I'm On Fire
Rated: M for adult situations and language
Summary: To the world around him, thirty-two year old Edward Cullen has it all… good looks, a lucrative medical practice, and friends and family who care about him. But, what he wants more than anything is to finally find someone who sees beyond his looks and bank account, and loves him irrevocably. He desires someone to fall madly in love with, mind, body and soul. An entry for the 2014 TwiFic Doctorward Contest and 3rd place Public Vote winner.
Disclaimer: Twilight and the story characters belong to Stephenie Meyer, but this story belongs to me. No copyright infringement of people, places, or events intended.
A/N: Hello, Readers! I'm stoked to finally be able to post my newest Doctorward. This was an entry in the 2014 Twi Fic Doctorward contest, and I'm pleased to announce that I won THIRD PLACE in the Public Vote, only one teeny vote from being tied with second place. Anyhow, thank you to everyone who read, favorite, followed and reviewed this as a blind entry (nobody knew who wrote what) and I hope you will show me the same love again now, as I post it here. This WILL be expanded at a later date, once I finish TWC. I cannot say thank you enough to darcysmom, kare831 and cilie80 for their hard work on this, and ALL of my writing. They are special to me and truly loved. So, I won't keep you hostage any longer… off you go.
The water from the multi-head shower helped relieve the tension in my neck and back as I washed away the day's events. I loved my profession. Delivering precious new lives into the world and caring for the gentler side of humanity was a humbling, yet exhausting task. However, there wasn't a time in my memory I could not recall wanting to follow my father and grandfather's footsteps and become a doctor. I'd been lucky, and probably a victim of carefully planned coincidental circumstance, when my father had chosen to retire after thirty years of delivering just about every new life within a fifty mile radius of Forks, shortly after his only child's residency ended.
So, at the age of thirty, I moved from my townhouse in suburban Chicago back to my birthplace in Washington State, to take over the reins of my Father's successful practice, thrilled shitless for no more holiday and swing shifts at the hospital, or long-assed on-call hours. It was small town doctoring at its best. I worked banker's hours Monday through Friday, and was only on-call for my personal patients, something unheard of for a doctor my age, as was my personal affinity for body art.
Today had been one of my normal days off when I got the call to come to Forks Community Hospital for one of my patients, and former high school classmate, who had arrived to the ER in active labor. Angela Webber-Cheney was a few weeks early to be considered full-term, but after years of infertility and later miscarriages within the first two months of gestation; she had finally become pregnant without complications. I had closely monitored her as her pregnancy progressed, and saw no reason not to allow her labor to progress normally. My mom had similar issues becoming pregnant with me, and we both turned out fine, as is normally the case. I'm happy to say Angela and her son, Bryce Andrew Cheney, came through delivery with flying colors not five minutes after her postmaster husband, Ben, made it to the hospital to share in the moment. Ben, however, fainted and hit his head on the tile floor just after the birth and was sharing a room with his wife and newborn son for the night for post-concussion observation. Ben had been 'falling' for Angela since middle school, and she him, so I had to laugh at the irony of it all.
Twelve long, tedious years of college, medical school, and residency had nixed any sort of personal life, so there wasn't anyone else but myself and parents to consider when I made the move back to the Pacific Northwest. My closet childhood friend, Jake Black, had lived in nearby La Push until he enlisted in the Army post-high school and became a career soldier, but we lost him to an improvised explosive device in the Middle Eastern desert in 2006. Most of the rest of my high school classmates had moved away from Forks to attend college or relocate to larger cities with better job prospects, so there were only a few acquaintances of mine left in the surrounding area to hang out with.
Jessica Stanley had been my steady girlfriend during most of my high school years, and had been my first in just about everything sexual. That was until she fucked half the varsity baseball team during our junior year. Yeah, literally half of the twelve man team had boned my girlfriend. I hope Mike fucking Newton still had the three inch scar on his temple from his ass beating at my hands when I caught him rounding third base with Jessica in the locker room. Unfortunately for me, Jessica managed to be a regular, unwanted visitor in my life, with her promiscuous behavior keeping her re-infected with chlamydia. Damn if the girl wasn't shuffling with a full deck, as each time she came to see me as a patient, she managed to attempt to hit on me.
Not happening with my dick, sister. Not even with a condom-wrapped ten foot pole!
Tanya Denali had been my senior girlfriend, but had been that more for appearance and event dates than for any type of longevity. Tanya nor I wanted to do the long-distance dating scene, so we broke up amicably after graduation. Both women had been married and divorced several times, and both had tried unsuccessfully to lure me back into their beds since my return home, but they stood a snowballs chance in Hell of turning my head their way. I didn't need a gold digger or a cheater. I wanted my soul mate.
Now, a couple of years post-relocation to Forks, the single-trend seemed to be on a continuous loop. Yeah, I'd had a few carefully chosen one-night stands with like-minded women in nearby towns and had filled the temporary physical need, but nothing more. It had been almost a year since I'd last had sex. Sad, but true. My right hand and I had become rather chummy as of late. Oh, I longed for something more substantial, someone permanent, but in Forks, I was like Norm on Cheers, everybody knew my name, family, and history. That fact alone drew the single ladies of all ages out like flies to honey, most hoping to catch the eye, and bed, of the local tatted doc. In the past month alone, I'd been propositioned in my office by my receptionist's nineteen year old daughter, and even by one of my mother's sixty year old friends in my parent's own kitchen. Needless to say, being hit on by someone almost young enough to be your child, and old enough to be your mother is disturbing on many levels.
O'Hara's Pub, in nearby Port Angeles, had become a favorite Saturday night destination of mine, with the friendly, yet darkened atmosphere, I could relax and unwind with a few cold longnecks, and some good local talent on their open mic nights. Although I wasn't embarrassed or ashamed of my appearance, I lived in a small town, surrounded by small towns, so the weekends were one of the few times I could uncover and be myself. My family and patients were aware and accepting of my art, as each piece held a special meaning to me, but I kept with a modicum of respect for my medical profession, and donned long-sleeves while performing examinations, and sleeved gowns provided by the hospital during surgery to cover the tats on my arms which were more visible.
It was a warm, clear early-October night with no rain in the forecast, a rarity in the Pacific Northwest, so I decided to take my Harley. I loved that damn bike, and didn't get to ride it as much as I'd prefer. Dressed in black jeans, black and orange HD tee-shirt, and my black leather riding boots and Harley-Davidson jacket, I donned my full-face helmet, slid onto my Fat Boy, and started my one-hour journey to Port Angeles. I made it in forty minutes.
As I rolled my bike into a parking stall alongside the building, I smiled as I noticed the place was packed. O'Hara's was owned by Jasper Whitlock and his wife, Alice. We were all about the same age, and I'd become friends with them when I began hanging out at the bar a few years ago. Both had college degrees in business, so opening O'Hara's was a dream of theirs, and I wanted to see them succeed. They did well enough with their regular customers, but every few months, on All-Eighties Night, the venue brought out patrons and performers who packed the bar to capacity. There was no show bill, only local singers who wanted to flex their musical muscles in front of a live audience. In fact, I'd been known to perform a song or two, if the mood struck me. There was a kick-ass house band on site who knew just about every song, from Sinead O'Conner to Sound Garden, so it wasn't your typical karaoke night at a bar.
I bumped fists with Emmett McCarty at the door before I made my way through the throngs of people, shedding my jacket and looking for a place to sit. Emmett owned a construction company by trade, and was Jasper's brother-in-law by marriage to his sister, Rose. At six-foot-five and two-hundred-fifty pounds, he acted as bouncer and security on the weekends, when the bar was packed. Some people grew ten feet tall, and bullet proof, with an extra set of balls or ovaries when alcohol was involved, and Emmett's presence shot down the surliest of drinkers, but to those who knew him, he was a giant teddy bear. Rose kept the books for the construction company, but helped Alice wait tables on the weekends, and they both had their work cut out for them tonight. Jasper saw me in the crowd, and waved me over to the bar with a smile.
"Hey, man. I was hoping you'd make it. I saved you a seat down at the end of the bar. You want the usual to start out?" he asked over the din of the crowd.
"Yeah," I replied as he took my helmet and jacket to be stowed behind the bar. "Thanks for the seat. I wasn't sure if I'd make it; had an unexpected delivery this afternoon. Glad I did, though. Looks like a full house, Jazz. That's good."
Jasper slid an icy Crown and Coke in front of me, and nodded.
"Yeah, it looks like a good night for the books, for sure. Emmett is counting heads and stamping hands as the people arrive. Many more and we will have to start turning them away. Luckily, Alice made a new friend a few months back at the supermarket and she offered to help waitress tonight. She seems really sweet and right cute too, Edward. Alice thinks she's talked her into singing, but she's not going to be here until later, when she gets done with her shift at the Thriftway at eight. We'll see how the night plays out."
I heard the slight innuendo in Jasper's words and cringed inwardly at the thought of being set-up by my friends. That shit never worked, and I wasn't going to be a willing guinea pig to find out. Not at my age and certainly not with someone I didn't know from Eve. With my profession, it didn't bode well to play man-whore to some vapid, random hook-up, no matter what she looked like, even if I didn't admit my loneliness to anyone but my inner self.
"Look, man. I'm sure she's a great girl, and Alice is hard to say no to, but I don't want or need to be fixed up. Got it? I don't want things to be uncomfortable with all of us tonight. I need to chill the fuck out, and I'm not looking for some random chick to throw herself at me. Been there, and have the scars to prove it. Just let it go," I said evenly. I didn't want to piss Jasper off or come off as holier than thou, but he and Alice were constantly wanting me to meet someone they'd come across, and I blocked them at every turn. Round and round, and all we accomplished was tension within our small group.
Jasper held his hands up in surrender.
"Loud and clear, my friend," and with a wink my way, Jasper skittered off to fill the endless line of drink orders.
I pushed my shirt sleeves up on my arms, revealing the ink that resided there, and settled back on my stool to survey the crowd, perfectly content in my observatory role as I awaited the start of the performances. I knew a few faces, but no one I'd relinquish my coveted bar stool for. I made polite eye-contact with the table full of twenty-something's who were making no secret of their attraction to me. Giggles ensued with the slightest of recognition from me, and more skin and provocative gestures were thrown my way, as I polished off my whiskey. This shit was what made me so fucking irritated about going out. I didn't want a god damned table full of drunk, college students hitting on me. I wanted a woman who'd like being with me for who I was on the inside, not the package I was wrapped up in. It seemed to be a lost cause, but honestly, did anyone really find their soul mate in a bar? Thankfully, Rose stopped by with an ice cold longneck to replace my empty glass, and to make small talk as Jasper filled her tickets, giving me temporary reprieve from being eye-fucked.
"So, having fun, Doc?" Rose asked as she threw the table of girls a vicious glare that made my testicles shrivel up into my gut. As formidable as Emmett was with size, Rose equaled him in raw emotion and tenacity, both of which the drunken girls wisely chose to take seriously, at least for the time being.
"I'm drinking and enjoying my night, so yes, I'm having a good time. Better now, though. Thank you for your help with that, by the way," I answered, with a slight tilt of my head in the nearby table's direction. I was raised to respect women, by both of my parents, and with my chosen profession, I had no choice but to do just that. I was trusted with the most intimate of problems and issues pertaining to every aspect of the physicality of a woman. With that being said, I was still one-hundred percent hot-blooded male, and loved to admire the beautiful contours and explore the many secret places of pleasure on a female's body, but only when the appropriate opportunity presented itself. However, my Mom didn't care if I was over-thirty, covered in tats, or if I had MD behind my name, she'd still lay the smack down on the back of my head like a little boy for being anything but chivalrous and gentlemanly.
"Anytime, and no problem. I hate slutty girls; they're like wolves in heat, and it's not attractive to flash your lady bits around like a monetary asset. Besides, sex with any one of those plastic bimbos would be like throwing a hotdog down a nasty hallway. You are too nice of a guy, Edward, but lucky for you, I have no problem with being blunt or rude when the occasion warrants it."
I replied with a nod of appreciation, and watched as Rose skillfully maneuvered through the masses with her tray of beverages. Emmett and Rose were made for each other, as were Jasper and Alice. I had often doubted if there were such a thing as a soul mate, but now I knew it was possible. Just not for me it seemed.
The night settled down with short chats with Jasper, Alice and Rose, when they weren't slammed by patrons, which wasn't often with the place packed wall-to-wall with writhing, dancing bodies and every table full of revelers. The scantily dressed ladies at the table in front of me were joined by several college-aged frat boys, and I nursed my second beer of the night while I watched, in great humor, the timeless mating dance unfold before me. When the band's lead guitar began the familiar strains of Sweet Child O' Mine, I gladly turned my attention to the stage, catching a brief glimpse of Alice and a like-sized female with head full of shiny brown hair disappearing into the back room behind the massive bar.
Ah. Her friend must have arrived. I made mental note to be courteous to the woman, as it wasn't her fault she'd almost been the unknowing participant in a game of "Find Edward A Piece of Ass". There was always room for another friend in my life, male or female. Tonight would baptism by fire. She looked as tiny as Alice, and if she wasn't used to this type of environment, I'd gladly be an ear to bend, or a protective buffer against rowdy, drunk men trying to cop a feel. That was one instance I had no problem throwing my weight around for, and using my appearance would act as fuel to the fire. Tats had the uncanny ability to stop a grown man in his tracks, given the right opportunity.
I was lost in thought when Alice's tinkling voice brought me back to the present. I didn't know she was near me.
"I have a favor to ask. When Bella gets finished singing, could you go backstage and escort her back to the bar?"
"Bella?" I asked, my brows furrowing in question. I didn't know anyone named Bella.
"My bad, Edward. She's my friend, Bella Swan. The one Jasper told you about. She's offered to help out tonight, but I talked her into singing first. I took her backstage, but I don't know if I'll be free to go get her when she's finished. Before you say anything, no, I'm not trying to set you up, Jasper has already spoken to me about your stance on that, and I wouldn't ask you to do this, but she's new to PA, and it's so busy tonight, everyone else is busy. Please?" Alice begged with puppy-dog eyes, and I knew at once I was putty in her hands.
"Of course, Alice. I'll make sure Bella is delivered safely to Jasper. No problem."
Alice smiled and tilted her head at me as if she were trying to decipher an unspoken riddle.
"You're going to sing tonight, aren't you," she stated, grin still firmly in place.
"I'm debating it, yeah. I'm taking requests, if you have any, Allie."
Music had always been an important part of my life. As a child, I studied piano, and still enjoyed sitting in front of by my baby grand, playing anything from classical Debussy to Bon Jovi for hours on end.
"Nope, no requests. I think you'll know when the time comes. Thank you, Edward! Gotta run!" Alice exclaimed, and with a kiss to my cheek, she was gone.
Alice was barely five feet tall and one hundred pounds soaking wet, but she was a dynamo who commanded the attention of anyone around her, and most always got her way. As I told Jasper earlier, it was hard for anyone to say no to Alice… myself included. I chuckled and took a sip of my Corona as the band began a new set, and announced the next act. My mind ticked over songs I could sing without much prep work as I drained my bottle of beer. Soon a sultry, sexy voice resounded from the speaker system, and the voice made my heart skip a beat, and my skin pimple with gooseflesh.
I hear the ticking of the clock
I'm lying here the room's pitch dark
I wonder where you are tonight
No answer on the telephone
And the night goes by so very slow
Oh I hope that it won't end though
My entire being focused on the gorgeous woman on the stage, microphone in hand, with a lone light shining down on her like a beam from the sun alighting a fallen angel. It was the woman I'd seen Alice with. Eyes closed, she belted out the lyrics with such deep emotion, and with a passion that burned through my soul like a wildfire. Better even than Heart themselves, and that was saying something. With a sudden electricity crackling across the smoky bar, Bella's eyes opened, and met mine. The sadness radiating from the depth of her soul clearly apparent in her deep, dark orbs. My connection with the beautiful brunette hit me hard and fast, taking me to a level of feeling I'd never experienced before as she sang.
Till now I always got by on my own
I never really cared until I met you
And now it chills me to the bone
How do I get you alone?
How do I get you alone?
My mouth dry, and my empty beer long forgotten, I sat on the edge of my bar stool while Bella serenaded me with the haunting words rolling from her pink, pouty lips in her own personal rendition of the classic eighties hit. The bar could've been crumbling around me, or the Apocalypse going down right in front of my eyes, and I wouldn't have noticed.
You don't know how long I have wanted
To touch your lips and hold you tight, oh
You don't know how long I have waited
And I was going to tell you tonight
But the secret is still my own
And my love for you is still unknown
I was jolted back to reality when two ice-cold Coronas were sat down with a clink of glass against hard wood in front of me, and I drug my eyes away from the stage, only to meet the knowing blue eyes of Jasper Whitlock smirking at me.
"She's something else, isn't she? Allie and Bella hit it off like old friends who'd been reunited after years apart, and the good Lord knows that little youngin' needs all the true friends she can muster right now. Thought you looked a bit parched after all, and Bella will surely be so after singing, so one beer's for you and one's for you to take to her. You best be making tracks before one of the many horn dogs drooling over her does it for you, man."
The crowd whooped and hollered as she ended the song, hitting the final notes like a seasoned veteran as the piano accompanied her. Bella's brilliant smile was only eclipsed by the blush staining her cheeks as she waved and bowed to the crowd. I had to go to her. I had to know what brought this amazing creature to Port Angeles, and why in the hell she didn't have someone waiting for her in the wings to cherish her like the treasure she surely was.
"What happened to her?" I asked softly, more to myself than to Jasper. The sadness in her eyes wrapped around me like a burial shroud, nearly choking the life from me.
"Not my story to tell, my friend, but I will say this ... Bella's a damn sight tougher than she looks. Now, she's gonna be done shortly, and you know it's not proper to keep a lady waiting. You better get on with it."
I shook my head to clear it, and nodded sharply.
"Fuck! Sorry. You're right. I'll just go wait backstage for her. Don't want some drunken asshole manhandling her."
"Good idea. Oh, and Doc? There's no rush. The girls have it handled for now. Here's the key to my office, just in case Bella needs to relax for a bit before she gets to work. She worked a full shift at the store before coming here. Give her the chance to rest her feet, and I'll see y'all in a bit." Jasper stated, sliding a silver key in front of me.
I took the offered key, nodded in understanding, and plucked the longnecks from the bar before I weaved my way through the packed house to meet Bella. Remembering she didn't know me as opposed to some crazy stalker, I found a spot near the stage exit to lean against and waited for her to arrive. Curiosity and desire nearly smothering me in the need to know everything there was to know about Bella Swan, and hoping I could somehow extinguish the pain seeping from her pores, and praying to whatever deity who'd listen, that she would accept me for who I was, not what I was … ink, scars and all.
I glanced at the clock over the electric glass doors. I kept on task, counting my drawer against the ticker tape balance, and patiently waiting the final five minutes of my eight-hour shift away. My legs ached, and my lower back was stiff from standing on the concrete floor of the Thriftway since noon, but I wasn't going to complain. A job meant a pay check, and a pay check meant money for food, gas, tuition and rent. Funny how life turns out sometimes, isn't it?
I grew up in a stable middle-class family. As the only child of my police officer father, Charlie, and librarian mother, Renee, there wasn't much I wanted or needed that I didn't have. When I was in middle school, we did a project on where we saw ourselves in life by the age of thirty. That was an easy assignment for me as, even at thirteen, I had my entire life planned out. I'd graduate high school, and enroll in college at Arizona State on a choir scholarship, and start school just prior to my eighteenth birthday in September. At twenty-one, I'd receive my Bachelors of Science in Nursing degree, and begin my career as a registered nurse in the NICU at Phoenix Children's Hospital. I'd meet an amazing, loving man with a steady income, fall in love, and marry him at age twenty-five. By thirty, my husband and I would have two kids, a boy and a girl, a golden retriever, a two story house with the proverbial white-picket fence, with my parent's living close by in their retirement, and my life would be wrapped in a huge red bow with a happily ever after stamp of completion.
Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans. Even though I wasn't quite thirty yet, my life had not and would not end up like I'd imagined it as a bright-eyed young girl, who knew nothing but the goodness of the world around her. I had no one to blame but myself.
I dismissed my negative train of thought and sighed as the clock struck eight. With my drawer counted, I delivered the items to the store office and swiped my badge to end my shift. I had the next two days off, and for that reason, and for the extra cash waitressing would bring in, I offered to go to O'Hara's and help Alice and Jasper for the night. I certainly needed the money.
I'd only been in town a few weeks when I met Alice. I noticed her when she came into the store one night, and I was wallowing in pity while looking through the classified ads for a place to move in to. The Bel-Aire Motel rented rooms by the hour, day or week, and I was in constant fear of being raped or robbed by the riff-raff who frequented that type of establishment. Alice appeared so friendly, chatting with and smiling at everyone she met, and I really needed someone to talk to. By divine intervention, she ended up in my checkout line. Alice and I struck up a conversation about whether werewolves and vampires really existed, of all things, and the rest is history. She and Jasper helped me find a reasonable apartment to rent, and had opened their home to me like I was part of the family. Alice had quickly become my closest friend and confidant, and for that I was grateful. Enough so that I'd go stand on my feet for another five hours to repay her a little for all she and Jasper has done to help me.
I stopped by the employee bathroom and changed out of my khakis, skid-free shoes and store tee-shirt, into a pair of comfy dark wash jeans, a blue long-sleeved Old Navy tee shirt, and my black Chucks. I wasn't a fashion plate, by any stretch of the imagination, so with a quick run of a brush through my hair, and a dab of lip gloss, I exited the store and climbed into my 1953 Chevrolet pickup, one of the few reminders of my recent past. It was on its last leg, and I prayed the old bucket of rust would hold together a little longer, or at least until I could save enough money to buy something newer. I wouldn't take a hand out, even though Alice had begged and pleaded for me to allow herself and Jasper to buy me something more reliable. I'd gotten myself into the situation I was in, and I'd get myself out.
The truck whined loudly, but finally rumbled to life, and I slowly made my way down the 101 to O'Hara's. I had only been to the bar on a few weeknights, so I didn't know what to expect from the weekend crowd. When I arrived, I had to park alongside the highway, as the parking lot was filled with cars, trucks, and one beautiful black and chrome Harley-Davidson motorcycle. I admired the bike from afar, imagining the freedom of the wind in my hair, and my arms wrapped securely around the waist of the sexy man I was sure owned it, as we ripped down the open road.
"Get a grip, Swan. Men like that don't hook up with women like you. I doubt you'd hold his interest anyhow," I said aloud, needing to get my head out of the clouds, and focused back on reality. My eyes filled with tears as I thought unconsciously about Phoenix and James, and I angrily wiped them away. James was gone, and wasn't worth any more of my tears. Sometimes acceptance of the situation and moving on are two totally different beings, yet both I'd managed to achieve over the past twelve months, for the most part anyhow.
The atmosphere was electric when I entered the bar. Before I was able to catch my breath and try to spot Rose or Alice amongst the fray, I was engulfed in strong, male arms and lifted off my feet.
"Bella! Glad you made it, baby girl," Emmett boomed, causing me to laugh out loud as he spun me around like I weighed nothing.
"Hey yourself!" I shouted over the noise. "Wow, this place is really packed!"
"Put her down, you big oaf," Rose yelled, as she peeled me out of Emmett's grasp. "Come on, sweetie. Alice is looking for you. Follow me."
When Jasper and Alice brought me into their fold, Emmett and Rose became a part of my circle of friends. Emmett being the pseudo big brother and Rose keeping him in check was my new and welcome normal. I waved by to Emmett and weaved around the standing-room-only crowd with Rose to find Alice waiting for me to the right of the stage.
"Hey, Bella! Are you ready to wow the PA rowdies with your amazing voice?"
Oh yeah. I promised Alice I'd sing at the next open mic night. This I could do, but suddenly I was unsure.
"I'd love to, but are you sure I'm not needed out here with you and Rose?" I asked, not wanting to allude to my need for funds at the moment.
Alice waved me off.
"Your pay begins now. Seriously, I want to hear you sing, if you're still agreeable to do so, and then you can wait tables until we close. I know you've been practicing, so hell yeah, I want you to let loose and have a little fun. Rose and I will survive until you're finished."
I really did want to sing. It'd been months since I'd sang at the funeral, and I needed to move on from that page of my life. I'd practiced the song I planned to sing in the shower and on my way to and from work for the past few days, and Alice promised me the band would be able to follow along. Even though it was a sad song, it was beautiful, and my mother loved the group back in the late eighties, just after I'd been born. It was my parents who nurtured my love for the best decade of music ever known.
"Okay, I'm in. Show me the way, Alice."
I spoke quickly to the lead guitarist, Caius, and he shuffled through various books of sheet music, until he found the music to match my song. He asked if I needed the lyrics, and I shook my head no. With that he handed me a microphone, and told me to wait for his keyboardist, Tyler, to start playing through the intro to the song before I walked out, and a whispered 'knock 'em dead, gorgeous' as he disappeared through the stage entrance. I'd be on as soon as the next singer was done, and unlike many aspects of my life, singing in front of a crowd didn't make me nervous. It was like therapy to me- something I knew and enjoyed.
The bright stage lights prevented me from seeing many of the faces in the crowd, several I'm sure I'd recognize from work, so I closed my eyes and let the words of Ann and Nancy Wilson flow from deep in my soul and across my lips. When I reached the chorus, I opened my eyes, and when I did, they fell instantly on the most gorgeous male specimen I'd ever been privileged to gaze upon.
Through the darkened, smoky atmosphere, I focused upon the man sitting at the end of the bar. Dressed in black like a dark knight, with a slim, yet muscular build, chaotic 'sex' hair, and intricate tattoo sleeves gracing each arm, he was the poster boy of male bad-ass-man-perfection, and I knew at once who the Harley belonged to. But it was his eyes that held me, like a tractor beam, slowly mesmerizing me in their intensity. It was hard to tell the color from the distance and lighting, but it didn't matter. What I knew for sure was when I gazed into them long enough, I felt encased in the warmth of comfort, and home, and safety. Something I hadn't felt in a very long time, and something dangerous to my sanity to dare hope for ever again.
When Jasper sat two cold beers in front of the man, he looked away. Of course he wasn't alone. Men like that weren't available, and if they were, they didn't look twice at plain women like me. The connection had been broken, along with a new fissure to my already crushed heart, I concentrated on finishing the song with a bravado I didn't feel, and accepted the compliments from the cheering crowd with as much grace and humility as I could muster, all the while looking anywhere but toward the bar.
When it was reasonable to do so, I exited the stage, internally cursing my choice to call attention to my instant attraction to him when our eyes met, and for allowing myself tolet down the carefully constructed walls I'd erected to salvage what was left of my heart. Again, tears threatened to fall as I lowered my head, totally prepared to feign illness with Jasper so I could make a hasty escape.
I stopped in my tracks when I heard my name. It was a male voice I'd never heard, because if I had ever heard this soft, dulcet tone, I wouldn't have forgotten it. Taking in a ragged breath I gathered my wits and slowly raised my head. When I meet the same eyes I'd been lost in minutes earlier, bright forest green eyes, staring down at me with such tenderness, I almost forgot my own name.
"Yes?" I finally managed to spit out, stunned by this handsome creature who seemed to want to talk to me. Me!
He stepped closer, until there were only a couple of feet separating our bodies, and my body trembled in his nearness. My eyes raked over his body, and I found myself longing to know the stories behind the intricate tattoo sleeves on his arms, and anything else he was willing to offer me. Good lord, when had I become such a wanton woman?
"Hey, I'm Edward. I'm good friends with Jasper and Alice, and they asked me to see about you when you finished singing. I have to tell you, your voice is amazing, and I really enjoyed your song. Heart is an amazing duo, and you did them well. Now, I have something I think you probably need after a long day; a quiet place to chill for a bit, and a nice cold beer. So, Bella-with-the-angelic-voice, are you game?" he asked with crooked grin, holding out an ice cold Corona for me to take.
Her beauty from a far, though breathtaking, was no match for her beauty up close. Deep chocolate eyes, wide with wonder, but brimming with unspoken sadness, looked up at me, and it took every ounce of my self-control not to touch her face to see if her skin felt as silky as it appeared. She was fresh-faced, and rightfully so, as she didn't need any product to enhance her natural glow. Her hair lay in chestnut waves well past her shoulders, and my fingers twitched in want to run through the soft tresses. Bella was a tiny thing, maybe five-foot-two and slender, but curvy in all the right places. She was exquisite, a vision, and I felt my body react as my eyes subtly passed over her form. Never before had I felt such instant attraction to anyone.
"Sure, Edward, the beer sounds wonderful, and I'd really like to get off my feet for a little bit before I'm needed to wait tables," Bella answered with a slight grin as she took the proffered beer from my hands.
"All right, follow me, beautiful," I replied, and offered my hand for her to take as we walked.
I didn't mean to say it, even though it was certainly true, but the word "beautiful" rolled off my tongue before I could retract it. Bella didn't seem fazed by my slip up, and I couldn't stop the smile from breaking across my face when she put her hand in mine. It felt natural for it to be there, as simple and necessary as breathing. We arrived to Jasper's office, and I quickly unlocked the door, stepping aside and motioning for Bella to enter.
"Jasper thought you might need a break, so he offered his office. Would you like company, or would you prefer to be alone?" I asked, giving her the choice, but hoping she didn't ask me to leave.
"I'd love the company, if you don't mind staying. I don't get the chance for real conversation very often, outside of Alice and the gang, or an unusually chatty customer," Bella answered lightly, imploring with her eyes her wish to not be left alone.
"I was hoping you'd say yes. Maybe we could talk, get to know a little about each other. We share several of the same friends, so I'm sure we will be seeing a lot of each other in the future. Yeah?"
Bella nodded, and took a seat on one end of the leather couch while I sat at the other end.
"So, what brings you to PA, Bella?" I opened with something simple in a get-to-know-you gesture.
Bella's eyes betrayed her briefly, and I knew by the way her hands clenched into tiny fists, her story wasn't a happy one.
"I'm sorry if I brought up a bad memory, Bella. We can talk about something else if you'd rather."
Her head jerked up, and she shook her head in the negative. Resolve radiated from her body, as I saw her spine straighten as she took a deep cleansing breath.
"Don't feel sorry for me, Edward. Please. No, this isn't my favorite topic of conversation, and it will never be, but it's part of who I am. Are you sure you really want to know?"
Did I? Yes, I wanted to know what made this sweet, sweet girl so sad, and hope I could somehow mend whatever it was that brought her such pain.
"Only if you want to tell me. The ball is in your court, sweetheart."
Bella held her gaze on mine, as if to gauge my honesty, before she nodded once.
"My parents were murdered a little over a year ago by someone I thought I knew better than I obviously did, and I came to Port Angeles to start my life over."
Fuck. That was not what I was expecting.
"Bella," I lamented. "Losing both parents, and so recently, so violently … I can't even imagine how you've coped."
"Yeah, I haven't exactly been living the high life," Bella answered dryly. "I don't have any close family, so I had no choice but to hold it together. Therapy helped me sort through the whole mess without breaking down, and I refuse to let my past define me. Ready to run away screaming yet, Edward?"
Well, this interaction wasn't what I'd pictured ten minutes ago, when I was watching Bella from afar, but she was still here, and I'd make the most of what time we had to get to know each other.
"I'm still here, Bella, and I don't think you could say anything to me that would send me packing. For what it's worth, I do wish to get to know you better, so you're in control of anything we do or don't talk about. I've been told I'm a good listener, if you ever need a friend."
Bella smiled, and it was a beautiful sight.
"Thank you. You don't know how long I've waited for someone to talk to who wasn't collecting a fee for doing so. Jasper and Alice have been great, and they know everything about what happened a year ago. A huge part of my life was taken from me, Edward, and control of the here and now is all I have to cling to. It's strange but I feel some sort of connection to you, and I want to tell my story to you. I won't go into great detail, but could you let me tell the whole story, and then you can ask me anything you'd like afterwards? I do better if I start at the beginning and take it all the way to the present. Okay?"
"Whatever you need, Bella," I said, humbled that she wanted to tell me something so obviously painful to her.
"I grew up in Phoenix. My parents loved each other, and me, and we were a happy, All-American family. I had my life mapped out, what I wanted to do and where I would go, and nothing prepared me for a deviation to my plan. But that's exactly what happened when I met James Hunter. All of my dreams of finishing college at ASU and becoming a NICU nurse flew out the window, all because I thought I was in love with him.
"I quit college after my junior year, and moved in with James. He said school kept us apart, and I didn't need some fancy degree. James worked for a local greenhouse and landscape company, and a buddy of his had gotten him hired at a big-named growing operation in another part of the state, so I followed along like a lost puppy. My parents were heartbroken, both for me moving so far away, and for me giving up my dreams, and our relationship suffered for it. I refused to listen to what they tried to tell me about James. The short story is, James was growing and selling weed, and selling stolen narcotics his 'friend' was getting for him. He was a big time dealer, and he started dating me because the Phoenix police were watching him. What better way to say "Fuck you" than to date the chief of police's only daughter, right?"
I sighed in both aggravation at the way James treated her as a commodity, and in sympathy for Bella's misguided heart leading her astray.
"James told me we moved to Tucson in hopes that he could show a more legitimate job, and maybe my parents wouldn't hate him so much, when the real reason was to be able to grow and deal from our home without my Dad nosing around. I was an insurance policy, and I never suspected what James was doing, Edward. I swear on my parent's grave, I never knew. I was so fucking naive, even with the seedy men and women who frequented our apartment, and that naivety cost me everyone I loved.
"One night in mid-April, my Mom and Dad dropped by our apartment, something which never happened. Sadly, it'd been a year since we'd spoken in person. Dad had been to a training session in Tombstone, and Mom rode along, hoping they'd catch me at home when they passed through town. They did, and we had a wonderful visit. Just like nothing had ever happened. James came home while they were there, high on God knows what, and lost his mind when he saw Dad in our living room in full uniform. James threatened me, and told me I was useless and I sickened him to look at. He wanted the 'pig and his bitch' out of his house. I argued, telling James he had no right to tell me who could and could not be in my home. That's when he pushed me, knocking me off my feet and onto the floor. I wasn't physically hurt, but something inside of me fucking snapped. Dad was furious, and tried to step in but I waved him off. I told him to take Mom and go wait for me in the car. Years of animosity I didn't even realize I harbored came bubbling to the surface, and told James I wasn't living like this anymore, and that we were through. He didn't argue, or even try to talk me into staying so I packed everything of importance to me in about ten minutes, and never looked back as I left."
My heart broke for the girl in front of me, but I couldn't help but be in awe of her strength under pressure. God help this James motherfucker if I ever had the pleasure of meeting him in a dark alley. I'd gladly send his type of vermin to the hottest pit of Hell in a heartbeat.
"Mom and Dad kept quiet on the ride back, knowing I needed time to process everything that had happened, but Dad did make a call to the Tucson police to report the assault and battery he'd witnessed, and his suspicion of drugs being involved, explaining the fact we were on the road to our home in Phoenix, and would be in contact with them on Monday to file official charges. They assured Dad they'd be collecting James for the crime within the hour."
I didn't need to be a mind reader to know the story was about to take a deep dive south.
"It was late and the road was practically empty. We were only about thirty minutes outside of Phoenix when a dark colored SUV came up behind us at a quick speed, and forced us off the road. Things get foggy from there, but I was told, our sedan left the highway and flipped several times down an embankment, finally coming to rest in a deep ravine. A passing car saw the accident and called 911. Mom was dead when the EMT's arrived, Dad was in critical condition, and I was unconscious, but didn't have any life-threatening injuries. They took us to the hospital in Phoenix, but Dad died en route to the ER. When I came to a few hours later, my whole world had literally been taken from me.
"I spent six days in the hospital recovering from my physical injuries, and my parents were buried the next week. There was enough life insurance to cover the hospital bills, the funeral expenses, therapy for me to deal with my mental pain from the losses I'd suffered, and to settle most of my parent's affairs, but not for me to go back to school. The house my parent's lived in was a rental, so I took the money left over in their savings to pay the utilities, eat, and pay the rent until the mess with James was over.
"James and his friend-slash-lover, Victoria Redd, had been arrested the day after the accident, and each charged with two counts of vehicular manslaughter, one count of conspiracy to commit murder, and a slew of other drug-related crimes. It took three months for the trial date to arrive, but thankfully, it only lasted two days. There was more than enough evidence, with my testimony, Dad's recorded statement when he reported James' assault to the Tucson police department, and the eye witness account as to what they saw, that they both are in prison for a very long time.
"After the trial, I didn't really have anything to stay in Arizona for, and I needed the security deposit held on the house to leave, so I called the owners and told them I'd be out before the end of the month. They assured me they'd have a check waiting for me when I dropped off the keys. Afterwards, I went to the public library, opened an atlas to a current US map, closed my eyes and pointed to a spot on the map to relocate to. Afterwards, I loaded my Dad's old pickup with everything I could fit into the bed and cab, and headed northwest. That's how I ended up in PA. I'm working at the Thriftway, and here at the bar, to save up money to cover what financial aid doesn't cover for my admission to Peninsula College next fall. I want the satisfaction of doing this on my own terms, Edward, and I intend to finish my bachelor of nursing degree. It's what I promised my parents long ago, what should have already happened, and what my heart has always wanted."
Bella's voice never wavered, but her eyes belied her sadness. I was speechless with emotion when she finished recounting the chilling story of her recent life. The strength it took to tell a total stranger such sordid details of the pain she'd been through so recently astounded me, yet when most people would have curled in upon themselves and given up, Bella persevered. It only made her so much more than a pretty face to me. She was so fucking strong, and didn't need or want my sympathy or pity. She needed someone to love and cherish her for the strong and amazing woman she was.
"I'm at a loss as to what to say, Bella. I hate that a beautiful, vibrant woman has suffered through such traumatic loss. You have risen above such sadness and tragedy, stronger than you give yourself credit for. I'm happy you're finishing your degree. The world needs more nurses, especially ones who want to care for fragile infants. You have no idea how much the idea of seeing you in such a role warms my heart. It may sound flippant, but James was a fucking idiot not to have realized what he let slip away for the thrill of getting high. I would never have made that mistake with you," I replied truthfully.
"That means a lot to me, Edward. I blamed myself for a while afterwards, but I came to realize no matter my choices in life, James had no right to take my life away from me. I owed my parents more than to become a shell of myself."
I didn't doubt her words. There was youthfulness in her face, yet she seemed wise beyond her years. I was curious as to exactly how old she was, and if there was too much age difference for something more than friendship.
"How old are you, Bella?"
She seemed shocked at my question, but recovered quickly.
"I was twenty-seven in September. Why?"
"Just curious. I'd never guess a woman's age out loud. My mother taught me better than that."
Bella snorted as she laughed, and I couldn't help but join her. We'd had enough of the heavy for one night, and I felt myself being drawn even more to her as the time passed.
"So, now you know all about me. The dirty, dark truth. Tell me about yourself, Edward. Hell, I don't even know your last name."
I chuckled and ran my hand through my hair. This was a make-or-break conversation, although I didn't need a fortune teller to know Bella wasn't a woman in search of a sugar daddy. She'd made that point loud and clear. I didn't want to make her feel inferior to me, but I knew honesty always trumps bullshit. Right now, I was hoping for friendship, and praying for something more substantial, but I'd take whatever relationship Bella was willing to offer.
"Hmm, let's see. Cullen is my last name. I'm thirty-two, and single. I play the piano, and ride a Harley when the weather allows me to. I grew up about an hour away, in Forks, but I went to college in Chicago. I moved back to Washington State a couple of years ago to take over my father's business. That just about covers it."
Bella rolled her eyes, and I quirked an eyebrow in response.
"Seriously, do I have to beg? Men are so obtuse sometimes. Women need intimate details, not the abridged version. What business are you in, Edward? Male stripper perhaps, or maybe a Calvin Klein underwear model?" she joked, running her tongue across her plump bottom lip before biting down on it gently, and my heart nearly seized in my chest with the overwhelming need to bite down on several places on her anatomy.
She's flirting with me. Fuck me. My cock chose that moment to harden against my thigh like a seventeen year old boy with his first naked, willing female at the sight of that pink tongue, and the dampness left in its wake. I closed my eyes and tried to gather my thoughts into a place where none of Bella's naked body parts resided, but it was a lost cause. I already wanted her badly.
"I'm a doctor, an OB/GYN to be more precise, same as my father and his father before him. Sadly, Chippendale's and Playgirl never returned my calls, so I had to scramble to find another occupation, but I'm still holding out hope for my big break."
Bella scooted a little closer to me and my raging hormones and rock hard erection. I held my breath as her fingers ghosted over the exposed ink on my left forearm. The heat from her touch, and her close proximity to my throbbing cock made it hard to think. Pun intended.
"Seriously? You're not lying to try and pick me up, right? A tatted doctor? Isn't that against the Hippocratic Oath or something? God, I've never had a pleasant experience having my yearly female exam, but damn, I've never had a doc who looked like you doing it either. Oh, and Edward? I get a freebie question because when I saw you at the bar earlier, I pegged you as the owner of that awesome piece of machinery out front."
I smiled at her statement. She found me attractive, and had a wicked sense of humor, but there was also the draw of her intelligence I found extremely erotic. Smart, funny, and beautiful were three words I would use to describe the woman in front of me. I wanted more, but only on her terms, yet felt as if we were encased in a cloud of electrical energy, slowly and subtly building in intensity.
"Fair enough and I bet you say that line to all the tatted doctors you know," I said in jest, enjoying our jovial conversation. "To answer your question, no, I'm not lying. I am honestly a board certified medical doctor who delivers babies for a living. While my tattoos aren't typical, they aren't unethical. As long as I handle myself professionally, there are no repercussions with my appearance. Being in private practice does help the situation though."
"Do you drive the women wild with all that ink peeking from under your sleeves?" Bella asked breathily. "I bet you do. Hot doctor. Harley. Tats. That's a deadly trifecta. Will you show the tats to me sometime?"
I knew at once I wasn't the only one in the room caught up in this weird kinetic electricity crackling around us. Bella's sweet breath washed over my face, and I had to dig my fingernails into my palms to keep from reaching out to touch her. My breathing was ragged, and my self-control non-existent at this juncture. I yanked my shirt over my head and tossed it behind Jasper's desk, keeping my eyes locked on hers. Bella's breathing hitched at my sudden partial nakedness, but I sat still, and let her dictate the situation.
"I don't know if they drive women wild, but they certainly draw unwanted attention at times. I think if they were to effect the right woman in a way that was … mutual between the two parties, well, then I guess I'd have to say I'd be pleased to accommodate said woman in any way she desired," I replied, my skin hot with lust, and my voice husky with need. "You're the first woman who's ever asked to see them, to be honest."
Bella's eyes darkened at the sight of my naked torso and ink.
"Please, will you tell me about each one? I know they have meaning. It's obvious if you aren't tatted for the attention, they aren't on your body for the sake of having the ink."
"You're correct. Each one has a history. The first tat I got was the summer after I graduated high school. My grandfather was dying of pancreatic cancer, and only had a few months to live. He came to America from Ireland in the early 1900's with his immigrant parents, and nothing was more important to him than his family. I wanted to honor our strong family values passed down from his father, to him, then to my father and now to me. That's the reason for the Cullen Crest on my left pectoral. In 2006, my best friend, Jake was killed in active duty combat in Iraq. I have a memoriam tattoo across my upper back in his honor. The caduceus on my left rib cage represents my chosen profession, and the musical note sleeves on both arms are for my love of the piano, and all types of music."
Bella's eyes were glistening with unshed tears, as she caressed each spot of ink I'd described with such tender care. My body trembled as her agile fingers touched my flesh with such reverence, and she left a trail of fire on every inch of skin with her touch. Never before had the simple touch of a woman given me such pleasure, or made me feel like I was free-falling through space. I wanted more, and I needed more with the angel in front of me, but wasn't it too soon to want such things?
"You're so beautiful, Edward. Inside and out. I wish I could go back in time to change so many things, but I can't," Bella said softly, her face mere centimeters from mine, and her bright, telling eyes silently gazing into mine as she voiced words from the heart. "I always dreamed of finding my missing puzzle piece, fall madly in love with him and he with me. He would be someone with a sense of family and friendship, a drive to succeed, who wanted the same for me. My true soul mate, who strived daily to make a difference in the world with his words and actions, and it wouldn't matter how much money we had, or where we lived as long as we were together. A man who loves from deep within his soul, and doesn't spew empty and angry words for his sole benefit, or take away everything you possess in a mad fit of rage. I longed for a man who loved me for me. God, Edward, I've dreamt of someone like you. I know I'm being forward, but I can't find it within myself to care at the moment. Do you think, maybe after the bar closes, we could go back to my place or somewhere you choose and talk some more? Get to know each other a little better? I know it'll be late, but I really want to get to know the Edward behind the medical degree and the tats."
My heart soared at her admission. She wanted more.
"I'd like that, Bella. As much as I hate to say this, I guess we'd better get you to work now before Alice comes looking for you. I'm not going anywhere, so come find me when you're finished tonight. I'll be waiting."
"Alice! Shit, I forgot the reason I was here!"
I laughed as she slithered off the couch, as I found my shirt and slipped it on. Bella smiled as I took her hand and led her out of our bubble of contentment. I kissed her hand as I locked the door with the other.
If Jasper, Alice, Rose, or Emmett had wondered where we'd been for so long, they didn't allude to it out loud, but I didn't miss the grin on Alice's face, and the smug look on Jasper's when we resurfaced from behind the scenes. Bella thanked me for my chivalry; I discretely squeezed her hand, before leaving her with Alice to start her shift. I was wired and didn't want any more to drink, but I wasn't leaving the bar without Bella tonight, so I reclaimed my seat at the bar. No one else mattered.
I watched Bella from afar, and every so often our eyes would meet across the bar. It was all I could do to not go to her, throw her over my shoulder, and make a quick get-a-way. Instead, I immersed myself in her presence, and in the talented singers entertaining the patrons. After several hours, Jasper stopped by to ask if I wanted anything before he shut down the wet bar. It was twelve-thirty, and the bar closed at one.
"Nah, man. I think I'm going to see Caius about singing the last song of the night. I'll see you after."
I'd been going over songs in my head, searching for a song to sing to Bella. I didn't want the typical eighties love songs by Bryan Adams, or Journey, as Bella was anything but "just the usual girl". She was special, and at once I thought of a song, one that matched her personality, and expressed my feelings for her. I was still in a bit of shock as to how quickly Bella had taken hold of my heart and soul, and how strongly those feelings bound me to her. I made my way backstage knowing I'd made the correct choice.
"Okay, guys. We have one last performance before we'll be shutting down. I'd like to thank everyone for coming out to O'Hara's and partying with us tonight, and I'll let Edward close for us tonight with some classic Springsteen," Caius announced, and patted my shoulder when handed me the mike.
"Good for you, man. She's a keeper," he whispered knowingly, and began to strum his guitar.
The familiar chords echoed across the bar, and searched the crowd until I found my girl, sitting on my vacated bar stool. She waved her fingers at me, and I knew at that moment I was falling hard for Bella Swan. I channeled my feelings through Bruce's words, and saw like emotion reflected back in Bella's eyes.
Hey little girl is your daddy home
Did he go away and leave you all alone
I got a bad desire
I'm on fire
Tell me now baby is he good to you
Can he do to you the things that I do
I can take you higher
I'm on fire
Sometimes it's like someone took a knife baby
Edgy and dull and cut a six-inch valley
Through the middle of my soul
At night I wake up with the sheets soaking wet
And a freight train running through the
Middle of my head
Only you can cool my desire
I'm on fire
For the first time in my life, I was on fire, and the gorgeous brunette at the end of the bar was fanning the flames. I finished the song, and thanked the crowd, my eyes never leaving the object of my desire. Bella seemed to be effected by the song, and not in a bad way. I exited the stage, and made my way to the bar, hoping Jasper and Alice wouldn't keep Bella hostage for hours. I needed to touch her.
"Damn, doc. That was hot!" Rose exclaimed, bumping my shoulder with hers. Then she leaned in and whispered in my ear. "I think you have an admirer, but I don't think it's a one-sided attraction. Just make sure you want more than a one-night stand with her if you pursue it. Don't screw with her emotions, or I'll rip off your balls and feed them to you, got it?"
I knew Rose told the truth, on both counts.
"Rose, I've only known her for a short time, but I've never felt so strongly for a woman before, and I promise to you, I will do all I can not to hurt her. Bella's suffered enough for one lifetime."
"Then go to her, Edward. Show her that men aren't pompous assholes with only one agenda. She needs you worse than we need her here. I think Alice already saw this was going to happen; you know how Alice is when she gets those freaky gut feelings, but you two didn't need the extra push. Now, get lost before I hand you a mop and pail."
"Yes, ma'am," I replied, but my feet were already moving. Bella was nodding her head at whatever Jasper was saying to her, and I stopped walking when I was close enough to touch her. My eyes found hers in the darkness of the bar, relieved when she looked up at me and I saw the passion from early still resided there. Jasper smiled as he witnessed Bella's reaction to my nearness, and my reaction.
"Edward, my man, you kicked ass with your song choice. You can never go wrong when it comes to The Boss. I was just telling Bella here, that she could head on out. I think I'll come back tomorrow to clean up, and tally the receipts. Can you do a friend a favor and see her home? Alice would have my hide if I sent a lady out on these roads alone late at night. I'll tell the others and we'll see you guys soon. Maybe a grill out mid-week if the nice weather holds out. Bella, I'll run your pay by the apartment tomorrow. You saved our ass tonight, sweetie."
"Sounds good, Jazz. Thanks," Bella replied, but her eyes never left mine.
"I'll gladly see Bella home, if she doesn't mind," I answered, never turning my attention away from Bella. "Ready to get out of here?"
Bella nodded almost franticly, and threw the rag in her hands down on the bar. Jasper handed me my helmet and jacket, along with Bella's purse, and a knowing grin on his face.
"Y'all have a good night."
I placed my hand on the small of her back and led her out into the crisp nighttime air. It was cooler than it had been, but still nice enough not to need my jacket. Bella, however, shivered as we stepped outside.
"Yeah, a little. I should've brought a jacket. I guess I'm not acclimated to the Washington weather yet. It rarely gets cold enough in Arizona to need anything heavier than a hoodie, even in the dead of winter. My old truck doesn't heat up very fast either, so I guess I need to go start it up, and hope she isn't in a mood to not run tonight."
I wrapped my leather jacket around her without further thought, and felt an air of possessiveness as she eased her arms into the sleeves. I surveyed the almost empty lot, and my eyes fell on the rusty red behemoth along the roadside. It was old enough to have belonged to my grandfather in his youth, and there was no way in hell she was taking the chance on being stranded on the highway on my watch. I knew with her determination to be independent, I'd need to tread carefully with my next words.
"My jacket is a bit big on you, but the look suits you. Listen, Bella. Why don't you let me take you home on the bike? It's late, and I'm sure Jasper won't mind you leaving your truck for the night. I'll make sure you get back in the morning to retrieve it.
I expected an argument, or at the least, an eye roll of annoyance, but I got neither. Instead, I got instant wood with her saucy reply.
"Sure. I've been itching to straddle your bike all night long. I've never been on one."
With our age and history, I knew I'd never be a part of many of her firsts, but tonight, I could be. I'd gladly give her this wish, and, I'd be willing to let her straddle more than my bike. You get my drift.
"Hey, no one should go their entire lives without knowing the thrill of riding on the most powerful machine on two wheels known to man. It's your lucky day, beautiful."
"Cool. You know where the Highland Commons apartments are, right? I live in the first building, in 12C. My parking spot has the apartment number painted on the concrete thingy in it. I don't know what you call it."
I chuckled at her words and nodded. There wasn't much around Forks, La Push, or Port Angeles I didn't know.
"Yep, I know the way. The ride won't take long. Do you need to grab anything out of your truck?"
"Nope, I've got the keys in my pocket. I doubt if anyone will steal it, and there isn't anything of value in it. It's not on Car and Driver's top thousand list of desirable vehicles, but I needed a way to get here. The old beast was Dad's first truck, and I couldn't leave it behind. I'm hoping to put her out of her misery after I get my schooling paid for."
I didn't know what to say to her, but my heart ached over the situation she'd been placed in through no fault of her own. I shook the negativity from my mind, and took Bella's hand to escort her to the Harley. I'd never had anyone on my bike, and I couldn't wait to feel her arms around me as we took the road.
"You'll wear the jacket and helmet, and no arguing about it. I'll be fine. Let me get on first, and get the bike stabilized, and then you climb on behind me and hold on tight, okay?" I said as I handed her the helmet.
My blood heated at the sight of Bella in my gear. The bike purred its approval as I cranked it, and Bella slid onto the seat behind me, her hands locking tightly around my waist.
The need for speed on the open road flooded my senses, along with the heat radiating from Bella's body against my back and anticipation for what the rest of the night was going to bring, and I let loose, and reveled in the squeal the sudden jolt of power drew from my co-pilot.
It took less than ten minutes to pull into Bella's apartment complex. Ten long, glorious minutes of being wrapped up in Bella's essence. I found the parking spot easily and backed my bike into the stall and shut her off. It was almost 2am, and we seemed to be the only people onsite who were still awake. I dismounted, and held out my hand to assist Bella back onto solid ground. When she pulled off the helmet, her hair fanned wildly around her, and the glow from her reddened cheeks made her all the more beautiful.
"That was amazing! I may have to reconsider my options and look into a motorcycle instead of a newer vehicle," Bella gushed, as she started guiding us up the outdoor staircase to her place. "But, then again, I guess a bike really isn't practical in this type of environment. Maybe someday. Ok, here we are. My humble abode. It's not much, but it's all I need."
Bella unlocked the deadbolt and I followed her inside. It was an open floor plan, clean and neat, but sparsely furnished, probably with items from her parent's home that she could bring with her in one trip. I wasn't one of those people who judged others on their possessions, but I'd never known hard times. My family didn't live in splendor, but we had nice things, and I had furnished my house with top-end electronics and high quality furniture. Suddenly I knew those things were just that. Things. Bella was making the best with what she had.
I slipped off my heavy riding boots, and sat them by the front door. Bella ushered me to the couch, before stepping into the kitchen, setting my jacket and helmet on the table.
"Do you want something to drink? I have bottled water, and a couple of Lime-A-Rita's left over from Jasper and Alice's last cookout," Bella asked.
"Water is fine."
Bella grabbed two waters, and sat them on the coffee table before taking a seat on the couch beside me. She looked tired, yet anxious. I wondered what she had running through her sharp mind to cause such an expression.
"So, here we are," Bella said as she slipped off her shoes and tucked her feet under her legs. "I'm kind of rusty on how to entertain. It's been awhile since I've been alone in my apartment with a guy, or anyone for that matter. Want me to see if there's a good movie on?"
I wanted to pull her into my arms and kiss her. But, she was in charge.
"A movie sounds great, but nothing too scary or I won't be able to sleep for days."
Bella snorted as she flipped through her cable channels, settling on the latest Twilight movie. The residents of Forks knew all about Twilight, but I didn't live in Forks when the movie was filmed so I missed out on all the hoopla. Mom had gotten several autographs while the movie filmed, and filled me in over the phone on the "hotness of Robert Pattinson", and how she'd "do Peter Facinelli in a heartbeat". That conversation required brain bleach to remove.
"The day I met Alice, we had a conversation about vampires and werewolves. Funny, isn't it? A young-adult movie like this could make friends out of people who'd never met before. And now, because of that friendship, there's you and what I'm feeling for you right now. I'm afraid you'll think badly of me."
She took a drink of her water, and picked at the label when she was done. I hoped I wasn't misreading her words. If I was, I'd feel like a jackass, but if not, she needed to know my feelings.
"Bella, look at me."
She did as I asked, and I knew I was spot on in my guess. We both needed something the other possessed. There was no way in hell it could be the wrong move, and I needed her to know that.
"There's nothing you can say, or do to run me off, and I can't not tell you how I'm feeling either. I'm having a hard time keeping my hands to myself, and I can't stop thinking about kissing you right now. If you don't feel the same, I won't be mad, or angry. I'm not James. I would never treat you the way he did. I'll be your friend, or whatever you need from me, but I won't lie and say I'm not hoping for something deeper than friendship."
"We're on the same page then. I feel something different with you, Edward, and I never felt it with James. I want to explore these feelings, and see what happens. I want you. Right now."
Propriety forgotten, and the fact we'd only known each other for one night flew out window when I saw the need in Bella's eyes. Fate had intervened, and presented this glorious creature in my path, and I would do whatever it took to make her mine.
"Kiss me, Edward. Please."
I didn't need to be asked twice, and certainly didn't need to beg me.
My hands cradled her face gently, and I reveled in the fact her skin was as soft as I'd imagined. But, nothing prepared me for the feel of her lips against mine. There was no awkwardness, and our lips fit together like they were made for one another. Leaning her onto the couch, we started kissing deeper, our tongues tasting and stoking, possessing. I slid one of my hands down to her lower back while running the other through her long hair.
"I want you so badly, Bella," I rasped. "I want to show you how you should always be treated, but as much of a buzz-kill as the topic is; I have to ask about protection. It's the doctor in me. I don't have a condom with me, but I promise you, I'm clean. I was tested over six months ago, and haven't been with anyone since."
"I trust you, Edward. It's been over a year since the last time with James, and I was tested several times afterwards. I take the Depo-Provera shots, so I'm covered," Bella stated, her eyes glazed with want.
Thank fucking heaven.
"Are you sure, baby? Once I let go of the thin strand of self-control I have left, I don't know if I'll be able to stop."
"I want more," Bella plead. "Show me what you need from me."
After making quick work of my shirt, and jeans, I turned my total attention on Bella. My lips were drawn to hers like a magnet. So plump and pink and utterly kissable lips. Skillfully, and purposefully, I began undressing her delectable body, not breaking our connection, gliding my lips slowly across her flushed cheeks and down her neck, all the while wanting to sink my teeth into her, while gently stroking the back of her neck to the base of her spine. She was becoming wilder and untamed as her libido increased, and the heat of her body felt as if I'd be charred from her touch.
Bella rolled her head slowly around as I was worked my lips down to her pert, pink nipples. I plucked them with my lips, massaging them with my tongue, and biting at them gently so I could hear her gasps of pleasure. Bella slid her hands across my shoulders, kneading the taut muscles there as I moved towards the middle of her chest and down to her navel, laving it with my tongue, before descending lower until I reached the apex of her thighs. I held her in place firmly as I guided my tongue back and forth between her lower lips, placing small kisses on the creases of her inner thighs, moving slowly and purposefully until sucked her swollen clit between my lips. She bucked and begged for more, twisting her hands my unruly hair, in turn pressing my face firmer and harder against her heat. Her moans increased in volume, her sacred female place becoming wetter as she locked my head firmly between her thighs, pressing her heels into my back.
My cock swelled in response, twitching in time with her breaths. I swirled my tongue inside of her, enjoying the feel of her inner walls gripping my tongue, all the while groaning in pleasure at her taste, sending Bella into a frenzy, thirsting for more contact.
"Ahh"! "Don't stop!" Bella cried, and I smiled against her mound, kissing the downy strip of hair softly.
"I'm not even close to being done with you. Don't worry your pretty head about that. I'm just getting started."
I kissed my way up her body, as I slid my boxers down and kicked them away. She was salty and sweet, slick with our combined sweat, and I shifted her hips into a more comfortable position, giving Bella her first view of my cock. She licked her lips, and reached for me, stroking its length in her hand.
I wanted her completely ready for me before I entered her. It had been awhile for us both, and I knew we weren't going to be setting any records for longevity, but I wanted her to feel good, and possibly want to do it again someday.
I teased her entrance with my fingers, before sinking first one then two into her silken depths, working them and curling them just so, until she cried out in release. She was twitching beneath me and pleading for more. I couldn't deny us any longer, and slowly sheathed myself within her heat. I stilled to allow both of us a second to gather ourselves, before I began pushing back and forth, pacing myself into a steady, blistering rhythm. I wasn't going to last long, and by the sensuous sounds slipping from Bella's lips, she was right with me. I placed my thumb on her swollen clit, rubbing it firmly as I sank deeper into her warmth, our skin slapping as she met me thrust for thrust. I was lost in her scent, and could feel her walls convulsing around me as her breathing became shallow and her moans loader.
"So close, Edward," Bella panted, raking her fingernails across and down my back, stopping as she grasped my ass cheeks.
I wasn't going to last much longer myself, and my thrusts became deeper and faster, chasing the climax we both desired. Then as if synchronizing, Bella and my eyes met, and the connection between us was so fucking strong, we let ourselves go. I let out an inhuman growl as I came within her with such force, and Bella's inner walls convulsed and milked every drop of my seed as she cried out my name. Our release was so intense that we were both gulping large amounts of air as our bodies molded against each other, limp from all the exertion. Bella was looking at me with a shy smile, and I kissed the tip of her nose, eliciting the sweetest of giggles.
"Damn, woman. I can't imagine ever being able to top that," I joked honestly, drawing my fingers through her tousled hair. "Best sex ever."
"I agree. I never knew it could be so good, but I've never had sex with someone I just met either. Thank you for indulging me, Edward."
Oh, hell no. I had to make her understand how much she meant to me already. This wasn't a "wham-bam-thank you ma'am" hookup. At least it meant more to me. I took her face in my hands, and leaned my forehead against hers.
"Don't thank me. I should be thanking you, but Bella, I want you listen to me, and really hear the words I'm saying. I've gone about this all backwards, and I don't hook up with women for the sake of sex. I want you to know that you mean more to me than a random fuck. I feel a connection with you I can't explain. I know I can't change the events of the past, but I want to be the one to bring the happiness and laughter back into your life. I've told you I want more, and that's nothing but the honest truth. I can't let you go now that I've just found you. I can't imagine being with anyone else, and I want you in my life. Would you be willing to give it a try, and see what happens?"
Bella's gasp of surprise could've meant a million things, but her heartfelt answer made my heart burst in my chest.
"I thought it was only me, but I feel it too, Edward. I've felt it since I first saw you from the stage. I thought I was crazy, but now I know you want it too. Yes. Yes, I want to take the next step with you. I can't even think about losing you now," Bella answered, but her seriousness was taken hostage by the huge yawn that shook her body.
"You've made me one damn happy man. Now, you're exhausted, and understandably so. Go to sleep. We'll talk more in the morning. I'm not going anywhere unless you ask me to."
"Stay, please. I feel safe with you here. Happy, but, I can't keep my eyes open any longer. Goodnight, Edward."
I kissed her with all the emotion I could muster in my weariness, and pulled an afghan off the back of the couch and draped it around us. I could feel myself falling hard for this precious woman, and for the first time in my life, I wasn't afraid to commit. When I woke up this morning, I had no idea how much my life would change by the time I rested my body for the night. My body was comfortable on Bella's old couch and began to drift off to sleep, Bella safely ensconced in my arms.
"Goodnight, my Bella."
A/N: There ya'll go! I don't have a time table for the continuation, but if you will follow the story, or me, you'll get the alerts. What would you like to see? Backstory? Only what happens next? This won't be a long story, but I'd like to give you guys a little more than a O/S. I had to keep this under 15k. Till later! T