Author's Note: This was a little plotbunny that came to me right before Christmas. I didn't get it done until after Christmas then still took me a while to get this all wrapped up. This is going to be basically a 2...maybe 3 shot...but I'm not sure exactly when I'm gong to get it all done. I do hope you enjoy it though! Big thanks to AgoodWitch for looking this over for me before i posted.
New York City, December 21, 2016
Classic Christmas songs piped through the ceiling speakers as I held my cell phone to one ear, plugging the other with a finger. "Mommy? You are going to make it home for Christmas, right?"
I glanced out at the white wasteland outside the wall of windows and sighed. It was a blizzard the likes of which I had never seen. I couldn't even see the massive jets parked at the gates waiting to reload.
"I hope so, honey. We have three days. Just pray it ends quickly so they can clean up the runways and get flights moving again."
"But Mommy, you can't miss Christmas! You just can't!"
A tear streaked down my cheek and I brushed it away with a sigh. "Trust me, baby, I don't want to miss Christmas. I will do everything in my power to get there, but I'm halfway across the country. Google New York to Chicago and it will show you how far away Mommy is. And this blizzard is hitting the whole top of the country. Is it snowing there yet?"
She giggled and I could hear the sound of her jingle bell bracelet as she ran to the window and tapped it with her hand. "I can't even see the mailbox!"
I smiled and nodded. "It's the same way here. I can't even see the big jets sitting at the end of the entry tunnels. Remember how big they looked when they were parked for us to load to go to Disney? Well it's so bad here I even see them at all!"
"Wow," she sighed. "Well I hope it ends soon. I can't imagine Christmas without you."
"Me either, Reesie…me either. Okay, well I need to talk to Cameron or Daddy again. I love you."
"Love you, too, Mom! Here's Cameron."
My tween son sounded wired when he answered the phone. "Hi, Mom. So you're stuck?"
I sighed. "Unfortunately. Have you seen any weather updates? Are they giving any idea how long it's supposed to last?"
He yawned. "Nope, been playing Overwatch. I haven't seen anything about it."
I rolled my eyes, figuring truth be known, he probably had done nothing but play video games since the moment I left. "Well, I'm going to do my best to get home, but I can't promise anything. It's up to God and this weather mess. Do me a favor. Take care of sis and call me if you guys need anything. Let me talk to Dad. Love you, Bud."
"You too, Mom," he mumbled before the phone got lost in the sounds of shuffling and then I heard a shout of "Yeah, take that!" before I heard the phone get picked up again and Cameron calling for his Dad. A few moments later, I was put back on the phone with my ex husband.
"Whatever you're about to say, don't bother. I've got things under control."
I sighed. "I'm doing my best to get home, but this is the worst blizzard they've seen in years. There's definitely no getting out tonight, and probably not for at least a day or two. If I'm lucky, I'll be home for Christmas Day."
He yawned. "Yeah, well, the kids are safe. No hurry."
I licked my teeth and grumbled a thanks before hurriedly hanging up and stowing my phone back in my purse. Of course there was no rush; it was my turn to keep them for Christmas. I sniffed and wiped at my eyes one more time before dragging my carry-on bag with me and settling into an empty seat at the bar and ordering a cocktail. The seats were all taken but the one I stole by other poor stranded travelers. I downed the first drink way too quickly and ordered a second one before finally looking around for a TV and met the gaze of the handsome man next to me with wild auburn hair and vibrant green eyes. He smiled a charming smile that made the corners of his eyes crinkle. I smiled back halfheartedly.
"So I couldn't help overhearing a moment ago. Trying to get back home to your kids?"
I nodded. "This was supposed to be a quick in and out business trip. I didn't anticipate anything like this."
He bobbed his head in agreement. I took another drink then sighed. Better to chat than sit here sad and lonely. "What about you? Do you have family where you're going?"
"Nope," he sighed. "I'm actually a New Yorker who is supposed to be moving to a new city today to take over a new job."
I frowned, "At Christmas time? Isn't that a bad time to be leaving?"
He shrugged and took a long swing from his own drink. "Only an issue if you have family to be with."
I was torn between not wanting to pry and incurable curiosity. Finally my curiosity overpowered propriety. "You don't have anybody? At all?"
He narrowed his eyes at me and then sighed and fondled the sweaty glass in front of him with his long tapered fingers. "Divorced…no kids…only child…parents died last year in a car accident. When you are an only child that comes from a set of parents who were only children, your family dwindles really quickly."
My hand fluttered up to cover my mouth and my grimace. "I am so so sorry. I shouldn't have asked. I…I'm sorry."
"C'est la vie, I guess. It's actually part of why I took the job. I needed a change of scenery. Maybe a new city will be just the ticket."
I nodded. "I really do hope you're right. Where are you going anyway?"
He smiled and nodded to the image on the TV that showed my own city inundated with snow unlike I had ever seen. You could barely tell the city was out there beyond the skycam.
"Hey! You're moving to my neck of the woods. Let me the first to welcome you to Chicago…oh gee, I just realized I never caught your name."
He smiled and my stomach clenched at how bright his eyes were and how charming the crinkles on the outer corners were as he reached out to extend his hand toward me. "Edward, Edward Cullen."
I smiled and shook his hand, my heart picking up a little at the warmth and strength in his grip. "Bella Swan. It's nice to meet you, Mr. Cullen."
He held up a hand, "Edaward…please…it's nice to meet you too, Ms. Swan."
"Bella," I intimated and suddenly I was on first name basis with my neighbor.
"So, Edward, I know a lot about the business world in Chicago. Where will you be working?"
He opened his mouth to respond when the intercom system interrupted with a final nail in the coffin of any chance of getting a plane out for the next 24 hours. Limited hotel vouchers were available on a first come first serve basis. Our eyes widened at the same time and I jumped up before I could exhale my breath and began rushing to the customer service kiosk from which we were told to receive our vouchers. It was a crush of people to reach the desk and at one point I was afraid I might actually be suffocated when suddenly the pressure at my back eased a bit. The smooth smell of sandalwood and amber hit me as a warm newly familiar voice vibrated in my ear.
I smiled over my shoulder. "Yes, thanks. Wait, don't you live here?"
He shook his head. "Realtors closed on my place this week. I've been in a hotel since Wednesday. Besides, you couldn't get to my old place in this mess any more than you could fly home. It was in the Upper West Side."
After a good half an hour, we finally made it to the counter. The lady looked up with a smile. "Oh Good! I've got one room left and it's just right for you two."
I frowned in confusion. "Two?"
The attendant looked rattled. "You and your husband?"
She nodded behind me to Edward. I glanced up at him with worried eyes.
He shrugged. "Would you rather sleep here on the plastic waiting room seats?"
I shook my head. He leaned closer and smiled. "Mr. and Mrs. Cullen."
She batted her eyelashes and blushed as she addressed him, getting some of his information before handing over the coveted last voucher. My heart pounded as we walked together away from the throng of strandees who suddenly got quite loud and angry, picking up pace when the angry voices seemed to start following us. Edward grabbed my hand and started running, pulling me behind him through the crowded terminal. We didn't stop until we hit the doorway into the snowy sidewalk. The hotels for Laguardia were still quite a ways away. It was too far to walk in the snow, yet the weather was way too bad for taxis or any traditional transportation. I was about to say something when the sound of sleigh bells filled the air before a horse drawn sleigh with an improvised roof came gliding down the road.
"Seriously?" I whispered.
Edward chuckled. "They must have co-oped them from somewhere on Long Island or something. Whoever thought to put this together deserves a raise."
"Amen to that!" I cheered as a driver approached us and helped me into the seat before handing up my carry-on bag. Edward followed and soon we were both shielding our faces from the riveting snow, blowing in along the sides of the open sleigh, but thankfully the roof kept the vast majority from landing on us.
A short time later, we pulled in front of the Marriott. We clamored out with assistance, brushing snow off our coats and hair and hurriedly went inside. Fifteen minutes after that, "Mr. and Mrs. Cullen" were checked in, and riding the elevator up to our room on the top floor.
I shifted my carry on from one hand to the other and glanced at him as we rode up. "It is 2016 you know, unmarried people can share a room just as easily as a married couple can."
He snorted. "Yeah, but I had the distinct impression that the girl might have given it to that hipster couple behind us if I hadn't. They had on wedding rings and were all over each other like they were still honeymooning."
My jaw dropped. "You mean you made some poor newlyweds honeymoon it at the airport? Heartless!"
He chuckled. "They were 20 if they were a day and the way they were going at it, they were going to find a bathroom stall soon, voucher or not. They'll survive! We're the middle aged divorcees who wouldn't be able to walk the next day if we were forced to sleep on hard plastic."
I chuckled and shook my head before glancing back up in surprise. "I didn't tell you I was divorced."
He glanced down at my obviously empty ring finger, still sporting its deep groove where my ring once sat.
"Touché," I mumbled, my cheeks flushing.
He flashed me his bare left hand which still had a deep white groove of its own. "Don't feel bad, I've got a matching billboard of my own."
We exited the elevator and walked down the hall to the room. It wasn't until we reached the door and he was trying to use the key card that the realization really hit me that I was sharing the night in a hotel room with a perfect stranger. I didn't know him from Charles Manson. What if he was a murderer, a rapist, a philanderer, a lying cheat, a snorer. I didn't know anything about him, how did I agree to this? He opened the door and smiled, pushing it open and motioning for me to enter. I stood and stared until he frowned and cocked his head.
I cleared my throat and blushed. "I just realized I agreed to share a hotel room with a complete stranger. You could be Jack the Ripper and I'd be none the wiser."
He hummed and nodded. "Well, Jack the Ripper would be near 150 years old now, so it's a pretty sure bet I'm not him, but I get your drift. I'm not quite sure how to quell your fears either. I guess I could let you google me."
He let the door close again, leaving us both safely in the hotel hallway and pulled out a large super fancy smartphone. He fiddled with the screen a bit before handing it to me. On screen was his smiling face in a perfect headshot with his Linked In account open. His resume was impressive. He had held major positions for three major companies over the last ten years. His first appeared to be a company holding known as Cullen Communications. From there he reached beyond nepotism to becoming his own man in the business world. I had to give him credit for that, but it told me nothing about his personal history.
I looked up about to say as much when he smiled knowingly and reached over to flip to the next screen. His facebook account smiled up at me full of harmless posts, and warm wishes of Christmas greeting from friends.
"You may not have family, but you seem to have a lot of adoring friends."
He shrugged a bit. "Most of them are former employees and coworkers. I've lived a very business focused life. I have a lot of contacts, but not exactly a lot of true friends."
I skimmed a little more then smiled at him. "Well, you must be a wonderful boss then. These people really seem to think the world of you."
"Thanks," he replied with a slight blush as he put his hands in his pockets.
"Well, do you feel safe enough yet?"
I took a deep breath and nodded slightly. "But I will be sending my location and room number to all my loved ones in case I disappear."
He laughed, turning to fiddle with the key card again. "Fair enough."
He opened the door and then paused. "Wait a minute. What about you? Are YOU Lizzie Borden?"
I laughed. "I'm safe as safe can be, but if you would like me to reciprocate, I'll let you get a peek on my facebook."
He nodded and gestured for me to enter as he held the door. I entered and put my bag on top of the desk before going to the beds and beginning my inspection of the room. Edward paused with his head cocked for a moment before he realized my mission. "Smart lady," he mumbled as he too walked to the other queen size bed and began to inspect the sides and bottom for signs of bedbugs.
After a thorough inspection of the room, I decided it was safe and set my stuff on the bed by the window. I opened my phone to text my Mom and Mike my hotel info and then brought up my Facebook to show Edward. He skimmed my page a bit, chuckling at some of the jokes I'd shared and commenting on my kids. After a while he handed the phone back with a sad smile.
"How long have you been divorced?"
I sighed. "Not long, but we had a four year separation before I bit the bullet and filed. The kids do okay with it most days, but when he drops them off after his weekend, it's always harder. They both cling to him and cry. It's heartbreaking. Reese, my daughter, used to cry like that every time she left me too, but she doesn't do that anymore. I think they're secure in the fact I'll be here when they come back and I love them unconditionally. Mike had a live in girlfriend for over a year before he told them, and it kind of sent the kids for a loop. I think it threw them off kilter confidence wise. That was when I finally just went and filed for divorce and cut that tie. It was hard. He was my high school sweetheart. I got married thinking it would be my only one. I had a hard time accepting that I had failed in that."
He nodded. "Tanya and I met in grad school. We dated for eight years, were engaged for two. You'd think after ten years that you would be solid and it would last forever. Two years later, she had cheated on me and left me for a man ten years older than us but ran a major company in town. They met through me actually. Go figure."
I shook my head and rubbed my forehead. "I'm so sorry. That's just so wrong. I don't understand people! That's why I'm not going to do that whole thing again. I have a career and two very special kids to focus on. I don't need distracted, and more likely than not, raked through the coals again. Nope. I'm better on my own."
He nodded. "I hear you. I've been thinking the same way."
He sighed, looking around the room. "I'm really hungry. I haven't eaten since breakfast. Should we go see if they have a restaurant or something here?"
I agreed and grabbed my purse, following him back into the hall and down to the elevators. Dinner was actually pretty great. Edward was funny and caring. He was very polite and respectful with the service staff who looked stressed to their breaking point. He had been everywhere and had some pretty cool travel stories. I shared my few flimsy tales from my high school foreign language club trip to Rome, Paris, and London, but it was nothing compared to his tales of intrigue. Going to Europe as an adult versus a fifteen year old chaperoned by two teachers in their early fifties was a whole different ballgame to be sure. Dessert brought on a whole new topic of conversation.
"Awww yeah, they've got pecan pie."
He looked up confused, "Pecan pie?"
I cocked my head, putting on my best Billy Crystal fake accent. "Waiter, there is too much pepper on my paprikosh, but I would be proud to partake of your pecan pie!"
He looked around surreptitiously, making sure I hadn't offended anyone before furrowing his brow in a way that could only be described as adorable. "What the hell was that?"
He nodded a little, still looking affronted.
"When Harry Met Sally?"
His glazed look continued as he glanced down at the menu.
"You've never seen When Harry Met Sally? It's more than 25 years old and hilarious! Meg Ryan…Billy Crystal…not ringing any bells?"
"Ahhh," he finally replied with eyebrows raised in recognition. "Chick flick, mystery solved."
"Mystery solved? Really? Your ex or some random girlfriend of the past never made you watch girly movies with them?"
He snorted. "Of course. I've been inflicted with all manner of Nicholas Sparks, but I would never been silly enough to let them con me into something already a quarter of a century old."
I released some kind of squeak in response that made his eyes sparkle as he looked up at me.
"As for me," he said with a crooked smile, "I think I'll leave the gun and take the cannolli."
He looked at me expectantly. "Never been a big fan of cannoli myself."
"Whatever, but you do get the reference, right?"
I shrugged. "I think it's from the Godfather, right? But I only know that from You've Got Mail."
His eyes grew large as dinner plates. "You've never watched the Godfather?"
I picked up what was left of my roll and threw it at him. "It's not that big of a deal. I mean, it's mobsters. You've seen one mob movie, you've seen them all."
He looked as though I'd insulted God or something. "Not a big deal? NOT a BIG Deal? You haven't seen cinema until you've experienced The Godfather!"
He gestured for the server and asked for dessert to go and the check. "We are going upstairs right now to rectify this grievous wrong. We have nothing else to do. You have to watch the Godfather. Hopefully it's on pay per view."
I leaned back as if he'd slapped me. "What? NO! Aren't those movies like forever long?"
He shrugged. "What better things do we have to do? We're stranded in Queens in the blizzard of the century. We have nowhere else to go."
I looked around and sighed. "Okay, I'll watch your super long mobster movie under one condition."
He cocked his eyebrow.
"You have to watch When Harry Met Sally with me afterward."
He crinkled his nose as if I'd just offered him three day old tuna off the sidewalk vs tit for tat on favorite movies.
"Quid pro quo, my friend…Quid. Pro. Quo."
I thought for a moment he might have a coronary as he warred with himself over the decision. Who would have thought a little romance movie would induce such a reaction in a man? Finally, he stretched a reluctant hand in my direction.
"Okay, well quoting Silence of the Lambs isn't exactly comforting, but at least I know your movie taste isn't total shit. Deal."
The server arrived at that moment with two containers of dessert and the bill. A few moments later, we were back in the elevator on our way back up to the room. Edward immediately began searching for the Godfather, but I refused to let him buy it until we checked that When Harry Met Sally was available to rent too. Once we were assured we could fully meet the terms of our agreement, Edward selected his choice and we each curled up on our respective beds and didn't utter another word until the movie ended. I had to admit, it was better than I thought. And the movie stood up to the test of time, especially considering it was several years older than me.
"Well," he finally muttered expectantly as the end credits rolled.
I slowly nodded. "Okay, I have to admit that it's good. I see the hoopla. Would I want to watch it over and over? Not so much. But it was…an experience."
He clapped his hands loudly. "Damn right it was!"
He got up and started out of the room when I held my hand up. "Wait! Where do you think you're going?"
"Um…can't a man go piss without permission?"
I fake sighed. "I guess so, but after that you must hold up your end of our agreement."
He looked at the clock which announced it was now past midnight. "Tonight? Don't you want to get some sleep or something?"
I narrowed my eyes as I shook my head. "The weather is set to last at least another 24 hours. We have all the time in the world to sleep, but you will not renege on our agreement mister."
He held his hands up in surrender. "Just give me a minute and I'll be your captive audience." He rolled his eyes at the last bit.
"I'll find it and get it queued up. You hurry!"
Twenty minutes later, Edward was sitting with his back against the headboard laughing at Billy Crystal's wit. I smiled knowingly in his direction before letting myself get wrapped up in the story. I always loved this one. It was so much more real that most romance stories. Usually it's love at first sight, hearts and roses, a minor obstacle to cover then HEA. Harry and Sally's story pans more than a decade and is based around real friendship. Okay, I don't love he's a manwhore, but I just like how sometimes things that are meant to be come about in very unusual and roundabout ways.
"Okay…I get the pecan pie thing. That's a pretty funny scene," he begrudgingly admitted after the scene in question.
Once the movie ended, I turned to him during the credits with an expectant look. He sighed, "Okay, the end was kind of cheesy, but I have to admit, it was pretty good."
I hopped on the bed a bit and pointed at him. "See! Told you!"
Looking at the clock, I groaned. "Ugh, it's two thirty. We should really get to sleep, but I'm not actually tired!"
He smiled back waggled his eyebrows suggestively. "Godfather part two? Only sequel in history just as good, if not better, then the original."
Narrowing my eyes, I glared at him. "Only if you let me choose another movie too…Quid pro quo for the remainder of our imprisonment?"
He nodded and held out his hand. I took it and swallowed at the little zing I get touching him.
It's six am when the credits rolled and my eyes rolled in my head with it. I was lying on my side on the bed, facing his bed, my head tucked on my pillow in a way that allowed me to see the TV. I glanced at him to see him watching me expectantly.
"It was good too," I muttered, the last word morphing into a big yawn.
He just nodded quietly. I blinked at him a few times before my eyes fell closed and I was engulfed in delicious dark sleep.
I jerked awake two hours later to the sound of my phone ringing on the end table between the beds. I grabbed it and mumbled a hello.
"Mommy!" Reesie squealed so loud into the headset and it made my ears ring. I heard Edward groan from the other bed as I sat up and cupped the phone closer to my head.
"Hi baby. How are you?"
"Good Mommy! We made a snow man and snow angels yesterday! I made Daddy take pictures. Did you get them?"
"No honey, I didn't get them yet. Did he put them on facebook or text them to me?"
I pulled the phone away as my daughter yelled the question to her Dad with the phone still at her mouth. I kind of heard a mumbled reply before she spoke to me excitedly again.
"Ok, hold on. I'll put you on speaker and bring it up to look."
I quietly shuffled to the bathroom where I turned the volume as low as I could while still being able to hear and listened to my daughter chatter happily while I brought up my facebook. I wasn't tagged, so I had to go hunting on Mike's page to find it. When I did I wanted to scream at the images of my children, not wearing their snow gear I bought this year, but instead wearing their school uniforms to play. I just hoped they didn't ruin them and/or get pneumonia from his lack of thought.
"Wow, honey. Those look great! Your snowman looks just like Frosty!"
"We did that on purpose! You like him?"
"I love him," I replied grimacing at my crazy reflection in the mirror. My hair was a rats nest, eye makeup smeared everywhere. I hadn't packed my facial cleanser in my carry on. Big mistake. The hotel face bar would have to do, I guessed.
I washed my face with the bar as I continued chatting with my daughter. Eventually my son stole the phone.
"Hey Mom, I'm kind of getting worried about Christmas. The weather people are saying this storm is going to last another day."
I pick up the phone and start to open my app. "What? They extended it?"
"It looks like it. What happens if you don't make it home?"
I sighed. "Daddy's got you, buddy. If I don't make it home, then he'll make sure you have a great day anyway."
Cam groaned. "No it won't be. Her family is coming. They're supposed to be here tomorrow, no matter the weather. Apparently that's what four wheel drives are for according to Dad."
I took a breath, counted to ten then let it out. "It's not the first time you've been around them and it won't be the last if they stay together. I know you don't care for her little sister, but you will survive it."
"She's a year younger than me, Mom!"
"I know honey, but that happens when Dad's girlfriend is only 12 years older than you are. At least you like hanging out with her brother."
I could almost hear him roll his eyes. "Like Lizzy lets us play together. She's worse than Reese!"
I chuckled, picturing the little girl that I guessed probably had a crush on him following him around and pestering him. "Well, keep praying that this storm stops soon so I can get home. Until then, know I love you."
"Love you, too," he mumbles before talking to someone in the background. "Dad wants to talk to you."
"Okay, Bud, bye."
The shuffling sound of the phone changing hands is loud. Soon I heard Mike breathing into the phone.
"Here's my problem, Bella. I didn't think I'd still have the kids today. Bree's family is hitting town in the morning and we don't have enough beds for everyone. Can some of her family stay at your place?"
"Stop. You don't need to repeat yourself. I heard you perfectly. I just can't believe you have the audacity to ask."
"Well, it's your business trip that caused the issue. The least you can do is let us."
"NO MIKE, the answer is NO. Now if it's too much of a burden, and Mom is free, you are more than welcome to take the kids to her to make more room in the house. If you do, though, YOU have to explain to them the real reason why. And not that I'm the bitch that won't let your trophy girlfriend who you cheated on me with's family stay in my home, but rather the one where you are more interested in making a good impression on them than putting your children first. The call is yours."
I hung up the phone and tossed it on the counter with a loud growl which earned a knock on the door.
"Sorry," I yell through the door. "I didn't mean to disturb you."
The knock repeated, softly. "Want to talk about it?"
I sigh and open the door. He's blurry from the tears in my eyes. "I'm assuming you heard most of it. Sorry. I didn't mean to be so loud."
He brushed of my comment with a wave of his hand and the reached out to guide me back into our room. I pick up my phone and carry it to my bed where I toss it down and flop on my stomach beside it.
"I'm so tired, Edward, and I don't mean physically. I'm that too. But I'm just tired in my heart and in my soul. I bend heaven and Earth for those kids. I've swallowed my pride so much I'm surprised I have and esophagus left! I've pretzeled myself ten ways from Sunday to keep those kids healthy, happy, and as well adjusted as possible, but God forbid he have to change his plans or force some person he's known five minutes to sleep on the floor because he has his kids when he didn't expect to! He's just so damned selfish!"
"So I gather. He cheated with a younger woman?"
I smile at him sardonically. "She just turned 25 this summer. Here's the thing. We got married when I was 25. We got a house, had kids, and throughout all that, I matured and changed. Meanwhile he did not. So they're perfectly matched. He's still 25 in a 40 year old body. I just fear what happens when she either out matures him too, or finds someone closer to her own age instead. Maybe she won't. Her Dad was a lot older than her mom. He was elderly when she was born. Then he died when she was a teenager. Her mom remarried and had her little brother and sister within a year or two after his passing."
"Wait…so he cheated while you were married and she's just 25…"
"Yep, she was 19 at the time."
His eyes grew wide again and I laughed. "You couldn't make this stuff up if you tried. I keep thinking I should write a book or something. Maybe it would help me purge my anger and frustration."
He rubbed his chin. "Not a bad idea."
I snorted. "Not a bad idea if I were a writer. I'm a business minded person. I couldn't write my way out of paper bag if I had to do anything beyond corporate kiss ass mumbo jumbo. Creativity is the last thing I'm good at."
He chortled, "I find kiss ass mumbo jumbo requires quite a bit of creativity, myself."
I laughed but then it turned into a moan as I buried my face in my pillow. "The worst part is that he's so smug about it all. He moved on with a younger woman and I'm still tragically single. Not that I want to be involved with anyone…ever…but he thinks I'm pining away for him or something which is a total joke. He repulses me now. I can't even begin to imagine even kissing him. Unfortunately, I can't imagine myself kissing anyone at all."
"Well, surely you've gone on some dates. I mean, it's been five years."
I shook my head. For a second, I thought his jaw might actually disconnect and fall to the floor it hung so far open.
"So you haven't?"
"For six years?"
I snorted as I sat up, gesturing to my ravishing ensemble of wrinkled clothes and mussed hair. "It's not like there are a lot of men on the market for an overscheduled, middle aged, mother of two with a full time career, debt up to her ears, and a massive c-section scar. And even if there were, I don't have time for that. My life consists of work, homework, karate classes, band practice, concerts, pep band performances, and on the days I do get to myself every other weekend they are with their Dad, I recover and clean house. I'm neither in a position physically, emotionally, or recreationally to meet, much less date, an eligible bachelor I'd even be slightly interested in. I tried a dating site once and it was a joke. I take the strokes to my ego as they come, but I can't imagine being involved with a single one."
Edward moved to sit beside me, taking my hand, and looking into my eyes. "Okay, for one, you are a smart, beautiful, caring woman that any man would be lucky to have. Two, you have to make a little time for yourself. You are too young to give up on the rest of your life. Three, you are way too beautiful to have gone six years without even being kissed. That's just wrong."
I blushed ten shades of red and ducked my face. I felt his fingers come up under my chin and turn my face up toward his. My heart was pounding and my hands were shaking. He looked at me with such intensity that I felt like he was looking all the way through me. I could feel what he was going to do and a big part of me wanted, but a bigger part of me was terrified. I stood up and turned toward the end table to grab the remote.
"I'm way too worked up to sleep now. Want to order room service for breakfast and watch my pick of movies?"
I felt his eyes on me as I flicked through the options on the screen and tried to get my breathing back under control. I couldn't even look his way. I was far too flustered and embarrassed. After a moment, I heard him sigh and reach for the room service menu.
"What shall it be this morning? Eggs benedict?"
My head jerked his way on instinct and he smiled. "Like eggs benedict do we?"
I nod and he nods in reply, picking up the phone. I vaguely heard him adding on fruit and juice to our request as I perused our options. I know I was trying to turn him to the romance side, but after that moment we just shared, I felt like steering away from all forms of romance movies. Finally, I came to one I thought would be perfect.
"I know I promised romance, but I'm not feeling it. I feel like kicking a little ass. How about either Serenity or Aliens?"
His eyes lit up like a kid at Christmas making my stomach flutter. Maybe my choices weren't the best after all. "Now those are both great options. My opinion of your taste improves hour to hour, Ms. Swan."
I roll my eyes and choose Serenity. "Whatever you say, Mr. Cullen. Now shush so I can drool over Mal and live vicariously through River!"
Edward laughed and moved to his bed, fluffing up his pillows to rest against the headboard. Meanwhile, I threw my pillows to the foot of the bed and flopped on my belly to watch with my head propped on my hands. I would not think of the man on the other bed. I would not think of the man on the other bed. I…shit, I kept thinking of the man on the other bed and how much I actually did want to know what those soft pink lips tasted like. I couldn't help it though. It was like I had romance PTSD. Just the thought of letting a man touch me again put me in a panic. I could watch movies and read books all day, but put me in kissing distance I was a jumpy, anxious, wreck!
The room service arrived sometime during the credits and I fell asleep again after River kicked all the reavers butts and woke up again when my stomach began growling. I rolled over to see Edward was also asleep. The clock on the table read three in the afternoon. I shuffled to the restroom and then to the window to peek outside. The snow had slacked considerably, but was still coming down pretty good. The world outside was a winter wonderland of snow. The streets were solid sheets of snow with drifts covering the first floor windows of the buildings that lined it. The snow covered tops of cars were nothing more than little hills dotting the top of the parking garage next door. I turned the TV to the weather channel and turned the volume way down to watch the update on the storm. The snow was expected to stop by midnight, but then cleanup would take at least a day or two. Then there would be the mad dash of all the travelers, those stranded trying to get home and those hoping to make it to their destinations. My hopes of making it home by Christmas were dwindling into nothing. I plopped on my bed and started to cry, which is how Edward found me a few minutes later.
After a few minutes of discussion, we decided to go down and see if we could get some food from the restaurant. The poor staff looked ragged. It hadn't even occurred to me that if we were snowed in, most of them were too. I double tipped them after our meal and hoped they were getting overtime.
When we returned to the room, I decided it was probably prudent to VPN with work and make sure I wasn't missing anything important. I tried connecting, but for some reason the connection refused to initiate. It probably didn't like my using public wifi. With a sigh, I closed my laptop and tried on my phone, but it wouldn't let me connect either.
"Can you get internet signal?" Edward tried connecting but also failed. I sighed and looked at my phone again. No signal. I picked up the phone. No dialtone. I panicked when I realized we were completely cut off. I wasn't going to be able to contact my kids for a while and that made me feel ill. I hoped they realized it was connection issues and now my ignoring them or something.
I paced for a while until Edward suggested we see if the cable was still working. Thankfully it was. He scrolled through the options, and since it was his turn, I figured we'd end up watching another mob drama of some kind, but instead the opening credits for The Longest Ride popped up on the screen. I blinked at him in surprise and he shrugged.
"You needed something to distract you, and of the many Sparks movies I've been forced to watch, this is my favorite."
"That's thoughtful," I replied with a smile. "Thanks."
I was practically sobbing by the end of the movie. I felt motion beside me and looked up to find Edward sitting on the edge of the bed with a tissue box in his hand. I smiled through my tears and took a tissue as I muttered a thanks.
"If only love stories like that existed in real life!"
Edward hummed in response.
"I can't think of any couples I know that seem truly happy. Then again, I guess the movie showed that every couple goes through tough times. Just not everybody is willing to put in the work it takes to pull through. I know Mike didn't."
Edward nodded. "My parents were one of the few couples I've known who seemed to stay in love their whole lives. I got married expecting my life to be like that. It was hard to accept when it didn't."
I rolled back into the middle of the bed and sighed. "Objectively, I'd like to have someone in my life again. But logisitically, I'm terrified. I have to worry about my kids' emotional and physical safety before anything else, then my own emotional safety. I've been hurt so bad, it's like I have some form of shellshock. Just the idea of kissing a man again kicks in my fight or flight. And I'm not even entirely sure the problems we had in bed weren't all my fault."
Edward nearly choked on the air he was breathing. "Excuse me?"
I felt my face flushing bright red as I covered my eyes and whimpered. "I've only been with one other guy besides my ex in my life. He was my first. Thought I was in love. The sex itself wasn't great. Everything leading up to it was amazing, but the act itself was just horrible. I figured it was just because it was my first time. I never got a second with him because I found out he was messing around so I dumped him. Then I got with Mike. It took me almost two years to try again and when I did, the first time was just as bad. It was okay eventually, but it was never something I couldn't live without. In fact, when he started staying on computers all night instead of coming home, I felt just as satisfied meeting my own needs. It just got worse and worse and I just…I'm pretty sure it was all me."
Edward scoffed. "No way. There's no way that's true. Just hearing a couple of conversations you've had with that ass, it's obvious he's a selfish fucker. And a selfish fucker is well…a selfish fucker in every sense."
I snorted a laugh and rolled over to face him. He smiled down at me and reached out to push some of my hair off my forehead.
"When the right guy comes along, it'll be better. I promise. He's going to go out of his way to make everything as perfect as he can because you're worth that." He swallowed hard, and leaned stood up to grab something off his bed. "And he'll be a lucky S.O.B."
I pressed my lips together and swallowed past a lump in my throat before rolling back to my back and covering my stinging eyes. Soon the darkness enveloped me in a deep, much needed sleep.
I woke to the sound of the room phone ringing. I jerked awake and jumped for the receiver, barely processing that the shower was running in the bathroom.
"Bella! Oh thank goodness! We thought something happened to you!"
I shook my head and looked at the clock. It was evening again. "We lost phones and net for a while, but apparently they got it fixed."
I pulled my cell over and looked at the screen lit up with a plethora of missed messages. Booting up my laptop, I began the process of trying to VPN while listening to my Mom. Her words finally penetrated leaving my heart pounding.
"Excuse me? Did you really say that motherfucker brought you the kids? He…oh my God…did he tell them why he did it?"
"He said you told him to be honest."
Tears welled in my eyes. "I never thought he'd be that much of a selfish, self-centered, motherfucker! Oh.." my hand flew to cover my mouth when I realized the pain the kids were in and I was stuck here. In New York. Half a country away when they needed me most. I couldn't hear for the sound of my own blood rushing in my ears. Apparently they were sleeping now, but had cried all day after he had dropped them off that morning.
"I…I think the snow has finally stopped here. I'm going to get off here and start putting pressure on getting on the first flight back. Oh my God…my poor babies."
Mom sighed. "They're okay, Bella. Yes they got their feelings hurt, but they need you to come home in one piece. Don't do anything risky to get back sooner. I love you. I'll have them call when they get up."
"Yes, no matter the time!"
"Okay, honey. Safe trip home."
"Love you, Mom."
"Love you too, Bella."
A cough behind me made me realize I wasn't alone. Edward was still dripping wet with a towel slung around his hips. When he saw my face, he rushed to my side, resting a hand on my upper arm.
"Oh Jeez, what's wrong, Bella? I heard the yelling from the shower, but you look devastated."
I shook my head, new tears welling in my eyes. "You know how this morning I told Mike he couldn't use my house to sleep his girlfirend's family and if he was that desperate he could take them to my Mom, but he had to be honest with them?"
He nodded in remembrance.
I swallowed and ground through my teeth, "Motherfucker took me up on my offer. The kids are shattered and I'm stuck in Butt Fuck Egypt New York!"
He shook his head with a frown, glancing out the window. "Snow's done but the aftermath will still be extensive."
I nodded and gasped as I plopped my face in my palms. "I'm going to start calling and harassing the airlines, but I still don't think they will be able to get anyone out anytime soon."
I heard Edward gasp and looked up to see him smiling, his eyes twinkling more than I'd seen them to date.
"I have an idea. A really good idea. Hold on. Let me make some calls. I think I can work this out for us, Bella! I'll get you home by Christmas one way or another!"
I looked up at him in bewilderment which just made him laugh again. "Oh just you wait and see. I'm going to make you believe in miracles again, Ms. Swan!"
He threw on a pair of jeans and a sweater and grabbed his phone before rushing out of the room, talking steadily as he rushed. He turned around at the door and asked the person on the other end to wait just a moment.
"Pack your bags, Bella. If I get this worked out, we'll be out of here tonight!"
With that he let the door slam behind him, leaving me to watch the newscasters on TV give an update on Santa's global trek. It was already five o'clock Christmas Eve. I didn't know what Edward planned to do, but he was right about one thing. It certainly would be a miracle!
I hurriedly packed my things and waited impatiently for him to return. He re-entered the room an hour after he left with a huge, heart-melting smile.
"Well, Ms. Swan, it took a little coercion and work, but if things work out as planned, you'll be pulling up to your house before dawn."
My eyes grew huge. "How?"
He smirked. "No company wants to leave their new CEO stranded in New York on the Eve of their announcement of his appointment. It took some doing, but between a helicopter service to DC where the company jet will meet us to fly us direct to Chicago, we should be arriving around 5am. They're picking us up at 10pm."
I flew into his arms, tears rolling down my face. "Oh Edward! Oh thank you! Thank you so much!"
I buried my face in his neck as he held me close. I felt the shift a few seconds later as my body started vibrating from head to toe. My breathing got shallow and I swallowed hard as the scent of his soap and hint of cologne penetrated the haze of my tears. My heart pounded as he moved a little bit and I found myself staring up at him while still wrapped in his arms. His eyes darted between mine looking conflicted and we just stared for several long seconds before I leaned in and brushed his soft red lips with my own. He let out a long breath as we sort of melted into each other. His hands move up to cup my face and tipped me a bit to the side. I tightened my grip on him and opened my lips slightly against his. He took the offering and teased my lips with his tongue before reaching in to taste me. We both moaned as the tastes of one another mingled and increased the heat building between us.
He turned me so I was braced between him and the wall that separated the bathroom from the main one. His hands roamed my sides and waist, gripping my hips as he broke away, panting with his forehead resting against mine.
"I knew it would be like this. You're too perfect for words."
I shook my head, but he stopped my retort with another kiss. Eventually, his lips left mine to kiss across my cheek and down below my ear. I whimpered and shifted against him as his hands stilled on my hips. His lips came up to my ear to nibble before he whispered. "Let me show you. Let me prove it to you."
"What?" I gasped as he captured my earlobe between his teeth.
"That your past disappointments with sex were not your fault."
I swallowed and shook my head. "I'm not that woman. I don't do casual."
He smirked against my neck. "What makes you think this would be casual? You live in Chicago. I'm going to live in Chicago. We've known each other three days and in that time, I feel like I know you better than I ever knew my wife. You're smart, funny, beautiful, and charming. I'd be crazy not to want to keep seeing you."
He sucked a spot at the base of my neck that made me gasp. "But this isn't real. This is a bubble. There's no way to know that things would be the same in the real world."
He nibbled the spot he had just sucked, and I arched into him, happily surprised to find myself meeting his hardness already ready for me. "I don't want it to be the same. I want it to be better."
"But-" He cut off my words with a deep, passionate kiss that deepened further as he captured my hips between his and the wall and ground against me. I shook with the flood of sensation and he groaned against my neck.
He stepped back slightly, hands still on my hips and gazed down at me. His eyes were laced with lust and what almost seemed like agony. "If you really don't want this…"
I reached up and cupped his cheek with my right hand. Some of his tension melted as he leaned his face into my hand. "I didn't say that," I whispered, "but I'm scared."
He swallowed hard and nodded. "Me too. I haven't been with anyone since…I haven't even looked, but then there you were, and here we were thrown together, and it just happened."
I nodded too. I knew exactly what he meant, but that didn't help the fear. "I don't think we should rush it. Anything worth truly having is worth waiting for until the time is right. If we rush, we risk ruining it. It seems too good to ruin."
He rested his forehead against mine again and sighed, kissing the tip of my nose. "It's hard to argue with that logic."
I smiled and wrapped my arms around his chest, resting my ear over his heart. He engulfed me in his arms and rested his cheek on the top of my head and just held me. My heart flipped in my chest and stole my breath. How could words like love be flitting around in my head already? It was too soon, too scary, and yet, certainly there. I'd just met him. It shouldn't be. It couldn't be.
Eventually, Edward unwrapped his arms and stepped back, taking my hand to lead me to the end of the bed where he gestured for me to sit. He turned on the TV and found It's a Wonderful Life. He went to the minifridge and pulled out one of the insanely expensive tiny bottles of wine and two wine glasses, filling them both and bringing them to the bed. He handed me one before sitting next to me and stretching his glass out to tap the top of mine.
"To not spoiling an amazing thing." I smiled and tapped back before slowly lifting the glass to my lips. The wine was a little dry but sweet. My eye zeroed in on Edward's lips as he sipped and when I glanced up to his eyes I noticed he was similarly enthralled with mine. OH SCREW IT! I gulped the last sip and then sat the glass on the floor before straddling a surprised Edward and capturing his face between my hands and kissing him with abandon. I heard his glass fall somewhere on the carpeted floor before his hands grasped my hips possessively.
When I broke the kiss to yank his sweater over his head he chuckled. "What happened to slow?"
I cocked my brow at him. "I've spent more time with you in the past three days than I would in three months of dates, wouldn't you say?"
He smirked. "That's a fair estimation."
"Well, three months sounds like an adequate amount of time to get to know someone before giving in to our sex drives and mine has six years of drought to make up for. Not to mention to the decade and a half of disappointment before that. This feels right, somehow. YOU feel right."
I shifted against his erection and watched in glee as his face reflected his own sweet torture. His hands slid around to cup my ass and direct me to grind harder against him. I threw my head back and moaned eliciting a similar sound from him. He kept up the pace with one hand while the other slid up to push my shirt up my torso. He yanked it over my head with one hand before cupping my breast in his large palms, rolling my cloth covered nipples between his massive thumb and index finger. After a while, he hooked his finger in the top of my bra cup and pulled it down, causing my boob to pop over the edge and without missing a beat, captured my nipple between his lips.
I was too caught up in all the sensations after so long without any of these attentions that I fell over the edge quickly. He moaned against my breast as he continued to guide me on him, letting me ride out my first crest. I melted against his bare chest, my face nestled in the crook of his neck. He ran his hands softly up and down my back as he kissed my shoulder.
"Told you it wasn't you."
I shook my head against his skin and mumbled into his neck. "Foreplay stuff was always pretty good. It's the actual intercourse where things go sideways."
A chuckle rumbled under me. "Well if you were trying it sideways it probably was a little more complicated."
I snorted and shook my head earning another gruff chuckle. That's when I remembered that the poor man didn't get the same satisfaction I did. I started to shift my hand down to try to help him out when the room phone ringing shrilly made me jump. Edward groaned before plopping back on the mattress, bringing me with him to land on his chest, and stretching his long arm out to snatch up the receiver.
"Cullen. Yes? Well that's even better news. We will be down in ten minutes."
He hung up the phone and pressed a kiss into my temple. "Seems our timeline has moved up. The chopper is waiting for us at the airport. Transport is being arranged right now. We have to go."
I sighed and slid to the side, resting my head on his shoulder and pressing a soft kiss into the light smattering of hair that covered his peck before propping myself up on my arm to stare down at him. "I can't thank you enough for doing this for us."
He smiled and then leaned up to kiss me gently before resting back on the bed. "Well, I expect to be well compensation by a promise to go on a date with me after the holidays."
I licked my lips. "I think that is a fair and manageable arrangement."
He leaned up to kiss me again before groaning and shifting us both to the edge of the bed and sitting us up.
"If we don't stop I'm going to end up keeping you here the rest of the night and we won't make it to Chicago in time for Christmas. As much as it pains me to say so, we need to get going."
I captured his face in my hands and kissed him with a soft, slow, deliberateness that spiked my own libido as well as his own. I nibbled his bottom lip as I pulled away and then kissed him one more time before standing up and sliding my bra cups back into place. I made a show of swaying my hips as I walked to the end of the bed and bent over to grab our shirts off the floor. I tossed him his before slowly replacing mine while keeping my eyes locked on his in some really mean reverse strip tease. He licked his lips and sighed before tossing his sweater over his head and coming to stand in front of me. He yanked me against him and kissed me hard and rough, full of a whole boat load of delicious promise before grazing my ear with his teeth.
"Oh Ms. Swan, I am going to have so much fun proving to you…repeatedly…that you are most definitely mistaken regarding your sexuality. I'm going to have you screaming my name not once, not twice, but a minimum of three times the first time I have you in my bed. And you're going to go home begging for more."
I reached down and cupped his still hard erection and squeezed gently. "Promises, promises."
He waggled his eyebrows. "Damn straight!"
I smiled and kissed his neck before stepping back and tugging at my clothes again to compose myself. He rolled his neck before putting his hand at the small of my back and leading me to the door. He took both of our bags in hand and led me down the hall, to the elevator banks, and out into the snow banked world to begin our trek home.
It was a long, slick drive from the hotel to the airport. Once inside we were led through different areas to finally depart the terminal and walk toward a helicopter sitting in the middle of a rectangular pad of concrete. As we approached, I saw the writing on the side of the chopper. The big red slanted words on the side made my heart jump into the throat. I reached out to grab Edward's arm. He looked back in confusion as I stared up at him in horror.
"Edward, what company just hired you to be CEO?"
He smiled and gestured toward the large white vehicle with the giant words Volturi Communications eteched in the side in its renowned, patented, 'Volturi Blood Red.' Tears filled my eyes as I reached into my briefcase to pull out my company ID.
Isabella Swan, VP Sales and Acquisitions, Volturi Communications, Inc.
Edward stared at it, then up at me, then to the plane and back again. Suddenly fate went from being amazing to incredibly cruel because the number one, highest, and most unbreakable rule at Volturi was no fraternization with employees. Zero Tolerance. We were screwed…and not in the good way.