Thanks to nicnicd for her beta magic. I sent this chapter back to her four times. Even if it was to check a few lines later on, she humored me. This wouldn't be the same without her. And thanks to Dollegirl for everything.
Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight…..just a ducky #6.
I Hate You, Kiss Me
"When you give each other everything, it becomes an even trade. Each wins all." – Lois McMaster Bujold
Sunlight filtered around us in a suffused light, opaque and golden. Eagerly, I ran for him, and he ran for me, too. His arms flew around my body and he jumped off the bridge, clutching me. He laughed, his chest shaking against my cheek. The wind whistled in my ears as we shot like a bullet through the air and into the seemingly endless expanse of ocean.
My vision flickered between the blackness behind my lids and rushing bubbles of water and our clothes, as we spun and descended. I held onto Edward until we stopped moving. It felt peaceful.
Rays of sunlight poured through the water, shimmering on coral and making light and shadows flicker in a competitive dance. My hair floated, blocking my vision with its rippling, silken texture and making the movement of light look gauzy and muddled. As soon as I pushed my hair away, it floated back into place. In between its sluggish movement, I glimpsed a mouth smiling at me. I smiled back and soft bubbles escaped my lips. Above that smile were locks of hair swirling, lifting to reveal green eyes. They were slanted in amusement; with excitement, I kicked my feet harder to keep up with him.
Slow motion is always annoying in dreams.
Fish darted around us, clearing a path and rejoining after we passed.
Edward's arm was stretched out, waiting for my hand to clasp his. Together we kicked our feet and smiled. He put his arm around me as we descended into murkier water. I couldn't see where we were headed, but I felt great just to be with him.
He groaned sleepily, a rumbly sound that floated on the current around me and I swam faster. When I caught up, I snuggled close to him.
As his chest hair tickled my nose, it became entirely clear that we weren't swimming under water unless I'd gotten tangled in seaweed. I slowly opened my eyes to the morning sun flecking the walls of his bedroom.
I fisted the sheet to my chest and smiled into his shoulder. His fingers lightly tapped my hip, idly brushing over my skin. It wasn't in a seductive way. His hand belonged there naturally and with me lying comfortably at his side.
Some part of my mind sliced through the rest of my sleepy haze to tell me that today was important.
I gasped and sat up too fast. "Oh crap!"
I scared the hell out of Edward. His whole body startled awake beside me and he mumbled unintelligible words while looking wildly around the room for the cause of my outburst.
"What is it?" he asked, trying to sit up. His hair stuck up at every angle.
I flung the twisted sheet away to free myself and scrambled from the bed. The sheet tumbled onto Edward and he smirked around it as I went to retrieve fresh lingerie I kept stored in his dresser.
On top of the gleaming wood surface sat a black and white photograph of us outside one of our restaurants we frequented for lunch. It was a parting gift from Laurent, one of many photos his cameraman had taken while he was following James. This photo held just the two of us, and it struck me how completely carefree and happy we appeared from an outside perspective. Edward was opening the door for me and I was smiling up at him, my hair flowing behind me in the winter wind.
Edward had put the photo in a silver frame and placed ducky number six beside it. I didn't have anything like that in my apartment, but I spent most nights at Edward's anyway.
I bent over and wrenched open his bottom drawer, rifling through my things. He groaned with longing, but I didn't have time to follow up on that sensual mating call.
"Alice is getting married today!"
I went to the bathroom with my change of clothes and started the shower. It had been a long night and I could feel the strain in my limbs as they loosened with every step and bead of hot water pattering against my skin.
After Esme and Carlisle went back to Chicago, we found ourselves in an interesting period of calm.
I had Renee to thank for this sudden calmness in my schedule, too. With the encouraging advice and concern from my mother, Alice had gone off to deal with her florist debacle in a new spirit. I'd decided to give her Renee's personal cell phone number to deal with other such "emergencies" until the day of the wedding. Alice admitted that my mother was by far a better help to her than I had ever been during the past few weeks. I hadn't been offended in the slightest.
Despite the quiet, we both seemed to continue digesting the whirlwind that had taken place. I asked Edward more about his childhood and his relationship with Carlisle.
He told me that growing up, he was bitter about his father's abandonment of Esme. Even though his father died before Edward was born, some part of him had wished the man could've seen how well his son had turned out. From that feeling, he'd always felt compelled to protect his mother. It hadn't occurred to the young lawyer-to-be that someone else would come along and want to protect Esme, too. Grimly, he admitted that he hadn't been on his best behavior to Carlisle until much later, after Esme had married him.
I wondered what behavioral attributes Edward received from his father's gene pool, and how much had developed as a reaction to Carlisle joining his family. The only person who would really know was Esme.
In time, I would feel comfortable enough asking her. However, it wasn't something I dwelled on. Edward was my match intellectually and sexually. The amount of times we'd quarreled only cemented how evenly matched we were and, from that intense chemistry, spawned the growing foundation of our relationship. Since I'd been a self-sufficient grown-up most of my life, I never gave into things easily and, needless to say, it kept things very exciting when exploring all of this with him.
Truly, I thought it might have been the reason I was both so initially attracted to him and also so wary of him at the same time. He challenged me in new, exciting, and utterly terrifying ways.
I liked it.
With his parents and mine out of the way, wedding fever kept firmly in check, and a new understanding of the man I loved, it was just Edward and me. Alone. Finally.
We made plans that wouldn't be broken. There had been some kind of controlled excitement in his voice when he'd asked me if I was ready to play.
I easily agreed, not knowing what he was up to, but happy to spend time with him. My answer had been followed by a smoldering glint in his eyes as he removed my jacket and held a pair of fuzzy pink handcuffs in my face.
"Found these in your car," he said, grinning.
My skin had flushed and rose with gooseflesh as he undressed me, unbuttoning and sliding clothing off. His palms cupped and massaged, igniting small fires inside me. His mouth was hungry and slow, nibbling me in just the right places. He'd really taken his time. Despite my struggle against the handcuffs, I trusted and wanted him, and found myself shamelessly begging for more.
After he'd taken me beyond my limits of ecstasy, I'd felt tired and rattled and utterly satisfied. Then I regained a shred of my composure, I did the same for him. We were slow, reveling in our intimacy and new experiences of trust and pleasure.
I shivered under the hot water, just remembering, and continued lathering my skin in soap and scrubbing shampoo in my hair. My mind kept drifting to how inspiring the whole thing had been. The places he'd kissed and the words he'd whispered. And his responses to me in return were empowering when he was handcuffed under me. He had enjoyed himself so much that even a controlling man like Edward craved for me to have my way with him over and over again.
Everything about it had been sensual and downright dirty.
I shivered again, pulling my mind back from the memory and rinsing off in cold water. The chill was shocking and uncomfortable, but necessary if I planned to start my day at all.
If I was worried about being late when I woke up, it had nothing on the sheer terror evoked from all the missed calls Alice had left floating on my cell phone, demanding attention. Once I saw them, and the accompanying voicemails, I was actually frightened.
Bella, it's me. The wedding starts in two hours and I haven't heard from you since yesterday morning. Call me!
Bella, the ceremony starts in one hour. Where are you? Call me as soon as you get this.
I'm getting married in thirty-two minutes and seven seconds. Six seconds, five seconds… You better be kidnapped, in the hospital, or dead. Those are the only reasons a person can't use their cell phone! Where the hell are you?
And there were many, many more. Her voice had only gotten shriller, and I inwardly winced at the verbal storm I'd be getting as soon as I faced her. I voiced my concerns aloud to Edward. "Damn it, we're late. Alice is going to kill me."
My heels threatened to trip me as I tried to hurry up the stone steps of the church ahead of Edward. The dress style Alice picked for her bridesmaids could've been worse, and I was thankful. I wore a light blue satin dress. It was strapless with chocolate-colored ribbon tied at the back to create an empire waist. The skirt's under-layers were light, gauzy chiffon.
"Alice won't ruin her wedding day by killing you. And we're not late," he said mildly. His breathy chuckle reached my ears and though he could easily keep up with me, he chose to linger a step behind.
"Enjoying the view?" I asked, a little irritated.
"I'm spotting you from behind," he smirked.
"Hmph," I grumbled.
"I spotted you from behind plenty last night, and I don't remember you complaining."
"Which is why we overslept and it's why we're late now!"
He laughed and I blushed, though I tried to hide it and concentrate on my part in the wedding. The rehearsal dinner already seemed like ages ago.
"You're just a grump because you missed breakfast," he teased.
"How you can be so darn chipper without coffee is beyond me," I snapped. I tripped on the last step as the double doors came into view.
Edward caught me around the waist and for a second, we looked pretty scandalous on the church steps. My face burned further with embarrassment as he helped me right my layers of chiffon.
"I barely had time to squeeze in to this dress," I continued, complaining away my humiliation.
He walked ahead to hold the door open for me. "And I'll spend even less time getting you out of it later."
Aware that we were entering the house of God, I lowered my voice. "I should've locked you up in the handcuffs and left you home. All this talk is distracting me."
Before he could retort, stragglers from the wedding party discreetly hustled toward us with relief and excitement. Guests were still seating themselves to light piano music that played off to the side of the benches. Edward and I separated as Alice's father, one of the ushers, guided him to be seated while I was snatched into private chambers.
"Where the hell have you been?" Alice exclaimed when she saw me. "I'm getting married in ten minutes!"
"Sorry. You look stunning."
"Don't even try that on me," she said, but the softer tone of her voice conveyed how much she appreciated my compliment.
I sheepishly greeted Charlotte and Alice's cousins.
"Honey, you don't want to get agitated today," her mother stated, fixing a tendril of Alice's hair at her temple. "Poor Jasper doesn't want a splotchy bride when he says, "I do."
That seemed to sober Alice from her annoyance with me, and the over emotional state she was already in. She nodded and took a deep, calming breath.
The ceremony was beautiful. After all of the running around and preparation, I was surprised at how simple everything turned out. Clearly I didn't know much about planning this kind of event. It made me proud of Alice for putting it together in such a stunning way. I realized that the whole affair could've been nightmarish. It hadn't been.
I was in my Edward bubble and it had clouded my perspective. Things were new, fresh, and intense. I didn't want to come up for air or relinquish my time with him in exchange for others. Looking back, a few months of wedding errands was inconvenient, but it hadn't turned my life upside down. Edward had.
While my thoughts drifted, so did my gaze. I was startled to find Edward staring right at me a few rows down as the reverend explained the significance of the ring. His expression looked so serious and all I could do was stare back, half perplexed, half mesmerized. Then his lips curved up slightly. I knew that mischievous look. My skin instantly heated. I tore my eyes away from him, letting them shift around the room, searching for a safer object or person to land on.
I had zero self-discipline, apparently. Glancing at him again, it was evident that he was enjoying my discomfort. It became a tag team of eye contact with me looking back and forth between him and the ceremony. He winked, pulled the collar of his shirt to expose a hickey I'd given him on the neck the previous night, and even had the audacity to silently mouth, "handcuffs" in an effort to provoke my lady-parts.
I couldn't decide whether I wanted to scream in outrage or laugh. I fought for composure like I'd never fought before. An outburst during the wedding was not an option.
Vows and rings were exchanged and my eyes watered as Jasper and Alice kissed and were officially pronounced husband and wife. His hands carefully cradled her jaw and the kiss was very sweet. In that moment I felt guilty for behaving so snappishly at Alice. This was all for her big day, and she was planning on only doing this once.
Countless times she had dropped everything to help me out when I needed her. She was the friend who broke into my apartment to make sure I was okay on the night of the Da Vinci art opening. She was the helping hand who enthusiastically put effort into making me a Halloween costume. She helped me look beautiful for Edward several times when I was a nervous mess over a date. She kept my secrets. Hell, she'd even taught me how to walk in heels without eating the pavement.
I dabbed at my eyes as inconspicuously as possible when the wedding party filed out first. I got mixed up in the crowd and decided to wait for Edward, Emmett, and Rosalie outside the church.
The air was breezy and crisp in early March, already showing telltale signs of spring. I hugged myself against the slight chill. I realized that the ceremony was over: I had survived. In the back of my mind I'd been obsessively thinking about how all this wedding stuff was putting pressure on my own relationship. It turned out that everything was fine. As Edward exited the church, I wanted to slap him and kiss him.
Emmett and Rosalie soon joined us, preventing me from doing either. They were fairly quiet, even bashful as the four of us walked together. It was probably because I had figured out how Emmett had been sneaking undetected into Rosalie's office for months. It was all by accident, and to be honest, a mixed blessing. Our office was built in the 1920's and even though it had been heavily renovated, there were still a few quirks to the building. It was mostly loud, squeaking pipes in winter and built-in shelving on the walls.
However, Rosalie had her own personal coat closet in the corner of her office and apparently there was a small door on the back wall that connected to the conference room.
In the conference room, polished, old wood rose from the floor to a third of the way up the wall. Grainy patterns and seams were part of its charm. Well, that was until I had actually seen a section open halfway from one of these seams. Though we rarely used the conference room, we'd had a meeting that morning and I went back in during lunch to look for my pen. I was shocked to find Emmett, a big man, crawling out of the miniature door. Again, he was lucky that it was his best friend who caught him and not somebody else. The bathrooms and janitor facilities were right down the hall from the conference room, and Emmett had exited and entered in the custodial elevator.
The plan had a number of flaws in it, but I congratulated him on being highly imaginative for someone being driven solely by his dick. I'd never rat him out, even if he deserved it, but it felt extremely satisfying to have one up on them. Deep down I was uneasy about Rosalie catching Edward and me in the supply closet, but now I was secretly basking in my triumph of knowing their secret.
It was a little chaotic as everyone headed to the hotel for the reception. There was an interval with the photographer, and I spent almost an hour taking pictures with the wedding party. Thankfully Edward occupied himself at the bar with Emmett and Rose during this time and I wasn't victim to his provocations. I didn't want to look tomato red in every photo. While I stood off to the side during the just family photos, he was nice enough to slip me a cocktail.
Inside the hotel, it was really something. You'd never know that this had been the same room that hosted a Halloween party the year before. It was spectacularly transformed with cream roses, wildflowers, and baby's breath. White, crisp cloths covered tables around the room, which bordered the polished dance floor. Tea candles and low burning ceiling lights gave the room a soft glow. It was very romantic and very Alice.
With our place cards in hand, we settled into our assigned seats. Even though I was part of the wedding group, I had told Alice that I still wanted to sit with Edward, so she flexed her seating arrangement and bumped me off the head table.
After an hour of music and silverware clanking on plates, toasts, and refilling the booze, Alice finally untangled herself from her relatives and plopped down in an empty chair beside me. She sighed heavily and smiled, and her skin had a healthy flush to it.
"I was able to escape, but I don't know how long I'll have before someone spots me."
"It should be pretty easy since you're the only person in a big, white dress," I commented.
She laughed and sighed again, fanning herself with her hands. The light joke was enough to keep the atmosphere from getting awkward.
"Bella, I want to thank you for helping me with a lot of this," she began, glancing around the room at how everything looked. "I know I was difficult and it wasn't an easy job."
She looked so happy and appreciative. I smiled. "It wasn't an easy job, but it's easy being your friend and that's bound to last longer than a wedding."
Her eyes filled with tears suddenly and she hugged me tighter than I was expecting. When we pulled apart I said, "This better be your only wedding though. I can't promise I won't strangle you if there's a next time."
She laughed again and took a cloth napkin from the table to dab at her eyes. "You're going to need to have a better attitude than that if you plan on having a wedding, too."
I could tell by her tone that she was half-joking, but the words left a strange feeling in my stomach. A family member found Alice at that moment and whisked her away from the table. Whatever nervousness was swirling in my stomach, it was enough to curb my appetite. I pushed away the half-eaten dinner plate just as fingers gently wrapped over my bare shoulder.
Edward looked down at me, increasing the pressure of his fingers when I smiled at him. "Do you want to dance?" he asked. He glanced in Alice's direction with a smile, and I knew things were okay with them, too.
I noticed couples on the dance floor swaying together and put my hand in Edward's, letting him draw me to the center of the room. With natural ease and quick grace, he pulled me to him and clasped my hand, curling our entwined fingers to his chest. I welcomed the embrace and slow music, and we fell into an easy silence, both of us occupied by our own thoughts.
I was getting ridiculously sentimental. "Remember the first time we danced here?"
"You were a sexy fairy, glamouring me with your feminine wiles."
"I think you're forgetting the mysterious air that Phantom of the Opera evokes. It's very attractive to women."
"You really didn't recognize me that night?" He took in my expression with watchful eyes.
I avoided eye contact reflexively. "No."
I hadn't known it was Edward until I'd felt that specific draw to the man in the mask and just knew when he almost kissed me. At the time, the effect he had on me indicated that he alone stirred something in my body and soul, and I hadn't found that feeling anywhere else. The absolution of that realization scared me so much that I'd sought out James. Not only was James a near-fatal mistake, but it made me understand that I couldn't fight off the feeling anymore. It had always been Edward.
"What aren't you telling me?" he asked.
I narrowed my eyes at him briefly, annoyed that he could read me like an open book. "Well…I may have felt something familiar in our dance, something only you can make me feel."
This seemed to excite him. "What kind of feeling?"
I tried to shrug it off. "Nothing. Just, um…an energy." I wasn't sure how to really explain the indefinable magnetic pull I had to him.
"Oh…an energy," he said slowly, a ghost of a smirk playing on his lips.
"Yeah," I challenged. You'd think I was leading Edward to believe in UFOs or an element of the supernatural by his skeptical tone. "The feeling is like two magnetic discs and when both are facing the right way…"
"Then it's almost impossible to stay away," he completed.
"Yes, see? An energy."
He chuckled. "So you felt this energy last autumn?"
I fumbled with my words, embarrassed that I'd let that slip out.
"There's no need to hide it from me," he assured, brushing his thumb over the front of my hand. "Not this late in the game."
I looked up at him through my lashes. "I might've felt a certain draw to you from the beginning, despite my attempts at denial and overall cynicism." It took a lot for me to admit that to him. "Don't think your mind games are justified now."
His smile folded into a serious expression. "You forget. The reason I relented was because I realized something was growing between us. I didn't want to damage it."
"You were afraid, too."
"In my own way. I finally got you, and I don't want to lose what we have." I didn't say anything else, and reveled in our steady harmony. "Which is why…" he continued after a time and paused again. There was a tenuous quiver to his voice.
His throat bobbed from swallowing thickly, and he quietly cleared it. My own system spiked with adrenaline, nervousness showing itself.
"Move in with me, Swan."
My heart slammed beneath my ribs, and my gaze fell to his chest, taking an interest in the pearly buttons of his shirt. This must've been what he'd wanted to talk to me about last week, before we'd been so shockingly interrupted by our families and friends. His thumb stopped moving lightly over my hand and I looked up. He'd slipped behind an unreadable mask, except for his eyes. I should never have looked away, because despite his caution, his eyes were asking me to believe in him—in us.
"What does this mean exactly?"
He seemed to relax, but only slightly, now that I had spoken up. "It means you give your landlord notice, pack your belongings into boxes, rent a truck, and move those boxes into my apartment."
"All by myself?" I asked, smiling.
"Is that a yes?"
"Well I don't know."
"You don't know?"
"I don't know what this means. I'm not ready for marriage, and I—"
"It means I want to share lazy Sundays with you, and cook for you, eat breakfast together, watch a DVD, and have you all to myself any time I want. If that's all too mundane for you, I'll fire Maria and have you clean my place in a French maid costume—"
I slapped his arm playfully. "We do all that anyway, except for the French maid costume. I don't see why we need to rush into anything."
"I want you to wake up next to me every morning, Bella."
"Yes, preferably naked, but I'll take you either way."
I couldn't help laughing at that.
"Say yes," he said in a low voice. His hand pressed at my waist, bringing me against him. "I'm not a man who begs. Don't make me start now…"
The wide smile on my face started hurting my cheeks, but I couldn't stop it. There was so much joy pouring from me, leaving me speechless and overwhelmed. He tilted his head down, placing a warm kiss on my lips. It caused a flutter in my pelvis and my toes to curl.
We forgot all about dancing, the soft music, and where we were. When his lips touched mine, filled with so much yearning and promise, I knew things would be okay just like I knew we were perfect together, flaws and all.
I whispered on his lips, "Yes, and don't ever change, Edward. This is going to be exciting."
Whether you found this story over a year ago or today, thank you so much for reading. Thank you to every blog, tweet, and whisper that recommended I Hate You, Kiss Me. It's meant more to me than I can express. I have the best readers; you've all been wonderful! I'm extremely behind on review replying so I appreciate your patience while I get to them :)
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