Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended. The plot is inspired by the manga 100% Perfect Girl by Wann.
A/N: Many thanks to LaMomo for her amazing work as beta, and to Salanna for being an amazing pre-reader. Thanks to everyone reading, adding to favorites and alerts, and for all the reviews. Check out the blog for teasers, outfits, pictures and more. The link is on my profile.
I'm going to try and be short, but I just want to apologize to you, my lovely readers. I know it has been too long since my last update. Real life got in the way and I had to prioritize my studies. It has been hard to adjust back into writing. I didn't write as much as I would've liked these past months, just a few lines here and there, just getting into the right mood turned out to be difficult. I'm very sorry. I hope it won't happen again, but I can promise you all that I WILL finish this story. No matter how long it takes. Okay?
Now, on with the show...
~ CHAPTER FIFTEEN ~
The Modern Fairytale Part I
After their talk, Edward and Bella went inside to get away from the sun for a while. They were enjoying a movie in the entertainment room, his head on her lap while her fingers played with his soft hair, when the captain announced their arrival in Cannes. Edward didn't waste any time, and quickly dragged Bella to the bow. They stood close—his front against her back, his arms around her waist—as the city came into view, making Bella gasp with excitement.
"Welcome to Cannes, mia bella," Edward whispered in her ear.
Bella grinned and after the ship had docked, they were escorted to an SUV with tinted windows, Jane in front of then and the new bodyguard, Riley, one step behind them.
Riley Biers' stocky build and suit made him look like the generic bodyguard, except for his light grey eyes and easy smile. He came from a small town in the north of Volterra called Nouvelune, which explained why his accent was different from Jane's and Edward's. Being his first time traveling outside Volterra with the prince, Riley had been somewhat nervous during the trip, but he soon relaxed when he saw Edward didn't adhere much to protocol out of the public eye.
"Where to, sire?" Riley asked from the driver's seat once inside the car.
Edward turned to Bella. "Are you hungry?"
"I could eat," Bella replied with a smile. "What do you have in mind?"
Edward smirked. "You'll see." He whispered their location to Riley and soon they were off.
The ride was silent, mostly because Bella had her face glued to the car window. Everyone chuckled over her enthusiasm, but she didn't care. She was too busy taking in the city she had always dreamed of visiting since she was a child. When they stopped in front a pub-style restaurant, Edward got out of the car first, earning a glare from Jane, and quickly rounded the vehicle to open the door for Bella.
"This is my favorite seafood restaurant," Edward commented, opening the front door for her. "It's very low-key and —most importantly— very private."
When Bella stepped inside, her eyes widened. The restaurant's simple decor and low lighting created a very laidback atmosphere. It was almost empty except for a few couples occupying tables in the front. The dark wood furniture contrasted with the white and light blue tablecloths and seat cushions. There was a large bar with stools bolted to the floor; only lamps and candles illuminated the room, and the light that filtered when a door in the back opened to let the staff carry to the tables dishes or trays piled with food. She didn't expect the place to be so…normal and threw Edward a questioning look.
"I know what you may be thinking," he said, guiding her through the restaurant with his hand on the small of her back.
"I don't know what you mean."
"Surprise is written all over your face, Bella."
She blushed. "It's just that, well… I could never picture you in this kind of place."
"Because I'm more a high-end cuisine restaurant type of guy?"
"No! I know you're not a snob, it's just that…" Bella shrugged. "You're a prince."
He smirked. "While those places are the norm for me, they're not my cup of tea. Besides, I know you like simple things, Bella, and I just want you to be at ease. I hope this is okay," he asked her, rubbing the back of his neck.
Bella stopped in her tracks and looked up at him. He already knew her so well, and had gone out of his way to make her feel more comfortable. His thoughtful gesture made her feel warm inside, and before she could stop to think what she was doing, she rose on her tiptoes and kissed his cheek. "It's perfect, thank you."
Edward gave her a timid smile. "You're welcome. Besides, the owner is an old friend and he doesn't mind the extra security I bring with me. Not to mention he makes sure I'm not bothered when I come."
As he helped her sit down at a table in the back, the owner came out and greeted Edward. His white hair and beard contrasted with his dark skin stone. He looked like he was in his sixties, though his open and friendly smile gave him a younger look. The old man hugged the young prince like an old friend as they spoke animatedly in French.
Bella managed to catch a few things, but most went over her head; her French wasn't as good as her Spanish. When Edward introduced her as ma petite amie, Bella looked at him confused, but he simply smiled. She was sure that term meant more than just a date, but chose not to say anything. Perhaps she needed to polish her French before bringing it up with him.
After the owner had a waiter fetch them a bottle of white wine and some appetizers, he asked in English what they wished to eat. Bella hadn't even read the menu yet, so she let Edward order for both of them. The owner nodded eagerly while Edward put in their order, and after a few more friendly words, he left them alone.
Edward had ordered a Plateau de Fruits de Mer, and after the waiter set the plate down in the middle of the table, Edward watched in amusement as his beauty took an oyster and inspected it suspiciously.
Bella sighed and shrugged. "Well, you only live once, right?"
Edward tried hard not to laugh as she slurped one whole oyster and swallowed it with great effort, but it became a lost cause when her face puckered in disgust and a small chuckle finally escaped him.
"I'm sorry, but that was—" she shuddered "—not good."
"You were going to say nasty, weren't you?" he teased her, still chuckling.
Bella pursed her lips in reproach, prompting another laugh from Edward.
"Stop laughing at me!" She swatted him with her napkin.
He wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her closer along with her chair. "I'm sorry, mia bella. But I had to somehow get you back for the hot dog."
Bella groaned and laughed at the same time, hiding her face with her hands and the napkin. Edward smirked and then pulled her hands down, kissing her soft red cheeks and pouty lips.
"Let's call it even and order something else."
Bella bit her lower lip, grinning. "All right, but you don't have to order something else. I can eat the prawns and the crab."
"As you wish," he said with a wink.*
Bella blushed at his use of that particular phrase, wondering if Edward knew what it meant.
The main course proved to be a success. After the partly disastrous entrée, Edward helped Bella choose something she would enjoy, and it didn't disappoint. She couldn't exactly remember the name of the dish, but the steamed sea bass just melted in her mouth. The delicious dish accompanied with the white wine Edward had ordered was nirvana in her mouth. Bella had never tasted seafood like that before.
"Let's play a game," Bella said, taking a sip of her wine.
"A game?" Edward asked with interest.
Bella nodded. "Have you heard of '20 Questions'?"
"I went to university, Bella. I know that game."
"So let's play it!"
Edward sat back, a small smirk on his lips and his arm on the back of her chair. "Ladies first," he said with a wave.
"Okay." She thought for a minute and then smirked. "Where did you go to college?"
"Oxford for my bachelor's degree, and then Brume School of Business for my master's."
"What did you go for?"
Edward chuckled. "Shouldn't it be my turn?"
Bella rolled her eyes. "You can have two after you answer!"
He took a sip of wine. "Okay, that seems fair. I went for political sciences and international business. I got my master's degree in business."
"A double major? Wow…must've been difficult to have a life with that kind of course load."
He took a sip of his wine. "I tried to take breaks. The course was tough, but I enjoyed the subjects. When you love what you do, you don't really feel the pressure—though finals were brutal. In the end, it was worth it."
"You must be proud." She touched his hand that hovered over her shoulder. "That's a great accomplishment, Edward."
He simply shrugged and squeezed her hand.
Bella shook his hand. "Okay, your turn!"
He tilted his head back and thought for a minute. "All right." He smiled. "Have you always known you wanted to become a painter?"
Bella snorted. "God, no! When I was little, I wanted to be everything and anything, from ballerina to police officer. It wasn't until I was around ten that I really got into drawing and painting. Caleb and I used to spend a few weeks of our summers in San Francisco with our grandmother. That particular summer, I broke my leg trying to learn how to skate." She rolled her yes. "It was Caleb's idea. It sucked big time! I had this big bulky cast from my foot all the way up to my knee. I couldn't even go to the beach. After sulking for days, Nana Marie gave me a sketchpad and some color pencils, and sat down next to me. 'Draw the place you want to be right now for me, Bells,' she requested. When I was done, she complimented me and then she gave me some watercolors. I spent the rest of my summer learning everything about art, painting and techniques. She had been an art teacher for years and taught me everything I know."
"Does she still live in San Francisco?"
Bella looked down and shook her head. "No, she passed away a few years ago."
Edward wrapped his arm around her shoulders and kissed her temple. "I'm so sorry."
She gave him a tight smile. "She was sick for a while—she had bone cancer. It was quite painful. We were kinda glad when she passed, because we knew she wouldn't be in pain anymore."
He pulled her closer and she burrowed her face between his neck and shoulder.
"You must still miss her, though. I know how that feels, mia bella."
She kissed his chin. "Do you still miss your parents?"
He nodded. "Every day. Though I miss my mom more than my dad, as terrible as it is to say that."
"Hey, you can't help how you feel. Were you closer to her?"
"It's not that I was closer to her, but I spent more time with my father. Rosalie was closer to our mother than me."
"May I ask how she died?"
Edward dropped his arm and cleared his throat. "I don't really want to talk about that right now, Bella."
"Okay," she sat up and touched his cheek. "It's okay, you don't need to. I shouldn't have asked."
He let out a long sigh. "It's just…hard to talk about it, and I don't want your first day in Cannes to be anything but a happy one."
Bella pulled him closer and kissed him on the lips. "So far, it is."
"Good." He stole another kiss before picking up his wineglass. "To happy days."
Bella toasted her glass with his. "And more to come."
They spent the rest of their date enjoying their time together. Bella wasn't much of a wine drinker, so she switched to iced tea after finishing her glass, while Edward asked for a soda. When they left the restaurant, it was already dark outside.
"We're not going back to the yacht?" Bella asked when she realized the car was driving away from the marina.
"Not yet. I arranged for us to stay at a hotel for a couple of days. You said you needed clothes and other things, so I thought we could enjoy the city before heading to my private villa."
"Oh, that's perfect. Where are we staying?"
Edward cleared his throat. "There's a hotel I always stay at when I come to Cannes. It's owned by a close family friend. The staff is aware of the security protocol and knows what I need, so really, it's more for safety than anything else—"
"Edward, you're rambling."
"Right, yes. Forgive me."
Bella bit her lip, holding back a giggle. She waited for him to continue, but when he just kept fidgeting in his seat, she prompted him to continue. "Um, Edward… the hotel?"
"Oh yes, well, you have probably heard of it before. It's the Didyme."
"Oh, my God! Really? That's awesome! I always wanted to stay there!" Of course she had heard of Grand Hotel Didyme before. Being an avid Cannes Film Festival fan, she knew many celebrities stayed there, and she couldn't hold back her enthusiasm.
Edward smiled, relieved. "I'm glad you approve."
She grabbed his hand, squeezing it in excitement. "I more than approve!" She quickly kissed his cheek "Thank you so much, Edward. This has been such an amazing date."
"And it's not over yet. Consider it a week-long event."
"Then I can't wait to see what you have in store next."
They arrived at the hotel a few minutes later, and the more-than-accommodating manager escorted them swiftly to their suite on the top floor. The suite had four bedrooms and four bathrooms with marble spa tubs and walk-in showers. The living room, dining room area and kitchen separated the two bedrooms.
The breathtaking twilight skyline over the Bay of Cannes had Bella itching for her paints when she stepped out on the terrace. The colors of the sky as the sun set over the sea were incredible, but she hadn't brought any of her supplies with her. She did have her sketching pad in her canvas bag, but decided to leave it for another day. They would be staying here for a couple of days after all, and perhaps they could stop at an art store for some paints.
After their butler had finished listing all the services the hotel provided and the general manager was done welcoming Edward, they left them to settle down. Bella and Jane took the bedrooms on the right, and Edward and Riley took the other two.
Jane and Riley would accompany Edward and Bella wherever they went during this trip, and if they had to split up, Jane would be Bella's personal bodyguard. Four more bodyguards were staying in the suite next door, not to mention the other four on the yacht.
With an entourage like his, no wonder he needs so much space, Bella thought with apprehension.
Bella wondered why Edward's head of security hadn't come. Rosalie had told her so much about Jasper, but she chose not to say anything, trusting that Edward was safe with the people he had around him.
When Edward and Riley left to drop his bags in his room, Jane addressed Bella, looking straight into her eyes. "All right, there are some ground rules for our stay here."
Bella stood at her full height. "Okay, I'm listening."
When Bella first met Jane Ludlow, she thought the blonde woman didn't like her. The bodyguard's quiet and reserved countenance didn't surprise Bella, but Jane —while always respectful and kind— seemed cold and distant during the short time she'd known her. Edward reassured Bella that Jane always acted like that with new people. It took her a while to trust anyone, especially someone who had grown close to him. Bella understood and hoped one day to earn the woman's trust.
Jane crossed arms. "Keep in mind that the rules I'm about to give you are for both yours and the prince's safety." At Bella's nod, Jane continued. "Rule one," she raised a finger, "you can't leave the suite without an escort."
Bella balked. "Why not?"
"You're now associated with the Prince, and someone could use you to get to him. Outside of Volterra, the prince is at higher risk, since we don't have the influence we have back home. I beg you to please follow this simple rule, and everything will be fine."
"I can't even go to the lobby alone?"
Jane raised an eyebrow. "Do I need to remind you what happened in Seattle, Bella?"
Bella cringed. "I'm sorry. Please carry on."
Jane nodded. "Rule two, you do not, I repeat, DO NOT talk to anyone about Edward, even if it's a child. You have no idea what paparazzi and some reporters would do to get a story on the Prince."
Bella's mouth dropped. "Are you serious?"
"As a heart attack." Bella's confused expression turned into horror, and Jane placed her hand on the young girl's shoulder in comfort. "I'm not telling you to be mute or not talk to anyone; I'm just asking you to be careful about what you say."
Bella nodded. "Okay, I can do that. What else?"
"Just one more thing." Jane smiled and rubbed her arm. "Have fun."
Bella smiled back. "I can do that."
Riley then appeared and grabbed her bags. "I'll leave your things in the room on the left side of the wing. I thought you might enjoy the view."
Bella smiled at Riley. "Thank you."
"No problem, Miss Swan." He gave her a nod and disappeared down the hallway.
Bella stepped closer to the French doors and Edward wrapped his arms around her waist. "Do you like the view?"
She hummed. "I do, it's gorgeous."
"Like you," Edward added, leaning down to kiss her, but Bella let out a long yawn, covering her mouth with her hand.
"I'm sorry. I guess I'm more tired than I thought."
Edward kissed her forehead instead. "Go get some rest, mia bella. Cannes will still be here in the morning."
Bella tried to protest, but another yawn escaped her instead. She was fighting a losing battle.
"You're right," she finally admitted. "Thank you for bringing me here, Edward."
"Thank you for joining me." Edward cupped her face and gave her a good night kiss that made her knees weak. "I'll see you in the morning."
"Sweet dreams, mia bella."
Oh, I'm sure they will be, she thought.
After undressing, she slipped under the covers, moaning when the ridiculously comfortable bed engulfed her, and fell asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow.
Bella woke up to the sound of waves crashing against the shore. A bright light burned through her eyelids, pulling her back into the land of consciousness far sooner than she wanted. Stretching her arms above her head and pointing her toes, she rolled over on the amazingly soft bed and hugged her pillow. She stared through the window with a contented smile as the sun rose behind the waves. Once again, she felt the itch to paint the view, but pushed the desire aside, knowing she didn't have the time.
I'll make time to paint, but I need supplies.
With that thought in mind, she crawled out of bed to get ready for the day. Edward had planned to take her shopping for the things she needed for their week-long stay, and she made a mental note to stop at an art store before returning to the hotel.
She knew it wouldn't take long to pick up what she needed. She was looking forward to spending the afternoon by the beach with Edward and her sketchpad.
But Bella didn't count on Edward's definition of shopping.
"We'll take it."
Bella closed her eyes and took a deep breath, trying—but failing—to push her annoyance away. "I don't need another summer dress, Edward."
He frowned. "But you look—"
Bella raised her hand in a stop sign. "Edward, please. I have more than enough to last me the week. Heck, the whole month! Let's just go have a late lunch, okay?"
It had been an uphill battle all day, Bella was exhausted and they had only been to three stores.
When they left the second store, Bella tried to steer the shopping trip towards her essentials, but every time she came out of the dressing room wearing an outfit that fit her well, Edward would waste no time to tell the shop assistant that they would buy it.
Granted, Bella had to recognize that she was at fault as well.
She had gone a bit mad in the first store. It was as if Edward had known of her shoe obsession, for that was exactly where they went first—a shoe boutique. Bella couldn't stop herself from trying on every pair of shoes she fancied. After buying half a dozen pairs Bella had no idea where to store in her small closet, they left to get some casual clothes. Unfortunately, Bella had been on such a high that she didn't bat an eyelid when Edward bought her everything she tried on and looked good on her.
But when he tried to pull off the same stunt in the third store, she put her foot down.
Bella was tired, a bit cranky and quite hungry, plus in desperate need of a bathroom break.
Edward pursed his lips and gave a reluctant nod.
"Thank you," Bella breathed out, dragging herself back to the changing room.
Edward sat down with a huff, making his bodyguard chuckle.
"You must admit you went a bit overboard, sire," Jane said with a smirk.
Edward sagged against the chair. "Yes, I know. However, can you blame me? I mean, you know about her family, right?"
At that, Jane's lips set in a hard line and gave a firm nod. After learning of her family situation and how poorly she had been treated, Jane understood where Edward came from.
"You know she doesn't care about this stuff, right?"
Edward scratched his eyebrow. "I know, I know…" He just wanted to help Bella let go of her worries and enjoy being pampered for once. Granted, Edward knew he should have held back a little, but he couldn't help himself. He wanted to take care of Bella and spoil her like she had never been before.
I guess I'll have to set some limits for myself, Edward thought, cringing when Bella walked out of the dressing room in her own clothes, looking worn out.
"I'm so sorry, mia bella."
Bella came to stand between his legs and cupped his pouty face. "I know what you're trying to do, Edward, and I love that you want to spoil me rotten, but you know you don't need to do this, right? My feelings for you, they don't have a price tag—"
"God, Bella! I know that. I wasn't trying to buy you!" He stood up and pulled her closer, kissing her forehead. "That's the last thing I want you to think."
"I know that, Edward. I do! I just need you to know that all I want and need is you. The rest is just inconsequential."
He gave her a firm kiss. "I want you, too," he murmured against her lips, making Bella shudder. Edward smirked and planted a small kiss on her cheek, before pulling back. "Let's get some lunch, shall we?"
As they left the store with only a handful of bags, a few people mingling about on the sidewalk stopped to greet Edward. It was the first time Bella saw how laid back Edward took his position as a royal. He talked to everyone with such kindness and openness. He even agreed to have his picture taken with a group of giggling young girls from Brume. They couldn't have been more than 14 or 15 years old. He talked to them with sincerity and confidence, wishing them a happy summer break and encouraging them in their studies.
It was heartwarming to see.
"They love you," she said when Edward came back to stand beside her.
"You really think so?"
"It's my greatest hope that all my subjects should feel the crown is there to protect them and help provide for them. My grandfather had a rough time bringing the country back from the brink of bankruptcy after the war, and my father worked hard to maintain the economy afloat. I hope they know that I'm working just as hard to secure a future, not only for them, but for their children as well."
For the second time, Bella felt in awe at the amazing man standing next to her. She could see how much he cared about his subjects and how honored he felt to be their sovereign. Edward was a selfless ruler; assessing each decision by the impact it would have on the country and its people instead of worrying about how it would impact his reputation. She admired that in him, not sure she would ever be able to make hard decisions the way he did.
She shook her head and cupped his cheeks. "You're amazing," she whispered, her voice thick with reverence, and then kissed him on the lips. It was a chaste kiss, with enough pressure to communicate what she couldn't with words, and when his hands squeezed her waist, she knew he understood.
The sound of a camera clicking had her stepping back. Jane was the first one to react and she asked the black-haired man with the camera to please stop, but the paparazzo suddenly sprinted down the street, diving into a waiting taxi. They sped away down the opposite street.
Bella was sure she had seen him before, but she couldn't remember from where.
"That was rather odd," Jane said as she walked back to them. "He came out of nowhere. He must've been following us for a while."
Edward groaned and ran a hand through his hair. "Just what we needed."
Bella touched his cheek. "It's okay, Edward. It was bound to happen; we've been out and about all day. Besides, it's not the first time. There were plenty of photographers back in Roinne."
"What concerns me is that we didn't spot him before," Jane explained. "My apologies, sire. I should've been more alert."
"He did come out of nowhere," Riley commented, his brow furrowed in confusion. "I just don't understand why he chose now to take these photos. I have no doubts he's been following us, these boutiques value their clientele and would have never told anyone you were here. Also, his exit was well prepared."
"I doubt any self-respecting magazine would touch those photos out of respect to you, sire," Jane said, putting the bags in the car. "But the tabloids and gossip blogs...that's different."
"And they're known to fabricate the worst stories," Edward added with a grimace. "I'll have Alice keep a lookout."
Bella rubbed his back, biting her lip. She didn't like that those photos could be misconstrued. She knew how it must've looked, with her carrying so many shopping bags and that kiss…
She shuddered at the thought.
Edward grasped her hand and tugged her closer to him. "Don't worry, mia bella. I promised to keep you safe, remember?"
She smiled and nodded. "Can we just go back to the hotel and order room service?"
He pouted. "Don't you want to go to the beach? There's a restaurant I know right on the edge."
She scrunched up her nose and shook her head. "Not today. I'm tired and I could use a nap."
"Okay, then. If you're sure…"
"I'm sure," she said, giving him a peck on the lips. "Let's go."
A/N: Grand Hotel Didyme doesn't exist, but I was inspired by the Hotel Martinez. Feel free to Google it.
*For those of you who haven't watched Princess Bride *judging you* "As you wish" is another way to say "I love you." ;)
Thank you to whoever nominated me as a Banner Maker and also The Perfect Girl along with my one-shots Let It Burn and They Will Pay for the 2015 TwiFic Fandom Awards. It humbles me to think people really enjoy reading what I write and make for the Twifandom.
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Till next time,