Entry for the Straight Thru the Heart Contest
Title: The Curb
Summary: Bella's night doesn't go as planned when she forgets an address and stumbles upon an injured stranger instead.
Pairing: Bella/ Edward
Word count: 6,200
Disclaimer: The author does not own any publicly recognizable entities herein. No copyright infringement is intended.
"Ten. Nine. Eight …"
The muffled voices of people counting from behind their doors keep me company as I move quickly down the street. My heels click against the sidewalk, echoing footsteps from behind me, and I turn to make sure no one is following me. Not that I can tell since half the block is made up of busted street lights.
"Did she say twenty-six or twenty-eight?" I ask no one in particular because no one's there. "No, wait. It was thirty-two, wasn't it? Hell. I don't know."
My phone died right around the time I hit the corner of Chestnut and High. I wish I were high when another gust of cold wind flies up my skirt. Shivering, I cross the street, stopping right in the middle of the road when a moan comes from behind one of the parked cars.
"Hello? Is someone there?" Another moan. "Look, if you're planning on attacking me, I'd advise against it." Looking side to side, I noisily dig around in my purse. "I've got a new can of pepper spray and I'm not afraid to use it." Key point being that it's new.
Another moan comes out of the darkness before cheers erupt from inside the surrounding warm houses. I creep closer to look around the back of the car where I find a man sitting on the curb, his head in his hands.
"Hey, are you okay?"
With my finger firmly in place on the pepper spray, I move closer until I'm standing right beside the guy.
"Excuse me. Hey …" I reach down and touch his shoulder, and he jerks away, looking up at me in fear.
"Oh, wow." I automatically cringe, unable to help it when I see the condition of the guy's face. He's obviously been in a fight by the looks of that busted lip. His eyes are swollen shut. But what really worries me is the bloody gash on his forehead.
"That looks pretty bad. We should probably get you to a hospital."
He shakes his head and mumbles something unintelligible. I pull out my phone, forgetting it's dead, and roll my eyes.
"Look, buddy, I can't just leave you here. It's cold and you're bleeding. Not to mention, you can't see." Mumbling something again, he looks up at me and I think I see a twinkle of green. "Uh huh, sure. Just please, tell me you have a phone. Mine's dead and I can't in good conscience leave you here. I just can't. So, come on." I hold out my hand. "Hand it over."
After a second, he reluctantly does as I say and I call an ambulance. Sitting down beside him, I quickly give up on having a conversation since I can't understand anything he says anyway. Instead I opt to look him over from copper-colored head to converse-covered toe. His hairline and the front of his shirt are caked in blood. His face is covered in bruises, but I can tell he had once been good-looking and probably will be again, which makes me feel a little less bad for him.
I stare at my shoes for the remainder of the wait, which seems to take forever. A few people peek out windows when the ambulance finally arrives, unnecessarily blaring its siren.
Standing, I brush off my backside before bending in an attempt to help up my helpless victim. Unable to really see me, he stands quicker, causing his shoulder to bump my nose. For a moment I'm overwhelmed by the smell of his cologne until he mumbles what I think is an apology.
"It's no problem. I'm fine."
Balancing on my shoulder, he digs around in his back pocket and pulls out his wallet to hand to the responder. Why didn't I think of that?
"Edward Anthony Masen," the responder reads. "Two forty-five Second Street. Do you know who did this to you, Edward Anthony Masen of two forty-five Second Street?"
Edward hesitates but eventually shakes his head before letting them help him onto the stretcher.
"All right. Now, will your friend be riding with us tonight?" the responder asks, pausing for my name.
"Bella. Bella Swan and n—" Edward's hand shoots out to wrap around my wrist. Lifting his head slightly, he tightens his grip.
"Uh … Yeah. I guess I am."
Edward lets go so I can climb into the bed of the ambulance behind them. When I sit down beside the cot, he reaches for me again and I take his hand.
"It's okay. I'm here. I'm not going anywhere."
My words seem to reassure him and he relaxes somewhat, tensing up whenever the tires hit a particularly bumpy part of the road. I can only imagine how bad the ride is for him when he moans, squeezing my hand. We're fused at the palm by the time we reach the hospital.
It takes all I have to keep up with the cot as it rolls through the ER doors and down the hall. Before long the nurse has him hooked up to the machines. Once she cleans him up, his wounds don't look as bad as they had before. I'm handed some ice packs that I help hold against Edward's face before the doctor strolls through the door.
"What seems to be the problem, folks?"
As if it's not obvious, I explain how it all went down while simultaneously shushing the mumbles coming from underneath the ice packs.
After poking and prodding all over the poor guy's mangled body, the doctor orders some tests and pain medication, which Edward refuses with a brush of his hand.
"Are you sure you don't need something?" the nurse asks, and Edward shakes his head. Once she excuses herself, I try to talk some sense into him.
"You know there's no shame in taking some pain medication if you need it. If you're afraid you'll look weak, you don't have to be."
Ignoring me, Edward places a fresh ice pack over his face, and I take a seat, chalking it all up to inherited male stubbornness.
Fine. Whatever. Be in pain then.
I almost wish they'd offer me something for the pain of having to sit in this hard, plastic chair. I cross and uncross my legs waiting just to wait some more while Edward's wheeled out then back in just to be wheeled out again. Without the distraction of a phone, everything seems to take so long. I almost forget why I'm there until Edward's rolled back in, the doctor following right behind him.
"Well, there's no internal bleeding, no broken bones."
Edward pulls the ice pack away, and my eyes go wide at the improvement in his features. He's still bruised and bloody but I can make out the sharp outline of his jaw and the slender slope of his nose. I was right. His eyes are green.
"The swelling's gone down pretty significantly thanks to the ice packs, no stitches necessary. I think you're gonna be fine." The doctor tucks his clipboard under his arm. "Now, with that being said, I still don't want you sleeping for the next twenty-four hours. Is there someone you can stay with who will keep an eye on you overnight?"
The doctor looks at me and I in turn look at Edward, who looks down at his lap. He briefly closes his eyes before looking back up again.
"Nah. I'm sure I'll be fine on my own," Edward says, his speech somewhat intelligible. "I can stay up. No problem. Do it all the time."
A crease in his brow, the doctor straightens. "I don't know how comfortable I am with that. I really think you should stay with someone. If you'd like I could admit you overnight."
"I'm sorry, Mr. Masen, but I can't in good conscience let you go without someone to stay with. I just can't." The doctor repeats my words and Edward looks at me out of the side of his eye.
"What? You heard the doc. Only twenty-four hours and I'll be out of your hair." He reaches up to flick the curly, brown ends, and my mouth drops.
"You can't be serious."
"As a heart attack. Which I didn't have, right, doc?" Edward asks, and the doctor shakes his head.
"Nope. No heart attack. But give it time." The doctor looks at me again before backing out of the room. "How 'bout I give you two love birds a couple minutes to discuss it? Sound good?"
"We're not love birds," I say, but he ignores me, pulling the curtain shut behind him.
"You happy now?" I ask.
"Well, yes. I kinda am."
"Uh huh. Right. Now the whole hospital's going to think we're together."
Edward shrugs. "And that's a bad thing?"
I squint at him. "Are you kidding me right now? You really expect me to take a stranger to my house and show him where I live?"
He shrugs again. "Why not? Could be fun."
"Fun?" I repeat, doubtful.
"I don't even know you."
"You can't have fun with people you don't know?"
The more he runs his yap, the more I miss the mumbles.
"What if you're just some punk? A serial killer. How do I know you didn't deserve this?" I point to his face.
"Love muffin, please." He reaches for me and I swat his hand away.
"Shut up. Don't call me that."
The nurse chooses that moment to come in and take a set of vitals, and we both go silent until she leaves.
Licking his plump, busted lip, Edward leans in closer to whisper under his breath. "Look, I'm not just some punk, okay? I'm not going to kill you."
"But you've killed?"
"What? No! I've never killed anybody. Never would. And I for damn sure didn't deserve this."
I give him a look that says I don't believe him.
"Okay, maybe a little. But that's beside the point. I can't afford to stay here overnight. Can't afford the bill I'm already gonna get. So, either you take me home or say you're going to and we'll part ways and maybe I won't die." Edward leans away just as the doctor walks back in.
"You two love birds decide anything yet?"
Edward and I look at each other, and I sigh. "Yeah. I suppose I can do it. But just so he doesn't die. And we're not love birds." I add again for good measure. But the doctor continues to ignore me.
"Great. I'll get the papers together so you guys can get out of here. Sound good?"
I give him what I'm sure is an irritated smile. "Sounds great."
Edward and I don't talk while we wait. I offer to wheel him out front, making sure to knock him into a couple walls before we make it outside.
"Hey, what are you doing?" he asks when I swipe the phone off his lap.
"Calling a cab. What's it look like?"
He tells me to order him a pizza in the background as I dial. I ignore him, handing him his phone back when I'm done.
The taxi seems to take even longer than the ambulance. I pace as Edward watches me like a human tennis match.
"Jesus, it's freezing. Why is it so cold?"
"Uh, because it's January in Chicago?" Edward says, and I stop long enough to scowl at him.
He holds his hands up as if to say "well, excuse me," and I continue to pace until the taxi finally shows up.
Even though I kind of want to leave him, I open the back door, pausing to face him. "Are you coming or what?"
It takes a few seconds for him to comprehend before he's out of the chair and climbing in behind me. I interrupt his directions and tell the cabbie to head to my place instead.
"Really? You sure?"
"No. But I can't very well let you go home to die now, can I?" I glance at him briefly before looking back out the window. "You just better not be a serial killer."
We ride the rest of the way in silence right until we pull up to the apartment complex and fight over who's going to pay the fare. Edward wins when he tosses some cash up front and scoots out of the backseat to offer me his hand. I wave it away, motioning for him to move so I can get out.
"So, this is your place, huh?" he asks as he follows me up to the entrance.
"Uh, yeah. Me and all the other hundred or so tenants."
I hide the security system with my body to type in the code so he can't see then lead him inside to the elevator where we ride five stories up to my floor.
Edward follows me down the hall as I dig around in my purse for the key. I hesitate at the door before unlocking it because this is it. There's no turning back. This is the last hurdle before a complete stranger who could or could not be a serial killer will be in my apartment.
Pushing the door open, I step inside and hang up the keys on the key holder. I shrug off my coat and hang it on the coat rack before bracing myself to be a gracious hostess to my guest. "Can I get you something to drink? There's water, juice, soda, tea," I say as I lock the door.
"So many choices."
"Yeah, well I like to keep my options open. So, what'll it be?"
He opts for tea, and I pour him a glass. Setting it down on the counter, I scoot it in front of him.
"I'm hungry. You hungry?" I ask.
Taking a drink, Edward nods as he swallows. "Starving. You got any butter, bread, cheese? I can whip us up some of my mediocre grilled cheeses."
"Well, yeah. It's the least I can do for you letting me stay here. Now, where do you keep the pans and I'll get started." Edward rounds the bar into the kitchen.
I point to the cupboard with the pots and pans before gathering the rest of the supplies.
"You go sit and watch the magic happen," Edward orders, and I gladly do as he says.
"So, Bella Swan, is it?"
"Sure is. And you're Edward Anthony Masen."
"Sure am." Licking some butter off his finger, Edward grabs another piece of bread. "You got a middle name?"
Edward shrugs one shoulder. "I don't know. I don't know everybody and I'm not trying to. Just you." He points over his shoulder with the knife.
I'm not sure if my reaction is flattery or fear from being addressed with a sharp object.
"Well, if you absolutely must know."
"Oh, I absolutely must."
I silently sigh.
"It's Marie. And my real name is Isabella," I blabber for some reason, giving him more information than he really needs. "But, everybody calls me Bella for short. You got a nickname? Something not as proper as Edward?"
"Not really." He drops a piece of buttered bread on the pan and it sizzles. "My grandma used to call me her little Eddiekins." I smile at his backside. "And my brother, he sometimes calls me Eddie. But that's only when he actually takes the time to call."
"He doesn't live around here?"
"That's the one."
"Wow, that's far. You got family there or something?"
He shakes his head.
"He move there for a girl?"
"Uh … you could say that."
It takes me long enough, but I eventually start to catch on. "Oh. And, does this girl's name so happen to be Mary Jane?"
Edward turns to me, feigning surprise. "You know her?"
I smile at him. "Doesn't everybody?"
He nods. "Yeah, well. She is pretty smokin'."
I laugh to myself when he turns away to flip the sandwich.
"Speaking of which, I should probably burn this shirt. Unless you have a secret to getting out blood stains."
"No, but I can try." Sliding off the stool, I disappear into my room and bring out an oversized T-shirt for him to wear. "Here, you can wear this while I try and wash yours. But no promises."
After tossing the spatula on the counter, Edward pulls his shirt over his head and I momentarily forget how to swallow. His skin is nearly as light as mine, decorated with a scattering of bruises in all different stages of healing over his ribs. I don't get a long time to look before he grabs the shirt out of my hand and pulls it on.
"Can I ask you a question?" I ask.
"Why were you left out on the street like that? Who jumped you? Why did they jump you?"
"Good question. Now, can I ask you one?"
I cross my arms over my chest, more than annoyed he didn't answer me. "Sure."
"What was a girl like you doing out in the middle of a neighborhood like that alone?"
"A girl like me?"
"Yeah. Nice, clean. The kind that carries a can of pepper spray around and announces it." He flips the grilled cheese over once more to check it then tosses it onto a plate. He cuts it at an angle and hands me half.
"If you must know, I was heading to a party. I couldn't remember the address so I had the cab driver drop me off on the nearest block so he could get home to celebrate New Years with his wife and kid. No big deal." I shrug and take a bite of my sandwich. It really hits the spot. "So, what about you? What's your story?"
"I have no story."
"Everybody has a story."
"Yeah, okay." My nostrils flare and I take another bite before tossing the crust in the trash. "Thank you for the sandwich," I force out instead of a rebuttal. I refuse to get into another fight with him this soon.
"No problem. I hope you liked it."
"I did. It was very tasty." It nearly kills me not to threaten him with some sort of additional bodily harm, but I refrain by heading into the living room instead.
After I show him around, I leave him alone for a minute to soak his shirt in the washer. When I get back, he's lying on the couch with his eyes closed.
"Hey! Get up. Come on." I snap my fingers in his face and his eyes open.
"I was just testing you." Yawning, he sits up. "Congratulations, you passed."
Scooting between his knees and the coffee table, I take a seat beside him, instantly feeling how tired I really am, too.
"All right. So, what are we gonna do? We got a lot of time to kill and I don't think I can make it through a movie."
"Yeah, me either."
We stare at the blank TV while we think of what to do in order to keep ourselves awake at two o'clock in the morning.
"I've got some board games, but they're all missing pieces." I scrunch my nose.
"How 'bout PlayStation or Xbox? Call of Duty could keep anybody up. I would know."
"Nope. No game stations. Sorry."
Edward shrugs. "No need to be sorry. I guess we could always take turns doing each other's nails."
I give him a look then flick off my shoes. "Well, I'm gonna go change real quick." Standing, I point at him. "I better not catch you sleeping again when I get back."
Edward holds up his hands, and I disappear into the bedroom, sure to lock the door before I get naked. Putting on my flannel top, I button every single button then pull on the bottoms because I have company. Since I'm not trying to impress him, my hair goes up in its usual messy bun. However, I do forgo my penguin slippers. If I have to be stuck with this guy the rest of the night there's no way I'm giving him any extra ammunition.
He's still awake when I return to the living room and plop down on the opposite end of the couch.
"What are those? Penguins?" He leans over to rub a piece of the fabric between his fingers.
"Yeah. Why? You got a problem with penguins?"
"No. Not at all. In fact, I think they're cute. Just like you."
A crease in my brow, I give him an unsure smile. "Are you hitting on me right now? Is that what's happening?"
"Of course not. I would never hit on an attractive girl I was stuck with all night. What kind of guy would that make me?"
"Oh, so now you're stuck with me?"
"That's not what I meant and you know it."
We go silent again and stare at the blank TV before I finally give up and turn it on. I flip through the channels a few times before settling on some home makeover show.
"Happy New Year, by the way," I say, remembering neither one of us really got to celebrate.
"Yeah. It's been a real great start so far."
"Meh, I've had worse."
"Really?" Edward turns to face me. "Well, don't hold out on me. Let's hear it."
"Okay." Pulling my legs in, I turn to face him, too. "But you have to tell me something in return."
He rolls his eyes. "Fine. Now spill."
"Okay. Well, three years ago I went to my first real New Year's party and this girl spilled her cranberry cocktail all down the front of my dress." He looks at me unimpressed and I hold my finger up as if to say there's more. "And last year my friend Lauren puked in my shoe. I was pulling chunks out of it for a month."
"That's it? That's the worst you've had it? Stains and some puke?"
"Hey, my struggles may not be as life-threatening as yours, but not getting anything on me is nothing short of a miracle. Besides, I prefer being boring and predictable. It's who I am."
"Wait. Hold up, who said you were boring and predictable?"
"No one. But I know what you're thinking."
"Oh, you do?"
"Oh, this should be fun." Stretching his neck from side to side, he settles back against the arm of the couch. "Okay ... What am I thinking?"
"Ha ha. Very funny." I throw the remote at him and he catches it. "All right, now it's your turn. Who beat you up tonight and why?"
"Nope. Not gonna happen."
I sigh. "Why not? Is it really that bad that you can't tell me?"
"Yes, it's really that bad. Pick something else."
"Okay." I think about it. "Did you grow up around here?"
He nods proudly. "Hyde Park, born and bred."
"So, you are just some punk."
We both laugh quietly, letting it die off in a hum.
"How 'bout you? You grow up around here?"
"No. I actually grew up in Miami."
"Yeah, me. What do you think?" Pulling up my sleeve, I rub my arm. "I used to be tan, if you can believe it. This skin isn't a complete lost cause."
"I think you have nice skin."
"Well, thank you."
A silence falls over us again and I mentally tally up all the times he's been nice to me. It's pretty much been the whole time we've known each other. Though, he somehow still seems to drive me crazy.
"So, why are you in Chicago? Miami wasn't exciting enough for you?"
"A little too exciting, actually."
"And what does that mean?"
I shrug my shoulders. "My mom isn't really all that mom-like."
"Yeah. Most of the time it was like she was the kid. I was too afraid she'd try and get me to take her to frat parties or something, so I applied out of state."
"And how'd that go?"
"I'm sure you can imagine." I give him a humorless smile, and he looks at me in a way that he hasn't. A way that makes me incredibly uncomfortable. Like he sees me.
"So, what about your mom?" I ask.
"What about her?"
"How is she? Is she a good one or not so much?"
He shrugs a shoulder, looking off in the direction of the TV. "Not so much."
I slowly nod in understanding and look at the TV myself. We watch a few minutes before I feel comfortable enough to start in on him again.
"So, you have a brother, huh? Is that your only sibling?"
"Uh, yeah." He tears his eyes away from the muted show long enough to answer me. "He's the only other one."
"Were you guys close growing up?"
"You could say that. He's older, so I pretty much followed him around everywhere he went."
I smile at his profile. "Aw, that's sweet."
He scoffs. "Yeah, super sweet."
I get the feeling he'd rather not talk about it from the way he shuts down. I can't blame the guy since family life has always brought me down, too.
"Hey, you care if I use your bathroom?" he asks after a few moments.
"Yeah, it's just down the hall, first door on the right if you didn't remember."
He excuses himself with a mumbled thanks. As soon as he disappears behind the door, it swings back open. "You got any neosporin?" He points to his face. "This is starting to dry out and it stings like a bitch."
"Yeah, sure thing." I get up to show him where I keep the first aid supplies then leave him alone to tend to his wounds while I plug in my phone and start cleaning up the kitchen.
I'm drying my hands, reminiscing over how differently my night has gone when my phone chirps with an incoming text.
"Who's that, your boyfriend?" Edward asks, startling me when he comes out of nowhere.
"Uh, no actually. It's my friend, Angela. She was just checking in since I never showed up at the party."
"You tell her about me?"
"Why not? Are you ashamed of us or something?"
I give him an unamused look before turning my attention back to my phone. "If I tell her about you, she'll just say I'm crazy and insist on coming over."
"Is she hot?"
"'Cause if she's hot she should definitely come over so we can get this party started for real."
A disgusted noise escapes from my throat. "Don't do that."
"What? I'm simply trying to think of ways to pass the time." Stuffing his hands in his pockets, he shrugs. "Sounded like a good idea to me."
"Ugh, you're such a guy."
I send a quick text to Angela letting her know I'm fine and how my phone died before pouring us both another glass of tea and heading back into the living room. Cuddling up on the edge of the couch, I take a sip, nearly spitting it out all over the table when Edward opens his big, guy mouth again.
"Well, since we're not having a threeway tonight, might as well jump back into the interrogation. What's your major?"
Setting my cup of tea down, I clear my throat. "Uh, social service administration with a minor in art history."
"And you decided on one of the most expensive schools to get a social work degree?"
"Hey, social services administration is nothing to laugh at. It's a noble profession. One that pays way more than art history. This way I can explore my artistic side and be able to afford it," I reason smugly. "What about you? Are you going to school?"
"Nah. The college scene isn't really for me."
"Oh well, that's okay. But, can I ask what you do for a living then?"
Stalling, he takes a few big gulps of his tea then clears his throat. "I'm in sales."
"And what do you sell?"
"Stuff," I repeat.
"Yeah. I sell stuff. All kinds of stuff. You name it, I sell it."
"Mmhm, okay. Like, say, pencils? You sell pencils?"
Taking a drink, he nods.
"What about gerbils? You sell gerbils?"
"Are those the furry little things?"
"Yeah, they're the furry little things."
"Then, yeah. I sell those, too."
Pursing my lips, I nod, believing he sells things, just not those things.
"And was one of those things you sell the reason you got that pretty face of yours messed up tonight?"
"Could be." He finishes off his second serving of tea and sets down the glass. "But, I think we're missing the bigger picture here."
"And, what's the bigger picture?"
"That you think my face is pretty."
I give him yet another unamused look, and he returns it with another compliment. "Don't worry. You're pretty, too." He winks and stands, holding his hand out for my glass. "You want some more?"
I watch him as he leaves the room, perplexed by the way he acts and my feelings toward him. On one hand, he drives me crazy. On the other, I think I might kind of like it. I might kind of like him.
The thought worries me some because I hardly know the guy. And what I do know is riddled and wrapped up with flaming red flags.
"That's the last of it," he says, coming out of nowhere again. He hands me my glass and sits back down on his end of the couch.
More than aware of my budding feelings toward him, my line of sight is drawn to his lips as he drinks his tea. When he swallows, I swallow in appreciation of the way his Adam's apple bobs. And just like that, I'm uncomfortable again.
"So, what is it you do for fun? You have any hobbies?" I ask.
Setting down his glass, he wipes his lips on his sleeve. "Well, when I'm not busy selling gerbils and stuff, I'm typically relaxing at home, playing video games or watching TV. Sometimes I'll pick up a game of basketball with the guys down at the park. Hang out. Whatever. How 'bout you?"
"Uh, school work actually keeps me pretty busy. But when I have some free time, I like to spend it at my friend Jasper's."
"Jasper, huh?" he says, sounding a little annoyed. Maybe a little jealous.
"Yeah, but it's not like that. He's a glassmith and lives in a makeshift loft of this warehouse. He's teaching me to blow glass."
"So, let me get this straight. Your friend Jasper is teaching you to blow things in your spare time?" he teases. "How does one get that job? I'd like to apply."
Untucking my foot from under me, I kick him in his leg. "Why do you have to make everything so dirty?"
He smirks and tickles the bottom of my foot.
"Being dirty or touching you?"
Instead of re-tucking my leg underneath me, I stretch them both out along the back of the couch and prop my head on the armrest, secretly wanting him to keep touching me.
As if he can read my thoughts, he lifts one of my legs to rest it across his lap. All my warmth rushes down low when I realize in a way I'm straddling him.
"What are you doing?" I ask.
In lieu of answering, he slides his hand under the bottom of my pant leg to lightly finger my skin.
I'm torn between not wanting this to happen and wanting it to happen really badly when he sweeps the back of my knee then pulls his hand away altogether. I nearly cry out in disapproval while my insides mourn the loss of his touch, ferociously igniting when he rests the palm of his hand on my inner thigh.
My legs automatically spread wider when he runs it farther up, teasing the crease of my leg with the tips of his fingers. What I mean to do is stop him, but a quiet moan escapes me instead when he lightly thumbs the center of my pants, increasing the pressure the further he slides up the thin seam.
Another rush of wetness floods my underwear. Licking my lips, I look up to find him watching me. Mouth agape, his gaze shifts from my lips back up to my eyes.
I nearly come undone from a look, lifting my hips when he leans forward, his mouth stopping just shy of contact when his phone rings.
I can still feel the heat of his breath through my pants when he pulls back to look at the screen. Standing, he answers, holding up a finger before disappearing into the bathroom.
I'm momentarily paralyzed from shock, partially from my behavior, and partially by how easily he blew me off. I lie there until I hear the jiggle of the bathroom handle then scramble to right myself before he can see what he's done to me.
"Uh, listen," he says, coming to stand at the far end of the couch. "It was really cool of you to offer to let me stay and all. And, I don't want you to think I don't appreciate it 'cause I do. But something's come up and I gotta take care of a few things."
"Oh …" I say, trying not to sound too out of breath or disappointed.
"Yeah …" He almost looks sorry, just not sorry enough. "But, hey. No need to worry. Not that you would or anything. But, there's no way I'm sleeping now. Believe me."
Oh, I believe him, all right.
"Yeah, sure. Whatever you say."
He rubs the back of his neck, barely able to make eye contact. I can't blame him, given the awkward situation we've put ourselves in.
Not wanting to hold him up any longer, I stand and adjust my top then gesture for him to head to the door. I unlock it for him, holding it open so he can step out into the hallway where he stands for a moment, staring at his feet.
"Look, I'm sorry about …" He gestures to the couch.
"Yeah, let's not …" I shake my head and he nods.
"Right. Okay. Well, see you around maybe?" he asks, and I refrain from answering honestly.
Jutting his chin in understanding, he turns away, and I watch him walk down the hall a ways before closing and locking the door. I lean back against it.
Fact is our meeting was by chance. A coincidence of a predicament I won't find myself in again anytime soon.
Only one thing's for certain as I try to wiggle the lingering discomfort from between my legs and head to my room.
There's no way I'm going to be sleeping now either.
Knowing I can't doesn't stop me from trying, though. I lose the pants and climb under the covers. No sooner than my head hits the pillow I hear someone knocking.
My insides try to escape me. I scramble out of bed, booking it for the door, calming myself right before opening it to a nasty gash, two bruised eyes, and a busted bottom lip.
Rubbing his jaw, he points in the direction of the hallway. "Forgot my shirt."
"Oh, right." Momentarily forgetting which way to go, I hold up a finger. "Wait here a sec and I'll go get it."
I wrinkle my nose at the wet mess in my washer then wring out the water the best I can before taking it back out and handing it over to it's rightful owner. "There ya go."
Edward takes his ruined shirt then continues to stand there, staring at the door frame.
"Is there something else?" I ask.
He looks up at me, dropping the shirt at his feet.
"Yeah." Stepping forward, he grabs the back of my head and presses his mouth to mine in a kiss that shoots through my heart and sears my insides. His lips are surprisingly soft in spite of the beating they took. He tastes of tea and copper from the lingering blood, but I like it. Time seems to stop and speed up all at the same time when he pulls away way too soon.
"I also forgot your number," he says.
We exchange smiles. His confident. Mine somewhat shy as I take his phone and punch in my number for him.
"This way I can make sure I definitely see you around. You cool with that?" he asks, and I nod.
"Yeah, I'm cool with that."
I'm more than cool with that when he gives me another quick kiss then heads back down the hallway toward the elevator, talking over his shoulder. "I'm liking those jammies a lot better now that you've lost the bottoms."
I blanch, looking down to find myself pantless as he steps onto the elevator.
Picking up the shirt he forgot again, I cover myself and hurry back inside, incredibly annoyed but with a big smile on my face.
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