Rental Exchange Chapter Four
This is the last chapter. Thank for reading.
Thank you to all the reviewers that shared their RL M2D romances with me. It brought tears to my eyes, but happy tears for true love, and following your heart, and age really being just a number. I loved hearing from you. I really did.
Thank you to Songster51 for making this pretty and fixing my mistakes.
Disclaimer: The author does not own any publicly recognizable characters herein. No copyright infringement is intended.
Bella gets home after dark and by the looks of her is mentally drained. She spies the cookbook and squeals. I'm sitting in the dark on the deck watching her through the giant windows. I've been to the deli and purchased her favorite antipasto spread, that's plated on the table beside me with slices of fresh, black olive and rosemary sour dough bread. I refrained from opening a bottle of red because tomorrow she must face the first of six practical exams. I want her on her game.
It's hard to sit still watching her read the note. Enraptured doesn't even come close to describing the look on her face. And I'm shocked to see she's actually blushing. When I strike a match to light the candles on the table, Bella finally sees me. Her hand goes to her hip as she stalks outside to stand mere inches from me. It's the closest we've been since our chat.
"Where are we going?" She's beaming.
"You'll have to wait and see."
She smacks my chest. "Tell me."
I pop a stuffed olive and a slice of prosciutto in my mouth and grin. "No."
She stomps her foot, but opens her mouth when I offer her the same morsel. Her lips wrap around my fingers, and she sucks on them for a little too long. Pulling them from her mouth, I slowly lick where her mouth just was, humming to myself. She huffs. I've got her exactly where I want her, so I focus on the food, pretending she isn't affecting me. I'm so hard I could cut glass, but I'm going to play her game for once. She takes a seat opposite me, her eyes never leaving my face, and starts eating. We don't speak for the entire meal, but that sexy mischief is back in her eyes, and my smile could light this universe and the next.
Tuesday, I start my day with my pre-birthday shower ritual. The way she was looking at me over dinner last night haunted my dreams. She was hungry and horny, and I know exactly how she felt. Entering the kitchen …
Bella is bending over the oven, sliding I-don't-even-fucking-care-what onto a shelf, and she's naked. Stark. Naked. Well, except for the tiny little apron covering her tits and ending just below her promised land.
"Morning," she sings, standing up but still not turning around. Now I'm faced with her perfect, pert, little butt. The red ties of her apron strings I'm sure tickling her bareness. When she slowly turns around, her eyes land straight on my hard on, and I can't move to even try to hide it. A week without her in my bed, and I'm nothing. I've been pulverized. How did I ever think I could take on this little minx and win?
"Sit and I'll serve you," she purrs.
I gulp. And obey.
I can't function. I look across the kitchen and swallow. I'm not hungry for the food, but the girl—all that she is. Again the memories of her beneath me assault my senses … I know what she tastes like, smells like, feels like, sounds like. I'm past wanting her. I need her. Just one touch. She comes to the table with a plate of homemade hash browns and my favorite omelette. I run a finger up the backside of her knee, but before I'm anywhere even close to my destination, the metal egg flipper cracks across my knuckles.
"Oww!" I suck my wounded digit to ease the sting.
"No touchy. No date details, no honey from this little B."
The woman is deadly serious. "But my blood sugar is dangerously low." I lean into her personal space and get very close to her breast barely shielded from my tongue by the apron. "I need your honey." I give her my best puppy dog eyes.
She tries to swallow the grin that starts to form, and eventually forces a frown between her delicate brows. "Well, put some jeans on and take me to the cafe around the corner. Then I'll drown you in honey when we get home."
Bella wants me right now. She doesn't want to wait a week to return to my bed. How did I get so lucky?
"Nope." It takes every ounce of my strength to focus on the food in front of me, and not the exquisite, gloriously naked girl by my side. She snorts. I pick up my fork and tell myself not to smile. Not hint of weakness around this feline predator.
Bella slowly walks backward away from me. She hits the island and jumps up onto the counter in the exact spot that I first tasted her. I can't help but follow those milky, white legs up, up and up. She crosses them in what feels like slow motion in a very Sharon Stone-ish way.
Stay strong, Cullen.
Do not move!
I narrow my eyes at her for a second before slowly removing my glasses. Her temptation dissolves into a hazy glow of girl. She throws her head back and laughs. "Game on, E. Game on."
"I don't know what you're talking about, Miss B," I say, returning to my omelette with a gusto I haven't felt pump through my veins in years. "And I hope you're wearing more than that to your exam."
Wednesday, Bella's practical exam is early. I beat her to the kitchen and have two bowls of cereal, honey Greek yogurt, and fresh fruit waiting when she joins me. I will not let her get under my skin a second day in a row. Yeah, right! For a brief second, I'm gifted with my favorite smile, before she gives me the evil eye and starts doing X-rated things with the spoon, the yogurt and some honeydew. I hold up the morning newspaper completely shielding her from view. Her response is a mumbled "cheater."
Later that afternoon, I time my workout to the minute. She drags her backpack down the hall and stops dead. I'm on the floor, bare-chested and sweating hard—it's running down my temples and neck—doing sit ups. I've been doing them for the past ten minutes, and my abs are tight and popping. When I look, she's standing with her mouth hanging open—frozen. I wink. Her pretty mouth snaps shut, but I can't let her go that easily.
"How'd you go?" I puff, turning over to start my push ups. I can almost feel her eyes burning down my back.
"Fine. Where are we going on Saturday night?"
"Top secret. I need your help."
I stand up and grab the towel, making a show of wiping myself down thoroughly. Her eyes track my hands, and she licks her lips. "Need you to help me stretch" —I throw the towel over my neck, holding onto each end— "my groin." Her eyes widen for the briefest second. "Need to prepare for Saturday." I wink again and watch her retreat to the kitchen, shaking her head and muttering about muscles she'd like to pull.
Two points, Cullen.
Thursday night, Bella is beyond exhausted. She's got her last culinary skills exam tomorrow at noon. I can't tease her when she's dead on her feet. It wouldn't be very sportsman like. I grab her hand and pull her out to the deck.
"You're not cooking so don't even think about it."
"But, I'm not pulling my weight. Our deal." She rests her head on her hand to hold it up.
"Forget it. I'm taking care of you." She goes to protest, but I insist. "I'm only pressing buttons on the microwave to re-heat your food. Sit. Relax. Tell me about your day."
Moments later, I push a bowl of steaming green curry under her nose. I also pour a small glass of white wine. She moans after the first sip. "Oh, God, I needed a drink. What a week!" She makes me laugh with an impersonation of Vicki setting fire to her apple strudel. Neither Bella nor I can fathom how her strudel got anywhere near an open flame, but apparently, that's the genius of Victoria. Bella yawns and stretches, exposing a sliver of white flesh. I open my arms, and she's on my lap and snuggled against my chest a heartbeat later.
I've missed her so much. I kiss her forehead, and we sit under the stars until she falls asleep in my arms. An hour later, I'm still sitting with her in my lap. I have to carry her up to her bed, but just want to feel her soft breath against my neck for one more minute … make that two.
Most of Friday is a write-off. I leave the house early and do several important errands, but after that I'm completely useless. Not one single work email gets answered or even opened. All I can think about is her slaving in the kitchen and praying Victoria stays out of her way. I beg the universe to grant her that award. I pace the kitchen, then the deck, and end up going for a massive run. I check my phone religiously.
By six p.m., I'm at the kitchen table, staring at my phone.
I did it! Award is mine. Come help me celebrate at Dooley's.
Nope. Date night is tomorrow. I'm waiting until then.
I pray she's not upset. Her lack of response causes my blood pressure to rise. I get dressed and sit in my rarely used living room, phone on my knee. I imagine her letting her hair down with her peers. At seven p.m., her text stops my heart.
Tooo meny margahitttas! Man wontstop touching my boods.
I'm out the door and jogging the six blocks without even replying. I can't waste a minute getting to her. Dooley's is full of students celebrating their freedom. I push past the bouncer, scanning the crowd for flowing brunette locks. Right by the dance floor, Bella is standing facing the door. She's waiting for me—and looks completely and utterly sober. No boob grabber in sight.
I slow down my frantic pace and eye her across the crowd. She bites her lip to try to stop smiling. Shaking my head slowly, I stop three inches from her.
"Game, set and match—to me." She smirks.
"Who's the littler cheater, now?"
"Just wished I'd thought of bringing out your caveman earlier. Feel so stupid that I didn't think of it. The text was Rosalie's idea." She's watching my face. "You're not mad?"
"Relieved. I was worried the boob guy was some fit jock that would kick my geriatric ass." She giggles, takes my hand and pulls me over to their table.
Bella does introductions, but I'm not even listening to their names. I'm scanning their faces for the faintest hint of judgment. Everyone is polite and nods or waves hello, except the sandy-haired guy. He shakes his head at me, and without being paranoid, I know what he's thinking. Our eyes meet, and he narrows them. Neither of us will end the staring contest. Without even saying a word, I know he doesn't think I'm good enough.
Bella's best friend distracts me. Rosalie can't stop grinning and gets up to shake my hand. "At last, the elusive architect that has my girl's panties in a twist."
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Rosalie."
"Oh no, the pleasure is all mine." She grins and leans over to whisper in Bella's ear, but it's that too-many-drinks-no-volume-control whisper. "You weren't wrong on the hot call." And proceeds to high five my girl.
I head to the bar and buy a round of drinks. One disapproving stare out of eight is good enough for me. I figure free alcohol might help, but these kids … shit … friends of hers are nice. It's funny how I never saw Bella as a kid—not once. She's mature and independent and feisty, and her age was never the issue. It was my age, and how I thought the world would react. She's right. I did try to end us before we even began.
"Dance with me?" she purrs, slipping her hand in my back pocket.
I hold up my near full beer and shake my head.
Those eyes gleam. Even in the dim lighting, I can see the evil spark appear. Oh, shit. Without a word, she saunters off and drags not one, not two, but three monumentally drunk gorillas onto the dance floor. Their smiles tell me all I need to know.
Over my fucking dead body.
Before contestant number one can even remember his name to introduce himself, my arms are around her waist and pulling her back against my chest. My glare shrivels contestant two, and contestant three trips over his own feet and face plants, clearing a space for us to dance in when he's finally dragged away.
Bella spins around in my arms. Her hand rests over my heart. "Just one dance?" she asks, but the evil minx has vanished. She's biting her lip. Shy. She thinks I'll say no.
"Fuck dancing." I grab a fistful of her hair and pull her mouth to mine. I kiss her like I've wanted to all week long. Hard. I palm her ass, and let her feel how happy I am to have her in my arms in a crowded bar being watched by her friends. The whooping and wolf whistles from behind us lets me know most of her buddies fully approve.
When the bar closes at four, we meander back home, our clasped hands swinging between our bodies. Every time our eyes meet, we both grin. Bella is tipsy, and I'm over the moon. I promise myself I will never doubt her ever again.
"Wasn't so bad, was it?"
"I actually had a good time." It's the truth.
"You surprised me." She grins again. I raise one eyebrow. "Major PDA on the dance floor, E. Didn't know you had it in you."
"A man can only resist temptation for so long."
"I guess you noticed Mike?" I study her face. I'm not exactly surprised that she noticed. After all it was pretty hard to miss his snide remarks the more he drank. She continues, "He was rude, but you should know it's not about your age. I turned him down—repeatedly—so he'll give whoever I date a hard time." I nod.
"He can give me all the trouble in the world. I don't care. But the second he upsets you, he becomes my business." I pull her in and kiss her forehead.
"So where am I sleeping?"
"Your room. One more night, and then you're all mine. Forever."
I have the strongest sense of déjà vu sitting in my kitchen waiting for Bella. I tick off each item on my mental checklist. All is set. Tonight is my apology, and to prove to her that I'm not ashamed to be seen in public with her. Not in the slightest.
Her heels on the stairs send a shiver of memory down my spine. God, I've missed our intimacy. She appears, almost glowing at my side. Dressed in royal blue, her outfit covers her from shoulder to thigh. It hugs her body and is far less scandalous than the black number that totally melted my resolve to keep my hands to myself. She grabs a fistful of my hair and yanks my head back so I can look at her face.
"You're not wearing your contacts?"
"I know how much you like my glasses." She leans down and kisses me softly. "Where are we going?"
"All in good time." She growls her frustration at me.
Taking her by the hand, I lead her outside. The limo is waiting. "What?" she shrieks. "No way!"
The driver opens her door, and we step inside. "Oh my God, I've never been in a limo before." She notices the two-dozen red and white roses in a crystal vase. The biggest box of chocolates I could buy from Fran's at the Four Seasons sit next to the flowers. "Edward …" She looks from me to the gifts and back again. "Did you?"
"All for you. If I had them inside, they wouldn't have been a surprise." I take her hand and entwine my fingers with hers. The limo smells of Bella, cocoa, and roses. It's a heady combination. I lift the bottle of champagne in question.
"Tell me where we're going first? I might want to keep that for later."
When I confirm she's right, she launches herself at me. Bella is giddy with delight and peppers my face with kisses. Her face shows her excitement, and she declines the bubbles explaining she wants to remember every moment of eating there without her head spinning in the clouds. She then wipes several lipsticks smudges from my cheeks.
The restaurant is fully booked, but as promised we're seated next to the floor to ceiling windows overlooking the water. It's spectacular. Bella is visibly vibrating with lust—and it's not for me. Being here is turning her on, and I don't mind because I'll reap the benefits later on. Our waiter brings water and menus and starts reciting the specials. I can't take my eyes off her for a second. I'm enjoying watching her experience the night as much as she's enjoying living it.
A quick glance over my shoulder and a nod of my head sets in motion the big surprise. A moment later, the manager is offering Bella his elbow for her private tour of the impressive kitchens behind this fine dining experience. Her usually mischief-filled, sex eyes show only awe and disbelief. I study the wine list while I wait for her return.
"How did you do that?" She takes my hand across the table. "Seriously. How?"
"In 2005, the place was revamped. I have a colleague who knows the interior designer that won the job. Just called in a favor."
"E, this is too much."
"Nothing is enough to make up for what I put you through." I pull her hand to my lips and kiss it. Bella glances around us, and it pains me knowing she's wondering if anyone saw. I did that to her. She didn't care prior to me making such a fuss.
The meal is as good, maybe even better than Bella has anticipated, and I know she's making notes on every morsel—dissecting and assessing every technique used. When her crème brûlée arrives, there's a long, velvet box on her plate. She just giggles and shakes her head at me. "You know I didn't expect even half of this."
"I know. That's why I loved doing it. Last surprise, I swear."
The box contains a long, sterling silver chain. Dangling from the end are half a dozen tiny charms—a knife, a wine glass filled with red resin, a frying pan, an electric mixer, dark-rimmed glasses, and a heart.
"There are bacon and eggs inside the frying pan." She looks up from studying them closely.
"Yep, that represents all the breakfasts you tortured me with wearing those shorts. The long chain is so they rest over your breastbone. I want you to wear it everyday under your chef uniform."
Before Bella can thank me, I recognize a familiar face striding across the restaurant to our table. I stand and hold out my hand.
"Edward, wonderful to see you. We missed you at the awards ceremony," the Mayor announces.
"Thank you, Mayor Murray. I was honored, but that was my birthday, and I had other celebrations to enjoy. Forgive me; I should introduce you to my gorgeous girlfriend, Miss Isabella Swan. We're here, in fact, to celebrate her graduation."
Bella's eyes widen with shock, but her smile sets my heart on fire. The mayor takes her offered hand. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Miss Swan, and congratulations." He asks me to drop by his office next time I'm nearby before spotting another diner he needs to greet.
"You told the mayor I was your girlfriend."
"Gorgeous girlfriend," I correct. She touches my jaw. "I was a dick, and I swear I'll never make that mistake again.
On the limo ride home, Bella is snuggled against my side. We don't kiss, but my fingers stroke her cheek, her hair, her bare thigh. Nothing too sexual. I want her to know this isn't about fucking her—it never was—it's about loving her, holding her and being there for her. I will be there for Bella in whatever capacity she needs for the rest of her life.
In my room, I pull her to stand in front of me.
"Was it good?" I ask, remembering her words on the note to me.
"Good? E, I'm speechless. But if that's what you do for a first date, then I can't wait for our second." She grins.
"Let's finish this one first, shall we?" Her teeth play with the edge of her lip. "I want you to strip for me," I whisper, my mouth just hovering out of reach of hers. Her pupils dilate. My body wants to ravage her, but I hold off. Waiting. Savoring.
She turns around and I drag her zipper down her back. She's not wearing a bra. I push the fabric off one shoulder and kiss her sensitive flesh. I give her the tiniest bite, before shoving her dress to the floor. She's dressed now only in her … blue stilettos.
"Christ, woman, don't you ever wear underwear?" I palm her breasts and pull her against my chest.
"Not with you."
My right hand slides down her flat stomach to cup her sex. I swallow and squeeze her breast that's filling my other hand. She raises an arm to pull my head down and kisses me over her shoulder. It's soft and tender. Bella doesn't want to rush this either. She turns around, and I step back. In the soft light from my bedside lamp, her body is the most exquisite sight. I've seen her naked dozens of times, but this is first time she's been naked since I realized I love her. My heart thunders inside me. I'm so fortunate and blessed. I let my gaze move over every inch of her milky, white skin. When I look at her face again, the pink tinge is perfect on her. It's such a rare look because of her feisty nature, but I suspect it's when I make her feel bone-deep beautiful that she reacts this way.
"Just gorgeous." I say it out loud. I want her to hear those words.
"Your turn." She tugs my tie.
"Not yet." I step in and kiss her. I no longer need air, just Bella. I worship her mouth, her neck, and her shoulder as I pull her hips against my hardness. Time stands still, and all I know is Bella in my arms. I imagine the scene painted in oils on a canvas—the naked nymph in the suited gentleman's arms. My resolve shatters.
I push her onto the bed. She goes to remove her shoes, but I shake my head. "They stay for round one." She giggles, bends her knees up, the heels digging into my quilt, and then slowly spreads her legs. She opening herself and putting everything on display. She is giving me all.
I have no memory of getting naked and am not even sure all my buttons survived, but the next second, I'm on her and sliding home in one rough thrust. We moan loudly, and she grips my ass pulling me deeper and closer. I cage her body with my arms and stare into her eyes. I will protect her, worship her, and love her until the end of time. Our mouths join and our tongues taste each other, as I thrust hard. Deep. I can feel my cock grind against her sensitive flesh. She whimpers as I give her everything. I thrust deep, holding a steady rhythm, watching her body for signs.
"Ahh, Edward," she cries out, shattering beneath me, helping me to come with one last drive of my hips. Closing my eyes, I drag air into my heaving lungs. I stay inside of her, but take the weight on my arms.
I should have put my faith in Bella from the start. I need to trust that what we share, and how we feel about each is other is stronger than what anyone else might think. I'm going to believe that my love will protect her even when I physically can't.
"You free tomorrow night?"
Bella reaches up and feels my forehead. "You sick? God, I've created a monster."
"Matter of fact, I am. Do I get to know where this time? Can't imagine how you're going to top tonight."
I smile down are her. "I want you to meet my parents and my brother, Emmett."
Bella gasps and covers her mouth with her hand. "You're serious," she whispers.
"Dead serious. It's about time they met the woman I'm madly in love with."
"Madly in love?" She grins.
"Totally loco. Made me do crazy things like push her away when all I wanted was her by my side."
Bella wraps her arms around my shoulders and pulls me down to her mouth. She kisses me long and hard, and I feel myself stir again. I tuck my face into her neck and breathe in her sweet scent. Heaven on earth. I'm finally home. She kisses me slowly again, and I feel her lips curve into a smile.
"Hmmm?" I'm trying to memorize her face in this moment.
"I love you with all my heart and soul, and I promise to follow my dreams. I know you worry about that, but trust me when I say that all of my dreams involve you, my tiny shorts … and a sturdy kitchen counter somewhere in Seattle."