A/N: You crazy, wonderful people voted Emma Matthews as #1 in the Top 10 fics completed in September (at twifanfictionrecs dot com). I'm overwhelmed by your response to my story. Thank you.
Here, have some diabetes-inducing fluff.
by Anton M.
Chapter 22: Sunday Morning
Dull thumping echoed in the distance. Confused and sleepy, Isabella listened to the rhythm as she stretched but didn't come out from under the comfy blanket. Dark, grey clouds rolled in the sky, and it was almost 6 o'clock.
A minute after the thumping stopped, Edward opened the door to their bedroom and started throwing off his clothes. He sat on the edge of the bed. Quietly, he rubbed one of his forearms, unaware that Isabella had woken up and was now observing sweat trickle down his spine. Edward had a pale, wide-shouldered back covered by freckles and a white, bumpy scar under his right shoulder blade. The burn scarring of his arm stopped, like a slice, on top of his shoulder—kevlar must've prevented further injury. His physique, although leaner now after being in the hospital for nearly a month, was not unlike that of swimmers, but what made him most handsome to Isabella was the fact that he was hers, his taut muscles, scars, warmth. Maybe she would still pinch herself, forty years from now, for having gotten so lucky.
Silently, Isabella emptied the pocket of her jeans before crawling behind her husband and wrapping arms around his sweaty waist. Edward startled. Humming, Isabella tucked a piece of paper in his boxer-briefs.
"Careful there," he said, raising his eyebrows as he removed a five-dollar bill from his underwear.
"For the striptease," she explained, pressing a kiss on his back and tasting the salt.
She didn't loosen her grip when Edward turned her sideways.
"Aren't stripteases from your husband supposed to be for free?"
"Ah." She grinned back at him. "My bad. In that case—" She reached for her money, but Edward held it away from her reach.
"Where's my morning kiss?"
Isabella gaped. "Morning?"
"You slept 17 hours in a row. It's almost six AM on Sunday."
He curled his fingers around her waist, pulling her in his lap and brushing his lips against the top of her hair. The small gesture affected her to a ridiculous degree.
"I'm sorry." She drew her nose back and forth on his chest before kissing his skin and resting her chin on his sternum to look up at him. "When did I fall asleep?"
Edward brushed back her hair. "Given how much you swam and how little you slept before yesterday noon, it's a miracle that you managed to stay awake through our arguments."
Isabella slid her fingers over the stubbly skin of his jaw before leaning in for a kiss. Stifling a smile, Edward squeezed her hips and opened his mouth. She felt incredible, soft and warm and precious. Sweat seeped into her top.
He hummed, dipping his palms under her shirt and breathing against her mouth. "You don't seem to mind."
"I don't." Isabella bit his lip before she nuzzled his cheek. "You smell really nice."
He groaned when she shifted in his lap.
"You smell better," he replied. "Do you know what that means?"
"We can make out when we're sweaty?"
"No. It means we're biologically compatible."
Snickering, Isabella nudged his chest to see his face. "Are you making up pseudo-statistics again to get me in bed with you?"
"You are in bed with me," he said, continuing to trail kisses along her neck. "You can google it."
Her fingers clutched onto his biceps when she arched against him. "Maybe… maybe I will."
Edward rested his wet forehead against the crook of her neck when her stomach growled. He drew a breath, gathering himself, and spoke against her skin.
"Can you wait five minutes until I shower?"
"And then what happens? More free striptease?"
He grinned against her cheek before wrapping her in his blanket and pressing a kiss on her nose. Winking, he threw his boxer-briefs at her and disappeared in the bathroom. Isabella felt powerful and vulnerable, smiling against her blanket. Twenty four hours ago, she'd been ready to take on the world, alone, but today she had Edward, his present and his future. She wanted nothing more than to spend a lazy Sunday cuddling on the couch with her husband.
She jerked awake when weight pressed against her hips and warm droplets of water started running down her face.
"Seriously?" Edward, freshly shaven and smelling of soap, hovered over her body, smiling. "17 hours of sleep and you still didn't get enough?"
Isabella embraced Edward. Half-naked and steaming, he grunted from surprise and fell on top of her. Heat warmed her fingertips when she squeezed his bare back and nuzzled the back of his neck, inhaling his soapy scent. She tightened her grip when short, damp hair tickled her cheek.
A mess of crinkled blankets and his loosening bathrobe separated them. Edward rolled over without pulling away, sliding his palms underneath her shirt as he always did. He stroked her skin.
"Baby? Are you all right?"
Isabella withdrew enough to see his eyes. Running her fingers through his hair, she drank in the sight of this man, warm and damp from shower, wet hair clinging to his skin and large palms holding her tight.
"I love you," she whispered.
Edward's eyes, even without a smile, lit up in his own secret way, and she'd learned to recognize his little tells. He held his cheek against hers for a silent moment. His breath, smelling of toothpaste, tickled her ear, and his fingers drew patterns under her shirt.
"I love you, too."
The words were a silent exhale, not even a whisper, but she felt her heart swell with affection. Edward's fingers skimmed her jawline before he slid his thumb over her lips. "We don't say that much in my family, so even if I don't say it after every phone call or at the end of every text message, that doesn't mean I don't feel it." He brushed hair away from her face. His eyes were tender and filled with emotion, and she needed no further proof of his love than to look at him.
Isabella smiled against his lips before nodding.
"Don't move." Edward untangled himself from around her and jogged downstairs. Confused, Isabella slid her feet on the cold floor and listened to his footsteps. Edward narrowed his eyes when he stopped at the doorway with a tray.
"Didn't I tell you not to move?"
"I was confused!"
"Get back under the blankets."
"Can I go and pee at least?"
"May," he corrected after she'd closed the bathroom door. "It's may."
"I heard that!"
When she returned, Edward was sitting against the pillows, legs bent, patting the sheets in front of him. Isabella sat on her legs, facing him, but Edward circled his finger to motion for her to turn around. Laughing, she did so. He covered them with a blanket, and scooted her so that she sat with her back flush against his chest. He put a tray in her lap.
"Pancakes," she said, tilting her head on the side. "You made me pancakes."
"With wheat flour and butter and maple syrup. I have my phone ready in case you have a heart attack."
"But, you hate breakfast in bed."
"And you hate white flour and butter and maple syrup."
Surrounding her with both arms, Edward squeezed her stomach and pressed his jaw against her neck. "Do you really have to ask?"
Her stomach fluttered. "You didn't have to do this. I don't mind eating the healthy stuff you like."
"Okay," he said, faux-serious as he lifted the tray. "If you don't like this…"
"No! Don't you dare. You made me unhealthy breakfast and I intend to enjoy every bite of it."
"And what's the magic word, Mrs. Masen?"
Isabella, smiling, pressed a kiss on his Adam's apple. "Please?"
He lowered the tray and slid his arms back around her as she poured herself a glass of juice and dug in. Waiting, Edward hummed against her skin and peppered small kisses against her shoulder as she ate.
"Should I want to hug Eric or to kill him?"
"Hug," she replied. "Definitely hug."
"The guy is the first person in the world you run to when things turn south."
"Yes, and you would do well to get along with him."
"Not many people have that kind of relationship with their ex."
She stifled a smile. "Eric didn't believe me when I told him that you wanted to get back together with Kate. He said that a man who behaves as you do around his girl doesn't seem to be eager to get it on with his ex."
Edward rubbed her stomach. "Smart man."
She turned her head to see his face. "He's a good guy. I know it's a bit awkward that we're friends after being together, but if anything ever happens to me, he's the guy you want."
"I'll keep that in mind," he said, pausing. "Do you still feel anything for him?"
"Other than friendship? No. We were together for such a short time and it was comfortable. There was never a spark."
She tilted her head. "You know what I mean."
"Then I agree. He might need a hug."
Isabella chuckled and kept eating as Edward trailed kisses along her neck.
"Your backpack nearly killed me."
Isabella scoffed in surprise. "What?"
"For months, seeing our packed bags on the doorway meant another hotel in an uncertain future, but seeing your backpack alone on our bedroom doorway after waking up from migraine-induced sleep? Please, never do that to me again."
Isabella held the tray as she turned in his arms and lifted both of her legs over his thigh. He had a wistful, hurt expression on his face, and she couldn't help but try to kiss it away.
"I was hurt. I wanted to be able to leave with one bag, in case our arguments got ugly."
Edward ran his fingers through her hair and held her gaze. "You really thought I wanted Kate over you."
"Not until I saw the ring."
He cupped her jaw with both hands, searching her eyes. "Please tell me you didn't think I was cheating on you."
"I knew you wouldn't." Isabella set the tray on the bedside table before turning her full attention on him. "But, on some level, keeping your desire to be with her from me made sense. Given my family history… if you did want to be with someone else, do you think I would commit suicide?"
"Jesus Christ, baby."
"It's a yes or no question. You know where I come from. Do you think I'd do that, once I found out you weren't serious about me?"
"How do you know?"
"Because you're stronger than that. But we'll never find out because I'm not going anywhere, do you understand? I'm with you."
Isabella rested her cheek against his chest. "I know."
"Tell me you've never thought about it."
"Of course I've thought about it."
"You what?" Edward jerked back, pale-faced and eyes wide. "Are you serious?"
"Not like that." Isabella squeezed his upper arm, leaning to catch his gaze and calm him down. She brushed her fingers against his cheek, drawing his attention. "Not like that. I've thought about the concept of it, how it affects everyone and what pushes people to make that choice. It would've been impossible not to, given how much I've been surrounded by people who take their own lives. But I haven't thought of it as a choice for myself."
Edward lifted her to straddle him and wrapped her up in his arms. He hid his jaw in the crook of her neck and stretched the soft T-shirt she wore as he squeezed her. "Will you promise to tell me if you feel close to making that decision?"
"Please. I would not survive it if you thought death was better than spending a life with me."
"I will never make that choice. I'm not my mother."
She pressed her lips against his skin, whispering, "I promise."
"Thank you." Edward hummed, not letting go.
"But I'm not my mother. I don't have her temperament or her upbringing, and I don't hide from my problems. Even yesterday, even when I was sure you didn't want a life with me, even when I went to Eric's to swim and think, the fact that you woke up to my backpack and letter meant that I wanted to discuss our problems with you. I came back. I came back convinced that you'd admit you didn't want me, but I did, Edward. Tell me you see that. Both my parents voluntarily left me, and it cuts you wide open to see the person you love make that decision. I wouldn't wish that pain on anyone."
Edward's heart beat wildly against her ear.
"Thank you for not running away. I would've chased you down, but I'm glad I didn't have to."
Edward pulled a blanket to cover her and rubbed her back with his fingertips. Bathing in her warmth, he drew his wet lips over her neck, leaving goose bumps in his wake. Isabella smiled against his skin, curling her fingers in his chest hair and enjoying his proximity.
"So, can I continue with my deliciously unhealthy breakfast?"
"I don't know, can you?"
"Fine. May I?"
"I was so close to losing you, baby. Give me a moment."
Isabella, swooning at his comment, sighed and sank into his chest, nuzzling his chest hair as she realized that Edward was still wearing nothing but a towel. Testing the waters, she shifted in his lap, and he groaned before squeezing her hips to hold her still. Isabella bit her lip before offering a teasing smile.
He narrowed his eyes. "You're evil."
She pecked his lips and continued with her breakfast without moving anywhere. When Isabella was finished, she wiped her buttery fingers against his neck.
Edward's eyes were glinting. "You're gross."
"Is there a punishment for such behavior?"
Her blanket fell on the floor when he flipped her on her back and sucked the skin below her ear. Isabella, squeezing his bicep, gasped for air.
Edward pressed his open mouth against hers, biting her lips and tasting the sweetness. Tugging at her shirt, he said, "I require one clothing item for each breach of ladylike manners."
Her eyes were full of humor when she removed her shirt and pulled Edward on top of her. His elbows locked her head against the mattress as he sat gently on her hips and hovered over her, hair falling on his forehead. Droplets of water fell on her face. Time stalled. He wiped a tendril off her face, watching her, waiting. She touched birthmarks on his neck, and when she cupped his neck, Edward leaned against her touch, wordless in his admiration. Meeting Isabella had lead to the only time in his life he'd let his personal and professional lives blend into one another. He had fought his attraction. He'd restrained himself physically and emotionally in the hopes of keeping them alive for longer, knowing that blackmail was far too complicated to respond to if (visible) feelings were involved. But even when he didn't allow himself to admit his feelings or to show them, they had been on the sidelines for longer than he'd let on.
Her actions in Wisconsin had punched him in the gut, and it hurt more because, with Isabella, it was always personal. From day one, little idiosyncrasies and passions connected them that had nothing to do with their fake identities. He fell for her, sharing thoughts watching the Travel Channel and History, discussing Agatha Christie, discovering snippets of her past and arguing about the complexity of moral injustice and law. He was in awe of the speed with which she learned how to deal with his migraines and, he hoped she understood the care he attempted to show in return.
In her letter, Isabella had said that she thought she'd been naive in many aspects of her life, but truthfully—that label applied to him. He'd trusted many people in his life without question, before her. She might've been ten years and three months younger than him, a fact he'd never let himself forget, but their relationship was defined by friendship and trust and suppressed desire so deep he didn't know if he'd ever come back for air once he could show her how much he wanted her. He'd restrained himself in many ways around her, a fact he hadn't emphasized much. He didn't shed his professionalism easily.
His eyes lingered on her mouth. Next thing he knew, cold air surrounded his lower body, and Isabella grinned when she threw his towel on the floor with her toes. Crushing his naked body against hers, Edward trailed hot kisses toward her mouth, tasting her skin and reveling in her sharp moan.
"That was not ladylike."
She grinned, eyes twinkling and hands clutching his back when he removed her bra. He sucked and nipped skin closer to her nipple, and she arched when his lips wrapped around it. The vibrations of his hum sent shivers down her spine. Edward smiled. Slowly, he drew his nose back and forth between her breasts, stopping only when her chain of golden penguins rolled between them. As he paused to stare, Isabella reached under her neck to take it off, but Edward took her wrist. Their eyes locked.
He moved upwards to press his open mouth against hers. His movements were slow but firm, biting her lips, sliding his palm along her waist, pressing himself against her. She moaned and arched, putty in his hands, and he smiled against her skin. His fingers had barely slid underneath her panties when she gripped his cock, and suddenly, Edward's full weight pressed down against her as he fell.
He groaned against her neck. "Give a man some warning, baby."
Isabella, lightheaded with desire, stroked his back before she cupped the back of his neck.
"Unladylike enough to lose my underwear?" she whispered, brushing her lips against the short hairs on the side of his head, feeling goose bumps on her neck from the warmth of his breath. She breathed him in. Edward lifted up his torso and stared at her with daunting intensity. Observing her bright eyes and teasing smile, feeling the intimacy of her skin pressed against his, he felt humbled in the knowledge of how easily she could've disappeared from his life.
He surrounded her neck with his arms, rolling over. His cheek squished against her temple, and his lips hovered inches from her ear.
"You're like a butterfly when you get to sleep and swim to your heart's content. You're perfect."
"We both know that's not true." Feeling the affection behind his earnest words, Isabella kissed the arch of his cheek. "I am way stronger than a butterfly. At least a hummingbird."
He laughed. He was painfully aware of her curves pressed against him, and he couldn't believe how long he'd fought his desire. Once they broke this dam, they might have to skip work and school to make up for lost time.
"Do you have any idea what it's like to wake up with a raging hard-on four months in a row?"
She narrowed her eyes. "You're lying."
Raising his eyebrows at her, he said nothing.
"No." She squeezed his neck. "I don't believe you. I've never seen a guy so unaffected by a woman before."
Edward let out a snort-like grunt, suppressing his smile.
"Baby, during and after we lived in the cabin, you used to wrap yourself around me in the mornings, and I spent hours attempting to calm myself down."
Isabella nudged his shoulder. "You did not! I never saw that. You were always incredibly professional around me."
"I'm glad you think so. That was the impression I was aiming for."
Forced to admit that his words must've held some truth in them, she held his gaze, frowning. "But… I told you to push me away."
"I discovered that I didn't want to."
Edward brushed hair away from her face and cupped the side of her head. "Remember the time I mauled you in a bookstore, a day before we got keys to the cabin?"
"You did not maul me."
"I just pressed you against a bookshelf and had my wicked way with you?"
Her face grew hot as her eyes lingered on his lips. Memories of his passion gave her goosebumps. "That guy you knew to be connected to Carlisle was in the store. It's not like you had a choice."
Edward bit his lip before he smiled, eyes aglow. "There was nobody there."
"I didn't recognize anyone. I just couldn't take it anymore, seeing you so lovely, holding my hand, eager to get your books. A guy walked past whose eye you caught and I just thought I'd go mad if I didn't do anything. So I—" Edward pursed his lips, half-smiling and looking as if he was admitting to a fraud. "I pressed you against that shelf and whispered some code word nonsense before I… you know. I might've been extra professional with you in the cabin the next day because I felt so guilty."
Isabella, taking in this information, stared at his mouth while drawing absent-minded little circles against his neck. Her eyes revealed vulnerability that her voice did not. "You wanted me, then?"
"Did I." Edward rocked against her and brushed a kiss on the corner of her lips. She gasped. He pressed his mouth against hers, stroking her waist to pull her closer. Wet, cool lips skimmed her cheek before he slid his thumb over her pulse point, speaking in her ear. "I never crossed the line between personal and professional life until you. I tried to hide it, but from the moment you asked me to hold your hand that first night, you became my exception."
Isabella, overwhelmed with affection, took hold of his neck and kissed him. Edward returned her passion, thrusting against her as he slid his palm beneath her underwear to slide it off. Lifting her hips, she complied. His muscles flexed under her palm. She savored his firm, hairy body brushing against her chest. Trails of wet kisses left goose bumps on her neck, but her hand trailed lower. Suppressing a smile, she pushed him on his back and curled her fingers around his cock. Intense, ardent eyes followed her palm, and she coaxed a guttural groan from him when she massaged his lower stomach while opening her mouth to bring him pleasure.
He jerked against her, torn between throwing his head back to enjoy the experience and staring at a most erotic sight.
They'd explored each other often. The new and overwhelming honeymoon phase they'd entered offered many discoveries and playful foreplay. Hands and mouths were put to good use while Isabella waited for Edward's doctor to clear her husband for more rigorous activities. (Edward would've happily skipped any permissions from a third party.)
Isabella, enjoying the sight of his half-lidded eyes, quickened her strokes and tightened her grip before he groaned and came against her stomach. She lay on his side, splaying her palm against his chest, before Edward scooted lower and gazed at her with lazy eyes. He wiped her stomach with the corner of a blanket.
"Guess we're doing laundry today, huh?" Isabella teased.
He bit back a smile, kissing her shoulder. He slid his hand up and down her waist, squeezing and exploring, relishing each curve and dip. Anchoring himself against her, he pushed her on her back and hid his face in her neck. His hands kept stroking her skin while his mouth had a mind of its own.
"This okay?" he whispered before he started sucking her neck.
Isabella clutched the back of his neck. "Yes," she whispered, shutting her eyes and hissing a snicker when Edward's fingers slid between her legs. He created a rhythm before he tore his lips from her neck, pressed a kiss on her lips, and crawled lower. Goose bumps arose where Edward's lips left a trail. She arched. His touch, simple, light, and tender, made her feel loved. Warm lips traced lower before Edward paused. His fingertips ghosted over the side of her groin, and his eyes were filled with mirth.
"A green giraffe?"
Feeling embarrassed, Isabella scoffed and covered her face with her elbow, but Edward was having none of that. Grinning, he pulled away her arm and quirked an eyebrow. Inspecting the little creature, he pressed a small kiss on top of the tattoo. She twitched in his arms.
He hovered above her when another, smaller giraffe caught his eye.
The second giraffe got the same treatment of a tender, teasing kiss on top of it while Isabella avoided Edward's eyes.
"You wanted me to find these, didn't you." His breath blowing against her skin made her squirm, but he held her firmly against the bed.
Blushing, Isabella peeked out from under her fingers. "Childish?"
"Playful," he replied, sucking the fake tattoo until Isabella groaned and attempted to writhe away. Edward, having none of that, turned his attention on where she needed it the most. When she bit her lip, arching, getting lost in her pleasure, he couldn't take his eyes off her. Every whisper, gasp and twitch reminded him that she was his to love and pleasure, and no other man would make her feel like this. Her playfulness and intimacy were infinitely precious to him, and by god, he needed her.
Edward removed his lips and fingers from her just before she'd orgasmed, and she blinked at him, panting and confused. She felt exposed and vulnerable lying naked in front of him. Needy, so deliciously needy but a bit scared of his reaction, she frowned.
"Did I do something wrong?" she asked. "I'm sorry if I moved or, or made some weird noise, or—"
"Baby, no," he interrupted, pressing himself against her side and burying his face in her neck. "No." His palm, firm and wide, curled around her waist as he sucked the skin below her ear. "Never be afraid of how you move or sound when I'm making you feel good." Tangling his fingers in her hair, he lifted his head, and his lips brushed against her ear. "But I cannot watch you again, looking so delicious, without being a part of you."
Her eyes widened, and the way her fingers slowly ruffled his hair drove him wild.
"But your ribs, the doctor…"
"He said I'm good to go."
Isabella blinked once. She blinked twice. A millisecond, and she threw herself in his arms, nudging him to sit up and straddling his lap. Her palms covered his chest and neck, trailing upward, drinking in his intense gaze. They both groaned when his fingers dug into her hips to adjust her in his lap. Goose bumps arose all over her body when her breasts grazed his chest. He dipped his head to tug her lips between his, slow but fiery and bursting with need. She'd asked to be on top her first time, and when their eyes locked, she recognized the question in his silence. She could say no to this, and he wouldn't hold it against her. But it warmed her to see Edward not hide his desire any more. He stroked her skin, pulling her in a heated kiss, unashamed of his need. She'd never thought she'd deserve love like his.
She got a shot when she swam semi-professionally, and he was clean. There was no need to mention either.
Slowly, Isabella lowered herself, pushing him inside her. Her forehead dropped against the crook of his neck. Edward groaned. His grip on her waist tightened. Isabella felt more uncomfortable than she'd expected to feel, but she also felt an intense, personal connection, an ache that was marked by pleasure as well as discomfort.
Edward's breath blew against her ear. One of his palms slid behind her, stroking her spine, but he didn't move despite shaking with need. Isabella, kissing his skin, cupped his neck, glancing down. The sight of them together felt wildly personal and incredibly erotic. Raising her eyes, she rocked against him, and his hands clutched her tight against him. His breathing was erratic, nose buried in her hair.
"Baby," he repeated, feeling a sheen of sweat start to cover his skin from holding back. He didn't trust himself not to urge her if he were to keep holding her so tight, so he shut his eyes and pulled her in a kiss to distract himself. He nipped her lower lip, nudging her face, feeling like the movement of her lips might set him on fire. She felt incredible, tight and hot and amazing, and he felt a powerful urge to squeeze her tight and bury himself in her, deeper and stronger. But she deserved to set her own pace their first time, so instead of giving in, Edward loosened his grip, relishing the sight of her beautiful, nude body against him, seeking and giving pleasure. Her palm curled in his chest hair when she dipped her face near his neck and kissed his ear. "I like it when you hold me tight."
Grunting, he dug his fingers in her skin. "I'll be too rough."
Rocking against him, she trailed wet kisses closer to his mouth and brushed her lips against his.
"I like you rough," she whispered.
Her words made him lose control. He lifted her before pulling her against him, and both groaned. Isabella reveled in the rhythm he set. He hid his face in her hair, breathing in her scent, fighting not to treat her too roughly but feeling himself slip. When he pushed her down, and they both twitched, Isabella arched against him and brushed her lips against his earlobe.
"No te detengas."
Edward didn't know that anything could turn him on as much as her little whisper did. Not knowing what it meant but aching with need, he rolled her on her back and buried his nose in her neck as he rocked against her with powerful thrusts. She clutched his shoulders, panting and tightening her thighs around him. Edward's fingers curled between her legs before she spasmed in his arms, arching and deaf to the world in her pleasure. Pushing against her with strong, slow strokes, he came, groaning her name. He buried his face in her neck and turned on his side, pulling her with him.
Her eyes were afire with love as she stroked the side of his face. Holding her gaze, Edward covered her hand with his and kissed her knuckles. He opened her palm, pressing a kiss in the middle, and wiped hair from her face when his nose touched hers. Incredulous and brimming with love, Edward relished the sight of her, glistening with sweat, eyes revealing her trust and love.
He reached over to cover them with a blanket and wrapped his arms around her.
"I can't explain how precious you are to me."
The words squeezed her heart, and she pressed a kiss against his shoulder. She'd never heard his voice so soft. His features were sharp and defined by age, his cheeks smooth from having shaved so recently and his eyes drinking in her expression. His open palm slid from her hip to waist and back again. His eyes filled with worry.
"Was I too rough with you?"
"No," she replied, running her thumb over his eyebrow. "Not at all."
Still, he hesitated. "I'm sorry you didn't get to be on top like we agreed. I kind of… lost myself for a moment there."
"You were perfect." She smiled. "But you could've told me you don't like your women on top."
"Hey," he argued, amused. "I have nothing against you on top. It was just, it had been a while, and it was— intense."
Isabella kissed his wrist, smiling. "I'm just teasing you."
He drew patterns on her arm with his finger, over her bicep and down again. Isabella watched his finger, a bit self-conscious of his attention. She was fit. She wasn't a delicate flower and she had evidence that Edward desired her, but she was curious, too.
"Do you mind that I'm like this?"
He frowned. "Like what?"
"You know." She put his palm on her bicep. "Kind of muscled. Not too feminine. A bit wide-shouldered. You know, athletic."
Edward suppressed a smile and hid his face in her neck. "Do you doubt that I find you attractive?"
"No," she replied. "I'm just wondering. Kate is feminine and I just realized that I'm probably not the type you're used to."
"The type that can take it when I like it a bit rough?" He squeezed her.
"Have you had problems with that in the past?"
"Will you think less of me if I say yes?"
Isabella stifled a smile and trailed a few kisses on top of his hair. "No. But I've met guys who've had a problem dating a girl stronger than them."
"Are you implying that you're stronger than me?"
She let out a small laugh.
"You're talking like you're a 200 pound weightlifter. You're a swimmer. Lithe and strong. You're the fittest woman I've dated, but I find it hot that if I were to push you against the wall to have my way with you, you could probably take it."
"Making plans, are we."
He bit his lip, smiling, and kissed her ear. "Always."
The sky, although still cloudy, had lightened, and it was close to 9 AM. Sleepy and content, Edward stroked her side. Isabella hummed against his chest, enjoying their intimacy. Eventually, they got up and had a shower before going downstairs to make breakfast. Isabella, who had eaten a sandwich and some casserole within the 36 hours prior to this Sunday morning, started unwrapping bacon while Edward warmed up the pan. Small touches and secret smiles accompanied their cooking, and he pulled her between his legs and against his chest as they sat on the couch in the living room. Pressing his jaw against her neck and pulling a thin blanket over their legs, he hummed.
"A pile of mail arrived to you on Friday."
Isabella kissed his jaw and drew knees close to her chin. She opened court notices and bills when a white envelope caught her eye. The words 'mel udara, par avion' were written on a blue sticker. All three stamps, featuring a Bunga Raya, a dove, and a gibbon, had 'Malaysia' written under them.
Edward put down his fork when Isabella stilled in his arms.
"Baby? Are you okay?"
Isabella lifted the envelope, and Edward scanned the front of it before locking eyes with her.
"I think so."
"I'm guessing that wherever your brother is, Malaysia is not the place."
She ran her fingers over her full name, written in handwriting she couldn't recognize. "I'm pretty sure this paper, if this is from him, won't even have his fingerprints on it."
Heart beating wildly in her chest, she cut open the side of the envelope and dropped a single photograph in her palm. A nearly hairless little girl stared wide-eyed at the camera, wearing pink and holding her hands in fists in front of her chin. She was gorgeous, and Isabella felt a wave of longing for not being able to be there. Feminine fingers covered the newborn's chest as a woman who couldn't be seen on the photograph held her.
Edward kissed Isabella's neck and rested his chin on top of her shoulder. "She's beautiful."
The back of the photograph read 'Areli, March 13.'
Isabella opened the envelope to make sure it was empty. It was. She observed the photograph, the eyes that were shaped just like Jacob's but couldn't make out their color. Yet Areli's general features gave Isabella the feeling of vague familiarity that she couldn't quite put her finger on. The wall behind the woman and her niece was a generic beige and the woman's sleeve white. When Isabella noticed that her pinkie finger bent away from the rest, she held the photograph tighter, sliding her finger over the woman's, and suddenly, the vague familiarity made perfect sense.
She nearly knocked over Edward's plate when she straddled his lap and hid her nose in his neck, shaking as she hugged Edward with violent force. Tears prickled her eyes, and she wiped them away, pressing her open mouth against Edward's skin.
"God," she whispered.
"Hey," he said, pushing his plate away before holding her against him. "It's okay. I know you must want to be there."
"No. I mean, yes, of course I do. But it's not that. It's Rosalie."
"She hurt her pinkie in a bicycle accident when she was a teenager, and her nail never really grew back properly. This woman holding my niece is Rosalie. She's her mother. Jacob's girlfriend. She's alive."
She felt so overwhelmed she started crying, but she brushed away her tears.
Edward said nothing for a few seconds as he squeezed her. "Baby, Rosalie died."
"No," she argued, pulling back and cupping his cheek. She could feel herself shaking. "I know it must look like I'm crazy, but this makes perfect sense. When Jacob took out Pasquier, I thought he did it for me, but he never did. He did it for Rosalie. She must've told him."
Edward pondered on her theory. "But she's must've been three or four months pregnant when you left her in Baltimore."
"But she has the whole wide-hipped, voluptuous thing going on that would hide a pregnancy for longer," Isabella argued, feeling foolish, stupefied and more confident in her theory as they argued. "Jacob said he was sober for a while, before the whole dad fiasco, and… she never wore snug clothes."
Both looked at the picture in wonder, and now that Isabella knew about Rosalie, the hand on Areli's chest felt strategic and thought-out. Jacob must've wanted her to know without saying it and putting his family in danger. Edward, brushing his lips against her temple, observed her reaction, taking it all in.
"But how they ever got together or why neither told me…" Isabella looked up at Edward. "I don't know."
It could've been to keep her safe, to keep her reactions realistic, or to not overwhelm her with details when she had so much going on… it could've been anything. She had a plethora of questions that might not be answered for years, maybe even a decade.
"He might not be her biological father, you know. He could've just decided to be one."
"Oh, please." Isabella grinned, holding the picture next to her face. "Look at those eyes. Those are definitely Jacob's eyes because they're my eyes."
Edward's eyes flickered between his wife and the picture, and Isabella had rarely seen the kind of tortured, tender expression that covered his face. Overwhelmed, he brushed his cheek close to hers and spoke against her ear.
"Baby, don't torture me. I don't want to pressure you."
Isabella felt like she might burst with love as she pressed little kisses in front of his ear. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be." He held her tight.
"One day." She reveled in his strength, warmth and scent, and neither let go. "Would it be okay if I put it on the fridge?"
"Absolutely," he replied. "Just don't be too surprised if I start to buy subtle little slippers and pink hats for our future daughter."
Isabella laughed, stroking his neck and tugging his lip as she kissed him. Opening his mouth, he gripped her waist, and she hooked her legs behind him before he pressed her against the couch. His hand slid underneath her T-shirt and she arched against him. Edward cupped the side of her head, staring at her lips, and she felt lightweight. Jacob was clean. Rosalie was alive. Their little daughter seemed healthy, and they were together and safe, somewhere far, far away.
Everything would be okay.
She brushed hair away from his forehead, more to have a reason to touch him than anything else, and bit back a smile.
"I love you."
She'd always cherish how gentle and affectionate his eyes got when she said the words. Edward leaned closer, pressing his lips against her nose. "I love you, too," he replied, covering her face with kisses, looking tender and hungry and delicious. "And I think there will be a lot of practice involved before we can be trusted to make a baby."
She laughed when he started to tickle her, and his lips brushed against her ear. "Definitely."
A/N: Thank you all. It would be wonderful to pass you by on the street and know that I've touched your life, even a little. Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed this little snippet, and that we'll see each other soon.