A/N: As always, I am indebted to my beta and dear friend, Ms Kathy. She makes my writing sing.
Special thanks once again to Team Shalloward for the generous donation that made these four chapters come to life.
More at the end. For now, here is the final chapter of the continuation of Tips.
It was snowing outside – big, fat flakes. Christmas snow. It was perfect.
The year was nearly over. It was a few days before New Year's, and Edward had just finished his first semester of college. While he wasn't a straight A student, his marks had been respectable. He'd even earned an A minus in his Photoshop class – Edward couldn't remember if he'd ever earned an A grade in his entire school career. His mother had wept with happiness.
He and Bella were slowly figuring out who among their friends was accepting of their relationship, and who was not. It pained Edward to lose a few friends over it. Bella's colleague Angela ended up being a regular around the dinner table, as did – somewhat surprisingly – her agent, Alex. Edward found himself spending more time with Jasper, Simon (when he was in town) and some new friends from school.
His parents – especially his mother – still struggled with his relationship with Bella. But they couldn't deny she had a positive influence on him. Or that she made him deliriously happy.
There was no struggle to be had with Bella's family. Her mother had died of a heart attack when Bella was in her 20s. Her father had long since remarried, was quite elderly and had been distant from his only daughter for much of Bella's life. There was no one close enough to her to approve or disapprove. This had saddened Edward, but it made their lives somewhat easier to manage.
If he could just figure out why Bella was so reluctant to consummate their relationship, Edward felt his life would be pretty much perfect. It was a puzzle that he was determined to solve.
Downstairs, the front door slammed. "Edward?" called Bella.
"Upstairs," he shouted, smiling. He could hear her shedding her winter clothes, then climbing the stairs. "How was the reading?" Bella had spent a couple hours this evening reading excerpts from her most current book at a holiday charity event. She participated every year; it was one of the few times she enjoyed doing a public reading.
"It was good. We have a terrific turnout and …" Bella stopped dead in the doorway of her bedroom, amazed. "What's this?"
"Hi," he said simply. The bedroom was spotless, the sheets changed and the bed turned down invitingly. Bella's favorite scented candles were burning.
"This is wonderful!" she exclaimed. She stepped tentatively into the room, wide-eyed. Edward greeted her halfway with a slow, toe-curling kiss. Bella's moan of delight went straight south, making him instantly hard. When they broke apart, her cheeks were flushed pink and her eyes dark with want. Definitely perfect. Edward reached up to the back of her dress and started to slowly pull down the zipper. As soon as he did, Bella's expression changed. For a brief moment, he could see real fear leap up into her eyes. The emotion were instantly replaced with a brittle smile.
"Feeling naughty tonight?" she joked weakly, pulling away. Edward took her hand and planted a kiss on the back of it.
"Naughty, and then some," he agreed. Her smile fell away completely. "Bella, please. I love you. You have to know that this isn't a fling for me. Can't we make love?"
"Oh, Edward," she murmured. "We can soon, but not tonight, okay? I need at least a week's notice. I have to go to the salon and get everything done …"
"No, you don't," he said, gently but very firmly. "I want you in my bed, in my arms, not Isabella Swan after she's been dyed, plucked, waxed and painted to perfection." Bella looked very uncertain, and Edward had an uncomfortable thought. "Unless it's like … you know … not a good time of the month?"
"No, it's not that," Bella said. "I just …" She trailed off, looking at him miserably. "Let me take a shower first, okay?"
"Sure," he said. Bella vanished into the bathroom and Edward sat down on the edge of the bed, feeling troubled and rejected.
Did he have this wrong? Could it be that Bella cherished him as a friend, but wasn't sexually attracted to him? But Edward knew how her body responded under his hands in the rare moments when the connection took over, how sweet and willing her mouth tasted when he kissed her. He didn't know much, but he could tell when a woman physically desired him. Until recently, he would have bet the rent that Bella desired him very much.
Yet the closer they got to the end of their year, the more skittish Bella became.
Edward was still sitting on the edge of the bed, thinking hard, when Bella finally emerged from the bathroom. She was wearing his vintage Cubs jersey and a pair of his shorts, her damp hair braided and hanging down her back. Without a sound, she climbed on to the bed beside him and huddled there. There was a long silence.
"Bella," he finally said. "Do you not want to do this with me?"
"I do," she whispered. "But…"
"But what?" he asked.
"I'm scared." Edward looked at her, not sure what to make of this. He responded the only way he knew how when faced with a frightened sex partner.
"I promise I won't hurt you," he said softly. "I'll be very gentle. I'm good at this." Bella let out a funny sort of laugh, then burst into tears, something Edward had never seen her do before. Alarmed, he took her in his arms. After many minutes of rocking and petting, her sniffles tapered off.
"Better?" he whispered. She nodded. "Why are you afraid of me?"
"I'm not afraid of you," Bella said. "I'm afraid that you won't like what you find. I'm old and I've had a baby and my boobs sag and I have stretch marks ..." Edward covered her mouth with his fingers.
"Stop," he said softly. "I love you, and I won't let you talk about yourself like that." After a moment, he took his fingers away.
"But you're perfect," she said, her lip trembling.
"I'm not perfect," Edward said. "You've never seen me with my clothes off – you don't even know what I look like! Maybe I have a lot of back hair or something." Bella giggled at this suggestion. "I'm very moley," he said, standing up and stripping off his shirt. "See? Look at them all!" Edward made a show of pointing to his moles until Bella stood up, laughing.
"Stop," she said, taking his hands in hers. "I do want you, so much. But I'm nervous as hell."
"I understand," said Edward, skimming his nose along her ear, nibbling as he went. "But I really am good at this. Let me love you." He sat her down on the edge of the bed and kissed her forehead. Then he washed up and turned out all the lights, leaving just the flickering candles to light the room. Already hard, he climbed into bed beside Bella, who gave him an uncertain smile. She came willingly into his arms, but her body was stiff as a board.
This, at least, he knew how to handle.
Edward hummed as he kissed her forehead, her cheeks and down her neck. Bella was quiet beneath his lips, but her fingers dug painfully into his shoulders. Ignoring everything else, Edward dropped tender kisses on every inch of her skin except her lips. Moving very carefully, he undid her braids, combing his fingers through her damp hair until it was spread out over the pillow. Slowly, Bella's fingers began to unclench, the stiffness in her limbs vanished and color seeped back into her cheeks.
As he laid another trail of kisses across her cheekbones, Edward felt her face turn slightly under his. Her lips moved, seeking his. He gently covered her mouth with his, placing kiss after kiss against her lips. With a tiny sigh, Bella's mouth began to stir under his. Edward touched her lower lip with the tip of his tongue, eliciting another small sound from her. After a moment, her mouth opened beneath his, her tongue reaching out to caress his. This time, Edward couldn't stop himself from moaning. His raging hard-on was doing its best to escape his shorts.
He kissed her for what seemed like hours, feeling her body relax and then respond to his. Finally, Edward slowly slid his hands down to cup her breasts. Bella tensed beneath his touch. He confined his fingers to the outer swells and undersides of her breasts for several minutes, willing himself to move slowly until she was comfortable again.
When Bella relaxed again, Edward moved his thumbs up to find her nipples hard with anticipation under her shirt. He ran his fingers over the sensitive points of flesh, causing Bella to suck in a shuddering breath. Edward teased her until he could feel her hips starting to move involuntarily against him. Then he undid a couple of buttons on the jersey, gathered her breasts together and buried his face in her cleavage.
I think I died and went to heaven.
Her breasts were incredible. Soft, warm, unexpectedly heavy … he shifted their satiny weight in his hands, watching them wobble enticingly. Edward realized he had spent far too much time in his life holding fake silicone tits. Nothing compared to the real thing. On this happy thought, he nudged the shirt aside, found one of Bella's enticingly big nipples and took it into his mouth. After months of celibacy, this was paradise.
Edward was vaguely aware that he was humping Bella's leg as he lost himself in her breasts. His dick had taken on a life of its own at finally feeling something other than his own hand. He knew it would take very little to make him come at this point, but he couldn't bring himself to stop rubbing against her.
He felt Bella's hands cup his head, and he looked up at her fuzzily. She gestured for him to come up, and he kissed his way back up to her mouth. Edward's skin felt wildly sensitive; the smallest touch was making his cock twitch. He knew he needed to be careful with her, not hurt or frighten her, but his need was growing so acute that he could barely contain himself.
Bella pulled back from Edward's hungry kisses and smiled. A moment later, he could feel her hand sliding down his chest and belly, tracing the line of hair down and into his shorts. He let out an embarrassingly loud groan as she wrapped her hand around his hard cock and pulled him out of his shorts.
Obviously Bella had overcome her nerves.
"You have been so patient with me," she whispered, pushing him on to his back and stroking him slowly. "And you shouldn't have to wait any more."
"I don't think there's gonna be a lot of waiting," Edward warned, thrusting up into her hand. "I'm going to come so fucking fast. Oh God, do that again …" Her grip was perfect, and she had this little trick with her thumb as his foreskin slid back and forth over the head of his erection. In no time flat, the pressure started to skyrocket, and he realized he was too excited to stop. Giving in, Edward let out a shout of relief as his orgasm burst through him. He lay there, panting, as Bella fetched a warm washcloth and wiped away the semen he'd just deposited on to his stomach and chest.
As she leaned over him, Edward could see that her pupils were hugely dilated, and her skin was flushed pink with desire. He reached into her shirt to capture one of her breasts, sucking and nibbling her hard nipple. Her body arched toward him, the wanting coming off her waves. He released her nipple and effortlessly rolled her on to her back.
"Your turn," he said with a grin.
"Oh," Bella said, flushing an even deeper pink. "Don't you need a little time to … recharge?"
"Well, yes," said Edward. "Twenty minutes or so should do it. But I'm not going to make you wait." He ran a finger lazily around one breast and then the other, then started to unbutton the rest of her shirt. Bella froze, but Edward held tight to the shirt tail to keep her from scrambling away. "I know," he said softly. "But I love you – all of you – even the parts that aren't as perfect as you'd like." His fingers released the buttons and spread open the shirt, leaving it on her so that she didn't feel exposed.
She had a roll around her middle, and her lower abdomen with riddled with purple stretch marks. A year ago, Edward would have found that a huge turn-off. Now, his viewpoint was different. That was where Frankie was, he thought reverently. Knowing that Bella felt uncomfortable with his scrutiny, Edward laid a few kisses on her bellybutton. Then he slid a bit further down the bed, and tugged down her boxer shorts.
"Fuck," said Bella, sounding mortified. "I told you that you needed to let me go to the salon first. Have you ever even seen hair down there on a girl before?"
"Yes, Bella," he said patiently. "Not every girl goes Brazilian these days." Edward pulled her shorts off her ankles and tossed them aside. Then he spread her legs and crawled eagerly up between her thighs.
The smell of her arousal was intoxicating. Getting down on his elbows, he spent a moment looking at her sex. It was covered in a neat triangle of dark curly hair, something admittedly Edward saw very little of these days. Her thighs were trembling as she waited for him to touch her, her muscles clenching spasmodically. Edward cupped her bottom in his hands and went exploring with his tongue.
Bella was sweet, wet and luscious. He ran his tongue up through her folds, then kissed her clit, sucking softly on it. Almost instantly, he could feel her twitching under his mouth. Edward started flicking his tongue back and forth across the tiny nub, driving her up and over the edge in less than a minute. She arched her back, contractions rolling through her lower body as she orgasmed without a sound. For a long moment, Bella shuddered against his lips, gasping. Finally, she stilled. Edward rested his head on her thigh and waited for her to recover.
"Wow," she croaked at last. "That was just …" This was followed by silence. Edward lifted his head with a grin.
"Did I make you speechless?" he asked. She nodded, her head thrown back on the bed. "Best ever?"
"I can't even remember the last time someone … did that for me," she said shyly. "So yes, I think you can consider yourself the best ever."
Edward paused over this startling bit of information, hesitant to bring up anything that might ruin the evening's buzz. Curiosity won out. "Your ex didn't give you oral?" he finally asked. "That's pretty selfish."
Bella was silent for a long while, and Edward started to kick himself for mentioning her ex-husband while they were both lying naked on the bed in a post-orgasmic haze. He was trying to figure out how to extract himself from this awkward line of questioning when Bella finally spoke.
"Marcus wasn't that interested in sex, especially after Frankie was born." Edward heard a sigh in the semi-darkness. "I guess he figured his job was done once I had produced offspring. And once I was published, well … everything was well and truly over then. He had so much anger about my success, and his own perceived failures."
Edward frowned, puzzling this out. Frankie was seven; Bella published her first novel when Frankie was still a little baby. That was years and year ago!
"Did you fool around on him?" he asked in a low voice.
"No," replied Bella, sounding weary. "I asked once for his permission, but he forbade me, of course. By then, my self-esteem was too badly damaged for me to put myself out there like that." She stopped, surprised when Edward crawled up the bed to wrap his arms around her. "Are you cold?" she asked.
"No," he whispered. "I want to start making up for some of the love you haven't gotten for all these years." He gave her a long, slow kiss, remembering belatedly that his mouth had been all over her sex just a few minutes before. It didn't seem to bother her.
He could go much, much slower now with the first frantic orgasm behind him. Now he could lavish the love and attention on her that she so deserved, taking all the time she needed to make her feel adored.
Several minutes later, Edward shifted against Bella's warm body and felt a wave of pleasure lower down. Whoa, hard again.
"That was quick," murmured Bella, rubbing herself against his stiff cock.
"Yeah," Edward sighed, losing himself in the delicious friction. He wiggled over, opened the bedside table drawer and fumbled around.
"Did you put condoms in my night table?" Bella asked, amused.
"I did," he said solemnly. "Someone here has to be a responsible sex partner." Bella snorted and they both laughed for a moment. Then the laughter died away, and they looked shyly at each other.
"I want you to make love to me," she whispered, her cheeks reddening with the admission.
"Me too," Edward answered. Bella watched as he rolled a condom on to his cock, then knelt between her legs. He positioned himself at her entrance and started to push in carefully. She felt perfect. Not so tight that it pinched just getting in; instead, she wrapped snugly around him, squeezing him softly. "Does that feel okay?"
"Yes," she said in a small voice. "Big, but okay." Edward laughed a little breathlessly, dying with the effort of not moving inside her. Bella stretched her arms out to him. "C'mere," she said. Edward lowered himself until their chests and then their foreheads were touching.
"Love you," he whispered against her lips. He felt like he was falling into her eyes, sparkling in the candlelight. Except … Edward pulled back slightly to discover that the sparkles were tears, and one was sliding down the side of Bella's face. "What's wrong? Am I hurting you?"
"No," she gasped. "I just never thought this would happen again for me." Edward reached up to wipe away a second tear that escaped.
"You mean sex?"
Bella smiled through her tears. "No, Edward. I mean love. I love you so much." Then she smiled a bit wickedly, wrapping her legs around the small of his back. Edward hissed with pleasure as he sank deeper into her warmth. "But the sex part is really nice too."
Edward growled a little in his throat. "Now you're asking for it," he said, pulling his hips back and thrusting hard into her. Bella caught her breath and moaned, sending a blaze of fire down his spine. "Like that, huh?" He dug his hands into the sheets and started to drive into her with long, grinding strokes. Bella rolled her hips up to meet him with every thrust.
Edward watched Bella's face for any sign of distress, but he saw none. Her hair was spread out in a cloud of brown across the pillow and her skin was flushed. Shifting his angle, he saw her face contort with pleasure as he hit a sensitive spot inside. "That was good, wasn't it?" he murmured, striking the same spot again and again. Bella's face crinkled and her breath started to catch. Deep inside, Edward felt a sudden twitch of her inner muscles, then another. Then her body stiffened, the spasms squeezing him ferociously as her orgasm swept through her.
"Oh shit!" Edward shouted as the contractions gripped his cock mercilessly, exciting him past the point of endurance. "Shitfuckjesus … Belllllla!" His control snapped, and he came in a huge rush, pouring out inside her. For a moment, he hovered over her, his forearms shaking. Then Edward pulled out, removed the condom and dropped it into the garbage can. He fell into a heap beside her.
"Holy shit," he finally managed. "When you came, it felt like … I can't even tell you what it felt like. I could feel you come all around me. It was incredible."
"Yeah, that started happening after Frankie was born," Bella said, sounding embarrassed. "I think I did too many Kegels or something."
"I don't know what those are," Edward said with a long sigh. "But never, ever stop doing them."
Feels good …
He thrust his hardness upward, and the sensation grew. Warm, wet, tight, friction in all the right spots. Far in the distance, he heard a moan and realized the sound had come from him. Edward started to move his hips steadily, drowning in sensation.
He heard a little humming sound, and felt the vibration all through his cock. His nerves were on fire now, his orgasm growing quickly as it always did in dreams.
Don't stop, don't stop… wait.
Pulling himself up out of sleep, Edward flailed a hand around. He touched Bella's leg in front of his face, and he realized she had turned around in bed and was very sweetly sucking him off while he slept. Unwilling to come too soon, he pulled himself out of her mouth reluctantly.
"Not good?" she asked timidly from the foot of the bed.
"Too good," he groaned. Edward gently spread her thighs and touched between her legs, finding her wet and ready for him. "God, you're wet. Please …"
A few moments later, Bella climbed up and settled slowly down on his hard cock. He saw her wince a little as she adjusted to him.
"Y'ok?" he asked huskily. She nodded and wiggled around on top of him, getting comfortable. Bella still had the Cubs jersey on, but he unbuttoned it until her breasts slipped out into his hands. Dropping his head back onto the pillow, he rubbed his thumbs over her nipples and settled into a slow, easy rhythm.
He looked up at her through sleepy eyes, studying her face as she rode him. Bella might be nearly impossible to read in regular life, but here in bed, she was an open book. He knew that if he struck upward – there – her eyes would flutter shut with the sensation. And if he held her by the waist and shortened his strokes, she would bite her lip in frustration.
"Feels good, doesn't it?" he murmured. Bella hummed in agreement, arching her back a little as he rolled her nipples between his fingers. "For me too." Edward closed his eyes, relishing the warm pressure of her around him. He wondered what it would be like to fuck her from behind so he could grab her ass, maybe spank her a bit to see if she enjoyed that. That made him think about reverse cowgirl. Then he realized his ADD moment was doing nothing for his endurance, and he needed to keep his head in the game.
Putting his pleasant fantasies aside, he released her breasts and reached down to where they were joined. Bella let out a gasp when his thumb found her clit and started rubbing little circles around it. Her breathing started coming in pants, and Edward could feel the slow contractions of her inner muscles beginning.
"That's right, baby," he crooned. "All for you." Bella's face scrunched up delightfully and Edward could hear her clenching her teeth together. "Scream for me. Scream my name nice and … oh fuck, Bella, that's unreal." For the next several seconds, Edward could barely keep himself from exploding as her powerful orgasm poured through her. Somehow he managed to hold on. Bella took several deep breaths and let her head fall back. She shifted, then her head popped right back up as she realized he was still iron hard inside her.
"You didn't come," she said in surprise.
"No," he said in a strained voice. "But believe me, it wasn't easy holding that back. You feel so fucking good inside when you come." She made like she was about to start grinding on him again and he caught her waist urgently. "No, not yet. Don't move too much yet. I'll go off for sure. Just give me a few minutes. Then we can go another round. I really want to make you scream."
"But I just came," she said, wide-eyed. "It's not going to happen again so soon. And I'm not a screamer."
Edward just grinned in response. But when he resumed his movements a few minutes later, he was more serious. Bella's needs had been woefully neglected over the years, that much was clear. She barely seemed aware that she was just as entitled to gratification as Edward was. He had a strong desire to punch out Bella's ex at that moment. Thinking of Marcus took the edge off his increasing need to climax, which he supposed was a good thing.
He linked his fingers with Bella's as he gently rolled his hips. Her face was awash in pleasure, a dreamy happiness on her features.
She had changed his life forever. He could never repay her for that. But at least he could make her feel loved and adored.
For the first time, here in this bed, he had found something that he was more experienced at. He'd be lying if he didn't feel a tiny bit of smugness at that.
And while Edward didn't make her scream that night, he did make her come again in a gasping, shuddering rush that triggered his own violent explosion.
He felt reasonably sure there would be many more nights in future to practice.
Edward woke up slowly, not entirely sure where he was. It was dark, and he was wrapped in blankets yet felt strangely bereft.
Bella. Where's Bella?
She should be sleeping, warm and soft in his arms. He should be waking her up with kisses right now, maybe starting yet another round of lovemaking. Instead, he was alone, the bed cold and empty beside him.
His mind blurry with sleep, Edward pushed himself up on his elbow. They had made love – the most amazing sex he had ever had – and now she was gone. Fear blossomed inside his chest. She had made love to him. And left him. She had planned to do this all along, thinking it was best for him.
In seconds, Edward was on his feet, still mostly asleep. He stumbled into his shorts and into the hallway. The house was utterly silent.
She's gone. I've lost her.
Bella was nowhere to be found on the top floor. Edward ran down the stairs to the main level, his heart pounding. The adrenaline flooding into his system started waking him up fully, and sense started to return to him.
This is her house. You can't fuck and duck in your own house.
He raced around the corner and found her.
She was lying on her stomach on the floor in front of the gas fireplace, still wearing his Cubs jersey and nothing else. Her round white rump was appealingly exposed. By the light of the fire, Edward could see a tablet of lined paper on the floor in front of her. There was a thin sheaf of pages beside her, covered in her handwriting from top to bottom. The pen in her hand was flying over a fresh page.
"Edward," she said, looking up at him in surprise. "What's wrong, love?"
"I woke up … you were gone," he said, his voice thick with sleep. "I didn't know where you were."
"I was right here," she said. "I woke up about an hour ago and needed to write. I didn't want to wake you."
Edward looked at the pages, confused. "How come you're not using the computer?" he asked.
"I'm writing," she said, then realized he didn't understand. "I've started my next book," she explained. "At the beginning, I always write by hand."
He looked at her in the firelight, her hair gleaming and her eyes lit by a passion that Edward could only begin to encompass. It was like seeing her – really seeing her – for the first time all over again.
The way she had seen him on a late January afternoon in the restaurant.
"What's it about?" he whispered. Bella looked at him with joy in her face.
"It's a love story," she whispered back.
"How does it end?" he asked, suddenly aware that he was asking an entirely different question.
"I don't know yet," she replied, her eyes shining. "It's only just begun."
A/N: Heartfelt thanks to everyone on Team Shalloward, including cherieblossum, emmy, heatherjeanhd, Jessypt, Katie, laylak500, scarrok/scarrtx, sogoodtoo, Fergie, jjjuliebee, athenajean, Haileywood, janob63, treasurecoast, TwilightMundi, amymorgan, spanglemaker9, arfalcon and of course, hookashewz
If I write an epilogue (and I'm not fully sold on the idea), it will be posted as an outtake, not as part of the main story. So if you'd rather leave the story here, with its traditional AC happy ending, this is where we part company. That's all I'm saying for now.
I don't know what's next for me – I'm keeping the possibilities open.
As always, I am deeply grateful for the friendships I have made in the fandom, especially for Algie, Ms Kathy, philadelphic and Feisty Y Beden. I will never be sorry we wrote these stories because they brought us all together.