Chapter 2 – War of the Roses…er…Lilies.
It's amazing how the smallest things can seem so epic and monstrous and all-consuming.
At the moment, though the hum of his breathing should have been something altogether comforting-a soothing susurration beside me- the steady intake of breath in and out of his lungs indicating that he was still indeed alive should have been something that I welcomed.
But, instead, his steady beating heart and breathing in the still quiet of our bedroom amid the early morning light just peeking a sliver of a ray though the heavy black-out curtains taunted me.
No, it laughed at me really.
And with that laughter I flinched and stiffened.
Yes. He was still alive, still well.
And his sporadic mumbles in his sleep, his eyes shifting side to side beneath his eyelids amid his REM slumber caused the most unexpected flair of fury to rise within me.
The volume of his near-silent breathing rose, heightening each wave of sound in my ear, tickling every cilia in my ear canal, thrumming a screeching sound that was so maddening, so tangible that I could almost bite it. Almost crunch it between my teeth.
His breath in that early morning became a nail-splitting, mind-numbing buzz saw.
I felt him in my blood; I heard him in my sleep. He was attached to every sensory function in my body.
He was a part of me.
I tossed and turned for hours, unable to sleep, only to find him beside me, sleeping so peacefully, so soundly, that he barely even moved. The only motion I noticed was the slight twitching of his facial muscles or the bob of his Adam's apple as he swallowed in the moonlight, then dawning light, which shined on his painfully perfect face.
...his eyes sliding back and forth...and back and forth as he slept.
...the rise and fall of his chest.
I watched him for hours. Hours.
He talked in his sleep. Mostly about me. And his work.
He shifted only slightly once in the night, rocking the bed slightly, and landing on his back with his left arm tucked behind his head, the smallest flex of bicep teasing me further, a vein running parallel with that bicep pumping blood through his body. I could see the stream, the rhythm...
Yes. He was still alive.
He was alive, and I hadn't slept through the night in over a month.
After yet another sleepless night, I watched him. Waiting.
Waiting for the right time to curl my fingers around his neck.
...or rather, grip the smooth Egyptian cotton of the down pillow just under my head.
Waiting to slide it silently, carefully, pausing for just a moment, allowing it to rest on my bare chest, as not to alert him.
Waiting to scoot closer to him stopping to let the heat radiating from his nude body mingle with my own for just a moment so there was no change in temperature to alert him.
Waiting to straddle his waist, sliding upwards to place my knees on those biceps, using my body weight to pin him to our mattress, causing the movement of his body to be nearly impossible. All in one lithe motion, pressing that pillow over his face with all the power in me.
Waiting to watch him squirm and writhe unsuccessfully attempting to escape the hold I had on his body.
...waiting, waiting, until that movement stopped and his beautiful body slowed...slowed...slowed, and finally those arms dropped with a soft thud onto our mattress. Lifeless.
My body stirred. As did his.
I didn't realize I'd even drifted off.
Blearily, I turned my head and squinted, trying quite unsuccessfully to refocus my less than perfect vision on the red LCD numbers on the alarm clock now ringing its shrill tone into the once still morning air of our bedroom.
Today wouldn't be difficult.
Today I would work and push back.
Push back the thoughts...
After not moving an inch, willing it to silence on its own, he stirred again, and mumbled something incoherent. He slid his body closer to mine and brushed his sleep-warm torso against mine, just grazing my left nipple. He reached over me, slapping the snooze on the alarm clock, lips inches from my ear, eyes still closed, steady breathing tickling my face.
"Morning beautiful," he whispered and I tensed, then shivered.
Finally opening his eyes, he looked at me and flashed me that lopsided, charming smile, and my fury, once confined that morning to the outer-realms of my mind, my dreams, flared a blazing path to my frontal lobe.
I reached into my soul and pulled out a small smile in return, trying with nearly everything in me to keep it from turning into a grimace. Or a wince.
"Morning," I replied, swallowing and letting my fingers trail along his ribcage.
He nuzzled my neck lovingly, kissing a path to my collarbone.
"Sleep okay?" he said, absently kissing the center of my chest.
"Sure babe," I lied. I couldn't very well tell him that I'd lay awake for the better part of the night, and the only image that lulled me to sleep was the orgasmic thought of smothering him in his.
No, that wouldn't do at all.
"I was wondering," he whispered with a mischievous grin, "I wanted to get a couple tickets to the Met for this weekend for the two of us."
Of course he was. He was a music whore. Opera was no exception.
"That sounds great Ed," I smiled again, all the while grinding my teeth.
"Yeah. I was thinking Les Contes d'Hoffmann."
How poetic. Attending a psychological thriller with a man I daydreamed about killing countless times. And of course Edward's French was perfect in his suggestion. As was his Spanish. And German.
"Oh that sounds good babe, I've heard good things about that one."
"Excellent," he smiled, appearing quite pleased with the idea. In the same moment he glanced at the clock again, my eye followed his, squinting.
I had about an hour to get dressed. It would take less than 10 minutes to make it over to my Broadway and 56th Street office.
There was something to be said about New York living, especially living just outside the hub of the entire city.
Edward glanced back at me, cocking his head and, flashing me that mischievous grin again, and ducking his head under the down comforter. I felt his lips grazing my body, the rounded bottom of my breasts, the center of my stomach, my hip - he paused there to bite me playfully - then continued south, parting my thighs carefully, then I felt his lips on me...
I fought the urge to let my fingers wrap around his neck, or even my thighs tightening, crushing his airway.
Then...I felt his tongue and the fight was lost on me...
Oh my god....
What a way to start the day.
Better than Maxwell House.
He slid from between my legs with a smirk and a wink while I caught my breath.
He was in the shower not long after, and I took that brief moment to drift back into a daydream about pillows and pretty faces and knees and biceps.
It was almost enough to make me cum again.
He stepped out of the shower, whistling his song as I passed him.
He'd left the shower running for me, which was entirely too hot. What the fuck was he trying to do, burn my skin off?
I scrubbed and lathered and shaved the right places, stepping out and toweling off while catching eyes with him as he appreciatively drug his eyes over my naked body, flushed pink from the heat of the water.
Ignoring him, I tried to get into the zone for the day ahead. I stood in the cedar and dark mahogany space that was our walk-in clos-- well, walk-in room, attempting to decide on something to wear. The New York fall weather was brisk, but my office was often too hot for thick sweaters. My fingertips slid across several shirts, and I settled on a electric blue satin blouse that I had yet to wear, pairing it with a handsome tweed pencil skirt, textured tights and black pumps.
I threw the outfit on the bed, glancing around for my BlackBerry.
Where the hell was that thing?
I remembered I'd left it on the living room table the night before.
I'd spent most of the evening thumbing through the manuscript of a new author one of my junior editors had been working with.
While it did require a bit of work, I could see where he'd made some edits and changes based on my original suggestions. It was actually pretty good. Your classic love story, but with a human and his own interesting take on werewolves.
The writer's agent was a complete dick, but, with a story idea this unique, I'd be willing to deal with him. The towel around my body began to slide, so I readjusted, and headed down the stairs, stopping first for a glass of orange juice, and my multi-vitamins. Of course, there were several emails in my inbox already and it wasn't even nine A.M. yet. After running my thumb along the center track ball, eyeing the yet unread list, I quickly thumbed the keypad, responding to a couple of the more important messages.
Eager to get to work and start a day that was already beginning to look quite busy, I swept my wet hair off my neck, heading for the bathroom in search of my blow dryer. Edward was still in the mirror, of course, so, I settled on the side of the bed with my round brush and dryer in-hand, blowing until my wavy hair was blown silky straight just past my shoulder blades.
I glanced at the clock again.
Well, I'd better get going. Not that I had to rush. I was the glue that held Seibert and Samson's Young Adult division together, but I knew I had several plates in the air at the moment (what else was new?) and my assistant would be waiting. I searched for some appropriate undergarments - Edward insisted I wear only the best, which tended to be of the LaPerla-C. Gilson-Catriona MacKechnie variety. I tended to just go with his desires to make him happy on these types of issues. Especially when he also insisted upon footing the bill.
Anything to keep him off my back and out of my face.
I stepped into the nude lacy bra and panty set, brushing past Edward on to the mirror. As much as I enjoyed planning out my clothing and looking the part at work and in my personal life, I hated makeup. Just hated the stuff, only bothering to spend any real time on applying it for formal events.
Or when we met with his mother or my sister-in-law.
That was a must.
I mean, really, it should be illegal to look like that. That level of gorgeous could only be achieved by models, some actresses, and of course, Rosalie.
I held my own of course, I'd like to say I was attractive, pretty even. I could even reach beautiful on a good day, but women like Rose weren't even expected to be in the same league as women like me.
It's a matter of genetics really, so I never took it personally.
So, passing over my drawer full of designer eyeshadows, blushes, and other primping tools, I just swiped on some liquid eyeliner and mascara because Edward said it reminded him of those old Vargas girls, a little powder, and some lip balm.
Done. In 45 seconds.
His green eyes sparkled at me in the mirror, a grin of perfect white teeth spread across his face, and I tried hard not to roll my eyes.
I was dressed in ten minutes and packed up my red crocodile work bag in half that time.
Edward went about his business sliding into his standard corporate attire - navy suit, pinstriped white shirt, green tie that matched his eyes - pausing only to look at his rumpled hair in the mirror.
How does someone function in a corporate financial environment with sex hair like that? For just a split-second, I forgot my hatred and disgust.
I forgot that I could barely stand to be in the same room as him unless we were naked and sweaty.
I looked at him and admired how beautiful he really was.
And he was beautiful.
The suit he wore was perfectly tailored to fit his perfect body like a well-placed sexy glove. Latex maybe.
Latex was used in sexy ways, right?
He had been on crew as well in another life, so his back alone made me want to cream myself. Broad and muscular and perfectly smooth and soft. He ran his hands through that hair again, a few errant strands flopping into his eyes, the rest settling in a mass that looked like he'd either just finished sneaking away to a supply closet for a midday rendezvous or been caught in some sort of high-velocity wind storm that had abruptly stopped.
He strode - yes, strode - to his bureau to retrieve his wallet and wristwatch, glancing in my direction after feeling my eyes burrow a hole in the side of his face. He quirked his eyebrow.
"You know Izz, I can go in late you know." I couldn't do what he was suggesting, I was late, and I was one romp past my fucking one-romp limit for the morning with this motherfucker.
"Oh no, babe, I gotta run. Meeting," I said feigning disappointment. He shrugged then headed for the front door with me trailing a few steps behind. Our driver Eric was already out front, but I briefly considered walking the few blocks from our 5th Avenue home, the weather wasn't as cold as it had been all week, but then I thought better of it.
My 5-inch European-cut heels weren't the most comfortable in the world, and definitely weren't made for walking long distances.
They were more of a stand-walk to the bathroom-sit at the restaurant table-jutting in the air while moaning pair of shoes.
I slid into the sleek black towncar next to my husband as he nodded, and Eric drove me the short distance to the proud office building then, with a peck on my cheek, Edward headed uptown.
Once out of site, I wiped my cheek with the back of my gloved hand, and straightened the collar of my mohair coat, heels clicking on the pavement with purpose.
Time to tap dance and perform and morph into likeable, but tough Isabella.
I walked quickly through the glass doors with 'S&S' etched in sans serif font across its face, nodding and smiling at our bubbly receptionist under the harsh florescent lobby lights. Taking a sharp right around the median I walked through the modern, but conservatively decorated office, smiling and nodding to each person I passed, most of whom were far more interested in greeting me than I them. Walking almost a full circle from where I'd originally entered, I came to the Juvenile/Young Adult wing and was met with the familiar lime and orange color scheme. A bright contrast to the rest of the building, our CMO Jason Wright insisted that it gave the area a more youthful look, befitting the division.
I thought it pretty garish, but, whatever.
I'd barely made it through the double doors before my assistant, previously tapping away feverishly at her keyboard hopped up following me into my partially glass-encased office.
Yeah, I got the corner office.
Passing the small sitting area complete with coffee table and tasteful chocolate brown leather chairs, I flung my bag onto my desk, stashing my purse in a large drawer.
"Good morning Alice," I mused unbuttoning my coat. She was there in a second, helping me out of it and walking to the small closet to hang it up, closing the door with a soft click. She disappeared back out to her desk, reappearing with a coffee in my favorite mug, her leather-bound appointment book, and BlackBerry in-hand, already chirping about what meetings I had this morning.
"Izzy, you have that 10 o'clock with Steve about the artwork for Rich Girls, and a 11:30 to 12:30 with Mike in marketing. We have to get those demographics from him." I glanced at her tiny body clad in a fabulous black sweater dress and chestnut knee boots approvingly. She had obviously just had her hair styled, so now her already short jet-black hair was cut into a chic boyish style reminiscent of 1960s Twiggy. I loved Alice; she'd been with me since I was a junior assistant editor in Academics. She was efficient and smart as a whip, so there was no one else I wanted with me when I'd gotten this promotion to lead J/YA nearly two years back.
I rolled my eyes at the thought of Mike Newton. He annoyed me to no end, but he was good at his job, which is why I tolerated his petulance and whiny attitude. She paused briefly, looking up from her smartphone, but I waved her on to continue.
"You still need to look through those solicits. I've organized them by importance; they're waiting in your inbox, and here are the hard copies." She placed a small palm on a stack of manuscripts piled on my desk. God, as much as I was grateful for having her, Alice was almost too good at her job. She literally could anticipate every move I would make before I made it, then had an answer or remedy or fucking steaming cup of bold, three sugars, three creams waiting for me before I'd ever had to ask for it.
It was eerie.
"And Izz, remember, you have that meeting with the new author finally, and yes, he's leaving his agent at home, per your request." She paused clicking through her Blackberry, pursing her lips. "You'll be meeting with him at 10:30 Friday morning." I nodded, sliding the manuscript back to her.
"Get this over to Jessica, would you? Have her talk to him about my suggestions before our meeting, okay?"
"Will-do." She slipped the stack under her arm. "That's about it for today."
"Thanks," I smiled. Alice nodded and exited quietly, as I pulled up my email and dove head first into the pile of work.
I was on the phone half the morning with my team as well as with editorial discussing several novels that were drifting through various stages of being published. I got a fair amount of work done, but right when I'd finally gotten my stride, I had to run to a meeting, which was becoming increasingly annoying on the 3 hours of sleep I was working with at the moment.
I counted to ten then mentally regained myself, feeling the rumble of my stomach. The sun shone high in the clear New York fall sky from the my 14th floor window that spanned an entire wall of my office, and I wondered what time it was, then glanced at my pewter wall clock.
It was nearly 2:30 and I hadn't eaten a thing all day. That coffee was long gone and I was feeling the effects of sleep deprivation and hunger.
My lack of control was beginning to flare, and I needed to rest for a while, perhaps get some Indian.
"Alice, can you order me a Spinach Aloo Gobi and sparkling water?"
"Sure thing Izz," she responded through the receiver. I immediately began looking for my Tums, rifling through my desk drawer. That coffee had done a number on me already, but fuck if I was gonna give up my caffeine too.
I glanced back at the screen of my Mac, opening a recent email attachment I'd received from creative for a book cover for the newest proposed release from one of our most popular children's authors.
The shit was all wrong.
The colors were wrong, the illustration was wrong, I told them not to use this shade of blue, like, ever.
I'd have to meet with them in the morning, because I just didn't have the energy or time to deal with them today. I continued through the countless emails and requests and voicemails, and a few hours later, the once hopeless pile of work seemed less scary. Stretching and kneading the muscles of my neck, I glanced around my office and realized that the sun was setting and it was almost too dim to work any longer. Alice popped her head in my office asking if I needed anything, which was her way of telling me she was leaving for the day.
"No, no, Ali, you head home. I'm gonna finish up here." She nodded with a small smile on her stunning face and a knowing quirk of her brow.
"Okay Izz. You don't stay here too long, huh? Oh, and don't forget, You're meeting again with Steve first thing tomorrow."
I nodded, turning back to my computer screen. Being Senior Publisher for as lucrative a division as Juvenile/Young Adult had its perks of course and I'd worked hard to get here, but damnit if it didn't triple my work load.
I guess with great power does come great responsibility.
After about twenty minutes, I realized it was approaching 7 o'clock and it was definitely time for me to get the hell out of dodge. Though I was one of the last to leave at the end of the day, I made it a point not to stay past seven if I could help it.
I made it home without incident, sliding my key into the door and pressing down on the brass hook handle. I quickly slipped out of my pumps, setting my keys into the large silver decorative dish next to the door, glancing around the first floor...
Though, what I was met with I hadn't quite prepared myself for.
The sickeningly sweet, heady smell of...lilies.
The smell permeated the entire foyer, and, because it was cold out, the heater was blowing at full blast, causing the smell, the bouquet to crush and swell and burst its nauseating stink in the air.
I was overwhelming.
It was awful.
I felt instantly dizzy. My mind was spinning and I felt my grip on reality waning. My vision blurred amidst the saccharin stench.
Who the hell brought Callas in this house?
Who the FUCK...
Not even Edward would be stupid enough...after I'd implicitly told him time and again never, NEVER to bring Calla Lilies anywhere near me...to put them proudly in our home.
I had to get out of there, so I sought solace in the clean air of our bedroom, gulping the fresh air greedily, where I found him lounging casually on our bed. Whistling.
"Edward, hun?" I gritted my teeth.
...so hard I felt something pop in my jaw.
"Hey there Beautiful." He swung his feet onto the floor, walking to me and placing a tender kiss on my cheek, holding my hips, pressing himself hard against my abdomen, and my body responded happily, though I was too furious to register it an any real way.
"Edward," I fought back the rage. I fought back the hiss, in favor of a pleasant tone, that instead came out as a choking whisper, "who bought Callas here?"
"Oh no," he said worriedly. His eyes already understanding the error, processing the implications of what I'd stumbled across after my terribly long day at the office. "I told Lupe to have some flowers brought in for you. They must have come while I was getting undressed. Babe, I hadn't even realized..."
I wanted to kill him.
I wanted to stab him in that perfect chest.
I wanted to watch him bleed.
"That's okay dear," I fought back the rage, "just try and remember next time, okay?"
"Of course Izz. I am so sorry. I'll go get rid of them. You get undressed, huh? We're having salmon tonight."
As he left the room, my rage threatened to bubble over, rolling in waves, a cacophonous orchestra thumping in my head. I had to calm down.
Swallow it, Isabella.
I had to calm down.
Breathed, until I had some resemblance of control.
I had to end this.
Something had to give.
A/N – Thanks to my beta, VampWolfGamma, you rock.
Can't you just hear the insanity clicking in Izzy's brain? sigh. It makes me squeal.