A/N… Hey guys, so this is the story I wrote for the Babies at the Border compilation. All told, I believe the final total we'd brought it was somewhere around $13,000. Helluva number and quite the success. I was happy and proud to be a part of it. I was also happy that my muse worked long enough to get it done. (I can't say much for anything else I'm trying write.)
Anyway, I'm posting it in three short-ish chapters, which is how I saw it when I wrote it. And they'll go up all at once. There may be a future chapter to this, but not right away.
This is the only A/N I'll post until the end. I'll let you get to it.
OH! Yes, this was a reference to the Duran Duran song by the same name. However several songs were kinda/sorta referenced in this story. Have fun…
Babies at the Border Fiction Compilation
Title: Come Undone
Fandom: Twilight – Pairing: Edward/Bella
Beta: Jenny Rarden
Banner by: Bethany Tullos
Summary: He shouldn't want to touch, but he did – every time she was in his bar. She should be focused on college, but he was all things dangerously sexy and charming. Who do you need, who do you love when you come undone?
Come Undone – Chapter 1
Music blared through my earbuds as I typed away. When a wad of paper bounced off my head, I pulled the headphones out, glancing up to the doorway of my room.
"What, Rose?" I asked my roommate, barely slowing down.
"Jesus Christ, Bella. Tell me you aren't working all damn night," she demanded, sitting down on the edge of my bed.
"I have to finish this before Monday." Rolling my eyes her way when she tsked at me, I shook my head and saved my document. "I do believe you threatened to knock me out, kidnap me, and set my ass at the bar in my pajamas if I told you no." I ticked these things off with my fingers.
Rose grinned evilly. "You were listening. Excellent. Get off that computer and get dressed – not that I don't think that sexy-ass bartender wouldn't mind you at his bar like that."
I rolled my eyes again and shooed her away, my cheeks heating at the thought of Edward, but I shook my head to clear it. "I'm sure he gets plenty of offers," I snarked back.
She popped her head back into the doorway. "Yes. Yes, he does, but I'm not quite sure he gives two shits about anyone when you're there. Get dressed!"
"Okay, okay, okay!" I saved my document again and closed the laptop. "Don't worry about me. It's only my grades, my future, my…" I stopped when Rose leaned in the doorway again.
"Isabella Swan," she said through an exasperated sigh, "stop listening to your parents! You're a grown woman, putting yourself through college three thousand miles from that tiny town in Washington, and you'll probably graduate early all summa cum something or other."
Laughing, I held up my hands in surrender. "I know! But their strict rules got me here."
"Right, and notice you're in Florida, all the way across the country from their rules, and you're the palest bitch here. Get dressed or I swear I'll set you down at the Pour House in that!" She gestured to my clothes, and I looked down at my tank top and boy shorts, glaring up at her. "Trust me, you'd kill Edward, so if you don't want that gorgeous man's death on your hands, get something else on."
I smirked and then slammed the door in her face. As intriguing as it was to test that idea, I finally stepped into my bathroom to get ready.
Once I was dressed in something other than my underwear, we followed one another to the best bar on the planet. The Pour House wasn't thumping music or grinding on a dance floor. It wasn't freshmen getting wasted every night. It was more than a beach bar; there was good food, strong coffee, music of all genres, and a slightly older crowd. On the weekends, the music was live.
It smelled like home and comfort every time we went in, and I was damned sure Edward could read my mind as he slid a cold beer my way the very second I sat down.
"Bella," he said, his mouth and tongue wrapping around my name in ways I'd like him to try against my skin.
"Thanks, Edward," I sang back, smiling his way.
"Oh, yeah, you're in good hands here. I'm off to…" She trailed off, waving over her shoulder.
I snorted softly, shaking my head as I faced the man who had starred in my dreams way more times than I'd ever admit to anyone. He seemed to be fighting his smile as he scrubbed glasses in the sink on the other side of the bar. I tried to ignore the rolling of bicep muscles in a black T-shirt as he did the mundane task, but I failed miserably.
I really wasn't sure I'd ever seen a better-looking man. Edward wore his jeans in that low, sexy way that made male models jealous – a fact, since I'd overheard that conversation at the bar about a month ago. His hair wasn't quite dark brown but not truly auburn either, and it naturally fell in that carefree, morning-after kind of way for which most men paid. His eyes were greenish-brown, depending on the lighting, and they were framed with eyelashes women envied – also fact, since most women paid for that length. His smile was stunning, but not always the same for everyone. It was crooked and teasing with his friends and usual customers. It was barely there for the rude and obnoxious. He flirted with the women and joked or talked sports with the men all for good tips and good business.
Edward knew every damn song that came over the sound system. And that was the part of him that drove me crazy. It wasn't that he sang to himself – everyone did that. He sang to himself so softly, it was as if he was trying to hide it or he was unaware he was even doing it.
And his voice was beautiful – soft, deep, sexy – like warmth and silk. At the end of a long shift, there was a tiny hint of rasp to it because he'd been talking all day.
As he was wiping down the bar and leaning close, he sang words about laying around and just forgetting the world. He crooned about the inability to say how he felt. And it seemed to be right in my ear, which spread throughout my body in a slow, heat-filled wave.
I wanted to answer him, tell him I'd lie with him, but I bit the inside of my cheek to stay quiet; it would've been a cheesy and desperate thing. I knew I was staring, so I forced myself to turn around and look for Rose. She had come to see the bouncer. She'd been eyeing him for some time now, and that was why we'd driven separately, just in case she decided to seal the deal with him.
"How's the paper going, Bella?" I heard next to me, and I smiled, turning to see Edward's gaze on me.
I wrinkled my nose. "It's almost done. It's due Monday. I'd still be working on it, but Rose threatened to bring me in my underwear if I didn't take a break."
Edward chuckled, his cheeks tingeing pink. "Sorry I missed that," he teased with a raised eyebrow, glancing over at Emmett and Rose. "She's good for my brother, I think."
My eyebrows raised. "He's your brother?" I asked, glancing between the two men.
"Mmhmm, baby brother." He said it like he'd been watching over Emmett his whole life. "He talks about Rose all the time."
Smiling over at Edward, I nodded. "That's sweet."
"Sweet isn't usually Emmett's MO." Edward's voice was wry and sarcastic as he said that with an eyeroll, but he grinned beautifully when I laughed. "But I suppose we're even," he added softly, almost in a whisper. He gave me a small smile, tapping the bar in front of me when a group of girls came in and sat down at the booth along the wall. "Let me know when you're ready for another one, Bella."
I recognized some the girls from campus – Jessica and Angela. There were a couple more with them I didn't know, and they were blonde with hints of red – sisters, if I'd had to guess. The entire booth was a giggly, flirty mess of female obnoxiousness when Edward approached the table. Rolling my eyes, I shook my head and checked my phone. I was going to teach when I was graduated and write in my spare time. Rose would kill me dead if she knew I could work on my paper from my phone, but a reread, a fixed word here and there, and I smiled when a new beer was set down in front of me.
"Thanks, Ed—" I stopped talking when I caught sight of Edward's face. "What?"
"Drink's from the gentleman at the other end of the bar." He'd said it through gritted teeth, but he smiled anyway. His eyes were dark.
I peered around Edward's tall form, catching a glimpse of the "gentleman." The guy had long blond hair, tanned skin, and a predator's smile.
"James," Edward answered gruffly, his eyes dark. "Singer in tonight's band."
My brow furrowed as my eyes flickered between the drink in Edward's hand to his face. For a brief moment, I wondered if men understood what women thought about in those types of situations. Naturally, gratitude was supposed to come into play, but then again, I was quite capable of paying for my own drinks – broke college student or not. Then the possible reaction of the guy always plagued me, whether I thought about it or not. Say yes? They might want to chat or more. Say no? They might get pissed, which could result in many different and ugly scenarios where my small stature was overtaken by a larger, stronger, more aggressive being.
However, above all that, I wasn't really there to be "picked up." Rose and I came here because the Pour House was different than other bars. It was safer, not a far drive, and it was calmer than the usual bar scene. And yeah, the tall, handsome thing in front of me was probably the reason I kept coming back, which was the thought that had me wrinkling my nose and shaking my head.
"Bella?" Edward asked softly, the harsh demeanor gone as he leaned in closer. "Hey," he whispered. "You can decline. Or you don't have to take it or drink it. I'll take care of him, don't you worry."
I smirked that he had purposefully place himself between me and this James. "All over my face, right? Rose says my face tells everything."
Edward broke into a soft chuckle. "I read you like a beautiful book," he teased with a stunning grin as he reached over and lightly tapped my chin.
"You don't like him?" I asked before he walked away.
"What gave me away?" Edward asked rhetorically but then waved a hand at that. "He's a good singer. He brings in business on the weekends. But he's a shady bastard with girls."
"So…" I dragged out the word. "What direction should I take? Femi-nazi, I can pay for my own shit? Umm, I got a boyfriend? Or… How about I have reached my limit for the night in order to drive home?"
"How about no means no?" Edward asked, rolling his eyes, but he grinned when I snorted up at him. He started to walk away but then stopped, asking, "Wait, do you have a boyfriend?"
"No, Edward," I said through a giggle. "But tell him whatever you want to in order to let him down. I trust you."
Something in his expression changed, giving him a softer look, but he nodded and walked back to James. He set the beer down in front him, saying something I couldn't hear and shaking his head no. James seemed surprised, with raised eyebrows and an incredulous laugh.
Your loss, he mouthed to me.
"James!" Edward snapped, causing the man to jump and look his way.
Whatever Edward said next was inaudible, but his hands were in fists, braced on the bar top. Biceps flexed, and jaw muscles rolled. For a heartbeat, James looked afraid, but it quickly changed to nonchalance as he slid off the barstool and walked away with a laugh.
Edward walked into the kitchen, and a younger guy stepped out to man the bar. I liked Jasper just fine; I knew him from school, but he wasn't Edward.
"What happened?" I heard next to me, and I smiled over at Rose.
"I declined a beer, and the guy didn't like it."
"Ahh, wounded-ego syndrome," she muttered, taking a sip of my beer. "But why did Emmett get called into it?"
"Yeah. Who was the guy?" she asked.
"The singer from the band, James."
"Oh, for fuck's sake," she grumbled. "That man can't take a no."
"Well, he'll have to learn," I replied wryly, getting down from my stool. "Restroom break. Save my spot, okay?"
As I made my way across the bar and down the hallway that led to the restrooms, I caught sight of James behind the stage curtain. He'd apparently moved on quickly, because he was currently doing a shot with a pretty redhead. I was perfectly okay with that.
When I was finished in the bathroom, I stepped back out into the hallway right in the middle of a crowd of men laughing, joking, and teasing each other.
"Jesus, guys, watch where the fuck you're going!" I recognized Edward's voice, and a warm hand guided me out of the cluster. His hand stayed on my shoulder, a thumb rubbing my skin softly.
"Oh, my bad. Sorry," one of them mumbled, pulling a set of drumsticks out of his back pocket. He glanced over at Edward. "Sure you don't want to join us, Cullen? It's not the same without you."
Edward smirked, shaking his head. "Nah, I'm good. I've got this place now."
There was a touch of sadness to Edward's face as he told the members of the band to head up onto the stage.
When he caught my stare, he grinned, his cheeks reddening a little. "That used to be my band, but I had to give it up. I needed something more…stable."
"This place?" I asked.
"Mmhmm," he hummed, leaning against the wall. "My parents started this place. They're practically retired now. I run it for them." When the music started on stage, I laughed when Edward guided me closer, whispering, "They're good. Listen with me, Bella," he requested softly in my ear, and I had zero desire to say no.
The next several minutes were a test in restraint. I wasn't sure what was better – the music or the person singing in my ear the entire time. Edward was significantly more talented than James, but by now, I was fairly certain I was biased. His body lined up behind mine, and with each whispered lyric in my ear, in my hair, across my skin, I found myself leaning back against him, and his strong arm wrapped around my waist from behind to hold me close.
Words and phrases were sung softly against the sensitive spot just behind my ear. He sang sweet words about feeling my heartbeat with his. He crooned about skin and being naked as his fingers toyed with the edge of my shirt. His voice was sadness incarnate when he sang about falling in love in wrong places at the wrong times.
"You should sing, not him," I told him over my shoulder.
He grinned briefly. "Maybe for you I will one day." He turned me around to face the stage again as continued his singing against my skin.
By the end of the set, I was practically shaking, but I wanted to see his face. I turned to gaze up at him. His expression was gorgeous and needy and sad all at once. His hand cupped the side of my face as his forehead fell to mine.
"Bella," he whispered, swallowing thickly. "Fuck, I want…" He trailed off, his eyes squeezing closed. "I'm not…"
"It's okay," I soothed him, tugging him closer, because now I wanted to kiss him. Or him to kiss me. Or something involving lips and tongues and touching.
"Edward!" Jasper called from behind us, making both of us jump back. The poor guy glanced between us, realization dawning on his face, and he looked to Edward, who was running a hand through his hair. "I so fucked up. Oh, damn! Oh shit! I'm sorry, but I'm getting slammed."
Edward huffed a laugh when I giggled a little. "I'll be right there, Jasper." When he looked back to me, his eyes were sad. "I shouldn't have done that, Bella. I'm sorry. I'm not… We shouldn't."
Of all the things he could've said, I wasn't expecting that, but I forced a smile on my face and nodded. "Yeah, it's all good. I get it." I started to turn, saying, "I need to get going anyway. I have that paper due Monday."
"Hey," he said, stopping me. He placed both hands on either side of my face. "No, Bella, you don't get it, and I…" He paused, glancing over his shoulder when the sound of calls to the kitchen and ice buckets dropping rose to an uproar. "I really want to explain it to you, but…"
"But you're busy, Edward. It's okay."
"It's not fucking okay," he huffed, shaking his head. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone. "Please, please, can I have your number?"
I was feeling a little raw, a little hurt, but he seemed to be truly upset, so I texted myself with his phone, programming my name for him.
"Thank you," he said, tucking his phone back into his pocket. "Do you really have to leave? Can you stay a bit longer?"
I nodded and walked back to my stool at the bar.
"Hey, I ordered you a soda. I know you'll be leaving shortly. Don't wait up for me," Rose chattered as I took my seat next to her.
I huffed a humorless laugh but hid it behind the straw in my drink. The bar was busy, the kitchen was a constant flow of food in and out, the music was too loud, and the chatter around me was endless and inane. Suddenly, I was done, even more so when I caught sight of Edward dealing with the table full of flirty girls.
I turned to Rose, slipping down off my stool. "Will you sign for my tab? Just bring my card with you whenever you come home."
"Bella?" she asked, stopping me before I walked away. "You okay?"
"Yeah, headache, and…" I waved a hand around with a wrinkle to my nose. "I'm done. You have fun, though."
She laughed, but I left before she could read my face any more. I gave Emmett a small smile on my way through the door but then frowned when the heat and humidity hitting me like a wet slap, despite the evening hour and the fact that it was November. The parking lot was full, with more cars pulling in. The sound of the ocean hitting the wood docks on the other side of the building was soothing and creepy all at the same time. As I made my way to my car, I heard steps behind me.
"Funny, you don't act like Eddie's girl," James's drawl slurred with the drunkenness he was sporting.
I huffed a laugh. I had told Edward to give him whatever excuse he wanted. I hadn't realized he'd used that one.
"I'm sorry it's not up to your standards. I wasn't aware I was being inspected," I countered sarcastically. "Maybe if you worried about yourself, you wouldn't be so easily disappointed."
He came to stand between me and my car door, leaning back against the driver's side. His arms were folded across his chest, his mouth in a sneer, and his eyes were droopy from all the alcohol he'd consumed.
"You sure I can't buy you a drink…or somethin'?"
"No, thank you. Please get out of my way, James."
When he merely smirked at me from his spot at my door, I turned to make my way back inside to either get Emmett or Edward, but the latter was bursting out the door of the restaurant just as I took a step. A hand wrapped painfully around my wrist, jerking me back forcefully.
"You think you're too good for me?" James hissed, smelling of beer and whiskey.
I turned to face him, slapping him across the face at the same time. "Don't touch me."
The sound of fist meeting flesh was loud in the parking lot – louder and harder than my slap had been – and James found himself on his ass with another fist barreling toward his face again.
"Edward?" I called, and he immediately stopped and faced me.
"You okay? Did he hurt you? What did he say to you, Bella?" he asked through heavy breathing and a raspy voice.
I'd never seen the easygoing, always singing, flirty bartender pissed off before, but if he was handsome before, he was glorious now, and I lost the ability to speak, opting to simply shake my head.
"Hey," he whispered, walking to me. "I know you're upset with me, but did he hurt you?"
"No, he just wouldn't let me in my car." I pointed toward the door of the Pour House. "I was coming to get you or Emmett." I rubbed my wrist where James had grabbed me.
I opened my car door and sat down roughly, my feet still on the asphalt. I heard Edward speak something softly to James, unable to distinguish actual words, but James nodded and stumbled off.
Edward knelt in front of me. "Let me see, Bella," he requested almost in a whisper as he gently placed my hand in his, palm up.
"I'm okay." I frowned, starting to turn in my seat and start my car.
"Wait! Bella, please?" he said urgently. "Let me at least put some ice on that wrist, okay? Give me…ten minutes?"
I wanted to ask him why, because the man was giving me whiplash with all the twists and turns of his personality.
"Maybe I can explain my terrible behavior tonight, too. Hmm?" he offered contritely, seemingly reading my mind again – or probably my face. When I shot a look his way, he grinned. "Please, Bella. If I don't explain it right, then you can slap me like you did James. Nice job on that, by the way."
I laughed in spite of it all and let out a deep sigh when I gave into him completely.
His warm lips pressed to the angry red skin on my wrist. "Thank you."
I stood up as Edward closed my car door, and then I set the lock and started for the door of the Pour House.
"No, sweetheart. This way. I have something to show you," he said, pointing to the set of stairs that led to the beach house apartment next to his restaurant.