|Negative Twenty and Falling
Author: katinki PM
COMPLETE O/S. Two weeks, a few cups of cocoa, a mountain of snow, a pair of mittens, and one Mr. Perfect-Gorgeous. I present to you: Skiward. Just a little bit of wintery fluff so that you don't think I'm always so doom and gloom. AH.Rated: Fiction M - English - Romance - Edward & Bella - Chapters: 2 - Words: 20,666 - Reviews: 301 - Favs: 813 - Follows: 231 - Published: 12-13-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7632850
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
As usual, SM owns the original sparkle-vamp, Edward Cullen, as well as all his sparkly friends.
This is just a bit of winter fun… Just to prove that I can write fluffier stuff, albeit of the slightly sarcastic variety. Yes, you read that right, winter fluff. From me.
Unbeta'd and barely edited, so just ignore the inevitable flubs. It's also really long for a oneshot. I suppose I could have broken it up into eleventy billion drabbles to increase review count, lol, but where's the fun in that?
For all of you, for tolerating and supporting my usual non-fluff this past year, this is an angst-free zone. Oh, and the first bit is especially for my beauteous ficwife, Scooterstale, who works way too hard and who also lives in an igloo. Er, I mean, in Canada. ;D
Note: There's a bit of sport-specific vocabulary in this little ficlet. I'm posting a long ass author note/glossary-ish thing as a second chapter for those who know nothing about snow skiing.
In other news, it's going to be a cold one up north and in the higher elevations. Expect temperatures around -20 degrees. Be sure to bundle up and minimize time outdoors.
"Are you serious?" I mutter, glaring from the TV in the corner to the pathetically thin stack of winter clothes sitting by my suitcase.
He said it again. That totally wasn't my hearing. The weatherman actually said those words out loud and he didn't laugh.
Negative. Twenty. Degrees.
And apparently, that's the high.
Okay, fine, I think to myself as I test the thickness of my one and only (and new) parka. That's in Celsius – damned Canadians – but I remember high school science. That's still below zero in Fahrenheit. It's negative four to be exact. And that's… really freaking cold. Like deathly cold. Like my blood will freeze in my veins and I better not lick metal objects (not that I go around doing that) cold. Yeah so… cold.
See, for pretty much… forever, I've lived in the desert of Arizona – Phoenix actually – where there are only two possible forecasts: (very) hot and dry and pretty warm and dry. Like year round, too. Not snowing and negative twenty. Or negative four. Whatever. I wear shorts and tank tops at Christmas, not long johns and battery operated socks.
Damn that Alice.
As I shove pants and turtlenecks and a scarf I've never worn in the biggest suitcase I have, for the hundredth time, I curse myself for saying yes to her. Sure, she's my best friend and I love her like a sister, but I should be going with our other roommates to Cabo for New Years', not to Banff. Where it's negative twenty. Did I mention that already?
I sigh as I pull the tags off a pair of chunky black mittens (that look remarkably like my oven mitts) before finally stuffing them into the side pocket. I don't know how you do anything in mittens – like write, or drive, or eat French fries – but if I want to keep my fingers, I have a feeling I'll need them. And maybe a portable space heater with backpack straps. Do they make those?
Considering my aversion to less than balmy weather, I honestly have no idea why I said yes when Alice asked if I'd please, please, please go with her to the mountains of Alberta in the middle of winter.
Okay, that's a lie.
I know exactly why.
It's because the pictures are stunning and the condo/cabin/whatever it's called that they've rented looks amazing – big, rustic, and with bathtubs the size of a small swimming pools. It's because I'm frazzled after dealing with my mom (who I love more than anything but who drives me insane) for five solid days and I really want two weeks of peace and quiet before I start my last semester before grad school. No TV or phone or laptop, just a nice crackling fire, a pretty view, a book, and some cocoa with a little Bailey's sloshed in. The mountains are good for that kind of thing, right?
I also reluctantly tell myself that this is a good trial run for next winter at Northwestern. I still can't believe I'm picking Evanston over Miami. Well, I can. Getting to study under Dr. Bill Berty is probably worth some frostbite. But ugh.
Breaking my abstraction, there's an obnoxious honk outside, and through the window, I catch a glimpse of a bright yellow Impala pulling up by my building. Grimacing, I check my passport, my tickets, and throw a wad of cash in my handbag.
And… as I'm lugging my baggage down the rusty stairs outside my apartment, I remind myself one last time that my reasons for going are sound and that they have absolutely nothing to do with a certain older brother named Edward, who will be there, too. And who I've been told is now single. And who I may or may not have lusted over for the past four years. Quietly, of course.
Nope, Mr. Perfect-Gorgeous has nothing to do with it at all.
So going from 70 degrees to 0 degrees (Fahrenheit) in a matter of six hours can do a number on your system.
Like a five-year old, my nose is somehow simultaneously stopped up and running. Worse, my head feels like it wants to explode. Really, if I didn't know it was a physical impossibility, I'd swear my eyeballs were twice their normal size from all the pressure behind my eye sockets.
Unfortunately, about the time I blow my nose again, I catch my reflection in the vanity mirror. Much to my chagrin (who says this?), I note that my normally pale (like cadaver pale) skin is sporting what appears to be a Rudolph nose with matching clown cheeks. So on top of feeling like ass, I look utterly ridiculous. There's no stopping the grumbled curses that spill out, because now is not the time to look like I've caught the plague.
Not that I care what he thinks. Nope, not at all.
When I turn my trusty rental car (with all-wheel drive, of course) up a narrow, wending road banked by mounds of snow on one side and virtually nothing in the way of a guardrail on the other, I decide that GPS is probably the most important invention of my generation. While the landscape is beautiful and pristine and all that I knew it would be, this condo/cabin/whatever seems like it's out in the middle of nowhere, not just at the top of a mountain. Never mind the wooden signs that point to the slopes and the line of BMW X5s that I meet, it still feels like I've been plopped down somewhere in an icy wilderness, and were it not for my Garmin, I'd be shit out of luck and lost and maybe somewhere freezing to death.
As I continue to blindly follow the little pink line on the screen, I also conclude that if GPS is the greatest invention ever, heated seats have to be a close second. Because just like the guy on TV said, judging by the heavy blanket of white on the ground and tufts of cotton covering the trees, it's absolutely frigid here. In fact, it's so cold that I think my mind blocked out the whole trip from the airport rental desk to the car. I just remember steam coming out of my mouth, which is just wrong on so many levels. So, driving into what looks like a white on white star field simulation (more snow!), I try very hard to not think about having to eventually leave the comfy confines of my car.
Instead, because clearly I have no self-control, I spend my time wondering if Edward looks any different from the last time I saw him.
Feeling only slightly stalkerish, I wonder if he's let his hair grow out again. In the four years I've known him – or known his sister, rather – I've seen that rust-colored mop at every possible length. I've seen it long. I've seen it super-short (I don't know what he was thinking two summers ago). And then there's my favorite: that perfect in between length where he wears it all tousled in that sexy bedhead kind of way that less than 1% of the world's population can pull off.
And of course, since I like to torture myself, thinking of sexy bedhead makes me think of everything else that goes along with it: the matching sexy bedroom eyes that flash bright green when he laughs, the two-day scruff he always seems to wear (as if he just can't be bothered with a razor), the stupidly attractive angles of his face – sharp, symmetrical, and entirely masculine – and let's not forget, that lean frame of his that promises perfectly cut muscles beneath the clothes. Not that I've seen said perfectly cut muscles. Um, not that I haven't tried either.
Damn it. I said I wouldn't go there.
But really, I muse, it's kind of impossible to not go there when your roommate's brother is the embodiment of your own personal male ideal. Worse when he's not only the hottest thing you've ever seen, but also smart – I mean, he's finishing up a M.S. in some specialty field in microbiology and planning to go to med school, for God's sake.
But worst of all? When he's nice.
In what universe can that happen! I want to scream.
Apparently… it can in mine. Go figure.
As such, as I finally pull into a spot next to a crazy big jeep and stare through the windshield at the snow covered condo/cabin/freaking chalet, my palms break out into a sweat and my heart rate ticks up in time.
"Edward Cullen…" I whisper, pulling on my oven mitts/mittens as if dressing for war. "This time, you're mine."
Okay, or not. Who am I kidding?
I'm allowed all of thirty seconds to catch my (frozen) breath before a pair of slender arms squeezes it out of me and jerks me through the door.
"Bella!" Alice squeals, almost climbing me in her excitement. "Yay! I'm so glad you made it! Oh, my God, you're going to love it here! I have your room ready! And I can't wait til you see the lodge! And the spa! And, oh! Jasper's here! And we are so back together. One look and wham! I'm so happy! Gah, I'm so glad you're here!"
She's not on speed. I swear it. Just caffeine, and judging from the twitchy grip on my arm, a lot of it. And well, she's just being herself, Alice. Roommate, best friend, confidant, scary shopper, and overall life enthusiast. Sometimes I laugh at her, but most of the time, it's with her. She's the yin to my yang, the Starsky to my Hutch. Yes, I'm twenty-two but I know who they are. I think my mom is still in love with Paul Michael Glasser. Don't ask.
But instantly I'm sincerely excited for my roommate. Alice has been miserable since the day she and Jasper broke up five months ago, and it's killed me seeing her unhappy. They're opposites in every way, including where they currently live, but talk about two people who belong together. They do, and deep down, I knew it was just a matter of time before he wised up. He's a decent guy, just stupid sometimes. Of course, if he hurts her again, I'll cut him.
"Hey, Al," I laugh, hugging her back once she finally stops squeezing me to death. She's the only friend I have who is shorter than me, and that's counting the four-inch spikes of black hair. "Sounds like you've been busy."
She pulls away, grinning from ear to ear. "Absolutely. Jazzy drove up with Edward from UofW. Completely unexpected. Spent last week with us when Mom and Dad were here. He said he wanted me back and that he was so stupid for not handling the distance thing. I thought I was going to die. But he's been amazing. I really think things are going to work out."
Attempting to be a good friend, I try to concentrate on her and ignore the flutter in my stomach when she says his name. I also try my best to not crane my neck around to see if he's nearby. Even so, it takes me a second to process everything she said.
"Wait, they drove? How far is that? Jesus."
"I know, right!" Alice giggles. "It's ridiculous. Like 12 hours or something. But Edward has new skis and crap and he went on and on about how he didn't want the idiots at the airport messing with them."
"It's true," I hear behind me. All the vertebrae in my spine immediately snap to attention.
"Oh, please, Alice," he goes on, and I can hear the roll of his eyes. "Don't look at me like that. Don't you remember two years ago when they lost my boots? Freaking lost them. I had to buy new ones that didn't even fit right just so the week wasn't wasted. And they gave me blisters. That sucked. My Fischers do not belong in a cargo hold."
When I turn, I have to school my mouth into not gaping.
Smirking at his sister, Edward's cheeks are ruddy, like he's been outside, and his floppy hair is damp from either sweat or a shower. As if to purposefully taunt me, he's dressed in low-slung black pants (which I think are for skiing) and a tight black long-sleeved shirt that hides nothing, and he's barefoot.
I quickly decide that Edward is a lot prettier than he was the last time I saw him, and that was only four months ago when he visited Alice before the fall semester began. I don't know how that's possible, but I swear it is. And yes, I said prettier. Because Edward is pretty. Like I want to reach out and stroke his… um, face… pretty.
In my periphery, I vaguely sense Alice rolling her eyes back at him and sticking out her tongue. But I really can't focus on her because he abruptly turns to me and smiles a smile that nearly stops my heart.
God, and his voice.
Jesus. In a tiny recess in the back of my mind, I recognize that a twenty-two year old should not melt just because a hot guy says her name. That's so not healthy.
"Hi, Edward," I manage. No, I didn't manage; I squeaked. Fuck my life.
"Yeah," I squeak again.
"That's good." His smile widens into an irresistible grin and for a minute, he just stares at me, saying nothing at all. And God knows I'm staring back.
"Okay…" Alice chimes, grabbing me by the elbow. "Time to show the guest her room. Edward, why don't you go bathe or something. I think I can smell you from here."
Wait, did I really just think that I wanted to smell him?
Yes. Yes, apparently I did.
Not healthy at all.
"Yeah, okay, fine." Still smiling, Edward laughs, shrugs, and begins walking toward one of the rooms off to the left of the hall.
As Alice pulls me toward a wide staircase with these amazing carved wooden banisters, he stops in his tracks and asks, "Hey, you guys going out later this afternoon?" And for some strange reason, I have the distinct impression that he's talking to me more than his sister.
"God, Edward. So single minded," Alice huffs. "Haven't you had enough?"
I have no idea what they're talking about. All I know is that Edward Cullen is talking. To me. And smiling. And I'm still melting. "Out?"
"Yeah, out. To ski. Or maybe you board?"
Now it's my turn to laugh because there's no way in hell.
"Ah, no." I'm sure I'm beet red about now, which is great, because I'm reminded of my Rudolph nose and clown cheeks. Which only makes my face flame that much more.
His too-perfect brow furrows in confusion. "Why ever not?"
"I don't… ski. Or board, whatever that is. We don't really have that sport… in the desert. I'd probably… break my leg or my neck. No." I shake my head emphatically. "Definitely, no."
His eyes flicker in amusement and his brows climb into his hairline. Even Alice giggles, because she knows me far too well. She's the one who dragged me to yoga after all. Balance is not my forte, and I'm pretty sure that skiing requires a lot of that.
"Maybe you can learn while you're here. It's not that hard once you get a few basics down. I bet with a few lessons you could be on blues by the end of vacation."
"Yeah, no," I mumble, shaking my head again, because I can just see me tumbling head first into some ice-laden ravine. "I don't think there's a teacher alive with that kind of patience."
Edward eyes me like I'm some kind of challenge or something to conquer, which I'd totally be okay with in a different context. Falling on my ass in front of the object of my lust/infatuation/minor obsession, however, is not it. But then he winks – again, me with the melting – and laughs again. "We'll see about that."
When Alice leaves the bedroom, it takes me all of twenty minutes to unpack and get settled, fifteen of which I spend staring at the absolute beauty of my surroundings.
Whoever designed this condo/cabin/chalet/whatever certainly knew what they were doing. The wall across from my bed is pretty much all glass, and through it I have an unobstructed view of what might be the most incredible scene I've ever laid eyes on. There are white-capped mountains all around, massive evergreens growing upward off the slopes at impossible angles, and down in a valley, there's a huge all-white span that can only be a frozen lake. It's breathtaking, and I'd be happy staring out of this window for hours.
Inside isn't much worse, to be honest. Having finally forced myself from the window, as I walk back down stairs, I realize that this place is a serious luxury job. There are gigantic hewn logs for walls, glass everywhere in between, slate tile in the bathrooms, and then there are all the traditional log cabin trappings – leather sofas, knotted wood tables – that you see in catalogs. I kind of feel like I've just stepped into a storybook. Granted, it's a weird cross between Cinderella and Grizzly Adams, but a storybook nonetheless.
Honestly, the only thing that makes this all not completely overwhelming is the knowledge that this place doesn't actually belong to Dr. and Mrs. Cullen. It's just a rental, and I know from the years I've lived with Alice that this is their normal meeting place since the family is strewn out across the country. And usually, it's just a week at Christmas.
This year, however, the nicest parents I know tacked on an extra two weeks as an early graduation gift for both Edward and Alice. Hence why I'm here. You know, in the storybook.
The minute I turn into the living room, I'm pulled into yet another Cullen greeting hug. Only this time, tree-trunks for arms circle me and my face gets smooshed up against what has to be the widest chest on earth. The nice thing is that Alice's older brother is space heater warm and he smells fantastic.
"Hey to you, Em," I mumble, barely able to reach around his waist. I don't think he can hear me.
"Emmett, for God's sake, let her go."
"Shut it, Eddiekins. I haven't seen B since like… Shit, I can't remember."
It has been a long time – more than a year and a half – and that was back when Alice and I met up with him and Rose in Las Vegas. Now, that was a good time. Well, it was until Emmett tried to play craps. Then it was just sad.
"It's fine. It's fine," I laugh, only to find as I pull away that the oldest Cullen is now sporting a peroxide-highlighted faux hawk and goatee. I laugh harder. "What did you do to your hair?"
From somewhere behind Emmett's massive frame, I hear Rosalie tsk. "He's snowboarding now. He thinks he needs to look the part. Don't worry. It's temporary. I'm shaving his head when we get home."
I lean around Emmett and grin at Rosalie. And of course, then I see Edward, too. And he's still wearing all black, and his hair is even messier now that it's dried. He looks delicious.
"Snowboarding, my ass," Edward smarts, his eyes landing on mine and winking… again. "He's a damned walrus. All he does is sit on his ass and then plow the powder."
"Pfft! You're just jealous of my coolness, planker."
Rosalie snorts. "Both of you, shut up. Please."
I can't help but smile when Emmett plops down beside his wife to cozy up. At least on the surface, like Alice and Jasper, they are total opposites. Emmett is big and brawny and a complete goofball, despite his thirty years and jacket and tie job. Rosalie, on the other hand, looks like the stereotypical ice queen – tall, statuesque, blonde, stunningly beautiful, and as serious as a heart attack. She's not though. She just doesn't let many people see that. Really, she and Emmett are perfect for each other.
"Come on, baby, you know you think I'm awesome. You told me you liked my goatee. Or is that only at night and under the covers?"
Edward and I both groan.
Ignoring that last bit, Rosalie smiles a megawatt smile, flashing bright white teeth. "See, Bella? See what I have to put up with? Thank God you were able to come up and even out all the testosterone."
I debate for a second where to go sit. Emmett and Rosalie are on one sofa, snuggled up and pretty much lost in couple-land. Edward is on another. I tell myself that I should go for the empty recliner in between, but of course, I don't. Because I just can't help myself.
"You get settled in?"
I nod, dropping onto the far side of Edward's couch. "That room's amazing."
"Yeah, it is." He spins side-ways toward me, tucking an ankle underneath his opposite thigh and throwing his arm across the top of the couch. "I have the same view. I'm just to your left."
I have nothing to say to that. I have plenty to think about, though, and none of it's good.
Feigning what I hope is nonchalance, I pretend to look at the red-hot fire blazing in the fireplace and ask, "So… where'd Alice go?"
Edward laughs and it shakes the couch. "She and Jasper are… ah, indisposed, I think."
I close my eyes to hopefully help suppress the blood flow climbing my cheeks. Wrong, wrong, wrong subject to discuss with the person with whom I would very much like to be indisposed. "Never mind," I groan. "Forget that I asked that."
"Yeah, tell me about it. It's a little weird having your roommate, um, date your sister."
There's a little pang of disappointment that I try to ignore, but I wince and frown anyway. I'm guessing that dating your sister's roommate is probably on that same level of weird, so fat chance I have. But I play along and answer back, "I bet so."
Abruptly, Edward clears his throat. "Though, I mean," he starts and then stalls. Eyes still closed, I have the strange sense that he's talking with his hands. "Well, it's not like I care or anything. Really, I don't. Jasper's a good guy and all. And well, Alice is old enough. I don't have a problem with them dating. Or doing whatever they're doing. Seriously. They're good. It's fine."
Word vomit. Out of Edward Cullen's mouth. When I steal a glance to my right, his Adam's apple does this bobbing motion, and I realize that his cheeks are pink, too. And I have absolutely no idea what to make of this new situation. I've never, ever seen him so discombobulated.
When Edward gives me a weak – almost apologetic? – smile, my heart stops and swells in my chest, because apparently, it knows something my head doesn't.
"Bella, come on!" Alice whines.
Squinting against the sun pouring in through the window/wall, I try to make sense of the numbers on the alarm clock to my left. "It's eight-thirty, Alice."
"Yeah, I know!"
I have no desire whatsoever to get out of this 800-threadcount wonder-bed. One, it's warm, unlike outside. Two, sleeping on this mattress is like floating on a cloud. Three, my sinuses are still trying to recover from the temperature and elevation changes over the past twenty-four hours. Add to all of that, honestly, I'm a little hung over. Last night's dinner was fun, particularly when Jasper started doing impersonations. But the light throbbing behind my eyes tells me that I had a little (read: a lot) too much wine.
After I finally did the math and figured out that no one else was coming up for these two weeks, alcohol was kind of the inevitable solution. See, there are two couples here and two single people. Um, awkward. Especially since I'm pretty sure that my eyes barely strayed from said other single person all night. The part where he was staring back was surely just a figment of my imagination. My very wishful imagination.
Yanking me away from my wandering, Alice vaults onto the bed and bounces me. She's clearly already had her morning shot of coffee. Straight to the vein. "You have to at least give it a try. Just once. Please? I know you'll love it."
"Not today." I hedge, because I know she won't let it go until I finally relent and bust my ass in proof. "Let me relax? Tomorrow."
I pout, which I do terribly and comically. You have to have the right size lips and the right facial expressions to do it believably. "Tomorrow."
I throw my fingers up in what I think is the Boy Scout sign. Or maybe it's the Vulcan one. I can't remember. "Yes. I promise that I will break my leg tomorrow."
Shaking her head, Alice rolls her eyes. "Fine, fine. So today, I'll just stay here with you!"
"No! You all go on and ski or do whatever it is you do. Go make out with Jasper on the chairlift." I attempt sitting up, ignoring the slight swimming in my head. "I just want to hang out by that fireplace and read my book."
Now, Alice pouts and she's way better at it than me. She even manages a lip quiver. "That's not fun."
"Yes, it's really fun. I swear." I do the Boy Scout/Vulcan thing again. "You know that I never get to read anything entertaining. I'm always reading that 'boring-ass fru-fru stuff' as you like to call it. Today, I'm forgetting the Victorian Era ever existed. I'm going to read about art thieves and Vatican conspiracy theories. Totally fun shit."
"Go. I'll hang with you tonight or whenever you come in for the day."
After Alice and the rest of the bunch leave to ski, I spend the entire day doing exactly what I told Alice I would be doing. I wear flannel polka-dotted pajamas all day long. Copious amounts of cocoa are consumed, I read not just one book, but two, and in front of a roaring fire, I nap, which I haven't done in forever.
Okay, and maybe in between an assault on the papacy and a stolen Renoir, I indulge myself and spend a little time revisiting all of Edward's strange little looks and comments since I showed up. There's nothing there, I know, but a girl can dream, right?
Day three of my vacation.
After having managed to delay my torture one more day, I've lost the war.
I now look like Ralphie's kid brother from A Christmas Story.
Under extreme duress, I'm wearing no fewer than eight layers of clothing, including: thermal wear, multiple shirts, fleece, these thick, black overall-looking pants, and my parka. I also have on two pairs of socks, my scarf, this fleece band-like thing around my ears that Alice insisted upon, and my super thick mittens.
"Why do I look like a marshmallow? You aren't wearing half of this."
"Because you're going to fall, silly," Alice giggles, zipping me up like I'm four. "These pants are waterproof."
Okay, I'll concede her point. When Alice says I'm going to fall, what she really means is that I'll likely be wallowing in the snow for half the day. Waterproof makes all the sense in the world.
"Plus, they'll cushion your ass," Rosalie adds, winking. She looks like a super-model – sleek, sophisticated, and fashionable. Unlike my pants, hers are almost skin-tight, and her puffy silver jacket cinches at the waist, making it look tiny.
"Great." I shake my head, wondering why I agreed to try this. Oh, wait, it had something to do with a girl bouncing on my bed for the second morning in a row.
"You'll be fine. They offer awesome lessons here. I promise. You'll be up and going before you know it!"
I give her a flat stare that says, yeah right. "Let's place bets."
As we're getting ready to walk out into great white Hell, Jasper and Edward emerge from the living room, both dressed in all black. That seems to be Edward's thing, I notice. In fact, the only thing that isn't black in his get-up is the little white spider looking emblem on the side of his fitted jacket. My guess is that that means something. Especially since his clothing looks a lot sleeker and a lot more… aggressive than my Michelin Man impression.
"Hello, ladies," Jasper drawls, sneaking up behind Alice and circling her waist. I can't get over how he's let his hair grow out; it's at his chin. The image doesn't quite flange up with the Wrangler's and cowboy boots wearing guy I met three years ago. But… Alice doesn't seem to mind at all. She's in full on dreamy-eyed mode.
"You're going to try?" Edward flips a bottle of water in the air and grins.
Alice wiggles out of Jasper's grasp and threads her arm around my elbow. "I'm going to take her down and help her get set up. Jake said he'd be glad to give her lessons. He's doing a class this morning that's not too full."
First of all, I have no idea who Jake is. Secondly, class? Really? Great, my favorite.
"What? When did you talk to him?" Surprisingly, I hear irritation? in Edward's voice, and there's a crunch of plastic when he catches and squeezes his water bottle.
"Yesterday, dummy. While you and Jazz were up top."
Edward frowns, but then his face suddenly brightens. "Don't worry about it. I'll do it."
"What?" Alice and I both say in unison. In my periphery, Rosalie is gawking, and behind Alice, I see that even Jasper's gray eyes are wide.
"I'll do it, I said."
Oh, my fuck.
"Do what?" Alice gives him a dubious look.
"Duh, Al. Teach her to ski. I'm a lot better than Jake anyway. I taught you, didn't I?"
Before Alice can answer, I throw up my mitten-covered hands. "No, no. You don't have to." Inwardly, I'm cringing so hard. As much as I'd love having him to myself and as much as the idea of not being in a class with others appeals to me, thinking of him watching me fall on my ass is… excruciating. "I might hurt you on accident with one of those pole-things."
I catch something in Alice's expression that vaguely resembles self-satisfaction, but it wipes away as soon as she sees me looking. She crosses her arms and hums. "I don't know… Jake's a good teacher, though. And he already said he'd do it."
"Is not. He's a dick." Edward's long fingers rake through his messy hair and he turns to me. "I promise, Bella, I'm a good teacher. Plus it'll be just us instead of you being stuck in a class all day. It's much easier and more comfortable to learn like that. And it's safer because I'll be beside you all the time."
Alice makes a very, very poor attempt of a protest, but Edward cuts her off. "You and Jasper go on with Rose and Em. I'll take care of Bella's equipment. We'll just see you after lunch sometime. Call my cell if you want to meet up."
Beside you all the time is still echoing in my head, sending little flurries of nerves to my stomach.
"No. Seriously," I plead again, looking at Alice and Rosalie for help. When neither provide an escape, my shoulders slump. "Look, I really appreciate it. But I know you like to go… fast and down the really… steep… whatever you call them. There's no way you'd have fun being stuck with me."
Edward gives me that same appraising stare he gave me the first day, and frankly, it confuses me and makes my already fluttery nerves explode.
"Then it's settled, Ms. Swan." Ignoring my horrified expression, with a grin and no small amount of flourish, he opens the door and motions me out. "Today, you're mine."
Oh, my God. I have stepped into the Twilight Zone.
There are eight zillion people milling around the rental center, all dressed in varying shades of the primary colors. Everyone's arms are full of poles and skis, and they're all walking funny because ski boots are a bitch to walk around in, I observe.
I watch with almost numb detachment as Edward argues with some blond guy with multiple piercings named Mike across a counter about something called bindings. He thinks that Mike set them too tight and he's worried they won't pop off early enough. I don't know what that means. I just know that this is the third argument he's had in less than twenty minutes. The first was over my boots not being dry. The second was over skis. Edward sent those back twice for having "shitty edges" as he called them.
As we walk out the door, him carrying my skis along with his, which dwarf mine in length and are a lot prettier to look at, I think I hear him mutter under his breath, "I hate rental equipment. Fucking morons."
I'll have to admit that I'm more than a little amused, because I just learned something new about the object of my minor obsession. Edward is apparently a bit of a snob. At least when it comes to sporting goods. And somehow, because when it comes to this guy, my brain no longer works in any rational way, it just makes him not only hot, but… cute.
"Come on," Edward prods, holding out his hand, motioning for me to swing the end of my pole at him. "You'll be fine."
Scrunching my nose, I look down at the long things now attached to my feet. They are awkward, cumbersome, and very… slippery. Every time I try to move, one of two things happens. One, the back of my ski lifts up and then slaps down on the snow and I go nowhere. Or two, I just slide, and of course, nearly lose my balance. How he thinks I'm going to actually move in any designated direction is beyond me. Honestly, when I stare out across the hills and dips that he thinks I'm going to be skiing down, I just want to run back to the warmth and comfort of the lodge screaming.
"I'm going to fall off a cliff. You know that, right?"
More likely, I'm going fall on my ass and you'll think I'm a klutz. I don't say that part.
"Bella," he says, and like a fool, my name coming off of Edward Cullen's lips makes me stupid. I glance up and his eyes are a bright, bright burning green. There's surprising seriousness in his expression, too, that makes my heart instantly jump. "I won't let you get hurt."
No fair, I think. No fair at all.
Mustering every bit of courage I have, I swallow and try to throw the end of my pole toward him. Of course, Edward grins like crazy then, which is pretty much the equivalent of the sun shining in terms of radiance, and I kick myself for not giving him what he wanted to begin with. That grin is easily worth a tumble in the snow.
"Hold on," he warns, catching the end when I have to swing it a second time to reach him. "I'm going to pull you around a little. Just so you can see there's nothing to it. Just to get a feel. Okay?"
So, it turns out that sliding across flat snow really isn't that bad. Especially when being pulled around by Edward (who somehow makes moving across snow look graceful and effortless). In fact, it's really fun and not unlike the sock skating I used to do on my mom's old hardwood floors as a kid.
Granted, gauging from the people darting to and fro around us, I'm like the grandma of skiers and I've yet to start going down any hill. Seriously, that's kind of embarrassing (they strap skis to toddlers up here!). But when Edward grins at me again and pulls me faster, I don't even care. I just laugh and hope that today never ends.
Two hours later, after having learned the magic of self-propulsion across flat ground (you kind of skate and holy damn does it do a number on your thighs), I'm standing on the top of a cliff.
A motherfucking cliff.
Okay, if I'm being truthful, it's not a cliff. According to Edward, it's a "green slope". Whatever that means. Alice called it a bunny slope, which tangentially, I think is just absurd because it's way too cold out here for bunnies. But I don't care what it's called. It's steep (to me) and I already have visions of me cartwheeling down it, probably into a tree.
When he chuckles, I note for the twentieth time today just how ridiculously attractive Edward is. And it's not just his looks, I quickly add. Today, I've spent more time with him alone than I ever have before, and about every five minutes or so, I'm struck by just how incredibly nice he is. I mean, I knew he was nice – who visits their sister in August… every single year?
But this? This boy's patience is seemingly endless, and not once has he pushed (too far). In fact, he's done nothing but smile and laugh the whole morning. I decide that between catching me at least five times and the two hours spent showing me how to do that snow plow/wedge/pizza slice move, he must be vying for sainthood.
Unsurprisingly, because the world isn't blind, I'm not the only one who notices.
Off to my right, I catch a glimpse of a small grouping of blonde, European model-like women (almost on par with Rosalie). They're all dressed in what looks to be fur-trimmed cat suits in an array of pastels, and they're all making googly eyes at him, not even bothering to hide their interest. One is even putting on lipstick. Another is repeatedly tossing her hair, clearly trying to get Edward's attention.
I want to barf, but instead I take the high road and choose to ignore them. While I'm not really that keen on these women's slightly whorish behavior, it's not like I can blame them. And okay, fine, it's a lot easier to ignore them when the object of their attention doesn't seem to notice their efforts. Is it bad that I kind of want to do a victory lap and pump my fists? Because I am inside.
At this point, I probably should admit that I'm starting to have some serious worries that I'm getting myself into so much trouble – exactly what I said I wouldn't do. That relatively safe lust-from-afar thing I'd been holding on to is teetering on the edge of something far, far more dangerous.
Distracted by the snow bimbos and my own self-castigation, my knees almost buckle when Edward suddenly comes up behind me, his longer skis sliding around and caging mine. And my heart definitely stutters when he grabs my waist.
Even through the 8000 layers of clothing I'm wearing, I can feel the pressure of his fingers and the way they easily frame my hips. Momentarily stunned by the unexpected contact, my mind bends back, trying to recall if he's ever touched me before. I can't. If so and my brain somehow forgot, I know for a fact that it certainly wasn't like this. And he definitely wasn't this close.
Please don't collapse, I beg my knees. And please continue breathing, I direct to my lungs.
"I told you, Bella," he whispers in my ear. "I won't let you get hurt. If you fall, I'll be right there to pick you up."
God, help me. It's really, really hard to make myself not read way too much into that. Gobsmacked, I just nod stupidly and try not to look down. Or to my right, where his mouth is.
Shit. Shit, shit, shit.
"We'll do this twice together. This first time, try to keep your skis straight. I'll be right here, holding onto you just like this and controlling the speed." His thumbs circle my hipbones before he softly adds, "Is that okay?"
I barely contain the slightly maniacal laugh that threatens to spill out of my mouth. My silent nodding is a lot more animated this go around.
"The second time, you'll be able to go by yourself. But I'll be right there to catch you."
"Trust me," he murmurs, and his breath is warm against my neck. For a second, I swear I feel his lips grazing the skin just below my ear.
Holy shit. I don't even want to think about the possibility that Edward Cullen is flirting. With me. Never mind that I'll likely graduate with honors and that I've already received early acceptance to grad school, my brain can't even come close to wrapping itself around that notion.
Edward's grip on my waist tightens, and this time, there's no doubt whatsoever that I really do feel those lips. They're so warm and they tickle – brushing, just slightly – making my skin erupt into goosebumps. "You're doing better than you think you are. You're doing amazing. You ready?"
My heart is racing and my insides are full of crawling things that threaten to steal my air. And unlike before, it has nothing to do with the fact that I'm getting ready to purposefully throw myself down this hill. Fuck the hill. At this point, it's safer. To avoid tackling him and all the embarrassment that would entail, I take a deep breath and let Edward slowly guide me until…
Mother of God, I'm skiing.
Well, we're skiing because Edward is still holding on to me and doing all the driving. But still, I'm skiing. Down the hill. And fast, too. Cold wind hits my face and eyes, and the exhilaration coursing through my veins makes me squeal and laugh all at once.
For the whole thirty seconds it takes to get to the bottom, it's the coolest thing I've ever done in my life.
-Still With the Falling-
"Ugh, no. Come on, Edward," I whine. "You wasted your whole day with me yesterday. You do not have to babysit me again today. I'm fine. I'll play over here on these little slopes. You go ski those big, bad, scary-looking ones way up there."
I point to what looks like an absolutely sheer face, so high up that I think you'd need oxygen to breathe. Squinting against the glare, I see all of two people skiing up there, and they are flying down the mountain. If I stare at them too long, my stomach gets queasy.
Without a word, he drops my skis, toeing them into place before offering his arm for balance so that I can snap in and not fall on my ass. Reluctantly (but not really), I latch onto his elbow and slowly step in with my right, waiting for the pop of the binding. It takes three tries to get it right. The left takes four.
Edward pretty much jumps into his. And once his skis are on, he actually does jump – a full foot off the ground – and his skis clap when he lands. I have the distinct impression that he likes to show off a little. It totally works.
Once he's finished showing off, he leans over and taps me on the nose.
"One, I didn't waste my day, Bella. Two, I'm not babysitting you. It just so happens that I had fun yesterday." My breath catches when, abruptly, his nimble fingers catch a stray strand of my hair and tuck it into my fleece headband. "And three, I'll go ski those big, bad, scary-looking trails later. It's not like I didn't enough last week anyway."
I still. "Wait, you actually go… up there? Like the ones all the way at the top where the trail map has these little black diamonds and says 'experts only'?"
Edward's responding smirk is positively smug, arrogant in the way that only a guy who knows he's top dog can be.
-You Guessed It… Falling-
"How do you do that?"
Doing my snow plow/wedge/pizza slice thing, I look like some strange pigeon-toed creature as I slowly – ever so slowly – make a wide turn. But I'm skiing – by myself, too.
I've only fallen three times in the last hour, and that last tumble was so not my fault. It was that little gremlin with the green dinosaur hat. By gremlin, I mean the six-year-old boy who decided to clip me in his bumrush hurry to get to the chairlift. These kids are ruthless. And since they are so close to the ground, they don't bruise so much when they fall. Lucky bastards.
But gah, that fall was worth it, because Edward looked absolutely horrified when he rushed over to pick me up out of the snow bank (don't ask how I managed to slide half way down the hill on my butt). Really, judging by the expression on his face and the way he fawned over me afterward (see me not complaining), I should have had some ghastly compound fracture instead of a slightly turned left knee. Sure, it hurt a little, and I'll no doubt ache tonight, but I've had way worse. Just ask my mom or the ER doctor at Phoenix Regional.
"How do I do what?" He smiles at me and skis closer. I could probably tap him with my pole.
"That thing you're doing."
The smile turns into another one of those signature Edward grins of his. "Going backward?"
"Yeah." I'm breathing a little harder because the scary part is coming up. There's a crest and then a quick drop.
"Practice. I don't know." He shrugs. "Don't worry, you're fine. Open your stance a little so you don't cross. Slow down and make the turn a little wider."
"Show off," I mutter, as I try my very best to follow his instructions. Talking to him seems to help me not focus on the abrupt change in speed when I come out of my turn. "Is it fun? The backward thing, I mean."
"Yeah. It lets me watch you."
Like a whip, my eyes leave the slope to find his. He's still smiling, but there's something else there that makes me instantly flush.
And I promptly faceplant.
Gulping and gripping my poles like I'll die without them, I stare at the chairs whipping around. And around. And around.
This looks a lot harder than the kiddie t-bar that I've been riding.
I feel it in my bones. One of those chairs is going to clip my knees. I'm going to fall (again). And another chair is going to slam into my head before I can get back up, knocking me out and leaving behind a bright red stain on the white snow. I see it happening as clear as day.
"It's a lot easier than it looks," Edward murmurs, gently placing his hand against the small of my back.
Were I not so nervous and apprehensive of the torture machine in front of us, I might have swooned a little. As it is, I just fake a smile.
Through mashed lips, I manage an unconvincing, "I'm sure."
Much like on the slope, Edward leans in close enough that I can feel his warm breath and he whispers in my ear, "It is. The first time is the hardest. After that? Piece of cake. Plus, the view going up is amazing. You're going to love it. I promise. Have I lied to you?"
Well, if by amazing view he means himself, he's certainly correct. I can't argue with that. He's still doing the black on black thing and it does nothing but accentuate… everything.
"Cullen! Hey man!" I look over at the tall, dark-haired guy in a red coat manning the chairlift. He's waving like he and Edward are best friends. "What the hell are you doing over on this side of the mountain?"
"'Sup, Paul," Edward greets, doing his own version of that weird guy-wave motion. "Just…" His hand slides from my lower back around to my hip and he smiles down at me before answering. "Just hanging out with Bella. Bella, that's Paul. Ignore everything he says. He lies constantly. The only thing he's good for is running a lift."
I'm probably blushing but because of the cold, I can't feel my cheeks anymore. I manage a tiny little smile and duck of my head. Even though I'm a little embarrassed, it's not lost on me that Paul's brows are so high they're almost hidden by his fleece hat.
"Dude, whatever," Paul laughs, as he slows the lift for a pair of eight year olds. I think he's about to ask something else – something that might make me really blush – but before he can, Edward redirects the conversation, "You hit the freeride lately?"
The dark-haired guy nods, as he lowers the safety bar on another chair full of kids. "Two days ago. It's fuc– er, really awesome. There's a nasty drop on the far left side. You can get some serious air."
"Yeah? How's the snow? All powder?"
While Edward chats with Paul about stuff I clearly know nothing about, his thumb rubs little circles along my hip bone, and I swear that I can feel heat radiating out from where he's touching me. I don't know what's going on between us, but I'm about to ignite.
"Not bad. Doable. You ought to get out there."
"Maybe later." For some reason, Edward glances down at me again, his brow oddly furrowed. "I'll… I don't know, probably hit the Super G course sometime though. Just to give it a run."
I make a mental note to ask what this Super G thing is once we're alone.
"Man, the whole course has just been groomed. It's so fast." Shaking his head, Paul laughs, "You hear that Jake busted yesterday? I bet he rolled a hundred meters."
"And I bet he was showing off and got out of control. He deserves a little dose of humility, if you ask me."
"You know it."
And suddenly, it's somehow our turn. Lost in their strange conversation, filled with terms I don't know, I didn't even notice that we'd been moving up in the line. With a quick flash of white teeth, Edward's grip on my hip slides back around to my spine and then moves to my elbow as we edge up to the green line. Not once does he let me go.
"Slow it down, will you, Paul?"
"So you are teaching, eh?"
Paul chuckles as he lifts the safety bar and tilts the chair down so that it doesn't whack the back of my knees. As I ease into the seat, he smiles at me funny and winks. "Can't blame you at all, man. You two have fun."
I don't have time to think about his remark, because as soon as we're seated, the chair shoots upward and the ground drops away. Just like Edward said it would be, it's absolutely gorgeous up high. It's cold and a little windy, and maybe a little scary, but so, sobeautiful. You can see for miles. The skiers down below look so small. For a second, I'm dumbfounded.
Hearing a distinct I told you so in his voice, I bump his shoulder. "Yeah, yeah. You were right."
"So, it's good?" Edward's skis clack together as he knocks off accumulated snow. His throat clears and unexpectedly he looks down rather than at me. "The skiing, I mean. You're having fun and not just humoring me, right?"
Grinning at what I take as uncertainty (from him, of all people!), I bump him again, only this time I don't pull back away.
"I love it," I hear myself say, and even as I'm speaking, I have to wonder if I'm answering more than just his question.
When Edward looks back at me, his eyes are crinkly and so bright. And our faces are so close together. Everything feels crackly and electrified, and the air in my lungs solidifies. Every bit of the sanity I have left seems to think that now is time for a smoke break, and I'm left witless.
Without permission, my gaze falls to his lips. They're full and pink from the cold, and I can't help wanting to know what his mouth feels like. Intimately. Against mine. Repeatedly. My stomach curls into a tight ball, just thinking about kissing him.
After what feels like forever, my eyes lift again. Edward is staring at me so intently, like he can't look away, and I almost convince myself that he's thinking the same thing.
Lodges, I've decided, are like heaven.
Three days of skiing – or my version of it – and I'm flat out dead. I'm cold. My feet are wet. And there's more than one purple-colored splotch decorating my lower half.
Not that I'll ever complain about this sport again. Even at my level (still happily green), it's awesome, and I get why the Cullens love it so much. The rush is incredible, thoroughly addicting. I see all the aches and pains as just a cheap form of payment.
Regardless, after plunging headfirst into yet another snow bank, I've opted to take a breather. And through no small feat, my guilty conscience even managed to convince Edward to spend some time up top where he belongs.
Soaking up warmth from the nearby fire, I ever so slowly thaw. All around, there are huge floor to ceiling windows, so I can't help but watch all the people coming and going. It's relaxing, following all the red, yellow, and blue jackets against the white snow.
All the while, however, I'm also thinking. A lot. I'm trying to brush off the consuming idea that Edward wasn't exactly pleased to be leaving when I sent him on his merry way. His normally straight shoulders sagged a little before he relented, and those lovely, kissable lips were settled into a straight line.
For the second, or third, or maybe even a fourth time, I think to myself that if I didn't know better, if it weren't patently impossible, I'd almost believe that my little crush (okay, obsession) wasn't quite as one-sided as I'd thought. But that's just insane, never mind the anomaly of that almost-kiss up on the chairlift. And too, I think, frowning, even if there was something there, it's not like it'd go past this week anyway.
Without any announcement or warning, Alice suddenly plops down in the chair beside me, her arms full of cocoa and snacks, startling the hell out of me.
"Sooooo? How are you liking it?"
She's nearly bubbling, and after a second of thought, I realize that despite the days I've been here, I've seen my best friend very, very little. Part of it, of course, is that she and Jasper are doing their thing, which doesn't bother me at all. The other, bigger reason, however, is that, against all odds and expectations, for the last four days, I've been glued at the hip to her brother. Really, between all the skiing and zonking out early at night from exhaustion, I've only seen the rest of the bunch at dinner.
"I really love it."
"I knew you would!" she squeals before sucking down at least half a cup of cocoa. She's small, but she's like a vacuum with the stuff. "Edward's a good teacher."
Not going there at all, I tell myself. Instead, I quickly employ evasive action and ask her about Jasper, which always works. It does this time, too, so we spend the next twenty minutes doing what we always do – chatting about everything and nothing, sucking down massive, heart-stopping quantities of caffeine and sugar as we go along.
At some point, there's a beep from her cell phone, which judging from the smile on her face as she takes a peek, is a sappy text from Jasper. While I busy myself looking at the jumping flames in the fireplace, she texts something back.
"Here," Alice suddenly says.
When I glance over, instead of her phone, she's holding what looks like a pair of binoculars. I have no idea where she had those hidden. Or why.
"What? Why do I need these?" I take them anyway and fiddle with one of the caps.
She smirks like she knows something I don't. "Straight ahead at the very top. Right on the ridge line. There's a red chute."
Alarmed and confused, I bring the lenses up to my face, blanching at the sudden blurry magnification. But her directions are sound, and I sit straight in my chair as soon as a mop of rust-colored hair sitting on top of a figure in all black comes into focus.
"Oh, shit, what's he doing?" A seed of panic grows in my chest. He can't be serious.
"He'll be fine," she whispers, answering the question I didn't voice.
For what feels like eternity, I stare – utterly transfixed and holding my breath – until…
Edward suddenly falls off the freaking mountain.
I say 'falls' because there's no possible way that he's skiing… down that… that fast. Reminding me of scenes I've only seen on TV during the Olympics, Edward is so fast that it's all I can do to keep up with the binoculars. He's a streak of black against the white of the slope.
Sure, I knew that Edward was a 'good' skier. Between hauling me around, skiing backward (effortlessly), and all the jumping up and down, and then, too, just by the level of comfort and confidence he always exudes, yes, I understood he was way above average.
But clearly, I had no idea. Because Edward is… sublime. Whipping around the little flag-like things, his body is tight, tucked low and lean, and his skis are just screaming across the snow.
My fear bleeds away as I see what he truly looks like in his element. He looks powerful. And strong. And wickedly sexy.
Seeing him like this makes me stop and think about what it means when he spends all that time with me on my baby hills. Something very hot blooms in my mid-section.
Still staring at his lightning fast descent, I mumble something that I hope is a "Yeah?"
"Am not." I swallow because I really am. He's just so… freaking hot like this. And God, I want him so much it almost hurts.
There. I said it (to myself at least).
More than just an infatuation or obsession from afar, I want Edward Cullen.
I want him in every way possible and I want to be with him all the time. Never mind the impossibility of thousands of miles of distance (which will be even worse once I transfer to grad school), I want it all with him. I want to kiss him and date him and like a teenager, I want to hold hands with him in dark movie theaters.
And God, I seriously want to drag him into my bed and strip him down and do all sorts of depraved things to his body. But then… I also want to cuddle with him afterward and talk about silly things of no importance.
I want to have Edward's babies. Okay, that's maybe a little hyperbole at this point. But you get the picture. I just… like him. I lust him. I refuse to say the other four-letter L-word. While I'm tempted, I'm not quite that crazy. Yet.
I sigh in both longing and frustration. Because more than anything, I really just want him to want me back. So much.
Alice laughs and tries to steal my binoculars. "Admit it. You've crushed on my brother for four years. Ever since he helped move me into the dorm freshman year."
There's no way I can look at her and lie at the same time, so I pretend to read the calorie count in my Snickers bar. "Have not," I mutter, picking at the plastic.
"Have to." She tears the candy from my hand. "Don't lie. You suck at it."
I wince. "Is it that obvious? God, it is, isn't it?"
My cheeks are on fire, but when I look up, Alice rolls her eyes. "Just to me."
"Thank God," I breathe, because I can't imagine the embarrassment of the others knowing, especially Emmett. The man has no filter whatsoever. "You don't care?"
My tiny, delicate roommate lets out a very un-tiny guffaw. "Oh, my God, no! I've been trying to get you two just in the same room. For – like – ever!" Slapping an armrest, she laughs harder, "Oh, and since you can't tell or just won't let yourself see it, that boy wants you at least as much as you want him. Jump him, for fuck's sake!"
Can eyeballs pop out of their sockets?
Yes. Why, yes, they can.
-You Betcha Still Falling-
The next three days fly by.
In the mornings, Edward and I ski together, despite all my weak protestations (for show) that he shouldn't be slumming with me. But just as he predicted on day one, at least I've now graduated to blue-colored slopes, albeit the easier ones. I'm rather proud of that, to be honest.
But we laugh. And we talk about work and school and what it's like where we live. We throw snowballs. And while I don't have the internal wherewithal to jump him, as Alice suggests, we flirt. Yes, flirt. I recognize it for what it is. I also recognize that it isn't one-sided.
Oh, and I still fall down. A lot. But somehow, Edward is always right there to haul me back up and fetch my skis when they fly off. Once or twice, I might have even fallen on purpose.
The other bit of good news is that the chairlift rides up to the blue slopes are longer. Long chairlift rides are… a good thing. Honestly, being tucked against Edward's side for five plus minutes at a time is a gift from the ski gods. Despite the freezing temperatures, he's so warm and most of the time, he sneaks his arm around my shoulders, which, of course, never fails to make my insides squirm.
It's probably bad that I actually look forward to people falling as they exit the lift, because it makes those precious five minutes stretch even longer.
Speaking of, because no gift is free, the bad news is that these new chairlifts move a lot faster than the beginner ones. And if other skiers fall, the probability of me getting off of them sans injury is nothing I'd ever wager on.
Did I mention that Edward has the patience of a saint? And some serious upper body strength, too.
As much as I love our morning skis, it's the afternoon, however, that's my favorite part of the day. After having witnessed those moments of male perfection incarnate, I now insist that Edward ski at least a few of his runs. If anything, just so I can watch. When I told him this – that I really wanted to watch him – those sagging shoulders straightened right up.
But honestly, I could watch him for hours. He's amazing, somehow both aggressive and graceful. The sexiest thing I've ever seen in my entire life.
Oh, and when he slides to a stop at the bottom, spraying a wall of powder, I nearly die because I can only imagine what kind of thigh muscles that kind of move takes. Yeah, okay, fine. I can imagine a lot of other things, too.
Sigh. Apparently, I've now abandoned trying to censor my thoughts at all.
-This is Some Long Ass Falling-
"I declare hot tub night!"
My eyes shoot up from my bacon and eggs. "Hot tub?"
In typical Alice fashion she rolls her eyes and giggles, "Yes, hot tub!"
Across the table, Emmett and Rosalie both shake their heads at me as if I missed something critical.
Thinking back to my whirlwind house tour early last week, other than the soaking tubs in a couple of the bathrooms (which I can't believe I haven't used yet), I don't recall seeing a hot tub anywhere. Then again, except to sleep and eat, it's not like I've spent any real time here.
High and tinkling, Alice giggles again, as she simultaneously swipes a piece of bacon off Jasper's plate and dips it in a puddle of maple syrup. "It's on the deck, silly girl. We'd have gone in sooner, but you've been crashing so early, most nights it wasn't even worth mentioning."
A hot tub sounds… perfect right about now. Shifting in my chair, I finally take note that I'm astoundingly sore – from all the muscle work, certainly, but mostly, it's from all the bruising. Sure, snow is soft, but ice, skis, other people's skis, other people… yeah, not so much.
"So, hot tub and beer night, right?"
About the time I open my mouth to speak, Edward walks into the dining room, dressed in his signature black and carrying a mountain of a plate. As an aside, his calorie intake is insane. But then, I reason, if I were speeding down sheer mountain faces at a thousand miles an hour, I might need a little nutritional fortification as well.
"Absolutely. We're in," he says around a glass of orange juice. Then he pauses. Like he can't believe he just said that out loud, wide-eyed, Edward abruptly glances at me, and I can't help but grin like a lunatic. His fingers rake through his hair in what I now understand is one of his nervous habits. "I mean, if Bella wants to. Is that okay?"
Now, as I gaze at the tight black fabric stretched across Edward's chest, all I can think about is that in addition to soothing aching bones and muscles, hot tubs also mean… you know… um, fewer clothes. And after more than a week of flirting and spiking hormones, I'm reduced to little more than silent, half-formed phrases.
Half naked Edward.
Half naked, wet Edward.
Half naked, wet Edward in a hot tub. With me.
"Yep!" tumbles out of my mouth before I can even blink.
-Does It Ever Stop Falling-
Truthfully, before now, I'd never even considered the idea of putting a hot tub outside in such a cold climate, much less actually getting into one. It seems counter intuitive to purposefully shed your clothes and get wet when it's below freezing. Not to mention, it's a huge energy waste.
But once I slide into bubbling, steamy, liquid heaven, it all makes perfect sense, and I wonder how I ever doubted. See, above the water line, it's somewhere around negative ten degrees (see, I can learn metric) right now, but under? Under is wonderful, magical, and I swear that I can actually feel my muscles steadily un-knotting.
Really, the only part of this whole experience that I'm not so keen on is that while I'm more than eager to see Edward half naked, bathing suits (especially bikinis) are probably my least favorite thing to wear. Ever. They are small. They cover nothing. Every time I put one on, my entire body blushes.
As such, it's a very good thing that it's somewhat dark out here, because that's what I'm wearing right now. My little two-piece is new and some shade of blue called French Blue, which according to Fashionista Alice, is my color (something about skin tone. Whatever.). And, okay, admittedly, the thing sports an engineering marvel of a halter top, somehow generating a sliver of cleavage out of my smallish boobs. I don't see that kind of thing too often, so part of me is a little pumped over that.
Without warning, a snowball whizzes over my head. There's a wet splat, followed by… a screech, and it's loud enough and high enough to raise the dead.
"Emmett! I'm going to murder you!"
Immediately, a baritone yells a loud, "Oh, shit!" and then a rushed, "Ah, baby, I'm sorry! I was trying to hit Alice! I swear it! Don't hit me!"
I don't want to laugh at someone on the verge of losing an appendage, but it's impossible. Because Rosalie, in all her goddess perfection, is steaming as much as the water I'm sitting in. I've seen these two go at it before (like that time when Em lost big on those craps tables) and I know better than to bet against Rose. Emmett is a dead man.
Running from a stalking (and laughing) Rose, Emmett laps the hot tub at least twice. He's shirtless, barefoot, and sliding all over the deck, all the while yelling, "Help me, Bella!"
Yeah, right. I'm not stupid. So, instead, I reach over the edge of the tub, grab my own ball of snow, and launch it at his head. Considering the distance and bad angle, I'm more than pleased when it smacks him square in the back and makes him squeal like a girl.
"Nice shot," Jasper chuckles, tilting his beer at me in approval as he helps Alice step down.
"Hoes before bros!" I laugh, grabbing another ball of snow.
Across from me, Alice sighs and leans against Jasper's chest. "God, this feels so good. I can't believe we didn't do this sooner. It's like a crime." She closes her eyes and rests her head on his shoulder. Jasper is so sweet with her, I notice, shifting his beer from one hand to the other just so he can hold her close. They look good together, like they match. So yeah, I'm glad they are back together. Really glad. Maybe just a little bit jealous, if I'm being one-hundred percent truthful. Not of Jasper, ugh, just the closeness.
Over the gurgle of the tub, there's a soft pad of bare feet, and then there's a weird but not really unpleasant sensation of someone crouching just behind me. Very close, enough to send a quick shiver up my spine. I swiftly tell myself it's just the subfreezing air. Yes, that's it.
"Drink?" Edward murmurs, lowering an amber-colored bottle over my shoulder.
Swallowing and not daring to look up, I take the bottle and manage a quiet thanks. But then he just has to go and sit on the edge right beside me and swing his legs around, dipping them into the water. Involuntarily, my eyes slowly travel to his calves, along his legs, going on up to a very bare and very sculpted torso.
Fuck me twice.
You know all that imagining I've been doing? Yeah, my imagination is great. Like spot on. Because just like I suspected, his abs and chest are a wonderland of lines and ridges. Six pack? Try eight. But he's not gross or too muscle-y. No, Edward is lean and cut and pretty, and I swear my fingers burn at the thought of tracing every one of those little lines. Especially that v-shaped one that dips below the waistband of his swim shorts.
Really, it's just not fair.
So lost in lustville, I barely even notice him sliding down into the water, settling shoulder to shoulder with me.
It's a struggle to meet his eyes, but when I do, I can't look away. Like he sometimes does, Edward just stares at me, his gaze slipping somewhere below my chin, almost as if he can't help it. It makes me hot all over, and when I answer, there's no disguising the fact that my voice is more than just a little breathless.
"Yeah, it's good." Exactly what constitutes 'it' is something up for debate.
After Rosalie finally catches Emmett and bombards him with at least a half dozen snowballs, they finally join us. And for a long while, we all just chat – the six of us. We drink a few too many beers, relax stiff muscles and joints, splash each other from time to time, and just be. If that makes any sense. It's a different kind of fun than the slopes, and even though I know Edward is right beside me, half naked, I'm oddly at ease.
In fact, I get so caught up in all the banter and joking, at least an hour and a half goes by and I don't even realize it. Vaguely, I'm aware that it's getting colder as the hours pass, but we all just sink lower in the water.
"I'm pruny," Alice whines, scrunching her nose as she studies her fingers. Her head is lolling, her eyes are drooping, and from either the alcohol or lack of sleep, I can tell she's about to lose it.
"You better get her upstairs," I warn. I've carried Alice before. She's small, but when she zonks out, she's really out, and it's like carrying one hundred and ten pounds of dead weight.
"I'm fine," Alice slurs.
Jasper yawns and smiles a lazy smile. "Yeah, I think you're right. Come on, Al. Bedtime." She doesn't even bother protesting, instead allowing him to pull her up and half carry her into the house.
"You ready for bed, too, baby?" Emmett drawls, his fingers tracing the top of Rose's shoulder.
"Go turn on the heating blanket."
Emmett grins and swigs the last of his beer before chucking it across the deck into the trashcan by the door. "I'll be all the heating blanket you need."
"Perv," Rosalie laughs, but nonetheless, she stands up and motions him to leave.
It's like I blink and suddenly the hot tub is empty, but for Edward and me, of course. And in a violent rush, that at ease feeling vanishes. Instead, I'm acutely aware of the man beside me – his proximity to me, where his legs are, where his hands are, the way he's fiddling with the label on his beer.
Turning slightly, Edward gazes at me and clears his throat. "What about you? Ready to turn in, too?"
I swallow/gulp because I'm not ready for bed at all. I have no idea what I'm ready for. Strike that, yes, I do.
"Um, not really?" I hear myself say. "I think I'll stay out here for a little while longer."
"Good." He settles back against the side of the tub and sets his beer up on the deck. "Me, too."
It's strange and wonderful and electrifying being here so close to him. This isn't like being on the slopes or on the chairlifts at all. Maybe it's because it's pretty dark outside and the lights are playing haphazard shadow games with his features. Maybe it's the alcohol working through my system. Maybe it's just Alice's words still spinning in my head. But it just feels more… intimate. More… you know.
"So, med school, right?" I start, not really knowing what to say. Last I heard, Alice said he was going to the University of Colorado, which makes all the sense in the world after the displays I've witnessed over the last few days. Denver is what? Like an hour or so from Vail? I try very hard to not be depressed about this because I know he'll be in heaven.
Edward's lips turn up and under the water, I swear I feel the back of his hand graze my leg. "Yeah, I guess. I've been accepted already."
"Surgeon? Like your dad?"
"Maybe, maybe not. I've been kind of leaning toward maybe oncology or something."
I smile softly because it's exactly the kind of thing I'd expect from him. That sainthood thing? He's a sure thing. "I think that's awesome."
Edward shrugs like it's no big deal that he wants to spend his days curing people from cancer. I want to gush on his behalf, but then without warning, he lifts his arm and stretches it out across the lip of the tub behind me, and I'm too stunned to speak. He doesn't look at me, and I get the sense that he's about as nervous as I am, which makes no sense at all.
"Okay?" he mouths.
Yes, of course, it is. It's more than okay. It's wonderful and perfect and everything I've dreamed about for the past four years. It's all I can do to nod instead of squeal.
Using every bit of internal fortitude I have, I slowly shift into him, testing if it's okay and leaning just a little – enough that our sides are aligned, hip to shoulder, and enough that his body heat feels hotter than the water around us. When I exhale a shaky breath and finally settle against him, putting more of my weight against his chest and ribcage, it's like I can feel him smile because his whole body relaxes and his arm cinches tighter around my shoulders.
I'm utterly amazed at how outwardly calm I am. Because inside? Yeah. Little grenades are going off.
"You're going to Northwestern, right?" His mouth is so close. "That's what Alice said. That still your plan?"
Leaning my head back against his bicep, I stare up at the stars to regain some composure. It's astonishingly clear up here in the mountains, not a single cloud in the sky. "Yeah, there's a prof there I want to study under. He's an expert in the era I'm interested in."
His cheek presses against the top of my head such that I can feel the subtle vibration and rolling movement of his jaw when he speaks. "Literature, right? You want to write or teach?"
"Write?" I laugh softly. "No. Edit maybe. But teaching is where I think I'll wind up, I think."
My breathing does funny things when I feel him slowly braiding a strand of my hair around his fingers. "If I stay for my PhD, yeah. If I decide to go with a Masters, high school."
Edward's fingers slide through my hair, pushing it off my shoulder. "You'll stay for the PhD." The conviction in his voice is alarmingly apparent.
"How do you know?"
Shrugging again, he looks down at me and smiles. His eyes are crinkly but so bright, even in the shadows. "Because I can just tell. You seem the type to see things through to the end. Just look at these last few days. You went from nothing to skiing blues."
"Easy ones." I grin. "And that's only because I had a pushy teacher."
I poke his side, needling between his ribs, making him flinch and laugh. "Are too."
Minutes or maybe hours pass by like this. We talk about school, about Alice, about his parents… really, about everything. And all the while, we get closer and closer, touching more and more. Nothing off or inappropriate… just little touches, little caresses, little glancing brushes of his lips against my forehead, but each time, it drives me insane.
"Want another drink?" I ask, needing some space before my body goes up in flames. It takes me a second to disentangle so I can stand.
Abruptly, just as I'm moving to step out of the hot tub, however, five warm fingers lock around my knee, holding me in place.
"Holy shit! What the hell happened?"
Confused, I look down where his hand is wrapped around my leg. It's dark down in the hot tub, but standing as I am, the light from inside the house shines directly on my normally pale skin. The not small purple-black splotch on my thigh is impossible to miss. As soon as I realize what he's talking about, a bark of a laugh tumbles out of my mouth, even though inside I'm freaking out a little at the way his fingers tighten around my leg.
"It's not that bad." I laugh some more when I see unmistakable horror in his eyes. "Trust me, I've had worse. I can't even remember which fall that one came from."
Shaking his head, Edward sounds like someone just gut punched him. "There's more?"
I nod, because the back of my left thigh is a veritable field of spots and bumps.
"Damn it, Bella. Why didn't you tell me?"
I have no clue where this is coming from. I imagine that there are a few hundred people on this mountain with matching marks. It just comes with the territory from what I can gather. And it's definitely worth it.
"Seriously, Edward, it's not that bad," I chuckle. "You should have seen what I looked like after Alice made me do yoga. Way worse. This? Doesn't hurt." I make a point of poking the splotch with my forefinger.
He shakes his head again and stares from my leg to my face. "It looks like it does. I'm sorry. Shit. You should have told me. I'd have… I don't know. Done something."
"You can kiss it if it'll make you feel better."
What? Did I seriously just say that? I'm silently screaming. Immediately, my stomach launches into a series of crazy cartwheels, all aimed at making me lose my dinner. Really, the only thing that's keeping me from vomiting is fear of even worse embarrassment.
I want to laugh, to take it back, to do something to relieve the tension that suddenly fills the air.
But… as I'm blushing from head to toe, something shifts in Edward's expression. Looking up at me, his eyes darken and his tongue slips out to wet his lips. And it's like the air around me freezes and constricts around my body. I couldn't move or speak if I wanted to.
It's like I'm watching a video in slow motion.
Straightening, he begins to lean forward, his eyes never leaving mine. Around my knee, his hand slides around, squeezing, and it's like I can feel every line of his palm.
"You don't have to," I mouth. "I wasn't–"
My pathetic and insincere protest is cut off by the warmth and softness of his lips brushing across the pebbled skin of my lower thigh.
I damn near hyperventilate, because all sorts of strange and hot and very, very pleasant electric-like currents shoot straight up my leg and make my abdomen clench.
But he doesn't just stop with one kiss. No, he kisses my bruise over and over, open mouthed, lightly touching the tip of his tongue to my skin. By the time he's done, I'm an incoherent mess inside.
"Come back down here," he whispers, grabbing my hand and tugging.
Wordlessly, completely mesmerized, I sink back into the tub. When the warm water surges over my skin, I realize that I hadn't even registered the frigid air. But I don't have time to think about stupid things like weather, because Edward is still staring at me and when he pulls me closer, there are only a couple of inches between our faces.
"I want to kiss you," he breathes, as his eyes roam my face. "I've wanted to kiss you since the moment you arrived."
"Okay," I whisper. My brain has nothing to say about that other than an emphatic, Yes, please!
Just like before, he moves so slowly, the gentleman in him giving me ample time to pull away. He's still watching my face, my lips, and I'm downright ogling his. As he closes the gap between us, it feels like an eternity passes, time measured by the wild thumps of my heart inside my chest.
When our mouths meet, however, that slowly turns into something a lot more heated. A lot. At contact, my lips automatically part against his, and it's like lightning strikes and quickens the blood flowing through my veins. Before I blink, the gentleman disappears, and his tongue is in my mouth, wet and warm and sliding against mine, reminding me of all sorts of other wet and sliding things.
"I need to tell you something," Edward whispers between kisses.
I can't help it. I palm his bare chest, feeling all those pretty ridges and lines of his muscles. Against his mouth, impatient for more, I whisper back, "Later."
As my arms wind around his neck, his come around my waist, his palm splaying out across my lower back, tugging me closer and closer until our chests are pressed together. With no preamble whatsoever, Edward pulls me onto his lap and we kiss like we're making up for centuries without.
It's fast, then slow, sloppy, then chaste, like we're trying to figure out our own particular rhythm. But his lips are better than anything I've ever even begun to fantasize about. So much better. And his hands running down my ribs, widening their path until they're lightly brushing the outside swells of my breasts, make me instantly forget any reservations I've ever had about bikinis. Fuck bikinis. I want to be naked. I want him naked.
I nearly come apart at the seam when I feel something very rigid against my stomach.
"God, you feel good," he murmurs, half incoherent, as he drags his lips down my neck, licking away droplets of water. His hips shift beneath me. "So good. I knew you would. I knew it."
"Mmm," is all I can manage because he's sucking on my skin, and I want him to leave marks, just so that I'll know this is real. When I tug on the hair at the nape of his neck, he shudders and groans something against my chest that I can't quite make out. I do it again, and his left hand sneaks up to palm my breast. Through the fabric of my top, he runs his thumbnail back and forth across my nipple.
I want to ask someone if it's possible to have an orgasm from just kissing and a little groping. Because holy damn, I feel like I want to explode. Every time his nail flicks my nipple, my hips swivel, searching.
At this point, I know that Edward could ask me for anything right now and I'd give it to him.
Dimly, through the fog, as his luscious mouth assaults mine again, there's a pang of sadness deep in my chest. Some small and not very loud part of me understands that experiencing a little bit of Edward Cullen and then having to leave once this is all over might very well be worse than never having had him at all. That small part reasons that at least then I wouldn't have anything to miss. But like I said, that part is pretty much in hiding right now.
"Hey, Eddie! You still out there?"
Emmett's voice is like a bucket of ice-cold water. Or a snowball to the face. Take your pick.
Cursing like two teenagers caught by mom and dad, Edward and I fly apart, flailing and splashing water everywhere, only to come back together a second later. Only this time, I'm beside him, not straddling him. Normal. Close, but not dry humping. We're both breathing hard, however, our breaths coming out in harsh puffs of white-gray steam.
"Hey," A shirtless Emmett slips through the sliding glass door. "Have you seen– Oh, hell…" Clearly embarrassed, he palms the back of his neck. "Um, hey, Bella. I didn't think– right."
Thank God for darkness. My face is flaming and my responding wave is shaky and twice as embarrassed as his little neck palm. Never having been one for public displays, I want to crawl in a hole somewhere, because I know that tomorrow, the rest of the house is going to hear all about this.
Shit. Alice is going to die. And God forbid, ask for details.
Amidst my mortification, that quiet little part of me somehow decides to wake up, too, and like a spotlight lighting off, I abruptly realize where I am, what I've been doing, and where exactly I was likely heading. And more importantly, I apprehend just how much that where I was likely heading might hurt later on. Cursing under my breath, I remind myself that he'll be in Colorado and I'll be in Illinois. No way this can end well. Part of me wants to hug Emmett. After I scrub his memories.
"So, I'll talk to you guys in the morning," Emmett manages after an excruciating moment of awkward silence. Spinning on his heel, he half way runs back to the kitchen, throwing over his shoulder a hasty, "Sorry if I interrupted!"
Watching Emmett's retreating form, kicking myself repeatedly and stunned at what I'm about to say, I take a deep breath of ice cold air. Staring down at breaking bubbles, I whisper, "Look, I'm going to just… go to bed? Okay?"
I falter when I see Edward's creased forehead. His lips part, too, like I've just surprised him or taken something from him. But he's not petulant or angry or anything like that. Edward looks… sad. That quiet (maybe stupid) part of my head really starts yammering now, because him being sad? Yeah, that's even worse. I'll fall for a sad Edward without hesitation, believing that there's something there that just can't be. If I haven't already.
Beneath the water, his fingers squeeze around mine. "You sure?"
"Yeah, I need to get to bed. Up early tomorrow, right?"
"I didn't screw up, did I? Please don't regret–" Frowning, Edward releases my fingers so he can push the hair off his forehead. "Never mind. I– well… shit. Goodnight."
As I exit the tub, Edward grabs my hand again. "Look, I'll be up a little longer if you can't sleep or something. Tomorrow, I need to talk to you. Don't over think this, okay?"
Right. A little too late for that.
"It's fine. I'll see you in the morning."
-Nope, Not Stopping Yet… Falling Some More-
My ginormous, 800-threadcount bed should feel like a cloud. It should be warm and fluffy, and I should be falling asleep in like two minutes flat.
But I'm not.
No, instead, wide-awake, I just lie here for a solid hour. I lie here smelling the lingering chlorine on my skin as I repeatedly run my forefinger over my bottom lip. I can still feel Edward's mouth against mine – warm, wet, and very, very real. Just like I can still feel his hands all over my middle and back. Just like I can still hear the little noises he made when I shifted in his lap. Or hell, the little noises I made, the desperate ones that he seemed to swallow by stroking my tongue with his.
I recognize that a week and a half ago, I wouldn't be here right now. Following Edward wherever he wanted to go wouldn't have even been a question. I'd have done whatever it was that he wanted. I'd have had sex with him eighteen ways from Sunday. Gladly. Happily. Very eagerly.
But now? Now as I stare out through my wall of glass, watching the way the moonlight bounces off the snow and casts everything in blue, things are different, I realize. I think about all the heartache that Alice has dealt with to keep her relationship with Jasper. Sure, they are good now, but I can't help but recall the nights not too long ago when she cried for hours because they saw each other only on holidays. I remember how this last round of breakup made her absolutely miserable (we ate a lot of ice cream this past semester).
Not that Edward wants to date me, I sigh. As far as I'm aware, this – this last week and a half – is the first time he's ever noticed me at all. And honestly, even now, I don't exactly know what he wants, other than the obvious physical connection.
But I do. I do want more. I can admit that to myself. And because I do, I tell myself again and again and again: Colorado, Illinois. Not happening. Not with grad school and medical school. It's just impossible.
At the same time, never mind all my intellectual rationalizations, every nerve ending in my body (and a few somewhere deep in my soul) aches, and the other non-rational side of my brain can't help thinking about all the time Edward and I have spent together. That side thinks that I made some vast mistake by running and hiding away up here.
"What the hell, Swan?" I argue, balling my fist around the sheets. "You dream about him for four solid years. And once you have him, what do you do? Idiot!"
Needless to say, I'm very confused and more than a little depressed. All of those unreleased hormones certainly aren't helping any, either. And I have a lot of those.
I finally argue myself somewhere close to sleep. It's not real sleep, but rather that half-awake place where you are just drifting, only vaguely aware of what's going on around you. In my head, like I have every night just before I'm dead to the world, I'm skiing. Weird, I know, but it's true. Maybe because I've been doing so much of it, my muscles remember the sensations; I can actually feel the forward motion down the mountain. And behind closed lids, a field of falling snow races toward me. It's not unpleasant at all – I'm a much better skier in my head than I am on my feet.
Speeding down the mountain, I'm so close to real dreaming that I barely register the click of a door. When I feel the gentle dip of the mattress beside me, however, my eyes shoot wide and my whole body locks down.
"I need to talk to you," Edward whispers, even as he seeks me out under the covers.
Stunned, disoriented, and now very, very confused, I let him pull me against his side. He's so warm, and that traitor body of mine automatically melts against him. In the back of my mind, I'm kind of glad I opted for my polka dot pajamas rather than some ratty old t-shirt. Not sexy, but at least… classy? Maybe?
Edward is shirtless (go figure), wearing just a pair of flannel pajama pants that sling way too low on his hips for my comfort. I've decided that God hates me.
"Please? Hear me out?"
Shaking off the fog of near-sleep, I mutter a quiet, "Okay…"
"Before, you didn't let me finish telling you what I wanted to. And then things happened a little fast."
I think I remember something like that. Yep. I sure do. When I nod, Edward's arm cinches around me in a very proprietary fashion. Like I need any reminder of that.
"And after, like when you took off, I got to thinking. I realized that you might be under a misapprehension. And that that's why you… left like that."
Shaking my head, I'm still confused. "I have no idea what you are talking about."
"Next year, for med school..." Edward looks down his chest at me. Shadows play across his cheekbones, but I can still see the way his eyes glue themselves to my face. "I'm not going to Colorado."
"What?" I must have drunk entirely too much, because I'm not following him at all. I do feel him, however, and my body relaxes the moment he starts running his palm down my back.
"I figured that Alice told you."
"No." Unable to help myself, I trail a finger along one of the lines of his abs and blurt, "I'm confused, Edward. Where are you going with this?"
"Somehow and don't ask me how, I got into Pritzker."
"You mean, you are going to…" I trail off.
You know that sensation when your knees give out? Or like when the ground suddenly opens up beneath you? That's exactly what it feels like right now, only I'm not standing up. It's like everything I understood to be fact is now fiction.
"University of Chicago."
"That…" I lick my lips, my brain somersaulting, trying to catch up. "No, I didn't know that."
"Didn't think so. I just assumed Alice told you…" He stops and threads his fingers between mine before pulling my knuckles up to his lips. "Look, Bella, I wouldn't have done any of… well, what we did in that hot tub… if I didn't think this," he motions between us, "Was going some–"
He doesn't finish the rest. I cut him some slack, though. It's hard to talk when someone's tongue is in your mouth like mine is in his.
-Oh, Wow, Yep, We're Definitely Still Falling (in a big way)-
"Oh, shit," he groans. "You're killing me."
"Shh," I shush, planting open-mouthed kisses all up and down his neck and chest. Every time I nip, biting down just enough, he shudders and rocks his hips upward. See, this time it's my turn to leave some love marks. I plan to leave many. Maybe I'd like a few more myself, too.
Oh, wait, did you think I'd fade to black? Um, I don't think so.
We kiss… a lot – wet, slick, deep kisses with wandering, groping hands and panting breaths. It's like that hour or so long intermission never occurred. We're right back to where we were before.
In very short order, clothing becomes a thing of the past. Really, I don't even remember my shirt slipping over my head, nor do I recall how Edward's sleep pants made their way across the room. I think my underwear is hanging on the bedpost.
My back bows and my hips shimmy as Edward's mouth clamps onto my breast. He's ruthless, so very ungentlemanly now that we've come to an agreement, and his tongue? His tongue is downright sinful, repeatedly doing this sucking/twirling thing around my nipple that threatens to make me lose every shred of my sanity. It's like there's a singing electrical wire tying my nipple to my lower half.
"Want you," I gasp, closing my eyes, shamelessly rubbing myself against the length sandwiched between us (I'm not sure what I want to call it yet – cock or dick? Not penis. Or erection. Or manhood. That's just too Harlequin.).
Like I weigh nothing, with a low growl of frustration, Edward flips me over, stretching out on top of me and settling between my thighs. He's right there. And he's shaking a little, something I can easily understand. I'm like a piano wire strung too tightly, just on the verge of snapping.
"I don't have anything…" he starts and stops, ducking into the crook of my neck to kiss me there. "Do you have a condom? Please say you do."
I laugh and the motion does absolutely delicious things to the friction between us. "No. I didn't really think I'd need one when I was packing."
"Damn it," he exhales, resting his forehead against my chest.
"I'm clean," I whisper slowly, for some reason now strangely shy. Strange considering the position we're in.
Lifting his head, his eyes widen in the dark. "I know. I didn't even think you wouldn't be. I am, too. I've not been with anyone since I was tested a year ago. I swear it."
Purposefully, I rake my nails down his back, giggling at the shiver that rolls down his entire body. "Okay."
"Shit." Edward's arms curl under my shoulders, gripping the tops as though he's looking for grounding. "But… as beautiful as our babies would be, I don't think they're conducive to grad school."
I really laugh now, loving the way it feels to be with him like this. Taking his earlobe between my teeth, I murmur, "I'm on the pill."
"Oh, thank God," he groans/laughs/sighs. "You sure? We can stop. I don't want to, but I don't want to push–"
"In me. Now."
Yes, I can be quite demanding. You would be too if you were in my position.
For the record, Edward takes direction very well. I suck in a deep breath (preparing), but before I can think to exhale, warmth and fullness flood my lower half as he sinks into me. I'm so wet that he slides all the way in until his hips are flush against mine.
One of us curses. Or maybe both of us do.
"Good?" he pants, watching my face.
I think my eyes are rolling back in my head because my vision is doing wonky things. "Yeah, move. Don't stop," I order (again with the demanding).
With a Cheshire cat grin, he covers my mouth with his and starts this rocking/rolling/undulating hip motion that makes me moan and claw at him, trying to hold on, pulling him closer and closer.
For the sake of honesty, I should point out that Edward and I don't do romance novel sex. Our sex is not graceful or porn worthy or filled with eighteen orgasms and throbbing manhoods. There's no dripping cores either (seriously, I read that once in one of my mom's old bathroom books and died laughing).
No, instead, our version of sex is so much better. It's a little awkward and we laugh a lot, mostly when we try to talk. We change position at least half a dozen times. But we do it because we both want to find out what makes the other's toes curl.
A few minutes of missionary turns into a few minutes of me on top (Winner! Ding-ding-ding), which then turns into a lot of minutes of me bent in half across the bed and him standing behind me. Edward likes that one best, I think. Okay, fine. So do I. You know how deep you can go like that? Mother. Fucker.
But too, I love the way Edward looks above me when I'm on my back and he's sitting up on his knees, driving into me hard enough that I have to grab the sheets else I'll climb the mattress. His muscles are taut, and sweat beads along his upper lip. He's so incredibly sexy that I just want to stare at him for hours and hours. Of course the throbbing that's threatening to make me scream and beg makes focus a little difficult for hours and hours.
I do scream when he pulls my ankles to his shoulders. The angle is insane, and even though my hamstrings burn, I hear myself egging him on, saying very, very naughty things.
So what? I have a foul mouth when I'm on the edge of an orgasm. Shoot me.
He just grins and tells me to say it again.
Sure, okay, fine. I can oblige. "Fuck me, Edward."
"I'm not fucking you," he laughs. I probably should point out that his cock/dick says otherwise.
"What do you call this?" I gasp.
"I don't know, but not fucking." A little more serious, he adds. "It's more than that."
I melt right away then. When he reaches down and thumbs my clit? Melting turns into meltdown.
I have three meltdowns before dawn.
-Almost There… And Yes, Falling Away-
After a few hours of getting to know you sex, we've burrowed our way under my covers. Exhausted, a bit sticky, and very content, I'm draped across Edward's chest and his arms are wound around me, limp from exertion. Granted, he's not the best of pillows (too hard), but I'll trade a little comfort for closeness any day of the week.
"Can I tell you something else?" His fingers lazily comb my hair, pulling through the tangles.
Unwilling to move at all, I just as lazily slur, "Yeah."
"I asked Alice to invite you."
Now that gets my attention, and my head pops up. "What?"
"Yeah, I told Alice to get you to come up here." Outside, the sun is slowly peeking through the trees, turning everything pale pink. It lightens the room enough that I can see how vibrant the green in Edward's eyes really is.
"That so?" My lips curve upward even though I don't really know why.
Edward's responding smile is as soft as his voice. "I wanted you to be here. I thought, what with us being close next year…" He pauses before reaching up to gently trace my cheekbone. "I've… always liked you, Bella. Like since the day I helped Alice move in to that dorm you guys shared."
I'm thoroughly dumbfounded, and my mouth can only echo my disbelieving thoughts. "No."
Because that was more than four years ago. Four. The same four. My four.
Still tracing my cheekbones, he continues, his brow folded as if he's admitting some terrible truth. "I just… I didn't think it would be fair to try something… with you because you were so far away. Maybe… I don't know."
"No." Apparently, that's all I know how to say.
Bright green eyes flash in a mix of amusement and frustration. Those tracing fingers still, and his palm slides up to cup my cheek. "Bella, why the hell do you think I came down to Phoenix in August for like three years straight?"
My expression must be comical, because I can tell he wants to laugh when I squeak, "To visit your sister?"
Rolling his eyes, Edward leans to kiss my neck, sending a barrage of delicious shivers down my spine. But those shivers are from more than just lips on skin; the sense of rightness and fit washes right through me. "Yeah."
"So, Chicago?" I manage, gasping when he rolls me under him. "That's pretty… close to Evanston."
"Yep. It's a very good school." Grinning – wickedly, I might add – Edward nods for emphasis and then moves to the other side of my neck. God, his mouth. "One of the top in the nation."
"That's only like… a few months away, too." He pulls the sheets away and like the guy he is, he goofy-smiles at my chest.
I squirm as he licks a line between my breasts down to my stomach. When his hand slides up my thigh, I nearly come off the bed. "In the meantime," he goes on, pushing his fingers inside, stroking me. Did I mention that Edward is a very fast learner? "I have some frequent flyer miles."
Humming, eyes closed, I arch and grab onto his shoulders, holding on for dear life. "Oh?"
"So beautiful," he whispers against my stomach, never ceasing those insanely talented fingers of his. But he's the one who trembles when I wrap my hand around his dick (yes, dick works just fine in this context). He's hard again, and well, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to guess what I want.
Everything, of course. Sex, him, especially him.
As he continues touching me, almost reverent in the way his body treats mine, the sun rises. The light bulb goes off. Whatever other metaphors work.
Somehow, I realize… I have him. And somewhere deep down, I know that I will have him in the future, too, that whatever will happen will work out in the end. Now, I'm nearly bursting, so full of joy/lust/love (wait, not yet, damn it!) that I'm almost in tears.
Instead of revealing my crazy, however, I say the first thing that comes to mind. "I want you inside me again."
"Jesus, I want to hear you to say that to me all the time," he groans, as he shifts into my hand. I squeeze him again, loving the feel of him and the way he responds to me.
Without any more prompting, he slides into me and begins a slow, steady push and pull of his hips. "You know, if… you wanted, I could visit. Or you could come up to Seattle. We could do something maybe once a month until…" Above me, Edward's eyes suddenly widen and he smiles so broadly I'm almost blinded. "I know. Valentine's Day at Snowbowl."
"What?" I manage, only half capable of speech at this point.
"Only the best skiing in Arizona."
"Huh?" There's no such thing as skiing in Arizona.
Edward laughs. "Bella, I'll have you… on black diamonds before you know it… Afterward, at night, of course…" He stops, kisses me hard and wet, and rolls his hips. "A lot more of this."
See, now it's my turn to smirk and laugh, because I remember something very, very important when it comes to Edward Cullen.
"So, I take it that you're planning on checking those Fischers after all? Or will you be… renting?"
Happy Holidays. I wish the best to you and yours. :)