All the usual disclaimers apply.
This fic is rated M for a reason.
Thanks to azure0610, my beta extraordinaire, and to aerobee82, my phenomenal pre-reader.
Thanks to whynot, my VB over on Twilighted and to readergoof for creating my beautiful banner.
Chapter 1 – Red Eye
I heard the airline attendant's prim and proper voice come over the P.A. system at L.A. International Airport. I knew, even before she made her announcement that she was looking for me. I glanced down at my watch while running wildly through the terminal, my messenger bag smacking unceremoniously against bewildered airport patrons as I rushed to make the red-eye flight from L.A. to New York.
"This is the last and final boarding call for American Airlines Flight 448 travelling from L.A. to New York. The aircraft is at the gate and ready for an immediate departure."
I picked up the pace while nearly tripping over my flip-flops and muttering to myself that I would never wear them again. Okay, so that was totally unrealistic, but they were incredibly inconvenient when you were attempting to sprint across an airport to catch a flight.
The airline attendant's voice filled my ears again. "Will Isabella Swan please report to Terminal 4, Gate B? Your aircraft is set to depart immediately."
"Shit!" I swore out loud, not really caring who heard. I really needed to make this flight. I had an important assignment due the following day and a professor who could care less about excuses. As it was, I would need to spend my flight pouring over cello concertos by Bach and Boccherini, trying to find some inspiration for my own Baroque inspired composition - the first movement of a cello concerto, to be sure.
"I'm here, I'm here," I yelled, nearly crashing into the attendant who was in the process of shutting the door between the gate and the aircraft corridor. I hated that little tunnel connecting the aircraft to the terminal. Thank God I was running late. It meant I wouldn't have to stand around waiting for passengers to take their seats while I suffered random fits of claustrophobia pressed against nameless bodies in that tiny, unventilated space.
"Yes, yes, that's me," I stated breathlessly as I handed the attendant my I.D.
"Not a moment to spare," she admonished me, clearly displeased. "Hurry up and get to your seat. The aircraft is ready for an immediate departure."
That much was clear. She'd only made the announcement two times. Whatever; I was here, and glad of it.
Hugging my bag close to my side, I scurried down the corridor and onto the plane. It was times like these when I fully appreciated my father's wealth. I was sitting in the first class section of the aircraft tonight. In fact, on this particular flight I was seated in the aisle seat of the very first row. I brushed past a stewardess who wore a scowl and tried not to feel too guilty about detaining the plane.
Glancing around before taking my seat, I sighed when it appeared that every seat was occupied, including the one next to mine. It was a completely irrational fear of mine, but I really disliked flying on booked flights. I always worried that maybe the aircraft wouldn't be able to handle all of the weight. It was silly, I knew, and I flew all the time so it was a fear I had to keep in check. But it was irritating nonetheless because now, a small part of me was going to focus on this fact for the remainder of the flight. My mind would not be settled until we touched down in New York.
After placing my messenger bag in the overhead compartment, I settled into my seat. It felt good to sit down. The leather seat was soft and inviting and molded to the shape of my body. I took a deep breath and relaxed. Perhaps I was a bit dramatic, because the passenger occupying the seat next to mine chuckled softly. I glanced in that direction and was oddly entertained by the sight that met my eyes. It was a man seated next to me, or at least it appeared that way. It was somewhat difficult to be certain because the individual was cloaked in a dark blue hoody and his eyes were shielded by a pair of large black Ray bans. The black jeans and black Nike sneakers more or less convinced me that it was in fact a male hidden underneath the disguise. I grinned at him, but he paid me no attention. He appeared to be thoroughly engaged in his novel. Oh well, I didn't need any distractions on this flight. I had a date with Bach and Boccherini.
As soon as the plane was at cruising altitude and the stewardess had made the announcement that it was safe to use all portable electronic devices, I fished my laptop and some sheet music out of my messenger bag and got down to work. Opening my music composition program, I reviewed the work I'd done thus far. I sighed heavily, unhappy with the direction my composition was taking. It wasn't coming together for me, which was strange because of all the periods of music, I liked the Baroque period the best. I identified with the order and structure that defined that period of music. The music of this period made sense to me; there was a beginning, middle and end. The music always left me feeling satisfied, too. It followed patterns that were pleasing to the human ear. I'd studied the Baroque period of music extensively and played countless pieces by Baroque masterminds such as Bach and Handel as well as lesser known musical wizards such as Buxtehude, but I was at a loss as to where to take this particular composition.
"Pardon me, would you care for something to drink?" The stewardess that had glared at me when I entered the aircraft earlier was now staring at me with an enormous, false smile glued to her face.
"Water would be great, thanks."
I glanced at the mystery man seated next to me to see if he intended to place an order for something to drink, but he appeared to have fallen asleep, his book folded neatly over his right leg.
As I Lay Dying, by Faulkner.
I considered his choice of reading material. I enjoyed Faulkner, which surprised many people. There was nothing ordered about Faulkner's stream of conscience writing style. But I identified with free-flowing thought; I often found myself talking on and on, one thought flowing effortlessly into another totally disconnected thought. In short, I tended to ramble. I let my eyes casually roam up the mystery man's torso. I prayed he was indeed sleeping – it was impossible to be sure with his sunglasses on, as I unabashedly checked him out. He was tall and lean and scruffy. His arms were wrapped tightly around his chest and he leaned his head against the window. Something about him looked vaguely familiar, but I couldn't quite place where I might have seen him. It was possible he was a student at Julliard. Or perhaps I'd passed him on the streets in SoHo, where I lived in a recently renovated apartment building.
"Excuse me." The stewardess had returned with my bottle of water and a small cup of ice.
I mumbled my thanks and turned my attention back to the task at hand - composing. While glancing over a Bach cello concerto, I reached out and unscrewed the cap off the water bottle and poured myself a cup. But the water flowed out of the bottle much faster than I had anticipated and before I could do anything about it, water was flowing over the brim of the cup and onto my tray table.
"Shit!" I exclaimed rather loudly as I scrambled to push my laptop out of the way. Unfortunately, in the process I inadvertently knocked my cup off the tray table.
I heard my next door neighbor speak for the very first time, and he didn't sound too happy.
"Oh my God, I am so sorry!" I cried in a panic.
I grabbed my laptop and pushed the tray table out of the way, jumping up out of my seat to survey the damage. I couldn't believe it. I'd poured the entire contents of my cup of water into mystery man's lap! Mystery man sat there, his mouth agape, staring at me through his sunglasses in complete and utter shock. For an instant I thought I recognized him. It was his sharp, pronounced jaw line that tugged at my memory. I knew him from somewhere, but where? No matter. He was currently soaking wet and from what little I could gather, highly pissed off. Not thinking, I reached for my sweater and started furiously dabbing at the water in his lap.
"Hey!" His voice was firm. I felt his strong hand grip my wrist. "Would you please take your hand off my crotch?"
OH MY GOD.
I snatched my hand away, flopping back into my seat. The stewardess, having witnessed the entire ridiculous episode, arrived on scene with a towel. Mystery man accepted it gratefully, not looking in my direction. I was mortified, but figured it would be pointless to apologize to him again as he did not seem the slightest bit interested in talking to me. And that was before I poured water on him. I was certain that now he would avoid me like the plague. Oh well. I really did need to focus on my work.
After mopping up my tray table and carefully examining my laptop and sheet music for any water damage, I continued on with my assignment. As I poured over Bach, I thought I noticed mystery man glance in my direction but his sunglasses prevented me from being certain. Why in the hell was he wearing sunglasses on a red-eye flight, anyway? It was starting to bother me. When I brought up my composition in Sibelius, I knew for certain he was staring at me, rather my computer screen. I didn't look up though, instead keeping my eyes trained on my composition.
"A cellist," he said. It was a statement of fact, not a question. His voice was quiet and husky and incredibly sexy.
"Uh huh," I replied, still not daring to look up at him. I was too embarrassed at having grabbed his crotch only moments before. Mystery man didn't say anything more and as I became absorbed in my assignment, a comfortable silence settled between us. I'm not sure when, but at some point I felt mystery man shift in his seat, moving his body slightly closer to mine. I could tell he was trying to be discreet, but he was very obviously studying my computer screen - my composition, to be exact.
"You may want to remove a measure from your first and third modulation sequences. Your composition will flow better." His voice carried across the small distance between us and settled in my ears.
"What?" I was shocked. It had never occurred to me that this man sitting beside me might be a musician.
"Modulate a measure earlier in each sequence - keep things neat and clean. You're modulating too late. You may also consider adding a bit more embellishment."
I studied my composition intently for a moment before quietly nodding my head. He was right. And now I had no choice. I had to look at him.
"Thanks." I said meekly, not sure what else to say. "Sorry about before."
Mystery man chuckled softly then grinned at me. "It's okay. It was an accident."
I breathed a sigh of relief, thankful that mystery man didn't seem to be harboring any ill will towards me.
"You know music," I thoughtfully observed and he slowly nodded his head.
"Uh huh," he responded with a wry smile.
"What do you play?" I was greatly intrigued by this man and still scratching my head, trying to figure out where I might know him from.
"I play the piano and dabble in guitar, among other things."
"Oh," I replied, and immediately cringed at my response. It was so uninspired, but I couldn't think of anything else to say. For some reason or another, my senses were completely clouded and I was having a hard time focusing on anything other than mystery man's intoxicating scent.
GET A GRIP, BELLA, I sharply scolded myself.
I smiled weakly at mystery man and turned my attention back to my composition.
Once I'd reconstructed my modulation sequences, I settled back into finishing my composition. Once focused, I all but forgot about the ridiculously handsome creature sitting beside me. That is until I had the uncomfortable sensation that I was being watched. I risked a quick glance in mystery man's direction and sure enough, he was staring at me. Was it possible he was checking me out? I didn't want to believe it, but he was most definitely staring at me. I bit my lower lip and smiled cautiously at him.
"You're staring." I was pleasant but blunt. Mystery man chuckled.
"I'm sorry. I don't mean to be rude. I was listening to your composition."
I looked at him curiously and he chuckled again, tapping his pointer finger on his temple, indicating he'd been playing through my composition in his head. "The melody is quite beautiful, actually." He paused for a moment, furrowing his brow as if considering something before continuing. "I like the choice of E Minor for the key, too. The cello really captures the essence of the minor keys, I think." I nodded my head in agreement. So this man really did know music. "It's somewhat reminiscent of Elgar's Cello Concerto in E-minor, though your composition is most definitely characteristic of the Baroque, as opposed to the Romantic period of music."
To stay I was stunned by mystery man's words would have been an understatement, and it was apparently written clearly on my face. Mystery man smirked at my dumbfounded expression. I opened my mouth to speak, but I couldn't seem to find the proper words. Mystery man had caught me completely off guard. He was right, my melody was loosely based on Elgar's famous concerto, but I wouldn't expect anyone who wasn't extremely well versed in music literature to know this. I studied the man sitting beside me and he studied me back.
"You're right," I finally managed to say. "Elgar's cello concerto ranks among my most favorite pieces of literature for the cello," I quietly said. Mystery man nodded almost imperceptibly, but I noticed. He was still wearing his sunglasses and it was really starting to aggravate me. Now that we were on speaking terms, I wanted to address this man properly. I didn't really feel like I could carry on any sort of conversation with him if I couldn't clearly see his face. And then it happened. He reached up with his right hand and in one quick sweep of his hand removed his sunglasses from his face, depositing them into the left breast pocket of his long sleeved, button down flannel shirt.
I knew immediately who this man sitting next to me was and I couldn't have been more shocked if I'd discovered I was pregnant by Immaculate Conception. It was the green eyes, so poignant and deep, that gave him away. I was vaguely aware of my heart racing faster than a hummingbird's wings in flight and I hoped and prayed that Edward Cullen couldn't sense my reactions.
Yes, so it was that this mystery man I'd been keeping company with for the greater part of an hour was actually one of the most sought after twenty-something actors in Hollywood today. I couldn't believe I hadn't realized this sooner. I knew he looked familiar. But then again, I didn't really pay attention to matters pertaining to Hollywood. I caught the occasional movie with friends, but had little interest in the actors and actresses who starred in them. And I certainly never read any of the mind-numbing publications such as People Magazine or US which frequently showcased such movie stars. Still, I'd seen this face staring back at me from the cover of countless tabloids while in line at the grocery store. It would have been impossible to avoid the picture of perfection that was Edward Cullen.
Fighting to maintain my outward composure while struggling to breathe, I watched as Edward extended his right hand forward in greeting.
"I'm Edward," he said in a very matter-of-fact tone of voice. Without thinking, I placed my hand in his, gripping it firmly.
It was an interesting exchange to say the least. I wasn't sure what exactly transpired, but a weird current seemed to rush through me when I touched Edward. I studied his face to see if maybe he'd felt it too, but if he did, he did a good job of keeping it to himself. Edward didn't offer his last name when he introduced himself, though of course it wasn't necessary. I knew who he was, however I wasn't sure he was aware that I knew. I imagined most girls would make complete asses of themselves if introduced to him. I had damn near slipped into that trap too. Thankfully, a reasonable head prevailed and I managed a cool but friendly introduction.
"I'm Bella, Bella Swan."
"It's nice to meet you, Bella," he said, and he sounded so sincere, it caught me off guard.
"Likewise," I answered politely.
Not wanting to tempt fate, I turned back to my composition, hoping Edward would return to his nap or reading his book. If I was intrigued by this man before, I had absolutely no interest in speaking with him now. He seemed nice enough, but I really needed to finish my assignment. And, well, my hopes had been dashed. Mystery man was not some random New York musician with whom a chance encounter on a red eye flight could have possibly led to something more. No, he was a man who was completely unobtainable.
He was Edward Cullen.
Thankfully, Edward didn't say anything more. Instead, he reached down into his backpack, extricating his iPod and smiling lightly at me before inserting his ear buds. He fiddled with the controls for a moment before eventually settling back into his seat. I watched out of the corner of my eye as his eyelids fluttered closed. I couldn't help but wonder what he was listening to, but didn't dare ask. Instead, I focused all my attention on my badly neglected composition.
An hour passed before I felt comfortable with the rough draft of my composition. It wasn't perfect, but I was tired and having trouble focusing. Edward had fallen asleep soon after inserting his ear buds. I knew this because every so often, the softest of snores would escape his mouth. I wanted to allow myself to succumb to sleep too, but I knew better than that. If I shut my eyes now, I'd sleep the rest of the flight home and I still had work to do. Instead, I shut down my lap top, slipping it inside my messenger bag while simultaneously extricating a very old and just as worn copy of Bach's Cello Suites.
I had played Bach's suites from this very book since I was a young girl, debuting his first suite in G Major at the tender age of 7. Sixteen years later, I was still attempting to tackle the suites, this time focusing on his sixth suite in D Major. This was my chosen piece for my performance exam at the end of the semester. Today was September 25th. I had approximately two and a half months left to perfect my performance and I had to admit, I was nervous. The sixth cello suite was without a doubt the most technically demanding of all Bach's suites.
Placing the book on my lap, I turned to the sixth suite and began running through it in my head. I shut my eyes, working hard to visualize the distinct rhythm and sound of each note. Without thinking, my hands and fingers started moving as if they were playing the cello. I found that this method of practice was quite effective. When I actually sat down with my cello to play, my mental preparation helped me to fine tune my performance and assisted me in working through particularly rigorous passages. With my eyes closed, I fell into a deep meditative state where it was simply me and the music. I was therefore startled when I heard Edward speak.
"How long have you been playing?" He asked softly. My eyes shot open and I turned abruptly to face him. Edward appeared momentarily shocked by my reaction, his green eyes growing wide in surprise and his long, lean body tensing up. I sighed, shaking my head and laughing at myself.
"I'm sorry. It's just, you startled me. I thought you were sleeping," I said, trying in vain to apologize for my over reaction. Edward smiled at me, immediately relaxing.
"I guess I did rest my eyes for a bit." He continued to look at me expectantly. "So," he said after a moment. "Are you going to answer my question?"
"What question was that?" I wondered, because I honestly could not remember. All I could focus on was the fact that I was once again engaged in conversation with Edward Cullen, movie star extraordinaire. I was suddenly finding it very hard to breathe, let alone pay proper attention to the conversation. Edward chuckled softly - knowingly maybe, while simultaneously shaking his head at me.
"How long have you been playing?" He asked again, this time taking care to enunciate each word.
"Playing what?" I asked, rather stupidly, because of course he was referring to the cello. I really needed to pull myself together.
"Do you play something other than the cello?" He asked, appearing highly interested in my response.
I shrugged non-commit ally, not wanting to appear smug. I didn't really like talking about myself or the variety of instruments that I played. People often seemed offended by my musical talent and I couldn't fathom why. Edward stared at me curiously, his gaze still firmly expectant. I wasn't trying to be elusive, but I could see that my vague response had piqued his curiosity. In order to ward off further inquiries, I answered his original question.
"Two years, nine months old."
Edward furrowed his brow in confusion and I laughed out loud.
"That's how old I was when I started to play the cello. I've been playing for 20 years." Edward smiled at me, nodding in understanding.
"You were quite young," he observed.
Edward had turned his body in his seat so that he was now facing me. His body language told me he was actually interested in what I had to say, so I continued to talk.
"I learned to play before I learned to talk," I admitted, because it was true. Music was in my blood.
Edward regarded me thoughtfully.
I smiled at him and shrugged my shoulders. "I was a child musical prodigy, but an unusually late talker. Go figure."
With that, Edward laughed out loud, and I couldn't help but notice how beautiful a sound it was. "So how does a two year old child decide to play the cello?" He asked me, now thoroughly
engaged in our conversation. I hesitated for a moment, carefully considering my response before speaking. Answering his question would require me to talk about my mother, something I rarely did, especially not with complete strangers. But I decided that it felt okay to share a part of her with him. As crazy as it sounds, I felt comfortable talking with Edward. On some level, he already felt like a friend, even though I just met him.
"My mother was a cellist," I whispered quietly, staring down at my hands that lay twisted in my lap. I was fidgeting anxiously, nervous that Edward might inquire as to why I had referred to my mother in the past tense. Thankfully, he didn't.
"Would I know of her?" He asked. His voice was soft and gentle, and in that moment I realized Edward was aware that I'd referred to my mother in the past tense. But he wouldn't ask me about that. It wasn't his place to, and he knew that, and I appreciated it.
"It's doubtful," I said. "She was quite accomplished, but she wasn't famous or anything. Just a woman who loved to play, I suppose."
"So, did she encourage you to play?" He asked. I couldn't quite figure out why Edward was so interested in me, but it was an easy and relaxed conversation and I found I was actually enjoying myself and his company.
"Actually, no," I replied. "Not in the least. In fact, she was determined that if I was going to play it would be of my own accord. She didn't bombard me with music from an early age and she certainly didn't play CDs of cello music every night as I fell asleep."
Edward chuckled at that comment.
"So, you just decided on your own to play the cello at two years of age?"
"Not exactly; my mother might not have gone out of her way to nurture an interest in the cello, but she certainly didn't discourage my interest, either. She was definitely an integral part of my decision to start playing."
I smiled as I resurrected long buried memories that floated on the edge of my conscious.
"Sometimes, when my mother would practice, I'd climb up into her lap and she'd take my tiny hands in hers. She'd wrap my left hand around the thick neck of the cello and she'd let me finger notes on the strings. Then, she'd cover my right hand with hers and demonstrate movement of the bow."
"What a beautiful memory," Edward quietly offered, and his voice was so sincere that my carefully constructed façade nearly cracked. Even after all these years, it was still incredibly difficult to speak about my mother. I felt the tears welling up in the corners of my eyes but I fought them back, instead managing to smile lightly at Edward.
"How about you?" I asked in haste, suddenly desperate to change the subject. I really didn't want to fall apart on the plane. "How old were you when you started playing the piano?"
"Three years old," Edward responded casually and I wasn't the least bit surprised.
"I didn't start out taking lessons or anything," he added. "I would just sit at the piano and tinker with it, working out songs that were familiar to me."
I looked at Edward, raising my brows in question.
"You have perfect pitch?"
Edward chuckled then nodded. "Yeah, it sort of shocked my parents when I sat at the piano and started playing songs without any music or instruction. No one in my family is a musician, so it wasn't like there was this expectation that maybe I'd be musically gifted." Edward laughed lightly before continuing. "In fact, the piano was a hand me down from my grandmother, who bought it at a garage sale because she thought it would look nice sitting in her parlor."
I laughed at Edward's story, sincerely appreciating the lighthearted turn in conversation.
"So, you were three years old when you started playing piano by ear. Did you start lessons then too?"
Despite my initial reluctance to speak to him, I was now quite curious about Edward Cullen and I couldn't help but ask questions. It seemed that like me, Edward was a musical prodigy and I wanted to know more.
"No, no," Edward answered me with a shake of his head. "My parents were amused by my talent, but neither one of them recognized it as being anything special so they weren't in a hurry to enroll me in classes. They figured it was just something I could have fun with."
"So when did you begin? Lessons, that is?" I wondered.
"When I was five. My mother had a cassette tape of famous classical music she played in the house from time to time. I loved Eine Kleine Nachtmusik and managed to work it out at the piano. It was a very crude performance, of course, but there was no mistaking what it was. I clearly remember the incredulous expression on my mother's face as she stood in the doorway to the kitchen listening to me play. When I finished the piece, she asked me if I'd like to take lessons." Edward smiled brilliantly and shook his head, laughing lightly at the memory.
"I can imagine what your parents must have thought," I said, stunned that he'd managed to work through Mozart's famous serenade for strings at the age of five.
"So what about you," Edward asked, unexpectedly turning the topic of conversation back to me. "Are you a professional cellist?"
I looked up at Edward, deciding how to craft my answer as he waited patiently for my response.
It should not have been hard for me to answer him. Indeed, I was what one might consider a professional cellist, and had been for a very long time. I'd performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic when I was just 7 years old. But presently, I was just a student at Julliard. So, I decided to go with that.
"I'm a student at Julliard, actually," I said. "I've had offers to play with a few orchestras, but I decided I wanted to study theory and composition, broaden my musical horizons so to speak."
Of course, Edward immediately asked which orchestras I'd had offers to play with. I inwardly cringed, somewhat hesitant to answer his question. I didn't like to brag. And if people knew anything about orchestras, they generally didn't believe me when I told them which ones I'd had offers to play with, anyway. Either that or they treated me as if I felt I was better than they were. I guess when it came down to it many people were just envious of my talent. I didn't like to make people feel uncomfortable, so I just didn't talk about it much. But in this case, I decided to answer Edward's question honestly. He didn't seem like the type to harbor any ill feelings toward me simply because I was an accomplished musician. In fact, he of all people would probably understand what it felt like to be so superficially judged.
"The Cleveland Orchestra and the Boston Symphony Orchestra," I said quietly, looking away. There were many other offers, of course, but those were the only ones I'd seriously considered.
Edward's deep green eyes opened wide as saucers at my response, surprise clearly marking his expression.
"Really?" He asked with a reverent ring to his voice. I shrugged, not wanting to make a big deal out of it. "No need to be modest, Bella. That's amazing. You're obviously truly gifted."
I blushed, feeling a little bit uncomfortable. Truth be told, I didn't like receiving compliments. It's not that I didn't appreciate my talent; I knew I was a gifted musician. But I had never really learned how to accept praise. I thought, in part, it had to do with the fact that I didn't play music for the enjoyment of others. I played music because it defined me and it was the best way for me to express myself. Music made me whole - it was the essence of my soul. I couldn't survive without it.
I realized Edward was looking at me curiously and decided I needed to change the subject.
"Tell me something Edward," I started, turning my body inward so that I was looking straight at him. I tried desperately not to let myself become too distracted by his physical beauty, but that in and of itself was a monumental task.
"How did a young piano prodigy find himself in Hollywood making movies?"
I asked the question before I realized what I was saying. Edward's smile fell slightly and he cocked his head to the side, studying me closely for several long moments. If it hadn't been evident that I knew who Edward was before, it was now. There was no hiding the fact that I knew he was a famous actor. Of course, it didn't really matter to me, but would it matter to him? Would he suddenly feel uncomfortable with me? I hoped not. The fact that he was famous didn't change anything for me and I didn't want it to change anything for him. As far as I was concerned, we were simply two people having a pleasant conversation, trying to pass time on a red eye flight from L.A. to New York.
"Well," Edward began slowly with a hint of a smirk. "I guess you could say it was purely coincidental. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time."
I sighed in relief. He was still talking to me and he didn't seem to be bothered by the fact that I knew he was an actor.
"Care to elaborate?" I asked. Edward was being very vague, and I wanted details. He must have been amused by my question because he looked at me and laughed - a beautiful carefree laugh.
"I attended a high school for the performing arts and my girlfriend at the time was in theater," he explained. "She landed the lead role in Romeo and Juliet and I tagged along with her to her first rehearsal. Romeo didn't show and they needed a stand-in to read his lines."
Here, Edward shrugged.
"I read the part and was apparently convincing because they offered me the role on the spot."
I looked at Edward incredulously. "Had you ever acted before?"
"Never," he said with a slight shake of his head, and it was my turn to lavish praise.
"You must have a natural gift to be handed another man's part without ever having acted," I said but Edward just shrugged it off.
"I think I was just in the right place at the right time."
So, not only was this man inhumanly handsome, intelligent and thoughtful, he was modest, too? I sighed. It was a cruel hand fate had dealt, placing this obviously perfect man, who I already felt a connection with, by my side when it was unlikely he would ever be anything more to me than just a passing acquaintance.
"So how did it go?" I asked, trying not to get too carried away with my musings and to just enjoy the moment. It was certainly one I would not soon forget.
"Yes," I replied, curious as to how his first acting role played out.
"Well, I'd be lying if I said it was easy. I had a lot to learn about being on stage. But Angela, my girlfriend at the time, was a lot of help. It didn't hurt that I had strong feelings for her. They ended up crossing over into my performance," he explained.
"So, the play was a success?"
"I think so," Edward mused with a quiet shrug of his shoulders. "I got an agent out of it."
I stared at Edward incredulously. He was so nonchalant in the delivery of his words that I wasn't sure I'd heard him correctly.
"I'm sorry. Did you just say your turn as Romeo landed you an agent?"
Edward glanced at me, an unmistakable smirk pulling at his lips which told me all I needed to know.
"No need to be modest, Edward. You're obviously truly gifted," I teased, turning his previous comment back on him. Edward ducked his head shyly, clearly as uncomfortable with praise as I was.
"So what happened to your music?" I asked quietly a moment later, and I immediately regretted my question. Edward's face noticeably fell, tiny creases appearing around the corners of his eyes. His mouth twitched infinitesimally and he sighed heavily before fixing me with a sullen gaze.
"I'm sorry, Edward," I hurried to say. "I didn't mean to upset you. We don't have to talk about that if you don't want to."
Edward held his hand up while simultaneously shaking his head.
"It's all right. I'm sorry. I don't mean to be so dramatic," he said, offering me an apologetic smile.
And I couldn't help it. I giggled…just a little.
"It's becoming clear to me just how fitting a role Romeo must have been for you," I teased. And at that, Edward laughed too, his eyes alight with amusement. I sighed in relief.
"After Romeo and Juliet, everything happened so fast," Edward went on to explain. "My agent landed me a small role in an Indy film and I decided to run with it. It didn't pay much by Hollywood standards, but it certainly paid more than I could have ever hoped to earn as a musician."
"I guess you could say I sold out," he sighed, clearly conflicted about his decision to pursue acting over music.
"I don't think so," I offered softly. "Acting was obviously something new and exciting for you. You'd played music your entire life. Sometimes we need a change. When you were offered an opportunity to develop a different part of yourself, you accepted. There's nothing wrong with that. Music obviously remains an important part of who you are. That won't change just because you pursue other interests. So, I wouldn't say you've sold out at all."
Edward was quiet for a moment, furrowing his brow and thoughtfully considering what I said before slowly smiling at me.
"Thank you, Bella," he murmured. "Thank you for your kind words and thank you for the company. It's so nice to just sit and talk, you know? Have a casual conversation about life with a stranger…" Edward trailed off and I nodded in response, because I understood exactly what he was saying. Sometimes it was easier to open up to someone you barely knew than it was to share your life with loved ones. It was almost like spending time with a therapist, someone who offered unbiased insight into your life.
"Can I ask you something?" I asked, feeling braver now that we'd been freely conversing for several hours. Edward nodded in response.
"What were you listening to earlier, before you fell asleep?" Edward eyed me curiously for a moment before asking me why I wanted to know.
"I don't know," I said with a casual shrug. "Just curious, I guess."
Edward chuckled, handing me his iPod. I looked at him askance, and he seemed to take great pleasure in teasing me when I asked him what he wanted me to do with it.
"Place the ear buds in your ears and listen to the music silly girl," he teased, and I blushed an embarrassing shade of red.
"Of course," I mumbled, grabbing his headphones and inserting them into my ears.
"Now press play," Edward continued with a wry smile. I shot him a warning look but he paid me no heed. He was obviously enjoying having fun at my expense, but I didn't mind. I kind of liked it in fact…
I froze mid thought as the music Edward had been listening to filtered through the ear buds and into my ears.
"Rachmaninoff's third piano concerto," I whispered softly.
Edward stopped laughing and was now watching me closely. He slowly nodded his head. "Are you familiar with it?" He quietly inquired and I nodded in response.
It struck me then just how surreal it was to be sitting on an airplane next to Edward Cullen, listening to Rachmaninoff's third piano concerto on his iPod. I had to refrain from ghosting my fingers across an imaginary keyboard. Yes, I play piano. In fact, I was a child piano prodigy too. I was offered the opportunity to double major in both cello and piano performance at Julliard, but opted instead to focus my studies solely on applied cello, theory and composition.
I didn't say anything to Edward about playing the piano. I was afraid I'd already come off as boastful when I'd announced that I'd been recruited to play cello in two of the United State's leading symphony orchestras. Instead, I settled back into my seat and listened to Rachmaninoff's masterpiece, wondering to myself if Edward had ever played it. Technically, it was an extraordinarily difficult piece to play and was widely considered to be one of the most challenging piano concertos ever composed. I'd performed it several times over the course of my life, most recently in front of a panel of Julliard judges a few years back. I sighed heavily as I considered this. It had been a long time since I'd sat down at the piano and attempted to play a piece of this complexity. I was completely out of practice and I missed playing. But between my course load at school and my involvement with several string ensembles, I had little time left over to play the piano.
The music ended too soon and I sighed heavily before removing the ear buds and laying them in my lap. I glanced over at Edward, but he was quietly reading his book. He didn't even seem to notice that I wasn't listening to the music any more. Not wanting to bother him, I turned my head away from him and shut my eyes. I was so tired, and despite the excitement of the flight I felt myself drifting off to sleep. That is until I heard Edward speak softly to me.
"May I have my iPod back?" He asked.
Opening my eyes, I turned towards Edward, only to see he was holding his hand out to me. My eyes darted to my lap where I realized I was still holding his iPod in my hand and I suddenly felt a little bit silly.
"Of course," I mumbled.
For some reason, I was starting to feel a little bit nervous. I wasn't sure why, but the reality that I'd just spent the better part of a cross country flight getting to know Edward Cullen on a rather intimate level was finally starting to set in. Unfortunately, the fact that I was nervous was apparently obvious.
"You're shaking," Edward commented as he took his iPod from me.
Was I? Now I felt completely ridiculous.
"I'm cold," I blurted out, desperate to provide any logical excuse for why I'd be shaking. Edward narrowed his eyes at me, seeming not to accept my explanation at face value. Nevertheless, he reached down between the two of us and pulled my sweater from my messenger bag.
"Why don't you put your sweater on," he said, and I swallowed hard, taking my sweater and thanking him politely.
"You're welcome," he murmured back before turning to fiddle with his iPod. I watched him for a moment, unable to look away from his strikingly beautiful face, before once again feeling my eyes start to close. I briefly considered revisiting my composition, but realized I was fighting a losing battle. So, I snuggled back into the seat, pulling my sweater across my torso and thinking of Edward Cullen.
It was his voice, so soft and inviting while at the same time masculine and gruff that called to me moments later.
"Bella?" He quietly asked. "I have something I'd like you to listen to, that is if you don't mind…" Edward seemed a little bit shy, and that alone garnered my immediate attention. I reached out to take his iPod from him while silently nodding my head. Our fingers brushed against one another in the exchange and I had to fight back the goose bumps that threatened to pepper my skin. This feeling of…attraction…was peculiar to me, and I didn't quite know what to do with it. The fact that it was Edward Cullen I was seemingly attracted to only served to further boggle my mind.
Edward watched me as I pressed play on the little device, very obviously interested in my reaction. And when the sultry, melodic voice coupled with the gentle strum of a guitar filtered into my ears, I knew precisely why.
It was Edward.
It was Edward singing and playing guitar, and truthfully, I was momentarily speechless. His voice was nothing short of angelic. It was soft and beckoning and not at all what I would have expected him to sound like. I lifted my head to Edward, meeting his quiet, expectant gaze. He had run his hand up through his hair, making a terrible, sexy mess, and it struck me that he was nervous about my reaction. I smiled widely at him, doing my best to put him at ease.
"This is really good, Edward," I said honestly, because it was. It was better than good, actually. But I didn't want to lay it on too thick. He might think I was being dishonest.
"You think?" He asked, appearing unconvinced by my statement.
"It really is," I replied, and without thinking I reached out and gently lay my fingers on his forearm. I immediately pulled them back, but not before noticing his gaze fall to where we'd briefly been connected.
"Is this something you wrote?" I asked, the shakiness in my voice betraying my ever increasing nerves. I was definitely attracted to this man and not just on a physical level, but a cerebral level too.
"I…I don't recognize the song."
Edward blushed, giving himself away before he even had the chance to reply.
"Wow," I murmured, amazed. "I'm duly impressed. You definitely have options if you fail as an actor."
And with that, Edward burst out laughing, immediately dispelling the mounting awkwardness between us. When I realized how completely inappropriate my comment was, I couldn't help but laugh too.
"I can't believe I just said that," I groaned, ducking my head to try and hide my embarrassment. "I really didn't mean it like that. I mean, I'm sure you're a very talented actor. I've never actually seen any of your movies, but I'm certain you must be talented…"
Edward only laughed harder as I very nearly swallowed my entire foot whole. I mean, what on earth was I saying, anyway?
"All right, then," I said with a perfunctory shake of my head. "I think I'm going to keep my mouth shut now from here on out. I'm obviously incapable of expressing myself without insulting you," I half mumbled half laughed while playfully rolling my eyes.
When Edward stopped laughing long enough to collect himself, he asked me if I had really never seen any of his films. I shook my head, no.
"Not even my turn as a love struck werewolf in the Deep in the Woods trilogy? It's what I'm famous for, after all," he teased.
In all honestly, I hadn't seen the film or even read the books. However, I wasn't completely ignorant of pop culture. I was aware that both the books and the film were wildly successful and made a note to myself to rent the movie with my best friend Alice the next night I had free.
Again, I shook my head, indicating to Edward that I had in fact, not seen the film. He stared at me for a moment before resting back against his seat, seemingly lost in his own thoughts. Just then, the stewardess came over the intercom and announced that we'd be landing in twenty minutes. I listened to the end of Edward's song before handing him back his iPod.
"Thanks for sharing that with me, Edward. I really enjoyed listening to it. You're very talented," I said in earnest. My words really weren't meant to flatter him. His music really was something I could imagine being popular in the mainstream music scene. Edward appeared genuinely pleased by my comments and smiled appreciatively at my praise.
Soon the plane was descending through the clouds. At some point in time while Edward and I were talking, the sky had morphed from pitch black into a beautiful palette of reds, oranges and pinks. The sun was peeking out from the clouds now as it started its ascent high into the sky and I couldn't believe five hours had already passed. My eyes were burning from staying awake the entire flight, but it had been worth it. Spending time with Edward had been worth it.
"I've enjoyed talking to you, Bella," he said as our time together slowly started to draw to a close.
I looked over at him and saw that he was looking down at his hands which were folded neatly in his lap. Then he looked up at me and smiled the most beautifully crooked smile I had ever seen, and I was momentarily rendered speechless. When I finally managed to find my voice, I smiled shyly back at him, letting him know I'd thoroughly enjoyed talking to him too. And I had. I really had. Meeting Edward Cullen on a flight from L.A. to New York had been a highly unexpected, yet thoroughly pleasant surprise. And I could have been wrong, but I really felt as if the feeling was mutual, as if Edward had enjoyed himself just as much as I had. Almost as if on cue, Edward turned to me, his green eyes burning into mine.
"I'll be in New York for awhile," he said. "If you'd like, maybe we could grab a bite to eat one night."
I could not have been more shocked if Edward had gotten down on one knee and proposed. Okay…perhaps that might have been marginally more shocking, but needless to say his offer took me completely off guard. Was Edward Cullen asking me, Bella Swan, the most ordinary of girls, out on a date? My heart thundered madly in my chest and I felt my breath quicken as I unwittingly started to shake.
"You're shaking again," Edward noted, looking at me with a mixture of curiosity, and if I wasn't mistaken, concern.
"I…I'm sorry," I stammered rather awkwardly, feeling utterly ridiculous and exposed. Surely he could see the effect he had on me, and that simultaneously thrilled and terrified me. Edward narrowed his eyes at me, studying me closely for a moment's time before a slow, easy smile spread across his face.
"Give me your number and I'll give you a call," he said, his smile now morphing into an unmistakable smirk. And that was all it took. His presumptuous statement immediately snapped me out of my star struck stupor.
"I haven't said yes, you know," I playfully shot back. "I'm actually quite busy, I'm not sure I'll have the time."
The words left my mouth before I had a chance to think about what I was saying.
Was I actually playing hard to get?
Was I flirting with Edward Cullen?
Edward put on a show of being mildly shocked by my response all the while waiting patiently, phone in hand, for me to give him my number. I was just about to give in and surrender the information when my own phone rang. I immediately recognized the ring tone. It belonged to Alice, my very best friend. Glancing out the window, I saw that we were already on the ground, taxiing down the runway and heading towards the gate. I put my finger up to Edward, indicating to him that he should give me a moment.
"Alice?" I answered in a hushed tone.
"Bella, you're home!" Alice's shrill voice rang out through the phone, loud enough for Edward to hear. He cocked his head to one side, staring at my phone curiously.
"Alice, how on earth did you know I was here?" I asked. I was more than a little perturbed with her for interrupting my conversation with Edward.
"I monitored the progress of your flight on the internet," she explained excitedly. "It said your plane touched down at 5:45 a.m. Let's meet at Starbuck's for coffee!"
I groaned. All I wanted to do was sleep, but Alice was obviously wide awake and chipper and ready to meet the day head on.
"Alice, I really just want to go home and get some sleep before class. Can't we meet for lunch or something?" Alice huffed, seeming highly displeased by my response.
"Bella, you've been gone for nearly a week now. I've missed you," she whined. "Oh, and Johann is counting down the minutes until you arrive."
So there it was. I knew that Alice was more concerned about dropping Johann off than she was about seeing me. I had to laugh at her transparency.
"Alice, can't you bring Johann by later? I'm really tired."
"No, way, Bella," Alice firmly rebuked and I groaned. "Do you realize I had to chase Johann all the way up 5th Avenue yesterday afternoon in my Jimmy Choo heels? God only knows how many people he knocked down as he bounded up the street and there I was, little ole' one hundred five pound Alice, frantically chasing after him."
I chuckled at the image of Alice running up the street after Johann.
"Why was he running away from you?" I asked. Johann was generally very well behaved.
"I don't know, Bella," she sighed. "I think he may have seen a cute girl." And with that, Alice laughed. I could hear Johann in the background then and Alice's voice asking him if he wanted to talk to mommy.
"Alice, no," I protested in vain. I really didn't want to talk to Johann right now. I wanted to finish my conversation with Edward. But it was too late. I heard heavy breathing on the other end of the line that could only belong to Johann and I knew that Alice would not hang up the phone until I'd spoken to him.
"Hi sweetie, how are you?" I crooned, feeling completely ridiculous and trying my best to angle myself away from Edward. "Mommy is going to see you real soon. Be a good boy for Auntie Alice, okay?"
I happened a glance over my shoulder then only to find Edward staring blankly back at me, but before I could decipher what was wrong Alice came back on the line. She told me she was headed to Starbuck's and that she'd meet me at my apartment with Johann in forty-five minutes. I sighed, resigned to the fact that I wasn't going to be sleeping any time soon and agreed to meet her at my apartment then. Several moments later, I hung up my phone and turned my attention back to Edward.
"I'm sorry," I said, offering him an apologetic smile. "I didn't mean to be rude."
Edward was quiet, studying me curiously for a moment before he finally spoke.
"That's okay," he slowly said. "You were…..you were um going to give me your number," he said quietly.
While I was thrilled that Edward was following up with his request, I couldn't help but notice that his tone of voice had changed. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but he came across less cocky now and more…could it be, nervous? I smiled at him, supposing it didn't really matter as I rattled off my number. I doubted he'd ever call, anyway.
Edward entered my number into his phone before slipping it into his shirt pocket. He turned to face me then, and I noticed his expression was suddenly guarded. I watched curiously as he opened his mouth as if to speak, then furrowed my brow in confusion as he paused, staring at me as if he might find the answer to his question swimming somewhere within the depths of my eyes.
"You have children?" He finally managed to say, and I felt my eyes grow wide with surprise.
"What?" I practically yelled before remembering we were still on a crowded plane. I cringed and stared back at Edward with what I could only assume resembled complete and utter confusion. "What did you just say?"
Edward looked straight at me as he asked his question again.
"Do you have children?" He asked again, this time more slowly.
"What on earth would give you that idea?" I wondered, completely bewildered by his question. He at first looked confused, then somewhat relieved…then decidedly embarrassed.
"I'm sorry," he muttered as he ducked his head. "I shouldn't have been listening to your conversation. It's just…it was hard not to, what with you sitting right next to me…"
And then it hit me.
"Oh my God, you heard me talking to Johann," I laughed, and suddenly it all made sense.
"Johann's my dog, Edward," I said by way of explanation, reaching out to once again rest my fingers on his forearm. "I promise you, I don't have any children."
Edward looked visibly relieved at my words, both of us exhaling softly as the plane rolled to a stop outside its gate.
"Well, that's a good thing," he said, a gorgeous smile once again gracing his beautiful face as he ran his hand through his hair. And if I wasn't mistaken, Edward Cullen was flirting with me.
"Right," I said, feeling a blush stain my cheeks. I tried to turn away so that Edward wouldn't see but the soft chuckle that escaped his throat told me that he had.
"Excuse me, Mr. Cullen." A blonde hair stewardess with a nametag that read Bambi interrupted our moment. She leaned past me to speak to Edward, her very voluptuous and obviously surgically enhanced breasts dangling right in front of his face. I wanted to reach out and slap her, but managed to keep my hands otherwise occupied.
"Your security detail will be waiting for you right outside the door. You'll be the first to deplane, of course." Bambi paused and licked her lips before continuing. "If there's anything I can help you with, please don't hesitate to ask."
Edward frowned, muttering his thanks as he gathered up his few belongings. Apparently this wasn't the reaction Bambi had hoped for and she lingered momentarily, staring at Edward expectantly. When he patently ignored her she finally moved away. And I couldn't help it, I inwardly squealed.
My momentary joy was short-lived. As I watched Edward pull his hoody over his head, I realized that this was it; I would probably never see him again. And a part of me was irrationally sad because of it. I'd thoroughly enjoyed my chance encounter with a very famous stranger on a red eye flight from L.A. to New York. And for a moment, as Edward paused and looked at me, offering me one last crooked smile before slipping past my seat, I allowed myself to imagine that he might be feeling the same thing. I also, for the briefest of moments, allowed myself to imagine what it might be like to actually be with Edward Cullen…to be able to spend time getting to know him better. But alas, I knew that could never be.
Thank you for reading.
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