Really want to kiss youSubject/Email Header: P.S. I love you contest entry
Beta: Christina Downs
Facebook name and/or Twitter handle: FB: Josie Beckmann, Twitter: tufano79
Pen name: Tufano79
Title: A Thin Line Between Love and Hate
Summary: Edward Cullen and Bella Swan hate each other. They have been working their way up the corporate ladder in the prestigious advertising firm, Volturi Interactive Advertising Agency. Everything is a competition between the two, but when partnered on a lucrative account, will they discover that it's a thin line between love and hate?
Word count: 11,312
DISCLAIMER: Twilight and its inclusive material is copyright to Stephenie Meyer. Original creation, including but not limited to plot and characters, is copyright to the respective authors of each story. No copyright infringement is intended.
Thin Line Between Love and Hate
"Swan," Edward sneered as we waited for the elevator in the parking garage.
"Cullen," I sneered back. I shifted my bag, trying to keep the heavy satchel from spilling onto the floors. The elevator dinged and Cullen pushed past me, causing my shit to fall all over the ground, including the proposal for Marcus for the new Hysteria Vodka label. I scrambled to pick it up, saving my work from being trampled on. Cullen just laughed as the elevator doors closed. I flipped him off, muttering under my breath. "Asshole."
"Don't let Cullen get under your skin," said my best friend and partner in crime, Rose. She was also the personal assistant for Marcus Volturi, my immediate boss. She easily swept up the rest of my papers and cradled them to her chest. "He's a douche canoe and I think he's being particularly nasty because of that rash he caught from Skankya."
"Ewwwww!" I groaned. "I don't need to know that. I really don't need to know that!"
"Well, it's all hearsay. Who knows?" she said, waving her hands. "Did you finish that proposal for Marcus?"
"I did, but I need to reprint it," I said, holding up a damp page of my proposal. "I think this is one of Cullen's boats that stomped on my brilliant ideas. Why does he still work here?"
"Because he's fucking brilliant and he brings in most of the revenue for Aro's team," Rose shrugged, helping me into the next elevator car. "Just like you bring in most of the revenue for Marcus's team. You both are rock stars. If only you could get along."
"Pssh, that'll never happen," I snorted. "We've hated each other from the moment we met at orientation."
"Well, you know, there's a thin line between love and hate," Rose smirked. "Do you remember how much I hated Emmett?"
"And yet, you're getting married," I said. "Okay, okay. Both love and hate are passionate responses, but I truly hate Edward Cullen. It will never, ever change to love. Even if he starts shitting puppy dogs and rainbows, he's an asshole and I want to shove my Jimmy Choo up his ass."
"He might like that," Rose cackled.
We arrived at the top floor of Volterra, the huge skyscraper in the middle of Chicago. Edward Cullen and I, we both worked for one of the most prestigious advertising firms in the country, Volturi Interactive Advertising Agency. We were both hired out of college and rose through the ranks quickly for our unique ideas. I worked mainly with Marcus Volturi, who had food and beverage accounts. Edward worked with Aro Volturi. They focused their attention on hotels and clothing lines. Caius, the third brother, focused mainly on local businesses and celebrities. It was a great job and it paid well. I was challenged, able to use my imagination. It was perfect for someone who got a double major from Northwestern in business and graphic design. Also, with Volturi's amazing higher education initiative, I also got my MBA from my alma mater as well.
"I'm going to try and salvage this mess," I sighed, taking the papers from Rose. "Thanks."
"Meet me at 10:15 for coffee. We have lots to discuss about the Hale/McCarty wedding," she said, teetering off to her office next to Marcus's.
I went the opposite direction to my corner office overlooking the Chicago River. I also had my own private conference room for meetings with clients. It was a sweet deal. I logged into the computer and went into the conference room, laying out the proposal I'd come up with for Hysteria Vodka. "Fucking Cullen," I snapped.
"You are not fucking Cullen," he said, leaning against the door jamb of my conference room. "But, with a body like yours, we could have some fun, Swan."
"You're an asshole. You see this?" I growled, holding up the paper with his banana boat shoe print on it. "This is your fucking dirty work. Could you be any ruder?"
"I could," he sang. "But, I'm attached to my balls. Thanks."
"What do you want?" I snapped.
"Aro asked me to get you and Marcus. He's got some big idea," he said, wiggling his fingers. "Okay, asking is putting it mildly; like you have a choice in the matter. He demands you come with me."
"I'm this close to shoving my foot up your ass, Cullen," I sighed.
"I'm shaking in my Armani suit," he said. "Ten minutes, Swan. Aro's office." He turned on his heel, sauntering away. I closed my eyes, pinching my nose and took a deep cleansing breath. I counted to ten, just like my therapist said and I didn't feel one bit calmer. Growling, I stomped to the break room and made myself some tea, inhaling a banana nut muffin. I imagined it was one of Cullen's banana boat shoes.
I felt slightly better after that. Carbs always make me calm down.
Grabbing my tablet and stylus, I walked to Aro's office. Marcus was already there, speaking with Aro. Rose was there as well, along with Aro's personal assistant, a pixie-like girl named Alice. She was recently hired after Aro's former assistant decided to be a stay at home mom. Edward was flirting with Alice, but she was ignoring him.
I liked her already.
"Good, everyone's here," Aro said. "Please, have a seat." I sat down next to my boss, starting a new document. "I just got some amazing news from one of my biggest clients, who also has an account with you, Marcus. Jacob Black, the owner of the Hysteria liquor label is opening up a new casino and luxury resort in Atlantic City, themed around his liquor label. Edward has come up with some brilliant ideas for promoting the casino, but he wants to have the opening of his new casino and resort coincide with the introduction of his Hysteria Flavored Vodka."
"So, what does this mean?" Edward asked.
"It means that you and Bella will be flying to Atlantic city and working with Jacob Black to create an advertising dream team, promoting Hysteria Casino and the launch of Hysteria Flavored Vodkas," Aro beamed. "You both leave tomorrow and will stay until the grand opening of the hotel, which is a month from now. Jacob will be providing you with accommodations."
"What about our other accounts?" I questioned. "I've got several presentations to make …"
"Don't worry about those," Marcus said, rubbing my shoulder. "We can always do a Skype session. Your main focus should be on this joint account. I think you and Edward will collaborate tremendously well, creating something to make all of us proud." I shot a look to Edward. His lips were pursed and his hands were in tight fists. "Now, both of you have the rest of the day off to pack up for your trip. I've sent your travel information to your email. Be at Chicago Executive Airport by seven."
"Good luck," Aro said, pushing away from the table. Marcus, along with Rose and Alice left. Edward and I were alone in the conference room.
"Did that just happen?" Edward asked.
"Yep," I nodded.
"We have to work together?" he squeaked.
"Does God hate me?" he groaned.
"Yep. He must hate me, too," I added. Blowing out a breath, I stood up. "You focus on the casino. I'll focus on the liquor. Heaven knows, I'll be drinking a lot of it having to work with you. See you in the morning, Cullen." I turned and left him as he shoved his hands into his artfully messy bronze-colored hair. I packed up my computer, tablet and several other items from my office. I waved to my personal assistant, who had already been informed about the month-long trip I was taking. I told her to keep me appraised about the rest of my accounts in weekly email updates. With that, I left the office and drove back to my condo.
It was going to be a long-ass month.
Pushing through my closet, I couldn't find my lucky black Prada suit. "God damn it," I snapped. I dialed my PA. "Lucas! Did you drop off my suit to the dry cleaners?"
"What suit?" he asked.
"The black one. My Prada suit?" I growled.
"I did. I picked it up this morning. It's at the office," Lucas responded.
"I don't need it at the office. I need it at my house. When you're done for the day, please bring it," I said. "Thanks." I hung up the phone, tossing it onto my king-sized bed. "Why her? Why Swan? Ugh!"
There was no denying that Isabella Swan was a brilliant woman, but everything she did grated on my every nerve. We met at orientation at Volturi Interactive Advertising Agency. I was hoping to make a friend, or at least a fuck-buddy. We both were recent graduates. She graduated from Northwestern and I had completed my schooling at Cornell. She was gorgeous, with big brown eyes, long chocolate-colored hair and a tight body. Then, she opened her mouth. Her voice was like nails on a chalk board and she always had to be right. Always. So, my hopes for a friend/fuck-buddy went out the window. Our working relationship started off cordial, but with each account we were assigned, it became more of a competition.
She was promoted. Then, I worked my ass off and I was promoted. It continued until we are today. I was the senior advertising executive, underneath Aro Volturi. She was the senior advertising executive for Marcus Volturi. Swan cranked out more advertisements, but her market was smaller. I had quality, not quantity. I worked with huge corporations, hotels and resorts. My profit margin was bigger and I made sure my clients were happy.
And no, I didn't fuck my clients. I do have some moral compass and ethics. What kind of asshole do you take me for?
In fact, I don't fuck at all. Being married to the fucking job, kind of makes having meaningful relationships a little difficult. So, I have a nightly date with Rosie and her five sisters. Plus, a lot of porn.
Unable to finish packing until Lucas came with my lucky suit, I went to the gym. It was the first time since I started at Volturi that I went to the gym during the day. Usually, I went before I went to work, at around four in the morning or when I got home, at nine at night. Did I mention I was married to my job? I spent a good two hours working out the kinks and I felt much more relaxed when I got back home. Lucas came by around six with my suit and some other things he had dry cleaned for me. I thanked him, sending him on his merry way.
Packing up my bags, I put them by the door of my brownstone. It had been in my family for years. My grandfather moved in here once he arrived from Ireland. He worked his way to make a better life for my dad and his brothers. Gramps died before I could meet him, but my dad made sure that regardless of the riches we had, thanks to my grandfather, we still had to work hard. And I did. I worked even harder after both of my parents were killed in a car crash. I had to take care of my baby sister, Elizabeth and help her through college. Now, she was married to a wonderful man, worked as a teacher and had two kids, living in the burbs with her family. I loved my two nephews, but I knew that would never be me.
Being a dad. Having a family. Finding love.
Not for me.
The next day, I had a car service drive me to Chicago Executive Airport. Swan was already there. She was tapping on her cell phone, her face pulled into a harsh scowl. "Everything okay, Swan? Forget your broomstick?"
"No, that's in my other suitcase," she said, without missing a beat. "My neighbor is watching my condo for me and taking care of my dog while I'm away. She lost my key. I'm texting Rose to see if she can drop off her key to my neighbor. I swear, all of my house plants and my dog are going to be dead by the time I get back."
"Why not have Rose watch your mutt?"
"No pets allowed in her building and Emmett's allergic," Bella replied, stuffing her phone into her purse. "I have a few ideas if you want to strategize on the plane."
"What happened to me focusing on the hotel and you focus on the booze?" I asked.
"Jacob called me and said that he wanted to have some big to-do on opening night for both. We have to work together, Cullen. This is a big fucking deal. I don't know about you, but I like my job and I intend to keep it, despite the assholes I work with."
"Ouch. You wound me, Swan," I said, rubbing my chest. She smirked, getting onto the plane and taking one of the seats near the window. I sat across from her, trying to keep my temper at bay. Jacob reached out to her and not me. That shit wasn't cool. As much as I hated Swan, we were a team and any information should have been passed along to me or I should have been included in that phone call. Once we were airborne, I opened up my computer and saw a detailed email from Swan, laying out her conversation with Jacob. It was sent at almost two in the morning. "Thanks for the info, Swan. You and Jacob came up with some great ideas."
"Not a problem," she said. "But, those are just ideas. I know that you could make them even better."
"What time did this guy call you?"
"About nine. We were on the phone for about three hours," she said, yawning. "It took me a couple of hours to type up everything to send to you."
"You could have done this in person," I shrugged.
"And have you bitch at me for trying to steal your thunder? No fucking way," she snarled. "Now, I got less than three hours of sleep. I'm going to catch a nap before we dive in headlong into this craziness." She pulled out some earbuds and stuffed them in her ears. Within moments, she was dead to the world.
I turned back to her email, compiling a list of what ideas were feasible and what wasn't. After that, I started coming up with ideas based off my list. I also worked on creating preliminary sketches of commercials, reworking the Hysteria label and finding music that would match the upbeat, sexy vibe. Across the aisle, Swan started whimpering and her face contorted. She looked distressed. Her fists clenched and tears began streaming down her cheeks. I got up, moving to sit next to her. "Swan?" I whispered, shaking her. She didn't wake. Clearing my throat, I tried again. "Isabella?" Her eyes flew open and she began swatting at me. "Whoa! Calm down! Swan! Don't scratch the hell out of my face."
She turned and looked at me. Her eyes were haunted. "I'm sorry," she said, shooting up and running to the back. I heard the bathroom door close. She stayed in there for a while. When she did come back out, her face was flushed and her eyes puffy. "I'm sorry if I disturbed you."
"You okay?" I asked.
"Peachy," she responded blandly. "Just don't ever call me Isabella. I hate that name. Swan is perfectly fine. Or if you have to call me by my first name, I prefer Bella."
"Got it," I nodded, looking back over at her. She was still tense, curled up in the seat and hugging the pillow. I turned back to the document I was working on, but I couldn't back into it. As weird as it sounded, I was worried about Swan. I didn't understand why. I couldn't stand her, but something obviously happened to her and it shattered her. I closed my computer and decided to play Candy Crush on my phone until we landed.
Deplaning, we were met by a stretch limo. Our luggage was loaded up inside and we road to the almost completed Hysteria Casino and Resort. Swan still wouldn't look at me and she was quiet, staring out the window. Arriving at the lavish resort, the concierge said that our luggage would be delivered to our suites and that we were to meet with Mr. Black in the main conference room. Swan and I put on our game faces, walking to the conference room and prepared to make Jacob Black's dreams come true for his brand.
What the hell was I thinking? Taking a nap? You know that the nightmares are still prevalent. You're an idiot, Swan. A complete and total idiot. That was on replay in my head ever since Cullen woke me up. I tried to push it back, but he obviously had seen me crying and my reaction to him calling me by my full name. Shaking it off, I focused on the meeting with Jacob Black. Cullen and I were walking to the conference room and inside, there was a tall, handsome man with tanned skin, short cropped black hair and a blindingly white smile.
"You must be Isabella and Edward," he said, shaking our hands. I bristled when I heard my full name.
"Please, call me Bella," I said, plastering on the fake grin.
"Got it, Bella," Jacob beamed, taking my hand in both of his. "It's a pleasure to face with the voice and obviously beautiful name." I blushed, murmuring my thanks. "Now, Edward, I'm certain Bella brought you up to speed on our discussion from last evening."
"She did. Sw … erm, Bella, sent me a detailed report of your ideas, Mr. Black," Edward said. My name on his lips sounded weird. I was so used to hearing him sneer my last name. "I must say, you missed your calling in advertising and marketing."
"It's not my strength," he laughed. "I can come up with ideas, but putting them into action? Not for me. It was like my first wedding. I told my fiancée to tell me where to be and what time to be there. I had no hand in the planning of it. As for the second and third weddings, well, they didn't last long enough for me to care about the ceremony. That's why I'm back to being single and ready to mingle." He winked at me, draping his arm behind my chair. "Now, can I get either one of you something to eat or drink?"
"I'd like some coffee," I said.
"The same," Edward nodded, his eyes narrowing at Jacob. "And something light for lunch?"
"I'll get my assistant to bring us something," Jacob replied, getting up. "I'll be right back." He strode out of the room and Edward's glare turned to me.
"What?" I asked.
"He's flirting with you," he hissed.
"So? It's not like anything is going to happen. He's a client," I hissed back. "And besides, if a little flirting means we both get a little more of a bonus, I'm not going to stop."
Edward rolled his eyes. "You're going to whore yourself out for some more money," he snapped.
"You did not just say that," I sneered. "How's that rash?"
"What the fuck are you talking about?"
"The rash you got from Tanya?" I barked back. "The whole office knows."
"The office is full of shit. I have never, nor will I ever, sleep with Tanya. I would not touch her with your pussy," Edward scoffed. "But, that's not saying much."
I felt my face flame and I wanted nothing more than to slap him stupid. I've flirted to get the sale and I know Cullen had done the same. It was like pot calling the kettle black. Jacob came back before I could crawl across the conference table to claw out Cullen's eyes. He had coffee and he said that there was food on its way. We worked for the better part of the morning before breaking for lunch. After that, Jacob told us to take the rest of the afternoon off since we'd left Chicago so early. Our meetings would resume the following morning in the same conference room.
The concierge gave Cullen and I our keys. We were staying in one of the larger suites. It had several rooms, with a shared common area. Jacob wanted us to be close to each other in case inspiration struck in the middle of the night. Though, I couldn't stand to look at him at the moment. How dare he compare me to being a whore?!
In our suite, I went to my room. I chose the larger one of the two bedrooms. I closed and locked the door, unpacking my belongings and settling into the fluffy white bed. I called Rose, telling her about my flight and my nightmare. She reminded me to take my sleeping pills while I was in Atlantic City. I agreed and changed into a pair of yoga pants, ordering some room service. Jacob said that the hotel's services are at our whim. He wanted our stay to be comfortable and he was willing to do anything. Ordering some salad and a slice of vanilla bean cheesecake, I flipped the channels. A half hour later, there was a knock on the door. Opening it up, I was surprised to see Jacob holding a tray. "Talk about service," I quipped.
"Nothing but the best," he said, winking again. Okay, that was cute the first time. Now, it looks like he has a weird facial tick. "May I join you?"
"Please," I smiled, ushering him inside.
I heard a male voice inside of the suite and I recognized it as Jacob's. I scowled, unhappy that he was in here. Though, I had no reason to be upset. It's not like Swan and I were here together. We were coworkers.
And what coworker calls another a whore? You totally need to apologize for that, Edward.
I made a promise to myself to apologize tomorrow. But, I did not want to hear Swan and Jacob get it on. I changed into my workout clothes, spending several hours enjoying the brand new, state-of-the-art facilities. There were some great machines and the Olympic-sized pool was definitely calling me. After my workout, I went back to my room. Jacob's voice was still inside of Swan's room, but it didn't sound like they were fucking.
I ate some dinner and fell into bed, sleeping deeply.
The next morning, there was a small breakfast buffet set up in our suite. Bella was sipping some coffee and jotting down ideas on her tablet. Her hair was pulled into a low ponytail and she wore a sexy black sheath. Despite how pulled together she appeared, her eyes were dark underneath and she still had that haunted look. "Good morning, Swan," I said, making a plate for myself. "Sleep well?"
"Hmmmm," she replied noncommittally. "Okay, I guess." She didn't even look up from her notes.
"Look, Swan. I wanted to apologize for my comment yesterday," I said, sitting down next to her. "It was out of line. Lack of sleep and stress tends to make me lose my filter."
"Apology accepted, but not forgotten. Never forgotten," she answered, shooting me a glare. "Jacob wants us to take a look at the club we're having the launch party for both the Hysteria Flavored Vodka and opening night for the hotel."
"Did you discuss that last night with him?" I asked, my voice curt.
"I did among some other ideas I had for commercials," she said, pushing her tablet toward me. She had some crude digital mockups, but they were better than anything I could come up with. Her strength was definitely graphic design. I could pull things together, with music, small nuances and market it to a mass audience. "Obviously, we'd need to make this better. It's only a rough draft. I can make most of the graphics using my laptop, but we'd need to have a few photo shoots and commercial shoots. I already contacted some local modeling agencies for some bodies for the shoots. I also called my friend Jasper to see if he was willing to come up here from his studio in Manhattan."
"Did you sleep at all?"
"A few hours," she shrugged. "Here's a preliminary itinerary for the rest of this week and suggested marketing campaign for the remainder of our time here in Atlantic City." She slid me a typed up report. Getting up, she smoothed her dress and slipped back into her room. She had everything planned. I'd only taken the ideas that she had given me, drawing up a few sketches. Swan was destined to make partner in Volturi Interactive Advertising Agency if I didn't step it up. Swan walked out, wearing a pair of heels and her eyes covered by huge sunglasses. "You ready?"
"Yeah," I said, taking her plan and slid it into my black leather portfolio. I swiped my own bag and followed Swan to the elevator. She stumbled on the lip of the door. I caught her against my body. Her soft perfume filled my nostrils and her body was warm against mine, her curves pressed against my muscular form. "You okay?"
"Fine," she said, pulling away and plucking at her dress anxiously. She pushed up her sunglasses, crossing her arms over her body. The elevator opened and Jacob was waiting for us. We clambered into a limo and drove to a club on the far end of the casino's property. It was accessible from the boardwalk.
"Why did you choose this location for the launch party?" I asked.
"Anyone can come," Jacob responded, his arm draped behind Swan and his fingers close to the curls of her ponytail.
"I think I get what Edward is asking," she said, removing her sunglasses. "With a launch party as exclusive as this, you don't want some random schmoe showing up. You know?"
"I agree with Bella," I nodded. "I'll reserve judgment until I see the club, but do you have another option if we don't like this?"
"I do have another club that is attached to the resort. It's smaller, more intimate," Jacob murmured, his eyes looking up and down Bella's bare legs. Bella noticed his leering and her face flushed. We pulled up to a large night club. It was on the far end of the property, attached to the casino. We got out. Jacob's hand hovered near Swan's behind, but she stepped back bumping into me. I offered my arm and she took it. We moved past Jacob and into the night club. Inside, it was dark and would be a great venue for an opening.
"I like the layout, but the location is too far removed from the hotel," she said, her voice wavering. "We're supposed to be celebrating the launch for your new hotel and casino, plus the flavored vodkas. I think this would be ideal for the commercial. What do you think, Edward?"
I walked around, inspecting every inch of the dance floor. "What does this look like with the lights going?" Jacob disappeared and the work lights went down and the strobes, lasers and accent lighting went up. "What do you think, Bella? I like it for the commercial and the print ad shoot."
"We could have the room filled with extras with our couple, holding martinis made with the vodkas in the center, in a heated embrace," Bella said. "What do you think of my suggested title?"
"Thin Line Between Love and Hate? I love it," Jacob smiled. "And it's so true."
"Hmmm," Bella nodded, walking away.
"Is she always so hot and cold?" Jacob asked. "She was very, very friendly last night and today, she's very distant."
"Maybe she's not comfortable with your advances," I said, arching my brow. "You're coming on a little strong."
"And why do you care? Are you tapping that?" Jacob scoffed. "She's hot and I want her."
I couldn't respond. Swan came back and she was shaking her head. "This won't work for the launch party, but is perfect for our commercial. Let's see the smaller location." She breezed past both of us, her fingers flying over her phone. I followed her and Jacob ran to catch up with her, his arm sliding around her waist. She deftly stepped away, pressing her phone to her ear. She spoke to her personal assistant as she got into the limo, taking my seat, but leaving room for me. I sat next to her. Jacob's face was impassive, but I could tell that he was pissed off. We drove back to the hotel and we all agreed that the smaller club was the location for the launch party.
Jacob left us to set up the commercial and print ad shoot. Bella made arrangements with the models, actors and photographers. I made the arrangements for permits and gaining permission to film. The following day, we interviewed actors, models and DJs. We chose our cast, with a beautiful red-head, Victoria, and handsome blond man, James, as our Hysteria couple. Jasper, Bella's friend, storyboarded the commercial and planned the photo shoot. The commercial would be filmed over two nights with the photo shoot happening the following day. After that, we'd spend our time selling the ads to local and national television stations as well as online, in magazines and newspapers.
At nine the following night, Bella and I were at the larger night club. Jasper was working with the extras, setting the scene between the two main characters. The premise was that James, our male lead, was relentlessly flirty, almost to the point of being a douchebag. Victoria, our female lead, was none-too-pleased with his advances. However, when another guy, a man who looked a lot like Jacob, gets a little too handsy with Victoria, James steps in and they both start making out with Hysteria being splashed across the screen and fading out.
Around four in the morning, Jasper is ready to pull out his hair. "CUT! James, I don't want you to lick her face off. No one wants to see that," Jasper screamed.
"She likes it," James countered, his hand on Victoria's ass.
"No woman likes having their faces licked," Bella grumbled. "Is he a dog?"
"He's been humping her leg like a dog all night," I snorted. "He had so much potential."
"The only potential he has is with that hair," she said, pointing to his blonde mane.
"Edward! Bella! Can you help me?" Jasper wheedled. We both looked at each other, getting up out of our seats and walking to where Victoria and James were standing. "Can you show James how to kiss?"
"Excuse me?" we both barked.
"Please? And don't lick her face, Edward. Watch, James. This is how you kiss a woman," Jasper said, pointing to me and Swan. I had to kiss Swan. "This. Is. How. You. Kiss. A. Woman."
"Kiss, right," I said, my heart stammering against my chest.
"You lick me and my knee will become intimately acquainted with your balls," Bella said.
"No licking," I chuckled. I took her face in my hands and stared into her chocolate-colored eyes. I stepped forward, angling my head and brushed my lips against hers, kissing her fully on the mouth. She sighed, her arms sliding around my waist and to my own surprise, she licked me. Our tongues tangled and we broke apart, panting heavily.
"Yeah, you two are fired," Jasper said to Victoria and James. "That was fucking hot! You two are our Hysteria couple!"
"What?! No!" Bella shrieked, jumping out of my arms. "I'm fine being behind the scenes."
"Girl, you two have some serious sex appeal," Victoria said. "Are we still getting paid?"
Jasper glared at her. "What do you think?" Victoria rolled her eyes and stomped away with James on her heels. "Seriously, you two were …" Jasper tugged Bella away and he barked at some makeup artist. I was dragged away and changed into something similar to James' clothes.
Was this really happening?
"Jasper, I can't be in front of the camera. You have no idea how much I'm against this," I hissed as he pushed me into a dressing room, tossing dresses at me. "Jasper! Listen to me."
"Bells, I love you and I understand your shyness," he said.
"It's not the shyness. It's Cullen!" I spat. "We hate each other."
"That kiss was not hate," Jasper laughed. "Do you have that pink dress on?"
"Ugh!" I growled, stripping out of my skinny jeans and halter top. I threw on the dress and the shoes Jasper thrust into the room. Stepping out, my hair was pulled out of my ponytail and teased within an inch of itself while my makeup was darkened. "Why won't you listen to me? Have Cullen make out with Victoria!"
"He wouldn't have the same heat with her," Jasper said, holding up lipsticks to my skin tone. "This one. I want this one." The makeup artist put on the lipstick and I knew I wasn't going to win this argument. "Bells, you can hate me all you want, but the heat between the two of you was undeniable."
"You're right. I do hate you," I said, taking a purse that was handed to me. "Let's get this shit done." We filmed the story leading up to the infamous lip lock. Edward looked hot in a pair of black dress pants and a dark, charcoal colored shirt, making his bronze hair pop and his green eyes were twinkled. I ignored him for the first part of the shoot, as per the script described. When I broke away from the douche canoe, I fell into Edward's arms, grateful for his interference. He handed me a martini and then, boom! We kissed.
And that second kiss was just as hot as the first one.
I wanted to lick him. Again.
Where in the hell is that coming from?
I hated Cullen. He hated me, but from the tenderness of the kiss, it would appear otherwise.
"Okay, CUT!" Jasper barked. Edward and I broke apart. "We'll finish filming tomorrow. Call time is at nine. See you later tonight!" The extras began leaving. Edward and I were stuck. My hands were still on his shoulders and his hands were on my hips. Jasper yelled something else and we stepped back. I walked to the dressing room, putting on my jeans and halter top. I left the makeup on, going to scrub it off once we got back to the suite. "Bells, we're going to do the kiss a couple of times later on tonight. It was amazing and you two filmed beautifully. I just want to get a few more angles."
"Thanks," I said, grabbing my bag and tablet. Edward was waiting for me, back in his jeans and white button-down. We got into the waiting car and drove back to the hotel. We didn't say anything to each other. Edward was checking his phone and I was staring out the window. His arm was draped behind me and I felt a light tickle on my shoulder. Edward's fingers were twirling a curl. When Jacob did it, I was creeped out, but with Edward I liked it.
"Do you want to get some breakfast?" Edward asked. "I'm not tired and I don't want to go back to the suite."
"Sure," I nodded. Edward asked the driver for a suggestion for breakfast and he drove us to a local diner. Sitting down, we ordered coffee and pancakes for Edward and an omelet for me. "How do you think everything is going?"
"I wasn't happy with James and Victoria. They were gorgeous as a couple, but awkward on screen," Edward said, wrinkling his nose. "I was shocked that Jasper asked us to demonstrate how to kiss."
"Yeah," I said. "Shocked is an understatement." Shocked that he was so gentle. Shocked that he did it in the first place. Extremely shocked that I liked it. "But, I did like what he did with our vision. And as much as I hate to admit it, we make a pretty good team, Cullen."
"We do, Swan," he smirked, clinking my coffee mug with his. "We do need to meet with Jacob at some point to discuss the actual launch party."
"After we get these ads done, we can meet with him," I said. "I've already got some ideas planned out."
"He also wants us to have a Hysteria Vodka tasting so we can legitimately have a say in how it tastes," he said. "We can kill two birds with one stone by having dinner with him to discuss the launch party and have that taste test."
"Let's make it for the end of this week. With another late night tonight and the photo shoot tomorrow? We're going to need a day or two to recuperate," I said. "I'm fading fast."
"We can get our breakfast to go," Edward suggested.
"No, we can finish it here," I said, waving my hand. We got our food and we shared pleasant conversation. There was no sneering, snarling or underhanded comments. Edward was actually being pleasant. Granted, so was I.
That's because you want to lick him again.
Stop thinking like that, Swan.
You are enemies. You fight, bicker over everything. He makes your life a living hell. Plus, he'd never be able to deal with your special brand of crazy.
Okay, not crazy but broken.
We finished our breakfast. Edward paid, despite my protestations to chipping in. We got back into the car and drove to the hotel. Inside of the suite, I took a shower, scrubbing my face and hair. Blow drying my hair, I crawled into bed after I closed the blackout curtains.
But, I forgot one key thing before I went to sleep.
I was sleeping soundly, exhausted and confused by the night previous. I thoroughly enjoyed kissing Bella. Her lips were soft and sweet. And when she slid her tongue into my mouth, my cock hardened and I angled my body so she wouldn't feel my arousal. But, I wanted her to feel it.
I was slowly waking up when I heard a blood curdling scream. I shot up, tossing on a pair of sleep pants. Going into the common area, I saw her purse and found one of the keys into her room. Her screams forced me to open the door and I found her tangled in her sheets. She was tossing and turning, her face flushed and her hair tangled. "Bella," I said, sitting down on the edge of the bed. "Bella, please, wake up." She wouldn't respond. I ended up laying down, pulling her into my arms and rocking her gently. She eventually calmed down, melting against me. I closed my eyes, my fingers running through her mahogany curls. I never fell back asleep, but I enjoyed having Bella in my arms. When her alarm went off, she startled awake and she jumped out of my embrace.
"How did you get in here?" she asked, her voice raspy.
"You were screaming. I got one of your spare keys from your purse," I said, getting up and moving to one of the chairs in the room. "Are you alright?"
"I'm fine," she spat, tossing her messy hair into a bun. Then, she looked up at me and frowned. "Sorry about being such a bitch. I just didn't expect you to be in bed with me … looking like that …" She pointed to my shirtless body, averting her gaze. "I'm sorry I woke you up."
"It's not a big deal, but why were you screaming?" I asked.
"I can't talk about it," she said, shaking her head. "No one knows except my therapist." She got up and picked out some clothes from her closet. "I can't. I just can't." Her voice was broken. She slammed the bathroom door. I got up, leaving her room and ordered some food for us. I took a quick shower, changing into my jeans and another button-down. Bella came out from her room. She was dressed conservatively with a pair of jeans, a loose tunic and a pair of flats.
"I ordered some food for us," I said.
"I'm not really hungry," she replied, sitting down. "I am sorry about waking you up. I called Jacob and asked if he could move me to another suite. I don't want to disturb you."
"Bella, no. It's okay," I murmured.
"You called me Bella," she said, arching a brow. "Not Swan."
"I like your name. It's very pretty," I shrugged, my ears heating. "Besides, we've been working together for almost a week. I think we can call each other by our first names." She gave me a tiny smile. "Don't go."
"Okay, but if I wake you up again, Jacob said he'd move me to another floor," she explained, sounding more like herself. "We both need to be on our A-game. We have three weeks until the launch party and we have a lot of shit to do."
"Got it, boss," I said, giving her a salute. She laughed. Once the food was delivered, we did share the meal before we got into the car, driving to the club. Bella was dragged away to get changed into her costume. I was moved to a different location, but all I could imagine was Bella's lips against mine and doing it again and again.
And I did, numerous times, with the commercial shoot. Plus, the following day with the print ad, we spent most of our time together in a heated lip-lock. Bella's lips were swollen from our kisses and I was in a perpetual state of arousal. With each kiss, I was growing more and more attracted to Bella. Everything that I had found to be annoying was now becoming endearing. The more I got to know about her, the more alluring she became. But, those nightmares boggled my mind. Why was she screaming, clawing at her bed?
I wanted to make it better and for the hour or so I spent with her in my arms, I did.
After the commercial shoot and photos for the print campaign, Edward and I took a day off. I hung out with Jasper in Manhattan, hovering over his work, making sure that his vision meshed with ours. Thankfully, it did. It was also nice to get away from Atlantic City for the day, coming back the following day. We were meeting with Jacob, who was coming back from a business trip in Los Angeles, to discuss the launch party plans and have a vodka tasting.
I was dreading the taste testing, really. Mainly because of Jacob and his pervy, gross flirtations.
I liked working with Edward. He was a welcomed buffer between perv-boy. Now, that we were getting along. he had a dry sense of humor and was fiercely loyal. He was close with his sister, caring for her after his parents died and encouraging her to follow her dreams. I never expected him to have siblings, let alone have a soft spot for his sister and his nephews.
But, dealing with Jacob and his unwanted advances was not my idea of a fun time. Edward was okay. Jacob, not so much.
I was dressed conservatively, wearing a black dress with three-quarter length sleeves with white ruffles at the edge of the sleeve. Finishing up my makeup, I slipped on my shoes and walked into the common area of the suite. Edward was talking on his cell phone. "Lucas, thank you. I appreciate you taking care of that for me. I owe you big time," he said. "Just leave the estimates on my desk and I'll choose the one I like the best. Later." He hung up his phone, tucking it into the pocket of his suit coat.
"Everything okay?" I asked.
"A pipe burst in my brownstone. My neighbor called Aro and Lucas dealt with it. He had a cleanup crew address the mess and had several contractors make a bid to make renovations and fix the problem," Edward said. "It sucks, but it is what it is. I'll be moving from this hotel to another hotel when we get back. Yippee!" His tone was sardonic.
"My condo is big enough. You could stay with me," I suggested. Bitch, say what? Edward's eyes bugged out, but his face quirked up into a crooked grin. Such pretty teeth … "Or not. It's up to you. I mean, I've got 3000 square feet. We'd never see each other."
"I'll take it into consideration. I kind of liked hanging out with you, Bella. You may never get rid of me," he quipped, buttoning on his suit coat. Offering me his arm, I took it and we went down to the private dining room that Jacob had arranged.
The dining room was elegantly appointed with white chiffon curtains along the walls. The curtains were up lit with golden lights. On the long table, there was a black and white center piece with gold accents. Jacob greeted us, shaking Edward's hand and kissing my cheek, his mouth dangerously close to mine and his hands on my hips. I stepped back, giving him a terse smile. Edward helped me to a seat farthest away from Jacob. He was not happy with my decision, but he hid it.
Throughout dinner, Edward and I shared our progress with the launch of his hotel and the new vodka line. Jacob was pleased with our reports, gushing over the rough copy of the commercial that Jasper gave me on a flash drive and unedited photos from the photo shoot. "Bella, you are so gorgeous. You missed your calling to be a model," Jacob said, his eyes sweeping over the photo. "What I wouldn't give to be Edward in this shot? Are her lips as soft as they look?"
"I don't think that's an appropriate question, Jacob," Edward said. "Bella and I played a part. The models we'd hired were bland and didn't portray the heat that Jasper or we wanted. It was simply easier to do the commercial and photo shoot ourselves. And I'm hot, too."
"You're handsome, but I don't swing that way," Jacob retorted, winking at me. "Let's just say that …" he trailed off, tucking the photo into his jacket pocket. I shuddered.
Ewww … I think I just threw up in my mouth.
"Why don't we try the new line of vodkas?" I said, trying to keep my voice light. "But, I don't want to get tipsy. Highly unprofessional."
"A little tipsy won't be too bad," Jacob said, walking over to the stocked bar. "This is a celebration!" He ducked behind the bar and rooted around in it.
"I really can't drink," I whispered to Edward. "I can't drink. Period. A sip or two, but …"
"I get it, Bella," Edward replied, his hand covering mine. His green eyes shone with understanding. I blew out a breath. Jacob came back with little bottles of the vodkas. He prattled on about the different flavors. I took tiny sips, but never really tasting them. Edward enjoyed them, but even he didn't do the full shots that Jacob was doing. By the end of our tasting, Jacob was pretty sloppy. All of the tiny bottles and half of a full bottle of Hysteria Vodka were empty. Jacob tried to get a little handsy with me and Edward deftly took him out to the balcony. He shot a look to the door and I took the cue to leave.
Thank goodness for small favors.
Bella and I worked tirelessly for the remaining time in Atlantic City. We did have to go Manhattan to get the final cut of the commercial, enjoying dinner with Jasper and his partner, Garrett. We stayed at their apartment before going back to make final preparations for the launch party. Bella was anxious since we were the faces of the product, but I told her just to go with the flow.
She just gave me a panicked look. I'm not a flowy person. I make lists! Bella wailed, her eyes wide with fear. And it was true about the damn lists, but I promised to not leave her side all night. Especially since Jacob was determined to bed her. He proclaimed that after our taste test of Hysteria Vodka. I made it clear that it was improper to even cross that bridge since we were working for him. But, arguing with a drunk is like trying explain the theory of relativity to a cat. It just doesn't work. I was determined to keep Bella away from Jacob.
I felt protective of her.
I even liked her.
As a colleague, a friend and a woman.
The evening of the launch party, Bella and I were in the night club, making sure all of the decorations were good to go, the menu was perfected and the specialty drinks – all of which were approved by me since Bella couldn't drink – were prepared to go. After that, Jacob made arrangements for us to get spoiled at the spa. Bella had her girly treatments done and I enjoyed a chic haircut, a barber's shave and a pedicure.
No, I didn't paint my toenails pink. I just had them cleaned up and my feet massaged. Wearing those dress shoes can kill your feet!
Dressing in my black Prada suit, I paired it with an almost black dress shirt and a sleek black tie. Spraying cologne on, I ruffled my coiffed hair stepped out into the common area. On the dining table, there was a fresh bouquet of flowers that had been delivered, as they all had been delivered while we were in the suite. I plucked a bright pink rose from the bouquet, smelling it and smiling against its soft petals. Bella walked out, wearing a black halter cocktail dress with a rhinestone belt around her tiny waist. Her hair was in soft curls, pinned away from her face and she carried a bright purple clutch that coordinated with the underlay of her dress. Her makeup was smoky and sultry, completing the whole look. "Wow," I breathed. "You look amazing."
"Rose had the dress sent to me. A courier delivered it while I was at the spa," she said. "I had every intention of going to Manhattan to pick something up but, the next thing I knew, it's launch day." She plucked at the fabric. "It's not too slutty?"
"God, no. You're exquisite," I said, walking over to her and handing her the rose. She blushed. "And I want to apologize again for my mouth that first week. I am so sorry about what I said about you and the flirting … You're definitely not that. You're …" I trailed off.
Bella smiled and kissed my cheek. "Apology accepted and almost forgotten," she said. "Shit, I got lipstick on you." She used her thumb on my skin and rubbed it away. I almost wanted it to stay there so Jacob could get the clue that Bella was not interested in him.
She's not interested in you, either, douchebag.
"Shall we go?" I asked, keeping my voice even but my stomach was invaded by vampire bats.
"Let me put this in my hair and then yes," she nodded. She expertly tucked the rose behind her ear and pinned it in her hair. I offered her my elbow and we went down to the back entrance, into a waiting limo. We were going to 'walk' the red carpet as both the advertising executive who came up with the idea and as the Hysteria couple. The limo pulled around, taking almost an hour to get to the doors of the night club, Frenzy. We got out and I twined my fingers with Bella's. We posed for the cameras, smiling and acting flirtatious with each other. Jacob joined us, sandwiching Bella between the two of us. Despite her discomfort around him, she faked it and smiled. The only indication she was freaking out was her sweaty palm and trembling against me.
When the photographers asked both of us to kiss her cheeks, Bella smiled but she was as rigid as a board. Jacob's hand moved down her waist. I spun her, dipping her and kissing her temple, ending our time on the red carpet. Inside of Frenzy, Bella shuddered violently. I tugged her into the manager's office. "Are you okay?" I asked. "You can talk to me, Bella."
"Jacob just freaks me out," she said, her hand trembling as she wiped her cheek that he had kissed. I took both of her hands, caressing my thumbs over her knuckles. "It's something from my childhood. I don't talk about it, but I just don't trust men like him. And well, up until this trip, you fell into that same category. I was hurt. Badly."
"By someone who called you by your full name," I muttered.
"Right. Anyhow, I'm okay. But, I do have nightmares and Jacob …" she blew out a breath. "Don't leave me alone with him, Edward. You're the only person I trust out there, besides Jasper and Garrett. And I know that they're going to be humping each other like rabbits."
"You're my date," I said, my hand cupping her cheek. "I'm not going anywhere." Her face relaxed and pressed into my hand. I hugged her briefly before going out to the dance floor. Booze was flowing, music was spinning and on the various LED screens, the commercial and slide show of the print ad lit up the room.
Around eleven, Jacob took the stage. "Welcome and thank you to everyone who came to open up my newest venture, expanding the Hysteria empire to include casinos, resorts and flavored vodkas! This has been a labor of love, but I've adored every minute of it. I want to thank a few people before we get this party lit! Thank you to my staff and employees here at Hysteria Casino and Resort! You've made this opening one of the smoothest ever. Thank you to Jasper Whitlock and his production company for creating the print ad and commercial for me! And finally, to my marketing team, Aro and Marcus Volturi for coming up with this awesome ad campaign! I couldn't have done it without them! Now, let's get CRAZY!"
Bella and I stared at Jacob, our jaws scraping the ground. Everything that we'd done were our ideas. We worked for Aro and Marcus, but we deserved the credit. Jacob saw us, smirking evilly and sauntering off the stage. He walked right toward us. "I had to give credit where credit was due," he explained.
"You asshole," Bella sneered. "This was all us. Not Marcus or Aro."
"That can change, Isabella," Jacob said, his fingers trailing down her arm. "I can give you and Edward your due props if …" He thrust his hips, licking his lips. Bella gasped, grabbing a martini from a passing waitress, throwing it into Jacob's face. She stomped away. "I thought she'd be such an easy lay. What a waste."
"What a waste that we caught you on candid camera," Jasper said, holding up his cell phone. "Everyone will know that you sexually harassed a senior advertising executive for Volturi Interactive Advertising Agency, propositioned her to give her the credit that she and Edward deserve."
"You turn that off!" Jacob snarled. "I'll sue!" He reached for Jasper, punching at him but at the point, Garrett had his phone out. Jacob turned to me, ready to hit me.
"You can try," I said smugly. "But, if these videos make the internet, you're fucked. All of this will go away. Trust me. I know. I work in advertising. And when they say that bad publicity is good publicity? It's a load of bull. We'll make these go away and you will offer Bella and me a sincere, public apology, paying us triple our agreed fee. On top of that, if you don't follow through, Bella and I will personally see that your Hysteria empire will fall. Now, let's get CRAZY!" I turned on my heel, darting out the back of the club and into the resort. I rode up to the suite I shared with Bella and when I got there, she was gone.
Her clothes, her bags, her computer … everything …
After I caught the red eye out of Atlantic City, I took a cab to my condo. I picked up my dog and holed myself up inside. I never slept, my nightmares haunting me. I couldn't eat since my stomach was so unsettled. I felt like I'd failed as a person, as a marketing executive, as a woman.
Rose tried to get ahold of me, sending me texts and calling my phone, but I just shut it off.
I left a message for Marcus, saying that I was taking some time off due to illness.
I just turned off the world.
For a week, I stayed hidden in my condo. Only leaving to take Wrigley, my furbaby, out for a walk but even that was minimal. At the beginning of the second week, there was a banging on my door and I ignored it. It might be one of my neighbors, but I never made any noise and any guests had to be buzzed in by the doorman.
The damn banging didn't stop.
"God damn it, Swan! Open the door," came a muffled male voice. "Bella, please?"
I pulled my hair into a sloppy ponytail. On the cocktail table lay the wilted rose that Edward had given me. I scowled at it, slapping my bare feet through the foyer to see who was darkening my doorstep. Just as I got there, the banging began again. "I'm coming," I snapped, unlocking the steel door and seeing Edward. "What are you doing here?"
"Forcing you to join the land of the living," he said, stepping into my condo.
"How did you get in?"
"Rose gave me her key," he said, wiggling the bright pink keychain. I reached for it and Edward pulled it away. "Everyone's worried, Bella. Rose, Marcus, Aro … me. It's like you shut everyone out."
"It's what I'm good at," I said under my breath. "Look, I'm alive. You can go."
"Nope. I'm not leaving," he said, moving further into my home. "I remember you offering me a place to stay while my bathrooms were being remodeled. I'm taking you up on that offer."
"That was before he …" I whimpered. "I can't. You can't!"
"Bella, Jacob is in huge trouble," Edward explained. "Well, huge trouble with me, Jasper and Garrett. His little lascivious display toward you was caught on tape."
"Will you let me finish?" he hissed. "Jasper has blackmail material. And when he tried to cold-cock me, Garrett was filming."
"You almost got hit?" I asked.
"Almost, yes. Did I? No," he smirked, striding to the couch and putting up his banana boat feet on my glass cocktail table. I followed him, smacking his feet down. "But, suffice it to say, Jacob gave us all of the credit in a public statement on his website, YouTube Channel, Instagram, Twitter and anywhere else he's on social media. If he hadn't, we would have posted those videos online and I would personally take great pleasure in bringing that asshole down. Plus, we got a huge bonus."
"I don't want his money. I want to feel clean again," I whispered.
"You don't have to keep it. You can donate it, if that might make you feel better," Edward said. He leaned forward and reached for my hand. I jumped back, curling in on myself. "Bella, talk to me. Please? What Jacob did was abhorrently wrong, but why is it affecting you so badly?"
I licked my lips, my eyes looking skyward. I picked up the rose and twirled it. "When I was a freshman in college … I was …" I couldn't say it. Even almost ten years later, I couldn't say it. "My choice was taken away."
"Bella," he murmured.
"And what made it worse was that it was my step-dad who did it," I cried. "He was built and acted just like Jacob. My mom didn't believe me and my dad was killed in the line of duty, so I had no one to turn to. I just focused on being the best student and finishing school, getting all A's and graduating with honors. I haven't been back home since." I wiped my cheeks. "I can handle being called a bitch or using flirtations to get a bigger commission, but never would I sleep with a client to get ahead. Hell, I've never even had sex! I mean, I … did?"
"No, Bella," Edward said, his eyes a stormy gray. He pulled me into his lap and took my face in his hands. "You're still perfect and beautiful and … in my eyes, you're still a virgin despite what happened. It's the one thing we have in common."
"Say what?" I asked, arching a brow.
"I'm a virgin. I'm thirty years old and I'm a virgin," he snorted. "I'm married to my job, but someone is making me see that there's more to life than working eighty hours a week."
"Lucky girl," I muttered. It was probably Skankya.
"I'm the lucky one," he whispered, his fingers trailing down my cheek. He leaned forward, pressing his mouth to mine. I jumped off his lap. "What? Why are you running?"
"Because I haven't brushed my teeth in a week!" I shrieked. "I'm surprised my teeth haven't rotted out of my head!"
Edward quirked his brow. "And you're going to deny me a kiss because you got stanky breath?"
"Yes," I nodded. "At least let me brush my teeth."
"Fine, but I'm not confessing," he grumped. I ran back to my bedroom. "You're ruining my moment!" I shook my head, wailing at how I looked. My hair was a knotty mess and my clothes were covered in stains. Washing my face, brushing my teeth and hair and putting on clean clothes, I went back into the living room. Edward was looking at the photos on my mantle from when I was in high school and unburdened by the realities of my sucky life. "You looked exactly the same as you did when you were in high school."
"No, I don't. I was happy there," I said, looking at my prom photo with Mike 'The Newt' Newton. "My biggest concern was spilling the rubber chicken into my prom dress in that photo."
"Not about this handsome specimen of a man pawing at you?" Edward deadpanned.
"Don't tease The Newt," I scoffed. "He was a nice guy. With really unfortunate skin."
"I'm one to talk. I think I had it worse than him," Edward said, wrinkling his nose. "The awesomeness of Accutane! Cleared my skin and now it's as smooth as a baby's bottom. When I shave." He put the picture back on the mantle, picking up one with my dad. "You look like him. Same coloring and bright smile."
"He was my hero, but he was killed in a gun shoot-out between gangs," I said. "I miss him every day."
"I can imagine. I miss my parents more than words can say. I'm lucky that I have Elizabeth, my sister, and my nephews, Tommy and Graham, but there are moments where I'd love to just call my folks," he said, his tone wistful. He put the photo on the mantle, turning to me and giving me a crooked grin. It was sad, but still beautiful. "Can I kiss you now?"
"I don't understand why … I'm …" I never got finish my self-deprecating comment. Edward cradled my head with one hand and held me with his other. I moaned, my fingers twining into his soft, messy hair. His lips were tender, moving in concert with mine. This was different than the heated kiss from the Hysteria shoot. This was real. He was real and he was kissing me. I was kissing him back.
And I wasn't freaking the fuck out.
When that pesky need to breathe forced us apart, Edward's lips moved down my jaw and along my throat. I whimpered as his tongue trailed a path of fire along my skin. "Edward," I breathed. He kissed me again, but with more passion and fervor. We continued kissing for a few more moments before we were panting against each other. "Wow …"
"Yeah," he said, his mouth swollen and his eyes nearly black. "There's more I want to tell you, but I don't want you to run away, Bella."
"You told me that you're a virgin. That's a pretty big revelation," I quipped, my hands running up and down his heaving chest. "You're not secretly a woman, are you?"
"No," he chuckled, his mouth pressed to my forehead. Leaning his head to mine, he held me close to his body and I could feel how much he liked our kiss. "During our time working for the douche, you've grown from a rival, an annoyance, to a friend, a confidante and something more. With those changes, my feelings have changed, too." He cupped my face, staring into my eyes. "I've fallen in love with you."
"Even with my …" I whispered. "My past?"
"Your past doesn't dictate who you are. I'll still see you as the most beautiful, amazing, snarky, intelligent, funny woman that I met at orientation, who pushed me to be a better advertising exec, to be a better man," he said, his eyes solemn, but filled with so much devotion. "It also makes you the strongest woman I know. I'm so proud to say that I'm in love with Bella Swan."
I was in shock.
And totally in love with him, too.
I pulled his face to mine, kissing him with all of the power I had. He was the first man, besides Marcus and Aro, who I felt comfortable with. He made me feel like a woman and not an object. "I love you, too," I whispered against his mouth. He whooped, picking me up and holding me in his arms. "But, before you get all excited, what about our jobs? Volturi has a strict no fraternization policy!"
"I told Aro and Marcus my feelings and that I was willing to resign," he said. "They wouldn't have it and they're changing the rules, if we want to explore this. I know I do and I hope you feel the same."
"I do feel the same, but …" I trailed off.
"You're in charge, Bella. You'll always be in charge," he vowed, his hands pressing mine to his chest. "This is yours. It would kill me to hurt you."
"Then don't hurt me," I giggled, brushing my lips against his. My giggles turned into a full-on belly laugh.
"What? You're kind of wounding my ego, Bella."
"Our lives are imitating art and it's reminding me of a conversation that I had with Rose," I smirked. He moved his head to the side, his brow furrowed. "There really is a thin line between love and hate." He broke into a beautiful grin, kissing me again.
To Be Continued ...?