Edward Cullen: Tree Murderer

Disclaimer: All things Twilight belong solely to Stephenie Meyer. No copyright infringement is intended.

I originally wrote this for the BatB fundraiser but ultimately went with a different story. Tomorrow is my birthday, so I decided to post this one-shot to commemorate becoming another year older. Woot!

This story was inspired by the pictures of Rob in Halifax at the Timber Lounge, and my husband who loves to chop down all the trees in our yard.

I hope you enjoy.

He was the one person she hated most in the world, and now she lived next door to him. Well, maybe hate was too strong of a word, but she definitely had an intense dislike for the man.

"Why didn't you attempt to talk me out of this?" Bella whined into her cell as she peeked once again through her curtains. "I mean, who the fuck mows their lawn at 7:30 am on a Saturday morning?"

"Probably the same kind of person who calls her best friend at 7:30 am on a Saturday morning," Kate mumbled through the receiver after releasing a yawn. "And if you'll remember correctly, I did try to talk you out of buying that house. I knew you couldn't handle being neighbors with Edward Cullen."

"Ugh. Well, I was kinda hoping he wouldn't be home very much with his tree killing hobby and all."

"It's not a hobby, Bella. It's his job."

"Why are you defending him, Kate? Are you forgetting he's the enemy?"

"You're being ridiculous," her friend said before sighing. "But since you woke my ass up, you owe me. Does he have his shirt off?"


"He does, doesn't he?"

Bella groaned. "Gross."

"Gross, Bella? What are you, nine?" she teased. "Now come on, show me the goods."

"Fine!" She grumbled before connecting them via FaceTime. Yanking back the curtain, she placed her cell next to the window pane. "There. Are you happy?"

"Mm. Very."

"You're sick, Kate. How do you think this would make Garrett feel?"

"I would say it's going to make him feel really great in about five minutes."

Glancing outside, Bella huffed as she waited for her friend to get her fill; she didn't understand Kate's fascination with her neighbor. However to her dismay, she too, quickly became mesmerized as she watched his back muscles stretch as he pushed the mower across his lawn. Suppressing a moan, she bit her lip when her eyes landed on his firm, taut ass.

Pausing, Edward turned off the machine and removed a handkerchief from his shorts. After wiping the sweat from his brow, he looked across the driveway at the small blue house which sat adjacent to his.

"Shit!" Bella yelled dropping the phone on her foot.

"Bella? Bella?" her friend called from the cell that now lay on the floor.

After picking up the phone, Bella whispered, "I think he saw me!"


"The Tree Murderer! He caught me watching him! Fuck!"

"Bella, I'm sure he—"

Peering through the curtain, Bella confirmed that Edward was still standing in the same spot staring at her house. As soon as she looked at him, he raised an eyebrow and smirked.

"Fuckity, fuck! He did." Just as the words left her mouth, Edward tucked his handkerchief back into his pocket, put his shirt on, and began walking toward her house. "Dammit. I gotta go! He's headed this way"

"Bella—" Kate managed before her friend hung up on her.

Two minutes later, a knock sounded at her door. Instead of answering, Bella hid on the other side.

If I'm quiet, he'll leave.

After the third knock, he called out, "I saw you through the window, ma'am. I know you're there. You might as well answer."

Oh. No. He. Didn't.

Flinging the door open, Bella stood with her fists clenched at her sides. "Please tell me you didn't call me that name."

Edward stifled a laugh as he ran a finger along his bushy mustache. "What name?" he asked feigning ignorance. "Oh, are you referring to ma'am?"

She released a growl and stomped her foot.

He choked down another chuckle. "I'm sorry; it's just my momma taught me to respect my elders."

She slapped him in the chest. "You know good and well that I'm not that much older than you. Certainly not enough to be considered your elder!"

"You are in your thirties..."

Bella gasped. "I am not...not th—thirty. Well, at least not until September—"

"Thirteenth," they both said at the same time.

Her eyes popped. "Wait! How do you know that?"

Edward rubbed the back of his neck. "Everyone knows your birthday. The chief practically declares it a town holiday…"

She gave him a skeptical glare. Sure, her dad always took her out to The Lodge for dinner to commemorate her special day, but that was the entirety of their celebration.

"Anyway, why were you spying on me this fine morning?" he asked in an attempt to change the subject. "Do I need to call your father and press charges?"

"I...I wasn't spying on you," she said. "You woke me up! If anyone needs to press charges, it's me! Haven't you ever heard of disturbing the peace?"

"And how pray tell, was I disturbing the peace by mowing my yard?"

"Did you consider the time? No one in their right mind does that shit before 10 am!" she said throwing her hands in the air.

When he didn't respond, she looked at him and noticed that he was staring at her stomach, which was now exposed. She quickly put her hands down. "Are you seriously ogling me?"

Edward snapped out of his stupor. He had been ogling her. When she had lifted her arms, her shirt had raised exposing a tiny sliver of skin.

He scoffed. "No, I only hunt cougars, Bella; I don't date them."

"Argh! You...you..." she stuttered before slamming the door in his smirking face. Racing to her sofa, she buried her head into the cushion and yelled for ten minutes straight.


Standing on her porch stoop, Edward released the laugh he had been holding in from the moment she had first opened the door.

Dear Lord, there was nothing he enjoyed more in the world than aggravating Bella Swan. And he knew exactly what buttons to push in order to do it.

Walking back to his house, he thought about the way her lips had formed a sexy pout when he had called her ma'am. He gulped as he remembered how her dark eyes smoldered when she had caught him staring at her stomach.

His breath hitched as he fantasized about dragging his fingers and tongue across that same sliver of skin. He wondered if it would feel as smooth and taste as sweet as he had imagined.

Once he reached his mower, he gave Bella's house one final glance before resuming his task.


Later that afternoon, Bella called Kate and told her about her confrontation with Edward.

"He called you a cougar?" her friend asked in astonishment.

"Not only that," Bella answered as she dabbed hemorrhoid cream under her eyes, "he called me...ma'am." She had whispered the last word.

Kate gasped. Having turned thirty herself a few months prior, she understood Bella's disdain for the title. "No! Are you sure you heard him correctly?"

"Yes! He called me that horrible name several times," she said before adding, "Kate, can I ask you something?"

"Of course."

"And you swear to God you'll tell the truth?"


"Do I look old? I mean, honestly, do you think I need Botox?" she asked as she scrutinized her skin in the mirror.

"You can't be serious!" her friend said. "Bella, you don't have a single wrinkle on your face."

"Okay, thanks," she said before releasing a relieved sigh.

"On a happier note, are we still on for tonight?"

"Sure. I'll meet you and Garrett around 8 pm. "

"Sounds good. See you then, hon."

"See you later," Bella replied before ending the call.


As soon as he entered Blakeslee's Bar & Grill, Edward spotted her sitting at a table with a group of her friends. Luckily, that group included his cousin, Brady, giving him a reason to walk over

and say hello. After grabbing a beer, he made his way to their table.

Bella felt his presence almost immediately. She berated herself as she adjusted her shirt; admittedly, she had worn the sapphire blouse because it always made her feel sexy and youthful. Damn Edward Cullen for making her feel self-conscious.

When he reached the table, Brady greeted him. "Hey, man! How are you doing? Sit down and have a beer with us."

"Yeah, have a seat," Dale McCarty said as he stood to shake his hand, "I haven't seen you in ages. How the hell are you?"

Edward had gone to school with Dale, who now lived in Port Angeles. They had never run around in the same circles but had always been friendly.

"Thanks," he said, sitting in the empty chair across from Dale, which also happened to be next to Bella. Looking her way, he caught her eye. Tipping his head, he softly said, "Ma'am," before giving her a playful wink.

"So are you still working in landscaping?" Dale asked before taking a pull from his beer.

"Actually, I'm an arborist," Edward replied.

"An arborist?" Dale repeated with a furrowed brow. "What's that?"

Before he could reply, however, Bella said, "It's someone who kills trees. Edward here is the town tree murderer."

Edward rolled his eyes at the nickname she had given him almost five years prior when he had cut down the oak tree in Tillicum Park.

"Tree murderer? What the hell are you talking about, Bell?"

"Edward here," she gestured at him with her thumb, "lives to cut down innocent trees with that ax of his."

"Yep, that's me. Edward, the timber slayer," he mumbled before taking a swig of his drink.

"Are you two arguing over that old tree again?" a new voice asked. It belonged to Garrett, Kate's husband.

"That wasn't just some old tree; it was a town landmark," Bella argued.

"Admit it, Bella, you're just pissed because Austin carved your initials into it when you were dating." Garrett laughed until his wife smacked him on the side of the head.

The mention of Bella's ex-boyfriend caused a scowl to form on Edward's face. Austin Marks had once been his best friend until they had a falling out over a girl.

"You're such a dick," Bella said to Garrett. "That's not the reason. That tree was special. I spent most of my childhood wrapped around its branches reading. Forget it; you wouldn't understand. And you know my feelings about Austin; that little prick can burn in hell for all I care." She straightened her spine in defense. Even though she was over her ex, she still felt the sting of being played a fool.

As she took a sip of her gin and tonic, Edward leaned over and whispered, "What do you know? We agree on something."

She shot him a puzzled look.

"Austin," he continued, "if I had three wishes, one of them would be that he would grow taste buds on his anus."

As soon as the words left his mouth, Bella's eyes grew huge, and her drink sprayed from her nostrils as she choked.

"Holy fuck, Bella," Kate said as she rushed to her friend's side and began pounding on her back, "are you okay?"

After wiping her face with a napkin, Bella excused herself and rushed to the restroom.

"What was that all about?" Dale asked Edward.

"Beats me," he said shrugging his shoulders with a small grin.


When Bella returned to the table, Edward stood and pulled out her chair. Surprised by the gesture, she arched an eyebrow at him.

"I told you my momma raised me to be a gentleman, ma'am; I'm not sure why you're so shocked." He breathed into her ear as he pushed her and the chair underneath the table.

Just as he had hoped, her face flushed as she muttered an expletive. "Dick."

He barked out a laugh before saying, "Calm down; I wouldn't want your blood pressure to rise. I know people your age need to be careful about that shit."

Bella's mouth dropped into the shape of an O before she huffed and crossed her arms over her chest. Turning in her chair, she proceeded to ignore him and instead talk with Waylon Forge, Garrett's co-worker at the prison.

After thirty minutes had passed, Edward leaned over to Brady and gestured toward Bella and Waylon who were still deep in conversation.

"So what's the deal with those two?" he asked while he peeled the label from his bottle of Rainier.

His cousin shrugged before shoveling a handful of nuts into his mouth. "What do you care?" he asked as he chewed his food. "I thought you were seeing Shelly Cope."

"I don't care, and Shelly was a one-time thing," Edward explained as he once again eyed the couple next to him. "Just making conversation."

Brady patted him on the back and laughed. "Sure you are."

After thumping his knuckles lightly on the tabletop, he stood and said, "Well, I'm outta here. I gotta head to Port Angeles in the morning to evaluate a Fuji."

Even though she didn't turn around, Edward heard Bella mumble, "Poor Fuji."

Unable to resist, he stretched over her shoulder and said, "What was that?"

Twisting to look at him, her face was mere inches from his. They stared silently at each other for a minute before she said, "I said, poor tree; I'm sure it will meet its demise tomorrow if you're on the case."

"I don't think you have a clear picture of what I do, ma'am," Edward said. His voice was gruff; her scent was affecting him. Unlike other women who wore gobs of artificial perfume, she smelled natural — like a mixture of lavender and honey. "In nine out of ten cases, I'm able to save the tree. You're welcome to join me tomorrow if you'd like to see me in action; I've been told my skills are a sight to behold." He wasn't sure why he had extended the invitation, but at the moment, he wasn't thinking clearly.

Bella gulped at the obvious innuendo. Even though he was the bane of her existence, there was no denying that Edward Cullen was also one sexy man. "Thanks, but no thanks. I think I'll sleep in instead; my rude neighbor woke me up extremely early this morning."

"You don't say?" He grinned, his dimples coming into form. "Sounds like an asshole."

"Oh, believe me, he is."


The following Wednesday, Bella stood outside on her patio and grilled chicken breasts for dinner. While she waited for them to finish, she heard Edward's back door slam shut.

Almost immediately, he called, "Good evening, ma'am."

Instead of answering, she rolled her eyes and opened the grill to check her chicken.

Undeterred, Edward strolled to their joint chain-link fence and leaned against one of the metal posts. As he stood and watched her, Bella decided her first home improvement project would be to install a ten-foot privacy fence.

"Whatcha making?" he asked when she continued to ignore him.

"Food," she replied dryly not looking up from her task.

"Sure smells good." His voice sounded next to her, causing her to drop the tongs she had in her hand.

"Shit! You scared me to death!" she said as she picked up the fallen utensil. "How did you get over here?"

"I jumped the fence, of course." He shrugged.

"Of course, you did," she muttered. "Have you ever heard of an invitation?"

"No, what's that? Is it like some ancient ritual your generation used to practice back in the day?" he teased, cracking a smile.

Pointing the tongs at him, she said, "Do you really want to go there? That's not the way to convince me to share my famous Peruvian grilled chicken with you."

"Peruvian? Mm. Sounds exotic." He rubbed his stomach. "My lips are sealed."

"Now, if I had known you were coming over, I would have made my Jerk chicken," she said sweetly.

He laughed before strolling around her backyard. She watched him out of the corner of her eye as she finished fixing their meal. When the chicken was ready, she grabbed the salad from the fridge along with a bottle of wine.

Once they were seated at the small bistro table on her deck, Edward poured each of them a glass of chardonnay.

"You know, if you would let me, I could do something about that rotten crotch of yours," he said before taking a sip of his drink.

Bella gasped before her glass slipped from her hand and shattered into countless pieces all over the deck's floor.

"Shit, are you okay?" Edward rushed to her side and began picking up shards of broken crystal.

"You need to leave," she replied. Tears had formed in her eyes, and it was taking all she had not to cry in front of him.

Surprised by her request, he paused and looked at her. Her distress was evident. "Are you hurt? Did you get cut?" he asked as he took her hands in his and began examining them for injuries.

Pulling out of his grip, she stood. "Are you serious? How dare you say something so vulgar to me and then pretend like it's nothing?"

Tilting his head to the side, Edward pinched his nose. "Bella, I have no idea what you're even talking about? All I said to you was—" Suddenly, realization broke out on his face, and then he began to laugh hysterically. "You thought...you thought...I was talking—"

Bella became even more outraged. "Please tell me how calling my….my… my cave of wonders rotten is humorous?"

"Y-you seriously call it your cave of wonders?" he asked laughing even harder. "Oh my God, this gets better and better."

After taking a gulp of wine and a couple of deep breaths, he looked at her and said, "Please, let me explain."

She glared at him but gestured with her hand for him to continue.

"Rotten crotch…" He paused to release a short chuckle. "Is a tree disease, and your maple has it."

Bella flushed scarlet as she realized what a mistake she had made. Embarrassed, she mumbled, "I better get a broom and clean up this glass."

But before she could retreat into her house, Edward gently grabbed her arm, "Hey, are we okay?"

Not meeting his eye, she gave him a small nod before fleeing through the door.


After cleaning up the glass, Bella had sent Edward home with a doggie bag, claiming to have a sudden headache. Truth be told, she had been mortified by her behavior and didn't want to face him the rest of the evening.

Edward waited a few days before deciding it was safe to return her dish. It was Friday evening, and once he saw that she was home from work, he made his way over to her house. He planned to ask her over for pizza as a way to return the favor for making him dinner.

After knocking on the door, he was greeted by Bella who seemed surprised to see him. His eyes widened as he took her in; she wore a wrap dress and heels. Her hair, which normally flowed around her shoulders, was pinned on the top of her head in an intricate updo.

"Edward," she said, biting her bottom lip. "Hi. Can I do something for you?"

"Hey," his voice squeaked, so he cleared it before he continued, "I was just returning your dish." He held out the container. "It was delicious; I can understand why it's one of your famous recipes."

Heat filled her cheeks at the compliment. "Thanks. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I would invite you in, but—"

"Yeah, it looks like I caught you at a bad time," he mumbled.

Just then, a car pulled up, and Waylon Forge jotted up the steps of Bella's porch.

"Wow, Bella. You look great!" he said as he took in her appearance.

"Th-thanks," she said before adding, "Waylon, do you know Edward Cullen?"

"Yeah," he said, offering Edward his fist to bump. "How are you doing, man?"

"Great," he said, giving Waylon's fist a tap. "Well, I better be going. I have a date myself...can't keep her waiting."

"Oh...have fun," Bella said as he walked away.

"You, too," he mumbled.


Three weeks later, Bella was still seeing Waylon. In fact, on that particular evening, they were in her backyard, along with Kate and Garrett, having a cookout.

Edward pulled into his driveway when he saw the two couples having dinner on her patio.

A pang of jealousy radiated in his chest at the sight of Waylon's arm around Bella's shoulders. It was similar to the one he had felt back in high school when his best friend had begun dating the girl of his dreams.

When they had broken up, he had thought he would finally get a chance with her, but then she had developed that intense grudge against him.

All over a damn tree.

He never understood why she had gotten so angry about it. He often wondered if there was some truth in what Garrett had said at the bar a few weeks ago, and the real reason Bella had been so upset about the tree removal was that Austin had carved their initials into its wood as a symbol of their love.

If truth be told, it had been especially cathartic to swing his ax into that particular area of the bark. In fact, he had found it so therapeutic, only splinters remained when he had finished.


The next morning, Edward got up early to begin chopping up the tree he had brought home from a work site.

A twenty-five-year-old alder had been contributing to foundation subsidence at a local residence. He had worked the previous day removing its stump and root system.

Typically, he would use his chainsaw for such a job, but since it was only 8 am, he got out his ax. He didn't want to disturb Bella, who he had learned liked to sleep in on the weekends.

After working for around an hour, he stopped to wipe the sweat from his brow and to get a drink of water. A soft voice floated across the fence as he drank.

"I see you have a new victim."

Turning, he found Bella sitting in an Adirondack chair drinking a cup of coffee.

Shaking his head with a frown, he didn't respond and picked up his ax to resume his task. Just as he began to take a swing, he once again paused and faced her.

"Why do you always assume the worst of me?"

After setting her beverage on the arm of her seat, Bella stood and walked to the fence. "Excuse me?"

Setting down his ax, Edward met her on the other side. "I said, why do you always assume the worst of me?" His tone was harsher than he meant it to be, but he was fed up, and, quite honestly, tired of her bullshit.

"Well, you do have a reputation for taking the lives—"

Before she could finish, he leaned over the fence and hauled her over his shoulder.

"What are you doing?" she demanded as she attempted to squirm out of his hold.

"Bella, will you please just be quiet?" he pleaded after placing her down in front of him. Closing his eyes and taking a deep breath to gather his courage he added, "I'd like you to go for a short ride with me. If you will do this one thing, I promise to never bother you again." He looked into her eyes, silently begging her to give in. Once she nodded her consent, they walked together to his truck.

After a ten minute drive, she quickly realized where they were headed. "Why are we going here?"

"I want to show you something."

Once they parked, he ran around to the other side of the truck and opened the door. Taking her hand, he helped her down. Since it was still early, they were the only ones there. After walking past the empty tennis court, they approached the playground area. Bella stopped at a set of swings and ran her hand along one of its cool, metal bars.

"My mom used to bring me here every day after school when I was a little kid," she said breaking the silence.

Edward thought for a moment. He had moved to Forks during the ninth grade and couldn't recall ever meeting Mrs. Swan. Instead of asking, he waited for her to continue.

"It was always my favorite place to be; she would push me on this very swing for what seemed like hours while we waited for my dad to get off work." She began walking away from the swings and toward the area where the tree once stood.

"When...when she died," she paused to clear her throat, "I continued to come to the park." She turned to look at Edward. "But, I couldn't bear to go on the swings. So instead, I would climb the old oak tree. I climbed as high as I could - always with a book, of course." She smiled at the memory. "I know it's silly now, but to me, I felt like I was closer to heaven and my mom."

Edward reached out to capture a tear that was rolling down her cheek.

"That's why...that's why I reacted the way I did. I know it wasn't fair to you, and I apologize." She continued walking.

Once they rounded the storage building, Bella stopped in her tracks. Across the clearing where the old oak once stood, a new tree grew.

"What's that?"

"That's the white oak I planted when I had to remove the other one," Edward explained. Taking her hand in his, he said, "Bella, I'm very sorry about your mother, and I promise you, I did try to save the old tree, but there was nothing I could do." After taking a breath and exhaling, he continued, "I just wanted you to understand that whenever I'm forced to remove a tree, I always plant a new one. There's an old proverb that says, A society grows great when men plant trees whose shade they know they will never sit in. I'm a firm believer in that."

By the time they had made it to the tree, Bella was sobbing. After wiping her eyes and nose on her shirt sleeve, she placed her hands against its bark. "Thank you," she said looking at him. "I can't believe it's been here the entire time, and I've been too stubborn to even notice."

"That's true, you are pretty stubborn," he said with a grin.

She giggled before smacking his arm.

"And to think, I thought it was because of Austin," he said, staring ahead.

She groaned. "Not you, too. Why do people think I'm still hung up over that guy?"

"You're not?"

"Not at all. He was such an asshole. Wait, weren't you friends with him? You should know."

He ran his hand through his hair. "Yeah, we were friends for a while until he pissed me off."

"See? You know firsthand what a dick he can be."

"So, can I ask? Why did you two break up? You seemed so serious."

Bella rolled her eyes. "We really weren't, but he did dump me. He said I was getting too old."

"Shit, Bella," Edward said as soon as he realized how hurtful his remarks must have been over the years. "I hope you know I never meant the age comments seriously. If I had known, I would have never—"

"What? Called me elderly? Ma'am? Cougar?" she interrupted.

He turned red with embarrassment as she called him out on his poor behavior.

"Seriously, you're only what? Two years… three years older than me?" he said in an attempt to smooth things over. "I was only trying to get a reaction. Nothing more, I promise."

She arched an eyebrow at him before saying, "Well, I'll stop calling you a tree murderer if you stop calling me… ma'am."

He laughed at the way her face scrunched up when she had said that word. He still didn't understand her aversion to being called by that title; he had always viewed it as a sign of respect.

"Deal," he said offering his hand as a token of agreement.

As they headed back to his truck, she asked, "So what did Austin do to you?"

Edward scrubbed a palm across his jaw. "Oh, I don't really want to get into it right now."

"Come on! It can't be more embarrassing than being dumped for being too old at age twenty-five!"

"He stole the girl I was crazy about," he mumbled quickly as he opened her door before walking to his side of the truck.

Once he got into his seat, he looked over at her as she sat staring at him slack-jawed. Unable to help himself, he placed his index finger beneath her chin and closed her mouth.

"B-but that doesn't make sense. Austin only dated me before leaving town."

Edward rubbed the back of his neck.

"Oh," she finally said.

"Yeah, oh," he added.

"Why didn't you ever say anything?"

"When exactly?" he asked. "When you were dating my ex-best friend, or during the past five years when you were accusing me of being a tree murderer?"

She began to respond but didn't.


During the drive home, they were both quiet, each one of them thinking about what the other had said during their time at the park. Once they reached Edward's driveway, they turned toward each other and spoke at the same time.



"You go ahead," he said, gesturing to her with his hand.

"Before we left the park, you said something about not telling me during the past five years. Does that mean…" She paused and bit her lip. "Does that mean you still have feelings for me?"

Staring into her brown doe eyes, he decided, once and for all, to lay it all on the line. "Bella Swan, I can't remember a time when I didn't have feelings for you." Reaching across the seat, he took her hands into his. "What I want with you aren't initials carved into the side of a tree - that's superficial stuff. I want to establish roots - deep, and strong, so we can flourish together through rain, sun, and any storm that should pass us by."

Her breath hitched at the beauty of his words.

"I know you're in a relationship, and I respect that; but if it doesn't work out between you and Waylon, I beg you to give me a chance."


"Your boyfriend?"

"He's not my boyfriend."

"He's been over almost every weekend for the past three weeks, Bella."

She smiled. "Have you been spying on me?"

"Um," he said with a pause, "no."

"Yes, you have!" She poked him in the chest. "We're just friends."

He gave her a skeptical look.

"Really! He's friends with Garrett, and I'm friends with Kate. We've been sort of forced together by them." She shrugged. "And even if he was interested in me, it wouldn't matter anyhow, because I have my eye on someone else. Someone who's been slowly growing on me the past couple of months."

Edward broke into a small grin. "You do, do you?"

"Mm, hm. Perhaps you know him? He's a reformed criminal; has a thing for cougars."

He laughed. "He does sound a bit familiar."

"Oh no, wait!" Bella suddenly said. "I just thought of something."

"What?" Edward asked with concern.

"Do you really hunt cougars?"

"Nah, I just said that. I only hunt animals I eat. You know, like fish and deer," He explained. "I tried mountain lion once, but never developed a taste for it."

"Okay, good, because that might have been a deal breaker," she teased, shrugging her shoulder, "I have a thing for cats."

"Oh, is that so? Well, are there any other deal breakers I need to be aware of?" he asked with a smirk.

"No, none that I can think of at the moment. But do you think I can hold your ax one day?" she said with a gleam of amusement in her eyes.

"That can certainly be arranged." He inched closer; his gaze floated from her eyes to her mouth.

Placing his hands into her hair, he pulled her to him and covered her mouth with his. What began as slow and gentle soon turn into a heated exchange when he slid his tongue between her lips. He poured every ounce of his being into the kiss; releasing all the pent-up feelings he had been fighting before.

As his mouth devoured hers, she moaned at the intensity of the moment; no kiss had ever felt as powerful as his. It was so perfect - so right. Every part of her reacted. Moving her hands from his shoulders, she wrapped them around his neck, kissing him back just as fiercely.

Once they broke apart, they were both panting in an attempt to catch their breath.

Placing his forehead against hers, he said, "Wow, you sure can kiss for an old broad."

"Hey!" Bella said, with fake disdain. "You promised... no more old lady jokes."

"Hm, that's funny. I just remember promising not to call you m—"

She slapped her hand over his mouth. "Don't you dare."

Grabbing her wrist, he gently pulled her hand away and began peppering her arm with light kisses. "I won't; never again."

"Edward?" Bella murmured as he continued to assault her with feathery caresses.

He hummed a response, too wrapped up in his task to speak.

"Do you have any deal breakers?"

After a moment, he paused. "Nope. I've waited far too long to allow anything trivial to get in our way," he said before lifting her hair from her neck. "Now, where was I?"

Just as he was about to place a kiss beneath her jaw, he suddenly pulled away. "Well, there is one thing."

"A deal breaker?"

"No, a request," he said, raising an eyebrow. "I sure would like to visit that cave of wonders you were talking about a few weeks ago."

"You would, would you?" she said with a giggle. "Well, it may take a lot of exploration to discover all of its secrets."

Lifting her hair once again, he whispered into her ear, "Oh Bella, no need to worry; I'm nothing if not thorough."

The End


Thanks to Fran, K, Gail, Diane, Cheryl, and Alex for helping with the story. As usual, all mistakes are mine. :)