A/N: Hide the pitchforks, ladies...here I am...despite the curved balls that RL threw my way last week...Thanks to everyone out there for your love and support. It means the world to me. The awesome resident trio who make sense of my rogue commas: Eifeltwr, Black Hale and Peeptoe!
Shout-outs for the week: KitsuShel, for letting me share with her the jewel that is Parachute, Mina&Annie who always make me smile, Eifeltwr - my twinsie half a world away, AstonMartinVanquish - for Queensland Crabs (bless them), and rickyc717 who left me the BESTEST review ever - girlie, you have PM's disabled, otherwise I would have replied to your last. You rock.
Bragging Corner: Business Class Girl has made it to the second round of voting for the Avant Garde Awards in the Best Must Read Category. Thank you to all the biased people who did it! Voting for the second round closes on December 26 - you know what to do, link to the awards site is on my profile!
Disclaimer: Not mine. All Stephenie Meyer's genius. Plot is mine, though. I enjoy making them do crazy things.
Thundering footsteps echo in the distance and a booming voice erupts over Bella's shoulder.
"What's all this commotion, Hot Stuff?"
Leave it to Emmett to ruin a moment, any sort of moment. Bella and I remain rooted in place, each of us incapable of speaking or moving.
Emmett is joyfully oblivious to our temporary disability and does a quick survey of the scene until his gaze falls on Alice, who is bouncing in her place, barely restraining her enthusiasm, with a sly look in her brilliant blue eyes.
"Who's this? Energizer bunny gone 'Devil Wears Prada'?"
Emmett's jibe shakes both Bella and I out of our funk, we exchange a fleeting glance and, just like that, we're both snorting like idiots. I guess that Emmett does have his own moments of genius, after all.
Apparently, though, Alice doesn't appreciate Emmett's creativity, and she's looking at him with a hint of classy contempt. I decide to put an end to her misery.
"Emmett, meet my sister Alice. Alice, this is…"
"This big oaf is my brother," says Bella, nudging Emmett's ribcage with her elbow, and probably giving herself a bruise in the process.
"Well, Eddie and Eddie's sister…the more the merrier! Come on in!"
Alice's eyes are about to pop out of their sockets. "Eddie? No, it's not Eddie. Actually, it's…"
My hand automatically covers her mouth to stop her from exposing my shame. If Emmett ever heard that she calls me 'Eddiekins', he'd never let me live that down. Alice protests for a fraction of a second, but then lets go and returns to eyeing me sceptically, as we make our way through the hallway and towards the kitchen.
Alice, all too eager to intrude into Bella's home and life, follows Emmett without question while Bella lingers back to wait for me. Being near her again makes me feel giddy with anticipation and shudder with dread at the same time. The fact that she just smiled at me is but a small consolation. We still need to clear the air – I can only imagine what she's been thinking this past week. She could be calm and collected on the outside just out of courtesy, and because she's not hell-bent on making a scene in front of…her extended family.
I have never seen Bella's kitchen so crowded or cluttered. The kitchen island is decked in a whole array of breakfast fixings and a multitude of random papers. Two tall and blond figures are sitting on the stools around the island, nursing hot mugs in their hands. On our entrance, they both raise their eyes to see what the cat has dragged in. Emmett, strangely, is no longer in sight. Bella, the ever considerate hostess, makes the necessary introductions.
"Jasper, Rosalie, we have company."
Two pairs of similarly shaped hazel eyes are staring wide-eyed at me, two whole different kinds of surprise oozing in my direction.
The tall, lanky, prim and proper bloke must be Jasper. He shines up like a new penny even in his PJ bottoms and worn-in Charlatans t-shirt. Not a hair in disarray, not a crease in the t-shirt. Does this guy sleep upright, like horses? Does he sleep at all? I couldn't look like this even on a premiere night, donning one of the designer monkey suits that Alice constantly sends my way for those occasions.
I'm probably looking at him in utter disbelief, and a side dish of something else like slight contempt. This is Bella's closest friend and confidant. He's been her sidekick (or was she his sidekick? that's still unclear to me) for years, as well as her boss. Now he's owning her kitchen table, commanding the space with his whole presence. I get Bella's admiration for him in a flash – he exudes calm and confidence. On a good day, if I'm not on a sound stage, my effort at both is botched up at best and, in the face of this successful guy, I can't but plead defeat.
He's sizing me up, too. I can sense his gaze, alternating from me to Bella and back in a swift, almost imperceptible dance of unspoken questions and answers. In my peripheral vision, Bella finally nods at him.
"Edward, that's Jasper. Jazz, this is Edward, my Boss," says Bella, saving me from self-embarrassment.
Jasper extends his hand to shake mine. I oblige, trying to be a gentleman for Bella's sake. His steady and open gaze, though, tells me that his earlier scrutiny wasn't all to my disadvantage. There's no hostility in his features now.
"Good to finally meet you in person, Edward. This is an unexpected surprise," he adds, smiling in Bella's direction, as if to share a private joke.
"I told you it was the strangest phone call, Jazz." Bella giggles and, for a fleeting second, all is right in the universe. This was not a nasty surprise, this was a good surprise.
Thank your sister, Cullen. She literally dragged your sorry ass over here.
"Hey! My phone calls are not strange!" Alice protests, playfully nudging Bella who, in turn, hugs her at the waist.
"I'm really glad you're here Alice, but…don't get me wrong…why the rush?"
Alice shrugs. "Why ever not? What else was there for me to do in London? Besides…we can go shopping together!"
Bella groans, while someone is snorting in the background. The unladylike sound comes from the tall and statuesque girl seated beside Jasper. Her features are a graceful, poised replica of his, down to her wavy hair and hazel eyes, except she carries herself like a Greek goddess. She could be a supermodel, indeed, whilst I know for certain that she is a ruthless investment banker. Go figure.
"Yes, let's see if a professional can actually kick a more adventurous fashion sense into BeeBee."
Rosalie's tone is ironic, and her words are certainly a jibe against Bella's 'dress for comfort' rule, but her voice is ice-cold, with an Oxonian accent that could cut glass.
I suddenly feel underdressed, undereducated and underperforming. Under. Period.
Under whom, Cullen? Being under isn't all bad.
"Rose, come on…don't be the mean White Witch…You can go shopping with Alice, if you want." Bella tries to make peace and Rosalie's eyes dance back to my sister, but never meet my gaze.
"Yes, Rosalie, come shopping with me. I need to get rid of my obnoxious big brother anyway."
Rosalie finally looks at me properly and freezes in place, all traces of her former haughtiness gone. Her mouth is about to form a perfect 'O', and the mug in her hand trembles perceptibly.
"Actually, Alice, why don't you all go today?" interjects Bella, whose gaze doesn't stray from Rosalie.
Rosalie nods and answers, her voice a little unsteady. "Yeah, I'm gonna go change. See you all later."
In a flash, Rosalie disappears from the room. One down, one to go. Emmett was never a problem but, now that his own sister is gone, Jasper is also free to take a broader survey of the room.
"Well, I take it that obnoxious big brothers are not wanted here today. I'll make myself scarce, too. Alice, Edward."
With a gentlemanly nod, Jasper disappears as well.
Was that a lingering stare that your sister just gave him, Cullen?
Suddenly, before my brain can register that I'm finally standing in the kitchen with Bella, almost alone, a booming, collective laugh erupts from the hallway.
"Oh no…what have they done now?" Bella says, hiding her face in her hands.
"Dude! You gotta be kidding me!" That would be Emmett. I can hear Rosalie snickering, but can't make out her words from the kitchen.
"Em, come on! It looks real enough to me…" That must be Jasper, trying to be the voice of reason amidst his snickers.
"No! It must be photoshopped! No fucking way!" Emmett again. Something must be highly amusing.
"Emmie? Anything the matter?"
"No, BeeBee, not really!" The snickering doesn't stop, and this alone convinces Bella to go check on them. Alice is in hot pursuit and, because I'm deadly curious myself, I follow them too.
Once in the hallway, I'm woefully regretting the series of unfortunate events that led me to stand in Bella's house, in front of her brother, her former boss and her best friend, while they're all admiring a shirtless, airbrushed picture of yours truly.
Damn Alice and all her glamourous photo shoots to the fiery pits of Hades…They're poring over a quasi life-size print of me, on a couch, clad only in dark denims. Bollocks.
Someone has sent a picture of shirtless me…to Bella? I hope, for all that is holy, that it wasn't Alice…
What the fuck, Cullen?
I want to dig a deep, bottomless hole and hide myself in it. Possibly forever.
An angry, frustrated hiss pierces through my musings. Bella's hissing and…growling?
"Emmett, what the heck are you doing with that parcel?"
Yes, definitely growling. I wouldn't want to be in Emmett's shoes right now…
"Emmett! I want an answer, like…yesterday!"
"Shit, BeeBee…I just…Come on, I was snooping around…Don't be mad…"
Bella exhales loudly, with a laboured sigh. Of course – if someone could be more embarrassed than I am now, it's her. The life-size print is for her. Now, who sent it?
"I. Am. Not. Mad," she enunciates, gritting her teeth.
"Oh. Yes. You. Are."
"Emmett, don't fucking contradict me. Toss me my mobile."
"Emmett, not a good time to be dense. Hand Bella her frigging cell phone!" Rosalie saves the day, her snickers now long gone.
Bella angrily punches a call into her iPhone and starts pacing the room. She's mortally angry – she only paces back and forth when she's mad. The five of us are staring at her thunderstruck, in silent disbelief.
Emmett surreptitiously waggles an eyebrow at me. I wave a dismissive hand to shush him. Alice looks sheepishly at me. Rosalie looks everywhere but at me. Jasper is anxiously looking at Bella.
"Mamma! Voglio una spiegazione ADESSO!" Bella's shouting on the phone in what sounds like Italian.
Alice mouths the words 'her mum' to the rest of us. I motion for her to explain us what's happening. We all move back to the kitchen, but stay within earshot.
Jasper whispers to Alice. "What did she say?"
"You all shut up and I'll translate. She asked her mum for an explanation just now."
Rosalie nods. "Figures, the parcel is from Renee. It arrived this morning."
"Ma come cazzo ti è venuta in mente un'idea del genere?"
We all look up to Alice, who obliges. "What the fuck possessed you to do something like that?"
"Tu pensavi? Tu pensavi? Ma fammi il piacere…"
"You thought? You thought? Oh come on…"
"Wow," Emmett stage-whispers. "This is like a press conference. I bet it happens to you all the time, eh, Eddie?" I can't but raise a helpless eyebrow. Leave it to Emmett, again, to find comic relief in the situation.
"Col cazzo che mi hai fatto un favore! Ho appena fatto una figura di merda pazzesca!"
"You've done me no fucking favour! You've just embarrassed the shit out of me!"
Alice is awesome. It never occurred to me that this – their mutual fluency with the Italian language – is something else she shares with Bella.
"Emmett, why is she shouting in Italian?" I ask, before I can help myself. Jasper precedes him.
"She reverts back to her roots when she's really mad, especially with her mum."
"Yeah, like that Renee can't pretend she didn't understand," adds Emmett.
"How many languages does she speak, exactly?" I remember she reads French, as well.
"Five and a half, at the last count," answers Emmett, looking rather smug.
Bollocks, Cullen! That's four and a half more than you can muster…
"Mamma, per l'ultima volta…"
"Mum, for the last time," Alice translates again. I might consider bringing her along next time I need an interpreter.
"Il suddetto strafigo si trova attualmente nella mia cucina! Ecco, adesso lo sai! Grazie!" Bella hangs up, abruptly.
"The said hot piece of ass is currently located in my kitchen! Now you know! Thanks!"
Alice ends her diplomatic effort with a flourish, but the result is devastating to me.
Hot piece of ass, Cullen! What's devastating in that?
I can hear Bella plopping down on the floor with a strangled huff. I'd love to run and comfort her but even I am too embarrassed to do that. Besides, I'd feel like someone was intruding on us – me. A shirtless, oversized version of me. It makes me too self-conscious.
I want to move, but remain frozen in place instead. I feel air rustling around me and, as I turn to look over my surroundings, I see that everyone else has left the room.
I sit down on one of the stools around the kitchen island. I'm trying to puzzle everything back into some logical shape. Bella's mum lives in Milan. Bella's mum sent her a life-size picture of me from the Armani photo shoot. Alice staged that photo shoot, she was the fashion editor in charge.
Only glitch in all this? I don't do logical very well and, of course, I draw a blank.
Now, fuck me sideways, but I can't remember who the photographer was for that gig…
Bella's in the living room, eyeing up close and personal an improved version of me, shirtless and cocky, leisurely sprawled on a plush couch. What does she think of me now? What is she going to do with the picture? Throw it down a ravine? Make a bonfire of it? Throw me down a ravine?
"You once told me to stop thinking. Sometimes you should take your own advice, you know."
I am startled by her sudden reappearance and almost jump in my seat. Her voice holds a hint of an underlying, relaxed chuckle and, once again, I am amazed by her reactions. My eyes dart up to look at her in earnest.
"I am sorry for barging in like this, B."
She sits at the island, right across from me, and hands me a steaming mug of tea.
"You had no hope against Alice. You think I don't know that, already?" She sounds amused. Amused is good. Amused is way better than pissed, embarrassed and ashamed.
"Still, we barged in…with shitty timing, to boot."
"Don't sweat it, Boss. I'm the one who should be seven shades of embarrassed, not you." She's still calling me Boss. At least, this means she's not quitting.
"Maybe, but I'm the one who just got ogled by a throng of near- strangers."
Bella chuckles, nursing her mug in hands, as if trying to absorb all of its heat into her fingers.
"You know, I think it actually made Rosalie's day…" she trails off, still chuckling as if she was enjoying some private joke.
"I don't think she likes me that much, B." Or at least, that's what I can say, gauging her earlier reaction.
"You're right, she doesn't like you." Why is Bella's tone teasing, almost smug?
"She absolutely idolises you. You narrowly escaped a fangirl attack just now."
"What the hell?" I almost drop my mug. "Is she going to post this on a blog? Steal this mug and sell it on e-bay?"
I thought I'd be safe here, in my new hometown, in my own new home. Crap, in Bella's home. Bella, though, senses my discomfort and quickly comes to my rescue, moving her stool to sit close to me.
"She'd never do that, Edward. I had a pep talk with her a few days ago, about your safety, about the fact that I can't really tell her what my job is about, and I think she understands. Her job, as much as Jasper's, is all about confidentiality and trust."
She looks at me tentatively, before brushing her hand on my forearm. Her touch is meant to feel comforting, but to me, it feels heavenly, and leaves a trail of fire in its wake. I turn towards her, and find her face only inches from mine.
When I offer no reply, Bella goes on. "She gets it, she really does. She was…awe-struck, more than anything else. I guess it'd happen to me, as well…"
She trails off, but her faint blush gives her away. I never thought I'd have some kind of weapon or bargaining tool over her. I can't help the smug overtone in my voice.
"Now, would it?" And just like that, she looks away, unable to bear my probing gaze any longer.
She's got a point. I need to listen to my own fucking advice and stop thinking.
In a swift and uncharacteristically smooth move, I stand up to tower over her and my fingers gently lead her chin up towards me again, until I can pore into her bottomless, warm chocolate brown eyes. Now I am the moron who is sorely tempted to look away, because the expression in her eyes is just…beyond words.
"Last time I was in a kitchen with you…I did something unexpected…"
She stands up to face me, the distance between us now dwindling to almost nothing. Her hand runs up to brush my own, that's still tucked under her chin. Her voice is hesitant, almost a strained whisper.
My other hand cups her left cheek, and I'm now cradling her whole glorious face in my hands. They tremble, because they're holding a fragile, precious treasure. I don't want to spoil this moment. I want it to last forever – and fuck off every sorry moron who might choose to cross the threshold right this minute.
"Of course I do, Isabella."
She closes her eyes and sighs. I'm wondering whether it's a good sign or a horrible one.
My brow furrows in guilt and frustration. She's right – I bailed on her, I kissed her and then ran away. I made her think I didn't care. Now is my one chance to rectify this fuck-up.
"B…please, look at me. I can't do this if you don't look at me."
Slowly, still tentatively, she opens her eyes and raises her gaze to meet my troubled one.
"I panicked, B. I was fucking wasted. Then your big, brawny brother barged in and I panicked. I was a bloody idiot. I still am. I shouldn't even be allowed near you with a ten-foot pole, and I'm rambling. I'm fucking jet-lagged and I'm rambling. Bollocks, I can't even explain myself in English without a curse every three words… Do you really speak five and a half languages?"
She chuckles briefly, but makes no move to escape my grasp.
"And why are you still here? How can you bear my presence in your home? How can you even bear me touching you?"
Her eyes are ablaze with an emotion I know very well. It's the same simmering fire that brews in my own eyes whenever I think of her, whenever I'm near her. I am speechless for a second, totally and utterly dumbstruck.
"I am still here…because I remember too, Edward."
I finally sigh, heaving a strangled breath I don't know I was holding, even through my disconnected ranting. I touch my forehead to hers, in a frantic attempt to get her even closer to me. My nose grazes hers, feeling her silken skin against mine.
"God, Isabella, don't deny me. Please…"
Almost imperceptibly, she nods. This is all the cue I need.
There is no more distance between us, as my lips crash against hers, hungrily, with the pent-up tension of all these past weeks. I revel in the feeling of Bella finally giving in to me, as she's doing now, without hesitation, while I'm aware for the first time, with every fibre of my being, of what it actually feels to hold her and kiss her.
The sketchy images from our last encounter don't even nearly do her justice, blurred by my drunken haze. I imagined this scene countless times since I bailed on her last week. Nothing I conjured in my clueless mind could measure up to this.
Still kissing her, I walk her backwards till she's trapped between me and the kitchen counter. I am completely lost in her – the feel of her hands through my hair, of her lips on mine, of her taste in my mouth, and all I want to do is feel close to her. I wrap my arms around her, in a nearly bone-crushing grasp, till I hear a strangled chuckle and a gasp. She slowly breaks free from our kiss, her heavily panting breath brushes my lips, her breath mixing with mine. I feel her stand up on tiptoes to nuzzle my nose – I've forgotten that she's so much shorter than me.
I let her breathe, but I can't stop kissing her either. I move to pay homage to the corner of her mouth, to her jaw, behind her ear, down her neck until I reach my new favourite spot – the hollow of her collarbone. Her skin here feels like silk and honey and, while I'm showering her with butterfly kisses, I feel her shiver under my touch.
"Anything wrong, Isabella?" I whisper against her skin.
"No…" she whispers back, breathlessly. "You were just…"
"I was just…?" I tease, my hands treading through her long mahogany hair. She chuckles again.
"You were crushing me, Edward."
My name on her lips and I'm a goner. It's my turn to shiver, also because my lone brain cell – after moving its permanent residence to my groin – has finally registered that Bella's hands are travelling around my waist, walking the fine line between the waistline of my jeans and the overheated skin of my hips.
"God, Isabella…I'm about to do that again…" I trail off, lost in the feel of Bella's lips on mine again. In a last bout of sanity, I lift her up on the counter, so that her face is now level with mine and I'm standing between her legs, that she promptly wraps around me.
"I've got you in a vice now," she whispers against my lips, her voice sultry and her eyes bright. "And I'm not letting you go."
"I don't want you to," I whisper in her ear, her heady scent invading my senses.
I hold her tight to my chest, my forehead flush against hers, and as I'm leaning in to shower her in what I mean to be some more tender kisses, I suddenly feel her hands on my bare skin, beneath my t-shirt, her fingers treading a fiery path along my abs and ribs. In a most inappropriate, hormone-fuelled reflex reaction, I flex my hips against her centre.
"I feel you, Edward…"
Damn her and my name on her lips. I keep kissing her, my hands tangled in her hair and my hips relentlessly seeking friction against her core.
I feel her rake her nails on my back as she whimpers in my ear. This turns me on immensely and shocks the hell out of me at the same time.
My lone brain cell miraculously breaks its hard-wired connection to my dick, and reality comes crashing down on me. I'm in Bella's kitchen, with her legs wrapped around my waist, kissing her like there's no tomorrow, and I'm dry-humping her like a sloppy teen-ager in a broom closet at school. And I forget – she is about to come apart in my arms, but I am about to blow my load, fully clothed, with a few hours of jet-lag on my sorry ass, and the whole of her sodding extended family scattered around the house.
This isn't right. This is neither worthy nor respectful of her. She is worth so much more than this, and though I'll probably be sporting blue balls for God knows how long, I will myself to stop and calm down.
My hands descend from her hair to her shoulders, so that I can hold her tight to my chest, and instead of messily ravaging her mouth, I start peppering another wave of kisses along her jaw, her cheeks and her forehead. I'm also trying to calm down, which is proving to be quite an effort, with her legs still wrapped around me, forcing my shameless boner against her. I finally tuck her head under my chin, and try to get some distance.
"Before I fuck this up again, B…" She hums lazily against my chest, with a vibration that goes unmistakably to my groin. This will probably be the least romantic and most anticlimactic thing I'll ever say in my life, but I've learned the hard way that assuming won't ever get me anywhere.
"Before I fuck this up again…I have to tell you that…"
These words catch her attention. Her pools of melted chocolate dart up to look me square in the eye. "Anything wrong, Edward?"
"No, nothing wrong. That was the hottest thing that has ever happened to me…but…"
A pained look contorts her beautiful features. Damn, I was trying to fix things and I'll end up with another sorry mess on my hands.
"You deserve so much more, B. We don't need to sneak out, steal moments in your kitchen. You deserve better than me dry-humping you like that. What if anyone walked in on us, again?"
She looks relieved now, with a glint of mischief in her eyes.
"You mean, with our track record? Yeah, I don't think kitchens are so good for us…"
"Kitchens are pure bliss for us, B. I just want to do things right by you. I want there to still be an 'us' tomorrow, and the next day, and the next…"
"You do?" She leans her head to one side, in her trademark 'deep in thought' expression.
"I do, B. You don't think it's totally unprofessional, unethical, inappropriate, and whatever high-end negative adjective you can come up with?"
She laughs. It's the most beautiful sound I've ever heard.
"What did you eat for breakfast, a Thesaurus?"
"Are you deliberately avoiding my questions, B?" I like this playful Bella, and I play along with her.
"When you talk about non-issues, I always do, Boss."
I frown, because she's pulled the Boss card. This doesn't sit entirely well with me.
"Would you mind elaborating that for the non-legally trained?"
She hops off the counter and escapes from my grasp to resume her seat at the kitchen island and pour herself another mug of tea.
"If I really thought that was unprofessional or whatever …I would have quit this job the day after Angela's party. I didn't quit. Are you firing me?"
"Hell, no! Are you crazy? I couldn't even stand on my own two feet without you, let alone the rest. I want you there with me, B. I want you there for the right reasons, and for all the wrong reasons."
"My brain tells me we shouldn't be working together, more correctly, that I shouldn't be working for you, but the rest of me sings an entirely different song," she says quietly, looking softly at me over the rim of her oversized red Starbucks mug.
"Well, if you value democracy, you should make your brain shut up and go along with the majority. I'm on their side, too, you know?"
"I think…I think there could be a way to make this work, but you won't like it," she adds, her eyes narrowed to shrewd slits. This is Bella in planning mode, she's going in for the kill, she's looking just as she did before she handed Aro Ziegfeld his ass on a silver platter. She's dangerous.
"Let me decide whether I'll like it or not. Hit me with your stroke of genius, first" I quip, taking my seat at the island beside her – our negotiating table.
"First – we have to tell Angela, she has to know. Second – we keep this under wraps. You don't need this kind of publicity and neither do I."
She knows me too well. She knows that I'd want to scream this from the rooftops, parade her everywhere, from interviews to after parties, from photo shoots to red carpets. Bloody hell, she does half this shit with me anyway. She'd just be…promoted to another role. Why would she be opposed to this? Is this because of the two men in black at Angela's party?
I sigh, annoyed and bewildered. I know I'll end up agreeing to whatever she comes up with, because it'll be the smartest idea anyway, but I want to know what prompted her to concoct this plan in the first place.
"Yes to Angela knowing, no to the rest. Why the all-round secrecy? I don't understand. It's not like you're not with me all the time anyway. I bet the guys from the gossip rags have even sent you Christmas cards…"
She stifles a chuckle – maybe I got that one right. Her good cheer vanishes in a flash, replaced by the same look of forlorn pain I just witnessed minutes ago.
"What if there's no 'us' one day, Edward? Where will that leave us? Where will that leave me?"
Rejection, that's what that look was. She's afraid this will end badly. She's afraid I'll be a total asshole and dump her to the curb. As if… But why would she…?
"God, B. I'd never…"
"Maybe you wouldn't, but they would. Those guys who stalk my every move, snap a picture each time I leave Angela's building or enter a restaurant or studio lot with you. Those guys would. And I'm done running away. I won't run away this time, whatever happens. I'm not losing my life, my work and my brother over this. I'm running a huge risk as it is. Please, Edward, if you care about me, don't prove me wrong."
She's shaking, and her eyes are moist. She's close to tears, and once again, I did this to her. Maybe I just walk away now, before I hurt her again, before I do much more damage. Before Jaspers sues my sorry arse. Before Emmett finds out, cuts my balls off, and snaps my neck for good measure.
Suddenly, I'm furious with the bloke who damaged her so much that she'd be afraid to step into another relationship. What I see, and what she said, though, confirm my fears. Someone hurt her before and she had to pick up the pieces alone and walk away. Who is this asshole, so that I can hunt him down and kill ?
I wrap my arm around her shoulders, willing her to turn and face me. As soon as she does, I cup her face in my hands, wiping her traitor tears away with my thumbs.
"I don't want you to cry over this, I don't want you to cry over us. Hell, if it makes you feel better, I won't ever touch you again, even if it kills me."
Something inside her clicks and I feel her relax in my arms, as her own arms go round my back to hold me.
"I'll do whatever it takes to keep you safe, never doubt that. We'll do this your way. I won't ever question your judgment on this again…but…I have two conditions."
She sniffles and then looks up at me again, a vaguely curious expression on her face.
"Which would be?"
"One – no more 'no-go' questions. Two – go out on a date with me."
Her brow scrunches up for a second. She's seriously debating on this.
"You want to go out on a date with me?"
"Does it really sound so funny to you, B? Would it be such a disgrace to be out on a date with me?"
She scoffs. "No…it's just…it sounds surreal, you know? We hang out together all the time."
My turn to scoff. "But we're working all the time, B. You're hauling my arse from here to there, you play watchdog with rogue journalists at press junkets, help me read through my lines. We never do anything fun, except at Angela's parties. And those are hardly what I'd call fun. She says it's networking, and you had a lot of networking to do last time, if I recall."
An uneasy look passes on her features for a fleeting second, and then it's gone. I suddenly notice she's not arguing about the no-go questions, just the date. I may have an in on her secrets, after all.
If you don't screw up again, Cullen.
"I just want to know you, B. Really know you. Know what you were like when you were ten years old, if there were guys in school that pulled your braids, if you ever got a bad grade in your life, if your mum and dad ever screwed up a birthday or got you the wrong Christmas present, if you're afraid of the dark, of bats, or vampires, if you ever wore braces to get that breathtaking smile of yours, if your hair shows off its red hues in the sunlight, if your skin looks like silk over crystal by candlelight…and if it looks the same over the rest of your body, and if I'll ever get you to look at me like this again…tomorrow, and the next day, and the next…"
Softly, tenderly, her knuckles graze my cheek.
"Are you for real?" she whispers, planting a ghost of a kiss on my lips. If it's a ghost of a kiss, why are my knees weak all of a sudden? Grown man, my arse…
"No one wrote those lines for me…It's just what you do to me…"
She kisses me again, long and deep, her tongue luring me in, enticing and bewitching me and I have no restraint. Kitchens are pure bliss for us.
"Yes," she whispers against my lips.
"Yes, what?" I haven't been this light-headed since my parents took me to Blackpool when I was ten years old. That was one hell of a rollercoaster ride, but still pales compared to Bella's kisses.
"Both, Edward, both. The questions and the date."
"Really? I can ask you whatever I want?"
She nods against my chest, her hands once again roaming beneath my t-shirt. I'm beginning to think t-shirts are highly overrated.
"Sure you can. But if you want to begin with the embarrassing stuff, I'd better show you up to my room. Guess it's as good a start as any."
"Ok," I reply, breathlessly, kissing her forehead.
"But you need to call Angela first, and tell her exactly where you are at the moment. She needs to know."
Bollocks. I knew there'd be a downside to this…but on the upside…
You're going to see Bella's room, Cullen.
No songs this time around. I guess these two deserve a break. I hope I'll be able to post one more before Christmas...but I can't make any promises right now, so hide the pitchforks ,-)
There's a little known story out there that has caught my attention - Lost & Found, by JenRoxanne. Give it a go, and leave her some love. Your brain will start reeling with questions just as mine did!