A/N: I do not own Twilight, or any of its characters, it all belongs to Stephenie Meyer!

My beautiful beta bookbag and I continue to operate in the realm of no wrong; a safe place free of judgement where I can metaphorically lie on a chaise like Dame Barbara Cartland, screeching at her about Curseward's hair, with my mouth crammed with truffles. She somehow creates a Twilighted thread, pimps me tirelessly, wanders the lemon grove with me as we check when they will be ripe, betas a chapter to make it just delicious, consoles me patiently over my inability to get INTO said Twilighted thread (login fail) whilst still effortlessly looking like a lovely Girl Friday in a pencil skirt and impeccable lipstick.


"Love sees sharply, hatred sees even more sharp, but jealousy sees the sharpest for it is love and hate at the same time" -Arab Proverb

Chapter Six: The Sharpest

Bella shoved Edward away from her, knocking him back onto his ass, refusing to acknowledge Emmett's arched eyebrows and jumped up, tripping over Edward in her haste to get away from him. The old nickname spilled from her lips before she knew what she was saying.

"Emmy!!"

She launched herself at him, and Emmett's laughter in her ear almost deafened her as he swung her up off the ground, her feet dangling near his knees.

"Belly!!"

They snickered at their idiotic nicknames and he shook her around for a bit, like a dog gently mauling a rabbit. A heavily pregnant Rose stood behind Emmett in the doorway, her lovely face all pink and creased. She had obviously been asleep in the car. She dropped an enormous yellow handbag on the floor with a thud and a faint breaking sound.

Edward, sprawled on the floor, scowled at the easy display of affection. He didn't like how Bella squeezed her eyes shut, put her cheek on Emmett's shoulder. She looked like she loved him. It was certainly different from the reception he had gotten earlier in the field.

"Give her back," he said in a clipped, cross voice, his suddenly itchy fingertips scratching the Persian rug that had grown warm before the fire. He sounded exactly like he was ten years old again, skulking underneath Emmett's tree house, demanding they unfurl the rope ladder, formulating increasingly elaborate threats as Bella and Emmett lay side by side with silent tears of laughter running down their cheeks.

Emmett shook his head at Edward, swung Bella back and forth, grinning.

Edward looked away, exasperated.

Bella stared down from Emmett's shoulder in astonishment. "Oh, my God! Rose, you're huge!" She blurted. "I mean, glowing." Rose looked like she had a beach ball under her clothes.

"I'll take that as a compliment. I think." Rose said, rolling her eyes and holding out her arms to her.

Emmett set Bella down and the two women pressed kisses on each other's cheeks; Rose chilled, Bella burning.

"You said you'd call me when you arrived safely," Rose chided, pulling Bella's top back onto her shoulder, tucking loose strands of hair behind her ears. She examined Bella's flushed face, her feverishly bright eyes.

"I'm sorry, I forgot." Bella leaned into Rose, inhaling Chanel.

They wrapped their arms around each other and watched the brothers.

Edward still lay sprawled on the rug, and backlit by the fire, his expression was unreadable. His hair was a mess of twisted peaks, and Bella was reminded of horns.

Emmett crossed to Edward and held his hand out, pulling him to his feet. He gave Edward a hard hug, but instantly recoiled.

"Ugh, dude, you have a boner. Did we just interrupt something?"

The silence was piercing. Sexual tension layered heavy over everything.

Bella stared fixedly at the painting over the fireplace to distract herself from the excruciating embarrassment. She strictly forbade her eyes to stray to any part of Edward, though they kept starting to drift down of their own accord. The painting, titled The Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog, depicted a black clad man's rear profile, standing on rocks over roiling mist. His face wasn't visible, but depending on Bella's mood, he appeared to be conquering, desolate, wrathful, resigned, heartsick. Esme always told a story at dinner parties that when Bella was little, she thought it was a painting of Edward.

Rose and Emmett exchanged glances at the incriminating silence.

Finally, Edward responded. "What can I say? Pregnant chicks do it for me. Come here, gorgeous." He raised his eyebrows lasciviously, not in the least embarrassed.

Rose pressed the back of her hand to her mouth, muffling her sweet, squeaky giggle. "I'm not going anywhere near you in those pj pants. That's obscene. Were you dry humping Bella again?"

Edward was endlessly amused by Rose. "Always. I never stop if I can help it." He caught Bella's eye, held it, his smile fading.

"Well, anyway, it's nice to see you again, even if we could all wish for better circumstances. Although, if you hang around, you might get to see your new niece or nephew pretty soon. " Rose folded her hands on her huge bump, smiling to herself. The firelight gilded her butter blonde hair, her slightly fuller cheeks making her look somehow younger. She stood placidly, yawning, holding out her limbs obediently as Emmett and Bella peeled various coats and scarves and vests from her body. She rested her hand on Emmett's back as he pulled off her sheepskin boots and watched wordlessly as he set them on the hearth.

"You need to go to bed, honey," Emmett said, tracing under her eyes with his fingers. He lowered his face, and Rose kissed him on the tip of his nose.

"Come and tuck me in Bella," Rose said, leading her from the room. "Leave the boys to talk." Bella trailed behind her, carrying her heavy handbag for her, beyond grateful to be saved.

As they disappeared down the hallway, Emmett and Edward could clearly hear Rose stage-whispering, "Did we just hear you say he called wanting phone sex?"

*o*o*o*o*o*o

"What's up, brother?" Emmett rubbed his hands by the fire, shrugging off his enormous lumberjack coat. "Other than the obvious, I mean."

Edward laughed and wandered over to the side cabinet and grabbed a crystal decanter, pouring two enormous glasses of scotch. He loved the cliché of it.

"Same old, same old." Edward settled in the armchair, Emmett took the sofa. He was so big, he made the sofa look like an armchair. His slightly craggy, weathered face was softened by the fire. He looked like a farmer, a prize fighter, a wood chopping contestant, a prison guard. In reality, he was a counselor; mainly for teenagers. Parents found that their teenage boys respected this enormous, grizzled man enough to at least not walk out of the room.

He was the Rock of Gibraltar in a roiling sea of human emotion; had always been this way, even since he was a boy. Constancy and patience was woven into his fabric, and he sat unmoving, taking in the room. The floor to ceiling bookcases required a ladder for the top shelves. The smell of the leather book bindings and furniture polish made everything seem old fashioned and timeless. The painting over the fire glowed pink and grey, the only softening touch to what was a masculine, dark room.

Edward swirled his liquor, clearly channeling his inner Bond villain.

"How's ma?" Emmett took a tiny sip from his glass, held it on his tongue before swallowing it, trying not to cough at the trickle of fire it traced down to his stomach. He breathed out unsteadily through his nose. He didn't actually want the scotch- he needed coffee, and badly, but didn't want to make a big deal out of it. Edward would lampoon him. There wasn't even a houseplant to tip it into.

Edward poured half his scotch down his throat. Emmett was both alarmed and unwillingly a bit impressed. The guy looked like he used the stuff instead of mouthwash. He filed it away, deciding to monitor Edward's alcohol consumption. Adding alcohol would be like touching a lit match to that dynamite temper.

"She was happy to see Bella. She was a bit more chatty. But still… not long now." Edward stared into the remaining amber liquid, wearing his customary frown.

Emmett felt nothing but the suffocating squeeze that filled his lungs and throat whenever he thought of his mother. He tried to wash away the feeling away with another few drops of scotch.

"So. Bella. Would you care to tell me what was going on in here?" Emmett got to the point.

Edwards frown turned into a scowl. His eyes flashed in warning.

"None of your fucking business."

"Damn straight it's my business. That girl is like my kid sister. If you hurt her again, I'll crush you." Emmett's tone was teasing, but it had a note of steel.

"Well, thankfully for me, she isn't our kid sister. Otherwise, I'd be a pervert. Christ, she's looking hot. And I don't know why you think I'd hurt her. I've only ever done what was best for her." Edward paused. "What do you mean by again, anyway?"

Emmett shook his head. "She was crushed after that stunt you pulled with Alice Brandon that New Years Eve. You had to know she had a crush on you."

"Oh, fuck me. Today is just about how much of a shit I am." Edward hooked one leg over the edge of the armchair, and tugged on his hair, his temper sparking, his defenses causing him to visibly prickle. His teeth were scraping at his lip, his fingernails scratching the old green upholstery. His foot began tapping in the air. "Just drop it."

Emmett was fascinated by his brother. He had never met anyone like him. Through his work, he met hundreds of people a year and was attuned to the shifts in a person's body language. He could tell if they were lying, defensive, angry, unbalanced. For someone so secretive and controlling, Edward seemed unaware that he gave himself away so often, Emmett mused. Watching Edward get angry was like watching a snake getting angry. He seemed to vibrate from it, like he would strike at any moment.

Emmett decided to provoke him, to try to get him to talk. It sometimes worked. Edward never wanted to talk about anything below the surface.

"No, I'm not going to drop it. You're bad for her, Edward, so back the fuck off her. You're just using her, like always." Emmett watched, gauging whether his words had hit their mark.

Edward narrowed his eyes, his whole body going still. He said nothing.

Emmett tried again. "You can't be trying to get in her pants, not now. It's too late."

Edward relaxed, quirked an eyebrow and drank his remaining scotch in a gulp. "It's never too late. I could kick your ass for showing up when you did. I was just getting somewhere." He stretched nonchalantly.

"She's engaged, you know, right?" Pay dirt, Emmett thought, as Edward's temper finally flashed in his eyes. They darkened to a murderous bottle green. This was one angry snake.

Edward's hand tightened on the crystal tumbler, his fingers white. In that instant, he looked like he was going to throw it against the wall behind Emmett, who inwardly braced. Instead, he very deliberately placed it on a side table, and leant forward to retrieve the diamond ring and the snapped chain which lay forgotten on the rug. He held it aloft with two fingers.

"This thing makes me sick." He studied it with a kind of distasteful fascination.

"Why is it on the floor?" Emmett watched Edward's mouth quirk with a ghost of a smile.

"Because I threw it there."

"Edward, you are a frigging caveman. You know that's insane. Normal people don't do things like that."

Edward laughed. "I would never claim to be normal." He swung the ring back and forth on the chain, like a pendulum.

Emmett persisted, undaunted by Edward's flippancy.

"Ripping a ring off her hand doesn't change anything. She's taken now. Let her be. Michael's pretty nice. A bit stuffy, but overall a nice guy. We even stayed at their apartment for a few nights when we were in Portland last year."

The tendons stood out on Edward's forearms. "I don't want to know. I don't care if he's a frigging saint. If I meet him, I'll probably kill him."

"You had your chance back in the day, Edward, and you missed it. Now you have to give it up."

Edward slyly slid a hot pink cell phone out of his pocket, flipped it open. Emmett stared at it for half a minute, the object so incongruous in Edward's hand, before it clicked.

"You stole Bella's cell phone?"

"Borrowed it. You're making me think…..Maybe I ought to check out the competition."

"That's an invasion of privacy. Give it here." Emmett held out his hand. Edward shook his head, smirking, and began looking through Bella's messages. He started with the inbox. After thirty seconds, he looked up at Emmett.

"This is the most boring bunch of texts I've ever read. 'Bella- not home for dinner'. 'Bella- please buy rice flour'. What the fuck is rice flour? What does one do with rice flour? This guy is so fucking BORING. Wait- listen to this one. 'You look nice today".

Edward chortled, immensely cheered up. "Apparently the competition isn't so strong."

Emmett shook his head, ruefully amused, using every ounce of control not to let his mouth smile. Edward had that effect on everybody. You found yourself trying not to laugh at his sheer, unapologetic awfulness.

"Maybe she wants some stability, Edward, have you thought of that?"

Edward was too busy reading to listen to Emmett properly. He went to the sent items. This was more like it. Bella's texts were wordy, thought out, as if she wanted to get her money's worth. She used literally every character she could when composing messages.

"She's texting everyone but me, it seems," he noted coldly. "She texts Rose about ten times a day, even you get some. That's just fucking lovely."

He read each one, absorbing her words, greedy for any snippets of her life he could find. The work related ones were dull. Her job seemed super shitty. She had sent one to someone called Angela last night which said, 'Thanks for all your support over the last few weeks. I've made a lot of progress. I'm feeling like I can face him again.' What the fuck did that mean? He went to her contacts list, scrolled, comparing names against his mental inventory. Who were all these people? Why did she have so many men in her phone? He opened his own contact details. She had his correct cell number. All it said was Edward, and the number. It seemed so impersonal.

He looked at Emmett, thrown for a moment, and then recalled his earlier question and said tartly, "She doesn't want stability. At this point, I think she belongs in a coma wing."

"It doesn't matter what you think, anyway. She's chosen him. Why do you care, anyway? I've never understood what's between you and Bella." There was silence.

"She's mine." Edward's tone was final, factual. His fist tightened on the diamond ring.

"You can hear her thoughts, though, right?" Emmett said this casually, but the shock of the statement reverberated in the room. Emmett had finally broached the untouchable topic. Edward stared at him in horror, his mouth slightly open.

"Edward, how could I not have known this? Did you think I wouldn't notice the one sided conversations you guys would have as six year olds? The way we played Go Fish, and completely annihilated her every time? Or what about how you found her hidden Easter egg stash after putting your finger on her forehead?" Emmett smiled sadly, looking into the fire.

"Poor kid never stood a chance with you. She was like your imaginary friend, but she actually existed. The only thing I want to know, is like, how do you do it? Can you hear me? I've never been sure." He looked at Edward directly. "What am I thinking?"

"Emmett, you ass." Edward smiled lightly, stubbornly giving away nothing. Power was power, whether it was real or imagined.

Emmett gritted his teeth, though he wasn't surprised. Nothing with Edward came easy.

Emmett was fascinated by the concept of telepathy; pored over any journals or new studies on the subject. On paper, he would have dismissed Edward as a particularly skilled manipulator of visual cues. He would never have believed it, or would have just written it off as his childish imagination, had he not witnessed it first hand so many times. He remembered once seeing Edward and Bella through the window when they were teenagers. He had been in the kitchen, pouring himself some water, when he saw them.

They were outside in the small vegetable garden outside the kitchen. Bella stood amongst the cabbages, Edward opposite her with his back to Emmett. "Give it to me," Edward had said, holding out his palm as if requesting payment. Although clearly under duress, Bella put her hand into his. Her face scrunched in concentration, her face tilted, her body twisting away. "No, give it to me," Edward had hissed, carelessly crushing the row of lettuces behind him. He growled, frustrated. "His name, Bella." Bella glared at him, and her face had smoothed, her shoulders straightening in a small sign of defiance. They had stood there in silence for several moments. Until Edward's temper had fractured.

Edward picked up his scotch glass, tipped it against his lips before realizing belatedly it was empty, and licked at the remaining drops. "You're going to be all pissy, but I've convinced Bella to pretend to be falling in love with me. You know, to make ma happy."

Emmett steepled his huge hands, and instead of being outraged as Edward had expected, he appeared thoughtful. Emmett had heard too much over the years. He was unshockable.

"Well, I know she's always hoped you two would end up together."

Edward sat forward in his seat, relieved that he didn't have to sell the idea to his brother. "Exactly, that's what I told Bella. She just has to pretend to be falling in love with me, and we can send Ma off with the last puzzle piece in place. Nice and simple."

Emmett cast his eyes to the ceiling and shook his head.

"Look. I can't stop you, and I won't say anything. But I think this is a really bad idea. Nothing about you is simple. You and Bella have a lot of bad history." He held up his hand as Edward opened his mouth to argue.

"Edward, you once actually half-carried her out of Tyler's house party because you thought she was talking to a guy. Which she was, except that it was me, but you were too drunk to realize. She has every right to believe that you're a sociopath."

Edward's glare was vicious. He hated being reminded about incidents like that. They made him feel ridiculous. "I couldn't help myself. I was drunk. I was only joking, anyhow," he spat, his hand traveling to his hair.

"Like hell you were. You created such a scene out on the front lawn, ranting and raving while she cried, telling her that she was yours, and you punched me in the gut when I went out to stop you. People talked about it at school for weeks. She felt like a laughing stock. Everyone thought she was caught in some sort of semi-incestuous love triangle, and as always, you skated out of it scot-free."

The diamond engagement ring dangled from Edward's fingers, and his eyes reflected the glinting sparks. He suddenly seemed to be not listening to Emmett at all; like he had changed frequencies. He rarely listened to anything he didn't like.

"I wonder if it's too late for me to ring Michael. I wonder if nice tidy lawyer-types are asleep by now." He flipped open the phone, and Emmett got to his feet, putting the almost untouched scotch next to Edward's empty glass.

"Do not fucking think about doing that." He held out his hand. "Give it to me."

"I was only joking," Edward protested, holding the cell close to his chest. "I'm going to go and give these back to Bella now. And I'll apologize, and buy her a new chain."

Emmett stared at him for a long moment, could not detect any traces of insincerity in Edward's face. "Alright. I'll see you in the morning." He ambled down the hallway, his movements heavy, the floorboards emitting squeaks of protest.

Edward stared into the fire and drank every last drop of Emmett's scotch. He put Bella's ring in his mouth, sucked it, tasting the salt and the bitter gold, rolled the sharp diamond against his tongue.

The clock ticked onwards, making him antsy. He could not bear the sound of a ticking clock. It sounded like wasted time. He toyed with the phone. He tilted it this way and that, as if it were a magic eight ball; as if the screen would reveal The Signs Point to Yes. The familiar tuggings of conscience and mischief teased at him.

He selected a number. And hit Call.

*o*o*o*o*o*o

Bella laughed as she and Rose trudged up the stairs to the second floor, to Emmett's old bedroom. "Yes, he calls maybe twice a year, drunk and lonely from a hotel room in some random country. It's terribly seedy." Her voice was deceptively light.

Rose puffed and they paused on the first landing. "What sort of things does he say?" she asked, fascinated.

"The most annoying thing is that he calls at night, but it's only night time where he is. Time zones just don't compute with him. Sometimes I'll be getting a call at ten am on a Sunday, or like three thirty in the afternoon on a Monday and I'm at work. It's really irritating."

They continued up the stairs.

"Quit stalling, Swan, spit it out. What sort of things does he say?" Bella shushed her and opened Rose's handbag, marveled at the array of items in there. A measuring tape. A bra. A cookie cutter. A ball of wool.

They reached the second floor, went into Emmett's old bedroom- the blue room. They went in. It was lovely and warm, and Carlisle had built a low fire in the little fireplace. The room smelt of pine, like Christmas. Rose went to it, held her hands against the flickering warmth.

"He says thing like…" Rose prompted. Bella said nothing.

"Come on, I'm your best friend! I need to know these things. How else can I help you?"

Bella sank down to kneel in front of the fire and looked up at Rose, her face pensive. Rose could see right through her. She felt a burst of irritation that everybody could read her and get things out of her.

"Well, the last time he called, it was a couple of months ago- November, I think. He was calling from New Zealand. He was shooting the glaciers."

"I thought he only did war photos, these days," Rose commented, straightening the dusty knick knacks on the mantle.

"He sort of fills in the gaps in between shooting war zones, I think, especially if it's a country he wants to go to." Bella's voice was soaked in envy. Edward had the most incredible lifestyle of anyone she had ever met. Looking at his passport was like reading an Atlas. According to Esme, he actually had to get a second passport last year; he had filled up the pages of the first one.

"He was telling me about how cold it was, and how he and the journalist he was traveling with went and saw the hot springs and got drunk in Rotorua, and the air smelt like rotten eggs from the sulfur. What a turn on. Anyway. He started saying how much he missed me, in that particular voice he uses."

Rose interrupted. "What voice?"

"He sort of makes it all…. Smooth… yet somehow rough, and low. Does that make sense? And by this point I know where he's headed."

Rose headed to the bed, lay down heavily on her back. "Then what does he say?"

"He starts telling me that he misses me. That he's traveled the world, and he's never seen anyone remotely as beautiful as me."

Bella picked at the fringe of the faded Persian rug on the floor, tracing the lines of ice blue, navy, dove grey "Which is complete crap. He dates models, for God's sake."

Bella looked at her nails, short and unpainted. Imagining him with other women was a familiar ache, but somehow always throbbed dull and strong. He was so gorgeous, he could always take his pick of women. When he set his mind to winning someone, they never resisted him long. Sooner or later, one of them would capture him for good. She was resigned to the thought. She had been bracing herself for years, certain that Esme or Carlisle would casually mention Edward moving in with someone, or worse, proposing. He couldn't live like Peter Pan forever.

"You're more beautiful than any of those soulless mannequins," Rose protested through a yawn, "Though he certainly seems to deliberately choose the women with the blackest souls he can find. They're beautiful, but they're just rotten." She shuddered. "That one Emmett and I met a few years ago…ugh, Tanya, I think. I looked into her eyes, and all I saw was pure, unadulterated evil."

Bella laughed at Rose's tendency to exaggerate.

"Well, thank you for thinking I'm beautiful."

"Christ, this is like pulling teeth! What does he say next?" Rose was tired and her tone was slightly sharp.

"He tells me that he wishes I was there, that he is all alone, and if I were there he'd be touching me."

Rose propped herself up awkwardly on her elbows. "Oh, this is getting good. Then what does he say?"

Bella's cheeks were burning. She finished in a rush.

"He says things about what he'd like to do. That he'd make me remember that I was his. That once he got his hands on me again, I would give in. You know, the usual."

Rose lay back down flat, giving up on getting any juicier details. "Hot. And creepy. But still hot. Is that wrong, to think my brother-in-law is creepy hot?"

There was a long silence. Bella used a poker to prod the fire, seeing that Carslisle had added pine cones to make that beautiful scent. He was the most considerate man.

"Have you ever thought that maybe Edward only calls you when he's drunk because it's the only time he has the confidence?"

Bella half turned, but could only see Rose's feet.

"When has Edward ever needed confidence? He used to shower with the bathroom door open back in the day."

Rose sighed deeply. She raised her hands above her face, twisted her engagement ring back into place, felt the baby stretch in contentment.

"Sometimes it's hard for men to say what they feel. Especially complicated men like Edward."

"Edward feels nothing." Bella's voice was flat, final.

Rose laughed softly. "Edward's feelings are stronger than anybody's."

"Oh, Rose, that's not what I meant. It came out wrong. Of course he has feelings. Edward's feelings have dominated my life. I mean, he doesn't have feelings for me."

"His feelings for you are the strongest."

"His feelings for me are the… sharpest, maybe, but they're not romantic feelings. He doesn't understand his feelings for me, probably never will, so there's no point in me trying to analyse him. I'd drive myself insane."

"Do you think he's wanking when he's talking to you?" Rose snickered evilly.

"I assume he is. He gets a bit breathless towards the end."

Rose gusted a deep sigh. "Towards the end? So, once he's panting down the phone, what do you do? Hang up on him? Blow a gym-teacher's whistle to deafen him?"

Bella was silent.

"Do you…. Talk back to him?"

Bella bit the inside of her cheek.

Rose gaped at the ceiling, trying to reconcile the image. Bella, who made jars of cranberry sauce for Christmastime and had a dollhouse? That same Bella, talking dirty to Edward? Made sense, Rose thought. Michael was a stuffed shirt, and it was always the quiet girls who were a little freaky. She was so tired, the conversation was starting to feel like a hallucination.

"I don't say anything." Bella interrupted Rose's turgid train of thought. She looked at Rose with a small glint in her eye.

"What, you just listen?"

"I just…. Don't hang up." She finally clarified.

"Well, well." Rose dragged herself around with her legs, climbed awkwardly under the blankets fully clothed. "This is very interesting."

Bella watched her crash headlong into sleep.

*o*o*o*o*o*o

Bella returned to the white room to find her ring and her cell lying square in the middle of her pillow. Emmett. What a relief to have him here. Thank God Edward hadn't gotten his hands on these. She could see that he was still awake; the light cast an oozing gold glow underneath the door and she could hear Led Zeppelin's Black Dog playing faintly.

She checked the bathroom door was locked twice before she stripped off and stood under the boiling spray. Right in the exact spot that Edward would also stand naked every morning. She shivered despite the heat of the water, her mind drifting back to everything she had omitted to tell Rose. She felt guilty for holding back, but there was no way she could have said some of those words aloud or even hoped to have accurately captured his words.

*o*o*o*o*o*o

"Bella," he had purred, the sound of a creaking mattress faintly audible. "Bella, gorgeous Bella, I'm lying here on this bed and I'm thinking about your hair. If you were here with me now, I'd wind your hair around my wrists and I'd kiss you. I'd suck on your tongue, just a little bit, I know how much you like that. And you like when I bite you too, don't you? When I bite you, your thoughts go all fuzzy."

He laughed huskily and Bella had looked around surreptitiously to see if anyone was watching her. She had snuck out of the incredibly boring court case she was covering, hoping fervently that a bombshell wasn't dropped in her absence. She had walked to the end of the hallway, sat on the low windowsill.

It was indeed three thirty on a Monday afternoon. Edward was clearly drunk, and announced that he was in New Zealand. Bella, trapped inside the airless corridor like a bug in a jar, was speechless with jealousy.

He had made with the pleasantries for a good couple of minutes before he flicked the switch and went into long-distance seduction mode.

"What are you wearing?" He had slurred softly, unaware or uncaring of how clichéd he sounded. "Work clothes," she said flatly.

"I can work with that," he muttered, undeterred by her tone. "A skirt and white shirt, and your glasses too, I bet." Bella looked down at herself. He was right.

"Well, how I'd see it happening, I'd roll you onto your back, and I'd bite every single one of your shirt buttons off, starting at the bottom. Real slow. I'd chew on them and spit them out." Bella's eyebrows shot up and she shrank back further into the windowsill as a grey clutch of lawyers walked past, conferring loudly amongst themselves.

"We'd leave your geek glasses on for a bit longer. Are they still the black rimmed nerd ones? They get me so hot, you have no fucking idea. So, are you still with me here?" His breathing hitched, and Bella's clitoris fluttered to life in response. The hallway emptied again, and she was alone momentarily, her heart pounding in her throat.

"Yes, I'm still here," she managed to say crisply, attempting to sound businesslike to anyone overhearing her. Inwardly, she screaming at herself to hang up, yet somehow could not. He had the most vivid imagination; perhaps it was the curiosity of what he would say next that kept her just not quite able to disconnect. She fiddled with one of the buttons on her shirt in fascination- he would bite them off?- and swung her hair around to shield her blazing cheeks from any passers by.

"Yes, that's what you'd say if you were here, and in that prissy voice too. So, to recap, I've fucking ruined your shirt, and I'd pull it up and wrap it around your wrists over your head. Then I'd slide down your skirt zipper so, so slow you'd be begging me to hurry." Here, Edward's voice grew rough, before he swallowed, and then said, "Then I'd peel it off you."

Bella twisted on the windowsill. It was just wrong to be this turned on in public, at work. She began walking down the hall, towards the fire escape.

"Are you walking?" Edward asked, his breathing steadily increasing in her ear. "I can hear your heels."

Bella said nothing, pushed the heavy fire escape door, stepped into the half darkness, leaned against it. Her skin was sensitized, she could feel the cold of the door against her burning skin through her thin cotton shirt, her nipples hardening.

"Hmmm, now, let me see," Edward continued. "You'd be in just…. A bra, and panties, and thigh highs." He didn't speak for several moments, and Bella closed her eyes, biting her lip, sensing her own wetness increasing. Just the sound of his breath was hopelessly erotic. She abstractly realized it was a very good International connection. It was crystal clear. She could almost feel his hot breath in her ear.

"So, those stockings have to go. I'm probably going to just tear them slowly to shreds, and lick your skin through each hole. I'll have to bite just one little hole at first, but then they'd rip just so easy." His voice was dark, strained.

"You won't be able to stop yourself thinking of what you wish I'd do. I'll hear it, and I'll do it. And I'll do the things you're half praying I won't. And you'll be mine, completely mine. As soon as my hands are on you, you will always be…." His voice trailed off. His breath was rough now, and fast. "You can't do anything about it, either, because your hands are all tangled up."

Bella opened her eyes and said, before she could stop herself, "But what if it's not me being restrained? Maybe it would be you on your back." She was irritated by his view of her as always his victim, his property.

Edward's breath burned through the phone, almost hurting her ear. He groaned, long and deep. It was like an animal's growl. The sound was pure sex, utterly male, completely Edward. Bella wrapped her arm around her stomach, trying to ignore the answering pulse in her neck, breasts, between her thighs. She held herself still as his panting gradually slowed.

"Yep, that did it," he started laughing lazily. "You dirty girl. I fucking love it. Do you want me to keep talking for you?"

Bella let the chill spread back over her, a protective layer, as the embarrassment and shame that she had been holding off suddenly sucked the breath from her lungs.

She had said, with as much dignity as she could, "Goodbye, Edward."

*o*o*o*o*o*o

Bella was suddenly doused in cold water as the hot water ran out in the Cullen's shower, recreating the feeling perfectly.


A/N: So who did Edward call?

If you would like to see the painting that hangs over the fireplace, there's a link on my profile, and the Twilighted link too.

Reviews make Edward give you a phone call at 3:30 on a Monday afternoon.