Prequel to Hot Chocolate
Summary: Bella has grown tired of Edward's constant surprises: his ability to play the piano, waltz and dazzle to name but a few. Edward had mentioned one more than one occasion how pleasant Bella's warmth was. After some dangerous pondering, Bella was curious whether or not warm water felt the same. With a little courage, and some help from Alice, Bella forms a plan to find out - and hopefully, in the process, rattle the unshakable Edward Cullen as well.
Critiques graciously accepted.
They aren't mine. You know that. Don't sue me, please. They're Stephenie Meyer's. Also, I apologize for the random updates, I keep finding small typos, and realized I didn't have a disclaimer. Like I needed it. I think I've fixed them all. Sorry about that!
Just act cool. It would be alright. I could do this. At least, that's what I wanted to believe. There was just no way I could lie to Edward. I was a terrible liar when my vampire sweetheart wasn't dazzling me. I would crumble even faster beneath his golden gaze. Doomed. Completely doomed. Alice had seemed confident that I would do alright. She showed no doubt. My only comfort came from the fact that she was so certain of her visions. In the back of my mind, I couldn't help but wonder if Alice only pretended to be certain, so that I could have confidence.
I glanced to the duffle bag under my arm. Less than thirty minutes ago, Alice had rushed around stuffing articles of Edward's clothing on top of mine in the bag, and then plopped me down in the chair. It seemed like eternity ago; as if I had been sitting here for hours. Waiting. Waiting for my lion. The thought gave me a soft shiver of delight.
It wouldn't be long now. Rosalie passed by the door into the entryway for the second time, casting yet another curious, irritated look at me. It surprised me that she hadn't asked why I was sitting in her foyer. I had the sneaking suspicion that Alice had told her to make herself scarce. If every member of the Cullen coven except one were to know about my plan, Rosalie would be the one left in the dark. She would, no doubt, knowingly, willingly, and more than happily destroy my one chance at doing something for Edward, and cause as much humiliation for meas inhumanly possible. As it stood, only Alice and I knew about it, and soon Edward would know as well.Hopefully not too soon, as I needed to trick him before he discovered my unusually coy intentions. The prey luring the predator. It was laughable, so much so that I had to physically stifle the giggle that bubbled to my lips unchecked. Nerves. It really was ridiculous how splendidly I was going to fail at this. At least Rosalie would get to chuckle for a while, and likely Emmett would, too.
It was difficult to attribute the blame for the creation of this crazy plan. By all rights it was my idea, but it would have never gone this far without Alice's help. I had waffled back and forth between putting it into motion on my own and not. Apparently, every time I convinced myself to try it, Alice had received a vision about it. By the fourth time, in frustration, she came up to me and whispered 'Just go for it,' into my ear. Unfortunately, we had been at lunch, and Edward had pestered me for the remaining day for information. It had been hard enough just trying to brush it off then. There was no possible way I could do this now.
My stomach lurched. He'd be here any moment. I could still change my mind. There was still time. Alice would be disappointed, to be sure, but she would understand. Of course she would. I just couldn't do it. The idea was good, my intentions pure, but I didn't have the backbone to handle this. Anyone else could, but not me. I could feel beads of sweat forming, and my breathing quickened as time ticked closer. It would be alright. When he walked in the door, I'd just say "hi" and forget the whole thing. No one would ever know, except Alice. I'd tell her that... ...that everything was okay. Okay? Yes. It would be okay. I could be calm. I could do this. I could totally do this. Suddenly, my muscles relaxed, and I leaned back into the chair. My breathing evened out, and I sighed. Confident. Cool. Collected. I, Bella Swan, was the epitome of manipulation. I could do this. I didn't know where this confidence suddenly came from, but I was riding high on the wave.
My eyes whipped to the door, and Jasper was leaning curiously against the doorframe. Oh. That explained it. When I made eye contact with him, he smiled, genuinely. As usual, he didn't approach me, he just watched kindly, mildly curious. After a moment, he broke the warm silence between us.
"Geeze Bella…" He spoke quietly, as if loud words would disrupt the calmness flowing from him. "I don't know what's going on, but I could feel your anxiety on the second floor..."
I smiled ruefully. This was going to suck. Even with theJasper-inspired confidence... I knew the truth. About that time, Alice pranced into the room, graceful as ever. She smiled at me, pausing only slightly in her lithe step. "Good luck." Her arm snaked with Jasper's, and she led him from the room. I didn't understand. I continued to sit, in a bit of a daze, trying to absorb all the remaining confidence into my body before it dissipated completely. Within a few seconds, I heard a car pull into the driveway - the same car that Alice had heard before me, probably when it was down the road. Stupid, shiny, silver Volvo. A shaky breath escaped my lips. I could still back out. The room was warm from the confidence radiating from Jasper, but since he had left, it was quickly cooling back to the normal, slightly-panicked state. I was left trembling in my seat, watching the door apprehensively, pale as any vampire in the house. The handle turned and the door swung open to reveal Edward Cullen, as promised.
His light, golden eyes locked on me, a curious, bemused, and overall pleased expression formed on his face at the sight of me. He hadn't known I was here? Oh. Right. I had hidden my truck. I watched his expression as he watched me, and I could tell what he was doing. His eyes flickered to the ceiling. Edward was probing the minds of the house - he knew something was up. All he found was confusion from everyone else: Alice was playing her part well. She'd done so much for me already and even gone as far as asking Edward to hunt with her yesterday so he would be satiated today. She was an amazing woman.
Wickedly curious, his eyes fell back on me. It didn't escape my quickly hazing gaze that he glanced to the bag near me; then back to me. Golden eyes locked on my own, I could only stare helplessly back. Slowly, he walked into the room and toward me.
"Bella," he said slowly, never letting me look away. "What are you doing here?" I swallowed. I had had a plan. Alice and I had gone over it. I had something I was supposed to say, but what was it? I couldn't remember. All I knew was that Edward Cullen was dazzling me again.
"Wh…what?" I'd forgotten what he had asked already. He looked as though he were about to ask again, but his golden eyes suddenly glanced to the wall. He was listening to something. Broken from his trance, I took a few deep breaths and averted my eyes so I could think clearly. He was listening to someone's thoughts again... I hoped Alice was hiding hers well.
I was studying the far wall nervously, my hands fidgeting in my lap. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed his gaze slide quickly back to me, a smile tugging at the corners of his lips. "So you wanted to ask me on a date today?" Oh no. Alice had slipped. He'd read Alice's mind... she hadn't been expecting him to. Shoot. I just hung my head. I knew I'd fail miserably. I just didn't think it would be this bad.
In my peripheral vision, I saw him glance to the wall yet again, his lips thinning. I risked a glance. The stars had mercy on me; he was not looking at me, and not dazzling me. Almost instantly, my confidence and my mind were returning. A soft growl came from Edward's throat.
"No...She can't drive..." He was speaking softly; I almost didn't catch what he said. Golden eyes had captured mine without warning, a movement so swift I couldn't comprehend it. "Just tell me where you want to go, Bella. I'll drive." No. He couldn't drive. But I couldn't think. I could hardly form the words to reply. "Bella..." Edward really had no idea he was incapacitating me with his gaze.
"You're... dazzling me again." Finally! Coherent thought managed to choke its way out of my throat. Edward blinked; looking genuinely startled, and averted his gaze towards my duffle bag. In that instant, it was like I could breathe again. My head cleared, no longer clouded with ocher mist. He was watching me out of the corner of his eyes, but was gracing me enough not to give me the full brunt of his mesmerizing gaze. "I will drive, Edward…" I spoke quietly, still recovering from the force of his amazing eyes. He was not so easily convinced.
"Where is it that you wish to go?"
"I can't tell you that." I was doing well. Not looking right into his eyes made it much easier.
"Because, it's a surprise. You wouldn't want to ruin your surprise, would you?" I could see his lips press together thinly.
"But Bella, you know that I have-"
"-better reflexes than me, yes I know. That doesn't mean I won't get us there alive."
Edward was glaring now. I continued brazenly, holding up my keys, "I'm driving. Are you coming or not?" Apparently, dangling something shiny in front of Edward's perfect face was a bad idea. It took me a second to realize that my keys were no longer hanging from my fingertips, but in Edward's contemplating hands. "Edward!"
He turned, fixing his honey-like gaze on me, his lips curling into a sweet smile. "Yes?"
Stupid Edward. Stupid dazzling. Stupid cheating vampire!
"That's what I thought. Now. Where are we going?" He turned toward the door, and in doing so, released me from his gaze.
"My keys! Please Edward, please let me drive… please?" I tried to pout. I stuck out my bottom lip gently, looking up at him through thick lashes. I hoped I didn't look too ridiculous. I must have done something right; Edward rolled his eyes and then turned and looked at me. He froze. He seemed to look almost as caught by my gaze as I was so often by his. Not possible. I could not dazzle him… could I? He tried to say something, but changed his mind, and tossed the keys to me, then turned to walk out the door. Having the grace of an ogre, naturally, I fumbled the keys. I heard a low chuckle come from the door. Fishing the keys from the floor, I shouldered the bag and walked hesitantly out the door.
Edward was standing outside, looking at me expectantly; his thin, white fingers laced gracefully in front of him patiently. I smiled sheepishly and walked around the corner of the house to where my truck was parked, out of the way. I gasped as Edward opened the driver's door. Before I could protest, he just turned to look at me. Blushing, I realized he was holding the door for me. Climbing in, I set the bag on the floor. My door was shut, and too quickly Edward was sitting next to me. I thrust the key into the ignition and the truck roared to life. I put it into reverse and started to back up; ignoring the curious looks he was giving the duffle. Alice was crazy. This was not going to be… how did she put it? Oh yeah: easy.
The truck lurched as I slammed on the brakes, halting the backup as both my hands flew from the wheel to grasp his. His eyes met mine, looking more than amused that I had 'stopped him' – for Lord knew I could never stop Edward Cullen; he had just chosen to honor my wish – from peeking into the duffle bag. It was when the spark of amusement flashed in his eyes that I realized this was quickly becoming a game to him. I had yet to determine if that was a good thing or not.
"What's in here?" His voice was quiet and soft.
"Nothing." His intense gaze dropped from mine to eye the duffle. Prodding the soft bulkiness of it, he smirked at me.
"That's an awful lot of Nothing, Bella." Again, his voice was soft, controlled, and had that gentle velvet texture to it. Could voices have a texture? Edward's could. That was certain. I said nothing, and slowly returned my hands to the wheel, watching him as he placed his hands into his lap.
Releasing the brake, I returned to backing up, keeping a watchful eye on the vampire next to me. He just smiled sweetly – can anyone say 'dazzled'? – and looked out the windshield. Keeping my eyes on the road, I drove the speed limit. I could almost feel the mild irritation rolling off of him in waves.
"So. Where are you taking me?"
I didn't trust my voice, and so, I said nothing.
"Bella." I made the mistake of looking over to him. Smoldering. He was such a cheater. Something occurred to me. I was driving a speeding metal deathtrap and not watching the road.
"Edward Cullen!" My voice cracked on the last syllable, panicked, snapping my gaze back to the road.
"You're going to get me killed," I muttered. I noticed his hurt expression, and a quick remedy was necessary. "What I mean is, you can't be dazzling me like that when I'm driving. I don't have the reflexes you do, and I'll crash." I mocked his tone for all the times he pointed out my slower reflexes. Edward said nothing, and for a brief moment, I was worried he was angry. A quick glance in his direction confirmed he was only amused – and thoughtful. Not good. He was mentally mounting an attack against me. Fortunately, we were almost there. Within ten minutes, I had slid neatly into park, and shut the truck off. I glanced to Edward. A smile forced itself upon my lips – I could see his burning curiosity and confusion at my choice destination.
"Bella… why are we at your house when you were so determined to surprise me? You know I've been here before. Frequently." I could only grin wickedly, opening the door and sliding out, dragging the duffle with me. Shutting the door, I heard the echo on the passenger side. I saw Edward on the front porch, opening the door for me.
"And where do you think you're going, Cullen?" His eyes looked over at me in disbelief, and with even more confusion than before. This was fun. For all the times he had rattled me with cryptic sayings and random tidbits of vampirism, rattling Edward Cullen was great fun. I couldn't stop myself – I threw my head back and laughed. Loudly. "Well, I didn't think you would want to walk the whole way." He was at my side in an instant, his lips at my ear.
"Now that is frustrating, you know," he purred. I giggled softly; his lips tickled, and he smelled absolutely delicious, as always. I could feel his hands brushing at my sides gently, tickling me. I couldn't help but squirm, but he held me tightly. Blushes warmed my cheeks as he planted butterfly kisses all over my neck, chin, jaw, and a gentle one on my lips. My lashes fell closed as he continued to brush his oddly enticing stone-cold lips over me.
"Are you going to tell me what you're plotting?" His voice was unusually husky. My eyes opened and looked up into his through my lashes. I wasn't surprised by the hunger in his eyes – I'd seen it before, more and more often as we grew closer. It wasn't the sort of hunger that made me run, either. It was the sort that made my stomach turn little flips. I was surprised by the reflection of my eyes in his: my own eyes held the same look his did, and I knew he noticed it: his arms tightened slightly around me.
"You'll have to see," was all I managed to get out. Quite against my internal want, I pried myself away from him. If I didn't get away, I'd end up spilling everything, and ruining it all. With a coy smile, I started towards the trees. I had to find it. It was around here somewhere. I swear I had it tied to the tree – and then a thin piece of pink string wrapped around a tree trunk caught my eye. It wound around once and was tied in a bow. One end hung down to the ground, and the other disappeared into the forest behind the tree. I could feel Edward's eyes on my back as I bounced lightly into the woods.
I walked seemingly blindly through the trees, a thin pink string lying on the ground amongst the foliage. Edward was right behind me, silent as ever, his eyes curiously on the pink string.
"Where do you think you're going, Swan?" His voice mocked my earlier tone when he had been standing on my porch. Although I knew it was in pure banter, the use of my last name startled me slightly. Unable to reply, I just kept walking. It seemed that, despite the playful, mocking tone of the question, it had been a serious one since he asked a second time when I didn't respond. "Bella, where are you going?" This time, his voice was more concerned than anything, but there was some level of genuine curiosity. "You'll get lost," he added softly. I turned my head and caught his eye. The grin that split my face was unstoppable.
"I know where I'm going." I pointed shyly down to the pink string that I was following. I stopped to look at Edward's expression.
At first, he was furious. I wasn't sure why. He'd already seen the string. Why was he angry?
"You mean you've been here before? Alone?" He was fighting to keep his anger in check.
"Er. Yes…" Clearly, I was missing some vital part of his reasoning.
"Bella! You could've gotten lost! Or worse!" I wasn't quite sure what was worse that getting lost in the woods full of wild animals, having no food, and knowing no one knew where you were, but I didn't ask.
"Well, that's what the string was for, originally. I wanted to take a walk… That way I could find my way back."
"And you're taking me to a place you found on this walk?"
"What's the bag for?"
I don't know what possessed me, but my confidence was overflowing. Without batting an eyelash, I said with a completely straight face, "The bodies." His expression caused me to laugh out loud again. His face was priceless. I'd never seen Edward – Edward: Mr. Cool and Composed Vampire – look so shocked, his eyes wide and his jaw quite literally agape. I'd never been so happy… so… at ease. Smiling over my shoulder at his confused expression, I kept moving through the woods. We had a long way to go. After a moment, I spoke again. "Provisions, really."
Now Edward looked calculating, as though he were trying to read my mind. This was one of those few instances where I was grateful he couldn't. Looking forward, I took a turn, carefully picking my way down a steep hill. It was more of a small ravine than a steep hill. Behind me, Edward was following me deeper into the woods. He seemed to have given up the mind reading, and after a moment, he asked carefully, "In what instance would I need provisions? Or… are they just for you, little human?"
I couldn't help but smirk. "Both of us." I said no more, but I knew I was driving him mad. Well. He couldn't always be the mysterious one, could he? That wasn't fair. After what seemed like forever, leading him deeper into the woods, I finally paused in front of another tree. This one also had a pink string tied in a bow around the trunk, and upon close inspection, it happened to be the other end of the string I'd been following. Imagine that. Edward looked irritably curious. I gestured around the tree, and stepped out of the way. Regarding me with delirious curiosity as he stepped by, he carefully placed his feet onto a firm white rock on the other side of the tree.
There was a small ridge, and on the other side of the tree, the ground plunged away about six feet to a small lake-like body of water. This was where I needed Alice's help one last time. I prayed she hadn't forgotten this part of the plan, yet there seemed to be no sign of her. Regardless, I stepped up right behind him, and raised my hands, almost touching his back.
Instantly, Edward wheeled around to look at me, his eyes wide.
Before he could say anything more, a slender young woman was standing right behind me. I could feel her, although she didn't touch me. I could barely see what happened next; it occurred so fast. First, Edward flinched away, as if he were reacting to something. The next thing I realized was that from behind me, two strong, cold, feminine arms reached around me and her hands planted firmly against Edward's chest with enough force to crush every bone in my body into a very fine dust. Briefly, I saw his eyes widen, and then... he was toppling off the rock. A soft giggle was heard in my ear, and I turned to look at Alice behind me, but I was too slow. She was gone.
My slow reflexes got the best of me, again. As I looked back to where Edward had been, I was met with the splash from his impact with the water below. I shuffled to the edge of the rock and peered down, just as he surfaced.
The once glass-like surface of the water was rocking with waves from his body. It did not escape my notice that he did not gasp for air. Wild hair stuck to his ashen face, those beautiful eyes were wide with complete shock.
"Where did Alice-" He just stopped, and stared. Slowly, his expression changed. It was mesmerizing to watch. The shock gave way to amused, delighted surprise and he slowly dropped his gaze to the water he bobbed in effortlessly. His eyes widened, and I couldn't help but watch. He seemed to forget that Alice had just pounced on him and pushed him off a small cliff. "It's…" Edward had trailed off, so I tried to finish the sentence for him.
"Warm?" I sounded too hopeful. In all honesty, I had no idea if it would be warm enough for him to feel.
"…Yes." I breathed a sigh of relief, and kicked off my shoes. I sat down on the rock and watched him swim laps. They couldn't really be called laps – he covered the deep part of the hot spring in four strokes. I watched, fascinated, as he peeled his shirt off and tossed the sopping mass to the side. It was a sunny day, and as such, his marble chest glittered iridescently in the sunlight that streamed down into the clearing with the spring. Bobbing underwater, he resurfaced with both his shoes, and also tossed those aside, leaving him in nothing but clinging, wet, black pants. He was glorious. I was in trouble. God help me.
My legs swung back and forth from my rock-seat six feet higher than the spring, my toes about four feet from the surface of the water. Edward's smoldering gaze suddenly fixed on me, and I nearly melted beneath it.
"So. What's in the bag?" I watched him swim over to where my feet dangled.
"Provisions," I answered smoothly, unable to take my eyes away from his.
"Such as?" Gods his voice was so sweet.
"Towels. Dry clothing…" He had a look. Oh God. He had a look. I trailed off, knowing precisely what he was planning and why he'd asked about the provisions, but seconds too late. Before I could pull my legs back up onto the rock, he had leapt gracefully out of the water – his beautiful chest with water running off of it glittering in the sunshine – and his stone hands closed firmly around my calves. Before I could cry out, Edward had fallen back into the water, and was not alone. My head bobbed up out of the water, and I tried to quickly brush my plastered hair out of my face, gasping for air. It was an odd feeling – the hot water around me and Edward's cold marble chest as he held me against him. I was glad that I could attribute the mad blushing to the heat from the water, but as he leaned down and brushed his lips to my hair – I knew my heartbeat would not go unnoticed.
He chuckled into my damp hair as he supported our floating frames. "Is this what you were planning all along?" Edward was murmuring in my ear in between butterfly kisses, I could only nod in response at first.
"I found it while out walking… and I wondered if the warm water…" I couldn't finish because his lips were brushing over my ear, my chin, my nose, and my cheeks. Edward's butterfly kisses were driving me insane. I just couldn't think straight when he did such things.
"Bella… it's perfect." I had to agree, trapped in the arms of my vampire lover, curled up in a deserted hot spring while he left butterfly kisses everywhere. It was pretty perfect.
Eventually, we moved to more shallow water so he could sit, and I curled up in his lap. His hands, too, were like those soft kisses, brushing over my face, my sides, tickling and light. Once more, I was mesmerized by the way the sunlight reflected off his skin. The glittering effect was even more amazing when his skin was slick with water, the droplets casting little rainbows against my own skin.
Growing braver, I turned to him and left my own trail of butterfly kisses along the only thing I could reach: his collarbone. I glanced to his face to check his reaction and make sure I wasn't pushing his limits. His expression stirred something in me – his eyes were so wanting. Without waiting, he dipped his head down and caught my lips with his. The force of it ripped through me, turning my insides to ashes. My heart was out of control; it changed its pace frequently: beating so fast it felt as though it might burst one moment and nearly stopping the next. I think I moaned softly, my vision hazed over quickly and my lashes draped closed. I wound my arms around him gently, my fingers lacing with his damp hair. I could feel his fingers winding through my locks as he held me tightly. Perfect. If only we could stay like this forever. Just Edward, me, and the butterfly kisses.