Thank you all for your supportive reviews! This is the second - and last part of the story. Hope you enjoy :)*
Oh, and Pippapear will always be featured in my author's note. She's my literary sister and muse.
Where did my roommate go?
That's the only thing going through my mind as I see her by my bed, looking like a hungry lion staring at a piece of Kobe beef.
"I said you should go to work or face the consequences."
"I might," I rasp out, half expecting her to start laughing but really hoping she doesn't.
Her appeal is unique in itself, as she has this tendency to smile even when she's melancholic and go to the heart of every matter, solve it, and move on.
But now she's slipped into this seductress skin, and I'd be lying if I said it doesn't affect me. In every way.
Slipping right back into her normal role, she stalks off to the bathroom, pink little shorts hugging her form as she dances away.
Three weeks later, I'm positive she wants to destroy me. I just know it.
Now she's home during the day, except when she has a meeting. I know this isn't a bad thing - I'm actually impressed.
It's been three weeks since she quit, and something finally made her crack. She submitted her manuscript to just about every publisher she could think of, and her work caught the attention of a couple of them. Now, she has regular discussions with Emily, the editor she chose, as they fine-tune her chapters.
Bella is a couple of steps away from being a published author, and I'm not even surprised.
What destroys me, in fact, is the amount of time she now spends at home. Cooking me copious amounts of the best lasagna I ever had and other mouthwatering delicacies, walking around in tank tops and yoga pants, bending over to pick something up right in front of me...
Yes. My mind is in the gutter. It's been there long enough for me to grow used to it, and it's all her fault I feel like a gunpowder barrel about to explode.
I have to watch her go about her routine around me, and imagine her in the shower, skin sleek with water, one thin wall away. And repress the urge to get in there and pin her under me.
Tonight I have something to tell her, to ask of her. I'm calling upon the voice in the dark... wishing she wants to be more than that.
I'm sick and tired of my bunk bed.
Things are looking up, and I'm tremendously happy. Yes, for the first time.
I'll get to see my book, bound and illustrated, neatly sitting in a bookstore's shelf - which my personal angel, Emily, is helping me with. And a nice fat check, to boot.
I'm not used to spending so much time at home, but being with Edward cuts the monotony of long hours to shreds. His quiet attention and humor is simply the easiest way to melt me away.
I might be spoiling him. I don't feel guilty for that, I'm not playing fair at all.
I'm afraid he'll change jobs, or just feel like moving away. I'm afraid I'll lose him.
He's not mine... except in my own fantasy world, where I get to do wicked things to him.
It probably doesn't help that I've peaked between my lids in the morning to see him tiptoeing around in his boxers, and seen the shape of his body everytime he stretched or lifted something heavy, even under his shirts.
I want him to be mine - more than the physical, of course. But it complicates things. I don't believe him to be fickle, but his record speaks for itself - he's not the most stable individual in the world either. If I do make a move only to have him bolt, it'll hurt, but I don't care for this state of restlessness and rotten peace.
We won't be able to live together as friends anymore, after I do this. We either trade in the bunk beds for something a little more comfortable... Or his will be available again. Permanently.
"Honey, I'm home," I call out, only half-joking, as I come in. She grins, coy demeanor and bedroom eyes, the perfect impersonation of the vixen wife, making me groan under my breath. "How was your day?"
"Exhausting," she admits, cringing. "There's so much preparation involved, so many decisions to make and things to take care of... It's a bit overwhelming."
"Isn't it strange that I haven't read it yet? Your book?" I point out, finally having gathered the guts to do so. "Sometimes, I remember how much I don't know about you."
"You know enough," she cackles, a little bit nervous. "And you'll read it soon enough, I'll get you a copy."
"Signed," I demand. "That's going to be worth something in a few years."
She ignores me and moves to sit in front of me at the table, dishing beautifully cooked salmon with baby carrots.
"And what about you? How was work, darlin'?"
"It was nice," I answer her, not lying. "I've actually got some news about that, but we can talk about it after dinner."
Yes, she altered her sleeping patterns to match mine. She now wakes up and goes to bed at the same time as me, even if we do spend at least another hour just talking and joking in bed. Or, rather, in our separate beds, not nearly close enough to satisfy me, but just close enough to drive me insane.
Like I said, she wants to destroy me.
"What is it?"
Her question is tense, which surprises me. Why is she scared?
"I was offered two different jobs," I tell her, and she sinks down on the chair in front of me.
"Oh. Are you considering any of them?"
"I'm considering them both, anything is better than what I'm doing now."
She's growing pale. Something is off. So I decide to play, setting my fork down and deciding the meal can wait.
"You have a decision to make, Bella."
My worst fears are coming to life, it seems, and suddenly he tells me I have a decision to make.
He's giving me that cocky grin that tells me he knows something I don't.
"You're going to chose which one of the jobs I take. On one hand, we have a promotion my current boss is offering me. As a manager, which is nice - better pay, health insurance and all."
"That's great!" I get out, relieved. He's not moving away - he's just been offered a promotion.
"I agree. On the other, this band that sometimes plays at the bar... They're looking for a pianist. They heard me play, they told me I'd do. It doesn't pay as well, forget the health insurance, and I'd be on the road for a portion of the year."
And that's it. He just stabbed my heart and twisted the knife in.
"But you'd probably be happier..." I whisper without enthusiasm, bleeding. "You should take it."
"Before you make this decision, I should probably let you know that I'm in love with you," he blurts out in one exhale, as if breathing halfway through would make him falter.
I deadpan. He keeps going, hard face and serious, letting me know he's not playing.
"I'm honestly tired of running around. Management is a very, very nice position, and I'm more than ready to settle down. I'm twenty-seven years old, odd jobs aren't that fun anymore. I'll still get to play at the bar. And I'll get to come home every night... to you. If you want me to. If not, after hearing what I just told you, I'm taking the spot at the band," he explains, laying it all out for me. "So, as you can see, I really wasn't kidding when I said this was your decision."
Suddenly there's a heaviness to my shoulders that I hadn't felt in a long time, and find myself thinking aloud.
"You're in love with me?"
"Of course I am. How could I not be?"
She takes much too long to answer, and I get antsy. My calm facade is faltering - I didn't actually prepare myself to be rejected.
I just hoped to God that wouldn't be the case, but right now it just seems plain stupid - putting all of this pressure on her. A part of me wants to backtrack as fast as possible, but I can't just say something like «I'm in love with you and want to base life changing decisions on those feelings» and then say «But hey, we can keep things casual.»
"Are you sure you're not just in lust with me?" she finally asks me, voice slurred in sadness. Or indifference. Or maybe uncomfortable about the way I put her on the spot...
"That too, though I think it's a requirement," I try, still playing around like some jackass, trying to lighten the mood. "You don't need to say anything right now," I mumble, lying and hurt, because she's not answering me.
And, after five minutes of this, both of us shoving food around our plates, I can't sit there anymore and take it.
You ruined what you had.
At least I took a chance at changing my reality, it just didn't work out.
I don't care that the bright light originating from the cheap lamp won't let me sleep - honestly, it doesn't matter. I won't get any sleep tonight anyway. I just kick my blanket off of me and rub my eyes, wishing I'd known this much two hours ago.
Her voice is quiet, and I can tell from the sound that she's standing by our beds. I don't answer, noticing she shut the lights.
"Can you be my voice in the dark again?"
Something inside me snaps, and I grow tired of simply being so naive. I've lived long enough to know that, sooner or later, disappointment is to be expected. And no one ever loves you for your beautiful fucking personality if there's no money and no promises of fuggly white picket fences and prosperity and babies. No one is interested in investing their time and effort in a fuck up.
That's what I am. But I'd be one even more if I allowed myself to accept whatever is thrown at me.
"No, I'm not interested in being your voice anymore. Forget it," I bark at her, harshly.
"But I need to explain," she insists, and I feel the mattress shifting as she comes to sit on the foot of my bed, something she has never done before.
It enrages me further - because I don't know if it's pity or guilt that finally moves her to come closer. Either way, it's wrong.
"I don't need an explanation. I made myself clear, and so did you. Don't worry, this won't be awkward, I'll try to find another place as soon as possible..."
"Can you please just listen? You're good at it, I know, so just... bear with me. Because you've never read what I've written, and you don't know."
She got me there. I can feel my resolve to shut myself the hell away from this woman faltering, but it's still there.
At this she sighs, all relief that I don't understand, and lies down beside me, head to the foot of my bed, making me scoot over. There's barely enough space for the both of us.
"The book is about regret," she finally tells me. "It's about a couple that got married too fast, too young, and got pregnant because they were just too stupid. About the regret of the girl, that signed up for a small town life she didn't want and couldn't handle, and the guy's regret for doing that to her. It's about the personification of regret itself, the child, that was kicked back and forth from one home, where a middle aged man sat pining for a woman that had eventually left him, and another, where a middle aged woman pretended to be much younger so she wouldn't have to face her own responsibilities and mistakes."
"You're Regret," I mumble, understanding the story from the very little she told me of her past.
"I was, but I don't want that anymore. Being in love with you doesn't top the fact that, in one year, maybe less, you'll look back and then regret me because I was the reason you didn't go off with that band."
Bella's rushed explanation makes sense, as disgruntled as it is, because I know her. And she's so ridiculously insecure, at times.
"I'd never regret you, silly girl," I assure her, moving to pull her legs over me, still swelling over her admission. This might just work.
I tell him my skewed version of a biography so he can understand my hesitance - but he just swats the whole thing away with such confidence that I find myself feeling safe.
My head is resting on his ankle and he's pulled my feet on top of his chest, which has turned my body into a slightly uncomfortable C.
"Are you sure managing a bar is really what you want?"
"For the time being," he answers me, light and carefree. It takes little to align his world, but the knowledge that my words, my love did that, is both empowering and sweetening.
"What now?" I hear myself ask.
"Now you'll tell me what that dream with the red shorts was about," he jokingly tells me, rubbing pleasurable circles on the sole of my feet with his calloused fingers.
It doesn't escape me for a second that I'm lying on his bed, and that everything is changed. We've lived together for two months - know each other's every quirk, from the brand of toothpaste to the way we fold our socks.
It's more than time he'd know what's been happening in my mind, behind my closed lids as I sleep. And that I'd let myself feel it, too.
I slip my feet out of his grasp and turn, hovering over his body so that my knees rest on each side of his thighs, barely touching the thin cotton of his pajama bottoms.
Between the palms of my hands, his head rests on the soft pillow, wide eyes open and staring at me, and I bless the bluish light of the night for allowing me to see that much.
"In my dream," I start, my voice steady and deep, "I'm at the beach, and you, in your red lifeguard shorts, are protecting me from getting sunburn."
"Like this?" Edward asks me, running his hands up and down my arms, reaching over my shoulders and affecting my balance.
"I tried reaching out to you for a kiss," I whisper, completely taken and aware of it, seeing and feeling his hands move to my collarbone and around my neck. "But you weren't there."
"Let's test that," he whispers back, pulling me ever so gently so our lips could touch. His are wet, plump and sinful, and I lose all sense of propriety. I feel the slow brushes of the rougher skin on my own, again and again, and we stare into each others' half-lidded eyes until he stops me.
"What is it?"
"This is all I'm good for... fantasies. The reality is a little short of the novel romance you expected."
I can feel him pull away, even if we're still an inch apart.
"Edward, insecurity is my skit. Get your own. The best part of my fantasies was waking up to you, because you're real, the voice in the dark is real, and all the wonderful things about you that others might not consider romance novel material... That's my novel. There's no other version of it I'd prefer."
After hearing her say it, hovering around me and making it impossible to truly concentrate, I can feel my body getting warmer and demanding contact. And I understand her point, because even if all of the many, many fantasies flash through my mind at the moment, this is better.
"You must really love me," I breathe, and it doesn't come out as a joke.
Bella smiles in shades of blue, her warm brown hair cast raven by the night light and even her skin absorbs the tint. She looks like a mermaid, dragging me - the lifeguard in pajamas - with her to the depths of a warm ocean, and I'm having a hard time not letting go of my link to reality.
Too soon. Focus. It's too soon, let her lead.
Her small, beautiful lips go to the skin of my neck, and she has her eyes closed as she traces it, pulling lightly on my hair to get better access.
I feel my hips contort and bite down on my tongue so that she won't see what she's doing, how insanely erotic this is for me. But I can't repress a moan when she bites down and drags her tongue over the skin, sucking over my pulse point, making me squirm and pant my breaths.
Evil mermaid. Bad, bad mermaid.
My neck is definitely marked by the time she relents, or so I think, before her mouth is on mine, pulling my bottom lip between her teeth and dragging her sweet tongue over it. After that, we just gasp in between open mouthed kisses, willing tongues entwining in each other's mouths, setting a distinctive rhythm that drives me insane.
I'm letting her set the pace for everything - what scares me is she seems about as turned on as I am and I can't stop it. I won't.
Feels so good...
My hands roam the junction of her hips and thighs, and I allow my thumbs to slip into the elastic band of her shorts and stroke the sensitive skin above her hipbones, impossibly soft. I justify it to myself: this is the only tiny little bit of pushing I'll ever do.
But, apparently, it's enough.
I feel her arm going around my neck and pulling me closer - and that one inch that separates us suddenly evaporates. I can feel her soft, perfectly full chest coming in contact with my own and worse - so much worse - her hips grinding into mine.
My head falls back and my mouth is agape in a silent scream of pleasure, reduced to an exhale until there's nothing left in my lungs.
There is no way she doesn't know what she's doing to me, and yet she does it again, aligning herself, soft where I am hard, both of us forge hot. I move my hands to her sides, and even with clothes between us, the friction is unbelievable.
"Bella," I gasp out, halting her movements, and she mewls above me, beautiful and flushed, in protest. Why am I stopping her? My body is begging me to just curl my fingers into her soft flesh and press her down on me, but I manage to cut through my lust-induced stupor for a second. "I'm too... maybe we should slow down, because in a minute I might not be able to," I babble as, inside my head, my nether regions protest. Violently.
"I can't slow down," she whispers to my neck, her voice nothing but sex, trailing open mouthed kisses near my ear, "and if you do, you'll have to stop me."
"Fuck me," I exhale, feeling my traitorous fingers curl around her soft form and my hips bucking.
Drag me to the bottom of the sea, and I'll die a happy sailor.
The simple profanity on his lips sounds almost like a prayer, and I let him lie down, strong hands on my body, so I can slip my tank off, getting rid of my bra a second later. He whispers something I can't distinguish, my brain wrapping itself around the pleasure cursing through my body.
Nothing ever felt this good, and we haven't gotten rid of all our clothes yet. What have I been thinking these past two months?
He explores my breasts with his hands and his wet mouth, his face lost between white expanses of skin and my curtains of dark hair. All the while I keep pressing onto him, teetering on edge, almost there. I'm blind in need to the point of pain.
A rough, large hand, trails from my left breast down, down, under the elastic band again, and I can't muffle anything that comes out of my mouth, though I try. As soon as the heel of that beautiful hand touches my sweet spot, I come crashing down from that high, staring into the green eyes and open mouth of a man completely oblivious to his own pleasure, if for seconds.
Edward looks up at me in awe, and the power of that knowledge, of having him adore me like a lover and a goddess, wraps around my spine and grounds me, making me shake.
I'm welcome into his arms, still partially on top of him in the small mattress. But the temporary relief doesn't suffice, the need and the desperation are still there, and I wonder, as I make quick work of his pajama pants and mine, if anything ever will.
He's kneeling between my legs and turned halfway to the small steps when I stop him.
"Where are you going?" my voice low and demanding, as I fight off the need to rub my thighs and ease the tension.
"Condom," he whispers, hands on my legs and dilated pupils. The surge of power crashes again, as I realize I am the one reducing him to one-word answers and obvious physical need.
"I'm on the pill," I counter, shaking my head and pulling him on top of me. He jumps slightly in surprise when he feels my toes hooking into the waistband of his boxers and dragging them down his legs but then just groans, loudly, surrendering.
But when it comes down to tangle my body with his, skin on skin, I can find something else in his touches. Something beside desire, lust, need - although those are all there. I can find sweetness in his touches, in the way the nuzzles the skin of my collarbone, in the way he still handles me with the tip of his fingers, no matter how much I can feel he wants to dig in.
And no matter how much it makes me want him all the more, it makes me love him all the more as well.
He's holding me as he enters me fully, our lips joined and still fighting, but the rest of our bodies find its harmony quickly. His skin waves above my own, rising and falling, creating the delicious friction and building heat, a crescendo leading to an inevitable ending that I chase, and yet don't yearn for. It's like nothing I've ever experienced. My lips are saturated with his taste and scent, soap and smoke, and my lungs drink his breaths above me, even as he starts panting and groaning them out.
Edward pulls me up so I'm sitting in his lap, our dance never breaking, and the shift causes me to claw at his back, unaware of anything and everything else as I contract around him and he spills within me.
I just let myself be hugged and kissed and loved for however long he chooses to before looking up to his beautiful face, entranced, happy and in love.
"Thank you so much for letting me move in two months ago, Bella," he tells me, kissing my forehead and tucking my head on the crook of his neck. I inhale, greedy as ever, before acquiescing.
"It's the best decision I ever made."
Suddenly he shifts, cute behind scooting over so we won't tumble down the top bunk bed.
"But we do need to get a new bed," he laughs, a little nervous in my ear.
"Yes, this was a little dangerous," I agree, looking down. "But, in the meantime, we have the bottom bunk."
He smiles against my cheek.
"And the kitchen table."
"And the shower."
"Hmm... taking my mermaid in the shower..." he lingers, dreamily, and I quirk an eyebrow, wondering if he has a thing for mermaids.
"But only if you wear red shorts for me. Tight red shorts."
"Aye aye," he agrees, weaving his hands through my hair.
It's been four months since we finally talked about our feelings, among... other activities, and I'm a complete mess.
I don't particularly like being stuffed in a tuxedo, but, judging by the way women have been undressing me with her eyes tonight, it's a safe bet that I don't look completely like an idiot playing dress up. Which is how I feel.
This party is crowded and I'd rather be mixing drinks at the bar but someone else is taking care of that, now.
I'm being supportive of Bella's success, and living through a stuck-up party her publisher is throwing in honor of her book release is a very small price to pay to see her happy. Still, her moods have been swinging from the chandelier lately, with the stress that comes with finally having the book out, and I'm really hoping today is the start of new and calmer times.
That's why I can't stay calm myself, until I see her, pinned up hair and midnight blue gown, stunning as she walks in, center-stage, very nervous but pulling it together.
I feel my face splitting into a wide grin. That's my girl.
Her little speech is meant to thank anyone and everyone that helped her, especially Emily, naturally.
At the sound of applause she breathes again, and so do I, getting near the stage so I can accompany her.
"That wasn't so bad," I tell her, as she was positive she'd somehow pull a move so ungraceful she'd end up falling and flashing her panties to the entire room, further jeopardizing her success as a writer and any chances of a second book deal.
"I was shaking."
"It didn't show."
I'm polite and graceful as we "work" the crowd, and Bella never skips a beat, introducing me as her boyfriend and including me in the conversation. She's not relaxing yet, but maybe one day she'll realize how good she is at this.
The book cover is finally unveiled at midnight, and people come up to ask for an autograph, swamping her.
I'm perfectly content with nursing my flute of champagne and waiting for the crowd to finally thin out enough for her to slip away unnoticed.
And now I'm the nervous one.
On the walk to the car, she's holding a copy, shy and uncharacteristically avoiding my eyes.
Did she see it? Why is she nervous?
"Bella?" I finally find the courage to ask as we enter the new car I bought.
"I... This is for you," she finally tells me, tossing the book at me like it's on fire, and I recognize the pretty cover, red and yellow, neatly bound.
"I've already read it," I counter, confused. And loved it, I add, mentally.
"Not the author's note," she gulps, and I open it immediately, anxious to see what she wrote.
The first lines are, again, dedicated to Emily, and her parents come second, a touching gesture.
But the third line, and shortest of the three, is the most cryptic and meaningful.
In flowing italic it reads:
And at last, to my bunk bed companion, the man I love, for helping me take the risky path to happiness.
My mouth is on hers before she can blink, and now, it doesn't even matter.
I even start laughing.
"What is it?" Bella asks me, confused.
"I love you - and my author's note, thank you," I tell her, even though all I want to tell her is that I'm relieved.
That now I can reach into my pocket with steady hands and take out the ring and ask her to be my wife - knowing that she feels the same need to proclaim to the world just how much of an influence we have on each other.
She wrote it in ink.
And, seconds later, I write it in words, my proposal shocking her but still quickly accepted. It's my offer to give her anything and everything, just as she once did, by simply opening her door to me.