WARNING: This story contains a pretty intense love triangle and some non canon pairings that may be hard reading for the Twilight purists among you. There is an HEA but I'm not going to spoil it - you'll just need to read all the way through to find out what happens!
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended
"Edward?" A tentative hand grazed his naked thigh, the heat of the touch almost shocking against the cool of the expensive sheets. He steeled himself in an effort not to move and concentrated on breathing evenly.
"Edward?" She was on her side now, rustling into a closer position under the sheets. The hot hand was more confident, running up his thigh towards his boxer shorts. He squeezed his eyes tight shut, even though the room was pitch black, and forced his breathing deeper.
A small involuntarily sigh left her mouth as the hand retreated and she sank softly back into the plush pillows. The sigh was as hurtful to him as a knife to the heart but he carried on breathing heavily, unsure how to end the charade without hurting her. Eventually her breathing slackened into genuine sleep. He pulled the duvet back and slipped silently out of bed then padded quietly along the corridor and into his study, closing the door silently behind him.
"Bye Mum! Bye Dad!" Bella wasn't sure whether to be happy that her ten year old daughter was confident enough to run into summer camp with barely a second glance or sad that she was growing up and didn't need her parents any more. She pasted a smile onto her face and waved a little too goofily at the head of blonde curls bobbing through the crowd as she ran off to find her friends. As Renesmee disappeared out of sight her waving faltered and her hand, suddenly redundant, fell limply to her side. Edward took her hand in his and squeezed. She looked up at him and saw that he too was close to tears, his clear blue eyes cloudy, the corners of his mouth turned down. She squeezed his hand back and they clung to each other, a solid rock in the stream of parents and children passing by.
"I can't believe she's ten years old," said Edward, as he urged the high powered Jaguar quietly down the mountain lanes back to Seattle. It was June and the trees were covered in broad green leaves, letting only dappled shafts of sunlight through to the road that snaked through the canopy below.
"I know." Bella managed a weak smile in response. "It seems like only yesterday that I was giving birth to her."
"It doesn't feel like that long that Charlie was ready to castrate me!"
"Well," said Bella, a genuine smile breaking across her face at the memory, "you did get his only daughter knocked up at eighteen."
"It worked out in the end though," he said, taking her hand and pulling it to his lap, "didn't it?"
"Yes, of course it did." To Edward her voice sounded hollow. As she gently pulled her hand away and returned to staring out of the window he took his eyes off the road for a moment to regard her. His stomach lurched for a brief moment as he discovered anew the long trim frame punctuated by curves in all the right places and the dark eyes fringed with long dark lashes that peeked out from under dark glossy bangs. Bella was undoubtedly still a beautiful woman. As he turned his eyes back to concentrate on the road he couldn't help but feel that the gulf between them was wider than just the short distance between their hands.
"Honey," began Edward, as they pulled onto the gravel driveway that led to their beautiful home.
"I know," Bella cut him off, "you have to work." She barely looked at him as she stepped out of the car. "Remember we're due at Jasper and Alice's for drinks tonight at eight."
"Drinks?" his brow furrowed as he tried to remember what had been arranged. Suddenly her gaze was full on him, her dark eyes narrowed.
"Yes, drinks." She looked at him, clearly incensed by his blank expression. "I told you weeks ago. I remember it specifically because you said that it was stupid that somebody would have drinks to show off their new extension." He could feel his expression soften. That did sound like the kind of thing that he would say but he genuinely couldn't remember.
"Just be ready for eight." She slammed the door of the car, making him wince despite the expensive soundproofing. He killed the engine and sat for a moment, staring at their picture perfect home and wondering what had happened to put such distance between them.
Upon entering the house he could hear Bella moving around in the kitchen but he walked straight past, seeking the stairway and the sanctuary of his study. The rest of the house was minimalist, decorated in soothing neutrals, but his study was painted dark grey and cluttered with bits and pieces that Bella didn't let him display in the rest of the house. A motorcycle helmet from a long forgotten hobby, a signed photograph of his favourite racing driver, an aerial picture of the latest factory that Cullen Industries had built. On one wall a slightly squint corkboard still held gaudy finger paintings and Father's Day cards that Renesmee had made for him that he couldn't bear to throw out. The dark mahogany desk was cluttered with two laptops and piles of paper. Some was in folders, some in random piles. He opened one of the laptops, logged into his e-mails and didn't raise his head for nearly two hours until his mobile phone rang.
"Edward, it's me."
"Hi, Jessica, what's going on?"
"Well, guess what your lovely PR lady has done for you now?"
"What?" He couldn't help but smile, rubbing his eyes as he relaxed back for a moment in the deep desk chair to take the call. Jessica was as much a force to be reckoned with over the phone as she was in real life, a petite blonde bundle of energy.
"I've only gone and got you a meeting with Senator Williams."
"No!" His eyes widened. "We've been trying to talk to him about growth funding all year."
"I know, right?" She was clearly pleased with herself. "And I've managed to get the meeting set up."
"Jessica..." He was still almost speechless. "If this comes off..."
"Jobs and glory!" Her voice softened. "I know how much it means to you to do something positive for the area you grew up in."
"If he supports the factory application it's going to mean hard work for the whole management team," he cautioned.
"Edward!" She yelled at him, making him move the phone a couple of inches away from his ear to prevent permanent damage. "Revitalising Greenburgh is the coolest idea ever! We're all totally bought into getting this new factory built, no matter how long it takes." He found himself smiling at her enthusiasm. Every time that he thought something would be too hard she was there to support and encourage him. Sometimes in the past he had felt that he was ploughing this furrow alone yet out of the darkness she had arrived to support him.
"Right, Jess, I've got to go. I've got a contract to look over before I go out to some stupid drinks party." She laughed and they said their goodbyes.
"Well," said a voice behind him. He whirled around in his office chair to see Bella standing in the doorway, arms crossed. "I'm glad to see that you've not forgotten." She slammed the door shut. He rose for a moment, intending to follow her and smooth things out, but the slam of the bathroom door further down the hallway followed by the sound of the water being turned on full underlined that their conversation was over. He sank back into the chair and after a moment hunched back over his laptop.
Bella lay in the warm water stiff as a board. The rose scented water was a perfect temperature. Outside the sun was starting to go down and the full length frosted window that the bathtub was set in front of diffused the light to a calm, almost ethereal glow. Yet she was so angry with Edward that her body simply wouldn't relax. Angry that he spent so much time working on Cullen Industries. Angry at the flirtatious manner in which he was chatting to Jessica over the phone. Angry that he spent more time on factories and widgets than he did with her.
As the anger finally started to dissipate it was replaced with something else, something deeper and more twisted. She tried to hold onto the anger but as always it was simply a shield, heavy and protective but tiring to keep in place. Edward was a good man. A family man. They hadn't always had money, they were living hand to mouth when Renesmee was born and Bella had given up her place at college. They had worked together at the start, working all hours to set up the business from the garage of a rented house. When Renesmee was born and the business started to take off Edward rented some premises and continued working to build the business. She knew that she should be grateful. She knew that the beautiful house and the cars and the holidays that they enjoyed were because of the business. The private school that was helping Renesmee flourish was affordable only because of the income from the business. Yet she couldn't help but yearn for the days when they spent their days and nights together, working their fingers to the bone to fill those first early orders. The work was hard but they had each other, laughing, eating Ramen Noodles, drinking endless cups of coffee. She felt so far removed from him now. It wasn't just the time that he was spending at work, they were growing apart physically as well. He had barely touched her in months and the frustration was growing.
Giving in to the pent up desire she snaked a hand between her legs, tracing a finger down to her hot centre. She spread herself wide as she imagined a fair head between her legs. Edward's. Her breath caught in her throat as she imagined him spreading her wide, lapping her clitoris, pushing his tongue into her. Her fingers moved faster as she remembered how he would lick her from behind, lapping enthusiastically, spreading her bottom for an exploratory lick as his deft fingers rubbed her swollen clitoris and pushed into her slick pussy. Her body convulsed, waves of pleasure making her rigid then weak again. In her imagination the head rose from between her legs and smiled a lascivious smile, full of filth and promise. But it wasn't Edwards head. It was another face, unclear and male,that made her stomach twist and turn. As soon as the thought entered her head she sat up, sloshing water over the sides of the bath with the force of her movement, covering her suddenly exposed breasts with crossed arms and looking around furtively as if Edward would somehow be able to sense that she had been masturbating to the image of a man that was not him. The orgasm faded almost immediately, meagre contribution towards a dissatisfaction that had been building for months. She stepped out of the water and wrapped herself in a white fluffy towel, steeling herself to paint on a face and step out into the world armoured again.
"Edward! Bella! I'm so glad you could make it." Alice, despite being heavily pregnant, hugged each of them tightly in turn. She was glowing, her dark bob thick lustrous and her fair skin almost luminous against the deep burgundy empire line dress.
"Sis," said Edward gruffly, slipping past the ladies to where Jasper and a couple of his friends were already drinking beer in a small clique.
"You look well," observed Bella.
"I look like a whale," said Alice with a slightly dismayed twist of the face.
"Not at all," said Bella, "the bump is big but the rest of you is still really neat."
"Thanks," her smile was grateful, her hands unconsciously smoothing the heavy fabric of the desk over the bump. "Jasper tells me I'm sexy but when I'm sitting in pyjamas with swollen ankles and spots it's really hard to believe him." She ushered Bella in and shut the door behind, handing her a full glass of champagne, the last one left on a round silver tray.
The men continued to talk sport and cars while Alice's other friends chatted in the sizeable kitchen. As the last to arrive Alice treated Bella to a personal tour of the two story extension that had doubled the floor space of their house, chatting constantly as she pointed out where space had been created and architectural features preserved. The craftsmanship was top notch, from the bespoke wooden kitchen cabinets to the ornate wooden balustrade. Bella told Alice as much.
"It's Jacob," she gushed. Bella raised an eyebrow in question. "The contractor," she continued. "He's a jack of all trades. He led the team that built the extension and he's a master carpenter to trade so he did most of the architectural flourishes himself. Plus," she leaned into Bella conspirationally, "he is absolutely gorgeous!" Bella smiled back, polite but somewhat intrigued. "He's definitely made things more interesting around here for the last few months."
"So," replied Bella, scanning the room and quickly realising that she knew everybody in it, "will Jacob the master carpenter be coming here tonight?" Right on cue the doorbell went again and they both giggled nervously, like schoolgirls caught talking about their latest crusi.
"That is probably him," said Alice, glancing at her watch then looking back at Bella with a lascivious wink before checking her lipstick in the mirror and opening the door.
"Jacob!" she squealed, "you shouldn't have!" She grabbed a bottle of champagne that had been offered to her from behind the heavy wooden door and placed it immediately behind her on the side table before launching herself at the person hidden behind the door for what appeared to be a prolonged hug. Finally the door closed and Jacob walked into the room.
"Jacob," said Alice, steering him by the elbow towards her sister in law. Suddenly nervous, Bella swallowed the remaining half glass of champagne in two unladylike gulps. "This is my sister in law, Bella."
"Hi," Jacob's smile of greeting was dazzling, rows of perfect teeth surrounded by bee-stung lips with a deep cupids bow. "It's really nice to meet you." He put out his hand to greet her. Alice, seeing that she still had the champagne flute in her hand, grabbed it from her and trotted off in the direction of the kitchen to obtain a refill for her guest. With the glass gone Bella put her own hand into his offered one. His grip was firm, warm and callused but as she looked up at him to return his smile she realised the full scale of the body it was attached to. Jacob was at least a head taller than her and broad. He was wearing a white shirt, rolled up to the elbows to reveal muscular forearms and a very nice watch with a large square face and a thick brown strap. The shirt was slim fitting and tucked into dark denim jeans, showing off his broad shoulders and chest and flat stomach. She longed to look lower but couldn't pull her eyes away from his face. Dark, amused eyes were framed by wayward black hair and a speckling of stubble was clearly visible on the firm jaw.
Blushing, she realised that she had not let go of his hand nor replied to him.
"Nice to meet you too Jacob," she said, snatching her hand away as quickly and discreetly as she could. Alice spared her further embarrassment by arriving at that precise moment with a full glass of champagne for Bella and a fresh one for Jacob.
"Jacob is a wonder with wood," she trilled, batting her eyelids.
"Alice," he replied, grinning,"I'm not that good with wood." He winked at Bella, the double entendre not lost on her or the maniacally cackling Alice. "Besides," he continued in a more serious note as her laughter subsided, "it was a pleasure working on this place and an amazing experience to work with somebody so open to new ideas." Alice cackled again in response, off in her own little world. Jacob caught Bella's eye and raised a single eyebrow. She smiled back at him, enjoying their complicity and the chance to look at him again. Yet as Alice's laugh finally tailed off a finger of doubt penetrated her stomach. Was she looking at him too long? Could he tell that she was attracted to him? Quickly, she dropped her gaze back to the champagne glass in her hand.
"Jacob!" Jasper shouted at him from across the room.
"Ladies," he said, with a tip of his head, excusing himself to join the men. Bella hadn't realised how tense she had been until he walked away. Surreptitiously she turned her body to watch him walk. Her arm touched Alice's as she had angled her body in a mirror to Bella's to do the same. Their eyes met and they both suppressed a giggle.
"Poetry in motion," muttered Alice. Bella could only sigh in response at the long, lean thighs and tight bottom encased in denim, the slim waist a contrast to the breadth of his shoulders. He must have only been a couple of years younger than most of the other men but in his dark jeans and white shirt he looked modern and fresh, a stark contrast to the khakis and pastel or striped polo shirts sported by Edward, Jasper and their friends. "When did our husbands become middle aged?" asked Alice with yet another sigh. Bella shrugged her shoulders in response, still watching Jacob moving across the room. "Cookie cutter husbands."
Bella could see where she was coming from. The small group of men wore similar bland clothes, the type of classic casuals that would not look out of place on the golf course or at the country club and she knew that outside were parked similar expensive but bland cars. Their houses were all similarly bland, expensively furnished but neutral. Jacob was like a splash of darkness in a desert of neutrals.
"You should see him with his top off," whispered Alice. "I mean, Jasper goes to the gym so he's no slouch in the fitness department but Jacob is seriously ripped." Bella turned to her sister in law to encourage her to continue, unable to suppress the smile that was bubbling up in response to that thought. "The kind of ripped that a man gets from working with his hands." They both fell into silence again, contemplating exactly what a skilled man like that could do with his hands.
"That's the contractor," said Jasper, motioning to a tall dark man that had just entered the room. Alice introduced him to Bella and he could see from the way that she gazed up at him and the flush that was spreading across her cheeks that she was attracted to him. She looked beautiful tonight, simply but elegantly dressed in a daisy print dress, cinched at the waist with a sunflower yellow belt and completed with matching yellow shoes and handbag. Yellow was a hard colour to wear but her dark hair and eyes were strong enough to complement rather than be swamped by the bright slashes. He had met Bella when she was sixteen and sometimes he forgot that they were both still only twenty eight. Twelve years together and a ten year old daughter and Bella wasn't middle-aged. Hell, she wasn't even in her prime yet.
"Jacob!" shouted Jasper. Jacob acknowledged him and excused himself from the ladies. "I thought that I had better save him from Alice," said Jasper to Edward in a low voice, "I don't know if it's baby brain or what but Alice turns into a gibbering mess when he's around." It was with dismay that Edward noticed the way that both Alice and Bella angled themselves to watch Jacob's progression across the room. He was still watching when Jasper made the introduction.
"Jacob, this is my brother in law, Edward." Finally wrenching his gaze from Bella he smiled politely at Jacob and took his outstretched hand. Jacob was huge, with callused hands that made Edward want to pull his own away so that the other man couldn't tell that they were soft from years spent behind a desk. Unconsciously he pulled himself straighter, up to his full six foot height, yet Jacob was still the larger of the two men.
"Nice to meet you Jacob," replied Edward with a tight smile. "The quality of work here is quite astounding."
"Thanks," said Jacob, running his hands through his hair in a self deprecating way that made Edward warm to him more despite the instinct to hate this competitor for his wife's affections. "It was a pleasure to work with Jasper and Alice. They knew what they wanted but stayed open to new ideas."
"He's great with the ladies," butted in Jasper. Jacob coloured slightly and opened his mouth to protest but Jasper continued. "He talked Alice out of some of her crazier decorating ideas. Saved me telling her and it ending up in a blazing row."
"I aim to please," said Jacob, lifting his glass in toast and finishing off the champagne.
"Beer?" said Jasper, looking between Jacob and Edward. They both nodded and Jasper walked off towards the kitchen. Glancing at his wife Edward couldn't help but notice that she had glanced across the room at Jacob again.
She deserves better than me, he thought, she deserves a man who desires her, a man who doesn't pretend to be asleep at night, who doesn't sneak out of the marital bed to spend time alone. An idea began to form in his mind, a way that he could let her cut loose whilst fulfilling some of his own unspoken desires. And that plan was going to involve Jacob.
"Jacob," he said, turning his attention to the other man. "I've got a cabin that needs renovating."
"Really?" His interest was piqued, "whereabouts?"
"In the Cascade Mountains," replied Edward, "really off the beaten track. I bought it for Bella's thirtieth birthday in eighteen months but I would really like to get the renovations finished by the end of the summer."
"That sounds achievable," said Jacob, accepting a cold Miller from Jasper, who passed another cold bottle to Edward. Edward took a deep swig.
"Why don't you come around tomorrow," he suggested, "I'll show you the plans and we can have a chat about it."
"Sounds great," replied Jacob. He handed his bottle to Jasper a second and pulled a business card from a worn brown leather wallet. "Here's my number." Edward took another deep swig of his own drink, liquid courage for the audacious plan forming in his head.