Punch Me, Love Me, Save Me

Chapter Twenty-One—The Brother


"It's too early in the morning for this shit," Bella groaned from the other side of the bed. That was all she had to say, considering some big asshole was breathing fire in Edward's face. Apparently, it was since all she did was yawn.

Edward's wide-eyed gaze accompanied a dropped jaw and sweaty palms. "Um, what's up?"

Bella snorted and rolled her eyes at them, she needed coffee. The red-faced bully of her brother took another step toward Edward, nostrils flaring.

"Edward, this is my brother, James," she said, rubbing her lips. "James, this is Edward Cullen." She stretched and scratched her stomach, drawing Edward's eyes to the sliver of exposed skin. His mouth watered and his hands itched to touch her.

"Eyes over here, fucker!" James hissed, bearing down on Edward.

"Back off, Jamie!" Bella stated firmly, using the nickname she gave him when they first met. She thought, here we go. The overprotective brother act was already old.

James turned to look at his baby sister and she pulled out the ultimate weapon…the bitch brow. One would think that when used in combination with her big brown eyes, that it wouldn't be as lethal, but yeah, that shit made him back the fuck away.

The last time he was at the end of that look, she delivered a roundhouse kick during their sparring session and he ended up on the floor. Why couldn't she let him have a little fucking fun? It wasn't every day she showed interest in anyone.

Five more seconds, sis.

Edward backed up against the wall near his bed as the brute snarled. He prayed it wouldn't hurt much. He wasn't much of a fighter; if he couldn't walk away from a confrontation, he usually sucker punched the asshole and ran. That wouldn't work with this guy since there was no place for him to fucking go.

Would Bella protect him?

The dangerous, menacing glare started to morph and a predatory smile replaced it, followed by a belly laugh. His arm raised and Edward braced himself. Instead of the right hook he expected, he was slapped on the back.

"Just kidding, Edward," James said with a grin. "I know Bella isn't stupid."

"Thanks for the vote of confidence, asshole," Bella said, hands on her hips, the look long gone. "Now, come and give me a hug."

Edward watched as she launched herself at her big brother, squealing when he gave her a bear hug. "Everyone is gonna think we're incestuous," James murmured, making Bella slap his arm until be put her down.

"God, you're disgusting," she growled and adjusted her top. "See what I mean that I've heard it all and know how to handle it," she said when she turned to Edward. He only nodded in response. "Sometimes, I think he forgets he's thi…"

"Say it and you're dead," James groaned and made his way out of the room. "Now, hurry up. Time for a run and we need to discuss the housing project in Hidalgo."

Edward heard Bella sigh beside him. "He really does think he's like twenty still or in college."

"Your brother scares the fucking shit out of me."

Bella shrugged. "He's protective but he's also a big joker. Give me a hand here." Together, they made his bed and stretched since she said she'd join them for their run.

"Tell me the truth. Should I be worried?" he asked her, trying to keep his eyes from her peachy little butt.

"No, you have nothing to worry about," she said softly, looking at him. "You would've fought back if he decided to be an asshole, right?"

It was his turn to shrug. "Not really."

"Why?"

"One, he's bigger than me," I answered. She rolled her eyes. "Two, he's your brother, and last, I probably des…"

"No, you don't," she hissed as she closed the distance between them. "You've already apologized for all the shit you said to me and did. You punished yourself enough already!"

"Fuck," he groaned as he tugged on his hair. "Every time we take a step forward, something happens to force us back."

"Nice of you to notice." She wouldn't look at him anymore, and he hated it. "I'll see you later. Emmett and James will probably be here in like thirty minutes."

"What are the chances that Jasper and Emmett didn't see me meeting your brother?"

Bella's hands balled into fists. "They can't listen, but yeah, they probably saw that shit."

He'd deal with the consequences, but no matter what, he wouldn't let anyone make fun of him again. "Are you coming with us?"

At the door, she turned to look at him again. "I don't think it's a good idea."

"Looks like I'm not the only one putting walls between us."

"These walls have to remain, Edward," her voice firm, with an edge that said she was trying to convince herself, too. "However flimsy they may be."

"For now." He was positive she heard, but she said nothing as she walked out and let the door close with a soft click. Was it wrong that it gave him some hope?

~oOo~

"Damn it, 3B!" Edward groaned from behind her. Startled, she turned from near the pool to find his eyes glued to her ass. Out of breath, bent over with his hands on his knees, he glowered at her. "You can't bend over like that and expect me not to do something, especially after running three fucking miles."

"To be honest, I thought he would drag at least five miles out of you," she said, shaking her head. "I wasn't expecting you yet." She turned back at what she was doing and avoided bending over by squatting near the table where she set everything up.

"What are you doing?" he asked, looking over her shoulder instead of going around. He found any excuse he could in order to close even a hint of space between them. She did her best to ignore the brush his hip and elbowed him in the gut, earning a grumbling laugh. He didn't move; no, Edward stepped closer. It was harder not to react to the feel of his breath on her bare shoulder and the back of her neck. She felt the pull of one of her curls she piled on top of her head.

"Thought we could have breakfast out here," she stated, sidestepping him. His response to her attempt of putting some distance was a deep sigh.

"No swimming today," he stated as he plopped down on one of the lounge chairs.

She shook her head. "Jasper had to put some shit in it and my skin is way too sensitive to it. You're welcome to give it a try before we eat, though."

"I wouldn't mind cooling off," he said, not looking at her. "But probably wouldn't be a good idea by myself."

She nodded and waved toward the outdoor shower. "You can rinse off if you want."

"Never fucking noticed that shit," he said as he rose to his feet. "Be back in however long it takes for me to rub one out."

"Edward!"

He grinned and wiggled his eyebrows. "What? After that tantalizing display of your bikini clad ass!" He walked backward, kept his gaze on her as he rubbed himself. "It's your fault I've got the worst case of blue balls ever." She shook her head, flipping him off. "I'm game, babe."

"At least you no longer have a disease ridden dick."

Edward fucking blushed to the tips of his ears, pinching the bridge of his nose. "Thanks for that nauseating observation." She turned away, knowing it was the only way to end that dangerous topic.

He'd been quite for almost a minute as poured them some juice. "Hey, Bella, you dropped something." She looked around. "Under the table."

"What?"

"Can't tell from here, but a little more to the right, 3B," he indicated.

Frustrated, she straightened to look at him. The shower by the side of the building consisted of nothing but a high showerhead and a lower one to clean your feet, only intended for rinsing off after a few laps in the pool.

Not strip down to nothing and wash. Like Edward had done.

"Um, honey, there's no clothes for you out here," she said stupidly. If she was looking at his face, she'd see the smirk on it. Instead, her eyes were following rivulets of water that followed down the light path of hair below his navel. "Maybe you should put your shorts back on."

How did she not notice that when she woke up in the morning with him?

Amused by the look her face, Edward decided to take advantage for as long as he could. "Why?" he asked, doing his best to look confused.

"Because that thing is freaking pointing at me," she huffed, flushing from her hairline to her beautiful fucking tits.

He looked down and shrugged. "Personally, it looks like it's pointing North to me." He grinned. "Are you ogling my junk, 3B?"

Bella threw her hands up in the air, frustrated. "How can I not? Look at that thing!"

Edward chuckled, noticing that her gaze was still on to his cock. He stroked himself once, and she stomped her little foot and looked toward the building. "Stop that! My brother will kill you!"

That worked. He was half-mast by the end of her sentence. "Fucking hell," he spat, angry with himself. Why couldn't he rein himself in when it came to her? "Grab me a towel then."

"I am not going anywhere near you right now," she stated, balling up a towel and throwing it as far it would go. He stretched and caught it with the tips of his fingers.

He turned off the water and dried off, his harpy no longer watching him. A quick sniff of his shorts told him he'd have to go commando. There was no way he'd put on those sweat, smelly things. Towel safely secured around his waist, he joined her.

"I wouldn't bite, you know," he said as he brushed a hand over her shoulder where she sat. He pressed a kiss to her cheek, ignoring the tiny flinch. Taking a chair across from her, he grabbed a little of everything.

The silence usually didn't bother him, but he knew she needed some time to gather herself.

"You've seen my junk before," he said, kicking her shin gently. "Don't get your panties up in a bunch."

She popped a grape in her mouth and propped her chin on her elbow, watching him. "I told you I wouldn't lie."

"Yeah."

"I'm attracted to you, but—"

He rolled his eyes and shook his head. "I heard it all before, we can't fu…" Her expression darkened. "I mean be together, blah, blah, blah."

"If you're tired of hearing it, then why keep putting us in this situation. It's hard enough already."

He shrugged with a mouthful of her fucking fluffy scrambled eggs. She looked slightly disgusted, but damn, he was starving. They got off to a late start because of her brother's arrival and the extra mile and a half he added to their run. Even Emmett was hurting; there was no catching up with the abundant energy that was James Dwyer.

He swallowed. "Got nothing else to do but antagonize you. Besides, it's fucking fun."

"What's it going to take for you to back off?"

She looked serious, and if she was willing to give whatever he asked for, he'd do what she asked and tone it down a bit. The question was, what did he want? He wasn't stupid and knew she'd never allow him to fuck her; at least, not while she was ethically bound to help him.

Besides, he already knew once would never be enough. Except his cock would not freaking listen— that thing had a mind of his own. He tried to ignore the strain under his towel and focused on her instead. That was until his eyes dropped to her mouth. Women paid big bucks to achieve the softness and plumpness of that bottom lip, something she had naturally because it was God's gift and great genetics.

A memory trickled through his arousal. Was it real or part of his overactive imagination?

"I think I remembered something?" he asked, rubbing a hand over his face and wiping his mouth with a napkin. He wracked his brain and couldn't get the pieces to fit together.

She looked confused. "What?"

"Something about a deal." Fork in hand, he shoved in another mouthful, nearly moaning at the cheese he tasted. Cheese…sandwiches, the memory cleared up some more. His eyes lifted to meet her wide-eyed look. There was surprise there, a little fear, but she quickly masked it.

"You remembered?" she asked. He gave her a full nod and stared, wanting to know if she'd deny it. "Everything?" The light bulb moment hit him full force in the groin. He remembered, all right.

"A kiss and you get to choose where."

She sat back against the chair, toying with her food. "So, if I give you this kiss, you'll back off?"

He shook his head. "Nice try, 3B. That kiss was already earned, but I'm willing to negotiate the terms of placement and how long."

He saw her attempt to keeping a laugh at bay, but the tiny twitch of her mouth was evident. She placed her elbows on the table, putting on a serious face. The woman had skills. She would make a worthy adversary in a game of poker and that made Edward think of strip poker. The towel was useless in hiding his arousal.

Before she could offer an argument that would no doubt make the rising issue more of a problem, he heard footsteps, coming from the direction of the main building. What he would give to be dressed again?

"Is there a reason I wasn't invited to have breakfast by the water?" James asked, before dropping a kiss on Bella's head.

"You're a lot to handle," Bella teased, making a face at him. "Besides, I was talking to Edward. Mornings after your runs and late afternoons are mine. It's not all about working them to the bone, asshole."

James wiggled his eyebrows. "Speaking about bones…" He sent Edward a glare, but then laughed. "Here's a pair of shorts from your room."

"Thank fuck," Edward said, grabbing them from mid-air. "Excuse me." He left them to dress at the side of the building, but kept them in his sight. Once he was out of hearing range, Bella started on her brother and she wasn't being kind by the look of it.

Whatever had them arguing, he had a feeling it was about him. He'd have to try his best to tone down his lust for Miss-Kiss-Me-Now around James. Besides, he was fond of his face in its current arrangement. Judging by the size of her brother's fist, Edward's nose would likely never be the same again.

He'd already had his nose broken, thank you very much.

When he approached the table again, she heard her ask, "How's Victoria?"

James grinned and shrugged. "Psycho, as usual." She rolled her eyes as she poured more orange juice for Edward. "What can I say, I'm irresistible."

"She made a move on Charlie." She cocked an eyebrow, smirking.

James groaned and turned to Edward. "Help me out here, dude. If a gorgeous red head with big tits comes up to you, whispers in your ear that she'd like to suck your dick, would you say no?"

"I'd have to seriously think about it," Edward answered honestly. Vicky, the last woman he remembered being with a couple of months before, made a few attempts before he finally gave in, despite the reputation she had at the bar he frequented. "Though, the third time is usually the charm," he added, making Bella throw a grape at him.

James laughed and smacked his shoulder. "I like you. Playing hard to get with a woman. I never thought of that. Maybe I should've with Vicky, though. From what the other guys at Max's bar said, I knew she'd be trouble."

Edward stilled, his fork poised in front of his mouth before it dropped with a clank onto the table. His heart raced as his breath left him in a whoosh, his face heating. Bella, who sat across from him, frozen.

He was dead.

"Oh my God," Bella mouthed at a horrified Edward as her brother started to stuff his face. She knew exactly why horror and a little revulsion filled Edward's gaze. After the test came back positive for an STD, she had him sit down and write down everyone he'd been with in the last few months. He didn't remember Vicky's last name but knew her local hangout was Max's, a hole in the wall bar on the outskirts of Seattle.

His mouth was agape, the tips of his ears red. "Tell him," he hissed. He kept James in his peripheral vision, just in case.

She took a deep breath and shook her head. Edward's eyes widened and she could see real fear in his eyes. "You need to tell him," she whispered as she rose from her seat and sat down beside him.

"Tell me what?" James asked her, his gaze bouncing between them. His focus remained on Edward when it was clear he wouldn't get answers from her.

Bella watched as Edward grimaced and swallowed. He picked up his glass and drank. "Edward," she whispered in his ear, "It'll be fine."

"What the fuck is going on?" James asked again, agitation clear in his voice.

"I know Vicky," Edward stated, clearing his suddenly dry throat.

Her brother's eyes narrowed. "How do you know Vicky?"

"Vicky, red head, hair down to her ass, tits out to here," Edward said, holding his hands out to demonstrate, then dropped when James growled. Edward swallowed again and felt Bella's hand join his on his thigh. He squeezed her fingers and continued, hoping he was wrong, though it seemed unlikely. "Beauty mark right here," he pointed to just right of his nose with his free hand. James nodded. "Yeah, we've met on a few occasions."

James did his best to remain calm. Though he ended things with Victoria, didn't mean he liked hearing about another one of her fuck buddies. "What are you trying to say?"

"I was last with her a couple of weeks before I got here."

"That can't be right," James growled, standing to his feet. "She was still with me."

"I didn't know that!" Edward reasoned, rising slowly. "I would never do that shit."

"I thought you broke up a month ago," Bella stated, also rising from her chair. She wanted Edward to take responsibility for his actions, but this was too much for him to handle, especially since it was obvious he had no idea.

"It wasn't official until last week," James groaned.

"Unbelievable!" she spat, throwing her hands up in frustration. "She was already acting crazy and you still let her in your bed?"

"She can be very convincing to get you to go anywhere with her," Edward said stupidly, making her scowl.

James nodded in agreement. "I knew she was seeing other guys, it was another reason I called things off, but to have to see the guy face to face and know it."

"Like burning all your shit and putting the moves on Charlie weren't enough," Bella said with a roll of her eyes. James gave her the "I'm a guy" look.

Bella groaned and visibly shuddered. "The question is who got the clap first, you or Edward?" Her eyes widened when she realized that they hadn't gotten to that part yet.

"She gave him the clap?" Bella nodded. James gagged and shuddered, too. "Why the fuck did you have to put that image in my head!"

Edward's stomach churned. "And she only sucked my d—"

That did it, James ran toward the bushes that lined the courtyard and expelled his breakfast.

Edward groaned. "Can you lock me in my room again and hold the key so I don't die when I sleep tonight?"

She placed a hand on his arm and looked up at him. "I won't let anything happen to you." Grabbing a glass of water from the table, she walked over to her brother.

"Damn it, Bells!" James groaned. "Please, tell me you're joking."

"No," she said, shrugging and handing him the water. "Go see Rosalie to get your blood work and meds."

"Get ready to work your ass off, Cullen," James warned him. Bella smacked his stomach, muttering a warning to him as he stalked away.

Edward waited until she joined him again and he asked, "Any chance I can get that kiss before I die?"

"It'll be fine, Edward."

"I can't believe I told him that."

"I feel pretty damn proud of you right now."

Edward looked down, shrugging, as it wasn't something significant. "I had to do it, right? It was my place to do it, not you."

Bella smiled and tugged on his hand to get him to look at her. "You did well, Edward. Let's clean up, it'll probably be a good idea to be around other people when he comes back."

Edward mumbled, "I'm sleeping with one eye open from now on."


AN: Sorry for the delay, busy bee right now. See you next week.