Season's Greetings! I'm so glad to be back with this holiday oneshot! It's actually a sequel to the Christmas oneshot I posted last year, "A Holiday Liaison". This one takes place two weeks later, just in time for New Year's Eve. Will Bella and Edward's wild fling end up being more than just a passing distraction?
Of course, I urge you to read AHL first, but it's not necessary. Both pieces are a little dash of sexy holiday fun, so please, sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride!
The song for this oneshot is "Never Be Another" by Delilah. Here's the link:
More Than Midnight
The holidays are almost over. Thank God. The weeks of stressing, spending, rushing, and wrapping—all for two seconds of glory—are finally winding down. Okay, so I'm a bit of a Scrooge right now, but that's pretty typical of me by the end of all the chaos. What I really need is to get laid, but that hasn't happened in almost two weeks.
Not since my best friend, Mike's, company Christmas party. That was the night I met Edward—And I haven't had a single moment to myself to think, let alone try and contact Edward for a booty call. I hope what we shared wasn't just a two-day fling, but if that's the case, I'll still be grateful to have met him because those two days were . . . Wow.
Currently, I'm driving home from the peninsula, and I really need to stop thinking about that boy before I run off the road and kill myself. I've been in Forks for the past week visiting my father, Charlie, and all I want to do is get home and crawl into a hot bath. I was hoping Dad would just cancel my bi-yearly visit altogether, but I could never get that lucky. If you think that makes me a bad daughter, well, you're probably right. But if you grew up in the same shitty town I did, you'd understand.
Mike usually takes the trip with me, which makes the whole ordeal much more bearable, but he already came and went the week prior, leaving me to face the journey alone. Oh, well. It's over now, and soon, I'll be in my snug little apartment where I intend to hide under my covers with a stack of books until next year.
"What do you mean you're not coming out? That's so shitty," Mike says in the whiniest of voices.
I cradle the phone with my shoulder as I stir a pot of condensed soup on the stovetop. "Mike, we never go out for New Year's. And if you want to get technical, you're the one bailing on our annual Tarantino fest, so it's you who's being shitty, not me." There, that'll shut him up.
"Do you realize how long it's been since I've had a date for New Year's Eve?"
"Exactly four years."
"Okay . . . Well, yeah. So let's do something different this year, shake things up a bit, have some real fun for once." Mike sighs when I fail to respond. "Look, Bells, I can't stand the thought of you staying in all alone. Just please come out with us."
Mike—so sweet, so stupid.
"Forget it. I'm not going to be anybody's third-wheel on one of the biggest couple's nights of the year."
"What about the Christmas party guy? Why can't he be your date?"
Mike had better be joking. Seriously, how awkward would that be? A couple weeks ago at his company's holiday function, I pretended to be Mike's girlfriend in order to get his dream girl, Jessica, to notice him. It worked like a charm, and while they were happily sucking face behind the Christmas tree, I was upstairs having the best sex of my life with Jessica's blind date, Edward Cullen. Although Mike later explained to Jess about our little plan—and she actually thought it was cute—I still think it would be the most uncomfortable double date ever in the history of double dating.
"I have no clue what Edward's plans are, Mike, but I'm pretty certain they don't involve me. It doesn't even matter; I don't want to go out. All I want is to stay in and watch explicitly graphic movies while eating copious amounts of junk food. Honestly, I couldn't be happier that you have a date this year, so just enjoy being with Jessica and don't worry about me." I dump my chicken and stars into a bowl and head for the couch.
"Please, Bella? Pretty please? With cherries?"
"I hate cherries," I say dryly. "Come on, I just got back from Forks. Is this really the only reason you called me?"
I roll my eyes. "Then I'm hanging up."
"You're such a killjoy."
"Bye," he says glumly and the line goes dead.
I know Mike means well, but honestly, what girl in her right mind would want her date's best friend tagging along? I'm not sure Jessica even likes me, and besides, I already have a date with Tarantino.
The phone rings again, and I answer it blindly, ready to give Mike the what for. "Do you want me to drive across town and shove my foot up your ass? I have spare time."
There's a brief pause before a deep, familiar voice breaks the silence. "Uh, well, no. That doesn't sound like very much fun at all. And as much as I'd love to see you again, your foot up my ass isn't quite what I had in mind. But I am glad to know you have spare time."
Fuck me. "Edward?" I sit up straight, setting my dinner on the coffee table.
"Yes, doll?" he asks, confirming my worst nightmare.
"God, I'm so sorry. I thought you were Mike."
"Mike? Uh-oh, I don't hear from you for two weeks, and you've already moved on. I'm crushed," he says, but I catch the humor in his voice.
"Not exactly. It's just my buddy from the Christmas party. He's trying to get me to tag along on his New Year's Eve date, but I'd rather throw myself off a cliff," I say, running a hand through my frazzled hair and rolling my eyes at my own idiocy. "Anyway, how've you been?"
"Busy. I just got back into town this morning. Actually, I called to find out your plans for New Year's Eve."
"Oh, um, not much, I generally stay in … You know, amateur night and all. What about you?" I hold my breath and bite my lip waiting for his response.
"My sister throws a party every year. She always makes a big to-do about it—that's Alice for you—but it's a lot of fun. I know it's only a two-day notice, but I'd really love to take you." He pauses before adding, "I haven't been able to get you out of my head, Bella."
Holy moly. The slight rumble of his voice sends shockwaves through my body, and my brain turns into goo. "I've been thinking about you, too. I haven't stopped, actually."
"So, what?" I murmur, lost in a daze.
Another light chuckle stirs my coherency. "Would you like to be my date?"
"Oh!" I smack my forehead. "Sure. That sounds fun."
"Great. Just give me your address, and I'll pick you up on New Year's Eve. Is eight o'clock okay?"
"Eight will be perfect," I confirm. Once he has my address, we hang up, and I fall back onto the couch with a huge smile. I feel like I'm in a dream, and the memories of the night he and I spent together rush forward to claim my thoughts for the rest of the night.
"Thank you guys for coming over. I need an outside opinion on which dress to wear. Usually, Mike has to endure this alone; it'll be nice to have a woman's opinion for once," I say, poking my head out of the closet to give Jessica a hopeful smile. I'm trying hard to make her feel welcome and comfortable for Mike's sake. Actually, it's for both our sakes. At this point, if she leaves him and my friend turns back into Mopey Mike, well, I might just jump off that cliff anyway. After Lauren Mallory dumped him in college, I spent the next two years holding his hand and nursing his wounds. Not again.
"I'm more than happy to help. Mike was pretty worried about you; we were so relieved to hear you actually found a date," Jessica says. She's not being rude, but I've learned she's one of those people who were born without a filter.
"I wasn't worried," Mike says in his defense. We both give him the look, and he slumps in his chair. "Okay, I was a little worried. I just hated the thought of you being alone, sitting in your apartment all pathetic and sad and—"
"Thanks, Mike. I got it," I say, stepping out and adjusting the strap of the emerald green dress I'm leaning toward at the moment. "What do you think?"
"Looks good," Mike says, playing with his phone and not paying attention at all. I look to Jessica for a real opinion, and she's studying me intently. I knew I could count on her.
"I do like the cut on you; it really flatters your figure. And the fact that it's not strapless is good. Strapless is way overdone, in my opinion. All in all, I'd say I like this dress the best. The red one made you look so washed out and much too thick, and you do not want that. This color green goes great with your pale skin, and you really won't even need to accessorize. Maybe some earrings, but that's it. I know it's last minute, so if you need anything, I have a shit-ton of jewelry. I could bring it all over tomorrow, and we could go through it together if you want."
"Wow, thanks, Jess. I really appreciate it. I'd love to see your earrings. I don't have much in the way of costume jewelry."
"Well, I'm the costume jewelry queen, so don't worry. I've got you covered. Now, where's your bathroom? I've already had three soy lattes today."
"Down the hall, first door on the left," I tell her, and when she's gone, I turn to Mike with a big smile. "Wow, I'm really impressed with her, Mike. You need someone like her—someone who's not afraid to be honest with you."
Mike leans back in his chair with a smug grin. "She's pretty great, huh? So, tell me what you think about this. Tomorrow night, we're going to start out at Lark for dinner. Then, we'll head over to the Alibi Room for drinks and dancing. After the ball drops, she thinks I'll be taking her home, but that's not going to happen because I booked a room at the Pan Pacific."
"Ooh, fancy. Look who's pulling out all the stops. I must say, I'm proud of you, Michael Andrew Newton," I tell him with a nod of approval.
"Thank you, thank you," he says, taking a bow. And then, in true Michael Andrew Newton fashion, he ruins everything. "See, we haven't technically slept together yet, and I figure what better night than New Year's Eve, right?"
"Wait, what? You haven't even slept together, and you're taking her to a hotel? Oh, no, Mike. No, no, no. Abort, abort. Not a good idea."
Mike is utterly confused. "What do you mean? Why not?"
God, he's so clueless.
"Because, idiot, you don't want to pressure her! Maybe she's still a virgin, did you ever think of that? I mean, nothing says 'I expect to fuck' like a hotel room. Jeez, just when I think you can't get any dumber . . ."
Before Mike can argue, Jessica flits back into the room, putting the kibosh on our conversation. Ugh, what a creep. I really hope he does the right thing and eighty-sixes the hotel room.
"So, what are we talking about?" Jess says, reclaiming her spot on my bed.
"Oh, nothing," Mike begins, his voice cracking in panic, "Just about our respective plans for tomorrow night. I was thinking Bella and Edward could meet up with us for a drink before their party," he says, adding under his breath, "Since I'm a fucking idiot."
"Absolutely not," I say.
"Yeah, no. No offense to Bella, but how much more awkward can you get?" Jessica says, laughing at the idea.
"Thank you! Mike doesn't understand this at all," I say, giving Mike my patented are you completely hopeless look. I think the answer to that question is yes, he is completely fucking hopeless.
Jessica grabs her purse and tosses Mike his jacket. "Okay, we gotta run if we're going to make the movie, but I'll come by tomorrow morning about nine, if that's okay. Trust me, we'll find the perfect earrings for your dress."
"Sounds great," I say ushering them to the front door. "You guys have fun tonight, and don't do anything I wouldn't do," I say, shooting Mike a pointed look.
He rolls his eyes and starts down the stairs but suddenly changes his mind. He whispers something to Jessica and jogs back up the steps as she continues to the car.
"What the fuck am I going to do now?" he whispers frantically. "I don't want her to hate me, but if I cancel the hotel now, they're going to charge me for it anyway. That's like three-hundred dollars!"
"All right, just chill out. I'll try to feel her out tomorrow when she comes over. I'll get her to spill a little about her sex life, or lack thereof, and let you know whether or not you stand a chance. But if she is a virgin, I don't care what it costs you, you're cancelling that hotel room, got it?"
Mike sighs dejectedly. "Yeah, yeah. Bye."
I close the door and take a deep breath. Mike and his problems can take a hike; I've got my own shit to deal with right now. I have a date with Edward freaking Cullen tomorrow night, and this requires some serious landscaping. If anyone needs me, I'll be spending the next hour in the bathtub with my Lady Bic.
"Oh, yes. Those will do just fine," Jessica says, admiring the large, emerald-cut CZs that are currently dangling from my lobes.
"I love them. They're glamorous but simple. And they look so real," I say in awe.
"Well, the gold is real, but the diamonds are definitely not. They're what my mother would call 'fabulous fakes.' For seventy-five bucks, people will think you spent thousands. Gotta love cubic zirconia, am I right?"
"Yes, you are," I murmur, still transfixed by the glittering stones.
It's New Year's Eve morning, and Jessica and I have spent the last hour deciding between three pairs of earrings. I'm happy with our decision and even happier to have spent the morning with Jess. She's pretty great—not at all the uppity bitch I took her for at the Christmas party. If Mike knows what's good for him, he'll make the effort to keep her happy.
"I need more coffee, would you like a refill?" I ask, grabbing our empty mugs.
"Definitely. I don't typically function this well before 9 a.m., but look at us, making decisions and shit. I feel accomplished, and so should you."
I chuckle at her as I fill both our cups to the brim with steaming hot coffee. We both take it the same way—dark and strong—another reason why I love her.
"Have you thought about your hair at all? Do you want to go up or down?" Jess asks, accepting her fresh joe.
"I'd love to put it up, but I'm no good at that kind of stuff. I'll probably just leave it down."
A knock on the door interrupts Jessica's response, and I make my way through the kitchen and hallway, tying my robe nice and tight. I'm guessing it's Mike, but I'm certainly not expecting anyone. I open the door to see a young man dressed in blue with a ball cap that reads 'The Sound of Flowers.'
"Can I help you?" I ask, trying not to let all the heat out.
"Delivery for Bella Swan. Could you please sign here?" he says, all cracking voice and acne scars.
With a furrowed brow, I sign for the long box he's holding then close and lock the door once he's gone.
"Who was that?" Jess says, studying herself in the mirror I'd brought down from my bedroom.
"Delivery. Someone sent me a package," I say, still perplexed.
"Ooh, I love surprises. Open it up; let's see who it's from."
"Okay," I say, growing more excited. I never get randomly surprised with gifts or flowers. This should be interesting.
Undoing the large, satin bow, I pull the lid off the box and plow through the tissue paper to reveal two dozen, gorgeous long-stemmed white roses. "Holy crow!"
"Wow, these are amazing! Where's the card? Who are they from?"
Good question; where is the card? Both Jess and I are searching the box when she holds it up in victory.
"Got it! Okay, let's see," she muses as she opens the tiny envelope. I'm a little embarrassed to have her read the card out loud, but I'm too curious to stop her.
My beautiful Swan,
These roses are a thing of great beauty, but they will surely wilt like dandelions next to you. Please allow them to serve as a reminder of the lovely time we had two weeks ago. I eagerly anticipate that tonight will be just as . . . enticing.
Eight o'clock sharp.
Jess looks at me with huge eyes. "Fucking. Wow."
"Holy shit," I whisper, sliding into the closest chair. I read the card over and over and can't help but hear Edward's voice in my head—low, sultry, just the right amount of gravel. That man is toying with my libido, and he's not even in the room. If I was nervously excited about the night ahead before, I'm absolutely frantic now.
"So, hair. This is definitely an up-do kind of evening," Jess says, standing behind me and gathering my hair in her hands.
Shaking myself out of my reverie, I snap back to the present. "I don't know, Jess. Up-dos always remind me of bad homecoming hair and way too many curls. I definitely can't look like an amateur around this guy."
Jessica chuckles. "Don't worry about that. No homecoming, no curls. Just a sleek, sexy, very simple twist. It's super easy; I'll show you how to do it, and you'll have it perfected in just a few tries. Trust me; you have a great neck, and I bet Edward will appreciate staring at it all night." She sighs. "Christ, I knew I should've tried harder with him when I had the chance."
I smile at her in the mirror. "Yeah, but you have Mike now." At that, we both burst into laughter. No offense to Mike, but seriously. "Speaking of Mike, are you excited about tonight? I feel like we've been focusing on me all morning. What about you? What are you going to wear? Are you at all nervous?"
"I am nervous in a way," she says, a faint blush coloring her cheeks. "I really like him. Like, really like him. Mike and I have spent almost every day together since the party, and that's just not like me. I need my space in a relationship, you know?" I nod my agreement and she continues. "It's different with him, though. It's more like hanging out with a good friend. There's no pressure to act a certain way or be someone I'm not. It's really comfortable."
Uh-oh. This could either be good or really, really bad. "But you like him as more than a friend, don't you? I know he's totally head-over-heels for you, and he'd be crushed if—"
"Oh, I definitely like him more than a friend. I'm merely saying it's nice to be with someone who doesn't just expect sex all the time. With Mike, it's more than that."
"So . . . You guys haven't . . . You know . . ." I say, hoping to draw out her status.
"No, not yet. But soon, I hope. I usually don't wait so long, you know? Usually, by the third date it's go time, but Mike has just been so sweet. I've really been enjoying things without all the trappings of a physical relationship."
"So you're not a virgin?" The question leaves my mouth before I have a chance to squash it.
Now who's in need of a filter? Lord almighty . . .
"Good God, no!" she says, laughing. "Actually, I was hoping tonight would be the night, but I don't know. I've got roommates and Mike . . . well, you know, lives with his mom. I just don't know how it's going to work."
I type Mike a quick text, letting him know the hotel is definitely on for tonight, and turn around in my chair to face Jessica. "Can I tell you something?" I ask. I know Mike wanted it to be a surprise, but it'd be nice for Jessica to be prepared in case she isn't already. "First of all, let me clarify that Mike is only at his mom's house because his last apartment was infested with bedbugs."
"Damnit, yeah, that's not something I should've told you, I guess. My point is, he found a great place near Lake Washington, but he has to wait until after the holidays to sign the lease. I just didn't want you thinking he's some kind of thirty-year-old freak with Mommy issues. It's not like that at all."
"I guess that's good to know. I mean, I didn't think it was that way, but you just never know these days."
"Totally. And, second of all, Mike is more than a little prepared for this evening. He was hoping that tonight would be the night as well, and he took the liberty of booking a really nice hotel room for you," I say, cringing for the backlash.
"Oh, wow, really? God, he really took a chance on that one, didn't he? How presumptuous of him. For all he knows, I'ma virgin. How dickhead-ish would that've been?"
Shit, I hope I didn't just blow it for him.
"I know. You're one hundred percent right, and that's exactly what I told him. He just likes you so much, Jess. You're all he's talked about since the day he started sharing a cube wall with you at work. Please, don't hold this against him. If you're going to stay with Mike—and I really hope you do—you're going to learn pretty quickly that he's kind of a bonehead. His heart is always in the right place, but sometimes, his brain is not. But he's the nicest guy I've ever met, and I'm really lucky to have him as a friend."
Jess gives me a soft smile. "That's so sweet. You really care for him, don't you?"
"We grew up together; Mike is family to me. He's like the nerdy brother I never wanted but couldn't live without."
"I see. Well, not to worry. I promise I'll be good to him, and tonight will be a night Mike Newton never forgets."
I laugh. "Okay, my turn. Eww!"
Just relax, Swan. You can do this. Tonight, you're beautiful, confident, and sexy, I tell myself as I stare at my reflection in the full-length mirror. Edward will be here to pick me up any minute, and if I don't get my nerves under control, I'll be in the midst of a panic attack by the time he makes it to my door.
I have to give Jessica props. The hair and the earrings really set off my ensemble. I look more sophisticated than I ever thought possible, and sexy to boot with the deep V of my dress showing off a little more cleavage than is the norm for me. I used a palate of black and silver to give myself the smoky eyes I've been perfecting for two days now, and just a touch of ruby lip stain to enhance my naturally pink lips. My eyelashes are curled to perfection, my perfume dabbed in all the right places. I couldn't be more ready for this night.
That's what I tell myself, but the knock on my door sends my heart into a tizzy. Oh, God, he's here. He's here, and I suddenly feel like a little girl playing dress up. He's going to see right through me.
Answer the fucking door! my subconscious screams, and I do as I'm told.
With a cleansing breath, I open the door, and I'm not prepared for the level of drop-dead gorgeous that greets me on the other side. Edward is dashing in his long black coat and red scarf. I haven't even seen what he's wearing underneath said coat, but I'm already drooling. His hair is a perfectly imperfect mess, and his gorgeous gray eyes are lit up by his smile.
"Bella, you are . . . stunning," he breathes as his eyes trail up and down my body.
I feel the blush crawling its way up my chest and neck, and I hope it isn't too noticeable in the low lighting. "Hi, come in. Wow, you look great, too. It's good to see you again."
Edward steps into the foyer, leaning down to give me a kiss on the cheek. "I'm afraid my fantasies did you no justice; you're even more beautiful than I remember."
I chuckle softly, shying away from his flattery. He's going to have to stop it with that, or else he'll be walking around all night with a tomato-faced loser. "Let me just grab my coat and purse. Oh, and thank you, by the way, for the roses. They're incredibly beautiful; no one's ever given me actual long-stemmed roses before," I tell him as I dash into the hallway to retrieve my nice coat from the closet.
"You're kidding me. Well, I can't say much for the caliber of men you've dated in the past, but I'm honored to be the first. May it be the first of many," Edward says, reaching for my coat. "Allow me."
I hand it over to him, mumbling my thanks and, as I slip my arms into the coat, Edward steps closer, his nose caressing my neck. I close my eyes, wanting so badly to surrender to the tightening in my belly.
"You smell almost as good as you look, Bella, and that is one dangerous combination. How will I ever be able to mind my manners?" he murmurs, and his minty breath leaves goosebumps in its wake.
I turn my head slightly to look at him, my eyes sliding down to his mouth. Lord, I want to kiss that mouth. His lips are perfect—full and soft—and I'm aching to feel them pressed against mine. We're only inches apart—just a sight incline on either one of our parts, and boom, paradise. Instead, he places a soft kiss on my temple and moves to stand beside me, offering me his arm.
"Shall we? Alice tends to get pretty crabby when people are late," he says with a smirk, and I think he's aware of the effect he has on me.
This man is going to be my death, just watch.
The ride across town is quiet but not unpleasant. For reasons unknown, I feel safe with Edward, and not just because he drives a Volvo. He's alert, but at ease; relaxed, yet in control. I get the feeling he's more than capable of everything he ventures to do. That's certainly the case when it comes to me, and I have to squeeze my thighs together at the memory of his . . . capabilities.
Alice's place is amazing. She has one of those super cool floating houses on Lake Union that no one's actually seen in real life. According to Edward, Alice is a professor of women's lit at an all-girls prep school, and her husband, Jasper, is a pilot. He's gone almost three weeks out of every month, but Edward said he was able to take two weeks off over the holidays, so I'll be able to meet him tonight.
I didn't realize this would be such a family affair, but apparently, even his parents will be in attendance tonight. This thought makes me anxious, and I don't do a good enough job of hiding it because Edward notices.
He puts the car in park and turns to me. "Bella, you're nervous. Please, relax; you have absolutely nothing to worry about. If I thought this would be awkward in any way, then I wouldn't have invited you; I would've asked you to dinner next week instead. The only person you should be nervous about meeting is my brother, Emmett," Edward tells me then shakes his head with a laugh. "He has . . . boundary issues. He thinks everyone he meets is instantly his friend. I've already warned him to leave you alone, but I can't make any promises."
My stomach does a summersault. "Oh, God. You really shouldn't have told me that. I loathe being the center of anyone's attention, and I'm easily embarrassed. Now, I'm really nervous," I say, my fingers tensely knotted in my lap.
Edward laughs and it's a sound sent straight from the heavens. "Don't worry; I feel oddly protective of you. If he says or does anything to make you uncomfortable, I won't hesitate to take him outside and throw him into the freezing cold water." I manage a chuckle, but it's only for Edward's sake, and he brings a hand to my chin, his warm fingers gently coaxing my attention. "I'm really glad you're here with me tonight. Please understand, I would never let anyone hurt you in any way. Period."
I nod, mesmerized by the glow of sincerity in his silvery eyes. "Thank you. I'm really glad I'm here, too. I'm glad you decided to call me."
"Me too. Now, let's go have ourselves a great fucking night. Wait here; I'll get your door."
I take a couple more deep breaths as Edward jogs around the front of the car, and before I know it, we're walking hand-in-hand to the house. Before he has a chance to knock, the door is opened by a beautiful woman with killer legs and the most gorgeous caramel-colored hair I've ever seen.
"Edward, we've been waiting for you. Alice is about ten minutes away from an absolute meltdown," she says, giving him a gentle hug and an air-kiss on the cheek.
Voices and laughter abound from inside the house, and I stand behind Edward with my hands folded in front of me, just waiting for the awkward introductions to begin.
"You look beautiful. And we're only four minutes late. Alice can save her meltdown for later when Emmett inevitably loses his pants or vomits in a houseplant," Edward says, stepping aside and placing a hand on my back to usher me forward. "I'd like you to meet my date, Bella Swan. Bella, this is my beautiful mother, Esme."
His mother? Jeez, she's so hot, even I would do her.
"Hi, Mrs. Cullen. It's so nice to meet you," I say as she steps forward to greet me in the same manner she greeted Edward.
"Bella, what a lovely surprise. And it's just Esme; Mrs. Cullen makes me feel my age. I must say, I'm surprised. Edward never brings dates over to meet us, but the family will be delighted. And look how pretty you are!"
"All right, Mom, let's not send her running for the hills just yet," Edward says.
"Oh, stop. Put your coats away and come into the living room to meet everyone and get some drinks," Esme says with a delicate wink, giving her delicious son a squeeze on the arm. She disappears down the hall as Edward takes our coats and stows them in a closet.
Oh, my. I thought Edward was entirely edible in his sleek outerwear, but holy cats, is he otherworldly out of it. His cobalt blue suit is immaculately fitted to his lean body, and the color makes his eyes shine like tinsel. In lieu of a tie, the top three buttons of his black shirt are left casually undone, and I want to lick every inch of exposed skin. He is gorgeous. He is sex in a well-tailored Armani.
And tonight, he is all mine.
"Round one is over. How are you holding up?" he asks. I know he's kidding, but there's a hint of real fear behind his smile, and it surprises me. I can't imagine anything on earth that could rattle this man's cage.
"I'm great," I tell him to his immediate relief. "Your mother is very sweet. And really pretty, by the way. Is everyone in your family as gorgeous as you are?"
Edward gives me that killer lopsided grin. "You think I'm gorgeous?"
My blush returns in all its glory, and this time, without the benefit of well-adjusted lighting to hide behind.
He chuckles. "Well, you tell me, Bella, because you're about to meet them all." Edward brushes a finger over my glowing cheek, studying its rosy hue. "I love when this happens," he murmurs, and I give him a sardonic look as we make our way through the house.
Soft music floats around us, and I'm glad to hear it isn't Christmas tunes. If I have to listen to one more bloody rendition of Silent Night, I'm going to puke. Alice has an eclectic palate when it comes to art, and as we walk down the hall, I recognize pieces from artists ranging from Warhol to John Singer Sargent. Her tastes are varied, to say the least, but somehow, she makes it all works.
I wish I had more time to ogle her belongings, but the second we round a corner into what I presume to be the living room, a woman so tiny I could stuff her into my clutch bounds up to us, flinging herself full-speed at Edward.
"You're here! And you actually brought her!" She pries herself away from Edward, putting the spotlight on me. "You must be Bella. I've heard so much about you in the last two weeks; I feel like we've been friends forever. I'm Alice, Edward's younger sister; it's so nice to meet you!"
I manage to squeak out a "hello" through the vice-like hug in which I'm suddenly trapped. When she finally releases me, I can't help but laugh. "Hi, Alice. I'm really glad to be here; thank you for having me."
She opens her mouth to respond when a man three times her size barrels toward us, knocking her clean out of the way. My eyes go wide, and Edward halts him with a hand to the chest before he can attack me as well.
"Emmett, Alice, everybody, just calm the frick down. Jesus, what did I tell you about personal space?" Highly chagrined, Edward straightens his tie and takes a huge breath. "Let's try this again. Everyone, this is Bella. We spent some time together once a couple weeks ago, and I'm trying to make a good impression here, so stop treating her like a ragdoll." Gesturing from left to right, he begins spouting names that I pray I'll still remember in five minutes. "The fat oaf in front of you is my older brother, Emmett. Behind him is his wife Rosalie, Alice's husband, Jasper, my father, Carlisle, and of course, you already met Esme, my mother."
Everyone waves or says "hello" in turn, and I give a small wave back, clinging to Edward's arm. "It's lovely to meet all of you," I say, and I was right. Every single member of Edward's family looks as if they've just traipsed out of the pages of Vogue.
"Now," Edward continues. "I'm going to take Bella into the kitchen to get a drink, and I don't want anyone following us. Give her a chance to catch her breath before the guests start to pour in and the madness begins, okay?" He doesn't wait for a response; instead, he takes my hand and leads me out of the lion's den.
The kitchen is a chef's dream with every inch of counter space covered with lavish platters loaded with exquisite delicacies I can't wait to taste. As soon as the door swings closed, and we're alone, Edward turns to me, placing his hands gently on my bare arms.
"I am so sorry about that. I knew it would be embarrassing, but that was . . . wretched. Are you all right? How are you doing? It's really hard for me to read you, and I just need to know what you're thinking right now."
"Edward, I'm fine," I reassure him, placing my hands on his chest. "I think it's great how much they're into what's going on in your life. I just . . ."
"What? Oh, God, what is it? Do you want to leave? We can get out of here now if you'd rather go somewhere else," he says, his brow furrowed in panic.
"No, no. Relax, it's nothing like that. It's just . . . I didn't think this would be a gathering of such Cullen-esque proportions. I kind of feel like an intruder, you know? And as you said, we've only known each other a short time. I really wasn't prepared to meet the family so soon."
His face softens as he rubs his hands up and down my arms. "I promise, lots of people who aren't related to me will be showing up any moment, so don't worry about that. But my family has always been really close—almost freakishly so. They're everything to me, and I figure if we're going to be spending a lot more time together—and I very much hope that's the case—I should just get the hard part over with now. You see, my family acts as sort of a filter. I've actually lost would-be girlfriends to them in the past—girls who only wanted to be with me for money or status or whatever. Five minutes with the peanut gallery, and they're suddenly not as interested as they thought they were.
"Bella, this is me. This is the me I want you to know. I want nothing more than to continue this, this . . . whatever it is that started two weeks ago, and I'd love it if you stayed, but if it's all too much, and you want to go . . . I get it."
I look up at him, and there's nothing I can say. Wow, what a different perspective I have of Edward at this moment. I never in a million years expected this from Mr. Suave, Mr. GQ, but it sounds as if he's interested in more than just the mind-blowing sex.
And I couldn't be more game.
I can't help myself any longer; I slide my hands around his neck and pull him toward me until his lips are on mine, hoping to convey everything I don't have the words to say with a kiss. After a split-second of surprise, Edward opens up to me. His arms wrap around my back, fully embracing me, and the kiss we share isn't just hot—because it certainly is that—but it's soft, meaningful. Deliberate.
When we part, the wonder in his hooded eyes makes him look much more innocent than I know he is. A smile tugs at the corner of his mouth as he continues to rub my back. "So does that mean you're staying?"
"I'm not going anywhere," I say, and just as he dips down for another kiss, the kitchen door flies open, ushering in Emmett and Rosalie.
"Hey, quit hoarding the new chick; there's a party going on out there. People are starting to show, and the fire is dying. Dad needs us to go outside and get more wood," Emmett says, ruffling Edward's hair and pulling him toward the back door.
"Get off me, dick. I'll be right back, Bella. Rose, watch my girl. If Alice drags her away, I won't see her again the rest of the night."
"On it," Rosalie says dutifully, and the guys are gone, leaving us alone in the kitchen.
I fold my arms around my waist, not knowing what else to do with myself as she pops a bottle of Prosecco and pours two glasses. She hands me one with a warm smile.
"Don't worry, Bella. We don't bite. I know this must be a little overwhelming, but if you take a deep breath and just go along with the craziness, everything will be all right."
"I think it's great how close your family is, but it is a little intimidating," I agree, tossing back the contents of the crystal flute. Rosalie immediately refills my glass.
Sipping my drink this time, I cross the kitchen to the large, open window that looks out into the living room. Emmett was right; the place is filling up fast with new faces. I spot Edward's father, talking and laughing with a group that seems to be hanging on his every word. Even from afar, he appears so captivating, so enigmatic, and much like his youngest son, I can't take my eyes off him.
Rose slides up beside me, following my gaze. "Ah, Dr. Cullen. He's a really great guy—generous, friendly to everyone he meets. Not to mention he's got an ass that won't quit."
I nearly choke on my sparkling wine, but she's not wrong. He's gorgeous.
"He looks so different from my own father. I can't imagine Chief Swan in the middle of a party holding anyone's attention unless they want to hear how the salmon are biting this season. And, yes, Dr. Cullen is certainly . . . easy on the eyes," I say, in awe of the man who raised Edward.
Rose snorts, nudging my arm with hers. "Paging Dr. Cullen, am I right?"
"Gross, you are not talking about Dad again, are you?" Alice says, appearing behind us. "That is beyond repulsive; now, get over here and help me move some of these platters to the living room. Bella, would you mind giving us a hand."
"Not at all," I say, stealing away my inappropriate reverie.
Armed with platters of hors d'oeuvres, Alice, Rosalie, and I head out of the kitchen. Taking a deep breath, I focus my mind, trying to do as Rosalie said and strap in for the ride, but my stomach, which is full of butterflies, isn't as easily swayed.
Here goes nothing!
Over three hours later, the party is in full swing. The parents have left, opting to find a more comfortable location to ring in the New Year, and things are in full-on insanity mode. There hasn't been any vomit from Emmett, as Edward predicted earlier; however, he is getting rather friendly with Alice's banana tree. They're currently swing dancing in the middle of the living room with dirt flying everywhere.
Edward and a group of four or five of his fellow counselors are in the midst of an impromptu poker tournament. I was comfortably seated next to him, cheering him on in his five card stud winning streak when, apropos of nothing, Alice started a conga line. I was somehow sucked in, and currently, we're making our fourth circuit around the room, ever-growing as we go. Luckily, I'm far too tipsy to care very much.
Actually, I'm having much more fun than I thought I would when I first arrived and was steamrolled with a family meet-and-greet. Everyone in Edward's family is so chill, so relaxed, that it didn't take hardly any time for me to warm up to each of them—even Emmett. I've even earned myself the nickname Fish, when Emmett saw how easily I downed my shots of tequila during a rousing game of Waterfall. Okay, so it's not a nickname to be proud of, but I appreciate the good nature in which it was intended. It makes me feel included—a part of something I never would've had the good fortune of being a part of had Edward decided never to call me again.
As the conga line reaches the starting point once again, I'm yanked out of formation by Edward and pulled to a quiet corner, out of site from the party.
"Hi there," I say through a large grin. I'm thoroughly out of breath, but my blood is spiked with adrenaline. Right now, I feel like I can fly. "Have you grown tired of taking everyone's money?"
Edward's grin is golden as he studies my flushed face. "They were begging for mercy; I had to stop. What about you? You seem to be having a good time being pulled around by my sister."
"I am, actually," I say, stepping closer and ghosting my hands over his chest. "You have one hell of a family, Edward. I've got to say, I'm more than a little jealous."
He leans down rubbing his nose against mine before placing his lips on mine. "Mmm, is that so?" Edward mumbles against my mouth.
"Mmm hmm," I mumble back, melting into the kiss.
After a moment, Edward pulls back with smiling eyes and a smirk on his lips. "Well, now you've done it. You've made me curious about your family."
"Uh-oh," I say with feigned wariness.
"Let me guess. Your family is huge, and your parents are blissfully married. You have seven older sisters, all of whom are extremely jealous of your youth and beauty, and you all live together in a small but cozy house outside the city."
"Wow," I say, shaking my head.
"What? Don't tell me I'm wrong," he says, playfully shocked.
"Was I close at all?"
"Not even a little; totally missed the mark."
"Dang," he says with a sigh, his fingers trailing down my back. "Then, I guess you'll just have to tell me yourself."
"Well, let's see. I'm an only child. My mom lives in Florida with husband number four. He plays for the Jacksonville Suns, a minor league baseball team, so they're on the road a lot during the spring and summer. I lived with her in Phoenix as a kid, but I moved to Washington to live with my dad when she married Phil. I lived with him in Forks from the time I was thirteen until I graduated high school, after which I moved to Seattle for college. The rest is history."
"Jeez, I didn't ask for your life story," Edward says, giving my hips a squeeze, and I crack up at the mischievous gleam in his eyes. Suddenly, he tightens his hold on me. "So, my beautiful Swan is an independent woman, conquering the big city all on her own. That's very empowering . . . and a little sad, now that I think about it."
"Sad? Why?" I ask, running my fingers down the length of his neck, enjoying the feel of his stubble against my skin. We're playing a dangerously innocent game of touch-and-feel, taking turns finding and exploring one another's surface. As chaste as our respective moves are, the intent behind them is not lost on either of us. And if my touch does even half to him what his does to me, we're both in big trouble.
My breathing falters when Edward slides his hand from my waist up to my face, his thumb brushing the side of my breast along the way. He cups my cheek ever so gently. "Yes, sad. To think of you all alone, no siblings, no parents close by in case you're in the mood for a home-cooked meal. I can't imagine a weekend going by without Emmett or Alice barging in on me for some reason or another. And as crazy as they both make me, I wouldn't change it for the world. I'll tell you what; you can borrow my family any time you want. What do you think?" he finishes, his middle finger drifting back down the column of my neck to my collarbone, sending chills all the way down to my toes.
Rubbing up against him, I toy with the button in the middle of his chest. "I think I'd like to stop talking about our families now," I say, glancing up at him from under my lashes, hopefully conveying the wanton state he's put me in.
"You ready to get out of here?" he asks, all traces of humor gone.
My lips part infinitesimally, a slow breath escaping, but before I can answer, Alice is suddenly right beside us, as if she's been there all along. "What? You can't leave now! It's five minutes to midnight. Now, come on. Jasper's going to give his toast out on the veranda before the ball drops." She turns to me practically vibrating with Cuervo-fueled excitement in her wide blue eyes. "The fireworks over the lake are amazing. You'll be sorry if you miss it because you were canoodling with this idiot."
Alice flits away, and I cover my mouth to hide my laughter as Edward rolls his eyes. "I regress. Take back everything I just said about family. I envy your solitude," he says, taking my hand and leading me back to the party.
Edward has the good sense to grab his coat before we head outside, and I lean against him, my back to his front, as he wraps us both up in a single cocoon. Jasper hops up onto a patio chair, using a spoon against his glass to get the crowd's attention.
"All right you animals, quiet down for a minute," he begins with a decidedly southern lilt. "Alice and I want to thank you all for coming out tonight. We love the tradition of hosting this party every year, and it's always great to see new faces. Whether you're friends of ours, or friends of our family, every single one of you is here because you mean something to one of us. Each of you play a role in our lives and help make the day-to-day a little more bearable and a little less mundane. 2014 was a hell of a year, and I wish you all continued blessings and success in the New Year, which will be upon us in . . . twelve, eleven, ten . . ."
I turn around and look up at Edward. He's staring intently back at me, mouthing the rest of the countdown. I wind his red scarf around my hand, preparing to use force if necessary in the next couple of seconds.
"Cheers to new beginnings," I say, not taking my eyes off his.
"Cheers to you, Bella," he replies, and at the stroke of midnight, the city sky lights up in a kaleidoscope of color.
A thousand shooting rockets dart every which way, their scattered explosions echoing off the distant mountains. I don't notice any of this because every one of my senses is overwhelmed by Edward Cullen. His mouth lands on mine with such force that I surely would've been knocked over had he not been holding me as if I were his life raft. My hands are frantic, everywhere at once, like they can't decide on which part of him they'd like to rest.
The fervor of his kiss instinctively has me leaning backward, wishing we were alone and there was a bed underneath us. He dips me dramatically until my carefully crafted hair is brushing the cold ground. I moan and sigh against his lips. I want this man, and I want him here and now. When he finally stands me upright, a reminder of the crowd surrounding us comes in the form of a round of applause. Dazed with lust but still chagrined at the extra attention Edward has drawn our way, I glance around to see the entire party has formed a semi-circle around us, applauding Edward's theatrics. I bury my beet-red face in his arm with a smile.
"Can we please get out of here?" he says; his hunger for me is evident as his voice rumbles against my ear.
I pull back to look him in the eyes with a nod, letting him know I'm more than ready to get him alone.
"Good," he says with a wink. Weaving his fingers through mine, he holds our joined hands high in the air and takes a deep bow. The crowd erupts in hoots and laughter, and I follow his lead, curtseying like a lady. I'm laughing so hard my stomach hurts and I can barely keep up as Edward drags me away, shouting a hasty farewell over his shoulder.
I'm blown away by how much traffic there is this late at night. That just shows how much I know about being out on New Year's Eve. I'm a nervous wreck, practically shaking in my seat, as Edward navigates us around town as best he can, cool as a cucumber. We did the math and figured his place is the closest to Alice's house, so that's where we're headed.
However, it seems like an obstacle course has been laid out, throwing one hindrance after another our way. We crawled our way through two sobriety checkpoints, both of which we passed right through once the officer in charge realized who Edward was. I guess being an attorney has its own set of fringe benefits, and I make a mental note to find out more about Edward's professional life.
Slowly but surely, we make our way downtown, and I pull out my phone to see several text messages and even a missed call from Mike. Uh-oh, I hope this doesn't mean Jessica left him stranded with his pants down or something. As I scroll through the messages, I find that he's not stranded and breathe a sigh of relief. Unfortunately for him, though, Jessica is beyond wasted. So far, she's danced on a table, vomited in a corner, and decided to take a short nap, using a platter of crudité as her pillow. Poor Mike.
They're already at the hotel for the night, and he's currently trying to convince her to go to sleep, but Jessica has other plans, it would seem. She's trying her hardest to get him into bed with her, but as much as she's working him up, Mike's too good a guy for that. He's caught between a rock and a hard place—literally.
As we pull into the parking garage of Edward's apartment building, I shoot Mike a quick text, wishing him good luck and telling him to stick to his guns—that she'll thank him for it in the morning. Just as I hit 'send,' Edward opens my door, offering his hand to assist me out of vehicle. Mike and Jess are a distant memory as I watch my hand disappear into his and step out of the car.
"Let's get you out of the cold. I'll turn the fireplace on as soon as we get inside," Edward says softly.
I smile up at him as we continue to the elevator. Once inside, Edward punches a code into the keypad, sending us skyward. I stare at him from across the elevator as he saunters toward me.
"Have I mentioned how very attracted to you I am? Or how incredibly beautiful you look tonight?" he asks, grabbing my hips once he reaches me and pushing me up against the elevator wall.
"I think you've mentioned it once or twice," I murmur, smiling against his lips.
Edward suddenly bites my lower lip, and the shock it sends through me shoots straight to my groin.
"Good," he breathes, his lips covering mine.
I open up to him completely, kissing him back hungrily, inviting him to do with me what he wishes. Edward utters praise to the gods into my mouth as his hands find my rear. He squeezes hard, jerking me forward, and it's all I can do to keep from crying out his name.
The moan that does escape me seems like music to Edward's ears and he buries his face in my neck with a frustrated growl. "I've thought about you every single day for two weeks. I don't know what you're doing to me, Bella, but I'm begging you not to stop," he says, and for a brief second, his voice is thick with an emotion I can't label. Whatever it is, I know what he's going through because I feel it, too.
"I need you," I whisper, sucking in a sharp breath when his fingers wrap around the back of my legs and begin to rub my inner thighs.
The elevator door dings and slides open—fucking finally—and Edward lifts me up. I wrap my legs around him, cracking an eye to peer at my new surroundings. We've apparently walked straight into Edward's living room, and it's beautiful. I wish I could really take the time to study it, but the scenery blurs by as Edward nearly runs across the room and up the stairs with me in his arms.
He kicks a door open a little too forcefully, and it bounces back, hitting us hard. We both begin laughing through our kiss, and he squeezes my sides, making me laugh even harder. When he sets me on my feet near a beautiful, black four-poster bed, a few more chuckles escape between us, but soon, our smiles fade, and we're both silent.
Without a word, I turn around, looking back at him over my shoulder, waiting for him to unzip my dress. Suddenly, Edward is not quite as confident as he usually tries to appear; there's a hint of something more in his eyes, something real, and it frightens me as much as I can see it frightens him. I'm flushed with intimidation, totally beguiled body and soul, and I know—I just know—he's the only one who can soothe this burn. No one else will do.
No one else will ever do again.
Edward reaches up and one hand undoes my zipper while the other chases after it, drawing lines down my back. I pull the straps down and let the dress fall to my feet, turning around only to be caught in Edward's arms again. I reach up to feel his face as we kiss. His skin is soft, despite the stubble, and very warm. My fingers would be content to stay like this all night, but the rest of my body is screaming for the rest of his.
I slide my hands down his neck to the buttons of his shirt, working seamlessly from one to the next until it's hanging open. Taking each of his wrists, I carefully undo each gauntlet button, as well. I move my hands up and over his muscled stomach and chest, to his shoulders, and push the shirt off him. He, too, allows it to fall to the floor.
One second, I'm on my feet, and the next, I'm on the bed with Edward cradling me, his mouth moving hard and slow against mine. When his hand trails down to cup my sex, another growl escapes Edward, and he sits back on his knees to unbuckle his belt. He fumbles more than once, and I smack his hands away, taking the bull by the horns on this one.
Edward kicks his pants the rest of the way off and is hovering over me again in seconds. He holds my head in both his hands, looking deep into my eyes—much deeper than he ever dared to before—as he slides into me. I want to close my eyes in pure, unadulterated bliss, but his ethereal gaze holds me, pins me to the bed, begging me to keep our unworldly connection alive.
I feel like I'm in one of those dreams—you know, where you're falling and it sort of jumpstarts your heart.
It's if the earth is no longer under my feet.
As if the universe is gone, and Edward and I are the only ones left, suspended in zero gravity.
However, this is no dream. Edward is real, and he's right here, looking at me as if I'm his Eve, created by the Maker solely forhim.
As we rock back and forth, Edward dips his head low, pressing our foreheads together. "What's happening, Bella? How does this feel so right? Why does it feel like I've been waiting for you my entire life?" he asks, lifting his head to once again pierce me with his gaze.
I reach up and push the mop of bronze hair away from his forehead, keeping my hand on the side of his face. "I don't know," I whisper. "But I hope it never stops."
"I don't think that's possible," he growls, rolling onto his back, taking me with him.
I sit up straight, hands on his stomach, and begin to swirl my hips, crying out in pleasure. I don't think I've ever been so . . . full with any other guy. Edward reaches up to squeeze my breasts, and he can't help himself. He needs more. He sits up, taking each one into his mouth in turn before kissing me hard on the lips as he continues to squeeze and knead.
The sweet atmosphere that began our rendezvous has dissipated entirely, leaving behind burning desire and animalistic need. Edward pushes me onto my back again and quickens his pace, sliding almost all the way out before plunging into me again, over and over. As I cry out again and again in my euphoric state, I can't help but think about his poor neighbors below us. I wonder if they can hear us and whether this is a regular occurrence or something they're not accustomed to.
Well, if I'm going to keep hanging around these parts, they'd better get used to it. Maybe I'll send them a basket of fruit or something.
My wayward thoughts are immediately forgotten when Edward finds and attacks my sweet spot, and the moan I let out accents my pleasure.
"Right there? Is that what my baby likes? Like this," he says through his teeth, slamming into me, knocking my G-spot on its proverbial ass. I shout something that must resemble a "yes" because he smirks down at me, continuing his assault. "I want you to come for me, Bella."
I grasp onto his back for leverage and work my hips against him, ensuring he's getting just as much out of this as I am. And I'm not disappointed. Edward gasps and groans and his whispered curses get lost in my hair. I'm trying my best to hold on, to ride this out as long as I can, but it's all too much for my tortured senses.
With his name on my lips, I close my eyes, arch my back, and ride the lightning into oblivion. Edward's still going, cheering me on from his station between my legs, and I can't take it. I feel like I'm going to explode. It's too much—he's too much.
"I can't—I can't—I—"
Edward stiffens and I can feel him twitching inside me. "Oh, fuck. Fuck, Bella. Oh, Jesus," he says, collapsing over me, catching his weight on his arms. Our foreheads are pressed together once again, our breaths bursting forth in hot, heavy gasps. Finally, he falls onto his side, pulling me against him.
He buries his face in my hair, still breathing heavily. "You're amazing," he tells me, panting as if he just ran a marathon.
Cocooned in our combined afterglow, I close my eyes, pressing my lips against the slick skin of his neck. "That was insane. So much better than I remember," I whisper through my smile.
"Stay with me tonight," he rasps, and it's more a plea than a question.
I look up into his eyes. "Of course."
"Good, because I'm not even close to being done with you." Edward attacks my neck with kisses, and I squeal in delight. It doesn't take long for our playful shenanigans to spark the flame in both of us again, and we move seamlessly into round two.
I wake up, squinting from the white light that streams in from the large, picture windows that make up the far wall of Edward's bedroom. The entire western side of his apartment must be made entirely of glass. Sitting up, I notice the space beside me is empty. I'm cold and alone, and I yank Edward's shirt off the floor, wrapping myself up tight. Opening the bedroom door quietly, I peek through the crack to see Edward sitting in a large wingback chair, staring out at the city. He looks thoughtful, his brow slightly furrowed, and I can't decide which looks more delicious, him or the cup of coffee wrapped in his hands.
I walk further into the living room, making my presence known, and Edward finally looks up. He smiles, but there's something amiss. His mouth tells me good morning, but his eyes are troubled, lost in a world of his own.
I clear my throat, suddenly feeling self-conscious, as if maybe he doesn't want me here. "Good morning. Um, do you mind if I take a quick shower?"
"Hmm? Oh, yeah, sure," he says, his eyes flitting back to the window before he's even finished speaking.
Oh, God. I really dislike the vibe I'm getting from him.
I don't understand—all the stuff he said last night, all the things we did . . . It completely contradicts the solemn energy he's emitting now. Without another word, I turn and hurry back to the bedroom.
Grabbing my bag off the dresser and my dress off the floor, I enter the bathroom. Whoa! It's all marble and chrome, and the sheer size is mind-boggling. He could host a party in the shower alone. If he wasn't in such a mood, I'd invite him to shower with me, but it doesn't look like that will be happening anytime in my near future . . . or possibly ever.
The thought depresses me.
First things first, and as I spend a few minutes emptying my bladder, I check my phone. There are several more texts from Mike and even a missed call about an hour ago. I finish up my business and dial him up. He answers after only one ring.
"Finally! I was about to put out an APB on your ass," he says, and I can't help but smile. "So, how did it go? Are you hung over?"
"No, I'm not hung over; although, I probably should be. It was a great evening; we had a good time. I even met his family," I tell him, and my mind begins to work.
Maybe that's what's up with Edward. Maybe his family decided I wasn't fit for him, after all. Hmm, I'll have to take a ride on that train of thought when I'm in the shower. First, I have to see how Newton fared.
"What about you? Did everything work out with Jess last night?"
Mike sighs. "Last night was a disaster. I mean, we had fun and all, but Jessica takes having fun to the extreme. Who knew that tiny of a human could hold that much liquor? I finally got her to pass out about two o'clock and spent the next hour cleaning her vomit off the carpet . . . and my shoes."
I mentally laugh at the thought of Mike running around after Jessica all night, trying to keep her out of trouble. "So, your plan for nookie failed, huh? Well, don't worry. At least you know she's willing now."
"Well, last night might have been a bust, but this morning was a different story," he says, and I can visualize his chest puffing up.
"Oh, yeah? Way to go, buddy."
"Yeah, she was super impressed that I didn't take advantage of her in her state of inebriation, and this morning, she more than made up for all the barf. You want the details?"
"Uh, no thanks. I'll take your word for it."
"All right, fine. Anyway, we're going to Maestro's for breakfast. You wanna join? You can bring Edward if you want. You know, we're going to have to kill this whole 'awkward' thing at some point anyway if we're both going to be spending more time with these two."
I think of Edward, his vague hello, his distant stare, and shudder. "I don't think he'll be coming, but I'll call you when I get out of here and see what's up."
"Okay . . ." Mike begins, confused at the disappointment in my voice.
"I'll explain later, but right now, I've got to get in the shower. I'll call you."
"I'll be here."
I hang up the phone and reach in to crank on the shower. As I scrub the night off me with Edward's body wash, I'm enveloped by his scent, and it makes the inevitable goodbye even harder. What happened between the time we fell asleep in each other's arms to the time I woke up alone that change his mind? Was it really his family?
I strain to think of anything I may have said or done to offend anyone last night, but I come up empty. All I can remember is talking, laughing harder than I had in a long time, and bonding with various members of his tribe. Shit, I even have a shopping date with Alice planned for next week.
Maybe the alcohol made me think I had more of an in than I really did. Maybe they were all just being nice, only to report back to him later what a spaz I actually am. The fact is, Edward is a brilliant and cultured high-end criminal defense attorney, and I'm a lowly accountant. I'm not any of those other things. I'm a numbers geek, in charge of the bank accounts of those more accomplished than me. I didn't think Edward cared about such things—in fact, I was under the impression he thought my passion for figures was hot—but I guess I was wrong. I guess he finally realizes how far beneath him I really am.
Ugh, stop it, Bella. I need to knock off the self-degradation bullshit before I actually start to believe it. Edward Cullen may not think I'm good enough, but there are plenty of others who would beg to say otherwise. Like Mike and . . . and . . . well, fuck, I'll think of someone else. I just need time.
I spend as much time in the shower as is socially acceptable—delaying the coming 'it's-not-you-it's-me' speech—and turn the water off. Stepping out, I grab a towel from the nearby rack and dry myself quickly. I slip my dress on and wrap the towel around my hair as I stand at the sink and rinse my mouth with the minty wash I find in the medicine cabinet.
I can't delay it any longer.
Taking the towel out of my hair, I toss it into the hamper and exit the bathroom. Edward is pacing by the windows of his bedroom, and I take a deep breath, stealing myself for the blow.
"Hey," I murmur, still feeling naked.
Where the hell did I put my bra?
He can keep it.
Edward whips around at the sound of my voice, his face still fraught with tension, only now, it looks like worry. "Hi, Bella. I brought you some coffee," he says, gesturing to a steaming mug on the nightstand.
I sigh, locating my shoes. "That's okay. I should probably just go."
"Oh. Okay, then. Would you like me to call you a cab?"
Don't do me any favors, I think bitterly. "I've got it, thanks," I say, my back to him as I slide on my shoes. The blisters they created last night scream at the intrusion.
"Look, Bella, I think we should talk," he says, and there's a storm brewing in those gray eyes. A storm I don't think I have the nerve to weather.
My shoulders drop, and I turn around. "You don't have to do this, Edward. We don't have to do this. We had a good run; we had some fun. You don't owe me an explanation. I mean, I get it. Let's just leave it at that."
Distracted by whatever thoughts are running through his mind, Edward shakes his head. "What? No, I mean I want to talk about us—about whatever it is we're doing here."
Did he not hear everything I just said? I'm giving him an easy out, but I guess he won't be content until he makes a mountain out of a molehill.
I take a seat on the edge of the bed. "Fine. What do you need to tell me?"
Edward continues pacing in front of me. "I've been having such a great time with you, Bella."
"And I don't normally do this sort of thing."
"I just . . . you've completely captured me," he says, running a hand through his thoroughly fucked hair.
"I spend an absurd amount of time in my day thinking about you, and that's just not me. I'm unfocused, I've been neglecting my work, my friends . . . I don't know who the fuck you are, or what the fuck is happening to me, but I can't deny it. I want more."
I yank my jaw off my lap and shake my head, utterly confused. "More?" I ask, unsure of what he means.
More of what?
More of me?
More than me?
What the hell is he saying?
"Yes, more. I need more of you. I know this is fast. Too fast. We hardly know each other at all, but I've got to have you. I need more of the way you look at me. I need more of the feeling you give me by just being near you. I live to see your eyes light up when you laugh and the little V that forms between your eyes when you're thinking hard about something. You're like . . . a drug to me. A very potent drug," he says and stops pacing to drop his head in his hands. "Jesus, you must think I'm a lunatic. I'm supposed to be cool and collected, yet here I am, showing you all my cards like a fucking noob."
I can't believe it. Everything I though he was going to say was wrong. In fact, the exact opposite of what I thought was going to happen is now taking place.
And I can't help but laugh.
Edward looks at me as if I've sprouted horns, but I can't stop cackling like a stoned hyena.
"Now you're laughing at me. Awesome," Edward says quietly, and I realize I've just hurt his feelings.
"No, I'm not," I say through a lingering giggle-snort, and he gives me a sardonic smile. "I'm sorry, it's just . . . five minutes ago, I would've bet my life savings that you were gearing up to break up with me. I was literally preparing myself to take the walk of shame."
"What? Why would you think I was going to break up with you?"
I shrug, looking down at my lap. The giggles are completely gone, and now I have to explain my crippling self-doubt and the ideas it had created. This is going to be embarrassing. "I don't know. When I came into the living room, you seemed so distant. I've learned in the past that usually means something bad is coming." I rub my forehead, cringing at the thoughts my mind had conjured earlier. "You're so . . . you. You're beyond gorgeous and smart and well-established . . . Edward, you've taken your life and made something amazing out of it. I sort of feel like a wayward teenager by comparison. You can have any woman on earth, and I guess I don't understand why you would want—"
"Stop right there. Don't even think about finishing that sentence." Edward drops to his knees in front of me, his hands on my thighs. "Bella, look at me."
I feel so stupid.
Taking a deep breath, I rip my attention away from my knotted fingers to look into his fathomless gaze, astonished anew at how incredibly handsome he is. I don't think I'll ever become immune to the sight of him.
"I really, really like you."
"I really like you, too," I whisper.
"You're my girl now, okay?"
My mouth quirks into a half-smile at his words. "I am?"
Edward reaches up to smooth a finger over the dimple on my left cheek. "Yes. I honestly don't think I could go on like this much longer. I'm driving everyone in my life bat-shit crazy. And I certainly can't go another two weeks without seeing you again. I like the idea of us being together a lot more than twice a month."
I can't help the daft smile that spreads across my face. "Together sounds nice."
Edward leaps onto the bed, knocking me flat on my back, and together, we ring in 2015 all over again.
Forty-four days later
It's Valentine's Day, and for once, I'm not celebrating alone. My usual dates, Ben and Jerry, will just have to sit this one out. I'm currently waiting for Edward to get home so we can meet Mike and Jess for dinner at Canlis.
We've become quite the foursome in the past month and a half. In fact, the bromance Mike and Edward now share is one for the ages. He may have teased Mike about his comic book obsession before, but it turns out Edward has a soft spot for anything Marvel, himself. Once they bonded over X-Men, Edward's inner geek blossomed, and they've been fan-girling together ever since.
In the beginning, Edward and I both agreed, despite our strong feelings, we should try to take things slow. Slow never worked for us, though. We spent nearly the entire first month together in bed, and every single time felt more powerful than the last. Our sex life continues to blow my mind, but our relationship is far from being purely physical.
Edward is like an open book. He's not afraid to tell me anything, and he's always eager to share his thoughts. And he's the best listener. When I talk, he pays attention; he cares; he wants to hear everything I have to say. He wants to know what I think about everything from the country's deficit to whatever book I happen to be reading. Sharing everything about myself and my life took some getting used to, but now, I can't imagine not having him as a sounding board to my every thought and idea. He's added so much depth to my life, and I know he feels the same about me. I never have to question his love for me.
Speaking of, the first time Edward actually told me he loved me was at Emmett's Super Bowl party. He let me pick the team he put money on—the underdog—and when he won, earning himself a pretty penny from Emmett, Mike, and their gang of goons, he picked me up and swung me around, shouting his love for me.
I looked at him, eyes wide because he may have just committed a major faux pas, but he didn't skip a beat. Right there, in front of all his friends, on the biggest bro-night of the whole year, Edward said it again.
He said he'd been dying to tell me, that it was bound to burst out of him at any given moment anyway. He was only sorry he didn't have the opportunity to make it more romantic. I told him it didn't matter. He's such a romantic anyway; every day and every night we're together is like a chapter from a Jane Austen novel.
Cue the gagging noises from our testosterone-filled audience.
Okay, it's not all perfect, and not every day is hearts and flowers. We've had a lot of firsts in our six weeks together, including our first fight, our first break-up, and our first make-up. We're two fiery souls with strong opinions who are bound to butt heads, and often, but we're much better at the making-up part. There's never any fear that the fights we have will last more than a few hours. Neither of us can bear to be apart from the other any longer than that.
So that's Edward and I.
There isn't one single thing I would change about our lives together, not even the carnal—okay, downright slutty—manner in which we first met. It may not be a beginning we can share with our future grandchildren, but it's our beginning, and as far as we both can see, there's no end in sight.
Hello again! I hope everyone liked the follow up to A Holiday Liaison! Looks like these two have quite a future together, yeah?
I'd like to thank both Alice's White Rabbit and Sunflower Fran for betaing this monster during the craziest time of year. Love you ladies!
You never know when I'll be back with something new, so feel free to follow me on twitter ( ashesashes83) for all the latest news. Until next time, kids! Have a great New Year!