okay?" He mutters something under his breath. It sounds suspiciously like "Carlisle and Esme will kill me if they find out I helped." I frown. "This is causing you more stress" What is it with me and causing other people stress today? "It'll cause me even more stress if I'm the reason you're moping around," he says emphatically. "Please just go before I change my mind. I'll pack your bag for you, if I have to. I couldn't get you a ticket for the Acela, so it's not an express train. You'll arrive just after ten. Hurry up, the train leaves at five." "But won't she be mad that I'm just showing up without warning?" I say in protest. "Call her when you arrive at the station," he advises. "Any other questions, ask Alice. And make sure you get back in time for the State of the Union." I stare at him, still in disbelief. "Edward, there isn't time for you and I to discuss our own friendship," he chides. "We're okay, okay?" "Okay." Okay.

I grab my phone, bolt out of the chair and rush off to the guest room to pack a change of clothes and a few other necessities. Part of me expects Jacob to change his mind at any moment, for his hatred of the situation to override his love for Alice. I pack frantically, cognizant of how tenuous his support might actually be. "Pack your laptop," Jacob calls out. "Make it look like a business trip or a research thing." "Do I have time to shower?" I yell back. "Yeah, I think so. By the way, I'm going to eat your Cheerios." I can't believe he's letting me go. What did Alice tell him? After I've showered and changed into a fresh set of clothes, I grab my bag and my coat, and head back to the dining room. I find Jacob eating Cheerios out of the box, having finished my bowl. "This is kind of fucked up," I announce. I must sound dazed. "You helping me see my fuck buddy." "Yeah," he says. "I'm totally flip-flopping right now. Jacob Black: Whichever Way the Wind Blows." "That's from a Bush ad attacking Kerry," I note, recognizing the tagline. "The wind-surfing one. It was a load of crap." "Yep. But it was effective." I shove my hands in my pockets, feeling insecure. "Jake?" "Yeah?" he asks, getting up and grabbing his car keys off the table. "Thanks," I say, looking him dead in the eye. I really do appreciate him taking Alice's advice on this. I know he hates what I'm doing with Isabella. His change in attitude is begrudging, borne from loyalty. "Thank your sister," he says modestly. He shakes his head in disbelief again. "The things I do for this family." "No one said being a Cullen was easy," I remind him. "They should put a disclaimer in the contract," he says dryly. "I suppose this was in the fine print?" "Oh yeah," I say, trying to inject some humor into the situation. "Clause 43, subsection 1, paragraph B clearly states that you have to listen to your psychic wife when your brother-in-law starts fucking the daughter of your mother-in-law's rival for the presidency of the United States of America." He grunts, acknowledging that my ridiculous rant actually does reflect the situation in its simplest of terms. "If this all goes awry, I'm protecting you first," he declares, reverting to a serious tone. "And the family. You have to know that. I'm not going to stick my neck out for a Swan, only to have their side slit my throat for being complicit in this." "Duly noted."

He gestures with his hand. "You'll add it to our friendship contract?" "Yes. And I'm really thankful there's no sunset clause to our contract, by the way." "Are we done with the bromantic moment?" he asks, jingling his keys. "We gotta go." I nod. "We can continue this another time." He pats me on the back as we walk towards the door. "Try not to fuck this up, Edward. Seriously." I know surprises aren't always welcome in this town, but the fact Jacob is at least temporarily okay with thisNow that's a pleasant surprise. Let's just hope Isabella at least talks to me when I arrive. I don't want my contract with her to come to end either.

Legal citations: - Sunset clause (aka sunset provision): Provision in a statute or regulation that terminates or repeals all or portions of the law after a specific date, unless further legislative action is taken to extend it. (Yeah, so E technically didn't use it in the right context, but he's not a law student. Give him a break, lol). Other references: - Pork Barrel: Derogatory term referring to appropriation of government spending for localized projects secured solely or primarily to bring money to a representative's district. - Disco stick lyric from 'LoveGame' written by Stefani Germanotta (Lady Gaga) and Nadir Khayat, performed by Lady Gaga. From the album The Fame. - APB: All Points Bulletin, a law enforcement term. - 2004 Election ad: It's real! YouTube it if you want. Here's an old Washington Post article discussing it - http:/ www. washingtonpost. com/ wp-dyn/ articles/ A43093-2004Sep22 .html

Chapter 12: Space, Time, Continuum BPOV It's ten o'clock at night six hours after I hung up on Edward Cullen and I'm still pissed off. Sure, some of the anger has indeed subsided, but I'm still not calm enough to call him back. In all honesty, I'm not even sure if I'm entitled to be pissed off that Edward didn't tell me he was headed to Washington, D.C. after his visit to Philadelphia. I'm not his girlfriend; he doesn't have to tell me everything about his life. But on the other hand, I am his fuck buddy. We had sex on Saturday earth shattering sex yet he failed to inform me that he's spending more time on the East Coast instead of going home for the start of the Spring Term. It wouldn't have killed him to tell me as a courtesy.

Is he sleeping with another woman? Is that why he doesn't want me to know where he is? He said he wasn't, but maybe he lied. And why is he missing classes to spend time in Washington, D.C.? I thought he didn't like the political game. I'm worried that I might not be able to trust him. Ever since I found out from the Republican grapevine that he was spotted on the Hill with his mother, I've been wondering whether I'm a pawn in some sick and twisted political game. If he didn't tell me about his whereabouts, what else is he hiding from me? Maybe he's not even all that interested in me. I could just be part of a Cullen-devised plot to embarrass my father. Maybe his mother knows that I'm banging her son and is preparing to paint me as a slut the next time she goes on O'Reilly and attacks my father. She's so evil. I hate her. I've received so many texts from people I know saying the same thing. I don't have Twitter, but if I did, I'm sure it would be a trending topic in my circle of family and friends. I was so livid about Esme Cullen's comments when I went to class this morning that my best friends here at Yale, Lauren and Angela, made me shut down my laptop in Advanced Torts. They forced me to take notes the old-fashioned way, with a pen and paper. Incidentally, Lauren is a Dem, but she contended that she had to step in because it looked like I was going to kill someone. Angela then added that the two of them don't specialize in criminal defense, so they wouldn't know how to defend me properly if I did do something crazy. What on earth is the point of being in Law School if your friends can't defend you for kicking someone's ass? It wasn't until I got home in the early afternoon that I could return to obsessing over all the political commentary on the internet. The online discussions alone made me call Emmett again to vent about the Speaker's comments. He then put Dad on the phone. Dad told me sticks and stones don't break his bones he collects them and patiently waits to throw them back. Then he told me that he had just heard from one of Senator Newton's staffers that someone dropping off a policy document in the Cannon House Office Building had seen Edward Cullen laughing with his mother in the hallway. Oh yeah, real funny, Cullens. Laugh it up. Why don't you just record yourselves so every lame television sitcom can use your stupid giggling for canned laughter? Anyway, Edward should have told me he was going to be in D.C. I listened to his reasons for not telling me, and now that I've calmed down a little, I do see that those reasons have some merit. But overall, despite the fact I'm the political enemy and therefore can't be told certain things, he should have been more forthcoming with this travel itinerary. I would've respected his wishes and the fact he wasn't available. I hate disloyalty. I know that sounds ridiculous coming from me, since I'm being disloyal to my family and my party by sleeping with Edward. In fact, I felt like shit when I heard my father say Edward's name over the phone today with obvious disdain. I know it's nothing personal my Dad is annoyed with Esme and not Edward but the fact remains that I screwed Edward in my Dad's car. What is wrong with me?

I should know better. I should end this thing with Edward, but I can't. I'm already in too deep. He's mine. Well, mine to fuck, anyway. I almost wish I could tell other people that he belongs to me in this particular way; I hate the idea of women fawning over him, trying to get him into bed, when I'm not around. But I obviously can't tell anyone, so I have to keep these thoughts to myself. I toss my phone onto on the coffee table in my living room and flop down on the couch. Grabbing the television remote, I change the channel from news to some random movie. I gather that it's a teen movie, and the listings confirm this The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, starring Alexis Bledel, America Ferrerra, Blake Lively and Amber Tamblyn. I recognize Alexis Bledel from Gilmore Girls. Ironically, her character went to Yale. The other three are from Ugly Betty, Gossip Girl, and Joan of Arcadia respectively. Ugliness, gossip, and God. It's how Esme Cullen would characterize the Republican Party. I slump back in my seat and try to turn off my brain. Mindless television works wonders. I can ignore the fact that this film will probably insult my intelligence to be fair though, I'm not the target audience. I'm just watching it because it's on and I need to stop feeling so angry. After ten minutes of watching the movie, my BlackBerry starts to ring. I lean forward so I can look at the display. 'CB' is calling. Cocky Bastard. He stopped calling me hours ago, probably realizing that I really did need time to calm down. I decide to cut him some slack it's been more than six hours since we fought. I sigh heavily and answer the call. "Hello," I say flatly, wanting to indicate that he's not off the hook yet. "Hi," he says, sounding relieved. "Thanks for picking up." "What do you want?" "Um" he begins. Then he starts rambling really quickly. "First, I want to say sorry for upsetting you. And second, I just arrived at the train station here in New Haven. Can you give me your address? I'm " "What?" I shriek, cutting him off. "You're in New Haven? Cullen, have you lost your mind?" "Quite possibly," he admits reluctantly. He took the train from Washington, D.C.? Just to see me? I'm flattered and horrified at the same time. This is so irresponsible of him. "What if somebody sees you?" I question, starting to panic. "Or has seen you already? Oh my God. You skipped out on your family to come see me?" "Yes" I have to invite him over, don't I? I can't have him loitering around town. Judging by the spontaneity of his actions, I doubt he's booked a hotel room for himself.

"Okay, listen to me," I demand in an authoritative voice. "I'm going to text you my address. Wear a fucking paper bag or something over your head when you get out of the cab, because if my neighbors see you, I'm going to castrate you and put your penis on display at the Smithsonian." "Okay, okay," he replies, trying to calm me down. "Should I hang up now so you can text me?" "Yes." He ends the call. I immediately text him my address. It's only after the text is sent that I truly realize what's about to happen. Edward Cullen is going to be in my apartment. Holy shit. I rush to my room so I can change from pajamas back into jeans and a top. I'm still in shock when he arrives at the building and I buzz him up. Minutes later, he's knocking on my door. I open it and almost burst out laughing at the way he's trying to shield himself from view with a copy of the New Haven Register. But then I remember this isn't really funny. He looks at me apologetically, and I quickly usher him in, not wanting him to stand outside my door where he could be seen. Once I close the door behind me, I turn around and gawk at him. He's actually here. His eyes flash with distress and regret, and the way he's biting his lip just makes me want to melt. Some of my ire disappears, but it flares up again when I realize how reckless his actions are. He's still holding the newspaper to the side of his head. "You can put the newspaper down now," I tell him in a stern voice. He lowers his hand and stuffs the newspaper into his bag. He has a bag? "Is this a sleepover?" I ask, alarmed. "I'm perfectly happy to sleep on the floor," he replies carefully, gesturing at my wooden floorboards. I'm not going to lie even though I'm annoyed with him, I have the urge to jump him. He shuffles uncomfortably on the spot. "I wasn't seen. I don't think so, anyway," he adds. "No need to castrate me." I certainly hope he wasn't seen. I roll my eyes. "You're my fuck buddy, Edward. I wouldn't do that to you," I say with a sigh. "That particular appendage is integral to our agreement." I step forward, grab his arm and march him into the living room.

"Sit on the couch while I wrap my head around how fucked up this is," I order. He acquiesces, taking his coat off before he sits down. His eyes glance at the television screen, but then his gaze quickly returns to me; I'm sure he's wondering what I'm thinking right now. I stomp into my kitchen, where I can still see him, and go to the fridge. After grabbing the carton of orange juice, I pour some into a glass. Yes, I'm being a good host. But instead of bringing it to him immediately, I put my hands on the counter and address him from where I'm standing. "You're in my apartment," I declare slowly. "There's a Cullen in my apartment." He bites his lip. His eyes flicker towards the family portraits that sit on the shelf in the living room. Our families would be horrified if they knew of his whereabouts right now. "I invited myself over, if that's any consolation," he says. "Hmmm." There's an awkward silence. "Where does your family think you are?" I ask. "Visiting a friend, in the morning, for research purposes." "Okay." I can't help but wonder what his strategy is at the moment. I think it's safe to infer that he's sorry we fought. This ridiculous decision to come see me indicates that our arrangement is indeed important to him. Frankly, I do feel somewhat placated by the gestureBut the fact remains that we fought. We have to clear this up. I pick up the glass of juice and bring it over to him. He accepts it graciously. I then sit down on the armchair adjacent to the couch, worried that sitting next to him will distract me from my cause. The proximity is enough to remind me that I really have missed his physical presence. We stare at each other. I was on top of him in my father's car only three nights ago, and now he's in my home. The fact that I've caused this self-assured man to act so rashly makes me feel both powerful and guilty at the same time. Finally, it hits me: I drove him to do this. I overreacted, and now he's overreacted in return by coming to see me in person. I freaked out on him today. "Maybe I overreacted," I concede reluctantly. "I may be having a little trouble separating my anger towards your mother from my anger towards you." "Thank you for admitting that," he responds in a serious tone. "But I've been thinkingAnd I get why you may have felt slighted. I'm sorry for upsetting you." "I was planning to call you when I calmed down a little more." He leans forward, seemingly wanting to emphasize his point. "I wanted to make sure this got cleared up before we started resenting each other like our parents."

Being angry at him for several hours was incredibly taxing and distracting. I don't know how I'd be able to keep it up if we did end up hating each other on such a level. "I'm sorry," I declare, feeling a little sick to my stomach. "I've never had a fuck buddy before. I don't understand the boundaries. Ignorance of the law is no excuse, I know. I hope you don't think I'm psychotic." "Well, to be fair, you were right when you said I could've said something as a courtesy," he says. "I was a little hard-line with my version of Border Patrol." I give him a small smile, unsure as to whether it's okay to make light of the situation. "Homeland Security." He chuckles quietly. "Yeah, something like that." "I'll be sure not to pry into your life," I vow. "Unless you grant me a temporary visa or something." "I like that idea," he responds, smirking at me. "Although, I suppose from my end, I'll be applying for a green card." I laugh. "Yes, because you'll be working inside of me. Working very, very hard." His eyes light up with amusement. "Isabella." "What? It was your suggestion," I reply, still laughing. He pats the space next to him on the couch. I get up and sit myself down on that exact spot. Now this level of proximity makes me want to beg for him to take me here on this couch. Edward shifts so he can face me as we talk. He too seems to have reregistered the sexual charge between us, his green eyes flashing momentarily with lust. He clears his throat. "From now on, I'll at least tell you where I am," he promises. "I won't assume what's best for our arrangement." "You don't have to promise that if you don't want to," I reply amiably. "I should just get over myself." "No. I'm fine with telling you." "It's okay to still be annoyed with me," I tell him, trying to make sure we work through this properly. "You were frustrated by the fact I didn't give you the benefit of the doubt. And though I'm calming down now, I'm still a little annoyed. I just felt so slighted by your omission. I have trust issues with your side." Edward nods. "I see what you mean. And yes, I was frustrated that you judged me. I didn't mean any harm. I really didn't. The side-trip to D.C. wasn't planned weeks in advance it was more spur of the moment." He opens his mouth to say something further but then hesitates, having spotted the picture frames on the far wall again. He must feel like my family is watching him or something. "I had coffee with my father today," he reveals. "I almost called you from the White House, actually. I was that worried."

"The White House?" "Yeah, it's a nice piece of real estate in D.C.," he says, trying to lighten the mood. "Have you heard of it?" "Yes, I have," I reply, playing along. "I'm not sure, but I think my dad wants to put the Pennsylvania in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue." "I've been hearing a lot of putting 'something' in 'something else' jokes recently," he tells me. "I like it when you put your 'something' in my 'something else'." "Literally filling in a blank," he quips. "Filling it completely, might I add," I say, raising an eyebrow. The self-assured smirk reappears on his face. It's muted, however, and he reverts to being a bit more serious. I mentally slap myself for joking about the White House Carlisle Cullen is the President's gatekeeper, as such. He'll be trying to prevent my father from ousting Banner from office. Again, that's not particularly funny in any way. "Can I ask you a question, Isabella?" "Mmmm?" "How do you deal with the guilt?" he asks, sounding a little pained. Here he is in a vulnerable moment, and I can't help but note the excited feeling between my legs from being so close to him. I quickly shake my head, and tuck my legs underneath me. I squeeze them tightly to suppress the ache. "You know, my dad was the one who told me you were on the Hill," I reveal. Edward's eyes widen. "Shit. Really?" "Yeah." "He saw me?" he questions, disbelieving. "I didn't go into the Capitol Building or into any of the Senate buildings." I shake my head. "Word got around. The spotlight is on your mother, so people were gossiping." "I'm a bit of an idiot for thinking I could stay inconspicuous when at my mother's side," he admits. I return to his question. "There are times when I do feel horrible that I'm sleeping with you," I tell him in a softer tone. "But I think what really got to me today is that I don't want to stop. Even with everything going on, with how you didn't tell me where you were, and with how angry my family and I are at your mother and at your Party, I'm not walking away. What does that say about me? That I can't stop opening my legs for you?" Edward grimaces at my choice of words. "Don't make yourself sound like a slut when you're not." "But in a way I am," I point out half-seriously. "I'm like your whore."

He's instantly outraged, looking at me with an aghast expression. "You're not my whore! Don't you dare say that about yourself," he hisses. "I'm not your whore either we both want sex from each other. Just because I only want you, doesn't mean I think of you as my personal prostitute." "Okay, okay," I say quickly, surprised at how impassioned his reaction is. "I was just saying... Hell, it might even turn you on in the bedroom for me to call myself that I obviously don't mind servicing you." He closes his eyes and pinches the bridge of his nose. "Don't take this the wrong way," he broaches. "But sometimes I feel like you're a drug to me." "So much for the War on Drugs," I say dryly. He laughs quietly, opening his eyes. "It was Nixon who coined that term. He's not the type of naughty Republican I usually think about though." "Trust you to use a Watergate joke to seduce me," I jest. "I don't need to seduce you, remember?" he teases. I smile at the return of the Edward I'm so used to, though he's being more careful tonight. He pats my knee. "You 'can't stop opening your legs for me.'" I narrow my eyes at him. He laughs again. "There's no one here from the DEA, so you can get a fix tonight, if you want," I tell him. "But I'm going to make you wait an hour for the fact you basically invited yourself over after recklessly leaving our nation's capital." One hour is how long he made me wait for him on that Amtrak train, as if his Lemon research was more important. "It's a bit late to issue a cease and desist order, isn't it?" he asks, reaching over and touching my cheek. I swat his hand away. "Hands off, drug addict," I say, making fun of him. I get up so he can't touch me again. He pouts at me, but stays where he is. "Good boy," I say, holding up my hand and walking away from him slowly. "Stay." He chuckles heartily. "What am I? A drug-addicted dog?" "Shut up and watch the pants movie," I advise, turning on my heel and walking back into the kitchen. "Pants movie? What?" he calls out. "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants." He reverts back to speaking at a normal volume when he sees me reappear in the kitchen. "There are pants that travel on their own volition? That's disturbing." "Yeah?" I challenge. "My pants disappear when you're around. Is that disturbing?"

"Not to me, it's not. But to other people, it would be very disturbing." He has a point. "The pants don't travel on their own volition," I correct, pointing to the television. "They magically fit anyone who tries them on." He tries not to laugh. "Oh, my mistake. Thank God there's an Ivy Leaguer in the room to correct me" "Oh, shush." It's a good feeling to be back to our teasing ways. I do feel like it might take a bit more time for us to fully forgive each other, but at least we're definitely on our way to getting over it. Hey, it's possible that we won't fully resolve things until we have make-up sex. Since we're in my apartment, we could actually have sex in a bed this time. I see Edward grab the remote so he can change the channel. "Change it to Fox News," I joke, as I pour myself a glass of water. "I want to watch On the Record with Greta Van Susteren." "Er, no," he replies, scowling. "Are you trying to give me a brain aneurysm before we have sex?" "You don't need your brain for sex," I point out. He stops channel-surfing, choosing to watch The History Channel. "As long as you don't castrate me," he says. "The Smithsonian? Honestly, you're so dramatic." "It would've been a protected exhibit. I'm the only one allowed to touch. And no before you suggest it I don't need a guided tour. I'm already familiar with the exhibit." He snorts in amusement. "And which Smithsonian museum would've had rights to this exhibit? American History? Natural History? American Art?" "No, none of those," I answer. "National Air and Space." "Air and Space?" He stops to think about why. "Because it's out of this world?" "No," I say derisively. "Because it's as big as a rocket?" "No." He tilts his head. "Because we gravitate towards each other?" I pause before dismissing the suggestion. Do he and I gravitate towards each other? I suppose there is a strong attraction. "No," I say. "Then what?" he asks, giving up. I grin widely. "Because when we have sex, I see stars."

He doesn't reply verbally, but his smirk widens considerably and he makes a point of looking at his watch to see how much longer his time-out is going to last. I shake my head, indicating that he has to endure the entire hour. He pouts, pretending to be upset, and then goes back to watching the Civil War documentary. Observing Edward from my vantage point in the kitchen sort of gives me butterflies. I have to admit, it is worrying that I feel that way, but after today's conflict, I'm not going to try and get rid of the feeling just yet. It helps counteract the remaining tension I feel from our disagreement. I often invite friends to my apartment to socialize and study. But I haven't brought a man into my bedroom since I was with Jasper. That's different though Jasper was my boyfriend. Edward is only my fuck buddy. It's significant that he's here. Edward is indeed my personal life more specifically, my sex life but it's surreal to have him in my home, a personal place. I never imagined that he'd actually ever be here; even when I suggested in the past that he come to New Haven, I always thought I'd be visiting a hotel room. Now the man is in my living room, watching my television, and waiting for me to take him to my bedroom. We spoke about boundaries earlier; I don't think he can visit here again. My mind returns to the question I asked myself earlier: Do we gravitate towards each other? Gravitational pullIt's not a bad analogy. It's hard to fight the force. It's just that I don't like the idea of me orbiting him, or him orbiting me. My world can't revolve around Edward Cullen. But what if it already does? If I break things down chronologically, there's a pattern of me going after Edward. After having sex with him on that train, I couldn't help but contact him. When I invited him to Philadelphia, I then proceeded to count down the days to our reunion. I was the one who suggested that we be exclusive. Look at the way I reacted to him not telling me about D.C. I took it so very personally. I have a sharp mind and a good temperament, usually. It's vital for an aspiring prosecutor or politician to not lose their shit over nothing; a certain toughness of mind is required. Yet, when it comes to Edward, though I'm still assertive as ever, I'm impulsive and possessive. He's a vulnerability of mine. And, as my father pointed out to me today over the phone, I don't usually get this riled up over comments from one of his rivals. It's completely possible that I reacted so strongly towards Esme Cullen because the interview was a reminder that Edward and I are a forbidden match. The Speaker is so passionate in her opposition to Republican behavior on the Hill. Similarly, she'd be so very opposed to the thought of me being anywhere near her only son. It's not just a matter of me being a Republican. I'm a Swan. Her dream is to be President, and my father could be the person to deny her that dream. Something in my mind must've snapped at the unfairness of it all. I lost my cool after the interview. Ultimately, when it comes to me and Edward, it's about the sex. I know that. Everything I've done has been done with the intention of securing sex from him. But it does seem that I'm as addicted to him as he claims he is to me. I'm not emotionally attached, am I? No, that's impossible.

But is being addicted any better than being attached? WaitI'm not angry that we can't be more than fuck buddies, am I? Oh, that's just ludicrous. Perhaps I'm just lonely and refuse to admit that I like having company, or even on a more basic level, simply someone to think about. Being with Edward does make me happy, but I shouldn't interpret that feeling of euphoria to be anything other than sexual pleasure. I'm jolted out of my musings when Edward speaks again. "I spent five hours on a train, and now you're making me wait," he says. "Wish I could time travel. "This is the slowest hour of my life." "Oh, Edward," I reply, taking a sip of water before I continue. "We have all night, don't we?" He waggles his eyebrows. "Star-gazing all night?" "Keep your telescope in your pants," I scold. "We still have forty-five minutes." "It's not a telescope. It's a rocket. And this is an unbearable countdown," he complains, getting up. "Well, President Banner cut federal funding to NASA, so sit your ass back down," I order. He ignores me, strolling into the kitchen. I try to fob him off, giggling as he approaches, but my attempts are half-hearted. I let him put his arms around me, pulling me closer so that I'm pressed up against him. It feels good to be held by him. His hardness pokes into me, something which makes my heart rate accelerate exponentially and the area between my legs tingle. I run my hands over his chest, wishing he'd take off his woolen sweater. "You have ten seconds to tell me where your bedroom is," he orders in that hot, commanding tone of his. "Or what?" I challenge, poking him with my finger. "You'll launch prematurely?" He raises an eyebrow, daring me to challenge him again. "Ten, nine " "Okay, I'll lead you to Mission Control," I say quickly. We grin stupidly at each other. The force of our attraction is hard to fight, although I maintain that I was holding out rather well until he came closer. "To infinity and beyond," he jokes as I take his hand and lead him to my bedroom. "Shut up, Cullen. Just take your clothes off already." I really can't get enough of this man. If there's one thing that comforts me, it's this: If Edward really is the center of my universe, at least he comes with these benefits. Now how's that for a space program?

Legal citations (okay, more like Law Enforcement this week):* - United States Border Patrol: federal law enforcement agency within U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), a component of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Primarily responsible for immigration and border law enforcement as codified in the Immigration and Nationality Act. - A United States Permanent Resident Card: aka Green Card, serves as proof that its holder, a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR), has been officially granted immigration benefits, which include permission to reside and take employment in the United States. - 'War on Drugs' term first used by President Richard Nixon on June 17 1971. - DEA: Drug Enforcement Administration. Other references: - Chapter title is a play on words: 'Space-time continuum'. - The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (2005), directed by Ken Kwapis. Based on the novel by Ann Brashares (2001, Delocarte Press). - Gilmore Girls (2000-2007, the WB/the CW), Ugly Betty (2006-2010, ABC), Gossip Girl (2007-, the CW), and Joan of Arcadia (2003-2005, CBS). Gilmore Girls definitely my favorite out of the four. - The Smithsonian Institution comprises of nineteen museums, nine research centers, and the National Zoo. Have you been? - On the Record with Greta Van Susteren airs 9pm-11pm weekdays on Fox News.

Chapter 13: The French Surrender EPOV Isabella is holding my hand. It's a minor point that shouldn't be overanalyzed, I know. The only reason she's holding my hand is because she's leading me to her room so we can have sex. And trust me, I want to fuck her badly right now. Correction, it's more than just want; I need to fuck her. I need to relieve the tension between us, to fuck away our fight. I need to make her feel better, make her come, and make her scream my name. I need her to believe that she's the only woman I want to sleep with. But stillShe's holding my hand. She lets go once we've stepped through the threshold of her doorway, and she walks over to the window to draw the curtains. While she's doing this, I turn around to close the door behind me. I actually glance down at my hand, as if it's been affected by something. Of course this action is ridiculous, because it's not like I've dipped it into a vat of toxic waste, or been exposed to some infectious disease. In fact, I have no desire at all to alert the Center for Disease Control it was kind of nice to hold her hand. I don't know why I'm thinking about this.

Plus, it's truly idiotic to think about infectious diseases when in the same room as my fuck buddy. Isabella switches on one of the lamps so that the room is dimly lit. I'm standing stiffly by the door with a confused expression on my face. Heh. Stiff. "Cullen, are you all right?" she asks, staying on the far side of the room. She looks concerned. "Just trying to turn off my brain," I respond. "Like you said, I don't need it." "This might help" I quirk an eyebrow, intrigued, but instead of elaborating she pulls off her t-shirt and quickly unclasps her bra. She holds up the bra for a second and then drops it onto the floor. My cock jumps to attention on seeing her topless, straining against my jeans. In the soft yellow glow of the light, she almost looks angelic. I smirk. She's far from angelic when she's with me. "Definitely helping," I say encouragingly. In return, I take off my sweater and t-shirt, tossing the garments onto the floor near her bed. Isabella then unzips her jeans and steps out of them. I feel myself get even harder as my gaze fixes on her black panties. I'm reminded of how I still owe her a new thong I'll have to go lingerie shopping one day. I unzip my own jeans, relieving the uncomfortable pressure. Isabella's eyes settle on the bulge behind my boxer shorts; I take advantage of her attention, pulling them down so she can see just how much I want her right now. I grin smugly. She always has the same reaction to my cock. Her eyes widen before glazing over as if in a trance and her breathing hitches for a moment. Sure, other women have reacted in similar ways, but somehow with Isabella it's different. She's supposed to get wet at the mere thought of having me inside of her, but she's not supposed to feel drawn to me. I'm a bit surprised by how goddamn satisfied I am to see her almost unravel. I step out of my boxers and let them drop to the floor. "Why don't you come over here and get on your knees?" I taunt, remembering how she recoiled at the suggestion of giving me head on Saturday night. Yes, I'm baiting her. Sue me. No, actually, don't. If this comes under the Seventh Amendment, a jury will be empanelled, and I'll be found guilty. Isabella clenches her jaw. Hopefully she's experiencing some inner conflict. "No," she says defiantly, coming out of her trance. "Aren't you sorry for overreacting today?" I ask, folding my arms across my chest.

I know I'm probably pushing it we did fight today but I think we both want things to return to normal. Isabella is having a hard time trying not to focus on my lower half. "You want me to give you a blow job as my penance?" she asks, sounding amused and indignant at the same time. "No, I just want you to put me in your mouth. I'm getting harder just imagining it." "Well, you're going to have to keep imagining it, because I'm not going to do it," she responds. Her voice falters towards the end of her declaration. I raise an eyebrow at the involuntary admission. She blushes. "Okay," I say with a dramatic sigh, stepping over to the nightstand beside the bed. "I guess I'll just have to wait for you to get over your pride. Funny, I didn't think you had any when it came to me." And with that, I sit down on the edge of the bed, turning away from her. This is a power play, and likely something at which she's not surprised; I did after all allow her to have control over the weekend. It's like our little game. Noticing there's a book on her nightstand, I pick it up and open it up to the title page. In any other context it would be comical to be naked and reading a book. But this isn't just any context. I can hear Isabella's indrawn breaths, which are steadily becoming more labored. I assume the lust is mixing in with her irritation at my ploy. "What are you doing?" she asks, annoyed. "Apparently, reading de Tocqueville," I answer casually, seeing that the book happens to be De la dmocratie en Amrique by Alexis de Tocqueville. "It's big, isn't it?" "Your ego? Yes. Very." "I meant the book." I'm still refusing to turn in Isabella's direction. I hear her take a step or two, but it's possible she merely shifted on the spot, frustrated. I flick to a section I'm familiar with. However, since this edition is obviously in French I'm only able to read some of it. "Don't do this, Cullen," she whines, sounding resigned. "You already know that I want you." She switches to a more desperate tone but begrudging voice. "I'm so wet right now. Can we just get going?" "Come over here so I can check how wet you are," I command, pretending to be unmoved by her plea. "Oh! You're such a cocky bastard!" She stomps over to where I am sitting, appearing before me with a scowl on her face.

I put the book down on the bed next to me, leaving it open to the page I was reading. I almost laugh when I notice Isabella staring longingly at my cock. I'm not even sure she realizes she just licked her lips, too. She's standing before me, arms folded across her chest. All she's doing is pushing up her breasts, making me want to touch them and suck on her nipples. "Drop the panties," I demand. She obeys the order. "You're lucky I want you," she gripes, justifying her obedience. It takes a lot of willpower to leave my hands at my sides. Her body is truly magnificent. Beautiful skin. Perfect breasts. Long legs. It's like she was made for me. I want to grab her, pull her to me and impale her on my cock. Right now. Instead, I give her a command. "Part your legs." Isabella acquiesces without a word, though she does gulp. I can actually see that she's wet, but I conduct my cursory check anyway. "Oh my God," she whimpers as I tease her slick folds. It's empowering to know I make her this wet. I withdraw my fingers, denying her the sensation of my digits on her clit. "Now get on your knees," I command, surprising her. She blinks at me several times. And then narrows her eyes. I probably took it a step too far. "Fine, I will," she says confidently, kneeling down before me and placing her hands on my knees. "I'll put you in my mouth, just to tease you." I do like it when she fights back. It makes the sex so much hotter. "Tease me?" I scoff. "Yeah." She nods at the book I was reading. "Jasper gave me that book. I should probably tell you that I only give blow jobs to boyfriends. So, you'll never get the full experience." I glare at her. Why on earth would she say that? She's hit a raw nerve, except I don't know which nerve and why. Something I assume to be possessiveness swells in my chest. And how dare she taunt me by telling me she reserves such an act for a boyfriend. But before I can truly comprehend the feeling I'm experiencing, Isabella leans forward, grabs my cock in her hand, and guides it into her mouth. Oh, for the love of everything Democratic in this nation. My cock is in her hot mouth. I'm momentarily blinded by the instantaneous pleasure. I have to blink several times for the stars to go away. Her hand releases the base of my shaft as she sucks me in further, and if I'm not mistaken, she's taken me so far in that my tip has just slid down her throat.

"Fuck!" I groan, bucking slightly. Her mouth is hot and wet, just like her pussy. I'm bombarded with sensory memories of what it's like to be inside of her. I groan again when she pulls back so she can start swirling her tongue on my shaft. It's ecstasy. Part of me wants to go all primal and hold her head down, forcing her to keep going. It's then I realize that she's in control. She withdraws slowly, sucking hard while she does so; the sensation is so incredibly intense. Finally, she licks my head teasingly before looking up at me with a triumphant grin. As incredibly pleasurable as that brief act was, that smile of hers makes me recall the uncomfortable, maddening emotion I felt before she put me in her mouth. I can't explain it I really am infuriated. I figure it must be a control thing. Isabella suddenly looks a bit concerned I've gone quiet. "Cullen, I was just teasing you" she says, lowering her voice as if someone is around to overhear. "You're mad?" I run a hand through my hair. What the fuck, Cullen? You have a Swan on her knees, and even though she's trying to taunt you, the fact is you're still generally in control. Right? Ugh. This self-doubt is going to make me go limp if I don't keep my thoughts in check. "I don't think we should be so adversarial. We fought today," I say slowly, trying to keep my voice even. Isabella tilts her head inquiringly. "You don't like not being in control, do you? I was in charge over the weekend. I suppose it's your turn to be in charge Or is it not fun for you without the fight?" "Sounds awfully selfless of you," I comment, slightly suspicious. She picks up on the doubt in my voice. "We fought today. I want to make it better," she reasons. "Plus, maybe I'm a strong woman who secretly likes being dominated by a man in bed. Not with cuffs and chainsYou know what I mean" I smirk. "I already know you like taking it from me." "So why don't you remind me of what it feels like?" she suggests seductively. I need to get rid of all this tension and anxiety. I'm sure Isabella feels the same way. My gaze flickers to the book next to me. I close it and place it back on the nightstand, dropping it with a resounding thud. "I'm going to remind you that you don't have a boyfriend," I declare, venting my frustration at her earlier comment. "You have me. So you can try and taunt me all you want, but at the end of the day, I'm the only guy you want." I look into her eyes. "So, I accept your offer. Now get on the bed."

Smiling, Isabella gets up and moves onto the bed. I watch her carefully, enjoying the sight of her body as she lies down on the bed with her legs splayed open, knees raised. Seeing her wet pussy actually strengthens my resolve. I see a confident woman ready to be fucked. I reduce her to this. "Cullen," she purrs. "Arguing makes me tense. Make me feel better?" I tell myself to keep all emotions out of this. Swinging my legs up onto the bed, I shift so that I'm on all fours, in between Isabella's legs. Placing my hands above her knees, I hold her thighs in place as I lean down. She's literally dripping in anticipation. My first lick, a teasing flick of my tongue against her clit, makes her writhe against my grip. "Oh, Edward," she moans. She's not going anywhere. She's mine. And she tastes fucking wonderful. "Hold still," I instruct. My tongue probes deeper this time, licking through her lips. Isabella cries out from the immediate pleasure, the plaintive sound making me want to shove my cock into her immediately. "You taste so good," I rave. "Oh God, I really have no shame when it comes to you," she admits. "That's the way I like you," I respond huskily. My hunger for her makes me lick her slick folds greedily, slurping loudly as I lap up her juices. I want her to hear what I'm doing. I want her to fully appreciate that she's letting me do this, and that I'm relishing the experience. I tighten my grip on her thighs, licking her with slower and firmer strokes. Swirling my tongue around, I then flick it against her clit. She shudders with delight and writhes against my mouth as I continue. "I want your cock," she whines. "Please." I lift my head. "Protection?" She clambers over to her nightstand, retrieving a condom from her second drawer. I sit back in a kneeling position. "Haven't needed this stash in a while," she admits. "I'll make you glad you saved it for me." And to think she tried to throw the boyfriend/fuck buddy distinction in my face. "Let me do this for you," she declares, opening the packet. Isabella grabs hold of my cock, making me curse with delight at her touch, and puts the condom at my tip. She slowly sheathes me, unrolling the condom over my head and down the shaft. "Lie down on your side," I instruct.

Isabella follows the instruction, lying on her side with her head on her pillow. I shift so I'm kneeling directly behind her ass, leaning ever-so-slightly over her body. I caress her side with my hand. Even this small amount of contact, a gentle gesture, seems electrifying. I've never had this much sexual charge with any other woman. "How badly do you want me?" I ask, needing to hear her plead. "More than anything," she replies, her breath hitching from anticipation. Using my other hand, I grip Isabella's thigh firmly, pulling it back to rest on my thigh. With her other leg stretched out against the bed between my knees, I then position myself to penetrate her. Holding her still with one hand on her waist, I enter her without declaring I'm about to do so, making her gasp from surprise. I groan, immediately registering her heat. It's then that I plunge into her more swiftly, desperate to have my cock enveloped in her warmth and wetness. Isabella moans hearing her reaction is intensely satisfying. It's an affirmation of the fact we belong together like this. Her limbs go limp; it's as if she instinctively knows that this will be better for her if she just takes it, lets me give it. I don't know whether it's because we fought today or if it really is because she's submitting to me, but the sensation of finally being inside her is so fucking intense that I'm completely taken off guard. The painful throbbing of my erection morphs into the intense bliss of being inside of Isabella. She's tighter than I expected maybe it's from the position, or maybe she's still a little tense from our earlier argument. Whatever it is, the pleasure causes my jaw to drop. I groan loudly. "Edward..." She said my name again. "Fuck!" I exclaim. "This is why I need you." Showing off my strength, I start to move in her, making deep, slow thrusts. I'm hyperaware of how heightened this experience is for me. I close my eyes momentarily, and when I open them, Isabella is clutching onto the pillow, bracing herself as I thrust in and out of her. Her soft, delicate moans are so different to the sounds I usually hear her make. We don't actually have to rush this time. "Look at you," I tease, but not too harshly. I don't want to hurt her feelings, not when she made the choice to give me control. "In your own bedroom, secretly being fucked by a Cullen." "You're the one who dropped everything to make up with me," she points out. "I'm important to you, am I?" I laugh, pleasantly surprised at her challenge. I like it better when she talks back. "Talking back to me, are we?" She's too overwhelmed to respond. She clenches around me and draws her legs closer together a bit, making her walls even tighter. I think this angle is good for the both of us. In response, I speed up a bit, driving into her to create unbelievable friction. Yet, this is still slower than I've ever gone with her although, I wasn't in control during our second time. It's more sensual. Relishing

the slower tempo, I reach out to fondle one of her breasts, massaging it to the same rhythm of my thrusts. "So good," she moans. "How good, baby?" I ask between groans. "So fucking good. Oh, why do I want you like this?" she asks, voice overwrought with lust. "It's so wrong." "There are many things that are wrong in this country at the moment," I point out. "A Democrat in the White House, for a start." "Ooh. You're going to pay for that comment," I say, squeezing her breast harder. She cries out in pleasure. "Pay for it? Are you going to overtax me for it too?" The conservative comment earns her an extra hard thrust. She yelps. "I was going to add that Banner plans to fix those problems," I tell her. "All talk, no action." "Not like us, right?" I quip. "All talk and action." She giggles. I continue to thrust in and out of her at the same pace, though I remove my hand from her breast and steady myself by placing my other hand on her back. It's so good to be able to take my time. She isn't my whore. I want to please her too, make her feel good. I want the both of us to forget today's fight. I delight in the way her body moves as I fuck her. In fact, I'm strangely proud of her for doing this for me; I appreciate it. This is the same woman who wouldn't take off her bra for me on that train. Things have changed, and in light of that, I need her to know I want her this isn't a one-time thing anymore. "Harder, Edward," she pleads. "I'm in charge, baby," I remind her. "I should still get a say. It's my chamber you're in." "Don't make me call the Minority Whip to get you line," I tease, running a hand over her ass. "Minority?" I start thrusting into her harder, relishing her warmth and her tightness. I then drive into her so forcefully that she cries out louder than I've ever heard her scream. She tilts her hips backwards against me, increasing the friction and the depth that I penetrate. She fists the pillow and bed sheets as I speed up. Holding tightly onto her waist, I feel the building pressure of a release I need desperately. "SoWho's taking up the majority of your chamber?" I taunt. "You are, baby." She throws her head back in delight. "You're so big. I can feel you. All of you."

She lets out another satisfying moan. "Apologize to me for bringing up Jasper Hale," I demand. "I'll never get the full experience? Why did you say that?" The words leave my lips before I can stop them. I don't know what compelled me to demand an explanation from her the sexual desire must be making me feel extremely possessive. "I'm sorry," she apologizes. "I didn't mean anything by it. I was teasing you." "Right," I say roughly. I shouldn't even care. "I don't want him. I only want you," she adds. "You're mine," I announce, reminding her of my claim on her sexually. "Understood?" "Yes. Completely." She is mine when we're together like this. Knowing I won't be able to hold off for much longer, I slow my pace considerably, and slip my hand between her legs and press against her clit. On registering the contact, her legs tense, which makes her walls contract on my cock. I groan as she squeezes me like this, the delicious pressure building even more. "Oh God!" I exclaim desperately. "Baby, relax, will you? Or I'll come before you." "That's the idea," she replies. "I want to please you first." "What? No." "Shut up, Cullen," she argues, looking over her shoulder at me for the first time. "I'm doing this for you. Now fuck me. Harder." Isabella pulls her thighs even closer. Shit. I can't help myself. Selfishly, I remove my fingers and concentrate on my own climax. I thrust deeper into her heat, groaning at how fucking good it feels to have her want me to come inside of her. I can feel her pussy getting wetter and quivering as I make her scream, but I can't wait for her. She doesn't want me to. She clenches her walls again, squeezing tightly on my cock. My strokes get rougher. I fight against the constriction, ramming into her without any regard to whether it hurts her or not. My climax is nearing; I can feel it, the buildup so strong that I can't help but let out a string of expletives in response. "Fuck, fuck, fuck." It hits me with so much force that I'm unable to breathe for several seconds; I emit a strangled noise and shudder as I spill into her. There's something emotional to the release, like I'm letting go of all my anxieties about Isabella. I thrust into her a few more times to ride out the orgasm. It's fucking blissful. I'm forced to draw on some reserve energy to balance myself so I don't awkwardly collapse on Isabella.

"Isabella," I say reverently, still high from my release. "I have to make you come. I have to." "It's okay, just take a moment," she replies, sounding exhausted. She looks over her shoulder and smiles at me. I gaze at her appreciatively as she rests her head back down on the pillow, her hair matting on her neck. I take a minute or two to come down from the high. I pull out of her slowly, something that makes her whimper softly. Isabella then rolls over so that she's lying on her back. Kneeling beside her now, I quickly insert two fingers into her pussy. I find her clit and deftly rub it with tight circular motions. It reminds me of the first time I touched her like this on the train, when I thought I'd only have her once. It doesn't take long for her to start convulsing with pleasure. Finally, she starts to come, her wetness flowing over my hand. She throws her head back, screaming my name. "Edward! Oh, Edward!" she cries. It's satisfying for me to know she's satisfied. When she's finished, she looks up at the ceiling and attempts to get her breath back. Her bare chest heaves up and down. Her legs are splayed open. I'm sitting here, kneeling, perving on the woman I just had sex with. Can I not get enough? Apparently not. After hopping off the bed to dispose of the condom in the trash, I get back onto the bed and maneuver myself so that I'm in between her legs again. I lean down, putting my mouth back onto her pussy. I want to taste her again, my thirst for her undeniable. I lap at her wetness, licking her gently. Isabella laughs happily. "Jesus, Cullen. You really are addicted to me," she comments. "Sorry," I apologize, lifting my head up for a moment. I lick my lips. "You taste good." "Okay, that's enough of the candy shop," she says, motioning to close her legs. I smirk and clamber over so that I can lie down next to her. "Wipe your mouth before you kiss me on the cheek," she requests, pointing to the box of Kleenex on the nightstand. Next to that stupid book that Jasper gave her. I hate de Tocqueville now. She must think that a kiss on the cheek is my signature after we've had sex move. I don't mind her thinking this, but I want to kiss her on the mouth. I reach over and grab a tissue, wiping my mouth. She must have some aversion to me kissing her after eating her pussy. Throwing the tissue aside, I reach out for Isabella so I can spoon her. She shuffles backwards and lets me hold her. Even though both our bodies are cooling

down, the embrace is still warm. Isabella makes a humming sound, seemingly content. I brush her hair aside so I can place some soft kisses on her neck. "I'm glad we made up," she says. "Me too," I respond. I lean over and kiss her gently on the cheek before grazing my lips over her soft skin and kissing her once more. "I want to kiss you," I tell her. "Let me kiss you on the lips." I nuzzle her neck as she answers. "No, Cullen, you know my rule," she refutes. "Isabellahaven't we broken most of the rules by now?" She sighs, then relents slightly. "Not tonight." Aha, so she's willing to soften her stance on the policy. "I'll let you know..." "Okay," I reply, buoyed by the shift. "Are you still mad about the 'full experience' comment?" she asks bravely. "I don't want you to resent me over that." "I don't need oral sex from you. I was making a power play and you out maneuvered me on that one. That being said, I don't really think a blow job is a loving act. I don't understand why you're so against it," I reason. "Especially considering what I am to you." I think the term 'fuck buddy' has been used enough times today, so I refrain from explicitly saying it. "It's not about it being a loving act or not," she responds. "It's just that, typically, I don't do that sort of thing unless I'mI'm usually not one for casual sex. I don't know about you, and it's not really my business, but I usually reserve all sexual acts for relationships. When I was on my knees, I felt like I was giving you everything for free, so I said what I said. I told you before I've never had a nostrings attached thing. I'm sorry I'm still getting my head around it." I kiss her again on the cheek, although in retrospect it may not be the greatest idea; I'm not trying to emulate a relationship situation. I just want to comfort her, is all. I take a moment to contemplate how much I should share in return. She gave me quite an honest explanation, one she might not have felt one hundred percent comfortable about sharing. "Things make more sense in context, don't they?" I say. "Thanks for telling me that. In a way, I'm coming from the other direction; I'm not a relationship kind of person, so it's easier for me to screw around. Not that I'm a man-whore or something. I'm not, you know." Isabella laughs quietly. "Trust a Cullen to come from the other direction."

I snort in amusement. "We're trying to meet in the middle, aren't we? Pandering to the crucial votes in the center." "Says he who doesn't hit the campaign trail." "No point campaigning when you know you're going to win," I say lightly. "Oh, right," she says dryly, but not maliciously. "Let me guess. Esme Cullen: always wins California 8th with over eighty percent of the vote. Charles Swan: won his last race by half a percent, apparently aided by the fact Banner lost Pennsylvania a loss Carlisle Cullen still gets criticized for by the Democratic leadership." Not wanting to veer into a contentious area, I move my hand to another territory: her breasts. "Yep, something like that," I reply, caressing them. I'm so glad she lets me see and touch them now. Memories of her refusal to take off her bra on the train remind me of the date of the train encounter. "Today's the twenty-sixth, Isabella. Happy one month anniversary." "You're backdating the commencement of our arrangement, are you?" she says with a laugh. "Let me give you a gift to commemorate this occasion." She breaks the embrace so she can retrieve a ballpoint pen from her drawer. I frown at the loss of contact, instantly missing her body heat. "Sit up," she instructs, kneeling on the bed. "What are you doing?" I ask as I sit up. She grabs my upper arm. "Branding you," she explains. "But you're only mine when we're together, so make sure you scrub this off before you return to Washington." "Take a shower with me. We'll scrub it off together." "Later." I watch in amusement as she writes away, the sensation of the pen on my skin tickling me. "Property of Isabella Swan," she announces. "What are you drawing next to that?" I ask. "A GOP elephant." As ridiculous as it is to have that logo on my arm, it's actually quite funny. "The elephant looks a bit wonky," I point out. Isabella doesn't appreciate the criticism. "I'm a law student, not an artist." "Clearly."

She shoves me and I can't help but laugh at both her defensiveness and her drawing. "May I give you the reciprocal tattoo?" I ask. "Not after you laughed at my elephant," she says, unimpressed. "It looks like a teapot with legs," I comment, still laughing. "That's it!" she scolds, trying not to laugh. "No more sex until you apologize." I roll my eyes and watch as she stalks into her walk-in closet to retrieve a robe. I take the opportunity to retrieve my boxers and t-shirt, now feeling the cold. I look over at Isabella just as she stands in the doorway of her closet. "I'll fix you something to eat. Other than what's between my legs," she offers. "Did you have dinner on the train?" "I couldn't eat. I was too worried," I reveal. She arches an eyebrow. "The dining car reminded you of me?" "Yes, Isabella, the dining car reminded me of you," I chime, affording her the opportunity to gloat. "And I'll never look at a container of orange juice without thinking of you and what we did on that train." "Okay, you take a shower. I'll go see what I can scrounge up in the kitchen. Then I'll have a shower while you eat." She points to my tattoo. "Don't wash that off completely." "What? You're not joining me in the shower?" "No," she says derisively. "I'm not a twenty-four hour convenience store." I chuckle, conceding defeat. "You're so dramatic." "I'll get you a towel," she says, walking out of the room, presumably to wherever her linen closet is. It takes me moment to realize how happy I feel at the present moment. I spot the book on the nightstand again. Ah, I shouldn't hate de Tocqueville. And I shouldn't resent Jasper Hale. I'm the only man allowed in Isabella's bedroom now. I just hope we celebrate a few more anniversaries before I have to let her go, because frankly, I'll be devastated if this ends too soon. It's simple, but also very, very complicated: I don't want to be with anyone else. I only want her.

Legal citations: - The Seventh Amendment (Amendment VII) to the United States Constitution part of the Bill of Rights codifies the right to a jury trial in certain civil trials.

Other references: - De la dmocratie en Amrique (published in two volumes, the first in 1835 and the second in 1840) is a classic French text by Alexis de Tocqueville on the democratic institution of the United States in the 1830s and its strengths and weaknesses. A literal translation of its title is Of Democracy in America, but the usual translation of the title is simply Democracy in America.

Chapter 14: Provisions and Amendments BPOV While cooking for Edward Cullen is clearly not an enumerated duty under our agreement, being a good host is at the very least an implied condition. Interpretation of contracts aside, I don't want him to starve, especially since he apparently didn't eat on the five hour train ride to New Haven. The man invites himself over at great personal risk to the both of us and I have to provide sex, food and lodging? Lucky for him, I don't seem to mind at all. I'm a satisfied woman right now. After declaring that it was Edward's turn to have control, I did wonder what it meant to be so willing to submit to him like that. I really did want us to mend things fully, and for some reason, I felt compelled to let him fuck me in whatever way he wanted. I don't know perhaps it was a gift. Maybe it really was my penance for overreacting today. Plus, he seemed awfully perturbed by my mention of boyfriends and what I reserved sexually for such relationships. I should've known that comment would put him off; he's a proud man, and there I was telling him that I'd never do certain things for him. I wanted to make up for the blunder. Still, he was suspicious of my motives, knowing I don't take the control issue lightly. It's not like he completely dominated me, and in any case, it was a conscious decision to afford him control. That being said, I did let myself feel consumed by him; it just felt so damn good. I think I got off on offering myself like I did, possibly because I knew it would encourage him to fuck me senseless. I was surprised he didn't choose a more, well, demeaning position. I mean, I was definitely taking it, and in a position where I couldn't see what he was doing, but I expected him to have me at his mercy. I actually feel a bit bad that I thought this. To his credit, he really did want me to have a good time too. And having him go down on me so good. He held me afterwards. It's been such a long time since I've been held by a man. It did make me a little nervous, though. We were in my bed, the bed I sleep in every night. Now I'm going to remember being held by him every time I go to sleep... I felt really wanted. Maybe that's why I told him I would let him know when it's okay for him to kiss me. Now he knows it's just a matter of time before I cave and let him kiss me on the lips. To be fair, kisses don't have to be reserved for boyfriends. That's another thing I need to wrap my head around. And speaking of headYes, I actually got down on my knees and put his cock into my mouth. I was trying to prove a point that I'm perfectly capable of having him at my mercy. However, despite this control, I now wonder whether the act was involuntary on my part. I couldn't resist. It was like I simply had to do it, for

whatever reason. In retrospect, this simple act of tasting him was especially sinful. It was like I knelt down at the bed to say my nightly prayers, only to find that he was what I was asking for. Anyway, the look on Edward's face when I offended himIt was like I'd slapped him in the face. I surprised myself by explaining the blow job comment so thoroughly afterwards, but the last thing I wanted was to generate trust issues by keeping silent on the matter. I learnt something today. Even though this isn't a relationship, we still have to communicate properly. It also turns out that Edward isn't a relationship person. No wonder he didn't see the problem in not telling me he was headed to D.C. after Philadelphia I think he's used to calling up women whenever he needs to and having them come running to him without question. If they get clingy, he probably moves on to someone new. In light of the new information, I suppose I should be extra flattered he's afforded me this commitment. Returning to the matter of our anniversary meal, I stare at the shelves in my pantry and wonder what I could possibly make. Undecided, I stroll over to my fridge and check out what's there. I could either make him a ham sandwich or cook some pasta, macaroni and cheese to be exact. Or I could cook a small pot of pasta and make the sandwich too. I don't know what he likes to eat I just sleep with him. Both options it is. I start boiling some water on the stove. In the meantime, I assemble the sandwich, hoping he's not going to judge me for serving him lunch fare. After that's done, I start making a quick cheese sauce. Edward walks into the kitchen just as I'm adding the pasta to the boiling water. Damn, he looks so hot with wet hair. I unashamedly check him out. Fresh boxers and a new t-shirt too. His eyes light up when he sees the sandwich on the bench. "Oh my God!" he says excitedly. "The universe has corrected itself." "What?" I ask, incredibly confused. Is this something to do with the space analogy from before? "A Republican stole my ham sandwich at Longworth today!" he explains. I give him a strange look before returning my attention to the cheese sauce. "What do you mean someone stole your sandwich?" I question. "Had you already started eating it?" "No, I was about to pick it up when some Republican swooped in and stole it." He sounds ridiculously upset about this sandwich. I continue to talk to him while taking care of the pasta.

"First, it wasn't your sandwich if you hadn't picked it up," I point out. "Second, how did you know they were a Republican?" "Because they stole from me," he immediately replies. "Could've been a very hungry Democrat," I argue. "No." I snort. "No?" I turn around and see that he already has the sandwich in hand. "You're the best secret lover ever," he says, way too enthusiastically for the circumstances. He then proceeds to eat the sandwich as if it's the best damn sandwich he's ever had. "Democrats," I mutter, shaking my head. "Ridiculous." "I herrf thaf." "Chew first, then talk," I chide. Men. They do say the way to a man's heart is through his stomach. Except I'm not trying to win his heart, so really, I should probably steal that sandwich back from him. The problem is, I can't bring myself to do that, not when he's this happy about 'the universe' giving him back his sandwich. I turn back around, checking on the pasta. "Have you finished that article you were writing on church and state?" I ask, curious. "No," Edward admits. "Every time I sit down to work on it, I think about you instead. Because that's what I was working on when we were on the train." I frown, although I'm not sure he's looking in my direction. "Edward, that's not a very good reason for abandoning your research," I contend. "Were you already this unfocused when you sent me that email about Salazar?" I hear him finish his mouthful before he answers. "I did start a foreign policy article," he says in his own defense. "That one's already lined up for publication." "Did you bring your laptop?" I ask, looking at him again. "Yes. Why?" "I can help with your Lemon research. Make up for the fact that I'm apparently the reason it's stalled." "I suppose I should look at it tonight, considering it's part of my cover story," he replies. "Exactly." Satisfied that the pasta is fine for now, I step away from the stove and give Edward my full attention. "Otherwise, you and I will be a cover story of a different kind."

"You're not going to call The Washington Post, are you?" he asks, smirking. He winks at me. "I'd have to call you 'Deep Throat' if you did that." If he's making Watergate jokes about the blow-job-that-wasn't, then it mustn't be a big deal anymore. I fold my arms across my chest and pretend to think it over. "Well, it would certainly ruin the news cycle for the State of the Union," I jest before asking him a more serious question. "Do you ever think about writing for a paper? Being a staff writer? Or are you really not the journalist type? You prefer academia?" He opens his mouth to say something but then closes it. "Right," I say, catching on. "Sorry. Boundaries. Maybe I should hire a cartographer map out all the lines for me." Edward hesitates, but then starts talking. "I like freelancing," he shares, shrugging. There's another pause before he continues. "You know how I was headed to Boston when we were on the train?" "Yeah," I reply, hoping he'll tell me more. "An opportunity was presented to meI won't go into details, but I got the feeling that they wanted me because I'm a Cullen," he explains, sounding almost pained. "I mean, they were really nice, and I think they really did see merit in my work, but it didn't feel right." "So you think it could've been a 'hire Edward, get the inside scoop on White House goings on' sort of thing?" I ask gently. "Or 'hire Edward, and then we'll always know what the Speaker is up to?'" "Yeah." He looks pensive for a moment. Shrugging once more, he then goes back to eating his sandwich. I take a moment to think something through he and I have this in common. We're both members of families who are well-known for their political ambition and clout, and it's not always easy. I can see where Edward is coming from. "I worry about that sort of stuff too, you know," I tell him. "I can't help but wonder in advance if I'm going to be properly credited for anything I achieve. Like, are people going to doubt me? Will they assume my father helped me out? Or that I used my family name to get ahead? The downside to being privileged, I guess." "Yes, that's exactly how I feel sometimes," he says. I wonder if I should leave it at that and move on to a different subject. Honestly, I'm a little frightened of highlighting our commonalities. Figuring it would be a bit awkward to change the subject so suddenly, I share a little bit more. "There's this opportunity that I want," I reveal, keeping my words cryptic. "I think people will assume that I didn't earn it. That I don't really deserve it. But I work so hard here at Yale, I really do." Edward smiles knowingly. "Which judge?"

"What?" I ask, feigning confusion. "Roberts, right?" he guesses, pointing the sandwich at me. "I can see you clerking for the Chief Justice." Ah, he figured that one out a little too easily. "I don't know what you're talking about," I respond lightly. Edward chuckles. "I don't agree with his stances on most issues, but I hope you get the clerkship." I feel weird that he's wishing me luck. "Thanks." I figure now is an okay time to segue onto something else, or at least back to an earlier point. "You could be a journalist, you know," I say flirtatiously. "You don't have much of a problem gaining access." "What can I say? It's easy for me to get to the juicy details," he replies smugly. "Women just open up when I ask them to." He waggles his eyebrows. Smirking, I turn back to the stove to finish cooking the macaroni and cheese. After the pasta and the sauce is done, I get Edward some cutlery and a bowl. "You don't have to eat this now," I advise. "If you're full, we can save it for breakfast." "I'll have a little bit," he says, placing the sandwich plate in the sink. "Go take your shower I can amuse myself for a few minutes. I'll eat some more and work on my research." "Okay." As I traipse back to my room and into my walk-in closet, I question whether bonding with him like that was a good idea. I suppose it's natural to discuss things that you have in common with a person. It probably feels a little strange because all of our interactions so far have been about securing sex. This is the first time we've been able to spend time together after fucking. I also reassure myself that me cooking for him is a one-off. It's far too risky to ever invite him back here. When I visit him in San Francisco something I can't get out of now that he's visited both my hometowns, in a matter of days no less I'll be staying in a hotel room. There will be no cooking. I rifle through my sleepwear options. I suppose the decision depends on whether I want to have sex with him again tonight. To be perfectly honest, my head tells me that once is enough; today was eventful for the both of us. Besides, we slept together a few days ago as well. However, I'm not sure how I'll feel once I'm back in bed with him. Part of me wants to make Edward sleep on the couch it's a fold-out. It would be a measure towards instituting a bit of distance. However, it does seem a bit rude to do that to him. I shouldn't punish him just because I'm not used to having a man who's not my boyfriend sleep in my bed.

I decide to go with a pair of unsexy pajamas. He can always strip me if I decide I want more from him tonight. Being in the shower gives me even more time to think. Unfortunately, I'm prone to thinking too much. Law student's curse. As I let the hot water stream over me, I can't help but obsess over the fact that Edward has used my bathroom. How am I supposed to not think of him naked in here? I tell myself that I might need to limit how much I let him fuck me. Having just been pleasured by him, I still have the delightful ache in my nether regions, the tenderness that comes with being well and truly fucked. He's had me twice in the space of four nights. We should temper the addiction, especially since we'll be spending weeks apart. I don't want to miss him too much. Or is it better to overdose when we see each other? Maybe I should buy a vibrator. No. That would just be a cheap imitation. And for some stupid reason, ever since he told me to 'leave the site alone' before Philadelphia, I can't bring myself to take care of my own needs. I feel like it's his property to touch. I am in so much trouble. What happens when we have to break this off for whatever reason? I'm going to compare every other man I sleep with to him, and after the bliss that I have experienced with Edward, I'm afraid that anyone else will leave me wanting. Surely I can make it through the night without more sex. I'm not a nymphomaniac. Hell, I went without sex for over six months. And look how that turned out I step out of the shower, dry myself off and change into the set of boring flannel pajamas. I check my appearance in the mirror, mentally telling myself that Edward should respect me enough to understand that I just want to get some rest. When I walk out into main area of the apartment, I find Edward sitting at the dining room table, typing away at his laptop. He appears to be deep in concentration, failing to notice that I'm standing nearby watching him. Next to his laptop is a bowl of macaroni and cheese. He stops typing to eat another forkful. Jasper used to sit in the same chair whenever he was over here. "You look focused," I remark kindly. Edward jumps. "You scared me," he says, trying to recover from the shock. I saunter over to the chair next to him, where I sit down and help myself to his bowl of macaroni and cheese. "That's my mac and cheese, Isabella." "I cooked it for you."

He smiles and turns back to his laptop. He appears to have at least ten documents open at the same time. "Ten documents?" I question. "I'm good at multi-tasking," he says smoothly. "I'm very capable." "Yes, Edward, you're very capable," I say dryly, humoring him. He laughs. "I'm reviewing a few things," he explains. I quickly scan his word document and realize that he's typing up summary notes on Agostini v. Felton, the case where the Supreme Court adopted a three criteria test for the assessment of the second prong of Lemon. The fact that he's sitting in the chair that was formerly Jasper's reminds me of the book that Jasper gave me. "You should consider expanding the scope of your article to include jurisdictions which arguably have an even stricter separation between church and state, as opposed to only comparing our position to those where the separation is either lax or non-existent," I suggest. "That way your thesis statement covers the entire gamut. Surely you've come across de Tocqueville's comments on lacit, the French concept of a secular society?" Edward pauses for a moment, his fingers frozen over the keyboard. "May I ask why you had that particular book on your nightstand?" he inquires. I have to think for a moment to understand his question. "It's not the book's fault that Jasper gave it to me," I tell him, simply assuming he's concerned I'm lying about not being interested in my ex. "I like to practice my French while also revising the commentary." Edward doesn't respond immediately. He opens up a saved JSTOR article purporting to support the theory that an 'equal treatment test' arises out of the Agostini decision. The idea of the test relies on a concept of neutrality that probably stems from the intent of the Equal Treatment Clause in the Fourteenth Amendment. After a few more moments, he speaks again. "Go on," he urges, sounding jovial once more. "I think it would make your argument stronger. If you're writing this in terms of governance, you'll be preempting those who cite places like France as proof that the situation could be more dire," I assert. "Isn't there a wealth of news reports and commentary on how hard-line their policies have been lately? Real case examples." "Sarkozy himself has commented on the need for reform," Edward muses. "Not sure if that was last year or the year before." "If you think de Tocqueville's commentary on the excesses of lacit is too outdated, you could look at Jacques Maritain, who also said that our version of the separation is cooperative while still being distinct. You'd know him as the drafter of the UDHR."

"Mmm." "You don't think I'm lecturing you, do you?" I ask, suddenly conscious of how forthright I'm being with my opinion. I yawn before continuing. "I don't want you to think that." "Don't be silly, Isabella." He continues typing away. "It's actually good to come back to this. Will you be annoyed if I bunker down and work on this for an hour or so without your help? I should clean up some of these notes. Maybe I'll look at France later in the week." I chuckle. "Oh, so you are capable of keeping your hands off me? Good. I'm tired." He makes a point of eyeing me appreciatively. "There's always the morning." "Speaking of which, when exactly are you leaving tomorrow?" I question, redirecting his attention. "I'll take the ten o'clock train. That's believable. If anyone asks, I'll say I checked in late at the Marriott and had breakfast with my friend. Or do you want me to sneak out much earlier?" "If you sneak out too early and you're seen, then your cover story makes no sense. You'll have to be really careful about leaving this building. I'll skip my Advanced Torts class to let you out. Maybe you should walk a block or two before catching a cab, although that does leave you exposed" "We'll figure it out tomorrow," he says confidently. I nod. "Come to bed when you're ready." "I'm always ready for you," he quips. I roll my eyes. "That's not what I meant." "I know, I know." "Uh huh." "Thanks for the provisions," he says gratefully as I get up. I pause, not comprehending. "Oh, you mean food and drink," I realize. "Ever the law student," he quips. I smile, walking backwards out of the room. "Night, Cullen. Thanks for the makeup sex." "You're welcome," he says. He waggles his eyebrows. "Are you sure you're not a twenty four hour convenience store?" I snort. "I'm not a Kwik-E-Mart." He bursts out laughing. "Thank you, come again," he says smugly, quoting the store's catchphrase.

"Go back to your research," I chide, turning on my heel. "Isabella?" he calls out after I've taken several steps. "What?" I ask, turning back around. His smirk widens. "Clean up on aisle four." Cocky bastard. "It's your fault if I make a mess, you know," I point out, trying not to smirk too much. He waves me off. "You can go now. I'll proceed to" He pauses so he can give me a onceover. "Checkout when I'm ready." "I thought you said you were always ready," I argue. "I thought you said you were closed for the night." "I am," I say proudly. "Now go back to your research." His smirk transforms back into his happy smile. "Yes, I really do need to work on these notes," he says, dropping the teasing voice. I smile too, glad that he's able to refocus. "Goodnight, Cullen." "Goodnight, Isabella. I'll be another hour. Don't wait up." "Like I said: come to bed when you're ready." I trudge off to the bathroom to brush my teeth before retiring to my bedroom. I get into bed and pull the comforter over myself. I set my alarm, switch off the lamp, and will myself to fall asleep.

It's seven-fifty-five in the morning, and I think I'm having heart palpitations. You know, the kind you get on election night when your side isn't assured a victory? Someone has to lose on election night. The problem is that I don't know whether waking up in Edward's arms constitutes a win or a loss. Maybe it's neither? Either way, I need to calm down. Edward had snuggled up to me sometime during the night, and not only does he have his arm around my waist and his head resting on my shoulder, but he also has an erection that's very difficult to ignore at present. I'm surprised I didn't wake up earlier, what with its insistent poking and prodding. I concentrate on my breathing, and after a minute or two, my heart rate begins to return to normal. Honestly, all this panicking is wearing on my nerves. I wish I could be more carefree; it annoys me that I read into things when I shouldn't. I also want to know whether it's normal for people who sleep casually with each other to spend

the night this way, to wake up together this way. It probably is normal. If only there were a Complete Idiot's Guide to Being Fuck Buddies, a reference book for this sort of arrangement. Then I would have a better idea of how to handle this sort of thing. But ironically, if I were to request such a text, I'd basically be admitting that I'm an idiot in the first place. It's not every day I wake up and insult my own intelligence. Edward begins to rouse of out his slumber, nuzzling my shoulder. His grip on my waist tightens, and I gasp as his hardness pokes into the back of my thigh. I feel like the comfortable warmth of his body against mine is now more akin to a slow burn. I'm overheating in these stupid unsexy pajamas. I feel like throwing the covers off. "You were talking in your sleep," Edward mumbles, sounding very groggy. "Was I?" I ask, looking away from him. Oh God. What did I say? Please tell me I didn't beg for him in my sleep. I'm fine with anything else recitations of the Canadian national anthem, a Howard Dean scream, Justin Bieber lyrics just not anything embarrassingly sexual. Note to self: the terms 'Justin Bieber' and 'embarrassingly sexual' are disturbing when used in the same sentence. Wow, I think I've dropped twenty IQ points overnight. "You mentioned something about the Fourteenth Amendment," Edward finally says. Welcome back, IQ. "I was probably dreaming about your research," I explain, yawning. Edward groans, his hand traveling upwards so that he's cupping my breast. Even with the pajama material in the way, the sensation is still arousing. "You also said my name in your sleep," he adds, sounding very smug. Oh Canada. Fuck. No. "No way," I argue. "You're making that up." "You woke me up at four o'clock with your sleep-talking," he teases. "Were Dream Bella and Dream Edward doing something interesting?" "You tell me," I challenge. "Mr. I-Have-A-Raging-Erection." He laughs, holding me tighter still. "I sense a little attitude there, Miss I'mWearing-The-Most-Boring-Pajamas-Ever-In-A-Futile-Attempt-To-Turn-Off-MyHorny-Lover." I snort. "First, such a name change would be deemed 'frivolous' or 'immoral' by any judge exercising their discretion on the matter "

He interrupts me, scoffing. "And I-Have-A-Raging-Erection isn't 'frivolous' or 'immoral?'" "Second, the length is highly impractical," I continue, ignoring his interjection. "It would take forever to write, and good luck trying to fit it on a driver's license or passport, or any common form for that matter." Edward moves his hand to my stomach and pushes his groin against me. I whimper, wetness beginning to pool between my legs. "Good thing I'm not of an impractical length," he says cheekily. "I think I fit into your common form just right. We should probably double-check though." "My form is far from common," I say testily as he starts kissing my neck. "It's not something to be filled in by whoever's interested." "I know, baby. I know. Only me." Great. Now I have 'Baby' by Justin Bieber stuck in my head. The opening strains of 'O Canada' aren't much better, either. Worst bedroom soundtrack ever. Cut the music. Focus on Edward. Underneath the sheets, Edward deftly unbuttons the top two buttons of my pajama top. After unbuttoning the third, he pulls back the material so he can trace his fingers over my abdomen before moving his attention back to my breasts, fondling them. I moan in appreciation and lean back into his body. "This is a nice way to wake up," I comment. "Mmmm." Edward undoes the rest of my shirt buttons, allowing me take off the garment. I pull down my pajama pants and wriggle out of them too. Next, I roll over and hitch my leg over Edward, pressing my body against his, and resting my hands on his shoulders. He instantly wraps his arms around me, the sensation of his bare arms on my skin electrifying. He still has his t-shirt on; the cotton a thin barrier between our bodies. I push my breasts against his chest, making him groan in approval. It's good to look at him properly. His hair is also messed up from sleeping. So fucking hot. "Morning, Cullen," I say with a smirk. In response, he bucks up, pressing his erection against me. I writhe against him, getting wetter. "You should probably fuck me goodbye," he suggests seductively. I lean down so I can speak in his ear. "You like me on top, don't you?" I tease. He runs a hand through my hair and speaks into my ear in return. "You really don't remember saying my name in your sleep?" he taunts.

I sit up, straddling his hips. The covers fall around me, allowing him to look at me while I'm topless. "You made that up," I say firmly, gyrating so he gets even harder. His taunts continue. This time he impersonates me. "Edward," he moans softly. "Oh, Edward." Embarrassed, I glare at him. "I do not sound like that." "Of course you don't," he replies, raising his eyebrows. He crosses his arms behind his head, making him look even more self-assured. "You sound more desperate than that." Just as I open my mouth to reply, two things happen within ten seconds of each other. First, my alarm goes off. Second, my BlackBerry which is on the nightstand starts to ring. "Fuck," I mutter, clambering off Edward so I can turn off the alarm. "How dare someone call you while you're on top of me," Edward says with mock outrage. "So rude." Kneeling on the bed, I reach out for my phone to check the display. My heart skips a beat when I see who's calling. "It's my father," I declare. Edward's eyebrows shoot up. "You can call him back later," he replies, sounding well and truly amused. "After we've fucked." Eventually the ringing stops. I sigh. "I'm such a bad daughter," I lament half-seriously. "Not answering a call from my father because I'm on top of a Cullen wearing only my panties." "Speaking of your panties, take them off," Edward orders, smirking at me naughtily. Before I do so, I shuffle a bit more so I can get a condom from my drawer. And that's when my landline phone begins to ring. "No!" I exclaim, as if I'm scolding the phone. "I'm busy getting busy." I toss the condom packet onto Edward's chest. "Hurry up, put it on." The phone continues to ring. I take off my wet panties and toss them onto the floor in a hurry. Edward sits up and pulls down his boxers so he can put on the condom. Oh, his cock. I love his cock so much. And then I hear a click.

My answering machine. No. Please don't tell me my dad is leaving a message. "Hi Bella" I lock eyes with Edward. His jaw drops as my father's voice projects into the room. "It's your father here. Listen, when you get a chance, could your check your schedule and see whether you can come back to Philly next weekend? Emmett wants to have Rosalie over for a formal family dinner. I know this is a little weird considering Jasper isn't a hundred percent over you, but I think it would mean a lot to your brother if you set aside the time to come back home. And don't take the train, honey. I know you and Emmett have a penchant for taking trains, but planes are so much quicker. Okay, call me when you can. If the line is engaged, someone's probably calling me to give advice on how to ram Esme Cullen's legislative agenda up her ass. Bye!" I. Am. Mortified. Edward looks shell-shocked. What a way to be cock-blocked. Maybe if my father had left a shorter message, I'd be able to laugh it off. But he didn't. He even mentioned how Jasper isn't over me, and then also threw in a comment about Esme Cullen. Still kneeling beside Edward, I shake my head and look at him pleadingly. "Tell me that didn't just happen. Please tell me we're still going to have sex," I implore desperately. "Isabellawe can't. Not after hearing that." He sighs in resignation. "Don't look down" I look down, spotting the sight of Edward's penis. Limp and droopy. So sad. I feel completely deflated. And guilty. My loyalties are so conflicted in this moment. Edward pulls up his boxers and collapses back down onto the bed. "Told you not to look," he says, frustrated. "I'm so sorry," I apologize, acknowledging that the message completely ruined the mood. "And I don't know why the volume on the machine is so loud." He rubs his forehead and groans. "I felt like your dad was in the room." "I know, I'm sorry" It's not completely my fault, but it is the fault of my side. "And Jasper still wants you?" Edward asks, incredulous. He bolts back up. "I didn't know that." "Don't get annoyed," I say defensively. "He'll get over it. He has to it's over."

Both of us sigh heavily. It's awful, having the anticipation of sex dashed like this. But we really can't fuck now. I know we're in a private room, but open the curtains and there's New Haven out there. The real world. Hearing Dad's voice was a reminder that Edward and I don't exist in a vacuum. Our actions can affect others. "I should probably have breakfast and get dressed," he says resignedly. "Pack up my stuff." I pull my knees up to my chest, hugging myself. "I'll book San Francisco. I promise. This weekend is obviously too soon, and next weekend I'm back homeHow about the weekend after that?" "I'll have to see whether my mother is staying in D.C. that weekend or coming home," he replies. "It would be better if she was on the other side of the country. But other than that, sounds good." I give him a small smile. "I won't be able to hold out any longer than that." He chuckles softly. "You can always call me." I guffaw. "Phone sex? No, not good enough." That is what he meant when he said 'call me', right? "That's not what I meant," he corrects. "Oh?" He shrugs. "You'll have to call me, anyway. So we can talk about San Francisco, organize everything." "Yes, that's true..." I pause. Edward arches an eyebrow. "You can call me, you know," I add, a little defensively. "Why do I have to be the one to call you?" "Doesn't it make more sense for me to wait until you've looked into flights and accommodation?" he asks. "I suppose," I concede. I should take it easy I'm making things awkward. "So" I begin. "What's the plan now?" Edward pokes me in the side with his finger. "Breakfast?" "Yes, yes," I reply, moving to retrieve my pajamas. "Are you going to cook for me again?" he asks hopefully. I roll my eyes. "Yes, Edward. You'll get a cooked breakfast in lieu of morning sex." I'm spoiling him.

After getting redressed, Edward follows me out of my room, and I usher him to the dining table. He yawns and sits down, opening up his laptop. I trudge into the kitchen, deciding to make scrambled eggs for the both of us. I really hope his family doesn't pry too deeply into his cover story. He needs to get back to D.C. without looking suspicious, so he should act like the trip is perfectly legitimate. People do prefer to fly, but you never know, people like me choose to travel by rail every now and then. If he bumps into someone he knows, it shouldn't be too much of a big deal. Really, sneaking out of this building is the toughest part that's a direct link to me. We'll discuss the game plan over breakfast. I glance at the calendar on the fridge, thinking of San Francisco. Not this weekend, not next weekend, it'll be the weekend after. Wait. February 13 and 14? Valentine's Day is the fourteenth. I may not have been fucked this morning, but I certainly feel like I've been fucked over. I think I'm spending Valentine's Day with Edward Cullen this year.

Legal citations: - Agostini v. Felton 521 U.S. 203 (1997), 234 Court overruled its decision in Aguilar v. Felton 473 U.S. 402 (1985), and found that a state-sponsored education initiative to allow public school teachers to instruct at religious schools was constitutional, as long as the material was secular, neutral and did not promote 'excessive entanglement' between government and religion. - The second criterion asks whether religion is a factor in the government's selection of recipients or participants in regards to the statute. Here lies the foundation of an emerging theory; the 'equal treatment test', which focuses on the state's intention and action, and determines whether they are appropriately neutral. Also see Mitchell v. Helms 530 U.S. 793 (2000). - Fourteenth Amendment (Amendment XIV) of the United States Constitution. Equal Protection Clause provides that "no state shall ... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."* - Re neutrality and the Equal Protection Clause, see Abner S. Greene, 'The Incommensurability of Religion' in S. Feldman ed. Law and Religion: A Critical Anthology (2000). - Lacit is a concept of a secular society, connoting the absence of religious involvement in government affairs as well as absence of government involvement in religious affairs. During the twentieth century, it evolved to mean equal treatment of all religions, although a more restrictive interpretation of the term has developed since 2004.* Other references:

- 'Deep Throat' is the pseudonym given to the secret informant who provided information to Bob Woodward of The Washington Post about the involvement of the Nixon administration in the Watergate scandal.* - Roberts: Chief Justice John G. Roberts of the U.S. Supreme Court. - Sarkozy: President Nicholas Sarkozy of France. - Maritain: Jacques Maritain was a French philosopher and political thinker. He noted the distinction between the models found in France and in the midtwentieth century US. He considered the US model to be more amicable, because it had both "sharp distinction and actual cooperation" between church and state, what he called "an historical treasure". He also said "Please to God that you keep it carefully, and do not let your concept of separation veer round to the European one."* - UDHR: Universal Declaration of Human Rights. - Kwik-E-Mart is from The Simpsons. "Thank you, come again" is Apu's catchphrase. - 'O Canada' is the Canadian national anthem. - 'Baby' performed by Justin Bieber. From the album My World 2.0.

Chapter 15: Clue EPOV I'm in transit again. And I feel so incredibly restless. I'm honestly tired of traveling back and forth between places. More than anything, I don't like the fact that I'm now traveling away from Isabella. I won't see her again for another two and a half weeks, and even though I'm a patient person, I'm not looking forward to the wait. And although the impromptu visit solidified my commitment to her, it's safe to say I left feeling a little unsatisfied. In typical Republican fashion, Charles Swan blocked a measure that a Cullen raised on the floor. Or should I say bed. And what was with the extended message? It was like a traditional Senate filibuster he just kept talking until the resolution died. Her father's answering machine message was incredibly untimely. I've never lost an erection so quickly. His voice rang out like he was speaking into a bullhorn; I shudder just thinking about it. If I ever need to decrease my sex drive, apparently all I need to do is turn on C-SPAN while the Majority Leader is at his microphone. Maybe I should download his most conservative of diatribes and make a playlist on my iPod, title it 'Limp' and listen to it when I find that I'm fantasizing about Isabella too much. What a downer. Literally. If I could encapsulate the mortification I felt in that moment into a pill, I would have it patented. The anti-Viagra. Wives would buy it for their cheating husbands. Girlfriends would buy it for their sex addict boyfriends. Men would buy it for situations when they shouldn't have boners. Like when they're not meant to be sexually attracted to someone.

Like the situation I'm in. It would be a quick way to make a pharmaceutical fortune. Then again, it wouldn't be that quick. We're talking years of clinical trials, and it might be difficult to find volunteers for such tests. Not to mention the hoops the FDA would make me jump through. It would also be a battle to get the drug approved for federal health benefits under Medicare or Medicaid. This is probably why I'm not in charge of drafting the President's healthcare plan. As for the content of the answering machine messageI didn't mind so much about the Majority Leader's swipe against my mother. I hear that sort of shit all the time. And while it was a reminder that our families are at war I'm already hyperaware of the fact that I shouldn't be involved with his daughter I stand by my decision to continue seeing her. But that reference to Jasper Hale and the fact he's apparently not completely over Isabella? I really didn't like that. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the de Tocqueville book on the nightstand, and the alarming nature of the news really hit me. He could be a problem. Even though Isabella swears she isn't interested, it still seems like she has to fob him off. And that's a reminder of what she's forgoing by being with me. She's choosing not to be in a relationship, something she is more comfortable with than a fuck buddy arrangement. What placated me in that moment was knowing Isabella was disappointed and sorry that we were interrupted, and her affirmation that it really is over between her and her ex. Last night when Isabella suggested I look into lacit, it occurred to me that she was currently rereading the book. I accepted her explanation at the time that she genuinely liked the book and that it wasn't the book's fault that Jasper gave it to her. But something in particular bothered me after the Senator's message. The book was a gift. An anniversary gift. And you know what? I'll never be able to give Isabella any sort of token without looking like I'm trying to pay her for sex. Sure, I owe her a thong, but that's hardly something that will show my appreciation for her. She's risking a lot to be with me. She accepted me into her home, without much warning about my arrival, and slept with me, cooked for me, talked to me. It's almost cruel in a way, that I can only repay her with more sex. She was a little subdued as we ate our scrambled eggs. I assumed she was staving off the guilt that comes hand in hand with what we're doing. She did brighten up once we started talking again, and even laughed at my elephant tattoo once more. After getting showered, dressed and packed, I called ahead for a cab, requesting to be picked up from the corner of Isabella's block. It would've been nice to have been able to kiss her goodbye, but I was deferring to her on the kissing issue. I wasn't sure if she wanted a hug, so I played it safe by simply kissing her on the cheek. Then I walked out her door in order to catch the ten o'clock Acela Express out of New Haven. These were instructions from Alice, who texted me late the night before with the plan. I stare out the train window, irritated by the continued restlessness that I just can't seem to shake. I don't really want to go all Dr. Phil on myself and take the introspection route. Maybe the anxiety is just a product of having nothing else on which to focus. I'm stuck on a train with nothing to do besides work on my laptop, and since my research reminds me of Isabella, my thought process is awfully circular. I

should've downloaded a movie or something to distract me. Planes have in-flight movies. Trains don't. I'm sure if Isabella were here with me, we'd be able to create our own entertainment, but alas, production has been delayed until our next encounter. Lights, camera, action, indeed. However, it would be a bad idea to tape ourselves, and we don't necessarily need any lights. Action is fine on its own. The point of comparison between planes and trains reminds of something else Senator Swan mentioned this morning. Isabella and Emmett apparently both have a penchant for trains. I wonder why that is I should ask Isabella one day. I'm actually banking on the fact that rail isn't the most popular way to travel: the less commuters there are, the less chance I'll bump into someone who knows who I am. Just as I have that thought, I get a text from Alice: Act normal when you bump into Jasper. Be nice to him. Admit you were in New Haven if he asks, or you'll get stuck in the lie. You've got to be fucking kidding me. First, Senator Swan cock-blocks me. Now I'm going to bump into Jasper Hale? This day is like a Republican pop-up book from hell. No wonder I've been feeling so restless. Maybe subconsciously I knew something like this was going to happen. Why is Jasper on a train? Did he pick up this fondness for rail travel from his exgirlfriend? Don't tell me they've fucked on a train tooI pride myself on being her inaugural experience. My presence on this train could get back to the Swans. All Jasper needs to do is tell his sister about this and it'll get back to Emmett. They won't be able to put two and two together just yet, but if Isabella and I are careless in any way in the future, the evidence could stack up. Before you know it, it'll be a game of deduction, like Clue. Except the answer won't be Miss Scarlet in the hall with a revolver, but rather Edward Cullen in Isabella's bedroom with a lead pipe. A damn hard lead pipe. Panicked, I immediately text Alice back: I'm fucked, aren't I? When is this happening? On the train? At the station? Her reply is instantaneous, as if she was already typing out the message: It's going to be fine. Trust me. It has to happen this way. He's already on the train he got on at Penn Station. I drop my phone onto my keyboard and grip the side of the table before pinching the bridge of my nose. I feel like my chest is about to explode with panic. Penn Station? We passed New York City awhile ago. The last station we stopped at was Trenton, New Jersey forty minutes ago. We're almost into Philadelphia, where I was a few days ago, fucking Isabella in her hometown. Jasper has been on this train for over an hour and Alice only just told me.

An additional text comes through: Please trust me. If you want to keep seeing her, you have to trust me. Of course I want to keep seeing her, I text back. I appreciate you helping me, but more warning would've been nice. More warning would've made you panicked and agitated. It has to happen this way. I have to trust her. Blind faith, right? Alice better not be wrong. I text her back with a simple 'okay', reluctant to press her for more details when she's already going out of her way to help me. I'm going to have to inform Isabella about bumping into Jasper after it actually transpires. That'll be a fun conversation. As cowardly as it sounds, I actually get up and decide to go to the dining car to get some food. I need a distraction, something to get my mind off the impending encounter with my fuck buddy's ex-boyfriend. And even though logic says I should keep a goddamn low profile by staying in my seat, I figure that walking down the carriages actually gives me an incentive to keep my shit together. I can't fucking lose my mind in front of all these people. I can't throw punches. I can't look murderous. I can't be a wuss and have a panic attack. I have to act normal. I almost laugh out loud as I enter the first business class carriage. I've redefined what 'normal' is in my life. I seem to think sleeping with Isabella Swan is completely normal. I exhale on entering the dining car, and I head straight for the counter to order a hot dog and an orange juice. The car is less than half full, even though it's technically still lunchtime. And that's when I realize that Jasper Hale is sitting in the end booth. Fuck my life. He looks up and waves, surprised to see me. It's been several years since we've spoken. Luckily, I appear just as shocked. I manage to smile politely and wave before turning my attention to the lady behind the counter, who's waiting to take my order. It isn't nice of me to accuse my sister of trying to manipulate me when she's only trying to help me. But honestly, this does feel like a set-up. I played right into her last minute warning. This is not the way I want her advice to work. In Washington, D.C., crosswalk lights come with a timer, and sometimes I laugh at the countdown. To me, it's comical to know that I have sixty-four seconds to cross two lanes of traffic. But now that's exactly the type of warning I want. The ridiculously cautious type. I turn in Jasper's direction once I've been given my order, and he waves me over to come sit with him. Of course he does. Apparently southern hospitality can apply anywhere.

Don't get me wrong, he's a nice enough guy. And in the grand scheme of things, Jasper has never personally wronged me in any way, other than sometimes being a bit brusque with Alice, who he knew had a crush on him. It's just that he's the last guy I want to meet with, bar any member of the Swan family, of course. Jasper is dressed casually, in jeans and a navy Yale hoodie. He waits for me to place my food down on the table before extending his hand. I notice that he's almost finished his sandwich looks like turkey, so there's no need for sandwich angst on my end. Presumably this won't be a long conversation, which is most likely why he's so comfortable inviting me over to sit with him. Where's the countdown timer for this? "Edward Cullen," Jasper says in his southern drawl as we shake hands. "It has been awhile." "Yeah, it's been ages," I say politely, sitting down across from him. "Are you on vacation, Hale?" At the moment to the best of my knowledge, anyway he works at a major corporate law firm. "I'm working up in New York at the moment, and let me tell you, I've been worked to the bone this past month." He leans forward in his seat and rests his elbows on the tabletop, as if he's about to share a secret. "Major transaction just wrapped up. I'm owed a day off, that's for sure. Going to spend a few days in D.C. State of the Union should be interesting to watch, if you don't mind me saying." "Not at all," I reply, reminding myself to listen properly. "You're enjoying the work though?" "Wouldn't be doing anything else." He grins. "Say, I thought you were already in D.C.?" I wonder how much weed killer it would take to destroy the Republican grapevine. "Yeah, I was," I say calmly. "I had an impromptu research meeting and now I'm on my way back." "Oh, right," he responds. "Where'd you get on? I didn't see you when I boarded, but then again, I'm in the first carriage." He had to ask, didn't he? I point to his Yale hoodie. "New Haven, actually." I like how pleasantly surprised I sound. "Apparently, there are a lot of smart people there." He tilts his head in acknowledgment. I think about throwing in a comment about how I know he graduated summa cum laude, but it's not like I want to hit on the guy, so I decide against the ego-stroking. "I miss the place sometimes," he muses. He probably misses Isabella too.

Fuck. "Really?" I ask, unable to come up with anything more interesting to say. "I liked law school. The hours were better." I chuckle. "But not the pay, right?" "You got that right, Cullen," he says with enthusiasm. "Hey, I heard Alice got married to Jacob Black last year. That's really great. Glad she moved on from that crush she had on me all those years ago." The comment is said in good humor, so I have no excuse to rip his head off. But I'm dying for an excuse to rip his head off. "I think you still hold a special place in her heart," I joke. He laughs. "You've always been a good sport about it. How about you? Any wedding bells in your future?" Forget the crosswalk timer. I want to be hit by a car right now. "Not that I'm aware of. My mother is quite disappointed, but as your side would know, she's disappointed with a lot of things." Jasper lets out a low whistle. "Let's not go there." "Sorry," I apologize. "Any wedding bells in your horizon?" Why in God's name am I asking that? What is wrong with me? Why do I feel like pummeling the guy when he obviously means no harm? He pulls a face. "Working on that one. This might be too much information, but it doesn't help that my sister is dating my ex's brother. I always intended to patch things up. How fucked is that?" "Oh, soyour exnot that it's my business" I trail off. "It's complicated," he offers. "Right." I'm reeling from the confirmation that he really is still interested in Isabella. I seriously want to launch myself over the table and bash the guy's head in. But then I'd have to explain why, and I certainly don't want to reveal anything about my arrangement with Isabella. I keep my hands by my sides, my fists clenched. Luckily, he changes the subject. "So, what else have you been up to? What are you researching?" Jasper asks. "I'm finishing up grad school," I explain, willing myself to keep my cool. "Teaching part-time. Writing part-time. Researching church and state at the moment, but from a governance point of view." He raises an eyebrow. "Didn't peg you as the type of guy to touch a topic like that." Everyone thinks they've got me figured out. Both my mother and Isabella basically said the same thing that Jasper just said.

I need this conversation to end before I say or do something stupid out of sheer frustration. I force myself to shrug. "It's a comparative piece." "Comparative, hey? So you're looking into lacit? Australian Constitution, section 116?" "Possibly," I say, nodding. "Still working out the scope of the piece." "Sounds interesting." Great. I probably made myself look stupid with my vague answer of 'possibly'. And he suggested lacit, just like Isabella did. Maybe he's even thinking of the de Tocqueville book he gave her. And knowing Jasper's legal mind, he could probably school me on section 116 of the Australian Constitution without even thinking that much. Speaking of Australia, he went 'down under' on Isabella before I did. That pisses me off. Jasper gathers up the packaging his sandwich came in and grabs his coffee cup. "Anyway, I'll leave you to eat in peace. I've got to respond to a few emails from the firm." "Nice talking to you, Hale," I say in farewell. "You, too." Yeah, right. Thank God my political lineage enables me to lie with ease. I needed that conversation as much as the country needs another financial crisis. Where the hell was my bailout? Thankfully, he's gone. I don't think I could have handled another minute with him. But is he really gone from Isabella's life? I unclench my fists and fold my arms across my chest. My food lies untouched in front of me. I'm not kidding about my blood boiling I feel like the blood is rushing to my head. I can hear the thumping of my heart, and I sense the onset of a headache. I take a few deep breaths and try to maintain my composure. What is it that I'm feeling? It's not just the fear of losing Isabella, because I've always been aware that I can't be with her forever. It's more than that. I hate that Jasper wants her back. I hate that they were together in the first place. No, it's more than that, still. It's something more. What is it? And then it hits me. I can never have her the way that Jasper did.

And I fucking hate that. I'll never be more than just a fuck buddy to her. Jasper is allowed to be interested in her. He's allowed to want more. But I'm not.

An hour and a half later, I'm still mulling over how bitter I feel. My seat is back in the third carriage, so at least I'm physically separated from Jasper Hale. All I've been able to think about since the encounter is how infuriated I am at my circumstances. Like I mentioned to Jacob several weeks ago, it's not fair that I'm not allowed to want Isabella in that way. She's smart, beautiful and confident, but off-limits. Forget blow jobs. This is the true 'full experience' I'll never get. Seeing Jasper in person changed the way I think of him in relation to Isabella. Even though Isabella claims that she is no longer interested, Jasper represents everything I'm not. He is someone who can give her more than just a good time. Not only did he have a relationship with her, but it was acceptable to all parties. I haven't even informed her about the meeting for fear that I won't handle her alarmed reaction with enough sensitivity. Moreover, it's not like I can share Alice's assurances that everything is going to be fine assuming Alice is even correct at this stage. Maybe Jasper will say something to his sister about bumping into me. Hell, he might even try and contact Isabella and use it as a point of conversation. If it gets back to Emmett that I was in New Haven, I hope his reaction is limited to a snide comment, preferably made to Rosalie Hale only. But even if he does tell his family about the tidbit of information, there's nothing to link my travels to Isabella. Like I said, the information will only become incriminating if other clues arise. Speaking of the Swans, passing through Philadelphia only served to enhance my bitterness. I bet Jasper traveled to Philly with Isabella many a time to hang out with her family they must've welcomed him with open arms. If I ever showed up to the Swan residence, I'd also be welcomed with arms. But they'd be of the kind protected under the Second Amendment at least according to conservatives. The train is due to arrive in Washington, D.C. shortly. Alice sent me a text ten minutes ago telling me everything was going to be fine, and that she'll meet me at Union Station. I found no comfort in her concise message, her truncated words only serving to remind me of things cut short, things that are incomplete. I wanted to tell her that waiting for me could look suspicious, but I gave her the benefit of the doubt, even though I'm still not happy about the way she practically fooled me into meeting Jasper. Honestly, this is the biggest mindfuck I've ever experienced. I'm both embarrassed and annoyed at the volatility of my emotions. I'm a guy for fuck's sake. I'm a guy who's feeling bitter over the fact I woke up this morning with a woman in my arms, only to realize that the embrace would only been appreciated for my erection. She did say my name in her sleep, but once again, it was

probably in a sexual context. I don't resent Isabella in any way, but maybe I finally understand what she meant yesterday when she mentioned something about being a whore. I'm being ridiculous. I agreed to the fuck buddy arrangement in the first place. Besides, technically it's no different from my previous relationships if you can even call them that so I understand the limits better than Isabella does. Yet now I'm angry at the status quo, at the realities that underpin my arrangement with her. It's forbidden. She's a Swan, I'm a Cullen. Even if I wanted her, I wouldn't be able to pursue her. I hold these truths to be self-evident. But it doesn't mean I like them. That must be my true problem the encroachment on my personal liberty. This is another example of where I'm limited by something out of my control. I can't change the fact I'm a Cullen. I didn't ask for these expectations, these constraints. I'm either given special privileges because of who I am, or denied something completely, for the same reason. I don't know how to stop feeling this bitter. Raging about it won't actually do me any good I think I just have to accept reality. If I want to enjoy being with Isabella for the remainder of our time, I have to concentrate on having fun and not on the things to which I'm not entitled. Fortunately, I don't see Jasper as I step onto the platform; I stalled as much as possible before getting off the train. Nevertheless, I make a point of not looking for him. I don't want to misdirect my anger. This isn't about him. He was perfectly nice to me. I need to cool off. I start walking up the platform, towards the main building. On the way, my thoughts drift to how Alice used to have an unrequited crush on Jasper when she was an undergrad at Princeton, before Jasper started Yale Law. Jasper was always nice to her, but I could tell he just wasn't interested. Since being with a Cullen would've made him the laughing stock of his family, it was a convenient excuse. He's an ambitious guy, the type that would run for Governor at a young age or try to make partner by the age of thirty. Maybe Isabella liked that ambition. I don't know. It's not any of my business. Anyway, Alice has always maintained that she knew nothing would happen, but she clung onto the fanciful notion regardless of this fact. Being able to predict the future hasn't always sat well with my sister. Sometimes I even think she oscillates from being able to see immediate subjective futures to being able to see the distant future, scenes that are either borne from a subjective choice she can't pinpoint, or something that's seemingly inevitable. She has been getting more cryptic in the last few years, a fact I highlighted when Jacob sat me down for his NNPT talk a few weeks back. My point is, maybe the idea of tempting fate, of circumventing her visions, was appealing to her. People are allowed to dream, right? It's hard for her to have dreams, I think, when she's aware of possible outcomes. Plus, I suspect that she was just biding her time until Jacob noticed her. She could've dated, but I think her reasoning was that there was no point in dating when she already had an inkling of who she'd end up with several years later.

But what do I know? I've never been in a committed, long-term, serious relationship. I seem to be naturally suspicious of women who fawn over me without getting to know me. Maybe I have a short attention span because my standards are set too high once I deem someone not worth my time, I'm over it. I think there are legitimate reasons why I don't like being tied down. I want to find my own way through life, and I don't trust women who seem to want me for the fact I'm a Cullen. It's not like I sleep my way through San Francisco. I definitely don't. But maybe in some way I'm a sifter; I'm looking for someone who I don't mind being tied to. No one has held my interest as of yet. If I'm honest with myself, maybe there are a few strings attached in my arrangement with Isabella. But whatever I do, they'll be cut one day. No wonder I'm so rattled right now I let some attachment occur, even though I know it's wrong. Reality is the failsafe if we don't cut the strings ourselves, someone else will. I'm not allowed to want more than sex. I think that has to be my new mantra; otherwise I'm going to screw things up by getting too invested. Inside the building, I turn the corner at the Au Bon Pain bakery and find that both Alice and Jacob are waiting for me. They must've coordinated their lunchtimes. I try to smile, not wanting to appear brooding and ungrateful, but they both know something isn't right. "Isn't this a bit suspicious?" I ask flatly. "All three of us congregating here?" Jacob shoots an annoyed look at Alice. "I thought you said Super Tuesday would cheer him up. He looks just as emo as yesterday." I raise an eyebrow, still curious as to what Alice told Jacob to get him to do a one-eighty. Alice rolls her eyes. "Everything is fine," she says reassuringly. "Why on earth was bumping into that particular person necessary?" I question in a clipped tone, unable to hold back my irritation. "Not to mention, he's probably going to tell people that he saw me!" "It's all going to be okay," she insists. "You better be right, Alice," I warn. Then I pretend to do an introduction, gesturing to the empty space next to me. "Hi Shit, meet Fan. Please don't hit each other anytime soon." Alice blinks at me. Jacob moves to take my overnight bag. "No need to be chivalrous," I grumble, eyes still locked on my sister. "When I figured out I was in love with Alice, I punched a wall," Jacob explains, grabbing the bag from me. "I don't think you should be holding anything you can throw."

Confused, I look back and forth between the two. Alice looks around, unperturbed. "I don't know what that has to do with me," I gripe. "Look, this isn't the time or place to talk. I'm grateful you guys convinced me go last night. I did have a good time. I'm just pissed off that I bumped into someone I didn't want to see." "Uh huh," Jacob responds, sounding like he doesn't believe me. "That's the only reason you're pissed off?" "You guys should go back to work," I insist. "Unless either of you are ready to explain why it was necessary for me to talk to that guy." "I'm a Cullen," Alice says dryly. "I can do whatever I want." Surely she knows that was the wrong thing to say. "We cannot do whatever we want," I say firmly. "You know what she means," Jacob says, noticing my scowl. "If a Cullen wants to take a longer lunch hour, no one is going to stop them." "Well, fuck me and call me Lady Liberty," I retort. Jacob tries to calm me down. "It's been four hours, dude. Chill. You'll see her again." I sigh in frustration. Conscious that we're in a public place, I lower my voice a little. "I think it's pretty obvious that you two are withholding information," I say resignedly. "Whatever. I'll see you at home." I snatch my bag from Jacob and start to walk towards the front entrance. Of course, they follow, falling into step on either side of me. "For a smart guy, you're being a bit dense," Jacob remarks. I grit my teeth and refuse to answer. "Alice, just tell him," Jacob advises, looking over at her. "He already knows," she replies. "He's just in denial." "I'm not in denial about anything," I declare. "I spent hours thinking on that train. I'm too fucking self-aware for my own good." "If you tell him in a public place, he won't be able to throw a tantrum," Jacob adds. I snort. "Throw a tantrum over what? I can hear you guys, you know." "He'll figure it out," Alice replies. "He's already halfway there." "I have no idea what you guys are talking about," I say, striding into the Grand Hall. "Don't call her if you're going to be this grumpy," she advises. Shit. I still have to tell Isabella about Jasper being on the train.

"Maybe talking to her will make him feel better," Jacob muses. "I. Can. Hear. You." Alice threads her arm through mine, a gesture she tends to employ when she's happy. She used to do it all the time when we were kids. I hope she doesn't start skipping. "I can't wait to take you shopping next weekend when I'm back in San Fran," she says. "We'll find her the perfect gift." Tired of their cryptic talk, I stop in my tracks, causing both of them to also halt. "I'm not buying her a gift. It's inappropriate," I reason. "But you have to get her a gift," Alice asserts, tugging on my arm. "Why?" "For Valentine's Day, silly!" I feel the blood drain from my face. "Valentine's Day?" I splutter. Alice tightens her grip on my arm. "Yes. You have to get her a gift." I scoff. "I don't think Hallmark makes cards for fuck buddies. Wives and girlfriends? Yes. Fuck buddies? No." "You definitely have to buy her something romantic," she insists, seemingly ignoring my protest. "Why would I do that?" I ask, exasperated. "We're not in love. Besides, Valentine's Day isn't for several weeks" Not this weekend, not next weekend, but the weekend after Oh shit. Alice jumps up and down in an annoying little happy dance, a display made even more ridiculous by the fact she's dressed in a business suit. "It's going to be such a romantic weekend for you!" she gushes. I snap my attention back to Jacob, desperate to find out how much Alice told him. He gives me a sympathetic look. "If it makes you feel any better, apparently you're not the only one in denial," he tells me. I gape at the two of them, Alice clinging onto my arm and Jacob standing by looking helpless. "Denial about what?" I ask. Neither of them answer my question. It's Edward Cullen in Union Station with a headache. Somebody please give me a clue.

Because I don't understand what's going on.

Legal citations: - Section 116, Australian Constitution states that 'the Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion'. Held not to prescribe a separation of church and state: see Attorney-General for Victoria (ex rel Black) v The Commonwealth (1981) 146 CLR 559 ('Defence of Government Schools' or DOGS case'), Mason J at 615, Wilson J at 653, and Stephen J at 609. - Second Amendment (Amendment II) of the United States Constitution part of the Bill of Rights refers to 'the right of the people to keep and bear Arms.' (Not going to get into the controversy re interpretation). Other references: - Clue (aka Cluedo in the UK and Australia): Board game where players to strategically move around the game board, collecting clues from which to deduce which suspect murdered the game's perpetual victim, and with which weapon and in what room. - Filibuster: In the Senate, rules permit a senator, or a series of senators, to speak for as long as they wish and on any topic they choose, unless "three-fifths of the Senators duly chosen and sworn" brings debate to a close by invoking cloture under Senate Rule XXII. (Of course, it can get more complicated than this, but I won't bore everyone with the details) In the modern filibuster, the senators trying to block a vote do not have to hold the floor and continue to speak as long as there is a quorum, although the Senate Majority Leader may require an actual traditional filibuster if he or she so chooses. - FDA: Food and Drug Administration - Medicare: health insurance coverage to people who are aged 65 and over, or who meet other special criteria - Medicaid: health program for eligible individuals and families with low incomes and resources. - Super Tuesday: refers to the Tuesday in February or March of a presidential election year when the greatest number of states hold primary elections to select delegates to national conventions at which each party's presidential candidates are officially nominated. More delegates can be won on Super Tuesday than on any other single day of the primary calendar, and, accordingly, candidates seeking the presidency traditionally must do well on this day to secure their party's nomination.

Chapter 16: Cover Story BPOV It's a lazy Sunday afternoon, and all I can think about is Edward Cullen. I'm going to call him tonight to finalize the details of my San Francisco trip. However, it's probably not a good idea to be thinking of him right now, given that

Angela and I are hanging out at Lauren's place. We're sitting in her living room, drinking coffee and rifling through old magazines, in what is supposed to be a spring-cleaning type exercise. It's hard for Lauren to throw away magazines. She claims her brain needs something to counter the intensity of our degree. I'm sure the editors of Cosmopolitan will be flattered to know that there are readers who simply buy the magazine in an effort to minimize brain activity. Personally, I don't have anything against Cosmopolitan. In fact, I'm just as bad as my two friends right now; instead of sorting through my allocated pile to determine which copies to throw out, I'm sitting on the floor, reading an old issue for the first time. "Oh look!" Angela says excitedly from the sofa. "There's an article in this one about Valentine's Day gifts!" She tosses the issue in question to Lauren, who's sitting opposite me on the other side of the coffee table. "Great! I still have no idea what to get Tyler," Lauren responds, flicking through in an attempt to find the article. "Have you decided what to get Ben?" "No, not yet." I take a sip of my coffee, not really in a position to add to the conversation. I'm the one without a boyfriend. This time last year, Jasper was planning our Valentine's Day. We ended up taking the train down to New York City. His fondness for taking trains was a product of our relationship we used to spend the travel time reading new books and talking. There's something I always found romantic about it, being on the land instead of up in the air, traversing through different towns this way. Maybe it's representative of what I think a relationship should be a journey that involves different viewpoints, different experiences, but always takes place with a view to home. Somewhere you'll always feel comfortable. A journey where you're still in contact with the earth, grounded in this way, rather than having your head up in the clouds where you can't see or feel clearly. Of course, I'm not sure what to make of this notion now that I've let Edward fuck me on a train. Sometimes I feel at home with him, and sometimes he's just the guy who prevents me from thinking straight. To be honest, I don't know where I'm headed, and I hate uncertainty. Juxtapose that with how certain I am that I need himsuddenly I have more issues than a newsstand. Needless to say, it was a real mindfuck for me to find out that Jasper took the train to D.C. on Wednesday. I suppose it was always possible that he would travel there for the State of the Union, but for him to board the same train as EdwardI can't calculate the odds of that happening. I went into panic mode when Edward called me. I was annoyed he waited a few hours before letting me know, but I accepted his explanation of being too rattled to think straight. He claimed his possessive streak kicked in Jasper said something about still wanting a relationship with me. Once again, I had to reiterate that, at least on my part, things are well and truly over between me and Jasper. However, instead of being disturbed by Edward's possessiveness, I found it strangely endearing. This probably isn't ideal in light of our current arrangement, which is supposed to be just sex. I think I'm relieved

that he's so committed to me, but I shouldn't be getting butterflies when he talks about wanting to punch my ex-boyfriend in the face. Edward knocking out Jasper? It's like the movie Face Punch; it's funny when you're watching, but then you realize how amazingly stupid it is. Edward has no justifiable excuse; he wouldn't be defending my honor since technically he's the one taking it away. Sometimes I feel like he has no qualms about doing what we're doing. I'm not sure if he feels the guilt that I do. He did go to great lengths pun intended to patch things up with me after our fight. Yet I'm not sure how much I can infer from that. The analysis and thinking is probably only happening on my end, anyway. Case in point, he completely brushed over the fact my trip falls on Valentine's Day weekend. All he said on the phone the other day was that he was sure his parents would be staying in D.C. due to the occasion, and that I should hurry up and book my accommodation. Not that I told him, but I felt a little embarrassed that I had freaked out over the timing. It's not a big deal to him, so it shouldn't be a big deal to me. Except, he is a big deal to me. Very big, mind you. "Bella, did we upset you by talking about Valentine's Day?" Lauren asks tentatively, looking up at me. "You look a bit troubled." "Oh, really?" I ask, alarmed that my expression is so sullen. Angela nods. "You almost looklovesick. Except that can't be it, because you're not in love" They both look at me curiously. By no means is lovesick the right term. Yes, I'm pining for Edward, but not in a romantic way. Is fucksick a word? Wait, I think that's what 'horny' means. But that's not the word I'm looking for either, because I kind of miss Edward's company. Kind of. I think so, anyway. I like having a guy to talk to, and it was nice having him at my apartment when he visited me. I wish I could talk about him. I try to recover, smiling apologetically. "I'm fine. Seriously. I think I'm just tired." I'm not sure if they believe me. Not that I would tell them why I'm tired I'm not at liberty to reveal that every time I go to bed I dream about Edward fucking me senseless. And every time I wake up, I think about how I woke up in his arms that one time. I catch a glimpse of the cover of Lauren's magazine, the one she's holding in her hand. Lindsay Lohan is the cover girl. Suddenly, inspiration hits. I've been meaning to come up with a cover story for my trip, and I've just figured it out.

"As it turns out, I'm actually going to be in California for Valentine's Day," I finally say, shrugging nonchalantly. "I have friends from school who now live in Los Angeles, and awhile ago they told me they were heading up to Napa for Valentine's Day. They don't have boyfriends either, you see, so the idea was to drink through the occasion. Anyway, one of them had to bail. I said I'd be happy to take her place." Lauren frowns. "Napa? But won't there be plenty of couples having a romantic weekend in the wine country?" she reasons. "Won't that make you feel lonely?" "I won't care." I chuckle lightly. "I'll be drunk." Angela rolls her eyes. "Seriously, Bella? Are you really that partial to the Californian grape?" Well, I'm partial to something Californian and he tastes really good. "Don't knock the wine," I sass back. "I don't understand this," she replies, still unconvinced. "You want wine? Why don't you let someone wine and dine you? We can set you up for Valentine's Day " "Yeah!" Lauren interjects. She waggles her eyebrows. "Someone who will get your juices going!" "Someone who'll give you a good corkscrew," Angela adds. Lauren howls with laughter. "Someone who'll look good on your rack." I roll my eyes. I already have this 'someone'. I just can't tell them that. Angela furrows her brow, confused. "Rack?" She pauses. "Oh, wine rack." More laughter. "Oh my God, I'm so slow sometimes. How did I get into Law School?" "Beats me," I respond dryly. Lauren is still smirking. "Going down to the cellar," she says suggestively. "Well, since you two think the wine country is so amusing, I'm sure I'll have a great time in Napa," I declare. Angela's smile fades, and she shoots me another doubtful look. "Don't you think you're overdoing the travel? Aren't you going home next week?" "Yeah, I am," I confirm. "But I think this will be fun. Who knows, maybe I'll meet someone" "I don't think this trip is a good idea either," Lauren criticizes, now looking at me suspiciously. Angela nods vigorously. "You'll miss classes too!" "So give me your notes," I challenge. Lauren tries to negotiate. "I'll give you my notes if you hand over Jasper's Environmental Law notes."

"No," I say, shaking my head. "Those notes were given to me, and only me. I respect him enough to honor that, even if I don't want to be with him anymore." "If you're not together, then they should be fair game," she asserts, thinking she has me cornered. Angela waves her arms. "Hey, not the issue here, Lauren. We're supposed to be talking her out of her trip." I roll my eyes again before sighing dramatically. "This is why I didn't want to say anything" It pains me to lie like this, but I can't bear the thought of not being able to see Edward. "Okay, you're probably going to go regardless of what we say," Lauren concedes. "But we want it noted that we think the trip is unnecessary irresponsible even." "Yeah," Angela agrees, folding her arms across her chest. "We object, despite the fact you're going to overrule those objections." "So is this trial over?" I ask sarcastically. "Yeah, for now," Lauren says, waving her hand. "Okay, so I'm going to Napa and I'm going to have fun," I announce. "Now feel free to continue discussing what you're getting your boyfriends for Valentine's Day. And for the record, I'm not bitter. Nor am I lonely. I'm enjoying being single." More like the single fuck buddy of one Edward Cullen. The two of them exchange looks, but then continue their conversation about giftgiving. I can't believe I'm thinking this, but thank God for Lindsay Lohan. I'll never say she's good-for-nothing ever again. You see, Lindsay was in the remake of The Parent Trap, and the father of the characters she played owned a vineyard in Napa. Also, it turns out that the standard way to get from New Haven to San Francisco by plane involves a layover in Philadelphia of all places. That's right: a flight from my hometown to San Francisco. I spent a considerable amount of time yesterday trying to calculate a host of permutations in an effort to avoid this connection. But there's no alternative that makes sense. It's better if I don't try to hide the fact that I'm catching a flight to SFO, just like Edward didn't hide that he traveled to New Haven. There are advantages to being upfront; it's certainly less suspicious. And speaking of Edward's trip, as far as I'm aware, Emmett doesn't know anything. But even if he does know and it comes up in conversation, all I have to do is act normal. This essentially means that I'll have to come up with a scathing comment about the Cullens. Or perhaps I'll go the 'indifferent route' and say I simply don't give a shit. Yes, my acting skills will be put to the test. Which makes me wonder: is Lindsay Lohan even acting anymore or is she just acting up?

Anyway, I discard the Cosmo issue I've been flicking through and pick up a new one. This one is slightly more recent January 2008 and Hilary Duff is on the cover. Lindsay, and now Hilary? I sense a Disney theme to my day, which is somewhat disturbing. What I'm doing with Edward is not the stuff of fairytales. Not unless those fairytales have become inappropriately promiscuous like what's happened with Miley Cyrus. The thought of 'happily ever after' makes me ask myself an important question: how do I want things with Edward to come to an end? Obviously, I don't want things to end because we're caught in the act, or found out some other way. Assuming we aren't caught, when is the appropriate time to terminate the agreement? Should I be thinking of 'the end' already? Should I set a 'term limit'? I get an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. I don't really want things to end at all. Congressional representatives aren't subject to term limits, so why should I be? My BlackBerry beeps, alerting me to a new message. It's an email from Edward:

To: Isabella Swan bellainthemajority(at)gmail(dot)com From: Edward Cullen cullencampaign83(at)gmail(dot)com Date: 31 January 2010 12:31PM PST Subject: Ahem *cough* Isabella I'm sitting here writing research notes, but the only thing I can think about is the fact you haven't called me about San Francisco. When are you going to call me? Do you want me to call you? If this is the case, I can call you now.

"What are you smiling at?" Lauren asks me. "Nothing," I reply, looking up from my BlackBerry. "Someone just emailed me." And that someone sounds a little anxious. I'm thrilled that he feels the need to check in on me and my plans but once again, that possessive streak of his is making an appearance. I send Edward a reply:

To: Edward Cullen cullencampaign83(at)gmail(dot)com From: Isabella Swan bellainthemajority(at)gmail(dot)com Date: 31 January 2010 3:33PM EST

Subject: Do you need a cough drop? I'll call you tonight. I can't call you now because I'm hanging out with my friends. You miss me, don't you?

To: Isabella Swan bellainthemajority(at)gmail(dot)com From: Edward Cullen cullencampaign83(at)gmail(dot)com Date: 31 January 2010 12:36PM PST Subject: My throat is fine. How's yours? Of course I miss you. Friends? As in male friends? Have you actually booked anything yet? You really shouldn't waste any more time. You're making me nervous. In fact, I'm tempted to issue you with a summons.

I can't help but giggle at the threat of a summons. It's funny how we think alike sometimes. Plus, I also feel elated that he's jealous of me possibly hanging out with other men. I glance up to see that both Lauren and Angela are looking at me curiously. "What?" I shrug, playing it cool. "I'm allowed to laugh at an email." That should be believable enough. Lauren shrugs in response, and then surveys her living room. "We're supposed to be cleaning, but we seem to be making more of a mess." Angela pulls a face. "Cleaning can wait." Edward will also have to wait. I decide not to write back immediately, as I don't want to appear suspicious in front of my friends. I flick through my magazine one more time, with the intent of discarding it. However, an article catches my eye: 'Friends with Benefits Truths'. I think there's a distinction between friends with benefits and fuck buddies; Edward and I weren't really friends before striking up our arrangement. Nevertheless, I skim the article anyway. The first warning is that 'some rules apply'. I'm already cognizant of this truth, having had boundary issues earlier in the week. With Angela busy reading her own magazine, and Lauren having disappeared to retrieve some snacks, I read on, even though I have a feeling that I'm not going to like what the article has to say. The second warning is 'you may get attached'. It turns out that a hormone called oxytocin is released when women orgasm. Since oxytocin is an 'attachment hormone', feelings of intimacy are fostered, thereby causing the sex to become associated with strong emotions.

Is this why I miss Edward so much? This hormone? Emotions? If feelings are involved, then the sex isn't one hundred percent meaningless, right? My mouth suddenly feels dry. Worried, I continue reading. The third warning from the article is that 'the chance of romance is slim', especially since friends with benefits 'is usually a transitional phase between relationships, often ending when one of you finds someone else.' Someone else? I don't want Edward to find someone else. I promptly shut the magazine, disgusted with myself for having read any part of the article. I don't like the questions it's making me ask myself. It's not academic anyway, it's probably just a filler segment that some bored staff writer wrote after refusing to be the one to interview Hilary Duff. "We're throwing this one away," I declare, tossing it aside. "Mmmhmm," Angela says distractedly. I busy myself with the task of actually sorting through the piles, almost arbitrarily deciding what stays and what goes. Yes, I'm judging them by their covers, not bothering to check the contents. Lauren returns with some cake and cookies, so I take a quick break before continuing. Thirty minutes later, I get another message. Knowing it might be Edward, I ignore it for now. Then a minute later, my BlackBerry beeps once again. Maybe he interpreted my silence as meaning that I am hanging out with male friends. "Check your phone, Bells," Lauren advises, getting up. "I'll get a trash bag for the stuff we're throwing out." I hesitate, but then decide to check the messages. "Yeah, alright." I find that Edward has sent me two emails:

To: Isabella Swan bellainthemajority(at)gmail(dot)com From: Edward Cullen cullencampaign83(at)gmail(dot)com Date: 31 January 2010 1:01PM PST Subject: You better be coming UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT for the Northern District of California Edward Cullen, Plaintiff v. Civil Action No. 02132609 Isabella Swan, Defendant

SUMMONS To: Isabella Swan A lawsuit has been filed against you. Within 20 days after service of this summons on you (not counting the day you received it), you must serve on the plaintiff an answer to the attached complaint or a motion under Rule 12 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The answer or motion must be served on the plaintiff's attorney plaintiff is representing himself whose address is 'in your fantasies'. If you fail to do so, judgment by default will be entered against you for the relief demanded in the complaint. You also must file your answer or motion with the court. Date: 31st January 2010 Signature of Clerk or Deputy Clerk Attorney's signature

To: Isabella Swan bellainthemajority(at)gmail(dot)com From: Edward Cullen cullencampaign83(at)gmail(dot)com Date: 31 January 2010 1:02PM PST Subject: Second coming UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT for the Northern District of California Edward Cullen, Plaintiff v. Civil Action No. 02132609 Isabella Swan, Defendant COMPLAINT FOR SEXUAL RELIEF 1. The plaintiff is a citizen of the great state of California. The defendant is a citizen of the okay, but mostly overrated, state of Pennsylvania. The amount in controversy, without interest and costs, exceeds the sum or value specified by 28 U.S.C. 1332. In fact, the controversy is so great that it belies comprehension. 2. On 23rd January 2010, the defendant issued a 'fuck buddy' policy which the plaintiff readily agreed to. 3. As a condition for keeping the policy in force, it was understood that the defendant would make arrangements to visit the plaintiff in San Francisco sometime in February. 4. The defendant is taking her sweet time in making these arrangements, and the plaintiff would like her to hurry the fuck up.

Therefore, the plaintiff demands that: (a) the defendant book her flights and accommodation as soon as possible; (b) a judgment be entered that the defendant is causing undue stress to the plaintiff by denying him sexual relief by way of a dirty weekend in his hometown; and (c) the plaintiff recover the time he spent trying to draft this stupid form. Date: 31st January 2010 Signature of Edward Cullen

I purse my lips, suppressing my laughter. At least I know for sure that he's eager for me to visit. I log into Google Talk so I can quickly chat to him:

Isabella says: Yes, you're right about it being 'stupid'. I said I was going to call you tonight! It's not a form, by the way. They're called pleadings. Edward says: Maybe you should teach me how to plead. After all, we both know you're very good at it. Isabella says: Fine. The next time we're in bed, you plead, and I'll tell you whether it's good enough. Edward says: I'm always good enough. Isabella says: Yeah, so far Edward says: You wouldn't risk being with me if there was any doubt as to my value. Isabella says: I will concede that point, but only because it's a reminder that you owe me a good return for my investment. Edward says:

I can guarantee excellent dividends, which is the least I can do considering I'm the only stock in your share portfolio. Isabella says: Well, I'm also your only shareholder. And generally speaking, I demand, you supply, right? Edward says: Oh, so you're controlling the market, are you? Isabella says: Yes. Although, maybe I should be letting the market regulate itself? I don't want anyone to have to interfere Edward says: Our market can't self-regulate because there's no competition. There's nothing for the 'invisible hand' to guide, and besides, I don't want anyone else's hands on you, invisible or otherwise. Isabella says: A Cullen using free market economics to flirt with methis capitalist is impressed. Edward says: Who are you hanging out with? Isabella says: Relax, I'm with my friends, Lauren and Angela. No guys. But if I were with guy friends, it wouldn't be any of your concern. Edward says: It would be my concern if you were investing in other companies. Isabella says: OMG I'm honestly tired of reiterating that I only trade with you. Edward says: But you haven't booked your trip yetYou're moving at the speed of Congress! Isabella says: Whoa, that's a little harsh. I'm not that inefficient. But then againsometimes I like it slow. Edward says: Really? Go on, I'm listening Isabella says: Listening? Didn't know Democrats were capable of that.

Edward says: Well, it's not often that your side says something I want to hear. Isabella says: Well, it's not often your side is worth talking to. Edward says: So don't talk to me. Do other things Isabella says: Like take care of my stock portfolio? Edward says: Please book your trip, Isabella. Isabella says: I will, and I'll call you tonight. I promise. Now let me get back to my friends. You have to share me, you know? Edward says: I don't like sharing. Isabella says: That must make it difficult to be socialist. Edward says: You may go back to your friends now :) Isabella says: Talk to you later, Cullen.

By the time I put my phone back in my pocket, I'm grinning like an idiot. Something as simple as chatting with him makes me so happy. However, it's pretty obvious to my two friends that my attention was focused on the conversation the chat went on longer than I expected. Both Lauren and Angela look at me suspiciously. "Who were you texting?" Angela asks, curious. "I was chatting with Emmett," I say innocently. "My family cracks me up sometimes." I get up to make another cup of coffee. I'm walking away just in case my acting skills are inadequate. People say I'm easy to read at times. "Speaking of, isn't this family dinner of yours next week going to be a bit awkward?" Lauren asks. "Jasper isn't going to be there," Angela points out.

"Yeah, but still. If Emmett marries Rosalie, Jasper will be Bella's brother-in-law." I guffaw. "Let's not get ahead of ourselves." As I walk into the kitchen, I realize I don't want to think too far ahead. Because I'm really beginning to hate the idea of Edward moving onto someone else. I want a happy ending, but I don't know what that means.

I'm back in Philadelphia. It's Saturday morning now. Another week has passed, and I miss Edward to the point that I'm wearing the same forlorn expression I wore when I thought I wouldn't see him again after the Amtrak encounter. Of course, this time it's different I do know I'm going to see him again. Next week, to be exact. But it's also something else entirely. I know what it's like to pine for someone. I know what it's like to want a guy to call you, to pay attention to you, to make you feel special. So I can no longer deny that I'm pining for Edward. To compound my anxiety, I'm pretty sure only a fraction of this longing is sexual. Since calling him on Sunday night to discuss all my booking confirmations, we've spoken on the phone twice: a brief conversation on Tuesday, and a one hour conversation on Thursday. The first phone call arose from the fact that I'd reminded him on Sunday that he owed me a thong he called to check whether I wanted an exact replacement or whether he was allowed to buy whatever he wanted. I accused him of wanting an excuse to flirt with me, something which he didn't bother to deny. The second phone call was on a more academic topic, an in-depth discussion on the Free Exercise Clause. At first I was wary of the subject I'd told him previously, during our Salazar emails, that I thought some of the cases were highly contentious. But I talked him through my opinions anyway. In retrospect, it's possible he might have been trying to bait me. If he was trying to pick a fightWell, I'm not sure why he'd want to do that exactly. Did he want me to lose my cool? Did he want me to draw up a neo-conservative manifesto, one he could tear to pieces if he so wished? I did rant, but in the same way I'd voice my opinion in class. Impassioned, yes. Psychotic, no. The call ended amicably enough, but I still feel a bit odd about it. I don't want to appear insecure by asking about it too soon. But the more I ruminate on phone calls, the more I long to talk to him. I haven't forgotten the crux of the matter, however. I can't wait to get some free exercise with Edward. I've successfully abstained from taking care of my own needs; the payoff being that the sex will be better next week. Once again, I have to try and push these thoughts aside. All members of my family have already commented on my mood, my excuse being that I'm nervous about hearing back from the Supreme Court in regards to the clerkship opportunity. Mom and Emmett are out at the moment shopping for a gift for Rosalie but Dad is still home this morning. It would be best to spend some time with him without appearing too morose.

It doesn't help that I had a fitful sleep. The last night I spent in this house involved coming home in the wee hours of the morning after having sex with Edward in my dad's car. The memories of that night evoke the diametrically opposed feelings of contentment and guilt. All night, I felt settled and then unsettled. I suppose I'll just have to deal with it. I leap down the stairs, basically willing myself to be more enthused about this family weekend. I don't mind Rosalie, despite her occasionally abrupt demeanor, but her arrival later today does emphasize how ideal their pairing is. Mom is so excited. Maybe Lauren was right about looking ahead, because my mother does seem eager for Emmett to get married. Emmett and Rosalie are the only chance for a Swan and a Hale to end up together. Jasper and I were great on paper, but not so great in practice. Kind of like communism. I stroll into the living room and find my dad sitting on the couch, a newspaper in one hand and his phone in the other. He's dressed smartly in chinos and a check shirt, which makes me think he might be heading out later. He waves me over to sit next to him. I tell myself to try and cheer up. "Bob isn't picking up his phone," he says gruffly, referring to Senator Newton. I plop down on the couch and take the newspaper from him. "Well, if he's back in Nevada, he might not be awake yet." He chuckles. "It's already ten o'clock, Bella." "That means it's seven where he is," I point out good-naturedly. I think I know a little something about time zones and phone calls. "Democracy never sleeps," he quips. "Democracy is entitled to a lie-in," I respond. "Why do you need to call him anyway? Is he canvassing votes for something?" "Maybe, maybe not." "Wow, Dad," I say dryly. "So much for open government." "This isn't about governance it's an internal party matter," he explains, grabbing the remote off the coffee table. He sighs as he changes the channel. "Don't tell anyone, but Bob is supposed to be meeting with Dressler later in the week." "Dressler?" I ask, surprised. "Yep." Senator Dressler is the only independent in the Senate. He used to be a Republican albeit a centrist one. "Do you want him back in the party?" I ask cautiously. Dad grunts. "Can't really trust the son of a bitchSometimes I wonder why he was with the party in the first place."

"Well, you know what they say," I remark. "You have to be behind someone before you can stab them in the back." I really shouldn't be talking about traitors right now. Sensing he doesn't want to discuss the matter further, I take it upon myself to come up with a new topic. I bring my legs up onto the couch, tuck them under me, and turn towards my dad. Unexpectedly, I feel nostalgic. I imagine my tenyear-old self, perched on this very same couch, looking hopefully at Dad. I clear my throat. "Dad, I need to tell you something." "Hmmm?" He sets the remote down, giving me his undivided attention. I'd prefer it if he were at least a little distracted, but it's probably my own fault for not phrasing my words conversationally enough. "I thought I'd just let you know I'm going on a little trip next weekend," I begin, trying to keep things light. "I know you won't overreact, but Mom on the other handShe'll say I'm depressed." "You have seemed a bit down," he remarks, sounding concerned. "I'm fine," I insist. "Just have a lot on my mind." "So what is it about this trip that makes you want to tell me as opposed to your mother?" I pause, suddenly doubting my approach. I'm trying to be upfront about my flight to San Francisco, hence the decision to tell my dad. But if Edward and I are ever caught, this moment right here becomes especially pivotal. This is a direct lie, to my father's face. I've admired him more than anyone my entire life, yet I'm the exact opposite of admirable right now. I was annoyed with him a week and half ago for cock-blocking me, but really, all he was doing was being a good father by supporting Emmett. He just wanted to make sure I could come home this weekend. I think of the car that's sitting in the garage right now. I told myself to feel guilty laterI think later means now. My extended silence frightens my father. "Bella, are you in some sort of legal trouble?" he asks point blank, folding his arms across his chest. "What? No!" I quickly respond, snapping out of my reverie. "I'm not one of the Bush twins, getting busted for underage drinking or something. Okay, that's a bad example" Wow, I managed to indirectly refer to the fact I could be First Daughter one day, while also condemning alcohol consumption. I may be of drinking age, but mentally today, I seem to have regressed. "What's going on?" Dad demands to know, reverting to his debater's voice. I quickly ramble my answer, desperate to get the words out. "I'm going on a trip to Napa for Valentine's Day weekend. Nothing romantic though just meeting up

with friends. A reunion, of sorts. Should be fun. Except Mom will say that I'm lonely and need to get a life, as in get a man." Dad shrugs, somewhat bewildered by my behavior. "Why didn't you just say that?" "Because I realized that it is kind of embarrassing, spending Valentine's Day this way," I explain. "Especially with Emmett being in love and stuff." He snorts. "Love and stuff? Eloquent, Bella." "Maybe that's why I'm single," I say, making fun of myself. "I have a problem expressing my emotions." "If you want help with that, you're talking to the wrong person," he replies, amused. "Other than the occasional romantic gesture, the emotion I'm best at expressing is contempt for the other side." I chuckle. "Is contempt even an emotion?" "I think it can be." He raises an eyebrow. "Speaking of those I have contempt for, will you be arriving in Napa via San Francisco?" I do my best to appear unruffled. "I hate to break it to you, Dad," I say, putting my hand on his shoulder. "But your FBI days are over. You can't send me on recon mission to get intel on the Cullens." "Don't be ridiculous, Bella. There's no such thing as intelligence when it comes to the Cullens. Just empty words and meaningless gestures." Ouch. I remove my hand. "Very true," I force myself to say, channeling the correct sentiment by focusing on Esme Cullen for a moment. I'm not a fan of Carlisle Cullen's work either, but at least he seems like a nice guy; much more reasonable than his wife. Empty words and meaningless gesturesThat's a refrain that's going to haunt me going into next week. I can already see myself getting bitter, thinking everything he's ever said to me has been said purely so he can fuck me. I shouldn't be bitter after all, we're fuck buddies but somehow, I'd like to think we're becoming friends. "The Speaker's tenure is like a bad mortgage," Dad muses. "When the Dems can't repay what they owe, we'll repossess the House." "Why don't you go on The Factor and say that line?" I suggest, allowing myself to smirk. "Or feed it to a reporter as an anonymous source?" "Why restate the obvious?" I shrug. "Because it's fun?" "Trust me, we gossip enough" I chuckle lightly. "You're a politician. You don't gossip you leak." He laughs in response.

Dad's phone begins to ring. Since it's probably Senator Newton, I leave the room so he can have some privacy. I wander through the kitchen and into the dining room, where I sit myself down at the table. My head is actually spinning. I'm so mixed up right now it's exhausting to play both sides. I realize that I haven't eaten breakfast, something which may explain my lightheadedness. I'm not really that hungry though; I've lost my appetite, it seems. Can't eat. Can't sleep. Aren't these tell-tale signs of falling in No, I'm not allowed to consider that. This is Edward Cullen the only L word I can associate with him is liberal. Or long. Long is a four letter word too, you know. Four letters. How about help? I need help. I can't go to San Francisco having almost thought about Love. There, I thought about it. In isolation. What happens when I think about it in the context of Edward? No, I can't go thereIf I did have feelings for Edward, I'd have to ignore them anyway. Suppress them like a gag order would. Hold any evidence to be inadmissible. I decide to promise something to myself: if I ever find that I want Edward to be more than a fuck buddy, I have to end things. I'll have to suspend trading. Otherwise I'll crash like Black Monday. And end up in a Great Depression.

Re next chapter: Maybe Monday 8/2. I'll tweet about it I will be working on my FGB stuff this week, so I'm not really sure. In the meantime, why not check out lovelostcontest(dot)wordpress(dot)com ! Legal citations: - The Free Exercise Clause is the accompanying clause to the Establishment Clause. Together they read: 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...'* - Pleadings and motions: see Rules 7 -16 (III. PLEADINGS AND MOTIONS), Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. - Diversity Jurisdiction: As of mid 2007, under 28 U.S.C. 1332(a), a claim for relief must exceed the sum or value of $75,000, exclusive of interests and costs and without considering counterclaims.*

Other references: - Disney Channel (or at least Disney produced): Lindsay Lohan (The Parent Trap, Get a Clue, Freaky Friday, Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, Herbie: Fully Loaded), Hilary Duff (Lizzie McGuire, Cadet Kelly), and Miley Cyrus (Hannah Montana). - The Parent Trap (1998), written and directed by Nancy Meyers. Based on the 1961 film of the same name. - Cosmopolitan is published by Hearst Magazines. April 2006 had Lindsay on the cover. - Article: 'Friends-with-Benefits Truths' by Victoria Lucia, Cosmopolitan, January 2008, p108. - The invisible hand: aka the invisible hand of the market, is the term economists use to describe the self-regulating nature of the marketplace. This is a metaphor first coined by the economist Adam Smith in The Theory of Moral Sentiments. For Smith, the invisible hand was created by the conjunction of the forces of selfinterest, competition, and supply and demand, which he noted as being capable of allocating resources in society. This is the founding justification for the laissezfaire economic philosophy.* - Black Monday: refers to Monday, 19 October 1987, when stock markets around the world crashed, shedding a huge value in a very short time.* - Great Depression: Severe worldwide economic depressionin most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s. The depression originated in the U.S., starting with the stock market crash of October 29 1929 (known as Black Tuesday), but quickly spread to almost every country in the world.*

Chapter 17: Charmed EPOV I'm lying on the couch in my living room. Pity there's no psychiatrist here to help. Then again, I'm not really in the mood to pay someone $200 an hour to analyze me. There are better things to do with my money. Alice and Jacob have felt the need to give me their two cents on a regular basis, but even that would only total around $1.76. They don't want to say too much, you see. And everyone thinks Dems are big spenders. It's clear that I can't spend my way out of this mental crisis I have to think things through. At least I now know what Jacob and Alice are insinuating. It's something I figured out during the remainder of my stay in Washington, D.C. They think I'm in love with Isabella. And while I've been heeding my sister's advice when it comes to my fuck buddy, I am more than a little doubtful about this particular assertion. Of course, some of this doubt stems from the fact that I've never really been in love before how am I supposed to recognize something that I've never felt? Does love come with a blinking neon sign telling you you've reached this particular juncture? Do you get a welcome wagon? Are there trumpets and fanfare, with cherubs happily flying around in the sky?

I don't know. What I do know is that in my particular situation, I think there would be less trumpets and more warning sirens. And I think sirens would ruin the serenity of a cherubic scene. Cupid would probably lose concentration and shoot the wrong person with the arrow of love. Maybe that happens anyway there are countless examples of love gone wrong, of people falling for someone unsuitable. He seems to hit the bullseye one round, and then completely miss the board the next. Jackass needs an archery lesson. I don't trust the guy. Well, he's not a guy, exactly. He's an angel or whatever. Wow, I'm angry with a fictional baby. Maybe I should seek professional help. Cupid may not be real, but do you know what is? The fact I feel like I have been shot with an arrow. I mean like an actual arrow, not one that carries magical properties and emits love hearts when flying through the air. There's an anxiety in my chest when it comes to Isabella, a burning discomfort that manifests when I think about her too much on any given day. Sometimes I even feel like there's a sharp pain in my gut. It could be guilt, it could be frustration, or maybe it's the product of missing her company when I know I should only miss her sexually. It's hard to treat an ailment when you're not willing to admit the truth of the situation. Frankly, I am a bit mixed up. I became needy when she didn't book her trip as quickly as I thought she would. Then two days after she confirmed her bookings, I called her about the thong I owed her but really I just wanted to hear her voice again. That did ease the discomfort for awhile. But then I ended up calling her with an academic question, an attempt on my part to revisit the fact that we have differences. The call essentially backfired; it confirmed what the Salazar emails had already demonstrated, that we still get along despite our different beliefs. I now feel strange, guilty for having tried to coax her into an argument for such a purpose. It's Sunday now, so several days have passed since we last communicated. It's probably time to check in with her again, but I'm honestly so confused that I think it's better if I take another day to sort myself out. This is all new to me. I'm usually confident with women. I'm not someone who needs a cabinet full of advisors or a bunch of yes-men telling me to trust my own decisions; I've always considered unnecessary practices to be the mark of the federal bureaucracy. But here I am suddenly second-guessing myself at every turn when it comes to Isabella. I admit that I miss her. And yes, ever since I bumped into Jasper Hale, I've been mulling over how unfair everything is namely, that I'm not allowed to be interested in Isabella. It's a reality that makes me bitter when I dwell on it, and it's threatening to ruin the fun of the arrangement. I can't have fun if I'm too busy brooding. Besides, I don't have the requisite fringe to be emo. I like my hair the way it is. So I keep telling myself to keep emotions out of it like I'm supposed to but it's hard to be indifferent. Alice and Jacob are basically waiting for me to admit that I've fallen for my fuck buddy. I saw the look of sympathy in best friend's

eyes when I left D.C., and I was almost angry that he felt that way, like I was someone to be pitied. I've inferred that Alice thinks there's a future for me and Isabella. A relationship. Why else would she encourage me to make sure next weekend is romantic? I'm trying to fathom how such a relationship would ever be acceptable, and all I can come up with is that people would just have to deal with it if that's what we both wanted, if that was the only thing that could guarantee our happiness. I assume this is why Jacob decided to be supportive; even though he's still shocked and dare I say it, mildly disturbed he doesn't want me to end up miserable. However, this isn't all about me. I don't know how Isabella feels. Is there any point in me considering the possibility of something more when I have no idea whether she actually feels the same way? Alice may say she's in denial, but I don't know that for sure. It's ironic, isn't it? That blind faith will supposedly open my eyes? My phone starts ringing. Part of me wants to continue lying here without interruption, but the other part of me desperately needs a diversion from my confusing thoughts. I retrieve my phone from my jeans pocket. It's Alice calling. "Hey, Alice." I sigh in resignation. "We're going shopping today, aren't we?" "Actually, no," she replies, sounding a bit tired. "I think you'll have to go by yourself." I quickly sit up, worried. Why is she bailing? She's been overexcited about this outing for a week and a half. I'd already resigned myself to the fact that she was going to drag me to Union Square, most likely to the Westfield Center, to find a romantic gift. I don't really want to buy a gift at all I still think it's inappropriate but the one-on-one time with my sister would at least afford me some insight. I need to question her on why she's pushing me towards Isabella. I think I'm ready to ask those questions now. Plus, it's not like I could've asked her yesterday we had lunch with Mom. "What's going on?" I question, discomfort radiating in my chest. "Have your visions changed?" "You're perfectly capable of choosing the right gift, Edward," she advises. Her voice, however, does sound strained, like she's in pain. "Are you okay?" I ask. "You don't sound too good" "Headaches," she explains. "Mom was curious as to whether I could see something " I instantly become annoyed. Mom knows that Alice can't look for certain political decisions without getting overwhelmed and dizzy. Anything subject to that much flux will do that. "See what? I don't care if you work for the DCCC you shouldn't be expected to predict November!" I object. "Is it about the Estate Tax bill? I can tell her the result myself: it'll pass the House on Wednesday, but the Senate will shit all over it." "Whoa, calm down." She chuckles softly, even though the subject really isn't funny in any way. "The only reason I agreed to look is because it could affect you indirectly."

I groan, rubbing my forehead. "I don't even know what that means." "Well, it's Senate related," she offers. "And so is your sex life." "Every time a little sister says the words 'sex life' to their older brother, a puppy dies," I remark, trying to deter her from the reference. "Wow, I was wondering when we'd reach the 'ritual animal sacrifice' part of the conversation," she quips. "I'm just saying you're making me uncomfortable," I explain. "I haven't squirmed this much since the Governor of New Hampshire asked me how I old I was when I lost my virginity." Alice laughs. "Oh, come on. Uncle Peter was drunk when he asked you that." "It was still embarrassing. Mom was standing right next to me!" "SEX LIFE!" she yells. I wince from the volume of her voice. "Don't yell like that!" I scold. "You never know who's listening. Keep it down." "Bet you Isabella never tells you to keep it down," she quips, giggling. I shudder. My sister shouldn't be talking about such things. That's why I bought Isabella a replacement thong from Victoria's Secret last week; the last thing I wanted was for Alice to drag me there today. "This is why I'm confused," I tell her. "You're making jokes about me and my fuck buddy, yet you want me to admit that I'm in love with her." "Look, why don't you go shopping now?" she suggests. "I'll take a couple aspirin and hopefully meet up with you later." "I even don't know what to buy, if anything," I protest. "I'll probably just go to Borders and get her a book. Something that's not even remotely suggestive. Just a nice gesture; a token to remember me by." The arrow wound in my chest starts to throb with pain again. Probably because I referred to a time when all I'll be to Isabella is a memory. Someone who showed her a good time before she moved on to someone else. Who knows, maybe she'll write a memoir one day and finally tell the world about this scandalous affair. Or maybe she won't. Instead of a chapter devoted to her once-fuck buddy, she might just refer to me in a collective sense those damned Cullens. Reduced to a footnote. I don't want that. I want to be on the same page of whatever fucked up story we're a part of. I don't want to be left behind. I take in a sharp breath and move to stand so I can start pacing I have nervous energy to expend. But it suddenly feels like I've been struck down with vertigo, the reeling sensation forcing me to sit back down. I hiss from the growing pain in my chest. How did I end up this invested in Isabella? I notice Alice hasn't said anything.

"So you're saying I could be with her?" I ask slowly, now brave enough to face the answer. "Do you want to be with her?" she asks knowingly. "Wellyes." There, I said it. And I don't feel relieved. I feel fucking scared. "Oh, yay!" she exclaims joyfully. "I'm so proud of you! I can't wait to tell Jake." "Let me call him first," I request. "He should hear it from me." "Actually, I need to call him now about the Senate thing. I'll get him to call you later. And I'll probably see you in an hour or two." "Okay, fine. But speaking of 'an hour', if I end up as a story on 60 Minutes, I'll have you to blame," I warn. "I'll see you later, Edward," she chimes, unfazed by my threat. "I really am so happy!" I cringe. "Promise me you won't do your happy dance in public." "Sorry, can't promise that. Bye for now!" "Bye, Alice." I lie back down on the couch in an effort to ease the lightheadedness that's overcome me. This might take awhile to sink in. Maybe it's time to invest in some self-help books.

I'm on the ground floor of Borders in Union Square, perusing the 'San Francisco' section. The pain in my chest has receded to a dull ache. I wish I could be more excited about the future Alice has alluded to, but there's honestly so much risk involved. I'm not putting anything on the line until Alice confirms that she's sure Isabella feels, or will feel, the same way. As far as my game plan goes, I've decided not to push Isabella in any way. There's certainly no point in freaking her out by talking about the future. I'll just continue being a good fuck buddy until it's clear that she wants something more from me and is ready for that. Maybe I shouldn't get too comfortable with the ideaexternal factors could still drive the two of us apart. Since I'm still grappling with the implications of wanting to be in a relationship, I'm going to stick to my original plan and buy Isabella a book. I'm playing it safe. The idiotic thing to do would be to get her something that overtly suggests that my perception of her has shifted. There will be no gifts of a lovey-dovey nature. No cards with love hearts, no teddy bears, no flowers, no boxes of chocolates.

I don't normally do that sort of thing anyway. Which reminds me I'm not experienced in this context. I'm a rookie. Who could make a lot of rookie errors and end up losing the woman I want. Just as I'm contemplating this thought, a sales assistant sidles up to me. She's young, twenty maybe. She flicks her hair over her shoulder before batting her eyelashes. I really don't need this right now. I couldn't care less. I'm not trying to be an asshole, but I only have eyes for Isabella, who happens to be flying in this Friday night. I make an effort to hide my disdain. I don't even think Borders employees are even trained to approach customers. While I'm used to women hitting on me and ogling from various distances, I happen to be having a fucking epiphany today, and I don't want to be interrupted. Surely I don't need help selecting a book on my hometown. "Do you need a hand with anything?" she asks brightly. "No," I say curtly, hoping she'll get the message. Her nametag reads 'Trainee'. So she's a rookie too, it seems. I pick up a photography book off the shelf and busy myself looking at it, flicking through to the section on Alcatraz. "Have you been?" she asks, side-stepping so that she can get a better view of the page. I regard her coolly, annoyed she hasn't given up. "Yes." Jacob would call this girl a helicopter admirer: she's hovering and making unnecessary noise. Technically, I am single. But in my mind, I'm definitely taken. The assistant keeps trying, this time reaching up to the top shelf to retrieve more books. "We have several titles on Alcatraz" How fitting I feel trapped right now and want to escape. "all of them are quite interesting. This one here is particularly popular" I'm not really trapped. I could walk away. But I want to browse this section, and I think it's a bad omen to start walking away from things I actually want. "but if you want a general book on San Francisco, there's a new edition of" She's still talking. "this one has a foreword written by Speaker Esme Cullen, you know, if you're into politics," she finishes, holding up a hardcover. I can't help but snort. "No, I'm not really into politics." I don't know what else I can do to dismiss this girl's interest without hurting her feelings. She laughs flirtatiously, gesturing with her hand. "I hate politics." She has the gall to lean in closer before whispering, "I don't actually like the Speaker that much. It's probably a crime to say that in this city."

I can't help but smirk, which is probably a bad move. Now she likely thinks I'm interested in the conversation. Again, I don't want to be a jerk, but I really would like to shop in peace, and without anyone insulting my mother while I'm at it. I clear my throat. "I think it is a crime. Thanks for your advice," I say disinterestedly, keeping my eyes trained on the book I'm holding. The girl doesn't leave. But before she can keep trying to help me, my phone rings. Desperate to bring an end to the situation, I answer quickly and shoot a dark look at her. "Edward Cullen speaking." The girl instantly blushes, her eyes also flashing with distress. She slinks away, obviously embarrassed. "Jacob Black calling," Jacob says, mocking my greeting. I'm instantly relieved. "Dude, total helicopter situation." He chuckles. "Really?" "Yeah." I shelve the book. "Awkward." "Crashed and burned already then?" he guesses. "It wasn't pretty." "The helicopter or the crash?" "The crash," I clarify, feeling sorry for the trainee. "I also think the helicopter was a closet Republican." He laughs heartily and pretends to be a movie voiceover guy. "Edward Cullen: Republican Chick Magnet. Coming to a theater near you." As confused as I am at the moment, I can't help but smile at Jacob joking about Isabella. "My situation does not indicate a larger trend," I point out. "Nor is it a fetish." "You're openly talking about fetishes in a bookstore? Are people looking at you weirdly?" I scan the area my fellow customers are busy with their own browsing. "No. But you have a point about talking openly. I'll have to call you back when I'm not in public." "Walk outside. We can try and talk in code." "What? No. I haven't bought anything yet." "Cullen, you can't buy her a book," Jacob declares. "That's so incredibly lame." "It's not lame," I say defensively. "Smart people like books." He snorts. "Yeah, if your idea of romance involves the Dewey decimal system. In some contexts it can be romantic, but I think in yours it would just be boring. You never took Romance 101, did you?"

"Oh, sorry," I say sarcastically. "I think I enrolled in Basket Weaving 101instead." "Walk out of the store, you basket-case." I grumble in defeat and meander back to the entrance, where I then exit onto the street. "Alright, I'm walking towards the Square," I tell him. It's an overcast day in San Francisco, but I put my sunglasses on anyway. "So when I said 'denial ain't just a river in Egypt'" Jacob begins. "You actually meant 'it's a complicated system of waterways that requires a psychic sister to look out for you so you don't lose your way'?" I surmise. "Well, you and Isabella are in the same boat. Or were the same boat, since you're no longer denying the fact you've fallen for her," he points out. "How chivalrous of me. When it comes to a sinking vessel, I thought the rule was women and children first." "Thinking of kids already? Whoa, slow down." My heart skips a beat. "Man, don't push it. I'm still trying to process all this. And I'm not saying I'm in love. I'm just saying that I'm not opposed to the idea of being in a relationship with her." "Nice spin," he replies. "You should have my job." "No thanks," I gripe. "Okay, no jokes about children." he apologizes. "I was just trying to make light of things. Get you through this, you know? I hate to point this out, but this is still a fucked up situation. You might be off the boat, but you have to convince Isabella you're worth it. Not to mention, our families. A relationship is less scandalous than simply being her fuck buddy, but it's still pretty shocking." "I'm in over my head with this stuff," I admit, crossing the street. "I'm up the creek without a paddle." "Oh, I stole the paddle to beat a confession out of you." "Beating me with a paddle? What is this? A fraternity rush?" "Well, you are my brother," he says. "And now that you're not in denial, you can have the paddle back." "I hope you mean paddles, as in plural," I say good-naturedly. "It'll be hard to make any progress with just one. I'll be going around in circles, like a Republican trying to explain a policy point." Jacob snorts in amusement. "Logic says take a few strokes on one side, and then switch to the other. You know something about playing both sides, and about stroking, I assume." "Wouldn't it just be easier if I had two paddles?" I contend, dodging a few tourists who aren't watching where they're walking. He scoffs. "We're in a financial crisis. Why do you think you're in a rowboat instead of a motorboat?"

Clearly we've sailed into ridiculous territory. I suppose this was inevitable, knowing us. "Well, thanks for looking out for me, Mr. U.S. Coast Guard," I say appreciatively, strolling onto Union Square proper. "The Coast Guard enforces maritime law on the coast." "Thanks for the summary," I reply dryly, confused as to what his point is. "What are you? Wikipedia?" "How many creeks happen to be on the coast?" Jacob questions, talking to me like I'm stupid. "Is this a riddle?" I ask, now pacing around on a grassy area. "Isn't there such thing as a tidal creek?" "A creek is inland," he asserts. "You know, like Dawson's Creek?" Now he's completely lost me. "Who the fuck is Dawson, and why does he have his own creek?" There's a pause. "What were we talking about again?" Jacob asks. "Something Isabella related" "The gift I'm supposed to be buying," I answer, steering us back on course. "A book is a safe option I don't want to alienate her." "Go to the World of Charms store near Macy's," he suggests. "Walk down Powell you can't miss it. Jewelry is always good." I guffaw. "I can't do that!" I lower my voice. "It would be like buying a trinket for a whore." "Go buy a charm that reminds you of her. A train or something. Don't make a big deal out of it when you give it to her. Even admit that you're not sure whether she'll be okay with a gift. It'll be romantic but not." I take a moment to reflect on the fact that I'm standing in a public area, in the open air, in the middle of the day, discussing a secret. "Edward?" "Yeah, I'm listening," I say. "I'm still not sure" "At least have a look," he presses. "I'm not trying to manipulate you. I actually think it's a good idea." "Alright, I'll check it out," I concede. "By the way, what's all this fuss about something Senate related? Alice tried to foresee the outcome but couldn't?" "Something was leaked to the party leadership. Hard to know whether it's true," he reveals. "Carlisle and Esme are being pretty tight-lipped at the moment. Maybe it's better for you not to know." "Hmmm, maybe." I check my watch. "Okay, I better go. Otherwise Alice will take over. Once she shows up, of course." "This is still your life," Jacob emphasizes. "We're just helping."

"I know. Thanks." "Alright, talk to you later." "Bye, Jake." As I walk down Powell Street, I realize that I'm pretty damned lucky to have people who I can talk to. I think I would go insane if I had to keep everything secret. I don't know how Isabella copes assuming she hasn't in fact told anyone. I don't think she has anyone with whom she can share this information. I find the store pretty quickly. I take my sunglasses off before entering and quickly realize that it's quite busy in here. But surprisingly I'm the only guy all these women must be buying for themselves. Some have brought their daughters along too. So much for staying inconspicuous. Even the moms are checking me out. Welcome to Cougar Town, San Francisco. Population: To be determined by the 2010 Census. I'm going to have to ignore these women. However, I am more receptive to the sales assistants. There's an awkward moment when the three of them look at each other to see who'll be serving me. The middle-aged one is busy with another customer. The other two both in their twenties, I think quickly make their way over to me, arriving at the same time. Heh. Two women at once. "How can we help you?" the blonde asks, obviously deciding to be a team player. "I'm looking for a gift for a friend," I say vaguely. I can't tell them it's for a fuck buddy/potential love interest. Unfortunately, this results in them both smiling way too much. "Do you know if she prefers silver? Or is she more of a gold person?" the brunette asks. "Oh, by the way, I'm Tia." She points to her colleague. "This is Heidi." I nod in acknowledgement. "I don't know what she prefers, to be honest," I say, shrugging. For some reason, this irks me. I wish I knew. There's so much more I need to learn about Isabella. "Okay, so maybe we should think of a theme," Heidi suggests. "We can select a bracelet and then you could pick out a range of charms?" "Would it be unorthodox to just get one charm?" I ask. "I don't want to go overboard." Not when I'm up shit creek paddle or no paddle. "So no bracelet?" Tia clarifies. I take a moment to think about the bracelet option. I suppose it's a bit weird to buy a charm without the bracelet.

"I guess I could get her a bracelet. Nothing too fancy though," I finally say. "Maybe we could pick the charm first?" "Sure," Heidi responds. "Everything is split into categories here. Any starting ideas?" "Hmmm" Ugh. I want to openly specify categories like politics and law, but I can't really give away any of Isabella's interests or characteristics. Maybe I'm really stepping over the line here if I give Isabella this gift, will she even be able to wear it without rousing any suspicion? Surely people would ask about it. Perhaps a generic charm is best. But a generic charm won't mean anything. "I don't know what I'm looking for exactly. I think I'll know when I see it," I explain. "Is it alright if I look around for a bit? On my own? I can come find one of you when I decide." I don't think they want to leave me alone, but unfortunately for them, they're going to have to. Heidi nods enthusiastically, seemingly wanting to be as cooperative as possible. "I'll find a few bracelet options for you in the meantime." Not to be outdone, Tia also extends an offer of further help. "Let us know if you want a female opinion. I buy for my friends all the time," she says kindly. "Okay, thanks." I wander over to the corner and decide to look at everything, working my way around all the display cases. I rule out any of the San Francisco themed charms. A book on the city would be easily hidden, but it would be a shame not to be able to wear a piece of jewelry. I take note of the legal themed charms variations of the scales of justice, or gavels of different designs but again, I worry it's too generic. After bypassing the section housing heart designs, I move on to the animal charms. I'm almost tempted to choose the donkey as a joke, but then I see that there are many elephants to choose from. I'm not sure how I'd explain the connection to the sales assistants, but it's not really any of their business. With one of the elephant designs on the top of my list, I move on to the food and beverage section with the expectation that I won't find anything better. But then I see the perfect option: a lemon. It's a gold charm, with yellow gemstones making up the lemon, and green stones on the leaf. To add to its appeal, it's a reference to Lemon v. Kurtzman that no one else will understand. This is better than a book. Take that, Jasper Hale. It could still be too much, however. Pricewise, I mean. Surely Isabella would freak out if I spent a lot of money on her. Even on my end, it might be hard to act nonchalant about such an extravagant gift.

It is just a charm though. It's not a diamond ring or anything I decide to play it cool, casually looking around to catch either Tia or Heidi's eye. Heidi is nearby, so I smile and tilt my head so she knows to come over. "Did you find something?" she asks happily as she approaches. "I'm not sure." I point to the lemon. "Out of curiosity, how much is that lemon?" From the surprised look on Heidi's face it becomes clear that the charm isn't really something you'd give to someone who's only a friend. "Oh, that's a fourteen karat gold piece," she explains. "With precious gemstones." She opens up the display. "I'll show you." She brings out the lemon for me to inspect. I carefully take it from her, holding it by the link. "I'll just check the price," she says, rushing back to the counter. "Thanks." On closer inspection, it really is a beautiful charm. It's unique far from stock standard. Will this small, but expensive, token say too much? I don't necessarily think it's romantic per se, but it is something special. Heidi comes back to deliver the news about the price. "It's $1,785," she tells me. Fucking hell. I need Congress to pass an appropriations bill. Maybe I should go for the forty dollar silver elephant. The shock must be evident on my face, because instead of pushing for me to buy it, Heidi just waits patiently for me to say something. I hand the charm back to her. "I'll keep looking," I say sheepishly. "Okay," she says, taking the charm back so she can put it back in the display case. "Are you sure you don't need a hand?" "I'm fine. But thanks." Once she leaves, my eyes become trained on the lemon again. It's behind the glass once more. I can't get to it because of the barrier, and I probably shouldn't have it, but I want it anyway. Now I want it more. This shopping stuff is difficult. I need my sister. I text Alice with a request for help: Are you around yet? Need help. Thankfully, she's one step ahead, as always. Be there soon :)

I move onto the next display case, not wanting to look like I'm obsessing over what's in the previous one. I could buy two month's worth of therapy sessions for $1,785. Or at least bribe someone on the Appropriations Committee. Nah, they'd ask for more than that. Ten minutes later, Alice finally arrives. Of course, the ten minutes went by excruciatingly slowly I think I've now looked at every available charm in the store. "Thank God you're here," I greet her, the anxiety apparent in my voice. "How's your head?" "Better now that I've stopped trying to track senatorial matters," she says, taking off her mittens and shoving them in her coat pocket. "Now onto the matter of this gift." "I don't know what to do," I admit. "The one I want is ridiculously expensive." "Let's have a look?" I lead her over to the appropriate display and point to the lemon. Glancing around, I note that both Heidi and Tia are keeping their distance. They probably think Alice is my girlfriend. "$1,785," I tell my sister. "But better than a silver elephant, don't you think?" I study Alice's expression carefully. She concentrates for a moment before breaking out into a grin. "You've already decided," she says, poking me in the arm. "You don't need me for this one good choice." Despite Alice's encouragement, I'm frightened that Isabella will take one look at the gift and flip out that I bought her something so expensive. I suppose I am trying to show her that she means something to me without being openly romantic. This is an opportunity to drop a hint. Still, I hesitate. "But " "But nothing," Alice chides, cutting me off. "I knew you could do it." "It's too much," I say doubtfully. "Costs too much. Says too much." I hate second-guessing myself. "No, it's great!" "Are you sure?" "Do you honestly see yourself walking away?" she challenges. "Wellno." "Then let's pick out the bracelet." I sigh, thinking of my credit card. "You know what they say about Dems and inappropriate spending."

She shakes her head, amused. "Necessary expenditure." Alice waves over one of the assistants. "How can I help?" Tia asks, her enthusiasm obviously waning. "I need to look at some gold bracelets, please," Alice says in a no-nonsense tone. "Nothing chunky. I hate it when the links are too bulky." Tia forces a smile. "If you'll follow me, I can show you some selections." "Excellent." As we follow Tia to the display cases in the back corner, I nudge Alice to get her attention. "What would I do without you?" I say appreciatively. Alice smirks. "Stupid things, I'm sure." I chuckle, relieved that things are going well. I can't wait for Friday to come along. Not so much looking forward to my credit card bill, but sometimes you have to put the trust in trust fund. Charm: $1,785. Bracelet: $250. An excellent wingman, a loyal sister, and a chance at a relationship with Isabella: Priceless.

Photo of the lemon charm is up in my ADF cabin! Re next chapter: Maybe Wednesday 8/11 (yes, a lemon chapter). This is a particularly important arc coming up, so bear with me. If it's sooner or later than 8/11, I'll tweet about it I'm still working on my FGB stuff this week, as well. Legal citations: - Gasp! None. Other references: - DCCC: Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee - Alcatraz: Alcatraz Island is an island located in the San Francisco Bay. Often referred to as The Rock, the small island early-on served as a lighthouse, a military fortification, a military prison, and a Federal Bureau of Prisons federal prison until 1963. Later, in 1972, Alcatraz became a national recreation area and received landmarking designations in 1976 and 1986. Today, the island is a historic site operated by the National Park Service as part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and is open to tours. Visitors can reach the island by ferry ride from Pier 33, near Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco.* - U.S. Coast Guard: The Coast Guard is a maritime, military, multi-mission service unique among the military branches for having a maritime law enforcement mission (with jurisdiction in both domestic and international waters)

and a federal regulatory agency mission as part of its mission set. It operates under the Department of Homeland Security during peacetime, and can be transferred to the Department of the Navy by the President or Congress during time of war.* - Dawson's Creek: Created by Kevin Williamson (who now develops The Vampire Diaries). Aired 1998-2003 on The WB. I can't summarize the plot into a footnotebut Dawson doesn't really own the creek. He just lives by the creek. He broods a lot. And he talks like a senator even though he's only fifteen. He's in love with his best friend, Joey, played by Katie Holmes (pre-Tom Cruise). But his other best friend, Pacey, develops a thing with Joey. OMG love triangle

Chapter 18: Welcome to San Francisco BPOV Despite the fact that various Cullens over the years have held office in other places, it's common knowledge that the family hails from San Francisco. This is a reality I've known since childhood. I couldn't even watch an episode of Full House without my father muttering something derogatory in the background. Thankfully, my mother was a John Stamos fan, and she often told my father to put a temporary hold on the political sledging. It's possible that some of his ire was related to the way she swooned over Stamos, but I'm sure the majority of his annoyance stemmed from his hatred of the Cullens. But I digress. Though the Cullens clearly have no qualms about visiting Philadelphia thanks to my hometown's voting record it's an entirely different thing for me to be here in Cullen country. On the cab ride from the airport, I couldn't even stop myself from vocalizing my surprise at the fact I was actually visiting. Of course, I was careful not to reveal any personal characteristics; I merely said that I never thought I'd have reason to step foot in the city. The cab driver was very nice, telling me that he was very proud of his hometown, and even recommending some of his favorite haunts. I appreciated the sentiment more than I thought I would I suppose it was just particularly nice to be afforded such hospitality in a place my father once called 'the Hellmouth.' My journey to this so-called mouth of hell has completely tired me out. My flight out of Philadelphia was delayed by two hours. In those two hours, I contemplated suing both US Airways and Philadelphia International Airport for causing me such distress. How dare they delay me from seeing Edward? Of course, I doubt I can persuade the courts to overhaul their understanding of Tort Law principles and the appropriate actions for recovery, but I really was upset. The only reason I didn't think about suing the FAA was because they have better things to do, namely, look after airport security. See, I'm not completely unreasonable. Believe it or not, I'm trying to be level-headed about this weekend. I want to push any worries aside and have fun. I suppose I'm trying to tap into the mentality of an actual tourist, as opposed to actively thinking I'm a trespasser. Though, really, the only sight I want see is Edward and I've got a visitor's pass to explore all I want. Best attraction ever. Edward should be here soon I myself only arrived here at the hotel about half an hour ago. It's now eight in the evening, though that really means eleven for

me. Either way, The O'Reilly Factor is on, and that's what I'm watching in the living area of this suite. When we discussed accommodation options, Edward and I prioritized the need for privacy and anonymity. We therefore decided that I should stay near Fisherman's Wharf, a touristy area, as opposed to somewhere like Union Square or the Financial District where the likelihood of people recognizing him is greater. The next question was whether I should stay somewhere fancy or somewhere more run-of-the-mill. I wanted to keep things low-key, which essentially translated to lower budget, but Edward balked at the idea of me flying all the way to his hometown only to stay somewhere so average. Noting his protest, and conceding that I am indeed used to more expensive places, I agreed to a fancier hotel. So, this is a one bedroom suite at the Fairmont Heritage Place, Ghirardelli Square. In addition to the living area, there's also a small kitchen. I don't really intend to cook I'm sure room service will be more than adequate but I did ask the staff to stock the kitchen with some foodstuffs in the odd chance that I will need to prepare a meal or snack. Edward and I won't be able to go out for meals together, so I figured it was best to be prudent. He'll be able to make his own ham sandwich. There's a reason for my thoughtfulness I want him to have enough energy this weekend. Even naughty Republicans need an Energy Plan. With the fireplace lit in the living room, it's warm enough for me to wear the casual, knee-length dress I have on. It's kind of accessible it buttons all the way down to my waist. I didn't want to greet him in anything skimpier, lest I begin to feel like a high class hooker. But I am in a fancy suite waiting to have sex with him, and our arrangement is rather sordidI guess I don't want to emphasize that fact too much. On the other hand, maybe I should be highlighting this as a dirty weekend. We are only fuck buddies, after all. Before I can change into something more revealing, there's a knock on the door. That must be him. My stomach flips. I've been dying to see him again for over two weeks now. For a second, I get nervous. What if this weekend doesn't meet my expectations? What if the risk isn't worth it? Is the sex really that great, or am I blowing things out of proportion? I tell myself that I'm being ridiculous. Edward is perfectly proportioned for me. I jump off the couch and race to answer. After looking through the peephole to check that it's really Edward on the other side, I unlatch the lock and quickly swing the door open so I can usher him in. It's only when I've shut the door behind him that I can truly take a moment to appreciate the fact that we've been reunited. He drops his bag onto the floor and spins me around by my waist, lifting me into a hug and causing me to yelp in surprise. I look down at his gorgeous face as I wrap my arms around his neck.

We haven't even said anything yet, but it's clear the both of us are overjoyed to see each other. I'm grinning like an idiot, and the bright look in Edward's eyes tells me he's relieved the wait is over too. "Hi," he says happily, setting me down. The warm embrace continues, with Edward tightening his hold on me, pulling me closer. It's been awhile since I've been pressed up against his body, and my nether regions immediately begin to tingle. Any dream version of him is completely inadequate; the real thing is much, much better. This probably sounds completely stupid, but I start to blush. "Hello," I reply a little lamely. I shouldn't be blamed for losing my powers of speech. I'm completely overwhelmed. Edward raises an eyebrow, seemingly intrigued. "Why are you blushing?" he asks, thoroughly amused. "Remembering a few things, or looking forward to what we'll be doing all weekend?" "Both." I rest my head on his chest. I want to feel closer to him, and even though the action probably borders on affectionate, Edward doesn't seem to mind at all. "Are you really here?" I ask, somewhat stupidly. "I hope I'm not hallucinating." He chuckles, squeezing me extra tight. "No, you're not hallucinating." I sigh with contentedness. "Pinch me." Edward reaches down and pinches me on the ass. Surprised, I immediately shove him in the chest. "What?" he asks, laughing. "Can't blame me for being cheeky with you." I step back, breaking his hold. I try to think of an appropriate punishment. "Just for that, I won't let you kiss me for another day," I declare. He smirks as he takes off his coat and steps over to set it down on the kitchen table. The butterflies in my stomach reappear the scene is oddly domestic, like I'm a wife who's been waiting for her husband to come home. My own thoughts shock me, causing me to blush further. Not only should I not be thinking of us as a union in that way, but the concept of waiting around for the male breadwinner seems a little anti-feminist. "So I'm allowed to kiss you this time tomorrow?" Edward asks. I sidestep so he can't try and kiss me by surprise. Thinking it's a game, he begins to follow me as I slowly walk around the kitchen table. I tell myself to lighten up, so I giggle freely, liking the fact that he's chasing me. "Maybe, maybe not," I tease.

To be honest, I'm still a bit hesitant about letting him kiss me. But I do like feeling wanted by him, and I did remind myself during his visit to New Haven that kissing doesn't have to be reserved for boyfriends. "Surprise, surprise. A vague policy stance," he teases in return. He tilts his head, having noticed that the television is on in the background. I'm sure he's indentified O'Reilly's voice. "Deal with it, Cullen," I respond proudly, still circling the table. "That's a pretty dress you're wearing," he says, swiftly changing the subject. "Though, I half-expected you to be wearing nothing when I arrived." I am so glad he's here. "No, I wanted to leave the task of undressing me to you. I've had a very long day," I explain. "I think you should do the work tonight." He pulls out one of the chairs, drags it to the head of the table, and sits down. I roll my eyes at him as he rolls up his shirt sleeves. "Alright, let's negotiate," he says, patting his knee. "Oh, so you're the committee chair?" I sass back, sashaying around to his side of the table. He waggles his eyebrows. "Well, you did sayyou wanted me to be in charge." Edward pushes his chair back a fraction so I can straddle him. I sit down on his lap, and he immediately grabs my waist to hold me in place. Teasing him, I place my hands on his shoulders and writhe around on his groin under the guise of getting comfortable. I can feel the rough denim of his jeans through the lighter cotton of my panties, the abrasive sensation reminding me that there's other friction to be had soon enough. That fact alone makes me a little wet, and my nipples harden under my dress. "Minx," he remarks, eyeing me salaciously. "No bra, I see. Are you wearing panties?" I scoff. "What am I? Your research assistant? Find out for yourself." And with that, I reach back, placing my hands on the tabletop and hoisting myself up. Edward watches intently, his eyes lighting up as I sit myself down on the table. He pulls his chair in before placing his hands on my knees, pushing them outwards. He places his hands on my thighs and slides them up my legs, pushing up the fabric of my dress until it's pooled at my waist. When he sees that I do have panties on, he looks up at me with mock annoyance. "Disappointing, Isabella." "Disappointing?" I question, returning his attitude. "That's not a word we'd normally use with each other." He chuckles. "I like that you make me work for it. At least I know it's a worthwhile offer you've put on the table." The front of my dress slips through his fingers, falling back down over my lap. But he hasn't lost interest. We lock eyes, and he slowly strokes one of my thighs, his teasing fingers making me moan just a little.

"You're not going to rip off my panties again, are you?" I ask a little breathlessly. "Did you buy the replacement?" "I did buy you a new thong. Maybe you can model it later," he suggests. "Make sure it's to your satisfaction." His fingers trail up my inner thigh, lightly tracing circles on my soft skin. The tabletop is cool under my thighs, but my body is definitely heating up. My breasts feel extra sensitive; when the fabric of my dress brushes against them, I have the sensory memory of Edward taking my nipple into his mouth. But we're not in Philadelphia. We're in San Francisco now. And he should be the one to show me a good time. I'll be sure to repay the favor tomorrow though. I'm all about balance if I want to run a deficit, I'll seek help from the people responsible for the federal budget. Edward now has two hands under my dress. I whimper in anticipation as he reaches up to the waistband on my panties. Placing my hands firmly on the table, I lift myself upwards. I hold myself up as he slowly agonizingly slowly grabs hold of the undergarment and pulls it down. Not one to waste the opportunity, he makes sure to grope my ass as he does this. I gently lower myself, squeezing my knees together so that he can pull my panties over my knees. I twist my legs to the side and wriggle so that the underwear ends up at my ankles before dropping onto the floor beside the chair. I swing my leg back into position so that I'm spread out once more. There is something deliciously naughty about not wearing underwear while still being clothed. It's that free feeling of being accessible without outwardly appearing so. Edward resumes his stroking of my thigh. I gasp, knowing he's now free to stroke my pussy. I feel more wetness pool between my legs, and I moan on registering that I've now wet the cotton of my dress. "I need you so badly," I admit. I unbutton the top three buttons of my dress, allowing him a peek at my breasts. "I did not delegate that task to you," Edward admonishes. Defying his order, I unbutton one more. "But your hands are busy." I want to hear that commanding tone of his. "Isabella," he warns, employing said tone. I smirk, placing my hands back on the tabletop. "Okay, fine. I yield to the Gentleman from California." I lean backward slightly, arching my back so that I'm pushing out my chest. I have enough energy in reserve to at least tease him in some way. His eyes focus on the skin that is exposed, but before I can claim victory, his hands move up my thigh again, fingers dangerously close to where I want them to be. The ache between my legs intensifies, building steadily from the knowledge that I'm with the one man who knows how to take care of me in this way. "How many times did you touch yourself while we were apart?" he demands to know. "Not even once," I reply in all honesty, stroking his ego.

There's a look of triumph in Edward's eyes. I eye him quizzically as he withdraws his hand. Before I can vocalize my confusion, he leans forward and grabs hold of my waist, pulling me closer. Surprised, I scramble to keep my balance as I settle at the edge of the table. Keeping my legs splayed, I place my knees on either side of Edward's chest as he pulls back a little more. I have a feeling he wants to make sure he has a good view. "A little warning would be nice," I scold. "I can expedite a motion if I so please," he says, raising an eyebrow. "Cocky bastard," I mutter. "Nice guys finish last," he jests. "Guys should finish last," I point out. "You're supposed to get me off first." His eyes twinkling with mirth, he pushes my dress back, the material bunching at my hips. "Stop teasing," I chide. "Touch me already." "Patience is a virtue," he murmurs, leaning down to kiss my inner thigh. "I don't have any virtue left, thanks to you." "Let me check" Finally, his lips graze my wet pussy, and my body instantly appreciates the contact. I whimper, fisting his hair and holding his head down as he takes several long swipes. Edward continues to tease, reverting to placing gentle kisses on my entrance instead of probing deeper or pressing on my clit like I want him to. I moan with need and fist his hair tighter, frustrated that he's taunting me. The wetness continues to pool, and I feel myself getting hotter, more desperate for him. Edward sits up, forcing me to let go of his hair. I knee him in the chest, unimpressed that he's rationing my pleasure like this. It feels so fucking good when he touches me I need him to show less restraint. I want him to fuck me. Now. "Nope, definitely nothing virtuous there," he declares, reaching up and wiping his hand across his mouth. "You're trying to get me to beg, aren't you?" I accuse, sounding slightly unhinged. "You know I want you. I haven't seen you in over two weeks. Aren't you desperate for me too?" Suddenly more motivated, Edward pushes his chair back and stands up. As my eyes always do in these situations, they train on his groin. Edward folds his arms across his chest and looks at me expectantly. There is no doubt he's desperate for me. The bulge in his jeans is huge; it must be very uncomfortable for his cock to be trapped behind his tight jeans. "Oh," I manage to say, shuffling backwards to help my balance. Admittedly, maybe I'm shying away because I need a few moments to remember that, yes, he does fit inside of me. This remembrance, however, prompts me to

recall how completely he fills me, and that memory alone makes me whimper again. "I'm going to fuck you while O'Reilly talks trash in the background," Edward declares gleefully, some sense of urgency finally kicking in. "Is that right?" I ask, turned on by the intent in his voice. "Yeah, he talks trash." I laugh at the liberal sentiment as he steps forward and frantically undoes the rest of my buttons, allowing me to shrug out of the sleeves. My dress falls to my hips, and I momentarily lift myself again so I can wriggle out of it. "Oh fuck," he says roughly, palming my now free breasts and seemingly enjoying the sight of my naked body. "You're so fucking perfect." I grin smugly, buoyed by the compliment, but am too busy enjoying the fact he's fondling me to say something in return. I clamp my legs on either side of his, and this time, my exposed skin rubs against denim, making me ache for more skin to skin contact. "Don't I get a compliment?" he challenges. I throw my head back, moaning in delight as he pinches my nipples. "Isn't the fact that I'm naked and desperate for you enough of a compliment?" I contend, meeting his gaze once more. Edward responds by removing his hand from my breasts, and immediately using two of his fingers to play with my clit. I cry out with pleasure as he rubs my bundle of nerves, shockwaves of pleasure threatening to crack my remaining resolve. I could honestly start begging at any second the man knows how to make me feel that good. I buck against his fingers, but even with the mindblowing bliss he's generating, I still feel like something is missing. I need him to fill me. "Edward," I moan in a ragged voice. "Just fuck me." I watch as he takes a condom out of his pocket fucking on arrival was a sure bet, so I don't judge. Holding it in his hand, he pushes down his jeans and boxers, finally freeing his ready cock. The reveal never gets old. This is the sort of rerun I don't mind. Really, the sight of his cock has already been syndicated in my mind. Edward rolls the condom on, not bothering with the task of unbuttoning his shirt. I don't care either I just want him to enter me. "Lie back with your legs up in the air," he commands. My breathing hitches as I lower myself down flat on my back. One of the first things I notice once I'm on my back is that I can brace myself by holding onto the sides of the table, but instead of doing that, I tease Edward by fondling my own breasts as I raise my legs up in the air, just like he asked. Edward grabs hold of my ankles and rests them on his shoulders. "Ready?" he asks.

I snort. "If you don't hurry up, O'Reilly will be over." "Yes, that would be a shame," he says sarcastically. My breathing hitches as he places on hand on my thigh to steady himself. I stop playing with my breasts, wanting to completely focus on Edward. He impales me with one sure thrust, hitting me so deep that the cry I emit is borne from momentary discomfort. Then the shock of having his cock stretch me so quickly begins to recede, and I quiver with pleasure as my walls relax for him. I whimper over and over, taking in quick gasps of air. It's not that I wasn't ready for him I think I'm just overcome by the fact he's finally back inside of me. Edward grunts, obviously satisfied that we're back together as well. "You're fucking perfect," he repeats, moving his hand back to my calf. "Don't ever leave me," I moan, fisting my own hair. "Your cock feels so fucking good. Oh fuck, Cullen." He pulls back and thrusts hard, creating a rush of unbelievable friction. I cry out again, my whimpering almost resembling sobbing. "I'll never leave you," he declares, echoing my sentiment. "Why would I ever give this up?" I close my eyes, as if stopping the use of one sense will intensify the others. I want to feel all of Edward. He begins to thrust at a steady pace, and I concentrate on his motions. In and out, in and out. Every time he pulls back, I yearn for him to ram back into me, for him to fill me. Yet every time he fills me, I want him to pull back so I can feel him moving inside of me. The perpetual craving for more takes over my whole body. My back begins to arch involuntarily at the intense pleasure, and even this alters the angle at which Edward's cock hits me. Driven by lust, I resume caressing my own breasts, squeezing them like I would want Edward to if his hands weren't otherwise occupied with the task of holding my legs in place. "Oh fuck, you're driving me crazy by touching yourself like that," Edward says, groaning in approval. I open my eyes and lift my head so I can glance at him. "If you're lucky, I'll let you delegate more than that," I tease, hinting that I'll play with myself if he wants me to. "I'll think about it." He grunts. "Not that I can think while I'm fucking you like this." Edward surprises me by crossing my legs, tightening my walls on his cock. With the fit more snug, he resorts to taking shorter thrusts, rubbing me more quickly. Despite the fact that I'm tired from my day, fucking Edward is incredibly energizing; I can't help but feel charged. I clench around him as if I want to trap his length, bracing myself by holding onto the sides of the table. I throw my head back as Edward pushes harder with his short thrusts in order to fight my resistance. "Typical Republican, fighting the passage of a perfectly good measure," he says with a chuckle. "You know what they say about liberals"

"What's that?" "A liberal is a man who leaves the room when a fight starts," I mock. "So fight harder, Cullen." He laughs. "Or I could just do this" He uncrosses my legs and plunges deeply into me again now that I'm more relaxed for him. The relief I feel from letting him take over is wonderful. It really is great to just lie back and let him pleasure me. "Harder," I demand. "Like this?" he asks, beginning to pound into me. "Yes." I let go of the table. Now that I'm not bracing myself, I really am taking it from Edward. I fist my hair, the pain from pulling on my roots complementing the forceful way he's plunging into me. Lying on a hard surface isn't particularly comfortable but it's a necessary discomfort if anything, it makes me focus on the good sensations even more. In a way, that juxtaposition represents how I feel about this arrangement in general. It makes me uncomfortable to be a liar and a traitor, but on the other hand, it feels so good to be with Edward. "I might have to delegate a task to you," Edward says suggestively. "A certain stimulus package needs to be implemented." I giggle. "Yes, Mr. Cullen." I slowly move my hand down between my legs. Edward slows his pace, presumably distracted for the moment. I find my clit and begin stroking it with two fingers. Since I haven't touched myself since being with Edward, the act of being responsible for rubbing my own clit suddenly feels quite naughty. With Edward moving inside of me, I feel my climax start to build. "Well, aren't you a hands-on committee member?" Edward remarks, clearly impressed. "Doesn't mean you shouldn't work as hard," I quip. Edward groans as he quickens his pace, and my vision blurs as I continue to touch myself. The dual sensations are making me moan louder and louder with bliss. I quiver around Edward's cock as he rams into me, but I also feel the pressure accumulating from the way I'm rubbing my clit. "Fuck, this is intense," I say, panting as I feel myself shudder once. "Come on, baby," Edward urges. "Hurry, I'm almost there." The quivering intensifies, and Edward tightens his grip on my legs as I begin to shudder. I shut my eyes, focusing on bringing about the orgasm I know is so close. I clench around his cock again, and with that final squeeze, the orgasm hits me. I scream, shuddering with delight as the climax overcomes me, with Edward still thrusting for his own release. Then another wave hits, this time from my own touch, and I'm so overwhelmed that I let my hand drop, choosing to just let go and ride it out. Edward makes a strangled noise as he comes, something that adds to my satisfaction as I ride out the final waves of pleasure.

Fucking unbelievable. Beautiful things happen when both sides work together. Gasping for air, I slowly open my eyes. I allow my legs to drop back down, and then I shuffle backwards on the table. Edward sits down on the chair he pulled out before, and we both take several minutes to come down. When my throbbing body has finally cooled, I count to three in my head and muster all the reserve energy I have in order to sit up. "I'm exhausted," I announce with a tired smile. Edward smiles back at me. "Did I mention that I missed you?" I laugh softly, listening for the television. On hearing that O'Reilly is verbally sparring with someone, I nod and turn my attention back to Edward. He shakes his head at me and rolls his eyes before standing. I watch him as he pulls his pants back up and throws the condom into the trash. "Keep America Beautiful," I quip. He smirks. "I do my best. But it can be tough being this good-looking." "That's not what I was referring to, and you know it," I reply, trying not to mirror his smirk. "Speaking of cleaning up, how about I run you a bath?" he offers, unbuttoning his shirt. "We can just relax for a bit." "You just want to keep me naked," I tease. "And you don't want to be around the television." "Oh, come on," he says good-naturedly. "We're good at talking. We can do that for awhile." "Yes, a bath sounds nice." My mind returns to the fact he told me that he missed me. I know I smiled in return, but is that enough? "I missed you too," I tell him, trying to keep my voice casual. "Probably more than you missed me." I know it's a revealing statement and on some level I think I'll regret being so honest but I don't want to appear ungrateful. "Ah, I don't think that's possible," he says, visibly flattered. "But thank you." "What's not possible?" I ask, confused. "That I missed you?" "No, that you missed me more than I missed you," he clarifies. Well, that's certainly flattering. This feeling I have nowI'm positively giddy with happiness. I'm so glad I have him to myself for an entire weekend; the pining period is over. "This is a debate we might have to continue in the bathtub," I muse.

Edward laughs, and it's the same carefree laugh that I heard from him after we had sex in my father's car. I wonder how he feels about having me in his hometown. "I don't have the energy to move," I add. "So you might have to carry me." Edward steps over to the table and waits for me to scoot over far enough for him to grab hold of me. I wrap my arms around his neck as he uses his strength to lift; he makes it seem like I don't weigh anything. He carries me 'bridal style,' for lack of a better expression. As he walks from the kitchen area into the living room, I lean over so I can kiss him on the cheek. He deserves something for carrying me around. "Oh, that's new," he says, surprised. "You're supposed to kiss me on the cheek afterwards," I point out, poking him in the chest. "Well, you were on the table. Give a man some time." "Yeah, yeah. Keep walking, Cullen." We both laugh. I'm really liking San Francisco so far. It isn't the Hellmouth after all. It's pure heaven.

Re next chapter: Maybe Monday 8/23. I'll tweet about it FGB outtake will be ready next week, and should slot in nicely alongside Chapter 19, methinks. Legal citations: - None! Other references: - Full House: Family sitcom (1987-1995, ABC). Do I even need to explain this show? Danny Tanner and his three kids. Best friend, Joey. Brother-in-law aka Uncle Jesse (played by John Stamos). The Olsen twins were on this show. So many great catchphrases! Oh, and it's obviously set in San Fran. - The Hellmouth: a Buffy reference! Sunnydale FTW - FAA: Federal Aviation Administration - Keep America Beautiful: Environmental organization focusing on three key issues: litter prevention, the waste hierarchy: waste reduction, reuse, recycling and community greening (tree planting, community gardens).*

Chapter 19: The Cullen Campaign EPOV Jacob's right. I do need a crash course in Romance.

Or at least a crash helmet. As any rookie might think, I figured it was a good idea to run Isabella a bath after our bout of reunion sex. The sex was unbelievable as it always is but now it was time to show her that she's more than someone I like to sleep with. I like talking to her, spending time with her, holding her in my arms. I want to her to be my girlfriend. It's up to me to show her that's what I want, and that a relationship is indeed possible in the first place. It was time to launch my campaign. The Cullen Campaign. Anyway, I opted not to get into the bath with her, as I didn't want her to think that I was going to jump her again. She's tired, and as much as I wanted to keep my hands on her naked body, I had enough willpower to stay on mission. So I sat next to the tub, facing her, and allowed her to enjoy the bubble bath. What was supposed to be a sweet gesture unfortunately made Isabella think of the wrong things. After I made a comment about how pretty I think she is, she brought up the movie Pretty Woman and said she kind of felt like Julia Roberts' character in a way. I've never actually seen Pretty Woman, but it's widely known that Julia Roberts played a hooker in that film. Isabella then explained that Richard Gere's character was also named Edward, and that there's a scene where Julia Roberts has a bubble bath in this Edward's hotel suite. Not only that, but the characters even visit San Francisco at one point. Of all the movies she could liken our situation to, this was the cinematic moment at the forefront of her mind. Now I have a newfound hatred of Richard Gere. The only movie of his that I've seen is The Mothman Prophecies, which come to think of it, is reason enough not to like him. I should've brushed off the reference and quickly reminded her that she has no reason to think of herself as a prostitute. But all I did was give her a stern look before going deathly quiet. The sudden look of guilt in Isabella's eyes made me realize that the relationship I want so badly isn't going to be easy to get. I thought of asking her if she really did think I was just using her for sex, but the question was left unasked; I remembered that officially all I am to her is a fuck buddy. Talk about bursting my bubble. I don't care what Alice and Jacob say about Isabella being in denial. All I saw in her eyes at that moment was not longing, but shame. And while I may be genetically programmed to revel in a Republican's shame, the last thing I wanted to do was pounce on her vulnerability. It was difficult to recover from the awkward moment. I was too rattled to engage wholeheartedly in conversation, and I daresay she knew I was affronted. Isabella eventually got out of the bath I averted my gaze and told her I'd like to take a shower. She mumbled something about being tired and asked if I expected her to put out again tonight. That single question, and the hesitant voice she used to ask it, almost made me punch a hole in the bathroom wall. I couldn't even look at her; I didn't want her to see how hurt I was. So in a clipped voice I said no, and she left me alone in the bathroom. I'm now taking a shower. I don't even know how long I've been standing here under the jets of hot water. I'm angry, frustrated that I can't just tell her how I

feel. I'm frightened, worried she'll leave me because of the shame she feels. I'm sad, because all I want is for her to fall for me, but that seems so out of reach. No wonder I shy away from politics. To be this impassioned about something means that you have to invest part of yourself in the cause. I'm afraid of setbacks, and ultimately, of losing. Yet, it's clear I can't walk away from the chance of victory. The campaigns I've known have been safe anyway; Mom doesn't have to do much to win her district every two years, and even with a few problems here and there, Dad got Banner over the line quite easily. This is different. Completely different. She kissed me on the cheek earlier. I thought we were making progress. I thought that she really was beginning to have feelings for me, too. Now I don't even think I can give her the bracelet and lemon charm. She'll surely take it the wrong way. I still don't think I really know what love is, but I'm starting to understand how having feelings for someone can drive people crazy. I can now fathom how wars can be fought over a woman. I wouldn't hesitate to fight Jasper Hale or any Jasper Hale equivalent for the right to be with Isabella. To use a term coined by President Bush, I've misunderestimated how strongly I feel about Isabella. Yes, I really do think this made-up word is the best way to describe how I feel. Sighing in resignation, I shut off the water and step out of the shower recess. After drying myself off and wrapping the towel around my waist, I step into the bedroom, expecting to see Isabella fast asleep in bed. She's not in bed; however, I hear the sound of the television on in the living room. I curse under my breath, realizing my overnight bag is still in the kitchen. Now I have to walk out into that part of the suite, and all Isabella is going to see is me in a towel. Great. Way to emphasize that I'm just her fuck buddy. Maybe I should walk around with a red light on my head and a price list on my back. Edward Cullen for the 8th Congressional Street Corner. When I walk into the living room, I see that Isabella is sitting on the couch. She's watching television, and wearing the same unsexy pajamas she wore when I stayed the night in New Haven. I'm sure she's trying to signal that she really is too exhausted for me to fuck her again. Did she not take my 'no' seriously? Does she think I'm a sex addict? Fuck, indeed. Isabella glances up at me with a blank look on her face. Unable to read her expression and worried that my feelings are going to be hurt again I turn away and dejectedly trudge to the kitchen to retrieve my bag. Slinging it over my shoulder, I walk straight back into the bedroom and close the door. I change into boxers and a t-shirt, and try to come up with a game plan, or at the very least, a coping strategy. It's probably best if I go back to the living room and try and diffuse the awkwardness that's sprung up between us. Time for damage control. If she doesn't want to talk, I'll just sit in the armchair and read. Carrying a few photocopied articles on church and state, I reenter the living room and sit myself down on the armchair. I force a smile at Isabella, trying to gauge

her level of receptiveness. She tentatively smiles back, but then stands up and walks away, presumably to the kitchen. She walked away from me. Oh my God. The pain. Forget Cupid shooting an arrow into my chest. I feel like the victim of a drive-by shooting. That's what I get for standing on a street corner. "Edward, do you want something to eat? I can make you a sandwich," she offers, sounding hopeful. I look over my shoulder. Isabella is standing next to the fridge, wringing her hands and looking at me pleadingly. The pain I feel recedes a fraction maybe she hates this awkwardness as much as I do. "I made sure to get ham," she adds. "But there's also peanut butter. And cheese, if you feel like cheese." "Um, peanut butter sounds good," I respond, still slightly dumbfounded. "Okay," she says, the tone of her voice more determined now. She's making me a sandwich. Is she making me a sandwich because she cares about me? Is this purely a peace offering, designed to keep our fuck buddy arrangement on foot? Or is she worried about the bread and peanut butter going to waste if no one uses them? I turn back around and chide myself for panicking so much. It's just a fucking sandwich. Or is it? How can anyone stand being in love? It's driving me nuts, and it hasn't even been that long yet. And when I say nuts, I don't mean peanuts. This has nothing to do with the peanut butter. This is a matter of me, a perfectly sane person, suddenly becoming so neurotic that I can't even think rationally. "Do you need help?" I call out. Did I seriously just ask that? I asked a Yale Law student whether she needs assistance putting two pieces of bread together. That's like asking the cast of Jersey Shore if they need any help acting uncivilized. Isabella chuckles softly. "Just because I'm tired, doesn't mean I've forgotten the mechanics of sandwich making." She laughed. She's not necessarily mad at me for brooding. This is a good sign. It looks like we can get through this little hiccup. "You're exhausted," I note, standing up. "I should make my own sandwich." "It's fine," she says. No, it's not. I have to fix this awkwardness. I stride into the kitchen and sidle up next to her at the kitchen counter. I'm close to her again.

I hate not being close to her. "I'm sorry I reacted the way I did," I blurt out. "To your story about Pretty Woman, I mean." We lock eyes and I know instantly that she feels bad about something. I just don't know what exactly. "I'm sorry for insinuating that you're a guy who hires prostitutes," she says bashfully. "I know you don't like it when I think of myself as a whore. I shouldn't have said anything about the movie. You were being nice to me, and I ruined it." "You are definitely not my whore," I insist, putting my hand on her shoulder. I quickly retract my hand, worried that the physical contact negates the sincerity of my declaration. "I was more upset about that than the comparison to Richard Gere or his character. And I probably should've said something straight away" We survey each other's expressions for a moment. I hope she can see the concern that's surely etched on my face. I want things to go back to normal, so I can stop worrying about this little incident and go back to subtly trying to convince her that I'd make a good boyfriend. Isabella bites her lip. I really don't want her to doubt the decision to visit San Francisco, so I scramble to regain our dynamic. I nudge her playfully. "You know I don't like it when we're upset with each other." "You looked really offended," she tells me, spreading the peanut butter on the bread. "Like I slapped you in the face." If only I could tell her the real reason I was so upset. "I hope I never give you reason to slap me in the face," I reply good-naturedly. She smiles ruefully. "I didn't mean to upset you within an hour of seeing you again." "Let's just move past it, okay?" I suggest. "Only if you let me make this sandwich by myself," she sasses back. I grin, noting that she sounds more confident now. That being said, I don't feel all-encompassing relief. But this quasi-resolution is definitely better than feeling completely sorry for myself. I return to my seat in the living room. There's a Lindsay Lohan movie on, which I suppose is better than Fox News, but not by a wide margin. Not enthused by the teen movie, I flick through one of the readings I printed off an article on Section 116 of the Australian Constitution. Isabella will probably scold me for how slowly my research is progressing, but it really is difficult to concentrate on the task these days. I've already started yet another foreign policy article; I need to be writing something. Isabella comes up alongside my chair, plate in hand. She raises an eyebrow at me. "Don't you want to sit next to me?" she asks, acting scandalized. I smirk, further relieved that our dynamic is being restored.

"I'm trying to be a gentleman," I explain, amused. "Sometimes a lady needs her space." "Well, this lady is going to withhold your supper unless you sit next to her." "Will she now?" She narrows her eyes. "Just sit next to me, Cullen." I laugh heartily as I get up to join her on the couch. She hands me the plate and then snuggles up to me. Part of me wants to throw away the plate and take her into my arms, but that would likely cause an argument about food wastage and not appreciating her gesture. I place the plate down on my lap, on top of my research papers, and then I put my arm around her. She rests her head on my shoulder, welcoming the embrace. Maybe she likes me after all. She did say that she missed me, though we never actually discussed how much or why. I probably can't rely too much on the fact she told me not to ever leave her; I was fucking her at the time. But there's always a chance she could've meant it that way, and I certainly meant it when I said I didn't want to give her up. "What is this movie?" I ask, picking up one half of the sandwich. "Mean Girls," she answers. She yawns before continuing. "Do you want me to change the channel?" "Um, yes." I munch on the sandwich as Isabella channel surfs. After what seems like fifty channels, she gives up on finding something new, and returns to Mean Girls. "You're a tease," I say, pointing the sandwich at the television. "You promise change and then nothing happens. What is this? Election time?" "The sandwich can't change the channel," she remarks dryly, laughing. I resume eating. "I know that. I was just pointing to make a point." "Sometimes I like movies that don't require too much thinking to understand what's going on," she explains. "Oh, well, by that logic you must have the most thought-provoking DVD collection at Yale," I mock. "I said sometimes." She pokes me in the side before yawning once again. "If you're tired, why don't you just go to bed?" I suggest. "There's a TV in the bedroom." "It's barely nine o'clock." "Yes, but that's midnight for you normally." I really do want to look after her. If I had it my way, I'd put her to bed now. She's had a long day, and she doesn't need to stay up for my benefit. I brought my laptop; I'm happy to study while she gets some rest. "Stupid airport delay," she grumbles.

I listen to her explanation of the various lawsuits she considered filing. "You can sue the FAA if you really want to," I comment. "Because I think it's the TSA you want to leave alone." She lifts her head off my shoulder, alarmed. "Oh my God, I got that wrong. The TSA! Of course." "Well, it's not like it's a real lawsuit. File the joinder in your head, and the FAA will be a defendant too." She pouts. "I don't like being wrong. I suppose I was rather distressed." "The two texts you sent me during the delay were quite angry." I rub her arm, wanting to comfort her. "I'm not sure it was very ladylike to swear that much." "Oh, now I have delayed rage!" She's so cute when she's mad. "You're here now," I point out. "Calm down, will you?" She rests her head back down on my shoulder. "But I wouldn't be this tired if the delay hadn't happened," she sulks. "I know, I know," I say, stroking her hair. We watch the movie for a little while. Some parts are funny, but I try not to laugh too much, lest Isabella thinks I'm enjoying it. She'd probably make fun of me for liking a chick flick. Tina Fey did write it, though, so maybe I can use that as a defense. What I'm really reveling in is that I'm spending time withIsabella. I know she's never had a fuck buddy before, but surely she has some idea that this isn't the type of thing fuck buddies do. "I really am sorry about the Pretty Woman thing," she suddenly says, repeating her earlier apology. "I'm sorry if I ever make you feel like you're a whore," I apologize. "We can talk about the guilt, you know, if that helps?" "No, it's okay. I just wanted to make sure you weren't upset." "I'm not upset anymore," I say, squeezing her arm. "It's fine." She tugs on the papers underneath my plate. I lift the plate so she can grab the photocopied journal article. She gives me a sidelong look when she realizes that I still haven't finished my research. "What?" I shrug. "You know that every time I work on this piece, I end up thinking of you. It makes me miss you more." "You've been working on this for almost two months!" she exclaims. "It's not exactly time sensitive," I assert. "Maybe I'll even wait for the Salazar decision to be handed down. The case is a good discussion point, because like you said, it's a good example of how untenable our constitutional position is. If the separation wasn't so strict, there wouldn't have been a case in the first place."

She regards me carefully. "Smooth, Cullen," she finally says. "Maybe I should've gone to law school," I jest. "Why didn't you?" she asks. She brings up her legs and tucks them under her, shifting to face me more directly. Accordingly, I drop my arm and turn towards her, making sure the plate doesn't fall off my lap. "Because I didn't want to be lawyer," I answer a matter-of-factly. Isabella tilts her head, seemingly intrigued. "Okay, fair enough. But why didn't you go to an Ivy League college in the first place? Your sister did." "I like being home. And I don't need to go to an Ivy League school just to prove that I'm smart," I tell her. "Do you want to be a diplomat, then? You are studying International Relations." I shake my head. "Isn't diplomacy just a passive-aggressive way of telling the other side they're full of shit and that things should be done our way? I'm not sure how well I'd fare in a negotiation. Charm and brains can only go so far, and I think I'm too idealistic for such a job. Sometimes people don't want to listen, and you can't do anything to change their minds. I would end up disillusioned, I'm sure." She nods. "Sono running for office either?" she asks. "I highly doubt it," I answer. She skims the article again, as if she's searching for something in the document that will better explain my life choices. I finish the sandwich while she reads. I ponder whether I should've asked questions of her in return, but I figure that would've been unnatural in a way, like forcing a game of twenty questions. I have the whole weekend to ask her questions; I'll ease into that too. "I like this section here," she says, pointing out a paragraph on the third page. She hands the article back to me so I can read the passage in question: Whilst there might be a 'wall of separation' between church and state [in the U.S.], this wall has only increased the desire of these neighbors to look over into each other's yard, constantly paranoid that the other is silently shifting the wall during the night. In contrast, the less distinct division between church and state in Australia seems to have facilitated a more peaceful, more reasonable, and ironically, arguably more separate co-habitation. "Yes, that's essentially what I'm trying to assert," I remark. "That from a governance point of view, sometimes being incredibly strict only serves to be counterproductive." The last part of my sentence hangs in the air. Isabella grabs my now-empty plate and stands. I wonder what she's thinking. It's not a direct analogy, and I'm not sure you can draw parallels if it's not a direct analogy, but I no longer see the point in having boundaries in our arrangement. I'm fine with her knowing about

my life. And she must've known on some level that I wasn't going to bite her head off for asking; I'm not even sure if she thought twice before asking me those questions. "Well, thanks for giving me a little insight into your life," she says appreciatively. "Better than Googling you." I chuckle. "Anytime. And I'll be sure to ask you a few questions about your life this weekend." "I'll try to mentally prepare for that," she quips. "Although, I am going to reserve the right to veto." "I'll need your objections in writing," I tease. "So I can rephrase accordingly." "Sure thing, Congressman," she replies, before humming the Jeopardy theme music. She walks off to the kitchen and rinses the plate, which prompts me to think that maybe she thinks she has to do everything domestic just because she's the woman here. "Oh, I could've done that," I say as she tiredly returns to her seat next to me. "I know you're not the maid. You don't think that I think that, do you?" "Don't be ridiculous, Edward," she replies, dismissing my concern. "I'm just trying to keep the place tidy. We're forgoing the housekeeping service because I don't want the intrusion. Nowwhat were we talking about?" "My research on church and state." "You can't use me as an excuse," she declares. "Just because Lemon makes you think of me, doesn't mean you should stall your research." "But I can't concentrate if I'm thinking of you," I whine. "You do realize it's kind of sinful to be thinking about sex when researching church and state?" she asks, amused. "I go to confession when I need to," I say with a smile. "And I said it makes me think of you. Not sex. You." I hope I'm not being too intense. I shrug to make the comment sound more casual than it really is. She takes it in stride, choosing not to reprimand me for thinking of her generally. "Confession," she repeats, saying the word like it's a foreign concept. "Right. Because the Cullens are Catholic." "And the Swans can't be WASPs without being Protestant," I reply. "But at this rate, you'll only work on the article when you're with me! That's ridiculous." I smirk. "So if you want me to get it done, make sure I get to spend enough time with you." She guffaws. "Academic guilt?" "Better than the Catholic kind," I quip.

She rolls her eyes at me, but I can tell she's amused. "So you weren't lying when you said you missed me?" "Why would I lie to you?" I ask lightly. "Gee, I don't know," she says sarcastically. "Because I'm the enemy?" "Well, by that logic I shouldn't trust you when you say you missed me," I counter smugly. "You've questioned my logic twice in the last twenty minutes. Watch yourself, Cullen." "I'll watch myself if that involves watching you," I say suggestively, waggling my eyebrows. "Oh yeah, sure. Because you and I have made a sex tape," she says sarcastically. "Ooh, I better book some confession time." "You don't 'book' confession time." "How would you know?" I challenge. "You're not Catholic." "Thank God," she counters. "I wouldn't leave the confession box, considering all the naughty things I've done with you." I burst out laughing. "You can't thank God for making you Protestant." She laughs too. "Fine, I pledge allegiance to King Henry VIII." "Oh yeah, now there's a reasonable man," I jest. "A little obsessed with chopping off people's heads, but other than that, he was reasonable." "Careful," she warns, looking down at my lap. "Or I'll chop off something of yours." "Another castration threat?" I raise an eyebrow, amused. "Isabella Swan, you really are obsessed with my dick, aren't you?" Isabella shoves me playfully, and in response, I wrap my arms around her and pull her close. She struggles against my hold, giggling, but finally relents and sits on my lap, lengthways. "Let me kiss you," I request, looking at her pleadingly. "Not yet," she says quickly, breaking eye contact for a moment. I pout at her, wanting to get my way. "You're torturing me, Isabella." She pokes me in the chest. "Tomorrow." She hesitates again. "I think." On the one hand, I don't want to push her if she's not ready. But on the other, I'm positively dying to kiss her. "Okay, so maybe not now," I concede. "But I'll have you know, this constitutes cruel and unusual punishment." She scoffs at my dramatics. "The Eighth Amendment? Really?"

"Yes," I confirm. "I'm also planning to invoke the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations Convention Against Torture, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and possibly the Fourth Geneva Convention." Her eyes twinkle with mirth. "Four international treaties? That's how serious this situation is?" "The right not to be tortured is a non-derogable right. It has jus cogens status," I assert. "And the prohibition of it is also part of international criminal law." "Oh, Edward." I stare at her lips and try to imagine what it will be like when she finally lets me kiss her. My fantasies are interrupted, however, when Isabella yawns. "I think it's time for bed," I advise. "But you're not tired yet," she argues. "I have research to do. You, on the other hand, need sleep." "You'll carry me to bed?" she asks hopefully. "Yes, my dear Republican," I chime. "I'll carry you to bed." She wraps her arms around my neck, preparing for when I lift her. "I need to brush my teeth," she says. "So carry me to the bathroom first." "I treat you very well, especially in light of the fact you torture me," I point out. "Mmmm." "Oh, and Isabella?" I ask as I grab hold of her and stand. "Yes?" "Your pajamas are ridiculous." She closes her eyes and laughs softly. I kiss her on the forehead before I start walking. I really do like the feeling of having her in my arms. Finally, someone I want to hold onto.

Two hours later, I'm sitting at the kitchen table, still typing away at my laptop. Thankfully, I've been able to focus, even with the obvious fact that I fucked Isabella on this table not that long ago. She's fast asleep in bed, and it's the knowledge that she's nearby and safe that keeps some of my anxiety at bay. Of course, I'm still worried about how I'm going to succeed at this romance business, but at least my thoughts aren't as frenzied as they were before. I rub my eyes; I'm a bit tired of looking at my computer screen. I decide it's time to take a break, so I leave my notes for the moment and get up to make a cup of tea.

When the kettle starts boiling, I hear footsteps and a door opening. I look over to see Isabella plodding into the kitchen, an odd expression on her face. "I had a weird dream," she mumbles. "It was really disturbing." "Are you alright?" I ask, concerned. "No." She sits down at the table and folds her arms on the tabletop. "Bad dream. Bad." In her tiredness, she rests her head on her arms and closes her eyes. Her breathing is labored, like she's trying not to hyperventilate, and I'm sure her heart is racing from fright. Frowning, I rush over to her side and place my arm on her shoulder. She flinches at my touch. I try not to take offense she just told me she had a bad dream, so maybe touching her was a bad idea. Still, I don't like the fact that I'm not comforting her in some way. "Is there anything I can do?" She groans. "Water. And a declaration that you don't like Carrie Underwood." "Water, I can do," I reply. "As for CarrieI never really bought into the American Idol thing." "That's not a declaration," she mutters. "I hate her with the fire of a thousand suns. Just don't tell Al Gore I'm responsible for global warming." "Exactly a thousand?" she asks groggily. "He might ask for a recount. Or try to get Banner to ratify the Kyoto Protocol to counteract the heat you're generating." I laugh quietly. "I can't help it if I'm hot." "Mmmm." I retrieve a glass and grab the carafe of chilled water out of the fridge, all the while wondering how much further I should pry into her state of mind. After I've poured the water, Isabella slowly lifts her head and reaches out for the drink. She sighs again before gulping down the water, so I sit down in the chair next to her, thinking the proximity might reassure her that I'm here for her. "Will talking about it help?" I coax. Her shoulders sink. She looks at me tiredly, bleary-eyed, and I feel a burn in my chest from not knowing how to help. "Was it about us?" I ask, worried that's the reason she's not telling me. "Was I with Carrie Underwood?" "Yes, you were in my dream. No, you weren't with Carrie." She pauses. "I think she's getting married to a hockey player" She doesn't offer any more details about her dream. Resting her head back down on her arms, she closes her eyes once more. I try to think of more questions. "Was Dream Edward a jerk? I'll kick his ass if he was."

She grunts at my nonsensical promise, which I take as confirmation that Dream Edward was indeed a jerk. "You can't beat up the dream version of yourself," she says. "That's self-abuse." "Er, I think you mean self-harm," I correct, trying not to smirk. "Self-abuse is what happens when Dream Bella taunts me in my dreams." Good one, Cullen. How is talking about jerking off going to comfort her? "Oh, yeah, sorry," she says, rubbing her forehead. I hate that she's so anxious. "You know I'd never hurt you in real life, right?" I ask, eager to assure her. She doesn't respond, which makes me think the worst. My imagination gets the better of me, conjuring horrible scenarios that she might have dreamed about. I shudder, my stomach churning at the thought of me forcing myself on her, or hurting her in some other way. "Isabella, it was just a dream. It wasn't real." She opens her eyes. "Dream Edward didn't hurt me," she says softly. "The dream was justvery strange and scary." "Kind of like watching Paula Abdul?" "She quit Idol." "Oh." I pause. "Umyay?" "Hmmm." I'm not sure if my attempts at humor are making her feel better or worse. All I seem to be doing is leading her on random tangents, like someone with a faulty compass. I need her to feel secure with me; with known bearings and a sure direction. "Are you too upset to go back to sleep?" I ask. "Yes," she admits. "Are you coming to bed soon?" "I'll come to bed now if that will make you feel safe," I offer. "Maybe that will remind you that Dream Edward is just a dream?" She lifts her head and nods. "Sorry I interrupted your Lemon research," she says apologetically. I'm tempted to give her the bracelet now, to show her that I care about her. But since I don't really know what her nightmare was about, I decide to play it safe and stick to my original plan. She's distressed, anyway; it really isn't the right moment. "Lemon can wait," I respond. Unbeknownst to her, there's a double-meaning to my words.

"I better shake this off," she says solemnly. "Or I won't be any fun tomorrow." I push my chair back and stand up. "Don't worry about being fun or not. Come on," I urge, extending my hand. "Let's try this bedtime thing again, shall we?" "Yeah, okay," she agrees, taking my hand and pulling herself up. We've held hands as we've walked into a bedroom before, in New Haven. It's different this time, though. My primary objective isn't to throw her onto the bed and fuck her. As I hold her hand, I can't help but think that I'd really do anything for her. Maybe even chop people's heads off, like King Henry VIII. No, I would never do that. But I would fight both our families and anyone else who might try and take her away from me. I hope she'll fight for us too, because I don't know what I'd do without her. I guess I really am in love.

Re next chapter: Maybe Wednesday 9/1. I'll tweet about it :) Bella's dream: The dream was the FGB Outtake. Site admin Caro is on vacation till 8/30, so we can't really take signups right now. I'll eventually post the outtake on FFN, and BPOV is next anyway. Legal citations: - UDHR (1948); United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1987); ICCPR (1976); and Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (1949). - Joinder: Rule 20(a)(2), Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Persons may be joined in one action as defendants if any right to relief is asserted against them jointly, severally, or in the alternative with respect to or arising out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences; and any question of law or fact common to all defendants will arise in the action. - Quotation: Joshua Puls, 'The Wall of Separation: Section 116, The First Amendment and Constitutional Religious Guarantees' (1998) 26 Federal Law Review 139, 163. - The Eighth Amendment (Amendment VIII) to the United States Constitution part of the Bill of Rights prohibits the federal government from imposing excessive bail, excessive fines or cruel and unusual punishments.* - The Kyoto Protocol is a protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), aimed at fighting global warming. The U.S. is a party to the UNFCCC, but is a non-party to the Protocol.* Other references: - Pretty Woman (1990), directed by Garry Marshall. - The Mothman Prophecies (2002), directed by Mark Pellington. - Jersey Shore (2009-present), reality series on MTV.

- Mean Girls (2004), directed by Mark Waters. Screenplay by Tina Fey. Based on the book Queen Bees and Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman. - TSA: Transportation Security Administration. Responsible for security in all modes of transportation.* (thanks to my1edward for picking up the FAA error). - Henry VIII of England: Henry VIII (28 June 1491 28 January 1547) was King of England from 21 April 1509 until his death. He is known for his role in the separation of the Church of England from the Roman Catholic Church, and for his six wives two of which he beheaded. - Carrie Underwood married Ottawa Senators ice hockey player Mike Fisher in July. (Disclaimer: I actually like Carrie). - Paula Abdul left Idol in August 2009.

Chapter 20: The Sweetest Thing BPOV I think Edward is falling for me. And I think I'm falling for him too. I know this is a particularly heavy subject to be contemplating in the Ghirardelli Chocolate Shop at nine thirty in the morning, but it's something I have to analyze as soon as possible. Time is of the essence. I only have two days here in San Francisco, and whatever realizations I come to will affect how these two days are spent. I'm in the chocolate shop because I need to think about all this without Edward around. I know it's a little risky to be out in public, but if anyone recognizes me, I can easily say that I went sightseeing before leaving for Napa. I'm wearing a hoodie the hallmark of someone trying to keep a low profile. Hopefully nobody thinks I'm planning to shoplift. Apparently I've already stolen someone's heart. My fuck buddy's heart. So far, he's been incredibly sweet to me this morning. He hugged me when I woke up, brought me breakfast in bed, and let me watch Fox & Friends Weekend. I may have been in shock, but I still knew something odd was going on. Anything on Fox News should've made his liberal head explode. Yet, he just sat in bed next to me eating his Cheerios, as if he couldn't hear any of the Banner jokes coming out of the anchors' mouths. Either way, I was in awe. It was like he was happy just to be with me, something which made me giddy but nervous at the same time. He kept looking at me fondly while we ate, and I wonder if he even knew he was looking at me like that. It was a little difficult to be jovial since my freaky dream was still dominating my thoughts, but the sight of Edward like this warmed my heart. He even reassured me it was okay to take some time to deal with the trauma of the dream, reminding me that I needn't worry about being 'fun' for him. It was nice of him to say that, especially since I came to San Francisco specifically so we could fuck all weekend. I was so touched; I wanted to knock the bowl of Cheerios out of his hand and give him a big hug. I refrained,

however, because that would've made a serious mess. Not the typical type of stain left in a bed, but still a mess. And he treated me like this without even knowing what my dream was about. It had taken me a little while to fall asleep again after seeking him out last night the dream was that disconcerting. I felt too weirded out to have him hold me, but I did let him hold my hand as we slept. It was during breakfast that he told me he had a fitful sleep. Apparently, he kept waking up because he was worried I was going to have another nightmare. I almost melted right there and then, like a chocolate bar left out in the sun. He was making me go all gooey on the inside. Forgive the chocolate references. Chocolate is on my mind. You see, I had one of my first nightmares when I was seven. It was caused by a sugar overdose. Mom was out of town, and Emmett was over at a friend's place, so my dad and I spent the evening together. We watched Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, and ate a ridiculous amount of candy. I remember thinking my dad was the coolest dad ever. I fell asleep before the movie ended, and Dad had to carry me to bed. Hours later, I woke up screaming. I'd dreamed that I'd fallen into a river of chocolate like Augustus Gloop in the movie and found myself unable to swim. As I thrashed and yelled for help, the current kept pushing me towards a great glass tube. The tube was undoubtedly going to suck me up and carry me off to some room where I'd be turned into candy, hence the all-encompassing fear. I'd been rescued from my chocolate-induced hell by my dad calling my name and shaking me gently. He'd comforted me as I sobbed on his shoulder and told him about the dream. After I had glass of milk, he let me sleep next to him in his and Mom's bed. We didn't tell Mom about all the candy we ate, nor did we tell her about my nightmare it was our little secret. To this day, she still recalls the two months when I was seven where I steadfastly refused to eat chocolate. It's an inside joke between me and my dad; he still laughs at me whenever he sees me eating a candy bar. My point is that maybe the chocolate river metaphor is perfect for this entire situation. The affection I feel for Edward is growing, and while I may be comfortable with being addicted, I'm scared of becoming this attached. Once again, it's like I've jumped into a river where I can't swim. I feel like I'm flailing around in an attempt to keep afloat. Only my dad's not here this time to rescue me. There's only Edward, and wellEdward is like the glass tube, a force that's sucking me in and threatening to take me to an unknown place, somewhere I'm not sure I want to go. I mean, I know what love is, but I don't know what it means to feel that strongly about him. It's probably juvenile to be drawing this analogy. But I guess I have reason to be remembering my childhood, or at least matters to which children can relate, because the topic of children was a part of my dream. Dream Edward and Dream Bella had unprotected sex, something which led to real life panic when I woke up. I'm not an expert in dream analysis if such a discipline is even legitimate so I don't know what it means to have imagined a conversation about Edward wanting children. It may relate to the risk of getting caught, or worse, pregnant. Then again, Dream Edward's admission about children probably makes more sense in context. I dreamed that I woke up in Vegas with no memory of the night before. I soon found out I'd married Edward the night before because I'd told him that I loved him. He was arrogant in my dream, empowered by the fact he could read my mind. I certainly wasn't treated as an equal. Rather, I was like a

possession or a conquest. He mocked me, failing to take my concerns seriously, especially when it came to the matter of me having taken his last name. Carrie Underwood has a song called Last Name that's why her music was the soundtrack in my dream. So you can imagine how confused and frightened I felt when I awoke with a start. To have my subconscious so directly suggest that I was in love with Edward was incredibly jarring. I hadn't been brave enough to consider it seriously, always bandying about on the edges of the subject, as if it were an area cordoned off in my mind. The dream definitely forced me into uncomfortable territory. The events of last night probably encouraged my subconscious to push me on the issue. I offended him by blurting out something about Pretty Woman when he called me 'pretty'. What I couldn't explain to him in that moment was that I felt bitter about the fact that I wasn't allowed to be his girlfriend. I felt like a plaything, someone he'll dispose of before moving onto someone else. But he was so very hurt, and that in and of itself made it hard to deny something had shifted in our universe. I myself ended up completely miserable from upsetting him, so much so that I moved to rectify the situation soon after. It was then that I started testing the limits of our agreement, asking him questions about his life, and snuggling up to him on the couch while we watched television. Being with him like that, like I was his companion rather than just a fuck buddy, made me feel special. He didn't push me away quite the opposite, actually. Maybe he doesn't know that he's acting this way, like he's a boyfriend. He's not a relationship person, by his own admission. Yet surely he knows that the way we're acting around each other is clearly different to how fuck buddies are typically expected to behave. Fuck buddies don't care about each other like we do. I'm sure of it. The way I yearn for him is not just sexual, which is why I've also reverted to being nervous about kissing him. I've been trying to convince myself that I'm okay with meaningless kisses, but I suspect that my real problem is that the kisses could end up being far from meaningless, at least for me. I told myself earlier that I'd run away from him if I developed feelings like this. But it seems taking a sanctioned visit to the downstairs chocolate shop is as far as I'm willing to go. I know I'm not allowed to be with him, yet the feeling of wanting to be with him seems to be overriding that concern right now. Love is staring me in the face. No, really. It's the day before Valentine's Day. There are love hearts everywhere in the store. I shove my hands in my pockets and wander over to a shelf displaying chocolate figurines and designs. Packaged in a plastic box is a pair of chocolate swans. I immediately whip out my BlackBerry, thinking I should tell Edward I'm going to buy this for him. After deciding that the gift is better as a surprise, I cancel the message. However, as I'm putting my phone away, a text comes through. From Jasper. I've been thinking about you a lot lately. We really do need to talk. Honestly, I don't know why he's being so stupid he knows that he and I are over for good. It's pointless for him to continue acting like Cupid has shot him with the arrow of love again. One of these days I'm going to return fire, not with an arrow, but with a javelin.

The National Track and Field Team should put me on standby. There's always a shot and hammer if the javelin doesn't work. I shouldn't be thinking sports-related violence. I'm not actually that athletic. Jasper's untimely message only strengthens my belief that I'm attached to Edward. My heart used to ache for Jasper; it doesn't anymore. Edward is the only guy in my life now. I don't want anyone else, and I don't want him wanting anyone else. It may be wrong to feel this way about Edward, but admitting it is the first step to figuring out what to do about it. This is a major dilemma. I'm still not entirely sure if Edward feels the same way that I do. If he doesAm I set for a torrid love affair, the type that will get uncovered when I run for office one day? Is it foolish to continue seeing Edward when such strong feelings are involved? If he doesn't have any feelings for me, and I'm just being deluded, then I'll probably end up breaking things off before I get hurt. My continued musings are interrupted when my brother sends me a text. You're probably hungover from all the wine, and/or asleep, but I thought I'd give you the heads up: Rose and Jasper had a fightHe might call you. If I were anywhere else right now, I would call Emmett back straight away and ask what's going on. If Jasper is ruining things for themwell, I've yet to come up with a plan that doesn't involve the risk of physical injury to me. I wasn't kidding about not being athletic. I'd probably hurt myself just by picking up a javelin. I did get speared last night, though. Does lying on my back on a table count as physical activity? Trying not to smirk, I stride over to the counter with my purchases the two swans, several packets of assorted chocolates, some fudge, and a tub of icecream and pay with cash. The lady is really nice, but I pretend to be shy, since it isn't wise for me to be making too much conversation with people here. It's another instance of a local being nice to me though, so I make sure I smile at her warmly. Thinking I still need a bit more time by myself, I exit the store and head over to Kara's Cupcakes. Again, many of the selections are romantically themed; the occasion really is quite shameless and in-your-face. After buying a cupcake each for me and Edward sans red or pink fanfare I get another text. I set my cake box down on one of the countertops and quickly check my messages. It's Emmett again. Sorry, I know you're trying to have fun this weekend, but I really need to talk to you about Rose and Jasper. I sigh in resignation. I would be a bad sister if I didn't try to help him out here. Rosalie is really important to him. He's probably comforting her in person, since he's in Texas right now for Valentine's Day. I text him back saying I'll call him when I get a chance, and he immediately responds with his thanks. Emmett and Rosalie are a couple. They're out in the real world, while Edward and I survive in a bubble where it's only the two of us. However, it's this secret

bubble I have to return to if I want to call Emmett; a cupcake shop isn't the appropriate venue for what is probably going to be a rant-and-rave session. My last stop is Crown and Crumpet, where I pick up a box of English tea. As I pay for it at the counter, I see photos of children having tea parties. My stomach flip-flops. Children. I dreamed that Edward wanted to have children with me. I dreamed that I was the new Mrs. Cullen, the more infamous Mrs. Cullen being my dream mother-in-law. And by dream mother-in-law, I mean I dreamed about her being my mother-in-law, not that I think she'd be the perfect mother-in-law. I'd have to have a lobotomy in order to think otherwise. People always joke about having the in-laws from hell well, I've been raised to believe this city is the Hellmouth. Go figure. Yeah, this dream is going to play on my mind for a while yet. Sliding my sunglasses back on, I stroll back to the hotel, my morning trip at an end. I may not have figured everything out, but I did pause to reflect on some pretty significant issues. I find myself wanting to skip down the hallway to my hotel suite. Alas, I'm carrying too much to be able to do that. Prancing around is surely in the same category as a happy dance. I should probably try and ground myself what I'm doing with Edward may feel right, but deep down, I know it's still wrong. On entering the suite, I kick the door shut behind me and clumsily drop my shopping on the kitchen table. Prior to my dream, I probably would have joked around and called out 'Honey, I'm home.' I can't really do that now, of course. I'm playing house with Edward Cullen. Playing being the key word. I better be careful, or before I know it, I'll be telling him off for leaving the toilet seat up, or demanding that he take out the trash. This whole suite/mini-apartment thing must be messing with my head. Edward bounds over from the living room, either really excited that I bought candy or really glad that I've returned. Perhaps it's both. "You're back," he says, grinning. "I am indeed." Returning to Edward makes me smile to myself. He's put a pair of pajama pants on, but he's wearing the same t-shirt. I bite my lip as I check out his arms. He chuckles as he steps forward to greet me, touching me gently on the forearm. I smile in return, but the moment is a little awkward. I think he wants to hug me, but he steps back, probably knowing it's too much too soon. Not thinking quickly enough, I shuffle on the spot for a few seconds before scrambling to say something to mask our awkwardness. "They had chocolate swans," I say excitedly, showing him the box. "No chocolate Cullens, though, which was disappointing. I would've liked the opportunity to bite your mother's head off." When all else fails, make fun of a Democrat.

It's my family's default position. Edward smirks, taking the box from me. "And what would you have done with a chocolate Edward?" he teases. "I probably would've taken a bite out of him as well, so it's safe to say I put his head in my mouth" I trail off, waggling my eyebrows. "Oh, come on now," he says, challenging me. "You can do better than that." "What? Like put him in the spare room in Barbie's funhouse?" I suggest dryly. "Funhouse, did you say?" He winks. "I don't think I'll enjoy it there. Barbie isn't my type. I prefer brunettes. Well, ever since I met you." "We met when we were like five," I point out. "We weren't strangers on that train." "I still would've chased you had we not known each other," he boasts. "Are you angling for brownie points?" I ask, raising an eyebrow. "My candy shop won't let you redeem those, just so you know." "No loyalty program?" Edward questions, playing along. "That's a travesty." I poke him in the chest. "I'll talk to marketing. Maybe they can issue you a Frequent Fuckers card. You'll get a bonus every five times we sleep together." He makes a point of tallying up how many times we've had sex, counting on his hand. "One, two, three, four" "What? Can't you remember?" I mock. "Need to refer to the notches on your bedpost?" He smirks. "Like you even know what my bed looks like," he counters. "You wish you knew." I guffaw. "Yes, well, I look forward to the day when I show up at your place, with a newspaper over my head, before rudely barging in like Kramer from Seinfeld. Where's that complimentary copy of the San Francisco Chronicle? Maybe I should practice." "Rudely barge in?" He waggles his eyebrows suggestively. "Is that what I do at your entrance?" I may like it when he barges in, but the fact that doing so could get me pregnant if an accident happensthat's a concern for me today. "If your next line insinuates that I always let you in, then you better pencil in an ass-kicking," I retort. "Actually, write that one in in pen." He looks at me apologetically. "I was only rude to you the first time." Oh God. One minute we're teasing each other, and the next he's making me nervous with how sensitive he's being. I feel self-conscious all of a sudden. Before I know it, I'm blushing, not from the memory of train sex, but from the fact he's repeating his apology in such a heartfelt voice. "I really am sorry I made you beg," he adds.

"Oh, Edward," I say with a dramatic sigh, trying to keep things light. I pretend to be all wistful. "Keep looking at me with those puppy dog eyes and you might just get lucky later today." And the smirk returns. It hasn't escaped me that his trademark is less arrogant now; the smirk is more playful. "So the bonus we were talking about before it's a kiss, right?" he asks hopefully. I shrug. "It could be anything," I tease. "Maybe you'll get a free subscription to Congressional Quarterly. Or maybe you'll get an ice-cream cone." Edward glances disdainfully at the ice-cream on the table. "But we have icecream it wouldn't be a bonus." "Let's not schedule it, okay?" I say lightly. "I'll kiss you when I'm ready to. If it's just an appointment in your diary, then it" I blanch, trailing off. What I was going to say was that it if we were schedule it, it might not mean anything. Which means I must want it to mean something. Was that a Freudian slip? This is not the time for slips of the tongue. The time for tongues slipping in anywhere is when Edward is going down on me. Or, you know, kissing me Stupid subconscious. Suddenly, I feel twelve-years-old again; frightened to kiss a boy. This isn't even spin-the-bottle. There's only one boy to choose from. Hell, I've clearly already chosen him. There's no need for a bottle. Actually, yes there is. I could hit myself over the head with it. Although, knowing my luck, there'd probably be a message in the bottle, telling me that yes, I almost vocalized something quite telling. I fucking hate Freud right now. Next I'll be telling myself that I actually want to have Edward's babies. Edward takes my awkward silence in stride, and casually deflects. "Thanks for the chocolate swans," he says. "Anytime," I reply a little too quickly. Then I start fidgeting. "Um, I mean, anytime I'm in town. Your town. San Francisco is your town." Way to get flustered, Swan. Edward blinks at me for a few seconds before resuming the conversation. "Yeah, I guess I do act like I own the place," he quips. He leans forward, pretending to share secret information. "It's a Cullen thing. Sometimes we even act like we own the country." Like an idiot, all I can manage to do is smile at him. He wants me to feel comfortable, so much so that he's the one telling Cullen jokes now. For all I know, he could've ripped them off Fox & Friends.

"Come on, let's see what's on TV," he suggests. After I place the ice-cream in the freezer, Edward picks up the box of cupcakes and leads me to the living room. I plop down on the couch, while he chooses to sit Indian-style on the floor in front of me. I need to calm down and act normal. My immediate thought is that I don't know what we're going to do all day if we're not having sex. Surely television and food can only be entertaining for so long. However, Edward doesn't seem too worried; he's peeking into the cupcake box like there's treasure inside. "I missed you while you were out," he says, reaching for the television guide that's on the table. "I wasn't gone that long," I tease, ruffling his hair. Alright, this is good. There's no need to panic. I just need to be myself. He looks at his bare wrist, pretending he's wearing a watch. "You were gone for sixty-seven minutes. If I weren't in hiding, I would've called for a search party at the ninety-minute mark." "Search party? No, thank you. Having two parties in this country is enough." "It would've been an independent cohort," he qualifies, flicking through the listings. "You would've sent Ralph Nader to find me?" I joke. "Gee, thanks, Cullen. I thought you cared about me." "There are other independents," he says, looking over his shoulder to face me. "Senator Dressler, for example." I snort. "Dressler is getting senile. He gets lost trying to find his seat in the Senate chamber. He wouldn't be able to find Waldo if he was humping his leg." "Why would Waldo hump Dressler's leg?" "I don't know. Why does Nevada keep reelecting Dressler? There are many things that can't be explained, Cullen." "God works in mysterious ways." "Not according to the Christian Right. They're pretty sure what His plan is." "Yeah, for your father to be president," Edward points out, amused. "So who's on the search party again?" I ask, taking evasive action. "The search party is made up of Nader and Dressler," Edward states. He ponders before continuing. "Dressler used to be Republican, so maybe there should be an actual Republican or two in the group. Camberwell and Furston have both considered leaving the party at respective times in their careers, right?" I don't immediately reply, mainly because I'm intrigued. "Is that common knowledge?" I ask slowly. "I suppose it could be, if you followed politics. Sometimes I forget who knows things and who doesn't."

"Camberwell has an outburst every couple of years, so I'd say his grievances are common knowledge," Edward points out. "Furston is the most liberal Republican in the Senate, right? He gets along swimmingly with my dad, as I'm sure most people in Washington would know your father included." "Camberwell is getting pretty old, so I think he'd be as useless as Dressler in locating me. Furston is actually a nice guy I would be responsive if he was on the search team." "Well, if I ever lose track of you which better not happen I now have a planned response." "If you are careless enough to lose track of me, perhaps you don't deserve me," I tease. "Fine, I'll handcuff the two of us together," he declares. "And then throw the key into the Bay." "Handcuffs? I didn't know you were into that sort of thing." He chuckles. "I'm not. I just want to be tied to you." I think I just died a little on the inside. Seriously. The Grim Reaper just checked in and wondered why I wasn't completely dead. Truth be told, I'm not entirely sure what Edward meant by 'tied to you', but since he just said he wasn't into the handcuff thing, odds are he meant he wants to be connected to me on some level. Edward turns back around and starts reading out possible movie choices. However, after I dismiss Runaway Bride for the obvious reasons of running, weddings, and the reunion of Julia Roberts and Richard Gere on screen my cell phone beeps once again. I groan, and flop down so I'm lying across the couch. "You should turn your phone off," Edward suggests. "Yeah, I should." I decide to be honest with him about the texts from Jasper and Emmett. "Jasper texted me when I was out, by the way. And so did my brother. Apparently, Jasper and Rosalie had an argument. Fun times, right?" Edward twists around and raises his knees so he can more comfortably face me while we talk. "Seriously?" he asks, brow furrowed. "Yeah," I confirm. "Everything is bigger in Texas, including drama, apparently. That being said, Jasper works in New York. It must've been a shouting match over the phone." "Does this have something to do with you?" The worry evident in Edward's voice is giving him away. I suppose I could be reading into his actions, but if I didn't know any better, I'd say he's even more wary of my ex than he was before.

"It probably does," I admit. "I told Emmett I'd call him when I got the chance. I might wait a little longer." "Is the latest text from him?" I grab my phone out of my jeans pocket and check the message. It is from Emmett: Sis, I really need you to call me. Suddenly not caring whether Edward overhears the conversation, I select Emmett's number and press 'call.' I shouldn't let Emmett's frustration simmer any longer before talking to him. I'll let him rant about Jasper, and then I'll turn my phone off for the rest of the day. Edward quirks an eyebrow, curious. I shake my head at the situation. Emmett picks up on the second ring. "Hey, sorry to bother you." "What's going on?" I ask. "Jasper lost his shit! He told Rosalie he was never okay with her dating me," Emmett explains, obviously angry. "He accused her of being a selfish bitch, saying she knew all along that he wasn't over you. Fucking hell. You know how strong Rose is. For her to cry over thisShe's really upset." "They are a tight family," I say, sighing from frustration. "Wait, aren't you with her right now?" "I'm taking a walk around the ranch. Trying to stay away from things I can hit or destroy." "Look, I've made it pretty clear to Jasper that I don't want him. I don't know what else I can do." "You could call him," Emmett urges. "Emmett, please. You know I hate talking to the guy. Not to mention, I'm on vacation." "It's like the third week of semester," he argues. "You shouldn't be on vacation." "Who are you angry at here? Me or Jasper?" I ask, getting defensive. "Okay, I'm sorry. It's just that he's clinging onto this hope of his, and if he just gave up, it would make things easier." "He'd still resent Rosalie," I point out. "The guy needs to be put in his place," Emmett asserts. "Here's an idea: lie and say you're pursuing someone else." I think the idea over. While I'm not actively pursuing Edward, I'm still with him in some capacity, so I wouldn't even be lying. "You think that would work, Em?" "It's worth a shot. I need him to back down before Rose suddenly declares I'm not worth it."

"If she loves you, she won't walk away," I reason. "Look, I'll feed him the lie. Maybe he'll concede." "Thanks," he says appreciatively. "By the way, he also mentioned something about Edward Cullen visiting New Haven. Cullen was on the list of people he cited as proof that Rosalie is being selfish. Because if a Cullen can appreciate how fucked up it is for me to date Rosalie when Jasper still wants you, then any idiot can understand." Shit. Emmett knows about Edward's trip. Wide-eyed, I look at Edward, who's already frowning just from listening to my end of the conversation. Though I feel like I've been sucker-punched, I try my best to respond normally. "Anyone who uses a Cullen to support their argument should get their IQ checked," I quip. I mouth 'sorry' to Edward. Now it's his turn to go wide-eyed. "Yeah, I know," Emmett replies. "Man, I've had such a shit week." "I'm really sorry." "Ah, it's not your fault." "I'll call you tomorrow, okay?" I say. "I'm sorry this happened to you. You don't deserve it, bro. I'm sure Rose will stick by you don't rip out any trees on your walk, okay?" "I'll try not to. Thanks, Bella. Talk to you tomorrow then." "Bye." With my heart still beating a million miles an hour from the shock of Emmett finding out about Edward being in New Haven, it takes me a few moments to sit up and explain everything to Edward. "I'm sorry I had to diss your family," I apologize, putting my hand on his knee. "He knows you were in New Haven." Edward purses his lips, but doesn't say anything. "Are you mad?" I ask tentatively. "No, I'm not mad," he says, exhaling. He puts his hand on mine. "It's just weird hearing you insult me like that. I guess it was necessarythat's what you actually think of my family, and it would've been suspicious if you hadn't said something along those lines. For the record, though, everyone in my family is quite intelligent." I feel a pang of guilt for the way my words seem to have hurt Edward. "I know you're not stupid," I remind him, squeezing his knee. "Hey, your family probably thinks I'm the devil's spawn." "I guess" We smile at each other ruefully.

"It does make me nervous, though that Emmett actually knows of your sidetrip," I continue. "But I don't think Jasper mentioned the timeframe, so at least that helps." It's more frightening than I ever thought it would be to have someone actually acquire a clue like this. Too many 'coincidences' and Edward and I are bound to get caught. We'll be shamed, and I'll lose him forever. The fear makes my chest tighten. Once again, I've been reminded that there's a real world out there. My reality really is quite scandalous. I could have my own reality show on MTV. Forget The Real World, Washington, D.C. my exploits are more interesting. I don't know what I'd name it though. Maybe instead of 16 and Pregnant, my version would be 25 and Worried About Getting Pregnant Because of a Stupid Dream. I know. It doesn't have a ring to it. Ring. Wedding ring. Oh God. Edward reads into the worry on my face. "We'll be fine, Isabella," Edward says reassuringly, brightening back up a bit. "Don't worry about Emmett knowing there's nothing that connects me to you." I look over to the glass door that leads to the balcony. The suite has a great view of the San Francisco Bay. Now I really do feel a little trapped in my bubble. I could only go outside this morning for an hour. I wish I could go out with Edward, and go sight-seeing properly. I've read about all the attractions here it's a shame I can't go anywhere and enjoy my time with Edward outside this hotel suite. "So what happened, if you don't mind me asking?" he asks. "Jasper started an argument." I refrain from sharing too much this is my brother's private life, after all. "Let's not worry about him, or anyone else, okay? This weekend is just you and me." "It definitely is," he says. Edward surprises me by what he does next: he takes my hand and kisses it. While the gesture is followed by a wink, it still feels kind of romantic. I giggle nervously, not knowing what else to say or do. I pull my hand back, but I can still feel where his lips touched my skin. Now he's looking at me adoringly with those green eyes of his. It's the type of look that I'm sure all women want to see from the man of their dreams the look that says I'm done looking. Thing is, this guy isn't supposed to be the man of my dreams. "Pass me a cupcake," I finally manage to say, eager to deflect his attention. "Sure," he says, handing me one. I need a topic of conversation that will allow me to keep talking and talking.

"You know that movie Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory?" I ask. "It gave me nightmares as a kid." I realize a split-second too late that the topic only serves to remind me of the more recent bad dream. However, Edward urges me on, wanting to hear the nightmare story. I enthusiastically describe what happened, all the more aware that I have to keep my mind off the subject of becoming his wife. "so yeah, my dad still finds it funny when I eat chocolate. He cannot for the life of him keep a straight face when I'm drinking chocolate milk, that's for sure. I mean, it's funny now, but for awhile, it totally wasn't." "I promise to never tease you about this," he declares. "Nor will I ever run a chocolate bath for you." "Why thank you, Edward." "The Candy Man songthat's from the movie, isn't it?" he asks. I tilt my head inquiringly. "Are you going to sing it to me?" "I don't actually know the words. I only remember the version my mom taught me during the '92 election." I snort. "What does chocolate have to do with Clinton? Wait, don't answer that. Sounds kinky." "Want to hear the chorus?" he says with a laugh. "Well, I do want to hear you sing." I nod. "Okay, I'm game. Sing me the Esme Cullen version." He clears his throat and begins to sing the tune. "Who can make a district/Go from red to blue?/Cover it in flyers and a tv ad or two?/A Democrat can, A Democrat Can!" I burst out laughing. "I don't even know how to respond to that!" "Know any swift boat captains?" he asks cheekily. "No, I think they've all moved on to the Good Ship Lollipop." I shake my head. "I like your singing voice, Edward, but that is the worst jingle I have ever heard. Your mother should write for SNL." Edward feigns hurt, clutching his heart. "I sing for you, and you laugh," he laments. "Shut me down like Willy Wonka shut down his factory." "Don't be ridiculous," I reply, leaning forward so I can shove him playfully with my free hand. "He didn't shut down the factory. He just fired everyone and hired Oompa-Loompas instead." Edward scoffs. "Well, I would've taken union action against him. Wonka was clearly a conservative. Not enough respect for workers' rights. He just wanted a cheap source of labor."

"Yeah, that Wonka," I say sarcastically, "with his right-leaning chocolate and disdain for the working class. How dare he employ those Oompa-Loompas? What an asshole!" "Charlie's family was destitute, and all because Grandpa Joe lost his job at Wonka's factory, right?" Edward argues. "No, that back story was added in the Tim Burton film. In the book, Charlie's dad lost his job at the toothpaste factory. He was replaced by machines. Specialization," I explain. "I don't know why he was cut out of the original film." I take a bite of my cupcake before continuing. "Are you going to get on your high horse and lecture me on industrial relations?" His trademark smirk replaces his frown. "I have no desire to get onto a horse, a high one or otherwise. You're the only one I mount these days." "Ah, but you can't ride me until later." "I'm perfectly fine with that. Be sure to finish strongly I like it when you come first." "Why, do you have money on it?" I quip. "I gamble every now and then," he jests. Gamble. Gambling. Vegas. Shit. "Um, so you're not going to decry the fact neither Grandpa Joe nor Charlie's dad received a satisfactory severance package?" I quickly ask, steering the conversation back. Edward raises an eyebrow. "Severance package isn't code for castration, is it?" "Despite evidence to the contrary, the world does not revolve around your cock," I say dismissively. "Well, I should hope not," he says wryly. "That sounds awfully burdensome for me." "No more talking about your beloved package. Turn the TV on, will you?" I request. "Yes, Isabella." I finish my cupcake while he flicks through all the available channels. For the time being it looks like we'll be watching reruns of House. "By the way, I might take you out for a drive tonight," Edward says. "Let you see a little bit more of the city." "Go out? But what if someone sees me?" I ask. "It'll be nighttime. You can wear sunglasses and your hoodie." When I don't immediately respond, he backtracks. "Anyway, it's just an idea."

"I would like to go for a drive," I admit. "Let me think about it?" "Sure." He smiles, buoyed by my more positive response. On remembering that I have to send Jasper a text, I start typing out the message. "Who are you texting?" Edward asks. "Jasper. Emmett had the idea that I should tell him I'm interested in someone," I explain. "Get him to back off." Edward nods in understanding before training his eyes back onto the television screen. He's probably wondering the same thing I am. Am I actually interested in someone? That someone being Edward? "Will Jasper believe you?" Edward bravely asks after I've sent the text. "I hope so," I reply. "I've already told him, time and time again, that I've moved on." "Well, if you don't mind me saying so, I think you'd be very difficult to let go of." The assertion is said casually, with Edward not even looking at me. But I feel the weight of it, nonetheless. Edward is killing me. Killing me softly with his words. Not his song because that song from earlier sucked but his words. I try to say something that will downplay the tenderness of his comment. "Well, from my end, let's just say not everything is bigger in Texas," I say dryly. "Not that sex is everything to me, because it's clearly not." Tell me, I did not just say that last sentence. Why would I say such a thing to my fuck buddy? Edward turns around to look me in the eye. "Sex isn't everything to me either," he says gently. We hold each other's gaze for an extended moment. The moment is intense; it's possible that the longing I see in Edward's eyes is the same emotion he's seeing in mine. Spooked, I look away. Part of me wants to run out of the room, yet I stay where I am, unable to move. I train my eyes on the television screen, and out of the corner of my eye, I see Edward turn to do the same. It's not long before I feel the urge to reassure Edward that I at least care about him. I may have broken eye contact with him in that moment, but it wasn't an act of cold-heartedness. I was being cautious; I know I shouldn't encourage him to act like my boyfriend. I don't want to hurt him, but I'm honestly frightened of where we're headed. Eventually, I shuffle over on the couch so I can lean forward and wrap my arms around his neck; the warmth from the contact makes my heart ache. I graze my lips on his messy hair before kissing him on the top of his head. He looks

upwards, hope in his eyes; he obviously wants more than a peck on the head, and I think he knows my resolve is weakening. I want to kiss him, but I'm scared. If I give in to the kiss, what's next? It doesn't take long for my mind to start telling me something I already know. There's no doubt about it: I am definitely in over my head.

Re next chapter: Bracelet? Kiss? Both? Trouble? Stay tuned to find out. I'll have to tweet the update date probably one and a half weeks from now. Some people asked where the lemon charm picture was: my ADF VIP Cabin! http:/ www. adifferentforest. com/ Forums/ ?ID= 78&Page =1 Legal citations: - None! Other references (mostly pop culture this week): - Fox & Friends Weekend, airs 7am Eastern on Fox Newson the weekend. - Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971, directed by Mel Stuart). Based on the book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964) by Roald Dahl. Film remake: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005, directed by Tim Burton). - 'Last Name' performed by Carrie Underwood, written by Luke Laird, Hillary Lindsey and Carrie Underwood. From the album Carnival Ride (2008). - Ralph Nader: Ran as an independent candidate for President in 2004 and 2008, after previously running with the Green Party in 1996 and 2000. - Where's Waldo: Children's books where you have to find Waldo in the illustrations. The British, and original name, is actually Where's Wally (first published 1987, illustrated by Martin Handford). - Runaway Bride (1999, directed by Gary Marshall). I've never seen this movie, lol. - The Real World: Washington D.C. and 16 & Pregnant are obviously MTV reality shows. - 'The Candy Man' performed by Aubrey Woods (who played Bill the candy store owner in the film), written by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley. I made up the Esme Cullen version. - Swift Boat Captains reference to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign against Kerry in 2004. - 'On the Good Ship Lollipop' performed by Shirley Temple, composed by Richard A. Whiting, lyrics by Sidney Clare. - SNL: Saturday Night Live (NBC, 1975 - present). - 'Killing Me Softly with His Song' performed by Roberta Flack (or more recently, The Fugees), written by Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel. - House (Fox, 2004 - present).

Chapter 21: Say It, Out Loud EPOV I can't stand this uncertainty anymore. I mean, I know Alice seems to think everything is going to work out between me and Isabella, but I'm increasingly worried that her visions are fallible. It's five twenty in the evening, and if I had to bet on it, I'd say Isabella is about to quit on me. It's like I graduated from the School of How To Run a Failed Campaign. If it weren't for the whole I'm-in-love-with-the-enemy aspect of my venture, I'm sure Howard Dean himself would sympathize with me. The next time my dad mentions something about Dean, I'm only going to be able to think of one thing: it fucking hurts to fail. Karl Rove should've run my campaign. At least he knows how to appeal to the Republican base. My panic may be premature I haven't actually failed yet but all signs seem to be pointing to an end. I'm preparing my concession speech at this very moment. I'm sitting in my car, parked a block away from Ghirardelli Square, and I'm thinking of all the things I need to say to Isabella. All my thoughts, however, are jumbled. They're clouded in fear and regret, in love and in truth. I can't even extract the words I need to get out because nothing seems to be the right thing to say. Everything feels wrong. This is how it feels like to be the loser on Election Night. I should be sitting in a room watching early returns stream in on CNN, with lopsided banners and torn down streamers around me. Forget Anderson Cooper 360. It's Edward Cullen 360 this evening all I'm doing is going around in circles in my head. But maybe the number I should be thinking about is 180, because up until two hours ago, things were going well. Isabella and I had a good morning together, enjoying each other's company. We had room service for lunch at around one o'clock, during which we talked about our lives and also reminisced about our childhood. I was mentally preparing to give her the bracelet, and I couldn't wait to both kiss her and have sex with her again. Admittedly, I was nervous and horny, mind you but if anything, I was slowly becoming more sure that she was interested in me. I just had an inkling that things were starting to go my way; she was becoming more affectionate, small gestures like touching my arm or resting her head against my shoulder. As the day progressed, she also became more open about the topics we discussed, offering me details about her life and friendships at Yale. The more we laughed, the more she relaxed. She finally stopped fighting against my wandering hands and let me cop a feel when we returned to the couch after lunch. Within minutes, I had undressed her,

my hands eagerly running over her bare breasts, teasing her nipples. She had to know that I wanted her: I'd been respectful, giving her the time and space she needed, but it was difficult for me to suppress the lust. I wanted to ravage her in that moment, yet I knew I had to show her my gentle side. My cock was telling me one thing, and my heart was telling me another. The urge to fuck her battled with the need to make love to her two different versions of the same essential act. As someone who'd never really made love before, I was somewhat intimidated. That said, I was confident I'd be able to enjoy her slowly. She was naked for me on that couch. Her hands were all over me as well, lifting my t-shirt up over my head and grabbing me by the waistband of my pants. I lunged forward, pinning her on the couch and placing kisses on her neck, her breasts, her stomach. She was wet I stroked her folds, willing her to be ready for me again. I wanted to be inside of her, to show her how perfectly we match, to reinforce the idea that we're supposed to be together no matter what the odds. Then I made the mistake of trying to kiss her. I stared into her eyes and thought she was ready. She seemed happy earlier, so I figured it was okay to try. There was something in the way she was looking at me I interpreted it to be anticipation and longing. But I must've seen what I wanted to see. It turned out she was more apprehensive than she was letting on. As soon as I leaned in to kiss her, her eyes flashed with fear, and she pushed my chest, indicating her refusal. Shocked, I jolted back up so I was straddling her rather than pinning her. Sex was fine with her. Kissing was not. I should've waited until she said she was ready. With all the emotion I was experiencing, I couldn't help but reveal how hurt I was. I looked at her in confusion, devastation ripping through my chest. She quickly sat up and pulled her legs from beneath me, the look on her face one of concern and confusion. I felt like a predator in that moment, like I had forced my affections upon her. Not that it was necessarily obvious, since my pants were still on, but I was still hard; the lust still had a hold on me, despite the fact I was trying to convey that I cared about her. Isabella blushed and averted her eyes. When she looked away in shame, it almost killed me. I scrambled backward on the couch, too tormented to do anything more than stare at her and repeat the words "I'm sorry." I didn't understand what was going on in her mind, and frankly, my pride was wounded. I'm not used to rejection. I'm not wired for it. If there's an 'accept or deny' option, women always accept. I would almost say that I didn't know there was a choice at all who would deny me anything? Isabella remained quiet for an extended moment, her gaze drifting to the glass door that led to the balcony. I surmised she was wondering about the outside world. Or perhaps she was looking for an escape. "I'm sorry," I apologized again, hoping there wasn't an edge to my voice. I reached forward to comfort her, but she flinched.

She was pulling away from me. Something had shifted again, but this time we were going backwards. It felt like a repeat of yesterday evening I tried to do something nice, but all I ended up doing was upsetting her in some way. "Um, Edward, I'm not ready to kiss yet," she said carefully, obviously trying not to make a big deal out of it. She forced a smile and looked at me hopefully. "But we can still fuck" I didn't say anything in response, looking away in anger, still disoriented by the rejection. I guess I had been overconfident all day. Hell, I felt blindsided. Well, maybe not completely blindsided I knew she was hesitant on the issue but her refusal still caught me off guard, especially since we seemed to be moving forward in our 'relationship'. Flabbergasted by her change in demeanor, I grabbed my t-shirt off the ground and stood up. I was frustrated, both sexually and emotionally. There was no way I was going to fuck her after she had shied away from me like that. I stomped to the bathroom, worried that I'd say something stupid if I stayed in the same room with her. I was stumped it was like someone had thrown more than one Bushism at me. It was too much to process. She gave me my space. I think she also wanted some thinking time. Once in the bathroom, I watched my erection disappear. It was a waste of a good hard-on, but jerking off in that moment would've been sad and pathetic. It took me awhile to rein in the anger and disappointment: a good forty minutes. I don't even want to recall every negative thought I had in that forty minute period. It was Plath-level, though. That being said, I wasn't about to stick my head into an oven. I'd been burned enough. I'm sure my actions were akin to a massive hissy fit, but love was making me irrational and impatient. In a way, I was kind of angry that she didn't reciprocate my feelings. There was a wall between us. Literally. I paced around in the bathroom, trying desperately not to lose my mind. I texted Alice and Jacob furiously, having retrieved my phone from the bedroom, but all Alice would tell me was that she'd call me later. Jacob advised me to calm down. Their words could not allay my fears. In fact, they worsened my anxiety I was no longer sure that they knew how things were going to pan out. When I mustered up the nerve to return to the living room, Isabella had put her clothes back on, and was checking her BlackBerry. I stood in the doorway, having no words to describe what I was feeling. I watched her carefully I could tell that she knew I was looking, but she seemingly wasn't ready to talk about what happened. Proximity-wise she was so near, but when it came to matters of the heart, I was so far away from being where I wanted to be. I felt like a joke candidate. I usually shake my head at people who put their name on a ballot when they know they have no real chance. But I get it now. If you want something, you sign up for it. You lobby for it. You put yourself out there and give it your best even when you know your best will never be enough. As it turns out, the universe wasn't finished ruining my day.

When Isabella finally looked at me, I noticed a strange, unreadable expression on her face. Though I apologized for pushing things too fast and basically throwing a tantrum, she merely shook her head and told me there was another problem. Jasper had started harassing some of Isabella's Yale friends, demanding to know who she was seeing. Of course, no one had any idea; not only was the excuse fake, but even if I was counted as a love interest, my connection to Isabella remained secret. Apparently, her best friends, Lauren and Angela, refused to cooperate with Jasper's request for information. But then, they'd tried to call her to ask what was going on. Obviously concerned that the lie had only made things worse, Isabella informed me that she needed to make a few phone calls to try to smooth things over. The new development took precedence in Isabella's mind; our second misunderstanding of the weekend seemed like a bit of a bad rerun. She seemed oddly resigned to the fact we had just experienced another awkward moment, like she wasn't that surprised something like this had happened again. At first, I thought she was relieved there was a second conflict, one that she could occupy herself with solving. But then I realized she may have already solved the first issue, deciding that I wasn't worth all this drama and dishonesty. Taking the hint, I decided to leave for awhile, telling her that she should take the time to sort out the mess that Jasper had caused. After apologizing profusely again for my immature behavior, I told her that I'd be waiting for her one block away at five thirty, for the drive we'd agreed to earlier. I left my stuff in the room, thinking that if I actually packed my bags, we'd be over for good. However, I did take the bracelet with me, stashing the wrapped present in my jacket pocket. It's not that I thought she'd go snooping around in my stuff, but it isn't the sort of thing she should come across. It's now in the glove compartment. The sun is going to start setting soon, like one big fucking sunset clause. I fucked things up. Patience isn't my hallmark, apparently. I slump in the driver's seat and decide to call my best friend. I actually called him this morning when Isabella went to the chocolate shop so I could explain the whole Pretty Woman incident. Hopefully, he won't think I'm being annoying now I truly have a clusterfuck on my hands. He picks up on the first ring. "Edward, hey," he answers, already sounding sympathetic. "I tried to kiss her but she wasn't ready," I blurt out. "And I want to punch Jasper Hale in the face." "It's not as bad as you think it is." "Spell it out for me, Jake," I coax, completely despondent. I rest my head on the car window and wait for the worst. "Dude, I don't think I'm supposed to tell you everything Alice sees," he says. "This isn't the National Spelling Bee," I point out. "You're allowed to spell things out for me." He hesitates. "I don't know, manAlice says you can pull this off without us holding your hand. She told you this scenic drive would help. That's a clue, right?"

"I need you to spell it out more clearly than that," I urge. "Sorry, I'm on strict orders not to give too much away." "At least let me buy a vowel." I shake my head in disbelief before feeling yet another surge of pain. "Let me buy an I, an O, and a U. I owe you, Jake. I owe you an apology. You were right all along. I never should've fucked her on that train. I was wrong. Now I'm just this heartbroken loser." "I'm not letting you buy any of those vowels," Jacob says firmly. "Why? Because I'm bankrupt? I'm at least morally bankrupt, aren't I?" "This shit isn't Wheel of Fortune," he reasons, seemingly on the verge of telling me to snap out of it. I thump my fist on the side of the door in frustration. "Isn't it, Jake?" I challenge, taking out some of my anger out on him. I know it's unfair, but I need to unleash some of this rage. "Isn't it? Isn't what I'm doing just one big game? I just keep taking turns, guessing the letters on the board. Yeah, well, the spin stops here! I've lost." He snorts. "You're quoting O'Reilly? Isn't that a sign that you're panicking? You're totally overreacting. Just calm the fuck down, okay? Alice has a major headache at the moment. There are a lot of things going on. Guess where I am right now?" Predictably, I revert to my coping mechanism. Sarcasm. "Studio 33 at CBS Television City in LA?" I guess. "I'm not in California. You're in California," he says sternly. "And what the fuck tapes at Studio 33?" "The Price is Right," I explain. "But you know what? The price isn't right. It's fucking wrong. The price is too high, and it's not worth it!" Yes, I'm clearly losing my mind. I'm alone in my car and gesticulating wildly. I'm like a contestant who was told to 'come on down', only to win nothing more than a few lame Drew Carey jokes. Dammit, Bob Barker you never should have retired. "We're not talking about a new washer and dryer here, Cullen," Jacob scolds. "We're talking about the love of your life!" "What?" I guffaw, almost on the verge of laughing hysterically. "The love of my life? Why are you making this shit up? I told you, Jake. You were right. Alice shouldn't have encouraged me. I'm a fucking mess because I was wrong. I'm the cocky bastard who bets everything during Final Jeopardy because he thinks he's got the right fucking answer, when really he's fucking wrong." "Jeopardy, huh?" Jake shoots back, ready to take me on. He pretends to pick a category. "I'll take Edward Cullen's Delusions for $200." "Great choice," I say sarcastically. "Here's the question: what made Edward Cullen think he could possibly have a shot at love?" "A shot at love?" "Yes, Tila Tequila. A shot at love."

"What is the fact she's your fucking soulmate!" Jacob answers, Jeopardy style. "Fucking soulmate? So I'm destined to fuck her only?" I question pointedly. "You know what I mean. She's your soulmate," he explains. "You think I would've okayed your trip to New Haven if Alice had said anything less than that?" Disbelieving, and getting even more worked up by the second, I take a series of deep breaths in order to try and calm down. "Oh my God," I say, probably sounding unhinged. "Are you saying I just fucked things up with the love of my life? All because I tried to kiss her?" Jacob evades my line of questioning. "Let's return to my question. Guess where I am?" "Why are you making this about you?" I ask heatedly. "I'm not. Just listen to me, will you? Look, I'm in Esme's office. It's a Saturday night and I'm in your mother's office. So there's not much time for me to talk to you. She'll be back in thirty minutes, with Alice in tow. I'm not supposed to tell you everything, but I will say this: give her the goddamned bracelet. You may think it's pointless, that she's going to break things off, or whatever. It doesn't matter. Just give her the gift. Listen to me, please." I shake my head. "What's going on? What's Alice doing?" Jacob sighs heavily. "Same old Washington shit. Look, if you don't hand over the bracelet, you're going to lose your window of opportunity." "Is this window of opportunity the only chance I'm going to get? Is there a side door? Or even a doggy door?" "Give her the bracelet." "I can't believe this," I say in a defeated tone. "Fine, I'll give it to her. It probably won't even make a difference." "Of course it'll make a difference," he insists. "You're really dramatic, you know that? Like a girl." "Thank you for questioning my masculinity. That's exactly what I need right now." "Man up, Cullen!" "Is this a guessing game, Jake?" I accuse. "I feel like you and Alice are guessing letters at random, like this is a game of hangman. If you guys aren't right, I'm a dead man." "You're really fucking stubborn sometimes," he contends, seemingly more amused by the minute. "You want to play word games? Here are your crossword clues. Across: get your point. Down: don't let her shoot you." "Those aren't clues. You just want me to put the first word behind the others in order to complete the sentence." Get your point across. Don't let her shoot you down.

"Yeah, funny that," he replies. "Sometimes to get the message, things happen backwards. Like bad stuff happening first." "I don't like putting puzzles together," I complain. "I just want to see the completed picture." "This is about the bigger picture. Alice is looking long-term." He pauses. "Just calm down and everything will be okay." "I shouldn't have tried to kiss her," I lament. "And, you know, giving her the bracelet is just going to freak her out." "Give her the bracelet," he repeats. "I don't know what else to tell you." "You could tell me everything else I need to know. Like what I should say and do." "Oh, so you're a puppet now?" he mocks. "Well, there are strings attached, but to a woman who doesn't want me!" He scoffs. "Dude, you're acting like Pinocchio." "Yes, I'm lying to myself, and I grow wood at inappropriate moments," I jest. "All Pinocchio wants is to be a real boy. In your case, you want to be a man, but you're too chicken." "Yes, I'm a chicken made out of wood," I say dryly. "Hey, you're the one who decided to phone a friend," he points out. "You can't ask the audience because nobody knows about you two. And 50/50 won't really help because you've only got two choices: give her the bracelet or don't give her the bracelet." "Okay, I'll give her the bracelet." "Good. I have to go now. Alice will only call you in case of emergency." "Okay, but " The line goes dead. I can't believe my best friend hung up on me. Actually, yes I can. I can guess how irritating I must be at the moment. Pegging all my hopes on Jacob's advice advice apparently gleaned from Alice's knowledge seems awfully risky. If I give Isabella the gift, I'm essentially saying all these things that maybe shouldn't be said. Then again, what do I have to lose? She already knows I'm upset that she wouldn't let me kiss her. By giving her the gift, I'm taking one last shot. I'll be confirming that she means something to me. I don't know whether I'm brave enough to say anything directly, and even if I am, I don't know how much credence she'll give to my words. Words in the political arena are often used as weapons. This would be a case of a Cullen saying something more than mere niceties to a Swan. Something designed to bring us together, not tear us apart. I glance at my watch. It's almost five thirty.

With thoughts colliding in my head, I scramble to think of a concession speech, just in case things are about to go even more awry than this afternoon's events. I stand before you today with a heavy heart. It was a hard-fought yet shortlived campaign - and while it was unsuccessful, I remain grateful for the opportunity that was presented to me. I wish you all the best. Fuck, that won't do. I won't be standing on a podium, conceding in front of a crowd of supporters. Isabella. I'm in love with you, but you're not in love with me. I wish things had worked out differently. I slump further in my seat and take my sunglasses off for a moment so I can rub my eyes. Every moment I've ever had with her flashes through my consciousness, making me feel dizzy and overwhelmed. I can't help but think of that stupid clich: that one moment can change your life. If only Alice hadn't interfered and put me on that train bound for Boston. It turned out to be a one-way ticket to heartache. Another clich springs to mind: it's better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all. I also don't agree with that. Ignorance can be bliss. Now I'm always going to be aware of what I've lost. I would've preferred not knowing. I'm a total mess. Word games, lofty speeches, empty rhetoric and clichs all methods to distort the truth and avoid facing reality. Maybe I should get this over with, call Isabella and tell her that I'll pick up my stuff so I can go home. I happen to be massaging my temples as Isabella comes into view; she's walking down the street towards me. Not bothering to mask my distress, I weakly wave at her so she knows I've noticed her. Surprisingly, she's dressed up a little more than I expected. She's wearing jeans and a black hooded cardigan, but she looks more polished than casual. She's probably tired of looking like a homebody. She comes around to the passenger side, opens the door and lets herself in. With the sun beginning to set overhead, I look over at her and see her in the changing light. She's beautiful. So fucking beautiful. And she's looking at me with an apologetic expression; she's biting her lip, and her eyes seem to be pleading for something. But what? Does she want a reprieve from my sulking? A promise that I'll just treat her like a fuck buddy and nothing more? No deal. "You look nice," I say gently, though I'm still tense from the knowledge that whatever hurt I'm feeling now could soon be amplified tenfold. "I thought I'd dress up for you," she explains, sliding her sunglasses up onto the top of her head. I lock eyes with her. "Oh?" "I'm sorry," she offers. She clears her throat and attempts to sound more confident. "I freaked out about the kiss, even though we've been talking about it.

I panicked. I know you're upset, and I hate that you're upsetThen I brushed over the issue because of what Jasper did" Embarrassed, I break eye contact and look down at the steering wheel. "The first time we had sex, you made it clear that kisses were for boyfriends," I recount, trying to keep the sadness out of my voice. "I should've respected that." "It's just thatit's scary for me. I don't usually" The next words out of my mouth are crude and cold, but in a way, maybe the reality check is needed. "I'm sorry I sulked instead of fucking you like you wanted me to," I say emphatically. "I'll service you the rest of the weekend. Whatever you want. Without any kissing." She scoffs, clearly offended. "Don't talk like that. I know your pride is hurt, but you don't have to act like a spoiled brat." Feeling defensive, I deflect by asking her about the phone calls she was forced to make. "How did the phone calls go?" "They went okay," she reveals. "I just explained to my friends that Emmett and I have had enough of Jasper's crap. Lauren and Angela do seem to think that I'm hiding something, but I tried to dissuade them. I made something up about having a lot of family stuff that I don't want to talk about." I hate that we have to lie so much. "Why do they think you're hiding something?" I ask, concerned. Isabella laughs softly, a kind of helpless laugh. "You're angry with me for not letting you kiss me," she asserts. "Well, Lauren and Angela suspect that I'm hung up on a guy, because apparently I've been acting funny for the past couple of weeks. Don't you see why we need boundaries? Everything is getting blurred and you know it." I'm startled by her honesty; she's noticed how I've been acting and now isn't afraid to point it out. "You've been acting funny?" I broach carefully, curiosity piqued. "Yes, extremely funny. Like Tina Fey funny," she jokes. She begrudgingly admits what the real issue is. "Ah, they think I've been pining for someone. Which is true, I guess. I do pine for you." A heavy silence descends. I'm floored that she's admitting this to me. "But you don't want to pine for me?" I ask, not completely sure what to say. "I'm not supposed to miss you so much," she admits, a degree of sadness in her voice. "And now that I'm actually here in San Francisco, we've spent more time either bonding or being awkward than sleeping with each other. I know it's kind of my fault that we haven't had any sex today my dream freaked me out and then I rebuffed your kiss. But I feel like"

I hold my breath for a moment, anxiously waiting for her to continue. But she doesn't. I run my hand through my hair and exhale in a huff. "Like what?" I finally prod. "Like we're on the verge ofI don't know.The way you were looking at me this afternoon" she splutters, clearly flustered. "I've seen that look beforeIs this what all your casual sex arrangements have been like? I don't know if we're doing this right." "You're different," I state plainly, shifting so I'm facing her more directly. "You mean something to me. So if I look at you like I care about youI won't apologize for that." She nods slowly. "Okay." I'm confused. "Okay?" "Well, I care about you too," she says softly. I pinch the bridge of my nose. "I thought you were going to break things off with me." "That would be rash of me, though I guess I don't really know where we are." She looks at me imploringly before waving her hand to indicate we should get going. "Let's drive around for a bit. I'd like to see the place." I wonder if she's talking about San Francisco or the purgatory we seem to be in right now. Wanting to appease her, I start the ignition and pull out of the parking spot as Isabella puts her seatbelt on. I don't really have a set route for this scenic trip; I'll go where I feel like. I tell Isabella a bit about Pier 39 and also Alcatraz as we drive down The Embarcadero along the Bay. She asks questions about random things: sourdough bread, the movie Escape from Alcatraz, the Ferry Building markets. I oblige her, and after awhile I start to wonder whether Jacob was right about me overreacting. Still, it's hard to know whether the chitchat is the process of her forgiving me for overstepping the boundaries, or keeping things pleasant while she decides whether or not we have to stop seeing each other. She looks eagerly out the window as we meander back inland. I drive through parts of Chinatown and Nob Hill, telling her random facts like where Jacob and I like to drink or where Alice likes to go shopping. I'm worried that she may think I'm overstepping the boundaries again by sharing personal information, but I really want to show her my San Francisco, not just the generic landmarks that she could find all on her own. The sky darkens steadily, and soon enough it's twilight. For some reason the darkness makes me less eager to talk; I'm bitter, I think, about the fact we have to hide in the darkness like this. Isabella fills the silence rather comfortably, considering how stilted I expected our interactions to be. Despite the tension between us, she talks freely about facts she discovered while booking her trip cable cars, the Gold Rush, Victorian architecture, and other reflections on the city. I promise to buy her a few souvenirs fridge magnets and the like and secretly hope that those trivial tokens aren't the only things she'll keep to remember me by. I really need to give her the bracelet. Even though it's night, and hence less scenic, I drive through Golden Gate Park, entering from JFK Drive. I try to contribute to the conversation a bit more,

sharing my story about the silverware collection my mother dragged me to at the De Young Museum. She's amused. "That's nice that you do things with your mother," she says. From the corner of my eye, I see her looking at me rather than looking out the window. "Yeah," I reply. "She's good to me. A bit pushy, but she means well." "Parents can be like that, Speaker of the House or not. They have all these expectations for us, and it isn't always easy to win them over." "Yeah, definitely. I think my parents still harbor a hope that I'll run for office one day." "My mom says you've grown up nicely," she says with a soft laugh. "Said you'd be able to garner quite a following if you ran. My brother was a little mortified." "I can imagine." If there's one thing I can take away from today, it's that I shouldn't push her. I'm sure she's mulling over what to do about our situation. She referred to the look I gave her I can only assume she recognizes I want more, and is uncomfortable about it. "Edward?" Isabella asks as we exit the park. I glance at her quickly before returning my attention to the road. "Yes?" "Can we go to the Golden Gate Bridge?" I nod, acquiescing. "There's a place we can park on the south side of the bridge. You can't walk on the bridge at night though." "That's cool. I just want to see it up close." She pauses. "UmMaybe we can stop and talk?" "Oh, okay," I agree. The nerves are evident in my voice. I can't hide the fear. She didn't phrase the words in the typical wayit was a question, not a statement-but my heart drops nonetheless. I've never been in a real relationship before, and it looks like that is not going to change after this weekend. Hell, every man knows that it's never a good thing when a woman wants to "talk." It's the death knell. I'm tempted to drive us off the bridge, if only to put me out of my own misery the pain is gut-wrenching and I feel like I want to hurl. I grip the steering wheel tighter, knowing that it's not manly to fall to pieces. I ask myself and over and over again why Alice hasn't called; surely this counts as an emergency. If her advice is to give Isabella the bracelet, then I'll give her the bracelet. But I'm afraid that it could end up as a parting gift. We sit in silence as we drive on, and eventually I turn off at exit ramp for the viewing area. There are a number of cars, as well as a tour bus, in the parking lot, but I'm sure no one will pay us that much attention. I park the car in the corner of the lot and turn off the ignition. Immediately, I unbuckle my seatbelt;

Isabella follows suit, but the reason I'm in a rush is because I need the breathing room. We survey each other carefully. The lot is lit but not too brightly. Either way, I can see that she's nervous too. "I can't believe this all happened," Isabella begins, sounding wistful. "If someone had told me when I was younger that I'd eventually end up sneaking around with you, I would've told them to jump off a cliff." "Some people consider cliff-diving to be a recreational activity," I say wryly. She takes a deep breath and exhales. "I suppose that's true." It's now or never. I may be scared shitless but I'll never forgive myself if I chicken out now. "Before we talk, I have something to give you," I announce. "Oh?" she asks, surprised. "You bought me a gift? Oh, Edward. You shouldn't have." "I had to get you something." She bites her lip but doesn't reply verbally. I lean over and open the glove compartment, retrieving the long, slender gift box. Isabella's eyes widen as I hand it to her. She accepts it, but regards it somewhat suspiciously, fingering the red wrapping paper and gently shaking the box. "Don't open it yet," I request. "I need to find the words to explain." She nods quickly, turning the box around and around in her hands. "Um" I stop and try again. "I think I know what to say." "Words can be hard to find," she says kindly. "Oh, these words aren't Weapons of Mass Destruction they actually exist," I quip. "Though I guess words can cause harm." "Is this a Valentine's Day gift?" she asks tentatively. "It has red wrapping paper." "Um" She backtracks, possibly to ease my discomfort. "Or maybe you bought it in Chinatown, or chose red for Republican." "It's the standard wrapping that came at the store," I explain. "Oh, that's cool. Complimentary wrapping is a valued service." I look at her blankly. Her nerves are making me even more nervous. "Yes, I agree," I say awkwardly. She opens her mouth to say something, but changes her mind. I figure it's best if I start explaining the gift.

"I don't want you to think that I'm trying to buy you or something. I'm not trying to pay you for sex. I bought this last week because I wanted to get something nice for you, to show how much I appreciate what you're doing. You've come all the way here to see me, and you're giving up the chance to be with any other guy. Please accept it, because I don't know what I'll do if you don't" I look at her hopefully, nodding, so she knows she can open the gift now. "Okay, here goes," she says, tearing away the red paper. She lets the paper fall away, revealing the case. "Is it a pen?" she guesses. "Um, no." She taps two fingers on the box's lid. "Are you checking its pulse?" I jest, ribbing her lightly. Isabella raises an eyebrow. "Why? Does it have a heart?" "I'm the one with the heart," I declare. "Not the box." Did I really just say that? "I guess I should open it now," she says. "Yes." The anticipation is clawing at my insides, Jacob's advice ringing in my head. Finally, Isabella opens the case, the hinge making a popping noise. She gasps on seeing the gold bracelet with the jeweled lemon charm, and my heart clenches, frightened she's going to reject me once again. "Oh my God!" she exclaims. "You bought me jewelry. This is gorgeous!" I exhale, relieved she at least likes it. But will she accept it? Will she understand what I'm saying? She gapes at the gift, looking back and forth between me and the bracelet. "It's a lemon charm," I point out, stating the obvious. "Because that's what we were flirting about on the train." "Oh, Edward," she whispers. "You're killing me." I take her hand and push back her sleeve so I can rub my thumb over her wrist. "I don't want to kill you." "That's nice of you," she says sarcastically. "I should get that declaration in writing. Very chivalrous." I grin. She's joking around with me, which is encouraging. If our dynamic is here, however muted, then I'm not being given my marching orders. "So, it's okay that I'm giving this to you?" I ask. She takes a moment to think it over; I can see she's conflicted, no matter how much she likes the actual gift itself.

She looks at me pointedly. "Is this a Valentine's Day gift?" she repeats, this time in a no-nonsense tone. "It's not Valentine's Day yet," I say rather dumbly, scared of admitting I've gone too far, if she indeed thinks I've overstepped again. "This must've been expensive," she comments, fingering the charm and admiring it. "How much did you spend?" "Money wasn't an issue. I just wanted to find you the perfect gift." I gently lift up the bracelet. "Here, I'll put it on for you." She obliges, letting me clasp the bracelet onto her wrist. She holds her wrist up and inspects the bracelet and charm more closely. I can see from her expression that she really does like it. "Cullen, what are you doing to me?" she asks, presumably in rhetorical fashion. I smile. "It's perfect, isn't it?" Isabella hides her head in her hands. "Why are you doing this to me?" she asks, voice muffled. She drops her hands and shoots me an accusatory look. "You're making me want you" I stare at her, unsure as to what she means by 'want you'. Does she want me sexually? Is she talking about another type of want? I need her to know that I'm trying to be romantic it's possible I actually have to say something out loud in order for her to know that. "Well, I do want you to want me," I say carefully. "You mean something to me." Isabella looks at me with a heartfelt expression. "I knowyou care." No, it's more than that. I'm going to have to say something. I look her in the eyes and take the risk. "Look, I don't know what you want to talk to me about," I begin, hoping I sound as sincere as possible. "But I should probably tell you right here and nowWell, I think you've already figured this out from the way I reacted to you not wanting to kiss meBut just in case you're not sure, I want you to knowthat I have feelings for you." I said it. I told her. I fucking told her. She's gaping at me. "I can't believe you just said that," she remarks, shocked. "That'sreally brave of you." "Some people cliff-dive. Others say things that they probably shouldn't, about feelings that they're not really supposed to have," I reply, a little bit bemused. I have no idea whether I'm supposed to be relieved. I still feel scared shitless. I said something that the two of us clearly can't ignore.

Finally, the shock recedes a fraction, and she looks at me with the same heartfelt expression she had on her face earlier. "I think we should go back to the hotel," she urges. "We can have dinner and thenget intimate." I don't know if I'm being particularly dense, or whether the nerves are affecting the rate I process information, but I'm not sure if her reaction reflects anything other than the status quo. Our arrangement is all about sex. "I don't think I understand what you're saying," I admit, unsure as to how stupid I should be feeling. I start rambling. "I just told you that I have feelings for youso if we're going back to the hotel, does that mean you don't want to talk about it...or are you fine about it, indifferent even" I may have been brave enough to tell her what I just told her, but I'm not going to ask her outright whether she feels the same way. She might not even know. "Really, we should get back to the hotel," she repeats anxiously. "Maybe we should have dinner later. After" Bewildered, I seek clarification once again. "Okay, so we're going back to the hotel to have sex?" I repeat. "That'syeah, okay, I want to have sex. I guess." Is she brushing the issue of my feelings under the proverbial carpet? "Edward?" she presses. "Yes?" She looks at me pleadingly. "Read between the lines." "I need you to spell out what you mean, because I'm not following," I explain. "You just told me something major, and I'm not a hundred percent ready to talk about it," she says slowly. "But I want to return to the privacy of the hotel room so I can show you that I appreciate the gift and maybe what you revealed to me." "So you're kind of okay with what I said, and you're still coming to terms with it. And we're going to have sex." She sighs. "Edward?" "Yes?" "You're really going to make me say it out loud?" she asks, a mixture of annoyed and resigned. I look at her quizzically. "Say what out loud?" "You know what." "No, I don't," I say quickly. "Can I buy a vowel? Because I don't get what you're " "I want to kiss you!" she exclaims, annoyed that I wasn't catching on. "In private. Not in your Volvo, which, by the way, is not the kind of car I expected you to drive."

"Oh." She wants to kiss me. She. Wants. To. Kiss. Me. And she totally dissed my Volvo. "What's wrong with my car?" I ask defensively. "It's stationary, that's what's wrong with it," she quips. "No, really " "Are we going or what?" she coaxes, amused. "Otherwise, I'll find some other Volvo driver to kiss." Finally, I feel a sense of relief and joy wash over me. "Oh, is that right?" I say, amused. "Yep," she says happily. She points to my keys. "You might want to turn on the ignition." "Yeah, yeah. Like I have a problem turning things on," I joke, turning the key. "And just because you know how I feel, doesn't mean you can diss either my driving or my car." She rolls her eyes at me. "Oh, shush." I take a moment to look at her. I want to remember everything about this moment because it's going to be a key memory of mine for life. I reach out and push the hood of her hooded cardigan back. Besides wanting her to love me, I also want us to not have to hide. Gently running my hand through her hair, I then brush my fingers against the soft skin of her cheek. She presses her cheek against my hand, welcoming my touch. My chest swells with happiness she's not flinching, nor is she shying away from me. Since she can't read my mind, I decide to say just a bit more, to clarify why I'm trying to win her heart. "You're the best thing that's ever happened to me," I tell her with renewed confidence, smiling widely. I try to keep my voice light, so as not to put pressure on her. "I know that's probably scary to hear, and trust me, I'm not trying to pressure you into saying or feeling anything you're not ready for. It's just that sometimes we get caught up in what's going on outside instead of inside. We don't exist in a vacuum, I get that." I laugh softly. "But if I lost you, that's how my life would feel. Empty." I can see the emotion on Isabella's face. The twinkle in her eye tells me she's extremely flattered, and I can tell from her growing smile that my words have affected her more than she'd like to let on. She takes a deep breath and exhales, before shaking her head. She's fighting her smile. "Stupid Cullens and their goddamn speeches," she whispers, voice cracking with emotion.

I rub my thumb on her cheek. "Am I killing you again? I really should stop doing that" Isabella looks me in the eye and I know exactly what she wants this time. I'm not mistaken, I'm not projecting. I just know. Slowly, she leans forward, lips parting in anticipation. I cup the side of her face and lean forward myself, maintaining eye contact, not wanting to lose that connection too soon. I glance down at her lips momentarily, the moment suddenly so very surreal. I want everything in this particular moment to be documented not by sight, but by touch. Closing the gap between us, I close my eyes and lightly brush my lips against hers. The tentative contact is more nervous than teasing, a chasteness that I've never known with her. Isabella threads her fingers through the hair on the back of my neck, the warmth of her touch making my heart race even faster. Pulling me closer, she presses her lips firmly against mine, a move that indicates that she wants this as much I do. Buoyed by her enthusiasm, however measured, I open my mouth and taste her bottom lip. This first taste is overwhelming in itself; I take a quick intake of breath, surprised by how much raw emotion I'm experiencing. Isabella is letting me kiss her. The ache in my chest intensifies, a manifestation of how much I yearn for her, how much I want her to realize that we are perfect for each other. When I gently push my tongue into her mouth, my anxiety recedes. Isabella tilts her head slightly to the side and reciprocates, her tongue now in my mouth. Every sensory nerve I have is in overdrive, amplifying how satisfying it is to finally be kissing her, to have my tongue in her warm, wet mouth, to have her fingers tugging at my hair. She's pulling me towards her, and I'm happy to be drawn in like this. We deepen the kiss, and I groan in satisfaction as the euphoria intensifies as well. She moans, letting me control the kiss for a few moments before reciprocating with even more vigor. I belong to her. She has to know that. Overcome with emotion, I'm forced to pull away, needing to breathe. I feel like I've been winded. But when my lips leave hers, I feel that ache intensify; the only way I can soothe it is to kiss her again. So I do. I taste her, sucking gently on her top lip, making her whimper. Isabella must be as overwhelmed as I am she draws back a bit abruptly, but we rest our foreheads together, preserving the intimacy of the moment. We both gasp for breath, gazing longingly into each other's eyes. She blinks rapidly for several seconds, as if to regain her bearings. I might be imagining things, but I swear she may have blinked away a tear or two. There's nothing like the feeling of kissing someone you love. It's uplifting and intoxicating, and I want to experience it over and over again. Isabella and I break apart from each other, satisfied. I don't think either of us knows what to say yet. But for the first time, she looks hopeful, and to me, that speaks incredible volumes. For once, I'm actually content with a bit of silence. It's amazing what words can do.

Chapter 22: Love Lockdown EPOV As ecstatic as I am right now, I can't get ahead of myself. I don't want to be like the Chicago Tribune in 1948, when they erroneously declared that Dewey had defeated President Truman. They printed 150, 000 copies before the gaffe could be corrected. Truman even took a photo with the embarrassing headline when he was declared the winner. It's that kind of foolishness that I'm seeking to avoid. I've declared my feelings for Isabella, and we've kissed, but that doesn't mean she wants to be my girlfriend yet. The campaign continues. Giving her the bracelet, telling her how I feel, and kissing her those were all primary and caucus wins. Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina. I've clinched the nomination now. But if I want to be in a relationship with her, I have to win in November, so to speak. That being said, winning sooner than November works, too. I'm not usually one for arriving early if you know what I mean but this would be an exception. Losing would be an unacceptable outcome. I wouldn't take it well. Think Kanye at, oh, every awards ceremony from the Grammy's to the VMAs. I think he and I have that ego thing in common. I mean, I always thought his sample of Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger was about being good in bed. I'm not going to win if I act like a douche, though. Kanye takes it too far. I respect Isabella. She's not my Taylor Swift I always want her to finish first. Anyway, after driving back to Ghirardelli Square, Isabella and I snuck up the back stairs to her hotel suite. There was no way I was going to let her out of my sight, not after what I'd just told her. I'd declared my feelings and she'd kissed me in return distance was the last thing I wanted. Once we were back in the suite, I pinned her against the door, needing to experience that physical connection again. She smiled at me before I leaned in for the kiss my heart was beating just as quickly as the last time. I felt so lucky that she was giving me a chance to prove my worth, especially after everything we've been through. Her lips were so soft. I was gentle at first, but she eagerly deepened the kiss. Adamant that we weren't going to have sex against a wall not this time I pulled away, stepping back and taking her hand. I wanted to be in bed with her. As I led her into the bedroom, she took a shaky breath and straightened up, seemingly a little unsure. From the way her hand trembled in mine, I figured that she was a little nervous. To be honest, I felt the same way. I wasn't one to suffer from performance anxiety, but I knew this was significant for us. I smiled at her reassuringly, and her posture eased up a fraction. Thinking we should take things slow, I suggested that we get into bed before doing anything. She agreed, so we undressed on our respective sides of the bed, closely watching each other. I wasn't completely sure what she was thinking, but I was looking for signs that she really was okay with this new development in our "relationship." So far, it seemed okay. I may or may not have smirked when I pulled my boxers down.

Just because I'm in love doesn't mean I'm not a cocky bastard anymore. It simply means there's now an affectionate dimension to my arrogance a caring type of cocky. I know, I know. I'm an example for men everywhere. I could be pioneering a new attitude here. Even set up a support network, one to help all cocky bastards who fall in love. There'll be snacks and sensitivity training. Romance 101 all the way through to the advanced courses. My mother always says I need to be more proactive in my endeavors. Wait, I'm still a rookie. I shouldn't forget that. I guess I'll have to wing it in the meantime. The love part, not the sex part. I know what I'm doing in the bedroom. Or whatever room or vehicle I happen to be in. It's just making sure the making love part is right. Admittedly, I'm now both hard and nervous at the same time. Isabella and I are now naked in bed together under the sheets; I'm lying on my back and she's lying on her stomach next to me, propped up on her elbows. The lights are off, but we've left one lamp on I want to see her, to not be in the dark. Our bodies are barely touching, yet I can feel her body heat. The cotton of the sheets is a cool contrast. I shift slightly towards her, and she responds by running a hand across my chest. It's enough contact to make my cock harden further. The warmth of her touch makes me ache for more. I smile crookedly, thinking the sex will be even better now that it means more. She smiles at me in return. The reason this is a little nerve-wracking for the both of us is that it's the first time having sex no, making love after my declaration. I don't know the words to Madonna's Like a Virgin, but it might be a fitting anthem for this moment. This isn't a case of me pinning Isabella against a bathroom wall or her fucking me in a car; things are different now. Strangely well, not so strangely, considering I'm male I suddenly remember that Britney kissed Madonna at the VMAs when they performed with on stage. Jacob and I thought it was so amusing at the time. I know I shouldn't be thinking about girl-on-girl action right now, but there's another thing that springs to mind when it comes to that Like a Virgin performance. Britney wore a wedding dress. A wedding dress. Whoa, where's Kanye when you need him? I needed an interruption there. My brain went too far that time; I don't want to freak myself out with thoughts about marriage. I'm definitely getting ahead of myself. Maybe the speculation is a result of Jacob telling me that Isabella is my soul mate. My mind is bound to keep coming back to that thought, like Homer Simpson at an all-you-can-eat-buffet. I'm going to end up gorging on thoughts about love and fate and "What are you thinking about?" Isabella asks, curious. She shifts onto her side and runs a hand over my chest. "Iowa," I say nonchalantly, tracing the swell of her breasts with my finger. She raises an eyebrow. "Iowa?"

"I'm trying to win you over," I explain, smirking. "That's what I'm campaigning for." "Yeah, well, let me know how that caucus goes," she jokes, rolling over to her other side, away from me. "I'll just wait over herein New Hampshire." "New Hampshire is Cullen territory," I counter. She snorts. "Your uncle isn't Governor anymore." "Still Cullen territory," I assert. "As is this" I reach out for her, placing my hand on her waist. I sidle up behind her so that we're spooning, our naked bodies finally pressing together. It's a relief to have her in my arms again, to have this intimate moment, but it also makes me want to roll her onto her back so I can plunge into her right this very instant. Telling myself to take it slow, I nuzzle her neck affectionately as I clutch her tighter, relishing her warmth and the sensation of skin to skin contact. She settles into the embrace and gasps, presumably because she can now feel my erection against her backside. She grinds against me, making me groan with lust. I want her so fucking much. I know, however, that my desperation is also grounded in love. She laughs quietly. "I can feel your superdelegate." Chuckling, I begin caressing her thigh. She parts her legs, so I figure she must be encouraging me to touch her. She moans when my fingers wander to her inner thigh, her breathing becoming heavier. "Do you want me, baby?" I tease. "Want that superdelegate inside of you?" She moans and tries to shift so that my hand is where she wants it to be. "Don't play hardball with me," she chides. I snort. "Hardball? You're not thinking of Chris Matthews are you? Because that would be awkward." "I'm sorry, are you trying to turn me off?" I laugh good-naturedly. "You're not an appliance, you're a woman." "Yes, thanks for clueing me in," she says sarcastically. "If you wear me out from extended use, I hope it's covered by warranty." She's so cute when she's mad. "Tell me how wet you are," I say huskily, tracing circles on her thigh. She wriggles under my touch, frustrated. "Cullen," she whines. Teasing her further, I move my hand up to her breast, palming it and squeezing. Her breasts are always so soft and warm. I pinch her nipple with my thumb and forefinger, enjoying the way she moans from pleasure. Hearing her moan makes my cock jump to attention I love it when I know I'm making her feel good. Tired of my teasing, Isabella grabs hold of my hand. She's still wearing the charm bracelet something that makes me incredibly happy. The cold metal tickles my

skin. The bracelet is a reminder, however inadvertent, that even though I'm teasing her, I'm the one who put everything on the line and told her how I felt. I can tease all I want, but she's the one who holds the power now. I'm just glad she doesn't see the bracelet as a manacle or some other shackle, a restraint that would frighten her. It's a sign of my love, something that could make her feel condemned if she looked at it the wrong way. I'm not trying to handcuff her into an arrangement; I want her to want to be with me. She's literally wearing my heart on her sleeve. Our fingers intertwine. Holding hands is such a simple gesture, but for us it means something more. I like that she feels safe when she's in my arms. "I'm going to turn around and kiss you," she announces. "And then you're going to stop teasing, okay?" "Hmmm," I say, pretending to mull it over. "Okay. But only because I like you." She giggles and twists back around to face me, looking at me expectantly. I raise my head a fraction as she closes the distance. She plants her lips on mine, giving me a few quick pecks. I reach up and thread my fingers through her hair, lunging forward for a more passionate kiss. I suck on her bottom lip at first, then slip my tongue between her lips. It feels so natural and right, yet I'm still in awe of this new experience with her. I could spend hours kissing her and it would never be enough. After a moment or two, my desperation gets the better of me and I intensify the kiss, groaning into her mouth. She moans in response but then jerks back suddenly, frightening me for a second. "What's wrong?" I ask breathlessly, looking into her eyes. "I'm supposed to be one showing you how I feel, remember?" she explains. Before I can reply, Isabella starts kissing me again, and when I close my eyes the only thing I can think about is how much I love her. I'd like to say those three little words, but I know it's too soon. I don't want to scare her off. Since she's not ready to talk about the fact that I have feelings for her, I'll just have to make sure she's constantly aware of my intentions. If she wants to use non-verbal means to communicate, I'll comply. Hopefully our signals to each other will be easy to understand. The last thing I want is a fight over interpretation I'll leave those disputes to the courts. I let her control the kiss she does have more to prove now. She uses more force this time; I can feel her determination, the intent behind the gesture. I think she's trying to tell me she cares about me, and that I mean something to her. I'm giddy with happiness, relieved that the previous kisses weren't just a fluke. This isn't a mistake. I don't think I'll ever want to kiss another woman. Whether she's ready to realize it yet or not, she is my soul mate. When we break apart, I sigh with satisfaction and touch her cheek, rubbing her soft skin with my thumb. She closes her eyes for an extended moment, seemingly content, before looking at me again. "I'll stop teasing now," I tell her. "I liked it when we were spooning, though." "Oh, okay," she says, a little surprised. "But we won't be facing each other." "Trust me, Isabella." I urge her to roll back to her other side. "I feel like I'm turning my back on you or something," she complains.

"Don't be silly. I'll be holding you, anyway," I say reassuringly. "Oh." She pauses before adding, "I love it when you hold me, Edward." Not that she can see, but I'm grinning like crazy. Not too crazy, like a clown or something. Regular crazy. I quickly sidle up behind her, putting my arm around her waist. She gasps, and understandably so I've pushed my groin against her, my cock now between her legs, rubbing against her heat as I shift to get comfortable. I'm so fucking hard right now. Her wetness makes me groan in anticipation we've never had sex in a position where I've held her like this. I embrace her tighter, resting my head on her shoulder, nuzzling her neck. She pushes her back against my chest and the contact makes me feel like she's mine. Spooning her like this really is incredibly intimate. I don't have to be face to face with her in order to show her how much I care. Reaching for a spare pillow, I hand it to her. "What's this for?" she asks, obviously perplexed. "Place it between your knees," I instruct as I sit up and reach for a condom. Touching my cock, even just to sheathe myself, is really intense in this moment. "Oh my God. What are you going to do to me?" "Take you to places you've never been," I jest, chuckling. "Like Iowa?" "You've never been to the heartland?" I question, lying back down. "Are you actually asking whether I've been to the heartland or is heartland like code for something?" she asks. "Code? I want to make love to you, not make you decipher Russian ciphers." She laughs nervously. "Yeah, yeah, Mr. KGB." Paranoid that I've freaked her out by specifically declaring that I want to make love to her as opposed to fucking I reclaim my spot directly behind her. My dick automatically hones to her heat, sliding easily between her legs. Isabella reaches between her legs and grabs hold of my cock, surprising me. I groan from her touch, the gold bracelet briefly touching the head. She angles the head to where she wants it to be, causing me to grunt from pleasure. "Isabella," I remonstrate, grabbing her wrist. "Stop. I need to take care of you." She moans, wriggling her legs to get more friction. "You are taking care of me. Your dick is on my clit now. And fuckthat feels good." I buck against her, making her cry out. "Hands off, Isabella," I command. "Or I'll go back to teasing you." "No, let me do this," she whines. I bargain with her. "Just this once, let me take care of you. You can tease me for the rest of the night." "Okay," she concedes reluctantly, drawing her hand back.

"I'll initiate the motion and you can second it once we get going," I assert, caressing her arm. She giggles, sounding more at ease. "I like co-sponsoring things with you." "I know, baby. I love working with you too." There's a moment where it becomes clear that we're not playing anymore. Playful banter can only mask the significance of what we're doing for so long. I'm very familiar with denial, but I don't miss it that much. You can't move forward if you don't face up to reality. "Are you ready?" I whisper softly into her ear, running my hand over her thigh. She takes a deep breath and then exhales. "Yeah, I'm ready." I slowly push into her warmth. It's honestly a relief to be physically joined like this, the burden of my anxieties and worries alleviated by the fact she's welcomed me back. She whimpers as I hold her hips still and thrust into her, then gasps as her walls stretch to make room for me. When I'm finally fully sheathed within her, I feel as if I'm finally home, the one place I am meant to be. The soft declaration of "yes" that escapes her lips suggests that she feels the same. There's a new trust now; it's not about keeping our arrangement secret. It's about believing in the other person, having confidence in the fact that we care about each other. "Oh, God," she moans, throwing her head back. "Oh, that's a good angle." I laugh quietly, placing kisses on her neck. "Glad you think so." I'm not as deep as usual, but it's a trade-off I'm happy to accept. I pull back halfway and thrust up, finding a slow and steady pace. Closing my eyes, I concentrate on the sound of Isabella's breathing, the way her breath catches as I move inside of her. She's hot and tight and perfect. I palm her breast, taking advantage of the access this position gives me, and she moans in satisfaction. Suddenly all the other times we've had sex seem impersonal and inadequate. This is so much better. I open my eyes and nuzzle her neck again. "Is this okay?" I whisper. "More than okay," she whispers between moans. "It feels so, so good. Oh, Edward." Isabella fists the sheets beneath us, attempting to gain some leverage. She then pushes back against me, allowing me to push deeper. I curse with delight, thrusting rapidly a few times. I want to be completely buried in her. "Sorry," I murmur, reverting to my earlier pace. "Don't apologize," she replies breathlessly. "Do it again." I caress her stomach. "I'm supposed to be going slow." "But I like it when you pound into me," she explains. "You know that." I oblige her, wanting to make her happy. I start driving into her with more force, and she responds by clenching her walls on my cock. It's just the right amount of extra resistance she can't clamp her legs shut because of the pillow. Eager to

gain more of a hold on her, I grab her hip, clutching onto it as she arches her back slightly. She lets go of the sheets, reaching out for the edge of the mattress. With the extra leverage she slams back onto my cock. The pleasure is so intense that I grab her hip even tighter, my fingernails digging into her soft skin. "Oh, fuck," she cries. Overwhelmed with how good this feels, and with my breathing becoming more ragged, it takes me another moment to respond. I caress her breasts more delicately, not wanting to be too rough. "Baby, you mean so much to me," I tell her. My voice may be overcome with lust, but I meant what I said wholeheartedly. "You mean something to me, too," she whispers. A warm feeling radiates through my chest, unadulterated joy at her words. It takes me all the willpower in the world not to tell her that I love her. Hopefully, someday soon she'll be ready for me to say it I have to believe it's going to happen. I stroke her hair lovingly, brushing it with my fingers. We rock back and forth together as I continue my movements, the unparalleled pleasure causing me to groan out her name. Our bodies are hot to each other's touch. The heat, however, is nothing compared to what it feels like to plunge in and out of her. Wanting to make her feel even better, I slow my pace a bit and then slide my hand down to her clit, using my middle finger to stimulate the bundle of nerves. Isabella whimpers over and over, her soft cries spurring me on. "So good," she moans, now fisting her own hair. "Make me scream, Edward. Make me come." "You might want to hold onto something," I suggest, amused. "Unless you want to tear your hair out." Her only response is a drawn-out moan, a mixture of need and satisfaction. With Isabella bracing herself by holding onto the sides of the mattress, I ramp up the speed on both counts: thrusting into her hard and fast, while also tracing firm circles on her clit. Though the pressure of my own release is building, there's no way I'll let myself come before her; I want this to be completely mind-blowing for the both of us. She cries out as she tenses up around me several times she must be getting close. She's so hot and slick that my strokes are smoother rather than rougher. Her walls relax and clench, relax and clench, heightening the pleasure for me. She cries out louder, moaning like I've never heard before, her pussy quivering around my cock. There's an intensity a desperation that I hope stems from the emotional connection between us and not just our physical attraction. "Please," I beg, changing up my motions on her nub. After a few flicks of my finger, I press firmly against her clit, trying and coax a response. "Uh, fuck, Isabella." Finally, she convulses, almost violently, and the reverberations transfer from her body to mine as she leans back into me. She screams she rides out the climax, yelling out my name without embarrassment. I continue to pound into her as she comes. After I let out a series of guttural groans, all of which are drowned out by the sounds of her satisfaction, I come inside of her, shuddering as my own

release hits me. I make a strangled noise and whisper her name reverently, basking in the moment of pleasure. Isabella gasps for air, the convulsions subsiding, and I hold her tightly in my arms. After the earlier triumph of her kissing me, if I died right now, I would die the happiest man on the planet. Of course, I don't want to die, especially not when I'm with the love of my life. Jokes about killing her aside, I want to spend the rest of my life with Isabella. There I go again, getting ahead of myself. The Chicago Tribune's mistake was bad enough. How about every network bar Fox News, of course calling a win for Gore in 2000? That time, liberals jumped the gun. I like to think we've learned our lesson. We take several minutes to regain our breath, not in any rush to say anything. I'm reluctant to pull out of her, wanting to remain in her warmth, connected. She writhes so that the pillow drops out from between her legs, helping us spoon more closely. When a November win really becomes a possibility, I'll tell her that I love her. I'll shout it out to anyone who'll listen, and even to those who won't. Providing she's ready for us to tell people, of course. Isabella sighs as we continue to cuddle, seemingly content. I lean over and place a kiss on her cheek, what used to be known as my trademark move. She puts her hand on mine, the lemon charm tickling my wrist. "You can remove Little Edward now," she says, breaking the silence. I kiss her shoulder. "He's not little." "Okay, you can remove your Russian missile now." I burst out laughing. I wish Jacob could've been here to hear that weapons joke. Of course, his being here would've been weird, considering I'm in bed with Isabella. "This isn't the Cold War," I reply. "You and I are very, very hot." "Well, the missile silo needs to cool down, Cullen. Especially after the explosion." Still laughing, I finally pull out and roll over to the edge of the bed, throwing the sheets back so I can stand up. Isabella giggles as I stroll to the bathroom butt naked to dispose of the condom. I turn back around, casually leaning on the bathroom door, and frown at the way Isabella has pulled up the sheets to cover herself. She sits up and raises an eyebrow at my lack of modesty. "You don't think you should cover up at all?" she laughs, teasing me. "What is this? Roswell?" I quip. "No need for a cover-up." "Whoa, are you saying you're an alien conspiracy theorist?" she asks, even more amused now. I smirk. "Conspiracy theorist? I'm more like an alien. I abduct you and probe you, don't I? Isabella shakes her head. "You don't abduct me. I'm perfectly willing. You know that."

We don't say anything for a few moments, letting the comment sink in. I smile at her, wanting to put her at ease. "So, what's the plan now?" Isabella asks, nervously twisting her hair around her finger. "Dinner?" I shrug casually, stepping over to where my clothes are. "Whatever you feel like," I answer, picking up my boxers. "Dinner sounds good, though. I am a little hungry." "Pass me the room service menu," she requests, pointing to the nightstand on my side of the bed. Just as I step over to pick up the menu, my phone which is still in the pocket of my jeans beeps to let me know I've received a text. I hand Isabella the menu before retrieving my phone. It's a message from Alice: I'm very happy for you! But please call me ASAP. "That's kind of creepy," Isabella remarks casually, flicking through the menu. "Like someone knew the exact time you'd be able to text them back." I chuckle, covering up the fact that Alice likely waited till she was sure I wasn't occupied. Or occupying Isabella, rather. Oh man, I really shouldn't think about my sister predicting my sex life another instance where Kanye would've come in handy. I mean, I'm grateful for Alice but it is kind of creepy. "Who's the conspiracy theorist now?" I jest, looking up from my phone. She snorts. "Ha! Who is it? E.T. phoning home?" "Yes, Isabella. E.T. lives in San Francisco. Spielberg fooled everyone." After rolling her eyes at me, she holds up the menu. "Do you want to look? Or can I choose for you?" "Surprise me," I tell her. I start walking out of the room. "Just going to call my sister, okay?" "Your sister's an alien too?" she calls out. "I knew you Cullens were weird. I've always thought your mother was from a different planet." I stop and turn around, chuckling. "Watch it, Swan. Or I'll abduct you before you can fly back to New Haven." She pouts. "You never call me Swan." I smile at her. "I was just teasing. You know that I " I stop myself just in time. I seriously was about to say I love you, which would've been a disaster considering we're talking about aliens and not something more romantic. Isabella blinks at me, seemingly shocked as well. I think she knows what I almost said. " care about you," I finish, trying to make the save. She nods, now blushing. "I'm just going to make this call," I say awkwardly. "I'll order our food," she quickly replies, shuffling over for the hotel phone.

"Oh, good idea." Slightly embarrassed, I smile at her again before stepping out of the room and closing the door behind me. I stroll over to the far side of the living room, all the while wondering what would've happened had I not caught myself in time. This isn't a broadcast with a seven second delay to bleep out words the FCC would frown upon. Not that the FCC would fine me for saying I love youMy point is that once I say those three little words, I can't take them back. I wouldn't want to take them back I do love Isabella. It's just not the right time yet. Well, at least I've inadvertently reiterated my intentions. I place the call to Alice, who picks up on the first ring. "Whoa, you almost said it!" she exclaims, sounding both horrified and amused. "See, that's creepy," I point out. "It's like you've bugged the room." "Well, under the Patriot Act such eavesdropping is probably legal," she jokes. "Bush was good for something, I guess." "If the ACLU were eavesdropping on you right now, you'd be in serious trouble." She laughs before steering the conversation back on track. "I am very, very happy for you," she says sincerely. "But this is an ongoing thing, and I don't want you making any rash decisions. Stay indoors from now on." "Yeah, that's not going to be a problem." I plan to stay in the bedroom for the rest of the weekend. "Ha, I'm sure of that." "Hopefully not too sure, because that would be creepy. Like spying," I say lightly. "Okay, listen up, big brother," she begins. "If you're doing the monitoring, that makes you Big Brother," I interject. She huffs, though I'm sure she's just being dramatic. "I'm not going to talk until all's quiet on the western front." "Okay, I'm shutting up. Continue." "I think things will be better if she ignores her phone," Alice asserts. "Is there a specific reason for that?" I ask, wondering if this is about Jasper. "Nothing you need to concern yourself with. Not now anyway. Just stay in your private bubble." "As opposed to a public bubble?" She ignores the jibe. "Shut out the outside world. Don't even watch the news. Just have lots of hot sex " "Oh my God, stop talking," I interrupt, cringing. "Alright, I have to go anyway "

I cut her off again. "What's going on over there? Jake said you were out with mom?" "We had dinner at Bistro Bis," she states flatly. "I had the onion soup." "Aw, now I feel like onion soup." She laughs. "Oh, Edward. You are endlessly entertaining. I'll only call you if there's an emergency, or if I want to tease you." "Yes, I know the drill." "Talk to you later." "Bye." After I've hung up, it occurs to me that she might have been really serious about the Isabella turning off her phone suggestion. As far as I know, her BlackBerry is still switched off, but I make a mental note to double check. I return to the bedroom to find that Isabella is now wearing my shirt. It's a sight that makes me happy surely I can take this as another sign that she feels comfortable with me. After all, there was nothing stopping her from putting her own clothes back on. "What are you watching?" I ask, noticing that she's channel-surfing. "I just want to check in with the real world," she explains. I clamber onto the bed just as I realize she's watching the news. Eager to distract her, I tackle her in a hug, making her giggle uncontrollably. "Give me the remote," I order, tickling her sides. "But it's CNN!" she protests as I take the remote from her. "Stop tickling me!" Once I release Isabella from my hold, she lies on her back, still laughing. I sit in front of her, Indian-style, and change the channel. I'm instantly relieved, especially since I saw something on the CNN ticker that Isabella definitely wouldn't have liked: Senator Camberwell (R-NV) expected to speak out against Republican opposition of the Estate Tax hike. "No need to stay abreast of current affairs," I tease. "I am your current affair." "Yeah, yeah," she replies, sitting up so she can hug me from behind. "But I was trying to be nice with the CNN thing." "I know," I say as she rests her head on my shoulder. "But I'm sure we won't miss anything important. Maybe you should keep your phone off too. No more distractions." "You just don't like it when my attention is divided," she taunts. "That's also true." Now I definitely can't lose Isabella Camberwell can't be a part of my search party. He's too busy complaining about his own party. I'm sure he won't comment on the bill which passed the House, but won't pass the Senate for another couple of days. No one in their right mind would make a political announcement on Valentine's Day weekend.

Which brings me to the question of whether the Senator is in his right mind or not. Even Isabella admits he's getting senile. I guess it won't matter anyway. I'm staying in lockdown with Isabella. We'll be occupied on Valentine's Day.

- Hardball with Chris Matthews is a talk show on MSNBC, broadcast weekdays at 5 and 7pm. Cosmo, this is your fault. ILY. - KGB was the national security agency of the Soviet Union (1954-1991). - FCC: Federal Communications Commission. - USA PATRIOT ACT 115 Stat. 272 (2001) doesn't actually authorize random bugging. Alice was exaggerating. - Chapter title from the Kanye West song of the same name.

Chapter 23: Suspicious Minds BPOV I thought I was supposed to be fighting my feelings for Edward. Well, I'm not doing a very good job. I should be decked out in boxing gear, ready to take on the threat of this star-crossed love. Instead, I'm standing in my corner, longing for Edward and forgetting that there's supposed to be a fight going on. It's a good thing no one knows about this, or I'd face the embarrassment of having everyone bet against me. In my defense, though, the task isn't an easy one. Far from it, in fact. I can't just tell myself that it's all about the sex and then actually believe it is. There are two things in particular that can't be ignored. First, I'm pretty sure Edward is in love with me. And second, I think I love him back. When he gave me the charm bracelet on Saturday, I seriously almost died. He told me that he had feelings for me, confirming my suspicions. It was hard for me to believe that I'd ever contemplated leaving him. Last week, I told myself that I was supposed to run away if emotions got involved. Well, I can't run away. I love him. Plus, it's hard to run when you're suffering from heart failure. I have pretty good health insurance, but that's not going to help me in this situation. I can imagine the explanation of benefits now: Ambulance service. Emergency Room medical assistance. Arrhythmia caused by exposure to Edward Cullen. Coverage at 80%. Not exactly the type of benefits I had in mind when I first started seeing Edward. I had to hold back the tears when I finally decided to kiss him. I was beyond emotional. That kiss was unbelievable, and I instantly knew that there was no one else I wanted to be with. It's all about Edward. This was confirmed in my mind when we went back to the hotel and made love. We didn't fuck, we made love.

And afterwards, he almost told me he loved me. Usually the three little words I want to hear most from a Democrat are "I concede defeat," but soon there might be something else I want to hear. Admittedly, I was relieved that he stopped himself, as I wasn't ready to talk about how serious things were getting. Being in love is a big deal. We're not even supposed to be sleeping together. I mean, I haven't specifically told him that I have such strong feelings, but he has to have a decent idea of how I feel. This definitely isn't casual. We spent the rest of the weekend connecting on more than one level, getting to know each other better outside of the bedroom, too. I ignored the rest of the world kind of like how the United States deals with the U.N. and chose to concentrate on what I wanted to. I didn't worry about Emmett, Rosalie, Jasper or anyone else. Instead, I spent Valentine's Day with my cocky bastard. It's Wednesday now, and I miss him like crazy. I haven't taken off the bracelet, not even once. I did tuck it under my sleeve yesterday when I returned to class, but the fact was, I wanted to show it off. I want to acknowledge that I belong to Edward. Now that I'm out of my San Francisco bubble, it upsets me that I feel so conflicted. I don't know how much longer we can keep this a secret, not when we feel this way about each other. I need to be with Edward, but my family would be against it. It's not just a simple matter of Republicans versus Democrats. It's Swans versus Cullens, a rivalry so ingrained that it's practically part of our respective family identities. At the moment my family is trying to deal with Senator Camberwell. I was really annoyed when I found out on Monday that the Senator was screwing with the party. He still hasn't made a statement or held a press conference about his support for the Dems' Estate Tax hike, but that's probably because he wants to choose the ideal time to make his announcement. The news cycle for the past two days has been more concerned with Bill Clinton's recovery from heart surgery. And just like that, I'm back to thinking of matters of the heart. If I could just remove my heart for a day or two I'd be able to concentrate enough to get some work done. That's what I'm attempting to do right now catch up on my studies. But all I'm accomplishing is looking wistfully at my lemon charm and periodically checking my email account to see if Edward has replied to my last email. I should be studying, or at least calling Emmett to apologize again for ignoring all his calls on Sunday. From what he told me yesterday, things with Rosalie are okay. He did sound stressed and annoyed, most likely because he'd ended up being the one to put Jasper in his place. That would've been a scary phone call to listen to, I'm sure. I check my email again and find that Edward has finally replied.

To: Isabella Swan bellainthemajority(at)gmail(dot)com From: Edward Cullen cullencampaign83(at)gmail(dot)com Date: 17 February 2010 12:40 PST Subject: Heart Problems Dear Isabella,

I'll have you know that I'm very interested in President Clinton's recovery. Are they even reporting that on your beloved news channel? Or are they only broadcasting footage of the Tea Party's protests against President Banner's economic recovery plan? I'm sorry for the attitude. I'm just cranky because I miss you. But the Tea Party did get me thinking. No, not in a conservative way (sorry). I'm thinking that maybe I should make some excuse about needing to fly to Boston in the coming weeks. That way, we can meet up either in Boston or somewhere nearby. You seem to be taking this Camberwell thing in stride. You're softening on people with a liberal agenda, aren't you? p.s. I miss you.

To: Edward Cullen cullencampaign83(at)gmail(dot)com From: Isabella Swan bellainthemajority(at)gmail(dot)com Date: 17 February 2010 3:43 EDT Subject: Murder He Wrote Dear Edward, I'm allowed to go soft. You are not. I am annoyed with Camberwell, but it's not the biggest shock ever. He's done this sort of thing before. Maybe he's planning on retiring and just wants to take a final swipe at his detractors before he does so. My dad is pretty pissed off though. My poor brother also has a lot on his plate, and not just because he eats a lot. I think some of the missed calls from Emmett on Sunday were about Camberwell, but when I spoke to him yesterday we didn't really talk about it. The fact that you're apologizing for being liberal kills me. We've discussed this, Edward. I miss you, too. You're making my heart ache so much that I might need heart surgery. You can stay at my hospital bedside, providing you don't say or do anything more to hurt me. Okay? You can be my Hillary Clinton, only you're not allowed to wear those God-awful colorful pantsuits. And don't get her haircut either. In fact, I don't like her at all, which means you can't be Hillary. Just be you. Except remember not to kill me. Boston sounds good. We'll talk about it later. Thank you again for the lemon charm. I'm supposed to be studying (I'm really behind), but I keep playing with it instead. p.s. I miss you, too.

To: Isabella Swan bellainthemajority(at)gmail(dot)com From: Edward Cullen cullencampaign83(at)gmail(dot)com Date: 17 February 2010 12:46 PST

Subject: Plans and Demands Dear Isabella, I hope you meant you spoke to Emmett yesterday and not Camberwell. You know how jealous I get when I'm not with you. Don't be Hillary. Got it. Wow, you really do demand a lot from me. I don't know how I'm going to manage this task. I should probably shelve those plans I had to challenge for the other New York senate seat. And now I have to return all those pantsuits to Macy's. So when can we talk about Boston? I think it's good to plan in advance. And maybe we should even plan beyond the next visit. You know, think about the future and stuff? You're behind? I like being behind you. And you do have a problem with playing with things when you're not supposed to p.s. You totally copied my postscript.

To: Edward Cullen cullencampaign83(at)gmail(dot)com From: Isabella Swan bellainthemajority(at)gmail(dot)com Date: 17 February 2010 3:50 EDT Subject: Old Tricks Dear Big Spoon, Yes, Camberwell is my phone buddy. I like to call old men and talk politics. Oh wait, that must mean I'm phone friends with eighty percent of the U.S. Congress and every AARP lobbyist in town. Stop being so jealous. You can walk faster than these guys can run. Although, if you insist on running, you're not allowed to run for the Senate. Or any other post. Don't you already occupy someone's oval office? *cough* I'm not sure we have to plan all that right now. If it's okay with you, I'd like some time to think about our situation. We can discuss it a bit later. I really have to study, but I promise to call you tomorrow. p.s. Just because you said it first doesn't mean I'm not allowed to say it. p.p.s. Since I know you like having the last word, I will read your reply and then study.

To: Isabella Swan bellainthemajority(at)gmail(dot)com From: Edward Cullen cullencampaign83(at)gmail(dot)com Date: 17 February 2010 1:02 PST Subject: Tomorrow

Dear Little Spoon, Take all the time you need :) Have fun studying. We'll talk tomorrow. In the meantime, I will try to disconnect the phone service of every Congressman over the age of sixty. They'll resort to using Morse code and smoke signals to communicate. Congress will be full of noise and hot air. Oh wait, it already is. p.s. That's very true. p.p.s I would say more, but you said not to kill you.

I frown at the textbooks next to my laptop. I really need to study so I can finish law school. That way, I can see Edward more often. And become a lawyer. That's important too. I think. Seriously, though, I really need to figure out what to do. If we love each other, then we should be together. Our families will just have to deal with it. But all the furor and drama that will result from revealing we're together has to be worth it. I have to be one hundred percent sure that Edward is the real deal, that he's not mistaken. He's never been in a relationship before. It's possible that he thinks this is love when it isn't. I need to know that he can be a boyfriend. I know he's committed to me, but a relationship is much more than that. It's also more than sex. My relationship with my family is incredibly important to me. I don't want to fuck things up because I didn't think things through first. Committing to someone like this is a major decision. I don't take love lightly. I can't even fathom the heartbreak that I'll experience if Edward and I try to be together as a couple and don't make it. Over the last few days I've dismissed the option of just being his permanent lover, a dirty secret. He deserves more than that. I deserve more than that. We either enter a relationship or we part ways. My head hurts from thinking so much. Great. Heart and head problems. Thinking it's time to take some more notes, I log into a case database and start mulling over more academic matters. But before I get that far, I get a text from Lauren. Angela and I will be at your apartment in 5min! I text back my approval. It's not like I want to tell my best friends to leave me alone. They were so loyal this past weekend, telling Jasper to mind his own business. Plus, they pulled through with notes for the classes I missed. Sure enough, they show up five minutes later at my apartment building. I buzz them up. Before I let them in, I hide my bracelet under my sleeve again. It's sad, but I have to do it. Sorry, Lemon. I have to ignore you for a bit. Kind of like the Supreme Court.

Lauren and Angela push their way past me when I open the door. Surprised at the two-person stampede, I don't move fast enough, stumbling over Lauren and almost falling down. "Hey, what's the rush?" I scold, regaining my footing. "What is this? A slapstick comedy routine?" Angela hurriedly steps over and slams the door shut. "There's no escape, Bella!" she says with a satisfied grin. "I knew it!" Lauren yells in triumph, jumping up and down. Bemused, I look back and forth between them and wonder what the hell is going on. The paranoid part of me worries that they might know anything about me and Edward. But the sensible part thinks it's best to act normal and find out what they're really talking about before jumping to any conclusions. "Is this like a raid or something?" I ask dryly. "Is the country going through another Red Scare? Hate to break it to you, but I'm definitely not a communist. Mr. Fielding in 3B, however, thinks we should have a communal garden. He thinks everyone in the building needs to get their daily intake of vegetables. That's kind of suspicious. And far too healthy." Lauren stops jumping up and down, and instead puts her hands on her hips. Angela shakes her head and waggles her finger at me. Both stances are classic talk show poses. I wonder what the topic of this episode will be. "Lauren and I have been talking," Angela begins. "Well, that's nice," I say, ushering them into my living room. "I'm glad you worked out the most basic form of human communication. It certainly makes life easier." "Don't push me," Lauren complains. "We're trying to confront you!" I plop down onto the armchair, while the two of them sit down on the sofa. "Confront me about what?" I ask. "I told you yesterday: Jasper has left me alone ever since Emmett tore him a new one." "You were acting funny in class yesterday," Angela accuses, leaning forward. I shrug casually. "Yeah, I was jetlagged and two classes behind. I was acting funny because I felt tired and stupid, like a show that should've been canceled two seasons ago." "Ooh, like One Tree Hill?" Lauren asks. After shoving Lauren for going off-topic, Angela spearheads the interrogation. "You were with someone in Napa, weren't you?" she says, sounding very much like a gossip reporter. I laugh. "Did TMZ say that? Because they always lie. I swear to God I've never met Kim Kardashian." "No, don't deflect with humor," Angela chides. "Lauren and I know there's actually a guy. It's not just a lie you made up to get Jasper to leave you alone. Now who is he, and why are you keeping it a secret?"

"What makes you think all this?" I ask. I have to admit, I feel awful on the inside. I hate lying to them. I've imagined what it would be like to tell them to truth, to finally be able to discuss my predicament with someone. A good middle ground would be to maybe admit there's a guy, but keep tightlipped about who it is. That way, I might be able to get some things off my chest without getting Edward and I into any trouble. However, I have to resist a bit longer, just in case they're really not that serious about this confrontation. "The description of your trip was a bit vague," Angela contends. "We went on a wine tour and drank. Etcetera, etcetera." "Plus, you look really lovesick," Lauren insists. "It's written all over your face." I sigh. "You guys are supposed to tell me if I get pen on my face. It's like a basic rule of classroom etiquette. Friends don't let friends go around with things written on their face." I touch my cheek. "Are there pictures too? Love hearts? Stick people?" "I'm ready to lodge an FOI request," she replies. "Yeah, I was about to say the same thing," Angela agrees. I continue to joke around. "I really don't think that's how Freedom of Information works." Lauren frowns and turns to Angela. "She's a Swan. We'll never crack her. Even though we can read her body language, she's bred to lie like a politician." "I hope that's a general comment on all politicians and not just Republicans," I quip. Angela looks at me knowingly. "I have something up my sleeve to prove it." Oh no. I hope she's bluffing. I raise an eyebrow. "Really?" "Yep," she replies. "Now show us what's up your sleeve. Your left sleeve." Shit. I get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I mustn't have hid it as well as I thought I had. I take one last shot at trying to fool them. "Okay, I admit it." I hold onto my wrist protectively. "I've been branded with the Dark Mark. I'm a Death Eater." Lauren snorts. "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard. Voldemort is dead. Harry Potter already killed him." Angela shakes her head. "Show us the bracelet, Bella," she says in a softer tone. "We saw your sleeve fall down yesterday when you reached for a book in the library." I've been made.

This is it. I finally have to say something. I suppose I should be impressed with myself for managing not to say anything for almost two months. It's a pity that I'm so easy to read. I take a deep breath and decide to let them in on part of the secret. It'll probably make me feel better. I really am tired of hiding everything. "Damn Harvard Law Review," I mutter. Slowly, I hitch up the sleeve of my sweater and reveal the charm bracelet. Seeing it makes me miss Edward even more, a fact that's probably evident in my facial expression at the moment. "Please don't tell anyone," I implore. "I suppose I should've taken it off if I wanted to hide it properly. But I don't want to take it off." Both of them come over and kneel in front of me, eager to see the bracelet up close. In some way, I do feel bad. I've broken Edward's confidence by outing the lemon charm. Sure, they don't know who gave it to me or what it actually means, but still. It also makes me wonder whether Edward has slipped up and said anything to any of his own friends. Guys don't talk about love the way girls do, so I'm probably safe. "Holy shit," Lauren remarks, touching the jeweled charm. "This is beautiful. Who gave this to you? Who is he?" I bite my lip, knowing I can't really tell them. "Oh, Bella. We didn't mean to upset you," Angela says. "We just got excited that you found someone. Please don't look so sad." "I'm sorry I lied," I apologize. "But nobody knows. Nobody." "Are we allowed to ask why it's a secret?" Lauren asks. I smile ruefully. "He'sIt's complicated. He's not married or anything like that, but I don't really know if being with him is okay." They nod. Angela stands back up and asks the question that I've been asking myself for days. "Soyou love this guy?" "I think so," I answer, taking the opportunity to finally talk about Edward, even in this limited way. "He's justamazing. He's smart, witty, really good looking." "And the sex?" Lauren asks eagerly, moving back to the couch with Angela. Angela slaps her on the arm. "That's not supposed to be the most important thing." "No, it's okay," I say, smiling to myself. "It was actually supposed to be just about the sex. We ran into each other unexpectedly, and we couldn't resist. I hadn't slept with anyone since Jasper. I was sexually frustrated. We agreed not to do it again, but we couldn't help it." Both of my friends look at me in surprise. "You, Bella Swan, had casual sex?" Lauren gapes at me. "This is blowing my mind."

"Not as much as my mind was blown when he first fucked me against a wall," I quip. "I almost blacked out." "Oh my God, seriously? How big is he?" I try to fight my smirk. "You mean his ego or his dick?" Before I can answer Lauren's question properly, Angela interjects. "Wait, so this guy is someone you already knew? You said you ran into each other" "Yeah, we'd already met. Years ago. I just never thought of him in that way. When I bumped into him two months ago, I was shocked to find out how goodlooking he is now. But believe me, he's got a brain too" I shake my head in disbelief. "I should've known I was going to fall for him. How could I not? It's justthere are external factors to consider." "External factors?" Lauren repeats, angling for a bit more information. "Um, my dad would hate me, for a start," I explain, avoiding anything specific. "Well, maybe not hate me, but he'd be very, very disappointed. This guy isn't someone he'd pick for me." Angela furrows her brow. "Is he a criminal or something? Did your dad bust him back in the day?" "No, no, nothing like that!" "Is he a Dem?" Lauren guesses. "A lobbyist? A union guy?" "Uh, yeah, he's liberal, but that's not it exactly." It's way more than that. He's Democratic royalty, and he always will be, even if he never runs for office. Lauren gasps. "Oh my God, a liberal? You with a liberal?" "You're liberal. I don't hate you." "Yeah, but I'm me," she reasons. "I'm glad you a strong sense of being. That's very reassuring," I say dryly. "Is he unemployed?" Angela asks. "Because that's something he can blame on the economy. And the government." Lauren waves her hand in the air. "Excuse me. Democrat in the room. It is not Banner's fault that the economy sucks." "It could suck less," Angela counters. "Bella's dad would do better." "I'm not saying he wouldn't," Lauren replies. "He's not unemployed," I say firmly. "He's very conscientious. When I don't distract him, that is." Angela points at the bracelet. "Why a lemon? It's beautiful, but I don't get it." "We kind of bonded over Lemon v. Kurtzman," I explain.

"What? Who does that? I mean, wow, you must really like the First Amendment." "Lemon?" Lauren goes wide-eyed. "Is he a minister? A priest?" I look at Angela. "Why are we friends with her again?" "Everyone needs a token Democrat. They say amusing things and are good at looking out for the welfare of others." I sigh. "He's not a minister. I'm sorry I can't tell you more. I'm sorry this is turning out to be a game of Guess Who?" "Even the boards in Guess Who? are blue and red," Lauren muses. "Lauren, shush," Angela warns. "It's fine," I say. "It's true." "I would like to remind the both of you that my LSAT score was even higher than Emmett's," Lauren boasts. "Smart Dems will be the death of me," I lament, smiling at her. "Sorry I'm being so vague. Are you mad that I lied about all this? I'm sorry, but I really couldn't say anything." "We just want you to be happy," Lauren says reassuringly. "But we don't want trouble for you either," Angela adds, sounding a bit wary. "Are you sure you know what you're doing?" "I'm trying to figure things out." I get up and stride over to the kitchen so I can get my friends something to drink. I can hear them speaking softly to each other, but I'm sure it's nothing malicious. They're concerned about me. I've finally revealed something about what's been going on, and on the face of it, it sounds a bit sketchy. I'm glad, though, that I've gotten a few things off my chest. I've been holding things in for so long. Maybe I can tell them a bit more "Coffee, water or juice?" I call out from the kitchen. "Juice," Lauren answers. "Coffee," Angela says. "Is instant okay? Because I can't be bothered using the machine," I ask. "Yeah, that's cool." Even something as small as pouring orange juice for Lauren makes me yearn for Edward. I don't know how people survive in long distance relationships. It must involve a lot of communication and patience. And probably phone sex too. When I go to the pantry to fetch a new jar of instant coffee, I have to move a certain box to the side. It's a shoe box that I'm storing my all my remaining Ghirardelli chocolates in. I've also placed a few souvenirs in there, things like fridge magnets and novelty items. Since Lauren and Angela both know I at least visited San Francisco airport, I don't see any harm in treating them to a few pieces of chocolate. I grab a few mint chocolate squares and then start making Angela's coffee.

"Thanks again for everything," I say from the kitchen counter. "For the notes. For dealing with Jasper. For putting up with my weird behavior." "That's what friends are for," Lauren replies, turning on my television. "Yeah," Angela agrees. She clears her throat. "I have another question" "Go on," I say kindly. "So Emmett doesn't have a clue that the lie you told is actually true? That you are interested in a new guy?" "No, Emmett doesn't know. It would take a lot of convincing to get him to come around." What's that saying? Wake up and smell the coffee? I know this is only Starbucks Via and nothing more interesting than that, but still, I need to face up to reality. If Edward and I get serious, I'm going to have to tell my family.

It's Saturday afternoon now the one week anniversary of when Edward told me he had feelings for me. It's technically not a legitimate anniversary, but I definitely think it's worth celebrating. Unfortunately, I can't celebrate. Emmett will be here any moment. He took the train up from Washington, D.C this morning, only telling me on Wednesday that he was going to visit. All I know is that he wants to get out of D.C. for a bit because he's stressed out because of work. I'm not even sure if he's staying the night on my couch, as he said he might head back down to New York City after seeing me. Hopefully he's not going to take out his work stress by tracking down Jasper and beating him to a pulp. Not that I don't think Jasper needs his ass kicked, but an ass-kicking would cause a political scandal. Since Emmett is visiting, I've been forced to take my bracelet off. I struggled to actually strike up the nerve to do it, calling Edward earlier to say I was sorry for having to remove it from my wrist, however temporarily. Even though he told me it was okay, I still felt awful. I kept him on the phone for two hours, telling him how much I miss him. I dodged any serious talk about Boston or our future, but eventually I will have to discuss that with him. I think it's only fair that I tell him how I feel in person. It's possible that he'd accept a declaration in any form, but it wouldn't feel right on my end to tell him over the phone. I look at my bare wrist and frown. The bracelet is safely tucked away in its box, in my bedroom. Hopefully I'll be able to wear it again soon. Ever since Angela and Lauren spotted it, I've tried to be a bit more cautious, but having those two know about it has made things easier. I think they feel a bit bad for ambushing me, for acting so excited when I myself was too busy being lovesick and conflicted. They've pretty much left it up to me to tell them what I need to. I've mainly stuck to how I feel about Edward, refraining from giving away any identifying features or the reason why I can't tell anyone about us. The guilt that comes from breaking Edward's confidence still bothers me. Yet, I probably would've broken down in tears had I not been able to tell someone this week that I'm in love with someone and that it's a bit of a complicated situation.

Dear United States House of Representatives, I want to date the Speaker's son. Kthxbai, Little Spoon Twenty minutes later, I buzz Emmett up, and he appears at my door with a pizza from Frank Pepe's. I burst out laughing, happy to see him and amused he looks like a pizza delivery guy. I actually thought we were going out for pizza, but I must have misheard. "Um, I didn't order a pizza," I joke, refusing to let him in. He rolls his eyes. The look on his face tells me he's not in the best mood. "Sorry, I was just kidding," I apologize, stepping aside to let him in. "Normally I would laugh, but these are trying times," he says in a strained voice. I follow him to the dining table, where he sets the box down and takes a seat, his overnight bag falling to the floor with a thud. When I ask him if we should use plates, he shakes his head forlornly. "What's going on, Em?" I ask, sitting opposite him. "Did something else happen with Rosalie? Or is it really just work stress that's getting you down?" He picks up a slice of pizza and takes a few bites before responding. He looks like he hasn't been sleeping well. Now I really am worried. I certainly hope this has nothing to do with me and what I've been up to. "How have you been?" he asks, dodging my questions. "Yeah, I'm good." I raise an eyebrow. "I was asking how you were." He clears his throat. "Anyone bothering you?" "If you mean Jasper, then no," I reply. "Anyone else?" he presses. I shake my head. "I'm not sure what you're getting at." "How many people know about your Napa trip?" he asks point blank. "And of those who do know, how many think you just got trashed and/or have a drinking problem?" Taken aback by his direct line of questioning, I give him a quizzical look. "What is this about?" I respond, affronted. "You sound like Dad during his FBI days." Emmett sighs and drops his piece of pizza back into the box. "The New York Times is doing a story on Dad," he explains, clearly aggravated. I scowl. "What? Oh, come on. That's not even inventive. Seriously?" He looks at me pointedly. "This isn't funny, Bells."

If Emmett doesn't think it's funny, then there could be a problem. He's not as easily rattled as everyone else. He takes after Dad in that way. "Why didn't you tell me this over the phone?" I ask accusingly. "How long have you known about this? A reporter could have tried to call me already!" He shakes his head. "I didn't want to you to worry. Dad and I have been trying to figure out exactly what's going on. We thought it was just a piece complaining about Republicans stonewalling or something. Then reporters started asking certain people certain questions." "But why strike now? We're nowhere near November. And 2012 is still a while away. People will forget whatever they report now." "Well, I'm not sure Camberwell is the best with strategy," Emmett grumbles. Alarmed, I barrage him with a bunch of questions. "Camberwell? What does he have to do with this? He's not one of their sources is he? Is this why he hasn't formally commented on the bill yet?" "We're pretty sure he's one of their sources. It looks like it's going to be a piece on how Dad is out of touch with America, someone who's too right-wing to lead the country. Normally I would tell them to stuff it, but it doesn't help if a fucking Republican senator is speaking out against his own leader. Fucking idiot has probably been brainwashed by Dressler. Maybe he's even crazy enough to ditch the party before November, thereby handing the Senate back to the fucking Dems." He bangs his fist on the table. I jump in my seat. If he tried hard enough, he could probably punch a hole in the table he's a pretty strong guy. "Dad doesn't need this shit," I complain, irritated. "It's grandstanding. But it can't be as bad as it looks." Emmett doesn't look like he believes me. "There are people in the party who hate that Dad is the frontrunner for the nomination. They think it'll be like the movie 2012 if he gets it." "I never saw that movie," I reply, unimpressed. "Cataclysmic events and all that," Emmett quickly explains. "Who was in it?" "John Cusack " "Yeah, forget it. Continue." "They think he's cocky, that he shouldn't think he's got it all sewn up. I fucking bet that there's someone else in the party who's trying to derail him for their purposes. Either that, or the fucking obvious." I quirk an eyebrow. "The obvious?" He throws his hands up in the air. "The Cullens." No. Please, no.

I really hope they have nothing to do with this. Surely Edward would've told me about the article if he knew about it. But does he know? And would he tell me about it? He's got to be loyal to his own family too. Dear United States Congress, Just because the Constitution says you have the power to declare war, doesn't mean you should. Just saying, Senate Majority Leader's Daughter Not wanting to believe that the Cullens are involved and that Edward would deceive me like that I give Emmett a stern look and basically tell him not to jump to conclusions. "You don't know that," I argue. "If you really thought that you would've said so first." He scoffs. "Defending the Cullens now, are we?" "No, I just don't want us to pick a fight with them if we don't know for sure that they're involved." I'm probably crossing the line and making myself look suspicious but I don't want another fight with the Cullens. Not now. Not when Edward and I are thinking about our future. I could honestly cry right now. I won't, though, considering that would definitely look weird. There's only so much a girl can blame on PMS, even when it isn't that time of the month. "I'm sure that either Esme or Carlisle is in on this. Carlisle knows he has a tough job ahead of him if Banner wants a second term. And Esme is just crazy. I'll find out somehow." I sigh. "Well, they can't be responsible for everything that doesn't go our way. You don't know yet." I'm met with an annoyed look. This isn't boding well. "I need a drink," he declares, getting up to go to the fridge. "Do you have any beer or something?" Great. One argument about the Cullens and he wants to turn to alcohol. I turn around in my chair so I can see him. "No, sorry." "Did you not bring anything back from Napa?" he asks, incredulous. "Er, no. I did my drinking there," I say defensively. "There's juice. Drink that. I would've made punch, but this isn't junior prom." Emmett keeps the fridge door open and stares at the shelves. "It's not like staring at the fridge will magically make beer appear," I point out. He groans and shuts the fridge door. After getting a glass from the cupboard, he drinks some tap water and then returns to the subject at hand.

"The reason I asked about Napa earlier is because we have to be careful. The article could get personal. That means you and I might be painted in a bad light in order to make Dad look like a bad parent, a bad person with no values. We can't be caught doing stupid shit." "I've already told Dad that I'm not trying to copy the Bush twins," I reply. "Chill for a second, will you? Sit down. Eat some pizza." "I hope you put in good applications for the circuit courts, because there's no way you'll jump the queue for the Supreme Court now. If they print this story, even those placements will look like cronyism in the extreme." "Thanks, Emmett. That makes me feel really good about myself and my future," I reply testily. I take a deep breath and try to calm down. He fills his glass again. "This has been a shit week." I nod. "I know." But for me it's only been bad because I miss Edward. My world really does revolve around him. I have to be careful that I don't forget about everything else that's going on. "Hey, what else do you have in your pantry?" Emmett wonders, walking over to it. "Hello? You brought food." "Hey, why do you have a shoebox in here?" Shit. I totally forgot about the box. I was so caught up in the bracelet this morning that I didn't think about moving the chocolates. They're easily explained. I shouldn't panic. Or maybe I should. I dash into the kitchen and come up behind Emmett. "Oh, chocolate," Emmett realizes. "Is this from the airport?" "Yeah," I lie. I want to confiscate the box from him and relegate it to the back of one of the shelves. But he's Emmett. He used to play high school football. I have no chance of getting around him. "What's with these San Francisco magnets?" The universe needs to cut me some slack. Seriously. I'm going to scream if he doesn't leave my chocolate stash alone. Yeah, that won't make me look crazy at all.

"I thought it would be funny to remember my time in Cullen territory with an assortment of novelty magnets," I explain. What is wrong with me? That sounded so awkward and weird, like someone lying on the stand. And why am I bringing up the fact we hate the Cullens? "I guess they are funny looking," Emmett remarks, rummaging through the box. "Hey, what's this?" He pulls out a piece of paper. It's a receipt. Shit. Okay, now I can panic. I honestly had no idea a receipt was in there. I just stashed all the chocolates into the box straight from my luggage, from the plastic bag I'd packed them in. I lunge at the receipt without trying to make it blatantly obvious that I don't want him to see it. Unfortunately, this kind of subtlety is almost impossible. Emmett holds up the receipt to where I can't reach it and begins reading it out loud. "Ghirardelli Square, Ghirardelli Ice-Cream and Chocolate ShopI thought you said you bought these from the airport." He narrows his eyes at the piece of paper. "This is dated last Saturday." Fuck. Fuck. Fuckity-fuck. I need an excuse. Something believable, and not along the lines of you don't have a warrant to search my pantry. "Oh, I bought some at the airport, and some at Ghirardelli Square proper before we actually drove up to Napa on the Saturday," I tell him. Emmett frowns. "Okay" I don't know whether he believes me. He stashes the receipt back into the box, and we both return to the table. Unfortunately, I'm too shocked to act completely normal, despite my save with the smooth excuse. Emmett also remains silent, eating his pizza and not looking at me. I force myself to say something in order to divert his attention. "So how's Rose?" I ask lightly. He doesn't fall for it. "You want to tell me why you didn't want me to see the receipt?" he asks combatively. I shrug. "It's just a receipt " "Exactly. So what's with the panic?" "I wasn't panicking. I just wanted to see it." The doubt in Emmett's eyes really isn't encouraging.

Forget losing the battle against my feelings for Edward. I clearly have a problem with secrecy this week. Too bad I can't get a suppression order.

Re next chapter: I'll try to update next week. I have to post my entry for The Cherry Exchange, so I'll update soon after that. Legal citations: - FOI is governed by the Freedom of Information Act and other legislation, including state statutes too. - Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 of the U.S. Constitution, sometimes referred to as the War Powers Clause, vests in the Congress the exclusive power to declare war.* References: - Bill Clinton's heart surgery and that Tea Party protest actually happened. - AARP: formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons.* - One Tree Hill is not the same without Chad Michael Murray and Hilarie Burton. Just saying. - 2012 (2009), directed by Roland Emmerich. - Chapter title from the Elvis song.

Chapter 24: The Phantom Menace BPOV A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far awayRepublicans were in charge and I was a happy camper. Okay, so it wasn't that long ago that we held the White House, but some days it does feel like we're in a completely different world. With Banner as President and Esme Cullen as Speaker, I think outlets like The New York Times are feeling a little too empowered. That's what I told Emmett over the weekend, anyway. Well, after we stopped arguing about the damn receipt. It's Thursday morning now, and part of me still thinks he's suspicious. That stupid, small piece of paper might as well have been marked Exhibit B, because in Emmett's mind it was evidence ofsomething. Fortunately for me, he didn't know what he was trying to prove, other than I'd lied about my whereabouts. Still, it was like a Fourth of July cookout in my kitchen a lot of grilling going on and the potential for some serious fireworks. It took a good half hour for him to give up on the receipt, and even then, he only moved on in order to discuss the upcoming Times article. The Times article will be a bigger piece of paper, but I'm not exactly sure how incriminating it will be. From what Emmett found out, it looks like multiple sources will condemn Dad for his right-wing agenda and accuse him of killing any chance of bipartisanship on the Hill. They want to point the finger at him for the

way negotiations have stalled on issues like education, healthcare reform and welfare benefits. I guess the impact of the article depends on what kind of firsthand accounts are given, so at the very least we should expect a scathing attack from Senator Camberwell. I understand Emmett's stress completely. This is the first time since the 2008 election that a major newspaper is targeting my dad in this way. Liberals know that polling numbers aren't looking good, and they want someone to blame. My dad is the front runner to oppose Banner in 2012, so they're planning a preemptive strike. This isn't the normal kind of negative press. The stakes are higher. As I drive out to Wooster Street, where I'm meeting Lauren and Angela for breakfast, I think about another reason why this potential article is so upsetting to me. I'm in a dichotomy here I have to think about my family, but I also have to think about Edward. I've never had this tension before. Edward and I were just fuck buddies at the time his mom went on O'Reilly and took a few cheap shots at my dad. Things are different now. He may not know it yet, but I'm in love with him. I hate that I'm wondering whether he knows about this article or if his family is involved. It's incredibly frustrating. I almost asked him about the article last night, but I chickened out, not wanting to initiate a confrontation. Not only that, we had been talking about possibly meeting in Boston. However, I'm uncomfortable finalizing any travel plans since I'm not sure when the article will be publishedI need to be available for my family when it does. Being holed up in a hotel room with a Cullen at a time like that would be inappropriate on more levels than I can count. So I purposely avoided discussing specific travel dates, talking in generalities about Boston. He was understanding, which made me feel even worse for not being completely honest. But my family is pretty insistent that the Cullens are involved in some way, and I don't want to ask Edward about it only to have him declare that he can't tell me. I trust him, but I understand that he might have to remain silent if he does know. Hopefully Emmett will give me an update soon, because I'm aching to see Edward. I want to tell him how I feel. When I enter the caf, Lauren and Angela are already seated and looking over the menu. I slide into the booth on Angela's side, apologizing for my tardiness. "Late, this one is," Lauren comments, Yoda-style. "Uh-uh," I chide. "You can't be Yoda. You're from the dark side." She laughs. "Is that so?" "Yep, Banner is the Emperor, and Esme Cullen is Darth Vader." "That's disgusting, Bella," Angela remarks, looking up from her menu. "I don't want to hear Esme Cullen's heavy breathing." I wrinkle my nose. "Point taken." The fact I don't like her politics aside, I suspect I'll eventually need Esme Cullen's approval. In fact, I might even want her approval. I plan on telling Edward that we need to move forward, which means we need to work out a way to come out to our families. I'm not sure how she's going to take it when he tells her that we're together.

"Speaking of Star Wars, do you want to tell us more about your man friend? With the way you've described his light saber, I'd say he's got some serious skills," Lauren says, smirking. "Light sabers are used by both sides," I counter. "The blue ones are on the side of the good," she points out. Angela snorts. "Thanks, guys. Now I'm imagining a glow-in-the-dark vibrator." "With batteries included?" I ask. "You'll need them to generate that authentic light saber sound." "Yeah, because it's the sound that's important," Lauren says sarcastically. "Oh yeah, good point." The waitress comes by to take our orders, and Lauren asks for a copy of The New Haven Register. I end up reading the paper while Lauren and Angela talk about one of the classes they're both taking this semester. "Anything interesting?" Angela asks after a few minutes. "Not really. But sometimes things are better that way." I'm eating my blueberry pancakes when Emmett sends me an email.

To: Isabella Swan bellainthemajority(at)gmail(dot)com From: Emmett Swan emmettinthemajority(at)gmail(dot)com Date: 25 February 2010 8:16AM EDT Subject: OMG WTF JFC FFS GTFO STFU RTFN Bella, (I figure it's better to send this from my personal account. I have vented my anger in the subject line. Now I will be calmer.) The article is coming out tomorrow. It's going to be a piece of shit most of the sources are unnamed, bar a few people who've never liked us. I'm convinced the Cullens are involved. In fact, one of the stories cited revolves around a piece of legislation that Dad was called to the White House to discuss. Esme was called in too, and we all know Carlisle runs the West Wing. Dad is emphasizing that we need to be smart about the way we handle this. We're planning to hold a press conference tomorrow. We'll condemn the article as a desperate cheap shot, and reiterate that Dad is committed to helping the country. This is more about 2012 than 2010. Game on, Bella. I hope you're ready for the next few years. I also hope you understand why I was so worked up about that receipt. I know we're not kids anymore, but I will never stop looking out for your best interests. Apologies if my motivations are wrapped up in politics at times. But at the end of the day, we are Swans.

I recommend screening all your calls tomorrow. I'll be ridiculously busy all day, but if you call me, I'll do my best to call you back or at least email when I get a chance. Maybe call Mom in the meantime. Dad says hi. Hope you are well, Emmett

I slam my phone down next to my plate and sigh heavily. "Bad news?" Lauren asks. "Yeah, that was Emmett," I answer. "Tomorrow is going to suck." "Ah. The story," Angela guesses. "Yep." "Sorry to hear," Lauren says sympathetically. "Well, at least these pancakes are good," I say, shoving another forkful into my mouth before eating some more. In all honesty, they don't taste that good anymore. It's like I asked for a side of bitterness with my meal. I really should talk to Edward about this. Emmett is convinced that the Cullens are involved in some way, either Esme or Carlisle or both. "I should hold my head up high tomorrow," I continue. "Maybe we should do breakfast here again. I shouldn't hide, right?" "Won't people want to ask you questions?" Lauren points out. "I'll ask my family whether I should comment," I reply. "I'm involved in politics, you know. But it's entirely possible that the only people who'll ask me questions will be from the Yale Daily News." Angela points her fork at me. "Don't knock them. They do a good job." I shrug. "I have nothing against them. Oh, except for every time they claim the Speaker is a role model for all women." "The Speaker thing aside, student journalism is important," Angela asserts. "It's my First Amendment right to be able to say that I want us to take back the House," I reply. I pick up the newspaper again and smirk, thinking of a cheeky photo opportunity. "What if I were to 'accidentally' spill pancake syrup all over the front page of the Times tomorrow? That would be great publicity: a nice shot of me horrified that I've ruined my copy of the ridiculous article." "That would probably make the situation stickier," Lauren replies. "Seriously. Not to mention, you'll probably offend all pancake syrup manufacturers." I chuckle. "Yeah, because the pancake lobby is very powerful in this country. Mess with them and you're done." "No, really. You can't be seen as wasting food in this economy," Angela jests.

"I doubt that either Mrs. Butterworth or Aunt Jemima are registered voters," I say dryly. I finish my food before the other two, so I push my plate away and start making an origami hat with the front page of the Register. I place it on my head just as the waitress comes by to top up Lauren's coffee. She gives me an odd look, but I ignore her. "What if I do this with tomorrow's paper?" I joke. I'm trying to find something amusing about this shit situation. "A paper hat?" Lauren asks. I roll my eyes. "No, it's stormtrooper helmet. Yes, it's a hat." "Hmmm. You want to use the front page of a major newspaper as a fashion accessory?" "I'll be recycling," I insist. "How resourceful of you," Angela remarks. "There's no point being wasteful." "Yeah, tell that to the U.S. government." "Careful," Lauren warns. "My side blames your side for the deficit. We inherited it. Putting you guys back in power will only make it worse." I nod vigorously. "It's true. The Dems are saying that. You can read about it tomorrow on my hat." Angela puts her hand on my shoulder. "Unless you can make a respectable top hat, you may want to ditch this idea." "Wow, I wish I could ask Abe Lincoln how he folded his newspaper into a top hat," I sarcastically reply. "Whatever will I do now?" "Why don't you email your brother?" she suggests. "Vent with words, not origami." I take their advice and slowly type out a reply to my brother.

To: Emmett Swan emmettinthemajority(at)gmail(dot)com From: Isabella Swan bellainthemajority(at)gmail(dot)com Date: 25 February 2010 8:40AM EDT Subject: ILY SFM Em, Your subject line had more acronyms than FDR's New Deal. Glad to hear that you guys are handling this thing. It really is annoying that we have to put up with this shit, but you're right, there will be much more of this over the next few years.

I'll call mom after breakfast, and I'll try to call you later in the day. Say 'hi' to Dad for me. Good luck with everything, xx Bella

Paper hats may be comical, but I do feel like someone who has to wear many hats. I'm a daughter, a sister, a friend, a lover. I have to keep multiple people in mind when making decisions these days. I have to remember that different hats doesn't mean different Bellas. Sure, I'm hiding things, but I'm not two-faced. I'm just me, and I should be able to wear all my hats at the same time. I might look stupid, but it's better than having an identity crisis. And speaking of identitiesI need to figure out a way to balance my family responsibilities with my responsibilities to Edward. I want to be able to integrate him into the rest of my life. When we get up to leave, I leave the paper hat. Angela grabs it and hands it to me once we're outside. I wave my hand. "I'm wearing my thinking cap." "Oh, right," she says, scrunching up the hat into a ball. She tosses it, basketballstyle, into the nearest trash can, which is actually about fifteen feet away. "Ooh, three-pointer. How about you do that tomorrow?" I smile, appreciating her support. "Okay, LeBron, let's get to campus. We've got more learning to do." I'll be wearing my thinking cap all day.

Later, after dinner, I sit down in my living room and collect my thoughts before calling Edward. I spoke briefly to both my mom and my brother in between classes, and Dad said he'd call me before going to bed. Mom and Emmett are both angry but resolute in their intention to ride this out as gracefully as possible. That being said, I'm sure Emmett would love to yell at some people, and not with acronyms. After thinking about things all day, I've decided to ask Edward about the article. He didn't overreact when I told him about the receipt debacle, so I hope he's just as understanding about this issue. Besides, it's going to print no matter what. Even if he did hide something from me, it's not like it will stop the article. I need to set aside my pride. He is, after all, in a similar position to mine he needs to be loyal to his family. Edward answers after one ring "Hello," he says in greeting, sounding very happy to hear from me. "I've been waiting for you to call." "Waiting by the phone, huh?" I jest. "Well, since this isn't 1990, my phone is actually waiting by me," he replies smartly.

"Ha," I reply. "Hey, listen, I need to ask you something, and you may not like that I'm asking." "Oh?" He pauses. "You sound serious." "Yeah, that's probably because it is serious." I realize I might be scaring the guy, so I get on with it. "Do you know anything about an article that The New York Times is writing on my father?" I ask point blank. "An article?" he asks, sounding genuinely surprised. "Let me think for a second." He pauses for a moment. "You know, that kind of makes sense now..." "What makes sense?" I prompt. "You've heard something?" "Are you trying to get information from me?" he asks curiously. "Look, I'm not mad, but I don't really know what's going on here." I huff. "Come on, I wouldn't do that to you. I'm not taking advantage." "Well, okay," he replies, still sounding a bit bemused. "Do you mind filling me in then?" I rein in the urge to bombard him with a host of questions. "I'm not trying to weasel information out of you," I say, slightly frustrated. "It's just that the article is running tomorrow, and my family is convinced that your family was involved. It could make things difficult for us. I mean, we want to be together, right? So at some stage we will have to tell them about us." There's another silence. I would actually prefer Darth Vader-type heavy breathing to this silence. That being said, I'm glad I've finally indicated that I want to be with him. "You want to be with me?" he asks, seemingly in disbelief. "And you're also thinking about coming clean?" "Er, yes" I chide myself for answering so lamely. I try again, more heartfelt and earnest this time. "I can't walk away, Edward. You mean a lot to me. I don't care if that sounds cheesy that's how I feel." "That's good to hear," he replies, sounding pleased. "So good that I'm tempted to have you repeat yourself so I can record it." I chuckle. "Cullen wants a sound bite, does he?" "There are many sounds I like hearing from you. Maybe you'd like to entertain me?" "Only if I get a recording of you begging." "Ha!" He then clears his throat. "Seriously, though," he says, taking on a serious tone, "Thank you for telling me how you feel." "Well, it was time to say something," I reply. "Didn't want to leave you hanging." "Like a chad on a Floridian ballot paper?" "Yes, Edward," I say dryly, humoring him.

"Now, about the article" he begins. "Yes?" "I had an inkling that something 'amusing' was happening, but my family knows that I don't like getting too involved in politics, so it's not like anyone called me to fill me in," he explains. "And I don't know if my family is responsible. Maybe they were just laughing about it, you know?" Knowing it's not right to take out my irritation on him, I answer without bitching about the article itself. "Okay, yeah, I guess they could've been just laughing," I concede carefully. "Thanks for telling me." "But you really do think my family is involved," Edward says, seemingly knowing I'm being too nice. "Well, I've been told things." "Have you been keeping this to yourself?" he asks, sounding concerned. "Is that why you've been a little stressed this week? I mean other than having to deal with Emmett finding the receipt?" I take a deep breath. "I'm sorry. I didn't think it was right to bring it up. It's not that I thought you'd automatically hide something from me. I just thought it would be weird if I made you choose between being loyal to your family and being loyal to me." "I honestly don't know what this article is about. If I did, I'd be open to talking to you about it, you knowif I could without getting either of us into trouble. Now, I don't agree with your dad's policies, but I am sorry this is happeningI don't like it when you're upset." I sigh. "Tomorrow is going to be tough. I'll get through it, though." "You'll be okay," Edward says, trying to comfort me. "You're better with this political stuff than I am. Some days I want to take out a full page ad in the Times telling everyone to shut up." "Maybe that's how we should tell our families about us," I suggest. "Just take out an ad saying we're together and that everyone should shut up. Better than going the whole Romeo and Juliet route." He laughs softly. "Yes, I'd prefer it if you didn't fake your own death. Not unless you're especially crafty and manage to fool people into thinking it was a homicide. Life insurance policies don't pay out if it's a suicide." I snort. "Oh, this is very romantic, talking about my fake death. Is this the part where I sing Bon Jovi's I'd Die For You?" "You're going to sing for me?" he says hopefully. "That's so sweet." "I sense sarcasm." He laughs again. "No, you declared this a serious conversation." "It is a serious conversation," I reply, playing along. "It's like my Declaration ofDependence."

"Oh, you need me, do you?" he teases. "For life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?" "What have I told you about being cocky?" I scold half-heartedly. "Nothing," he quips. "I need no instruction on the matter." "Yeah, clearly." "Well, I'm glad to hear that you've signed the Declaration," he says, attempting to sound more humble. "I would like to hear 1776 reasons why I'm awesome," I suggest. "Good luck with that, because I can only think of ten." "Cocky bastard. Remind me again why I like you?" "Okay. How much time do you have?" We talk for a few more minutes, trying to avoid the topic of the article for a bit. However, despite the fact that we're trying to keep things positive, a resigned tone creeps back into the conversation we know telling our families is going to cause some drama. I told him earlier that I can't walk away, and I wasn't lying. I know that this thing with Edward is the real deal. My heart clenches and begins pounding in my chest at the realization. All of a sudden, I'm incredibly nervous. Yet, now that I've acknowledged the fact that he is the only one for me, I can't ignore the sense of rightnessthat's overcome me. I'm tired of pretending that it doesn't exist. That we don't exist. In fact, now I'm ready to tell him that I love him. Knowing we have to deal with reality, we return to the subject of the article. "You can call me about the article after you read it," he offers, "and I'll listen to whatever you have to say. You can yell at me if it'll make you feel better." "Thanks, Romeo. Do I have to yell at you in iambic pentameter?" "If that makes you feel better." "I hate this whole war between our families," I complain. "Surely they can set aside politics and concentrate on our happiness, right?" "I sure hope so. Sowe'd be telling them after Boston? Whenever Boston is" "I'm dying to see you. Can we meet two weeks from now? It's my spring break, so I'll be able to get away." "That works out well I just finished a short article for the blog." "Not too late to work out flights?" "Travel plans won't be a problem." "Why? Because you're a Cullen, and there are super liberal travel agents who push conservatives off planes and kick them out of hotels?" I tease. "You have a very warped understanding of how the left works," he says, amused. "We actually have private jets. Scantily clad models feed me grapes and fan me with campaign material."

"Sluts." He laughs heartily. "But the left's unscrupulous reporting methods have ruined my week," I remind him sadly. "Guess I need to get used to it." "I want to give you a hug." "You can hug me in two weeks. After I smash some liberal grapes. Are they sour, those grapes? Liberal sour grapes?" "I don't think the grapes are affiliated with any one political ideology." I sigh again. "Okay, I'll take your word for it, my star-crossed lover." "We'll work this out," he says encouragingly. "We'll tell our families after Boston. My spring break is the week after yours, so I can travel to D.C. and do the lobbying." "Spring break in D.C. Who could ask for more?" I say sarcastically. "Unless we meet in Boston, stay for a night or two, and then take the train down to D.C. together. It's a lot of travel for you, but I'll keep you entertained. I think our families would handle it better if we told them together in person." "It would make them more likely to believe it in the first place. I don't know about handling it better, though. Maybe run on the assumption we'll be staying a few nights in Boston, and book your flight so that you fly out of D.C. We might have to play this by ear. I may be making jokes, but this is scary, Edward." "I know." We're really talking about telling our families. I'm sure once we meet up in Boston we'll officially declare our love for each other. I'll be his girlfriend. Wow. "I mean, I know we're not running for office, but we'd be an amusing story for the press, too. People are going to give us shit." "I don't care. I'll take out billboards telling people to mind their own business, if that's what it takes," he declares, sounding energized. "I'll write it using the shit they give us." "I think what you said is romantic" "I'm not an expert when it comes to romance, but I'm trying. For you." "You're sweet when you want to be," I remark, fiddling with my bracelet. "I miss you, you know." "I miss you, too," he says sincerely. "I'm sorry you had to hide the article from me until now, but I completely understand. Tipping off a Cullen could've gotten you into serious trouble." "That goes for you, too. I mean, had you known and not told me, part of me would've felt angry. But then reason would've kicked in. So I'd like to think that I'd give you the benefit of the doubt, unlike the time we fought about you not telling me about your side trip to D.C."

"I never told you this, but I actually threw my phone at a wall after that fight. I was pretty angry didn't like the idea of you walking away." "God, there needs to be an iPhone app to keep your anger in check," I tease. "Don't worry. I'm not going anywhere." We talk for another hour before I let him get back to his own study. It doesn't occur to me until later that his best friend works for his mother. I suppose Jacob Black would crack jokes about my family, but a little part of me wonders why he wouldn't brag about an article attacking my father. I understand Esme and Carlisle being tightlipped they wouldn't want someone confirming their involvement to the press but it's a little weird for a best friend to not talk about something exciting, isn't it? I tell myself that I'm just being paranoid. Maybe Black isn't as close to his mother-in-law as he seems. He might not have been clued in. Or maybe he and Edward really don't go into the details of politics, which could be why Edward gets along with him so well. In a strange bit of timing, my dad calls me half an hour later and actually starts off the conversation by mentioning Jacob Black. "Esme is sending her minions to check things out," he gripes. "What other reason would there be for Jacob Black to be wandering around the Hart Building at this time of night? The guy has a smug grin on his face, Bells. I know this had something to do with her." I suddenly feel very unsettled, unfounded suspicions running through my head. Did Black really look smug or is that the way a Republican usually views any of the Speaker's staffers? "You bumped into him?" I ask. "Walked right past the guy. Looked very, very pleased with himself." He huffs. "Enough of that. Sorry you have to put up with this shit." "Comes with the territory," I answer automatically. "It's worth the price." But now I have this feeling that something isn't right with Edward's story. Thing is, I'm pretty sure he's not lying to me. He sounded so sincere, and I mean so much to him. It's entirely possible that Black just found out, which is why he apparently looked so happy. "You're a good daughter, honey. Tell me how you've been. In fifteen minutes or less." He laughs. I don't know how he can laugh at a time like this, but it's a testament to how good he is in a crisis. "I'm good." I really cannot take much more of this secrecy. I'm glad Edward and I have decided to do something proactive. I regale my father with tales of law school, and soon enough, I forget all about Jacob Black and his smug grin. Because even though the Empire strikes back, Darth Vader ends up conceding.

Hopefully Esme Cullen will give me a chance.

Re next chapter: Oooh, getting close to that drama... Give me two weeks to write about it :) Legal citations: - Freedom of Speech protected by the First Amendment. - The United States Declaration of Independence is a statement adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, which announced that the thirteen American colonies then at war with Great Britain were now independent states, and thus no longer a part of the British Empire.* References: - Lol. Not explaining what Star Wars is. - Chapter title from Episode One: The Phantom Menace.

Chapter 25: The Blind Side EPOV The front page of today's The New York Times couldn't be clearer with its message: Majority Leader Unfit to be President. It's designed to be a stinging expos on how right-wing Senator Swan really is a briefing on how he's lost touch with the average American. The unnamed Republican sources all claim they're concerned about Swan's integrity and what he might bring to the table if he wins in 2012. No one can deny that it's an attack piece. Some liberal and moderate Republicans are desperate enough to do this, to help out the liberal media in this way. They want to try and stop the Senator from fooling everyone into thinking he's more moderate than he really is. In their minds, it's not a mutiny it's a necessary pre-emptive strike. The end result is an ugly collection of examples, one that paints him as a ruthless politician who's in the pockets of both big business and the Christian right. The article will surely resurface during the Republican primaries; the question is whether anyone on the right will pay credence to these allegations. The scary thing is, any conservative outlet could write something just as scathing about my mother. She's just as committed to her cause as Senator Swan is to his own agenda. Plus, every politician seems to have 'responsibilities' to their donors, the pressure to give them the best bang for their buck. This is politics as usual. Unfortunately, that doesn't say much about our system. Or maybe it does. Maybe it says "stop flinging mud at each other and do something useful," in which case everyone will probably sit around making mud pies under the guise of productivity. Truth be told, I suppose I'm extra cynical today for reasons that have nothing to do with Senator Swan's donor list or voting record. What I'm worried about is the impact of politics on my relationship with Isabella. When I spoke to her last night,

I tried to be as positive as possible in the circumstances. But the fact remains that Alice didn't give me the heads up on the article. I was blindsided. Out of me and Isabella, I'm the one who's in the position to protect us from the unexpected. Alice has the ability to tell me this stuff. Instead, she remained silent and made me feel like I'd dropped the ball. Way to ruin the play. I should've been in football gear, lying face down on the field, with my helmet ripped off and some idiot pouring Gatorade all over me. Sure, the cheerleaders still like me, but I could've lost the whole damn game. The reason I wasn't told is because Alice thought there was a risk that I'd tell Isabella about the article before she found out for herself. Not only that, but it turns out my mother did help the Times out with providing sources. If you're in Washington and you don't like the Swans, finding a Cullen to complain to seems like a logical step. So I get why I was left in the dark. But boy did it sting. Fuck, finding out the way I did made me feel like an outsider in my own family, like I'm a Republican or something. Part of me is still pissed off, but then I remember the intent behind the omission. This entire episode has reminded me that Alice isn't going to hold my hand all the time. Just because she can let me know if something dire is going to happen, doesn't mean she has to. I might get frustrated at times, but I have to trust her judgment. Plus, it's not like I can map out everything according to what she sees. This is the same attitude my parents have when it comes to planning campaigns and the like. Alice is a guide, not a sat nav. I have to remember that, even when I'm anxious. Deep down, I know I shouldn't be this paranoid, this afraid. What I'm trying to concentrate on is the fact Isabella finally told me she wants to be with me, and that she wants to tell our families about us. That's what's keeping me going through all of this. Her confirmation made me want to break out in an Alice-esque happy dance in my living room and upload the video to YouTube so that other people could share my joy. I didn't end up doing that, of course, since I value my dignity. Not to mention, my parents probably think "going viral" is something that involves an STD check. I spoke to Isabella briefly this morning just after she read the article. It was early for me, but I didn't mind. She needed support, and I was going to wake up early anyway to grade papers. She did have to cut the call short so she could check in with her family, but she knows I'm here for her if she wants to vent. My bet is that she'll spend the day with her phone turned off, however, so I could be spending the day with my own thoughts. Of course, once I think that, my sister calls. I lean back into my desk chair and answer. "Alice, hey," I greet, hoping this conversation won't be as tense as the one we had last night. Don't get me wrong, we didn't fight, but the discussion of her omission was understandably a bit strained. "Hey. How are the papers going?" she asks. I glance down at the stack I've already graded.

"They're going okay." "That's good." "Yeah." I pause. "How's work?" "Oh, I'm actually visiting Dad right now. He's in a meeting, so I'm just sitting in his office." "I see." This is a little awkward. Kind of like the time Jon Stewart got up at the 2009 White House Correspondents' Dinner and said he hoped Dad wasn't about to 'play doctor' with any interns. Dad thought the joke was funny. Mom, however, was pissed. "So" Alice begins. "So, I have a theory," I broach, trying to make things less awkward. "One that explains the psychic/ non-psychic relationship here." She laughs softly. "Oh, okay. Let's hear it then." "This is like The Matrix," I explain. "You're the Oracle." "What are you talking about?" "The Oracle can see the future." "Yeah, that's generally what an oracle does," she says dryly, amused. I expand on my theory. "See, the Oracle told Neo that he wasn't The One even though he was. She told him what he needed to know. That's what you're doing, right? You're only telling me what I need to know." "Edward" "No, I'm serious. This is like The Matrix. I've been given a choice: take the blue pill or the red pill. The blue pill sends me back to my old life. The red pill gives me the chance to find the answers I seek. Isabella is the red pill." There's a silence. "Are you on drugs?" Alice accuses. She's clearly not taking me seriously. I don't know why. This theory is completely legitimate. Jacob would understand. "You would know if that were the case," I point out. "But maybe you wouldn't tell me. Maybe it would be my own battle to fight." She clears her throat, and I hear Dad's voice in the background. "Edward's on the phone," she tells him, sounding amused. "Here, you talk to him. He has a drug problem." "I do not have a drug problem!" I yell. Hopefully my neighbors didn't hear that. "I think I'll go down to the Mess," Alice declares. "I'll be back."

Dad takes the phone from her. If I didn't know any better, I'd say her phone call was a set-up to get me to talk to Dad at this very moment. I would've called Dad at some stage today anyway, so I'm not necessarily annoyed, but I am a little perplexed. Am I supposed to bring up the subject of visiting D.C. in two weeks? I could do with a sat nav right now. Although, if it's programmed for my family, it's probably going to insist I keep turning left. "Just say no," Dad advises. "Isn't that the Republican slogan when it comes to universal healthcare?" I quip. He chuckles. "How have you been?" "Good. Just grading papers today. I was going to give The New York Times a B+, but I don't know how that'll go down with the establishment." "It'll be a better report card than that of Congress'," he jokes. "Don't tell your mother I said that." "Just like I'm still not allowed to say you've been approached by both The Daily Show and Colbert for an interview?" "You know how your mother is," he says knowingly. "Her idea of Comedy Central involves asking the House Minority Leader what tanning salon he prefers." I hold back my laughter. "I think it's the one on Constitution Avenue. That's where Jacob usually gets his nails done, right?" "Yes, I've always been jealous of his nails. Maybe I'd have nicer hands if I didn't have to spend all day slapping sense into people on the Hill." "Backhanded slaps," I remark, impressed. "Don't mess with Dr. Cullen." "Now that's something you can tell your mother," he says with a laugh. "I love the woman, but I've been late for two meetings today because she won't stop calling me to talk about the Majority Leader. You think the article was a B+?" I think of Alice sitting in the White House mess hall, drinking orange juice and waiting patiently for me to talk about the article with Dad. Not fair especially since I like orange juice but I'll go along with it. "I think Swan's press conference went well," I admit. "You know how charismatic he is. Plus, it looks like the base is rallying around him. This whole thing could backfire on everyone." "Remind me again why I don't have you working in this joint?" he asks. "Because it's a 'joint' and you said to 'just say no'?" He chuckles. "Your old man is a sap on the inside. I would love to have you working here." He backtracks, because he knows I don't like feeling pressured like that. "But it's your life, as I always say." I suddenly feel like I'm having a little bit of a moment here with my dad. Maybe being in love with Isabella has made me appreciate the people in my life more. Or maybe I just really like my dad. Which I do.

"Your dad also said that to you," I point out in good humor. "Then on the day you quit your residency, he said 'I knew it. You're a Cullen. Politics is all you'll ever do properly.'" "Which was harsh considering I was saving lives," Dad muses, sounding nostalgic. "But my grandmother saw it coming. Alice the First. She said very interesting things to me on her deathbed, you know. Claimed the British Empire was making a comeback. I think it was the morphine." I laugh. But then I try to think what the point of this conversation is supposed to be. "Hey, I have a question," I tell him. "You don't have a meeting to go to, do you?" "Is that your question?" "Dad." God, it's like talking to myself. "I have forty-five seconds or so. Ask away." I take the opportunity to ask about the Swans. I've got to prep the ground for the revelation about Isabella in two weeks. "As a person, is the Majority Leader an okay guy? Like, when he isn't being a politician?" "Hmmm." He takes a few moments to answer. "Yes, I believe so. But he plays the game better than anyone in his party." "Yeah." I wonder what's going to happen to these 'unnamed sources', and to Camberwell specifically. "The thing with this article is," Dad continues, "if this were a paper following up illegitimate lines of inquiry, then I'd have a problem with it. That's not what's happening here. It's decent people, decent Republicans, expressing concern about the policies of a man who wants to be the leader of the free world. That being said, I know decent people, decent Democrats, also have problems with the President. And your mother." It's an opinion I find reasonable. My father is widely known as a nice guy. He knows how to frame his disapproval without sounding belligerent. Of course, some people think he's just a smooth talker. And people say I take after him. Let's see how smoothly the rest of this conversation goes. "I like to think that our family isn't all about politics," I suggest. "I know that probably sounds crazy, but there's more to us than that. Same goes with the Swans." "At that fundraiser in Philadelphia, I actually would've liked to have had a civil conversation with Renee Swan. But the interview was being taped the following Monday, and the President had just called me to rant about the Senate. Politics comes first a lot of the time. It's the way it is." "True."

"But it doesn't have to define us all the time," he adds, giving me some semblance of hope. "I strongly agree with that," I declare. "Which is not to say I'm not proud of being a Cullen." "That's good to hear. Say, is there a particular reason for these question? Are you writing a blog article on Senator Swan?" "Uh, no. Nothing like that," I reply. "Just, you knowtaking an interest. In things." Dammit. I've seen rock faces smoother than that response. Mount Rushmore is smoother than that response. I shouldn't be so hard on myself. The thought of coming clean about Isabella is intimidating, even for a confident guy like me. "Well, okay," Dad says, seemingly unperturbed. "But, yes, you had a good point about the base rallying around Swan today. It's to be expected right now they can't tear down their party's most prominent figure in Washington. And no one can deny that he's a hero to some people." "Republicans as Heroes. Save the Majority Leader, Save the World." "I'm going to assume that's a pop culture reference I don't understand. Stop making me feel so old." I chuckle. "Sorry. Are my forty-five seconds up?" "Unfortunately, yes. But only because Alice has returned. With milk and cookies from the Mess." I snort. "Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street?" I sing. "Forever young, Edward. I'm your age in my head. The milk and cookies are a lie, by the way. She came back empty-handed. Apparently, I didn't raise my children properly." I hear Alice in the background. "He thinks he's Neo from The Matrix." "I don't understand what that means," Dad replies. "Am I supposed to know what that means?" "So she did know what I was talking about," I say out loud. "Who's Neo?" he asks. "He's The Chosen One." "Of course he is," he says dryly, seemingly still confused. "Yes, that was the point I was making to Alice." "I have no idea what you're talking about. I think I'll get back to my day job." "You do that," I urge. "Bye for now. And say goodbye to Alice the Second for me, will you?" "Will do. Talk to you later, Edward."

"Bye." When the call is over, I try to take stock of things. I'm not trying to change the political landscape, and I'm not trying to fix the system. I just want to be with Isabella without people trying to tear us down. Ultimately, I think that was a good conversation. It may have been sprung on me, but I raised the subject of the Swans without annoying my dad too much. And between him and my mom, he's always been the more understanding one when it comes to my decisions. We'll see if that holds true. I push the papers on my desk aside for a moment and grab my itinerary for Boston. Being as diligent as I am, I've arranged the trip already. I may not be as ambitious in other areas of my life, but when it comes to the woman I love, I'll do anything. She's something I'm completely sure about. After sending her a quick email telling her I'm thinking of her with or without clothes on I pick up my red pen and move on to the next paper in the pile of grading I have to do. Two more weeks. I know it's only the end of February, but I sure hope there's no 'October surprise' for my campaign.

As the plane touches down in Boston, I can't help but think about how majorly important this trip is. It's like election week, really. I'm making sure I have Isabella's vote, and then we have to convince our families to vote for us too. The week following the article was a little trying. The article furor lasted for several days. It didn't help that my Uncle Peter said some pretty aggressive things on MSNBC two days after the Times article was published. Isabella griped that it was like Democrats had deliberately outsourced the task to a Cullen who was retired. My uncle called Isabella's father 'dangerous,' amongst other things. The liberal media liked that. There was more glee that night then there is on the iTunes charts. But since then, other things have taken over the news cycle. The political game never ends. Which is why I should've had the foresight to know that this Boston trip is just the beginning. There's no point winning on Election Day if you're just going to sit on your ass and govern badly. I don't know why I always get so pensive when I'm traveling, but here I am, trying to remind myself that I've never done this before. I've never been in a relationship. Be that as it may, I'm going to do the best I can for Isabella. I'll probably screw up here and there, but I'll face those mistakes like a man. Hopefully I'll get the hang of it, and hopefully we'll be able to survive the long distance without too much trouble. Knowing that I'm about to see Isabella in a matter of hours is enough to make me feel fully awake. I took the red-eye from San Francisco so we'd be able to meet up this morning and spend more time together. I'm planning to leave my luggage at the hotel desk until I check in this afternoon. I'll meet Isabella across the street, take her bag, and leave it with mine too. Then, with the help of such modern aids like sunglasses and baseball caps, we'll spend some time in public. Nothing major, because we don't want to get outed before telling our families, of course. We'll get something to eat, go for a walk, maybe I'll let myself get

dragged into a shop or two. We talked this through during the week and figured it was a positive thing to do, as opposed to hiding out in a hotel room. A more hopeful start to our trip. Maybe we'll even walk the Freedom Trail something apt given the circumstances. We can joke about walking a fine line. We can talk about finally fighting the rivalry that restrains us. Speaking of freeing, Alice has been weaning me off the information about her visions. She's confident that things are going to play out well, and Jacob shares the same opinion. This is on me now, I guess. They'll step in if an emergency arises, but anything short of that I'll have to handle it myself. Finally, passengers are allowed to leave the plane. Even though I'm nowhere near Union Station in D.C., I'm reminded of where this started as I walk into the terminal. I met up with her there because I opted out of flying here, into Logan International. Alice and her white lie about a storm hitting the Northeast. Good thing everyone cajoled me into listening to her that time. Isabella texts me just as I'm collecting my baggage: I'm at the bagel place. Hurry up. I'm hungry. A follow-up text comes through seconds later. Oh, and I want to see you :) Grinning, I text her back immediately: Glad to know I'm just as important as a bagel. Be there in twenty. The bagel place is opposite the Omni Parker, the hotel where I always stay. Not the most romantic caf even I know that but it's non-descript and well, normal. Maybe we'll mosey over to Borders at the end of the block after that. I'll buy her the unauthorized biography of my mother and highlight all the parts about me. Okay, I've still got a way to go with the romance stuff Soon enough, I'm in a cab, and before I know it, I'm outside the Omni Parker. I look over to the bagel shop and see Isabella smiling at me from afar. She gestures for me to hurry up and come in. Really, I could stand outside here on the street and look at her all day. But that would be kind of stupid. She's so beautiful, even in a Red Sox cap. It occurs to me that I don't even have a printed photo of her. Not in my wallet, not at home back in San Francisco. I don't have that because I haven't been able to record such a detail, capture such a happy image. We'll soon be able to. It's a good feeling. It takes restraint for me not to bolt into the shop. Let's just say I power-walked. Isabella is sitting at a corner table near the window. It's not that busy in here, but we're not the only ones in here either. I'm not the most poetic of people, but I will say that walking up to her makes me feel so incredibly happy. She smiles at me as I approach. I drop my luggage next to her bag and then sit down across from her, immediately putting my hand on hers. She's wearing her lemon charm, another thing that makes me smile.

Finally reunited. Any longer and I would've lost my mind. Alice would've had a vision of me huddled in the fetal position on the floor of my living room. I'm very dramatic when it comes to Isabella. Love makes me that way. As if I still can't believe we're finally together again, I gape at the sight of her. She really is breathtaking. And she's mine. "Hi," she says, giggling. "Nice Red Sox cap. I can't believe we wore the same thing today." "I know," I reply, smiling. "How embarrassing." She leans towards me, lowering her voice. "Oh my God, finally. I've felt incomplete without you." "I'm sure you have," I say in a suggestive tone. "That 'something' that's been missinglet's just say you'll be feeling complete soon enough." Isabella rolls her eyes before giving me a soft look. I know I'm trying to act all nonchalant and cocky, but something tells me I'm at risk of lapsing into a little bit of sap. "You've missed me," Isabella states, practically challenging me to say something more romantic. "I missed you so fucking much," I admit, hoping I sound as earnest as possible. I squeeze her hand. "I can't even describe how happy I am to see you right now." She giggles happily. "Was that so hard?" I raise an eyebrow. "I will refrain from making the obvious joke. But what I will say is that I think about you all the time and that you're very, very important to me." "I think you're okay," she says with a shrug, feigning nonchalance. I put my hand over my heart. "Ouch. She thinks I'm just 'okay.'" "Oh, Edward" Her expression softens once again. "What I would give to be able to spend every day with you." The emotion in her voice tugs on my own heartstrings. Part of me wants take the train down to D.C. earlier than expected and tell everyone about us now. "I'd like to wake up next to you every morning," I say gently. "That's sweet." I smirk. "Hopefully you'll then serve me breakfast, wearing nothing but a thong." The comment earns me a slap on the arm. "Ass." "Yes," I say. "That's exactly what I'll be looking at." We grin at each other. It really is great to be reunited.

"I bought you a bagel with cream cheese," she says, pushing it forward with her free hand. "I also bought you coffee about ten minutes ago. It should be a good temperature now." "So thoughtful. I knew I chose you for a reason." "You chose me?" she mocks. "Who were your other options? Barbara Bush? Meghan McCain?" "I'm sorry, are you trying to make me lose my appetite?" I jest, tracing circles on the inside of her hand. "Well, I'm glad you chose me." She clears her throat. "I, um, actually have something to tell you, but I don't want to say it in a bagel shop. Maybe somewhere more romantic. Boston Common, even?" The pleased look on her face tells me that whatever she has to tell me is something good. Something I want to hear. Something she knows I want to hear. Could it be? The three little words I almost let slip in San Francisco? "Oh," I reply, trying to play it cool. "Well, we'll have to go for a post-bagel walk then." "I think so," she says, nodding. I used to roll my eyes at couples who held hands over a table and stared into each other's eyes. Now I'm one of them. Isabella glances down at her suitcase. "I chose a boring bag so it wouldn't look suspicious with your baggage. Louis Vuitton isn't really your style. I've taken off the ID tag as well." "Are you saying my luggage is boring?" I inquire, nodding at my own bag. "I still haven't forgiven you for dissing my Volvo." She guffaws. "Oh, come on. I think I more than made up for that comment." I shake my head. "I don't think I'll forgive you until we reenact a certain Philadelphia encounter in my car." "We don't need a car to reenact that. But I won't tolerate any ripping of clothes." "Fair enough," I remark. "But I want a bit of quality time before we do any reenacting." I kiss her on the hand. I don't even know where I'm coming up with this stuff, but even if I'm being completely cheesy, at least she knows I'm trying. "Oh, my, what a gentleman. Who are you and what have you done with my cocky bastard?" "CarefulThe gentleman in me tends to come and go as he pleases. He's inconsistent like that." "He's a flip-flopper, then? Maybe I should call you John Kerry." I snort. "I do not flop. Flip, maybe, depending on the position and whether you're flexible enough."

"Well, I like the gentleman in you," she says. "Although, let's face it, I'm a sucker for your arrogance." "Sometimes I wish you'd suck something else" I'm met with an amused look. "Aw, poor Edward," she teases. "Needs a job of the blow variety." "Yes, give me a job. Any job. In this economy, I can't afford to be picky." "I'm sure we can work something out. My company comes with benefits, too." "Oh, I'm sure it does." We spend a half hour catching up, eating our food and drinking our coffees. Being with her is so easy; I feel like we're finally comfortable about the fact we're together. Sure, there's still anxiety, but it's not the overwhelming emotion anymore. The intensity is different it's an empowering energy. I want to jump up and kiss her right now in front of all the other people here. I want to tell her I love her. I want her to officially make me her boyfriend. I've learned to appreciate all the time we're afforded, since the distance between meet-ups was longer this time. I feel like part of me is too observant now. It's probably creepy how interested I am in watching her drink coffee. Really, I'm trying to take in everything about the time we're together. "Okay, I should probably take our luggage across the road," I suggest as we finish our coffees. "Yes," Isabella agrees. "Good idea. Let's get going." "Wait here. I'll be back." I pick up the bags and leave the shop for the hotel, where I stride into the lobby and over to the front desk. The people at the desk are all too happy to hold my luggage, as previously arranged. No questions are asked. If only the rest of the world was as respectful. I turn around to walk out of the lobby, my thoughts focusing on the need for our families to understand what's going on here. I suspect there will be some speech rehearsal in the next few days debate prep, even. I'm ready. Bring it. And that's when I see him. Emmett Swan. Here in the lobby. What the fuck? Blindsided. No warning from Alice at all. I'm too shocked to say anything. Even more alarming than the fact that he's here, is the look of pure venom directed at me. He stalks towards me until he's standing in front of me. I shy away slightly, completely intimidated by the guy.

His jaw is clenched, and so are his fists. It's not manly to be afraid of someone like this, but the fury radiating from him would be enough to scare a small army. "You walked straight past me on the way in," he adds. "I've been waiting for awhile." He knew I was going to be here. I gape at him. How could he know our whereabouts? I used an alias when dealing with the reservation, though I suppose someone at the desk would probably know my true identity. "The Omni Parker. A favorite of the Kennedys," he snarls. "And apparently of the Cullens too." Part of me wants to optimistic. Maybe this is just a coincidence. Maybe he's here for reasons completely unrelated to his sister. "I want you to take back Isabella's luggage," he orders. "Hand it over." Fuck. He knows. I'm not prepared for this. At all. "Emmett, listen," I start. He takes a step forward, getting up into my face. "The luggage. Now." This guy wants to kill me. He doesn't want me six feet under. He wants me sixty feet under. It probably takes me all of thirty seconds to retrieve Isabella's bag from the front desk. But in those thirty seconds, the fear really starts to compound. I'm not just scared of Emmett. I'm scared of losing Isabella. He doesn't understand yet, and I'm not sure he'll be open to understanding now that he's clued in onto something. I don't even know how much he knows. "You need to let Isabella and I explain," I say to Emmett, refusing to hand the bag over so easily. I'll probably need the bag to shield myself from his punches. "Just take me to my sister," he hisses. I reluctantly relinquish possession of Isabella's bag. It's ominous, the way I'm handing something back to him. I shouldn't have to feel like I'm handing Isabella back to her family. It's not like that. I'm not taking her away. She's part of my life too. I'm still in deep shock as I walk out of the hotel. Emmett is like the shadow from hell. I can feel his presence, and his breathing is ragged as he walks closely behind me. We cross the road Isabella isn't looking out of the window. She won't see this coming either. How could Alice not have warned me? "You're a sick bastard, Cullen," Emmett says menacingly just before we enter the shop. "You're lucky I don't want to cause a scene."

This is not how I planned to be outed. This isn't right. When I reenter the bagel shop, Isabella is still seated. She's folding her napkin into some sort of origami. It looks like a paper fortune teller. As we approach, it's clear she's deep in concentration, seemingly very happy. She completes the origami and then looks up, immediately spotting me and her brother. Her paper creation is forgotten. Alarmed, she goes wide-eyed and her face pales. She doesn't even stand. My heart rate rockets. I feel the adrenaline pumping from the stress of this situation. I try to communicate to her that I'm at a loss as to how this happened, but I'm not sure if she can read my shock. "Why don't we have quick chat?" Emmett suggests snidely, pulling up a chair. I dumbly sit back down in my original seat. I feel numb. "Emmett" Isabella splutters. "Yeah, it's me," he replies. "I followed Cullen out of the hotel." "I can explain." "Be quiet, Bella," he instructs. He may not be speaking that loudly, but his voice is shaking with anger. "You've been duped." Duped? "Listen, Emmett," I begin. I'm met with two warning looks this time. Isabella quickly shakes her head and looks from me to her brother. "No, I haven't been duped. I didn't want you to find out this way, but " "This is a plot," Emmett states. He says it in such a way that it's like an offhand remark or a passing comment. I guess he's trying not to draw attention to us. Still, it's kind of creepy. "It's not," I insist, trying not to raise my voice. "It's really not." I wish I could just come out and say I love Isabella, but that's going to anger him even more. Not to mention, that's not how I want to declare my love for her. Emmett glances at Isabella with a look of pity and betrayal. "How could you be so stupid?" he asks. "How could you fall for this?" "Emmett," Isabella says firmly, holding up her hand. "Listen." "No," he snaps. "You listen. This is a plot. His sister and his best friend are in on it. Go on. Ask him if Alice and Jacob Black knew about this the whole time. Ask him if they've been encouraging this." Fuck my life. I'm completely floored by the accusation.

What the hell is going on here? How can Emmett know about Alice and Jacob knowing? Isabella looks at me in confusion, hurt slowly appearing on her face as it becomes clear I don't want to answer. It breaks my heart to see her look at me like this. I can tell she doesn't want to doubt me, but here I am, sitting dumbly in front of her, too shocked to confirm or deny. "Edward?" she asks, voice wavering. "It's not what you think," I tell her emphatically. I'm trapped. I can't tell her that Alice is psychic and that's how she knew about all this. Now I look guilty when I haven't really done anything wrong. I scramble to clarify what I'm saying. "I had to talk about this with someone." "Oh, please," Emmett scoffs. "From what I hear, you were pushed you to do this. It was your sister's idea, wasn't it? Literally fuck with the Swans, right?" "Edward? Is that true?" Isabella asks, eyebrows knitting in confusion. This has to be some kind of nightmare. "Where are you getting this from?" I ask Emmett, completely flustered. "Where do you think I'm getting this from?" he counters, leaning towards me. I stare at him in disbelief. Did Alice or Jacob let something slip? Surely not. I mean, how could they? "So it's true?" Isabella asks me pointedly, eyes flashing with fear. "You know how I feel about you," I reply. "My sister didn't push me." "But she put you on that train," Emmett argues. "Black took you to the station." "It wasn't like that," I insist. Isabella's face contorts into a look of anguish. She's not sure what to believe. The fact that she doubts me whether warranted in the circumstances or not causes pain to rip through my chest. "I had to see this for myself, because I wasn't ready to believe it," Emmett hisses, still keeping his voice lowered. He turns to his sister. "But now I do. You've been letting him fuck you. How could you be so stupid?" Shell-shocked, Isabella stares at me, her lip quivering. "Isabella, please," I urge, leaning forward. "This isn't some kind of conspiracy. Please " Emmett cuts me off. "Fuck you, Cullen. Fuck you and your family." I give him a hard stare. "At least let me fucking explain." "Oh, I will. Once my father confronts your mother over this." He abruptly stands up. "Come on, Bella. I'm taking you home to Philly. Emergency family meeting. Mom's at home. Dad will come up from D.C. later today. We all want an explanation."

I jump up when Isabella slowly stands. I don't want to cause a scene people are glancing in our direction now but I can't just sit here. "I'm not using her," I tell Emmett forcefully. "If you don't get the fuck out of my face," he says menacingly, "I will beat the living shit out of you." This can't be happening. This cannot be happening. I reach out for Isabella's arm. "Tell him how we want to be together. How we were going to tell our families," I urge. "He won't believe me, but he'll believe you." She hesitates, cognizant of her brother's fury. "Edward" "Come on, we're going," Emmett snaps. "I won't stand here listening to his lies." Isabella gives me another frantic look. Again, I don't miss the doubt in her eyes. Now I know I really am in trouble. "No," I protest. I sidestep into Emmett's path. He gets in my face, daring me to not move out of his way. "No one messes with our family and gets away with it," he warns. "Your days are numbered. Just like Camberwell's." He shoves me out of the way. Isabella shakes her head at me when I try to talk to her. She doesn't think it's a wise move for me to fight this right now. Hell, maybe she doesn't want me to come after her. She probably doubts my intentions. I don't follow, mainly because I know how angry Emmett is right now. Watching Isabella being snatched away is so very painful, but Emmett will lose it completely if I try to stop him. I'm left standing at the window. Fuck. I don't know what the fuck is going on with Alice and Jacob right now, but something is truly fucked up. Because there's no way that Emmett's sudden appearance isn't need-to-know information. I fucking needed to know.

Re next chapter: Soto whom are you going to give the benefit of the doubt? I'm aiming to update in ten days time, but we'll see. I'll tweet about it. In the meantime, you can read:

- Dear Mr. Masen, my collab with jennde. It's hilarious! The first chapter is up! http: / www. fanfiction. net/ s/ 6483877/ 1/ - An Enquiry into the Sublime and Beautiful, my Cherry Exchange one-shot. Something different from me. http:/ www. fanfiction. net/ s/ 6463892/ 1/ References: - White House Correspondents' Dinner: The WHCA annual dinner began in 1920, and has become a Washington, D.C. tradition. It is usually attended by the President and Vice President. The dinner is traditionally held on the evening of the last Saturday in April. In recent years the featured speaker has often been a comedian, with the dinner taking on the form of a roast, especially of the President.* - The Matrix (2009, written and directed by Larry and Andy Wachowski.) To this day, I still do not understand the two sequels. - 45 seconds - izzzyy is my reference for that! ILY. - Heroes (2006-2010, NBC): "Save the cheerleader. Save the world" is a key quote from Season 1 (the only season worth watching.) - The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report are both on Comedy Central. - October surprise: A news event with the potential to influence the outcome of an election, particularly one for the U.S. presidency. The reference to the month of October is because the Tuesday after the first Monday in November is the date for national elections (as well as many state and local elections), and therefore events that take place in late October have greater potential to influence the decisions of prospective voters.* - The Freedom Trail: A red (mostly brick) path through downtown Boston, Massachusetts that leads to 16 significant historic sites. It is a 2.5-mile walk from Boston Common to Bunker Hill Monument in Charlestown with simple ground markers, graveyards, notable churches and other buildings, and a historic naval frigate along the way.* - Chapter title from the 2009 movie starring Sandra Bullock. The movie was based on a book.

Chapter 26: Fight or Flight BPOV When I was fifteen, my brother had to save me from a particularly bad date. I'd been crushing on this guy, James, who I'd met at a party, and he'd finally asked me out a few weeks later. It was summertime and I was young I wanted to be carefree and spontaneous. Just not as carefree and spontaneous as he wanted me to be. Going out to a movie seemed harmless enough, but James had other ideas. Let's just say he wanted me to participate in a 'double feature' with his friend, in the back of the theater of all places. As if I'd give away my 'opening credits' so easily. The only threesome I approved of back then was Blink-182.

I quickly excused myself, claiming I wanted to buy some candy. Fortunately, James and his friend, Laurent, didn't follow, giving me enough time to dash over to a payphone and call home. I actually expected Mom or Dad to pick up, but Emmett was home from college and apparently hadn't made plans to go out. I asked him if he could please come get me. Emmett did more than just show up to take me home. He stormed his way into the theater and cussed out both boys during the beginning of the movie. A lot of patrons were shocked and annoyed, but some were very amused. I was so grateful for his protectiveness, his anger. Emmett had my back. After James and Laurent fled the scene, Emmett took me out for ice-cream and offered to watch Bring It On with me instead of whatever movie I'd planned to see with James. "Isn't that kind of lame?" I asked him while we enjoyed our ice-cream. "What twenty-year-old wants to hang out with their little sister?" He snorted. "Don't be stupid. Why do you think I blew off my friends tonight? I wanted to make sure you got home okay." He shrugged, trying to downplay his over-protectiveness. "Hey, better me saving the day than Dad. Remember that time he chaperoned the Spring Dance when I was in middle school? He brought his FBI badge." I laughed. I was embarrassed that I'd been caught up in such a stupid situation, and that I'd completely misjudged James as a person, but Emmett didn't tease or berate me over it. He just wanted to make sure I was okay. It's this memory that is playing on my mind right now. I'm standing next to my brother here at South Station. He's purchasing two tickets for the next Amtrak train that runs through Philadelphia. I'm in shock. This time I didn't ask him to interfere. This time he is judging me, calling me stupid and reckless. What if he's right? I know I told Angela and Lauren about Edward, but it's not like I was specific about anything. Edward's best friend and sister knew all along, and they knew details. What the fuck am I supposed to make out of that? I admit it was a fight or flight moment. I fucking fled. It's been half an hour and I've questioned myself a million times already, so trust me, I'm already on the case. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Swan, Docket No. 031110. The defendant has been charged with cowardice in the first degree. Bail is set at $10, 000, plus a cream cheese bagel. I know that I love Edward, but I'm insecure about it because if this love is based on a lie, then it's not really love at all. I keep quiet as Emmett hands over his credit card to the lady behind the desk. I should snap out of it and actually say something. After all, I listened to him rant about how he overheard Alice and Jacob talking during a function last night at the Kennedy Center. He couldn't believe that they hadn't noticed him. His interest was piqued when Alice mentioned that she hoped Edward was going to have a good time in Boston. Jacob replied that Edward would just have to manage without their advice, unlike the New Haven and San Francisco rendezvous. They also brought up the original train encounter. Apparently she knew I was going to be on the train that fateful day. The references caught Emmett's attention, especially since it sounded like the woman they were

discussing had no idea they knew what was going on. Then he heard that Edward would be at the Omni Parker this morning. Unbelievable. If only I could cross-examine Alice and Jacob Black. Edward has called and texted me, but I've ignored him. I should let the man explain himself, but honestly, I'm too shocked to make an informed decision. Or maybe on some level, I'm afraid to hear his answers if there are holes in his story, I'll just end up attacking him. Hell hath no fury like a Republican woman's scorn. Especially when that woman is angry at herself and needs someone to take it out on. Emmett mutters something under his breath and hands me a ticket, ushering me away from the counter. The way he's herding me finally causes me to snap. I throw my bag onto the ground, making him jump in surprise. "That's it!" I screech. "Stop treating me like I'm ten." I'm fully aware that I'm making a scene. People are looking. Too bad, too sad. Emmett glares at me for drawing attention to us. "What the fuck is your problem?" I guffaw in disbelief. "Well, go on," he presses, getting more infuriated. "Tell me what you could possibly be upset about right now!" I look him right in the eye. I can't remember a moment when I've detested my brother this much. It frightens me that I feel this frustrated. Because if I care so much if there is a part of me that is worked up about the way he's dealing with this situation then that must mean that I think he's wrong about something. Wrong about Edward. I know I'm clearly missing some information, but I can't imagine what Edward is going through right now. If he does love me which I think he does I've just walked away and left him heartbroken. He must think he's not worth fighting for. The thought that I've hurt him makes it hard for me to breatheHe means so much to me. I try to answer in a clear and cutting tone. However, my shaky voice betrays me, revealing how emotional this ordeal is for me. "I just left the man I love standing helplessly in a bagel shop," I say slowly. "I did that because I thought it was best to give you the benefit of the doubt. I think I deserve the same consideration from you, so quit trying to herd me like cattle. I'm already on the verge of hitting my self-destruct button. Stop being such an ass. You don't know anything." He's dumbfounded. And so he should be. "You what?" he asks, bewildered. "Did you just say you're in love with him?"

"I think I need to call him," I reply, dodging his question. "He's playing you like a fool. They orchestrated this!" "Shut up," I say, tired of his antics. "Just shut up." My head is spinning like the news in the White House Press Room. I feel so ill I could probably dry-heave right now, an attempt to purge all this guilt and confusion from my system. This wasn't the way Emmett was supposed to find out about me and Edward. Edward. My Edward. I want more than anything for us to be okay. But where do we go from here? Emmett is still staring at me in astonishment when his cell phone starts ringing. I hold his gaze, unflinching. He wants me to feel shame. If he's right if this is a Cullen plot where I've been used then I will feel shame. But right now, I need to communicate the fact that I'm serious here. I'm seriously confused. I'm seriously hurt. I'm seriously in love. After ten seconds or so, Emmett looks down at the display. "Is it Mom?" I guess. "It's Dad," he says stiffly, holding out his phone to me. "You should probably take it." I hesitate. I'm not ready for this. "I can't. I can't deal with everyone judging me like this. Especially not Dad." "Bella, take the call," he urges. I take the phone from him. I can't run from the reality that my parents now know I've been sleeping with Edward Cullen. Besides assuming I don't make a break for it I'll be seeing them later today. I hit the 'talk' button. "Hi, Dad," I answer cautiously. There's a long pause. Not a good sign. "Isabella," he says in a tight voice. Oh, he's not impressed. "I hope you're not too scarred from this morning's extraction mission." I clear my throat. "I understand your concern " "No, I really don't think you do," he responds sharply. "That's why Emmett came to get you and bring you home. And when we're all back in Philly, you can explain what the hell you've been doing, young lady." My father's anger injects the fear of God into me. No wonder the Christian Right like him so much. "I do have an explanation, Dad," I insist, trying to stand up for myself just a little.

"Most wrongdoers do!" "Really, there's more to this story to whatever you've learned from hearsay." "I certainly hope so." He pauses for a moment, and when he speaks again, his voices sounds resigned. "It's a long train-ride, IsabellaDo me a favor and call your mother. She's worried sick, and I can't handle her speculation anymore." Before I can answer, he hangs up on me. Great. I hope that wasn't a motion of no confidence, because Emmett would surely second it at this stage. I guess I'll have to call Mom soon too. I hand the phone back to Emmett. But what about Edward? Does he consider me a traitor, too? I could tell that he wanted me to say something about our plans when my brother first confronted us. But I didn't. Does Edward now resent me for not fighting for us? I love Edward. I've finally told Emmett. Why the hell couldn't I say it earlier, when he was there to hear it? I'm slower than the legislative process. Emmett is still studying me. While he does that, I look around, taking in my surroundings. I'm at a train station, getting ready to board a train to Philadelphia. I'm traveling away from Edward. Reeling, I pull out my phone in order to call him. He deserves better than this. "What are you doing?" Emmett asks. His voice sounds more worried than accusatory, probably because I just yelled at him, "Using a cell phone," I reply dryly, searching through my list of contacts. "Apparently a skill you don't have the hang of." The message is clear: he could have called and confronted me instead of coming to Boston to personally yank me out of my bubble. "I know what I heard, Bells," he insists. I take a step back. "I'm not saying your hearing is defective. I'm saying your reasoning might be. You don't have all the facts." "Well, I haven't had time to file for a motion of discovery!" "Then why have you already moved for summary judgment?" I snap. Emmett shakes his head just as I turn around to call Edward. I take a few steps forward to put a bit more space between us. Edward immediately picks up. "Isabella," he says frantically. "It's not what you think " As much as it hurts to hear him so stressed out, I need to say what I need to say before getting on this train to Philadelphia. "Edward, please. Just listen for a second." "Okay, butOkay, I'm listening."

I've never heard him sound this upset. I'm responsible for some of his distress, if not all. "I just spoke to my father. I have to go back home and explain myself. Let me handle things from this end. Give me time to think. Please. I promise I'll call you." I shoot Emmett a wary look. "Although, it would help if IWell, I didn't let you explainThe Kennedy Center. Alice and Jacob? What's up with that?" Even though I'm fucking scared, I need to know the truth. I can't yell at my family to leave me alone if I'm the one who screwed up here. Forget Splenda. I should've spiked Edward's coffee with sodium pentothal, just in case. "I called them. Look, they deliberately let Emmett overhear," he explains. "Believe me, they mean well. They're just trying to force my hand. I can't explain properly, but I promise that everything works out better this way." Forcing his hand? That sounds like a plot to me. Are they really happy about him being with me? "I don't understand what you're talking about " "I know it doesn't make sense now, but it will! This isn't a plot. They're trying to help, in their own twisted way." "What's the deal with your sister putting you on that train? Did she know my schedule or something?" "It's hard to explain. But it's not a conspiracy," he insists. "I swear to God." "I need time," I declare hurriedly. "I don't know what the hell Alice and Jacob are doing and why you've involved them like this but either way, you'll probably hear from me in six or seven hours." "You don't think I'm using you, do you?" he asks pleadingly. "I'm not. Please believe me. My parents don't know about this! Alice and Jacob were helping me see you because they know how I feel about you. They want me to be happy." "I want to believe you. I really do. But this is really fucked up. I've got to sort this out with my family. I'll call you later. I promise. And that's a real promise, not a political one." "Okay," he says reluctantly. "Talk to you later." I end the call, knowing my heart will break if I continue talking to him. I'll never get on the train. I'll run back to him, with the final approach happening in slow motion. Epic music will start playing, confusing everyone within a fifty feet radius of the Omni Parker. Nothing would get solved, but I'd be in his arms again, plot or no plot. Begrudgingly, I walk back to Emmett and pick up my bag. "Lead the way, Mr. Cattle Rancher. And no, I don't have 'Cullen' branded on my backside." "Funny." "Oh, and Edward says Carlisle and Esme don't know. So let's not railroad them just yet. And no, that's not an Amtrak pun."

"Well, of course he'd say that they don't know," Emmett gripes. "Yes, because this entire thing is so predictable." He scoffs. "Don't tell me The Times has an exclusive on this one too." "No, I've sold the story to the National Enquirer," I say sarcastically. "I was impressed with the way they outed John Edwards. Hey, while I'm at it, maybe I should auction off the blue dress I was wearing when Cullenoh wait, I'm not Monica Lewinsky." Emmett clenches his jaw but doesn't say anything further. Not even about Alice and Jacob "interfering." We walk in tense silence to our designated waiting area. I don't know how long the wait will be, but I'm sure it'll be excruciating. I glance around at the other people in the waiting area. I wonder whether I'm the only one having a crisis right now. These people are probably going about their business as usual. Then there's me with my relationships in jeopardy, a crisis at least partially engineered by Alice and Jacob Black. Trying to help, were they? Maybe they're the real cowards here forcing me to deal with my own family so Edward doesn't have to. "I'm not trying to treat you like cattle," Emmett says after awhile. "I think you've lost your way, and I'm trying to guide you in the right direction." "You think I don't know we have 'beef' with the Cullens?" I challenge. "Did you ever stop to think why I hadn't told anyone yet? We were going to come out with it this weekend." For the first time this morning, he looks at me with sympathy. "You really think you're in love." "I don't think, Em. I know. Even if you think I'm crazy, that doesn't change the fact that I love him." "And if he's lying to you?" "Then that's my mistake." "But it's a mistake that affects all of us," he reminds me. "If you're wrong and I'm right, then this is beyond embarrassing. They screwed with us and won." "So you keep saying," I complain. "I'm trying to protect you," he argues. "Ever heard of overkill, Emmett?" I ask. "I appreciate that you care about me, but you're taking things too far. Dad may still love his FBI ways, but I bet this sting was your idea." He ignores the accusation. "We have yet to talk about how I knew Alice and Jacob were talking about you," he says testily. "Yes, this is going to be a fun train ride. Swans on a train. Like Snakes on a Plane, but with more awkward conversations and less Samuel L. Jackson." Would it be too dramatic if I threw myself in front of the train?

Oh, wait. It's stationary. I can't even get that right. This particular business class carriage only has eight other people on it besides us, so we sit at the back. I end up with the window seat, presumably because Emmett probably wants to me to stay where I am. We spend the first hour of the train ride 11:00am until noon in silence. The call I placed to my mother as the train left the station was brief; she essentially expressed her relief that I was on my way home. The disappointment was evident in her voice. I've got to make my parents understand how much Edward means to me. Edward has rather obediently followed my instructions my BlackBerry has remained silent but that doesn't mean I haven't been wondering how he's doing. He sounded so sincere on the phone earlier. This has to be real. I owe it to him to fix the situation on my end. I still don't understand the part about Alice and Jacob helping Edward with the first "train encounter," but I hope it's a misunderstanding or something that can be explained. God forbid I was some sort of bet that accidentally turned into true love. That kind of storyline is so ten years ago. You know, in the vein of 10 Things I Hate About You and She's All That. Maybe what I should really do is not get off the train in Philadelphia. Maybe I should travel all the way to D.C. and confront Alice and Jacob Black in person. There would be no guarantee of the truth, however. I dismiss the idea, but contemplate the possibility that I'll have to talk to them at some stage. Emmett jolts me out of my thoughts. "I should've known something was going on," he says gently, massaging his temples. I continue looking out the window. I think we're into Connecticut now, but I'm not sure. When I don't answer, Emmett continues anyway. "The way he looked at you in PhiladelphiaWas he the 'friend' you met up with after the fundraiser?" It sounds like he's trying hard to stay calm here. I mean, he sounds more resigned than angry. But maybe that's because he's taking pity on me for falling in love with a Cullen. I sigh heavily. "Emmett" Undeterred, he ploughs on. "Then there was his trip to New Haven. Jasper told me about that one. Then there was San Francisco..." Suddenly conscious of my lemon charm bracelet, I fold my arms across my chest. "Jasper was a source of information, albeit unintentionally." Confused, I look back at Emmett.

"When you texted him to say you were interested in someone else," Emmett explains, "he called your friends to try and find out who it was. Of course, Lauren and Angela didn't cooperate. But Jasper had this inkling that they really were covering for something, that you were seeing someone. He told me as much when I put him in his place for bothering you. It was part of the reason he agreed to back off." I look away again. "Hmmm." "And then there was the receipt. You were hardly giving any details about your Napa trip as it was. Then it was clear you were in San Francisco on that Saturday. You really didn't want me to see that measly piece of paper." "Nope," I mumble. "And maybe Jacob Black's smug grin two weeks ago was about more than just the article. So anyway, when I heard Alice talking about all that stuffI knew you were the one she was referring to." He lightly touches my forearm. "And they even referred to what I think is this bracelet." "Apparently, you were meant to overhear," I reveal, seeing no harm in saying so. He removes his hand from my arm. "That's what Cullen told you?" "Yes. Although, I don't understand why Alice and her husband interfered." I turn around and look him in the eye. "Edward and I were going to tell you guys about us, anyway. In D.C., this weekend." Emmett raises an eyebrow. "In D.C.? Are you kidding? That would've caused an instant in-person fight between Dad and Esme and Carlisle." I shrug helplessly. "Well, it's not happening like that now." "Oh God" He shakes his head in disbelief. "You really are in love with the guy. I had no idea." "You thought I was just his plaything," I accuse, emotion swelling in my chest. "That I was some sort of common slut." "No" "No?" "Look at this from my perspective. What was I supposed to think, other than you'd been duped?" he asks, getting a bit emotional himself. "That you'd been charmed into sleeping with him." "I'm not stupid," I reiterate. "I'm not saying you're stupid. But decisions can be stupid." I give him a pointed look. "Yes, that's very true." We leave each other to our own thoughts for a bit. I read the Amtrak magazine cover to cover. Emmett calls Rosalie, who isn't privy to any of this drama. Eventually, Emmett goes to the dining car to get some food. My only request is an orange juice. I even tap the lid on my fold-out table in the same way Edward did in the dining car that one time. When the train stops in New Haven, I finally get an apology.

"I'm sorry," Emmett says, putting his hand on my arm. "I'm sorry I hurt you. I'm sorry I'm an overprotective older brother." "Ultimately, you meant well," I acknowledge, accepting his apology. "But you should have heard me out before attacking me. At least before you went and told Dad." "This is far from easyThe situation, I mean. You know I don't trust the Cullens. You have to know this could still be a set-up." "I know," I say, nodding. However, I don't tell him it's less than a one percent chance in my mind. "I also know that I hurt you too. I lied." "Yes, you did." "So" "So I guess you have to figure out what to say to Mom and Dad." "Right." "And, you know, figure out if Edward is lying to you." The fun never stops with Amtrak. It's a party a minute here on the Northeast Regional.

It's five o'clock in the evening when we finally reach Philadelphia. The sun will probably set within the hour. Dad texted Emmett earlier in the day to say he managed to secure a commercial flight from D.C., so he'll be arriving shortly too. The family meeting is not too far away. At least Dad didn't waste taxpayer money by taking a private jet or something. That would've added another dimension to my guilt a civic responsibility. But for all I know, I could have already jeopardized my dad's work, thereby adversely affecting the U.S. government in some way. It wouldn't have been easy for him to concentrate today. What if his work today was lackluster? What if he suddenly decided not to help out with bipartisan initiatives? The New York Times thinks he doesn't want to help out as it is. This is horrible. All because Alice and Jacob Black made Emmett think there was plot going on. My parents probably think I'm a Democrat-loving nymphomaniac. A Cullen groupie or something. I can't blame my dad if he wasn't in the mood to deal with anyone from the House or White House today. It would be my fault if a bill died because he didn't want to negotiate with a Cullen. I'm killing legislation with my vagina. How skilled am I? Have I figured out what to say to him? Or Mom for that matter? I'll probably talk to Mom first, as she's at home. I think I can tell her what I told Emmett. But telling Dad that I'm actually in love with Edward and not just screwing around like he thoughtThat's going to be a challenge. However, I'm getting ahead of myself already. I should probably speak to Edward again before talking to my father. Dad will require a higher standard of proof than

Mom. Mom will fixate on the fact I think I'm in love. Dad won't be able to get over the fact I slept with a Cullen behind his back. The problem is that I only have Edward's word to go on and there are holes in his story. Hopefully they're easily plugged. Edward has to know that I love him I was going to say it to him today. This is a bizarre test of trust. I had no idea people in his family knew all along, yet I'm expected to understand that they meant well when they screwed with my brother's head. Emmett gets up and retrieves my bag from the overhead compartment. He carries it for me as we make our way off the train and into the main station. We don't speak. We tried to talk a bit more during the trip, but it was stilted, what with all the uncertainty and animosity in regards to the Cullens. Even when we ventured onto other topics, like Rosalie or school or work, we both knew it wasn't the most important issue at hand. Stepping back onto home turf feels strange now. "Home sweet home" never sounded so intimidating. We take a cab back to the house. As we get out of the car and pay for the fare, Mom opens the front door to greet us. Emmett puts his arm around me as we walk up to meet her. He's still furious with the situation, but he knows how upset I am right now. Mom frowns on seeing my sullen expression, and she quickly steps forward to give me a hug. "It's not what you think, Mom," I implore as we embrace. "My Bella. Come inside," she urges. "Thanks for bringing her home, Emmett." Emmett clears his throat as he closes the front door behind us. "I upset her a great deal by pulling her out of Boston," he admits solemnly. "Yes, I suppose you did," Mom says. "Did I or did I not tell you and your father that there had to be a better way?" "Mom, please," Emmett replies. "We weren't one hundred percent sure. Going to Boston was the only way." We trudge to the living room so we can all sit down. Mom sits in the armchair, while Emmett and I plop ourselves down on the couch. The three of us all appear to be exhausted in some way, either physically, mentally or both. Mom has bags under her eyes she must've lost a lot of sleep last night. She looks at me expectantly. She seems much more disappointed than angry. "I'm in love with him, Mom," I tell her. "I'm in love with Edward. I don't think this is a plot, but I've been thinking and I'm going to call him right now. Before Dad gets home." She's so alarmed that she puts her hand over her heart, as if I almost caused a heart attack. "Oh my word," she exclaims, dumbfounded. "I wasn't expecting that." "Sorry." Emmett speaks up. "Yeah, I didn't believe it either. But apparently it's true."

"It is true," I clarify, trying to be brave. My mother takes several moments to contemplate my declaration. In the end, her response is flippant and more tolerant than expected. "Well, I suppose he is good looking," she declares. "Oh God," Emmett mutters. Mom looks at me. "That's what I was going to say about you sleeping with him. But now you're saying it's more. I don't know what to say. You're a smart woman. I assume he has other redeeming qualities" "He's a Cullen," Emmett reminds her in a resigned tone. "Let's not forget that, no matter how good-looking he is." He notices the annoyed look on my face. "You know I'm not trying to offend you. I'm pointing out the risk that he's not being genuine." "This is rather shocking," Mom says slowly, stating the obvious. She stares at me. "How did this even happen?" "We were on the same train, the day after Christmas. We talked and stuff." I stop there, obviously unwilling to reveal that we fucked in the train bathroom. She turns to Emmett. "Do we know yet if Esme and Carlisle know about this entire thing?" Emmett shakes his head. "We don't know for sure. Edward told Bella that they don't know, but again, how are we supposed to know that's true?" "How does he feel about you?" Mom asks me curiously. "Does he feel the same way?" "I'm pretty sure he does." I quickly grab my phone out of my pocket and stand up, fidgeting with nerves. "I'm going to go call him." Emmett purses his lips, clearly not liking this idea. Mom studies me closely, looking at me in confusion. We might all need therapy after today. Maybe we'll get a family discount. Four Republicans for the price of one. "Be careful. He could be lying," she advises gingerly. "If you're going to call him, make it quick. I'd like to discuss this situation as soon as possible. I've been here all day, worrying myself sick." "Yeah, I'll make it quick," I promise. I shoot Emmett a pleading look, wanting him to side with me. He shrugs, seemingly unwilling to believe that Edward could feel that way about me. I leave the living room and bolt back into the foyer I'm sure I hear my mother muttering something under her breath as I leave. In my haste, I call Edward as soon as I step onto the staircase. He doesn't answer, however, and I try again once I reach the first floor landing. Still no reply. I climb more stairs. Three tries later, it's clear he's not going to pick up his phone. He's either busy or ignoring me. I'm a confident woman, but when it comes to Edward, I've always been insecure. I don't know whether I'm supposed to read into the fact he's not answering. Distressed, I make my way back down the stairs.

And that's when I hear the front door being unlocked. I'm frozen in place, unable to move. It's too late to back up. My heart pounds as my father comes into view. And boy, does he look enraged. Emmett and Mom rush into the foyer to greet him. I remain where I am on the stairs, halfway up to the first floor. I could vomit right now, but going all Exorcist isn't going to help anything. Then again, he probably thinks I've been possessed. Why else would I get involved with a Cullen? Dad stands in the doorway, refusing to come in. He makes eye contact with all three of us, his gaze lingering on me. He's got that steely look in his eye, like he's on an FBI mission. In his suit, he does look like an active agent. Sans gun, of course. "Never in my life did I think this would happen," he grinds out. "Never. But it's happening." "Charles, don't stand there like that," my mother scolds. "You're being very dramatic. Come inside so we can discuss this properly." He gives her a hard look. "Renee, I'm about to let a Cullen into our house. Give me a moment." "What?" the three of us say in unison. Which Cullen? Could it be? Dad turns around and speaks to someone who's out of our line of vision. "Come in before I change my mind," he orders. "And my wife thinks I'm dramatic!" I almost burst into tears. "Edward!" I exclaim as he steps into the house. His face lights up when he sees me. "Isabella!" Edward came after me. He followed me home. He braved my family and followed me home. "I took the Acela Express," he explains, dumping his luggage on the ground. "He brought his bags?" Emmett questions, outraged. "What is this? A sleepover?" I ignore my brother, my attention focused on Edward. "I was just trying to call you," I say dumbly, holding up my phone. Edward opens his mouth, but my father interrupts.

"Yeah, sorry I didn't let him pick up. He was standing outside pacing around in circles. Said he was rehearsing his stump speech, and that if I didn't let him in to see you, he'd call up the local Fox affiliate to plead his case." Edward looks at me sheepishly, his smile faltering at the reminder he's on enemy territory. Both Emmett and Mom are staring at him like he's completely insane. This is insane. He has to be in love with me. What other explanation is there? Realizing I need to say something before everyone jumps to conclusions, I bound down the stairs. "Edward, that thing I wanted to tell you this morning," I begin. "No!" he interrupts, stepping forward. "I want to say it first." "No, shut up " "I love you!" he announces as I approach. "Oh, dammit!" I reply, annoyed he got there first. "I mean, I love you, too!" I fling myself at him and he wraps his arms around me. It's the most amazing feeling we haven't embraced in a month and finally we both know how strongly we feel about each other. I still don't understand what his sister and best friend were up to, but that doesn't matter to me in this moment. Edward loves me. He lifts me off the ground and hugs me tightly. When he sets me down, I plant a quick kiss on his lips. We grin at each other, relieved that our thwarted plan hasn't resulted in the end. I was so scared that this wasn't real, and I'm sure he was scared that I felt that way. I feel elated right now. Then we remember why we're not kissing more passionately in this moment. We're in the presence of my family. "Okay, then," my mother says unsurely. "I suppose I should set another place for dinner." I fight the urge to laugh. Mom has no idea what to do, so she falls back on common niceties. "What?" Emmett snaps. He points at Edward. "We're feeding him? We should be interrogating him! Just in case he's not telling the truth." I cling to Edward protectively. I want to make sure he's real. He's warm and alive and I love him. He kisses the top of my head, bold enough not to care that my brother is threatening to both starve and interrogate him. "This is unbelievable," my father declares, unimpressed. "A Cullen in my house. Declaring his love for my daughter. I need a drink. Or a gun." The mention of the gun makes Edward nervous. He slowly lets go of me. But I don't let go of him.

"Charles, no," my mother chides. "No gun talk. You know how the Cullens are about that stuff." "I know how they are about a lot of things. Doesn't Esme have Michael Moore on speed dial?" "Charles." "God forbid he's commissioned to make a documentary! Need I remind you that I now have to call Esme and Carlisle about this?" he grumbles. He glances at me and Edward. "Oh, for Christ's sake, Bella. Let go of him. I'm not actually going to shoot him." "I might," Emmett mumbles. "You'll have to get past me first," I warn. "Plus, isn't your gun license expired?" He snorts in reply. Edward looks warily in Emmett's direction before looking at my dad. "Um, Senator Swan, Mr. Majority Leader, Sir " "One title will suffice, Cullen." "Oh, sure. Uh, can we please talk before you call my parents? They don't know yet, and I'd hate for you to be mistaken about something when calling them." Nicely played, Edward. My dad considers the request carefully. "Well, won't this be an interesting dinner," he muses, seemingly acquiescing. Edward and I might be reunited and in love, but there's still a lot of explaining to do. Let the hearing begin.

Re next chapter: I'll tweet about it! In the meantime, you can read: - Dear Mr. Masen, my collab with jennde. It's hilarious! Two chapters are up! http: / www. fanfiction. net/ s/ 6483877/ 1/ - An Enquiry into the Sublime and Beautiful, my Cherry Exchange one-shot. Something different from me. http:/ www. fanfiction. net/ s/ 6463892/ 1/ References: - Bring It On (2000), She's All That (1999), 10 Things I Hate About You (1999), Snakes on a Plane (2006). A guy actually took me out on a date to see Snakes on a Plane. I'm serious. - Monica Lewinsky's blue dressum, yeah not detailing that one - Michael Moore is an American filmmaker, author and liberal political commentator. He is the director and producer of Bowling for Columbine,

Fahrenheit 9/11, Sicko, and Capitalism: A Love Story, four of the top nine highest-grossing documentaries of all time.*

Chapter 27: The Lion's Den EPOV Most people would say it's not a good idea to talk about politics or religion at the dinner table. Frankly, I'd prefer the challenge of such a conversation over the task of explaining how I came to be here. Thank you, Alice and Jacob. I tell myself, once again, that their meddling was well-intentioned and necessary for a positive outcome. And to their credit, I'm relieved that Isabella and I have openly declared our love for each other. It's just incredibly intimidating to have to carry out a game plan of this kind. I was basically blindsided before being told a grand gesture was needed to save the day. Don't get me wrong, I gave Alice and Jacob an earful about the way they decided to retool the strategy without telling me. Apparently, a late development made them change course. But there's no point focusing my energy on those two. I have to concentrate on bringing the "positive outcome" to fruition, in order to avoid the perilous result that the original plan apparently would've brought about. So, I've been forced to come up with a new plan. I followed Isabella home and basically walked into the lion's den, daring to step onto the Majority Leader's territory. Jacob had filled my head full of Gladiator analogies, yet when Senator Swan found me outside his house, I was scared shitless. I don't even know where I got the guts to tell him to his face that he needed to let me in. I was so hyped up on adrenaline that I even threatened to give a Fox affiliate the exclusive. Talk about blasphemous. Anyway, after I was granted permission to enter the house, and knowing how crucial that moment was, I wasted no time in telling Isabella how I really felt. It was a relief to finally get the words out, and to find out for sure that she felt the same way. Damn, it was an awesome moment the kind that made me want to high five every single person in Philadelphia, Republicans included. You know, if there are any here. Then I remembered that Senator Swan still wanted to kill me. Even gladiators can't protect themselves from guns. So here I am, currently seated at the Swans' dinner table, hoping to God that the Majority Leader isn't about to break my face. He's taken his place at the head of the table. So I've literally been seated at the right hand of the father, most likely because this puts me in stabbing distance of his steak knife. Isabella is to my right, holding my hand both a kind and foolish gesture. It comforts me that she wants to show her love for me, but Emmett is seated the other side of the table and he's holding onto his knife, too. He could easily lunge at me if he lost his temper. There's nothing else to pierce with those forks. Not yet, anyway. The food hasn't been served.

With Renee tinkering around in the kitchen, apparently reheating the steak and potatoes she prepared earlier, the rest of us continue to sit in silence. It's that tense kind of silence, what I imagine it would be like to be near an angry Russell Crowe. He and I have that phone-throwing skill in common, though I doubt this is the best time to prove it. Isabella squeezes my hand, probably sensing how stressed I am right now. I offer her a small smile, not wanting to further piss off her brother and father. Emmett sulkily rolls his eyes. The Senator clears his throat. "Renee!" he calls out, obviously irritated. "I love you, darling, but I'm famished. Besides if there's no food in my mouth then there's nothing to counteract the taste of bile." Oh man, he hates me. He hates me so much that he doesn't even want to look at me while he delivers his insults. I think my hands are now starting to sweat, which is hardly an attractive development. But I've got to push through I don't care how impossible it might be to get his approval. I'm going to try and get it anyway. Isabella's mother pops her head in from the kitchen and scolds her husband right back. "Oh, stop being so impatient. You know I'm not used to cooking. I had to give Emily and Victoria the day off due to this secret business we're dealing with." She turns her attention to me and apologizes. "We usually have better manners than this, dear." It takes a moment for me to realize that it's rude for me not to respond. "Well, to be fair, Mrs. Swan," I reply, scratching the back of my head, "I was the one who arrived here unannounced." Emmett snorts. Senator Swan doesn't say anything, choosing to give his wife a pointed look. Renee rolls her eyes in reply and returns to the food. "Emily is our cook," Isabella explains to me, seemingly trying to start a neutral conversation. "Oh," I reply, shifting uncomfortably in my chair. The look on her face indicates that she wants me to try harder. It's easier for her to be hopeful. She can't see the glint of her father's cutlery. "She taught me how to make mac and cheese," she continues. "So, you should give her some credit." The Senator is now looking at me. "Um, okay," I manage to say, looking nowhere in particular. On one hand, drawing attention to the fact that Isabella has cooked for me shows we're not all about sex, but on the other, I can't help but think it's emphasizing how much we've hidden from everyone. Chill, Cullen. It's just a mac and cheese reference. You've got to be a man here. You've got to stand up for your relationship and show the Swans that you're serious about Isabella. I clear my throat.

"You make good mac and cheese," I say more casually, nodding at her. "Your ham sandwiches on the other handI've had better." The cockiness has the intended effect on Isabella, causing her to smirk. "Don't act like you've had better," she quips. "You know you haven't." The Senator jumps in before I can reply. "I know we haven't said grace yet, but trust that I'll be praying for any signs of innuendo to disappear," he says disdainfully. "I was just making conversation," Isabella explains. "Someone has to talk to Edward, and since I'm the one who loves him, that duty belongs to me, doesn't it?" I fight the urge to smile. She loves me. She loves me so much she's daring to tell inappropriate jokes in order to make a point. Maybe she's trying to show how well we get along, because when I think about it, it's not like anyone has seen us interact that much. Emmett accused me of leering at Isabella at the fundraiser, but I doubt he was registering that we were in easy conversation at the time. "Are you not-so-subtly trying to tell me to lighten up?" he asks her. Emmett joins the conversation with a huff. "Foreign dignitaries frequently shit their pants in Dad's presence, because they're that scared of dealing with him. I don't see how a Cullen is going to fare any better." "Good thing I brought a change of underwear," I comment. Isabella laughs heartily. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said that," I apologize, glancing quickly at the other two men at the table. "Did Alice and Jacob Black tell you to say that?" Emmett asks. "They seem to be helping you out a lot. I was meant to overhear them, after all." Senator Swan raises an eyebrow. "Emmett told me that they apparently meant well, according to what you told Bella" "They did mean well," I insist. "Like I said outside, it's not a plot, Senator. They just thought this was the only way for everyone to accept this. Your family needs to deal with this first, in this manner, so we'd receive your understanding and compassion." "That was part of your stump speech, wasn't it?" "Yes," I admit. "But I mean what I say." Renee chooses that moment to walk in with a bowl of mashed potatoes. "Are they bullying you, Edward?" she asks, setting them down in the middle of the table. I shake my head. "No, ma'am." "Liar," Isabella mutters. "Most Democrats are," Emmett adds.

"Enough," Renee snaps, whacking Emmett on the back of his head. "Where's the meat?" the Senator interjects. "On its way," she replies, exasperated. "It's not my fault you didn't eat on the plane." "I'm not angry, I'm just asking," he says defensively. "It's not a crime to want to eat dinner before I'm on Social Security." "Funny," Emmett says to me as Renee walks out of the room. "Social Security and my sister have a lot in common." Isabella raises an eyebrow. "How's that?" Tired of Emmett's antagonistic comments, I deftly kill his joke by stealing his punch line. "You're like the third rail of politics, Isabella. Touch you, and I die." The Senator laughs darkly. "Cullen got you there, Em. Better get some new material." Emmett scowls. I'm infinitely relieved when Renee reenters the room, bringing a large plate of steaks with her. It'll be harder to insult me if people's mouths are full. Renee sets it down next to the potatoes and takes her seat directly opposite me, to her husband's left. "Look, let's just eat first and we can talk about these two later," she suggests, waving her hand in my and Isabella's directions. "We should say grace," Emmett announces, seemingly falling into line. "I've got it," Senator Swan immediately says, taking his wife's hand and bowing his head. Renee takes Emmett's hand, Emmett reaches over for Isabella's, and Isabella takes mine. This leaves the Senator and me as the broken link. Although maybe that's a good thing, as I don't think he'd like my clammy hands. "No, I'm not holding his hand," he declares, bowing his head. "Are you talking to us or to God?" Renee asks in amusement. "Both." "It's not like he has cooties," Isabella says dryly. "You don't know that," he replies. "His hair is suspicious to me. It's overgrown." "I happen to have very good personal hygiene," I declare defensively. I probably should've phrased that statement more eloquently. "Well, thank God for small favors," the Senator quips. "Especially since you're sleeping with my daughter." "Dad, I'm sitting right here," Isabella protests. "This is far from appropriate," Renee says, chiding her husband. "Do you want me to lead the prayer?"

"No, I happen to be a very good leader." He bows his head. "Dear Lord, thank you for the food we are about to receive, assuming it has been cooked correctly by my dear wife " "Charles!" " and please give us the strength to get through this particular conflict with the Cullens." "Amen," Emmett says way too enthusiastically. I can't believe Alice and Jacob think this is easier than whatever disaster I've apparently averted by being here. I should stop whining about it, though. That's not going to help. It turns out, however, that the meal really did need a prayer. Somehow, Renee has managed to screw up the steak. Just by cutting into it, I can tell it's overcooked in some parts almost burnt and raw in others. I almost gag on eating a forkful of very well done meat; it's very difficult to chew and frankly, it doesn't really taste like anything. Senator Swan uses his knife to point to a particularly red segment of his steak. "Renee, I'm not sure what you did, but this isn't right," he gripes. "Oh, I'm sorry," she replies, now getting a bit flustered at the way everyone is pushing food around their plate. "Maybe I was turning it over too much? Maybe the heat was too high?" She puts her hand on her heart, seemingly genuinely crestfallen that she's let us all down. "It's not that bad, Mrs. Swan," I say gently, trying to be a good guest. "Cullen, don't lie at my dinner table," the Senator warns, giving me a look that makes me flinch. "This meal is like trying to reach a bipartisan consensus on the Hill. Red on one side, mush on the other. You want it to be well done, but in the end it's just difficult to swallow." Renee sighs. "You really shouldn't make fun of me in front of companyhe doesn't know how bad I am in the kitchen." "I'd say he knows now, Mom," Emmett says, patting his mother's arm. "The potatoes aren't that bad, though. Just, uh, a little salty" "I'm sorry," the Senator says to his wife. "I'm in a foul mood. What I said was harsh." "No, no, the food really is horrible," she replies emphatically. "I think we should order takeout." On witnessing this display of familial interaction, I look at Isabella to see her reaction. She smiles sheepishly at me and shrugs. It's strange for me to think of the Swans as a regular family. It's like I was raised to forget the enemy is human, with flaws and feelings like everyone else. That's just one reason why I don't like the political gameit reduces people to stump speeches and pageantry; you forget that a candidate is a person, not just an agenda. Fittingly, I need the Swans to see me as a person and not an ass named Cullen. Or any other donkey, mind you.

Senator Swan is eyeing me, possibly suspicious of my pensive silence. I break the moment by speaking directly to Renee once more. "Well, to be fair, you're not a House wife," I point out, smiling a little. "You're a Senate wife." She chuckles, apparently won over. "Oh, you're not just a pretty face. That was cute." "Yeah, real funny," Emmett grumbles. "What next? Jon Stewart coming over for dessert?" "There's dessert?" Isabella jokes. "Just deserts, perhaps," he shoots back, obviously referring to me. The Senator sets down his cutlery with a clang. "Everyone needs to stop telling jokes. We have a serious matter to discuss tonight." I love Isabella. Do I really have to be questioned on it? Since everyone has stopped eating, I fear that he might start interrogating me. I quickly take another mouthful of salty mashed potatoes. It's my only way to stall. "Oh, Edward, you don't have to keep eating," Renee advises. I swallow and nod. Since everyone's eyes are trained on me, it's not so subtle when I down half a glass of water to wash away the salty taste. "Well, Renee, maybe you should call the local Chinese takeout," the Senator suggests. "In the meantime, I can take Edward aside and talk to him man-toman. Ask him why of all women in the world, he had to choose Bella." He wants to take me aside? Be a man, Cullen. He won't shoot you. Not in this election cycle. "It's not really much of a choice," I explain. "I have to be with her. I love her." I say it like it's a no-brainer. "There are plenty of fish in the sea, Cullen," he challenges. "To be fair, I'm quite the catch, Dad," she says smartly. "Forgive me. I thought the Cullens only fished for compliments." "Only when we have the right bait," I say lightly, unable to suppress my dislike of being outsmarted. Renee laughs, much to the Senator and Emmett's annoyance. "Stop trying to make light of the situation," he admonishes. "And you better not be playing footsie under the table with my daughter." "I apologize, Sir." My nerves get a bit more jittery again. "For the jokes, I mean. I'm not playing footsie. I assure you I always keep my feet to myself." "Yes, you're every father's dream, aren't you?" he says with a smirk.

Stupid foot-in-mouth disease. In fact, my foot is so far down my throat, my words are probably unintelligible. Could I sound more stupid? "Dad, you don't have to take him aside right now," Isabella contends. "We can adjourn for a bit, can't we?" "Oh, you want time to confer with your client do you?" he says dryly, glancing at me. "I could also do with a sidebar with you," she quips. The Senator shakes his head. "No, I want to talk to Cullen. Alone." "This isn't an FBI thing where you have to interview your suspects separately," she argues. "Don't patronize me." I decide to step in, not wanting the two of them to get into an argument. "It's fine," I say to Isabella. "He can grill me if he wants." "Better than me grilling him," Renee jests. "I wouldn't do it right. I never know how much heat is appropriate." I appreciate the joke, even though it's clear Renee would be a much softer interrogator. The Senator pushes his chair back. "Follow me to the den, Cullen." "Can I come?" Emmett asks his father. "No," is the swift response. Isabella grabs my arm, anxious. "It'll be fine," I whisper, brushing a kiss across her forehead. "I can handle it." "You're either a brave man or a foolish Dem," she whispers back, a twinkle in her eye. "Seriously, I can insist on coming with you. I want to talk to him." "No, let me do this." She nods reluctantly. "Wearing the pants in the relationship, I see." I snort. "You prefer me without any pants at all." "True." Senator Swan clears his throat. "I'm waiting, Cullen." "Yes, coming, sir," I say, pushing my chair back and getting up. "Dad, I really want to talk to you afterwards," Isabella adds quickly. "I'll get to you soon enough." I've been through the ringer today. I really have. I was terrified this morning when Emmett showed up and dealt with things the way he did; I thought I'd lost Isabella, all because of bad timing and failed warnings. It was like being sucker-

punched over and over. And then to regroup after talking to Alice and JacobAmtrak may call it the Acela Express, but it sure dragged for me. As I follow Isabella's father to his office, I remind myself that there's no going back. I'm here now, and I'm not leaving until he understands that I'm serious about Isabella. I'll camp out if need be. Chain myself to the tree in the front yard. Although that might be mistaken as an environmental protest. It doesn't matter, I'm not going anywhere. Jeez, listen to me. I sound like a set of motivational tapes. Not that anyone listens to tapes anymore. Podcast, maybe. I try to take in my surroundings as the Senator leads me to a room on the second floor. It's surreal to actually be here. It turns out the Swan house is actually a four-story Victorian townhouse, a place just as fancy as the homes in my own family. "Looking for an escape route?" he asks dryly on seeing my inspection. "No, just admiring your house," I answer amiably enough. "Right," he says, opening the door to his den. "To be honest, I have no intention of running away," I continue as he ushers me into the room. "I really am serious about all this." "I can sense that." He shuts the door behind him and indicates for me to sit down on one of the leather chairs near the fireplace. I step over and sit down. Instead of following suit, he stalks over to what appears to be a liquor cabinet and retrieves a crystal decanter. "Trust me, I think we both deserve a drink," he muses, turning his back on me. I'm not entirely sure how to respond. "If you think so." "This is some of the finest scotch I have," he says reverently, pulling out two glasses from the cabinet. "The last guest I shared this with was John McCain. Which is kind of fitting since you must consider yourself to be some sort of maverick." I remain silent as he pours two fingers of amber liquid into each glass. I'm sitting in the private home office of the most prominent Republican in our nation right now. He takes hits every day from liberal outlets. He withstands savage attacks from people in his own party. Hell, he could be the next President of the United States, providing he gets the nomination and defeats Banner's campaign