This was my entry to the "Hard Working Man" contest hosted by Rae_Cullen and Silver Snipper. It was a little different for me; not a straight romance. There's lots of humor in this story.

Alas, I didn't place in the contest, but I loved writing this story. I mean, honestly, a farmer/rocket-scientist… what's not to love! Maybe it was because I didn't have an actual lemon in the story, but there's a great lime! And yes, it may turn out to be the first of many chapters about Rocket/FarmerWard. I don't think I'm able to write a true one-shot. I get too wordy and the characters develop a life of their own. That's so hard to capture in a one-shot.

Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight and all the characters. I own the Rocket Man, and the FarmerWard that's attached to him.

This story would NEVER have been finished in time to make the contest if not for the awesome computer search skills of my lovely beta, Melolabel. She literally stayed up with me ALL NIGHT to get this baby written and betaed so I could submit it. She's the best! I love you HARD, Melly!

Also, all the descriptions of Tractors and Harvesters came directly, word for word, from the International Harvester website and the John Deere Tractor web site. Really… remember that as you read the descriptions of the "farm equipment". I didn't make this up, folks.

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The Rocket Man

Chapter 1 – Close Encounters, of the Awkward Kind


"Bella, did you hear about Mike?" Angela stuck her head around the corner of my cubicle with a quizzical glance.

I dragged my eyes from my laptop screen to give her a clueless look.

"He had a heart attack!" Incredulity laced her voice as she shook her head; she finally had my undivided attention. "He was only thirty-four." When my eyes rounded in horror, she hastened to clarify, "No, he's not dead! He'll just be laid up for a couple of months. Goes to show what this business will do to you."

"You can say that again," I agreed with her. I had worked for the Chicago Observer for nearly three years, since graduating with a degree in Journalism from the University of Chicago. I had big plans to take the news world by storm and win a Pulitzer by the time I was thirty. Well, at the rate I was going, I'd be lucky if I won a game of Bingo when I interviewed the President of the Ladies Garden Club for my next fluff piece, or covered the Grand Opening of the new health club downtown. Not that I had anything against the Ladies Garden Club or health clubs, or even Bingo, I just didn't feel I was living up to my full potential.

But now Angela was telling me that Mike Newton, the star investigative reporter for the Observer, was out of commission. I really hated it for Mike, but I would be lying if I didn't think that maybe now Mr. Banner, the News Editor, would give me a chance to write something with a little more meat than than this pudding he'd been handing me.

After chatting with Angela for a few more minutes, I turned back to put the finishing touches on my piece about the opening of a new wing at Chicago General Hospital. Within three minutes, I was finished and the piece was off to copy. At nearly the same moment, the intercom buzzed on my phone.

"Swan?" the harsh tones of Mr. Banner squawked through the speaker. "I need you in my office A-Sap!"

Without waiting for a reply, the phone went dead. The words were still ringing in my ears as I leapt to my feet and headed to the corner office.

With a brief knock and a response of "Come," I entered the dragon's lair.

He barely gave me a cursory glance, before going back to shuffling through a stack of papers, one of many that littered his desk in a mountainous disarray of files of varying thicknesses, magazines, books and oddly-shaped brick-a-brac. Each time I entered the room, my fingers itched to do a little tidying up. But I dared not touch a thing; after all a man's home, or in this case, office, was his castle.

"Swan, you hear about Newton?" he asked without preamble.

"Yes, sir, just a few-"

"Fine, fine," he interrupted in his usual brusque manner. "Well, you've been wanting to branch out a bit, try your hand at some in-depth reporting. Well, now's your chance." I felt my jaw drop in stunned surprise, but I hastily shut it tight before he had an opportunity to notice.

"I had just assigned Newton to a new story. Unfortunately, he didn't have time to do much work on it. He hadn't gotten beyond the background stage." He reached for a file, buried under two others in one of the teetering stacks, and I held my breath slightly as he pulled it from its resting place, waiting for the others to topple over. But, amazingly, the stack remained upright. He handed the file over and I took it with nearly nerveless fingers as I was still recovering from my shock at actually being given a real story.

"I gave it to Mike because it's centered in his home town, Newton, Iowa. Now, the story's yours, Swan. There's something big here, I can feel it, and my instincts are seldom wrong. It will probably mean travel, as you'll want to get the facts at the source. I'll call accounting to set up a travel account for you. Show me what you can do with it, Swan."

"Yes, sir, I'll do my best." My mouth was so dry I could barely get the words past my lips.

"See that you do better than your best. Don't make me regret giving you this chance." With those words, I knew I had been dismissed. I walked briskly from the room, clutching the prized file to my chest with both hands. I don't think I took a breath until I was back in my safe little cubicle.

"Hey, what's going on?" Angela's head again popped around the corner. "What did old dragon-breath want?"

I was still nearly speechless and had to lick my lips a couple of times before I could form words. "He gave me a story. A real, honest-to-god investigative story."

"No!" disbelief rolled off her tongue. "Did he really?" She was doing a little skipping step as her body rounded the corner before pulling me into a quick embrace.

I couldn't seem to get any more words past the silly grin that had taken up residence in the center of my face. Finally, after we both did a happy dance around my swivel chair, I shooed her back to her own area and settled down to open the file and read Mike's background notes:

The Cullen family, seventh generation wheat and corn farmers in central Iowa, are in danger of losing their family farm to The Volturi Group. TVG has been snatching up farms all over the country and turning them into producers of corn for fuel.

Wow, I could see why Mr. Banner was so interested in this story. The Volturi Group was one of the biggest farming and fuel conglomerates in the country and their headquarters were here in Chicago. In fact, my friend Jake worked there. I read on...

Cullen Farm, lead by patriarch, Masen Cullen and, now, his grandson, Edward Cullen, is one of the few holdouts in a massive buy-out of farms in Jasper County, Iowa, and the surrounding counties in that part of the state. The Cullen family has owned their land, located in Newton, Iowa, since the original government land grant to their ancestor, Edward Masen Cullen, in 1852, and have no intention of being bullied into selling.

Wow! That's a long time to stay in one place. I guess roots run deep in farming country. Then I smiled at my little unintentional pun.

The Cullens have weathered many storms over the years: Droughts, floods, tornadoes, economic upheavals including the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl years. During each crisis, they came through with their farm intact. Now, their way of life is being threatened by something much different than Mother Nature or national economics. Something much more sinister – Greed!

The Cullen Family:

Masen Carlisle Cullen – patriarch of the Cullen family – age 75 – lifelong farmer. Suffered a heart attack six months ago. His wife of 54 years, Helen McCarty Cullen passed away a year ago.

Carlisle Anthony Cullen – son of Masen – age 53 – didn't become a farmer; instead became a doctor. Practices locally. Still lives in the family home.

Esme Cullen – homemaker and wife of Carlisle.

Edward Anthony Cullen – grandson of Masen; middle child of Carlisle and Esme – age 28 – his life is a story in and of itself. He graduated at the top of his class from Stanford at age 20 with both Engineering and Physics degrees, then obtained his Masters and PhD. in Astrophysics from MIT by age 24. He was considered one of the finest minds in the NASA space program until he took an indefinite leave-of-absence six months ago to come back to the family farm and help his grandfather after the elder Cullen's heart attack.

Emmett McCarty Cullen – grandson of Masen; eldest child of Carlisle and Esme – age 30 – currently starting quarterback for the Green Bay Packers. Standout athlete at Iowa State; turned pro upon graduation. Engaged to actress and former model, Rosalie Hale.

Mary Alice Cullen Whitlock – granddaughter of Masen; only daughter of Carlisle and Esme – age 26 – fashion designer, currently living in Los Angeles with husband of two years, Texas native Jasper Whitlock.

That was the last of Mike's background notes. My, quite an interesting family. A rocket-scientist-turned farmer. What a shock to the senses that must have been. I could just see him now, horn-rimmed glasses, crew cut, and plastic pocket protector. I had to smile to myself at the image that came to mind. It should be most enlightening, and somewhat entertaining, to hear his story first hand. I just needed to get a telephone number and set up a meeting.

I continued to thumb through the rest of the file, which consisted of internet printouts of the farm, as seen from Google Earth, along with a few articles from the local paper about other farms in the area that had sold out to Volturi. There were a few stapled printouts of articles on TVG and their various business interests, and then I noticed a note left by Mike. It was scribbled on the inside back of the file folder and consisted of a phone number and the hastily penned details of a meeting with the Cullens –

Appt w/ Masen & Edward Cullen – Sun. July 25th, 7:30 pm. First day & time they have available!

Great place to put this important information, Mike. I almost missed it. Okay, today was Monday, and July 25th was in six days. Well, so much for my planned dinner date this weekend with Jake. He would understand. It's not like we were romantically involved or anything. He was my best friend since childhood and this wouldn't be the first time our plans had to be changed at the last minute. We'd just have to get together when I returned. I called and left a message on his voicemail when he didn't answer.

With those plans safely tucked away for another day, I called accounting to let them know I needed to book a flight, hotel and rental car for the weekend and perhaps part of next week. When the guy stopped laughing he informed me that I was dreaming if I thought Mr. Banner would authorize all that. At best, they would pay for my gas to drive, give me an allowance for food, and put me up in a motel. Forget the flying unless it was 2000 miles away.

Give me a break! Within fifteen minutes, my travel plans were made. Okay, so my plans were limited to a reservation at the local Days Inn in beautiful downtown Newton, Iowa and a cursory glance at Googlemaps. It was still plans.

I decided if I had to drive, I would leave early Saturday morning. The trip would take about five hours, and I just hoped my old truck would make the trip. I wonder if Mr. Banner knew that I drove a 1973 Chevy pickup that had seen better years. Then I knew that he must, as I arrived at the same time he did most mornings and walked into the building and rode the elevator with him. He had to see what I was driving. Well, no matter, I was driving to Newton, Iowa.

Maybe if I called, I could get an interview with the son, the one that was a doctor, or with his wife, on Saturday afternoon, and maybe get a tour of the farm before my meeting with the two "Farmers Cullen" on Sunday. I didn't mean any disrespect by thinking of them in that manner, but I had to be honest with myself when I said that I pictured the two of them in matching overalls and pitchforks, a la American Gothic. I hadn't seen too many farmers around my hometown of Forks, Washington, so I let my imagination take over.

I turned back to my computer and started researching where Mike had left off. I needed to get all the information I could about The Volturi Group. When I saw the list that came up after my Google search, I quickly admitted to myself that it would be a long week


Saturday, July 24th – Mid-day.

I cut the power to the blades after making a turn and let the Harvester idle at the end of the field. I signaled my intentions to Tyler, my tractor driver on the grain tank beside me and saw him do the same. I reached for the walkie talkie on the dash, pushed the button to speak. "Ty, lets break for lunch."

"Okay, Ed." came the reply. He gave me a thumbs up as I replaced the radio and looked in his direction.

My hand reached automatically into the small cooler tucked into the compartment next to the seat, bringing out a bottle of water. I broke the seal and drank half the contents before placing it in the cup holder next to my seat. I glanced down and pulled out the turkey sandwich and potato salad Mom had packed. I looked over and smiled as I saw Tyler do the same in the cab of the tractor. There was no way either of us was going to step out of our air-conditioned cabs into this murderous heat unless we had too.

I munched my way through lunch, allowing my eyes to wander over the vast, golden waves of wheat stretching to the horizon that were left to harvest. There was a distortion to the view caused by the heat being reflected from the earth. I thanked my lucky stars again that the cab I sat in was air-conditioned. I had fired up the Big Red Monster at 6am this morning, cutting non-stop ever since and was about half finished. This was the last field; the other three were finished earlier in the week. At least that would be the last of the harvesting until the corn and soybeans were ready sometime in October. But the winter wheat would have to go in the ground in August. Oh the joys of farming. Perhaps if I thought long enough, I could come up with an invention that allowed wheat, soybeans and corn to plant and harvest themselves. After all, that's what we used to do at NASA; just sit around and think shit up. At least that's what most people thought.

As I continued to look across the field, I realized my reasons for being here were sound and my decision to come back was one of the best ones I had ever made. Grandpa needed me now and, in a way, I needed this farm to help me get my priorities straight. The constant assault on the mind, of deadlines and theories, had made Edward quite the dull boy. I didn't miss the twenty-hour days when I still couldn't leave the job at the office. At least here on the farm, when the work was finished for the day, I could go home and just chill. Until 5am that is.

I had come to realize that there were more important things in life than career. Seeing the fruits of your labors, born from the sweat of your brow and hard work; seeing the smile on your family's faces when you sat down to dinner with them each night; knowing that you made a difference in their lives; there was just nothing like it.

It wasn't that I hated my life in Houston; quite the contrary. I remembered with a smile the feminine company I had enjoyed from time to time. That was the difference between living on the farm and living in the big city. In Houston, women were everywhere. I'd even picked up one at a traffic light once. No chance of that happening here. I had to drive twenty miles just to find a traffic light, and chances are there wouldn't be a woman there at the same time. Especially one just waiting to go clubbing with me.

What I hated was the rat-race my life had become. I really loved my job. I loved the space program; I had loved everything about space since my folks gave me a telescope for Christmas when I was ten. I just wasn't that happy working for NASA. Recent federal budget cutbacks had meant everyone was doing the job of three people. It was ridiculous. It was the reason mistakes were made. But that wasn't my problem right now. Oh, I got almost daily emails from the department asking when I might be coming back, but I always put them off. That was one of the perks of working for the government: Up to three years of family leave time. I had to smile.

By five that afternoon, the last of the grain was cut, tanked, and ready to transfer to the trailer for transport. I rode with Tyler to the edge of the field and the waiting semi. By six, the grain was deposited in the trailer and headed to the silos. Ty drove the semi, I'd take the tractor home. I unhooked the tractor from the tank and pulled myself into the cab. The transfer was hot, dusty work and I flexed my shoulders and rubbed my neck, trying to get the kink out. I reached over and turned up the air and fiddled with the radio until I found a station blasting out the opening bars of "Paralyzer" and cranked up the volume before pulling onto the road home.

I'll admit, I wasn't paying the best attention when I pulled out, but the blaring horn nearly gave me heart failure. Traffic on this road was sporadic at best, and nonexistent most of the time. That's why I was so surprised when I nearly collided with the big red pickup. Damn, the driver had to be going at least seventy!

Okay, so I did pull out without looking and I didn't see the driver's face clearly, but I did see she was female; at least I assumed she was female. There was long brown hair flying in the breeze from the open window. I also clearly saw her left arm extend from said window as she flipped me off and disappeared over the slight rise.


Crazy, hick farmers! Didn't he see me coming? Didn't he hear me coming. I mean, he had to hear the noise. My muffler had seen better days and made my truck roar like I had a band of Hell's Angels on their Harley's under the hood. I was nearly deaf from all the racket myself, but there was no way I could stand to drive with the windows up. I would have died of heatstroke. I knew my hair would be nearly impossible to untangle, but there was no help for it. My rubber hair tie had broken two hours ago. The only good thing about my truck was the radio and right now it was blasting out Finger Eleven's "Paralyzer". I had it turned all the way up just to be able to hear it over the wind and the engine racket. Yeah, I'd definitely go deaf.

Okay, maybe I shouldn't have been driving...sixty-seven miles per hour, but I was going to be late, and I hated to be late. But then, everything about this trip was going wrong. From the failure of my GPS on my drive down, which made me drive for an extra hour trying to find the Days Inn. And that was after driving for five hours down Interstate 80, fighting for road space with maniacal semi drivers and hot-shots in Lexuses that thought they owned the road. Well, hadn't they heard? Lexuses were just glorified Toyotas and I hoped their accelerators stuck and their brakes failed. So there!

Not really; I'm not a mean-spirited person, I was just aggravated.

And I was suddenly ashamed that I had flipped Big Red Tractor Guy the bird. I didn't see his face, but he was probably surprised to see me on this highway. I don't remember passing another car for all of the ten miles I had been traveling on it. I certainly hoped I was on the right road. The lady I'd asked for directions in town had been vague at best. She told me to drive past the Agnes Patterson, then turn left on Route 620 and follow that until I got to Route 637. Turn right and follow that for ten miles or maybe more until I saw the sign for Cullen Farm on the left. I couldn't miss it. It was obvious she didn't know me very well, did she? It took me a couple of trips back and forth before I figured out that the "Agnes Patterson" was the name of the memorial park and not a store or someone's house.

I braked suddenly as I saw a semi just up ahead. What was a semi doing on this road? Maybe I was on the wrong road, I thought as I choked on the diesel fumes now flooding my truck cab. I slowed down even more as I hacked and coughed. Maybe I should just hold my breath and try to pass this guy. I took a deep breath and floored the gas pedal. The truck lurched forward with a roar to end all roars and then...

Sputter... sputter...

I lost power. I pounded on the pedal, but got no response. Then I glanced at the dash just as all the lights came on and my eyes caught sight of the gas indicator. It was pointed straight at "E".

I coasted to the shoulder and cut the key off before reaching over and turning off the radio. I didn't need a dead battery on top of everything else. Oh, well, what did I really expect. This was the icing on the cake of this comedy of errors I called a day.

I was banging my head slowly against the steering wheel when I heard him approach, and I glanced at the side view mirror.

Oh, no! Not Big Red Tractor Guy! Please, would someone tell me who I had pissed off to make Karma attack me today?

I kept my head bowed, hoping he wouldn't notice me parked out here in the middle of nowhere with no one else around to help me. In an old red truck. Amidst a sea of green corn fields. Sure! I'd blend right in. Oh, my God! What if he turned out to be a rapist or an axe murderer. Yeah, that would be my luck. A tractor-driving, axe-murderer-rapist. Right Bella. Heat getting to you much?

I reached for the window handle, starting to crank up the window as I turned to push down the lock on my door.

Too late. Big Red Tractor Guy had stopped his big red tractor and I heard the window towards me slide open with a soft swish. I stopped the window in mid roll as the ending bars of 'Paralyzer' blasted my eardrums and turned slowly to look at him.

Oh. My. God.

First of all, no way was he a rapist, for you can't rape a willing soul. Take me, I'm yours.

What the hell was I thinking! I shook my head slightly trying to clear the fog that had suddenly gathered in my brain. A fog caused by the best looking man I had ever seen in my life!

I let my eyes travel from his tousled, bronzy colored hair to his vivid green eyes. I'd never seen eyes that color before in my life. I had read about them, but I'd never seen them on a actual person.

His nose wasn't perfect; it had a slight bump in the middle and if I looked closely, it was slightly crooked, but looked so much better because of it. Okay, so the nose was perfect too.

His jaw was so chiseled that it would make Michaelangelo long to sculpt it into marble, and his lips were so sexy, with a bowed upper lip and a full lower one that looked so soft as they moved.

As they moved...

I shook my head again as I realized he was speaking and I just looked at him with a dumbstruck look on my face as I also realized that I hadn't heard a word he said.

"I beg your pardon?" Was that the best I could do? Well, short of leaping out and dragging him from the cab of his tractor, I guess it was. Then I found myself wondering what he would look like if I were to drag him out. Was the rest of his body as delicious as his face?

And I realized that I hadn't heard what he said again. I was almost embarrassed to ask him to repeat himself again, so I just gave him a puzzled look.

He gave his head an exasperated shake and reached for his door handle. The blaring music stopped and within seconds, I was watching the perfect body attached to that perfect face trot around the back of his tractor and come to stand at my door.

He looked even better up close. I could see a fine layer of dust covering the skin of his forearms as he put his hands over the edge of my window. His hands...

Oh. My. God! What hands! I couldn't take my eyes off his long fingers, nor could I prevent myself from thinking of what he could do with those long fingers...

"Miss! Miss! Are you hurt?" With a part of my mind, I heard him, but at the moment I was having quite a fantasy involving his hands and my...

"Miss, are you deaf?" I saw him make motions like sign language as he said the last part. And I realized that I was still staring at his hands, or I would have missed the signs.

He had just asked me if I was deaf. No, but I had lost my mind.

"No," I finally found my voice. "No, I'm sorry, I'm just..." I didn't really have an excuse, and there was no way I was telling him the truth...

"I was just looking at your hands." No, I did not just say that out loud!

"What?" He looked at me with a bemused smile, not sure if he had heard correctly.

"Your hands, they're beautiful. Are you a musician?"

Filter, filter, has someone seen my mental filter? My face flamed as I realized what had come out of my mouth. What was I saying? Had I just asked a farmer, and not just any farmer, but Big Red Tractor Guy, who I just flipped off as it were, if he was a musician? Am I crazy? I admitted to myself, that yes, I had been driven crazy by the beauty of this man.

He laughed out loud, and kept laughing, losing his breath and bending over he was laughing so hard. I just watched him. Then I was laughing too. It was funny. It was the most ridiculous thing ever.

When he could talk again, he wiped tears from his eyes and looked at me with a wide grin and said, "That's the most random thing I've ever heard, and yes, I am."

I couldn't answer as his smile, and the thought of him being a musician, had put me back into fantasy land, with him playing guitar as I...

"Hi, my name's Edward. Are you lost?" He was still chuckling a little under his breath.

I finally got my wits about me enough to answer him. "No, at least, I don't think so."

"You don't think so? Where do you think you are?"

I think he had decided that if he couldn't beat 'em it was best to join 'em, so he was acting as random as I was.

"I think I'm on the road to the Cullen Farm. Am I right?"... "And if not, just take me home with you." Please tell me I didn't say that last part out loud. My face grew hot again.

His eyes lit up and I began to wonder if I had said that last part out loud. "You're right, Little Lady, this road leads to the Cullen Farm."

"Oh, great. I ran out of gas. Is it too far to walk?"

He flashed me that killer smile and said, "Only a couple of miles. I'm heading there right now. I don't know if you heard me before, but my name is Edward Cullen. I live there. If you'll just get out, I'd be happy to take you home with me."

Then he winked at me.



To say I had been knocked for a loop by this brown-haired beauty would be putting it lightly. From the moment she cast those brown eyes in my direction, I was a goner. I had spoken to her a couple of times when I pulled up, but she evidently didn't hear me. Then I realized that the radio was still blasting, so I turned it off and got out. Truth told, I wanted to get a closer look; just to see if she was as beautiful up close as she was across the road. Never mind that she had flipped me off a few minutes ago; I would now think of it as an invitation.

Then I spoke to her and she acted again as if she hadn't heard me. I began to wonder if she could hear and so I asked her using sign language. And then she had said something about my hands and asked if I was a musician. It was so random and honest, and her blush was so engaging, I laughed until tears rolled down my face. Then I told her that I was a musician and she had gotten a look on her face that went straight to my groin and awakened the Rocket Man. Yes, I call my dick the Rocket Man. I'm a nerd. Sue me.

Then I asked her if she was lost and she told me she didn't think so. She didn't think so? Then I couldn't help myself, I asked her where she thought she was? Then she said she thought she was on the road to the Cullen Farm, and if not I could take her home with me.

Well, damn! That was a blatant invitation if I ever heard one, but from the blush on her face she didn't realize she had said it out loud. But that didn't matter; an invitation was an invitation, and I wasn't about to let her take it back. And neither was the Rocket Man.

Then she told me she had run out of gas and planned to walk. Oh, Hell no! So I told her I would be happy to take her home with me.

And now, here we were in the cab of my tractor on the way home.

"Have you ever driven a tractor, Miss...?" I asked as I helped her up. That first step was a killer.

"Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't introduce myself. I'm Bella Swan, and no, I've never even been near a tractor, let alone driven one."

"Well, it's nice to meet you Bella Swan. And it's easy, just like a car. Would you like to drive this one?"

"Can I?"

"Sure, that's why I asked. There's only one seat in this thing, so it will be easier if you sit on my lap."

Yes, I said that. And yes, I had this planned all along. I wasn't a rocket scientist for nothing. I could think things out, you know. I was rewarded with another blush.

So now she was sitting on my lap, holding herself upright in a prim sort of way, trying not to lean too far back against me. But it was close enough for now.

The Rocket Man wasn't happy, but he'd take what he could get.

"So, you're the reporter from Chicago?" She nodded and I continued, "I thought our appointment was for tomorrow evening?"

"Oh, my appointment with you is for tomorrow. But I called and scheduled an interview with your parents for this evening."

"My parents?" Why would she want to interview my parents?

"Yes, I want to do an in depth look at what farm life is like for your family. That includes your parents, even though your father isn't actually a farmer. I want to get the story from all angles."

Now that sounded like a good idea. Maybe she wasn't as flaky as she first appeared. Or maybe I affected her as much as she did me. It was a thought.

We reached home fifteen minutes later. I may or may not have told her not to go over ten miles per hour, even though the tractor could go at least thirty-five. It made the trip last a little longer.

My mother met us at the back door as we crawled down from the cab and entered the kitchen.

"Mom, this is Bella Swan, the reporter from Chicago. Bella, my Mom, Esme Cullen."

I made the simple introduction, then excused myself for a quick shower. I left Bella with another less-than-subtle wink and was rewarded again with a blush before she was drawn into conversation with my mother.

This was going to be an interesting evening.


Oh. My. Edward. Cullen.

How could a farmer be so sexy? Even covered with dust and sweat, he was still the manliest man I'd ever been around. And that included Jake, who was a full-blooded Quileute and stood six-foot-six. Even he wasn't as manly as Edward Cullen.

The ride to the farm in the tractor was so fine. He was so fine. I had to bite my lip to keep from squeeing every time my behind bumped against his body. I really believe he was happy to have me in his lap. Some things a man has a hard time hiding. Um, I said hard. Bella Swan, get your mind out of the gutter or at least out of Edward's lap... unless the rest of your head is there with it.

No, please, let me just get to the farm without embarrassing myself more than I have already.

The fifteen minute ride was both exhilarating and excruciating as part of me tried to keep my body from pressing into his and the other part wanted to grind him into the dust. Yes, right there in the driver's seat of an International Harvester Tractor. I think that will be one of my fantasies from now on. Edward... in a tractor... with a lead pipe...

Oh, shit, Bella, what has happened to you?

The introductions with his mother couldn't have gone better. She was a wonderful lady, so sweet and unassuming. She immediately invited me to dinner which I accepted gratefully as I hadn't eaten since leaving Chicago that morning. I was starving.

Esme directed me to the powder room so I could freshen up a little. I stared at myself in the mirror, unable to believe the rat's nest my hair had become. I pulled a brush from my purse and after fighting with it for five minutes, I was able to tame my unruly locks into a semblance of submission. Luckily, I hadn't worn makeup. If I had, it would have just melted away in the heat of my trip down here. I splashed some water on my face and neck, trying to wash the perspiration of the road trip from my body. Finally, I just slipped off my tank top and gave myself a sponge bath right there in the powder room sink. I had to admit, it made me feel a hundred percent better. Then, I re-donned my top, applied a little mascara and some lip gloss and figured that was the best I could do given the circumstances. With a last look at myself, I rejoined the Cullens.

Edward had now reappeared, freshly showered and smelling like the promised land, and making me really want to go there. He was dressed in a plaid, flannel shirt with the sleeves pushed up above his elbows and blue jeans. Much the same way he was dressed before, the shirt was now just a different color plaid.

I discovered that Dr. Cullen was just as nice as his wife and nearly as handsome as his son, in a mature, doctor sort of way. Grandpa Cullen was another handsome devil. He had those killer green eyes, just like his grandson, and it was obvious where Edward got his charm. Actually, all three Cullen men were charmers. I learned a lot from them over the wonderful dinner Esme had prepared. Edward was very forthcoming about his decision to leave NASA and come home to help out after Grandpa's heart attack. Grandpa insisted he was getting better every day and soon Edward could get back to his real life. I was surprised that Edward didn't seem too eager to get back.

When dinner was finished, I offered to help Esme with the cleanup, but she insisted that I should get a look at the farm while it was still daylight.

"Edward, why don't you show Bella around some." Esme spoke to her son.

"Yes, ma'am," he answered his mother before rising to help me with my chair. I was struck by his manners and the respect he afforded his mother. It made me feel warm inside. If you had told me this morning that I would be attracted to a twenty-eight year old man who still lived with his parents, I would have called you crazy. Now, I was the crazy one, because this man was drawing me in like a moth to a flame.

"Come on, up you go," he helped me to my feet, then cupped his hand around my elbow and led me from the dining room and through the kitchen, back out the door we had entered.

"What would you like to see first?" he asked, his eyes twinkling down at me.

I was mesmerized, and very nearly said, "You... Naked", but, thank goodness, this time I didn't. At least he didn't react as if I did.

"Maybe you could show me the barns and your farm...stuff?" Okay, I had a journalism degree from the University of Chicago; why did I act like an illiterate idiot around this man? Then he flashed me his killer smile and I remembered; yeah, that's why.

"Okay, we actually keep a lot of our farm...stuff in the barns, so we can check out both at the same time." He actually chuckled a little, and I had to smile in return. I wasn't fooling him for a minute. He knew what he was doing to me.

We entered the barn, and I came face to face with my first ever combine. It was huge and I said as much to Edward, as I stopped short at the sight and he walked right into me.

"I didn't realize it would be so..." bump. I looked over my shoulder into his green eyes as I finished with a huff, "Big."

Edward cleared his throat, licked his lips before replying, "Yes, it sometimes takes you by surprise just how big it really is."

My brain just left the building. "Yes, I imagine so...I mean, I can see what you mean." I drug my eyes away from his face and turned back to the giant machine.

"What is this rolly thingy on the front?" I asked, pointing to the big, round rolly thing on the front.

"Those are the cutting blades. They come in different sizes, from relatively short to extra long."

"Oh, really?" I found it hard to breathe. "Why is that?"

"To fit the need. You take this one, it's perfect for our needs." My eyes went straight back to his. "Anything any bigger just... wouldn't... fit."

Damn him! He did that on purpose. I forced my eyes away.

"How does it work, exactly?" I tried to think of an intelligent question; this was the best I could come up with. Oh, no! I thought come. Shit!

"Well, these rolly thingies come in two varieties, flex head or..." he paused until I looked up at him, then he continued, "rigid head."

I swallowed as my imagination kicked into hyper drive. "Rigid head?" I can't believe I repeated him.

"Yes, rigid head. But what we have here is the flex head." I was still staring at him and watched as he licked his lips. "The flex head is easier to get into tight places."

Nom nom nom nom went my brain.

"The flex head also allows for operation over uneven surfaces. This one has full-fingered augers, a floating cutter bar, and full-width, retracting fingers," he proceeded to demonstrate by showing me his long, sexy fingers. "It also has a single lever hydraulic hookup." Which he proceeded to demonstrate by curling said fingers around and pumping his hand back and forth. Oh, that!

I wondered if I could get him to read the phone book; I bet even it would sound dirty. "Hookup," the word left my lips without any help from me. I was operating on auto-pilot.

"Yes," he nodded as if he were explaining something to a six-year-old. "Hookup. And these are the float arms. When coupled with the hydraulic cylinders, they give you a full... eight... inches," its official, my panties just exploded, "of float." Oh, god, he knew he had me hooked, now all he had to do was...

"Then, if you want rigid operation, all you have to do is apply maximum pressure."

Reel me in. Yes, my brain has officially turned into oatmeal.

I was leaning so far into him, I lost my balance and fell into his arms. They wrapped around me, holding me to his chest, as he closed the remaining distance between us.

His head came down as his lips brushed lightly across mine, once... twice... until the primal groan was torn from my throat and my hands locked in his luscious hair. I pulled his head closer, increasing the pressure of his lips against mine.

He needed no further invitation as his lips opened slightly and ground firmly onto mine. I felt the tip of his tongue stroke along the seam of my lips which willingly parted like the Red Sea before Moses. He slipped past my lips, his tongue caressing mine with drugging finesse. He took his time, exploring each tiny crevice inside my mouth with loving tenderness. I wanted to return the favor, and finally brushed his tongue aside as my own snaked into the minty depths of his. Our tongues did a ritual dance as we sparred for dominance; I finally admitted defeat and let him have his way. His kisses had sufficiently drugged my senses into submission.

His mouth left mine and journeyed its way along my jaw, down my neck and I felt his hot tongue run along the hollow of my throat before moving up the other side. Goose bumps flooded down my body as his wet tongue touched the skin behind my ear. Feeling my reaction, he did it again, and a fresh wave of bumps joined the last ones, as they culminated and closed ranks before attacking my core.

How did he do that?

A gasp left my lips as I arched myself against him, feeling the rigid evidence of his desire press against my stomach. I couldn't help grinding myself against him. He just felt so good. I heard him release a throaty moan as his hands fell to cup my cheeks and pull me in even closer, lifting me slightly as he bent his knees to get a better fit. My head flew back as a jolt went through me. He took advantage of my position to run his lips along the edge of my tank top, skimming over the tops of my breasts and making me wish I could twitch my nose or wave a magic wand and make all our clothes fall off.

In the absence of magic, my fingers would have to do the honors. I felt for the buttons on his flannel shirt and slowly released them one by one and pushed the shirt from his shoulders. I couldn't get it off any further, as his arms were locked around me and he wasn't about to turn me loose. This would have to do for now.

My fingertips ran along the contours of his bare chest, through the hair that roughened the skin in an almost obscene way. I wanted to feel it under my tongue, so I leaned in and licked him from the middle of his chest to his throat. I felt his body shiver as it was covered suddenly with goose flesh.

Oh. My. Edward. You like that, don't you? I ran my tongue up his chest again, just to make sure, and was rewarded with the same reaction.

Suddenly his hands moved to the backs of my thighs and lifted, bringing my body off the ground and curving my legs around his waist. I needed no further encouragement as I wrapped my legs around him, locking my ankles to hold me up.

His eyes burned into mine and his breath was coming in short bursts. My arms wrapped around his neck and I pressed my forehead to his, our eyes still locked. He gave me a quick hard kiss, keeping his eyes open the whole time, before he started walking. I didn't really care where we were going; I was willing to go with this man anywhere he chose to take me.

He stopped by the right side of the huge machine that he had so eloquently described before.

His voice was raspy as he asked, "Have you ever been in the cockpit of a combine?"

My mind went off to a happy place when he said the word 'cockpit', and I wasn't able to articulate verbally. However, I did manage to shake my head no.

"Well, there's a first time for everything."

Yes there is. I didn't speak but I nodded my head in agreement.

He removed his hands from my thighs and I reluctantly let my legs slide from his waist. Darn! I really liked the feel of him between my legs. Yes, I really thought that.

He reached up and opened the door, which was built right into the glass that surrounded the cab. Wait, I really liked Edward's name for this part instead: The cockpit.

So, with the door to the cockpit open, Edward hoisted himself up and reached down to take my hand. With one tug, I was in the cockpit beside him. Like in an automobile, the height of the cab... err.. cockpit, forced passengers to bend low to keep from hitting the roof. I didn't mind; bending low put me on eye level with ...

Edward's chuckle brought me to my senses, at least momentarily. He had seen where my gaze was directed. The man wasn't blind and after our activities, it was kind of hard to miss. I just thought the word hard. Shut up! Bellaperv.

I tried to straighten up, but could only raise up so far, and besides, the space was really cramped. This was no fun at all.

"Wait, don't move." Edward turned slightly, grabbed the armrest on the bucket seat and bent to pull on a lever located underneath. The seat swiveled smoothly toward us and Edward turned around and dropped into it, pulling me to straddle his lap.

"There," he said as his nose ran along my jaw line. "That's much better." His lips came to rest on my neck, just where it met my shoulder.

I smiled and glanced around, slightly curious even though Edward was doing a fine job of keeping my mind occupied elsewhere.

"Wow, this thing is amazing." I said and Edward drew back to look at me, a smirk on his face and one eyebrow quirked up in question. I felt my face suffuse with color.

"I'm talking about the the cabin... er.. the inside of this thing. Look at all the gages and lights and... is that a computer screen?" I squinted at the what looked like a small flat screen TV located near the roof and to the left of the driver.

"Yes, that's a computer screen. Its the way we keep track of how much grain we've harvested. Everything is computerized now. In fact, this cockpit is called that because it was designed by the same engineers that design the inside of fighter jets."

I looked at him for a moment to judge if he was being serious or just trying to yank my chain. He looked serious.

"Are you telling me that the inside of this combine was designed by ... a rocket scientist?"

"Yes, I am."

Then I giggled. And he chuckled. Then I just had to say, "Oh, the irony."

And we both laughed until we cried. When we finally sobered, I looked into his smiling eyes, and asked, "Are you planning on making love to me in the cockpit of this combine?"

"The thought did cross my mind." He kissed me lightly, drawing back after a moment.

We looked at each other, our smiles open and genuine.

"But you're not going to, are you?" I said softly before letting my lips meet his briefly.

"Not tonight; but tomorrow's another day, and I have an appointment with you at 7:30." He punctuated with another kiss.

"I'll make sure not to be late." I kissed him again.

"I know a way to make sure?" Kiss.

"How is that?" Kiss.

"Spend the night." I drew back, giving him a 'What-you-talking-about-Willis' scowl.

"Wait, now before you start jumping to conclusions, let me clarify. You stay here. In the guest room. All alone. If you want to." He smiled again.

All alone, if I want to? Or did he mean stay here, if I want too? Either way, my mind was made up.

"I'd love to stay."

And tomorrow would be another day; after tonight. . .

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A/N: Leave me some love, bay-bays! Tell me you want more of the sexy Rocket Man!