DISCLAIMER: All places and characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real places and persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
"Yes, Dad . . . Mmhmm . . . I know . . ."
Bella's voice was a soft thrum vibrating against Edward's cheek. He was damn proud of himself for behaving, considering his mouth was inches from her nipple, but a deal was a deal. She'd agreed to stay in bed—naked—while she called home, as long as Edward promised to keep quiet and keep his lips and fingers from roaming.
Closing his eyes helped ease the tortuous temptation of the tight pink bud well within the reach of his tongue. Bella's fingernails scraped a lulling rhythm across his scalp, pulling him into a deep, contented stupor. So far, so good.
"We will, Dad . . . Edward Cullen . . . Yes, the Edward Cullen from Forks, but he's changed . . ."
Bella was fighting the good fight, and Edward could not have been happier to hear her sticking up for him—for them.
You tell him, baby, Edward cheered—silently, as promised.
"No, Dad, you definitely won't be needing your shotgun!"
"Shh!" Bella scolded, pushing firmly on the back of Edward's head and forcing his lips to her nipple.
"Nothing, Dad, just an aftershock."
I'll give you an aftershock, Bella Swan!
All bets are off! Edward flicked his tongue and nibbled and licked and nibbled some more.
"Yep, okay, I'll call you when we know more, bye!"
Edward chuckled against her skin as the handset tumbled out of Bella's hand and crashed against the lamp on the nightstand.
"You should probably be a little bit more careful. That telephone is our umbilical cord to the outside world," he teased.
"Maybe you should've thought of that before your little outburst and nipple nibbling!"
"Aww, don't be mad!" Bringing his palm to her breast, Edward shimmied up her body, trailing kisses up her neck, along her cheekbone, and finally, covering her sweet, swollen lips.
Kissing Bella was . . . damn! He'd waited a long time for her—sweet and sassy, soft and feisty, smart, tender-hearted, serious and fun-loving. She was everything he'd ever imagined and more.
Her fingers crawled through his hair again—did she know how much he loved that?—gathering his hair into her fist, and YANK!
"Ouch! What'd you do that for?"
Edward slapped away her hand and rubbed the tender spot while glaring at the mean, naked girl who'd betrayed him.
"You're lucky I didn't kick you in the nuts. What if my dad heard you?"
"What if he did? You're a grown up person! You can sleep with anyone you want! Well, not anyone, but you can sleep with me!"
His aggravation was confusing him, and Bella was smiling.
"I have to call my boss, and I don't want you anywhere near me when I do it."
Rolling away from him, she went to the closet, grabbed the robe, and hid her body under a mountain of terrycloth. Hands firmly planted on hips, Bella glared at him, drawing her eyes to the manhood dangling between his legs, which he could feel shriveling up like a raisin in the hot South American sun.
"Where the hell am I supposed to go?" he asked.
"Why don't you go take some pictures?"
"Go take pictures?" Edward sputtered, incredulous. He felt like a dismissed two-year-old and bit his tongue to keep his inner jerk in check. Old habits die hard had never sounded truer to him.
She nodded once emphatically. Bella had this idea running circles in her head, and she needed to concretize it. Edward's gorgeous, naked, willing, and available body was not conducive to that.
"Yes. I'm not talking with Emmett while contemplating putting you in my mouth."
Edward groaned, burying his face in the pillow.
Only Bella could tear him in two so completely. He was half turned on and already imagining what Bella had just said and half repelled by the idea of Emmett in the mix, however oblique the reference.
The mental image of Emmett's infamous hairy butt helped Edward make the final decision, and he left, trying to suppress the impulse to grab his camera bag but finally succumbing.
Bella watched Edward leave with a mixture of relief and regret.
She wanted to write about what had happened in Crepúsculo. God knew she had enough firsthand information. She had no doubt whatsoever that she could write a raw and compelling piece that would reach inside the hearts and pockets of people who could help.
Yes, she was that confident.
The problem to solve? She wanted that piece to be printed alongside the World Cup coverage they would be doing.
"She can't tell me when to," he muttered petulantly as he walked to the lobby of the hotel, where he had spied a comfy couch earlier. He would draw the line there; she had enough control over him as it was.
Go take pictures.
Despite his pique, he smiled and shivered faintly when he recalled her lazy afterglow grin.
Jesus, she was so beautiful.
He shook his head and attempted to clear his head of thoughts of her and got ready to sift through the pictures he had taken so far. He had been fortunate enough to have been carrying the bag with his cameras when the first seism hit them. He was particularly interested in the ones from the earthquake. He feared the World Cup would eclipse what had happened in Crepúsculo, and he hoped that amidst those photographs, there was one that might get the attention of the international community.
Bella hung up the phone and sat on the bed, squealing with joy.
Emmett had agreed to the piece. In fact, he had given their story a three-page spread, including the front page itself. It was a huge piece, and Bella was sure she could do it, but first she needed to see the photos Edward had taken.
She stood up, changed clothes quickly, and then rushed out of the hotel room in search of Edward.
She didn't have to look for long.
Edward stood just inside the hotel lobby, talking to Carmen. When Edward and Bella had dropped Dekoe with her, Carmen had been very welcoming and even invited them to stay with her, but her place was too small, and Edward and Bella decided to just go back to the hotel since the newspaper was paying for their stay—might as well take a bit of advantage of that.
Bella watched in amusement as Carmen fussed over Edward, handing him a container. Edward just smiled and nodded, no doubt not understanding a single word the woman was saying to him. She left after giving him a warm hug and a kiss on his cheek.
Bella approached Edward, who was inspecting what was inside the container.
"Hey," she greeted him, kissing his cheek. "What do you have there?" She took the container from him and gasped. "Oh my God, I love these!" she exclaimed when she saw the mini-alfajores Carmen had apparently made for them. She popped one in her mouth, moaning when the soft treat dissolved on her tongue, leaving the sweet taste of the dulce de leche in the middle.
Edward, not content with just a peck, went in for a full kiss on her now sugar-covered lips. When he pulled back, Bella was breathless and flushed while Edward licked away the sugar that was now on his lips.
"You're bad," Bella whispered.
"You love it." Edward chuckled at her dazed expression, earning him a mock glare from her. "So, how is Emmett?" he asked her, pulling her by the hand to a couple of couches nearby where he had set up her camera and laptop.
Bella grinned widely and sat next to him. She explained what Emmett wanted to do and how she was thinking of writing the piece. Edward nodded along, eating the sweet treats Carmen had made.
"Feel free to go through my photos. I haven't really looked at them yet. I just finished downloading them to my laptop."
Bella pulled the laptop closer and opened the folder labeled "FIFA WC2014." Bella looked through some of the photos from before the earthquake, giggling when she saw a couple of her that were clearly taken when she wasn't looking, earning a blush from Edward. There were a few from the stadiums they had visited. Edward had an amazing eye for capturing action as she could see from the photos he had taken of some of the teams during practice. She threw her head back in laughter when she saw a photo of Santiago Oliveira picking his nose.
Edward pointed at the screen. "That's front page material right there, Swan!"
Bella laughed harder. "Why do you hate him so much?"
Edward huffed. "He was a douche . . . and he kept hitting on you." He mumbled the last part.
"Aw," Bella crooned, "were you jealous?" She pinched his cheek.
Edward grabbed her wrist and kissed her fingers, then sucked on her index finger, swirling his tongue around it then releasing it with a loud pop. "Not anymore," he whispered and winked.
Bella panted. "Point made, Cullen."
Edward cleared his throat and then tossed the half-empty container on the coffee table. "We should get back to work."
Bella sighed, shaking her head to get rid of all the dirty things she wanted to do to Edward. "You're right; let's get this done."
Edward leaned in to whisper in her ear. "And later, I'll use those treats to cover you in sugar and lick it off your skin."
He's going to be the death of me.
Two weeks went by in a blur. Edward and Bella stayed long enough to cover the World Cup finals, as well as to interview some local authorities. They split their work, Bella handling most of the interviews while Edward made sure to get the photos he needed for the article. He also finished editing the ones he had taken back in Crepúsculo—before and after the earthquake.
They had been able to go back to the small town a couple of days ago but only for a few hours as part of a group of journalists that had arrived to report the catastrophe. They had met up with Carlisle and Esme, both looking good and healthy, not to mention glowing in happiness in spite of where they were. Seemed like they had both found what they were looking for in each other, and Edward couldn't be happier for his father.
After they got back to Aurora, they spent their last day there locked in their bedroom. Edward wished it was because they couldn't get enough of each other and therefore spent hours and hours rolling in the sheets, but alas . . . Bella reminded him that work needed to be done. They spent the entire day giving the article the final touches, and then Bella pulled him to the bed and ravaged him until the morning.
He didn't complain one bit.
When they returned to Seattle, they were shocked to see not only Emmett and Benjamin waiting for them but also Bella's entire family. Luckily, Charlie didn't bring his shotgun, but that didn't stop Edward from shaking in fear at the glares the older man kept sending his way.
The ride to Bella's apartment was long and filled with laughter, but it was mostly irritating for Edward, who had to ride in the back of the cruiser. He could tell Charlie was enjoying watching him squirm, and Bella kept rolling her eyes at the two of them.
Bella's family had prepared a large spread for them, and Edward got to enjoy again some of the dishes he loved from Aurora. Bella sat next to him—much to Charlie's displeasure—and kept feeding him small bites from all the dishes.
Overall, it was a nice evening.
That was until Charlie asked to have a word with him.
Edward knew it was coming. Bella was the apple of her dad's eye, and with the rumors about Edward's love life, Charlie just wanted to look out for his little girl.
They stepped out on the balcony while Bella was being entertained by one of her cousins, but she could still see them from where she stood.
Edward faced the chief head on and spoke first. "I just want you to know that I love your daughter very much, sir. I have loved her since we were kids, and I promise to always protect her. She makes me want to be a better man, and I hope one day I can deserve her love. You must know—"
"Son, shut up!"
Edward jumped back in surprise and shut up.
Charlie smirked and placed his hand on Edward's shoulder. "I know you have loved my daughter for a long time, Edward. I don't know if you remember this, but when you were four, you asked your dad to dress you in a suit and came to my house, asking to speak to me. You asked for Bella's hand in marriage that day, Edward. Fortunately, Bella said no. But just in case, know that I'm ready to have that talk again, and I hope this time my daughter says yes."
Edward gaped. "You mean . . . you approve?"
Charlie chuckled, patting the kid's back. "You don't need my approval, but you have my blessing."
Edward grinned and hugged the chief, who reluctantly returned the affection.
The next day, Edward called Emmett. Since Charlie had giving him his blessing, Edward wasn't going to waste any more time. People might think he was crazy for doing this so soon, but he knew it was right. Bella and Edward had known each other for years, and he wasn't wasting another minute without putting a ring on her finger.
"Yo! What's up, Ed?" Emmett answered.
Edward grinned. "Hey, Emmett. How are you?"
"Not as good as you from what I hear! Congrats, man. You finally did it! You got your Bella."
"I did!" Edward exclaimed, the smile on his face threatening to split his face in half. "Thanks to you!"
Emmett guffawed. "Man, I was sure your girl was gonna rip my balls off through the phone! But I'm glad things worked out. So, what can I do for you? I thought you'd be sleeping, or better yet, in bed with Bella."
Edward shook his head. "Actually, I had to get back to my apartment. I needed to let my landlord know I wasn't renewing my lease."
That was another reason why he was sure he was doing the right thing. Bella had asked him to spend the night yesterday. They actually slept, both tired from the long journey. In the morning, when Edward announced that he needed to go back to his apartment to talk to his landlord, Bella asked him to move in with her. He accepted right away and then proceeded to celebrate with her in the shower, on the sink counter, and then against the bathroom door.
His thighs were aching something fierce, but it had been worth it.
"More congratulations, but I get the feeling you didn't call me to spread the good news."
Edward pinched his bottom lip, hesitating for a second. "Well, here's the thing. I need a huge favor and it has to do with the article."
"Okay . . . what do you need?"
Edward explained his plan, letting Emmett know exactly what he needed him to do. Edward had it all ready. He just needed the green light from Emmett to put his plan in motion.
"Hmm, well I think we can pull it off," Emmett said, and Edward could hear him typing away. "Actually, I think we can do it in the last page."
Edward grinned. "That's perfect! You can really pull it off?"
"I'm Editor in Chief for a reason. Consider it done, man. Just email me the details and the mock up."
"I will, right away! Thank you, Emmett."
Something was up.
Bella could feel it.
All week, Edward had been acting strange around her and asking even stranger questions. She even caught him going through her jewelry box.
Yeah, something was up, but she had no time to ask him about it.
Bella smoothed her dress. The teal satin hugged her curves and the plunging neckline made her girls look extra perky. She finished putting on her earrings and then turned around. Edward stood by the bedroom door, his jaw threatening to hit the floor.
Bella smirked and sashayed towards him, ogling him in his black on black suit. When she stood right in front of him, she pushed his chin up with her index finger until his mouth closed.
"Damn, Bella. You look . . . " he bit his bottom lip and grabbed her hand to twirl her. "You look stunning, love."
Bella kissed his chin and smiled. "You don't look bad yourself, Cullen."
Edward kissed her lips, but the kiss was over too soon for Bella's taste. "Come on, love. We can't be late."
Emmett was throwing a cocktail party to celebrate Bella and Edward's article which was to be printed in Sunday's edition. Bella was calm and confident the article was going to be a hit—they had both worked hard on the piece—but for some reason, Edward was a mass of nerves.
"You okay?" Bella asked him, taking his hand in hers, noticing he was sweating.
"Yeah, sure. Why wouldn't I be?"
"Um, well . . ." She didn't get to finish what she was saying because their driver announced their arrival.
They both got out of the cab, Edward's hand clammier and his shoulders stiffer.
Bella narrowed her eyes but chose to not say anything.
An hour later, Bella wasn't sure if she did the right thing by not pushing Edward to talk. He had been avoiding her all night, and it stung like a motherfucker.
Was he regretting moving in together so soon? Bella knew she had been a bit impetuous, but she couldn't bear not having him next to her at night.
Bella sighed and finished off her glass of champagne. When she couldn't spot a waiter, she made a beeline for the refreshment table. Harsh whispers caught her attention on her way, and she hid behind a column when she spotted Emmett and Edward talking in the corner.
"Are you sure it's all set?"
"Yeah, man. Jasper is bringing one of the first copies over."
"I just hope it came out all right."
"Look, it was a last minute change, but I assure you, it was fine."
Bella stepped aside and cleared her throat, her temper flaring. "What last minute change?"
Both Edward and Emmett stilled and then slowly turned around to look at her, their eyes wide.
Bella crossed her arms. "Emmett?"
Emmett opened his mouth, but then he spotted his assistant, Jasper, making signs behind Bella's back.
Bella followed Emmett's line of sight and rushed over to Jasper, both Emmett and Edward right on her heels.
"Bella, please . . . it's not what you think!" Edward pleaded.
"How dare you make a change to the article without telling me!" she hissed at Edward. "Is this why you've been acting weird all week?" She snatched the newspaper out of Jasper's hands.
"Bella, don't you trust me?"
Bella snorted. "Don't you dare talk to me about trust!" The first page looked fine, so she opened the newspaper to inspect the second and third page, blocking Edward's pouting face. "I can't believe you would dare to do something—" She froze when she spotted the new photo at the bottom of the third page.
There, taking up a quarter of the page, was a collage of photos from Crepúsculo. The photos of the town, the wildflowers, the people, and the green landscape of her motherland looked amazing, but what made Bella still was what the photos spelled.
It was then that Bella noticed how everyone had gone silent. She closed the newspaper only to find Edward down on one knee right in front of her, a huge diamond ring between his fingers.
"Isabella Marie Swan, I have loved you all my life. All I'm asking is for you to let me love you for the rest of yours. Would you do me the extraordinary honor of marrying me?"
Bella nodded, letting the newspaper fall as tears spilled out of the corners of her eyes. "Yes! YES! A million times, yes!"
Edward let out a sigh of relief and stood up, picking Bella up and kissing her to oblivion as everyone cheered and clapped. When he put her down, he slid his grandmother's ring on her finger, feeling like he had won the FIFA World Cup and then some.
"So this was what you were hiding all along?"
Edward nodded. "I just wanted to surprise you."
Bella grinned, wrapping her arms around his neck. "Best surprise ever."
Later that night, Bella and Edward lay on their bed, both spent after a round of lovemaking, legs tangled together and Bella's head over Edward's heart. He played with the ends of her lovely hair, which had gotten longer in the last few weeks. He hoped he would get to watch it grey like his would one day since he was in it for the long haul.
Edward wanted it all with Bella. She had turned his world upside down and inside out. She was everywhere; she was everything. With one look, she could bring him to his knees or make him soar to the skies. Her love was like a current, a never-ending energy crawling under his skin. She made it impossible to sit still, she made him—
"Whuz that?" Bella asked as she yawned.
Edward smiled, pulling her closer. "Nothing."
Bella hummed. "Love you . . ."
He kissed her forehead. "Always."
And with the world in his arms and her love in his heart, he let sleep take him, dreaming of a brighter and better future with Bella at his side.
Final Author's Note: Many thanks to each and every one of you who contributed to the story: Ladyeire3, boo1414, chinchin. unicorn, Mommymac0508, ThisIsReallyHappening, Breath-of-Twilight, postapocalypticdepository, Riv3rBoy84, and RockRaven. If you would like to check out more form these awesome authors, you can find them all in this account's favorite authors list. Also, this story wouldn't have been the same without our lovely beta Chaya Sara, who went above and beyond in helping us all hold this story together. Thank you for joining us in this crazy ride and for your fabulous red pen.
Finally, big thanks to you, the readers, pimpers, donors, all of you for the support you've shown this project and the relief effort in general. We hope you enjoyed this little tale. Don't forget to let us know what you think in a review.
Till next time,
—Ana, Born & Mina