A little while ago The Faithful Shipper blog announced an Abba One-Shot contest. I freaked, because if there's one thing I love, it's Abba. So I loaded up my CD changer with my collection (because I own a lot of Abba) and started listening. The only problem I was having was picking just one song to inspire my one-shot, because I'm serious- I could write a one-shot about every Abba song, including outtakes for all my full-length fics. Clearly I've found my muse and it's Abba. Sadly, it seems that not everyone is as inspired by Abba songs as I am and mine was the only entry. So now I'm sharing it with you instead. Hope you enjoy!
Inspired (obviously) by Waterloo, by Abba.
Stephenie Meyer owns any Twilight characters that may appear in this story. The remainder is my original work. No copying or reproduction of this work is permitted without my express written authorization.
I hate Edward Cullen.
It was a completely irrational, juvenile response, I knew that. I should have just risen above it and refused to let him get under my skin. I was a smart woman; I shouldn't have let that shallow, irritating, pretty-boy get to me. I knew all of this and still I couldn't help it. He drove me totally and completely crazy, and he had from the minute we met.
That was two years ago, on the first day of orientation for the Graduate History program at the University of Washington. He was late to the meeting, of course. He breezed in looking like he lost his way to the photo shoot for the next Abercrombie and Fitch catalogue. He was all chagrined and falsely apologetic, flashing his cute little crooked smile and raking his hands through his ridiculous auburn hair like he was actually embarrassed or something. It was absolutely pathetic the way you could hear the entire female half of the room draw in an audible breath at the sight of him. Including me. I'll admit it; my first glimpse of Edward Cullen kind of knocked me back on my ass a little. But you could hardly blame me. He was tall and he was built, but not too much, just enough. He had a face that would make angels weep; cheekbones for days and a jaw line you could sharpen knives on, and his eyes made panties drop on cue. And don't even get me started on that hair; it made you think bad, dirty thoughts.
And he absolutely knew it.
He swaggered into that orientation meeting two years ago exactly the way he swaggered through the next two years of our Ph. D. program, leaving a wake of swooning females behind him wherever he went. Hell, even the men swooned over him in some sort of sick, envious, hero-worshipping thing. Because unlike the average History Ph.D. candidate, Edward Cullen had a social life. The rest of us huddled in our grad carrels in the library on Friday nights instead of going out; our social interactions were limited to harassing the students we taught in our Intro to World History undergrad classes; we blinked like moles on the rare occasions that we emerged into the sun. Edward Cullen lived. He dated. He arrived to every seminar trailed by some hot young undergrad, flustered, late, beaming his charming smile. And he was always racing away afterwards, his life full of plans, social engagements, and friends. He was like a different species, a rock star dropped down in the midst of bookish history grads.
Oh, and did I mention he was loaded? Like it wasn't enough that he was born with a ridiculous genetic advantage, he won the familial lottery as well. Here I was, up to my eyes in student loans that I'd be paying back for the rest of my life and he was driving around campus in some sleek little brand-new sports car. His family probably donated like crazy to a million top tier colleges, ensuring that he'd walk out of here with his degree and straight into some cushy tenure track teaching position while the rest of us scrambled for pathetic little part-time adjunct gigs. Assuming he even decided to get a paying job. Because he probably didn't even have to. Appalling.
And here was the most galling thing of all about Edward Cullen; he wasn't stupid. I really wanted him to be. When he first sailed into that orientation meeting, I was ready to write him off as some rich kid killing time in college until his trust fund kicked in. And maybe the trust fund part was true, but he was not killing time. He was smart. And while he might show up late and looking freshly-fucked to every seminar, when he opened his pretty mouth, he was thoughtful, insightful and completely prepared. How dare he? It was so unfair.
So I hated Edward Cullen. It might not have been a problem at all if the universe was just, but it wasn't. It was a big department, with nearly a hundred students pursuing various Master's degrees and Ph.D.'s, in all different areas of specialty. If life was fair, he'd be the Vietnam War specialist I'd pegged him for that first day. Or he'd be lost in the masses of Medievalists, far away from me. But no; he was specializing in the British Navy in the nineteenth century. And I was specializing in France under the reign of Napoleon. His specialty pretty much went to war with my specialty. Just like I was at war with Edward Cullen.
We mixed it up constantly. History might seem set in stone, but what you discover once you dig in, and what I love about it, is that really, it's all open to interpretation. There were people and there were events and whether this happened because of that or as a reaction to that is really all about how you interpret the facts. And Edward Cullen and I always seemed to interpret those facts completely differently. It had led to some nasty knock-down, drag out fights. Our graduate advisor, Dr. Banner, has had to intercede on more than one occasion and send us each off to our respective corners (or carrels, as the case may be). And while he was argumentative and maddening (and often completely wrong, in my opinion), he was never uninformed. It was enraging.
But we were in our last year of study and starting work on our dissertations, which meant that soon we'd graduate and I'd never see his infuriating, beautiful, arrogant, stunning face ever again. Thank God.
I studied up all summer on my dissertation subject, so that I'd have it settled the second the fall quarter started and I could jump right in. I pretty much steam-rolled right over Dr. Banner at our first meeting, overwhelming him with ideas, books, and citations and he just threw up his hands and wished me luck. I dove right in to my research and from the very start of the semester; I pretty much holed up in the library, settling in for the duration.
I felt fortunate in my carrel assignment this year. It was in the very back of the fourth floor. The fourth floor was where old history books went to die. It was deep into the stacks, full of musty old tomes about arcane, obscure historical subjects. No one ever went there unless there was some tiny tidbit of knowledge they couldn't find anywhere else. It was so infrequently visited that they didn't even keep the lights in the stacks on all the time. They were on motion sensors, only flickering on when some student eventually wandered in. I loved it. So quiet and peaceful. The only thing to mar my carrel's perfection was that Edward's carrel was next door to mine….of course, because I seem fated to be haunted by him until the second I graduate. But I could just shut the door and turn on my ipod and pretend he wasn't even in the building, which is exactly what I did from the start of the quarter.
Well, I tried to ignore him, anyway. But that was hard when I kept hearing the sound of his low, rumbling voice interspersed with a high, insipid giggle, like I was hearing tonight. It was okay when I was locked in my carrel, but I was out in the stacks, hunting down a book. It was so empty up here that every little sound carried. And right now the sound of Edward's flirtatious conversation with some girl was reverberating off the books on all sides of me. I still hadn't found my book and because of Edward's distracting conversation, I'd now forgotten exactly what the call number was. So in a huff I headed back to my carrel where I'd scrawled it on my notepad.
When I rounded the corner, I spotted the source of the giggling. Lauren Whatshername. Tall, skinny, with long, straight, fake-blonde hair. Pretty in a cheap, generic, sorority-girl kind of way. Perfect for him. She was an undergrad enrolled in a section of Intro to World History. The section that Edward taught, naturally. I was pretty sure her major was Fashion Merchandising, but this semester she'd developed a sudden, passionate interest in all things history and I found her loitering around the department all the time in search of Edward. I was convinced that Edward Cullen was single-handedly responsible for at least a twenty-five percent uptick in female enrollment in the undergrad Intro to History classes since he started teaching them last year. His sections were always packed and students were always desperate to transfer out of mine. Desperate to escape me and my Red Pen of Death. They hated me. Shiftless little bastards.
Tonight Lauren had apparently gotten more determined than usual and tracked him back to his carrel. Or hell, he probably invited her. He was leaning on the door frame, arms crossed casually over his chest, smiling and nodding while Lauren chattered away, thumbs hooked in her backpack straps in a way that made her tits thrust out in Edward's direction. I rolled my eyes as I made my way behind her to my own door.
Edward's acknowledgement startled me, especially as it interrupted Lauren mid-sentence. I looked back over my shoulder at them. Edward was still leaning on the door, but there was a tension in his face that wasn't there before and Lauren was glaring daggers at me. He was probably just anxious that I was going to light into him about dating undergrads. It wasn't technically against the rules, but it was heavily frowned upon. Not that that seemed to be stopping either one of them.
"Hey," I muttered before turning back and ducking into my carrel.
As soon as I was inside, Lauren started up again.
"So you're here studying like, all the time?"
"Um, yeah," Edward replied. "I'm working on my dissertation. It takes a lot of time."
"Don't you get lonely back here?"
He chuckled. It was just wrong that he sounded so good doing that, "No. And as you see, I'm not always alone." Was he referring to me? Was he crazy? For all the interaction we had back here, he might as well be alone. I really wanted to get out of here and away from their ridiculous conversation, but I couldn't find where exactly I'd scribbled down that call number.
"Oh…right," Lauren responded lamely. "So do you ever, you know, take a break? Like for coffee or something?"
"Uh...yeah, now and then, sure."
"Well," Lauren's voice shifted tone and I felt like I could almost see her smiling seductively and leaning closer to him. I scowled involuntarily and pushed my reading glasses up on top of my head. Where the fuck was that call number? "If you ever stop for coffee some night and you want some company, you should call me."
"Oh, well, that's…um, it's nice of you to offer. I should really get back to work here."
My hands stopped shuffling papers momentarily. Did I hear that right? Was he shutting her down? I heard Lauren laugh awkwardly and shift her back pack.
"Oh! Sure, I didn't mean to hold you up. I was just in the area and thought I'd stop by and say hi."
I snorted softly. In the area. Sure. In the back of the fourth floor, the Graveyard of History Books.
"That was nice of you. See you," he said, and I could hear him retreating back into his carrel.
There was a pause, like she was lingering, then I heard her steps as she retreated back through the stacks. I finally found the notepad where I'd scribbled the call number and ripped off the corner of the page, heading back out to track down my book. Edward's door was still standing open, but I kept my eyes firmly averted as I passed.
"Working late tonight, Swan?"
I stopped in my tracks and turned to look at him. My adrenaline flared every time he so much as looked sideways at me. It must be the result of getting into so many arguments with him for the past two years, some sort of Pavlovian response to his presence. He was sitting in his desk chair, but he'd pushed back from the desk. He was slouched down and his ridiculously long legs were splayed out in front of him, nearly filling up the closet-like carrel. He had one elbow propped on his desk, twirling his pen in his fingers. Damn, he had long fingers. He was casually dressed, just jeans and a faded green button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled up, but he still managed to carry it off like a movie star. History scholars just shouldn't look like that. It was wrong.
"Yes, Cullen, just like I do every night," I responded shortly. I should have just left it there and kept walking, but something made me keep blabbing. "What happened to your cute little undergrad?"
I rolled my eyes, but nodded.
"She was just saying hello."
I snorted in laughter. "Sure she was."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
I held up my hands in defense. "Whatever, Cullen. It's none of my business. Just watch your step around the undergrads. Especially the ones in your class."
"I'm not dating her," he snapped.
"Yeah, I'm sure dating doesn't have a whole lot to do with it. Whatever you choose to call it, you'd better be careful, that's all."
He narrowed his eyes at me and sat up a little. "She's just some girl in one of my classes. There's nothing going on there. Really, nothing."
"You don't need to convince me, Cullen. I was just telling you to be careful. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a book to find."
He opened his mouth like he was going to say something else, but then shut it and shook his head. I didn't hang around to argue with him any further.
The book wasn't on the shelves, which irked me no end. I mean, really, a monograph about the manufacture of cannons in France in the second decade of the nineteenth century. Who the hell would want that but me? In a huff I headed down to the main floor, to the reference desk. My friend Angela worked there as part of her work study. Since it wasn't circulation, technically she wasn't supposed to be looking up the check-out records, but she did it for me as a favor now and then.
"Hey, Angela," I called as I leaned on the reference desk.
Angela looked up from her computer monitor, squinting at me with her slightly myopic gaze, the hallmark of the history student. "Oh, hey, Bella! How's it going?"
I shrugged, "The usual scintillating Thursday night. The library, my carrel, the fifth coalition of the Napoleonic war…thrilling stuff."
She laughed a little. "I know what you mean. I swear I don't know why I bother to pay rent on an apartment with all the hours I log in here."
"Right? Hey, there's a book I'm looking for and it's not on the shelves. Could you take a peek and tell me if it's checked out or just misplaced?"
"Sure, hand it over." She extended her hand for my mauled scrap of paper. I'd been clutching it so tightly in my hand during that exchange with Cullen that it was now just a little wrinkled rag. While Angela looked up the book, I took a moment to straighten up and stretch my back. My glasses had gotten all tangled up in my hair and when I pulled them free, the pencil I was using to secure my messy knot slipped out and rolled away. I spent five minutes peering under every nearby surface but it had just vanished. I raked my hands a few times through my long, dark, messy hair, trying to make it not look so bad before reminding myself that it really didn't matter since I was just going to go lock myself in my carrel for the rest of the night anyway.
"Oh," Angela finally said, "it's checked out."
"Checked out? Who would want it? Can you tell who has it?"
"Yeah, hang on…um, Edward Cullen."
"Why the hell does he have my book?" I snapped.
Angela just smiled and shrugged. "Guess you'd have to ask him that."
And that was just what I was going to do. I waved goodnight to Angela and stomped my way back up to the fourth floor and back to our carrels. His door was still open. He was bent over his desk, nose in a book, but at my approach, his head snapped up quickly.
"Why do you have my book?" I practically shouted as I marched into his carrel. I'd never been in there before and I glanced around quickly as I entered. It was neat, neater than I would have guessed he'd be. Books were arranged on the shelf over the desk and stacked in tidy piles off to either side of his laptop. There was a notepad and pen off to one side and on the very back of the desk, there was a small replica of the HMS Victory, the ship Admiral Nelson commanded against Napoleon. For just a second, I thought about how endearing it was that he had a model ship in his carrel. Then I told myself to shut the fuck up and stop finding anything about Edward Cullen endearing.
"Excuse me? What book?"
"Iron Weapons Production in France, 1810-1820. Angela said you checked it out. Why?"
He leaned back in his chair and smiled that infuriating smile of his that I'm sure he thought was so effective with the opposite sex. He might have been right about that but there was no way I was giving him the satisfaction of acknowledging it in any way. I just kept my face stony and stared him down, hands on my hips.
"I didn't know that you exercised proprietary rights over it. Besides, I need it for my dissertation."
"What? Your dissertation is on the British naval actions in Spain. Why are you reading about French weaponry manufacture?"
"I changed my dissertation subject." He shrugged off-handedly.
I just blinked at him for a moment in disbelief, sure that I must have heard him wrong. "Excuse me? You did what?"
He smiled that stupid (but highly effective) smile again. "I said I changed my dissertation subject. I'm doing British blockades of French ports during the Napoleonic Wars. So I guess I need the book now, too."
I swear to God my vision went red. I just stood there and stared at him with my mouth hanging open and the stupid bastard had the audacity to actually smile at me, like it was some massive joke. France and Napoleon were mine! My subject, my specialty for the past two years, my dissertation! And now he sails in like Mr. History Rock Star and sits himself down right in the middle of my field of research like he has a right to it or something!
I was fuming, beyond pissed, I had absolutely no words. Cullen seemed to guess that, because that stupid, pretty-boy smile just got wider. "Close your mouth, Swan. You're going to drool in a minute."
In spite of myself, my jaw snapped shut. Not that I did it for him, or that I cared if I drooled in front of him. Because I didn't. Right now I was fighting down the urge to do something really juvenile like call him names or start throwing projectiles at him.
"Yeah," he finally drawled, stretching his arms over his head lazily. I had to keep my eyes away from the thin line of skin he exposed as his shirt rode up. It looked smooth…and nice…stop it! "Seems like our areas of research might overlap a bit. Guess we'll have to just learn how to share."
"Alright then, how about we start now?" I held out my hand expectantly. "The book?"
Without taking his eyes off my face, he reached out and pushed a little red-bound book on his desk closer to the corner, challenging me to come and take it. Stupid Edward Cullen; like you're going to intimidate me. I stepped forward and wrapped my hand around the spine. His hand shot out like a striking snake and closed around my wrist. I froze, momentarily stunned by the feel of his long, strong fingers on my skin, and by the little frisson of excitement that ran through me at the unexpected contact. I took a deep breath and forced myself to look back at his face. The intensity in his eyes unnerved me.
"What's the problem?" I finally managed to force out, my voice sounding far weaker than I would have liked.
"There will be no hogging of finite resources, Swan. I'll be coming to get it back later."
I snapped out of whatever freaky spell he'd put me under and snatched my hand away, still gripping the book. "Fine! You know where to find me."
"Yes, I do," he murmured.
We stared at each other for just another second before I turned and stormed back to my carrel, slamming the door hard behind me.
It took me a good hour to work off the adrenaline spike from our confrontation, but eventually I did, and fell into my usual researching groove. At some point during the evening I got inspired by some flicker of an idea and raced off on a research tangent, hauling piles of books in off the shelves, reading and cross-referencing, looking to draw some sort of conclusion from all the disparate facts. I kept the door to my carrel closed and no one ventured to the back of the fourth floor. It was absolutely silent. I slipped into a suspended state, down the rabbit hole of research, lost in my books and the minutiae of history.
Oh, his voice was so nice… so deep and rich and all honeyed seduction.
I could almost feel his words, blowing over me, heating my skin, tickling my hair, whispering in my ear.
My name sounded so wonderful when his voice wrapped around it, caressed it. Almost like hands…hands on my body…pressure…fingers….
I woke with a start. Someone was shaking my shoulder. I picked my head up off my crossed arms, my loose hair falling in a dark curtain around my face. I reached up with one hand and raked it back, blinking to orient myself. I was in my carrel, leaning on my desk, my computer's screen saver cycling in front of me. Edward was standing just to my left, his hand still wrapped around my shoulder. His heavy eyebrows were drawn together and his expression was stormy, puzzled, and…some other thing I couldn't quite name in my sleep-addled state.
"What are you doing in here?" I mumbled, my voice all rough and throaty from sleep.
He closed his eyes and shook his head a tiny bit. "I was just leaving and I saw your light was still on. You fell asleep."
I scrubbed a hand over my face and moaned, stretching my back. "What time is it?"
"Uh….oh, um, twelve ten."
"What?? Oh, fuck!" I sat up sharply, now fully awake. The bus schedule switched over to every hour at midnight and I just missed it. I couldn't catch another one now for over forty five minutes and it was freezing outside.
"Nothing," I mumbled as I started shutting down my laptop. "I just missed the bus."
He stood there in silence for a minute as I stuffed books into my backpack. "Did you need something, Cullen? Come to reclaim your book?"
"Huh? No, keep it," he shook his head absently. "Listen, you shouldn't wait outside alone at this time of night. I'll drive you home."
I gave a short, sharp laugh. "Don't worry about it, Cullen. I'm a big girl."
"Yeah, no doubt about that, but you're still not standing out at the bus stop. Get your stuff. Let's go."
"Quit ordering me around!"
"Whatever!" he said on an exhale, throwing his hands up in frustration. "Will you just come get in the car and let me drive you home?"
"Fine, fine! You're so bossy!"
"And you're so prickly!"
"So eloquent, Cullen."
"Shut it, Swan."
We kept that up all the way out to his car, his shiny black car. I'd seen him pull into the parking lot in it plenty of times, but I'd never really been up close to it, and I'd certainly never been in it before. It was nice. Really nice. It smelled like new leather and…Edward inside. I don't know why I knew what Edward smelled like, but I did. And this car smelled like Edward. It was nice.
Once I settled into the passenger seat, I fell silent, not sure how we were supposed to talk to each other.
Edward cleared his throat uncomfortably. "Um, so where do you live?"
"Oh, right… Grosvenor Apartments. It's on Hawthorne, just past Crimmins. Do you know where that is?"
He just nodded and pulled out of the library parking lot.
"You don't have a car?" he finally asked.
I shook my head. "Too expensive. Usually the bus schedule works out fine, as long as I don't pass out in the library."
"Do you do that often?"
"What, fall asleep at the library?"
"Now and then."
"You're working too hard. You've been buried in your dissertation since before the quarter started."
"Well, I'm a Ph.D. candidate, Cullen. You are, too, the last time I checked. Living for our dissertation is kind of what we do."
He snorted and shrugged a little, staring straight ahead. Damn, his jaw should be illegal. I looked away, back out of the passenger side window. "I'm just saying, you should take better care of yourself. Maybe get out of the library once in a while. You know, a social life?"
Now it was my turn to scoff. "Yeah, right."
"You don't have a…um, a boyfriend or anything? You know, somebody to do stuff with?"
"Cullen, you've known me for two years and you see how much time I spend at the library. Where would I fit in a boyfriend? I'm delighted that your time management skills allow you to squeeze in an army of hot little underclassmen, but we're not all as…ahem, talented as you."
He turned his head to scowl at me and I just smiled back.
"For your information, I'm not exactly the manwhore you seem to think I am."
"And the blonde stick figure earlier tonight?"
"I told you, there's nothing going on there. Not with her, not with anybody."
That made me pause for a second. "Really? You're not nail…seeing anybody?"
He looked at me with an inscrutable expression before shaking his head a little and looking forward again.
I sat in silence for a minute thinking about that. Why was I thinking about that? Who cares? I don't. Absolutely not. I don't care where Edward Cullen sticks his….okay, really, stop thinking about that. "Turn here," I muttered.
He pulled to a stop at the edge of the parking lot in front of my complex. It was a cluster of two story buildings set at odd angles to each other.
"Which building is yours?"
I pointed, "In the back."
"I'll walk you."
"Don't be ridiculous! It's two hundred feet!"
"It's two hundred feet in the dark and there's no one outside. Half of these street lights are burned out. I'm walking you. Just get out and let's go."
"Ugh! So pushy!"
But I climbed out of his car and shouldered my bag and led the way down the twisting dark path between the buildings. We didn't say anything else on the short walk to my door. Edward stood just behind me as I fished out my keys.
"Ground floor?" he asked.
"Do your windows lock?"
I turned around to stare at him, wide-eyed. "What is with you? When did you turn into Mr. Safety?"
He shrugged awkwardly. "You're a woman living alone. It's just common sense. You don't want some creep climbing in your window while you sleep."
"Well, I'm fine. Listen, thanks for the ride, Cullen. I do appreciate it."
He was still standing less than an arms' length away from me, which all of a sudden felt kind of close. Too close? Not too close. Just…close. He was watching my face again, that funny look back in his eyes. I just stared back, waiting for him to acknowledge my thank you. He didn't say anything, but to my stunned surprise, he slowly reached a hand up and hooked a strand of my hair with his finger where it was blowing across my face. His knuckle brushed my cheek briefly and it gave me chills. Gently, he tucked the hair back behind my ear. Edward Cullen was touching my hair. Why the hell was Edward touching my hair? It was nice. Nice? Yes, I think I liked Edward touching my hair. Wait. I have no business liking Edward's hand on my hair. What the fuck?
"You had a little thing in your hair," he said, his voice low and rough.
Oh, I had a thing in my hair. Okay. Except this still felt weird, and he was still sort of tucking my hair back. My eyes flickered to his outstretched arm and then back to his face and that seemed to snap him out of it. He pulled his hand back and cleared his throat. I shifted my keys to my other hand. Alright, weird, awkward moment has passed. I turned and unlocked the door.
"See you later, Cullen," I said over my shoulder as I opened the door. "Thanks again for the lift."
"No problem, Swan," he said, his voice and demeanor back to normal. "See you around."
I shut the door in his face. What the hell?
I brushed off the post-drive weirdness pretty quickly. Cullen made that easy by being his usual arrogant, irritating self the next day when I saw him. Plus he had another skinny blonde undergrad trailing after him through the history department. It was disgusting, I didn't care what he said about them.
And the overlapping research thing was turning out to be a huge pain in the ass. I was used to prowling whole swaths of the history section unimpeded. No one ever checked out these books, and I had my run of the subject. Well, I used to have my run of the subject. Now, every time I tried to track down a book, it was missing. And every time I asked Angela to see where it was, the answer was always the same; checked out to Edward Cullen. At least twice a day I was in his stupid carrel, negotiating the use of some book he'd checked out just ahead of me. He seemed to take delight in holding me hostage with research, smirking that obnoxious, Edward-smirk as I begged and wheedled and negotiated time with the materials. He always handed them over eventually, but inevitably at some point in the evening he'd need to check something in one and he'd invade my carrel. I didn't even bother to close my door anymore, since I was just going to have to get up and open it when he started pounding. And it wasn't like he would just take his damned book and go. He'd want to talk about it, which inevitably led to arguing about it, since we rarely saw eye to eye on anything. And God forbid I actually win an argument. He'd sulk away in a huff only to come storming back an hour later, waving some other book under my nose that he claimed proved his point. It was distracting and exhausting…and maybe just a tiny bit fun.
That's pretty much how Friday night was panning out so far. I'd shown up at the library at four after my last class let out, armed with a list of call numbers for books I thought might be useful for what I was researching today. I passed through the stacks quietly, running my fingertips over the spines, soaking up this happy little flush of pleasure I always got in the stacks surrounded by books. I was still an aisle over from where I needed to be so I swung around the end of the stack to the next row and nearly ran right into Edward.
"Jesus, Cullen, are you lying in wait or something?"
"I'm looking for a book, Swan, same as you," he growled. He already had three books under one arm.
"Whatever, just step aside, please. This is my section." He scowled at me for a second, but then took an elaborate step back, sweeping his arm in an exaggerated bow. I huffed, but turned to the stacks, perusing call numbers. I finally found it, five rows up. I reached and my fingertips just brushed the spine when I felt heat all along my back. I nearly gasped and then I saw Edward's long fingers wrap around the spine just above mine, pulling it free, lowering it until my hand could close around it easily. I turned to thank him and he was still standing right behind me, almost up against me.
Somehow, even in the crummy, buzzing, fluorescent death lights overhead, his hair was still a gorgeous riot of colors, all russets and browns and glints of gold. And his eyes. I honestly had never noticed the color of his eyes before. So green, I'd never seen eyes so green. God just loves some people more than others. And God adored Edward Cullen.
"Thanks," I muttered, clutching my book against my chest with both hands. His face was set and fierce, and a muscle was ticking in his jaw.
"No problem," he murmured.
And there it was again. That weirdness from that night a few weeks back outside my apartment. He was like a snake charmer, this man. I get it; the army of love-sick girls. But they were hopeless little undergrads and I was a smart, almost-professional academic. I could do better than that. I needed to stay away, and I definitely needed to stop staring into those crazy green eyes.
I looked down, he stepped back, and I turned away and headed on to the next aisle. And that was that.
Except when I started to hunt for the next books on my list, they were all missing. I don't know why I even bothered to check, but I did. I went down to see Angela and she looked them up. All checked out to Edward Cullen. Really, Cullen? Really? The topography of the Mont St Jean escarpment? You need to read that?
It was like he was getting in my way on purpose. And you can mess with me in a lot of ways, but you do not mess with my research. I traveled the well-worn path back up to the fourth floor, back to Edward's carrel. The door was open, he was bent over his desk, as usual.
"What the fuck, Cullen?" I shouted as I burst through his door.
He started, and leaned back in his chair.
"Can I help you with something, Swan?"
"Mont St Jean!" I said, waving a hand for emphasis. "Hand it over!"
"You know what I'm talking about. The topography of the Mont St Jean escarpment. Why do you even have it? You're doing naval blockades in France and Mont St Jean is where the Battle of Waterloo was..."
He stood slowly and in the tight confines of his carrel, I was really aware of how tall he was.
"I know where the Battle of Waterloo was fought, Swan. There's a theory that the river traffic…"
"Save it," I snapped. "I swear, if I didn't know any better, I'd say you were pulling this shit just to get under my skin."
He had his fingers on a book on his desk, my book, no doubt, and he slowly took a step closer to me, sliding the book across the desk towards me at the same time. "Is it working?" he murmured softly.
"What? You're doing it on purpose?" I asked in confusion. "You are trying to fuck with me? Why would you do that?"
"I'm asking you again," he said, his voice low and rough, "is it working? Am I getting under your skin?"
I just stood there, staring at him in confusion, not even sure what we were talking about anymore. I was sure that he was still moving closer to me and now he was positively invading my personal space. I was getting all flustered and I could feel my face flush, both from the confrontation and from this crazy, fluttery feeling taking up residence in my stomach. Why was he standing so close to me? And why was he messing with me on purpose? I knew we were adversarial, but why go through so much effort just to bug me?
"Yes," I finally said, my voice hardly audible. "You're getting under my skin."
"Well…" he whispered, because now he was standing right in front of me and he was fixing me with those deadly eyes again, "that's good, then."
"Do you want to be under my skin?" I whispered in return. What? Did I just say that to him? Fucking snake-charmer voo doo.
"I want to be everywhere," he growled. And then it happened. His hands shot out and gripped my head, holding me still, and his mouth came down on mine. Oh….God. Edward Cullen was kissing me. Why was he kissing me? And it was nice. Really, really nice. Of course he would be a phenomenal kisser along with all of his other unfair advantages.
I stiffened a little and turned my head just a hair, thinking I was going to pull away and ask him what the fuck he thought he was doing pulling that shit with me, but somehow my mouth wasn't following the same plan as the rest of me and before I knew it, I was kissing him back. If I thought him kissing me was nice, us kissing each other was so much better. At my apparent (blatant?) surrender, he took a step closer and pressed the entire length of himself up against me, his fingers sliding back into my hair, cradling my head.
It felt good, so good that I gasped a little. And my open mouth was all the invitation he needed. Edward's tongue slipped past my lips and touched mine and I think I moaned a little. I would have been embarrassed, except he did, too. My hands defected just the way my lips had and reached out for him, gripping his shoulders as he gripped my face. He plunged his tongue deeper into my mouth. Oh…okay. This is getting….oh, hell. I told myself to shut up and stop thinking and slid my hands up into his hair. It felt better than it looked, and his tongue was doing wicked things to mine and his long, lithe body was pressed up against all the right parts of me. One of his hands left my hair and his arm came down around my waist, pulling me in and up onto my toes and that was…better. We aligned in all the right ways.
Now that he could reach, his lips left my mouth and he made his way down to my neck. Oh, that was nice, too. Wait. What? Why am I standing in Edward's carrel, making out with Edward Cullen?? Yeah, sure he was a snake-charmer but this was ridiculous. And how awkward was this going to be tomorrow when he showed up with another hot young undergrad in tow? The thought made me feel sick.
"Wait," I murmured, turning my head to the side. His tongue was in the process of drawing a line up to my earlobe as I brought my hands to his shoulders and pushed gently on him. He didn't let me go, but the tongue went away. His lips hovered right next to my ear.
"What's wrong?" he whispered. Oh, hot breath right over my earlobe. Nice.
"We can't do this. This is…"
"Why not?" His mouth was still next to my ear, his lips brushing it as he spoke, which was really distracting. One hand gently caressed my scalp, the other stroked the skin of my waist where my shirt had ridden up. He was making it very hard to think clearly.
"I don't do hook-ups like this," I said softly.
"Good," he said, "Neither do I."
He tipped his head forward a little, his forehead resting against the side of my face. Damn, he smelled good.
"Do you really not get it? What I've been doing here?"
I shook my head softly, which he couldn't see, but he could feel it. Finally he picked his head up to look at me, those snake-charmer eyes just inches from mine.
"I'm still doing the British Navy in Spain for my dissertation."
"What? You lied about that?"
He sighed and closed his eyes. "I fibbed a little, yes. I needed to get you to talk to me, deal with me."
"Excuse me?" I was stiffening, trying to pull away from him, but he wasn't letting me go.
"Tell me something, Bella, if I asked you out a month ago, what would you have said?"
Involuntarily, I snorted dismissively. Damn, some habits are really hard to break.
"Exactly," he smirked. "You'd have shut me down. All I did was check out a few books I knew you'd need. It got you into my carrel, and it got me into yours. And you talked to me."
"Are you saying you've wanted this…"
"For a long time," he finished, his eyes growing dark, his arm tightening around my waist.
"What about all the girls?" I asked. I wanted to tell myself to just shut up, but I also wanted him to answer.
"The ones you're always with."
He shrugged and scowled, "Like Lauren? I mean, yeah, I get that she's coming on to me, but I'm not interested. But she's always showing up, following me around, asking me questions about the class. And I am her teacher. It's not like I can tell her to go away."
"But there were others…"
"Freshman girls with crushes on their teacher. I told you…not interested. There's only one girl I'm interested in, and I have been for quite a while now."
He leaned forward, kissing me gently on the corner of my mouth, on my jaw, down on my neck... he was so very good at that. Once again, all my parts had different plans than I did. My eyes fell closed and my hand slid up to the back of his neck, tangling in his hair where it curled over his collar.
"How long?" I managed to murmur.
He kept kissing, nipping, licking my neck. "Do you remember that argument we got into last year about the Trafalgar campaign?"
"Mmmm," I said. "I mean, yes, I remember. You were such a jackass about that."
He chuckled a little as he worked his way back up to my face, to my mouth, and I was really wanting him to get there already.
"I wanted to rip your goddamned clothes off and take you on the conference table," he whispered.
Oh, hell. I was done. His confession did all kinds of things to my body, making me flush and get damp and fuck this…I tightened my grip on his hair and pulled his face back to mine. His lips crushed mine, his sinful tongue working its magic on mine again. His hand on my waist slid lower, down over my ass to the back of my thigh, pulling me in closer to him. He pivoted, bringing me with him, until I was pressed against his desk and he was pressed against me. All of him. Pressed against all of me. And…hello, there. That felt nice. Really nice. But I was too short, or he was too tall. I reached back and planted my hands on his desk, boosting myself up until I was sitting on it.
He made a little growling sound in the back of his throat and pushed forward to stand in between my knees. His hands came down to grip the backs of my thighs, sliding down until he'd hooked my knees. With one swift tug, he'd aligned us perfectly. Holy hell. Now I could really feel him, pressed in exactly the right spot. This was so hot and intoxicating and I really wanted a whole lot more.
I wrapped my arms around his shoulders, allowing myself to just give in, kiss him back all the way, and touch him just the way I wanted to. Because now I got it. The adrenaline rush every time I saw him, the arguing, the hating…it wasn't hate, it was lust. I am so stupid. I didn't hate Edward Cullen, I wanted him, more than I've ever wanted anyone. And this maddening, irritating man said he wanted me, too. He might have lied to get me, and waged an unfair war, but who the hell cared? If this is losing, I surrender. I'm waving the white flag, throwing down my weapons, the whole nine yards. Come on, England, storm the French ports. Bonaparte's going down.
"Do you know how many times I've thought about this?" he murmured against my mouth.
He rocked his hips at the same time and I gasped a little before I answered, "Thought about what?"
"Having you like this, in my carrel, on my desk. Every damned night, knowing you were right on the other side of the damned wall…" he trailed off as I rocked my hips against his. He hissed and squeezed his eyes shut.
"Cullen…" I whispered.
"Please don't call me that," he said, gripping my hips and rocking again. The hardness of him pressed the seam of my jeans which pressed against me and my head fell back.
"Edward…" I moaned.
His mouth attacked my neck again. "That's so much better," he muttered.
One of his hands left my hip and slid up my ribcage until he was cupping my breast. This was heading to an intense place really fast. An intense place where I really wanted to go, even as a little voice in my head was telling me to slow down.
"Do you want to slow this down?" he whispered against my ear. The hell? Can he hear me?
"We probably should," I said, before dragging his face back to mine. I was seriously addicted to his mouth.
"Yeah, probably," he said between kisses. Then he drew my bottom lip between his teeth. That was not playing fair. I couldn't very well stop him when he was doing stuff like that to me. His fingertips, those long, insane fingers, closed over my nipple and pinched slightly.
"Oh, damn," I moaned.
"Yeah," he groaned, rocking again.
"Take my shirt off," I whispered against his mouth.
But he did it, closing his hands around my shirt hem and pulling it up and over my head. As soon as I was free, my hands went at his shirt buttons. I could barely work them, so he did it for me, shaking his arms free of it. Once his arms came back around me and my bare stomach was pressed against his bare stomach, I knew we were done for. There was nothing hesitant about his hands now as they came back to my breasts, kneading, rubbing, pinching through my bra. I arched myself into him and kissed him hard. His fingers tickled around my ribcage to my back and then my bra was gone. Tricksy man with the magic fingers. That was fast. But his hands on the bare skin of my breasts wiped all other thoughts away.
It didn't take long for that to stop being enough. I wanted more, I wanted his mouth there. He seemed to get that, kissing along my neck and down, down, over my collarbone, my chest and oh, yes, right there.
That mouth that was so magical on my mouth, was just as good on my breasts, as he kissed and licked and sucked, first one and then the other. Our hips were still locked together, rocking, pressing, and he was so hard. He was groaning a little bit every time we pressed together.
"Do you have anything?" I murmured, after a particularly well-angled thrust that made us both gasp. Because I was as cloistered as a nun in this grad program and hadn't touched a man in far too long. The pill was an ancient memory and the idea of carrying around condoms was laughable.
"Um, I think I have one," he murmured against my chest. "So beautiful," he continued. "Even better without your clothes." He paused long enough to look up at me through his lashes with a wicked smirk. He was so dangerous, this one. I hoped I could keep up.
He fished in the back pocket of his jeans for his wallet and produced the magic little square foil package.
"Bella, we don't have to, if you don't want to."
"Are you going to blow me off tomorrow?"
His eyes widened in shock. "What? No!"
"Okay, then. We're going to do this, right? You and me? Together?"
He nodded, biting his bottom lip as he smiled a little, his hands still digging into my hips as I raked my fingers through his hair.
"Let's start doing it, then," I said, before I pulled his mouth back to mine. There was a little awkward fumbling as he divested me of my jeans, made more awkward than it needed to be because we wouldn't stop kissing while we did it. Then another bit of fumbling while he got himself ready. Again, it probably would have been easier for him if I could have taken my hand off his cock, which I latched onto the minute it was free of his pants. But that thing was so, so pretty, who could blame me?
Soon enough he was ready and I was moaning and pressed against him and then…oh, he was inside of me.
"Jesus, Bella…" was all he said, on a long shuddering exhale.
"Edward," I whispered again. He seemed to really like hearing me say his name, because that's when he went wild, gripping my bare hips hard as he thrust into me. I wrapped my arms around his shoulders and just held on to him, hooking my calves over his hips.
"You feel so good," he moaned into my ear.
He released one of my hips and slipped his fingers between us. I couldn't quite sort out what he was up to until he reached his goal and then I couldn't do anything but throw my head back and groan. Nobody had ever been able to do this to me before, not like this. And it was working. I was winding up so tight and he was pounding, the whole desk shaking.
"Are you….?" he asked.
"Yes…" I gasped and then I did, I came in a glorious flash of heat.
Edward grunted, groaned, thrust again and then he came, too, his whole face screwed up with the effort. We held onto each other as it rocketed through us and gradually ebbed. He released the death-grip he had on my hips so that he could cradle my face in his hands once again, then he leaned in and kissed me, so gently, almost reverently. I felt the fluttering take up residence in my chest all over again. Amazing. His gentle little kiss was giving me butterflies right on the heels of that earth-shattering orgasm.
As he pulled away from me just a little to clean up, I leaned back and winced, realizing that there was something very hard and prickly pressing into my back. I reached around behind me; the HMS Victory.
"I think I hurt your ship," I muttered. He leaned over to look at my back.
"I'm more worried that it hurt you. Are you okay?" He was rubbing his fingertips gently over the indentations in my back, so sweet. And I thought back to the night he gave me the lift home and walked me to my door and fussed over my window locks. How had I overlooked this side of him? Oh, right. Too busy hating his guts.
"I'm fine," I said, running my hands through his hair again.
He smiled at me, sort of tired and lazy, and leaned in to kiss me again.
"Come on, let's get you put back together," he whispered, helping me down off his desk, fishing my clothes off the floor. You'd think this would be awkward, me standing naked in Edward's carrel, all aglow with our post-coital buzz, but it really wasn't. Mostly I just wanted to do it again as soon as possible. But I shrugged back into my clothes, which took a while, as Edward kept trying to "help", which mostly consisted of him groping me wherever I hadn't managed to cover up yet.
"I don't know about you," he said, "But there is absolutely no way I'm going to read another word about the Spanish Armada tonight."
I chuckled and shook my head, "Yeah, I'm mentally fried, too."
I was looking down, tugging my shirt back into place as I spoke, and Edward startled me by grabbing me around the waist and pulling me up against him quickly.
"I hope the rest of you is still in good working order, because I really want to take you home and try that again someplace a little more conventional."
I grinned, a stupid, wide, goofy grin, as I wrapped my arms around his shoulders and stood on tip toe to press my lips against his. "That sounds like an excellent idea. But just so you know, tomorrow we're getting back to work and I'm taking back all my research books, you big, fat liar."
He cupped one hand around my cheek, stroking his thumb across my cheekbone, "You can have all your damned books. And while you're at it, you can have my body, my heart, and any other parts you'd care to take."
I sighed and melted. Damn. His words were even more insidious than this looks. "I'll take all of it, thank you very much."
"It's all yours, Bella. I surrender."
He kissed me again and I was lost, my head swimming, my body tingling, and my heart pounding. All because of this beautiful, caring, intelligent, snake-charming man with his arms around me right now.
That's it. I think I might just love Edward Cullen.