The Way the Cookie Crumbles
Word Count: 4,515
Summary: Every baker has a little magic inside.
The key sticks in the lock again. She jerks it to the right and up and hears the click as it turns, opening the door to her quiet apartment. Juggling the grocery bags in her arms, she tosses the keys on the table, and avoids tripping over the cat planted in the middle of the kitchen, its silent glare reproachful that she hasn't already delivered food to its bowl.
Yes, Bella, this is your pathetic life. Pretty soon you'll be the creepy cat lady that everyone talks about in the building.
She shakes her head at the cat, who relentlessly meows until supper is delivered, then begins the task of methodically putting away her groceries, trying not to relive the embarrassing events of the day. Otherwise known as mooning Edward Cullen.
She moves around the kitchen, opening cabinet doors, then standing in front of the refrigerator for a long minute before the purr of the creature swirling between her feet pulls her from her trance. She looks down.
"I should bake something for Emmett, shouldn't I, Cat? A little thank you?"
A continued purr is answer enough for her, and she begins to move with purpose, pulling out her recipe book and flipping through the pages until one particular item catches her eye. Double chocolate sables. He loves those.
She rummages in the cabinet for her chocolate stash, and sets the bittersweet chunks in the freezer to chill as she pulls the other dry ingredients out. Flour and cocoa join the baking soda and salt on the counter, next to the bowls and grater.
The block of bittersweet is firm beneath her hands as she slowly grates the chocolate, her strokes quick and sure as flashes from earlier in the day break through her concentration.
New staff joining the office wasn't unusual, but the arrival of Edward Cullen has been heralded for the last week as a major event. The top sales rep in the Chicago office. Youngest winner of a company award for annual performance. All around wunderkind. And of particular interest to the women in the office – Mr. Cullen was both hot and single, named to more than one list of eligible bachelors. In other words, fresh meat.
Bella hisses as her knuckle scrapes the grater she hasn't been paying close enough attention to and she switches angles to finish with the chocolate.
Amazingly, he lived up to the hype. When he walked into the conference room for the office wide meeting to introduce him, multiple ovaries may have spontaneously combusted. Tall and lean, he'd been dressed in a dark suit that fit in a way that made her want to rip it off just to see if what was underneath was really as amazing as the cut promised.
And his face. She stops mid-grate at the memory of his face. Full kissable lips, almost too pretty, but countered by the sharp cut of his cheekbones and firm jaw. A shock of hair of some indefinable color, bright, not quite red, not quite brown, but just begging for fingers to be buried within, to ruffle it free from his subdued corporate approved attempts to tame it.
But the best part was his eyes. Glass green and vivid, they'd been warm and kind as he'd greeted the various hands thrust in his direction as he'd been led through the room. Even from her position in the back corner, she'd been able to see them. If eyes were the windows to the soul, Edward Cullen possessed one that, impossibly enough, seemed to be genuine and real. She'd been impressed when he hadn't paused any longer or paid any more attention to Lauren "Notice My Thrusting Fake Boobs" Mallory than he had to Angela "I'm So Shy I Can Barely Meet Your Eyes" Weber.
If only the day had ended there. She tosses the grater aside, and pulls out a bowl, measuring and whisking together first the flour and cocoa powder, then adding the baking soda and sea salt, her cheeks flaming as the rest of the afternoon rushes back. The intro meeting had broken up and they'd all been dismissed back to their cubicles for Emmett to bring Edward around for one on one introductions. And then vanity struck.
Hearing their voices coming down the row, knowing they were close, she'd been seized by a sudden, totally out of character desire to race to the bathroom and make sure nothing from lunch still resided in her teeth and that her hair wasn't a complete wreck. Bella sighs as she punishes the flour with her whisk. She can admit it to herself. She had wanted to look good for Cullen. Not that she expected him to drop to one knee and profess undying love or anything, but still. Sometimes a girl just wanted a cute guy to not flinch at the sight of her.
So she'd bolted from her chair as the voices came even closer, trotting towards the ladies with her purse in hand, failing to notice Mike Newton's damn humongous gym duffle that he always left sticking out of his cube.
Bella covers her eyes, knowing she's smearing flour dust on her face, as the instant replay of the next few minutes screens in her mind in slow motion.
Bella catches heel in bag strap. Bella flaps arms wildly, tossing purse, into air. Bella attempts to catch self on edge of desk, and somehow manages to twist so that edge of skirt catches on desk instead and rips, exposing Bella's ass, covered only in white cotton hipsters with brightly colored yellow stars scattered about them, to the entire office, including one Mr. Edward Cullen.
Not the first impression she had hoped for. It had been as if the whole office had screeched to a stop and everyone, everywhere, had popped up like a pack of prairie dogs to ogle her ass and her pain.
She owes Alice a drink for her quick thinking and offer of a jacket to wrap around her waist, and Emmett major gratitude for barking at everyone to get back to work as he blocked their view while she tried to cover the important bits with Alice's jacket. She'd managed to avoid eye contact with pretty much everyone else, including Edward Cullen, and had taken Emmett up on his offer to leave a little early, skulking silently beside him to the elevator.
Most of the people she works with know she's a klutz, though she's managed to avoid office flashing prior to today. But him? She is never going to be able to look Edward Cullen in the eye. Ever. Which is a damn shame, because he has beautiful eyes.
She slides forward her mixer, patting it lovingly as she adds the softened butter into the bowl and starts to cream it, gradually adding the sugar and watching as the two form a fluffy ball. She carefully cracks an egg and extracts the yolk, adding it to the mixture, then pours the flour and cocoa combination in until it's just combined.
The mixer winds to a halt as she cuts it off and folds in the grated chocolate, mixing the dark slivers into the softness of the batter before plunging her hands into the dough, kneading and squeezing to pull it together. It's giving beneath her hands and she closes her eyes, forming and shaping the dough by touch, letting the emotions of the day wash over her.
Why her? Why did these things always seem to happen to her? She's tired of being alone, tired of putting on a brave face, tired of pretending that she's not lonely and that she doesn't want a guy. And not just any guy, but the one, the guy that will brighten her worst days, give her toe-curling kisses, and love her even when she's cranky. Not that she expected Edward Cullen to be that guy, but just for a few minutes it had been nice to dream, to get lost in what ifs, in possibilities that in fact her dream guy was out there somewhere, just waiting for her.
Now she'll be lucky if she can even work with Cullen without melting into total humiliation.
The moisture slides down her face before she even realizes that she's crying, and she shakes her head, trying to steady herself as a tear drop splashes on her hand and she watches another hit the batter. She drops the dough and stumbles to the sink, taking a deep breath as she washes her hands, pours a glass of water, and drinks. She's being ridiculous, but she knows the tears are very real.
Cat swirls back under her feet, and she picks him up, rubbing his soft fur and letting his purrs soothe her before she goes back to her baking. She washes her hands again, shapes the dough into logs and wraps it, then stows it in the refrigerator to chill while the oven preheats. She distracts herself with a glass of wine and a book for the rest of the evening, stopping to slide trays of cookies in and out of the oven, and to drizzle melted white and dark chocolate over the finished sables as they emerge, the deep cocoa smell wafting throughout the kitchen and soothing her.
She snags one from the plate as she retires to bed, thankful that tomorrow's Friday, and spends her night dreaming of green eyes and a beautiful smile.
Edward scrubs his hand over his face as he follows Emmett from the dreary old underground parking garage and over to the creaky elevator. He's glad the introductions phase of starting this job is almost over – between the office and the new clients Emmett's been ferrying him around to see all day, he's shaken more hands than a desperate politician lately.
"Let me just grab a couple of files from my office, check some email, and then we can head over to the bar together," Emmett says, as he hits the button for the tenth floor. "It's kind of a Friday night ritual. Whoever has the time hits the bar at Galveston's down the street for a drink or two. The owner there, Jasper, he's cool. We play a couple of games of pool most Fridays."
"Sure," Edward replies. He's known Emmett for years, and he knows the transfer to this office is the fresh start he needs to try to build more of a life than the workaholic rut he's been stuck in for years now. Those awards on the wall don't keep him warm at night, and he's tired of heading home to nothing but takeout and an empty apartment.
But for tonight, he really wishes he could just head back to the new place he hasn't learned to think of as home yet and sip a beer while he tackles more of those stacks of boxes still scattered everywhere. Not hang out in a noisy bar where he suspects that Lauren girl will be lying in wait. She gave him her card yesterday with her cell scribbled on the back, and delivered an offer to show him around anytime with a spastic flutter of her eyelids, despite his protests that he'd grown up in Seattle and didn't need a tour guide.
The elevator doors open and he follows Emmett through the halls that are now empty and quiet, the bustle of the week behind them, until they reach the large corner office that his friends occupies. Emmett flicks on the light, then bounds over to his desk, a huge smile lighting his face.
"Bella cookies! Edward, man, you would not believe how good these are. Bella is an awesome baker. I keep trying to tell her she should open her own shop. Her cookies are like magic."
Bella. Edward's mouth quirks up in a barely suppressed smile. He's not likely to forget her. The moon and stars girl. The one with the big brown eyes and the heart-shaped ass that everyone had gotten a little better acquainted with yesterday. He hates that happened to her, could feel the waves of embarrassment rolling off her as she fled the office, but he might also have had a dream starring that particularly well-shaped derriere last night that he thoroughly enjoyed.
Emmett peels back the cellophane covering the plate on his desk and picks one of the small round disks up, his eyes closing as he rapidly inhales the chocolate. Edward watches in disbelief as Emmett consumes another three in rapid succession.
"Hey, Emmett, don't choke yourself."
Emmett grins. "Sorry. These are some of my favorites. She's got some fancy name for them I can't ever remember. I just call them the chocolate ones and she knows what I mean." He looks at the remaining cookies with longing and then, with obvious reluctance, holds the plate towards Edward. "Try one."
Edward pretends to scoop up five or six cookies as he watches Emmett's eyes widen, then plucks just two off the plate. "Thanks, Em. I'll have to try to introduce myself on Monday to her – we didn't get the chance to meet face to face."
Emmett snickers a little, then glances behind him through the open door. "You can do it now; looks like she's just leaving." He raises his hand, calling out, "Hey, Bella!"
Edward swivels to see her small form bopping through the rows of cubes, her head swaying from side to side. She sidles up to the elevator with a little half-twirl and hits the button. He grins. She must have headphones on, since she obviously has no idea she's being watched the way she's shimmying her way through the open doors.
Before he even thinks, he's on his feet. "I'm going to see if I can catch her. Maybe she can tell me where the bar is."
Emmett sighs as he turns back to the computer screen and the piles of emails all screaming for attention. "Yeah, that's a good idea. Don't leave before I get there." He turns back, muttering about how being the boss sucks sometimes as Edward makes his way out the door.
He impatiently hits the button and waits for the elevator to creak itself shut and begin the slow descent. When he reaches the bottom, he's surprised to see her standing in front of his Volvo, pawing through a big bag he guesses must be her purse, even though it looks large enough to fit a pack mule inside.
"Bella?" he calls tentatively, moving across the nearly empty garage until he's nearly beside her. "It's Edward, Edward Cullen. Is everything alright?"
Her head jerks up, pretty brown eyes wide as a deer caught in headlights, and he curses to himself. Way to make a good first impression and scare her to death, Edward. He steps back, holding up the hand that still contains her cookies, slightly worse for wear now with the chocolate drizzle melting against the heat of his hand.
Her face is flushed as she avoids his eyes. "Edward, hi, how are you?" she responds politely. She paws at her bag again. "I'm sorry. I can't find my phone, not that reception is worth a damn down here anyway, and one of my tires is flat, as if I needed anything else to finish off the week from hell . . ." She trails off as though she's just realized she's still speaking aloud. "Right. Sorry, didn't mean to babble on there. I'm just going to run upstairs and try to make a call."
He's not quite sure why, but he doesn't want her to leave, so he blurts out the only thing that comes to mind as she starts to step past him.
"Cookies!" He holds aloft the two chocolate cookies Emmett gave him, although one is now cracked down the center. Her head is cocked to the side, regarding him with an expression which suggests that she might think he's mildly brain damaged, but she's stopped again, so he presses forward.
"Emmett gave me some of your chocolate cookies. He says they're amazing, though I haven't tried them yet."
Her mouth quirks up a little, a ghost of a smile, and he finds himself taking a tiny step closer to hear her reply. "They're called sables. Double chocolate sables, though Emmett can't ever remember that."
"Sables, huh? Sounds decadent." He lifts one of the broken pieces to his mouth, feeling the firm texture of the cookie's exterior on his tongue before his taste buds explode with the deep flavor of the chocolate. He inhales, eyes closing as he chews, relishing the taste before he swallows down the bite. Even then, the memory of the sensation lingers, and he opens his eyes, suddenly eager for more.
She's watching him, her eyes still wide, but with a slightly glazed look that wasn't there before. "That's like the best thing I've tasted in maybe . . . ever," he tells her as he swallows hard, surprised by the surge of heat throughout his body, the rush of sensation that seems to flow over him.
"I'm glad you like them," she replies. "I was afraid they'd be too hard."
A certain portion of his anatomy is in fact starting to be too hard as he finds himself stepping closer, almost touching her now as she's trapped between his body and his car.
"No, they're just right." He starts to lift the second half of the cookie to his own lips when he pauses, something she's said tugging at his brain. "Haven't you eaten one?"
She shrugs, the movement bringing her slightly closer. "Just one last night when they were first baked."
He brings the cookie to her lips, brushing it against them. "You have to taste then."
Her mouth opens, and he watches as her tongue slips out from between pouty, perfectly pink lips to catch the cookie. He almost groans, and then does when she swipes her tongue across the melted chocolate that's smeared on his thumb.
She pulls back quickly, flushed and embarrassed, and he can't take his eyes off her mouth and the movement of her jaw, the peek of that tongue over lips to catch stray crumbs, and the lines of her throat as she swallows and gives a small purr of satisfaction that draws him even closer.
"Good?" he whispers.
"Yes," she replies.
They're inches apart now, and it's ridiculous that he's suddenly overwhelmed with a desire to touch her face and feel the flush of her cheek under his hand. He wants to sample the softness of the shell of her ear and partake of the sweetness he knows he'll find between her lips. A rush of tenderness that seems to well from nowhere towards her floods him as their eyes remain locked together, their breathing synced and loud in his ears in the silence of the garage.
"You . . . you said you had another?" Her voice is soft, and there's a slight tremble, as though she's as uncertain and unsure as he is about exactly what's passing between them.
He nods and raises the sable, breaking it in half. She plucks one broken piece from him and raises it to his lips. He smiles, opening for her offering and doing the same in return. She plucks her half from his fingers delicately, a quick neat nip of teeth that just grazes the pad of his thumb. He retaliates by nipping at her own before she can pull it away.
It's overwhelming for a moment, this bombardment of sensations. Her teeth on his skin, the texture of her thumb coated in chocolate and crumbs against his tongue, the cookie's seductive flavors mingling and swirling in his mouth. He feels intoxicated and alive and-
He almost staggers back then, the realization hitting him hard. He wants her. No, worse than that, he needs her. He doesn't even know her last name, but he needs to taste her mouth and feel the weight of those breasts straining against her sundress. Needs to slide that flirty skirt up and explore the curves of her hips, touch the roundness of that sweet little ass she'd flashed at him yesterday. Needs to run his fingers between her thighs, taste the wetness he hopes he'll find there, let her body pull his in and envelop him until there's no him or her, just them.
They're frozen together, standing closer than anyone but lovers would, and he can't stand it anymore. He leans forward and she meets him halfway, their mouths colliding with a familiarity that's impossible but welcome. There's no awkward first kiss bumps. Their mouths seem already acquainted and knowing about the pressure and sensation they both desire. He's never had a kiss like this before, one that leaves him breathless and enslaved to her lips.
They break away, panting, but only for a moment before they're entwined again. He pulls her closer, hoisting her body until she's seated on the hood of his car, one leg tucked around his hip. She uses it as leverage, pulling him closer, her body arching and grinding against his dick that's harder than stone.
He manages to pull back for a half second, enthralled by the sight of her lying back against the hood of his car between the cage of his hands, her dark hair a vivid contrast to the silvery paint, her deep eyes full of desire. She wants this, he realizes. She feels the same pull he's possessed by. So he stops trying to fight it and dives in again.
The next few minutes are a blur. He wants to touch her everywhere, find the skin lurking beneath that dress, lick the flesh between her breasts, see if her face flushes when he makes her watch while he draws slow circles around her nipples with his tongue.
Her cardigan is tossed aside and he slips the thin straps of her sundress away, tasting the cream of her flesh before he draws the fabric lower. Her breasts are as perfect as he imagined, all strawberries and cream, tight points of flesh that respond so beautifully to his fingers and mouth until she's keening his name and tugging at his hair.
She's fumbling for his buckle, her breathing harsh and ragged as she brushes against the hard flesh beneath his suit pants. The belt gives way and her fingers burrow quickly beneath the layers of fabric, stroking him with a sure hand that has him moments away from losing it completely.
He wants more than to come in her hand though, so he slides beneath her skirt and, just as he imagined, encounters the sticky wet feel of drenched cotton between her legs. Their hands move in unison for a moment, both straining to touch and be touched, the pleasure of the sweep of her thumb over the head of his cock a counterpoint to the quick flick he makes against her clit.
And then it's all too much, and he knows they both want more as she begins to tug and pull his trousers further down and he manages to shimmy her underwear lower. There's a brief awkward moment of disengaging as her panties go flying and his pants hit the floor, and then he's between her legs and she's arched against him, the bare flesh of her pussy cradling his dick to perfection.
He wants to savor this, the initial moment of penetration, the slick grasping heat of her body pulling him in, the little whimper of pleasure as she urges him closer, whispers his name. He meets her demands conveyed through her heat and tightness and voice, and he moves faster, her own name falling from his lips as their bodies rock together.
They're wrapped together, limbs intertwined, his forehead touching hers as they push and pull each other closer and closer. He wedges his hand between them, rubbing her in counter to his thrusts, and he feels her legs start to shake as she chants his name, somewhere between a prayer and curse until she comes apart in his arms. He pulls her legs higher, hips thrusting now, so close to the end that everything is reduced to the flutter and clutch of her sweet muscles around his cock until he spills in her body.
He manages to catch himself before he crushes her as he falls weakly to the hood, sated and exhausted.
He raises his head slowly, turning to meet hers. Her expression is hard from him to decipher, but it's not the well-fucked look he was hoping for. He raises a shaky hand and tucks a strand of her dark hair behind her ear.
"Bella." He breathes her name like the supplication it is, and her mouth turns up just a little at the corner, then droops down again as her face flushes and she looks away.
"I, um, I don't-"
He stops her lips with his, the touch brief and chaste and meant as reassurance, but the memories it stirs make him suddenly eager to take this elsewhere. He's not ready to let her go yet.
"Me either," he replies to her unspoken statement, looking her straight in the eye to make sure she understands. He hasn't has a one night stand in years, and he's not breaking that streak tonight.
He straightens and helps her from the hood of the car, smoothing the straps of her dress up and skirt down before fumbling for his own pants. She stands awkwardly, and he remembers her flat tire.
"May I give you a ride home?" he asks. She nods, and he grins, leading her to the passenger side and helping her in. When she's settled, he leans in. "Bella, do you by any chance have any more of those cookies at home?"
Her face lights up and she gives him a little wink, "I'll guess you'll just have to come in and find out."
And he does.