Business Class Girl @lamomo
Chapter 21

A/N: Yes, an update. THE update.

The dream-team of Eifeltwr and Peeptoe welcomes another red pen - Unimaginative Olena. They ALL rock.

This is dedicated to the Wooden Chicks. They know who they are.

Big shout out to the PLF ladies who listen to all my venting and bitching.

Disclaimer: Not mine. All Stephenie Meyer's genius. Plot is mine, though. I enjoy making them do crazy things.

BUSINESS CLASS GIRL - CHAPTER 21

Edward

With that wink, my sudden confidence wanes and panic sets in.

I can act half-naked on an open set almost without batting an eyelid, with throngs of people ogling my ass, from stage hands and assistant directors, to riggers, electricians and seamstresses, but I can't come up with a game plan for the perfect first date with my new girlfriend.

What's gotten into you, Cullen? And are you sure she is your girlfriend, anyway?

Well…she is my girl. I get to kiss her, hold her, touch her, talk to her. I want to do a lot more than that, but I can't tell anyone. There is a catch, there had to be a catch somewhere. Notoriety always comes back to bite you in the ass. What's the point of being famous and filthy rich if you can't do a bloody thing?

Enough with my sob story. I have a date to plan, but I know next to nothing about what will impress Bella, and the only thing I know is that I want to impress her. I want to impress her so much that she will be speechless.

I can't ask Alice. I won't ask Alice – she would go overboard and make this date something akin to a Royal Wedding. Considering how the majority of those things end, I don't want any similarity marring my first date with Bella.

I need a guy's advice, from someone who knows her. I cringe because I know that I will never, ever live this down, but I am a man on a mission and I won't stop till I get what I want.

Emmett. Jasper. They both know her. They will help.

I descend the stairs to the gym, in hopes that Emmett has returned from his beach run. The blaring rap music, the grunts and the stench of sweat all tell me that he has. One down, one to go; I still need to get the corporate or whatever lawyer as well, but I don't have the gall to hunt him down myself. I'll get Em to do that.

"Look what the cat dragged in…"

"I need a favour. Or twenty."

He stands up from the bench, dropping a 60-pound weight like a feather, wiping sweat from his forehead with his discarded t-shirt.

"Good morning to you too, Wonder Boy. You look way more relaxed this morning."

I choose, against my instincts, to be polite and I don't respond to this. It might open a whole new can of worms with Bella's name on it.

"Yes, well, Em. Good morning."

He smirks, waggling his eyebrows. "Uhh, touchy, touchy. I take that back. So tense. Eddie, didn't you get any?"

I find a precarious perch on one of the nearby training machines, all the while giving Emmett a pointed stink eye.

"What crawled up your ass, Eddie? Smelling something bad?"

"Apart from your sweaty carcass? Do I have to spell it out, Em? Draw a picture for you?"

His eyebrows, possibly his most expressive feature, curl up in a very, very interrogative frown. I huff, shaking my head in disbelief. He doesn't realise. He doesn't think.

"Emmett, are you trying to engage me in locker room talk?"

"Is it working?" He's back to his weight lifting.

"It shouldn't, Em. This is all kinds of wrong. This is the Academy Awards of awkwardness."

"But I'm your personal trainer. We're in a gym. You've got a new girlfriend, for fuck's sake. I wanna know!"

If he stomps his foot, I'm having his DNA checked, because there is a distinct possibility that he might be related to Alice. Oops – and to me? Oh, no way.

"Emmett! That's your sodding sister I'm dating! Or trying to date, I suppose. You still bloody want to know?"

He drops his towel on the floor with a loud thud. Something must have clicked in his brain.

"Yeah, right. BeeBee. If you touch her with just one of your filthy English fingers, I'll cut your balls off."

I can't but chuckle under my breath. This bloke is a riot.

"Em, too late. But your concerns do you credit." His eyes narrowed to slits, he sizes me up.

"You being respectful to her? Is she keeping you on your toes?"

"Is the sky blue?"

He grunts, an unintelligible sound I've only heard from him. It's an all-purpose answer, whenever words fail him. "What was the favour, Eddie?

"I need pointers. Hints. Suggestions."

"What for?" he asks, moving to the treadmill right beside me.

"I'm taking B on a date tomorrow night. I just…where the hell can I take her?"

"Grab me a bottle of water from over there, please? I need to give this some serious thought."

Handing him the requested bottle, I try not to dwell on the fact that Emmett's meditation drink is mineral water.

"I'd love to take her to her favourite restaurant…"

Emmett interrupts before I can finish. "Easy, that's Gladstone's."

"Where is that?"

"Malibu. Best clam chowder on the West Coast, lobsters flown in from Maine daily. BeeBee adores it."

I ponder this for a second. There is no way I can pull off a dinner in Malibu with the whole 'fly under the radar' scheme.

"What's the matter, Eddie? It's perfect."

"Not so perfect, if you want to avoid the press at all costs."

"So, no public hangouts, then?"

"Pretty much, Em. Sucks to be me, I know."

Emmett chugs down a good half of his bottle and then nods to me, in a reflexive, pensive gesture.

"Well, no. Not all the time. Dammit, Gladstone's would really be perfect."

The door opens, revealing Jasper's lanky frame. He looks haggard. I guess that's what you get for being in a conference call for six hours straight.

"Gladstone's? Who mentioned the nectar of the Gods?"

"Good morning to you, Perry Mason."

"Shut up, Tom Brady." Jasper quips, dodging a flying sweaty towel courtesy of Emmett, who may or may not have a pointed dislike for that particular athlete. Jasper turns to me, plopping down on the other side of the same daunting machine I've been perched on for the last ten minutes.

"Did I overhear something about a date? I mean, if I'm not intruding or anything."

This is the first real opportunity I have to get to know him. He's been a huge part of Bella's life for so many years, he still is. If I had to make a survey of the potential stumbling blocks I might come across in my path towards Bella, I'd have to say that the major ones are Emmett and Jasper. Emmett, though, is a non-issue. If he meant to be one, he wouldn't have manipulated Bella so that we'd all become neighbours. Jasper could be a tougher nut to crack – college mates, later best mates; last, but not least, boss and assistant. In Jasper's eyes, I might well be a usurper; after all, Bella left him high and dry and ended up in LA, working for me. Yet, he is the one polite enough to ask if he is intruding.

"Jasper, don't even think about it. And yes, you did overhear correctly. Though Emmett is not helping. I'm stuck, and time is running out. I'm two steps away from collapsing into panic mode."

Jasper stretches his legs and arms fluidly from his perch on the bench. "Let's take this from a practical angle. What do you want to do for this date?"

My uneasy sigh conveys my immense discomfort. I am at a loss. "I want to impress Bella, I want to do something that she will like, that shows I've put some effort into this, but…"

"Ah, there we are, with terms and conditions." Cue the lawyer-speak. B makes it sound so hot, with Jasper it just turns to gibberish in my brain. "What are the terms and conditions, Edward?"

I must look positively demented at this minute. "What are the do's and don'ts?" There, that's easier. Good thing B takes care of all my legal crap, at least she can understand it.

"As far as the press knows, I am not in LA at the moment; I'm still with my family in London. Plus, Bella and I… must fly under the radar. So, no public places."

"Find a secluded location, then sort out the catering. If Mohamed will not come to Gladstone's, then Gladstone's must be brought to Mohamed." He makes it sound all so easy. He's not the one forced to sneak around.

I throw a sideways glance at Emmett, who looks downright puzzled. I have an inkling that my expression must mirror his to a 't', minus the dimples and sweaty forehead. Jasper resumes a more human posture and scoffs, evidently annoyed with our slow intellect.

"What I mean is, if you can pick a 'safe' location, Gladstone's grub may not be a problem."

Exasperation. That's what I'm feeling. Why can't I take my girl to the movies like any other guy? Oh, wait. I know why. I'm the one in the movies. Safe location? Am I undercover? In the witness protection programme?

"Jasper, for me, the only safe location in this city is just about within the walls of my house. I can't very well ask Bella to come over because I've run out of sugar…"

Jasper looks at me as if I've just discovered the cure for cancer. "The house! Of course!"

"Come on, how lame would that be? And what about my sister? It's not as if I can kick her out, right?"

Emmett frowns, but looks more concentrated than anything else; he must be pondering something very hard and his underused brain cells are getting a rare workout.

"Well, I don't think it would be so lame, Edward. It would be thoughtful, secluded, and romantic even. You live in Kate and Garrett's house, right?"

How does he know Kate and Garrett?

Cullen, he's Bella's bestie. Of course he knows her neighbours.

I nod, trying to follow Jasper's train of thought. He continues. "So it has a backyard deck exactly like this one, right?"

Emmett nods along with me. We look like life-size replicas of the Muppets, our expressions just as ridiculous. I'm trying to keep up with Jasper and the only conclusion is…

"You mean, I should take her…in to dinner, and not out. You mean, next door."

Jasper flashes me a pearly white smile. "And here I thought you were just a pretty face. You did figure that out."

Jasper's idea has some merits. Bella and I would be away from prying eyes, with uninterrupted time on our hands. The idea has lots of merits – and one downside: my sister.

"I'll be happy to take care of Alice. If you don't mind, of course." Sneaky – he's doing me a favour, so there's not a snowball chance in hell I'm going to flip my big brother switch against him. I'd be cockblocking myself.

"You want to go out with Alice?" I retort, my expression half-astonished and half-irritated. Astonished, because Bella was right, and Jasper has a thing for my little sister. Irritated, because I was the only slow-witted moron who didn't see that coming.

He merely nods, with a satisfied smile. "But she's my sister!" I protest. Both Emmett and Jasper break out in loud guffaws.

"Dude, that's rich, coming from you!" Leave it to Emmett to throw my attitude back in my face. "I mean, Eddie, I've been dating Genius's sister for years, we're helping you date my sister…and you're trying to split hairs about Jazz going out with your sister? Dude!"

I give up and laugh along with them. Jasper reiterates his proposal. "So, that's settled. I'll have dinner with Alice."

Sneaky indeed – but then again, he's the corporate lawyer. "And I'll bring her back here for the night." Ugh. I didn't want to know that but, again, I don't have a choice if I want my date with Bella. Hook, line and sinker. It makes sense he's a rainmaker already at his age, according to Bella – he's no doubt a ruthless negotiator. He drives a hard bargain, but how can I refuse, when there's so much at stake?

"What about Gladstone's? They don't deliver, and Eddie can only nuke so much before BeeBee runs for the hills." Emmett is back, with a good point, too.

"He's Edward Cullen, of course they'll deliver." Jasper deadpans, his voice indicating that he's well used to getting his way in everything. Frantic phone calls aboard an airplane flash through my mind, with Bella's patient voice staving off his unreasonable demands. Do I behave like that with her, too?

"Yeah, because that'll go over well with the whole secrecy shebang the kids are going by." Emmett's snarky reply gets me thinking. How to tackle this, and keep myself incognito? If there's one person that can nail this, Bella excepted, it's Angela.

"OK, guys. I've got this. They will deliver for Edward Cullen, but my whereabouts will remain confidential. I need to call Ang. God, how I hate to name-drop, but the ends justify the means."

Emmett's hand slaps me not so delicately on the shoulder. "Way to go, Eddie. Say hi to Ang for me. And…Eddie…you might want to…you know, surprise BeeBee."

I groan. Everyone knows that B abhors surprises. She hates being blindsided. Jasper and I, in perfect unison, shout a resounding "NO!" and exchange a knowing glance at each other. We both snicker, and then can't stop laughing.

When we are back to our own coherent selves, Jasper nods at me in appreciation and adds, "It looks like you know her well. I'm impressed."

"Yeah, we're all impressed that Eddie is not a douchebag. Let him go, he's got shit to do before tomorrow night. And I'll let myself go, I need to drive your sister to the airport. On second thoughts, get the fuck out of here too, Jazz, and bring Alice with you – for the next…48 hours good for you, Eddie?"

I nod, again. It seems I have lost all capacity for verbal communication. And my big brother instincts, too.

Cullen, you never had a way with words, let's face it.

Emmett claps his hands, forcing me out of my wordless funk.

"Pow-wow dismissed, losers. Eddie's got a date to plan."

Jasper flashes us both another signature grin and answers, "So do I, Em, so do I."

§§§ BCG §§§

The following night, I'm alone in my house for the first time since I took up residence here. There is no housekeeper, no movers, no Angela, no Bella and most of all, no Alice trying to beautify me.

I refused to follow her advice to get dressed to the nines for this evening with B. It just doesn't make sense. We're having dinner at my house, not walking down a red carpet. Besides, it's not like Bella will care about what I'm wearing, right?

Correct, Cullen. Because you don't plan on wearing these clothes much longer, anyway.

Silence. I'm not used to it. Cameras flashing, voices shouting my name left, right and centre, the background noises of traffic and airports – these are the sounds I'm normally drowned in.

The house is ready. Table for two is laid out on the deck, candles scattered here and there – my only cheesy concession to Alice's impromptu event planning, and only because I think Bella will like them.

Food is in the oven – Gladstone's grub was not that hard to obtain, after all. Turns out Ang knows the owner and, by pulling a few strings, she managed to get them to deliver their best dishes. She even showed up to help me pre-heat them. She claims she only did it because she didn't want me to get third-degree burns or destroy the house, yet I know better. She doesn't want me to screw up with Bella, but she'll never own up to it.

Bella doesn't know that this is where we're meeting. The secrecy thing worked in my favour – I managed to convince her that I couldn't very well drive her myself and that it made more sense if Tyler picked her up with the limo, driving her to the super-secret venue of our meeting. Tyler will pick her up – or rather, should have picked her up five minutes ago – drive around the block a couple of times, and then take her back here.

My eyes jump from one corner to another, in haphazard order, while I'm trying to collect myself so I don't look like a total wreck the moment Bella makes her appearance. I pace up and down the kitchen, my nerves taking a toll on me with every passing minute. I rake my hands through my hair, once again thankful that I stood up for my sorry arse and didn't allow Alice to put that shiny, sticky shit into it. My gaze alternates between the wall clock, my watch, the oven timer and the door.

T minus two minutes.

The doorbell rings.

I am a nervous wreck.

Get your act together, Cullen. It's your Business Class Girl, not the Spanish Inquisition.

My Business Class Girl. My Bella. She is here.

Finally.

I rush to the door, forgetting everything else, even my nerves. I swing it open, my gestures fluid in spite of myself. Bella stands on the other side, a shy, surprised smile on her face. At least she seems not to hate me for my ruse to get her here.

"You know I hate surprises," she quips, stepping inside without waiting for an invitation. Yes, because I am that much of a useless moron right now.

I wave her in, still speechless, and risk a glance in her direction. She takes my breath away. Before I can drink in every particular of her appearance – because I want this moment etched in my memory for years to come – she turns to me.

"But I think I'll love this one," she adds, her voice an awed whisper.

She walks toward the kitchen, and I'm at her side without even realising my feet are moving. She twirls around, throwing an appreciative glance to the deck windows, and her gaze falls back on me.

"You did all this by yourself?" She isn't questioning my abilities, as her words might suggest. She's surprised; or at least this is what I gather from the hint of humour in her voice.

"I had…help, I must admit. But you still like it, don't you?" Even I can feel the doubt in my words and in my voice.

Her smile is the best answer and the best reward I could hope for. "Of course I do. I love it, Edward. No one has ever…done something so…thoughtful for me."

She averts her eyes, no doubt to hide her blush. I wish she wouldn't do it. I take a moment to roam my eyes over her figure, trying to ease my lingering nerves. She looks stunning. She's wearing a cream-coloured oversized sweater that looks soft and decadent, and hugs all of her curves to perfection. Shouldn't she be wearing trousers or something, with that? Her legs are bare – it's the end of December, and for the life of me, I can't fathom how in heck she's not freezing – except for her boots.

Cullen, this is LA. Of course she's not freezing.

"Don't give yourself a brain haemorrhage, Edward. Spit it out."

"B, don't take this the wrong way, but…" I am a nervous, jealous wreck who's about to badmouth his girlfriend's fashion choices on the night of his first – and last? – date.

I hear a noise eerily similar to a snort, but it can't be Bella, can it? Apparently, it is. Bella just snorted.

"It's a cashmere sweater dress, Edward, and I emphasise the word dress, as in…you don't need pants with this. Got it, Boss?"

She reads my mind. This is the only plausible explanation. I shake my head, trying to reboot my system, in the faint hope that I'll avoid further brain farts during the evening.

"You are cute when you're flustered. And hot as hell when you're jealous." I raise my eyes to find her face only inches from mine.

"Am not." Childish, but at least it's not another social faux pas.

"You are. In case you're wondering, your sister got to me. You owe me." Alice took her frustrated beautification attempts out on Bella. Her attire is the direct result of her sacrifice. Thank you, Alice.

Note to self: Cullen, get a humungous birthday gift for your sister.

"You look…you look breath-taking. I don't have words. I just…"

Cullen, stop babbling like an idiot. Do something.

For a fleeting second, my nerves evaporate when her eyes bore into mine. She looks serene and determined at the same time. I step closer to her, one of my hands encircling her waist, the other landing on her cheek, my fingers tracing her features, down to her luscious lips. I can't help myself any longer, so I just kiss her. I feel her smile into the kiss, that I keep brief and chaste because I don't want to ravish her before dinner.

"And the evening just turned perfect."

"Will you have dinner with me now, my lovely?" I whisper, still holding her close to me.

The oven timer decides to beep. Our lobsters are ready. What can I say? I have a talent for timing.

"I would be delighted, Edward. Lead the way?"

She follows me out to the deck, where she finally sees the whole scenario. Late December in LA equals early May in London, and eating outside on the deck doesn't seem so outlandish, though it did take some convincing from Jasper. It was his idea. It's a calm, starry night with hardly any clouds in the sky. I couldn't have hoped for a better night, not even if I'd had it made to order. The candles are just for show, but they certainly add to the charm. Thank you, Alice – twice over.

I take out her chair, because my mum raised me to be a gentleman, and leave her briefly to retrieve our food from the kitchen. When I serve the plates, her eyes go wide as saucers.

"Is this? But it can't… How did you?"

Gladstone's lobsters can't be mistaken, or so Em tells me. He also guaranteed that B would know them even with a blindfold on.

Blindfold? This has possibilities, Cullen…

My smile must be smug. I've pulled out all the stops – all right, I did have help, but still... – and she's clearly impressed. So far, so good.

"Gladstone's doesn't deliver, Boss. Spill it." Her eyes are narrowed to suspicious slits, but they are still bright and playful. She's smiling, her hands itching to dig in and feast on her beloved lobster.

"For Edward Cullen, it does. Deliver, that is."

"I might use that trick in the future, you know."

I shrug. As long as it makes her happy, I'm game. I'd dismantle the moon and hang it on her bedroom ceiling if she asked me.

"If that smile is my reward, you can do that as often as you like. I won't ever complain about seeing you this happy."

"Thank you, Edward." Her voice is a low, reverent whisper. It is I who should thank her for giving me the time of day.

"I just want you to…" Words fail me. It is a common occurrence in Bella's presence. I swallow an unexpected lump in my throat. "I just want to do whatever it takes so you don't regret any of this."

"Regret this? Why?" she asks, gesturing towards the space between us. "You think I can't handle it? You could have a point."

"But Bella…" She stops me, with a halting hand.

"You do have a point, after all; but it doesn't mean I regret being here, being with you. I will learn to handle…the side effects of this. A little help, maybe, from time to time?"

"Anything you wish. Anything to keep you by my side." My hand reaches across the table to grasp hers. I'm sure I'm smiling like the hopeless love-struck fool that I am.

"You're sure there's no cheese named after you? Because there should be…"

"Quit being a smartass. You love…it." I recover quickly. This time. "I think we should…attack the lobsters?"

Without hesitation, she grabs the very unfashionable paper napkins and prepares to dig in – so much for a romantic dinner. Before devoting her full attention to the very dead and very orange crustacean in front of her, she flashes me another blinding smile. "Thank you, Edward. This is just…perfect."

Bella is blissfully happy about her lobster, working her way through her gigantic plate in a symphony of moans, licking her fingers at every opportunity. Eating lobster is a messy affair. Watching Bella eat lobster is a torturous affair – a pant-tightening, groin-throbbing kind of torturous affair. Still, I keep my countenance, somehow, and manage to get through dinner without pouncing on her like a caveman.

"I can't take anymore; I'm sure I'll puke if I do, Edward." She is inebriated, but not drunk. I only poured us a couple glasses of wine to get through dinner, but nothing over the top. I want her coherent for what I have in mind.

"Fancy a little break, then? Maybe stargazing out here on the deck? It's a lovely night." I begin, standing up to reach her side of the table. "But not as lovely as you." She takes my hand, and I pull her close to me for a searing kiss.

My timing, once again, should be perfect. "Dance with me, B?"

With a lazy smile on her lips, she protests, "I would probably fall and drag you down with me."

"I won't let you fall. Ever." There are no golden specks in her eyes tonight. It's all chocolate – deep, dark, luscious chocolate. I skim her nose with mine, brushing my lips against hers. "Dance with me, please?"

"But there's no music…"

Methinks she doth protest too much, Cullen.

Right on cue, because my timing is indeed perfect, the music starts in a dissonant rhythm of drums and a distorted guitar; the deeper, rounder strains of a bass holding it all together. Another guitar weaves an arpeggio through it all. A rugged, but sultry voice echoes from the speakers in the living room, drifting out to the deck and lingering on the edge of our awareness.

My arms wrap around Bella like a second skin, her hands take up residence on my shoulders, playing with the wayward strands of my hair at the nape of my neck. We don't really dance; we just sway from side to side, till I manage to drift with her to the deck railing, and lean against it.

She's still in my arms. I'm not letting her go tonight. My lips are dangerously close to her ear; the music hits me, sending a wave of desire through me. I've never even thought of doing this for anyone, but serenading Bella sounds like a fucking good idea right now. I sing along, whispering in her ear…

Did you know I've been wanting you?

So leave your locks on the latches

If you bring the water

I'll bring the matches

'Cause we are fires in the night

We are fires in the night

Let us bathe you in our heart

'Cause we are fires in the night

"We are fires in the night…" her voice is a breathy whisper that sends shivers down my spine. She turns to face me. Her hands are on my face, her lips on my lips.

The music, the stars, the dinner, the lobster, the candles, her wonderful sweater dress – all forgotten. All I can see, feel, taste – Bella. My lovely.

I don't want this night to end.

"Stay with me tonight." It's not a question. It's not a request. It's not begging. It's fact.

"Yes."

No more words are spoken for a long, eventful stretch of time. The only sounds are the last strains of the song, and Bella's soft breaths on my neck as I carry her in my arms back inside the house and up the stairs. I might be downright cocky, but I don't want an awkward fumble on my couch. Even if the night ends with both of us passed out on my bed with our clothes on, I want Bella treated like a queen. I can bloody sleep on the couch and leave her in my room if she doesn't want me there.

I reach the landing, another shiver running down my spine. Bella is leaving a trail of feather-light kisses on my neck. I can't think. I can't move. I can barely close my eyes to savour this moment and hold on to the luscious perfection in my arms.

"Jesus Christ."

Are you religious now, Cullen?

"No Jesus Christ here. Bella, remember?"

How I manage to chuckle amid Bella's ministrations is a mystery to me. But I do. She makes me do the strangest things.

"Yes, my lovely. I do remember."

"Edward?" She whispers again, as I gingerly place her on my bed. Good thing Kate and Garrett had all this fancy furniture. It feels great not to live in a run-down month-to-month rental that reeks too much of my old socks and that's overflowing with coffee-stained scripts and random sheet music.

"Bella… I don't want to assume…I just…" And cue the sodding nerves. And the bloody second-guessing. And a puzzled expression on B's face, her head slanted to one side and a puckered frown forming between her eyes.

Then it all changes. Her features relax in a sly smile and she cocks a finger to beckon me down closer to her. Her hands are on my face and her dark, hooded eyes bore into mine as if she is trying to read my soul. Maybe she is, I wouldn't put it past her.

"Whatever doubts you are entertaining in that fascinating head of yours, chuck them out the window now." Scratch that 'maybe', she does read my mind. Why I still question that, I have no bloody clue.

"I don't want you…to…" Again, it's a relief that someone usually writes my lines, because I am a danger to myself when I'm on my own.

"But you do want me…want me, right?"

"More than words can say." This is all I can come up with. I already see the ads – 'Cullen Cheese – Premium Brand'.

B saves me from further embarrassment and pulls me down with her. We fall back on the bed in a graceless lump of tangled limbs. Her lips are on mine in a flash and I lose all sense of coherence.

Our kisses grow more heated by the minute. Her hands disappear in my hair. Twice over, I'm glad I didn't fall for Alice's shite and put on the blasted hair gel. Bella likes it the way it is, messy and all. And I like her soothing, silky touch on my scalp. It eases the nerves but builds up a whole new different tension in me.

"Then have me, Edward." It just comes as a surprise, this hushed declaration of hers, a breathy whisper in my ear, while my lips have left hers only to tease and nibble at her neck instead.

"You put out on the first date?" Welcome back, powers of speech. Welcome back, smart-ass comments. A man's brain is truly located below his belt. Hell, right now mine must be.

"If I really, really, really, really like the guy…" She quips, punctuating each word with a peck on my lips, on my jaw, on my neck, down my chest. And then she rolls me over. And then her hands are under my shirt.

I feel the hard leather of her boots crinkle against my thighs as she wraps her legs around mine, trapping me beneath her. As if I'd ever want to leave this spot. But wait – there's something wrong here, I want to be the one doing the trapping – in a minute. Now, I want to know what she's up to.

"Have I ever told you…how beautiful you are to me?"

She stares at me, wide-eyed. Is this news to her? Who is the fucking sod that undermined her self-confidence, her sense of her own worth? I want to kill him, slowly and painfully. She closes her eyes, draws a deep breath, her hands still under my shirt – not that I'm complaining.

A small tear flows from her eye. She exhales again. I pull her down on my chest and roll us to the side, my thumb wiping away the crystal drop from her cheek.

"No tears, B. Not even happy ones. No tears when you're in my arms."

"I'm just so…"

"Nervous? Pot, meet kettle. We don't have to, really. I'd be content to hold you all night."

She huffs. "What if I disappoint you?"

"What did we say about overthinking? Let's go with the flow. We're no good with stereotypes and rules anyway."

This seems to steady her, for she gets even closer to me and draws one final, more resolute breath. Her hands sneak up under my shirt and higher on my back, drawing lazy circles on my skin. It feels amazing. So amazing that my cock throbs to say hello and my hips jerk against her. I definitely have no more working brain cells, because there's no blood left north of my belt.

Screw the stereotypes. Screw the rules. Screw the patterns. Screw the nerves. All I want is Bella. In my bed. I roll her over and trap her beneath me. I finally have her where I want her.

"You can stop me anytime, my lovely, anytime…"

It's a blasted lie, but I want to try and be a gentleman all the same.

"I just wish you'd stop talking, Edward." I love it when she's bossy. Oh, I really love it…it, right?

My hands now roam free over her form, but even the soft wool of her dress is too dire a separation between us. I want it off. And her fingers are prying at my shirt buttons already. I guess we both need to feel each other. I let her undo the buttons, even if the anticipation kills me. My shirt is off. She vanishes for a second and I hear a loud thud on the floor. When her cold toes twine with mine, I realise she's shed her boots. Good thing I tend to walk around the house barefoot. I roll her onto our sides and hitch her leg over my hip, wanting her closer and closer to me.

She must feel my hard-on against her stomach, and my assumption is confirmed by a lusty moan that vibrates through her throat and my ears. Her hips grind against mine and I can't but grab her ass cheeks and keep her where she is meant to be, rocking against me. She will be my undoing before the night is over.

I am so, so glad I am able to multitask. Otherwise, I wouldn't be able to move my right hand from her spectacular ass so that my fingers, still shaking a little with lingering nerves, can finally land on her tits. She arches against me, her nails digging into my back and her lips searching mine again.

My emotions are all over the place, my brain has turned to complete mush, but I do know one thing. I'll never regret this night, whatever the outcome. I'll never regret Bella.

A million minutes must have gone by, and that's the extent of how meaningless time is when I'm completely wrapped up in her. The only thing I can process is that my body needs air if I want to keep this up as long as I want to. My lips leave hers and I feel the loss instantly.

There's one more thing that needs keeping up, Cullen.

"B…?"

"I don't want you to stop, Edward…" Hell, there she goes again with the mind-reading.

"I don't think I can now..."

There's a look of lusty determination in her eyes. She's never looked sexier to me. Her hands start to roam over my chest and down to…squeeze my ass? I love it when she's brazen. Oh, I really love it…it, right?

"Oh, God. You trying to kill me, B?" Her right hand is cupping my junk. My Business Class Girl is a hands-on girl.

"On the contrary…" She trails off, her fingers deftly working my button fly. I hope I don't blow my load…prematurely and shame myself for life. I think it only fair to reciprocate and let my hands wander to find an opening to the contraption that is her dress. I feel her left hand – that one that's not in the immediate vicinity of my cock – direct mine to her waist. I find a tie and, once that's undone, I can't but hold my breath. I never thought I'd get to see Bella like this.

She's wearing a sheer satin bra that's the same colour as her dress, and what appears to be a matching thong. I've never been an expert in lingerie, but this simple and classy yet fucking hot get-up makes me want to get a degree in Applied Lingerie 101. I'll get a fucking Master if I have to. I'll buy stock in La Perla. It's an investment for the future.

I don't speak. I couldn't speak a word even if I wanted to. My hands and lips descend on her, in haphazard order. I am a greedy kid in a candy store. I want it all. And I don't know where to start. Bella helps me remove my jeans and I do the same to her dress.

The point of no return. Bella and I, in our underwear, on my bed. A charged, sizzling silence envelopes us. I refrain from asking her once more, but she plucks my unspoken question off my mind and answers her own way, with a searing kiss.

"Edward, please."

That 'please' is my undoing. My lips are on hers once again. I could spend an eternity kissing her, but my body and Bella suddenly have other ideas.

Her hands disappear from their perch on my shoulders. I stare at her, awed and drunken on her beauty. It only takes a blink of my eyes, and her bra is gone. I swallow a sudden lump in my throat. Bella's tits on display for me. More candy for the greedy kid.

Not quite knowing how, Bella and I end up lying on the bed again. More to the point, she's lying beneath me and I'm by her side, leaning on my elbow, and drinking in her form sprawled out on my bed. How decadent, and how unbelievably hot. I can't tear my eyes off her. Every detail of her naked body is being branded permanently into my mind's eye and in my heart.

Slowly, torturously, my fingers land on her breasts and I feel her nipples pebble and harden under my touch. Her body just vibrates with the anticipation. I feel like a god, knowing that this is the effect I have on her. Her eyes are pearls of black, shining obsidian and her breaths are hot and shallow. Her heart beats in a frenzied rhythm that resonates through my own chest as I leave a trail of hot, open-mouthed kisses from her jaw down to the valley between her breasts.

And then…I flick my eager tongue on her nipple, and her moan nearly unravels me. My hips jerk and grind against her. I know I've hit a spot the second her moans turn to a breathless keening. She digs her nails in my sides, inflicting a sweet pain that makes me even hornier.

My hand travels south, skimming the waistband of her thong. I hate this excuse for underwear that hides her from me. The last scrap that separates us, because B is so considerate that she helped me out of my boxer-briefs. I should also mention that her hands are examining me…very thoroughly.

"Fuck, B. Keep it up and I'm not gonna last."

"Mmmmm…"

My hips jerk again. She's enjoying this, the little vixen. Wait till I get my hands on you…Oh, wait – I'm there already. Seems like I need to step up my game. I let my hand roam over her hips, the apex of her thighs, and further down, but never where she expects me to go. I purposefully avoid her pussy. It's killing me, because I want her so bad I'm afraid I'll explode, but I want to watch her reactions to me, too.

"Edward…please…"

"Please what, B?" I'm a greedy, horny bastard.

"More…just…more." Her tiny hand tightens around my cock. No discomfort, only unbearable pleasure. I can't wait to be inside her.

"Of what, my lovely?" Screw being a gentleman. I want her. But I want her to want me.

"You, Edward. Just…you. Give me…you."

I can't help a satisfied growl. Her thong disappears, I don't even know how. My movements are too quick. I can't tell.

I just know that my hands are caressing and probing, my fingers dangerously close to her slit, and they're coated in wetness. She wants me.

I just know that my lips are kissing, nibbling, sucking on her nipples and I never want to stop. She arches her back against me. She wants me.

I want her. So fucking much it hurts. I still my movements and brace myself, leaning my weight on my elbows. I throw a slanted glance her way, looking up from my perch on her breasts. Her hands tangle up in my hair. She doesn't want me to move. Or does she?

"Now…" she exhales, wrapping her legs around my hips.

"Now," I growl again, feeling my cock against her pussy, coated in her juices already. I kiss her, my tongue dancing with hers and then…with one single thrust, I'm one with her.

A peaceful, satisfied sound exhales from Bella's lips, her hot breath almost vibrating against my skin. She arches her back, her hips meeting my thrusts. I can't rein in the caveman's growl that builds inside my chest. Possession flares within me, igniting my skin, my muscles, my nerves, my touch, until my only conscious compulsion is to go deeper and deeper inside her.

My eyes land on her face, and I take in the tantalising beauty of her flushed skin, of her glowing eyes staring right into mine. Her chest moves in shallow breaths, her pouty lips look moist and swollen, and just like that, I kiss her again, to get her closer to me, to let her moans resonate through my body.

When I come up for air, just one word escapes me, "Bella…" And it's a drawn out whisper, my voice huskier than I'm accustomed to. It's all because of her.

She answers with a breathless moan of her own, her tiny hands raking trails of fire on my back.

"Edward, please…"

"Please what, lovely?" I've no intention of being a gentleman. Sue me.

Now.

Want.

Her.

This is all my lower brain can process. My so-called higher brain has vacated the premises for the night.

"I'm close…so close…"

"Ugh, Bella…" How articulate. But words really fail me – and actions speak louder, anyway. My thrusts gain momentum, and my pace is unrelenting. I can't stop; I don't want to stop. I want to be drowned in Bella. I want to lose myself in her.

Without warning, she flips us over. The most magnificent sight is before my lust-addled eyes – Bella. Riding me. I completely lose it, and my hips jerk up in a violent, unrestrained motion until my dick is buried hilt-deep within her.

I feel her, constricting her wet, hot walls around me. I see her, a quivering hot mess dancing above me. I hear her, chanting my name over and over.

"Edward…"

I can't rein it in any longer; I reach my peak while her orgasm hits her in waves that vibrate through me, as well.

Spent, unhinged. Deliciously aching. Utterly and completely enamoured. Ruined. For life, maybe?

I'll hold that thought till the morning. Meanwhile, she collapses on my chest, and my arms wrap around her, for closeness and protection. I don't want her out of my sight, or out of my bed, any time soon.

"My lovely…"

"Shhh…don't speak. Just bask in this. Please?"

How could I ever deny her? She's so much smarter. We bask, until we both fall asleep in each other's arms.

BCG's POV

The sheets smell different. The bed feels different. The light filters from an odd angle.

Different is good. Odd is good. Both bring me back to the present, to the here and now, while I slowly, achingly rise from the sleep of the dead.

This is real. I didn't dream about it; the sheets and the pillow smell like Edward. I'm still in Edward's bed.

Memories of last night meander through my still hazy consciousness, making all my feelings and sensations bubble back to the surface. I can't see my face, and I'm not stepping into the remote vicinity of a mirror until after I shower, but I just know I'm beet-red right now.

I. Had. Sex. With. Edward.

After a spectacular, romantic date, I spent the night in his bed. Not sleeping.

Not sleeping is good, as long as Edward is involved. I turn to his side of the bed, my eyes still half-closed, and let my arm flail blindly around, feeling for his presence. I find only empty, lukewarm and rumpled sheets.

Waking up with no Edward in bed is not good. I sigh, groggy and mildly frustrated. Now, where in the world is he?

"Edward?" my voice is raspy, sleepy. No answer.

I'm a girl on a mission, a mission to find her lost boyfriend in his rented beachfront mansion. I gather the sheets around my body and, with painstakingly slow motions, I pull up to a sitting position, surveying the rest of the room.

Still no Edward, but a lot of haphazardly scattered clothes – mine as well as his. I listen for noises around the house, trying to spot his location thanks to my superior powers of guesswork. He could be in the shower, but I can't hear the water running anywhere. Maybe this needs to be a hands-on hunt for my lost boyfriend.

With a resigned sigh, I grab the first piece of fabric I can reach, and it turns out to be one of Edward's t-shirts. He's not the tidiest chap I've ever met, but he's not a slob either. He just adopts…a very random approach; this time around it works to my advantage.

After a generous whiff of Eau d'Edward from his t-shirt and a short trip to the bathroom, I pad my way down the stairs. I catch my movements halfway down – I hear voices, in the hushed, urgent tones of a tense conversation. One is clearly Edward's, the other…the other sounds like an ill-disciplined, strained baritone, stage whispering in short hisses and half-bitten curses. I would know that voice anywhere – it's Emmett's. He has a hard time schooling his boisterous voice into socially acceptable tones, and he can hardly whisper to save his life. Let's just say you can't rely on him for hushed or stealthy conversations.

I don't mean to eavesdrop, but there's just no avoiding it, since I'm two steps away from their line of vision. Besides, I'm really intrigued to find out what the hell Emmett is doing here, the night after my date with Edward. So I keep descending, one step at a time, with an air of practised nonchalance.

"I told you, Eddie, I couldn't send him packing."

"Bloody fucking hell on a stick, Em. Why now? And why here?"

From his voice, I can tell that Edward is seething. It's the tone he uses when producers start throwing hissy fits about things he absolutely won't give in to, or when studio execs want him all over the place for promotion, or when photographers and fashion editors want him to be shirtless in photo shoots. Those are big no-no's for him.

A throat clears in the background, while Edward paces the living room in nervous strides. "Can't he take his upper-class buttocks back where they belong?"

Emmett clears his throat again, more audibly this time, because Edward's rant is nowhere near finished.

"But if Angela has had anything to do with this, I'm gonna fire her skinny ass this time. I don't give a fucking damn if she's your friend, Em. This is out of line."

"Good morning, BeeBee, looking mighty fine this morning…" I can't help but snort at Emmett's lame attempt at deflecting Edward from his rant, and to draw attention to me instead.

"Emmie, drop the innuendo, will you?" I retort, keeping it clipped and short. Now I really want to know what's happening, and who is the intruder that's come out of nowhere to rain on Edward's parade.

Right on cue, Emmett snickers at my bitchy comeback, but Edward turns abruptly to face me. I take a second to revel in his presence. He still looks rumpled from sleep, with his hair all over the place and a pair of running shorts hanging low on his hips. Shirtless. Barefoot. His jaw flexes and his arms stretch in a protracted yawn. Not the sexiest way to greet your girlfriend after your first sleepover, but he still manages to look cute. He even mumbles something that sounds like "Morning, B" through his yawning. I snicker and shake my head.

He reaches his arm out to take my hand in his and draws me closer. Now we're talking.

"I was trying to say, good morning, B," and just like that, I can't remember why I snapped at Emmett, or why I was tempted to eavesdrop. All I can see is Edward, kissing the tip of my nose, his forehead against mine.

I smile into the kiss and reply, a little breathless, "Good morning to you, too…"

We both turn our faces towards Emmett, who is making gagging noises at us. "Says the guy who has a running bill with the trendiest florist in Brentwood…"

"BeeBee, you wouldn't dare…" He's afraid I'm ratting him out. He's so predictable it's not even funny.

"Well, you'll just quit that, if you know what's good for you…" My voice is sickeningly sweet. Edward just looks at him in silent question, cocking an eyebrow at his evident discomfort.

"Ok, ok. You win. But it's unfair."

"No, it's calling it even. Now, Emmie, as much as I'm pleased to see you…what the hell are you doing here?"

Edward extricates himself from me and plops down on the couch instead, his hands scratching his scalp. It's one of his 'frustrated Edward' signals.

"Emmett, please," Edward begins.

"BeeBee…we…"

"For fuck's sake, Emmett…" Edward interrupts, now clearly irritated.

"BeeBee…we…have a situation."

I take a seat on the armrest of the couch, right beside Edward. His arm coils protectively around my waist. I feel his cool fingertips on my hipbone and my concentration wanes for a second, but then I get back to the task at hand.

"Emmett, you did go to college, right? Can you be more articulate and define 'situation'? This isn't the Jersey Shore."

Luckily. Hopefully.

Edward's fingers squeeze my hip. I can almost feel his jaw tightening. This must be bad or, at least, problematic.

"Yeah, well…Ok, there's no easy way to say this."

"B, you don't need to…" – Edward tries to cut me off, but I silence him with a healthy dose of BBL – Bossy Bella Look.

"I think I do, Boss. Emmett, will you please go on?" Edward huffs. Let him huff – now I want to get to the bottom of this.

"Ok, I'm just gonna blurt it out. But don't kill the messenger, right?"

"Then fucking say it, Emmett. I'm not a porcelain doll."

"Right. Marcus showed up at our doorstep, bright and early this morning."

I am stunned into silence for a second. Maybe longer. The look on my face must be priceless.

"Marcus?"

"Yes, B. Marcus. As in Sir Marcus Goldsmith, B. Your Oxford sweetheart turned hotshot publisher. Do you need a mug shot to recognise him?"

Edward winces at the mention of Marcus's ancient relation to me, but his hold on me doesn't waver.

"What the fuck does he want?"

"He demanded to see you, B. I think you might have an emergency…."

I groan, frustrated and puzzled. It's just like Marcus to pull a surprise appearance when he wants to corner people right where he wants them. I'm not inclined to be cornered this time, though.

"I'm gonna paint Angela's ass fifty shades of pink by lunchtime."

Edward snickers. "I so want to see you do that, B. Can I watch?"

Emmett growls. "I want the preppy asshole out of my house by lunchtime." Ugh, I guess Emmett never liked Marcus that much.

You noticed something was off? It probably was. Keep your eyes open, ladies. Keep your eyes open.

Music to go with the chapter: Band of Skulls, Fires (if you can get past the yucky video): http : / www . youtube . com / watch? v = 5fxykGHHYkM

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