ROMANCE B&E M+
Requiring flowers, Edward stops at a small shop and leaves with more than he bargained for. Can the free-spirited girl be the one thing in his life he didn't know he was missing?
I almost missed the driveway. It was hidden by large bushes and overgrown grass, but at the last second, I saw the sign.
According to the website and the recording when I called, if the gate was open, then so were they.
The gate sat open, so I went in.
I parked on the flat surface in front of what I assumed was the shop. A quaint cottage stood back and off to one side, and to the left what at one time was a large garage, now turned flower shop. I entered the side door, looking around. Flowers, plants, and arrangements were everywhere. Cheerful music sounded from the speakers, the scent of the blossoms hung heavy in the air. A lazy cat slept curled up on a chair in the corner, opening one eye to inspect the intrusion before coiling back up and ignoring me. A bell over the door announced my arrival, and a singsong voice from somewhere inside echoed in the large room.
"Be right with you!"
"Thanks," I returned, continuing to look around.
A few minutes later, she appeared. At first I blinked, unsure of what I was seeing, then I smiled at the vision in front of me. A slip of a girl, pale-skinned and eyes like that of a doe—large and dark—she was a throwback to another time—a gypsy. Her skirt was layers of colors—bright and wild—her yellow blouse hanging off one creamy shoulder, a vivid tattoo of a lily standing out on her white skin. Her long, dark hair flowed down her back in a wild array of curls and waves, brilliant red streaks highlighting the deep color. Bracelets jangled at her wrists, and her feet were bare, the toenails a bright pink. As she walked toward me, there was the quiet sound of chimes, and when I looked down again, I spied a silver chain of tiny silver bells around her delicate ankle.
"How can I help?"
I met her gaze, immediately under her spell. Warm, intelligent, and gentle, her eyes were so dark they looked like the richest of espresso you would sip in the early morning hours, the kind that brings you to life.
"You need some flowers?" she asked.
"Oh." I shook my head to clear it. "Yes."
"Then you're in the right place. If you'd wanted Chinese takeout, you would need to go a little farther down the road."
I paused, then chuckled when I realized she was teasing. "No, flowers, please."
"What's the occasion?"
"Yes. Birthday? Anniversary? Fight with your girlfriend or wife?"
She clapped her hands. "Oh a just-because-arrangement? I love those!"
I rubbed the back of my neck nervously. "I'm not sure what I need them for is listed as an occasion, per se."
"Are you sure? I have a book. I can look it up."
She nodded. "The floral world is filled with lots of instruction books. Lists all sorts of odd occasions you may need flowers for and suggestions. Tell me what you need, and I'll figure it out." She looked around. "If I can find it. If not, I'm good on my feet. I can figure it out."
I stared at her for a moment, trying not to laugh. She was mesmerizing. When she spoke, her voice was a low hum in the air, and her hands moved constantly, the bangles on her wrists crashing together creating a symphony of noise as she gestured and pointed.
She thrust out her hand. "I'm Bella, by the way."
"Oh." I extended my own hand, closing it around hers. "Edward. Edward Cullen."
We both looked down at our clasped hands, the world around us ceasing to exist. A shock, so intense and hard, travelled through my arm at the feel of her hand in mine. As if…it was meant to be there.
I looked up, meeting her dark gaze. Her eyes widened, and I was close enough to see the small flecks of gold in the dark, like bits of sunlight breaking through the night. Her chest heaved, my heart rate picked up, then she stepped back, pulling her hand away and breaking the spell.
"Who are the flowers for?"
I cleared my throat. "My mother."
"Okay. Not her birthday? Are they Sorry-I've-been-a-bad-son sort of flowers, then?"
I scratched my head. "No. More like, Sorry-I've-just-dumped-the-girl-you-hoped-would-give-you-grandbabies sort of flowers."
"Huh. I don't have to look at the book. Pretty sure that one isn't in there."
I smirked. "Told ya."
"I can work with it, though."
She turned and disappeared among the flowers and plants.
"Why?" she called out.
I frowned as I bent down to scratch the cat on the head. It opened up one eye again, glaring at me, and took a swipe with his paw.
"Careful," Bella grinned as she came around the corner. "He's a mean one these days. I had him neutered a couple weeks ago, and he isn't ready to forgive." She patted him absently on the head. "Are you, Jakey, my boy?"
He turned his back and curled back up, ignoring her affection.
"You didn't answer my question," she called as she disappeared in another direction.
"I thought if I brought her flowers, she might not be so upset."
Bella poked her head around the corner, rolling her eyes at me. "Duh. I meant why did you dump the girl your mother liked so much?"
"Oh," I grimaced. "I decided, perhaps, she wasn't the girl for me. She was far more interested in a few other things besides me."
She appeared again, carrying a large plant. "Such as?"
"The size of my bank account, spending it, and having an affair with my neighbor."
She stopped midstride. "Oh. I can see that being as issue. Well, all of those things, I suppose."
I snorted. "I thought she just didn't like sex. Apparently, she disliked sex with me."
"Are you bad at it?"
She pivoted, putting the plant down. "Not as good as the neighbor, it would seem."
"I'm plenty good at it."
She patted my shoulder as she drifted past. "I'm sure you are."
It took everything in me not to grab her and prove to her just how good at it I was. Push that ridiculous skirt up and show her until she was screaming my name.
I shook my head at those strange thoughts and cleared my throat. "She never complained."
"She didn't." I insisted, unsure why I needed to convince this woman. "Her only issue…" My voice trailed off, and I shook my head. What the hell was I doing?
"Issue?" she prompted, poking her head back around the corner.
"She, ah, refused to…" I felt my cheeks flush and waved my hand across my groin area. "She said she didn't like…"
Her eyebrows lifted. "Oh, I see."
"That was a lie too, it seemed, since when I walked in a few days ago, she was on her knees doing exactly that to that fucker."
"Yep. I should have known. No sex for over a month and never any… Yeah. I was an idiot."
"She sounds like a piece of work. And your mother liked her?"
"She played us both well. She's the daughter of my mother's friend. My mother thinks I'm getting past my prime and I need to settle down. Get married. Have kids. She was sure Lauren was perfect for me. I took her out to shut up my mother and I thought she was nice. Funny, pretty, and she seemed to like me."
She appeared in front of me, her face outraged. "Your mother thinks you're getting past your prime? What are you, thirty?"
She snorted. "In your dotage, for sure." She looked me up and down, her appraisal making me warm. "Is there something wrong with you?"
"No," I scoffed. "I've been busy with my career; my personal life took a backseat. My mother just likes to tease, that's all." I cleared my throat. "She thinks I'm too serious all the time. Too predictable."
She nodded. "You look good to me. I'm sure you'll find someone."
"I look good, eh?"
"I'd do you."
I gaped at her, then ran my hand through my hair, tugging on it. What the hell was I doing? Talking to a strange woman about the fact that my ex-girlfriend hated blowjobs, didn't like sex with me, and my mother wanted me married off? Was I crazy?
She frowned and leaned forward, pulling on my arm. "Your mother is right about one thing—you need to relax, Edward. You are way too tense to be only thirty-two. You should loosen up a little."
"Easier said than done." I sighed. "Did you figure out something for my mother?"
"I assume since you're rolling in it, you don't mind spending a little extra on the perfect thing for her? You know, to ease the disappointment when she finds out the skank-ho isn't gonna be joining the family and popping out little devil-ho spawns?"
My lips twitched. This woman was nuts…but I rather liked it.
"No, I don't mind spending a little extra to soften the blow."
She nudged my arm. "Was that a joke?"
She shook her head sadly. "I was so hopeful for a moment." She held out her hand. "Come with me."
Without a thought, I placed my hand in hers and followed her. She pulled me along, turning up a couple rows, down a narrow hall, and into a large room. It was a sunroom, large windows facing a wooded area. A fireplace filled one wall, the mantle old and ornate. Two loveseats sat beside the fireplace, and in the corner was a huge armchair with two more cats asleep in it.
Cushions were piled high on the small sofas, and an old, soft-looking blanket was draped over the corner. Books and CDs were jammed on the shelves around the fireplace, and plants took up every ledge by the windows. Bella pulled me over to a shelf and pointed to something on the top.
I looked at the container and frowned. "I don't understand."
"It's for your mother."
"It's a root covered in moss. I was thinking of something…pretty."
She rolled her eyes. "It's a bonsai tree, Edward. It's a living, breathing thing. You have to prune and water it, take care of it. It'll keep her busy until she stops, ah, grieving."
"And how much is this wonder?"
"This one is one hundred and fifty. It comes with the pruning kit, too."
"One hundred and fifty dollars? For a stunted tree?"
"People find them very relaxing, Edward. It's a rarer variety—it blooms in the spring." She pursed her lips. "I have cheaper ones, but I think she'd like this one."
I ran a hand through my hair. "Okay. Fine."
She nodded, her hand on her hip. "Now, about you."
"Your mother is going to be happy, but you need something, too."
I shook my head. "I'm fine—I don't need a plant. I'm already late, so if you can pack up the root, I mean tree, I'll be on my way."
"I wasn't talking about a plant."
"What were you talking about, then?"
She didn't respond—she lunged. Her arms wrapped around my neck and her mouth was on mine, soft and pressing. I wrapped my arms around her waist, yanking her tight, meeting her frenzied caresses with my own. Our tongues slid together, her taste overwhelming me. With a groan, I lifted her, cupping her ass as she wrapped her legs around my waist. Burying her hands in my hair, she pulled me closer, tugging on the short strands. It felt much better than when I pulled on it myself.
"sofa," she mumbled against my mouth. "Now."
I knew I should put her down. Tell her to stop this craziness. We didn't know each other. But I didn't want to—I wanted to keep kissing her. She smelled good. She tasted good. She felt good melded to my body, and I wanted her even closer. I stumbled back, my legs hitting the edge of the cushion, and fell back into the softness of the furniture. Bella was straddling me. My cock apparently had no issues with the fact we didn't know each other, since he was hard and throbbing for this tiny woman. She rolled her hips, her warmth radiating through the layers of her skirt. I grabbed her thighs, holding her down, and thrust up. She pulled back, gasping, her cheeks flushed and lips swollen from mine.
"Better every fucking second." I smirked, reaching for her again, but she shook her head, sliding off my lap. I opened my mouth to protest, but she sank to her knees, running her hands up my thighs, her mouth curling into a wicked grin.
"I think I know something you need more than anything else. And I'm going to give it to you."
My eyes widened to the point I was sure they would roll right out of their sockets. It felt like I was having an out-of-body experience. I saw her hands slide my belt buckle open. I heard the low growl of my zipper being tugged down, and I felt her hands tugging at my pants. Hell, I even helped—lifting my ass so she could pull the heavy fabric and cotton of my boxers down past my knees. The rush of cool air on my cock was replaced with her lips, and suddenly the experience was no longer me looking from the sidelines. My head slammed back against the cushions as the heat and wet of her mouth covered me. There was no gentle teasing, no light touches of her fingers or swirls of her tongue. Instead, she engulfed me and the pleasure so great, I buried my hand into her thick curls, hissing in ecstasy. She lifted her eyes, meeting my befuddled, lustful gaze. I traced her lips with my finger, my voice low and husky. "My cock looks so good in your mouth."
She pulled back, my cock slipping from her lips, glistening. "It feels good." She lowered her head. "It tastes good, too." She plunged back down, taking me deep into her mouth.
I shouted out, my hips lifted and I slid deeper down Bella's throat. She rose up on her knees, taking even more of me, her hands running up and down my thighs as her head bobbed, her throat constricted, and her tongue curled. Over and again she took me until I couldn't control myself anymore.
"You need…Bella… Stop…I'm … Oh God… I'm…"
And I came. Hard, pulsating and spurting. She hummed and swallowed around me, never wavering, or pulling back until I collapsed spent and stunned, my body shaking, mind reeling and my cock happier than he'd been in a very long time.
Bella rocked back on her heels, smiling up at me.
My hand was shaking as I ran a finger down her cheek. "What the hell was that for?"
She rose up, her face close to mine. "Because I wanted to see your eyes smile."
She studied me for a moment. "It worked."
I wrapped my hand around her neck, pulling her close. I kissed her, tasting the sharpness of my come on her tongue. For some reason, I found it sexy, knowing I had somehow marked her. She was filled with me. With a low growl, I yanked her down, kissing her hard, losing myself in her for a moment, until she pulled back.
"Your mom is waiting."
Those words killed the idea I had for an encore. One where she rode me on this little sofa in front of her fireplace. "Right."
"I'll let you, ah, get yourself together."
She started to walk away. "Is that cash or credit?"
"Ah, are we talking about the root thing?"
She smirked. "You're well off, Edward, but I doubt you could afford what I would need to charge you for the smile."
I grinned at her. "No argument here. And credit, please."
Ten minutes later, I was in my car, heading to my mothers. Beside me was a stunted tree, wrapped in a pretty box with a bow. There was no extra charge for that, Bella assured me. She had walked me out to my car and sent me off with a wave. She'd said nothing about what occurred or asked about seeing me again. She'd only smiled and kissed my cheek.
She was an enigma.
A sexy, alluring gypsy of an enigma.
One I wanted to solve.
My mother loved the freaking branch, exclaiming over its "beauty." When I told her about Lauren, she only rolled her eyes. "That one was trouble."
"I thought you liked her!"
She shrugged. "I liked the idea of her. And I admit, she seemed nice at the start, but I got a bad vibe off her."
"You weren't wrong. She was fucking Tom next door."
Her eyes widened. "Edward! Your language!"
"She was, though. I caught them."
She tsked. "Well, then, you're better off without the bitch."
I gaped at her. I don't think I had ever heard my mother swear before.
"Don't worry, sweetheart. We'll find you the right girl." She patted my cheek. "We need to do it soon, before you start to lose your hair. You pull on it too much. I'm not sure we'll be able to peddle your ass if you're bald. Not to mention you're already stuck in your ways. Predictable. We need to move fast."
I resisted the urge to tell her I had just had a blow job from a complete stranger. She wouldn't be able to call me predictable then. Instead, I only shrugged. "I'm still rich."
She shook her head. "Thank goodness we have that to fall back on." Then she started to laugh, and I joined her. I loved her silliness, even when it was directed at me.
I changed the subject. "How's Dad?"
I knew that would get her going. My dad was always in trouble, even when he didn't try. He was working at the hospital tonight, so it was a good chance to hear the latest dirt. She picked up her wine. "Did I tell you what he did last week?"
I lifted my glass, letting her talk. My thoughts were definitely elsewhere. They were in a room with a lot of plants, sleeping cats, and a sexy gypsy girl named Bella, who had a wickedly talented mouth, both when she was teasing me…or teasing me.
Jessica slammed her hands on her hips. "You are the worst boss in the world!"
I stared at her. "What did I do?"
"You need these when?"
I looked at the prospectuses in her hand. "By two?"
"I'll have to work through lunch!"
My brow furrowed. "It's not like you haven't done that before." I looked at my watch. "Go now, and you'll be back by two."
She slammed out of my office, stomping down the hall. I shook my head. What was with her today? She was usually a great assistant—always helpful and eager to pitch in. I glanced at my calendar, the answer becoming clear right away, and I groaned. It was her birthday, and I hadn't remembered. I always had my mom help me pick out an appropriate gift, but with everything going on lately, I forgot. I hadn't wished her happy birthday, and now I'd just messed up her lunch date with her friends. No wonder she was so pissed.
I needed a gift, and I needed it now. I looked around my office as if somehow something would appear out of thin air. Movement caught my eye as a branch waved in the breeze.
Women loved flowers. I could get her a massive bunch of flowers and send her home early.
And I knew just where I could find some.
The bell jingled over my head, and Jakey looked up from washing his ass as I walked in. I inhaled the sweet scent of Bella's store.
"Be right there!" she sang out from the back.
I headed toward her voice, rounded the corner, and caught my breath. Today she wore a brilliant blue, loose dress that swirled around her knees in an explosion of lace. Thin spaghetti straps held up the tight bodice, and her hair was piled up on top of her head, long loose tendrils drifting over her bare shoulders. There was another tattoo behind her ear, and I felt the intense desire to get closer and see what she had etched into her skin.
"Hey," I breathed out.
Startled, she turned, a long red rose in her hand, a thorn pricking her skin. She cried out softly, dropping the flower, and held her hand. Immediately, I stepped forward, and grabbed her hand, inspecting it. The skin was broken, but only slightly, more reddened than hurt. I lifted her palm to my mouth, ghosting my lips over the skin.
She smiled, her eyes warm. "All better."
"Why are you here?"
"I need flowers."
"Your mom didn't like the tree?"
"She loved it." I squeezed her hand gently. "I, ah, screwed up again."
"What this time? Do I need the book?"
"You might. This is one of those I-forgot-my-assistant's-birthday-and-made-her-miss-her-birthday-lunch sort of flower requirement."
She pursed her lips. "I need to inform the powers that be all of these new reasons to buy flowers."
"Will you get a prize?"
"Maybe. I have been wanting a new toaster oven. Mine only toasts the bottom of the bread. Then I have to flip it over and toast the top. But the bread gets hard. I'm not a fan.""Well, I hope you get it."
She grinned. "You keep screwing up, I have a chance!"
"I'll do my best."
"Your eyes are happier today."
I moved a little closer. "They, and every other body part, feels happier today."
She arched an eyebrow at me, tilting her head. "Is that a fact."
I ran a finger up her arm, tracing the lily on her shoulder. "It is." I ghosted my hand up her neck, cupping her cheek. "You look very pretty today, Bella. I like you in blue."
She shivered. "I like you in less clothes," she murmured, wrapping my tie in her hand and drawing me to her mouth.
I groaned, capturing her lips with mine. It was a repeat of last night—the instant her mouth touched mine, I ceased to care about anything else. Bending, I picked her up, lifting her to the counter. Her legs locked around my ass as she pushed my blazer off my shoulders. I dragged my mouth down her neck, licking and biting, pushing the thin straps out of the way with my teeth. She gasped as I tugged her bodice down, capturing her breasts in my mouth, sucking and teasing her nipples into hard peaks. I lifted my mouth to her ear. "My turn to make your eyes smile, Bella."
I pushed her back, cupping the back of her head so she wasn't hurt. She lay on her cutting table, amid bunches of flowers, the most beautiful blossom of them all. Never breaking our locked gaze, I bunched her skirt, lifting it slowly, letting my hands drag along her soft skin. I inhaled hard when I reached her apex—bare and wet. Waiting for me. "Are you always…"
"I hate underwear."
I ran my fingers over her skin, gently teasing the soft crease. Wrapping my hands around her thighs, I spread her wide, dragging her forward, and bent down, sliding my tongue along her folds. She gasped, arching her hips. Placing a hand on her stomach, I pressed down, keeping her in place as I buried my face into her warmth. Licking, nipping, and teasing, I feasted on her. Her taste was intoxicating, rich and pungent—honey-laced musk. Belle undulated, keening my name, grabbing at my hair and pulling. I hummed around her, sliding in two fingers and pumping hard. Her body stilled, and she cried out, her muscles fluttering and gripping as she came. I rode out her orgasm, softening my caresses until she lay limp and sated. Turning my head, I pressed a kiss to her thigh, suckling on the skin, knowing I had left a mark on her again today. A far more tangible one I hoped no one but she and I would ever see.
Lifting my head, I met her contented gaze and sleepy smile. "Hey."
"Hi," she said with a grin.
"You are amazing," I whispered.
Reaching out, she cupped my face, her fingers stroking the skin. "So are you."
We stared at each other. I opened my mouth to speak, when the phone rang, breaking our moment. I helped her up, and she slid off the table, reaching for the handset. I slipped into the small restroom and cleaned up. When I came out, she was busy creating. Watching her was magical. Simple stalks of flowers became art under her hands. The same way I came alive under her touch, the blossoms became more than something pretty. They became beautiful. She turned, holding out a vase. "Will this do?"
"I didn't spare any expense."
"I added a gift certificate for the spa down the road. My friend Alice runs it. We do a lot of cross promotion."
I'd do anything she asked or suggested. I held out my credit card. "Perfect."
Jessica loved her flowers and her spa certificate. I went from being an asshole to a hero. I sent her home early, and once she was gone, I was alone with my thoughts.
Bella was all I could think about. Her taste. How she felt under my hands, the way she moved. How she made me laugh, the way she made me feel. My head fell back on my chair.
Once again, I got a wave and a kiss on the cheek when I left. No questions, no requests. I had wanted to ask if I could see her tonight, but another car had pulled in and she'd walked away. More than once I had lifted the phone to call her, but for some reason, I'd hesitated. Maybe she didn't feel this draw. Maybe I was the only one who felt this pull. For all I knew, she had other men in her life.
Just the thought of that made my stomach clench. I wanted to be the only one who saw her when she came. Heard her voice calling out in passion.
With a curse, I gave up and shut down my computer. No more work was happening today.
"You know this is my parking spot, Edward." One of my elderly co-workers stood in front of me, her arms crossed, glaring.
"I'm sorry, Mrs. Cope. I wasn't thinking earlier. I was distracted when I got back from my, ah, errand."
"I had to walk three extra rows, the lot was so full."
"I'm not young like you. My knees are bad."
"I know. It won't happen again."
She shook her head. "Make sure it doesn't."
I watched her drive away, feeling badly. I hadn't been thinking earlier when I came back. All I had been thinking about was Bella.
I needed to do something to make it up to Mrs. Cope.
I rubbed the back of my head, then grinned.
Flowers seemed like the right way to go.
The bell jangled, and Bella looked up. "You dropped the vase?"
"No, I messed up again."
"Oh, boy. Hit me. What sort of mess up now?"
"The I-took-a-nice-old-lady's-parking-spot-and-she-called-me-out-on-it sort of mess up. You got flowers for that?"
She slid off the stool she was perched on. "I am so getting that toaster oven. I need to write this one down."
"I can wait."
"Old ladies like azaleas." Turning, she pulled a plant off the shelf and placed it on the counter, waving her hand. "Ta-da!"
My face fell. "Okay."
"You don't like it?"
I shuffled my feet a little. "I was just hoping…it would take a little longer."
She leaned over, opened a small box, and pushed a button.
"What is that?"
"I just shut the gate. I'm closed for the night."
I had her in my arms in a second, my mouth on hers. I didn't have to ask directions—the way to her small sunroom was etched deep into my mind already. I took the turns and hallway like a well-seasoned pro.
I set her on her feet as our gazes locked.
"I want you naked," she whispered.
I discarded my blazer, loosened my tie and tugged off my shirt. Her pretty dress flew over her head, leaving her bare and beautiful. With eager hands she reached for my belt, and seconds later we were both naked and trembling with need. My cock was hard and throbbing, aching with want for her. She wrapped her hand around me, pumping slowly. Reaching down, I cupped her ass, pulling her forward.
I shook my head, grabbing for my pants. I held up a condom. "We're covered."
"A sure bet, was I?"
I smirked. "A hope, my gypsy-girl. I couldn't stop thinking about you all afternoon. I stopped at the drug store."
She held out her arms. "Come to me."
As soon as we sank to the floor in front of her fireplace, our mouths met in a series of blistering kisses. Our hands brushed over newly discovered skin, soft curves, hard edges, and hidden secrets. When I slid between her legs, burying myself inside her, I stilled at the intense sensation of belonging. Wrapping an arm around her waist, I began to move. I took her hard, holding her close, my thrusts rough and fast. She clung to me, her hips meeting mine, her quiet gasps and pleas filling the room as her fingers dug into my shoulders. My orgasm rushed through me, and I buried my head into her shoulder, roaring out her name as my cock emptied. Her head fell back as she cried out. I covered her mouth, kissing her, swallowing her cries and holding her as she shook in my arms.
For a moment there was silence. I drew back, gazing down at her. "I messed up your hair."
"I can fix it."
I kissed her. "You are astounding."
"Your ex was wrong."
"I don't know the neighbor, but there is no way sex with him could be anywhere near this good."
My shoulders shook with laughter. "I'll let you in on a little secret. I don't think I was that good with her."
I kissed her again. "Not that I wasn't good…"
"But something's different?"
I messed up a lot the next day.
Four times to be exact.
I forgot I had Mrs. Cope's plant on the roof of my car, and I pulled out of the driveway and reversed over it. I had to replace it. That was my I-murdered-the-nice-plant-I-bought-a-few-hours-ago addition to the list.
That went along with a heavy make-out session with Bella that left me horny and needy, which I was sure led to the incident in the lunchroom.
I dropped my coffee, and Debbie cleaned it up with only one dirty look thrown my way.
I headed to Bella's, confessed my sin of angering-the-nice-custodial-lady-after-she-just-washed-the-floors, got a humongous bunch of daisies and another tremendous blow job, and felt much more content for a few hours.
Until I was walking down the hall and ran smack into my boss's wife, sending her sprawling and embarrassed to the floor. I helped her up, apologizing profusely, and as soon as she disappeared into Garrett's office, took off for Cottage Flowers.
Bella rolled her eyes when I walked in, arching her eyebrow in silence.
"Mowed-down-the-boss's-wife-in-the-hall-and-need-make-it-up sort of flowers, please."
Carnations, irises, and baby's breath made Kate smile and earned me forgiveness. Taking Bella hard over her cutting table made me smile harder and earned me a mind-shattering orgasm.
Just as I was getting ready to leave work, my sister Rose called, asking if I had developed Alzheimer's.
"You were supposed to meet me for lunch. You never called to cancel, and I waited for you for an hour. And you haven't answered your phone, dipshit."
"Fuck." I had left my phone in the car.
"You can make it up to me tonight with dinner—my choice of restaurant. And it's gonna cost you. See you in an hour." She hung up.
I hightailed it to see Bella, picking up a huge bouquet of roses in a rainbow of colors and a quickie against the wall of her shop while she kept one eye on the front door since she was waiting for a delivery. I was late, but Rose loved her flowers, and dinner was enjoyable.
All and all, it was a busy day.
Jessica poked her head in my office door. "Edward, I know you said not to disturb you, but American Express is on the phone for you. The agent says it's urgent."
With a frown, I picked up the phone. "Edward Cullen."
"Mr. Cullen, this is Emily from the fraud section of American Express. We've detected an irregular spending pattern on your card. We think your account has been compromised."
"Yes, in the past three days, there have been multiple charges from a business called Cottage Flowers. Obviously, no one would ever have reason to purchase that many flowers in such a short time. We'll reverse the charges, cancel your card, and reissue a new one. We'll investigate the business that initiated the charges and open a fraud case if necessary."
I was on my feet in a second, almost yelling into the phone. "No!"
"I bought the flowers! The charges are legitimate! All of them!"
Her voice was incredulous. "You bought that many flowers in that short a time?"
"Ah, yes. I've had a bad luck streak lately. Lots of making up to do."
"So you authorize all the charges."
"Absolutely. And any others that appear from that business."
"I will make a note in your file."
"Thank you." I paused. "Could you possibly send me a statement showing all the purchases from Cottage Flowers? For, ah, my records."
"I'll do that right away. I have to say, Mr. Cullen, you buy a lot of flowers. Maybe you could give my husband some pointers." She laughed.
I hung up, sitting back and running my hand over my face. I had visited Bella twice yesterday, stopping on my way to work, grinning when she shook her head.
"It's only nine a.m., Edward. What could you have possibly have done to need flowers already?"
I stepped forward, unsure how to tell her all I really need was to kiss her. Instead, I shrugged. "I have a busy day today. I thought I'd pick up a one-on-hand-for-when-I-fuck-up bouquet for later."
She nodded. "That toaster over is gonna be convection."
"I aim to please."
I gave the flowers to Jessica for her mother, who had a cold. I got my kiss from Bella. Lots of them—slow, dragging passes of her tongue on mine that filled my senses with her taste and lingered all day. I went directly to her shop later, stepping in and pausing.
She was watering plants, singing softly, and looked beautiful. Her hair hung over her shoulders, the curls swaying as she moved. She had on a simple dress but bright-colored scarves tied around her waist. I shut the door loudly, and she swung around, a smile breaking out when she saw me.
"What this time?"
"I owe the lunch lady flowers."
"She made me a special sandwich."
"So this is…"
"…a no-mayo-extra-mustard-sandwich-for-the-picky-eater bouquet to say thanks."
"Are you always this generous with people?"
"Lately, it seems, yes."
"Any special reason?"
I moved a little closer, winding my hand into her hair and pulling her face to mine.
"Yeah, something pretty special, I think."
She whimpered as I lifted her, carrying her down the hall. This time we didn't make it to the fireplace. I sat down heavily on the sofa, Bella straddling my lap. In minutes, she was riding me, my hands tight on her hips as she gripped my shoulders, slamming down on me over and again. Our mouths were fused together, her moans and cries mixing with my groans. Being with her was amazing. She was amazing. I felt as if I came alive when I was in her presence, and I didn't want to let her go—ever.
Her body stiffened, and I pulled her down hard as I climaxed, burying my head into her neck as I roared her name. She called out my name softly, her voice shaky. I gathered her into my arms and sat back, not speaking, brushing kisses across her head and running my hands up and down her back.
I didn't leave this time. Instead, we curled up on her sofa, a blanket draped around us, her back pressed to my chest. She had built a fire, and the logs crackled, the flames dancing in the dark.
"How are you not taken, Bella?"
She hummed a little, tilting her head up. "I'm not partner material, Edward. I tried, but I'm no good at it."
"What are you talking about?"
"I was engaged once. But Ben had his own ideas about how I should act, the way we should be. He said he loved me, but then he changed. He didn't like how I dressed or the way I wore my hair. He hated my tattoos, my jewelry …" Her voice tailed off. "I think he started hating me."
She shrugged. "It was for the best. I broke it off and moved here. I bought this shop and cottage—I was driving by one day and saw the for-sale sign, and I fell in love. I had worked at a florist while I was in school, and I enjoyed it. I live my life for me. I answer to nobody, and nobody can tell me what to do."
"And there is…no one?"
"There's only been you for a very long time."
I pressed a kiss to her head, her words making my chest ache. She was too special for anyone to ask her to change.
"I like you exactly the way you are, Bella."
"I like you."
Our conversation echoed in my head. I had meant what I said, but I hadn't said everything I was thinking. I did like her exactly the way she was, and I liked how it felt when I was with her. She made me feel…free. Light. And it wasn't only the sex, although that was amazing. It was her. The warm aura she projected. I felt different when I was with her.
I had wanted to ask her last night to let me be the one in her life, but I had stopped. I had the feeling she wouldn't listen—she wasn't ready. I couldn't believe how ready I was.
My email pinged, and I brought up the message with the list of charges. I had bought an enormous amount of flowers the past few days.
This morning I had stopped, finding her buzzing around her shop. She pointed to a small table when I walked in.
"I made you two arrangements. That will get you through today, and you'll have to take notes tomorrow."
My heart plummeted. I couldn't see her later? Or tomorrow?
"Why?" I asked before I could stop myself.
"I have two weddings tomorrow and two on Saturday. I'm going to be swamped."
She moved toward me, wrapping her arms around my neck. "Bree will be here any moment to help me, so you'll have to take a rain check on your extra service." She pressed her mouth to mine, and I yanked her tight, kissing her hard. "I'll make it up to you. Promise."
The conversation had bothered me all day. She had been light, sweet, and affectionate, sending me on my way with two arrangements and another lingering kiss. I knew I'd see her in only a couple days, but for some reason it felt like it wasn't enough. Sex wasn't enough. I wanted to be there when her long day was over. Draw her a bath, rub her shoulders, make love to her. I didn't want to have to mess up and buy flowers to see her or touch her.
I spun around in my chair, staring out the window. Would she, I wondered, want those things too? Would she be open to a relationship where the other person didn't want her to change? Who loved her exactly for who and what she was? A free spirit who had brought something to my life I didn't even know was missing? A lightness that filled me up with the need to be with her every day—and not just sexually. I wanted to hear her talk, to listen to her laugh. I wanted to know her hopes, dreams. Kiss away her fears and hold her when she cried.
I wanted a life with her.
I only had to figure out how to get her to want the same thing.
Saturday evening, I pulled up in front of the store, hesitating. It had been a productive, nerve-wracking day. I had spent it making arrangements, phone calls, and packing a small bag. All my actions were based on an idea so ludicrous, even my mother would be shocked. But one I wanted more than anything I had ever wanted until today.
I looked over at the two boxes on the seat next to me, hoping they would be accepted. I patted my pocket, making sure the tiny box was still there. Of all the boxes, it was the one I prayed Bella would accept the most. I grabbed the boxes and went into the shop. No music greeted me, the bell silent, and Jakey's chair vacant. I went around the corner, stopping when I saw Bella. She was sitting at the cutting table, one arm propped on the surface, her head resting in her hand. She wore leggings and a long shirt, her hair tied back. For the first time since she exploded into my life, her brightness was missing. She looked tired…sad.
I hated it, and I was determined to change it.
Her head snapped up and she stood up, wiping away a tear.
I stepped forward, setting down the boxes I was carrying, worried. "Gypsy-girl, what's wrong?"
"Nothing. I'm tired." She tried to smile, the effort failing. "Even too tired for you, Edward."
"Well, then, it looks like I got here at the right time."
I leaned over, hitting the button for the gate.
"I'm here to take care of you."
She blinked at me. "What?"
I leaned down, kissing her cheek. "I brought dinner. You are going to relax and let me spoil you a little tonight."
"You don't have to…"
"I want to. Now lock up. You aren't coming back into the shop tonight."
Her eyes brightened. "Okay."
Bella was curled up on her sofa, a glass of wine in her hand. I bent over and pressed a kiss to her forehead, sitting down beside her with a huge plate of pasta.
"I'm starving," I said with a grin.
"I'm not sure if I'm more tired or hungry," she admitted.
"We're going to eat, and I'll draw you a bath so you can relax."
I picked up the fork, speared a fat ravioli, and lifted it to her mouth. "Open up."
"I can feed myself."
I waited, arching my eyebrow at her. She rolled her eyes and parted her lips, letting me slide the pasta in. I handed her the fork. "I'll feed you if you don't eat. You're already tiny. I don't want you wasting away."
She chewed slowly, her eyes on the plate, but there was a ghost of a smile on her lips.
"I know you're used to looking after yourself, Bella. But it's okay to accept a little help every so often."
"I'm not used to it."
I took back the fork, feeding her another pocket of pasta. "Neither am I. We'll figure it out together, okay?"
She tugged the fork out of my hand, stabbing more pasta and leaning forward, offering it to me. With a grin, I let her feed me.
"See? Not so bad."
She chuckled softly. "No, not so bad."
Her bathroom as vastly different from mine at home. Although the rest of the cottage had retained most of its original character, she had obviously upgraded the bath and kitchen. This room was distinctly feminine, with a corner tub, candles scattered throughout, and lots of girly bottles of lotions and bath things around. I had no experience, but I picked a bottle that smelled like her and added some to the tub while it filled. I found some fluffy towels in the cupboard and discovered a little pillow she could rest her head on while she relaxed. When I turned around, I was taken back at the amount of bubbles in the tub. The profusion of white was almost overflowing. I grabbed another towel—it may come in handy.
Bella was still on the sofa, sipping her wine and looking sleepy. "Hold tight to your glass," I warned, bending down, scooping her up, and striding down the hall.
In the bathroom, she giggled over the massive pile of bubbles.
"How much did you put in?"
"About six big squirts. Too much?"
I set her on her feet. "I'll know better next time. In you get."
She hesitated. "Are, ah, you joining me?"
Stepping forward, I ran my fingers down her cheek. "I know you're exhausted, Bella. I'd like to. I just want to hold you, if that's okay."
"Yeah. More than okay."
I bunched her shirt up, tugging it over her head. I pressed my mouth to her bare shoulder, tracing her lily with my lips. "So beautiful."
She hummed as she pulled off her leggings, standing in front of me, bare and beautiful. Lifting her arms, she gathered up her long tresses, using her hair tie to make a messy ponytail on the top of her head. The action caused her breasts to lift and sway and drew attention to the delicate form of her neck and arms. She was so fragile-looking, but I knew it was a deception. She was anything but fragile—she was silk encasing a core of steel. I held out my hand, helping her over the lip of the tub. Once she was almost hidden in the mountain of foam, I discarded my clothes and slipped in behind her, pulling her back to my chest. She sighed in contentment, nestling back to me and letting her body ease into mine. For moments there was only the sound of the slow drip of the tap, our breathing, and the low squeak of bubbles moving and popping.
Slowly, I rubbed her shoulders and the back of her neck. "God, baby, you're so tight."
"I had a lot of flower arrangements and bouquets to make. One wedding is a lot; four in two days is huge."
I slid my hands over her skin, kneading the knotted muscles. "I've got you gypsy-girl. Relax."
She sighed, and after a few moments she became loose and supple. Her head fell back to my shoulder, leaning to the right. Unable to resist, I dropped my face to her damp skin, kissing my way up and down her neck. Her hands tightened on my knees, and a breathy whimper escaped her mouth. I swirled my tongue on her skin, nuzzling at the soft spot right behind her ear.
"I know, baby. I don't want anything." I trailed my fingers over her breasts, cupping them in my palms. "I just want to make you feel good. Let me do that."
She mewled. I drifted my hands down her torso, caressing the skin, teasing her with my touch. Slowly, I hooked my legs over hers, tugging her open and sliding my fingers down to where her slick heat beckoned. Using my thumbs, I pulled back her folds and traced her clit, keeping my touch light. She moaned, pressing back against me, her toes curling against my legs.
"That's it, Bella. Feel, just feel."
I teased her. Gentle passes of my fingers, small circles against her center, harder nudges of my thumb, until she was crying out in need. I bent over her, sliding in two fingers, keeping my thumb on her clit and pumping into her. I pulled her head close, kissing her as I drove her to her release. She stiffened, her muscles clutching at my fingers as she came, groaning out my name, riding out her orgasm until her limbs sagged and she splayed out in the water.
I pressed another kiss to her mouth. "All better?"
"Hmmm," she hummed.
I leaned back, letting her head fall back to my chest. "Good."
"No. Tonight is about you."
"Yes," I breathed out, relieved. I wanted to stay, but I hadn't been sure if she would want me to.
"I only have a double bed."
"I guess we'll have to snuggle, then."
She lifted her face, her smile sweet, her eyes serene.
"I guess so."
I woke up cramped and alone. This bed was way too small for my long frame, although I had enjoyed having Bella curled up next to me all night long. I stretched carefully and rolled out of bed, squinting at the clock. It was only past eight, later than I normally woke, but I had been up a few times in the night, nervous and needing to move around. When I would slide back into bed, Bella would nestle back against me, fitting tight to my chest as if that was where she belonged.
And she did.
Grabbing my boxers, I looked around—my pants were folded over the top of a chair, but I was unable to locate my shirt. I padded down the hall, stopping at the doorway and smirking when I found my shirt.
Bella was wearing it. She sitting at her small kitchen table, reading. A mug of coffee sat in front of her, the steam rising in the air. Perched on her nose were a pair of heavy-rimmed reading glasses. I cleared my throat, making her look up. With her messy curls cascading down her shoulders, my too-big shirt wrapped around her, and the addition of the sexy glasses, I was ready for her in an instant. Crossing the space, I lifted her off her chair and to the counter, my mouth hard on hers. She responded with a low, throaty laugh, wrapping her legs around me, her heels digging into my ass.
"You look so sexy in my shirt, gypsy-girl."
She gasped as my hands delved under the shirt, pressing the soft skin of her back.
"But I bet it would look even better on the floor."
She giggled. "One-track mind."
"For you, yes."
She lifted her arms with a wink. "Good thing we think alike."
The shirt was gone in a flash. She used her talented little feet to pull down my boxers, and in a second I was buried inside her. I began moving, bracing my arms on the counter as I pushed inside her warmth. She felt so good. The clutch and pull of her intoxicating. It was like nothing I'd ever felt. So tight…so wet…so warm.
Too warm. I'd forgot my condom.
I faltered, staring at her.
She cupped my face, drawing me close. "I know, baby. It's fine. I'm covered."
I knew I should stop. Withdraw. Take the time to go grab another condom from my pants, but I couldn't. I didn't want to. Instead, I grabbed her hips, covered her mouth with mine, and fucked her, hard and fast on her kitchen counter until we were both shaking and coming and my shouts echoed off the walls. Burying my head into her neck, I sucked on the skin, biting down, the need to mark, claim her as mine, prevalent. She cupped the back of my neck, holding me to her skin, whimpering my name as she stilled, her pussy milking me.
Slowly, sanity returned, and I looked up, meeting her impish smile.
"Made up for last night?"
I kissed her soundly. "Yep."
"Now can I have my coffee?"
"Can I have my shirt?"
"I suppose that is a fair trade."
I helped her off the counter, grinning at her. "Maybe we need a shower, first," I said, indicating the come trickling down her inner thigh.
"Marking me inside and out?"
"Claiming what's mine," I agreed. A strange look crossed her face, but she only lifted one bare shoulder and shrugged.
"Shower." She nodded. "Then coffee."
I followed her out of the kitchen. I was going to need that coffee.
Usually Sunday mornings I spent organizing. I'd do some shopping, pick up dry cleaning, make sure my condo was tidy, and then spend the afternoon reading , maybe watching a game on TV. I often had dinner with my parents and/or Rose. It was the one day of the week I didn't work, although my head was usually still mulling things over, planning, going over my schedule.
But this morning, I found myself in a sunny kitchen, sipping coffee and grinning at the antics of a pretty girl, teasing and playing with her cats, while my mind was spinning with what was about to happen. Or what I hoped would happen.
Bella sat up, draining her coffee and winking at me. "I suppose some breakfast would be good, yeah?"
The back of my neck prickled in anticipation. "That would be nice." I winked at her. "I have built up an appetite."
A soft pink spread across her cheeks, making me snicker. As bold and brazen as she was, at times my words caught her off guard and she blushed. It was one of the things I adored about her. The more I got to know her, the longer the list became.
Standing up, I picked up the box I had left by the door and set it in front of her.
"I bought it for you." I nudged it closer. "Open it."
She studied the box for a moment, then unwrapped it. She was one of those people who took their time, peeling back the tape, carefully pulling at the seams of the paper. After she pulled back the paper revealing the surprise, I grinned.
A strange look crossed her face. She glanced up, the look in her eyes confusing me.
"It's a toaster oven," I offered.
"I see that."
I tapped the top of the box. "Convection."
"I figured things worked slow in your floral world, and I didn't want you eating dry toast anymore."
She nodded, not saying anything. Her head was bowed as she stared at the box, not meeting my gaze. She swallowed a couple times, her neck working fast, then she cleared her throat. "It's great, thanks."
This wasn't the reaction I'd expected. I'd thought for sure she would laugh and tease me, and maybe we'd even have sex on the table before she made me toast in her new appliance.
"Bella," I asked quietly. "What's wrong?"
She lifted her eyes to mine. I was shocked to see the glimmer of tears swimming in the darkness of her gaze. "Are we done? This is it? Was last night and this morning just a good-bye?"
"What?" I gasped, standing up. "No! Why would you think that?"
"Why are you giving me a toaster oven? If you don't have any more ideas for my book or want to buy any more flowers, that's fine…but I'd like…I'd like to see you again."
"Fuck," I groaned, reaching out and tugging her into my arms. "I did this all wrong."
She burrowed into me, tucked against my chest. She felt so small and slight in my arms, so different from the strong, vibrant woman she showed to the world. I brushed a kiss across her brow, then slid my fingers under her chin, forcing her to look up at me. I wiped away the tear the trembled on the edge of her eye, hating the fact I had caused it.
"Can I try this again?"
"I bought the toaster oven as a sort of joke. I thought it would make you smile. I don't want to stop seeing you, Bella. In fact, I want to see more of you. Lots more. And not only when I mess up and need flowers."
I kissed her, a soft press of my mouth on hers. "Yes."
She inhaled a shaky breath and smile. "Okay."
"I have one final bouquet for your list. It will be the greatest one of them all, and I need it for Tuesday."
"That's the day you have dinner with your mom."
"Yep. Dad will be home this week, I think. He is gonna love it when it finds out what it is. I'll be the one in trouble this time, not him."
"What's it called?"
I hesitated, then lifted her hand to my mouth, kissing her knuckles. "It's a Mom-I-want-you-to-meet-Bella. I-met-her-last-week-and-married-her-on-the-weekend sort of arrangement."
She blinked. Then blinked again. "What?"
I held up a ring, sliding it on her finger. "Marry me, Bella."
She stared at the ring. Then me. Then the ring. It had started all of this. I saw it as I walked past a jewelry store on Friday. It caught my eye, and I stood staring at it, telling myself to walk away even as my heart screamed it was perfect for Bella. White gold with a good-sized diamond in the center, it was set into bands made of leaves and flowers. All the leaves contained tiny diamonds that caught the light, and it glittered in the window like a beacon. I wanted to see it on Bella's finger. A permanent mark for the whole world to see. To know she was mine. I wanted to wear the matching band that sat beside it. A simple heavy white-gold band with the same braiding that wove around the women's ring.
I had gone in and bought it, adding another charge to my American Express that hadn't seen that much action the entire time I had carried the card. I'd left the store my mind already busy with plans.
Plans that included this moment.
"Why would you want to marry me?" she whispered.
I ran my hand over her arm, up her neck, cupping her sweet face. "You carry such light in your soul, Bella. I want that light in my life. I want you in my life. For the first time ever, I want more than my career. I want to be part of something. I want to take care of someone. I want to take care of you."
"But marry me? Don't you want to date or something?"
I shook my head. "No. I don't."
"You don't even know my last name!"
"I don't care what your last name is today. All I care about is that when we wake up tomorrow, your name is Bella Cullen."
I shook my head. "Do you know how many women I have drawn a bath for?"
"How many women I've brought dinner to, fed, and held while they fell asleep, just so I could watch over them?"
She shook her head.
"How many women I've spent hundreds of dollars on flowers that aren't even for them just so I could see them again—touch them?"
Her mouth curled into a smile and she bit her lip. "Not many, I suppose."
"None. Ever. I have never felt this connection with another person. I never will again, Bella. You are it for me. I know it with a certainty I cannot shake."
"What if your mom doesn't like me?"
"She will. She is going to freak over this, but she will love you."
"Do we have to have babies right away—you know, to make her happy?"
My breath caught. "No. Unless you want to."
"Maybe we could wait a few months, until you're sure you like me and I know what your favorite color is, things like that."
I lifted a strand of her hair, wrapping it around my finger. "My favorite color is brown. I already like you. I like you a lot. In fact, I'm pretty damn sure I'm in love with you."
"My favorite color is green," she whispered, reaching up to touch my cheek. "The exact shade your eyes are, in fact."
"Isn't that a coincidence."
"I love green"—she drew in a deep breath—"I love you."
"Then I guess this works out perfectly, doesn't it?"
"You really want to marry me?"
"I booked two tickets to Vegas. We fly out tonight, and I booked a two a.m. ceremony." Then I smirked, tracing my finger over her tattoo hidden under my shirt. "I even arranged a bouquet for you. I was very specific about what it was to contain."
"What if I had said no?"
"I wasn't leaving until you said yes."
"You're so sure."
"Yes. I am. This is right. We're right. I'm going to marry you today, and we're going to spend the next eighty years or so getting to know each other. If you change your mind after that, we can talk about a separation."
I grinned. "I have hidden depths. It's going to take you that long to figure me out. Make sure before you decide one way or another."
She smirked at me, her hands stealing around my neck. "I know I like it when you're hidden in my depths."
I swung her up into my arms. "Oh, gypsy-girl. You really shouldn't have said that."
Lying with her in my arms, I felt complete. She looked up at me, drowsy and soft. "Where do you want to live?"
"Here. Except"—I pressed a kiss to her head—"I need to bring my bed here. I won't last on this one very long."
"We can put this one in the guest room."
"There's a guest room?"
She propped herself up on her elbow. "Edward, this is crazy. You know nothing about me, my life, or even the layout of the house you plan on moving into. What if you hate it?"
"I can't possibly hate it if you're here."
She looked past me, staring out the window. "When I found this place, it was rundown and neglected. I fell in love with it and spend a lot of time and money fixing it up. My grandmother left me a great deal of money when she died, and I had never touched it. I always thought she would have loved the fact I used her money to start a new life. She lived in a place much like this one and it seemed to be kismet."
"I'm sure she would have." I rolled onto my side, matching her position. "I'm not asking for your property, Bella. I don't want a share of your business. I only want you. I think me finding your ad and arriving at your door last week was kismet, as well."
"I want to get married here."
I sucked in a deep breath. "So that's a no to Vegas then?"
"We can apply for a license tomorrow and get married on the weekend with your family here. It's only a week." She wrapped her hand around mine. "I have no family, Edward. My parents died when I was young, and my grandmother raised me. She's been gone for ten years. I can't risk you losing yours over me."
"I want to meet them. It's important to me. Your family will become mine, too."
"So if you meet them and they don't like you, it's off?"
"No." Reaching up, she pressed a kiss to my scruff. "I want to marry you. I want to include them at least. Give them the chance to be a part of it."
"So we change the name of the flowers from Mom-I-want-you-to-meet-Bella. I-met-her-last-week-and-married-her-on-the-weekend, to Mom-I-want-you-to-meet-Bella. I-met-her-last-week-and-am-marrying-her-this-weekend?"
"It's still pretty catchy."
"Fine. You need to call Bree. I may have contacted her yesterday and asked her to work for you and cover the next couple days while I whisked you away."
"No wonder she kept grinning at me when I got back from the last delivery." She paused. "I'll pay for whatever amount you can't get refunded on your plans."
I waved my hand. "All last-minute, so I'll get a credit. I'll plan a little honeymoon for us next week? Can you take a whole week off?"
I leaned back. A week to wait and then…forever. I could work with that.
Bella was right—I had a feeling she would often prove that in our life together.
She nestled beside me, her head on my chest.
"I wonder if American Express will call me again and ask why I stopped buying so many flowers."
Chuckling, I told her about the call.
She giggled. "They thought you'd been compromised, eh?"
"They were right, I suppose. Except it wasn't my credit card, it was my heart. You stole it the second you smiled at me."
She lifted her face, her expression tender.
Bending low, I kissed her.
"And I don't want it back—ever."
I shifted into park and looked over at Bella. "You ready, gypsy-girl?"
"It's suddenly very real. And scary."
"It's going to be fine. She is going to love that arrangement"—I leaned over the console and kissed her—"and you."
I got out of the car, opening the door for Bella. From the backseat, I lifted the massive arrangement Bella had brought, the fragrance of the flowers heavy in my nose. I kept one arm around the flowers and threaded my free hand through Bella's fingers, holding tight.
"Here we go."
I had warned my mother there would be an extra person for dinner. She had been so excited, I think she fell off her chair while trying to get me to divulge information about the mystery girl, but I stayed silent except to tell her this girl was "important."
To her credit, my mother was a gracious host. She took our coats, gushed over the flowers, and managed to refrain from hugging Bella more than six times by the time we made it to the living room where my father was sitting, reading the paper.
When we sat down, Bella was noticeably shaking, and I lifted her hand to my mouth kissing it. "Relax, baby."
I heard my mother's squeal hidden behind her dish towel, and my father rolled his eyes. He smiled kindly at Bella. "Tell us all about yourself, my dear. It will be easier for all of us." He winked "My wife will interrogate you otherwise, and it won't be pretty."
"Carlisle," she gasped. "I would do no such thing!"
Both he and I laughed. "Esme, my love, how you fib."
I leaned back, taking Bella with me. "Let me tell you how we met."
We had eaten dinner by the time my mother slowed down. I had kept my story pretty PG, and as promised, Mom had a ton of questions for Bella. Her eyes kept going to her left hand, but Esme Cullen was a well-brought-up lady, and although I knew she was dying to ask Bella where she had gotten her ring and its meaning, she refrained. Finally after she set dessert in front of us, I decided to bite the bullet.
"Do you and Dad have plans on Saturday?"
"No. Are you working, Carlisle?"
He shook his head. "Nope." His eyes twinkled, and I knew he already knew what was coming. "What's up?"
"Bella and I were wondering if you'd join us for the afternoon. We're, ah, celebrating."
"Oh?" His smiled grew wider, and my mom was almost twitching in excitement. "What's the occasion?"
I picked up Bella's hand, holding it to my cheek. "We're getting married."
I was pretty sure my eardrums almost burst at the sound that came from my mother's mouth. She was on her feet, crying, laughing, hugging, and giving me shit—all at the same time. It was quite something to witness. Bella gaped at her, then got wrapped up in my mother's arms for about the hundredth time since we walked in.
My dad leaned over and clapped me on the shoulder. "I knew it. She's lovely, Edward. Perfect for you."
I watched my mother cupping Bella's face kissing her cheek and listening. Bella was looking at my mother, her face serious. "I love him. I don't need his money—I have lots of my own. I only need him."
"I know," Mom assured her. "I can tell from the way you look at him." She glanced my way. "And the way he looks at you."
"I know it's fast…"
Mom shook her head. "When you know, you know. Carlisle asked me on our second date."
Dad nodded. "I was smitten."
I snickered. I knew that feeling.
Mom gasped. "I need to phone your sister. She'll come right over!"
I groaned, pulling Bella back down to her chair. "If you thought Mom was bad, wait until you meet Rose."
My dad laughed and stood up. "I'll go and make sure your mother remains calm."
I wrapped my arm around Bella. "Okay?"
She nodded. "They're great, Edward."
"Told you they would love you."
"I love you," she breathed out.
I lowered my mouth to hers. "Welcome to the Cullen family, Bella."
I pulled up in front of the shop, stifling my grin. My mom's car was there, which meant she'd probably been there for hours. God knows what she and my wife had been doing. The two of them were as close as could be—I was only surprised to see Rose's car wasn't there. The three of them were often in cahoots.
Stepping into the shop, I heard the laughter and had to shake my head. Rose was here, and so was Alice. I knew, without a doubt, I was going to lose Bella for the night. Once she joined the crew, there was no telling what would occur. It could involve a lot of wine and me leaving the house, or they could have some great adventure planned, leaving me home while they went out to a wine-tasting or a new cooking class.
Either way, I did reap the benefits. Bella was a stellar cook, and I enjoyed eating whatever new dish she learned to make, and the nights when she drank too much wine, she was especially frisky. It was a win-win situation, no matter what.
Except, I missed her.
Marrying her had been the best thing I had ever done in my life. It had been a small wedding—us, my family, and a very few friends. My parents took us all to dinner, and that was that. There was no fuss, no bridezilla, and no one was tense. It was a day filled with joy and laughter. My family had been as taken with Bella as I was, and the feelings had only grown in the past many months since we'd said I do.
"Edward!" Bella sang out, startling me from my thoughts. I opened my arms as she barreled toward me, her face beaming. Obviously tonight was wine night, from the faint flush along her cheekbones. Her enthusiastic kiss and the way she pressed herself close let me know they'd been at it for a while already.
I grinned against her full lips. "Hey, gypsy-girl."
"We're having girl's night."
"Your dad is waiting for you. He's in the sun room. I got you pizza. And beer."
"I'm not getting kicked out?"
She giggled. "No. we're having it here in the shop. I have that dance at the school tomorrow. We're making all the corsages and boutonnieres. The girls are gonna help."
I rubbed the back of my neck. "You're sure that's a good idea? Um…sharp knives and wine?"
She laughed. "The flowers are all prepped. We just have to add greenery and do the taping. We'll be fine. It won't even be a late night."
"Okay." I kissed her again. "I'll see you later."
She returned my kiss enthusiastically. "Yep."
I got more kisses and hugs on my way through the shop, although they were significantly different from Bella's. My dad was waiting, a game lined up, and we spent the night yelling at the TV and listening to the sounds of laughter drifting down the hall from the shop.
My dad caught my eye at one point, chuckling. "Never thought I'd see this day, Edward."
"What? Me married to a free spirit, living with a bunch of cats in a converted cottage attached to a flower shop and loving every single second of it? Really, Dad, how narrow-minded of you. It was in my grand scheme of life all the time."
He laughed. "Edward, the only scheme in your life was to get rich. Once you accomplished that, you wanted to get richer."
"Well, I did that. Although I think what I have with Bella is far more valuable."
"I agree." He paused with a grin. "When do we get some grandkids?"
I choked on the mouthful of beer I was trying to swallow. I sputtered, thumping my chest as I stared at him. "Is that Mom or you asking?"
"Me actually. Your mom wants to give you a year before she starts dropping hints. I want to bounce a baby or two on my knee—and soon."
"I'll be sure to tell Bella."
"Tell Bella what?" she asked as she slid her arms around my neck, dropping a kiss to my skin.
I tilted my head up, grinning at her. "Dad wants grandkids."
"Hmmm. Okay, Dad. Out. We need to get busy."
He threw back his head in laughter. He adored my Bella. And she felt the same way about him. She loved my whole family as hard as they loved her.
She patted my shoulder. "You better bring your A-game, Edward."
I grabbed her hand, kissing the palm. "I'll do my best."
Later that night, we were wrapped around each other, the blankets warm, the night dark, and our bodies sated and heavy from our lovemaking. Bella's head rested on my chest, and I was caressing her thick curls, my fingers running long passes over the silky strands.
"We'd have to move."
My brow furrowed in confusion. "Pardon?"
"When we have babies. This little cottage isn't big enough to add children."
"My dad was teasing, Bella."
She lifted her head, meeting my gaze. "I want children. I know you do as well."
"Yes, I do. When you're ready. When we're ready. And we don't have to move. The property is huge. We can add an addition."
Her finger traced circles on my chest. "Could we…talk to an architect…soon?"
My breath caught in my throat. "Really?"
She nodded. "Really."
I gathered her close and kissed her. "I'll call around tomorrow."
She burrowed into my chest, her breath drifting over my skin. I felt her body relax and ease into rest. I tucked an arm under my head, not even bothering to attempt sleep.
I flexed my feet, grinning when Jakey jumped up and curled up beside them, his body weight warm and welcome. Sammy and Leah would join him soon. Outside, the moon shone down on the trees, their branches moving gracefully in the light breeze.
Less than a year ago, I had been in my condo, wealthy, stagnant, and alone. I was surrounded by lifeless rooms, and aside from work, my life was empty. Tonight, my wife slept in my embrace, and this house was filled with our life. Music, books, and flowers were everywhere. Echoes of laughter and conversations lingered in the air. Everything I did, every decision I made had one focal point behind it.
My Bella…my gypsy-girl. My wife.
Who had just told me she wanted to get pregnant. With my child. We would be a family.
Because of her, I had a real life. I was happier than I ever thought possible.
And all of this happened because I clicked on an ad to find a florist who was open late so I could pick up something to soften the blow when I told my mother I'd dumped my girlfriend who didn't really want me.
I hadn't thought of Lauren in a long time. I really needed to thank her for being such a lousy girlfriend. I had a feeling she'd hate that.
A grin tugged on my lips.
Maybe I should send her some flowers. Thanks-for-blowing-my-neighbor. Because-of-your-whoring-around-I-found-the-love-of-my-life sort of flowers.
I bet Bella could add that to her book.
I tightened my arms around my wife.
I'd have to tell her in the morning.