|That I Would Be Good
Author: Cosette Cullen PM
Bella and Edward meet while traveling, falling in love against the backdrop of European history and literature, but both have secrets. Will Edward's sense of duty tear Bella apart? Will Bella allow herself to be vulnerable again?Rated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Angst - Bella & Edward - Chapters: 38 - Words: 236,120 - Reviews: 710 - Favs: 353 - Follows: 283 - Updated: 03-26-13 - Published: 07-07-10 - Status: Complete - id: 6119394
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Disclaimer: Twilight and its characters belong to Stephenie Meyer. Everything else is original and belongs to me, Cosette Cullen. Thank you for the inspiration, SM.
A/N: As ever, my betas, Pickwicksociety, GuitarGirl, and Mel/mcc101180, are my rock!
Chapter 27 – Always Been Yours
~*~ Edward ~*~
"Of course, I remembered daisies are your favorite. Uh-huh . . . yeah. I'm glad you like them, Mom." I took another drag off my cigarette before snuffing it out. "I'm sorry I can't talk longer, Mom, but I need to get back to Bella. They're going to release her any minute now. Okay, then . . . I love you, too. Happy Mother's Day. Bye."
Flipping my phone closed, I dropped it in my shirt pocket as I hurried toward the patio door. Alice was probably done helping Bella shower by now, and I wanted to get back to her. I bypassed the elevator and took two steps at a time up the glossy gray stairwell to the fourth floor. It was a bit of a workout, which was exactly why I was doing it. Practically living at the hospital for the past nine days, eating shitty food and unable to go to the gym meant that I'd had to find other ways to keep in shape. Life in combat was physically grueling, so I needed to remain in impeccable physical condition. I'd been doing sit-ups and pushups before going to sleep each night, and the hospital stairs had been serving as my cardiovascular workout.
But this would be my last trip up these dreary stairs because Bella was coming home today. Hal-le-fucking-luiah! When Dr. Tassett told us Bella would be released from the hospital on Mother's Day, Renee had said it was the greatest gift she could get. Bella had looked over at me, rolling her eyes in response to her mother's syrupy tone, or so I assumed that was the reason for her reaction.
I knew that Bella had issues with her mom, and I really wanted to learn more about that because from everything I'd seen, Renee appeared to be genuine in her concern for Bella. Though, I couldn't argue the fact that Renee was a little "off." She took narcissism to a level I'd never seen before, continually talking about her life, her feelings, and her numerous aches and pains. Many conversations I'd had with her were virtually one-sided. If you did actually manage to contribute a few words to the subject, it was as if she hadn't even heard you. As soon as you'd finish your sentence, she'd be off onto her next tangent. I suppose growing up with a mother like that would give a kid the message that they weren't important or valued. I hated the thought that Bella might have grown up feeling ignored or less than cherished.
Rounding a corner to take the next set of stairs, my heart pounded in my chest, mirroring the fury I felt thinking about Bella's upbringing. If Renee was like she was now, then Bella had been virtually invisible as a child, only to later be abandoned by her ex-husband as an adult. I could barely control my anger at the universe for the fuckery it had subjected Bella to. Though I was devastated when she'd left me in London, I now better understood why she had panicked when she'd found out about my reenlistment.
The week following the big talk, in which we'd confessed our love to each other, had been amazing yet challenging for me. On the one hand, I was happier than I could remember ever being. I was high as a fucking kite on the love I felt for Bella and on her love for me. Having thought that I'd lost her, not once but twice, I relished every minute sitting by her side as she healed. We talked, laughed, played card games, listened to music, watched television, and shot the shit with the continual parade of visitors like Jasper, Angela, and, of course, Alice, Emmett, and Charlie who were at the hospital as much as I was. I'd also played more songs for her on my guitar, and I'd continued reading to her from Pride and Prejudice.
However, she was still recovering from a traumatic wound, so she slept a whole fucking lot. Those were the times that were tough because I'm used to being really active, always doing something. Looking at the same white, sterile walls when Bella was sleeping had driven me crazy, but I didn't want to leave and not be around whenever she woke up. Every single night, I dreaded having to leave Bella and go back to her house to sleep. But as of tonight, I wouldn't have to leave her anymore—at least not until July. But I didn't want to think about that now, and Bella must feel the same way because she hadn't mentioned the black cloud of reenlistment hanging over us.
I stopped outside the door of her room, catching my breath for a second. Pushing it open, I heard the unmistakable whine of Renee.
"I think I might have to go down to the ER and have my knee X-rayed. While I'm there they can give me a prescription. I'm certain I have a sinus infection."
The door was cracked open just enough to see Bella sitting on the edge of the bed. She stared out the window, her expression vacant. Alice stood next to her, brushing Bella's damp hair.
"Mom, did you get the flowers?" Bella asked softly.
"Oh, yes, they were delivered this morning before I left the house. Thank you, honey. Anyway, like I said, my knee has been aching for a few days. I don't remember injuring it, but—"
I stepped inside, interrupting Renee's monologue. "So has Dr. Tassett officially released the prisoner?" I called out cheerfully.
When Bella turned and looked at me—I fucking swear it—her eyes lit up. That sounds so girly and cliché, but I don't know how else to describe it. The joy and love radiating from her was so intense that it halted me in my tracks. Literally, I stopped halfway across the room and just stood there, gaping at her. I really wished everyone would get the fuck out of the room because I had a powerful urge to wrap her in my arms and kiss the hell out of her.
~*~ Bella ~*~
I grinned goofily at Edward, probably looking like a loon, but I couldn't contain the love and energy bubbling inside me. Edward's presence just had that effect on me. He was so good to me, treating me as if I was the most important person on the planet, not to mention he was damn pretty to look at. Even though I was recovering from a terrifying event, I was happy—happier than I'd been in a long time, maybe ever.
Edward stopped suddenly and just looked at me. Like at the train depot when I first saw him, his gaze was penetrating. I felt that same current flowing between us, something that connected me to him. Distracted, it took me a second to register his question and form an answer. "Uh, yeah, the doc signed the papers. We're just waiting for the nurse to come with a wheelchair."
"I'm going to see what's keeping the nurse," Renee announced, leaving the room.
"Charlie went to get my car and bring it around to the exit doors," Alice added, dropping the brush into her purse and sitting in the chair beside the bed.
Edward continued around the bed, stopping just in front of me, his legs brushing against my knees. He reached out, taking my hands in his. "That's fantastic." He smiled, caressing my hands and brushing a light kiss across my lips. "Where's Em?"
"He'll be right back." I tugged my hands out of Edward's and wrapped my arms tightly around his waist, pressing my cheek against his torso. "He went to the little boys' room."
Alice chortled. "Pfft, that's an oxymoron, Bella—there's nothing little about Emmett."
"Oh, fucking hell, Alice," Edward hissed, his face contorting like he'd sucked on a lemon.
I burst out laughing and pulled away from him, clutching my chest where a rather nasty incision lay hidden. "Oh, god, don't make me laugh, Al."
"Sorry." Alice shrugged, a coy smile on her lips.
I quieted myself quickly, again resting my head on Edward's firm chest. His muscular arms slid around me, and he began tracing symmetrical circles along my back. I sighed, melting into him.
I knew that Emmett was staying at the house, along with Edward and my dad. I also knew that Alice and Emmett were now romantically involved, but I didn't know that they'd gotten to the point that she'd seen his junk. Did that mean they'd done the mattress mambo, I wondered. "Apparently, we're overdue for some girl talk, Alice."
The rich aroma of parmesan drifted into the living room, making my mouth water and my stomach grumble. I pulled the softer-than-a-baby's-butt blanket higher around my neck, shaking my head as I considered the man that was Edward Cullen—an Ivy League-educated businessman, a highly-trained, combat-experienced Army captain, and now I find out, a master of culinary cuisine. Well, master of Fettuccini Alfredo at least. He'd insisted on cooking dinner for us in honor of my first day home from the hospital.
Maybe it's the one and only dish he knows how to make, I considered cheekily. Nobody should be quite so well-rounded and talented, though it would be nice to not have to prepare all the meals in the future. I enjoyed cooking, but I could appreciate a night or two off once in a while. I halted my meandering thoughts, realizing I was getting ahead of myself because Edward and I hadn't yet talked about the future. I was assuming he'd be around to cook for me, but that was just that—an assumption.
Earlier, with Edward's list of ingredients in hand, Alice and Emmett had made a run to the grocery store. While waiting for them to return, I'd shown my dad and Edward pictures from my travels in Europe. There were quite a few of me and Edward together, and we'd shared a few knowing glances, silently remembering those wonderful memories. When we'd come across the Tower of London pictures, my cheeks had instantly flushed, unable to think about anything except the X-rated escapades we'd indulged in there. I'd inconspicuously glanced up at Edward and was met with that trademark crooked smile of his, and then he'd freakin' winked. Damn him for being so adorable and sexy and making me ache for him, which had been beyond awkward considering my dad had been sitting right next to us.
Giggling at the memory, I buried my face in the blanket. I was supposed to be sleeping, per orders from everyone. Insisting that I get some rest, Dad, Alice, and Emmett had retreated to the kitchen while Edward made dinner, but my empty stomach and now my tingly girly bits were making it difficult to relax. Plus, when they'd first left me alone, I'd had trouble getting that night out of my head.
The last time I'd been in this room was—well, it was that night, the night I'd been shot. After struggling for a good ten minutes to rid my thoughts of those terrifying images, I'd finally been successful when I started thinking about Edward and the Tower of London and his . . . well, like Alice had said about Em—there was nothing little about my Edward. I chuckled softly, remembering Edward's "There is no comparison" line when we'd visited the Statue of David in Florence. Those four words had literally made me wet that day, and now, just remembering it, caused me to squeeze my legs together against the ache that was growing there.
"I know you're awake. What are you doin' under there?" Edward's voice was a playful whisper.
I gasped and yanked the blanket off my face, undoubtedly blushing. I felt like I'd been caught with my hand down my pants or something.
Edward was crouched next to the sofa holding a spoonful of what I assumed was Alfredo sauce. He had one hand under the spoon, presumably to catch drips.
"Um, just daydreaming," I mumbled shyly.
"Uh-huh." He smirked, his tone disbelieving and teasing as he brought the spoon to my lips.
I sat up on my elbows and opened my mouth, eagerly tasting the most deliciously rich Alfredo sauce I'd ever had. "Mmm, oh, my god!" I licked my lips appreciatively. "Oh, god . . . so good."
"Damn, Bella. From the sounds of it, it's orgasmically good."
"Nearly." I giggled, playfully shoving against his chest. That's when I noticed he was wearing the apron that Alice had given me last Christmas.
My eyes widened, and I covered my mouth, chuckling. "And how apropos for you to wear that particular apron while cooking your big O sauce."
Edward looked down and read the words from the apron aloud. "Whip It, Beat It, Pinch It, Squeeze It, and Bite It! I Love Cooking!"
He looked back at me, his eyes aflame with desire. I knew that look—it was his I-Want-To-Devour-You look. "Yes, all very effective in cooking up a climax. And now I'm going back to the kitchen before I have one right here," he said, standing up.
Oh my fuck. I couldn't believe he said that, but I freakin' loved that he did. His confidence and ease with his sexuality, not to mention his fondness for dirty talk was the best kind of foreplay for me. My eyes darted downward just as his hand disappeared behind the apron that covered the anatomy I'd just been fantasizing about.
With his eyes still focused on mine, he unashamedly adjusted himself. "Thank god this apron is long because your dad is in the kitchen."
"I'm sorry, baby," I said sincerely, though I couldn't stop smiling, "but don't go yet."
I reached out, taking hold of his soft, warm hand. "You need to explain yourself, Chef Edward. From whence were your culinary skills obtained?" I cooed in my best British accent, trying to be both playful and sexy but probably just sounding like the literary Shakespearean nerd that I am.
"My mom," he said, matter-of-factly, moving to sit on the edge of the sofa beside me. "At first it wasn't because I was particularly interested in cooking—I was young, maybe seven or eight. It was a just a way for me to spend time with her, but as I got older, I became fascinated with the science behind it. Plus, cooking appealed to my artistic side, too. What about you?"
"I can hold my own in the kitchen. When I get my strength back, I'll cook for you."
He smiled slyly, his eyes still smoldering. Silently, he leaned down and kissed me, his lips moving sensuously over mine. Much too quickly, he pulled his delectable lips away. "Will your cooking include pinching, squeezing, and biting?" He grinned, his mouth just a breath away from mine.
"If I'm cooking for you—count on it."
~*~ Edward ~*~
"Well, I'm beat." Alice stood up from the couch, stretching her arms over her head.
"Yeah, me, too." Emmett got up, resting his hand on Alice's waist. "Good night, everyone."
"Um, Alice?" I cleared my throat and rubbed the back of my neck, feeling awkward with everyone's eyes on me. "I'm sorry, but before you go, do you have a spare blanket and pillow?"
She squinted at me, looking confused.
"For the couch," I clarified.
"But Edward—" Bella put her hand on my arm. Her eyebrows were furrowed, her eyes questioning. Everyone was awkwardly quiet.
"I'll be sleeping on the couch," I explained, turning my attention back to Alice.
"Oh! Okay, sure. I'll be right back." Alice turned, hurrying out of the room with Emmett behind her.
"Edward," Bella said, a sharp edge to her tone.
I glanced at Charlie, sitting on the other end of the sectional and quietly staring at me. Okay, this was uncomfortable. I really didn't want to explain to Bella in front of Charlie why I would not be sleeping in her room any longer. Fortunately, after a few seconds that felt like minutes, Charlie graciously saved me from the situation.
"I think I'll turn in as well, kids." He walked over to Bella and leaned down, kissing her forehead. "Good night, Princess."
"Good night, Dad. I'm glad you're here."
He smiled, nodding, and then looked at me. "Edward, thanks again for dinner."
"You're very welcome. Good night."
As Charlie left the room, Alice returned, dropping some bedding on the end of the couch. "There you go." She turned and hurried back out of the room, calling out over her shoulder, "Good night, you two."
Bella hollered good night at the same time that I shouted out, thanking Alice for the bedding. And then—fucking finally—we were alone.
"You are not sleeping on the couch, Edward. What the hell?" Bella whispered angrily at me, her eyes wide and anxious. "I want you with me," she said, her tone more gentle.
"I want to be with you, too, but there is no way I'm sleeping with you when your dad is in the house." I rubbed my hands up and down her legs that were still draped across my lap after the foot massage I'd given her earlier while watching a movie.
"Are you kidding me? Edward, I'm a grown woman. It's not as though he thinks I'm still a virgin. I was married for fuck's sake."
It wasn't a smart thing to do, but I couldn't help it—I laughed. She was just so cute, all riled up and dropping the F word.
"What's so funny?" Bella glared at me, looking legitimately pissed.
"My god, I fucking adore you." I reached out and clasped my hands to her cheeks, pulling her face to mine. I wanted her so damn much that there was no warm-up—I pressed my open mouth to hers. She met my passion with her own raw desire, sucking on my tongue, biting at my lips, and groaning as I kissed her back fiercely, like I wanted to eat her alive—which I really fucking wanted to. My mind wandered to doing just that—between her legs. I knew we had to stop. I pulled my mouth from hers, a small gasp escaping as I sucked in needed air.
"And that's the other reason why I'm sleeping out here—I can't control myself around you." Still cradling her face, I leaned my forehead against hers. "I can't be in bed with you without . . . uh, pinching, squeezing, biting."
We both chuckled at the apron joke, and I pulled away so I could look in her eyes, but I kept my hands on her face, stroking her silky cheek. "It'll be far less torturous for me to sleep on the couch than to be in your bed and not be able to fuck you senseless."
"So fuck me senseless then," she said, low and raspy.
Fuck! I dropped my hands from her face and pulled away, groaning. I rested my head against the back of the sofa, covering my face with my hands as I grimaced. "Bel-la, you can not say things like that to me."
"Why not?" she asked coyly, her tone playful and seductive. I'd never seen this side of Bella during the short time we'd spent together in Europe. Though I tended to be a dominant lover, I could allow my woman to take the lead from time to time. After all, no straight, red-blooded male was immune to a sexy woman asking him to fuck her.
"You know why not," I scoffed, irritated that I couldn't allow myself to succumb to her seduction. "You might not care about your recovery, but I do. Your doctor had a reason for telling you to refrain from sex for another week."
"I didn't know you were such a rule follower." Her tone was petulant, but when I looked at her, I could see that the fury had left her eyes.
"Uh, yeah . . . otherwise, I wouldn't be a very good soldier. The military is all about rules and obedience."
"I'm sorry, but you just caught me off guard is all. I've been looking forward to having you all to myself at nighttime at least."
"I know." I reached for her hand, squeezing it reassuringly. "Soon."
Bella scooted to the edge of the couch. "I don't want to leave you, but I am really tired," she said quietly, running her fingers through her hair. "Ugh, with all this lying around 24/7, my hair is in a perpetual state of bed head. It's driving me crazy."
"You should braid it."
"I can't—it hurts when I lift my arms."
"I'll braid it for you then."
Bella's head whipped around, her eyes wide, and her grin even bigger. "What? You know how to braid hair?"
I nodded, shrugging bashfully.
"Badass Army combat soldier Edward Cullen knows how to braid hair?"
"Yes, but that's top secret intelligence. If you tell anyone, I'll have to kill you."
"My lips are sealed, as long as you tell me how it is that you acquired said skill."
"Deal. Where's your hair stuff?"
"Bottom left drawer in my bathroom."
I jumped up and headed to the bathroom where I quickly found her comb and a couple of hair watchamacallits. Hell, I don't know what the fuck they call those rubber band things.
Back with Bella, I tossed a pillow on the floor and helped her off the sofa onto the pillow. I sat down on the couch behind her so that she was between my legs. "Tell me if it hurts," I said, trying to work the comb through a snarl in her long hair.
"No worries. I'm thick-headed, didn't you know?"
"No, I'm thick-headed, as you well know."
Bella huffed loudly, turning her head and glaring at me. "Unless you're prepared to take it out and refresh my memory, you'd better stop talking like that to me."
"Sorry, sorry," I said, laughing heartily. "But that was too good to pass up."
I continued working the tangles out of her hair. "Okay, new subject then. When my sister and I were in elementary school, my mom always left for work pretty early, so she wasn't around to help Rosalie get ready for school. She was too young to fix her own hair, so I had to help her. Mom even went so far as to teach me how to braid Rosalie's hair because that was her favorite way to wear it at the time."
"You never cease to amaze me with all your many talents."
"Oh, yes, because braiding hair is such an amazing skill to have."
"Well, it sure is coming in handy right now. And it feels amazing . . . mmm."
"Uh-uh, don't start with your sexy sounds again."
She giggled. "Oops, sorry, I'll be good. So what about your dad? He wasn't around either?"
"Hell, no. If my dad wasn't traveling on business, which was often, he would be awake before the sun and at the office by five in the morning."
"Five? Holy crap!" Bella turned her head to look at me, her eyebrows raised. "Was he a workaholic or something?"
"You could say that," I muttered sourly.
After Bella went to bed, I'd sat on the patio for about an hour, playing around on my guitar. While trying to pick out the melody that reminded me of the moment Bella told me she loved me, I'd enjoyed my first cigarette since leaving the hospital this morning.
Now, stretched out on the cushy but much too narrow sectional, I struggled to roll over and quiet my mind, thinking about the misery I knew I'd face when I quit cigarettes again.
I didn't need them anymore to deal with the stress and grief after losing Bella; my life was pretty sweet now. Plus, I needed to be in peak physical condition in the combat zone. Getting the shakes because my body was craving a cigarette or hacking up a lung during physical exertion were liabilities when bullets and grenades were your daily companions. But I'd have to psyche myself up to be able to handle the physical withdrawals from quitting, and I wasn't quite ready to deal with that shit yet.
Out of the stark stillness, I heard a scream. Startled, I sat up, my heart pounding. I listened, and after a few seconds, I could just barely hear what sounded like crying. Bella!
I bolted off the sofa, making my way through the dark living room as quickly as possible. As I entered the hallway, Alice's bedroom door opened and she stepped out, her eyes half-open and her hair disheveled.
"I've got it," I whispered. She nodded and turned around, quietly closing the door.
Bella's whimpering grew louder as I opened her door and stepped into the shadowy room. She was sitting on her bed with her knees drawn up, her head hanging down and buried in her hands. I didn't want to startle her, so I walked slowly to the side of the bed and paused, but she was still oblivious to my presence.
"No, no, please, I have to tell Edward. He doesn't know," she mumbled into her hands, her voice strained.
She has to tell me what, I wondered. I didn't know if she was lucid or still partially living the nightmare. "Bella?" I said softly.
Her head whipped up as she gasped, her fearful, watery eyes quickly appraising me. "Edward," she sobbed, raising up on her knees and reaching for me.
I dropped onto the bed and wrapped my arms around her. Frantically, she crawled onto my lap, draping her tensed limbs around me. She tucked her face into my neck and fastened her hands to my head, pulling and scratching as if she couldn't get close enough.
"It's okay—I've got you." I held her tightly, rubbing her back and stroking her neck. "It was just a dream, baby."
As soon as the words left my mouth, I recoiled at my hypocrisy. Did I really tell her it was just a dream when I knew better than anyone that some nightmares seem so real that the body knows no difference and kicks into fight or flight syndrome, releasing adrenaline? The terror induced is as paralyzing as the real deal. But what the fuck else could I say to comfort her? You'd think by now I'd be an expert on how to handle the after effects of nightmares, but if that was the case, I would have cured myself long ago. I was as helpless as anybody, completely fucking helpless to comfort my sweet Bella.
"Shh, I've got you," I whispered, kissing her forehead. "I've got you." After a minute or so, I felt her body begin to relax, her hands slowly dropping from a clenched state in my hair to a gentle hold around my neck. She was silent except for a sniffle here and there.
I twisted around and leaned down, trying to get her to lie back on the bed. "No, no, don't leave me," she cried, her hands frantically grabbing my back and her legs tightening around my waist.
"I'm not leaving . . . I promise. Let's lie down." With her body still wrapped around me, I shifted my body upward toward the pillows. She lowered one leg so I could lie down without crushing it, but her other leg was still hitched around my hip. She shimmied down, resting her cheek against my chest, our arms and legs entangled. "I'm not going anywhere."
I thought about the possibility of Charlie seeing me leave Bella's room in the morning, but the need to meet Charlie's approval by not sleeping with his daughter right under his nose suddenly seemed laughably unimportant. The only thing that mattered was what Bella needed—and she needed me.
"Try to sleep, Bella. I'll be here when you wake up." I caressed her wet cheek with my thumb. "I love you."
And finally she spoke. "Love . . . you, too," she mumbled sleepily, her lips tickling my chest.
~*~ Bella ~*~
In the course of one night, I'd woken up in hell following a nightmare and, then later, I'd woken up in heaven. When the morning light forced my eyes open, I'd become aware that my body was securely cocooned by Edward's, his long, lean legs woven with mine and his sculpted arm draped over my stomach. His chest and pelvis were flush against my backside, and I'd sighed as I lost myself to my senses, gently pressing myself into the warmth and hardness of his body. He'd woken immediately with an audible groan when I'd pushed my ass against his erection. I had thought that with a few more shameless grinds against him that his resolve would crumble, and he would say to hell with the doctor's orders and make love to me. But damn that man if he wasn't the poster child for self-control and willpower.
Pouring a glass of orange juice, I chuckled to myself remembering how he'd turned me over to face him and promptly kissed my nose, saying that he loved me and wanted me, but that it wasn't going to work. I'd ignored him, my hand moving quickly and with intent, like a heat-seeking missile. Its target was Edward's very own hot missile—a corny but apt metaphor. But before my hand was able to make contact with the target, Edward had bolted from the bed. He'd stood at the cracked door, cautiously looking into the hallway.
What a sight that had been, I remembered with a smile as I leaned against the kitchen counter. His hair had been both hilariously and sexily messy, eliciting the same reaction I'd had to the sight of his tented nylon shorts. I'd been torn between laughing and moaning with desire. After confirming the hall was empty, he'd looked back at me, smirking. "I'm taking a shower," he'd announced, winking at me before disappearing through the door.
I put my empty juice glass in the dishwasher and went to find Edward. After finding the bathroom and my bedroom empty, I wandered back to the living room where I spotted a flutter of bronze through the window. I walked to the patio door as quickly as my still-healing body would allow but halted abruptly with my hand on the door handle and my gaze on the heart-stopping sight on the other side of the glass. I freaking gasped aloud, immediately grateful that nobody was around to hear it. "Fuck . . . me," I panted, still staring at the vision outside.
Edward was standing on the patio, his body angled to allow me a breathtaking view of his profile. That jaw should be fucking bronzed and put in a museum. Wearing jeans and a white long-sleeve tee that he'd pushed up to his elbows, his hair was dark, still damp from his shower. But what really got me was the sight of his long, sexy fingers holding a cigarette to his mouth, his full lips closing around it. His lips pursed and his brows crinkled as he inhaled with intensity. Goddamn!
Taking a deep breath, I turned the doorknob and stepped out onto the patio. Edward turned and smiled at me, and then his lips curved sexily as he blew smoke out of the side of his mouth.
"I'm jealous," I said, quite pleased with my cleverly enigmatic statement.
Edward walked over to me, holding his cigarette to his side, away from me. "What?"
"You heard me right. I'm jealous . . . of that cigarette—the way you were making love to it."
He snorted, his eyes darting away from mine as his face broke into a shy but broad smile. Edward was always so confident and strong, which was the most attractive thing about him, but seeing a shadow of shyness in a man like him was absolutely riveting. I felt powerful. "But I'm also confused. You don't smoke."
"I know." He dropped his head down, his eyes on the ground. "I haven't really been myself since I came back from London, you know? It's an old habit that I kicked a few years back. It's helped me cope."
"I'm so sorry." My god, he'd started smoking because of me, because of missing me?
"No more apologies, Bella. It's time to look forward."
"Okay." I swallowed hard, mentally pushing my guilt to the side.
Instead, I focused on the perfection in front of me. I took a step closer to him, deciding to tell him exactly what I was thinking. "I hate everything about cigarettes: the smoke irritates my lungs; the smell clings to your clothes and hair; and, most of all, cigarettes kill people. So I'm trying to reconcile all of that with the fact that you look so freaking hot with a cigarette in your hand."
Edward chuckled, running his hand through his hair. Smiling, but with a serious tone, I continued, "I don't know what kind of voodoo you've got going on because I have never thought smoking was sexy . . . not ever. You make me crazy."
Edward's shy, wandering eyes darted back to mine, but now they were darkly lustful and dominant. He leisurely brought the cigarette to his mouth, his eyes locked on mine. He held the burning cigarette between his pointer finger and thumb, his long fingers splayed upward. My attention flitted between his smoldering eyes and his red lips slowly wrapping around the filter. Closing his eyes, he inhaled, holding it in for a second. Lowering his hand, he opened his eyes and looked at me before tilting his head back and blowing the smoke upward. He stepped over to the patio table and dropped his cigarette in a nearly empty water bottle.
In a matter of seconds, he'd wielded control from me. The nearly blushing Edward was gone, replaced by predatory Edward who lunged for me. His large hands gripped my hips, pulling them forcefully against him. "I was planning on quitting soon, but if it gets you this riled up, maybe I shouldn't."
"I vote for quitting—you're plenty sexy without them. I want you around for a long time, and I want you healthy."
"Okay . . . soon." His hands moved from my hips, trailing up my back and into my hair. He leaned down and kissed my neck. "It's too bad you hate the smell of it because I really want to kiss you right now." He looked at me, the back of his curled fingers stroking my jaw.
I stared back at him, somewhat stunned by his assumption. He just didn't get it. Did he really think I wouldn't kiss him because of a little cigarette breath? My sweet Edward just didn't understand how deeply he affected me, how he'd somehow stirred my most carnal instincts and primal desires, ones that I hadn't even realized existed until I met him. Though it was somewhat embarrassing how bad I had it for him, I wanted him to know.
I smiled coyly, biting my lip. "See, that's the crazy thing—even if your mouth tasted like an ashtray, I'd still want to lick every inch of it. I've never wanted a man like I want you. I'm mystified by it really."
"So am I, but I'm not going to argue it. So lick away, baby."
I smiled and stretched up on my tiptoes, quickly covering his sexy, crooked smile with my mouth.
"This might not be the best activity, guys. I can't laugh anymore—it seriously hurts." I wiped tears of laughter from my eyes, gasping for air.
"I don't know what you think is so funny, Bella. Edward's ass in my face is not fucking funny—it's just wrong." Emmett didn't crack a smile as he held his position on the Twister mat, his upside-down, blood-filled head just inches from Edward's delectable ass.
Edward was laughing so hard I had no idea how he wasn't falling on said delectable ass. He was nearly doing a split, with his right leg draped over Alice's back and the other one bent at an odd angle to his side.
"C'mon, Bella, laughter is the best medicine." Edward's voice was strained from trying to maintain his pretzel-like stance. "Just as long as you don't bust your stitches, that is."
"Helloooo!" Alice hollered. "I might be small, but I cannot hold my own weight indefinitely. Fucking spin, already, Bella. Oops, sorry, Chief Swan."
My dad, who hadn't made it beyond the third spin of the game, was sitting on the sofa beside me laughing just as hard as I was. He just shook his head incredulously. I think he was starting to get used to Alice's potty mouth. She made him laugh all the time, which seemed to help him overlook the frequent cursing that would normally offend him.
"Oh! Sorry, Al." I flicked the spinner, quickly calling out the next move. "Right foot, green."
"Are you fucking kidding me?" Emmett bellowed. "That is a physical impossibility."
"Maybe for you, pansy ass," Edward teased, removing his right leg from over Alice's back. My laughter subsided as I became mesmerized by Edward's careful maneuvering of his body. Slowly bending his leg compactly beneath him, he then blindly extended it at an angle behind him until his toes just barely reached the targeted green circle. Holy hell, for a man, he was surprisingly and tantalizingly limber.
Just then, Alice and Emmett collapsed into a pile of intertwined legs and arms, but Edward maintained his tenuous position. This was Edward's third win out of five games.
"And Edward is the Twister champion!" I announced, clapping enthusiastically.
"Fine with me," Emmett said smugly, still lying on the floor. He hugged Alice against his chest. "I quite like the loser's position." He looked at Alice just as she lifted her head up. Their eyes met, and he leaned down and kissed her. It was chaste and rather sweet.
"Uh-huh," Dad said, in that same voice he had always used whenever I gave him some cockamamie bullshit story when I was a kid. "Now I know why you were so keen on playing Twister, Emmett."
Em smiled proudly, like he'd just been awarded the Pulitzer Price for one of his articles. "Damn straight, Charlie. Twister is the best game ever invented as long as you play it with the right people."
His eyes shifted to Edward, his proud grin morphing into one I'd seen many times before—the impish smile. "Isn't that right, Edward?"
Everyone looked at Edward who was already rolling his eyes and huffing as he stood up. "Nobody's interested in yet another stroll down memory lane, Em. We need to get to the store anyway."
He stretched his arms over his head, and his shirt lifted up, exposing his defined abs. "Damn, I'm getting old," he groaned, bending over and touching his toes. I nearly snorted at his ridiculous self-assessment. If that there was what old looked like, then slap me and call me a geriatric lover.
Alice, still on the floor, sat up and crossed her legs. "Oh, yeah, I definitely smell a good story here. Let's hear it, Em."
"Well, the short version is that Edward was practically molested on a Twister mat our senior year of high school."
I snorted on purpose. "Since when have you ever told a short version of any story? Please don't start now—we want all the embarrassing details."
Edward glared at me, his brow arched and his arms folded. I grinned at him, and the corner of his mouth curled up, offering a reluctant smile.
"Okay, so we were at this party playing Drunk Twister. Well, I wasn't—I was watching. Somebody had taped two Twister mats together so more people could play. If you fell, not only were you out, but you had to down a shot. Edward was in a real sweet spot because it was only him and one other guy playing with about six very pretty girls. But then" —Emmett guffawed, clutching his stomach—"then one of the hot girls started feeling sick, so when she left the game, Julie took her place. That's when Edward's dream game went to hell." Emmett glanced at Edward, laughing.
"Why? Was she fugly?" Alice asked.
"Yeah, but that wasn't really the problem. She'd had a thing for Edward for years. If she'd been a nice girl and knew how to get a clue, then it wouldn't have been a problem. But she was either too dense or stubborn or something—she just never gave up. Edward was too nice to just tell her to fuck off.
"Anyway, she was all over Edward on that Twister mat like a fly on dog shit. Wherever he went, she went. She'd push her boobs in his face when it was obvious she could get in the position without putting her boobs in his face. But every chance she got, her ass or boobs were in his face. Or she'd put a leg over him, straddling him when she could have just as easily put her leg under him. It was fucking hilarious—he'd glance at me with this pained face, rolling his eyes."
Charlie cleared his throat, stifling a chuckle. "Pardon me for stating the obvious, but if it was so uncomfortable, why didn't you just fake a fall, so you'd be out of the game?"
Edward rubbed the back of his neck, staring at the floor. "I didn't want to lose," he muttered, glancing up through his lashes sheepishly.
"Oh, yeah, Charlie, you have no idea. Edward here is a competitive bastard. The word quit is not in his vocabulary, even when it comes to stupid shit like Twister."
"So did you win then?" I asked.
"Of course, I did," he answered smugly, his trademark smirk on full display.
"Yeah, but not before Julie messed with his junk," Emmett continued.
"What? She didn't!" I was genuinely shocked that a high school girl, especially a homely one, would be so crass and forward.
"That whore," Alice said dryly.
"Yeah, on this one spin, she extended her leg to reach one of the circles by putting it between Edward's legs. Then she moved so that her calf was touching his junk and started rubbing her leg back and forth on him. She wasn't even subtle about it!" Emmett cackled, his eyes wide. "I could tell Edward was trying to maneuver his ass to break the contact, but he couldn't because then his hands would lift off the circles. He was sort of stuck. I was laughing so hard over on the couch watching all this. I swear to god, I nearly hyperventilated."
"Yeah, some friend you are—standing by and laughing at me while I was nearly molested," Edward deadpanned, his eyes playful.
Emmett roared. "It's not like you couldn't have stopped it at any time, dude," Emmett shot back.
"Hey, sometimes you have to endure misery on the road to victory. What's a little sexual assault in exchange for the Twister Championship title?" He shrugged, a smile tugging at his lips.
Everyone broke out laughing, including Edward. Emmett helped Alice up off the floor, keeping one arm slung around her waist as she caught her breath.
Edward glanced at his watch. "We better get to the store, so I can get dinner started. You both still coming?" he asked, looking at Emmett and Dad.
They had decided earlier that they'd have an all boys' outing to the grocery story—real exciting. I was almost certain it was Edward's thoughtfulness at work, trying to carve out some time for me and Alice to have some needed girl talk. We'd had very little of it since the incident.
After giving me a small kiss and asking if I had any special requests, which I did—Chunky Monkey ice cream, please—Edward left with Em and Dad.
I twisted on the sofa where I'd probably left a permanent butt imprint over the last few days and looked at Alice. "Start talking and fast, girlfriend. We probably have less than an hour before they get back."
Alice's perfectly sculpted dark brows arched, and she tilted her head. "About?"
"Don't be obtuse—there's no time. Based on your 'there's nothing little about Emmett' comment the other day, I know you've seen what he's packing and that it probably puts the Statue of David to shame. What I want to know is if you've test driven his equipment yet, and, if you have, does he know how to use it?"
Alice exploded into a fit of giggles. "Who are you, and what have you done with my demure friend, Bella? You're not usually so crass."
"I know, right?" I shrugged, smiling in spite of my blush. "Edward brings it out in me. Plus, like I said, we don't have time for me to tactfully finagle information out of you. And I'm horny as hell, so I want all the lurid details."
"Well, I'm very happy to report that David is a little boy compared to my Em. And, yes, I have indeed test driven his equipment . . . repeatedly." She wiggled her eyebrows, smiling. "And . . . well, honestly, I think he's ruined me for any other man. I'm doomed if he ever decides he doesn't want me."
"Wow! That good, huh?"
Alice nodded, her entire face full of lightness and love. "I never knew it could be like this. As much as I loved Jasper, I never experienced that kind of passion and connection with him. I'm certain now that I made the right decision. I just hope that Jazz finds what I've found with someone else."
"Me, too." I reached across the sofa and hugged her. I was so happy that we'd both found two pretty amazing men—both really good, kind, and upstanding human beings. "I'm so happy for you, Al."
"Thanks, Bells. So, your turn—how have things been with Edward?"
"Perfect. Well, except for the no sex thing, per doctor's orders. I learned that Edward is a big rule follower and his willpower rivals the strength of steel." I rolled my eyes.
"Good for him. I like that guy more and more every day."
I playfully slapped Alice's arm. "Traitor."
"So, um, any signs of the PTSD?"
"No, he's doing really well actually. I haven't noticed anything."
Alice's gaze darted away, and her silence screamed that something was wrong. "What? Is there something I don't know?"
"Bells, I don't want to be a downer. I'm only telling you this so that you can hopefully talk to him and convince him to get some help."
"What? You're freaking me out here—just tell me."
"Sorry. Okay, so when you were unconscious, we were all gathered in the waiting room listening to Dr. Tassett update us on your condition. Edward had been a fucking basket case since he and Em arrived at the hospital in the middle of the night. Seeing him so distraught, I knew then that he was deeply in love with you. But anyway, while Dr. Tassett was talking about your injuries and your chance of survival, which was tenuous by the way, Edward just . . . I don't know . . . he like zoned out."
"What do you mean?" I asked warily, my heart feeling heavier the more Alice told me.
"He started mumbling and then nearly yelling. He was saying James' name. Em tried to snap him out of it, but he wasn't responsive. It was like he was dreaming, but his eyes were open. I did some reading later, and I really think he had what's called a flashback. Physically, he was sitting in that waiting room, but in his mind, he was back in the war. It was kind of scary, especially when he wouldn't respond to Emmett for a couple of minutes."
That was not what I'd expected to hear. I thought that he'd probably had some kind of angry outburst or something, but this was a completely different level of fucked up. I sunk back into the sofa, my body suddenly weak and listless. "Oh, my god," I mumbled softly to myself, my trembling fingers picking mindlessly at my lip. "My sweet Edward."
"I'm so sorry, Bella. I didn't want to upset you, but somebody has to convince him to get some help with this. Emmett has tried. Maybe he'll listen to you."
"Don't be sorry—I'm glad you told me. It just makes me sad, knowing he's suffering. And I feel helpless. I suggested therapy to him when we were in England, but he wouldn't even discuss it. I don't know how to convince him."
"I think he'd do just about anything for you now. He knows what life is like without you."
"I hope you're right."
~*~ Edward ~*~
I could get used to this. Cooking a nice dinner for Bella, spending the evening with her doing whatever—it didn't really matter, as long as I was with her—and then climbing into bed with her for the night. I tightened my hold on her, running my fingers along the inside of her arm, just lost in the feel of her.
She pressed her lips to my chest and then tilted her head back. "The shrimp étouffée was delicious, just the right amount of spiciness. You're spoiling me, you know."
"Well, I hope so. That's my job now, and I take it very seriously."
She lifted her head from my chest, smiling up at me. "Thank you for not sleeping on the couch. I know you aren't really comfortable being here with me with my dad down the hall."
"Like I said, taking care of you is my job now. If you need me here, then nothing else matters, including my ideas of decorum."
"Sometimes I still can't quite believe that you're really here," she mumbled, her head resting back on my chest.
"I know what you mean. I'd pretty much accepted that I wouldn't ever see you again. I never expected that you'd change your mind." I paused, realizing this was as good a time as any to ask her something that had been on my mind. "Why did you change your mind, Bella? I mean, how did you get over your fears about me deploying?"
"I wouldn't say I got over my fears . . . they're still there. I just got to a place where I didn't let the fear control my choices. And I got to that place by seeing a therapist."
"Really? What made you decide to go to a therapist in the first place?"
She lifted her head again, folding her arms on my chest and resting her chin there. I looked down, meeting her eyes. "The longer I was without you, the more I realized how much I loved you. And yet I still wouldn't allow myself to be with you because of fear. I began to realize that was pretty messed up, that I was being irrational. Several things contributed to making me recognize that—the lyrics of a song, a book, nightmares, but mostly, my friends telling me I'd made a terrible mistake.
"Edward, it's important to me that you understand that I wanted to call you every single day and beg you to take me back, but every time I thought about Iraq, I became paralyzed with fear again. Ultimately, I started seeing the therapist because I wanted to get better so that I could be with you."
"You're amazing," I whispered, stroking her soft hair.
"Not really," she said wistfully, dropping her head back down. "I was forced into a corner—I had to take a hard look at myself if I wanted any chance to be with you."
"Still, you did it. You're so strong." I could tell she was tired. Her eyes were closed, and her words were slow. "Sweet dreams tonight, okay?"
"Hmm, I love you."
"I love you back." I closed my eyes, relaxed and happy, and let myself go.
The entire troop was surrounded by enemy small arms fire, RPG attacks and artillery from all directions. As two tanks from 2d platoon were hit and began to burn, B44 became mired, so I directed my crew on B4 and the crew of my wingman, B3, to recover B4. While B3 and the remainder of B4's crew recovered the tank, Sergeant Bailey and I went to offer aid to the crews that had been hit and were now out of their vehicles seeking cover on the North side of the road.
Keeping an eye on my surroundings and laying suppressive fire in the direction of the heaviest enemy fire, I did a double take when I saw James, my closest friend during my years in the Army, lying in the middle of the damn street. I ran to him, bullets dancing around my ankles as I scrambled across the road. When I reached him, I dove on top of him, covering him with my body. Still in a prone position over him, I laid out some suppressive fire on the enemy. I couldn't fucking pick him up while shooting, so I dragged him out of the street with one arm while I fired my weapon with my other hand.
When I had him safely behind a military vehicle, I gasped in horror when I got a good look at him. James was bleeding profusely from two wounds in his chest. I grabbed his face, shaking it. "James, James!" Then I pressed my palms against his wounds. There was so much fucking blood. I looked back at his face, but it wasn't him—it was Bella's face, pale and lifeless.
"Bella! No, please, don't leave me," I sobbed, scooping her limp, bloody body into my arms.
Bella's lifeless body faded from my view, but terror and grief held me tight as I was pulled away from her into blackness.
"Bella, Bella!" I cried out.
Warm hands pushed on my chest, shaking me repeatedly. "Edward, wake up."
Gasping, I opened my eyes and quickly realized it was all a dream, another fucking nightmare. Bella hovered next to me on her knees, her small hands on my chest and her brown eyes brimming with concern. The relief that it wasn't real, that Bella's warm body, beautiful and breathing, was right next to me was emotionally overpowering.
"Bella? You're okay? Oh, god, you're here!" Desperate to vanquish the lingering grief that carried over from the dream, I grabbed her shoulders and pulled her down on top of me, wrapping my arms around her. My hands frantically wandered over her entire backside and reveled in her soft warmth, gradually finding comfort in knowing the dream was a lie. My fingers rubbed her shoulders, ghosted over her back, and then kneaded the voluptuous curve of her ass. "You're safe," I whispered, sighing in relief. "I love you."
She clung to me tightly, matching my desperate need to feel her flesh, to convince myself that she was alive and was still mine. Her hands massaged my head, tugging gently at my hair. "It was just a dream," she said softly, her lips grazing my ear. "I'm here."
Suddenly, I felt her open mouth on my neck, and I sucked in a quick breath, the simple action causing my dick to twitch. Her soft lips and warm, wet tongue began dancing across my skin.
"Bella," I moaned. When she made her way up my neck to my jaw line, I turned my head, capturing her darting tongue with my mouth. I kissed her hard, and she whimpered into my mouth, making me even more ravenous for her.
I hadn't had sex in six long weeks, so just physically speaking, I was a horny motherfucker. Whacking off took care of the physiological need for release, but it did nothing to satisfy the craving for human connection. I had a bond with Bella like none I'd ever known before, and that tie was felt most acutely when we'd made love. We hadn't been able to be together like that since getting back together, and more importantly, since confessing that we were in love with each other. All of this made my desire for her nearly unbearable. I wanted to be inside her in a desperate way. The only thing holding me back was the fear that I might hurt her. She liked to act tough, but she was still fragile and weak.
I was growing harder by the second, and I knew I needed to stop this before I reached the point of no return. Just as I was about to break the kiss and slow things down, she bit down gently on my lip as she sucked on it, simultaneously grinding on my erection.
"Fuck," I panted against her lips. "You're killing me here, baby."
"Death by orgasm could be arranged."
"That sounds fucking fantastic," I growled between kisses, "but you know we can't. We've gotta stop."
Still kissing me, she opened her legs and shifted to straddle me. I groaned when she positioned herself so that my painfully hard dick was between her legs, barely grazing her pussy.
"No, we don't," she said forcefully, interrupting our kissing and staring at me intently. "The doctor said no intercourse, but there are plenty of other things we can do. If I'm honest, I probably shouldn't have an orgasm because it's pretty taxing on the body, but there's no reason I can't take care of you."
She smirked, nipping at her lower lip with her teeth as she pressed hard against my cock, thrusting her hips up and then back down.
I moaned and held her hips tightly, trying to control the nearly involuntary urge to move her hips over my dick again. "No, Bella—that would be too strenuous for you."
She kissed me softly. "You're right," she whispered, her warm breath on my mouth, taunting me.
I opened my eyes and looked at her, surprised she was conceding. Her lips looked thoroughly kissed, more plump and red than usual. My whiskers had left their mark on the delicate, ivory skin around her mouth and especially on her chin. Her long chestnut hair was wild, matching the look in her eyes. Perched on top of me, she looked like a sex goddess, and, to me, she was.
Yet, nothing could have prepared me for the words that came out of her mouth next. "Dry humping is too tiring. Instead, I want you to fuck my mouth."
"What? No!" My mouth was saying no, but my dick vehemently disagreed. As soon as Bella's lips released those salacious words into the air, my dick went from merely hard to something resembling titanium. Her dirty-talking mouth was a huge fucking turn on, and every man's dream was to have complete control when getting head. However, my heart was appalled by the idea of doing that to her when she was barely three days out of the hospital. I couldn't use her like that, selfishly getting myself off. "No fucking way."
"Bella, I won't use you like that. You're still recovering."
"You won't be using me. I want to . . . I need to. And I won't have to expend any energy this way. Even getting you off with my hand requires effort, but this position is perfect."
She climbed off of me and propped up two pillows against the headboard. She positioned herself so she was sitting upright, her head against the now cushioned headboard. "Come here," she urged, tugging on my arm. "Get on your knees in front of me."
I'd always prided myself on my self-restraint; I'd become quite disciplined throughout my years in the military. But no mere mortal could be expected to resist seduction like this. My cock was nearly bursting out of my shorts, and the woman I loved was nearly begging me to put it in her mouth.
"Bella, I just—" I struggled to say the words, to turn her down again, but my resolve was rapidly crumbling. I groaned, closing my eyes and scrubbing my face with my hands.
Unexpectedly, my shorts were yanked down, my erection slapping against my stomach. I opened my eyes just as Bella's hand wrapped around the base, and she opened her mouth, plunging my dick into it in one abrupt but fluid motion.
"Fuck, fuck, fuck." I was incoherent, reduced to a quivering, foul-mouthed fool.
With a loud pop, she released me and pressed a soft kiss to the tip. "Mmm, you feel so good in my mouth." She took me in again, sucking me like a Hoover vacuum all the way back up like the sex goddess she was. I growled, instinctively thrusting my hips upward.
As she came up again, she replaced her mouth with her hands, stroking me. "You're so stubborn, baby, so I guess I'll have to do this the strenuous way."
She smiled, and then went down on me again, taking as much of me into her mouth as she could. When she sucked her way back up my length, her tongue flicked out and swirled around the tip, her eyes on mine the entire time. "Gosh, I hope I don't break my stitches with all this exertion."
Fuck me! I grabbed her waist, forcefully but carefully shifting her onto her back into her previous position against the headboard. I was now beyond the point of no return, and she was right—her suggested position was the least physically demanding for her. Hurriedly, I pulled my shorts off and straddled her, moving onto my knees until my still ridiculously hard dick was right in front of her face.
She smiled deviously as she sunk her fingertips into my ass cheeks and pulled me closer, but she didn't take me into her mouth. She kept her head still, resting it against the pillow. "Do it. Fuck my mouth," she commanded, opening her mouth wide with her eyes locked onto mine.
That sight alone nearly undid me—her lust-filled eyes looking up at me and her luscious mouth wide open, begging for my cock.
"Bella," I whispered adoringly as I slowly pushed myself between her lips. Groaning, I threw my head back in pure ecstasy, the initial sensation—warmth, wetness, and velvet gripping my cock—so intense that I nearly came right then. But I wanted to savor our intimacy together, so I remained still for a moment to regain some control, my dick resting blissfully in Bella's mouth.
I breathed deeply, lowering my head and looking down at the sexiest fucking thing I'd ever seen. Bella's lips were closed around my dick, her tongue swirling along the shaft, but she kept her head completely still. When I looked at her, she winked, and the corner of her mouth turned upward. Goddamn, this woman was my dream, my fantasy come to life.
I grinned at her and leaned down, clutching the headboard tightly as I pulled out, and then thrust back into her mouth. I knew she couldn't take all of me—no woman I'd been with had been able to do that—so I was careful to not thrust all the way in.
I found a quick rhythm that Bella seemed to be comfortable with. My focus continually darted between her eyes, which never left mine, and the hypnotic sight of my dick sliding in and out of her beautiful mouth. Bella's fingernails ghosted over my ass, and then drifted down to my thighs, her fingers gripping my flexing muscles.
After six weeks of fantasizing about her and several days of resisting her in the flesh, it wasn't going to take me long. I heard my breathing become rapid and labored, the sound nearly deafening against the stillness of the night. I gripped the headboard tighter, my muscles tensing and straining as the delicious pressure neared the point of combustion. I knew better than to try to pull out when I came. She wanted all of me—I'd learned that when she'd sucked me off at the Tower of London, happily swallowing every last drop. Goddamn, I was a lucky bastard.
I looked intently into her expressive eyes and saw both love and lust staring back at me. "Bella . . . I love you"—thrust—"so"—thrust—"fucking"—thrust "much."
"Mmmm," she hummed, the sound sending vibrations along my shaft.
"Ohh, fuck, Belll-laa." Nearing my release, I pumped into her mouth a little faster, consciously restraining myself from going too deep.
I heard and felt a low, deep moan escape her throat again, the fucking fantastic vibrations reverberating down my cock and pushing me to the edge. Just when I thought the sensations couldn't get any more intense, I felt her fingers on my balls, stroking them gently. I hadn't even been aware her hand had found its way between my legs, so the touch was unexpected—marvelously unexpected.
"I'm gonna come, baby." Gripping the headboard, I thrust once more and pulsed into her mouth, grunting and groaning like a wild animal.
Panting feverishly, I opened my eyes as I pulled out and sunk down on my bent legs. After catching my breath, I kissed her tenderly. "You okay?"
"I'm fabulous." She smiled, stroking my jaw.
I eyed her suspiciously, wondering if she was telling me the truth. I wouldn't put it past her to hide that sort of thing from me.
"Nothing hurts—I promise," she convincingly assured me.
Exhausted, I crawled down her body, my knees still on each side of her. Lifting her tank top to just below her breasts, I lay down, resting my head on her stomach. Her fingers were in my hair right away, and I smiled contentedly as I slid my fingers beneath her back, holding her close.
"I've never done that before," Bella said softly. "I had no idea. It was . . . oh, god, it was just . . . ah-ma-zing!"
I lifted my head to look at her. "You are amazing."
Her fingers moved from my hair to my jaw, grasping my face between her hands. "We are amazing," she whispered. "And we're going to do that again tomorrow. You're not going to play hard to get again, are you?" She said it seriously with an arched eyebrow, but her eyes danced with amusement.
"Uh, that would be a big fucking nooo. Now that I know I won't hurt you, not only will I not play hard to get, I think you've turned me into a slut because I will willingly fuck your sweet mouth anytime—morning, noon, or night."
"Edward!" She squealed disapprovingly, but her smile and giggle betrayed her. I was well aware that she got off on my tendency toward sexual dominance and my penchant for talking dirty.
I lowered my head, placing a simple but firm kiss on her belly button. Keeping my head down, I raised my eyes until I could see hers staring intently at me. I stuck out my tongue, slowly tracing the perimeter of her belly button before suctioning my mouth to it and sucking really hard. She gasped. "Edward! Oh, shit, that feels good. Please don't tease me."
I broke the suction with a pop. "I'm sorry. I really wasn't trying to tease you. I just felt the urge to mark you."
"With a belly button hickey?" She teased, giggling.
"Uh, yeah, why not? It was right there staring at me. And that skin is particularly sensitive, wouldn't you say?"
"Oh, yes, it felt surprisingly good."
I glanced down to see a pretty impressive hickey already becoming visible around her belly button. "Well, look at that," I said proudly.
Bella's eyes widened as she stared at it, her mouth hanging open. "Holy crap, Edward!"
I laughed heartily. "I don't mess around, baby. You're wearing my mark, so I guess you're officially mine now," I joked, still chuckling as I kissed the raspberry-colored hickey.
She didn't say anything, and she wasn't laughing along with me. I looked up to see her staring at me, her expression serious.
"I think maybe I've always been yours," she said quietly. She caressed my jaw, and then traced my lips with her thumb. "We just hadn't met yet." She smiled softly, and her eyes began to glisten.
I was motionless, paralyzed by an overwhelming surge of love and gratitude for her. Her words moved me so deeply because they reflected my own feelings, though I could never articulate it as beautifully as she had. I'd never considered that she might feel as deeply for me as I did for her, but now, I knew it was true. I could see it in her kind eyes; I could hear it in her words, and, most powerfully, I could feel it in the energy pulsing between us. I choked back a sob, my eyes tearing up as this new awareness descended upon me, her guileless love for me palpable in the air.
I rose up on my hands and knees, slowly crawling until my lips were inches from hers. I sat back on my haunches, straddling her and held her sweet face in my hands. I tilted her head back and kissed her in a manner that I hoped reflected my feelings. I kissed her slowly and languidly but definitely not softly nor timidly. My feelings for Bella were strong and passionate, and so my kiss was firm and unyielding, yet slow and purposeful. I was certain I would never tire of kissing my beautiful Bella. I had to force myself to take my lips from hers just long enough to whisper something to her. "And I've always been yours—I always will be."
A/N: I hope you liked the lemony goodness as much as I did. I have to admit – just writing it got me all a-tingly! Next chapter, we'll get inside Bella's head and find out why she loved the mouth-fucking so damn much. Some women find it demeaning; I hope I wrote it in a way that you did not.
PLEASE NOTE: The first paragraph of Edward's nightmare was taken from an actual account. They are not my words.