"I need you so that I could die." -The Everly Brothers


CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

I am red lips and a 1940s floppy hat. I am a white dress. I am demure. I am poise. And I am utterly myself.

It only takes a month for everything to become clear to me.

Achingly clear.

I miss Edward too much. I miss him, and I want him around again. I want him around so I can do things differently this time; so I can know his favorite color, so I can know his favorite band, his favorite movie.

I want him, still, even though he's no longer my mother's boyfriend.

But I can't have him.

I can try to make things better than they are now, though.

So I walk through the house, my heels clicking with beautiful familiarity against the hardwood floors.

"Isabel!" Carmen looks me up and down, her eyes wide and hopeful. "You look beautiful, nena."

I smile a little. "Thank you."

"What's the occasion?"

"I'm going into the city. I called a cab. It should be waiting outside—"

"You're going alone?" she cuts in with a frown. "Why?"

"Shopping, of course. What else would I be doing?" I shake my cute white clutch at her as I pass by.

"But shouldn't you wait until Miss Renee is home? The city is dangerous alone—"

"I'll be fine, Carmen, really. But if you don't hear from me, know I'm most likely being dismembered and thrown in the Hudson." I wink at her as I open the door.

Carmen's expression is pure exasperation. "Dios mío!"


I sashay into the building, but inside, I'm all nerves.

The elevator ride up to Edward's level feels like an eternity.

But then the doors are opening, and Tanya is standing there, surprise briefly lighting up her face.

"Bella! What are you doing here?" she asks.

I lie with ease. "I'm just here on my mother's behalf. She misses him. I thought maybe I could patch things up between them."

Tanya snorts. "Well, good luck with that. Edward's as stubborn as a bull. But go on in. Everyone's out to lunch, so I'll have to lock the door to the offices. Just get Edward to let you out."

"That's just fine," I say with a perfect smile.


I knock on his door lightly.

"Come in," he calls.

So I ease my way inside.

His office is as studiously disastrous as the last time I was here. Papers are scattered everywhere, and there's comfortingly familiarity in that. It almost makes me smile.

Edward's back is to me as he sits in his chair. He's got three cabinets open, all of them nearly overflowing with folders. I watch him flip through the files rapidly. "What is it, Tanya? Something else happen to our witness?"

"I wouldn't know," I say lightly.

He freezes up. But then he turns, so slowly, like he doesn't really want to see me—which I suppose he doesn't. Our eyes meet, and he's still so movie-star handsome, even with his hair longer and messier; beautifully unprofessional.

"What the hell are you doing here?" he whispers.

"It's okay," I say quietly. I drift over to his desk and sit my clutch down on the littered surface. "I'm not here to seduce you or to ask anything of you."

"Someone could have seen—" he starts.

But I shake my head. "Only Tanya. I told her I was here on Renee's behalf, trying to win you back."

"But you aren't." He doesn't sound sure if it's a question or not.

"That's the last thing I'd ever want," I say with a small laugh and carefully sit on the edge of a leather chair. Our eyes are level now.

"Then why are you here?" he asks, unable to mask his suspicion.

"To apologize, I guess." There's a bit of stiffness in my voice I can't seem to shake. I shift a little and smile tensely, pushing my curled hair over my shoulder delicately. "I'm sorry for everything I did. I'm sorry for tempting you, for making you abandon your morals, for making you feel guilty for something I pushed you into doing."

"Bella," he cuts in, shaking his head. "I made my own decisions—"

"Don't try to make this your fault," I interrupt, "because it isn't. Yes, you made a choice, but it was after months of invitations from me. You're only human, Edward. I should never have acted the way I did." Suddenly I can't look at him, him and his still honest face, so I glance down at the hands I have twisted together in my lap. "I wanted to have you, everything else be damned, and that wasn't right."

"So you're just here to make amends?" Edward asks, sounding shocked.

I nod silently.

"Bella… you're still a child. I'm the adult. I should never have let things get so out of hand—"

"Stop," I murmur, frowning up at him. "You act as if I'm a baby. But surely you remember what it's like to be a teenager? I may be young and act irrationally sometimes, but I'm already becoming my own person. I'm already finding my own beliefs. And I'm certainly capable of making big decisions. I made my decision. I wanted you. I still do."

Edward swallows heavily, looking away. "Bella—"

"I'm not trying to flirt with you anymore, Edward," I insist quickly—almost stubbornly. "I'm only trying to be honest with you, because I wasn't before. Not really. I like you. I really do. I wish we'd met at college or something so things could be different. But things aren't different. I realize that now. I realize how unavailable you are to me, but it still doesn't change how I feel."

Edward stands up. He walks around his desk and sits on the corner of it, staring down at me with those earnest eyes of his. "Where is all of this coming from? Is your mother finally being a parent to you or something?"

I sigh and shrug, looking back at my hands, watching as my red nails pick carefully at my dress. "She's trying. I suppose that's all I can ask from her."

"Then why the change of heart?"

"I realized how shallow and selfish I was. Growing up, I always said how much I didn't want to be like my mother, but I wasn't really doing anything to prevent myself from being just like her. I realized even though I thought I was mature, true maturity is understanding that those people on the silver screen—they're not real. They're just actresses playing a part. And they were just as screwed up as the rest of us." I look up at Edward so he can see the sincerity in my eyes. "And I realized, too, that no matter how awkward or silly or cliché I might feel, apologizing to you is the only way to halfway right the wrongs I did."

Edward inhales deeply and looks over to his overfilled bookshelves. "I didn't need an apology, Bella."

"You deserved one," I say simply and stand. With him perched on the desk's edge, we're the same height. "I'll leave now."

Then he gets to his feet, too, and he's skyscraper tall again, looking down at me. "You're more mature than I gave you credit for."

"Well, it's new-found maturity," I reply wryly. "Let's hope I can hold on to it."

Edward offers a brief half grin, sliding his hands into his pockets. "I'm sure you can."

I smile a little and then pause. I'm staring up at him, and he's close enough to make my heart grow restless. And then I force my eyes to his tie and whisper, so hesitantly, "Would you kiss me? Just one more time."

"Bella—"

"I'm not trying to be difficult," I assure him, shaking my head. "Really, I promise. It's just that I'll probably never see you again."

I know he'll say no. I just have this feeling, and the disappointment is already blooming inside me.

But then I hear his sigh and I realize I'm wrong.

He leans in.

And hits my hat.

I look up at him and smile, and he kind of exhales a quiet laugh before reaching up and gently taking it off me. He sits the hat on his desk, taking his time—stalling, maybe—before looking back at me.

I want to close my eyes—savor in the anticipation and commit this moment to memory so that maybe one day, when my inspiration returns to me, I can write about it and keep it alive forever.

But I can't shut my eyes, not when I'm staring into Edward's.

He's kind of hesitant—almost nervous—and the way he bites his lip a little, the way he frowns so slightly is beautiful to me.

Then his hands are on my face. His thumbs rest against my jaw, and his fingers are warm and familiar against my neck. His touch is thrilling and dizzying, and he hasn't even kissed me.

He leans in again, and this time, nothing gets in his way.

Our lips touch so carefully, so barely-there and teasingly. But he puts a little more pressure behind them, and then our mouths press together like we belong, like we've done this a thousand times before, so there's no need to rush.

The kiss is languorous-sweet.

The kiss is the slowest one we've ever had—the least desperate, the most precious.

Then he's pulling me closer, and he's kissing me like they do in the old movies: arms embracing, lips slowly burning and impassioned, breaths shared, and hearts beating in time with each other.

It's the kind of kiss I've always wanted. I guess it's the kind of kiss everyone wants, deep down.

Edward's lips break from mine, but then he's kissing me everywhere, quick and hot and needy. He's kissing my jaw, my nose, my eyelids, my temples, my chin. He's everywhere, and he's shaky breaths and a tightening grip on my waist.

He says in my ear, just a low groan of pained words, "I want you, too. God, I want you so much."

The words send shivers down my spine and fire into my body. I grasp at his arms, smiling with my eyes closed as he kisses down my delirious pulse. I turn my head and whisper into his hair, "Then have me."

Edward shivers, his whole body all against me.

My hand moves over his chest as he breathes such hot, quick air against my neck. My touch goes lower and lower, across his tense stomach, down to where he's so hard.

"Fuck," he says, but not out loud. I feel it mouthed against my skin.

I watch my hands push against his chest. I back him up until he's against one of the many bookshelves in the office.

My heart is reminding me how it beats when he's near. It's reminding me I'm alive by making my whole body throb with its rhythm. And I think it realizes what I'm planning to do before my brain does.

I look down, away from Edward's dark, dark eyes. I look at my hands, thinking surely they'll tremble as they reach for his belt—but they don't. They're steady and calm and I have no trouble pulling the buckle apart. I don't fumble with the zipper, either.

"Bella…" Edward starts, but he never finishes.

I touch him through his boxers. His hands reach back, gripping the edge of a shelf tightly. I see his knuckles turn white. It gives me the confidence to push the boxers down.

"Fuck," he says, and it's louder this time.

I look down again, watching my hand move slowly. He feels good—so hard and hot but the skin is so smooth. I push the untucked material of his dress shirt up so I can watch as his stomach muscles clench and tighten and shift as I touch him.

He starts thrusting gently into my hand like he can't even help it.

I am growing self-assuredness and relief.

I can do this to him. I can make him grip the shelf so tightly, make him breathe roughly, make him shake a little.

I look up and finally meet his eyes.

He's looking a little lost—a lot wild—and when our gaze holds, his face tenses so beautifully. His head tilts back a little, falling against the bookshelf, and he lets out this almost-groan that's whispered and quiet. I watch as his Adam's apple moves with each hard swallow he takes.

I make him feel this way, and I'm flying. Blood rushes in my ears and my heartbeat is everywhere.

I fall to my knees with perfect grace, like I've done this before.

Edward doesn't notice because he's still white-knuckling the shelf, still looking up at the ceiling, halfway containing groans in his chest.

I never thought I'd ever want to do this.

I always thought it was beneath a girl to do it.

I always thought I was better than getting on my knees for a guy.

But now I'm no reservations and wanting to make him crazy.

So I lean forward and press an experimental kiss to the tip.

"Bella…" Edward lets out a half agonized groan and lifts his head off the bookshelf, his desire-dazed eyes dropping down to watch as I kiss him again. "Wait—"

I don't want to hear this, though, so I part my lips and take just a little of him inside my mouth.

"Oh fuck," he rushes out all in one breath. His hips kind of jerk forward before he's shaking his head. "Wait, Bella, I don't—shit…"

His string of nonsensical curses and phrases are amusing enough that I pull away from him just briefly enough to give a little smile. And then I press more soft, light kisses against the tip before opening my mouth and taking him in again.

"Fuck," Edward groans, and I feel it when he gives in. His hands fall into my hair, pulling it back carefully. His hips push forward again, gently this time, but it still makes him go farther back into my mouth than before.

But I tell myself I do not gag, so I don't.

And soon it becomes easier to do this, not quite so scary-new and different. Edward is a steady stream of half-phrases and dirty curses above me.

Though I was never really interested in this before, Rose would tell me all about her conquests. She told me that if I ever changed my mind and wanted to completely own a man for at least a few minutes, I'd do it.

She told me once to suck, so that's what I do.

It has the desired effect.

"Holy fuck… yes. Just… just like that," he says, and he's kind of pulling my hair now even though I don't think he realizes it. It stings so good, making my eyes water. "Just like that, baby. So… so fucking good."

I do it again, my heart hammering as I listen to his breaths get impossibly quicker; as I listen to his curses get louder and more colorful every time I repeat my actions.

And just as I think maybe I'll get him to where he needs to go, the hands he has in my hair pull back roughly.

"Stop."

I almost fall backwards with his force, but I am careful balance and good grace. I stare up at him with questioning eyes, but he doesn't look upset. He just looks lustful and dark, his eyes burning.

"Get up," he says.

I do it quickly, before remembering I don't jump when he says jump. But before I can regret my eagerness, his hands are on my hips and he's backing me up.

I'm against his desk before I realize it.

His hand slips between my legs brazen and unashamed. He pulls my panties aside and presses two fingers inside me.

My gasp of surprise turns into a quiet moan as my hands grab at his upper arms, my fingers curling tightly around hard muscle.

Edward's looking down at me with dark-furious eyes, like he's angry at us both for needing this so much. But a second later his face shifts and a crooked smirk briefly lifts his lips.

Then his hand is gone, and he's jerking my panties down, letting them drop to my ankles.

It's all happening so fast and I'm nothing but heartbeat, desire, and muddled thought.

I step out of one side of my white-lace panties. Edward can't wait until I can shake my ankle free of the other side. He's already reaching beneath my skirt, grabbing my hips, lifting me sharply onto the edge of the desk.

My heart decides to beat harder than it ever has before.

He's stepping between my legs, pushing my knees apart, hiking my skirt way, way up. He's looking down between us for a moment, and I think I hold my breath.

But then he thrusts forward, rough and sudden, and he's already halfway inside—no teasing or careful preparing. And I don't even have time to cry out before he thrusts again, so hard that he's all the way.

The desk shudders with the force of it.

A cup of his pens and pencils falls off. So does his lamp.

"Oh, God," I moan, my head falling forward to rest against his chest. My fingers twist the fabric of his dress shirt desperately as my body tries to adjust to the sudden intrusion.

But one of his hands is already in my hair, and he's yanking my head back painfully, his lips at my ear. "Does it feel good?" he whispers, deceptively quiet and gentle as he pulls back—only to thrust into me again roughly.

The desk shakes again, louder this time, all the drawers rattling.

I nod as best I can.

He slams into me again and again and again, and I whimper each time, feeling nothing but him and full and hard and sweaty and good.

He starts to whisper dirty things into my ear, into my skin.

He tells me to come for him and a couple of minutes later, I do.

And when the shaking has almost stopped, I wrap my legs so tightly around him. I kiss his neck. I bite his ear. And he's reaching beneath my skirt again, his hands grabbing my ass, lifting me until I'm not even on the desk anymore. He pushes deeper, deeper, deeper, and then stills, moaning curses into my neck. I feel him tremble violently, and I smile into his skin.

Then I'm on the desk again, and he half falls on top of me, barely catching himself. I squeeze tired and achy legs around him once more. I press a soft kiss to his jaw. He tries to catch his breath.

There's no regret this time, even though I know there should be. There are no tears welling, no pain blooming.

Only warmth and a dreamy high.

Because he's not my mother's now.


Edward

She sits down in the cab a little gingerly.

I try not to smile as I shut the door and lean down into the window. Smiling should be the last thing on my mind.

Bella stares at me calmly with her cheeks still freshly-fucked-red and her hair messy. She doesn't bite her lip or ask if she'll see me again. She isn't clichéd lines and movements, even if she does live her life like an old movie.

I say, "I don't know what to do."

She says, "I know."

"Ideas?" I ask, studying her face.

Bella purses her lips. She glances ahead, giving me a view of her glamorous profile. "I don't know what to do either, Edward."

I nod and rub at my jaw. I look away into the crowded New York City streets that hum with lunch foot traffic. I suddenly want to become one of these strangers who know where they're going, who seem to have their life together.

Because my life is coming apart at the seams.

I'm watching myself fuck up; it's like a train wreck and I can't think to stop it.

Maybe I don't want to.

"You can't tell anyone," I whisper, paranoid of even the cab driver who's impatiently tapping his fingers against the steering wheel.

A little anger flashes in Bella's big, brown eyes. "You know I wouldn't."

"I know," I say, even though I'm not sure I do. I'm not sure of anything. "I'm just… I'm nervous."

"Don't be," she replies, as if it's law just because she says so.

But even still, it eases the knot of worry in my stomach—just a little.

I give her a small smile, but I don't say goodbye. I just push off from her window and lean into the passenger window instead. I hand the driver two hundreds. "Take her to her house. Keep the change."

The man's eyes widen a little and he nods.

And then I watch as the cab pulls away into the thriving, midday traffic of the city. I watch until it's out of sight. And then I go back to the office.


Someone asked me a long time ago about the video cameras around the Swan residence, and I forgot to answer until just now. I'm sorry! But Renee only threatens with those cameras. She wouldn't actually take the time to look at them because she's either so busy or she couldn't fathom Bella would disobey/betray her. Bella also knows the cameras' blind spots. ;)

Thank y'all so, so much! oxoxoxo