Well, here it is. The epilogue. Big long rambly author's note at the end.
In case there was any doubt, Stephenie Meyer still owns Twilight, sadly.
Our Lives Unbound, Chapter 36: Our Happily Ever After
My skin is sticky with come and slick with sweat and lube, my hands restrained above my head. Mistress has deprived me of my senses, blindfolding me and placing earbuds in my ears, blaring music. Prone on my back, naked and euphoric, I am at her mercy.
Just the way I want to be.
For a while, I float.
Her proximity buzzes in and out of my consciousness, warmth and small touches, but for the most part she leaves me alone. Wanting.
The next thing I'm aware of is heat, and I cry out at the feeling of wet fire on my chest. The wax is barely cooling before there is another splash and then another. Along my arms and thighs, I feel the telltale tightening on my skin. For a few moments, it's all I feel.
Nimble fingers tease my cock, sliding up and down, and there's a hot breath across my balls. My panting is a dull echo over the music in my ears.
I cannot hear her response, but a moment later she pulls away.
Cool metal on my skin begins to work at the wax, and I remember how the blade once terrified me. While we do not engage in any kind of cutting, the instrument itself is no longer a problem for me, dull as I know it to be. As I feel my skin revealed, wildly sensitive and cool, I would go so far as to say I love it when she uses it on me. There is a warm cloth and something slick like oil and then the blade again. Peeling.
My back arches at the sensation of wet and cold against my skin. Ice? She traces wide patterns on my body, loops and curls.
The last time she did this, I watched her paint my name.
I imagine she is doing the same, shivering and moaning as warm lips chase the trails of frigid water on my skin all the way down to my cock. Behind the blindfold, my eyes snap open at the wet heat as it engulfs me, breathing raggedly at the sharp tease of teeth. She works me until I am ready to explode. When I beg her to let me come, she slides her mouth off of me, leaving me tingling and desperate.
But then I feel her fingers on my lips, and they are wet. They taste like her, musky and sweet, and I try to pull them deeper into my mouth, licking at what she leaves behind when she removes her touch.
Pulling away, she leaves me to ponder for a moment, slowing my breathing and hoping for more. When I have almost gotten control of myself, I feel a shifting of weight on the surface of the table. She touches no part of me except my cock, but that touch is so perfect, so all-consuming.
She takes me in slowly, forcing a hot groan from the very bottom of my abdomen, and she rides me just like that. Slowly. Steady. There is a faint vibration, and I imagine the way she moves a bullet on her clit as she's fucking me.
I can imagine so many things.
I have to imagine less interesting things if I have any chance of holding off on coming.
My mind has settled on a particular plot line of a story when I feel her hand clutch at my thigh, and it is only then that I realize she's probably riding me backwards. I am flooded by the image of her ass, the curves of her sides. The way her hair spills down her spine.
"Mistress," I manage as the feeling rises up in me.
The music stops.
"Yes, Pet. Come for me. Come in me."
My hands close up in fists against my bonds as I thrust up into her just as her body begins to tense around me. I hear her cries and my own, my orgasm overwhelming me.
At thirty-five, I'd had no idea that I could come so many times and still want more.
But with my Mistress, my Bella, my wife ... I always, always want more.
The bathtub in our master bathroom is wide and deep. Still shaky, I slide to sit on the floor beside it, just watching Bella as she runs the water. She's naked now and so beautiful. My hand drifts up to touch her thigh, longing for her skin.
She laughs and bends to kiss me. "You're so adorable when you're like this."
It was a good scene. A great one. I'm even loopier than usual.
"You're always adorable."
She rolls her eyes and stands back up, tugging at me lightly before urging me into the tub. It's only half full, but I don't care. The water feels good. Having her spine against my front, my arms around her, feels even better.
She turns the water off when it has risen nearly to my shoulders, and I sink back, taking her with me.
We stayed in her old apartment together for three blissful years before deciding to buy something larger. We said it was our wedding present to ourselves – a little townhouse in the city, still close to all our favorite places. It has enough room for an office for each of us and a playroom in the basement. And it has a bathtub. An enormous, luxurious bathtub where my lover allows me to hold her after my Mistress has worked me to the point of exhaustion.
We wash each other gently, and when her fingertips meet the places where the wax adhered to my skin, I thank god again that we invested in the sorts of candles that are designed to not pull out hair. Still, she has to scrub a bit to get the last remaining streaks of blue and red off of my chest. I don't mind.
Once we're clean, we sit there, soaking and loving, my hands always moving on her skin. Eventually, I interweave her fingers with mine and rest them between her breasts. Our rings touch when we hold hands like this, and I find myself watching the glitter of the band.
I remember the moment two years ago, sitting in the bath together just like this, my body raw and my heart so open, and asking her to marry me.
"Of course," she'd said, laughing and turning to kiss the surprise off of my mouth.
Apparently, she'd been about a month away from breaking down and asking me herself. But she'd known it was important to me, so she'd waited long enough for me to get my nerve.
A few weeks later, we'd stood before a justice of the peace. Jasper was my best man and Rosalie was her matron of honor. And nothing had made me happier than sliding that ring onto her finger.
I turn it gently. She didn't want an engagement ring, so she wears just this one platinum circle, a diamond and a sapphire set so they lie flush against the surface. Because sometimes things are crystal clear. Because our future is as open as the sky.
Because in our lives, nothing is ever just one thing.
Because no one – not even a stone – should be alone.
Bella says it's because she likes the color blue.
"What are you smiling at?"
I smirk and kiss her neck, wrapping my arms around her more tightly. "Just you. Thinking about when you agreed to marry me."
She hums. "That was a good day."
"One of the best."
We lapse back into quiet, but her fingertips are more restless on my skin, so I know she's thinking about something.
"Was that what you needed?"
I was the one to ask her for this scene. I asked her to take me someplace deep, and I asked her to do it tonight.
"Yes," I murmur, kissing her ear. "Exactly. Exactly, exactly what I needed."
"I'm glad." She pauses and tilts her neck, inviting me to slide my lips along damp skin. "Are you nervous?"
It's a fair question. But at this moment, I can't think of anything except how good I feel and how much I love my wife. "No," I answer truthfully. "Not even a bit."
By the time we arrive the next morning, I am so nervous I can scarcely breathe.
"You're going to be fine," Bella insists. Her face is just in front of mine, her hands on my cheeks. With wet lips, she kisses me again and again, and I do not miss the way her fingers trail to linger on the necklace that serves as my collar. "You're brilliant and amazing, and you can do this."
I have shifted her to sit across my lap, her chin against my hair and my face pressed to her neck. Eventually, though, it's time.
"Mr. Cullen? You're up in five."
I smile weakly, but I feel a little green. Bella slides down off my lap and stands; I miss her warmth immediately. Rising, I pull her into my arms and kiss her brow. "You're sure I can't take you with me?"
"I'll be in the very front row." Her lips meet mine before she steps away to take my hands in hers. "And I'll be smiling because I am so, so proud of you."
I nod and suck in a shaky breath. The man who came to fetch me leads me out, and I follow him. My neck twists twice to look back at Bella, and she watches me until the very moment that the door swings closed between us.
With the metal of my collar between my finger and my thumb, I wait in the wings, allowing someone to fix whatever make-up Bella may have smudged and staring forward.
Everything grows hushed, and I feel the panic rising. There is a woman's voice, booming across the set, but I can't listen. All I can do is look. Across the sea of people spreading out beyond the curtain I am clinging to, I search for just one face.
And there she is. Sitting beside my mother, my wife is in the front row, exactly where she'd promised she would be.
And she looks so beautiful.
"Folks, we are so pleased to be able to introduce to you, in his first major television interview, the best-selling author of Freedom of Speech, Edward Cullen."
There's a tap on my shoulder when I freeze and fail to move. There's a whispered, "That's your cue."
Swallowing hard, I take the first step forward to the sounds of applause. It's deafening and bewildering. But the moment I emerge from the curtain, I find Bella's eyes on mine. I watch her mouth the words, "I love you."
And I'm okay.
In the center of the stage, I shake hands with the host, exchanging awkward air kisses and blushing before I can even sit down. Trying to appear more relaxed than I am, I sink into the chair and place my elbow on the armrest, fidgeting and looking at the people who are watching me.
The host smiles warmly. "So how are you?"
It's an easy question.
I close my eyes for half a second and touch my collar, tapping the metal of my wedding band against it once for luck.
"I'm doing very well," I manage.
"Well, we're delighted to have you here." She talks a bit about random happenings, and I listen, nodding and responding and ignoring that there's an audience peering in on our chat.
Every word comes more easily than the one before.
"Now, tell us a little bit about the book."
This much I've rehearsed before. "Well, at its heart, it's a lllove story."
Of course it is. It's the book I started in those first heady months when Bella came into my life.
I explain a little more about the plot before the host interjects. "I understand that, in the beginning of book, the main character chooses not to speak for an extended period of time, is that right?"
I nod. "Three years."
"Could you talk a little about that? How did that happen?"
"He ... he feels that no one is listening to him. And he feels sort of out of control. This is something he can take control of, so that's what he does."
The host nods. And I know what's coming next. "Now, it's generally known that when you were growing up you had a speech impediment."
My throat grows dryer and my tongue thicker, but I push through. "Yes. I had a t-terrible stutter." My nails dig into my palm. I hide my tension with a smile, glancing at Bella and then back down. Weakly, I admit, "It still shows up sometimes. When I'm nervous, for example."
She laughs. "Well, we'll try to keep you comfortable."
For the most part she succeeds.
I keep myself relaxed with my own techniques as well. I touch my collar and my wedding ring. I look at Bella. And in the moments when I do not have to speak, I scan my body for the soreness that belies what happened the night before.
Finally, the man beside the camera raises his hand, and the host begins to wrap things up. Holding up a copy of my book she asks, "So, in just a few words, if there was one message you hope people would take away from your story, what would it be?"
My eyes connect with Bella's across the stage. And it's so simple.
My throat is tight, but not for the usual reasons. This is not a hesitation born of a problem with my speech.
Breathing in deeply, I exhale out the words, "That ... if you're open to it ... that love will set you free."
After the show, Bella and my mother are waiting for me. In an uncharacteristic display, my mother moves in for a hug, there in front of everybody, and I let my arms close around her reciprocally. "You did so well, sweetheart."
Over the past five years, our relationship has had its stops and starts, but on the whole we have built it back into a warm, living thing. We speak on the phone, and she comes over regularly to help with the tiny patch of a garden behind Bella's and my house.
She lets go quickly, and my eyes immediately seek out Bella's. Pulling her against my side, I meet her lips in a soft kiss. She, too, is effusive. "I told you. You nailed it."
"I did my best."
"You were wonderful."
I scoff. "Like I could have gotten here without you."
I mean it in so many ways. After years of freelancing and odd jobs, Bella took a position as an editor at a major publishing company shortly after we moved in together. She was the one to show my novel around.
She was the one who inspired me to write it in the first place.
With her hand on my face, her voice serious, she intones, "You could have gotten anywhere you wanted to."
That may or may not be true. I'll never know. I never want to.
"But there's nowhere I want to be without you."
Arriving at Emmett and Rosalie's house, we are immediately attacked by a flying bundle of girl.
After deciding that we didn't want to become parents ourselves, Bella and I became determined to be the very best aunt and uncle we could be. For the most part we've fulfilled the roles in spades, getting to know my brother's children and watching them as they've grown.
It hurts to think of all the time I missed out on, being as afraid of them as they were of me.
Squatting down, I catch my niece and kiss her cheek, lifting her to carry her on my hip.
"I saw you on TV, Uncle Edward!"
I smile in spite of myself. "Is that right?"
"Yup. Mommy said you did real good."
I chuckle. "Well, coming from your mother, that's high praise indeed. And what did you think?"
"I thought you were excellent." Her tiny arms wrap around my neck and she kisses my cheek.
"Well, thank you."
"Can we read my princess book later?"
My mother follows behind us and chimes in. "Can I read with you girls, too?"
She has to think about this. "Yes. But no boys."
I sigh dramatically as I open the door and step inside the house where my sister-in-law is waiting to take the little girl from me. Rose hugs me and then Bella, congratulating us both, and she is followed soon by Emmett, Alice and Jasper, who quickly offers me a scotch.
"Thanks," I reply, sinking down into a chair.
It is a small party. In my opinion, that's the very best kind.
My father hovers in the doorway, his own drink in his hand. I nod but otherwise do not respond. Little has changed between us on the whole, but he no longer looks at me with disdain in his eyes. I don't know if it's my new life and my headstrong wife, or my success, or if it's just the way that I now meet his gaze head-on instead of shying away.
We'll never be close. But for now we are okay.
As we all talk, there are sounds of children in the background. One of them – Alice and Jasper's son – sneaks onto Alice's lap at some point, and she lets him sit there, cuddling him tight. Time and motherhood have softened her, as has Jasper's patient love. They're happy. And while they're still close – if no longer best – friends, she and Bella haven't had a fight in five long years.
Neither have Alice and I.
Rosalie beckons us all into the kitchen before long. It's a messy affair, full of little hands and big ones. After all, it's family.
And never in my life have I been so delighted to be part of one.
I am standing at the picture window, watching Bella and my mother with my niece out on the lawn when I hear the clearing of a throat behind me.
I turn to see my father as he steps to stand beside me, shoving the curtain farther back so he can see.
"Bella's been a good addition to the family."
It's so obvious to me that it seems strange he even needs to say so after all this time. I grunt a vague affirmative, watching through the window as she tucks my niece's hair behind her ear.
My father sighs. "You've been a good addition to the family."
My spine straightens slightly, my body tensing.
"I'm glad you're part of it again. I'm glad you've let me be a part of yours." He pauses, his voice stiff. But I can't mistake the tone of apology. "I don't tell you that kind of thing enough."
Slightly stunned, I let my gaze meet his, finding nothing insincere to his expression. "Thanks, D-dad."
"Anytime, son. Now I was wondering..." He trails off as he reaches into his jacket, pulling out a copy of my book. Along with a pen, he holds it out to me.
I shake my head but take them both. On the inside page, I hover for a moment, uncertain what to write. In the end, I simply sign my name.
"Thanks." He takes it back from me, looks at my signature and sighs. Clapping his hand against my shoulder, he looks ready to say something. Internally, I'm tensing. But then he lets go, patting my back once.
He lets whatever it was remain unsaid.
The girls come in a little later, and they find us both still standing there, not speaking but not fighting either as we stare out the window. Bella comes to me immediately and wraps an arm around my waist. "You ready to go?"
"Yeah. Just let me say goodbye to everybody." Nodding at my father, I offer a quick, "So long," restraining my expression of surprise when he holds out his hand and meets my eyes.
"It's a damn good book," he says quietly.
I hadn't known he'd read it.
There's a warmth in my chest. "Thank you," is my only reply.
Back at home, Bella and I retreat to our own separate offices, and it is a relief to have a moment to myself. Still, we don't get far into the evening before I miss her company. When I wander out, I find her on the couch, reading. From her expression, I can tell that she's been waiting for me.
Smiling broadly, she opens her arms, and I sit beside her, kissing her once before leaning back into the cushions.
"How are you doing?" she asks, stroking my hair.
"Fantastic." It's true. "You?"
"About the same."
She stretches, and it makes her chest arch forward.
All the nervous energy I've been carrying all day centers down into just one notion.
Smirking at my expression, she feigns innocence. "So what do you want to do tonight?"
I don't suppress the growl at the back of my throat. Dipping my head, I place a series of kisses down her neck and heading toward her chest. "I can think of a few things."
"More than a few."
There on the couch, I kiss her mouth and feel her body, pressing her down into the cushions until she is lying there beneath me, her legs and body open. With all the tenderness and reverence I feel, I strip her down. She does the same for me.
Naked above her, I make love to her. It's slow and perfect, and I am in awe.
For all that so much has changed in all these years, this hasn't. What I feel for her ... what she does to me...
Feeling her body tense around me, I bury my face against her neck before I spill into her, whispering, "I love you," again and again.
We are still lying there, embracing when her phone rings. Against my half-hearted complaints, she disentangles herself from my embrace to stride across the room, still nude.
I listen to her side of the conversation with a lazy, sated smile across my face.
"I don't know. Let me check." She covers the mouthpiece and turns to me. "Any interest in going out tonight?"
Stretching, I slide my hand across my face. Staying in, curled up around my wife tonight, is tempting. But friends and drinks don't sound half bad. "Sure."
An hour later, we emerge, dressed and laughing, to hail a cab toward our favorite bar. The people there were once her friends, but now they're ours, and it isn't long before I find a glass being pressed into my hand, congratulatory smiles meeting me everywhere I look.
We talk. We drink. We have fun.
At some point in the evening, I find myself amidst a circle of people discussing a film I want to see, and I notice that a couple of the faces there are new. During a lull in conversation, I hold my hand out, introducing myself. As I do, my voice is smooth.
The woman takes my hand and says her name, and then she asks, "So what do you do?"
There are so many things. I write. I read. I get tied up, and I please my Mistress. I spend time with friends and family.
And I love. Above all else, I love.
Glancing at my Bella across the room, I meet her eyes and smile.
And then I answer, simply, "I live."
A/N: Well ... that's all folks. I'm sad to see them go, but they're ready. I do still have a few outtakes in mind, so if you want to check in with these guys from time to time, be sure to put the Outtakes / Extras story on alert. You'll find it on my profile.
Also, as I mentioned a while back, I'm sort of slowing down with my fanfiction writing. I promise I'm not flouncing or taking my stories down or pulling to publish. I just kind of feel like I've said most of what I have to say about Edward and Bella, so I'm starting to put more of my time and energy back into original fiction. If you're at all interested in reading it, please consider following Jeanette Grey. You can find her at www . jeanettegrey . com or as jeanettelgrey on Twitter.
... And now for my rambly author's note where I sum up my feelings about this story and the people who helped make it what it is.
When I started Our Lives Unbound, it wasn't my intention to write a story about gender roles and disabilities, but ... well, that's what it turned into. Thank you to everyone who embraced these characters, and especially to those who overcame their own misgivings about the idea of a submissive male protagonist. While this is ultimately a love story, it's also a story about finding ourselves and accepting that sometimes we're happiest when we're freed from society's expectations and conventions.
Yes, I want you to take away from this that love will set you free. But I'd also love it if the next time you heard somebody call a man a derogatory name for being something other than stereotypically masculine, you thought twice.
Getting off my soap box, I would be remiss if I didn't thank the people who made this story possible.
This story wouldn't exist with my best friend, bmango. Hell, I don't know if I'd have the courage to post anything without her feedback and encouragement.
Antiaol stood by me and fixed my commas and gave it to me straight when I started to go off the rails. Again, I don't know what I would do without her. (That this story isn't entirely her cup of tea just makes her dedication all the more amazing. Seriously. This girl is awesome.)
And last but not least, I have been so, so delighted to get to know MsKathy while writing this story. What an amazing, brave, giving lady. I can't thank her enough for her advice on all things kinky and on all sorts of matters of the heart. I'm so happy to be able to call her a friend.
And of course, most importantly, thank you to you for reading this. You have no idea how much it means to me. Seriously. Just thank you.