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Pen Pals

by covermeinfeathers Bella and Edward met 12 years ago and were faithful pen pals for 4 years, when they met again. After the second meeting, Edward abruptly stopped writing. Now Bella's come to work for Edward's company. Will she recognize him and forgive him?

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

Chapter 1
BPOP I was surrounded by boxes stacked to the ceiling. It amazed me just how little space I could afford here, in San Diego, compared to the space I had back home. Home. This is home now. I was sitting in my new living room overlooking the marina from the 30th floor of my condo building. As I opened the window and inhaled the salty smell of the ocean, a seagull swooped to the ground below me and dove into the bay. Closing my eyes, I drew in the sounds and smells of my new home. Never one to make such a big decision spontaneously, I couldnt believe that I actually did it - I decided that, at 28, my life was likely a third of the way gone but I wasnt yet where I wanted to be. At 28 I learned a lesson that should have been so simple. You cant recapture time you cant get a do-over. So I decided to quit my job, pack up what belongings I didnt want to give or throw away, and move half-way across the country. Luckily, with the money from my inheritance from Renee, I was able to put a decent down-payment down on my new condo enough to get my monthly payments down to a point where plasma donations could be trimmed down to once a week. The other good news was that I was able to quickly land a new job at an up-and-coming company. A dream job, really, with a sweet office overlooking the bay, just a few blocks away from my condo. General Counsel, thats me! Looking up again at the stacks of boxes awaiting unpacking, I channeled my inner Scarlett OHara and resolved to deal with them tomorrow. Instead, I changed into my flip-flops, grabbed a book and headed out the door and down to the parking garage. Plugging my iPod into the dock in my truck, I scrolled through my playlists and selected Jeff Buckleys Grace. As the opening guitar solo pulled me into the music, I pulled out of the garage and headed out toward the beach. The song came to a close as I pulled into a parking space by a meter. As I slugged the meter, I was hit with a chilly wind coming off the water and instantly wished I had worn long sleeves under my sweater. No such luck. I sighed and yanked up the collar on my sweater so that at least my neck was insulated. No matter it was a small price to pay for the ability to sit in the warm sand and feel it scrunch under my toes. I headed down toward where the tide ebbed and flowed, nearly falling multiple times. The uneven slopes of the sand leading down to the water were proving to be a challenge for my horrible sense of balance. Luckily, it was a slow day on the beach, so the number of witnesses who saw me walk like a drunken idiot, holding my arms out sporadically to balance myself, was limited. Eventually, I made my way to where the water had leveled the sand and packed it down to where it was smooth and solid. I bent down and rolled up the hems of my jeans to mid-calf and kept walking down to the water. This was always as far as I got. Im not fond of the ocean, beyond the sound and smell of it. Truth be told, Im scared witless of fish. Not necessarily sharks, sting rays and jelly fish kind of fish but anything that swims. And seaweed, that stuff gives me the willies. Rarely did I get into the water above the middle of my calves. I stood there, feeling the water come up over the tops of my feet and recede, pulling the sand out from around and under my toes, for several minutes. When I could no longer feel my toes from

the cool water, I headed back to the loose uneven sand and sat down; digging my feet into the warm sand and leaning back on my elbows allowing my hair whip around and tickle my face. I closed my eyes and let my head fall back. This was why I made my decision- I could sit here all day, every day, and never tire of this feeling. I was jolted back to reality when I heard something hit the ground a few feet away. My eyes opened to see a Frisbee sticking up in the sand. Looking around to see who threw it, I spotted a yellow lab running toward me. And theres my other crazy fear - large dogs. It took me years to warm up to the idea of a dog in the house after Renee bought her Lhasa Apso. But that was a small dog. The big ones still scare me, and I am convinced that like horses (another fear of mine, by the way), dogs smell fear. So I half-heartedly laughed and attempted to act like this dog was the most natural friend I could ever make. Apparently the dog bought it, because he came up and licked my wrist. I reached down and grabbed the Frisbee and held it out for him. He happily took it between his jaws and jotted off to his owner. His owner. My Sweet Lord. Fear of big dogs? Not Anymore! I am going to adopt one. This one. Just to get near his owner. Scruffy, bronze hair and a day-old shave framed a beautiful smile. He reached down to the dog with tanned, sculpted arms. Obviously a native he didnt see the need for long sleeves or a sweater. He was in a white wife beater and khaki shorts. No shoes. Fantastic calves. He patted the dog on the head and the dog gave him the Frisbee. He mouthed something and laughed at the dog. I thought I saw him glance at me briefly as he did this, but then he turned around and jogged back down the beach with the dog by his side. Hmmm. Nice rear view as well. I made a mental note to come back to that spot soon. After putting off my return to the condo decorated with U-Haul boxes for a sufficient length of time, grudgingly I walked back to my car and headed home. As I crossed the bridge I noticed the mountains in the distance and I was instantly reminded of him. **8 years ago** I stood at the gate, house-shaped box in hand, second-guessing my idea. Hell think its silly that Im silly. But when he walked through the tunnel into the airport, he saw me and lit up. He came to me and gave me a bear hug, planting a polite kiss on my cheek. You look fantastic, he offered. Ive got 45 minutes till I have to catch my next flight. Lets walk I need to stretch my legs. Uh, whats in the box? He rushed, all this was said in the span of maybe 7 seconds. Is he nervous? Um. Its for you. Its silly, but I thought you might like it, I responded, reluctantly handing over the Build-a-Bear box to him. He furrowed his brow in confusion and opened the box. Inside sat a stuffed bunny with a cute little t-shirt on it that had the Arch on it and read St. Louis. He instantly grinned, ear-to-ear. I love it! He exclaimed and hugged me again, this time kissing the top of my head. I heard him inhale deeply.

We walked down the airport hallway and grabbed a bite to eat at the Cinnabon. So much better than peanuts, he said as he took a bite of the huge roll we were sharing. As I put my bite in my mouth, I watched his pupils dilate a bit. We made small talk and the electricity between us threatened to ignite into flames. Or at least I thought so. But maybe he was disappointed after not seeing me for 4 years. And even then, we had only spent a few hours together when we met. Hardly enough time to burn a great impression into his mind, right? And I was nothing out of the ordinary. When we had finished the roll or he finished it, rather we reluctantly got up and headed to his next gate. I folded up the awkward box and tossed it in a trash can so he wouldnt have to take it on the plane. When we got to the waiting area he sighed and said, Well, it was so good to see you. Can you believe its been almost 4 years since we met? I know. Craziness, I said, laughing. Uncomfortable much? Lets not wait so long next time, k? I nodded in response to the question. He leaned down and lightly pressed his lips on mine. Ah. I was transported back to four years prior, when I left him, standing there in from of a Hawaiian hotel, my father glaring at him. The smell of cinnamon rolls caressed my face as he exhaled. When I opened my eyes, he was staring down at me through thick lashes. He leaned back in to my face and kissed me again this time with vigor, his tongue confidently sweeping my mouth. Heat rose from my toes to the top of my head, and I was certain he could see my traitor blush. Bye Bella, he said, and turned around to head down the tunnel into the plane. He was unashamedly holding the bunny in the crook of his elbow when he glanced backward and flashed me his crooked smile. All ability to speak or breathe, for that matter escaped me. Bye Masen.

Chapter 2
EPOV As I ran my hands through my hair, I was a nervous wreck. What the hell were the odds that of all the cities in the world, shed come to mine? To live? To work? Very slim. And the odds that shed want to work at my company? Nonexistent, right? When my father told me a month prior that we should look at hiring a General Counsel to serve as Cullen Incs in-house attorney, I had agreed wholeheartedly. We were spending too much money on outside firm lawyers and it would be nice to have someone just down the hall for quick questions. Take a look at that stack of resumes there , Edward, he directed. Let me know if any of them jump out at you. My father gestured to a short stack of linen paper on the corner of his desk. I took the stack as he shuffled more papers on his desk, coming to an off-white envelope. Oh yeah heres another one. I havent opened it yet. You can do the honors. He tossed me an envelope that was addressed to Mr. Carlisle Cullen, Hiring Partner. The return address was a St. Louis address, but there was no name. Great. An elusive one. I

rolled my eyes, reached for my fathers brass letter opener and opened the envelope in one swift movement of my wrist. I pulled the tri-folded cover letter and resume out of the envelope and opened it up. Gasping, I felt the blood drain out of my face as I read the name at the top of the piece of paper Isabella M. Swan. Like I said, the odds were nonexistent. Right. **12 years ago ** We pulled up to the familiar hotel along the black sandy Hawaiian beach in my parents car. I couldnt help but groan mentally. Here we go again. Another family vacation in Hawaii. How did my brother and sister get out of this? Oh yeah, college. We pulled into the circle drive in front of the hotel and I walked to the trunk to help the bellhop get the bags. I flung my duffel over my shoulder, adjusted my baseball hat, and huffed as I walked into the hotel lobby behind Mom. As they checked us into our suite I glanced around the lobby, taking in any new changes. None. Figures. This place is always the same boring place it has been since I was four. Then I saw her, standing there with her parents. She looked as miserable as I felt. Aha, someone else doesnt do family vacations either. As she fidgeted with a car key and pressed her forehead to the glass door, I followed her gaze to see a red Mustang convertible rental car. I looked back at her as a devious smile slowly came to her face. The car - she got to drive the car. I chuckled to myself. Convertibles were no big deal to me everyone back home drove them. I wondered where she was from. Somewhere where theres no sun, thats for certain. Her sunburned shoulders told me that she didnt get much sun back home in March. The red tone was emphasized by her white tank top. When her father called her name, she swung around so quickly that her hair clip came loose, beautiful, long chestnut hair cascaded down her slender back. Her clip fell down to the floor, and I instinctively moved toward her to pick it up. But before I could take two steps, she bent down and picked it up herself, winding it haphazardly back in her hair. Coming, Daddy, she said in response to his call. Daddy!? No way. Spoiled little daddys girl. I crinkled my nose and turned away, glad that I hadnt made it any closer to her to retrieve her hair clip, confident that she probably wouldnt have even thanked me. Taking off my hat, I laughed quietly to myself. At least, I thought I had been quiet, but when she turned to look in the direction of the noise, I realized I had been louder than I thought. She smiled at me shyly and her face blushed a shade that made her sunburn pale in comparison. I was screwed. For the next two days I hung out at the pool, the beach, the lobby anywhere just trying to get a glimpse of her again. Stalker much? On the third day of our visit I went to the hotel gift shop to pick up a magazine before heading back down to the pool. As I glanced over the top of the magazine rack, I locked eyes with a pair of

chocolate ones that instantly were surrounded by flushed skin. She quickly looked away, grabbing the last issue of People. Figuring that was my last chance, I called after her as she headed to the cashier, Excuse me. I was looking for that issue. Oh. Well, I was just grabbing it to read down by the pool, she replied, laying her money on the counter and holding out her hand for the change. At that moment I realized she was in short cutoffs and a blue bikini top. Dear God, please dont let me get a hard-on now. Quick Cullen, focus on her eyes. Dont look at the boobs. Make conversation. Think baseball. Well, if youre headed to the pool, maybe I can borrow it once youre done with it? I was just headed there myself. She looked at the floor and bit her lip. Baseball. Baseball. Baseball. Or maybe you wouldnt mind if I read over your shoulder? Nice recovery, dorkwad. Of course shed mind. I guess thatd be fine. But I like to do the crossword at the end, she replied. Again with the blushing. It was becoming my favorite shade of red. Of course. After you, I said, motioning her toward the pool. As I followed her, I had to keep my gaze focused on the back of her head in order to avoid staring at her ass. Damn 17-year-old hormones. When we arrived at the pool, she pulled all her hair up, twisted it, and jabbed a hotel pen in it to keep it up. Thin stubborn tendrils stayed along her neck and I had to mentally swat my hand when I thought about pulling them behind her ear. Down boy, down. We sat on adjacent lounge chairs for an hour, looking at the magazine and making small talk. When she got to the crossword at the end, she pulled the pen from her hair and put the tip of it between her lips while she read the clues. Her lips. They were the only thing that could have distracted me from her liberated hair. They were full and red and didnt need any lipstick. They were gorgeous. I wanted to attack them with my own. Standing up swiftly, I dove into the pool without another word. The water was a chilly contrast to my hot skin. But that was precisely the point. Get a grip, Cullen! When I had sufficiently regained composure, I got out of the pool and went to sit back down by her. Her brow was furrowed in a very cute, frustrated way. Whats a two-word, six-letter phrase for long distance correspondent? she asked. Pen pal, I answered. She took a moment to see if the letters matched up with her other responses, and nodded in approval, filling in the boxes. We spent the next two days together. We walked the black sand beach, ate ice cream cones, and walked through downtown. In those two days I learned that she was from a small Midwest town and she was a junior. She had big plans college, law school, practice in New England. She was simply fascinating. And unattainable. Unattainable because, of course, these plans did not mesh with my own. There was no part of me that ever wanted to live anywhere there was a possibility of snow Im a California boy, born and raised. The only reason I would have ever considered leaving California was for a station in England when I joined the service after graduation.

Yep. Unattainable. Incompatible. Except we werent incompatible. We talked like we had known each other our whole lives. She was bright, smart and beautiful. Whoever is in charge Up There has a twisted sense of humor. When she left later that week, I met her up in her room to help her carry her luggage to her parents rental car. After I threw the suitcase in the trunk of the Mustang parked in the circle drive, I reached out to take her hand. Needing to get us out of the line of her fathers murderous glare, I pulled her several yards away so that I could say goodbye to her. Youve got my info, right? I asked her. We had exchanged addresses and phone numbers the previous day so that we could keep in touch. Yes, Masen. I promise Ill write - every week. I promise, she responded. I thought I saw her eyes fill with tears, but she quickly batted them, and looked at the ground again. I put my hands on either side of her head and kissed the top of it, inhaling her strawberry-scented hair once more. Then I slowly tilted her head up toward mine and placed a very soft, very non-threatening kiss on her lips. Goodbye Bella. Be safe. And then I walked back into the hotel, hoping to God that Id see her again, and soon. **** Over the next four years we wrote each other faithfully, every week. We wrote about our classes, buying our first cars, prom, her move to college, and my excitement at enlisting. We even wrote about people we dated. Although that part was awkward for me to read, I knew she had to have a life, and when I was honest with myself, I knew that life could never really include me. She had to find someone. But God help me if I ever met him. Hed never be good enough for her. But then again, neither was I. And what was I doing with these dates? Biding my time. Stemming off boredom. Sowing my wild oats. Getting a worldly education. But every time I looked at a woman, I thought of her. I wondered what she was doing. The dark tans of the California girls began to sicken me. I wanted to see a sunburn. When my stint at basic training out east was over, I was all set to fly home for a six-week break. I booked my flight, and realized that Id have an hour layover in St. Louis. The corners of my mouth twitched as my plan formulated in my mind. Id see her again. I just had to get the courage to ask her to come see me at the airport.

Chapter 3
BPOV Two days, one large delivered pizza, three bags of microwave popcorn, and two bottles of wine later, I was unpacked. Of course, I discovered that while I thought I had slimmed down all my worldly possessions to a reasonable level, I had to throw out about a third of what I brought with me purely because I ran out of room. Stupid higher cost of living. But again, it was so worth it just to hear the waves outside my window. As I hopped into the shower to wash away the grime of the day, I sang Mamma Mia at the top of my lungs. I was so inspired that I even shaved my legs all the way up, not stopping at my knees. Much better.

After I threw on a pair of sweat shorts , a t-shirt, and my favorite hoodie, I grabbed my iPod and headed out the door. Time to go revisit my new favorite beach spot - and to look for a certain yellow lab owner. His tousled hair and crooked smile had haunted my dreams since that afternoon. Once again I found myself trying to successfully navigate the deep loose sand. It proved to be a challenge, and my calves were still sore from trying to avoid falling two days prior. I managed to get to the edge of where the tide packed the sand into a flat, smooth surface, sitting down and putting my ear buds in my ears and scrolling through my playlists until I came to Rachmaninoffs Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, 18th Variation. Ever since I was a little girl, I had loved the song - it reminded me of watching Somewhere in Time with my grandmother. I dug my bare feet into the warm sand, and laid back, covering my eyes with my forearm to block the bright sunlight. It was my personal heaven the beautiful piano in the foreground, the sound of the surf in the background. Minutes later, the song came to an end and Clair de Lune came on. The song always reminded me of Masen. Not the Masen that didnt write me once he got out of the service, but the Masen who faithfully wrote to me for four years, every week, detailing the minutia of his life and telling me that he missed me. The Masen who once sent me a tape of him playing Clair de Lune on the piano just so that I could have something to listen to besides Rachmaninoff to relax. He said I was wound too tight, with my over achieving type-A personality. Despite that there were thousands of miles between us, I often thought then that he knew me better than everyone else around me. But our short visit at the airport was the last I heard of him. The letters simply stopped. Although I thought of him often in the 8 years since I watched him walk down the tunnel into his plane, my attempts to find him on the internet were all unsuccessful. When I reverse looked-up his address, a different familys name came up. It was like he had just vanished. I was lost in the swells of the music when I felt a hot breath panting in my face. What the hell? I opened my eyes to see the yellow lab standing over me. I was startled into standing up, but I lost my footing in the loose sand and fell flat down onto my butt. Great Bella. Please let his owner be so far away he didnt see that. Once I recovered my dignity and dusted off the sand from my butt, I bent down to let the dog sniff my hand. Once he determined I was harmless enough, he pushed his nose into my hand to encourage me to pet him. Obliging, I was a little confused as to where his owner was. I didnt see the bronze-haired wonder anywhere. Was he in the water? Did the dog wander here by himself? Just then, the dog ran away and up to a two-story house behind me that sat on the edge of the beach. It was a spectacular house floor-to-ceiling windows made up both stories of the back of the house, and a hot tub sat on the back deck. Nice. And there he was, sitting on the stairs of the deck. The dog dutifully returned to his master and sat on the step next to him. The man patted the top of the dogs head and looked up at me. Again with the crooked smile! But then he stood up and turned around to go back into the house, sliding the glass door closed behind him. Well, that was weird. **** EPOV For two days I sent Ben out to roam the beach every few hours, just hoping to find her again. I was certain it was her when I saw her. Intentionally tossing Bens Frisbee to land next to the girl I had been staring at for 10 minutes, Ben dutifully ran to fetch it. She was beautiful - shapely calves

ran up into her cuffed jeans and her long hair whipped in the wind to smack against her pale face. But it wasnt until Ben retrieved the Frisbee and she opened her eyes that I was certain it was her. Bella. She looked different a little tired, curvier, prettier. Even more beautiful then she was eight years ago when I last looked down the tunnel to walk on to my plane the last time I saw her. As soon as I made it home from the airport that day so many years ago, I made up my mind that I was completely ridiculous. She was so obviously disappointed when she saw me at the airport she didnt even kiss me back or even say goodbye. Not a word, not even a single noise from her! I decided to spare myself further humiliation, and never wrote her again. After a few months of letters that went unanswered, she stopped writing me. That made it easier not having to read about some guy who took her to the movies, or whether shed gotten into the law school she wanted. I couldnt be part of her life. She was on a different track, and she didnt want me with her. She had made that clear at the airport. But for weeks her scent hit me like a ton of bricks when I walked into my room that damn rabbit - it smelled like strawberry and freesia. Like Bella. But there she was, in my city, on my beach. Without even knowing it, she had gotten onto my track. How would she react when she found out? I wasnt ready to find out the answer that first day, so when Ben brought me the Frisbee, I rewarded him with a pat on his head and once again - walked away from her. She had haunted my dreams and crept into my unguarded thoughts for the two days since first seeing her on my beach, but I hadnt seen her again . Frustrated, I let Ben out the back door and decided not to join him on the beach. But when I went out to call for him fifteen minutes later, she was there. Her feet dug into the sand again and her face was covered by her forearm . But I would know her hair and her skin tone anywhere. I could hardly breathe with the anticipation. Should I approach her? How would I do it? Holler out her name? Go hover over her until my telepathic suggestions caused her to open her eyes? Sinking to the steps in defeat, I chickened out. Dont be ridiculous, Cullen. I didnt have to wait long to see her stir. As if he heard my thoughts, Ben trotted over to Bella and panted next to her head, willing her to look at him. It worked she jumped in fright, causing her to promptly lose her balance and fall onto her perfect ass. Looks like eight years havent cured her of her coordination issues. Silly Bella. But even as I saw her look around while patting Bens head looking for me? - I couldnt bring myself to get off the steps and go to her. I was frozen and could barely breathe. When Ben ran back up to the deck to come back inside, I tried to scurry back into the house before she saw me. But I wasnt fast enough. She saw me, sitting there, staring at her. She squinted her eyes, trying to see me more clearly, and bit her bottom lip. My God. She was still the sexiest thing I had ever seen. Down boy, down. I ran into the house before she could detect the proof of my notice of her. I chastised myself and promised to get over this before Monday mornings meeting, or it would be entirely too uncomfortable.

Chapter 4
BPOV Sunday afternoon I decided to head to my new office to place some of my personal items. I liked my office to be a comfortable space, with pictures of my friends and family, and knick knacks that Ive collected over the years. I placed two boxes labeled OFFICE in the back of my truck, and headed the short distance to the high-rise that would likely become my second home. Admittedly, I was really looking forward to it, and the promise of a distraction it provided. Reaching into my purse to find the envelope Mr. Cullen sent me before I moved, I retrieved my ID to show to the weekend security officer to get in the building. Making my way up to the 20th floor, I used a key card to get into the office. Walking down the dark hallways to the corner of the building, I located my new office. Although I thought it was strange that I would get a corner office overlooking the water, who was I to question authority so early on, right? Thats why Mr. Cullen will never hear me complaining! Although I had a teleconference interview with Mr. Cullen over my computers web cam, and another telephone interview, I hadnt met him yet. His son sat in on the phone interview, but I never saw him. However, I was certain to meet everyone on Monday morning in the weekly meeting. It bothered me a bit that I couldnt remember his sons name, but I told myself Id just take a look at the name plates on the doors before I left so I wouldnt make a complete fool of myself by botching his name the next day. Two hours later, the sterile-looking walls were covered with my pictures, a couple of paintings, and my degrees. My former colleagues had always made fun of the things in my office, calling it Bellas Playroom because it had pieces of my childhood in it. Fraggle dolls. A Magic 8 Ball. Snoopy figurines. Sure, it was silly, but it reminded me of a time when every decision was a simple one (It is decidedly so, or There is no doubt.). The office looked a little more like me and a little less like an institution. Very good. After grabbing my purse and keys I headed back down the hall, away from the bay side of the building, and located Mr. Cullens office. It was also a corner office, but was larger than mine. I passed several secretarial cubicles and came to another corner office belonging to Jasper Cullen. Hmm. These guys really know how to keep it in the family. But the first name didnt sound familiar from my telephone interview. I thought that Cullens name started with a vowel. Alex, maybe? Edmund? Ick. No, thats not right. I kept walking and eventually made it back on the bay side of the building, down the hall from my own office. Coming to the final corner office, I read the name plate and saw that it belonged to Edward M. Cullen. Thats it! Edward. Sounds like an old man name. But he didnt sound old on the phone. He soundedwellsultry. Like honey in hot tea. Good Lord, I need a man. Or at least, I need to stay away from unattainable men who assault my dreams at night! Oh well. As I pulled out of the underground parking garage, I debated making a right turn and heading back to my spot on the beach, but the weather had other ideas and I heard thunder above me. Dammit. No yellow lab-owning hottie for me today. I hadnt been able to get him out of my head. Unrealistic, I know. On my way home, I turned my iPod my playlist labeled In the Mood, which was full of songs that I listened to when I was horny. Ha! Stupid yellow-lab owner. Radioheads All I Need came up first. It was one of my favorites - haunting with a subtle piano track in the background. When I

listened to it, I could almost feel hot breath on my neck, giving me goose bumps from head to toe. Yeah. Definitely not helping. When I got home, I made a light lunch, and decided to take a nap to the sounds of the thunderstorm. But relaxation eluded me because every time I started to doze, I dreamt of the yellow-lab owner. In my dreams, I approached him on the beach after the dog came up to me. I talked to him, but in my dream I couldnt really hear what I was saying or what he was saying. All could see was his mouth moving. Ungh. His mouth, his lips. And he smiled when he talked, a sexy crooked smile. Really, the semi-conscious me didnt care what he was saying. He could read me the phone book and it would make me weak in the knees. But there was something about him that looked familiar. The eyes? Before I could place it, a huge thunder bolt cracked outside and abruptly woke me. I awoke covered in a thin layer of sweat and with damp panties. Fantastic, Bella. After taking a quick shower to put conditioner in my hair and shave my legs, I dressed for my first day and went over my outfit. Power suit? Check. Impressive (and therefore, it goes without saying, expensive) European pumps? Check. Subtle jewelry? Check. No VPL? Check. Hair? Hopeless, but.check. Here goes nothing. My first day on the new job I really wanted to make a good impression on this company who hired me, sight unseen, to be their General Counsel. A whole fleet of butterflies were doing cartwheels in my stomach, not to mention what the three cups of coffee did to my nerves. A quick step onto my balcony revealed gorgeous weather, so I decided to walk the two blocks to work to help work out some of my jitters and burn off some of the caffeine-induced energy. Plugging my ear buds into my ears, I grabbed my briefcase (which, at that point was empty, but helped to complete the outfit and make me look prepared), and purse and headed out the door. After I booted up my iPod, I selected my playlist Good Morning and Katrina and the Waves blasted through the ear buds. Yes, I am walking on sunshine, Katrina. Sunshine and mochas. When I arrived at the office building, I nodded hello to the security guard and headed up the elevator. I walked with an air of confidence that I didnt really feel up to the receptionist late 20s, long black hair and warm smile - and introduced myself. She pushed her glasses up her nose to get a better look at me. You must be Ms. Swan, she greeted, extending her hand. Im Angela. Its nice to meet you.

I held out my hand to shake hers, relieved that I would not be completely surrounded by stuff suits. Yes, I am, Angela. And please, call me Bella. Its nice to meet you, too. I came up yesterday to put some things away in my office, so I know where Im heading. Great, she chimed, smiling a genuine smile that made me feel at ease. Welcome aboard. Were glad to have you. Have a great day, and let me know if you need anything Im also in charge of ordering office supplies, she said, indicating a two-inch thick Office Depot catalog. Oh yes, Angela and I will get along just splendidly. Thank you, Angela. Ill let you know. I nodded and smiled to her again and opened the reception door to head back to the hallways of the office, again trying to walk with confidence. Breathe, Bella, Breathe. How bad can it be? You could be miserable and thousands of miles from home, in a strange city. Oh. Yes. That. When I walked into my office, a wonderful musky aroma filled my nose. What the hell? Has someone been in here? Whoever it was, he smelled fantastic. Snap out of it, Bella. Focus. But I couldnt help it. For days my libido had been going bat-shit crazy, all because of a yummy yellow-lab owner Ah, Ms. Swan! Its good to see you found your way in over the weekend and made yourself at home, a cheerful voice said behind me in the doorway. When I turned around, I saw that it was Mr. Cullen I recognized him from the teleconference interview. If it was possible, he was even more handsome in person. Late fortys, maybe. But he still had a full head of thick blonde hair and bright blue eyes that made my heart stick in my throat. Holy Moses! I extended my hand and walked toward him. Mr. Cullen, its so good to finally meet you in person. Im very excited to be here. But please, call me Bella. He shook my head, nodding in acceptance. Bella then. Well, Ill give you a few minutes to settle in and then give you the grand tour. Thank you Mr. Cullen. Please Carlisle. Were not at all formal around here, as youll find out, he said, gesturing to his outfit and then to my own. He was not in a suit, but rather pressed khaki pants and a white rugby. OK. After-work task Number One do some power shopping for business casual clothes. I only had casual and professional clothes, and I smiled to myself at the prospect of checking out the citys shopping opportunities. Carlisle walked out of the office, leaving the door open behind him. Within seconds, a black-spiky haired woman bounced into my office. Hi! Im Alice Cullen Jaspers wife. Im so glad youre finally here! I barely had time to react before this pixy was grasping me in a friendly hug. Uh, hi Alice. Im Bella. I know! she squealed. I was a little frightened by her enthusiasm. Carlisle and Edward have told me all about you and I wanted to be sure that I was in this morning to greet you when you got here. I just know were going to be great friends. I couldnt help but smile at her. Her enthusiasm was infectious. Alice, do you work here, too? I asked her.

Oh no! At least not officially. My husband, Jasper, is head of the accounting department. I just come in to mess with him, and my rotten brother-in-law several times a week. You know make sure theyre behaving and earning me my shopping money! Admiring her forthright approach, I laughed. Well, then maybe youd be the person to get shopping tips from. I need to do some adjustments to my wardrobe, it seems, I said, pointing to my suit. She scanned me from head to toe. I think you look fabulous. Fantastic shoes! But youre right you are a bit overdressed for working here. She winked at me. What are you doing after work? Nothing planned. I was going to head down to the mall. Oh no. You wont find the best stuff at the mall. Ill come get you at five and well go out together, k? I loved her take-charge attitude and could tell that she was right we were going to get along well. Sure Alice. Thank you. I appreciate you showing me around. Dont mention it. Seriously dont mention it to Jasper. His eyes might just roll out of his head at the prospect of my influencing another person to join in my shopping habits, she said, laughing and rolling her eyes a bit herself. Ill see you at five. Dont let these boys give you a hard time. She started out the door, where Carlisle had made his way back to my office. Ready for the tour? he asked. I nodded at him. Good. Lets go. I think you already met Angela, the receptionist. I nodded again and followed him out the doorway. We made a left, heading toward his office. He introduced me to several people in cubicles and smaller offices along the hallway, including my assistant, Jessica. She seemed nice enough. Heres my office, Bella. We have an open-door policy here, so any time you need anything, please dont hesitate to call or come on down. He kept walking, past more offices and cubicles. We made it to the office in the corner that I saw the day before. I looked inside and a curly blonde-headed man was sitting on his desk, facing the windows overlooking the cityscape. Carlisle cleared his throat, and the man gruffly said, Well, just head on in. Shes here already, and he hung up the phone without saying bye to whoever was on the other end. Jasper, Id like to introduce you to Bella Swan. Bella, this is Jasper my older son. Youve already met his charming wife Alice. Jasper walked over, giving me a mind-blowing smile and extending his hand. Its great to meet you, Bella. I apologize in advance for any torturous shopping experience Im sure my wife has already planned for you. I laughed. He was spot-on. Its nice to meet you too, Jasper. And its quite alright. It was actually my idea. I think. I need to do some shopping, and Alice was nice enough to offer to show me around. Im sure she did, Carlisle said, huffing under his breath. But he was grinning, so I knew he was only joking. Jasper here is in charge of our accounting department. And keeping his wife under control. Now Dad, anyone whos spent two minutes with Alice would know that Im in no way in control of her! They laughed at each other, and I admired the easy way they interacted. Well, Bella, Ill let you get back to the tour, and Ill see you in the meeting later on. Sounds good. Again, it was nice to meet you. I shook his hand again and followed Carlisle back out the door. We walked down the third hallway, heading back to my side of the building. About half of the employees had made it in already, and more trickled in as it got closer to nine oclock.

As we made the corner, I noticed the corner offices lights were still off. Hmm. I guess this Edward character is a late riser. This is my younger son, Edwards, office. You spoke with him on your phone interview. I nodded. As you can see, hes not in yet, but I know hes looking forward to meeting you. Youll get to meet him a little later at the meeting. He should be in by then, he rolled his eyes a decidedly crooked grin appeared on his handsome face. Crooked grinjust like Focus Bella. Focus. As we made it back to my office, Carlisle said, Well, that completes the grand tour. Ill leave you to finish settling in and then Ill see you in the conference room at nine. We meet every Monday morning at nine to go over pending issues and review the schedules. Sounds good, I answered, and Carlisle walked out the door. Shamefully, I enjoyed the view. **** EPOV Ben was at it again. He stood at the back door, howling, reminding me how much he hated thunderstorms. They made him nervous, and he would howl until they let up. I put in a CD of Schumann and selected the second track Arabeske and turned up the volume to drown out Ben while I made myself a BLT sandwich, cooking up a few extra pieces of bacon for him and hoping crumbled bacon in a bowl would buy me a few minutes of quiet from him. Doubtful. I grabbed my sandwich and headed up to my loft bedroom. I walked into the closet and started thumbing through clothes. Geez, Im such a girl, I thought to myself. What man worries about what hes going to wear? I mustve made up and changed my mind half a dozen times before I even finished my sandwich. But Monday was important - Id see her really see her. Not just for forty-five minutes in an airport, not thirty yards away on the beach. Id see her and shake her hand Id touch her. That thought alone was enough to make my stomach tumble, and my dick stiffen. Would she recognize me? Although I would know her with a paper bag over her head, I had definitely changed in the eight years since that day in the airport. I grew my hair out from its buzz cut. I usually kept a shadow of facial hair. And since finishing up my stint with the service and going through college, I had decided to stop using my middle name. I thought Edward sounded a little more grown-up than Masen. And I was definitely more grown up, more experienced, than Masen. She would have no real reason to expect to see me tomorrow. We moved out of Mountain View seven years prior to settle in San Diego and start the company, so she had no real reason to think twice about going to work for a Cullen in California. What if she does recognize me? Will she be furious that I stopped writing without explanation? Will she be glad to see me? Again doubtful. She would still be disappointed that I wasnt that lanky 17-year-old she kissed in front of a Hawaiian hotel.

I had never been so nervous in my life. The thought of seeing her again up close left me forgetting how to breathe. Those eyes, those lips, that blush, her smell. Great. I was hornier than ever. Way to go, Cullen. And I couldnt even go out for a run to clear myhead. Baseball. Baseball. Baseball, I chanted in my head and then offered up a silent prayer that I wouldnt combust before the next morning at nine. Tossing and turning all night in anticipation of the next morning, I was an absolute nervous wreck by the time my alarm clock went off Monday morning. Grudgingly, I slumped out of my bed, my sheets in piles on the floor from where I had kicked them off the bed during the night, and went to the bathroom to splash some water on my face. An hour later, I was still no closer to being ready to walk out the door. Crap. Make up your mind, Cullen. Shes just a girl. No shes not. Shes Bella. For the fifth time, I changed my outfit. Pure crazy, thats me. I had every intention of beating her to the office so that Id be there to greet her, to see if she had a hint of recognition on her face. Or anger. But since I had spent the better part of the previous two hours deciding what to wear and trying to tame my wild hair sex hair my sister-in-law called it I was running late. I called Jasper to let him know what was going on. Hey Jazz. Im running late, I hissed into the phone. Every light between my house and the office was red. Like I said whoevers in charge Up There has a very twisted sense of humor. No shit, Sherlock, my irritated brother mumbled into the phone. Rough night last night, little brother? Hardly. Rough morning, more like it. I floored it between red lights, willing them to turn green in time for me to pass through them. I thought youd be here early on account of the new addition to the office this morning. He was mocking me, I could tell. I had planned on it, but Well, just head on in. Shes here already. Crap. So much for being there to greet her. Before I could ask Jasper whether he had met her yet, he hung up. That was unusual he was usually very polite on the phone and always said good-bye. I figured he mustve been interrupted. I pulled my silver Volvo into the spot reserved for me in the fifth level of the garage and sprung out, racing to the elevators and arming the alarm over my shoulder with my key fob. Even the elevators were against me - I stood pacing in front of the door, cursing it under my breath for not opening. When it finally did, I smelled the faintest scent of strawberries. I was so screwed. I bolted off the elevator when it finally got to the twentieth floor and said a quick hello to Angela. Theyre already in the conference room, Mr. Cullen. Can I bring anything in there for you? Angela asked. She never called me Mr. Cullen. She was obviously cracking a silent joke at my

uncharacteristic tardiness. Hah hah. Funny. Running into my office, I threw my messenger bag on my executive leather chair. It was very light because most of what I had taken home to work on over the weekend I had brought back the previous night when I went to the office after getting some Chinese food down the street. While I was there, I decided to walk down to what would be her office, just to try to imagine her sitting there, yards away from me, every day. I heard my heart beating in my chest when I walked down the hallway toward her office. I immediately closed my eyes and inhaled. Freesia and strawberries. Fuuuuuuuck. Shed been there. Recently. The scent hung heavy in the air. Down boy, down boy. Just breathe in, breathe out. I walked into her office and discovered she had come in some time over the weekend and decorated it. I stepped into the middle of the room and took everything in. I felt like a voyeur sneaking glimpses of her personal touches without her knowledge. I was going to go to hell. Her degrees hung on the wall to the left of her desk. There was no surprise there I had read her resume and knew where she went, when she graduated, her honors. Admiring the paintings on the wall, I recognized the name of the artist as one from St. Louis and I was touched that she brought a piece of home with her. To my home. Stop that. She wont be in your home Cullen. I turned to look at the bookcases and was stung with pictures of her her with her parents, her at graduation, her with Oh no. Her with some guy. My heart instantly sank to my shoes. Like a masochist, I took the few steps to see the picture up close. It was the worst thing I could imagine. She had her arm around this guy, grinning from ear to ear, and he was planting a kiss on her cheek. He had her head between his hands, on either side of her chin like he was trying to get her to turn her face toward him. I was going to vomit. She had someonesomeone back home. In two seconds, I saw all of the plans I had made over the last month go up in flames before my eyes. Who was this joker? He was good looking, sure, but Id bet everything in my trust fund he wasnt good enough for her. He had jet black hair, dark skin, chiseled jaw line, and huge arms that stuck out from the openings in his black t-shirt. Piece of shit. But she looked happy standing next to him. And so comfortable. She had an easiness that she didnt have when I kissed her at the airport eight years ago. I clinched my jaw and pursed my lips. Theres no reason I cant be professional about this. Shes my employee now, for Gods sake. I can do this. Its all my fault anyway Im the one who stopped writing. Im the one who hid. And hadnt I always wanted her to be happy? But if she was so happy with Mr. Muscles, why did she move to California? Oh no. What if he moved here with her? What if Ill be forced to meet him to endure office Christmas parties and baseball outings watching him snake his arm around her waist and kiss her hair, while she laughs easily with him.

You can do this, Cullen. Get your shit together. Right. Snapping back to my reality, standing there in front of Angela (who had a smirk on her face for some unknown reason) , I inhaled deeply to gather myself, spun on my heel and headed out of my office and toward the conference room. I could hear voices of the other employees already waiting in there. Above them all, I heard Bellas chime-like laugh. Justanemployeeanemployeeanemployee, I chanted in my head, willing myself to calm down as every step I took in reality - took me further away from her, rather than closer to her. I walked into the conference room and her back was to me, talking to Carlisle and Jasper. Ah, Edward! Glad you could join us! my father exclaimed and nodded his head toward me, a brow arched as if to say Where the hell have you been? Bella stopped talking and quickly turned around to see me. When she laid her eyes on me, she froze and the smile vanished from her face. She turned fifteen shades of red and darted her eyes everywhere in the room but to me. She bit her bottom lip. I. Am. So. Screwed. She recognized me. And she was not happy about it. Edward, meet our new General Counsel. Bella Swan, my son, Edward, my father introduced. She gulped visibly. The dog she said so quietly I had to strain to hear her. Excuse me? I asked, ducking my head to try to recapture her gaze. Was she breathing?? You have the dog. The yellow lab. On the beach, she said, blushing furiously. My father and Jasper looked at her, then looked back at me, expressions of what the hell? on their faces. She had no idea. She recognized me from the beach. She had no idea who I really was. As my emotions flew all over the place, I attempted to convey poise, and extended my hand to hers to shake it. As I took hold of her small hand, a jolt of electricity ran from it up my arm and straight down to my crotch. BASEBALL!!! Yes. Yes I do have a dog. Do you two know each other? I asked, half-smiling at her. Watching her squirm, I wondered what was going through that pretty head of hers. Uhm. No. Not really. IuhIve seen you on the beach with him. And heuhmlicked my wrist when I handed him his Frisbee. She was shifting her gaze from my mouth to the floor to my eyes. I had never been more jealous of a dog in my life. Still, I had to be calm. Oh yes I remember now. You look different with your hair up, I responded, pointing at her upswept hair with the index finger of my free hand. I was going for nonchalance, but I could hardly contain myself. Yeah. The humidity was making it untamable this morning, she said as she placed her other hand back up to her hair cautiously. It was only then that I realized that I still had her right hand in mine. I instantly dropped it and felt my face burn off. Well, seems you two have already met then, in a way, Jasper said. He didnt know the half of it. Well, lets get started then. I had Angela make us lunch reservations. Alice is going to join us, I

think. Great! my father said and Bella and I both nodded in approval. The meeting took forever. Or at least it seemed that way. I kept stealing glimpses of her, sitting slightly away from the conference table, long legs crossed, her skirt rising up just a fraction every time she shifted her weight in her chair. Look at those shoes. Dear God. Nothing says fuck me louder than 4-inch black stilettos. When she took the tip of her pen and absentmindedly bit it, I about came undone. Everything in me wanted to pull the fire alarm so the building would clear out. Id grab her as everyone rushed out the door, slam and lock the conference room door, sprawl her out on that mahogany table, and devour her. So. Screwed. Mercifully, my father wrapped up the meeting and all of the employees cleared out of the room. Jasper stayed behind for a moment, and I couldnt get out of my chair on account of my problem. You ok, little brother? Jasper asked tentatively. Yeah, I hissed. Fine. So, what do you think of her? Of who, Jazz? Duh. Of Bella. She seems very bright. And shes pretty. Pretty? I responded, dumbfounded. You think shes pretty? Well, yeah. Dont you? Jasper looked at me in disbelief. No I dont think shes pretty, I grumbled, gathering up my papers now that my problem had subsided. I think shes perfect. But Jasper didnt hear the last part he was already headed out the door and off to his office.

Chapter 5
BPOV Lunch that first day went well. Alice joined us, as did Esme, Carlisles wife. Sitting next to her and across from Alice, the rest of our party filled the seats. Edward and Carlisle sat at the heads of the table, and Jasper sat next to his wife, periodically reaching over to tuck a stray spike of hair behind her ear or just stare at her, smiling. They really were a very cute couple. Alice dominated the majority of the conversation with questions about my background. So, Bella, Edward and Carlisle have told me all about your history, at least on paper. But what kinds of things do you like to do? she asked. Esme turned to listen to my response, her caramel hair brushing her shoulders as she did so. Normal things, I guess. I like to read. To listen to music. Shop. Just normal stuff, really, I responded, shrugging my shoulders. Lord, I sound so boring. And what about when youre not by yourself? Do you have a boyfriend? I mean, I saw that hottie in the picture with you in your office, Alice asked, winking at me. Embarrassed, I felt all the blood in my body rush to my cheeks at her insinuation that Jake was my boyfriend. Down at the other end of the table, Edward dropped his fork abruptly onto his plate. I

glanced in time to see him clench his jaw. Apparently, personal discussions like this were not acceptable - despite the casual environment at the office. Alice, dear, Bella doesnt have to tell you all her secrets on her first day here, Esme jumped in, obviously noticing my embarrassment. Now pass the sugar will you please, and tell me where youre going to take Bella this evening. Relieved, I let out the breath I had been holding as Esme winked at me when no one else was looking. Please excuse me for a moment, Edward huffed and got up from the table, throwing his napkin down in a wad next to his plate. Alice rolled her eyes, Hes so moody sometimes. Anyway, I thought wed go down to the boutiques in the Gaslamp District for a start. And of course, I can point out other worthy shops along the way. She beamed ear-to-ear, and I began to wonder if I was in the presence of a shopping genius. That sounds wonderful, dear. You two should have a great time, Carlisle said, stirring his iced tea and smiling sweetly at his daughter-in-law. The rest of the lunch went by uneventfully, if not quietly on Edwards part. He only spoke when asked a direct question and seemednervous? Why would he be nervous? Oh yeah, Bella. Knows you stalk him and his dog, remember? Right. Edward didnt come back to the office after lunch, claiming he had some errands he needed to run. He said hed pack up enough work to keep him busy for a while, whatever that meant. Great. Ive made myself look the fool. I should never have said anything about the dog on the beach. Then hed be comfortable, never knowing that I could barely look at him without spontaneously combusting on the beach by his house. At five oclock, Alice appeared at my office door, still wearing her sunglasses. Ready, Bella? she chimed. Man, this lady really does take her shopping seriously. Sure thing, Alice. Let me just shut down my computer here, I said, standing up and gathering the papers on my desk into a stack, hating to leave clutter on my desk at the end of the day. Do you mind if I throw my briefcase in your trunk? I asked as I grabbed my purse and briefcase. I walked today. Not a problem. And good for you on the exercise thing. It looks good on you. She took her sunglasses off her tiny face and gestured up and down my height with the arm of her Raybans, I couldnt help but chuckle at her. Its the only exercise I get. I dont work out. But I do enjoy the fresh air here. Its so refreshing. We walked down the hall toward the elevator. A tiny part of me ok not a tiny part hoped that Edward had come back after all some time in the afternoon. But a glance down to his dark office dashed my hopes. We got into Alices yellow two-seater convertible. She revved the engine to life, speeding out of the garage like a demon escaping the gates of Hell. She giggled at me when I grabbed onto the door handle. Ah, Bella. Relax, she said, waving her hand in the air. Im an excellent driver! Yeah, like you drive slow in the driveway? I managed to get out. She laughed back at me again, Rain Man. Good one! Youll need that sense of humor here, you know. Otherwise, you wont be able to keep up! I nodded hesitantly.

A few minutes later, she parallel parked in a busy shopping district. She armed the car and made a bee-line for a trendy shop with headless mannequins in the window. I walked in behind her and she waved to the salesgirls. Hi, Mrs. Cullen, they all said in unison. It was like shopping with Norm Peterson. Alice spent the next hour grabbing clothes off the racks and tossing them my way, never having to even ask me my size. She grabbed shoes and handbags like she was picking out melons at the supermarket. It was truly a sight to behold. Two hours and four stores later, we sat down for a supper of ice cream sundaes at a Ben-n-Jerrys. Between bites of Cherry Garcia, Alice asked, So, what do you want to know about them? I gulped. Excuse me? My family. What do you want to know about them? Were all very open with each other, and from what Edwards told me about you, I can tell youre going to fit in like one of the family already. She took another bite. What Edwards already told them? Im not really sure what you mean, Alice. Today was the first time Ive talked to Edward since my interview, and I dont think I made a very good impression. Baahh, she snorted. Are you talking about his tude at lunch? I nodded. Dont let him get to you. Like I said - hes moody. But even before you got here, he was your biggest cheerleader. Really, Alice? Yep. Carlisle and Jasper had two other candidates in mind, ones that are from around here, she said, circling her spoon in the air, But Edward insisted that wetake a chance on you and see if youd come out here. Ah. I see, although I really had no clue why hed do such a thing. And it certainly didnt mesh with his cold lack of participation at lunch. Alice? Uh-huh? Did Jasper tell you that I made a complete fool of myself before the meeting this morning? She laughed. Are you talking about Edwards dog? Shit. He did tell her. Uhh. Yeah. I acted like a complete idiot. I wasnt entirely sure why I was opening up to her, her being a complete stranger. But I felt like I could trust her. Knowing Edward, it probably all went straight to his head! I furrowed my brow in confusion and looked at her. Oh, Bella. Dont get me wrong. I love Edward more than any of my in-laws, but hes a bit of a player. Oh, I said, feeling the disappointment rise in me. That makes sense. She swallowed her bite. Pardon? I said that makes sense. I mean, he is very handsome, I whispered, feeling the flush spread across my face. That he is. But hes never managed to find someone that can keep his attention. We havent given up on him yet, though, Bella, she said, winking at me and standing up to throw out her empty Styrofoam cup. You ready? I stood up and threw out the rest of the melted ice cream, unable to eat any more. Yes. Its getting late. Would you mind dropping me off at my building?

Sure thing. Lets go. I followed her down the street back to her car. She sped through the streets again and pulled into the circle drive of my building. Howd you know which building was mine? I asked. She looked like a deer caught in the headlights for a brief moment. Oh.uhm.Jasper mustve mentioned it after you filled out your tax forms this morning. She wouldnt look me in the eyes as she talked, though, and I thought this sudden and unexplained shyness was very odd. Oh. Okay. Well, thank you again for showing me around, Alice. I really appreciate it. I dont have any friends here yet and Nah, sure you do, Bella! Im your friend! And friends shop together, right? I laughed at her. Right Alice. Friends do shop together And talk about boys! she chimed in. Yes, that too, I said, giggling with her. Well, you have a good evening and tell Jasper Ill see him tomorrow, k? Yep. Good night Bella. I had a great time! she said as she sped away from the drive. The rest of the work week went by without much acclaim, and Edward really did stay away from the office. Friday evening, since I had yet to know my way around enough or make friends that I could go out with, I decided to grab a book and head down to the beach. This time, I decided to go down the shore from Edwards house in an effort to avoid any repeat of the previous weekends humiliation. I threw on a pair of board shorts, a sweatshirt, and my flip-flops and headed out with my book bag. On my way out the door, I grabbed my windbreaker just in case I wanted to throw it over my legs as I sat in the sand. About an hour later, I was three chapters in to Persuasion and I was completely absorbed in the familiar story I had read it so many times that nearly every page was dog-eared. Because I was so caught up in my book, I didnt notice the faint sounds of panting headed my way. I jumped up and nearly fell over when a warm, wet tongue lapped up my left cheek. I turned with a yelp to see Ben. Oh. Thats. Just. Great. BEN! I heard Edward yell from down the shoreline. He was jogging, barefoot, toward me. He had a stick in his hand. Apparently, they had been playing fetch again. I heard my heart thud-thud up in my ears, but I tried to act casual as I bent over and patted Ben on the top of his head. Hey, boy, I said to him. He turned his head as if to say Im listening. Howve you been? And now Im talking to dogs. Dogs whose owners are Greek God-Like Creatures. And my boss. When Edward reached me, he was winded and flush. Hey there, Bella. I didnt expect to see you out here, down this far. Im sorry for Bens rudeness. He was raised by monkeys. He laughed and the corner of his mouth turned up into that fabulous crooked smile. Ben sat by his side, still panting, and cocked his head in confusion. Hi, Mr. Cullen Edward. I thought we settled that Monday, he interrupted, arching a sexy eyebrow at me. Edward. How are you? I havent seen you this week, I responded. As the words came out of my mouth, I immediately realized I sounded like a teenage girl with a huge crush. Not too far from the truth, crazy woman.

Yes. Ive been out of the office. Personal matters. But I am glad to see you. He stared at his feet and kicked some sand. Ben grabbed the stick out of his hand and ran off down the shoreline. Edward stuffed both of his hands into his jeans pockets and the bronze hair fell down over his eyes. Sweet Lord, he even had sexy feet. I am a horrible person. What are you reading? he asked, nodding to the book that was now laying in the sand, coverside down. Persuasion. Its an Austen, I said, feeling silly that he caught me reading a 200-year-old classic romance novel. Its about I know what its about, Bella, he interrupted again. Ive read it several times. Its a great story. One of my favorites. Maybe even better than Pride and Prejudice. What? What guy reads Austen voluntarily? And several times? Thats blasphemy, Edward. But yes, its one of my favorites, too. My face felt hot and my mouth went dry. Well. Id better get heading back to my car before it gets dark. Run, Bella, RUN! My head ordered. But my uncoordinated feet knew better than to even try that one. Ill walk you there. He offered, and I nodded in response. How bad can a short walk be? On a beach? At twilight? With a beautiful man? Who is my boss? Exactly. As we walked up the beach, we each tried to make small talk. Thats your house, right? I pointed as we passed the house I saw him sitting at last weekend. Yes. I like living where I can hear the surf, he answered, shrugging his shoulders uncomfortably. That must be wonderful. Thats my favorite part of the ocean the sound. Absolutely. And you live downtown, right? In one of those high rise condo buildings? How does he know where I live? I thought back to Alice knowing where I lived, too. She said she knew from Jasper and the tax forms. Maybe he read them too. Geez since when are tax forms great reading? Yes. I have a great view. I can actually see this beach from my balcony, although the traffic drowns out the surf. Hmmm, he said thoughtfully. Well, youre welcome to come to my beach to hear it any time you like. Again, he flashed me the fabulous crooked smile. The little angel on my shoulder whispered Alices warning in my ear, but the devil on my other shoulder zapped him with lightning from his pitchfork. Your beach? I was under the vague impression that this was a public beach, sir! I teased him. He laughed back, admitting, It is, but how much of an invitation would it be for me to invite you to some place you could come any time on your own? I choked a little at the flirtatious tone of his question and his use of the word come. Calm down,

Isabella Marie Swan. Hes just being friendly. Very true, and I thank you for the invitation. I may take you up on that. But I have read that it gets very chilly here once the sun sets. Yes, it does. But my deck has an outdoor heater. Youre welcome to sit up there and drown yourself in Austen if you get too cold. Ah, I see. Oh, Id drown myself in something if I was at your house, alright. But it would have nothing to do with books. When I said nothing further, he seemed taken aback, I apologize, Miss Swan. I didnt mean to make you uncomfortable. I just meant that youre welcome to come up if you need anything while youre down here. I had made him uncomfortable. Did he think I was accusing him of being unprofessional? I rushed to reassure him, No, you didnt make me uncomfortable, and I appreciate your hospitality. By that point, we had reached the street in front of his house and my truck was a few yards away. Honestly, it was the only parking place Im no stalker. Thats me right down there. Thank you for walking me, Edward. Maybe Ill see you Monday? Maybe you will, Bella. I hope you have a good weekend. Get out and explore some, ok? Uh. I dont know if thats a good idea for me. Im a little directionally challenged, I replied, feeling like a complete idiot. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a pen. He took the cap into his mouth and bit down, uncapping the pen. He gestured for me to give him my hand, and I shuffled my book and jacket into my right hand and extended him the other. He held my wrist in his right hand and wrote something on my palm with his left. The electricity that went from his fingers around my wrist up my arm almost caused me to yank my arm away. But I couldnt wouldnt move if you had offered me a million dollars. When he was done writing, I looked at my palm to see a phone number. I looked up at him, confused. He re-capped the pen and pointed at my hand, Thats my cell. Call me if you get lost. Gulp. Breathe, Bella, breathe. Oh. Thats very helpful of you. Thank you. Good night, Edward. Goodbye, Bella. Be safe. His last words to me struck me with a chord of familiarity, and as I walked away from him and got into my truck, I could feel him stare at me. When I got into the seat and adjusted my rearview mirror, I saw him standing on the sidewalk, hands in pockets, watching me drive off. *** EPOV I have never been more uncomfortable in my life than I was sitting at that lunch table with her and my family, them asking her questions and smiling at her as if they were welcoming her to the family. She was an instant hit with Alice, of course, who (like me, but for entirely different reasons) admired her shoes. My mother was drawn to her by virtue of the fact that she was all alone in a new city. Mom always was the one bringing home stray puppies and asking Dad, in her best 4-year-old pout, Can we keep him? But when the conversation turned toward Bellas personal life specifically, when Alice had the gumption to ask if she had a boyfriend, I lost my appetite. Apparently I wasnt the only one who noticed the picture of Bella getting comfy with Mr. Muscles. When I glanced to Bella long enough to see her blush with embarrassment, I had to leave. I couldnt sit there and listen to her talk

about her great boyfriend. After practically throwing my fork onto my plate, I slammed my napkin down on the table and stomped off to the restroom to splash cold water on my face. Hopefully, while Im gone, someone will rein Alice in. Even after I reluctantly returned to the lunch table, I never regained my appetite. In fact, I couldnt face the idea of going back to the office and working yards away from her that afternoon. This is not a good sign. I packed my briefcase full of projects to work on at home, and told myself that Id come in after the office closed in the evenings if I needed to until I got over heragain. By Wednesday afternoon Jasper called me out on my behavior. Edward, youre a workaholic. I cant remember the last time you worked from home two days in a row. Tell me whats up. Its nothing. Just thought itd be a good time for a little break from the office for a couple of days, thats all. No big deal. Lauren transfers all my calls and emails me my mail, so its just as if I were sitting down the hall, Jazz. Im not questioning your work ethic, little brother. I can tell that theres something else going on. What is it? Tanya? Jasper questioned, and I winced at the mention of her name. Tanya was my ex and we had broken up three months prior after dating for over a year. We both knew it wasnt going anywhere, but she was willing to hang around for the ride. I wasnt. Ugh. No. Not Tanya. Then what is it? Jasper, I groaned petulantly. Edward. Dont bullshit me. I dont have the time or the patience for it, Jasper scolded. ItsitsMs. Swan, I replied sheepishly. Silence. Bella Swan? The new General Counsel? What problem could you possibly have with her? You barely said two sentences to her! Thats just it, Jasper. I dont have any problem with her. Oh. Oh. I see. Well, youre going to have to get over it. The girl just bought a condo and moved here from half-way across the country. I dont see her quitting any time soon, Edward. I know that Jasper. Look, I have to go. Id appreciate it if you kept this little conversation to yourself, k? Sure thing. But get your butt in here soon you only get a few days to sulk and then you have to pull yourself up out of it, got it? Yes sir. I felt like a 16-year-old getting chastised for taking the car out and hitting the neighbors mailbox. I hung up and hit my forehead with the phone receiver a couple of times before hollering out a loud, SHIT! I went up the steps to my loft bedroom and threw myself on the bed, staring up at the ceiling and willing time to speed forward. I glanced over at my bookshelves, skimming over the mementos and pictures sitting there. And there he was, taunting me. That damned stuffed rabbit. Screw you, Peter Cottontail. No screw YOU Edward. Shell never be your Bella now, the rabbit mocked. Great. Now Im having arguments with poly-filled wild game in cutesy t-shirts.

I kept to myself the rest of the week, going down to the beach each evening to play fetch with Ben. I dont know why I did it it would do me no good to see her. And if I wasnt afraid of seeing her there in my own backyard, why couldnt I bring myself to go in to the office? Maybe it has something to do with being trapped in close quarters with her intoxicating scent. Maybe it has something to do with not having an out. Maybe Im just the worlds biggest loser. Figuring I was safe going out to the beach Friday night with Ben, I found a stick that the tide had washed in because he had hidden his Frisbee. It was a little chilly, so I left on my jeans instead of changing into shorts, but tossed off my socks Id been wearing around the house all day. We were out for about twenty minutes when Ben took off down the shoreline away from the house like he was chasing something. My assumptions were wrong, as they had been all week. The beach wasnt safe she was there, nose in a book, scrunched up like she was freezing cold. I chuckled to myself. She was just too adorable for her own good. Who am I kidding, hoping I could get over her again? But why was she all the way down there? Ben literally ran right into her and gave her cheek a good lick. Again, I was jealous of my dog. Nice, Cullen. I hollered at him although he was obviously glad to see her (not unlike his bastard owner), I wouldnt have him scaring her to death. I remembered from her letters that she was actually very afraid of big dogs. When Ben didnt come back right away, I trotted down the shoreline after him. I caught up to them and seeing her again after five days took my breath away. She asked me why I hadnt been in the office all week, and we made small talk. My stomach was in knots and the cool breeze was the only thing keeping my cock flaccid. She shivered slightly and I could actually see the goose bumps on her bare legs. When she told me she needed to be heading home, I offered to walk her to her truck. She seemed pleased with the invitation and as we walked up the beach, she seemed unsure of her footing. It took everything I had not to reach out and grab her to keep her upright. But that would be foolish. Because if I did grab her, Id want to hold her and devour her mouth with my own. Id want to pick her up, wrap her legs around my waist, lock her ankles behind my back, and carry her into my house. Id want to claim every inch of her, as I had wanted to do for twelve fucking years. No, I definitely cannot do that. I let the gentleman in me overrule the horn-dog in me, even inviting her to sit up on my deck under my outdoor heater if she got too cold while outside. Of course, the horn-dog wanted to remind her that it was sure to be warmer in my house, in my bed. Damned horn-dog. Like the little devil sitting on my shoulder, prodding me with his tiny red pitchfork. When we got to the street, I told her to be safe. She shot me a suspicious look at my directive, and immediately I knew I screwed up. Those were the last words I well, Masen ever spoke to her before I cut off my contact with her. Did my words trigger the same memory for her? If they did, she made no effort to question me, and for that I was grateful. I was selfish, wanting more time with Bella before she put two and two together and realized that she had every reason in the world to despise me. Still, I couldnt take my eyes off her as she climbed into the truck and drove off.

Just when I had managed to get a good nights sleep last night for the first time in a month, I knew the image of her staring at me, open-mouthed as I wrote my cell phone number on her palm would plague my dreams all night, keeping me awake. But it would be worth it the feel of my fingertips on her tiny wrist sent waves of electricity all through my body. As I walked back into the house, I made up my mind. I give up. Ill just have to win her. First step get rid of the competition.

Chapter 6
BPOV The events of Friday night played over and over in my mind like a track on repeat. The feel of his fingertips on my wrist, the way he looked me up and down out of the corner of his eye, the way I felt my heart stop beating when he told me I could come to his house Its a miracle that I was able to dress myself Monday morning without my shaky hands drawing squiggly lines of eyeliner all over my face. But I managed to put on a cotton skirt and blouse, and a pair of strappy sandals and pulled my hair up into a twist with a clip. Underneath it I wore a new bra and panty set that would have made my grandmother role over in her grave. Granted, no one was going to see them, but I knew they were there, and that made me smile. I got to the office at 8:45 and greeted Angela. She was very cheerful especially for a Monday morning. Good morning, Bella! Did you have a good weekend? she asked, one eyebrow raising lightly. What? Did she know? No, she couldnt. Was my nervousness written all over my face? Renee always said I was her open book. Uh, yes. Yes I did. Got some rest. You? Very good thank you. Edwards in already. Asked if you were here. I told him you mustve decided to walk today. She smirked and I felt the hairs on the back of my next stand on end. Edward? Oh. OK. Thank you Angela. I stumbled off to my office, thanking God every step of the way that my legs remembered how to walk themselves, as the only thing I could concentrate on was why did he ask about me? I sat my briefcase down behind my desk and flipped on my computer. While it was booting, I headed down the hall for a cup of coffee. I poured the coffee cheap stuff that needed plenty of dressing up before it was drinkable wed have to work on that and absentmindedly stirred it with a plastic stir straw. I was alone in the break room, accompanied only by the hum of the sideby-side stainless steel refrigerator that held every kind of soda known to man. I reviewed Friday nights events in my head for the one millionth time, and as I did, I vaguely registered the sound of footsteps behind me. It wasnt until I inhaled his scent that I snapped out of my daydream and damn near spilled my coffee on myself. I glanced down to see that my freaking legs were blushing. Good lord! Good morning, Bella, he said in his sexy tone that haunted my every waking and the few sleeping hours I had experienced since Friday night. I presume that since I got no calls this weekend, you either found your way around or washed off my number. Theres that sexy smirk. Sexy. Sexy. Sexy. I squeezed my hand shut so he wouldnt see that the number was still visible I

hadnt really tried to scrub the marker off. Not that I would have needed to look at it to tell you his number, mind you. Three hours of staring at 10 digits will pretty much assure theyre burned into your brain. Uhm. Neither, actually. I stayed in, I said, trying to sound cool, calm and collected. Of course, it came out like I had cotton balls in my mouth. Im horrible actress. Tsk, tsk, Bella. Im disappointed. Before I could control myself, I blurted out, About what that I didnt go exploring, or that I didnt get lost enough to call you? Holy shit. Stupid Bella. He laughed, pouring his coffee. No sugar, no cream. He cocked one eyebrow as he put the carafe away. Both, he said in a voice that was one hundred percent sin. He walked out, shaking his head to himself a little as he walked away. He must think Im an idiot! I hid myself in my office the rest of the day, determined to just bide my time until I could go home and castigate myself properly. At five, I headed home to eat leftover Chinese takeout and watch a little HBO before going to bed. Tuesday was spent working on little projects for Jasper, making the day go by relatively quickly. Sadly, I didnt see Edward all day. At 5:15, thinking the office was empty and feeling a little frazzled from being buried in stacks of paper, I decided to try and relax a bit before going home. I am fully aware that I am a horrible dancer, and have been ever since I first enrolled or Renee forced me to attend, rather in ballet class. I am not coordinated and have no inert sense of rhythm. However, none of these things prevent me from dancing by myself when no one is looking. I cranked up my iPod and selected one of my favorites by Joss Stone, kicked off my sandals and began to sway my hips with ok maybe not with - the music. I stood at my bookcase, aligning the spines of my reference books in the way Oprah said reflected an organized mind. Right. My mind was anything but organized at that moment, with my embarrassment of the previous day still hanging over my head like a dark rain cloud. At least I didnt have to see him the rest of the day or at all today. I managed to hole myself up in my office and work avoiding my uber-hot boss and favorite beach comber. My inability to carry a tune in a bucket also did not prevent me from singing along with Ms. Stone Speak on it, babe, tell me, what do you need? Because sometimes I need you to love me, baby. Put your hands on me, baby. Put your hands on me, baby. You got me flipping. I spun around with the chorus and stopped dead in my tracks. Edward was standing in my doorway, leaning on the frame, arms crossed in front of his chest. He chuckled and walked past me, over to my stereo. I have never wanted to be able to teleport myself more than I did at that moment. I am certain I wasnt breathing and I felt my palms moisten. I dont think Im familiar with this song, Ms. Swan. What is this inspirational music that I can hear

down in my office? He was taunting me. Jerk. Beautiful, sexy, crooked grin-wearing Boss Jerk. I couldnt form a single syllable I couldnt even feel my tongue, let alone make it move to create intelligible sentences. Ah. Joss Stone, he said like he was speaking to a child. This must be her new one. Uhm. Yes, I managed to squeak out. I like it, he said as he moved to stand in front of me, arms still crossed. Why dont you go to lunch with me tomorrow, Bella? We can talk about how things are going and what youve been working on before I head out of town for a few days. Lunch? With him? Just the two of us? Id probably throw up in his lap in nervousness. Hes your boss, Bella. Calm down. You can do this. Sure. Sounds good. Just let me know what time you want to leave, I responded when I finally got sufficient control over the muscles in my mouth to speak a coherent sentence. Eleven. We can go to one of my favorites down the street, he said. But youll want to wear shoes, he said with his crooked smile and pointed to my bare feet, because well walk there. Ok? I shuffled my feet, ashamed of my unprofessional conduct in what I had thought was an empty office. Sure. Thank you. No. Thank you, he said as he strolled out. I barely heard him mumble, Isabella Marie, dancing queen as he walked away. I quickly slipped my shoes back on, grabbed my iPod off the stereo and gathered up my briefcase to take home. If he thought I was going to hang around here and give myself more opportunities to embarrass myself, he was crazy.

*** EPOV Good morning Angela. How are you this morning? Good morning, Edward. Im great. Did you have a relaxing weekend? Relaxing? Hardly. I holed myself up in my house, willing my cell phone to ring and jacking off in my shower. Stay calm. It was a nice weekend, thank you. Is Ms. Swan in yet? I blurted out before I could stop myself. Damn it. Nice, Cullen. Very covert. No, Edward. Bella mustve decided to walk today. Its nice out and she likes to walk when its nice. But that means she gets in a few minutes later than when she drives, Angela responded, her brow arched high in suspicion. Yep. She was on to me. Do you want me to have her stop in when she comes? When she comes She wont be coming next to me any time soon Stop it.

Oh, no. Ill catch her later. I just wondered what she was working on while I was out of the office last week, I tried to recover, looking everywhere but at Angelas face. Certainly, sir, she responded. I looked up at Angelas sudden formality. She was grinning ear to ear. Mocking me. I stopped at my office to plop my messenger bag on my office couch and hit the Messages button on my phone. As the speakerphone sounded off my messages, I absently drummed on the desk with my fingertips while standing behind my desk. It was no use. I couldnt even concentrate enough to listen to the damned voicemail! Lord, what that woman did to me! I hit the speakerphone button Id listen to the messages later. I headed down the hall to the break room to grab a quick cup of coffee. Shit. There she stood, staring off into space, absently stirring her coffee. She looked fantastic, if not a little librarian-ish. Her cotton skirt hit just above her knee, and she had one knee bent, toes tapping on the ground. The straps of her sandals wrapped around her tiny feet and the heels accentuated her shapely calves. Her hair was pulled up into a twist, but stubborn brown curls had already broken free at the nape of her neck. It took everything in my power to not walk over, grab her tiny waist, and sit her up on the counter. I so desperately wanted to wrap her legs around me and lick her from the base of her neck to suck in her pearl-studded earlobe. These thoughts were so not helping. Instead, I concentrated on finding a coffee cup and not spilling the coffee on myself. I said Good morning to her and curiously, a blush started at the top of the neckline of her shirt and worked its way all the way up to her forehead. Interesting. Adorable. But I had to concentrate here. I presume that since I got no calls this weekend, you either found your way around or washed off my number, I said, trying to sound casual and helpful. She clenched her hand where I had written my number. Was she angry at me for that? Uhm. Neither, actually. I stayed in. Was she scared to go out on her own? Oh, no. What if she wasnt alone all weekend? Shit. Double shit. I tried to recover. Tsk, tsk, Bella. Im disappointed. Yes, teasing was good. Keep it light, Cullen. Much to my surprise, she cocked her eyebrow up, continuing to watch the coffee stirrer, and said, About what that I didnt go exploring, or that I didnt get lost enough to call you? What?! Was she flirting with me? No. That couldnt be right. But then theres that blush again. And shes biting her bottom lip. God, that one nervous habit still makes me weak. Baseball. Baseball. I had to get out of there. So I smirked and said, Both, and stalked out of the room before she could see the effect she had on me.

Maybe coming into the office wasnt as great an idea as I thought. Maybe Ill work from home or from Siberia for the rest of my career. Like the glutton for punishment I am, I tried to catch glimpses of her in the office the rest of the day, but she stayed in her office like a little worker bee. Was she mad? Embarrassed? Stop it. The world doesnt revolve around you especially not her world. Feeling defeated, I left at 4:30. Maybe shed come to my beach tonight. But she didnt. And when I got to the office the next day, she was already there. I didnt dare go in to see her without having some kind of work-related excuse. But every fiber of my being wanted to just be near her inhale her sweet scent, see her adorable blush, observe her nervous habits. Everything that made her Bella. But the day dragged on at a murderous pace. At 5:10, all the hall lights were off and the staff had all gone home for the night. Jasper and Carlisle had left an hour earlier, and I assumed I was in the office by myself. I spun my chair around to face the window overlooking the cityscape and put my feet up on my credenza. I folded my hands behind my head and leaned back, closing my eyes, trying to relax. Disappointment filled me. After eight years, I had her just yards away, and yet I hadnt seen her in almost two days. I am so weak. As I sat back and mentally scolded myself, I heard faint music from down the hall. What the hell? My office lights had already been off for a while, allowing me to enjoy the natural light coming in through my windows. Pushing myself up from my chair, I went down the hall to investigate the origin of the thudding music and sounds of scratching records. When I got to Bellas office, my jaw dropped and I stopped breathing. To say that the sight of her dancing barefoot in her office to shockingly suggestive music was a surprise would be the understatement of the year. She had always told me she hated dancing and was horrible at it this made her more nervous about going to her Junior Year Prom than her handsy date a detail I probably could have lived without, by the way. But she was fantastic. She swayed her hips in time to the music and at one point shimmied down to the floor and slid her way back up. I was a man in torment. And then she sang along. Commanding me to put my hands on her Okay, maybe not commanding me, but hey, a guy can dream, right? I stood in the doorway staring until she turned and caught me. A quick recovery was needed. I casually strolled over towards her, passed her, and stopped in front of her stereo. With her back to me, I turned my head to notice the blush creeping up her neck into her hairline. As nonchalantly as possible, I inquired about song. Of course, I knew who it was. I had the CD on my own iPod. I wanted to see if she could formulate a sentence, seeing how embarrassed she was. She couldnt. Nice. I had to keep my arms crossed in front of my chest in order to keep them from grasping the hips that had been swaying so invitingly. I concentrated on breathing. I said the name of the artist,

and she fumbled out an uhm, yes, and bit her lip. Of course, she had no idea I was watching her face in the reflection of her window across the room. I like it, I responded. I like all of it. Have for years. Deciding to take the opportunity to put Step One of my plan into place, I invited her to lunch the following day, using the guise of my upcoming trip as an excuse to catch up with her. She agreed, and seemed she was somewhat gathering her nerves to recover from her embarrassment. There is no need to be embarrassed, Bella. I love watching you move. On my way out her door, I couldnt help myself from chuckling and saying to myself, Isabella Marie. Dancing Queen. I immediately caught my slip, but hoped I had said it too quietly for her to hear. I didnt bother going back down to my office. There was no use there was no way Id be able to concentrate again after seeing her like that. I got straight onto the elevator and walked out to my car. On my way home, I found myself plotting the next day with her. Id take her to my favorite Italian restaurant down the street from the office. It was also just a block away from her condo. My mind started to wander. Id make pleasant, easy conversation with her at lunch and fall for her all over again 100 times in the course of an hour. Id find some excuse to walk her to her condo. Once inside, Id press her against the closed door and shed instinctively arch toward me. Id suck in her bottom lip as shed gasp in surprise. Id lightly tug on her chestnut hair and shed moan into my mouth Damn it! Stop it!!! Never gonna happen, Cullen. And there was my dilemma. If I came out and told her the truth, shed be so furious she might just pack up and move back to St. Louis. If I didnt tell her the truth, and pursued her from my decidedly favorable position already knowing so much about her only to have her discover it on her own and she would eventually discover it shed hate me for lying to her. Fuuucccckkkk. Of course, I had to at least acknowledge that there was a third option to avoid her unless it was necessary to do our jobs. But if I was being honest, that was never an option. If that had been an option I wouldnt have suggested we hire her. No, I had to have her. I pulled in to my garage and turned off the ignition. I sat there, alone, pinching the bridge of my nose in frustration. I am in so far over my head. At the same time I was privately ripping myself a new ass hole, I was also hoping that she came to my beach that night. But as soon as the thought crossed my mind, I dismissed it. Shed be too embarrassed to risk contact with me. So why did she agree to have lunch with me just me? Oh yeah. Im her boss. Augh. Theres got to be some kind of law against all the things I her boss wanted to do with her. To her.

Humph. Ill have to consult with the new General Counsel about this sticky wicket! I grabbed the leftover Chinese food container from the fridge and a pair of chopsticks. I called to Ben to follow me out to the deck. He darted out the door and leapt into the sand. He took off at a mad mans pace like he was searching for her, too. An hour later, she hadnt shown up. I gathered the empty container and headed into the house. I grabbed a beer from the fridge and went upstairs to my bedroom. I opened the closet door and took out the old shoe box on the top shelf, near the back. Wave upon wave of frustration and anticipation flooded over me as I sat on my bed and read through each letter, reliving our late teenage years a week at a time. Her first B biology class. She was devastated. Her first boyfriend. I still winced as I read it just as I had 11 years ago. Her first heartbreak. Part of me had wanted to hunt him down like the animal he was for breaking her heart, the other part of me secretly felt relieved that he no longer had a claim on her. Her parents divorce. Her acceptance to the college she had wanted to go to since junior high, and her excitement of living on her own. Her homesickness she was afraid to share with her family. The guy she pined for back home who prevented her from giving college a real chance. Her eventual realization after much selfless convincing on my part that it would have never worked out with that guy anyway. Her graduation and acceptance into law school. Her excitement over my suggestion of meeting her at the airport. Then there were the unanswered letters. First one a week, questioning why I hadnt written. They tapered to once a month after a few weeks, and then they stopped. Her last letter filled me with such remorse, as it did each time I read it Masen, I have no idea why youve stopped writing. Ive sent a dozen letters and havent had so much as a word from you in response. Are you mad at me? Do you regret seeing me again? Did I disappoint you so much that you cant even write to explain it to me? I miss you. I miss reading your stories each week. Please help me understand whats going on. I wont write you again unless you tell me you want me to. Please tell me you want me to. Love, Your Bella Marie

Chapter 7
BPOV Worried about my impending lunch date with Edward, I hadnt been able to sleep a wink all night.

At one point I even pulled out the project I had been working on the company employee handbook revisions . I thought it would calm down my mind and my nerves, but it was no use. Around three in the morning, sheer exhaustion won out, and I fell asleep on the couch, only to wake three short hours later. The result of my restless night was a nice pair of shin splints and a ringing migraine. Fantastic. The next morning it hurt to even brush my hair, let alone try to style it up off my neck, so it hung loose and dressed in a black cotton a-line skirt and a twinset. Unfortunately, the black color accentuated the wonderful sunburn I still had on my calves from the previous weekend, but the thought of pants on top of that sunburn made me wince. As Edward had advised me I slipped on comfortable ballet flats, not only in anticipation of our walk, but because I didnt think my shins would support my body today in anything more daring. Although Im normally not a makeup kind of girl, desperate times called for desperate measures. After applying multiple layers of concealer to try to hide the dark circles under my eyes, I made it to the office early. Starbucks had called to me on my way in, and I had stopped to pick up a cup of coffee. Despite my throbbing head and a lack of sleep, I managed to keep relatively focused all morning. A little before eleven I decided to do some more editing on the employee handbook before lunch, but when I went to pull it out of my briefcase, it wasnt there. Shit, I cursed quietly to myself. And hello to you too, Bella, a taunting voice said from over my shoulder. Double shit. Oh, hi, Edward, I jumped, feeling my face burn. What can I get you? I know Im a few minutes early, but are you ready for lunch? Uhm, yea, sure. Just let me grab my purse, I responded, completely caught off-guard and more than a little embarrassed that I had been caught cussing in front of my boss. Boss, Bella. Keep that in mind. We rode in silence down the elevator and walked toward the street. When we got to the front door of the building he asked how my day was going. I told him I had a restless night and woke with a migraine, but that it was getting better. He politely told me he was sorry I wasnt feeling well. Where are we going? I asked. As we got onto the street the sun blinded me and I scrunched my face to keep the rays out of my eyes. Im sure that was attractive. Just a little Italian place I like to go. Nothing fancy, but the food is good, and theyre quick, he smiled. He put on his sunglasses and I swear I nearly climaxed at the sight. I mustve looked like a complete gawking idiot, because he grinned at me. That just made it worse or better of course, because he had that crooked grin and a small dimple in his cheek that you could barely see under his stubble. Oh. My. God. What was that about a headache? I couldnt remember. I couldnt even think. We made it to the restaurant a few minutes later. The name of it was Bella Italia". Seriously. Edward asked the hostess for a table outside and she showed us to the table with our menus. The whole time, she stared at Edward with a please screw me look, and I couldnt suppress scoffing at her under my breath. Whats the matter? Edward asked when he heard me.

Oh, Im so not going there I replied, rolling my eyes. He cant be that oblivious, can he? Going where? He stared at me, daring me to respond. Like you dont know! Still more staring. Fantastic, Bella. Way to dig a hole for yourself. Its just the hostessshe was welluhm Brilliant. Very articulate. Thanks for hiring me. She was what? Edward asked, teasing me. Jerk. She was totally staring at you, I spat out and quickly opened my menu to hide my burning face. Edward chuckled. Didnt notice that. Liar. He opened his own menu and looked it over. The waitress another ogler came over to take our orders and Edward politely gestured for me to go first. Ill take a coke and the special, please. I figured the Coke would help with the headache, and the spaghetti special seemed safe enough. And you, sir? The pretty waitress asked Edward, batting her eyelashes unnecessarily as she spoke to him. He didnt even look up at her. He handed her the menu and turned his head in my direction. Is he trying to tell me something? No, silly Bella. Dont go reading into things that arent there. Ill have what the lady here is having, thank you, Edward said, looking at me and grinning that lovely grin. At that particular moment, the thoughts running through my mind were anything but lady-like. Needing something to do with my hands to keep myself from ripping off his shirt, I pulled all my hair over to one shoulder and braided it haphazardly. Why are you doing that? Edward asked me, a confused furrowed brow on his face. I dont like it blowing around while I eat. But, doesnt it hurt your head to have it hang like that when youve got a headache? He actually seemed concerned. Its ok. The Coke helps. And the gorgeous distraction across my table isnt such a bad medicine either Good, he smiled. So, Bella, I missed out on the Twenty Questions last week. Tell me about yourself. I swallowed a gulp of my soda and felt myself blush. Not much to tell, really. I grew up in the Midwest, never left the area until now. Actually, Ive led a very boring life! I doubt that! He grinned at me. I think youre pretty interesting. You were even interesting on paper. On paper? Oh, he must be talking about my resume. The waitress brought us our plates and refilled our drinks. Edward picked up his pasta spoon and twisted the noodles with his fork. I watched, mesmerized by the graceful, quick movements of his fingers. My sleep-deprived imagination quickly darted off to thinking about where those could be put to much better use.

Apparently he had been watching my humiliating ogling, through his dark sunglasses, because he chuckled at me, snapping me out of my stupor and forcing me to turn my attention to my silverware, cutting up my noodles. Yes, I know, its childish. But when youre as clutzy as I am, twirling limp noodles with red sauce on the tines of a fork is not the best idea. Thats adorable, he said, gesturing toward my noodle-cutting with his fork. Embarrassed, I stopped cutting. Well, if I were to do that, I said, motioning with my fork to his fork full of neatly twirled pasta, someone would probably lose an eye. He laughed a hearty laugh, and I noticed how good it looked on his usually serious face. Mental note: Make Edward laugh more often. We continued to make small talk for a while, when Edward asked me what I was working on. My biggest project is revising the employee handbook. It needs a bit of work. Whats wrong with it? he asked. Well, your procedures arent current with the law, in particular your employee leave policies. There have been a lot of developments in the last ten years with regard to employee leaves and medical issues, and also with sexual harassment laws. Your policies dont have an adequate procedure for employees to bring complaints to their supervisors for investigation. This type of thing would be Cullen Incs first line of defense in a I trailed off, noticing that his face seemed to be frozen in boredom. Uh Im sorry. I dont mean to get all boring. Its just that that type of work is kinda my thing and I get excited about it. I forget that not everyone is as much of a nerd as I am He slowly shook his head and I could see his brows furrowing behind his sunglasses. No, Bella. Youre not boring. Its nice to see you express such an interest in what youre doing. I felt goose bumps on my chest and I hoped he couldnt see them. No, Bella I dont think youre boring at all. Feeling all warm and fuzzy, I looked down at my plate and resumed eating; however, I could feel him staring at me. Every bone in my body was singing his name, and it was all I could do not to lean over and kiss him. Every guy I ever knew- even Jake made fun of my nerdiness. But not this guy. As we continued to eat, the tension between us grew so thick you could have cut it with a knife. All during lunch, I caught myself ogling at him. When he suggested coming to my apartment to retrieve the handbook project draft, I got so nervous I envisioned myself throwing up spaghetti all over his shirt. Luckily, I made it through the rest of the meal without vomiting, dropping food on him (or me), or getting spices between my teeth. He paid the bill without so much as a glance at the waitress and then helped me out of my chair. When he placed his hand on the small of my back to urge me to cross the street, I didnt think that my legs would work. But before I could test them out, he grabbed my hand and practically dragged me across the lanes. I was out of breath at the sensation of his touch on my body first, his hand on my back (which was my weakness), and then enveloping my hand in his large grip. He looked at me, frantic and worried. Are you okay? he asked. Okay? Is he serious? Knowing I had to recover and get a grip, I made up some lame excuse about being out of shape, hoping that my sense of humor would rescue me. Instead, he did something completely unexpected. Holding my hand above my head, he twirled me around, looking me up and down, his jaw clenched. Bella, theres not an inch of you thats out of shape, as Im sure youre well

aware. I felt my traitor blush from my toes to my scalp, and it got about ten degrees hotter between my thighs. Then, to my complete embarrassment, he commented on my sunburn and scolded me for not wearing sunscreen. With the state my crazy mind was in, all I could imagine was Edward rubbing sunscreen over every inch of my body. Dream on, Bella, you crazy woman. As though he could read my mind and see what a loon I was, Edward quickly changed the subject and motioned for me to lead him to my condo. We walked the rest of the way to my building in silence, but the electricity between us was like a lightning storm. Alright, well, the electricity that I was emitting. He was nothing more than polite. We walked through the foyer of my building and I waved hello to Embry, the sweet doorman who always greeted me every time I saw him. Edward walked a few steps behind me, and when we got onto the elevator we were joined by an older gentleman whom I had seen around the building a few times. When we reached my floor, I led the way out of the elevator and wracked my brain to remember whether I had left anything incriminating out like say bras hanging from the shower bar or multiple empty bottles of wine on the kitchen counter. Youll have to excuse the mess, I warned him. Although Ive unpacked all of my boxes, Im still trying to figure out where I want to put stuff. I dont seem to have as much room here as my house back home. Im not a pack rat, but you try fitting 1200 square feet worth of house into a 600 square foot condo and tell me how much luck you have. When we got into the condo, I slipped off my shoes, going against my better judgment and trying to stand on one foot with a gorgeous man next to me. When I nearly fell on my ass, Edward grabbed my elbow to keep me from falling. Great job, dorkwad, I mentally scolded myself as I tried to recover by making fun of my obvious lack of coordination. Make yourself at home. Ill just go gather up those drafts and my notes. Ill be right back, I said as I motioned down the hallway. There, next to my bed, were the three 3-ring binders of the project. My empty wine glass from the night before still sat on my nightstand, as did the bottle of Excedrin I needed first thing earlier in the morning. I hadnt been in the mood to make my bed when I got up after all, what were the chances anyone would see it? Right. Feeling a little dizzy from all the excitement, I sat down on the bed and put my head between my knees for a few seconds. I could barely make out the sounds of Edward walking around my living room, and I hoped that my collection of decidedly chick lit didnt make him think I was a complete moron. Pull yourself together, Bella. Hes just a guy. No, hes not. Hes beautiful. Nope just a guy. No your boss. Steeling myself, I got off the bed, brushed the wrinkles out of my skirt and headed back down the hall. When I reached the living room and told Edward I was ready to go, binders in my hand, he spun around to face me. He looked pissed as hell. His face lost its color, his jaw was set like a vice, and his hands were clenched into fists at his sides. What happened here? What did I do? My goodness, Edward! Whats wrong? I exclaimed, You look like youve seen a ghost!

Edward hissed out a breath and said, No. Not a ghost. No. Im fine. Lets go. He stomped past me and headed out the door toward the elevator. After I quickly locked the door I headed down the hall after him. When I caught up to him, he looked down at the binders in my arms and said, Im sorry Bella. How rude of me. Let me take those. He took the binders and stuffed them under one arm, making the task look much easier than I did I had to hold them awkwardly in both of my uncoordinated arms. Thank you, I said hesitantly. What is wrong with him? Did he seen something back in my condo that set him off? Youre welcome, he replied curtly. When I asked him what I had done wrong, he insisted that I hadnt done anything wrong. Liar. But it was clear that he wasnt going to tell me what was on his mind. When we got down to the street and were headed back to the office, the suns rays drilled holes through my eyes straight to the spot where my head was already pounding. Between that and my nervousness over whatever was going on with Edward, I thought I would vomit. Edward looked down at me, sighed, and took off his sunglasses. He placed them in my hand. Confused, I asked him why he gave them to me. Theyre called sunglasses, he said, smiling, but it did not reach his eyes. I thought maybe the sun was bothering your headache and maybe you could use them so you didnt have to squint so much. Great - I must look like a buffoon, squinting and scrunching up my face to keep the sun out of my eyes. But he was trying to be polite sweet, even. I thanked him and put the sunglasses on. They did help with the sun and the throbbing in my head instantly dulled. A dozen steps later, he cautiously asked, Bella? Yes, Edward? I responded, glad he was at least talking to me, even if the tension was still palpable. The picture back there in your condo Huh? Confused, I asked, Which picture, Edward? The one with.well He scrambled for the right words, which was unlike him. There are three pictures togetherand youre with a guyand I think its the same guy thats in the picture in your officeand Jake? What about the picture? I asked. Wellis the guy in the pictureyourboyfriend? As if! I laughed. He had obviously seen the picture of Jake messing with me at the Fair last Fourth of July. And yes, I had one of us sitting on my bookshelves back at the office. You mean Jake? Well, I dont know his name, Bella Now it was his turn to blush. Big guy, dark complexion? I asked to confirm that we were thinking of the same pictures. He hissed again and his jaw clenched for a second. Yes. Thats the one. Holy shit is he jealous?! No, Edward. Jakes not my boyfriend. Hes my best friend. Has been since we were in high school. Oh. I see, he responded, but he still looked uncomfortable.

I had to set the record straight, and fast. Jakes the best guy in the worldand also the biggest pain in the ass. Hes actually engaged to my good friend Nessie. They live together back in St. Louis. Edward didnt need to know that Jake and I had tried to date several times, but that kissing him was like kissing my brother. Is that why you went all sulky on me back there? I smiled at him, trying to put whatever crazy thoughts were running through his head at ease. He didnt answer me. We walked in silence the rest of the way, and I kept my head looking down to the pavement. Every bone in my body was shaking with excitement and I knew if I looked at him, Id burst into flames. When no one joined us in the elevator, a million crazy scenarios ran through my mind. Oh no, Bella. The elevators stuck! However will we spend the next few hours until were rescued? Bella, the elevator is plummeting to our deaths and I want to die in your arms. Edward hitting the stop button, shoving me up against the elevator wall, hiking my skirt to my waist and burying himself in me. The more my overactive imagination worked, the harder it was to breathe. It didnt help matters that Edward stood there, staring at me like I was a piece of filet mignon. What the hell? Without warning, he took a long step toward me to stand inches in front of me and I stopped breathing. He quickly put his hand up to my head, reached around to the back of my neck and ran his fingers into my hair, tugging slightly. Instantly, a pool of warmth settled between my legs and I was glad that I was somewhat pinned up against the wall or else I was certain I would have fallen to the floor. Edward closed his eyes for a moment and a slight smile came across his lips. Those lips Up close, they were even more fantastic than they had been on the beach, in the office, at lunch, and I wanted to taste them. I wanted them on every last surface of my undeserving body. He leaned forward toward me, and hesitated. Does he honestly think I wont let him do this? Is he crazy?? Well, caution be damned. I stood up on the tips of my toes to get closer to him, lightly brushing my lips against his to let him know that I knew what he was doing, and that I wanted him to do it. It was all the confirmation he needed. He immediately pulled my bottom lip in between his as I felt the faint warmth of his tongue sweep along it. My center twitched at the sensation, and I may have actually made some incoherent sound involuntarily when I felt his warm breath exhale into my mouth. Then he quickly backed away. What. The. Fuck. Doitagaindoitagaindoitagain!!! Frantic, I had to recover quickly, before he realized how close I came to wellcoming. Gathering up what scraps of coherent verbalization I could muster, I managed to squeak out, Im pretty sure that is against the proposed sexual harassment policy, Mr. Cullen. He gave me that sexy crooked grin and said, You said it was a draft, right? I nodded my response as the elevator doors opened to our floor. So re-write it, he said, and stepped out of the elevator.

Panting, I stood there with my palms up flat against the wall to steady myself. Before I could get my legs to work again, the doors closed shut, and I slid to the floor of the elevator. I am SO screwed. *** EPOV After trying to busy myself for two hours, I couldnt stand it anymore. I walked down the hall to get her for lunch a few minutes early. She didnt see me come to the door, and she was rummaging through her briefcase cursing at something. I stood there, unable to contain the grin that was welling up in me. When I let her know I was there, she blushed furiously, embarrassed that I caught her cursing. Ah, my little sailor She agreed to go to lunch a little early, and we headed out of the building onto the sunny street. She seemed somewhat distracted on the walk to the restaurant, so I asked her how she was doing. She told me she hadnt slept much last night, and immediately my heart skipped about five beats wondering if she was as excited as being alone with me for lunch as I was about being with her. She told me she had a migraine from her lack of sleep. I remembered her telling me about those she had them since she was a little girl, and they were often disabling for her. Selfish ass that I am, I hoped that she had endured her headache and come to work because she didnt want to miss our lunch. We finally got to the restaurant and I hoped that my selection wasnt lost on her. Bella Italia was mine I was a silent partner. Most of the staff didnt even know it, which was fine by me. But I wanted Bella to notice that I picked a place for her. She didnt need to know that I had also named it for her. The hostess came and gave us our menus and I noticed Bella glaring at her like a momma bear. What?? Whats the matter? I asked her. She rolled her brown eyes dramatically. Oh, Im so not going there! Going where? I asked, hoping she was glaring because she was staking territory, but I knew that was only wishful thinking on my part. Like you dont know! she shot back at me. More confused, I just stared at her. Is she angry? Its just the hostessshe waswelluhm I may be on to something here. She was what? I asked her, giving her a slight smirk. I dare you to be honest with me, Bella. She was totally staring at you, she quickly blurted, hiding her face behind her menu. My stomach knotted up at the confirmation that she was jealous. But I couldnt let her know that I had even seen the ditzy blonde. Didnt notice that, I told her, grinning from ear to ear. She didnt see me she was still hiding behind her menu. Although my excitement killed my appetite for anything but her lips, I opened up my own menu. The waitress came over to the table, and I motioned for Bella to place her order first. Ill take a coke and the special, please, she said politely, although I noticed more glares at the waitress.

And you, sir? the waitress queried. I heard her, but didnt even bother to look up at her, just passing her my menu, and returning to watch Bella. Ill have what the lady here is having, thank you, I said. The waitress scoffed off and I noticed Bella exhale a deep sigh. She looked around nervously, and suddenly grabbed all of her chestnut hair, pulling it to one side and braiding it. No, that wont do. Please leave it loose. Why are you doing that? I asked. I dont like it blowing around while I eat. She shrugged her shoulders. A simple enough explanation, but I wouldnt have thought she would have wanted it pulling on her head if her head was hurting her so badly. When I asked her about that, she assured me it was alright, and that the Coke she had ordered with help her head. Good. So, Bella, I said hesitantly, I missed out on the Twenty Questions last week. Tell me about yourself. A wonderful blush crept from the neckline of her sweater to her hairline. She summed up her life in one sentence insisting she was boring. Of course, I knew better. I had sentence after sentence detailing her life or at least four years of it hidden in that box in my closet. There was no part of her that was boring. Thinking of all my treasured letters from her, I said, I think youre pretty interesting, Bella. You were even interesting on paper. She looked confused for a moment, but then the nosey waitress returned with our food. I had to concentrate on something other than the way a few tendrils had worked free of her braid and danced in the breeze. Or of the way I could see goose bumps on the little bit of her exposed chest when I smiled at her. Everything in me wanted to grab her, run down the block to her condo, and assault her body with my mouth. Instead, I began to slowly twirl my spaghetti onto my fork, concentrating on the task as if it was nuclear physics. Looking at her through my dark sunglasses, I caught her staring at me, her lids heavy and her mouth slightly open. Id give every dollar in my bank account to know what shes thinking to make her look at me like that. Wishful thinking, again, Cullen. Chuckling at myself, she startled out of her daze. Pity. She blinked several times and grabbed her utensils and began cutting up her noodles. It was the cutest thing I had ever seen. Thats adorable, I observed. She immediately stopped cutting and bit her bottom lip. Well, if I were to do that, she motioned to my fork, someone would probably lose an eye. Ah, theres my Bella! I laughed aloud, glad to see that spark of what I knew was a fantastic sense of humor. We continued to eat and make small talk, and then I asked her what she had been working on for the past two weeks. Of course, I already knew - I had Jasper, Lauren and Jess keep me up to speed. They were all my spies, and they didnt even know it. She told me she was revising the employee handbook, and I could tell by the way she huffed out her cheeks and gesticulated with her tiny hands as she talked that it was a project she was really in to. Curious, I asked her to tell me why it needed revising, and she began a lengthy explanation. To be honest, I couldnt tell you what she said, let alone what any of it meant. I was completely enraptured in the way she said it. She motioned with her hands and she spoke quickly, and lively. It was obvious she loved to talk about this stuff, and her excitement made me excited I saw the passion in her that I had always suspected was there, just behind the shy girl in the hotel gift shop. The more I thought about this, my mouth began to water and my pants got tighter around

the crotch. She mistook my reaction, obviously, because she stopped mid-sentence and looked very apologetic. Uh Im sorry. I dont mean to get all boring, she said, Boring?? Is she kidding? I was so turned on I could hardly contain myself! Its just that that type of work is kinda my thing and I get excited about it. I forget that not everyone is as much of a nerd as I am She had no idea what she did to me. I shook my head at her misunderstanding and assured her, No, Bella. Youre not boring. Its nice to see you express such an interest in what youre doing. No, Bella I dont think youre boring at all. And here come the goose bumps again. Beautiful. There was no way I could leave for four days and not have some excuse to talk to her, so I quickly contrived a plan. Id like to see what youve done so far with the handbook, Bella, I told her. If I could read what she had done, Id have an excuse to call her while I was gone to talk about it. She wrinkled her nose at me. Actually, thats what I was looking for when you came to my office earlier. I had taken it home to work on it in bed last night and I left it there. Bella in bed. Ah, I see, I said. That was even better - I could work with it. Dont you live just down the street? She nodded slowly. Why dont we just go on over and you can grab it? Im going to be gone for a few days, and Id like to make a copy of your drafts to take with me and review. Why? Because I am such a conniving bastard. Oh. OK. Yes, thats fine. Sure, she said, flustered. Good. Let me just pay the check here and well get going. Bellas eyes opened widely for a moment when I opened the pad the waitress had left at our table and put a fifty in it. The bill probably wasnt even thirty dollars, but I didnt want to sit there and wait for change when I could be in Bellas home. Lets go, I said quickly after I paid the check, and offered her my hand to help her up. She placed her tiny hand in mind and got up and the sparks from our touch went up my arm, causing goose bumps of my own to creep up my arm. Knowing I was treading on dangerous territory, I slowly let go of her hand and gestured for her to walk ahead of me away from the patio. We got to the corner and Bella pushed the button to get a walk sign. There wasnt much traffic, and I didnt want to waste time standing on a public street with her, so when I saw a gap in the traffic, I put my hand on the small of her back and gave her a little push into the street so we could cross quickly. She hesitated always the rule-abider, wanting to wait for the sign - so I grabbed her hand and pulled her with me as I ran across the street. The feeling of running with her, holding her hand in mine, was exhilarating. She never tried to pull her hand away as she ran alongside me across the lanes of the street. When we reached the other side, she was a little winded and her face was flushed. Her braid had fallen out and her hair blew in the wind. Oh. My. God. Down boy, down. Still holding her hand in mine, I stood waiting for her to catch her breath. Stupid idiot she doesnt feel good! Are you ok? I asked her, concerned that my selfish desire to get her to the privacy of her home made her head hurt worse. She continued panting, but tried to answer me in between breaths. Yes pant Im pant fine, pant Edward. She grinned from ear to ear. She didnt attempt to release my hand, and I wasnt

about to offer to release hers. Its just that if youre going to start a sprint with someone as out of shape as me, you should at least holler out a warning first. More panting. Out of shape? I asked in disbelief. Still holding her hand, I slowly turned her around, dancingstyle, with our joined hands above her head, appreciating the quick, but thorough, scan I made of her body. Bella, theres not an inch of you thats out of shape, as Im sure youre well aware. She blushed and pulled her hand out of mine, her eyes darting from my mouth to my eyes and back again. Spectacular. I had to bring some levity to the situation, quickly. Although from the looks of that sunburn on your calves, youre not taking care of yourself with sunscreen when youre on the beach, are you? She took a step back and slowly shook her head. No, not every time. Its hard to remember that I can still burn so easily even when its overcast. Scolding, I shook my index finger at her, Now, now Bella. Im going to have to ban you from my beach if you dont start taking better care of yourself. You dont want that, do you? I tried to suppress a smile at her as she looked at me from under her lashes. No sir. A slight smile crept onto her face. Vixen. Between her looking at me like that, and her verbal response, I felt my stomach knot up. Shit. Sighing, I tried to re-coup my thoughts, pointing to her building down the block. Thats you there, right? She shook her head in response. Lead the way, mlady. We walked the rest of the way to her building in silence, the tension between us palpable. We walked through the foyer and she waved to the doorman. He tipped his hat in response, staring at her or more precisely, at her ass - as she walked past him. I shot him a glare and he quickly averted his eyes. Mine. An old man joined us in the elevator, and Bella smiled sweetly at him. He smiled back at her, and his pale face blushed a little bit. God, this woman has no idea of her universal appeal. Dirty old bastard. Mine! When we reached the thirtieth floor I followed Bella out of the elevator and down to her door. Youll have to excuse the mess, she said apologetically. Although Ive unpacked all of my boxes, Im still trying to figure out where I want to put stuff. I dont seem to have as much room here as my house back home. For a fraction of a second, she looked sad. As she opened the door, the scent that was unmistakably Bella hit me like a ton of bricks. I stepped into the condo, surrounded by the smell of freesia and strawberries. It was everywhere hanging in the air like a thick mist and inhaled deeply. Bella reached down and slipped of her shoes, teetering a little in the process. Instinctively I reached over and grabbed her elbow to steady her. She laughed, Thanks. They may be ballet flats, but grace was never my strong suit. I chuckled at her, loving her dry, self-deprecating sense of humor. Make yourself at home. Ill just go gather up those drafts and my notes and Ill be right back. She headed down the hall into her bedroom. It took everything in me not to follow her down the hall. At the very least, I was curious to see her most personal space. I know Im a bastard. But instead, I shoved my hands in my pockets and walked slowly through her living room, reading the spines of the books on her shelves and looking at her knick-knacks. She had her tattered

collection of Jane Austen paperbacks, including the one I saw her with on the beach the previous week. The rest of her collection was as unpredictable as she was a mix of historical biographies, some Anne Rice, political commentaries, and chick lit. There was a little pewter model of the Arch and a snow globe with various buildings from downtown St. Louis on the shelf. Next to the snow globe was a beanie baby cardinal and a teddy bear with a Cardinals jersey. It was like her own shrine to her hometown. It touched me, and I momentarily let my mind drift to imagine my rabbit sitting on the shelf next to this little collection my things mixed in among hers. Snap out of it, Cullen. Never gonna happen. I shook my head to bring myself back to reality and continued my nosey walk through her living room, stopping dead in my tracks when I spotted a matted collage containing three pictures: the first was Bella looking furious and shaking her index finger in Mr. Muscless face; the second was Mr. Muscles, his hands around her hand, gripping her index finger between his teeth and smiling at her; and the third was Bella wrapped in Mr. Muscless arms, looking up at him, him kissing her forehead. I am going to be sick. At that precise moment, Bella came back down the hall. Okay. Got it. Lets go, she said in a chiming voice. I spun around to see her, arms laden with 3-ring binders as she slid her shoes back on. My goodness, Edward! Whats wrong? You look like youve seen a ghost! It took a few seconds for me to be able to control myself enough to speak. No. Not a ghost. No. Im fine. Lets go, I hissed, storming past her to get as far away from that picture as I possibly could. I heard Bella shut the door and lock it as I stood by the elevator, waiting for it to take me thirty floors away from the pictures of Bella happy in some assholes arms. She caught up to me and stood next to me. Get your shit together, ass head. Im sorry Bella. How rude of me. Let me take those, I said, taking the binders out of her hands. I couldnt look her in the eyes not yet - I was still nauseous. I didnt want her to see me this out of control. Thank you, she said, almost in a whisper. Youre welcome. Mr. Cullen? she asked tentatively. Did I do something wrong? What? No. Why would you think you had done something wrong, Bella? She shuffled her feet and crossed her arms in front of her chest, looking at the floor. Welluhm you just seem upset about something, and I dont know what I did. I wish youd just tell me so that I can fix it. Amazing. You are a complete fucking idiot, Cullen. She thinks she needs to fix this? No, you need to fix this. Ah. No, Bella. You havent done anything. I just remembered something I meant to do this morning at the office and I got sidetracked. Thats all. You didnt do anything wrong, I reassured her giving her a half-hearted smile. Oh. Alright then.

We rode the elevator back down in silence and were halfway back to the office when I noticed she was squinting her eyes, her brows deeply furrowed. The sun was glaring on her face, and it dawned on me that the bright light always bothered her when she had a headache. Feeling the need to be more a gentleman to her than I had been back in the hallway, I removed my sunglasses and handed them to her. What are these for? Theyre called sunglasses, I smirked at her, trying to lighten the mood. She just held them in her tiny hand. I thought maybe the sun was bothering your headache and maybe you could use them so you didnt have to squint so much. Oh. Thats very thoughtful of you. Thank you, she said, tossing her hair away from her face and placing the sunglasses on. They were too big for her small face, of course, but hopefully the gesture would let her know that she had done nothing to offend me. Several minutes later, I gathered the courage to just ask her about Mr. Muscles. Are they still together? Did he move here with her? Bella? Yes, Edward? The picture back there in your condo Which picture Edward? Shes going to actually make me say it. The one with.wellthere are three pictures together and youre with a guyand I think its the same guy thats in the picture in your officeand I stammered. Bella scrunched up her nose. What about the picture? Damn. Wellis the guy in the pictureyourboyfriend? Bella laughed. What the You mean Jake? Bella asked incredulously. Well, I dont know his name, Bella. Big guy, dark complexion? Yes, I hissed, thats the one. No, Edward. Jakes not my boyfriend. Hes my best friend. Has been since we were in high school. I felt a huge weight lift off of my shoulders, despite the nagging knowledge that she had never mentioned a Jake in her letters. I exhaled a breath that Im certain I had been holding for the past two blocks. Oh. I see. Although I doubt that Jakes as comfortable with his platonic role. How could he be? Jakes the best guy in the worldand also the biggest pain in the ass. Hes actually engaged to my good friend Nessie. They live together back in St. Louis. Oh, thank you Lord! I didnt even attempt to hide my mile-wide smile at her revelation. Is that why you went all sulky on me back there? Bella asked, a smirk on her face, as she looked

up at me over the top of the sunglasses. Embarrassed and relieved, I didnt answer her. Walking more quickly, I tried to decide whether to let my enthusiasm speed up my legs, or slow them down so that I could enjoy this last bit of our walk back for a little while longer now that I knew that Mr. Muscles was not competition. We reached the office building a few minutes later. When the elevator doors closed on us, alone in the elevator, the air around us hummed and buzzed with electricity. As I stared at her, her lids got heavy like they did back at the restaurant and I couldnt contain my excitement anymore. I took one long step toward her, reached my hand around her neck and laced my fingers through her hair. So soft, exactly how I remember it. Hesitantly, I leaned down to her face, waiting for her to back away. But she didnt. In fact, she stood up on her tip-toes to reach up to me and met my lips with hers. Relieved, I took her bottom lip in between mine and held it there for just a moment, savoring the taste of her lip as I brushed the tip of my tongue against it. She whimpered quietly, and I backed away. Although time seemed to stop, the whole sequence took about 2 seconds. Uhm. Im pretty sure that is against the proposed sexual harassment policy, Mr. Cullen, Bella whispered as the elevator doors opened to our floor. You said it was a draft, right? She nodded. Sore-write it, I said, and stepped out of the elevator.

Chapter 8
EPOV It was a pure stroke of luck that the elevator doors opened when they did, because the way she whimpered into my mouth when I tasted her made me want to devour and claim her right there in a 6-foot square elevator with bad music, on our way up to my office. I heard, rather than saw, that she didnt get off the elevator before the doors closed. I didnt have time to think about that right then I needed a release. So I stormed down the hall and slammed the bathroom door open so hard that it bounced off the wall and nearly hit me in the face. I locked the door and rested my head against it, trying to catch my breath, but it didnt help. My hard-on was clearly visible through my trousers and I had to do something about it, fast. I unzipped my pants and commenced the activity that occupied most of my nights ever since I opened up that damned envelope in my fathers office. That night I had gone home, dusted off the lid of the shoebox, read every single letter and jerked off twice - and it had only gotten worse since seeing her on the beach that first day. As I did each time, I imagined it was Bellas hands, Bellas mouth, Bellas. Ungghhhh. I came into the wad of toilet paper and let go of the breath I had been holding. Shes driving you insane. Yep. Always has. Slightly more relaxed, I went to the sink and splashed cold water on my face, bracing to walk back out into the office and face her, scared to death of her reaction. Is she angry? Embarrassed? Check. And check. Of course she would be. I didnt blame her. My conduct was reprehensible.

How could I have let my emotions override my professionalism? Not to mention my smart ass comment about the sexual harassment policy. Ill be lucky if she doesnt have her letter of resignation on my fathers desk by the end of the day. The dust hadnt even had time to settle on her framed picture of this Jake character, and yet there I was, trying to mark territory - making her run away. Defeated and nervous, I opened the door to the bathroom and headed down the hall to my office, sneaking a look down the hall to her office. Her door was shut. So shes definitely back. Frustrated, I plopped myself down on my chair and pinched the bridge of my nose. Do I go to her? Stay here? Move to France? I needed a distraction, so I flipped my cell phone open and pushed the speed dial for my sisters house. Hello? Hey Rose. Oh hey there little brother. Whats up? SIT DOWN CARLY! Rosalie greeted me, interrupted by scolding my precocious niece. Not much. Just checking were still on for this evening. Sure we are. Youll be here in time for dinner? I can be. I think Im going to head on out of here. Moms got some stuff she wants me to bring to Carly, so Ill go pick that up before I head up. Speaking of, how is my favorite girl? Although I had never been a fan of kids, even I had to admit that the curly-headed girl had me wrapped around her finger from the word go. Terrible twos, you know. No, not really. But Ill take your word for it, I responded, laughing. Well, well have dinner then once you get in and Em gets home, then, k? Sounds good sis. Ill just give you a call when Im on my way. Love you. Love you too, Edward. Drive safely. After I hung up I felt a little more relaxed at the idea of spending a few days with my sisters family. It will be good to get out of town, away from this office, my beach, my restaurant. But I knew it would not cure me because the moment I would congratulate myself on not thinking of her, Id be tortured all over again. I checked my emails, but there was nothing terribly exciting there. I opened a game of Hearts, but couldnt even concentrate enough to play it. Although the whole exchange in the elevator had lasted seconds, I replayed it in my mind in excruciating detail, in slow-motion. The taste of her lips on my tongue was intoxicating. But more than that, the sounds I elicited from her were exquisite. She hadnt reacted like that either of the other times I had kissed her, and I found my confidence returning to me. She may not have wanted Masen, but at least a small part of her wanted Edward. Thats fine with me. Ill take what I can get. At least until she comes to her senses.

I fiddled with paperwork for the hour, but my mind was down the hall. As I replayed the image of our kiss, I knew I didnt want to leave her now. That afternoon I threw my weekender bag in the trunk of my car and got onto the highway, stopping at a drive-thru Starbucks on my way for a 3:00 pick-me-up. I turned on my iPod and loaded up my playlist of piano favorites. Claire de Lune was first on the list, and I turned up the volume with my steering wheel controls until the notes surrounded me, drowning me. Putting the cruise control on 65, I headed up the freeway, allowing my mind to drift back to her. Years prior, I had sat down with a Dictaphone on my parents baby grand and recorded this song for her, sent it to her and told her to think of me when she listened to it. Over those four years, through our letters, we had exchanged so many little pieces of one another. At one point, I even gathered the courage to record a song I composed for her. In fact, I had the tape in my jeans pocket when I met her at the airport. But giving it to her just didnt feel right once I recognized the disappointment in her face. The song was one of my best compositions but it was not melancholy. It was beautiful and lifting the way she made me feel every time I opened one of her letters. Defeated, I didnt want her listening to it after Id kissed her again - didnt want her realizing that I had put damned near every hope for our future into that one visit. And lost. In the month since opening Bellas resume I began playing it again. Although I hadnt played it in eight years, once I sat down at the bench in my living room, her resume lying on top of the glossy wood, the notes came back to me. It was like riding a bike, and I was instantly transported to the past. Now, with digital technology, I actually recorded it and imported it into my iPod, and had forced myself to listen to it many times in the last month. At lunch, behind my closed office door, with her down the hall. On the drive to work. On my deck, while waiting for her to wander back to my beach. To my life. As Debussys notes came to a close, the emotion in me swelled and I couldnt stand it anymore. I turned off the stereo and rolled the windows down and the sunroof open. The buzzing of the traffic all around me brought me back to reality. Yes, these few days away from her will be good. I had found I could only handle being near her in small doses doses I measured out and could control. About forty-five minutes into my drive, my cell phone vibrated and I opened it up to read my fathers email: E Gave Bella the real estate docs and strat. plan. She is reviewing and will make comments by COB. Will keep you posted. Drive carefully and call when youre at Roses. Dad Good, I thought, glad she was working through my father on the LA project. It would give me a chance to be up here for a while, and the only presence Bella may have would be the occasional cc on an email to him. But while this thought should have relieved me, it only disappointed me. I wanted to work with her, to play with her, to be everything with her. No, Edward. Thats not going to happen. You have to get a grip. A few hours later I pulled into Roses and Carly ran out the door up to my car to greet me. Uncle Wedwod! she squealed. Sooner or later, I will have to teach her how to really say my name, but for now, its the cutest sound in the world.

Hello, Princess! I scooped her up in my arms before I could even stand all the way upright from getting out of the car. Wheres mommy? In house, Wedwod, she said, pointing to Rose, who was standing in the open front doorway. Hey, sis, I greeted her, walking up the steps to the front porch. You look gorgeous, as always. I kissed her cheek and she smiled at me. Thanks Edward. Glad you made it up alright. Give me Carly and go get your stuff. I grabbed my bag from the trunk and flipped my phone open, hitting the speed dial for Dads cell phone. He answered on the first ring. Hey Dad. Hey son. Did you make it okay? Yes, Bella, thatd be great. Just let me know what time youll want to head out, Dad said. Clearly, Bella was standing next to him when I rang. Jealousy immediately crept up my spine at the thought of my family getting to spend time with her. Yeah, I just pulled up. Carly and Rose are here, I said, handing Carly the pink ruffled bag from my mother. I mouthed from Mom to Rose, who helped Carly up the stairs so she could open her present. You dont have Bella running all over already, do you Dad? Give her a chance to settle in! I scolded. No, no. Shes fine. Shes got quite a few questions for the seller up there in LA, and shell be heading up there tomorrow evening on the plane. Ill need you to pick her up, but shell let me know later today when shell be landing there. Oh, no. Shes coming here, Dad? I felt panic set in and I immediately sat down on Roses front porch steps, letting my bag drop to the ground by my feet. Sure is. Shes looking forward to it. Never been to LA before. Youll have to show her the sights, he said. The devil on my shoulder gave a wicked laugh, Oh, well show her some sights, alright. Wont we, Edward? Before I could get in a word of protest, my dad continued, Shell be staying there at Rose and Emmetts. Oh. Shit. *** BPOV Panting, I sat on the elevator floor. Snap out of it, Bella. Silly girl! But I didnt want to snap out of it - I wanted more - that was just plain wrong. He was my boss! I stood up and brushed off my skirt, hit the door open button and walked out of the elevator. Knowing Id have to pass Edwards office, I went as fast as my legs could carry me without either running or falling. But when I passed his door, he wasnt in there. Whered he go? Confused, I walked into my office and shut the door behind me, wanting to crawl under a rock. My mind reeled. What must he think of me? Does he know that I was putty in his hands? Probably. How could he not know, with all my stupid whimpering? WHIMPERING!?! No man had ever kissed me into a whimper, and he hadnt even really tried! My imagination went absolutely bat-shit imagining what noises Id make if he ever really put some effort into it. GAH!!!

Disbelief flooded my mind. One day, Im admiring his god-like form on the beach, the next Im kissing him in an elevator! I felt my face blush and my panties instantly dampen. Just when I thought the room was going to start to spin, I was brought out of my stupor by a knock at the door. Bracing myself, I inhaled, held my breath and opened the door. It was Carlisle. Oh! Hi, Carlisle. How can I help you? I asked, moving aside and motioning for him to come in and have a seat. Edward told me you two were going to head out for lunch today. Did you enjoy yourself? Feeling my traitor blush, I answered, Ah, yes. Yes. It was very nice, thank you. I apologize that he hasnt been as accessible since you started as he usually is. I intend to talk to him about that. Were all very glad youre here. Good lord. If he only had an idea of just how accessible Edward had made himself Oh, thats quite alright, Carlisle. I understand that you run a busy place here. And I couldnt be happier to be part of the team. Very happy, indeed. Good. Glad to hear it, he grinned. I could definitely see where Edward got his good looks. I wanted to fill you in on a new project in the works. Sure. Whats up? He had a manila envelope in his hand, and he tapped it against the wooden arm of my guest chair. Were going to open a satellite office in LA. Wow. Thats exciting! Yes, well, my daughter lives up there and has expressed an interest in doing some more work with the company, but her husband owns a business there, so they cant move here. Weve found a building were looking into buying. Edwards actually going up there this week to look it over. Oh. I see, I said absentmindedly. So thats why hes going out of town. I felt a little sad at the idea of him leaving so soon. Ive got the documents from the seller and our strategic plan. Id like you to look them over for me. Then Id like you to head up there Friday and take a look and let me know if you see anything that we should bring to the sellers attention before entering into the purchase. Are you available? Gulp. Absolutely, I tried to sound confident and poised, even though I felt like I would vomit. Ive never been to LA. Itd be a real treat, Carlisle. Id be happy to do it. Ill take these, I said, holding out my hand for the envelope, and look them over. Ill get back to you tomorrow, and then Ill head out tomorrow after work so I can be there first thing Friday morning at the location. Is that alright? I can have Jessica make arrangements for a hotel and flight. Oh, that wont be necessary. Ive arranged for the company plane to take you up there. Edward will pick you up. You are certainly welcome to go up tomorrow evening and explore if you want to, though. And you can get a hotel, or Rosalie has invited you to stay with her and Emmett if you prefer. Huh? Im sorry? Rosalies my daughter and Emmett is her husband. They have my little granddaughter, he beamed, but plenty of space. We really are a family here, Bella. Id really like for you to get to know Rose, since youll be working with her more now too. But I completely understand if youd feel more comfortable in a hotel.

That is very generous of Rosalie, Carlisle. Id be happy to stay with them. Please thank them for the invitation. Good! Its a plan, then. Rose will be happy to have a house full of people again she loves to cook! A house full, Carlisle? I hesitated. Sure. Edwards staying with her too. Hes headed up later today to spend some extra time with Rose and Carly. Oh. Shit. The butterflies went bat-shit in my stomach all afternoon. I spent the time reviewing the thick stack of documents Carlisle gave me, marking them up in red ink, making notations in the margins and flagging pages with color-coordinated Post-it notes. Anything to distract me from the gorgeous man who would be sleeping down the hall from me, in a strange house, in a strange city, the next night. Nervous beyond explanation, I packed and re-packed, not sure what kinds of clothes I should pack. Thankfully, Alice stopped into the office on Thursday morning. She stood in the doorway of my office, legs crossed and covered in black leggings and silver ballet flats. She wore a grey sweater that came down to her mid-thigh. It was the kind of outfit only a 5-foot, 100-pound pixie could pull off. Hey, Bella! she chirped, making me look up from my documents. I hear youre flying up to LA to meet Rose tonight! Nodding, I took a sip from my Cherry Coke. Um-hum. Im a little nervous, to tell you the truth, I said, rising from my desk to meet her half way into my office. She gave me a quick hug and an airkiss. Why would you be nervous? Well, Im not a big fan of flying in general, and Ive never been on a small plane before, I answered. She smirked at me incredulously. Oh, is that all? Yes. Should there be more, Alice? She grinned. Oh, no. Thats enough, she chimed, walking over to my couch and plopping down. She tucked her ankle under her butt to sit on it. So, are you all packed? I think so. Im only staying two nights, so Ive just got a weekender bag, I shrugged. Of course Alice would want to hear about the clothes I had packed. What do you have for Friday night? Friday night? Yeah, for going out. Im sure that the four of you will go out somewhere. Dont worry, Edward wont keep you cooped up in Rosalies house the whole time. Im sure hes looking forward to showing you off I mean around. What?! Aaaalicccce? I hissed. Uhm hum? she innocently cooed, but I didnt buy it for a second. What are you up to?

Oh, nothing, she said, studying the furniture and brushing off non-existent dust. Just want to be sure your first experience in LA is a good one, thats all! Well, Ive got to go check up on Jazz. Call me if you need anything Bella! She was out of the door with vampiric speed. At four-thirty, Jessica buzzed me to let me know that the cab was downstairs ready to take me to the small airport outside of the city. I thanked her and shut down my laptop, stowed it in my briefcase, and grabbed my purse and weekender. After I offered up a silent prayer that the small plane would make the short trip to LA safely, I turned off my office lights and headed to the elevator. As I got in the cab, my phone vibrated and I flipped it open. It was a textfrom Edward. Bella Alice said youre a little nervous about the flight. Not to worry. Sam is an excellent pilot. Youll be in excellent hands. Will pick you up at the airport. EMC A slight smile spread across my face at the thought that he was checking up on me and trying to calm my nerves. The cab pulled up to the terminal and I realized that I was in way over my head. The company plane was a sleek-lined jet. If I was impressed by the outside (and I was), then I was blown away by the interior. Soft leather sofas lined the sides and there were several televisions. I walked through the cabin, open-mouthed, back to a door at the rear that lead to a small bedroom with a private bath. Geez. Ms. Swan? I turned to see a dark-skinned man in a pilots uniform. Bella. Yes? Hi, Bella. Im Sam, the Cullens pilot. My second today is Quil , but hes already up front. Are you about ready to take off? Oh. Yes. Yes, Im good. Thank you, I said nervously. I sat down on one of the couches and buckled my seat belt. Good. Mr. Cullen told me to remind you that youre in excellent hands, Bella. Mr. Cullen? Yes. Edward. He called to let me know that you have a few butterflies, so I should get you whatever you needed to make you comfortable. Can I get you a drink before take-off? No, no thank you. I appreciate it, but Im really not worth all the fuss. I doubt that, Ms. Swan. In fact, Ive heard quite the opposite, he said, winking at me as he turned and walked back to the cockpit. I was pleasantly surprised at how smoothly the flight went. For such a small plane, there was actually very little turbulence. Sitting back to relax, I played the soundtrack to Pride & Prejudice (the Matt MacFayden version which was truly only good for its soundtrack, as no one but Colin Firth will ever be my Mr. Darcy) in my ears and closed my eyes. No sooner had we reached our maximum altitude, we were back on our way back down. When the tires hit the ground at the airport in LA I was relieved that we hadnt crashed, but my relief was quickly replaced with a whole new wave of nervousness as I thought of Edward waiting at the gate for me.

As I deplaned and went through the tunnel to the terminal, I saw him standing there. He was beautiful. Although I was certain I was imagining it, I thought I saw his face brighten when he saw me. He pulled out a piece of white cardboard from behind his back and put it in front of his chest. It read Isabella Marie Swan, Cullen Inc. As I stood in front of him and read it, I couldnt help but giggle, although I was a little perplexed at how he knew my middle name. I looked up to see his god-like face, and he was grinning ear-to-ear. All thoughts flew out of my head, apparently taking with it my ability to speak. See. I told you youd make it, he said, and plucked my bags off my shoulder and placed them onto his.

Chapter 9
EPOV So, Eddie. Tell me all about your new Bella. Is she as hot as Jazz says she is? Emmett boomed while we sat over a beer in his kitchen. Rosalie was putting Carly to bed upstairs after I had given her a good-night kiss. Emmett. Knock. It. Off, I growled at him. Really, he was a fucking grizzly when he wanted to be. She is that hot, isnt she!? he retorted. I rolled my eyes at him, and chugged another mouthful of beer. Shes beautiful, Em. But shes also the smartest woman Ive ever met. Were lucky to have her. There. Thats neutral enough, right? Umhmm. Right, he said, squinting at me. Thats all good, little brother. Well see. What do you mean, well see, Em? Nothing. Im just looking forward to meeting hers all. Well, Id better get upstairs before Rose comes down and kicks my ass. Yes. We wouldnt want that now, would we? I mean not again. He snorted and gave me a light punch on the shoulder as he walked out. Good to have you here, Eddie, he hollered back over his shoulder as he walked up the stairs. Edward, Emmett. Its Edward, I corrected him. He knew it drove me crazy. I rinsed out my empty bottle, placed it in the recycling bin, and went to the fridge to grab another and take it out onto the back deck. I heaved a sigh. This time tomorrow, shell be here. Sitting at Roses table, eating dinner. Meeting Carly. Sleeping down the hall from me. That particular thought made my cock twitch to attention, and I threw my head back on the back of the chair. I eventually fell asleep and awoke to a sunny Californian day Thursday morning. I met Rosalie downstairs at 7:00 and she was already dressed. Morning, little brother. Sleep well? Not really, no. Coffee? I grumbled. She handed me an already full cup of great-smelling black coffee. Here you go. You ready for today? She smirked a little. Alright. So Emmett talked to her last night.

Fantastic. Two could play at that game, though. Yes, Im ready to see the space and go over the plans. I looked down at my watch. Leave in forty-five? Sure. Heading back down the hall to my room, I gathered up a clean pair of boxer briefs, and jeans and headed to the bathroom to shower. When I untied the string to my pajama pants, my cock sprang free as if to say, Good Morning! You all ready for this evening, Cullen? Noooo. Stepping into the shower, I let the hot water beat on the back of my head and soak my mop of hair. I poured the shampoo into my palm and worked it into a lather in my hair and rinsed. Then I picked up my Aveda shower soap and palmed it into a lather, working across my arms and chest, then lower. When I got to my crotch, I grabbed a hold of my hard shaft and rolled my thumb across the sensitive head, letting out an involuntary hiss as I stroked from the base to the head and then back down again. My eyes rolled back in my head as I imagined it was Bellas tiny hands stroking me, tugging at me. I imagined her in front of me, on her knees, licking the tip of her pink tongue across my hole, and as I did so, I felt the drops of pre-cum ooze out of me. I bit my lip to keep from groaning. In my mind, I imagined her opening her full red lips and drawing me between them, swirling her tongue around my head as she inched my shaft to the back of her throat. So warm. Shed moan, and the vibrations would resonate on my cock as Id wrap my long fingers into her hair, directing her over me. Shed look up at me through those long, thick lashes with love and acceptance. Belllaaa, I moaned, and the thought of the love that would be in her eyes was enough to send me over the edge. The water from the shower immediately washed my cum down the drain, but in my mind, she swallowed every drop. I put my hands up against the cold tiled wall and gasped for air, trying to calm down, knowing somewhere in the back of my mind, that I would never be able to get over her again. Imagining her with me, woven into the fabric of my life, was one thing. Actually having her here was an entirely different story. I knew Id never be able to sit on my deck, walk my beach, go to my office, visit my sister again without being flooded with the images of her in those places. Reaching behind me I turned off the water and grabbed the towel I had thrown over the shower door, drying off and wrapping the towel low around my waist. The head of my cock was still sensitive and the soft texture of the towel up against it was too much, so I threw off the towel and walked over to the vanity, running my fingers through my crazy hair. It really needed a cut, but if it was too short, it was completely impossible. Plus, Alice was always telling me how the girls love to run their fingers through long hair I wonder if Bella would run her fingers through my hair. Oh, God Quick, Cullen - distract yourself very quickly or youll be going for Round 2 before 7:30 in the fucking morning. I tugged on my boxer briefs and jeans and brushed my teeth. As I walked out of the bathroom, the built-up steam followed me out into the hall and I heard Rosalie chuckle from the kitchen.

Everything all right in there Edward? Bitch. Yes. Ill be ready in a few. Mm-kay! After I threw on a black v-neck t-shirt, I tugged on my socks and shoes and clasped my watch back on. I had a few minutes, so I made my bed and smoothed down the comforter, and gathered up my dirty clothes and took them down the hall to the laundry room. I started a load, throwing in my towel from the shower, then I walked back into the kitchen, where Rosalie was perched on a barstool at the island reading the paper. Wheres Carly? I asked. Rose folded up her paper and placed it in a basket on top of the island. She hopped down from the stool. I took her to Emilys to play while we work this morning. Already? Geez! What time does she get up, Rose? She gets up with Emmett about six every morning. They have their Fruit Loops and play for a while before he heads in to the shop. Good lord. Like your own little alarm clock, isnt she? Rose snorted, Yeah. Sometimes its very inconvenient, she crinkled up her nose. Ah, so apparently I wasnt the only one who woke up horny this morning! Chuckling, I grabbed my keys from the kitchen counter. Lets get moving, Sis, I said as I headed out the garage door to the driveway where I was parked. I got in the car and took my sunglasses from the glove box. Rose had to lock up so she was a few steps behind me. She slid into my front seat, already wearing her sunglasses and looking like a movie star at a little before eight in the morning. You navigate, I commanded. We drove to the potential office location and checked it out. Although I was pleased with it, I was anxious to hear Bellas comments on the plan documents my father had given her. As Rose and I were getting back in my car, my phone rang. It was Alice. Hey pixie, I greeted. Hey Edward. She sounded a little concerned. Not like Alice. Whats wrong, Alice? I heard the traffic in the background and I could tell she was driving downtown. She must be near the office. I just left the office. I think you should call Bella. Bella? Why? Is she ok? My protective alarm went off in my head and I immediately began to panic. Well, I think shes afraid of the plane. You may want to talk her through it. She was very nervous when I talked to her a few minutes ago. Hmm. Okay. Ill touch base with her. Hows everything else back home? Great. Jasper says hi. Oh, and Edward? Yes? Take her someplace fun tomorrow night, k? I told her to make sure she had something packed for going out. Later!

Click. With that short conversation, I concluded I shouldnt be talking to either of my brothers about Bella any more. I scrolled through my contacts and called Sam, our pilot. He answered on the first ring. Hey, Sam. Its Edward. Hi there Edward. Just making sure everything is still all clear for tonight. Theres a few clouds, but I think theyll hold off long enough for us to have a smooth flight this evening, he responded. Good. Thats what I was calling about, actually. Your passenger, Ms. Swan, apparently has a bit of stage fright about flying on the jet. Please do everything you can to make sure she safe and comfortable, ok? Sure thing, Edward. Shell be ok promise. Thanks Sam. Ill see you and Quil at the airport. Bye. Hitting end on my phone, I internally debated whether to call her. By this point, Rose was sitting next to me, buckled up and looking annoyed that we werent on our way to lunch already, so I started up the car and scrolled through my contacts until I found her. I wasnt confident of my ability to talk to her when I was pretty certain Id sound like an over-protective brother (not the relationship I was going for), so I decided Id text her later on instead. Rose and I went to a caf for lunch and sat outside eating our sandwiches and salads. She had been eerily quiet for the past half-hour and I could tell something was on her mind. So.Edward? Here it comes. Yes? Tell me all about Bella, she said, and a sly smile came across her face. What do you want to know? I countered. The stuff thats not on her resume, Edward, she snorted back, rolling her eyes. Ive heard shes pretty.. From whom? Alice, Emmett, Jasper, Mom, Dad I had her caught. How would Emmett know if shes pretty, Rosalie? My face burned hot. Yes, I may have mentioned that Ms. Swan is attractive, I gulped, but I think I also mentioned that she is an exceptionally intelligent attorney. Rosalie nodded at me slowly. If you say so, Edward I do say so, Rose. That was the end of our lunchtime conversation about Bella, and I was glad to be off the hook. Just a few more hours and Ill have her back. Have her When I was pretty sure shed be in the car on the way to the airport, I texted her to let her know shed be in good hands on her trip. Sam would take care of her on the plane, I was certain. And I would take care of her once she landed. On my way to the airport I made a pit-stop at a convenience store to pick up a small package of white poster board and a marker. I wrote her name on it, Isabella Marie Swan, Cullen Inc. Just

seeing my name at the end of hers no matter the context made the butterflies in my stomach rack up frequent flyer miles. I smiled at the look of her full name next to mine, re-capped the marker and headed to the airport. When I arrived at the airport, I got through security just in time to see her walk down the tunnel and I had an overwhelming sense of dj vu. I held my homemade sign up to my chest, and the instant she found me in the crowd of LA travelers, she lit up. She walked over to me, laden in her bag, briefcase and purse. She smirked at the sign and her scent hit me like a ton of bricks, I inhaled deeply. See, I told you youd make it, I managed. She sighed and nodded, smiling at me. I took her bags off her shoulder good grief, how much did she pack? and hooked them onto mine. Ready? I asked her. She nodded in response, and we headed down the terminal to the parking garage. We drove to Rosalies and I made the necessary introductions. Having her sitting at my sisters table, eating dinner like a part of the family, was almost unbearable. How many times have I imagined this in the last month? Who am I kidding in the last 12 years? After dinner, Em opened a bottle of Shiraz and poured four glasses. Smiling to myself, I recalled when Bella wrote me about her first wine experience she had only two glasses and passed out. She wasnt even twenty-one yet, and she paid for it the next day with a monster headache. Sitting in Roses kitchen, I promised myself to monitor her to make sure she wouldnt be sick in the morning. We had easy conversation until Bella excused herself for the night. Needing a breather, I stayed behind in the kitchen, helping Rose and Em clean up the supper dishes. I heard Bella turn on the shower and I had to grip the marble countertop to keep control of myself. I heard, rather than felt, myself breathe through my gritted teeth and I pinched the bridge of my nose. Bellanakeddown the hallall wet Emmett slapped me out of my state with a smack to my back. He leaned over and whispered, Go for it, bro! I shot him a glare, and apparently Rose heard him because she smacked him upside the head. Oww! Babe, what was that for? he asked innocently, rubbing the back of his head. Leave him alone, Emmett! she snapped back. We finished the dishes, I said goodnight to Rose and Emmett, and headed down the hall toward my room. As I got closer to the bathroom door, I could smell her strawberry shampoo. I didnt have time to process it, though, because the door opened and Bella walked smack-dab into me. She started, and I grabbed onto her elbows to keep her from falling. Her hair was wrapped up in a towel, but I could see her blush on her forehead as she stared at her feet. She apologized and scurried back to her room. I watched as her blue satin slip of a nightgown bristled with her quick movements. Soooo fucked, Cullen. Needing a distraction, I went to my room, plopped down on my bed and I pulled out my laptop to check my emails. Then I read the WSJ online, managing to kill an hour online before I heard a soft murmur. I got up from the bed and opened the door, thinking it was probably Carly crying. But when it got louder as I got closer to Bellas door, I became concerned. I stopped in front of her door and leaned in to hear. Rose and Em were upstairs in bed, so I wasnt likely to get caught eavesdropping by them.

Why is she crying? I knocked lightly on the door. When she didnt answer, but instead the cries became more desperate, I opened the door. I was blown away. There, in her blue satin pajamas, was Bella moonlight shining through the blinds onto her beautiful face, her body wrapped in the sheets. She was crying in her sleep, and even from the doorway, I could see the tears on her face. No.dont go. she whimpered. I walked over to her bed and moved my hand out to touch her, to try to stir her out of the dream. Nowhy? Why Masen? I froze. She was dreaming about me. Well, not me, but yes, about ME. I couldnt breathe. She continued to sob and mumble incoherently, repeating no and shaking her head from side to side. I couldnt help myself as I quietly sat down on the edge of the bed and reached out to touch her face, moving the hair off her face that had gathered there. Shhh, Bella, shhh, I whispered. Its ok. Im here. She stopped crying immediately. But I couldnt leave her yet, so I leaned over her and placed a light kiss on her forehead. When I did, she let out a soft moan. I hardened instantly and knew I had to get out of there. Like, now. I got off the bed and headed for the door. After two steps, Bella sighed out, Masen again, and I felt guilt wash over me like a tidal wave. But when I reached for the doorknob, she nearly undid me when she whispered out, Edward.

*** BPOV As I followed Edward down the terminal, enjoying the view from behind, I could hear my heart pounding in my ears. I couldnt even speak when I saw him waiting for me at the gate. We neared the center of the airport, making our way to the short-term parking, the crowds of people getting heavier. We had to dart through them as we made our way. Edward shifted my bags on his strong shoulder and the sight of his muscles moving under his black t-shirt made me gasp aloud. Apparently, he heard me, because he quickly turned around with a look of concern on his face. You okay? They didnt bump you, did they? God help them if they did, because I think he wouldve killed someone at that point. All I could do was shake my head in return. Then he did something completely unexpected. Looking straight ahead through the crowd, he reached his open hand back behind him for me. Oh. My. God. It was the sweetest gesture Id ever witnessed, but the area between my legs was thinking thoughts all of its ownand they werent sweet at all. I slipped my hand into his and he clasped down on it. It was warm, and strong, andsafe. Despite myself, I sighed involuntarily and closed

my eyes, letting him just lead me for a moment. When I opened my eyes, he was looking at me with that crooked grin, and I felt myself blush furiously. Dont want to lose you now, do we? he said sweetly in my ear, keeping hold of my hand. I couldve died at that moment, and it wouldve been alright with me. Again, like a bloomin idiot, all I could do was nod. He squeezed my hand a little and chuckled, and turned back around to continue making our way towards his car. Damn cocky bastard. No correction damn beautiful cocky bastard. We got to his silver Volvo and he popped the trunk with his remote and tossed in my bags. Then he unlocked the doors, beating me over to mine and opening it for me. I got in and buckled up my seatbelt, using the seconds it would take him to get over to his side of the car to internally castigate myself. Stop it, Bella! Hes your BOSS! Hes just trying to be polite because he heard you dont like to fly!! STOP. RIGHT. NOW. Edward opened his door and slinked his way into his seat, simultaneously buckling his belt and starting the ignition. You calmed down now that youre on land, Bella? Smart ass. Oh, Im fine. No big deal. But thanks for calling Sam that wasnt embarrassing or anything, I said, rolling my eyes. He chuckled. Hey, I understand. You can only see so many made-for-TV movies about Patsy Cline or Kick Kennedy before you start to dread flying in a small plane, right? Kick Kennedy? He knows who Kick Kennedy was? Right. Sorry, I mumbled. Not a problem. Lets get you to Roses. Im sure youre exhausted. I dropped her off and she was going to have Emmett grill out for dinner. Is that ok? Sounds great. Im starving. Good. Youll love them theyre a hilarious couple. And then theres Carly, my little niece. If you dont love her, then theres something wrong with your wiring, he said. Instantly, I admired the way he talked about his niece. Im sure Ill love them all. Needing to steer this conversation back to something safe, I said, I looked through the plans your father gave me and made comments. I copied them for you so that you could look them over tonight before we meet with the seller tomorrow. Relax, Bella. Were not on a time table here. Ill look them over in the morning. Were both off the clock now. I smiled at the idea of spending free time with him. Right. Relax. Not a problem. Right. Half a quiet hour later we pulled up to his sisters house a gorgeous two-story brick and stone home with beautiful flowers in the front yard. We followed the driveway around to the back of the house and parked in front of the garage. A big very big dark-haired man was on the back deck in an apron and khaki shorts and nothing else. Whoa. He waved a metal barbeque tong in our direction and smiled. He hollered something over his shoulder through the double-doors as Edward turned off the car and opened his door. Edward walked over to my side and opened my door before I could protest how does he move that fast?

As I got out of the car I thought I saw Edward staring at my legs, but when I looked down I realized my skirt had slid up to the middle of my thigh. Curious, I quickly pulled my skirt back down and filed the memory of that look on his face in the back of my mind. Hmm. Id like to see that look again! Edward grabbed my bags from his trunk and came up beside me. He placed his hand on the small of my back and guided me up the wooden steps to the deck to stand next to the giant grizzly of a man. Bella, this is my brother-in-law, Emmett McCarty. Emmett, Bella. The man brushed off his hand on his shorts and extended it for me to shake. I reached out and took it, and was surprised that when I had my hand in his, he drew me into his chest for a hug that swooshed the air out of my lungs. Bella! he said, and his chest rumbled as he said my name. Its great to finally meet you. Rose and I have heard so much about you! Edwards hand gripped around my upper arm, pulling me away from Emmett. Emmett! Dont hurt her, for Gods sake! Gheesh! Emmett winked at me and grinned at Edward, who was rolling his eyes. Just then, a gorgeous woman came out the double doors with a toddler on her hip. She was supermodel-gorgeous. Long, blond hair that curled slightly at the ends, the same green eyes as Edwards, tall and thin. The little girl, who I presumed was Edwards niece Carly, was also beautiful. She had a mop of white-blond curly hair and big brown eyes. Huge dimples. You must be Bella, she said, extended her hand to shake mine. Im Rosalie, and this is Carly, she said, bouncing the little girl on her hip and putting the tips of their noses together. Carly giggled. I shook Rosalies hand and said, Pleasure to meet you Rosalie, Carly. The little girl blushed and buried her face in her mothers hair. Lets get you inside so you can put your things away. Emmett? Whats the ETA on dinner? Ten, fifteen minutes, babe, Emmett responded. Follow me, Bella. Edward, bring her stuff, would you? Under control, Rose. Go ahead, Bella. Ill follow you in, Edward said, with a trace of annoyance in his voice. Like the jet had been, the outside of the house was nothing compared to the inside. I couldnt believe that they let a toddler live here it was tastefully decorated with a mix of modern art and antique furniture. We made our way down to where I was to stay, and I noticed that it was the second of two bedrooms off the kitchen. I gulped at the prospect that Edward might be using the first of the two rooms, just right next door. Edward sat my bags down on the bed as Rosalie showed me the restroom and living room. You have a beautiful home, Rosalie, I offered. Hush call me Rose, Bella, she said warmly. Warm sentiments coming from this woman seemed odd to me but looks can be deceiving. Make yourself at home. Im going to go help Em finish dinner. Edward? she called down the hall, can you keep an eye on Carly for me please? Edward walked down the hall to stand about ten feet away and said, Sure thing, sis, as Rosalie stood the little girl on the floor. Carly immediately took off and jumped into Edwards arms. He kissed her nose. Hey kiddo, he said, nuzzling her into his neck and patting her back. Uncle Wedwod, I tired, Carly squeaked. I know, shoog. Youve had a busy day playing with Miss Emily, havent you?

Yeah, she said, yawning. Well, after dinner and your bath, Ill read you a story before bed, okay? I about melted where I stood. Edward nodded at me to direct me back down to the kitchen for dinner. Oh yeah. I could definitely get used to this. Dinner with Rosalie, Emmett, Edward and Carly was great. The food was excellent, and the company very relaxing. I really enjoyed myself and my nerves actually managed to calm down to a reasonable level. After Rosalie put Carly to bed, the adults stayed up and had a glass of wine. It was enough to relax me the rest of the way, but I knew I shouldnt push my luck with a second glass Im an easy drunk. Instead, I backed away from the table to stand, and both Edward and Emmett stood up with me. I was taken aback by the gesture, but Rosalie only winked at me. Emmett, Rose, thank you for a wonderful dinner. I think Im going to get cleaned up and hit the sack, I said, immediately regretting my Midwestern slang. Good night, Bella, they said in unison. As I disrobed in the bathroom, I heard the clanking of glasses. It made me smile when I heard the cheerful banter among the siblings. Tired, I didnt dally in the shower, pretty certain that the long day and the glass of wine would have me passed out pretty quickly. Plus, its rude to use your hosts hot water like that. I got out of the shower and wrapped my hair up, turban-style, and put on my pajamas. When I heard Rose and Emmett still down the hall in the kitchen, I figured it was safe to go out of the restroom and sneak into my room unnoticed. I was wrong. I opened the door and walked straight into Edwards chest. Damn. Mortified, I didnt even look up at him as I hastily said, Oh, Im so sorry. I was just headed to bed. Its alright, Bella. I was just headed that way myself. Gulp. Well, goodnight then, I mumbled through my bitten lower lip. Nite, Bella. Sleep tight. I went to my room, shut the door and let out the air in my lungs that I had been holding. Its not fair! My mental voice shouted at me. Of course it is you wouldnt even know how to begin on a specimen like that. True. Although, to my credit, I was okay with the beginnings of that kind of stuff it was the ending I had no experience with. Yawning, I unwrapped my hair from the towel and squeezed the rest of the water out of my mop of curls. I knew if I didnt take the time to blow dry it straight, itd be unbearable in the morning, but I also knew I just didnt have the energy to mess with it, so I decided to get up early and use the flat-iron on it. After I pulled back the covers of the bed, I took my iPod out of its case, hit play, and slipped it

into my pillow case. I think I may have actually fallen asleep before my head hit the pillow. The next morning I awoke in a haze. My eyes stung and it took me a few minutes to remember where I was, and Holy Mary, the headache! I had forgotten to drink water to dilute the red wine this was always my punishment. The sunlight hurt my eyes as it taunted me through the window blinds. Shaking, I opened the door to make my way down the hall to brush my teeth. Even the feel of the toothbrush scouring my teeth hurt. As I looked in the mirror I quickly determined that my hair was a verifiable rats nest. The last thing I wanted to do was spend forty-five minutes straightening it, so I put my head under the faucet and let the cold water soak it again. The cold water actually helped my head feel better. I turned off the faucet, grabbed a towel, and squeezed water out of the curls. I dug through my bag for a pick, combed the knots out, put a little oil on the ends and pulled up the sides. Fuck it. Itll have to do. I went back to my room and dug out a pair of flat-panel slacks and a fitted button-down cotton shirt, and got dressed. The smell of bacon floated down the hall, and when I made it to the kitchen, I could see that I was late - by the McCartys standards - for breakfast. Apparently, Emmett had already been up and had left for the day. Rose, Carly and Edward were all sitting at the table feasting on a huge stack of French toast and bacon. When Edward saw me, his mouth opened a bit before he put his fork down and rose from the table. Good morning, he said as he walked over to the coffee pot and poured me a cup. Grateful, I took it from him. Thank you. Good morning. As I took the cup from his hand, our fingers briefly touched and that familiar spark of electricity shot up my arm, causing me to almost drop the cup to the floor. Morning, Miss Bewwa, Carly chirped from her booster seat. Good morning, Miss Carly. May I sit by you this morning? I asked. She shook her curls yes in response. I smiled at her I couldnt help it. She was an adorable little girl. So, whats on the agenda today guys? Rosalie queried. Well, I have to go over Bellas notes to the documents for the new location, and then she and I are going to head on over to meet with the seller. Want to come? No, thats alright. You know my ideas, Edward. You two just go, Rosalie said, and I swear I saw her wink out of the corner of my eye. We finished breakfast and headed to the living room to sprawl the documents out on the coffee table. Edward stuck a pen behind his ear as he read, asking questions as he reviewed my comments. It was a surprisingly pleasant few hours, and I enjoyed the easy way we worked together, explaining, questioning. I was even more pleasantly surprised to discover that there actually was a brain behind that gorgeous face. As we drove to the location, we rode in near silence. There were several times that Edward seemed to pause like he wanted to ask me something, but when he did speak, it was about mundane things. We pulled up to the building. Edward helped me out of the car and we walked side-by-side into the building. I had a death grip on my bag, and Edward kept twisting his key chain in his hand. I wish I could read his mind.

Chapter 10
EPOV Friday morning I could barely contain myself when I saw her walk into Roses kitchen, her hair wet and crazy-curly. Although I knew she had naturally curly hair, I had never seen it like that she always straightened it. As I offered her a cup of coffee, I let my fingers linger on hers when she grabbed the cup from me. I was feeling dizzy at the memory of her whispering my name in her sleep the night before. We sat at the table eating breakfast, Bella and I on either side of Carly. After breakfast we moved to the living room where we began reviewing the documents for the new office. I noticed her color-coded Post-Its right away and it made me smile as I remembered how she got into arguments with her college roommate about the right way to fill the refrigerator, or how annoyed she got when said roommate would take VHS tapes from her collection and not put them back in the right spot alphabetical, by genre. At the time, I thought she was a little crazy, but now I could see where those qualities could come in handy. The documents were impeccably organized. On our drive to the new space, I wanted to broach the subject of her sleep-talking, but I couldnt think of how to do it in a way that wouldnt embarrass her. Although, when shes embarrassed she does blush that lovely shade of red, and Lord knows I wouldnt mind seeing that again BOSS, Cullen! Right. Boss. When we pulled up to the building, I helped Bella out of the car and we walked up to the door together. She kept squeezing the handle on her bag, and to keep my own hand from reaching out and grabbing hers I twirled my keychain around in my fingers. The seller met us at the door and held it open for us. Ah, hello again, Edward! James, I acknowledged him with a nod of my head as I guided Bella by the small of her back. I noticed Jamess eyes follow the sway of Bellas ass. Fucker. James, I said, with a tone of warning, allow me to introduce my new General Counsel, Isabella Swan. I realized as soon as I said it that my tone on the word my may have been a little too much, and I winced - Bellas always been fiercely independent. But if it bothered her, she didnt let on; instead, she strode over to James with confidence and shook his hand. When he tried to hold on for that extra fraction of a second, she snapped her hand back to her side. I saw her make a fist with that hand and I wanted to stick my tongue out at James in triumph. Nah, nah, nah nah naaahhhhh naaaahhhhh! Bella took a step backwards to stand back by my side. She looked up at me and said, Edward, why dont we have a seat and go over our questions with James? Allow me to show you to the conference room, Ms. Swan, James gestured, clearly intending for Bella to walk alongside him. After you Edward, Bella said, smirking at me. Thats my girl. We followed James back to the conference room and I pulled out a chair for Bella to sit next to

me, across from James. She sat down and pulled her redwell from her bag. Jamess eyes widened. Wow. Arent we thorough? he quipped. Yes, she said pointedly. We are. Dont underestimate me, her tone said. I was so elated I wanted to hug her, or high-five her or something. We spent the next two hours reviewing the documents and walking the space with James. I let Bella lead the conversation, and I could tell that James wasnt sure whether to eat from the palm of her hand or whip out some pepper spray. She alternated friendly tones with stern ones, and the entire time, she ran the show while my heart swelled with pride. When we were done, James promised to make all the changes that Bella requested and email me the revised documents. We shook hands again and went back out to the car. As soon as I started the engine, Bella crinkled her nose, stuck out her tongue and made a pleh sound. Whats wrong? I asked, laughing. That guy that James! What a creep! She pulled hand gel out of her bag and squirted some in her palms. Ick! I threw my head back on the headrest and laughed at her. Ah, Bella. I think he liked you! Eww! No thats gross! she said, like a 12-year-old girl. Yeah, Im pretty sure on this one. She shook her head, her nose still crinkled. You really dont see yourself very clearly. You were very impressive back there! Of course, I realized that the only difference in the way James looked at her and the way I looked at her is that she hadnt caught me. She made a humph noise and said, Lets just get going, k? As you wish, I responded and backed out of the parking space. As we made our way back onto the freeway, she picked up my iPod. May I? she asked. Certainly. She scrolled through my playlist. Debussys great, she said in almost a whisper. She selected Clair de Lune, and it made my heart ache to watch her facial expressions out of the corner of my eye as she listened to the music. You like this one? I asked, curious what her explanation would be. Yes. An old friend introduced me to it back in high school. He said it would help me relax. And did it? She smirked, Yes. Yes, he did. What? Im sorry? She gasped. Yes yes it did help me relax. I needed to change the subject. So, did Alice give you marching orders on the LA shopping scene? I asked. She laughed and said, No I didnt think wed have time. I figured wed be busy with work and all. Ah. Well, were done for the day if you want me to take you, I offered.

Edward, its not even noon. We cant be done for the day yet! Thats one of the perks of being the boss, Bella. I get to set my own hours. And seeing as how youre trapped in a car with me, if I decide to take you shopping, you have little choice in the matter. See? Her face flushed and she nodded in agreement. Good. I want to show you something. We got off the freeway and in a few minutes, we were at what Alice called The Promised Land. Rodeo Drive. Oh my goodness, Bella said and put her hands up to the window. She looked like a kid in a candy store. Hold still, I said, reaching for my phone. I have to send Alice a picture of your reaction to your first trip to the Golden Triangle. I snapped her picture and sent it to Alice, saving it on my phone as a memento of our day together. Golden Triangle? Yes its the area encompassed by Santa Monica Boulevard, Whilshire and Canon Drive. Rodeo Drive here runs through the center. I pulled into a parking space along the street. Field trip time! Bella clapped her hands together and giggled. I walked around to open her door for her and she got out, giving me a mock-salute, and said, Yes. Sir! We walked down the street to Saks. What am I shopping for? she asked. Well, youll need something for this evening. Youre a little stiffly dressed for drinks and dancing, I said, winking. Uh she began, biting her lip. Baseball, baseball. I dont dance. You say that, but you forget Ive seen you in action, Bella. And theres the blush. Fuck. Me. Right. That waswas, she stammered, I dontusually You were fine, Isabella. You need to calm down. We wont let you hurt yourself, I chuckled at her. Her face went white as a ghost. What? Are you okay? She stood with her mouth open. No! No, Im fine. Just scared of the dancing is all. She walked the rest of the way down the aisles staring at her shoes. We made it to the ladies section and I found the man bench and told her to go hunt. She took off like lightning into the clothes, accompanied by a saleswoman who, I was pretty certain, was annoying the crap out of her. Bored, I took out my phone and checked my emails. Nothing urgent. I sent a text to my father, letting him know that the morning had gone well and that Bella had given James hell. A minute later, he texted back Good thing. I knew there was a reason we all like her so much. Dont work too hard, and have a good time this evening. Your mom says hello. Dad A few minutes later, Rose called. Hey, sis, I answered when I saw the caller ID. Hey there. Howd it go? It went very well. Bella drives a hard bargain. I bet she does. Where are you now? Saks. Shes picking out something for this evening. Did you line up a sitter for Carly?

Yeah. Shes going to stay over at Emilys. Well be ready to go after Em gets home and gets cleaned up. Edward? Yes? I really like her. Me too, Rose. Me too. Minutes later, Bella emerged from the fitting room, paid for her items and approached me, bags in hand. I was more than a little curious to see what she had picked out. We drove back to Roses with easy conversation and parted ways that afternoon to get ready to go out for the evening. I was more nervous than I had ever been more nervous than when I had my St. Louis layover eight years ago. I had showered and re-dressed, but was not successful in taming my hair. I could hear Bella down the hall in her room getting ready to go out, and heard Emmett tell Rose that he was going to go walk Carly down the street to Emilys. Trying to calm my nerves, I went to the kitchen and poured myself a glass of wine. Rosalie came into the kitchen, looking like she had just walked off of a fashion runway. Hey there, kiddo, she said as she tousled my hair. I scowled at her and she rolled her eyes. Dont worry, Edward, the girls like it messy anyways. There was only one girl whose opinion mattered to me, though, and I heard the clicking of her heels as she came down the hall. I walked to the sink to put my empty glass in it, and when I turned around, all the air went out of the room. There stood Bella in a fabulous royal blue dress that made her skin look like creamy silk. It was belted, with a layered chiffon skirt that emphasized her curves. Her hair was down and in soft ringlets, and her silver heeled shoes showed off her calves. She was putting in her earring. Well, look at you! Rosalie chimed, and then looked at me with an arched brow. Bella walked over to stand by me, biting her bottom lip. How do I look? she asked. Is she kidding? Leaning forward to touch my forehead to hers, I inhaled her strawberry and freesia scent. Like gold. She shuddered a bit and quietly said, Thank you, Edward. Emmett burst through the garage door like a bull in a china shop. Lets go! he boomed. Hey, Bella! Nice duds! and he fucking winked at her. Bella picked up a wrap from the kitchen table and unfolded it to wrap around her shoulders. Here, allow me, I said, reaching for the wrap and placing it on her shoulders. I let my hands rest on her shoulders, feeling the warmth resonate from her skin under the thin fabric. I could tell by the way her shoulders werent moving up and down that she had stopped breathing. Interesting For the sake of a more comfortable ride, we took Emmetts Jeep to a wine bar downtown. Emmett and I sat up front and the girls rode in the back. When we arrived at the bar we found a seat on the patio and ordered several bottles, along with some appetizers. Bella seemed relaxed, although she wasnt drinking her glasses as quickly as she had the previous night at Roses house. Rosalie proceeded to tell Bella funny stories (many at my expense) about our family, then about how she and Emmett met (in Tai Kwon Do class) and decided to move to LA so Emmett could set up his luxury car repair shop. He may be a grease monkey, but hes my grease monkey, she said, beaming at Emmett. He leaned over and gave her a light kiss.

Hey, it pays the bills and keeps me off the street, he scoffed. Rosalie pinched his bulky bicep then let her fingernails glide down his arm to hold his hand. Get a room, you two, I said, taking another gulp of wine. Their little display only served to remind me of the woman sitting next to me and how I would love to feel her nails scraping down my back. Sooo not helping, Cullen. Bella seemed to feel uncomfortable a little too, and she re-crossed her legs and pulled her wrap tighter around her arms. Are you alright, Bella? I asked. It seemed to snap Emmett and Rosalie out of their own private love fest. Mhm hmm, she mumbled back. Just a little chilly I think. Then lets get her indoors, Emmett said. A little dancing ought to warm you up right quick. Bella stiffened in her seat and looked at her folded hands in her lap. I wasnt having any of that, so I leaned in and whispered in her ear, Remember what I told you this afternoon, dont you? We wont let anything happen to you. She looked at me out of the corner of her eye and a sly grin came across her face. I stood and pulled her chair out for her. She stood and smoothed out non-existent wrinkles in her skirt. It really is a beautiful dress, I told her. That color is very flattering on you. Who was I kidding? I was imagining said dress in a pile on the floor by my bed. Grrrr Rosalie took Bellas arm and the two of them walked a little ahead of Emmett and I, becoming thick as thieves. We walked about a block to a new upscale club. Rosalie went straight to up to the bouncer and tossed her hair over her shoulder. Cullen, she said to the bouncer. He said our name into his headpiece and motioned for Rose and Bella to go on in. Emmett and I followed them. Bella turned her head to look back at me with a confused look on her face. Our unquestioned entrance, I knew, was due to my familys hefty financial contribution to various downtown beautification projects. But I wasnt about to explain that to Bella just then. We walked into the club, which had multiple levels, and several bars. The music was spun by a DJ on a small stage in the corner of the club. I recognized him from a Blue Man Group concert Jasper and I had gone to a year ago. Go get us some drinks, Em, Rose hollered back to us. Sure thing. Bella? What are you drinking tonight? Cosmo, please, Emmett. Thank you. Rose grabbed Bella by the hand and dove into the crowd of dancers. I lost sight of them right away, and decided to tag along with Emmett to help with the drinks. We made our way over to the bar and Emmett placed our order with the bartender, ordering whiskey sours for himself and me. So. Emmett began. So, what? Bella he trailed, as if I was supposed to read his mind and figure out what he was after. What about her? He smirked. You dont have me or Rose or anyone else in the family, for that matter fooled,

Edward. What are you getting at? Shes smokin hot! Dont tell me theres not just the teensiest part of you that wants to go for that? Rolling my eyes, I slammed my drink and ordered another. Shes out of my league, Emmett. Naww. I dont think so at all. If the chemistrys there, thats one hell of a start, wouldnt you agree? I had no idea about true chemistry. Tanya whom I had met through Rose had started off as purely a sex thing. For whatever reason (fear that Rose would kick my ass, maybe?) I felt guilty about that and fooled myself into thinking we could base a relationship on decent sex. I was wrong. Cautiously, I answered, I do hear thats a good place to start, Em. But I dont know. Edward. Are you serious? The way she looks at you, man! Its the same way Esme looks at Carlisle, the way Rose looks at me. At least, the way she looks when shes not pissed at me. Really? I had thought I only imagined that kind of a reaction - that I had hoped for it, especially after her rejection eight years ago. Really, bro. Trust me on this one. He slapped my shoulder. Now, lets go find our girls out there.

*** BPOV We walked up to the new building, and a handsome, if not somewhat overdone, man was already at the door to greet us. He raised an eyebrow when he saw me and I instantly got the chills. Not the good kind of chills. The man smirked and said hello to Edward as we walked up to the doorway, Edward leading me with his hand on the small of my back again, and I really had to concentrate on walking. Left, Bella. Now right, Bella. Good girl, Bella! Edward introduced me to this character, referring to me as his new General Counsel. If I had been really paying attention at his words instead of his hand on my back, I might have thought about being offended. But then again, Edward could brand my ass with a hot iron, and Id just say, Thank you sir. May I have another? The man, James, shook my hand and gave it an extra squeeze. I snapped it back to my side, and took a step backwards to stand by Edward. I suggested we have a seat and go over the documents. James offered to escort me to the conference room, but his cocky smirk gave me the creeps, so I smiled at Edward and told him Id follow him. Edward returned my grin with his own crooked one, and our silent exchange was comical. Just like in Roses living room, we were

working as a team here, too. When I pulled my tabbed stack of documents from my bag, James said, Wow. Arent we thorough? Condescending prick. Two can play at that game. Yes. We are, I retorted. We went through each of my comments and I suggested new language for the documents. I tried to be friendly I really did but the ass was downright caustic. When it got to be too much to bear, I arched my brow, leaned forward and told him I wasnt suggesting, so much as I was requiring the changes. It seemed to be an effective strategy, because by the time we walked out two hours later, James had agreed with all my revisions and told Edward he would email him the revised documents. We said goodbye to Creepy James and got back in Edwards car. I wanted to vomit, and I made that funny sound you make when youve just accidently swallowed shampoo in the shower. Edward laughed at me and said, Whats wrong? That guy James! Even saying his name gave me the willies. What a creep! I dug through my bag in search of my antibacterial hand gel, hoping itd be enough to kill whatever that guy was probably growing on his hands. Edward laughed at me again, and tauntingly said, Ah, Bella. I think he liked you! Eww! No thats gross! I didnt think it was so much that he liked me as that he was anxious to charm me. You know guys. Somebody just get a ruler and get it over with! Yeah, Im pretty sure on this one. You really dont see yourself very clearly. You were very impressive back there! Right. Lets just get going, k? I wanted to be far away from James and anywhere else with Edward. As you wish, he said, ala Westley, and backed out of the parking space. Passing the time, I picked up his iPod from the console and asked if I could look at it. When he said I could, I booted it up and scrolled through his selection. There mustve been a few thousand songs on it. Very wide selection, and I recognized many of them as songs I had on my own, including Clair de Lune. I selected it and immediately thought back to the first time I heard it, on Masens recommendation. Then I thought of when I got his tape in the mail. Hell, I mustve played that tape until it warped. It was one of the first songs I downloaded when I bought my iPod. You like this one? he asked, interrupting my train of thought. Yes, I said, an old friend introduced me to it back in high school. He said it would help me relax. Did it? He seemed strangely curious. I told him that it did help me relax. Hell, if I was honest, Masen helped me relax. After a few seconds of quiet, Edward said, So, did Alice give you marching orders on the LA shopping scene? Recalling Alices quizzing me on my wardrobe and the way all the salesgirls knew who she was that first day I met her, I laughed and I told him I figured I wouldnt have time to shop I was there to work.

Ah. Well, were done for the day if you want me to take you, he offered. Oh, pleeeeeez take me! The little devil shrieked. Were here to work! The little angel countered. Edward, its not even noon, I protested. We cant be done for the day yet! Thats one of the perks of being the boss, Bella. I get to set my own hours. And seeing as how youre trapped in a car with me, if I decide to take you shopping, you have little choice in the matter. See? I felt my face warm as I thought of being anywhere trapped with him, and I nodded. Good. I want to show you something. He took the next exit and weaved through several stoplights. I recognized the area from Pretty Woman. We were on Rodeo Drive the Mecca of the shopping world - and I pressed my hands to the glass like a bird flying into a window. Oh my goodness, I sighed. Edward chuckled behind me. Hold still. I have to send Alice a picture of your reaction to your first trip to the Golden Triangle. I heard his phone make a click sound. Golden Triangle? I said, confused. Yes, he answered. Its the area encompassed by Santa Monica Boulevard, Whilshire and Canon Drive. Rodeo Drive here runs through the center. Well, hello Carmen Sandiego! Field trip time! he quipped. He opened my door for me and we walked down the street to Saks Fifth Avenue. If I had my tabloid journalism right, this was Winonas Saks. But I still wasnt sure exactly what I was supposed to be shopping for, and I asked him. Well, youll need something for this evening, he said. This evening? He winked at me and told me that we were going for drinks and dancing. Well, shit. Joss Stone-inspired free show aside, I wasnt about to attempt to dance in front of him. Especially not if there was alcohol involved. He attempted to ease my fears, saying, You need to calm down. We wont let you hurt yourself, love. Love? Well, fuck me. No, seriously. Fuck. Me. The shock at his endearment mustve been written all over my face, because he immediately assumed something was wrong. Either he didnt realize what he said, or he didnt mean a thing by it, so I tried to recover quickly by telling him I was just scared of the dancing. Apparently, he bought it because he walked away to sit down on a bench in the store. I walked toward the aisles of clothes and was immediately greeted by an annoying commission-hungry sales chick. Apparently my eye roll wasnt enough to deter her. Are you looking for something special, dear? the annoying stick-insect of a saleslady asked. She was obviously younger than I, so her dear came across with exceptional condescension. Wellyou see that nice looking guy over there? I said, pointing over to Edward. I knew the instant she saw him because her eyes widened and she licked her top lip. Yep, she knew who I was talking about, alright. She nodded her head. Well, Im going out with him dancing this evening. Can you make me look pretty enough to be seen with him? Again with the nodding. Hah! So I wasnt the only one Edward could render speechless. I think we can handle that, she said. A 6? she questioned, looking at me from head to toe. Yes, thats right. Youre good, I congratulated her.

Ill be right back. Stay here. She was gone for about three minutes and came back with three outfits. The first was a black strapless pantsuit with a fitted top and palazzo pants. I immediately imagined myself falling on my face and my boobs falling out of it as I hit the floor. Eh. I dont think that one will work. Next? She went to the second outfit a red minidress with sequins along the neckline. I didnt really like it either, but I could probably work with it. The third outfit was a royal blue dress with tank straps, a belt and a full skirt that reminded me of Deborah Messings dance lesson dress in The Wedding Date. I remembered the look in Edwards eyes when I walked into him the previous night wearing my satin PJs of the same color. Yes, this is definitely the outfit. I want to try that one on, please, I said to the salesgirl. She winked at me and unlocked a fitting room. She looked down at my feet. Uhm. Seven and a half? This girl was good, and my annoyance dampened a bit as I nodded. Ill be right back, she said as she closed the fitting room door. I slipped out of my clothes and put the dress on. It was perfect. There was a knock at the door. Bella? Edward whispered. Edward? Youre not supposed to be back here! I whispered back to him. I know. I was just checking to make sure things are okay. You looked like you were going to rip the throat out of the salesgirl He sighed on the other side of the door and I laughed at him, opening it to peek my head out at him. Shes okay. Its all under control, Edward. Just go back and sit on the Man Bench over there, I shoo-ed him with my hand and he rolled his eyes as he walked back to the bench. As he walked, he passed my salesgirl, who nearly tripped over her own feet for staring at him. She had a tiny pair of silver Mary Janes. She came to my door and handed them to me and I slipped them on. They were perfect. Perfect! I said to her. Can you wrap it all up for me, please? Sure thing, maam. Im glad youre happy with it, she said. but Im pretty sure that hed be happy to see you in a potato sack! she motioned behind her with her thumb, hitchhiker-style. After I changed back in to my clothes and paid for my outfit, I flung the bag over my shoulder and walked back over to Edward. He looked bored to tears with his elbows on his knees, his head in his hands. Ready? I asked. Absolutely. You? Yep. Lets go. As we walked out of the store and back to the car, Edward stuffed his hands into his pockets. Edward? Yes? Thanks for making me go shopping. He grinned. Well, I hope youre happy with your purchases. I am. Youre not going to give me a hint, are you?

Nope, I replied, popping the p. Youll just have to wait and see. He gave me that sexy crooked smile and winked at me. Im sure youll be stunning, Isabella. The drive home was uneventful, save for the hippos doing jumping jacks on my nervous system. Shit. Shit. Shit. As I dressed for the evening I was so nervous I could barely hold my hands still long enough to get my earring in place. I had spent an hour curling my hair and trying to look worthy of standing next to Edward - not to mention next to Rosalie, who would easily make Heidi Klum green with envy. When I walked into Roses kitchen she and Edward already there waiting. Edward looked spectacular crisp dark green shirt and black flat-panel pants. I wanted to lick him. Desperate for some sign of approval, I asked him about my outfit, and when he pressed his forehead into mine and said I looked like gold, I nearly passed out. It only got worse when he helped me fix my wrap around my shoulders and I forgot how to breathe. We rode to a wine bar and had a few glasses. I was mindful of the mornings red wine headache and tried to pace myself a bit. Rosalie told me funny stories about her family, including how shed paint Edwards nails when he was a toddler and play with his pretty hair. Edward shot her daggers with his eyes and blushed furiously. It was adorable. But when she and Emmett started making with the googly-eyes at each other, I was uncomfortably jealous. We left the wine bar and Rosalie took my arm to walk with me, leaving Emmett and Edward to walk a few feet behind us. She leaned in to whisper to me, He likes you, you know. Huh? You have got to be kidding me. Edward. He likes you. I can tell. Oh. Way to be eloquent, Bella. Be patient with him, Bella. I know Alice has probably already warned you about his rep as a player, but he is capable of relationships. It was absolutely surreal. IIdont You like him too, dont you? she asked, squeezing my arm a little harder and I found I couldnt speak. Thats okay. I can tell that, too. And so could Alice. She patted my hand and winked at me. Lets get some real alcohol in you and see how you do, shall we? We walked past a line of people waiting to get into a club, but Rosalie just walked right up to the bouncer and said Cullen like she was saying Open Sesame, and just like magic, there was no line for us as we were waved in. What the hell? I shot a look at Edward, but he just shrugged his shoulders in response. The club was overwhelming. Loud. Bright in places, dark in others. A few drinks in me, and I might actually think it was fantastic. As though she could read my mind, Rose ordered Emmett to go get drinks, and I told him what I wanted. Rose grabbed my hand and pulled me onto the dance floor and I lost sight of Edward. Over the speakers, the DJ was playing Take Me On the Floor by the Veronicas. It was an infectious song and I immediately felt my hips swaying of their own volition. A few minutes later I felt a warm hand at my waist and turned to see Edward, Cosmo in hand. He nodded to motion me over to a table, where Rose and Emmett where headed. We sat down and I sipped at my drink. See, Edward said, leaning into me. I told you you could dance. I was glad for the darkened lighting so that he wouldnt see my traitor blush.

The opening beats of Nine Inch Nails Closer came over the speakers and the crowd let out a collective scream. Aww, babe, Emmett said, Theyre playing our song! He grabbed her hand and took her onto the floor. He stood behind her, hands on her hips. She ground her ass into his frame, arms reached behind her around his neck. I thought my jaw would hit the floor. Just ignore Rose, Edward laughed. I do. He swirled the golden liquid in his glass. I removed my wrap from my shoulders and placed it on the table. Clearly feeling the effects of the wine already, a wave of boldness came over me. Want to join them? I asked, hopping down from my stool and holding my hand out for his. He cocked a brow and gave me that sexy crooked smile. Thought youd never ask, he responded and I felt an immediate warm pool between my legs. Oh. Sweet. Mercy. We went on to the dance floor and began dancing with the music. Every so often, Edward would touch my waist or Id place my hand on his solid chest. The song was coming to a close, and I was a panting, hot mess. The mood immediately shifted as the next song came over the speakers. I recognized the opening chords of Lifehouses Everything, one of my favorites. I looked up at Edward with hesitation. May I? he asked. I nodded and he took a step closer to me, close enough that I could feel his breath on my hair. He slid one hand around my waist and took my hand in his other one. We swayed together through the first verse, staring at each other. The electricity between our bodies could power a small city. It was too much for me, and I leaned my forehead to rest it on his chest. I felt him lean his head down slightly and inch his hand behind me to the small of my back. I gasped involuntarily. What is it, Bella? he whispered, and I was surprised I could hear him over the music. Uhm. My back Im sorry? Your hand on my back like that He gently squeezed and said, What about my hand on your back like this? Well My back is my 7, I whimpered. Your what? My 7. You know, like on Friends? Under my hand, I felt his chest grumble. No, I dont believe I know about that one. Liar. YouTube it, I quipped. His chest grumbled again and I reveled in the sensation against my cheek. I felt him move his head lower, still swaying to the music. He inhaled deeply, then I felt him place the tip of his warm nose near the strap of my dress. He slowly inched his nose along my collar bone up to the sweet spot behind my ear. I felt my knees wobble beneath me and more wetness in my panties. Is this okay? he whispered in my ear. I let out a whimper. Breathe, Bella, he cooed, and I clutched my hand into the fabric of his shirt to steady myself. When I started breathing again, he started his tortuous trail up again, this time with the faintest pressure of his soft lips, tracing my jaw from one ear to the other. I could feel his hot breath on

my face, and my eyes rolled back in my head as I clenched my hand harder in his shirt. As he moved his lips from my right ear back toward my chin, he released my hand and stood up, tipping my chin up to him between his thumb and the knuckle of his first finger. He leaned toward me and slowly kissed me. This was not like the rushed, spontaneous kiss in the elevator. This was slow, deliberate, and sensual. He sucked my lower lip into his mouth, running the tip of his warm tongue along it, asking for access. I parted my lips and he slowly traced my front teeth and then the tip of my tongue with his. And then everything went dark.

Chapter 11
BPOV With the taste of your lips Im on a ride. Youre toxic Im slipping under. With a taste of a poison paradise. Im addicted to you dont you know that youre toxic? Brittany Spears boomed through the speakers as I came to. Edward was carrying me, bridal style, over to a nearby couch. He gently laid me down and sat down next to me. Bella? Bella? he asked. The concerned look on his face would have been comical if I wasnt absolutely mortified. Are you alright? Covering my face with my hands, I nodded my head in response. Remember how I wondered what would happen to me if Edward really tried to kiss me? Yeah. Well, now I know. Id fucking pass out. Edward grabbed my wrists in his strong hands and pulled them away from my face. When I looked at him, he had a cocky smirk on his face. Well, he said, thats never happened before. Do you pass out when every guy kisses you? Jerk. No only the cocky ones, I quipped back. He chuckled. My God! Bella!? Rosalie hollered as she and Emmett darted over to the couch. Damn, Edward! Whatd you do to her? Emmett asked, amused. Think fast, Bella. Oh, its nothing. I think I just had too much to drink on an empty stomach is all. Rosalie put her hand to my forehead and pronounced me fever-free, which was funny because there were certainly parts of me that were definitely on fire. I think we need to get her something to eat, Edward. Lets head on home, Rose said. Em? You okay to drive? Emmett scowled and put down his drink on the table he hadnt even tasted it since he ordered it, due to Roses enthusiastic run to the dance floor to bump-and-grind. Sure. Lets go. Edward stood up and held his hand out for me to help me up. I took it, and he pulled me in front of him, leaning down to whisper in my ear, Thank you. Theyd razz me for weeks.

Yeah. No problem. Im sorry, Edward. He furrowed his brow. Why on earth are you apologizing, Bella? You knowfor the whole passing out thing, I pointed to the dance floor. He made a humph noise and said, Bella, youre welcome to pass out in my arms any time. I gulped as he winked at me. We stopped at our table to grab my wrap and headed out the door back to the Jeep. It had cooled off outside, and I replaced my wrap around my shoulders. Edward reached over to pull my hair back from under the material, and then shoved his hands into his pockets. The four of us walked in companionable silence back to the Jeep. Edward opened up the back passenger door for me and I got in, but before he could open the front passenger door for himself, Rose had jumped in to the front seat alongside Emmett. This, of course, left only the back seat next to me for Edward. In the side mirror, I saw Rose wink at Edward. Emmett shrugged his shoulders when Edward walked around the front of the car and shot him a look. I buckled my belt as Edward got in the Jeep and Emmett started it up with a roar. Edward clicked his belt on and we pulled out of our parking space. I rolled my window down an inch or two to get some fresh air, as I was still feeling a little woozy. Rosalie turned on the radio to a Top 40s station and slid her hand in Emmetts on the console. Watching them, I felt like a peeping Tom witnessing the intimate gesture as their fingers intertwined. Edward put his right hand down on the seat next to me, on top of the top layer of my dress that was fanned across the seat. He ran his left hand through his hair and sighed, squeezing the back of his neck. As we made it onto the freeway, the hum of the traffic combined with the fresh air and what was obviously too much alcohol made me sleepy. I yawned several times and fought my heavy eyelids. The noise of my yawn caught Edwards attention and he looked over at me, smiling. Sleepy? I yawned again in response. He patted his right thigh and said, You can rest your head if you want, Bella. It looks like were going to run into some traffic here, nodding toward the front of the Jeep. I looked out the window and could see that about a quarter of a mile ahead the cars were bumper-to-bumper. There must be an accident. Oh. Thank you, but Ill be alright. I think its just the wine. I always have been a sleepy drunk, I said, rolling my eyes self-deprecatingly. He chuckled, I could have guessed that, Bella, but it is disappointing. After a few minutes, our car became part of the traffic jam. Once we had come to a halt, Rose and Emmett rolled down their windows and turned off the AC. Planes passed overhead, making their way in to the airport. Horns honked and the taillights outside the window were a sea of red. With a tone of annoyance at a near-by honker, Rose turned up the radio and said, Yeah, asshole. Like you honking your annoying horn is going to clear this up! Emmett stretched his arms and folded his fingers behind his neck after he put the Jeep in park. Aww, calm down, babe. Were in no hurry. If Bella passes out on us again, at least shes already sitting down. Very funny, Emmett, I said as Rose smacked him upside the head. I smiled to myself at the gesture and was again envious of their easy comfort with one another. After a few more minutes, it was getting way too hard to keep my eyes open and stop yawning. Edward put his right hand up behind my head, resting it on the headrest and leaving his lap empty once again. With some degree of hesitation, I decided to take him up on his offer and I tentatively

laid my head down on his right thigh. I could feel the warmth from his body through his pant leg, and I sighed at the feeling, feeling oddly safe there with him. For the first time since first seeing him on his beach what seemed like ages ago, I wasnt thinking about screwing him senseless. I was just keen to be near him, and I closed my eyes. Edward sighed above me, and then I felt the fingers of his right hand comb through the curls in my hair, relaxing me. Ive always been a sucker for having my hair played with. The sensation was incredible, as if there were sparks flying from his fingertips through my hair and down my spine. Above me, he softly began to hum a song I had never heard before so soft that I really had to concentrate on blocking the noises around me out. Before he finished the song, I was fast asleep. *** EPOV Having Bella in my arms again, accepting me with her lips, opening her mouth to mine, was extraordinary. Her body was warm and still next to me. Too still. She wasnt breathing, and then she went limp. I opened my eyes to see her head fall back, and had to react quickly to catch her so she wouldnt fall. Bella? I called to her, my voice thick with panic. She didnt respond, so I reached down and slid my forearm under her knees to scoop her up. As we walked off the dance floor, I spotted an empty couch along a wall and made our way over to it. When I placed her on it, her eyelids started to flutter open. Thank God. Bella? Bella, are you alright? I asked her, sitting down next to her but giving her some space in case she was disoriented. She nodded her head in response, her blush barely visible under the light from a nearby lamp. I wouldnt have her hide her beautiful face from me so I removed her hands from her face. Well thats never happened before, I said, trying to make light of the situation. Do you pass out when every guy kisses you? Do you really want an answer to that, Cullen? No. No. Only the cocky ones, she smarted back, dead-pan. Well played. Rosalie and Emmett were just behind me to the couch, Rose screaming for Bella. Emmett made a lewd comment at my expense and I felt Bella tense up next to me. She recovered before I could get over my disgust at Emmett, blaming her fainting on the alcohol and too little to eat. I breathed a sigh of relief Emmett would never let me live it down if he had any inclination that she fainted while kissing me. I think we need to get her something to eat, Edward. Lets head on home, Rose ordered. She asked Emmett if he could drive, as he had the least to drink among us, except Bella. But Bella was obviously in no condition to drive. He said he was fine to drive and he and Rose walked toward the door. I helped Bella up and thanked her for sparing me in front of Emmett. She apologized. What the hell is she apologizing for? She obviously had no idea what her reaction to our kiss had

done to boost the confidence that was destroyed eight years ago when she just stood like a statue as I kissed her - I wouldnt tolerate her feeling any embarrassment for kissing me back this time. Bella, I whispered in her ear. I heard her breath hitch at my close proximity, and I backed off an inch or so, wanting to keep her conscious. Youre welcome to pass out in my arms any time. She gulped as she processed what I had said. Bella grabbed her wrap from our table and walked alongside me out the door. Despite my inclination to do so, I avoided leading her out with my hand on her back. After all, if her Friends analogy had a note of truth to it, I may not be able to wake her up if I pushed my luck That thought immediately lead to another, and I let my mind wander to what her reaction would be if I ever got to have her in the way I wanted to. Id probably wind up killing her. The thought made me wince. When we got outside, she wrapped herself up again, but her beautiful chestnut hair was hidden under the material. I reached over and gathered it in my hand at the nape of her neck, pulling it to rest again on top of the wrap. The feel of it in my hand sent sparks up my arm, and I immediately put my hands in my pockets before they caught on fire. When we got back to the Jeep, I opened Bellas door for her and helped her step up into the seat. When I was certain she was safe and sound and buckled up, I turned to sit next to Emmett. But Rosalie had already beat me to it, buckling her seatbelt and winking at me as she nodded in the direction of the only empty seat next to Bella. How the hell am I supposed to sit so close to her after what just happened? I shot a glare at Emmett, who just shrugged his shoulders in response to me, as if to say, Sorry but its better you than me, bro. Frustrated, I rolled my eyes at him as I climbed into the back seat and buckled up. As we pulled out of the parking space and drove through the streets toward the ramp onto the freeway, Bella rolled down her window, and the breeze it brought made her hair dance around her face, swirling the strawberry scent through the air like a whip. She stared out the window and seemed to be lost. I noticed after a few minutes that she had yawned several times, and the reflection of her face in her window was tired. Sleepy? I asked her. She yawned again. You can rest your head if you want, Bella. Smooth, Cullen. But my diarrhea of the mouth wouldnt stop. It looks like were going to run into some traffic here - there must be an accident. Oh, thank you, but Ill be alright. I think its just the wine. I always have been a sleepy drunk. Smiling, I recalled a letter from her the summer after graduation. She had gone to a party and had one wine cooler. An hour later, her friends found her curled up on the couch, fast asleep. I could have guessed that, Bella, I taunted. But it is disappointing. We rode a while longer until we had to stop in the sea of traffic. The tension in the air between Bella and I was palpable. Emmett cracked a joke at Bella, and she quickly retorted as Rosalie smacked him. I grinned, just imagining Bella with my family, fitting in like she had always been one of us. Everything in me wanted to protect her, hold her, drown in her. I stretched my arms and rested my right hand on Bellas headrest, trying to gain some control over my daydreaming before I became visibly aroused. To my shock and delight, Bella let her head drop onto the outside edge of my lap. Dear God. I never thought shed take me up on my offer, but when she did, I had a seriously hard time focusing on anything but the warmth of her body so close to my own, and my imagination

naturally drifted to a desire for her to move closer. She sighed peacefully and closed her eyes. The sight was exquisite and my heart nearly burst with love for her for all that she had been, was, and I hoped for her to be. I removed my hand from her headrest and hovered it above her head for a moment before allowing my fingers to fold into the dark curls that were cascading onto my lap. Her hair was thick and soft and delicate between my fingers. Under my hand, I felt her breathing slow to a steady and slow rate. She was falling asleep. Low enough that she wouldnt be able to hear, I hummed her song the one I had composed for her years ago but she had never heard. She sighed deeply once more and made a tiny, almost inaudible, moan. She was asleep. Sighing, I rested my hand on her back and stroked small circles with my thumb there. The devil inside me hoped that, subconsciously, maybe I could make her as happy as Monica Geller, even if it was only in her sleep. She purred in response and arched her back slightly. The reaction made my erection immediately spring to attention and I groaned in response. Rose turned around at my noise, took one look at the sight in the backseat and raised one corner of her mouth in an evil grin. Ata boy, Edward! she whispered. Shut up, Rose. Whatever you say, little brother. Whatever you say. She squeezed Emmetts hand a little harder and his eyes met mine in his rearview mirror, his grin crinkling the corners of his eyes as he nodded his head in approval. Mortified, I huffed out a breath and pinched the bridge of my nose at my quagmire wanting time to stop so that I could sit here with Bella like this, listening to the noises she made and watching her bodys response to my touch; at the same time, wanting to get out from under my siblings watchful eyes. One hour, two Jonas Brothers songs, and three Bella whimpers later, we pulled up to the house. Not wanting to move her, I reached under her and unbuckled her seat belt. Although she stirred, she did not wake. I pulled her up onto my lap and opened my door. As I held her up next to me, I got out of the car and carried her light frame inside, through the kitchen and down the hall toward her room. Night, Edward, Rosalie said down the hall to me. I nodded in response, still not wanting to wake Bella. I entered her room and sat her on the edge of the unmade bed. As I reached down her hips to her calves to unbuckle her tiny shoes, her eyes slowly opened. Edward? Shhh. Its ok, Bella. Lets just get you to bed, alright? She nodded in response as I took her second shoe off and laid it next to the bed. She pulled the covers up over her still in her beautiful dress. Itd be a wrinkled mess in the morning, but I didnt get the impression she cared. She laid her head on the pillow and her hair fanned out across it. How many times had I dreamed of seeing her hair splayed across my pillow? Countless times. I went to the kitchen and filled a glass of water for her and grabbed two aspirin from the counter. Shed thank me in the morning. I walked back down to her room. Her tiny hands were balled up

on either side of her face and she was awake, stretching. She looked like a child, and the sight made me smile. I walked up to her and held my hand out, showing her the pills and sitting down on the edge of the bed next to her. Take these and drink all of this, Bella, I directed her. She nodded, sat up, and did as I instructed, looking up at me from under her long thick lashes as she drank the water. When she was done, I took the empty glass from her to put it on the nightstand. Good girl. You get some sleep now, k? Ill see you in the morning. As I got up from my seat on the side of the bed, Bellas hand reached out and took hold of my wrist. I turned to look at her. She was still sitting up, and the moonlight shone on her face as it had the night before when she cried in her sleep. But this time, her eye lids were droopy and not with sleep. With desire. Wordlessly, she reached her hand up into my hair, pulling my head to hers. Her breath was shaky and I could see her pulse pound on the side of her neck. I looked from her eyes to her lips, and she darted her pink tongue out to lick her lips as she inched closer still to me. She took my lip between hers and pulled lightly. She exhaled her sweet breath into my open mouth and tugged at my hair between her fingers as she deepened the kiss, our tongues dancing against each other. With her free hand, she pushed the covers off of her and in one fluid motion, got up onto her knees on the bed so that I had to raise my head a bit to keep meeting her mouth with my own. I turned my body toward hers and, as if she could read my mind, she put her other hand in my hair and tugged some more. I moaned into her mouth and felt her grin in response. Fuuuuuuck. I am going to spontaneously combust. Everything muscle in my body responded to her touch and I nearly came in my pants. She ground her heat into my hardened cock, and it was my turn to lose my grip on consciousness. The noisesmy God. She whimpered and moaned, and it only encouraged me to explore her body with my hands even more. But I couldnt. Not without her knowing the truth. Despite the fact that I hadnt had sex in six weeks and hadnt had good sex in much longer time than that, I had to stop. Despite that the evening had fulfilled so many of my fantasies of the past twelve years, I had to stop. Bella? She mumbled a response. Believe me when I tell you that I want this. I kissed the tip of her nose. Please believe me, Bella. But not here. Okay? Not before you know why youre here. She pouted up at me and I instantly felt wave upon wave of guilt flood over me. I lifted her chin so that her eyes were level with mine. I didnt want her thinking I was putting on the brakes because I didnt want her that couldnt be further from the truth. Bella, Im fairly certain that when this happens, I whispered to her while grabbing her by the waist and bucking my hard cock against her core. I want you to be completely sober. Do you understand? Please understand, Bella. Yes, Edward, she said as she kissed my lips lightly before getting off my lap. Laying her down, I rose from the bed and leaned above her to kiss her softly on her forehead, telling her good night. She told me good night, and I left the room. I closed the door behind me,

letting my hand linger on the doorknob, struggling to release it and go back to my room. There was no use in trying to fall asleep, and I knew that if I tried to relieve myself there was a good chance shed hear me through Roses thin walls. So I walked into the kitchen and sat at the table, taking my frustration out on my hair which only served to remind me of the way Bella pulled and tugged at it minutes before. Fuck, I said to myself. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. What have you gotten yourself into? But while part of me felt huge degrees of guilt for hiding this secret from her, the other part of me was over the moon at her acceptance of me. I sat there for what seemed like an eternity, when I heard the floor creak next to me. Startled, I jumped up to see Bella standing there, still in her dress, hair a mess, and bare foot. It was the sexiest thing I had ever seen knowing that I had done that to her hair. That she let me. That she encouraged me. Im sorry. I didnt mean to disturb you, she said cautiously. I was just looking for a pair of scissors. Scissors? I I I thought you were asleep. What do you need scissors for? My zippers got a thread caught in it. Motioning for her to turn around so that I could inspect the stuck zipper, I observed, Ah. I see the problem here. There was a two-inch piece of royal blue thread caught in the zipper. I tugged on the thread and it broke, I silently slipped it into my pants pocket. When I tugged again at the zipper she scolded me and I scolded back to her to hold still so I wouldnt rip the dress. After another tug, the piece that was stuck all the way in the zipper pull snapped and the zipper came loose. I unzipped it a few inches, just past the strap of her blue lace bra. The sight of the lace against her creamy skin made my mouth water. Regardless of what my brain ordered, my fingertips moved up to brush along the skin of her back, tracing the pattern of the lace. When I felt my dick harden again, I let out a growl and moved my hands to the safer ground of her shoulders. Youll be the death of me, Bella. Sorry, she whispered, and walked straight back to her room, never looking back at me. In a way, I was grateful, because if she would have turned around and looked at me or, God forbid, touch me I couldnt have been held responsible for my reaction. Retreating, I went to the sink and got a glass of water and splashed some on my face. I heard her door click shut, and I walked back to my room, pausing briefly at her door, but she was quiet. I dont know what I was hoping to hear, so I closed my bedroom door behind me, pulled off my clothes down to my boxer briefs, and plopped down on the bed. And then I heard it. This was not the same sound as the previous night, though. Not crying. Moaning. Bella was in her room, moaning. I closed my eyes and tried to ignore the sounds, feeling like I was eavesdropping. But who was I kidding? I wanted to hear her - wanted to hear the noises she made when she came. Wanted to have affirmation that she was as aroused as I was. And from the sounds of it, she was. She only lasted a few seconds before I heard the unmistakable sound of orgasm. And to my delight, when I listened to her in earnest at the end, I heard her chanting my name.

Chapter 12
BPOV I have no idea what came over me. Yes, I do. The excuse, of course, should my evil plan back-fire, would be that I was drunk. But I knew better. After sleeping off most of what remained of my buzz in the Jeep, waking up in Edwards arms as he carried me to bed was just too good an opportunity to pass up. I knew if I didnt act that night, Id regret it. So after he looked after me, making sure that I drank plenty of water and swallowed some aspirin, I didnt let him walk away. Letting the wine remaining in me embolden me, I took his hand and pulled him by his hair into a kiss. I dove in, head first (or tongue first, in this case), and prayed that because I was in control of this kiss, I wouldnt wind up fainting. He responded in kind, shifting his body to align with mine. When he did, I crawled up onto my knees and steadied myself on the bed with both of my hands in his gorgeous bronze hair, surprised at its texture it always appeared so wild and on end, but it felt spectacular soft and thick and long enough to wrap around my fingers. Seconds later, the devil on my shoulder stuck her little pitchfork on my ass, and I moved from my position on my knees, sliding one leg over his lap so that I was straddling him on the bed. The sensation of his hard abdomen up against mine was phenomenal, and I slowly lowered myself to sit down on his lap. Although I wasnt surprised to feel his erection straining against his pants, directly under my center, I was surprised at how much space it seemed to occupy in said pants. Gulp. Acting on instinct, I raised myself up a few inches and then back down on him, seeking some type of friction, some way toward the release I knew he would have no difficulty giving me. Beneath me, he inhaled sharply through his mouth, speeding up the tempo of our kisses. God, Bella, he groaned, tugging at the ends of my hair, forcing my head to fall back. He placed soft, warm kisses from my lips to my chin, and down my neck. Encouraged, I raised up a bit on my knees so that he could continue his exploration. He didnt disappoint, brushing his lips along the length of my collar bone between the straps of my dress, then leaning his head lower to brush the sensitive skin just above my breasts. He chuckled as the area flushed and ran the tip of a cool fingertip across the path he had just made with his lips. Goose bumps, he teased, looking up at me through thick lashes. There was no use in defending myself my body betrayed me. He bent his head back down and placed tiny kisses across the exposed area of my chest, then reached behind his head and took one of my hands into his. He kissed all the way down that arm to the tips of my fingers, then held my hand up to his warm chest. Bella? he said huskily. Uhm-hum? Believe me when I tell you that I want this, he said, kissing the tip of my nose. But not here.

Okay? Deflated, I bit my lip and furrowed my brow in what could easily compete with Carlys most convincing pout. He lifted my chin with his fingertips so that I was looking into his eyes. They were pitch black. Bella, Im fairly certain that when this happens, he bucked his pelvis into me for emphasis. Dear God! I want you to be completely sober. Do you understand? It was not lost on me that he used the word when and not if. I felt another wave of heat at my core at the thought. I leaned toward him until our lips were touching, and whispered, Yes, Edward. I kissed him one last time chastely and removed myself from his lap instantly missing the sensation of his body under mine, but I laid down on the bed like an good little girl. He stood from the bed, his erection still obvious in his pants. Try not to stare, Bella. He leaned over me, placing one hand on either side of my head. He sighed as he leaned in and placed a kiss on my forehead. Goodnight, Bella. Goodnight, Edward. He walked out the door and closed it behind him. I tossed and turned for a half an hour to no avail. Between my cat nap in the car and my pent-up lust, there was just no use. I climbed out of bed and decided to go ahead and change out of my dress into my pajamas. But when I reached around behind me to unzip my zipper, I discovered that it was stuck. I tugged at it as best I could, but it wouldnt budge. I could see that there was a small thread in the zipper holding it in place, so I decided to sneak into the kitchen to try to find a pair of scissors. I froze when I found Edward at the kitchen table, head in hands. He started when he heard me step on a spot on the floor that creaked. He shot up from his seat like a bullet. Im sorry. I didnt mean to disturb you. I was just looking for a pair of scissors. II, he stuttered. I thought you were asleep. What do you need scissors for? My zippers got a thread caught in it, I said, motioning to my back. He walked over to me and made a circling motion with his index finger, indicating that I should turn my back to him. I turned around and pulled my hair over to one shoulder so he could see the zipper. AhI see the problem here, he said, gently tugging on the zipper. Something snapped. Dont rip it, Edward! I scolded him. Hold still! he teased back, tugging at the zipper a little harder. Finally, I heard the thread snap and the zipper slid down. I felt him unzip it just past my bra strap, and then brush his fingertip against the exposed skin. He growled from behind me and put his hands on my shoulders, squeezing them. Youll be the death of me, Bella. Sorry, I whispered. Frankly, I was impressed with my ability to form a coherent thought, let alone an actual verbalized word. Without turning to look back at him, I thanked him for his help, and padded back to my room. I unzipped my dress the remainder of the way and hung it up in the closet, unhooked my bra and pulled my satin chemise over my head. The cool material was a stark contrast to my hot skin and I climbed into the bed, pulling the covers back on the bed, even more frustrated than I was before I went to the kitchen. What was it about that mans touch that left a trail of fire wherever he touched? Searching for a resolution to my need, I slid my hand between my thighs and let my palm rest atop

my lace panties. They were drenched and hot. I pushed the material to the side and slid my middle finger threw my folds, grazing over my clit and into my pussy. Instinctively, I arched my back and threw my head to the side. I gathered my wetness on my fingers and spread my folds to have better access to my clit, while rolling my nipples over the satin with my free hand. My clit was hard, swollen and aching. I circled it a few times, pinched it, and tapped it. Then I repeated the familiar cycle until I felt the tightening in my belly that warned me I was close to release. I moved my hand from my breast and slipped a finger into my pussy, curling it until I found the rough patch of flesh, all the while continuing my circling, pinching and tapping on my clit. My muscles tightened on my finger for several seconds and my toes pointed hard of their own volition. This moment was my favorite those few seconds before the pulsing starts, when you think your hips are going to explode from the blood pooling near them. Then I saw stars as my muscles tightened and released around my fingers, sending a fresh gush of moisture onto them. When the contractions ceased, I laid there panting and chanting his name over and over in my head. Then I could finally sleep. Saturday morning I awoke and was pleasantly surprised to discover that I wasnt hung over. I ran a hand through my hair, getting out of bed and stretching up on to my tip-toes. And then I remembered. Reaching for him Kissing him Straddling him Wanting him And the thoughts made megiddy. Seriously, I did a little happy dance. Because he wanted me too. He told me. I felt it. I snuck into the bathroom to have a human moment and brush my teeth. When I stepped back into the hall, I heard humming in the kitchen and knew it was Rosalie. I padded into the kitchen to see her, already dressed, standing over the newspaper. When she heard me come in, she raised an eyebrow and gave me a devilish grin. Good morning, Rosalie. Is it, Bella? If it is, you should definitely tell me. My eyes widened at the forwardness of her suggestion. She laughed and came over to put an arm around me. Ah, Bella. Youll fit in so nicely. Youll be good for him. As if on cue, with that last comment, the him in question scuffed into the room, wearing a black wife beater and pajama pants. His hair was a mess and his five oclock shadow was a borderline beard. He rubbed the back of his head and yawned before he fully opened his eyes. He was too sexy, and images of last night flooded my brain, causing me to blush from toe to forehead. Rose casually patted my shoulder and smirked at me before walking over to Edward. She put a hand on his shoulder and kissed his cheek, standing up on her toes. Good morning? Uhm rough evening. But yes, good morning. I frowned. Whatd that mean? Rose walked out of the kitchen and back up the stairs. I turned to face the sink, afraid to look at him. Rough evening? What the hell? As I felt my anger and my embarrassment seep out of my pores, I saw a large hand grab the

marble countertop on either side of my waist. I could feel his breath on my bare shoulder and all of my anger went down the garbage disposal. Before I felt his lips touch my shoulder, I felt the ends of his hair on the nape of my neck, and my eyes fluttered. He placed a soft kiss on my shoulder and moved his lips up to my ear. Morning, Bella, he said huskily. Good morning, Edward. I was shocked I could speak. Did you not sleep well? I was determined to whittle out the meaning behind his statement to Rose. I felt his mouth turn up into a grin against my neck. You could say that. He grazed his nose down and then back up my neck to return to whispering in my ear. And you? Did you have troublefalling asleep? Oh no. He heard me! SHIT! I stood there, chewing on my bottom lip and scrunching my eyes closed. You know because if I couldnt see him, he couldnt see me, right? Yeh. Not so much. He chuckled deeply at my hesitation. That shade of red looks fantastic on you, he said as he took my face in his hand, pulling me to him. He kissed my left cheek and I had to grip the edge of the counter to keep my knees from giving out. He inhaled and back away from me. He went to the counter to get a coffee cup just as Emmett stomped into the kitchen. In my stupor, I must not have heard him come down the stairs. Good Morning, lady and germ. Sleep well? Emmett boomed. Seriously, the man had no inside voice. Frozen, I stared into the sink, unable to turn around. If I tried to move my legs, I knew Id fall to the floor. Not to mention the fact that I was pretty certain my hardened nipples (on account of the nose-grazing) would really stand out in my chemise. So I just squeaked out a demure, Yes, thank you. I heard the sound of someone being smacked and then a few seconds of uncomfortable silence. Alright, Eddie. Chill out. Ill go check on Rose, I heard Emmett sneer at Edward. Then I heard footsteps pounce back up the stairs. Sorry about that. He can be a real pain in the ass sometimes, Edward reassured me. Now, where were we before we were so rudely interrupted? Right. I was about to climax in front of Roses kitchen sink. Got it. Shuffling my feet, I shifted my weight to try to relieve any of the pressure that was building back up again between my legs - I really needed to get a grip. Well, Im going to go hop in the shower and then we can decide where to go from there, k? Oh, I can think of where to go from your shower FOCUS BELLA! Sure thing. I need to get cleaned up too.

When I turned to look at him, his eyes were pitch black. I recognized that look. That look was pure, unadulterated lust. I liked it. Before I could let my eyes travel further south, Edward spun on his heel and shot down the hall to the bathroom, slamming the door behind him. I grinned, proud of myself - I did that to him. I leaned over the island, reading the newspaper Rosalie left behind, humming Goldfrapp to myself and dancing in place. Honestly, with the way Edward just looked at me, I couldve floated back home on my own little cloud. After a few minutes, I headed back down the hall to my room to gather up my toiletries and clothes. I heard the bathroom door open and I picked up my stuff to go shower. I was a little surprised that, considering how long Edward had been in the shower, the mirror wasnt steamed up. As I stood at the vanity, pondering, he came up behind me. Droplets of water were hanging on the ends of his bronze hair and running down his neck and onto his chiseled chest. As I watched this in the mirror, I wanted to turn around and lick them off. Whats the confused look for, Bella? What? Oh. I was just wondering why the mirror wasnt all steamed up. He rubbed the back of his neck and said, Yeah.Well, the water was a little cold this morning. He snickered at me and reached beside me to grab his brush. As he leaned over to reach it, I realized he was wearing only a towel. Fuck me. Now. Thats an order, Private! When I opened my eyes again, he was gone. I turned on the shower, putting the dial all the way over to hot to try to get what hot water may be left. Then I stuck my hand under the water, expecting it to be tepid. It was scalding, and I jerked my hand back and turned down the faucet. There doesnt seem to be a problem with the hot water now. After a relaxing shower I changed into my clothes for the day jeans and a fitted v-neck t-shirt. I combed through my hair after towel-drying it and put heat protector oil on the ends. I blow-dried it, straightening it with my round brush, as was my usual morning ritual. It was so long and thick now that this seemed like it took forever. By the time it was dry, I was feeling a little hot, and I swiped on a bit of cherry chap stick after I brushed my teeth. Finally dressed, I opened the bathroom door to let some of the warm air out, then bent over to brush my hair out into a pony tail. When I stood up, Edward was standing in the hallway in front of the door, his weight on one foot, and his hands on either side of the door frame. He was in a plain white t-shirt and jeans. No shoes. Enjoy the show? I joked, lightly smacking his chest with my hair brush. Immensely. I laughed at his lack of a filter. Just let me know when youre ready to head on home, okay? All I need to do is say goodbye to Carly before we leave. I hadnt thought about how I would get home. Or rather, thought of the implications associated with how Id get home. Of course Edward would take me. But the thought of being alone with him in his car, after last night, was a bit overwhelming. Oh, I sighed. Just let me re-pack and Ill be ready to go. I turned my back to him to slide on my ballet flats as I heard him walk away into his room for a moment and then I heard him back at the door. Just sit your bags out in the kitchen and Ill load up the car, he said. He had his bags on his

shoulders. I turned around to tell him okay, and saw he had put on boots and sunglasses. Man alive, that man could make sunglasses look like sex. Walking back to my room, I stripped the bed and carried the sheets and my towel down to the laundry room, threw them into the washer, and went into Edwards room to do the same to his sheets. I measured out the detergent and started the load. Edward, dont worry about the linens Ill get them later, I heard Rosalie shout down the stairs when she heard the water run. Its me, Rose. Oh, Bella, you dont have to do that! Its okay. I dont mind. I really appreciate your letting me stay with you. You have a beautiful home and family. She reached out to squeeze my hand. Bella, youre welcome any time with or without my lug head of a brother. Thanks Rose. Well, Id better finish packing up. Were going to head on back home once Edward has a chance to see Carly. Is she back from Emilys yet? Em went to go get her. They should be back in a few minutes. He really does adore her, doesnt he? Emmett? No, I said, shaking my head. I mean, of course Emmett adores her. I was talking about Edward. She smiled and said, Yes. Hell protest to you that he doesnt like kids, but shes had him wrapped around her pinky finger from the first time he saw her. Thats really sweet. Yes. Hes really sweet, Bella. Underneath. Give him a chance, she pleaded with her eyes. I dont know what you mean, Rosalie. Hes my boss. Bella, she chastised. Dont give me that. You two have chemistry. I see it. Em sees it. Hell, even Jasper and Alice see it. Dont deny it. And he doesnt think of himself as your boss. He sees you as his equal, okay? Yes, Rosalie. Thank you againfor your hospitality. I gave her a small hug and headed back to my room to finish packing up. *** EPOV I couldnt fall asleep for a few hours after hearing Bella chanting my name huskily on the other side of the wall. My raging hard-on was ridiculous, despite multiple attempts to tame it. When I eventually did fall asleep, the images of the evening crept into my dreams all night long. Saturday morning I awoke in a haze and stumbled down the hall to the kitchen for some muchneeded coffee. Rose was already in the kitchen, dressed for the day. Geez, having a kid must ruin your ability to sleep in at all. She came up to me and kissed my cheek, asking if I was having a good morning. I told her the evening had been rough, but the morning was good. Good, because standing at the sink, with her back to me, was Bella in a beautiful satin chemise. The thin straps

left her shoulders bare, and it came to just above her knees. Rose squeezed my shoulder and winked at me before heading upstairs. I knew she was intentionally leaving me alone with Bella after last night, so I walked up behind her and placed my hands on the countertop, on either side of her hips. I leaned in and inhaled her and moved to place a light trail of kisses from her shoulder to the spot right behind her ear. I saw her eyes flutter and she swayed a bit. Perfect. She does that for me. Morning, Bella, I said into her ear quietly. I didnt know if shed have a headache after last night. I hoped not I had made sure she drank all the water and took the aspirin. But more than that, I didnt want her to regret anything we had done. Good morning, Edward, she replied, her voice tense. Did you not sleep well? I couldnt stifle the grin as I thought about why I had such a hard time falling asleep. You could say that, I said as I slowly brushed my nose down her slender neck and then back up to her ear. Although I didnt want to embarrass her, part of me wanted her to know that it was her noises that had kept me up, and how much I loved it. Loved her. I had to phrase my words carefully, And you? Did you have trouble Careful, Cullen, falling asleep? She immediately blushed that fabulous shade and started gnawing on her bottom lip so hard that I thought shed bite it off. Yep. She knew I knew, alright. I couldnt help it I loved her reaction. The fact that she remembered it meant she probably remembered everything else too. And the fact that she hadnt thrown coffee in my face was a good sign she wasnt pissed at me, right? Trying to convey to her that I didnt regret what we had done, either, I kissed her cheek. How could I regret it? I had only fanaticized about it well, okay, much more than it for twelve fucking years! She swayed again and gripped the edge of the counter to support herself. Fascinating. Emmett thundered down the stairs, so I moved to the cabinet to get a coffee mug. Bella must not have heard him coming, because she stood there like her feet were super-glued to the floor. Good Morning, lady and germ, he boomed. Sleep well? His tone held an insinuating inflection and he wiggled his eyebrows at me. Bella whispered a response that I couldnt even make out. Apparently, this was all the confirmation Emmett needed that Bella and I had gone further last night, because he slapped my shoulder, giving me a thumbs up and mouthing, Alright bro! to me. Shut the fuck up, you ape! I mouthed back at him, Shut up! Alright, Eddie, he said, putting up his palms in mock-surrender and backing up. Chill out. Ill go check on Rose. Once he was gone, I apologized to Bella for Emmetts Neanderthal behavior and told her wed talk about the plans to head back home once I got out of the shower. I took in her still form, standing at the sink, obviously still a little out-of-it. Again, the thought that I did that to her made every cell in my body fill with lust. I felt my cock begin to rise to the occasion when she turned around and said, Sure thing. I need to get cleaned up too. When she looked at me, I noticed her eyes were heavy and her mouth didnt quite close after she spoke. I recognized that look. That look was

pure, unadulterated lust. I liked it. Before I would have no other choice but to carry her off, caveman-style, I shot down the hall to the bathroom and slammed the door behind me. Once inside I stripped and turned on the shower. No use in turning the dial all the way this morning definitely called for a cold shower. I quickly washed up and dried off, wrapping the towel around my waist. Anxious to be near her again, I walked down the hall to my room to pick out my clothes. I laid a pair of jeans and a t-shirt on the bed, but I couldnt find my brush. I thought I left it on the bathroom vanity. Apparently, in the short time it had taken me to walk from the bathroom to my room and gather my clothes, Bella had moved on into the bathroom to take her shower. When I got to the doorway to get my brush, she was staring at the mirror, a confused look on her face. She was adorable when she was deep in thought. Whats the confused look for, Bella? I asked. She snapped out of it. What? Oh. I was just wondering why the mirror wasnt all steamed up. She had found me out. So now were even. Yeah, I said, smirking. The waterwasa little cold this morning. I reached around her to grab my brush and I saw her look at me out of the corner of her eye. She immediately scrunched them up again, and I watched her lips move infinitesimally as she silently mouthed, Fuck me. Before I actually took her up on her invitation, I quickly headed back to my room to get dressed. I re-packed for the ride home and set my bags by the bedroom door. I knew Bella wasnt packed up yet I could see that her things were still unpacked last night when I was in her room. In her bed So not helping. How in the world was I going to make it all the way home in the car with her surrounded by and drowning in her sweet scent? Bellas hair dryer hummed in the bathroom, and I was a little disappointed that she didnt leave it damp and curly like the previous morning. I vowed to myself to wet it myself in the future and run my fingers through the curls. The bathroom door opened, but Bella didnt come out, so I decided to go investigate. As I walked by the bathroom, I glanced in. She was standing there, bent over at the waist brushing her long, thick hair into a pony tail. Now, why is that so sexy? Damn. I leaned onto the doorframe to hold myself back from going up behind her and grabbing her tiny waist. She slipped the elastic band over the ponytail and stood up, instantly meeting my eyes. She cocked a wicked eye brow, and said, Enjoy the show? Vixen. Immensely, I admitted. There was no use hiding it - I had no desire to hide it. But we did need to get moving if I was going to have time to put my plan in place once we got home. I told her to let me know when she was ready to go, but that I wanted to say bye to Carly first. She responded that all she needed to do was pack and shed be ready to go. Ready to get moving, I returned to my room, threw my bags over my shoulder and put on my sunglasses to head out to load the trunk. I stopped by the bathroom and told Bella to leave her bags in the kitchen and I would load them. After I put my bags in the trunk of the Volvo, I went ahead and shut it, since I didnt know how

long it would take Bella to pack. When I got back in the house, I heard Bella and Rose talking in the laundry room. I was curious why Bella would be in the laundry room. When I got to my bedroom to find that my bed had been stripped, it became clear. Bella had stripped myand yes, her bed too and started the laundry. The domesticity touched me (but not in a caveman-kind of way), but more than that, I was proud that she was trying to help Rose. And then I thought about Bella being comfortable enough to come into my room and strip my bed. The words Bella and my bed in the same sentence made my stomach tense up and I was suddenly very nervous. Just stick to the plan, Cullen. Stick to the plan.

Chapter 13
EPOV OK. So I had a plan. The plan went something like this: Step 1 Spend two hours in the car driving Bella home, learning what she has been doing for the past eight years. Step 2 Invite her to my house for dinner. Step 3 Cook said dinner with Bella. Enjoy the feeling of working alongside her on something that didnt have to do with employee handbooks or real estate contracts. Step 4 Eat said dinner. Watch Bellas mouth on the tines of the fork. Step 5 Fight inevitable hard-on that would result from Step 4. Step 6 Sit Bella down and confess that I was Masen, that I loved her, and have always loved her. Step 7 Bask in the love and acceptance that Bella would bestow on me after roughly thirty seconds of her being royally pissed. Step 8 Live happily ever after. So that was the plan. Simple enough. But nothing ever goes according to plan, does it? Course not. Because I am an ass. After we were all packed and I spent a few minutes with Carly, we got on the road home. I was really touched at the fact that Bella hugged both Emmett and Rosalie when we left, and that Carly jumped into her arms and gave her a kiss. It just reaffirmed my hopes that The Plan would work. As we got onto I-5, I turned down the radio, put the car on cruise control and glanced over to Bella, who was staring out the window. Favorite book? She startled from her daydream. Huh?

I asked whats your favorite book? I figure we have a couple of hours here, we may as well learn a little more about each other Oh. Right. Pride and Prejudice. I wouldve guessed that. It had been her favorite since her sophomore year. Why? Oops. I snooped through your book collection at your condo. It wasnt a lie it just wasnt the whole truth. I omitted the fact that I already knew that she had been through three copies of the book in four years because she dog-eared the pages and wrote on them. You? she asked. Well, I prefer Persuasion, actually. Your favorite book cannot be an Austen. Its not my favorite book - I just prefer it to the impossible Mr. Darcy. Youre bordering on pissing me off, she teased. I knew better than to broach this subject, but I did so love to see her just a little mad. Just a little. But seriously, its To Kill a Mockingbird. Favorite song? I countered. Depends on the mood Im in. Well Lets say yourestressed out, I proposed. Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, 18th Variation, she answered. Knew that one. If youre sad? I Cant Make You Love Me by Bonnie Raitt, she said, frowning and looking out the window. Ouch. Hmm. What if youre extremely happy? I asked. She grinned. Greased Lightning. She laughed at herself and covered her face with her hands. Thats a dirty song, Bella Marie! I scolded her. But I couldnt help laughing along with her. Her laugh was infectious. But as soon as I spoke, her laughing abruptly stopped. Edward? Uhm-hum. How do you know my middle name? Shit. Think fast, Cullen. I think it was on one of your degrees in your office? Please let it be on one of her degrees. No. Its not, she replied quickly. Hmmm. Lucky guess then, I suppose. Please dont let her turn this around on me. Not yet. Oh. Your turn. Favorite song? she asked. I heaved a sigh of relief and hoped it came across as contemplative.

I guess Ive never really thought about it. I like all types of music, really. Lets say youre frustrated. she proposed. Go Your Own Way, I said off-the-cuff. I had listened to it over and over as I tried to resolve to forget her eight years prior. Ah, Fleetwood Mac. I like them a lot. But thats a very.angry song. Yes. Yes it is. Note to self, she teased. Dont piss Edward off. Could never happen, Bella. Favorite movie? I asked. Oh, When Harry Met Sally, without a doubt. Great movie, I said, nodding to her. Great soundtrack. I started singing the opening lines to It Had to Be You to her, and was rewarded with her giggles and a blush. But an interesting premise, really. Are you more of a Harry, or a Sally? What do you mean? she asked. Well, Harrys theory is that men and women can never truly be friends because, well, our libido gets in the way. Do you agree with that? She scrunched up her nose and twiddled her thumbs. Yes. I think thats true. Really? But you said this Jake guy is your best friend, right? She nodded. But if you think Harry is right, then Jake cant really be your best friend because he would I stopped dead in my tracks when I noticed she was staring out the window and ringing her hands. Oh. OH. Son of a bitch! My mind reeled with the thought that she and Jake had been more than just friends at one time. I felt bile rise in my throat just like I had that day in her condo when I saw their pictures. Jake and I tried the dating thing in high school, she confessed. Went to prom together actually. But it didnt work out. Were better as friends and havent given anything further a second thought in ages. Immediately I recalled her letters complaining about her prom date that he was too handsy and she didnt want to do that with him. I saw red and vowed to myself to cut Jakes dick off with a wooden spoon if I was ever forced to meet him. We sat in silence for a few minutes while I tried to calm myself down. Of the two of us, I didnt know which one of us was more uncomfortable. But if I had to be honest with myself, I had to admit that I wasnt being the least bit fair. Lord knows Ive done my share of dating. And I knew that Bella had dated guys in high school and college. But Im not an honest person. If I was, Step 6 of The Plan would have happened weeks ago. Sowhat are your plans for the rest of the weekend? she pensively asked. She was trying to smooth things over I could tell by her tone. Oh, I dont know, I lied. Why dont I just ask her over? Oh, probably because even I can see that

I still have a white-knuckle grip on the steering wheel at the thought of someone elses hands on my Bella. You? I have some things to get caught up on. Emails, bills, put some more things away from the move. I really need to just get it done. Im getting tired of piles of stuff all over the condo. She sounded determined. A little disappointed, I said, I guess Ill probably go in to the office to see what happened this week while I was gone. Go through mail and all. She shook her head. Favorite junk food? she asked. I grinned, grateful that she was obviously trying to lighten the mood again. Thats an easy one. Cotton candy. Absolutely, she agreed, laughing. Two hours and many rounds of Twenty Questions later, I dropped her off at her condo and carried her bags up for her. Before I left, I gave her a chaste kiss and told her Id call her later. Then on my way home, I pulled up her number six times on my cell and contemplated hitting send. I couldnt help it. I had so much catching up to do, and being the selfish bastard I am, I wanted to cram as much in before I dropped the bomb. Because, despite that I had a Step 7 to The Plan, that was the step that was completely out of my control. I stopped at the grocers on the way to pick up some things to cook up for dinner, which would give me something to occupy my time until I could call her without seeming like a complete stalker. Besides, I rationalized with myself, she has things she needs to do at home, and shes always been a this is my dance space, this is your dance space kind of girl. Which is why, at six-twenty, I was surprised to see her on my beach. It was still sunny and hot out, and she was wading in the surf in denim cut-offs and a blue bikini top. Talk about dj vu. She had on a ridiculous floppy hat to keep the sun off her face. It was adorable. A plan forming in my head, I put Ben out in the garage. I promise ten pieces of bacon, big man, I told him. I just need a little bit of time here, k? Ben crooked his head at me and went out in the garage. Hes such a team player. I opened the patio door and strode onto the beach. Overhead, the planes from the base flew low to come in and land. She bent her head up to see them, holding her hat in place on her head as she did so. Because of the roar of the engines, she didnt hear me wade up behind her. Slipping my arms around her tiny waist, I said into her ear, Hello, beautiful. Although she jumped a bit at my touch, she quickly leaned back into me and my face was hit with the rim of her hat. I took it off and kissed the top of her head before resting my chin there. I thought you were going in to the office, she said. Her body was warm I could feel it through my shirt. The skin of her abdomen was as soft as satin, and her belly was flat and toned. This was the first time I had touchedwellso much of her naked skin. It was exhilarating. Unable to control my own movements, I greedily kissed her exposed shoulder, and admitted, Hmm... I was going to, but I changed my mind. I kissed the spot where I could see her pulse throbbing, and was encouraged to see goose bumps immediately pop up. Good thing, too. I wouldve missed you here on my beach. She squeezed my arms around her. How long have you been here? Not long. About half an hour.

Did you get your chores done at home? Immediately I regretted my word choice like she was a child who had to do household chores. To my surprise, she laughed. Yep. All unpacked. Im here for good now, she joked, so youre stuck with me. Stuck with her? Id be fucking elated to be stuck with her. That wasnt the issue. The issue is would she stay with me once she knew what I had been hiding? Promise? I asked tentatively. She turned around in my arms and answered me with a kiss. Its a sign. Optimistic much? Yes. See Step 7. I deepened the kiss, seeking her tongue with mine. She moaned in my mouth. Come on. I want to show you my place. I took her hand and led her back up the sand to my deck to hose off our feet before we went inside. She laid her flip-flops by the back door and I offered to cook us some supper. She agreed to stay, so long as it wasnt fish. Then again, I already knew that. Step 3. Check. How can I help? she asked. I motioned to the silverware drawer and asked her to cut up the vegetables for our stir-fry as I spooned some butter in the pan for the chicken and diced up the meat. She stood at the island with her back to me, chopping the vegetables. I reveled in the feeling of her here in my home, working alongside me. She just fit. When she was done, she washed her hands and sat up on the countertop near the stove. Her placement was too much of a temptation to resist, and I positioned myself in between her knees. Her full breasts were level with my shoulders, and I could see her nipples harden under the material of her bikini when I leaned in and let my breath fall on her chest. Take it slow, Cullen. I leaned in and kissed her on the tip of her nose. It was cold. Shes probably freezing. I was in a quandary be the gentleman and offer her a sweatshirt, or enjoy the view? What to do? What to do? Stall. I like you in my house, Bella. I like being in your house, Edward. The sentiment touched my cold heart, and she made the rest of me melt like the butter in the pan when she tenderly ran her fingers through my hair. I could stay right hereforever. Edward? Im a little chilly. Do you mind if I borrow a shirt to slip on? Well, theres the answer to that question. I helped her down from her perch on the countertop and directed her up to my closet to get a shirt. Thanks, she said as she started walking toward the steps. When I heard the closet door open, I hollered, Find one? Yep. Enjoying the idea of Bella in my home, comfortably snuggled up on my couch in my shirt after

dinner, I smiled to myself. Hey Edward? I stirred the chicken once more, turned off the burner and got out the wok. There were some crumbs in it from the nearby toaster, so I splashed some water in it. Yeah? Did you know the pipes on your shelves were made in my hometown? Of course I knew. It was one of the first things she told me about her hometown. They had an old factory that made the corn-cob pipes. I had been collecting them at estate sales and antique shops ever since, just to have a little piece of her near me. Really? Thats ironic. I laughed. Then I felt all the blood drain to my toes. If she found the pipes, shell find Oh, no. Not yet! Not like this! I dropped the spatula on the counter and ran for the steps, but when I heard one of the pipes hit the floor and heard Bella gasp, I knew I was too late. Bella stood at the top of the stairs, one hand on the rail, shaking. And in her other hand she held the rabbit. I stopped dead in my tracks. From where I was, four steps up, I could see the tears welling in her eyes. I held out a hand to stop her, afraid she would fall down the steps. Bella Edward, she croaked out. She was trying so hard not to cry, and she was clutching the rabbit. What does the M stand for on your door plate? I sighed, so full of fear I could actually hear my own heart beating in my ears. Say it, she ordered, her voice tense and cold. Masen. She dropped to the floor, her hand sliding off the handrail. The tears came full-force down her cheeks and I tentatively made my way up the stairs toward her. I have to explain. Bella, please let me explain I whispered begged. She shook her head as she got up. No. She walked past me, grabbed her shoes by the door and ran out, slamming the door, still clutching the damn rabbit. I couldnt move, couldnt breathe. This is what you deserve. You were putting off the inevitable. You won her back, only to push her away again. For what seemed like forever, I just I sat there on the stairs. The chicken went cold. The sun went down. The beach traffic dwindled down to a dozen people couples mostly, just walking the beach. Eventually I got up, went to the kitchen and dumped the cooked chicken into Bens bowl, unable to even thing about eating. I let him in from the garage. He crept in, like he was depressed, too. I fucked it up, I told him, ringing my hair in my hands. He went to the patio doors and laid down, his head on his front paws, staring at the beach. You have no appetite either, boy? He arched

an eyebrow at me and sighed. I stepped over him and went out onto the deck. Watching the couples, most hand-in-hand, I was tortured. Ill never have that - and its my own fucking fault. My face in my hands, I sat down on the end of the chaise lounge and rubbed my eyes until they hurt, trying to keep the tears that were forming from spilling out. I had never cried a day in my adult life. Never. But I would cry a million buckets full of tears just for five minutes with herto explain. The phone rang four rings inside the house. The click of the machine picked up. The caller hung up. Good. Im in no mood to talk to anyone. It rang again. Same story. Whoever it was hung up again. Fuck them. By the third time, I was annoyed. I went in to pick it up, not even bothering to look at the caller ID. I picked it up, but didnt say anything. The caller breathed on the other side of the line. Edward? *** BPOV The ride home from LA was interesting. What started off as a fun game of Twenty Questions (because I hadnt been through that enough already), turned a bit sour when we talked about our favorite movies. In telling him that I agreed with Harry from When Harry Met Sally - that men and women cannot be platonic friends - I walked right into a landmine. Of course, I had already told him that Jake was my best friend. But my agreement with Harrys theory was practically an admission that, although Jake and I were just friends now, we hadnt always been that way. Jake had taken me to prom and practically begged me to have sex with him. Said he didnt want to graduate still a virgin. Pa-leez. Thats when I knew Jake and I wouldnt work, because I couldnt even kiss him without feeling like I was kissing my brother. The thought of doing more with him left me feeling icky. Not that Jakes not handsome - he is. In fact, hes hot. But I just never wanted that from him. I thought of explaining all of this to Edward, but I could tell he wasnt in the mood to hear it. He clenched his jaw and practically bent the steering wheel from grabbing it so hard, speeding up to over eighty miles an hour. Determined, I tried to snap him out of it by asking about his weekend plans, but that didnt seem to help. He actually looked disappointed when I told him about my boring Saturday evening plans. And truthfully, I was disappointed he didnt suggest an alternative. My body was a live wire after the last two days with him and I swore I was going to spontaneously combust if I had to go a whole two days without being around him. The mood in the car eventually lightened up, and by the time Edward dropped me off at my condo, he actually seemed relaxed. He kissed me on the cheek after he brought my bags up for

me and told me hed talk to me the next day. That afternoon, I did as I told him I would do, checking and returning emails, paying bills. I even finished putting away everything from my move, but I was still restless. Figuring that I wouldnt hear from him or see him that evening because he said he was going to go into the office, I decided to go to the beach. It was very warm out, so I threw on my blue bikini top and a pair of denim cut-offs. On my way out the door I grabbed my straw hat, remembering Edwards admonishment about sun safety. I didnt bother taking my iPod or a book, deciding to just hear and see the waves. I found a parking space down the street from Edwards house, near a hotel and made my way down to the beach. When I reached the sand I took off my flip-flops so I could walk more easily. For being such a nice day, it wasnt very crowded. I walked about a quarter-mile down from the hotel, toward Edwards house and was a little sad that he wouldnt be home to join me. As I stood along the edge of the water, just far enough in so that it came up to my mid-calves, planes from the nearby base flew overhead and I craned my neck to watch them. As I did, I felt a pair of warm arms wrap around my waist from behind and I gasped in surprise. Hello, beautiful, I heard Edward coo in my ear. My body immediately reacted to him, and I leaned back in to his chest. He removed my floppy hat and kissed the top of my head. I thought you were going in to the office? I asked. He brushed my hair to one shoulder, and placed a soft kiss on the other shoulder. Hmm. I was going to, but I changed my mind. He kissed my pulse point on my neck. I felt the goose bumps rise in its wake. Good thing, too. I wouldve missed you here on my beach. I couldnt speak, so I just mumbled Umm-hum, as I lightly squeezed his muscular forearms wrapped around me. How long have you been here? he asked. Not long. About half an hour. Did you get your chores done at home? I chuckled at his domestic word choice. Yep. All unpacked. Im here for good now, so youre stuck with me. Behind me, his body stiffened, but not in the good way. Promise? he murmured in a dark tone. When I spun around to look at him his brow was furrowed. I took his face in my hands and gave him a light kiss, wordlessly answering him. He tightened his arms around my waist and drew me in for a deeper kiss, grabbing my face and rubbing his thumbs along my cheekbones. His tongue brushed over my lip, and I opened my mouth to him. He let it drag along my teeth, pulling my tongue into his mouth. Oh. My. God. Hey everybody!! Look at me!! This hot guy here? Yeah, hes kissing ME. When he finally withdrew from the kiss, I was left standing there, breathless and dizzy. When I opened my eyes, he was grinning his cocky, sexy crooked grin. Come on, he ordered, taking my hand and walking. I want to show you my place. Yes and sir. When we got up to his deck, he hosed the sand off his feet and then did the same to mine. He touched my ankle to lift my foot off the deck floor, and I had to hold onto his shoulder to keep from falling and he chuckled at my clumsiness. When he was done with my second foot, instead

of just letting it go, he slowly ran his fingertips up my calf and I thought I was going to explode. Every touch from this man had my hormones doing summersaults. Hungry? he asked as he filled up a bowl for Ben and then put the hose away. I looked at my watch. It was six thirty - suppertime. I hadnt even noticed. Sure. Come on in. Ill fix some supper. You picky? Not really. Just no seafood, I responded. He smiled. Bella, you move to a coast city and wont eat seafood? The thought of slimy fish caused me to involuntarily wrinkle my nose. If I didnt want them touching me when I was in the ocean, I sure as hell didnt want them in my stomach. He laughed, and I assumed that my facial expression was answer enough. He went to the refrigerator and pulled out a package of chicken, butter and vegetables. Stir fry? he asked. Sure. How can I help? He set the vegetables down on the island and pointed to a drawer. You can cut up the veggies. Knives are in there. The butter crackled in the pan and the chicken Edward diced up and threw in the pan began to cook. My back was to him as I cut up the vegetables. When I was done, I washed my hands at the sink as Edward got a bottle of soy sauce from the refrigerator. I sat myself up on his counter, my feet dangling as I watched him cook. As the chicken cooked, he walked up to me and spread my knees to stand in front of me. He placed his palms on the counter on either side of me and leaned in. His face was mere inches from mine, and he leaned a little further to kiss the tip of my nose. I like you in my house, Bella. He didnt back away. I like being in your house, Edward. I ran my fingers through his hair with one hand, lightly scratching his scalp. He closed his eyes, looking completely relaxed. Edward? He didnt open his eyes, but just hummed an uhm-hum at me. Im a little chilly. I didnt bring a shirt or a jacket with me, so I was still in my bikini top. Aside from being cold, I felt severely underdressed. Do you mind if I borrow a shirt to slip on? He grinned and opened his eyes. He helped me hop off the counter. Up the stairs. Closets the second door on the right, he directed as he turned back to tend to the chicken. Thanks, I said as I made my way through the living room, noticing a beautiful mahogany Young Chang baby grand piano sitting in the corner of the living room. I continued up the stairs to the second door. As I opened the closet door, I understood why Alice fit in so well with the family. His closet was huge, very neat and organized. His shoes were lined up alongside one wall. His suits all hung together and, like his dress shirts, were grouped by color. So, looks like Im not the only OCD person in the room. Find one? I heard Edward holler up at me from downstairs. I grabbed the first shirt I touched one of his white button-down long-sleeved dress shirts. I put it on and rolled up the sleeves. Yep.

I turned off the closet light, shut the door, and took a look around his bedroom from the corner of the room. There was a fabulous mission-style Queen-sized oak bed, a small night table and a dresser. Along the wall abutting the closet were built-in floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in the same wood. Curious, I walked over to stand in front of the first set of shelves, reading the spines of his books. We had many of the same ones, including Persuasion. He had various family pictures candids and professional ones set back into the shelves among the books. The second set of shelves held a massive music collection. He had well over a hundred LPs all in mint condition. Zeppelin, The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac. He also had several hundred CDs. All alphabetically organized. A man after my own heart. The third set of shelves held more books, but also had little collectibles. He had several sea shells on the bottom shelf, and the shelf above it had half a dozen corn-cob pipes. Hey Edward? I shouted down to him as I picked up one of the pipes. Sure enough, my hometowns name was stamped on the bottom. Yeah? he hollered back. I could hear the chicken still sizzling and the water running. Did you know the pipes on your shelves were made in my hometown? Really? he shouted back. Thats ironic. I laughed as I sat the pipe back in its spot. Then I froze. There, sitting on the top shelf was a little stuffed bunny - wearing a St. Louis t-shirt. To be honest, the next few minutes will forever be a complete hazy mess in my head. I dont remember much of what happened after I saw the bunny. I just remember seeing Edward bound up the stairs toward me, and then stop. I remember asking him what his middle initial stood for, and I remember that he went as white as a vampire when he whispered, Masen. The next thing I knew, I was in my truck racing back to my condo. I had thrown the bunny on the dash when I got in, and he rolled around as I took the curves too fast. Then I was in my condo, on the floor, clutching the bunny and sobbing. It was him. He was here, and he wanted mestill. And just then, just when I thought my heart would burst for all of the love I had for him so many years ago, for realizing he hadnt rejected me, for the relief, for the knowledge that he kept my present all these years in his room where he could look at it, that he collected the pipes and put them near him just then I was pissed. Not the kind of pissed I was when I lost a case. Not the kind of pissed I was when the movers dropped my mothers favorite lamp. A whole other kind of pissed the kind that makes you see red and grit your teeth until your head hurts. Who the FUCK does he think he is, hiding this from me? Is THIS why I got the job? Is THIS why I moved my whole fucking life half-way across the country?

Why didnt he tell me right away? But then the questions took on a different form, and the anger another direction. Why didnt I recognize him? He has the same eyes The same smile.. The same sweet smell.... How can I sit here and say that I loved him when I dont even realize when hes standing right in front of me? When hes trying to win me? When his whole fucking family is trying to put us together? How can I even think I deserve this second chance when I dont even see it for what it is? There in my living room, I sat on that floor in the fetal position, holding that damn bunny, until I was all cried out. Until the sun had set and the street lights down below had turned on. Picking myself up from the floor, I decided. It didnt matter. I didnt care why he did what he did. I just knew I couldnt lose him again. Standing up, I wiped my tear-stained cheeks with my sleeve - his sleeve and inhaled the smell of the shirt. Yes, thats him. My Masen. How did I not know this? Slamming the door behind me, I ran out of my condo and punched the elevator button. I paced in front of it, cursing it until it finally arrived and the doors opened. I hit the button for the garage frantically and repeatedly until the doors closed, and prayed that there were no other tenants who needed a ride in the lower 29 floors. The doors didnt open until I got to the garage. Its a sign. When I got to my truck I realized that in my haze when I arrived, I had taken up two parking spaces and actually hit the concrete wall a bit. Oh well. Fuck it. I have places to go. Itll keep. Jumping into the seat, I turned the ignition and the old engine roared to life. I sped out of the garage and headed back onto Highway 75 to the Island. Mercifully, I hit every light just right. Another sign. Panicked, I pulled into the first empty spot on the street that I saw, slammed the door and started running for his house. I mustve looked like a crazy woman crying, carrying a stuffed rabbit, running in flip-flops in a too-big man's shirt. Fuck em. As I ran, I grabbed my phone out of my pocket, pulled up his number and hit send.

Please pick up. Please pick up. It rang until the machine picked up. Fuck! I yelled as I closed the phone. A few steps later, I tried again, but the machine still picked up. Come on! Pick up, please! I shouted at my phone as I hit end, getting closer to his house, just a few more feet to go. I tried calling one last time. He picked up, but he didnt say anything, causing me to stop dead in my tracks on the sidewalk. Edward? Silence. The faint sound of his breathing was barely audible on the line. Edward Masen Cullen! I cried. Bella he sighed into the phone. Edward, I said between panting breaths. Now that I knew he was home, I started back up again toward his house, walking the last few steps to his front door. As I looked through the window in the door, I could see the outline of his lean frame. He was standing in the kitchen, leaning his forehead against the wall, his free hand clenched into a fist up above his head and against the wall. Even from this distance, I could see it. He was broken. Edward? Im here Bella, he choked. Edward Ive gotten myself lost.

Chapter 14
EPOV When I heard her voice on the end of the line, I couldnt speak. So she cried out to me I could barely manage whisper her name. A lump formed in my throat and I didnt even try to stop the tears that slid down my cheek and onto the floor. Im here Bella. Edward, Ive gotten myself lost. What? She left in such a state of upset that I should not have been surprised it was entirely possible that she had taken a wrong turn and wound up in Mexico. If I were in any other frame of mind, I would have found it humorous. But all I felt was relief at hearing her voice. Dumbass. Of course shed call you she doesnt know anyone elses home numbers. Thats all it is. Dont get your hopes up. Swallowing hard, I braced myself to talk to her. Itll be ok. Well get you back home safe. Another hard swallow. You need to tell me whats around you so I can figure out where you are. She made a humph noise on the other end of the line. Well, Im on a residential street. Beautiful houses. Near the ocean she trailed off. Do you know the name of the street youre on? She was breathing heavily, as if she had been running. Wait youre not out of your truck are you, Bella? Im fine, Edward, she snapped back. Just then, Ben bounded for the front door, barking. His bark came through the phone next to my ear, muffled.

It cant be As I strode to the door, I felt my palms start to sweat and my heart pound in my chest. I threw open the door. By the grace of God, she was standing on my doorstep. Her cheeks were stained with her tear tracks and she had obviously been running her hair was all askew and she was panting. She had her phone up to her ear, and slowly closed it, never letting her eyes leave mine. I would have killed at that moment just to be able to read her mind. Tentatively, I stepped down onto the front porch, afraid to make any sudden movements that might cause her to run again. Ben stood by the door at my feet, his tail wagging so hard against the floor it sounded like he was stomping. Reaching out to her slowly, I started, BellaIIm so Shhhh, she interrupted. She took the step toward me to close the distance between us, putting her fingers up to my lips to quiet me. When she was satisfied I wasnt going to speak, her tiny hand slid from my face, down my chest and around my waist. She wrapped her arms around me and held me tight, nuzzling her face into my chest. She was crying again, but it had a slight hint of laughter in it. Once her gesture soaked in, I enveloped her in my arms and exhaled a breath I didnt even know I had been holding, kissed her hair, and whispered, Thank you. I was thanking God, Bella, anyone who would stop and listen Thank you for bringing her back. We stood there just holding each other silently for what seemed like an eternity. Eventually, she looked up at me with those huge brown eyes and smiled at me. My heart ached for her, and I knew that I would spend the rest of my life trying to deserve this second chance she had given me. Bella led me into my kitchen and, after looking into my eyes with such intensity that I had to close them, placed soft kisses across my face. The feeling was overwhelming, and I held her hands to my chest and sighed her name. She tried to get me to be quiet, but I knew what I had to do and I wouldnt let her stop me. No Bella, you have to let me say this. She visibly tensed, awaiting my explanation. I had none - no excuses, nothing that should warrant her forgiveness. But I had to let her know that my motivation was only my love for her. I have loved you, consistently, for nearly half of my life, I told her. It was true even when I was an ass to her, I loved her and I always would. At my words, she looked up at me through thick, wet lashes. I continued, And I will for the rest of it. To my amazement, she jumped up into my arms and wrapped her legs around me, enveloping me. Relief washed over me and I laughed at her child-like reaction, grabbing her body under her rear end. She kissed my mouth fervently. There was nothing child-like about that. It was certainly not the reaction I had anticipated much less deserved. How can she accept me after what I have done to her? Because shes an angel. Feeling overwhelmed, I needed to lighten the intense emotions I was feeling, and I told her, I was all braced for the wrath that would put grizzlies to shame, and this is what I get? She playfully bit my bottom lip and said, I gave the grizzlies the night off. Her implication was not lost on me. She was willing to give me this time, but I was not going to get away without an explanation, and probably a serious ass-chewing. But you didnt fire them, did you?

She shook her head. No, I didnt. But you can deal with them later. I nodded. I deserved that. No, I deserved so much worse than that. Thats fair. She was angry as she had every right to be but she was here. Because I am a selfish bastard, I wanted to know why. So. Who am I dealing with tonight? I dragged the tip of my nose along her jaw line and felt her body quiver against mine. I wasnt playing fair and I knew it. But because she has always been able to best me, she called me on it. She still didnt explain why she was back and wrapped around me - although I could begin to get the picture as I felt the heat of her center against my waist. She leaned forward and I felt her breath on my earlobe. Take me upstairs and Ill show you, she purred. She didnt have to tell me twice. I ran her up the stairs to my room and threw us onto the bed, my body falling on top of hers. Her pupils were dilated and her lids were heavy with desire. I sat back to admire her. She wants me. Not just Masen. Not just Edward. Not just pieces of me. All of me. Carefully, I lowered myself down onto my forearms to kiss her, causing her to moan into my mouth and arch into me. Fuuuuuck. Dizzy with disbelief, I knew I would have to slow down, to control myself, or I would end up ravishing her. As much as I wanted to do just that, I knew that wasnt what she needed. Not what she deserved. She deserved to be worshiped. So I gladly worshiped every inch of her, starting at her ankles and working my way up her perfect body. When I got to the hem of her shorts, I took the time to take in the site of her in my shirt. Mine. Unbuttoning the shirt from the bottom, I told her, You know, I rather like the look of you in my shirt, Isabella. Mine. All mine. You should wear nothing but it when you come here. I kissed each inch of silken flesh that I exposed with my undressing of her, drowning in her smell and her warmth until I ached to be closer still to her. I ran my tongue from one side of her exposed chest to the other, and reveled in the sight of her nipples hardening under the cloth of her bikini top. Growing impatient despite myself, I withdrew the shirt and tossed it onto the floor by my bed. I mentally filed away the notion that it would smell like her even after she left my house. Just like that rabbit did for so long after she gave it to me. Beneath me, dressed only in her bikini top and shorts, she looked just like she did twelve years ago in that hotel gift shop. Except more beautiful, if that was possible. I told her as much, and I noticed her breathing hitch in response. Leaning in to kiss her full lips once more, I untied the neck strap to her top, pulling one side down at a time, watching her chest move steadily with her heartbeat. Beautiful. Youre so beautiful. Wanting to explore more of her, I gently kissed her breast. She tasted like sweet cream. With my hand I explored the other breast simultaneously, rolling and pinching her nipple as she arched her back, pushing more of her perfect breast into my waiting mouth. More, the monster in me demanded. Never leaving her breasts, I unbuttoned and unzipped her shorts. Sitting back up on my knees, I tugged at the hem of her shorts until she lifted her hips off the mattress so I could remove them, discarding them to the growing pile of clothing on the floor.

As soon as her shorts were off, I could smell her arousal and I nearly came as I looked down to see she was left only in white lace panties. It was like Christmas morning, and she was my present, wrapped in the most beautiful trimming. I reached out to lay my palm on her center, and the heat resonated through my hand and up my arm. More. Bella I prayed as I slipped my index finger under the lace of her panties and through her thick, soaked curls. Her hips bucked into my hand. I removed my finger and slipped it into my mouth, tasting her. Not to disappoint, she tasted delicious, and I vowed to drink from her every day for the rest of our lives. I removed the remaining material that separated me from my desire, and took a moment just to bask in the sight of her. How many times had I imagined her like this? A hundred? A thousand? All of those times paled in comparison to actually having her there before me. Uhm, Edward? Her voice, low and full of lust, snapped me out of my reverie. Yes, love? Youre severely overdressed, she said, motioning to my still-dressed body with her index finger, smiling. Grabbing my shirt, I pulled it over my head without delay and then unbuttoned and unzipped my shorts. But I missed the feel of her skin on mine already, and I threw my torso back onto her, tasting her mouth and savoring the feeling of her naked breasts under my chest. She hitched her knees up, dug her feet into the waistband of my boxer-briefs and pushed them down to the floor with her feet. God, I love this woman. Thats an impressive move, Isabella. Youll have to teach me that one. The head of my cock was sitting at her entrance and it took every ounce of my control not to nudge forward and enter her. I closed my eyes in concentration, but was startled when I felt her warm hand envelope my shaft and run it through her moist folds. Bellllaaaa. I warned, as I raised her hands up above her head and interlaced our fingers. But she was never one to heed warnings, and she bucked her hips so the tip of my head slid into her. Oh. My. God. She was so warm and tight, even with just the tip of me in her, that I felt myself leak into her a bit. I knew I couldnt do that I had no idea if she was on birth control, and we hadnt had the talk yet about our histories. As I pulled away from her, I heard her suck in air through clenched teeth and felt her body stiffen beneath me. Bella? At the sound of my voice, she visibly relaxed. I reached over to my nightstand to grab a condom and discretely roll it on. Needing her assurance that she was ready, I looked into her big brown eyes. Im so glad its you, Edward, she whispered just before I slid into her. I thought that she was referring my identity, but I understood her real meaning when I came up against resistance. Oh, Bella, I said, kissing her hair. Why didnt you tell me, love? Nothing in me ever wanted to cause her pain, but I knew now it was inevitable. She placed her hands on either side of my face, forcing me to look into her eyes as she said,

Edward, Im ready. I want this. I want you. I placed feather-light kisses on her forehead, her nose, her lips, working my way down to her neck. When I reached the sweet spot behind her ear and heard hear whimper, I hoped she was distracted enough that she wasnt concentrating on the pain that I knew would come. I pushed forward, and she dug her nails into the flesh of my back in response. When I looked at her face, her eyes were clinched close and I stopped dead in my tracks. Bella, love, I know it hurts, but it wont always. Just give me a moment, okay? Ive waited this long, I can give her all the time she needs. You let me know when youre ready. Im right here. A few seconds later, she unclenched her nails from my back and I felt her walls relax around me. Still, she was tighter than I had ever felt before - like she was created just for me. She sucked my bottom lip into her mouth and cooed, Pleeeeease. Slowly I withdrew from her, immediately missed her warmth, and plunged back in to her. Over and over again I buried myself in her until she met me thrust-for-thrust and writhed underneath me. Just a little bit longer,I thought as I felt her muscles tighten around me. I commanded gently in her ear, Come for me, my Bella Marie. And she did. The feeling of her walls spasming around my cock as she threw her head back marked the end of me, and I filled the condom. When she had calmed down and her breathing returned to normal, I pulled out of her and slipped the condom off and onto the floor to discard later. She laid there on my bed, glistening and flush. I had never in my life seen something soperfect. I rolled onto my back to lay next to her, and she instantly settled into the crook of my arm, her face on my shoulder. As she lightly played with the hair on my chest, she said, Well, I hadnt expected that! Chuckling at her amazement, I kissed the top of her head, hugging her tightly to me. Bella, that was.was There are no words. Wow, was all she said. Wow, I agreed. We lay there like that for a few minutes until she excused herself to the restroom. While she was gone, I pulled the covers back on the bed and put my underwear back on. When she came back from the restroom, she looked at me and frowned. What? I asked, concerned that she had discovered she was hurt. She crawled up onto the bed, straddling me at my waist and hovering above me. Inches away from her face, I felt her hair fall onto my shoulders creating a canopy around our heads. I think I like you better naked. Yep. That settles it. Shell be the death of me. ***

BPOV I knew the instant I had been found out when Ben ran to the door upon hearing my voice. I could see the reaction on Edwards face through the window. He threw the door open and just stared at me as he slowly stepped onto the porch. I figured he was probably afraid I had a gun with his name on it. He reached a shaky hand out to me. Bella, Im Im so I interrupted him, shhhing him with my fingers on his mouth. Thered be time for explanations and apologies. But at that moment, I just wanted to feel him his acceptance, his love, his warmth. I stepped forward and pulled him into a hug. When I felt him exhale and wrap his arms around me, I knew I was home. I buried my face in his muscular chest, crying happy tears. Although I could have stayed like that forever, I knew the neighbors would eventually start to talk about the crazy couple on that Cullen guys front porch, so I took him by the hand and led him back into his house. Ben brushed past Edward and nudged my free hand, almost like he was saying Ata girl. I reached down to pet him as I heard Edward shut the front door behind me and put the cordless back on the base. I turned to face him and with the light from the kitchen, I could see he had actually been crying, too. Seeing that sent waves of guilty feelings through me. Ive disappointed him one too many times. I held his face in my hands, grazing over the tear tracks with my thumbs. Standing on my tip-toes I kissed the path I had just made with my thumbs, then kissed his closed eyelids before making my way to his lips. He stood there, his hands on my hips, just letting me cover every inch of his face in soft kisses. He let his arms travel up my sides to my arms and then placed my hands against his chest. Bella? I shhhed him again and shook my head. No Bella, you have to let me say this. I braced myself for the excuses I knew were going to come flowing out of his mouth. To my surprise he said, I have no good excuse for what Ive done. But you need to know one thing. I swallowed the large lump that was forming in my throat. I have loved you, consistently, for nearly half of my life - and I will for the rest of it. It was all I needed to hear - for now. I jumped into his arms and wrapped my legs around his waist, locking my ankles behind his back. He chuckled as he caught me, cradling my butt in his large hands. I smirked at him and planted hard kisses on his lips. He arched an eyebrow and teased, I was all braced for the wrath that would put grizzlies to shame, and this is what I get? I took his bottom lip between my teeth and playfully bit. I gave the grizzlies the night off. But you didnt fire them, did you, it came out more as a statement than a question from him. No, I didnt. But you can deal with them later. Thats fair. So, who am I dealing with tonight? he said into my neck as he ghosted his nose along my jaw line. I shuddered in response. You so dont play fair, I chastised. But you knew that already. He gently squeezed my ass. Take me upstairs and Ill show you, I said into his ear, my voice came out rough. Thats what he does to me. Absolutely.

He took the stairs two at a time, holding me tightly to him. Ben walked to the bottom of the steps, let out a huff and went to lay on the couch. Edward carried me to his bed and we plopped down on it, him on top of me, my legs still wrapped around him. He sat up to rest on his heels on the bed and reached behind his back to unhook my ankles and place my feet on the mattress. He leaned forward to hover above me, resting his forearms on either side of my head, combing my hair with the fingers of one hand. We laid there like that for a few minutes, him just staring at my hair, my eyes, my nose, my lips, my chin. Like he was memorizing them. When he finally lowered himself down to kiss me, his thigh pressed against my center and I instinctively arched my back at the contact and moaned into his mouth. He exhaled his sweet breath into my mouth, shakily. When I opened my eyes I was staring into his, and they were the now-familiar pitch black. He sat back up, trailing his hands down my face, my neck, my sides, my hips. He lightly trailed his hand down my leg until he reached my ankle. He rubbed circles on it with the pad of his thumb and I felt the area burn under his touch. Never letting his gaze leave my eyes, he lifted my foot to place it on his shoulder and, starting at my ankle, kissed his way up my calf. When he got to my knee, he slid his hand up underneath it, causing my eyes to roll back into my head. His warm breath brushed my inner thigh. Just when I thought I would burst into flames, he repeated the torture on my other leg. When he was done, he reached up under the hem of his shirt and skimmed just under the hem of my shorts. I clutched at the comforter beneath me. With a look of intense concentration, he slowly began unbuttoning his shirt, staring at the bottom. You know, I rather like the look of you in my shirt, Isabella. You should wear nothing but it when you come here. Oh, Ill be coming here, alright. Repeatedly. Theres no doubt. As if he could hear what I was thinking, he smirked and nodded in agreement. When his unbuttoning reached my abdomen, he kissed the skin that was exposed with each new maneuver. When he unbuttoned the final button - the portion of the shirt that covered my breasts - he kissed the area just above the hem of my bikini top and I felt the tip of his tongue run from one side to the other. I fisted my hands in his hair and tugged his head up to kiss him. He pushed the shirt open and off my shoulders. He pulled away from our kiss, pushed the shirt off my arms, sat up and stared at my body. You realize you looked exactly like this the first time you spoke to me? Well, maybe not exactly like this, he gestured with his hand at my reclined body. But the outfit is the same. Gulp. I thought you were the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. Double gulp. He reached his hands behind my neck and I felt a tug as he undid the tie to my top. He lowered one of the strings so that one of my breasts was exposed. His eyes never moved from mine. He repeated with the other string. He let his gaze slowly lower until he was staring at my naked chest, and he breathed, Beautiful. Youre so beautiful. He slowly moved down over me and I felt his hair tickle my collar bone as he planted warm wet kisses on my breast, just above the nipple. Then he breathed cool air over the area, and my nipples hardened so much that they almost hurt. He did the same thing to the other side. When I arched my back, encouraging him to explore further, he slid one hand under my back to unhook

the clasp that held the top to me. He traced the outline of my ribs from my spine to my sternum, grabbed up the blue fabric and tossed it onto the floor by his bed. God, thats sexy. He took one nipple into his mouth while he rolled the other with his thumb and forefinger. I whimpered at the sensation of my hardened nipple in his hot mouth. He swirled his tongue around it, gently tugging with his lips. He shifted his attention to my other breast, careful to pay it equal attention. As he did, he reached down between us and unbuttoned my shorts. Slowly he slid the zipper down, never taking his mouth from my breast. Thank goodness hes a multi-tasker. He sat back up on his heels and took the hem of my shorts in his hands and tugged them. I lifted my hips from the mattress so he could get them off. His eyes widened when he looked down at my white lace panties. Once my shorts were removed, I could feel the cool air touch my panties. I had soaked through them already, and he hadnt even touched me there yet. He cupped his palm over top of my center. He gasped, and I stopped breathing altogether. Im a goner. Bella he said huskily. He slipped one long finger under the lace of my panties and over my mound of short curls. My hips wriggled involuntarily. He removed his hand and instead moved both of his hands under the hem of the panties, along my hips. I raised them off the mattress again, he didnt need further encouragement he slipped them down my legs and tossed them onto the growing pile on the floor. He sat there, inspecting me from toe to scalp, not breathing. Uhm, Edward? Yes, love? he said, snapping out of his thoughts. I pointed up and down the length of his body and teased, Youre severely overdressed. He grinned and immediately pulled his shirt over his head, unbuttoned the button on his shorts and unzipped them. He dove back onto me, still wearing his shorts, to assault my mouth with kisses again. Feeling his strong, bare chest rise and fall against my own, I couldnt take it anymore - I needed him. I bent my knees up, hooking my toes under the waistbands of his underwear and shorts. I pushed down, stripping them down to his ankles and onto the floor in one move. He laughed deeply. Thats an impressive move, Isabella. Youll have to teach me that one. I felt the tip of his erection bouncing with his pulse along my slit and remembered feeling the outline of it the previous evening through his pants. Now, I needed further data I slipped my hand down and grasped him. Holy hell. Thats wellthats gonna leave a mark. I rubbed the head of his cock through my wet folds and he growled. He reached down and grabbed my hand and pulled it up over my head. He grabbed the other one and did the same, weaving our fingers together. Bellllaaaa. he moaned. I could feel that his tip was aligned just right, and I bucked my hips to his, forcing his head into me. Holyshitholyshitholyshit. Hes not going to fit! He must have sensed the tension that suddenly came to all of my muscles, because he looked at

me, eyes full of concern. Bella? With all the love I felt for him, and had felt for him for so many years, I braced myself for the inevitable pain and reassuringly nodded to him. He relaxed and I let myself smile at him. He was so beautiful. And he was mine. Im so glad its you, Edward, I whispered to him as I braced myself for the pain that I knew would come. Enough of my friends in high school and college had lost their virginities and told me about the pain that I knew better to expect any kind of pleasure from my first time even if it was with someone as perfect as Edward. Ive never been happier to be wrong. The moment he was in me, he knew the depth (or, rather, lack of it) of my experience, and he proceeded as though I was made of porcelain. He skillfully, slowly drove out the discomfort until I thought I would melt into the bed. Once I began to feel pleasure with each thrust, I had only one thought. More. I moved with him in earnest and we fit together as if we had been made only for each other. He brought me to the edge and then over it, actually causing me to see stars. Then he nestled me next to him and petted my hair and hip as though I was the prize. I left his bed to use the restroom, and immediately felt his absence. As I got up, I stole a look at the sheets and was glad to see that I hadnt bled on his comforter. Once in the bathroom, I washed up carefully - I was sore, but in a good way. I couldnt wait to do it again. And again. And again When I walked back in to his bedroom, he was lying on his bed with his underwear back on. I told him I was a little disappointed to see that he wasnt still naked, and he just gave me his crooked smile, standing me up next to his bed. He reached down and picked up his discarded white dress shirt and put it on me. Who ever knew that Edward dressing me would turn me on? File that one away for later I thought I made myself clear earlier, Bella, about how I want you to dress when youre in my house, he said with one wicked raised eyebrow. I reached down for my panties, but he smacked my hand and said, Tsk, tsk. Those arent part of the uniform. Fuck. Me. Again. Pleeeeeease. I straddled his lap when he laid back onto the pillows and I felt him harden beneath me. For me. Fuck, Bella, he cursed under his breath as I rocked my hips onto him. What are you doing to me? Isnt it obvious, Edward? From the corner of my eye, I saw him reach into his nightstand drawer and grab another condom. I was glad that he was prepared even if I didnt want to know the details of why he was, just yet. Ill think about that tomorrow. He pulled his briefs off and rolled on the condom, then I reached between us and aligned his cock at my entrance. Although it was sore, it was absolutely throbbing with need to have him in me again. I slid onto his length, him filling me more fully than he had before with the new position. Moaning loudly, I threw my head back as I clawed into his chest.

Beneath me, he hissed and grabbed my ass. We rocked together until we both climaxed again twice for me (because hes just that fucking perfect). Afterwards, as we lay sated and spooning together, I had never felt such calm. After I felt his breathing slow, I turned around to confirm he was asleep. His too-long eyelashes brushed his cheeks and his lips puckered into an adorable pout. I brushed his hair from his forehead and kissed him there. Low enough that he wouldnt wake up, I told him, We have a lot to talk about, Edward. I kissed the tip of his nose. But I know now that its always been you. I kissed his puckered lips. I love you, Edward Masen Cullen. Without waking, he squeezed me tightly and sighed.

Chapter 15
EPOV There was no greater feeling in the world than that of Bellas warm body next to me in the morning. I wished I had one of those life-remotes like Adam Sandler did in that Click movie. Id pause my life in this moment, with Bellas chestnut hair fanned out on my pillow and her smooth legs wrapped in my sheets, and stare at it until the end of time. She had slept in the crook of my left arm, so it was a little numb - but again so worth it. I quietly slid my arm out from under her head, disappointed that the action caused her hair to tangle a bit. She stirred, but when I whispered, Shhhh, love, in her ear, she smiled and fell back into her deep sleep. I freshened up in the bathroom, threw my shorts back on, and walked down the stairs to see Ben sleeping on the couch. I whispered, Cmon boy, as I nodded my head and opened the back door. He jumped down and ran out to the deck. I took him down the beach to the area reserved for dogs to do their business. Ben sniffed around for a few minutes before high-tailing it into the water for a little morning dip. As he swam, I daydreamed, remembering the exquisite scenes from last night. Bella beneath me, melting into me. Bella straddling me, moaning as she took me in so deeply. Bella whispering my name over and over as she talked in her sleep. Although things had looked very dim for a while, the night had definitely been the best I had ever spent. Ben finished his swim and trotted up next to me, shaking the water out of his coat. We walked back up to the house, and I instructed him to stay on the deck so he could dry off. He huffed at me, but obediently dropped his head on to his front paws, and fell right back to sleep. I went into the kitchen and pulled out the butter, eggs, ham and cheese to make omelets for Bella and myself. Humming quietly, I made up a pitcher of orange juice and whisked the omelet mixture in a bowl so it would be ready to pour and cook once my Sleeping Beauty awoke. After washing my hands, I headed back up the stairs, intending to grab a quick shower before Bella woke, but I was surprised to see her laying on my bed, ankles crossed and hands behind her head. She was smirking at me and seductively removed one of her hands from behind her head to crook her index finger at me to come join her. Vixen.

I crawled atop the covers to hover over her. Although my cock definitely had other ideas, I did not want to make love to her again this morning. Not because it wasnt 100% unadulterated bliss to do so, but because I wanted her to understand that, while last night had been amazing and definitely made me look forward to exploring every inch of her body repeatedly, this was about so much more than sex. Truthfully, I was also a little afraid that she would be sore, and this again reminded me how absolutely amazed I was that this beautiful woman had come to me a virgin. I knew better than to think that this was not for lack of opportunities. It told me that she trusted me, and I knew that I would spend forever trying to prove myself worthy of that trust. I moved to lay beside her with my hand propped under my head. She mirrored me and draped her calf over mine. Sensing my hesitation, she clawed her long nails down my chest, and I immediately felt my cock twitch in my shorts. Good morning, Sunshine, she cooed. She had the most innocent Scarlett OHara look on her face but I knew better. Yes, it is, I replied, kissing her lightly. Hungry? She arched an eyebrow at me, and I didnt have to be telepathic to know what she was thinking. Bella I warned. Yes Edward? she replied from under her long dark lashes. But while her face may have been a picture of innocence, she hitched her leg further up mine, over my hip, drawing her pelvis to mine. Purely because a part of my brain is still a 17-year-old horndog, my hand moved of its own volition up her outer thigh and onto her ass. Damn. Forgot about the no-panties rule. I removed my hand from her ass and reached down to hold her hand to my face, kissing her fingertips. Bella, love, as much as I would love to spend the day in bed, making love to you, I paused for a moment to kiss her palm and emphasize that I really could not think of a better way to spend my day, (and also to thwart any ridiculous notion that might be brewing in her head about whether she had been anything less than perfect), neither one of us ate supper last night. I leaned in to whisper in her ear, And your stomach talks in your sleep. She looked mortified, so I decided it was probably best not to tell her that she also said interesting things in her sleep. I helped her up from the bed and we walked down the stairs to the kitchen hand-in-hand. I jumped her up onto one of the barstools at the island and then made our omelets. As I suspected, she ate every bite, making me feel more than a little guilty that I didnt think to feed her last night after we made love. After she had finished eating, I decided to tackle the elephant in the room. I turned to face her on my stool, and said, So, can we talk about this now? She took a swig of her orange juice and nodded. Okay. Best to get it out and come clean. Rip off the Band-Aid. Bella, I need you to know that I had every intention of telling you last night, my verbal diarrhea began. I was so shocked that you didnt recognize me right away, and then you showed an interest in me, and it made me realize what a complete bastard I am. She looked confused, but I remained determined to get this all on the table. I was so selfish, Bella. I was so afraid that when I did tell you, youd run away, and I couldnt stand the thought of that. I just thought that, maybe, receiving your resume was a sign a sign that we were going to be given this chance to fix things. I was given a chance to fix it. She had done nothing wrong. I didnt want to do anything to fuck with that.

She sighed once I was finished, and looked surprisingly calm. Edward, I think it would be best if I just ask a few basic questions, and we can work from there, alright? I nodded, amazed at her ability to think in an organized fashion when I was such a nervous wreck. First, was I the most qualified applicant for my job? What? Thats what shes worried about? Bella, you were the most qualified. Even if I wanted to try to push you through and I did, I remembered trying so hard to walk the fine line between advocacy and begging with my father and my brother when they were trying to decide whether to hire her. My father and Jasper had to agree to hire you, too, and they dont know about us. So, if your question is whether you got your job because you deserved it, the answer is yes. She smiled, looking a little smug. I knew I was getting off easy and she was working up to the big questions. Next question? I urged her to continue. You said your father and brother dont know about us. I presume youre referring to the teenage us, right? I nodded. What do they know about us well.now? I didnt understand where she was going with this. I knew that Rose and Emmett had a better than sneaking suspicion that I was attracted to Bella, and I had all but admitted this to Jasper. They were all very supportive. But I didnt think that any of them would put any pressure on her. I dont understand the question, love. Well, she began, looking everywhere but actually at me. Your family has been very.supportive of the idea of us together. Fuck. Why do you think that is? There was no way to explain to her without admitting that I had told them, in not so many words, that I wanted her. Well, I may have talked about you a little bit to my family. Her eyes narrowed and her brow furrowed at me. You may have talked about me a little to your family? In what manner of speaking? Uh-oh. Use of refined grammar. Im in trouble. Tread lightly, Cullen. Trying to put her at ease, I smiled at her. Nothing drastic. Just that I thought you were beautiful and intelligent. She blushed. The word perfect may have been mentioned in a conversation with Jazz. She blushed even deeper and actually started fidgeting with her napkin. Embarrassed Bella was much easier to work with than Annoyed Bella. Bella, I meant every word, but dont think it was all my doing that theyve been so enthusiastic. Theyve been waiting to see when Id find someone I wanted to be with - to stay with - and theyre very perceptive. Especially Alice. That was putting it lightly. After I had fessed up to Jasper, the next time I saw Alice, I swear I heard her humming the Bridal March under her breath. My mother was not much better. Even Rosalie, who remained aloof about my romantic life even when I was dating Tanya, seemed to be in on the conspiracy. What did she say to you? It was an intentionally vague question I could have been referring to any of the overly enthusiastic women in my family. However, I knew that she had spent the most time with Alice, and of the three, Alice was the most likely to be a little pushy. She shook her head at me. No, Edward, its my turn to ask the questions. Save yours up for later. She was punting. Thats fair, I said, knowing that if push came to shove, I knew how to get her to talk. Next? She looked up at me, and her eyes instantaneously filled with tears. Why did you stop writing me?

When she finally blinked, a single tear ran down her cheek. Again, I had made her cry. I began trying to explain my motivation for not writing her eight years ago that I needed her to work through us on her own terms. As she had every right, she became angry. However, I still desperately needed to know that it had not been in vain that she would not be so angry at me that she would walk away. Especially not after the experiences of the previous night. I had never felt so close to someone in my life. I cupped her face in my hands and gave her a kiss that screamed please dont run away, as I told her Im not letting you go again. She didnt resist, but she didnt exactly return my kiss with fervor. Again, I reminded myself, that is only fair. I should have to pay penance for hurting her. Edward, what do you mean, that I had to come to you on my terms? I dont understand that. Of course it didnt make sense to her. Although I had been rationalizing my behavior for years, she was only just now hearing about it. Every time I wrote you, I began explaining, I had to keep myself from begging you to come to me after you were done with school. You see, although I never had any intention of living away from my family, you didnt seem so married to the idea of staying near yours, especially after your parents divorced. She swallowed hard and lowered her gaze. Part of me thought that you might just agree to come live out here, come be with me, after school if I asked. But the other part of me knew that wasnt fair to you. You had your plans lined up well before we even got out of high school, and who was I to stand in the way of that? I knew enough about Bella to know that shes a Planner. Throw her off course or throw something unexpected into the mix, and she was uncomfortable to the point of paralysis. So when I decided to cut off contact with you, I also decided that if someday you should happen to find me, or end up being near me by your own choice then I could hold out hope for us. When you sent your resume to my father and told him you were going to move to San Diego regardless of whether you got the job, I thought that someone up there. I pointed to the ceiling, was showing me some mercy. Is that why you didnt say something to your family before I came here? And why you didnt say anything to me about who you were on the phone interview? she asked. I nodded. Yes. I didnt want anything to cloud your judgment. I didnt want them interfering or pressuring you to come. I didnt want them offering you the job just because of our history. I wanted you to move here, to work at my company, because its what you wanted to do. Not because it was what I wanted you to do. Does that make sense? She slid her hands around my waist and stepped into me to cuddle herself in my arms. She nodded her response and I reached down to hug her close. Relief washed over me that this was the reaction she chose I fully expected her to throw things at me and fly out the door panties or no panties. We stood there, holding each other in my kitchen for a few minutes when she finally squeaked out, Edward? Mmm-hum? Now what? I chucked and hugged her tighter. Well, what would you like to do today?

Honestly, with the trip and all of this, she said, pointing between us, Im exhausted. Concern quickly hit me of course she would be exhausted. And probably pretty sore. Are you alright, love? I mean, last night.and I was fucking speechless. And that never happens. She just looked up at me and smiled. What about last night? I winced a little. How was I supposed to put this delicately. IuhI justI didnt mean touhm hurt you. She stepped up on her toes and when she was a fraction of an inch from my lips, she said, Last night was wonderful. And if thats you hurting me, then youre welcome to hurt me many times. Repeatedly. She slinked her way out of the kitchen and toward the living room. Like a moth to a flame, my dick and I followed her. Fuck. Me. My groin instantly responded as she slowly trailed her warm tongue along my bottom lip, lightly sucking as she drew it into her mouth. I let out an involuntarily groan as she reached up to delicately and purposefully graze her nails along my neckline. Bella. I whispered into her perfect mouth. She ran her nails down my chest and began unbuttoning my shorts with one hand, palming my erection with her other. Shhhh, Edward. Thats enough talking for a while. Dont you agree? She got the button unhooked and slowly dropped onto her knees, kissing down my chest and abdomen along the way. When she reached my zipper, she grabbed it in her teeth and pulled it down. Minx. My erection sprung out of my pants and she gasped as it bobbed in front of her face. She grabbed hold of it at the base and squeezed. Looking up at me through her lashes, she asked, May I? As she slipped her tongue out and held it flat against the tip of my cock and licked it like a popsicle, I couldnt even speak, only able to nod frantically at her. It was all the encouragement she needed, and in the next instant I felt the tip of my cock hit the back of her throat in one swoop. Fuuuuuuuuckkkk. Whered she learn to do that? You probably dont want an answer to that, Cullen. No. Probably not. Nghh, I groaned as I fisted my hands in her hair, trying so hard not to just pump into her warm mouth uncontrollably. She moaned, and the vibrations were amazing. I looked down to see my Bella on her knees, in my living room, wearing nothing but my shirt, red full lips wrapped around me. The sight of it made my balls tighten and I knew I was one more lick away. But when I tried to warn her, she shook her head and whimpered, Please. I want it. Please, Edward. That was it. I came in her mouth and she swallowed every drop. As she stood, she wiped the corners of her mouth with her thumb and index finger. Before she had made it all the way up to stand, I had her by the upper arms and was lifting her to me, at the same time pushing her backwards into the stairs. When the back of her calves hit the bottom stair, she stumbled back and landed on her ass on the third stair. I dove onto her, assaulting her mouth with my own. Spread those pretty legs for me, Bella, I hissed.

She complied, and the instant her knees were apart, I could smell her arousal, thick and sweet. I kissed down her neck with hard presses and when I reached the top button of my shirt, I growled at the prospect of having to focus on unbuttoning all those buttons. Grabbing both sides of the collar and kissing her mouth again, I pulled apart the panels of the shirt, sending white pearlized buttons flying onto the steps and rolling around on the landing. Your shirt, Bella giggled. Youve seen my closet. I have a lot of shirts, I teased, realizing that my voice sounded dark and possessive. Thats right. Mine. I kissed down her chest, but didnt linger long, anxious to get to my real target. I kneeled down on the landing so that my face was level with her knees. Starting at her right knee, I licked and nipped my way up her inner thigh, gliding my tongue over her juices that had slid down her without the barrier of panties. I saw the muscles underneath my ministrations quiver in response, and she dug her fingers into the hardwood of the stairs so hard that I was certain shed leave nail gouges. Plleeeeeessssseeeeeeeeeee, she hissed through clenched teeth. Abso-fucking-lutely. With my thumbs on either side of her opening, I spread her lips apart, releasing even more of her scent into the air, swirling around my face. Mine. Staring up at her, I leaned forward and slowly licked my flattened tongue over her opening and up her slit very slowly. She immediately dropped onto her elbows and threw her head back, chanting my name. I sucked her clit between my taught lips and suckled while I slipped my middle finger into her heat and curled it upward. Feeling the patch that I knew would send her over the edge, I tapped hard on it, once..twice And then her muscles clenched on my finger so tightly that I thought it would go numb. I drank up every drop of her as she screamed and grabbed even harder into my hair. When her orgasm had reached its end, I softly kissed her nub once more, and she shuddered beneath me. I climbed up her, kissing a light trail up my way but making sure not to let any part of me touch her sensitive center. When I made it up to her head, she was laying it back on the step, hair splayed across the wood and a huge shit-eating grin on her face. Smug much, dear? I teased her. She giggled at me, keeping her eyes closed. I wanted desperately to kiss her, but I didnt know how shed feel about that. She surprised me by opening her eyes, which had grown even darker in our skirmish, grabbed me by the ears and kissed me hard. I couldnt help but laugh at her enthusiasm. Youre so beautiful when you come, Bella. Did you know that? Hmmm. she murmured. Well just have to make sure I do it often then, wont we? After all, I want to look my best for you at all times. She cocked a wicked brow up at me. Yes. Yes, we will. I kissed the tip of her nose before standing up, reaching to help her stand. But for now, lets get cleaned up. We cant stay around here all day well never get out of bed. Maybe we can just stay on the stairs instead, then?

Vixen. Now come on, I smacked her perfect ass. Lets move it. Just then, her phone rang in the kitchen where she had left it last night. The ring tone was Low Rider. She rolled her eyes at the interruption. You go ahead and go first, she motioned up the stairs. I need to get that. I stuck out my bottom lip at my best attempt at the insolent-pouting-child face. She reached up and nipped at it and took her turn swatting my ass. Go on. Ill be there in a few. I went ahead and finished up the stairs as she ran into the kitchen before the phone stopped ringing. Before I turned on the shower, I heard her answer her phone, Hey stranger. *** BPOV During the night, I had dream after dream of him. Meeting him as a shy teenager. Running out to the mailbox every Wednesday before anyone else got home, to get his letters. Reading his words of comfort at the news of my parents divorce, promising me that some day I would have more family than I knew what to do with. Seeing him walk down that tunnel at the airport gate, eyes sparkling. Seeing him on the beach my first day here, with Ben. Seeing him drop his fork and excuse himself from lunch with his family at the mention of Jake. Him kissing me in the elevator. Dancing with him. Playing it all in sequence like that, on a repeated loop, everything made sense. Of course it was him. And, at least in my subconscious, I had known that all along. I slept soundly on his shoulder and even in my sleep, I felt his warm presence next to me. It was the best nights sleep I had in a long time, and I had no regrets about anything we had done. Questions, sure. But not regrets. But I awoke alone. I walked down the stairs in a haze, looking for him. Ben was gone, too. I figured he must have taken him for a walk, and when I looked out the back door and saw the two of them on the beach, an overwhelming sense of home washed over me. He was in just his shorts, his hair a mess from my assault the previous night. Gheesh. The thought of how I pulled his hair, and the noises he made when I did, brought a new surge of warmth between my legs where I was pleasantly sore. I went into the restroom for a human moment, and used the end of my finger to brush my teeth with Edwards toothpaste. My hair was a fright, so I combed my fingers through it to get some of the tangles out. Once I realized that this was as good as it was going to get, I shrugged and went back to lay back down in Edwards bed. I inhaled the pillows and euphoria filled me at the smell of him. As I laid on his bed in bliss, I heard him come back into the house and go into the kitchen. The

refrigerator door opened and closed a few times, and I heard him whipping something. He hummed the song that he hummed to me the night at Rosalies. I made a mental note to remember to ask him what it was. When he came upstairs again to find me awake in his bed, he looked surprised. I put on my best sexy smirk and made a come hither gesture with my index finger. I hoped it came across as vixen and not crazy woman. He immediately crawled into bed with me, but seemed afraid to put his weight on top of me. I wasnt having any of that shit - Im not made of glass. I dug my nails down his chest and noticed his eyes go dark. There we go. Much better. Good morning, Sunshine. Yes, it is. Hungry? Hell, yes, and boy, do I have ideas for breakfast! He gave me a stern look and warned out my name. Giving my best innocent-eyes, I looked up at him through my lashes. Yes Edward? But even while I was giving him the Bambi eyes, I hitched my leg up over his hip and drew my pelvis to his. To my delight, at least a part of him was already on board. He slid his hand up under my well, his shirt to where my panties would have been. If I had been wearing any. He froze. Bella, love. As much as I would love to spend the day in bed, making love to you, Lord help me. Neither one of us ate supper last night. Food? Hes thinking about food? Now? And then to my mortification, he continued, And your stomach talks in your sleep. Well shit. Busted. He held my hand as he got me out of bed and we walked down to the kitchen. I watched while he fixed us omelets and poured orange juice into two glasses. Who knew he could cook? The omelets were delicious, and I had to admit that I did feel stronger after I had eaten. I was ready to jump in for Round 3 when Edward moved his body so that he was facing me on his stool. He rested his foot on the rung of my stool and I turned to face him. So, he began, looking nervous. Can we talk about this now? He pointed between the two of us. Times up, Bella. Were going to do this now. Time to put on your big girl panties and face the music. Steeling myself, I took a swig of orange juice and said, Okay. Bella, I need you to know that I had every intention of telling you last night. I was so shocked that you didnt recognize me right away, and then you showed an interest in me, and it made me realize what a complete bastard I am. What? But he wasnt even stopping to breathe, so I figured it was better just to let him get it out of his system. I was so selfish, Bella. I was so afraid that when I did tell you, youd run away, and I couldnt stand the thought of that. I just thought that, maybe, receiving your resume was a sign that we

were going to be given this chance to fix things and I didnt want to do anything to fuck with that. That was a lot to process for so early in the morning, especially since only thirty seconds previously I had hoped to have him between my thighs again. I had to ease both of us into this conversation, and pull him out from the deep end. Edward, I think it would be best if I just ask a few basic questions, and we can work from there, alright? He nodded his head in agreement. First, was I the most qualified applicant for my job? There. Thats an easy one. But it was on my list. He looked confused. Bella, you were the most qualified. Even if I wanted to try to push you through and I did my father and Jasper had to agree to hire you, too. True. And they dont know about us. So, if your question is whether you got your job because you deserved it, the answer is yes. See, that wasnt so hard. I had to admit that I was relieved at the confirmation that I didnt just get my job and pull up my whole damned life by the roots just because he wanted his childhood pen pal down the hall from him every day. Next question? he probed. You said your father and brother dont know about us. I presume youre referring to the teenage us, right? He nodded. What do they know about us, well, now? I dont understand the question, love. How do I put this delicately? Well your family has been very.supportive of the idea of us together, I said hesitantly. That was putting it lightly. I had gotten the distinct feeling, almost from the moment I met them, that they had all already decided we should be together. Hell, I was confident Alice had a secret stash of wedding catalogues. Why do you think that is? His face blushed and he looked away. He looked nervous. Well, I may have talked about you a little bit to my family. Huh? You may have talked about me a little to your family? I mocked him, and it came out a little annoyed even though that wasnt what I was going for. I cleared my throat and continued, In what manner of speaking? He smiled sweetly at me. Nothing drastic. Just that I thought you were beautiful and intelligent. The word perfect may have been mentioned in a conversation with Jazz. Awww. As I fidgeted with my napkin, he tipped my chin up so that I was looking at him. Bella, I meant every word, he said, and the corner or his mouth turned upward into my favorite crooked smile. But dont think it was all my doing that theyve been so enthusiastic. Theyve been waiting to see when Id find someone I wanted to be with to stay with. And theyre very perceptive especially Alice. Well, that confirms my suspicions. But what did he mean, to stay with? What did she say to you? he asked, assuming I was thinking about the Alice comment. No, Edward, its my turn to ask the questions. Save yours up for later. He released my chin and shifted in his seat uncomfortably. Thats fair, he acknowledged. I saw

him swallow hard, his gorgeous Adams apple bobbing in his throat. Next? Big girl panties time, Bella. Why did you stop writing me? As hard as I tried not to cry, the moment I looked at his beautiful face, I felt the tears slip out. Oh, Bella, he sighed and pulled me to his chest. With the simple comforting gesture, the floodgates opened and I sobbed into his bare chest. He rubbed circles on my back and kissed into my hair. Bella, I thought you didnt want me. The absurdity of his words hit me like a ton of bricks and I pulled out of his arms to look at him incredulously. What? I thought you didnt want me, he repeated, slower this time - like I was slow on the uptake. I felt the anger rising despite myself. What the hell made you think that?! I spat at him, distancing myself from him as he reached out for me with shaking hands. I couldnt believe what I was hearing. Bella, the way you reacted to my kissing you at the airport WHAT? I screeched. Shhh, love Dont shh me, Edward. What do you mean, the way I reacted? Now his hands were up in the air in an I surrender position. When I kissed you, you didnt kiss me back. You just.you just stood there, and I I was shocked, Edward! How the fuck did you expect me to react? I had only ever seen you, faceto-face once, and that was four years before! I understand you were mad Mad? MAD? I was not mad! You werent? he said, looking more confused than ever. NO! I was so happy to know that you thought of me in that way still, after all that time! He let out a whoosh of air at my confession, which was clearly miles away from what he had been thinking for eight years. You werehappy? YES! We stood, me panting and him looking like he couldnt remember how to breathe, for several minutes. I calmed down, and when I was ready to dig back in, I asked, Even if you did think I didnt want you at the airport, surely you knew when I wrote to you, desperate to hear a response, for a month afterwards? He shook his head and ran his fingers through his hair furiously. I didnt know what to think, Bella. All I knew is that I didnt get the reaction from you I had been hoping for. And it made me take a step back and realize what I had been doing What do you mean? I interrupted him, not understanding where he was headed. Bella, I put so much stock into those 45 minutes with you. I was a fucking nervous wreck for a month after I bought the tickets! My hopes my expectations were set so high, that when they werent fulfilled, I made myself reevaluate our relationshipfrom a more practical perspective

More practical? I questioned. Yes, more practical. He stepped toward me slowly, and when he could see that I wasnt going to back away, he reached out and took my hands in his. The sensation immediately relaxed me. Bella, we were headed in opposite directions. I think I knew that when we met, when I knew your plans, but I just kept ignoring it. I thought that somehow, wed end up on the same track. You wouldnt want to live on the east coast, or I wouldnt want to stay on the west. But when I forced myself to re-read all your letters, this time from an objective standpoint, I could see that wasnt going to happen. You were going to go to law school, and you werent going to come out here. And I was set on enlisting and then coming back home to stay near my family. He cupped my face in his hands and I could feel my bottom lip quivering. So, you see my dilemma? I could either continue to lead myself on, to continue to hope that someday something would work out, or I could walk away. I chose to walk away. The force behind his words made my head spin, but still he continued. And you have to know, Bella, that it killed me. I thought about you constantly. I compared every woman I met to youand I was empty. The tears returned, full-force. He brushed them away with his thumbs and kept going. When my father got your resume that day and had me open it, the world stopped spinning. All I could think was shes coming to me. That it was a sign. A second chance. The reason why I had put all my hopes into that meeting at the airport. It all lead up to you being here - now. And although Im so, so, sorry that I caused you pain eight years ago, I know now that it had to happen. You had to come to me on your terms not mine. And, Bella, I hope you know something else He leaned down until our lips touched. Im not letting you go again. I melted at his words, but still had so many questions blazing through my mind. He answered all of them, and by the time we were done talking, I was convinced that the way we happened was exactly how we were supposed to happen change any part of it, and we wouldnt have been at exactly the right time and place to be with each other, like this. After we were all talked out, Edward asked me what I wanted to do with the rest of our day. A list as long as my arm came to mind, none of which involved Edward in clothing. He seemed to resist my wily ways, however, so I decided I would have to take my powers of persuasion up a notch. Now, while I may have come to San Diego with my hymen still intact, I did not come with absolutely no experience under my belt. Pardon the pun. So when the opportunity presented itself, so to speak, I was overcome with the desire to have Edward in my mouth. Although I had done that plenty of times before, with Mike, it had never been something I really wanted to do. It was more of a way to get him to leave me alone. And I sure as hell had never gotten off on it. But something told me that with Edward, it would be different. And, holyshitballs, it was. Although I had had him inside me, filling me to the point I thought he hit my lungs, twice, the sight of him up close took my breath away, and made me a little proud of myself that not only did my body find a way to let all of that fit, but found a way to make it immensely pleasurable. So when I finally held the base of his shaft still while I plunged my mouth over the tip, he wasnt the only super-excited person in the room. With every touch of his head at the back of my throat,

every moan he made, every time he twisted my hair in his hands, I felt new sensations of warmth as my juices coated my thighs. Then when he practically threw me on the stairs and started biting on said thighs, I actually got Charlie horses in the arches of my feet from pointing my toes so damn hard. But then his tongue - My God, his tongue - was licking and sucking, and HOLY SHIT, my head hit the wooden steps so hard I was sure I would have a knot the size of a baseball the next day. But so fucking worth it. Let me just say, Mike was totally clueless. To think that I thought the female ejaculation was just an urban legend. I was never leaving Edwards house. Id beg him to do that, and then make hot steamy animal love to me on every surface of his house. When Edward suggested we shower, I quickly let my mind get about ten steps ahead of my body, and I began imagining Edward burying himself in me up against the cold tiles of his shower. And then my damned phone ring. Low Rider. Great. Just what I need. Realizing this was probably a conversation I would not want Edward to overhear, I told him to go on ahead of me to the shower. So when I opened up my phone to answer it, you can understand that I was a little disappointed that I would not be living out my naked-time-in-the-shower fantasy with Edward. Hey stranger, I answered. What the hell, Bella? Where the hell have you been?! Jake screamed into the phone. Ive been trying to call your house and your cells been saying youre out of area. I thought you got kidnapped and fucking taken to Mexico! Calm down, Jake. Im fine. And not in Mexico. I rolled my eyes at his melodramatic assumptions. I can hear your eyes rolling at me, Bella, and I dont think its cute at all! Fine, Jake. I appreciate the concern, but really, theres nothing to be so upset about. Where the hell are you? Well, uhm. Im.not at home. No shit, Sherlock. I bit my lip, dreading the reaction I knew would come. Im at Edwards, Jake. Edward? Edward Cullen? Your boss!? Shhh, I hushed him. Although that didnt make much sense, considering that there was no way Edward would be able to hear Jake screaming from half-way across the country. I hoped. Its not like that, Jake- My ass its not, Isabella Marie, he interrupted. Ouch. Full name. Im in for it now. Now you listen to me, Jacob Black! I retorted. Better to seem like I was more pissed at him than

he was at me give him the illusion that I was assuming the upper hand. Im a grown woman, and I know what Im doing. I heard him breathing heavy on the other end. On anyone else, that would sound crazy-stalker. But on Jake, it was endearing because I knew he was trying to talk himself out of changing into a wild animal on Edwards ass. Or mine. I know that, Bells, he eventually whispered out. Its just that Im not there to watch after you and beat the thugs off with a stick now. Edwards not a thug, Jake. Really? So you didnt sleep with him, then? Silence. He had me on that one. Aww, Bella. You fend off freakin Newton for a year. And then you go moving to San Diego, and its been, what? Three weeks? And youve given it up to your boss? Well, when you say it like that, I suppose it does sound thug-ish. But really, Jake, its such a long story. Hes not like that at all. More silence. Sure, sure, he finally relented. Bells? Yeh, Jake. I really miss you. I miss you too, Jake. Good. Cuz Im coming out there. Oh shit. Really? I tried not to sound panicked. When? Two weeks. Double shit. Oh? Thatd be great Jake. Iuhgotta get going now. Ill talk to you soon, k? Yeah, yeah. Go on back to Eddie boy Edward. Whatever. Jakey? Yeah, Bells? Im glad youre coming out. Good. Me, too. Make a place for me on your couch. Later. Click. My couch? Triple shit with a cherry on top.

Chapter 16
BPOV How the hell am I supposed to explain this to the gorgeous man upstairs? Hey, dont get all upset, but my best friend, who Ill admit is a hottie, and whom Ive already told you kissed me once or twice is going to be camping out on my couch in two weeks? I slowly walked up the stairs to Edwards room, gnawing on my lip so hard that I actually tasted blood. Hey beautiful? You coming? Edward hollered from the bathroom, his cool voice echoing off the tiles. Nope. Not now. Yeah, heading up. Be right there. Still wearing only Edwards white dress shirt (which was now gaping open, thanks to his frantic button-popping shenanigans on the stairs), I walked into the bathroom and took a moment to admire him on the other side of the glass as I let the shirt slip to the floor. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can. Choo choo! I slid the glass door open and could barely make out Edwards perfect form through the steam that rolled out and surrounded me. He was washing his face, his back side to me, and I stepped up behind him to trace the sleek muscles of his back with my palms before kissing him between his shoulder blades. He hummed in response, and turned around to me. Whoa. I was anchored where I stood and I heard him snicker under his breath. Penny for your thoughts? I snapped back to reality from my stupor and tried to recover my composure. A penny? My mind is my product, boss, and the going rate for pieces of it is about three hundred dollars an hour. He visibly winced at my use of the word boss. Wow. No filter. That sounded really bad, didnt it? In more ways than one, Im afraid, he replied, grinning and shaking his head. Who was on the phone? Nice ring tone, by the way. Oh, that was just Jake. Oh? Everything alright? No. He chewed my ass out for not answering his calls at home. He was afraid I had been kidnapped and taken to Mexico, I said, rolling my eyes and trying to diffuse the situation. No, not Mexico. But I do like the idea of kidnapping you. Its not kidnapping if I come willingly. True - and I do like it when you come willingly, he purred in my ear. Gulp. I felt my blush flood my cheeks and I buried my face in his chest. He chuckled, wrapping his lean, wet arms around me. Cmon, love. Lets get you all washed up. Ey, ey, Captain. He turned us around so that I was standing under the water. I tipped my head back to wet my

hair. When it was soaking I reached for the shampoo on the shelf, but Edward placed his hand over mine and mewled in my ear, No. Let me. He squirted the woodsy-smelling shampoo not my first choice, personally, but it did remind me of him into his hands and, starting at my scalp, rubbed it into a thick lather. As he pulled the ends up off my back to wash them, he placed soft kisses on my shoulders. When he turned me around to rinse out the shampoo, I let my head fall back under the water as he ran his fingers through my hair from my scalp to the ends to get out all of the suds. The movements relaxed me to the point where I nearly fell asleep where I stood. With my head back, I felt him place hard kisses on my exposed neck. You finish up here, he hoarsely murmured in my ear. I need to get out now before I either explode or ravish you up against the shower tiles. Without opening my eyes, I mumbled an incoherent uh-huh and felt the cold air brush past me as he opened and shut the glass doors. I finished washing, wishing I had access to a razor and some conditioner. When I was all washed up, I stepped out of the shower and used one of Edwards soft white towels to wrap my hair and another to dry off, wrapping it around my chest and tucking in a corner. When I walked into Edwards bedroom, he already had on jeans, and his towel was draped around his neck. Droplets of water fell from the ends of his bronze hair onto the towel as he stood at his dresser, getting a t-shirt. I admired the way the muscles of his shoulders moved under his porcelain skin when he tossed the towel to the floor and pulled on the white v-neck shirt. Edward? I said quietly because he hadnt heard me come into the room. He turned around at the sound of my voice and licked his lips. Yum. Stop that, crazy Bella. May I borrow a shirt to wear home? Sure, he said, grabbing one from the open drawer and tossing it at me. I slipped it on over the towel and then tugged at the towel to let it drop to the floor from under the shirt, feeling strangely embarrassed. The towel barely covered my butt. I walked to the side of the bed where our clothes from the previous night had been tossed and grabbed my shorts. I felt icky about putting on my bikini bottoms from the previous night, so I tugged on the shorts, going commando. Of course, to complete the outfit, I was also bra-less under Edwards t-shirt. Must not get pulled over on the way home. I squeezed the towel to get out excess moisture in my hair and then pulled it off my head. Laundry basket? I queried at Edward, who had been standing by his dresser just staring at me like I was something to eat. He reached out and took my towel and tossed it in a basket just inside his closet. I tried to run my fingers through my hair, but without conditioner, it was just full of knots. Comb? I requested. Sure, Edward replied, walking into his bathroom and taking a comb out of the vanity drawer. Sorry I dont have conditioner. I dont use the stuff, he said apologetically. No problem. I started at the ends, tugging out the knots as I worked my way up to the roots. I mentally made a note to get it cut soon. This is why long hair sucks, I joked. I love your hair, Bella. Dont you dare go chopping it off. Ill buy conditioner in bulk, alright? I nodded. May I? he asked, holding out his hand for the comb. I handed it to him, and he

gestured for me to sit on the bed. As I sat, I felt him come up behind me on the bed, and he moved a leg to either side of me, allowing his long legs to dangle off the side of the mattress. He gently plaited my hair with his fingers and began combing through it. Again, I felt overwhelming relaxation from his movements and I sighed in contentment. He quietly worked through his ministrations until my hair was all combed and tangle-free. He then gathered it all up in his hands, lifting and dropping it a little to allow the air to dry it. He leaned forward and just held me there for what seemed like an eternity. I actually felt myself begin to doze off when I heard him whisper my name. Umm-hum I responded. What did Jake want? he asked, snapping me out of my daydream where I didnt have to deal with that shit. Oh. Hes coming out here to visit in a couple of weeks. I felt his whole body stiffen around me. There was no use hiding anything from him there had been enough of that between us already. So I told him about Jakes plans to stay with me. Although he tried to sound cool and collected, I could tell that Edward was not pleased with this information, and when he offered to let Jake stay in his spare bedroom, I wanted to kiss his nose and tell him how adorable he was. After he spent a few minutes turning me so on that I thought I would melt into a puddle on his comforter, Edward cruelly left me hanging and sent me on my way back to my condo. But before I left he told me that he adored me, and promised me dinner. Just like the previous night, I didnt really remember the drive home, but for entirely different reasons. The first time, I had been sobbing with the newness of Edwards revelation and couldnt even see the roads through my tears. This time, after having spent the night wrapped in Edwards arms, I was on such a natural high that I think I may have actually levitated my truck across the bay and landed it in my parking garage. I quickly ran into my building, holding my arm across my bra-less chest so as not to give anyone a free show. When I got to my condo, I threw the keys on the kitchen counter, kicked off my shoes and actually did a happy dance in my living room. I poured myself some Kool-Aide (a personal weakness that I hadnt been able to shake since I was three) and checked my answering machine. There they were about half a dozen messages from Jake, his tone became progressively pissy with each message. I winced a bit at his voice, so obviously full of concern. I had two weeks to calm both him and Edward down about his visit, and to decide whether I wanted to fill Jake in on the fact that Edward was actually my long lost pen pal. Well, I knew I was going to have to fill him in the question was just whether I wanted to do it before, or after, he arrived in two weeks. Ill think about that later. I went back to my room and pulled out a pair of jeans and a t-shirt from my dresser, as well as a fresh bra and panty set. While I loved the idea of lounging in Edwards t-shirt, I knew my hair was a curly mess from not having the opportunity to dry and straighten it, and a small forest of stubbly trees was growing on my shins. After I showered and felt all fresh and hairless, I dressed and set about drying my hair. Once that was all done, I busied myself with checking my email and doing some more revisions to the employee handbook. But it was no use I couldnt concentrate worth a crap. My cell phone rang and I scrambled to dig it out of the pocket of my shorts from the morning. I took a look at the

caller ID and recognized Alices cell phone number. Hello, Alice, I answered just before it went to voice mail. Bella! she chirped. You got back home okay? Because there was no way the little pixie could have known about what had happened at Edwards house the previous night, I knew she was asking about our trip to L.A. Yes. It was a productive trip, I said. In more ways than one. She snickered into the phone. Thats what I hear. Alice, I warned. Hush, Bella, she cut me off. Ive already talked to Rose. Groan. Like I told him, she continued, unaffected by my warning sneer. We think its great. Like you told him? I asked, incredulous. Right. But youre the one who warned me about him, Alice, I countered. Let her dance her way around that one. Hes a good guy, Bella. And youd be good for each other. Uhm. Thanks, Alice. I think. Anyway, Esmes going to call you to come to dinner next week. Youre going to say yes. Oh, am I? Yep. Ive seen it. And youre going to have a great time! Alright, alright. Ill think about it, k? Pshh, she scoffed. Jaspers talked to Edward and he said that James was a real ass to you. Yeh, he was a bit of a creep. But thats okay we got what we needed out of him. Once we close, we wont have a need to have any further contact with him. I think he got on Edwards nerves a bit, too, I smiled to myself at the recollection of Edward guiding me possessively by the small of my back under James' nose. I cant even imagine how James reacted to Rosalie! If he looked at me like I was a steak dinner, he mustve looked at Rosalie like she was thousand-dollaran-ounce caviar. He tried to be all grabby with her, I guess because she was by herself when she met with him to walk the property. But, God help the man who thinks they can pull that kind of shit with Rose! We laughed and I agreed with her. Alright, Alice. I need to get some work done here. Ill see you later this week? I asked, assuming shed stop in at some time or another to visit Jasper at the office. Sure thing. Catch ya later, Bella. Bye Alice. Thanks. For what? Well, youre my only friend out here so far. Sothanks. Any time, Bella.

We hung up and I resumed my internal countdown of the hours until Edward came to pick me up. By three thirty, I had run out of things to do and decided to flip channels on the idiot box, stopping at the half-hour long infomercial for an 80s music compilation. I sang along with the ten-second clips that ran over and over again, and in my anxious state, I actually considered dialing the 800number to buy the damned thing even though I already had most of the songs downloaded onto my iPod. By the time the infomercial ended, I couldnt contain myself anymore so I picked up the phone and started dialing his number, hanging up before I got to the last digit. I did that three times crazy much?- before I finally got up the nerve to complete the call. He picked it up and before he even had a chance to say hello, my mouth was already in overdrive and I couldnt stop it. Hey, you, I spurted out. I heard him sigh on the other end, and I instantly regretted my stalkerish decision to call, until he replied, Hey to you, too. Whatcha doing? I could hear the smile in his voice, and it instantly put me at ease. Watching some infomercial for what promises me to be the greatest 80s CD collection known to mankind. He already knew I was crazy, so there was no point in trying to hide it. You? Oh no dont look at the light! Stay away from the light! he teased. I think I already have most of these songs anyway, I confessed. The beauty of downloads. Who buys CDs now, anyhow? Then I remembered his bookshelves full of music. Oh, wait you do. You have more CDs than anyone I know. And LPs. What are you, 50? I teased him. His deep laugh came through the receiver, into my head and straight down to the pit of my belly. I bit my lip. Hey, dont knock the music collection. Youre just jealous. Yes - of the fact that you have enough space in your house for all of that crap. Im feeling claustrophobic already. I tried to sound normal, hoping he couldnt hear in my voice the effect he was having on me over the phone. Breathe into a paper bag, then. No shit. I heard bells and was confused where he was, and then I heard elevator music. Where are you? Whats that dinging? At the office. I may lose you in the elevator. Oh God. The elevator. Our elevator. I like that elevator, I whispered into the phone. Bella, dont do that. Shit. Like he can read my mind. I have to walk out to my car here, for Gods sake. The thought of Edward trying to walk anywhere in public with that kind of bulge in his pants was comical to me and I couldnt suppress a giggle. Youre early to head over for dinner, you know. Although I dont think I can look at these handbooks for another minute. If he was going to walk around with a hard-on, I definitely wanted him to be walking near me. I thought that was right up your alley, General Counsel? It is. But I find myself verydistracted today. I was going to go home and change first. Its just now four. I could hear the conflict in his tone, and I let out a small groan into the phone. Apparently, it was enough to push the limits of his control, and he quickly said, Screw it - Ill be there in five. Yippee! The crazy woman in my head screamed as I hung up the phone. I ran about the condo, straightening up at the last minute, brushing my teeth, checking my hair. You know, all those girly

things that you dont want a guy to know you have to do, but you want him to appreciate. The door phone rang and the nice security guard down in the lobby asked, Ms. Swan, theres an Edward Cullen to see you. Should I send him up? His tone was both skeptical and fatherly, and I found it endearing, ignoring the implications that theres no way in the world that Edward Cullen should want to come see me. Exactly forty-seven seconds later, Edward knocked on my door and it was all I could do not to rip the door off the frame to get to him. Calm down, Bella. You dont want him to think you gave up your sanity along with your virginity all in the course of 24 hours. I counted to ten, just to make him think that I wasnt actually standing on the other side of the door, growing hornier and hornier by the second. Its about time, he said when I opened the door, leaning his tall frame up against the door jam, arms crossed, legs crossed at the ankles. Pardon? I asked innocently. He leaned over and pecked me on the cheek and then moved his lips to whisper in my ear, I could see your shadow under the door, Bella. What took you so long to open up? My jaw gaped and my face burned hot. He just scooted past me, slapping my hip playfully as he went. I felt and heard my heart rate speed up at just the slight touch, proving once again to myself that I am hormonally imbalanced. I shut the door, turned the lock and offered him something to drink. He stood up against the kitchen counter, hands gripping the edge of the countertop as he watched me like a hawk. Im good, thanks. Ive had my fill of caffeine for the afternoon, I think. I motioned for him to follow me over to the couch, and as I sat on the end of it, legs crossed Indian-style to face him, he sat down on the middle cushion so that his outer thigh was just barely touching my knee. What, I missed the rest of the 80s infomercial? Thats a shame, he said, giving me his crooked grin and rubbing the back of his neck. Oh, Im sure I can find it on another channel. Just give me a second. I picked up the remote, flipping through channels. Thats not necessary. I was just giving you shit. I know you were, but I dont want to be a disappointing hostess, I replied, finding the infomercial (and only five minutes into it, no less) on another channel and replacing the remote on the coffee table. He placed the hand that had been rubbing his neck on the inside of my knee and gave it a slight squeeze. I dont think you could be a disappointing hostess if you tried, love. Lord, help me. Keep me from jumping this poor unsuspecting sex god you have dumped on my couch. I glanced down to his hand, biting my lower lip. He removed his hand and pulled my lip out from under my teeth with his thumb, staring at it. As much as I love it when you do that, he said, his eyes darkening, I dont want you accidentally hurting those. Without letting his gaze leave my lips, he grabbed my waist and hoisted me to sit on his lap. I could feel his hard-on through the material of our jeans and I had to suppress a whimper. He

pulled my hair off my shoulder on one side and leaned in to nibble playfully at my neck. Involuntarily, I shrugged away from the ticklish bites, and when I did, he used his other hand to wrap around my neck and pull me toward him. I willingly complied. Does it make me a total wuss, nip, that Ive missed you, nip, in just these few hours? nip. I let my eyes flutter close and bask in the delight that maybe I wasnt as crazy as I thought I was, if he was missing me even a tenth of how much I was missing him. Umm I hope not, I lazily replied. He stopped his nipping and ran the tip of his tongue from the neck of my t-shirt along the tendon in my neck that led right to the sweet spot behind my ear, making me hold my breath. Without warning, he tossed me backward to lie on top of me on the couch. He supported most of his weight on his forearms and hovered above my face. I sat up just enough to reach the rest of the way to him, and as I snaked my arms around his sides to lightly dig my nails into the small of his back, he hissed. Two can play at that game, Cullen. Keeping my eyes open to watch his reaction, I stuck my tongue out far and licked along his top lip. He instantly gasped and scrunched his eyes. Gotcha. I laid back down and removed my nails from his back, just waiting to see what hed do next. You, little lady, he said, pressing his pelvis to my center just to make sure he had my full attention, are a tease. Am I now? I replied, bringing my hands up to rest above my head. He slid one hand under the hem of my t-shirt and ran his fingertips over my belly and up my ribs, then made the journey back down again. Uhm-hmm, he said. But Im learning to read your body, Isabella. You may act disinterested, but when I do this, he ran his hands low over my belly again, your belly quivers under my fingers. All thought left my head. And when I do this, he moved his nimble fingers up further under my shirt to rest between my breasts, I can feel your heart speed up. Fuck. Me, I accidentally said out loud. He responded with a raised eyebrow and his sexy smirk. He sat up and crooked his index finger for me to sit up to him. He grabbed the hem of my shirt and pulled it over my head, then lowered me back down to the couch. He leaned down to me and planted Eskimo kisses all over my neck and chest until I was panting beneath him. Bella, he pleaded, I know I should take it easy on you, but please. I want you. Right. Now. My entire body turned into a live wire, writhing under his touch and wanting to be as close to him as I possibly could. Did you, uhm, bring anything? I asked, praying that he did. He looked at me incredulously. NoI wasnt planning to come over here until after I went home, remember? And besides, wouldnt that have been presumptuous on my part? Presume away, Edward. You dont have anything? I was taken aback by the suggestion that I would have condoms in my condo, when twenty-four hours ago, I could have been the poster child for the 28-year-old virgin. Uhm. No. He sat up immediately and looked flustered. Im sorry I didnt mean anything by that, Bella. I just meant I guess I hoped I pursed my lips at him. Of course you wouldnt. Im sorry if I offended you.

What do you mean, of course I wouldnt? I mock-snapped at him. Fuck. You know what I mean, he said, pinching the bridge of his nose. But this whole subject reminded me of something Alice had said. Now that we knew there wasnt going to be any sexin happening, I figured I might as well broach the subject and get it out of the way. Just rip off the band-aid. Edward? Yes, love? He sat back, twining his fingers into my hair. Alice mentioned something about you last week that has mecurious. I bet. He sniggered. What did the shrimp say about me? There was really no tactful way to put this, so I just spat it out. She said youre.a.well, a player. His fingers stopped their movements and I saw his jaw clench. Im not judging at all, Edward, I hurried to try to make it right again. I just dont remember you mentioning much about girls you dated when we were writing, and Shit. Im sorry. I didnt mean to offend you, and of course, I can totally see where that could easily be the case, I rolled my eyes and gestured at him. He grabbed my hand, mid-gesture. Why would you say that, Bella? It was my turn to give him the arched eyebrow. Seriously? Because, youre sex on a stick, Edward. Youre beautiful. He scowled at me. We sat there for a few seemingly endless seconds before he opened his mouth to talk again. Bella, I wont lie to you. I have enjoyed the company of women over the last eight years. Nothing ridiculous Im not a man-whore by most womens standards. Ive actually even had one long-term relationship in there for a year. I heard what he was saying, but my mind wasnt really processing it. I didnt know what to make of it. I did realize, however, that I had moved away from him slightly and had pulled my knees up to my chest and wrapped my arms around them. I felt verysmall. And underdressed. Define ridiculous, Edward, I directed, in a very small but serious tone. He pursed his lips in concentration. Bella, I think, personally, if a person were to get into.lets say. the high teens within an 8-year time span. that would be ridiculous. I quickly did the math. Eight years, one of which was spent with one woman. That leaves seven years. So we could be talking two or three girls, on average, a year. Honestly? Thats not horrendous. Or at least not whore-endous. And the man is hot beyond imagination. I nodded, but still didnt speak to him. He took this as his clue that he should continue to explain himself. Even when I was with Tanya, he continued. Great. Now I have a name to associate with this whole topic. I wasnt really content. I was faithful to her, but I didnt see a future there. I tried to convince myself that I just wasnt giving it a hard enough try hell, we even tried to pick it up again after we broke up. But as soon as I knew there was a possibility that youd come back into my life, I didnt give her, or anyone else, another thought.

I swallowed hard, trying to fight back tears. I wasnt sure why they were there anger? Fear? Disappointment? I just didnt know. I will admit that I can be a bit of a flirt when the situation calls for it, but Im no player, Bella. And Im most certainly not playing with you. You have to know that. For whatever reason, I did believe him. If I was being honest with myself, I had benefitted from his experience. He had been gentle and passionate when we made love. But there was one thing I had to know for certain. What will you do if the situation, as you say, calls for it again, Edward? He furrowed his brow at me in confusion. I dont understand the question. Look, I began, getting my courage up. I know that I have no claim on you whatsoever, and I have no right to be jealous or territorial or any kind of bullshit like that, but Id like to know whether youre going to revert to your M.O. next time youre in a bar and a pretty woman comes up next to you. Fuck, Bella. Youre going to shoot this whole thing dead in its tracks before it even gets out of the stable. First of all, he began, holding out his hand, palm up, for me to take and I took it. You do have a claim on me. You do have a right to get all jealous and territorial. Lord knows I have several times already, and not all within the last few weeks. Huh? Second of all, why would I be in a bar without you? He gave me his sexy smile and I could hear the bricks of my wall crumble as they fell to the ground. And third, I dont think that they could get any prettier than you, Bella Marie. He tapped his finger on the tip of my nose. I would definitely re-hash this conversation in my head again when I was alone, but for now I was satisfied with Edwards explanations. I leaned over and hugged him and I felt him exhale as he wrapped his arms around me in return. The tension that I had seen in his jaw and arms left his body, and he kissed my hair. I pulled him to lay down behind me on the couch, and he reached behind him to grab a blanket from the back of the couch to wrap around me because I was still in just my bra and jeans. As we watched some more of the infomercial, he laid behind me, humming the songs and touching my bare belly in lazy circles with his fingers under the blanket. Although part of me was so totally turned-on by his humming, his warm body, and his fingers, the bigger part of me just felt so relaxed. Like this was how we had spent every evening for years. When the infomercial was over, he stopped his fingers and rolled me onto my back. His head was propped up in his hand and he was looking down over me. May I ask a question now? Sure. Im not entirely sure I want to know the answer to this Well, thatd make us even then, I think, I interrupted. He grinned. Alright. Can you explain to me how you managed to go through college, law school, and several more years looking this beautiful and being this fantastic and still be a virgin? I felt my entire body flush and I pulled the blanket up to cover my face. Edward pulled the blanket back down, laughing softly. Dont be embarrassed, love. Its nothing to be embarrassed about. Truly, I am elated to know that no one else has known youlike that before me. Im just curious. Oh, I so dont want to have this conversation.

*** EPOV Calm down, Cullen. Theyre just friends. Yeah, friends who tried dating once. My mind reeled in a million different directions as I processed what Bella had just told me. The thought of Mr. Muscles I didnt give a shit what his name really was or whether he was engaged to Heidi fucking Klum coming here and disrupting the little world I had planned for Bella and myself was enough to totally blow to smithereens the overwhelming desire I had felt ten minutes prior as I had watched water travel down Bellas perfect body in my shower. It was enough to completely make me forget that not only was she wearing my shirt without a bra underneath like a brand, but she was also without panties under her shorts. He is? I questioned in response to her news that Jake was going to be coming to visit her. I had to play it cool here I hadnt yet earned the right to show even a fraction of the possessiveness and jealousy I was feeling. She nodded her head. I desperately wanted to see her facial expressions, to see reassurance in her eyes that this was not the big deal I was afraid it would be. But I knew if I turned her around, shed see a glimpse of the green-eyed monster sitting behind her, and shed run for the hills. Instead, I inhaled and exhaled slowly and forced my voice to sound somewhat relaxed when I said, Thats great, Bella. Im sure youll be glad to see your friend again and show him your new home. I may have put a little too much emphasis on the word friend. Sure. Im very excited for you to meet him, Edward. I think you two will hit it off. Highly unlikely. Whys that, love? I ran my hands down her shoulders and then her arms, running circles along her smooth skin as I went. I just needed to touch her. Just the feeling of her under my fingertips was enough to slowly bring me back down to Earth. Because you both have one very important thing in common, she said, turning around to put one leg on other side of my waist and leaning forward until our foreheads touched. We do? Uhm-hmm, she hummed. As she played with the hair at the back of my head , I could feel my tension slip from my body and I closed my eyes at the sensation. What would that be? You both adore me, of course! she tugged hard on my hair and when I opened my eyes, she was grinning like the cat that ate the canary. I looked at her as though I was truly pondering whether I believed what she said, and she broke into a belly laugh. God, I love that sound. Maybe, I hedged. Two weeks, eh? Yep, she said, popping the p. Well, hed better book his flight and hotel before its too late to get decent rates. She bit her lip and looked down at my chin.

Bella? I asked, nudging her head back up with the tip of my nose. Whats up? Uhm, she hesitated. He said hes going to stay at my place. No. Fucking. Way. Oh, did he? My voice jumped an octave and I could feel the steam streaming out of my ears like a damned tug boat. She nodded. Yes. But I can get him a hotel thats not a problem, Edward, she rushed. Clearly, she was gauging my rising.jealousy? Yes, that had to be it. Jealousy. Mine. But I did not own her. Hell, I had barely any claim to her at all, considering that twenty-four hours ago, she didnt really even know who I was. I will not piss on trees. I will not piss on trees. I tucked a plait of hair behind her ear and watched it turn crimson under my touch. No. That wont be necessary. Although I do have a spare bedroom here, if hed be more comfortable. And that would make it easier to murder him in his sleep. Thats very sweet of you, Edward. Ill let him know. She gave me a quick peck on the lips. That is, assuming hes not still pissed at me for hopping into bed with my boss in two weeks. You told him, did you? I smirked at the notion of Mr. Muscles swallowing that little piece of information. Not so much. He guessed, more like. She rolled her eyes. Hmm, and howd he take it? I toyed with her a bit, lightly running the tip of my index finger along her collar bone. Goose bumps trailed my finger. Take that, Mr. Muscles. Only I can do that! Not real well. Something about him not being here to beat off thugs with a stick. I snickered. So, hes ready to beat me up, sight unseen, just for stealing your virtue? The sexy smile that had been on her face immediately dropped and she sat up straight. What? I questioned, already hearing the panic in my own voice. Edward, dont say that. That makes what we did sound.wrong. Needing to get back to the part where she was quaking under my touch and not looking all morose, I grabbed her by the waist and quickly rolled her over onto the bed. I found the spot just behind her ear that made her whimper like a puppy, and whispered into her ear, No, Bella. Not wrong. Never wrong. I ran the tip of my nose from the neckline of my shirt up the side of her neck until I was at her ear again. Does this feel wrong, Bella? She wasnt breathing. She shook her head infinitesimally. I brushed the pad of my thumb along her bra-less nipple and took in the sight of it instantly peaking. Does this feel wrong, Bella? Her eyes fluttered closed as she gently arched her back under me. Breathe, love. I cant have you passing out on me again. She let out a slow exhale and ran her fingers into her hair from the top of her forehead. I couldnt help but chuckle at her, as I stood and helped her from the bed, steadying her when she got to her feet. You go home and change, okay? I have some work I need to get done, but may I take you to supper?

Thatd be nice. I have some work to get done, too. Well, how about I come to your place around six? She nodded. Anywhere you want. We can talk about how were going to handle this, I motioned between us with my hand, at the office. She blushed furiously. Oh my God, Im a horrible attorney, she said, stamping her foot a little. Whys that? Do you know how many clients Ive advised not to have this, she mimicked my earlier gesture, going on at the office? Gheesh! Dont dip your pen in company ink and all that. Fuck! She hit her forehead with her hand so hard I was sure it would bruise. I grabbed her by the offending hand and kissed her open palm. Well deal, okay? Hell, Id be lying if I said that I wasnt hoping to dip my pen in your ink from the words youre hired! She stomped on my foot playfully. Stop that! No, I growled at her as I squeezed her ribs. She quickly clutched at her sides, cackling like a child, and I swore that if that was the last sound I heard, Id die a happy man. Id do anything to make Bella laugh like that every day. I released her ribs and wrapped my arms around her slender frame, hugging her tightly. I do adore you, Bella Marie. She reached her arms around my neck and pulled my head down to hers. Just before she kissed me good-bye, she looked into my eyes and said, Youd better. After I walked Bella out to her truck and returned to my house, I was surrounded by her scent. Recalling with vivid clarity her ease of movement through my house, I instantly missed her before the door even latched shut. I took Ben out for a walk through my neighborhood, stopping at the coffee shop for a cup on their outdoor patio. When we walked by a stationery store, I tied Bens leash to a bike rack and went inside to pick up a set with ivory paper and envelopes that had tiny flecks of blue the same color blue as Bellas bikini. When I went back out to untie Ben, he was sleeping on the warm sidewalk in the sun. Cmon boy, I said, lightly tapping him on the paw with my foot. He sprung up, shook and started to walk alongside me. We passed the old stately hotel on the way back to my house. Taxi cabs were already waiting in front, ready to take tourists back to the mainland. I nodded to my elderly neighbors, a sweet couple who took walks every day, hand-in-hand. When we got back to the house, the answering machine light was blinking and I pushed the button to review the message as I dropped my keys into the bowl by the door. Edward. Edward, I know youre there. Pick up the phone, Alices voice grated over the phone. Even her voice sounded short. She humphed loudly into the phone. Fine. You had better call me. Like, right now. There was noise in the background. Jazz says hi. Click. I snorted at the annoyed little pixies irritation and flipped my cell phone open from my pocket. It barely rang once when she picked it up. I knew you were there, she spat. And hello to you to, dearest sister-in-law, I said sweetly. Actually, Alice, I was out for a walk. Whatever. You havent called us since you got back from Roses and Im a little hurt that you havent filled me in yet, Edward. Filled you in on what? I asked with all the innocence I could muster.

Can it, twerp. I talked to Rose already. She said you and Bellahad a nice time. I cleared my throat and vowed to stick a huge wad of gum in Rosalies hair next time I saw her. If youre referring to the new office, yes, we did make quite a bit of headway there. Bella was very persuasive with James. Not buying it and not sure why youre being elusive. I think the whole thing is fantastic, Edward. Seriously. We all do. Im sure I dont know what you mean. What do you mean, you all do? I heard the background noise get quieter and heard Alices footsteps. When she resumed talking, it was clear she had gone someplace quiet, probably out of Jaspers hearing. Edward, she sighed. I love you, you know that, right? Sure, Alice. I love you, too. I want you to be happy. Youve seemed lost for such a long time even when you were with Tanya. I leaned against the wall, pinching the bridge of my nose, not even wanting to think about Tanya now it seemed sacrilegious. But, Edward, youve been talking about Bella for a month now before she even moved here. I havent seen you that excited about a girl in a long time ever, actually. And when you are around her Alice, I stopped her. Bella and I hadnt discussed how we were going to address our relationship at work, and I didnt want to let my family in on anything without having her on board, even if I personally wanted to rent a plane and fly a banner around San Diego that read, Im the luckiest bastard on the planet because Bella Swan loves me. Dont Alice me. Im just saying that were happy, is all. And we wont push you or Bella, but we want you to know thatwell, we really like her, too, Edward. I sighed heavily. There really was no use trying to derail the freight train that was Alice. Me too, Alice. Me too. Is she coming next week for lunch? My family lunched together once a month on a Sunday afternoon. Rose and Em even came down and brought Carly to join us. I didnt know how Bella would feel about joining my family, even though we had all gone out together on her first day at the office that had been different. Also, if I was being honest with myself, I wasnt sure I wanted to share her with my family yet outside of work. I dont know Alice. Let me talk to her about it, okay? Of course, in admitting that I would even have the opportunity to talk to Bella about joining us, I was confessing more to Alice than I had intended. She caught onto this before I had a chance to cover my tracks, and I heard her squeal on the other end of the line. Perfect! Hey hold on. Jasper wants to talk to you. Ill see you later this week, alright? Sure, Alice. Later. I heard her hand the phone over to Jasper. Hey Jazz. Dear, God, Edward! What did you say to her? Shes literally bouncing out of the room! Uhm. Dunno. Whats up? Not much here. I just wanted to see how things went with James at the new location. They were fine. James is a piece of shit, but it was fine. Whatd he do this time?

I couldnt suppress the growl in my chest as I said, He wasnt respectful to Bella. The way he looked at her Jasper snorted. Dont take this the wrong way, little brother, but I have a feeling Bella can handle herself Im sure its not the first time shes been gawked at by a sleazy asshat. Not helping, Jasper. Sorry. Youre right though, I agreed. She put him in his place right at the start. I dont think he was expecting a brain to come in that wrapping, you know? Jasper laughed. No. Probably not. Well, good for Bella. He was quiet for a few seconds. Howd the rest of the weekend go? Alice mentioned something about the four of you dancing Friday? A really big piece of gum in Roses hair Yes. We had a good time. Thats what Rose told Alice. I could hear the insinuation in his voice. Is there something you want to tell me? I internally debated. I had always been very close to Jasper. Growing up, he frequently played peacemaker between Rose and me. Not just yet, Jazz. Alright. But Edward? Yeah? The something you dont want to tell me? Well, I think its a good thing. That seems to be the general consensus, I said, the smirk on my face making its way to the tone in my voice. Have I really been all that bad to live with? Yes, you have, he said, deadpan. But I have faith in you, little brother. For what its worth, I think shed be good for you. You need someone smart enough to challenge you, and shes definitely that. Actually, I think shes probably smarter than you Hey! I spat out, although I knew he was just trying to get a rise out of me. And I dont think you could find someone hotter... Alright, Jasper. Thats enough, I growled again. You sound like you and James were separated at birth. Jasper chuckled on the phone. Touche, Edward. Touche. Well, hey, Im going to get off of here and go peel Alice down from the ceiling shes dancing on. Yeah get a grip on her, would you? I teased. Talk to you later. Bye, he said, hanging up the phone. I stuffed my cell back in my pocket and ran my fingers through my hair. It was still late morning, and I had several hours before I could make my way to her condo. I cleaned the house up a little, tossing my clothes from the previous night into the laundry and making the bed. When I went to place the pillows, I grabbed the one Bella had slept on and held it to my face, closing my eyes and inhaling the wonderful aroma she left behind. It made me wish I could speed time forward to the evening. After throwing some of my paperwork from the LA trip into my bag, I locked up the back door and headed out to the office to get some work done. I scrolled through my iPod to a new album I had

downloaded and turned up the volume to hear Parachutes lyrics stream through my speakers, smiling at the way they just fit my Bella. Several minutes later I pulled into the parking garage, actually whistling to myself as I made my way into the building, waving to the security guard on my way to the elevator. Three hours, a weeks worth of opened and answered mail, and two cans of Coke later, I was ready to head home and get ready to see Bella. As I turned off the lights and locked the reception door of the office my phone buzzed in my pocket. Hey, you, she said when I picked up, before I even had a chance to say hello. Just the sound of her voice made the tiny hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. Because thats just what Bella does to me. Hey to you, too. Whatcha doing? Watching some infomercial for what promises me to be the greatest 80s CD collection known to mankind. You? Oh no dont look at the light! Stay away from the light! I teased her. Eh. I think I already have most of these songs anyway. The beauty of downloads. Who buys CDs now, anyhow? Oh, wait you do. You have more CDs than anyone I know. And LPs. What are you, fifty? I laughed at her, basking in her teasing and our easy banter. Hey, dont knock the music collection. Youre just jealous. Yes of the fact that you have enough space in your house for all of that crap. Im feeling claustrophobic already. Breathe into a paper bag, then. Where are you? Whats that dinging? she asked as I stepped into the elevator and pushed the button for the lobby. At the office. I may lose you in the elevator. Hmm she sighed, sounding distant. I like that elevator. Her meaning wasnt lost on me, and her reference had me instantly thinking about what it had been like to kiss her in that elevator, taking her by surprise and running my tongue over her bottom lip. Bella I warned. Dont do that. I have to walk out to my car here, for Gods sake. She giggled on the other end of the line. So not helping right now. Youre early to head over for dinner, you know. Although I dont think I can look at these handbooks for another minute. I thought that was right up your alley, General Counsel? It is. But I find myself verydistracted today, she said huskily. I was going to go home and change first. Its just now four. Hmmm, she murmured lazily into the phone. Screw it, I said, walking out the door into the garage. Ill be there in five.

Chapter 17
EPOV Hopping into the car, I drove out of the parking garage of the office like Mario Andretti toward Bella's building. I parked in one of the guest spots and all but ran into the lobby, where the annoying mall cop of a security officer was standing there at the front desk, tapping a pen against the desktop and looking bored to tears. When he saw me coming toward him, his eyes narrowed as he looked me over and I wondered if he remembered me from the last time I was here with Bella, when I had growled at him after he stared too long at her ass. "May I help you, sir?" he said with mock respect. "Yes. Edward Cullen. I'm here to see Isabella Swan. Please ring her to buzz me up." The guard scowled and picked up a phone, running his index finger down a list taped to the desk. "It's 3002," I offered. He nodded once and dialed the number. "Ms. Swan, there's an Edward Cullen to see you. Should I send him up?" Two second later, he nodded, hung up the phone and huffed at me. "Go on up," he said, motioning to the elevator. I knew better than to think that his tone was due to his concern for Bella's security. Less than a minute later I was knocking on her door. I smiled to myself that I could see the shadow of her feet under the door. When I put my ear to it, I could actually hear her breathing on the other side. Still, she didn't open the door right away. When she finally opened the door, about ten seconds after I knocked, I was surprised at just how relieved I was to see her again, so soon. But I wasn't about to let her get off that easily. "It's about time," I said, cocking her a halfsmile and rolling my eyes at her. "Pardon?" After giving her a quick kiss on the cheek, I whispered into her ear, "I could see your shadow under the door, Bella. What took you so long to open up?" She stopped breathing and turned beat red in embarrassment that I had called her out. Bingo. I let myself into the condo, lightly patting her hip as I walked by her. She stomped her foot a bit and bit down on her lip, refusing to watch me walk in. Shutting the door, she offered me something to drink, but she still wouldn't look at me. Adorable. She went to sit on the couch and motioned for me to sit by her. I willingly complied, just keen to be near her again. It took every ounce of willpower I had not to attack her then and there. After all, I didn't want to let her know just how psychotic I was when it came to her. "What, I missed the rest of the 80's infomercial? That's a shame," I said instead, hoping that levity would ease my own nerves. When she quickly grabbed the remote and offered to find the horrible show on another channel, I told her it was completely unnecessary. Honestly, a news flash alerting the state of California that the fault line had finally given up and we were three minutes from falling into the ocean couldn't have even torn my attention away from the woman sitting next to me. She mumbled something about being a disappointing hostess to me as she placed the remote on the coffee table. I squeezed her leg just under her knee and replied, "I don't think you could be a disappointing hostess if you tried, love." Her gaze dropped down to where my hand was on her leg and she sucked her lower lip into her mouth, gnawing away at it. I reached up to rescue the poor lip from her teeth. "As much as I love it when you do that, I don't want you accidentally hurting those." I couldn't take my eyes of her full lips any more than I could stop thinking about

devouring them with my own. Needing her to be closer, I picked her up, wrapping my hands around her tiny waist and placed her on my lap. I was confident that she'd be able to feel my stiff cock by sitting on me like that, but that was alright by me - I wanted her to know what she did to me. When I pushed aside her hair to nip at her neck, I felt her throat vibrate under my lips as she whimpered. She tried to get away from me, but I wouldn't have that - I secured her neck with my hand and held her still next to my mouth. "Does it make me a total wuss that I've missed you in just these few hours?" I asked, biting playfully on her neck. "Umm... I hope not," she mewled, and I heard her stop breathing altogether when I slipped my tongue out to taste her behind her ear. It was all the incentive I needed, and I threw her backward to lay on the couch. She reached around me to graze her nails over my t-shirt along my lower back and my cock's reaction was almost painful. When she stuck her pink tongue out and traced my top lip with it, I had to close my eyes and think about batting averages in order to avoid the embarrassment that I knew would follow if I looked at her. Jezzabel. Grinding my pelvis between her thighs, I growled at her, "You, little lady, are a tease." "Am I now?" she replied, looking very pleased with herself as she reached her hands up to rest above her head like a little kitten. I couldn't keep my hands off her, slipping one under her shirt to feel her warm soft skin. She stayed still, the smug look on her face. "Uhm-hum. But I'm learning to read your body, Isabella. You may act disinterested, but when I do this," I ran my hand over her flat abdomen, "your belly quivers under my fingers." I watched with delight as her eyes rolled back into her head. "When I do this," I continued, skimming my hand up to rest on top of her thundering heart, "I can feel your heart speed up." "Fuck me," she whispered. The invitation couldn't have been more attractive if it had been written on thousand-year-old parchment with liquid gold. I beckoned her to sit up with me so that I could remove her shirt, revealing a sinfully lacy bra underneath. I laid her back down and nibbled on her chest until it was heaving under my lips. "Bella, I know I should take it easy on you," I managed to groan out, "but please. I want you - right now." I begged her like a pauper, but I couldn't care less - I had no pride when it came to her. I continued touching her, kissing her, my mouth watering at the thought of drinking all of her in with each of my senses. Bella writhed beneath me, and although I was relatively certain she wanted me just as much as I wanted her at that moment, she proved herself capable of rational thought when all I could think of was Need. Need. Need. NOW. She asked, "Did you bring anything?" What? Oh, fuck. No condom. "No," I sighed, hearing the little angel on my shoulder laugh in triumph. "I wasn't planning to come over here until after I went home, remember? Besides, wouldn't that have been presumptuous on my part?" "Presume away, Edward." She can't talk to me like that if I can't do anything about it.

"You don't have anything?" I asked, and as soon as I did, I wished I could have taken it back. Of course she wouldn't have anything. After all, until the last few days, she was a virgin who probably wasn't even contemplating a relationship with someone. I looked up at the expression on her face and winced. Yep. She definitely heard me. "Uhm. No," she spat at me. Fix it now, Cullen. "I'm sorry - I didn't mean anything by that, Bella. I just meant... I guess I hoped... Of course you wouldn't. I'm sorry if I offended you." Now she looks even more pissed. "What do you mean, of course I wouldn't?" But despite her facial expression, there was a hint of teasing behind her tone. At least, I hoped that's what it was. "Fuck. You know what I mean." It got very quiet and I could feel the rising tension - and not the good kind - in the air. "Edward?" she tentatively said. Willing both of us to calm down, I laced my fingers into her hair, loving the way the cool silky strands wrapped around my hand. "Yes, love?" "Alice mentioned something about you last week that has me curious." I laughed because I knew that Alice had taken Bella under her wing, and I was sure Bella was probably a little overwhelmed by my spit-fire of a sister-in-law. I also suspected that Alice was the family cheerleader on the subject of my relationship with Bella, so I was curious about what she would have said to Bella in her attempts to throw us together. "I bet. What did the little shrimp say about me?" Bella swallowed hard and said, "She said you're a....well, a player." Didn't see that coming. "I'm not judging at all, Edward. I just don't remember you mentioning much about girls you dated when we were writing, and...," she tried to back trace and keep me calm. "Shit. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to offend you, and of course, I can totally see where that could easily be the case." I was not offended by her calling a spade a spade - I expected no less from her. What had me concerned was wondering what she thought of me, based on Alice's statement. That, and why she seemed so willing to excuse my behavior in the past before even hearing my explanation. "Why would you say that, Bella?" She arched an eyebrow at me and gestured up and down my body. "Seriously? Because, you're sex on a stick, Edward. You're beautiful." I've always known that she was a generous, forgiving person - to a fault - but her statement troubled me. As though the way I looked - which I never thought was anything special - justified loveless sex. After a few seconds of internal debate on how best to come clean while not scaring the shit out of her, I said, "Bella, I won't lie to you. I have... enjoyed the company of women over the last eight years." Her eyes widened and I could almost hear her thinking astronomical figures, visualizing lines of scantily-clad women passing through my bed. It was not like that. "Nothing ridiculous - I'm not a man-whore by most women's standards. I've actually even had one longterm relationship in there for a year." As if that makes the rest of it alright. Bella was a fucking virgin before me, for God's sake. Her face turned all business, and she commanded, "Define ridiculous,' Edward." I could deal with playful Bella.

I could even deal with pissed Bella. But I wasn't used to lawyer Bella yet. Twining a lock of hair between my fingers, trying to calm her, I began my careful answer. "Bella, I think, personally, if a person were to get into, let's say," I mentally counted, "the high teens within an 8-year time span, that would be ridiculous." She sat in concentration for a minute, and then her face seemed to relax. I wanted so badly to hear the conversation she was having with herself in her head at that moment. She nodded at me, so I continued my explanation, telling her about Tanya. I told Bella that once I had an inkling of a suspicion that I would get to get another chance with her, I hadn't given Tanya or any other woman a second thought. It was the truth. In a last ditch effort to see if I could force myself into loving her, I had been with Tanya the night before my father handed me Bella's resume in his office. Then it dawned on me. Bella thought I was using her - playing her. My heart ached at the idea of me - or any other asshole - using my Bella and discarding her. I explained that I was not, would never, use her. I admitted my tendency to flirt with women when I had thought it would give me an advantage, but I would never in a million years do that to her. I would never do that to any woman again - there was no need. She looked pensive at my explanation, and explained, "Look, I know that I have no claim on you whatsoever, and I have no right to be jealous or territorial or any kind of bullshit like that, but I'd like to know whether you're going to revert to your M.O. next time you're in a bar and a pretty woman comes up next to you." What? Have no claim?' Is she crazy? When I laid my hand on the couch next to her, palm up, she took my cue and laced her hand in mine. I don't know which of us was more comforted by the gesture. "First of all, you do have a claim' on me. You do have a right to get all jealous and territorial." I thought of my reaction to Mr. Muscles. Hell, I thought of my reaction every time I read in her letters about some guy she was dating. "Lord knows I have several times already, and not all within the last few weeks. Second of all, why would I be in a bar without you?" Surely she had to know that now that I had her back, I intended to keep her as close as she'd allow. Then there was her ridiculous insecurity to address. "Third," I continued, touching my fingertip to the tip of her nose, "I don't think that they could get any prettier than you, Bella Marie." She nodded and leaned over to hug me, the exposed skin of her arms a little chilly because she was still in just her bra and jeans. I didn't want to put her shirt back on her - that would be like putting a concrete wall between us at that moment, so when she pulled me behind her to lay on the couch I covered her up with a blanket and we laid there comfortably watching the laughable 80's infomercial. After a few minutes of peace and quiet, because I just can't leave well enough alone, I decided to push my luck. "May I ask a question now?" "Sure." "I'm not entirely sure I want to know the answer to this -" In fact, I'm positive I don't want to know the answer to this. But again, I'm an idiot. "Well, that'd make us even then, I think," she interrupted, smirking. "Alright. Can you explain to me how you managed to go through college, law school, and several more years - looking this beautiful and being this fantastic - and still be a virgin?" She blushed and

tried to hide her face under the blanket. As if she could run away. As if she could hide. I pulled the blanket back down and chuckled at her. "Don't be embarrassed, love. It's nothing to be embarrassed about. Truly, I am elated to know that no one else has known you, like that, before me. I'm just curious." "Well..." she hesitated. "I learned to keep guys...at bay...with other things." She wouldn't look at me. What the-? Oh, hell no. Clearing my throat, I said, "What do you mean, Bella?" She continued to look everywhere but at me. "You remember me telling you about the guy I left back home when I went away to college?" I nodded. "Mike. Well, Mike was very...persistent about having a physical relationship. I wasn't ready. Now I know that I didn't love him, and that's why I wasn't ready. But Mike had a temper on him." I instinctively held on to her tighter. So help me God, if he hurt her... "I didn't want to make him angry or have arguments about what I wanted, so I...uhm...learned to...help him in other ways." The thought of Bella having to suck off some asshole who didn't respect her enough to take no' for an answer made me see red. Then I thought back to earlier that morning, when she fell to her knees and took me into her throat, and I felt like shit. I turned away from her and sat up, running my hands through my hair. She placed her tiny hand on my back. "Edward, please don't be upset with me." I growled in frustration. "Bella, I'm not upset with you. How could I be? I'm angry with myself!" "But why?" "This morning, Bella. This morning you did that for me, and -" "Shhh," she cut me off and tugged my shoulders around until I was facing her again. She crawled up onto my lap, straddling me and running her fingers through my hair. "Shhh. That was different. I wanted to." I looked at her with skepticism. "Really, Edward. I did." We sat for a few minutes with our foreheads touching. Eventually, my breathing returned to normal. She leaned in to kiss my cheek and then whispered in my ear, "I love the way you taste, Edward." My cock came to attention. "I love the feeling of you in my throat...your hands in my hair..." Holy shit. "The taste of your warm cum in my mouth..." she said as she slid down my neck, to my chest, to kneel on the floor between my knees. When she looked up at me through thick lashes and reached for the button on my jeans, I moaned and my head hit the wall behind the couch. "Please let me taste you again." My voice came out in strangled warning. "Bella..." *** BPOV I thought he was going to let me do what I so desperately wanted to do, but as I reached to

unhook the button on his jeans, he grabbed me by my shoulders and stood me up, practically ripping my jeans from my body. He lay down on the couch and pulled me onto him so that I was sitting on his chest. His eyes were pitch black as he ran his index finger under the front lace of my panties and tugged. "Are you terribly fond of these?" he asked me. I shook my head. With one more quick, hard tug, the panties were a ripped scrap of lace on the floor. Holy hell. He grabbed me by my knees and pulled me up toward his head until my knees were next to his ears. He roughly slid his hands up my thighs to grab my bare ass, pulling me up further until my core was about two inches from his beautiful face. He breathed cool air across me and a shiver went up my spine. The next thing I knew, his wonderfully long tongue was in my body, diving in and out and swirling circles in me. All the blood in my body focused on two places - my head and my center - until my vision actually went hazy. I could hear him beneath me, lapping up my juices, and I knew I had never heard a sexier sound. "God, Bella," he moaned between licks and nips at my clit. "I can't believe how incredible," lick, "you," nip, "taste on my tongue." His words were enough to mentally put me over the edge and I felt my belly coil up. His tongue dove into me one last time, and I felt my muscles clamp down on it like a vice. "That's it," he whispered as he continued to dive his tongue in and out of me in tempo with my contractions. I fell back with my hands on his hip bones and my back arched over him. He lapped at me until I had ridden out my climax, and then he placed kisses down my thighs to my knees, pulling me off his face. When he sat up underneath me, all I knew was that I wanted to return the favor. I slid down his lap and grabbed at the waist of his jeans again. He grabbed my wrists. "No, Bella." "But I want to." He shook his head at me. "I'll save mine for later," he said, wagging his eyebrows in an Evil Genius way. "Besides, I'm hungry...now that I've had my appetizer." Yessir. "Let's get you dressed and go to dinner, okay?" I furrowed my brow in confusion and he traced the lines with his fingertip. Making one last attempt to convince him, I grabbed his wrist and sucked his extended finger into my mouth. He didn't buy it, pulling his finger out of my mouth and smirking. "Come on, my little fiend. Get movin'." Pouting, I got up and headed back to my room for new clothes. I was fairly certain Edward had popped off the button of my jeans in his hasty attempt to peel them off, and I knew I needed fresh panties - there was no mistaking that ripping sound. I got a new bra and panty set out of my dresser drawer and put them on. When I turned around, Edward was standing in the doorway of my bedroom, leaning against the frame. He walked up to me and wrapped his arms around my waist. I snaked mine around his neck and kissed his full lips. "Do me a favor?" he asked. "Sure. What do you need?" "Wear a skirt for me, okay?" I gave him a quizzical look. "Trust me." "Alright. I can do that. But if you ask if you can curl my hair in addition to dressing me, we're going to have to sit down and talk about that, got it?" I replied, poking him in the ribs. He laughed

and I noted the ticklish spot for future reference. "Now go have a seat and let me get pretty, k?" "Oh, I think you're pretty stunning as you are." He quirked an eyebrow as he gaze burned a trail from my head to my toes. "But go ahead and put on some clothes. I don't intend to let others have this view." Yum. Love me some Possessive Edward. I dressed, ran a brush through my hair and put on some lip gloss. As we locked up and headed down the elevator, Edward asked me what I was in the mood to eat. "Well, since you won't let me have my first choice," I said, dropping my gaze to his crotch and then back up again, "how about that little Italian place we had lunch at? That was pretty good." He shrugged his shoulders and nodded in agreement. We walked down the street holding hands. The sun was still out, but it would be setting soon, and luckily I had thought to bring a lightweight sweater with me in case it was chilly on the walk back home. When we got to the restaurant, there was a different hostess than we'd had the previous visit, but her reaction to Edward was just as bad. I rolled my eyes at his oblivion, then slid my hand into his back jeans pocket possessively, all the while looking at the hostess with a look that screamed, back off bi-otch!' She tried to sit us in the middle of the busy restaurant, but Edward slipped her a bill and asked for something quieter. She complied and showed us to a booth in the corner. When she placed the menus on either side of the table, Edward shook his head and picked up the menu meant for his use. After he helped me slide into the booth, he sat down next to me, leaving the other side of the booth empty. The hostess snorted as she walked away in a huff. "I think you pissed her off," I said. He grinned at me. "She'll get over it. Besides, I'm pretty sure you started it with the hand-on-myass trick back there." Our waiter came over and took our drink order. Edward ordered a bottle of wine for us to share, and I made a mental note to drink plenty of water this time around. But then I remembered how Edward took care of me at Rose's after I had too much to drink, and I was touched to think that he would likely do the same thing again if he thought I was getting out of hand. The waiter came back with the bottle of wine and water glasses. As we ordered our food, Edward traced circles on my left knee, then inched his way up my bare thigh. I found it difficult to read the menu in front of me to place my order. I finally managed to spit it out, and as soon as the waiter took our menus and walked away, Edward flicked his hand under my skirt and squeezed my thigh. I grabbed the edge of the table and gasped. I had never participated in anything like that before, but Edward had turned his body so that none of his movements would be visible to anyone else. "Troubles, love?" he cooed innocently as he moved his hand to get my knees to spread slightly. When I complied, he cupped his palm over the area between my legs, and his palm actually felt cold compared to my warmth. He leaned in to my ear and huskily chastised, "Tsk, tsk, Isabella. I think I've created a monster." He curled a finger under my panties and into my core. My palms hit the top of the table and I straightened my back in reaction. But just as quick as he was in, he had pulled his finger out of me. "I'll be back in a few minutes, Bella. Can you sit here and behave while I'm gone?" Talking was so not going to happen at that moment, so I just closed my eyes and nodded my head frantically.

"Very good." He got up from the booth and I sat with my head in my hands for several minutes, willing my hormones to calm down. I sipped the wine, hoping that would help. I should have known better. I needed all the inhibitions I could gather. A few minutes later Edward returned with a small plastic bag. He had whatever was in the bag wrapped up and he handed it to me. "Put that in your purse, would you please?" I took the package from him and put it into my purse, curious as to what it was. The waiter brought out our food and it was delicious. Edward and I talked about trivial things like movies that were out that we wanted to see, concerts we had been to, and speculation about how many store credit cards were in Alice's wallet. The time flew by and the waiter brought over the check. Edward paid it and helped me out of the booth. As we were walking out, a short man in his late 20's came up to Edward. "Hey Cullen!" he said. Edward grinned as they shook hands. "Peter. Good to see you." "Coming in to check up on the place, are you?" Edward shifted his weight on his feet, looking suddenly nervous. "Well, we're doing great, as you can see by the full house. I'll get the monthly figures over to you by mid-week, k?" "That's great, Peter. How's Charlotte?" "Oh, she's sassy as ever. Not here tonight, though. I'll tell her you said hi." The man looked over at me, then back to Edward. "Well? Aren't you going to introduce me, Edward?" Edward cleared his throat. "Certainly. Forgive me. Peter Michaels, Isabella Swan." Peter's eyebrow instantly shot clear up to his hairline as I extended a hand to him. "Nice to meet you, Peter." He shook my hand. "Peter here owns this fine establishment," Edward explained. "Really? Well, it's great," I encouraged. Peter was still looking back and forth between me and Edward. "Part owner. Thank you," he replied. I saw Edward shoot him a glare from the corner of my eye. "Well, we need to be going. It was good to see you again, Peter. Send my regards to Charlotte." "Will do. See you, Edward. It was nice to meet you, Bella." He looked at Edward when he put the emphasis on my name. Edward took me by the hand and practically dragged me out of the restaurant and onto the street. We crossed through one intersection, but he didn't slow down. My strappy sandals weren't meant for that, so I stopped and yanked my hand out of his. "What's up Edward? You ran us out of there like the building was on fire! And why was that Peter guy giving me the once-over?" Edward pinched the bridge of his nose and paced in front of me. "Edward!" I scolded. "Stop with the pacing and talk to me!" He stopped walking in circles and stood in front of me. "I own it." "What? You own what, Edward?"

"The restaurant. I own it with Peter." "Okay. What's wrong with that? It's a great -" I stopped as clarity hit me like a wrecking ball. Bella Italia. I stared at him, wide-eyed. "Since when, Edward?" He rubbed the back of his neck. "Four years ago." I nodded. Now for the tough one. "Who named it?" He exhaled, puffing out his cheeks. "I did."

Chapter 18
EPOV As Bella slipped her hand into my back pocket, giving the blonde hostess the universal female signal for Hes mine bitch, I loved her even a little bit more than I had when I felt the ends of her hair brush my thighs as she let her head fall back during her orgasm on her couch. As we ordered our food, I decided to tease Bella a bit to prepare her for what I wanted to do to her when we got back to her place. Stroking the inside of her thigh, I urged her to open her legs to me and when I put my palm to her center, it was like fire meeting ice. Damn. Tsk, tsk, Isabella, I scolded her. I think Ive created a monster, I said as I dipped my long middle finger under the lace of her panties and into her. So fucking wet already, I thought, doubting my ability to wait to take her until we got back to the privacy of her condo. But before I thought any more about that, I had some business to take care of. Ill be back in a few minutes, Bella. Can you sit here and behave while Im gone? She nodded. Very good. Her eyes were still closed and her hands clenched into fists on top of the table when I put my napkin on the table and walked toward the door. The hostess saw me and gave me a smile and a wink. I just rolled my eyes and walked on past her. Ill have to talk to Peter about that one. Once out onto the street, I went a block to the west to a drug store and picked up a box of condoms. The clerk at the check up looked at them and then at me, her jaw dropping slightly. Unembarrassed, I handed her a twenty, grabbed a bag from the rack and told her to keep the change. As soon as I was out the door, I opened the box and stuffed one of the wrapped condoms into my pocket - I didnt want to have to mess with the box once I had Bella safely home with the door shut. I closed the box back up and wrapped the plastic bag around it as I walked back into the restaurant. Bella was sitting at the table, her first glass of wine at least, I hoped it was still her first glass empty in front of her. When she saw me she blushed, and I handed her the plastic bag, saying, Put that in your purse, would you please? She looked at the bag for a moment, puzzled, and then stuffed it into her purse. The waiter brought our food. Bella had cannelloni and I ordered a steak. The meal was delicious, and I was glad that she nearly finished her meal. Shed need her strength for the night I had planned for her As we sat just enjoying each others company, we compared our list of movies we wanted to see.

She surprised me when she said she wanted to see the new thriller that had just come out, and she nearly spit her water when I told her I wanted to see the new Drew Barrymore flick. We talked about the concerts wed seen over the years, discovering that we had caught several of the same bands on different legs of their tours. By the time the conversation turned to guessing how many store credit cards Alice had and how many of them Jasper knew about I felt more comfortable with her than I had after spending a year making small talk with Tanya. It was like we just fell into it so easily with each other. I wasnt foolish enough to pin it all on the fact that we had known each other for twelve years, because, in truth, we were different people then - more nave, less certain of ourselves. But I still found that, just as I had twelve, ten, eight years ago, I craved more of her company. That hadnt changed, even if our tastes in music had. Eventually the waiter brought us our check and I paid it, ready to take her home. I took her hand in mine, helping her out of the booth and heading for the door, when an all-too familiar voice called out my name. I turned to see Peter coming toward me, hand extended and I shook it, telling him it was good to see him. I hoped he would just let it drop at that. Coming in to check up on the place, are you? he mused. Well, were doing great, as you can see by the full house. Ill get the monthly figures over to you by mid-week, k? I didnt give a damn about the figures, anxious to just get out of there before Peter spilled the beans. But I also knew if I rushed out, itd make both Peter and Bella suspicious. So instead I opted for inquiring as to his wife, Charlotte. I had known them for several years and genuinely liked both of them. The fact that Peter was a great, and usually discreet, businessman was icing on the cake. Oh, shes sassy as ever. Not here tonight, though. Ill tell her you said hi. I noticed him eyeing Bella, and I knew that the introduction was unavoidable. He called me on it, urging, Well? Arent you going to introduce me, Edward? Certainly. Forgive me. Peter Michaels, Isabella Swan. Bella extended her hand and offered a pleasant, Nice to meet you, Peter. Peter here owns this fine establishment, I explained. Really? Well, its great, she said sweetly to Peter, nodding at him. Part owner, the ass corrected. And thank you. We needed to get out of there before Peter could do any more damage. Well, we need to be going. It was good to see you again, Peter. Send my regards to Charlotte. Will do. See you Edward. It was nice to meet you, Bella. He stressed the nickname, making it clear to me that he was putting pieces together. When we had formed the restaurant four years prior, and he offered to let me name it, I had simply told him that I was naming it after a girl I once knew. I grabbed Bellas hand and led her quickly out of the restaurant and into the street. She lagged behind until she just abruptly stopped and pulled her hand from mine. Whats up Edward? You ran us out of there like the building was on fire! Why was that Peter guy giving me the once-over? When I turned to look at her, her arms were crossed in front of her chest and she was tapping her foot on the pavement. As I tried to figure out if there was any way to talk my way around this, I began pacing. Edward! Stop with the pacing and talk to me! Here it goes.

I own it. What? You own what, Edward? The restaurant. I own it with Peter. Okay. Whats wrong with that? Its a great she said, cutting herself off. Understanding washed over her face and her eyes widened. Since when, Edward? Four years ago. She nodded, soaking it all in. Who named it? Shit. I did. Wha Whe Why? she stammered. Is she serious? Stuffing my hands in my pockets, I walked to stand in front of her. It was a beautiful place. I named it after the most beautiful thing I had seen. Yeah, I knew it sounded clich and corny, but it was also the truth, and I hoped that it let her know that, regardless of what she thought of my decision to stop writing her, I never forgot about her. Never stopped loving her. I stood, waiting for her reaction, and was pleasantly surprised when she uncrossed her arms to wrap them around my waist. Looking up at me with moist eyes she said, Thank you, Edward. She stood on her toes and kissed my chin, then my lips. I removed my hands from my pockets and cupped her face, just staring at her face, illuminated by the moonlight and street lamps. The dizzying traffic of cars and pedestrians around us all fell to the background and all I could hear was the sound of her breathing. Simply stunning. Dropping my hands down to hers, I asked, Want dessert? Theres a great ice cream place a block down? My horniness was experiencing a momentary setback thanks to Peters appearance, but I wasnt ready to leave her for the evening. Yum! she replied and her eyes lit up. I encased her small hand in my own and we began to walk down the street again until we got to Baskin Robbins. She ordered a mint chip sugar cone, and I ordered a vanilla cake cone. She rolled her eyes at my choice and said, Vanilla, Edward? Come on. Wheres your sense of adventure? She took a bite of her ice cream and chewed it before swallowing. I watched, intrigued. What? You chew your ice cream? Yep, she said, popping the p. Dont you? Never, I laughed as we walked back out into the street. It was a busy Sunday evening, with various bar and restaurant patrons mulling around. Taxis dropped off and picked up passengers along the way, and bicycle cabs escorted couples, dodging around cars that were waiting in the streets. Bella and I continued to make easy conversation as I talked to her about all the fun things to see and do in the city and around it. She made me promise to take her shopping in La Jolla, if Alice didnt get her there first. As we passed between two buildings, Bella slowly licked up the side of her cone, catching a melted drop before it could run its way down to the end of the cone. Although I dont think she intended it to be a seductive move, it most certainly was, and my body responded accordingly. I tossed my ice cream in a nearby waste can and grabbed hers from her hand and threw it away, too.

Hey! she protested. I wasnt done with that! Yes, you were, I growled before sneaking us into a nearby alley, unable to wait to have her back in the comfort and privacy of her own home. Like a fucking selfish asshole. After I marked her like the asshat animal that I am, I asked her to come home with me, and I felt the high of being in her droop when she refused me. She was the voice of reason, reminding me that we couldnt be seen walking in to the office the next morning together. Sensing my let-down, she sweetly reminded me, We have plenty of time to have sleepovers, k? She was right we had all the time in the world. Thats a promise I intend to make you keep, Ms. Swan. Its one I intend to keep, Mr. Cullen. Now, I know that its completely fucked up, but when she called me Mr. Cullen, it reverberated all the way down to my toes. Of course, it made a pit stop at my cock on the way down. Reluctantly, I kissed her goodnight and headed down the elevator back down to my car, already missing her. It was ridiculous I had gone eight years without seeing her or hearing from her, and now I couldnt even go five minutes. So screwed, Cullen. I got into my car and drove back to my lonely house. Even on his best mans best friend day, Ben would be a poor substitute for Bella. I glanced at the passenger seat to the white bag full of my stationery store purchases, and smiled to myself at my idea. Entering my neighborhood, I pulled into the garage and as soon as I touched my hand to the doorknob, I heard Ben panting on the other side, waiting for me. I opened it and tousled his fur on top of his head. He cocked his head to the side, as if to say, Where is she? Sorry old man. I tried, but shes trying to keep us both on our best behavior. He huffed and moped to the back door to be let out. I obliged, opting to accompany him and walk the beach for a few minutes to try to calm my brain down before I attempted to write my letter to Bella. The beach was scattered with a few late evening joggers, some couples, and a half dozen nighttime surfers. The water was still chilly, but not unbearably cold, as I rolled up the cuffs of my jeans and let the tide come up to my calves. The blackness of the water, coupled with the soft sound of the surf, calmed me instantly. I hollered out to Ben to get back inside the house, and he shrugged off the excess water from his fur and trotted up alongside me as I walked up to the deck. Opting not to watch TV because I didnt want to get completely out of the zone of thinking of Bella as if that would really be possible I sat down to my piano bench and began to pick out a melody haphazardly. A few notes later, I added the bass with my left hand, adding in chords and runs until a fuller sound filled my living room. I closed my eyes and let my fingers fall along the keys. When I opened them, a full half hour had passed and I was in the right mindset to start my project. I stood up from the bench and covered the shiny keys and made my way into the kitchen, where I had put the white bag on the island. I withdrew three pieces of paper and an envelope and picked out a pen from the cup next to the phone. I took them upstairs and sat down at my desk, switching on the soft desk lap rather than the harsh overhead light. As I wrote, I hoped she understood the meaning behind the letter. It was an apology, sure. But it was more than that. It was my way of explaining to her that, while I surely loved Bella as a whole

the Bella from twelve and eight years ago, coupled with the Bella of today I could, in fact, compartmentalize her and love her just for who she was at that moment. I didnt even need to have met her as that shy girl in the hotel gift shop to know that I adored everything about her. My feelings werent dependent on the past, not simply my indulgence of a nostalgic curiosity. When I sealed up the letter and wrote her name on it, I was both exhausted and excited. I slipped it into my messenger bag to take to the office in the morning, knowing I would have to get there early to sneak it into her pile of mail before she got there. I set my alarm for six thirty and pulled off my jeans to get into bed, replaying the events of the past two weeks and counting my abundance of blessings. I fell to sleep soon enough, but woke every time I rolled over to put my hand on an empty pillow. This is crazy. Shes spent one night with me and already my bed feels empty without her in it. Six thirty Monday morning eventually came, and I turned off my alarm clock before it even had a chance to buzz, anxious to get up and get to the office.to see her. I showered and dressed in a white polo shirt and black flat-panel pants. I ran my fingers through my wet hair, tugging it out of my eyes and back from my forehead. I grabbed a banana and bottle of OJ from the kitchen, flung my messenger bag over my shoulder and picked up my keys from the bowl in the hallway, whistling as I made my way out to the garage. It was a beautiful sunny morning, and I didnt bother booting up my iPod, just enjoying the light buzz of traffic noise and the open sunroof as I crossed the bridge into downtown. It was only seven thirty. By the time I pulled into the garage and made it up to the office, itd be just past eight plenty of time to put her letter on her desk hidden in with her other mail from the weekend. Angela was putting her purse in her desk drawer in the reception area when I walked in at eight. She greeted me with a warm smile, and a, Good morning, Edward. Did you have a nice trip to Rosalies? Yes, Angela. It was a very productive trip. How was your weekend? It was good. Ill go put on a pot of coffee for you in the break room, okay? Thank you, Angela. Do I really look like I need it this morning? She sighed before saying, You just look like you had a busy weekend, thats all. But a few cups in you, and youll be good as new. We laughed and I walked down the hallway to my office, stopping briefly to throw my bag down on the leather couch in my office before grabbing the letter out of it. I walked down the short hall to Bellas office, and felt instantly calmer when I could smell the faintest trace of her there. Without turning on the light I walked over to her desk, noticing the picture of her family in a small silver frame on her desk. Her mail from over the trip was in a neat pile on her desk, and I slipped my letter into the pile and re-straightened it. I went back to my office and booted up my computer to check my emails and the WSJ front page online. In reality, I stared at the clock on the computers desktop, just counting down the minutes until I knew shed be in, wondering whether shes drive or shed walk. I preferred it when she walked, as her complexion always seemed to be piqued from the exercise. But either way, I just wanted her near me. Eight thirty came and went, then eight forty-five. I assumed she was down the hall by now and I was a little disappointed that she hadnt come by to see me. But just as I was about to go down the hall to check in on her, she appeared at my door. She looked fantastic in a black pencil skirt

with a slit at the thigh and a white cotton button-up shirt with little ruffles at the collar. To top it off, she wore the same stilettos she had worn on her first day the ones that accentuated the curves of her toned calves. Her hair was down and wavy as it cascaded over her shoulders, and her cheeks were pink. She had her stack of mail under one of her arms when she slowly walked in, staring directly into my eyes from across the room. Grab a cup of coffee with me before the meeting? she asked, nudging her head in the direction of the break room down the hall. I took three steps to stand in front of her and ran the tip of my finger from her earlobe to the apex of her collar bone, just visible between the ruffles of the collar. I couldnt help myself I just had to touch her. At the sensation, she gasped and I felt my mouth water at the sound. Definitely, I answered, and motioned for her to lead the way out the door, placing my palm on the small of her back. I felt her shiver slightly, and I recalled her mentioning that this particular part of her body was her seven. Being that I had YouTubed that Friends scene the evening she told me about that spot, I had a pretty good idea of the reason behind the shiver, and it made a wicked smile cross my lips. After you, mlady. She just nodded and began walking down the hallway. I poured each of us a cup and paid attention to how much sugar and cream she put into her cup, taking my own black. We walked the rest of the way down the hall to the conference room, where Bella placed her mail on the table and took a seat. Not wanting to be exceptionally obvious, and wanting a good vantage point from which to admire her during the meeting, I took the seat directly across from her, placing my coffee cup down. Jasper walked in with his obligatory Monday morning can of Coke, a legal pad and a pen. Hey Edward, he greeted me. I walked over and gave him a half-hug/half hand-shake. Hey yourself. He stepped back away from me and nodded in Bellas direction. Hey there, kiddo. Nice weekend? He winked at her. He fucking winked at her. I cringed at the sight and sound of my brothers familiar means of conversing with my Bella. I watched Bella smile sweetly at him and it made bile rise in my throat. Overreact much, Cullen? A word, Edward? Jasper queried, nodding toward the conference room door. I nodded and followed him, noticing that Bella had begun thumbing through her stack of mail while waiting for the others to arrive for the meeting. My body may have followed Jasper, but my mind lagged behind in that conference room, wanting to see Bellas reaction as she read my letter. Whats up, Jazz? Has Dad talked to you about the new HR complaint? No. What are you talking about? Remember Irena who used to work down in payroll? I did recall Irena. A homely, pudgy girl who washed her hands about fifty times an hour. Bat-shit crazy. Yeah. What about her? Well, shes filed a disability claim against us for firing her crazy ass.

I scoffed. Jazz, if shes claiming a disability, we probably shouldnt be heard referring to her as a crazy ass. Does Bella know about this yet? He shook his head, taking another swig of his Coke. Nope. Well need to sit down with her and go over Irenas personnel file, her reviews, et cetera so Bella can start to work up our defense. I just wanted to give you a heads up because its likely that Bellas going to have to meet with the crazy I mean, with Irena, and I dont know how you feel about her being around her without someone else around. I nodded, understanding his meaning. Irena was absolutely nuts. I didnt want her within a hundred yards of Bella without me being there. Possibly accompanied by the nice men in white suits who carried a supply of straight jackets. Understood. Lets talk more about it with Dad and Bella. Jasper glanced into the conference room and smirked. Is that all, Jasper? Yep. I just cant wait to see how this, he said pointing between Bella and me, works out. *** BPOV I was momentarily irritated when Edward grabbed my mint chip cone from my hand and threw it in a trashcan on the sidewalk. But that was only until I saw that look in his eyes as he dragged me into a nearby alley. It was feral. The moment he pushed me up against a brick wall, his hand already behind my head to keep me from hurting myself, his mouth was on mine. I quickly lost all ability to think about anything other than the sweet taste of him, our tongues twisting and dancing. He drew a hand to my waist, roughly grabbing at the skin just under the hem of my shirt. I know I probably should have been worried about getting caught, or offended that he was being so rough with me, but the only thing I could think was moremoremoremore as I scratched and clawed at his chest, his ribs and his back. He withdrew his hand from my waist and turned his head. As I sucked and bit at the offered earlobe, I heard a ripping sound and the noise of a zipper. Then his mouth was back on me and his hand was searching under my skirt, and I instinctively brought my leg up to hitch around his hip, grateful that I was wedged in between his body and the wall. He pushed the thin strap of my thong to the side and without any further ado, he filled me to the hilt in one long thrust. I had to bite my lip to keep from screaming at the fabulous sensation. The thrill of being in public and the depth he could hit in me from that angle was electric. Fuuuuckkkk Belllllaaaa, he groaned into my neck. I fisted my hands in his hair and had reservations about whether I would pull out fists full of bronze strands. But he didnt seem to be objecting at the moment. He held onto my hips, holding me still as he pounded into me with abandon, and when he reached between us to pinch my swollen bundle of nerves, I exploded. I threw my head back, hitting it hard on the brick wall but again, who cares? I lost all inhibitions about being near a crowded street as I screamed his name. That was apparently the nail in his coffin, and I felt him shudder and twitch in me as he gasped for air. We stood there for a minute or two, panting and holding onto each other. When he pulled out of

me and gently lowered my foot back down to the ground, I had to palm the wall behind me to keep from toppling over. Then the pain hit. My head started to throb where I hit it on the wall, and I reached back to rub the already-forming knot. Ouch. Thatll leave a mark. Oh my God, Bella. Im so sorry, Edward fussed and reached behind to rub the spot. I wasnt even thinking. I didnt mean to hurt you. Pshh. Shut up. Dont you dare apologize for that, I scolded him, entwining my fingers with his behind my head and moving them to my lips to kiss his palm. The end most definitely justified the means. He smirked. That wasamazing, he breathed into my mouth. I dont know what came over me. Youthe ice creamthe skirt It was just allwow. I had never known Edward to be caught without words, and I was a little proud that I was the cause of such stammering. He grazed his nose along my collar bone, pushing the neck of my shirt aside. The sensation was too much as I continued to feel aftershocks ripple through my body, and I put my hands on his chest and gently pushed. He looked at me, baffled. Because I dont know how many of those you stuffed in your pocket, I think wed better get back home, alright cowboy? I had put two and two together and figured that his little field trip during dinner had been to get condoms and assumed that was the package he had me put in my purse. I also figured out that prior to giving me the package, he must have put one of the wrappers in his pocket for easy retrieval upon getting back to my place. That thought send a shiver down my spine. He contorted his beautiful lips into a look of frustration. What is it, Edward? He sighed. I dont want to leave you tonight. Please come home with me. To say that I was slightly tempted to immediately take him up on his offer would have been a severe understatement. But considering that we hadnt discussed how we were going to broach the subject of our relationship with his family, let alone how wed handle it at the office, I didnt want us to be seen walking in together Monday morning. Shaking my head, I answered, I dont think so, handsome. Not tonight. Why? he said, pouting. I tugged his hand in indication to start walking again back toward my building. We need to iron out some kinks before we give the rumor mill any ammunition at the office, okay? That wont look good if we walk in together after everyone knows that you and I both stayed with your sister last week. Would it? He shrugged his shoulders. I dont give a damn. Well, I do, and you should, Boss Man. He winced. I squeezed his hand in encouragement. Look, Im not going anywhere. Are you? He shook his head, looking at the sidewalk. Good. Then we have plenty of time to have sleepovers, k? He looked at me, his crooked grin back where it belonged. Thats a promise I intend to make you keep, Ms. Swan.

Its one I intend to keep, Mr. Cullen. He walked me home and I changed into my comfortable PJs and plopped into bed, falling asleep quickly, thanks to the exercise Edward had given me against a certain brick wall. The next morning I woke up both anxious and excited about going into the office. Anxious because Edward and I hadnt had a chance to have the talk about how we were going to handle, well, us at the office. Excited because, hello, beautiful man down the hall whos been camping out between my thighs lately! With that thought, stretched my arms and when my back pressed into the mattress, I winced. I had noted before going to bed that my back was a little scratched up from the bricks I had been pushed up against. But whos complaining? Not me. I showered and dressed in one of my black pencil skirts the one with the cute little slit up the side that showed some leg without being slutty or unprofessional. I didnt put too much of an effort into straightening my hair, letting it hang loose and wavy. It was a bright, sunny day and so I decided to go ahead and walk to work. I left the majority of my handbook project in my condo, figuring between the Monday morning meeting and playing catchup, I probably wouldnt get the chance to get to it much anyway. Angela greeted me with a warm smile and a nod as I walked in. She was already answering phones and patching them through to various administrative assistants. My stomach tumbled up into knots as I passed into the hallway that Edward and I shared. Jessica was at her desk sorting through a stack of papers to file and we exchanged pleasantries before I went into my office. When I walked into my office and flipped the light switch on, I could barely make out the faint smell of him. He had been in my office, which meant he was already there. Crazy Bella did a happy dance, and Professional Bella had to remind her that to everyone else in this office, I was the New Kid On The Block. If there was any indication that there was anything going on between Edward and me especially without his family running interference for us it would simply appear that I was sleeping my way into my new job. But Crazy Bella won out, and before Professional Bella could get a restraining order on her ass, my legs were headed to his office just as my arms snatched up the mail on my desk. I walked into his office, and he was sitting at his desk, looking all contemplative with his brow furrowed as he stared at his computer screen. Grab a cup of coffee with me before the meeting? I asked, unable to keep myself from staring at him. At those ridiculously long eyelashes. At the chiseled way his jaw went from the dimple in his chin back to the tips of his earlobes. At the five oclock shadow he already had and the way his bronze hair hung down to touch his thick brows. He was just too beautiful. And he was mine. Crazy Bella broke into a chorus of Cant Touch This. Professional Bella rolled her eyes and said, oh, what the hell. He looked up at me when he heard me and as he took the few steps to stand in front of me, I saw his eyes darken. Watching as he did so, he slid the tip of his cool finger along my neck to my collar bone, and I couldnt stifle a gasp. Definitely, he responded, and took a step back to allow me to lead the way out. The devilish man put his hand on my low back, right where I really liked it, and I shuddered. After you, mlady. All I could do in response was nod, and pray that I could remember how to walk straight

as I felt the heat from his palm seep through my shirt and onto the small of my back. He poured our coffees and I doctored up my cup before we headed down to the conference room, where we were the first to arrive for the meeting. I put my stack of mail down on the table and took a seat, but was a little disappointed when Edward didnt take the seat next to mine or even near mine. Smart man. Keep a distance at the office. Good thing one of you has his head screwed on straight. Jasper walked in and greeted Edward, shaking his hand and giving him a manly hug. Hey yourself, Edward said in response. Jasper gave a nod to me and asked how my weekend was, winking at me. Yep. Alice talked to him, too. Edwards jaw clenched when I nodded to Jasper, and I wondered what the problem was. A word, Edward? Jasper said to Edward, and Edward followed him out to the hallway. I watched for a moment before reaching out to flip through my mail. Edward was looking at the floor, shaking his head and rubbing the back of his neck. I thumbed through the mail, which Jessica had already sliced open for me. Nothing spectacular. Mostly confirmations of my address change, my new bar membership information, notices of conferences in the area. But there was a strange envelope that didnt have a stamp on it. It was not opened, but I recognized the penmanship immediately. I looked out into the hallway quickly, and Edward and Jasper were still talking, so I slipped my nail under the seal and opened it. Edwards graceful handwriting covered the pages I unfolded. My Bella Marie, First and foremost, let me apologize for the complete and total ass I am and have been for not writing. I thought I had an excuse, but as it turns out, like me, it was full of crap. I hope that you are doing well and that you will write soon to fill me in on all youve been experiencing since we last wrote. Second, and just as important, I have to tell you about this wonderful woman Ive met. Shes simply fantastic. She is beautiful, to be sure. She has long hair that smells like strawberries, and luminescent skin that has the power to melt me anywhere she touches me. I swear, when she holds my hand, I can feel my feet levitate just a bit. But shes also amazing on the inside. Shes smarter than any woman Ive ever met. She shows no fear she holds her own in an argument, and you dont realize youve lost until its all over and shes left the room. She makes me laugh - real, belly laughs. And when she laughs, its like bells in my ears. I could sit and listen to her laugh and talk all day, every day. You and I know that Ive made more than my share of selfish, stupid mistakes. More than I can remember or care to remember. But she is so forgiving more than I deserve. She makes me crazy. As soon as I leave her, I ache. Thats got to be crazy, right? I can hear you laughing at me now, telling me to turn in my man card. But I would gladly - and anything else she wants or needs or has even a fleeting thought of desiring. Because I love her. And I think she loves me too. Thats the amazing part. Because she has a suspicion of the monster I am, and she sees through it.

So I wanted to tell you about this fantastic person who, like you for the last twelve years, makes me a better person. When I found you, all timid and shy in that hotel twelve years ago, I left a little piece of me with you, and another little piece eight years ago. I wouldnt trade that for the world meeting you was the defining moment of my life. But Ive been walking around, a broken man, for eight years, just looking for the pieces and trying to fit them together into a whole man. Now Ive found not only the missing pieces, but the one person who can glue them all together. I hope all of this makes sense and that you may be as lucky as I am you deserve it far more than I do. Love, Masen I sat there, in that conference room by myself, reading the lines through tears. I understood what he was trying to say. Not just what he said with the words please forgive me and I love you but also what he didnt write. That although he may have loved me in the past, what he felt for me now could stand alone and apart from that. That he could segregate that me from this me, and love this me just as I am. At that exact moment, I knew for certain that I would never love anyone else like I loved him. So when he walked back in from his chat with Jasper, shutting the conference room door behind him, I looked up at him with wet and swollen eyes. He took at quick step toward me, hand extended in concern. Even though just a few minutes earlier I had been reminding myself of the need to not show my feelings for him at the office, I sprung from my chair and into his arms, weeping silent, happy tears. And Professional Bella kept her damned mouth shut for once.

Chapter 19
EPOV When I went back into the conference room to find a shaken, weepy Bella, I freaked out. It took me a moment to scan the area around her and realize she had opened my letter, and my thoughts went from bad to ugly in two seconds flat. Ive made her cry. AGAIN. But when I stepped toward her to comfort her and try to explain myself, she jumped out of her chair and into my arms. I caught her, keeping her feet off the ground and holding her tight. Bella? I cautiously whispered into the hair on top of her head as I set her back down on her feet. Whats wrong? She sniffled into my shirt. Nothings wrong. She gave a short laugh and looked up at me through her lashes. I loved the letter. I heaved a sigh of relief as she reached up to give me a chaste kiss. And I get it.

Despite what she was saying, I felt the need to explain myself further. I just thought you needed thatthat closure and to know that despite that I know we wouldnt be what we are now without having met then, what we have now is so much better already than what I hoped it would be back then. I just She stopped my mouth with her own and Ive never been more happy to be interrupted. Shh she hushed between kisses. I know. I felt her lips against mine curl into a smile and I withdrew from the kiss, still hugging her so tightly I could feel her heart beat up against my chest. Theyll be in here soon, I cautioned. Yeh, Im glad you thought to shut the door behind you, she said with a snort as she wiped her smudged mascara from under her lashes. Edward? Uhm-hum? Will you do something for me? Just ask, love, I answered, wiping the tears off her cheeks with my thumbs and replacing the sections of her hair that I messed up. Will you stay with me tonight? Seriously? She had to ask? Sucking in a breath through clenched teeth, I decided to play with her a little. I dont know, Bella. I think maybe you were right about not coming in together at least until we talk to my family. I put on my best serious face. Also, I have to make sure Ben gets let out Sitting there on the table, one foot on the floor and the other dangling, I clasped my fingers together in contemplation. She surprised me by coming to stand between my legs, squeezing one hand on each of my thighs. Please? she whined, looking down at her hands. I was completely defenseless to her, and although I knew that she knew that, I also knew she would never take advantage of it to hurt me. I sighed in defeat. Alright, alright. But I do need to take care of Ben. Then do you want me at your house? Groaning at her charming naivety, I answered, Its never a question of where I want you Bella. Silly monster. She blushed at her own inadvertent double entendre. But yes, that would probably be more convenient. Why dont you come on out once you go home and pack some things? She nodded. I heard someone open the door handle and Bella backed away as I got off the table with a bit of effort. Jasper and my father walked in. Jasper couldnt contain the smug smirk on his face, and I noticed that my fathers lips were forcing themselves not to smile as he set his notepad down on the table. Son. Bella, he greeted.

Good morning, Carlisle, Bella said sweetly. I walked behind my father toward my seat, patting him on the shoulder as I passed. Edward, I believe Jaspers told you about the complaint from Irena? Yes. Total bullshit. Language, son, my father scolded. I nodded obediently. At any rate, youll need to sit down and go over her file with Bella and Jasper. I dont have the time to be in on that, but I think the three of you can get the situation under control. Just keep me in the loop, alright? Sure, Jasper and I said simultaneously. Bella looked puzzled. Bella, if you have a few minutes after the meeting, Jasper and I can fill you in on our former crazy employee, okay? Thats fine. I smell a suit in the air, though. Look at her, Jasper chuckled. Shes got that twinkle in her eye! Gotta love it! The rest of the key employees filed in slowly and the meeting went as usual. Usual, that is, except for the fact that I had one hell of a time keeping my eyes off the beautiful woman across the table. My mind wandered off multiple times, anticipating having her back in my home that night. Then it wandered into diversions diversions where Bella was naked and sprawled out across the very conference table that separated us. Well, alright - maybe the table wasnt the only thing separating us just then. I didnt think that Bella would be into having an audience. But she had been a willing participant in our alley encounter in public. Shit. Now Im thinking about that again. My palm was still a little scratched from pushing it up against the brick wall to steady myself as I entered her, over and over again, until I heard her literally scream my name. Baseball. Baseball. When the meeting was over, everyone cleared the room and I motioned to Jasper. Hey, Jazz. Come on down. You too, Bella. I just need to refill my coffee and Ill be right in. I also needed a few minutes away from her before I resorted to attacking her on that damned table. I knew my office was a safer bet than hers because her scent wouldnt drown me as badly but I also knew that, at least eventually, I intended to make good use of my offices couch. I refilled my cup and walked back down the hall to my office, stopping briefly to ask Lauren to hold my calls. Certainly, Edward. Ms. Swan is already waiting for you, and your brother said hed be right in, she sneered. I didnt like the snippy tone with which Lauren said Bellas name. I leaned over her desk and said just loud enough for her to hear me, Lauren, Ms. Swan is welcome in my office at any time. Understood? Her eyes narrowed for a moment but then she nodded at me and went back to her filing.

When I walked into my office Bella was already waiting on the couch. Thinking better of sitting myself next to her after my fantasies from only a few minutes prior, I decided to pull my desk chair around to sit next to the couch. She looked a little hurt. I rubbed the back of my next as I reassured her, Trust me Bella. After the things that have been going through my head the last half hour, were both safer with me over here, and you over there. She perked an eyebrow up at me in response just as Jasper walked in and plopped down next to her on the couch. I had to mentally remind myself that (a) Jasper would never look twice at any other woman but Alice, and (b) it was my own choice not to sit next to her myself. For the next hour, Jasper and I filled Bella in on the crazy details of Irenas short tenure at Cullen, Inc. The hand-washing. The talking to herself. The inappropriate comments to other employees. The craziness that made everyone at the company so weirded out by her mere presence that we had no other choice but to let her go. Which, of course, was why we were now being hit with a disability discrimination complaint. I listened as Bella explained the finer points of the procedures for handling the complaint, and watched as she read through Irenas performance reviews and some of the more ludicrous emails we recovered from her computer after we fired her. Bella talked with her hands gesticulating wildly as she gave us an overview of the laws that protected employees, and although I honestly tried to pay attention, I really couldnt. Just like that day at lunch, I was enthralled with the fire with which she addressed her job. She was in her zone, and now I knew, rather than having to merely presume, that that passion extended beyond just her work. I studied the way she licked her lips in the middle of a sentence, the way her delicate fingers held her pen as she waved it around when she talked, the way shed scoot forward on the couch cushion when she was reading something particularly interesting to her. Apparently my admiration was permeating the atmosphere, because eventually Jasper cleared his throat to catch my attention. When I looked at him, he was smirking and shaking his head at me. Youve got it bad, he mouthed to me. I ran my fingers through my hair and sighed. I know, I mouthed back to him. Bella sat there, reading, oblivious to our side conversation. Well, I think I have what I need here to start working on our defense. Ill pull together a memo by tomorrow morning and shoot it over to you two and Carlisle, outlining what I think we should do. Sound good? Jasper and I indicated our agreement with Bellas plan. Bella began to stand to leave, gathering up the scattered pieces of Irenas personnel file. Jasper interrupted her, putting his hand on her forearm to get her to sit back down. Bella. I want to talk to you guys about something. Please sit back down. Bella looked confused, and I felt apprehension well up in my gut as she sat back down. I think I have a pretty good idea of whats going on here, Jasper said, gesturing between Bella and me. For the record, I think its fantastic. So does Alice. And Rosalie. And Emmett.

I let out a small groan, but didnt interrupt him. But I think that you should fill in Mom and Dad. I know you wont get any resistance there, but I just think that itd be good for Dad especially to know so that we can head off any catfights here at the office. Agree? Bella blushed furiously and nodded her head, staring at her folded hands on her lap. I couldnt speak I was still trying to remember when Jazz had been designated the family ball-carrier. He continued as he rose from the couch and picked up his notepad and Coke, I hope youll be coming on Sunday, Bella. I know Alice is looking forward to it. With that, he walked out, shutting my door behind him. Whats Sunday? Bella asked me. Family dinner. Alice thought itd be nice if you would join us. I was going to ask you last night, but didnt get around to it. Id like you to come but Id totally understand if you Id be happy to, Edward. She stood up, still all-business, and brushed non-existent lint from her skirt. And I think Jasper is right. About what? She took the few steps to stand in front of me. Without letting her sight drop from my eyes, she slowly raised one knee and set it down on the side of my leg. She did the same with her other knee until she was straddling me where I sat in my desk chair. Business Bella was gone. Vixen Bella was back. The devil on my shoulder screamed with enthusiasm. Lets go talk to your father, she said as she lowered herself onto the bulge in my pants, and then she stood back up. Tease. Okay, I replied roughly. But youre going to have to give me a minute here. After we went down to my fathers office, he eventually kicked me out so he could talk to Bella alone. I could barely make out the sounds behind my fathers closed door. Jasper saw me standing there and hollered down the hall, What the hell are you doing? I gave him the bird and he laughed heartily as he went back into his office. Asshole. When Bella emerged from my fathers office, she nearly ran into me. You know what they say about eavesdroppers, dont you? she asked. They usually hear things they wish they hadnt. But dont worry, your mom is saving the naked-baby-on-a-bearskin-rug pictures for Sunday. I stood frozen in the doorway and my father chuckled at me from behind his desk. I turned and paced quickly down the hall to catch up with Bella, following her into her office and shutting her door.

Cullen Inc. has an open door policy, Mr. Cullen, she chastised as she fingered the spines of the books on her shelf, looking for something in particular. She reached behind her head and twirled her hair into a loose bun, sticking her pen through it to hold it in place - just as she had done the first time I talked to her by the swimming pool. The imagery was too much, and I marched to her, picked her up and flung her over my shoulder. She screeched and punched her tiny fists against my ass. Hey you brute! Put me down! Gladly, I said, dropping her down onto the suede tan loveseat along the wall opposite the bookcases. The pen in her hair fell out during our scuffle, and her hair fanned out behind her. I knelt down on the floor alongside the loveseat, watching the way her chest heaved and her cheeks reddened. What was that about, Edward? she asked, incredulously. What did my father have to say? A smirk formed on her perfect face as she turned onto her side, propping her head up onto her hand. Not much really. I dont believe you. Whats not to believe? You were in there for four minutes. With the door closed. Do you honestly expect me to believe he didnt say anything of importance? She shook her head. I bet I can get her to talk. I leaned forward so my face was mere inches from hers. Her gaze dropped from my eyes to my mouth and back again and she licked her bottom lip. I leaned in closer until my lips were just barely touching hers. Bella, youre such a bad liar, I whispered into her slightly open mouth. She stopped breathing. Just a little bit more I ghosted my lips along her jaw, down the side of her neck and to her collar bone. I reached up and slowly began unbuttoning the top buttons of her blouse until the white lace of the top of her bra was exposed. I ducked my head further and slipped the tip of my tongue under the lace, skimming it along the soft skin of her breast. As I did so, I glanced to the hand that was not holding up her head, where it laid on the couch. She was alternatively clenching and stretching her fingers as though she was trying desperately to hold still. She still hadnt breathed. Without unbuttoning any further, I reached my index finger between the two buttons holding the shirt over her belly and traced circles on the skin underneath. Her head dropped from her hand

and fell onto the arm of the loveseat as she inhaled sharply. Edwwwaaaarrrdddd, she hissed. All you have to do is tell me the truth, and Ill stop, love. I dipped my tongue further under the lace. She brought her hand up from the loveseat to tug at my hair. What if I dont want you to stop? Shit. Shes got me there. You really shouldnt have said that, I responded, and kissed her deeply. She wrestled my tongue with her own, and then gently sucked on it. I growled into her mouth, and she nipped at my tongue in response. She released me when she needed to come up for air. We really should not be doing this here, she cautioned. I shook my head in agreement while simultaneously moving in to continue kissing her, knowing I would never get enough of kissing Bella. She put her hand up to stop my mouth from reaching hers. I mean it, Trigger. I groaned in protest. Save it for this evening, okay? she requested. Quirking an eyebrow up at her, I stood up and reached down to help her up. When she stood and began re-buttoning her blouse, I leaned into her hair to whisper in her ear, Bring enough clothes to stay a few days, then, will you? Her head snapped up to look at me with a questioning look on her face. Seriously? Seriously. I brushed her hair back and sucked her earlobe into my mouth, lithely drawing the tip of my tongue up against it. She swayed on her feet a bit, and I grasped her elbows to hold her still. Maybe you should calm down there, Trigger. I can probably do that, Edward, she said softly. I reached down to squeeze her hand before I walked out of the office and shut the door. The rest of the day was as mundane as Mondays usually are. Conference calls, setting up meetings with various clients and tweaking proposals. I stopped down to Bellas office at 4:30 when I was on my way out. Leaving early there, boss? she said, eyes focused on her computer screen and fingers clicking away at the keyboard. I leaned against the frame for a moment, just enjoying watching her work. Uhm-hum. Im going to stop by the grocers to pick up some things for dinner. Her eyebrows shot up while she continued to type. You mean your culinary skills go beyond omelets? I am a man of many talents, Isabella.

So Im learning, Edward. So Im learning. Good. Teaching is one of my talents as well. At that, she stopped typing and blushed a bright red. Gotcha. Do you have any requests for supper? No. Just no Seafood, I interrupted. She smiled at me. You have an excellent memory. Another talent, I snorted. Just head on over when youre done here and have your stuff, alright? Sounds good, she said and went back to her typing. Im going to have to bring this to work on though, she said, nodding toward her computer screen. Thats not a problem. Lord help the man who stands between Bella and her work. See you in a bit. I walked down the hallway toward the elevator, saying goodbye to Jessica on my way out. She threw me a questioning look, and I drew the conclusion that Lauren (her best friend and fellow gossip monger) had told her about our little discussion that morning. I stopped at the grocery store to pick up pork steaks for the grill and some ready-made side dishes. When I got home, I let Ben out and fired up the grill on the deck. When the coals were ready, I threw the steaks on and popped open a beer. The minutes dragged by as I paced backand-forth from the deck, to the kitchen, to the front window waiting for Bella. Her truck finally pulled up at 6. I walked out the front door through the yard, barefoot, to meet her. Hey handsome, she greeted me with a peck on the cheek. I reached into the cab of her truck to grab her bag and briefcase. I can carry those, she protested. No, you cant, I corrected, putting the straps on my shoulders. I made sure the door was locked and shut it for her. Then I grabbed her around her knees and flung her over my shoulder. Youre very fond of this caveman trick, arent you? she teased as I ran her into the house. You werent moving fast enough. She giggled and clutched on to the hem of my shirt as I entered the house, bringing her into the living room to sit down on the back of the couch. Dinner smells fantastic! she said, running her fingers through her hair to settle it back down. I helped her, just enjoying the feeling of it slipping between my fingers, cool and silky. Its damp. Yeh, I went ahead and hopped into the shower while I was at home. Sorry it made me a little later than I hoped. I lifted the handful of hair I had in my hand and inhaled the sweet strawberry

scent. Dont worry I brought my own shampoo this time, she said, rolling her eyes and jabbing me in the ribs. Ummm, I hummed. She chuckled at me and snaked her arms around my neck. She placed a warm open-mouth kiss right on my Adams apple and I moaned. Whats on the menu, chef? I resisted the wicked urge to respond, you. Pork steaks, new potatoes, asparagus, French rolls. Sound okay? Yummy in my tummy! Sounds great! She helped me dish up the plates when I went out to get the steaks off the grill, and we enjoyed a nice quiet dinner, conversing easily about our day and playing footsies under the table like kids. When we were done, I cleared the table. She came up next to me and said, Let me do that. No. Youre my guest. I insist Edward. I want you to do something for me, though. Just ask. She took the forks out of my hand and pointed them toward the living room. Play for me. I had never been big on public performing, but like I said, all she had to do was ask me and I wouldve given her Mars if it was mine to give. Alright. But leave the dishes and come sit by me. I took her wrist in my hand and removed the forks, placing them in the sink and pulling her behind me to sit down on the piano bench. Warming up my fingers, I picked out a few notes before playing the opening stanza of Rachmaninoffs Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. Knowing it was her favorite, I had long ago committed it to memory. I heard her quick intake of air as she recognized the opening notes, and she leaned over to kiss my shoulder. She left her head there, alternately watching my hands and closing her eyes in relaxation. Beautiful. When I was done with the final chord, I had an idea. I started the first few notes of the song I had written and recorded for her eight years ago, but never gave her. Thats what you hummed to me at Rosalies, she whispered. I nodded. What is it? I sighed. Its yours. Mine? I wrote it for you.

Oh, Edward. You just wrote this, for me? Not exactly. What do you mean? Continuing to play through the lullaby, I confessed, I wrote it for you eight years ago. I even recorded it for you, and had the tape in my pocket to give you at the airport. Youre kidding? But you never gave me a tape. No. I stopped playing and watched her as understanding washed over her face. Tears pooled above her lower eyelids and when she blinked, two rolled down her cheeks. I wiped them away with my thumbs and held her face in my hands. Its beautiful. I would have loved it then. But I love it all the more now. She kissed me, letting our lips just sit still on each other as I held our faces together. She reached up to mimic my pose, holding my face in her hands. She began to kiss me again, this time in earnest, and I felt the shift in the meaning behind the kisses. I shifted slightly on the bench and she rose to stand between the bench and the keys. She took a step to the side so that she was standing between my knees, and she ran her hands through my hair, scratching my scalp lightly with her nails as she did. I closed my eyes and leaned forward to rest my forehead on her chest, just enjoying the sensation of her hands on me. I raised my hands to her small waist and just under the hem of her t-shirt. As I ran my fingers inward to meet at her belly button, I felt that wonderful quiver of her muscles under them. I curled my fingers to run between the waistband of her yoga pants and her belly and heard her breath go ragged above me. Bella, please, I begged in a whisper. Please. I removed my hands from her waistband and moved one of them down further along her abdomen, on top of her pants, until it rested right below her pubic bone. I could feel her heat already through the fabric. She tugged on my hair and swayed her hips at the contact. Please. She leaned forward from the keys and hooked her thumbs into her waistband, inching it down her hips a few inches. I brushed her hands away, replacing them with my own until her black lace panties were revealed in stark contrast to the creamy white skin of her thighs. I nearly exploded at the sight, and diverted my eyes to her beautiful face to ground myself. Looking straight into my eyes, my Bella pulled her shirt up over her head and threw it to the floor, shaking her head to make her hair fall back into place. The matching black lace bra accentuated the perfect curves of her breasts and I could see her nipples peaked under it. Fuck. Me. How did I ever let this go?

Where? she asked as I pushed her pants the rest of the way down her legs. As I did, I placed kisses on her thighs and belly, and she stepped out of the pants. She grabbed my shirt, commanding me to remove it. I complied. Here. I unbuttoned and unzipped my pants and quickly pulled them off, along with my boxers, grabbing the condom from my pocket before letting them fall to the floor. I had learned quickly with my Bella to always be prepared. I set the wrapper on the bench next to me and reached up to pull Bellas panties down. She read my mind and unhooked her bra. Both pieces piled up on the floor under the piano. She shocked me when she reached for the wrapper, opened it and pulled out the condom. May I? she cooed. There was no way I could speak, so I simply nodded. Bella rolled the condom onto my cock, and I had to hold my breath to keep from coming then and there at the feeling of her warm hand on me. Once it was on, Bella straddled me, her knees on the piano bench alongside my thighs. I love you, she whispered as she lowered herself onto me. We made love there on my piano bench, and then I carried her up to my room, where we laid in bed, naked, and talked until we fell asleep wrapped up in each other. I slept the whole night through, never waking. In the morning, she was right where she was the night before. Where she belonged. Tucked in next to me.

*** BPOV I was severely disappointed that our little moment in the conference room was interrupted by - of all things - work. Then to sit there in that room, across the table from him, feeling his gaze burn a hole through me until I had fantasies of straddling him as he laid across that table running on repeat in my head. Damn. When he asked me to meet with him and Jasper in his office, and Jasper didnt come in right away, I thought Id get a few minutes alone with him. So when he came in and sat in his own chair rather than by me on the couch, I went into full-on pout mode. He leaned in toward me and huskily said, Trust me Bella. After the things that have been going through my head the last half hour, were both safer with me over here, and you over there. Well, well, well. But all my nasty thoughts were derailed when Jasper walked in and was all business as he and Edward told me about a former employee who had filed a discrimination claim. It was a good thing, too, that the subject matter was one that interested me, because I needed to have some sort of outlet for all the energy that had been building up in me since opening his letter.

I was happy that, despite what I knew he had been thinking when I walked in to his office, Edward really seemed to be paying careful attention as I explained the relevant laws and how best to coordinate our defense. Jasper, on the other hand, looked like a deer caught in the headlights. Oh well, one out of twos not bad. When I had gone over everything with them, I pulled my paperwork together and prepared to head to my office to get to work on a memo to them and Carlisle outlining my ideas. But when I stood to leave Jasper lightly grabbed onto my arm. Bella, I want to talk to you guys about something. Please sit back down. That cant be good. I think I have a pretty good idea of whats going on here. For the record, I think its fantastic. So does Aliceand Rosalieand Emmett. Oh shit. Weve been ambushed. I heard Edward groan behind me. But I think that you should fill in Mom and Dad, Jasper continued. I know you wont get any resistance there, but I just think that itd be good for Dad especially to know so that we can head off any catfights here at the office, agree? I couldnt look at him through my embarrassment, so I just nodded. I hope youll be coming on Sunday, Bella, Jasper said in a reassuring tone. I know Alice is looking forward to it. Sunday? Whats Sunday? Jasper walked out of Edwards office, closing the door behind him allowing us to hide just a little while longer. Whats Sunday? I asked him, confused. Edward sighed and rung his hands together. Family dinner. Alice thought itd be nice if you would join me. I was going to ask you last night, but didnt get around to it. Id like you to come but Id totally understand if you Id be happy to, Edward, I assured him. And I think Jasper is right. Its time to face the music. Queue the big girl panties again. About what? Just to make sure I had his full attention, I walked over to stand in front of him. While trying my best to look into his eyes and not at all of the other fantastic features I loved so much, I inched up my skirt a bit so that I could comfortably sit in his lap - or rather, on his lap. But my half-way innocent gesture was received with no innocence whatsoever, and I immediately switched my game plan. Grinding myself onto his erection, which was definitely palpable under the fabric of his pants, I said, Lets go talk to your father. Edward licked his lips and I knew I had to hop off of his lap before this went any further - and it definitely would go further. Not that a large part of me wasnt willing to wave the white flag and surrender. Okay, he squeaked, but youre going to have to give me a minute here. I couldnt stifle my giggle at our complete inability to not behave like hormonal teenagers. Can

you imagine what we wouldve been like if we had done this, I circled my index finger between us, when we first met? Edward chuckled as he stood up and kissed my forehead. You wouldve never walked straight again. As he brushed past me and headed toward his door, I shuddered at the thought of Edward pounding me limp and lame. Mwaaah. Coming? he asked from the doorway. I took a deep breath. Damn close, I answered as I passed him and began down the hall to his fathers office. He broke out in a hearty laugh behind me. He followed me into Carlisles office, where Carlisle was on the phone. He pointed a finger at his guest chairs and mouthed One minute as he rolled his eyes. Edward and I sat down in the guest chairs, and under the concealment of the overhang of Carlisles desk, Edward lined his right foot up to lay right up against mine, and I felt my face go flush. He snickered next to me. Carlisle noticed our non-verbal banter and shot Edward a raisedbrow look. Edward shrugged in response and pointed to me like it was all my fault. Boys. A few minutes later, Carlisle finally got off the phone and, forearms on his desk and hands folded together, leaned over to us. So, Bella, did Edward and Jasper fill you in on Irenas claim? Yes sir. Ill have a memo to you by tomorrow morning outlining our defenses. Sounds like youre on top of it, then. I silently prayed that Edward wouldnt bite on that one. I believe so. Good, Carlisle said, beaming that kilowatt smile of his at me. Seriously, those are some fantastic genes theyve got there! Is there anything else I can do for you then? Edward? Edward hadnt said a word since we walked in. Yeah, Dad. Actually, there is. I saw him swallow hard and slowly inhale and exhale. I was highly amused, and resigned myself to just sitting back and watching how he planned to handle this with his father. Bella and I had a very good trip last week. Thats what I heard, son. I sensed a bit of a teasing edge to his voice, and had to cover my mouth not to laugh. Edward seemed genuinely nervous to continue. Right. Well, we were able to spend some time together, and weuhmwe Spit it out, Edward, Carlisle urged. Right. Well, wed like to see each other. Socially. I actually had to bite my lips together to keep from bursting out at his antiquated terminology. Apparently, I wasnt the only one. Are you asking my permission, son? Carlisle mused. Edward looked at me and I could tell he wanted some help. Not a chance this is way too much

fun. I shook my head at him, and Carlisle laughed out loud. Edward, youre priceless, Carlisle said. Youve never been one to ask permission to do anything, and at 29, youre getting too late a start for it to be anything other than comical. Carlisle winked at me. I already knew all of this, anyway Alice cant keep a secret to save her life. Apparently, neither can Rose, Edward interjected, rolling his eyes. Apparently not, Carlisle agreed. I dont see a problem with what you want to do. After all, were a family business. But just try to keep it professional here at the office, at least until Bellas settled in more, okay? Edward let out a gust of air hed apparently been holding in. Of course, Dad. He slapped his hands on his knees and got up out of his chair. Well, Ive got some catching up to do, so Ill talk with you later. Sounds good, son. We started to make our way out of our chairs and toward the door when Carlisle interrupted us. Bella, would you stay for a moment, please? Edward, you may shut the door. Edward looked torn. He obviously wanted to get the hell out of Dodge, but he was also looking afraid to leave me alone with his father. The former won out, and he walked out and shut the door. While Carlisle wasnt looking, I took a peek under the door frame, and sure enough, a pair of size 10 s were standing on the other side. Bella, I love Edward very much. Of course you do, Carlisle. Hes always tended to be my lost child. Not quite the spit-fire Rosalie is, but not quite as calm as Jasper. I can see that, I think, I agreed. I realize that Im not the most objective person here, but I assure you that you wont find a better man, Bella. Im very proud of him. I felt my eyes moisten up at his pride in his son, I couldnt have agreed more. And I think I have a pretty good idea of how he feels about you. Can I let you in on a secret? I suppose so. He was your biggest supporter to come on board. It was like once he saw your resume, his mind was made up. After our phone interview, he wouldnt stop quoting things you had said for nearly a week! I felt my face blush and I really hoped that Edward couldnt hear too much on the other side of the door. Iuhm dont know what to say to that, Carlisle.

Well, I wasnt the only one he gushed to. Poor Jasper! I dont know what all he told him, but theres got to be some reason why Alice was so excited to meet you, I think. Dont you? he asked me with a raised eyebrow and his own crooked grin. All I could do was bite my lip because, seriously, I wanted to crawl under the chair and hide until five oclock. Look, Bella. Im not suffering from grand delusions about any of my children. Edwards not always such a prince to deal with. Hes moody be ready for that, he warned. But my wife and I have taught both of our sons the proper way to treat yoursignificant other. I have no doubt that if he feels half for you what I think he does, and if you feel even a fraction of that for him, youll be very happy together. Before I could stop myself, I had stood, walked around his desk and hugged him. Thank you, Carlisle. And dont worry, youre secrets safe with me. He patted my back in a very fatherly gesture. Very well, then. Off you go. I believe someones waiting for you just on the other side of the door. After finishing out our day at work, I drove out to Edwards house, armed with a few days worth of clothing and my toiletries, as Edward had requested. His alarm went off at six-thirty Tuesday morning and he groaned into my hair as he reached behind him to swat at the sleep button. Not yet, he protested. I wiggled to try to get out from his encasing arms so that I could get up and use the restroom, but my wiggling had an unexpected effect on him. He squeezed his arms around me tighter in response. Well, good morning to you, too, I teased him. Dont leave. Please. Stay. My heart ached at what I was sure was just another remaining trace of his uncertainty with me. Ill be right back. Promise. I patted his arm and he reluctantly let me up. I went to the restroom for a human moment and rinsed my mouth out and splashed water on my face, surprised at how rested I looked, considering the previous nights activities. Activities. Holy crow! The Activities! I giggled at myself and my complete lack of reservation when he asked me to make love to him on his piano bench. My excitement had built up throughout the day to a fever pitch, and I climaxed the instant I felt him inside of me, and then once more before he shuddered in me. Many talents, indeed. By the time I finished in the restroom and walked back into the bedroom to find Edward laying on his stomach, white sheet just barely covering his perfect ass, I was ready for another round. Fuck

me if I hadnt become insatiable overnight. Still naked, I slipped back under the covers and traced figure-eights on Edwards muscular back with my nails. He had fallen back asleep, but when I touched him, he turned his head to face me and purred, That feels good. I kept up the figures, each trip down toward his ass inching a little further below the sheet, until he rolled onto his side to face me, his brow furrowed as if studying calculus equations written on my forehead. Im sorry, I said, pulling my hand back toward me. He snapped his hand onto my wrist and pulled himself over to lay on top of me, all in one swift move, grinding his hips between my open thighs. Oh. OH! Crazy Bella did cartwheels in my head. What do we have here? I said, bucking my hips up to meet him. Let me show you, he growled into my neck. And he did. Twice. When we were both sufficiently spent and seriously late for work, we dressed in a flash. I headed out first, and Edward said hed wait a few minutes before following me into the office, so as to try to thwart any suspicions. My day was uneventful. Because Edward had found better ways to occupy my evening at his house insert evil laugh here I spent the morning finishing up my memo on the defense strategy in Irenas case. At the end of the day, Edward came to stand in front of my desk, hands in pockets. Ready to go home? For some reason, the warmth of the word home washed over me in waves, and I nodded. Good. Im going to head out. See you in a bit. Fifteen minutes later, I turned off my light, grabbed my laptop and drove out to his house. We ate Chinese food for dinner and walked lazily back to his house. As we sat on the couch, Edward sprawled out with his head at one end, me facing him and sitting up between his feet at the other. I clicked away on my computer trying to finish up some research I had started back at the office. We sat in silence, the tapping of my nails on the keys and the faint sound of the ocean outside his door the only noises. Every once in a while, Id peek over the top of my screen and hed either be staring at me and softly smiling, or his eyes would be closed. After about half an hour of working, I closed my laptop and lunged forward to lay down on top of him. He wrapped his arms around my waist and played with the ends of my hair. I nuzzled into

the crook of his neck and sighed, feeling absolutely peaceful with him. He hummed me the song he had played for me the previous night the song he wrote for me and I nodded off to sleep. We slept like that all night, on his couch, me on top of him, feeling him breathing under me. It was perfect. When we woke the next morning and dressed for work, it amazed me how well we fell in step together, sharing the bathroom, sharing the island over bowls of Cocoa Pebbles and gathering up work to take back into the office. I didnt want it to end, but I knew I needed to head back home for a few days before he got tired of me. Edward, I began as I pulled my laptop bag onto my shoulder. He was digging in the bowl for his keys and handed me mine. I think I need to go back home this evening. Why? he looked startled and hurt. I love being here with you I really do but I dont want to overstay my welcome. He sighed and stood before me, placing his hands on my shoulders. Cant happen, silly girl. He kissed my forehead and I felt goose bumps rise on my arms when I inhaled the smell that was just Edward. If you want to go, I certainly cant keep you. I have no idea where the keys are to my handcuffs, he said, wagging his eyebrows suggestively for emphasis. But Id prefer if you would stay. Mi casa es su casa, and all that jazz. He gestured into the open air with his hand. I didnt bring enough clothes to stay, Edward. Then well go to your condo at lunch to pick up more, and whatever else you need. I pursed my lips and narrowed my eyes at him. You drive a hard bargain. Yet another talent. Youre a quick study, Isabella. I stood on my tiptoes and brushed my tongue across his bottom lip. I felt him shudder and I stepped away. Yes, I think I am. I grabbed him by his neck tie that he had put on for his afternoon meeting with a client, pulling him into the living room and on top of me on the couch. Well be late, he protested, but it didnt sound sincere. Youre the boss, Mr. Cullen. You can be late. I wrapped his tie around my hand, pulling him closer to me as I wrapped my legs around his waist and bucked up into him. Bella he warned. Shh. You have time to just kiss me, dont you? I asked with all the innocence I could muster. Of course. But when you wrap your legs around me like that, I want to do more than just kiss you. I want to and he reached up my A-line skirt, pushed aside the crotch of my boyshorts and plunged a long finger into my wet core. My back instinctively arched, seeking to have him deeper.

He dove his tongue into my mouth, matching the pace of his gloriously dexterous finger. Each time it swept my mouth, I tried to suck him further into me, but he set a pace that was driving me wild with his tongue it just seemed to accentuate what he was doing down below. With his thumb, he worked circles around and over my clit as he curled his finger inside me, and I knew I was going to implode. EdwardI.Iungh Thats it, baby. Come for me. I want to know I put that smile on your face when I see you in my office this morning. Come for me, he commanded. Because Im a Type-A people-pleaser, I followed his order immediately. Afterwards, when my breathing had settled, I reached for his belt, but he grabbed my hand and shook his head. No, he objected. But you No, he said again. Im good. Ill save it up, promise. We laughed together. You know one other thing I love about you, Bella? Hmm, enlighten me. You are absolutely breathtaking when you come. I could watch that all day. Edward! I screeched in mortification. What? he asked, all innocent. I hid my face behind my hands and shook my head. He chuckled at me and uncovered my face. Dont hide from me, love. You have nothing to be embarrassed about. He held my chin between his thumb and index finger and tilted my head up to kiss him. Wed better get moving. Were halfway through the work week already, he said cheerfully as he helped me up from the couch. I straightened my skirt and my hair. Yep, I agreed. Hump day. He hugged me to his chest. Later, my little minx. Later.

Chapter 20
EPOV On Wednesday morning when Bella told me she wasnt going to be going home with me that evening, I started to freak out. Am I smothering her? Is she having second thoughts? Just like I had eight years ago, I stood there putting everything I had into hoping shed return even a fraction of what I felt. But when she told me she was concerned about wearing out her welcome, I was confident my eyes popped out of my head. Was she serious? I had spent twelve years fantasizing about having her in my life, in every aspect of my life. If she

thought she could be with me too much, she was fucking insane. To show her how much I wanted her, wanted her with me, around me, near me, I did something I very rarely do - I risked the attention and chastisement of my father and brother for being late to work just so that I could spend an extra five minutes drowning in the sight, sound and smell of Bella speaking to me in a language she would never share with anyone else. My heart ached when she tried to reciprocate like she owed me. She had such a guilty look on her face when I shooed her away that I wanted to hunt down that Mike asshole and tear his throat out for making my Bella think that she couldnt receive pleasure without being expected to give it in return. Dont get me wrong. Every bone in my body wanted to touch her. All day. Every day. Making love to her was like nothing I had ever experienced. Beyond my wildest imagination, and believe me, I had devoted twelve years to imagining making love to that woman. In twelve years, your imagination gets prettyinventive. But she outdid me. Being at the office was the hardest. Knowing that she was just yards away, hearing her out in the hallway talking to Jessica, seeing her walk by on the way to Jazzs office, her heels clicking on the floor -click, click, click - it drove me wild. By Friday afternoon I couldnt stand it any more. Even though I had taken her that morning before we went to work on my kitchen table no less I was absolutely craving her by lunchtime. Five oclock couldnt come soon enough to please me. At five minutes to five oclock I went down to her office to tell her to pack up and get her ass back to my house STAT, but she wasnt there. I panicked, immediately thinking that she went home, back to her condo. Growing more anxious, I hollered out for her down the hall, but got no answer. Jessica wasnt at her desk and I noticed her computer was turned off, so I assumed she had ducked out a few minutes early. In fact, most of the employees had already gone home for the weekend and the lights in their offices were out. My father and Jasper both left early for afternoon lunches and meetings with clients. I paced down the hall, running my fingers through my hair. Between my panic that she had gone back to her place and the pent-up sexual energy coursing through my veins, I was a live wire. I was just reaching into my pocket for my cell to call her when I heard music coming from down the hallway near the conference room. Home-boy's so proud, finally got the video proof The night vision shows she was only duckin the truth I recognized the band and knew that it was one Bella loved, and my heart quickened as I walked faster toward the sound. When I made it to the conference room, she was standing with her back to me, papers sprawled out in organized stacks across the large mahogany table. Bella sang along to the chorus coming out of her iPod sitting on the table next to her, still not realizing I had found her. She said I want you, just zactly like I used to And baby this is only bringing me down... She stuck her pen behind her ear, tucking a stray strand of hair back with it, tapping her toe under the table to the sound of the songs cowbell. Quiet as a thief, I slowly walked up behind her and put my hands on her hips. She gasped in surprise and spun around. Edward! How long have you been standing there?

Long enough. My voice was thick and husky in her ear as I pulled her hips to mine, emphasizing mypoint. I was just sorting through the exhibits for Irenas position statement, she explained. I see that, I hissed, reaching around her to sweep the papers off to one end of the table. I said those were sorted, Edward, she snorted. But her voice didnt hold annoyance at my interference. Her breath was shaky and I could feel her trembling under my fingers. Thats what Jessica gets paid to do, Bella to sort. I picked her up by her hips and jumped her up to sit on the table, the skirt of her sundress inching up her thighs when I did so. I looked down at them, kneading them hard with my fingertips as I worked my way up her legs under the skirt. Edward, what if we get caught? she whispered. Her chocolate brown eyes were droopy and dark. I knew that look that was the look that pushed lust through my veins like heroin. All gone home for the weekend. Were alone, I answered, uncertain whether it was an accurate statement, but I couldnt have stopped at that point for all the money in the world. She laid her head back on the table, her hair matching the color of the table and blending in as it swirled around her head. I reached up her skirt thank God she owns so many skirts and ripped her panties clean off. I shoved them into my pocket with one hand while I reached for her with the other. At my touch, she arched her back and moaned my name. I nearly came then and there as I slid my fingers through her folds, shocked at how hot wet and warm she was already, despite that I had been in the room less than a minute. So wet already, Isabella? I teased her as I dipped a finger into her core. Ungh, she moaned. Please, Edward Teasingly, I bent down and put my lips just up to hers. Please, what, love? I removed my finger and she growled at me. She gripped her hands in my hair, willing me to look into her eyes. Fuck me, Edward. Oh. Dear. God. In. Heaven. I quickly undid my pants and rolled on the condom I had put into my pocket that morning - again, never can be too prepared I entered her in one long thrust and she dug her nails into my forearms in response to the contact, crying out. Shit! Fuck! she gasped. Between the noises she was making and the relief I felt after having not been inside her for a whole nine hours and forty-seven minutes, I knew I wouldnt last long. I vaguely registered her iPod advancing to the next song as I alternated quick, hard thrusts with long, slow ones to try to pace myself, holding out for her to get there first. She writhed and moaned beneath me. Lay where you're laying Don't make a sound I know they're watching They're watching It was as if the band had been commissioned to write our personal soundtrack for that moment, and I couldnt hold out anymore. I reached between where we were joined to pinch at her flesh, and when I did she bucked and balled her hands into fists in her hair. I did it once more and felt her walls clench down on me hard, so hard that it was actually difficult to keep pushing into her. Then the contractions started, quick and strong, milking me into oblivion.

I grabbed her hips, pulling her closer still to me as I threw my head back and my vision went hazy for a few seconds. I couldnt breath. I couldnt think. All I could do was listen to the sounds of our bodies crashing together and Bellas pants beneath me as I came. Afterwards, when I had zipped up and ran down the hall to get Bella a warm wet tissue and discard the condom, I walked back into the conference room to find her still laying on the table, chest heaving and her forehead glistening. She wore a flush more beautiful than any of the blushes I loved on her. That was she choked out between breaths. I walked over to her to help her sit up and straighten her clothes. Wow. What was that all about? Chuckling, I shook my head, unable to look her in the eye. Ive been fantasizing about doing that since I opened your resume. Mr. Cullen! she teased, lightly slapping my cheek. I caught her hand in mine and kissed her open palm before kissing her softly on her forehead, tasting the saltiness of her skin. I love you, Bella Marie. She looked up at me. And I love you. She kissed my lips and I felt pure joy flow through me. So beautifuland all mine. Lets go get a bite to eat and get home. I have a big day planned for us tomorrow, I said, taking her by the hand and turning the lights off in the conference room. We left the papers scattered about the table for Jessica to re-organize Monday morning, closing the door behind us. We had dinner in the Gaslamp District, sitting outside and sharing tapas as the sun went down. I followed her back to her condo to pick up some things for the weekend and to check her mail. She left her truck in her parking garage and we took my car back to my house. By the time we got home and showered, we were both so exhausted we fell asleep as soon as we laid down on the bed. The next morning we slept in until Ben jumped up on the bed and nosed his way between us, panting in Bellas face. Augh, she protested, shoving her face into her pillow. Ben! Go away! she mumbled as she blindly swatted at him with her hand. Come on, boy. Leave Sleeping Beauty alone. Lets go outside. Pulling on my pajama pants, I made my way down the stairs to take Ben out. It was a little cool outside, which was good. I knew it would warm up in a few hours, but it wouldnt be stifling for the day I had planned out for Bella and myself. First, we were going to go to Sea World, and then I was going to take her to La Jolla for shopping, as promised. I wanted her to have fun, hoping it would take her mind off the nervousness I knew she was feeling about going with me to family dinner the next day. We walked through Sea World, hand-in-hand, taking in the shows and sharing a spool of cotton candy. It was a perfect way to spend the Saturday with Bella. We stopped back at my house just long enough to grab a quick snack and shower (separately, to my chagrin) before hopping back in the car to take the short drive up to La Jollas shopping district. When we got to La Jolla, the first place Bella wanted to go was a bookstore, where she loaded my arms up with a wide variety of books to take home. All I could do was chuckle and shake my head at her as she scanned the shelves, tossing book after book at me to add to the stack. So we wouldnt have to carry the bags around with us, we made a trip back to the car to put them into the trunk. Thats when I heard it.

The shrill laugh that I had learned to despise over the course of a year. Edward, honey? Is that you? I stiffened and slowly turned to see Tanya toss her long blond hair over her shoulder. It is you! I thought I recognized that unruly mop from across the street, she chimed as she leaned in to give me a kiss on the cheek. I instinctively grabbed Bellas hand and pulled her close to me. I havent heard from you since that night at Oscars. Thats been, what? A month? Seven weeks, I corrected. You could have frozen over the Amazon with my voice. Right. Well how have you been, Sweetie? And who do we have here? she looked at Bella as she stroked my arm. Although I could feel Bellas left hand tremble in mine, when she extended her right to shake Tanyas, her face held the appearance of a cool and confident victor. Bella Swan. And you would be? Tanya. Tanya Denali. Edward and I, she cooed, squeezing my arm territorially, go way back. Very close. Really? Bella retorted. Hmm. Hes never mentioned you, she lied coolly. But the reaction on Tanyas face was priceless. Did you go to school together? She snaked her arm around my hip and rested her head on my shoulder, doing a little territory-marking of her own. Tanyas face dropped in disappointment at the realization that she had been bested by the beautiful woman at my side. Uhm. No. Not exactly. Bella stood stoically, eyebrow arched, challenging Tanya without words. Tanya glared at me with enough focus to burn a hole in me. I had to stifle a giggle as I squeezed Bellas hand. Well, Tanya, it was good to see you. I hope youre doing well, but we really should be going, I urged. Yes, Tanya. It really was just so nice to meet you, Bella echoed. All Tanya could do was nod as she pursed her lips in fury. I had been on the receiving end of that temper, and wasnt particularly interested in hanging around to see what would come next. We closed the trunk of my car and continued our walk down the street toward a clothing store. Bella wanted to buy a new outfit for dinner at my parents house, even though I told her that she could go in a potato sack and they would still love her. As soon as we got into the store, Bella dropped my hand and questioned, Are you going to fill me in on what happened there? She was eyeing you like she owned you, Edward. What the hell? I sighed and stared at my feet. Look at me, she demanded. When I looked into her eyes, I didnt see the anger that laced her words - I saw hurt. That was my ex. I gathered that much, she retorted, rolling her eyes. Why did she say she had seen you recently? She hasnt, I hedged. I havent seen her since the night before we got your resume. Should I ask what happened then? She crossed her arms in front of her chest. But again, her face betrayed her despite the venom behind her words came out, her eyes moistened up and her bottom lip shook. I reached for her, but she took a step back from me. Well? Should I? she repeated.

Probably not. She blinked her eyes hard and spun on her heel, darting between clothing racks. I stuffed my hands into my pockets and stood there by the door for a few minutes, giving her time to cool off. Not that she didnt have a right to be pissed as hell. She had every right. When I finally caught up with her and put my hand on her shoulder, she turned to face me and a tear dropped from her left eye. She quickly wiped it away. She wouldnt look up at me. Bella She shook her head and held up her hand to me in a just a minute gesture. Bella, I repeated, persistent. Im not perfect. Ive made a lot of mistakes. She just stood there, arms crossed, staring at her shoes, her silence slowly killing me. I was wrong to do what I did with Tanya. Not just seven weeks ago, but for the year before that. I didnt love her. I knew that, and still I stayed with her - tried to convince myself I could love her. But I just couldnt, and that wasnt fair to her. Still, she stood, shifting her weight between her feet. Bella, Im sorry. You have to know that if I had any idea youd eventually be here with me, I never would have done a fraction of what Ive done in the last eight years. You have to know You didnt love her? she interrupted me. I shook my head. Did you tell her you loved her? Ouch.

Yes. Yes I did. Another tear fell down Bellas cheek. Why? I dont know. Because she expected me to? Does that make sense? But you didnt mean it? No. I knew what was coming before she even said it. How do I know that you mean it with me? she whispered. I wrapped her in my arms and hugged her so tightly I thought I would break her. Oh, Bella, I sighed into her hair before I kissed the top of her head. I know I dont deserve it, for so many reasons, but I need you to trust me. I cupped her face between my hands and forced her to look at me. Ive never, ever, ever loved anyone more than I love you. Maybe.I think.perhaps thats why I couldnt love Tanya. Oh, come on, Edward, she said disbelievingly. Im serious. Ive compared every girl Ive ever dated to the ideal I had made you out to be. Except that I sold both of us short. The reality is so much better than the picture I painted in my head. Please believe me. I do love you. I pulled her to my chest again and I heard her exhale before she finally wrapped her arms around my waist. I know that, Edward, she relented, and I love you. But please do something for me for us? Anything. Dont ever be disingenuous with me. Im a big girl and I can handle the truth, but I cant handle a lie. Got it? She looked up at me through thick, wet lashes. I shook my head. I promise. She stepped up onto her tip-toes and kissed my chin before resting her head back in the crook of my neck. We stood like that for as long as it took for both of us to relax again, and then I asked, So, what exactly are you going to wear tomorrow? She grinned at me and cocked an eyebrow. I think the potato sacks are toward the back of the store. She twined my fingers with hers and pulled me through some racks before we made it to a t-stand of very Donna Reed-looking sundresses. How about something like this? I pictured my Bella in one of the very demure dresses, knowing the little vixen that lay underneath. Librarian meets sex goddess. I waggled my eyebrows. That would look great, love. *** BPOV When we ran into that bitch on the street, only Edwards hand in mine could keep me from clawing her beautiful blue eyes out. The way she grazed her long, perfectly manicured nails along his arm had me seeing red. I had a pretty good idea who she was before she introduced herself, given the way she was trying to mark Edward like a bitch in heat. But I tried to remain calm as I subtly let her know that, regardless of what she was to him, he wouldnt be calling her again. Ever. Despite my efforts, as soon as we were in the store my emotions and insecurities got the best of me and I went into all-out meltdown mode. But as Edward explained himself and apologized, I could hear the sincerity in his voice and it grounded me. He does love me. Not her. Me.

He helped me pick out a dress for lunch with his family, and as I checked out at the cashiers desk, he excused himself for a minute. After we were done, we walked back out to the car and Edward hooked my dress onto the garment hook in his back seat. We rode back to his house in comfortable silence, just listening to the radio and the sounds of the highway through the open sunroof. Edward held my hand on the console, rubbing lazy circles on the back of it as he hummed along to the music. The next morning I was a nervous wreck, barely able to eat the pancakes and bacon Edward fixed us, and he noticed the way I picked at my plate. Not hungry this morning? I guess not, I replied, pushing a cut piece of pancake around with my fork in the pool of blueberry syrup. Everything alright? Are you not feeling well? He put his hand to my forehead, checking to make sure I didnt have a fever. No, its not that. Im justwell He took his dishes to the sink and came behind me and played with my hair. Youre just what, love? Ummm, I sighed. That feels good. I closed my eyes and rested my forearms on the table, relaxing at the feeling of Edwards long fingers twisting into my hair. I think Im just nervous about lunch with your family, maybe. He spun my chair around so that I was facing him. He tucked a strand of hair behind my ear. Why? I know its silly - I mean, Ive already met them all. Hell, Ive stayed overnight in Roses house. But that was before, you know, we, I gestured between us, were like this. He smirked at me. Like what, exactly? Stupid sexy boy. My face blushed and he chuckled deeply. Just relax, Bella. They already all love you, and us, alright? Rolling my eyes at him, I replied, Its not as easy as just commanding myself to relax, Edward. I cant help it. Hmmm. Would a distraction help? He shot me his crooked grin and I felt instant heat between my thighs. It was like he had an invisible switch he could trip with his fucking mind. He palmed his way up my thigh, resting it just under the hem of his t-shirt that I had slept in. What kind of a distraction? I replied with all the innocence I could muster, although I could feel my blush go up into my hairline. He bent down and gently bit my bottom lip. Mmmm. Tastes like blueberries. My eyes fluttered shut, but I could feel his lips curve into a grin against mine. What else do you taste like, Isabella? Holy crow. He grabbed my hips, scooting me to the edge of the barstool and sliding his hands down to my knees, opening them as he knelt down onto his knees. I clutched the seat of my stool for support so I wouldnt fall clear off it and onto my ass on the floor. Edward pushed aside the crotch of my panties and in one sweep of his tongue, licked my slit from my entrance to my clit and back again. Oh, God, I gasped, throwing my head back at the sensation as his tongue darted in and out of me, teasing me. His tongue. Dear lord, he could give that guy from K.I.S.S. a run for his money.

Distracted yet, love? he whispered against me, his hot breath fanning my thighs. Not yet, I retorted. Try harder. Edward stood and grabbed me under my ass and flew up the stairs to his bedroom, tossing me onto the bed. He stripped himself of his pajama pants, dove onto me and tugged at the neckline of the t-shirt I was wearing, pulling it down to expose my collarbone. He bit his way from my chin to my collar bone, growling as he went. I heard a thread of the shirt break under the force of his teeth, and then he pulled at the neckline with both hands until the material ripped all the way to the bottom, exposing my heaving chest to him. Fucking perfect, I heard him say under his breath. Within seconds, he was buried inside me and I was digging my nails into his back. Try harder, I commanded. Not distracted yet. He grinned at me so wickedly it felt sinful. Ill never get enough of him. At least thats what I thought until he hitched my ankles up on top of his shoulders and I thought I could feel him in my throat. But then he grabbed my hips and lifted them, and holy hell, thats the ticket! I came so hard at the feeling of the new depth he was hitting in me that I felt my juices seep between us. Fuck, Bella, he roared at me. You feel so fucking.ungh! A few more thrusts, and his body stiffened above me as he came. The throbbing of his cock in me made me come again and I pulled him to me to suck his fucking tongue out of him. Panting into my mouth, he queried, Sufficiently distracted now? Uhm-hum! He laughed at me and swatted my ass before helping me up. I went straight into the bathroom, dropping the remnants of his torn shirt outside the bathroom door. Add that to your collection of torn bits of clothing, I said back to him over my shoulder. He had laid back down on the bed, in all his naked glory, staring at me. After I showered and straightened my hair I pulled on my new dress. It was very pretty white seersucker with multicolored embroidered flowers along the sweetheart neckline and hem. I had a pair of dainty little white strappy sandals to go with it. I went to Edward and asked him to zip me up, and he let his fingertips ghost up my back as he pulled up the zipper, leaving a fiery trail in their wake. Not quite right yet, he mused, walking over to his dresser and taking out a black velvet box. He pulled something out of it, hiding it in his closed hand, and walked back up behind me where I stood in front of the bathroom mirror. Lets see how this looks, he cooed, placing a beautiful strand of pearls around my neck. Edward! I protested. Shh. Lift your hair. I did as he requested, and he clasped the gold clasp at the back of my neck. Hmm. Still not right. He reached into the pocket of his pants, pulling out two pearl stud earrings and placing them in my earlobes, sucking on each one after he fastened them. Seriously, Edward, you shouldnt have Hush, Bella. When I raised my right hand to my ear to play with the pearl, he fastened a matching bracelet on my wrist. There. Perfect. I turned around to face him. Theyre absolutely beautiful Edward. You really shouldnt have. Youll spoil me.

He wound his hands into my hair, laying it down over my shoulders. I want to spoil you. Its overdue. He kissed my forehead before saying, Now, get out of here and give me back my bathroom so I can pretty up, too. Youre already pretty Edward, I countered. Too pretty. He made a clucking noise with his tongue and shook his head. Silly girl. Get out. As I retreated from the bathroom, he lightly spanked me and I had to stop myself from turning around and attacking him on his bathroom vanity. Good grief! Whats gotten into me? Heehee. Edwards gotten into me. Very in to me. Twenty minutes later we were both dressed and ready to head out to his parents house just outside the city. The butterflies in my stomach returned full-force as we got closer to the house. When we pulled into the driveway, Emmetts Jeep was already there, as was Alices little convertible. Are we late? I asked Edward, gathering up my purse from the floor board. No. Theyre early. Sit tight. He closed the drivers side door and came to the passenger side to let me out. He held my hand as we walked up the driveway. Before he could even get his hand on the doorknob, the front door opened and Alice leapt out. Yeah! she squealed. Im so glad you came, Bella! She grabbed the hand Edward wasnt holding, tugging me into the house so hard that I nearly fell face-first onto the hardwood flooring of the foyer. Bellas here! she shouted into the house. Esme came to greet us, drying her hands off with a black and white checkered dishtowel. Im glad you could join us, Bella, she said, reaching out to squeeze my forearm as she leaned her cheek up for Edward to kiss. Lunch is just about ready. Why dont you two go out back and fix yourselves a drink. Sure, Mom. I followed Edward, who was still clutching my hand reassuringly, out to the large deck attached to the back of the house. Rosalie was sitting at a glass patio table, her hair perfectly swept up and movie-star sunglasses in place. Jasper and Carlisle were standing near the grill, Carlisle flipping burgers and Jasper taking a pull on his bottle of beer. Emmett was in the back yard down below, playing ball with Carly. It was like a Norman Rockwell painting, and it made me miss my parents a little. You made it, Carlisle greeted us, shaking Edwards hand and nodding to me. Hey Dad. Hows the grilling today? Just about done, son. Carly? Carlisle shouted out. Uncle Edwards here. The pretty toddler bounded up the stairs on her hands and knees. Uncle Wedwod! she screamed, running into his legs and holding on for dear life. Edward let go of my hand and reached down to pick her up, kissing her nose as she scrunched it. Hey peanut! Hows my best girl today? I vewy good gul, she responded. She pointed at me and said, Miss Bewwa! She held out her hands and dove toward me so hard that Edward scrambled to keep from dropping her. I caught her and she plopped down on my hip, kissing my cheek. Hi there, Carly. Youre looking even prettier than you were last weekend!

Yep, she agreed, shrugging her little shoulders. I down pweese. I put her down on the deck and she bounded off back to the yard to play with Emmett, who was waving up at me from below. Hey, Bella. Hey, Emmett. Hows it going? Good. Glad you made it. Rosalie got out of her chair and walked over to give me a friendly hug. As she did, she whispered in my ear, I told you so. We all sat down around the table to eat, making casual conversation and enjoying the fantastic meal. Before long, the topic turned to Edward's and my relationship, and Alice said, Well, Im thrilled about it. We thought Edward was never going to find someone who would put up with him. Hey, Edward protested. We cant all be lucky enough to have the girl next door, Alice. Jasper hugged Alice and kissed her temple. Thats right, little brother. I looked at Edward questioningly. Alice literally grew up with us, Bella. Shes practically been a member of the family her whole life. Thats so sweet, I observed. How about you, Rose? How did you and Emmett meet? She took a long sip of her iced tea and when she looked at Emmett, he winked at her. Well, she began. When I was younger, I was engaged to a guy who wasnt very nice. Royce drank too much and thought too little, she snorted. One night we were at a bar with a group of friends and he had too much to drink. He started to get very loud and mean with me. I watched Emmetts jaw clench and Rose reached over to pat his thigh. Royce grabbed me by the arms and pushed me into a wall. He was going to slap me, but before he could get a chance, my monkey man here caught his hand and broke it where he stood. Royce ran out of the bar with his tail between his legs. The rest, as they say, is history. She stretched up to kiss him on the cheek, and his face visibly relaxed as he smiled at her sweetly. My gosh, Rose. Im so sorry you had to go through that. Yeh, it sucked, but I think I made out alright, dont you? I smiled and nodded in response. And now you two will have your own story, right? Emmett guffawed. General Counsel pairs up with General Asshole, right Edward? I mean, office romance and all I glanced at Edward and saw him furrow his brow. I gripped his hand beneath the table. Why dont you tell them, Edward? Tell us what? Jasper asked. I winked and nudged at Edward with my knee. We didnt exactly meet at the office, he started.

Chapter 21
EPOV We didnt exactly meet at the office, I grudgingly began. Bella looked on at me in encouragement.

We hadnt talked about how we would break the information to my family about how we really met. But clearly, to Bella, there was no time like the present. But I couldnt think of how to begin. What do you mean, Edward? Jasper asked incredulously. Of course you did. My stomach did flips in my body. Bella squeezed my hand under the table and took over. Rose, Jasper, have you ever been to Hawaii? My siblings looked confused. Sure, Rosalie responded. Lots of times. Mom and Dad took us every summer. Yeh, Jasper chimed in. We always stayed at the same hotel on the Big Island. We went every summer until we were in college. Why? Ive only been once, Bella coolly said. I was sixteen. It was a boring trip for me. A very pretty place, but not much for a 16-year-old girl to do while shes tagging along with her parents. We went to Honolulu first, but then went to the Big Island for a few days. I watched my mothers eyes dart between Bella and I, starting to put pieces together. Anyway, the first day at the hotel on the Big Island, I saw a very cute guy, but didnt have the guts to say anything to him. I saw him a couple of days later, and he actually approached me and introduced himself. We spent the day together, and each day I had left of my vacation after that. My moms eyes got as big as golf balls as Bella continued. When we parted, we exchanged contact information and Youre her, my mother gasped, eyes already brimming with tears. Bellas who, Mom? Rosalie asked. Yourehis.pen pal. A slow grin came to my mothers face. My siblings, their spouses and my father still looked confused. Bella slowly nodded. Huh? Emmett questioned, clearly lost. Edward met a girl that summer. You two, she pointed to Rose and Jasper, didnt go that year because you were away at school. But he met this girl there, and he wrote her every week for several years. I never met her, but after I suspected there was a reason he insisted on getting the mail every Wednesday, I asked him what was going on. He told me about this beautiful girl from the Midwest he met on that vacation. He absolutely gushed about her. I leaned my elbows on my knees and looked back at Bella, smiling. She was blushing furiously, and it was my turn to squeeze her hand reassuringly. Turning back to my family, I filled in the rest of the blanks. Thats right. Bella and I met twelve years ago and got to know each other through letters over four years. I made arrangements to meet her again when I had a layover in St. Louis during my time in the service. But when I saw her again, I read everything wrong. I shook my head and sighed. I stopped writing. I was a complete dickhead. Bella gave me a half-smile as I continued. I knew there was no way I could ever be with her like I wanted to be, so I cut off contact with her. She didnt hear from me again until we interviewed her last month. I dont get it, Rosalie shook her head in disbelief. You knew it was Bella who wanted the job? Your Bella? Yes. My Bella. I loved the way the possessive pronoun rolled off my tongue with her name. Thats why you pushed Dad and me to hire her, sight unseen? Well, I guess not unseen for you, Jasper asked.

Jasper, my father interjected. Have no doubt - Bella was the best pick for the position. I weeded through the resumes myself, as did you. Alice was practically bouncing in her seat. My mother, a hopeless romantic, still had tears in her eyes and a soft smile on her face. Thats true, Dad. If anything, I was scared to offer Bella the job. I ran my fingers through my hair. I was certain that once she recognized me, shed set fire to my desk. Bella chuckled next to me and moved a piece of hair away from my eyes. You mean you didnt know who he was? Rose asked in amazement. Bella shook her head. No. I know it sounds crazy, but I didnt. The guy I met in Hawaii called himself Masen. Ahhh, Alice reacted. Thats right. All through high school. Thats right. I had never met any of the rest of his family, and when I met him he didnt live here. I had no idea what he had been doing for eight years. But, come on, Bella. Its obviously him. He cant look that different, right? Emmett snorted. Actually, he does look quite a bit different, my mother answered for Bella. You didnt know Edward back in high school, but he was a bit scrawny. She crinkled up her nose at the word scrawny. Thanks Mom, I rolled my eyes. You were, sweetie. Still adorable, but on the small side. That I can believe, Emmett guffawed. Shut up, bear, I retorted. But you had figured it out by last week when you were up in LA with us, right? Rosalie queried. I mean, you twoat the club Bella laughed, embarrassed. Nope. That was just me throwing myself at my boss. I didnt know until Edward invited me to his house for dinner when we got back. Alice leapt out of her chair to wrap her arms around Bellas neck. Its just too perfect! she squealed. My family laughed as Bella had to grab onto the table top to keep Alice from knocking them over in the chair. Wow, son, my father said. Never let me accuse you of not being able to keep a secret. Seriously, though. This explains a lot, Jasper interjected. Like what? Bella and Rose asked simultaneously. Well, Edward was a nervous wreck Bellas first day. He was actually late to the office, for Gods sake! Jasper responded. I pinched the bridge of my nose, wanting to hide under the table before my family could embarrass me to death. And your reaction at my question about the guy in the picture, too! Alice chimed in. Great guys, I snorted. Why dont you and the rest of the gang go hop in the Mystery Machine and take a long drive on a short pier now, k? Bella leaned over and kissed my cheek. Nervous and jealous, Edward? she whispered in my ear in amusement. I scratched my head and looked over at her. She was grinning smugly. Just a tad, I responded,

pinching my thumb and index finger together. Thats sweet. She leaned in closer to me and I gave her a quick peck on her lips. Ill be right back. Excuse me. I got up from my chair and went into the restroom to get a hold of myself. I was shocked to discover that I actually felt relieved at having our past out in the open like it was, and to have my familys support was overwhelming. My luck has to run out soon. I splashed some cold water on my face and headed back out to the deck, hoping that they had all moved on to other topics of conversation. So, Eddie, Emmett boomed to me as I walked back to sit down by Bella. Bella had the pleasure of meeting Tanya? What the hell? I gave a suspicious look at Bella, but she was hiding behind her glass of tea. I dont know that Id call it a pleasure, but yes, we ran into her last night while we were shopping. Hmmm, and howd that go? Rosalie questioned. I havent heard from Tanya in weeks. Fine. Bella held her own. Alice giggled at the other end of the table and I saw Jasper elbow her in the ribs. My father smirked and my mother busied herself by taking dishes into the kitchen. Whatd I miss? I mouthed to Bella. She shrugged her shoulders innocently in response. Later, I mouthed back. She arched an eyebrow and shook her head slowly at me as she ran her tongue a bit along the rim of her glass before taking another drink. It was so subtle a move that I was sure no one but me saw it, but it was enough to have me wanting to get out of my parents house and get Bella home, but we made small talk for a little while longer before I couldnt contain myself anymore and rushed her to my car. My car To the casual observer, I would have appeared to be a seventeen-year-old trapped in the body of a twenty-nine-year old, as I palmed at her in the front seat of my Volvo. Only to be interrupted, of course, because God hates a horny man. All my friends know the Low Rider. The Low Rider feels a little higher. The sounds of the deep-toned voice of War coming from the direction of Bellas purse on the floorboard barely registered as I lost myself in her warm body. But when I felt her tense ever-soslightly beneath me, I noticed right away. Bella, I grunted into her ear between thrusts. Bella, dont leave me stay with me here. Theyll leave a message if its important. When I pushed the hair that was stuck to her face aside, I could see the conflict there. Try harder. Keep her focused. I slowed down my pace, pulling out of her until just the tip of my cock was slipping in and out of her wet core. She scrunched her eyes tightly, obviously trying to concentrate and mentally block the increasingly-loud ring of her cell phone. Bella. I breathed into her neck. She arched her back to press into me as the phone stopped ringing. There. Much better. I began thrusting again in earnest, and Bella quickly caught up with

me, bucking her hips to meet mine again. Above me, I could hear the sounds of a tree branch hitting the closed sunroof of my car, and the faint noise of faraway traffic. But most of all, I heard Bella. Her quick, heavy breathing. The sound of the friction of her body against the leather seat. Her soft moans every time I drove back into her. Please she begged, her bottom lip quivering with the anticipation of her climax. More, more, more. I will never get enough of this woman, I thought as I tried to prevent my own orgasm, holding off until she had hers. All my friends know the Low Rider. The Low Rider feels a little higher. She froze underneath me. What the fuck?! she hollered, pulling her own hair by the roots. Shh, I tried to calm her, to bring her back to me again. She shook her head, pushing against me to back away. No - hell just keep calling until I answer! She angrily grabbed her purse and flung her phone open. What the fuck, Jacob! You have got to be kidding me. Defeated, I slumped down onto the floor of the car and put my forehead on her knees. NO! Im fine, Jake. Just because I dont answer the phone doesnt mean Im lying on the side of the road somewhere, she spat at the dog. I arched an eyebrow at her, because she was lying on the side of the road. She signed and rolled her eyes at me, a half-grin on her beautifully flushed face. Two can play at that game, pup. I nibbled on her knee and pulled her ankle up over my hip to expose the ticklish skin on the back of her knee. When I lightly ran my tongue behind her knee, her calf muscles hardened beside my cheek. Looking up at her, phone still glued to the side of her head, I softly kissed up her inner thigh. Her breath hitched when I was mere inches from the apex of her thighs. Uhm-hum. Got it Jake, she said distractedly. Yes, I know. I moved to the other leg, repeating my ministrations. She wound her long fingers into my hair, pulling my head up to the source of her heat. Look Jake, I need to let you go. Ill call you tomorrow, K? When I reached her wet folds and ran my tongue down them, all the while looking up at her through my lashes, she curtly said, Later Jake, slammed the phone shut and threw it into the back seat. Nice conversation with your friend, love? I asked sweetly. She grabbed the collar of my shirt, pulling me roughly up to her. Get. Back. Inside. Me, she ordered. If any part of me had even thought of going flaccid while she was on the phone, that part was a dot in the distance now. My cock was at full attention at the huskiness in her voice, and in one fluid movement, I realigned my tip at her entrance and she bucked her hips up, enveloping me in her heat again. We both groaned at the contact. I had to concentrate on something other than the way she clawed at me, the way the heels of her shoes dug into my hips, the way she rocked to meet each of my thrusts, or else I would come too soon. So, thrust, you never thrust answered me thrust Isabella. Thrust. Did you have a nice

conversation? Thrust. Her eyes rolled back into her head and I knew she hadnt heard a word I had said. Grinning like a Cheshire cat, I decided Id ask her about Mr. Muscles later. Ungh she mewled, circling her hips under me. I could feel her walls clench around me as her body prepared for her release. I pulled her hair to the side, exposing her creamy neck, and bit down hard where her neck joined her shoulder. She screamed in a good way as I felt her spasm around me, milking me until I spilled deep inside her, filling the condom to capacity. Gasping for air, I collapsed on top of her. After my heart stopped its thundering in my chest, I reached down to straighten her skirt and remove the condom, tossing it into the trash receptacle of the back seat. She still laid back in the seat, her forearm over her eyes. I reached up and pulled her arm down with one hand as I rebuttoned my pants with my other hand. Her eyelids were shut tight, and she gnawed at her bottom lip. I leaned in to her, drawing her abused lip between my own. She sighed into my mouth, and I sensed her relax. When I opened my eyes, hers were still closed but no longer clenched tightly. I placed one more soft kiss on her lips and then whispered into her perfect mouth, I adore you. Her eyes flitted open and she smiled sweetly at me as she brushed my hair out of my eyes. Youreyoure, she sighed, a bad influence. Im what? A bad influence. Do you know how quickly Id get disbarred if we got caught doing this? I shook my head. Im sorry. I just couldnt wait until we got home. I shouldve thought, or asked you, or just thought about quantum physics until we got home, I apologized. Her expression changed from one of mere amusement as she broke into a fit of giggles. God, I love her. Take me home, Edward. After that, I need a nap. Sweeter words had never been spoken, and after kissing the tip of her nose, I settled back in to the drivers seat and headed back to my house. She dozed off on the way there, and when I stopped at the red lights, I took the opportunity to just look at her sleeping in the seat next to me. When we pulled into the garage, the sound of Ben barking woke her up, and she yawned widely and shook her head to wake up. I fell asleep? she asked, bewildered. I nodded at her. Im sorry. Hush. Youre tired. Its been a busy day. I patted her knee. Lets get inside. I stepped around to her side of the car and opened her door. I had to look away at the sight of her legs as she climbed out of the car, her skirt inching up her thighs as she went. We held hands as we walked into the house and I dropped the keys in the bowl by the door. Mind if I change? she asked. Not at all. But I have an idea. Bring it, she teased, squeezing my hand. Go put your suit on and meet me on the deck. *** BPOV

As I replayed Edwards actions my first day at Cullen Inc. in my head, I lit up inside. As I remembered all the details, I realized that I had so completely misread him. I leaned in to whisper in his ear, Nervous and jealous, Edward? His breath hitched as he scratched his head. He looked at me over his shoulder. Just a tad. Awwww. Thats sweet. I gave him a quick kiss on his cheek and he slapped his hands on his knees as if to announce This conversation is over. Oh no its not. I havent begun to tease you yet. Ill be right back, he said, pushing himself away from the table and standing. Excuse me. I told you hes capable of being the good guy of having a relationship, Bella, Rosalie smirked as soon as Edward was in the house. Yeh, well I got further evidence of what hes capable of last night, I said under my breath. Pardon? Rose asked. I know hes capable of a relationship I met Tanya. Emmett boomed a loud chortle and Alice nearly choked on her drink. Really now? Rose asked, an amused eyebrow practically hitting her hairline. When was this? Last night in La Jolla. And? Rose pressed. And what? It wasnt a lengthy conversation. Just long enough to paint a clear picture, I said, brushing crumbs from my skirt in an attempt to avoid Rosalies gaze. I bet! Emmett snorted. Sorry, babe, he slapped his huge hand on Rosalies shoulder. I know shes your friend and all, but that womans an A-class bitch. Im so glad I dont have to make nice with her now that she doesnt come around anymore. Rosalie rolled her eyes at him. I didnt know that Tanya and Rose were friends. That explains things. Well, I havent heard much from her since Edward broke things off - and thats fine by me. Edward picked that moment to come back to the table. I felt, rather than heard or saw, him approach. When he sat back down next to me, the ends of his hair had droplets of water on them and he looked more relaxed. So, Eddie, Emmett sneered. Bella had the pleasure of meeting Tanya? I ducked my mouth behind my iced tea glass as Edward looked at me with shock and curiosity. I dont know that Id call it a pleasure, he hesitated, but yes, we ran into her last night while we were shopping. Howd that go? I havent heard from Tanya in weeks. Rosalies eyebrow was back up to the sky again. Fine. Bella held her own. I smiled behind my glass as I heard Alice giggling. Edward turned back to look at me over his shoulder Whatd I miss? he mouthed, but I only shrugged my shoulders in an I have no idea what youre talking about gesture. He pursed his lips. Later, he mouthed back at me. The idea of Edward grilling me about anything - chastising me - sent twinges of electric current all over my body, and I suddenly wanted to be far away from his family. As I took a drink, I stared

into those sultry green eyes of his, trying to convey to him Get us the hell out of here. I think he got my drift, because his eyes widened and he shot me my favorite crooked grin and squeezed my knee under the hem of my skirt. We enjoyed the rest of the lunch with his family, and I was surprised at how relaxed I felt around them. I helped Esme and Alice clear off the table and rinse the dishes. As I stood at the sink, I felt a pair of strong arms snake around my waist a second before I felt Edwards body at my back. He brushed my hair to one shoulder and lightly dragged his lips from the strap of my dress up my neck. I could feel his breath at my ear. Have I told you yet, he began, feathering kisses back down the trail he had just made with the tips of his lips, how much I like this dress? He pulled the strap of my dress to the side, taking my bra strap with it and nipping at the exposed skin. I grabbed onto the lip of the sink to steady myself as I felt his grin form at the nape of my neck. I could only shake my head in response. I dolike the dress. He sucked my earlobe into his hot mouth and I couldnt suppress a whimper. But I like you better in my dress shirt. I swayed slightly on my feet as his touches that ignited the most secret parts of my body like a damned blow-torch. Holy shit. How in the hell does he do that? Im going to go out and play with Carly for a few minutes, he continued to whisper in my ear, his own voice shaky with desire. And then would you mind if I tore you away from my family and took you home? Is he kidding? Hell be lucky if I can keep my hands off him that long! I turned around to face him. He was just too beautiful. Perfect. Go play with Carly. Then by all means, take me home, I directed. He bent down, holding my chin in his fingers and tilting my head up to kiss me. I watched through the kitchen window as Edward, Jasper and Emmett all chased a cackling Carly around the back yard. Edward laughed as he scooped her up, tossing her over his shoulders and spinning her around. She shrieked in delight and I watched as Edward held her steady when he put her down. It didnt work as soon as she started to walk she fell, so dizzy from the spinning. A flash of panic crossed Edwards face as he watched her fall, but when she stood up and brushed herself off, the easy grin returned and Edward ran his fingers through his unruly hair. When I finished rinsing off the dishes I joined Rosalie on the deck, leaning onto the railing and watching the boys play with Carly. Looking straight ahead toward the boys, Rosalie quietly said, You make him happy. She never made him happy, Bella. She turned to look at me. Never. He went through the motions, but he wasnt happy. In fact, Ive never seen him like hes been with you. Thank you, Rose, I quietly responded. He makes me happy. He hasnt always, mind you. I was pretty pissed when he stopped writing me, but I understand why now. Why did he stop? I chuckled and shook my head. Apparently, his kisses left me a little too speechless, and he mistook that for disinterest. I felt myself blush. Rosalie laughed, throwing her head back. Yep, that sounds like Edward. Always thinking he can get into your head! Hopefully, you made him suffer a little before you forgave him? Smirking in Edwards direction, I answered her, Not intentionally. But yes. Good for you, she bumped my hip with hers. Keep him on his toes. He bores easily. She eyed me, sizing me up. But I think you can handle him. She winked at me before walking down the

steps to tell Carly to say goodbye to Uncle Wedwod and Miss Bewwa. Carly leapt into Edwards waiting arms and gave him a kiss goodbye. Ill see you soon, Princess, he said, giving her Eskimo kisses with his nose. It was precious. He carried her up to the deck on his shoulders to say bye to me. Leaving so soon, son? Carlisle asked Edward. Yeah, Bellas got some work left to do on Irenas case before tomorrow, so Id better be getting her home. Carlisle winked at his youngest child. Sure thing, Edward. He turned to give me a light hug. Im glad you could come, Bella. I hugged him back and he whispered in my ear, And thank you. Yes dear, Esme echoed, thank you for coming. I gave her a quick hug and told Jasper Id see him at the office. Edward was getting antsy and I could tell he was anxious to get out of there and get home. He started off down the driveway to his car, waving to his family over his shoulder and hollering, Cmon love. Lets head on back. He opened my door for me and closed it after I slipped in and buckled my seat belt. Although he pulled out of the drive at a safe speed, as soon as we hit the main road to get to the highway, he sped up. In a hurry, Edward? I teased. Wheres the fire? He growled at me and tightened his grip on the steering wheel. But instead of taking the right turn to get to the exit ramp onto the highway, he took a quick left and pulled over under a tree. He threw the car in park and turned off the ignition. What are you Edward cut me off with his lips against mine, hard. His hands were gripping my face on either side, holding me to him and turning my head to deepen the kiss. I moaned into his mouth, relishing the taste of his sweet tongue as it twirled with my own, knowing I would never get tired of Edwards kisses. His hands began to explore lower, roughly tugging the strap of my dress aside and exposing the top of my satin bra. He nibbled at the exposed flesh, leaving a trail of goose bumps in their wake and leaving me grabbing at his hair to pull him closer and push him lower. Crazy Bella wanted more. God, Bella, he groaned as he pulled the top of the satin below my nipple and swirled his tongue around it. Edward, Good Bella warned. Were going to get caught! I dont give a fuck, he hissed. My panties soaked at his rough urgency. He unhooked his belt and mine and reached over toward the door. With a flick of his wrist, he had pulled the lever to lay my seat back and was already crawling over the gear shift to kneel on the floor in front of me. He ducked his head under my skirt, obscuring himself between my knees as he spread them wider. I felt him nibble at my flesh through my panties and I was confident I would explode. I could just see the headlines, Woman Spontaneously Combusts in Silver Volvo in Quiet Suburban Neighborhood: Gorgeous Boyfriend Suspected of Fore Play. But before I had a chance to dwell on it, Edward had yanked my panties down my hips, over my knees and onto the floorboard, kneading my thigh with his free hand. When his dexterous fingers slid into me and curled to hit that wonderful spot, I nearly cried. When he sucked my clit between

his teeth I screamed. Shhh, Bella, he said, blowing cool air across my heated flesh. We dont want to cause a scene now, do we? I could only whimper in response, biting down on my lip hard. He replaced his fingers with his tongue as he pinched at the throbbing bundle of nerves that rested at the top of my slit. When he growled, the vibrations on his tongue were enough to send me sailing into oblivion. NO! I screamed at him. He immediately stopped and yanked his head up, pulling my skirt down. What?! he asked, panic in his expression. Panting, I was scared shitless at the idea of getting caught, but Crazy Bella would not be ignored. I dont want to come like this. Why not? Edward was panting and his forehead glistened. I sat up, propping myself up on my hands. Get. Inside. Of. Me. NOW. The virgin of just over a week ago was long gone - I was insatiable. Edward made me insatiable, and at that moment, I wanted nothing more than to feel him fuck the living daylights out of me in the front seat of his Volvo. He unbuckled his belt and I heard the sound of the zipper and the ripping of the foil wrapper before he plunged into me. I reached up to grab the headrest behind me so he wouldnt accidentally shove me into the back seat. Although that may have been a little more comfortable. But at that moment, I couldnt possibly care less. Edward withdrew and re-entered me at a frantic pace until I was so close to release I could practically taste it. Then my damned cell phone started ringing, that fucking ring tone sounding out like nails on a chalkboard. The worlds loudest cockblocker. I had never wanted to kill anyone in my life as badly as I wanted to kill Jacob Black at that moment. Edward didnt stop his frantic pounding between my thighs, but growled my name into my ear. Under other circumstances, that alone wouldve been enough to send me toppling over the edge. But as it was, the increasingly-louder sounds of Low Rider distracted me and I became frustrated in more ways than one. Bella, dont leave me, Edward begged. Stay with me here. Always, my mind answered him. Theyll leave a message if its important. The phone stopped ringing and I tried to bring my focus back to the beautiful man currently teasing me with the tip of his cock and breathing his warm breath on my neck as he chanted my name. It wasnt a tough task. He began to regain his speed with each thrust, and I found my hips bucking up to meet him of their own volition. I could feel my juices seeping onto my thighs, and although the rational side of my brain was screaming This is SO wrong! You are going to get in SO much trouble, crazy Bella newly nymphotized Bella who couldnt possibly get close enough of Edward gave what we were doing two thumbs up. As I felt my stomach muscles tighten and my inner muscles involuntarily grasp onto him so hard that I was sure they were just going to kick him out of me, I begged him to keep going. So close, so close, so close.

Edward drove into me and all I could think was that we must have been made to fit like this together. That nothing else in the whole world had ever felt soright. And then the fucking phone started in again. What the FUCK! I screamed, mentally vowing to hunt Jake down like the dog he was and shoot him. Shh, Edward calmly whispered into my ear. But I knew it was no use. Jake was just stubborn enough to keep calling, and calling, and CALLING until I had no choice but to answer him. I didnt even want to know whether he left me an angry voice mail the first time he called. No, I protested to Edward in defeat. Hell just keep calling until I answer! I grabbed my phone and ripped it open on its hinges with so much force I was surprised it didnt snap in two pieces. What the fuck, Jacob? What the fuck, BELLA? Jake hollered back at me on the other end of the phone. Once again, youre not answering your home phone, and you didnt pick up your cell. Are you in some kind of trouble? Although I knew him well enough to know there was concern somewhere in that tone, it wasnt apparent. No, Im fine, Jake, I responded, trying to calm both my brain and my body down, despite that Edward was still nestled between my knees. Just because I dont answer the phone doesnt mean Im laying on the side of the road somewhere. Edward arched an accusatory eye brow at me. Right. I am currently lying on the side of a road. With a beautiful man fucking the living daylights out of me. As if he could read the wicked thoughts in my head, Edward started to inch his way up my thighs with his perfectly pouty lips. He lazily licked the sensitive skin behind my knee, and the goose bumps on my shins formed so quickly that I swore Id have to shave as soon as I got to Edwards house just to get rid of the sex-inspired stubblies. Sorry, Bells, Jake sighed. I dont mean to bite your head off. I just worry about you out there by yourself. Im so excited to come out and see you next weekend. Are you excited, too? he asked, like a little puppy jumping up and down when it wants to go outside. Edwards progression up my thighs was seriously distracting me from even forming coherent thoughts, let alone being able to carry on a conversation. I knew I had to get off the phone before I wound up getting a case of diarrhea of the mouth at either Jake or Edward. Uhm-hum. Got it Jake, although I had no idea what I was getting. Love you, you know that, right? Jake asked. Yes, I know, I responded as I tried to maneuver Edward closer to me. It was no use I had to devote my attention to Edward before I exploded in his stupid shiny Volvo. Look Jake, I need to let you go. Ill call you tomorrow, K? At that, Edward lapped his tongue the length of my pussy and it was all I could do to spit out, Later Jake, before I threw the closed phone in the back seat. Looking up at me from those ridiculously long lashes, Edward asked, Nice conversation with your friend, love? Get. Back. Inside. Me, I commanded. I was surprised at the force behind my own voice. He lined the head of his cock at my entrance. Need. Him.

NOW. Not wanting to wait another millisecond, I bucked my hips up, forcing his cock deep into me. I clawed at his shirt, his back, his ribs anything I could get my hands on as Edward drove me absolutely batshit with his rough, hard movements. Punctuating each word with a thrust into me, he asked, Did you have a nice conversation? Conversation? What conversation? Was someone having a conversation? I moaned as I rounded my hips around his, feeling myself inching closer and closer to my destination. I vaguely registered Edward pushing my hair to the side. I felt his hot open mouth on my neck seconds before I felt him bit down on my shoulder hard. Ive never considered myself a masochist, but color me crazy, that fucking felt fantastic! I came immediately, and with such a force that I was certain I would pass out. Edward twitched inside me and growled my name again. Although I was concentrating on the simple act of breathing, I felt Edward adjusting my skirt and his own clothing. He lightly licked my bottom lip before taking it between his own, and I felt like I had melted. I adore you, he confessed. I felt tears brew behind my closed eyelids as I was overcome with the emotion of those three little words. I batted them, willing the tears to stay put. I swept a piece of hair away from his beautiful green eyes. Youre perfect, Youre, beautiful, a bad influence. Smirking at me, he innocently asked, Im what? A bad influence, I repeated, rolling my eyes at him. Do you know how quickly Id get disbarred if we got caught doing this? The amusement was suddenly gone and he slipped into full-out apology mode. I couldnt help but giggle at his reaction, even if it was just to let him know I was only teasing. Take me home, Edward, I requested. After that, I need a nap. Edward nodded and kissed me on the tip of my nose before getting back in his seat. I was completely relaxed with him, and before I knew it, we were in his garage, the sounds of a barking Ben snapping me out of what mustve been a cat nap. I fell asleep? Im sorry. Hush, Edward chastised. Youre tired. Its been a busy day. He winked. Lets get inside. He helped me out of the car, and I had to feel a little smug when I noticed him eye-balling my legs as I got out. As we walked into the kitchen, I asked if I could have a moment to change into some more comfortable clothes. I have an idea, Edward said as he walked me to the steps so that I could change clothes. Hoping his idea involved me being in very little clothing at all maybe something to do with the piano again I commanded, Bring it. Go put your suit on and meet me on the deck. Damn.

Chapter 22
BPOV I raced up the stairs as quickly as I could without tripping and falling back down them in

anticipation for Edwards idea. While I was momentarily disappointed that it didnt involve being naked and sprawled across his piano again, the fact that I wouldnt be completely clothed offered some shred of hope. Lord, Im completely psycho. Hes going to think I have absolutely no self-control. Forcing my brain (and my ovaries) to calm down, I undressed and donned my royal blue bikini the one he said reminded him of the first time we met and twisted my hair up and put a clip in it to keep it away from my face. I brushed my teeth and swiped on some Cherry Chap Stick before heading back down to find Edward. He stood in his kitchen leaning over the island, in nothing but his swim trunks. They were charcoal grey and hung low on his hips. His lean but muscular arms supported his upper body, and I noticed the barely perceptible movements of his biceps and triceps as he shifted the weight of his torso from one arm to the other. When he heard my feet pad along the hardwood, he rose to come to me, and I had to nearly slap myself to keep from staring at the way the soft bit of hair trailed from his chest, down the center of his belly to hint at the bronze tuft that I knew lay just below his waistband. Trying to play it cool, I put my hands on my hips, involuntarily sliding my feet into first position, as I often did when I was nervous. So, whats this big plan? I asked. After he kissed my lips chastely, he reached for my hand with one of his. With the other hand, he grabbed two towels that he had draped over the back of the couch. Follow me, he directed. Anywhere. As we walked toward the deck, I began to get more nervous. We passed by the hot tub and kept going, down on to the sand of the beach. Considering that he had towels, he obviously intended us to get wet, but if he thought I was going swimming in anything without a concrete, porcelain or tiled floor, he was nuts. But thats exactly where he headed. I thought about digging my heels into the sand like my moms dog would do when I tried to take her outside in the cold. But I thought better of it, and just slowed my pace, hoping that he would take the hint. He did. Turning to look back at me, he asked, Whats wrong, love? I thought itd be nice to take a little dip for a few minutes? I stopped walking altogether, shaking my head like a frightened child. Bella? Seriously, whats the matter? II.I cant, I stuttered back idiotically. He snorted. I know you can swim, so whats the problem? Im afraid, I confessed. Understanding washed over his face. He came closer to me and dropped our towels onto the beach. He took both my hands in his, raising each one up to kiss my knuckles. What scares you? All of it. The fish, the seaweed, the fish I could tell he was fighting doubling over in laughter. I wont let them hurt you. Do you trust me? I nodded. Good. Ill be right with you. If you get spooked, well get out, k? I nodded my head again, stupefied speechless. Our fingers intertwined, Edward led me into the water. I was fine until it got up to my thighs and I couldnt see the bottom. However, I hadnt been attacked by any fish yet, and I could still make

out what I was stepping on without too much trouble, so I kept going. When the water got up to my chest, I had hit my limit. Something squishy was between my toes. I scrunched up my nose. What is it, Bella? I dont know what Im stepping on, and I dont like that. He chuckled. Come here, he commanded with his crooked grin. Stand on my feet. I did as he said, and between knowing I wasnt standing on seaweed, and the warmth that resonated from his wet body onto mine, I was instantly at ease. When I clung to his shoulders for support, he wrapped his arms around my waist and I laid my cheek on his chest, inching my hands upward to wrap around his neck. His chest vibrated with soft laughter. Youre laughing at me, I whined. No. Well, maybe. I cant believe I didnt know you were so terrified of the ocean. Not the ocean, per se, I corrected. Just the things that swim, the dead things and the things I cant see. Ive got nothing against the water itself. I see. That clears it up nicely, he responded, his smirk apparent in his tone. When I looked into his eyes, his face got suddenly serious and he bent his head down until our foreheads touched. You know I wouldnt let anything hurt you, right? The nearness of his warm body and the sweet smell of his breath dazzled me and I completely forgot that I was surrounded by innumerable slimy swimming things. I know that. I stepped up onto my toes to kiss him, but he winced. Oww. Youre on my feet, remember, love? Sorry, I said, hopping up and wrapping my legs around his waist. In the water, I knew Id be very light, so I could stay like that as long as hed let me. Better? He cocked an eyebrow at me. Much. He ran his tongue along my bottom lip, but when I opened my mouth to him, he moved his further down, nibbling at my chin and then down my neck, gradually pulling me further up his waist until my legs were actually wrapped around his rib cage and he was eye-level with my breasts. Much better, I heard him growl quietly. He ghosted his lips along the top of my bikini, and my body experienced such drastic temperature changes I was certain it wasnt healthy. The cool water, his hot mouth, the warm breeze. It was overwhelming. I closed my eyes and relaxed in his arms, knowing he held on to me tightly enough that I was in no danger of falling. Just as I was feeling completely relaxed alright, not completely relaxed due to the arousal his lips were stirring on the exposed skin of my chest I felt it. A fish. A slimy, scaly fish brush past my calf behind Edwards back. I jerked up, confident that I could run on top of the water back to the beach if I tried hard enough, but Edwards grasp on me got firmer as I tried to wriggle away. What is it? he asked, confused. Get me out of here! I rushed, frightened and frantic. A fish, Edward! A fucking fish! He shook his head in amusement, but began walking quickly back to the shore with me still wrapped around him. Alright, Bella. Were going back. Calm down. As he hurried me back to the dry sand, he rubbed circles on my back. When my torso was up out of the water, I hopped down to run the rest of the way back. He took his time wading through the water to join me, and by the time he reached me, I was boiling with anger at his mockery, and embarrassment at my

own childish fear. Its not funny! I spat at him, my arms crossed in front of my chest, my body involuntarily shaking from the chill of my wet bathing suit. Im not laughing at you, Bella, Edward said, reaching out to try to hold my fisted hand. I promise, Im not. Im just amused that you can seem so frightened of something that I guarantee you is more frightened of you. I doubt that, I responded, and actually stomped my foot. Very grown up, Bella. Why dont you just call him a poo-poo head while youre at it? He folded me into his chest and kissed the top of my head. Shhh. Its ok. Everyones afraid of something. And you? I questioned, looking up at him. He pondered for a moment before answering, Roller coasters. Im deathly afraid of roller coasters. I couldnt help but laugh - I loved roller coasters the speed, the danger, the feeling that you were actually flying. Now whos making fun? he scolded. Sorry. I guess were even. I stretched up to pull his bottom lip into my mouth, biting on it playfully to show him that I forgave him for laughing at me. He slid his hands down my wet back, below my ass, and surprised me when he hoisted me up and wrapped my legs around his waist again. With my center aligned with his groin, I could literally feel him harden under me, and I groaned as I felt myself warm and moisten in response to him. Sorry about that, he apologized. I really should leave you alone, lest you tire of me prematurely. He sat me back down on the ground, and reached for our towels on the sand. Thats not going to happen, Edward, I reassured him. Because, seriously, how could I ever tire of him? I wanted to experience everything with him, to erase from his memory all of his previous experiences, while all the while taking advantage of the skills they may have taught him. He tightened his grip on my hand in response and we headed back to his house. Even with the towel, I was pretty cold. I tried to control my shivering, but it was no use. He noticed everything. Cold? he asked, and I nodded. Well, I may be able to fix that, he said. Again, Nympho Bella immediately thought of about a thousand ways that Edward could warm me up, none of which would have me walking straight the next day. So you can imagine that I was a bit disappointed when we reached his deck and he cranked a knob on a post by the hot tub. He let go of my hand and pulled the cover off. I stood back, admiring the display of his muscular body at work, and imagined riding him senseless in that very hot tub. He turned to me and furrowed his brow. Id love to be able to hear what youre thinking right now. Id prefer to show you, actually. I stepped into the bubbling water and found a seat on the side farthest from him, crooking my index finger in an invitation for him to join me. Eyes dark and full of lust, he climbed into the hot tub with the grace and speed of a gymnast over a pummel horse. Once in, he prowled on his knees toward me, and although I couldnt see his hands through the bubbles, I felt them on my knees. I began to spread my knees so he could come kneel between my thighs, but when I moved, he just tightened his grip on me, holding my

legs shut and nodding his head. Needless to say, I was confused. No, beautiful, he chastised. I just want you to relax. He moved to sit alongside me and pulled me up onto his lap, facing away from him. Edward, wha- Shhh I felt his strong hands on my shoulders, just laying there. Electricity bolted out of every pore of my body at his touch, and I was so turned on that I thought Id catch fire. We were yards away from the public beach, but our lower bodies were hidden beneath the bubbles and the steam, and I wanted nothing more than to fuck him senseless. But Edward apparently had other plans. He began squeezing the muscles of my shoulders, then my neck, working his way up my neck with just the right amount of pressure to make me want to melt into his fingertips. He gently pressed the back of my head, urging me to let it fall forward, then he used the pads of his thumbs to massage down my spine from the base of my head to between my shoulder blades. I was in heaven. He released the clip from my hair, allowing it to cascade down into the swirling water. Then he dug his fingertips into it, rubbing my scalp and my temples. His touch literally sent shivers up and down my spine and I wondered what I had done to deserve it. I mean, Im as plain as the day is long, and here I was, getting a massage by the most beautiful man I had ever met either when I was 16 or when I was 28 and better yet, he was even more beautiful behind his looks. And he was all mine. Certain my luck was going to run out at any moment, I turned around to face him, still perched on his lap. He brushed my hair up off my shoulders where it had clung to my neck and chest. Youre very good to me, Edward, I observed, wrapping my arms around his neck. He furrowed his brow in disapproval. No, Im not. At least I havent always been, he countered. I have a lot to atone for where youre concerned. I shook my head. No, Edward. No atonement necessary. I knew that he felt horrid for what he referred to as abandoning me. But in all honesty, the fact that he acknowledged that was what he did was enough for me to believe whole-heartedly in his sincerity. Would we have issues? Of course we would. Doesnt everybody? But I couldnt let a little thing like my pride stand in the way of what I knew was a second chance. And this second chance offered me an opportunity that, truth be told, I may not have been ready for at 16, or 20, or even 27. But at 28, I was ready to appreciate it appreciate him. As I moved my knee to the other side of his body so that I straddled him, I wanted to show him that I already knew I would never love, or want, anyone else. Tuesday morning I dialed Alices number while Edward was still in the shower. Hello? she chirped on the line. Hey, Alice. Its Bella. Hi Bella! Whats up?

Oh, not much, I hesitated. Im just getting ready for work. You at Edwards? Uhm, yeah. Howd you know? Because youre calling me from your cell. And I can hear the shower in the background, silly. Damn. That girl has supersonic hearing. Right. Well, Im calling because I need some help with something. Sure! she squealed, and I could just hear the wheels churning in her head, hoping that I wanted another shopping spree. I need to get a new doctor out here a new gyno, actually. But I dont know anyone. And Id like to find someone who could get me in sooner rather than later. Bella! Oh my God! Are you kidding me? Already?! This is fantastic! Wait till I tell Jazz! Oh shit, she thinks Im preggers already. NO! No, Alice, theres no news of any kind to share, k? I just need to talk to someone about getting on something to prevent there from being news, got it? Oh. Why didnt you say so? Because you didnt give me a chance, Pixie. I can call my OB. Ill tell her to get you in this week otherwise youd have to wait at least a month. I dont want to wait another month. That sounds great. I really appreciate it. Can you email me her contact info? Sure, she offered. Ill call her at nine when they open, and then you just call this afternoon to set up the appointment. Bella? Um-hum? Everything else going alright? I mean, I assume if youre looking for birth control, that things must be goingwell, but Yes, Alice. Things are going very well. I heard Edward turn off the shower, and for the first time since he turned it on, I could hear him singing in the bathroom. Edwards out of the shower now, so Im going to let you go, ok? Sure thing. You have a great day today, Bella. Maybe tomorrow we can do lunch? Absolutely. Thatd be great. Thanks again Alice. Bye! I clapped the phone closed as Edward opened the bathroom door. Surrounded by billowing steam and with only boxer briefs covering his phenomenal body, he roughly shook a towel over his mop of hair. I had to fight down yet another wave of lust at the sight. Hey sexy, I teased. Hey yourself. Were you talking to someone out here? Just Alice. Ah. Hows the twerp doing? She hasnt been in yet this week. I wouldve sworn she would be all over you like white on rice first thing yesterday, he teased back. I felt my traitor blush on my cheeks. Shes good. I was just calling her to get a recommendation for a doctor, thats all. Edward scowled at me as he came to stand in front of me, rubbing my upper arms. Bella, you

dont have to tell me why you called Alice. Its not my business. I just wanted to make sure you werent talking to any hunky guys, he winked at me. Which reminded me that I did need to call Jake about his flight plans. This would so not be the time to bring that up, Bella. So instead, I rolled my eyes at him and shook my head. Youre the only hunky guy I know, Edward. He narrowed his eyes at me as if he could look hard enough to tell what was going through my mind. I tried to change the subject by taking a step toward him and running my fingers through his wet, bronze hair. Is this your outfit for today, love? he asked, looking down at one of his white dress shirts that I had put on the previous night after a particularly frisky evening. Not that I object to the look, he flashed his crooked grin, but Id prefer this particular uniform be limited to my house, if thats alright by you. He began unbuttoning the shirt from the top. I wasnt wearing anything under it. When he got the shirt unbuttoned, he snaked his hands into it to rest on my waist, growling playfully as he squeezed me. I slapped his hands. Knock it off, cowboy. Well be late to work again. Yes, we seem to be making a habit of that. People will start to talk, he teased as he nipped at my jaw and then worked his way behind my ear. I felt my legs turn to mush and I grabbed onto his shoulders for support. Edddwwwaaarrrddd, I whined. Because seriously, Professional Bella was literally my only personality who was putting on the brakes. And even she was teetering on the edge of reason. Feeling his lips curl into a smile against my neck, I was fairly certain he could feel my pulse thudding away there. Alright, alright. Ill leave you alone. For now. He stood and swatted my ass. Now, go get dressed. But I couldnt move. Standing there for a moment, I tried to mentally coach my legs into moving. But when I took my first step, the cool gust of air from my movement breezed over my exposed nipples and wet folds. The feeling quickly snapped me out of my haze, and I rushed into the bathroom, slammed the door shut and splashed cold water on my face. I could hear Edward chuckling on the other side of the door. Everything alright, love? he cooed. Fucker. Yes. My frustration was evident in my tone. Paybacks a bitch. A plan formed in my head and I folded his shirt up and sat it on the vanity to toss into my briefcase when he wasnt looking. After I finished getting dressed I met Edward downstairs, where he was waiting for me at the island with a cup of coffee. He was poured over the New York Times. I rolled my eyes at him. He really did have multiple personalities playful Edward, sexy Edward, studious Edward, Family Man Edward. It was no wonder I spent those first couple of weeks trying to figure him out. But I loved all of his personalities. Alright, Sexy Edward was my favorite at the moment, but the other Edwards were nice, too. We sat in silence for several minutes, sharing the newspaper. Ready, Freddy? he asked after he gave me a peck on the cheek and dropped our cups into the sink. Yep. I grabbed my briefcase from the floor, trying hard not to be smug about what I knew was inside. I followed Edward out to the garage, where he had made room for my truck in his garage.

See you there. He closed my door for me and then got into his Volvo, pulling out behind my truck and closing the garage door behind him. Once we were on the highway and crossing the bridge back into downtown, I flipped my phone open again. It was already ten-thirty back in St. Louis, and I knew Jake would be at work. Hey Bells! he answered the phone cheerfully. Hiya Jakey. How are you? Chuckling at my use of his long-time nickname, he responded. Good. Good. You? Good. You getting ready to fly out here Friday? Im not packed yet, if thats what you mean. Im not a girl, Bella. I dont pack five days in advance. But yes, I have my tickets. You cleared off a space for me on your couch? My couch. I hadnt really spent much time at all at my condo which was a shame, considering how much I was paying for it each month. Recalling Edwards offer for Jake to stay in his guest room, I gulped. Yeah, well come up with somewhere for you to stay, Jake. But Im warning you, my place is very small. Thats alright. I dont mind. Im just looking forward to seeing you again. And meeting this Edward jerk - Jake Alright, alright. Ill reserve judgment on the guy who signs your paycheck and screws you senseless. But I could tell he was at least partially teasing me. Thats mighty big of you, mutt, I retorted. Now, what time do you get in, and whats your flight number? Hold on Nessie sent me an email with my itinerary, he said with a snarl. He may act put out, but we all knew that Nessie kept Jake in line and was the best thing that ever happened to him. And he was so totally whipped, it wasnt even funny. American Flight 1667, arrives at six fifteen. Great. Call me when you get the baggage carousel number, k? What baggage? Im all carry-on, baby. I pack light, remember? Jake rarely wore anything other than shorts when he could get away with it. Yeah, I remember. Well, then Ill wait for you by the entrance to the American gate. Sounds like a plan, Bells. Is he coming with you? I dont know yet, Jake. And remember - youre reserving judgment, right? Sure, sure. Whatever. As long as he doesnt hog up my time with you, well be fine, he snorted. Ah, Jakey. If I didnt know better, Id say you sounded jealous! Just trying to keep an eye on you from a couple thousand miles aways all. Cut me some slack. I will, if you do the same for me, I replied. Hearing him sigh on the other end of the line, I knew hed given up the fight. Thats better. Love you, Jake. Love you too, Bells. Ill see you in a few days. Buh-bye. Closing the phone as I pulled into the parking garage, I looked in my rearview mirror to see that I mustve lost Edward at a light, because he wasnt right behind me. I pulled into my spot in the

garage and when he didnt pull in next to me in the few minutes I waited, I went ahead and got on the elevator, tapping my briefcase. Good morning, Angela, I greeted her in the lobby. Yes it is, Bella. How are you this morning? Great. A smirk came across Angelas face as her eyes darted from me to the elevator doors and back again, like she was looking for someone Edward to come in with me. I tried to head her off at the pass, asking, Am I the last one in again this morning, Angela? I tried to get here earlier this morning dont want to make a bad impression on the new bosses, right? She studied my face, but I really hoped I had pulled it off. No, youre not the last one in. Edward is not here yet Hmm I hummed. Thats unusual for him, isnt it? Not lately, she quickly replied, and then grinned and winked at me. I felt my cheeks burn hotly with embarrassment. Right. Well, Im going to settle in. Have a good day, Angela. Will do, she sang back to me as she stacked some papers neatly against her desktop. You do the same, Bella. Walking back to my office, I greeted Lauren and Jessica, who were huddled at Jessicas desk, probably knee-deep in office gossip. Hoping I hadnt made their list of topics, I smiled sweetly at them before I walked into my office and sat my briefcase behind my desk, smiling devilishly as I anticipated putting Project Drive Edward Crazy into place. Booting up my computer, I checked my voicemail, which included a message from Creepy James about the LA office. There was one from Rosalie, too, thanking me for an entertaining family dinner on Sunday and letting me know that James had called her, too. Flipping through my contacts on my cell phone, I wrote down Jamess number and dialed it on the office phone. He picked up on the first ring. Ah, the lovely Bella Swan from Cullen, Inc. How are you? The sound of his voice made my stomach churn, and not in the good way. Yes, this is Ms. Swan. I am fine. Im just returning your call. How may I help you? Hmmm, he hummed on the line, and I just about vomited. I have the revised documents. I can bring them down to you if youd like to go over them to make sure they incorporate all your changes? Maybe over dinner? I think I just threw up a little in my mouth. That wont be necessary waste of gas in such hard economic times, and what-not. You can just email them to me. Thatd do nicely for everyone, I think, I replied, hoping my meaning wasnt lost on him. Fine, he snapped back. Yep, he got the message. Ill email them to you this morning. Great. You should cc Rosalie and Edward, please. Ill discuss the changes with Edward this evening and get back to you tomorrow, alright? Certainly, Ms. Swan. Ill look forward to your call. Click. Well, that went well, I said to myself as I hung up the phone and closed my window blinds a bit

to shut out the glare from the morning sun. Ill say it did, Edward scoffed from my doorway, causing me to jump. Sorry, I didnt mean to startle you. I just wanted to let you know I made it in because we got separated on the highway, he said in a hushed voice. I nodded and smiled at him. Who was that on the phone? That creep, James. The revised documents are ready. Edward stuffed his hands in his pockets and clenched his jaw as he walked into my office and around the desk, stopping to lean on it. I continued, That asshat actually suggested that he bring them down here and review them with me over dinner. Edward sucked in a breath, seething. But I heard you set him straightabout the documents. I took the few steps to stand in between his knees. Yes, Edward. I set him straight. After glancing out the door to make sure no one was walking by, I grazed my tongue along his bottom lip. He sucked in another quick breath, but this one was different. I nibbled on the pouty lip and heard him growl in his throat. Step one. Check. Get to work, Mr. Cullen, I chastised, arching my brow at him. He swallowed hard, his Adams Apple bobbing in his neck. Bellllaaaa Standing up and crossing my arms under my chest - which of course, caused my breasts to be prominently on display with my hardened nipples under my blouse - I sweetly said, Yes, Mr. Cullen? His eyes went pitch black and he reached out for my waist, but I took a step backwards, just out of his reach. He took another hard swallow. Bella, I want you. Now. Right. Now. Tsk, tsk, Mr. Cullen. Such words! Lunch. Eleven thirty. Ill come get you, he commanded. Were going to your condo. He stood and spun on his heel, briskly walking out of my office and down the hall toward the restroom. Step two. Check. *** EPOV I shouldnt have laughed. But I couldnt help myself. Frozen there, with her legs in a vise grip around my waist in fear, I actually fucking laughed at her. Because thats just the kind of asshole I am. I knew I had to make it up to her when she looked at me with absolute furor in her eyes, so I told her that I was afraid of roller coasters, just trying to get a smile to replace that look on her face. It worked, and she laughed at me in return. Her laugh was like wind chimes melodic, beautiful. Putting on my best playful pout, I asked, Now whos making fun? Sorry. I guess were even, she replied, stretching up to kiss me. Needing her closer, I picked her up and wrapped her legs around me again, but I immediately regretted it as I felt myself harden against her wet body. The silly minx groaned at me. Sorry about that - I really should leave you alone, I apologized, but only with a small amount of

sincerity. I didnt hear her complaining. But still, we were doing our damnedest to catch up for twelve years of lost time together physically and I didnt want her to get too focused on that only to burn out on me. I was, after all, a selfish creature - I wanted all of her, all the time, forever. So I warned her, Lest you tire of me prematurely... I set her back down and grabbed our towels from the beach. Thats not going to happen, Edward, she retorted, rolling her eyes at me. When she licked her lower lip, I gripped her hand tighter and knew we needed to head back to the house before I threw her onto the sand and attacked her. Her tiny hand shook in mine, and I noticed goose bumps on her arm. Her lip was even quivering a bit. No shit, Sherlock. She was just scared to death, and shes probably cold to boot. Cold? I asked, and she nodded in return. Well, I may be able to fix that. I swear, I had nothing immodest planned, but when Bella bit at her lip and swayed a little closer to me, I thought for a minute about changing my plans and taking her just as soon as we stepped inside my back door. But again, I wanted to show her that I was sorry for making fun of her fear, and try to get her to relax again the way she had been in the water before the fish grazed her. So I brought her up the steps to the deck and flipped the switch to turn on the jets of the hot tub. I removed the stiff cover, folded it and set it to the side of the deck out of the way. When I turned to Bella, her eyes were very dark, and her cheeks were a beautiful shade of pink. I recognized that look. Id love to be able to hear what youre thinking right now, I teased. Id prefer to show you, actually. Fuck. Me. When Bella talked like that, every gentlemanly behavior my mother ever taught me, every little sense of chivalry I had, flew out the damned window and the animal took over. So when Bella slipped into the water and crooked her finger for me to join her, I had to make myself look at her face, instead of her beautiful breasts. I had to make myself think about stock indexes and client proposals. I had to make myself remember that even though I planned to spend every day worshiping Bellas body, I also needed to spend every day reminding her that I wanted more from her than just that. So I climbed into the hot tub and knelt in front of her. She tried to spread her knees, but if I stood even a chance of accomplishing my goal here her total relaxation I couldnt let my waist get anywhere near the heaven that held residence between her thighs. So I kept her knees closed together and shook my head at her. A look of confusion and hurt flashed across her face, and I immediately felt like a dipshit. No, beautiful - I just want you to relax. I sat next to her and pulled her onto my lap, facing away from me. Edward, wha-, she started. Shhh I reached up to touch her shoulders. Just as I suspected, the muscles that lay beneath the porcelain skin were taught and full of tension. That fish really did a number on her! I massaged her shoulders gently at first, and then increasing the pressure as I felt her start to relax under my hands. I worked my way up her neck, then trailed from the base of her head down to her bra strap. I felt her relax and her breathing slowed. I removed her hair clip and admired the way her chestnut locks fell into the water, swirling

between our bodies from the motion of the jets. I rubbed gentle circles all over her scalp and forward to her temples. She moaned so softly I could barely hear her, and then she turned around to face me, allowing me to cradle her on my lap. Youre very good to me, Edward, she purred as she wrapped her arms around my neck. No. I knew better - knew what I had done. The hurt I had caused. The feelings of rejection I had placed in her twelve years ago that still showed in her face occasionally. Yes, I knew better than to think I was too good that I could ever be her equal. No, Im not. At least I havent always been. I have a lot to atone for where youre concerned. Thats the understatement of the year, Cullen. Unbelievingly, she shook her head in disagreement. No, Edward. No atonement necessary. She looked very contemplative, and I moved a lock of hair from her face, just wanting to melt into her. To be worthy of her. As if she could read my mind, she moved to be closer to me, moving her leg to my other side so that she was straddling me. I hugged her close to me, and she rested her head on my shoulder. I could stay like this forever. She sat up to hold my head in her hands and I mirrored her gesture. We pulled each other closer until I could feel her breath on my face. I looked into her chocolate eyes, and I swore I had discovered the eighth world wonder there. God, shes so beautiful. She smiled sweetly at me as she kissed me, gently at first, and then deepening the kiss. She scooted up higher on my lap until I could feel her pubic bone against the waist of my trunks. She lifted herself off of me just a few inches and whispered into my mouth, I love you, Edward. So much. They were the sweetest words I had ever heard, and I peppered her mouth with kisses before exploring it with my tongue. Edward, she purred, pulling away from me. Feel what you do to me. She removed my hand from the side of her face and guided it down her body. I felt the flatness of her abdomen, her belly button, the top of her bikini. She urged me lower with her hand, and I moved mine over to her thigh and squeezed it. When I did, she released my hand and wound it into my hair, tugging gently. I slipped my fingers under the elastic of the crotch of the bikini and gasped at the slickness I found there. Bella bucked into my hand, urging me further. But we couldnt. For the second time since our first time, I was unprepared. I could have kicked myself for it. Uhm, Bella? She moaned in response, nibbling on my neck as she rocked her hips against my hand. Bella, we cant. Shhh she hushed into my ear. No one will see. Well stay beneath the water. She reached down to untie the drawstring on my trunks and I grabbed her hand to stop her. She snapped her head up and that look of rejection was, once again, all over her face. No, love. We cant. I dont haveanything. I looked into her eyes, willing her to put two and two together. The moment understanding came to her, it was written all over her face, and she blushed. Oh, I get it. I nodded at her. Well, shit. Ive been meaning to call a doctor because of this very

situation. What do you mean? She snorted at me. Birth control, Edward. I think I should take some responsibility here, dont you? I dont mind using the condoms, Bella. I dont want there to be anything between us, she whispered into my mouth and I felt my eyes roll back into my head at the meaning behind her words. Ive never done that, I admitted. She sat up and looked at me in disbelief. Never? I shook my head. Nope. Never. She looked curious, and then a sly smile came across her lips. Then its something new we can do together, then. I understood what she was getting at the worry that my experience compared to hers put us at an uneven playing field. But she was right, that was something we could experience for the first time together. The relief that came to me was palpable. I already knew that emotionally, I was experiencing things with Bella that I had never felt. But sexually, there wasnt much I didnt at least know about already. Not that I was proud of that. Because I most definitely wasnt proud of that. But the emotional intensity that I felt every time we made love was new to me. And that piano experience Well, I had never done that before I nodded to her. Let me get tested just to make sure Im okay, and then Ill go with you to the doctor if you want. Eww, she replied, wrinkling her nose. I do not want you to see me in stirrups, Edward. No thanks! The mental picture of me accompanying Bella to her doctors appointment made me think in another direction. Never, Bella? She shook her head adamantly. Not even when we have babies? I questioned. Bellas eyes widened in surprise, and for a moment I regretted bringing up something so huge. After all, I knew she felt very strongly about her career and she had worked very hard to get where she was professionally. Bella do you want to have babies? Her eyes moistened and she slowly smiled at me. Id have your babies, Edward. Id never really considered being a father before, but I did know that I adored Carly. I would adore any child that came from Bella just because he or she would come from Bella. So her affirmation absolutely melted my cold heart. But lets take this one step at a time, okay? she asked. I just got you back, and I plan to explore a lot of new things with you before we get that far, alright? She ground her core onto me and cocked an eyebrow up for emphasis. Absolutely, I said, kissing her nose and then inching down to her lips. Care to go inside and explore some more? Please, she begged into my mouth. I had her legs wrapped around me and we were out of the hot tub so quickly that we barely made a splash in the water. I threw the patio door open and laid her on the rug in front of the piano, not

caring that our wet suits would soak the rug. But before I could get too carried away, I ran into the downstairs bathroom and grabbed a handful of condoms, then dashed back to the living room to find her lying there, staring at the ceiling and panting. Kneeling by her feet, I just watched her admired her. Every time I looked at her, I still got floored by my luck. She raised her head off the floor and looked at me quizzically. What is it? Lightly wrapping my fingers around her ankles and gliding them up her smooth calves, I answered, Just admiring the view, is all. Youre so beautiful She sat up and pulled me to her, laying us both back down on the floor. Thank you. Please promise me something. Anything, I said against the beating skin of her neck. Name it. Promise me you wont tire of me. Oh, Bella. Arent we the pair? Both of us just waiting for something to pop our bubble. Holding her head in my hands, I forced her to look into my eyes. Never. We made love, slowly, to the point of exhaustion, littering my living room floor with foil wrappers. I looked forward to the day when there would be nothing literally or figuratively that came between us. The following day as I got out of the shower, she told me she had talked to Alice. Trying to disguise my relief that she hadnt been talking to that mutt, I told her that I didnt need her to explain herself to me. However, I was curious about the look in her eye when I told her I wanted to make sure she wasnt talking to another guy. I wasnt an idiot I hadnt forgotten for one second that Mr. Muscles would be in town in just three days. And I hadnt given up on my plan to keep him at my place away from being alone with Bella in her condo. I would have actually preferred that he sleep in Bens kennel, but Id settle for letting him sleep in my guest room. When Bella assured me she didnt even know any other guys she would consider hunky (again, Im no idiot I knew Mr. Muscles would light just about any womans lust on fire, but her effort was endearing), I relaxed as she brushed her fingers through my wet hair. Taking a moment to admire her in my white dress shirt, I purposefully studied her body from head to toe as I asked, Is this your outfit for today, love? Not that I object to the look, I continued, remembering how she plucked it out of my closet after a mind-blowing round of love-making that started against my bedroom wall, moved to the floor, and ended up in my bed. But Id prefer this particular uniform be limited to my house, if thats alright by you, I said as I unbuttoned my shirt from the top, exposing inch-after-inch of her creamy skin underneath. By the time I got to the button that held the shirt across her breasts, I could see her nipples already hardened beneath the fabric. Shell be the death of me. But Id die a very happy man. When I had the shirt unbuttoned, I slid my hands into the shirt and along her rib cage before settling them on her tiny waist. Although I could see the lust in her eyes and her heartbeat shake her chest, she whimpered out, Knock it off, cowboy. Well be late to work again. Yes, we seem to be making a habit of that, I agreed. People will start to talk. She clutched onto my shoulders as I kissed and nipped along her jaw line. She whined my name in response, and I knew that I could have her, right there and right then, if I kept it up. But I also knew that neither one of us took my fathers order to keep things at the office professional lightly. Alright,

alright, I relented. Ill leave you alone for now. I playfully patted her ass and told her to get dressed. She stood still as a statue for a moment, and I knew that she was fighting a mental battle with herself. After she dressed and we enjoyed a cup of coffee downstairs, I walked her to her truck in my garage. I had cleared some things out of the way a few nights prior, to make room for her clunker excuse for a vehicle. But I had to admit that I really liked the way it looked parked alongside my Volvo in my garage. Like it just fit. She just fit. When we pulled out of the garage, I saw her up ahead of me talking to someone on the phone before I lost her at a red light. The wicked, insecure, jealous part of me thought of calling her to see if shed take the call, but my better judgment won out, and I told myself Id settle for going straight to her office as soon as I got there, missing her already. Im such a wuss. Jerking my hand through my hair as I became more and more frustrated with every red light, eventually I pulled into the garage of our building, my tires squealing in protest. After parking in the spot next to Bellas truck, I quickly walked to the elevator and pushed the button for our floor. Angela was in the reception area, a smug look on her face. Good morning, Edward. Morning, Ang, I said as I passed by her and through the reception doors toward the hallway that led to Bellas office. Bella was facing her window, desk phone in one hand, the other on her hip. Her posture looked like she was pissed. How may I help you? she asked of the person on the other end of the line. She waited, and then shuddered where she stood, and my curiosity piqued. That wont be necessary, she replied to the caller. Her voice sounded tight and angry. Waste of gas in such hard economic times, and what-not. You can just email them to me. Thatd do nicely for everyone, I think, she continued. A few seconds later, she said, Great. You should cc Rosalie and Edward, please. Ill discuss the changes with Edward this evening and get back to you tomorrow, alright? She hung up the phone and made a gagging noise before whispering to herself, Well, that went well. I couldnt stand there in curiosity any longer. Ill say it did, I interjected, causing her to jump. Sorry, I didnt mean to startle you. I just wanted to let you know I made it in because we got separated on the highway. She smiled sweetly at me and I asked her who was on the phone. I had only seen her have such a visceral reaction to one other person, and so help him if he had called Bella and offended her. That creep, James, she replied, confirming my suspicions. I walked toward her desk and leaned against it, curious what he wanted. The revised documents are ready. That asshat actually suggested that he bring them down here and review them with me over dinner. Now it was my turn to feel sick. Calm down, Cullen. She had him under control. Just like last time. But I heard you set him straight. About the documents. I hadnt missed the tone in her voice when, in not so many words, she had told that fuckerhead that shed be spending the evening with me. Yes, Edward, she assured me as she came to stand between my knees, allowing me to revel in her scent. I set him straight. She lightly skimmed her tongue across my bottom lip before nipping at it. My cock instantly hardened at the minxs touch. Get to work, Mr. Cullen, she

warned, the lust obvious in her own husky voice. Bella, I begged her with that one word. She straightened her posture and propped her exquisite breasts up on her arms as she crossed them over her chest. Yes, Mr. Cullen? Shes fucking with me. Bella, I growled at her. I. Want. You. Now. Right now. Tsk, tsk, Mr. Cullen. Such words! she chastised me, but I could see her brown eyes turn black and her pulse quicken at her neck. I knew she wanted me, too, but she wasnt going to do anything at the office. Fuck. Lunch. Eleven thirty. Ill come get you. Were going to your condo, I commanded her before storming out of her office and to the restroom to fix my obvious problem. Once again, I found myself holed up in the office restroom, jerking off to thoughts of Bella. And its only 8:45. After finding what would have to masquerade as release, I holed myself back in my office, ticking down the minutes until 11:30. I managed to actually load myself up with work, and when 11:23 came up on the clock on my computers desktop, I grabbed my car keys from my desk I wasnt going to waste a second walking to Bellas condo when that second could be better spent buried between her thighs and told Lauren I was heading to lunch. She asked if she should forward calls to my cell, and I shook my head at her in response. Less than two minutes later, I was at Bellas office door, which was shut. Glancing to Jessica, who was on the phone, she shrugged at me and mouthed, I dont know. She said to hold her calls. Nodding my thanks to her, I knocked on the door. Bella, its Edward, I said low into the door. Come in, Mr. Cullen, I heard her say from the other side and I gripped the door knob hard in an attempt to calm down the involuntary movement of my cock that always happened when she called me Mr. Cullen. Opening the door, I saw Bella sitting behind her desk with her hands folded in front of her. But instead of the coral blouse she dressed in that morning, she was wearing a white shirt my white shirt. She bit her lip as I felt my jaw pop open at the sight, and she rose from her chair to stand in front of her desk. Leaning back on the desk, she crossed her bare feet at her ankles, causing the top of her thigh to inch forward through the bottom of the shirt. I squeezed my eyes shut, trying to fight the incredible urge to attack her. As I heard her feet shuffle past me, I was bombarded with the scent of her shampoo and the freesia scent of her arousal. She walked behind me, locking the door, and running her hand down my back. When I opened my eyes, she was walking away from me to sit on her leather couch, Indian-style. Oh, fuck. Bellas not wearing panties. Fuckfuckfuck. Before I knew what I was doing, I found my body throwing itself onto my knees in front of her and ripping the shirt open, buttons flying everywhere. I kneaded her thighs with my fingers, and she mewled, Mr. Cullen, I thought we were going to have lunch. No - no lunch, I growled as I squeezed her harder.

Thats a shame, she whispered. You dont want to go to my condo? Cant. Wait, I breathed against her exposed chest, pushing her back against the couch as I did so. Uncross those pretty legs for me. Now, Isabella. She groaned as she obeyed me, placing one foot on either side of me as she laid her back onto the back of the couch. I pushed the shirt off her shoulders and down her arms until it was a wad of fabric in my hand. Tossing it onto the floor behind me, I felt Bella claw at my shirt and pull it off my head. She threw it to the floor and put her hands on the side of my head, pulling me up toward her face. I shook my head at her as I started to lower my body to the origin of the freesia scent. But Bella gripped my face tighter and pulled me up to her with force. No, she hissed. Were doing this my way, Mr. Cullen. Holy shit - LOVE Bossy Bella! She pulled me by my belt to stand in front of her, and she ripped my belt buckle open so quickly I didnt even realize she had done it until my pants were at my ankles and she commanded me to get out of them. I kicked off my shoes and stepped out of my pants as Bella palmed my insanely hard cock through the fabric of my boxer briefs. At the feeling of her warm hand on me even if she wasnt touching me skin-to-skin yet I threw my head back and moaned. Shh! she hissed, and I bit the inside of my mouth to keep from making another sound. Bella tugged my underwear down and when my erection bobbed out it was nearly painful. It was at her eye level, and I heard her gasp when it bounced against her chin. I looked down in time to see her lick her red lips and I nearly came at the sight of her ogling my cock. But before I had a chance to make another sound, she stuck out her tongue and licked me from base to tip. Grasping fists full of her hair to hold her off me so I wouldnt come then and there, I growled her name in warning. I want it, Edward, she resisted. I loosened my grip on her hair and allowed her to lean forward, licking and swirling her tongue on me again. Because thats the kind of selfish dick I am. Ummm, she moaned, You taste so good on my tongue. Lick. I want you to fill my throat. Fuck me running. Without another word, I felt the tip of my cock hit the back of Bellas throat. As she moved her mouth on me, she used her throat, her tongue, her fucking teeth on me. Im here in Bellas office. At work. Naked. Getting the most phenomenal blow job ever. From Bella. Bella. Bella. Bella. My mind raced and I silently thanked the fates for that moment. I could feel myself tensing, and I knew I wouldnt last long with her working my dick like that, so I pulled out of her hot mouth. She pouted at me. No, Bella, I dont want to come in your mouth. I bent down to pick up my pants, grabbing the condom wrapper so glad when I can be done with these and ripping it open with my teeth. Bella stood, grabbing my forearms and throwing me onto her couch. My head hit the wall behind the couch, but fuck me if I didnt care. She straddled my thighs and grabbed my cock in her tiny hand, unable to fully wrap her fingers around the shaft. She raised on her knees and lined my tip with her entrance. Bella, are you ready? Dont you need me to

Shaking her head at me, she lowered herself onto me in one quick movement, silently answering my question. The idea that Bella had gotten wet enough for me to enter her without so much as touching her was just plain crazy. But she was, and she felt incredible as she rode me in silence. While she made no sounds, her face told an entirely different story. She was flushed and glistening with sweat from her arousal and her purposeful movements. Kneading her ass cheeks as she rode me, I allowed myself to sit back and just admire this goddess of a woman who rode me like it was the most natural thing in the world. Her breasts bounced with every dip onto me she made, and I bucked my hips in time with her to reach deeper into her. She started to moan and throw her head to the side, and I put my hand over her mouth to muffle the noises. I put the thumb of my other hand in my mouth briefly before moving it to tap on her clit in time with her movements. She moaned louder against my hand, and it reverberated up my arm, down my chest, and straight to my groin. I tapped with my thumb a few more times and felt the familiar gripping of her inner muscles on me as she bit down hard on my hand. Her muscles pulsated around me for several more seconds and she slowed down her pace to ride out her climax. Once I was confident she wouldnt make any more noise, I removed my hand from her face and gripped onto her hips with both of my hands. She leaned forward to whisper into my ear, I fucking love riding you, Edward Masen. Holy hell. I love grinding against you, sliding over that hard cock until I milk you with my pussy. HOLY HELL!! I grabbed her hips so tight that I was certain thered be bruises the next day as I slammed myself into her with such force that I should have been concerned about hurting her. But rather than seeming hurt, she began to ride me again, meeting my force with her own, and circling her hips each time she came down on me. Make me come again for you, Edward. Fuck me. Harder. At her command, I spun her around and got behind her on my knees on her couch. With one hand, I gripped her shoulder, and with my other hand, I reached below her to pinch her clit. She dropped to her elbows, allowing me to reach her deep inside. Fuck yes, Edward. Im gonna come again. Dont you dare stop fucking me! she hissed through clenched teeth. The moment I felt her tighten on my cock again, I was done for. I pumped two more times into her before filling the condom. When I was at the end of my orgasm and stopped thrusting, I could still feel her walls twitch around me several more times as she held her breath. We stayed like that until we both caught our breaths. She pulled away from me, and I instantly missed the warmth of being inside her. She flipped over and on to her back so she was facing me. Still panting, her hair a wild mess around her head, she said, Now Im hungry. Take me to lunch.

Chapter 23
EPOV Shhh, Bella warned as we met in the parking garage of her building. Nodding understanding, I opened the back door of my Volvo to let Ben out. Bella grabbed my duffel out of the passenger seat and patted Ben on the head. You have to be extra quiet here, alright, Ben? she asked, and he huffed in response. Bella had asked me to stay the night at her condo Thursday night so she could get some last-

minute tidying-up done before the asshole arrived the next evening. I had objected, using Ben as an excuse to keep her at my house again, but when she told me she had already thought of a plan to sneak him in and past the security guard, I had to relent. So there we were, tip-toeing through the parking garage like spies, to the freight elevator that was rarely used by the residents and not in the line-of-site of the security guard should it open at the lobby level. The three of us rode it up to Bellas floor, and Bella peeked around the corner, ala Han Solo, before motioning to us to go ahead to her door. Once inside, I saw empty boxes of take-out in the trash can and food already plated and waiting for us at the table. Bella had told me she was going to pick up something from Bella Italia on her way home while I went to go get Ben and a change of clothes. She even picked up extra meatballs and had put them on a plate for Ben, alongside a bowl of water. His gratitude was evident as he sniffed around the condo and stopped over the plate only long enough to snarf the meatballs up in a few bites. How rude, Ben! You didnt even wait for Edward and me to sit down, Bella chastised, laughter ringing in her voice. Love her. She sat our plates down on the table and crossed one leg under her, sitting on her ankle as she began cutting up her spaghetti. I chuckled to myself, recalling our first lunch at Bella Italia. It seemed like ages ago like we had been just like this for decades. Twirling some noodles onto my fork, I asked, So, what are your plans this weekend, love? I didnt want to assume that I would be invited in on her time with Mr. Muscles, though in my own mind I had already devised a plan that had him feeling every inch the third wheel that he was. Well, she said between bites, Ill go get him after work tomorrow and well probably come back here before dinner. You want to come? I couldnt tell from the look in her eyes whether she really wanted me to go with her, or she was just being polite. No, I dont think so. I dont want to interfere, I answered hesitantly. Why dont you just call me when you get back from dinner and I can come by and meet him? She furrowed her brow and sighed. Damnit. She wasnt just being polite. Alright. Or if you prefer, I interjected, hoping to redeem myself from my blunder, why dont you come on out to my house after dinner? I was thinking Yes? she asked, the smile back on her face and in her eyes. Well, you dont have a spare room, and I really dont mind if Jake stays at my place this weekend, Bella. She smirked at me quizzically. You want him to stay with you? He doesnt know you, Edward. No, but you do. Of course, youre welcome too, I suppose, I responded, winking at her. She grinned and blushed. Leaning over, I gave her a small kiss on the lips, tasting the hint of her tomato sauce there. If we stay with you, are you going to behave? she whispered into my mouth, and I could feel a half-grin creep into her lips against mine. Probably not. She giggled and I squeezed her thigh under the table. Im going to misbehave so badly hell be running back to St. Louis with his tail between his legs. Bella sat up straight and took another sip of her wine. She licked her lips as she sat the goblet

back on the table, and I had to focus on twirling more noodles onto my fork instead of the way her delicate fingers slid down the stem of the glass. Alright, she finally spoke. Let me see what Jake wants to do. But I think he may just prefer a bed to my couch. She took another bite of pasta and I watched her mouth as she chewed. At least she didnt refuse me immediately. Thats got to count for something. We spent the rest of the evening eating, drinking, talking, laughing, at watching her DVDs of old Friends episodes including the 7 episode. Even thought I had thought it was funny as hell when I first saw it air, it took on an entirely different level of entertaining for me when I remembered how it felt to feel Bellas sleek back under my palm as we danced in LA. When it was finally time to go to bed, we curled up on her bed and Ben hopped up to lay next to Bella. I spooned her so that her back was against my chest, sniffing the wonderful smell of her brown locks until I heard her breathing slow and I knew she was asleep. I couldnt sleep right away, so I held her close to me, enjoying the odd quiet of her condo. Unlike the gentle sound of the waves near my house, her condo was surrounded by the hum of late-night downtown traffic. It was unsettling to me, and only served to add to my nervousness about Jacobs arrival. But when Bella turned in her sleep and nuzzled her face into my chest, unconsciously playing with the hair on my chest that peeked through the neckline of my wife beater, and sighed my name, I was reassured. I held her tightly until sleep finally found me. The screeching of an unfamiliar alarm clock woke me Friday morning, and I was slightly disoriented. Reaching out to Bellas side of the bed, I snapped fully awake when my hand hit an empty mattress. Throwing back the covers and stretching a bit before I got out of bed, I roamed through the small condo looking for Bella. And Ben. But neither were to be found. Then I noticed a note in Bellas lazy script attached to the refrigerator door with a Rams magnet Edward I didnt want to wake you, but Ben needed to go outside. We are going to try to sneak out for a quick walk. I fixed a pot of coffee, and well bring back bagels. Make yourself at home and well be right back. Bella I folded the note up and put it in the pocket of my jeans that I had laid across her living room chair the previous night, and opened cabinet doors until I discovered a few mismatched coffee mugs. Of course, Bella had various syrups and creamers for her coffee, but I didnt need any of them, preferring it black and fully leaded. Getting more anxious as the minutes ticked by and Bella and Ben still hadnt returned, I called her cell phone. When I heard it ring in her purse, which was hanging on the front door handle, I just chuckled. Trying to find some way to pass the time until she came back, I got a quick shower. Since I forgot my bottle of shampoo, I had to use Bellas bottle of strawberry shampoo, and just the scent hanging in the steam of the shower was too distracting for words. After I dressed for work, I thumbed through Bellas photo albums on her bookshelf until I found one labeled Vacations with a black Sharpie. I opened it to see pictures of a young Bella at Disneyworld, her hair in pig-tails as she rode the tea cups. Flipping through several more pages, the sight of Bella standing next to the red Mustang Convertible, the volcanoes of Hawaii in the background, nearly knocked the wind out of me.

There were more pictures pictures of her and her parents at Waikiki and various tourist traps. Then there was one of her with her father, him handing her the keys to the car and her with a mischievous grin on her face. There in the background, barely recognizable, was me, staring at her. The picture had obviously been taken by her mother before I had met Bella in the hotel gift shop. How did I know this? Because after I met her, we spent every waking hour together until she left. I didnt want her out of my sight. I had taken her downtown to spots I had visited previous summers with my family, to the black sand beach to hunt for seashells, for ice cream at the parlor down the street from the hotel. When I turned the page, a photo of Bella and I sitting on the beach, our backs to the camera, was pinned into the book. The picture had been folded in half to divide Bella and me, the fold line still visible even though the picture had been tacked flat into the book. Although I had no idea the picture had been taken, it was clear to me what had happened she had folded me out of the picture years ago, and had probably only recently unfolded and replaced the photo into the book. As I sat on her couch, the album on my lap and my coffee cup shaking in my hand, Bellas door opened and Ben came bounding in. Good job, Ben! Bella praised, rubbing his head as she dropped her keys on the counter and untucked a bag of bagels from under her arm. I cleared my throat to let her know I was there, and she turned to face me, an ear-to-ear grin on her face. Hi handsome, she greeted me, unhooking Bens leash from his collar and walking over to me. Whatcha got there? she asked, nodding at the album on my lap. Sorry, I apologized. I didnt mean to be nosey I just was looking through your vacation pictures while I waited for you to come back. I sat my coffee cup on the table and moved to close the book, but she was faster than I, and plopped down on the sofa next to me, resting her chin on my shoulder and looking at the book. Hmmm. She murmured. Sorry, I apologized again. A sad smile came to her face. Dont be, Edward. I dont mind you looking. There are some great pictures in there from when we met. So I see, I said hesitantly, pointing to the unfolded picture of us on the beach. I didnt know this one was taken. Yes, well My mom took it of us the morning before my family left. I didnt know she had taken it until we got the roll developed. Running my finger down the worn fold line, I started, Bella Shh, Edward. I put it back in right, you see? You can hardly tell how I had it before. I closed the book and placed it on the coffee table, turning to her. Bella I began again, unsure of what to say to her. Folding and unfolding my hands in my lap, I could hardly look at her, with all the regret that the picture had brought back to me. She got up on her knees, crawling over to sit so close to me that I could feel her breath on the top of my head. She pushed me back on the couch and swung one leg over my lap so that she was straddling me. She placed her tiny hands on my chest and smiled warmly at me. Its okay, Edward. Really. Its okay. She kissed me softly, and I found my hands roaming down her sides to rest on her waist. I love you, she whispered into my mouth, and her words immediately brought

me back to my comfort zone. We laid like that on her couch, just touching each other and kissing for several minutes, until we heard Ben get the paper bagel bag from the counter. We both burst out laughing when he carried it over to us in his mouth and dropped it on the coffee table, with a look of, So is somebody gonna feed me, here? You eat your bagel. Im going to go hop in the shower and get dressed, she ordered. Ill eat on the way into the office. Okay, I agreed, swatting her backside and sitting up so that I could get off the couch. Of course, despite that I had enjoyed the relaxed and gentle pace of our kisses on the couch, my dick was ready to round third base and bring it on home. Bella took a look at the crotch of my pants and smirked. Later, boy, later. Yeah, right, I snorted. Thats going to be difficult if were sleeping in different houses this weekend, now, wont it love? I knew I wasnt playing fair, but I had very few trump cards - I had to use them where I could. Bella groaned. Alright! Alright! She threw her hands up in a gesture of surrender. Whats alright? Fine! Well stay at your place all three of us. You just have to promise to be good! Standing up and slinking to stand in front of her, I leaned forward to kiss along her jaw line to the sweet spot behind her ear. Oh, Ill be better than good, Isabella. You can count on it. Step One of Operation Third Wheel check. *** BPOV Fuckfuckfuckfuck. Where the hell is my willpower? I thought as Edward purred in my ear, Ill be better than good. I backed away before I lost complete control of my senses again and trotted off to the bathroom to take a nice cold shower, leaving Edward smirking as he spread cream cheese on his bagel. Although I was definitely nervous as hell at the thought of Edward and Jake under the same roof all weekend, the thought of spending even one night without feeling Edward wrapped around me was worse. So I caved and decided to hope for the best. Jake called a little after noon to tell me he was boarding and that hed call when he landed. I assured him I would be there alone to pick him up. I had already told Edward that although I had conceded to Jake and me staying at his house for the weekend, I did want some time alone with Jake. I wanted to show him my new place, to assure him (and Im sure, our fathers, who would expect a full debriefing upon Jakes return to St. Louis) that I wasnt (a) living with Edward, or (b) living in a van down by the river. Of course, Id also have to come clean about my history with Edward at some point, lest Jake think that I had lost my mind and Edward his scruples. That was not a conversation I looked forward to with fondness as the day wore on and approached five oclock. At four, I went down the hall to say goodbye to Edward after wishing Jessica a pleasant weekend. Im off to the airport to get Jake, I said as I stood in Edwards doorway. He looked up from his paperwork on his desk and stopped tapping his pen on the desktop. Okay, he responded with a sad smile on his face. When should I expect you two?

Walking into his office, a little surprised that he made no attempt to keep his voice low considering that Laurens eavesdropping ears were mere feet away, I said, Probably not until seven thirty. I want to show him my place and then well be out. Im sure he wont be up for much, considering the time difference. Hell be ready for bed by eight, I imagine. I noticed Edward visibly cringe and furrow his brow, and I wondered what I had said that had caused such a reaction. Edward pushed back from his desk, leaned back in his chair, and patted his lap in a gesture for me to come to him. I shot him a curious look because his door was still open. He swatted the air in the direction of the door and grunted, Fuck em. Come here please. I did as he asked and went to stand in front of him, my knees against his own. He leaned forward in his chair with a sigh and put his head on my belly, bringing his hands behind my knees just below the hem of my skirt. He grazed his fingertips on the sensitive skin there and I felt my knees involuntarily buckle. I placed my hands on his head, lightly fingering his wily bronze hair. He sighed again. What is it, Edward? Without sitting up, he turned the full force of those green eyes up at me and once again I was struck by just how beautiful he was. I have to admit, he said, the familiar crooked grin making its way onto his lips, Im not exactly excited at the prospect of your handsy junior prom date coming for a visit. As he spoke, his fingertips worked circles up the backs of my thighs, tugging the hem of my skirt up a bit. Hes so not playing fair right now. I bit my lip, trying to keep from whimpering from his touch as his eyes continued to bore holes right through to the back of my head. Edward, I began, rolling my eyes in a crappy attempt at nonchalance, Jake hasnt been handsy with me in years. Edward cocked an eyebrow, and I immediately regretted even acknowledging that, yes, at one point Jake had been a little too eager to get in my pants. I mean. Jakes my best friend. And thats it - has been it for eons. Edward stood up and kissed the tip of my nose. Well see. But I seriously I doubt that theres anyone who could ever just simply touch you and not always want for more, Bella. Holy hell, Jealous Edward soaks my panties in record time! I stood on my toes to whisper in his ear as I gently grazed my body up against his groin, Youre the only one I want to touch me, Edward. He growled when I sucked his earlobe between my lips and flicked my tongue against it. Thats my girl, he responded, hugging me tightly to him. Now go get the mutt and come on out when youre done showing him proof that youre not actually living with your unethical boss. He laughed when my eyes opened wide in shock at his words. Oh, Bella your plan is written all over your face. Go ahead. He needs to report to your father that youre not completely lost to him out here! Love him. Lovehimlovehimlovehim. With that, I smiled at him and gave him a chaste kiss before heading out of the office and to my truck. I made it to the airport in good time, just beating the Friday evening traffic out of the city. When I parked in the short-term lot, my cell phone rang in my purse. Hey Bells, Jake greeted me when I answered the phone. Im here in one piece. Come get me, will ya? I just got here, Jake. Ill meet you at the security point of Gate C in ten, alright? Great. See you in a few, he said as the phone went dead.

Eight minutes later, I saw the top of Jakes head above the crowd of travelers as he neared the security point. The minute he saw me, he took off running and snatched me up in a bear hug, picking me up off the ground and squeezing me so tight I could hardly breathe. When he finally sat me back down on the floor, he grabbed my hand in his and kissed my cheek. Im glad to see you too, Jakey! I teased him at his exuberance. What can I say? Im just glad to see you arent covered in sunburn. Or that you havent actually been kidnapped by Mexicans. Or this Edward, he sneered, rolling his eyes. I punched him hard on the shoulder. Well, it was hard for me. He didnt even blink. Dont start, I chastised, shaking my index finger in his face. Youll like him. I promise. Doubtful, he snorted. But he can try. Knowing Id have to come clean sooner rather than later, I shook my head at him. No, Jake. I took his hand back in my own and tugged at it to make him walk down the hall toward the parking garage. I have a lot to tell you. And youre probably not going to like all of it, I warned. But I promise you hes what I want. Jake looked at me in utter confusion.

Chapter 24
BPOV As I reached across the bench seat of my truck to open the lock on the passenger door for Jake, I could practically feel the heat from his glare. He threw his bags into the back of the truck and ducked his head to get into the cab, which was barely big enough for his monstrously tall form. We buckled our seat belts in silence and drove out of the parking garage, stopping to pay the attendant for my thirty-four minutes of garage time. So Jake began questioningly. So, what? I innocently asked, hoping to avoid the need for the discussion altogether. So, what are all these things you have to tell me, Bells? Youre not in trouble, are you? Noooo, I responded, dragging out the o like a petulant child. Then what is it? We passed over the water of the bay and into downtown toward my condo building. Jake didnt even bother to look out the window at the beautiful scenery he was still focused on me. Mr. Super Slueth. I sighed. Im just really happy here, you know? St. Louis just has way too many memories of my mother for me to be comfortable there now. Besides, Ive always wanted to live by the ocean, I winked at him, hoping to lighten the mood. My excuses were half true. Which, of course, meant that the other half were bold-faced lies. Humph, Jake snorted. No one said you werent happy here, Bells. Why so defensive? His eyes narrowed. Im not, I retorted. I just know that you tend to worry about me a little, thats all. Hey, your dad put me in charge of you after Renee died. You tend to need a little protecting from yourself, mostly. Danger magnet that you are. He didnt even blink when I punched him hard on his thigh, leaving me to shake my hand out to try to dull the pain from the contact. Shut up!

Jake laughed at me, Silly girl. Trying to change the subject, I asked, So hows Nessie? A smile came to Jakes face at the mention of her name and he nodded. Good, good. Shes swamped right now with work, or else she wouldve loved to come out. I think she wants to meet this Edward character, he said, rolling his eyes. Tell her she can have a rain check. Id like for her to meet him I think shed approve. Jake snorted again under his breath. I can hear that, you know, I snapped at him. Knock it off. Right. Im serious, Jacob, I sneered his name. I reserved the use of his full name for those special occasions when he really drove me batshit. Sure, sure. Youll just have to forgive me if I am not exactly convinced that hes anything more than the boss who got you in the sack within two weeks of moving half-way across the country. You, the girl who beat off Newtons advances for over a year! I mean, seriously, Bells. Lord knows Im not going to sit here and preach the virtues of abstinence, we both snickered, but if youre going to hold off all through high school, college and friggin law school, why the hell did you jump into this guys bed so damn fast? he asked incredulously. I mean, for Gods sake, you dont even know him! His voice raised accusatorily. Gripping the steering wheel, I held my breath to try to calm my nerves and figure out the best way to tell Jake that I did know Edward, and, unfortunately, so did he. Sensing my hesitation, Jake said, Sorry, Bells. I didnt mean to yell at you, its just that No, Jake, I interrupted. Its okay. Ive been trying to think of the best way to explain this situationto you, but I guess the straight-forward way is probably better. Generally, speaking, yes it is. Weve been friends for a long time, right Jakey? Sure, Bells. I guess its abouthmmmeleven, twelve years? Something like that. You remember the summer I went to Hawaii with my parents? Yeah. You sent me a postcard at the beginning of it telling me how bored you were. Right. I was bored, at first. But remember when I came back I told you I had met someone there? Vaguely. Oh wait that guy you wrote? Mark? Matt? What was his name? Masen. Right. Masen, Jake sneered. The asshole you went to meet at the airport when we were in college. The dickhead who just dropped you like a hot potato after that. I cringed at the vivid memories Jake conjured up. Yes. That guy. What about him? Well, I dont think I ever told you his last name or really anything about him, did I? No, you didnt. I just got to be the lucky guy whose shirts were covered in tears and snot when he stopped writing. The guy who got to answer your late-night sob fest phone calls This is going to be soooo shitty.

Well, as it turns out, hes here in San Diego. Oh. How nice for him, Jake hissed. What, have you seen him? I nodded my head. Did you kick his fucking ass? No, not exactly, I responded softly. Hes Edward. If silence and a glare could kill a person, I would have been ten kinds of dead. I heard a low snarl escape Jakes mouth and felt the tension fill the cab of the truck to capacity. Hes WHO?! Jake eventually asked through clenched teeth. Hes your fucking boss? Again, I thought it best to just shake my head. What the FUCK, Isabella? What the hell are you thinking? Youre absolutely crazy! Tears filled my eyes as Jakes voice rose to a fever pitch. Stop yelling at me! I pulled into the parking garage of my building, swiping my access card out the rolled-down window. Jake breathed hard in the seat next to me, but neither one of us made an attempt to say anything more until we were in the elevator, the closed doors creating a sound barrier. Jake stared at his feet, wringing his hands around the shoulder straps of his bags. Im sorry, Bells. I didnt mean to yell. Its just that when this guy stopped writing you, it took months to get you out of the house. You were a mess. A hot mess, he added, bumping his hip into mine, shooting for humor but missing the mark. But still a mess nonetheless. Batting the tears back, I confirmed, I remember Jake. He is aware of how what he did affected me. Is he now? Yes. The edited version, but yes. Perhaps I should share with him the unedited version, hmm? No Jake. Please dont. He feels horrible as it is. What was his excuse, then? Jake folded his arms across his chest as the elevator doors opened at my floor. I led the way down the hallway, fumbling for my door key. It was a bit of a misunderstanding. A misunderstanding? Jake said sarcastically. How so? Well, you know I told you that he kissed me at the airport? Jake nodded, his eyebrows furrowed. Well, apparently he mistook my shocked excitement for deliberate indifference. He thought I didnt want him. But you continued to write him! What kind of a dumbass mistakes that? I opened the door of the condo, inviting Jake in and helping him set his bags on the couch, althewhile rethinking whether having Jake stay at Edwards house was such a great idea, after all. He said that he realized we could never be together, on account ofgeographyso he decided to make a clean break. Geography? Fucking geography? Thats weak, Bella. You have to admit. Pretty damned lame. Not really. I had no idea that Id eventually want to be out here, and he didnt want to leave his family. He did it for both our sakes. Right. How selfless, Jake mocked. So he knew you were coming knew the Bella who wrote him was coming. It was more of a statement than a question. I nodded anyway. And so he trapped you gave you this dream job, in this dream city, far away from your father and your

friends, just so he could have you? No. I applied. His brother and father offered me the job too. And they had no idea of my history with Edward when they did it. I fell to the couch and covered my face with my forearm. Weve been over all this already. Believe me Ive asked a lot of questions. I felt the couch sag where Jake sat next to me. And youve forgiven him? I uncovered my eyes to see a very humane, concerned look on Jakes dark face. As always, his features were handsome. But as always, he felt like my protective big brother. Yes, I have. I love him, Jake. Jakes face contorted into a half-confused, half-cynical mesh. I dont like this, Bella. Not one bit. I bit my lip to fight back another round of tears. Jake just rolled his eyes at me. Alright, alright. I have to play nice with him, right? Sitting up, I wrapped my arms around Jakes neck, and he instantly snaked his around my waist, hugging me close and kissing the top of my head. Yes, Jake. You have to play nice. For me. Alright, he sighed into my hair. But only because I love you, you know. I dont care why youre nice, so long as youre nice, I teased before kissing him on his warm cheek. He really is a great guy. If you can get past all of that old stuff, I said, making a circular motion with my hand, I think youll really like him. Well see, Jake said as he laid down on the couch, pulling me on top of him and patting my back like a scared child. So when do I get to meet him? I mean, this has been a meeting in the making for ages now, right? Hearing Jakes fast heartbeat and feeling his uber-warm skin through his t-shirt, I couldnt help but smile. Tonight. Now, actually. Now? Yep, I answered, popping the p. Hes actually offered to let you stay in his guest room. No. Fucking. Way. Yes way. Its really more practical, Jacob. I dont have a guest room, and youre not sleeping in my bed. Last time we went camping, your snoring kept me up all night long, I responded, rolling my eyes at him. Besides, Ill be there to keep you two from throwing any punches. Hah! Jake jeered. He could try. He wont try, Jake - and neither will you. Jake glared at me as I propped my chin up on his chest. Fine. Let me hit the little boys room, then give me the tour so I can tell your father and mine that you have a swell place. Then lets go to loverboys house. Standing up and offering my hand to help him off the couch, I said, Thank you, Jakey. *** EPOV I will not hurt the mutt. I will not hurt the mutt. I will not hurt the mutt. I chanted to myself as I paced the length of my house from the front door to the back, waiting to hear from Bella. Ben had apparently given up on me, choosing to lay on the couch, his head on his front paws, his eyebrows arched at me as I walked by.

When my phone rang, I had to stop myself from lunging for it on the first ring. Casual nonchalance, Cullen. Theres nothing the matter. Hello? I said haphazardly into the phone, knowing without checking the caller ID that it was Bella. Hey there, she said back to me, and I could hear the excitement in her voice. The green-eyed monster reared his ugly head as I noted that it was being with him that put that excitement there. Nonchalance. Hey there beautiful. Whats up? Well, Ive given Jake the tour and were fixin to come on over. Is that okay? I loved the way she slipped into Midwest slang when she was nervous. Sure thing. Have you eaten? No. I was going to pick up something on the way there. How bout I order a pizza? Hmm. Sounds good but youd better order a couple. Jake eats like a wolf. Pepperoni. I hated that she knew what he liked on his pizza. I dont know what Bella likes on her pizza. And for you? I asked. Broccoli. What the hell? Seriously? Broccoli? Yep. And chicken. Please. Youre the strangest woman Ive ever met, Isabella. I heard her giggle on the end of the line. But you love me, she laughed into the phone. Completely, I affirmed. I miss you, she whispered. I miss you too, love. Now get in that jalopy of yours and get your ass over here, I ordered. Yessir, she mocked, giggling again. See you in twenty. Make it fifteen, I said as we hung up the phone. I called the pizza place I had stored into my phones memory and placed an order for the two pizzas. I decided to wing it and give Bellas chicken and broccoli a try. Seventeen minutes later I heard my garage door open and Ben jumped up to wait by the door, tail wagging. Again trying to go for casual, I busied myself at the kitchen cabinets, my back to the door. I heard Bellas laughter in the garage, along with a low bellowing laugh. Fuck. The man must sweat testosterone. As I finished washing my hands, Bella and Mr. Muscles opened the door. Ben stood on his hind legs and put his front paws on Bellas shoulders. She nearly fell backward, but this Jacob character grabbed her from behind. Easy, boy, Bella said to Ben, reaching for his paws and removing them from her shoulders. I noticed that Jacob didnt release Bellas waist, and I felt a low growl come from my own throat. He glanced over the top of Bellas head to see me and a cocky smile came to his face before he released Bellas waist.

Honey, Im home, Bella chimed at me, looking radiant in the low light of the hallway as she came to give me a quick kiss. Edward Cullen, meet Jacob Black, she introduced. I stepped into the hallway, between Bella and Jacob, and extended my right hand. Jacob nodded, grasping my hand in his large one and squeezing tightly. Two can play at that game. I squeezed him back, just a little harder, and we stood like that for several moments before I heard Bella groan behind me. Give it a rest, guys. Why dont you just whip them out and Ill go find a ruler. My jaw dropped at Bellas comment, but Jacob only laughed at her. Thats my Bells, he said, a stupid cocky grin on his face. No. Thats my Bells. Bella. My Bella, fuckface. Good to meet you finally, Jacob said. Ive heard so much about you. A silent warning crossed Bellas face as she glared at him. And I about you. Bellas best friend, right? I said, weaving my arm around Bellas waist territorially. Not always, he said, winking at Bella. Dimples dotted his cheeks in a stupid boyish way. But yes, for well over ten years now. Best friends. Fuck off, Fido. Bella slipped her hand under my shirt and under the waist of my jeans to pinch my ass. When I looked down at her beautiful face, it held a clear expression of knock it the hell off. I grinned at her and pulled her closer, kissing her forehead. I leaned my head down to her ear so that my face was hidden from Jacob by her head, and whispered in her ear, Ill be good. I promise. She nodded against me and patted my abdomen with the hand that wasnt pinching my ass. You hungry, Jacob? Jake. Just Jake. And yeah starving. Good. Ive ordered us some pizzas. They should be here any minute. Bella had me get you a pepperoni. Is that okay? Sure. Did she get her usual craziness? He made a circular motion with his index finger at his temple. I took the opportunity to show that I knew this part of Bella better than I actually did. Chicken and broccoli? Jake arched an eyebrow at me and nodded. Yep. Got a good laugh from the pizza guy when I called that one in. Jake and I both laughed at Bella, as she smacked both of us across the chest and went into the kitchen to get plates. She fetched a Coke for herself and a beer for Jake and me from the fridge. Whos the big fella? Jake asked, in Bens direction. This is Ben, I answered, and Bens head jerked up to me in response to his name. Great lookin dog, Jake responded. Ill bet you can smell your own. Thanks, I said, patting Bens head before reaching for Bellas hand. The three of us sat in the living room, making small talk until the pizzas came. I reached into the box with Bellas pizza, wiling to try it. I took one bite. It was absolutely disgusting.

Well? What do you think? Bella asked me between bites. I crinkled my nose as I tried to swallow the offending bite. Thats just nasty, Bella. Jake broke out in fits of laughter, and I joined him. When we had both calmed down, he shoved the box of pepperoni my way. Here, man. Youre braver than me. Shes been trying to get me to try it for years. No way. Pizzas arent supposed to grow trees. I couldnt help but laugh and nod my head in agreement with him as I took a slice of greasy pepperoni. It was a welcome relief from the horrid aftertaste of the broccoli. The three of us enjoyed the rest of dinner and a few more beers before we ran out of things to talk about. I was feeling a bit of a buzz, and from the glassy look in his eyes, Jake was too. Bella rose from the couch to take the empty pizza box (from the pepperoni pizza there were still plenty of chicken and broccoli pieces left) to the trash. Jake took the opportunity to lean forward, putting his elbows on his knees as he said, none too softly, So.youre the fucker who stopped writing and broke her heart, eh? Oh. Shit. I swallowed hard and leaned onto my own elbows. Yes. Im the fucker who stopped writing, I answered, meeting his glare with one of my own, silently entering into a staring contest. Im the fucker who completely and utterly fucked things up and Im also the bastard whom shes chosen, I said carefully, to offer a completely undeserved second chance. We sat there on my couch, staring at each other until a slow smirk came onto Jakes face. Just so were clear who you are, then. I nodded in response. And lets get one more thing clear, Masen, or Edward - whoever the hell you are. You break her heart again and I will fucking rip you to shreds and burn the pieces. Is that clear? I arched an eyebrow at him, impressed at his fierce instinct to protect Bella. We have that in common. Crystal, I answered. Good. Then so long as were on the same page, lets at least make nice for her sake, alright? Its a plan, Jacob. I excused myself for the night after showing Jake to the guest room and the downstairs bathroom. Ill be right up, Edward, Bella said to me over her shoulder from her perch next to Jake on my couch. Take your time, love. I know you and Jake need time together. Im just going to get a quick shower and do some reading before I turn in, I told her from half-way up the stairs. Sleep well, Jake, I said to him as he faced me from his end of the couch. I arched my brow in a careful way at him, making sure he saw me before I began the rest of the climb up the stairs, Ben on my heels. Halfway through my shower, the water pressure cut in half and I cursed Jake under my breath for not having enough consideration to wait until I was done before he used the shower downstairs. I rinsed my hair in the trickle of water that ran out of the spout and angrily turned the knob off before reaching out to grab my towel of the lid of the toilet seat. After roughly drying my body, I ran the damp towel over my hair and put on my boxers. Retrieving my book from my desk, I flopped onto the bed. Downstairs, the sounds of clanking glass bottles and running water came up from the kitchen where I thought Bella must have been. But when a deep, low voice started to hum, I looked toward the stairs in confusion. First I heard soft bare footsteps, and then, Night Jakey. Im glad youre here. My temperature rose about ten degrees when I heard the light sound of her kiss him hopefully, on the cheek. I

was just about to throw back the covers and go downstairs to investigate when I heard her footsteps on the stairs, making their way up to my bedroom. She was wrapped in a royal blue satin robe that came to the middle of her thighs, and if I had any sense about me, I would have been livid that she apparently walked around in front of the mongrel in it. But any sense I had flew straight to my cock at the sight of her, one hand on the banister, the other fingering her wet hair as it fell over her shoulder and rested at her breast, making a small circle of water on the robe. Hi, she said, smiling sweetly, as she walked slowly over to stand at the foot of my bed. My mouth hung open, watering, as the heavy scent of her shampoo hit me. When did she take it downstairs? I hope you dont mind, but I took a shower downstairs while you were up here showering. I could only shake my head in response as I tried to train my eyes away from the growing water spot on her breast. She was oblivious to my struggle. I knew in that instant that even though I had promised to make nice with Jake, my promise to be better than good to Bella was going to win out. I licked my lips and tossed the book to the floor before I threw the covers roughly aside and went to her, my lids heavy and my cock already throbbing for her. The moment she looked at my crotch, her eyes went wide and her mouth made an o shape. Understanding washed over her face and she blushed furiously. Only mine.

Chapter 25
EPOV As I grazed my lips lightly over the silky flesh of her neck, Bella held her breath. Her pulse pounded under my lips. Breathe, Bella. I rubbed the tip of my nose against her earlobe and she shuddered. Youre so not playing fair, Edward Masen Cullen, she chastised me, and I couldnt help the smirk that formed on my face. I never promised to play fair, love. Only to play nice. Actually, I believe I promised you to be better than good, didnt I? She gasped and clutched at my sides when I sucked her earlobe between my lips, inhaling her scent as I did so. Well? Didnt I? She nodded and I kissed her softly on her left cheek, watching her eyes flutter shut as she dropped her head back, exposing her neck to me. Im a man of my word, Isabella. I kissed up and down her neck and she dug her nails into my bare waist in response. But Jakes awake downstairs, she hissed. I can be quiet, I replied, my lips turning up into a sly smile. Maybe. But I dont know that I can, she warned, taking a step away from me and blushing scarlet. Hmm. I wouldnt mind, I sneered, reaching for her wrists and pulling her to my bed. She tried to stay distant from me, but I could already read her body like a beautiful piece of sheet music. Bella, I whispered in her ear so that only she could hear me. At the same time, I ran my hand down her side, over her hip and under the hem of her robe, moving toward her inner thigh. You

tell me you dont want this, I continued, and she parted her legs slightly for me as she stood before me at the foot of the bed. But your body tells me otherwise. I slipped my index finger under the crotch of her silk panties and into her folds. So warm. So wet, Bella. Protest all you want, but your body doesnt lie. She clutched my shoulders and bit her lip as I slid my finger deep inside her and rubbed one quick circle against her g-spot before quickly pulling it out. She whimpered and pushed me back on the bed, laying on top of me. Shhh, she whispered, placing her finger to her lips. You have to stop that now. I shook my head in refusal and rolled us over, pulling her up the bed so that her wet curls were fanned across my pillow. Pulling the covers over us, I stared into her eyes as I untied her robe and opened it. She was wearing only black panties underneath, and her hardened nipples strained against the fabric of the robe. She moaned when I lightly ran my palm over her left breast, holding myself above her body with my left arm. I love your noises, love, I smiled at her, the evil genius in my brain secretly hoping that Jake heard every single one of them. I love that you make those noises for me. As I ran my hand down to the flat plane of her abdomen to cup her core with my palm, her hips bucked, betraying just how badly she wanted more. Only for you, Edward, she purred, opening her legs to me. I sat up and tugged at the sides of her panties, inching them down her hips. She complied, lifting her hips for me, and I slid them down her legs and ducked under the sheets, pulling them over my head so that no one could see the pure look of bliss on my face as I lowered my mouth onto her. She was wound as tight as a spring, and when I initially touched my tongue to her opening, she writhed so much I thought shed wriggle right off the mattress. I reached under her right thigh with my left hand and placed my hand firmly on her stomach, willing her to stay still. With my free hand, I gently spread her lips, exposing all of her to me. She gasped when I stiffened my tongue and dove it in to her deeply, drinking her juices with my mouth while nudging on her clit with the tip of my nose. The sheets got taught around us as she clawed and tugged at them on either side of her hips, and she squeezed my head with her thighs as I felt her tighten on my tongue. I replaced my tongue with my middle finger, teasing at her opening while I nibbled on her clit. She was going to come on my mouth, hard, and so I moved the hand that had been on her stomach up to cover her mouth to stifle her noises. But instead of just allowing me to cover her mouth, she surprised me by sucking my index finger into her mouth and swirling her tongue around it. In response to the sensation, and the way my imagination worked to imagine it was me in her mouth, I sucked on her clit harder and curled my finger deep inside of her until she clamped down on me. I moved my finger and used my tongue to lap at her in time with the pulsing of her walls, and she bit down on my finger. When the pulsing had stopped, I kissed the insides of her thighs and inched my way up to her face, placing kisses on her body on my way up. When I reached her breasts, she grabbed me by my ears and yanked me up to her face, kissing me hard. Fill me, Edward. Now. Yes and maam. *** BPOV

Evil Bella threw back her head and laughed wickedly as Edward ducked his head under his sheet and began pulling down my panties, while Friend Bella shook her index finger at me in a For Shame! gesture. Evil Bella won out and bitch-slapped Friend Bella into silence the moment I felt Edwards tongue reach up into me. Gahhhh. I bit my lip to keep from moaning, and the moment I felt my muscles stiffen, Edward put his hand over my mouth to keep my screams from reaching Jakes ears downstairs. It wasnt enough, and I sucked his long finger into my mouth, simulating what I wanted to do with Edwards cock. When I came, I accidentally bit his finger, but rather than respond with the anticipated shriek, it only seemed to encourage Edward and his magic tongue. When my orgasm had subsided, I surprised myself when I practically growled at him and ordered him to get inside of me. He moved up my body and into me with such vampiric speed that I came again as soon as he entered me, and I thanked God all over again for moving me to San Diego! He buried his face in my neck as he pumped into and out of me, and he hissed, Mine repeatedly near my ear, emphasizing each hard thrust as though he was marking me. Fleetingly, I wondered whether Jake would be able to hear us, but then I quickly decided that if he did, I couldnt care less it would be payback for every time I had to overhear him and Nessie in the next tent on our camping trips. For every time he answered the phone mid-coitis and I had to overhear a panting Nessie in the background. Paybacks a bitch, Jake. Looking at my face, Edward narrowed his eyes and slowed his movements. Whats the smug look for, love? Just thinking of paying Jake back, is all, I responded in a whispered giggle. Bella, telling me that Jake is anywhere near being on your mind right now is not exactly good for my ego, he chastised and arched his brow. Hush, I ordered. I was just thinking how I dont care if he hears us, I moaned in his ear as he dove into me again. Edward groaned in response. Funny neither do I, he said as he tangled his fingers in my hair and sped up his movements. I dug my nails into his hips, pulling him as deeply into me as I possibly could without actually gagging. God, Bella. You feel fucking fantastic wrapped around me. I dont know if I can hold out any longer Feeling his fingers tug at my hair until my neck was on full display for him, I squeezed my thighs around his waist. Hows this for your ego, Edward your cock fills me so perfectly I get wet just thinking about how you fit in me. He moaned and reached a hand under my ass, lifting it inches of the bed and hitting new secret spots in me with the angle. Tell me more, he growled into my ear. I dream of fucking you, and I wake up and my thighs are covered in wetness, just waiting for you to slip into me effortlessly. I bit his earlobe playfully. I was made to be in your bed, Edward. Just like you were made to be inside of me. I cant wait until I can feel you spill in me Fuck! Edward yelled and I felt him twitch inside of me as he filled the condom. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the downstairs light come on from in the kitchen, and Jake hollered, Everything alright up there? Phenomenal timing, Jacob. Unable to suppress my fit of giggles to respond to Jake, Edward answered, Great, Jake. Were

fine. No need for concern. His face was one hundred percent smug bastard as he continued, Shes in good hands. I slapped his bicep at his last comment, and he kissed my nose in response. Okay then. Good. Im going back to sleep. See you in the morning, Jake yelled as I heard his footsteps retreat toward the guest bedroom at the front of the house. Gnight Jakey, I managed to say quickly before Edward began tickling my rib cage with those magical fingers of his. He knew just where to nudge and pinch to have me in fits of laughter within seconds, so much so that I gave myself hiccups. Youre adorable, Edward grinned at me after a hiccup. His face turned suddenly serious and he whispered to me, Live with me, Bella. What?!? He stayed perched above me, holding his weight off of me with his elbows, expression lovingly serious. Did you hear me? he asked. I could only nod my head. Well? Will you? Will you live with me, Isabella? I know it seems sudden, and you just bought your place, he rushed, but Id love nothing more than to wake up to you every morning and fall asleep with you every night. Please? I couldnt breathe. My heart beat frantically in my ears. A month ago I was in St. Louis. A month ago I was a virgin. A month ago I didnt even know where he was. And yet here I am, blanketed in him. Sleeping better next to him than Ive ever slept on my own. Longing to be near him when hes not with me. But am I ready to give up the independence of having my own home? Of having a place of refuge? As soon as the thoughts crossed my mind, their ridiculousness hit me. Living with Edward would not mean dependence on him. And he is my refuge. Bella? Bella, youre freaking me out here, Edward said worriedly. Sighing, he sit up and covered me with the blankets and then reached for his boxers. Im so sorry, love. I didnt mean to pressure you. Its too soon. I wouldnt change what we have for the moon. I just I interrupted his self-flagellation by grabbing his neck and pulling him back on top of me, where he belonged. As I held his head in my hands he cautiously looked at my face, worried expression etched into his beautiful features. I planted kisses over his chin, his lips, his cheeks, his forehead. Just love him, silly Bella. Just love him. Chapter 26 EPOV Before I knew what I was saying, I whispered, Live with me, Bella. When she didnt respond, I asked her again, reassuring her that I wanted nothing more than to fall asleep and wake next to her. But still she looked at me like a deer caught in the headlights, and I immediately regretted what I asked her to do. She so obviously wasnt ready. Reaching for my pajama pants, I apologized, Im so sorry, love. I didnt mean to pressure you. Its too soon. I wouldnt change what we have for the moon. I just She interrupted me, pulling me down to her and holding my head in her shaking hands. As she kissed my face, I heaved a sigh before looking into her eyes. They were brimmed with tears, and my heart burst for her. You want me to move in with you? she asked.

Studying her face, trying to get a read for the direction she was headed, I replied, Thats not exactly what I said, love. I want you to live with me. She blinked her eyes and a solitary tear slid down her cheek. She bit her lip and a shy smile slowly came onto her face, causing my nerves to settle just a bit. Bella, I wasted a lot of time and I made the mistake of not being forthright with you several times. I dont want to waste any more time. Unfortunately, I will probably make more mistakes, but Shhh, she interrupted again. Ill live with you, Edward. Relief washed over me in waves and I gathered her up to cradle her in my arms, holding her so tightly that she actually winced. Sorry. You just had me on pins and needles there. I laid her back on the bed our bed and rested my head on her chest. Her heart beat strong and certain there and she ran soothing fingers through my hair until I drifted off to sleep. Wed work out the details later, but for the moment, I just enjoyed the night knowing that she was mine to keep. The next morning I awoke to the aroma of nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla. The sounds of a whisk beating a steel bowl downstairs accompanied gentle humming, and I rose and stretched before going down to greet Bella. She stood there, her hair in a messy ponytail and her feet bare, humming an old Bee Gees song as she whisked some egg mixture in a bowl. Smiling, I snaked my arms around her waist and pulled her close to me, letting her feel just how happy I was to see her. Hmm. Good morning, sunshine, she teased as she reached for the loaf of bread. I dont guess thats a banana in your pocket? Grabbing her hips, I ground myself against her once. Not a banana. Hazard another guess? She giggled and slapped my hands away from her hips. I stepped away and leaned against the island, crossing my legs at my ankles, enjoying watching her navigate my kitchen. Jake up yet? A loud snore from the direction of my guest room answered my question. Nope, we said in unison. My God, thats atrocious, I said. She rolled her eyes, Tell me about it. I dont see how Nessie stands it. I would smother him with a pillow in his sleep. Not a bad idea. What are you making? French toast? Um-hum, she nodded. It smells wonderful. Want some powdered sugar? No I found it already while you were still upstairs with that stupid grin on you face while you slept. The syrup, too. A devilish smirk formed on her full lips and she arched a brow at me. Pleasant dreams? Honestly, I couldnt remember what I had dreamt. All I knew is that I awoke and she wasnt there. I guess so. Cant imagine what I have to be happy about, could you? She swatted my forearm with a spatula and I mocked pain. Just then, the door to my guest room opened and a half-asleep Jake stumbled in to my kitchen, ruining my moment with Bella. Hey Bells, he greeted when he saw her through his one open eye. The fucker didnt have a shirt on. Morning, Jakey, she said sweetly, seemingly oblivious to his state of half-dress. Thats my girl.

Edward, he grunted and nodded at me. Nodding in return, I asked, Sleep well, Jacob? He huffed, Yeah. You two are noisy as shit, though. Damned headboard hitting the wall kept me up. Bella turned fifty shades of red and I was torn between wanting to whack him upside the head with the hot griddle for embarrassing her, and gloating over the fact that he had heard us. Shut up Jake, Bella growled at him as she threw two pieces of battered bread on the griddle. You dont even want to start comparing notes. Ive had to listen to you and Nessie too many times for my comfort. Headphones dont even drown out that shit. Instead of looking chastised, he looked pleased with himself. Yeah. Shes a screamer, my girl. He stood on his toes and stretched his arms up to touch the ceiling, just as Bella turned the spatula onto his exposed abs. All fucking eight of them. Ouch! Shit, Bella! That hurt! Im glad, she retorted before winking at me. I had to turn my head to hide the huge grin on my face. Sorry, he apologized, and pulled out a stool at the island. Your famous French toast? She nodded as she threw two more pieces on the griddle and flipped the first two over. Yum. I miss this, Bells. Nessies just doesnt taste as good. Dont tell her I told you that though, k? Itll be our secret, she said, and I tried to suppress a growl at the puzzlement of why Jake would be in any position to be eating breakfast with Bella. So, whats on the agenda today? Jake queried as he readied his plate and silverware in front of him like a pig up to a trough. I thought maybe wed check out the zoo. I havent been yet. Edward, will you come? she asked me, looking up through her thick lashes. Although I would have loved nothing more than to tag along and keep an eye on Jake, I also knew that I had to give them time to themselves. Thats alright, love. You two go. I have some work to catch up on and I need to get things ready for my trip. Trip? she gasped. Well, hell. Yes, love. I have to go to New York in two weeks to pitch a sale out there. Ill be gone for a few days. The tension in the room turned up a few notches as she looked back at the griddle, only responding with, Oh. Jake looked at me with a skeptical eyebrow, daring me to dig myself out of my predicament. I reached for her hand with one of mine and turned down the stove with the other. Keep an eye out please, Jake well be right back. Surprisingly, Jake nodded at me in a way that seemed to be somewhat supportive. I led Bella to the couch and sat her next to me. She didnt look me in the eyes as she whispered, You didnt tell me you were leaving. I know. I think it kind of slipped my mind until last night. Last night? Um-hmm. Bella, I would like you to go with me.

Her eyes shot up to mine. To New York? I nodded. I have work- Bring it with us. I dont know, Edward I can order you to go, Miss Swan, I retorted, squeezing her hand. I have a better idea. Curious, I said, Oh? Im all ears. Youre not all ears, she whispered, glancing quickly down to my crotch and smirking. Why dont you go, and Ill take those days to re-pack and move some things in. She chewed on her bottom lip nervously, awaiting my response. Of course, I loved her idea. I think thats a great idea, love. Can I just say again how happy I am that you agreed to live with me here? I whispered, not sure if Jake could hear us. She leapt forward and wrapped her arms around my neck, pulling herself to sit on top of me. Me too, she said as her lips brushed mine. Now I just have to figure out how to tell Jake about it. And my father. She cringed at the mention of having to tell her father, and from my memory of his glare as he watched me kiss her twelve years prior, I didnt want to be anywhere in the area code when that conversation happened. The three of us ate breakfast, and I was astounded at how good Bellas French toast was. When she sprayed the whipped cream into a swirl on top of her stack, I made a mental note to pick up another can after Jake went home. As Bella and I cleaned up the dishes, Jake wandered into the living room, scanning the DVDs in my collection and making various faces of approval and disgust at the titles. When he sat his glass of orange juice down on top of my piano, I had to fight off the urge to bound across the room and knock some sense into his empty skull. Hey! Bella hollered at him from next to me. Get that off there this instant, Jacob! Sufficiently chastised, Jake grabbed his glass and wiped the residual condensation from the wood. Bella winked at me and I mouthed Thank you to her. You play, Eddie? he asked and I cringed at the nickname. Yes, I hissed out. Edward is an excellent pianist, Jake. He does wonders on that piano. Her inside joke was not lost on me, and my cock certainly got the message, too. I groaned to myself and had to squeeze my eyes hard in order to fight the flood of memories of her sprawled out on that piano for me. She chuckled to herself next to me and then nibbled my chin. Youll have to play again for me, she whispered in my ear. Oh, I will, I growled back at her. Ill play for you all night if youd like. She arched a sexy brow at me. Now thats a concert Id very much like to attend. Love. This. Woman. *** BPOV After breakfast, Edward and I cleaned up the dishes and discussed our plans for the day as Jake poked around the living room, teasing Edward about his mad piano skills. Because that piano held a particularly warm place in my.heart I took offense to Jakes comments. Showing his

appreciation for the way I stood up for him, Edward sexily promised to give me a very private, allnight concert. The mere thought of Edward recreating our love-making session on top of that piano sent chills from my toes to my hairline, and he smirked at the way I blushed for him at the thought. Go get dressed, Jake, I ordered him as I continued to stare into Edwards dark eyes. Jake took the hint and left us alone in the kitchen. Sohe did hear us last night, Edward whispered into my ear as he lifted me up to sit on the edge of the cabinet. I nodded. Does that bother you? Nooo, I managed to squeak out as Edward ran the tip of his finger under the hem of my pajamas, grazing my upper thigh. He nipped at my bottom lip. Me either. He played with the ends of my hair that were hanging down my back. Ill miss you today, he promised before running his tongue along my bottom lip, teasing me. Me too, I answered, locking my ankles behind his back and pulling him closer to me. I tugged at his hair along his scalp and gave him a kiss. You have fun showing Jake around the city if you can manage to do so without getting lost yourself, that is and then come home for dinner, alright? Ill cook. Sounds like a plan, boss, I said, enjoying the way he told me to come home. Edward let me hop down from the island and I went upstairs to change into comfortable clothes. Half an hour later, I met Jake downstairs and we were ready to head out to the Zoo. Edward already had his laptop bag packed up next to the garage door, ready to go in to the office. He sat on the couch, nose buried in the mornings New York Times. When he heard me hit the landing of the steps, he folded up the paper and sat it on the end table, rising to join me. You off, love? I looked at Jake, who nodded his head. Yep. Do you know where youre going, Bella? I rolled my eyes at him, and Jake interrupted, Dont worry Eddie. My cell has GPS if she gets us lost. Well be fine. Edward scowled at Jake for a split second before kissing me on the tip of my nose and holding my hands. Alright. Be careful. Have fun. Say hi to Odyssey for me. Odyssey? I asked. The new elephant, he answered. Oh. Will do. Have fun with work. I stepped up on my tip toes and kissed him on the cheek, but reached around to pinch his fabulous ass discretely. He growled in response and I couldnt help but feel a little smug. Get out of here, he directed, winking at me. Jake and I got in my truck and headed down the highway back onto the mainland, heading toward the Zoo. It was a beautiful day with a nice breeze and clear skies. Whats with the grin, Bells? Jake asked. What grin? That stupid one youve been wearing all morning. And what the hell did you do to Edward last

night that had him screaming cuss words? I giggled. You probably dont want to know, Jakey. He rolled his eyes. No. Probably not. He went back to staring out the window. We rode in silence for a few minutes as I battled with how to break the news of my move-in to Jake. Deciding that ripping off a band-aid was always less painful in the end, I blurted out, Im going to move in with him. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Jakes jaw drop and then his lips purse together in a hard line. Dont you think that its pretty soon, Bella? You just moved here and bought your condo. A condo Im never at, Jake, I retorted petulantly. Perhaps. But arent you worried about selling it in this economy? A little. I may be able to rent it out though. He scoffed next to me. Arent you worried about not having your own space? Your independence? He hit me where he thought it would hurt worst, and I thought for a moment about how to answer him. Jake, I began. You forget Ive actually known him longer than Ive known you. Youre going to sit there and honestly tell me that he knows you better than I do? Seriously? No. Not better. Justdifferently. No one can mean to me what you mean to me, Jake, I reassured him, sensing his rising jealousy. Humph. Look, Jacob. Ive been with the wrong guys. Mike, for one. And me, he interrupted. Yes - and you. I reached over to pat his knee. Although I wouldnt have had you any other way because we wouldnt be what we are to each other now without having started outthat way. He smirked and squeezed my hand. My point is, Im done with the wrong guys. I knew years ago that I wanted him. But I didnt think that it could happen. Now that Im sure it can, I dont want to waste any more time. He went back to staring out the window. Besides, I wouldnt lose my independence with Edward. No more than I would have lost it with you. You both know me too well than to try to control me. Thats true. I know better, at least, he shrugged. You can be a real pain in the ass when you feel cornered. Hell, you can be a real pain in the ass at any time. I slugged him on the shoulder. Hah! You still hit like a girl. I am a girl, ass hat. He laughed as we pulled into the parking lot of the zoo and paid the attendant. He reached out for my hand as we lazily walked along the walkways through the crowds, passing the lions before reaching the area with the elephants. Sure enough, Odyssey was on display for the crowds to see, and children perched up on their parents shoulders ooohed and ahhhed at the animal and its big floppy ears. One little girl asked if Odyssey could fly like Dumbo, and her older brother cruelly laughed and made fun of her. I instantly had the desire to grab the boy by the ear for picking on his little sister.

Hey, Jake snapped at the boy. He looked up at Jake instantly, eyes big as golf balls. Dumbo is the coolest elephant alive, man. Dont make fun of him. Hes my favorite, Jake warned as he pointed his thumb at his chest, flexing his arm in the process and scaring the crap out of the little boy. He winked up at the little girl, who giggled in delight. Hes my favorite, too, she said sweetly. Thats right, sweetie, her father chimed in, smacking the older brother on the back of the head. Quit picking on your sister, Eric. The boy rubbed his head and scowled at Jake, who glared a warning back to the boy. Sorry, Leah, the boy grudgingly apologized. The little girl looked pleased with herself as the family walked to the next exhibit. Once they were out of earshot, Jake and I laughed together and he wrapped his arm around my shoulder as we took off in the opposite direction. We shared a plate of funnel cakes and a bowl of ice cream for a late lunch a few hours later before heading out. Where to next, Bells? Hmmm, I mused as we walked out to the truck. Were on the outskirts of a park here - Balboa, I think its called. Like Rocky? They named a park after Rocky? Sweet! No, I dont think they named it after Rocky. Anyway, if we keep driving, I think there some museums and a little train ride. Wanna try it? Sure, sure, he answered, shrugging his massive shoulders as he strapped on his seat belt. We drove through the area, finding a central place to park. We found the railroad and the carousel, and had a great time just wandering around all afternoon. Around four oclock, we were both beat and ready to head back to Edwards house. Ready, Freddie? I asked him, pulling my hair up off the back of my neck to try to cool down. Yeah. I need a shower, he said, and leaned over to sniff the top of my head. So do you. I elbowed him in the ribs, earning a chuckle. I wonder what Edwards going to fix for dinner. Can he cook? Jake asked. Yes, he can. Hmmm. Im starving. I think Ill hit the shower and go wander on the beach for a while when we get back. Okay. I think Ill leave you to that and Ill see if Edward needs any help in the kitchen, if you dont mind going out on your own for a bit. Hah! he guffawed. Not a problem. You need to catch up, right? Im mean, its been, what a whole eight hours since he had his tongue down your throat, right? Shut the fuck up, Jake, I sneered. Awww, dont be like that, Bells. You know Im just kidding you. Im happy for you. Really. I am glad youreenjoying yourself. I have a better feeling about him than I did with FuckFace. I laughed at Jakes use of his nickname for Mike. Thanks, Jakey. I am happy. Jake half-smiled at me as we turned on to Edwards road. I love you, Bells. Love you too.

We opened the garage door into the kitchen and Ben greeted us, jumping up to lick Jakes face. Hey dude! he exclaimed as he tousled Bens fur. Jake nodded to Edward, who was standing at the stove sauting some chicken. Jake headed back to the guest bathroom to hop in the shower, leaving Edward and I alone in the kitchen. I went to Edward and he leaned down to give me a quick kiss as he stirred the chicken. I missed you, he sighed at me. I missed you too. But Im all icky I need a shower. He reached across the stove and turned it down to the low setting. He backed me up against the island, grabbing my waist with one hand and placing his index finger over his lips with the other hand, making a shhh noise. Hush, he ordered. I just need five minutes of your time. He lifted me up onto the island, wrapping my legs around his waist and pulling my hair to one side. He licked up my neck, and I cringed at the thought of how sweaty I probably tasted. But he just moaned against me, causing a whole other kind of dampness to creep into my panties. I like you sweaty. And Ive been alone all day he purred as he nipped at my earlobe. He patted my hip to motion for me to lift off the island, and he deftly pulled off my sweatshorts and panties before pushing my knees apart so that he could stand between them. Did you have a nice time, love? he coyly asked as his long, strong fingers found their way between my folds. I struggled to even recall what I had done all day, needy to have him closer. I said, did you have a nice time, Isabella? he asked again and I heard him unzip his jeans and pull out his cock. I took one glance down at him, hard and huge, and moaned as I nodded my head. Did you miss me? he asked as he slid the tip of his erection up and down my slit, causing me to bite my lip and buck my hips against him. I nodded again, still unable to actually speak. How much did you miss me, love? he asked as he slid just the tip of himself into my entrance. The feeling was indescribable, and I vowed to never go a whole eight hours without him inside of me ever again. Please, Edward, I begged. Please, what, Bella? he teased, withdrawing his cock from me again. No. More, I growled, grabbing onto him and pulling him back to my core. Whats the matter, sweetheart? I placed him at my entrance and reached to grab his ass, pulling him inside of me, gasping as he filled me. He hissed as he clutched the edge of the counter before grabbing my hips and thrusting deep into me. Wordlessly and quickly, he slammed into me over and over, causing my juices to coat our bodies as we came together, panting. The whole experience was frantic and crazy, and lasted all of three minutes. He kissed me lovingly once more, and breathed into my mouth, Missed you, just as we heard Jake turn off the shower down the hall.

Chapter 27

Despite my better judgment, I kissed her goodbye and told her and the mutt to have a good time at the Zoo. I watched out the front door window as they drove off in Bellas truck. Although I noticed a difference in her posture when she was with him than when she was with me, I pushed this to the back of my mind and vowed to dive into work for the day to pass the time, throwing my bag in my passenger seat and peeling out of my garage down the road to the highway. Opening the sunroof to enjoy some fresh air, I thumbed through the songs on my iPod until I came to Danzon, cranking up the volume on the car stereo and driving across the bridge. After I pulled into the empty parking garage of the building and made my way to the elevator, I began digging my fingers through my hair and pushing up on my eyebrows a nervous habit I developed in my adolescence and never quite let go. Every thought that crossed my mind was Bella, Bella, Bella, as I walked down the dark corridors of the office. I stopped at her office and stood in the doorway for a few moments, my eyes closed, inhaling the faint trace of her scent that hung in the space. So not helping. Grudgingly, I walked down to my own office, booted up my laptop and plopped into my chair, vowing to put thoughts of her to the back of my mind. But then I took one look at my couch. Fuck. Bella on that couch. Bella squirming underneath me. My cell phone rang, interrupting my thoughts. I flipped it open without looking at the caller ID, hoping it was Bella calling to tell me that they changed their minds and Jake had decided to go wander around the city by himself. No such luck. Hey kid, Jaspers voice greeted me. Where are you? Hey Jazz. Im at the office. Why? Its a beautiful Saturday morning. Why arent you with Bella? Yes, Edward. Why arent you with Bella? She has a friend from back home in town. Theyre going to the zoo. I grabbed a handful of paperclips, hooking them together into a chain absentmindedly. Sulking. Well thats nice. I know Alice and she have been talking, but its good that a girlfriend from back home came out to see her. She probably misses her friends. Humph, I huffed. Whats the matter? Im sure you can spare a few hours away from her, Edward, Jasper laughed. Not. A. Girl. Pardon? I said not a girl. The friend from back home is her best friend Jacob, I sneered. Ahh. I see. Is that a problem? I need more paperclips for this conversation. Edward? Jasper prodded. Are you okay, bro?

Dont call me bro, Emmett. Its fine, I spat. Jasper chuckled on the other end of the line. You have to be kidding, right? You cant be jealous, can you? Silence. Edward Maybe a little. But Im fine. Truly. Fine. Hes engaged And shes totally in love with you, Edward, Jasper interrupted. I sighed. Thanks, Jazz. I hope so. I know so. I can feel it radiating off her. Trust me, Jasper reassured. After a long pause, I asked, Jasper, when you and Alice finally got together, did you find that you didnt want to let her out of your sight? Oh, hell yes. She would even give me shit about it sometimes. So this is okay? What Im feeling? I just I never felt like this with Tanya. Hell, two weeks into it, I was hoping shed give me some space. Right - and we all know how that ended. Bella, on the other hand I just want to kidnap her and hold her hostage in my house. All the time, I continued, comforted by the knowledge that Jasper would never tell anyone of my true psychotic nature. Youre fine. Yeah, yeah. Thanks. No problem. Now Ill let you get to work. See you Monday, little brother. Will do. Later, Jazz. I felt a little less like a crazy man after talking to Jasper. Of course, I hadnt told him that Bella and I had decided to live together. That was an announcement we would make together when she was ready. But somehow, I didnt think my family would be anything but supportive. Hell, I was fairly certain that between my mother, Alice and Rosalie, our wedding was already coordinated and booked somewhere. Our wedding. I thought on that for a moment, trying to decide whether I was completely losing my mind as a plan began to develop in my head. The hours dragged by slowly as I clicked away on my computer and poured over proposals. Eventually, I headed home, stopping at the supermarket on the way home to get the ingredients for dinner. When I got home, I let Ben out the back door and walked with him for a few minutes before going upstairs to shed my shoes and socks and pull on a fresh t-shirt. Because my Bella had been away from me all day, and because I am truly a seventeen-year-old horndog in a twenty-nine-year-olds body, I dropped a condom into my jeans pocket and let my mind wander. Greeting Bella at the door. Taking her on my kitchen counter. Of course, this would not happen. Why? Because of him. Him and his bullshit need to affirm Bella

was safe and sound here with me by taking up our weekend. But despite the anger that boiled up in my veins at the thought of Jake spoiling my reunion with Bella, as soon as I heard the garage door go up, I hardened in anticipation. If you build it, they will come. I quickly unzipped my pants and rolled on the condom, then turned back to the stove where I was sauting chicken for supper as I rezipped my pants. By the grace of God, when Jake and Bella came in, Jake merely nodded to me and headed off to take a shower, leaving me blissfully alone with Bella. She protested as I kissed her, claiming that she was all sweaty from being outdoors all day. To the contrary, she looked fucking fantastic. Her cheeks were flush from the exercise, her hair wild, and the salty taste of her skin drove me out of my ever-loving mind. With very little fanfare, I threw her onto the island and buried myself in her, driving into her with such force that I knew I wouldnt last but maybe three minutes. Luckily, that was all she needed too she was wound like a cheap clock and just those few thrusts were all it took. Thank God in heaven. We finished just in time for Jake to shut off the shower and a look of pure panic came to Bellas face. Laughing, I playfully swatted her ass and ordered her upstairs. She took off like a bolt of lightening, and I burst out in laughter at the sight of her bounding the stairs, sweatshorts in her hand and her hair a hot mess. I discarded the condom in the trash can under the kitchen sink and ran my fingers through my hair before washing my hands, feeling a million times better than I had all day. Everything alright in here? Jakes voice filled the kitchen. I heard thudding. That was Bella, I answered, and he raised a suspicious eyebrow. She just took off up the stairs to get a shower, I explained with as much innocence as I could muster. You mustve heard her going up the stairs. Sure, sure, he said, with about as convincing an attempt at belief as mine was at innocence. He smirked and grabbed the back of his neck, shrugging. Whatever. I went back to cooking, and after a few minutes, Jake called out to me from his perch on my couch. She told me, you know. Told you what, Jake? Told me about you two moving in together. I put the spatula down, bracing myself for the shitstorm that I was sure would follow. She did? Yep, he responded, popping the p, which reminded me of how Bella often did the same thing. Hey, man. Im cool with it. Whatever makes her happy, you know Thank you Jake. Im sure your support means a lot. To her, I said, hoping he understood that I didnt give a rats ass what he thought of it. Uhm-hum. Im not who you have to worry about, though, he warned, a smartass grin on his face. Oh? Nope. You have to tell Charlie. And man, do I want to be a fly on the wall for that conversation! ***

BPOV You have to tell Charlie, I overheard Jake as I began the decent down the stairs after my shower. And man, do I want to be a fly on the wall for that conversation! Jacob! I scolded him. Immediately, two sets of eyes one full of mischief and one full offear? were focused on me. They both visibly gulped, their Adams apples bobbing in their throats. When or how my father hears about my personal life is not up for discussion nor is it your place to fill him in, I warned. Of course not, Bells. I wouldnt do that. Im just sayin I hope that your dad doesnt freak out. I mean, does he even know that youre dating someone? You think my dad and I sit around and talk about boys, Jake? Seriously? Edwards brow furrowed and Jake just gave a sarcastic chuckle under his breath. Does he know your history here? Jake asked, motioning between Edward and me. No. My mom did I trailed off, focusing on a tiny spot on the carpet. Of course I had told Renee about Edward well, at least about Masen. After all, she did take careful note of how much time I spent with him in Hawaii that summer, and she had grilled me when Id return to our hotel room. She was such a hopeless romantic that she was ready to hop on a plane to find Masen and kick his ass eight years ago after I went home crying to her. Hmmm, Jake mused. He had hit a sore spot, and he knew it. At least he had the courtesy to look somewhat ashamed that he had joked around about this. Youre right, Bells, he sighed, its up to you when and how you tell Charlie whats going on. I wont interfere. Look, if you think itll help, I wont even mention it to my dad just in case the subject of my visit comes up between them. Okay? I nodded my head in appreciation and gave him a half-hearted attempt at a smile. Actually, Edward tentatively joined in the conversation, Jake has a good point, Bella. Jake looked taken aback that Edward actually acknowledged that he may have been correct in anything. Edward slowly walked over to where I stood on the steps and placed my clenched fist into his hand, rubbing circles on my knuckles with his thumb. I wouldnt feel right about us living together without personally talking to your father about it. I mean, the last time he saw me, I was steeling kisses from his sixteen-year-old daughter and he was giving me the evil eye. He arched his brow at me and I could feel my face blush. Jake snorted from his place on the couch and I growled at him. Id like to at least give your father a call to fill him in and ask him for his blessing. That is, if its alright with you, love? Butterflies turned cartwheels in my stomach at the idea of Edward being the one to fill in Charlie, but I reluctantly nodded in agreement. Good. Its settled then. If you want to give me his number, Ill call him first thing tomorrow. Oh no not on a Sunday morning. At least not if you want the conversation to go well, Jake interrupted. Sunday mornings Charlies fishing time. You interrupt that to tell him youre shagging his only child, and you might as well pick out a burial plot. Shrugging my shoulders, I squeezed Edwards hand. Hes right, Edward. Well call him, together, tomorrow afternoon. Alright? Okay.

For now, lets just enjoy dinner, I requested. Jake clapped his hands together and rubbed them. Hell yes! Im starving! Edward rolled his eyes and pulled me into the kitchen. I felt my cheeks blush when we both looked at the island at the same time and Edward winked silently at me. Dinner was fantastic, of course. Afterwards, Edward and I sat down on the couch and he rubbed my feet, which were aching from the days activities. Jake sat on the nearby chair, plopping his huge feet on Edwards coffee table until I scowled at him and he got the hint to put them down. We talked for a few hours as Jake told Edward horror stories from our days in high school and college. Edward ate them up, laughing out loud and grinning his crooked smile at me. Eventually, I excused myself to bed, exhausted from the long day outdoors. Edward stayed downstairs with Jake for a while watching Sportscenter. As I dozed in and out of the early stages of sleep, I could hear them arguing with the commentators and each other about the days events. Although I had no idea how long they were down there, at some point I felt a warm pair of long arms slide over my waist and felt Edwards sweet breath on my bare shoulder. As I stirred, he placed soft kisses on my arm. Shhh, he cooed. Dont wake up. You need to sleep, love. Hmm, I sighed, turning over so that I was facing his bare chest. I dug my face into him, nuzzling my nose in his fine chest hair and inching my hand down the trail of hair that led to the Promised Land. He softly grabbed my wrist to stop me from traveling any further. Bella, I just want to hold you, okay? You dont have to I stopped his nonsense with my lips on his as I dipped my hand into the waist of his pajama pants, fingering through the thick curls beneath and feeling his body stiffen under my touch. He didnt protest any more. He just held me tighter and inhaled into my hair. Afterwards, we both fell asleep, wrapped around each other. That night I dreamt of my mother - of how pretty she was, how silly, how understanding. And of Charlie how silently he grieved her, how he took refuge in moving back to his tiny hometown, how his best friend had moved there too to keep an eye on him. I dreamt of how Edward and I would tell him that we were going to live together how I wasnt his little girl anymore. I awoke in a cold sweat. Instantly, Edward sat me up and softly shook me to wake me up all the way. What is it, Bella? You were talking nonsense in your sleep. Was it a bad dream? I dont know, I replied. Honestly, I didnt know if it was a bad dream I hadnt made it far enough to gauge Charlies reaction to our news. I dont know. My mother I choked out. Edward gently rocked me in his arms, rubbing calming circles on my back. Its alright, love. Its alright. I miss her, I whispered. Of course you do. Despite that I hadnt cried for her in months, I felt tears slip down my cheeks. Edward held me tighter, kissing the top of my head. He held me until I finally fell back asleep, humming that beautiful melody he wrote. I awoke Sunday morning feeling groggy and nervous. Edward had already made it downstairs and put on a pot of coffee, and he and Jake were sitting at the island over a cup, each reading the newspaper. Jake had the comics and Edward had the financial section. I couldnt help but smile at the contrast in my two favorite men.

Hey princess, Jake mused, giving me the once-over. Sleep well? Edward swatted him on the nose with his newspaper before hopping off his barstool to give me a kiss. You okay? he asked quietly, and I nodded to him. Whats up today, Jake? I asked him. Well, since I didnt get the chance to do it last night, I figured we could just hang out here on the beach today before I have to head to the airport at noon. That sounds great, I agreed, trying to sound more chipper than I felt. Edward handed me a cup of coffee, complete with the cream and chocolate the way I liked it. He smiled warmly at me and said, You guys go ahead and Ill take you back to the airport with Bella, Jake. Thanks, man, Jake said, and the two of them exchanged a look that had me wondering when they had become such pals. Edward kissed my cheek before making his way upstairs to get dressed. I finished my cup of coffee and went upstairs to throw on some clothes and pull my hair back in a headband. Jake met me at the foot of the stairs, not bothering to put on a t-shirt or shoes. We didnt talk much as we walked the beach. Jake bent over periodically to pick up shells to take back to Nessie. We talked briefly about the wedding plans and the car he was restoring. A few hours later, we returned to Edwards house, Jakes arm wrapped around my shoulders protectively. We stopped on the deck and Jake moved to stand in front of me, one hand on each shoulder. He looked me squarely in the eyes. Bella, I want to say something before we go back in, he began. Sure, Jake. What is it? I havent seen you sowell, relaxed in all the years Ive known you. You never were this happy with Newton I can tell it just from being around you and Edward for two days. He loves you, Bells. I can tell that, too. He looks at you the way I look at Nessie the way Charlie looked at Renee. I felt the tears well in my eyes at his words. Charlie will be okay with it maybe not right away, but as soon as he sees that youre happy, hell be fine. Dont be afraid to let him see that youre happy. More tears. But I swear to God, Bella, if he so much as harms one hair on your head, Charlie wont be the first in line to kill him where he stands. We both laughed, although I had doubts as to just how much he was joking. I love you, Jakey. Love you too, Bells.

Chapter 28
EPOV Nite, sweetie, Bella said as she kissed me on the cheek before heading up to bed after supper. Jake and I watched her climb the stairs and sat quietly for a few moments before he turned the

television on to Sportscenter. He bragged about his beloved Cardinals and I rolled my eyes, educating him on the finer points of the Padres. We argued over the merits of professional basketball and mandatory drug testing for about an hour before I went to the kitchen to get a beer out of the fridge. Want one? I asked Jake. He nodded, and I grabbed another bottle of Heineken from the door of the fridge. As I handed it to him, he scrunched up his nose as if I had just given him rancid meat. I know its not a Busch product, Jacob, but itll have to do while youre here, I teased. Yeah, well, despite what she says, you cant be perfect, he snorted. No, far from it, I agreed. I sat back down on the couch and decided to pick his brain a bit. Jake? What happened to Bellas mom? He heaved a big sigh, like he was preparing for a revealing oratory. She died a little over a year ago. Car accident. Gasping, I recalled all the times Bella would write of her adventures with her mother. She always described her as being a free spirit, the child of the family really. My God, was all I could say. Jake furrowed his brow and started to play with the label on his bottle, distracting himself. Yeah. Its been tough. They were real close, you know. It just about killed Charlie. I bet, I whispered, imagining what it would be like for me if something ever happened to Bella. I pushed those thoughts to the back of my mind, lest I send myself into a panic attack. He worshiped the ground she walked on, he said, smiling. They were so different Renee was so carefree and.well, spacey. Charlies just solid. Doesnt say much. They so balanced each other out. She forced him to enjoy life, he grounded her. And then theres Bella this perfect mixture of the two of them, he said admiringly. Howd she handle it? She hasnt talked about it at all. No, she probably wont. She took it very hard, Eddie. But she thought she had to be all strong for her dad, you know. He couldnt handle even being in the same place the same house, the same town even. He told my dad that everywhere he looked, he saw Renee. Is that why he moved? I asked, recalling Bella saying that her father lived up in Washington. Jake nodded. Yep. He moved about six months after she died. Gave Bella the house, so she gave up her apartment and moved in there. But it was too much for her, too. To be in the house she grew up in, all those memories. So she moved, too I observed. Again, Jake nodded. Yes. She came out here. Used her inheritance for that condo she doesnt stay in, he said with a smirk. They still have the house back home though they couldnt sell it. Ness and I take care of it. Its there for Bella, should she ever decide to come back, he said, glaring at me for an instant. I get the message, Jake. Dont hurt her. Deciding to change the subject, I asked, So, tell me about this fianc of yours, Jake. His face immediately softened and he smiled. Renesmee. Shes fantastic. He took a long drawl of his beer. Ill admit to you, since were supposed to be buddies and all I grinned and snorted. Ill admit that I thought for so many years that Bella was it for me. I winced at the mention of his former feelings for her.

I did. Shes just about perfect, Edward. I know. She is perfect. And mine. But she just didnt see me that way, he said, shrugging. I didnt give up. I told her that I was content being her friend I wasnt, of course, but I just wanted to have the chance to be around her to prove to her that I was right for her. Then she became roommates with Nessie in college. I went to help her unpack in their dorm and met her, and it was just like whoa. Likelike gravity moves. I was drawn to her, and I never looked back. I know that feeling. He shrugged. So Ive figured it out - the whole Bella thing. Thats why I stuck with Bella for so long, even as lopsided as our friendship was. It was to bring me to Nessie. That was the whole point, and none of us knew it. Funny how that works, isnt it? I asked. We both chuckled, Jake finishing off his beer. I motioned to him for another, and he gestured to me to sit as he got up and went to the fridge for another. He flopped back down on the couch and popped the top off his new bottle, letting the cap fly to the floor before he reached down and picked it up, lacing it between his huge fingers. Then there was that fucker Newton, he started, and his jaw set so tight I swear he couldve cracked a pecan between his teeth. Shes mentioned him, I whispered, not certain if I really wanted to hear anything more about him. Yeah. He was such a dick. Controlling, pushy. She was scared to death to make him mad, he growled. What was his problem? He wanted all of her, all the time. Wanted to know where she was, what she was doing, who she was with. He just loved me, he huffed. Ill bet. Right. He didnt want her spending time with me unless Nessie was there. As if I would ever do anything to hurt either of my girls, he said, rolling his eyes. And he pushed her, physically. Of course, she didnt tell me about that. But she eventually told Nessie. Oh, hell no. Did he, I began, unable to ask the question. He tried, Jake answered my unasked question. Of course, I knew Bella was a virgin when we had first made love, but I didnt know much more than that. Thats when I lost it. Nessie told me that he had screamed at her about why she wouldnt fuck him, and Bella came home a mess. Crying, scared. I just lost it, he repeated. I went over to his frat house and beat the royal shit out of him. Maybe Jakes not so bad a guy, after all. He lay there crying like the little bitch he was, and I told him that if he ever went near Bella again, I wouldnt hesitate to finish him off. He did scary stalker shit after that called her and hung up, looked into the classroom door while she was in class. Just stupid shit. Bella didnt know about all of it, but Nessie saw it. So I paid him another visit and broke his nose. Cause he obviously didnt

get the message the first time. Then he left her alone. Finishing my beer, I leaned back into the couch and ran my fingers through my hair, trying to absorb everything he told me. Thank you, Jake, I finally offered. He shrugged his shoulders. No, I mean it. Thank you. God only knows what he wouldve done to her had you not intervened. We both shuddered at the thought. Shes my best friend, Edward. Thats my job, to protect her. Shes the first girl I ever loved, and I still do love her not in that way anymore, he quickly added when my eyes shot up to his. Chill. Its just well, theres nothing I wouldnt do for her. I owe her a lot. Without Bella, I would never have met Nessie. So, anything she needs, Im going to do my best to get it for her. Whether that be beating up a no-good bastard boyfriend, he said, raising his eyebrow at me, or helping her smooth things over with her dad when he finds out his baby is moving in with some strange guy. Anything. Alright. So he was fiercely loyal to her, and protective. And he had been there when I wasnt watching over her, keeping her safe. Thank you, was all I could say. He got up and stretched his huge body, reaching for his empty beer bottle and mine to take them to the trash can. Youre welcome, Edward. Its your turn to take care of her now. I cant be here to do that. I know. I wont hurt her, I promised. I dont think you will, he acquiesced. I can see that in you. And you should know, shed never hurt you. Its just not in her. Shes selfless. I know, I responded, ringing my hands as I thought about how absolutely selfish I had been in making choices for the both of us eight years prior. Jake walked into the kitchen and I heard him drop the bottles into the trash can. Gnight, Edward. Good night Jake. Thank you again, I said back to him, not looking up from my hands. Any time. When I heard Jake shut the door to the guest room, I slowly went up stairs and changed into my pajama pants and slid into the bed, careful not to make too much movement or noise. Despite my efforts, she turned and wiggled in the bed as I laid my arm over her waist, groaning softly. Shhh. Dont wake up, I whispered to her. You need to sleep, love. She sighed and rolled over to face me, brushing her nose against my chest and sliding her warm hand down my torso. All of the things Jake had revealed to me flooded my brain, and every bone in my body just wanted to wrap her up in a cocoon and protect her. Bella, I protested as her hand traveled further, I just want to hold you, okay? You dont have to She interrupted me with a soft kiss, running her tongue along my bottom lip as she slid her hand into my pants, and God strike me dead, I stiffened under her touch. She moaned when she felt me, and I pulled her in close to me as she lovingly stroked me. She shook her head in protest when I tried to touch her, to reciprocate what she gave me. When I took hold of her head and forced her to look at me, to gauge from her eyes what was going through her head, there was so much love there that it took my breath away. And then I got it. The difference that she wanted to do what she had done. No one was forcing her or pressuring her. She gave that to me - and she didnt want anything in return. So I just wrapped

her in my arms and lightly ran my fingers through her tresses until her breathing slowed again. About an hour later, I awoke to the sounds of sniffling. Bella was still sleeping on my chest, but tears were streaming down her cheeks onto my chest. No, Mom. Please dont go, she quietly cried, still sleeping. We need you. Please. I rubbed circles on her back and hummed to her, trying to coax her out of her dream without waking her. She calmed for a few minutes, and then started in again. But this time, her dream seemed to have taken a turn, and she said, But Dad, I love him. I love him Her cries got louder and angrier and she clenched her fists and shook her head. Sitting up, I shook her gently to wake her. She opened her eyes, gasping. What is it, Bella? I asked. Of course, I had a good idea what was going on, but I wanted her to confide in me with her fears of her fathers reaction. You were talking nonsense in your sleep. Was it a bad dream? I dont know, I dont know, she said, confused. She shook her head and ran her fingers through her hair, tugging at it. My mother, she choked. Had she forgotten about the dream with her father? Was she afraid to tell me? Deciding to let her move at her own pace, I just took her back in my arms and rocked her. Its alright, love, I reassured her. Its alright. Were alright, Bella. Well handle all of this together. **** BPOV Late Sunday morning, Edward and I drove Jake to the airport to catch his plane home. Despite my efforts, I actually teared up as I hugged him at the security check point. He responded by giving me a knuckle rub on top of my head, earning a growl from Edward. Be good, Bells. Let me know if you need anything with your dad, k? I nodded, swallowing hard. He kissed the tip of my nose. Take care of her, he said as he moved to shake Edwards hand. I took a step backward, into Edwards waiting arm and he wrapped it over my shoulder. I promise, Edward said to Jake before he leaned over to kiss the top of my head. For the first time all weekend, I sensed no tension between the two of them. Call me when you get home, Jakey. Please tell Nessie that she has to come with you next time. Next time, youre back on my turf, Jake snorted. And feel free to bring him, he gestured to Edward with an extended thumb. Itll get Ness off my back. Will do, Edward answered. Bye, I said once more, standing on my tip-toes to kiss Jake on his cheek. He gave me one last bear hug before making his way down the terminal. Edward took my hand, but let me stand there and watch Jake walk away for a few moments before we turned to go back to the parking garage. As we buckled our seat belts, Edward asked, You okay, Bella? Youre quiet. Uhm-hum, I answered. Its been a long weekend. A good one, but a long one. Is that all? Biting my lip, I hesitantly said, Im a little nervous about how to talk to my dad about us, actually. He pulled out of the parking garage and paid the attendant, then reached into his pocket to get his phone. He opened it and turned to look at me. Number, please? he asked. What? Your fathers number. Im going to call him now.

Gulping, I reluctantly gave him the number to my fathers house. I looked at the clock, noting that he should be home from fishing already. Hopefully, he had caught several fish and would be in a good mood. Mr. Swan? Edward said into the phone. My name is Edward Cullen. You dont know me, but I would like a few minutes of your time. Silence. Mr. Swan, I work at your daughters place of employment, he continued. Thats putting it lightly. Youre my boss, Edward, I thought as I rolled my eyes. Yes. Yes, thats right, he said to a question I couldnt hear. Sir, Bella and I have been dating for about a month now and things have been going very well. More silence as I was certain Charlie was pummeling questions at him. Im in love with your daughter, Mr. Swan. Oh shit. Way to be blunt, Edward. Absolutely, sir. I understand your concern. But weve actually known each other for a long time. For about twelve years, actually. More silence, and Edward visibly flinched. No, sir. Not from school. I met Bella, you and your wife when you vacationed in Hawaii twelve years ago. Silence. Yes, sir. That was me. Ouch. He mustve asked him about the kiss. Dad had looked like he would rip out his throat when he saw that. Edward continued, Actually, we kept in steady contact after that vacation, Mr. Swan. We got to know each other pretty well that way. Some more questions from my father. Thats right. Well, to be honest, sir, I completely screwed up and stopped writing her about eight years ago. For which Ive apologized profusely these last few weeks, Mr. Swan. I was a complete jerk. My father had not seen the bulk of my emotions when Masen stopped writing, but I had confided somewhat in my mother. She had probably told my father some of what was going on at the time. This did not bode well for Edward. Yes, sir. I know that. But Im doing my best to try to make it up to her now, Mr. Swan. And shes such a generous person, shes letting me try. Thank you for raising her to be a forgiving person. Awww. That should get you a couple of points, Edward. At least it does with me. Actually, Ive asked Bella to live with me. Even I could hear my dads screech of WHAT?! on the other end of the line, followed by loud mumbles of a slur of questions and comments that I couldnt understand. Edward just sat there and listened, keeping his eyes on the road and maintaining his composure. No, sir. I wanted to be the one to tell you. I think I owe you that, along with my explanation as to why I didnt think it was too fast. I can assure you that your daughter is not afraid of anything, he said, smirking. Oh, how wrong you are, Edward. Certainly, Mr. Swan. Just one moment, Edward said before handing me the phone. He mouthed an its okay to me as he handed it to me. I looked at the phone like it was an armed grenade. Dad? I meekly said into the phone. How are you? Isabella Marie Swan! he began. What do you think youre doing? You dont know this guy! You just bought your condo! Dad, I interrupted his rant. I do know what Im doing. I do know him. And Ill take care of the condo. Itll be alright. I cant believe what Im hearing! Living with someone before marriage, Isabella! What would your mother STOP, I ordered, cutting him off. Mom would want me to be happy - and I am, I said forcefully. I heaved into the phone, and my father did the same on the other line. After a few

moments, I had calmed down and said, Look, Dad. I know this seems sudden, but this is really what I want. I had hoped that you would be supportive of my decision. But its my decision nonetheless. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Edwards grip on the steering while tighten. He wouldnt have known that I was actually being more my fathers daughter than a rebellious teenager. If there was anything I had inherited from my father, it was his determination. Dad would recognize that. Dad would respect that. My father sighed. I know that, Bells, he said, using the nickname for me that Jake had penned so many years ago. From Jake, it sometimes sounded condescending. From my dad, it was always endearing. Its just..I just lost your mother. I dont want to lose you to some guy, too. Oh, Dad. Youre not losing me. And hes not just some guy, I reassured him. Well, Im not happy about this, but youre an adult. Youre free to make decisions on your own. I didnt say anything in response. After all, it wasnt a question it was an assertion. I know I dont say it often enough, Bella, but I love you. I want you to be happy. I love you too, Dad. I am happy. I hope so, Bells. I want you to meet him, I said, looking up at Edward, whose grip on the steering wheel had loosened up a bit. Alright, he responded. Hopefully, his manners have improved since last time I saw him. So he did remember the kiss. Shit. Dad, I scolded, are your manners what they were when you were seventeen? Silence. Yeah. Thats what I thought. Edwards a gentleman. Okay, well maybe not always a gentleman. Cue dirty thoughts. Stop it, Bella. You father on the phone, remember? Right. Fine, Bells. Ill meet him. Maybe I can come down there in a few weeks? Thatd be great, Dad. Well look forward to it. Okay, he relented. Ill do that. Good. It was really ballsy of him to be the one to tell me, Bella, my father said, and I could hear the smile in his voice. Yeah totally his idea, I said, grinning up proudly at Edward, who looked at me in confusion. Well, thats gotta count for something, right? Right, Dad. Ill let you go to clean your fish, k? Man, I got half a dozen this morning! Billys coming out to help me fry em. Howd you know I had caught some? Chuckling, I said, Cause you arent threatening to cut off Edwards appendages. We both laughed. Bye, Dad. Love you. You too, Bells. Be careful.

I will. Bye. I closed Edwards phone and reached for his hand, relaxing into the seat and sighing a huge sigh of relief. That went better than I thought it would, I admitted while I laid my head against the headrest, closing my eyes. He wants to meet you. Edward squeezed my hand tightly, and we pulled into his garage.

Chapter 29
EPOV Bella took the afternoon off on Tuesday for her doctors appointment, and my stomach did flipflops at the idea of being one step closer to having nothing between us. I had received my green light the day before, but told her that I didnt want her to feel pressured into doing anything with which she wasnt comfortable. That afternoon, Alice came to the office to visit Jasper and she stopped into my office, pressing her palms onto my desk and leaning over it, looking like the Cheshire Cat. Without looking up from my computer screen, I asked, Yes, Alice? May I help you? She giggled in response. Noooo, dear brother. But I have most certainly helped you. She had my attention and I looked up at her. What have you done? She turned and perched herself on my desk and folded her hands innocently in her lap. Youll see. And dont worry, you can owe me. Ill collect. Im sure, I hissed. With interest. Of course. Just consider me Bellas own personal Yellow Pages. Yellow pages? I raised a curious eyebrow at her, and she responded by gesturing that she was zipping her mouth closed. As if that would ever work. Whatever, Alice. Im sure that Bella appreciates all yourassistancein whatever youve done. She giggled again and looked at her watch. Well, Im sure that at this particular moment, shes not very appreciative. But she will be later, she sang. With that, she bounced off the desk and skipped out the door. Meddling pixie, I said under my breath. Uptight ass, she hollered back over her shoulder as she passed Laurens desk. The next few hours dragged on as I waited for five oclock and the opportunity to go home to Bella. Home to Bella. That had such a nice sound that I couldnt help but smile to myself every time I thought it. At four thirty, after not hearing from Bella all afternoon, I called her cell. She picked up on the third ring. Hello, she growled, and it sounded like she was speaking through gritted teeth. Hi, love, I answered, happy as a clam just to hear her voice, regardless of how agitated she sounded. She sighed on the other end of the phone. Hi there, you. OUCH! she screamed, and I heard

muffled chatter on the phone. Bella!? Whats going on? Oh, nothing, she hissed. Lets just say that Alice better know what the hell shes talking about. Alice? What does Alice have to do with anything? Nothing. Nothing. Liar. Are you okay? Sure I am, Edward, she responded, and I could practically hear her rolling her eyes at me. Are you on your way home? Change the subject all you like, Isabella. Ill kill Alice if shes sent you to some wacky doctor whos hurt you. No. Just getting ready to shut things down though. Are you sure youre alright? Do you need me to come get you? As I talked, I hit the power button on my laptop, not wanting to wait for it to shut down, and threw it in my bag. I was ready to walk out the door before I finished my sentence. No, really, Edward. Im fine. Ill see you back home in about forty-five minutes, okay? Ive got to stop by the condo and get some things. Noticing the way she no longer referred to her condo as my condo or my house anymore, I once again got excited at the prospect of having her live with me. Alright. Love you, Bella Marie. Love you too. Gotta go now. See you later, alligator. After while, crocodile. I grinned as I shut my phone and turned off my office lights. Nodding to Lauren as I passed, I told her goodbye. She gave me a glare for a split second before putting the worlds fakest smile on her face. Gnight, Edward, she cooed. Taking my time on my way home, I let Ben out and mixed up a batch of pizza dough for supper. I sat it near the windowsill to rise and went to take a shower before Bella got home. About five minutes in to my shower, I heard Ben bark once downstairs and the faint sound of Bellas keys hitting the bowl. Is that you, love? I hollered from the steamy shower. Mhm-hum, I heard her mumble back from my bedroom. Be out in a minute. Take your time, she responded, sounding somewhat nervous. I turned the dial on the shower, grabbed the towel from the rack, dried off and wrapped it around my waist before tapping out to greet her. Hey you, I smiled at her. She sat on the edge of the bed, wringing her hands infinitesimally. She was dressed in a different outfit than what she had put on that morning, and I had never seen the dress before. It was a beautiful jade color, with tank straps and a cute little belt. The skirt was full and stopped just above her knees, revealing her long slender legs. I drank in the sight of her and had to concentrate on something other than the way the darts of the bodice accentuated her breasts, or the way the belt showed off her tiny waist. Hi, she said, again with an air of nervousness that troubled me. How was your afternoon? Kissing her lightly, I ran my hands down her exposed arms. Slow. Yours? She smirked. Unpleasant.

The doctor? She nodded her head. Hungry? I asked, trying to distract her. I have pizza dough rising and we can put anything on it youd like. I even have some broccoli in the fridge, I said, wrinkling my nose. She laughed and instantly seemed to relax. Sure, she answered, rising from the bed. Ill help you. Let me throw on some clothes and- Dont you dare, she interrupted, and a mischievous grin slipped onto her porcelain face. I like this particular look on you, Mr. Cullen. She stood on her tip-toes and ran her tongue along my bottom lip, looking into my eyes the whole time. Her hands slid down my chest to the top of the towel, and then ran over it to my anxious erection. Nice, she purred in my mouth. And without so much as another look, she turned and went down the stairs, her heels clicking on the hard wood. I stood there, jaw agape, trying to will my hard-on to calm the fuck down. Coming, sweetheart? she cooed innocently from the bottom step. Not right now, I guess, I retorted. She chuckled wickedly and walked into the kitchen to open the fridge and start chopping broccoli. I went down the steps and retrieved the grated cheese and sauce from the refrigerator as she sang the Dana Carvey song Chopping Broccoli to herself as she worked. We both laughed as we worked alongside one another to finish the pizza her half with broccoli and left-over chicken from the previous nights dinner, my half with Canadian bacon and beef. Bella put the pizza in the oven and turned the timer on for thirty minutes. Washing and drying her hands in the kitchen sink, she turned on her heel to face me. Upstairs. Thirty seconds, she demanded. What? Tsk, tsk. Youre wasting valuable time, Edward, she scolded, shaking her head at me and cocking a sexy eyebrow. I bolted up the stairs, not caring that I dropped the towel somewhere along the way. Not caring that anyone who looked through my patio doors would see my naked ass running up the stairs two at a time. Im nothing if not efficient. I threw myself onto the bed, listening to Bellas feet climb back up the stairs. She stood at the foot of the bed and roughly pushed my shoulders so that I laid down on my back. She climbed on top of me, straddling my waist but hovering inches above me. I could feel her warmth from under her skirt already. Edward, she began, leaning down onto her hands, which were on either side of my head. I reached up and took hold of her waist, trying to push her on to me, but she resisted. Edward, she said again, placing a chaste kiss on my chin. Were in the clear now. Do you understand? I got the shot today at the doctors office. I am certain that the look on my face resembled a child on Christmas morning. My already hard cock became even harder, threatening discomfort. Bella, I whispered. Are you sure youre ready? She nodded her head and took hold of one of my hands, slipping it under her skirt and toward her

sex. Im ready. I slid my hand further up to touch her and quickly discovered two things. One? She wasnt wearing panties. Two? She was waxed bare. Holyfuckingshit. I groaned as my hand made contact with her bare lips and she rocked her hips down onto my hand. Nothing between us. You understand? she asked, her eyes pitch black and full of so much love and lust that I felt myself leak underneath her. Nothing. Ever. Oh, Bella, I moaned, flipping her around so that she was laid out under me like a phenomenal smorgasbord. A Bella buffet. I made quick work of her belt and unzipped the side zipper of her dress. She sat up, allowing me to tug the dress over her head and toss it to the floor. She wore nothing but a strapless satin bra, in the same shade of jade green as her dress. Love the dress, I smiled at her, and was rewarded with her whole body flushing a beautiful shade of pink. And the bra. And the panties. Im not wearing panties, Edward, she said, rolling her eyes. I know, I hissed, burying my lips between her breasts. I could smell her arousal and wanted nothing more than to taste her bare pussy. I unhooked the front clasp of the bra and paid adequate attention to her eraser-hard nipples before making my way down her belly. She writhed and moaned underneath me, but I knew if I didnt pace myself, Id come as soon as I put my tongue on her. Nothing. Between. Us. Unable to hold off any longer, I pushed her knees far apart and slid down to my own personal Mecca. She was glistening, her juices coating ever bare spec of perfect flesh. I had never seen anything so inviting, and I muttered several choice curse words under my breath before plunging my tongue into her. She screamed and grabbed at the sheets around her at the instant of my contact with her skin, and I felt her first orgasm on my tongue immediately, her nectar pooling from her and into my mouth. Nothing. Between. Us. After her climax had subsided, I slowly worked my way back up her body as she lay panting and chanting my name. You are the most beautiful thing I have ever seen, I told her as I linked our fingers together and pulled our hands above her head, positioning myself at her entrance. As my naked tip came into contact with her entrance, she bucked her hips toward me, reminding me of the morning after we had first made love. My eager little kitten. Nothing between us, I said her words back to her as I plunged in to her. She gasped and arched her back, her eyes rolling back in her head. A million thoughts fled through my mind, and I had to close my eyes. Unbelievably warm. Unbelievably mine. Fantastically wet. Fantastically mine. Deliciously tight.

Deliciouslymine. With nothing between us, I could feel every fold of her body, every bend of her, wrapped around me. My God, Bella, I said to myself. Is it okay? she asked between pants. Does it feel okay? Fuck, Bella. I mean.fuck. Yes. Itsfuckunbelievable. I know, she answered, kissing me deeply and wrapping her legs around my waist to take me deeper. I have been so wet ever since leaving that spa Alice sent me to. Itswow. I can feel everything. Everything. Me, too, I grinned at her. So much so that I dont think Im going to last long, love. She pulled herself up to lean on her elbows so that her mouth was next to my ear. Come come in me, she commanded. Her words sent me over the edge and I grabbed her hips, thrusting into her three more times before I felt my muscles tighten. My instinct was to pull out of her, but she dug her heels into my ass, and I roared as I felt myself spill inside of her. Oh my God! she screamed as I spasmed. I can feel you! She clawed into my forearms as another orgasm took over her, her walls milking the last of me out and into her. So perfect. I collapsed on top of her before quickly rolling over and pulling her onto my chest. We both lay there, panting and trying to catch our breath. Bella, that was I began, but couldnt even find the words to describe what she had just given to me. I know, she answered. After what couldnt have been more than three minutes, before either of us had come down from our high, she crawled back on top of me and said huskily, Lets do that again. And fuck me if I didnt respond. Burned pizza be damned. **** BPOV The week after Jake went back home was an eventful one, to say the least. It began with the everuncomfortable gyno visit to get a five-inch long (well, maybe not five, but it was close) needle in my hip so that I wouldnt have to worry about birth control for three months. That particular gem was followed up with the worlds scariest trip to Alices favorite spa for my first-ever wax job. Go bald eagle, Alice had advised. Trust me, she had said, smirking. She was so dead-on with that. After the sensation returned to my girly bits, I could feel literally every move my thighs made, resulting in a constant state of arousal. As if being around Edward Cullen didnt have me there to begin with. I had planned out our first time sans condom including a new dress that Edward hadnt seen (again, thank you, Alice) and no panties. What was the point, really, when they would just get wet so quickly? It had taken every ounce of self-control I had not to jump him as soon as he walked out of the bathroom wearing only a towel and a smile, but it was totally worth it to build up the tension only to release it on Edwards mile-long tongue the instant it touched my bare skin. We made love that night with nothing between us. It was a first for both of us, and I was thrilled that I was able to give that to him. The feeling of him, skin-to-skin, was indescribable. The only

thing that topped it was the sensation of him pouring into me, warm and delicious. Not that we had been particularly chaste to begin with, but we couldnt keep our hands off each other after that first evening without having to fumble with condoms. Which brought us to the next event of the week, when on Thursday, during a particularly hot make-out session on Edwards office couch, Lauren barged in without so much as a knock. Of course, she immediately told Jessica what she had discovered, and the news of our scandalous office romance was spread within milliseconds. Frankly, only Jessica and Lauren seemed the least bit perturbed or surprised, and Jasper only chuckled when he walked past Jessicas desk and caught them gossiping about it. The whole episode had earned Lauren the nickname C.B. To Edward, the nickname meant cockblocker. To me, it meant Carnivorous Bitch. We spent the rest of that week and weekend going through Edwards house, tossing things he said he could part with in order to make room for my move-in the following week while he was in New York. He had insisted on helping me pack up everything in my condo and had paid for movers to come get everything while he was away. We left most of my furniture there, deciding that if I couldnt sell it, I could rent it out as a vacation condo. We had also decided that when my dad made it down to visit the first time, it would probably be a good idea if he stayed in my condo. We agreed that having him stay with us might be pressing our luck, and Dad was such a private person anyway. When Edward finally left for his New York trip, I put on my big girl panties and didnt even cry. Until he left. Then I bawled like a little bitch, worried about his plane trip, about crazy New York drivers, Godzilla, you name it. We talked on our cell phones until the pilot ordered him to turn his off, then talked again as soon as his plane landed. We talked until his battery died, and he promised hed call from the hotel once he got checked in. I distracted myself with the unpacking. The movers had moved my boxes from my condo to Edwards house during the day while I was at work, so I opened the garage door to mile-high Uhaul boxes. I was unpacking my books and putting them on the shelves Edward had cleared for me when he finally called from the hotel. Whatcha doing? he asked, and although I knew he was trying to be cheerful, I could hear the sadness creep into his voice. Oh, just burning down your house, I giggled. Our house, he corrected. Our house, I agreed. Just unpacking some books before I get started on the closet. Good. Enough room? Chuckling, I said, Lets just say youre lucky Jaspers the one with Alice. Shed never get even half of her wardrobe in that closet even if your clothes werent in there. Yeah, thats the reason I prefer you to Alice. Its all about the closet space, Isabella, he joked, and I could visualize the sexy crooked grin I loved so much that it turned me to marshmallows. Right. I put the last book on the shelf and hoisted myself up into a standing position, walking into the closet. Well, the good thing is I wont be able to store a bigger wardrobe, so you dont have to worry about me going broke from shopping trips with her. He chuckled on the other end of the phone and my heart melted a little at the sound.

I looked up at the top shelves of the closet and said, Edward, youre the only man I know who stores his shoes in their boxes, you know. Keeps them cleaner, he retorted. May I stack them up some more? I asked, already holding my phone to my ear with my shoulder and reaching for a box. Sure, no problem. You know, you can leave all that until I get back and Ill help you unpack it. Im fine. Keeps me off the streets, I answered, moving two boxes to rest on another. I reached for one toward the back, standing on my tip-toes. I teetered on my toes to reach it, nudging it with my fingertip toward the front of the shelf. When I did, it fell to the floor, the lid popping off. There were no shoes in the box. Instead, folded pieces of paper fell out of the box onto the floor. I recognized the handwriting on one of the envelopes immediately. Bella? You alright? What fell? Edward asked, but his voice sounded far away in my ear as I lowered myself to the closet floor. Bella?! ImIm I stuttered as I fingered through what must have been more than one hundred of my letters to him, each in their envelopes, the edges worn and frayed from the passage of time and what mustve been multiple readings. Bella! Edward shouted, breathing audibly and snapping me out of my trance as my eyes filled with tears. My letters, I whispered to him. On the end of the line, I heard his breathing stop abruptly. Theyre all here, I thought to myself. The ones from eight years ago were on the top of the nowmessy pile, and they had obviously been read many times, the ink on the envelope smudged and paper crinkled. Bella, Edward sighed. Come home, Edward.

Chapter 30
BPOV Even though I had sworn that I wouldnt let him know how much I already missed him, the moment I realized what was in the shoebox I was overcome with emotion. Tears streamed down my face as I begged him, Come home, Edward. The silence on the answering end of the phone was interrupted only by Edwards sigh. Bella, love. Please dont be mad at me. Mad at you? I asked, incredulous. Why would I be mad at you? You kept them all of them? Of course I kept them, he answered, as if the answer was so obvious. Honestly, theyre not all there, but most of them are. Almost two hundred his voice faded off. My smile cracked over my cries. My God, Edward. Thats just soso I dont even know what to say. I mean, theyre all worn around the edges, too. Sure they are. Ive re-read most of them a dozen times, he chuckled. Especially those last ones, he said quietly, so quietly I could hardly hear him.

Can you please come home? Now? I begged like a petulant child. Bella, you know I cant. I so wish I could. Id run all the way home to you if I had to, but I cant get out of here for three days. I could hear the frustration in his voice, and I sat silently on the closet floor, running my fingers over the dates on the envelopes. Let me see what I can do, he offered. Maybe I can get out of here a day earlier if I move some things around, kay? Although I knew I shouldnt be so selfish and childish, I found myself immediately laughing inside and shaking my head at the receiver. Bella? Bella, you okay? Can you hear me? Yes! I said, laughing. Im here. Just excited to see you, baby. Me, too love. Me, too. You think you can stay out of trouble for three days? No, I said flatly. Two and a half? No. Two? Maybe. I love you, Bella. How much? Well, from San Diego to New York and back again. Hmm. Thatll suffice. Im glad you approve, Mistress, he teased in his sexy husky voice that made my bald girly bits tingle. I moaned involuntarily into the phone, and I heard Edward gasp on the other end. Whats wrong? I asked him. God, Bella. You cant be as far away as you are and moan into the phone like that. Its not fair. Oh, Im the unfair one, am I? I uncover hard evidence of a twelve-year burning torch, and youre not here for me to show my adoration? I think you need to reconsider your assessment, sir. Hmmm, he mewled. And just how would you show your adoration, Isabella? he asked in that Boss Edward voice. Wouldnt you like to know I teased back. Two can play at that game, sweetheart. Yes. I would. Very much. I heard things rustling in the background, and I wondered if Edward was making himselfmore comfortable. What are you doing, Edward? He growled, Talk to me, please, Bella. Talk to me. Holy crow. Please, he begged, I want need you. Right. Now. And youre all the way over there. This last sentence sounded like an impish whine, and I caved. I need you too, I responded, reclining back to lay flat on the closet floor. Really?

Really. I slid my hand under the waistband of my sweat shorts, confirming what I already could feel between my folds. Ummm, I moaned as I slipped my fingers through the slick arousal. God, Edward. Just talking to you makes me so fucking wet. Oh God, Edward choked. A few seconds later, he got a hold of himself and spoke again. Bella, if I was there with you right now Youd do what, baby? I plunged my middle finger into my core and quickly pulled it out again, crying out at the sensation. What did you just do, love? Ungh. I just pushed my finger into me. Fuck, Bella. Do it again. Two fingers this time, he commanded. I obeyed, arching my back off the floor as I fucked my hand for him to hear. Edward, Im imagining this is you, I confessed. Im imagining this is you diving into me right now. Yes, baby. Thats my cock in you now. Tell me where you want it, please. Do you want it in your tight, shiny pussy? I moaned my response, unbelievably aroused at his dirty talk in my ear. God Bless Verizon and their Network. Where else do you want it, beautiful? My mouth, I answered, my voice ragged. My throat. It was Edwards turn to moan into the phone, and the sound of it brought another flood of juices between my legs. I swirled the wetness over my swollen clit, feeling myself tense and coil to spring. Oh yes, love. I fucking love to fuck that sweet mouth. Fuck, Bella. You keep talking, and Im going to come so hard. I want it another place, Edward, I confessed nervously. Where, baby? Where else do you want me? After a few seconds, I gathered up my courage and spat, My ass. FUCK! Edward yelled into the phone. I knew that tone. I knew my last request had sent him over the edge, and the thought of Edward sitting there, alone in his hotel room, coming in his hand from just talking to me, sent me tumbling over, too. Edward, I panted, Im coming Thats it, Bella. Come for me. My orgasm lasted a good thirty seconds, causing me to see stars behind my clenched lids. I lay there, spent and trying to catch my breath, the phone still next to my ear. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I said under my breath. Im coming home tomorrow night, Edward said tersely. Tomorrow night? I asked, confused. Hell yes, tomorrow night. **** EPOV She never ceases to amaze me. One minute, Bella is this sweet, bring-home-to-mother librarian, and the next, shes talking dirty to me over the phone, driving me insane with lust and causing me to want to shackle her to my bed and never let her leave. Amazing.

As I hung up with her, I mentally began re-working my schedule, rearranging meetings and pulling up numbers off my emails to call first thing in the morning. I will be home before midnight tomorrow, I promised myself. The next morning, I awoke at dawn, only to roll over to an empty half of a strange bed. A bed that held absolutely nothing familiar or comforting. A bed that didnt smell like her hair. That didnt feel warm under her side of the covers. A bed full of nothing. I felt like vomiting. Forcing myself to get up, I dumped a pre-measured packet of coffee into the tiny single-serve coffee maker and pressed the button to start brewing it. Although, in my time, it was only 4:30, the morning in New York was well under way, and I groaned as I heard cabs honking on the street below. After I inhaled the bitter, cheap coffee, allowing it to burn my tongue and throat, I felt a little more awake and ready to face what would likely be an excruciating day jam-packed with endless meetings. I had emailed my contacts the previous night about consolidating and rearranging meeting times, and was glad to see that most of them had emailed me back saying that they were happy to meet with me at my requested hours. As I skimmed through the emails on my Blackberry, I felt a twinge of guilt at the excuse I had used to get the hell out of Dodge early (My dog seems to have wandered off and my girlfriend cant find him. Shes devastated, because she knows how much Ben means to me) but then quickly brushed the feeling aside and emailed Jasper to ask that he arrange for the company plane to back early to get me at seven. The day drolled on, and on, and on. From the outside, I probably looked only somewhat distracted it must be his worry for his dog, I almost heard in their heads. On the inside, I was missing her painfully. By the grace of God, my meetings wrapped at six, and I went straight from my last appointment to the private airport just outside of the city, having instructed the hotel to ship my luggage back to me. I didnt want to waste any time going back to the hotel to pick it back up. The plump lady at the front desk looked at me like I had just received a message from the mother ship on my watch, until I discreetly handed her two fifties and thanked her for all her assistance, flashing that infamous Cullen smile at her until she blushed and batted her too-thin eyelashes. Happily, Sam was my pilot for the flight home, and he greeted me with a mischievous smile as I boarded the plane, threw off my jacket and loosened my tie. Change of plans, Mr. Cullen? he grinned. You could say that, Sam, I nodded as I fell back into the reclining chair and ran my hands nervously through my hair. Well, we should make it back in good time, Edward. We should touch ground in San Diego just before midnight. Fantastic Sam. Thanks for picking me up. Certainly, sir, he responded with a wink before he turned and went into the cockpit. Minutes later we taxied down the runway and were off the ground. Exhausted, I let my head fall back onto the headrest and closed my eyes. When I opened them again, we were descending and I could see the lights of my city below, getting bigger and brighter, and lighting my way home to her. Mario Andretti had nothing on my ass as I drove home from the airport, my tires actually squealing in protest as I took the turns of my street too hard, too fast.

Quietly as possible, I opened and closed the door from the garage into the kitchen. Bella had left the stove light on for me, and I noticed the microwave clock read 12:07. Damn. Im late. Brokendown boxes sat next to the garage door, waiting to be taken to the curb on trash day. Dozens more littered the lower level, leaving a thin path for me to get to the steps. Before heading upstairs, I flicked through the stack of mail on the island, and grinned ear-to-ear when I saw the plain white envelope with my name and address hand-written on it. I opened it and there inside were the two plane tickets I had purchased days before, with a post-it stuck to them with a note in my travel agents block script Hope your lady enjoys the Big Island. Have fun and good luck. Sue. I put the tickets back in the envelope and slipped them under the silverware tray before removing my shoes and padding up the stairs. Bella was a lump under the covers, Ben at the foot of the bed. I pressed my index finger to my lips as he bobbed his head up at the sight of me. Shh, buddy, I whispered. Ben lazily dropped his head back onto his front paws and quickly picked up his snoring where he had left off. After stripping off my suit, dress shirt and t-shirt, I pulled back the covers and my heart ached at the sight of Bella, sleeping peacefully with her arm over a pillow she had laid parallel to her, right where I would have slept. I carefully moved the pillow and she stirred as I crawled in to lay next to her, kissing her hair. You made it, she said groggily through a yawn. She nuzzled in close to me and I heard her inhale the scent of my chest as I wrapped my arm around her, torn between pacifying my growing hardon and watching her sleep in what was now truly our bed. Of course I did. I told you I would, I said with more nonchalance than I felt as I drew light circles on her back. She arched under my touch, and I immediately recognized the switch I had flipped, however inadvertently. Mmmm, she purred. Im glad youre home. She hitched her leg over the tops of my thighs and sat up, straddling my pelvis, suddenly completely awake. Love, its late, I insincerely protested. Go back to sleep. Not a chance, she growled, rocking her hips over me. Besides, it seems there are certain parts of you that want a proper homecoming. Shell be the death of me, this woman. We made love quietly into the wee hours of the morning, and I knew that Bellas words couldnt have rung more true. In my house, surrounded by Bellas belongings, feeling her sleepy breaths fan out over my chest, I was truly home. The next morning, I stumbled to the closet to get a shirt, and I felt paper under my feet. I turned on the light to see Bellas letters spread out all over the floor, some of them out of their envelopes. The rabbit was also there, immersed in the words of its maker. A few used tissues were also on the floor. I bent down to pick up the rabbit when I heard Bella step up behind me. She snaked her arms around my waist and kissed my back. Morning, she said, her voice still husky with sleep. What happened here? I asked, holding onto her hands where they were clasped above the waistband of my underwear. Oh, she yawned, I did some light reading while you were away. Hope you dont mind. Not at all. After all, they are your letters, I answered, turning around and cocooning her next to

my chest with my arms. Good Lord, I was so boring, she snorted. What the hell made you respond to my recitation of days-in-the-life-of-a-Midwesterner? Hmmm, I pretended to think that one over. Probably the memory of that Midwesterner in a blue bikini. She lightly slapped my chest. Its true! I protested. With breasts and an ass like that burned into his memory, a man would put up with an awful lot. She stepped back, pouting. She was dressed in my dress shirt from the night before that I had tossed to the side of the bed in the dark. These old things? she asked, innocently gesturing across her chest. Mhm-hmm, I answered, licking my lips. She turned her back to me and pointed to her perfect ass, hidden under the tail of my shirt. And this? Yes, I managed to hiss. My, my, my. Well, how does the real thing compare to the memory? Memory? What memory? Who has a memory? Cat-like, she turned back toward me, walking backwards to the bed, slowly unbuttoning my shirt. Fuuucccckkkkk. The memory was nice, I answer, shrugging, but I prefer the real thing. I slowly pushed my shirt off her shoulders and let it fall to the floor as the back of her knees hit the edge of the mattress. Mr. Cullen, she said beneath her thick lashes. Well be late. I gently pushed her and she fell back onto the bed. Not me, I shake my head. No ones expecting me back for two whole days and Im giving you the day off. She giggled and pulled me to her by my hair. Hours later we came up for air, starved and sweaty from fucking in literally every position known to man. Bella went down to the kitchen to get a glass of water, and a few minutes later I went down to join her. She was humming a song I didnt recognize, her hair wild and her body glistening. She was breathtaking. Cautiously, I walked into the kitchen and opened the silverware drawer to remove the envelope that I had opened the night before. Although I had wanted to tell Bella about the tickets at the last minute, I quickly decided that there was no time like the present. I walked behind her, her back to me, and put my hands on either side of her until she turned to face me, planting a sweet peck on my neck. I have something for you. For us. A present? Argh, she rolled her eyes. You know I hate presents, Edward. Yes, but I think youllappreciatethis one. I picked the envelope up from the counter and handed it to her, stepping away and crossing my arms over my chest as she eyed me curiously. What is this? she asked, and you wouldve thought I just handed her a pin-less grenade. Or dog shit. Open it, I pressed. She set her water glass down behind her and opened the envelope. Her eyes got big as golf balls when she pulled out the plane tickets and read them.

Youre kidding?! she gasped as a grin spread across her face. No, Im not. Theyre for your birthday. I thought maybe itd be nice to go back. Together. This time not under your fathers watchful eye. After a hesitant millisecond, she leapt into my arms, squealing in my ear. I so fucking love you, Edward Masen Cullen. Laughing, I patted her behind and squeezed her tightly. Im glad, I answer. Because you have no idea what I have planned.

Chapter 31
EPOV Over the course of the next few months, Bella and I slid in to an easy routine keeping a professional, respectable distance at the office, relaxing at home in the evenings, playing on the weekends. Every time I had imagined a life with Bella (and I had imagined it too often to count), I had never imagined it would be socomfortable. I couldnt fathom sleeping without Bella in my bed, let alone sleeping with anyone else in it. We taught each other new recipes and took turns cooking. I taught her a few simple pieces on my piano, and she introduced me to the finer points of English literature. In every Jerry-Maguire sense of the word, Bella and I truly did complete each other. One particularly sunny and breezy Sunday afternoon, the weekend after Charlie went home from his surprisingly uneventful first visit to San Diego, Bella and I decided to go antique-ing in some of my favorite off-the-beaten-path shops. We packed a picnic lunch and plotted out where we wanted to go, making accommodations for lunch in a park just outside of the city. When we walked into the first store, full of unique pieces of furniture, Bella crinkled up her nose, earning a chuckle and a peck on it from me. I hugged her close to me with one arm and she dutifully trotted along with me, patiently waiting while I inspected various pieces and mentally figured where they could be placed in our quickly-crowding house. When I spotted a beautiful mahogany sheet music cabinet, Bella rolled her eyes and made a comment under her breath. What was that, love? I asked her. Nothing, Edward, she snorted. I was just thinking that if you bought even half of the furniture youve picked up and inspected in this store, wed have to move things into the Cullen-Swan Annex. Cullen-Swan Annex? I questioned, confused. My condo, she chuckled. True, I observed, checking the sturdiness of the shelving and the hinges. But it is beautiful. Bella scoffed and began to wander along on her own in the opposite direction. I watched her as she wrapped her arms around her chest and slowly paced the aisles. Every now and then shed stop and pick up a trinket or two, but she didnt hold on to anything to buy. After about half an hour, I looked up from my perusal and noticed that I could not find the top of Bellas head in the aisles. I skimmed the aisles on foot, looking for her, to no avail, deciding she mustve just stepped out to take a call or use the restroom. I headed toward the check-out desk to find her standing there, quietly speaking to the salesman and giving him some unintelligible

instruction. Ready love? I asked, startling her from behind. She jumped a tad and spun around, her face bright crimson and looking like the kid who just got caught with her hand in the cookie jar. Yep, she answered, biting her lip and quickly heading toward the door after one last cautious look and nod at the salesman. When we walked into the next store a few miles down the road, Bellas face lit up like a Christmas tree, her grin ear-to-ear. Bella? I asked, unable to suppress a cheeky grin back at her excited face. What is it? Books! she said, inhaling. Smell that? Thats old books! Well, yes, this store has a better selection of books. Not as much bulky, space-consuming furniture, I winked at her. She took off down the left side of the aisle that divided the store, falling to her knees in front of a large pile of old musty hardbacks. I chuckled at the sight and went off on my own. Two aisles and fifteen minutes later, I found her birthday present. Well, one of her birthday presents. It was a beautifully preserved leather-bound edition of Persuasion. After flipping through the pages to ensure there were no stray marks, I immediately took it to the sales counter, paid for it, and gave the salesman instructions on where to mail it. After tipping him, I discreetly opened my phone and texted Alice A Expect a package in the mail that I have purchased for Bella. Needs a hiding place until her birthday. Will pick up before we leave for Hawaii. Divulge upon penalty of death. E I knew there was nothing nothing Alice loved more than surprises, so long as she could take part in their preparation. Sure enough, not ten seconds later, she responded: EYou have my attention, little BIL. Do tell, of face penalty of disclosure. LipsAreSealed

Ah, little Alice, I thought, laughing quietly. Not a chance. After sneaking a peek around to ensure Bella wasnt paying attention, I typed back: A This is your only clue consider it the gift wrap. E Ten seconds later, I received a text from Jasper: I dont know what the hell youve got going on with my wife, little brother, but shes jumping up and down and clapping her hands over here. Seeing Bella coming up to the sales desk with an armload of books, I clicked back: I have no idea what youre talking about. You really should learn to control your woman. Ready, babe? Bella sweetly asked as she hoisted the load of books onto the counter.

Now, where are we going to put all of those, pray tell? I teased. Uhm Wheres the other stacks, miss? the salesman asked. What other stacks, Isabella? I asked incredulously. She bit her lip and looked at the floor. I picked out some more but couldnt carry them all. Theyre still in the sixth aisle on the left. I leaned in to her ear and whispered, My dear little hypocrite. What am I going to do with you? Shame, shame. She visibly shuddered and I nipped at her earlobe before heading to the back of the store to retrieve the rest of her selections. My phone buzzed with another text message and I slipped it open. Ill control mine when you control yours. J I threw my head back in laughter. Touch, brother. Touch. My laughter was immediately cut off when I rounded the corner and discovered two three-foot stacks of musty old books that Bella had set in the middle of the aisle. Bella Marie! I growled, loud enough for her to hear me. Yes, Edward? she responded in a sing-song voice of innocence. Come back here and help me carry up all of your treasures. I loaded my arms until I couldnt add another book without falling over and made my way back up to the sales desk. Trying to see over the tops of the books as I walked, I nearly collided with Bella on the way back up the main aisle. Please dont be upset, Edward, she whispered, wringing her hands nervously. Shifting my weight to re-balance the load of books, I answered, Bella, Im not your father and Im not your landlord. Purchase whatever youd like to put in our home. But, I warned, Im not throwing out a single LP to make room for these. To my surprise, she stepped up onto her tiptoes and purred in my ear, Ill make you a deal, sweetheart. Ill put a book back for every orgasm you can promise to deliver to me tonight. Great. Now I could balance these books on my cock. Well? How confident are you? she purred. She took one book from the top of the stack and arched an eyebrow. More, I said roughly. She took off another book. Pa-leze, Bella. She took off one, then two more books, her lids becoming heavier under my stare. More, Bella. She took off a fith and sixth book from the stack, swallowing hard. I looked her over, toes to head, and grinned, More. Her brown eyes pitch black with lust, she pulled off one more book and whispered. Thats enough. No, Bella. Theres no such thing as enough of you. She stood there, her seven books in her arms ready to be re-shelved, her jaw near the floor as I walked away, chuckling to myself and looking forward to our evening with immense anticipation. **** BPOV Shhh, I warned the nerdy little man at the check-out desk at our first store. I need your help. Can you be discreet? The little man nodded his head slowly, straining to direct his gaze away

from the general area of my tits. Very good. Now, I continued, sliding him the tag that I had swiped off the sheet music cabinet when Edward wasnt looking, I want to buy this and pay you to have it delivered to this address this evening. He nodded as I wrote Edwards address on the back of the price tag and retrieved an extra fifty from my wallet. Just as I finished completing the sale Edward snuck up behind me and gave me a fright. As we left, I gave one last nod to the salesman to make sure he got his instructions, and once he nodded back to me, I placed my hand in Edwards and headed back to the Volvo. The next store was my own personal treasure chest, full of wonderfully smelly old books, with their stiff and crinkled pages and tattered spines. I sat by myself for a long time, sifting through the stacks, mentally measuring how much shelf space Edward might concede to me if he just weeded through his stacks of LPs. It was no use at the end of the internal debating, I still had nearly six feet worth of stacked books in every imaginable genre. The moment I saw Edwards chastising glare when he approached me laden with my books, I knew I needed a plan. I gave him my best pout and begged him not to be mad at me. A look of hurt came across his face and he said, Bella, Im not your father and Im not your landlord. Purchase whatever youd like to put in our home. My heart burst for him. But, Im not throwing out a single LP to make room for these. Well, shit. Another approach was needed. Ill make you a deal, sweetheart, I whispered into his ear, admiring his chiseled jawline and scruffy shadow. Concentrate, Bella. Focus here. Ill put a book back for every orgasm you can promise to deliver to me tonight. His familiar crooked grin inched onto his face, and my thighs moistened as if on command. Well, how confident are you? I removed one book from the stack, knowing that was an insult to his prowess. More, he demanded, and I obediently removed another book. Please, Bella, he scoffed, rolling his green eyes at me. I removed two more books from the stack, feeling my heart beat hard between my legs at the prospect of four orgasms. More, Bella. Okay. Now hes just bragging. Even after I removed two more books from his stack, he only grinned his sexy grin and me and mewled, More. Holy crow. Seven? SEVEN? I removed one more book and whimpered, Thats enough. No, Bella. Theres no such thing as enough of you. He casually walked to the sales desk, leaving me to stand there like a fish, my jaw hanging open and my legs unwilling to move. Seven? After we had finished packing up my new treasures and discussed, in excruciating detail, just exactly how Edward planned to give me seven fucking orgasms that night, we relaxed in a park and enjoyed the picnic lunch I packed for us. Edward laid on his back in the grass, his head on my lap, playing with the ends of my hair while I shoved grapes into his mouth in an attempt to see whether I could make him spew grape juice out his nose. We laughed, and ate, and teased and everything was justsoeasy. We went to two more shops and I picked up a few trinkets. Edward found some more LPs to add to his collection, soliciting a stern look from me. We drove back home and watched a movie on the couch before starting dinner. At a little after five, the doorbell rang and Ben went spastic running to see who it could be. Edward

paused from his place at the sink, where he was peeling potatoes, to look at me curiously. I shrugged, I dunno. I dont even know anyone here but your family. Edward shut off the faucet and dried his hands on a dish towel before heading to the front door. May I help you? I overheard him as he tried to restrain Ben from jumping out the front door and licking our visitor to death. Yeah. I have a delivery for aMr. Cullen. There must be a mistake. I havent ordered anything, sir, Edward corrected. Nope. This is you. Just sign here and Ill go wheel it out of the van. Wanting to see the look on Edwards face when he realized what was going on, I strolled into the hallway as casually as I could. Edward leaned on the door frame with one hand, holding Bens collar in his other. Shh, boy. I dont know whats up either. The wheels of the dolly ran along the sidewalk from the driveway, cracking tree twigs and bumping along the pavement. I heard Edward gasp and clasp his hands in excitement as soon as the dolly made the corner to the front porch. Isabella Marie! He reached for me without looking, winding me into the crook of his arm. You little sneak! Hmm. I dont know, Edward. Christmas in August? The deliveryman wheeled the cabinet into the foyer carefully before looking at Edward expectantly for a tip. Edward reached into his pocket and handed the man a folded bill, thanking him. Once he closed the door behind the man, he picked me up and kissed me, the kind of kiss that makes your toes tingle and your hair stand on end. Wow, I exhaled. Youre certainly welcome! I adore you, Bella. You know that? Thank you. He nuzzled my nose with his and exhaled his sweet breath in my face. He walked us to the cabinet and gently sat me down atop it. The wood immediately creaked in protest and Edward quickly scooped me back up again. Damn. I knew I shouldnt have had that piece of pie yesterday, I said. Nonsense, love. Youre light as a feather. Its just old wood. Besides, you definitely will need something more sturdy this evening, he said huskily, and the tone made me swallow hard to keep hold of myself. Well, its not an entirely selfless present, sweetie. No? How so? Well, I began, looking up at him from under my lashes in the way I knew always made him bend to my will. Even all the sheet music you have wont fill that cabinet. Which would leave room for some of your LPs. Which, of course, would make room for some of my books. Edward burst out laughing, a strong belly laugh. True, love. True. But you didnt have all those books when we found the cabinet, now did you? He had me there. I shook my head. Try all you like, Bella. Theres simply not a selfish bone in your body. After a moments hesitation, he added, But if youd like one, Id be happy to oblige. And thats how Edward started down the path to seven, and I swore Id never begrudge him any old piece of furniture ever again.

Chapter 32
BPOV Seven. If I hadnt experienced it myself, I would have doubted it, too. But.yeah.seven. Edward pressed me up against the wall after the cabinet deliveryman had collected his tip and drove off. Thank you, he cooed in my ear just before swiping the tip of his tongue around the perimeter, sending chills down my back. When I shuddered, he chuckled under his breath and leaned back to examine me, one hand on either side of my head, pressed against the wall. I was plastered to the wall, palms flat up against it, trying to breathe. Whats wrong, darling? Edward teased, his crooked grin painted on his face as his hand snaked to pull the drawstring of my yoga pants loose. I believe Iowe yousomething, dont I, Bella? I shook my head as his hand slid into the waistband and found me, wet and waiting for him. What have we here? Excited, are we? Damn traitor hormones. If I were to tell him that I had spent the entire afternoon anxious about just exactly how Edward was going to make good on his promise, it wouldve gone straight to his heads - both of them. So instead, I said, I dont know what youre talking about. Uh-huh, he said, teasing my opening with one finger before swirling it around my clit. Youre such a bad liar. He worked his magic with his fingers, and within seventy seconds, I was grabbing his hair and clutching at his fingers with my inner muscles. Thats one, he taunted. Two and three were on the stairs, one with his mouth and once with just the tip of his cock as he barely let it slip in and out of me while he pinched the sensitive skin between us. Then he scooped me up and carried me upstairs, where he fully sheathed himself deep inside of me. Four. He flipped me over so that I was flat on my stomach, my ankles together, and he carefully navigated to my slit from behind. I bit the mattress as he hit new angles and cursed under his breath. Edward wrapped his arms under my chest, his fingers splayed around my shoulders, holding me down and pulling me further down onto his cock. Fuck, Bella. So damned tight. And wet. My God, youre so wet. I raised my rear slightly to meet his thrust, causing him to hit the spot in me that made my vision go dark. My body tensed and I moaned into the mattress. Not yet, Bella. Im not ready for you to come again yet, he barked. Too late, I thought as a hard five hit me like a ton of bricks. He flipped us again so we were both sitting on the bed. I straddled him as he sat under me, Indian-style. He lifted my hips, which were covered in a glistening mixture of both of our sweat, spearing me. He allowed me to set my own pace, and although I was worn out already, I found myself digging my nails into his shoulders and swirling my hips over him each time I lowered myself. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I registered Edwards hand gliding along my hip to cup my ass, and then keep moving. I felt the tip of his index finger at my opening, gently pushing. My eyes flew open to catch his. His eyes were heavy-lidded and dark, and full of love. I looked at him questioningly and he said, Shhh, just relax, love. Trust me. Fisting my fingers in his bronze hair, I concentrated on him moving in me, and he slowly, patiently

pushed his finger past my muscles, and just past the momentary burn was Holy. Fuck. We have lift-off. Stars clouded my vision as I threw my head back and wave upon wave of my orgasm flooded me. I had never ever felt anything so intense in my life. Edward roared as he slammed me down onto him, and I felt his warmth fill me deep inside. After we had both ridden our orgasms out, we fell back onto the bed. Thats six, I believe, Edward boasted, panting. Right? I propped myself onto my elbows to look at him, thinking that I must look a fright. He looked pretty disheveled himself, though. And a little smug. Yep. Just six. Youre one short, Mr. Cullen. He pulled me on top of him and ran his hand gingerly through my hair. Who said I was done? The nights still young. He kissed me. And exactly what part of me, he thrust his pelvis into mine, is short, Ms. Swan? Sighing in exhaustion, I answered, Touche. What was that, by the way? Was that alright, love? I didnt hurt you, did I? he asked, suddenly full of concern. Hmm. It was a littleuncomfortable, at first. But thenwow. Who wouldve thought that it would feel so.? I tapered off, unsure of how to describe the sensation. He chuckled and hugged me close to him. Well, our phone conversation when I was in New York got me to thinking, and I was curious. Id never want to hurt you, Bella. Only pleasure. Youd tell me if I hurt you, wouldnt you? I sighed and nodded. Edward? Uhm-hum? Would you think Im a deviant if I said I would like to trymore? Embarrassed, I buried my face in his chest and bit my lip. I felt his chest rumble against my lips. Deviant, eh? That sounds delightful. Despite the fact that only minutes had elapsed since he climaxed, I felt him grow hard against my belly again. Just so long as youre my deviant. No one elses, Edward. No ones. *** EPOV I have never been one to back down from a challenge even when the challenger was none other than yours truly. In pushing Bella to put more books back on the shelf, I was revealing myself to be the epitome of arrogance and selfishness. Seven, I begged her. Let me give you seven climaxes. Let me have seven changes to feel your heart thud under your chest wallseven opportunities to see the beautiful pink flush spread across your bodyseven times to hear you moan my name as your eyes flit closed. Every time I took Bella I was reminded of how much I had settled before her, how much Id never be able to settle for anything less than her ever again. As if our bodies were made to fit together, we had learned each others looks, touches, breaths, and sounds. No one could make me feel like she did, and I hoped that no one would ever get the opportunity to see her like I saw her, night after night, as long as I lived. So, cautiously and selfishly, I explored the only part of her body with which I had not become familiar. I carefully eased my index finger into her ass, anticipating her bodys reaction. Hoping for

that reaction. She gasped at my initial contact, her body worn and tired from her orgasms and our long day outdoors. But she looked at me with absolute trust, melting my heart. Shh, I calmed her. Just relax, love. Let me show this to you. Her body immediately reacted to my touch and she clamped her nails into my shoulders and threw her head back. Her muscles contracted all around me, squeezing and pinching me into oblivion and I poured into her. Afterwards, when she had calmed and her breathing slowed to a regular pace, I enjoyed the thump-thump of her heart against my chest. Just when I thought she may have finally given out on me and fallen asleep, she whispered, Would you think Im a deviant if I said I would like to try more? Is she kidding? Seriously is she fucking kidding?? Deviant, eh? I asked, trying to control my glee. That sounds delightful - just so long as youre my deviant. If she thought I would allow someone else to ever touch her, she was mistaken. But if she wanted me to explore more with her, well, I was ready to sign on the dotted line. No one elses, Edward, she sighed, and I felt myself stiffen again under her as I concluded that the woman was telepathic. No ones. She inched up my chest and kissed me sweetly before nibbling my bottom lip and sucking it between her own. Minx. What do you have in mind, love? I watched her face contort in embarrassment. As she bit her lip again, I rolled us over so that I laid behind her, spooning her next to my body, her back to my abdomen. She arched her back in response, causing her ass to brush against my cock. I want toto trythat, Edward. Praise God. Are you certain, Bella? It wontbe comfortable. At least not at first. The idea that Bella would pull away from me in pain had me nervous and worried. This was something that I had tried once with Tanya, and the two seconds we had managed was enough to have her stay out of my bed for a week - which hadnt been entirely a bad consequence. But I would never want Bella to shy away from my bed. Bella turned around and wrapped her arms around my neck, lacing her fingers into my sweatdamp hair. Edward, she hummed as she brushed her nose against mine. I trust you. You wont hurt me. Now, please She turned around, brushing her ass against me again. Pulling her hair from the nape of her neck, I kissed her there as I thumbed circles on the small of her back. I scooted down the bed to kiss her on her back, in the way that I knew drove her insane with lust. Wrapping my hand between her thighs, I reached to her wetness to slide it over the entrance of the area in question. She shivered and gasped at my touch again as I worked my way back up her back, rubbing her clit at the same time. By the time my face was back in her hair, panting and inhaling the sweet scent of strawberries and perspiration, I was so hard it was painful. I rubbed some of her wetness on my shaft, mixing it with the pre-cum that had bubbled along the tip. Holding myself firmly in my left hand, I swirled her clit with my right. Are you ready? I asked, giving her one last chance to back out. She moaned in response, Yes. Please. Yes. I pushed the tip of me into her and she involuntarily bucked away a fraction of an inch, but still not enough to dislodge me. I gave her a moment to adjust to the burn until she began to breathe again. Moving another inch in, I had to focus on the throb of her jugular under the skin of her neck in order to not shoot in her immediately.

Focus. Focus. Focus. Shhh, I said, mostly to myself. Let me make it good, Bella. She reached up and behind her to pull my face into her neck as she pushed her ass back, sheathing me fully in her. Fuck! she screamed, and for a fraction of a second, I thought she was in pain. But when I felt her ass grip and release me in succession, I was elated. Let me make it good, Bella. I thrust through her orgasm as best I could she was so tight I could barely move but once she came down from the edge, her muscles relaxed and I could move in her more easily, with the perfect amount of resistance. Oh God, Bella, I chanted over and over. Love you.only youneed youalways I mumbled incoherently as I came in her in long streams. We lay there, silent and spent, for a good five minutes. Eventually, a wobbly and shaky Bella turned to face me, nuzzling her face in my neck. Just before she nodded off, I felt her lips curl into a smile as she whispered, Seven.

Chapter 33
EPOV You know that feeling you get, right before you fall asleep, that youre standing at the edge of a cliff and someone has pushed you off? That feeling of falling and smacking onto something hard, only to startle awake and discover that everything is okay? The weeks before we headed to the airport were that way. Id become consumed with worry, with guilt, with sheer paranoia only to roll over and find Bella smiling at me, to have her reach out as we walked to entwine her fingers with mine, to find her staring at me as if she was the lucky one. At that moment, I knew everything was fine - better than fine - was resplendent. The morning we were to take off from LA to Honolulu, Bella emerged from the bathroom, her hair still damp and crazy-curly the way it had been that first morning at Roses months before. She was wearing one of those long flowing dresses that came to her ankles, the halter neck tied up and hidden under her mane of hair. Her toes peeped out from the hem of the dress, wrapped in dainty little sandals. She looked like a bowl of ice cream, and I fixated on how I was going to manage to ride to LA with her, sit in the airport with her, sit next to her on the plane, and in the car to the hotel without ravishing her. Earth to Edward, she said, waving her hand in front of my face. You okay? Umm-hum, I nodded, staring at her breasts, unblinking. I like the dress. She rolled her eyes. Thank you. Alice picked it out. You ready? I nodded, still staring at her boobs like a seventeen-year-old. Good. Ill grab my sweater and we can head out. Part of me wanted to hide said sweater so that I could watch her nipples pebble when she got a chill, but the bigger part of me the logical part of me knew that if I wanted to watch that, so would every other red-blooded male we encountered. I wasnt having any of that shit. When we got to the garage and I had opened Bellas door for her, I went to the back seat and opened the door for Ben to climb in. He looked exasperated, as if he actually understood that I was abandoning him for a week of fun in the sun while he labored around Alices house. Twenty minutes later we pulled in front of Jasper and Alices house and I opened the doors for Ben

and Bella to get out. As we walked up the sidewalk to their front door, Ben nudged Bellas thigh and she reached down to rub his ears. Its okay, big man, she reassured him. I promise she wont bite. Shes more afraid of you than you are of her, she whispered and Ben snorted. I chuckled at their exchange. I rang the doorbell and before it completed the eight-chime sequence, Alice flung open the door, a smile beaming on her small face. Morning, sunshines! she chirped. Cmon in. We walked through the door and Ben squinted at his surroundings, as if Alice had hidden a bomb or a cat somewhere in the house. Hey Jazz, I nodded to Jasper as he came down the hall to greet us, kissing Bella on the cheek. So. Hawaii, he mused, flashing me a curious look. That Alice. You all ready to go? I think so, Bella answered. Edwards packed enough for us to stay a month. Never can be too prepared, I retorted. Thats my motto, Alice agreed. What a Boy Scout, Jasper ribbed. Alice gave me a suspicious look before heading down the hall to retrieve the book I had sent to her house. Moments later she reappeared with a small carry-on bag. Here you go, kiddies. I packed you some snacks and magazines for the plane, she said, handing me the bag and winking. Thanks, Alice. Thats very sweet of you. I hear you make a mean monster cookie, Bella said, clueless to the real point of the bag. I do. I made some up for you last night. Theyre in a ziplock. Jazz taste-tested them and pronounced them fit for consumption last night - after eating about six of them. We laughed and I moved to take Bellas hand. Well, love, we need to be headed out. She sighed and squeezed my hand before leaning over to hug Alice with her free arm. Thanks again for taking Ben, guys. Ill call you when we land and get settled. We exchanged goodbyes and walked silently back to the car. Bella clicked her seat belt and rested her head back on the headrest. Alone and ready, captain. I leaned over to kiss her and noticed the faintest bit of shaking in her lip. Bella? Whats wrong? She shrugged, Just a bit nervous about the flight is all. Flying over water isnt really my thing. All those sharks down there just waiting for the plane to crash, you know. Youre something else, you know that? I laughed at her as we backed out of the driveway and took off onto the highway toward LA. The ride to the airport was comfortable with shockingly little traffic. We listened to music, the sunroof open, singing along. Only my adoration for the woman beside me could be cause to overlook the fact that she was tone-deaf. It only made her more endearing. We pulled into the parking garage at the airport and I retrieved a cart for our luggage. Bella put her purse on the hood of the car, digging for her chapstick, and I took the opportunity to grab the book out of the bag Alice packed and slip it into my suitcase. Minutes later, we were on our way into the terminal to check in our luggage and make our way to the gate. We stopped for coffee at a Starbucks, and Bella bought a couple of gossip rags. I bought a crossword puzzle book and a box of Nerds, her favorite candy. I found it entertaining to watch her eat them not mixing the colors, eating first one third of the strawberry, then half the grape, then

another third of the strawberry, then the rest of the grape, and finally finishing with strawberry. It rivaled only her procedure for eating Skittles in entertainment value. We eventually boarded the plane, first class, and Bella snuggled into the crook of my arm, shivering. Cold, baby? She nodded. I stood and grabbed a blanket from the overhead compartment. When I leaned over her to wrap it around her, I nipped at her lip and accidentally brushed my palm across her already-hard nipple. She gasped, Edward Yes sweetheart? I whispered into her mouth. You cant do that here. Do what here? You cantyou knowtouch me. Did I touch you? I asked, all innocence. She nodded, watching my lips. Where did I touch you? My nipple, she whispered. Oh, that. I rolled my eyes. That was nothing. I wasnt even trying to touch you. I discreetly slipped the blanket over my arm and palmed where her legs joined. She whimpered. Now Im trying to touch you. She moved her hips infinitesimally into my palm, and I could feel the warmth radiate through her clothes. Fuck, Bella, I whispered into her ear. I can feel how warm you are. Between that, and that dress, and the way you smell this morning, how the hell am I going to make it to the hotel without fucking you? Her jaw opened slightly and she stopped breathing. When she didnt breathe again after a few seconds, I began to worry shed pass out, so I removed my hand and sat back upright in my own seat, causing her to furrow her brow. Tease, she hissed. Have it your way then. I wont touch you or talk to you until we get to the hotel. I put my ear buds in my ear and opened the crossword puzzle book. She sat there, staring at me, stunned. I winked at her and patted her knee. As if I could ever make good on that threat. To my amazement, we managed to make the flight without having to initiate ourselves into the Mile High Club. Bella helped me with my crossword puzzle and we nibbled on Alices cookies. We watched an episode of our favorite show on my iPod, sharing the ear buds, cuddled in close together in the seats. I was actually almost without tension of any kind by the time we landed, but the moment Bella walked in front of me off the plane, her curves just barely visible under the long dress, my cock remembered where we were, why we were here, who I was with, and I growled to myself. *** BPOV We crawled into the back of the limo Edward had arranged to pick us up at the airport as the driver threw our luggage in the trunk. I couldnt believe I was back in Hawaii back to the scene of the crime, so to speak. Back to where we began. Even though it was the same ocean, Hawaii smelled different, sounded different, felt different than San Diego. Although I had learned to adjust to the relaxed pace of my newly adopted home, things in Honolulu were even more laid-back. Palm trees decorated the streets and hibiscus-print shirts and muumuus adorned the swarms of tourists. I lifted the lei the driver had brought for me up to my nose and inhaled the sweet scent of the flowers as Edward fidgeted in his seat next to me.

Whats he so worked up about? Edward? I called to him. He looked at me and smiled, but he still seemed distracted. The driver shut the trunk and got into the drivers seat. Outrigger Waikiki, right sir? Yes, thank you, Edward answered. As we pulled out of the drive and onto the highway, Edward flipped a switch on the side of the car and the privacy screen went up between us and the driver. Within half a second, Edward was kneeling on the floorboard in front of me, hiking my dress up my calves. What the - Hush, Bella, he interrupted me as he reached under my skirt and yanked my panties down my legs and over my shoes. Before I could protest, he had my knees spread apart and his face buried between them. I nearly choked when I felt his tongue dive inside of me roughly. He reached under my knees and threw my legs over his shoulders, pulling my ass toward him so that his impossibly-long tongue could have better access. Ohmigod, I gasped, reaching for his hair as stars started to cloud my vision. Whats gotten into him? Edward pushed two, and then three, fingers into me and alternatively swirled and pumped them into my core, causing my stomach to clench and my legs to feel like they were made of JellO. I came hard and fast on his mouth, and as I did, he growled and moaned against me, lapping me up greedily. When I finally calmed down, Edward gently pulled my skirt back down into place and tucked my panties into his pocket. He cautiously sat back up next to me on the seat, looking sheepish. What the hell was that about? I panted. He winced. Sorry. I didnt mean to be so rough. Its just that being here, and you in that dress. It was driving me fucking crazy, Bella. Im sorry. Seriously? SERIOUSLY? You have to be kidding me. I shook my head at him and covered his mouth with my hand. Shut up. Just shut up. Never apologize for that. I was just shocked, is all. I climbed on top of him, straddling him as the traffic whizzed by us on the other side of the tinted windows. I hugged him tightly and stroked his messy hair. Youre amazing, I whispered against his neck, feeling the stubble under my nose. Im a damned hormonal teenager, he laughed. Do you hear me complaining? No. I dont think so. He squeezed me tightly. Tell me well always be like this with each other, I begged him. He sighed and played with the ends of my hair. As long as youll let me. Done. I moved to sit alongside him and we watched the scenery outside as tourists filed along, natives went about their daily routine despite the tourists, and tiny raindrops fell against the window. I remembered that about Hawaii it rains every day, just enough to simultaneously cool the air and make it somehow more humid. We pulled into the circle drive of the hotel and the driver helped the bellhop load our luggage onto a cart before Edward gave him his last name and tipped him to bring the luggage to our room. Edward signed the receipt from the driver and tipped him before joining me by the entrance to the open-air lobby. Ukulele music played softly through the lobby speakers and singers sang in a language that was beautiful but unintelligible. I inhaled the salty air and reveled in the memory of when I stayed on Waikiki with my parents so

many years before. That was before we went to the Big Island, before I spotted Edward in the lobby of the hotel, before I would spend days next to him, and then years writing him. I smiled to myself at the irony of it all. We checked into our room, which was a three-room suite with a spectacular view of the ocean. I went to the French doors and opened them, listening to the sounds from the ocean and the beachcombers below. A pair of strong arms snaked up my back, which was exposed by the halter of my dress. Where he touched, a trail of fire followed and I swayed on my feet. Edward moved my hair to one side of my neck, exposing my shoulders for him to kiss and lick. Where was I? he purred, tugging on the strap of my halter tie and running his fingers under the fabric along my breasts. We were standing on the balcony, and although we could easily have been seen by guests in the hotel next door, I didnt get the feeling he cared. I think I left off here. He pushed the dress down my body until it was a pool around my feet on the floor. Between what he was doing, the fact that I hadnt had him inside me since the previous morning, and the fact that we could so easily be seen, I knew I wouldnt last long. Edward reached down and scooped me up, bridal-style, and laid me back on the glass-topped patio table. He already had his shirt off, and he was making quick work of his pants, pushing them off along with his underwear with one hand as he glided his other hand down my abdomen, my legs dangling off the table at my knees. He pushed my knees apart and stood between them and I scooted to the edge of the table, wet and ready for him without further ado. Edward laced our fingers together and put our hands on either side of my head. He guided his tip to my entrance without so much as looking down there, and in one swift movement, buried himself in me. I screamed at the feeling of him filling me, and he exclaimed, Thank God, and Need you, between thrusts. We came together minutes later, and when he collapsed on top of me we both laughed hysterically at our lack of control. Welcome back to Hawaii, Isabella, he grinned. I suppose youre going to make a crack about getting leied, arent you? I teased him. I would never joke about laying you, love. He winked and climbed off of me to start the shower and redress. We walked down to the beach and I bravely ventured into the water up to my mid-calves. Unlike the water in San Diego, this was warm, but it wasnt as clear. This meant, of course, that I had no warning of the creepy-crawly things that could swim up against me. When I felt a fish touch my ankle, I darted to retreat back to the dry sand, but Edward grabbed me by the hand and flung me on his back, piggy-back, to keep wading through the water. Silly girl, he scolded. Hey, fish are fish - even when theyre Hawaiian. Theyre still gross and evil. What was it you said to Ben this morning? Something about Alice being more afraid of him than he is of her? Believe me, Bella, those fish are more afraid of you than you are of them. Thats a lie. We laughed and continued wading in the water before heading back up toward the street to get dinner from an outdoor caf. Weve got two days here before we head over to the Big Island. Anything in particular you want to do here? he asked as he cut up a bit of his swordfish. I wrinkled my nose, but was at least glad that it didnt smell fishy. Well, we have to go to the International Marketplace, of course. I had loved the outdoor shopping area when I came with my parents. The venders were very colorful, and you could

bargain with them on nearly everything. It was like black market purse shopping in Chinatown. I had actually brought an empty bag for all the purchases I had planned to make. Of course. Want to do that tomorrow? Sure. Pearl Harbor? He nodded in agreement. Yeah. I havent been there in a long time. Thatd be neat. Will you go out on an outrigger with me this evening? Hmmm, I pondered. I had done that with my father, and it was actually pretty fun. Okay. Can we go through the Palace? I only saw it from the outside when I was here. Sure. Not as exciting as Buckingham, but its as close as youll get on our soil. Youve been to Buckingham Palace? I asked, amazed. Well, yeah, when I was stationed in England. Like you, Rose had a fascination for all things Royal and threatened me within an inch of my life if I didnt go and take the tour and get my picture taken with a Beefeater. He rolled his eyes. Im so jealous. Id love to do that. He reached for my hand across the table. Then lets do that. I bet youd like London. Are you serious? I practically bounced in my seat at the idea of finally going to England. Although I had long ago decided that fairy-tales where the simple girl meets a prince and lives happily ever after arent likely to come true, I secretly had been re-thinking that conclusion in the months since I had moved. Why not? Lets go next summer, he answered casually, as if he was planning a simple lunch meeting. But Im a little concerned about how youll react to all those guys with their snooty little British accents, he teased. My face felt warm. All those accents, I hummed, imagining bumping into Colin Firth on the street and climaxing on the spot as he read through the list of words Id want him to say things like actually, litrally, mum, and cougar. Yum. Hey! Edward lightly smacked my arm. Knock it off or Ill make you wear earplugs the whole trip! I laughed, embarrassed. Right. Anyway. Back to Waikiki. Id like to go to Hilo Hattie, too, if we have time. He took another bite and nodded his head. No problem. But with all this touring, when do I get to ravish you? he asked, pouting. I looked at my watch. Ive got some time this evening. I can probably work you in. Edward dropped his fork and motioned for the waiter. Check please! We managed to check off everything on my list in the time we were in Waikiki and still have plenty of time for the ravishing that neither of us could seem to get enough of. On my actual birthday, we boarded a puddle-jumper to go to the Big Island. Edward rubbed soothing circles on my back to keep me calm when the plane jostled about before finally touching down safely at the small airport. Bypassing the elegance of the limo, we took a cab to our hotel, the King Kamehameah on Kona Beach. Dj vu overwhelmed me as we walked into the lobby, which hadnt changed much since I had first walked into it twelve years prior. I glanced over to the spot where I had stood when I first spotted him, where I had been staring at my fathers rental car when I caught a cute, lanky boy

gawking at me. My eyes immediately welled up with tears. I felt Edward next to me before I heard him. He quietly sang Memories, light the corners of my mind He squeezed my elbow playfully before looking into my eyes and stopping dead in his tracks. What is it, love? Whats wrong? Shaking my head and wiping at my eyes with the back of my hand, I shrugged. Nothings wrong. Im just glad to be here. And so sorry we wasted so much time. As if he could read my mind, his face turned sad for a split second before he grabbed me and held me to him. Shhh. I know. But we cant get it back. Were here, now. I know what youre feeling imagine how it was for me to come here year after year without you. Im so glad youre here with me this time, he cooed into my ear. Me too, I sighed into his shirt. Me too.

Chapter 34
EPOV Nervous wreck. Thats what I was. A complete fucking nervous wreck. I had gone over every detail in my mind over and over again, accounting for everything, making sure everything was in place. Our first day on the Big Island we retraced our steps from twelve years before. There werent as many touristy places there. It was quieter, calmer. The sand of the beaches wasnt as fine. In fact, the black sand was coarse in many spots. We rented a car and drove around the island on our second day, stopping along the side of the road to take pictures and visit the volcano. Bella had never looked as beautiful as when she stood at the top of a cliff, hair whipping around her flushed face, admiring a waterfall on the other side of the cliff. I wished to God that I could stop time in that moment. Perfect, serene, unencumbered. That evening, our fifth day, the day after her birthday when I had given her the platinum bracelet from Tiffanys - the day that would become the next red letter day in our relationship - I paced outside the bathroom as Bella showered for dinner. She sang in the shower on the other side of the door, oblivious to my torment. But the off-key melody helped ground me to the here and now, this present that I had with Bella. This possibility of a future with her. I had made us reservations for the hotels luau that evening. It had started an hour before, at five, but we were going to be casually late. That was fine with me. I didnt want to rush the night. I wanted to make it go in slow motion so that I could watch every move she made, listen to every breath she took, smell each one of her intoxicating scents. Commit everything to my memory. Hey stud, she chimed as she opened the bathroom door and steam billowed out around her, giving her an angelic appearance. She had wrapped the towel around her body, her hair wet and tangled at her shoulders. Beads of water from the shower ran down her neck to travel my favorite path down between her breasts. Beautiful. Sighing, I kissed the tip of her nose. Hi. Reaching up to hold her face in my hands, I concentrated on placing feather-light kisses on her mouth from one corner to the other while caressing her cheekbones with my thumbs. So soft. Hey, you, she whispered, her voice laced with concern. Why so serious? I dont know, I lied. Just a little tense, I guess.

Because she is the best damned form of therapy God ever created, Bella pushed on my shirtless chest until the back of my knees hit the edge of the bed and I fell backwards onto it. Tense, eh? How can I help? she unhooked the tail of her towel from itself and let it drop to her hips, which were sitting on top of my hardening cock. Minx. She leaned over me, her wet hair forming a curtain on either side of our heads as she lightly traced my lips with the tip of her soft tongue. My eyes rolled back in my head and I held onto her thighs, kneading them. Before I could speak, she was sitting straight up again, her tiny hands on my chest, massaging my muscles there before moving up to rub my shoulders. Hmm, you are tense. She leaned down and nibbled with her teeth where her hands had just been, the feeling of tiny pain quickly replaced by pleasure as she licked each spot she had bitten. Edward, she begged into my ear. Feel me. Help me relax you. She guided my hand to her sex, which she evidently had freshly shaved in the shower. Once my fingers had found the slickness, she removed her hand from mine to reach behind her ass and undo my pants before pushing them down just far enough to unleash my erection. She inched back until I could feel her heat on my tip and then she sank down onto me. We both moaned at the sensation and she rocked back onto her heels so that I went deeper into her. When I reached to grab onto her waist to guide her, she protested, gripping my hands at the wrists and pinning them to my sides. No, baby. You relax. Let me do the work. Please. Yes, maam. Despite that Bella was aiming at getting me to relax, she managed to come twice as she rode me. I would never protest nothing relaxed me more than the sight of her angel face as the familiar flush crept across it and she whimpered. Let me spend the rest of my days loving you, I begged her with my body. Despite her earlier protest, I rolled us over so that my body covered hers, desperately needing all the contact with her I could steal. Our eyes locked as I finally came in her. A single happy tear fell from the corner of her eye as she smiled up at me. You have no idea, do you? I asked her as I moved a strand of hair from her glistening forehead. I have lots of ideas. Are you speaking about one in particular? She wagged her eyebrows at me playfully. How much I adore you. How much I have always adored you. Hmmm, she hummed lazily as she played with my hair. Explain it to me. I smirked at her. Later, love. Right now, we are late for a party. Now get dressed. I stood up and pulled her spent body up from the mattress. She dressed in a white floor-length dress with multiple layers, and flip-flops. Bella, I groaned at her. Youre killing me here with the long dresses. I just want to crawl up underneath your skirts and hide out all night. She laughed and slapped my chest. Lets go. Im starved. She picked up her room key from the dresser and stuffed it in my pants pocket, grazing my cock through the pocket before arching an eyebrow at me. Shell pay for that later. We ate and laughed and danced our asses off at the luau. Bella sipped drinks out of pineapples with tiny umbrellas and fed me off her kabob. I picked random flowers off the tables and placed them in her hair and in her cleavage, earning several suggestive looks and lip-licks. When the

party had subsided, I excused myself to use the restroom while Bella finished up her drink. I snuck to the front desk, where I had taken the book earlier in the evening and asked the clerk to hold onto it for me. When I walked back outside, Bella was lounging in a chaise, twirling her hair around her index finger and gazing up at the stars. Whats that? She gestured to the wrapped package under my arm. Ignoring her question, I held my hand out to her to help her up. Come walk with me. *** BPOV Come walk with me, Edward directed, ignoring my question about the suspicious package under his arm. He had already given me my birthday present, a beautiful charm bracelet with a diamond heart charm. I placed my hand in his and we walked down toward the beach where the cove jutted out from the shore near the little thatch-covered cabin. The reflection of the tiki lights bounced off the water and the waves slowly crashed in the background. It was perfect. As he walked, Edward scuffed up sand in his path, pouting his lips adorably in concentration. You going to tell me whats got you all angsty, Edward? He snorted and stopped walking. He tugged on my hand. Sit, please, Isabella. Scared at his solemn expression, I obeyed, cautiously sitting down on the beach with my feet tucked under my bottom. I was worried that my dress would get dirty, but I was more worried about his sudden shift in attitude from the laughing carefree ease of minutes before to this struggling, furrowing bundle of nerves before me. I patted the sand next to me, indicating he should sit, too. He gnawed at his lip for a moment and then shook his head to himself before sitting down, the mysterious package on his lap. Bella, I have something for you. But you gave me my present already, Edward, I protested, shaking my wrist so that the bracelet clinked, trying to lighten the mood. This isnt a birthday present. He handed me the package and I looked at him, wordlessly questioning whether I should open it. He nodded and I slipped my nail under the tape. I peeled back the paper and retrieved the gift. It was a book. It was Persuasion - beautiful, leather-bound version of Persuasion, with a blue ribbon sticking out of the top and the bottom of the spine. Its beautiful, Edward. Thank you. I leaned over to kiss his cheek in thanks, and he gave me his crooked grin. I was still confused, because although beautiful, the book didnt warrant his sullenness. I marked my favorite passage, he said, touching the ribbon and moving to kneel down to face me, his hands on my knees. Oh, I said, running my finger along the top of the book to open it where the ribbon lay. When I opened the book, light flickered off of something shiny tied to the ribbon and I stopped breathing. Without thinking, I let the book slip down my lap into the sand as I held up the ribbon, a beautiful marquis cut diamond ring dangling from its center.

Isabella, Edward said cautiously. I still couldnt breathe, couldnt think, couldnt blink. Sounds around me were muffled and Edward sounded like he was speaking at me through a conch shell. Isabella, please look at me. I snapped out of my stupor to look at his gorgeous face, and he looked scared shitless. Please Lord, let the world stop spinning right now. In this moment. I want to remember everything. Everything. Edward held onto my left hand while my right still clutched onto the ribbon, shaking. I know that I have asked you for so much to forgive me for my arrogance in assuming that I knew better what was best for you, to give me a second chance. But I need to ask you for something else, love. Anything. Ask me for anything. I need you to be my wife. The simple form of his proposal, the raw honesty, the plea in his tone caused tears to immediately stream down my face. He brushed them off with the pads of his thumbs, but it was no use they kept coming like tiny rivers down my cheeks. Love? he asked, and it hit me that I hadnt actually spoken or even acknowledged that he had just asked me to marry him. I nodded my head frantically and gasped, Yes! Yes, yes, yes! He heaved a huge sigh of relief and grabbed me to his chest. He kissed my hair, my forehead, my nose, my lips, every square inch of my face. Thank you, God, I heard him whisper so quietly that I could barely hear it. In my frantic need to envelope him and confirm that I was, in fact, not dreaming, I had dropped the book into the sand, along with the ribbon with his beautiful ring tied to it. Edward retrieved it, untied it, and shakily placed it on the ring finger of my left hand. I held it up in the moonlight, and the light bounced off it like a prism. If you want something different, we can Shut up, you silly, silly boy! I scolded him, laughing. Its gorgeous! I love it! I love you. I flung my arms around his neck and he gently laid me back on the sand, hovering his body above mine as I looked up at him with absolute adoration. As we laid there on that beach, the hotel that was the scene of our first meeting twelve years prior playing a fitting backdrop to where we were now, full-circle, I didnt care that I was getting sand in my hair and dirt on my dress. I didnt care that we probably looked like a couple of horny kids rolling around on the beach. I didnt care that we lost eight years that we could have been together. I didnt care that no matter how hard I tried, I would never quite look right standing next to him. All I cared about was the promise of growing old with him, of being swollen with his babies, of soccer games and Christmas mornings, of lazy days making love and crazy fights over antique furniture and books. And it was more than enough.


End Notes: Edwards favorite passage from Persuasion is Wentworths letter to Anne: I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone forever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own, than when you almost broke it eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone I think and plan. - Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? - I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice, when they would be lost on others. - Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating in F.W. I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look will be enough to decide whether I enter your father's house this evening or never. Jane Austen, Persuasion