|Dancing In The Dark
Author: jaxon22 PM
"You can't start a fire, you can't start a fire without a spark. This gun's for hire even if we're just dancing in the dark." Immersed in a world of dance, drink, drugs, and women, Edward Cullen is the ultimate bachelor. Until he receives a late night phone call that changes everything. AH E/BRated: Fiction M - English - Romance - Edward & Bella - Chapters: 17 - Words: 93,108 - Reviews: 5,294 - Favs: 2,635 - Follows: 3,656 - Updated: 05-11-13 - Published: 11-30-12 - id: 8751380
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Dancing in the Dark
My body's on fire
And I can't stand the pain
This burning desire
I feel once again
I hate Christmas shopping. Hate it. Despise it even.
If there were a choice between having my balls put into a steel vice and Christmas shopping in Seattle the first week of December, the former would win every time. Being a man, I have never enjoyed any form of purchasing, especially when the entire world goes batshit crazy and descends onto the city. Add in the snow, and I'm in my own personal hell on Earth.
I trudge behind Alice, dodging stupid people laden with bags, freezing my vice preferring balls off. It's only the first Saturday of December and already the place is filled to the brim with festive happy chumps. I'm not a Scrooge, I swear. I like the family side of Christmas, and I know this year will be extra special having Shortcake, but my patience is already wearing thin.
We arrive at Toys R Us, and Alice all but runs to the baby aisle. I'm utterly flummoxed. Shortcake's five weeks old. She's not going to know what the fuck Christmas is, let alone care what presents she gets. I've already bought her a doll and some new bedtime onesies. What more does she need?
Alice starts oohing and ahhing at the plush toys, and I stand at her side, feeling like a spare part.
"Why are we here?" I grumble. "Can't we look at stuff for James and William?"
At least then I'd be a lot more engaged. The comic book stuff would be more than enough to keep me occupied while Alice goes fanatical over the baby stuff.
"Stop being miserable," she replies. "This is your daughter's first Christmas. You should be getting into the spirit."
"I'll be in the spirit on Christmas Day," I retort. "Not three weeks before. Besides, Shortcake doesn't know what Christmas is."
"That's not the point," Alice answers with a sigh, shoving a plush cat at me.
"She's got enough fucking toys." I put it back on the shelf as Alice turns from me.
We spend almost an hour in the damned place, and I'm about to cut a bitch by the time we head to the checkout. Shortcake now has two more plush toys, a new set of onesies, a set of bibs, and a play mat. I may have chosen the play mat myself. It looks cool as hell with mirrors and parts that beep, squeak, and ring. Maybe the morning wasn't a total bust.
I arrive back at my apartment, feeling as if I've run a marathon. I open the door and drop all of my bags by the side table along with my keys and wallet. I pause in removing my jacket, motionless with the leather at my elbows, when I hear music—Bruce Springsteen—and . . . singing?
As quietly as I can, I wander towards the kitchen and peep gradually around the doorjamb.
What I see just about floors me.
With Shortcake in her arms, Isabella is dancing and singing from one side of the kitchen to the other. The sounds of Born in the USA reverberate around the room, and Isabella bops and wiggles in small circles, smiling down at my daughter. Her eyes are wide and bright, and, I have to admit, she's moving her hips really well. Deliciously so.
Pulling my jacket all the way off, as well as my beanie, I lean my shoulder against the doorjamb and watch her. Never once does she look up at me. Her attention is on Shortcake, and my heart shudders with relief. I've wanted this for what feels like forever. I've wanted Isabella to be relaxed and happy around Shortcake. And she is.
From the lightness of her movements, to the carefree expression on her face, Isabella looks not only happy but beautiful. I start slightly, almost paralysed as I stare at her. She looks completely different. The weariness that typically etches her face and makes her shoulders droop is gone, making her look so much younger. She has a bounce in her step, and the undeniable pain that seems to follow her like a heavy fog has lifted, leaving light and joy. She's exquisite.
It's been over a week since Thanksgiving. Since Jasper planted a seed he had no fucking right to. Since Isabella stayed at my apartment. Since I thought about her in a way I shouldn't. I haven't allowed myself to think about it, knowing how stupid and dangerous it is. But, seeing her this way, it's hard for me to deny the warmth that radiates from the centre of my stomach as I look at her.
I've felt the warmth before, perhaps not as deep-rooted or as quickly, but I know what it means: I'm attracted to her. I'm attracted to her, and I shouldn't be. I have no damned business to be. The list of reasons is long: number one being that she has a boyfriend. He sounds like an utter fucking douchebag, but I have to respect his relationship with Isabella. Then there's the reality that she's Shortcake's aunt. Okay, it's not by blood, but it still makes me cautious: It would complicate an already complex situation. The cons far outweigh the pros of the situation.
The music fades as the song ends, and I stand, clapping my hands loudly before whistling through my fingers. Isabella's face is priceless. I laugh when she stands stock still in the centre of my kitchen with a face the colour of a strawberry. I buckle over laughing harder when she hurries to Shortcake's seat and places her in it carefully. She smoothes down her tee and tucks her wayward hair, which always comes out of her clip, behind her ears.
"Very impressive, Miss Swan," I tease, walking towards her slowly, while she busies herself with shit that doesn't need to be busied with.
"I didn't know you were back," she mumbles, wiping furiously at the counter top.
"Clearly," I say with a smirk. I stop her side and place my hand over hers, stopping her panicked movement. "You're pretty good, you know?" I lift her warm hand, ignoring the subtle tingle under my skin as I touch her, and push her gently under my arm in a slow turn.
Her mouth pops open, but, before she can protest, I bring her back. This time she goes with it, chuckling as she turns. With my free hand I grab her waist, pulling her closer, and move with her in a quick box step turn—which she handles admirably—before I spin her again and dip her backwards, holding her tightly so she knows she won't fall. She laughs, leaning her head back further, and I let my eyes drink in the perfect curve of her neck. Her skin is almost translucent, and the sudden urge to lick her pulse point has me bringing her back up quickly.
I release her and smile. I'm more than a little flustered and a lot tight in the groin area, but she doesn't seem to notice. The adorable pink of her cheeks, however, suggests she's just as affected. She clears her throat, and, without a word, moves to grab two mugs from the cupboard to pour some coffee.
Over the past week we seem to have become somewhat domesticated. She spends a lot of her time here, babysitting Shortcake as much as she can. Though, thankfully she hasn't stayed over again. In truth, I don't know how she keeps up with her work. It's fine, though. Now that she's chilled out and found her sense of humour, I like having her around. Plus, it takes the pressure off Alice and Mama.
She hands me my hot mug, and I move over to Shortcake. I tap my fingertips gently against her round belly."How's it going, beautiful?"
She's barely awake. Her blue eyes roll gently under the lids. I notice her cheeks are slightly red and touch her forehead.
"She feels a little warm," I say, putting my coffee onto the table before pulling the thermometer from her diaper bag and placing it carefully under her arm.
Isabella puts the back of her hand to Shortcake's forehead and frowns. "She didn't finish her bottle earlier."
After the required time, I remove the thermometer and check it. "It's higher but not overly," I note, yet the anxiety from the mere possibility of her being sick, still cloaks me.
Isabella shrugs. "Maybe she's got a chill?"
"I guess. We need to keep an eye on it, though," I say firmly. I tell myself silently not to panic and call Carlisle, although the compulsion to do so is fierce.
"I suppose that puts the brakes on my plans tonight," Isabella says despondently, pulling Shortcake's sweater back down.
"What plans are those?" I ask, putting the thermometer back into its box. I look up when she doesn't answer straight away. "Isabella?"
She pushes her hands into the back pockets of her jeans and shifts her weight from one foot to the other. I can't help but smile at her endearing timidity.
"What is it?" I press.
"Okay," she starts quietly. "So, I was hoping you would let me babysit Shortcake at my place tonight."
Her question surprises the hell out of me; I'm not sure what to say. As is the way with Isabella, she takes my silence as my doubting her and continues to plead her case.
Forever the lawyer.
"I have some work to do, and I could do it at home while she sleeps," she states. "I know her room isn't finished yet, but I can take the bassinet and her bag of things, just like you do with your sister."
Her back straightens, and her hands appear from her pockets. She's on a roll. I suppress my smirk and allow her to continue.
"I know you'll worry, but I have all the numbers I need. Plus, I've been doing a fairly awesome job of looking after her while you've been at work these past couple of weeks. I think I've more than showed my capability, and," she gestures towards me with an open palm, "you clearly trust me."
I nod. She's right: I do. I wait for her to continue, but she doesn't. "You about done?"
Her eyes flicker away from me quickly, thinking carefully, before meeting my gaze head on, fearlessly. "Yes."
"Good. That's fine," I say. A small prickle of alarm creeps up my neck as I say it, but I know it's unwarranted and has nothing to do with Isabella. It comes only from a place that appeared the moment I learned I was a parent, the same place that has me willing to dive in front of a bullet for my little girl. As Alice calls it, my Papa-Bear place.
Isabella's mouth gapes slightly. "Really? I can take her?"
I chuckle. "Sure. I know she'll be safe with you no matter where she is."
She bites her lip. "That means a lot."
"It means a lot that you're willing to do it, Isabella," I counter. "Not only does it help me, but it's great that you're becoming so comfortable with her."
It's fantastic, actually. Whatever apprehension held her back so much before seems to have dissipated. I still see glimmers of it, but they are infrequent. I'm still intrigued as to where the trepidation came from in the first place, but I'm biding my time. I know she'll open up to me when she's ready. At least, I hope so.
Isabella looks at Shortcake and sighs. "I'm just happy I can be part of her life."
I smile gently. "Me too."
She glances back, eyes peering through her lashes, and the warmth in my stomach increases infinitesimally. She's undeniably sexy when she looks like this.
"What?" I ask, suddenly conscious. I run a hand through my hair, which brings a small grin to her lips.
"I, um . . . I have something else to ask you," she says quietly.
I shrug indifferently. "Hit me." She takes a couple of steps towards me, and I swallow.
"A friend of mine," she begins, "owns a large art gallery downtown. Every year he has a large charity event: an auction. It's a ball with dinner and whatnot in the building above." She waves her hand dismissively. "It's a little pretentious, but it's for a good cause."
"Okay," I encourage.
"It's being held the Tuesday before Christmas," she continues. "A little over two weeks from now. I thought . . . with you enjoying art the way I do, maybe you would like to go with me."
"Oh," I reply unimaginatively as she nervously clasps and unclasps her hands, waiting for my answer. I cross my arms over my chest, considering her words carefully.
"You don't have to," she adds quickly. "It was just an idea." She smiles, but it's uneasy and falls quickly.
"So," I say, elongating the vowel. "This is like . . . a date?"
I ask it as a question because, one, I know it will ruffle her, and I find no end of amusement in seeing her fluster. And, two, because I genuinely want to know. Watching her as my question echoes around the room, however, I'm not entirely sure what I want her answer to be. That fact alone should have me taking a step back. Literally and metaphorically. As it is, I stay where I am.
"No," she answers loudly. "No. I wouldn't assume you would—no. It's not. I mean, I have, you know, a boyfriend, and you're not—I mean, you're . . . and I'm . . . we don't have—what I mean is, dammit, it's not a date."
I smirk, and her eyes narrow. "So it's definitely not a date."
She sighs, but I see mirth in the small-exasperated shake of her head. "No, Edward. It's not. It's just an invitation to go as friends. Take it or leave it."
"Friends," I echo, liking the sound of the words on my lips. I hum and rub my chin. "Will I have to wear a suit and tie?"
Her stare drops to my chest, and she clears her throat. "Yes."
"Will I have to laugh at all the jokes the snobby rich folk will be telling?"
She snorts. "Absolutely, but I'll protect you."
I don't doubt it.
"I won't be working that night." I push my hands into the pockets of my jeans and lift my shoulders. "Why not? Sounds like something I'd like. I haven't been to an art gallery in years."
Isabella's face lightens, and her mouth stretches into a wide, beaming smile. "Great. I'll RSVP."
She looks the happiest I've seen her since we met.
I'm glad it's not a date. Who knows what that would do to her demeanour.
I arrive at the club earlier than usual. I'd like to say it's because I love my work so much, but it's because I'm driving myself fucking insane. Since Isabella left with Shortcake almost three hours ago, I've more or less paced a hole in my apartment floor. It's stupid; it's unreasonable. It's not as if I haven't seen Isabella's place and know that Shortcake's safe. I know all of this.
But I can't seem to calm down.
I checked Shortcake's temperature again before they left, and it was the same. It hadn't increased any, but she was unsettled and didn't finish her bottle again. Her diaper wasn't very nice, either. To her credit, Isabella asked if I was sure it was okay for them to leave. Of course, I said yes. I can't allow myself to be a fucking maniac every time my daughter's not at my side. It'll come with time, Mama Esme keeps telling me. I sure hope so.
At least I have something to take my mind off it all. Tonight is Heaven and Hell night at the club. Of course, I'm a devil. I have the obligatory horns attached to my head, a red velvet cape, and small, shiny red hot pants. Throughout the night, I will change from this to an angel and back again, but now it's time for rock and roll.
As Aerosmith booms from the speakers for the opening number, me and the other boys dance in perfect unison. We flip, spin, weave, and grind. The women are loud and demanding, and I've made nearly a hundred dollars before the song ends. Notes are stuffed into my hot pants, making it look like I have a horrendous case of haemorrhoids. I say this to Pete, and he laughs louder than I've ever heard him.
Pete and Mike take to the stage for their R Kelly bump and grind section. Backstage, I pull my horns from my head, throwing them onto the dressing table and chug water. Tyler holds a bottle of tequila and gestures with it towards me. I shake my head, despite the craving I have for a harder drink. Tyler shrugs and takes a hit himself. He hisses and curses when he swallows, but I see the tension in his shoulders relax almost instantly.
That's how it is. We get shitfaced and high to help with the stage fright, the nerves, to cloak our inhibitions, or, in Tyler's case, to numb the embarrassment about taking his clothes off for a living. He's a newbie, paying his way through college—though I'm not sure he even goes anymore—and I appreciate his shame. I remember feeling it the first few times I ever went on stage at Eclipse.
Contrary to popular belief, I didn't ever want to be a stripper. I fell into it.
I was still torn by the death of my mother when my ballet days were cut short. Once my knee was healed enough, I danced with Jake and his pals in the park and at social events, but it wasn't the same thing. It wasn't enough. I missed the adrenaline rush and the excitement that was so prevalent when I performed on stage. Like the drugs I gradually started to use, I needed the stage. I craved it.
I met Emmett through a mutual drinking friend. He saw in me what I thought had been lost. He picked me up, dusted me off, and offered me a job. I was nineteen. I had women throwing themselves at me, offering me things I'd neither done, nor heard of, and I had more money than I ever imagined.
I was euphoric.
Mama, Alice, and Carlisle tried their best to talk me out of it. They told me I was better, I was worth more. Take up your art, they said. Take up your photography and go to college. Maybe even open a dance studio, Carlisle said. He even offered to contribute financially. I knew they were well intentioned, but I ignored them. I told them I was happy. I was back on the stage dancing, and I loved it. It just so happened I took my clothes off, too. A small detail, which mattered little to me.
Nonetheless, the first time I took my clothes off on stage, I was a mess. Half wasted from drinking my panic away, I took my clothes off as if I was in a fucking locker room. The women, however, didn't seem to notice. I was young meat, ripe and clean, and they loved my sexy innocence. That's what Emmett said, and that's how he sold me to them. Many of the women who saw me that first night are still regulars, and they pay well. I know them by their first names. I know what they like, I provide it, and they reward me handsomely.
Ten years down the line, it seems, not much has changed inside the Eclipse bubble.
Outside it, however, things have done a complete one-eighty.
I'm a father now. I'm a sober-for-a-week father. I'm a sober-for-a-week father, who misses his daughter and worries that she's feeling unwell. I check my phone, sending a quick text to Isabella, asking if Shortcake is alright. She is, she says. She's finally asleep. At least that's something.
Good, I reply. How's work going?
She is quick with her response: Tedious. Not as much fun as your night, I'm sure.
I smile at the winking emoticon she has added to the end of her text.
I'm sure, I type. Although, you at least get to keep your clothes on.
It takes me a fucking age to work out how to create the same winking smile before I send it.
My jaw hits the fucking floor when I read her reply: How do you know?
Jesus. Who knew she had it in her?
I laugh. I am growing to love her sassy, uninhibited side. It still doesn't come out enough as far as I'm concerned.
My reply is simple: Tease.
She doesn't respond, but I didn't expect her to. I know she's mindful about bothering me when I'm at work, although, as the scent of pot wafts over to me, filling the room with its pungent aroma, I'm not sure she'd be quite so courteous. Not that I would blame her. My eyes wonder from my cell to Tyler, who's pulling back on a blunt, slumped on one of the sofas we have in the dressing room.
As nice as it smells, however, I don't want any.
I want to be with Shortcake. And, if I'm being honest with myself, Isabella.
I look at the clock. It's eleven. Three hours to go. I pull off my hot pants, caring little about being naked in front of Tyler, and pull on my white Grecian style costume. It's the closest to an angel outfit Emmett could get. I pull on my white thong and put more gel in my hair. It's crazy spiky tonight and glistens with oil. I ask Tyler to spray my chest and legs with glitter, which he does with the blunt hanging from his mouth. He offers it to me, and I shake my head.
"What's up with you?" he asks, sitting back with a lazy smirk on his face. "Are you becoming straight in your old age?"
I laugh and frown at him. "No," I answer, ignoring the jibe about my age. "I just want a clear head tonight."
He snorts. "You're different."
I watch him as he closes his eyes and smokes the rest of his joint. It strikes me somewhere deep in my chest, under the part of me that longs to be with my daughter, that he is right.
I am different.
With a frustrated sigh, I quickly shut down the questions that start to rise through my brain. I'll consider what my being different means for my job at Eclipse later. Right now, I have a dance to do and money to earn.
It's a little before one-thirty in the morning when I check my phone again.
When I do, my heart plummets to the soles of my feet.
Four missed calls.
Two texts from Isabella. The first asks me to call her as soon as I can.
Nausea ripples through me as I read the next one. She's taking Shortcake to the hospital.
There are two texts from Mama telling me that she's on the way to hospital to meet Isabella and two missed calls from Alice.
"Hey, Coda!" Emmet calls from the dressing room doorway. "I need to talk to you."
I ignore him with my finger in the air, telling him to wait a minute while I call Isabella. Her phone goes straight to voicemail. I want to launch it at the wall. "Fuck!"
My mouth is sickeningly dry, and my pulse rocks through my temples.
"Coda," Emmett persists.
"Wait!" I snap back at him while I listen for Alice's voice. I almost collapse when I hear her. "Alice!"
"Calm down," she says before I can ask what the fuck's going on. "She's alright."
"Alright?" I bark. "Why is she in the hospital if she's alright?" I pull my sweat pants from my bag and yank them on quickly. Next is my t-shirt and sneakers, which I don't even tie. I've never dressed so quickly in my life.
"Her temperature spiked, and Isabella called Carlisle," Alice explains. "He suggested taking her to the hospital. Some infants have seizures if their temperature gets too high, too fast."
Her voice is calm. She talks to my nephews like this when they are scared about something. Ironically, her using it makes me even more scared. Christ. A seizure? I'm petrified. I grab my bag, my cell still glued to my ear as Alice tells me what floor Shortcake is on, and I barge past Emmett, not giving him as second glance.
"I have to go," I throw over my shoulder. "Shortcake's in the hospital. I've gotta go."
I hear him say something. Maybe ask me what the fuck's going on, but I couldn't care less. I'm out of the door and running across the car lot before he can finish.
I drive like a fucking lunatic across town, reaching Seattle General in record time. I sprint through the doors, ignoring the discomfort that twists in my stomach any time I enter a hospital. I throw myself up the stairwell, dodging people as I go, and arrive breathless and terrified at the desk of the paediatric unit. The woman behind it stares at me as I try to speak through heavy breaths.
"My daughter," I manage, placing my hands on the desk in an effort to stay upright. "Elizabeth Cullen. I was—I was called, told she's here. I'm her father. Edward. I'm Edward Cullen."
She nods; her eyes are cautious. I must look a sight with my makeup and sparkling, oiled-up skin. She turns to her computer. "I'll check on that for you."
"Thank you," I say with a gasp.
"Did you say Cullen?" she asks after a brief moment, keeping her gaze on the computer screen. I nod. "As in Dr. Carlisle Cullen?"
"Yes," I reply, standing straighter, regaining my breath. "He's my uncle."
"Yes, I have the notes here." She turns in her chair and waves to gain the attention of another nurse. "Hannah, can you take Mr. Cullen through to see Dr. Cullen. He's in bay three. He's expecting him."
I can't help but feel relieved and a lot thankful that being the family of one of the most respected doctors in the city gives me special privileges. I follow the nurse as she gets us through the security doors, only for my alarm to increase when I hear babies crying. The need to be with Shortcake nearly cripples me. She is so small. I should have been with her. I shouldn't have left her. I'm an idiot.
I halt in my silent, self-berating when we turn into a small bay. Carlisle, Mama, and Isabella are all there. Isabella stands from her seat next to a small crib when she sees me. She looks as bad as I feel, but I ignore all of them and rush across the room to see Shortcake asleep, wearing only a diaper, hooked up to an IV drip that disappears into the tiny crook of her elbow.
"What's this for?" I demand, feeling sick at the thought of someone putting needles into my daughter. "What's wrong with her?"
"She's alright," Carlisle says quietly, too doctor like. "She has a urinary tract infection."
"A UTI?" I ask, perplexed. I've heard Alice talking about such things before. "How? I mean, how did she get that?"
"It's common, Edward," he tells me, though there is no patronising in his voice. "And this," he continues, pointing to the IV, "is for her antibiotics. She's a little dehydrated. The fluids will fix that."
I stare at Shortcake and place my hand on her belly, needing to feel the lift and drop of her lungs under my palm. She's warm. "Does she still have a fever?"
Carlisle moves to my side and places a reassuring hand on my shoulder. "It's come down a lot. The antibiotics will help. She's being checked regularly."
I nod. His words ease me minutely. I try to rub a hand through my gelled hair, and fail. I exhale, trying to calm my body down, as Carlisle explains how they will treat her and what to expect. I'm with her now, I silently remind myself over and over. I know she's okay despite the UTI. He tells me she'll need to stay in overnight, maybe a couple of days for the antibiotics to do their thing. I don't care as long as they make her better. They want to perform a scan on her to check her kidneys and bladder in the morning.
"It's all precautionary," Carlisle assures me when my face drops at the thought of something more serious. "Isabella told me her symptoms only started today. We've caught the infection early, which is very important with children as young as Elizabeth."
I glance over at Isabella to see her chewing the shit out of her thumbnail. Her wide, frightened eyes trained on Shortcake. She must be feeling like shit, too. Carlisle follows my gaze and, with a small smile, pats me on the back.
"Isabella was fantastic tonight, Edward. She did everything right." He walks back over to Mama and leads her out of the room, saying something about getting a coffee.
"Are you okay?" I ask Isabella quietly, dipping my chin to gain her attention.
Her eyes find mine slowly. She drops her thumb from her mouth and wraps her arms around herself. She shrugs. "I'm fine. I'm just glad you're here now." Her voice is small and tired.
She takes a tentative step towards me. "She woke up about an hour after your text. Her cry was different. She wouldn't settle with her bottle or music. I changed her, but she just kept crying." The words break slightly. "I didn't know what to do. I called you a couple of times. I even tried the club, but there was no answer. So I called Alice. She told me to speak to Carlisle. I checked her temperature again as he asked, and it was so high."
She worries her lip. Her eyes glimmer with tears, and my hand instinctively lifts to find her forearm. I squeeze it gently.
"You did the right thing," I tell her. "I'd have done everything you did."
"Really?" She looks genuinely relieved.
"Sure," I answer. "Except I wouldn't have been as calm as you." I smile gently, and she returns it. I release her arm, and my hand drops to my side.
She rubs her palms down her face and sighs loudly. "I was so worried you wouldn't let me take her again."
I frown. "Nonsense. It wasn't your fault." I look back at Shortcake. "I feel guilty as hell that I left her when I knew she wasn't well. I shouldn't have left her. I should've known to stay with her."
Surely, if I was a decent father, I would have had a sixth sense or a feeling of foreboding in my gut. Isn't that what people say? Where's my sixth sense? What's wrong with my gut?
As if it happens in slow motion, Isabella's hand appears in my periphery. Unable to move, I watch it land gently on top of mine on the side of the crib.
"Don't be silly," she murmurs. Her thumb moves a little, stroking my knuckle. "You're a great father. You know this. These things happen."
I glance at her, but she's looking at our hands, seemingly as surprised as I am that she's touching me. I can't deny her touch is welcome. The familiar tingle sparks under my skin, and the overwhelming urge to move and touch her thumb with my pinkie fills me from head to toe.
I do it. Just a little. Just to tell her I appreciate her being with Shortcake. Being with me.
"I'm glad you were with her," I say. My voice sounds different as it struggles to leave my throat.
Isabella looks up at me. Her face is tired but beautiful, and, for one split second, I want to kiss her. The thought occurs so suddenly it makes my knees shake. Isabella's gaze flicks quickly to my mouth, but I wonder if I imagined it when something bleak and miserable appear in her large, brown eyes.
As slowly as she put it there, she removes her hand and takes a step back. I can't deny the disappointment that squeezes my chest when I realise, despite there being mere inches between us, they might as well be miles.
Holy UST, Batman!
Slow burn, guys. You know you love it.
Talking of love, buckets of the stuff to Purelyamuse for being so wonderful.
For those of you still asking, the definition of the word Coda (in this context) is at the beginning of chapter 2.
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