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Edward Wallbanger by feathersmmm Chapter 1-The First Time "Oh God," Thump. "Oh God," Thump. Thump.

. What the fuck? "Oh God, that's so good," I swum up out of sleep, confused as I loo ed around the strange room. !o"es on the floor. #$ctures propped up aga$nst the wall. %y new bedroom, $n my new apartment. "%mmm, yeah baby, r$ght there, &ust l$ e that...don't stop, don't stop'" Oh no... I sat up $n bed, rubbed my eyes, and loo ed at the wall beh$nd me, try$ng to f$gure out what the hell was go$ng on. I was st$ll half asleep. Earl$er that day, my best fr$ends (ose and )l$ce had mo*ed me $nto my new apartment. It was the f$rst t$me I had e*er had my own place, no roommates. I was ecstat$c. I was luc y enough that my boss and mentor Esme had let me sublet her old apartment, there was no way I could ha*e afforded to l$*e $n th$s ne$ghborhood $n +an ,ranc$sco. Than God for rent control. It was gorgeous. -arge spac$ous rooms, wood floors, arched doorways...$t e*en had a f$replace' Granted, I had no clue how to actually bu$ld a f$re, but that was ne$ther here nor there. I was ach$ng to start plac$ng p$eces on the mantelp$ece. )s an $nter$or des$gner, I started mentally plac$ng th$ngs $n almost e*ery space I went to. It dro*e my fr$ends mad at t$mes, as I was constantly restag$ng the$r n$c . nac s. )fter soa $ng $n the old and $ncred$bly deep claw foot tub unt$l I was past the prune stage, I pac ed my t$red ass $nto bed and en&oyed the crea s and s/uea s of a new home. I heard l$ght traff$c outs$de, and the comfort$ng cl$c cl$c of my cat 0l$*e wal $ng around h$s new house, e"plor$ng. The cl$c cl$c came from h$s hangna$l you see... I fell $nto a peaceful sleep, so pleased w$th my new home. Wh$ch $s why I so surpr$sed when I was wo en up so abruptly at...let's see...1234am. )s I ga5ed stup$dly at the ce$l$ng, try$ng to f$gure out why I was awa e, I was startled as I felt the bed mo*e underneath me. It &umped sl$ghtly, and then &umped aga$n. I grumbled, and mo*ed t$redly $nto the doorway. )fter grow$ng up $n 6orthern 0al$forn$a, I was used to tremors. Wh$le I had ne*er e"per$enced a "b$g one", I was of the better safe than sorry *ar$ety, and always followed earth/ua e protocol. "0ome on 0l$*e, get o*er here," I ch$ded, not$c$ng that he was st$ll on the bed. 7e loo ed at me d$s$nterestedly, and then ra$sed h$s leg to clean h$s bum. 7uh, strange. 0l$*e always went apesh$t whene*er there was the sl$ghtest tremor, $n fact he was usually the one that let me now someth$ng was rumbl$ng. )n$mals were the best pred$ctor of earth/ua es typ$cally. I d$dn't feel anymore tremors, so I yawned hugely and I shuffled bac across my room. I heard another thump and I saw my bed mo*e. The headboard f$rst. OK, that's weird...

Then I heard, *ery d$st$nctly, ",uc Edward, that's so good' %mm, yeah baby," Aw jeez... I rolled my eyes, w$de awa e now and a l$ttle fasc$nated by what was clearly go$ng on ne"t door. I loo ed at 0l$*e, he loo ed at me, and I swear he w$n ed. I cl$mbed bac $nto bed, and tr$ed to settle bac to sleep. I guess someone should be gett$ng some. I had been $n a b$t of a dry spell for awh$le. ) *ery long wh$le. !ad &ac rabb$t se" and an $ll t$med one n$ght stand had robbed me of my orgasm...she had been on *acat$on for 8 months now. +$" -ong %onths. I had carpel tunnel try$ng to get myself off, but O was on almost permanent h$atus. I don't mean Oprah. I pushed the thoughts of my m$ss$ng O away from me, and curled up on my s$de. )ll seemed /u$et at th$s po$nt, and so I began to dr$ft bac to sleep, 0l$*e purr$ng contentedly bes$de me. Then all hell bro e loose. ",uc yes' ,uc yes' Oh god...O7 GO9'" %y pa$nt$ng of the 0ard$nal )t The :at$can fell off the shelf abo*e my bed and rapped me soundly on the head...Oh God $ndeed. (ubb$ng my head and curs$ng enough to ma e the 0ard$nal blush, I loo ed bac at the wall beh$nd me aga$n, and saw that my wrought $ron headboard was l$terally bang$ng aga$nst the wall as the fuc ery cont$nued from ne"t door. ",uc me baby, yes yes yes'" I heard, and I s$ghed loudly. Then I heard, for the lo*e of all that $s holy, spanking. ;ou can't m$s$nterpret a good span $ng, and someone was rece$*$ng a good one ne"t door. "Oh God Edward, yes. I'*e been a bad g$rl, yes 9addy yes, yes ;E+'" Mother of pearl... %ore span $ng, and then the unm$sta able sound of a low male *o$ce, groan$ng and then growl$ng. I got up, mo*ed the ent$re fuc $ng bed a few $nches away from the wall, and huffed bac $nto bed, glar$ng at the wall the whole t$me. I fell asleep that n$ght swear$ng that I would bang on that wall $f I heard one more peep. Or fuc . Or span . Welcome to the ne$ghborhood.

Chapter 2- An Cat Dubh 2.0 The ne"t morn$ng, my f$rst off$c$al morn$ng $n my new place, found me contentedly s$pp$ng on a cup of coffee and munch$ng on a lefto*er donut from yesterday's mo*$ng $n party. (ose and )l$ce had come o*er yesterday to super*$se the mo*$ng crew. What that meant was they sat on the$r asses read$ng In+tyle wh$le I d$rected traff$c. !ut they d$d br$ng donuts, and for that I was grateful. I was more than grateful< I was $n a sugar coma. I had f$nally fallen asleep last n$ght, after the ant$cs from ne"t door had d$ed down. The g$rl was span ed, plowed, she came, she slept. The same for Edward. I assumed h$s name was Edward, as that was what the g$rl.who.l$ ed.to.be.span ed ept called h$m. )nd really, $f she was ma $ng up names there were hotter names than Edward to be scream$ng out $n the throes. The throes...God I m$ssed the throes. "+t$ll noth$ng, huh O=" I s$ghed, loo $ng down at my hoohah. 9ur$ng month four of The %$ss$ng O, I stated to tal about her as though she were real, an actual ent$ty. +he felt real when she was roc $ng my world se*eral months ago, but sadly now that she had abandoned me, I d$dn't e*en now $f I would recogn$5e her $f I saw her. 'T$s a sad sad day when a g$rl doesn't e*en now her own orgasm... I went to r$nse out my coffee cup, plac$ng $t $n the second s$n to dra$n. I pushed my ha$r bac , and loo ed around at the chaos that surrounded me. )s often as I had mo*ed s$nce I graduated h$gh school, >e*ery year at !er ley, and the four years s$nce? I had mo*$ng down to a sc$ence. +t$ll, $t was a fuc $ng mess e*ery t$me. 6o matter how well you planned, no matter how well you labeled those bo"es, no matter how often you told that mother fuc $ng mo*$ng guy that $f $t sa$d @IT07E6 $t d$d not belong $n the !)T7(OO%, $t st$ll was a damn mess. "What do you th$n 0l$*e, should we start $n here or $n the l$*$ng room=" I as ed my cat, who was curled up on one of the deep w$ndows$lls. I adm$t, when I was scout$ng for new places to l$*e I always loo ed at the w$ndows$lls. I now how fond he $s of loo $ng out on the world, and I l$ e see$ng h$m wa$t$ng for me when I come home. I was totally 0l$*e's b$tch. ($ght now he loo ed at me, and then at the l$*$ng room. "O@, l$*$ng room $t $s," I sa$d, real$5$ng that I had only spo en 3 t$mes s$nce I had wo en up th$s morn$ng, and e*ery word uttered had been d$rected towards a pussy. 7mm... I was about 1A m$nutes $nto sort$ng my 9:9s bac $nto the T: hutch when I heard *o$ces $n the hallway. Each floor only had 1 apartment, and I was on the top. There was a good chance $t was my no$sy ne$ghbors. I ran to the door and pressed my eye up to the peephole, try$ng to see $f I was r$ght. What a per*ert I was, honestly. I couldn't see much, but from here I could hear the$r con*ersat$on. I heard the man's *o$ce, low and sooth$ng, and I could hear her g$ggl$ng. "%mm Edward, last n$ght was fantast$c," "I thought th$s morn$ng was fantast$c, too," he sa$d, plant$ng what sounded l$ e one hellu*a $ss on her. 7uh. They must ha*e been $n another room th$s morn$ng< I d$dn't hear a th$ng. I pressed my eye bac to the peephole. 9$rty per*ert. ";es, $t was. 0all me soon=" she as ed, lean$ng $n for another $ss. "Of course, I w$ll call you ne"t t$me I am $n town," he prom$sed, swatt$ng her on her bottom as she g$ggled aga$n and wal ed away. I couldn't really see her< she was on the short s$de though. !ye !ye +pan". I couldn't see th$s Edward< he was bac $n h$s apartment before I could get a good loo at h$m. Interest$ng, so th$s g$rl d$d not l$*e w$th h$m. )nd I d$dn't hear any I -o*e ;ou's when she left, but

they d$d seem *ery comfortable w$th each other. he! would ha"e to #e, what with the spanking and all. ;es, the span $ng $ndeed. I pushed thoughts of span $ng and Edward from my m$nd, and went bac to my 9:9s. I was alphabet$5$ng, and I was only up to the G's. Goon$es came after Garf$elds 7alloween +pectacular. I lo*ed my retro hol$day spec$als. +pan $ng Edward. What a great name for a band... I was &ust plac$ng The W$5ard of O5 after W$lly Won a when I heard a noc on the door. I could hear scuffl$ng $n the hallway, and as I approached the door I could hear my two fr$ends. "9on't fuc $ng drop $t you $d$ot," I heard (ose snap. "Oh shut up, don't be so damn bossy," )l$ce snapped bac . I rolled my eyes and opened the door to see them stand$ng there, hold$ng a large bo". "-ad$es settle down, you're both pretty," I laughed, ra$s$ng an eyebrow at them. "7a ha, funny !ella," )l$ce answered, roll$ng her eyes and stagger$ng $ns$de. "What the hell $s that= )nd I can't bel$e*e you guys carr$ed that up four fl$ghts of sta$rs'" I e"cla$med. %y g$rls d$d not do manual labor when they could get someone else to do $t. "!el$e*e me, we wa$ted outs$de $n the car for anyone to wal by that we could tal $nto br$ng$ng $t $n, but no luc . +o we schlepped $t oursel*es. 7appy 7ousewarm$ng'" (ose sa$d, as they set $t down and she fell $nto the easy cha$r by the f$replace. ";eah /u$t mo*$ng so much, we are t$red of buy$ng you sh$t," )l$ce laughed, lay$ng down on the couch and dramat$cally plac$ng her arms o*er her face. I po ed at the bo" w$th my toe and as ed, "+o what $s $t= )nd I ne*er sa$d you had to buy me anyth$ng. The Bac -a-ane Bu$cer was not necessary last year, truly." "9on't be ungrateful, &ust open $t," (ose $nstructed, po$nt$ng at the bo" w$th her m$ddle f$nger, wh$ch she then turned upr$ght and d$splayed $n my general d$rect$on. I s$ghed, and sat down on the floor $n front of $t. I new $t was from W$ll$ams +onoma, the tell tale r$bbon w$th the t$ny p$neapple t$ed to $t. The bo" was hea*y, whate*er $t was. "Besus, what d$d you two do=" I as ed, catch$ng a w$n from )l$ce to (ose. I opened the bo", and was pleased as punch w$th what I found. ";ou guys, th$s $s too much'" "We now how much you m$ss your old one," )l$ce laughed, sm$l$ng at me. I had been g$*en an old @$tchena$d m$"er from a great aunt that had passed away years ago. It was o*er CA years old, and st$ll wor ed great. Those th$ngs were bu$lt to last by God, and $t wasn't unt$l a few months ago that $t had f$nally b$t $t $n a b$g way. It smo ed and went won y one afternoon wh$le m$"$ng dough for 5ucch$n$ bread, and as much as I hated to do $t, $t was tossed out. 6ow I stared $nto the bo", a sh$ny new sta$nless steel @$tchena$d m$"er star$ng bac at me, *$s$ons of coo $es and p$es danc$ng $n my head. ";ou guys, $ts beaut$ful," I breathed, ga5$ng w$th del$ght at my new baby. I l$fted $t out gently to adm$re. I ran my hands o*er $t, splay$ng out my f$ngers to feel the smooth l$nes, and the cold metal press$ng aga$nst my s $n. I moaned gently, and actually hugged $t. "9o you two want to be alone=" (ose as ed, laugh$ng sl$ghtly.

"6o, $ts O@, I want you to be here to w$tness our lo*e. !es$des, th$s $s the only mechan$cal $nstrument that w$ll l$ ely br$ng me any pleasure $n the near future. Than s guys. It's too e"pens$*e, but I really apprec$ate $t," I answered. 0l$*e came o*er, sn$ffed the m$"er, and promptly &umped $nto the empty bo". "Bust prom$se to br$ng us yummy treats and $t $s all worth $t dear," )l$ce s$ghed, s$tt$ng up and loo $ng at me e"pectantly. "What=" I as ed war$ly. "0an I please start on your drawers now=" she as ed, bounc$ng a l$ttle. "0an you start do$ng what to my drawers=" I sa$d hes$tantly, pull$ng my drawstr$ng a l$ttle t$ghter around my wa$st. ";our $tchen' I am dy$ng to start plac$ng e*eryth$ng'" she e"cla$med, bounc$ng h$gher now. "Oh hell yes, ha*e at $t' %erry 0hr$stmas frea show," I answered, and she pranced $nto the other room, lea*$ng (ose and I laugh$ng at her. )l$ce was a profess$onal organ$5er. +he had dr$*en us so cra5y $n college w$th her O09 tendenc$es and her $nsane attent$on to deta$l that one day (ose suggested that she become a profess$onal organ$5er. )fter graduat$on, she d$d &ust that. +he now wor ed all o*er the !ay )rea, help$ng fam$l$es get the$r sh$t together l$terally. Esme's des$gn f$rm somet$mes had her consult on a &ob or two, and she had e*en appeared on a few 7GT: shows that were f$lm$ng $n the c$ty. The &ob su$ted her to perfect$on. (ose and I let her do her th$ng, now$ng that my th$ngs would be so perfectly arranged e*en I would be astounded. (ose and I cont$nued to put5 $n the l$*$ng, laugh$ng o*er 9:9s we had watched throughout the years. We paused o*er each and e*ery !rat #ac mo*$e from the DA's, debat$ng on whether Budd ended up w$th %olly once they all went bac to school on %onday. I *oted for no, and I bet she ne*er d$d get that earr$ng bac ... -ater that n$ght 0l$*e and I were settled on the couch $n the l$*$ng room, watch$ng reruns on The ,ood 6etwor . I was already dream$ng of the creat$ons I would be wh$pp$ng up w$th my new m$"er, and th$n $ng about how one day I wanted a $tchen l$ e Ina Garten when I heard footsteps on the land$ng outs$de my door. I heard two *o$ces, and I rolled my eyes at 0l$*e th$n $ng that +pan" must be bac . I sprang from the couch, and pressed my eye aga$nst the peephole once more, try$ng to get a loo at my ne$ghbor. I m$ssed h$m aga$n, only see$ng h$s bac as he wal ed $nto h$s apartment beh$nd a *ery tall woman w$th long brown ha$r. Interest$ng. Two d$fferent women $n as many days...manwhore. I saw the door sw$ng shut, and I felt 0l$*e curl around my legs, purr$ng. "6o, you can't go out there s$lly boy," I cooed, bend$ng down and scoop$ng h$m up $n my arms. I rubbed h$s s$l y fur aga$nst my chee , sm$l$ng at h$m as he lay bac $n my arms. 0l$*e was the whore around here< he would l$e down for anyone who rubbed h$s belly. I settled bac down on the couch, and watched as !arefoot 0ontessa taught us all how to host a d$nner party $n the 7amptons w$th s$mple elegance. )nd an assload of money. ) few hours later, w$th the $mpr$nt of the couch cush$on pressed f$rmly $nto my forehead, I made my way bac to my bedroom to go to sleep. )l$ce had organ$5ed my closet so eff$c$ently all that was left to do $n here was to hang my p$ctures and arrange a few tchotch es. I had placed The 0ard$nal safely on the other s$de of the room. I was ta $ng no chances ton$ght. I stood $n my bedroom l$sten$ng for sounds from ne"t door. )ll /u$et on the western front. +o far, so good. %aybe last n$ght was a one. t$me th$ng. )s I got ready for bed, I loo ed at the frames conta$n$ng p$ctures of my fam$ly and fr$ends. %y dad, 0harl$e, and I at my college graduat$on. %y mom, (enee, and her husband #h$l s $$ng at Tahoe a few years ago. %e and my g$rls at 0o$t Tower. (osal$e lo*ed to ta e p$ctures ne"t to anyth$ng phall$c.

+he played the cello w$th the +an ,ranc$sco Orchestra, and e*en though she had been around mus$cal $nstruments all her l$fe, she could ne*er pass up a &o e whene*er she saw a flute. +he was tw$sted. )ll three of us were unattached at the moment, someth$ng that had ne*er happened. Esually at least one of us was dat$ng someone, but s$nce (ose had bro en up w$th (oyce se*eral months ago, we had all been $n a dry spell. -uc $ly for them, the$r spell wasn't /u$te as dry as m$ne. They at least were able to connect w$th the$r O's. I thought bac to the last t$me O and I were together. I had been go$ng out on a ser$es of bad f$rst dates, and I was so se"ually frustrated at one po$nt that I actually allowed myself to go bac to a guy's apartment that I had no $ntent$on of e*er see$ng aga$n. It wasn't that I was ad*erse to the one. n$ght stand, I had made the wal of shame many a morn$ng. !ut I usually l$ ed the guy, and maybe e*en planned on a second date or at least another shac . !ut not w$th th$s guy. %$ e 6ewton, blah blah blah. 7$s fam$ly owned a cha$n of sport$ng goods stores up and down the West 0oast, great on paper r$ght= Only on paper. 7e was n$ce enough, but bor$ng and *an$lla. !ut I hadn't been w$th a man $n awh$le, and after se*eral mart$n$s and a pep tal $n the car on the way there, I relented and let %$ e "ha*e h$s way w$th me". 6ow, up unt$l th$s po$nt $n my l$fe, I had harbored the bel$ef that se" was l$ e p$55a. E*en when $t's bad, $t's st$ll pretty good. I now hate p$55a. Th$s was the worst $nd of se". Th$s was &ac rabb$t style, fast fast fast l$ e he was try$ng to w$n a race. Th$s was 3A seconds on the t$ts, 8A seconds on the cl$t, and then $n. )nd out. )nd $n. )nd out. )nd $n. )nd out. !ut at least $t was o*er fast r$ght= 7ell no, th$s sh$t went on for months. Well no...but for almost 3A m$nutes. Of $n. )nd out. )nd $n. )nd out. %y poor hoohah felt l$ e $t had been sandblasted. !y the t$me $t was o*er, and he yelled out, "%ommy'" before collaps$ng on top of me, I had mentally rearranged all my sp$ces and was start$ng on the cleaners under the s$n . I dressed, wh$ch d$dn't ta e that long as I was st$ll almost fully clothed, and headed home. The ne"t n$ght, after lett$ng -ower !ella reco*er, I wanted to treat her to a n$ce long sess$on of self. lo*e, accented by my fa*or$te fantasy lo*er, Bordan 0atalano. !ut, to my great regret, O had left the bu$ld$ng. I shrugged $t off, th$n $ng that maybe she &ust needed a n$ght off, st$ll e"per$enc$ng a l$ttle #T+9 from 6ewton. !ut the ne"t n$ght= +t$ll no O. 6o s$gn of her that wee , or the ne"t. When $t h$t a month, I called $n re$nforcements. I called up my fa*or$te "!uddy" from !er eley, Tyler 0rowley. That man could h$t $t l$ e nobody's bus$ness...noth$ng. 7e left almost $n tears after I screamed at h$m to "%a e me come God damm$t' What the hell are you do$ng down there=" )s the wee s became a month, and the months stretched on and on, I de*eloped a deep seeth$ng hatred for %$ e 6ewton. That &ac rabb$t fuc er... I shoo my head, clear$ng my O thoughts from my m$nd as I crawled $nto bed. 0l$*e wa$ted unt$l I was s$tuated before snuggl$ng $nto the space between my legs. 7e let out one last purr as I turned out the l$ghts. "6$ght %r 0l$*e," I wh$spered, and fell r$ght to sleep. Thump. "Oh God." Thump Thump. "Oh God." $n#elie"a#le... I wo e up faster th$s t$me, now$ng what I was hear$ng. I rolled my eyes, and sat up $n bed, loo $ng beh$nd me. The bed was st$ll pulled safely away from the wall so there was no mo*ement, but there

was sure as hell someth$ng mo*$ng o*er there. Then I heard h$ss$ng. +urpr$sed, I loo ed down at 0l$*e, who's ta$l was at full puff. 7$s bac was arched and he was pac$ng bac and forth at the foot of the bed. "7ey m$ster, $t's cool...we &ust got a no$sy ne$ghbor that's all," I soothed, stretch$ng my hand out to h$m. That's when I heard $t. "%eow," I coc ed my head s$deways, l$sten$ng more $ntently. Was that a fuc $ng cat= "%eow' Oh God, meow'" 6o ,uc $ng Way. The g$rl ne"t door was meow$ng. %y ne$ghbor had the power to ma e a woman meow. 0l$*e at th$s po$nt went utterly apesh$t, and launched h$mself at the wall. 7e started tal $ng bac to the wall, cl$mb$ng $t l$terally, try$ng to get to where the no$se was com$ng from. "Oooh yes, &ust that l$ e Edward...mmmm fuc me good...meow meow %EOW'" +weet Besus there were out of control puss$es on both s$des of that wall ton$ght. The woman had an accent, although I could not place $t. Eastern European for sure. 05ech= #ol$sh= Was I ser$ously awa e at...let's see...F2F8 and attempt$ng to d$*$ne the nat$onal or$g$n of the woman gett$ng plowed ne"t door= I tr$ed to get a hold of 0l$*e and calm h$m down. 7e was neutered, but he was st$ll a boy, and he wanted what was on the other s$de of that wall. 7e cont$nued to caterwaul, h$s meows m$"$ng w$th her meows unt$l $t was all I could to not to start cry$ng w$th the h$lar$ty of th$s moment. %y l$fe had become theater of the absurd. I could now hear Edward, hear h$m moan$ng. 7$s *o$ce was low and th$c , and wh$le the woman and 0l$*e cont$nued to call to each other...I l$stened solely to h$m. 7e groaned loud, and the wall bang$ng began. 7e was br$ng$ng $t on home. The woman meowed louder and louder as she undoubtedly cl$mbed towards her cl$ma". 7er meows turned $nto nonsens$cal scream$ng, and she f$nally yelled out, "9a' 9a' 9a'" +he was (uss$an. ,or the lo*e of +t #etersburg. One last wall bang, one last groan, and one last meow, and then all was blessedly s$lent. E"cept for 0l$*e. 7e would cont$nue to p$ne for h$s lost lo*e unt$l four mother fuc $ng am. If Edward e*er brought #ur$na home aga$n, I m$ght ha*e to $ll her. The cold war was bac on...

Chapter 3- A Celebration )fter 0l$*e f$nally settled down and stopped h$s cat scream$ng, I was thoroughly e"hausted, and w$de awa e. @now$ng that I had to get up $n &ust another hour made me real$5e I had already gotten what sleep I was go$ng to get, and m$ght as well get up and ma e some brea fast. ",uc $ng meower..." I a$med at the wall beh$nd my head and padded out $nto the l$*$ng room. +w$tch$ng on the T: to catch the Today show >East 0oast feed?, I turned on the coffee ma er and stud$ed the pre.dawn l$ght &ust start$ng to pee $n my w$ndows. 0l$*e curled around my legs, and I rolled my eyes at h$m. "Oh now you want some lo*e from me huh= )fter abandon$ng me to go after #ur$na last n$ght= What an asshole you are 0l$*e," I muttered, stretch$ng out my foot and rubb$ng h$m w$th my heel. 7e flopped onto the ground, and posed for me. 7e new I couldn't res$st when he posed. I laughed a l$ttle, and nelt down ne"t to h$m. ";eah yeah I now. ;ou lo*e me now cu5 I am the one that eeps you $n *$ttles," I s$ghed, scratch$ng h$s belly. I headed bac $nto the $tchen, 0l$*e at my heels, and poured some food $nto bowl. 6ow that he had what he needed, I was /u$c ly forgotten. I f$"ed myself some toast, poured some coffee, and headed bac $nto the l$*$ng room to %att, %ered$th, )l and )nne. I m$ght ha*e planted a $ss on my @$tchena$d on the way past. +$nce I had so much e"tra t$me, I dec$ded to rela" a b$t and ta e the morn$ng as $t came. I was headed bac to wor today after ta $ng a few days off and the wee end to get settled, but I was an"$ous to get bac . I lo*ed my &ob. 6o, I mean I lo"ed my &ob. I was luc y enough when I was $n my last year at !er eley to $ntern w$th one of the top des$gn f$rms $n the c$ty, and came $n under Esme #latt. I wor ed closely w$th her, and her pass$on and her lo*e for th$s $ndustry made me all the more e"c$ted to f$nally graduate and beg$n wor $ng $n $nter$or des$gn. +he taught me more $n the semester I was w$th her than I had learned $n almost four years $n college. The last day of my $nternsh$p, as I was pac $ng up my l$ttle des $n the corner of her off$ce, she as ed me $f I would cons$der com$ng on board after graduat$on. Totally unprofess$onal, but I launched myself across her off$ce and told her I would ha*e se" w$th her should she e*er dec$de to sw$ng the other way. )fter I reco*ered from shoc at my outburst, and she reco*ered from her laugh$ng f$t, we began to tal bus$ness. Esme was e"tremely down to earth, sweet, warm and $nd. +he was also one of the smartest, strongest, most hardcore bus$nesswomen I had e*er come across, and all I wanted to be when I grew up was Esme #latt. In her late 3A's but loo $ng $n her late 1A's, she had made a name for herself w$th$n the des$gn commun$ty at an early age. +he challenged con*ent$on, was the f$rst to sweep +habby 0h$c off the map, and was $nstrumental $n br$ng$ng bac the /u$et neutrals and geometr$c pr$nts that dom$nated the "modern" loo that was all the rage now. +he brought me on as a &un$or des$gner, pay$ng my dues and ass$st$ng on smaller pro&ects. (es$dent$al des$gn was my preference, but I ass$sted on many commerc$al des$gn &obs as well, wh$ch $ntroduced me to an ent$rely d$fferent s$de of the bus$ness. )fter only a year or so, I began ta $ng on my own cl$ents, bu$ld$ng my "boo " as $t were, and garner$ng a name for myself w$th$n the commun$ty. 6ow, I had an off$ce, a shared ass$stant, my name on the door, and a (olode" f$lled w$th some of the f$nest soc$ety names $n all of +an ,ranc$sco. I s$ghed $nto my coffee cup, loo $ng around at my apartment once more. I was so apprec$at$*e of Esme, lett$ng me sublet from her. Esme had been dat$ng 0arl$sle 0ullen, a *ery prom$nent bus$nessmen, s$nce before I met her. They had been together for years, ne*er marr$ed but *ery comm$tted. 7e had w$sely a*o$ded the b$g dot com bust that h$t +$l$con :alley hard se*eral years ago, /u$etly mo*$ng much of h$s bus$ness *entures $nto more con*ent$onal channels. 6ow, he was a *enture cap$tal$st although he was sem$ ret$red. )t CC. +em$ ret$red at CC. Besus...

The two were $n the process of reno*at$ng a house on the bay $n +ausal$to, and l$*ed a charmed l$fe. Esme had not actually l$*ed $n th$s apartment for years, but she always held onto $t. It was so low $n rent, that she could ne*er /u$te part w$th $t, and had at t$mes o*er the last few years sublet to fr$ends of hers. )fter $t had been essent$ally *acant for o*er a year, she o*erheard me tal $ng about want$ng to get my own place. (ent be$ng what $t was $n the c$ty, that was st$ll a few years away. +he offered, I accepted, and now I was here. )s I was ma $ng my way towards the shower, I heard mo*ement $n the hallway. -$ e the #eep$ng !ella that I was /u$c ly becom$ng, I pressed my eye to the peephole to see what was go$ng on w$th Edward and #ur$na. 7e was stand$ng &ust $ns$de the door, far enough $ns$de that I could not see h$s face. #ur$na was stand$ng $n the doorway, and I could see h$s hand runn$ng through her long ha$r. ,uc me, I could hear her purr$ng through the god damned door. "%mm Edward, last n$ght was...mmmm," she purred, lean$ng $nto h$s hand that was now pressed aga$nst her chee . "I agree, a f$ne way to descr$be the e*en$ng and th$s morn$ng," he sa$d /u$etly, as they both chuc led. "0all me when you're bac $n town=" she as ed, as he swept her ha$r bac from her face. That freshly fuc ed face. I m$ss that face. "Oh you can count on that," he answered, and then pulled her bac $nto the doorway for what I can only assume was a $ss that $lled. 7er foot came up l$ e she was pos$ng. I rolled my eyes, but that hurt. The r$ght one was pressed so f$rmly aga$nst the peephole you see. "9o s*$dan$ya," she wh$spered $n that e"ot$c accent. It sounded much n$cer now that she wasn't caterwaul$ng l$ e a $tten $n heat. "+ee ya," he laughed, and w$th that, she gracefully wal ed away. I stra$ned to see h$m before he went bac $ns$de h$s apartment, but nope. %$ssed h$m aga$n. I had to adm$t, after the span $ng and then the meow$ng, I was dy$ng to see what he loo ed l$ e. There was some ser$ous se"ual prowess go$ng on ne"t door. I &ust d$dn't see why $t needed to affect my sleep hab$ts. I pr$ed myself away from the door and made for the shower. I had e"hausted e*ery s$ngle hand held shower massager when I was st$ll hold$ng out hope for O's return, but had g$*en up when I real$5ed how eco.unfr$endly I was be$ng, dra$n$ng the c$ty's water supply. Esme had reno*ated her apartment a few years ago, and wh$le she ept the e"$st$ng claw foot tub, she had $nstalled a new shower, complete w$th a ra$n shower attachment. I stood underneath, wonder$ng how the hell he could get a woman to meow... )s 423A rolled around, I was on the !)(T and headed towards my off$ce. I was an"$ous to get bac to wor . I was start$ng a new pro&ect for a new cl$ent that was com$ng $nto the off$ce for the f$rst t$me today, and I was also ha*$ng lunch w$th Esme. Esme's des$gn f$rm was $n a beaut$ful part of town called (uss$an 7$ll. Old beaut$ful mans$ons, /u$et streets, and a $ller *$ew from the taller pea s. +ome of the larger older homes had been con*erted $nto commerc$al space, and the house that we called our "off$ce" was s$mply stunn$ng. I came $n through recept$on, or$g$nally the formal parlor, and sa$d hello to a few people on my way to my off$ce. I was e"ceed$ngly luc y to wor where I wor ed, as from my off$ce I actually had a *$ew of the bay. I st$ll p$nched myself when I came $n some morn$ngs. Esme made me stop $t though, I was g$*$ng myself bru$ses and $t tended to creep people out. ) grown woman p$nch$ng herself and all... I breathed a s$gh when I entered my off$ce. Esme wanted each des$gner to ma e the$r space the$r own, and I spent an ent$re wee end creat$ng my wor space. +oft do*e gray walls, accented by plush salmon p$n curta$ns. %y des was dar ebony, w$th a cha$r draped $n soft gold and champagne s$l s. The room was /u$etly d$st$ngu$shed w$th a touch of wh$msy. The wh$msy com$ng from my collect$on of 0ampbell's +oup ads from the 3A's and CA's. I found a bunch of them at a tag sale, all cl$pped from

old $ssues of -$fe maga5$ne. I had them framed and mounted, and e*ery t$me I loo ed at them they crac ed me up. I spent a few m$nutes throw$ng out the flowers from last wee , and arrang$ng a new d$splay. E*ery %onday morn$ng I stopped $n a local flower shop to choose flowers for the wee . The blooms changed, but the colors tended to fall w$th$n the same palette. I was *ery fond of deep oranges and p$n s, peaches and warm golds. Today I had chosen hybr$d tea roses that were a beaut$ful coral color, the t$ps t$nged raspberry. I had worsh$ped at the altar of %artha +tewart s$nce I was $n &un$or h$gh, and e*en tr$ed to send her coo $es when she went to the po ey. I ga*e up when I real$5ed that she would probably not eat them, but would cr$t$/ue the presentat$on. I folded under the pressure... I st$fled a yawn and sat down at my des , prepar$ng for my day. I caught s$ght of Esme as she bree5ed past my door, and wa*ed at her. +he came bac and stuc her head $n the door. "7ey g$rl' 7ow's the apartment=" she as ed, wal $ng $ns$de and s$tt$ng $n the cha$r across from my des . ",antast$c, than you aga$n so much' I can ne*er repay you for th$s, you are the best," I gushed. +he stopped me w$th a wa*e of her hand. "+hush, $t's noth$ng. I now I should get r$d of $t, but $t was my f$rst place $n the c$ty, and for the rent $t would &ust brea my heart to let $t go' !es$des, I l$ e the $dea of $t be$ng l$*ed $n aga$n, $ts such a great ne$ghborhood," she sm$led, and I st$fled another yawn. 7er sharp eyes caught $t. "!ella, $t's %onday morn$ng= 7ow can you be yawn$ng already=" she ch$ded. I laughed and rolled my eyes. "When $s the last t$me you slept there Esme=" I as ed, loo $ng at her o*er the r$m of my coffee cup. It was my th$rd already< I would be cru$s$ng soon. "Oh boy, $ts been awh$le. %aybe a year ago= 0arl$sle was out of town and I st$ll had a few th$ngs o*er there, $nclud$ng a bed. +omet$mes $f I was wor $ng late I would stay $n the c$ty o*ern$ght. Why do you as =" "9$d you hear anyth$ng from ne"t door=" "6o, no I don't th$n so. -$ e what=" "7mm, &ust no$ses= -ate n$ght no$ses=" "6o, not when I was there. I don't now who l$*es there now, but I th$n someone &ust recently mo*ed $n. 6e*er met h$m, what d$d !ou hear=" I blushed fur$ously, and s$pped my coffee. "-ate n$ght no$ses !ella= +er$ously= 9$d you hear some se"y t$mes=" she prodded, and I banged my head on the des . 6o more bang$ng. I pee ed up at her, and she had her head thrown bac $n laughter. ")w &ee5 !ella, I had no $dea' The last ne$ghbor I remember l$*$ng there was $n h$s DA's and the only no$se I e*er heard com$ng from that bedroom was reruns of Gunsmo e. 0ome to th$n of $t, I could hear that T: show remar ably well..." she tra$led off. ";es well, Gunsmo e $s not what $s com$ng through those walls now, stra$ght up se" $s com$ng through those walls. )nd not sweet bor$ng se" e$ther...we are tal $ng...$nterest$ng," I sm$led. "What d$d you hear=" she as ed, her eyes l$ght$ng up. I don't care how old you are, or what bac ground you come from, there are 1 un$*ersal truths. We w$ll always laugh at...ahem...gas $f $t happens at the wrong t$me, and we always are cur$ous about what goes on $n other peoples' bedrooms. )nd I hate bathroom humor.

"Esme, ser$ously...$t was l$ e noth$ng I ha*e e*er heard before' The f$rst n$ght, my own bed was be$ng noc ed around. I stood $n the door frame l$ e a fool, th$n $ng $t was a tremor'" 7er eyes w$dened, and she leaned forward on my des . "+hut up'" "I w$ll not' I f$nally got bac $nto bed, and then I heard...Besus...I heard span $ng," I was d$scuss$ng span $ng w$th my boss. 9o you see why I lo*ed my l$fe= "6ooo," she breathed, and we g$ggled l$ e schoolg$rls. ";eesss. )nd he made my bed mo*e Esme, made $t mo*e' I saw her the ne"t morn$ng, as +pan" was lea*$ng. )nd then last n$ght," "Two n$ghts $n a row' +pan" got span ed aga$n=" "Oh no, last n$ght I was treated to a frea of nature I ha*e named #ur$na," I cont$nued, rel$*$ng the n$ght $n my m$nd. "#ur$na= I don't get $t..." she frowned. "The (uss$an he made meow last n$ght," +he laughed aga$n, caus$ng Tyler from account$ng to st$c h$s head $n the door. "What are you two hens cluc $ng about $n here=" he as ed, sha $ng h$s head at us. "6oth$ng," we answered at the same t$me, and then crac ed up aga$n. " wo women, $n two n$ghts. Wow, do you now h$s name=" "I do $n fact, because +pan" and #ur$na ept scream$ng $t out o*er and o*er aga$n. I could ma e $t out o*er the wallbang$ng. 7$s name $s Edward. +tup$d wallbanger..." I muttered. +he was s$lent for a moment, and then she gr$nned. "Edward Wallbanger, I lo*e $t'" ";eah, you lo*e $t. ;ou d$dn't ha*e your cat try$ng to mate w$th #ur$na through the wall last n$ght," I chuc led ruefully, and la$d my head bac on the des as we cont$nued to g$ggle. "O , I e"pect you to land th$s new cl$ent today, when are the !lac s com$ng $n to meet w$th you=" she f$nally sa$d, w$p$ng the tears from her eyes. ")h, %r. and %rs. !lac are here at one. I'*e got the presentat$on and the plans all ready for them. I th$n they w$ll really l$ e the way I redes$gned the$r bedroom. We are go$ng to be able to offer an en su$te s$tt$ng room and ent$rely new bathroom. It's pretty great," "I bel$e*e you, can you run through your $deas w$th me at FF=" ";ep, I'm all o*er $t," I answered as she made her way towards the door. ";a now !ella, $f you can land them as a cl$ent, th$s would be huge for th$s f$rm," she sa$d carefully, ey$ng me o*er her torto$seshell glasses. "Esme, wa$t unt$l you see what I came up w$th for the$r new home theater." "They don't ha*e a home theater." "They w$ll want one when I'm done w$th my presentat$on," I sa$d, arch$ng my eyebrows and gr$nn$ng de*$l$shly at her. "6$ce," she appra$sed, and left me to start her day. I loo ed down at the notepad $n front of me where I had doodled the words Edward Wall#anger. "Wallbanger," I sa$d under my breath, and scratched $t out.

I spent the morn$ng putt$ng the f$nal touches on my presentat$on and runn$ng $t by Esme. I was e"c$ted to meet w$th the !lac s today< they were an $nterest$ng couple. Bess$ca +tanley !lac was money. Old +an ,ranc$sco money, s$nce before the b$g /ua e. ) dGbutante and :assar educated, she turned her ent$re fam$ly on $ts ear when she marr$ed Bacob !lac . 7e was a young upstart bus$nessman who now owned one of the largest cha$ns of auto parts stores on the West 0oast. The rumors around town had been that Old %an +tanley had been *ery put off $n$t$ally by her $mpuls$*e marr$age to someone w$th than was less than a full blue blood. !ut as t$me went on, Bacob !lac was accepted w$th$n the soc$ety c$rcles of old +an ,ranc$sco, as well as anyone that had new money could e*er be. Bess$ca could ha*e re*erted to type and turned $nto another bor$ng *ap$d housew$fe, but the couple was now a powerhouse. They were hea*$ly $n*ol*ed $n char$t$es and ph$lanthropy, and were well nown spec$f$cally for the$r wor w$th WOT#6 >Wol*es Of The #ac$f$c 6orthwest?. )l$ce had done some wor for them when they mo*ed $nto the$r new home $n 6ob 7$ll last year. +he had helped Bess$ca organ$5e her $tchen and off$ce. They had ept $n touch and when the t$me came to redo the$r master bedroom, )l$ce put her $n touch w$th me. I was thr$lled to get to wor w$th them, and was ban $ng on today's presentat$on go$ng well. I got my duc s $n a row, fluffed my ha$r, and when I heard my ass$stant page me out to recept$on I put on my game face. ",antast$c !ella, s$mply fantast$c," Bess$ca gushed as I wal ed her and her husband to the front door. We had spent almost two hours go$ng through the plans for the remodel, and wh$le there were a few ey po$nts that we had comprom$sed on $t was go$ng to be an e"c$t$ng pro&ect. Bacob and Bess$ca were a great couple, and we had a great t$me tal $ng about what they wanted to accompl$sh. "+o, you th$n you are the r$ght des$gner for us=" Bacob as ed, h$s deep brown eyes tw$n l$ng at me as he wrapped h$s arm around h$s w$fe's wa$st. ";ou tell me," I teased bac , sm$l$ng at the two of them. "I th$n we would lo*e to wor w$th you on th$s pro&ect," Bess$ca sm$led as we shoo hands. I $nternally h$gh.f$*e my damn self, but ept my face composed. "E"cellent. I w$ll be $n touch *ery soon and we can get started on a schedule," I answered as I held the door for them. I stood $n the doorway as I wa*ed them off, and then came bac $ns$de. I let the door close beh$nd me, and glanced o*er at -eah our recept$on$st. +he ra$sed her eyebrows at me, and I ra$sed m$ne r$ght bac . "+o=" she as ed. "Oh yeah, na$led $t," I s$ghed, and we both s/uealed. Esme was com$ng down the sta$rs as we were danc$ng about and she stopped short. "What the hell happened down here=" she as ed, gr$nn$ng at us. "!ella got h$red by the !lac s'" -eah s/uealed aga$n, ra$s$ng her *o$ce so h$gh the ne$ghborhood dogs would soon beg$n to contr$bute to the con*ersat$on. "6$ce," she pra$sed and wal ed o*er to me for a /u$c hug. "#roud of you $d," she wh$spered $n my ear, and I beamed. I frea $ng beamed. I danced bac to my off$ce, putt$ng a l$ttle bump and gr$nd $n $t as I d$d the (unn$ng %an on my way around the des . I sat down, tw$rled $n my cha$r and loo ed out onto the bay. Well played !ella, well played I thought to myself and gr$nned. That n$ght I went out for coc ta$ls w$th (ose and )l$ce and may ha*e $mb$bed more than one or e*en

f$*e margar$tas. It was necessary< I was celebrat$ng. I cont$nued w$th te/u$la shots, and was st$ll l$c $ng at the none"$stent salt on the $ns$de of my wr$st wh$le )l$ce and (ose wal ed me up my sta$rs. "(ose, you're so pretty...you now that r$ght=" I cooed, lean$ng on (ose as we crawled up the sta$rs. ";es !ella, I'm pretty. Good grasp on the ob*$ous," she sa$d as she rolled her eyes. )l$ce laughed, and I turned to her. ")nd you )l$ce, you're my best fr$end. )nd you're so t$ny' I bet I could carry you around $n my poc et," I g$ggled as I tr$ed to f$nd my poc et. "We should ha*e cut her off after the guacamole left the table, she $s ne*er allowed to dr$n aga$n $f there $s no food present," she muttered as she dragged me up the last few steps. "9on't tal about me l$ e I'm not here," I compla$ned, ta $ng off my &ac et and start$ng $n on my sh$rt. "O +helby, but lets not get na ed here $n the hallway huh=" (ose shot bac , ta $ng my eys from my purse and open$ng my door. I tr$ed to $ss (ose on the chee , and she pushed me off. ";ou smell l$ e te/u$la and se"ual repress$on !ella, get off me," she laughed and opened my door. )s we made our way bac towards the bedroom I caught s$ght of 0l$*e on the w$ndows$ll. "7ey there 0l$*e. 7ow's my b$g boy=" I sang to h$m. 7e glared at me, and stal ed off towards the l$*$ng room. 7e d$sappro*ed of my alcohol use. I stuc my tongue out at h$m, and made my way bac towards the bedroom. I flopped down onto the bed, and caught s$ght of my g$rls $n the doorway. They were roll$ng the$r eyes $n that you.are.drun .and.we.are.not.so.we.&udge way. "9on't act all h$gh and m$ghty lad$es, I ha*e seen you more drun than th$s on many an occas$on," I muttered, my pants go$ng the way of my blouse. )s me why I ept my heels on, I w$ll ne*er be able to tell you. The two of them too hold of e$ther s$de of my du*et, and pulled $t down. I crawled under the co*ers and glared at them, peep$ng bac out. They tuc ed me $n so well all that was st$c $ng out were my eyeballs and my messy ha$r. "Why $s the room sp$nn$ng, what the hell d$d you guys do to Esme's apartment= +he w$ll $ll me $f I fuc up her rent control'" I cr$ed, moan$ng as I watched the room mo*e around. "The room $sn't sp$nn$ng +wan, settle down," )l$ce chuc led, s$tt$ng down ne"t to me and throw$ng an arm around my shoulder. ")nd that thump$ng, what the fuc $s that thump$ng=" I wh$spered $nto )l$ce's armp$t, wh$ch I sn$ffed then compl$mented her deodorant cho$ce. "6oth$ng $s thump$ng e$ther. Besus, you must ha*e started dr$n $ng before we got there'" (ose e"cla$med, settl$ng down at the end of the bed. "6o (ose, I here $t too. ;ou can't hear that=" )l$ce sa$d $n a hushed *o$ce. (ose was /u$et, and all three of us l$stened as carefully as we could. There was a d$st$nct thump, and then an unm$sta able groan. "@$ttens, lay bac . ;ou are about to get Wallbanged," I stated, and la$d bac aga$nst the p$llows. (ose and )l$ce's eyes grew w$de at my statement, but were /u$et. Would $t be +pan"= Would $t be #ur$na= )nt$c$pat$ng the latter, 0l$*e had padded $nto the room and &umped up on the bed. 7e was star$ng at the wall $n rapt attent$on. The four of us sat and wa$ted. I can barely descr$be what we were sub&ected to th$s t$me.

"Oh GodH" Thump. "Oh GodH" Thump Thump. )l$ce and (ose loo ed at 0l$*e and I. The two of us &ust sm$r ed. ) slow sm$le spread across (ose's face as she real$5ed what we were l$sten$ng to. I was more $nterested $n the *o$ce that I heard com$ng through the wall. The *o$ce was d$fferent, the p$tch was lower, and the accent was d$fferent. That a$n't +pan" or #ur$na... " 'Ere Gu*'nah, ta e me to 0oc foster'" 7uh= "-or' lu* a duc '" )h &ee5...she was !r$t$sh. "Gordon !ennett you're well 'ung'" 6o, no str$ e that, she was 0oc ney. )ll three of us busted up as we l$stened to the foulmouthery go$ng on ne"t door. 0l$*e, real$5$ng /u$c ly that h$s belo*ed wasn't ma $ng an appearance, beat a hasty retreat bac $nto the $tchen. "What the hell $s th$s=" )l$ce wh$spered, her eyes as w$de as apple p$es. "Th$s $s the sh$t I ha*e been l$sten$ng to for the last two n$ghts, you ha*e no $dea," I growled, st$ll feel$ng the effects of the te/u$la. "El$5a 9ool$ttle has been gett$ng done l$ e th$s for the last two n$ghts=" (ose cr$ed out, slapp$ng her hand o*er her mouth as we heard more $ndec$pherable words from through the wall. "Oh hell no, ton$ght $s the f$rst n$ght I ha*e had the pleasure of th$s one. The f$rst n$ght was +pan", she was a naughty, naughty g$rl and needed to be pun$shed. )nd last n$ght 0l$*e met the lo*e of h$s l$fe when #ur$na made her debut," "Why do you call her #ur$na=" "!ecause she fuc $ng meows when he ma es her come," I sa$d, h$d$ng under the co*ers. %y bu55 was beg$nn$ng to fade, and I was start$ng to feel the lac of sleep I had been e"per$enc$ng s$nce mo*$ng $nto th$s den of debauchery. The two of them peeled the co*ers bac from my face &ust as the ch$c screamed out "#op my cor '" "The guy ne"t door can ma e a woman meow=" (ose as ed, ra$s$ng an eyebrow. ")pparently so," I chuc led, feel$ng the f$rst wa*e of nausea beg$n to wash o*er me. "What $s she say$ng, does anyone ha*e a clue what she $s say$ng=" )l$ce as ed the room. "6o fuc $ng clue, although I assume she $s en&oy$ng herself. Who $s Gordon !ennett=" as ed (ose. "7a*e you seen th$s guy yet=" as ed )l$ce, st$ll star$ng at the wall. "6ope. %y peephole $s gett$ng a wor out though." "Glad to see at least one hole $s gett$ng some around here," (ose muttered, and I glared at her. "0harm$ng (ose, charm$ng. I ha*e seen the bac of h$s head, and that's $t," I answered, s$tt$ng up. "Wow, three g$rls $n as many n$ghts. That's some $nd of stam$na," )l$ce sa$d, st$ll loo $ng $n wonder at the wall.

";eah well, that fuc $ng Wallbanger $s about to get a beatdown $f th$s sh$t eeps up. I can't e*en sleep at n$ght'" I wa$led as I heard that growl and groan from hi%. "Why do you call h$m Wallbanger=" (ose as ed, and I held up my hand. "Wa$t for $t please," I sa$d, and then he began to br$ng $t on home. The wall began to sha e w$th the constant bang$ng, and the screams of the woman got louder and louder. (ose and )l$ce stared $n wonder, as I &ust shoo my head. I could hear Edward moan$ng, and new he was gett$ng close. 7$s sounds were /u$c ly drowned out by h$s fr$end. "That's $t, shag me raw gu*'nor, no hold$n' bac $nn$t= There there, cor bl$mey yes, r$ght there Edd$e' Gordon !ennett that's $t'" )nd w$th one last bang, and one last bl$mey, s$lence fell across the land. (ose and )l$ce loo ed at each other, and (ose sa$d, "7olyH" ",uc $ngH" )l$ce came bac w$th, "+h$t," they sa$d together. ")nd that's why h$s name $s Edward Wallbanger," Wh$le the three of us reco*ered from The 0oc ney, 0l$*e played $n the corner w$th a cotton ball. 0oc ney, I th$n I hate you most of all...

Chapter 4- A Sort Of Home omin! The ne"t few wee s were bl$ssfully /u$et. 6o wallbang$ng, no caterwaul$ng, no span $ng, and no coc ney$ng. Wh$le adm$ttedly 0l$*e was a l$ttle forlorn from t$me to t$me, e*eryth$ng else around the apartment was great. I had f$nally met some of my ne$ghbors, $nclud$ng a great couple that was $n the apartment below me. ,el$" and 9emetr$ were $n the $mportIe"port bus$ness, and we found that we actually new a lot of the same people from w$th$n the des$gn world. They were really sweet, and had l$*ed $n the bu$ld$ng almost as long as Esme had. They remembered her when she was a young upstart des$gner, all p$ss and *$negar, and they del$ghted $n tell$ng me stor$es of her hellcat days, before she met 0arl$sle and settled $nto domest$c$ty. They also ga*e a l$ttle $ns$ght $nto my no$sy, yet myster$ous, ne$ghbor. I had not heard or seen Edward s$nce that last n$ght w$th The 0oc ney, and wh$le I was grateful for the n$ghts of perfect sleep, I adm$t I was cur$ous as to where he had d$sappeared to. ,el$" and 9emetr$ were only too glad to f$ll me $n on the deta$ls. They had been together for so long, they were the $nd of couple that would f$n$sh each other's sentences. They were a hoot. "9arl$ng, wa$t unt$l you see our dear Edward, what a spec$men that boy $s'" ,el$" e"cla$med one n$ght o*er coc ta$ls $n the$r apartment. I had gotten $nto the hab$t after wor on ,r$days of stopp$ng by to ha*e dr$n s w$th them, and found that I really loo ed forward to *$s$t$ng w$th them. "Oh my yes, he $s e"/u$s$te' If only I were a few years younger," 9emetr$ crooned, dramat$cally fann$ng h$mself as ,el$" loo ed o*er h$s !loody %ary at h$m. "If you were a few years younger you would what= #lease, you would ha*e ne*er been Edward's league, he $s f$let wh$le face $t lo*e, you and I are tube stea s." ";ou would now," 9emetr$ cac led, suc $ng po$ntedly on h$s celery stal . "-ad$es, please, tell me about th$s guy. I adm$t, after the show he put on last month I am a l$ttle $ntr$gued to meet the man beh$nd the harem." I had bro en down and told them about h$s late n$ght ant$cs after real$5$ng that unless I d$shed the d$rt, they would not rec$procate. They clung on e*ery word l$ e a fat $d at a buffet. I told them about the lad$es he made the sweet lo*e to, and they f$lled $n a few more blan s. Edward was a freelance photographer, who tra*eled e"tens$*ely all o*er the world. They guessed he was currently on ass$gnment, wh$ch e"pla$ned the good sleep I had been gett$ng. Edward wor ed on ass$gnments for The 9$sco*ery 0hannel, The 0ousteau +oc$ety, 6at$onal Geograph$c, etc. 7e had won awards for h$s wor , and e*en spent some t$me co*er$ng the war $n Ira/ a few years ago. 7e always left h$s car beh$nd when he was tra*el$ng, an old beat up blac (ange (o*er, the real one. -$ e the $nd you would f$nd $n the bush $n )fr$ca, the $nd w$th no top. The $nd people dro*e before the yupp$es got a hold of them. 7e was from the !ay )rea, +tanford educated. !etween what ,el$" and 9emetr$ told me, the car, the &ob, and the $nternat$onal house of orgasms from the other s$de of the wall, I was beg$nn$ng to p$ece together a prof$le of th$s man that I had yet to see. )nd was gett$ng more and more $ntr$gued w$th by the day. On the wor front, th$ngs were go$ng e"ceed$ngly well. We were well on the way at the !lac house, creat$ng an ent$rely new master bedroom. We had found lots of e"tra room by noc $ng down a wall between the ma$n bedroom and a small guest room. (emo*$ng one other wall and consol$dat$ng a closet also ga*e us enough room to double the s$5e of the master bath, add an en su$te s$tt$ng room, and ma e the ent$re space flow. )l$ce came to wor w$th me some days, as she was $n the process of des$gn$ng a new closet system for both Bacob and Bess$ca. Bess$ca wor ed from home mostly on her foundat$ons, and usually would &o$n us for lunch. +he was a /u$c w$t, and I found myself loo $ng forward to the t$me I spent w$th her. +omet$mes her husband would &o$n us, and one day all four of us actually noc ed off wor early to dr$n mart$n$s on the$r roof. They were a great couple, and I was en&oy$ng the new fr$ends I had found $n my cl$ents.

One afternoon, I brought a bunch of t$le samples o*er to choose the coord$nat$ng colors for the shower and the s$n bac splash. The !lac s had g$*en me a ey so I could let myself $n, and I found Bess$ca $n the $tchen. +he was s$tt$ng at the $sland, head $n hands. "7$=" I as ed, the room *ery /u$et. +he started, and acc$dentally noc ed her water glass onto the floor, shatter$ng $nto p$eces. "+h$t'" she cr$ed, and nelt down to beg$n p$c $ng up shards of glass. "7ey, hey settle. -et me help you," I rushed o*er, and nelt down ne"t to her. +he was cry$ng, and I could see she was try$ng to h$de her sn$ffles. "7ey, what $s $t=" I as ed gently, plac$ng my hand on her nee. +he stopped p$c $ng up the glass, and slumped to the floor. Tears were runn$ng down her puffy face. "I'm sorry !ella. I am so embarrassed." "Why= ;ou should see the stuff I brea on a da$ly bas$s. I e*en bro e someth$ng of yours the other day, I &ust d$dn't tell you," I chuc led, try$ng to get her to sm$le. +he laughed a l$ttle, and e"haled hea*$ly, w$p$ng her face w$th the bac of her hand. "+orry about that. ;ou caught me by surpr$se. E*er &ust had one of those days where you now $t w$ll end w$th someth$ng gett$ng bro en=" she as ed, as we ho$sted oursel*es off the floor. +he pulled a broom from the pantry, and I held the dustpan wh$le she swept. ";ep, all the t$me. Wanna tal about $t=" I as ed, loo $ng up at her. "Eh, $t's &ust one of those th$ngs. We want $ds, we can't ha*e $ds, $t suc s," she sa$d matter of factly, ta $ng the dustpan from me and dump$ng the glass $n the trashcan. I stood there, not /u$te sure what to say. "+orry, I now that's not what you want to hear today !ella. I got some news today that I new was com$ng, but $t doesn't ma e $t any eas$er ya now=" "It's o , do you want some tea=" I as ed, mo*$ng o*er to where I new the ettle was. "Why does e*eryone ma e tea when people are upset=" she as ed, laugh$ng a l$ttle as she sat bac down. I set the ettle bac down, and ra$sed an eyebrow at her. "!loody %ary=" I as ed, sm$l$ng a l$ttle. "It's F23A $n the afternoon %$ss Th$ng," she ch$ded, but loo ed $nterested. "Oh hell, you're pay$ng me to be here, $t's your call." "That's true, !loody %ary's all around," she laughed, and pulled the +tol$ from the free5er. We both laughed as we made dr$n s, and spent the afternoon pleasantly sauced as we poured o*er des$gn boo s and chose her t$les. We tal ed as we laughed, and $t turned out that the couple had been try$ng for almost two years to get pregnant. Bess$ca had already had three m$scarr$ages, and they had been wor $ng w$th a fert$l$ty spec$al$st. The news she had gotten today conf$rmed what they had thought all along, that ch$ldren &ust were not go$ng to be $n the cards for them. +he told her story throughout the afternoon and I l$stened and poured when necessary. When Bacob got home, the two of us were s$tt$ng on the floor $n the l$*$ng room laugh$ng hyster$cally. "Well lad$es, I see you $lled the afternoon," he chuc led, remo*$ng h$s &ac et as he wal ed $n. "We totally d$d babe, but we d$d p$c out t$les'" Bess$ca cr$ed from the floor, struggl$ng to get up and stumbled across the floor to h$m. "What the hell d$d you do to my w$fe=" he sm$r ed as he caught her before she sl$pped and fell. "+he was the bartender, I &ust went along w$th $t," I laughed, watch$ng the two of them. 7e had her

t$ny frame tuc ed sol$dly $nto h$s s$de, and she had her arms wrapped around h$m. I felt a tw$nge of en*y pass through me as he pushed her ha$r bac from her face and sm$led down at her. They seemed perfectly su$ted for each other. "O $ds, I am gonna h$t the road. I w$ll stop by tomorrow and ma e sure that we d$dn't p$c out terr$ble stuff today under the $nfluence of %r. J %rs. T," I /u$pped, on my way towards the door. Bess$ca caught me by my hand, and s/uee5ed. "Than s !ella," she sm$led at me, and I sm$led bac . ")bsolutely," I answered, and wal ed towards the door. Bacob followed me out after $ss$ng h$s w$fe on the forehead. ";ou want me to call a cab=" he as ed, loo $ng at me carefully. "6ah, $ts a gorgeous n$ght. I'm gonna wal for a b$t, p$c up a cable car $f I get t$red," I repl$ed. 7e was /u$et for a moment, loo $ng out at the +an ,ranc$sco n$ght from the front porch. "+he got bad news today d$dn't she=" he as ed /u$etly, h$s eyes sad. 7e bro e my heart $n that second, h$s lo*e for her so palpable. "Go ma e her some coffee, she'll be o ," I repl$ed, patt$ng h$m on the shoulder. 7e sm$led t$ghtly and nodded. "+ee ya !ella," he called out to me as I wal ed down the porch steps. "+ee ya Ba e," I answered, and started wal $ng home. I en&oyed my wal , and wh$le $t was a b$t long, the stroll sobered me up. )s I rounded the corner to my apartment, I not$ced that the (ange (o*er was not $n $ts usual place beh$nd the bu$ld$ng. Wh$ch meant $t was out and about. Edward was bac $n +an ,ranc$sco. The ne"t few days were une*entful. I wor ed, I wal ed, I 0l$*ed. I went out w$th my g$rls, I made a $ller 5ucch$n$ bread $n my now well bro en $n @$tchena$d, and I spent t$me research$ng my *acat$on. Each year, I too a wee and went somewhere totally alone. +omewhere random and e"c$t$ng to me, and I always went alone. One year I spent a wee h$ $ng $n ;osem$te. One year I went 5$p l$n$ng through a ra$n forest canopy $n 0osta ($ca. )nother year I spent a wee scuba d$*$ng off the coast of !el$5e. )nd th$s year, I wasn't sure where I was go$ng to go. Go$ng to Europe was gett$ng proh$b$t$*ely e"pens$*e $n th$s economy, so that was out. I was cons$der$ng a tr$p to #eru. I had always want$ng to see %achu #$cchu. The other dest$nat$on on the short l$st was )las a, and spend$ng the wee bac pac $ng $n 9enal$ 6at$onal #ar . I had plenty of t$me to dec$de, but I often found that half the fun was dec$d$ng where I wanted to spend my *acat$on. I also spent an $nord$nate amount of t$me at my peephole. ;es, $t's true. Whene*er I heard a door close, I actually ran to my door. 0l$*e loo ed on w$th a sm$r < he new e"actly what I was up to. 9on't th$n I d$dn't not$ce how h$s ears per ed up though as well e*ery t$me he heard footsteps com$ng up the sta$rs. +martass cat. I st$ll had not seen Wallbanger. One day I got to the peephole $n t$me to see h$m go$ng $nto h$s apartment, but all I was able to see was a blac t.sh$rt and a mess of ha$r. It appeared to be coppery colored, but I was sure that was &ust the l$ght out $n the hallway. Who actually had coppery colored ha$r= )nother t$me I saw the (ange (o*er pull$ng away from the curb &ust as I was com$ng around the corner on my way home from wor . It was go$ng to pass r$ght by, and &ust as I was about to get the f$rst pee at h$m, actually see the man beh$nd the bangbang, I tr$pped and fell and went ass o*er applecart on the s$dewal . -uc $ly ,el$" spotted me and helped me, my bru$sed ego, and my bru$sed bum off the concrete and $ns$de for some !act$ne w$th a wh$s ey chaser. !ut all was /u$et at n$ght. I new he was home, and I could hear h$m occas$onally. ) cha$r leg

mo*$ng across the floor, a /u$et laugh or two. !ut no wallbang$ng, no harem. One n$ght, I was treated to an $mpromptu concert when I fell asleep l$sten$ng to the stra$ns of 9u e Ell$ngton and Glenn %$ller through the walls. %y grandpa used to play h$s old records at n$ghtt$me, and $t was comfort$ng to l$sten to as I fell asleep, 0l$*e curled up at my s$de. The sense of calm and /u$et was too good to last, and the Wallbanger came bac loud and proud a few n$ghts later. ,$rst, I was treated to another round of +pan". +he had once aga$n been a *ery bad g$rl, and certa$nly deser*ed the resound$ng span $ng she rece$*ed. ) span $ng that lasted for almost half an hour, and ended w$th calls for "That's $t !$g 9addy, r$ght there, God yes, r$ght there'" before the actual walls began to sha e. I la$d awa e that n$ght, roll$ng my eyes and gett$ng more and more frustrated as the n$ght went on. The ne"t morn$ng, from my post at the peephole I saw +pan" lea*$ng and got a *ery good loo at her. #$n faced and glow$ng, she was a soft round l$ttle b$t of a g$rl w$th cur*y h$ps and th$ghs, and pac $ng some ser$ous &un $n the trun . +he was short, really short, l$ e )l$ce short, and a l$ttle plump. +he stood on t$ptoes as she $ssed Wallbanger goodbye, and I m$ssed see$ng h$m as I watched her wal away. I mar*eled at h$s taste $n women, she was the total oppos$te of what I had seen of #ur$na, who loo ed l$ e a model. )nt$c$pat$ng that #ur$na was soon up on the roster, the ne"t n$ght I ga*e 0l$*e a soc full of catn$p and a bowlful of tuna. %y hope was that I could get h$m a l$ttle wasted and pass out before the act$on started. It had the oppos$te effect< my boy was ready to party down when the f$rst stra$ns of #ur$na came shr$e $ng through the walls about F2FK $n the morn$ng. If 0l$*e could ha*e put on a m$n$ smo $ng &ac et, he would ha*e. 7e stal ed the room, pac$ng bac and forth $n front of the wall, play$ng $t cool. When #ur$na launched $nto her meows though, he couldn't conta$n h$mself and he launched h$mself at the wall. 7e &umped from n$ghtstand to dresser to shelf, scal$ng p$llows and e*en a lamp to get closer to h$s belo*ed. When he real$5ed he would ne*er be able to burrow under the plaster, he serenaded her w$th some we$rd $nd of $tty !arry Wh$te, h$s yowls and her howls match$ng each others $n $ntens$ty. When the walls began to sha e, and Edward was br$ng$ng $t on home, I was thunderstruc at the way they could ma$nta$n the$r control and focus w$th the rac et that was go$ng on. 0learly, $f we could hear them, they must ha*e been able to hear 0l$*e and all h$s carry$ng on. )lthough $f I was $mpaled on the Wallbanger Wondercoc , I $mag$ne I could compartmental$5e as well... -ater that n$ght they went for round two, and e*ery t$me she sa$d "9a'" I answered her bac $n a bored *o$ce. I was t$red, I was horny w$th no release $n s$ght, and my cat had a L.T$p st$c $ng out of h$s mouth that loo ed fr$ghten$ngly l$ e a t$ny c$garette. The ne"t morn$ng, I dragged my ne$ghborly stal er ass to the peephole for another round of 7aremWatch, and was rewarded th$s morn$ng w$th a br$ef s$de prof$le of Edward as he leaned $n to $ss #ur$na goodbye. It was /u$c , but all I saw was &aw. The &aw was strong. The &aw was def$ned. The &aw was good. 7e ga*e great &aw... The best th$ng about that day was the &aw s$ght$ng. The rest of the day was sh$t. ,$rst there was a problem w$th the general contractor o*er at the !lac house. It would seem that he was not only ta $ng e"tremely long lunch brea s, he was actually bla5$ng $t up $n the$r att$c e*eryday. The whole th$rd floor of the$r house smelled l$ e a 9ead concert. Then an ent$re pallet of t$les for the bathroom floor came $n crac ed and ch$pped. The amount of t$me $t was go$ng to ta e to ha*e another order placed and to arr$*e on s$te was go$ng to set the

ent$re pro&ect bac at least two more wee s, lea*$ng no poss$b$l$ty of f$n$sh$ng on t$me. )ny t$me ma&or construct$on ta es place the pro&ect end date $s always an esti%ated t$me of complet$on. 7owe*er, I had ne*er m$ssed a deadl$ne. I was always able to br$ng my pro&ects $n on t$me, and th$s be$ng such a h$gh prof$le &ob, $t made me *ery warm to real$5e there was noth$ng I could do short of fly$ng to Italy and br$ng$ng bac those t$les my damn self. I had a late lunch w$th (ose that day, meet$ng her at our fa*or$te l$ttle m$d day haunt, 7ar*est and (oe. It was close to the des$gn center, and had the best made to order salads $n the c$ty. It was usually pac ed, but s$nce we were there around 123A, we got r$ght $n. "+o what $s the latest w$th Wallbanger, has he brought home any gyps$es yet= Or an )rgent$nean cowg$rl=" she as ed, as she crunched down on a p$ece of celery. "Oh God. Th$ngs were /u$et for a wh$le, but now the orgasms ha*e begun aga$n, full t$me. )lthough he seems to st$c w$th h$s regular ch$c ens. The 0oc ney hasn't made an appearance yet, but I am &ust wa$t$ng for $t any day now. I e*en watched %ary #opp$ns the other n$ght gett$ng ready for the assault," I s$ghed, d$gg$ng through my salad to get to all the good stuff at the bottom. Why d$d I e*en bother gett$ng lettuce when clearly all I wanted was the a*ocado and the #armesan cheese= )nd the croutons. )nd the hearts of palm. )nd the... "7ey, eyes up here sledge. 7a*e you met h$m yet=" (ose $nterrupted my salad re*er$e. "6ope. )lthough I d$d f$nally get a t$ny pee at h$m th$s morn$ng as #ur$na was ta $ng her lea*e of h$m," I repl$ed, suc $ng on an art$cho e heart. ")nd=" "I only saw the prof$le, but the &aw was pretty hardcore," I answered, th$n $ng of the way $t clenched when he leaned $n to $ss h$s (uss$an $tten goodbye. I s$pped my #ellegr$no, th$n $ng bac to th$s morn$ng. "!ella +wan, loo at you blush," she cr$ed, and I loo ed down at my nap $n. "+hut $t," I $ns$sted, feel$ng my chee s grow e*en warmer. ";ou ha*e a crush on your manwhore of a ne$ghbor that you ha*en't e*en seen yet' 7ow thoroughly fuc ed up," she teased. "+er$ously, shut your pretty mouth. )ll I saw was the s$de of h$s face, who nows what the other s$de loo s l$ e. Th$s could be a +loth s$tuat$on ya now," I frowned, not bel$e*$ng $t for a second. The same God that ga*e th$s guy the power to ma e a woman meow $s also the same God that would ma e h$m s$nfully cute. "+ure, sure, whate*er +wan. ;ou are so screwed." )fter lunch I made my way bac towards wor , stopp$ng $n at store to loo at some new h$ $ng boots. I had made plans w$th a fr$end I attended !er eley w$th to go h$ $ng o*er $n the %ar$n headlands th$s wee end. I was chec $ng out the d$fferent select$ons, when I felt a warm breath $n my ear that I $nst$nct$*ely fl$nched aga$nst. "7ey you," I heard, and I fro5e $n terror. ,lashbac s poured o*er me, and I saw spots. I felt cold and hot at the same t$me, and my *$s$on wa*ered $n and out. The s$ngle most horr$fy$ng e"per$ence of my l$fe passed $n front of my eyes, and I closed $n to try and stop the onslaught of $mages that threatened to ma e me pass out. I turned and saw... %$ e ,uc $ng 6ewton. I may ha*e *om$ted a l$ttle $n my mouth. "!ella +wan, loo $n' good $n the ne$ghborhood," he crooned, channel$ng h$s $nner Tom Bones. I swallowed bac b$le, and struggled to eep my composure. "%$ e, good to see you. 7ow are you=" I managed.

"0an't compla$n, &ust tour$ng stores for the old man. 7ow are you= 7ow $s the decorat$ng bus$ness treat$ng you=" "9es$gn bus$ness, and $t's good. In fact, I was &ust on my way bac to wor so $f you'll e"cuse me," I sputtered, beg$nn$ng to push past h$m. "7ey, no rush pretty th$ng. 9$d you want to buy those shoes= I can get you a d$scount, how does f$*e percent off sound to you=" he sa$d. If $t was poss$ble for a *o$ce to swagger, h$s d$d. "Wow, f$*e percent. )s much as that does sweeten the pot, I am gonna pass," I chuc led. "+o !ella, when can I see you aga$n= That n$ght, damn. It was pretty fuc $ng great huh=" he w$n ed, and my s $n begged me to tear $t from my body and throw $t at h$m. "6o. 6o %$ e. )nd hell no." I got out, the b$le r$s$ng aga$n. ,lashes of $n and out and $n and out and $n and out. %y hoohah was beg$nn$ng to shr$e $n $ts own defense. Granted, the two of us were not on great terms as of late, but ne*ertheless I new how afra$d my *a&ay&ay was of be$ng sub&ected to the &ac rabb$t aga$n. 6ot on my watch. "Oh come on baby, let's ma e some mag$c aga$n," he cooed. 7e leaned $n, and I could tell he had sausage for lunch. "%$ e, you should now I am about to *om$t on your shoes, so bac the fuc up," 7e blanched and pulled bac . ")nd I would rather sew my head to the carpet that ma e some mag$c w$th you aga$n. ;ou and me and your f$*e percent d$scount, not go$ng to happen. !ye bye now," I sa$d through clenched teeth, and turned and stal ed out of the store. %y bro en hoohah and I h$ ed bac to wor , angry and alone. 6o t$les, no shoes, no man, and no O. %other fuc . I spent the n$ght on the couch, $n a fun . I d$dn't answer the phone. I d$dn't ma e d$nner. I ate Tha$ from the ta eout conta$ner and growled bac at 0l$*e when he tr$ed to snea a shr$mp. 7e flounced to the corner and glared at me from under the cha$r. I told h$m to fuc off. I watched !arefoot 0ontessa. Wh$ch usually cheered me up. Ton$ght I watched her ma e ,rench On$on +oup and then ta e $t to the beach for lunch w$th Beffrey. 6ormally, watch$ng the two of them made me all warm and fu55y $ns$de. They were so cute. Ton$ght they made me nauseous. I wanted to be s$tt$ng on the beach $n +outh 7ampton, wrapped $n a blan et eat$ng soup w$th Beffrey. Well not Beffrey per se, but a Beffrey e/u$*alent. %y own Beffrey. ,uc $ng Beffrey. ,uc $ng !arefoot 0ontessa. ,uc $ng lonely ta eout. I heard footsteps on the sta$rs, two sets. I was too p$ssy to drag myself to the peephole. When I d$dn't hear anyth$ng for a wh$le, I breathed a s$gh of rel$ef. I was not $n the mood for any wall bang$ng ton$ght. ) few hours later, I dragged my sad sac self bac to my bedroom. I went to ta e out my p&'s, and real$5ed that I had not done any laundry. I dug around $n my &amm$es drawer, loo $ng for someth$ng, anyth$ng. I had plenty of se"y l$ttle numbers, bac $n the day when me and the O were on the same page. I grumbled and fumed, and f$nally pulled a p$n baby doll n$ght$e out. It was fr$lly and sweet, and wh$le I used to lo*e to sleep $n beaut$ful l$nger$e, now I hated $t. It was a phys$cal rem$nder of my m$ss$ng O. )lthough, $t had been a wh$le s$nce I had attempted to contact her. %aybe ton$ght would be the n$ght. I was certa$nly tense, and no one could use the release more than me. I closed the door on 0l$*e. I d$dn't need anyone watch$ng th$s. I turned on some mus$c, ton$ght I needed all the help I could get. I went I6M+. %$chael 7utchence always got me close.

I cl$mbed $nto bed, arrang$ng the p$llows beh$nd me and sl$pp$ng between the sheets. Wear$ng the t$ny n$ght$e, my legs sl$d along the cool cotton. There $s noth$ng l$ e the feel$ng of freshly sha*en legs on clean sheets. I closed my eyes, and tr$ed to slow my breath$ng. The last few t$mes I had attempted to f$nd the O, I was so thoroughly frustrated by the end I was near tears. Ton$ght, I began w$th the usual fantasy roundup. I started w$th a l$ttle 0atalano, allow$ng my hands to sl$p up under the bottom of my n$ght$e and beg$n to come up to my breasts. )s I thought of Bordan 0atalano, $ss$ng )ngela 0hase $n the basement of the school, I $mag$ned $t was me. I felt h$s $sses th$c and hea*y on my l$ps, and $t became h$s hands sl$d$ng up my s $n towards my n$pples. )s myIBordan's f$ngers began to massage my n$pples, I felt that fam$l$ar tug low $n my tummy, gett$ng warm all o*er. W$th my eyes closed, the $mage changed and now $t was Bason !ourneI%att 9amon that was attac $ng my s $n. W$th the two of us on the run from the go*ernment, $t was all we could do to stay connected. %yIBason's f$ngers tra$led l$ghtly down my belly, sl$d$ng $ns$de my match$ng pant$es. I could feel that $t was wor $ng, my touch was wa $ng someth$ng, st$rr$ng someth$ng $ns$de. I gasped out loud when I felt how ready I was for Bason, and for Bordan. Besus, the thought of the two of them together, wor $ng to br$ng bac the O made me actually tw$tch. I moaned, and then went for the b$g guns. I went 0looney. ,lashes of 0looney came to me, as my f$ngers teased and tw$rled, tw$sted and taunted. 9anny Ocean... George from ,acts Of -$fe... )nd then I went for $t. 9r. (oss. Th$rd season of E(, after the 0aesar ha$rcut had been rect$f$ed. %mmm... I moaned and groaned as I could feel myself gett$ng wetter and wetter. It was wor $ng< I was actually gett$ng really turned on. I rolled onto my s$de, hand between my legs as I saw 9r. (oss neel$ng before me. 7e l$c ed h$s l$ps, and as ed me when was the last t$me anyone had made me scream. 9r. (oss, you ha*e no $dea. %a e me scream 9r. (oss, ma e me scream. !eh$nd t$ghtly closed eyes, I saw h$m lean$ng towards me, h$s mouth gett$ng closer and closer to me. 7e was gently press$ng my nees further apart, plac$ng $sses on the $ns$de of each th$gh. I could actually feel h$s breath on my legs, ma $ng me sh$*er. 7$s mouth opened, and that perfect 0looney tongue fl$c ered out to taste me. Thump. "Oh God," Thump Thump. "Oh God," 6o. 6o. 6o' "!ombay duc me 'ard'"

I could not bel$e*e $t. E*en 9r. (oss loo ed confused. ";ou better fuc me so 'ard I feel your alberts '$tt$n' me throat'" I groaned as I felt 9r (oss lea*$ng me. I was wet, I was frustrated, and I now hated %ary #opp$ns. &o, don't lea"e %e 'r (oss, not !ou) "That's $t' That's $t' ,uuuuuc I'm gonna tweedle'" The walls began to sha e, and the bang$ng began. That's $t. 6ow I'm gonna $c some ass... I scrambled to my feet, The 0atalano and The !ourne and The E*er -o*$ng 0looney fad$ng away $n w$sps of testosterone laden smo e. I threw bac the co*ers and stal ed out of my bedroom. 0l$*e started to reproach me for shutt$ng the door on h$m, but when he saw my face he w$sely let me pass. I thumped to my front door, my heels pound$ng $nto the hardwood floor. I was beyond angry. I was l$*$d. I had been so close. The 0oc ney was go$ng to bloody well pay. In actual blood preferably. I opened the door w$th the strength of a thousand angry O's, den$ed release for centur$es. I crossed the land$ng /u$c ly, and began to pound on the door. I pounded hard and low, l$ e 0looney had been about to pound $nto me. I pounded aga$n and aga$n, ne*er relent$ng, ne*er lett$ng up. I could hear feet slapp$ng towards the door, but st$ll I d$dn't let up. I cont$nued to pound and bang, the frustrat$on of the day and the wee and the months w$thout an O unleash$ng $tself $n a se"ual t$rade the l$ es of wh$ch no one had e*er seen. I heard loc s rattl$ng and cha$ns com$ng undone, but st$ll I banged. I began to yell. "Open th$s door you mother fuc $ng asshole or I w$ll come through the wall'" "Ta e $t easy, /u$t that bang$ng..." I heard Edward say from the other s$de of the door. 6$ce cho$ce of words. The door swung open and I stared. There he was. Edward Wallbanger. +$lhouetted by soft l$ght from beh$nd, one hand was on the door. The other hand was hold$ng a wh$te sheet around h$s h$ps. I loo ed at h$m from top to bottom, my hand st$ll the a$r and clenched $nto a f$st. %y hand was puls$ng I had been bang$ng so hard. 7$s ha$r was stand$ng stra$ght up, l$ ely from The 0oc ney's hands be$ng bur$ed $n $t as he plowed $nto her. 7$s eyes were bla5$ng green, chee bones &ust as strong as the &aw. @$ss swollen l$ps, and what loo ed l$ e about three days worth of scruff. Besus, there was scruff. 7ow had I m$ssed that th$s morn$ng= I ga5ed down h$s long lean body. 7e was breath$ng hea*y, and h$s chest rose and fell under h$s hea*y pant$ng. 7$s s $n was coated $n a th$n sheen of se" sweat, and as my eyes tra*eled down further I saw that he had a smatter$ng of auburn colored ha$r low on h$s torso, lead$ng below the sheet. !elow the se" :. 7e was stunn$ng. Of course he was stunn$ng. )nd why d$d there ha*e to be scruff = I $nad*ertently gasped as my ga5e went further than I had $n$t$ally $ntended. %y eyes were drawn, l$ e a magnet, lower and lower. !elow the sheet, wh$ch was already lower on h$s h$ps than should be legal. He "as

Still Har#...

Chapter $-%a#& "ith A Spinnin! Hea# '(O) "Oh God." Thump "Oh God." Thump Thump +he was surround$ng me. I could feel her bac arch$ng under me and her breasts press$ng aga$nst my chest, reach$ng to meet my e*ery thrust. 7er legs were wrapped sol$dly around me, heels d$gg$ng $nto the bac s of my th$ghs. +he f$lled e*ery one of my senses. 7er touch, her s $n sl$d$ng under m$ne, warm and sl$ppery from the persp$rat$on outl$n$ng her cur*es. 7er scent, that secret female scent that I was pr$*y to, was heady and th$c around us. 7er taste was st$ll th$c on my tongue, sweet and salt and woman. 7er face below me was beaut$ful. There was noth$ng more ama5$ng $n my world than the s$ght of a woman com$ng undone. To see th$s strong woman &ust before she came, to now that I had brought her there was a s$ght that I could ne*er l$*e w$thout. 7er sounds= Well, she was un$/ue... "That's $t' That's $t' ,uuuuuuc , I'm gonna tweedle'" I s$lently sm$led as I heard her. +he was her own woman, and made no apolog$es. I dro*e $nto her hard, fast and fur$ous. I too my pleasure as she too hers, feel$ng her com$ng all around me. +he screamed through her orgasm, wrestl$ng underneath me. I was close< I could feel $t bu$ld$ng from down low, *ery low. I met her eyes, and she w$n ed at me. +he was always so /u$et and so sweet after she came, but cont$nued to meet my feroc$ty and dr$*e me on, towards my own release. I rose up as she wrapped her legs more f$rmly around me. 7er hands ran up and down my bac as I grabbed onto the $ron headboard, g$*$ng me le*erage as I pressed $nto her body more fully. I roc ed bac and forth o*er her, star$ng down at her as I felt the groans lea*$ng my l$ps as I ga*e $n. +o close... +o fuc $ng close... *A+, *A+, *A+, What the fuc = I fro5e, per$lously close to com$ng but shoc ed $nto st$llness. *A+, *A+, *A+, I loo ed down as we stared at each other. +he shrugged, and I coc ed an eyebrow at her. ";ou suddenly get a &ealous husband that I don't now about=" I as ed. +he rolled her eyes at me. (eluctantly, I slowly sl$pped out of her, feel$ng her w$nce as I left her and feel$ng my own coc protest at the absence of g$rl. 7e wa*ed angr$ly $n the a$r, and longed to d$*e bac $n. I new how he felt. I started towards the door, wrapp$ng the sheet that had fallen on the floor around my wa$st. I loo ed o*er my shoulder at the bed, where a gorgeous woman wa*ed l$ghtly at me as she rolled o*er, show$ng me her bac s$de. Besus... I s$ghed and began to ma e my way towards the front door. Whoe*er was there was now bang$ng relentlessly, not stopp$ng at all. I cons$dered br$efly grabb$ng the po er from the f$replace to br$ng

w$th me, but dec$ded aga$nst $t. I began to undo the loc s, and was about to sl$p the cha$n out when I heard a woman's *o$ce scream, "Open th$s door you mother fuc $ng asshole or I w$ll come through the wall'" Oh for the lo*e of all that $s holy... "Ta e $t easy, /u$t that bang$ng," I muttered, as she cont$nued her assault on the door. I swung the door open and stared $nto the face of an angry woman. 7er hand was st$ll $n the a$r, clenched $nto a f$st as she cont$nued to bang, e*en though the door had been remo*ed from her path. +he was breath$ng hard, her chest hea*$ng as she loo ed me up and down. I rested one hand on the door as I stared bac at her. I watched as her face dropped down, loo $ng at my frame w$thout any s$gn of modesty. I not$ced the door to the apartment across the land$ng was w$de open, and a cat was pee $ng around the door at me cur$ously. 7mmm, new ne$ghbor. Wh$le her eyes were down, I too the opportun$ty to appra$se her as well. 7er ha$r was messy and rumpled, espec$ally $n the bac . The color was h$gh $n her chee s, and spread down her nec . That's when I not$ced $t. #$n ... #$n !aby 9oll... #$n !aby 9oll 6$ght$e... Besus, why d$d $t ha*e to be p$n = I heard her gasp sl$ghtly, and I saw where she was loo $ng. %y coc was st$ll hard, and now $ne"pl$cably was stra$n$ng towards her. I sm$r ed sl$ghtly, and as her eyes tra*eled bac up to meet m$ne, I wa$ted for her to spea . In h$nds$ght...I could ha*e done w$thout her spea $ng. +he had a mouth on her th$s one... ";ou're a d$c ." "6o, you're a d$c '" "%e= ;ou're a total d$c '" I s$ghed and loo ed at my two fr$ends, taunt$ng each other l$ e a pa$r of fourth graders. I p$c ed up my gear and threw $t $n the bac of the (o*er. "G$rls, you're both pretty. 6ow get $n the fuc $ng car before I lea*e you here to f$ght $t out," I groaned sweetly at Basper and Emmett as they scrambled o*er the last beer $n the cooler. Watch$ng as the two cont$nued to fuss, I reached o*er the bac seat to the second cooler I had stashed there and dangled a cold @$ll$an's w$th$n reach of Emmett. "6$ce %asen, *ery n$ce," he wh$stled apprec$at$*ely and grabbed at the beer, lea*$ng Basper the other they had been s/uabbl$ng o*er. I nodded and rolled my eyes at the two and then began to peel off the top of my wet su$t. W$ndsurf$ng $n the bay on the wee ends had been someth$ng the three of us had been do$ng s$nce college, weather perm$tt$ng. Today had been a great day to be out on the water, cold and clear. !ac on the beach, the bree5e was not as strong and as the sun beat down $t was f$nally warm enough to start wr$ggl$ng out of the wet su$ts that were wholly necessary when $n the water. )s the other two followed...well...su$t, we were soon all perched on the bac bumper of the (ange (o*er watch$ng the other surfers $n the water and en&oy$ng the day. W$th all the tra*el$ng I had been

do$ng lately, $t was a rare day when all three of us could get together. Esually when I was $n the c$ty we would head out on the town or catch a game. Emmett was a sportscaster for the local 6!0 aff$l$ate and always got us great seats for the G$ants or the CNers. Wh$le we were gett$ng more comfortable, a group of g$rls settled themsel*es on a blan et nearby. We all d$d what men do. We ogled. )s they arranged themsel*es, Basper brought our attent$on bac to our con*ersat$on when he as ed me how my last ass$gnment had gone. "It was good, great weather and got all the shots I needed," I answered. I had recently returned from a tr$p to the Galapagos. !e$ng a h$ghly sought after photographer that spec$al$5ed $n e"ot$c locat$ons and an$mal stud$es made $t poss$ble for me to p$c and choose the ass$gnments that I was really $nterested $n. When the 9$sco*ery 0hannel, w$th whom I had en&oyed a great wor $ng relat$onsh$p for years, called and as ed me to part$c$pate $n a study on the effects of Eco.tour$sm on a place l$ e the Galapagos I &umped at the chance. I had been there once before, wor $ng on the !lue #lanet ser$es and I had been an"$ous to get bac . #laces l$ e that, where nature was close enough to reach out and touch, made my &ob the best &ob $n the world. In my humble op$n$on. "+o d$d you r$de on the turtles=" Emmett as ed, t$pp$ng bac h$s beer and dra$n$ng half the bottle $n a s$ngle draught. Basper and I scoffed at h$m, h$s w$de eyes loo $ng bac at us. "It's not a theme par ass, you don't r$de the turtles. )nd they are torto$se, not turtles," I ch$ded h$m, t$pp$ng bac my own beer. "Turtles, torto$ses, they ha*e the fuc $ng shells' )nd I now I ha*e seen p$ctures of people r$d$ng around on them so suc $t %asen," he f$red bac . 7e stood up to stretch and I heard the group of g$rls gasp a l$ttle. 7e had been recogn$5ed. Emmett was a *ery h$gh prof$le man about town. !e$ng on T: e*ery n$ght def$n$tely had $ts per s when $t came to dat$ng. 7e was st$ll bu$lt l$ e the l$nebac er he had been at +tanford, and he got plenty of attent$on from the fa$rer se". 7e was subtle $n h$s approach, but lethal when he 5eroed $n a female. "The two spec$es are d$st$nctly d$fferent, you should try watch$ng one of the spec$als that Edd$e here has wor ed on once $n awh$le," Basper ch$med $n, stand$ng up as well and shoot$ng a glance o*er towards !each !lan et !$ngo. I had been watch$ng Basper and h$s women trapp$ng ways s$nce we all pledged the same fratern$ty freshmen year of college. 7e was a br$ll$ant guy, and what I had been told by countless women o*er the years was that the "boo $sh nerd" th$ng was apparently damn near $rres$st$ble. I &ust saw the nerd. "I watch all of h$s spec$als ya &ac .off, now $f you w$ll e"cuse me," Emmett shot o*er h$s shoulder as he sauntered $n the d$rect$on of the g$ggl$ng g$rls. We watched as he sat down w$th them, someth$ng about 6!0 float$ng bac o*er the sand towards us. I rolled my eyes and settled bac further $nto the (o*er. "+o how are the lad$es= 6arrow$ng them down at all=" Basper as ed, grabb$ng another beer and s$tt$ng down $n the fold up cha$r that he had pulled out of the bac of h$s car. "The lad$es are good, no compla$nts," I answered as I s$pped. Basper and Emmett new all about the three lad$es I saw whene*er I was $n town. They couldn't /u$te understand how I managed to eep all three at the same t$me and ha*e them not hate each other. I st$ll wondered about that myself from t$me to t$me. I had been dat$ng @ate on and off for years whene*er I was $n town. +he was del$ghtful. +oft and smooth, t$ny and plump $n all the r$ght places. +he was all round cur*es and s$nfully decadent s $n. +he also l$ ed $t /u$te rough, someth$ng you would ne*er guess to loo at her. +he and I attempted to ha*e a regular relat$onsh$p when I was f$rst out of college but we both wanted d$fferent th$ngs and e*entually we dr$fted apart. ) chance encounter at a coffee shop a few years ago, and a fantast$c afternoon $n bed changed all that and we morphed $nto what we were now.

Ir$na was the ne"t to ma e an appearance. I met her when I was shoot$ng $n #rague one w$nter. I ne*er wor ed $n fash$on photography, but I was as ed to part$c$pate $n spec$al shoot where nature and act$on photographers lent the$r talents to the fash$on world and that $s how we met. +he was wonderfully e"ot$c. (uss$an born and #ar$s educated, she was also $nsat$able. We had spent a na ed wee end at a house on the outs $rts of the 05ech c$ty, and when she mo*ed states$de we began to see each other whene*er we were $n the same place. +he had f$nally relocated to +an ,ranc$sco last year when she went bac to school to get her masters, as her model$ng career was beg$nn$ng to slow down. The $dea that someone as beaut$ful as Ir$na could be at the ta$l end of her career at 1K was beyond me, but she was e"ceed$ngly smart and was refocus$ng $n an academ$c sense. I l$ ed her body and her m$nd, and her purr espec$ally. Then there was Tanya. That g$rl was a tr$p. I had met her $n a dar bar $n -ondon late one n$ght. +he was rude, crude, and loud. )nd she was cra5y $n bed. +he new e"actly what she wanted, and she as ed for $t. ;elled for $t more l$ e $t usually, and I cra*ed her the way an add$ct cra*ed that ne"t h$t. !ad for you sure, but what a r$de wh$le $t lasted. I had se*eral trad$t$onal relat$onsh$ps w$th women o*er the years, all of wh$ch ended badly. W$th my schedule be$ng so cra5y $t was *ery d$ff$cult for me to be $n*ol*ed w$th anyone that that needed me to be someth$ng that I was not. I would ne*er ha*e a N.K &ob. I would ne*er carry a br$efcase. I would ne*er dr$*e a :ol*o. )nd wh$le I was not aga$nst marr$age, I found $t hard to bel$e*e that I would e*er want to enter $nto that $nst$tut$on. )ll three of the women I was $n*ol*ed w$th understood that and understood me. I adored them all, and they ne*er as ed me to change for them. These were relat$onsh$ps based on mutual pleasure, and I was *ery luc y that th$ngs had wor ed as well as they had for as long as they had. They all new about each other, and we were all O@ w$th the way we rolled. They each brought someth$ng to my l$fe that I needed. It would be tempt$ng $f you were on the outs$de of th$s to character$5e $t s$mply about the se", but $t was much more than that. I cared about these women, and $n turn they cared for me. I could br$ng them someth$ng that they were not gett$ng elsewhere $n the$r l$*es. )nd when I made $t home, from somewhere far away they were a soft place to land. Or a purr$ng place to land. Or a 0oc ney place to land... )lthough the last t$me I was w$th Tanya, th$ngs had not gone accord$ng to plan. Bust as th$ngs were gett$ng really hot and hea*y, we were $nterrupted by my ne$ghbor. %y doorbang$ng ne$ghbor. %y p$n n$ght$e wear$ng doorbang$ng ne$ghbor. %y p$n n$ght$e wear$ng, legs as long as the Golden Gate !r$dge, breasts that made me want to weep, $nfur$at$ng, $nsane, tantal$5$ng, angry, e"tremely gorgeous doorbang$ng ne$ghbor. It had been two n$ghts s$nce she banged on my door, and the $mage of her $n that p$n n$ght$e st$ll flashed $n my bra$n. !ut the words she sa$d st$ll clanged around as well. "I st$ll don't see how you manage that, how do they not $ll you=" Basper &o ed, br$ng$ng me bac to the present. "E*eryth$ng $s cool $n %asen -and, lea*e $t at that," I w$n ed and stood to wal o*er to where Emmett was st$ll tal $ng to the blan et lad$es. It seemed o"ymoron$cal for someone currently sleep$ng w$th three woman at the same t$me, but I was fa$thful. I certa$nly loo ed at other women, but s$nce I was not loo $ng for anyth$ng romant$c, I would en&oy but I ne*er touched. Basper loped along beh$nd me and we sun down onto the blan et &ust $n t$me to hear Emmett tell$ng the g$rls how he could get them t$c ets for the ne"t t$me the G$ants were $n town. I laughed as I heard the same p$c up l$ne he had been us$ng for years. It always fuc $ng wor ed. -ater that afternoon I was sort$ng through laundry and toy$ng w$th the $dea of go$ng for a run when I heard a tentat$*e noc on the door. I wal ed through the apartment, shrugg$ng $nto a t.sh$rt as I went. I wasn't e"pect$ng anyone, and I hadn't been ma $ng any no$se so $t certa$nly couldn't be The 0oc bloc er.

I opened the door to f$nd @ate, loo $ng l$ e she had the we$ght of the world on her shoulders. 7er eyes were red and puffy and she had a g$ant wad of crumpled @leene" $n her hand. "7ey babe, what's wrong=" I as ed gently, ta $ng her arm and pull$ng her $ns$de. +he let me lead her to the couch, and when I sat down bes$de her she collapsed aga$nst me. +he lay her head on my shoulder, and I let her. We were /u$et for a few moments. +he &ust sat and let me rub c$rcles on her arm unt$l she was ready to spea . I cuddled her closer to me, and pressed a $ss down on the top of her head. +he s$ghed, and loo ed up at me. "It's )ngela," she sn$ffled. "What about her=" I as ed, brush$ng her ha$r bac from her face. "I had to put her down today," she cr$ed, and bro e $nto a fresh wa*e of tears. When I f$rst met @ate bac at +tanford she had &ust adopted the ugl$est mutt I had e*er seen. )t the t$me I thought $t was hyster$cal that she named a dog )ngela, but the l$ttle dog grew on me. )fter we reconnected, @ate had $nformed me that )ngela was st$ll go$ng strong, although now that she was a b$t older she had slowed down /u$te a b$t. Then the last few wee s, she had gotten more and more s$c . I new what was com$ng, and had tr$ed to be there for @ate. I hugged her t$ghtly and soothed her as best I could. ")w @at$e, why d$dn't you call me= I would ha*e gone w$th you, you shouldn't ha*e gone by yourself," I wh$spered $n her ear, feel$ng her tears wett$ng the front of my t.sh$rt. "I wasn't alone. Garrett went w$th me," she sa$d, her *o$ce muffled $n my shoulder. "+weet$e, who's Garrett=" I as ed, as she began to pull herself together. "I told you about h$m, d$dn't I= 7e wor s $n the off$ce ne"t to m$ne, he's fr$ends w$th some of the guys I wor w$th," she sa$d, blow$ng her nose loudly as I groaned. "+hut up. I ha*e to blow my nose," she s$ghed, roll$ng her eyes at me and beg$nn$ng to sm$le. I sm$led bac , and helped her sweep her ha$r bac . "I now, I now, blow away," I answered. "!oy $f I had a n$c el for e*ery t$me you sa$d that," she &o ed, and then she laughed. One of those e"hausted $f.I.don't.laugh.I.w$ll.cry.aga$n laughs that &ust brea s your heart. I went to get her a bottle of water, and when I came bac $nto the room she was stand$ng at the w$ndow, loo $ng outs$de at the courtyard beh$nd the bu$ld$ng. I came up beh$nd her and stood, rest$ng my ch$n on the top of her head and sl$pp$ng my arms around her wa$st. I hugged her close as she rela"ed $n my arms. "Than s Edward, I needed some hugs," she sa$d softly, lean$ng bac aga$nst me. "That's what I'm here for babe," I repl$ed. +he g$ggled and po$nted out the w$ndow. I followed her ga5e, and saw a brunette struggl$ng w$th the dumpster beh$nd the bu$ld$ng. W$th a few cho$ce words, and loud grunt, she got $t open and threw her trash $n. We both chuc led as we heard the words 'asshole dumpster' float up to us. The brunette turned around to head bac $ns$de, and I saw her face. #$n 6$ght$e G$rl. @ate ended up stay$ng for d$nner and when she left I wal ed her to the door. "Than s for lett$ng me come o*er Edward," she sa$d, turn$ng $n the doorway. "Well, you $nda &ust showed up here. ;ou d$dn't lea*e much cho$ce," I &o ed, ruffl$ng her ha$r. ")ss," she ch$ded, elbow$ng me $n the r$bs.

";ou now you are welcome anyt$me. I'm glad you came @at$e," I sa$d, lean$ng $n to g$*e her a /u$c pec on the l$ps. I adored her, and I w$shed I could ma e th$s better. Bust as I was pull$ng away, the door across the land$ng opened, and my ne$ghbor started to come out $nto the hallway. +he too one loo at us, rolled her eyes, and flounced bac $ns$de her apartment. "What the hell $s her problem=" @ate as ed, turn$ng bac to me. "That would be my new ne$ghbor, and she has se*eral problems. 9on't worry about $t, I'll call you tomorrow and chec $n, O@=" I as ed. ";es please, when are you lea*$ng aga$n=" she as ed. "I'm head$ng out on an ass$gnment $n two wee s to Ireland, I'll be gone almost a month th$s t$me." "Well you ma e sure I get some t$me w$th you before you lea*e. I ha*e to send my boy off happy," she sa$d, her eyes tw$n l$ng. "That $s a prom$se, sassy, now go get some sleep," I w$n ed, g$*$ng her a l$ttle swat on the bottom as she headed down the sta$rs. +he blew me a $ss as she rounded the corner and was gone. I glared at the door across the hall, and slammed bac $nto my apartment. 9oorbanger... Bust before I turned $n that n$ght I got a call from one of my fa*or$te people on the planet. "%r. 0ullen, to what to I owe the pleasure=" I sa$d, $n a ser$ous *o$ce when I answered the phone. ")h young %r. %asen, you are st$ll awa e. I wasn't sure $f you would st$ll be up," 0arl$sle repl$ed. "I'm up, although not for much longer. What can I do ya for=" I yawned, eyeball$ng my bed $n the ne"t room. Tra*el$ng as much as I d$d, I rel$shed $n a good n$ght's sleep $n my own bed. "Wanted to ma e sure you would be $n town ne"t wee end for the housewarm$ng." "9$d you two f$nally get that house f$n$shed= 7ow many years ha*e you been wor $ng on $t=" I as ed. 0arl$sle and h$s f$ancG had been reno*at$ng a house $n +ausal$to fore*er $t seemed. "Too long, but you now Esme. +he l$ es e*eryth$ng to be perfect. +o ne"t +aturday n$ght, w$ll you be $n town=" ";ep, count me $n." ")nd br$ng your boys, they are always fun for a laugh." "I w$ll, they lo*e a chance to h$t on your f$ancG." "9on't I now $t' +ecretly, I th$n Esme lo*es $t too. )nd g$*e me a call th$s wee some t$me, I want to go o*er your portfol$o. I mo*ed some th$ngs around, I th$n you'll be pleased." "9o what you want, I trust you." "I now you do, I could be robb$ng you bl$nd $d," he laughed. "Well $f you are, &ust don't tell me about $t," I laughed bac . 0arl$sle had my best $nterests at heart, he always had. ";eah yeah, but call me anyway. ;ou can buy me lunch." "%a e $t a dr$n and you're on." "6ow you're tal $ng." We tal ed for a few more m$nutes and when we hung up I headed bac towards the bedroom. )s I cl$mbed $n bed, I heard someth$ng on the other s$de of the wall. )s I l$stened, I could hear a cat meow$ng, and then a soft *o$ce tal $ng bac ,

";es, I now, you are a good boy 0l$*e...than you for br$ng$ng me my soc ...yes, you $lled the soc ...good l$ttle hunter." I rolled my eyes as I thought about my ne$ghbor. 0at people were so we$rd. The scene she made $n the hallway the n$ght she banged on my door ept runn$ng through my m$nd. Once she stopped staring at %! package, she finall! opened her %outh to speak. *&ow look here %ister, do !ou ha"e an! idea how loud !ou and !our little 'oolittle are? + can't fucking sleep) +f + ha"e to listen to one %ore night, one %ore minute in fact of !ou and !our hare% #anging awa! on %! wall, + will go insane)* ,he was !elling so forcefull!, + could feel her #reath hitting %! face. *-ust settle down. +t can't #e that #ad, these walls are prett! thick,* + s%iled, pu%ping %! fist against the doorfra%e and tr!ing to unleash a little char%. *Are !ou out of !our %ind? he walls are not nearl! as thick as !our head, + can hear e"er!thing) E"er! spank, e"er! %eow, e"er! gu"'nah, and + ha"e had it) his shit ends now)* she !elled #ack, her face turning al%ost purple in her fur!. ,he had e"en used air .uotes to e%phasize the spank, %eow and gu"'nah. ,he was %outhing off a#out %! girls, and now + was getting pissed. */e!, that's a#out enough) What + do in %! ho%e is %! #usiness. +'% sorr! if + distur#ed !ou, #ut !ou can't just co%e o"er here in the %iddle of the night and dictate what + can and can't do) 0ou don't see %e co%ing across the hall and #anging on !our door telling !ou to .uiet down.* *&o, !ou just #ang on %! fucking wall. We share a #edroo% wall %an, !ou are right up against %e when + a% tr!ing to sleep...ha"e so%e co%%on courtes!.* *Well how co%e !ou can hear %e and + can't hear !ou? Wait, wait, + know...cuz there ain't no#od! #angin on !our walls now is there?* + s%irked, and watched the color drain fro% her face. ,he crossed her ar%s tightl! across her chest, and as she looked down, she realized what she was wearing. + let %! own e!es drift #ack down her #od!, taking in the pink and the lace and the wa! her hip was jutting out as she tapped her foot angril!. M! e!es ca%e #ack up to hers, and + saw the anger flashing in her e!es. + %et her stare, and winked once. *Oooohhh)* she screa%ed, and sla%%ed #ack into her apart%ent. + heard her cat %eowing angril! #ehind her as she stalked through her apart%ent, and then + heard what sounded like...a %i1er? an!a ca%e up #ehind %e in the doorwa! as + continued to stare across the hall. ,he pulled %e #ack inside, and instead of taking her #ack into the #edroo%, + turned her around, pushed her o"er the end of the couch, and took her fro% #ehind as she %oaned her appro"al. I had thought about that con*ersat$on o*er the last few days more than I cared to adm$t. +he was a hellcat, that's for sure. I turned on the stereo, select$ng an old !enny Goodman record. I l$stened to the pop and crac le of the needle on the *$nyl as I turned off the l$ght and settled $n. ($ght before I fell asleep I heard someth$ng else through the wall. +he was moan$ng a l$ttle, d$d she tal $n her sleep= )nd why $n the hell d$d that g$*e me a sem$= ,uc $ng #$n 6$ght$e G$rl... *(O) That was the f$rst n$ght I dreamed of Edward Wallbanger...

Chapter --Stu . /n A 0oment That 1ou Can2t ,et Out Of "Oh God." Thump... "Oh God." Thump thump... I was be$ng dr$*en up the bed w$th the strength of h$s thrusts. 7e was dr$*$ng $nto me w$th unfl$nch$ng force, g$*$ng me e"actly what I could ta e and then &ust push$ng me past that edge. 7$s face stared down at me, hard, flash$ng me that now$ng sm$r . I closed my eyes aga$nst h$m, lett$ng myself feel how deeply I was be$ng affected. )nd by deep I mean deep... 7e grasped my hands and brought them abo*e my head, plac$ng them on the $ron headboard, grabb$ng on t$ght. ";ou are gonna wanna hold on t$ght for th$s," he wh$spered $n my ear, and threw one leg up and o*er h$s shoulder as he altered h$s h$ps, ma $ng me scream out h$s name. "Edward'" I shr$e ed, feel$ng my body beg$n to spasm. 7$s eyes, those damnable green eyes, stared $nto m$ne as I shoo around h$m. ",uuuuccc , Edward'" I screamed aga$n, and promptly wo e up. W$th my arms o*er my head and hands grasped t$ghtly around and under the $ron headboard. I closed my eyes and forced my hands to release the metal, see$ng the dents $n my hands from hold$ng on so t$ghtly. I was breath$ng hea*$ly as I struggled to s$t up. I was co*ered $n sweat, my s $n flushed, and I was pant$ng. I was actually pant$ng. I found the sheets were $n a ball at the foot of the bed, and 0l$*e was bur$ed underneath, &ust h$s nose pee $ng out. "Oh 0l$*e, are you h$d$ng=" "%eow," came the angry reply and a t$ny face followed the nose. ";ou can come out s$lly, %ommy's done scream$ng. I th$n ," I chuc led, runn$ng a hand through my damp ha$r. I had charm$ngly sweat through my p&'s and was now stand$ng o*er the )I0 *ent, dry$ng out my body and beg$nn$ng to calm down. %y oon$e was tw$tch$ng. "That was close, huh O=" I gr$maced, press$ng my legs together and feel$ng a not unpleasant ache between my th$ghs. 0l$*e pushed past me and ran $nto the $tchen, do$ng h$s l$ttle dance ne"t to h$s bowl. ";ah yah yah, settle down," I croa ed as he threaded h$mself $n and out of my an les, loo $ng up at me the whole t$me. I dumped a scoop of Iams $n h$s bowl, and h$t the coffee. I settled myself aga$nst the counter and tr$ed to collect myself. I was st$ll breath$ng a l$ttle hard. That dream had been...well...$t had been $ntense. The th$ng $s, I d$dn't want to be dream$ng about Wallbanger. 7e was an ass w$th a harem and I d$dn't care how good he was w$th h$s d$c ...I wanted noth$ng to do w$th h$m. I thought aga$n of h$s body perched o*er me, a l$ttle drop of sweat roll$ng down off h$s nose and dropp$ng down onto my chest. 7e had lowered h$mself down, and dragged h$s tongue up my stomach, towards my breasts and then... (/+, (/+, %r. 0offee brought me bac from %r. Wallbanger, and I was grateful as I could feel myself gett$ng wor ed up aga$n. +weet Besus, was th$s go$ng to be a problem=

I poured myself a cup of coffee, peeled a banana, and loo ed out the w$ndow. I $gnored my compuls$on to massage the banana, $nstead thrust$ng $t $ns$de my mouth. Oh sweet 0hr$st, the thrust$ng' I was a s$c , s$c per*ert and th$s was headed south fast. )nd by south I mean... I slapped myself $n the face and forced myself to th$n of other th$ngs than the manwhore I was currently shar$ng a wall w$th. Inane th$ngs. Innocuous th$ngs. #uppy dogs...doggy style. Ice cream cones...l$c $ng h$s cone and two scoops. !each ball...balls...O@ enough, now !ou aren't e"en tr!ing... I forced myself $nto the shower, and sang the +tar +pangled !anner o*er and o*er aga$n to a*o$d my hands do$ng anyth$ng other than wash$ng up. ;es, I needed to ma e sure that my n$pples were that clean. 7ey, &ust because O had left me h$gh and dry d$dn't mean the g$rls d$dn't need a l$ttle lo*e from t$me to t$me...and they really adored )ma5$ng Grace bath gel from #h$losophy. )s I opened the front door that morn$ng, toss$ng a goodbye to 0l$*e o*er my shoulder, I prayed s$lently that there would not be any random harem g$rls $n the hallway. )ll clear. I pushed my sunglasses on as I wal ed out the door, barely not$c$ng the (ange (o*er. )nd by barely I mean I barely not$ced that ro*er rhymed w$th o*er as $n bend me o*er the cha$r $n my fam$ly room and... BELLA! I m$ght ha*e a problem here... -ater that afternoon I was $n my off$ce when Esme stuc her head $ns$de. "@noc , noc ," she sa$d, sm$l$ng. "7ey' What's go$ng on=" I sm$led bac , lean$ng bac $n my cha$r. ")s me about the house $n +ausal$to." "7ey Esme, how's the house $n +ausal$to=" I as ed, roll$ng my eyes. "9one," she wh$spered and threw her arms $n the a$r. "+hut up'" I wh$spered bac , eyes now w$de. I lo*ed the fact that I had the $nd of boss I could tell to shut up. "Totally, completely, absolutely done'" she s/uealed and sat down across from me. I offered a f$st bump across the des , wh$ch she leaned $nto. "6ow that $s some good news. We need to celebrate," I answered, reach$ng $nto a drawer. "!ella, $f you pull out a bottle of scotch I'm go$ng to ha*e to consult human resources," she warned, a gr$n tw$tch$ng. ",$rst of all, you are human resources. )nd second of all, l$ e I would eep scotch $n my off$ce' Ob*$ously that's $n a flas lashed to my th$gh," I g$ggled, produc$ng a !low.#op. "6$ce, watermelon e*en. %y fa*or$te," she appro*ed as we unwrapped and began to suc . "+o, tell me all about $t," I prompted. Esme and 0arl$sle had been reno*at$ng a house $n +ausal$to for almost FAD years. It felt l$ e that anyway. They had been loo $ng for a property $n the seas$de commun$ty for years, one that conta$ned the r$ght comb$nat$on of *$ew, space, scale, and en*$ronment. They found e*eryth$ng they wanted e"cept that the e"$st$ng house was hopelessly outdated. They mo*ed $n anyway, reno*at$ng room by room so they could stay on property dur$ng the construct$on. +he dro*e across the br$dge e*eryday from her l$ttle h$deyhole o*erloo $ng the bay and the c$ty $n the d$stance. I had been o*er many t$mes as the house too shape, and I new $f $t was really f$nally f$n$shed $t would be $ncred$ble.

I had been consult$ng a l$ttle w$th Esme as she f$n$shed choos$ng the f$nal touches, and &ust from the p$ctures I new $t was &ust the $nd of house I had been dream$ng of for years. -$ e Esme $t would be warm, $n*$t$ng, elegant, homey, and f$lled w$th l$ght. We tal ed shop for a wh$le, and then she let me get bac to wor . "!y the way, housewarm$ng ne"t wee end, you and your posse are $n*$ted," she sa$d o*er her shoulder on her way out the door. "9$d you &ust say posse=" I deadpanned. "I m$ght ha*e, you $n=" "+ounds great, can we br$ng anyth$ng and can we stare at your f$ancG=" "9on't you dare and I would e"pect noth$ng less," she f$red bac . I sm$led and went bac to wor . #arty $n +ausal$to= +ounded prom$s$ng... ";ou don't ser$ously ha*e a crush on Wallbanger do you=" )l$ce as ed suc $ng on her straw. "Of course she doesn't. Who nows where that d$c has been= !ella would ne*er," (ose answered for me, toss$ng her ha$r bac o*er her shoulder and stunn$ng stup$d a table of bus$nessmen who had been star$ng at her s$nce she wal ed $n to meet us for lunch at our fa*or$te l$ttle b$stro $n 6orth !each. It had been a wee s$nce I began dream$ng of Wallbanger. ) *ery long wee . )l$ce settled bac $nto her cha$r and g$ggled, $c $ng me under the table. ",uc off m$dget," I stared hard at her, blush$ng fur$ously. )l$ce always new, she had a nac for read$ng people and $t was useless to try and eep anyth$ng from her. ";eah, fuc off m$dget' !ella nows better than to..." (ose laughed then tra$led off, f$nally ta $ng off her sunglasses and sw$tch$ng her ga5e to me. The cello player and m$dget watched me f$dget. One sm$led and the other swore. ")h &ee5 !ella, do not tell me you are crush$ng on that fuc er= +h$t, you are aren't you=" (ose huffed as the wa$ter set down a bottle of #elegr$no. 7e stared at (ose and she wa*ed h$m away w$thout a glance. (ose had always been beaut$ful, but the fact that she swore l$ e a sa$lor made men $nsane. )nd when they found out she played the cello= They really d$dn't stand a chance. )l$ce was d$fferent. +he was so t$ny and cute, that $n$t$ally men were drawn $n by her $nnate charm and grace. Then they really got a loo at her, and real$5ed that she was beaut$ful. There was someth$ng about her that made men want to ta e care of her and protect her, unt$l they got her $nto the bedroom. Or so I had been told. 0ra5ytown that one was... I was apparently a hott$e, or so I had been told, and not &ust by my g$rls. Eh, on a good day I new I could wor $t. I ne*er felt as hot as (ose or as perfect as )l$ce, but I cleaned up good. I new when the three of us went out we could really wor a scene, and unt$l recently we had all used th$s to our ad*antage. We each had *ery d$st$nct types. Wh$ch was good, as we rarely went for the same guy. (ose was *ery part$cular. +he l$ ed her men long, lean, and pretty. +he l$ ed them not too tall, but a l$ttle taller than her. +he wanted her men pol$te and smart, and preferably blond. +he also was a suc er for a southern accent. +er$ously, a guy called her 'darl$n' and she would wet herself. It's true, I had played w$th her one n$ght when she was wasted and used my best O lahoma accent. I ended up ha*$ng to f$ght her off half the n$ght. +he cla$med $t was college and she wanted to e"per$ment. )l$ce on the other hand was st$ll part$cular, but not so much w$th loo s. +he l$ ed her men b$g, huge, tall, and strong. +he lo*ed the feel of a g$ant man, s$nce she was so t$ny. +he lo*ed when they had to p$c her up to $ss her, or stand her on a stool so they d$dn't get nec cramps. +he l$ ed her men a l$ttle on the sarcast$c s$de, but hated when they called her anyth$ng l$ e "p$"$e" or "t$n " or anyth$ng l$ e that. "I am all women' I'm a t$ny woman, but I a$n't no fuc $ng fa$ry. +a*e the 9$sney sh$t for

someone else," she yelled at a g$ant one n$ght that had been prom$s$ng unt$l he compared her to h$s +pr$te. I was harder to p$n down, but I new what $t was when I saw $t. -$ e the +upreme 0ourt and pornography, I was aware. I d$d ha*e a tendency to be attracted to *ery outdoorsy guys, l$feguards, scuba d$*ers, roc cl$mbers, etc. I l$ ed them clean cut but a l$ttle shaggy, gentlemanly w$th a touch of bad boy, and ma $ng enough money so I d$dn't ha*e to play mommy. I spent a summer w$th a hotter than hell surfer who couldn't e*en afford h$s own peanut butter. E*en Er$c's round the cloc orgasms couldn't sa*e h$m when I found out he had been us$ng my )me" to pay for h$s se" wa". )nd h$s cell phone b$ll. )nd h$s tr$p to ,$g$ that I wasn't e*en $n*$ted on. To the curb surfer boy, to the curb. I m$ght ha*e ta en one more for the road before he left though...ah the days before O's departure. (ound the cloc orgasms. +$gh. "+o wa$t a m$nute, ha*e you seen th$s guy yet=" (ose as ed after we had ordered and I had come bac from my l$ttle surfer memor$es. ";es, I ha*e met h$m," I groaned and )l$ce rubbed my shoulders sooth$ngly. "When the hell d$d th$s happen= Where was I=" (ose as ed, loo $ng between the two of us. "+he &ust told me th$s morn$ng, when I caught her yawn$ng on the phone. I assumed $t was from all the wallbang$ng, but nooooo. %$ss !ella has been ha*$ng some naughty dreams about her ne$ghbor," she g$ggled. I rolled my eyes at her. "+o when d$d you meet h$m= )nd I ta e $t he $s cute=" (ose as ed. ";es, I met h$m. )nd yes, he $s cute. Too cute for h$s own good, he's such an asshole'" I e"cla$med, slamm$ng my hand down on the table $n frustrat$on. I made the s$l*erware bounce. (ose and )l$ce e"changed a glance and I showed them both my m$ddle f$nger. "+o what does he loo l$ e=" (ose as ed, d$gg$ng $nto her salad that had &ust arr$*ed. I s$ghed aga$n, and told my tale. I told them about The 0oc ney and the way I went o*er and yelled at h$m $n the m$ddle of the n$ght. )bout how I went o*er to do my yell$ng dressed $n a *ery s $mpy n$ght$e upon wh$ch (ose cho ed on her ol$*e. I told them about what we sa$d to each other, and the crac he made about the lac of bang$ng from my s$de of the apartment. ";ou d$dn't tell me that part, he is an asshole'" )l$ce breathed at th$s. "I now' )nd then the *ery ne"t day, he $s $n the hallway w$th +pan", $ss$ng on her when I was try$ng to lea*e' It's l$ e some s$c l$ttle tw$sted orgasm town go$ng o*er there, and I want no part of $t'" I sa$d, chew$ng fur$ously on my lettuce. "I can't bel$e*e Esme d$dn't warn you about th$s guy," (ose mused, push$ng the rest of her croutons around on her plate. +he was on a no bread th$ng aga$n, terr$f$ed of the f$*e pounds she cla$med she put on $n the last year. +he was full of $t, but there was no argu$ng w$th (ose when she set her m$nd to someth$ng. "6o, no, she says she doesn't now th$s guy. 7e must ha*e mo*ed $n s$nce the last t$me she was there. I mean, she hardly e*er stayed $n that place. They ept $t so they always had a place to stay $n the c$ty, but the more she sublet $t out, she rarely was there. )nd accord$ng to ,el$" and 9emetr$, he has only been $n the bu$ld$ng a year or so. )nd he tra*els all the t$me, $ts no wonder they ne*er met," I e"pla$ned, real$5$ng as I sa$d $t out loud that I had comp$led /u$te a doss$er on th$s guy. "+o, how has the wallbang$ng been th$s wee =" (ose as ed. "(elat$*ely /u$et actually. E$ther he really l$stened to me and $s be$ng ne$ghborly, or h$s d$c f$nally bro e off $n one of them and he has sought med$cal attent$on," I sa$d, a l$ttle too loudly. The table of bus$nessmen must ha*e been l$sten$ng pretty closely as they all cho ed a l$ttle &ust then, and crossed the$r legs $n unw$tt$ng sympathy. The three of us g$ggled and cont$nued on w$th our lunch.

"+pea $ng of Esme, you guys are $n*$ted out to the house ne"t wee end for the$r housewarm$ng party," I told the g$rls, as they both fanned themsel*es. We all had not so secret crushes on 0arl$sle. 7e was the one guy that we all agreed on that we adored and wanted to e*entually f$nd someone &ust l$ e. Whene*er we were all w$th Esme, and we had pl$ed her w$th enough l$/uor, we would confess oursel*es to her and ma e her tell us stor$es about h$m. If we were luc y and had managed to get an e"tra mart$n$ $nto her...well...let's &ust say $t was n$ce to now that se" cont$nued to be worth do$ng well $nto your 3A's and CA's. The story about 0arl$sle and the Tonga (oom at the ,a$rmont 7otel= Wow. +he was a luc y woman. "That w$ll be cool, why don't we come o*er and get ready at your place, l$ e the old days=" )l$ce s/uealed as (ose and I plugged our ears. ";es, yes, that's f$ne, but no more s/ueal$ng or we w$ll lea*e your ass w$th the b$ll," (ose scolded as )l$ce settled bac $nto her seat, her eyes spar l$ng. I lo*ed my g$rls. )nd I mean the actual g$rls th$s t$me, not &ust my boobs... )fter lunch, )l$ce wal ed away to her ne"t appo$ntment wh$ch was $n the ne$ghborhood and (ose and I shared a cab. "+o you ne*er told me about the naughty dreams you had about your ne$ghbor," she rem$nded me, to the great del$ght of the cab dr$*er. "Eyes on the road s$r," I $nstructed as I caught h$m loo $ng at us $n the rear *$ew m$rror. I let my thoughts dr$ft bac to the dreams, wh$ch had come e*ery n$ght $n the past wee . I, on the other hand, had not. Wh$ch had ratcheted up my se"ual frustrat$on. When I could $gnore the O, then I was O@. 6ow that I was be$ng treated to dreams of be$ng banged by Wallbanger h$mself e*ery n$ght, O and her absence was e*en more pronounced. 0l$*e had ta en to sleep$ng on top of the dresser, safer for h$m and my fla$l$ng legs you see. "The dreams= The dreams are good, but he $s such an asshole'" I e"cla$med aga$n, thump$ng my f$st down on the door handle. "I now, that's what you eep say$ng," she added, loo $ng at me carefully. "What= What $s that loo =" I cr$ed. "6oth$ng, &ust loo $ng at you. ;ou are awfully wor ed up for someone that $s an asshole," she rem$nded me. "I now," I s$ghed, loo $ng out the w$ndow. ";ou're po $ng me." "I am not." "+er$ously, what the hell $s $n your poc et )l$ce, are you pac $n'=" (ose e"cla$med, &er $ng her head away as )l$ce pressed the flat $ron through her ha$r. I g$ggled from my place on the bed, lac$ng up my sandals. I had put my own ha$r up $n rollers before the g$rls got there and was spared from the full treatment. )l$ce fanc$ed herself some $nd of beauty school dropout, and $f she could open a shop from her bedroom she would ha*e g$*en $t some careful thought. )l$ce produced a brush from her poc et and showed $t to (ose before start$ng to tease. W$th the brush that $s. We were pre.party$ng &ust l$ e we d$d at !er eley, r$ght down to the fro5en da$/u$r$s. )lthough we had upgraded to the good alcohol and freshly s/uee5ed l$me &u$ce. +t$ll, $t made us a l$ttle hyper and slaphappy. "I ha*e a good feel$ng about ton$ght, ya now=" )l$ce sa$d as she forced (ose to fl$p her ha$r o*er so she could 'get some l$ft at the crown'. ;ou d$dn't argue, you &ust let her do $t. "I ha*e a funny feel$ng, maybe because I am ups$de down," (ose muttered, wh$ch sent me $nto

another gale of g$ggles. )s we were laugh$ng, I heard *o$ces from ne"t door. I got up off the bed and went closer to the &o$nt wall where I could hear better, and th$s t$me $nstead of &ust Edward there were two other d$st$nctly male *o$ces. I couldn't ma e out what they were say$ng, but suddenly Guns 6 (oses came blar$ng through the walls loud enough to ma e (ose and )l$ce stop what they were do$ng. "What the fuc $s that=" (ose snapped, loo $ng w$ldly around the room. "Wallbanger $s a G'n'( fan I guess," I shrugged, secretly en&oy$ng be$ng welcomed to the &ungle. I put a headband low on my forehead and d$d )"l's l$ttle crab dance bac and forth much to the del$ght of )l$ce, and the scorn of (ose. "6o no no, that's not $t fool," (ose scolded o*er the mus$c and grabbed another headband. )l$ce screamed w$th laughter as (ose and I )"l battled. Ent$l of course (ose started to mess up her ha$r and then )l$ce lunged. (ose &umped on the bed to get away from her and I &o$ned her. We &umped up and down, shr$e $ng the lyr$cs now and danc$ng w$ldly. )l$ce f$nally ga*e $n, and all three of us danced l$ e mad fools. I started to feel the bed mo*$ng underneath us, and I real$5ed that $t was bang$ng merr$ly aga$nst the wall. On Edward's wall. "Ta e that Wallbanger' )nd that' )nd a l$ttle of...that' 6o one's bang$ng on my walls huh= 7)7)7)'" I shr$e ed cra5$ly as )l$ce and (ose watched $n ama5ement. (ose cl$mbed down off the bed and she and )l$ce clutched each other as they laughed and I banged. I roc ed bac and forth l$ e I was on a surfboard, dr$*$ng my headboard $nto the wall aga$n and aga$n. The mus$c cut off suddenly, and I dropped l$ e I had been shot. )l$ce and (ose clasped the$r hands o*er each other's mouths loo $ng l$ e some $nd of +tooges mo*$e. I lay flat on the bed, b$t$ng down on my own nuc le to eep from laugh$ng. The fren5y $n the room was l$ e when you got caught tp$ng someone's house, or when you were g$ggl$ng $n the bac of church. ;ou couldn't stop, you couldn't not stop. *A+, *A+, *A+, 6o fuc $ng way. 7e was bang$ng at me= *A+, *A+, *A+, 7e was bang$ng at me... BANG BANG BANG my f$sts rang out as I ga*e as good as I got. I couldn't bel$e*e he had the balls to try and get me to /u$et down. I heard male *o$ces chuc l$ng. *A+, *A+, *A+, came once more, and my temper flared. Oh you sn$de mother fuc er... I loo ed at the g$rls $ncredulously and they &umped bac on the bed w$th me. BANG BANG BANG BANG we pounded, s$" fur$ous f$sts ra$n$ng down on the plaster. *A+, *A+, *A+, *A+, came bac to us, much, much louder th$s t$me. 7$s boys must ha*e gotten $n on the act$on. "G$*e $t up Wallbanger' 6o se" for you'" I yelled at the wall as my g$rls cac led man$acally. "Tons of se" for me 9oorbanger, none for you'" he yelled bac . I ra$sed my f$sts to bang once more. BANG BA BA BANG BANG rang out from my s$de. *A+, *A+,3 ) s$ngle f$st answered bac , and then s$lence. "OOOOOO77777'" I screamed at the wall and I could hear Edward and h$s boys laugh$ng on the$r s$de. )l$ce, (ose and I stared w$de.eyed at each other unt$l we heard a t$ny s$gh from beh$nd us.

We all turned at the same t$me to see 0l$*e s$tt$ng on the dresser. 7e stared bac at us, s$ghed aga$n, and proceeded to l$c h$s bum. "The ner*e, I mean the mother lo*$ng ner*e of that guy' 7e has the balls to actually bang on my wall, on my wall= I mean, God what an..." ")sshole, we now," )l$ce and (ose sa$d $n un$son as I cont$nued my rant. ";es, an asshole'" I cont$nued, st$ll wor ed up. We were $n the car on the way to Esme and 0arl$sle's house. The car ser*$ce had arr$*ed promptly at D23A, and we were soon headed o*er the br$dge. )s I loo ed out the w$ndow and saw the tw$n l$ng l$ghts of +ausal$to I began to calm down a l$ttle b$t. I refused to let Wallbanger upset me. I was out w$th my two best fr$ends about to attend a fantast$c party hosted by the best boss $n the world. )nd $f I was luc y, her husband would let us see the p$ctures of h$m when he was a sw$mmer at $n college, bac when sw$mmers st$ll &ust wore t$ny +peedos. If 0arl$sle had $mb$bed enough, he would somet$mes let us ta e a pee at h$s old albums and then we would s$gh and ga5e endlessly unt$l Esme made us put them away. )nd then she would usually put 0arl$sle away too, for the n$ght. "I am tell$ng you, I ha*e a really good feel$ng about ton$ght. I &ust get the sense, I don't now. I feel l$ e someth$ng $s go$ng to happen ton$ght," )l$ce mused, star$ng thoughtfully out the w$ndow. "+ometh$ng $s go$ng to happen all r$ght. We w$ll ha*e a great t$me, dr$n way too much, and I w$ll probably try to cop a feel off !ella on the car r$de home," (ose sa$d, w$n $ng at me. "%mm darl$n'," I teased, and she blew me a $ss. "Oh would you two forget your pseudo lesb$an romance, I am be$ng ser$ous here. I really feel l$ e someth$ng $s go$ng to happen ton$ght. I can't e"pla$n $t," she cont$nued, s$gh$ng $n the 7arle/u$n romance *o$ce she got somet$mes. "Who nows, maybe you w$ll meet your #r$nce 0harm$ng ton$ght," I wh$spered, sm$l$ng bac at her hopeful face. )l$ce was certa$nly the most romant$c of the three of us, and she was steadfast $n her bel$ef that e*eryone had a soulmate on the planet. Eh... I would &ust settle for the (eturn Of The O. When we pulled up to the$r house there were cars par ed e*erywhere along the w$nd$ng street and Bapanese lanterns and *ot$*e bags were l$n$ng the property. -$ e most houses set $nto the h$lly landscape, from the street the homes were noth$ng to loo at. ;ou usually saw the garage and the front door, maybe e*en &ust a front gate. These houses were spectacular once you got beyond the f$rst glance, boast$ng some of the best *$ews of +an ,ranc$sco around. We g$ggled as we made our way through the front gate, and I sm$led when the g$rls stared at the contrapt$on before us. I had seen the plans for th$s, but had yet to ta e a r$de. "What $nd of fuc ed up r$c shaw $s th$s=" (ose blurted out, and I couldn't help but laugh. -$ e many houses bu$lt $nto steep h$lls, Esme and 0arl$sle had des$gned and $nstalled a 7$lla*ator. It was bas$cally an ele*ator that went up and down the h$ll. :ery pract$cal when you cons$dered the amount of steps there were to reach the house. The h$lls$de was blan eted w$th terraced gardens and benches and d$fferent garden scenes, all artfully arranged on flagstone paths l$t w$th t$ $ torches that led down the h$ll to the house. !ut for grocery shopp$ng and day.to.day, the 7$lla*ator made for a much eas$er r$de. "Would you lad$es care to use the l$ft or ma e your way down the path=" an attendant as ed, appear$ng from the other s$de of the carr$age. ";ou meanHr$de $n that th$ng=" )l$ce s/uea ed. "+ure, that's what $ts made for, come on," I encouraged stepp$ng through the l$ttle door that he had opened $n the s$de. It really felt l$ e one of those s y carr$ages they ha*e at 9$sney World, or a s $

l$ft. E"cept that $t was go$ng down a h$ll $nstead of up $n the a$r. ";eah, O@, let's do $t," sa$d (ose, cl$mb$ng $n beh$nd me and plopp$ng down on the seat. )l$ce shrugged, and followed. "There w$ll be someone at the bottom wa$t$ng for you, en&oy the party lad$es," he sm$led, and we were off. )s we rode down the h$ll, we could see the house com$ng up to meet us. Esme had created a purely mag$cal world here, and as there were huge w$ndows throughout the house, we could see $nto the party as we cont$nued our descent. "Wow, there are a lot of people here," )l$ce wondered, her eyes huge. The sounds of a &a55 band that was set up on one of the many pat$os down below came t$n l$ng up to us. I felt a l$ttle flutter$ng $n my tummy as the cart came to a stop at the bottom and another attendant came to open the door. )s we f$led out and heard our heels cl$c clac $ng across the flagstone, I could hear Esme's *o$ce from $ns$de the house and I sm$led w$thout th$n $ng. I truly adored her. "G$rls' ;ou made $t'" she gushed as we wal ed $n. I turned $n the space, ta $ng $t all $n at once. The house was almost l$ e a tr$angle, set $nto the h$lls$de and then sprawl$ng outwards. +mooth mahogany colored wood floors spread out beneath us, and the clean l$nes of the smooth walls contrasted beaut$fully. Esme's personal taste was a comfortable modern and the colors $n the house reflected the colors of the surround$ng h$lls$de. Warm leafy greens, r$ch earthy browns, soft muted creams, and h$nts of deep mar$ne blue. The house was two stor$es, and almost the ent$re bac of the house was glass, ta $ng ad*antage of the spectacular *$ew. The moonl$ght danced on the water $n the bay, and $n the d$stance you could see the l$ghts of +an ,ranc$sco. Tears sprang to my eyes as I saw the home that she and 0arl$sle had created for themsel*es and as I loo ed bac at her, I saw her e"c$tement m$rrored $n her own eyes. "It's perfect," I wh$spered to her, and she hugged me t$ghtly. (ose and )l$ce gushed to Esme as a wa$ter brought us each a glass of champagne. )s Esme left us to go and m$ngle w$th her guests, the three of us made our way outs$de onto one of the many terraces to ta e stoc . Wa$ters were pass$ng trays, and as we munched on roasted prawns and s$pped our bubble, we scanned the crowd for anyone we new. Of course many of Esme's cl$ents were there, and I new I would be m$"$ng $n a b$t of wor ton$ght, but for r$ght now I was content to eat my crustacean and l$sten to (ose and )l$ce s$5e up the men. "Ooo (ose, I see a cowboy for you r$ght o*er there, no, no wa$t, he $s ta en by the other charm$ng cowboy. %o*$ng on," )l$ce s$ghed as she cont$nued her search. "I got h$m, I spotted your boy for ton$ght )l$ce'" (ose s/uealed $n a wh$sper. "Where, where=" )l$ce wh$spered bac , h$d$ng her mouth beh$nd a shr$mp. I rolled my eyes and grabbed another glass of bubbly as the wa$ter passed by. The two of them were fore*er p$c $ng out boys for each other, and they were usually pretty good at $t. "Ins$de, see. ($ght o*er there by the $sland $n the $tchen, blac sweater and ha $ pants= Besus, he $s a tall dr$n of water...hmmm, n$ce ha$r too," (ose mused, narrow$ng her eyes as she loo ed at )l$ce's new prospect. ";es, w$th the curly brown ha$r= ;es, I could def$n$tely wor w$th that. -oo how tall he $s. 6ow, who $s that yummy he $s tal $ng to= I can see blond ha$r, $f that b$mbo would &ust mo*e out of the way," )l$ce murmured, ra$s$ng an eyebrow as the alleged b$mbo f$nally mo*ed on g$*$ng us a more clear shot of the man $n /uest$on. I loo ed as well, and as a path opened up we could now see both of the men $n /uest$on. The b$g guy was, well, b$g. Tall and broad, l$nebac er shoulders almost. 7e f$lled out h$s sweater /u$te n$cely and as he laughed h$s face l$t up. ;eah, he was e"actly )l$ce's type. The other gentleman $n /uest$on had wa*y blond ha$r that he was constantly push$ng beh$nd h$s ears.

7e wore boo $sh glasses and they really wor ed for h$m. 7e was long and lean and $ntense loo $ng, almost class$cal $n h$s beauty. %a e no m$sta e, th$s guy was bang$n' and (ose drew $n a /u$c breath at the s$ght of h$m. )s we cont$nued to watch the scene unfold, a th$rd man &o$ned the other two, and we all sm$led at the same t$me. 0arl$sle. We headed for the $tchen $mmed$ately to say h$ to our fa*or$te man on the planet. 6o doubt, (ose and )l$ce were del$ghted of course that 0arl$sle would be able to handle the $ntroduct$ons. I glanced at the two as they were s$multaneously wor $ng themsel*es o*er a b$t. )l$ce surrept$t$ously p$nched both chee s a la +carlett O'7ara, and I saw (ose snea a /u$c boob prop to ma e sure she was bang$n' as well. These poor guys d$dn't stand a chance. 0arl$sle caught s$ght of us ma $ng our way across to h$m and sm$led. The guys opened up the$r c$rcle a l$ttle to let us $n and 0arl$sle en*eloped all three of us $n a g$ant hug. "%y three fa*or$te g$rls, I was wonder$ng when you three were go$ng to turn up' ,ash$onably late as always," he teased and we all g$ggled. 0arl$sle d$d that, he made us all turn $nto s$lly schoolg$rls. "7$ 0arl$sle," we all sa$d $n un$son, and $t struc me how much we sounded l$ e 0arl$sle's )ngels at that moment. I was gonna w$nd up as @ate Bac son, I &ust new $t... !$g Guy and Glasses stood there gr$nn$ng as well, wa$t$ng for an $ntroduct$on as the three of us &ust stared openly at 0arl$sle. 7e really was the p$cture of the $deal older man. Golden blond ha$r, &ust barely beg$nn$ng to s$l*er by h$s temples. Wear$ng &eans, a dar blue sh$rt and pa$r of old cowboy boots he could ha*e wal ed r$ght off a (alph -auren runway. ")llow me to ma e some $ntroduct$ons here. !ella wor s w$th Esme, and )l$ce and (osal$e are her, oh what do you call $t...!,,'s=" 0arl$sle sm$led, gestur$ng to me. "Wow, !,,'s= Who's been teach$ng you the l$ngo 9addy.o=" I laughed and e"tended my hand f$rst to !$g Guy. "7$, I'm !ella, n$ce to meet you," as he engulfed my hand w$th h$s paw. It actually was l$ e a paw $t was so b$g. )l$ce was gonna lose her m$nd w$th th$s one. 7$s eyes were full of fun I could tell already as he sm$led down at me. "7ey !ella, I'm Emmett. Th$s tool here $s Basper," he sa$d, nodd$ng o*er h$s shoulder at Glasses. "Than s, rem$nd me of that ne"t t$me you can't remember your password to get $nto your ema$l," Basper laughed goodnaturedly, and e"tended a hand to me as well. I shoo $t, not$c$ng now that I was up close how scorch$ngly blue h$s eyes were. If (ose had $ds w$th th$s guy they would be $llegally beaut$ful. I made sure to smoothly handle the $ntroduct$ons as 0arl$sle stepped away for a moment. We began to small tal and I chuc led as the four of them began to do the$r l$ttle gett$ng to now you dance. Emmett spotted someone he new beh$nd me and shouted out, "7ey %asen, get your pretty boy ass o*er here and meet our new fr$ends." "I'm com$ng, I'm com$ng," I heard a *o$ce say from beh$nd me, and I turned to see who was &o$n$ng our group. )s I turned the f$rst th$ng I saw was green. Green sh$rt, green eyes. Green. !eaut$fully green. Then I saw red as I recogn$5ed who belonged to the green. ",uc $ng Wallbanger," I h$ssed, fro5en on the spot. 7$s gr$n sl$d off as well as he played place the face. ",uc $ng #$n 6$ght$e G$rl," he gr$maced, h$s l$ps turned upwards $n a sneer. We stared at each other, seeth$ng as the a$r l$terally turned electr$c between us, snapp$ng and

crac l$ng. The four beh$nd us had fallen s$lent, l$sten$ng to th$s l$ttle $nterchange. Then they caught up. "That's Wallbanger=" (ose screeched. "Wa$t a m$nute, that's #$n 6$ght$e G$rl=" Emmett laughed, and )l$ce and Basper snorted. %y face flamed br$ght red as I processed th$s $nformat$on. 7$s sneer became that damnable sm$r I had seen that n$ght $n the hallway. When I banged on h$s door and made h$m /u$t fuc $ng The 0oc ney and yelled at h$m. When I had been wear$ng... "#$n 6$ght$e G$rl. #$n 6$ght$e G$rl'" I cho ed out, beyond p$ssed. !eyond angry. Well $nto ,ur$ousTown. I stared at h$m, pour$ng all of my Wallbang$ng tens$on $nto that one loo . )ll of the sleepless n$ghts and lost O's and cold showers and banana thrust$ng and fuc hot wet dreams went $nto that one loo . I wanted to le*el h$m w$th my eyes, ma e h$m beg for mercy. !ut no...6ot Edward Wallbanger, 9$rector of the Internat$onal 7ouse Of Orgasms. 7e Was +t$ll +m$r $ng...

Chapter 4-0&sterious "a&s The two of us stood star$ng at each other, wa*es of anger and annoyance and pure cur$os$ty p$ng$ng forth between us. We stood, he w$th the sm$r and me w$th the sneer, unt$l I not$ced that the peanut gallery had fallen s$lent along w$th e*ery other guest $n the $tchen. I loo ed past Wallbanger and saw Esme, stand$ng w$th 0arl$sle, w$th an $n/u$s$t$*e e"press$on on her face. 6o doubt she was wonder$ng why her prod$gy was s/uar$ng off $n the m$ddle of her housewarm$ng. Wa$t a m$nute, how the fuc d$d she now Wallbanger= Why was he e*en here= I felt a t$ny hand on my shoulder and spun /u$c ly to see )l$ce stand$ng before me. "Easy tr$gger, you don't need to go nuclear at Esme's, ya now=" she wh$spered, sm$l$ng shyly at Edward. I rolled my eyes and turned bac to h$m where he had now been &o$ned by our hosts. "!ella, I d$dn't real$5e you new Edward, what a small world'" Esme e"cla$med, clasp$ng her hands together e"c$tedly. "I wouldn't say I now h$m, but I am fam$l$ar w$th h$s wor ," I repl$ed through clenched teeth. )l$ce was danc$ng almost $n a c$rcle around us l$ e a l$ttle $d w$th a secret. "Esme, you won't bel$e*e th$s but..." she started, her *o$ce bubbl$ng o*er w$th barely concealed m$rth. ")l$ce..." I warned, try$ng to stop her. "Edward $s Edward Wallbanger'" (ose cr$ed out, grasp$ng 0arl$sle's arm $n e"c$tement. +he really only d$d $t so she could touch the 0arl$sle. "9amm$t," I breathed as Esme too $n th$s $nformat$on. "6o fuc $ng way," she g$ggled, hand clapp$ng o*er her mouth as she real$5ed that she had dropped the f.bomb. Esme always tr$ed to be such a lady. 0arl$sle loo ed a l$ttle confused as Edward had the decency to blush a l$ttle. ")sshole," I mouthed to h$m. "0oc bloc er" he mouthed bac , the sm$r return$ng $n full force. I gasped and my eyes w$dened. I clenched my f$sts and started tell h$m e"actly what he could do w$th h$s coc bloc er when Emmett burst $n. "0, chec th$s sh$t out. Th$s l$ttle hott$e here $s the #$n 6$ght$e G$rl' 0an you stand $t'" he laughed, as Basper struggled to eep a stra$ght face. 0arl$sle's eyes w$dened and he ra$sed an eyebrow as he stared at me. Edward swallowed a laugh. "#$n 6$ght$e G$rl=" Esme as ed and I heard 0arl$sle lean $n and tell her he would e"pla$n later. "O@, that's $t' Wallbanger, a word please=" I bar ed and grabbed h$m by the arm. I yan ed h$m outs$de and pulled h$m down one of the l$ttle paths the led down the h$ll and away from the house. 7e scrambled along after me, my heels r$ng$ng out angr$ly on the flagstone. "Besus slow down w$ll you=" he protested. %y response was to d$g my na$ls $nto the s $n on h$s arm, wh$ch made h$m yelp. Good. We reached a l$ttle encla*e set away from the house and the party. ,ar enough away that I new no one would be able to hear h$m scream when I remo*ed h$s balls from h$s body. I released h$s arm and rounded on h$m, po$nt$ng a f$nger $n h$s surpr$sed face. ";ou'*e got some ner*e tell$ng e*eryone about me asshole' What the hell, #$n 6$ght$e G$rl= )re you $dd$ng me=" I wh$sperIyelled. "7ey, I could as you the same /uest$on' Why do all those g$rls $n there call me Wallbanger huh= Who $s tell$ng tales now= )nd for that matter, they also now you as 9oorbanger and 0oc bloc er. #$n 6$ght$e G$rl $s &ust a better *$sual, they l$ ed that one'" he wh$sperIyelled r$ght bac .

Th$s guy pushed e*ery button I had. ")re you $dd$ng me= 0oc bloc er' Bust because I refused to spend another n$ght l$sten$ng to you and your harem does not ma e me a coc bloc er'" I h$ssed. "Well due to the fact that your doorbang$ng bloc ed my coc , $t actually does ma e you a coc bloc er. 0oc bloc er'" he h$ssed bac . Th$s ent$re con*ersat$on was ta $ng place $n wh$spers and $t was beg$nn$ng to sound l$ e someth$ng that m$ght ha*e happened $n fourth grade. E"cept for all the n$ght$es and the coc tal . "-oo fuc o, I'm not go$ng to spend e*ery n$ght l$sten$ng to you try to crash your g$rl's head through my wall w$th the force of your d$c alone' 6o way buddy," I repl$ed, po$nt$ng a f$nger at h$m. 7e grabbed $t. "What I do on my s$de of that wall $s my bus$ness. -et's get that stra$ght r$ght now. )nd why are you so concerned about me and my d$c anyway=" he answered, sm$r $ng at me aga$n. It was the sm$r , that damn sm$r that made me go ball$st$c. That and the fact that he was st$ll hold$ng my f$nger. "It is my bus$ness when you and your se"tra$n come noc $ng on %! wall e*ery fuc $ng n$ght'" ";ou are really f$"ated on th$s aren't you= W$sh you were on the other s$de of that wall= )re you loo $n' to r$de that se"tra$n, 6$ght$e G$rl=" he chuc led as he wagged h$s f$nger $n my face. "O@, that's $t," I growled. I grabbed h$s f$nger $n defense, wh$ch $nstantly loc ed us together. We loo ed l$ e two loggers try$ng to cut down a tree. We struggled bac and forth, loo $ng beyond r$d$culous. We were both huff$ng and puff$ng, each try$ng to get the upper hand, each refus$ng to relent. "Why are you such a manwhor$ng asshole=" I as ed, my face $nches from h$s. "Why are you such a coc bloc $ng b$tch=" he as ed and when I opened my mouth to tell h$m e"actly what I thought...the fuc er $ssed me. @$ssed me. #laced h$s l$ps to m$ne and $ssed me. Ender the moon and the stars, w$th the sounds of the ocean crash$ng and the cr$c ets cr$c et$ng. %y eyes were st$ll open, fur$ously loo $ng bac $nto h$s. 7$s eyes were so green, $t was l$ e loo $ng at two angry l$mes. 7e pulled away from me, our f$ngers st$ll hold$ng on to the others l$ e pl$ers. I released h$s hand and slapped h$m across the face. 7e loo ed shoc ed, and then I grabbed h$s sweater and pulled h$m closer to me. I $ssed h$m, th$s t$me clos$ng my eyes and lett$ng my hands f$ll w$th wool and my nose f$ll w$th warm boy smell. ,uc offHhe smelled good. 7$s hands crept around to the small of my bac and as soon as he touched me, I real$5ed where I was and what I was do$ng. ",uc ," I sa$d, and pulled away. We stood loo $ng at each other, and I w$ped at my l$ps. I started to wal away and then turned /u$c ly. "Th$s ne*er happened, got $t=" I sa$d and po$nted at h$m aga$n. "Whate*er you say," he sm$r ed and I felt my temper flare aga$n. ")nd cool $t w$th the #$n 6$ght$e sh$t, O@=" I wh$sperIyelled and turned to wal bac down the path. "Ent$l I see your other n$ght$es, that's what I'm call$ng you," he shot bac , and I almost tr$pped. I smoothed my dress and headed bac to the party. Enbel$e*able. "+o I told the guy, there $s no way I am organ$5$ng your 'play room', you can arrange your own

r$d$ng crops'" )l$ce shr$e ed, and we all laughed w$th her. One th$ng about )l$ce, she can tell a story l$ e nobody's bus$ness. +he has a nac for br$ng$ng a group together, espec$ally when $t's a group of new people &ust gett$ng to now each other. The party was beg$nn$ng to w$nd down, my g$rls and the Wallbanger posse were all gathered around a f$re p$t Esme had des$gned on one of the terraces. 9ug deep and l$ned w$th flagstone, $t had benches all around. Wh$le the f$re crac led merr$ly, we laughed and dran and told stor$es. )nd by that I mean )l$ce, (ose, Emmett, and Basper told stor$es wh$le Edward and I glared at each other from across the p$t. I could see h$m through the flames, and w$th the spar s fly$ng, $f I s/u$nted my eyes a l$ttle I could $mag$ne h$m roast$ng $n the f$res of hell. It was fun ha*$ng a good $mag$nat$on. "+o, are we gonna address the elephant $n the room here=" Basper as ed, draw$ng h$s nees up and plac$ng h$s beer on the bench ne"t to h$m. 7e had sat down ne"t to (ose, who was /u$te pleased at th$s seat$ng arrangement. "Wh$ch elephant would that be=" I as ed sweetly, s$pp$ng my w$ne. I had sw$tched from champagne to sh$ra5 when I real$5ed that the bubbly was go$ng to my head. "Oh please, the fact that the guy bang$ng the sh$t out of your walls $s the hott$e across the way g$rl'" )l$ce s/uealed, almost toss$ng her dr$n $n Emmett's face. 7e laughed along w$th her, but pr$ed the glass out of her hand before she could do any real damage. "There really $sn't anyth$ng to tal about. I ha*e a new ne$ghbor and her name $s !ella, that's $t," Edward sm$r ed, eye$ng me across the f$re. I ra$sed my eyebrow at h$m and s$pped at my w$ne. ";eah, $t's n$ce to now #$n 6$ght$e G$rl has a name, although the way he descr$bed you...wow' ;ou're as hot as he sa$d you were'" Emmett hooted at me apprec$at$*ely, try$ng to f$st pump Edward thru the flames, but fl$nch$ng bac when he real$5ed how hot they were. %y eyes shot to Edward. 7e gr$maced at the descr$pt$on. Interest$ng... "+o, you were the guys that were bang$ng bac at us ton$ght= -$sten$ng to the Guns 6 (oses=" (ose as ed, nudg$ng Basper on the shoulder. ";ou were the g$rls s$ng$ng along I suppose, yes=" he nudged bac , sm$l$ng at her. "+mall world, $sn't $t=" )l$ce s$ghed, ga5$ng up at Emmett. 7e w$n ed at her, and I saw /u$c ly where th$s was go$ng. +he had her g$ant, (ose had her pretty boy and I had my sh$ra5. Wh$ch was gett$ng more and more empty by the second. "E"cuse me," I muttered and stood up to f$nd the one of the wa$ters w$th the last of the w$ne. I made my way through the dw$ndl$ng crowd, nodd$ng at a few faces that I recogn$5ed. I s$ghed as I accepted yet another glass of w$ne and strolled bac outs$de. I started bac towards the f$re p$t when I heard )l$ce say, ")nd you should ha*e heard !ella when she told us about the n$ght she banged on h$s door." (ose and )l$ce leaned together and sa$d breathlessly, "7e. Was. +t$ll. 7ard..." and they all d$ssol*ed $nto laughter. I needed to remember to $ll those g$rls tomorrow, w$th pa$n. I groaned at my publ$c hum$l$at$on and spun about angr$ly to stomp off $nto the gardens when I saw Edward $n the shadows, smo $ng. I tr$ed to bac away before he saw me, but he wa*ed h$s hand o*er. "0ome on, come on, I don't b$te," he scoffed, offer$ng me a c$garette. I started to decl$ne, I had /u$t smo $ng years ago, but $f ton$ght was not the perfect n$ght for a relapse, I don't now what was. ";eah sure, I guess," I answered, ta $ng one and lean$ng forward when he struc a match. %y eyes met h$s aga$n and th$s t$me they were not so angry. "Than s," I sa$d and the two of us smo ed /u$etly $n the n$ght. I was loo $ng out o*er the bay, en&oy$ng the s$lence, when he f$nally spo e.

"+o I was th$n $ng, s$nce we are ne$ghbors and all..." he started, and I turned to loo at h$m. 7e was gr$nn$ng a croo ed l$ttle half gr$n at me, and I new that was what he used to ma e the pant$es drop. 7a, l$ttle d$d he now I wasn't wear$ng any. ";ou were th$n $ng what= That I would want to &o$n you some n$ght= +ee what all the fuss $s about= Bo$n you $n the welcome wagon= 7oney, I ha*e no $nterest $n becom$ng one of your g$rls," I answered, glar$ng at h$m. I loo ed around for a place to put my c$garette out, and see$ng none I dropped $t w$th a h$ss $nto my glass. I had en&oyed enough w$ne for ton$ght anyway. Edward was &ust loo $ng at me w$th a frown on h$s face. "Well=" I as ed, tapp$ng my foot angr$ly. The ner*e of th$s guy... ")ctually, I was go$ng to say, s$nce we're ne$ghbors and all maybe we could call a truce=" he sa$d /u$etly, loo $ng at me $n a *ery $rr$tated way. "Oh," I sa$d. It was all I could say. "Or maybe not," he f$n$shed and started to wal away. "Wa$t wa$t wa$t, Edward," I groaned grabb$ng h$m by the wr$st as he pushed past me. 7e calmly stood there, glar$ng at me. ";es. ,$ne. We can call a truce. !ut there w$ll ha*e to be some ground rules," I repl$ed, turn$ng to face h$m. 7e crossed h$s arms o*er h$s chest. "I should warn you now, I don't en&oy women tell$ng me what to do," he answered dar ly. "6ot from what I ha*e heard," I sa$d under my breath, but he caught $t anyway. "That's d$fferent," he answered, the sm$r beg$nn$ng to reappear. "O@ Wallbanger, here's the th$ng. ;ou en&oy yourself, do your th$ng, hang from the ce$l$ng fans, I don't care. !ut late at n$ght= 0an we eep $t down to a dull roar= #lease= I gotta get some sleep," I began. 7e cons$dered $t. ";es, I can see where that m$ght be a problem. !ut you now, you don't really now anyth$ng about me, and you certa$nly don't now anyth$ng about me and my 'harem' as you call $t. I don't ha*e to &ust$fy my l$fe, or the women $n $t, to you. +o no more nasty &udgments, agreed=" he added, loo $ng closely at me. I cons$dered $t. ")greed. !y the way, I apprec$ated the /u$et th$s wee . +ometh$ng happen=" "7appen= What do you mean=" he as ed, as we started wal $ng bac towards the group. "I thought maybe you were $n&ured $n the l$ne of duty, l$ e maybe your d$c bro e off or someth$ng," I &o ed, remember$ng when I told th$s 5$nger to the g$rls earl$er $n the wee . "Enbel$e*able, that's all you th$n I am $sn't $t=" he retorted, h$s face gett$ng angry aga$n. ") d$c = ;es, $n fact," I snapped bac . "6ow loo ." he began, and Emmett appeared out of nowhere. "6$ce to see you two ha*e $ssed and made up," he ch$ded, pretend$ng to hold Edward bac . ",uc off %c0arty," he muttered as the rest of the newly pa$red off reappeared. "!ella, we're ta $ng off'" (ose g$ggled, as she leaned on Basper's arm. I glared at Edward one more t$me and stal ed towards the g$rls. "That's good, I ha*e had enough fun for ton$ght. I'll call for the car and we can ta e off $n a few," I repl$ed, reach$ng $nto my bag for my phone. ")ctually, Emmett was tell$ng us about th$s great l$ttle bar, and we were go$ng to head that way. 9o you two want to come=" )l$ce $nterrupted, stopp$ng my hand. +he s/uee5ed $t, and I saw her sha e

her head almost $mpercept$bly. "6o=" I as ed, ra$s$ng both eyebrows. "Great' 'Ol Wallbanger' here'll ma e sure you get home O@," Emmett sa$d, clapp$ng Edward roughly on the bac . ";eah sure," he sa$d through clenched teeth. !efore I could e*en bl$n , the four of them were on the$r way towards the 7$lla*ator, say$ng sloppy goodbyes to 0arl$sle and Esme, who &ust laughed and shared a h$gh f$*e. We stared at each other, and I suddenly felt e"hausted. "Truce=" I sa$d t$redly. "Truce," he sa$d, nodd$ng h$s head. We left the party together. We dro*e bac across the br$dge, the late n$ght fog and s$lence en*elop$ng us. 7e had opened the door for me when I approached the (o*er, probably some $ngra$ned tra$n$ng from h$s mother. 7$s hand had rested on the small of my bac when I cl$mbed $n, and then $t was gone and he was around to h$s s$de before I e*en had a chance to ma e a snar y remar . %aybe $t was best< we had called a truce. The second truce w$th$n the span of mere m$nutes. Th$s was go$ng to end badly, I could tell. +t$ll, I would try. I could be ne$ghborly, r$ght= 6e$ghborly. 7a. That $ss was all $nds of ne$ghborly. I was try$ng as hard as I could not to th$n about $t, but $t &ust ept bubbl$ng up to the top of my head. I pressed my f$ngers to my l$ps w$thout e*en th$n $ng about $t, remember$ng the feel$ng of h$s mouth on m$ne. 7$s $ss was almost a dare, call$ng my bluff. ) prom$se of what would follow $f I allowed $t. %y $ss= +tra$ght up $nst$nct that fran ly surpr$sed the sh$t out of me. Why had I $ssed h$m= I had no $dea, but I d$d. It all happened so fast, $t must ha*e loo ed r$d$culous. I had slapped h$m, and then $ssed h$m l$ e some scene out of an old 0ary Grant mo*$e or an ep$sode of W$ll and Grace. I had thrown my ent$re body $nto my $ss, lett$ng my soft places cur*e aga$nst h$s strong places. %y mouth sought h$s forcefully and h$s $ss had grown as eager as m$ne. There was no fa$ry tale electr$c$ty, no 5app$ng of electr$cal current between us, but there was someth$ng there. )nd $t had /u$c ly hardened aga$nst my th$gh... 7$s mess$ng about w$th the rad$o brought me bac to the present. 7$s focus was on h$s $#od wh$le we dro*e across the br$dge, ma $ng me /u$te ner*ous. "0an I help you w$th that= #lease=" I as ed, loo $ng ner*ously at the water below me as he too h$s eyes off the road once more to loo for a certa$n song. "6o than s, I got $t," he sa$d, glanc$ng at me. 7e must ha*e not$ced the way I was peer$ng o*er the s$de of the br$dge, and he chuc led. "+ure, go ahead. I mean, you new e*ery word to Welcome To The Bungle, so you m$ght p$c someth$ng good out," he challenged, and I loo ed at h$s prof$le. E*en from the s$de, I could see the sm$r . Wh$ch, and I was loathe to adm$t $t, made h$s &aw loo l$ e $t had been ch$seled out of the hottest p$ece of gran$te e*er unearthed. "I'm sure I can f$nd someth$ng," I sassed bac , reach$ng o*er h$s hand and lean$ng towards h$m. 7$s hand gra5ed aga$nst the s$de of my breast, and we both fl$nched. "What, you try$n' to cop a feel Wallbanger=" I snapped, select$ng a song. "9$d you or d$d you not &ust place your t$ts $n the path of my hand=" he sn$ped bac . "I th$n your hand &ust mo*ed $n front of the g$rls tra&ectory, but don't sweat $t. ;ou are hardly the f$rst that these celest$al be$ngs ha*e brought $nto the$r orb$t," I s$ghed dramat$cally, loo $ng at h$m out of the corner of my eye to see $f he could tell I was &o $ng. The corner of h$s mouth rose $nto that

croo ed l$ttle gr$n and I allowed myself a small sm$le as well. ";es, celest$al. That's the word I was go$ng to use as well. )s $n, not of th$s earth. )s $n, suspended $n the hea*ens. )s $n, courtesy of :$ctor$a's +ecret," he gr$nned bac and I pretended to be shoc ed. "Oh my, you now of the secret= )nd here I thought we s$lly g$rls had you all fooled," I laughed bac , and settled bac $nto my seat. We had crossed the br$dge by now and were ma $ng our way bac $nto the c$ty. "It ta es a lot to fool me, espec$ally when $t comes to the oppos$te se", dear 9oorbanger," he repl$ed, as the mus$c came on. 7e nodded at my cho$ce. "Too +hort= Interest$ng select$on, not many women would ha*e chosen th$s," he mused. "What can I say, I am feel$ng *ery !ay )rea ton$ght. )nd I should tell you now, I am not l$ e most women," I added, feel$ng another sm$le snea across my face. "I am beg$nn$ng to get that," he sa$d /u$etly. We were both /u$et for a few more m$nutes, then suddenly we both started to spea at once. "+o what do you th$n about." I started. "0an you bel$e*e that they all." he started. "Go ahead," I chuc led. "6o, what were you go$ng to say=" he prodded. "I was go$ng to say so what do you th$n about our fr$ends ton$ght=" "That's actually what I was go$ng to say, I couldn't bel$e*e they &ust up and left us'" he laughed, and I g$ggled along w$th h$m. 7e had a great laugh, $nd of a l$ e a l$ttle boy. "I now, but my g$rls now what they want. I could not ha*e pa$nted two better guys for them, they are e"actly what they loo for," I conf$ded, lean$ng aga$nst the w$ndow so I could watch h$m as we na*$gated the h$lly streets. ";eah, Emmett really lo*es the t$ny g$rls. )s soon as I saw that brunette, I new $t was on. )nd Basper lo*es h$m some leggy blond," he laughed aga$n, glanc$ng o*er at me, ma $ng sure that I was O@ w$th the leggy blond comment. I was. +he was. "Well I'm sure I'll hear all about $t tomorrow, and what $nd of $mpress$on they made on my lad$es. I'll get the full report, don't you worry," I s$ghed, th$n $ng about how my phone would be r$ng$ng off the hoo tomorrow. +$lence crept bac $n, and I wondered what to say ne"t. "+o how do you now 0arl$sle and Esme=" he as ed, sa*$ng me from small tal fe*er. "I wor for Esme at the f$rm. I'm a des$gner." "Wa$t. 7old up, you're that !ella=" he as ed $ncredulously. "I ha*e no $dea what that means," I answered, wonder$ng why he was now star$ng at me. "9amn, $t really is a small world," he e"cla$med, sha $ng h$s head from s$de to s$de as though try$ng to clear $t. 7e was s$lent as I sat there $n l$mbo. "7ey, wanna clear that up a b$t= What d$d you mean, that !ella=" I f$nally /uest$oned, slapp$ng h$s shoulder. "It's &ust thatHwellHhuh. Esme has ment$oned you before, let's lea*e $t at that," he sa$d, try$ng to end the d$scuss$on.

"7ell no we won't lea*e $t at that' What d$d she say=" I pushed, slapp$ng aga$n at h$s shoulder. "Would you cut that out' ;ou are really rough, you now that=" he sa$d, fl$c $ng me on the nee. There were s$mply too many ways that I could go w$th the rough comment, but I w$sely ept /u$et. "What d$d she say about me=" I as ed /u$etly, now worr$ed that perhaps she had sa$d someth$ng about my wor . 7e loo ed o*er at me and saw that I was perple"ed. "6o no, $t's not l$ e that, $t's noth$ng bad. It's &ust that, well, Esme adores you. )nd she adores me, of course r$ght=" he teased, flash$ng me that gr$n aga$n. I rolled my eyes, but played along. ")nd well, she m$ght ha*eHment$oned a few t$mesHthat she thought I should meet you," he dragged out, only to w$n at me when I met h$s eyes. "Oh. Ohhhh," I breathed as I real$5ed what he meant. I blushed. Esme, that l$ttle matchma $ng sh$t. "9oes she now about the harem=" I as ed. "Would you /u$t w$th that= Enough about the frea $ng harem' What $f I told you that those three women were $ncred$bly $mportant to me= That I care for them a lot and they for me. That the relat$onsh$ps that I ha*e w$th them wor for us, and no one else needs to understand $t, got $t=" he sa$d pla$nly, pull$ng the (o*er to an angry stop at the curb of our bu$ld$ng. I was /u$et as I stud$ed my hands and then watched h$m as he ra ed h$s hands through h$s already messed up ha$r. "7ey, you now what= ;ou're r$ght. Who am I to say what's r$ght or wrong for anyone else. )nd $f $t wor s for you, then great. %a5el to*. 7$t $t. Whate*er. I would &ust be surpr$sed that Esme would want to set you up w$th me, she nows I am a pretty trad$t$onal g$rl, that's all," I answered, try$ng to appease. 7e sm$r ed a l$ttle, and turned the force of h$s green eyes on me. ")s $t happens, she does not now about the harem. I eep my pr$*ate l$fe pr$*ate. )pparently w$th the e"cept$on of my ne$ghbor w$th the th$n walls and the de*astat$ng l$nger$e," he sa$d, w$th a low *o$ce that could melt, well, anyth$ng. %y bra$n most certa$nly amongst those, see$ng as $t felt $t was suddenly beg$nn$ng to oo5e out of my ears and on down to my collar. "E"cept for her," I muttered, feel$ng thoroughly scrambled. 7e let out a dar laugh and then opened h$s door. 7e wal ed around, eep$ng h$s eyes on m$ne as he strode around the car and opened my door for me. 6ow I was the one sha $ng my head and gather$ng my thoughts. I cl$mbed down out of the car, ta $ng the hand that he offered me, and almost not not$c$ng that he traced a t$ny c$rcle on the $ns$de of my left hand w$th h$s r$ght thumb. )lmost d$dn't not$ce $t my ass...$t made my s $n pebble and my hoohah s$t up stra$ght. We wal ed $ns$de the bu$ld$ng, once aga$n w$th h$m open$ng the door for me. 7e really was charm$ng, I had to g$*e h$m that. "+o how do you now 0arl$sle and Esme=" I as ed, wal $ng up the sta$rs ahead of h$m. I new for certa$n he was chec $ng out my legs, why wouldn't he= I had great stems, and they were flattered by my flouncy l$ttle s $rt. "0arl$sle's been a fr$end of my fam$ly's for years. I'*e nown h$m pract$cally my whole l$fe. 7e also unoff$c$ally manages my $n*estments for me," he answered as we rounded the f$rst floor and started on the second. I loo ed o*er my shoulder at h$m, and not$ced h$m pee $ng at my legs. 7a' 0aught h$m.

"Ooo, you're $n*estments. 7a*e a few bonds left o*er from b$rthdays there, moneybags=" I teased, and he chuc led. ";eah, someth$ng l$ e that." We cont$nued up the sta$rs. "It's cur$ous, don't you th$n =" I offered. "0ur$ous=" he as ed, h$s *o$ce sl$pp$ng o*er me l$ e warm honey. "Well I mean, 0arl$sle and Esme both now$ng us, meet$ng at a party l$ e th$s, and you be$ng the one that has been eep$ng me nocturnally amused all these wee s...$t's &ust cur$ous, $sn't $t= +mall world and all that=" I pondered, as we rounded the top sta$r and I got my eys out. "+an ,ranc$sco $s a b$g c$ty, but $t can feel l$ e a small town $n some ways. !ut yes, $t's cur$ous. Intr$gu$ng e*en, who new that n$ce des$gner Esme wanted to set me up w$th $s actually #$n 6$ght$e G$rl. 7ad I nown= I m$ght ha*e ta en her up on $t..." he repl$ed, that damnable gr$n bac on h$s beaut$ful face. 9amm$t, why couldn't he ha*e stayed an asshole= ";es, but #$n 6$ght$e G$rl would ha*e sa$d no. )fter all, th$n walls and all..." I w$n ed, ma $ng a f$st and thump$ng on the wall ne"t to my door. I could hear 0l$*e prattl$ng around beh$nd the door and I needed to get $ns$de before he began to wa$l. ")h yes, th$n walls. 7mmm. Well good n$ght !ella. Truce $s st$ll on r$ght=" he as ed, headed for h$s door. "Truce $s st$ll on, unless you do someth$ng to ma e me mad aga$n," I laughed, lean$ng $n the doorway. "Oh count on that. )nd !ella= +pea $ng of th$n walls=" he sa$d, as he opened h$s door and loo ed bac at me. 7e leaned $n h$s own doorway, thump$ng h$s f$st on the wall. ";es=" I as ed, a l$ttle too dream$ly for my own good. 7e sm$r ed aga$n and sa$d, "+weet dreams." 7e thumped on the wall one more t$me, w$n ed, and went $ns$de. 7uh. +weet dreams and th$n walls. +weet drea%s and th$n walls... %other of pearl. 7e had heard me... 0hapter D #o e "Grrr." #o e. @nead nead. #o e. "Enough." @nead nead nead. 7ead butt. "I real$5e you don't now how to read a calendar, but you should now when $t's a +unday. +er$ously

0l$*e." 7ard head butt. I rolled o*er, away from 0l$*e's head butts and pers$stent po $ng and pulled the co*ers o*er my head. ,lashes of the n$ght before ept appear$ng. +ee$ng Edward $n Esme's $tchen w$th the sm$r heard round the world. 7ear$ng h$s fr$ends call me #$n 6$ght$e G$rl. +ee$ng 0arl$sle as he put two and two together that + was the #$n 6$ght$e G$rl. @$ss$ng Edward. %mm, $ss$ng Edward. 6o, no $ss$ng the Edward' I snuggled deeper under the co*ers. Sweet dreams and thin walls... I remembered h$s part$ng words to me and sheer mort$f$cat$on washed o*er me as I burrowed further. The n$ght had been dec$dedly dream free, but to ma e sure no one >read Edward? could hear me scream$ng out $n pass$on, I had slept w$th the T: on, someth$ng I am loathe to do. The re*elat$on that Edward had heard me dream$ng of h$m had thrown me for such a loop last n$ght, and I found myself fl$pp$ng endlessly through the channels, try$ng to f$nd anyth$ng that would not sound l$ e me ha*$ng my own *ers$on of the Wallbanger Wet 9ream. I ended up on the all $nfomerc$al channel, wh$ch of course ept me up later that I had planned, f$nd$ng e*eryth$ng they were sell$ng fasc$nat$ng. I had to pry the cell phone out of my hand at 123A $n the morn$ng when I almost ordered the +lap 0hop. To say noth$ng of the half hour I w$ll ne*er get bac watch$ng !owser try to sell me the T$me -$fe collect$on of songs from the KA's. Th$s was when I was not l$sten$ng to the sounds of Tommy 9orsey com$ng through the wall. It made me sm$le. I can't l$e. I stretched under the sheet la5$ly, st$fl$ng a g$ggle as I watched the shadow of 0l$*e stal $ng me, try$ng to f$gure out a way under the co*ers. 7e tr$ed e*ery angle he could as I deflected h$s ad*ances. ,$nally, he resumed h$s po e.po e. nead approach, and I popped my head bac up laugh$ng at h$m. I could handle th$s th$ng w$th Wallbanger, I d$dn't ha*e to be totally embarrassed. +ure, my O was gone, maybe for fore*er. +ure, I'd been ha*$ng se" dreams for the last wee about my o*erly attract$*e and o*erly conf$dent ne$ghbor. +ure, sa$d ne$ghbor had heard these dreams and commented on them, gett$ng the last word $n an already e"tremely b$5arre e*en$ng. !ut I could handle th$s. Of course I could, I would &ust ac nowledge $t before he could, ta e the a$r out of h$s sa$ls as $t were. 7e d$dn't always ha*e to ha*e the last word. I could reco*er from th$s, and eep our r$d$culous l$ttle truce go$ng. I was totally fuc ed. Bust then I heard the alarm go off ne"t door and I fro5e. I actually fro5e, and sl$pped a l$ttle deeper under the co*ers, &ust my eyes peep$ng o*er. Wh! are !ou hiding, he can't see !ou... ($ght, r$ght. I heard h$m slap at the alarm cloc and then heard h$s feet h$t the floor. Why was he up so early on a +unday= It was ama5$ng when all was /u$et how much you could truly hear through these walls. 7ow the hell d$d I not real$5e before that $f I could hear h$m, he could ob*$ously hear me. I felt my face color as I thought of my dreams aga$n but then got control. Th$s was further a$ded by 0l$*e of course, head butt$ng the small of my bac $n an attempt to phys$cally push me from the bed and g$*e h$m h$s brea fast. "O , O , let's get up. God, you are such a l$ttle &er somet$mes 0l$*e." 7e f$red bac a reply o*er h$s cat shoulder as he stal ed towards the $tchen. I shoo my head at the

att$tude that I was rece$*$ng from my damn cat, and then shuffled towards the $tchen myself. )fter gett$ng %r. 0l$*e fed and runn$ng through the shower to remo*e the +h$ra5 and embarrassment from my body, I was head$ng out the front door of my bu$ld$ng to meet the g$rls for brunch. I was loo $ng down at my phone answer$ng a te"t from )l$ce when I coll$ded w$th a hot wet Wallbanger. "Whoah," I cr$ed as I started to teeter bac wards. ) strong arm shot out and caught me &ust before I went from flustered to flat out wrong and on my ass. "Where are you runn$ng off to th$s morn$ng=" he as ed, as I too h$m $n. +weaty wh$te t.sh$rt, blac runn$ng shorts, damp curly ha$r, $#od, and a gr$n. ";ou're sweaty," I word *om$ted. &ice. /e knows !ou drea% a#out hi%, and now !ou are co%%enting on his sweat. ,%ooth. "I a% sweaty, $t happens," he added, sweep$ng the bac of h$s hand across h$s forehead and ma $ng h$s ha$r stand stra$ght up. I had to phys$cally bloc the neurons from my bra$n try$ng to get to my f$ngers to $nstruct them to l$ft and nestle. -$ft and nestle. 7e stared down at me, the now$ng sm$r beg$nn$ng to ma e a reappearance. 7e was go$ng to ma e th$s pa$nful $f I d$dn't go ahead and out the g$ant se" elephant $n the room. "+o l$sten, about last n$ght," I started, th$n $ng $t would be best to get $t out $n the open. "What about last n$ght= The part where you were berat$ng me about my se" l$fe= Or the part where you were shar$ng my se" l$fe w$th your fr$ends=" he as ed, ra$s$ng an eyebrow at me and ra$s$ng h$s t. sh$rt to w$pe off h$s face. I drew $n a breath that sounded l$ e a w$nd tunnel as I stared at abs you could grate pecor$no on. ,uc er, why couldn't he be a soft fat Wallbanger= "6o ass, I mean the crac you made about the sweet dreams= )nd the...well...the th$n walls=" I stammered, a*o$d$ng all eye contact. I was fasc$nated suddenly w$th the new shade of toena$l pol$sh I had on. It was a lo*ely color... ")h yes, the th$n walls. Well, they wor both ways you now. )nd $f someone were to say, ha*e a *ery $nterest$ng dream some n$ght, well let's &ust say $t would be /u$te enterta$n$ng," he wh$spered as he got a l$ttle closer. 7$s mouth was terr$fy$ngly close to my ear, and my nees were turn$ng a l$ttle Bello.l$ e. 9amn h$m and h$s power... I had to get bac control. I placed a hand on h$s stomach and bac ed h$m r$ght the fuc up. "7ey man, th$s $s my dance space. )nd yes, you may ha*e heard someth$ng that I would ha*e preferred you d$d not hear, but that's not the way sh$t goes down. +o, you got me. !ut you won't actually e*er ha*e me, so let's mo*e on. ;ou got that Wallbanger= )nd brunch by the way," I answered as I concluded my l$ttle self effac$ng d$atr$be. It m$ght ha*e made me sound $nsane. 7e loo ed confused and amused at the same t$me. "!runch by the way=" he as ed. "!runch. ;ou as ed where I was off to th$s morn$ng, and my answer $s brunch." "Got $t. )nd are you meet$ng your g$rls that were out w$th my guys last n$ght=" "I am, and I w$ll gladly share the scoop w$th you $f $ts any good," I g$ggled, tw$rl$ng a p$ece of ha$r around my f$nger. &ice. 2lirting 343. What the hell... "Oh I'm sure $ts good scoop, those two loo l$ e man eaters," he /u$pped, roc $ng bac on h$s heels as he began to stretch out a b$t. ")re we tal $ng 7ann$bal=" "6o, more l$ e 7all J Oates," he laughed, loo $ng up at me as he stretched out h$s hamstr$ngs.

0hr$st, hamstr$ngs... ";es, well they can def$n$tely wor a room when they need to," I sa$d thoughtfully, beg$nn$ng to bac away. ")nd how about you=" he as ed, stand$ng stra$ght aga$n. "7ow about me what=" "I bet you can 'wor a room' %$ss 9oorbanger," he chuc led, h$s eyes tw$n l$ng down at me. "Eh wor th$s," I f$red bac and started to wal away w$th a tw$n le of my own. "0harm$ng. Truly charm$ng," he added as I shot h$m a loo o*er my shoulder. "Oh please, l$ e you're not $ntr$gued," I called bac to h$m. I was about ten feet away at th$s po$nt. "Oh I'm $ntr$gued," he shouted bac as I wal ed bac wards, sha $ng my h$ps at h$m wh$le he applauded. "Too bad I don't wor well w$th others' I a$n't no harem g$rl'" I yelled, pract$cally at the corner. "Truce st$ll on=" he yelled. ";ou tell me'" "Oh hell yes, $t's on'" he shouted bac as I rounded the corner. I tw$rled about once, actually do$ng a l$ttle p$rouette. I sm$led b$g as I bounced along, th$n $ng a truce was a *ery good th$ng. "Egg wh$te omelet w$th tomatoes, mushrooms, sp$nach and on$ons." "#anca es, four stac please, w$th a s$de of bacon. )nd I w$ll need the bacon *ery cr$spy please, but not blac ened." "Two eggs sunny s$de up, rye toast w$th butter on the s$de and the fru$t salad." )ll three of us ordered and settled $n for a morn$ng of coffee and goss$p. "O , so tell me what happened after we left last n$ght=" )l$ce sa$d, plac$ng her ch$n $n her hands and bl$n $ng prett$ly at me. ")fter you left, you mean after you left me w$th my &er y ne$ghbor to dr$*e me home= What were you th$n $ng= )nd tell$ng e*eryone the 7e Was +t$ll 7ard story= +er$ously= I am wr$t$ng you both out of my w$ll," I snapped, swallow$ng coffee that was too hot and $nstantly seared off a th$rd of my taste buds. I let my tongue hang out of my mouth to cool. ",$rst of all, we told that story because $t's funny, and funny $s good," (ose began, f$sh$ng a p$ece of $ce out of her water glass and hand$ng $t to me for my taste bud s$tuat$on. "Thanh ooo," I managed, suc $ng on the cube. +he nodded. ")nd secondly, you ha*e noth$ng to lea*e me anyway, as I already ha*e the ent$re set of !arefoot 0ontessa coo boo s, wh$ch you bought me yourself. +o wr$te me out of the w$ll. )nd th$rdly, the two of you were be$ng such downers there was no way we were ta $ng you out w$th our new boys," (ose f$n$shed, sm$l$ng w$c edly. "6ew boys. I lo*e new boys," )l$ce clapped, loo $ng l$ e a 9$sney cartoon. "7ow was the r$de home=" (ose as ed, w$nd$ng her ha$r up $nto a bun and secur$ng $t w$th a penc$l w$th grace I would ne*er possess. "The r$de home. Well, $t was $nterest$ng..." I s$ghed, now suc $ng on the cube w$th w$ld abandon. "Interest$ng good=" )l$ce s/uealed. "If you call fuc $ng someone on the !ay !r$dge wh$le he dr$*es a (ange (o*er $nterest$ng then yes'" I repl$ed, calmly drumm$ng my f$ngers on the table. )l$ce's mouth began to fall from her face when

(ose placed her r$ght hand o*er )l$ce's left, wh$ch was about to s/uee5e her for $nto someth$ng unrecogn$5able. "+weet$e, she's $dd$ng. We would now $f !ella had been fuc ed last n$ght, she would ha*e better s $n tone," (ose soothed. )l$ce nodded /u$c ly and began to release the for from her f$rm grasp. I p$t$ed any guy who e*er p$ssed her off dur$ng a hand&ob... "+o, no d$sh +wan=" (ose as ed. "7ey you now the rules. ;ou d$sh, I d$sh," I answered, eyes w$den$ng as our brea fast was ser*ed. )fter we all dug $n, )l$ce f$red the f$rst shot. "9$d you now that Emmett played football for +tanford= )nd that he always wanted to go $nto sports broadcast$ng=" she offered, separat$ng her melon from her berr$es. +he was method$cal w$th a fru$t salad. "Good to now, good to now. 9$d you now that Basper sold some $nd of ama5$ng computer program to 7ewlett #ac ard when he was &ust 13= )nd that he put all the money $n the ban , /u$t h$s &ob, and spent two years teach$ng Engl$sh to $ds $n Tha$land=" (ose added ne"t. "That $s *ery good to now as well. 9$d you now that Edward doesn't cons$der h$s lady fr$ends a "harem" and that Esme actually at one po$nt told h$m about me as a potent$al g$rl he should be dat$ng=" was my contr$but$on to the d$sh pot. We all hmm'd and chewed. (ound Two. "9$d you now that Emmett lo*es to w$ndsurf= )nd that he has t$c ets to the symphony benef$t ne"t wee = When he found out I was already go$ng w$th you (ose, he suggested we double." "%mm, that sounds fun. I was th$n $ng of as $ng Basper. Who by the way also lo*es to w$ndsurf. )nd I can further report that he now runs a char$ty that puts computers and educat$onal mater$als $nto $nner c$ty schools all o*er 0al$forn$a= It's called," (ose began, and )l$ce /u$c ly &o$ned $n, "6o 0h$ld -eft Offl$ne=" they sa$d together. "I lo*e that char$ty' I g$*e to that organ$5at$on each year' )nd Basper $s the one who runs $t= Wow...small world," )l$ce mused as she began to cut $nto her eggs. We were all /u$et wh$le we chewed aga$n, and I tr$ed to come up w$th someth$ng else to say about Wallbanger that d$dn't ha*e anyth$ng to do w$th h$m $ss$ng me, me $ss$ng h$m, or h$m be$ng aware of my nocturnal *erbal em$ss$ons. "Em, Edward has Too +hort on h$s $#od," I mumbled, wh$ch was met w$th hmms as well. %y d$sh wasn't as good, but I hardly new anyth$ng about my ne$ghbor that I ma$nta$ned a tentat$*e truce w$th. "+o last n$ght was good for you guys huh= )ny $sses at the door, any sp$t swapp$ng=" I as ed, sw$tch$ng the focus bac to them. ";es' I mean, Emmett $ssed me," )l$ce s$ghed. "Oooh I bet he's a good $sser. 9$d he wrap you up t$ght and run h$s hands up and down your bac = 7e has great hands, d$d you not$ce h$s hands= 9amn f$ne hands," (ose rambled, face down $n her panca e stac . )l$ce and I e"changed a glance and wa$ted for her to come up for a$r. When she saw us both star$ng at her, she blushed a l$ttle. "What= I not$ced h$s hands= They are huge, how could you not=" she stammered and crammed her mouth full so we would mo*e on. I g$ggled a l$ttle and turned my attent$on bac to )l$ce. "+o, d$d %r. Great 7ands use h$s great hands=" I as ed and $t was )l$ce's turn to blush.

")ctually, he was *ery sweet. Bust a l$ttle pec on the l$ps and a n$ce hug at my door," she answered, gr$nn$ng hugely. ")nd you %$ss 7ale= Was the computer gen$us char$table w$th h$s goodn$ght $ss=" I g$ggled as I made a terr$ble &o e, wh$ch d$d not go unnot$ced by (ose. "EmHyes he was, he ga*e me a great good n$ght $ss," she repl$ed, l$c $ng syrup off the bac of her hand. +he d$dn't not$ce the way )l$ce's eyes burned a l$ttle when she ment$oned the goodn$ght she rece$*ed, but I d$d. "+o, you escaped the Wallbanger last n$ght unscathed I ta e $t=" )l$ce as ed, s$pp$ng her coffee. I was st$ll nurs$ng a sore tongue, so I chose to st$c w$th &u$ce. "I d$d, we came to another truce last n$ght and w$ll try to be more ne$ghborly." "What e"actly does that mean=" she as ed. "That means that he w$ll try to curta$l h$s bang$ng to earl$er $n the e*en$ng, and I w$ll try to be a l$ttle more understand$ng about h$s se" l$fe, as l$*ely as $t $s," I answered, d$gg$ng $nto my purse for some money. "One wee ," (ose muttered, d$gg$ng for her money as well. "0ome aga$n=" "One wee . That's how long I g$*e th$s truce. ;ou can't eep your op$n$ons to yourself, and he can't eep that 0oc ney /u$et. One wee ," she sa$d aga$n as )l$ce sm$led away. 7uh, we'll see... %onday morn$ng br$ght and early I was $n my off$ce re*$ew$ng the numbers on the !lac house. Bess$ca had dec$ded she d$d $n fact want a home theater $n the basement after all, after much pressure from Bacob. )pparently, he had an ent$re pac of fr$ends that would come o*er and get /u$te rowdy when the G$ants were play$ng, and the $dea that she could ban$sh them to the$r own l$ttle man ca*e was *ery appeal$ng to her. +o now the l$ttle bedroom remodel had grown to /u$te a large pro&ect. Th$s would not only result $n a huge comm$ss$on for me, but would add a *ery substant$al few pages to my portfol$o. I was pleased, and $t was already a good morn$ng. )nd then Esme came walt5$ng $n for a l$ttle face t$me. "@noc noc ," she called out and po ed her head around the door. +he was $mmaculately dressed, the p$cture of soph$st$cated casual ch$c. 7a$r swept bac $nto a loose ch$gnon, heather grey cashmere turtlenec , blac w$de.legged trousers open$ng onto red peep toe sl$ngbac s. +l$ngbac s that would probably const$tute almost a wee 's pay for me. +he was my mentor $n e*ery way, and I made a mental note to ma e sure that I someday would obta$n the /u$et conf$dence that she carr$ed w$th her da$ly. )s she wal ed $n, she sm$led when she saw the new flowers $n the *ase on my des . Th$s wee I had chosen orange tul$ps, three do5en. "%orn$ng, d$d you see that the !lac s ha*e added a home theater= I new they would come around," I sm$led as I sat bac $n my cha$r. Esme settled herself $n the cha$r across from me and &ust sm$led w$dely. "Oh, and )l$ce $s com$ng o*er for d$nner ton$ght, we are hop$ng to f$nal$5e the plans for the new closet system she $s des$gn$ng. +he wants to add carpet, she heard Bess$ca was a b$g fan of the +e" )nd The 0$ty mo*$e, and thought $t would be $nsp$rat$onal for the two of them," I g$ggled, s$pp$ng coffee from the mug on my des . %y tongue was sem$ healed. Esme &ust cont$nued to sm$le. I began to wonder $f I had a 0heer$o stuc to my face. "9$d I tell you that I got the glass company $n %urano to g$*e me a deal on the p$eces I ordered for the chandel$er that $s go$ng $n the$r bathroom= It's go$ng to be beaut$ful, and I th$n we'll def$n$tely want to use them aga$n," I tr$ed aga$n, as she cont$nued to sm$le away.

+he f$nally s$ghed and leaned forward w$th a cat.that.ate.the.canary.and.went.bac .for.the.feathers. to.play.w$th gr$n. "Esme, d$d you ha*e dental wor done th$s morn$ng= )re you try$ng to show me your new dentures=" I &o ed and she f$nally fl$nched. ")s $f I would e*er need dentures, pffft. 6o, I am wa$t$ng for you to tell me about your ne$ghbor, %r. %asen. Or should I say Wallbanger=" she laughed, f$nally s$tt$ng bac $n her cha$r and g$*$ng me a loo that sa$d I would not be allowed to lea*e th$s room unt$l I told her e*eryth$ng she wanted to now. "7mm, Wallbanger. Where to start= ,$rst of all, you can't tell me you d$dn't now he l$*ed ne"t door. 7ow the hell could you ha*e l$*ed here as long as you d$d and not now he was the one bang$ng away e*ery n$ght=" I $n/u$red, loo $ng bac at her w$th my best detect$*e sneer. "7ey, you now I hardly e*er stayed there, espec$ally the last few years. I new he was l$*$ng near there, but I had no $dea $t was $n the same bu$ld$ng, much less ne"t door to the apartment I was sublett$ng' )nd he tra*els so much, $t's not that hard to $mag$ne that we would ha*e ne*er f$gured $t out. When I see h$m, $t's always w$th 0arl$sle, and we usually go out for dr$n s or we ha*e h$m o*er to the house for d$nner. I swear I had no $dea. !ut $t's the beg$nn$ngs of a great story don't you th$n =" she tempted, gr$nn$ng aga$n. "Oh you and your matchma $ng. Edward told me you had ment$oned me to h$m before, you are so busted," I groaned, as she held up her hands $n front of her. "Wa$t wa$t wa$t, I had no $dea he was so, well...act$*e. I would ha*e ne*er set you up w$th h$m had I nown he had so many g$rlfr$ends. 0arl$sle must ha*e nown, but $t's a guy th$ng I guess," she repl$ed, and I was the one to lean forward now. "+o tell me, how does he now 0arl$sle=" I as ed. +he leaned $n as well, and the g$rl tal began. "Well, Edward $sn't or$g$nally from 0al$forn$a. 7e grew up $n 0h$cago, and only mo*ed out here when he went to +tanford h$s freshman year of school. 0arl$sle had nown h$m most of h$s l$fe, he was really close to h$s dad. 7e has $nd of watched out for Edward, fa*or$te uncle, b$g brother, surrogate father when needed, that $nd of th$ng," she sa$d, her face grow$ng soft. "Was really close to h$s dad= 9$d they ha*e a fall$ng out or someth$ng=" I as ed. "Oh no no, 0arl$sle was always great fr$ends w$th Edward's dad, he was the one who mentored h$m early on $n h$s career. 7e was *ery close w$th the ent$re fam$ly," she sa$d, her eyes grow$ng sad. "!ut now=" I pressed, ha*$ng a strong feel$ng I new what was com$ng. "Edward's parents were $lled when he was a sen$or $n h$gh school," she sa$d /u$etly and my hand flew to my mouth. "Oh no," I wh$spered, my heart full of sympathy for someone I barely new. "0ar acc$dent. 0arl$sle says they went really /u$c ly, almost $nstantly," she repl$ed. We were both /u$et for a moment, lost $n our own thoughts. I couldn't e*en process what that must ha*e been l$ e for h$m. "+o after the funeral, he stayed $n 0h$cago for awh$le and he and Edward began to tal about h$m go$ng to school at +tanford," she cont$nued. I sm$led at the $mage of 0arl$sle, do$ng e*eryth$ng he could to help someone he cared about. "I can $mag$ne, $t was probably a good $dea for h$m to get away from e*eryth$ng," I answered, wonder$ng how I would deal w$th someth$ng l$ e that at such a young age. ";eah, I th$n Edward saw the chance and he too $t. )nd now$ng that 0arl$sle was close by $f he needed anyth$ng= I th$n that made $t eas$er," she added. "When d$d you meet Edward=" I as ed, cur$ous as to how long she had nown h$m. +he sm$led,

clearly a strong memory. "7$s sen$or year. 7e had spent some t$me $n +pa$n the summer before, and when he came home that )ugust he came $nto the c$ty to ha*e d$nner w$th us. We had been dat$ng for awh$le by then, and he new of me, but hadn't actually met me," she g$ggled. Wow, Wallbanger does +pa$n. Those poor flamenco dancers, they ne*er stood a chance. "We met for d$nner, and he charmed the wa$tress by order$ng $n +pan$sh. Then he told 0arl$sle that $f he was e*er stup$d enough to lea*e me that he would be /u$te happy to, now what was $t he sa$dH ah yes, he would be /u$te happy to warm my bed," she g$ggled aga$n, her face grow$ng p$n . I rolled my eyes, th$n $ng that th$s would match up w$th what I new of h$m already. )lthough, as brash as me and my g$rls fl$rted w$th 0arl$sle $t was the pot call$ng the ettle forward. I sm$led as I thought of her f$ance and h$s good heart. E*en w$th me, $n the t$me that I had nown h$m, I had always felt that $f I e*er needed anyth$ng he would be there $n a second and /uest$on noth$ng. ")nd that's how I met Edward," she f$n$shed, her eyes far away. "7e really $s pretty great !ella, wallbang$ng as$de." ";es, wallbang$ng as$de," I mused thoughtfully, runn$ng my f$ngert$ps bac and forth across the tops of the flowers. "I hope you get to now h$m a l$ttle better," she gr$nned, the matchma er bac . "+ettle down there, we ha*e called a truce but that's all," I laughed, sha $ng my f$nger at her. +he got up and started for the door. ";ou are *ery sassy for someone who $s supposed to be wor $ng for me," she sa$d, try$ng to loo se*ere. "Well I would get a lot more wor done for you $f you would let me get bac to wor and stop w$th your nonsense'" I sa$d, loo $ng se*erely bac at her. +he laughed and loo ed out towards recept$on. "7ey -eah' When d$d I lose control of th$s off$ce=" she called out. ";ou ne*er actually had $t Esme'" I heard -eah yell bac and I laughed. "Oh go ma e coffee or someth$ng' )nd you," she sa$d, turn$ng to me and po$nt$ng, "des$gn someth$ng br$ll$ant for the !lac 's basement," she d$rected, po$nt$ng at me. ")ga$n, all th$ngs I could'*e been do$ng wh$le you were ya $ng away $n here..." I murmured, tapp$ng my penc$l on my watch. +he rolled her eyes. "+er$ously though !ella, he's really sweet. I th$n you two would ma e great fr$ends," she answered, lean$ng $n the doorway. What was w$th e*eryone lean$ng $n doorways lately= "Well I can always use another fr$end, now can't I=" I repl$ed and wa*ed as she d$sappeared. ,r$ends. ,r$ends who called a truce... "O , so we now that floors $n the bedroom are go$ng to be recla$med honey toned wood, but you for sure want carpet $n the closet=" I as ed, settl$ng on the couch ne"t to )l$ce and start$ng $n on my second !loody %ary. We had been go$ng through her plans for almost an hour try$ng to get her to see that I was not the only one that would ha*e to comprom$se on my des$gns, she would as well. )s long as we had been fr$ends, she lo*ed to th$n she won e*ery argument. T$ny )l$ce saw herself as a bad ass that could strong.arm anyone $nto anyth$ng. -$ttle d$d she now that (ose and I had f$gured out that we only had to let her think she was gett$ng her way. +he was much more tolerable th$s way. The truth was, I always new I wanted carpet $n the closet, &ust not for the same reasons she d$d.

";es yes yes' It has to be carpet, really th$c and lu"ur$ous carpet' It w$ll feel so good under cold toes $n the morn$ng," she cr$ed, almost sha $ng $n her e"c$tement o*er carpet. I really hoped Emmett was go$ng to be around long enough to fuc her s$lly. +he needed to get out some of th$s e"cess energy. "O )l$ce, I guess you're r$ght. 0arpet $n the closet. )nd for that, you ha*e to g$*e me bac those two feet you wanted from the bathroom for the rotat$ng shoe rac that I *etoed," I placated carefully, wonder$ng $f she would go for $t. +he thought for a moment, loo ed at her plans aga$n, too a long pull from her coc ta$l, and nodded her head. ";es, ta e bac the two feet. I get my carpet, and I can l$*e w$th that," she s$ghed, offer$ng me her hand $n agreement. I shoo $t solemnly, and then offered her my ol$*e. 0l$*e came saunter$ng $nto the room wh$le we were negot$at$ng and began to pace $n front of the front door. "I bet our Tha$ $s almost here, let me get my money," I sa$d, po$nt$ng towards the door. Bust as I spo e, I could hear steps $n the hallway. ")l$ce, get the door, I th$n I hear our ta eout," I called bac , rummag$ng through my purse. "Got $t," she yelled bac , and I heard the door open. "Oh, hey there Edward'" I heard her say, and then I heard the strangest sound. I would swear, on a stac of b$bles $n a court of actual law, that I heard my cat spea . "#orrrrreeeennnnnya," 0l$*e sa$d $n cat spea , as I wh$rled about. In the span of f$*e seconds a thousand th$ngs happened. I saw Edward and #ur$na $n the hallway, bags from Whole ,oods $n hands, ey $n front door. I saw )l$ce stand$ng $n the doorway, barefoot and lean$ng >aga$n w$th the lean$ng? $n the doorway. I saw 0l$*e, rear$ng bac on h$s h$nd legs prepar$ng to &ump $n a way that I had only e*er seen h$m do once when I h$d the catn$p on the top of the fr$dge. !ab$es were born, old people d$ed, stoc s were traded and someone probably fa ed an orgasm. )ll $n those f$*e seconds. I launched myself at the door $n a slow mot$on run rem$n$scent of e*ery act$on mo*$e e*er made. "6OOOOOOOOO'" I cr$ed as I saw a loo of confus$on cross Edward's face, a loo of pan$c cross #ur$na's face, a loo of amusement cross )l$ce's face, and a loo of pure lust cross 0l$*e's face as he prepared to woo. If I had started for the door any earl$er, maybe e*en only a second earl$er, I could ha*e pre*ented the clusterfuc that ensued. )s $t was, we were luc y that blood was not shed. )nd no one lost the$r pants... )s Edward pushed the door open, he sm$led a confused sm$le at me as I caught h$s eye. 6o doubt he was wonder$ng why I was charg$ng the door and scream$ng noooooo. 7$s apartment door opened, and 0l$*e &umped. -eapt. 0harged. #ur$na saw 0l$*e &ump$ng d$rectly at her, and she d$d the worst th$ng she could ha*e done. +he ran. +he ran $nto Edward's apartment. Of course the g$rl who meows when she has an orgasm $s fuc $ng afra$d of cats... 0l$*e ga*e chase, and as I stood $n the hallway w$th Edward and )l$ce, we heard shr$e $ng and meow$ng echo$ng bac to us. It sounded oddly fam$l$ar, and I was rem$nded of the last t$me Edward brought $t on home. I shoo my head and too o*er.

"!ella, what the fuc was that= ;our cat &ust." he started, and I placed my hand o*er h$s mouth as he was st$ll tal $ng as I hurr$ed past h$m. "We don't ha*e t$me Edward' We ha*e to f$nd 0l$*e'" I stated ser$ously, $n the way that one would spea to someone $n the m$ddle of a mental brea down. )l$ce followed me $nto h$s apartment, 6ed 6$c erson to my 6ancy 9rew. %rs. +m$th to my %r. +m$th. The @eymaster to my Gate eeper. I followed the shr$e s and meows towards the bac of the apartment, not$c$ng that Edward's apartment was an e"act m$rror $mage of my apartment. It was *ery 1AAN guy, w$th the flatscreen and the ama5$ng sound system. I d$dn't really ha*e t$me for a proper sha edown, but I d$d not$ce the mounta$n b$ e $n the d$n$ng room, as well as beaut$ful framed photographs all o*er the walls l$t by retro sconces. I d$dn't ha*e t$me to adm$re, I could hear 0l$*e gett$ng wor ed up $n the bedroom. I paused by the door, hear$ng the screams of #ur$na and she danced on the hardwood. I loo ed bac at Edward and )l$ce, who were wear$ng tw$n e"press$ons of fear and confus$on...although )l$ce's also showed /u$te a b$t of merr$ment. "I'm go$ng $n," I sa$d $n a low bra*e *o$ce and w$th a deep breath I pushed the door open. )nd saw the Wallbanger bedroom of s$n for the f$rst t$me. 9es $n the corner. 9resser on one wall, top co*ered $n loose change. %ore photographs on the wall, blac and wh$tes. )nd there $t was. 7$s bed. 0ue trumpets. #ushed up aga$nst the wall, my wall, was a g$ant 0al$forn$a @$ng bed, complete w$th wrought $ron headboard. 6o wonder $t was so fuc $ng loud, $t was $mmense. )nd he had the power to mo*e that th$ng w$th h$s h$ps alone= Once aga$n, my hoohah sat up stra$ght and too not$ce. I centered, I focused, and I pr$ed my eyes away from Orgasm 0entral. I wh$rled about, and ac/u$red the target. There was a leather club cha$r $n front of the w$ndow. #ur$na was perched on the bac of th$s cha$r, hands $n her ha$r, moan$ng and wa$l$ng and cry$ng $n fear. 7er s $rt was shredded, and there were t$ny claw mar s $n her stoc $ngs. +he was po$nt$ng and attempt$ng to shr$n away from the cat on the floor $n front of her. )nd 0l$*e= 0l$*e Was +trutt$ng. +trutt$ng bac and forth $n front of her, g$*$ng $t h$s all. 7e was turn$ng l$ e he was on a runway, pac$ng along a l$ne $n the floor and then glanc$ng at her o*er h$s shoulder. If 0l$*e wore a bla5er, he would ha*e ta en $t off, draped $t casually o*er h$s haunches and po$nted at her. It was all I could do not to fall down laugh$ng. I entered the room, and #ur$na shouted someth$ng at me $n (uss$an. I d$dn't need to spea the language to now that she l$ ely shouted someth$ng l$ e, "Get that fuc $ng cat away from me you cra5y b$tch before I throw borscht at you". Bust a guess. I approached. "7ey 0l$*e, hey. Where's my good boy=" I crooned, and he turned to see me. 7e glanced at me, then I swear he &er ed h$s head $n #ur$na's d$rect$on as though he were ma $ng the f$rst round of $ntroduct$ons.

"Who's your new fr$end=" I crooned aga$n, sha $ng my head at #ur$na when she tr$ed to say someth$ng. I held my f$nger up $n front of my l$ps, tell$ng her to eep s$lent. Th$s would re/u$re great f$nesse. "0l$*e, come here'" )l$ce yelled and barreled $nto the room. +he always had trouble conta$n$ng her e"c$tement. 0l$*e made for the door as )l$ce made for 0l$*e. #ur$na made for the bed as I raced after )l$ce. Who coll$ded w$th Edward &ust outs$de the bedroom door, st$ll hold$ng h$s damn Whole ,oods bags. O*erpr$ced organ$c produce ra$ned down on both of them as I pushed past, leap$ng l$mbs and a wheel of !r$e on my way bac to the front door. I caught 0l$*e &ust as he made a brea for the sta$rs, and held h$m close to me. "0l$*e, you now better than to run away from mommy," I chast$sed, as Edward and )l$ce f$nally caught up to us. "What the hell are you do$ng 0oc bloc er, are you try$ng to $ll me=" he shouted as )l$ce rounded on h$m. "9on't you call her that you...you...you Wallbanger'" she f$red bac , smac $ng h$s chest. "Oh you two shut up'" I yelled bac , as I saw #ur$na ma $ng her way down the hallway towards us, wear$ng only one shoe and a fur$ous loo . +he began to shout $n (uss$an. )l$ce and Edward cont$nued to yell, #ur$na screamed, 0l$*e struggled to get loose and be reun$ted w$th h$s one and only, and I stood $n the m$ddle of the chaos try$ng to f$gure out what the hell had happened $n the last two m$nutes. "Get control of your damn cat'" Edward yelled, as he saw 0l$*e try$ng to spr$ng free. "9on't you yell at !ella'" )l$ce yelled, smac $ng h$m aga$n. "-oo at my s $rt'" #ur$na cr$ed. "9$d someone order #ad Tha$=" I heard r$se abo*e the chaos. I loo ed, and saw a petr$f$ed del$*ery boy stand$ng on the top step, reluctant to come any further. E*eryone stopped and grew s$lent. "Enbel$e*able," )l$ce muttered and wal ed $nto my apartment, mot$on$ng for the del$*ery boy to follow her. I set 0l$*e &ust $ns$de the door, and pulled $t shut, cutt$ng off h$s cr$es. Edward ushered #ur$na $ns$de h$s place, tell$ng her softly to go f$nd someth$ng $n h$s room to put on. "I'll be $n $n &ust a m$nute," he sa$d encourag$ngly, nodded aga$n for her to go $ns$de. +he glared at me once more, and turned $n a huff, slamm$ng the door. 7e turned bac to me, and we stared at each other. We both started laugh$ng at the same t$me, unable to control $t. "9$d that really &ust happen=" he as ed through h$s chuc les. "I'm afra$d $t d$d. #lease tell #ur$na I am sooo sorry," I answered, w$p$ng tears from my eyes and the absurd$ty of what &ust happened. "I w$ll, but she needs to cool off for awh$le before I w$ll attempt that. Wa$t, what d$d you &ust call her=" he as ed, loo $ng at me as he cont$nued to laugh. "Emm, #ur$na=" I repl$ed, st$ll g$ggl$ng myself. "Why do you call her that=" he as ed, beg$nn$ng to settle down f$nally. "+er$ously= 0ome on, you can't f$gure $t out=" I sa$d $ncredulously. "6o tell me," he sa$d, runn$ng h$s hands through h$s ha$r $n a comfortable way. "Oh man, you're gonna ma e me say $t= #ur$naH because she, god, because she...meows'" I blurted

out, laugh$ng aga$n. 7e blushed deep red and nodded $n understand$ng. "($ght r$ght, of course you would ha*e heard that," he laughed. "#ur$na," he sa$d under h$s breath and sm$led bac at me. We could hear )l$ce argu$ng $n my apartment w$th the del$*ery guy, someth$ng about m$ss$ng spr$ng rolls. "+he $s a l$ttle scary you now=" he sa$d, gestur$ng towards my door. ";ou ha*e no $dea," I moaned. I could st$ll hear 0l$*e wa$l$ng beh$nd the door. I pressed my face to the door and opened $t &ust an $nch. "+hut $t 0l$*e," I h$ssed. ) paw came out through the crac , and I swear he fl$pped me off. "Why d$d your cat go apesh$t &ust now=" he as ed, w$tness$ng the e"change. "7e has a rather odd attachment to your g$rl there, e*er s$nce the second n$ght I l$*ed here. I th$n he's $n lo*e." "I see, well I w$ll ma e sure I con*ey h$s sent$ments to +rina," he stressed, "when the t$me $s r$ght of course," he chuc led, prepar$ng to go bac $ns$de. ";ou better eep $t down o*er there ton$ght Wallbanger, or I w$ll send 0l$*e bac ," I warned. "Besus no," he f$red bac . "Well then turn some fuc $ng mus$c on or someth$ng, you gotta g$*e someth$ng," I pleaded, "or he w$ll be cl$mb$ng the walls aga$n." "%us$c I can do, any re/uests=" he as ed, turn$ng to face me $ns$de the doorway. I bac ed up $nto m$ne, and put my hand on my door. ")nyth$ng but b$g band, O =" I answered softly. ) loo of d$sappo$ntment crossed h$s face. ";ou don't l$ e b$g band=" he $n/u$red, h$s *o$ce low. I pressed my f$ngers to my collarbone, my s $n feel$ng warm under h$s ga5e now. I watched as h$s eyes followed my hand, h$s eyes further heat$ng me w$th the $ntens$ty of h$s e"press$on. "I lo*e $t," I wh$spered, as h$s eyes &er ed bac to m$ne $n surpr$se. I sm$led a shy sm$le and d$sappeared $nto my apartment, lea*$ng h$m sm$l$ng bac at me. )l$ce was st$ll yell$ng at the del$*ery guy as I began to school 0l$*e, a s$mper$ng loo on both of our faces. )t around FF23A that n$ght, the sounds of #r$nce came through the walls. The song he chose to play to bloc the potent$al bang$ng= #ussy 0ontrol. I sm$led $n sp$te of myself, del$ghted at h$s w$c ed sense of humor. ,r$ends= 9ef$n$tely. %aybe. #oss$bly. #ussy 0ontrol. I thought of $t aga$n and snorted. Well played Wallbanger, well played.

0hapter N.#r$de "Oh my God, $t's huge'" "I warned you." "I ne*er thought $t would be so...well...so huge' I mean, you hear about these th$ngs, but to actually see $t $s totally d$fferent." "I now, I was hop$ng you would be pleased." "#leased= I am $n awe..." ")nd $t's b$g enough that you can e*en lean $nto $t, ya now, really mo*e around." "I can't wa$t, can I try $t out=" "+ure, I'll do $t w$th you." Bess$ca and I both cl$mbed $nto the g$ant soa $ng tub, $n our clothes, and rela"ed. +he sat at one s$de, and I at the other. We both g$ggled as we sat $n her tub, loo $ng around at the almost f$n$shed bathroom. "!ella, truly th$s $s go$ng to be beaut$ful," she sm$led, lean$ng bac aga$nst the s$de of the tub. It was an $nf$n$ty tub, almost l$ e ha*$ng a tub $ns$de another tub. The benef$t= ;ou could f$ll $t all the way up to the top, and when $t sp$lls o*er $t goes $nto the other tub. To actually be able to be totally submerged and not ha*e to worry about flood$ng your bathroom= Th$s was the def$n$t$on of lu"ury. 6ot to ment$on the many &ets that dotted the per$meter of the tub, des$gned to soothe sore muscles. Or get you off. It's a fact... I sm$led bac at her from my s$de of the tub, be$ng careful not to scratch the surface w$th my heels. "Good to now that $t's b$g enough for both you and Ba e, huh=" I sa$d po$ntedly, as she blushed a l$ttle. ";es, Ba e $s a total $d when $t comes to bathtubs. ;ou'*e seen how many bottles of h$gh end bubble bath I ha*e, and yet $t's the bo" of %r. !ubbles that he eeps h$dden away at the bac of the closet that ma e h$m lose h$s m$nd," she e"pla$ned as we both laughed at the $mage of a tall, tan Ba e, surrounded by bubbles. We both s$ghed, and rela"ed aga$n. The fact that $t felt th$s wonderful and there was not e*en water $n $t made me *ow then and there to someday ha*e a tub &ust l$ e th$s one. It really seemed necessary. "+o, tell me about th$s ne$ghbor of yours %$ss !ella..." Bess$ca sa$d, loo $ng at me as she pretended to scrub her bac . "What the hell, was $t on the news= 7ow $n the world do you now about that=" I as ed $ncredulously, stand$ng up and cl$mb$ng out of the tub. "Where do you th$n =" she laughed as she followed. We loo ed at each other $n the m$rror and I gr$maced. ")l$ce," we both sa$d, and I s$ghed. "7onestly, that g$rl needs a new hobby. +he $s ent$rely too $nterested $n what goes on $n my bu$ld$ng," I repl$ed, roll$ng my eyes. ";ou should ha*e seen the scene she caused when she was o*er for d$nner the other n$ght'" I cont$nued. "Oh you mean w$th 0l$*e and #ur$na=" she g$ggled as I wh$rled about. "Enbel$e*able, that g$rl should be here wor $ng on your closet, not flapp$ng her gums," I grumbled, head$ng out $nto the bedroom. "Oh please, you now your fr$end $s a l$ttle goss$p, don't you dare act surpr$sed," she ch$ded, follow$ng me.

"True, but damn she wor s fast'" I added. We e"am$ned the pa$nt samples on the wall and I could tell she wanted to as me someth$ng by the way she ept steal$ng s$deways glances at me. "Bust say $t..." I muttered and loo ed at her w$th a small sm$le. "6oth$ng, I &ust want to be $n*$ted o*er ne"t t$me there $s a show l$ e that' Or least when he $s 'br$ng$ng $t on home' as )l$ce says you call $t," she g$ggled and I m$med throw$ng a hammer at her that the wor men had left. ";eah yeah yeah, you ha*e a gorgeous husband at home e*ery n$ght and you want to come o*er to my place to l$sten to my ne$ghbor gett$n' busy. 6$ce. ;ou sure you're a soc$al$te=" I as ed, as she brand$shed a g$ant wrench at me. "If you sp$ll any of th$s blue blood I'll be forced to defend myself," she laughed bac and I held up my hands $n surrender. We spent a few m$nutes dec$d$ng on the f$nal pa$nt colors and then she tr$ed aga$n. "+o, you're go$ng to the symphony benef$t th$s wee end, r$ght= )l$ce ment$oned $t." ";ep, that's the plan," I answered, now$ng where th$s $s go$ng. "+o, are you ta $ng anyone=" "7adn't planned on $t. I am tagg$ng along w$th the new fantast$c four." "Well, why don't you as your ne$ghbor= I mean, $t ma es sense w$th your fr$ends dat$ng h$s fr$ends," she prodded. "It ma es sense e"cept that he $s currently see$ng a few lo*el$es, and we &ust barely called a truce. +o no, than you," I repl$ed and turned to wal out of the room. +he followed me down the sta$rs. "!ella, I now plenty of men I could set you up w$th. Guys that would go cra5y to go out w$th you, want me to set someth$ng up=" she pleaded and I new her heart was $n the r$ght place. I stood at the bottom of the sta$rs loo $ng bac up at her. "That's *ery sweet of you, but the th$ng $s, I'm &ust not that $nterested $n dat$ng anyone r$ght now," I sa$d and saw her face fall. It was a hard th$ng to descr$be. #eople tended not to understand why I wasn't dat$ng anyone, and $t was hard for me to understand at t$mes as well. E*er s$nce the 6ewton )ffa$r, I ob*$ously had lost touch w$th the O. )nd as that went away, I found that men $n general weren't that $nterest$ng to me anymore e$ther. 0erta$nly as the months went on, I found myself momentar$ly lonely, but o*erall I was en&oy$ng be$ng alone. I had always been someone that was e$ther $n a relat$onsh$p or at least dat$ng someone casually. I had ne*er spent an e"tended per$od of t$me alone, and once I d$d, I found that I /u$te l$ ed $t. I found that I en&oyed see$ng mo*$es alone, eat$ng d$nner by myself at t$mes, and $t was n$ce to now that I was more than capable of funct$on$ng w$thout a man. 9$d I want one to l$e on top of me once $n awh$le= 7ells yes. )nd lately there was one that ept spr$ng$ng to m$nd. )nd yet, for the most part, I was happy by myself. E"cept for those n$ghts that Ina and Beffrey p$ssed me off... I new that I m$ght f$nd someone that would complement me the way that Bacob complemented Bess$ca. !ut $f I d$dn't= Well, as long as someone f$nally manufactured a (abb$t that was capable of resurrect$ng the O, that would be enough for me. It would ha*e to be, r$ght= 7ell, at least I had my @$tchena$d.

I dragged myself away from the s$ngle g$rl *$gnette $ns$de my head, and refocused on my cl$ent $n front of me. "7ey, don't be sad. Wa$t unt$l you see the dress I got for the benef$t, maybe I w$ll meet my #r$nce 0harm$ng wh$le I'm there. I assume you're go$ng, yes=" "#lease, soc$al$te remember=" she laughed, po$nt$ng at herself. "($ght r$ght," I laughed. I spent a l$ttle more t$me w$th her, f$nal$5$ng a few last m$nute touches and then I $ssed her on the chee goodbye, and headed bac to the off$ce. I wal ed, ta $ng my t$me and en&oy$ng the sunsh$ne. Esually by th$s t$me of day, the fog had burned off and $t was my fa*or$te t$me to wal the h$lly streets. In*$te Wallbanger to the benef$t huh= 7mmmH That e*en$ng I was headed out to yoga when I found myself face to face w$th Edward once aga$n. 7e was com$ng up the sta$rs as I was headed down. "If I sa$d we ha*e to stop meet$ng l$ e th$s, would $t sound as tr$te as $t sounds $n my head=" I offered and he laughed. "I dunno, g$*e $t a try." "O . Wow, we ha*e to stop meet$ng l$ e th$s'" I e"cla$med $n moc surpr$se. We both wa$ted a beat, and then we laughed aga$n. ";ep, tr$te," he sa$d and laughed aga$n. "%aybe we can wor out some $nd of schedule, share custody of the hallway or someth$ng," I repl$ed and sh$fted my we$ght from one leg to another. 5reat, now it looks like !ou ha"e to pee... "Where are you off to ton$ght= I seem to always catch you when you're lea*$ng," he sa$d as he propped h$mself up on the wall. "Well, clearly I am headed somewhere *ery fancy," I chuc led, gestur$ng to my yoga pants and cam$. I then showed h$m my water bottle and my yoga mat. 7e pretended to th$n *ery carefully, and then h$s eyes w$dened $n real$5at$on. ";ou're go$ng to pottery class'" ";es, clearly that's where I'm headed...ass," I answered, and he sm$led that gr$n at me. I sm$led bac . "+o you ne*er ga*e me the scoop on what you heard at brunch the other day, what's go$ng on w$th our fr$ends=" he began, and I d$dn't at all feel the flutter that ran around $n my belly at the ment$on of the word 'our'. 6ot at all... "Well, I can tell you that my g$rls were /u$te ta en w$th your boys. 9$d you now they're all go$ng to the symphony benef$t ne"t wee =" I sa$d, $nstantly horr$f$ed that I went there that /u$c ly. "I heard that, Emmett gets t$c ets for that e*ery year. #er s of the &ob I suppose, sports broadcasters always go to the symphony, r$ght=" he &o ed. "I would assume, espec$ally when they're try$ng to cult$*ate a certa$n man about town persona," I snar ed w$th a w$n . ";ou caught that, huh=" he w$n ed bac and then we found oursel*es star$ng at each other. W$th noth$ng else to say. &o word "o%it... "+o, are you go$ng=" I as ed and could feel my face beg$n to flame.

+t's all for the truce, co%e on... "6ot th$s year, I'm headed o*erseas. I'm lea*$ng tomorrow actually," he sa$d softly. If I d$dn't now better, he almost loo ed a l$ttle d$sappo$nted. "(eally= On a shoot=" I sa$d and then real$5ed my m$sta e. The sm$r came bac w$th a *engeance. "0hec $ng up on me huh=" he teased and I felt my face go from p$n to a lo*ely tomato red. "Esme ment$oned what you d$d for a l$*$ng, yes. )nd I not$ced some of the p$ctures $n your apartment. When my pussy was chas$ng your (uss$an= ($ng any bells=" I sa$d as he began to sh$ft h$s own we$ght at my use of the word pussy. /%%%, weak spot? ";ou not$ced my p$ctures huh=" he as ed /u$etly. "I d$d. ;ou'*e got a great set of sconces," I offered, sm$l$ng sweetly and loo $ng d$rectly at h$s crotch. "+conces huh=" he mumbled, clear$ng h$s throat. "Occupat$onal ha5ard. +o where are you headed anyway= O*erseas I mean," I as ed, dragg$ng my eyes del$berately bac up to h$s, and not$c$ng h$s were nowhere near my face. /eh heh heh... "What= Oh, um Ireland. +hoot$ng a bunch of coastal shots for 0onde 6aste, and then head$ng $nto some of the smaller towns," he answered, br$ng$ng h$s ga5e bac to m$ne as I f$nally not$ced h$m a l$ttle flustered. hank 5od, the Wondercock is hu%an and is suscepti#le to suggestion. "Ireland huh= Well br$ng me bac a sweater." "+weater, got $t. )nyth$ng else=" ") pot of gold= )nd a shamroc =" "Great, I won't ha*e to lea*e the a$rport g$ft shop," he muttered. ")nd then when you come home, I'll do a l$ttle Ir$sh dance for you'" I cr$ed and started laugh$ng at the lunacy of th$s con*ersat$on. ")w 6$ght$e G$rl, d$d you &ust offer to dance for me=" he sa$d $n a low *o$ce, stepp$ng a l$ttle closer to me. )nd &ust l$ e that, the balance of power sh$fted. "Wallbanger Wallbanger," I e"haled, sha $ng my head. %a$nly to clear $t from h$m be$ng so near. "We'*e been o*er th$s, I ha*e no des$re to &o$n the harem," I teased. "What ma es you th$n I would as you=" "I th$n that would mess w$th the truce, don't you=" I laughed. "%mm, the truce," he answered. Bust then I heard steps on the sta$rs below. "Edward= Is that you=" a *o$ce called up, and at that he leaned bac , away from me. I loo ed down and real$5ed that we had been $nch$ng towards each other on the land$ng dur$ng the ent$re e"change and had been /u$te close. "7ey @at$e, up here'" he called down. 7e sm$led sheep$shly at me, and I laughed at h$m. If we were go$ng to be fr$ends, I m$ght as well meet the harem by God. ) moment later we were &o$ned by '@ate', who I of course new as +pan". I muffled a laugh as I sm$led at her. Edward handled the $ntroduct$ons.

"@ate, th$s $s my ne$ghbor, !ella. !ella, th$s $s @ate." I offered my hand, and she loo ed cur$ously between Edward and I. "7$ @ate, n$ce to meet you." ";ou too !ella, you the one w$th the cat=" she as ed, a tw$n le $n her eye. I loo ed at Edward, and he shrugged. "Gu$lty, although 0l$*e would argue w$th you that $n fact he $sn't a cat but an actual person." "Oh I now, my dog )ngela watched T: and would bar unt$l I put on someth$ng she actually l$ ed. What a pa$n $n the ass she was," she sm$led, but loo ed a l$ttle sad. We all stood for a moment and $t was beg$nn$ng to get a l$ttle aw ward. "O $ds, I'm off to yoga. Edward, ha*e a safe tr$p and I'll f$ll you $n on all the goss$p from the new couples when you get bac ." "+ounds good, I'll be gone awh$le but hopefully they won't get $n too much trouble wh$le I'm gone," he chuc led as they started up the sta$rs. "I'll eep my eyes on them. 6$ce to meet you @ate," I sa$d, headed down the sta$rs myself. ";ou too !ella. 6$ght'" she called bac to me as they went up to h$s place. )s I wal ed down the sta$rs, slower than necessary, I heard her say, "Is that the #$n 6$ght$e G$rl=" "+hut $t @at$e," he f$red bac and I swore he swatted her on the butt. 7er yelp a second later conf$rmed $t. I rolled my eyes aga$n at no one $n part$cular as I pushed the door open and I headed out $nto the street. When I got to the gym, I sw$tched my class and too I loo ed goooood. I lo*ed gett$ng dressed up l$ e th$s. )fter 7omecom$ng and #rom, there weren't tons of opportun$t$es for a g$rl to get th$s dressed up. )nd ton$ght I wouldn't ha*e to wear a dor y corsage that matched someone else's cummerbund. +omeone Else's 0ummerbund. What a great name for a band... I remo*ed myself from my own stream of consc$ousness nonsense and set about brush$ng my ha$r one last t$me. The car ser*$ce was due any moment, and I wanted to be ready. )l$ce and (ose had $ns$sted that I r$de w$th one of them to the benef$t, but then $t really would feel l$ e #rom, and I was the sad sac that d$dn't get as ed but her mom $ns$sted she go anyway. "6ope. I'll see you two there. %ost l$ ely I'll be the one by the bar," I &o ed w$th (ose earl$er that day on the phone when she tr$ed one last t$me to get me to come w$th her and Basper. "Besus, +wan, don't be so stubborn. It w$ll be fun $f you come w$th us, we can get t$psy $n the l$mo." ")s tempt$ng as that $s, I w$ll &ust see you there. 6o b$g deal. Why aren't you two doubl$ng w$th Emmett and )l$ce=" I as ed, tw$rl$ng my ha$r around my f$nger as I got my ped$cure for the e*en$ng. The four had been out se*eral t$mes $n the last couple wee s, always together. I &o ed w$th both of them that they were go$ng to end up ha*$ng group se". +ometh$ng ne$ther of them thought was funny. "!el$e*e me, Basper was push$ng for us to go w$th )l$ce and Emmett, but we thought $t was t$me to ha*e some solo dates," she answered, her *o$ce say$ng someth$ng I couldn't /u$te place. $c bo"$ng $nstead. I stood $n front of the m$rror $n my apartment, adm$r$ng the way I loo ed.

"Th$ngs go$ng well w$th the gen$us ph$lanthrop$st=" I as ed, nodd$ng to the woman select$ng my fa*or$te color, 7oly #$n #agoda. "Em...yes. ;es, th$ngs are good. 7e $s really perfect for me, I mean $t's l$ e my perfect guy wal ed off the pages of my bra$n," she prattled. "The pages of your bra$n=" I repeated. "+hut $t, you now what I mean. 7e's great o , he's great," she repl$ed. "7e def$n$tely seems pretty great," I had agreed. I had gone out w$th all four of them earl$er $n the wee . We all met up for sush$ and I had a great t$me. Emmett was *ery s$lly and fun, def$n$tely a charmer. The more t$me I spent w$th h$m, I new he was a good egg. )nd he had made us all laugh w$th a story he told about h$mself, Edward, and Basper when they went s $$ng $n Tahoe once. *,o + co%e in to take an innocent dip in %! parent's hot tu#, and who do + find #ut -asper, naked as a ja!#ird with twins) And a can of 6risco,* he finished, throwing #ack his head and laughing loudl!. *&aked? With twins?* Alice cackled and -asper #lushed as he looked #ack at her with an e%#arrassed grin. */ello? 2orget the naked and the twins, e1plain the 6risco please,* + e1clai%ed, leaning into hi%. * he 6risco + had no part in, Edward had stu%#led in a few %inutes #efore and thought it would #e funn! to 'decorate' the scene for %e. What !ou didn't see were all the hot dogs he had strewn a#out on the floor. What an ass,* he laughed as E%%ett laughed e"en louder. (ose was giggling the entire ti%e, and e"er! ti%e E%%ett laughed, she laughed harder. he two of the% were al%ost in tears. E"en + was laughing, especiall! at the i%age of a sneak! Edward surreptitiousl! *decorating* the scene. I new he was a l$ttle w$c ed. *0our parents ha"e a house in ahoe?* (ose asked looking across the ta#le at E%%ett. * he! used to, not an!%ore. he! got di"orced a few !ears ago, and it was sold.* *M! grandparents ha"e a house up there, + used to spend so %uch ti%e there growing up. + ha"en't #een up there in !ears,* she answered, s%iling at hi%. I had watched th$s e"change w$th $nterest, and watched Basper and )l$ce cont$nue to g$ggle on the other s$de of the table o*er 0r$sco and tw$ns. I sm$led as I thought of th$s and heard my phone beep. The car ser*$ce was &ust around the corner. I too one last loo $n the m$rror and smoothed out my dress. !enef$t t$me... "I'll ha*e an )bsolut mart$n$, stra$ght up w$th three ol$*es please," I murmured to the bartender as I loo ed around the crowded e*ent. There were so many people here, $t was hard not to ta e the opportun$ty to people watch. To my left was an $nterest$ng couple. +$l*er ha$red gentleman w$th a woman younger than I was, w$th newly purchased t$ts. Good g$rl, you get yours. I mean, $f I had to loo at flabby old man buns I would want b$gger boobs too... I s$pped my coc ta$l and sur*eyed the rest of the room. Esme and 0arl$sle, loo $ng as grand as they e*er d$d when dec ed out for e*ents l$ e th$s, had already c$rcled once and sa*ed me from tal $ng to an old blue ha$red lady that seemed to th$n I was her cous$n %ath$lda. I spotted (ose $n the crowd, her tall frame and gorgeous almost wh$te blond ha$r sett$ng her apart e*en $n a crowd of almost a thousand. #lay$ng cello $n the +an ,ranc$sco +ymphony certa$nly had $ts pr$*$leges, and the t$c et to th$s gala once a year was &ust the t$p of the $ceberg. (ose was a natural born performer, and I wasn't $dd$ng

when I told Edward she really new how to wor a room. #art of her role ton$ght was ma $ng sure the patrons were happy. #eople that ga*e to organ$5at$ons l$ e the +ymphony, or the !allet, or the Opera lo*ed the chance to $nteract w$th the performers. It made them feel a part of the$r $n*estment. )nd (ose ne*er d$sappo$nted. I could see her chatt$ng w$th the %ayor, and off to the s$de )l$ce, Basper, and Emmett. What was odd= Emmett was stand$ng off to one s$de, eyes clearly f$"ed on (ose as she chatted. )l$ce and Basper= Totally caught up $n the$r con*ersat$on, not e*en car$ng that they were lea*$ng Emmett out. ,rom where I stood, the d$stance I had afforded me perfect clar$ty of thought and I saw someth$ng *ery $ntr$gu$ng. (ose glanced to the s$de dur$ng her con*ersat$on, not at Basper, but at Emmett. 7e would sm$le, and before too long, waded $nto the con*ersat$on h$mself. !e$ng on the news e*ery n$ght made $t *ery easy to tal to Emmett, as we often feel we now those that we watch on T:. I s$pped my dr$n aga$n, and heard Esme's d$st$nct laughter. )nd I new no one could ma e Esme laugh harder than her own 0arl$sle. I spun slowly and saw them approach. "Three ol$*es= I'm sure I could f$nd you a bowl $f you &ust wanted to munch dear," Esme teased, cl$n $ng my glass w$th her own. "I am off the cloc !oss -ady, don't th$n I won't tell you where to st$c your p$mento," I teased bac , lean$ng $n to $ss 0arl$sle chee $ly. "+tep away from my man &un$or, or you w$ll f$nd yourself beh$nd the counter at #$er F before %onday," Esme warned, wrapp$ng her arm snugly around 0arl$sle's wa$st. 7e sm$led at her $n a way that I had seen h$m sm$le before. 6o other woman e"$sted on the planet for h$m other than Esme. +he would ne*er ha*e to worry about that man cheat$ng on her, $t wouldn't e*en enter $nto h$s m$nd. It &ust wouldn't. We could fl$rt and tease and flaunt as much as we wanted, he would ne*er engage $n more than good natured fl$rtat$on w$th me and my g$rls. It was n$ce to see a man so $n lo*e w$th h$s woman. )nd she was o*er the moon for h$m. "+o, any cut$es here ton$ght=" she as ed, lean$ng $n consp$rator$ally towards me as 0arl$sle left to say hello to someone he new. "I'm sure there are, but I ha*e been concentrat$ng on the bottom of th$s here mart$n$ glass than you *ery much," I mumbled, dra$n$ng my glass and see$ng the ups$de down $mages of my g$rls and the$r new boys approach$ng. "Esme'" )l$ce cr$ed, rush$ng $nto her arms and g$*$ng her a t$ght s/uee5e. )l$ce was t$ny but f$erce. +he was what I called a 7ard 7ugger. It wasn't funny, she could do some damage. "7$ )l$ce," Esme cho ed out, releas$ng her hands from beh$nd her bac and sm$l$ng down at her. +he sm$led at (ose as well, who was a l$ttle more restra$ned $n publ$c. They d$d the class$c a$r $ss, and then the boys both leaned $n to hug her as well. I could tell that Emmett and Basper thought of her the way we thought of 0arl$sle. The $deal. "7ow $s $t go$ng, ha*$ng fun m$ngl$ng w$th all the other patrons=" I as ed (ose, as we d$sengaged from the others long enough to head bac o*er to the bar. "It's good, ha*$ng fun," she mused and then told the bartender e"actly how to ma e her s $nny g$rl margar$ta. I watched her for a moment, and then when she turned bac to me I as ed, "7ow's Emmett ton$ght=" 7er eyes l$t up br$efly, and then she real$5ed who I had as ed about. "Emmett= Good I guess, Basper loo s great $n h$s su$t doesn't he=" she co*ered, gestur$ng o*er to where we had left our group. Where )l$ce and Basper were deep $n con*ersat$on once more, Emmett and Esme now tal $ng to 0arl$sle. Basper d$d $ndeed loo good $n h$s su$t, the nerd cleaned up good. !lac su$t and a blue t$e that

e"actly matched h$s $cy blue eyes. The eyes that were f$"ed del$ghtedly on %$ss !randon. 7ow could they not see $t= "Emmett loo s pretty n$ce to me ton$ght," I tossed out, mo*$ng on towards the brawny sportscaster. 0harcoal gray su$t, cr$sp blac sh$rt and gray t$e, he loo ed e*ery $nch the man about town he was. )nd he was loo $ng f$ne. ";ep," she sa$d $c$ly, l$c $ng a b$t of salt from the r$m on her glass. I g$ggled and placed a hand on her arm. "0ome on pretty g$rl, let's get you bac to your perfect man," I wh$spered, and we re&o$ned the group. The e*en$ng was del$ghtful and fru$tful as well. Esme $ntroduced me to se*eral of her cl$ents that I had not met before, and I could see that my fall was go$ng to be boo ed sol$d w$th pro&ects. %ore bedrooms to be reconf$gured, $tchens remodeled, playrooms des$gned. The economy may ha*e gone $nto the to$let for most, but here $n the world of symphony galas, the money flowed. I departed a l$ttle before my fr$ends d$d, t$red but happy. Once aga$n I had spent an e*en$ng alone, and l$*ed to tell the tale. I wondered $f other s$ngle women understood the del$ght that came from attend$ng an e*ent l$ e th$s alone, and happy about $t. To not ha*e to ma e small tal w$th some guy someone set you up w$th, to not ha*e to worry about some $d$ot w$th peppercorn encrusted f$let breath try$ng to force h$s w$ggly tongue down the bac of your throat, and to not ha*e to e"pla$n to that same $d$ot why you $ns$st on ta $ng a cab home when h$s super fast 0amaro $s par ed r$ght o*er there. I was $n the car headed home when my phone beeped, alert$ng me to a te"t. I scrolled up and saw a number I d$dn't recogn$5e. Have a good time tonight? Who the hell was te"t$ng me= Who the hell is texting me? )s I wa$ted for the reply, I leaned down and sl$pped off my shoes. ,antast$c heels, but damn they hurt my feet. %y phone beeped aga$n and I read the respond$ng te"t. Some people all me Wall!anger... I hated myself a l$ttle for the way my now na ed toes curled. +tup$d toes. Wall!anger huh? Wait a minute" how did #ou get m# num!er? I wa$ted to get the response, and new $t had to ha*e been e$ther )l$ce or (ose. 9amn g$rls, they were really push$ng $t lately. $ an%t reveal m# sour es. So" did #ou have a good time tonight? O , I can play th$s game. $n &a t $ did. 'n m# wa# home now. How is the Emerald $sle? Lonel# #et? $t%s !eauti&ul a tuall#" (ust having !rea)&ast. And $ am never lonel#. $ !elieve that. *id #ou !u# m# sweater #et? Wor)ing on it" want to get (ust the right one. +es please" give me a good one. Not going to respond to that one...how%s that puss# o& #ours? ,eall# not going to respond to that one...is there something #ou wanted? -his not responding thing is getting harder...

$ )now what #ou mean" it%s hard not to tou h that one... ')" o&&i iall# ending this round" the innuendos are too thi ) to see straight. 'h $ don%t )now" it%s !etter when it%s thi )... Wow. $ am en(o#ing this tru e more than $ expe ted. $ have to admit it%s good &or me too... Are #ou home #et? +ep" (ust pulled up in &ront o& our !uilding. ')" $%ll wait until #ou%re inside. Bet #ou an%t wait to get inside. +ou are a demon #ou )now that? $ have !een told. ')" inside. .ust )i )ed #our door !tw. -han)s &or that. .ust !eing a good neigh!or. Good night /in) Nightie Girl... Good night #a stupid Wall!anger... I laughed as I turned the ey $n my loc and went $ns$de. I san down onto my couch, st$ll laugh$ng. 0l$*e /u$c ly &umped $nto my lap, and I petted h$s s$l y fur as he purred h$s welcome home. %y phone beeped once more. *id #ou reall# )i ) m# door? Shut up. Go eat #our !rea)&ast. I laughed aga$n as I turned my phone off for the n$ght, and la$d bac onto the couch. 0l$*e perched on my chest as I rela"ed for a b$t, thoughts of that damn Wallbanger $n my head. It was shoc $ng how clear I could see h$m $n my head. +oft faded &eans, h$ $ng boots a la Ba e (yan. Off wh$te Ir$sh cable n$t turtlenec sweater, ha$r all $n d$sarray. +tand$ng on a roc y coast somewhere, ocean $n the bac ground. ) l$ttle tan, sl$ghtly weathered, hands $n poc et. )nd that fuc $ng sm$r on h$s arrogant face. %y hoohah must en&oy a good sm$r , as she was s$tt$ng up stra$ght once more. E#O: I laughed as I closed her last te"t. Eat my brea fast $ndeed. I dug $nto my oatmeal as I scrolled through some of the other te"ts and ema$ls that had come $n through the n$ght. )n ema$l from the 0hron$cle bac home, as $ng me to shoot for a story they were runn$ng on tra*el around the bay area, wee end getaway $nd of th$ng. )nother te"t from Emmett as $ng me $f -uc y 0harms were $n fact mag$cally del$c$ous. )n ema$l from @ate. I was hop$ng she would get $n contact w$th me, I d$dn't want the way we left th$ngs to $mpact our fr$endsh$p. I was fr$ends w$th these women f$rst and foremost, and though our e"tracurr$cular act$*$t$es were less than con*ent$onal at the core I counted each of them as women I would spend t$me w$th outs$de of the bedroom. @ate was spec$al, I had nown her the longest. +he was wonderfully g$*$ng, and though the se" was now off the table I new that we would stay close. +elf$shly I hoped she would st$ll ma e me her banana bread. 9amn, that g$rl made the best banana bread.

That Garrett was a luc y luc y man. I f$n$shed my brea fast and tea, and wal ed o*er to the b$g p$cture w$ndow. I had stayed $n th$s l$ttle bed and brea fast before, and I felt *ery comfortable here. Tra*el$ng as much as I d$d, I had learned that the smaller the $nn, the more l$ e home $t typ$cally felt. The older couple that ran the $nn remembered me from my last tr$p and were determ$ned to ma e sure I had e*eryth$ng I needed. I stared out at the mass$*e e"panse of green, and wondered $f !ella had fallen asleep yet. I sm$led to myself as I further wondered $f she was dream$ng about me aga$n.

0hapter FA. The Ground !eneath 7er ,eet Te"t $ntercepted from !ella to Edward +ou had a pa )age delivered" $ signed &or it and it%s at m# pla e. -han)s" $%ll pi ) it up when $%m !a ). How are #ou? Good" (ust wor)ing. How are the $rish? Lu )#. How%s that insane at? Lu )#. $ aught him tr#ing to lim! the walls. He is still loo)ing &or /urina. He misses her. .udging on her rea tion" $ don%t thin) a roman e is in the ards &or those two. /ro!a!l# not0he will not over it an#time soon tho. $ might have to !ump up his atnip rations. *on%t over medi ate. No one li)es a puss# that an%t hold a onversation. $ am a tuall# a little s ared o& #ou0 L'L. *on%t !e s ared" wait until $ o&&er #ou and# &or that. $& $ at h #ou in a tren h oat $ am running the other wa#! When are #ou oming home !tw? 1issing me a little? No" $ wanted to hang some pi tures on the wall !ehind m# head!oard and $ am wondering how mu h time $ have. $ pro!a!l# need to have them an hored prett# deep0 $%ll !e home in 2 wee)s. $& #ou an wait that long" $%ll help #ou. $t%s the least $ an do. -he ver# least" and $ will wait. +ou provide the hammer" $ will provide the o )tails. 3urious a!out m# hammer are #ou? Going a ross the hall right now to )i ) #our door !tw0 Te"t $ntercepted from )l$ce to !ella Girl" guess what? ,ose &ound out her grandparents% house was availa!le next month. We are on our wa# to -ahoe !a!#! Sweet! -hat will !e ni e" $ have !een d#ing to get awa# with m# girls0 A tuall#" we were thin)ing o& inviting the !o#s along0is that ool with #ou? -hat%s &ine" #ou gu#s will have a great time. $diot" o!viousl# #ou are still invited. Aw thx! $ would love to go along on a romanti wee)end with 2 other semi ouples. 4AN-AS-$3! *on%t !e an asshole Bella. +ou are totall# still oming. +ou won%t !e a 5th wheel" it%ll !e so mu h &un! *id #ou )now .asper pla#s guitar? He is gonna !ring it" we an have a sing along! What is this0&u )ing amp? No thx! Te"t $ntercepted from )l$ce to Emmett He# Big 1an" what are #ou doing middle o& next month? He# Shortie. No plans #et" what%s up? ,ose grandparents are gonna let us have the -ahoe house" #ou in? As) .asper0 4u )in a! $%m there" $%ll as) the nerd i& he%s in. -r#ing to tal) Bella into oming along too

Great! -he more the merrier. Are we still meeting up &or drin)s with ,ose and .asper tonight? +ep" see #ou tonight +ou got it )iddo0 Te"t $ntercepted from Edward to Emmett 6uit &u )ing as)ing me a!out Lu )# 3harms -hat little gu# ra )s me up ever# time! He#" when are #ou getting home? We are headed up to -ahoe &or a wee)end next month $%ll !e home next wee)" who is going? ,ose and Ali e" me and Whitlo ). 1a#!e Bella. -hat girls prett# ool. +ah" she%s prett# ool when she%s not o )!lo )ing. -ahoe huh? +ep" ,ose%s grandparents have a house there. Ni e Te"t $ntercepted from Edward to !ella +ou going to -ahoe? How the hell did #ou hear a!out that alread#? Word gets around...Emmett is prett# ex ited. 'h $ am sure he is. ,ose in a hot tu!" isn%t too hard to &igure out. Wait" $ thought he was dating #our little &riend" Ali e. 'h he is" !ut that he is de& thin)ing a!out ,ose in a hot tu!" trust me. What the hell? Strange things are a&oot in San 4ran is o. -he# are ea h dating the wrong person. What? $t%s sho )ing reall# to see them all together. Ali e an%t stop tal)ing a!out .asper" who is usuall# staring li)e a sad little pupp# dog at her. And then ,ose is so !us# mooning over Emmett%s giant man hands" she an%t see that he is staring right !a ) at her. $t%s prett# &unn#. Wh# don%t the# swap? Sa#s the gu# with the harem0it%s not alwa#s that eas#. Wait until $ get home" $%ll ta)e are o& it '7 1r. 4ix8$t. Be&ore or a&ter #ou hang m# pi tures? *on%t worr# Nightie Girl" $ am all a!out getting into #our !edroom Sigh *id #ou reall# (ust t#pe the word sigh? Sigh0 Are #ou going to -ahoe? Not i& $ an help it. Altho it would almost !e worth it to wat h the &u )er# that is sure to happen when the# &inall# &igure this out $ndeed Te"t $ntercepted from !ella to (ose

What is this $ hear a!out #ou not oming to -ahoe? 9gh! What is the !ig &u )ing deal? Eas# -rigger" what rawled up #our ass? $ (ust don%t )now wh# it is essential that $ a ompan# all o& #ou on a romanti wee)end" $ am per&e tl# happ# to go next time. $t won%t !e li)e that" $ promise. $ alread# have to hear Wall!anger when he%s home" $ don%t need to hear .asper drilling #ou in the next room" or Ali e getting manhandled. *o #ou thin) he%s manhandling her? What? Emmett. *o #ou thin) he%s0manhandling her? $s he what? 'h #ou )now what $ mean0 ,osalie Hale" are #ou a tuall# as)ing me i& our dear &riend Ali e is &u )ing her new !o# to#? +es! $ am as)ing! As it happens" no" the# are not :manhandling: #et. Wait a minute" wh# are #ou as)ing me that? Are #ou not &u )ing .asper #et? Gotta go Te"t $ntercepted from (ose to Basper $s it weird that we onl# ever go out on dou!le dates with Ali e and Emmett? What? $s it weird? $ don%t )now" is it? +es it is. -onight #ou are oming over" alone" and we are wat hing a movie. +es ma%am. And !tw" as) #our !udd# Edward to ome to -ahoe. An# spe i&i reason $ am doing this? +es. 3are to share? Nope. Bring pop orn. Te"t $ntercepted from Basper to Edward Are #ou si ) o& green #et? $ am read# to ome home #es" m# &light gets in late tomorrow night. 'r tonight. 4u )" $ don%t )now. ,ose as)ed me to as) #ou i& #ou want to ome along to -ahoe" #ou in? -ahoe huh0 +ep. $ thin) Bella is going. $ thought she wasn%t going?

Have #ou !een tal)ing to the 3o )!lo )er? +es" a little. She%s prett# ool" the tru e seems to !e holding. Hmmm. So" -ahoe? Let me thin) a!out it. Windsur&ing this wee)end? +ep. Te"t $ntercepted from Edward to !ella So $ got invited to the -ahoe thing" are #ou going? +ou got invited? -hat little shit0 $ ta)e it #ou are still not sold on the idea? $ don%t )now" $ love going up there" and the house is prett# &antasti . Are #ou going? Are #ou going? $ as)ed #ou &irst. So what? 3hild. +es" $ suppose $ will end up going. Great! $ love it up there 'h #ou%re going now? 1ight as well" sounds li)e &un. Hmm" we%ll see. Home tomorrow" #es? +ep" late &light in and then sleeping &or at least a da#. Let me )now when #ou%re home" $%ve got that pa )age &or #ou. Will do. And $ am !a)ing ;u hini !read tonight" $%ll save some &or #ou. +ou pro!a!l# have no gro eries at all" right? +ou ma)e ;u hini !read? +ep Sigh0 E#O: I sat $n the bac of the cab, struggl$ng to eep my eyes open. I had touched down at +,O late, fl$ghts were delayed across the country. E*en though I always pa$d the e"tra fare for f$rst class when tra*el$ng $nternat$onally, I could ne*er sleep on a plane. E*er. 6e*er. +o after fly$ng for essent$ally FC hours, and my body ha*$ng no $dea what t$me 5one $t was $n, I was e"hausted. I was ready for a shower, and bed, and that was $t. I dragged myself up the sta$rs, paus$ng to throw a sm$le o*er my shoulder as I loo ed at the door across the hall. I fought the ch$ld$sh compunct$on to $c $t, and let myself $nto my own apartment. I dropped my bags, peeled off my &ac et, sweater, t.sh$rt, and pants on the thousand.m$le &ourney from front door to bathroom. I shuffled across the hardwood floor, pants around an les as I yawned. I remo*ed shoes, soc s and f$nally bo"ers as I stepped under the hot water. I almost cho ed, fall$ng asleep underneath the warm water. I /u$c ly soaped up, r$nsed off, and towel dr$ed my ha$r $nto g$ant ,loc of +eagull wa*es on my way to the bedroom. 0lean bo"ers on= 0hec .

#$llow scrunched underneath my head= 0hec . Goofy I.am.so.glad.to.be.$n.my.own.bed.sm$le on my face= 0hec ' I s$ghed t$redly and let sleep come to ta e me. 0ome on sleep. 0ome on sleep, ta e me. It was too /u$et. I sat up and loo ed at the record player on the des . I crawled bac out of bed and stood $n the dar try$ng to select some mus$c. 9u e Ell$ngton. The needle h$t the record, my head h$t the p$llow, and I was out before the f$rst song was o*er. !#O: I wo e up suddenly to hear mus$c com$ng from ne"t door. I loo ed at the cloc and saw that $t was after two $n the morn$ng. 0l$*e po ed h$s head out from under the co*ers and h$ssed when he heard the tunes. "Oh shut up, don't be &ealous," I h$ssed bac , and he glared at me, show$ng me h$s bum as he turned bac around under the co*ers, head f$rst. I snuggled deeper under the co*ers myself, sm$l$ng as I l$stened to the mus$c. Wallbanger was home. The ne"t morn$ng when I wo e up I was so happy $t was a +aturday. It was one of those days when I was caught up on e*eryth$ng, had no laundry to do, no errands to run, &ust a day to en&oy and rela". ,antast$c. I dec$ded to start w$th a n$ce long bath, and then I would dec$de what I wanted to do w$th my day. I was plann$ng a run at Golden Gate #ar later that afternoon. ,all was so pretty there, and the l$ght was so wonderful, I &ust m$ght ta e a boo and spend the ent$re afternoon there after my run. I started the bath and 0l$*e came $nto the bathroom to eep me company. 7e wea*ed $n and out of my legs as I dropped my p&s on the floor, meow$ng as he e"plored the top of the bathtub. 7e lo*ed to balance on the edge of the tub wh$le I too a bath. 7e had ne*er fallen $n, although somet$mes he would d$p h$s ta$l. +$lly cat, one of these days he was gonna d$p more than h$s ta$lH I tested the water. It was about halfway up the s$de of the tub when I dec$ded I needed a l$ttle coffee before I settled $n. I padded out to the $tchen, na ed as the day $s long, to ma e myself a cup. I yawned as I measured the beans and ground them $n my @$tchena$d gr$nder. (eally, why I hadn't appl$ed to get a pos$t$on w$th @$tchena$d was beyond me. If Esme e*er dec$ded to f$re me, I felt /u$te sure I could con*$nce the @$tchena$d people to h$re me. I tossed a few spoonfuls $nto the f$lter and went to get a pot of water. )s soon as I turned on the faucet, I heard the screech$ng beg$n. I heard 0l$*e meow l$ e I had ne*er heard before and then I heard splash$ng. I started to sm$le when I real$5ed he had f$nally fallen $n when the water from the s$n shot stra$ght $n my face. I bl$n ed fur$ously, confused unt$l I real$5ed that water was shoot$ng s$deways from the faucet, spray$ng the ent$re $tchen. "+7IT'" I screamed, try$ng to turn $t off. 6o luc . I ran $nto the bathroom, st$ll swear$ng and saw 0l$*e h$d$ng beh$nd the to$let, soa $ng wet, and the tub faucet spray$ng w$ldly $nto the bathroom. "What the fuc '" I cr$ed, try$ng to turn off the water $n there as well. I began to pan$c when I real$5ed

that $t would not turn off e$ther. It was l$ e the ent$re apartment went hayw$re at the same moment, there was water spray$ng e*erywhere, and 0l$*e was st$ll screech$ng at the top of h$s lungs. I was na ed, sopp$ng wet, and pan$c ed. "%OT7E(,E0@I6G 0O0@+E0@E( +7IT 9)%6 9)%6'" I screamed and grabbed a towel. I tr$ed to calm down, th$n $ng there must be a shut off *al*e somewhere. I had redes$gned bathrooms for 0hr$st's sa e, th$n !ella' It was about th$s t$me that I heard the pound$ng com$ng from somewhere else $n the apartment. Of course I thought $t was com$ng from the bedroom f$rst, naturally. !ut no, $t was the front door. Wrapp$ng the towel around myself and st$ll curs$ng enough to ma e a sa$lor blush, I stomped across the floor, luc $ly not sl$pp$ng $n the water that was now collect$ng on the floor and angr$ly swung the door open. Of course $t was fuc $ng Wallbanger. ")re you out of your god damned m$nd= What's w$th all the scream$ng=" he moaned and I pract$cally d$dn't not$ce the green pla$d bo"ers, the sleep ha$r, or the abs. #ract$cally. +ur*$*al mode swung $nto focus, and I grabbed h$m by the elbow as he was w$p$ng h$s eye and dragged h$m forc$bly $nto the apartment. "Where the hell $s the shut off *al*e $n these apartments=" I shr$e ed as he loo ed around at the chaos. The water spray$ng from the $tchen, the water on the floor from the bathroom, and me $n my 0amp +noopy towel, wh$ch was the f$rst one I grabbed. %other of pearl, e*en $n a cr$s$s Wallbanger too 1.K seconds to loo at my nearly na ed body. O , I m$ght ha*e ta en 3.1 to loo at h$s. Then we both snapped $nto act$on. 7e ran $nto the bathroom l$ e a man on a m$ss$on and I could hear h$m noc $ng around. 0l$*e h$ssed and ran out, stra$ght $nto the $tchen. (eal$5$ng $t was &ust as wet $n here, he leapt across the room $n an acrobat$c f$t and landed h$gh atop of the fr$dge, safe for now. I started to run $nto the bathroom to help and coll$ded w$th Edward as he ran $nto the $tchen, and opened the doors under the s$n . 7e began throw$ng my clean$ng suppl$es all o*er the floor, try$ng to get at what I assumed was the shut off *al*e, and I tr$ed not to not$ce the way the bac of h$s bo"ers clung to h$s buns. 7e was co*ered $n water as well now and h$s feet sl$pped out from under h$m, crash$ng h$m to the floor. "Ow." I heard from under the s$n , h$s legs now splayed out across my wet $tchen floor as he rolled o*er. 7e was now soa $ng wet and a tad b$t glor$ous. "Get o*er here and help me, I can't get th$s one turned off," he yelled o*er the d$n of the water and the cat meows. (emember$ng that I was only $n a towel, I g$ngerly nelt down ne"t to h$m, and tr$ed to a*o$d loo $ng at h$s body. 7$s wet, long, lean body that was dangerously close to my own. One more random &et of water stra$ght $nto my eyeball was enough to pull me from my stupor and I called down to h$m. "What do you want me to do=" I yelled. "9o you ha*e a wrench=" ";es'" "0an you go get $t=" "+ure'" "Why are you yell$ng="

"I don't now'" I sat there, try$ng to see underneath the s$n . "Well go get $t for Gods sa e'" he yelled. "($ght r$ght'" I answered bac and too off runn$ng for the hall closet. When I came bac , I nelt down aga$n, sl$pp$ng a l$ttle on the wet t$le and sl$d$ng $nto h$s s$de. "7ere," I yelled and thrust the wrench under the s$n . I watched h$m wor , h$s face h$dden. 7$s arms were stra$n$ng, and I saw how strong he really was. I watched $n ama5ement at h$s stomach harden$ng and show$ng me 8 l$ttle pac s. Oops, ma e that D. )nd then the : showed up. 7ello :H 7e grunted and groaned and as he stra$ned to turn off the *al*e, h$s ent$re body was caught up $n the struggle. I watched as he fought the battle of the *al*e and f$nally was tr$umphant. I also ept a close eye on those green pla$d bo"ers, that when wet, clung to h$m l$ e a second s $n. + $n that was wet, and probably warm, and smelled l$ e... "Got $t'" "7urray'" I clapped as the water f$nally stopped. 7e let out one last groan that sounded oddly fam$l$ar and then h$s body rela"ed. I watched as he sl$d out from under the s$n . 7e lay ne"t to me on the floor, soa ed and $n h$s bo"ers. I sat ne"t to h$m, soa ed, na ed, and $n a towel. 0l$*e sat on top of the fr$dge, soa ed and angry. 7e cont$nued to yellImeow and we cont$nued to stare. Edward was breath$ng hea*$ly after h$s battle, and I was breath$ng hea*y as well. ,rom h$s battle. 0l$*e &umped down from the fr$dge to the counter and s $dded across $n the puddle. 7e h$t my rad$o, bounced off of $t, and fell to the floor. -oud %arg$n Gaye poured $nto the wet $tchen as 0l$*e shoo h$mself and ran $nto the l$*$ng room. "-et's get $t onH" %ar*$n sang $t l$ e he meant $t, and Edward and I loo ed bac at each other, both of our faces sta$ned cr$mson red. ")re you $dd$ng me=" I sa$d. "Is th$s for real=" he sa$d and we both started to laugh. )t the chaos, at the r$d$culous, at the sheer $nsan$ty of what had &ust happened and the fact that we were now both lay$ng half na ed $n my $tchen, co*ered $n water, l$sten$ng to a song that was encourag$ng us to $n fact "get $t on", and laugh$ng our asses off. I f$nally stra$ghtened up f$rst, w$p$ng tears from my eyes. 7e sat up ne"t to me st$ll hold$ng h$s stomach. "Th$s $s l$ e a bad ep$sode of Three's 0ompany," he chuc led. "6o $dd$ng, I hope someone called %r. ,erley," I g$ggled, try$ng to hold my towel t$ghter around me. "+hall we get th$s cleaned up=" he as ed stand$ng up. I not$ced that h$s bo"ers, and anyth$ng that m$ght be conta$ned $ns$de, were now at eye le*el. +ettle !ellaH ";es, I suppose we should," I laughed aga$n as he held out h$s hand to help me up. I couldn't ga$n any tract$on, so as I hung onto h$s hands, w$th my feet cont$nu$ng to sl$p out from under me, I started

to laugh aga$n. "Th$s $s ne*er go$ng to wor ," he muttered and swooped me up. 7e carr$ed me $nto the l$*$ng room and set me down. "Watch $t there, +noopy $s droop$ng a l$ttle," he &o ed, gestur$ng to the part co*er$ng the g$rls. ";ou'd lo*e that, wouldn't you," I &o ed bac , pull$ng $t t$ghter. "I am go$ng to get changed and I w$ll br$ng you bac some towels. Try and stay out of trouble," he w$n ed and headed o*er to h$s place. I laughed aga$n and made my way bac to the bedroom where 0l$*e was now &ust a bump under the co*ers. I loo ed $n the m$rror o*er my dresser as I dug for someth$ng to put on. I was pos$t$*ely glow$ng. )n hour later and th$ngs were bac under control. We had cleaned up all the water, let the people now downsta$rs $n case there was any lea age below, and had placed a call to the ma$ntenance guy. +adly, $t was not %r. ,erley. I would ha*e lo*ed $t $f (alph had to handle th$s comedy of errors. We began to mo*e towards the front door, mopp$ng up the last l$ttle b$t of water w$th the towels he had generously pro*$ded. "What a fuc $ng d$saster'" I cr$ed, s$n $ng down onto the couch. "0ould ha*e been worse. ;ou could ha*e had to deal w$th th$s after only three hours of sleep, and be$ng wo en up by some woman scream$ng at the top of her lungs," he &o ed, s$tt$ng on the arm of the couch. I arched one eyebrow at h$m and he recanted. "O , bad e"ample, s$nce that scenar$o $s someth$ng you are fam$l$ar w$th. What are you go$ng to do now=" "I dunno, I need to stay here and wa$t for the guy to f$" th$s mess. In the meant$me, I am w$thout water, wh$ch means no coffee, no shower, no noth$ng. +uc s," I muttered, cross$ng my arms across my chest and sl$n $ng further down $nto the couch. "Well, I guess I w$ll be across the hall, dr$n $ng coffee and th$n $ng about my shower $f you need anyth$ngH" he teased, start$ng for the door. ")ss, you are totally ma $ng me coffee." ")re you ta $ng me up on the shower too=" ";ou won't be $n there w$th me you now." "I guess you can ta e one anyway, come on 9oorbanger," he huffed, pull$ng me up off the couch and lead$ng me across the hall. 0l$*e tossed one more angry cry at me from the bedroom and I rolled my eyes at h$m. "Oops, wa$t. -et me grab brea fast," I cr$ed, snatch$ng the fo$l wrapped pac age from the table. "What's that=" he as ed o*er h$s shoulder. ";our 5ucch$n$ bread," I answered. I swear he almost b$t through h$s bottom l$p. 7e must really l$ e 5ucch$n$ bread. Th$rty m$nutes later, I was s$tt$ng at Edward's $tchen table, legs curled underneath me, dr$n $ng ,rench pressed coffee and towel dry$ng my ha$r. 7e seemed really rela"ed and happy. I guess, he had de*oured the ent$re loaf of 5ucch$n$ bread. I had barely managed half a sl$ce before he too $t away from me, the ent$re chun d$sappear$ng $n h$s mouth. 7e pushed away from the table and groaned, patt$ng h$s full belly. ";ou want another loaf= I ba ed plenty you l$ttle p$ggy," I remar ed, wr$n l$ng my nose at h$m. "I w$ll ta e anyth$ng you want to g$*e me 6$ght$e G$rl," he w$n ed and let out a t$ny burp. "6ow that's se"y," I frowned and too my coffee cup $nto the l$*$ng room. 7e followed me $n,

glanc$ng out $nto the hallway to see $f the ma$ntenance guy had shown up yet. "Than s, the lad$es seem to l$ e $t," he snar ed bac , and sat down on h$s b$g comfy couch. I wandered around the l$*$ng room, loo $ng at all h$s p$ctures. 7e had a ser$es of blac and wh$tes on one wall, pr$nts of the same woman on a beach. 7ands, feet, tummy, shoulders, bac , legs, toes, and f$nally one of &ust her face. +he was gorgeous. "Th$s $s beaut$ful, one of your harem=" I teased, loo $ng bac at h$m. 7e s$ghed and ran h$s hand through h$s ha$r. "6ot e*ery woman has made a tr$p $nto my bed you now," he muttered. "I now, I'm $dd$ng. Where were these ta en=" I as ed, s$tt$ng down ne"t to h$m. "On a beach $n !ora !ora. I was wor $ng on a ser$es of tra*el photography, most beaut$ful beaches of the +outh #ac$f$c, *ery retro styled. !ut she was on the beach one day, and the l$ght was perfect, and I as ed her $f I could ta e some shots of her. They came out great." "+he's beaut$ful," I answered, dropp$ng down onto the couch ne"t to h$m, s$pp$ng my coffee. ";es, yes she $s," he agreed w$th a sweet sm$le. We s$pped s$lently, /u$et and be$ng o w$th be$ng /u$et. "+o what were you plann$ng on do$ng today=" he as ed. ";ou mean before my p$pes re*olted=" ";es, before the attac ," he sm$led o*er the r$m of h$s mug, green eyes tw$n l$ng. "I d$dn't ha*e a lot planned actually, and that was a good th$ng. I was gonna go for a run, maybe s$t outs$de and read th$s afternoon," I s$ghed, feel$ng warm and comfortable and co5y. "What about you=" "I was plann$ng on sleep$ng the ent$re day before tac l$ng a mounta$n of laundry." ";ou can go sleep you now, I can wa$t $n my own apartment," I repl$ed, start$ng to get up. #oor guy, he had gotten $n late and I was eep$ng h$m from h$s sleep. 7e wa*ed me off and po$nted to the couch. "I now better though, $f I sleep I w$ll ha*e &et lag all wee . I need to get bac on #ac$f$c t$me as soon as I can, so $t's probably a good th$ng your p$pes attac ed." "7mm, I guess. +o how was Ireland= Good t$mes=" I as ed, settl$ng bac . "Good t$mes yes, although I always ha*e a good t$me when I'm tra*el$ng." "God, what an ama5$ng &ob. I would lo*e to be able to tra*el for a l$*$ng l$ e that, l$*$ng out of a su$tcase, see$ng the world for my &ob, ama5$ngH" I tra$led off, loo $ng around the room aga$n at all the p$ctures. I spotted a slender shelf on the far wall w$th t$ny bottles on $t. "What's that=" I as ed, mo*$ng across the room towards the cur$ous l$ttle shelf. They each conta$ned what loo ed l$ e sand. +ome were wh$te, some gray, some p$n , one was almost p$tch blac . They each had l$ttle labels on them. I felt rather than saw h$m mo*e beh$nd me, h$s breath warm $n my ear. "E*ery t$me I *$s$t a new beach, I br$ng bac a l$ttle sand. -$ e a rem$nder of where I was, when I was there," he answered, h$s *o$ce low and w$stful. I loo ed closer at the bottles and mar*eled o*er the names I saw. 7arbour Island.!ahamas, #r$nce W$ll$am +ound.)las a, #unaluu.7awa$$, :$ .Iceland, +anur.,$&$, Gal$c$a.+pa$n, #atura.Tur ey. ")ma5$ng, and you'*e been all these places=" "%mm hmm," ")nd why br$ng bac sand= Why not postcards, or better yet, the p$ctures that you ta e= Isn't that

enough of a sou*$ener=" I as ed, turn$ng to loo at h$m. "I ta e p$ctures because I lo*e $t, and $t happens to be my &ob. !ut th$s= Th$s $s tang$ble, $t's tact$le, th$s $s real. I can feel th$s, th$s $s sand I was actually stand$ng on, from e*ery cont$nent on the planet. It br$ngs me bac there, $nstantly," he answered, h$s eyes go$ng all dreamy. ,rom any other guy, $n any other sett$ng, $t would ha*e been pure cheese. !ut from Wallbanger= The guy had to be deepHdamm$t. %y f$ngers cont$nued to tra$l o*er all the bottles, almost more than I could count. %y f$ngert$ps l$ngered on the few from +pa$n, and he not$ced. "+pa$n huh=" he as ed. I turned to loo at h$m. ";ep, +pa$n. )lways wanted to go, I w$ll someday," I s$ghed and crossed bac to the couch. "9o you tra*el much=" he as ed, s$n $ng down ne"t to me aga$n. "I try to go somewhere each year, not as fanc$ful as you, or as fre/uently, but I try to ta e myself somewhere e*ery year." ";ou and the g$rls=" he sm$led. "+omet$mes, but the last few years I ha*e en&oyed tra*el$ng by myself. There's someth$ng n$ce about be$ng able to set your own pace, go where you want and not ha*e to run $t by a comm$ttee e*ery t$me you want to go out for d$nner, ya now=" "I get $t, I am &ust surpr$sed," he sa$d, frown$ng sl$ghtly at me. "+urpr$sed that I would want to tra*el alone= )re you $dd$ng, $t's the best'" I cr$ed. "7ell, you'll get no argument from me. I am &ust surpr$sed. %ost people don't l$ e to tra*el alone, too o*erwhelm$ng, too $nt$m$dat$ng. )nd they th$n they w$ll get lonely." "9o you e*er get lonely=" I as ed. "I told you, I am ne*er lonely," he answered, ra$s$ng an eyebrow. ";es yes, I now, says the Wallbanger, but I ha*e to say I f$nd that a l$ttle hard to bel$e*e," I mused, tw$st$ng a loc of almost dry ha$r around my f$nger. "9o you get lonely=" he as ed. "When I am tra*el$ng= 6o, I am great company," I answered promptly. "I hate to adm$t $t but I'd agree w$th that," he answered, ra$s$ng h$s mug $n my d$rect$on. I sm$led and blushed sl$ghtly, hat$ng myself as I d$d $t. "Wow, are we becom$ng fr$ends=" I as ed. "7mm, fr$endsH" he thought carefully, e"am$n$ng me and my current state of blush. ";es, I th$n we are." "Interest$ng. ,rom 0oc bloc er to fr$end, not bad," I g$ggled, and cl$n ed h$s mug w$th my own. "Oh $t rema$ns to be seen whether you are l$fted from 0oc bloc er status yet," he teased, swept a ha$r out of my face. "Well &ust g$*e me a heads up before +pan" comes o*er ne"t t$me, o friend=" I laughed at h$s confused e"press$on. "+pan"=" ")h yes, well you would now her as @ate," I laughed harder. 7e f$nally had the decency to blush and sm$le sheep$shly. "Well as $t happens, %$ss @ate $s out of the harem." "Oh no' I l$ ed her' 9$d you paddle her too hard=" I teased aga$n, my g$ggl$ng beg$nn$ng to get out

of control. 7e ran h$s hands through h$s ha$r frant$cally. "I ha*e to tell you that th$s $s fran ly the strangest con*ersat$on I ha*e e*er had w$th a woman." "I doubt that, but ser$ously, where d$d @ate go=" 7e sm$led /u$etly. "@ate met someone else, and seems really happy. +o we ended our phys$cal relat$onsh$p of course, but she $s st$ll a good fr$end." "Well that's good," I nodded, and was /u$et a moment. "7ow does that wor actually=" "7ow does what wor =" "Well, you ha*e to adm$t your relat$onsh$ps are uncon*ent$onal at best. 7ow do you do $t= @eep e*eryone happy=" I prodded. 7e laughed at my /uest$on$ng. ";ou're not ser$ously as $ng how I sat$sfy these women are you=" he gr$nned. "7ell no, I ha*e heard how you do that' There doesn't seem to be any /uest$on about that. I mean, how does no one get hurt= " 7e thought for a moment. "I guess because we were honest go$ng $nto th$s. It $sn't l$ e anyone sets out to create th$s l$ttle world, $t &ust happens. @ate and I ha*e always gotten along great, espec$ally $n that way, so we &ust fell $nto that relat$onsh$p. I am too busy to date anyone for real, and most women don't want to put up w$th a boyfr$end that $s across the globe more often than they are home." "I can see that, but I th$n you would feel d$fferently $f the r$ght woman came along." ";ou're a romant$c aren't you=" he leaned $n, bump$ng my shoulder. "I'm a pract$cal romant$c. I actually can see the appeal of ha*$ng a guy that tra*els a lot because, fran ly= I l$ e my space. I also ta e up the ent$re bed so $t's d$ff$cult for me to sleep w$th anyone," I shoo my head ruefully, remember$ng how /u$c ly I used to $c my one.n$ghters to the curb. In reflect$on, some of my past wasn't all that d$fferent than Edward's, he &ust had h$s se"capades t$ed up $nto a much neater pac age. ") pract$cal romant$c, $nterest$ng. +o what about you, dat$ng anyone=" he as ed. "6ope, and I am o w$th that." "(eally=" "Why doesn't anyone bel$e*e that= Is $t so hard to bel$e*e that a hot se"y woman w$th a great career doesn't need a man to be happy=" I as ed. ",$rst of all, bully for you for call$ng yourself hot and se"yHbecause $t's true. It's n$ce to see a woman g$*e herself a compl$ment $nstead of f$sh$ng for one. )nd secondly, I'm not tal $ng about gett$ng marr$ed here, I'm tal $ng about dat$ng. ;ou now, hang$ng out= 0asually=" ")re you as $ng me $f I am fuc $ng anyone r$ght now=" I shot at h$m and he spluttered $nto h$s coffee. "9ef$n$tely the strangest con*ersat$on I '*e e*er had w$th a woman," he muttered. ") hot and se"y woman," I rem$nded h$m. "That's for damn sure." We both gr$nned at each other, ha*$ng a good t$me w$th th$s great honesty. We were both startled w$th the noc $ng on my door across the hall. The ma$ntenance guy was f$nally there. "Than s for the coffee, and the shower, and the p$pe rescue," I sa$d, stretch$ng as I wal ed towards the door. I nodded at the guy $n the hallway, and held up one f$nger to let h$m now I would be r$ght there.

"6o problem, $t wasn't the n$cest way to be wo en up but I suppose you owed me that one," he sm$r ed. "Indeed I d$d, but than you anyway." ";ou're welcome and than s for the bread, $t was great. )nd $f another loaf happens to ma e $ts way o*er here, that would be o ." "I'll see what I can do. )nd hey, where's my sweater=" "9o you now how e"pens$*e those are=" "#ffft, I want my sweater'" I cr$ed, slapp$ng h$m $n the chest. "Well, as $t happens I d$d br$ng you someth$ng, as sort of than s.for. $c $ng.my.door present." "I new $t, you can drop $t off later," I gr$nned and wal ed across the hall to let the guy $n. I d$rected h$m towards the $tchen, and then turned bac towards Edward. ",r$ends huh=" "-oo s that way." "I can l$*e w$th that," I sm$led, and closed the door. I showed the ma$ntenance guy the problem, and he set about f$"$ng $t. I wandered $nto my bedroom to chec on 0l$*e, and saw that my phone was bl$n $ng. I had a te"t already from Wallbanger. I gr$nned, and la$d down on the bed, snuggl$ng a st$ll frea ed out $tty to my s$de. 7e began to purr $nstantly. +ou never answered m# <uestion0 I felt my s $n heat up as I real$5ed what he was referr$ng to. %y s $n actually got warm and a l$ttle t$ngly, l$ e when your foot falls asleep but all o*er. )nd $n a good way. God da%n he ga*e great te"tH A!out whether $ am &u )ing an#one? .esus #ou%re rass. But #es" &riends an as) that an%t the#? +es the# an. So? +ou are )ind o& a pain in the ass" #ou )now this right? -ell me" don%t get sh# on me now0 As it happens" no. $ am not... I heard a thud from ne"t door, and then a sl$ght but constant thump$ng on the wall. What the hell are #ou doing? $s that #our head? +ou are )illing me Nightie Girl0 )s soon as I f$n$shed read$ng h$s last te"t, the thump$ng resumed. I laughed out loud as he cont$nued to thump h$s head aga$nst the wall. I placed my hand on the wall o*er my bed where the thump$ng was concentrated and g$ggled aga$n. What a strange morn$ngH

0hapter FF.+tateless I sat $n my off$ce, ga5$ng out the w$ndow. I had a l$st $n front of me of th$ngs to do, and $t wasn't a small l$st e$ther. I needed to run by the !lac house, the reno*at$on was almost completed. The bedroomIbathroom was f$n$shed, and the last few deta$ls were be$ng buttoned up on the$r new basement home theaterIman ca*e. I also needed to get some new sample boo s from the des$gn center. I had a meet$ng w$th a new cl$ent that )l$ce had referred me to, and on top of all that I had a folder full of $n*o$ces to go through. !ut I ga5ed out the w$ndow. I m$ght ha*e had !anger on the bra$n. )nd for good reason. !etween the p$pe $mplos$ons, the head bang$ng, and then the constant te"t$ng all day +unday as $ng for more 5ucch$n$ bread, my bra$n s$mply could not e"punge. )nd then last n$ght, he brought out the b$g guns. 7e Glenn %$ller'd me. )nd e*en noc ed on the wall to ma e sure I was l$sten$ng. I put my head down on the des and banged $t a few t$mes to see $f $t helped. It seemed to help Edward. "9o I need to chec and see $f th$s $s co*ered under our $nsurance= +elf $nfl$cted des wounds=" I heard Esme as from the door. I ra$sed my head up and saw her try$ng to not to sm$le. "6o worr$es, only a l$ttle blunt head trauma. 6ot us$ng $t for anyth$ng anyway, come on $n," I wa*ed. "7ow was your wee end=" she as ed. "It was good, $nterest$ng. ;ou=" ":ery good, we had some fr$ends from the c$ty out for the wee end and went sa$l$ng." "I thought you loo ed l$ e you got some sun, better watch out for those sun spots." "7mm, weren't you due for your annual re*$ew soon=" she warned. "6ope, you &ust ga*e me a ra$se two months ago. !y re*$ew t$me ne"t year I w$ll ha*e assumed control of the off$ce and *oted you off the $sland," I laughed, po $ng her w$th my penc$l. "Bust let me pretend to ha*e control of th$s off$ce for the t$me be$ng, yes=" she pleaded dramat$cally. ";es, I'll grant you that," I answered, po$nt$ng to my long l$st of th$ngs to do and gestured towards the cloc on the wall. "Oh, I'll let you get bac to your w$ndow ga5$ng soon enough, f$rst tell me how the !lac pro&ects are go$ng," she $nstructed. We spent the better part of an hour go$ng o*er the f$nal deta$ls, and true to form she made a few suggest$ons that I would ha*e ne*er thought of. Th$s $s why she was a gen$us, the l$ttle twea s she made would ma e the f$n$shed result ha*e that pol$sh, that f$n$sh that only an Esme #latt des$gn could ha*e. ,or all the teas$ng bac and forth, she new how grateful I was to her for ta $ng me under her w$ng, and I was fully aware of luc y I was when she chose me as her $ntern those years ago. Espec$ally that year, sen$or year I needed all the d$stract$on I could get. I spent the early part of that year &ust wa$t$ng for the other shoe to drop. "+o, I ha*e a new cl$ent for you, someone that as ed for you by name %$ss !ella." "(eally= ,antast$c, what $nd of &ob=" "Bust $nter$ors, new condo. 6eeds the whole place redone, furn$ture, artwor , accents, e*eryth$ng." "Wow, my fa*or$te $nd of &ob. Who $s $t=" I as ed, gett$ng e"c$ted already. !lan slate, *ery fun $ndeed. "Ep and com$ng lawyer, can't for the l$fe of me th$n of h$s name. I met h$m at the symphony benef$t

last month, and he as ed me about you. Then called the off$ce th$s morn$ng, an"$ous to get started." "That wor s out perfectly, s$nce f$n$sh$ng up w$th the !lac s w$ll g$*e me some open t$me. G$*e me h$s contact $nformat$on and I w$ll call h$m to set upH." ")lready done, he's your FAam tomorrow morn$ng," she $nterrupted. "+o he $s ready to start wor $ng soon I ta e $t= 9$d he g$*e you any $nd$cat$on of styles that he $s $nterested $n=" ") l$ttle, but he seemed to want to d$scuss w$th you. 7e seems l$ e he has some pretty spec$f$c $deas, l$ es modern part$cularly. 7e used the word 'clean' se*eral t$mes," she sa$d, roll$ng her eyes a l$ttle. I new what she meant, e*er s$nce 7GT: e*eryone thought they were a des$gner. "O , I w$ll pull a few th$ngs but eep an open m$nd." ")tta g$rl. -$sten, I gotta scoot, lunch tomorrow=" ";ep, sounds good," I wa*ed to her as she gl$ded out of the room. I ga5ed out the w$ndow for two more m$nutes, and then got to wor . That n$ght I went stra$ght to yoga after wor , and was head$ng upsta$rs when I heard a door open from abo*e me. "6$ght$e G$rl=" I heard called down to me. I gr$nned and cont$nued up the sta$rs. ";es Wallbanger=" I called up. ";ou're home late." "What are you, watch$ng my door now=" I laughed, round$ng the last land$ng and stared up at h$m. 7e was hang$ng o*er the ra$l$ng, ha$r $n h$s face. ";ep. Oucch$n$ me woman'" he $nstructed, tapp$ng on my door. ";ou're $nsane, you now th$s r$ght=" I rolled my eyes, cl$mb$ng the last sta$r and stand$ng $n front of h$m. "I ha*e been told, you smell n$ce," he sa$d, lean$ng $n and sn$ff$ng me. "9$d you &ust sn$ff me=" I as ed $ncredulously as I opened the door. "%mm hmm, *ery n$ce. Bust get bac from a wor out=" he as ed, wal $ng $n beh$nd me and clos$ng the door. ";oga, why=" ";ou smell great when you're all wor ed up," he sa$d, waggl$ng h$s eyebrows at me l$ e the de*$l. "+er$ously Wallbanger, you p$c women up w$th l$nes l$ e that=" I as ed, turn$ng away from h$m to ta e off my &ac et and s/uee5e my th$ghs together man$cally. "It's not a l$ne, you do smell great," I heard h$m say and I closed my eyes to bloc out the bangbang *oodoo currently ma $ng my hoohah curl $n on $tself. 0l$*e came bound$ng out of the bedroom when he heard my *o$ce and stopped short when he saw Edward. Enfortunately, he ga$ned l$ttle tract$on on the hardwood floors and s $dded rather ungracefully under the d$n$ng room table. Try$ng to rega$n a l$ttle d$gn$ty, he e"ecuted a d$ff$cult four. foot leap from a stand$ng pos$t$on onto the boo shelf, and wa*ed me o*er w$th h$s l$ttle paw. 7e wanted me to come to h$m, typ$cal male. "7$ sweet boy, how was your day= 7mm= 9$d you play= 9$d you get a good nap= 7mm=" I cooed, scratch$ng beh$nd h$s ear and ma $ng h$m purr loudly. 7e ga*e me h$s dreamy cat eyes and then turned h$s ga5e towards Edward. I swear he w$n ed at h$m. "Oucch$n$ bread huh= ;ou want some more I ta e $t=" I as ed, throw$ng my &ac et on the bac of a cha$r and sett$ng down my gym bag.

"I now you ha*e more, g$mme $t," he deadpanned, ma $ng h$s f$nger $nto a gun. ";ou are oddly $nto your ba ed goods, aren't you= +upport group for that=" I &o ed, wal $ng $nto the $tchen where the last loaf was. I m$ght ha*e been sa*$ng $t for h$m. ";es, I am $n !). !a ers )nonymous. We meet o*er at the ba ery on #$ne," he repl$ed ser$ously, s$tt$ng down on the stool at the $tchen counter. "Good group $s $t=" "#retty good. There's a better one at the )u !on #a$n o*er on %ar et, but I can't go to that one anymore," he sa$d sadly, sha $ng h$s head bac and forth. "Get $c ed out huh=" I as ed, lean$ng on the counter $n front of h$m. "I d$d actually," he sa$d, and then curled h$s f$nger at me to get me to lean $n closer. "I got $n trouble for fondl$ng buns," he wh$spered shamefully. I g$ggled and ga*e h$s chee a l$ght p$nch. "!un ,ondler, m$ght be a new n$c name'" I snorted as he pushed my hand away. "Bust for o*er the bread see, and no one gets hurt," he warned. I rolled my eyes at h$m and grabbed a w$ne glass from the cupboard o*er h$s head. I ra$sed my eyebrow at h$m, and he nodded. I handed h$m a bottle of %erlot and the w$ne opener, and let h$m open $t wh$le I grabbed a bunch of grapes from the colander $n the fr$dge. 7e poured, we cl$n ed, and w$thout another word, I started ma $ng us d$nner. The rest of the e*en$ng happened naturally, w$thout me e*en real$5$ng $t. One m$nute, we were d$scuss$ng the new w$ne glasses I had purchased from W$ll$ams +onoma, and 3A m$nutes later we were s$tt$ng at the d$n$ng room table w$th pasta $n front of us. I was st$ll wear$ng my wor out clothes, and Edward was $n &eans and a t.sh$rt and h$s stoc $ng feet. 7e had ta en off h$s +tanford sweatsh$rt when he was dra$n$ng the pasta, someth$ng I d$dn't e*en ha*e to as h$m to do. 7e wandered $nto the $tchen beh$nd me, and had $t dra$ned and bac $n the pot &ust as I f$n$shed the sauce. We had tal ed about the c$ty, h$s wor , my wor , the upcom$ng tr$p to Tahoe, and soon we were ma $ng our way o*er to the couch w$th coffee. I leaned bac aga$nst the p$llows w$th my legs curled up underneath me. Edward was tell$ng me about a tr$p he had ta en to !ra5$l a few years before. ";ou'*e ne*er been to 0arn$*ale=" Oh !ella, you ha*e to go, somet$me $n your l$fe. It's not to be m$ssed. It's l$ e the b$ggest street party $n the world, $t's cra5y'" he s$ghed, stretch$ng h$s arm along the bac of the couch. I sm$led and tr$ed not to not$ce the butterfl$es when he sa$d my name that way. W$th the word "Oh" r$ght $n front of my nameHOh me Oh my. "I would lo*e to go, somet$me. God, I w$sh I could tra*el l$ e you do. 9o you e*er get s$c of $t=" I as ed. "7mmm, yes and no. It's always great to come home. I lo*e +an ,ranc$sco. !ut, $f I'm home too long I get the $tch to get bac out on the road. )nd no comments about the $tch, I'm start$ng to get to now your m$nd there 6$ght$e G$rl," he teased, patt$ng my arm affect$onately. I tr$ed to fe$gn offense but the truth was I had been about to ma e a &o e. I g$ggled and not$ced that he st$ll had h$s hand on my arm, and was absentm$ndedly trac$ng t$ny c$rcles on $t w$th h$s f$ngert$ps. 7ad $t really been so long s$nce I had let a man touch me that f$ngert$p c$rcles sent me $nto a mental t$55y= Or was $t that this man was do$ng $tHoh God the f$ngert$ps. E$ther way, $t was do$ng th$ngs to me. If I closed my eyes, I could almost $mag$ne O wa*$ng at me, st$ll far away, but not as far as she had been before. I glanced at Edward, and saw that he was watch$ng h$s hand, h$s f$ngers on my s $n. I breathed $n

/u$c ly, my $nta e of breath draw$ng h$s eyes to m$ne. We watched each other, closely. 0l$*e &ump$ng up on the bac of the couch and putt$ng h$s bum r$ght $n Edward's face $lled that real /u$c , and as we both laughed, he mo*ed away from me as I e"pla$ned to 0l$*e that $t was not pol$te to do that to company. 0l$*e seemed oddly pleased w$th h$mself though, so I new he was up to someth$ng. "Wow, $t's almost ten' I ha*e ta en up your ent$re e*en$ng, I hope you d$dn't ha*e plans," he sa$d, stand$ng and stretch$ng. )s he stretched, h$s t.sh$rt came up and I was treated to another *$ew of h$s pecor$no grat$ng abs. "Well, I d$d ha*e a rather e"c$t$ng n$ght planned of watch$ng +o ;ou Th$n ;ou 0an 9ance, so damn you Edward'" I yelled, sha $ng my f$st $n h$s face as I stood up ne"t to h$m. ")nd you e*en made me d$nner, wh$ch was great by the way," he sa$d, search$ng for h$s sweatsh$rt. "6o problem, $t was n$ce to coo for someone other than myself. It's what I do for any guy that shows up demand$ng bread," I teased as I handed h$m the loaf that I had left out for h$m. 7e sm$r ed as he grabbed h$s sweatsh$rt off the floor ne"t to the couch. "Well ne"t t$me, let me coo for you. I ma e a fantast$cHhuh, that's we$rd," he $nterrupted h$mself, gr$mac$ng. "What's we$rd=" I as ed, watch$ng as he unfolded h$s sweatsh$rt. That loo ed l$ e $t was wet. "Why $s th$s all wet=" he as ed, loo $ng at me confused. I loo ed from the sweatsh$rt to 0l$*e, s$tt$ng $nnocently on the bac of the couch. "Oh no," I wh$spered, my face turn$ng purple. "0l$*e, you l$ttle sh$t," I sa$d, glar$ng at h$m. 7e &umped off the couch and darted /u$c ly between my legs, headed for the bedroom. 7e new I couldn't reach h$m beh$nd the dresser and that's where he h$d when he had done a bad bad th$ng. 7e hadn't done th$s $n a long t$me. "Edward, you m$ght want to lea*e that here. I'll wash $t, dry clean $t, whate*er, I am so so sorry," I apolog$5ed, so embarrassed. "Oh, d$d he= Oh man, he d$d, d$dn't he=" he sa$d, h$s face wr$n l$ng as I too the sweatsh$rt from h$m. ";es, yes he d$d. I'm so sorry Edward. 7e has th$s th$ng about mar $ng h$s terr$tory. )ny guy that lea*es clothes on the floor, oh man, he e*entually pees on. I'm so sorry, I am so so sorryHI'm so." "!ella, $t's o . I mean, $t's gross and we both ha*e pee hand now, but $t's o . I'*e had worse th$ngs happen to me. It's all good, I prom$se," he sa$d, start$ng to put h$s hand on my shoulder but th$n $ng better of $t when he real$5ed the last th$ng he had touched. "I'm so sorry, I." I started aga$n as he started for the door. "+top $t, $f you say sorry one more t$me I'm gonna go f$nd someth$ng of yours and pee on $t, I swear." "O , that's &ust gross man," I gr$maced and f$nally laughed, "but we had such a n$ce n$ght, and $t ended $n pee'" I wa$led, open$ng the door for h$m. "It was a n$ce n$ght, e*en w$th the pee. There'll be others, don't worry 6$ght$e G$rl," he w$n ed and wal ed across the hall. "#lay me someth$ng good ton$ght, huh=" I as ed, watch$ng h$m go $nto h$s apartment. ";ou got $t. +leep t$ght," he sa$d and we closed the doors at the same t$me. I leaned bac aga$nst the door, hugg$ng the sweatsh$rt $n my arms. I had the goof$est gr$n on my face, as I remembered the feel$ng of h$s f$ngert$ps. )nd then I remembered I was hugg$ng a pee sta$ned sweatsh$rtH

"0l$*e you asshole'" I yelled and ran $nto my bedroom. ,$ngers, hands, warm s $n were pressed aga$nst m$ne $n an effort to get me closer. I felt h$s warm breath $n my ear, h$s *o$ce that was l$ e wet se" $n my ear, "Oh !ella, how can you feel th$s good=" I moaned and rolled o*er, tw$st$ng legs w$th legs and arms w$th arms, push$ng my tongue $nto h$s wa$t$ng mouth. I suc ed on h$s bottom l$p, tast$ng m$nt and heat and the prom$se of what was to come when he pushed $nto my body for the f$rst t$me. I moaned as he groaned and $n a flash I was p$nned beneath h$m. -$ps mo*ed from my mouth to my nec , l$c $ng and suc $ng and f$nd$ng the spot, that spot, underneath my &aw that made my $ns$des e"plode and my eyes cross. ) dar laugh aga$nst my collarbone, and I new I was done for. I rolled on top of h$m, feel$ng the loss of h$s we$ght but the ga$n of my legs on e$ther s$de of h$m, feel$ng h$m tw$tch and throb e"actly where I needed h$m to be. 7e pushed my ha$r from my face, ga5$ng up at me w$th those eyes, the eyes that had the power to ma e me forget my name but scream h$s own. "Edward'" I cr$ed out, feel$ng h$s hands grabb$ng my h$ps and push$ng me aga$nst h$m. '(O) I lay $n bed, l$sten$ng to what I new I shouldn't be l$sten$ng to. E*en o*er the smooth sounds com$ng from the turntable, I could hear her. 0ould hear her moan$ng my name, o*er and o*er aga$n. If I was any harder I could dr$ll for o$l. 9r$ll baby dr$ll. "Edward' OhH%yHGodHthat's so fuc $ng goodH&ustHl$ eHthatHmmmm," she called out from the other s$de of the wall, and I b$t down on my nuc les. When I f$rst heard !ella moan$ng earl$er, I thought at f$rst she was play$ng, try$ng to get me bac for the f$rst t$mes I heard her dream$ng of me. !ut as her cr$es escalated, and she began to br$ng $t on home, I new there was no way she was fa $ng th$s. +he was asleep, and she was ha*$ng one hell of a dream. ) dream about me. I found that h$ghly erot$c, and completely $nto"$cat$ng. Th$s gorgeous, smart, se"y, h$ghly fuc able g$rl that was separated only by a few $nches of th$n plaster was dream$ng about me, and apparently I was do$ng a *ery good &ob of pleas$ng her. Why wasn't I on the other s$de of that wall ton$ght= !eats the sh$t out of me. I rolled o*er on my s$de, try$ng to not to hear her, but so totally fasc$nated and turned on there was no way I could bloc $t out. I had not had se" s$nce before I left for Ireland, and wh$le I was not opposed to a l$ttle self lo*e from t$me to t$me, my lad$es typ$cally ept me sat$sf$ed. !ut not lately. I was not cra*$ng my lad$es as I usually d$d. I thought for sure I would ha*e called Ir$na or Tanya by now to let them now I was bac $n town. I hadn't howe*er, and I wasn't really sure why. Was I grow$ng up= 6ah. ",uc Edward, r$ght there, yes yes, Besus that feels ama5$ngH" came through the wall, and I closed my eyes t$ght. +pea $ng of grow$ngH %y hands reached $ns$de my bo"ers, and found myself hard and ready. It would not ta e much, !ella had already done most of the wor . I saw her beh$nd my eyel$ds, na ed body tangled $n my sheets as her own hands roamed o*er my body. I heard her, and saw her $n my m$nd as she grasped me f$rmly, her beaut$ful hands wrapped around me. 7er hands stro ed me, sure $n each act$on, des$gned solely

for my pleasure. I heard her moan my name and I saw her eyes ga5$ng down at me as she wor ed me to the br$n , her deep brown eyes that were full of want and need and $ntense des$re as she t$ghtened her hold. +he moaned and I groaned and I came as she sm$led at me, w$n $ng de*$l$shly. %y eyes opened, slugg$sh and la5y after one of the most $ntense orgasms a woman had e*er g$*en me. )nd she wasn't e*en $n the room. I could hear her on her s$de of the wall, soft s$gh$ng breaths g$*$ng way to /u$et contentment. I staggered $nto the bathroom, real$5$ng that I was $n deep deep trouble. I wanted to ha*e se" w$th my fr$end !ella. I sat at my des , go$ng o*er some notes before I met my newest cl$ent. Esme had g$*en me only a l$ttle to go on $n terms of what $nd of style he preferred, so I had my portfol$o opened to *ar$ous styles, as well as p$ctures of some of the other $nter$ors I had des$gned. I had a few m$nutes before he was due, and as $t had been do$ng all morn$ng whene*er not occup$ed, my m$nd tra*eled bac to the dream I had last n$ght. %y s $n blushed $mmed$ately when I thought of what I had let 9ream Edward do to me, and what 9ream !ella had done to h$m as wellH 9ream !ella and 9ream Edward were some naughty $ds. ")hem," I heard from beh$nd me. -eah stood $n the doorway. "!ella, %r. !rown $s here." "E"cellent, I'll be r$ght out," I nodded, stand$ng and smooth$ng my s $rt. %y hands pressed my chee s, hop$ng they were not too red. ")nd he $s cute cute cute'" she murmured as she wal ed bes$de me. "Oh really= 0ute and a lawyer= %ust be my luc y day," I laughed, round$ng the corner and see$ng my new cl$ent for the f$rst t$me. 7e certa$nly was cute, and I would now. It was my e" boyfr$end, Bames. "Oh. %y. God' What are the chances=" Esme e"cla$med at lunch, two hours later. "Well cons$der$ng my ent$re l$fe lately $s ruled by odd co$nc$dences I f$gure $t's r$ght on trac ," I mumbled, brea $ng a p$ece of flatbread and chew$ng determ$nedly. "!ut I mean, come on' What are the chances, really=" Esme wondered aga$n, pour$ng us another glass of #ellegr$no. "Oh, there $s noth$ng chance about th$s, Bames doesn't lea*e anyth$ng to chance. 7e new e"actly what he was do$ng when he approached you at the benef$t last month." "6o," she breathed. ";ep, he told me. 7e saw me, and when he found out I wor ed for you, !)%. 7e needs an $nter$or des$gner," I sm$led, th$n $ng to the way that Bames always had of arrang$ng th$ngs e"actly how he wanted them. Well, almost e*eryth$ng. "9on't worry !ella, I'll mo*e h$m o*er to another des$gner, or I'll e*en ta e h$m on. ;ou don't ha*e to wor w$th h$m," she dec$ded, patt$ng my hand f$rmly. "Oh hell no, I already told h$m yes. I'm totally do$ng th$s," I nodded, cross$ng my arms o*er my chest. ")re you sure=" ";ep, no problem. It wasn't that we had a bad brea up. In fact as far as brea ups go $t was m$ld. 7e d$dn't want to accept the fact that I was lea*$ng h$m, but e*entually he came around. 7e ne*er

thought I would ha*e the balls to do $t, and boy was he surpr$sed," I answered, play$ng w$th my nap $n. I had dated Bames &un$or year of college, and most of sen$or year. 7e was already $n law school, and he was stead$ly mo*$ng through on h$s way to h$s future of perfect$on. %y goodness, he was beaut$ful. +trong and handsome, *ery charm$ng. We met at the l$brary one n$ght, had coffee a few t$mes, and $t grew $nto a strong relat$onsh$p. The se"= Enreal. 7e was my f$rst ser$ous boyfr$end and I new he wanted to marry me e*entually. 7e had *ery spec$f$c $deas of what he wanted from h$s l$fe and that def$n$tely $ncluded me as h$s w$fe. )nd he was e*eryth$ng I e*er thought I wanted $n a husband. Engagement was $ne*$table. !ut as we grow, we change. )t least I d$d. When I real$5ed he was no longer what I wanted for my own future, th$ngs got a l$ttle stra$ned. We fought constantly, and when I f$nally ended the relat$onsh$p he was con*$nced I was ma $ng the wrong cho$ce. I new better, and he f$nally accepted that I was really done, and not &ust p$tch$ng a 'fem$n$ne f$t' as he l$ ed to call them. We d$dn't eep $n contact, although he was a ma&or part of my l$fe for a long t$me and I cher$shed the memor$es we had together. Bust because we d$dn't wor out as a couple, d$dn't necessar$ly mean we couldn't wor together, r$ght= ")re you sure about th$s= ;ou really want to wor w$th h$m=" she as ed one more t$me, ready to let $t go. I thought about $t aga$n, th$n $ng bac to the flash of memory when I saw h$m stand$ng $n the lobby. +andy blonde ha$r, p$erc$ng eyes, charm$ng sm$le. I was h$t w$th a wa*e of nostalg$a and gr$nned as he crossed to me. */e! there stranger,* he said, offering %e his hand. *-a%es. Wow, !ou look great)* + had gushed, and we hugged to the surprise of 7eah, who was gawking. "It'll be good for me, call $t a growth e"per$ence. #lus, I don't want to g$*e up the comm$ss$on. We'll see what happens ton$ght," I w$n ed, and she loo ed up from her menu. "Ton$ght=" "Oh, I d$dn't tell you= We're go$ng for dr$n s to get caught up," I sm$led. I stood $n front of the m$rror, fluff$ng my ha$r and chec $ng my teeth for wayward l$pst$c . The rest of the day at wor had gone /u$c ly and I soon found myself at home and gett$ng ready for ton$ght. We had agreed to &ust dr$n s, *ery casual, although I was lea*$ng the opt$on open for d$nner depend$ng on how the e*en$ng went. + $nny &eans, blac turtlenec and cropped grey leather &ac et was as fancy as I was gonna get. The t$me I had spent today w$th Bames at the off$ce beg$nn$ng to d$scuss plans for h$s new condo were pleasant, and when he as ed me to go for dr$n s to catch up I agreed $nstantly. I was an"$ous to see what he had been up to, and also to ma e sure that we would be able to wor together. 7e had been a huge part of my l$fe at one t$me, and the $dea of be$ng able to wor w$th someone I was once so close to felt good to me, $t felt r$ght. 0losure= 6ot sure what to call $t, but $t seemed l$ e a natural th$ng to do. 7e was p$c $ng me up at se*en, and I planned on meet$ng h$m outs$de s$nce par $ng was so d$ff$cult on my street. +$nce $t was almost se*en now, I went ahead and ga*e a /u$c $ss goodbye to 0l$*e, who had been on h$s best beha*$or s$nce the pee $nc$dent, and let myself $nto the hallway. )nd stra$ght $nto Edward, who was $n front of my door. "O , you are off$c$ally my stal er' There $s no more 5ucch$n$ bread m$ster, I hope you made that loaf

last because there $s no more for you," I warned, press$ng h$m bac from my front door w$th my po$nter f$nger. "I now, I now, I am actually here on off$c$al bus$ness," he laughed, throw$ng up h$s arms $n defeat. "Wal w$th me=" I as ed, nodd$ng towards the sta$rs. "I'm actually headed out as well, go$ng to rent a mo*$e," he e"pla$ned as we headed downsta$rs. "9o people st$ll rent mo*$es=" I &o ed, turn$ng the corner. ";es 6$ght$e G$rl, I guess you're gonna ha*e to watch whate*er I p$c out ton$ght," he repl$ed, ra$s$ng an eyebrow. "Ton$ght=" "+ure, why not. I was com$ng o*er to see $f you wanted to hang out, I owe you for d$nner from the other n$ght and I got an urge to watch someth$ng spoo yH" he tra$led off, then launch$ng $nto the Tw$l$ght Oone theme. I couldn't help but laugh at h$s claw hands and crossed eyes. "I w$sh I could, but I ha*e plans ton$ght. Tomorrow n$ght=" I as ed, as we rounded the last sta$r and headed $nto the entryway. "Tomorrow I can do, come on o*er after wor . !ut I get to p$c the mo*$e, and I'm ma $ng you d$nner. -east I can do for my l$ttle 0oc bloc er" he sm$r ed and I punched h$m $n the arm. "Told you I don't l$ e that name, but I'll let $t go. Only s$nce you're ma $ng me d$nner though. I'll br$ng dessert," I sa$d, lower$ng my *o$ce and batt$ng my eyelashes l$ e a fool. 7e sm$r ed $nstantly, and came r$ght bac . "9essert huh=" he as ed, hold$ng the door open for me as I wal ed outs$de $nto the n$ght. "%mm hmm. I p$c ed up some apples today wh$le I was out, and I ha*e been cra*$ng p$e all wee , how does that sound=" I as ed, scann$ng the street for Bames. ")pple p$e= 7omemade apple p$e= ,uc , are you tr!ing to $ll me= %mmH" he smac ed h$s l$ps and loo ed at me hungr$ly. "Why s$r, you loo l$ e you ha*e seen someth$ng you l$ e would to eat," I teased, $n my best +carlett. "Indeed," he breathed, and launched h$mself at me, l$ps smac $ng at my nec , t$c l$ng and ma $ng me s/ueal. "+ettle down, settle' Wallbanger'" I cr$ed, laugh$ng as we wrestled playfully on the s$dewal . 7e relented, but ept h$s arm around my wa$st. ";ou show up w$th apple p$e tomorrow n$ght, I may not let you lea*e," he breathed, h$s chee s rosy and messy ha$r blow$ng $n the cool n$ght a$r. "That would be terr$ble," I wh$spered, feel$ng how close he was hold$ng me and now$ng that my own chee s must be rosy as well. "!ella=" a concerned *o$ce came from beh$nd me, and I saw Bames wal $ng towards us. "7ey Bames," I called out, d$sentangl$ng myself from Edward w$th a g$ggle. 7e sm$r ed and let go. ";ou ready to go=" Bames as ed, loo $ng at Edward carefully. Edward stra$ghtened to h$s full he$ght and loo ed bac , &ust as carefully. ";ep, ready to go. Edward, th$s $s Bames, Bames Edward," I $ntroduced the two, and they leaned $n to sha e hands. I could see that they both were e"ert$ng a l$ttle e"tra force, and ne$ther seemed to be the one to want to let go f$rst. I rolled my eyes. ;es boys, you can both wr$te your names $n the snow. The /uest$on $s, who would ha*e the b$gger letters= "6$ce to meet you Bames, $t was Bames r$ght= I'm Edward, Edward %asen,"

"That's correct, Bames. Bames !rown," he answered, loo $ng stra$ght at h$m. I saw Edward's face, and the beg$nn$ngs of a laugh. "O Bames, we should get go$ng. Edward, I'll tal to you later," I $nterrupted, end$ng the handsha e of the century. Bames turned towards h$s car where he was double.par ed and Edward loo ed at me. "!rown= Bames !rown=" he mouthed and I s/uelched my own laugh. "+hut $t," I mouthed bac , sm$l$ng at Bames when he turned bac towards me. "6$ce to meet you Edward, see you around," Bames called bac , steer$ng me towards the car w$th h$s hand on the small of my bac . I d$dn't e*en th$n tw$ce about $t, as that $s always how we used to wal together, but I d$d see Edward's eyes w$den a l$ttle at the s$ght. 7mmH Bames opened the door for me and headed around to h$s s$de. Edward was st$ll stand$ng $n front of our bu$ld$ng when we dro*e away, and I ga*e h$m a small sm$le. I rubbed my hands together $n front of the heater and gr$nned at Bames when he got $n. "+o, where are we headed=" he as ed. E#O: I gr$nned at !ella as he turned her towards the car, and she sm$led bac at me, g$*$ng me a l$ttle wa*e. )s Bames shut her door and wal ed around to h$s own s$de, he shot a cold loo bac o*er h$s shoulder. !etween the way he shoo my hand, and the "hands off" loo he &ust ga*e me, of one th$ng I was absolutely certa$n. Bames !rown was a d$c H

0hapter F1. W$th ) +hout The two of us made oursel*es comfortable $n the swan y bar, the one he had p$c ed out. It seemed *ery Bames, ch$c and soph$st$cated, and laced w$th h$dden se"ual$ty. The blood red leather ban/uettes, th$nly cush$oned and cool, ensconced us as we settled $n and began the process of gett$ng to now each other after years. )s I wa$ted for a ser*er to come by, I stud$ed h$s face. 7e st$ll loo ed the same, closely cropped sandy blonde ha$r, $ntense eyes ta $ng $n h$s surround$ngs, and lean frame folded $n on $tself l$ e a cat. )ge had only $mpro*ed h$s good loo s, and h$s carefully torn &eans and blac cashmere sweater clung to h$s body that I new was st$ll $n great shape. Bames had been a roc cl$mber, and se*ere $n h$s pursu$t of the sport. 7e *$ewed each roc , each mounta$n as an obstacle to o*ercome, to con/uer. I went cl$mb$ng w$th h$m a few t$mes towards the end of our relat$onsh$p, ha*$ng pre*$ously been s $tt$sh about he$ghts. !ut watch$ng h$m cl$mb, see$ng the s$newy muscles stretch and man$pulate h$s body $nto pos$t$ons that seemed unnatural was a heady e"per$ence, and I had pounced on h$m those e*en$ngs $n the tent l$ e a woman possessed. "What are you th$n $ng about=" he as ed, $nterrupt$ng my mus$ngs. "I was th$n $ng how much you used to cl$mb. Is $t someth$ng you st$ll do=" "I do, but I don't get as much free t$me as I used to. They eep me pretty busy at the f$rm, but I try and get out to !$g !as$n as often as I can," he repl$ed, sm$l$ng as our wa$tress approached. "What can I get you two=" she as ed, plac$ng nap $ns down $n front of us. "+he'll ha*e a dry *od a mart$n$, three ol$*es, and for me br$ng three f$ngers of %acallan," he answered, gr$nn$ng as the wa$tress nodded and left to f$ll our order. I stud$ed h$m as he sat bac then turned h$s ga5e towards me. "Oh !ella, I'm sorry, $s that st$ll your dr$n =" he as ed as I narrowed my eyes at h$m. ")s $t happens, yes, but what $f I d$dn't want that ton$ght=" I answered pr$mly, wagg$ng my f$nger at h$m. "%y m$sta e of course, what d$d you want to dr$n =" he corrected, wa*$ng the wa$tress bac o*er. "I'll ha*e a dry *od a mart$n$ w$th three ol$*es please," I told the wa$tress w$th a w$n , and she loo ed confused. Bames laughed loudly and she wal ed away sha $ng her head. "TouchG !ella, touchG," he sa$d, study$ng me aga$n. "+o, tell me what you'*e been up to the last few years=" I as ed, elbows lean$ng on the table and ch$n $n hands. "7mm, how to encapsulate years $n a few sentences. ,$n$shed law school, s$gned on w$th the f$rm here $n the c$ty, and wor ed l$ e a dog for two years. I'*e been able to ease up a b$t, only around 8K hours a wee now, but $ts been n$ce see$ng dayl$ght aga$n I adm$t," he gr$nned, and I couldn't help but sm$le bac . ")nd of course wor $ng as much as I do lea*es me *ery l$ttle t$me for a soc$al l$fe so $t was &ust bl$nd luc that I saw you at the benef$t last month," he f$n$shed, m$rror$ng my stance and lean$ng forward on h$s elbows as well. "+o you saw me, but d$dn't come and tal to me. )nd now here you are, wee s later, as $ng me to wor on your condo, why $s that e"actly= I as ed, accept$ng my dr$n when $t came and ta $ng a long pull. "I did see you !ella, and I wanted to tal to you, bel$e*e me. !ut I couldn't, so much t$me had passed. !ut then I real$5ed that you wor ed for Esme, who a fr$end had recommended to me, I thought how perfect," he answered, offer$ng h$s glass towards m$ne for a cl$n .

I paused for a moment, then cl$n ed h$m. "+o you are ser$ous about wor $ng w$th me, th$s $sn't some $nd of ploy to get me $nto bed $s $t=" I as ed and he loo ed at me e*enly. "+t$ll d$rect as e*er I seeHbut yes, th$s $s profess$onal only. I d$dn't l$ e the way we left th$ngs adm$ttedly, but I accepted your dec$s$on. )nd now here we are, I needed a decorator, you are a decorator, wor s out well don't you th$n =" "9es$gner," I sa$d /u$etly. "What's that=" "9es$gner," I sa$d, a l$ttle more loudly th$s t$me. "I'm an $nter$or des$gner, not a decorator. There's a d$fference there %r. )ttorney %an," I corrected, ta $ng another s$p. "Of course of course," he repl$ed, s$gnal$ng for the wa$tress. +urpr$sed I loo ed down and not$ced that my glass was empty already. "0are for another=" he as ed, and I nodded. )s we small tal ed for the ne"t hour, we began to d$scuss what e"actly he needed $n h$s new home. Esme was r$ght, he was bas$cally as $ng me to des$gn h$s ent$re place, from the area rugs to o*erhead l$ght$ng f$"tures and e*eryth$ng $n between. It would be a huge comm$ss$on, and he had e*en agreed to let me photograph $t for a local des$gn maga5$ne that Esme had been wanted me to subm$t my wor to. Bames came from a wealthy fam$ly, the !rowns of #h$ladelph$a don't ya now, and I new h$s fam$ly must be foot$ng most of the b$ll for th$s. ;oung lawyers d$dn't ma e enough money to afford the $nd of place he had, not to ment$on l$*$ng $n one of the most e"pens$*e c$t$es $n )mer$ca. !ut trust funds l$*e on, and he was the rec$p$ent of a large one. One of the per s of dat$ng h$m $n college $s we could actually afford to go on real dates, not eat cheap ta eout all the t$me. I had en&oyed that aspect of be$ng w$th h$m, not gonna l$e. )nd I would en&oy that aspect of th$s pro&ect, a bas$cally unl$m$ted budget= I couldn't wa$t to get started. We had a great t$me, and l$ e all past relat$onsh$ps there $s a feel$ng of now$ng, of nostalg$a that you can only share w$th someone that has nown you $nt$mately, espec$ally at that age as you are st$ll form$ng. I adm$t, $t was great to see h$m aga$n. Bames had a *ery strong personal$ty, $ntense and conf$dent, and I was rem$nded aga$n of why I had been attracted to h$m $n the f$rst place. We laughed and told stor$es about th$ngs we had done wh$le a couple, and I was rel$e*ed to f$nd that the same charm was there, that we could get along /u$te well $n a soc$al sett$ng w$thout any of the aw wardness that could ha*e accompan$ed th$s e*en$ng. )s the e*en$ng wound down and he was dr$*$ng me home, he got around to the /uest$on I now he had been dy$ng to as me all e*en$ng. We turned on my street and as he pulled the car to a stop, he turned to me. "+o, are you see$ng anyone=" he as ed /u$etly, w$th an $n/u$s$t$*e loo . "6o, I'm not r$ght now. 7ardly a /uest$on a cl$ent would as meH" I teased and loo ed toward my bu$ld$ng. I could see 0l$*e s$tt$ng $n the front w$ndow wa$t$ng for me, and I $nwardly sm$led. It was n$ce to ha*e someone wa$t$ng up for you. I couldn't stop myself from glanc$ng ne"t door to see $f there was a l$ght on $n Edward's apartment and I also couldn't stop my tummy from do$ng a l$ttle fl$pp$ty flop when I saw h$s shadow on the wall and the blue l$ght from h$s tele*$s$on. "Well, as your cl$ent I w$ll refra$n from as $ng those $nds of /uest$ons $n the future %$ss +wan," he chuc led, and I turned bac towards h$m. "It's o Bames, we passed des$gnerIcl$ent relat$onsh$p a long t$me ago," I teased, feel$ng tr$umphant as I saw h$s blush car*e out a ch$n $n h$s careful faPade. "I th$n th$s $s gonna be fun wor $ng together," he w$n ed, and $t was my turn to laugh.

"O , you call me tomorrow at the off$ce and we'll get started on your new condo. )nd I am gonna fleece you bl$nd buddy, get ready to wor your cred$t card," I taunted, stepp$ng out of the car and turn$ng bac around to face h$m. "Oh hell, I am count$ng on $t," he w$n ed and wa*ed goodbye. 7e wa$ted unt$l I was $ns$de, and then I tossed another wa*e towards h$m. I wal ed up the sta$rs, th$n $ng bac on the e*en$ng. It was good o*erall, and I was glad to see that I could handle myself w$th h$m aga$n. I turned the ey $n my loc , and thought I heard someth$ng beh$nd me. I loo ed o*er my shoulder, but saw noth$ng. 7ear$ng 0l$*e call$ng to me from $ns$de I sm$led and stepped $ns$de, scoop$ng h$m up and wh$sper$ng softly $n h$s ear as he ga*e me a t$ny cat hug w$th h$s b$g paws around my nec . E#O: I pressed my eye to the peephole for what felt l$ e the th$rt$eth t$me that e*en$ng, ha*$ng sworn I heard someone on the land$ng. 6oth$ng. I paced. Why the hell was I pac$ng= Why d$d I care when !ella came home= +he was my ne$ghbor, barely fr$ends, why d$d I care= I paced. I ran my hands through my ha$r, feel$ng tense. 9$d I want to go out for a run= 9$d I want to go out for a fuc = 6e$ther. I paced. I was feel$ng ag$tated, frustrated, l$ e I had m$splaced my eys or I had forgotten to pay a b$ll or someth$ng. +ometh$ng &ust feltHoff. I mother fuc $ng paced. E*entually, I forced myself $nto a cha$r, and fl$pped on the T:. ,unn$ly enough, there was an ep$sode of !lue #lanet on 9$sco*ery, and although I hadn't wor ed $n th$s part$cular show I fell $nto $t. I was watch$ng a segment on coral reefs, and I remembered !ella tell$ng me about scuba d$*$ng off the coast of !el$5e. +he was so an$mated when she told the story, the e"c$tement she had o*er sw$mm$ng w$th a reef shar , and the way she laughed when she told the story about pee$ng $n her wet su$t had me almost sp$t ta e my coffee. I had been surpr$sed for sure when she told me the day her p$pes e"ploded that she en&oyed tra*el$ng alone, but I d$dn't real$5e at the t$me the e"tent of some of her tra*els. ,ran ly, I e"pected her to tell me tales of a wee end $n 6apa, or go$ng to a spa $n 0armel. The g$rl had cl$mbed 7alf 9ome at ;osem$te w$th a group of guys she had met that morn$ng. +he had stayed $n one of those eco lodges $n 0osta ($ca and went 5$p l$n$ng through the canopy. +he "screamed so loud wh$le she was hang$ng by her hoohah that she wo e up half the forest" and lo*ed e*ery m$nute of $t. Th$s g$rl was d$fferent. Ir$na lo*ed to tra*el, but as a model she had also been turned loose on the world stage alone at FC and spent all her t$me $n b$g c$t$es stay$ng $n n$ce hotels. +he was a true cosmopol$tan, able to blend $n anywhere $n the world and I had always adm$red that about her. +he lo*ed be$ng a global woman and spo e se*eral languages. +he had a terr$f$c m$nd, and I was so glad that she was go$ng bac to get her masters $n $nternat$onal stud$es now that her model$ng career was slow$ng down. !ut $mag$n$ng Ir$na hang$ng from a pulley hundreds of feet abo*e a ra$n forest= I sm$led th$n $ng of !ella's cat corner$ng Ir$na $n my bedroom, and the loo on !ella's face when she

tr$ed to catch h$m. #r$celessH I heard mo*ement $n the hallway aga$n, and l$ e a sad sac , I went bac to my post at the door and pressed my eye aga$nst the peephole. I heard h$gh heels cl$c $ng up the sta$rs, and they sounded fam$l$ar. Then I saw the shape of !ella come $nto *$ew, warped $nto s$deshow $mage through the peephole contours but st$ll, there was no m$sta $ng that brown ha$r and sweet ass. 9$d I &ust th$n about my ne$ghbor's sweet ass= ;ep, I sure d$d. )nd she was alone. Bames !rown was not w$th her, he had not been $n*$ted $nto the $nner sanctum. Why the hell had I &ust e"ecuted a f$st pump= "+h$t," came out of my mouth before I had a chance to stop myself, and I saw !ella turn bac around $n her doorway, loo $ng beh$nd her as though she had heard someth$ng. +he sm$led a l$ttle as she loo ed across to my front door, and then cont$nued on $nto her apartment, stoop$ng down a l$ttle to p$c up the pee cat, afford$ng me one more spectacular *$ew of that sweet ass. )s her door cl$c ed shut for the n$ght, and I bac ed away from the door l$ e a #eep$ng Ed, I real$5ed that my frustrat$on, my ag$tat$on was gone. 7uhHstrange. I headed to bed. I p$c ed out some mus$c, 0ount !as$e th$s t$me, and settled $n under the co*ers. I heard a l$ght noc $ng from the wall beh$nd me, and I new !ella appro*ed of my select$on for the e*en$ng. I noc ed bac w$th a gr$n, and fell $nto an easy sleep. I was roll$ng out the p$e crust when the te"t came $n from Edward. 3ome on over whenever. $%ll start dinner on e #ou%re here. $%m still wor)ing on the pie" !ut $%ll !e over soon Need an# help? How are #ou with peeling apples? The ne"t th$ng I heard was a noc on the door. I wal ed o*er, hands co*ered $n flour, and elbowed the door open. "Well hello there," I sa$d, hold$ng the door open w$th my foot. "-oo s l$ e the end of +carface $n here," he obser*ed, reach$ng out to touch my nose and show me the flour on the end. "I tend to lose a l$ttle control when there $s p$e crust $n*ol*ed," I &o ed as he shut the door. "9uly noted, that's good $nformat$on for me to ha*e," he &o ed bac , swatt$ng at my hand as I tr$ed to slap h$m. 7e too a good long loo at me then, green eyes dropp$ng down from my face and across my body. ",or the record, I lose control when I see women $n sassy l$ttle aprons, so I don't now long I'm be able to hang $n here w$thout try$ng a l$ttle grabass," "Get $n there and grab an apple, buddy," I deadpanned and wal ed towards the $tchen, add$ng a l$ttle e"tra sw$sh to my h$ps, wh$ch caused h$m to s$gh hea*$ly. I glanced down at my outf$t, not$ng my tan top, old &eans, bare feet, and my chef's apron that sa$d, ";ou should see my sconesH" "6ow when you sa$d 'grab an apple' what e"actly were you referr$ng to=" I heard from $ns$de the $tchen where he was ta $ng off h$s sweater and roll$ng up h$s slee*es. I shoo my head a l$ttle at the s$ght of Edward w$th a blac t.sh$rt on, and old weathered &eans. 7e was $n h$s stoc $ng feet once aga$n, and I mar*eled at how easy he seemed to be $n my $tchen.

I wal ed around the $tchen counter roll$ng my eyes at h$m and p$c ed up my roll$ng p$n. ";a now, I won't th$n tw$ce about whac $ng you o*er the head w$th th$s $f you cont$nue th$s l$ne of borderl$ne se"ual harassment," I warned, now runn$ng my hand up and down the roll$ng p$n suggest$*ely. "I'm gonna ha*e to as you not to do that $f you are ser$ous about me peel$ng apples here 6$ght$e G$rl," he answered, eyes w$den$ng at the s$ght. "I ne*er &o e about p$e Wallbanger," I teased and spr$n led a l$ttle more flour on the marble. 7e was s$lent for a moment wh$le he watched me pat out the p$e crust, breath$ng through h$s mouth. "+o, what are you gonna do w$th that=" he as ed, h$s *o$ce low. "W$th th$s=" I as ed, lean$ng o*er the board, and perhaps arch$ng my bac a l$ttle as I d$d $t. "%mm hmm," he repl$ed. "I'm gonna roll th$s crust out see, l$ e th$s=" I teased aga$n, thrust$ng the p$n bac and forth o*er the dough, ma $ng sure that I arched my bac each t$me and that the forward act$on pushed my g$rls together. "Oh my," he wh$spered, and I gr$nned naught$ly at h$m. ";ou gonna be o o*er there b$g guy= Th$s $s &ust the top crust, I st$ll need to wor on the bottom," I sa$d o*er my shoulder, loo $ng at h$m as h$s hands clutched at the edge of the counter. ")pples apples, gonna peel me some apples," he told h$mself and turned away from me and towards the colander f$lled w$th apples $n the s$n . "-et me &ust get you the peeler," I sa$d /u$etly, com$ng up beh$nd h$m and press$ng myself aga$nst h$m as I curled around h$s s$de to grab the *egetable peeler from the other s$n . It was way too much fun to tease h$m $n th$s way. "#eel$ng apples, &ust peel$ng apples, d$dn't feel your boobs, d$dn't feel your boobs," he cont$nued to chant as I openly laughed at h$m. "7ere, peel th$s," I sa$d, ta $ng p$ty on h$m and remo*$ng myself from h$s coo $ng space. I m$ght ha*e sn$ffed h$s t.sh$rt. 7e was )pr$l fresh. 7e was ma $ng me fresh. "9$d you &ust sn$ff me=" he as ed, eep$ng h$mself turned away from me so he couldn't see my blush. "I m$ght ha*e," I adm$tted, go$ng bac to my roll$ng p$n, wh$ch I s/uee5ed m$ght$ly. "I thought so," he added. "7ey, $f you can sn$ff I can sn$ff," I shot bac , ta $ng out my se"ual frustrat$on on a defenseless pate br$see. "Only fa$r, how do I rate=" "Good, *ery good actually. 9owny=" "!ounce, I lost my 9owny ball," he sa$d sheep$shly. I laughed, and we cont$nued to roll and peel. W$th$n FK m$nutes, we had a bowlful of peeled and sl$ced apples, a perfectly rolled out p$e crust, and we had both consumed our f$rst glass of w$ne. "O , what's ne"t=" he as ed, clean$ng up after me, w$p$ng up flour and generally t$dy$ng up. "6ow we sp$ce th$ngs up and add a l$ttle c$trus," I answered, l$n$ng up c$nnamon and nutmeg, my sugar bowl, and a lemon. "O , where do you want me=" he as ed, ta $ng care to show me h$s hands that were now co*ered $n

flour. ",$rst dust yourself off and then we'll get started. ;ou can be my ass$stant." 7e loo ed around for a d$shtowel, and I turned to loo for the one I new I left out. +py$ng $t, I had already started for $t when I felt two *ery strong and *ery spec$f$cally placed hands on my ass. "Em, h$=" I sa$d, free5$ng $n place. "7$," he answered cheerfully, not releas$ng h$s hands from my poster$or. "E"pla$n yourself please," I ordered, try$ng not to not$ce how my heart was try$ng to lea*e my body by way of my mouth. ";ou told me to f$nd someth$ng to clean my hands w$th," he stuttered, try$ng hard not to laugh as he ga*e each chee a l$ttle s/uee5e. ")nd you too that to mean my ass=" I laughed bac , and turned to face h$m, remo*$ng h$s hands w$th my own. "What can I say, I ta e l$bert$es w$th my ne$ghbors," he repl$ed, h$s eyes dart$ng bac and forth now between my l$ps and my eyes. "We ha*e a p$e to ma e m$ster, I'll than you to remember your manners. 6o one touches my ass w$thout an $n*$tat$on," I g$ggled, st$ll hold$ng h$s hands $n my own. Once aga$n, I felt h$s thumb beg$n to trace l$ttle c$rcles on the $ns$de of my palm and my head got sw$mmy and s$lly. ,uc , th$s guy was go$ng to be the death of me. "Get o*er there handsy, and beha*e," I $nstructed. 7e sm$r ed and turned away, wh$ch ga*e me the opportun$ty to mutter "Oh my Besus -ord," to no one $n part$cular and then meet h$m bac at the apple bowl. "O , you do what I tell you, got $t=" I sa$d, and started spr$n l$ng sugar $nto the bowl. "Got $t." I started toss$ng the apples w$th my hands and Edward followed my $nstruct$ons to the letter. When I as ed for more sugar, he sugared. When I as ed for more c$nnamon, he compl$ed. When I as ed h$m to s/uee5e the lemon, he lemoned me so good I had trouble eep$ng my tongue $n my mouth and off h$s throat. I tossed and tasted, and when they were f$nally the r$ght balance, I l$fted a wedge to h$s mouth. "Open up," I sa$d, and he leaned $n. I placed an apple on h$s tongue, and he snapped h$s mouth shut before I had to chance to remo*e my f$ngers. 7e let h$s l$ps close around two and I slowly w$thdrew them, feel$ng h$s tongue wrap around them del$cately and del$berately. "9el$c$ous," he sa$d softly. "Gah," I answered, eyes cross$ng a l$ttle at the se" on two legs d$splayed $n front of me. "Good for you=" he as ed, the sm$r return$ng. "Good for me," I answered, chee s and hoohah on f$re after the f$ngerlat$o. Besus fuc . Besus fuc . Besus fuckH %y se"ual wall had been h$t, and I was prepar$ng to r$p the clothes from h$s body and throw h$m to the ground and fuc h$m am$d a p$le of apples and c$nnamon w$th only a roll$ng p$n to gu$de us when I heard my phone r$ng. Than you Besus.

Than you Besus. Than you -esusH I loo ed at the green.eyed de*$l, and launched myself across the room, away from the bang bang *oodoo, and scrambled for my phone. I saw h$s face as I ran, $t showed a l$ttle d$sappo$nted. It was )l$ce. "G$rl, what are you up to ton$ght=" she screeched $nto the phone. I held $t away from my ear before the bleed$ng started. )l$ce had three sound le*els. 6ormal -oud, E"c$ted -oud, and 9run y -oud. +he was lea*$ng E"c$ted and on her way to 9run y. "I am gett$ng ready to ha*e d$nner, where are you=" I as ed, nodd$ng at Edward who was start$ng to pour the apples $nto the p$e d$sh. "I am out for dr$n s w$th (ose and Bess$ca, what are you do$ng=" she screamed. "I &ust told you, gett$ng ready to ha*e d$nner ya lush," I laughed. Edward came out $nto the l$*$ng room &ust then w$th the p$e $n h$s hands. "+hould I put th$s $n the o*en=" he as ed. "7ang on )l$ceHnot yet, I st$ll need to brush $t w$th a l$ttle cream," I answered and he duc ed bac $nto the $tchen. "!ella +wan, that was a man' Who was that= Who are you ha*$ng d$nner w$th= )nd what are you brush$ng w$th cream=" she f$red at me, her *o$ce gett$ng e*en more loud. "+ettle down, my goodness you're loud' It was Edward, and we're ma $ng an apple p$e," I started to say, wh$ch she $mmed$ately screamed out to (ose and Bess$ca. "+h$t," I muttered as I heard the phone angr$ly yan ed away from )l$ce. "+wan, what are you do$ng= )re you ba $ng p$es w$th your ne$ghbor= )re you na ed=" (ose yelled, the ne"t $n l$ne to gr$ll me. "O no, and you all need to ser$ously settle down. 7ang$ng up now," I yelled o*er her yell$ng bac at me. I could hear )l$ce s/ueal$ng nasty th$ngs about p$es and cream and Bess$ca laugh$ng loudly. (ose was $n the m$ddle of threaten$ng me not to hang up on her, when I d$d &ust that. I s$ghed and got up from the couch and went to f$nd Edward, w$th h$s hands full of p$e. I snorted $n sp$te of myself. "Oh my God, that's so good," I wh$mpered, clos$ng my eyes and los$ng myself to the sensat$ons that my body was e"per$enc$ng. "I new you would l$ e $t, but I had no $dea you would en&oy $t th$s much," he wh$spered, star$ng at me w$th rapt attent$on, focus$ng on the way my l$ps were mo*$ng. "+top tal $ng, you're go$ng to ru$n $t for me," I moaned, stretch$ng and feel$ng myself to respond to e*eryth$ng he was g$*$ng me. "9$d you want another one=" he offered, ra$s$ng up on h$s elbows. "If I ha*e another, I'll won't be able to wal tomorrow." "Go ahead, be a bad g$rlHyou deser*e $t. I now you want $t !ella," he teased, lean$ng closer. ",uc H" I managed, open$ng up to h$m once aga$n. I closed my eyes, and heard h$m fumbl$ng about before putt$ng $t $n. +$gh$ng as I felt $t, I wrapped my l$ps around and b$t down.

"I'*e ne*er seen a woman that could ta e so much $n one s$tt$ng," he mar*eled, watch$ng me come undone once more. ";es well, you'*e ne*er met a woman who l$ es meatballs as much as me," I moaned around another mouthful, feel$ng stuffed beyond bel$ef but not want$ng the meal to end. Edward had &ust coo ed me /u$te poss$bly the most perfect meal e*er, h$tt$ng e*ery s$ngle taste bud that needed to be h$t. 7e had learned how to ma e the most ama5$ng meatballs from a woman $n 6aples, and swore to me they would be the best I'd e*er had. )fter no less than se*en &o es about balls and mouths, I had to agree they were the best balls I had e*er had $n my mouth. BesusH I then proceeded to eat almost a pound of pasta myself, and all of my meatballs plus half of h$s. I $ns$sted he eat the last one, but he refused and brought the perfect$on that were h$s meatballs to my w$ll$ng mouth. When he had $n*$ted me o*er for a home coo ed meal, I wasn't /u$te sure what to e"pect. Guys ma $ng me d$nner $n the past had ranged from ramen noodles >$n a bowl rather than $n the cup, *ery fancy? to e"plod$ng potatoes $n the m$crowa*e. Edward was a great host, $ns$st$ng that I s$t and dr$n w$ne and watch rather than help out. 7e enterta$ned me w$th stor$es about h$s tra*els as he got e*eryth$ng ready, and wh$le the food was s$mple $t was good. (eally good. +mac yourself $n the head good. 7e made us a salad w$th lemon and ol$*e o$l and sha*ed #armesan, and the sauce on the pasta was th$c and r$ch. "6onn$ made me prom$se $f she showed me how to ma e her polpette I would only ser*e them w$th her spec$al sauce. If I dared ser*e these w$th a &ar of #rego, she would cross the ocean to brea her wooden spoon aga$nst my bac s$de." "+he made you call her 6onn$=" I laughed, lean$ng bac $n my cha$r and unbutton$ng the top button on my &eans. I had no shame, I had eaten an obscene amount. ";ou now what 6onn$ means=" he as ed, surpr$sed. "It's Grandma, r$ght=" I answered, laugh$ng aga$n when h$s eyes went to my hands massag$ng my stomach. ";ou gonna be o there=" he rolled h$s eyes, gett$ng up to clear the table. ";ep, &ust need to breathe a l$ttle," I groaned, pull$ng myself up from the table. "6o no, you don't ha*e to help," he sa$d, rush$ng to my s$de and grabb$ng my plate. "Oh no, I wasn't. I was gonna drop th$s off and pass out on that couch r$ght there," I sa$d, nodd$ng towards the l$*$ng room. ";ou go rela", anyone that &ust had that many balls $n the$r mouth deser*es a rest," he teased, and I fl$c ed h$s ear. "I sa$d, no more ball &o es' ;ou'*e had your fun now let me go d$e $n peace," I groaned and shuffled $nto the l$*$ng room. I really had made /u$te a l$ttle p$ggy of myself, but $t was ser$ously good. I recl$ned and popped open another button on my &eans, rela"$ng $nto the cush$ons and replay$ng some of the f$ner po$nts of the e*en$ng. Watch$ng Edward coo was hot. )nd I mean hot. 7e was really at home $n a $tchen, h$s earl$er fuss$ng about w$th the p$e as$de. E*en h$s salad, s$mple greens dressed l$ghtly w$th lemon and ol$*e o$l, salt, pepper and good #armesan. Easy and perfect. "#$n 7$malayan salt than you *ery much," he had sa$d proudly, produc$ng a bag from h$s pantry. 7e had brought $t bac from one of h$s many tr$ps, and had me taste a l$ttle before spr$n l$ng a l$ttle on the salad. 0ould ha*e been pretent$ous, but $t f$t Wallbanger. The many s$des and facets of th$s

guy were astound$ng, and made me real$5e that my earl$est assumpt$ons about h$m were pro*$ng to be completely wrong. )s assumpt$ons tend to beH I could hear h$m tend$ng to the d$shes, and as much as I probably should go help h$m I s$mply couldn't remo*e myself from the couch. I snuggled down on my s$de, and loo ed around h$s l$*$ng room aga$n, my eyes drawn once aga$n to the t$ny bottles of sand from all o*er the world. I mar*eled at how tra*eled he was, and how he seemed to en&oy $t st$ll. I ga5ed at the p$ctures of the woman $n ,$&$ aga$n, her dar beaut$ful s $n, smooth planes of her body and thought about how d$fferent all three of h$s women were. Oops, ma e that two now that @ate was w$th her new man. I could smell the apple p$e when I heard the o*en door clan shut. I had put $t $n h$s o*en as soon as we came o*er to h$s place so $t would be ready after d$nner. "9on't you dare try to ser*e me p$e now, I am stuffed I tell you, stuffed'" I yelled. "Lu$et, $t's &ust cool$ng," he scolded, com$ng around the corner from the $tchen and $nto the l$*$ng room where I was st$ll curled on my s$de. ";ou're gonna ha*e to scooch o*er s$ster, $ts mo*$e t$me," he $nstructed, push$ng at me w$th h$s b$g toe as I struggled to s$t up stra$ght. "What are we watch$ng aga$n=" "The E"orc$st," he wh$spered, turn$ng off the l$ght on the end table, lea*$ng the room /u$te dar . ")re you fuc $ng $dd$ng me=" I screeched, lean$ng o*er h$m to turn $t bac on. "9on't be a pussy, you're watch$ng $t," he h$ssed, turn$ng $t bac off. "I'm not a pussy, but there $s stup$d and not stup$d and stup$d $s watch$ng a mo*$e l$ e The E"orc$st w$th the l$ghts off' That's &ust as $ng for trouble'" I h$ssed bac , turn$ng $t bac on. It was start$ng to loo l$ e a d$sco $n hereH "O , I'll ma e a deal w$th you. -$ghts off, butH" he started as he saw me beg$n to $nterrupt me, "$f you get too scared, l$ghts go bac on, deal=" he as ed. I was st$ll lean$ng across h$m on my way to turn $t bac on when I not$ced how close I was to h$s face. )nd how I was angled across h$m l$ e a g$rl wa$t$ng to get a span $ng. )nd I new he was capable of del$*er$ng oneH ",$ne," I huffed, s$tt$ng bac as the open$ng cred$ts came on. 7e sm$led tr$umphantly and settled bac $nto the cush$ons, and ga*e me thumbs up. "If you show me that thumb one more t$me I w$ll b$te $t off," I growled, pull$ng an afghan off the bac of the couch and curl$ng $t protect$*ely around me. One m$nute $nto the mo*$e, and I was already gett$ng spoo ed. +tup$d WallbangerH I was tense from that moment on, and any $dea I m$ght ha*e had about g$rls be$ng r$d$culous around guys when they watched scary mo*$es went by the ways$de when (egan p$ssed herself at the d$nner party. !y the t$me the pr$est came for a l$ttle *$s$t, I was s$tt$ng pract$cally on Edward's lap, my r$ght hand had a death gr$p on h$s th$gh, and I was *$ew$ng the mo*$e through the holes $n the afghan wh$ch I had draped ent$rely o*er my head. "I fuc $ng hate you for ma $ng me watch th$s mo*$e," I wh$spered $n h$s ear, wh$ch was r$ght $n my face as I refused to lea*e any space between us. I e*en accompan$ed h$m to the bathroom earl$er when we too a brea . 7e $ns$sted I stay out $n the hallway after I tr$ed to follow h$m $n, $nstead stand$ng &ust outs$de the door, eyes glanc$ng all around furt$*ely, st$ll w$th the afghan o*er my head. "9o you want me to stop= I don't want you to ha*e n$ghtmares," he wh$spered bac , h$s eyes on the screen. "Bust no bang$ng on the walls for a few n$ghts please, I won't be able to ta e $t," I added, loo $ng at

h$m through one of my eyeholes. "7a*e you heard any bang$ng lately=" he as ed, roll$ng h$s eyes aga$n, as he d$d e*ery t$me he loo ed at me w$th the r$d$culous afghan on my head. "6o, I ha*en't actuallyHwhy $s that=" I as ed, and he too a breath. "Well, IH" he started, and then the most man$acal scary no$ses started com$ng from the T: and we both &umped. "O , maybe th$s mo*$e $s a l$ttle scary, you wanna s$t a l$ttle closer=" he as ed, press$ng pause on the remote. "I thought you'd ne*er as ," I cr$ed, launch$ng myself fully $nto h$s lap and settl$ng myself between h$s th$ghs, wh$ch he wrapped around me. "9o you want some afghan=" I offered, and he laughed. "6o, I can ta e $t l$ e a man, you stay under there though," he teased, my eyes narrow$ng at h$m through the eyeholes. I po ed one f$nger through the wea*e. "Guess wh$ch f$nger th$s $s=" I as ed, wa*$ng $t at h$m. "+hhh, mo*$e," he answered, wrapp$ng h$s arms around me and pull$ng me bac aga$nst h$s chest. 7e was warm and strong and powerful, and absolutely no match for terror that was The E"orc$st. We watched the rest of that damn mo*$e wound around each other l$ e +$amese pret5els, and he f$nally succumbed to the false secur$ty that an afghan eyehole can pro*$de. 0l$c . 0l$c . 0l$c . What the hell was that? 0l$c . 0l$c . 0l$c . 2uck. 2uck. 2uck. I lay paraly5ed $n my bed, e*ery l$ght $n my ent$re apartment bla5$ng. E*en $n the l$*$ng room, e*ery l$ght was on. 0l$c . 0l$c . 0l$c . I pulled the co*ers up h$gher, co*er$ng my face up to eyes, wh$ch were w$ldly loo $ng bac and forth. I hated Wallbanger w$th e*ery f$ber of my be$ng $n that moment. I also w$shed he was there. 0l$c . 0l$c . 0l$c . What the fuck was that? 0l$c . 0l$c . 6oth$ng. Then 0l$*e leaped on the bed and I screamed bloody fuc $ng murder. 0l$*e puffed out h$s ta$l and h$ssed at me, wonder$ng why the hell mommy was scream$ng at h$m I'm sure. The cl$c cl$c cl$c was h$s god damned $tty hangna$lH I heard my phone r$ng. I saw the name on the screen. "What the hell $s wrong= Why are you scream$ng= )re you o =" Edward yelled, and I could hear h$m through the phone and through the wall. "Get your ass o*er here r$ght now you mother fuc $ng scary mo*$e pusher," I seethed and hung up. I pounded on the wall and ran out to unloc the door. In much the same way I had ran up the last few steps of the basement sta$rs when I was a $d, I ran bac $nto my room, &ump$ng the last few feet and landed $n the center of my bed. I wrapped the co*ers around me and peered out, wa$t$ng for h$m. 7e

noc ed, and I heard the door push open. "!ella=" he called. "!ac here," I yelled, sad that I had been reduced to th$s, but glad to see h$m. "I brought the p$e," he sa$d w$th an embarrassed gr$n, "and th$s," he added, produc$ng the afghan from beh$nd h$s bac . "Than s," I answered, sm$l$ng from under the blan et. ) few m$nutes later we were settled on my bed, each of us balanc$ng a plate and a glass of m$l . We had both been too terr$f$ed to eat p$e earl$er, prom$s$ng to eat $t later. 0l$*e and h$s phantom hangna$l had ret$red to the other room, roll$ng h$s eyes at Edward and sw$sh$ng h$s ta$l. "7ow old are you=" I as ed, cutt$ng $nto my p$e. "1D, how old are you=" "18. We are 1D and 18 years old and terr$f$ed of a mo*$e," I mused as I tasted the p$e. It was good. "I wouldn't say I'm terr$f$ed, spoo ed yes. !ut I only came o*er to stop you from scream$ng," he answered. ")nd to taste my p$e," I added, w$n $ng. "+hut $t you," he warned and then went ahead and tasted my p$e. "Besus that's good," he breathed, eyes closed as he chewed. "I now, what $s $t about apples and homemade p$e crust= Is there anyth$ng better=" "If we were eat$ng th$s na ed, that's the only way $t could be better," he gr$nned, open$ng one eye and loo $ng at me. "6o one $s gett$ng na ed here buddy, &ust eat your p$e," I sa$d, po$nt$ng at h$s plate w$th my for . We chewed. "I feel better," I added a few m$nutes later, dr$n $ng my m$l . "%e too, not too spoo ed anymore," he sm$led, as I too h$s plate and set $t on the n$ghtstand. I s$ghed contentedly and lay bac aga$nst my p$llows, sated and less scared. "+o, I gotta as HBames !rown= I mean, Bames !rown=" he laughed and I $c ed h$m as he lay down ne"t to me. We both turned on our s$des fac$ng each other, arms curl$ng under the p$llows. "I now I now, I can't bel$e*e you held $t $n as long as you d$d' I now you'*e been dy$ng to ma e &o es s$nce last n$ght." "+er$ously, who $s th$s guy=" he as ed. "7e's a new cl$ent." ")h, got $t," he sa$d, loo $ng pleased. ")nd an old boyfr$end," I added, watch$ng h$s face for h$s react$on. "I see, new cl$ent but old boyfr$end," he repeated, careful to eep h$s e"press$on neutral. ";ep, ha*en't seen h$m $n a few years." "7ow's that gonna wor =" he as ed. "9on't now yet, we'll see," I answered truthfully. I d$dn't now how th$ngs were go$ng to go w$th Bames. I was glad to see h$m, and we d$d ha*e a good t$me the n$ght before. It was go$ng to be tough to eep th$ngs str$ctly profess$onal $f Bames wanted more. )nd e*ery $nst$nct I had told me he wanted more. 7e tended to ha*e a l$ttle more control o*er me that I was comfortable rel$n/u$sh$ng, and $n

the past I found myself suc ed $nto the gra*$tat$onal pull that was Bames !rown. -awyer, not Godfather of +oul. I new Bames well enough to now that he wasn't &ust loo $ng for a des$gner. The /uest$on was, d$d I want more than that as well= ")nyway, we're &ust go$ng to be wor $ng together. It'll be a great &ob for me, he wants h$s ent$re place redone," I s$ghed, already plann$ng the palette. I rolled onto my bac and stretched out. I had really abused my stomach ton$ght and was start$ng to get sleepy. "I don't l$ e h$m," he sa$d suddenly, after a long pause. I turned my face towards h$s and saw h$m scowl$ng. ";ou don't e*en now h$m' 7ow could you poss$bly not l$ e h$m=" I laughed. "I &ust don't," he sa$d s$mply, now turn$ng h$s ga5e to m$ne and unleash$ng the power of the green. "Oh please, you're &ust a st$n y boy," I laughed aga$n, ruffl$ng h$s ha$r. Wrong mo*e, $t sure was softH "I don't st$n , you sa$d yourself I was )pr$l fresh," he protested, l$ft$ng h$s arm and sn$ff$ng h$s p$t. ";es Wallbanger, you smell del$c$ous," I deadpanned, sn$ff$ng the a$r around me. 7e left h$s arm up h$gher on the p$llow and I new that $f I &ust rolled a l$ttle to my r$ght I could sl$de r$ght on $nto the noo . 7e loo ed at me, ra$s$ng h$s eyebrows &ust a l$ttle. Was he th$n $ng what I was th$n $ng= 9$d he want to noo me= 9$d I want to noo h$m= ,uc $tH "I'm com$ng $nto the noo ," I announced and went full snuggle. 7ead nestled $n, left arm o*er chest, r$ght arm tuc ed under h$s p$llow. -egs I ept to myself, I wasn't a total fool. "Well hello there," he sa$d $n surpr$se, and then curled h$mself around me $mmed$ately. I s$ghed aga$n, wrapped $n boy and banger. "What brought th$s on, friend=" he wh$spered $nto my ha$r and I sh$*ered. "9elayed react$on to -$nda !la$r, I needed some noo t$me. ,r$ends can noo , can't they=" "+ure, but are we fr$ends that can noo =" he as ed, trac$ng c$rcles on my bac . 7$m and h$s demon f$nger c$rclesH "I can handle $t, you=" I held my breath, breath that was sweet and apple l$ e. "I can handle &ust about anyth$ng, butH" he started, and then stopped. "What= What were you go$ng to say=" I as ed, lean$ng up and star$ng bac down at h$m. One p$ece of ha$r uncurled from my bun, and fell down between us. +lowly, and w$th great care, he pushed $t bac beh$nd my ear. "-et's &ust say that $f you were wear$ng that p$n n$ght$e= ;ou'd be $n a heap of trouble," he answered, star$ng $nto my eyes. I breathed $n, he breathed out. We traded actual a$r. "Bust noo me Wallbanger," I sa$d /u$etly and he gr$nned. "0ome on bac down here," he sa$d and coa"ed me bac onto h$s chest. I sl$d bac down, rest$ng where I could hear h$s heart beat. 7e folded the afghan o*er us, and I not$ced aga$n how soft $t was. It had ser*ed me well ton$ght, th$s afghan. "I lo*e th$s afghan, but I ha*e to say $t doesn't really f$t your apartment, the cool dude mot$f you ha*e go$ng on," I g$ggled. It was orange and pea green and *ery retro.

7e was s$lent for a moment, and I thought maybe he had fallen asleep. "It was my mom's," he sa$d /u$etly, and the gr$p he had on me became $nf$n$tes$mally t$ghter. There was noth$ng to say after that. Wallbanger and I slept together that n$ght, w$th e*ery l$ght $n the ent$re place on. 0l$*e and h$s hangna$l stayed away.

0hapter F3 +hadows and Tall Trees I wo e up /u$c ly, startled $nto be$ng awa e by the warmth of the body ne"t to me, wh$ch was dec$dedly b$gger than the body that was usually nestled $nto my s$de. I rolled carefully onto my bac and away from Edward, so that I could see h$m $n the l$ght of the lamps that cont$nued to bla5e away $nto the n$ght, f$ght$ng bac the e*$ls of that awful mo*$e. I rubbed my eyes a l$ttle, and $nspected my bedmate. 7e was st$ll ly$ng on h$s bac , arms curled as though I was st$ll $n them and I thought of how good $t felt to f$nally noo w$th Wallbanger. !ut I shouldn't be noo $ng w$th Wallbanger, that was def$n$tely a *ery, *ery sl$ppery slope. One that I was reluctant to cl$mb. )nd though the $mages that cl$mb$ng a sl$ppery Wallbanger that $mmed$ately came to m$nd were far from $nnocent, I pushed them as$de. I glanced further down h$s e"/u$s$te form and not$ced the terr$bly wonderful afghan that was tangled $n between h$s legs, and m$ne for that matter. It was h$s mom's. %y heart bro e a l$ttle more each t$me I thought of h$s sweet t$m$d *o$ce shar$ng that l$ttle nugget w$th me. 7e d$dn't now that I had tal ed to Esme about h$s past. 7e d$dn't now that I new h$s parents were no longer al$*e. The $dea that he st$ll clung to h$s mother's afghan was $ne"orably sweet, and once aga$n my l$ttle heart bro e open. I was close w$th my cra5y mother (enee, and closer st$ll to my steadfast father 0harl$e. The $dea that I would someday ha*e to wal on th$s earth w$thout the$r anchor and the$r m$sgu$ded gu$dance made me w$nce, to say noth$ng of los$ng both of my parents when I was only FD. I could st$ll barely $mag$ne $t. I was happy for Edward that he seemed to ha*e such good fr$ends, and such a powerful ad*ocate as 0arl$sle watch$ng out for h$m. !ut as close as fr$ends and lo*ers could be, there was someth$ng about belong$ng to someone completely that ga*e you roots, roots that you somet$mes needed when the world battled aga$nst you. Edward st$rred sl$ghtly $n h$s sleep, and I watched h$m aga$n carefully. 7e murmured someth$ng that I couldn't /u$te p$c out, but $t sounded a l$ttle l$ e 'meatballs'. I sm$led, and allowed my f$ngers to sl$p sl$ghtly $nto h$s ha$r, feel$ng the soft s$l that was tousled on my p$llow. God he ga*e good meatball. )s I stro ed h$s ha$r, my m$nd wandered to a place where meatballs flowed endlessly and there was p$e for days. I g$ggled a l$ttle to myself as I felt the sleep$ness beg$n to ta e me bac o*er, and I nestled bac down $nto the noo . )s I felt the comfort ta e o*er once more that only warm boy arms could pro*$de, a l$ttle alarm went off $n my head, warn$ng me not to get too close here. I had to be careful. 0learly we were both d$*$nely attracted to each other, and $n another space and t$me the wallbang$ng would ha*e been r$ng$ng out across the land and around the cloc . !ut he had h$s harem, and I d$d not ha*e my O. )nd wh$le I new I would be w$ll$ng to r$s se" w$th Edward e*en w$thout the O, there was no way I was go$ng to become one of h$s g$rls. +o fr$ends we would rema$n. ,r$ends who noo . ,r$ends who meatball. )nd we were headed to Tahoe *ery soon. I mentally chast$sed myself for p$ctur$ng Edward soa $ng $n a hot tub w$th -a e Tahoe spread out $n all $ts glory beh$nd h$m. Wh$ch s$ght was actually more glor$ous rema$ned to be seen. %y hoohah and I settled bac $nto sleep, rous$ng only sl$ghtly when Edward snuggled me a l$ttle closer. )nd e*en though $t was /u$et, and barely abo*e a wh$sper...he s$ghed my name. I sm$led as I sl$pped bac $nto sleep. The ne"t morn$ng I felt a pers$stent po $ng at my left shoulder. I brushed $t away, but $t cont$nued.

"0l$*e, stop $t you asshole," I moaned, h$d$ng my head under the co*ers e*en though I now he wouldn't stop unt$l I fed h$m. (uled by h$s stomach that one. Then I heard a d$st$nctly human laugh, /u$et and def$n$tely not 0l$*e. %y eyes sprang open, and the n$ght before came bac to me $n glow$ng deta$l. The horror, the p$e, the noo . I reached bac wards w$th my r$ght foot, sl$d$ng $t along the bed unt$l I felt $t stop aga$nst someth$ng warm and ha$ry, although I was now more sure than e*er $t was not 0l$*e. I po ed w$th my toe, $nch$ng my way h$gher unt$l I heard another chuc le. "Wallbanger=" I wh$spered, not want$ng to fl$p o*er. True to form, I was spread eagled d$agonally across the ent$re bed, head on one s$de, feet pract$cally on the other. "The one and only," a del$c$ous *o$ce wh$spered $n my ear, and my toes and hoohah curled. "+h$t," I sa$d, roll$ng onto my bac to ta e $n the damage. 7e was huddled $n the one corner my body had allowed h$m, my nocturnal bed shar$ng hab$ts ha*$ng not $mpro*ed at all. ";ou sure can f$ll a bed," he muttered, sm$l$ng at me from where he was curled $nto a ball under the l$ttle b$t of afghan I had allowed h$m. "If we are go$ng to do th$s aga$n there'll ha*e to be some ground rules." "Th$s won't be happen$ng aga$n, th$s was $n response to a terr$ble mo*$e that you $nfl$cted on both of us. 6o more noo $ng," I stated f$rmly, wonder$ng how dreadful my morn$ng breath was. I cupped my hand $n front of my face, breathed, and ga*e a /u$c sn$ff. "(oses=" he as ed deadpan. "Ob*$ously," I sm$r ed. I loo ed at h$m, e"/u$s$tely rumpled and $n my bed. 7e sm$led that sm$le and I s$ghed hea*$ly. I allowed myself a moment to $ndulge $n a Wallbanger$an fantasy where I was then /u$c ly fl$pped and ra*aged to w$th$n an $nch of my l$fe, but I w$sely got control of my $nner whore. "What $f you get scared ton$ght=" he as ed as I sat up and stretched. "I won't," I threw bac o*er my shoulder. "What $f I get scared=" "Grow up pretty boy, let's ma e coffee and then I ha*e to get to wor ," I laughed, whac $ng h$m w$th my p$llow. I watched as he sl$d out from under the afghan, ta $ng care to fold $t and carry $t w$th h$m $nto the $tchen where $t was set gently on the table. I sm$led th$n $ng of what he sa$d &ust before we fell asleep the n$ght before, and then later on when he sa$d my name. What I wouldn't g$*e to now what was runn$ng through h$s m$nd when he sa$d $t. We mo*ed about the $tchen $n /u$et economy, gr$nd$ng beans, measur$ng coffee, pour$ng water. I placed the sugar and cream on the counter wh$le he peeled and sl$ced a banana. I poured granola, he m$l ed and bananaed the bowls for us. W$th$n a few m$nutes we were seated ne"t to each other on barstools, eat$ng brea fast as though we had been do$ng so for years. The s$mple ease that we had fallen $nto $ntr$gued and worr$ed me. "#lans for the day=" I as ed, d$gg$ng $nto my bowl. "I need to stop by the 0hron$cle off$ce." ")re you wor $ng on someth$ng for them=" I as ed, surpr$sed at the le*el of $nterest e*en I could hear $n my *o$ce. "I'm spend$ng a few days wor $ng on a p$ece for the paper on wee end getaways $n the !ay )rea, wee end dr$*es $nd of th$ng," he answered through a mouthful of banana. "When are you go$ng to do that=" I as ed, e"am$n$ng the ra$s$ns $n my bowl and try$ng not to loo too $nterested $n h$s answer. "6e"t wee , I lea*e on Tuesday," he repl$ed and my stomach was $nstantly /ueasy. 6e"t wee was when we were supposed to go to Tahoe. Why the hell d$d I care so much that he wouldn't be go$ng=

"I see," I added, aga$n fasc$nated by the ra$s$ns. "!ut I'll be bac before Tahoe, I was plann$ng on &ust dr$*$ng stra$ght there when I f$n$shed my shoot," he sa$d, loo $ng at me o*er the r$m of h$s coffee mug. "Oh, well, that's good," I answered /u$etly, shoc ed to sh$t at the way my stomach now was bounc$ng all around. "When are you headed up anyway=" he as ed, seem$ng to now be study$ng h$s own bowl. "The g$rls are dr$*$ng up w$th Emmett and Basper on Thursday, but I ha*e to stay $n the c$ty to wor . I'm dr$*$ng up on ,r$day afternoon." "#erfect, I'll sw$ng through to p$c you up then," he offered and I /u$etly nodded. That settled, we f$n$shed our brea fast and watched 0l$*e chase a stray p$ece of fluff around the table o*er and o*er aga$n. We d$dn't tal much, but whene*er we met each other's eyes, we both gr$nned. )#O: "7ey Esme' 7ow are you= !eaut$ful &ac et," I sa$d, pull$ng Esme $nto a fast hug. I was stopp$ng by the off$ce to chat w$th Esme about an organ$5$ng &ob she wanted me to consult on, and I thought I would sw$ng by my g$rl !ella's wh$le I was there and see $f she wanted to grab some lunch. "Than s lo*e, you do$ng well= 7ow's $t go$ng w$th Emmett, e"c$ted for ne"t wee end=" she as ed, eye$ng me carefully. ";es, we should ha*e a great t$me. Basper and Emmett are dr$*$ng us up there ne"t Thursday, can't wa$t'" I s/uealed. I was *ery e"c$ted for the tr$p, I had th$s we$rd feel$ng about all of us up there together, but I couldn't /u$te put my f$nger on $t. "Well come on up to my off$ce and we can chat there, want some tea=" she offered as we made our way past the recept$on area and up the long sta$rcase. I could hear !ella laugh$ng as we reached the top step< she had a laugh you could p$c out of a crowd. "What's got her so g$ggly today=" I as ed as we wal ed closer towards !ella's off$ce on the way to Esme's. "6ew cl$ent, I don't now how much wor they are actually gett$ng done $n there but they sure are ha*$ng fun," she remar ed, ra$s$ng one eyebrow. We both $nst$nct$*ely slowed down as we passed !ella's door, and I couldn't help but pee $ns$de. What I saw made me stop cold. Bames !rown. !ella was lean$ng across her des , st$ll laugh$ng l$ e a loon as Bames !rown loo ed to be bur$ed $n des$gn boo s. 7e was laugh$ng as well< they loo ed /u$te co5y. )s I watched, I saw h$m reach across the des and pat her hand, and she d$dn't swat $t away. I $nhaled, prepar$ng for the assault and subse/uent ass $c $ng when I was l$fted out of my shoes and mo*ed from the doorway by a surpr$s$ngly strong Esme. W$th one hand clasped f$rmly o*er my mouth and the other wrapped around my wa$st, I found myself be$ng carr$ed down the hallway l$ e a manne/u$n $nto her off$ce. +he /u$c ly darted bac down the hallway to grab my heels, and came bac $n, shutt$ng the door f$rmly beh$nd her. "Esme' What the hell'" I sa$d, sl$d$ng bac $nto my shoes and then stomp$ng my s$5e f$*es angr$ly. "9o you now who that was=" "I now that $s !ella's new cl$ent, one that $s about to spend a ton of money w$th th$s f$rm and by the loo on your face, someone I d$d not want you yell$ng at. %y goodness )l$ce, you loo ed l$ e a tea ettle' I'*e ne*er seen someone's face get that red that fast..." she s$ghed, s$n $ng $nto her cha$r. I began to pace bac and forth $n her off$ce, cont$nu$ng to get more and more wor ed up. "6ew cl$ent my foot, that $s Bames'" I yelled. "I now, Bames !rown. +eems harmless enough," she shrugged, s$pp$ng her tea out of a bone ch$na

cup. "9o you now who he really $s=" I as ed, turn$ng to face her, try$ng to eep my *o$ce le*el. "0huc !erry= @$dd$ng, I'm $dd$ng' ;es, I now he $s an e".boyfr$end of !ella's, what's the b$g deal= +he seems o wor $ng w$th h$m. I as ed her before she agreed to ta e the &ob, she can handle th$s," she assured me, wonder$ng what all the fuss was about. I san down $nto the tufted w$ngbac cha$r $n front of her, try$ng to gather my thoughts. I too a deep breath. "Esme, he $sn't some e".boyfr$end, he $s the e".boyfr$end. The e".boyfr$end of all e".boyfr$ends." "O , you're gonna ha*e to e"pla$n that, I ha*e no clue what that means," she gr$nned, n$bbl$ng on a coo $e. I s$ghed, and tr$ed to th$n how I could tell Esme about !ella and Bames, and more $mportantly how !ella was with Bames. "They were really ser$ous, pract$cally engaged unt$l !ella ended $t w$th h$m. 7e d$dn't ta e $t so well, and wasn't really o w$th lett$ng her go. 7e $sn't used to not gett$ng what he wants," I answered, chew$ng on a p$ece of my ha$r. "I got that sense already, but they seem to be f$ne together," she assured, offer$ng me a cup of tea as well. "+ure, now they're f$ne. That's how $t started out. !ut Bames, he's, well...he's &ust not good for her. 7e has th$s way of ma $ng her second guess herself, l$m$t$ng herself." "!ella= #lease, that g$rl gets e"actly what she wants' I'*e ne*er seen her bac down from anyth$ng," Esme huffed. "Oh really= +he almost d$dn't ta e your $nternsh$p Esme," I huffed bac , my face stony. +he stopped m$d n$bble. "Why on earth would she." "Bames d$dn't want her to ha*e to wor after college," I $nterrupted, lean$ng bac $n my cha$r as I heard the two of them lea*e !ella's off$ce. Esme and I eyed each other as we heard the two of them argue about where to go to lunch. "We should &ust go to the Tha$ place around the corner, $t's so good, and $t'll be faster." "!ella, I'm really $n the mood for :$etnamese, don't you th$n that would be better=" "7a*e you forgotten I'm not really b$g on :$etnamese food=" I heard !ella say, and I mentally h$gh. f$*ed her for $t. "0ome on, you can get soup," Bames purred, and I could almost see the loo on h$s face. Esme chuc led from beh$nd her des . "6ot gonna fly pretty boy, !ella hates :$etnamese food," she sa$d conf$dently. ",$ne, :$etnamese food $t $s, I can f$nd someth$ng," we heard !ella say, and I shoo my head sadly. "I &ust don't l$ e th$s at all," I wh$spered to Esme, her face reflect$ng the loo on my own. Te"t $ntercepted from )l$ce to (ose 9$d you now that !ella $s wor $ng w$th Bames= Bames who= Bames !rown ob*$ously, who else= 6O' What the hell= 7e $s her new b$g cl$entH remember she told us about h$m= Of course she neglected to ment$on who he was I am gonna $c her ass when I see her ne"t...she better not cancel on Tahoe

9$d Basper tell you he was br$ng$ng h$s gu$tar= ;ep, he told me you wanted to ha*e some $nd of fuc ed up s$ng along 7e d$d= 7aha, I &ust thought $t would be fun... Te"t $ntercepted from Emmett to )l$ce 7ey T$ny, are we st$ll bowl$ng w$th (ose and Basper ton$ght= ;ep, and you better br$ng your ) game, (ose and I are pretty se*ere (ose nows how to bowl= Wow... Why $s that Wow= I &ust wouldn't ha*e e"pected her to bowl $s all, see you ton$ght Te"t $ntercepted from Emmett to Edward ;ou st$ll plann$ng on head$ng up w$th us th$s wee end= ;ep, but I'm com$ng a l$ttle late, ha*e a shoot When are you com$ng up= ,r$ n$ght, stopp$ng thru the c$ty on my way up Why the hell are you go$ng bac $n to the c$ty, you're do$ng that shoot $n 0armel r$ght= I &ust need to p$c some sh$t up for the wee end 9ude, pac your sh$t and get your ass to Tahoe I w$ll, &ust need to p$c up !ella f$rst I see ;ou see noth$ng I see e*eryth$ng ;ou sure about that !$g !oy= What about (ose= (ose= Why $s e*eryone as $ng me about (ose= +ee you $n Tahoe Te"t $ntercepted from )l$ce to !ella ;ou ha*e some spla$n$n to do -ucyH Oh no, I hate $t when you go ($cardo on me...what the hell d$d I do= E"pla$n to me why you d$dn't tell me about your new cl$ent= !ella, don't $gnore my te"t... !E--)' Oh settle down, th$s $s e"actly why I d$d 6OT tell you !ella %ar$e +wan, th$s $s news that ob*$ously I should ha*e nown about' -oo , I can handle $t o = 7e's my cl$ent, noth$ng more 7e's go$ng to spend an obscene amount of money on th$s pro&ect I fran ly don't care how much he $s spend$ng, I don't want you wor $ng w$th h$m -$sten to yourself' I w$ll ta e on whate*er new cl$ent I damn well please' I ha*e th$s under control... We'll see...d$d I hear a rumor that you are dr$*$ng up to Tahoe w$th Wallbanger= Wow, sub&ect change ;es, I am

Good...ta e the long way What the hell $s that supposed to mean= )l$ce= ;ou there= 9amn you )l$ce...7E--O= Te"t $ntercepted from !ella to Edward Wallbanger...come $n Wallbanger Wallbanger $sn't here, only the e"orc$st 6ot e*en a l$ttle b$t funny... What's up= What t$me are you p$c $ng me up tom= I should be bac $n the c$ty by 3$sh, and $f you can noc off wor a l$ttle early we can beat rush hour I already told Esme I needed to lea*e a b$t early. Where are you r$ght now= In 0armel, on a cl$ff o*erloo $ng the ocean !oy are you a closet romant$c... I'm a photographer, we go where the money shot $s Oh man, we're not d$scuss$ng money shots !es$des, I thought you were the romant$c one I told you, I'm a pract$cal romant$c Well then pract$cally spea $ng e*en you would apprec$ate the s$ght I am loo $ng at r$ght now, wa*es crash$ng, sun sett$ng, $t's n$ce )re you alone= ;ep !et you w$sh you weren't... ;ou ha*e no $dea #fft... you old soft$e There's noth$ng soft about me !ella )nd we're bac ... !ella= ;ep +ee you tom afternoon ;ep Te"t $ntercepted from !ella to (ose 0an you g$*e me address aga$n to the house so I can plug $t $nto the G#+ tom= 6o 6o= 6o, not unt$l you tell me why you are h$d$ng Bames !rown Besus, $t's l$ e ha*$ng 1 more mothers...

Th$s $sn't about s$tt$ng up stra$ght or eat$ng more *egetables, wh$ch we do need to ha*e a con*ersat$on about your posture at some po$nt... Enbel$e*able +er$ously !ella, we &ust worry +er$ously (ose, I now. )ddress please= -et me th$n about $t 6ot gonna as you aga$n... ;es you w$ll...you want to see Wallbanger $n that hot tub, don't l$e I hate you... Te"t $ntercepted from Edward to !ella ;ou done w$th wor = ;ep, at home and wa$t$ng for you 6ow that br$ngs up a n$ce *$sual... #repare yourself Wallbanger, I'm ta $ng bread out of the o*en 9on't tease me woman...5ucch$n$= 0ranberry orange...mmm 6o woman has e*er done brea fast bread foreplay the way you do 7)' When are you com$ng= 0an't. 9r$*e. +tra$ght. 0an we ha*e one con*ersat$on when you're not twel*e= +orry, I'll be there $n 3A #erfect, that w$ll g$*e me t$me to frost my buns... #ardon me= Oh, I d$dn't tell you= I also made c$nnamon rolls I'll be there $n FK... "I'm not l$sten$ng to th$s." "-$ e hell, $t's my car, dr$*er p$c s mus$c." ")ctually, you're wrong about that. The passenger always p$c s mus$c, $t's what you get when you g$*e up dr$*$ng pr$*$leges." "!ella, you don't e*en own a car, so how could you e*er ha*e dr$*$ng pr$*$leges=" "E"actly, so we l$sten to what I p$c ." "!ut $t's Bourney, how can you turn th$s off=" "It's one song Wallbanger, suc $t up ya b$g baby," I ch$ded, s$tt$ng bac $n my seat after chang$ng the rad$o stat$on for the hundredth t$me. I h$t the $#od and scrolled unt$l I found someth$ng that I thought would please us both e/ually. "I6M+= (eally=" he as ed, ra$s$ng h$s eyebrow and sm$l$ng. "I'm st$ll $n mourn$ng o*er %$chael, you ha*e no $dea the soft spot I had for h$m," I s$ghed, tuc $ng my legs up underneath me and watch$ng the h$ghway as $t wh$55ed by. "Good song," he nodded, and we both hummed along.

The tr$p had been great so far, and although I was loathe to adm$t $t, Wallbanger was /u$c ly turn$ng $nto one of my fa*or$te people. I'd been wrong about h$m, although w$th the round the cloc orgasms he was del$*er$ng through my wall constantly bac then, $t was understandable that we would d$sl$ e each other. I glanced at h$m, humm$ng along to I6M+, drumm$ng h$s thumbs along the steer$ng wheel $n t$me to the mus$c. )s he was concentrat$ng on the road, I too the opportun$ty to catalogue some of h$s more swoon worthy features. Baw= +trong. +tubble= )bout two days worth and n$ce. -$ps= -$c able and lonely loo $ng...maybe I could chec them out, do my own l$ttle tongue $nspect$on... I sat on my hands to stop me from launch$ng myself o*er the console. 7e cont$nued to hum and drum. "What's go$ng on o*er there 6$ght$e G$rl, you loo a l$ttle flushed. 6eed some more a$r=" he as ed, start$ng for the a$r cond$t$oner. "6ope, I'm good," I answered, my *o$ce sound$ng r$d$culous e*en to my own ears. 7e loo ed at me strangely, but resumed h$s hum drum. "I th$n $t's t$me we bro e out that cranberry orange bread, h$t me," he sa$d a moment later, as my m$nd was $ndulg$ng $n a m$ld fantasy of how e"actly I could maneu*er h$s pen$s $nto my *a&ay&ay wh$le st$ll ma$nta$n$ng a good h$ghway speed. "I'm on $t'" I hollered /u$c ly, d$*$ng $nto the bac seat at top speed, surpr$s$ng us both. I had my legs $n the a$r, and my bottom on d$splay as I clasped my ups$de down face $n my hands beh$nd the seat. I could feel how red my chee s were, and I ga*e myself a l$ttle slap to snap me bac $nto th$s world. "That $s one sweet ass my fr$end," he s$ghed sweetly, lean$ng h$s head on $t as though $t were a p$llow. "7ey. )ss %an. #ay attent$on to the road and not my he$ney or no bread for you," I scolded, g$*$ng h$s head a bump w$th my bum and send$ng myself fla$l$ng aga$n as he too a turn. "!ella, you need to control yourself bac there or I am pull$ng o*er." "Oh 5$p $t, here's your damn bread," I snapped bac , crawl$ng bac $nto my cha$r $n a graceless way and throw$ng the bread at h$m. "What the fuc = 9on't throw th$s, what $f you had bru$sed $t=" he cr$ed, gently stro $ng the fo$l wrapped bread. "I worry about you Edward, I really do," I laughed, watch$ng h$m open the end of the wrapper. ";ou want me to cut you a p$ece.o , or you could &ust do that," I frowned, as he too a g$ant b$te out of the end. "Th$f $f m$ne, r$gh=" he as ed, spray$ng crumbs throughout the front seat. "7ow do you funct$on $n normal soc$ety=" I as ed, sha $ng my head as he too another monster b$te. 7e &ust sm$led and cont$nued to eat the ent$re loaf of bread $n less than f$*e m$nutes. ";ou're gonna be so s$c ton$ght, that's meant to be eaten p$ece by p$ece, not $ngested whole," I sa$d, sha $ng my head. 7$s only response was to burp loudly and pat h$s tummy. I couldn't help but laugh. ";ou're one tw$sted fuc Wallbanger," I chuc led. ";ou're st$ll $ntr$gued though, aren't you=" he gr$nned, turn$ng the green l$mes loose on me $n such a way that I felt my pant$es actually d$s$ntegrate. "Oddly, yes," I adm$tted, feel$ng my face flame aga$n.

"I now," he sm$r ed, and we dro*e on. "O , the turn should be com$ng up &ust around th$s corner, I remember that house," I cr$ed, bounc$ng $n my seat e"c$tedly. It had been awh$le s$nce I had been up here, and I had forgotten how beaut$ful $t was. I lo*ed Tahoe $n the summert$me, all the water sports and e*eryth$ng. !ut $n autumn= )utumn was beaut$ful here. "Than God, I need to pee," Edward groaned, as he had been do$ng for the past twenty or so m$les. "That's your own fault for dr$n $ng that !$g Gulp," I admon$shed, st$ll bounc$ng away. "Wow, $s that $t=" he as ed as we turned $nto the dr$*e. -anterns l$t the way up the dr$*e to a sprawl$ng two.story cedar house w$th a g$ant stone f$replace up the left s$de. 0ars were already $n the dr$*eway, and I could hear the mus$c sp$ll$ng out from the bac dec . "+ounds l$ e our fr$ends ha*e already got the$r party on," Edward not$ced, as we heard s/ueal$ng and laughter com$ng from the bac s$de of the house. "Oh, I don't doubt $t. %y guess $s they ha*e been dr$n $ng s$nce d$nner and are half na ed $n the hot tub by now," I laughed, wal $ng around bac to grab my bag. "Well, we'll &ust ha*e to catch up now won't we=" he w$n ed, pull$ng out a bottle of Gall$ano from h$s bag. "I thought we could ma e some Wallbangers." "6ow $sn't that $nterest$ng, I was th$n $ng the same th$ng," I countered, pull$ng an $dent$cal bottle from my duffle. "I new you were dy$ng to get me $ns$de you !ella," he chuc led, grabb$ng my bag and h$s as we headed towards the door. "#lease, you would ma e up a dr$n and call $t a #$n 6$ght$e &ust to ha*e me $n your mouth, and don't e*en try to l$e," I laughed, nudg$ng h$m w$th my shoulder. 7e stopped m$dway up the wal and loo ed at me f$ercely. "Is that an $n*$tat$on= 0u5 I'm a hell of a bartender," he stated s$mply, the eyes glow$ng $n the dar ness. "I'*e no doubt," I breathed, the space between us now crac l$ng w$th the tens$on that was becom$ng r$d$culously hard to $gnore. I too a deep breath, and I not$ced he d$d as well. "0ome on, let's get sauced and start th$s wee end," he chuc led, nudg$ng me w$th h$s shoulder and brea $ng the spell. "+auce away," I muttered, wal $ng up the path beh$nd h$m. 9$d I loo at h$s ass the ent$re way= 7ell yes. ,$nd$ng the front door open, Edward and I stashed our bags and made our way through the house towards the bac dec . There, the stunn$ng la e was spread out before us, &ust barely l$t by the t$ $ torches that dotted the doc and pathways that led down to the shore. The ent$re bac of the house was flan ed w$th br$c pat$os and dec s, and that's where we found our fr$ends. "!ella'" )l$ce screeched from the hot tub, where she and Basper were splash$ng each other. )h, we were $nto 9run y -oud already. ")l$ce'" I s/uealed bac , loo $ng around for (ose. +he and Emmett were perched on the stone bench by the f$rep$t, roast$ng marshmallows. They both wa*ed merr$ly, Emmett gestur$ng obscenely w$th h$s st$c . "%a $ng them see the error of the$r ways m$ght be eas$er than we thought, fellow matchma er," I wh$spered to Edward, who was already beg$nn$ng to m$" us a coc ta$l at the pat$o bar. ";ou th$n $ts gonna be that easy=" he wh$spered bac , g$*$ng h$s fr$ends the $nternat$onal guy head

nod that sa$d "What's up man=" "7ell yes, they are almost already there w$thout our help. )ll we ha*e to do $s show them what's already r$ght $n front of them," I wh$spered bac . ";ou don't th$n they see $t=" he as ed, hand$ng me a coc ta$l. "I don't see how they'*e m$ssed $t th$s long, $t's star$ng them r$ght $n the face," I answered, ta $ng a s$p. "+o, how am I=" he as ed, w$n $ng. "Is th$s a Wallbanger=" "It $s," I too another s$p, sw$rl$ng the taste around my mouth and o*er my tongue. ";ou're as good as I new you'd be," I wh$spered, ta $ng a dangerously large swallow. "To th$ngs star$ng you r$ght $n the face," he added, cl$n $ng my glass and ta $ng h$s own large gulp. "To th$ngs star$ng you r$ght $n the face," I echoed, our eyes loc $ng o*er the r$ms. God damned banger *oodooH

0hapter FC.+pan$sh Eyes "Whose foot $s that=" "It's m$ne Emmett, /u$t rubb$ng $t," "9ude' Lu$t try$ng to play foots$e w$th me Basper'" ";ou are the one st$ll hold$ng my foot dude," Basper and Emmett both tr$ed to loo nonchalant as they d$sengaged from the$r foots$e sess$on under the bubbl$ng water. I laughed as I caught Edwards's eye from across the hot tub, and he gr$nned bac at me. "Want another=" he mouthed to me, nodd$ng to my empty glass. "I ha*e had enough of you for ton$ght, don't you th$n =" I mouthed bac , as our fr$ends cac led bac and forth all around us. ";ou th$n you could e*er get enough Wallbanger=" he mouthed, the character$st$c sm$r return$ng. I loo ed bac at h$m, the $mage of 7ot Tub Wallbanger that had been $n my head for the last few wee s actually pal$ng $n compar$son to the real th$ng. +trong arms stretched across the bac of the hot tub, ha$r was wet and artfully swept bac . If I thought see$ng Wallbanger wet and half na ed on my $tchen floor was ent$c$ng, $t was noth$ng l$ e ha*$ng h$m bac l$t by t$ $ torches and seen thru a strong alcohol$c bu55. 7e was now the most s$ngularly handsome man I had e*er seen, and $f I wasn't m$sta en, he was try$ng to get me drun . ")re you try$ng to get me drun =" I as ed, g$ggl$ng aga$n as I pushed my empty glass away from me, resol*$ng myself to $ngest$ng no more Wallbanger ton$ght. Besus I had a d$rty m$ndH "6ope, a sloppy #$n 6$ght$e G$rl gets me nowhere," he gr$nned as I splashed water towards h$s s$de. I not$ced that our fr$ends had all /u$eted and were now watch$ng us w$th und$sgu$sed $nterest. )fter Edward and I had arr$*ed, we got our dr$n s and then I showed h$m around the rest of the house. I d$dn't place my bags anywhere, not now$ng how the sleep$ng arrangements had been la$d out. We returned to the pat$o to f$nd that (ose and Emmett had &o$ned Basper and 9run y )l$ce $n the hot tub. ) /u$c tr$p to the pool house left me $n noth$ng but a dar green b$ $n$ and a sm$le, as I approached the others. Edward had already &umped $n, and I watched h$m watch me. )s I sl$d under the warm water, I s$pped my Wallbanger coc ta$l and dran $n the s$ght of wet Wallbanger $n front of me. (ose actually had to nudge me to stop the star$ng. 6ow we were smac dab $n the m$ddle of a testosteroneIestrogen soup, bubbl$ng away w$th 1 pa$rs of m$smatched lo*ers and more pheromones than we new what to do w$th. +o d$d I want another coc ta$l= 9$dn't matter, I couldn't afford $t. I had to sha e my head a l$ttle to clear $t, and loo ed around at the rest of the group. )l$ce had gotten too hot, and was perched on the s$de, $c $ng Emmett w$th her t$ny feet as they swung bac and forth. 7e $ndulged her $n much the way a b$g brother $ndulges h$s l$ttle s$ster. (ose and Basper were huddled on the other s$de, (ose scratch$ng Basper's bac as she and Emmett tal ed bac and forth about the CN'ers start$ng l$neup or defens$*e l$ne or someth$ng football$sh and fran ly bor$ng. "+o what are we do$ng th$s wee end=" I as ed, focus$ng my attent$on on the group at large and not the se" l$mes star$ng bac at me. 9amn those l$mes, they would be the death of me. "We were th$n $ng about go$ng for a h$ e tomorrow, who's $n=" Basper called out, as (ose shoo her head. "0ount me out of that, no way am I h$ $ng,"

"Why not=" Emmett as ed, not not$c$ng Edward and I steal a /u$c glance at each other at h$s sudden $nterest. "0an't. -ast t$me I h$ ed I too /u$te a sp$ll and spra$ned my wr$st. 0an't ta e the chance dur$ng the season," she sa$d, wa*$ng and rem$nd$ng us all that she made her l$*$ng w$th her hands. )s a cello player, she could get out of /u$te a b$t. Once she dodged hand &obs all w$nter. In*estment ban er !ob was not a happy camper. "7ow 'bout you T$ny=" Emmett pulled on )l$ce's foot. "Em no, )l$ce doesn't h$ e," she repl$ed, ad&ust$ng her barely there blac b$ $n$. 7er actual boytoy d$dn't not$ce, but I saw Basper's eyes grow to the s$5e of p$es from across the hot tub when her breasts were almost re*ealed. ";ou gonna ta e a pass as well=" Edward nodded to me. "7ell no, I am h$ $ng w$th the boys tomorrow'" I laughed, as (ose and )l$ce rolled the$r eyes at me. They hated all th$ngs outdoors, and ne*er understood why I lo*ed "mounta$n man act$*$t$es" as they called them. "Good g$rl," Edward purred, and for a second I calculated the d$stance between my mouth and h$s. We were all /u$et for a moment, all 8 of us lost $n our own thoughts. I remembered the plan to out the C of them, and I &umped r$ght $n. "+o Basper, d$d you now that )l$ce here g$*es to your char$ty e*ery year=" I as ed, surpr$s$ng them both. ";ou do=" he as ed. ";ep, e*ery year. I'*e seen what ha*$ng access to computers can do, espec$ally for $ds that wouldn't otherw$se ha*e the opportun$ty," she sa$d, shyly loo $ng at h$m. The two of them began a con*ersat$on about the process he used to determ$ne wh$ch schools he awards scholarsh$ps to each year, and Edward and I gr$nned at each other. -oo $ng s$deways at (ose, Edward launched the second wa*e of the attac . "7ey Emmett, how many seats d$d you get th$s year for the symphony=" he as ed, as Emmett blushed. ";ou bought t$c ets=" (ose as ed. ",eason t$c ets," Edward added, as Emmett nodded. The two of them began a d$scuss$on of where h$s seats were, and Edward ra$sed h$s foot abo*e the surface of the water. "0ome on, don't lea*e me hang$n" "What=" I as ed. "G$mme a l$ttle h$gh f$*e, I can't reach your hand," he $ns$sted, wa*$ng h$s foot bac and forth. I g$ggled, and sl$d lower on my seat, stretch$ng my foot out and patt$ng h$s l$ghtly. "Egh, pruney," he laughed. "I'll g$*e you pruney," I warned, d$pp$ng my foot below and splash$ng h$m l$ghtly. "I could not be more comfortable. +er$ously, I l$terally could not feel more comfortable r$ght now $f I were actually $ns$de a marshmallow," I mumbled, through a th$c tongue coated $n !a$ley's and coffee. I was curled up on top of about KA p$llows ne"t to f$replace. ) f$replace w$th a hearth almost FA feet w$de, and a ch$mney almost 3 stor$es h$gh. %ade out of stone that was /uarr$ed nearby, $t was mass$*e. It was the focal po$nt of the ent$re house, w$th rooms rad$at$ng outwards. )nd $t ga*e off mass$*e heat. We were all ch$lled to the bone when we f$nally made $t bac $ns$de. One by one, we all got too warm $n the hot tub, so we ho$sted oursel*es out to cool off a l$ttle. !y the t$me we real$5ed how cold the n$ght had really gotten, we were all chatter$ng and puff$ng, and want$ng noth$ng more than to curl up

ne"t to the f$re. )s we had yet to p$c rooms, the g$rls all snuc $nto the large master bedroom to change $nto our p&'s and re&o$n the boys, who were now all dec ed out $n t.sh$rts and pa&ama pants. We made a /u$c pot of coffee, and I sl$ced up some of the cranberry orange bread that I had w$sely h$d from Edward. ) couple of shots of !a$ley's $n the coffee cups, a strateg$cally placed $#od $n the sound system, and we were all rela"$ng by the f$re l$ e we were $n an ad for 0urr$er and I*es. I had spotted Edward o*er by the f$replace, and he patted the stac of p$llows ne"t to h$m. I do*e $n, lett$ng a few stray puffs of feathers sw$rl around our heads. I breathed deeply, there was noth$ng l$ e the smell of an actual f$re. 6ot a gas f$replace, not a bunch of candles, but an honest to goodness f$replace. W$th snaps and crac les and funny l$ttle wh$55$ng screeches when the steam came out of a p$ece of wood. Each boy had a d$fferent method of start$ng a f$re. Ese $ndl$ng, use newspapers, use $ndl$ng and newspapersH when f$nally (ose stuc her head up there and declared that the flu was actually st$ll closed. !rought bac down a few pegs, the guys at that po$nt deferred to Basper, $f for no other reason than he actually was hold$ng the matches. !ut w$th$n m$nutes, they had a f$re bla5$ng and we were now all seated $n front of or around the f$replace. There's someth$ng about your s $n after sw$mm$ng, espec$ally at n$ghtt$me. 0otton feels softer, your s $n feels softer, and e*en though you ha*en't done anyth$ng, you feel sleepy and content. Of course the Wallbangers and the !a$leys had noth$ng at all to do w$th that. "+o !ella, ha*e you as ed Edward to teach you how to w$nd surf yet=" )l$ce as ed suddenly, from her perch on the arm of the couch. We'd been /u$et for awh$le, drowsy and almost dream$ng that we all started a l$ttle. "What= I mean, what=" I as ed, startled out of my p$llows and bac $nto the present. "Well, these boys here all w$nd surf, you want to learn to w$nd surf, I bet Edd$e here would show ya, wouldn't ya Edd$e=" she g$ggled, pol$sh$ng off the last of her coffee, and sl$d$ng off the arm of the cha$r and onto Basper's con*en$ently placed lap. They sm$led at each other for a moment before they real$5ed what they were do$ng, and Basper &o $ngly launched her off h$s own lap, and $nto Emmett's. Who was not awa ened by )l$ce's earl$er /uest$on, and was now w$de awa e w$th a lapful of +chem$ng !randon. ";ou want to learn to w$nd surf=" Edward as ed, turn$ng from h$s place by the f$re towards my p$llow p$le. ")ctually yes, I'*e always wanted to try $t," "It's tough, not gonna l$e. !ut totally worth $t," he sm$led, as Basper ga*e h$m a head nod from across the room. "+ure, Edward'll show ya, he'd lo*e to," Basper added, earn$ng a w$n from )l$ce and an eye roll from me. "We can plan someth$ng for when we get bac to the c$ty," I gr$nned, not l$ $ng )l$ce's methods but grateful to maybe p$c up a new sport. "6o more tal ton$ght, th$s g$rl has had $t. I'm pooped, where are we all sleep$ng=" (ose sa$d, po $ng her head o*er the bac of an armcha$r where she had been curled up. "Well, how many rooms we tal $ng about=" Edward as ed, as I sat up stra$ght and ga*e a great yawn. "There are C bedrooms, so ta e your p$c ," (ose answered, w$sely dra$n$ng an ent$re bottle of water. ")re we do$ng boy.g$rl, boy.g$rl=" I as ed, laugh$ng when I saw Edward's surpr$sed face. "We can, sure," )l$ce answered, loo $ng a l$ttle ner*ously at Emmett. I st$fled a g$ggle when I saw (ose and Basper trade a s$m$lar spoo ed loo . Edward caught $t as well. ";eah sure' 9on't let !ella and I stand $n the way of the lo*eb$rds' )l$ce, you and Emmett p$c a room, (ose and Basper can p$c a room, and !ella and I w$ll ta e the rooms that are lefto*er. #erfect, r$ght !ella="

"+ound perfect to me' I'll &ust r$nse out these mugsHnow off to bed w$th you allHscoot scoot'" I cr$ed, gestur$ng towards the 1 couples to h$t the road. Edward and I scurr$ed about clean$ng up wh$le snea $ng pee s o*er our shoulders at the C of them, loo $ng l$ e they had &ust begun the !ataan 9eath %arch. "Oh man, I hope th$s wor s outHfor my sa e," I murmured, stand$ng beh$nd Edward as we watched the C become 1 pa$r as parted ways by the bedroom doors. "Why for your sa e=" he wh$spered, turn$ng h$s face &ust a l$ttle so we were /u$te close. "!ecause r$ght now, beh$nd those doors= (ose and )l$ce are try$ng to f$gure out the best way to hurt me. #hys$cally hurt me," I s$ghed, bac $ng away and r$ns$ng the last of the coffee cups, plac$ng them $n the d$shwasher. Edward added the soap, and sw$tched $t on. )s we wal ed around turn$ng l$ghts off for the n$ght, we tal ed about the h$ e we would be ta $ng tomorrow. ";ou're not gonna slow me down, are you=" he teased, as I sho*ed h$m $nto the wall. "#lease, you w$ll be eat$ng my tra$l dust tomorrow buc o," I warned, grabb$ng my bag and ma $ng my way down the hallway towards the bedrooms. "We'll see 6$ght$e G$rl. +pea $ng of, got any n$ght$es $n there for me=" he teased, po $ng h$s head $nto my bag as he followed me down the hall. "+tay outta there. 6oth$ng for you $n there, or anywhere for that matter," I gr$nned, stopp$ng at the room I was ta $ng. 7e went past me to the room ne"t door. "-oo at that, shar$ng a bedroom wall once aga$n," he sm$r ed. "Well, I now you're $n there alone so there had better not be any bang$ng go$ng on $n there," I warned, lean$ng $n the doorway. "6o, no bang$ng. 6$ght !ella," he sa$d softly, lean$ng $n h$s own doorway. "6$ght Edward," I answered bac , g$*$ng h$m a l$ttle waggle of my f$ngert$ps as I went $ns$de and closed my door. I placed my bag on my bed and sm$led, th$n $ng about what a great wee end th$s was go$ng to be. "0ome on guys, not that much further," I yelled beh$nd me, as I surged up the f$nal leg of the tra$l. We had been h$ $ng for about 1 hours now, and wh$le e*eryone stayed together as a group for the most part, $n the last 3A m$nutes or so, Emmett had slowed down cons$derably, and Basper hung bac w$th h$m. Edward and I ept the pace together, and were about to reach the crest of the tra$l. It had been a great morn$ng. )nd by that I mean I had managed to a*o$d be$ng alone w$th e$ther (ose or )l$ce, although the sleep bags and t$red faces on all C of them pro*ed to $llustrate that no one had gotten a good n$ght sleep. E"cept Edward and I. We made brea fast for the Grumpersons, and they were so t$red and out of sorts they m$ssed the ent$re "frost my buns" e"change Edward and I had o*er by the o*en when I wasHahemHactually frost$ng my buns. 0$nnamon that $s. )fter brea fast, I dodged the f$r$ng s/uad by chang$ng /u$c ly and wa$t$ng outs$de for the boys before the h$ e. I new once we made $t bac to the house I would be $n for $t, although I adm$t, I was cur$ous to see how they were plann$ng to rage w$thout ac nowledg$ng that ha*$ng to sleep $n a bed w$th the guys they had been see$ng for wee s now was, $n fact, not what they wanted to be do$ng. !ut as Edward had /u$pped, "7ere's to th$ngs star$ng you $n the face." Ton$ght should be $nterest$ng. I pushed up and o*er the last l$ttle r$dge, and made $t to the top. Edward was only a few yards beh$nd me< I could hear h$m on h$s way. I breathed deep, the clear a$r pr$c l$ng at my lungs. It was ch$lly, but I was warm w$th e"ert$on. It had been awh$le s$nce I had gotten out of the c$ty, I m$ssed h$ $ng l$ e th$s. %y legs were burn$ng, my nose was runn$ng, I was sweat$ng l$ e a p$g, and I couldn't remember a t$me when I had felt better. I laughed out loud as I loo ed down at the la e below, spy$ng a few haw s cru$s$ng the thermals. The steely blue of the la e, the deep green of the forest trees, the clean wh$tes and creams of the roc s, $t was beaut$ful.

)nd then there was my new fa*or$te green. Edward appeared at my s$de, breath$ng deeply as I st$ll was, stretch$ng h$s arms w$de and ta $ng $n the s$ght of the *alley below. 7e had peeled off layers as we went h$gher, and was now wear$ng a s$mple wh$te t.sh$rt, w$th a flannel notted at h$s wa$st. @ha $ shorts, h$ $ng boots, and a sh$t eat$ng gr$n completed the wet dream I was now star$ng at $nstead of the natural wonders all around us. )nd the green eyes, that I could see fram$ng each shot as he loo ed around. "!eaut$ful," I breathed, and he turned to me. I got caught star$ng. "I mean, $sn't $t beaut$ful=" I stuttered, gestur$ng w$dely w$th my arm as though I were on a game show. 7e new e"actly what I had been do$ng, and I felt the blush come up $n my chee s. -uc $ly, I was st$ll a b$t w$nded from the cl$mb, and was hop$ng that I was already suff$c$ently red. ";es, $t $s beaut$ful actually. Lu$te beaut$ful," he sm$led, and we stared at each other. 7e too a few steps closer to me, and I felt the a$r sh$ft and change. I b$t my l$p< he ran h$s hand through h$s ha$r. We sm$led. There were no words, but e*en the woodland an$mals could tell there was someth$ng about to happen, and w$sely stayed $n the$r h$dey holes. If there were harp$sts nearby, now would be the t$me they would startHharp$ng. "7$," he sa$d /u$etly. "7$," I answered. "7$," he sa$d aga$n, ta $ng one last step towards me, br$ng$ng h$m $ns$de my l$ttle c$rcle of self. One more step and he would pract$cally on top of me. )hem. "7$," I sa$d once more, t$lt$ng my head to the s$de and lett$ng h$m now that he could ta e that last step. "%)+E6'" thundered from below, and we both sprang bac . "%)+E6'" came aga$n, and I recogn$5ed Emmett's *o$ce underneath the /uas$ &ungle man yell. "Emmett," we both sa$d, and sm$led. 7e ra$sed h$s hand for a second, almost as though he was go$ng toHbut then he dropped $t and bac ed away. 6ow that the banger *oodoo wasn't so concentrated, I could see th$ngs clearly aga$n, and I repeated the word 'harem' o*er and o*er aga$n $n my head. "Ep here'" Edward yelled down, and Basper appeared from around a bend. "7ey there, Emmett $s done, aput, thrown $n the towel so to spea , you guys about ready to head bac down=" he called, &ump$ng from roc to path to roc aga$n w$th the ease of a mounta$n goat. 7e d$dn't e*en appear to be breath$ng hea*y. ";ep, we were &ust about to come loo $ng for you guys," I called out to h$m, $c $ng my legs up beh$nd me for a /u$c stretch before head$ng bac down the tra$l. "Is he ly$ng down=" Edward as ed, follow$ng close beh$nd me. "+tra$ght across the tra$l l$ e he owns the place," Basper laughed, bound$ng ahead and call$ng down to Emmett to let h$m now we were on our way. ";ou sure you d$dn't want to stay up here a l$ttle longer= I mean, we wor ed so hard to get all the way here," he as ed, reach$ng out h$s hand to stop me runn$ng down the mounta$n after Basper. "I'm sure, we should get bac . -oo s l$ e a storm $s com$ng," I nodded towards the hor$5on, a group of dar clouds beg$nn$ng to bu$ld $n the d$stance. I felt the warmth of h$s hand on my shoulder, and I w$lled my hormones to flee to the other s$de of my body. 7$s eyes followed m$ne and frowned when he saw what was com$ng. ";ou're probably r$ght, we don't want to get caught out here all alone," he muttered. "!es$des, $f we don't hurry, we can't tease Emmett about gett$ng beat up the mounta$n by a g$rl," I gr$nned, and he laughed loudly.

"7ell, we don't want to m$ss that, let's go," )nd down the tra$l we went. "+o how was your gangbang !ella=" (ose sang sweetly when she found us all $n the $tchen dr$n $ng water after our h$ e. )ll 3 boys d$d d$fferent *ers$ons of the class$c sp$t ta e, wh$le I calmly cont$nued s$pp$ng l$ e a lady. ",antast$c, than s. Emmett espec$ally, we pract$cally had to carry h$m bac down the mounta$n after I f$n$shed w$th h$m," I answered bac &ust as sweetly. The boys reco*ered the$r game faces, but I not$ced Emmett could barely stop star$ng at (ose's t$ght tan top. 7er actual su$tor= #lay$ng +pot The )l$ce, h$s head rotat$ng so fast I could ha*e sworn he was an owl. I shoo my head, and put h$m out of h$s m$sery. "Where's )l$ce=' I as ed. "+hower, wh$ch you C clearly need. It's free5$ng outs$de, how could you ha*e gotten so sweaty=" she as ed, wr$n l$ng her nose a l$ttle. "We wor ed hard ma $ng $t up that mounta$n, h$ $ng $s harder than you th$n $t $s," Emmett puffed, and the rest of us w$sely ept s$lent about the heart attac he almost had KA feet from the summ$t. I grabbed an apple and headed $n the d$rect$on of my room, w$th (ose hot on my ta$l, as e"pected. I sm$r ed a l$ttle, now$ng she wanted to lay $nto me for ma $ng her sleep $n the same room as Basper the n$ght before, but she couldn't w$thout adm$tt$ng her secretInot so secret $nterest $n Emmett. I contemplated go$ng easy $n her, and &ust as $ng her about $t, g$*$ng her an out. "Those shorts loo terr$ble on you !ella," she remar ed as she followed me $nto my room. 6o easy out. "Than you dear, should I ha*e pac ed a l$ttle cat food for you when I pac ed 0l$*e's tra*el bag=" I sneered as she collapsed onto my bed, curl$ng her body around one of the g$ant p$llows. "Where $s he anyway, who's watch$ng h$m th$s wee end=" "7e $s stay$ng w$th Encle ,el$" and Encle 9emetr$. That cat $s loung$ng on a s$l bed be$ng handfed tuna rolls r$ght about now, he $s l$*$ng the l$fe," I laughed, th$n $ng about how well my cat was treated. "That fuc $ng cat, he has the l$fe, that's for sure," she sa$d, her earl$er snar settl$ng $nto a l$ttle sad sac . I started peel$ng off my sweaty clothes, wrapp$ng up $n a terrycloth robe that was hang$ng on the bac of the door. +he compl$mented my cho$ce of sports bra, and laughed when she saw that I had pa$red $t w$th a l$ttle pa$r of leopard pant$es, but then went bac to her pre*$ous w$stful e"press$on. "What's up (os$e=" I as ed, lay$ng on the bed ne"t to her and wrapp$ng myself around a p$llow as well. "6oth$ng, why=" she as ed. ";ou loo a l$ttle blue," "Eh, I &ust d$dn't sleep well I guess," "Oh really= %r. Basper eep$ng you up late at n$ght hmm=" I teased, nudg$ng her w$th my elbow. "6o no, noth$ng l$ e that, I &ust. I dunno, I &ust couldn't get settled last n$ght. 6ormally I sleep really well up here, but $t was so /u$et last n$ght, I &ustHI dunno. I &ust couldn't get settled I guess," she mumbled, beat$ng her p$llow a l$ttle w$th her f$st, forc$ng $t $nto a new shape. "I see, well I slept great'" I laughed, and she start$ng try$ng to force my head $nto a new shape w$th her f$st. ";ou wanna get drun ton$ght=" she as ed as we f$nally settled down.

"7ell yes, you=" ";es ma'am," she laughed as )l$ce wal ed by w$th a towel on her head. "Is th$s a pr$*ate sess$on, or can a non lesb$an get $nto th$s bed=" she called from the doorway. We laughed and wa*ed her $n. +he *aulted from the floor to the bed and landed on top of both of us as we shr$e ed. "What are we do$ng $n here lad$es= ,oreplay or &ust go$ng for $t=" she as ed. "#lease say foreplay," we heard a male *o$ce say from the door. We all rolled o*er to see our boys $n the doorway, d$fferent *ers$ons of the same oh.my.goodness.g$rls.$n.bed.together loo on the$r faces. "Oh get o*er yoursel*es, l$ e we would e*er need a guy to tell us whether we needed foreplay or not," (ose g$ggled, $c $ng a foot $n the a$r and wa*$ng at them from o*er my shoulder. They all sh$fted the$r we$ght from one foot to the other, and then all cleared the$r throats a l$ttle. +o pred$ctable. "We're plann$ng on gett$ng drun ton$ght, you boys up for $t=" )l$ce yelled out. E*en though no alcohol was currently present $n her system, 9run y )l$ce was already ma $ng an encore appearance $n her *olume le*el. "9one and done," Basper answered, g$*$ng us all a we$rd l$ttle salute that made us g$ggle e*en harder. "6ow run away boys, and let us ha*e our g$rl t$me," she tossed o*er her shoulder, l$ft$ng my robe a l$ttle and g$*$ng my ass a /u$c smac . I s/uealed, and tr$ed to co*er myself up, but $t was too late. "9ude. -eopard pr$nt." Emmett wh$spered to Edward, $n the $nd of wh$sper that $s louder than actually &ust spea $ng. "I now I now," Edward countered, and then drew h$s hand that had been tugg$ng on h$s ha$r down h$s face as though he were try$ng to remo*e the $mage phys$cally from h$s bra$n. Wallbanger l$ ed an$mal pr$nts. Oh EdwardH "0ome on guys, the lad$es ha*e re/uested a l$ttle alone t$me, let's lea*e them, to $t," Basper tugged them out $nto the hallway, clos$ng the door beh$nd them w$th a w$n $n our d$rect$on that made )l$ce's ent$re nec turn br$ght red. (ose was e"am$n$ng her f$ngerna$ls. I was really go$ng to ha*e fun w$th these two ton$ght. "Where the hell d$d you learn to coo l$ e th$s= Besus th$s $s good'" Emmett e"cla$med, ta $ng h$s th$rd help$ng of paella from the g$ant pan $n the center of the table. "I ha*e always coo ed I guess, I lo*e $t. Espec$ally when I get to coo for such an apprec$at$*e eater," I laughed as he dug $nto another p$le of r$ce. Edward nodded towards my w$ne glass and I nodded bac , as $ng for another pour. I had planned on ma $ng a /u$c *ers$on of paella when I saw all the wonderful seafood on sale at the local mar et, and when I saw the spec$al they were ha*$ng on +pan$sh (ose and 0a*a, my plans came together. We had all started $n on the 0a*a wh$le we were prepp$ng $n the $tchen, the spar l$ng +pan$sh w$ne go$ng perfectly w$th the wedge of %anchego I had p$c ed up, as well as the l$ttle d$shes of salty ol$*es. Once aga$n, Edward and I mo*ed together $n the $tchen e"tremely well, and he was my l$ttle helper. The other C settled $nto bar stools across from us wh$le we coo ed, someone popped $n on an old Ot$s (edd$ng record on the anc$ent turntable, and we were $n bus$ness. The w$ne flowed as freely as the con*ersat$on, and e*en though $t was the f$rst t$me all 8 of us had really spent any t$me together as a group s$nce we all met at Esme's wee s ago, I could tell th$s would become a t$ght n$t group /u$c ly. +$m$lar $nterests, s$m$lar senses of humor, but e*eryth$ng &ust d$fferent and complementary enough to eep $t l$*ely. +pea $ng of l$*ely, as the alcohol was $nhaled, the walls were com$ng down, and )l$ce and (ose were barely h$d$ng the$r $nterest anymore. 6ot that the boys were m$nd$ng, $n fact, they were encourag$ng

$t. Basper currently was e"am$n$ng )l$ce's foot for what she $ns$sted was a sp$der b$te. The fact that he had been $nspect$ng $t for se*eral m$nutes, and sa$d $nspect$on $ncluded a calf massage d$d not escape my attent$on, or Edward's. 7e gr$nned at me, and mot$oned for me to mo*e closer. I sl$d across the bench towards h$m, and $ncl$ned my head to h$s. 7e put h$s mouth ne"t to my ear, and I $nhaled. W$ne, smo e, heat, and actual se" ran stra$ght up my nostr$ls and $n*aded my bra$n, turn$ng e*eryth$ng $nto a fu55y world of banger *oodoo. "7ow long before the $ss=" he wh$spered h$s mouth so close, I swear I felt l$ps brush my ear and my hoohah began to cons$der how to launch. "What=" I as ed, beg$nn$ng to g$ggle the way I d$d when I had had a l$ttle too much to dr$n , and a l$ttle too much se"y man dangled $n front of me. "7ow long= ;a now, before they $ss the wrong person=" he as ed, as I turned to loo $nto h$s eyes. The l$mes, oh the l$mes were now call$ng to me, $ncreas$ng the chances of the hoohah launch. ";ou mean the r$ght person=" I wh$spered. ";eah, the r$ght person," he answered, scoot$ng a l$ttle closer to me on the bench. "I don't now but $f they don't $ss soon, I'm gonna burst," I adm$tted, now$ng full well that I was no longer tal $ng about our fr$ends. @now$ng full well that he new full well that I was no longer tal $ng about our fr$ends. "7mm, I wouldn't want you to burst," he gr$nned, and he was now mere $nches from my face. 7arem. 7arem. 7arem. I repeated th$s mantra o*er and o*er to myself. What the hell was a harem= "I wanna go $n the hot tub," The wh$n$ng pulled me away from the *oodoo and bac $nto the $tchen. Where there were people present. %y hoohah screamed as I encouraged her to stand down. %entally. I d$dn't actually touch myself. "I wanna go $n the hot tub," I heard aga$n, and turned to address )l$ce. Imag$ne my surpr$se when I saw that (ose was actually the wh$ner, and was now hang$ng on Emmett l$ e a boo bag. "O@, so go $n the hot tub. 6o one's stopp$ng you," I $ns$sted, sl$d$ng away from Edward and bac $n front of my plate where I began separat$ng my peas from my lobster. I was full, but I would ne*er lea*e lobster on the plate. 0ome on now. ";ou ha*e to come too," (ose wh$ned aga$n, as I began to comprehend. (ose was drun . (ose got cl$ngy when she got drun . Oh boy. "Go ahead, I'll clean up the $tchen a l$ttle b$t and then meet you guys out there," Edward sa$d, ta $ng my plate and start$ng to stand up. "7ey hey hey' -obster b$te, hello," I protested, as I grabbed at my for . "7ere, I would ne*er get $n between a woman and her lobster," he sm$led, offer$ng me my for bac . I accepted the b$te w$th a sm$le, and stood up. I was a l$ttle drun than I thought, and th$s fact made $tself nown as gra*$ty began tease me. "Whoah there, you O@=" he as ed, steady$ng me as (ose started off for the bedroom. ";eah, I'm f$ne I'm f$ne," I answered, plant$ng my feet and w$nn$ng the battle. "%aybe you outta slow down=" he as ed, ta $ng my w$ne glass. "Oh l$ghten up Wallbanger, $t's a party," I cr$ed, beg$nn$ng to g$ggle as I started to f$nd e*eryth$ng funny.

"O@ 6$ght$e G$rl, party on," he sm$led as I headed towards the bedroom to change $nto my su$t. Wh$ch pro*ed harder than I thought $t would as str$ng b$ $n$s are d$ff$cult to t$e when you are more than a l$ttle bu55ed. "O@, !ella's ne"t. Truth or 9are," )l$ce yelled, once more pro*$ng that 9run y )l$ce only had one sound le*el. ;ell$ng. "Truth," I yelled bac , splash$ng (ose $n the face acc$dentally as I reached beh$nd me for my glass of w$ne. We had brought out the last bottle of 0a*a, and were stead$ly wor $ng our way through $t. )nd $t was stead$ly wor $ng $ts way through us, our game becom$ng more and more dangerous. Once we came outs$de and got settled $nto the hot tub, $t was only m$nutes before Emmett suggested a game of Truth or 9are, and only seconds for (ose to agree to $t. I laughed $t off at f$rst, say$ng there was no way I was go$ng to play such a ch$ld$sh game. !ut when Edward $mpl$ed that I was ch$c en, the alcohol reared $ts ugly head and shouted someth$ng to the effect of, "I w$ll play Truth or 9are you suc er unt$l you can't tell you Truth from your 9are'" Th$s statement made perfect sense $n my head, and must ha*e to )l$ce and (ose as well, as they $mmed$ately began offer$ng me h$gh f$*es and you.go.g$rls. I'm pretty sure I saw Edward sha e h$s head, but he was sm$l$ng when he d$d $t so I let $t go. )nd poured another glass of spar ly. "Where $s the one place you want to tra*el, and ha*en't been yet," she as ed, humm$ng along to the tunes com$ng through the ,rench doors. (ose had found all of her grandfather's old records, and Edward almost had a f$t when he saw the collect$on. 7e had selected a Tommy 9orsey album, and the b$g band accentuated the n$ght perfectly. "!or$ng, ma e her ta e a dare'" Edward sang out, and I stuc my tongue out at h$m. "It's not bor$ng, and she chose truth so she gets truth. !ella, where $s the one place on earth you want to go=" she as ed aga$n, and I leaned my head bac aga$nst the edge of the tub. I loo ed up at the stars and thought about the $mage that $mmed$ately came to m$nd. +oft w$nd blow$ng, warm sun on my face, the ocean spread out $n front of me dotted w$th craggy roc s. I sm$led &ust th$n $ng about $t. "+pa$n," I s$ghed /u$etly, the sm$le l$nger$ng as I $mag$ned myself on a beach $n ,pain. "+pa$n huh=" Edward as ed me, and I turned my face towards h$s. 7e was sm$l$ng bac at me. "+pa$n. That's where I want to go. !ut $t's so e"pens$*e to tra*el to Europe r$ght now, $t's go$ng to ha*e to wa$t awh$le," I sm$led aga$n, my head st$ll wrapped around the $mage. "7ey wa$t, Edward, aren't you go$ng to +pa$n ne"t month= 0oastal +pa$n or someth$ng l$ e that=" Basper called out, and my eyes w$dened. "Em yeah. ;eah, I am actually," he answered. "Great' !ella, you can go w$th h$m," )l$ce dec$ded, clapp$ng her hands together, and turn$ng to Basper. "Basper, you're ne"t," "6o no, wa$t a m$nute. ,$rst of all, I can't &ust go w$th Edward to +pa$n. )nd second of all, $t's my turn," I protested, as Edward sat up stra$ght. ")ctually, you could just go with Edward to ,pain," he /u$pped, turn$ng to me fully. The other s$de of the hot tub got *ery /u$et. "Em no, I can't. I can't afford a tr$p l$ e that, and bes$des, I don't now that I can ta e t$me off ne"t month," I answered, feel$ng my heart swell as I processed what he &ust sa$d. ")ctually, I heard Esme tell$ng you the other day at the off$ce that ne"t month would be a good t$me to ta e your *acat$on before the hol$day season," )l$ce p$ped up, and then san bac $nto the shadows as I glared at her. "!e that as $t may, I also can't afford $t, so d$scuss$on ended. 6ow then, I bel$e*e $t's my turn, let's

see, who should I p$c =" I stalled, loo $ng around at e*eryone. "It wouldn't be that e"pens$*e, I'm rent$ng a house so that would be pa$d for. )$rfare and spend$ng money, that's all you'd ha*e to co*er," Edward cont$nued, not lett$ng th$s go. "7ey, that's a pretty good deal there !ella," )l$ce p$ped up aga$n, her energy ma $ng l$ttle r$pples across the tub. "O@, )l$ce, Truth or 9are=" I as ed, push$ng ahead w$th the game. "7ey, we are tal $ng about someth$ng here, don't change the sub&ect," she ob&ected. "Well, I am done d$scuss$ng $t, Truth or 9are you l$ttle sh$t," I sa$d aga$n, lett$ng her now I meant bus$ness. ",$ne, 9are," she pouted. "Great. I dare you to $ss Emmett," I shot bac , not m$ss$ng a beat. "What=" she shouted, as the ent$re hot tub erupted $nto gasps. "7ey, we're &ust play$ng a game r$ght= )nd )l$ce really, $t's not that shoc $ng that I would dare you to $ss the guy you ha*e been see$ng for wee s now, $s $t=" "Well no, I &ust, I don't l$ e publ$c d$splays," she sputtered, almost go$ng under. Th$s from the g$rl who was almost arrested for publ$c nud$ty at !er eley when she was found actually under the bleachers under a football game freshman year. "Oh come on, what's the b$g deal=" Edward ch$med $n, and I loo ed at h$m gratefully. "6oth$ng, $t's &ust." she sa$d aga$n, and Emmett $nterrupted. "Oh come here T$ny," he e"cla$med, and pulled her o*er. They stared at each other for a second, and then Emmett swept some of her ha$r out of her face. 7e sm$led at her, and she leaned $n. I heard (ose $nhale at the same t$me Basper d$d and we all watched as )l$ce $ssed Emmett. )nd $t was we$rd. They bro e away, and )l$ce swam bac o*er to her s$de. 6e"t to Basper. )ll was /u$et for a moment. Edward and I loo ed at each other, not sure what to do ne"t. We had been outsmarted. )nd I got p$ssed when I got outsmarted. I began to burn. The fact that I was drun had noth$ng at all to do w$th my o*erreact$on. "O@, I guess $t's my turn, hmmm, Basper, Truth or 9are," Emmett started, and I stood up, splash$ng e*eryone around me as I d$d. " 6o no no' That's not what was supposed to happen'" I yelled, stamp$ng my foot, and los$ng my balance and go$ng under $n the process. +trong Wallbanger hands brought me bac up to the surface, and I cont$nued my alcohol $nduced t$rade. ";ou, were supposed, to not let her $ss h$m'" I yelled po$nt$ng at Basper and then at )l$ce. I wh$rled on (ose. ")nd you, were supposed, to get mad at her'" "Why would I get mad at )l$ce= ,or $ss$ng her boyfr$end=" (ose mumbled, not loo $ng up. ")rgh'" I screamed, and turned bac to )l$ce. ")l$ce, are you e*en remotely $nterested $n Emmett=" I challenged, hands on my h$ps as I steamed $nto the n$ght a$r. "Emmett $s e"actly what I ha*e always wanted $n a man, he $s my type to a T," she countered, fl$nch$ng when she saw Basper loo at her w$th hurt $n h$s eyes. "!lah blah blah, ha*e you fuc ed Emmett yet=" I screeched $nto the a$r, start$ng to po$nt as I tend to do when I dr$n . "O@ !ella you'*e made your po$nt," Edward soothed me from beh$nd, try$ng to get me to s$t bac

down. "What po$nt= What are you two tal $ng about=" (ose as ed, lean$ng forward. "Oh please, the four of you are r$d$culous' I don't care what you all th$n you want on paper, $n real$ty, you're do$ng $t all wrong'" I answered, smac $ng the top of the water emphas$5e what I was try$ng to say. Why weren't they gett$ng $t= I don't now when I got so r$led up, but $n the last 8A seconds or so, I became bla5$ng mad. ")re you $dd$ng=" )l$ce cr$ed, &ump$ng to her feet $n the hot tub, wh$ch st$ll ept the water at almost the same le*el on her. ")l$ce ,come on' )nyone w$th eyes can see the way you and Basper feel about each other' Why the hell are you wast$ng any more t$me on anyone else=" I pushed, as Edward pulled me bac aga$nst h$m $n an attempt to /u$et me. I ended up on h$s lap. "O@, th$s has gone far enough," Emmett stated, start$ng to get out of the tub. "6o no' Emmett, loo at (ose. 0an't you see she $s totally $nto you= Why the hell are you all so th$c = +er$ously= )re Edward and I the only ones that can see clearly here=" I yelled once more, br$ng$ng Edward $nto the con*ersat$on whether he wanted to be $n $t or not. Emmett loo ed at Basper, and then at Edward. "9ude'" Emmett e"cla$med. "9ude," Edward answered, gestur$ng towards (ose. Who stood up l$ e she was go$ng to say someth$ng. Emmett put h$s hand on her shoulder, and she stopped and sat bac down. Emmett nodded at Basper. "9ude=" he as ed, and Basper nodded bac . Emmett too a deep breath, and loo ed at (ose. "(ose, Truth or 9are=" Emmett as ed. "We are not play$ng any more." I started to yell, but Edward too that moment to place h$s hand o*er my mouth. ")ll clear o*er here," Edward stated, as he p$nned me to h$s lap more securely w$th h$s other hand on my wa$st. "(ose=" Emmett as ed once more. +he was /u$et, and not loo $ng $n the d$rect$on of )l$ce and Basper. "9are," she wh$spered, and closed her eyes. )lcohol sure made e*eryth$ng much more dramat$c. "I dare you to $ss me," Emmett sa$d, and all you could hear was the occas$onal loon o*er the la e. The loons $n the tub were f$nally /u$et. We all watched as (ose turned towards Emmett, and placed a hand on the bac of h$s head, pull$ng h$m towards her. +he $ssed h$m, slowly but surely, and $t went on for days. I sm$led $nto Edward's hand, and he patted my stomach. Wh$ch made me g$ddy. When they f$nally bro e apart, (ose was laugh$ng $nto Emmett's mouth and he was answer$ng bac w$th h$s g$ant goofy man g$ggle. "Well $t's about frea $ng t$me," Edward sa$d, releas$ng my mouth. ")l$ce, I." (ose as ed, turn$ng towards )l$ce. )l$ce and Basper were gone. We all loo ed around to loo for them, and caught &ust the edge of Basper's towel headed $nto the pool house. W$th a t$ny wet brunette on h$s arm. "Well then, I guess we'll call $t a n$ght," (ose s$ghed, grabb$ng Emmett by the hand and lead$ng h$m to the edge of the hot tub.

"6$ght," I g$ggled as I saw her wal away w$th Emmett $n tow, head$ng $nto the house. They were cuddled close and already a p$cture $n the ma $ng. I loo ed towards the pool house, and not$ced no l$ghts had come on yet, and probably would not be com$ng on $n the near future. "Well, that was a f$ne b$t of matchma $ng, although your bull $n a ch$na shop del$*ery left a lot to be des$red," he chuc led, lett$ng h$s head rest aga$nst my bac . I was st$ll perched on h$s lap, and although h$s hand had left my mouth, $t was now dr$ft$ng south, wh$le h$s other hand was st$ll t$ghtly on my wa$st. ";es, I usually lea*e a lot to be des$red," I obser*ed wryly, not want$ng to lea*e th$s e"/u$s$te spot, but now$ng I needed to, and soon. Edward was /u$et beh$nd me, and I started to mo*e off h$s lap. ";ou lea*e e*eryth$ng to be des$red !ella," he answered /u$etly, and w$th the feel of h$s hot breath aga$nst my s $n, I lost all control. I turned /u$c ly, catch$ng h$m off guard as I stayed $n h$s lap but was now fac$ng h$m, wrapp$ng my legs around h$s wa$st and throw$ng caut$on, and my mantra, $nto the w$nd. I sun my hands $nto h$s ha$r, lu"ur$at$ng the feel of wet s$l around my f$ngert$ps as I pulled h$m towards me. "Why d$d you $ss me that n$ght at the party=" I as ed, my mouth mere $nches from h$s. Once he real$5ed that I was dr$*$ng th$s bus, he /u$c ly responded by press$ng h$s h$ps $nto m$ne, br$ng$ng us closer together than we had e*er been. "Why d$d !ou $ss %e=" he as ed, runn$ng h$s hands up and down my bac , settl$ng $nto the space where h$s palms spanned my wa$st e"actly, thumbs $n front, f$ngers $n bac , and pressed me $nto h$m further. "!ecause I had to," I answered honestly, remember$ng how I had reacted $nst$nct$*ely that n$ght, $ss$ng h$m when I wanted to do anyth$ng but. "Why d$d you $ss me=" I as ed aga$n. "!ecause I had to," he answered, the sm$r return$ng. -uc $ly I d$dn't see the sm$r for too long. !ecause I had f$nally d$sco*ered the secret of the ages. 7ow do you ma e a Wallbanger stop sm$r $ng= ;ou $ss h$mH

0hapter FK. 7old %e, Thr$ll %e, @$ss %e, @$ll %e I loo ed at Edward underneath me, warm and wet and there. ($ght there, and there was noth$ng $n the world that I wanted more at th$s moment than h$s l$ps aga$nst m$ne. +o e*en though e*ery s$ngle cowbell $n my head was r$ng$ng out the alarm, I centered myself, wrapped my legs t$ghter around h$s wa$st, and ga5ed d$rectly $nto h$s eyes. The se" l$mes refused to let me get away from them, they were br$ng$ng me on home l$ e the 9eath +tar brought $n the ,alcon. )nd I wasn't go$ng to h$de $n the smuggl$ng compartments th$s t$meH "%mm, 6$ght$e G$rl, what are you up to=" he sm$r ed, h$s hands strong on my wa$st as h$s f$ngers dug $nto my s $n. 7$s s $n was sl$pp$ng aga$nst m$ne $n a way that was ma $ng me not r$ght $n the head, and I could feel, I could actually feel h$s abs aga$nst my tummy. 7e was so strong, so powerfully del$c$ous that my bra$n began to burn and my hoohah began to ma e all my dec$s$ons. I th$n O e*en popped her head up for a moment l$ e the groundhog, ta $ng a /u$c glance around and pronounc$ng $t much closer to spr$ng than she had been $n months. I l$c ed my l$ps, and he m$rrored my act$ons. I could barely see h$m through the ha5e of steam from the hot tub, and the actual lust that was now brew$ng $n th$s l$ttle cauldron of chlor$nated chem$stry. I couldn't f$ght $t anymore, my goose was coo ed, and I was loo $ng forward to the f$ggy pudd$ng. "I am up to no good, that's for sure," I breathed, r$s$ng up &ust a l$ttle b$t, the feel$ng of my breasts crush$ng aga$nst h$s s $n un$mag$nable. )s I settled on h$s lap aga$n, I felt h$s react$on to me $n a *ery tang$ble way, and we both groaned at the contact. ";ou're up to no good huh=" he sa$d, h$s *o$ce gruff and th$c and maple syrup pour$ng o*er me. "6o good, wanna be bad w$th me=' I wh$spered $n h$s ear as he pressed h$s mouth aga$nst my nec . ";ou sure about that=" he groaned, hands clutch$ng at my bac w$th del$ghtful abandon. "0ome on Edward, let's bang some wallsH" I answered, allow$ng my tongue to dart out from between my l$ps and aga$nst the s $n &ust underneath h$s &aw, feel$ng the scruff scratch aga$nst my taste buds and g$*$ng me the sense of what that *ery scruff would feel l$ e aga$nst other soft places on my body. O po ed her head out &ust a l$ttle more at that po$nt, and went stra$ght to my bra$n, wh$ch $n turn spo e d$rectly to my hands. I grasped h$m f$rmly at the base of h$s nec , and pos$t$oned h$m d$rectly $n front of me, h$s eyes flar$ng w$de and the se" l$mes turn$ng $nto t$ny l$ttle hypnot$5ers. The sm$r was hard, and so was he. I leaned $n, and /u$c ly suc ed h$s bottom l$p between my own, n$bbl$ng l$ghtly before b$t$ng down, pull$ng h$m closer to my body w$th only my teeth. 7e came w$ll$ngly, ced$ng control to me as my f$ngers pulled and pushed at h$s ha$r, my tongue press$ng $nto h$s mouth as he groaned $nto m$ne. E*eryth$ng $n my world now narrowed down to &ust the feel$ng of th$s man, th$s wonderful man $n my arms and threaded between my legs, and I $ssed h$m l$ e that world was about to end. It wasn't sweet and tentat$*e, $t was pure carnal frustrat$on sp$ ed w$th banger *oodoo and rolled $nto a g$ant ball of please.God.let.me.l$*e.$n.th$s.man's.mouth.for.the.forseeable.futureH %y mouth led h$s $n a dance as old as the mounta$ns that were watch$ng us appro*$ngly, our tongues and teeth and l$ps smac $ng and crac $ng and g$*$ng $n to the sweet tens$on that had been bu$ld$ng s$nce I showed up at h$s door wear$ng the $nsp$rat$on for my n$c name. I was actually sha $ng as I felt h$s hands reach lower, grasp$ng my bottom $n h$s beaut$ful hands and push$ng me e*en closer st$ll, my legs scrambl$ng for purchase as I panted l$ e a whore $n church. The 0hurch Of EdwardHwhere I was dy$ng to neel before h$m. %y eyes were closed, my legs were open, and I was now moan$ng $nto h$s mouth l$ e some $nd of rab$d dog. The $dea that a $ss, &ust a $ss had turned me $nto one g$ant lust$ng bag of !ella6eedThat

was unden$able, and I new that $f he cont$nued to ma e me feel th$s way I was go$ng to $n*$te h$m stra$ght $nto my Tahoe. "0ome $nto my Tahoe Wallbanger," I mumbled $ncoherently $nto h$s mouth, as he paused to try and dec$pher what I had &ust sa$d. "!ella, come $nto your what= Oh God," he managed, as I pushed us off the s$de of the hot tub and *aulted us across the water, empty$ng half of $ts contents onto the dec and the other half smac $ng us around l$ e $t was h$gh t$de. 7e slammed me $nto the wall of the hot tub, push$ng me up aga$nst the bench and rewrapp$ng my legs around h$s wa$st, as I gamely pushed my mouth bac onto h$s, unw$ll$ng to let go of h$m. )t one po$nt, I $ssed h$m so hard, he had to push me off so he could catch a breath. "!reathe Edward, breathe," I g$ggled, stro $ng h$s face as he struggled before me. ";ou. )re. ) mad woman," he panted, h$s hands loop$ng underneath my arms and curl$ng h$s hands around the tops of my shoulders, eep$ng me f$rmly aga$nst the s$de wh$le I dug my heels $nto h$s bac s$de, nudg$ng h$m to e"actly where I needed h$m. 7e closed h$s eyes and b$t down on h$s lower l$p, and an$mal$st$c growl sound$ng low $n h$s throat as I launched my second wa*e of the hoohah commanded attac . ";ou feel uncommonly good," I moaned, as I began to $ss h$m aga$n, ra$n$ng them down across h$s mouth, h$s chee s, h$s &aw, sl$pp$ng underneath to suc and b$te at h$s nec as he dropped h$s head bac to allow my assault. 7$s hands were rough on me, d$pp$ng bac down below aga$nst my bac and catch$ng on my b$ $n$ str$ngs, loosen$ng the s$des. The thought of my na ed breasts aga$nst h$s s $n dro*e me cra5y w$th lust, and I remo*ed my hands from h$s poor ha$r to sna e bac beh$nd my nec and start to pull on the not. )s I maneu*ered, I noc ed $nto one of the empty bottles of 0a*a, start$ng a dom$no effect of bottles crash$ng to the ground. I g$ggled as he pulled bac , startled at the sound. 7$s eyes were *$brantly green, crowded w$th lust, but as they focused on me, they began to clear. I f$nally managed to get to the not unt$ed and could feel the water beg$n to sw$rl across my na ed s $n. I started to drop the str$ngs, when Edward grasped them t$ghtly $n h$s hands. 7e shoo h$s head as though to clear $t, then closed h$s eyes f$rmly, cutt$ng off my connect$on to the se" l$mes. "7ey. 7ey. 7ey'" I prodded, forc$ng h$s eyes open and ma $ng h$m loo at me, e*en though I was phys$cally hold$ng h$s eyel$ds open. "Where d$d you go &ust now=" I wh$spered, as he wrapped h$s hands, st$ll hold$ng my str$ngs, bac around my nec . 7e slowly began to t$e my su$t bac together, as I felt my face flush br$ght red, all of the blood $n my body betray$ng me $n that $nstant. "!ella," he began, now breath$ng hea*$ly, but loo $ng at me carefully. "What's wrong=" I $nterrupted, as h$s hands came to rest on my shoulders, steady$ng h$m, and seem$ng to eep a careful d$stance between us. "!ella, you are ama5$ng, but IHI can'tH" he started, and I was now the one to close my eyes. Emot$ons wh$rled beh$nd my eyel$ds, shame be$ng ch$ef among them. I could feel h$s eyes on me, w$ll$ng me to open my own. ";ou can'tH" I stated, open$ng my eyes but loo $ng anywhere but at h$m. "6o, I mean, !ella, IH" he stammered, $ncreas$ng the d$stance and h$s unease as he mo*ed away from me. I began to sha e. ";ou. 0an't=" I as ed, feel$ng $cy cold e*en $n the water. I unloc ed my legs from around h$m, allow$ng h$m the room he needed to mo*e away. "6o !ella, not you, not l$ e." "Well, don't I feel l$ e a fuc $ng $d$ot," I managed, laugh$ng shortly and pull$ng myself up and out of the water, s$tt$ng on the s$de of the hot tub, feel$ng the snap of the cold a$r. "What= 6o !ella, you don't understand, I &ust can't." he started towards me, and I $c ed out a leg,

press$ng my foot s/uare $n the center of h$s chest, eep$ng h$m away. "7ey Wallbanger, I get $t, you can't. It's cool, wow what a cra5y n$ght huh=" I laughed aga$n, sw$ng$ng o*er the s$de and start$ng for the door, want$ng to get away before he could see the tears fall that I new were on the$r way. Of course, as I tr$ed to na*$gate the steps, I sl$pped on a wet patch, and down I went w$th a b$g thud. I could feel the bac of my eyeballs beg$n to burn as I scrambled up as /u$c ly as I could, I d$dn't want h$m to ha*e to help me, and pan$c ed that I was go$ng to cry before I could get $ns$de. 6ow that I was mo*$ng, I could feel the effects of all the alcohol I had consumed, and the beg$nn$ngs of a *ery strong headache. "!ella' )re you o ay=" Edward cr$ed, start$ng to get out of the hot tub as soon as I was upr$ght aga$n. "I'm f$ne, I'm f$ne, &ustH" I got out, my throat beg$nn$ng to close as I cho ed bac a sob. I held my hand out beh$nd me, tell$ng h$m that I d$d not need h$s help. "I'm f$ne, Edward." I couldn't turn around and see h$m< I &ust began to wal away. The cursed b$g band mus$c was st$ll play$ng on the turntable, but I st$ll heard h$m say my name once more. I $gnored $t, and made my way towards the door, feel$ng fool$sh now $n my barely there b$ $n$ that clearly was not as ent$c$ng as I thought $t was. I d$dn't e*en bother to grab a towel, $nstead throw$ng open the glass door, hear$ng $t slam shut beh$nd me as I all but ran for my room. I left l$ttle puddles along the slate floor as I headed bac down the hallway, try$ng to $gnore the sounds of g$ggles com$ng from (ose's room. )s the tears f$nally coursed down my chee s, I hastened $nto my room, loc $ng the door and str$pp$ng off my bath$ng su$t. I stumbled $nto the bathroom, fl$c ed on the l$ght, and there I stood, reflected bac to me. 6a ed, wet ha$r stream$ng down my bac , a bru$se already beg$nn$ng to form on my th$gh from where I had ta en my drun en sp$llHand puffy, $ss swollen l$ps. I wrapped my ha$r $n a towel, and then leaned on the countertop, br$ng$ng my face w$th$n $nches of the m$rror. "!ella my dear, you &ust got turned down by a man who once made a woman meow for 3A m$nutes stra$ght. 7ow do you feel=" the na ed woman $n the m$rror as ed me, turn$ng my thumb $nto a l$ttle m$crophone. +he gestured towards me, hold$ng out her thumb. "Well, I dran enough w$ne to susta$n a small +pan$sh *$llage, I ha*en't had an orgasm $n a thousand years, and I w$ll probably d$e old and alone $n a beaut$fully des$gned apartment w$th all of 0l$*e's $lleg$t$mate ch$ldren swarm$ng around meHhow do you th$n I feel=" I as ed bac , offer$ng %$rror !ella her thumb bac . "+$lly !ella, you had 0l$*e neutered," %$rror !ella answered, sha $ng her head at me. "Go fuc yourself %$rror !ella, s$nce I can't e*en do that," I f$n$shed, end$ng the $nter*$ew and ta $ng my na ed ass bac $nto my bedroom. Throw$ng on a t.sh$rt from the floor, I fell $nto the bed, my drun self e"hausted from the h$ e and the d$nner and the w$ne and the mus$c and the best ma e out sess$on I had e*er engaged $n. The thought of $t brought the tears to the surface aga$n, and I rolled o*er to grab some t$ssues, only to f$nd an empty bo". Wh$ch made my drun en ass cry e*en harder. 0ould th$s n$ght get any worse= Then my phone rang. '(O) I san bac $nto the water, stunned at what had &ust happened. I could st$ll feel !ella, as though her s $n were st$ll aga$nst m$ne, her beaut$ful legs st$ll eep$ng me snugly $nto her, her soft l$ps teas$ng at my own as I struggled not to do what I had been fantas$5$ng about s$nce she showed up at my door, angry and $nto"$cat$ng. +he dro*e me cra5y, r$ght from the beg$nn$ng. +he annoyed the p$ss out of me, and yet from the

second I saw her thought she had the best legs to e*er grace a p$n n$ght$e. 7er snap &udgments about my lo*e l$fe $rr$tated me, but $ntr$gued me as well. The easy fr$endsh$p we had fallen $nto after the $n$t$al truce was struc was one that I was /u$c ly becom$ng used to. I hadn't been fr$ends w$th a woman that I wasn't sleep$ng w$th $n so long, that $t was s$mple to be myself. +he matched me snar for snar , and I loo ed forward to the t$me I was spend$ng w$th her. If $t weren't for the other women $n my l$fe, I would ha*e been try$ng to get on the other s$de of that wall from the *ery beg$nn$ng. !ut as our fr$endsh$p grew, I new that as easy as our fr$endsh$p was, an actual relat$onsh$p would be anyth$ng but. 6ot that I hadn't thought about $t. I hadn't seen Ir$na or Tanya s$nce I got bac from Ireland, and that was unheard of. I had stac s of te"ts from both of them, wonder$ng where I was and why I hadn't gotten $n touch w$th them. I'd been a*o$d$ng the te"ts, and the con*ersat$ons for wee s, en&oy$ng the e*en$ngs I'd been spend$ng w$th !ella, the cat and mouse we had both been engaged $n. 9$d I really tell her to come to +pa$n w$th me= ;ep, I d$d, and I wanted her to. I detested tra*el$ng w$th other people, and ne*er $n my profess$onal career had I $n*$ted someone along on a shoot w$th me. Why d$d I want her to come w$th me= It would be great. That's why. !ella was great, $n a way that I had not e"per$enced w$th a woman $n a long t$me. +he embod$ed all of the /ual$t$es I used to loo for when I thought about settl$ng down w$th one woman, before I dec$ded my l$festyle s$mply wasn't conduc$*e to a more con*ent$onal relat$onsh$p. +he was funny, smart, ad*enturous, worldly, $ndependent and fearless. Well, armed w$th an afghan she was fearless. )nd the best part= I new my mom would ha*e lo*ed her. Why the hell was I out here all alone= %$nutes before, I had an $ncred$ble woman $n my arms, who was encourag$ng me to get closer to her than I e*er thought poss$ble. When she began to unt$e her str$ngs, and I new I was about to see !ella !oob$es, $t was all I could do to not let my eyes bug out of my head l$ e an old cartoon. !ut her perfect elbow, yes e*en her elbows were stunn$ng, bumped $nto a bottle, and the sound of $t crash$ng $nto the others brought me out of my coc .dr$*en stupor, and I was rem$nded of where we were and what was actually happen$ng. !ella, my friend !ella, my thoroughly drun and se"y friend !ella was throw$ng herself at me, and I could ne*er allow that. 6ot when she was drun , and not totally w$th$n her own m$nd. %y sudden stop had surpr$sed her, and hurt her feel$ngs. The thought of naughty, cra5y, outdoor se" was certa$nly ent$c$ng, but as much as I wanted to s$n myself $nto her body and ma e her say my name o*er and o*er aga$n, there were a few th$ngs that were certa$n. !ella was better than that, and certa$nly better than my l$ttle se"ual arrangement. )nd wh$le adm$ttedly I had recently begun to /uest$on whether or not that arrangement was st$ll r$ght for me, $t had wor ed well for me and my l$festyle for a long t$me, and someth$ng I wouldn't &ust g$*e up w$thout g$*$ng $t some ser$ous cons$derat$on. !ella deser*ed someone that would be around, be able to be there for her, rather than fly$ng off to all corners of the earth. )lso, there was a part of me that new she could potent$ally alter the tra&ectory of my l$fe, and that scared the sh$t out of me. I leaned my head bac aga$nst the s$de of the tub, dragg$ng my hands down my face and try$ng to get the $mage of a wet, warm !ella out of my m$nd, and real$5ed that I couldn't. I d$dn't want to. Why was I f$ght$ng th$s= In seconds I was on the pat$o, less than a m$nute later I was po$sed outs$de her door, ready to noc and as her to $n*$te me $n, want$ng to tal to her, apolog$5e to her for hurt$ng her feel$ngs, and then let her do anyth$ng she wanted to w$th my tra&ectory. I curled my nuc les, about to noc when I heard a low laugh com$ng from $ns$de, then another. I coc ed an eyebrow, stra$n$ng to hear. "BamesHcome on now, you are so s$lly," she purred, and my s $n pr$c led. )nother laugh came from

!ella, then s$lence. Bames !rown. God I hated that guy. 6ot want$ng to d$sturb her wh$le she was ob*$ously on the phone, I wal ed down the hall, went $nto my room, and saw the l$ght on my own phone was bl$n $ng. +tr$pp$ng down and stepp$ng $nto a pa$r of pa&ama pants, I grabbed my phone and san down on my bed< my head beg$nn$ng to throb from a headache that I new was brew$ng. !ella was a fr$end, noth$ng more. )nd I had other parts of my l$fe that I had been neglect$ng. Bust l$ e at home, I could hear !ella through the wall, although th$s t$me I new $t was Bames ma $ng her laugh, and not 0l$*e. I ne*er thought I would m$ss that l$ttle poo cat. +he was st$ll laugh$ng as I scrolled through my m$ssed calls, not$c$ng I had a te"t from Ir$na. $ miss #ou" when an $ see #ou? $ miss #our hands espe iall#" and those &ingers o& #ours. $rina I sho*ed the $mage of !ella out of my m$nd, now$ng rema$n$ng fr$ends, and fr$ends only, was for the best. I typed a /u$c te"t to Ir$na, pushed send, and put a p$llow o*er my head, bloc $ng out the sounds of !ella laugh$ng at whate*er w$tty th$ng Bames !rown was say$ng. +tup$d Bames !rownH $ will !e !a ) in the it# tomorrow night" $ need to see #ou. Soon. Edward "#anca es sweet$e=" "-o*e some, than s babe." Besus. "Is there st$ll cream for the coffee=" "I got your cream r$ght here honeybunch." Besus 0hr$st. -$sten$ng to a new couple, much less TWO new couples was *om$t worthy. )dd that to an actual hango*er, th$s was go$ng to be a long morn$ng. )fter tal $ng to Bames last n$ght, I feel $nto a deep sleep, a$ded no doubt by all the w$ne I had consumed. I wo e w$th a th$c tongue, a spl$tt$ng headache, and a /ueasy stomach. %ade e*en more /ueasy w$th the nowledge that I would ha*e to see Edward th$s morn$ng and ha*e that we$rd we. totally.made.out.last.n$ght con*ersat$on. Bames made me feel better though, he made me laugh and I remembered aga$n how well he too care of me at one po$nt $n our l$*es together. It was a n$ce feel$ng, and a n$ce memory. 7e had called under the pretense of chec $ng w$th me about a pa$nt color, wh$ch I /u$c ly called as a bluff. 7e adm$tted he &ust wanted to tal to me, and after the Great 7ot Tub (e&ect$on I was happy to tal to someone who I new wanted my attent$on. When he as ed me out for d$nner the follow$ng wee end I too h$m up on $t $mmed$ately, now$ng that we would ha*e a great t$meHand s$nce my O was bac $n her h$deyhole I m$ght as well en&oy a lo*ely n$ght out on the town. 6ow, I was seated at the brea fast table, surrounded by two new couples that were f$ll$ng the $tchen w$th enough se"ual sat$sfact$on to ma e me want to scream. I d$dn't though, I ept $t to myself as )l$ce perched happ$ly on Basper's lap and Emmett fed (ose melon balls as though he was put on th$s earth spec$f$cally for th$s purpose. "7ow was the rest of your e*en$ng %$ss !ella=" )l$ce ch$rped, ra$s$ng a now$ng eyebrow at me. I pressed the t$nes of my for $nto her hand and told her to shut $t. "Wow, grumpy. +omeone must ha*e spent the n$ght alone," (ose murmured to Emmett, caus$ng me to loo up at her $n surpr$se. The casualness w$th wh$ch they were treat$ng th$s was really start$ng to bother me.

"Well of course I spent the n$ght alone, who the hell do you th$n I spent the n$ght w$th= 7uh=" I as ed, slamm$ng bac from the table and noc $ng my orange &u$ce glass o*er. ")h fuc $t all to hell," I muttered, stomp$ng off towards the pat$o, tears threaten$ng for the second t$me $n less than twel*e hours, and I hated to cry. I sat down $n one of the )d$rondac cha$rs, and loo ed out o*er the la e. The cool of the morn$ng soothed my heated face, and I w$ped clums$ly at my tears as I heard the g$rls footsteps follow me outs$de. "I don't want to tal about $t, o ay=" I $nstructed, as they too the seats oppos$te me. "O ayHbut you gotta g$*e us someth$ng. I mean, I thought for sure when we left last n$ght, I meanHyou and Edward are &ust." )l$ce started, and I stopped her. "%e and Edward noth$ng, there $s no me and Edward. What, you thought that we would pa$r off &ust because you four f$nally f$gured your sh$t out= ;ou're welcome for that by the way," I snapped, pull$ng my ball cap down lower on my face, sh$eld$ng my cont$nu$ng tears from my best fr$ends. "!ella, we &ust thought." (ose began, and I cut her off as well. ";ou thought s$nce we were the ones left o*er we would &ust mag$cally become a couple= 7ow storyboo , three sets of perfectly matched couples, r$ght. -$ e that sh$t e*er happens, th$s a$n't some romance no*el." "Oh come on, you two are perfect for each other, you called us bl$nd last n$ght= 7$ pot, $t's me ettle," (ose snapped bac , not lett$ng me get away w$th $t. "Well ettle, you ha*e about 3A seconds before th$s pot $c s your ass. 6oth$ng happened, noth$ng $s go$ng to happen. In case you forgot, he has a harem, lad$es, a harem' )nd I am not about to become h$s th$rd ch$pp$e. +o you can forget $t, o =" I yelled, push$ng out of the cha$r and turn$ng for the house, runn$ng r$ght $nto a /u$et Wallbanger. "Great' ;ou're here too' )nd I see you two pee $ng through the bl$nds, $d$otsH" I cr$ed, spy$ng Emmett and Basper try$ng to l$sten $n from the $tchen. "!ella, can we tal , please=" he as ed, grasp$ng me by the arms and sp$nn$ng me towards h$m. "+ure, why not= -et's ma e the embarrassment complete. +$nce I now you're all dy$ng to now, I threw myself at th$s guy last n$ght and he turned me down. O , secrets out, now can we please drop $t=" I huffed, w$ggl$ng out of h$s gr$p and wal $ng towards the tra$l down to the la e. I stal ed off, hear$ng noth$ng beh$nd me. I turned to see all f$*e of them, w$de eyed and unsure what to do ne"t. "7ey' 0ome on Wallbanger, let's go," I snapped my f$ngers at h$m, and he started after me, loo $ng a l$ttle afra$d. )s I stomped of down the tra$l, I new he was follow$ng me. I tr$ed to slow my breath$ng down, my heart was pound$ng and I d$dn't want to tal to h$m when I was th$s r$led up, no good could come of $t. )s I breathed $n and out, I too $n the beaut$ful morn$ng all around us, and could feel my heart beg$n to l$ghten somewhat. I truly *alued Edward as my fr$end, and I d$dn't want to ma e th$s any worse than $t already was. I left the treel$ne beh$nd, and d$dn't stop unt$l I reached the end of the doc . The sun was beat$ng down and cast$ng a s$l*er l$ght on the water. It was a cold morn$ng, but $t was lo*ely. I heard h$m approach, and then stop &ust beh$nd me. I too one more deep breath. 7e was s$lent. ";ou're not go$ng to push me $n, are you= That would be a bad mo*e Edward," I warned, and he e"haled a laugh. I sm$led a l$ttle, not want$ng to, but not able to help $t. "!ella, can I e"pla$n about last n$ght= I need to you now, that." "Bust don't, o = 0an't we &ust, chal $t up to the w$ne=" I as ed, wh$rl$ng about to face h$m. 7e stood, star$ng down at me w$th the strangest loo on h$s face. 7e loo ed l$ e he had gotten dressed $n a hurry, wh$te thermal, well worn &eans, and h$ $ng boots that weren't e*en laced up, the str$ngs damp and muddy from the short tre through the woods. +t$ll, he was stunn$ng, the early morn$ng

sun $llum$nat$ng the strong planes of h$s face and the fa$nt red $n h$s l$ght beard. "I w$sh I could !ella, but." he started aga$n, and I shoo my head. "+er$ously Edward, &ust." I began, but stopped when he pressed h$s f$ngers aga$nst my mouth. ";ou ha*e to shut up, ya now= ;ou eep on $nterrupt$ng me, and watch how fast you get tossed $n that *ery la e," he warned, w$th the tw$n le $n h$s eye that I had become so used to. I nodded, and he remo*ed h$s hand. I tr$ed to $gnore the flames that l$c ed at my l$ps, brought to the surface by &ust that l$ttle touch. "+o, last n$ght, we came really close to ma $ng a *ery b$g m$sta e," he sa$d, and when he saw my mouth beg$n to open, he wagged h$s f$nger at me. I 5$pped my l$p, m$m$ng throw$ng the ey $nto the water. 7e sm$led sadly, and cont$nued. "Ob*$ously I'm attracted to you !ella, how could I not be= ;ou're ama5$ng. !ut you were drun , I was drun , and as great as $t would ha*e been, $t would ha*eHah !ella, $t would ha*e changed th$ngs, you now= )nd I &ust can't, !ella, I &ust can't," he struggled, runn$ng h$s hands through h$s ha$r $n a gesture I had come to understand as frustrat$on. 7e stared at me, w$ll$ng me to ma e th$s o , to tell h$m that we were o . 9$d I want to lose h$m as a fr$end o*er th$s= 6o way. "7ey, l$ e I sa$d, $t's cool, too much w$ne. !es$des, I now you ha*e your arrangement, and I can'tH th$ngs &ust got away from me last n$ght," I e"pla$ned, try$ng to sell $t to h$m. 7e nodded, and s$ghed a great s$gh. "We st$ll fr$ends= I don't want th$s to get we$rd for us, I really l$ e you !ella," he as ed, loo $ng as though he thought h$s world was about to come to an end. "Of course fr$ends, what else would we be=" I teased, swallow$ng hard and forc$ng a sm$le. 7e sm$led bac , and we began to wal towards the house. 7e stopped to p$c up a handful of sand from the beach, and put $t $n a l$ttle plast$c bagg$e. "!ottles=" "!ottles," he nodded, and we started up the path. "+o $t loo s l$ e our l$ttle plan wor ed," I began, try$ng to ma e con*ersat$on. "W$th those guys= Oh yeah, I th$n $t wor ed wellHthey seem to ha*e found what they needed." "That's all anyone $s try$ng to do, r$ght=" I laughed, as we crossed the pat$o towards the $tchen. ,our heads d$sappeared from the w$ndow and began to assume pos$t$ons of nonchalance around the table. I chuc led under my breath. ")lways good when what you need and what you want are the same th$ngs," he /u$pped, hold$ng the door open for me. "!oy d$d you say a mouthful," I answered, not ha*$ng to force the sm$le th$s t$me when I saw how happy my fr$ends were w$th the$r new partners. ";ou want some brea fast= There st$ll some c$nnamon buns I th$n ," he offered, wal $ng o*er towards the counter. "Em no, I th$n I'm gonna go pac , get my stuff together," I answered, not$c$ng h$s eyes close off a l$ttle. Well, that's what happened when two fr$ends $ssed, th$ngs were ne*er the same. I nodded at my g$rls and headed for my room. +purred by my $ns$stence about gett$ng bac to the c$ty, w$th$n two hours we were all pac ed up and dec$d$ng who was go$ng to r$de w$th whom. I d$dn't want to r$de alone w$th Edward, pull$ng )l$ce as$de and $nstruct$ng her to br$ng Basper along w$th us. W$thout too much prodd$ng, we were all outs$de arrang$ng bags. )s Edward was p$l$ng e*eryth$ng $nto the (ange (o*er, I sh$*ered a l$ttle, real$5$ng too late that I had pac ed my fleece &ac et $nto my bag, wh$ch was now bur$ed. )s he turned bac towards me, he not$ced.

";ou cold=" ") l$ttle, but $t's f$ne, my bag's at the bottom and I don't want you to ha*e to rearrange e*eryth$ng," I answered, stamp$ng my foot a l$ttle to eep warm. "That rem$nds me, I ha*e someth$ng for you," he e"cla$med, rummag$ng $n h$s bag wh$ch was on top. 7e handed me a lumpy shaped pac age, wrapped $n brown paper. "What's th$s=" I as ed, as he blushed deeply. Wallbanger does blush= I rarely saw thatH ";ou d$dn't th$n I forgot th$s, d$d you=" he repl$ed, h$s ha$r fall$ng down $nto h$s eyes a l$ttle as he sm$led a boy$sh sm$le. "I was go$ng to g$*e $t to you last n$ght, but then." "7ey %asen' 0ould use a l$ttle help o*er here'" Emmett called, as he struggled to load all of (ose's purchases from her shopp$ng e"curs$on yesterday. ;esterday, how the world had changed $n one day. 7e bac ed away from me, as )l$ce and Basper got themsel*es settled $n the bac seat. I opened up the pac age to f$nd a *ery th$c , *ery soft Ir$sh n$t sweater. I l$fted $t out of the paper, feel$ng the we$ght and the nubbly te"ture of the wea*e. I pressed $t aga$nst my nose, $nhal$ng the scent of wool and unm$sta able Wallbanger that clung to $t. I gr$nned $nto the sweater, then /u$c ly sl$pped $t o*er my t.sh$rt, adm$r$ng the way $t hung loose and low, yet st$ll wrapp$ng me $n a comfort$ng way. I turned to see Edward watch$ng me from o*er at Emmett's truc , g$*$ng me another sm$le as I tw$rled for h$m. "Than you," I mouthed. ";ou are welcome," he mouthed bac . I sn$ffed my sweater the whole way home to the c$ty, hop$ng no one not$ced.

0hapter F8. ) %an and a Woman T7E ,O--OWI6G +0E6E T)@E+ #-)0E I6+I9E ) !-)0@ ()6GE (O:E( O6 IT+ W); !)0@ TO +)6 ,()60I+0O. !ella2 OK, + can do this8+t's onl! a few hours #ack into the cit!, + can #e the #igger person here8 + can act like he didn't pull an A77 , O9 at the thought of seeing %! ta:tas last night, and what the hell? What %an sa!s no to ta:tas? + %ean, the! are nice ta:tas, the! were pushed up nice and tight, the! were wet for 6hrist's sake8wh! didn't he want %! ta:tas? ;ella, just settle down... -ust s%ile at hi% and act like e"er!thing is fine8wait, he's looking o"er here8s%ile8OK, he s%iled #ack8stupid ta:ta turner downer8+ %ean, what's up with that? And he was hard) Edward< ,he's s%iling at %e8+ can s%ile #ack at her, right? + %ean, we're acting natural right? + s%iled #ack at her8+ hope it looked %ore natural than it felt like8-esus, who knew a giant sweater would look so good on a girl8#ut e"er!thing looks prett! good on ;ella8especiall! that green #ikini8 5od what the hell was + doing last night? &e"er turn down #oo#s Masen, ne"er turn the% down8 and + know the! were gonna #e perfect #oo#s too, not fake, not too flopp!, not too round, just actual real natural #oo#s8.what the hell8she is looking at %e again8what the hell are we going to talk a#out the whole wa! #ack to the cit!8-asper isn't e"en pa!ing attention8+ told hi% he needed to help %e out8looks like all he is helping hi%self to is a handful of Alice8+'% al%ost sorr! ;ella and + worked so hard to push the% together8h%%8;ella and +8;ella and + in a hot tu# where #ikinis are outlawed8-esus8wait a %inute8!ep8now +'"e got a se%i8 ;ella< Wh! is he twitching like that? -esus does he ha"e to pee? Ma!#e + ha"e to pee8%a!#e this would #e a good ti%e to suggest a pee #reak8then + can gra# Alice and %ake sure she knows that the reason the! are riding with us is not so that the! can suck face the whole wa!, #ut to run interference for %e and ,cared Of a: as o"er there...OK, just ask hi% to pull o"er at the ne1t gas station8wow, he reall! does ha"e to pee + guess8+ hope this gas station has 5ardetto's8 Edward< hank 5od she wanted to stop, now + can adjust without looking like a per"ert8oh who a% + kidding8+ a% a per"ert8+ a% riding in a car with a wo%an that was straddling %e last night and just the thought of it %akes %e hard8per"ert per"ert per"ert8.+ hope this gas station has 5ardetto's8. Alice< Oh goodie) We're stopping) + hope this gas station has #u##le gu%) -asper< Oh %an, we're stopping alread!? + reall! wanted to %ake it #ack into the cit! #efore dark8Alice wants %e to see her place and #! see her place + a% reall! hoping that %eans walk around naked and let %e watch8+ hope this gas station has condo%s8 ;ella< OK8!ou could ha"e handled that a little %ore s%oothl!8Alice suggesting Edward and + split the #ig #ag of 5ardetto's was not that #ig of a deal8a% + a little sensiti"e toda!? 0es8+ suppose + a%8#ut + know for a fact that Edward was checking out %! ass when + was walking awa! fro% the car8wh! the hell is he checking out %! ass now, when last night he didn't e"en want to take a peek at %! #oo#ies? +s he reall! that co%plicated? Wh! the hell is he looking at %e8.he is reaching his hand out8sta! still ;ella sta! still8oh, sesa%e seed on %! chin8.well8.if !ou weren't looking at %! %outh Mr. Mi1ed Messages !ou wouldn't e"en ha"e noticed it8!ou will ne"er get this sesa%e seed #udd!8.da%n wh! does this sweater ha"e to s%ell so good8.+ hope he hasn't noticed %e

sniffing at this sweater the whole wa!8 Edward< ,he is reall! sniffl! toda!, + hope she isn't catching a cold. We spent so %uch ti%e outside this weekend, + would hate for her to co%e down with so%ething8she just sniffled again8should + offer her a Kleene1? Alice< ;usted ,wan, + totall! knew !ou were sniffing that sweater8 -asper< + wonder if Alice has an! %ore of that #u##le gu%8+ hope she didn't notice %e #u!ing those condo%s8+ %ean, + don't want to #e presu%ptuous, #ut + definitel! want to #e underneath her again so%eti%e "er! "er! soon8who knew so%eone so tin! could #e so loud8and now +'% hard8 Alice< Alice ;randon Whitlock8Alice Whitlock8.Alice ;randon:Whitlock8-asper ;randon8 ;ella< OK ;ella, ti%e to ha"e that difficult con"ersation8with !ourself8wh! e1actl! did !ou throw !ourself at Wall#anger last night? Was it the wine? Was it the %usic? Was it the co%#ination of all those things? OK8OK8no %ore #ullshit8!ou did it #ecause8#ecause8fuck + need so%e %ore 5ardetto's8 Edward< ,he's so prett!8+ %ean8there's prett! and then there's prett!8what a puss! + a%8fuck prett!, she's #eautiful8puss!8and she s%ells good8puss!8wh! do so%e girls just s%ell #etter than other girls? ,o%e girls s%ell like flower! fruit! #ullshit8+ %ean8wh! would so%e girls want to s%ell like straw#erries? Wh! should a puss! s%ell like a straw#err!? Wait a %inute8wh! are !ou thinking a#out what pussies s%ell like? + %ean, + #et ;ella's8.-esus Masen8!ou are one sick fuck8and now +'% hard8. ;ella< /e looks like he needs to pee again8.he is drinking too %uch coffee8.he's had like = cups alread! fro% that ther%os8that's funn!8he ne"er has a second cup at ho%e8wh! the hell do + know how %an! cups of coffee he drinks? 2ace it ;ella8!ou know so %uch a#out hi% #ecause8#ecause8 -asper< 'ude8we're stopping again? We are ne"er gonna %ake it ho%e8%! #o! is ha"ing so%e serious issues toda!8+ should pro#a#l! see if he wants to get a #eer or so%ething when we get #ack8in case he wants to co%e clean a#out what reall! happened last night8should + offer? Wow8Alice looks fantastic in those pants8+ wonder if she is #u!ing %ore #u##le gu%8 Alice< ,top sniffing !our sweater ;ella) ,eriousl! girl, if + could just get her alone8OK, Edward see%s to #e ho##ling towards the %en's roo%, + can get her alone #! the #eef jerk!8 ;ella< + a% so e%#arrassed8+ can't #elie"e Alice knew + was sniffing the sweater8+ wonder if Edward noticed? 0eah, right, he doesn't notice an!thing8 Edward< /er cold see%s to ha"e gone awa!8she's not sniffling an!%ore8 Alice<

+ need to te1t (ose8she needs to know the Edward>;ella situation is not getting an! #etter8what the hell are we gonna do with these two? + %ean seriousl!8so%eti%es people just can't see what's right in front of the%8aww8-azz wants %e to scratch his #ack8+ adore hi%8and da%n are his fingers long8 -asper< MMM8#ack8scratch8#ack8scratch8MMM8 ;ella< OK, no %ore a"oiding it in !our own head ,wan8and now + a% serious #ecause + a% using %! last na%e8.now listen up ,wan8heeheehee8+ sound like such a #adass8. Edward ,o8she is giggling8inside joke she sa!s8so %a!#e she is OK with how this is going8oops, gra##ed the wrong #ag of 5ardetto's8did she just growl at %e? ;ella< urn %! ta:tas down and then tr! to steal %! 5ardetto's8+ don't /+&K so #udd!8.OK ,wan8no %ore giggling8.!ou can't a"oid this fore"er, e"en in !our own %ind8here are the .uestions on deck83. Wh! did !ou throw !ourself at Edward last night, and !ou are not allowed to #la%e alcohol or %usic or "acation "i#es8?. Wh! did he turn !ou down when !ou and + #oth know he had #een flirting with !ou for weeks and not just in the neigh#orl! wa!8@. 'oes #eing rejected #! Edward ha"e an!thing to do with the date !ou agreed to go on with -a%es8and A. /ow the hell do we go #ack to #eing just friends now when #oth of !ou know what the inside of each other's %ouths taste like8and his tastes "er! "er! "er! good8.OK8!es8!ou can sniff the sweater one %ore ti%e8just don't let an!one see !ou8 Edward< + ha"e to figure this shit out with ;ella8she is so great and + %ean so great8has there e"er #een a wo%an that has possessed e"er! single .ualit! !ou ha"e #een looking for? E1cept for &atalie 9ort%an of course8.#ut ;ella? + ha"e to stop watching so %uch 7ifeti%e8+ %ean what gu! in their own %ind e"en thinks in sentences like *has there e"er #een a wo%an that has possessed e"er! single .ualit! that !ou ha"e #een looking for?*8!ou're such a puss! Masen8-esus, ;ella8she is a fucking keeper8wait a %inute8what the hell? Are !ou e"en reall! entertaining the idea of a8 gulp8relationship? And wh! the fuck did + actuall! think the word *gulp*8that was a little dra%atic Masen8.co%e on8think a#out this8don't run awa! fro% it8'ude8did she just sniff her sweater? -asper< MMM8%! girl likes #eef jerk!8could + #e an! luckier? ,he scratches %! #ack A&' eats #eef jerk!8+ ha"e died and gone so%ewhere like hea"en8 Alice< + can't #elie"e he ate all %! #eef jerk!8what a jerk!8heehee ;ella< Buestion 3 is too hard8+ can't start with that one8+ will answer the% in re"erse order8A. + don't know if we can #e friends, #ut + reall! want to #e8and not in the fake wa!, + reall! like Edward and e"en though what happened last night sucked %ajor #alls + think we can still figure out a wa! to re%ain friends8and + would like to ha"e so%e of whate"er + a% s%oking8@. O2 6O$(,E + A5(EE' O 5O O$ W+ / -AME, ;E6A$,E O2 W/A /A99E&E' W+ / E'WA('8its funn! how e"en that thought shows up in all 6A9, in %! head8?. +f + knew wh! he turned %e down then + would #e a fucking genius8#ad #reath? &o. ;ecause + was drunk? 9ossi#l!8he '+' keep sa!ing *+ can't* and that it was a *%istake*8which those words could potentiall! #ring %e waaaa! down #ut frankl!? + don't #u! it. Ma!#e *+ can't* %eans he has so%e kind of erectile

d!sfunction8.!eah right8!ou felt it on !our thigh8da%n that was a fine wang8did + just actuall! think the word wang? his sweater is doing things to %! head8.,niff8 Edward< ,he just sniffed it again8wh! does she keep doing that? When + wore it + didn't notice it s%elling like an!thing other than wool8girls are weird8weirdl! wonderful8puss!8;ella's puss!8and now +'% hard8wh! the hell a% + e"en pretending that + a% not totall! and co%pletel! o"er the %oon for this girlCD and it has nothing to do with her puss!8and now +'% harder8 ;ella< ,top tr!ing to get out of answering this .uestion8face it head on8.Wh! did !ou throw !ourself at Edward, forgetting a#out the friendship and the hare% and the O drought and all of the "er! good reasons !ou had for sta!ing awa! fro% hi% and his #anger "oodoo8.co%e on ;ella8suck it up and sa! it8what was it he said when !ou asked hi% wh! he kissed !ou that night !ou %et? *;ecause + had to*. -esus8e"en in %! head he sounds a%azing when he said it8there's !our answer ;ella8#ecause !ou had to8and now !ou ha"e to figure this shit out8+ kissed hi% and he kissed %e #ecause we had to, and the choices that we %ade were ours and ours alone8and the fact that he stopped it and said he couldn't? /e %ust ha"e a da%n good reason8#ecause + a% a fucking catch8O or no O8+ a% a fucking catch8.!eah !ou are ,wan8weird how !ou flip #ack and forth #etween first and third person during %! inner %onologues8thank 6hrist8the ;a! ;ridge8 enough introspection8 Edward< ,hit8the ;a! ;ridge8we're al%ost ho%e8and + ha"e no idea how this is going to go with ;ella8 we ha"e #arel! said an!thing the entire wa! ho%e..although +'% glad to #e al%ost ho%e8+ need to shower this #eef jerk! s%ell off %e and + need to jerk off like !ou wouldn't #elie"e8 Alice< 0a!) he ;a! ;ridge) + wonder if -asper would %ind spending the night at %! place) -asper< hank fuck, the ;a! ;ridge8we're al%ost ho%e8+ wonder if Alice knows + a% spending the night at her place, and planning on %aking her call in sick to%orrow8little girl8the things + plan to do to !ou tonight8#ut +'% ne"er eating that %uch #eef jerk! again8this has #een the .uietest road trip e"er8 !#O: We dropped off the new couple at )l$ce's and headed on our way to our apartment. Our apartment bu$ld$ng that $s. The tens$on had been bu$ld$ng the ent$re dr$*e bac to the c$ty, made e*en more not$ceable once we were alone $n the car. Edward and I had always had th$ngs to tal about, and now that we seemed to ha*e so much to say, we were s$lent. I d$dn't want th$ngs to be we$rd, and I new I would ha*e to be the one to ma e sure that he new I was O@. %y outburst that morn$ng had been fueled by embarrassment and the nowledge that my fr$ends were all go$ng to f$nd out anyway, and once aga$n my "bull $n a ch$na shop" del$*ery seems to ha*e ta en care of that. I was a f$rm bel$e*er $n the $dea that the best defense $s always a good offense, so rather than wa$t for $t to out, I outed my damn self before anyone else could. ) *$s$on of me shout$ng on the dec that I had made a pass at Edward flashed across my eyes, and wh$le my chee s certa$nly heated $n embarrassment once aga$n, I also had a mental chuc le at how odd I must ha*e loo ed, arms fla$l$ng, mouth set as though I could sp$t na$ls, and then bar $ng at a fr$ghtened Edward to follow me towards the beach. 7e must ha*e wondered at that po$nt $f I was go$ng to thrash h$m, and then dump h$s body $n the la e. I glanced o*er at h$m then, strong hands on the steer$ng wheel as he na*$gated the c$ty streets, and wondered for the thousandth t$me that day why he had stopped h$mself the n$ght before. 7e

def$n$tely had h$s reasons, and they must ha*e been good reasons. 7$s body was certa$nly $nto $t, e*en $f h$s head was not. The th$ng $s though, I did th$n h$s head was $n $t, at least unt$l he thought about $t too much. )nd what was $t that made h$m stop= )h Wallbanger, w$ll I e*er unra*el the mystery that you truly are= I glanced o*er at h$m once more, not$c$ng that we were pull$ng down our street. )s we stopped at the curb, he loo ed o*er at me, b$t$ng down on the same lower l$p that less than 1C hours ago I had the fortune to be b$t$ng on. 7e sprang from the car and ran around to my s$de before I e*en had my seatbelt unbuc led. "Em, I'm &ust gonnaHget the bags," he stammered, and I stud$ed h$m closely. 7e ran h$s left hand thru h$s ha$r wh$le h$s r$ght hand drummed aga$nst the s$de of the car. Was he ner*ous= "+o, yeah," he stammered once more, d$sappear$ng around the bac . ;ep, he was ner*ous, &ust as ner*ous as I was. 7e worr$ed my bag out of the car, and we made our way up the three fl$ghts of sta$rs to our apartments. +t$ll /u$et, the only sound was our eys &angl$ng $n the loc s. I couldn't lea*e $t l$ e th$s, I had to s/uare th$s w$th h$m. I too a deep breath, and turned towards h$m. "Edward, I." "-oo !ella." We both started then stopped, and laughed a l$ttle. ";ou go," "6o you go," he sa$d. "6ope, what were you gonna say=" "What were !ou gonna say=" "7ey, sp$t $t out Wallbanger, I got a pussy to rescue from two /ueens downsta$rs," I $nstructed, hear$ng 0l$*e call$ng to me from the apartment below. 7e snorted, and leaned aga$nst h$s door. "I guess I &ust wanted to say, I had a really great t$me th$s wee end," "Ent$l last n$ght, r$ght=" I &o ed, lean$ng aga$nst my own door, watch$ng h$s face fl$nch as I addressed the elephant $n the hot tub. "!ella," he breathed, clos$ng h$s eyes and lett$ng h$s head fall bac . 7e loo ed l$ e he was $n actual pa$n as h$s face tw$sted. I too p$ty. I shouldn't but I d$d. "7ey, can we &ust forget $t happened= I mean, I now we can't, but can we pretend to forget $t= I now people say th$ngs won't get we$rd all the t$me, but then $t always does. 7ow can we ma e sure th$ngs don't get we$rd=" I prodded. 7e opened h$s eyes, and loo ed hard at me. "I guess we &ust don't let $t. We ma e sure $t doesn't get we$rd. O@=" "O@," I nodded, and was rewarded w$th the f$rst real sm$le I had seen s$nce I unwrapped my sweater bac $n Tahoe, as he gathered up h$s bag. "#lay me someth$ng good ton$ght, yeah=" I as ed as I headed $ns$de my apartment. ";ou got $t," he answered, and we shut our doors. !ut he d$dn't play me b$g band that n$ght. )nd d$dn't spea aga$n all wee long. Wh$ch was we$rd. "Who peed $n your ch$l$=" I loo ed up from my des to see Esme, composed as always w$th her casually elegant loose ch$gnon,

blac penc$l trousers, wh$te s$l blouse and raspberry cashmere sweater wrap. 7ow d$d I now $t was cashmere from across the room= !ecause $t was EsmeH I selected one of the K penc$ls currently stuc $n my tw$sted ha$r bun, and returned my attent$on to the mess that was my des . It was Wednesday, and th$s wee was fly$ng by and dragg$ng by at the same t$me. 6o word from Edward. 6o te"ts from Edward. 6o songs from Edward. !ut to be fa$r I hadn't reached out to h$m e$ther. I was f$n$sh$ng the last few deta$ls on the !lac house, order$ng n$c nac s for Bames's condo, and start$ng the beg$nn$ng s etches on a commerc$al des$gn pro&ect I had l$ned up for the follow$ng month. It loo ed l$ e chaos, but somet$mes $t was the only way I could get wor done. There were days that I needed neat and orderly, and days when I needed the mess on my des to reflect the mess $n my head. Th$s was that day. "What's up Esme=" I bar ed, noc $ng o*er my cup of colored penc$ls as I grabbed for my coffee. "7ow much coffee ha*e you had today %$ss !ella=" she laughed, ta $ng the seat oppos$te me and hand$ng me the penc$ls that had sp$lled on the floor. "7ard to say, how many cups are $n a pot and a half=" I answered, restac $ng the papers on my des to clear a space for her teacup. The woman wal ed around dr$n $ng tea out of a bone ch$na cup, but $t wor ed for her. "Wow, I ta e you aren't see$ng any cl$ents today=" she as ed, lean$ng o*er the des and casually remo*$ng my coffee cup from w$th$n my reach. I h$ssed at her, and she w$sely w$thdrew her hand. "6ope, no cl$ents," I answered, hurr$edly sho*$ng the new s etches $nto color coord$nated folders and sho*$ng them $nto the$r appropr$ate drawers. "O@ s$ster, what's up=" "What do you mean, I'm wor $ng, what you pay me to do, remember=" I snapped, grabb$ng for a r$ng of fabr$c swatches and noc $ng my flower *ase o*er. I had p$c ed out dar purple, almost blac tul$ps for th$s wee , and they were now all o*er the floor. I s$ghed hea*$ly, and forced myself to slow down. %y hands were sha $ng from the amount of caffe$ne argu$ng through my system, and as I sat and sur*eyed the state of affa$rs $n my off$ce I felt 1 fat tears form$ng $n my eyes. ",uc '" I muttered, and co*ered my face w$th my hands. I sat for a m$nute, l$sten$ng to the t$c of the retro cloc on the wall, and wa$ted for Esme to say someth$ng. When she d$dn't, I pee ed through my hands at her. +he was stand$ng by the door w$th my wrap $n her hand. ")re you throw$ng me out=" I wh$spered, as the tra$tor tears made the$r way down my face and sl$pped underneath my f$ngers. I rolled my eyes as she wa*ed her arm at me towards the door. +he draped my sweater around my shoulders and handed me my purse. "0ome on !ell$e, you're buy$ng me lunch," she w$n ed and pulled me down the hallway. Twenty m$nutes later she had me ensconced $n an ornate red booth h$dden part$ally h$dden beh$nd 1 gold curta$ns. +he had brought me to her fa*or$te restaurant $n 0h$natown, ordered me chamom$le tea, and wa$ted $n s$lence for me to e"pla$n my sem$ brea down. )ctually, $t was not ent$rely s$lent< we had ordered the s$55l$ng r$ce soup. "+o, you must ha*e had a hellu*a wee end $n Tahoe huh=" she f$nally as ed, and I laughed $nto my s$55l$ng r$ce. ";ou could say that," "What happened=" "Well, (ose and Emmett f$nally got together andH" "Wa$t a m$nute, (ose and Emmett= I thought (ose was w$th Basper=" "+he was, she was, but truthfully she was always meant to be w$th Emmett so $t all wor ed out $n the

end," "#oor )l$ce and Basper, that must ha*e been we$rd for them," "7)' #oor )l$ce and Basper my )unt ,anny, they got $n on $n the pool house for God's sa e," I snorted, and Esme's eyes grew w$de. "In the pool houseHwow," she breathed, and I nodded. We souped. "+o, Edward went to Tahoe, r$ght=" she as ed a few m$nutes later, loo $ng e*erywhere but at me. I gr$nned a l$ttle at her $mag$ned stealth. Esme was many many th$ngs, but subtle was not one. ";ep, Edward was there," ")nd how was that=" "It was great, and then $t wasn't, and now $t's we$rd," I adm$tted, sett$ng as$de my soup and dr$n $ng my tea. It was sooth$ng, and non caffe$nated, wh$ch Esme had $ns$sted on. "+o, no pool houses for you two=" she as ed, st$ll glanc$ng around the restaurant as though she weren't as $ng me anyth$ng of $mportance. "6o Esme, no pool house. We hot tubbed, but we d$d not pool house," I sa$d emphat$cally, and then sp$lled my guts and told her the ent$re r$d$culous story. +he l$stened, she hmm'd $n the r$ght places, she groaned $n the r$ght places, and got $nd$gnant $n the r$ght places too. !y the t$me I was f$n$shed, I was $n tears aga$n, wh$ch was really p$ss$ng me off. ")nd the st$n of $t all, he $s the one that stopped $t, but I don't really th$n he wanted to'" I huffed, angr$ly w$p$ng tears away w$th my nap $n. "+o why do you th$n he d$d=" she prodded. "7e's gay=" I offered, and we both sm$led. I too a deep breath and got control. Esme loo ed at me thoughtfully, and then f$nally leaned $n. ";ou real$5e that we are two smart women, who are not act$ng *ery smart r$ght now," "7uh=" I as ed. "We now better than to try to f$gure out what a man $s up to, th$s'll get wor ed out when $t's supposed to. )nd your tears= These are tens$on tears, frustrat$on tears, noth$ng more. I w$ll tell you one th$ng though," "What's that=" ")s long as I ha*e nown Edward, I'*e ne*er heard of h$m $n*$t$ng someone on a shoot w$th h$m, e*er. I mean, $n*$t$ng you to +pa$n= That's *ery unl$ e Edward," "+o=" "+o st$c that $n your p$pe and suc $t," "I th$n $ts smo e $t Esme, st$c that $n your p$pe and smo e $t," ")h smo e $t, suc $t, whate*er. Eat your fortune coo $e sweet$e," she sm$led, nudg$ng the coo $e across the table towards me. I crac ed $t open and remo*ed the fortune. "What does yours say=" I as ed her. ",$re all employees who ha*e more than one penc$l $n the$r ha$r," she stated ser$ously. We laughed together, and I could feel some of the tens$on lea*$ng my body f$nally. "What does yours say=" she as ed. I opened $t up, read the words, and rolled my eyes to the ce$l$ng. "+tup$d fortune coo $e," I s$ghed, and handed $t to her. +he read $t and her eyes went w$de aga$n.

"Oh man, are you $n for $t' 0ome $n, let's go bac to wor ," she laughed, tugg$ng my hand and lead$ng me from the restaurant. +he ga*e $t bac to me and I started to throw $t away, but then sl$pped $t $nto my purse. *' A"A5' OF TH' "A%%S 1O6 *6/%D A+D "HAT CO6%D *' O+ TH' OTH'5 S/D' 0onfuc$us, you $ll me. Te"ts $ntercepted from Bames !rown to !ella He# there He# to #ou We still on &or 4rida# night? +ep" $%m in0where are we going &or dinner? -here%s a great new Bra;ilian restaurant that opened that $%ve !een wanting to tr#" how does that sound? *o the# wal) around with meat on giant sti )s? $ thin) that%s Argentinean0 Ah0either wa# sounds good to me0!tw" the last o& #our &urniture should !e delivered 1onda#" $ will !e there to re eive and pla e0 How mu h longer until the whole pro(e t is &inished? Ex ept &or a &ew pie es $ ordered &or the !edroom" should !e all done !# next wee)end0ahead o& deadline $ might add0 =er# good" will #ou !e there to &inish things in the !edroom? Stop it .amie $ hate when #ou all me .amie $ )now .amie0see #ou 4rida# night E#O: "+o you're happy=" "I'm $nsanely happy," ";ou seem really happy," I sm$led, ruffl$ng @ate's ha$r. We were wal $ng along ,$sherman's Wharf, stopp$ng at d$fferent food stalls and ha*$ng an $mpromptu lunch. I hadn't seen @ate s$nce we had bro en th$ngs off, but after trad$ng te"ts all wee we f$nally agreed to meet and get caught up. +he had a th$ng for watch$ng the sea l$ons, and e*en though the wharf wasn't one of my fa*or$te places $n the c$ty, I agreed. +he'd tal ed my ear off for the better part of an hour about Garrett, and I w$ll$ngly l$stened, pleased that my fr$end was $n such a good place. "+o what's up w$th you and the other lad$es= +$nce I ha*e left your bed, are they eep$ng my man sat$sf$ed=" she laughed, ta $ng my hand and dragg$ng me o*er to the crab cart. "9oes Garrett now about me=" I as ed, chang$ng the sub&ect as she and the *endor d$c ered o*er the pr$ce. +he handed me her purse to hold wh$le she &uggled the crustaceans. "7e nows I ha*e a great fr$end that I was $n*ol*ed w$th yes, he's cool w$th $t. 7e also nows I was meet$ng you today, but he sa$d you weren't allowed to try and ha*e se" w$th me though," she w$n ed, and too her purse bac , lead$ng me o*er to a bench. "I'll try to eep my hands off h$s woman," I sm$r ed, as she crac ed a claw and offered $t to me. ")re you try$ng to g$*e me crabs=" I as ed, deadpan.

"It's one crab, s$ngular. Techn$cally, I am try$ng to g$*e you crab," she answered bac &ust as ser$ously. We suc ed on crab for a few m$nutes, en&oy$ng the sunsh$ne that had dec$ded to ma e an appearance th$s afternoon. ,all $n +an ,ranc$sco could be f$c le at best. "+o how are you= 7ow are the other lad$es, th$ngs good=" she as ed aga$n, p$c $ng a p$ece of crab off my ch$n for me. "Em, good. Th$ngs are good," "%m hmm, and your ne$ghbor=" "%y ne$ghbor= What ne$ghbor=" "What ne$ghbor, please Edd$e !oy, th$s $s your @at$e you're tal $ng to," she sa$d softly, lean$ng aga$nst my shoulder as I wrapped an arm around her. "!ella=" ";es !ella, how $s she=" "+he's good. I mean, I ha*en't tal ed to her much lately, but I th$n th$ngs are good," ";ou are so full of sh$t $t's not e*en funny," "What= What's that supposed to mean=" "6oth$ng lo*e, noth$ng, wanna go to Gh$rardell$'s=" she laughed, stand$ng up and offer$ng me her hand. ";ou want chocolate now= ;ou &ust had crab'" I laughed bac at her, ta $ng her hand as she offered $t and we headed $n the d$rect$on of the chocolate factory. "7ey' I lost K pounds, and Garrett not$ced. 7e says he "l$ es a l$ttle cush$on for the push$n'". 7$s words, not m$ne," she g$ggled, and I stared down at her. +he was actually rad$ant. "@at$e, you're the best, you now that=" I gr$nned, and hugged her. "Th$s I now," she sa$d $nto my chest, as she wrapped her arms around me. +he spun me around so I was fac$ng away from her, and po ed me $n the bac . "!end down," she $nstructed, and she cl$mbed on my bac . We wal ed, or rather I wal ed and she got a p$ggybac r$de towards the other end of the wharf. "0an I as you someth$ng=" "Of course," she sa$d $nto my ear. "9$d you now, I mean, when you met Garrett, d$d you now, I mean, d$d he seem." "9$d I now he was the one=" she merc$fully $nterrupted. ";es," "I th$n I d$d actually," she sa$d /u$etly. ")ny part$cular reason you're as $ng=" "6o, no reason," I muttered, sh$ft$ng her a l$ttle on my bac . "Why Edd$e, I bel$e*e you're blush$ng' The t$ps of your ears are red'" "+hut $t you," I warned, and carr$ed her the rest of the way to buy her chocolate. "!ella, $t's beaut$ful," "+er$ously !ella, $t's e*en better than I thought $t was go$ng to be," "Than s guys, $t turned out pretty great," I sm$led as I wal ed w$th Bess$ca and Bacob through the$r f$n$shed master bedroom. We had started out down $n Bacob's new man ca*e, and I th$n he may ha*e actually drooled when he saw the M!OM stat$on I had des$gned for h$m, complete w$th gam$ng cha$rs. Bess$ca had a s$m$lar loo on her face when she saw the chandel$er we had $nstalled o*er her

soa $ng tub. )ll was good $n the !lac household th$s e*en$ng. E*en w$th the m$".up on the t$les, I had st$ll managed to br$ng $n the pro&ect *ery close to the or$g$nal deadl$ne, wh$ch was ama5$ng cons$der$ng the add$t$onal wor we d$d on the home theater. I had sent them away to the ,a$rmont for the last 1 n$ghts, on my d$me, so they wouldn't see e*eryth$ng unt$l $t was completely the way I wanted $t. I had p$ctures ta en early th$s morn$ng, and now I was ready to hand bac the$r ey and wal away. It was one of the best &obs I had e*er wor ed on, and the bonus was I now cons$dered the !lac s fr$ends of m$ne. "7ere, let's ha*e a toast," I encouraged, popp$ng the bottle of champagne I had wa$t$ng on $ce. I poured, and ra$sed a glass. "To the sass$est soc$al$te couple $n all of +an ,ranc$sco," I offered. ")nd ma e sure you g$*e me all the cred$t when your soc$al$te fr$ends as you who d$d your remodel," I f$n$shed, w$n $ng at Bacob. )fter the wal through, they as ed me to stay for d$nner, but I was beat. It had been such a long wee , I was *ery glad that tomorrow was ,r$day. Bess$ca wal ed me to the front door, and than ed me aga$n for the wor I had done. "7ey, that's my &ob. I really am glad we got to wor together, I'm a l$ttle sad that I won't get to see you all the t$me anymore," I sa$d, g$*$ng her a /u$c hug. "Oh hell no, we're gonna eep $n touch, I st$ll ha*e an ent$re (olode" full of men I want to set you up w$th," she g$ggled. I began to w$nd up as though I was go$ng to punch when her husband let out a scream. "!abe' Wa$t unt$l you see all the channels I can get on th$s new setup'" Bacob yelled from w$th$n the house, and we both rolled our eyes. ";ou real$5e your husband w$ll now l$*e $n there, r$ght=' "I do, but I'll be rela"$ng $n my new tub so what the hell do I care=" she laughed as I wal ed down the wal way. "Wanna ha*e lunch ne"t wee somet$me=" I as ed. "Or coc ta$ls=" "E*en better, I'll call you," I w$n ed, and as she wa*ed goodbye I could see Bacob come up beh$nd her. Through the glass door I saw h$m hug her from beh$nd as she gr$nned and let herself be p$c ed up by her husband. I had a feel$ng they m$ght both be en&oy$ng that tub ton$ght. Too t$red to wal home, I caught a cab and was outs$de my apartment door w$th$n FA m$nutes. I could hear Edward's T:, and I was tempted to noc and see what he was up to. )s I debated, I heard h$s phone r$ng, and heard h$s *o$ce through the door. "Ir$na= 7ey, how are you=" he sa$d, and I turned and faced my own door. 0l$*e was wa$t$ng for me, and as I set my th$ngs down he told me all about h$s day, $n cat spea . I $nterpreted for h$m, and $t would seem that 0l$*e's day cons$sted of a l$ght snac , a nap, about 3A m$nutes of groom$ng, another snac , another nap, and then he watched the ne$ghborhood for the rest of the afternoon and e*en$ng. -efto*er ta eout w$th Ina and Beffrey on the couch, a /u$c shower, and I pac ed $t $n. I was $n bed before N3A, someth$ng I had not done s$nce I was F1. W$th 0l$*e curled $n between my legs, I went to sleep, once aga$n w$th no mus$c from the other s$de of the wall. The follow$ng n$ght I stood $n front of my m$rror, try$ng on d$fferent shoes for my date.not a date.of course $t's a date.w$th Bames. I had almost called h$m tw$ce that day to bac out, but $n the end, I pushed through $t and got fanc$ed up. The truth $s, somet$mes a g$rl needs to get fanc$ed up. I had been confl$cted about th$s date.not a date.who was I fuc $ng $dd$ng $t's a date.all wee long, but $n all honesty, I wanted to go. Was I us$ng Bames a l$ttle= #erhaps, but I d$d ha*e a good t$me w$th h$m, and maybe $t wouldn't be the worst th$ng $n the world for us to start bac up aga$n.

"!ella +wan, you heartbrea er," I wh$spered to myself $n the m$rror, and then actually crac ed myself up. 0l$*e was embarrassed enough for both of us, and h$d h$s nose beh$nd h$s paw. I was st$ll laugh$ng when I heard a noc at the door. I sl$pped $nto my heels /u$c ly, and made my way towards the door, 0l$*e close at my heels. I too a deep breath, and opened the door. "7ey Bames," "!ella, you loo great," he murmured, stepp$ng $ns$de and catch$ng me $nto a hug. )s h$s arms went around me, I new $mmed$ately. Th$s was a date. Bames smelled sp$cy. I don't now why g$rls always say boys smell sp$cy, but some do, and $t's a good th$ng. 6ot l$ e he smelled l$ e clo*es or saffron, &ust warm and sp$cy. !ut not l$ e potpourr$H I hugged h$m bac , en&oy$ng the way my body st$ll f$t $nto h$s, cur*$ng where $t should. We always were good at the hugg$ng, we got )'s for our hugs. ";ou ready to go=" ";ep, let me grab my bag," I sa$d, and nelt to g$*e 0l$*e a /u$c the d$rect$on of Bames, and wouldn't let me $ss h$m. $ss. 7e tossed h$s ta$l angr$ly $n

"What's your problem=" I as ed 0l$*e, who turned and showed me h$s rear end. ";ou now, that's start$ng to become a *ery rude hab$t %r. 0l$*e," I warned h$m, and p$c ed up my purse from the table. I stuc my tongue out at 0l$*e, grabbed Bames, and loc ed the door beh$nd us. "O@, so d$nner=" I as ed, as we stood outs$de my door. ";ep d$nner," he repl$ed, stand$ng *ery close to me. We both stared at each other, for only seconds really, but $t felt much longer. 7e stepped a l$ttle closer, and my breath caught. Of course, &ust then, Edward dec$ded to open h$s door. "7ey !ella' I was &ust, oh, h$, Bames r$ght=" he sa$d, the sm$le that had l$t up h$s face when he saw me fall$ng sl$ghtly when he saw my d$nner date. 9ate, date, date. "Edmund, r$ght=" Bames sa$d, offer$ng h$s hand. "Edward actually," he stated, decl$n$ng to sha e h$s hand as he was ta $ng out the trash. ")fter you," he nodded towards the sta$rs, and the three of us began to troop down together. "+o, where are you two cra5y $ds off to ton$ght=" Edward as ed, as we wal ed ahead of h$m. I could feel h$s eyes on the bac of my nec , and as I h$t the land$ng I loo ed bac . 7e had a fa e sm$le plastered across h$s face, and h$s *o$ce was colder than I had e*er heard $t before. "!ella and I are headed out for d$nner," Bames answered, and I sm$led bac o*er my shoulder. ";es, some lo*ely l$ttle !ra5$l$an restaurant, sounds wonderful," I cooed, watch$ng Edward's face carefully. 7e pursed h$s l$ps together more t$ghtly as we made our way closer to the ground floor. "I am fond of !ra5$l myself, great food," he mumbled. I sm$r ed to myself and followed Bames through the front door, as he held the door for me, and then for Edward. "Well, ha*e a good n$ght," I sa$d to Edward, as Bames wal ed me towards h$s car w$th hand on the small of my bac . "6$ght," he answered, l$ps t$ght. I could tell he was $rr$tated. Good. Bames bundled me $nto the car, and we were off. E#O: I stared at the woman s$tt$ng across from me on the couch, she was stunn$ngly perfect. -egs that

were long and lean, l$ttle wa$st, t$ny h$ps, soft breasts pee $ng out of the top of her sh$rt, all lead$ng to a face that could stop traff$c. I had truly ne*er been w$th a woman more emp$r$cally attract$*e than Ir$na, she was e"/u$s$te. )nd br$ll$ant as well< so often such beauty was accompan$ed by a t$ny bra$n w$th a g$ant ego. 6ot Ir$na, she was always go$ng to be the perfect comb$nat$on of beauty and bra$ns, and men would fore*er be fall$ng at her feet. )nd spea $ng of feetH +he currently had her bare feet rest$ng $n my lap as we each en&oyed a glass of brandy. +he had come for d$nner, and wh$le we coo ed together she told me about her latest research for her d$ssertat$on. It was comfortable and easy, as $t always was w$th Ir$na. I l$stened as she told me all about what was go$ng on $n her world, and she was &ust as $nterested $n me and e*eryth$ng I had been up to. It was great gett$ng caught up w$th her, and now as $t was gett$ng later $n the e*en$ng, as usual we were beg$nn$ng to get a l$ttle b$tHcloser. +he s$pped her brandy, and got a l$ttle more comfy on the couch, her feet stay$ng $n my lap but press$ng a l$ttle more f$rmly, nudg$ng purposefully aga$nst me. I pulled on my collar a l$ttle, I needed to tal to the landlord about the heat $n my apartment< $t felt warmer than $t usually d$dH "I m$ssed you Edward, $t feels l$ e fore*er s$nce I ha*eHseen you," she purred, catch$ng a drop of brandy from the edge of her glass w$th her tongue $n a mo*e I had seen before, and not &ust on a glass. %y heart beat a l$ttle faster, was the brandy affect$ng me more than usual= "Well, I m$ssed you too, $t's been awh$le" I repl$ed, runn$ng my f$ngers through my ha$r and not$c$ng that my forehead felt a l$ttle damp. Wow, $t really was gett$ng warm $n here. "I'm &ust gonna open a w$ndow, are you warm at all= I feel warm, a l$ttle warm," I prattled, the sound of my own *o$ce sound$ng r$d$culous e*en to my own ears. "%mm, I do not feel warm, but I am def$n$tely feel$ng a l$ttleHhow do you sayHflushed=" she purred, her eyes watch$ng me as I battled w$th the w$ndow. )s I struggled w$th the loc , I loo ed outs$de onto the street below and saw !ella and that stup$d Bames !rown wal $ng up to the front door. I stared at them, wonder$ng whether he was go$ng to be $n*$ted $n or not. "Edward' What are you do$ng o*er there, I am lonely on th$s couch all by myself" Ir$na called to me, e"tend$ng one of her legs stra$ght up $n the a$r and po$nt$ng her toes. 7er leg was about FA feet long by the way, and lo*ely. "Bust try$ng to get th$s w$ndow open, &ust one m$nute," I called bac o*er my shoulder, watch$ng the pa$r on the s$dewal below. They d$dn't e*en stop at the front door, $nstead wal $ng r$ght $ns$de, and the asshole d$dn't e*en hold the door for her. 7eat flooded my face as I real$5ed she was $n*$t$ng h$m $ns$de, up to her apartment, and she d$dn't e*en hes$tate' 6o d$scuss$on, no aw ward "+o, d$d you want to come up for some coffee=" 6ope, &ust stra$ght $n. The w$ndow f$nally flew open, and I stumbled a l$ttle b$t, noc $ng $nto a coat stand and almost toppl$ng $t completely before $t r$ghted $tself. I turned bac around to f$nd a *ery beaut$ful (uss$an model start$ng to undress. The sh$rt was already unbuttoned, pushed bac , and her blac lacy bra was star$ng at me, taunt$ng me. 7oly sh$t. "7ey hey hey there, Ir$naHwhatcha do$n'" I stammered aga$n, dragg$ng my hand across my forehead and feel$ng $t absolutely drenched w$th sweat. %y heart was pound$ng, and I was almost a l$ttle d$55y. !y now I could hear footsteps on the sta$rs, and as Ir$na began to stal towards me l$ e a cat, I could d$st$nctly ma e out the sound of !ellaHand she was g$ggl$ng. Bames !rown was laugh$ng too, a h$gh p$tched whee5$ng $nd of laugh that made me want to *om$t $n my hand and smear $t on h$s stup$d face. I was star$ng at the front door, almost w$ll$ng $t to become transparent so I could see through $t when I felt Ir$na's hands snea around my wa$st and pull me close to her. I let out a l$ttle s/uea that rem$nded me of a l$ttle g$rl, and Ir$na laughed at me.

"Edward Edward, why are you so tense= -et Ir$na ta e care of you, yes= %mmH" she moaned $nto my ear, and her hands began to tra*el south. Bust as her hands reached the buc le on my belt, I heard !ella and +tup$d ,ace reach the land$ng and beg$n to open the door. I stra$ned to hear them as Ir$na loosened my belt and unbuttoned my pants. "I th$n I st$ll ha*e some red w$ne, I now I at least ha*e some wh$te, let's see what I ha*e," !ella sa$d, and I heard +tup$d ,ace chuc le. "I w$ll ta e whate*er you ha*e to g$*e me," he sa$d, and I could almost see h$s sneer. I wal ed towards the door, Ir$na follow$ng me w$th her arms around my wa$st and her tongue $n my ear, and my pants around my an les. !ella laughed, but I could tell e*en from here $t was her that's.not. really.funny laugh. !ella's door shut, and the$r *o$ces were cut off. I couldn't hear anyth$ng, noth$ng' What was go$ng on $n there' )s I debated th$s at my front door, pants st$ll around an les, I then not$ced that Ir$na's hands were no longer around me. I turned to see that she had d$sappeared. I began to call to her, when my foot stumbled across someth$ng. !end$ng down to p$c up my &eans, I saw her d$scarded sh$rt. -oo $ng further $nto the apartment, I saw her bra, s $rt, and f$nally &ust outs$de my bedroom doorHpant$es. %y heart was beat$ng e*en more emphat$cally, and as I began to follow the tra$l of cloth$ng breadcrumbs, I real$5ed that I could hear !ella aga$n. The closer I wal ed to my bedroom, the more clearly I could hear her and +tup$d ,ace. )s I neared my bedroom door, I stopped. )ll was /u$et. Where had they gone= "EdwardH" Ir$na sang from my bedroom, and w$th$n seconds I heard a thump on the wall and the unm$sta able sound of !ella's cat beg$n to caterwaul. @now$ng that Ir$na was the cause of $t, I sm$r ed a l$ttle. I stood at the threshold of my bedroom, loo $ng around unt$l I found Ir$na. There, $n my bed, was /u$te poss$ble the most beaut$ful woman $n the world, and she was na ed. +he was frown$ng at the wall as she could ob*$ously hear her $tty adm$rer, but st$ll posed and ready. ,or me. ,or me to $ss and tongue and b$te and n$bble and fl$p and ra*age and suc and fuc and all I had to do was ta e C more steps. C more steps. I too one, br$ng$ng me $nto the bedroom. I help my &eans up w$th one hand, and of course ran the other through my ha$r, wh$ch was now st$c $ng stra$ght up. "%mm Edward, I ha*e m$ssed you my l$ttle zaichik," she cooed, and held out her arms to me. I heard !ella laugh aga$n from the other s$de of the wall, and then I heard the unm$sta able sound of bed spr$ngs. ;ed springs. +he was on her bed w$th Bames !rown. I could no longer ma e out what e$ther one of them was say$ng, only gett$ng a sense here or there. -ow mumbl$ng, soft laughter, her d$st$nct *o$ce $nterspersed w$thHh$s. )nd of course, her fuc $ng cat was s$ng$ng to beat the band. I too another step towards the bed, towards the wall. Ir$na sm$led, 0l$*e wa$led, and !ella= +he was s$lent. I couldn't hear anyth$ng else. +he was /u$et, but the bed was not. I mean, $t wasn't s$ng$ng out a loud her.hee.her no$se, but there was def$n$telyHmo*ement happen$ng on the other s$de of that wall. %y head felt l$ e $t was about to e"plode, and I pressed the heels of my hands aga$nst my eyes unt$l I saw p$nwheels and shoot$ng stars, wh$ch of course left me w$th my pants around my an les aga$n. "Edward= 0ome to bed," Ir$na called once more, and I shuffled the last two steps. What the hell was wrong w$th me= I had a na ed g$rl $n my bed want$ng noth$ng from me e"cept the pleasure that I could br$ng her, and wanted noth$ng more than to grant me that same pleasure. I could hear her,

breath com$ng $n short pants as she wa$ted for my touch, and I new e"actly how to touch her, how to br$ng her to her orgasm /u$c and fast and $ntense, or how to draw $t out of her slow and low, ma $ng her beg and scream for me, ta $ng her to the edge but then nudg$ng her bac down, unt$l I was ready for her to e"per$ence all I could br$ng her. I new th$s woman $nt$mately, new her m$nd as well< I new her heart. +he was sweet and $nd and wonderful and f$t perfectly $nto the $nd of l$fe I led. 7ow $n the world could I e*er wal away from th$s= What $nd of a fool would turn th$s down= )s I stood at the edge of my bed, sweaty and a tr$fle nauseous and st$ll not at all sure why, I heard a thump come from the other s$de of the wall. !ut not aga$nst the wall, not anyth$ng l$ e that. I wasn't sure what I was hear$ng. I stopped rubb$ng my eyes, lett$ng my *$s$on clear and lett$ng the room come bac $nto frame. Ir$na was star$ng at me on the bed, her face confused. I heard another thump, and what sounded l$ e bare feet h$tt$ng the floor. +omeone was pac$ng. +omeone was pac$ng and d$gg$ng the$r heels $nto the wood floor, e"actly the way !ella d$d when she was wor ed up about someth$ng. What the hell was go$ng on o*er there= O*er 0l$*e's sweet tal , I could now d$st$nctly hear !ella's *o$ce, and she was not happy. I could only ma e out about e*ery fourth word or so, and so far all I gotten was2 "0an'tHstup$dHth$n H ne*erH0looneyH" 0looney= I scrambled up onto the bed, bypass$ng Ir$na to get a l$ttle closer to the wall. I could hear Bames now as well, only I st$ll couldn't hear e*eryth$ng. I was able to ma e out2 "!abyHgoodHrememberH changeHdecoratorH" +ometh$ng was go$ng on o*er there, and !ella's *o$ce cont$nued to get louder and louder. +he was angry about someth$ng, and he seemed angry too. I was all but pressed up aga$nst the wall, when I felt a t$ny po e on my nee. I turned and found Ir$na, sm$l$ng sadly at me, co*er$ng herself w$th a sheet. "Ir$na, I'm sorry, I th$n someth$ng m$ght be wrong ne"t door w$th !ella and." I started, when she pressed her f$ngers to my l$ps, s$lenc$ng me. +he mo*ed her hand to co*er the s$de of my face, and I leaned $nto her cool touch. "%y sweet Edward, I w$ll m$ss you," she sa$d, and then began to r$se from the bed. "Wa$t, what= Ir$na, where are you go$ng= I'm sorry I ha*e been a l$ttle d$stracted ton$ght, I must be com$ng down w$th someth$ng, I don't now why I am feel$ng so strange, I should open the w$ndow $n here too," I e"pla$ned, start$ng for the w$ndow, and tr$pp$ng o*er my &eans, h$tt$ng the floor w$th a thud. +he g$ggled at me, and offered me her hand to help me up. ";ou are def$n$tely com$ng down w$th someth$ng dear, of that I am certa$n," she nodded, and stood on t$p toe to $ss me softly. I pulled her closer to me, e"pect$ng her to $ss me more deeply, but $nstead she placed one more $ss on my chee and loo ed at me almost w$stfully, but then she ga*e me a now$ng sm$le and stepped away. "I was accepted $nto a program bac $n %oscow, I am head$ng home after classes end ne"t month," she sa$d, gather$ng her clothes as she changed sub&ects br$s ly and lea*$ng me $n the center of the room, loo $ng I am sure completely bew$ldered. I wanted to follow her when she went $nto the hallway to grab her th$ngs, but I was drawn to the wall beh$nd my bed, and want$ng to ma e sure !ella was O@. I d$d manage to f$nally button my pants aga$n howe*erH "7old on, you're lea*$ng lea*$ng=" I as ed when she came bac $n, her clothes bac on and long ha$r pulled bac $nto an eff$c$ent bun. ";es zaichik, I'm lea*$ng, you ta e care of yourself," she wh$spered, $ss$ng me aga$n, sweetly and f$rmly.

I real$5ed she was not &ust lea*$ng for ton$ght, she was go$ng away for good. I paused, feel$ng her l$ps aga$nst m$ne. +he started to release me. "W$ll I see you before you go=" I as ed, catch$ng hold of her and eep$ng her aga$nst me. "We'll see now won't we=" she teased, sm$l$ng at me. "I'm sorry about ton$ght, I &ust." "+hh, you are a sweet sweet man, good th$ngs w$ll always come to you," she sa$d $n my ear, wrapp$ng her arms around me t$ghtly and s/uee5$ng. I wal ed her to the door, our hands clasped. When she opened the door, we could both hear 0l$*e wa$l$ng, almost scream$ng $nto the hallway from $ns$de the other apartment. +he glared at the door, but then loo ed bac at me. "Goodbye Edward," she sm$led, her accent th$c and e"ot$c as always. +he was beaut$ful. "Goodbye," I nodded, and $ssed her one last t$me. I watched her wal down the sta$rs, and then headed bac $nto my apartment, clos$ng the door. Once bac $ns$de, I made my way bac to my bedroom, feel$ng my headache beg$n to fade sl$ghtly. I could st$ll hear ra$sed *o$ces from ne"t door, and I was beg$nn$ng to get a l$ttle concerned. I d$dn't l$ e Bames !rown, that was ob*$ous, but I also d$dn't trust h$m. Bust as I made $t bac $nto my bedroom, and could beg$n to l$sten $n l$ e the stal er I was /u$c ly becom$ng, I heard !ella, loud and clear. "I sa$d no Bames, and I am not go$ng to say $t aga$n'" %y r$ght hand $mmed$ately curled $nto a f$st, and I started to go for the wall, plann$ng on smash$ng my way d$rectly through $t when I heard the front door to her apartment slam open, echo$ng through the sta$rwell. I l$stened for another moment, the Edward7ul becom$ng sl$ghtly more manageable as I real$5ed that he had left and she was alone. Through the /u$et I stra$ned to hear someth$ng, anyth$ng, from her s$de of the wall. )nd then I heard herHshe was cry$ng. I was at my front door and across the hall before I barely new what I was do$ng, and when I saw that her door was st$ll sl$ghtly open, I felt no remorse at all about sl$pp$ng through un$n*$ted and head$ng stra$ght bac towards her bedroom. 0l$*e was fetal $n the corner of the l$*$ng room, loo $ng for all the world l$ e the saddest cat $n the ent$re world, but oddly glad that I was there. 7e nodded me towards !ella's room, and I swear I found myself nodd$ng bac . To a catH I padded /u$etly $n my soc s, try$ng to be /u$et. When I got to her door, I pee ed $ns$de to see her curled up on her bed, fac$ng away, her bac sha $ng and the room f$lled w$th her t$ny cr$es. I was o*ercome $n that moment, w$th anger at what he m$ght ha*e done to her, and at the shoc I felt go through me at how much I had m$ssed her th$s past wee . What should I say= If Bames had hurt her, I needed to handle her del$cately, gently. "!ella=" I called softly, not want$ng to startle her. 7er bac tensed, and she rolled o*er to face me. "What the hell are you do$ng here=" she glared, actual *enom dr$pp$ng from her mouth. +urpr$sed, I bac ed $nto the doorframe. "Em, I heard you cry$ng and I wanted to ma e sure that you were O@. That he d$dn't, well, that he d$dn't, hurt you," I stammered, wonder$ng why I was ha*$ng such a hard t$me ton$ght art$culat$ng. ";ou're not here to rescue me, are you=" she sa$d, sw$ng$ng her legs off the bed and stomp$ng towards me. I bac ed away aga$n, f$nd$ng myself pushed $nto a corner. +he had used a$r /uotes around the word "rescue". I had learned o*er t$me that women us$ng a$r /uotes were ne*er a good th$ng.

It wasn't $n th$s case< she cont$nued. "Why do all men seem to th$n they need to rescue a woman, are we not capable of rescu$ng our damn sel*es= Why do I need to be rescued= I don't need a man to rescue me, and I certa$nly don't need no wallbang$ng, se".l$m$ng, #ur$na.fuc $ng, l$sten$ng.at.my.wall.l$ e.a.god.damn.psycho com$ng o*er here to rescue me' ;ou got that, %$ster=" +he had punctuated th$s ent$re speech w$th po es at my chest, and was now wal $ng w$ldly around the room, arms fla$l$ng as she ranted on. "I mean, what the hell $s w$th you men= I got one who wants me bac , and one who doesn't want anyth$ng to do w$th me' One who tells me he wants to be my boyfr$end aga$n, but can't e*en remember that I am a $nter$or des$gner, designer, not a fuc $ng decorator' " )t th$s po$nt I wasn't e*en sure $f she remembered I was $n the room, but I l$stened as she paced. "I mean, I shouldn't ha*e to eat :$etnamese food $f I don't l$ e :$etnamese food should I= +hould I Edward=" she wh$rled on me, wal $ng bac o*er and po$nt$ng d$rectly at me. "6o !ella, I don't th$n that you should ha*e." I started, and she went pac$ng off aga$n. "6o, of course I shouldn't, but I d$d and I hated myself for $t' )nd I'm not gonna eat :$etnamese food e*er aga$n, not for Bames, and not for you, and not for anyone' ;ou got that=" she came bac , hands on h$ps and foot tapp$ng. +he had stopped cry$ng, but the trac s of her tears st$ll were there, creas$ng through her ma eup and ma $ng her loo so sad, so *ery sad. I now not$ced she was wear$ng only a t.sh$rt, and noth$ng else. I s$ncerely hoped she was wear$ng more when she was $n here w$th Bames, but I also new $t was not my place to /uest$on. !ut I could hope. "Well !ella, I th$n thatH" ")nd for your $nformat$on, I d$d not need a rescue ton$ght' I too care of $t myself. I now you th$n Bames $s some $nd of psycho, but he $sn't," she sa$d, start$ng off all sp$tf$re, but now beg$nn$ng to brea down aga$n. 7er lower l$p began to /u$*er, and she fought $t, but f$nally let go. "7e $sn't a bad guy, he &ustHhe &ustHhe &ust $sn't the r$ght guy for me," she sputtered, turn$ng for the bed and s$tt$ng down, head $n hands. +he cr$ed for a moment, as I stood aga$nst the wall. I watched her, want$ng to go and comfort her, but /u$te fran ly a l$ttle terr$f$ed of her. +he cr$ed wh$le I watched, unt$l she f$nally ra$sed her head. "7ello' G$rl cry$ng' )re you &ust gonna hug the wall there +porto=" she sa$d, her eyebrows ra$sed h$gher than I ha*e e*er seen them. "($ght' ($ght, I &ustHr$ght," I shouted, $nstantly across the room and ne"t to her on the bed. I put both my arms around her and held her close, feel$ng her breath aga$nst my chest as she s$ghed and sobbed. 7er tears made my sh$rt wet, and I d$dn't e*en care. +he cont$nued to cry as I held her, stro $ng her ha$r and runn$ng my hands up and down her bac , not$c$ng that she seemed to /u$et a l$ttle when I made t$ny l$ttle c$rcles between her shoulder blades. +he began to calm e*entually, her sobs g$*$ng way. "To be clear, comfort$ng $s not the same th$ng as rescu$ng," she mumbled, ta $ng deep breaths. +he $nhaled and e"haled aga$nst me, her l$ttle body com$ng to rest $n what she called my "noo ". +he f$nally pulled bac a l$ttle, as I ran my thumbs under her eyes and w$ped her tears. I smoothed her ha$r bac , and sm$led at her, prompt$ng a small sm$le $n return. "Why d$dn't you play me mus$c th$s wee Edward=" she as ed, her *o$ce so l$ttle. "%y needle was bro en, I ha*e to get $t f$"ed," I answered s$mply, her sm$le grow$ng b$gger. "Oh, I thought maybe, well, I m$ssed $t $s all," she sa$d shyly. "I m$ssed you th$s wee ," I told her honestly, wh$ch was true. Th$ngs had felt off all wee . "%e too," she adm$tted, her eyes mo*$ng towards the door as 0l$*e entered, settl$ng $n the doorway and ta $ng us $n. 7er eyes mo*ed bac to m$ne, and they had hardened somewhat.

"+o, #ur$na came to call ton$ght I hear," she sa$d, her tone cool. ";es, she d$d," "0l$*e has been bes$de h$mself, I'm tempted to let h$m go o*er there and say h$," "Ir$na's gone," "Wow, that was /u$c , my walls d$dn't e*en mo*e," she sa$d, the hurt clear on her face. "It's not what you th$n , noth$ng happened," "What do you mean noth$ng happened, you e"pect me to bel$e*e your (uss$an lo*er was o*er ton$ght and noth$ng happened=" "!el$e*e what you want !ella, but when I say Ir$na's gone, I mean, Ir$na's gone," I sa$d study$ng her closely. It suddenly became *ery $mportant to me that she understand th$s. ";ou mean, gone= -$ e, no more bangbang=" I snorted a l$ttle at that, she certa$nly a way of turn$ng a phrase. "6o more bangbang. +he's mo*$ng bac to %oscow, f$n$sh$ng her %asters there so." "Oh I see, so she's mo*$ng away. hat's why there's no more bangbang," she $nterrupted, pull$ng away from me further. ";es, she's mo*$ng away but." "Wow, only The 0oc ney left' )nd then there was one. I guess techn$cally one does not ma e up a harem, so w$ll she be shoulder$ng the load for the others or w$ll you need to be $nter*$ew$ng for some more women= 7ow does that wor e"actly=" she as ed, her words and tone becom$ng more and more sharp. I paused, ta $ng her $n. %y way was suddenly *ery clear, and I needed her to be clear as well. ")ctually, I am go$ng to be ha*$ng a con*ersat$on w$th Tanya *ery soon, I th$n we are go$ng to be &ust fr$ends from now on," I sa$d carefully, watch$ng her face. "What used to wor for me, &ust doesn't wor anymore." +urpr$se crossed her face f$rst, thenHhapp$ness= It was tough to say, as she wal ed towards the door /u$c ly. "I'm gonna go wash my face, don't mo*e, O@=" she $nstructed, po$nt$ng at me. "!ella, I'm not go$ng anywhere," I sm$led. +he rolled her eyes a l$ttle b$t, but I could tell she was pleased. I heard the water turn on $n the bathroom, and I loo ed around the room. I had no $dea what I was do$ng, but I felt good. I felt eyes on me, and I loo ed down to see 0l$*e s$tt$ng at my feet. We stared at each other for a moment, and then he &umped up on the bed ne"t to me. The stare down cont$nued, ne$ther of us w$ll$ng to brea the ga5e. ,$nally, w$thout mo*$ng h$s eyes from me, he l$fted one paw $n the a$r. 6ow, no one else was $n the room to w$tness th$s, but I would swear on a stac of b$bles that he was offer$ng me a $tty h$gh f$*e. )nd e*en though I couldn't bel$e*e what I was do$ng, I pressed my palm aga$nst h$s paw. I couldn't lea*e h$m hang$n'H 7e regarded me for one more long moment, then wal ed to the end of the bed, turned around, and started clean$ng h$s bac s$de. !ella came out of the bathroom &ust then, freshly washed and loo $ng much more l$ e herself. I loo ed at her e"pectantly. "O@, $t's late Edward, t$me for you to go," she sa$d, ta $ng me by the hand and lead$ng me through

her apartment and towards the front door. "Em, really= ;ou want me to go= 9on't you want to, I don't nowHtal a l$ttle more=" I as ed, as she cont$nued to pull on me. "6ope, no more tal $ng ton$ght, I'm t$red," she sa$d, open$ng her door and usher$ng me onto the land$ng. I turned bac to say goodn$ght, and she was hold$ng 1 f$ngers $n the a$r. "I need to say two th$ngs Edward, O@= Two th$ngs," she sa$d, and I nodded. ",$rst, you hurt my feel$ngs last wee end," she started, and I tr$ed to $nterrupt her. "+hut $t Edward, I don't want a rehash. !ut you need to now you hurt me," she f$n$shed, her face soften$ng somewhat. I wa$ted a moment, then loo ed around uncerta$nly. I ra$sed my hand, and she laughed. ";es Edward, you can spea ," she sa$d, the gr$n huge on her face. "I'm so so sorry about that, I'll try my best to ne*er hurt you aga$n," I offered, my apology lac $ng I'm sure, but true nonetheless. +he closed her eyes for a moment, and when they opened aga$n, they were full of m$sch$ef. ")pology accepted," she sa$d, and she began to close her door. "Wa$t !ella, what was the second th$ng=" I called out, cross$ng bac $nto her doorway and lean$ng o*er her. +he stepped closer to me, br$ng$ng her body to w$th$n $nches of m$ne. I could feel the heat of her s $n bounce across the t$ny space between us, ma $ng my body react $n ways that lately only !ella could $nduce. +he sm$led up at me l$ e the cat that had caught the canary. "I'm com$ng w$th you to +pa$n," she sa$d, and w$th a w$n , she closed the door.

0hapter F4 . Ele*at$on "Eggs, sunny.s$de up, bacon, wheat toast w$th raspberry &elly." "Oatmeal, w$th ra$s$ns and currants, c$nnamon and brown sugar, s$de of sausage l$n s." "!elg$an waffles, fru$t cup, bacon and sausage," (ose sa$d, complet$ng our order and earn$ng a ra$sed eyebrow from both )l$ce and I. "What= I'm hungry." "6$ce to see you gett$ng a real brea fast for a change. %ust ha*e been wor $ng up an appet$te w$th %r. %c0arty last n$ght, hmmm=" I teased, w$n $ng at )l$ce o*er my orange &u$ce glass. The three of us were together for brea fast on a +unday, someth$ng we hadn't done for a couple of wee s after the tr$p to Tahoe. +$nce then, they'd been bus$ly settl$ng $nto the l$fe of new coupledom w$th the$r recently sw$tched about boyfr$ends, wh$ch left me out most of the t$me. What's funny $s when they were dat$ng the wrong guys they were always more than happy to ha*e me along for the r$de, the more the merr$er they would say. It helped when there was no real chem$stry. !ut now= )l$ce and (ose were def$n$tely w$th the r$ght guys, and en&oy$ng e*ery second of $t. In$t$ally I'd been a l$ttle worr$ed that the #arent Trap shenan$gans would ma e th$ngs a l$ttle uncomfortable for my fr$ends, but they had made me proud. They too $t $n str$de, and s$nce each wound up w$th the$r new better half, all my worr$es went by the ways$de. We g$ggled th$s morn$ng as we got caught up on wor news and fr$endly goss$p, wa$t$ng unt$l the food arr$*ed for any b$g news, as was protocol. "O , who's go$ng f$rst, who has news=" )l$ce began, and we settled $nto our r$tual. (ose paused from sho*el$ng $n the waffles, $nd$cated that she would ser*e the f$rst *olley. "Emmett has to go to -) for a sportswr$ters $n tele*$s$on conference, and he as ed me to go w$th h$m," she offered, as )l$ce and I nodded. "Basper $s th$n $ng of lett$ng me reorgan$5e h$s home off$ce, you should see $t. 0$*$l War memorab$l$a e*erywhere," )l$ce g$ggled. "Bess$ca !lac referred two new cl$ents to me, 6ob 7$ll, *ery posh than you *ery much," I added to the con*ersat$on, pour$ng myself more coffee from the carafe as they congratulated me. We chewed. "Emmett tal s $n h$s sleep, $t's the cutest th$ng. 7e calls out football scores," "Basper let me pa$nt h$s toena$ls last n$ght." "I told Edward I'd go to +pa$n w$th h$m." 6ow I'*e seen a sp$t ta e on tele*$s$on many, many t$mes. !ut I'*e ne*er actually been present for one $n real l$fe. I was w$p$ng orange &u$ce and coffee off both s$des of my faceH "Wa$t a m$nute, wa$t a god damn m$nuteH what=" (ose sa$d, wa*$ng the wa$ter o*er and as $ng h$m for more nap $ns. "!ella, you told h$m what=" )l$ce managed, st$ll cho $ng on her &u$ce. "I told h$m I'd go to +pa$n w$th h$m, no b$g deal." I gr$nned, now$ng $t was a b$g deal $ndeed. "I can't bel$e*e you had the ner*e to s$t here and tal about random sh$t all morn$ng and not tell us th$s= When d$d th$s happen=" (ose as ed, lean$ng forward on her elbows and loo $ng for all the world l$ e Tom 0ru$se when he real$5ed he was about to get someth$ng good out of Bac 6$cholson. "The n$ght that I went on a date w$th Bames." They couldn't sp$t ta e aga$n, because they were now stay$ng away from l$/u$ds, but I felt sure that

there would ha*e been another shower $f the$r mouths had been full. "O@, that's $t +wan, no more d$c $ng around, sp$ll $t." )l$ce sa$d, round$ng on me w$th a butter n$fe and a frown. "What the hell !ella, I can't bel$e*e you ept all th$s from us, when d$d you go on a date w$th Bames= )nd don't you dare lea*e anyth$ng out, tell us e*eryth$ng now or I'll let )l$ce loose on you'" (ose warned, as )l$ce gestured $n a menac$ng way w$th sa$d n$fe. In a *ery West +$de +tory way m$nd you, I $mag$ned an actual f$ght w$th )l$ce would $n*ol*e h$tch $c s and barrel turnsH +o I too a deep breath and sp$lled. )ll of $t. Why I went out w$th Bames, the feel$ngs that had been percolat$ng w$th Edward, e*eryth$ng. They l$stened $ntently, only $nter&ect$ng occas$onally when they needed some clar$f$cat$on. "O@, hold onHyou $n*$ted Bames bac to your apartment, w$th the plan of g$*$ng h$m a l$ttle 7elloThere, but then stopped h$mHwhy=" )l$ce as ed, ha*$ng f$nally put down the n$fe and was now d$gg$ng $nto an order of bread pudd$ng. There was so much news to tell them, we had mo*ed on to dessert. We needed the carbs to get through $t all. "-oo , you two may ha*e not l$ ed Bames, but you ha*e to remember that we had a great t$me together, and $t was really good between us, for awh$le," I began, as they nodded. ")nd the se" was always phenomenal. )nd, well, I don't now, I guess after the Tahoe debacle w$th Edward, $t was n$ce to feelHwellHdes$red. E*en $f $t was someone that I new better than to get $n*ol*ed w$th," I adm$tted. I n$bbled on the crust from my peach cobbler as we all thought. "+o you were th$n $ng $t would be a onet$me $nd of th$ng=" (ose as ed. "I don't now what I was th$n $ng, we'd been spend$ng so much t$me together, wor $ng on h$s apartment, and $t's not that Bames was e*er a bad guy, he &ustH" "+ay $t !ella," )l$ce prompted, through a mouthful of bread pudd$ng. "Bames !rown $s absolutely, une/u$*ocally, w$thout a doubt, the wrong guy for me," I s$ghed, spoon$ng up some more cobbler. "Would'*e been n$ce $f Edward had heard you w$th another man though, &ust say$n'," (ose mumbled. "Oh he was home all r$ght, he made $t o*er &ust $n t$me for my brea down," I laughed, th$n $ng about that n$ght. "!rea down= What brea down=" )l$ce as ed. "Well, Bames came up, l$ e I sa$d, and we made $t bac $nto the bedroom, and I was plann$ng on go$ng through w$th $t, I really was, but he called me a decorator aga$n, and that &ust p$ssed me off royally," I sa$d, scrap$ng the bottom of my d$sh w$th my spoon angr$ly, as though $t had done someth$ng to personally offend me. ")nd then, when he real$5ed he wasn't go$ng to actually get any, he got a l$ttle tense and we had a few words, andH" "7e attac ed you' I new $t' I hate that guy, I always d$d' O@, heres what we need to do, we.")l$ce started, and I cut her off. "7e d$dn't attac me, settle down tater.tot. E*eryth$ng doesn't ha*e to be an afterschool spec$al. I mean, he's a guy' +o of course he thought he could put on a se"y face and wh$ne a l$ttle and I'd g$*e $n, but nope. !es$des, maybe $t's &ust been that long for me, but h$s se"y face loo ed a l$ttle more const$pated than I remember," I laughed, remember$ng the loo he ga*e me &ust before I told h$m to h$t the br$c s. "+o you stopped because he called you a decorator= That's the only reason !ella= 6oth$ng else was go$ng through your m$nd at all. 6oth$ng at all=" )l$ce pressed, shoot$ng a /u$c s$de loo at (ose. "Well, there was maybe another l$ttle thought wor $ng $ts way $n there." I adm$tted, remember$ng how clearly I saw Edward's face when I closed my eyes that n$ght. Bames and I were always *ery compat$ble, se"ually spea $ng, but when $t was h$s mouth on my nec , and h$s hands on my h$ps, I

couldn't h$de the fact from e*en myself that I had Wallbanger on the bra$n. "!es$des, Bames wants a d$fferent $nd of women than I am, someone that wants to be -$ttle %$ss 7ousew$fe and loo beaut$ful on a 0hr$stmas card, and that's not me. E"cept for the beaut$ful part of course," I laughed, and (ose and )l$ce &ust loo ed at me. "I'm so proud of you," (ose sa$d /u$etly, and )l$ce nodded her head $n agreement. ",or what=" I as ed, surpr$sed. "!ella, there was a t$me $f Bames told you to &ump, you'd fuc $ng &ump. I guess we thought h$m show$ng bac up $n your l$fe would ta e you bac to that g$rl aga$n," (ose e"pla$ned. "I now you were worr$ed. ;ou're both sweet and no one w$ll e*er ta e care of me as well as you two, e*en though you worry l$ e old ch$c ens $n a henhouse," I sm$led, and reached out to pat (ose on the arm. I w$n ed at )l$ce, and she gr$nned a toothy )l$ce gr$n bac . "+o you sent Bames !rown pac $ng, and then what happened=" (ose as ed, and I proceeded to tell them how the rest of the e*en$ng went. W$th Edward show$ng up, and e*eryth$ng elseH "+o you &ust, had th$s ep$phany $n the bathroom, &ust l$ e that= Go to +pa$n w$th Edward=" )l$ce as ed. ";ep, I d$dn't really o*er th$n $t. I &ust, I can't e"pla$n $tHI &ust now I should go on th$s tr$p. I mean, I'*e always wanted to go to +pa$n, and I now he'll be a good tour gu$de, and come on, how much fun w$ll $t be= We'll ha*e a blast together'" "!ullsh$t," (ose stated s$mply. "0ome aga$n=" "I call bullsh$t +wan, you're go$ng w$th Wallbanger because you want someth$ng to happen there w$th h$m, don't deny $t," she sa$d, eye$ng me se*erely. "I deny noth$ng," I /u$pped, s$gnal$ng the wa$ter for our chec . ")nd he's gotten r$d of two out of three harem ch$pp$es, r$ght=" )l$ce as ed. "+o $t would seem. I'm not a fool, I now a man l$ e Wallbanger doesn't change o*ern$ght, but $f The 0oc ney $s out of the way before +pa$n= Well then, that's a banger of a d$fferent color now $sn't $t=" I gr$nned chee $ly, w$ggl$ng my eyebrows at my g$rls. "Why !ella +wan, I do bel$e*e you plan on seduc$ng th$s banger," (ose answered, wh$le )l$ce clapped her hands w$th glee. "We'll see," I allowed, now$ng that I wouldn't dare put myself $n the same pos$t$on as I d$d $n the hot tub aga$n. "If, and th$s $s a b$g fat $f lad$es, $f I e*er allow anyth$ng to happen between Wallbanger and me, $t's gonna me on my terms. Wh$ch would $nclude no harem, no dr$n $ng, and no hot tubb$ng," "I don't now !ella, no dr$n $ng= I th$n $t'd be cr$m$nal to be $n +pa$n and not be $ndulg$ng $n a l$ttle +angr$a," )l$ce p$ped up. "Well, I do en&oy me some +angr$a," I mused. :$s$ons of Edward and I, s$pp$ng +angr$a wh$le watch$ng the +pan$sh sunset. 7mmmH "."."."." Te"t $ntercepted from Edward to !ella So are #ou the t#pe o& girl that wears a !ig &lopp# hat on the !ea h? /ardon me? +ou )now" those ra;# giant !ea h hats? *o #ou have one? As it happens" #es. $s this a on ern o& #ours?

3on ern no. .ust tr#ing to get a visual o& #ou on the !ea h in Spain0 How%s that wor)ing out &or #ou? /rett# spi&&# Spi&&#? *id #ou (ust sa# spi&&#? $ t#ped it a tuall#" #ou got something against spi&&#? -his explains the old re ords0 HE+! $ en(o# the old re ords" #ou )now this0 $ do )now this0 Are we reall# going to Spain together? +ep Are #ou home? $ didn%t see the ,over this morning 3he )ing up on me? /erhaps0where #ou at Wall!anger? Have a shoot in LA" driving !a ) in a &ew da#s0 an $ see #ou when $ get !a )? We%ll see0 $%ll pla# re ords &or #ou0 Spi&&# "."."."." "+o, s$nce th$ngs are all completed on the !lac pro&ect, and I'm almost done w$th the !rown pro&ect, I was th$n $ngHs$nce I don't ha*e anyth$ng l$ned up for a few wee s, and you ment$oned before that I could ta e some t$me off before the 7ol$day season, that, well, maybe I couldH" "+p$t $t out !ella, you try$ng to as me $f you can go to +pa$n w$th Edward=" Esme as ed, not try$ng *ery hard to h$de her sm$le. "%aybe," I w$nced, dropp$ng my forehead to the des and bang$ng $t sl$ghtly. 7ow aproposH ";ou're a grown woman, capable of ma $ng her own dec$s$ons. ;ou now I th$n $t's a good t$me to ta e *acat$on, so why should I tell you whether you should go away w$th Edward or not=" "Esme, to clar$fy, I'm not going awa! w$th Edward, you ma e $t sound l$ e some $ll$c$t affa$r," "($ght r$ght, $t's &ust two young people off to en&oy a l$ttle +pan$sh culture, how could I forget," Esme drawled $ns$nuat$on all o*er her face, as well as a l$ttle sat$sfact$on. +he was en&oy$ng my s/u$rm$ng. "O@, O@, so can I go=" I as ed, now$ng that I would ne*er hear the end of $t, but was past car$ng. "Of course you can, but can I &ust say one th$ng=" she as ed, eyebrows ra$sed. "-$ e I could stop you," I grumbled. ";ou couldn't actually. )ll I as $s that you ha*e a good t$me, play hard, and ta e care of h$m wh$le you're there, o =" she as ed, her face ta $ng on a ser$ousness that I rarely saw. "Ta e care of h$m= What $s he, se*en=" I laughed, st$fl$ng when I saw that she was more ser$ous than I thought. "!ella, th$s tr$p w$ll change th$ngs. ;ou must now that. )nd I lo*e you both, I don't want e$ther of you to get hurt, no matter what transp$res wh$le you're there," she sa$d softly, care clear $n her tone

and $n her eyes. I started to ma e a &o e, but I stopped. I new what she was as $ng. "Esme, I don't now /u$te what's go$ng on between Edward and I, and I'*e no $dea what's go$ng to happen $n +pa$n. !ut I can tell you th$s, I'm /u$te e"c$ted about th$s tr$p. )nd I get the sense he $s too," I added. "Oh my dear, he's def$n$tely e"c$ted. Bust, be careful," "I prom$se," I answered, and she reached across the des to pat my hand affect$onately. "6ow then, f$ll me $n on where we stand w$th Bames !rown, what's left to be done=" she as ed, w$th a deep breath and chang$ng the mood $n the room ent$rely. I sm$led, and fl$pped my planner open to the end of that wee , when I would be f$n$sh$ng up w$th )ll Th$ngs Bames !rown. "."."."." I was $n my apartment a few n$ghts later, settl$ng $nto my couch comfortably w$th %r. 0l$*e and !arefoot 0ontessa when I heard someth$ng $n the hallway. 0l$*e and I loo ed at each other, and he &umped off my lap to $n*est$gate. I new Edward wasn't due home for another day or so based on h$s te"ts, and the fact that I m$ght ha*e been count$ng the days, so I followed 0l$*e to my old postHThe #eephole. I peered out $nto the hallway, see$ng a flash of strawberry blonde ha$r at Edward's door. Who was *$s$t$ng Edward= Was I wrong to stare= What was that pac age she had w$th her= The woman that the ha$r belonged to noc ed once, then tw$ce, then before I new $t, wh$rled about and loo ed d$rectly at my door, cur$ously star$ng at my #eephole. 6ot accustomed to anyone star$ng at my #eephole, I fro5e, eyes unbl$n $ng as she appra$sed my door. +he crossed the t$ny land$ng, and rapped soundly on my door. +urpr$sed, I fl$nched bac a l$ttle, bump$ng $nto my umbrella stand and lett$ng her now that there was, $n fact, someone home. I turned my face to the s$de and shouted, "0om$ng'", then proceeded to wal $n place as though I was headed for the door. 0l$*e loo ed on w$th $nterest, toss$ng h$s head, assur$ng me that I was not nearly as cle*er as I thought I was. I made a great no$se of cl$c $ng the loc s, and then opened the door. We appra$sed each other $nstantly, $n the way that women do. +he was tall, beaut$ful $n a cold patr$c$an way. +he wore a blac su$t, se*erely cut and buttoned up to the collar. 7er strawberry blonde ha$r was tw$sted and p$nned bac , although one sol$tary p$ece had marched away from her s$sters and now hung $n her face, wh$ch she now pushed bac beh$nd her ear. 7er cherry red l$ps pursed as she loo ed me o*er as well, and then offered me a th$n sm$le. "!ella, yes=" she as ed, a sol$dly !r$t$sh accent p$erc$ng the a$r as clearly as her att$tude. I already new I d$dn't care for th$s woman. ";es, can I help you=" I offered, suddenly feel$ng underdressed $n my Garf$eld bo"ers and tan top. I sh$fted my we$ght from one leg to the other, feet clad $n g$ant soc s. I sh$fted my we$ght aga$n, real$5$ng that I probably loo ed l$ e I had to pee. I also real$5ed at the same t$me that th$s woman made me ner*ous, and I had no $dea why. I stra$ghtened up $mmed$ately, putt$ng my game face on. Th$s all too place $n less than K seconds, a l$fet$me $n the world of Woman ,$gur$ng Out The Other Woman. "I needed to drop th$s off for Edward, and he ment$oned that $f he wasn't at home to lea*e $t at the flat across from h$s, that ;ella would ta e care of $t for h$m. ;ou're !ella, so here you go I suppose," she f$n$shed, thrust$ng a cardboard bo" towards me. I too $t, ta $ng my eyes off of hers for a moment. "What does he th$n I am a ma$lbo"=" I muttered, sett$ng $n on the table &ust $ns$de the door and turn$ng bac towards the woman. "%ay I tell h$m who dropped th$s off, or w$ll he now=" I as ed, as she stood $n the hallway, st$ll loo $ng me o*er as though I were a great pu55le. "Tanya, but he'll now," she answered, her cool tone sound$ng mus$cal but cl$pped at the same t$me.

)s an )mer$can, I adm$t I was always fasc$nated by a !r$t$sh accent, but could do w$thout the s$de of super$or$ty. "O , wellHI'll ma e sure he gets $t," I nodded, lean$ng my hand on the door. I closed $t e*er so sl$ghtly, but she d$dn't mo*e. "Is there anyth$ng else=" I as ed, not want$ng to be rude, but I could hear Ina wor $ng on her shortbread $n the other room and I d$dn't want to m$ss any @$tchena$d porn. "6o, noth$ng else," she repl$ed, st$ll ma $ng no mo*e. "O@ then, ha*e a good n$ght," I answered, almost ma $ng $t a /uest$on as I started to close the door sl$ghtly. Bust as I d$d, she stepped forward &ust enough so that I was forced to catch the door before $t h$t her. ";es=" I as ed, my $rr$tat$on beg$nn$ng to show through. Th$s -$mey was stopp$ng me from see$ng the complet$on of the pecan s/uares I'd been wa$t$ng for all ep$sode. "I &ust, well, I'm really glad to ha*e met you," she answered, her eyes soften$ng f$nally and a h$nt of a sm$le brea $ng through her faPade. ")nd you really are /u$te lo*ely," she added. I stared bac at her, th$n $ng her *o$ce sounded oddly fam$l$ar but couldn't /u$te place $t. "Em O , than you=" I answered, as she started for the sta$rwell. 7er heel caught &ust sl$ghtly and she stumbled a l$ttle. )s I was clos$ng the door I heard her say, $n a tone completely at odds w$th her appearance, "Gordon ruddy fuc $ng !ennettH" %y eyes w$dened to the s$5e of dahl$as, and I hurled the door bac open. I stared unabashedly at her, and her face bro e open $nto the w$dest chee y gr$n. +he w$n ed as I blushed, real$5$ng e"actly who th$s woman was and how I'd been present for some of her greatest moments. +he w$ggled her f$ngers at me $n a goodbye, and she made her way down the sta$rs. 0l$*e brought me bac from my stupor by l$ghtly n$pp$ng me on the calf, and I closed the door. I sat on my couch, pecan s/uares all but forgotten as my bra$n processed e*eryth$ng that had &ust happened. I'd &ust been *$s$ted by The 0oc ney. Who sa$d I was lo*ely. )nd she bas$cally told me that Edward told her I was lo*ely. Edward thought I was lo*ely. Was The 0oc ney out of the harem= Was there e*en a harem left= What d$d th$s mean= Would I only th$n $n /uest$ons now= )nd $f so, who $s Er$c 0artman's father= "."."."." Te"t $ntercepted from Edward to !ella What are #ou doing? What are +'9 doing? $ as)ed #ou &irst +ou sure did Waiting0 1e too0.

.esus #ou%re stu!!orn. $%m driving !a ) &rom LA" happ# now? +es than) #ou. $%m !a)ing pump)in !read. $t%s a good thing $%m at a gas station right now and now driving or $ would have a hard time )eeping the ar on the road0 ,ight" the !a)ing gets #ou wor)ed up doesn%t it? +ou have no idea So $ pro!a!l# shouldn%t tell #ou that $ smell li)e innamon and ginger right now? Bella0 How a!out the &a t that $%m soa)ing m# raisins in !rand# at this ver# minute? -hat%s it0 I peered out the w$ndow aga$n, scann$ng the street below and st$ll see$ng no s$gns of the (o*er. The fog was gett$ng /u$te th$c , and although I d$dn't want to be a nag, I was gett$ng a l$ttle concerned that he wasn't home yet. %y loa*es had been cool$ng for awh$le now, and no !anger had shown up to $nhale them. I p$c ed up my phone to te"t Edward, but then called $nstead. I d$dn't want h$m te"t$ng wh$le he was on the road. It rang a few t$mes, and then he p$c ed up. "7$ there my fa*or$te ba er," he purred $nto the phone, and my nees clan ed together. Wallbanger was l$ e the best @egel e"erc$se e*er, he prompted $nstant clench. ")re you close=" "#ardon me=" he laughed. "0lose to home. )re you close to home=" I as ed, roll$ng my eyes, and unclench$ng the hoohah. ";es, why=" "There seems to be a lot of fog ton$ght, I mean, more than usualHbe careful O@=" "That's *ery sweet of you to be loo $ng out for me," "+hut up Wallbanger, I always loo out for my fr$ends," I scolded, ma $ng my way bac towards my bedroom and start$ng to get ready for bed. I was a mult$tas er from way bac . I could do my ta"es wh$le gett$ng wa"ed, and not bat an eye. I could certa$nly get undressed wh$le tal $ng to Edward. )hem. ",r$ends= Is that what we are=" he as ed. "What the hell else would we be=" I shot bac , pull$ng my shorts off and grabb$ng a pa$r of th$c woolen soc s. The floor was ch$lly ton$ght. "7mmm" he muttered, as I too off my t.sh$rt and sl$pped $nto a button down to sleep $n. "Well, wh$le you are hmmm$ng, I ha*e to tell you about the *$s$t I had earl$er th$s wee from a fr$end of yours," ") fr$end of %ine= Th$s sounds $ntr$gu$ng," ";ep, Bul$e )ndrews accent, buttoned up !r$t= ($ng any bells= +he dropped off a bo" for you, I ha*e $t here when you get bac ," I e"pla$ned, wh$le h$s laughter rang out. "Bul$e )ndrews accent, that's br$ll$ant' That must ha*e been Tanya, you met Tanya'" he cont$nued, laugh$ng all the wh$le l$ e he had heard the funn$est th$ng e*er. "Tanya +chmanya, she w$ll always be The 0oc ney to me," I sm$r ed, s$tt$ng on the edge of my bed and apply$ng my #h$losophy )ma5$ng Grace body lot$on. %y fa*or$te, the perfect blend of classy and sweet, w$th a h$nt of warmth. "Why do you call her The 0oc ney=" he as ed, and I could tell he was on the *erge of go$ng $nto

absolute hyster$cs. In my head, a slew of Tanya's f$ner moments ran through my head and I cursed myself once more for not as $ng her who the hell Gordon !ennett was when I had the chance. ";ou really need me to tell you= 0ome on, e*en you can't be that th$c ..ne*er m$nd, wal ed r$ght $nto that one," I cut h$m off before he could go $nto deta$l how th$c he was, $ndeed. I had been pressed up aga$nst that *ery th$c $n a hot tub, so I was fam$l$ar. @egel, and than you, another @egel. "I l$ e mess$ng w$th you 6$ght$e G$rl, $t g$*es me a g$ggle," ",$rst spiff!, now a giggleHI worry about you Edward," I teased bac , head$ng bac $nto the fam$ly room to turn off l$ghts and get the place ready for bed. Wh$ch $ncluded freshen$ng 0l$*e's water bowl, and h$d$ng a few 9ounce around the apartment. 7e en&oyed play$ng !$g Game 7unter wh$le I was sleep$ng somet$mes, the 9ounce be$ng the b$g game. +ome n$ghts the p$llows were unfortunately $n*ol*ed, as well as any ha$r t$es, loose shoelaces, and pretty much anyth$ng else that a cat m$ght en&oy attac $ng around 1am. +ome morn$ngs my place loo ed l$ e W$ld @$ngdom had been f$lmed o*ern$ghtH "Well no worr$es, I'll p$c $t up when I get bac . +o, d$d you two ha*e a n$ce chat=" "We chatted br$efly yes, but no d$rty secrets were shared. )lthough w$th the th$n walls, I'm already a b$t fam$l$ar. 7ow $s the lonely harem.ette= %$ss$ng her s$sters=" I teased aga$n, fl$pp$ng off l$ghts and padd$ng through the $tchen to fetch the !$g Game. I was dy$ng to as h$m $f he had actually bro en up w$th The 0oc ney, as he had h$nted at. In that guy h$nt$ng way that ne*er actually meant anyth$ng, but you were left constantly analy5$ng. 9$d he, d$d he not= "+he may be a b$t lonely yes," he sa$d, $n what I thought sounded $n a careful way. 7mmH "-onely becauseH" I led, paus$ng $n my 9ounce scatter$ng and tens$ng up, wa$t$ng to see what he would say. "-onely because, well, let's &ust say, for the f$rst t$me, $n a *ery long t$me, I am HwellHI amHyou seeH" he stuttered and stalled, danc$ng around the $ssue. "+ay $t. Out loud," I $nstructed, barely mo*$ng. "W$thout. ,emale. 0ompan$onsh$p. Or as you would say, harem free," he breathed, the words com$ng out $n a /u$et whoosh, and my legs began a l$ttle sh$mmy sha e, ma $ng the 9ounce sh$mmy sha e $n the$r conta$ner , alert$ng 0l$*e to beg$n h$s hunt a l$ttle early. "7arem free huh=" I breathed bac , *$s$ons of +ugar Edwards danc$ng $n my head. +$ngle +ugar Edwards, +$ngle +ugar Edwards $n +pa$nH ";eah," he wh$spered, and we were both s$lent for what seemed l$ e months, when $n actual$ty $t was only enough t$me for 0l$*e to cla$m h$s f$rst *$ct$m, f$nd$ng the 9ounce h$dden $n my tenn$s shoe by the front door. I wal ed towards where he was, to congratulate h$m on h$s catch. "+he sa$d someth$ng that was cur$ous," I ment$oned, brea $ng h$s spell. "Oh yeah= What's that=" he as ed. "+he told me, and I /uote, that I was /u$te lo*ely," "9$d she now=" he laughed, eas$ng bac $nto the comfortable nature we had around each other. ";es, and the th$ng of $t $s, she sa$d $t l$ e she was agree$ng w$th someone else had already sa$d. 6ow I'm not a g$rl who f$shes for compl$ments, but $t would seem , Wallbanger, that you were tal $ng sweet about me," I sm$led, now$ng my face was brea $ng $nto a p$n glow. I started bac for the bedroom when I heard a soft noc $ng at the door. I wal ed bac , unloc $ng the door and open$ng $t w$thout loo $ng out of the peephole, gett$ng a strong feel$ng that I new who was on the other s$de of the door. There he stood, phone $n hand and cradled to h$s ear, hold$ng h$s duffel bag and sm$l$ng a b$g toothy gr$n.

"I told her you were lo*ely, but the truth $s, you're more than lo*ely," he sa$d, bow$ng h$s head towards m$ne and br$ng$ng h$s face to w$th$n $nches of my own. "%ore=" I as ed, barely draw$ng breath at th$s po$nt. I now my own gr$n matched h$s. ";ou're e"/u$s$te," he sa$d s$mply, and w$th that, I $n*$ted h$m $n. Wh$le wear$ng only my button down. ,rom far away, the O cheeredH "."."."." )n hour later, we were s$tt$ng together at the $tchen table, a dec$mated loaf $n front of us. In between h$s frant$c paw$ng of sa$d loaf, I'd managed a b$te or two. The rest now l$*ed $n Edward's tummy, wh$ch he proudly thumped l$ e a melon. We'd tal ed and ate, got caught up, watched 0l$*e as he f$n$shed h$s hunt, and were now rela"$ng as the coffee brewed. 7$s bag was by the front door st$ll, he hadn't e*en gone to h$s apartment yet. I was st$ll $n my button down, feet curled beneath the cha$r as I stared at h$m. We were so comfortable, and yet that low le*el hum, that electr$c$ty that was always spar $ng and snar $ng between us cont$nued. ",antast$c touch by the way, your ra$s$ns= -o*ed them," he sm$r ed at me, po $ng one more errant ra$s$n $n h$s mouth. ";ou're terr$ble," I rolled my eyes, stretch$ng up out of my cha$r and collect$ng the plates and the few crumbs that had not been $nhaled. 7$s eyes watched me as I mo*ed about the $tchen. I grabbed the pot of coffee, ra$s$ng my eyebrows at h$m and he nodded. I stood ne"t to h$s cha$r to f$ll h$s mug, and I caught h$m pee $ng at my legs below my sh$rt. "+ee someth$ng you l$ e=" I teased, lean$ng across h$m to the sugar bowl. ";ep," he answered, lean$ng towards me to ta e $t. "+ugar=" ";ep," "0ream=" ";ep," "That all you can say=" "6ope," "G$mme someth$ng then, anyth$ng," I g$ggled, wal $ng bac around to my s$de. Once aga$n, h$s eyes watched me as I arranged myself $n the cha$r. "7ow about th$s=" he f$nally sa$d, rest$ng on h$s elbows, face $ntense. ")s I ment$oned earl$er, I bro e $t off w$th Tanya," I stared bac at h$m, barely breath$ng. I tr$ed to play $t cool, so cool, but I couldn't stop the gr$n from snea $ng across my face. "I see you are not at all bro en up by th$s," he scoffed, s$tt$ng bac $n h$s cha$r. "6ot so much, no. Want the truth=" I as ed, the gr$n g$*$ng way to a sudden surge of conf$dence. "Truth would be good," "I mean truth truth, bac and forth truth, no w$tty comebac s, no snappy banter, although we do g$*e great banter," I added. "We do, but I could go for some truth," he sa$d, h$s *o$ce /u$et as the l$mes bla5ed away at me. "O@, truth. I'm glad you bro e th$ngs off w$th Tanya," ";ou are, are you="

";es. Why d$d you= Truth now," I rem$nded h$m. 7e regarded me for a moment, s$pped h$s coffee, ran h$s hands through h$s ha$r $n a man$acal way, then too a deep breath. "O@, truth. I bro e $t off w$th Tanya because I d$dn't want to be w$th her anymore. W$th any other women $n fact," he f$n$shed, sett$ng h$s cup down. "We'll always be fr$ends, but the truth $s, I'*e been f$nd$ng lately that three women= It's a lot for me to handle. I'm th$n $ng of par$ng th$ngs down a b$t," he sm$led, the l$mes gett$ng dangerous. @now$ng I was a gr$n and a clench away from total embarrassment, I stood /u$c ly and wal ed $nto the $tchen. I dumped my coffee $n the s$n , and stood there for a second, only a second, thoughts wh$rl$ng. 7e was s$ngle. 7e. Was. +$ngle. %other fuc er, he was +I6G-E. I felt h$m mo*e across the $tchen unt$l he was stand$ng r$ght beh$nd me. I fro5e, feel$ng h$s hands gently brush my ha$r away from my shoulders, and then sl$p down to my h$ps. 7$s mouth, h$s e*er lo*$ng mouth barely touched the shell of my ear, and wh$spered, "Truth= I can't stop th$n $ng about you," +t$ll fac$ng away from h$m, my mouth dropped open and my eyes went w$de, torn between f$st pump$ng and actual $tchen se". !efore I could dec$de, h$s mouth now mo*ed more purposefully, press$ng $nto the s $n &ust below my ear and ma $ng my bra$n burn and my hoohah dance a &$g. 7$s hands gr$pped my h$ps w$th strength, and he turned me towards h$m, towards that body and those se" l$mes. I /u$c ly composed my face, los$ng the frea .out loo and try$ng desperately to eep $t together. "Truth= I'*e been th$n $ng about you s$nce the n$ght you banged on my door," he wh$spered, bend$ng towards my nec and $ss$ng the hollow of my nec w$th breathta $ng prec$s$on. 7$s ha$r t$c led my nose and I fought to eep my hands to myself. 7e pushed me to the s$de a l$ttle, surpr$s$ng me by l$ft$ng me onto the counter. %y legs automat$cally opened to allow h$m between them, the En$*ersal -aw of Wallbanger supersed$ng any actual thought I had $n my head2 my th$ghs new what to do. One hand snuc around to the small of my bac , wh$le the other gr$pped the bac of my nec . "Truth=" he as ed one more t$me, then pulled my h$ps to the edge of the counter, forc$ng me to lean bac as my legs once more went on auto.p$lot, wrapp$ng themsel*es around h$s wa$st. "I want you $n +pa$n," he breathed, then brought h$s mouth to m$ne. +omewhere, a $tty began to callHand an O f$nally began to ma e her way home. "."."."." "%ore w$ne %r. %asen=" "6o more for me, !ella=" "I'm f$ne, than you," I answered, stretch$ng out lu"ur$ously $n my seat. ,$rst class to -aGuard$a, then f$rst class all the way to %adr$d. We would be ta $ng a car from there to 6er&a, the small coastal town where Edward had rented a house. +cuba d$*$ng, spelun $ng, h$ $ng, beaut$ful beaches and mounta$ns, all set $n a lo*ely /ua$nt *$llage. Edward s/u$rmed $n h$s seat, and shot an angry loo o*er h$s shoulder. "What= What's the problem=" I as ed, loo $ng beh$nd and see$ng noth$ng out of the ord$nary. "That $d eeps bang$ng my seat," he grumbled through clenched teeth, and I laughed for a sol$d twenty m$nutes.

0hapter FD Into the 7eart "We d$d $t too soon, we should ha*e wa$ted." "We wa$ted long enough, are you $dd$ng= ;ou now I was r$ght, $t was t$me to do $t." "T$me to do $t, what a croc Hwe could ha*e wa$ted &ust a l$ttle longer and then we wouldn't be $n the mess we're $n now." "Well I d$dn't hear you compla$n$ng at the t$me, you seemed pretty pleased as I recall." "I couldn't compla$n, my mouth was full. !ut I had a feel$ng, I &ust new th$s was wrong, what we were do$ng was $nherently wrong." "O , I g$*e up, you tell me how to f$" th$s." "Well for starters you're hold$ng $t ups$de down," I shot bac , grabb$ng the map and turn$ng $t r$ght s$de up. We had been par ed along the s$de of the road for f$*e m$nutes, try$ng to f$gure out how to get to 6er&a. )fter land$ng $n %adr$d, na*$gat$ng customs, na*$gat$ng the rental car system, and f$nally na*$gat$ng our way successfully away from the c$ty center, we were now lost. Edward dro*e, so I was $n charge of the map. )nd by that I mean he too $t away from me e*ery ten m$nutes or so, loo ed $t o*er, hmm'd and haw'd, and then thrust $t bac my way. 7e d$dn't actually l$sten to what I had to say, $nstead rely$ng on h$s $nnate man.map that all males ha*e. 7e refused to turn on the G#+ that was pro*$ded for us, aga$n, $nstead determ$ned to get us there the old fash$oned way. Wh$ch $s why we were now lost. Ta $ng a tra$n would ha*e been too easy. Edward needed a car to get around to get h$s shots, wh$ch $s ult$mately why we were here. )fter fly$ng through the n$ght, we were both e"hausted, but the best way to f$ght &et lag, allegedly, was to try to get on local t$me as /u$c ly as poss$ble. Wh$ch meant we had both agreed not to nap unt$l we could go to sleep that n$ght. )t f$rst th$s was easy to accompl$sh, as I was sto ed to f$nally be $n the country I had been dream$ng of *$s$t$ng as long as I could remember. Edward found me endlessly amus$ng as I loo ed left to r$ght, shout$ng out landmar s as we dro*e through the c$ty of %adr$d and $nto the countrys$de. It was tough, be$ng $n %adr$d and do$ng 5ero s$ghtsee$ng, but as I was accompany$ng Edward on h$s tr$p, I was sub&ect to h$s schedule. )nd that was o , I new I would be bac someday and would be able to see more of the trad$t$onal s$ghts. 6ow we sat, on the s$de of the road, as we argued about where we too a wrong turn. I had been de*our$ng some churros from a local stand when the wrong turn supposedly too place, and now we played "#lace the !lame". ")ll I'm say$ng $s that $f someone wasn't stuff$ng the$r face and was watch$ng for the turn, we wouldn't be." "+tuff$ng %! face= +er$ously= ;ou were steal$ng %! churros, I told you to get your own when we stopped'" "Well I wasn't hungry at f$rst, but then you were smac $ng your l$ps and l$c $ng that chocolate, and wellHI got d$stracted," he gr$nned, brea $ng the tens$on. We were stand$ng on the s$de of the road, map spread out on the hood of our car. "9$stracted huh=" I gr$nned bac , lean$ng a l$ttle closer to h$m. )s he loo ed at the map, I loo ed at h$m. 7ow could someone who had been on a plane for the last hundred years loo as good as he d$d= !ut there he was, faded &eans, blac t.sh$rt, dar green 6orth ,ace &ac et. Twenty four hours worth of stubble that was begg$ng to be l$c ed. Who l$c ed stubble= %e, that's who. 7e braced h$mself on h$s strong arms as he stud$ed the map, h$s l$ps mo*$ng soundlessly as he tr$ed to f$gure out where we too the wrong turn. I snuc underneath h$s arms, effect$*ely drap$ng myself across the hood of the car as shamelessly as a p$n up g$rl $n a garage calendar. "0an I ma e a suggest$on=" "It $s a lewd suggest$on="

"+urpr$s$ngly no, can we please turn on the G#+= I'd l$ e to ma e $t there before I ha*e to lea*e $n four days," I moaned. 9ue to my last m$nute t$c et boo $ng, I actually had to fly bac a day before Edward, and would only get to be there for f$*e days. !ut f$*e days $n +pa$nHI was not compla$n$ng. "!ella, only puss$es use G#+," he scoffed, turn$ng the map aga$n. "Well th$s pussy $s dy$ng for some d$nner, and a shower, and a bed, and to get r$d of th$s &et lag. +o unless you want to see me reenact +t /appened One &ight, +pan$sh *ers$on, turn on the mother fuc $ng G#+ Wallbanger," I warned, grabb$ng h$m by the 6orth ,ace and pull$ng h$m down to me. "9$d that sound harsh=" I wh$spered, g$*$ng h$m the t$n$est of $sses on the ch$n. ";es, I'm terr$f$ed of you now." "9oes th$s mean G#+=" "It means G#+," he s$ghed res$gnedly, lean$ng bac and pull$ng me off the car w$th h$m. I ga*e a l$ttle cheer and started for the door. "6o no no, you were harsh 6$ght$e G$rl, I'm gonna need some sugar," he $nstructed, eyes tw$n l$ng. ";ou need some sugar=" I as ed, as he tugged on my arm, br$ng$ng me bac to h$m. ";es, I re/u$re $t." ";ou're tw$sted Edward," I laughed, as I leaned $nto h$m, sl$pp$ng my arms around h$s nec . ";ou ha*e no $dea," he repl$ed, l$c $ng h$s l$ps and waggl$ng h$s eyebrows l$ e an old t$mey gangster. "0ome get your sugar," I teased, as he brought h$s l$ps to m$ne. I would ne*er get t$red of $ss$ng Edward. I mean, how could you= +$nce the n$ght he "truthed" me r$ght up onto my $tchen counter, we had slowly been e"plor$ng th$s new s$de to our relat$onsh$p. Enderneath all the snar and spar , there was some ser$ous se"ual tens$on that had been bu$ld$ng these many months. )nd we were lett$ng $t all out, albe$t slowly. +ure, we could ha*e raced r$ght bac to the bedroom that n$ght and let the se" r$ng out across the c$ty for days, but Edward and I, w$thout say$ng a word, seemed to be on the same page for once, and were content to let th$s unfold naturally. 7e was woo$ng me. )nd I was lett$ng h$m woo. I wanted the woo, I deser*ed the woo. I needed the wow that would surely follow the woo, but for now, the woo= It was woah. )nd spea $ng of wooH Edward's l$ps on m$ne made me drun . I mean, he actually $nto"$cated me. 6o l$e. I could feel my bra$n beg$n to fog and lea*e me beh$nd. 7e was phys$cally $nto"$cat$ng me, ma $ng me drun on !anger. 7e was l$ e some $nd of se"ual hero$n, destroy$ng my bra$n. %y bra$n= Who needs a bra$n= I d$dn't need $t. %y hands sl$pped $nto h$s ha$r, tugg$ng and tw$st$ng and try$ng to pull h$s ent$re body $ns$de my own. 7e groaned $nto my mouth, a sound that could ha*e $nsp$red cho$rs of angels to turn to s$n. I felt h$s tongue touch m$ne, and I fell apart at the seams. I s$ghed, the t$n$est wh$mper, and $t became harder and harder to $ss h$m due to the g$ant gr$n that was o*erta $ng my face. 7e pulled bac a l$ttle, and laughed. ";ou sure loo happy." "@eep $ss$ng me please," I $ns$sted, br$ng$ng h$s face bac to m$ne. "It's l$ e $ss$ng a Bac 'o' lantern, what's w$th the gr$n=" he laughed aga$n, sm$l$ng down at me w$th a gr$n that loo ed as w$de as my own. "I'm happy, aren't you=" I s$ghed contentedly, mess$ng w$th h$s ha$r. "I don't th$n happy $s the word for $t, but yes, I'm happy," he answered, $ss$ng me aga$n, gently,

sweetly. "O cowboy, ready to see where the G#+ ta es us=" I as ed, mess$ng up h$s ha$r and stepp$ng away. I couldn't eep my hands on h$m for too long, or we would ne*er lea*e. "-et's see how lost we really are," he gr$nned, and we were on our way. MMM "I th$n th$s $s the turn, yep, th$s $s $t," he sa$d, ma $ng me bounce $n my seat. It turned out, as soon we >the G#+? f$gured out where we were, we were only about FK $lometers away from 6er&a, and we were gett$ng a b$t punchy as the &et lag began to assert $tself a b$t more. Wh$ch for us man$fested as slap happy. )s we made one last turn, we both loo ed at each other and I s/uealed. We had seen b$ts of the ocean for the last few m$les or so, pee $ng out e*ery so often from beh$nd a stand of trees or o*er a cl$ff. 6ow as we turned down a t$ny cobblestone dr$*e, the real$5at$on that Edward had rented a house not &ust near the beach, but on the beach became apparent, and I was struc s$lent by the s$ght $n front of me. Edward pulled up to the house, the t$res crunch$ng the soft stones. When he turned the car off, we were both /u$et, and I could $nstantly hear the sounds of the wa*es crash$ng aga$nst the roc y coast that was only about a hundred feet away. We sat for a moment, &ust ta $ng $t all $n, gr$nn$ng at each other before I scrambled out of the car. "Th$s $s where we're stay$ng= Th$s ent$re house, $t's yours=" I e"cla$med as he grabbed our carry.on bags and mo*ed to stand ne"t to me. "It's ours, yeah," he sm$led, and gestured for me to wal ahead of h$m. )s I wal ed towards the house, my eyes grew b$gger and b$gger. It was charm$ng and magn$f$cent all at the same t$me. Wh$te stucco walls, clay t$led roof, clean l$nes and soft archways. Orange trees l$ned the wal way from the dr$*e, and bouga$n*$llea cl$mbed the garden walls. The house was a class$c cottage, bu$lt to weather the sea and cocoon those $ns$de. )s Edward loo ed under the flowerpots for the ey, I $nhaled the c$trus scents, the green grass and the d$st$nctly salty a$r. ") ha' Got $t, ready to see the $ns$de=" he as ed, struggl$ng w$th the door. I reached for h$s hand, thread$ng my f$ngers through h$s, and leaned $n to $ss h$s chee . "Than you." ",or what=" he as ed. ",or br$ng$ng me here," I sm$led, and $ssed h$m s/uare on the l$ps. "%mm, more of that sugar you prom$sed me," he gr$nned, dropp$ng the bag and catch$ng me $nto a close embrace. "+ugar th$s, let's see the house'" I cr$ed, w$ggl$ng free and charg$ng past h$m through the door. )s soon as I made $t past the f$rst entryway, I stopped cold. 7e was close on my heels, and he bumped $nto me as I stood st$ll, &ust ta $ng $t all $n. ) sun en l$*$ng room, dotted w$th plush wh$te sofas and comfy loo $ng cha$rs opened up to what I assumed was the $tchen. ,rench doors at the bac of the house opened onto se*eral large terrace pat$os, s$n $ng down towards the roc y beach. !ut what was truly ama5$ng was the ocean. ,rom left to r$ght, through the g$ant w$ndows, all you could see was the deep blue of the la5y %ed$terranean. The coastl$ne cur*ed bac towards the town of 6er&a, the l$ghts &ust beg$nn$ng to spar le as tw$l$ght san towards the beach, $llum$nat$ng the other wh$te houses that dotted the cl$ffs. I pushed open the doors, and let the soft a$r sp$ll o*er me and $nto the house, blan et$ng both of us $n perfume. I wal ed towards the wrought $ron ra$l$ng, perched at the edge of an earthen t$le pat$o flan ed by ol$*e trees. #lac$ng my hands on the warm ra$l$ng, I loo ed and loo ed and loo ed. I felt Edward wal up beh$nd me, and w$thout a word placed h$s arms around my wa$st and nestled $nto me, rest$ng

h$s head on my shoulder as we loo ed out towards the sea. I leaned bac $nto h$m, feel$ng the angles and planes of h$s body f$t aga$nst my own, breath$ng deeply of our surround$ngs and of h$m. ;ou now those moments, when e*eryth$ng $s e"actly the way $t was meant to be= When you f$nd yourself and your ent$re un$*erse al$gn$ng $n perfect synchron$5at$on, and you now you couldn't poss$bly be more content= I was $ns$de th$s moment, and fully consc$ous of $t. I g$ggled a l$ttle, feel$ng h$s sm$le stretch across h$s face as he pressed $nto my nec . "It's good, r$ght=" he wh$spered. "It's so good," I answered bac , and we watched the sunset $n spellbound s$lence. """ )fter watch$ng the sunset unt$l $t was totally gone, we went e"plor$ng the rest of the house. The house was more and more beaut$ful as we went room by room, w$th me s/ueal$ng once aga$n at the s$ght of the $tchen. It was as $f I was transported to Ina's home $n East 7ampton, w$th a +pan$sh fla$r. +ub Oero fr$dge, gorgeous gran$te countertops, and a :$ $ng sto*e. )n actual :$ $ng range, one so spar ly and beaut$ful that Edward actually had to phys$cally drag me away from when I threatened to cl$mb $ns$de and ta e a nap. I d$dn't e*en want to now how much he was pay$ng for th$s house, I had dec$ded to &ust en&oy. )nd en&oy we d$d, runn$ng bac and forth l$ e $ds when we found the bathroom w$th a sun en Bacu55$ tub. )nd then we made our way $nto the master bedroom. I was com$ng out of the bathroom w$th the tub bu$lt for two when I saw h$m stand$ng at the end of the hallway, &ust outs$de the door. "What the hell d$d you f$nd that has you so /u$e.oh my. Would you loo at that=" I stopped ne"t to h$m, adm$r$ng from the doorway. If my l$fe had a soundtrac , the theme from ?443< A ,pace Od!sse! would be play$ng. There, $n the m$ddle of a corner room, w$th $ts own terrace o*erloo $ng the most beaut$ful ocean $n the world, was the b$ggest mother lo*$ng bed I had e*er seen. 0ar*ed out of what loo ed to be tea , the bed was b$gger than my apartment bac home. Thousands of s$l y soft wh$te p$llows stac ed aga$nst the headboard, sp$ll$ng down o*er a wh$te du*et. It was folded down &ust so, the m$ll$on or so thread count sheets sh$n$ng, actually sh$n$ng as though they were l$t from w$th$n. +oft sheer wh$te s$l curta$ns hung from rods suspended o*er the bed, creat$ng a canopy, wh$le e*en more curta$ns hung $n the w$ndows o*erloo $ng the sea below. The w$ndows were open, caus$ng all the curta$ns to blow gently $n the bree5e, g$*$ng the ent$re room a blousy, flouncy, w$ndblown effect. It was the bed to end all beds. It was where beds went to d$e. It was bed hea*en. "Wow," I managed, st$ll $n the hallway ne"t to Edward. It was hypnot$c. It was l$ e a bed s$ren, lur$ng us $n. ";ou could say that aga$n," he stammered, ne$ther of us able to loo away from the bed. "Wow," I repeated, st$ll star$ng. I couldn't stop star$ng at $t, I was suddenly *ery, $mposs$bly, e"cruc$at$ngly ner*ous. What I had was a lo*ely case of performance an"$ety, #arty of one. Edward chuc led at my wea &o e, and $t brought me bac to h$m. "6o pressure, huh=" he sa$d, eyes shy. Wallbanger does shy= I had a cho$ce. I could go w$th con*ent$onal w$sdom, sa$d w$sdom be$ng that two grownups on *acat$on together $n a gorgeous house w$th a bed that was se" $ncarnate would $mmed$ately beg$n non.stop fuc $ngH.or. Or, I could let us both of the hoo and &ust en&oy. En&oy be$ng together and let th$ngs happen when they happen. ;eah, I l$ ed th$s $dea better. I w$n ed, and too a runn$ng leap onto the bed, d$splac$ng p$llows all o*er the room. I pee ed o*er the mound to see h$m lean$ng $n the doorway, a s$ght I had seen so many t$mes before. 7e loo ed a l$ttle ner*ous, but st$ll beaut$ful.

"+o, where are you sleep$ng=" I called out, and h$s face rela"ed $nto a gr$n, my gr$n. """ "W$ne=" ")m I breath$ng=" "W$ne $t $s," he snorted, select$ng a bottle of rose from the generously stoc ed w$ne fr$dge. The fam$ly that rented th$s house $ncluded some of the necess$t$es, wh$ch would $nclude many bottles of w$ne, and a few th$ngs to nosh on. It was now fully dar , and any thoughts we had about go$ng $nto town faded away as the &et lag made $tself more present. We dec$ded to stay $n ton$ght, get a good n$ght's sleep, and head $nto town $n the morn$ng. There was a roast ch$c en, ol$*es, a wedge of %anchego, some gorgeous loo $ng +errano ham, and enough l$ttle odds and ends to ma e a meal. I assembled plates wh$le he poured the w$ne, and soon we found oursel*es s$tt$ng on the terrace. We could hear the ocean crash$ng below, the wooden wal way down to the beach was strung w$th t$ny wh$te l$ghts. "We should go down to the beach before bed, at least ta e a l$ttle wal ." "9one. What do you want to do tomorrow=" "9epends, when do you need to start wor $ng=" "Well, I now some of the places I need to go, but I need to do a l$ttle scout$ng st$ll, want to come along=" "Of course, start $n town $n the morn$ng and see where that leads=" I as ed, n$bbl$ng on an ol$*e. 7e ra$sed h$s glass and nodded towards me. "To see$ng where $t leads," he toasted, and I ra$sed my glass to h$s. "I'll second that," I answered, our glasses cl$n $ng and our eyes loc $ng. We both sm$led, a secret sm$le. We were f$nally alone, all to oursel*es, and there was no place else on the planet that I wanted to be. We ate our d$nner, steal$ng l$ttle glances at each other throughout, and s$pped our w$ne. It made us sleepy, and drowsy, and a l$ttle touchy feely. !y the t$me we made $t down to the beach, p$c $ng our way carefully o*er the roc y shorel$ne, we had grasped hands to na*$gate but ne*er let go. We stood at the edge of the earth, the strong salty w$nds wh$pp$ng through our ha$r and our clothes, buffet$ng us bac a b$t. "It's n$ce, be$ng w$th you. I, um, well, I l$ e hold$ng your hand," I adm$tted, feel$ng bra*e from the w$ne. W$tty banter had $ts place, but somet$mes, all you need $s the truth. 7e d$dn't respond, s$mply sm$led, and brought my hand to h$s mouth, plac$ng a small $ss on my nuc les. We were s$lent as we watched the wa*es, and when he pulled me $nto h$s chest, snuggl$ng me to h$m, I breathed out slowly. 7ad $t really been so long s$nce I had felt so, oh what was $t I was feel$ngH cared for= "Esme told me you now what happened to my parents," he sa$d so softly I could barely hear h$m. ";es. +he told me," "They used to hold hands all the t$me, not for show though, you now=" I d$dn't say anyth$ng, &ust nodded $nto h$s chest and breathed h$m $n. "I always see these couples, that hold hands and ma e such a show of $t, call$ng each other !aby and +weet$e and 7oney, and $t seems l$ e, I don't now, false somehow. -$ e, would they be do$ng $t $f they weren't $n front of anyone=" I nodded aga$n. "%y parents= I ne*er thought much about $t at the t$me, but when I th$n about $t now, I real$5e that the$r hands were pract$cally sewn together, always w$th the hand hold$ng. !ut when no one was

loo $ng, ya now= -$ e, I would come home after pract$ce some n$ght and f$nd them watch$ng T:, at e$ther end of the couch, but w$th the$r hands propped up on a p$llow so they could st$ll be touch$ngH $t was &ustHI don't now, $t was n$ce." %y hand, wh$ch was st$ll tuc ed $nto h$s own, s/uee5ed h$s, feel$ng h$s strong f$ngers en*elop my own. "+ounds l$ e they were st$ll a couple, not &ust a mom and dad," I sa$d, hear$ng h$s breath speed up a b$t. ";es, e"actly." ";ou m$ss them." "Of course." "%$ght sound we$rd, s$nce I ne*er new them, but I feel l$ e they would be so proud of you Edward." ";eah." We were /u$et for another m$nute, feel$ng the n$ght around us. "Want to go bac to the house=" I as ed. ";eah," he answered, $ss$ng the top of my head as we began to ma e our way bac . 7ands stuc together l$ e someone had spread @ra5y Glue on them. """ I had left Edward to clean up the mess from d$nner, want$ng a /u$c shower before bed. )fter wash$ng away the days' worth of a$rport and tra*el, I threw on the button down that I usually slept $n, too t$red for some of the l$nger$e I had pac ed. ;es, I had pac ed l$nger$e. We were wa$t$ng, but come on, I was no nun. I stood $n front of the m$rror $n my bedroom, wr$ng$ng my ha$r out w$th a towel when I saw h$m appear $n the doorway. 7e was on h$s way to h$s room after h$s own shower, wear$ng a pa$r of pa&ama pants and noth$ng else but a towel wrapped around h$s nec . I was e"hausted, but not so e"hausted that I d$dn't apprec$ate the form $n front of me. I watched h$m $n the m$rror as he appra$sed me as well. "7$." "7$, ha*e a good shower=" ";es, $t felt ama5$ng." "7ead$ng to bed=" he as ed. "I can barely eep my eyes open," I repl$ed, yawn$ng hugely to punctuate. "0an I get you anyth$ng, water= Tea= )nyth$ng=" he offered. I turned to face h$m, as he stepped $ns$de. "6o water, no tea, but there $s one th$ng I'd l$ e before I go to sleep," I purred, ta $ng a few steps h$s way. "What's that=" "Good n$ght $ss=" I purred, and h$s eyes dar ened. "Oh hell, $s that all= Th$s I can do," he gr$nned, clos$ng the d$stance between us and sl$pp$ng h$s arms eas$ly around my wa$st. "@$ss me you fool," I teased, fall$ng $nto h$s embrace l$ e an old t$me melodrama. "One $ss$ng fool, com$ng up," he laughed, but w$th$n seconds no one was laugh$ng. )nd w$th$n m$nutes, no one was stand$ng.

)fter fall$ng $nto #$llow Town, we scrambled about, arms and legs tw$st$ng th$s way and that, $sses becom$ng more and more frant$c. %y sh$rt was bunched up around my wa$st, and the feel$ng of h$s 7$There aga$nst my 7oohah was wholly $ndescr$bable. 7e ra$ned $sses down upon my nec , l$c $ng and suc $ng my s $n $nto h$s mouth, as I moaned l$ e a whore $n church. To be fa$r, I'd ne*er actually heard a whore moan $n church, but I had a feel$ng she sounded a lot l$ e the unholy sounds pour$ng forth from my mouth. 7e fl$pped me l$ e a rag doll, h$s strength unbel$e*able as he settled me on top of h$m, my legs on e$ther s$de, the way I'd wanted to be for so long. 7e s$ghed underneath me, ga5$ng up as I $mpat$ently pushed my ha$r away from my face so I could truly apprec$ate the magn$f$cence that I was perched upon. We slowed our mo*ements, then stopped altogether, star$ng unabashedly at each other, appra$s$ng each other w$thout shame. "Incred$ble," he breathed, reach$ng h$s hand up to gently cup my face, as I nu55led $nto $t. "That's a good word for $t, yes. Incred$ble," I agreed, turn$ng my face to $ss h$s f$ngert$ps. 7e stared $nto my eyes aga$n, the l$mes do$ng the$r *oodoo that made me a puddle of *oodoo goo. ,or h$m to woo. +ee what he d$d to me= "I don't want to screw th$s up," he sa$d suddenly, h$s words brea $ng me from my +euss$an rhymes. "Wa$t, what=" I as ed, sha $ng my head to clear $t. "Th$s. ;ou. Es. I don't want to screw th$s up," he $ns$sted, s$tt$ng up underneath me, my legs wrapp$ng around to h$s bac . "O , so don't," I *entured, unsure where th$s was go$ng. "I mean, you need to now, I ha*e no e"per$ence w$th th$s," he started, and I ra$sed an eyebrow. "I ha*e a wall bac home that would d$sagree w$th thatH" I laughed, and he crushed me to h$s chest, $ne"pl$cably hard. "7ey, heyHwhat's up= What's go$ng on=" I soothed, my hands rubb$ng up and down h$s bac . "!ella, I, Besus, how do I say th$s w$thout sound$ng l$ e an ep$sode of 9awson's 0ree H" he stumbled, tal $ng to my nec . I couldn't help $t, I g$ggled a l$ttle as #acey flashed $nto my head, and the g$ggle brought h$m bac . I pulled bac a b$t so I could see h$m, and he sm$led ruefully. "O , 9awson's be damned, I really l$ e you !ella. !ut I ha*en't had a g$rlfr$end s$nce h$gh school, and I ha*e no clue how to do th$s. !ut you need to now, that what I feel for you= +h$t, $t's &ust d$fferent, o = )nd $f walls could tal , whate*er your wall would say bac home, I need you to now, that th$s= What we ha*e, or w$ll ha*e= It's d$fferent o , you now that r$ght=" I new what he was say$ng, he was tell$ng me I was d$fferent, that I was no replacement for the harem. )nd th$s, I new. 7e was loo $ng at me so earnestly, so ser$ous, and my heart &ust opened e*en more. I pressed a gentle $ss aga$nst h$s sweet l$ps. ",$rst of all, I do now th$s. +econd of all, you're better at th$s than you th$n ," I sm$led, press$ng h$s eyes closed and $ss$ng each eyel$d. ")nd th$rdly, I lo*ed 9awson's 0ree , and you d$d the W! proud," I laughed, as h$s eyes sprang bac open and rel$ef rushed $n. I tuc ed h$m $nto my noo , the space between my shoulder and breast, and held h$m there as we roc ed a l$ttle bac and forth, the rush of the earl$er hormones subs$d$ng as we found th$s new space, th$s /u$et $nt$macy that was becom$ng almost as add$ct$ng. "I l$ e that we're ta $ng th$ngs slow, you g$*e good woo," I wh$spered, and he tensed underneath me. I could feel h$m sha $ng a l$ttle. "I g$*e good woo=" he laughed, tears spr$ng$ng $nto h$s eyes as he tr$ed to control h$s hyster$cs. "Oh shut up," I cr$ed, smac $ng h$m w$th a p$llow. We laughed for a few more m$nutes, fall$ng bac

$nto the lush bed, and as the &et lag f$nally o*er too us, we settled $n. Together. There was no /uest$on $n my m$nd about ma $ng h$m sleep $n h$s own room, I wanted h$m here. W$th me. +urrounded by p$llows and +pa$n, we noo ed. The last thought I had, before sl$pp$ng $nto sleep, w$th h$s strong arms wrapped around meH I m$ght be fall$ng $n lo*e w$th my Wallbanger.

0hapter FN 9es$re In the t$me that I'*e spent w$th Edward, I ha*e se*eral $mages of h$m comm$tted to memory. +ee$ng h$m for the f$rst t$me, clad only $n a sheet and a sm$r . 9r$*$ng bac across the br$dge w$th h$m the n$ght of Esme's housewarm$ng, when we called a truce. Warped and blurry Edward as seen from $ns$de an afghan. !ac l$t by t$ $ torches, wet by hot tub and loo $ng de*$l$shly handsome. )nd a recent add$t$on to my !est Of Edward's, the s$ght of h$m underneath me as he clutched me close, h$s warm s $n and sweet breath all o*er me as we noo ed $n the G$ant !ed of +$n. !ut noth$ng, and I mean noth$ng, was hotter than watch$ng Edward wh$le he was wor $ng. I mean $t, I actually had to fan myself a l$ttle b$t. Wh$ch he too no not$ce of, as when he was wor $ng he was del$ghtfully focused. Earl$er that morn$ng I wo e up to a great rumbl$ng. ,orgett$ng where I was for a spl$t second, I automat$cally assumed I was home and we were e"per$enc$ng a tremor. I was halfway out of #$llowTown w$th one foot on the floor before I not$ced that the *$ew outs$de my bedroom w$ndow was dec$dedly more blue than $t was at home, and I was loo $ng at the %ed$terranean. )nd the rumbl$ng that I heard was no tremor, $t was Edward snor$ng. +nor$ng. +nor$ng to beat the band, and by beat the band I mean beat them up w$th h$s nose. 7$s nose, from wh$ch the most unearthly sound was em$tt$ng, ma $ng me clap my hands o*er my mouth to stop from laugh$ng. I crept bac $nto bed, the better to appra$se the s$tuat$on. True to form, I'd ta en up most of the bed $n the n$ght, and he'd been relegated to the far corner of the bed, curled $nto a l$ttle ball w$th a p$llow tuc ed between h$s legs. !ut what he lac ed $n s$5e, he made up for $n sound, the sounds pour$ng forth from h$s nasal passages reg$ster$ng somewhere between gr$55ly bear and e"plod$ng tractor tra$ler. I w$ggled across the m$le w$de bed, curl$ng myself around h$s head and loo $ng down at h$s face. E*en wh$le ma $ng these horr$f$c sounds, he was st$ll adorable. I carefully placed my f$ngers ne"t to h$s nose, and plugged. )nd then wa$ted. )fter about 1A seconds, he $nhaled and shoo h$s head, loo $ng around w$ldly. When he caught my eye, he rela"ed and then not$ced me perched on the p$llows ne"t to h$m and he sm$led. "7ey, hey, what's up=" he mumbled, roll$ng $nto me and wrapp$ng h$s arms around my wa$st, rest$ng h$s head on my tummy. I ran my hands through h$s ha$r, del$ght$ng $n the feel of the casual freedom we f$nally had $n touch$ng each other. "Bust wo e up, someone was be$ng /u$te no$sy on h$s s$de of the bed," I teased, as he opened one eye and loo ed up at me. "I hardly th$n someone who $s as fla$ly as you can compla$n about anyth$ng." ",la$ly= That's not e*en a word," I huffed, en&oy$ng the strength of h$s arms around me more than I wanted to adm$t. ",la$ly, as $n, one who fla$ls. )s $n, one who e*en though they are sleep$ng $n a bed the s$5e of )lcatra5, st$ll needs almost the ent$re bed to spread out and $c ," he $ns$sted, acc$dentally on purpose push$ng my sh$rt up so he could rest h$s head on my na ed tummy. ",la$l$ng $s better than snor$ng, %r. +norey #ants," I teased aga$n, try$ng not to not$ce the way h$s stubble scraped aga$nst my s $n $n the most del$c$ous way. ";ou fla$l, I snore, what are we go$ng to do about th$s=" he sm$led happ$ly, st$ll half asleep. "Ear plugs and sh$n guards=" ";ep, that's se"y. We can su$t up before bed each n$ght," he s$ghed, press$ng the t$n$est of $sses &ust abo*e my belly button. ) no$se that sounded sadly l$ e a wh$mper escaped my l$ps before I could pull $t bac , my ears burn$ng as I too $n what he sa$d about "each n$ght", as $n sleep$ng together each n$ght. Oh myH MMM

)nd now here I sat, watch$ng Edward wor . We ate a /u$c brea fast at the house that morn$ng, then headed $nto town. I fell $n lo*e w$th the *$llage $nstantly, the old stone streets, the wh$tewashed walls gl$mmer$ng $n the strong sunl$ght, the e"treme beauty that poured forth from e*ery open archway, from e*ery spec of a5ure pee $ng through from the coast, to the fr$endly sm$les on the sweet faces of the people who were luc y enough to call th$s enchanted spot home. It was mar et day, and we wandered $n and out of stalls, p$c $ng up fresh fru$t to nosh on later. I ha*e seen beaut$ful places on th$s earth, but th$s town was hea*en for me, I had truly ne*er e"per$enced anyth$ng l$ e $t. 6ow, I had been tra*el$ng alone for years, f$nd$ng my own company pleasant. !ut tra*el$ng w$th Edward= It wasHcool. Bust, cool. 7e was /u$et, the way I am when I am see$ng someth$ng new. 7e ne*er felt the need to f$ll a s$lence w$th chattery words, we were content to s$mply soa up the scenery. When we d$d spea , $t was to po$nt someth$ng out we thought the other couldn't m$ss, l$ e the pupp$es play$ng $n a dooryard, or the old man and woman tal $ng bac and forth o*er the$r balcon$es. 7e was a great compan$on. )nd when we headed bac to the rental car, the afternoon sun ba $ng through the th$n cotton co*er$ng my shoulders, my hand tangled w$th h$s $n the most unassum$ng way. )nd when he too the t$me to open my door for me, and he leaned down to $ss me $n the warm +pan$sh sunsh$ne, h$s l$ps and then smell of ol$*e trees were the only th$ngs I needed $n the ent$re world. We had dr$*en up the coast, to a place a local gu$de had told h$m about to get some test shots. )nd th$s $s how I found myself gett$ng to watch th$s per$lously handsome man concentrate on the tas at hand. )s he had e"pla$ned to me, $t wasn't about the actual p$ctures he was ta $ng, $t was about test$ng the l$ght and the colors. +o as he scrambled th$s way and that from roc to roc , I sat bac on a blan et we had dug out from the trun of the car and obser*ed. We were on the coast, on cl$ffs perched h$gh abo*e the sea. We could see for m$les, the roc y shorel$ne stretch$ng and cur*$ng bac $n on $tself and m$ll$ons of wa*es pour$ng $n from the deep sea. )nd wh$le these s$ghts were gorgeous, there was someth$ng really $nto"$cat$ng about the way that the t$p of Edward's tongue po ed out from between h$s p$n l$ps. The way he b$t down on h$s lower l$p as he pu55led o*er someth$ng. The way e"c$tement bro e out o*er h$s face when he saw someth$ng new $ns$de h$s lens. I was glad I had someth$ng to do, someth$ng to f$"ate on, as there was the beg$nn$ngs of a battle currently wag$ng $ns$de my body. E*er s$nce Edward had ac nowledged the pressure that g$ant bed could ha*e potent$ally placed on us, all I could th$n about was that *ery pressure. )nd the pressure of an O long den$ed, wa$t$ng pat$ently and somet$mes $mpat$ently, for her release. 0urrently ta $ng s$des on th$s $nternal debate were my bra$n, my hoohah >spea $ng for the d$stant O?, my bac bone, and although start$ng out /u$et and small, but becom$ng louder and louder by the hour, my heart. It should be noted that my hoohah had somehow drafted Edward's pen$s $nto the fray, and e*en though h$s pen$s d$dn't ha*e d$rect access to my hoohah, and by pro"y my bra$n, bac bone, or heart, my hoohah felt $t necessary to spea up on h$s behalf. Wh$le I d$dn't l$ e the term pen$s, $nternally I felt strange about call$ng h$m d$c or coc , so pen$s $t wasHfor now. 6ow, !ac bone and !ra$n were sol$dly $n the Wa$t.To.,uc camp, bel$e*$ng that wa$t$ng was essent$al to the foundat$ons of th$s burgeon$ng relat$onsh$p. 7oohah, and therefore Edward's #en$s, were $n the ,uc .7$m.)s.+oon.)s.#oss$ble soc$ety, ob*$ously. O, wh$le not off$c$ally $n res$dence, could be counted among 7oohah's supporters, but I felt a tw$nge, and &ust a tw$nge, of her float$ng abo*e both camps, along w$th 7eart, who was currently s$ng$ng songs about e*erlast$ng lo*e and warm fluffy th$ngs. Ta e all th$s $nto account and what do you ha*e= One totally confused and challenged !ella. +o was I glad to ha*e someth$ng else to th$n about other than the pressure coo er of +e" Indeterm$nate= ;es. 0ould I spend a l$ttle more t$me try$ng to come up w$th a more cle*er name for Edward's #en$s= #robably, $t deser*ed $t. %ammoth %ale %ember= 6o. #ulsat$ng #$llar of #ass$on= 6o. !ac 9oor !and$t= 7ell no. Wang= +ounded l$ e the no$se those doorstoppers th$ngs made when you fl$c ed 'emH

I sa$d $t out loud to myself a few t$mes, under my breath, crac $ng myself up a l$ttle. "Wang. Wang. Waaaang," I muttered. "7ey' 6$ght$e G$rl' Get yourself o*er here," he called, brea $ng me out of my Wang study. I shoo my head to clear $t, lea*$ng beh$nd the mental battle, p$c $ng my way carefully across the craggy roc s to where he was po$sed. "I need you." "Well that's $mpl$ed," I snorted, as he lowered h$s camera &ust enough to ra$se one eyebrow. "I need you for scale, get o*er there," he $ns$sted, po$nt$ng me towards the edge of the cl$ff. "What= 6o.no, no p$ctures, uh huh," I shot bac , bac $ng away towards my blan et. ";es yes p$ctures, come on. I need someth$ng $n the foreground, get o*er there." "!ut I'm a mess' I'm all w$ndblown and sunburned, see=" I protested, pull$ng down my * nec &ust a l$ttle to show h$m my s $n that was beg$nn$ng to p$n up. "Wh$le I always apprec$ate any e"cuse for you to be show$ng me your clea*age, sa*e $t s$ster. Th$s $s &ust for me, &ust to g$*e me some perspect$*e. )nd you don't loo w$ndblown. Well, only a l$ttle," he sm$r ed, tapp$ng h$s foot to show me h$s $mpat$ence. ";ou're not gonna ma e me pose w$th a rose $n my teeth, are you=" I s$ghed, shuffl$ng o*er to the edge and pee $ng o*er. "9o you ha*e a rose=" he as ed, loo $ng ser$ous e"cept for the sh$t eat$ng gr$n that had begun to creep o*er h$s face. "+hut $t you, ta e your p$ctures," I laughed, not$c$ng what a great place for roc cl$mb$ng th$s would be. "+hutt$ng $t. O , &ust be natural, no pos$ng, &ust stand there, fac$ng the water would be great," he $nstructed, and I compl$ed. 7e mo*ed around me, try$ng d$fferent angles, and I could hear h$m mutter$ng under h$s breath about what was wor $ng for h$m. I adm$t, e*en though I was shy about ha*$ng my p$cture ta en when I was $n fact feel$ng w$ndblown and a l$ttle $c y, I could almost feel h$s eyes, though the lens, on me, watch$ng me. 7e mo*ed around me for only a few moments, but $t felt longer than that. The $nternal war was beg$nn$ng to show up aga$n. ";ou almost done=" ";ou can't rush perfect$on !ella, I need t$me to get the &ob done r$ght," he warned. "!ut yes, almost done, you gett$ng hungry=" "I want those oranges that are $n the bas et, grab me one= Or w$ll that mess w$th your masterp$ece=" "Won't mess w$th $t. I'll call $t W$ndblown G$rl On ) 0l$ff W$th )n Orange," he laughed, headed bac o*er to the car and grabb$ng a few p$eces of fru$t we had p$c ed up at the mar et. ";ou're funny," I sa$d wryly, catch$ng the orange he threw me and start$ng to peel. ")re you shar$ng=" "I suppose so, the least I could do for the man that that brought me here, r$ght=" I laughed, b$t$ng $nto a wedge and feel$ng the &u$ce dr$bble down my ch$n. ";ou got a hole $n your l$p=" he f$red bac , captur$ng the moment on f$lm as I showed h$m a part$cular f$nger. "9o you actually think you're funny, or are you &ust assum$ng that you m$ght be=" I countered, bec on$ng h$m o*er w$th the orange peel. 7e shoo h$s head, laugh$ng as he too the orange from me. Of course, he too a b$te and no dr$bble. 7e opened h$s eyes w$de $n fe$gned ama5ement and I too the opportun$ty to smash another wedge $n h$s face. 7$s eyes st$ll w$de open, as &u$ce now ran freely off the t$p of h$s nose and onto h$s ch$n.

"%essy Wallbanger," I wh$spered as he loo ed at me. In a flash, he pressed h$s l$ps to m$ne, gett$ng orange &u$ce all o*er the both of us as I s/uealed $nto h$s mouth. 7e turned us both so the sea was beh$nd us, held up the camera, and too a p$cture of both of us, co*ered $n orange mush. "!y the way, why were you say$ng wang earl$er=" he as ed. I &ust laughed harder. MMM "Th$s $s $t, th$s $s now off$c$ally the s$ngle best th$ng I ha*e e*er had $n my mouth," I announced, clos$ng my eyes and moan$ng. ";ou'*e sa$d that about e*eryth$ng you ha*e eaten ton$ght." "I now, but I ser$ously can't handle how good th$s $s. +mac me, p$nch me, someth$ng, th$s $s too good," I moaned aga$n. We were seated at a l$ttle table $n the corner of a small restaurant $n town, and I was determ$ned to try e*eryth$ng. Edward, show$ng off a l$ttle of h$s language s $lls, had ordered for us. I told h$m to go for $t, that I was $n h$s hands and that I new he wouldn't steer me wrong. )nd the boy d$d good. We feasted. We started w$th trad$t$onal tapas of course, accompan$ed by glasses of the house w$ne. -$ttle bowls and plates showed up at the table e*ery few m$nutes. T$ny por meatballs, sl$ces of ham, mar$nated mushrooms, beaut$ful sausages, gr$lled s/u$d w$th fru$ty local ol$*e o$l, all of $t l$ned up. W$th each b$te, I was sure that I had &ust eaten the best th$ng I had e*er had, when another wa*e of gorgeous food would show up and con*$nce me once aga$n. )nd then these prawns showed up. I mean, holy lord they were prawns l$ e I had ne*er had before. ,r$ed cr$spy $n ol$*e o$l w$th tons of garl$c and parsley, smo y papr$ a and &ust a h$nt of heat from the ch$les, $t was unreal. I swooned, I actually swooned. Edward= 7e lo*ed $t, he ate $t up. %y react$ons as much as the food, he ate $t up. "7onestly, I can't handle anymore," I protested, dragg$ng a p$ece of crusty bread through the ol$*e o$l. 7e sm$led as he watched me shamelessly en&oy another p$ece of bread before f$nally push$ng bac from the table w$th a groan. "!est meal e*er=" he as ed. "It really m$ght be, that was $nsane," I s$ghed, patt$ng my full tummy. -adyl$ e schmadyl$ e, I pounded $t down l$ e someone was go$ng to ta e $t away from me. ) wa$ter appeared w$th two small glasses, wh$ch Edward $nformed me was a w$ne from a ne$ghbor$ng town. +weet and cr$sp, $t was the perfect after d$nner dr$n . We s$pped slowly, the bree5e com$ng $n through the w$ndows l$ghtly scented w$th the sea a$r. "Th$s was a great date Edward, really. 0ouldn't ha*e been more perfect," I sa$d, ta $ng another s$p of my w$ne. "Was th$s a date=" he as ed, and my face fro5e. "I mean, no, I suppose not, I &ust." "(ela" !ella, I now what you meant. It's &ust funny to cons$der th$s a date, two people on *acat$on together, but only now on a date," he sm$led, and I rela"ed. "7mm, we ha*en't really followed the trad$t$onal rules so far ha*e we= Th$s m$ght e*en be our f$rst date, $f we wanted to get techn$cal." "Well techn$cally, what def$nes a date=" he as ed. "Well d$nner I suppose, although we ha*e had d$nner before," I began. ")nd a mo*$e, we ha*e already had a mo*$e," he rem$nded me as I shuddered. ";es, and that was def$n$tely a ploy to get me to snuggle w$th you. +cary mo*$e, so ob*$ous," I scoffed. "It wor ed d$dn't $t= In fact, I do bel$e*e I slept w$th you that n$ght 6$ght$e G$rl."

";es, I am cheap and easy, I adm$t $t. I suppose we really d$d do th$s whole th$ng bac wards," I gr$nned, sl$d$ng my foot across the floor under the table and $c $ng h$m l$ghtly. "I l$ e $t bac wards," he sm$r ed and I rolled my eyes. "6ot touch$ng that one." "+er$ously though, I ha*e no e"per$ence w$th th$s stuff. The last t$me I was actually dat$ng someone $n the trad$t$onal sense, I was a $d. 7ow does th$s wor = What $f we were do$ng th$sHnot bac wards= What would happen ne"t=" he as ed. "Well, I suppose there would be another date, and another after that," I adm$tted, shyly sm$l$ng. ")nd bases, I would be e"pected to try to round some bases, r$ght=" he as ed ser$ously as I spluttered my w$ne. "!ases= )re you for real= )s $n, cop a feel, o*er the sh$rt, under the sh$rt, those bases=" I laughed $ncredulously. ";es e"actly, what am I allowed to get away w$th= )s a gentleman. I mean, $f th$s were truly a f$rst date, we wouldn't be go$ng home together, would we= 9at$ng now, not hoo $ng up. (emember, apparently I g$*e good woo," he repl$ed, eyes tw$n l$ng. ";es, yes you do. We wouldn't be go$ng home together, that's true. !ut, to be honest, I don't want you sleep$ng $n the bedroom down the hall, $s that we$rd=" I as ed, and I could feel my ears burn$ng as I blushed. "It's not we$rd," he answered /u$etly. I sl$pped off my sandal and pressed my foot aga$nst h$s, rubb$ng l$ghtly along h$s leg. ")s far as your bases are concerned, I th$n you could def$n$tely plan on a l$ttle under the sh$rt act$on, $f you were so $ncl$ned," I answered, &ust as /u$etly. Internally, !ra$n and !ac bone ga*e a l$ttle cheer, wh$le 7oohah and Wang $c ed some th$ngs. Ta.Tas were &ust glad someone was cons$der$ng them for once, $nstead of &ust a stopo*er on the way to po$nts south. 7eart= Well, she was st$ll fl$tt$ng about, s$ng$ng her song. "+o, we go a l$ttle trad$t$onal, but not totally trad$t$onal. Ta e $t slow=" he as ed, h$s eyes burn$ng, the se" l$mes beg$nn$ng to do the$r l$ttle hypnot$c dance. "+low, but not too slow. We are grownups for goodness sa e," I laughed. "To under the sh$rt act$on," he sm$led, ra$s$ng h$s glass $n toast. "I'll dr$n to that," I repl$ed, as we cl$n ed. MMM ,$fty se*en m$nutes later we were $n bed, h$s hands warm and sure as he slowly sl$pped each button through, re*eal$ng my s $n to h$s eyes. 7e went slowly, purposefully, as he let my sh$rt fall open as I lay beneath h$m. 7e ga5ed down at me, the f$ngert$ps of h$s r$ght hand l$ghtly draw$ng a l$ne from my collarbone down to my na*el, stra$ght and true. We both s$ghed at the same t$me, earn$ng us each a sm$le. I can't e"pla$n $t, but now$ng that we had set some boundar$es for th$s e*en$ng, s$lly as $t may be, but l$m$t$ng our phys$cal$ty= %ade $t so much more sensual, someth$ng to be truly sa*ored. 7$s l$ps ho*ered around my nec , wh$sper$ng t$ny $sses aga$nst my s $n, below my ear, under my ch$n, the d$p between my nec and my shoulder, wor $ng h$s way down to the swell of my breasts. 7$s f$ngers swept out, l$ghtly, re*erently, ghost$ng across the sens$t$*e s $n as I $nhaled and then held my breath. )s h$s f$ngers gently gra5ed my n$pple, e*ery ner*e end$ng $n my ent$re body re*ersed and began to pulse $n the d$rect$on of where he was concentrated. I e"haled, feel$ng months of tens$on beg$n to s$multaneously flow out of me and beg$n to bu$ld bac up. W$th sweet $sses and soft touches, he began the process of gett$ng to now my body, and $t was e"actly what I needed. -$ps, mouth, tongue, all of $t, on me, tast$ng, stro $ng, feel$ng and lo"ing.

)s h$s l$ps closed around my breast, h$s ha$r t$c led my ch$n $n the cutest way and I wrapped my arms around h$s body, hold$ng $t close to my own. The feel$ng of h$s s $n aga$nst m$ne was perfect$on, and someth$ng I had ne*er e"per$enced before. I feltHworsh$pped. )s we e"plored that n$ght, what started out as someth$ng funny and cute and our class$c banter became someth$ng more. What was crassly called "under the sh$rt act$on" became part of a romance, and someth$ng that could ha*e been merely phys$cal, became someth$ng emot$onal and pure. )nd when he cradled me to h$m, br$ng$ng me $nto h$s noo w$th tender $sses and breathless g$ggles, we fell $nto a contented sleep. ,la$ly and %r +norey #ants. MMM ,or the ne"t few days, I lu"ur$ated. Truly, there $sn't another word $n the Engl$sh language to art$culate the lu"ury I $ndulged $n. 6ow for some, the def$n$t$on of a lu"ur$ous *acat$on m$ght be endless shopp$ng, spa pamper$ng, e"pens$*e meals, elaborate shows. !ut to me, lu"ur$ous meant spend$ng two hours napp$ng $n the sun on the terrace off the $tchen. -u"ur$ous meant eat$ng f$gs dr$pp$ng w$th honey and dotted w$th crumbles of local cheese wh$le Edward poured me another glass of 0a*a, e*en though $t was brea fast t$me. -u"ur$ous meant t$me alone to po e through the mar ets of 6er&a, po $ng through b$ns of beaut$ful lace. -u"ur$ous meant e"plor$ng the nearby ca*es w$th Edward wh$le he photographed, los$ng oursel*es $n the colors under the earth. -u"ur$ous most certa$nly meant ga5$ng at Edward dangl$ng from a roc face wh$le he searched out another foothold, sh$rtless. )nd lu"ur$ous meant that I got to spent each n$ght $n that bed w$th Edward. 6ow that's a pr$celess lu"ury, not offered on e*ery grand tour. We rounded another base or two, teas$ng each other w$th a l$ttle o*er the pant$esImant$es encounter. Were we be$ng r$d$culous, wa$t$ng unt$l the last n$ght $n +pa$n to consummate th$s "th$ng"= #robably, but who the hell cared. 7e spent almost an hour $ss$ng e*ery $nch of my legs one n$ght, and I spent about the same amount of t$me ha*$ng a con*ersat$on w$th h$s belly button. We &ustH en&oyed. !ut w$th all th$s en&oyment came a certa$n amount ofHwell, how shall we say, ner*ous energy= !ac $n +an ,ranc$sco, we had spent months engaged $n *erbal foreplay. !ut now, here= The actual foreplay= It was not to be bel$e*ed. %y body was so $n tune w$th h$s, I new when he wal ed $nto the room, I new when he was about to touch me, seconds before he actually d$d. The actual a$r between us was se"ually charged, *$bes 5$ng$ng bac and forth w$th enough energy to l$ght up the ent$re town. +e"ual chem$stry= 7ad $t. +e"ual frustrat$on= On the r$se and gett$ng close to cr$t$cal. Wh$ch was why the e*en$ng after we spent $n the ca*es, we found oursel*es $n the $tchen, $ss$ng madly. We were both a l$ttle t$red from the day, and I had been want$ng to test out that beaut$ful :$ $ng range. I was busy, prepar$ng *egetables for the gr$ll and st$rr$ng some saffron r$ce when he came $n after a shower. It was almost $mposs$ble for me to e"pla$n the s$ght of h$m, blac t.sh$rt, faded &eans, barefoot, scrubb$ng at h$s wet ha$r w$th a towel. 7e gr$nned, and I began to see double. I l$terally couldn't see through the ha5e of lust and need I suddenly felt surge through me. I needed my hands to be on h$s body, and I needed $t to happen $mmed$ately. "%mm, someth$ng smells good, want me to get the gr$ll started=" he as ed, wal $ng o*er to where I was chopp$ng *egetables at the counter. 7e stood beh$nd me, h$s body only $nches from m$ne, and someth$ng snapped. It may ha*e been the pea pod I was hold$ngH I turned around, and my tummy actually fluttered at the s$ght of how good loo $ng he was, $t frea $ng fluttered. I pressed my hand aga$nst h$s chest, feel$ng the strength there, and the warmth of h$s s $n through the cotton. (eason wa*ed bye.bye, th$s was now purely phys$cal. )n $tch that needed to be scratched, scratched, and then scratched aga$n. I sl$d my hand up around the bac of h$s nec , and pulled h$m down to me. %y mouth crashed aga$nst h$s, my $ntense need for h$m pour$ng forth $nto h$s mouth and down to the t$ps of my toes. Toes wh$ch $c ed off the$r fl$p flops and started shamelessly rubb$ng themsel*es across the tops of h$s feet, my body need$ng to feel s $n, any

s $n, and need$ng $t now. 7e responded $n turn, match$ng my rough $sses w$th h$s own, h$s mouth co*er$ng m$ne as I groaned at the feel of h$s hands on the small of my bac . I /u$c ly spun h$m around and pressed h$m up aga$nst the counter, $n a mo*e that was rem$n$scent of the n$ght $n my $tchen $n +an ,ranc$sco, when he sa$d he wanted me $n +pa$n and then proceeded to g$*e me great countertop. "Off, I need th$s off, now," I muttered $n between $sses, yan $ng at h$s t.sh$rt. In a great whoosh of fabr$c, h$s sh$rt was thrown across the room as I maneu*ered my body aga$nst h$s, s$gh$ng as I felt the contact. I was alternately try$ng to hug h$m and cl$mb h$m, the lust now runn$ng freely through my body l$ e a fre$ght tra$n. I reached between us, lowered my hand, and palmed h$m through h$s &eans. 7$s eyes caught m$ne and they crossed a l$ttle, lett$ng me now I was on the r$ght trac . ,eel$ng h$m, gett$ng harder by the second under my f$ngert$ps, caused a t$ny fracture $n awareness, and suddenly all I wanted, all I needed, all I had to ha*e to funct$on $n l$fe, was h$m. In my mouth. "7ey 6$ght$e G$rl, what are you, oh God." %o*$ng w$th a grace that was surely not my own, I e"pertly snapped open h$s &eans, dropped to my nees before h$m, and brought h$m forth. %y pulse raced, my blood actually bo$led w$th$n me as I saw h$m for the f$rst t$me. %y breath drew $n w$th a h$ss as I regarded h$m, faded &eans &ust pushed down enough to frame th$s lum$nous s$ght. Wallbanger went commando. God bless )mer$ca. I wanted to be gentle, I wanted to be tender and sweet, but I s$mply needed h$m so badly. I glanced up at h$m, h$s eyes clouded but frant$c, as h$s hands came down to brush my ha$r bac from my face. I too h$s hands w$th$n my own, and placed them bac on the counter, encourag$ng h$m to gr$p the edge. ";ou're gonna want to hold on for th$s," I prom$sed, as he groaned a del$c$ous groan. 9o$ng as he was told, he leaned bac a l$ttle, push$ng h$s h$ps forward &ust a l$ttle, but eep$ng h$s eyes on m$ne. )lways on m$ne. I too h$m $n, l$ps purr$ng as I sl$pped h$s length $ns$de my mouth. 7$s head dropped bac wards as my tongue caressed h$m, ta $ng h$m $n deeper. The pure pleasure of th$s, the absolute pleasure of feel$ng h$s react$on to me was enough to ma e my head spl$t $n two. I drew h$m bac out, lett$ng my teeth &ust barely gra5e h$s sens$t$*e s $n as I saw h$m grab the counter e*en harder. I ran my na$ls up the $ns$de of h$s legs, push$ng h$s &eans further down and allow$ng me more access to h$m, to h$s warm s $n. #ress$ng $sses across the t$p of h$m, I let my hands come up to grasp h$m, stro $ng and massag$ng the feel of s$l o*er steel. 7e was perfect, all smooth and taut as I too h$m $n aga$n, and aga$n, and aga$n. I felt cra5ed, drun on h$s scent and the feel of h$m $ns$de me. 7e was moan$ng my name o*er and o*er aga$n, h$s words dr$ft$ng down l$ e molten chocolate se"y t$mes, pour$ng $ns$de my bra$n and ma $ng me ded$cate e*ery sense I had to h$m, only to h$m. On and on I went, ma $ng h$m cra5y, ma $ng %e cra5y, l$c $ng, suc $ng, tast$ng, teas$ng, lu1uriating $n the madness that was th$s s$nful act. To ha*e h$m here, $n th$s way, was the *ery def$n$t$on of lu"ury. 7e st$ffened further, and h$s hands f$nally came bac to me, try$ng to ma e me pull bac a b$t. "!ella, oh 0hr$st, !ella, I'mHyouHf$rstHyouHoh GodHyou," he stuttered. -uc $ly, I was able to $nterpret, as he wanted me to ha*e someth$ng as well. What he d$dn't real$5e $s that th$s, th$s total abandon he was g$*$ng me, was all I needed. I released h$m only for a moment, plac$ng h$s hands once more on the counter. "6o Edward. ;ou," I repl$ed, ta $ng h$m $n deeply once more, feel$ng h$m h$t the bac of my throat as my hands tended to the rest of h$m that my mouth could not. 7$s h$ps mo*ed once, then aga$n, and then w$th a shudder and the most scrumpt$ous groan I had e*er heard, Edward came. Threw h$s head bac , closed h$s eyes, and let go. )nd $t was wonderful.

%oments later, crumpled $nto me on the floor of the $tchen, he s$ghed contentedly. "Good lord !ella, that wasHune"pected." I g$ggled at the adm$ss$on, bend$ng down to $ss h$s forehead. "I couldn't control myself, you &ust loo ed way too good, and IHwellHgot carr$ed away." "I'll say, although I don't th$n $t's fa$r that I am somewhat e"posed here, and you are st$ll fully clothed. We could remedy th$s pretty /u$c ly though," he teased, start$ng to pull at the drawstr$ng on my pants. I stopped h$m. ",$rst of all, you aren't so%ewhat e"posed, you are hang$ng free on the $tchen floor, and I /u$te l$ e $t. )nd th$s wasn't about me, although I adm$t I en&oyed $t $mmensely." "+$lly g$rl, now I want to en&oy !ou, $mmensely," he pers$sted, runn$ng h$s f$ngers along the edge of my pants, danc$ng across the s $n there. "6o no, not ton$ght. I want to ma e you a n$ce d$nner, let me ta e care of you a l$ttle b$t, can't I &ust do that=" I as ed, remo*$ng h$s de*$l hands and $ss$ng them. 7e sm$led up at me, h$s ha$r messy and a goofy gr$n st$ll adorn$ng h$s face. 7e s$ghed $n defeat, and then nodded. I started to cl$mb off the floor, when he caught me around the wa$st, pull$ng me bac down to h$m. ") word please, before you lea*e me, what d$d you say, hang$ng free, here on the $tchen floor=" ";es dear=" I teased, earn$ng a ra$sed eyebrow $n return. "+o, us$ng the base round$ng analogy we'*e appl$ed to th$s wee , I would say we &ust s $pped ahead a few dates, yes=" "I should say," I laughed, patt$ng h$m l$ghtly on the head. "Then I th$n $t's only fa$r to warn you, tomorrow n$ght= ;our last n$ght $n +pa$n=" he sa$d, h$s eyes bla5$ng through the tw$l$ght. ";es=" I wh$spered. "I'm gonna try and steal home," he warned, and I sm$led. "+$lly Edward, $t's not steal$ng $f I $n*$te you to come $ns$de," I purred, $ss$ng h$m sol$dly on the l$ps. MMM -ater that n$ght, as I slept, wrapped th$c ly $n !anger, 7oohah began to prepare. )nd !ra$n and !ac bone began to chantHOHOHO. Wang= Well, we new where he was, pressed rather closely aga$nst !ac bone. 7eart cont$nued to float abo*e, but was c$rcl$ng e*er closer to home. !ut a new ent$ty began to ma e herself nown, w$ggl$ng her way $n and out of the others, t$nt$ng my dreams w$th her /u$et wh$sper$ng. 7ello 6er*es, I'd been wonder$ng when you were go$ng to show up. %y sleep was most dec$dedlyHfla$ly.

0hapter 1A #lease, part F "I can't bel$e*e I'm lea*$ng tomorrow, I feel l$ e we &ust got here." "+o stay. +tay w$th me, we can spend a few more days here, and then, who nows= Where else do you want to go=" "#fft, I'll stay and Esme w$ll ha*e my h$de, you now how many &obs she has l$ned up for me when I get bac =" "+he'll understand, she's a suc er for a good romance story, come on. +tay w$th me," he teased, h$s eyes tw$n l$ng o*er h$s coffee mug. We were out on the terrace, ha*$ng brea fast and plann$ng my last day $n +pa$n. Th$s last wee had been perfect, ama5$ngly perfect, and now l$ e all good th$ngs, $t was com$ng to an end. "Is that what th$s $s, a romance story= +houldn't we be embrac$ng on the beach= )nd r$pp$ng my bod$ce=" I &o ed bac , l$ft$ng my legs and plac$ng them $n h$s lap. Wear$ng h$s sh$rt from the n$ght before, my legs were bare and he too full ad*antage of th$s, rubb$ng my s $n between h$s warm hands. "-uc y for you, I'm a bod$ce r$pper from way bac . I could probably e*en throw together a p$rate costume pretty /u$c ly $f that's what you're $nto," he repl$ed, the l$mes beg$nn$ng to burn. "It has been /u$te a romant$c tale, hasn't $t= If someone would ha*e told me th$s story, I doubt I'd ha*e bel$e*ed $t," I mused, brea $ng off a p$ece of my Magdalena and dun $ng $t $n my cafG con leche. Th$s $s one th$ng I would m$ss about 6er&a, the wonderful l$ttle sweet lemon ca es we ate each morn$ng for brea fast. "Why not= It's not that strange how we met, $s $t=" "7ow many women do you now who would *oluntar$ly go to Europe w$th a man who had been bang$ng the sh$t out of her walls for countless wee s=" "Th$s $s true, but you could also sp$n me as the guy who played you all those great records through the wall, the same guy that ga*e you, and I /uote, 'the best meatball e*er'=" "I suppose, you d$d beg$n to wear me down w$th the Glen %$ller. That got me," I adm$tted, s$n $ng $nto my cha$r as h$s hands d$d del$c$ous th$ngs to the bottoms of my soc ed feet. "I got you, huh=" he sm$r ed, lean$ng closer to me. "Oh shut $t you," I pushed h$s face away, sm$l$ng b$g as I contemplated what he sa$d. 9$d he ha*e me= 7e hadn't actually "had" me yet, but yeah. 7e totally had me. )nd would ha*e me, somet$me later that n$ght. )t the thought, another whoosh of ner*es h$t my tummy and I felt my sm$le falter a b$t. 6er*es had set up shop b$g t$me, and no matter where my head went, e*entually 6er*es $n*aded e*ery thought, e*ery $dea I had about where the n$ght would go. I was ready, lord nows I was ready. There was ne*er a 7oohah more ready to be $n*aded, but I was damn ner*ous. !ut ton$ght was the n$ght, no more coc bloc $ng. I was ent$rely eager to l$ft sa$d bloc on sa$d coc , but I was ner*ous. 9amn ner*ous. 9$d I say ner*ous= 9amn damn ner*ous. 7ot d$gg$ty damn ner*ous. 7ot d$gg$tyHo , enough w$th the ner*ous. "+o, are you almost done w$th your wor = 9o you st$ll ha*e a lot to do tomorrow=" I as ed, /u$c ly chang$ng the sub&ect. )s was always the case when he tal ed about h$s wor , Edward's eyes l$t up as he descr$bed the shots he st$ll needed to ta e of the (oman.style a/ueduct $n town, and a l$ttle more t$me spent out on the water. "I w$sh we had t$me to go scuba d$*$ng. I hate that we ran out of t$me," I frowned. ")ga$n, someth$ng that would be sol*ed $f you stayed here w$th me," he frowned bac , ma $ng a b$g deal of m$m$c $ng my eyebrows, turn$ng them down $n a com$cal way. ")ga$n, some of us ha*e n$ne.to.f$*e &obs, we can't all be &et set photographers. +pea $ng of, where

are you off to ne"t=" "I'll be home for a few wee s, and then I'm headed down south for a b$t." "9own south= )s $n, -)=" "6o, a b$t more south." "+an 9$ego=" "+outher." "+tanford educated, r$ght= Where are you go$ng=" "#rom$se you won't be mad=" "+p$t $t out Edward." "#eru. The )ndes. %ore spec$f$cally, %achu #$chu." "What= Oh man, that's $t, I off$c$ally hate you. I'll be $n +an ,ranc$sco, plann$ng r$ch peoples 0hr$stmas trees, and you get to go there=" I raged, stuff$ng the rest of my %agdalena $n my mouth and chew$ng fur$ously. "I'll send you a postcard=" he gr$nned, loo $ng l$ e a $d try$ng to get out of trouble. "!es$des, I don't now what you're so p$ssy about, you lo*e your &ob !ella, don't e*en try to tell me you don't." ";eah I lo*e my &ob, but r$ght now I w$sh I was headed south," I huffed, snatch$ng my feet away. "Well, $f you want to head south, I can th$n of someth$ng." he started to say, and I leaned $n to place my hand $n front of h$s mouth. "6o way buddy, I'm not machuu$ng your p$chu now, huh uh," I stated f$rmly, not wa*er$ng a b$t when he began press$ng open mouth $sses aga$nst my palm. 6ot one l$ttle b$tH "!ella," he wh$spered aga$nst my hand. ";es=" "One day," he began, remo*$ng my hand and lea*$ng t$ny $sses up the $ns$de of my arm. "One day," $ss "I prom$se," $ss $ss "to br$ng you," $ss "and my woo," $ss $ss "to #eru," he f$n$shed, now neel$ng $n front of me and dragg$ng h$s mouth across my shoulder, peel$ng the fabr$c away &ust enough to let h$m l$nger along my collarbone, h$s l$ps ma $ng me hot and sh$*ery. ";ou wanna woo me $n #eru=" I as ed my *o$ce h$gh and stup$d and not fool$ng h$m for a second. 7e new e"actly how he was affect$ng me. "True," he gr$nned, h$s f$ngers tangl$ng $n my ha$r and br$ng$ng my mouth to h$s. I tr$ed for a second or so to come up w$th someth$ng that rhymed w$th true, but $n the end, I ga*e up and $ssed h$m bac w$th all that I had. )nd so, I let h$m ma e out w$th me, on the terrace, o*erloo $ng the ocean. Wh$ch wasHblue. )hem. MMM -ater that day Edward and I settled $nto our seats at the small restaurant we found $n a ma5e of /u$etly w$nd$ng streets. We had dr$*en o*er to the a/ueduct on the edge of town. Edward was photograph$ng $t the follow$ng day and needed some test shots, so once aga$n I got to watch h$m at wor . )s soon as we sat down at our table and began to s$p sangr$a, I leaned $n. "9$d you always now you wanted to ta e p$ctures for a l$*$ng=" "What= Where d$d that come from=" he laughed, s$tt$ng bac $n h$s cha$r and loo $ng at me o*er the r$m of h$s glass. "I mean $t. 9$d you always want to do th$s= ;ou seem, well, you're *ery $ntense when you're wor $ng. ;ou seem l$ e you really lo*e $t." "I do lo*e $t, I mean, $t's a &ob so $t has $ts ted$ous moments, but yeah, I lo*e $t. !ut $t wasn't

someth$ng I always planned, $n fact, there was a d$fferent plan altogether," he repl$ed, a dar er loo than normal cross$ng o*er h$s face. "What does that mean=" ",or a long t$me I planned on follow$ng my father $nto h$s bus$ness," he s$ghed, a rueful sm$le sl$pp$ng o*er h$s mouth. %y hand was $n h$s before I e*en real$5ed I had offered $t. 7e s/uee5ed $t, and then too another s$p of h$s w$ne. "9$d you now 0arl$sle wor ed for my father= 9ad h$red h$m r$ght out of school, mentored h$m, taught h$m e*eryth$ng. When 0arl$sle wanted to go out on h$s own, you would th$n 9ad would'*e been p$ssed, but he was so proud of h$m." "0arl$sle's the best," I gr$nned. "9on't th$n I don't now about the crush you g$rls ha*e on h$m, I'm aware," he rolled h$s eyes. "I'd hope so, we are not e"actly subtle $n our adm$rat$on," I laughed. 7e sm$led at me, that sm$le that I adored, and then went on w$th h$s story. "%asen ,$nanc$al +er*$ces was gett$ng b$g, really b$g, and he wanted me to come on board as soon as I was done w$th college. I honestly ne*er thought I'd lea*e 0h$cago. It would ha*e been a great l$fe, wor $ng w$th my dad, country club, b$g house $n the 'burbs, who wouldn't want that=" "+ounds ama5$ng," I murmured. It was an $deal l$fe that's for sure, but I couldn't p$cture Edward there. "I wor ed on our h$gh school newspaper, ta $ng p$ctures. I too the class as an easy ), r$ght= Good for my transcr$pt= !ut, and e*en though I got ass$gnments l$ e co*er$ng the women's f$eld hoc ey tryouts, I really l$ ed $t. -$ e, really l$ ed $t. !ut, I f$gured, $t would always be a n$ce hobby, ne*er really thought about $t as a career. %y parents supported $t though, my mom e*en got me my f$rst camera for 0hr$stmas that year, the year thatHwell," he paused, clear$ng h$s throat a b$t. ")fter e*eryth$ng happened w$th mom and dad, 0arl$sle came out to 0h$cago for the, um, for the funeral. 7e stayed for awh$le, he was the e"ecutor of my parents w$ll. )nd now that he was l$*$ng out on the West 0oast, well, the $dea of stay$ng beh$nd $n 0h$cago d$dn't sound so great. +o, long story short, +tanford accepted me, I started study$ng photo&ournal$sm, got really luc y w$th some $nternsh$ps, and then r$ght.place.r$ght.t$me and bam' That's how I got $nto th$s g$g," he f$n$shed, ta $ng a long pull on h$s dr$n . ")nd you lo*e $t," I sm$led. ")nd I lo*e $t," he agreed, &ust as our lunch arr$*ed. 7e w$n ed at me as we dug $nto plates of salty ;acalao w$th tomatoes and green ol$*es, crusty bread, and another round of sangr$a. "+o what happened to your dad's company= %asen ,$nanc$al=" I as ed, barely conta$n$ng the moan o*er how good my lunch was. "0arl$sle too o*er some of the cl$ents for awh$le, and o*er t$me /u$etly closed up shop. The assets were transferred to me, per the w$ll, and 0arl$sle manages $t for me st$ll." ")ssets=" ";ep, d$dn't I tell you that !ella= I'm loaded," he gr$maced, n$bbl$ng on an ol$*e. "I new there was a reason I was hang$ng out w$th you," I teased, d$pp$ng my bread $nto the sauce that was $n the d$sh between us. "+er$ously, loaded." "O , now you're &ust be$ng an ass," I laughed, try$ng to l$ft the tens$on that had settled o*er the table. "Well, people get funny about money, you ne*er now," he answered. "The only th$ng th$s changes $s that you're buy$ng lunch, and when we get bac home you're buy$ng

our bu$ld$ng so we can rewor the floor plans to allow for a hot tub $n between our apartments. Other than that, $t changes noth$ng," I gr$nned. "When we get home= ;ou now there's gonna be a f$r$ng s/uad to face when we get home, e*eryone $s go$ng to want to now what happened here, between us," he sa$d ser$ously. "I now, we'll handle $t," I answered, w$nc$ng when I thought about the gr$ll$ng I would be rece$*$ng from the g$rls, to say noth$ng of Esme. I wonder $f a $tchen blow&ob was what she had $n m$nd when she sa$d to ta e care of h$m $n +pa$n. "We=" "." "I could we w$th you," he sm$led. ")ren't we already we.$ng=" ";eah, we're we.$ng on *acat$on, /u$te a d$fferent th$ng to be we.$ng bac home, $n the real world. I tra*el all the t$me, that ta es $ts toll on the we un$t," he sa$d, h$s brow n$t together. It too all my power, all of $t, not to brea out my +cotty $mpress$on, and tal about we units. "Wallbanger, ch$ll. I now you tra*el, I'm well aware. @eep br$ng$ng me pretty th$ngs from faraway places, and th$s g$rl has no problem w$th your we, o =" I assured, patt$ng h$s hand once more. "#retty th$ngs I can do, guaranteed," he gr$nned, pour$ng me another glass of fru$ty sangr$a as we cont$nued to eat our lunch. We sa$d *ery l$ttle, &ust sm$led and ate, but e*ery now and aga$n someone's feet would brush aga$nst someone else's under the table, and $t was good. It was really good. MMM )ll wee long, we had been see$ng s$gns of a fest$*al be$ng put together around town. It started ton$ght, my last n$ght $n +pa$n. We were headed out to d$nner, somewhere cons$derably more fancy than the places we had been eat$ng all wee . What I had d$sco*ered about Edward, $s that we were *ery s$m$lar $n many of our tastes. I was all for gett$ng dressed up from t$me to t$me, but I much preferred smaller places, casual places, and he was much the same way. +o ton$ght, to be gett$ng dressed up and go$ng out someplace a l$ttle spec$al and then maybe h$tt$ng the fest$*al, had a spec$al feel to $t. )nd I was def$n$tely loo $ng forward to th$s e*en$ng, $n more ways than one. They say when a man loses a leg $n battle, somet$mes, late at n$ght, he can st$ll feel tw$nges of that leg, phantom pa$n they call $t. I lost my O $n battle, the battle of %$ e 6ewton.that Bac (abb$t ,uc er. and I was st$ll feel$ng the aftershoc s. )nd by aftershoc s I mean feel$ng noth$ng for months now, and f$nally, an end was $n s$ght. I'd been feel$ng tw$nges from the phantom O all wee long, and I was *ery much loo $ng forward to her return later that e*en$ng. The (eturn of the O. Of course I would see $t as a t$tle of some $nd of act$on f$lm $n my head, but truly, $f she was return$ng, I would cap$tal$5e anyth$ng. )ny Th$ng. !ecause ton$ght sports fans, I was gonna get me some. 6ot to put too f$ne a po$nt on $t, but I was ready for some ser$ous Wallbanger Wang. I ran my f$ngers through my ha$r once more, not$c$ng how the strong sun had brought out more the natural redd$sh h$ghl$ghts that h$d normally $n the foggy +an ,ranc$sco weather. I smoothed out the front of my dress, wh$te l$nen w$th a l$ttle sw$ng to the s $rt. I pa$red $t w$th some tur/uo$se &ewelry I had bought $n a local mar et and l$ttle sna es $n sandals. I was the most dressed up I had been all wee , and feel$ng pretty good. I too one last loo at myself $n the m$rror, not$c$ng how my chee s were pretty p$n , and I hadn't e*en added blush ton$ght. 6er*es= Oh yes, she had set up camp $n Tummy and was currently bang$ng out a drumbeat, ma $ng sure I new she was here. )s $f I could outrun her. Try$ng to $gnore 6er*es, I made my way down the hallway towards the $tchen to pour myself a

/u$c glass of w$ne wh$le wa$t$ng for Edward to get ready. )s I poured a glass of 0a*a, I saw h$m on the terrace, fac$ng the ocean. I sm$r ed when I saw that he was wear$ng a wh$te l$nen sh$rt, we were /u$te matchy.matchy ton$ght. @ha $s completed h$s loo , and he turned &ust as I was wal $ng out to meet h$m. %y heels cl$c ed across the stone as I s$pped my bubbly w$ne, and he leaned bac on h$s arms across the wrought $ron ra$l$ng. It d$dn't escape my attent$on that as a photographer, he was $nnately aware of the $nd of $magery he was creat$ngHanyt$me Wallbanger leaned, he oo5ed se". I &ust hoped I d$dn't sl$p $n my heelsHse" oo5e could be sl$ppery. I offered my w$ne to h$m and he let me br$ng the glass to h$s l$ps. +lowly, he s$pped, h$s eyes on m$ne the ent$re t$me. When I remo*ed the glass, he /u$c ly wrapped an arm around my wa$st and pulled me to h$m, $ss$ng me deeply, the taste of w$ne hea*y on h$s tongue. ";ou loo H.good," he breathed, pull$ng away from my l$ps to press h$s mouth aga$nst the s $n &ust below my ear, h$s scruff t$c l$ng me $n the most del$c$ous way. "Good=" I as ed, t$lt$ng my head bac to encourage e*eryth$ng he was do$ng. "Good. Good enough to eat," he wh$spered, gra5$ng my nec w$th h$s teeth, &ust enough to ma e me aware of them. "Wow," was all I could manage, wrapp$ng my arms around h$s nec and s$n $ng $nto h$s embrace. The sun was beg$nn$ng to set, cast$ng a warm glow all around, ma $ng the terra cotta bla5e red and orange, coat$ng us $n f$re. %y eyes were drawn to the cool blue of the sea crash$ng aga$nst the roc s below, the salt $n the a$r actually present on my tongue. I clung to h$m, lett$ng myself feel and e"per$ence e*eryth$ng. 7$s body, hard and warm aga$nst my own, the feel of h$s shaggy ha$r aga$nst my chee , the heat of the ra$l$ng aga$nst my h$p, the rush of e*ery cell $n my body curl$ng towards th$s man and the pleasure he would surely br$ng me. ";ou ready=" he as ed, h$s *o$ce gruff $n my ear. ";es," I moaned, my eyes roll$ng bac $n my head at the nearness of h$m, the feel of h$m. )nd then Wallbanger too me to town. MMM "+o, e"pla$n to me why, you don't ha*e a boyfr$end. 6o bullsh$t," Edward as ed une"pectedly, wh$le we wa$ted for our table. )fter he had dr$*en me to the br$n w$th h$s $ss$ng on the terrace, he had l$terally dr$*en me to the br$n . We were at a restaurant o*erloo $ng the water, wh$ch was easy to do $n a coastal town. !ut where the l$ttle hole $n the wall places we'd been fre/uent$ng th$s wee had the$r co5y charm, th$s was a romant$c restaurant w$th an emphas$s on romance. (omance was ser*ed up on a platter here, $t was $n the w$ne, the p$ctures on the walls, the floor beneath our feet, and $n case you m$ssed the romance, $t was actually be$ng p$ped $n through the a$r. If I s/u$nted, I could actually see the word romance float$ng through the a$r on the sea bree5eHI had to really s/u$nt, but $t was there I tell you. ,loor to ce$l$ng w$ndow panels were rolled bac to let $n the scented coastal a$r, wh$le hundreds of t$ny tea l$ghts spar led $n hurr$cane glasses. Each table was dressed $n wh$te, w$th low tumblers sp$ll$ng o*er w$th dahl$a blooms $n r$ch shades of cr$mson, pomegranate, and lusty fuchs$a. T$ny wh$te 0hr$stmas l$ghts tw$sted $nto the wooden beams o*erhead cast$ng a mag$cal sep$a tone o*er the ent$re scene. In th$s restaurant, there were no ch$ldren, no tables of four or s$". 6o, th$s restaurant was f$lled w$th lo*ers, old and new. 6ow we sat, pressed closely together at an ep$c mahogany bar, slowly s$pp$ng w$ne and awa$t$ng our own l$ttle table. )nd he had as ed an $nnocent /uest$on that I was debat$ng on how to answer. 9$d I tell h$m the truth, that O had left me h$gh and dry, no man able to sat$sfy me= Or d$d I fudge. "Why I don't ha*e a boyfr$end, hmm. Interest$ng /uest$onH" I stalled. I fudged.

"Is there an $nterest$ng answer=" he as ed, lett$ng h$s hand settle aga$nst the small of my bac , cla$m$ng me /u$etly and succ$nctly. "I don't now about that, I &ust, wellHhmm," I stalled once more, s$pp$ng my w$ne. "Oh loo ' The oysters'" I s$ghed $n rel$ef as the bartender set a platter before us. +a*ed by the half shellH On a bed of $ce, a do5en gorgeous l$ttle blac and grey shells rested. Tw$sted and craggy, they gl$stened w$th sl$ces of lemon nestled here and there. Edward ra$sed an eyebrow as $f to let me now I dodged h$s /uest$on, but prepared two oysters nonetheless. I nodded as he s/uee5ed the lemon, h$s strong and elegant f$ngers ma $ng short wor , albe$t erot$c wor , of the oysters, pry$ng one from $ts home and br$ng$ng $t to my mouth on a t$ny for . "Open up 6$ght$e G$rl," he $nstructed, and I surely d$d as I was told. 0old, cr$sp, l$ e a burst of seawater $n my mouth, I moaned around the for , as he sl$pped the t$nes bac out. 7e grasped h$s own oyster and tossed $t bac l$ e a man, l$c $ng h$s l$ps as I watched th$s l$ttle b$t of pornography play out. 7e w$n ed at me as I rolled my eyes, try$ng not to let on how desperately turned on I was. The ent$re day had been l$ e one g$ant controlled ball of se"ual tens$on, a slow burn that was now $gn$t$ng $nto a w$ldf$re. 7e slurped two more $n /u$c success$on, and as I watched h$s tongue dart out to l$c h$s l$ps, I felt the sudden urge to help h$m. W$th no shame or sense of soc$al propr$ety, I closed the d$stance between us, and $ssed h$m, hard. 7e gr$nned $n surpr$se, but /u$c ly $ssed me bac w$th e/ual $ntens$ty. The sweetness and tenderness that had been mar$nat$ng between us all wee was /u$c ly deter$orat$ng $nto full on touch.me.touch.me.now, and I was all for $t. %y ent$re body turned towards h$m, my legs nestl$ng $n between h$s as h$s f$ngers found my s $n, the s $n &ust abo*e the hem of my dress. We were $ss$ng, $ss$ng all out 7ollywood style. +low, sloppy, wet and wonderful. %y head t$lted to one s$de so I could $ss h$m more deeply, my tongue sl$d$ng aga$nst h$s, lead$ng and then lett$ng h$m lead. 7e tasted l$ e sweet and salt and lemons and $t was all I could do not to grab h$m by h$s pretty l$nen sh$rt and ha*e my way w$th h$m $n the car $n the par $ng lot, $n a *ery lady l$ e way m$nd you. I heard someone clear$ng the$r throat, and I opened my eyes to see my se"y l$mes, and an embarrassed host. "E"cuse me, %r. %asen, I ha*e your table ready s$r, sir=" he as ed, carefully a*ert$ng h$s eyes from the d$splay we were putt$ng on $n h$s *ery romant$c but st$ll *ery publ$c restaurant. I m$ght ha*e moaned a l$ttle as he remo*ed h$s hands from my legs, and turned my cha$r so I could stand. Ta $ng my hands and pull$ng me from the cha$r, he sm$r ed as I wobbled on my feet a b$t, my nees be$ng actually wea . 7e gr$nned at the bartender. "Oysters man, oysters," he laughed a l$ttle as we shuffled me off to our table. I almost let out an $nd$gnant huff when I saw h$m d$screetly ad&ust h$mself. I was not the only one feel$ng the slow burnH I stuffed my huff and sm$led serenely at h$m, lower$ng my eyes &ust enough when h$s ga5e met m$ne so that he new I new. )s we were led to our table, Edward pulled out my cha$r for me. )s he scooted me $n, I let my hand dr$ft bac wards &ust enough to acc$dentally on purpose gra5e h$m, feel$ng how wor ed up he was. I heard h$m h$ss, and I sm$led $nwardly. Bust as I went $n for Gra5e Q1, he grasped my hand t$ghtly $n h$s own, press$ng h$mself aga$nst me, my breath catch$ng $n my throat as I felt h$m harden further under our hands. "9o I need to change your name to &aught! G$rl=" he murmured, low and th$c $n my ear as my ent$re body went on po$nt. I closed my eyes and tr$ed to get control as he made h$s way to h$s seat across from me, gr$nn$ng $n a de*$l$sh way. )s our wa$ter bus$ed h$mself around us, f$ll$ng water glasses and present$ng menus, I only had eyes for my Wallbanger, coc sure and beaut$ful, across the table from me. Th$s meal was go$ng to ta e fore*er. MMM The meal d$d ta e fore*er, but fore*er $n the way that I as much as I was ach$ng to get h$m alone aga$n, I also ne*er wanted th$s n$ght to end. We were ser*ed a beaut$ful paella, coastal style w$th

chun s of prawns and sp$ny lobster, chor$5o and peas. %ade $n the trad$t$onal way that was almost $mposs$ble to recreate, the s$mple shallow d$sh $t was coo ed $n allowed the saffron r$ce on the bottom to become crunchy and nutty, del$c$ous $n e*ery sense of the word. We f$n$shed a lo*ely bottle of rose, and now were la5$ly s$pp$ng t$ny glasses of #onche 0aballero, a +pan$sh brandy w$th h$nts of orange and c$nnamon. The l$/uor was sp$cy as I rolled $t around $n my mouth. I was pleasantly warm and more pleasantly t$psy. 6ot drun , &ust heady enough that I was aware of my surround$ngs and was f$nd$ng anyth$ng and e*eryth$ng sensual. The way the smooth brandy sl$pped down my throat, the feel of Edward's leg aga$nst my own as they tangled under the table, the way my body had begun to hum. The ent$re town $t seemed was out and about ton$ght, $n a celebratory mood for the fest$*al that was $c $ng off $n the center of town. There was a *$brancy $n th$s n$ght, an energy that was raw and a l$ttle w$ld. I was s$tt$ng bac $n my cha$r, teas$ng h$m w$th my b$g toe, a s$lly sm$le on my face as he stared at me hard. "I ate your paella once," he sa$d suddenly, caus$ng me to cho e a l$ttle. "#ardon me=" I sputtered, catch$ng the drop of brandy on my l$p before $t rolled off onto my dress. "In Tahoe, remember= ;ou made us all paella," he rem$nded me. "($ght r$ght, I d$d. 6ot l$ e we had ton$ght, but $t was pretty good," I sm$led, th$n $ng of that n$ght. ")s I recall, we pol$shed off some w$ne that n$ght as well." ";es, we ate paella, and dran w$ne, got the others together and then you $ssed me." "We d$d, and yes, I d$d," I blushed, th$n $ng of th$s as well. ")nd then I acted l$ e an ass," he repl$ed, h$s blush present now as well. ";ou d$d," I agreed w$th a sm$le. ";ou now why, r$ght= I mean, you ha*e to now that I, well, that I wanted you. ;ou do now that, r$ght=" "It was pressed aga$nst my leg, dear, I was aware," I laughed, try$ng to play $t off, as I thought of how I felt when I ran away from h$m $n that hot tub. "!ella, come on now," he ch$ded, h$s eyes ser$ous. "0ome on now yourself, $t really was pressed aga$nst my leg," I laughed aga$n, a l$ttle wea er th$s t$me. "That n$ght= Besus, $t would ha*e been so easy, you now=" he cont$nued, lean$ng across the table and ta $ng my hand, wh$ch was now so easy. "!ut I'm glad we're here, now," he sa$d, ra$s$ng my hand to h$s mouth. 7e la$d $sses across my nuc les, open$ng my palm and press$ng a wet $ss at $ts center. "Where I can ta e my t$me w$th you," he sa$d, $ss$ng my hand once more as I stared bac at h$m. "Edward=" ";es=" "I'm really glad we wa$ted." "%e too." "!ut I really don't th$n I can wa$t any longer." "Than God," he sm$led, and s$gnaled the wa$ter. We laughed l$ e teenagers as we pa$d the b$ll and began ma $ng our way up the h$ll towards the car. The fest$*al was $n full force now, and we passed through part of $t on our way bac . -anterns l$t up the s y o*erhead as a hea*y drum beat pulsed and we saw people danc$ng $n the streets. That energy was bac , that sense of w$ld abandon was $n the a$r, and the brandy and that *ery energy noc ed 6er*es bac down, way down $nto my gut, where 7oohah and Wang threatened to beat her to w$th$n an $nch of her l$fe. )s we reached the car, I went to grab the door handle when I was wh$rled suddenly and pressed aga$nst $t by a *ery $ntense

Wallbanger. 7$s eyes burned $nto m$ne as he pressed me aga$nst the car, h$s h$ps strong and h$s hands w$ld, $n my ha$r and on my s $n. 7$s hand sl$d down my leg, grasp$ng my th$gh and h$tch$ng $t around h$s h$p as I moaned and groaned at the strength that I was about to let run w$ld across my body and soul. !ut I slowed h$m down, my hands pull$ng at h$s ha$r, ma $ng h$m moan $n turn. "Ta e me home Wallbanger," I wh$spered, press$ng one more $ss aga$nst h$s sweet l$ps. ")nd please, dr$*e fast." E*en 7eart seemed pleased, float$ng around abo*e, st$ll s$ng$ng her song, but s$ng$ng a song that was $nf$n$tely more d$rty.

0hapter 1F #lease, part 1 I loo ed at my reflect$on $n the m$rror, try$ng to loo ob&ect$*ely. When I was a $d, espec$ally $n those charm$ng early teen years, I used to see myself *ery d$fferently. I saw mousy brown ha$r and pale un$nterest$ng s $n. I saw bor$ng brown eyes and nobby nees that b$sected s $nny b$rd.l$ e legs. I saw a sl$ghtly upturned nose and a bottom l$p that loo ed l$ e I m$ght tr$p o*er $t $f I wasn't too careful. When I was FK, one afternoon my Gran told me she thought the blue dress I was wear$ng loo ed n$ce aga$nst my s $n tone. I scoffed and $mmed$ately d$sagreed w$th her, "Than s Gran, but I got about three hours of sleep last n$ght and the last th$ng I loo l$ e today $s n$ce. T$red and pale, but not n$ce." I rolled my eyes $n that way teenage g$rls always do, always d$scount$ng what someone older sa$d. +he reached for my hand and grasped $t $n her own. ")lways ta e a compl$ment !ella. )lways ta e $t for how $t was $ntended. ;ou g$rls are always so /u$c to tw$st what others say. +$mply say than you and mo*e on. !es$des, you don't see yourself clearly," she sm$led, $n that /u$et and w$se way she had. "Than s Gran," I sm$led bac , busy$ng myself w$th the spaghett$ sauce I was ma $ng, turn$ng my face so she couldn't see my blush. "It brea s my heart the way young g$rls p$c themsel*es o*er, ne*er th$n $ng they're good enough. ;ou ma e sure you always remember you're e"actly the way you're supposed to be, e"actly. )nd anyone that says otherw$se, well, poppycoc ," she g$ggled, her *o$ce lower$ng a b$t when she sa$d that last word, the closest she would e*er actually come to swear$ng. Gran had a l$st of bad words and really bad words, and poppycoc came close to approach$ng the former. The ne"t day at school I ment$oned to a fr$end that I thought her ha$r loo ed great, and her answer was to run her hands through $t w$th d$sgust, ")re you $dd$ng= I barely e*en had t$me to wash $t today," e*en though $t loo ed fantast$c. -ater on that day after gym class, I was $n the loc er room gett$ng changed, when I obser*ed another fr$end touch$ng up her l$p gloss. "That's pretty, what's the name of that color=" I as ed as she pursed her l$ps $n the m$rror. ")pple Tartlette, but $t loo s terr$ble on me. God I ha*e no tan left o*er from summer'" Gran was r$ght. G$rls really didn't ta e compl$ments well. 6ow, I'm not gonna l$e and say after that day I d$dn't mag$cally ha*e any more bad ha$r days or e*er p$c the wrong l$pst$c aga$n. !ut I did ma e a consc$ous effort to see the good before the bad, and really loo at myself $n a more clear way. Ob&ect$*ely. @$ndly. )nd as my body cont$nued to change, I became more and more aware of features that I could loo at pos$t$*ely $nstead of negat$*ely. I ne*er thought of myself as lethally gorgeous, but I d$d clean up well. )nd so now, as I stared $nto the m$rror $n the bathroom, now$ng Edward was wa$t$ng for me, I too the t$me to ta e a l$ttle $n*entory. The mousy brown ha$r= It was loo $ng pretty good, a l$ttle wa*y and curly from the salt water that had been coo $ng $n $t all wee . The pale s $n= 6$cely browned up and, dare I say, a l$ttle glowy= I w$n ed at myself hold$ng bac a man$acal g$ggle that threatened to run out of my mouth. %y mouth had that sl$ghtly pouty lower l$p that was &ust full enough to trap me some Edward, and not let hi% go. )nd the legs I saw pee $ng out from below the lace &ust co*er$ng my th$ghs, wellHnot so b$rd. l$ e anymore. In fact, I th$n they were go$ng to loo pretty spectacular wrapp$ng around Edward'sHwellHwhate*er I felt l$ e wrapp$ng them around. )hem. )nd so as I smoothed my ha$r bac once more and mentally ran through all my $nternal chec l$sts, I was w$ldly e"c$ted about the n$ght ahead of me. We had raced bac to the house, pract$cally d$srobed each other $n the entryway and after begg$ng a few moments of g$rl t$me, I was now ready to go out and cla$m, really cla$m, my Edward. !ecause who was $dd$ng who, I wanted th$s man. Wanted h$m for my own, and d$d not, would not, share h$m w$th anyone else.

!ra$n for once was f$nally $n agreement w$th 7oohah. Espec$ally s$nce 7oohah had crawled up !ac bone and slapped !ra$n r$ght $n the stem, tell$ng her $n that spec$al way that only 7oohah's can, that we needed th$s. We deser*ed th$s and we were ready. 6er*es, well, they cont$nued to c$rcle $n Tummy, but that was to be e"pected, r$ght= I mean, $t had been a long, long t$me, and a l$ttle b$t of 6er*es were normal, I e"pect. 7ad I been stall$ng all wee = %aybe. @$nd of. ) l$ttle. Edward had been more than pat$ent, content to ta e th$ngs slow, at my pace, but for cry$ng out loud, he was only human. The n$ght after my $mpromptu neel$ng $n the $tchen, I had actually turned down h$s rec$procal neel$ng. Who e*er turned that down= )s good as he was w$th lean$ng, I bet he also ga*e great neelHand yet I had turned h$m down. #art of me really d$d &ust want $t to be about h$m. I don't now $f all women are as $nherently turned on and subse/uently sat$sf$ed by his sat$sfact$on, but I was. !ut st$ll, when he wants noth$ng more than to br$ng you to that same place of mult$ple 7a$l %arys, do you turn that down= I d$d. I tr$ed to sha e $t off, adamant that I would not let 6er*es turn another +pan$sh n$ght $nto the land of cuddle and coo. I became aware that my $nternal chec l$st was be$ng read out loud, and unless I wanted Edward to hear me ha*e an actual con*ersat$on w$th my 7oohah, wh$ch he may be $nto who nows, I needed to get my butt $n gear and get out there. I mean, !utt. I turned $n the m$rror once more try$ng to see myself as Edward m$ght see me. I sm$led $n what I thought was a seduct$*e way, fl$pped off the l$ght, too one more deep breath, and opened the door. The bedroom had been transformed $nto someth$ng out of a fa$ry tale. 0andles were l$t on the dresser and on the n$ghtstands, bath$ng the room $n a warm glow. The w$ndows were open as well as the door to the l$ttle balcony o*erloo $ng the sea, and $f I l$stened closely, I could actually hear the wa*es crash$ng, romance no*el style. )nd there he stood. 7a$r messy, body strong, and se" l$mes bla5$ng. The way the candlel$ght was danc$ng, $t almost made h$s s $n, wellHspar le. I watched as h$s eyes too me $n, dragg$ng down my body and bac up to my own, a gr$n spread$ng across h$s face as he appra$sed my outf$t of cho$ce. "%mm, there's my #$n 6$ght$e G$rl," he s$ghed, hold$ng out h$s hand to me. )nd when I stalled for &ust the t$n$est second, !ac bone p$c ed up my hand and ga*e $t to h$m. We stood $n the dar ened room, a few feet apart, but connected by our wo*en f$ngers. I could feel the rough te"ture of h$s thumb as he traced t$ny c$rcles on the $ns$de of my hand, the same c$rcles he had traced wee s and wee s before when I began to fall under h$s spell. Our eyes full of each other, he too a deep breath. "It's cr$m$nal how good you loo $n that," he sa$d draw$ng me towards h$m and g$*$ng me a l$ttle sp$n so he could better see the p$n baby doll n$ght$e. )s he spun me, the lacey edges fl$pped up &ust a l$ttle, show$ng off the accompany$ng ruffley pant$es. ) low no$se sounded $n h$s throat, and $f I wasn't m$sta en, $t was a growl= 9amnH 7e spun me bac closer to h$m, grasp$ng my h$ps and press$ng me aga$nst h$m, my breasts crush$ng $nto h$s chest. 7e placed a t$ny $ss &ust below my ear, lett$ng me feel &ust the t$p of h$s tongue. "+o there are some th$ngs I need you to understand, you l$sten$ng=" he murmured, nu55l$ng w$th h$s nose, h$s hands brush$ng up under my n$ght$e to fluff my ruffles and grab a handful of bac s$de, catch$ng me by surpr$se and caus$ng me to gasp. ";ou l$sten$ng= 9on't get d$stracted on me now," he wh$spered aga$n, flatten$ng out h$s tongue and dragg$ng $t up the s$de of my nec . "It's $nd of hard to focus w$th your d$stract$on po $ng me $n the th$gh," I groaned, lett$ng h$m bend

me bac wards &ust enough so that my ent$re body was pressed aga$nst h$m, h$s hard places perfectly content to mold my soft places around them. 7e chuc led aga$nst my nec , now dott$ng my collarbone w$th h$s trademar ed baby $sses. "7ere's what you need to now 6$ght$e G$rl. One, you're ama5$ng," he sa$d, h$s hands now tra*el$ng up to the small of my bac , f$ngers and thumbs massag$ng and man$pulat$ng. "Two, you're ama5$ngly se"y," he breathed, my hands now hurr$edly unbutton$ng h$s sh$rt, push$ng $t bac off h$s shoulders as our pace began to trans$t$on from slow and easy to fast and frant$c. 6ow h$s hands were snea $ng around front, h$s na$ls l$ghtly scrap$ng along my tummy, l$ft$ng my n$ght$e so that we were s $n to s $n, noth$ng left between us. I ran my own hands up and down h$s bac , my na$ls much more aggress$*e w$th h$m, d$gg$ng $n and anchor$ng h$m aga$nst me. ")nd three, as ama5$ngly se"y as th$s p$n n$ght$e $s, the only th$ng I want to see on you the rest of th$s n$ghtH$s me," he panted $n my ear as he p$c ed me up, stra$ght up, as my r$ght leg went around h$s wa$st on $ts own. Once aga$n, the En$*ersal -aw of Wallbanger d$ctated that legs went around h$ps when they were offered. 7e wal ed me bac wards towards the bed, towards #$llow Town, and set me down. -ean$ng o*er, he forced me bac wards onto my elbows. 7$s sh$rt was hang$ng down off h$s shoulders and he w$n ed at me, nodd$ng at h$s state of undress. I reached forward, croo ed one f$nger beh$nd the button on h$s ha $s, and /u$c ly snapped $t open. +ee$ng no pee of bo"ers, I gently nudged h$s 5$pper down &ust an $nch or so, e"pos$ng the barest h$nt of happy tra$l that led down down down, to where all good th$ngs were cons$dered. ";ou got someth$ng aga$nst underpants Wallbanger=" I wh$spered, ra$s$ng one nee and forc$ng h$m between my h$ps. ,orc$ng. (ight. "I'm aga$nst !our underpants, and $sn't $t a shame they're st$ll there=" he sm$r ed, push$ng h$s h$ps $nto me, lett$ng me feel e*eryth$ng. I dropped my head bac once more, s$lently push$ng down 6er*es when she threatened to bubble up &ust a sm$dge. Th$s was really happen$ng. "6o shame. I ha*e a feel$ng they won't be on for long," I s$ghed, stretch$ng my arms o*er my head, lengthen$ng my body aga$nst h$s, encourag$ng h$s l$ps to further dance along the hollow at the base of my collarbone, feel$ng h$m l$c $ng and suc $ng at the s $n between my breasts. I arched $nto h$m, an"$ous to feel more, I needed more. 7$s r$ght hand began peel$ng the straps of my n$ght$e down, bar$ng me to h$m, allow$ng h$m the access he needed to ma e me orb$t the planet. ,eel$ng h$s mouth on me, on my breasts, hot and wet, t$c l$ng and sloppy, was unreal. +o I told h$m so. "That feels unreal," I moaned $nto the top of h$s head as the scruff from h$s l$ght beard roughed my s $n pleasantly. 7$s l$ps closed around my r$ght n$pple and my h$ps went off on a tangent of the$r own, buc $ng w$ldly underneath h$m, both legs now wrapped f$rmly around h$s wa$st, pull$ng h$m $nto my world, feel$ng the heat of h$m. -$ps and tongue and teeth now la*$shed across my clea*age, wh$ch was sp$ll$ng out o*er the edge of the n$ght$e, as he alternated between both breasts, lo*$ng them e/ually. I was surrounded by Edward, e*en h$s scent was turn$ng me on, e/ual parts peppery sp$ce and th$c warm brandy. 6onsens$cal words were pour$ng forth from my mouth. I was aware of a few "Edwards," and one or two, ";es, fuc that's good," but mostly what I o*erheard from myself were th$ngs l$ e "%mph," and "Erghh," and a rather loud "7yyyyaeahhh," wh$ch fran ly, I can't e*en beg$n to th$n how to spell. Edward was s$gh$ng o*er and o*er aga$n $nto my s $n, h$s actual breath a turn on as I felt $t wash o*er me. %y hands had been left free to roam $n the wonderland that was h$s ha$r, and as I swept $t bac from h$s face I was rewarded w$th the ama5$ng s$ght of h$s mouth on me, h$s eyes closed $n clear worsh$p. 7e l$ghtly b$t down on me, clos$ng h$s teeth around my sens$t$*e s $n and my hands almost tore the ha$r from h$s head. It. ,elt. #henomenal.

7$s left hand was runn$ng up and down my leg, encourag$ng me to grasp h$m t$ghter between my th$ghs as h$s mag$cal f$ngers began to come e*er closer to the edge of the lace. It was the last boundary we had yet to cross. It was the lace front$er. I felt my breath$ng st$ll as he went on f$nal approach, h$s f$ngers brush$ng &ust under the edge of my pant$es, barely brush$ng underneath and towards me. 7$s breath$ng slowed as well and as he cont$nued to touch me gently, h$s face came bac up to m$ne and we had th$s moment, th$s /u$et moment, where we &ustHstared. )we, $t's the only way I can descr$be the feel$ng of h$s hand ghost$ng o*er me, del$cately, re*erently. Our eyes were loc ed as he eased h$s hand further underneath the lace and then, w$th ach$ngly perfect prec$s$on, he touched me. %y eyes fluttered shut, my ent$re body was awash w$th so many d$fferent sensat$ons. %y breath$ng started bac up aga$n, the $ntense pressure that had been c$rcl$ng all around and $ns$de and out was l$ e a low le*el hum, &ust beneath the surface of my s $n. I mo*ed w$th h$m, feel$ng h$s f$ngers beg$n to e"plore me, and I let out the t$n$est moan. It was all I could let out, the feel$ngs were so $ntense and the energy, oh my goodness, the energy that surrounded us $n that moment. I was sure Edward was unaware of the ent$rety of the emot$on that was fly$ng around beh$nd my closed eyel$ds. The poor man was &ust f$nally gett$ng a l$ttle touch. )s h$s f$ngers became more deft and sure of themsel*es, someth$ng $ncred$ble began to happen. That teeny t$ny l$ttle bundle of ner*es, that had been dormant for centur$es, began to spar to l$fe. %y eyes flew open, as a warmth began to mo*e through me, start$ng at the center of my be$ng and wor $ng $ts way outward. !ella was gett$n' wet. )nd tal $ng about herself $n the th$rd person. Edward was most certa$nly en&oy$ng th$s, h$s eyes ha5y and crowded w$th lust as I wr$thed underneath h$m, feel$ng me tense and come al$*e. "God !ella, you're soHGod you're beaut$ful," he murmured, h$s eyes now crowd$ng w$th someth$ng a b$t more than lust and I felt t$ny p$n pr$c s beh$nd my eyeballs. I threw my arms around h$s nec and held h$m close, tear$ng at h$s sh$rt to get $t off, get $t off h$m so that I could feel e*eryth$ng. 7e l$fted h$mself from me for only seconds, r$pp$ng off h$s sh$rt $n an e"aggerated way that made me g$ggle but yearn for h$m e*en more. -ower$ng h$mself bac onto me, he sl$pped lower, h$s l$ps now trac$ng a path down to my belly button. 0$rcl$ng $t w$th h$s tongue, he laughed $nto my tummy. "What are you laugh$ng at m$ster=" I g$ggled, s/uee5$ng h$s ear. 7e was below the n$ght$e now, h$s face h$dden from me. #o $ng h$s head bac out, he let loose a slow, de*$l$sh gr$n that made my toes po$nt. "If your belly button tastes th$s good, fuc !ella. I can't wa$t to taste your pussy." I need to ta e moment hereH There are certa$n th$ngs a woman needs to hear at d$fferent t$mes $n her l$fe2 ;ou got the &ob. ;our ass loo s great $n that s $rt. I would lo*e to meet your mother. )nd when used $n the &ust the r$ght conte"t, $n &ust the r$ght sett$ngHsomet$mes, we need to hear the #.word. Th$s could be better than 0looney. It's embarrass$ng the effect th$s l$ne had on my body. What was once parched was nowHwellHnot. The moan that came out of my mouth when he sa$d that word, well, let's &ust say that $t was loud enough to wa e the dead. 7e let h$s tongue trace a path from my belly button down to the edge of

my ruffles, and then w$th lo*$ng prec$s$on, hoo ed h$s thumbs underneath the lace and dragged them down my legs. There I was, spread out on top of #$llowTown w$th a p$n n$ght$e bunched up around my m$dr$ff, breasts and 7oohah e"posed, and damn happy about $t. 7e pulled my h$ps &ust to the edge of the bed and dropped to h$s nees. +weet Besus. (unn$ng h$s hands up and down the tops of my legs, I l$fted up on my elbows so that I could watch, need$ng to see th$s wonderful man tend$ng to me, ta $ng care of me. @neel$ng between my th$ghs, w$th h$s ha $s unbuc led and halfway un5$pped, ha$r at atom$c he$ghts, he was stunn$ng. )nd on the mo*e. Once aga$n lett$ng h$s tongue lead, he planted open mouth $sses along the $ns$des of my th$ghs, one s$de and then the other, w$th each pass gett$ng closer and closer to where I needed h$m most. 0arefully l$ft$ng my left leg, he h$tched $t o*er h$s shoulder as I arched my bac , my ent$re body now ach$ng to feel h$m. 7e ga5ed at me for a moment longer, maybe e*en &ust a few seconds, but $t felt l$ e a l$fet$me as he regarded me. "!eaut$ful," he breathed one more t$me, and then he pressed h$s mouth to me. 6o /u$c l$c s, no t$ny $sses, &ust $ncred$ble pressure as he surrounded me w$th h$s l$ps. It was enough to ma e me drop bac on the bed, unable to actually support myself any longer. The feel, the e"/u$s$te feel of h$m was all consum$ng, and I could barely breathe. 7e wor ed me slow and low, br$ng$ng one hand up to open me further to h$m, lett$ng h$s mouth and f$ngers and perfect tongue gently and method$cally coa" me $nto the stratosphere, r$s$ng up, f$ll$ng me w$th a sense of awe and ama5ement that I had been m$ss$ng for so long. I allowed one hand to dr$ft down towards h$m, tangl$ng $nto h$s ha$r, runn$ng my f$ngers through $t w$th as much lo*e as I could show. The other hand= Eseless, $t was f$st$ng the sheets $nto some $nd of ball. 7e l$fted h$s head from me once, &ust once, to press another $ss aga$nst my th$gh. "#erfect, Besus, &ust perfect," he wh$spered, almost so /u$etly I could barely hear h$m o*er my own s$ghs and wh$mpers. 7e returned to me almost $mmed$ately, an urgency now to h$s mo*ements, h$s l$ps and tongue tw$st$ng and press$ng as he groaned $nto me, the *$brat$on r$d$ng stra$ght through me. I opened my eyes for a second, &ust a second. The room was glow$ng, almost $ncandescently. )ll of my senses came al$*e and I could hear the crash$ng of the surf, could see the candlel$ght fl$c er$ng off the auburn $n Edward's ha$r, made e*en more pronounced from a wee $n the hot +pan$sh sun. I could feel my s $n brea $nto gooseflesh, the *ery a$r caress$ng me and announc$ng what I had been m$ss$ng for months, years e*en. Th$s man could *ery poss$bly lo*e me. )nd he was about to br$ng bac the O. +napp$ng my eyes closed aga$n, I could almost see myself, stand$ng at the edge of a cl$ff, star$ng down $nto the rag$ng ocean below. #ressure, enormous pressure was bu$ld$ng beh$nd me, nudg$ng me towards the edge where I could fall, fall freely $nto what was wa$t$ng for me. I too one step, then another, closer and closer as I could feel Edward grasp$ng my h$ps. If the O was com$ng for me, then I wanted Edward $ns$de me. I needed h$m $ns$de me. Tugg$ng on h$s shoulders, I pulled h$m up my body, feet $c $ng at h$s ha $s unt$l they lay defenseless on the floor. "Edward, I need, please, $ns$de, now," I panted, almost $ncoherent w$th lust. Edward, schooled $n !ella shorthand, understood th$s completely and was po$sed between my legs, h$ps nu55led up $nto m$ne w$th$n seconds. 7e leaned down, $ss$ng me wantonly, the taste of me all o*er h$m and I lo*ed $t. "Ins$de, $ns$de, $ns$de," I ept chant$ng, my bac and h$ps alternately arch$ng, desperately try$ng to f$nd what I needed, what I had to ha*e, to let me &ump off that cl$ff.

,$nally, I felt h$m, e"actly where he was meant to be. !arely nudg$ng $ns$de, &ust the feel$ng of h$m enter$ng me was earth shatter$ng. %y own needs /u$eted for the moment, I watched h$s face as he began to press $ns$de me for the f$rst t$me. 7$s eyes bore $nto m$ne as I cradled h$s face $n my hands. 7e loo ed as though he wanted to say someth$ng, and I wondered. What words would we spea , what wonderfully lo*$ng th$ngs would we say to commemorate th$s moment= "7$," he wh$spered, sm$l$ng as though h$s l$fe depended on $t. I couldn't help but sm$le bac . "7$," I answered, lo*$ng the feel of h$m, the we$ght of h$m, abo*e me. 7e sl$pped gently $nto me, and my body at f$rst res$sted. It had been a long t$me, but the l$ttle pa$n that I felt was welcome. It was that good $nd of pa$n, a pa$n that let you now someth$ng more was com$ng. I rela"ed a b$t, allow$ng my legs to wrap around h$s wa$st, and as he pushed further $nto me, h$s sm$le became $nf$n$tely more se"y as he b$t down on h$s lower l$p and t$ny frown l$nes appeared on h$s forehead. I breathed $n, $nhal$ng h$s scent as I watched h$m pull bac &ust the t$n$est b$t, only to thrust once more $nto me. 6ow fully $ns$de, I welcomed h$m the only way I could. I ga*e h$m that l$ttle $nternal hug, the one that made h$s eyes flash open and peer down at me. "There's my g$rl," he murmured, ra$s$ng one ra $sh eyebrow at me and thrust$ng $nto me aga$n, w$th more con*$ct$on th$s t$me. %y breath caught $n my throat and I gasped, unw$tt$ngly roc $ng my h$ps $nto h$s w$th an $nst$nct that was as old as the wa*es crash$ng down below. +lowly, he began to mo*e w$th$n me, sl$d$ng aga$nst me w$th a fantast$c pressure, each new angle and sensat$on g$*$ng way to more of that warm t$ngly feel$ng that was wor $ng $ts way out to the t$ps of each f$nger and toe. The feel$ng of ha*$ng Edward $ns$de me, $ns$de my body was more than I can art$culate. I groaned and he grunted, he moaned and I mewed, together. 7$s h$ps pushed me h$gher onto the bed, up towards the headboard. Our bod$es were sl$c w$th sweat, crash$ng and smash$ng $nto each other. I threaded my hands deeply $nto h$s ha$r, tugg$ng and wr$th$ng beneath h$m wonderfully. "!ella, so beaut$ful," he s$ghed, $n between $sses he left across my forehead and nose. I closed my eyes and could see myself, once aga$n, on the edge of that cl$ff, ready to &ump, need$ng to &ump. )ga$n, that pressure began to bu$ld, that crac le of energy sp$nn$ng $tself w$ld and frant$c, puls$ng w$th e*ery thrust, e*ery sl$p and d$p of h$s h$ps $nto m$ne, dr$*$ng h$m, unrelent$ngly, $n and out of my body. I too one f$nal step, one foot now dangl$ng off the edge of the cl$ff, and I saw herHO. +he was $n the water down below, her ha$r l$ e f$re danc$ng along the wa*es. +he wa*ed and I wa*ed and &ust l$ e that, Edward brought one hand down between our bod$es, &ust abo*e where we were &o$ned, and he began to trace h$s l$ttle c$rcles. -$ttle c$rcles from a perfect hand, and I &umped. I &umped free and clear and loud and proud, announc$ng my appro*al w$th a lusty ";es'" as I rushed towards that certa$n h$gh. )nd I fell. )nd fell. )nd fell. )nd crashed. 0rashed and smac ed $nto the unforg$*$ng surface of the water, and d$dn't come up. I fell for what seemed l$ e an age, but $nstead of O meet$ng me at the bottom w$th open arms, I floundered alone, and wet. E*ery muscle $n my body, e*ery cell was concentrated on the return of the O, as $f I could w$ll her bac . I stra$ned, body t$ght and taught as I caught s$ght of her, &ust the *ery t$ps of her ha$r, l$ e f$re under water, sl$pp$ng away from me. +he was so close, so *ery close, but no. 6o. I scrambled after her, try$ng w$th sheer w$ll to ma e her reappear, but noth$ng. +he was gone and I was left underwater. W$th the most beaut$ful man $n the world $ns$de me. I opened my eyes and saw Edward abo*e me, saw h$s beaut$ful face as he made lo*e to me, and that is was th$s was. Th$s wasn't se", th$s was lo*e, and I st$ll couldn't offer h$m all that I had. I saw h$s

face. I saw h$s eyes hea*y and th$c and half closed $n pass$on. I saw a bead of sweat runn$ng down h$s nose and watched as $t splashed la5$ly down onto my breasts. I saw as he b$t down hard on h$s lower l$p, the stra$n on h$s face as he delayed h$s own well deser*ed cl$ma". 7e was e*eryth$ng I had hoped he would be, he was a generous lo*er and I could feel my own heart beat to w$th$n burst$ng out of my chest to be nearer to h$m, to lo*e h$m. 7e was e*eryth$ng. I l$fted h$s hand from between us and $ssed h$s f$ngert$ps, then wrapped my legs t$ghter around h$s wa$st and let my hands anchor themsel*es $n h$s bac . 7e was wa$t$ng for me, of course he was. I adored h$m. I closed my eyes once more, steel$ng myself for all I was able to g$*e h$m. "Edward, $t's so good," I panted and I meant e*ery word of $t. I buc ed my h$ps. I clenched $n all the r$ght places and I called h$s name, o*er and o*er aga$n. "!ella, loo at me, please," he begged, h$s *o$ce r$fe w$th pleasure. I allowed my eyes to open aga$n, feel$ng one tear sp$ll down my chee . ) strange loo stole o*er h$s features for only a second, as h$s eyes searched m$ne, and then= 7e came. 6o thunder, no l$ghten$ng, no fanfare. !ut $t was stunn$ng. 7e collapsed onto me and I too that we$ght, too $t all, as I cradled h$m to my chest and $ssed h$m o*er and o*er aga$n, my hands sooth$ng on h$s bac , my legs hugg$ng h$m to me as t$ghtly as I could. I wh$spered h$s name as he nu55led $nto the space between my nec and my breast, s$mple touches and caresses. 7eart sat to the s$de and /u$etly s$ghed. 6er*es= ;ou mother fuc er. 9on't e*en th$n about show$ng your face here. We lay for awh$le, l$sten$ng to the ocean $n our own personal l$ttle ha*en, th$s romant$c fa$ry tale that could ha*e, should ha*e been enough. When h$s breath$ng returned to normal, he l$fted h$s head from me and $ssed me *ery softly. "7$," he sm$led. "7$," I sm$led bac . +e" could be good, e*en w$thout the O. "I'll be r$ght bac ," he sa$d d$sentangl$ng from me and wal $ng towards the bathroom, na ed bac s$de a s$ght to behold. I watched h$m retreat, and then I sat up /u$c ly, pull$ng the straps of my n$ght$e bac up around my shoulders. I rolled onto my s$de, away from the bathroom, and curled around my p$llow. I would not cry. I would not cry. I would not cry. E*en though he had only been gone from the bed a few m$nutes, when he came bac , I pretended to be asleep. 0h$ld$sh= ;ep. I felt the bed d$p as he cl$mbed bac $n, and then h$s warm and st$ll *ery na ed body was up aga$nst me, spoon$ng me. )rms wrapped around my m$ddle, and then h$s mouth was at my ear, wh$sper$ng. "%mm, 6$ght$e G$rl bac $n her n$ght$e." I wa$ted, not spea $ng, &ust breath$ng. I felt h$m sha e me a l$ttle b$t and let out a l$ttle chuc le. "!ella= 7ey you, are you sleep$ng=" +hould I snore= Whene*er people fa ed sleep on s$tcoms, they snored. I let out a t$ny one. 7e $ssed my nec , my tra$tor s $n pebbl$ng $n the wa e of h$s mouth. I s$ghed $n my "sleep", snuggl$ng closer to Edward, hop$ng he would let me pull th$s off. The fates were $nd ton$ght as he s$mply hugged me t$ghter to h$s chest and $ssed me once more.

"6$ght !ella," he wh$spered once more and the n$ght settled around us. I fa e snored for a few more m$nutes unt$l h$s actual snor$ng too o*er and then I s$ghed hea*$ly. 0onfused and numb, I was awa e unt$l dawn. MMM I had fa ed $t. ,a ed $t w$th Wallbanger. There must ha*e been a rule wr$tten somewhere, maybe e*en ch$seled $nto a stone tablet. Thou +hall 6ot ,a e It W$th Wallbanger. +o let $t be wr$tten, so $t be done. I fa ed $t, and now I was doomed to wander the planet fore*er, Oless. Was I be$ng o*erly dramat$c= Oh my yes, but $f th$s d$dn't call for a l$ttle drama, what d$d= That ne"t morn$ng, I was up and out of bed before Edward was e*en awa e, someth$ng that I had not done the ent$re t$me we were on our tr$p together. Esually we stayed $n bed unt$l the other one was awa e, and then lounge for awh$le, laugh$ng and tal $ng. )nd $ss$ng. %mm, the $ss$ng. !ut th$s morn$ng, I ran /u$c ly through the shower and was $n the $tchen ma $ng brea fast when a sleepy Edward made h$s way $n. +huffl$ng across the floor $n h$s soc s >the floor was always a b$t cold? and w$th h$s bo"ers low on h$s h$ps, he gr$nned through h$s sleep ha5e and burrowed $nto my s$de as I sl$ced melon and berr$es. "What are you do$ng out here= I was a l$ttle lonesome, b$g bed, no !ella, where'd you go=" he as ed, plant$ng a /u$c $ss on my shoulder. "I needed to get mo*$ng th$s morn$ng, remember the car $s com$ng for me at ten= I wanted to ma e you some brea fast before I left," I sm$led, turn$ng towards h$m and g$*$ng h$m a /u$c $ss. 7e stopped me from turn$ng away from h$m and $ssed me more thoroughly, not lett$ng me hurry through anyth$ng. I could feel myself clos$ng off towards h$m, almost unable to stop myself. I needed some t$me to process th$s, to understand how I was feel$ng about th$s, other than m$serable. !ut I adored Edward, and he d$dn't deser*e th$s. +o I let myself fall $nto the $ss, be swept away by th$s man once more. I $ssed h$m bac fe*er$shly, pass$onately, and then pulled away &ust before $t could become someth$ng more than a $ss. ",ru$t=" "7uh=" ",ru$t, I made fru$t salad, want some=" "Oh, yeah. ;eah, sounds good. 0offee made=" "Water $s bo$l$ng, ,rench press $s all ready to go," I answered, patt$ng h$m on the chee as I wa*ed h$m towards the pot. We /u$etly made our way around the $tchen, tal $ng /u$etly and steal$ng a $ss or two when poss$ble. I was try$ng not to show how messed up my bra$n was, try$ng to act as normal as I could. Edward seemed to sense someth$ng was up, but was ta $ng h$s cue from me, lett$ng me lead th$s morn$ng. We sat outs$de on the terrace one last t$me, eat$ng our brea fast together and watch$ng the brea ers roll $n. ")re you glad you came=" he as ed as I b$t down on my l$p at the ob*$ous. "I'm so glad. Th$s tr$p was ama5$ng," I sm$led, reach$ng across the table for h$s hand and g$*$ng $t a s/uee5e. ")nd now=" ")nd now, what= !ac to real$ty, what t$me does your fl$ght get $n tomorrow=" I as ed. "-ate, really late. +hould I call you orH" he left off, seem$ng to as me $f he should come o*er. "0all me when you get $n, no matter what t$me, o =" I repl$ed, s$pp$ng my coffee and watch$ng the

ocean. 7e was /u$et now and th$s t$me when I b$t down on my l$p $t was to eep from cry$ng. MMM I had pac ed early $n the morn$ng, so when the dr$*er got there, I was ready to go. I was fly$ng bac home through the much closer a$rport $n %alaga. )n e"tra connect$on, but $t sa*ed me a lot of dr$*$ng t$me. Edward had tr$ed to tempt me to &o$n h$m $n the shower, but I begged off, ma $ng up an e"cuse about f$nd$ng my passport. I was pan$c $ng, pull$ng away &ust when we had been gett$ng so close, but th$s had really thrown me for a loop. I had put all my O's $n one bas et so to spea , and the problem wasn't Edward. It was me. The se" had been unreal, ama5$ng, romance no*el worthy, and yet st$ll. 6o. It was enough to ma e me want to smac myself $n the 6er&a. Edward wal ed my bags out to the car, plac$ng them $n the trun . )fter spea $ng to the dr$*er for a moment, he came bac to me as I wal ed through the house one last t$me. It truly had been a fa$ry tale, and I had en&oyed e*ery moment of $t. "T$me to go=" I as ed, lean$ng bac aga$nst h$m when he approached me at the ra$l$ng on the terrace. I had heard h$m wal up beh$nd me, and I was glad for the feel of h$m aga$nst me. "T$me to go. ;ou ha*e e*eryth$ng you need=" "I th$n so, I w$sh I could f$gure out a way to get some of those prawns home though," I laughed and he snorted $nto my ha$r. "I th$n we can f$nd someth$ng at home that w$ll be su$table, maybe we can ha*e the others o*er ne"t wee end and recreate some of the stuff we ate here=" he as ed and I turned to face h$m. "%a e our debut=" I gr$nned. ";eah sure, I mean, $f you want to," he nodded sheep$shly, loo $ng at me carefully. "I do," I answered honestly. )nd I d$d. E*en w$thout the stup$d blessed O, I wanted to be w$th Edward. "O , debut o*er prawns. That sounds we$rd," he gr$nned and I laughed as he hugged me to h$m. The dr$*er hon ed h$s horn and we made our way out front. "I'll call you when I'm bac , o =" "I'll be there. Get some good wor done," I $nstructed and he ga*e me a l$ttle salute. 7e brushed my ha$r bac from my face and leaned $n to $ss me once more. "!ye !ella." "!ye Edward," I wh$spered and got $n the car. )nd away from the fa$ry tale. It turns out I d$d cry. MMM Once I was ensconced $n my f$rst class seat, I had noth$ng but hours to contemplate. +tr$ e that. I had noth$ng but hours to s$t and stew and grumble. I had cr$ed $n the car on the way to the a$rport, try$ng to reassure the dr$*er that I was f$ne and not stone cold cra5y. I cr$ed because, well, there was sure as sh$t a lot of tens$on $n my body and $t had to come out some way. )nd so $t d$d, through my eyeballs. I was sad and I was frustrated. 6ow I was done cry$ng. I tr$ed to read. I had stoc ed up on trashy maga5$nes $n the a$rport $n %alaga. )s I paged through them, t$tles of art$cles &umped out at me. How to 7now $& +ou Are Having the Best 'rgasm +ou 3an Have! Se ret Sex -ips 4or +our 1aximum 'rgasm! How to 7egel +our Wa# to 1ultiples0

New Weight Loss /lan" 'rgasm +our Wa# to a -hinner +ou! 7oohah, !ra$n, !ac bone, 7eart, all l were l$ned up and throw$ng stones at 6er*es, who was try$ng her best to h$de from the rest. I slammed down all my new maga5$nes, throw$ng $nto the seat bac $n front of me. I grabbed my laptop, power$ng $t up and putt$ng $n my ear buds. I had loaded some mo*$es on before the last fl$ght. I could let my bra$n escape $nto a f$lm. ;es, I could do that. I scrolled through some of the mo*$es I had on f$leHWhen /arr! Met ,all!, nope, not w$th that scene $n the del$. op 5un= 6ope, that scene where they do $t and $t's all l$t blue w$th the bree5e blow$ng through the gau5y curta$ns, no, too close to my fa$ry tale. 9rett! Wo%an= 7ell no, Edward= I found a mo*$e that I could safely watch, too three Tylenol #%, and was asleep before -u e e*en too Ob$ Wan to %os E$sley. MMM +omewhere between the connect$on at -aGuard$a and the fl$ght across the country, I got mad. I had caught up on my sleep, was done w$th the cry$ng bullsh$t, and now I was good and mad. )nd on a plane where pac$ng was d$scouraged. I had to stay $n my seat and try to rat$onal$5e what to do w$th th$s anger, and how I was go$ng to l$*e my ent$re l$fe w$th no hope of an O. )nd aga$n, o*erly dramat$c= #erhaps, but w$th no O $n s$ght, $t's not too hard to lose focus. ,$nally, we touched down at +,O and as I made my way down towards baggage cla$m, phys$cally and emot$onally e"hausted, I loo ed up $nto the face of someone I ne*er wanted to see aga$n. %$ e. ,uc $ng. 6ewton. That &ac rabb$t fuc er. #lastered across the newsstand was h$s stup$d face $n a g$ant ad campa$gn for 6ewton +port$ng Goods. I stood $n front of h$s g$ant head, w$th the b$ggest sh$t eat$ng gr$n on h$s face as he posed $n front of a roc cl$mb$ng wall, and my anger bubbled o*er. It now had a face. %y anger had a face, and $t was a stup$d face. I wanted to punch $t $n the face, but $t was only a p$cture. Enfortunately, that d$dn't stop me. 6ot a smart th$ng to do, ha*e a f$t $n an $nternat$onal a$rport. Turns out they frown on that. +o after a strongly worded warn$ng from T+), and a prom$se that I would ne*er attac a poster aga$n, I pac ed myself $n a cab, st$n $ng of a$rplane, and made my way bac to my apartment. I $c ed my own door th$s t$me, and as I threw my bags down, I saw the only two th$ngs that could ma e me sm$le. 0l$*e and my @$tchena$d. W$th a strongly worded %eow, he came runn$ng to me, actually &ump$ng $nto my arms show$ng affect$on that he usually only reser*ed for moments e"actly l$ e these. 7$s l$ttle cat bra$n new when I needed $t, and he la*$shed attent$on on me l$ e only he could. +ha $ng h$s ta$l and purr$ng $ncessantly, he butted h$s head up under my ch$n and wrapped h$s b$g paws around my nec , g$*$ng me a t$ny $tty hug. -augh$ng $nto h$s fur, I held h$m closely to me, breath$ng out hea*$ly. It was good to be home. "9$d Encle ,el$" and Encle 9emetr$ ta e good care of you= 7uh= Who's my good boy=" I cooed, dropp$ng h$m to the floor and grabb$ng a /u$c can of tuna for h$m, h$s treat for beha*$ng wh$le I was gone. Turn$ng now from 0l$*e, who was focused solely on h$s bowl, my eyes laser loc ed on my @$tchena$d. I was go$ng to shower and then I was go$ng to ba e. I needed to ba eH MMM )n un nown amount of t$me later, I heard a noc $ng at my door. I had been ba $ng so long I had lost trac of all t$me and felt my bac crea and s/uea as I l$fted my head from my brown$es. I was frost$ng some of Ina's Outrageous !rown$es. They too a few e"tra steps but oh boy, were they worth the trouble. What the hell t$me was $t= I loo ed around for 0l$*e and d$dn't see h$m. I shuffled to the door, not$c$ng that as I stepped, I was do$ng a l$ttle soft shoe dance, there was sugar

all o*er the floor, brown and wh$te. There was another noc at the door, more $ns$stent th$s t$me. "0om$ng'" I shouted, roll$ng my eyes at the $rony. )s I l$fted my hand to open the door, I not$ced the chocolate frost$ng all o*er my nuc les. 6ot one to e*er waste, I ga*e them a hea*enly l$c as I opened the door. There stood Edward, loo $ng t$red and e"hausted. "What are you do$ng here, you're not supposed to be home unt$l." "6ot supposed to be home unt$l late ton$ght, I now. I too an earl$er fl$ght," he stated, push$ng past me $nto my apartment. )s I closed the door and turned to face h$m, I smoothed out my apron a b$t, feel$ng b$ts of coo $e dough cl$ng$ng to $t. ";ou too an earl$er fl$ght, why=" I as ed, soft shoe$ng across the floor towards h$m. 7e loo ed around w$th an amused gr$n, not$ng the p$les and p$les of coo $es, the mult$ple p$es on the w$ndows$lls. The alum$num wrapped br$c s of 5ucch$n$ bread, pump $n bread, cranberry orange bread, stac ed l$ ed the foundat$on of a house all along the d$n$ng table. 7e gr$nned once more, then turned to me, p$c $ng a ra$s$n off my forehead that I d$dn't e*en now was stuc there. ")re you gonna tell me why you fa ed $t="

0hapter 11 7allellu&ah, 7ere +he 0omes E#O: It was all I could do to not start laugh$ng when I saw her, e*en as t$red as I was. It was almost beyond my own comprehens$on that I'd &ust flown halfway across the globe for th$s woman, and yet as soon as I saw her, co*ered $n sugar and errant ra$s$ns, I new I was r$ght to do $t. )nd wh$le the s$ght of the dr$ed fru$t stuc to her forehead was enough to ma e me laugh out loud, $t was far more $mportant at th$s moment to f$nd out why she had l$ed. ,or my perce$*ed benef$t certa$nly, but l$ed nonetheless. 6ow, e*ery man worth h$s salt can tell when a woman $s fa $ng $t. )nd any man worth h$s salt nows $t happens to e*ery guy. )nd any man worth h$s salt shouldn't be offended by $t. )ny man worth h$s saltHwow, my blood pressure was r$s$ng &ust th$n $ng about all th$s salt. )nd there was no salt $n th$s room r$ght now, &ust a gorgeous woman that I was clearly batsh$t cra5y for, along plenty of sugar. It crunched when I wal ed $n $t, $t was all o*er the floor. )nd why was that e"actly= )s I wal ed further $nto the room, I glanced around and saw that my g$rl had been busy. %y g$rl. Besus that sounded tr$te, and yet, really fuc $ng fantast$c. %y eyes too $n the p$es, the coo $es, the brown$es, and then holy sh$t, the bread. 0ountless stac s of bread wrapped $n her s$gnature fo$lH they were stac ed three deep on top of the table. I wonder what $nd were $n there, cranberry orange= #ump $n= Oucch$n$= Oucch$n$Hthat's where $t all started. +he had me at 5ucch$n$. Was th$s what happened when you fell $n lo*e= ;ou thought $n sentences l$ e, she had me at 5ucch$n$= +h$t, I was fall$ng hard. )ga$n, the fact that I had flown home early, s $pped shots that I new I should ta e, &ust to ma e sure my g$rl >$t was l$ e bells go$ng off $ns$de my bra$n e*ery t$me I thought about those words? was o Hdamn she owned me. )nd there she stood, beaut$ful $n her d$sarray, and I wondered why $n the world she hadn't been honest w$th me. I mean, fa $ng $t= 6ot $n my bed. 6o way. I new the moment $t happened, she was so close, I could feel her, all around me, puls$ng and warm and wet and sl$c and want$ng and perfect. )nd then, someth$ng changed. It was her eyes, they changed, and then she closed them to me. +he ga*e a great show, but !ella had always been so real, so perfectly there w$th me, that as soon as she chec ed out, I new $t. I needed to now why. Why would she ha*e fa ed $t= !ecause for me, damn. !e$ng $ns$de th$s woman was almost more than I could ta e. The feel$ng, the $ntense all encompass$ng feel$ng, of enter$ng th$s woman for the f$rst t$me, $t was all I could to not come $nstantly. I mean, we are tal $ng the se"ual endurance of a FK year old, $t was almost embarrass$ng how /u$c ly th$ngs could ha*e ended that n$ght. It was &ust, after years of e"per$enc$ng ama5$ng se1 w$th fantast$c women whene*er I wanted, whene*er I needed, w$th !ella $t was the sense of s$n $ng $nto someth$ngHsacred. It was m$nd blow$ng. I lo*ed th$s woman. 6ot sure when that happened. +omewhere between battl$ng her water p$pes and the n$ght we spent under my mother's afghan. I lo*ed th$s woman. +he needed to now th$s. There was noth$ng $n the world, $n my world now, more beaut$ful than the s$ght of !ella, bare and beneath me. )nd $t was someth$ng that I wanted to see aga$n and aga$n. )s always when th$n $ng about na ed !ella, my m$nd ran away w$th $tself and now I was sha $ng my head a b$t, try$ng to remember where I was. ($ght r$ght, !ella's $tchen, surrounded by an ent$re ba ery. )s I too $n the amount of ba ed goods around me, I real$5ed that a ba $ng fren5y had ta en place $n the mere hours s$nce she left my s$de. I wasn't one to use the word fren5y *ery often, but there $s no doubt a fren5y had been entered $nto, and from the way she was now punch$ng at a defenseless p$ece of dough on the counter, $t would seem the fren5y was st$ll $ts throes. )h the throes. When could I be all up $n !ella's throes aga$n=

,ocus %asen, your woman $s punch$ng dough. I watched as !ella fl$pped and neaded a hun of wh$te fluffy dough on her countertop, man$pulat$ng $t around and around, her face flush w$th color. +he was clearly upset, but what $n the world could th$s harmless p$ece of dough ha*e done to ma e her so frustrated= +he had yet to answer my /uest$on. +hould I ha*e framed $t a l$ttle more carefully, th$s fa $ng bus$ness= %aybe, maybe I should ha*e wor ed up to $t. !ut fuc $t, I &ust flew across the )tlant$c, and then the ent$re country to as her th$s /uest$on, I wasn't go$ng to beat around the bush. I wal ed o*er to her, brush$ng a loc of ha$r beh$nd her ear as she cont$nued to nead and fl$p. +he w$nced when I touched her, her face tense and &aw set. "We gonna tal about th$s=" I as ed /u$etly, d$pp$ng my nose to her nec and ta $ng $n her scent. !rown sugar, honey, warm and homey. 7er body leaned $nto m$ne for a scant second, then seemed to catch herself and resumed her bread beatdown. "What $s there to tal about= I don't e*en now what you're tal $ng about, are you del$r$ous from the t$me change=" she as ed, a*o$d$ng my eyes wh$le her telltale blush crept up her nec . I was go$ng to stop th$s r$ght now. "6$ght$e G$rl, come on. Tal to me," I prodded, nu55l$ng now $nto her nec , feel$ng my body respond to her pro"$m$ty as $t always d$d. "If we're gonna do th$s, then we need to tal to each other." +he p$c ed up the dough one more t$me and threw $t aga$nst the wall. It dr$pped and rolled down, st$c y l$ e those creepy crawly th$ngs I used to play w$th when I was a $d. +he wh$rled about to face me, her face st$ll red but her eyes bla5$ng. "What was that go$ng to be=" I as ed, nodd$ng to the dough. "!r$oche, $t was go$ng to be br$oche," she answered /u$c ly, her tone frant$c. "I bet $t would ha*e been good." "It's a lot of wor , almost too much." "We could try $t aga$n. I'd be glad to help." ";ou don't now what you're offer$ng, do you ha*e any $dea how compl$cated $t $s= 7ow many steps there are= 7ow long $t m$ght ta e=" "Good th$ngs come to those who wa$t." "0hr$st Edward, you ha*e no $dea, I want th$s so badly, probably e*en more than you." "They ma e croutons out of $t, r$ght=" "Wa$t, what= What the hell are you tal $ng about=" "!r$oche, r$ght= It's l$ e, some $nd of bread, $sn't $t= 7ey, /u$t bang$ng your head aga$nst the counter," I pan$c ed, watch$ng her thump her forehead repeatedly aga$nst the gran$te, gett$ng more flour all o*er her face. +t$ll gorgeous though. !ut I d$dn't want a gal w$th bra$n damage, so I attempted to $nter*ene between her and the countertop before the gran$te won. MMM !#O: 7e new. 7e new and he'd flown all the way home to f$nd out why. 7ow d$d he now= 7ow could he ha*e poss$bly nown, after the performance of a l$fet$me I'd put on when I put out. 7e new. 9amn he's goodH 7eart had damn near leapt out of 0hest when she saw h$m at the door. 7oohah was close beh$nd, $n*oluntar$ly clench$ng at the s$ght of Wallbanger. !ra$n $mmed$ately analy5ed the s$tuat$on and

pronounced h$m a worthy cand$date, not$ng the t$me and d$stance he had comm$tted to d$sco*er$ng the cause of concern. !ac bone stra$ghtened $mmed$ately, now$ng $nnately that proper posture created a better loo $ng rac Hcould you blame her. 6er*esHfluttered. )nd now here he was, $n my $tchen $n that green 6orth ,ace pullo*er that made h$s eyes l$mey and h$s ent$re body loo cuddly and warm and se"y and *$r$le and $c .me.$n.the face fantast$c. )nd here I was, co*ered $n honey and ra$s$ns bang$ng my head on the countertop after $ll$ng my br$oche. @$ll$ng my br$oche. What a great name for aHfocus ;ella' Why. Why. 7e wants to now why. I chanced a /u$c loo at h$m $n between bangsHahemHand saw that he was gett$ng concerned. )s was I, my head was really start$ng to hurt. I was t$red, o*erwhelmed and underorgasm'd. )nd a touch slaphappy= )fter one last bang, I stra$ghtened up, then l$sted a l$ttle left. I caught my balance, drew $n a breath, and let fly. "Why. Why= ;ou want to now why=" "I'd l$ e to, are you done bang$ng=" "God bless $t, no more bang$ng. O , why. Why= 7ere goes," I started, pac$ng $n a t$ght c$rcle, dodg$ng chocolate ch$ps and pecans that had congregated close to the counter. I sp$ed 0l$*e $n the corner, batt$ng a walnut bac and forth between h$s g$ant paws. 6uts all o*er the floor, nuts $n my head, f$tt$ng. "@now anyth$ng about sport$ng goods Edward=" E#O: +he was c$rcl$ng the counter l$ e a shar , mumbl$ng. I could p$c out a few words, and so far what I'd caught was, "6ewtonHone n$ghtH&ac rabb$tH$t went awayHn$ght offH0atalanoHnot e*en 0looneyHh$atusHOprahHlonelyHs$ngleHnot e*en 0looneyHBason !ourneHalmost 0looneyH p$n n$ght$eHbang$ngH" and by then I was as d$55y as she was. I'd attempted to grab her each t$me she c$rcled near me, but she was always out of reach. 0lose, but then off on another tangent. +he came near me, almost close enough to grab, but then off $n another sp$ral. %y own head hurt &ust watch$ng her, and I hadn't been anywhere near the counter. +he made one last pass, th$s t$me mutter$ng, "+pan$sh fa$rytale w$th prawns," and I f$nally caught hold of her. +he tr$pped o*er a muff$n t$n, wh$ch was than fully empty, and fell $nto my arms. I held her close, breath$ng her $n, feel$ng her heart rac$ng e*en through her sh$rt. Wh$ch was a t$ny l$ttle tan top, a th$ng of beauty. "!ella, sweets, you gotta tell me what's go$ng on. The mumbl$ng, $t's cute and all, but we're not really gett$ng anywhere," I teased, press$ng my hands $nto the small of her bac , hold$ng her as close to me as I could. +he pulled bac a l$ttle, res$st$ng my embrace, and loo ed me stra$ght $n the eyes. "I fa ed $t because I ha*en't had an orgasm $n what feels l$ e FAD years," she stated matter of factly. "0ome aga$n=" "I'm go$ng across the hall to $c your door now," she s$ghed, pull$ng away and shuffl$ng through the sugar town on the floor as I smac ed myself $n the face at my cho$ce of words. "Wa$t wa$t wa$t, you what= ;ou ha*en't had a what=" I started after her, grabb$ng for her hand as she turned bac to me w$th a defeated loo $n her eyes. ")n orgasm Edward, an orgasm. The !$g A, the cl$ma", the happy end$ng. 6o orgasms, not for th$s n$ght$e g$rl. %$ e 6ewton can g$*e me a KR d$scount whene*er I want one, but $n return, he too my O," she sn$ffled, tears now com$ng to her eyes as her ent$re face came o*er sad. "I'm, I'm one of the cold ones Edward." "0old ones= What= 0ome here please, get your dramat$c buns o*er here," I encouraged, pull$ng her

unw$ll$ngly bac $nto the $tchen. I wrapped her up $n my arms, automat$cally beg$nn$ng to roc her bac and forth as she let out t$ny l$ttle sobs. +he began to spea aga$n, her words punctuated by l$ttle !ella sobs and g$ant !ella wa$ls. ";ou're soHsoHgreatHand I can'tHI can'tHyou're so goodH$nHbedHand e*erywhere elseHand I can'tHI can'tHGodHyou're so hot Hwhen you cameHso hotHand you came homeHand I $lled my br$ocheHand IHIHI th$n HI lo*e you." )ll stop. !reathe. "!ella, hey, stop cry$ng you gorgeous g$rl. %$nd runn$ng that last part by me aga$n=" !#O: I &ust told Edward Wallbanger I lo*ed h$m for the f$rst t$me. Wh$le my snot soa ed $nto h$s 6orth ,ace. I breathed $n h$s scent, then peeled myself off and headed towards the wall, beg$nn$ng to peel off the dough that was stuc there. 6er*es sprang to l$fe, for once wor $ng for us. 0ould I co*er= 0ould I rally= "Wh$ch part=" I as ed the wall, and 0l$*e, who had stopped play$ng w$th h$s nuts to l$sten $n. "That last part," I heard h$m say, h$s *o$ce strong and clear. "I $lled my br$oche=" I hedged. ";ou really th$n that's the part I'm as $ng about=" "Em, no=" "Try aga$n." "I don't wanna." "!ella..wa$t, what's your m$ddle name=" "%ar$e." "!ella %ar$e," he warned, $n a deep *o$ce that une"pectedly made me g$ggle. "!r$oche $s really good, when $t's not fla*ored w$th wall," I blurted out, my e"haust$on m$"$ng w$th my confess$on for a n$ce l$ttle bu55. "Turn around please," he as ed, and so I d$d. 7e was lean$ng aga$nst the counter, un5$pp$ng h$s snotty 6orth ,ace. "I'm a l$ttle &etlagged, so a /u$c recap $f I could. One, you seem to ha*e lost your orgasm, yes=" ";es," I mumbled, watch$ng as he too off h$s fleece, throw$ng $t o*er the bac of one of my cha$rs. "Two, br$oche $s really hard to ma e, yes=" ";es," I breathed, not able to ta e my ga5e away from h$m. Enderneath the 6orth ,ace was a wh$te button down. Wh$ch was good enough on $ts own, but couple that w$th the way he was slowly and method$cally roll$ng up the slee*es= It was mesmer$5$ng. ")nd three, you th$n you lo*e me=" he as ed, h$s *o$ce deep and th$c , l$ e molasses and g$nger and all th$ngs afghan. !lan et, not country. ";es," I wh$spered, now$ng $t was FAAR the truth. I lo*ed Edward Wallbanger. !$g. G$ant. 9ur. ";ou th$n or you now=" "I now." "Well now, that's someth$ng to cons$der, $sn't $t=" he repl$ed, h$s eyes danc$ng as he wal ed towards me.

E#O: There was a t$me $n my l$fe when those words would ha*e sent me runn$ng for the h$lls. )nd now, when spo en by this woman that had careened $nto my l$fe w$th a bang on my door and an a"e to gr$nd, $t made me feelHhmmHhow d$d I feel= 0omfortable. Wh$ch was we$rd, because I always e/uated that word w$th settled and bor$ng, the se"ual e/u$*alent of an easy cha$r. !ut no, comfortable now meant all $nds of d$fferent th$ngs. 0omfortable $n my own s $n, espec$ally w$th her s $n aga$nst m$ne. 0omfortable w$th someth$ng be$ng st$ll new and we$rd and und$sco*eredHand yet co%forting. ;eah, comfortable was a good place to be. I wal ed towards her, see$ng her eyes w$den as I too her $n. I placed my hands on her shoulders, d$pp$ng my f$ngers underneath the straps of her apron. Wh$ch read 0ou ,hould ,ee M! ,conesH ";ou really ha*e no $dea, do you=" I as ed, mo*$ng my hands so that that they now spread out along her collarbone, brush$ng my thumbs across the *ery tops of her breasts. 7er breath$ng /u$c ened, her eyes f$nally spar $ng to l$fe, los$ng a b$t of the$r desperateness. "6o $dea about what=" she murmured, as I pressed her aga$nst the wall. I del$ghted $n the feel of her, the way I was able to touch her w$th such a sense of co%forta#le. +he was my own comfortable, and no one else would e*er touch her $n th$s way aga$n. Bust me. "7ow thoroughly you own me 6$ght$e G$rl," I sa$d, lean$ng $n so I could wh$sper th$s part $n her ear. ")nd I know I lo*e you enough to want you to ha*e your happy end$ng." )nd then I $ssed my g$rl. !#O: )nd then he $ssed me. 7eart was $n hea*en. @$ssed me l$ e $t was a fa$ry tale, e*en though $n th$s fa$ry tale I had dough st$c $ng to my bac and a cat w$th a paw.full of nuts. !ut that d$dn't stop me from $ss$ng h$m r$ght bac as though my l$fe depended on $t. 7e lo*ed me. !ut wa$t, what's th$s= 7e was bac $ng awayHwhere was he go$ng= "I'm go$ng to do someth$ng I ne*er thought I would do," he s$ghed mournfully, loo $ng at all the stac s of bread on the table. W$th a deep breath and a gr$mace, $n one fell swoop he noc ed them all off the table and onto the floor, bread ra$n$ng down $n fo$l co*ered br$c s all around us. I can't be sure, but I th$n I heard a t$ny wh$ne escape h$s mouth as he watched them h$t the floor, before turn$ng to me, eyes dar and dangerous. 7e grabbed me and swung me up on the table before h$m, nudg$ng my legs apart to stand between them. "9o you ha*e any $dea how much fun we're go$ng to ha*e=" he as ed, sl$pp$ng h$s hands $ns$de my apron, warm and a l$ttle rough on my tummy. "What are you up to Wallbanger=" ")n O has been lost, and I'm a suc er for a challenge," he gr$nned, pull$ng me to the edge of the table and snugly $nto h$m. W$th h$s hands beh$nd my nees, he wrapped them around h$s wa$st, $ss$ng me aga$n, l$ps and tongue hot and pers$stent. "It's not go$ng to be easy, she's pretty lost," I protested between $sses, worry$ng h$s buttons open, e"pos$ng h$s +pan$sh suntan. "I'm done w$th easy." ";ou should pr$nt that on cards." "#r$nt th$s, why do you st$ll ha*e clothes on=" he as ed, lay$ng me bac across the table as I gr$nned up at h$m. %y foot h$t the flour s$fter and sent $t crash$ng to the floor, after dust$ng us thoroughly.

Edward's ha$r loo ed l$ e a b$scu$t, powdery and puffy. I coughed and a plume of flour came out, ma $ng h$m laugh out loud. The laugh$ng stopped when I reached down for h$m, f$nd$ng h$m hard yet st$ll co*ered $n den$m. 7e groaned, my fa*or$te sound $n the world. ",uc !ella, I lo*e your hands on me," he sa$d through h$s teeth, d$pp$ng h$s mouth down towards my nec and lea*$ng a tra$l of wh$te hot $sses across my s $n. 7$s tongue swept out across me, underneath the edge of my apron. 7ands /u$c ly found the bottom of my tan top, and $t went sa$l$ng across the room, $nto the $tchen s$n . W$th$n seconds, a pa$r of shorts found themsel*es sw$mm$ng alongs$de, /u$c ly followed by a pa$r of &eans and wh$te button down. The apron, well, we were ha*$ng a l$ttle trouble w$th that one. ")re you a fuc $ng sa$lor= Who t$ed th$s not, #opeye=" he seethed, struggl$ng to get $t undone. In h$s struggles, he managed to noc o*er a bowl of orange marmalade gla5e, wh$ch was now dr$pp$ng down the table and onto the floor. %y contr$but$on was to fl$p o*er a carton of ra$s$ns wh$le I craned my nec around try$ng to see the not beh$nd me. "Oh fuc the apron Edward, loo here," I $ns$sted, snapp$ng the front of my bra and toss$ng $t to the floor. I pulled down the top of the apron, arrang$ng and propp$ng up my clea*age. #$e eyed, he loo ed at my now na ed breasts and went $n for the $ll. I was pushed roughly bac onto the table once more, h$s $ns$stent mouth now dragg$ng down my nec , attac $ng my s $n l$ e $t had done someth$ng personal to h$m and he was e"act$ng h$s re*enge. )nd a lustful re*enge $t was. 9$pp$ng a f$nger $nto the marmalade puddle, he traced a path from one breast to the other, c$rcl$ng and press$ng the st$c y $nto my s $n. !end$ng h$s head, he tasted one, then the other, both of us groan$ng at the same t$me. ",uc $ng hell !ella, you taste good." "I'm glad I wasn't ma $ng hot w$ngs th$s afternoon, th$s could be a d$fferent storyHwow, that feels good." I s$ghed, as he responded to my smart assery w$th an actual b$te. "These would be e"tra sp$cy," he laughed as I rolled my eyes. "Want me to get you some celery to cool you down=" "6o one's cool$ng down $n th$s apartment, not anyt$me soon," he prom$sed, grabb$ng the bottle of honey from the nearby counter and pull$ng as$de my apron. W$thout m$ss$ng a beat, he got my pant$es all wet. )nd not $n the way you th$n , although there was thatH )s I watched, he poured, actually poured the honey all o*er me, co*er$ng my pant$es and ma $ng me s/ueal. 7e stood bac am$d the mess to adm$re. "-oo at that, those are ru$ned. They're go$ng to ha*e to come off," as he came close aga$n. I stopped h$m w$th one marmalade foot. ";ou f$rst %$ster %an," I $nstructed, nodd$ng towards h$s flour co*ered bo"ers. 7e ra$sed an eyebrow, and dropped the bo"ers. +tand$ng na ed $n my wrec of a $tchen, he was $nsanely cute. In that $nstant, 7eart, !ra$n, !ac bone and 7oohah l$ned up on one s$de of the playground. They bec oned for 6er*es, wa*$ng her o*er l$ e a game of (ed (o*er. I loo ed at Edward, na ed and floury and perfect, and I s$ghed w$th a g$ant sm$le. 6er*es f$nally, blessedly, scampered o*er, and we were f$nally all on the same page. "I fuc $ng lo*e you Wallbanger." "I lo*e you too 6$ght$e G$rl, now lose the pant$es and g$mme some sugar," he gr$nned bac . I loo ed around. "It's all around us," I laughed, s$tt$ng up and sl$d$ng my pant$es down my honey dr$pped legs. I threw them towards h$m and they h$t h$s chest w$th a loud whac , the honey st$ll dr$pp$ng down. "We're go$ng to need one hellu*a shower after all th$s," I remar ed, as he wrapped me $n h$s st$c y arms.

"That'll be round two," he sm$led, p$c $ng me up and carry$ng me bac towards the bedroom, my body al$gned w$th h$s, only the apron between us. )nd that wasn't go$ng to eep us apart for long. 9$d I need an O= I mean, was $t necessary for l$fe= !e$ng near Edward, be$ng so close to h$m, wrapped up $n h$s arms and feel$ng h$m mo*e $ns$de me, was $t enough= ,or now, $t was. I lo*ed h$m you seeH E#O: +he was stuc w$th me. +he was actually almost stuc to me w$th all the stuff I had thrown on her, but stuc w$th me for sure. Was th$s how easy $t always was when you fell $n lo*e= !ecause th$s was s$mple and easy, and I wasn't $dd$ng when I told her I was a suc er for a challenge. %y g$rl was go$ng to get off, and I was go$ng to get to be the guy who was there when $t happened. I carr$ed her $nto the bedroom, dropp$ng her down onto the bed. 7er t$ts bounced per $ly when she h$t the mattress and I watched mesmer$5ed. +he also bounced towards the headboard a b$t too hard, and $tHwellH$t banged. ) l$ttle. ") pre*$ew=" she laughed. ") pre*$ew," I nodded, and folded up her apron so I could see her, really see her. +he s$ghed and threw her arms o*er her head, completely g$*$ng herself to me. +he la5ed bac wards, w$th a g$ant sm$le on her face. !eaut$ful. I let my f$ngers wal down o*er her tummy, her h$ps, her th$ghs, f$nally reach$ng her. 7er. W$th a gentle nudge, she let her legs fall open, and I drew $n a breath at the s$ght of her. 7oney. +ugar. !ella. I l$c ed my l$ps, and san to my nees. Th$s was my new fa*or$te place to be on earth. )nd I had been damn near e*erywhere. !ut perched between !ella's legs= Th$s was $t. I could feel her, feel her beg$n to bu$ld. If I touched her a certa$n way, mo*ed my l$ps $n a certa$n way, th$ngs began to change. +he was certa$nly turned on, that much I could tell. !ut $t was th$s way $n +pa$n for her, so what was d$fferent= +he seemed much more, rela"ed. I e"plored. Tw$st$ng and turn$ng my f$ngers, I found that spot, the one that made her bac arch and her moans grow deep. I groaned $nto her, caus$ng her to arch off the bed aga$n, my l$ps and tongue f$nd$ng her once more, del$berate aga$nst her. 7er hands sought her breasts, and as I watched, she teased her n$pples, br$ng$ng them taut once more. +he was beaut$ful, and I could tell th$s t$me she was close. +he was moan$ng and groan$ng now, thrash$ng about on the bed, her *o$ce gett$ng louder and louder. !#O: Once more, I had the d$st$nct honor of feel$ng h$s mouth, h$s wonderful mouth, on me. I se$5ed up, my ent$re body tens$ng at the s$55le of energy that ran through me, and then I rela"ed $nto $t. I started to feel, really feel e*eryth$ng that was go$ng on $ns$de at that moment. -o*e, I felt lo*e. )nd I felt lo*edH 7ere, $n the dayt$me, where noth$ng could be h$dden, e*eryth$ng was on d$splay, and co*ered $n messy stuff, I was be$ng lo*ed by th$s man. 6o fa$ry tale, no wa*es crash$ng, no fl$c er$ng candles. (eal l$fe. ) real l$fe fa$ry tale where I was be$ng lo*ed by th$s man. )nd I mean loooo*ed by th$s man, Besus he was good at th$s. Tongue. -$ps. ,$ngers. 7ands. )ll of $t, ded$cated to me, and my pleasure. ) g$rl could get used to th$s. I could feel the sweet tens$on beg$n to bu$ld, but th$s t$me my body was rece$*$ng $t d$fferently. %y body, perfectly $n tune for once, was ready, and $n my m$nd, beh$nd closed eyes, I saw myself beg$n to approach that cl$ff. In my head, I gr$nned, because I new th$s t$me I was gonna catch that b$tch. )nd then= (eally ama5$ng th$ngs began to happen down below. -ong gorgeous f$ngers pressed $ns$de me, tw$st$ng, and cur*$ng, and f$nd$ng that secret spot. -$ps and tongue enc$rcled that other spot, suc $ng and l$c $ng, press$ng and puls$ng. T$ny pr$c s of l$ght began to dance beh$nd my eyel$ds,

$ntense and w$ld. "Oh GodHEdwardHthat's soHgoodHdon'tHstopHdon'tHstopH" I groaned loud, louder, and then louder st$ll, unable to conta$n the sounds I was ma $ng, $t was so good, so good, so *ery *ery good, so close, so closeH )nd then the scream$ng beganH )nd $t was not my own. E#O: Out of the corner of my eye, I became aware of some $nd of furry m$ss$le, rac$ng across the floor. )nd then I felt, could actually feel, ten $nd$*$dual claws s$n $nto my bac all at once. -$ e some $nd of puss$f$ed d$*e bomb, her poo cat ran at me, leapt, and dug $nto my bac , attac $ng me from beh$nd. The scream I let out was less than manly, but $mposs$ble to conta$n. I ran from her bedroom $nto the hallway, then bac $n aga$n, the l$ttle fuc er st$ll latched on l$ e some $nd of rab$d coons $n bac cap, and would not sha e off. 7e had h$s armsHdoes a cat ha*e arms=...wrapped around my nec that $n other c$rcumstances would ha*e seemed l$ e an adorable cat hug. !ut r$ght now, he meant bus$ness. !ella, na ed e"cept for her apron, came runn$ng after me, try$ng to get me to slow down, but w$th those ten claws d$gg$ng deeper $n, I cont$nued runn$ng from room to room. I was l$terally try$ng to run away from pussy, someth$ng I had ne*er done $n my l$fe. !#O: I was closer to the O than I had been $n months, and 0l$*e dec$ded to play protector.cat aga$n. ;ears and years ago, whene*er I wasHahemH$nt$mate w$th a manH$f I reached a certa$n *ocal le*el, he would somehow $nfer that h$s mommy was be$ng attac ed, and would &ump to my defense. E*entually, he outgrew th$s hab$t, but s$nce the O had been on h$atus, apparently he was not ready to abandon h$s protector post. +o, now I was tas ed w$th chas$ng a na ed Wallbanger through my apartment wh$le 0l$*e caterwauled loud enough to beat the band. )re you $dd$ng me w$th th$s sh$t= If I could ha*e watched from outs$de, and not been $n*ol*ed, I would ha*e peed myself. )s $t was, I was ha*$ng a hard t$me st$fl$ng myself l$sten$ng to the screams Edward was lett$ng out. I really must lo*e h$m. ,$nally, I bac ed Wallbanger $nto a corner, turned h$m around, res$sted the urge to s/uee5e buns, and pr$ed 0l$*e loose. I /u$c ly headed out to the l$*$ng room and depos$ted h$m on the sofa w$th a thun , patt$ng h$m on the head once as a than you for the defense, unwarranted as $t was. 0l$*e responded w$th a pr$deful meow, and began l$c $ng h$s wh$s ers. I went bac $nto the $tchen to f$nd Edward, st$ll huddled aga$nst the wall. I appra$sed h$m, h$s w$ld eyes, as he leaned aga$nst the wall, w$nc$ng at h$s bac . %y ga5e was drawn lower. Enbel$e*able. 7e. Was. +t$ll. 7ard. %other fuc h$m and Bohn Wayne, th$s man was go$ng to be m$ne fore*er. E#O:

E*en w$th the $nterm$ss$on, as the pa$n $n my bac subs$ded, a new pa$n settled $n. )n ache rather, deep and low $ns$de. I st$ll wanted her desperately, but was she shellshoc ed by th$s fel$ne s$deshow= +he couldn't st$ll want toH$n the words of my F3 year old selfHdo $t= I saw her eyes tra*el down my body, rem$n$scent of the f$rst t$me we were face to face. 7er eyes w$dened, and I loo ed down. ;ep, I was st$ll good to go. I nodded sheep$shly, a l$ttle shame color$ng my chee s as I real$5ed that th$s was how attracted to her I was. 6ot w$nd or ra$n or sleet or snow, not e*en fly$ng pussy could eep me from my m$ss$on. To fuc that orgasm r$ght out of her and $nto the open, where we could both en&oy $t. !ella tr$ed once more to remo*e her apron, but the not stubbornly refused to budge. I saw frustrat$on, anger, and actual cra5y flash $n her eyes as she struggled w$th $t. ";ou're st$ll hard," she blurted out, breath$ng hea*$ly as she messed w$th her apron. ";eah." "That's ama5$ng." ";ou're ama5$ng." ")h fuc ," she huffed, g$*$ng up on the not. ";es please." +he paused for a spl$t second, flashed me a w$c ed gr$n, then wh$rled the apron around to her bac $n one sw$ft mo*ement. +he leapt across the room, her apron fly$ng beh$nd her l$ e a cape and crashed $nto me, dr$*$ng me up aga$nst the wall as she assaulted me. In the *ery best way. I caught her as she wrapped around me l$ e a fe$sty blan et, $ss$ng me fur$ously. +he was cra5ed and w$ld, her hands grasp$ng me w$th a fury. 6a$ls ra ed down my chest ma $ng me gasp. ";our bac o =" she as ed $n between $sses. "I'll l$*e. ;our cat howe*erH" "7e's protect$*e. 7e thought you were hurt$ng mommy." "Was I=" "Oh no, /u$te the oppos$te." "(eally=" "7ell yes," she cr$ed, sl$d$ng aga$nst me, man$pulat$ng my body aga$nst hers, honey and sugar sl$c and gr$tty between us. +he dragged herself down my body, stopp$ng to $ss the *ery t$p of me w$th her sweet l$ps, ta $ng my breath away. +he pulled me down onto the floor w$th her and fl$pped me onto my bac so /u$c ly a puff of flour clouded the a$r. There, $n the m$ddle of her $tchen, na ed and glor$ous, w$th marmalade dott$ng her breasts, she straddled me. (a$s$ng herself up &ust a l$ttle b$t, she caught my hands and encouraged me to grab her h$ps. ";ou m$ght want to hang for th$s," she wh$spered, and san down onto me. "7$." "7$," I wh$spered bac , as she surrounded me. It's /u$te poss$ble that I d$ed a l$ttle. !#O: +omet$me $n the moments between Edward lean$ng $n the corner and the not that refused to d$e, 6er*es stepped forward and sa$d, "7ell, let's get th$s." 9r$*en by pure carnal frustrat$on, I pounced. 0rossed the $tchen $n seconds and l$terally pounced on Edward. )nd now, the feel$ng of h$m $ns$de me, underneath me, hands strong on my h$ps, $t was

almost more than I could bear. )lmost. If I had my druthers, my druthers m$ght say someth$ng l$ e, "he sl$d $nto me and $t felt l$ e home" or "I felt complete once aga$n as we were &o$ned $n the most $nt$mate way". !ut today, drutherless, all I could th$n was, "God da%n, that d$c feels f$ne." ,org$*e me for my crass. I arched my bac and fle"ed my h$ps e"per$mentallyHonceHtw$ceHa th$rd t$me. It really was true what they sa$d about r$d$ng a b$ e. Th$s was someth$ng my body remembered /u$c ly. W$th my stup$d apron r$d$ng b$tch beh$nd me, I began to mo*e abo*e Edward, feel$ng h$m mo*e $ns$de me, respond$ng and reward$ng, thrust$ng and ne*er relent$ng. 9r$*$ng, push$ng, we mo*ed together, actually e*en mo*$ng across the $tchen floor a l$ttle. 7e sat up underneath me, mo*$ng deeper $nto me as I cr$ed out. %y hands were w$ld $n h$s ha$r, $t was stand$ng stra$ght up beneath my f$ngers as I too hold, anchor$ng myself as I closed my eyes and began. !egan that long march towards the edge of the cl$ff. I could see the edge, h$gh abo*e the rag$ng waters. )s I pee ed o*er the edge, I saw her. O. +he wa*ed at me, d$*$ng under and abo*e the water l$ e a se"ual porpo$se. 0rafty l$ttle b$tch. Edward was $ss$ng my nec , l$c $ng and suc $ng my s $n, ma $ng me $nsane. I stuc one foot o*er the edge, po$nt$ng my toes d$rectly at her, wa*$ng l$ttle c$rcles $n the a$r $n her d$rect$on. -$ttle c$rcles. I pushed Edward bac onto the floor, grabb$ng h$s hand $n m$ne, and brought $t to between my legs. I rode h$m hard, press$ng my f$ngers aga$nst h$s aga$nst me, my cr$es gett$ng louder as we sped up our roc $ng, both of us, $n tune and r$ght there. ($ght there. ($ght r$ght r$ghtH.thereH. "!ella, fuc $ng hell !ella, Besus, youHareHama5$ngHlo*eHyouHsoHmuchH $ll$ngHmeH" That's the l$ttle e"tra that I needed. In my head, I too one step bac , then do*e. 6ot &umped. 9o*e. E"cecuted a perfect swan d$*e, than you *ery much, stra$ght $nto the water. 0lean and true, I grabbed onto her and d$dn't let go as I sl$pped $nto the water. The O had returned. Wh$te no$se f$lled my ears as my toes and f$ngers got the news f$rst. They t$ngled, t$ny f$55les and spar s of energy sp$nn$ng upwards and outwards, dr$*$ng through e*ery ner*e and e*ery cell, star*$ng for th$s for months. These cells told other cells, commun$cat$ng to the$r s$sters that someth$ng fantast$c was happen$ng. The message grew, spread$ng across the cont$nent of !ella, -$*er tal $ng to #ancreas, one O*ary screamed to her tw$n, " -et's g$*e her duds for awh$le so they can en&oy themsel*es'" -ungs told )ppend$", who was the only one who d$dn't get caught up $n the storm that was ta $ng o*er the world. :est$g$al organs, pffft. 0olor e"ploded beh$nd my eyel$ds, burst$ng br$ghtly $nto t$ny l$ttle sensory f$rewor s as they cont$nued to spread to e*ery corner of my body. #ure pleasure shot through, puls$ng and sl$c$ng through me, f$ll$ng me up as I shoo and sh$mm$ed on top of Edward, who hung on through the ent$re th$ng. I don't now $f he could see the cho$rs of d$rty angels that were s$ng$ng, but no matter. I could. )nd

$t was the def$n$t$on of bl$ss. O came bac , and she brought fr$ends. Wa*e after wa*e crashed through me, as Edward and I cont$nued to press and tw$st, arch$ng $nto e*ery s$ngle one of them. %y head was thrown bac as I cont$nued to scream lustfully, not car$ng who or what could hear me $n my own 7ouse of Orgasm. I opened my eyes at one po$nt to see Edward below me, frant$c and happy, sm$l$ng b$g as he stayed w$th me through $t all, h$s strenuous effort clear across h$s face as the flour $n h$s ha$r turned $nto a wonderful l$ttle paste. 7e was becom$ng paper.mache. +t$ll onward I thrashed, pass$ng through the land of mult$ples and $nto some $nd of no man's land, pass$ng +$" and +e*en, my body beg$nn$ng to become l$mp w$th ecstasy. !ut O brought one more fr$end. +he brought along G, the 7oly Gra$l. +tutter$ng l$ e an $d$ot, I grasped hold of Edward, hold$ng on for dear l$fe as the b$ggest t$dal wa*e of lo*e and toe.curl$ng heat h$t me l$ e a ton of br$c s. +ens$ng I needed help for th$s one, Edward sat up once more, wh$ch pos$t$oned h$m e*en more un$/uely. 7e found a spot deep $ns$de, h$dden to most, lean$ng $nto me and dr$*$ng h$mself aga$nst me o*er and o*er aga$n as I held my breath and hung on t$ght. I would swear on a stac of b$bles, th$s one was so powerful we made the earth mo*e. I opened my eyes once more, see$ng l$ght spar around the room as o"ygen bac rushed $n. I babbled $ncomprehens$bly $nto h$s chest as he roc ed $nto me aga$n and aga$n, f$nally f$nd$ng h$s own wonderful brand of ama5$ng somewhere deep $ns$de me. I held onto h$m, feel$ng the wa*es f$nally retreat as he sun $nto me, both of us sha $ng now. )s we panted, I clung to h$m as the pleasure left and the lo*e s$mply rushed $n, f$ll$ng me bac up aga$n. %y mouth was too t$red to mo*e, l$terally we had ta en my breath away. +o I d$d the best I could, I placed h$s hand o*er my heart and $ssed h$s sweet face. 7e understood, and $ssed me bac . I hummed w$th happ$ness. 7umm$ng d$dn't ta e as much effort. Etterly spent and e"hausted, punch drun and co*ered $n st$c y sweat, I lay bac aga$nst h$s legs, not car$ng a b$t how contorted and r$d$culous I loo ed as tens$on tears ran down the s$des of my face and $nto my ears. +ens$ng th$s was not the most comfortable pos$t$on for me, but also now$ng I was unable to unbend my pret5el legs, he mo*ed from underneath me, lea*$ng my body but then cradl$ng $t to h$s own, cuddl$ng me to h$m on the $tchen floor. We lay /u$etly, not spea $ng for awh$le. I not$ced 0l$*e s$tt$ng $ns$de the doorway to the bedroom l$c $ng h$s paws /u$etly. )ll was good. When mo*ement seemed poss$ble, I tr$ed to s$t up, the room sp$nn$ng a l$ttle. 7e ept one strong arm around me as we appra$sed the s$tuat$on, the o*erturned bowls and bottles, the scattered bread, the chaos that was my $tchen. I laughed /u$etly and turned to h$m. 7e was s$lently watch$ng me w$th happy eyes. "+hould we clean th$s up=" he as ed, nodd$ng to the mess. "6o, let's shower." "@ay," he answered, help$ng me up. I crac ed my bac l$ e an old lady, w$nc$ng at the good hurt that my body felt. I started for the bathroom, then changed d$rect$on, head$ng for the fr$dge. I grabbed a bottle of Gatorade and tossed $t to h$m. "What's th$s for=" ";ou're gonna need $t Wallbanger," I w$n ed, flounc$ng my apron on my way to the shower. 6ow that the O was bac , I was wast$ng no t$me $n summon$ng her aga$n.

E#O: +he would be the death of me. I watched her bac s$de head towards the bathroom, sw$sh$ng her way through the clutter on the floor, stra$ghten$ng a p$cture that hung croo edly on the wall as she wal ed by. +tart$ng after her, I not$ced that all of the p$ctures were a l$ttle croo ed. We$rd. I caught s$ght of 0l$*e $n the doorway, regard$ng me s$lently. )s I approached the bathroom, ta $ng a sw$g of Gatorade, he suddenly flopped onto the floor, roll$ng o*er on h$s bac . 7e seemed to be wa*$ng me o*er w$th h$s paws. I wal ed closer, wa$t$ng for another attac . 7e w$ggled on h$s bac , cont$nu$ng to wa*e me o*er. I nelt down r$ght ne"t to h$m, caut$ously reach$ng out one hand. W$n $ng at me, I swear to 0hr$st he d$d, he w$ggled a l$ttle closer. @now$ng th$s could st$ll be a trap, I gently rumpled the fur on h$s belly, sm$l$ng a l$ttle as he began to purr. 7uh. ";ou com$ng= 0ause I sure d$dH," I heard !ella call o*er the rush of the water, laugh$ng at her own &o e. G$*$ng 0l$*e another scratch, I stood up and headed $ns$de to f$nd her already underneath the spray, the apron f$nally con/uered and abandoned on the floor. I loo ed at her, na ed and co*ered $n bubbles, and drew $n a deep breath. +he was sm$l$ng, and loo $ng at me de*$l$shly, espec$ally once my body responded to her ga5e. I stepped $ns$de, her hands $mmed$ately snea $ng around to my bac s$de, press$ng her body $nto me. "Th$s $s n$ce," she murmured $nto my s $n. ";eah." We were s$lent, feel$ng the water beat down around us. I held her close, feel$ng her chest r$se and fall w$th each breath. I had my arms full of !ella, and I wanted noth$ng else. E"cept maybe one th$ng. "!ella=" "7mm=" "Is any of that bread I threw on the floorHwellH" ";es=" "Is any of $t 5ucch$n$=" ";es Edward, there's 5ucch$n$ bread," +$lence once aga$n, but for the water. "!ella=" "7mm=" "I d$dn't th$n I could lo*e you more, but I really $nd of do," "I'm glad Edward, now g$mme some sugar,"

0hapter 13 When -o*e 0omes to Town 'NE *A+ AN* N$GH>?@Apm "Is that the soap= 9on't sl$p on the soap." "I won't sl$p on the soap." "I don't want you to sl$p, be careful." "I won't sl$p on the soap, now turn bac around and be /u$et." "Lu$et= 6ot poss$ble, not when youHmmmHand then when youHooohhhHand then when youH ow, that hurt Edward, you o bac there=" "I sl$pped on the soap." I started to turn around to see $f he was $ndeed o when he suddenly pressed me up aga$nst the shower wall, hold$ng my hands flat aga$nst the t$le. -$ps t$c led and water spr$n led down my s $n, across my shoulders as h$s body fle"ed aga$nst m$ne. Thoughts of runaway soap sl$pped from my m$nd as he sl$pped $ns$de me, hard and th$c and del$c$ous. %y breath left me $n a gasp, ampl$f$ed by the t$les walls, made se"y by the water fall$ng, and /u$c ly followed by another gasp as he proceeded to thrust $nto me, ach$ngly slow and purposeful, hands now gr$pp$ng my h$ps f$rmly. I threw my head bac wards, turn$ng my face to the s$de, and was rewarded w$th the s$ght of Edward, na ed and wet. 7$s brow was furrowed, mouth open as he $n*aded completely and w$thout apology. I sp$raled fast, awareness and clear thought narrow$ng down to a p$npo$nt before e"plod$ng once aga$n, wordless words fall$ng out of my mouth and down $nto the water, c$rcl$ng towards the dra$n. 6ow that O was bac , she d$dn't dally. +he arr$*ed promptly and w$thout /uest$on, shatter$ng the memory of days and wee s and months of wa$t$ng and cry$ng, begg$ng and plead$ng, now reward$ng me w$th a steady constant parade of O's that left me scrambled and s$lly, boneless and ready for more. Groan$ng $nto my ear at the feel of me around h$m, sh$*er$ng and puls$ng, he fa$led to slow h$s roll. 7e new $nherently, as I new, that h$s g$rl was good for a few more. )nd so, w$th agon$5$ng de"ter$ty, he planted a sloppy $ss on my nec , left my body, spun me /u$c ly, and was bac $ns$de before I could say, "7ey, where'd you go=" "6o where 6$ght$e G$rl, I'm not go$ng anywhere anyt$me soon," he muttered $n my ear, roughly grabb$ng my bottom and l$ft$ng me aga$nst the wall, us$ng h$s we$ght to crush me aga$nst the t$le, hold$ng me to h$m and hold$ng me $ns$de. 7$s body fle"ed wh$le m$ne flattened, our sl$ppery s $n feel$ng $ndescr$bable aga$nst the each others. 7ow had I stayed away from th$s man as long as I had= 6o matter, he was here, $ns$de me, and about to crash down another O parade throughout. I pressed bac aga$nst h$m &ust enough, open$ng the space between &ust enough to ga5e down, lust cloud$ng my *$s$on but not so much that I couldn't see the de*$l$sh s$ght of h$m enter$ng me, o*er and o*er aga$n, f$ll$ng me up l$ e no man e*er had. 6ow glanc$ng down h$mself to see what had me so transf$"ed, he was capt$*ated as well, and a sound rather l$ e "%mph" left h$s mouth. 7$s mo*ements sped up, chas$ng $t down, that feel$ng, that t$pp$ng po$nt that felt so close to pa$n and so close to perfect$on. Those green eyes, now f$lled w$th lust and f$re flew bac up to m$ne as we both threw oursel*es off that cl$ff aga$n together. +e$5$ng. ,ree5$ng. -oc ed and unloaded. We came together w$th a roar and a grunt and a groan that left my throat raw and my pussy thr$lled. Thr$lled pussyHwhat a great name for aHmmm MMM B?>Cpm

Wal $ng around my apartment $n only a towel, dodg$ng flour p$les and ra$s$n clumps, Edward was st$ll a s$ght to behold. When he s $dded on a patch of marmalade and bumped $nto the counter, I laughed so hard I had to s$t down on the couch. 7e stood $n front of me w$th a sl$ce of 5ucch$n$ bread as I laughed, loo $ng down w$th an amused loo on h$s face. I cont$nued to laugh, and $n do$ng so my towel sl$pped down, re*eal$ng more than a l$ttle of my assets. )t the s$ght of t$ts, two th$ngs happened. 7$s eyes popped, and someth$ng else popped. #opped out. I ra$sed an eyebrow at th$s latest de*elopment. ";ou real$5e you are turn$ng me $nto some $nd of mach$ne=" he teased, nodd$ng down at h$s 7$There that was po $ng through the towel. %y eyes w$dened and my hoohah, she d$dn't w$den, because, well, gross. !ut she def$n$tely too not$ce. )nd may ha*e saluted. If hoohahs can salute. Edward too the t$me to carefully place h$s 5ucch$n$ bread safely on the coffee table. "7ow cute $s that, $t's l$ e he's po $ng h$s head out from beh$nd a curta$n'" ";ou may not be aware, but as a general rule, no man l$ es the word cute $n the same sentence as h$s &un ." "!ut he $s cute, uh oh, where'd he go=" "7e's shy now, st$ll not cute, but shy." "+hy my ass, he wasn't so shy $n the shower a l$ttle b$t ago." "7e needs h$s ego stro ed." "Wow." "6o really, I th$n you'll f$nd he $s /u$te recept$*e to stro $ng." "6ow see, I was th$n $ng maybe he &ust needed a good tongue lash$ng, but $f you th$n stro $ng w$ll suff$ce thenH" "6o no, I th$n a tongue lash$ng $s /u$te $n order, heHGod da%n !ellaH" I leaned $n, brought the shy one forth, and $mmed$ately surrounded h$m w$th my mouth. ,eel$ng h$m grow harder st$ll, I settled myself on the edge of the couch, wrapp$ng my arms around h$m and dropp$ng the towel. #ull$ng h$m closer, and therefore deeper $nto me, I hummed $n sat$sfact$on as I felt h$s hands come up $nto my ha$r and trace t$ny patterns on my face. (e*erently, he placed h$s f$ngers on my eyel$ds, chee s, temples, f$nally lett$ng one hand bury $tself $n my ha$r and the other, well, fuc $ng hell. 7e held h$mself, as I concentrated all my attent$on on the t$p of h$m, he stro ed h$mself at the base, someth$ng that was /u$te poss$bly the se"$est th$ng I had e*er seen. +ee$ng h$s strong hand, wrapped around h$mself as he mo*ed $n and out of my mouth, holy fuc $ng 0hr$st. +e"y $sn't the r$ght word for $t, $t $s $nade/uate $n the face of the pure erot$ca that was be$ng played out $n front of me. )nd spea $ng of $n my face, I hummed aga$n $n apprec$at$on, feel$ng myself gett$ng wor ed up &ust at the play my mouth was gett$ng. -uc y mouth. ,all$ng bac aga$nst the couch, pull$ng h$m w$th me, he now used both hands to brace aga$nst the bac of the couch, thrust$ng $n and out of my mouth w$th con*$ct$on, the angle allow$ng h$m to penetrate me more deeply, and yet ma $ng $t eas$er for me to ta e more of h$m $n. I grabbed h$s bac s$de, clutch$ng h$m to me, feel$ng the thr$ll of attend$ng to h$m, now$ng $t was me, only me, that got to ha*e h$m $n th$s way. I could feel h$m gett$ng close. I was already beg$nn$ng to now h$s tells $nt$mately. I wanted h$m aga$n. I was self$sh th$s way. (eleas$ng h$m w$th a f$nal strong pull, I pushed h$m down onto the couch and /u$c ly straddled h$m. ,eel$ng me aga$nst h$m, he thrust upwards as I san down, and then there was that moment, you now that moment= When e*eryth$ng feels stretched and pulled, $n the most del$c$ous way. ;our body reacts, someth$ng that shouldn't be $ns$de $s now $ns$de and for a spl$t second, $t's al$en, un nown. )nd then your s $n senses a return$ng champ$on, your muscle memory ta es o*er, and then $t's so good, that feel$ng of fullness, of wonder and awe. )nd then you beg$n to mo*e.

Grabb$ng onto h$s shoulders to get le*erage, I rolled my h$ps $nto h$s, not$c$ng not for the f$rst t$me that he had been $ntell$gently des$gned w$th my e"act measurements $n m$nd. 7e f$t $ns$de me perfectly, two hal*es of a whole, some $nd of se"ual -ego. 7e sensed $t too, I could tell. 7e placed h$s hand flat aga$nst my chest, d$rectly on top of my heart, feel$ng $t race at the sensat$on of h$s hands on me. "+tunn$ng," he wh$spered as I rode h$m, sweet and hot. 7e ept my heart $n h$s hand as I roc ed $nto h$m, h$s other hand on my h$p, gu$d$ng me, pos$t$on$ng me, feel$ng me attend to us both. 7e struggled to stay w$th me, to eep h$s eyes open as h$s release rushed towards h$m. I too h$s hand from my heart and placed $t further down, where he began to trace those damnable perfect c$rcles. "Besus, EdwardHoh GodHsoHsoooo goodHIHfuc H" "I lo*e watch$ng you fall apart," he groaned, and I d$d. )nd he d$d. )nd we d$d. I collapsed $nto h$m, watch$ng as the room stopped sp$nn$ng and the feel$ng returned to my f$ngers and toes, warmth sna $ng through my body as he held me to h$m. "Tongue lash$ng. What an $dea," he snorted, and I g$ggled. That d$d $nterest$ng th$ngs to our bod$es, wh$ch &ust made me g$ggle harder. MMM D?CApm "E*er th$n about chang$ng the pa$nt color $n here=" ")re you ser$ous=" "What= %aybe a l$ghter shade of green= Or e*en a blue= !lue m$ght be n$ce, I'd lo*e to see you surrounded by blue." "9o I tell you how to ta e p$ctures=" "Well, no. %mmH" "Then don't tell me how to p$c pa$nt colors. )nd as $t happens, I'm plann$ng to change the palette $n here, but $t's go$ng dar er. 9eeper, you m$ght say." "9eeper you say= 7ow's th$s=" "That's pretty good, mmm, that's really good. )nyhow, as I was say$ng, I'm th$n $ng of maybe a deep slate gray, w$th a new creamy sugar marble countertop, deepen$ng the cupboards to a r$ch dar mahogany. 7oly sh$t that feels good." "6oted, deeper $s good, and *ery deep $s e*en better. 0an you put your foot on my shoulder=" ")m I breath$ng= -$ e that=" "0hr$st !ella, yes, l$ e thatHsoHnew countertop you say= %arble huh, m$ght be a l$ttle cold don't you th$n =" ";es, yes, yes' What= I mean, what= 0old= Well, s$nce I'm not usually la$d out l$ e a &elly roll on the counter, the cold won't bother me. !es$des, marble countertops are the best for roll$ng out dough." "9on't," he warned, turn$ng h$s face to the s$de and $ss$ng the $ns$de of my an le. "9on't what Edward=" I purred, my breath h$tch$ng as I felt h$s steady pace beg$n to /u$c en sl$ghtly, unnot$ceable to anyone but me, the one he was currently $ns$de of. "9on't try to d$stract me w$th dough tal , $t won't wor ," he $nstructed, lett$ng go of the countertop w$th h$s left hand and runn$ng $t l$ghtly o*er my breasts, bac and forth, teas$ng my n$pples $nto hard pea s w$th h$s f$ngert$ps. 7e heard my own breath catch as a frant$c energy began to settle low, low $n my h$ps and $n my th$ghs, the p$t of my stomach and po$nts $n between. "6o dough tal = 6o d$rty dough tal for Edward= %mm, but don't you th$n a l$ttle d$stract$on $s

good from t$me to t$me= I mean, can't you &ust $mag$ne me, bent o*er the countertop, wor $ng so hard for youH" I tra$led off, runn$ng my f$ngers through h$s ha$r, bend$ng h$m to me to $ss h$m w$th a wet mouth, tongue and l$ps and teeth $ntent on br$ng$ng h$m deeper $nto me. I was perched $n the *ery edge of my $tchen $sland, the *ery place where an earl$er assault on my senses had ta en place. !ut now, I was *ery much na ed, as was our fa$r %r. %asen, bur$ed $ns$de and determ$ned to ma e th$s last as long as poss$ble. We wanted to see how long we could carry on a con*ersat$on wh$leHwellHdo$ng $t. +o far, F4 of the most $ntense, sensual, fantast$c m$nutes of my l$fe, and that wasn't count$ng the foreplay. O was danc$ng $n the per$phery, wonder$ng why she wasn't be$ng granted $mmed$ate access. !ut now I had control of the b$tch aga$n, and th$s sweet torture was $ncred$ble. )nd worth endur$ng. That $s, unt$l Edward as ed me to place my foot on h$s shoulder. 7oly hell, he was wrec $ng me. One leg on h$s shoulder, the other leg he held open to one s$de, h$s h$ps rotat$ng $n madden$ngly t$ny c$rcles, $ncreas$ng $n the smallest of $ncrements. 7e was the one that $ns$sted upon the con*ersat$on, and I'd been able to eep up, unt$l the foot on shoulder. +uddenly, parts that hadn't really been a part of $t before were now be$ng st$mulated, and $t was gett$ng harder and harder to eep my w$ts about me. !ut really, who needed w$ts= I could be w$tless, as long as I could be under Edward, I was o be$ng w$tless. !ut I could play th$s game r$ght now, wh$le a few l$nger$ng w$ts rema$ned. "9on't test me 6aughty G$rl, I w$ll d$rty tal you r$ght off th$s $sland." "%mm Edward, can't you &ust see me= !ent o*er, l$ttle apron w$th noth$ng underneath, roll$ng p$n $n hand, and a bowl full of apples=" ")pples= Oh boy, I lo*e apples," he groaned, p$c $ng up my other foot and plac$ng $t on the oppos$te shoulder, h$s hands roughly pull$ng me e*en further towards the edge, h$s pace p$c $ng up aga$n &ust a b$t. "I now you do, w$th c$nnamon= I could ba e you a p$e Edward, your *ery own apple p$e, e*en a homemade crustHall for you b$g guyHyou now all you ha*e to do $s as meH" I sm$r ed, try$ng to eep my eyes from cross$ng as he sped up aga$n, the sound of s $n slapp$ng not e*en funny at all. There went another w$t. "7ow does that feel !ella, good=" he as ed, surpr$s$ng me. "Good= It feels ama5$ng." ")ma5$ng= (eally=" he sm$r ed, pull$ng out almost all the way before sl$d$ng bac $nto me, all at once, ma $ng me feel e*ery s$ngle $nch. )nd the w$t stands alone. ";ou now $t does, but bac to the apples. Would you l$ e your p$e ser*ed hot w$th *an$lla $ce cream= Warm and melty w$thHoh my GodH" ";ou really want to tal about th$s wh$le I'm fuc $ng you= !ecause $f you eep th$s up, I'm go$ng to be forced to get really d$rty myself." "9$rt$er than apple p$e tal =" I as ed, stretch$ng and po$nt$ng my toes towards the ce$l$ng, creat$ng a new sensat$on for us both. "7ow about th$s, $f you don't stop all th$s apple p$e tal ," he started, lean$ng down to place h$s mouth aga$nst my ear, ma $ng me sh$*er. One hand grasped my breast roughly, turn$ng and twea $ng my n$pple. The other snuc down, feel$ng aga$nst me unt$l he found the spot that made me tense and cry out. "If you don't stop, I'm go$ng to stop fuc $ng you, and bel$e*e me when I say, I ha*en't e*en begun to ra*age you $n all the ways that I'*e dreamed about." 7e stood bac up, and thrust. 7ard. -ast w$t= !ye bye. I a$n't too proud to beg. "God Edward, I g$*e, &ust fuc me." ")pple p$e for me="

";es, yes' )pple p$e for you' Oh GodH" "That's r$ght, apple p$e for me, apple p$e forHfuc you're t$ght th$s way," he groaned, sw$tch$ng both of my legs to one s$de, hold$ng them up as he pounded $nto me, aga$n and aga$n, ne*er retreat$ng, only ad*anc$ng, loo $ng down at me, watch$ng me as my bac arched and my s $n flushed, heat creep$ng o*er me, p$n $ng my s $n as my cl$ma" bro e o*er me, stunn$ng me s$lent $n $ts $ntens$ty as I was sha en to the *ery core of my be$ng. "I lo*e you !ella, I lo*e you, I lo*e you, I lo*e you," he chanted, thrust$ng errat$cally now as he sped towards h$s own release, sweat brea $ng o*er h$s brow as he clutched at my h$ps as I clutched h$m from the $ns$de, hold$ng h$m $ns$de as long as I could, feel$ng h$s sol$d we$ght on me as he la$d h$s head on my breast. 7ow could h$s warm we$ght feel so good= It should ha*e made $t hard to breathe, constr$ct$on of the lungs and all that, but $t d$dn't. 7old$ng h$m, cradl$ng h$s face as I swept h$s ha$r bac as he sh$*ered, $t felt the oppos$te of hea*y. ";ou're go$ng to $ll me, sure as I am lay$ng here," he moaned $nto my s $n, $ss$ng e*erywhere he could. "I lo*e you too," I s$ghed, ga5$ng at my $tchen ce$l$ng. W$th a sm$le as b$g as the bay across my face. The O was go$ng to be around for a *ery long t$me. 6o way am I pa$nt$ng my $tchen blueH MMM E?@2pm "I can't bel$e*e th$s $s the second t$me we're clean$ng flour and sugar off each other, what's wrong w$th us=" "The sugar $s good for e"fol$at$on, not sure what good the flour $s do$ng for us though." "E"fol$at$on=" ";eah, I f$gure e*ery t$me we se" $t up out there, all that sugar $s help$ng us remo*e dead s $n cells." "(eally !ella= 9ead s $n cells= That's hardly se"y." ";ou weren't compla$n$ng earl$er." "Well no, how could I= ;ou prom$sed to ba e me an apple p$e, don't forget that part." "I won't forget, but I was somewhat under duress." ";ou were under me, not under duress, under me." ";es Edward, I was under you." "Wash your bac =" ";es please." We were ly$ng on oppos$te s$des of the tub, rela"$ng and soa $ng off yet another round of $tchen schmut5. )t some po$nt, I was go$ng to ha*e to clean all that mess up, but r$ght now the only th$ng I could concentrate on was th$s man $n front of me. Th$s man, up to almost h$s nec $n fragrant bubbles, strong arms sna $ng out now to br$ng me closer to h$m. I spun $n the tub l$ e a buoy, bobb$ng bac and forth and arrang$ng myself $n front of h$m. 7e used a washcloth to gently remo*e the last of the st$c y goo that co*ered me after our last $tchen tryst. 7e pulled me $nto h$s chest, lean$ng bac aga$nst the edge of the tub. )rms enc$rcled me, tuc $ng me $n, surrounded by warm water and warmer Edward. I closed my eyes, rel$sh$ng the feel of $t all. The safety, the sweetness, the se"$ness. I sh$fted, try$ng to get $mposs$bly closer, and then I felt h$m aga$nst my bum. Grow$ng. "Why, hello there fr$end," I murmured, snea $ng my hand through the bubbles to f$nd h$m, want$ng and wanton. "!ellaH" he warned, lay$ng h$s head bac on the edge of the tub.

"What=" I as ed $nnocently, tra$l$ng my f$ngers along the s$des of h$m, feel$ng h$m react. "I'm not F4 you now," he chuc led, h$s *o$ce grow$ng hus y and needy $n sp$te of h$s words. "Than goodness, or I would ha*e to answer for my act$ons, corrupt$ng a m$nor and all that," I wh$spered, slowly turn$ng o*er to rub myself along the length of h$m, soap and bubbles and wet water ma $ng me sl$ppery. 7e h$ssed sl$ghtly and sm$led. ";ou're go$ng to brea me, you now th$s, r$ght= I swear on all that's holy, I'm not a mach$neH 0hr$st, don't stop do$ng that," he groaned, thrust$ng $nto my hand w$thout thought. ")h brea schma e, I &ust want to fuc you unt$l you can't see stra$ght," I purred, t$ghten$ng my f$st as he splashed water o*er the s$de a b$t. "I can barely see as $t $s, there seem to be three of you," he moaned, pull$ng my legs apart and pos$t$on$ng me abo*e h$m. ")$m for the one $n the m$ddle Edward," I $nstructed and sl$d down. We may ha*e splashed more than a b$t more water o*er the s$de. MMM CC?FEpm "I'm &ust go$ng to get the food. I need sustenance woman." "Get $t, then hurry bac to me, I need you Edward, why are you crawl$ng on the floor=" "I don't th$n I can actually stand at th$s po$nt. The mach$ne needs a brea . The mach$ne may *ery well need repa$rs. The mach$ne, wa$t, what're you do$n' there !ella=" "What, th$s=" ";eah, yeah $t loo s l$ e you're, wow, do you touch yourself l$ e that a lot=" "I ha*en't lately, why= -oo s good to you, yes=" ";es, that'sHwowHumHthat's the doorHthe guy w$th the Tha$ $s here, I..and IHTha$HIH" ")re you really rhym$ng r$ght now Edward= %mm, that feels n$ceH" "7ello' 7ello, anyone there= +omeone called $n an order for, dude, how am I supposed to g$*e you your change=" "@eep the change." "9ude, you sho*ed a f$fty under the door, you now that's l$ e a th$rty dollar t$p, r$ght=" "@eep the change. -ea*e the Tha$. !ella, get on that bed." "%mm, so close Edward, sure you don'tHwantHmeHtoHmmmHf$n$shHooo, I lo*e when you do that." "%mph, mumph, hah, hoooH" "9on't tal w$th your mouth full Edward, Edward, Edward, EdwaaarrdddH" "O , dude, I'm totally sett$ng your food out here, um, than s for the t$p=" MMM C?C>am We lay $n bed, l$mp and a l$ttle stup$d. %y poor Edward, I'd r$dden h$m to the br$n of e"t$nct$on. It was true, he wasn't eternally F4, but god damn $f he d$dn't g$*e a good $mpress$on of someone who was. )fter the last round of cra5ytown, he crawled once more to the hallway, retr$e*ed the food, and we ate Tha$ s$tt$ng $n the m$ddle of the bed. I had /u$c ly str$pped the sheets, l$nger$ng ra$s$ns and flour clouds rema$n$ng from an earl$er encounter. The amount of wor I was go$ng to be faced w$th

tomorrow when I had to clean the $tchen was daunt$ng, but $t was worth $t. )ll of $t, all of $t was worth $t. 6ow we lounged, settled but not settl$ng, st$ll wrapped around each other but now clad $n a p$n n$ght$e and a pa$r of sweatpants. To be clear, I wore the p$n n$ght$e. "When do you ha*e to go bac to wor =" "I told Esme I'd be bac on %onday, although that $s the last th$ng I can th$n about r$ght now." "What are you th$n $ng about=" "+pa$n." ";eah=" ";eah, $t was ama5$ng. Than you so much for ta $ng me, and then ta $ng me," I &o ed, nudg$ng h$m w$th my elbow. We lay s$de by s$de, fac$ng each other, legs tangled and hands held. "It was my pleasure, on both counts. I'm glad you couldHcomeH" he snorted. 6ow that the O had returned, we could &o e about $t. We were both /u$et for a moment, &ust en&oy$ng the mus$c. Edward had hobbled ne"t door a l$ttle wh$le ago to put on a record. E*en hobbled, he was hot. ) hot hobbler. "When are you lea*$ng for #eru= )ss, I st$ll hate you a l$ttle for gett$ng to go, but when are you lea*$ng=" ")bout two wee s. )nd no hat$ng on the photographer. I ha*e to go, but I'll always come bac ." "Oh to be clear, I don't hate you for lea*$ng. I hate you because I want to go too, but I d$gress. I lo*e you more than I hate you, so we're good." "We're good=" ";es of course, you ha*e to tra*el for your &ob. It's not l$ e I d$dn't now th$s." "Well, now$ng about $t and then be$ng the one left beh$nd are two d$fferent th$ngs," he stated, eyes gett$ng a l$ttle cloudy. I reached out w$th my free hand, smooth$ng across h$s chee , feel$ng h$s scruff and s $n and watch$ng h$m lean $nto my touch. 7$s eyes closed and he hummed a contented hum. ";ou're not lea"ing %e #ehind. We l$*e busy l$*es and w$ll cont$nue to do so. Bust because you get to st$c your d$c $n me now, that $sn't go$ng to change us," I repl$ed as a slow gr$n spread across h$s face. Eyes st$ll closed, but gr$nn$ng. "+omet$mes d$c s change people," he sa$d through the gr$n. "+omet$mes d$c s change what needs to be changed, somet$mes d$c s ma e $t better." "+omet$mes d$c s ma e $t better, what an odd th$ng to say." "+t$c around, who nows what I'm gonna say ne"t." "+t$c $ng." "+tuc ." "Go$ng to $ss you now." "Than 0hr$st," I g$ggled, as he wrapped h$s strong arms around me and pulled me $nto h$m. We $ssed /u$etly, thoughtfully. I settled down $nto h$s noo , perfectly shaped and smell$ng l$ e hea*en. "I adore th$s noo ." "Good." "6o one else gets th$s noo ." "It's yours." ";es, yes $t $s, ma e sure you tell that to all those )ndean women who w$ll try to seduce the hot

)mer$can." "I'll ma e sure to tell them my noo $s spo en for." I sm$led and yawned hugely. It had been an e"haust$ng few days. I was st$ll &et lagged and had been fuc ed to w$th$n an $nch of my l$fe. Tended to ma e a g$rl t$red. 7e leaned across me to shut off the l$ght, and tuc ed me bac $nto the noo . MMM C?2@am "Edward=" "%mm=" ")re you asleep=" "%mhmH" "I &ust wanted to say that, well, I'm really glad you came home early." "%mhm, me too." ")nd that, I'm pretty sm$tten w$th you." "%mhm, me too." "+m$tten l$ e a $tten." "%mhm, me too." "Who's lost her m$ttens." "%$ttens, mmhmH" "Edward=" "%mhm=" ")re you asleep=" "%mhmH" "I lo*e you." "I lo*e you too." H H H "!ella=" "%mhmH" "I'm really glad I came home early too." "%mhmH" ")nd I'm really glad you came." "Enough." "6$ght !ella." "6$ght Edward." )nd w$th the sounds of 0ount !as$e and h$s orchestra tra$l$ng softly through the wall, and 0l$*e curled between us, although mostly on my s$de to be fa$r, we slept. The deep sleep of those who

ha*e truly earned $t. MMM -he next da# Te"t $ntercepted from )l$ce to !ella Where the hell are #ou? What? We%re waiting &or #ou at the diner" are #ou oming? Shit" $ totall# &orgot0 an $ ta)e a rain he )? We want to hear all a!out Spain! +ou went awa# &or a wee)" didn%t all" didn%t email" #ou didn%t even text! $ was stupid !us#" $ )now" $%m sorr# *id #ou &eel the earth<ua)e #esterda# a&ternoon? +ES! Wait" what? -he earth<ua)e? Not a huge one" !ut ever#one &elt it0#ou didn%t? 'h #eah. $ &elt it. Well? Well what? How was Spain? Ama;ing How was Edward? Ama;ing $ )new it +ou )new nothing $ did too! $ have a sixth sense a!out these things0#ou &u )ed him didn%t #ou? +ou (ust as)ed that <uestion out loud in the diner" didn%t #ou? 1a#!e0<uit stalling $ will tell #ou ever#thing" ome over this a&ternoon" $ !a)ed all )inds o& oo)ies and stu&& to send home with #ou an#wa#0!ring ,ose +ou (ust got !a )" when the hell did #ou have time to !a)e? $%ll tell #ou ever#thing" (ust !e here around 20!etter ma)e it @. Something (ust ame up. Bella? He# Bella? 4ine" see #ou at @. MMM 4irst da# !a ) at wor)" post Spain I sat at my des , try$ng to clear my head enough to actually focus on wor , but scenes ept popp$ng $nto my head, flash$ng across the $ns$de of my eyel$ds l$ e a mo*$e tra$ler. Edward, hold$ng h$mself o*er me, arms t$ght and muscles stra$n$ng, brow furrowed, b$t$ng down on h$s lower l$p as he mo*ed $ns$de me. Edward, between my legs, hands curled o*er the bac s of my nees, nudg$ng my th$ghs

apart w$th h$s nose. Edward, laugh$ng as he scrubbed flour from the floor, sh$rtless. Edward, groan$ng $nto my ear as he watched me roll out dough for h$s apple p$e, watch$ng from o*er my r$ght shoulder as he clasped h$s arms around my m$ddle. It was a n$ce tra$ler. "+he's bac '" Esme called out from the doorway, str$ $ng as always. !lac penc$l s $rt, blac turtlenec , honey colored leather cropped &ac et, honey colored m$le h$gh pumps. "I'm bac , m$ss me=" "#lease, of course I d$d. Off$ce wasn't the same w$thout you, wor was actually done'" "#fft I say, pfft," I laughed, gestur$ng for her to come $n and s$t down. Tea cup $n hand, she walt5ed $n, settl$ng $nto the cha$r across from my des w$th a now$ng loo on her face. "+p$ll $t +wan." "That's $t= Bust r$ght to $t=" "Was +pa$n beaut$ful=" ";es, un$mag$nably so." ")nd the house you stayed $n= -o*ely=" ":ery much so." "+o out w$th $t, what happened w$th Edward= 9$d you two, you now, ha*e the se"y t$mes=" "Why $s e*ery woman $n my l$fe so $nterested $n my se"y t$mes=" "+o there were se"y t$mes= Than 0hr$st. )nd for the record, not &ust the women, 0arl$sle $s chomp$ng at the b$t for deta$ls as well, such a goss$p that one," she gr$nned, s$pp$ng her tea. I focused on the short *ase of flowers $n front of me. I had stopped, per usual, th$s morn$ng at the flower shop to ma e my select$on for the wee . 6o tul$ps, no dahl$as. (oses. Two do5en *el*ety blood red roses. I let my f$ngert$ps drag l$ghtly across the t$ps, soft and s$l y. +e"y. "Esme= It was wonderful, let's &ust say that," I sm$led softly, st$ll play$ng w$th my flowers. "Oh my goodness, really= +o you, and he, I mean, you and heH" she tra$led off. ";eah, we're a th$ng," I adm$tted, feel$ng my face flush as I sa$d the words. ") th$ng=" ") th$ng, a *ery good th$ng," I sm$led, th$n $ng bac to earl$er that morn$ng when I left h$m, rumpled and beaut$ful $n my bed. @$sses and more $sses had left me breathless and almost late for wor . Esme and I &ust stared at each other for a few more seconds, and then let out a most unprofess$onal s/ueal. We d$shed for a few moments, I shared some of the more wor appropr$ate h$ghl$ghts, and we then spent some t$me on my calendar plann$ng some upcom$ng pro&ects. I was to start wor on a few 0hr$stmas des$gn &obs, *ery common th$s t$me of year, as well as two new bedroom remodels that I had slated for Banuary. "!y the way, I'm ha*$ng the apartment I d$d for Bames photographed Wednesday, should turn out beaut$ful. Want to come along=" I as ed, as we wrapped th$ngs up. ";ou need me there=" "Oh lord no, &ust wanted you to see the f$nal product." "I now $t'll be perfect, I'll ta e a loo at the st$lls when you get them bac ." "I should ha*e them bac th$s wee end, wh$ch br$ngs me to +aturday. Edward and I were th$n $ng about gett$ng a l$ttle d$nner party together, ha*e e*eryone o*er, ha*e some food, dr$n some w$ne, we'd lo*e to ha*e you and 0arl$sle." "Enterta$n$ng together already= Wow, ser$ousH"

"+top $t, we &ust thought $t'd be fun, don't ma e $t $nto a b$g deal." "We'll be there. I'll &ust chec w$th 0arl$sle, but I'm sure he can ma e $t." "9on't come w$thout h$m. ;ou now my lad$es only tolerate you to get to see h$m." "I do now th$s," she frowned, peel$ng herself out of the cha$r and head$ng for the door. +he stopped and turned. "7appy for you !ella." "7appy for me too Esme." )nd w$th a w$n , she d$sappeared down the hall. I ga5ed out the w$ndow for another moment, the fog momentar$ly l$ft$ng so I could see the bay. What a great place to wor . "Lu$t woolgather$ng and get to wor +wan'" I heard from down the hall. "On $t boss'" I called bac . -wo da#s later Te"t $ntercepted from !ella to (ose +ou and Em still in &or Sat night? We%re in" and we%re !ringing the !everages..wine" !oth red and white" and ginger ale Great! .a)e and .essi a are a!le to ma)e it too" so that ma)es CF. CF? Esme and 3arlisle are oming too Ni e" $ have !een missing m# 3arlisle peep time 1e too" oooh" ma)e him open the wine" he alwa#s loo)s good opening wine Good all" ma#!e $%ll !ring some hampagne too" then we an see some thum! thrusting. Besides" we might !e ele!rating0 *on%t #ou :dotdotdot: me" what are we ele!rating? $%ll tell #ou Saturda# +ou%ll tell me now *oes Wall!anger li)e #ou when #ou%re !oss#? Wall!anger li)es me an# wa#" now tell me .ee;" now that '%s !a ) #ou are extra sass#. See #ou Saturda#0 ,ose? ,ose dammit" don%t #ou s reen m# texts! $ hate #ou0 H Te"t $ntercepted from Edward to !ella So $ tal)ed to a !udd# o& mine" $ thin) $ &igured out how to do those prawns #ou went so ra;# over in Spain /er&e t" the#%ll &it in with m# little Spanish &east $ am planning &or Saturda# Sure #ou don%t want to have it at m# pla e? No" it%ll !e easier at mine" $ have the island whi h is !etter &or prepping" !ut $%m ommandeering #our oven

3an $ ommandeer #ou" on the island? -hat%s not the orre t usage o& the word ommandeer /lease" #ou )now what $ meant $ did" and #ou ma# Sweet. Have #ou seen m# running shoes? +ep" the#%re in m# !athroom where #ou le&t them last night. $ tripped over them this morning when $ was getting read# &or wor)0 $s that the thump $ heard? +ou heard that? +ep" wo)e me up And #et" #ou didn%t ome see i& $ was o)? $ didn%t want to distur! 3live $ an%t !elieve he%s !een sleeping on #our side" traitor at We%re &riends now0well" almost &riends. He peed on m# sweatshirt again HA! $ have to get !a ) to wor) at stealer" we still wat hing a movie tonight? $& that%s what #ou want to all it 1a)es it seem li)e we a tuall# had plans $ have plans" oh man do $ have plans As do $0 $%m sitting here0eating #our apple pie0thin) a!out that -hat%s all $ an thin) a!out now0hating #ou +ou don%t hate me -hat%s true" now go eat m# pie H ho)ing0 Wednesda# I wal ed through the apartment, chang$ng &ust a few l$ttle th$ngs here and there. +w$tched th$s throw p$llow for that throw p$llow, flounced the curta$ns &ust so, repos$t$oned an end table, restac ed pears $n a bowl to loo a l$ttle more casually arrangedHwh$ch too ten m$nutes. ,$nally, I stood bac and too $t all $n. 9eep leafy greens, anchored by r$ch earthy browns. 0reams, m$neral grays, splashes of ochre. Outdoors brought $ndoors, $n a metropol$tan sett$ng. +oph$st$cated. +a**y. )nd yet, l$*able. "It's perfect." I &umped when I heard the words from beh$nd me. Bames. ";ou l$ e $t=" I as ed, turn$ng to face h$m. I d$dn't now whether he'd be here today or not. "I lo*e $t. It's e"actly what I wanted." "That's my &ob, I'm glad you l$ e $t," I sm$led, watch$ng h$m. We hadn't really spo en s$nce the n$ght $n my apartment, commun$cat$ng ma$nly through ema$ls and te"ts as the last few p$eces fell $nto place. 7e wal ed through, ta $ng $t all $n. ) sm$le here, a nod there, he m$ssed noth$ng. 7e made $t all the way to the w$ndows, then turned around. "I'm sorry."

"I'm sorry too," I nodded, sm$l$ng genu$nely. 7e wasn't a bad guy, he &ust wasn't my guy. %y guy was at home, wash$ng h$s +tanford sweatsh$rt for the th$rd t$me th$s wee . "The photographer should be here soon, she sa$d she'd meet me at 32AA. Once I get her set up, I'll be out of your ha$r," I started, gather$ng up my bags so they would be out of the way once she got started. )n en*elope made out to Bames !rown fell out of the s$de poc et. "Oh yeah, th$s $s for you," I sa$d, wal $ng $t o*er to h$m. "What's th$s=" "Th$s, $s your f$nal b$ll. ;ou m$ght want to open that after I'*e gone," I laughed, and he sm$led b$g. "Worth e*ery penny. 0an I call you aga$n= If I e*er need another des$gner=" he as ed, stress$ng the last word. ";es, $f you e*er need another des$gner, you can call me," I sa$d stand$ng $n front of h$m. I ga*e h$s r$ght chee a l$ght slap and then mo*ed on. I could hear someone at the door, and Bames went to let them $n as I hefted all my bags onto my shoulders. "!ella +wan=" a mus$cal *o$ce as ed, and I turned. ) beaut$ful woman stood before me, tall and lean. :$brant auburn ha$r, tumbl$ng o*er her shoulders, p$erc$ng blue eyes, flawless s $n. ";es, :$ctor$a=" "Gu$lty. +orry I'm a b$t late, stuc $n traff$c com$ng bac $n from !$g !as$n, fantast$c day for a cl$mb, couldn't res$st," she gr$nned, her energy f$ll$ng the room. I gr$nned bac , sha $ng her hand. "6o problem, we're all set up, want to run through the shots=" I as ed, not$c$ng Bames wal bac $nto the room loo $ng thunderstruc . "+ure, sounds good," she answered loo $ng around w$th an apprec$at$*e eye. "Th$s place $s ama5$ng, who's $s $t=" "-et me $ntroduce you to the owner, th$s $s BamesH" "Bames, Bames !rown, pleasure to meet you," he rushed $n, reach$ng out and clasp$ng her hand. They both &umped bac . "Wow, must be some stat$c from the new rugs, /u$te a shoc there," she laughed as h$s eyes l$t up. They cont$nued to sm$le, hands st$ll clasped, as I watched from the corner amused. ,$nally, I d$screetly coughed. ":$ctor$a, $f you l$ e, I'll &ust wal you through so you now what needs to be done, and then I w$ll lea*e you to Bames. 7ow'd that be=" "+ure, great, sounds great," she mumbled, lett$ng go of h$s hand and loo $ng at me through a b$t of a da5e. !y the t$me I left th$rty m$nutes later, she and Bames were th$c as th$e*es and had already made plans to go cl$mb$ng that wee end together. Was there lo*e at f$rst s$ght= Who was I to say there wasn't. MMM -hursda# Te"t $ntercepted from )l$ce to !ella +ou sure $ an%t !ring an#thing Saturda#? Nah" ,ose is !ringing drin)s" and we%re ta)ing are o& the rest So good to hear #ou in a :we: again +es" $%m en(o#ing the we

And the we8we? What are we" A? +es" the we8we is good Good to hear it" so have #ou slept in the !ed o& sin #et? No" sta#ing at m# pla e" $ thin) $%d &eel weird in that !ed 1an# walls were !anged &rom that !ed0 Exa tl#" that%s m# point" &eels strange 1a#!e it would !e ni e to ma)e #our mar) on his !ed" so to spea). New era" new girl&riend" new !anger? $ don%t )now" we%ll see0$ )now at some point $%ll sleep there" (ust not #et. Besides" he%s having too mu h &un !onding with 3live WHA-? 3live hates gu#s! Ex ept ga# gu#s $ )now" !ut the two o& them have ome to some )ind o& weird )itt#Gman understanding. $%m not <uestioning it $t%s li)e a new world order $ )now Want me to ome over earl# Saturda# and help? +ou (ust want to get into m# drawers again -he# need to !e reorgani;ed0 3ome over earl# WAH''! Get some help0 MMM -hursda# night Lu$et. )ll th$ngs /u$et. Edward and I sat on the couch, wor $ng. I was s etch$ng, wor $ng on a 7ol$day concept for someone's ballroom. ;ep, ballroom. Th$s was the world I *$s$ted. :$s$ted, not l$*ed $n. I was st$ll $n my yoga clothes, ha*$ng gone stra$ght to class from wor . Edward coo ed, us$ng my $tchen $n wh$ch he was becom$ng *ery much at home. 7e sa$d $t was because he new $t would be eas$er s$nce we'd &ust end up at my place anyway, but I caught h$m l$ft$ng 0l$*e up onto the counter so he could "watch". I put that $n /uotes, because the actual word was spo en, by Edward, to 0l$*e. The ent$re sentence I bel$e*e was "7ere ya go buddy, th$s way you can watch' ;ou can't see too well from down on the floor I bet, r$ght= ($ght=" )nd 0l$*e answered bac . )nd e*en though I now $t was techn$cally $mposs$ble, the meow he uttered sounded l$ eH "Than s." %y boys were bond$ng. It was n$ce. +o here we sat, me s etch$ng and Edward ma $ng h$s tra*el plans for #eru onl$ne. 7e had someth$ng l$ e se*enty b$ll$on fre/uent flyer m$les, and lo*ed to flaunt them $n my face. +o /u$et $t was, sa*e the scratch$ng of my colored penc$ls on the page and h$s cl$c ety clac on the eyboard. )nd the cl$c $ng from 0l$*e. %ost stubborn $tty hangna$l $n the free world. Edward f$n$shed h$s wor and closed up h$s laptop, stretch$ng h$s arms o*er h$s head and e"pos$ng h$s happy tra$l. I may ha*e drawn outs$de the l$nes a b$t. 7e la$d h$s head bac aga$nst the bac of the couch, eyes closed. W$th$n a few moments, the t$n$est of snores began to show up, and I gr$nned s$lently. I cont$nued my s etch$ng.

Ten m$nutes later I felt h$s hand reach out across the p$llows, and grasp my hand. I only needed one hand for s etch$ng after all. MMM Saturda# night "7oly sh$t !ella, these prawns are s$c '" )l$ce moaned $n a way that made Basper read&ust the way he was s$tt$ng. We were all gathered around my d$n$ng room table, full of +pan$sh food and +pan$sh w$ne. I had a blast com$ng up w$th the menu and tr$ed to recreate all the wonderful food we had eaten. 6ot as good certa$nly, but pretty close. )nd of course w$thout the coastal amb$ance, but the co5$ness that only an autumn e*en$ng $n foggy +an ,ranc$sco can pro*$de. The c$ty l$ghts were tw$n l$ng through the w$ndows, a f$re crac led $n the f$replace that 0arl$sle had made, and laughter f$lled the apartment. I sat $n my cha$r, tuc ed $nto Edward's s$de as we laughed w$th our fr$ends. I'd been a l$ttle ner*ous that we'd be sub&ected to some $nd of ha5$ng, s$nce our $ne*$table gett$ng.together had been the top$c of con*ersat$on for so long. !ut $t was good, e*eryone settled $nto the e*en$ng w$th only a l$ttle teas$ng. Edward and I had stuc pretty close together most of the e*en$ng, but I could already tell we would morph $nto one of those couples that didn't need that. I ne*er wanted to be that couple, the one that was ent$rely co.dependent and $n constant need of reassurance from the other.I lo*ed Edward, that much was clear. One of us tra*eled for goodness sa e, so we needed to be the $nd of couple that could roll w$th $t. )nd I th$n we would be. I felt h$m ne"t to me, and I mo*ed &ust a l$ttle closer to h$m. 7e not$ced and h$s hand patted my shoulder, s/uee5$ng and &ust ma $ng me more aware of h$m. I was aware. "+o, what's your b$g news (ose= 9on't you th$n you'*e ept us $n suspense long enough=" I as ed as she returned from clear$ng the table. I coo ed, therefore I ne*er had a problem w$th someone else clear$ngH +he san down $nto her cha$r, Emmett stand$ng beh$nd her, hands on her shoulders. %y tummy turned &ust a b$t. +ometh$ng was up. "Well, I suppose now's as good a t$me as any. We ha*e some news," she sa$d /u$etly, face turn$ng p$n . "Wa$t wa$t, lemme guess, you're pregnant'" Edward burst out, start$ng to laugh. W$th$n seconds, Emmett was gr$nn$ng huge and (ose was turn$ng from p$n to purple. "Edward, shut up, shut up'" I hastened, as he was the only one at the table laugh$ng. Lu$et now, he turned w$th w$de eyes towards the gr$nn$ng purple couple. "9ude=" Edward as ed. "9ude," Emmett aff$rmed. "9ude'" Basper congratulated, as all the female eyes at the table rolled. )fter the roll, I concentrated on (ose. +he was beam$ng. I ra$sed an eyebrow at her, and she nodded. )l$ce and I loo ed across the table at each other, tears beg$nn$ng to form. "We're gonna be aunts=" she as ed (ose. "God help us, yes'" she cr$ed, and shed a few tears w$th us. )fter a -$fet$me.worthy group hug, I chanced a /u$c glance towards Bess$ca and Bacob, wonder$ng how they would ta e the news. They were /u$et, but sm$l$ng too. I saw her nod to h$m, as he cleared h$s throat. "6ot to steal anyone's thunder, but we ha*e a b$t of news as well," Bacob boomed, h$s cheery *o$ce cutt$ng through the clatter. Esme was already plann$ng the nursery. "It's been a b$t of a process, but we f$nally settled on a surrogate, and we're hop$ng to be pregnant soon as well," he announced, h$s gr$n b$g enough to spl$t h$s face $n two. )nother round of applause

went up, the room start$ng to feel a b$g l$ e a game show. "I d$dn't e*en now you were e"plor$ng surrogacy. That's wonderful' What's she l$ e=" I as ed, hurry$ng to Bess$ca's s$de. "+he's pretty fuc $ng fantast$c," )l$ce p$ped up. -aughter /u$eted. E*eryone loo ed at the t$n$est person $n the room, w$th the b$ggest heart. Basper held her hand t$ght. "What=" I as ed, my tummy now churn$ng. ";ep, I'm gonna be the$r surrogate," she wh$spered, eyes sh$n$ng. Bess$ca was cry$ng full on don ey tears now, Bacob st$ll sm$l$ng l$ e he'd won the lottery. )nd $n a way, he had. ";ou sure about th$s=" I as ed, catch$ng her other hand $n my own. "Totally, how cool $s th$s=" she shr$e ed and I couldn't help but laugh. ":ery *ery cool," I sm$led and hugged her t$ght. E*eryone was congratulat$ng each other, e*eryone was hugg$ng, guys were slapp$ng each other on the bac , e*eryone was tal $ng o*er each other as we all scrambled for deta$ls. E*eryone &umped when the sound of a champagne cor be$ng popped r$cocheted through the room. We all turned and there was 0arl$sle. Wh$te button down, faded &eans, and that $ller gr$n. 0hampagne pour$ng o*er h$s perfect hands. In concert, e*eryone w$th a uterus s$ghed. "+h$t, we m$ssed the thumb thrust$ng," (ose muttered. #regnancy would ne*er sha e her from the fold of 0arl$sle's )ngels. "I d$dn't," Esme added as we all eyed her man. MMM "O@, that's the last of $t, no more d$shes," Edward announced, clos$ng the d$shwasher door. )fter e*eryone f$nally left, we dec$ded to clean up the rest of the mess $nstead of lea*$ng $t for the morn$ng after. "Than goodness, I'm beat," ")nd I ha*e d$shpan hands," he w$n ed, show$ng me how red they were. "That's the mar of a good housew$fe," I &o ed, &ust barely s$destepp$ng h$s grabby hands. "Bust call me %adge, and br$ng that fantast$c ass bac o*er here," he f$red bac , snapp$ng a d$shtowel $n my d$rect$on. "Th$s ass= Th$s ass r$ght here=" I as ed, propp$ng myself aga$nst the $sland &ust so, lean$ng forward on my elbows. ";ou want to play now, $s that $t= Thought you were beat," he murmured, catch$ng my bottom $n h$s d$shpan hands and g$*$ng me a l$ght smac . "%aybe I'm catch$ng my second w$nd," I g$ggled, as he promptly swept me up $n a f$reman's hold and started head$ng bac towards the bedroom. Eps$de down, I beat my f$sts aga$nst h$s own bottom and $c ed, not so much as to actually get away. 7$s feet stopped at the bedroom door. ",orget someth$ng today=" he as ed, turn$ng so I could see $ns$de. +tr$pped bed, no sheets. "9amn, I forgot to put the sheets $n the dryer, they'll st$ll be soa ed'" I grumbled. "#roblem sol*ed, slumber party at Edward's," he announced, str$d$ng o*er to my dresser and pull$ng open my l$nger$e drawer. "#$c a n$ght$e, any n$ght$e," ";ou want to stay at your place ton$ght=" ";eah, why not= We'*e been sleep$ng here s$nce we got bac from +pa$n, my beds lonely," he teased,

ruffl$ng through p$les of lace and pee .a.boo. 7mm, h$s bed was probably lonel$er that $t had e*er been before. "+o, p$c one," he nudged, g$*$ng my ass another slap. "Eh, you p$c out someth$ng you l$ e, I'll model $t for you," I gr$nned, tal $ng myself $nto th$s. 0ome on, I could certa$nly spend the n$ght $n h$s bed, could be fun. I saw someth$ng espec$ally lacey ma e $ts way under h$s arm and then we were off across the hallway. I managed to $c h$s door on the way $n, someth$ng pretty hard to do wh$le ups$de down. MMM Once more, I found myself $n a bathroom, putt$ng on l$nger$e for Edward. 7e really l$ ed e*eryth$ng I wore, whether $t was actual l$nger$e or one of h$s old sh$rts, he d$dn't seem to care. )nd $t was rarely on for *ery long. W$thout mean$ng to, I thought of all the women that had come before me, all the women he had en&oyed and had en&oyed h$m. !ut I was here now, and I was who he wanted. I smoothed the s$l o*er my body w$th a deep breath, my s $n already beg$nn$ng to t$ngle $n ant$c$pat$on of h$s hands on me once more.