For rms33, who was kind enough to bid for my skillz during the Support Stacie Auction. Thank you so, so much. I'm happy we could do something for such a wonderful cause.

Thanks, as usual, to my girls EchoesOfTwilight and AmeryMarie for pre-reading and cattle-prodding.

I don't own Twilight, but I do own the Girls, The Precious, and a very cheesy characterization of E.

Here you go, guys. I meant to have it up yesterday, but... yeah. I'm lazy sometimes.


Chapter 21, EPOV: Part Deux

"Happy birthday," she said quietly, her eyes dipping toward the floor for a second, her teeth nibbling at her bottom lip.

"Thanks." Unable to take the short distance between us anymore, I took her hands and pulled her into my chest, my arms curving around her. She leaned into me, pressing her face right against my skin. I wondered if she could feel the way my heart threatened to burst out of my ribcage at the feeling of her in my arms again. She held me tightly about the waist, squeezing with more strength than I expected from her little arms. I smiled into the empty hallway, because I knew we would be okay. And I was going to tell her, tonight, no matter what.

"I'm sorry for being such a bitch." Her words were muffled against my chest, but I heard them clearly. God, she doesn't think I would think such a thing about her, does she? I would never be that disrespectful to the woman I love. She might be cranky and a little snarky sometimes – well, a lot snarky, all the time – but those were just a couple of the reasons I loved her. Wait…not the crankiness. That I can do without. But I accepted it all the same, because I knew I had my own little issues that she dealt with perfectly.

"Bella, I you're not a bitch. I would never say that about you," I said earnestly. "I'm sorry for being such a clueless guy." I laid my cheek on top of her soft hair, surrounding her completely with my body, trying to physically reinforce what I felt for her. I couldn't resist moving my hands up and down her back in small strokes as we stood there, just absorbing the feel of one another. After a few moments, I backed away, pulling her into the loft and shutting the door.

She wouldn't look at me as she hung her bag in the foyer, tension apparent in her small frame. Taking her hand, I led her to the couch. It was a struggle. My feet wanted to keep going right past the living room and straight to my bed. I knew the perfect way to relieve her tension…

Shit. Now is the time to use your brain, Edward. Not your genitals.

What the fuck is wrong with me? Did I just use the word "genitals" in my internal monologue?

I tried not to smile as Tanya hissed at Bella when we passed. I lost the battle when I saw the ferocious look on Bella's face. If she could shoot laser beams from her eyes, Tanya would have been a black, oily stain on the blanket. They eyed each other warily as Tanya got up and stretched slowly, her bulk reminding me of a poorly packed sausage link. My smile stretched into a full-on grin as the huge cat passed; Bella threw herself onto the couch, hurling both her shoes at the cat, completely missing her, as usual.

I couldn't help but chuckle as I went to let Tanya out, rolling my eyes as she weaved back and forth between my feet at the door. When Bella's nemesis was safely ensconced in the moon garden, I practically ran back down the steps to my loft, unable to wipe the grin off my face. I had to restrain myself from running to the couch and shoving her down into the soft cushions so I could show her exactly how glad I was that she'd come to see me tonight.

"I don't know why you think that's so funny." God, she was so cute when she was grouchy. Her arms were crossed over her chest, pushing up her breasts and giving me just a glimpse of cleavage I wanted to bury my face into… "That cat would cheerfully murder me in the most painful way if she had opposable thumbs," she said, trying to suppress a shudder.

Opposable thumbs? Shit, she's so fucking smart…how in the hell did I find someone so perfect?

Trying to appear nonchalant, I sat down heavily and hooked my arm around her shoulders. I couldn't resist the impulse to press my lips to the soft skin of her temple.

God, she smells so fucking good…

"She doesn't like you because she knows she's not my number one girl," I murmured, grazing her ear with my lips as I tightened my arm around her, making sure there wasn't even an inch of empty space between us.

You're my number one girl, and you always will be.

"You said 'opposable thumbs,'" I whispered against her ear, licking my lips and pressing them just behind her earlobe as I threaded my hand through her hair, gently removing the elastic band that held it back. As I shook out the thick mass of waves, more of her sweet, feminine scent assaulted my senses. All thoughts of our "discussion" were gone from my mind. "You know what scientific terms coming from those lips do to me."

I brought my other hand to her waist, kneading her supple, slight curves as I breathed against her neck, trailing my lips slowly downward. I nibbled and kissed, tasting the elegant line of her throat, her flesh salty-sweet and just…perfect. I licked a hot trail up her neck and bit at her earlobe. She sighed and began to relax against me, but suddenly she leaned away and put her hand over my mouth for a moment before she spoke. I playfully licked between her fingers and she pulled her hand away. I dove back down to nuzzle her neck.

"Edward," she breathed, sounding just as dazed and aroused as I felt, "I, ah… As much as I'd like to finish this later, don't you think we should talk about what happened this afternoon?" I froze, barely managing to detach my lips from her soft skin. Her voice was shaky and unsure; I took satisfaction in the fact that she wasn't unaffected by my attempts to convince her that a good fucking was all it would take to fix the problem.

Sighing heavily, I scrubbed my face roughly and dug my fingers into my hair. I knew I needed to apologize, and seducing her to avoid talking about our argument was not the right thing to do.

My brain was impressed with her restraint, but my dick was beyond pissed. The fucker didn't know the meaning of patience.

"I know, Bella. I'm sorry. I never would have thrown it away if I'd known how special that was to you. I didn't think. I didn't even see the writing on it." She remained silent, and I swallowed hard before continuing. It was so important that she understood how much I cared about her. When I'd found out that she'd kept that napkin…I was amazed that she'd even think to classify something like that, something from me, special enough to keep forever. It was humbling, amazing, and perfect, like Bella herself. "That you would keep something like that, because it reminded you of us, it's just…it's really nice," I finished, not knowing what else to say. Way to be smooth there, Cullen. Win her over with your spectacular wordy eloquence.

She watched my eyes as she gently reached up and held my hand, removing it from my messy hair. It was warm and soft and fit mine perfectly as she rested them in my lap.

"I know you'd never do anything to intentionally hurt me. I think I owe you an even bigger apology for acting so horribly. I was embarrassed about keeping that napkin," she said, her voice thick with emotion. She dropped her gaze to our joined hands for a moment, stroking her thumb over the top of my hand as she seemed to gather her thoughts. Finally, she returned her eyes to mine, and I could see the fear and insecurity she tried so hard to hide. I wanted to ease her anxiety, comfort her…anything to take the sadness from her eyes. "I was afraid you'd think I was crazy or something, and then I went and acted even worse. I'm sorry."

"Bella," I burst out, trying to make her understand that it didn't matter, as long as we were together, we were fine, but she stopped me.

"No, let me finish, or I never will," she begged. I sighed, trying to release the tension from my shoulders. She was here, she was next to me, and she wasn't mad at me. Those things were the only facts I could focus on to keep myself from going insane, consumed with fears that she would take herself out of my life and never come back.

"Okay," I said, sifting my free hand through her soft, thick hair. "You know you can tell me anything. I may be clueless sometimes, and I know I'll never figure you out, but I'm not going to stop trying, ever. Just a fair warning." I'd gladly spend the rest of my life discovering all her cute little habits and thoughts. Every single part of her fascinated me; all her strange little quirks and quips, her quick wit and intelligence, and her fresh, captivating beauty. I continued my lazy strokes through her hair, pinning her in place with my eyes, and I wondered how much she could read in my gaze. Would it frighten her to know the depth of what I felt for her? It was a risk I had to take. I needed to tell her, and she needed to know.

"Sometimes I can't believe my luck. I know you always say you're not perfect, but to me, you pretty much are. I'm afraid I'll wake up one day and it will be just a dream, like you never existed. The pull you have over me, over everyone, with that damn 'tractor beam,' it scares me a little." She fell silent, licking her beautiful pink lips. That simple action took over my mind and my body. My rational side wanted to ease her nervousness, yet my more base nature wanted nothing more than to see those lips and tongue wrapped around my dick. Ignoring the porno reel that played in my head for the millionth time, I smiled reassuringly, encouraging her to finish.

"I guess I'm afraid you're going to wake up one day and realize you could do a lot better than a floundering bartender with a graduate degree," she whispered, looking embarrassed and insecure as she shifted nervously on the couch, the leather creaking softly as she moved.

"Bella," I said, lacing my voice with everything I felt for her in that moment, "Stop worrying so much. You've got me. I'm not going anywhere." Ever. I love you.

"But you're so freaking…ugh, you're so damn dazzling. You could dazzle your way into the Queen Mother's granny panties if you wanted," she added, her eyes widening in shock at the words that tumbled from her lips. I couldn't resist laughing heartily as I yanked her closer to me. As far as I was concerned, she could never be close enough, even if every inch of her bare skin was pressed to mine. I wanted to sink into her until we became one person, a complete, functioning unit, each of us complementing the other until there was no separation between the two of us.

I held her head in my hand, keeping her eyes trained on mine.

"You dazzle me, Bella." I breathed. No words I'd ever spoken had held so much truth. "And for the record, with all due respect, I do not want to be anywhere near the Queen Mother's granny panties. The only granny panties I want into are yours." I finished the sentence with a sly smile, picturing sliding my fingers just under the elastic of her plain, white bikini briefs, anticipating her reaction to my touch. Her soft, flat stomach would quiver and her breathing would quicken. Her hips would rise to meet my fingers as I teased her hot, wet, secret skin…

"I don't wear granny panties!" she snapped, her voice a little high pitched and loud. Ooops. Way to offend her, Cullen. That's what I get when the filter isn't working (because I'm too busy fantasizing about touching her)… Shit! Think fast. I turned on my Smirky McSmuggerson look and leaned a bit closer to her face.

"Yes, Bella, you do. I get into them often enough." I could see she wasn't quite moved by my bedroom eyes and smirk, so I added a wink to the mix. I knew my woman, and she liked her Dr. Precious with extra cheese. Shit. Did I just refer to myself as Dr. Precious? She's officially driven me crazy – and I have got to figure out what that means…

Thank God, the wink worked every time. She rolled her eyes and smiled back; instantly bringing me back to sanity with her earthen brown eyes and the sweet curve of her lips. She worried about my 'tractor beam,' but she drew me in just as easily. All it took to bring me running to her was a look, a smile, a soft touch, or even a fucking whiff of her incredible scent.

"I think you're underestimating the effect of your own 'tractor beam,'" I told her. It was true. I'd happily spend the rest of my life stuck to her side. "I think our 'tractor beams' attract each other."

"But wouldn't that be like 'crossing the streams,' Egon?" I stifled my laughter, shaking my head. Here I was, trying to tell the woman I loved her, and she starts quoting Ghostbusters?

Jesus Christ, every time I thought there couldn't be any more reasons why she was perfect for me, she came up with something else. I went with it, playing along with her little game. I loved teasing her; the reactions were always so very gratifying…in more ways than one.

I put on my serious face and asked, "Bella, don't you remember what happened when they crossed the streams?"

"Yeah, it blew up a really creepy temple on top of a fifty-story apartment building!" she burst out.

I couldn't help but laugh. I told her she'd ruined my amazing, cheesy romantic line. When I saw her eyes light up at the thought, I held out just a little bit longer at her begging. I couldn't believe she fell for all my corny shit, but boy, was I thankful for it.

"Nope, the moment is gone," I sighed, while giving her my best pout. She asked me again, and it appeared The Pout wasn't working on her. I noticed the subtle change in her eyes that told me she was up to something. I sat back and waited, because Bella's attempts to convince me to do anything were really fucking worth it.

She linked her little hands behind my neck and leaned closer, her lips parted and shiny. I couldn't tear my eyes away from them as my inner porno reel began to gather information for future performances. I had to swallow back a groan when she bit the inside of her lip, and I lost it when she dug her fingers into my hair, lightly scratching my skin. Heat blasted through me as every Arrector pili muscle in my body stood at attention.

I'm a doctor. I can't help my preference for scientific terms. It sounds so much more intelligent than "I got goose bumps."

This woman was my fucking Kryptonite. All it took was one glance, one simple touch or smile, and I was down for the count faster than King Hippo after a gut-punch in Mike Tyson's Punch-Out.

"Crossing the streams also generated enough heat to melt a one-hundred foot marshmallow man," I blurted out. Damn it! I meant to hold out longer… but I'd never be immune to her damn sex fairy magic.

Sex fairy magic? Cullen, you are fucking insane!

"That's got to top anything else you've ever said," she said between giggles. I grinned and pulled her into my lap, enjoying the slight weight of her across my thighs. I couldn't tear my eyes away from her lips.

Leaning in toward her, I whispered, "You think so?" She nodded, her nose brushing mine as I came even closer. "Really?" My voice was barely audible as I tilted my head to the side. Her eyelids fluttered shut and she leaned closer to me, slowly, meeting me in the middle.

"Uh-huh," she sighed, just before I pressed my lips to hers. My fingers spanned her back and I pulled her fully against my chest, eager to touch any part of her I could reach. Her heart pounded; it echoed mine, pressed together as tightly as we were. Our lips meshed effortlessly, the kiss perfect in its innocence. I took a deep breath as I pulled away, my hands moving in wide sweeps on her back. Her eyes opened, shining with the deep, rich color that reminded me of the foundation of nature, life-giving and nurturing, just like Bella.

I wasn't going to procrastinate anymore.

"Bella, I love you." It was simple, it was honest, and it was true. There would never be another for me. Her breath hitched on a little gasp as she blinked, her eyes growing wet with unshed tears. Not sure if those were good tears, I barreled ahead. "I don't care if the 'tractor beam' works on anyone else, even if it does." Fuck! I just used air quotes! "The only one I want to reel in is you," I finished, resting my hands at her sides, slowly sweeping my thumbs over the crisp cotton of her dress shirt. She was still silent, her beautiful eyes brimming with tears; I began to grow worried.

Was it too soon? Did I fuck this up again? Shit, Bella, say something…

"I love you too, Edward," she breathed, blinking rapidly, sending fat tears rolling down her cheeks. "I've loved you for a while now." I released a pent-up breath and sucked in another one, my lungs squeezing tightly as my heart pounded even faster. My hands came to her face of their own accord, gently wiping the tears from her face as my body relaxed; fluidity seeping through my muscles. I closed my eyes and concentrated of the feel of my love in my lap, the warm softness of her cheeks, and the incredible combination of flowers and fruit that made me want to put my mouth all over her and never let her go.

She loved me, and I deserved her love. I deserved her, because she made me whole.

"Bella, you make me want to be a better man. And when I'm with you, you make me feel like a better man," I said, my voice cracking. Wiping more tears from her cheeks, I continued, "I feel more and more whole the more time I spend with you. You're funny, intelligent, loyal, beautiful, and so many other great things; I can't name them all."

She tried to respond, but I wasn't done. I needed her to know how I felt and how much she'd consumed me, yet empowered me to stand on my own as a man…as someone of worth who deserved her love. I held my thumb over her soft lips as she drew a breath to speak, marveling at the softness of her skin, though I must have touched it hundreds of times. Every time was just as powerful as the first.

"One more thing: I've loved you from the very beginning, I think." I paused and licked my lips, taking a fortifying breath before I continued. "I didn't realize how much I was missing before I met you. I thought I was happy; I had my career, and I had a supportive family. But I never felt alive…or so fucking goofy, until I met you," I finished with a quiet laugh.

She was silent, yet it wasn't uncomfortable. I could almost see every thought in her eyes, and I knew that she felt the same way about me. I swept my thumb over her lip and across her cheek, bringing up my other hand to bury them both in her hair as I watched her. We didn't need words to convey the truth.

"Edward, you are a good man. Nobody's perfect. But you're perfect for me. I love you," she vowed, her deep brown eyes drawing me in and warming me from the inside out.

Closing my eyes against the intense waves that crashed over me, I whispered, "I don't think you'll ever realize just how perfect you are for me."

I was surprised to feel her soft, silky lips pressed to mine, so warm and gentle and filled with things I couldn't describe in my rational brain. I increased the pressure of the kiss, our lips shifting and sliding together merely for the sensation of being truly connected: no pretenses, goals or expectations, just the feeling of giving ourselves over to one another.

She laid her head on my shoulder when we parted, giving me her whole weight and completely relaxing against me. I moved my hand in slow circles on her back and rested my cheek on the crown of her head, inhaling deeply to savor the innocent yet sensual fragrance that was Bella's alone. I could have remained there forever with her in my arms, pliant and trusting and completely mine.

My eyes roamed the loft, and everything seemed so right with her here, with me. She belonged here. I could picture her cooking in my kitchen, writing on her laptop on my little desk in the corner…in my bed, spread out and waiting for me every fucking night

Then my eyes fell upon the sleeping kitten near the fireplace. One corner of my mouth quirked up as I remembered Bella's insistence that we were the cat's parents. Most likely, Tanya wasn't coming back before morning, so I knew we should try to make sure Ness ate.

All it took was the mention of our "baby's" name to get Bella alert and moving. I was amused, yet insulted at the same time. I could barely keep my eyes off her as we prepared food for Ness, and I found myself shadowing her most of the time, my body too close to hers to seem like it was unintentional.

Because, of course, it wasn't. I just didn't want her to be too far away from me to touch. I teased her while demonstrating how to open a tuna can without causing bodily injury, to which she gave me a very dirty look.

Don't worry, Bella, I thought to myself. I'll make you forget all about my penchant for teasing you… In fact, I plan to ensure that you have trouble remembering your own name.

As we both watched Ness eat (in disgust, I might add – she definitely took after Tanya in that department), I stood behind her as closely as I could get. My chin rested on her shoulder and I held her hips in a firm grip.

Bella looked at the little kitten like a stage mother whose daughter had just placed runner-up in one of those pedophile-attracting child beauty pageants. I bit my lip and held in my amusement, content to observe her quirky behavior. It was, after all, one of the reasons I loved her. With Bella, there was always a surprise involved.

She must have disregarded my warning to leave Ness alone until she forgot about the tuna. At the sound of Bella's signature cry of holy crap, I dropped the plate in the sink and whirled around to find the cat attached to Bella's finger like a fucking tick starving for its next meal.

I full-out laughed at her. I couldn't help it. Running my hand through my hair, I knelt next to her as she got Ness to let go of her finger and carefully placed her on the blanket. "I told you so" was out of my mouth before I could think better of it. The bite wasn't serious, but Ness's sharp teeth had broken the skin. Bella stuck out her tongue at me in a childish gesture, but all I wanted to do was pull her face to mine and put that tongue to better use.

I managed to keep my mouth shut as I led her to my bathroom and got out the first-aid kit. She babbled, as she always did when she was nervous. I loved taking care of her, not only because I didn't normally get the chance to patch up normal cuts and scrapes due to the specialty of medicine I'd chosen, but because it was Bella I was healing. There was something about cleansing her wounds, washing away the blood that leaked from her skin that made me feel all-powerful. I felt like I could fix everything, could be everything, for her.

It was everything I'd ever wanted but never realized, until I'd met her.

I utilized my calm, reassuring bedside manner skills, but since it was Bella, I felt comfortable in being more humorous and suggestive than I ever would have been with a true patient. I didn't want her nervous and hurting; I wanted her relaxed and pliant and moaning my name as I held her in my arms…

"All done," I said softly, watching her eyes as they moved from her finger to my face and back again. I stood and stretched, unable to hold back a yawn as I helped her down from the countertop. She yawned in response to mine and gave me a saucy look, poking me in the bellybutton before she made a break for my dresser. I just knew she was looking to steal another one of my tee-shirts.

I only pretended to be mad when she stole my concert tees. In reality, I got a massive hard-on every time I saw her in one of my shirts. I wanted to bend her over the dresser, with one hand full of my shirt and the other full of her hair, my dick buried deep inside her.

I caught her with one of my favorites, but it wasn't the one I wanted to see her in most. Pleading with her to put the shirt back, I leaned closer, smiling when I heard her take a deep breath. She froze, her eyes becoming heavy-lidded, and I swiped the shirt from her paralyzed hands. Tossing the tee back into the drawer, I quickly rifled for the one I wanted to see on her. Sure, it was clichéd, but I wanted to see her in a shirt with my name plastered across the back. If that made me a fucking caveman, I'd gladly accept the moniker. I'd also gladly toss her over my shoulder and throw her on the bed before I fucked the ability to speak out of her.

Whoa there, Cullen. Don't get ahead of yourself. That mouth of hers is one of the reasons you love her.

I placed the new shirt in her hands and went to work on the buttons of her simple fitted shirt. My eyes never left hers as my fingers revealed her smooth skin, inch by inch. Leaning closer, I whispered my desire to keep her naked, pushing the shirt off her shoulders, smiling when I heard the tee-shirt hit the floor along with her top.

"Say it again," she whispered as I closed my arms around her bare back and pulled her closer, barely holding back a groan as I spread my hands over her silken skin. But no matter how aroused I was, I couldn't help teasing her. I once again told her that she wouldn't be wearing anything for quite some time, nipping at her earlobe as she stiffened.

"Not what you meant?" I murmured smugly, dragging my lips down her neck and licking the spot where her neck met her shoulder. My hands bracketed her waist, itching to delve lower and release the catch to her plain black pants.

"No," she half laughed, half moaned, while I deftly unfastened her pants and slid them off her hips, dragging her panties with them. My mouth watered at the sight of her standing before me in nothing but the scrap of lace she called a bra. I couldn't let my hands leave her soft skin; I was addicted to her smooth, warm, blushing flesh. Her eyes took on that far away look of pleasure before her eyelids slid shut, locking me out of the soul I could see in her dark, rich irises.

I was mesmerized by her face, by the glimpse of her pink tongue as she wet her dry lips and sucked in a huge breath. I couldn't wait any longer to taste her, so I leaned in and closed my mouth over hers, sweeping my tongue inside greedily. Her hands came up to rest against my bare chest and I moaned in pleasure, the sound muffled by her lips. Swept up in the emotions and sensations of the evening, I was less than gentle with her, nipping at her lips and sucking her tongue into my mouth as my hands roamed her back.

"I love you," I rasped as I led her to my bed, sitting gracelessly in front of her and burying my face in the swells of her breasts above her bra. She murmured something about the messy state of my sheets as I pushed the lace away from her breasts. Of course my sheets are fucked up, I thought briefly. I can't sleep for shit without you…

My hands roamed over her body, trailing lightly across her ribs and hipbones, teasing her before I brought my mouth torturously close to her nipple and questioned her about her shivering frame.

"Are you cold?"

"No," she choked out, breathing hard, as I cupped her perfect tits in my hands, molding them together and licking hot paths over her sweet, soft flesh. I nearly died when she straddled my lap and reached behind her back to release the catch of her bra, immediately returning her fingers to my hair.

She was bare before me, her sweet pink nipples ready for my mouth. I ran my teeth over one hard peak before sucking it into my mouth. I wasn't gentle; soft, slow lovemaking wasn't possible at this point. I needed her, needed to assure myself she was mine, so badly that I ached with it. I gripped her hips tightly, pulling her against me and grinding my erection against the wet heat between her legs.

I let my desires take hold of me. Suddenly Bella was spread underneath me as I ground my dick against her slit. I was on the verge of orgasm when I pulled away, unwilling to cum outside of her. Sitting back on my heels, I took myself in hand and stared at her, bare and complete honesty in my eyes as I told her how I'd wished she was mine from the very beginning. Her small hand wrapped around mine, stilling my movements.

"I was yours. I am yours. I love you," she vowed, wrapping her legs around my hips.

I leaned forward and hovered over her, my lips grazing hers as I claimed her with my words and my body. "I belong to you, Bella. Only you," I whispered, pushing forward and joining us, our physical forms once again enmeshing until neither of us could separate one from the other.

That was simply the way of things when we were together. We functioned as a unit better than either of us had dreamed of on our own, and I knew I could never live without that feeling.

***

I lay atop Bella, panting and sweating, yet completely unable to move. I could have died in that very position as a very happy man. Nothing sounded better to me than lying there with Bella, covering her, inside her, all night long. I'd be the happiest man on earth if only we could have stayed there, in my bed, entwined like a Gordian knot for the rest of our lives.

Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other ideas, and if I wanted to keep the sheets comfortable and clean for sleeping, I had to visit the bathroom.

"Fuck!" I shouted as I tripped over my pants when I tried to get off the bed. Barely catching myself with my palms planted firmly on the floor, I narrowly missed smashing my nose straight into my brain. Thank fucking God for those stupid Perfect Push-up things Emmett forced on me last Christmas…

"Edward!" Bella shouted – and I knew she was laughing at me on the inside, sarcastic little clown that she was – scrambled down off the bed and knelt at my side. "Are you okay?" she choked out, failing miserably at stifling her laughter once she'd realized I was likely fine.

"I'm good… but I believe my pride has fallen prey to a complete massacre this evening," I said wryly, flopping over onto my back. I cringed in response to the cold hardwood floor on my overheated skin.

"Awww, poor Edward," she cooed, exaggerating every syllable and lacing her voice with sugary sweetness. Even though I knew she was making fun of me, I still found it adorable. She was such a study in contrasts: sarcastic and acting like one of the guys one minute, but blushing shyly and easily dazed by me in another. I loved that about her – I was the only one able to penetrate her prickly, snarky exterior to see the sweet, shy woman underneath the veneer.

"Yes, I know, it's so funny," I grumbled good-naturedly. She ran her hands over me quickly, biting her lip to hold back what I was sure would be cackling laughter if she let it free.

"It really is, Edward." She sat back on her haunches as she tugged on my pants and boxers so I could kick them off. Her face scrunched up in the cute expression she always wore when I knew she was thinking hard – probably trying to form some kind of insult specific to this situation. She grinned suddenly and let loose.

"Fuckhot boyfriend tells you he loves you? Amazing. Said boyfriend puts a band-aid on your boo-boo and then proceeds to give you the most amazing orgasms of your life? Indescribable," she continued. I arched a brow at her, wondering where she could possibly go with this. "Seeing the very same gorgeous, graceful bastard tripping over his own pants in a post-orgasmic haze? Priceless!" she finished, dissolving into giggles.

"You think you're so fucking funny, don't you?" I growled, pulling her on top of me. I closed my eyes at the light pressure of her entire body covering mine, my skin prickling all over as the ends of her hair tickled my shoulders.

"I know I am." She was arrogant, saucy and beautiful, and I loved it. "Are you gonna deny it?" she asked confidently, sliding her arms under my shoulders and gripping my hair in her fists. She seemed to enjoy grabbing my hair. I didn't mind one fucking bit. It turned me on just as much as it apparently did for her.

"I wouldn't deny you anything," I replied, my voice rumbling in my chest. I sounded rougher than I intended, but I couldn't help it. She was pressed fully against me and I found myself responding to her proximity. Placing my hands at her shoulders, I spread them wide and traced lightly down her back until I reached the soft curve of her ass. I dug in, raising my hips against hers at the same time. I couldn't believe I was so fucking hard again, as if we hadn't shared the most amazing sex a little less than half an hour before.

That beautiful smile slowly disappeared from her face, but I wasn't disappointed. It was replaced with her intense, glittering stare, her eyes the color of the darkest French roast one could find in Seattle. She dropped her lips to mine and gave me her full weight, her legs splayed on either side of me. Tightening my grip on her silky skin, I widened my legs and bent my knees. My cock was trapped between us while she was spread open, hot and wet, against my balls.

Pulling my hair with more force, she held me where she wanted me, nipping my lips and taking control of the kiss with more fervor than she ever had before. Her hips rocked against me, creating the most pleasurable, yet painful friction. I needed to be inside her again so badly…I couldn't wait. Lifting her easily, I made sure my erection was lined up with her slit and thrust upward, forcing a breathy moan from her lips.

Skimming my hands from her hips to her breasts, I watched raptly as I palmed her flesh, then pinched her nipples while I thrust up into her as hard as I could. She was an active participant in our lovemaking, swiveling her hips to meet my every thrust; her heavy-lidded eyes meeting mine as she sat straight up over me, lifting her hands to cover mine on her breasts. She cried out as I moved inside her, her head dropping back in abandon, the silky ends of her hair tickling my thighs.

"Oh," she breathed, quickening her hips against mine as I began to fuck her harder. "Oh, shit, Edward!"

Her eyes squeezed shut at the same time she tightened around me, and I knew she was close. I brought one hand up to cup her jaw, pressing the pad of my thumb to her bottom lip. She sucked it in with no hesitation, causing me to groan – because I'd never seen anything more fucking erotic. Watching Bella suck on my thumb when I was buried inside her was incomparable, except for maybe watching her while she had her perfect lips wrapped around my dick.

Pulling my thumb from her mouth, I pressed it against her clit, the force of my thrusts moving her against me as I rubbed her in tiny circles, relentless in my pursuit of her pleasure. Soft moans fell from her lips as she pulsed and tightened around me, and I gritted my teeth to keep it together until she was finished.

"Fucking beautiful… again…fucking cum for me again," I growled, pinching her nipple as she screamed out her release.

"Fuck, Edward…aaaaahh!" she moaned, and I took a second to bask in the fact that I'd made her speechless.

I moved steadily through her climax, waiting until she was coming down before I let loose. She collapsed onto my chest and I gripped her hips, holding her exactly where I wanted as I drove into her, panting next to her ear. I lost it when she pressed her lips to my neck and sucked hard, her fingers digging into my shoulders.

I didn't even know what I shouted as I came inside her, the most intense orgasm of my life completely taking over my body and wiping my mind of all thoughts but the woman in my arms. All I knew was the scent of her hair and skin as I held her, my body paralyzed with pleasure and want.

I turned my head toward her neck, breathing hard and wrapping my arms around her back.

"God, I love you so much," I whispered. "So much."

"M'too," she slurred, her voice muffled between the floor and my shoulder, where her face was buried.

I laughed and squeezed her harder. "How articulate, Bella! Did I screw the snark out of you?"

"Ha," she mumbled. "As if that was possible." She raised her head just enough to meet my eyes and gave me a half-smile. "But I'd be willing to let you try."

"Perfect," I responded, sitting up while still holding her in my lap. "You know I can't resist a challenge." I covered her smiling mouth with mine, dragging my hands up her sides to tangle in her hair. It was a soft, gentle kiss; we teased each other with brief grazes of lips and gentle slides of tongue. Gradually, we slowed, ending it with one final, light press of my lips she rested her forehead against mine.

"I wonder if I'll be able to walk tomorrow," she mused, laughing quietly to herself.

"I'm not going to lie," I began, smirking even though she was too close to see it. "That would be so fucking hot." She smacked my shoulder halfheartedly, a laugh escaping on a short burst of breath.

"You'd enjoy my discomfort?" I could hear the smile in her voice, and it once again struck me how very lucky I was to have this woman in my life.

"Only in the sense that I know I've left you thoroughly satisfied…"

"You are so smug."

"But you love me," I murmured, tracing my finger down the slope of her nose.

"I do," she answered, her voice barely more than a whisper. "I do love you, more than words can express. It's too big for that." She planted her palm flat against my chest, feeling my heartbeat. I picked up her hand, kissing the center of her palm before placing it right back over my heart.

"I'm glad," I said, getting lost in her deep, dark eyes. "Because I'm yours." I didn't need to say anything else. I knew she understood.

We carefully disengaged from one another and walked hand in hand to the bathroom to get ready for bed. We remained close enough for light touches and intense stares, dissolving into laughter as we both brushed our teeth before returning to the soft refuge of the bed.

She sighed in relief as we snuggled into the warm covers, pressing her back against my chest. I enveloped her in my arms and buried my face in her silky hair, closing my eyes, simply lying there as her breaths evened and deepened. This was what I'd strived to stay awake for. She was so beautiful in sleep; her features relaxed and soft, radiant and peaceful, her cheeks flushed from slumber.

I shifted onto my elbow, peering past the shiny curtain of her hair as I lightly drew one fingertip down the smooth skin of her upper arm. She didn't stir; the only outward sign of awareness was a slight crease between her eyebrows.

I'd been exhausted before, but this evening's events had me wired. I took the time to memorize her face: every soft curve and sharp angle, the turn of her jaw and the fullness of her lips, the almond-shape of her deep, penetrating eyes; the smoothly defined slope of her cheeks and the elegant expanse of her neck. I was completely gone. I had no more questions.

I knew.

I wanted to marry this woman. I wanted to give her children and cherish the family we could make together.

I simply watched her, content to remind myself that I would have this for the rest of my life, if only I tried.

"Precious…" she mumbled, her eyebrows furrowing even deeper. "No! No Dr. Hoo-Ha! Girls, I'm the boss…" she slurred. I grinned, stifling laughter at her latest crazy dream. Most people would find a sleep-talker annoying, but it was completely endearing for me; if only because it more than likely contained a reference of a sexual nature…regarding me.

"What goes on inside that brain of yours, Bella?" I whispered, watching the myriad of expressions that flitted across her delicate features. "I have to know what you're thinking…"

"Our Precious," she moaned. "No, cougar…bad…" My eyebrows raised and I bit back another laugh. She was silent for the next few minutes and her face relaxed. I couldn't resist tracing the warm, pink curve of her cheek before settling my head onto the pillow next to hers.

Brushing her hair away from her face, I tucked the smooth strands behind her ear. Her tongue peeked out to moisten her lips, but she didn't wake. She flopped over onto her stomach, revealing lots of smooth, bare skin and those two delicious dimples at the base of her back. Lightly skimming my fingers down her spine, I rested my hand in the soft curve of the small of her back and threw my leg over hers. She didn't speak anymore; I closed my eyes, letting myself be lulled to sleep by the soft rhythm of her breathing and the scent that had been more comforting than home for me since the first night I'd met her.


Aww, aren't they just one giant ball of fluff? It's almost sickening, isn't it?

Does this satisfy your WiP fix? I'm 2K into the next chapter, so barring any blocks it should be coming soon.

Thank you all for reading! I hope you enjoyed this little peek into our Edward's head.

I know I'm terrible at responding to reviews, but I truly appreciate every PM, review, alert or favorite that lands in my inbox. Thank you so much.

Just a reminder: The Darkward Vampfic contest deadline has been extended until 11:59 p.m. CST October 31st. Visit .net/~darkward for details. The link is also in my profile.