Standard Disclaimer: The author does not own any publicly recognizable entities herein. No copyright infringement is intended.
AN: This one-shot was inspired by the 1973 match between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King. While many aspects of the story are historically accurate, some events were altered to better fit within the parameters of the plot. One final note, I am not an expert in the area of tennis. If something is stated incorrectly, I apologize in advance.
After taking one final glance in the mirror, Edward grabbed his hotel key and sprinted out the door.
Waiting for the elevator, he checked his watch and groaned. He was running late.
"Come on," he muttered, pushing the down button once more as if that would miraculously make the doors open.
Normally, he wouldn't worry about showing up late for an event, but his parents flew in for today's match, and he knew they were probably already at the venue.
When the elevator dinged signaling its arrival, he stepped inside. Being on the top floor meant having to make stops on the way down, the first being on the twelfth floor where a young blonde entered.
She recognized him immediately.
Squealing, she asked for his autograph. He rolled his eyes but agreed.
As she fished through her purse in search of a pen and paper, she introduced herself. Kelly.
Or was it Kimmie?
On another night, Edward might have paid closer attention given she was a looker. But he didn't have time for a quick shag tonight, he would be too busy at the awards ceremony and with his parents.
The elevator made another stop. The ninth floor. This time a petite brunette slipped inside.
"Shoot! I found a pen, but I don't have any paper," the blonde pouted, batting her overly made-up eyes at him.
Edward chuckled to himself already knowing where this was headed. These girls were all alike. They wanted the same thing.
"That's too bad. Unless … well, I could just sign your hand or something else if you would like," he offered, gaping down to the tight material that strained across her ample breasts.
Bingo, he thought, when the girl giggled and began loosening the strings that held the top of her dress together.
"You can't be serious! Gimme a break!"
Startled, Edward's gaze snapped from the boobfest that was taking place in front of his eyes toward the indignant voice coming from the opposite corner of the confined space.
Holy smokes. How could he have overlooked this little piece of perfection, he wondered to himself. She certainly didn't have the rack the blonde did, but Good Lord, those eyes.
"Calm down, Kitten," Edward soothed, casting her a wink. "I'm sure Candy here will share her pen, and I can sign yours as soon as I'm finished with—"
"It's Kimmie," the blonde whined, interrupting him.
"That's what I said," he continued slowly finishing his signature, his eyes roaming. Turning back to the brunette he asked, "Now, where would you like yours?"
Bella Swan had heard all the rumors about Edward Cullen, and now she had no doubt that they were true. The top-ranked tennis player really was a male chauvinist pig.
But holy shit, he also had the most gorgeous face she had ever seen, and Lord have mercy, that hair.
Too bad he was such a sexist dick, she mused.
As he ogled her, pen in hand, her blood pressure started to rise. His eyes swept over her entire body, lingering an inappropriately long time on her chest and ass.
"If you can't decide on a spot, I would be happy to pick one for you," he murmured, leaning in so only she could hear him. His breath was warm against her neck causing her heart to race.
"What you can do, is back the fuck up!" she seethed.
Kitty has claws! Edward marveled before stepping back and lifting his hands up in surrender. "Does your momma know you use that sweet little mouth of yours to say such naughty words?"
Before she could respond, the elevator ground to a halt. They had arrived at the lobby.
Bella dashed out; that creep wasn't getting another second of her time.
Not used to being rejected, Edward began to go after her but froze when a hand clutched his arm.
"So, wanna go get a drink?"
Long, red talons.
It was Candy. He had forgotten all about her once he laid eyes on the brunette.
Giving her one of his trademark smiles, he ran his finger down her cheek before consoling, "Listen doll, I really wish I could, but I have someplace I need to be."
And with that, he sprinted out into the lobby in hopes of catching one last glimpse of the kitten, but she was gone.
"Ladies and gentlemen, the 1973 Alan King Tennis Classic Champion, Edward Cullen."
After making his way onto the stage, Edward shook hands with the presenter and accepted his trophy.
He gave his routine speech, which consisted of him thanking the tournament sponsor, giving a shout-out to his father for first introducing him to the sport, and expressing love to his mother. And though it pained him to do so, he threw in a few cordial words about his opponent, James Hunter.
When he returned to his table, his father stood and patted him on the back while his mother dabbed her damp eyes with an embroidered handkerchief.
"Sweetheart, I'm so proud of you!" his mother later gushed during dessert. "And you look so handsome this evening. Is this a new suit?"
"Thanks, Mom. And no, this isn't new. As a matter of fact, I think it's the one you got me last Christmas."
"Oh, you're right!" she agreed. "Well, it's a perfect fit. Perhaps, we should have another made? Maybe one in powder blue?"
"Sure. Sounds good," he replied, not caring one way or another. Clothing wasn't something he gave too much consideration.
"So … are you seeing anyone special?"
And there it was.
Edward knew it was only a matter of time before Esme Cullen brought up her favorite topic of conversation ... his need for a wife.
He gave his father a brief glance hoping for some assistance, but Carlisle just shrugged his shoulders in apology before digging back into his Baked Alaska.
Edward thought before sighing, "I'm not seeing anyone. No time. I'm too busy with the tour for dating."
It was the same answer he always gave. He couldn't quite tell his mother the truth. There was no reason for him to make a commitment. He had his housekeeper, Mrs. Cope who kept his home in order and cooked his meals. And the only other thing a woman could provide for him certainly didn't require him pledging his eternal love. Plenty of ladies were willing to accommodate those carnal needs.
Hell, just earlier tonight, the blonde in the elevator was all over him. And that kitten. She was more than likely just playing hard to get. Given a few minutes more, he was confident he could have made her purr.
Lost in his thoughts, Edward didn't see his agent, Tyler Crowley approach the table.
"Edward, man! Congratulations on your victory today! Nice volley in the final set," he greeted, adding with a chortle, "and from the sour expression on his face, it seems like Hunter's still not over losing. Heard he was blaming this loss on faulty shoelaces or something."
Though a skilled athlete, James Hunter was known for being a poor loser. His behavior on the court was outrageous as well. Just last month, he had flung his racquet at a net judge for making a call against him.
"Yeah, I'm sure that's what caused him to miss that ace on the fifth match point," Edward joked.
After sharing a few pleasantries with Edward's parents, Tyler asked his client if he could step away to talk shop.
"Sure," Edward replied.
As they walked across the room, Tyler asked if he had been told about the newly formed Women's Tennis Association.
"I've heard some rumors, but I didn't realize they had become official." Truth be known, he really didn't care.
"My friend, they're more than official. They even have their first tournament planned for September."
"Well, good for them I guess," Edward acknowledged, not yet clear where this discussion was going.
"The reason I brought it up is that I received a disconcerting call last night. The U.S. Open is offering equal prize money to both the men and women winners next month."
That doesn't seem quite right. Men compete for their livelihood. It's only a hobby for the girls.
"Well, even though I don't agree with it, it's their money so they can do whatever they choose, I suppose," Edward relented, scrubbing a palm across his face.
"Here's the thing, though, the women went out and raised the money themselves. Bristol-Myers or some company donated it. Now there's talk that maybe the men should go out and rally for donations as well."
"Are you fucking serious?" Edward hissed. "Not only do we have to break our backs playing and keep up with a grueling schedule, but now we might have to go out and beg for our wages as well?"
Stupid women's lib, Edward thought.
"These little girls need to get off our courts and go back to the kitchen where they belong."
"Oh please, tell me I just misheard you!"
Swinging around, Edward stared into the face of the frisky, little brunette from his earlier elevator ride. And just like before, she was livid.
"Are you speaking to me, Kitten?" he smirked, his previous annoyance gone at the sight of her warm, toffee eyes.
"You're damn right I'm talking to you! And quit calling me Kitten! I have a name, you sexist jerk!"
Afraid they were going to draw unwanted notice, Tyler interrupted them, "Edward and Isabella, I take it you two have met?"
Bella shot a flash of contempt toward Edward before replying, "No, not formally, however, I had the unfortunate privilege of sharing an elevator with him earlier this evening."
"Then, allow me to do the honors. Isabella Swan, this is Edward Cullen." Looking toward his client, he added, " Edward, Isabella is currently the top-seeded women's tennis player."
Is that so? Hmm. The kitten was just full of surprises. And that certainly would account for those shapely legs and that sweet, perky ass.
Edward contemplated while giving those particular areas of her body another perusal.
Why did Tyler feel the need to acknowledge that she was the lead women's tennis player? It's not like he pointed out the same about Cullen.
She was sick and tired of men and their double standards.
"And why didn't you introduce Edward as the top-seeded men's player?" Bella demanded, hands on her hips.
"He didn't need to. Everyone already knows. You obviously did," Edward boasted before Tyler had a chance to answer. "You see, people follow men's tennis. Women's … not so much," he shrugged, offering her an apologetic grin. "Now, what can I do for you? Did you change your mind about the autograph?"
"You-you…" Never in her life, had anyone gotten under her skin like the asshole in front of her.
"Bella," a man appeared, slinging an arm over her shoulder. "I've been searching for you, but it looks like you've been busy."
"Hey Jasper," Tyler nodded. "How have you been? Do you know Edward?"
"Been doing fantastic, thanks to this lady right here," he said, tugging on a loose hair that had escaped Bella's chignon. "And no, I haven't had the pleasure. Great game today, pal."
Edward scoffed as he scrutinized the man standing before him. He immediately didn't care for him. Sure, he seemed friendly enough and Tyler appeared to be on good terms with him, but why did he have his arm around the kitten?
"Edward Cullen, this is Jasper Whitlock."
Edward mustered a half-hearted, "Hey."
"Jasper is Bella's agent."
Agent? Seems to be more than that.
Jasper turned to Bella, "Did you get a chance to ask him about September?"
Edward noticed Jasper had glanced toward him when he asked her the question.
"No, and frankly, this one's a lost cause," Bella responded.
"Are you positive? Shouldn't we at least try?" he countered.
"No, trust me on this—"
Weary of being left in the dark, Edward gazed directly at her. "Is there something you wanted to ask me, Isabella?" he broke in, drawing out each syllable of her name.
Huffing, she folded her arms across her chest. As much as the man annoyed her, she couldn't let her personal feelings impede the cause.
Jasper shot Bella a questioning glance. She dipped her head, giving him silent permission.
"As you have probably learned, the Women's Tennis Association is hosting their first tournament in September," Jasper explained. "The Association is asking some of the men players to appear at the event, you know, to help generate excitement and increase ticket sales."
Edward's mouth twitched in humor. "Let me get this straight, the girls need the men to help? Priceless. So much for being strong, independent women. Are you sure you don't want us to play for you as well?" he laughed, before turning toward Isabella and adding, "listen, and I mean this with all sincerity, it was cute for a while, but enough is enough. Play tennis on the weekends at the club all you wish, but please, leave the professional stuff to the big boys."
"On the weekends? At the club?" Bella growled, her hands balling into fists. "Have you ever even seen a women's match?"
Lifting her hand up to stop his response, she continued, "You don't even have to answer because I know full well you haven't. If you had, you wouldn't dare belittle our skills like this!"
"Skills?" he observed with a peal of laughter. "I'm sure in your tiny world, you are all quite accomplished. But, there's no way you can compare what you girls do on the court with the abilities of a male athlete."
"Oh, you would be surprised, Cullen! I could personally wipe the court with that cocky ass of yours."
His lips curled, "Tsk, tsk, Kitten. There's that dirty mouth again."
Jasper watched the interaction between the two, top-seeded players with a sense of bewilderment.
He had known Bella Swan for eight years and not once had he ever seen her react to another person in this manner.
He smiled to himself at the thought of Bella facing Edward on the court. She absolutely would give him a run for his money. Cullen was a fool to underestimate her playing abilities. It would be a sight to behold.
He had an idea. Oh, she was going to kill him, but this was a perfect opportunity for the association to get the publicity they needed.
And how does that saying go? 'It's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.'
"I think it's an excellent idea!" Jasper exclaimed, gaining the attention of the still bickering athletes.
"What?" Bella asked, confused by her agent's sudden outburst.
"You and Edward. You should definitely play each other."
Edward, Bella, and Tyler stared at Jasper as if he had grown a second head.
"Jasper, I wasn't serious when I said that—" Bella began.
"Of course, you weren't," Edward interrupted in a patronizing tone. "We all know you're no match for me or any other man. Now, if it were a sandwich making competition, then maybe you'd have a shot," he chuckled. "We all know how good you ladies are at making sandwiches."
Bella fumed. This guy just didn't quit. Before thinking it through, she peered up at her agent and declared, "I'm in."
Over the next two weeks, plans and calls were made between Jasper and Tyler.
It didn't take much for Tyler to get on board with the idea. Not only was there a load of money to be made, but he was also hopeful the match would squash all talks of the equal pay nonsense before it caused turmoil for the men's tour.
Edward Cullen was eager to take part as well. Hell, he would do anything at this point in order to see the kitten in her short, tight tennis skirt. Just imagining her firm, round ass bent over as she retrieved a ball left his dick aching. In fact, he had been having difficulty concentrating on anything else since meeting her. Instead of focusing on making it to the majors, the only Grand Slam he could think about involved his cock slamming into her warm, wet core.
Word quickly spread about the event which promoters dubbed 'The Battle of the Sexes.' The match was set to take place on Thursday, September 6th at the Astrodome in Houston, Texas and would be nationally televised by ABC during the prime-time schedule.
The match offered a winner-take-all prize of one hundred-thousand dollars. The individual players also made lucrative deals with various sponsors. Oscar Mayer hired Edward to do promotional work prior to the event. Whereas, Isabella became the new spokesmodel for Bill Blass Jeans.
After returning the receiver back into its cradle, Jasper grabbed his wife and gave her cheek a wet, sloppy kiss. "We sold out!"
"Yuck, Jazz!" Alice admonished, as she wiped the side of her face off with the sleeve of her shirt. Then she froze, gawking at him in disbelief. "Wait. What did you say?"
"We sold out is what I just said!"
"No fucking way!" she squealed, leaping into his arms.
"Yes, fucking way!" he twirled her around as they both laughed in celebration.
"What the fuck is going on in here?" Isabella berated, as she entered the room. "I could hear you two dropping the f-bomb all the way down the hallway. You know I don't like to be left out when swearing is involved."
Jasper chuckled, knowing she meant it.
When he had first met his wife and her sister, he had been genuinely appalled by their colorful vocabulary.
Used to his mother's genteel demeanor, he hadn't known what to make of their independent and often, unladylike nature. But after he had met their grandfather, Charlie Swan, the pieces had fallen into place.
After their parents had died, the retired, U.S. Marine Colonel raised the two girls completely on his own. And instead of learning to cook and clean, the girls had become proficient at profanity and poker.
Over the years, Alice had mellowed and generally only cussed on two occasions. When she was incredibly angry or when she was having an incredible orgasm.
Bella, however, still had the mouth of a belligerent, old man. While in public, she held her tongue. But in private, she never held back.
"How did you know we weren't having sex?" Jasper questioned, before adding, "you're lucky you didn't walk in and get a glimpse of my womb broom."
"Gross, Jazz. It's not like I haven't already seen Count Schlongula a hundred times, the way you insist on walking around here naked as the day you were born. And I've been around Allie long enough to know that wasn't her sex voice."
"That's sick on so many levels," he shuddered, giving her a mock look of disgust.
"Whatever. Now, what are we celebrating? Did Edward Cullen get hit by a runaway van? Or better yet, eaten by a pack of wolves?"
"Wow, harsh. You truly don't like that guy, do you?" he said with a note of amusement, before answering, "no, it's not about Cullen. I just got word. We sold our last five hundred tickets."
"Do you mean?" Isabella stared at her sister and brother-in-law, mouth agape.
"Yes! The first, Women's Tennis Tournament is officially sold out! We did it!" Alice exclaimed.
Even though Isabella was the tennis player in the family, Alice had been an integral part in helping the women establish an association through her work at Sports Illustrated. Her numerous articles were the first of their kind to point out the inequalities in the sporting industry, and because of this, she had become the unofficial voice for the movement.
"So, do we still need to do this match with Cullen?" Isabella asked, stunning them both.
"How can you ask that?" Jasper questioned, worry etched across his brow. "Of course, we do. This match has generated so much publicity for the association. Why would you even suggest such a thing? Are you getting nervous?"
Isabella was nervous, but not for the reasons they were thinking. She wasn't frightened about competing against Edward Cullen. When it came to tennis, she was confident in her abilities. It was the way she felt when she was around him that made her hesitant to see him again.
Even though he was, perhaps, no scratch that, he was the biggest jackass she had ever met, there was something about the man that had her seriously flustered.
And Isabella Swan never got flustered over anyone.
"No, not at all, don't be absurd," she replied with a chuckle. "I'm just not looking forward to spending the next week with that misogynistic prick." The two would spend most of the following week together doing promotions for the event.
Alice grinned, "Please, you can handle him. He needs to worry about handling you."
Edward arrived at the World Tennis Offices at seven a.m. on Tuesday morning. He and Isabella were having their photograph taken for the cover of the September issue. He didn't get to see her until after the stylist had deemed him camera ready. When he entered the room where the shoot was taking place, his pulse quickened. It was as if his body knew she was in close proximity.
She stood beside a bank of windows and dear God, she was wearing what he had dreamed about for weeks - her tennis whites. Sure, he had seen other players in similar outfits, but on the kitten, it looked absolutely sinful. The dress snugly molded around her shapely curves and left little to the imagination. As he studied the smooth skin of her bare, sun-kissed shoulders, he felt himself begin to harden. Needing to cool down, he hurried toward the table of refreshments and grabbed a glass of water. Get a grip, Edward scolded himself. Sure, he wanted her, but he was acting like an adolescent boy who had no control over his own dick.
He gulped one large glass of water and then another. When he started on a third, she suddenly appeared. Her sultry voice cautioned, "Better slow down, excess water consumption can cause diarrhea. And since we both know how full of shit you already are, well, things could get quite messy."
Before he could even turn to reply, she was gone. Her scent lingered though, and damn if he wasn't hard again.
"That's it, Isabella. Perfect! I understand why Bill chose you for his campaign. You're a natural," the photographer praised as he shot picture after picture of the duo.
As the new face of Bill Blass Jeans, Bella had gained experience taking direction from demanding and sometimes confusing photographers. She was handling the shoot, with little difficulty.
Edward, however, could not concentrate on anything, but the pair of long, lithe thighs next to him.
"Edward, can you turn a little to the left?" the photographer requested, unhappy with the male athlete's pose. When he didn't respond, he asked again, "Edward?"
"Huh?" Edward mumbled, snapping out of his daze.
"You must excuse Cullen. I can't imagine he does much print work down at Oscar Mayer," Bella ribbed. "What exactly do you do for them, anyway?" she asked, regarding him inquisitively. "I mean, I understand why they wanted you as a representative and all. You're so full of baloney. It's the perfect match."
The photographer snickered before announcing a five-minute break was needed so he could change film.
"It was actually for my extensive knowledge of wieners," Edward replied to Isabella in a hushed tone so only she could hear.
She lightly placed her hand on his forearm and squeezed. "Oh, I didn't realize you played for the other team. Well, that's not true, I had my suspicions. Thanks for confirming them."
"That's not—" He began to argue, before being interrupted.
"Isabella and Edward, we're ready for you."
"We better get a move on," she said, before adding with a giggle, "maybe I can introduce you to my cousin, Jared. I think you two would get along really well."
Edward tried to catch a moment alone with Isabella after they were finished for the day, but the little minx had rushed off before he could find her. The woman was driving him utterly insane. All he could do was fantasize about being with her and indulging in her succulent flesh. It had been sheer torment being so near her all morning without reaching out to touch her.
The lush swell of cleavage that peeped above the bodice of her outfit had almost been his undoing. He released a moan of frustration at the memory.
Shit! What was wrong with him?
What kind of voodoo spell had she put him under?
Spotting the stylist who had flirted with him earlier that day, an idea popped into his brain. He needed to fuck Isabella Swan right out of his system. It was no surprise he was so frustrated; he hadn't had sex for weeks. In fact, the last time was before he had met her at the awards ceremony.
Feeling confident in his plan, he strolled over to the redhead and made small talk. It wasn't long before they were back in his dressing room, door locked, and making out like two teenagers.
After ten minutes of licking, sucking and rubbing, it was becoming more and more evident that his plan would not work. He was having a complete failure to launch.
For the first time in his life, Edward Cullen couldn't get an erection.
As soon as the photographer declared the shoot a wrap, Isabella grabbed her bag and exited the building. It wasn't until she got into her cab that she realized she still had on the tennis dress that belonged to the magazine. Groaning, she buried her face in her hands.
What the fuck was this guy doing to her?
How could she let him affect her like this?
As soon as he had entered the room that morning, she had felt his presence. Every nerve in her body had been on high alert. She had tried to stay away from him, but then she had seen him drinking water.
How could he make such a simple thing so damn sexy?
As she had watched his mouth caress the rim of the glass and his tongue dart out and lick his lips, lust had burned in her brain, and she could think of nothing else but him.
She wasn't even sure how she ended up standing beside him at the refreshment table. It was as if her legs had a mind of their own, walking to him without her consent.
And then, later on, she had made the horrible mistake of touching him! What had compelled her to grasp his arm when she had teased him about being gay?
As soon as her skin had made contact with his, all sense of reason escaped her. Bastard or not, she couldn't help but want him.
Somehow, this man had become all she craved, and all she thought about; a mixture of shame and desire mingled hot in her throat.
The next day, the two pros were taping a piece for 60 Minutes. The crew wanted to film them individually at the court first, before they met back at the studio to be interviewed together by Mike Newton.
After finishing up his segment, Edward began hitting some balls with his trainer, Emmett McCarty.
After he had missed his second serve in a row, Emmett jogged over to the net and questioned him, "Man, what's up with you? Is your arm bothering you again?"
"No, it's fine."
"Well, your hitting sucks and your focus is obviously not here," he chided.
Edward knew precisely where his focus was. It was on the brunette standing on the sideline watching him play. As soon as she had entered the stadium, his body took notice. He had never been affected by a woman like this before, and he didn't understand why he couldn't get her off his mind. She aroused his every sense, his every thought.
They resumed playing. Just when he finally seemed to find his stride, he made an unforced error.
The familiar sound of her voice reverberated across the court. "Jeez, Cullen. What's wrong with your eyesight? Did you damage it from touching yourself inappropriately too often as a teen?"
Emmett guffawed, before saying, "Good one, Isabella. And probably true."
"Hold up," Edward began, "you know her?" he asked his friend, looking between the two. "And it's not true, by the way," he called over to Isabella, with a smirk. "I've never had to take care of myself. There's always been more than enough ladies willing and waiting."
"Yeah, whatever you say," Emmett snickered. "And of course I know Isabella. She's Jasper's girl."
Edward scowled. So he was right. Jasper and Isabella were more than agent and client.
"I've told you this before; I went to school with Jasper. I even stood up for him at his wedding," Emmett continued in explanation.
He knew Emmett's college roommate was some bigwig sports agent but didn't realize he was Isabella's agent or more importantly, that he was her husband.
Emmett ran over to hug Isabella and kiss her on the cheek.
Bitterness washed over Edward as he watched the two talk.
His kitten was married.
"Isabella, you're only twenty-three years old and are already becoming one of the premier women players of all time. Your impressive win over Angela Weber at Wimbledon last month secured your place at the top of the rankings. So why now? Why put your reputation on the line playing Edward?"
"That's a great question, Mike," Bella started, smoothing a wrinkle in her skirt. "This match isn't so much about tennis as it is about social change."
"Social change?" the reporter asked.
"Yes, I am hoping it will bring awareness of the inequalities in pay that still remains in our sport."
"But didn't I just read that the U.S. Open is offering equal prize money to men and women competitors in this month's competition?"
"They are, but it's only because a group of us worked incessantly to find a sponsor to match the funds. Actually, on the average, there is a six to one difference in payout per tournament. And sometimes, even more than that! For example, Leah Clearwater earned six hundred dollars when she won the Italian Open last year. Ben Cheney won fifteen thousand dollars for winning the same competition."
"And what about you, Edward? At twenty-eight years old with seven, consecutive Grand Slam titles, many would argue you don't have anything to prove at this point in your career. What does this match mean to you?"
"For me, it's about proving, once and for all, that professional tennis is a man's sport," Edward answered. "I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm all for the girls playing recreationally. It's great exercise and a wonderful way for them to keep in shape for their men."
Isabella's jaw clenched.
Did he really just say that line of bullshit on national T.V.?
Startled by the sexist statement, Mike coughed politely before expounding, "So you don't think, women deserve the same payment for the same performance at a match?"
"Well, that's exactly it. There is no way they are performing at the same skill level as a man," he snorted. "Nothing even close to it. Why should they make the same pay? We are on two completely different levels, there really is no comparison."
"Basically, Mike," Isabella broke in, "Edward is afraid of being economically emasculated."
Just as he was about to comment on her statement, the interviewer was called away for a moment leaving the two competitors alone.
"Believe me, Isabella. I have no issues with my manhood," Edward sneered, before leaning in and suggesting, "let me know if you ever want a demonstration, I would be happy to oblige."
Edward knew it was wrong of him to add the last part given she was a married woman. And though he wanted her with an intensity he didn't quite understand, he could never interfere in someone else's marriage.
"In your dreams, asshole!" she hissed, her angry voice stabbing the air.
Even though Bella had come to expect his outlandish behavior, there was something different about his demeanor. Their typical, light-hearted banter seemed more serious on his part. He had an air of resentment toward her that wasn't present earlier at the court. What had happened between then and now to cause such a shift in his attitude?
"Sorry," Mike jotted back into the studio and sat in his chair. "So, where were we? Oh, yes. Edward, do you feel threatened as Isabella suggested?"
"Oh please, not at all. Everyone knows men are natural born athletes. Women are born to do things like make their men sandwiches," he answered, becoming more agitated by the minute. "As a matter of fact, maybe after she loses the match against me, Ms. Swan should go home, bake a cake, and be a good little wife to her husband," he scoffed, spitting out the last word in distaste.
Isabella's face scrunched up in confusion.
What was he talking about?
The man's clearly batshit crazy!
"I didn't realize you were married," Mike said, turning to Isabella. "What does your husband think about all of this?"
"I'm not married," she replied.
"How about your boyfriend? Does he support equality for the sexes?"
Bella couldn't believe Mike Newton had the nerve to ask her such personal questions during an interview about a tennis match.
Eyes blazing, Bella took a cleansing breath before responding, "Not that it's yours or anyone else's business, but I don't have a boyfriend either.
While Isabella and Mike continued their conversation, a strange mix of emotions overwhelmed Edward.
With no husband or boyfriend, he still had a chance.
Well, he always felt that around her. Just watching the way her tits were heaving in anger during the interview, made him imagine things like what they would look like bouncing up and down as she rode his shaft.
But most surprisingly, he felt guilt.
Even he could admit what an ass he had just been to her. Grudgingly moving his attention away from her tits, he noticed how her cheeks were flushed with indignation. Perhaps, he had been a bit harsh in some of the statements he made during the interview. He really didn't realize how little the women players were making. Even though he didn't feel it should be equal to the men, the women should definitely be earning more than they currently were.
When the interview was finished, Edward went to Isabella's dressing room. After two quick knocks, she opened the door.
"You, again? Go away," she complained as she began shutting the door.
"Please, Isabella," Edward begged, sticking his leg between the door and door frame so it wouldn't close. "Just give me a few minutes of your time. That's all I ask."
"Why should I? Do you have more pearls of wisdom on how to keep a man happy? Let's see, you've mentioned sandwich making several times already, exercising to keep in shape, and that tip about baking cakes…"
"I'm sorry, okay?" he interjected with a sheepish expression. "I admit, I may have behaved a bit poorly today."
Walking away from the door but leaving it open, she sighed, "A bit? Personally, I think you hit an all-time low."
Edward took the open door as an invitation and entered the room. He quietly closed it before running his hand through his hair. Apologizing to a woman who wasn't his mother was unfamiliar territory. Uncertain how to proceed, he stood silently, at a loss for words.
More confused than usual by the man before her, Isabella watched as he stood motionless in the middle of the room.
"You know, your mood swings are kinda giving me whiplash," she murmured, moving cautiously next to him. "So?"
With her this close, he could smell the fragrance of her strawberry-scented shampoo. "So?" he eyed her questioningly, not certain what she was asking of him.
"So, what's with the one-eighty? Less than twenty minutes ago, you were out there being an utter dick, and now you're in here apologizing?"
Why did she have to swear?
Edward bemoaned to himself. She had no idea how that dirty little mouth of hers affected him.
"I was wrong, okay? And for some reason that I don't entirely understand myself, I just needed to let you know."
"So you think men and women should be paid equally?" she asked, not quite believing what he was saying.
"No, of course not, but—" he started to explain.
"You are an absolute piece of work!" she cut him off before he finished. Poking him in the chest, she seethed, "and here I thought you were being sincere."
Any feelings of remorse he initially felt were quickly replaced with frustration.
Why couldn't she keep quiet for just a moment and let him finish!
"If you would just shut-up for a fucking second and let me explain," he snapped, shocking himself as much as her when his mouth smashed against hers in a desperate kiss.
Unleashing all the pent-up desire he had felt over the past weeks, Edward captured her lips, kissing her roughly. His tongue plunged into her mouth taking complete control.
God, she even tastes like strawberries, he marveled.
"So fucking sweet," he groaned, pinning her against a nearby wall.
Gasping, she placed her hands against his chest and shoved him away.
Green eyes met brown.
Holy Hell! What in the fuck was that?
Isabella questioned herself, as she stared wide-eyed into the face she had come to both detest and desire.
Edward wasn't about to give up easily. "Why are you fighting it?" he whispered against her ear. "Kiss me, Kitten."
At that moment, Isabella hated herself as much as she did him. Having neither the resolve nor strength to walk away, she conceded defeat.
"Please, just shut the fuck up, Cullen. You're ruining the moment."
Seizing his shirt, she yanked his lips back to hers. A war soon erupted between their mouths. A battle between teeth, lips, and tongue.
Wrapping one leg around his thigh, she pressed flush against him, moaning. His arousal throbbed against her stomach. Twisting her fingers into his hair, she pulled it as she ground herself against him.
Brushing her hair to the side, he began nuzzling her neck. He wanted to devour her. When he began sucking her earlobe, she hissed, "Harder. Use your teeth."
"Bella, I'm here."
The two broke apart as the door opened and Alice entered. She looked between them. Both were panting. Isabella's lips were swollen and red. Edward's hair was disheveled.
With an arched eyebrow, Alice glared directly at her sister, "Am I interrupting something?"
"No, Edward was just leaving," Isabella mumbled as shame colored her pale cheeks. She opened the door as a gesture for him to go.
"I would still like to talk," he asserted, refusing to move.
"We don't have anything else to say."
With a huff, Edward stormed by her, slamming the door as he left.
Unsure about what she had just walked in on, Alice looked to her sister and asked, "What was that all about?"
Isabella, not certain herself, sighed, "Don't ask."
Two weeks later, Isabella won the U.S. Open. Thanks to her sponsor, Bristol-Myers, she became the first woman to earn a purse equal to that of the men.
"Holy shit, Bella!" Alice exclaimed when they returned to the hotel. "You just fucking won twenty-five thousand dollars!"
Isabella laughed at her sister's enthusiasm as the two continued to their rooms to get some rest.
"We'll meet you in the lobby at about five-thirty," Alice said as she stopped at the door of her room.
"Okay, sounds good," Isabella called looking over her shoulder as she continued her way down the corridor.
When she entered her room, Isabella went straight to the television. Flipping it on, she found the channel that was broadcasting the men's final that was currently taking place at the stadium. Edward was playing Jacob Black for the title.
She watched as he ran back and forth across the court. Her eyes fixated on his chiseled jaw, sculpted arms, and long, muscular legs.
"Quit being so fucking weak, Bella!" She groaned into the empty room before throwing herself down on the bed with a thud.
Weeks after last seeing him, she still couldn't stop obsessing over the kiss they had shared.
Her fingers traced her lips as she remembered the feel of his mouth on hers.
Why had she let him kiss her? And more importantly, how could she have kissed him back?
And why, dear Lord, did he have to own the softest, fucking lips that she had ever felt in her whole damn life?
Sitting straight up in bed, Isabella woke with a start. Shit! She must have fallen asleep. The bedside clock illuminated five p.m.
The awards banquet would be starting in less than an hour, and she still needed to get ready.
After the quickest shower in the history of showers, she fashioned her hair into a twist, got dressed, and applied a coat of ruby red lipstick.
At the banquet, Edward half-heartedly listened as Tyler told their table about the outburst James Hunter had thrown during a match earlier that day. He was too busy watching the doorway to concentrate.
Isabella had not yet arrived.
Rubbing the back of his neck, he exhaled. It had been fourteen days since he had last seen her. Kissed her.
He thought once he had gotten a taste of her, his feelings wouldn't be as intense; that kissing her would have taken the edge off, but it had the opposite effect. Now he couldn't get her off his mind.
He wanted more.
Once Isabella arrived, Edward attempted multiple times during the course of the evening to make his way across the room and speak with her, but something or someone had always gotten in his way. So when he saw her leave the banquet hall for the night, he hurriedly made his excuses and sprinted after her.
As the elevator doors were closing, Isabella heard a voice shouting from the lobby.
"Hold the doors!"
A few seconds later, a man squeezed through and sidled up next to her.
It was Edward Cullen.
Isabella foolishly thought she would make it through the night without having to face him.
"Hello, Isabella. What is it with us and elevators?" he drawled, then added, "congratulations on your win."
The heady scent of his spicy aftershave filled her nose.
Shit. He smells so good, she observed.
With the coldest tone she could muster, she clipped, "Cullen. Congratulations to you, as well."
"Why so formal, Kitten?" he teased, "certainly, we're close enough to be on a first name basis."
"Well, you're wrong," she fired back, her eyes blazed with the amber fire that drove him crazy with need. "We're not close. We're not friends. In fact, we're nothing."
"Ouch. That truly hurts," he returned, placing his hand against his chest in a gesture of mock pain. "So that kiss was nothing as well, I suppose?" he asked, his gaze falling to her lips.
"The kiss was a mistake," she lied, avoiding his eyes.
When the elevator reached her floor, she was shocked to see Edward exit right along with her.
Arriving at her door, he stopped as well.
"Do you mind?" she said, glaring at him as she retrieved her key from her bag.
"I don't mind at all," Edward answered giving her a huge grin. "You know, I watched your match this morning."
Puzzled by his declaration, she waited to see what else he would say.
"I have to admit, your moves were impressive," he continued, mischief twinkled in his eyes.
With her keys in hand, she unlocked and opened the door. "Why the sudden urge to check out your competition?"
Her mouth twitched in amusement, "Are you getting nervous about our match?"
"Would you believe me if I told you it was because I missed you?"
Yes, because I watched your match for the same reason a few hours ago, she thought to herself.
"Whatever, Cullen. We hate each other," she said, trying to convince herself as much him.
"Do we?" he asked, meeting her eyes. After a short pause, he added, "You are extremely talented. I truly underestimated your skills, and for that, I apologize. "
She searched his face, wanting to trust him, believe him.
When he saw the uncertainty in her eyes, he lifted her chin, gazing at her intently, "Honestly, Kitten."
The conversation had taken a serious turn.
Attempting to bring a bit of levity back to the situation, Isabella joked as she walked into her room, "I happened to see some of your match as well, and now I'm feeling even more confident that I'm going to beat you."
Edward barked out a laugh. "Well, I'm glad to be of assistance, Ms. Swan."
Stepping inside her doorway, he rubbed his stomach. "The food at the banquet wasn't very good, was it? I'm still feeling hungry." Walking further into the room, he looked around. "Do you have any snacks? Anything will do, but you know what I could really go for right now?"
If he mentions sandwiches again, I'm going to lose it.
"A sandwich. Not any sandwich though. Turkey, ham, and roast beef. Doesn't that sound good?" he asked, licking his lips. "I bet you make delicious sandwiches, Kitten. It must be something innate with you girls and your sandwich making skills," he smirked, enjoying the flush that immediately covered Isabella's cheeks.
Lord! She was so easy to rile up.
"Ugh! You are so damn annoying! How can you be semi-pleasant one moment and then a complete ass the next?"
Returning to shut her door, he walked back to where she stood.
"Speaking of a semi, guess what else I have an appetite for this evening?" he hinted while giving her a playful wink.
"Are you for fucking real?" she screeched at him. "And by the way, how did you even end up in my room?"
"You invited me," he shrugged.
"I most certainly did not!"
"Kitten, you opened the door, walked in, and continued conversing with me. What did you expect me to assume?" he asked.
Not waiting for her answer, he leaned closer to her, "Now, back to my appetite. Which will it be? Sandwich or—"
"Or you go to hell?" she snapped.
"Oh, Kitten, we really need to do something about that naughty mouth of yours. Perhaps, we can find some other way to occupy its time?"
Pulling her tightly against him, he lowered his mouth to hers, taking away her chance to respond.
Fuck, fuck, fuck!
This can't happen! No more kissing Edward Cullen!
Isabella berated herself as soon as his lips touched hers.
But her traitorous body refused to listen to her protests, and she found herself unable to resist.
In spite of his antiquated beliefs, often-outlandish statements, and strange obsession with sandwiches, she found herself liking him. Way more than she should.
Hell, maybe he was right. Maybe, she did invite him into her room tonight. Reason and logic be damned, she wanted him.
God, he had missed her touch, her taste.
The past two weeks without seeing her had been torture. Now that Edward had her in his arms, he wanted to take his time. To make it last.
Unlike their first kiss which had been hard and demanding, this one was soft and searching. His mouth was tender and thorough.
Moving his hands down her body, he cupped her breasts. He could feel her hardened nipples under the smooth fabric of her dress. Sweeping his thumbs over them, he whispered, huskily, "Shit, Kitten. You feel so good."
"More," she panted. The agonizing, slow pace was driving her mad. "Bed … now," she groaned, forcefully, while she licked his jaw.
Lifting her up, he carried her to the bed, laid her on top, and settled between her legs.
Easing down her dress, he explored every dip and curve of her body with his mouth. He reveled in her taste, her scent.
When nothing but her panties remained, he crawled back over her, claiming her lips.
Moisture pooled between her thighs. She wrapped her legs around his waist, feeling his erection right where she ached. Digging her nails into his shoulders, she rubbed herself against him, trying to find relief.
Kissing him hungrily, she slid her hands under his shirt, feeling his muscular back. When she reached for his belt, he stood and began removing his clothes.
"Take your panties off now," Edward ordered in a gruff voice as he took off his shirt. His earlier patience gone, he could no longer wait.
When they were both finally naked, he shifted her body, yanking her to the edge of the bed where he stood. Placing each of her legs over his shoulders, he slammed into her. Groaning at the sensation, he pulled out a little then drove back in.
"Fuck!" she cried when he entered her. She was trapped between torment and ecstasy.
His strokes were sure and possessive, and she met him thrust for thrust.
Body to body, they moved. Until at last, they each fell over the edge, finding their release.
As soon as Edward had fallen asleep, Isabella quietly left the bed, fleeing to her sister's room. She knew it was cowardly on her part, but she didn't have the strength to face him.
The thought of sleeping wrapped up in his arms was too much of a risk for her already vulnerable heart. Her focus needed to be on the match.
On the cause.
When Edward awoke and discovered her gone, an uncomfortable ache filled his chest. As he sat on the unkempt bed of her room, he thought about their night together.
Did she regret it?
Did she see it as a mistake?
No, he couldn't believe that, not after the way her body had responded to his. Not after the way she had gazed at him so earnestly whenever his eyes had sought hers. His kitten was simply being skittish. He just needed to convince her that she could trust him and that he had changed.
The day of the match had finally arrived. Thirty thousand people were in attendance for the event. It was the largest crowd in the history of the sport. But Isabella wasn't aware of one single person in the stadium except for her opponent as she walked to meet him at the net.
"Hello, Isabella, you look lovely today," he said, giving her a disarming grin, as he stretched his hand across the border of the net that separated them and shook hers.
Expecting his scorn, she was taken aback by his cordial, even flirtatious manner. Wearing a facade of indifference, she simply nodded in return.
"Not talking today, Kitten? Or just not talking to me?"
He's just as infuriating as ever.
Isabella fumed as he stood across from her with a smirk on his face.
"Sorry, Cullen. I didn't mean to hurt your feelings," she finally replied. "I'm just too focused on wiping this court with your ass for chit-chat."
"Whatever you say, sweetheart," he chuckled, before jogging back to his end of the court.
The best of three sets match lasted two hours and twenty-four minutes. Isabella and Edward played with fierce determination, pouring their hearts into their performances.
Edward took the first set, dominating the net with both his serve and his volley. During the second set, Isabella squashed Edward, running him around the baseline to the point of near exhaustion.
But in the end, it was Edward who claimed the overall victory, winning the final set after Isabella double-faulted on match point.
As Edward made his way to the stage, he scanned the crowd trying to find Isabella. The last time he had seen her was when she had offered her congratulations at the end of his winning set.
He had planned to speak with her immediately after the match, but the crowd had quickly descended. Reporters had asked questions, fans had sought autographs, and the sponsors had wanted publicity shots.
By the time he made it back to the locker room, she was already gone.
When he approached the microphone stand, award in hand, he finally found her. She stood at the back of the room, a drink in hand, watching him intently.
God, she was so beautiful.
Unlike the first night he met her, tonight she wore her hair down. His fingers itched to run through the long graceful waves that cascaded down her back.
Her pale blue dress accentuated every curve of her body. Its simple thin straps highlighted her slender, toned arms.
She wore little makeup. With a face like hers, there wasn't any need.
When his eyes met hers, she didn't look away; her gaze remained locked on his.
Those damn, toffee eyes. They had been the first thing he had noticed about her.
It was cliché, but they truly were a window to her soul. One glimpse into them, and he had a good indication of what she was feeling.
Staring into them now, he had confirmation enough that he was making the right decision.
He began his speech.
"Hello. Thank you, for giving me this opportunity to speak tonight," he paused for a moment's reflection. "If you've ever heard me give an acceptance speech before, you know I'm not known for deviating from the one I usually give."
The crowd responded with a round of laughter.
"Tonight, however, I don't plan to say any of those things. When the match between Isabella Swan and I was first proposed several months ago, I will be frank, I thought it was a complete joke. In my mind, there was no way a female player could compete against any male player, let alone me," he grimaced, in embarrassment, before continuing. "Hell, I thought it wouldn't even be a fair challenge. Well, you all know after today's match, particularly that second set, how profoundly wrong I was."
After the crowd's chuckles had dissipated, he said, "When I began this journey, I knew the women players were making a lower payout than the men. What I didn't know, though, was how much the difference was. And to be honest, I really didn't care. Foolishly, I believed they shouldn't earn as much as the men do because men work harder, play harder. Anyone who saw Isabella Swan play today recognizes that is the furthest thing from the truth," he paused, looking her way. "Women players work just as hard, if not harder than the men, and what they are earning … well, in all honesty, it's disgraceful," he hesitated, before continuing, "because not only is this a matter of equal pay, but it's also a matter of equal recognition. And that's why I can't accept this trophy or the cash prize tonight." He set the award down at his feet before resuming, "It represents something I don't believe in and can't endorse any longer.
"And… " Edward went on, interrupting the buzz of the crowd, "if you will indulge me, I need to say one more thing. For the past ten years, I thought I had everything I could ever want in my life. Money, fame, and yes, even women," he winced as he ran a hand through his hair. "I was convinced I had it all … but I was wrong, so incredibly wrong. Because you see, I have met the most brilliant, beautiful, and often times, exasperating woman who has helped me realize how lacking my life has truly been. Now, I just pray that she can forgive all the stupid shit I've ever done and said since I've met her," he explained, before adding with a dry laugh, "and believe me, there's a lot to forgive."
Staring directly at Isabella, who had tears flowing down both cheeks, he whispered, "Kitten, please give us a chance."
One Year Later
"Here you go. One turkey, ham, and roast beef sandwich. Made just the way you like it."
"Did you remember the mayonnaise?"
"Yes, I remembered the mayonnaise."
"Provolone cheese, not Swiss?"
"Provolone cheese, not Swiss. And, by the way, I only mixed those two up that one time, when are you going to get over it?"
Taking a bite of the sandwich, Isabella moaned, "Fuck, this is so good!" After she swallowed, she turned to him and added with an impish grin, "It's almost like you were born to make sandwiches."
Edward chuckled before brushing a kiss on the corner of her mouth. "You know me … anything to keep my woman happy."