A/N: Hey guys, sorry about the long wait. Freud demanded attention for my assignment. Anyway, unfortunately, this is the last chapter. Thank you so much to everyone who enjoyed this story. Thank you to everyone who read it, wrote reviews and favoured it. It really meant a lot to me and I did enjoy checking my email with a smile on my face to read the reviews. Once again, thank you for showing your appreciation for my story. After all, it was written just for you!!!
Soooo, let's get the show on the road, shall we?!?!
The church clock was chiming four when she reached her car and she glanced with regret at the sun-glided walls of the ancient building. She should really have gone inside to see the memorials of the Platt family but there was no time now. She would come back tomorrow when Edward had left the district never to return again because he was cutting all ties with it.
In a peculiarly numbed state of mind, she drove back to Witherton to the offices of the Daily Globe and Record where she spent the next hour looking up back numbers of the newspapers for articles which had appeared over twenty years before when Carlisle Cullen had rescued Daniel Platt from financial ruin. When she had finished, she drove out to the suburb where she lived in a block of flats overlooking the park near the river.
One shut in her small but comfortable flat, she felt safe. She put on one of her favourite cd, turned up the volume and ran water for a bath. By the time she had washed and had dressed in a bronze- coloured, silk lounging pajamas, the light had gone from the sky showing through the wide window of the living room and mist was rising from the river valley.
After eating a snack, she settled down on the chesterfield in front of the electric fire to sort through the information she had gathered during the day about the Platt family and to plot out the form her article would take.
She wrote quickly in longhand, getting her ideas down, intending to type the article later and was so engrossed in what she was doing that she jumped when someone knocked on the front door of the flat. Guessing that it would be here nearest neighbor, Susie Adams, a teacher at the local primary school who often came to borrow something or just to chat, she put her papers to one side and went over to the door to open it.
Instead of Susie, Edward stood there, hands in the pockets of his long black trench coat he was wearing.
"Oh!" Bella was surprised and showed it. "How did you find out I live here?"
"Easy – I went to the newspaper offices. Your boss was very willing to tell me where you lived when I said you hadn't been able to finish interviewing me," he replied coolly.
"I thought you said you're leaving Witherton tonight."
"I changed my mind. Aren't you going to ask me in?"
"To . . . to what purpose?"
"To finish the interview, of course." Taking a stride forward, he stepped past her into the living room and began to take off his trench coat.
"Edward, please go," she whispered.
"Why?" He turned to frown at her. "Are you expecting someone else? Your lover, perhaps?"
"No, I'm not – and I don't have a lover," she retorted and was immediately irritated with herself for being honest when she saw his eyes gleam with triumph. "Oh, please go away," she urged. "I don't want to interview you any more. I have enough information. We have nothing more to say to each other."
He moved quickly, wrenched the door out of her hand and closed it.
"I can't agree with you. I have a lot to say to you," he rasped.
"Oh, all right," she said definitely, stalking over to the chesterfield to pick up her notebook. "But please be quick about it and go. I have work to do."
He strode across the room and snatched the notebook from her hand to toss it carelessly towards the low coffee table. It missed the table and fell fluttering to the floor. His hand fell on her shoulder and he spun her round to face him. At the sight of the glitter in his eyes, fear and excitement sizzled through her like an electric shock.
"I'll take all night to say what I have to say, if I want to," he grated between his teeth. "But first things first."
His hands were hard and bruising as he hauled her against him and his lips forced hers ruthlessly apart. At once she was swamped by a flood of sensuousness. With a half sigh, half groan she wound her arms about his neck and pressed herself against him. Under the loose fitting top of her lounging pajamas, his hands slid familiarly to stroke her bare back. Molded together by the hot passion which was blazing in them, it seemed as if they would never separate but at last, Edward lifted his mouth from hers and rocked her in his arms while he rubbed his cheek against her hair.
"After that you can hardly deny you're glad to see me," he taunted huskily.
"I am glad to see you . . . " she begun.
"Then why the hell couldn't you say so when you opened the door?" he demanded, pushing her away from him so he could glare down at her. "Why tell me to go away and why did you run away this afternoon?"
"I . . . I thought . . . I wasn't sure . . . Oh, I don't know," she muttered, jerking free of his grasp and sitting down on the chesterfield. "Anyway, what about you?" she accused. "You didn't seem particularly glad to see me when I fell out of the cupboard this afternoon?"
He gave her an exasperated glance, raked a hand through his hair, took a few paces away from her, turned back and sat down suddenly beside her.
"When you fell out of the cupboard all I could think of, all I wanted to say was . . ." He broke off, shaking his head, gave a short mirthless laugh and leaned back, stretching his long legs before him. "I didn't say it because I thought you wouldn't believe me," he said in a low bitter voice, "and I didn't want to be told I'm crazy."
She turned to him then. He had closed his eyes and so she was able to study him closely. No longer tanned by the Bahamian sun, his face looked pale under the front of hair which had fallen forward over his forehead. He was thinner too and the line around his mouth were more marked as if he had been disciplining his reckless will severely during the past few months. On the right side of his forehead there was a wide shallow hollow, still faintly red. It was the place where the winch handle had hit him and at the sight of it, her own control broke as the strong warm tide of love surged out from her heart, she traced the mark with her forefinger.
"I knew you should have had it stitched," she whispered. "It's left an awful scar."
"To remind me of you," he murmured, opening his eyes and taking hold of her hand. "Not that I've needed reminding of you," he went on, his mouth curving sardonically. "My mind has been full of you all summer long as I've tried to figure out why I was so angry when I found out you'd left Long Cay before we could be married." He gave her a narrowed, glittering look. "I've hated you, Bella, these past months for what you've done to me," he said in a savage stinging undertone. "Hated you because I love you and want you. Now tell me I'm crazy."
"I . . . I . . . can't," she whispered. "because I've felt the same way about you. I love you too. I think I've been in love with you since I first saw you at Nassau but I tried hard to fight the feeling . . . because I didn't think anything could come of it and when you asked me to marry you I wanted to desperately but I was afraid of commitment in case . . . in case it went wrong." She drew a shaking breath. "I thought I could forget you once I came back here," she went on, "but it's been impossible. You will invade my dreams. You've haunted me, making me wish I'd never listened to your father and never let my head rule my heart, making me wish I'd stay at Long Cay and married you, even making me wish . . ." She paused, warm colour blooming in her cheeks.
"Even making you wish what?" Edward prompted softly, raising a hand and sliding it round her neck to the nape, impelling her towards the sensual invitation of his slightly parted lips.
"That we'd done more than just sleep in the same bunk," Bella confessed softly, her hands suddenly busy with the knot of his tie, loosening it.
"Fool, dear sweet fool," he murmured and against her yielding mouth his was firm and demanding. "You're not going to get the chance to try and forget me again," he continued huskily, his fingers gentle, drifting down in a delicate skin-pricking caress to the cleft between her breasts which just showed where the deep V of the pajama top plunged deeply. "because I'm not going to let you out of my sight this time. I'm going to stay here through the night and every other night until we're married."
"And after we're married? What then?" she asked lightly, her body quickening with delight at the thought of having him about the flat day and night, tormenting her and loving her. His tie was now undone and slowly and suggestively she began to undo the buttons of his shirt.
"When we're married will you come away with me, sweet prude? Or will you want to stay here and continue to write for the newspaper?" asked Edward.
"Where will you be going?" At least his shirt was unbuttoned and she was able to slide her fingers under the edge of the opening to feel again the warm, throbbing contours of his chest.
"To the islands where we met," he whispered. His lips blazed a trail along the angle of her jaw and he bit the lobe of her ear so that exciting tingles danced along her nerves. "To finish that cruise we started. Clair De Lune is still waiting for us to return to Denali Bay."
"Yes, I'll come with you anywhere, at any time," she replied simply and willingly. "And you can always stay through the night with me, always and forever."
She pressed her lips against his, parting them invitingly and after that, there were no more arguments for a while, only love talk, as they set out together on a sweet sensual voyage of discovery, learning through tender touch and reckless response what gave pleasure most to the other.