thanks to my betas:

bookishqua, lj summers, detochkina, and my husband

Chapter Sixteen

Negative-Positive Progress

As much as Edward longs for his own time, he admits there are some things the past hundred years have improved: Cameras, darkroom equipment, and ladies' willingness to perform fellatio top this list. His shock at Bella's willingness to wrap her lips around his cock has little to do with his Victorian upbringing—he knows very well below jobs are no longer confined to below stairs. Still, he never thought it was an act he himself would experience. Though his meals dofrequently offer to service him—the men especially—not once has he entertained the possibility. The idea of mixing his own ejaculate with his food seemed so unsanitary and, until a few days ago, he believed humanity was only good for one thing.

He's still not sure what makes Bella different—perhaps her wide-eyed acceptance of him combined with her inherent goodness. Maybe it's just that she's here and she wants to—and it's been forever since he's allowed someone to touch him.

It's been forever since he's wanted to be touched.

When she runs her tongue along the underside of his shaft, he can't contain his growl.

She looks up at him in surprise. "Is this okay?"

"It's divine."

She wraps her hand around the base of his penis and her lips around the head. What he can feel of her mouth is wet and hot and not nearly enough. With as much gentleness as he can manage, he threads his fingers through her hair and nudges her farther down onto him.

It's not the way she thought it would be. Even that part of him is cold, and though it seems strange to her, she doesn't dream of taking him out of her mouth to ask him about it. She's too fascinated by the sounds he's making and the way his thighs are trembling around her shoulders. He may be controlling the movements of her head, but she feels as if she's in charge—that his hard-as-stone body is putty in her hands. She relishes in her newfound power until he pushes her head a bit too forcefully and she starts to gag.

He lets go in a panic. "I haven't hurt you, have I?"

She shakes her head then sucks the tip of his penis back into her mouth.

He thinks he could spend eternity like this, but the familiar tightening in his testicles reminds him that he won't last forever.

And unless she asks him to change her, neither will she.

Her mortality is not exactly a revelation, but coupled with how close he just came to hurting her, it's sobering enough to kill the mood for him. No longer about to spend himself, he carefully nudges her head up from between his legs.

She knits her brow as her eyes meet his. "Did I do something wrong?"


"Then why..." She looks down at his penis; it's no longer fully erect. She's not sure what to think—she's always been told men love blow jobs. Unless... "I sucked at it, didn't I?"

"You sucked on it," he says, laughing.

Her face heats up, and she can't bring herself to look at him. What's more, she doesn't want him to look at her. Sighing, she folds her arms across her chest and lowers her face. "You know what I mean."

"I'm sorry. I didn't realize that was a serious question."

She keeps her eyes on the floor. "I thought you knew that I'd never done...well...that before."

"Nor have I ever been on the receiving end."

She snorts. "Right."

"I wouldn't lie to you."

Her head shoots up, flinging tendrils of her still-soaked hair over her shoulders. She wants to believe him, but what he's saying makes no sense in the context of what she knows about him. She's about to call him on his bullshit, then thinks better of it—after all, she doesn't know all that much.

"And I'm supposed to believe that—never mind the fact you used to be married."

"Yes, but I am..." He looks at Bella. She's sitting fully naked in his foyer in the middle of the afternoon. He thinks back to last night and how he finger-fucked her on the Ferris wheel before he even made his intentions known. Referring to himself as a gentleman in the present tense feels more than a little dishonest, and he doesn't want to lie to her.

"...I was a gentleman. As such, I wouldn't have dreamed of asking for something so perverse."

Not sure what else to say, he shrugs.

She studies his face through narrowed eyes. He meets random women—men, too—and asks them back to his place so he can take pictures while they jerk off, she thinks. Now that's perverse. A simple blow-job? She shakes her head.

He leans his elbows on the step behind him and sighs. "You don't believe me."

"I'm not an idiot."

"I don't recall implying you were—"

"If you expect me to believe you've never had someone go down on you..." Rolling her eyes, she folds her arms across her chest. "I mean, it's not even real sex."

"Prior to my marriage, I'd had a single encounter with a professional. My wife..."

His mind drifts to Rosalie—the beautiful, scarred girl to whom he'd given his name in order to legitimize the fruit of his father's uncontrollable lusts. When he came to her on their wedding night, she didn't deny him. Shaking and crying, she pulled her nightgown up to her waist and parted her legs.

"Try to be gentle," she'd said. "And if you can, be quick about it."

She didn't look at him, nor would she touch him. Even then, he didn't blame her—not after what she'd been through at the hands of his father.

One day, he'll tell Bella the circumstances surrounding his first marriage. But combined with everything else he's dumped on her in the past seventy-two hours, it seems like a bit much.

"My wife didn't like to be touched," he says, "and I didn't like to make her feel uncomfortable. Besides, before I met you, I only ever wanted to watch." He brushes his fingers against her cheeks. "I never dared to hope I might enjoy sexual gratification within marriage." Not wanting to elaborate, he changes the subject. "Speaking of marriage, if we apply for a license today, we can be married as soon as tomorrow—that is, unless you'd like like a longer engagement."

Bella doesn't have to think about it. "Tomorrow sounds perfect."


Life is easier when you have money. This has never been as evident to Bella as it is when, less than an hour after obtaining a marriage license, she answers the door to find a bridal boutique owner bearing assorted gowns for her to try on. Five minutes later, she's standing in what, despite Edward's insistence to the contrary, still seems like someone else's bedroom. Stripped down to her underwear, a complete stranger fastens her into a heavily boned longline bra.

"Of course, not all of the dresses I brought require one," the woman explains, "but the more traditional gowns look best with solid foundation garments. Once you get used to it, it won't be so uncomfortable."

Bella stifles a snort. "Oh, the bra isn't a problem—I wear a corset to work every day. It's that..." She wants to tell this woman everything: that she's marrying a man she's known all of four days, a man who already seems to understand her better than any of her friends do. That there's a voice inside her telling her she should be afraid of him, but all she really fears is that she won't be able to satisfy him sexually.

But she doesn't. Bella may not know the woman, but she knows what her reaction would be.

"Unless, of course, you wanted something more modern. I was guessing based on your obvious love of antiques, but I can go back to the shop—"

"I definitely want to go traditional." She thinks of Edward, of how he seems to fit right in with all of his antiques. Maybe she would, too, if she looked the part. Besides, something tells her his wedding suit will look like something straight out of Boardwalk Empire. "Do you have anything that looks as if it could be an heirloom?"

"You mean Victorian-inspired?"

"No, more like early 1900s. My fiancé seems to like the styles from back then."

The woman pauses for a moment, then reaches for one of her garment bags. "I think I have just the thing."

Bella knows before she even tries it on. "That's the one."

It's believed by some that the term "blow job" is a bastardization of the Victorian slang "below job". No one has been able to prove this one way or the other. Thanks for reading.