Here we go again, lovelies!
It's been a long time since I last posted anything here, and I can't explain how nervous I am to do it again (nervous in a good way though!).
Life has been a lot for the last six months or so. Lots of things on my plate, but I am happy to report that most of them are good, starting with the new, much better job I found a few months ago!
However, I haven't stopped writing. It's no longer something I can afford to do on a daily basis, at least not right now, but it's something I enjoy just as much, if not more :).
This naughty little story right here was written for the Bodice Ripper's Contest, and it won two awards! It won Best Smooch, and it also was judge DaniDarlingxx's pick! I am truly, deeply grateful to the wonderful ladies who made this contest possible.
As always, my dear CoppertopJ helped me with her magic beta skills, and I cannot thank her enough! This time, she had quite a difficult job. Seeing that the story had to have a maximum of 15K words, she had to cut down over 3K words from it and still make it readable.
But now that there is no word limit, you guys get the full story — and trust me, you don't want to miss the little details that were cut out :).
This is my first (and, knowing me, the only) attempt at writing something AH. It was a fun challenge though, because it got me out of my comfort zone!
Now, without further ado... let's proceed, shall we?
*Edward's Point of View*
It was one of those days — when the rain is so heavy and your mood so low, that you wouldn't get out of the house for all the money in the world. Well, unless your best friend asked you to.
August was coming to an end, and the sky had turned into one giant, neverending faucet overnight, then it kept at it throughout the day. I tried to work on my bachelor thesis, only to discover that my will to tackle academic obligations was completely non-existent. Analyzing Chopin's concertos was not exactly something I was in the mood for, so I dropped it quickly. I felt oddly restless, not quite finding my place.
As I paced back and forth around my bedroom, my eyes settled on the cover of Dear John, with a deep sense of dread. I was instantly reminded that it had been over three months since I promised Tanya I would read it, without even opening it to skim through the first page.
It was a promise I made to her on her birthday, after too much champagne, when she somehow managed to convince me that she would read all eight stories that Kafka published if I read her favourite all-time book. It was also the reason I decided to never make promises to my girlfriend unless I was fully sober.
With nothing better to do, but mostly with the weight of an unkept promise weighing heavily on my shoulders, I picked the book up from the pile on the desk and started reading, trying to find comfort in the company of rain. Besides, after the fights we had been having for the past few days, I felt inclined to make it up to Tanya.
I barely got past the first chapter when Bella called me.
"Hello, stranger." She sounded playful, which was a stark contrast to my current disposition. But I tried to play along.
"We don't talk for three days and I'm already a stranger to you?"
"So, you've been counting too."
"I'm just good with numbers," I quipped, not really willing to admit that yes, I had, in fact, been counting. It was a strange thing, but whenever Tanya and I fought, I felt inclined to run to Bella and tell her about everything while my anger was still raw, still aching to destroy everything in its wake. She would understand. She always understood me — better than I could, in fact; it was the running joke of our three-year-old friendship.
But I never did it. Something inside me always froze after a fight, forcing me to wait a little longer. And when I waited long enough, all I was left with was a maimed version of the real events. By the time I told Bella about everything, I was already prepared to downplay the severity of the fight with excuses that sounded credible — almost enough to get me to believe in them too.
"I don't believe you, Edward."
I sighed, feeling defeated before I even managed to put up a fight. "I've been having some difficult days with Tanya, that's all. I didn't want to burden your mind with my problems."
"You know that's impossible. Do you want to talk about it?"
"Over the phone? Not really. But we can meet up on Monday though."
"Yes, about that… I kind of need you here today."
My heartbeat stuttered at her words, and I felt guilty in an instant. Because surely, she did not mean it like that. She never did, which was precisely why I felt ashamed of even thinking that she might. I liked to believe I had trained my mind to accept the fact that we were best friends and simply not meant to ever be more than that.
When I met Bella three years ago, at a party for the freshmen at our university, my world collapsed, if only for a few minutes. I had noticed beautiful women before, but not even once did I feel the need to pull them close, get them alone in the darkest corner and ask them if I could have my way with them until light found its way back to us. Noticing beauty had always been an objective act for me — it was part of who I was, at my core.
But meeting Bella turned my convictions upside down.
She was beautiful, of course. Beautiful in a way that made you look twice, so that you could see what you missed the first time around. The disparity between her long, untamed, dark locks and her fresh cream-coloured skin made every feature of her face stand out: the unnervingly wide eyes, the plump, uneven lips, the sharp chin. It was decidedly a beauty of contrasts.
Yet what struck me the most was the fact that she looked as if she wasn't even trying. If every other girl at the party had found a way to show as much skin as possible without being practically naked, Bella seemed comfortable enough in blue jeans and a Homer Simpson T-shirt that looked older than dirt.
The only problem? She was already taken, as I learned minutes into our first conversation when her boyfriend showed up to greet me — a knowledge that served to crush my nonsensical fantasy to the ground faster than a freight train. She arrived in Chicago with her high school sweetheart, Jacob, and it was not difficult to understand why they were head over heels in love. They had only been together for five months at that point, that perfect honeymoon phase when nothing could go wrong. I didn't know what it felt like, but I had heard enough stories to guess. At the time, I congratulated them on what seemed to be a perfect relationship. But selfishly, monstrously, I hoped that the honeymoon wouldn't last.
Not because I wanted to see either of them suffer, but because I wanted her all to myself.
It got worse when I realized what it would be like if Jacob was not in the picture. In our second year of college, he left his dorm room in Chicago and moved overseas for a semester to study in London, leaving a visibly distraught Bella behind. According to Emmett, the one childhood friend I still kept in touch with, that was the time I should have made my intentions clear, so that Bella could understand her options, once and for all. But something about this idea felt odd, and even wrong, if I looked at it closely. Worse than wrong. Insidious. Maybe I still had some decency left in my bones, or maybe I simply wasn't that guy, but I didn't want my friendship with her to be just an excuse for me to sit around and hope she would choose me one day.
So I never made a move.
I never told her how her laugh made my stomach twist and curl under the weight of the butterflies attacking it. Or how taking deep breaths and picturing the deep chocolate wells of her eyes was my best remedy when I felt anxious. Or a far more perverse reality — how thinking about her dressed in her old camisole and shorts had been at the core of countless earth-shattering orgasms for me. I could never ruin what we had with my insolence.
Because truthfully, I had never met someone like her. Someone willing to stay by my side even when I wasn't my most pleasant self. We took delight in the same books and the same music, we could easily spend an entire day just talking, without once running out of things to discuss, while also knowing how to enjoy each other's silences. Besides, her sense of humour went hand in hand with my sarcasm, which made me feel perfectly whole.
While Jacob was away, we got closer. We spent most of our evenings together. At times, we made an effort to be productive and visit museums or art galleries. But more often than not, we were content with just enjoying a good meal at her place or mine, and talking until we fell prey to the Sandman's ways. Not only once did I fall asleep on her couch, waking up the next day to the smell of freshly brewed Earl Grey — my favourite.
By the time Jacob returned from London, Bella and I were already joined at the hip. Somehow, she found a way to fit me into her new schedule, even if it meant that I got to hang out with both of them. It was a different kind of torture, having to watch them as a couple from up close for prolonged periods of time, but it was infinitely better than having to wave goodbye to my best friend. Besides, he accepted me, which was a blessing in itself, because I wouldn't have known how to keep my distance without going insane if he hadn't.
I found Tanya a few months after — or rather, she found me. As I studied in the library, she made no attempts to hide her flirtatious interest. She asked me out before I even got to find out her name. I accepted out of curiosity, although a part of me craved the possibility of finding a distraction in her. We got along well enough; not in the overwhelming, all-encompassing way that Bella and I did, but enough to bring her home after our third date and discover what sex felt like for the first time ever.
It had been less than a year since then, and we were still together. Somewhere along the line, my dates with her turned into double dates with Bella and Jacob. And it felt right — not having to look away when his hand touched hers, or when her lips roamed his jawline, because my attention had to be on Tanya. On making her the focus of my attention. Not Bella. Never again Bella.
But I still slipped every now and then.
Like the times she allowed an inner joke of ours to be set free, knowing that only the two of us could get it. Or the rare and incredibly special occasions she wore a dress that revealed a little too much of her thighs whenever she sat down. Or right about now, when she just told me she needed me.
"What do you need me for?" I queried, trying to appear cool. Collected. Pretending that my mind had not chosen the worst direction to go into.
"Do you remember how I told you about that weird noise I heard two weeks ago?"
"Right before Jacob got home. Of course."
"So, it happened again a couple of nights ago. Actually, it was the night before he left for that conference in Rockford. But I installed a security camera last week, to see if it was something serious or just a stray cat."
"Hmmm, following my advice for once, I like it."
I could almost hear her rolling her eyes through the phone. "Well, yes, but I've got a bit of trouble with it. I've been trying to get the footage, but it just won't work."
"Have you tried rebooting the camera?"
"Yup. And nothing."
"Checked if the software is up to date?"
"Yes, still nothing. Although I might have not been clear enough. I have the footage, it just won't open for some reason. Which is why I need your help."
With my eyes stuck on the downpour wreaking havoc outside my window, I knew she already had me — effortlessly, she didn't even have to try. I wasn't keen on facing the storm outside, but the prospect of Bella waiting on the other side of it was intriguing, to say the least.
"Then I'd better get there before the rain gets worse," I offered.
"Worse? It's been like this all day."
"You're not exactly helping your cause."
"Right. But maybe some Earl Grey will."
Not that I needed any sort of beverage to entice me into spending time with her. Nonetheless, I humoured her, if only to hear her laugh. "That's a risky bet. I guess we'll have to find out."
She didn't need more, I didn't need less. We were already laughing together.
The short walk from my car to Bella's door proved to be more than enough to get my clothes soaked. Luckily, I had had enough foresight to put a hoodie over my regular T-shirt. I opened the door, not one bit surprised to discover it wasn't locked. For every reasonable decision Bella made, such as installing a security camera, she made ten more questionable ones, such as not locking her door and forgetting to close the curtains, as if she had some warped equilibrium to keep up.
"Would it hurt to lock this door for once?" I grumbled, mostly to myself. But I couldn't stay mad for long, not when an appealingly bitter scent called me from not too far away. On the other side of the corridor, Bella peeked her head from the kitchen, her hair wrapped in a bun that balanced precariously, ready to fall in a cascade at any given second. She smiled, and I momentarily forgot about my damp state.
"You got here earlier than I expected," she observed.
"As it turns out, there aren't an awful lot of people willing to face a mild hurricane on a Saturday evening."
"You're the best, Edward."
I tried to not let her words tickle my ego too much, choosing instead to set myself free from the hoodie before joining her in the kitchen, the very place where, a lifetime ago, we spent late nights talking for hours. My eyes closed in on her for a few seconds, taking in the sight of lean legs revealing themselves from underneath the oversized button-up shirt she was wearing. I forced myself to look away, only to find that on the small table by the window, a laptop and two steaming cups of tea awaited.
"That's quite the set-up," I noted, right as she sat down at the table. She handed me one of the two steaming cups in front of her, and I gladly accepted it. "Thank you."
"No, thank you! You're a saviour for coming here in such hellish weather."
"We've got to know if your residence is safe or not, how could I miss such a thing?"
I sat down, taking a decent gulp of tea as I did, quietly wondering how Bella always managed to get it better than I did, considering we used the same brand.
"With my luck, you never know," she said.
"All right, let's see what this whole thing is about then."
She pushed her laptop on the table until it was closer to me, and in doing so she managed to drag her chair across the floor, so that she was closer too. I quickly ordered myself to ignore the fact that she smelled like lavender fields on a sunny day, and how that particular fact made my head spin with a need that had no place here.
"Where are the files stored?" I questioned, in a bid to remind myself of the purpose of my visit.
"In that little folder right there." Bella pointed to the screen, and I inhaled deeply as I clicked, overpowered by the way her fragrance pulsed in waves in the small space between us. Soon enough, the issue with the footage became obvious. The video files were damaged. If I had to guess, the damage had been done at some point throughout the importing process. Luckily, there were more than enough third-party softwares that could help with recovery.
I went through the motions, listening to her talking about how the past three days went, as I recovered the files. When she asked me about why Tanya and I fought, I tried to evade her curiosities. Not necessarily because I wanted to hide them from Bella, but mostly because I wanted to spend time with her without having to relive the way Tanya shouted at me after I forgot to text her back in the middle of a lecture. Or worse, how I gave in and shouted in response, which snowballed into a bigger, uglier fight.
I was going to tell Bella everything eventually. She was obviously conflicted about my avoidance to go into detail, but this day was dreary enough on its own, it didn't need additional help in this regard.
Half an hour later, when I clicked on one of the retrieved videos and it finally worked, I felt relieved, knowing that the focus could finally shift away from my problems. Bella was decidedly delighted, and instantly took back control of her laptop, fast-forwarding through the video; her enthusiasm slowly started to fade once she realized that nothing interesting was actually happening.
But she didn't give up. She went through each video patiently, and I stood by her side as she did, playing with my empty cup of tea to keep myself busy. I was starting to think she was ready to call it a day when she talked again.
"Wait, I think I've got something. I'll skip back a few seconds."
I looked up from my cup, not really sure what it was that I was supposed to see. It was nighttime, but the scenery was still calm and empty, her front porch occupying most of the screen. I looked at Bella in disbelief, and she motioned me to wait, so I did. And soon enough, I saw movement. At first, it was a dark blur, nothing more than a shadow. But then, the shadow got closer, and I recognized Jacob's bulky form easily.
By my side, Bella sighed softly, seemingly grateful it was Jacob.
"God, for a second, I thought…"
"False alarm, thankfully."
She chuckled, hiding her face in her hands. "Actually, I should have known it was him. He got here late two nights ago, and he was probably a little drunk and wobbly after hanging out with Seth and Sam in the dorms, hence that noise I heard."
While she talked, I kept my eyes on the screen, trying to understand why Jacob was still lingering on the porch, or why he was gesturing with so much enthusiasm, although he was seemingly alone. I kept watching, and it didn't take long for another figure to emerge.
I felt an instant knot in my stomach once I realized who the new figure was.
"You didn't tell me Tanya came by your place," I said, my voice tense despite my conscious effort to make myself sound normal.
"What do you mean?" Bella got out from her improvised hiding place, bewilderment plastered all over her face. "I haven't seen her in over a week, since you two came by our house to play charades."
"Then what was she doing on your porch?"
She glanced at the screen, then back at me, then back at the screen, and her gaze remained glued there once the most improbable thing happened right before our very eyes. Jacob grabbed Tanya's waist and he kissed her with such longing, the knot in my stomach got so tight I was convinced it would snap.
"What… the actual… fuck?" Bella's words hung in the air, and their presence felt almost mocking once the images on the screen entered a downward spiral of complete madness. Jacob and Tanya moved until he had her up in his arms, and even if what they did was not entirely visible to the camera, I didn't have to use my imagination to understand why their shoulders were moving up and down with a precise rhythm.
"Does he not know about… the camera?" I managed to ask. It was hardly the only question I had, but it was the one that was most eager to get out.
"I didn't… I didn't get to tell him."
We didn't look at each other. On-screen, our partners kept at it, and when Tanya pushed her head backwards for a few seconds, light hit her face and I could tell that she was completely lost in bliss. My insides churned uncomfortably, because nothing made sense: the betrayal, the fact that it happened on the very night she and I last fought, the possibility that it might have not been the first time she and Jacob were doing this.
I searched inside me, expecting to feel anger. I was entitled to that much, wasn't I? But there was no rage inside, only a haunting resignation. While I had not really expected this, I couldn't say that I did not deserve it, if only for all the times my mind slipped into a world of forbidden fantasies of Bella. Musings were a special kind of sin, but a sin nonetheless.
Yet the knot in my core persisted, aggravating and powerful. It took me a few moments to understand why it had not untangled itself. I didn't dread facing my own emotions as much as I dreaded what this new discovery was going to do to Bella's psyche. She had been tied to Jacob for years, and being cheated on had always been a background fear for her, even if she rarely got to admit it out loud.
I didn't know how much time had passed when the action on the screen stopped at long last, and Jacob and Tanya parted. But I knew I could not remain silent further, not with the gritty tension cursing every molecule of the air I was breathing. I paused the video and moved my eyes to Bella. She looked as if she was either going to burst into tears or burn down her own laptop.
Or maybe a little bit of both.
"Are you all right?"
She remained distressingly still. "I don't know. I… I can't really find my words."
"I wonder how long it's been going on."
"Long enough, I bet."
A minute passed by in complete silence. Each new second helped the realization of this new reality settle in more comfortably. I was still trying to decide how I was supposed to feel about the whole ordeal when Bella shut the lid of her laptop with a loud snap.
"Do you want to talk about it?" I checked.
"As if it's going to solve anything…"
"I know, but it's not like there's much to be solved here either way. At the end of the day, one fact remains. We are being cheated on. And it's been happening for God knows how long."
She nodded absently, and I noticed she had closed her hands into tight little fists, that she kept on the table. I found myself longing to reach out and touch them. To feel them unfurl under my palm, letting go of the anger they held. But it was not the time and place.
It never was, never would be.
I tried to look away, but I couldn't. I had missed the precise point she turned around to meet my eyes, but all of a sudden I felt trapped. Her irises were two relentless drops of chocolate as they dug holes into my very soul. The sudden wave of heat that hit me was so hot, so brazen, I wondered if she felt it too — at least a fraction of it.
"Are you furious?" she demanded to know.
"That's not really the word I would use."
"Then what word would you use?"
She squinted at me. "Were you expecting something like this?"
"No, I never even actively thought about it."
I made an effort to keep focused on the indecipherable emotions swimming in her eyes, and less on the fact that she had moved her chair several inches closer to mine. Deep down, a yearning to read her mind started scraping at the walls of my conscience. If I could know what she was thinking now, then maybe it wouldn't be so damn difficult to keep my own thoughts in check.
But then again, she was so close… so close I could taste that sunny lavender on my tongue. And if minutes ago I would have felt too guilty to even entertain the idea of getting drunk on her scent, right now my barriers were shaking, ready to crumble if I willed them to.
"Tell me one thing," I pleaded, hoping that my voice wouldn't betray how utterly conflicted I felt. "What's going through your mind right now?"
"You won't like it."
"It can't be worse than what we just saw."
"Maybe, but it's mean," she persisted.
"I can handle that."
"Still, you might think it's a terrible, terrible idea."
Bella didn't even blink, but the way her teeth sank into her bottom lip revealed her nervousness. I expected her to backtrack, but when she opened her mouth to speak again, my prediction vanished. Her next words took me aback completely.
"I'm thinking… we should do to them exactly what they did to us." She paused, her eyes searching mine cautiously. In return, I tried to look for a sign that she was messing with me, but there was nothing there. Then she continued, erasing any doubt about whether she was joking or not. "And we should make sure they know about it."
It felt like time stopped for a while, as I took in the meaning of her words, playing them again and again in my mind, until they no longer made sense. I had to make sure my own sense of understanding wasn't failing me.
"So you want to cheat on him?"
"No, I want us to cheat on them." Oh. So I did understand her properly. "Together." Fucking hell. "As revenge." And there went everything I thought I knew. Every semblance of equilibrium our friendship ever had simply evaporated. How many times had I wrongly fantasized about what it would be like for the two of us to succumb to the overpowering lust that had been plaguing me ever since I saw her? So many times, yet I was still unprepared to go through with it.
"Bella… you don't mean this." My voice didn't sound convincing — not to me, and probably not to her either. But I couldn't risk appearing too eager, not with everything happening so fast. Mere minutes ago, I was just finding out about my cheating girlfriend. There had to be some type of mourning period, even for a relationship as unexciting as the one I had with Tanya.
"No, I mean every word. I want to have the upper hand for once."
"I get that, but… why me?"
"Because I trust you fully," she answered instantly. "And what I have in mind wouldn't work if I didn't. Besides, you were betrayed as well, it's kind of a two-way street."
Behind her bravery, I noticed her blushing. But even more than that, I noticed the way her button-up shirt poked outwards, right where the fabric met the now-hard beads of her nipples. Suddenly, the room was too hot for comfort.
I swallowed the knot in my chest, and my limbs started getting warmer once the tension reached my stomach. It was a challenge to no longer stare at her chest, but I managed to overcome it.
"What exactly does your plan involve, Bella?"
The pink in her cheeks got even brighter. "I was thinking… we should make our own tape and send it to them. Like a reprisal of sorts."
"A tape?" I repeated, feeling more perplexed — and more aroused — than before. I was beginning to feel self-conscious about the shameless way my cock strained against my jeans, wanting to get out. "You want us to fuck on tape?"
"Y-yes. It'd all be scripted, of course. I mean… I don't expect either of us to finish or anything, since we're friends, and I very much hope to remain friends, just… you know, to put on a show for the camera."
As if I needed to put on a show when it came to her. It was ridiculous how she wasn't even naked, and I was already good to go.
"Wouldn't they be able to share the video around?"
"Not if we send them that video of them fucking on the porch as leverage," Bella explained. "And even if they did decide to share it, it would be pointless, because we won't show our faces. But they can recognize our voices, so they would know."
"This is insane…"
"I know. Although probably not nearly as insane as what they did." I nodded in agreement, struggling to keep my hands in my lap, where they could casually hide my erection, and away from her protruding nipples. "So do you want to do this?"
Truthfully, I could picture it. Unbuttoning Bella's shirt and throwing it away, so I could properly gaze at the perfection hiding underneath. Lifting her on this very table, and parting her legs. Succumbing to the primal call of her body and kneeling down, where I could worship her with my tongue and fingers. Turning her around, to bury my cock inside her depths, and fucking her until she could no longer take it.
I realized Bella was still waiting for an answer when I heard her sharp intake of air. I knew then there was no way I could lie my way out of this, not when I wanted it — wanted her — so badly. If I were to stand up now and walk away, she would see exactly what kind of effect she had on me. She would know I was nothing but a hypocrite.
So there was no room for lies here. Only the truth.
And this is it for now :).
I can't wait to know your thoughts on this! It'll be my pleasure to read and respond to your reviews.
See you next week with a new chapter!
Until then, stay safe and happy!