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They were just two lonely people heading towards New York, just two trains passing in the night. She didn't think it would end like this.
She had to strike three times before the damn cig caught light, and even then, the smoke she inhaled from the cheap cigarillo felt heavy in her throat. She worked hard not to choke as her mouth twisted in a grimace at her new form of self-torture. She surveyed the spacious train car, the quaint little tables resting in straight lines, bolted to the floor. It was currently packed with her fellow passengers; eating, drinking, telling loud stories, or simply staring out the wide windows as the night-cloaked terrain of southern California rolled past.
She could read the maître d's answer in his hang-dog expression before he reached the podium. "I'm sorry, Miss, but our regular seating will be full for the next hour and a half by all estimates. Perhaps you can return then?"
She inhaled again and felt the scraping crawl of a thousand fiery demons across the back of her throat as she coughed. Ridding herself of the useless smoke stick, she gave the man her patented head tilt and a lethal dose of eyelash flutter, but he remained adamant, even as his forehead began to bead with sweat. She began to resign herself to at least another hour before dinner when there was a subtle cough behind her.
"A gentleman in first class has requested the honor of dining with you, Ma'am."
She followed the young waiter's outstretched hand and found herself gazing into two dark pools of mystery burning from a smirking face. The man wasn't a classic dreamboat like Jake had been, but intensity and a sense of entitlement rolled off him like waves from the ocean in a high storm. She was familiar with men like this, who expected women to fall at their feet, and she could care less about playing his game.
But then he cocked his eyebrow as if he knew what she was thinking, as if he was daring her to run so he could give chase or write her off as a foolish little girl. The irritating blend of patronizing and knowing halted her flight. She stood rooted in place even after she tore herself away from his oddly compelling stare. She felt lost and adrift in a way she's sworn she would never allow herself to feel ever since Jake – never again. She pinned him with her own stare, the one she held in reserve for murder suspects and blind dates, as she negotiated tables and entered the posh, rope-protected area of the first-class diners.
She flattered herself that he looked a bit dazed, even as she surprised herself in noting the slight skip of her heartbeat at the grudgingly impressed turn of his lips. She echoed his raised brow and made a clever remark about the absurdity of the three empty tables in his section while people were being turned away at the door. She fought the urge to clear her throat where it still tickled from the lingering claw of the cheap smoke while she smiled at him and admired the way his broad shoulders filled the fine wool of his dark suit jacket. Her finger tips seemed to tingle with the sudden desire to feel that fabric, and she made a fist against her leg as she watched him smile and nod.
"Privileges of class, Kitten. But with great wealth," and he paused to throw a sardonic glance at the empty tables and fine china, "comes great responsibility. Such as rescuing classy ladies like yourself from the horrors of returning to your bunk on an empty stomach." He winked at her with such unabashed glee that she felt the need to introduce her newly made fist to his smug face.
And then he was smiling and holding out his hand without a care in the world.
"I'm Edward Masen."
He spoke with certainty, as if his name should mean something. Wisps of memories whispered through her mind, but nothing caught, and she shrugged and held out her hand.
"Isabella Swan." She was grudging as she slipped her palm into his and watched a curious blend of emotions ripple across his face. She tried to pull away after a polite amount of time had passed, but he held firm. His thumb began to slide slowly down the sensitive skin of her inner wrist, and she sucked in a sharp breath of air as her eyes began to cross. This guy was dangerous, and it wasn't just his sense of entitlement.
Isabella snatched her hand from his hypnotic touch and turned to leave. Her stomach caught a sniff of the salty scent of oysters, the chic tray drawing her eyes until they settled on a small basket of steaming bread rolls and a large mound of pale butter.
"Is that real butter?"
He was laughing at her as he pushed the basket towards her plate, but she didn't care. Baking cookies to send in care packages to the boys overseas may have polished her national pride, but she was getting very tired of dry toast every morning. She hoped he didn't hear the gurgle of her stomach as she took a seat and quickly bit into the fluffy white piece of bread. Then her eyes fluttered closed and she forgot all about Edward.
She may have made a sound as she licked her lips for any remaining crumbs, but she was too far gone to care as the delicious flavor of real, good, cream slid down her tongue. Then she blinked, remembered where she was, and gazed shyly across the table at his smirking face. Isabella set the rest of the roll on her plate and smiled with polite apology to her host.
"I'm sorry. That was rude."
If anything, Edward's grin spread wider, and he helped himself to the largest bun in the basket. She watched as his large fingers split the bun along its seam, and tried not to gasp as he slathered one side and then the other. He ripped a large piece and waved it at her.
"Never apologize to me for enjoying yourself, Doll."
Isabella couldn't help but smile at his boyish enthusiasm as he smacked his lips before taking another bite. She couldn't let his presumption stand, though, and she dimpled across at him as she observed, "You talk like we'll be doing this often in the future. Like we're not just… two trains passing in the night."
He was just leaning closer to her, and no doubt about to carry the train metaphor a bit too far – she was looking forward to that – when a discreet cough sounded behind her. Edward clenched his jaw and Isabella tried not to giggle as they placed their orders.
But she didn't laugh when he leaned across the table and ran his thumb down her lip until it came away glistening with forgotten butter. She watched, once again mesmerized, as he placed the finger between his lips and sucked.
Oh, he was a real pro at this.
"So you do this a lot, then? Try to pick up strange girls?" Isabella avoided the danger of his gaze as she casually nibbled at her roll.
"You make it sound so sordid," he chided with mock gravity, and she could only narrow her eyes at him before glancing away from his sad expression. "And you're not so strange."
She glared at him, "I'm not your average Jane."
Edward wiggled his eyebrows at her. "Oh, believe me, I can see that." He was still playing his game of flirtation, and he began to rattle off his impressions of her. Sure, he was correct on many levels. She was heeled. The little Derringer pistol was nestled among her makeup and travel papers in the small bag at her feet. Her father had given it to her when he finally realized he couldn't convince her not to pursue a life of investigation and justice. He knew better than anyone the dangers from twenty-four years as a cop. He had died learning it, thanks to a mugger three years back. And now she was alone. Jake couldn't handle the change in her after her father's death. It had been worse than what had happened after the mob did Rose in. The loss of her father and best friend honed to a razor's edge the sharp walls she used to keep the world out. Jake Black had grown tired of the fights, and had never agreed with her unofficial work for the Bureau. She'd been happy to see him go in the end. But that didn't mean a part of her wasn't sad.
Isabella didn't tear up as Edward Masen continued to tell her how well he knew her. How she was all alone in the word and – Masen! And he was lecturing her on personal relations?
"You mean like you do? God, what is your problem?" She leaned across the table. "You change tracks from sizing up my gams to insulting me in the blink of an eye. Isn't that a bit too cliché? Hollywood son –" she savored his flinch "– Oh, yes! I know who you are now. Your name was in all the papers. You're more famous now for your romantic peccadillos than your father ever was for his screen romances. But you can't let anyone get close to you, can you? Treat them like garbage so they can't hurt you down the line. Heaven forbid that any of them ever measure up to… what was her name?"
"Carrie," his voice was bitter as he spit out the name of the girl he'd left at the altar.
"The secretaries at the L.A. office couldn't stop talking about you two. The wedding of the new century, they said. And then you didn't show. She told them all. She was too poor for you in the end, even if she was willing to look past the affairs. She was very happy to spin the talk to the press about them afterwards, right? But you just started flaunting it, and it was clear she couldn't take your stepping out. Did you ever blame yourself when she turned to drugs?" she mused, watching his face grow hard. "They found her in a gum house, right? Too much pure poppy in the veins, I heard." She toasted him with her glass when she heard the waiter walking up behind her. "No wonder you prefer strangers."
Edward was still staring at her. A dark storm swirled in the depths of his green eyes, and she felt a sudden blush climb her cheeks. She looked at her meal and tried to savor the excellent flavors. She'd only spoken the truth, and she knew she shouldn't feel bad now. But then she reflected on the things the Chicago papers had printed about Rose's wild life. As if not crossing your legs in church entitled you to be gang-raped and double-tapped by low life scum.
"I'm sorry." The apologetic words were faint and rusty from ill-use, and she steeled herself as he glanced up at her in irritation.
"I said I'm sorry."
Edward's fork clattered to the plate as his mouth twisted with false humor.
She shifted in her suddenly uncomfortable seat but pressed on. "I shouldn't have brought up your fiancée. I know it was in all the papers a year ago, but they never get the story right and…" She tried to read his face and judge the effects of her words, but he was a cipher. She sighed. "I'm sure you didn't have anything to do with her death."
He sat still for a minute before a weak smile split his mask.
"Why do I get the feeling that it's not easy getting an apology out of you?"
She had to laugh at that and concede, "Maybe you do know me fairly well after all."
Edward clicked his fingers then, but, instead of allowing the waiter to pour them more wine, he claimed the bottle and waved the addled boy away. Isabella watched as he filled her glass, then his own, noting the way his fingers held the smooth bottle with a firm certainty, and the near sensual slide they made down its side when he placed it within easy reach. Isabella wondered if all those women he was reputed to have had possibly knew something that she didn't.
He held his glass high and then moved it towards her.
"To strangers on a train," he suggested.
Isabella clinked her rim to his and confirmed, "To strangers, and the things that they know."
Her bravado abandoned her the minute she walked into his swanky private cabin. She found herself at the large picture window, but she couldn't take her eyes from the reflected casualness of his form to look into the darkness beyond. She turned.
"How about that nightcap?" It should have diffused the tension and given her time to collect herself. But Edward wasn't as easily diverted as Jake had been. Edward stalked toward her, and she felt her pulse pick up speed at the sheer intensity reflected in his eyes. His hand raised, and Isabella expected a kiss, but he merely touched her, sliding the back of his fingers across her exposed skin. He left a trailing burn of sensation, and she couldn't help but lean into him as he tilted his head in studied ponderance.
"We could drink some more," he let his head fall the other way as he gazed down at her. "But there are other things we could be doing, too."
Isabella curled her toes in the tips of her shoes at the promise in his words. "And what would those other things be?" she asked coyly.
With a simple breathing of the word 'this,' Edward captured her mouth with his. Isabella was surprised at how quickly she pulled him towards her, and at how her heart thrilled to feel his hands molding the back of her head, scattering her hair pins to the floor.
Edward turned their bodies and stepped into her.
Isabella felt the pallet pressing at her thighs.
She pulled him down to cover her.
They sighed, relieved to finally feel the other's body stretched against their own.
Their hands flew at the buttons and zippers of the many offending articles of clothing while their mouths moved against each other, communicating passion and desire better than mere words ever could.
Isabella arched away from the bed as Edward pulled her skirt over her hips, down her legs, and let it fall on top of the growing pile of clothing, but he broke their kiss when his hands encountered what her skirt had hidden. He examined her legs with a feral grin, running his palms up the smooth silk of her stockings until they hit the four pink ribbons of her garters. Isabella shuddered as he lowered his head and took the end of one ribbon between his teeth.
"I'm starting to miss these," he bemoaned, unhappy at the effect the war was having on the state of women's undergarments.
"Funny," Isabella squirmed as his tongue bathed the line of the ribbon against her flesh, "it feels like you found them just fine."
Edward smirked up at her and deftly unhooked the ribbons from the silk. He kissed each inch of flesh as it was uncovered to the cool air, and then held the two scraps of silk while he looked at her with mock-despair.
"Why, Miss Swan, I do believe you've been holding out on our boys. Could these possibly be nylon?"
Isabella sat up and plucked the flimsy fabric out of his hands and tossed it on the ground. "There's only one boy who's in danger of being held out on, funny man." She slipped her hand around the back of his neck and tugged until his warm chest was flush with hers. "I've got a small tour of service for you."
He followed her to the bed with a small laugh. "Private Masen, reporting for duty, ma'am."
They laughed into each other's mouths, but the friction of skin on skin soon sobered them. Her legs were long enough to wrap around his thighs, and her feet hooked behind his back as her body made a request of his with a small movement of her hips. He framed her head on either side as he held himself above her, and her golden hair spread freely across the white sheets. Both pairs of eyes fell closed as he slid into her, and his forehead fell on top of hers.
The rumble of the train shook the small cot, adding unexpected but not unwelcome vibrations to their lovemaking. The clicking of the wheels along the rails was like a metronome that increased its paces instead of standing still as a straight stretch of track loomed before them. The whistle blew shrilly in the night at the same time Isabella screamed his name, gripping his arms as she thrashed out her climax. Edward managed to fall to the side when he went over, his chest still heaving, his arms twitching as they strove to relax.
They lay in silence save the train's rattle for several minutes.
Isabella's fingers trailed up his forearm.
Edward's fingers tightened on the curve of her hip.
Her fingers slipped to the gathering hardness at her thigh.
He followed that curve to the shadowed place between her thighs.
They both laughed.
A/N: Parallel story, Crossing Paths, posted.