Author: Savage7289 PM
Debutante Bella is planning to follow Dad's footsteps. A chance meeting at a stop light with a beautiful boy on a bicycle gives her a new outlook on life. Is she willing to risk living life to the fullest with this fascinating, but damaged, young man?Rated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Drama - Edward & Bella - Chapters: 5 - Words: 45,164 - Reviews: 1,431 - Favs: 2,071 - Follows: 1,342 - Updated: 11-09-10 - Published: 09-14-10 - Status: Complete - id: 6324659
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Summary: Bella's on the debutante track to life in the financial world, just as her Dad has always planned. A chance meeting at a stop light with a beautiful boy on a bicycle gives her a new outlook on life. Can she forego the family dynasty and live life to the fullest with this fascinating, but damaged, young man? M for language/lemons.
This story is for Mariamaral & StAngelS, who won the Carlisle, Bella and the Banana Contest. This is the plot bunny they concocted for me to write as part of their prize. It was supposed to be a one-shot, but I've gotten a little carried away. I expect it to be about three chapters. Enjoy!
Thank you DK for the beta reading!
Disclaimer: All the Twilight stuff belongs to Stephenie Meyer. No copyright infringement is intended. I'm just piddling in her pool.
Chapter One – Realizations
Damn these heels.
I walked as quickly as I could, given the three inch stilettos Lauren forced onto my feet this morning. I mean, seriously? It's not like this is the sort of job interview where you don't know if you are going to end up with the position. I mean, when your father already owns the company, chances of you getting the CFO job once you graduate with your accounting degree is really pretty good. It definitely was not worth having to walk from the subway all the way to the office building. I should have called a cab, but it was only a twenty minute walk, and hailing a taxi usually took a half hour.
"Holy shit, she is fuckhawt."
I didn't even look over at the group of boys on the corner. There always seemed to be a group of such kids around in every city. Tattoos, piercings everywhere, chain smoking and generally looking like they exist just to piss off their parents. Usually they were on skateboards, though this group seemed to prefer BMX bicycles.
Of course, the light changed right at that moment, and I was stuck standing next to them, waiting for the walk signal. I refused to look over in their direction, though I could still hear them talking and trying to get my attention. I ignored them and stared straight ahead at the red hand denying me access to the other side of the road. I wondered if there might be a proverbial chicken nearby, so I could staple myself to it.
"Hey," a soft voice said beside me. I startled. I hadn't even heard him come up, but when I looked to my right, one of the boys was right next to me.
He was standing up on the bicycle with one wheel high up in the air, balancing on the pedals as easily as if he was standing on the ground. He was wearing a faded pair of ripped up jeans, with one pant-leg completely missing, making the garment a half pair of shorts. His shirt was also faded, with the logo of some metal band on the front.
When I looked up into his face, I was surprised to see he was a little older than I had originally assumed. I always figured groups of boys hanging out on the corner ranged from about fourteen to sixteen, but this one had to be out of high school. He had a couple of days' worth of stubble covering his cheeks and neck, unruly, brownish-red hair and intense, bright green eyes. His full bottom lip was adorned with a pair of thin silver hoops through the left side, and a matching hoop went through his eyebrow. Three more hung from the lobe of his right ear. There was some dark, swirling tattoo wrapping around his left arm, and something more colorful just peeking out of the collar of his T-shirt, but I couldn't make out the details of either design. There was a thin gold chain around his neck, the front of which was tucked into his shirt with the chain pulled tight at the front, the lump of a charm of some sort hiding underneath the fabric.
"Would you go to dinner with me?"
"Excuse me?" There was no way I had heard him right. I mean – guys with piercings and tattoos didn't walk up to women wearing suits and heels to ask them out for dinner.
"See, you're really, really pretty," he shrugged, twisting his hips a little and making the bicycle spin in a full circle before facing me again. "And my buddy Emmett says if you're pretty on the outside, you're probably ugly on the inside. I just want to see if he's right."
I stared unabashed at him.
"I don't think he's right," the boy clarified. "I know a great place to eat, and it would be perfect for you."
"Perfect for me?" I heard myself echo.
"I think you'd like to go someplace where you aren't expected to wear those kinds of shoes."
"You don't like wearing them," he said, shrugging and swiveling the bike again.
"How do you know that?" I asked, unable to keep the surprise from my voice.
"The way you kept looking at them. I was actually waiting for you to tell them to fuck off or something." He laughed. "I mean, you look at them like you hate them. Like, maybe the heels impaled your dog on your birthday or something."
I heard a chime and looked across at the "don't walk" sign and realized I had just missed my opportunity to get across the street.
"Damnit!" I mumbled. I turned back to him. "Look, I'm sorry, but I'm really in a hurry, and I don't have time for this right now."
"Why are you in a hurry?"
"I have a job interview, and it starts in ten minutes," I said, wondering why I was even telling him these things. "And I am willing to admit these shoes aren't helping me get there on time."
"You wanna ride?"
"I'll give you a ride," he said. "Then you wouldn't be late, and your feet wouldn't hurt."
"You have a car?" I asked, stupidly. I knew he didn't have a car around here. There wasn't even a parking garage within six blocks.
"On my bike, goofball." Half his mouth turned up in the most incredible smile I had ever seen in my life. Granted, lots of people have nice smiles. Lots of guys have those "panty dropping" looks that make you want to place them on a stage in front of a microphone just so you can throw your undergarments at them. Most popular actors have one of those looks, but I had never seen a smile quite like this one.
Aside from the luscious curling of half of his perfectly formed lips, his smile didn't just light up his eyes, like any good genuine smile will do; it lit up his whole face. He positively glowed as he tilted his head slightly to one side and looked at me with one eyebrow cocked. I could have sworn the sun even peeked out from behind a cloud at that point and lit up his hair as well.
His tongue popped out of his mouth and fiddled with the rings imbedded in his lip and he glanced down at the sidewalk for a moment before looking back up at me. The combined gestures gave him an odd combination of both cocky and shy all at the same time. Can looks be ambivalent?
"There's only one seat on the bike," I heard myself say.
"You can have it," he said. He leaned back and the bike dropped from its perpetual wheelie right next to my feet. He continued to stand on a pair of pedals attached to the rear wheel. "I don't need the seat."
I looked at the bike, then back to that incredible half smile, and then back to the bike again.
"Just get on," he said softly, but the words were still very much a demand. "I'll make sure you get there on time."
I have no idea what I was thinking, but suddenly I was sitting side-saddle on a BMX bicycle, wearing a pencil skirt and spiked heels, flying down the sidewalk in the middle of the city. The boy was alternating between rapidly rotating the functional pedals, standing on the pedals attached to the back wheel, and balancing on the handlebars with his legs stretched out behind us. I couldn't help but noticed the definition in his arm muscles as they tightened and flexed during that particular move.
He swerved around the pedestrians and hotdog stands like he did this kind of thing every day, and he probably did. I held tightly to the inside part of the handlebars and just prayed I wasn't going to fall off. I had to admit, he did get me to the Swan Financial building with five minutes to spare.
"Thank you," I said as he stopped the bike and lifted me off the seat with both hands while balancing the bike with the toe of one foot.
"My pleasure," he responded. "Will you have dinner with me now?"
"I really don't think that's a good idea," I stammered.
"Why not?" he asked, his eyes narrowing a little. His hand went up to push his bangs out of his eyes, creating a disaster of curling, sticking out hair all over his head. "Do you already have a date?"
"Do you have a boyfriend?"
"You're not wearing a ring," he gestured towards my left hand with his head.
"I'm not married, I just…"
"You are going to eat tonight, aren't you?"
"Well, yes…of course, but…"
"Why not, then?"
"I don't even know you!" I finally blurted out.
"Well, I know that," he scoffed. "The whole idea of going to dinner is for us to get to know each other."
"But I'm going to be here for hours," I said. "I'm not even sure when I'll be done."
"I'll wait for you," he said. He pointed down to the ground beneath his feet. "Right here. I didn't have any other plans today, so it's no big deal at all."
"I don't even know your name," I said.
"Edward. Now will you go to dinner with me?"
"Well, Edward," I sighed, finally giving in, "I'm Bella. And I guess if you really feel like waiting that long, I'll look for you when I get out. If you are still here, maybe we can go to dinner."
"Sweet," he said, the half-smile returning. He maneuvered the bike behind him with one hand and stepped up closer to me. His tongue darted out and twisted the hoops through his lip in a circle. "Can I kiss you?"
"What?" I gasped. "No!"
"Okay," he said, still smiling. "I'm gonna go get a couple things, but I'll be back here in an hour. I know just where to take you."
I glanced at my watch. Three minutes before two-o-clock.
"I won't be done until after six," I said.
"That's cool," he responded, sitting on the seat of his bike and lighting a cigarette with a chrome-colored Zippo lighter. "I'll be here."
He pedaled off slowly without looking back, perfectly balanced on the bike – one hand holding the cigarette and the other flipping open a phone to type in a text message.
I shook my head and went into the building.
The interview went fine, of course. I mean, having my dad ask me a bunch of questions about my GPA and why I wanted to go into accounting was ridiculous, but we played the game for the sake of appearances anyway.
After the round of interviews, introductions to the two board members I hadn't known since I was twelve, Dad took me to the room that would become my office. I met three ladies there and ended up interviewing each of them as my potential secretary. I met so many people and talked so much small talk I was about to scream. Besides, my thoughts kept traveling outside.
I wondered if Edward was really out there, waiting for me. I wondered if I should maybe go out the back door and avoid the whole situation, but that would be exceedingly rude, wouldn't it? I had already told him I would look for him, and if he really did spend his whole afternoon waiting for me, I couldn't decline his dinner invitation, could I?
Did I even want to?
One thing was certain, I wasn't about to tell my father that I had a date, because he'd insist on meeting the guy. I could just imagine how that would go! Dad would throw a fit when he found out I didn't really know Edward, and then if he actually saw him – all pierced and tattooed and riding a freaking bicycle – yeah, let's just say it wouldn't go over very well. I forced myself to focus on a little more corporate talk before Dad said he needed to leave to get ready for a dinner engagement.
"One thing about Sue," Dad said to an aging board member, "she doesn't care if you forget a birthday or anniversary, but dinner engagements with her sister and brother-in-law are not to be taken lightly!"
They both chucked, and I wondered if Dad's third wife had actually ever become angry about anything. I couldn't see it. I gave Dad a quick kiss on the cheek and told him I would see him next weekend, and then I rushed down the hallway to get outside as quickly as I could. I pushed the button for the lobby level about thirty times, just in case it really did make the door close faster. Once the doors opened again, I stepped out of the elevator, trying to decide if I was going to feel relieved or devastated if I did not find Edward on the sidewalk outside the building.
The sun was peering out between two skyscrapers, and I could see the light shining through the spokes of the bicycle's wheels and the faint glow of Edward's cigarette. I walked slowly towards him.
"Hey," he said casually. He tossed the butt of the cigarette into the gutter and held out a small shopping bag towards me.
"What's this?" I asked.
"Shoes," he said with a shrug. He pointed down to the heels still squashing my toes. "You don't want to wear those anymore."
I peered into the little, unmarked, black bag and found a pair of pink Converse high-tops with small, black, cartoon kittens all over them.
"What am I supposed to do with these?" I asked.
"Put them on, obviously," he said. "You wear a seven-and-a-half, right?"
"Yes…how did you know that?"
That smile came back, this time with both sides of his mouth turning up and his teeth rubbing against the thin metal rings in his lip.
"I have a thing for feet," he said, and then blushed. He actually blushed. "Put them on – they're really comfortable. Here…"
He moved off the bike and held it steady, indicating that I should sit on the seat to change my shoes. As ridiculous as it was, my feet were killing me, and getting out of the heels sounded really, really good. I looked at the ridiculous shoes in the bag, then at my $1500 executive-wear designer skirt and blouse.
"I don't think they match my outfit," I told him.
"Who gives a shit?" he asked, looking at me quizzically. "We're not going to the fucking Candelabra downtown. No one is going to be looking at your shoes, and you'll feel better."
I couldn't really argue with his logic, but found myself looking around for anyone I might know exiting the building. When I didn't see anyone, I sat down on the bike and pulled off the heels. Once I had the Converse laced up, I dropped my dress shoes in the bag.
"What's wrong?" I asked when I noticed Edward glowering at the bag in my hand.
"I don't suppose you would let me burn those fuckers up, would you?"
"My shoes?" I asked, incredulous. "No! Of course not!"
"I figured," he grumbled.
"Why would you want to do that?"
He looked up to my face again and gave me the same questioning look he had before.
"They hurt you," he said with a shrug. "I don't like them."
He guided me on to the seat of the BMX and took off down the sidewalk in the same fashion we had before. I held tightly to the middle of the handlebars, with his hands on the outsides. His thumb reached over slightly and ran down the length of my little finger.
"Your skin is so soft," he said quietly, his lips near my ear. I felt my body shudder, whether at his touch or his soft voice, I didn't know. I leaned back just enough to feel his chest against my back as he veered off the sidewalk, on to the road and then back on the sidewalk across the street.
It wasn't long before Edward pulled into a side alley and parked his bike up next to a brick building. There was a white door propped open, and the smell of simmering tomato sauce and fresh bread wafted out into the air around us. Edward took my hand to help me off the bike, and then looked down at my fingers wrapped up in his. He glanced up at my eyes, quickly looked back down again, smiling that crooked smile and - holy crow – blushing again. He kept a light grip on my fingers and pulled me through the kitchen door.
"Isn't there a front door?"
"Sure," Edward said. "But it's all the way around in the front."
He led me through the bright white lights and stainless steel of the kitchen, calling out "yo" a couple of times and nodding his head at the kitchen staff. One of the guys with a floppy chef's hat whistled, and Edward told him to fuck off, but smiled when he said it. The kitchen erupted in laughter just as we reached a set of double-saloon doors that opened into a small dining room with about twelve tables in it. Each table had a little tiny votive candle and tiny vase with a single white rose in it. The linens were deep red and added to the atmospheric warmth emitted by the dark-stained hardwood floors.
It was quaint, cozy, and undoubtedly the most romantic place I had ever been.
"Hi Edward!" A cute little blonde hostess reached out and grazed her fingers down his arm. I bristled and glared at her. I mean, I realize this is a first date and all, but she doesn't necessarily know that. Even if she did, that was just rude. I stepped a little closer to Edward's side and wrapped the fingers of my free hand around his arm.
"Hey Tanya," Edward said, looking sideways at me. "This is Bella."
"Bella," Tanya said. She looked over my outfit, all the way down to my shoes, and I could have sworn she was smirking. "Right this way."
Tanya led us to the table in the middle of the small establishment, and I started to sit, but Edward pulled me back to his side.
"Not here," he said in a low voice. He turned to Tanya and pointed with his head. "Over on the other side of the fireplace."
"Fine," Tanya replied, flippant and flipping her hair. She took us around to the back of a large, round fireplace designed to sit in the middle of the room.
"This place has the best Italian food in the city," Edward said after we sat down and Tanya left. "Bruno makes everything from scratch – he even makes his own mozzarella. I worked here for awhile, and he showed me how to make it. It's really cool."
"That's sounds interesting," I said with a nod. "How long did you work here?"
"Just that one day."
"You worked here for one day?"
"Yeah, it doesn't take that long to make the cheese – just a few hours, and most of that is waiting for it to cool."
"That doesn't seem like much of a job," I mused.
"That's okay, I got paid in pizzas!" Edward laughed. "I got to use the cheese I made on it."
"So, where do you work now?" I asked, starting to fear the answer.
"Well, I'm kind of between jobs," Edward said, granting me a vision of his half-smile again. "I was working down at the pier with one of the crab boats a couple of weeks ago, but they were heading up to Alaska this week, and I didn't want to be away from my friends that long."
"Dare I ask how long you worked fishing for crabs?"
"Oh, I didn't do the actual fishing," he said, snickering again. "I went out on the boat and played my guitar while they were working. Once we got back, I helped them unload."
"Did you get paid in crabs?" I had to ask.
"Nah, I don't really like seafood," he said. "I just wanted to know what it was like on the boats. I'd seen them out in the water all my life, but I had never been on one."
"So you got actual money for that job?"
"Nah," he said again. "I just needed something on my resume."
I looked into his eyes, trying to decide if he was serious or not. His eyes were laughing, and he was biting those rings in his lip again.
"You're teasing me," I accused.
"Maybe a little," he admitted with a shrug. "So what were you interviewing for?"
"Swan Financials," I said, not really wanting to dig into this subject.
"What do you want to do?"
I considered saying something along the lines of "Absolutely nothing at my Dad's Company," but I decided that was probably a little too much information at this point.
"I'm looking into one of the opening executive positions," I finally said. "I graduate next month with my masters in business administration."
"Oh," he said. He scowled down at the table and started fiddling with the napkin-wrapped silverware.
A big guy dressed in all white stopped by the table at that point, calling out in lightly accented phrases.
"Edward! Good to see you again!"
"Hey Felix," Edward said, standing up and shaking the guy's hand. "I'd like you to meet Bella."
"Wonderful to meet you, Bella," he said, taking my hand and shaking it lightly. "Watch out for this one, he's a charmer."
I smiled and looked away, trying to force myself not to blush. I probably wasn't successful. When I glanced back at Edward, I saw he was blushing as well, so I decided not to worry about it too much.
"Do you know what you want tonight?" Felix asked, looking at me.
"Umm…I'm not sure yet," I said, looking down at the menu for the first time. "Edward? What are you getting?"
"I want a Caprice Salad," Edward said. "And a margarita pizza, bruschetta, the fettuccini Alfredo and a Coke. You got vanilla gelato today?"
"Of course," Felix responded. "Bruno made it this afternoon."
"Vanilla gelato for dessert."
I couldn't help but laugh.
"Are you going to eat all of that?"
"Nah," Edward said. "I like everything, so I can never pick what I want. I take the leftovers to Emmett and Jasper."
I shook my head at him, trying to figure out what the heck I had gotten myself into with this guy. I glanced over the menu once more and decided on the mushroom ravioli.
"Are you in school?" I asked when Felix left with our order.
"No," Edward said. He didn't look at me, and didn't seem to be prepared to elaborate. Just as I was about to change the subject, he spoke up again. "I had to drop out."
"I got hurt in high school," he said, shrugging again. "I did a lot of track and field, mostly pole-vaulting. I hit my head coming down when I was sixteen and ended up in a coma for a couple of days. I spent about a month in the hospital before I could go home. I have trouble reading now."
"I'm sorry," I said, not sure how to respond.
"It's okay," he said. The corners of his mouth turned up, but it didn't hit his eyes this time. "I graduated from high school, at least."
"How old are you?" I asked, immediately regretting the question.
"Does it matter?" he asked.
"A little," I said. I tried to laugh it off. "I mean, can you at least buy me a drink?"
"No," he replied and flashed that incredible half grin again. "But if you want one, you can order it and I'll slip you some cash when no one is looking."
I think my mouth must have dropped open as I stared in disbelief. Edward suddenly looked away, and his hand went up into his hair, making it impossibly messier than it already was.
"I'm nineteen," he blurted out.
I looked across the table at him, meeting his eyes and trying not to register shock in mine, but I could tell by his expression he saw it anyway.
"Wow," I finally said softly. I waited for him to ask me how old I was, but he didn't, so I decided to offer it up anyway. "I'm twenty-four."
"I figured," he said simply.
"Four years in undergrad, plus two for your masters. Assuming you started college right after high school and didn't fall behind at all, you would be twenty-four."
I couldn't fault his logic.
"Is that going to bother you?" he asked, his intense eyes boring into mine again. "The age difference, I mean?"
"I don't know," I answered honestly. "If we were in a relationship, maybe…"
"What did you like studying in college the most?"
His abrupt change in topic was extremely welcome, but there was still distance in his eyes that wasn't there before.
"I liked a lot of things," I said. "Obviously I had a lot of accounting and finance classes, as well as economics…"
"Are those the classes you liked the most?"
"They were needed for my major."
"What did you take that you liked?"
"Well, the past two years I have mostly focused on the classes I needed for my masters," I told him. "There wasn't a lot of time for anything extra. I took a couple of lit classes."
"Literature?" Edward's eyes brightened again. "What kind?"
"English and American, also one of German Women writers. Those were all during my undergrad, though."
"Who is your favorite author?"
"I have a lot of them," I admitted. "It's hard to choose just one. I love Austen, Bronte, Shelley, Poe, Tolkien, Anne Rice and Stephen King – lots of different ones."
"Sweet," he said, and his smile glowed with the light of the fireplace and the light from his eyes. "I loved the Lord of the Rings movies."
"They were all right," I replied with a shrug. "I usually hate it when they take a great book and ruin it with a movie though."
"Ruin it?" Edward's eyes widened. "Those were some of the best movies ever. I mean, the cave troll alone would have made a great flick! And you can't tell me that Orlando Bloom wasn't the most awesome Legolas there could ever be."
"And that's just the sort of things I'm talking about. It was journey about loyalty and friendship, and the movie had to make it a constant bloodbath just to keep teenage boys entertained."
"That's an extremely narrow minded view of film," Edward argued. "Actually, if you look at…"
We had a fantastic dinner, and spent the next two hours talking about every book we had ever read. Though I had a little trouble keeping the five year age gap from bothering me, both the food and the conversation had been wonderful. For someone who had dropped out of college, Edward had obviously been remarkably well read before he was hurt. We had similar tastes in authors and had argued half the night about whether or not books should ever be turned into movies. He had great points to his arguments, but not enough to change my mind. He might have had difficulty reading now, but whatever was wrong with him obviously didn't affect his intelligence in the slightest. We laughed, and I was having such a great time, the next thing I knew we were headed back to his BMX bike and I was agreeing to go back to his apartment with him.
"Yo, dude," Edward said into the phone. "I'm coming home tonight. Just wanted to warn ya that I'm bringing someone with me. So, I dunno…take the night off or something? We'll be there in about ten…yeah, that's cool. See ya in a bit."
He flipped the phone closed and shoved it into his jeans pocket. I tried to figure out just what in the heck I thought I was doing.
"Your roommate?" I asked, trying not to show the nervousness I was beginning to feel. My eyes focused on the rings decorating his face and the ink decorating his arm. I had figured out the tattoo around his arm was a tail of some sort, but I hadn't mustered up the courage to ask him about it yet. Edward seemed great, but I didn't really know him. He wasn't exactly the type Daddy was going to welcome, and that by itself should have been enough for me to call it a night.
"Nah, just the help," he said, laughing. "Newton stays at my place 'cause I'm not there too much. I usually stay with Jazz and Em. I like it better there. I just didn't want to scare him or anything."
"Where do your friends live?"
"Lower west-side," Edward said. He maneuvered the bike away from the wall and held it steady with one hand so I could get on. Then we were off, and the cool, night breeze tossed my hair around my shoulders.
The area he mentioned was definitely not a nice neighborhood. My anxiety began to grow, wondering where Edward could live that would make him rather spend his time in the slums. I wanted to ask, but I had already agreed to go back to his apartment and didn't want to hurt his feelings. At the same time, I knew this was a really, really stupid thing to do. I hadn't even told anyone I was going out tonight or who I was with, and now I was going to this guy's apartment.
"Edward," I said, and he leaned his head closer to mine as he continued to pedal down the sidewalk. I saw the entrance to the subway about two blocks away, and figured this really was for the best. "Could you stop a minute, please?"
"Yeah, sure," he said, and pulled off to the sidewalk's edge, dismounted and put one hand on my shoulder. He leaned over and looked at me. "You okay? You aren't motion sick or anything, are you?"
"No, I'm not," I said. I slid off the seat and bent down to start untying the shoes.
"What are you doing?" Edward asked. He knelt down next to me and placed one hand over the laces to stop my movements.
"This really isn't a good idea," I said. What was I thinking? Going to some guy's apartment when I just met him, and no one even knew where I was? Granted, I felt like I knew him a little now, and I really didn't think he would hurt me, but he was practically a kid, a college dropout and…and…whatever else he was. A punk? A goth? I had no idea what he was supposed to be called. It didn't matter. I couldn't be with him. "I should go home, and I should give you the shoes back…"
"The shoes are yours," Edward said, his eyes darkened and narrowed at me. "I don't want them back. Why do you want to go home?"
"I fucked something up, didn't I?" He reached behind me and pushed the bike backwards, allowing it to crash-land against the side of the building. I hoped the package of leftover Alfredo wasn't spilled. With a slight thump, he dropped to the sidewalk on his backside and his hands went up into his hair. "I'm sorry – whatever it was I did. I didn't mean to piss you off."
"You didn't piss me off," I tried to assure him. "This is just…a little weird for me. I can't do this."
"What's weird?" Edward asked, his eyes still narrowed. He released one of his hands from his hair and used it to pull a cigarette out of his shirt pocket. He took a long drag off of it, and then looked back up at me. He looked so…confused. "I thought you were having a good time."
"I did have a good time, Edward," I told him. "I mean, I am having a good time. It's not that I don't want to, it's just…not a good idea."
"Going back to your apartment with you."
"I didn't mean it that way," Edward said. His eyebrows scrunched together as he furrowed his brow. "I wanted to spend more time with you. If the restaurant hadn't been closing, we could have stayed there. I can ask Bruno, he might let us stay there for a while longer, but we'll have to hurry or he'll be gone already."
"No, don't do that," I said. I wanted to sit down, but I couldn't figure out what to do with myself. Edward was sitting on the ground, the bike was in a small pile behind me and I was in a skirt that was way too tight for sitting next to him. "I'm a little nervous."
He looked up and me and tilted his head a little to one side.
"I would never hurt you, Bella," Edward's eyes were dark and intense. "Or take advantage of you. Never."
"I know you wouldn't, Edward," I said, and immediately knew it to be true. "I don't know if this is the right thing to do."
"Do you want to spend more time with me?" Edward stared straight into my eyes.
"Yes," I said, "but…"
"If you want to, what's stopping you?"
Images of my father's face bounced around in my head – every expression from his deep disappointment to his extreme ire face made an appearance. The potential opinions of some of my friends – Jessica, Lauren, even Jacob – echoed through my head. I was an up and coming debutante expected to be the future of the financial business in this city. It wasn't just a matter of whether or not I should be in this guy's apartment – I shouldn't even be seen with him.
"It doesn't really look right…"
"You are worried about how this looks?" Edward's dark eyes glared at me, his head tilted off to one side a bit, and then he looked to the left and the right, down the nearly deserted streets. "Who's going to see you?"
He had a point there. If his friends lived on the lower-west side, where ever he was taking me was not likely to be a spot frequented by my father's golf buddies.
"All right," I heard myself say. "You are right, and I'm being silly. Let's go."
Edward's smile came back almost instantly, and he jumped up, righted the bike and we were on our way again in no time. Before long, we were riding past the high-rise department store buildings and approaching the end of the block.
"Almost there," Edward said into my ear, his warm breath sending chills down my spine. He turned abruptly into a parking garage under the Marquise Apartment building and screeched to a halt near the elevator, wrapping one arm around my waist to keep me from falling off.
"Edward," a man dressed in a dark blue suit walked up and took a hold of one of the handlebars. "Good to see you again."
"Hey, Tyler," Edward greeted him by knocking his closed fist against Tyler's shoulder. "This is Bella."
"Good evening, Miss," Tyler said with a nod. "Welcome."
I was about as confused as I could get. I couldn't even begin to guess as to the rent in this building, so there was no way this kid who normally stayed with friends in the slums could possibly live here. Tyler took the bike and rolled it over to the elevator, inserted a key and the doors opened for us. He reached around and hit the button for the fifty-second floor, then stepped back out again.
"I'll make sure your bike is stored properly. Do you know when you will be leaving?"
"Not sure yet," Edward said, looking at me through his lashes.
"I'll keep it close by then," Tyler said with a nod. "I'll bring the car around as well, if you think you'll be needing it."
"Nah," Edward said. "Don't waste time with it. I'll call ya if I need it."
"Very good, sir."
We entered the elevator and I just stared at him as it began to rise.
"Not what you were expecting?" Edward said with a smile.
"You live here?"
"Not often," he said. "But yeah, this is my place."
"The whole top floor," he confirmed. "It's fucking insane. Way too big for one person."
"How can you…?"
"Long story." He laughed again. "But I'll tell you tonight, if you really want to know."
The doors opened into a large foyer, tastefully decorated with original prints of the city and fresh flowers. Edward walked in and took off his shoes, motioning for me to do the same.
"My mom was always a nut about no shoes in the house," he said. "It stuck with me."
He took my hand and led me through the entryway and into a huge great room with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the city and a huge fireplace. There was a black leather couch and a loveseat, as well as mahogany coffee and end tables. There were also two florescent pink bean bag chairs sitting in front of a gigantic television.
"Edward, this place is incredible."
"Good evening," a voice said behind me, which caused me to jump and let out a little screech. Edward tightened his grip on my hand and rubbed his thumb over my knuckles.
"Hey, Mike," he said. "This is Bella."
"Good to meet you, Bella," Mike said, holding out his hand. I shook it briefly and echoed his reply. "I'll be going now. Call if you need anything."
"Will do," Edward responded. He gave Mike a high-five as he walked out of the room and towards the elevator. A moment later, Mike was gone and we were – as far as I could tell – alone.
"I've got movies if you want to watch something."
Edward stood in front of a cabinet, one hand in his hair and tugging at the ends. He danced from one foot to the other, then looked up at me, his cheeks red.
"They're mostly movies based on books." He let out a quick, nervous laugh. My laugh was more genuine, and he seemed to relax a little.
"I think I'll pass," I said.
"Do you want a Coke or something?"
What I really wanted was a glass of wine, but I didn't say so.
"Maybe just some water?"
Edward walked up three short, hardwood steps to the raised kitchen area and pulled a glass out of the cabinet. He filled it with ice and filtered water, grabbed a can of coke out of the fridge and brought them both back to the living area. He handed me my water, then plopped down on one of the bean bag chairs.
I looked from the comfortable looking leather couch to the floppy bean bag chair on the floor next to Edward. I pulled a bit at the edge of my skirt, and tried to figure out if there was any way I could possibly sit down without ripping the hem and/or falling right on my face.
"Oh, shit!" Edward jumped up out of the chair, spilling the Coke in his hand all over the floor. He cursed again, put the can on a coaster on the coffee table and ran out of the room. He was back in less than a minute, holding a bundle of clothes, which he thrust at me. "They won't fit right, but you'll be able to sit better."
I looked at the pair of turquoise yoga pants and a beige tank top that were just a little too big for me. They obviously weren't Edward's.
"My Mom's," he said. I could have sworn he had mind reading abilities.
"Will she mind?"
"Um…no," Edward grabbed a towel from the kitchen and started cleaning the Coke off the carpet. "Both my parents are dead."
"Oh, crap…Edward, I'm sorry." I reached one hand out towards him, but wasn't sure what I planned to do with it, so I dropped it back to my side.
"It's okay," he said with a shrug. "It's been a couple of years. There's a bathroom down the hall – second door on the left."
"I'll go change."
When I came back in the more comfortable clothing, the Coke mess was cleaned up and both of our drinks were sitting on the coffee table. Edward was rinsing out the towel in the kitchen sink. He looked over his shoulder at me and smiled.
"That looks a lot easier to get around in," he said. He hopped down the three stairs and flopped back into the bean bag, motioning me to do the same. "Why do you wear that stuff, anyway?"
"I'll be working in the corporate world," I said. "It's what you wear."
"What does that stuff have to do with your job? Couldn't you do the job just as well in a pair of jeans?"
"I suppose so," I responded. I had never really thought about it. It was just what you wear in corporate America. "But people are expecting a certain look. If you want to convince them you will take care of their investments, they have to see you as a professional."
"Doesn't Swan Financials already have a good reputation?"
"Yes, very good. We're a leader in the industry."
"I thought so." He smiled that half smile at me, and I was fairly certain I was going to end up staining the crotch of his Mom's yoga pants if he kept doing that. "If you didn't, I might have to pay attention to what was happening with my money, and I really don't want to fuck around with all that shit."
"You're invested with us?"
"Us?" he questioned. "I thought you just interviewed there today. Did you get the job?"
It was my turn to blush scarlet.
"Well, you see – it was really only an interview in name," I tried to explain. "I already have the job. My father is Charles Swan."
I sat back and waited for the shift in attitude that always occurred. Sometimes I truly hated my family name. The people in this town seemed to think we needed to be treated like Rockefellers or something. I hated it. Dad loved it.
"Oh, I got it," Edward said. He tipped his soft drink can up and drained it. "Yeah, my Dad did a lot of business with Swan Financial. Most of the money's still there. I don't really pay much attention to it. All the bills are paid automatically for this place, and I only use the account directly to pay Newton and shit. Sometimes I'll use the credit card, like tonight, but not often."
He shrugged, half-smiled and blushed again.
"I guess I still owe you a story," he said, waving his hand around in the air and indicating the penthouse apartment.
"Yes, you do," I agreed. "Will you tell me about your parents as well?"
"They are a big part of it," he said with a wry smile.
"I guess that should have been obvious, huh?" I smiled back, hoping I hadn't sounded flippant or anything. Edward smiled and began speaking.
"My parents were awesome," Edward started. "They both worked really hard, but they would at least try to make time for me when they could. One of them would always be at my major track meets and whatever. Mom said I was her miracle baby – she wasn't supposed to be able to have any, and ended up with a hysterectomy right after I was born. They were so proud of me, and I always felt loved and accepted. Even after the accident, when I wasn't a straight A student any longer and I wasn't allowed to vault or even run track, they still said they were proud of me for how hard I was working to finish high school. I thought I was still going to get through college at that time, too, and I was going to pay my own way. Both of them came from families with money, but they also both made their own fortunes as well. They were starting to talk about retirement when my Dad – he had a pilot's license – flew them to our place in North Carolina."
"It was our regular family trip, and I always went with them. The three of us flew out there about once a month. I had just gotten out of the hospital after the last surgery, and the doctor said I shouldn't be on a plane – something about the air pressure changes and possible swelling – I don't really remember. They were going to forget the usual weekend voyage all together, but I knew they needed a break, and I told them to go. A bunch of my friends were going to throw me some kind of get well party or whatever, so I wouldn't be on my own or anything. They finally agreed to go without me. No one knows exactly what happened – turbulence or what – but Dad lost control of the plane and they were both killed."
Edward reached up with the back of his hand and swept moisture away from his eyes. I maneuvered out of my bean bag chair and knelt before him, taking his hands. He glanced at my shyly, and looked down to our joined hands. He shifted over a little in the bean bag, making room for me to sit next to him. I crawled in beside him and wrapped my arms around his waist. I felt his arms over my shoulders, holding me against his chest.
"Thanks," he said softly.
"You're welcome," I responded, not really sure what else I could say.
"I spent a lot of time thinking I should have been with them – that we all should have been killed. Then I spent a lot of time deciding it was my fault, because I told them to go without me. I don't feel that way anymore, but it took a lot of time to work through it. I definitely learned something, though."
"Nothing matters more than the people in your life," Edward continued. "Your relationships with those around you are what defines you and makes you real. My parents live on because I remember them, and I see how what they did affects everything I do today. They don't live on in the stuff in this penthouse, the family property in Wales or the money in the trust funds."
"It's usually lonely here," Edward said. "I spend time with my friends in their crappy little overcrowded apartment because they are real. They have no idea how much money I have, though they know my parents left me something, but they do know that money means nothing. I'd rather eat grilled cheese made on a hotplate at their place than have some chef cook up filet mignon and eat it here alone. Nothing here means anything, because I don't share it with anyone else."
Edward was quiet for a minute, his fingers slowly tracing up and down my back.
"I think you are closer to your parents now than I ever have been to mine," I said softly. "Mom is off in her own little world – I think in Paris now – and Dad is…well, he's just Dad. I've never known him."
"Does he work a lot?" Edward asked.
"Does all the time count as a lot?" I laughed humorlessly. "When he isn't at the office, he's having dinner with clients or golfing with board members. He's never not working."
"He sounds dedicated."
"He is," I agreed. "The business is very important to him. That's one of the reasons he says he won't trust it to anyone but me."
"Well, I guess my money will continue to safely accrue interest, then."
"What is your last name?" I asked, wondering if his family was one of the bigger clients whose names I would recognize.
"Cullen," he said softly, and I couldn't help my gasp.
As soon as I heard him say it, the whole story he recounted came back to me. Doctors Carlisle and Esme Cullen, tragically killed in a small-engine plane accident a little less than two years ago. It was all over the society pages for a month. I vaguely recalled mention of a single heir, and obviously Edward was he. The Cullens were one of the top five clients at Swan Financial, going back to the turn of the century for both families. Their portfolio was in the billions.
"Oh my God," I heard myself mutter. I lifted my head up off his chest so I could look at him better. I tried to remember if I had seen pictures of his family before. I probably had, but I couldn't remember. "I had no idea…"
"It doesn't matter," Edward said, succinctly cutting me off. His eyes looked down into mine, and his expression was pained. "Please, don't let it make any difference."
"It doesn't," I said, because it was true. Even with his name, my father would never see past the metal and the ink. My friends would never see anything but the boyish face and the BMX bicycle of the guy five years my junior. No one would see past the lack of college degree and the numerous friends living in the worst part of town.
"Can I kiss you yet?" he asked, his voice quiet again, and his eyes looking pleadingly into mine.
"Yes," I replied.
He tilted his head down and pressed a soft, gentle kiss against my lips. He hesitated only a moment before pulling back and granting me the glorious smile, times ten. It lit up his entire face…no, his entire body...no, wait – it lit up the whole fucking room it was so blinding.
"Again?" he asked.
I could only nod.
His lips met mine a second time, and again he was gentle and slow, leaving quiet, closed mouth kisses on my lips. He moved from my top lip to the bottom one, then to one side before the other. The metal from his lip-rings glided smoothly over my skin. I reached out my tongue to taste the rings, and quickly found his tongue touching mine, first just the tip, then wrapping around and sucking my tongue into his mouth.
He tasted like warm summer dusk, vanilla ice cream and Coca-Cola with the slightest hint of his last cigarette lingering behind. He moaned against my mouth and leaned back in the bean-bag chair, pulling me slightly on top of him.
I opened my mouth and let him inside, his tongue reaching up and stroking my lips first before tasting me as well. Despite the desire I felt behind his kiss, he remained gentle, quiet, and completely, incredibly sweet.
I cupped his face in my hands, ran my fingers over the rough stubble on his cheeks, noting the contrast between his rough jaw and his smooth lips, and pushed against him to deepen the kiss. My tongue ran over his top lip, then the bottom one. The metal loops slipped and slid across the tip of my tongue.
"Does it hurt?" I asked.
"Does what hurt?"
"The rings – the ones in your lip. Does it hurt to kiss?"
"Does this hurt?" Edward's teeth gently gripped my lower lip and pulled, biting and sucking it into his mouth before slowly releasing it.
"No…that feels awesome."
"The rings kind of feel like that," he said with a half smile. "Suck on them."
I blinked a couple of times, a little surprised by his bluntness, but my curiosity overcame any potential hesitation I might have had. I leaned close to him again and wrapped my lips over the top and bottom of his lower lip, effectively trapping the rings in my mouth. I ran my tongue over the metal, which was warm from our kissing, before I did as he said and sucked a little.
Edward moaned, and his grip behind my back increased, crushing my chest to his. I pulled back and let go of his lip, and his eyes flew open.
"Was that too much?" I asked.
"Fuck, no," Edward said. "That felt great - don't stop!"
I sucked his lower lip into my mouth again, caressing the rings with my tongue and my lips, getting to know the feel of them before my tongue found his mouth. He let me lead for a while, then ran his hand up to the back of my head, and pressed harder against me, his tongue invading my mouth like the Roman army invading Gaul – relentless and all-powerful.
I have no idea how long we sat in a fluorescent pink bean-bag chair, making out like a couple of high school kids, but I knew my lips were actually starting to get sore and my bladder desperately needed a break. I pulled back from him.
"I think I need a minute," I said quietly, trying not to blush.
"Are you okay?" Edward asked, his eyes searching mine.
"I'm good," I said. "I just need to…um…use the bathroom."
"Oh, okay – no problem." Edward stood up; taking me with him and helping me turn around so I was facing the hallway. I stepped into the bathroom again and looked over my flushed face. My breaths were still coming in pants and my heart was still trying to jump right through my ribcage so it could do a little happy dance on the bathroom counter. I tried to calm myself down a bit as I took care of business, washed my hands and splashed some cold water on my face.
I came out of the bathroom and didn't see Edward in the living room any longer. After a quick look around, I felt a light breeze and followed it out to a balcony door, where Edward was leaning against the glass and metal rail and smoking a cigarette.
"Hey," he said softly, and that half smile crossed his face again as he glanced at me, then looked out over the city. He flicked ash over the side and sighed.
"Everything okay?" I asked.
"Yeah," he said with a bit of a snicker. "I'm just trying to figure out what to do so I don't fuck this up."
"What do you mean?"
"I want to ask you to spend the night with me," Edward said. "But I don't want you to get the wrong idea. I just want you to stay and sleep with me."
"Wait a sec." He took a long drag off the cigarette and crushed it under his heel. "See, I'm already saying it wrong. I just don't want you to go. I want you to stay so I can make you French toast for breakfast in the morning. I swear I'm not trying to get you to fuck me or anything. I'm not like that. I haven't had sex since the last steady girlfriend I had, and that was four months ago. Shit, now I'm just babbling like an idiot."
"Edward, you don't have to tell me this," I said, secretly thrilled he didn't appear to be a complete whore or anything. Not that he couldn't be one if he wanted to be, with his looks and that smile. Regardless, I was glad to hear it had been as long for him – a little longer, even – as it had been for me. Not that I was planning on sleeping with him or anything…
"I know," he said. "I just don't want you to think I'm like that. I really like you, and I want to spend more time with you. If you leave, I might not ever see you again."
"Of course you would," I told him.
"You don't know that," he insisted. "The last thing my mom said to me was 'see you on Monday.' She didn't mean for it to happen. She didn't know we'd never lay eyes on each other again. Life's a lot more fragile than you think. I don't want to assume you aren't going to be hit by a bus or have a fluke medical condition flare up all of the sudden, and risk never making you breakfast. I'd regret never making you breakfast. Please stay with me."
"It seems fairly unlikely…" I started to say there nothing was going to happen to me. I wanted to reassure him that sort of thing didn't really happen, but I couldn't say that to him. He knew that wasn't always the case. He had lived through just such a fluke, and anything I said now would be a slap in the face to him.
I tried to wrap my head around what he was asking. He wanted me to spend the night with him so he could make me breakfast in the morning. He wanted to spend more time with me, and I wasn't ready to leave just yet, either. It was, however, getting late, and the subway trains were going to get fewer and farther between. Not to mention you really didn't want to ride the subway after midnight anyway – too many crazies.
But stay overnight with a guy I just met? Even for college students that was pressing the limit a little. What would Jessica say? No – scratch that. Jessica would already be dry-humping him. What about Lauren, the voice of social reason? She'd never get past the piercings, even if she did hear his last name. My father…well, Dad would probably just lie down and have a coronary.
Edward reached over and ran his hand over my cheek, stroking my cheekbone with his thumb.
"Please stay," he said, and brushed his lips against mine. "You could use one of the guest rooms if you want, but I'd rather you stayed in my room."
"I don't know," I replied, trying hard not to get lost in his eyes again.
"I'd like to make out with you again, if that's okay."
"You have a knack for changing the subject," I accused him. Edward laughed.
"Sometimes certain topics need to be shut down," he told me. "People like to harp on the things they can't do anything about, and it gets them all worried, upset and even angry. Either you will decide to stay with me in my bed, in the guest room or not at all. At some point, you'll decide, and I can't control your decision. So, I change the subject to something else so you aren't just spending all your time being anxious about it, and I won't be, either. I would rather be enjoying your company."
"You sure are smart for your age," I mused.
"I've lived a lot in the past few years," Edward said. "I think the only real mistakes I have made have been when I didn't tell someone how I felt or didn't do what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it. You never know what tomorrow's going to bring, so don't wait to do or say something important. You only make real mistakes when you refuse to live in the moment. I guess it's my life motto now."
Taking his advice, whether he meant it to be advice or not, I reached over and took his face in my hands, bringing my lips to his. The night air had cooled off the thin silver rings, and the contrast between the metal and his soft, warm lips was enticing. I reached my tongue out and ran it over the little hoops, warming them. Edward's tongue pushed past my lips and stroked across my tongue, slowly caressing it and tasting me.
"Stay with me…please," Edward mumbled between kisses.
"I'll stay," I replied. I felt his tongue reach back into my mouth and his hands clasped the sides of my face. His mouth found my chin, my neck and my shoulder before making the trail back again to my lips.
I didn't know if what I was doing was a good idea, or how it would look, or how my father would react if he found out, but I was going to take Edward's advice, at least for now. I wasn't going to count this night among my regrets. I was going to seize this moment, and I was going to do what I wanted to do and stay with him, consequences be damned.
Maybe I would learn a little.
Chapter End Notes:
So what do you think of shy and cocky Bikeward? Hit review and let me know!
Thanks to Mariamaral & StAngelS for coming up with the initial idea! I've had a lot of fun coming up with this!
For more information on Judging Books and my other work, visit the blog at http:/shaysavage(dot)blogspot(dot)com/
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