Through The Lens One-Shot Contest Entry
Story Title: Exposing Mr. Cullen
Summary: Isabella Swan is sent on assignment to photograph elusive business tycoon, Mr. Edward Cullen. Will the camera reveal there may be more to Mr. Cullen than meets the eye?
Characters: Bella and Edward
Disclaimer: The characters of Twilight are owned by Stephenie Meyer. No copyright infringement is intended. The original content, ideas, and intellectual property of this story are owned by the original author. Plagiarism is theft - so please no copying or reproduction of this work is permitted without express written authorization.
©2010. All rights reserved worldwide.
Exposing Mr. Cullen
~ Bella's point of view
I wake up with the right side of my face pressed into, and inhaling the all-too-new smell of, the recently installed wall-to-wall carpeting in my apartment.
I almost gag. Rolling over onto my back, my head pounds in a way I haven't experienced since college. Back in the days of all-night parties and ever-inventive drinking games.
But I haven't been a student for more than three years.
I graduated with a degree in journalism and an avid passion for photography. And then promptly found myself undecided as to which one I wanted to parlay into a career.
My freelance work landed me a job with an elite business publication in Chicago. My best friend, Rosalie Hale, told me my 'flawless complexion, big, brown doe-like eyes, long, chestnut brown hair, and hot-as-fuck body' hadn't hurt.
Those were her words, by the way. Not mine. I'm not vain like Rosalie. Not that I don't love her. I do. It's just who she is, and who I am not.
I raise my hand to my forehead and find I am covered in a fine sheen of perspiration, so much so that my hair feels damp and is sticking to the back of my neck.
What the hell happened to me last night?
I close my eyes and try to remember. Everything is fragmented, like a dream.
I can only recall bits and pieces . . . flashbacks….
Yesterday - late afternoon: getting the assignment via a curt phone call on my cell from my boss' secretary—and suspected lover—Victoria.
My assignment: to photograph the elusive (and most sought after bachelor in Chicago) business tycoon, Mr. Edward Cullen.
But Edward Cullen, who is rarely photographed, only agreed to sit for a photo session if it could be shot at one of his many luxurious abodes throughout the greater Chicago area.
Victoria then informed me that Mr. Cullen had, very specifically, agreed to being photographed only if I was available to be the photographer.
There is a tightening in my chest, and my throat feels parched as my recollection of last night becomes more lucid.
I arrived to my apartment yesterday, early in the evening, to find a FedEx box addressed to me: Isabella Swan.
Directions to Mr. Cullen's chosen location were included in the package, with a hand-written note from my boss, James. It read:
This is a great opportunity for you.
Mr. Cullen requested you and only you.
I suppose he's seen your work in our publication and was impressed.
I've already interviewed Mr. Cullen for our article, which will be published next month.
Isabella, Mr. Cullen can be very difficult and demanding.
We only need a few good shots, maybe a couple of headshots and one or two of him in an office-type setting.
Just get what you can.
And Isabella, please be careful.
~ Mr. James Track.
I recall thinking the 'please be careful' phrase seemed odd.
But as more memories begin to flood my consciousness, the reason for the warning becomes clear.
I remember following the directions, enjoying the summer evening drive heading north with the Chicago skyline becoming smaller and smaller in my rearview mirror, and arriving at a secluded, Tudor-style mansion.
Mr. Edward Cullen met me outside the grandiose front door.
I recall being caught off-guard at his appearance.
He didn't look like a businessman. At all. He was clad in faded, torn blue jeans and a white, long-sleeved sweater with a v-neck. It may have been cashmere. I had an inexplicable urge to touch the thin woven material to feel if it was. But I did no such thing.
He wore no shoes or socks.
His hair was a mess of bronze locks.
But, it was his eyes that struck me as unusual - they were a shade of amber I had never seen before on any living creature, human or animal.
Now, even in the safety of my living room, the memory of those eyes makes me shiver even though I feel unusually warm.
I bolt upright—throbbing head be damned—and stumble to the sofa where I spy my messenger bag. I remember putting the rolls of film in there at the end of our photo shoot. I don't do digital. I believe in film and developing it in my own darkroom. Old school.
I suddenly recall telling Mr. Cullen that exact thing after I was done taking pictures of him, and I was standing in his massive entry hall preparing to leave. A chill runs down my spine as I remember his response.
He smiled . . . and then he laughed. An unusual, but genuine-sounding, laugh to go along with the charming, little laugh lines that appeared at the outer edges of his strange, amber eyes.
Little laugh lines that appeared . . . and then . . . disappeared.
Right before my eyes.
Disappeared to reveal an otherworldly smooth, alabaster-colored skin that looked more like marble than human skin.
"Oh, Isabella, you've done it now," Mr. Cullen had purred. It sounded like some kind of a warning, despite his soothing tone of voice.
I recall feeling a sudden sense of impending danger.
I fled. Fled before his outreached arms could stop me, but not before his too-cool fingertips grazed my arm, sending shockwaves of excitement through my body.
I remember driving back to my apartment; feeling frightened and, inexplicably, turned on.
I rummage through my messenger bag, find the three rolls of film, and make my way to the tiny darkroom in the back of my apartment.
I am absolutely sure of three things: last night was the strangest night of my life, Mr. Cullen is not of this world and, for some irrational reason, I want . . . no — I need to see him again.
Under the red cast of the darkroom lighting, I spool my first roll of film, immerse it in a tray of developing chemicals, and wait.
As the film develops, and the images become clear, I gasp.
The red lighting suddenly seems eerie, increasing my uneasiness at what me eyes see before me.
The photographs of Edward Cullen prove what my mind already knows.
This man is not human. I don't know exactly what he is, but he is, without a doubt, incredibly attractive as well. There is no denying that fact.
I struggle to remember more of the events of last night. Why is my mind so fuzzy? I know I did not drink anything. Did Mr. Cullen drug me? That would have been next to impossible, as I am certain I did not eat anything at Mr. Cullen's home, either.
A sudden thought comes to me. No, it's too crazy. But my gut tells me I am right.
Mr. Cullen didn't drug me in the conventional sense. Instead, Edward Cullen himself is a drug. He touched my arm as I was fleeing and he left me, quite literally, intoxicated.
I look back at the images in front of me, now fully developed.
I see the same things I saw last night. Things I now realize I was probably not meant to see.
The same alabaster-colored skin that looks like marble, the same oddly-colored amber eyes, the same perfectly chiseled physique.
A physique that a normal man would have to devote hours a day to obtain. And it is common knowledge Mr. Cullen devotes hours a day to business pursuits, not to working out.
As my mind begins to clear with the passing time, I wonder why Mr. Cullen agreed to the photo session, in the first place.
Another disturbing, though wildly exciting, thought occurs to me. Maybe Mr. Cullen wanted me to see what he is? But what is he? And why me?
I leave the photos to dry and head into the bathroom across the hallway.
While cupping water into my hand and bringing it to my lips to soothe my parched throat, I glance up into the mirror, aghast at my reflection.
My hair is unkempt and matted down from sweat.
There are dark circles under my eyes, and I look as tired as I feel.
I am still dressed in the same sleeveless, low-cut beige sundress I wore last night, although the linen material is quite wrinkled now.
I unzip my sundress and it falls to the floor. I start the water in the shower and unhook my bra, slipping out of it and my panties within seconds.
I stand under the steaming hot water for what seems like a very long time, and then I slowly begin to wash my body and shampoo my hair.
I try to force my mind to think of nothing. However, thoughts of Mr. Cullen continue to break through my weak mental defenses.
More of last night's events emerge.
First, Mr. Cullen allowed me to photograph him in his torn jeans and white sweater. And then, he left me alone in his study for a minute or two, before he came back fully-dressed in a dark grey business suit.
Thinking about it now, how did he change clothes so quickly?
I turn the shower water off and grab an oversized, white bath towel off the hook on the back of the bathroom door.
As I run the towel through my wet hair, I hear an unusually loud knock at the front door of my apartment.
My body tells me who it is, before my mind catches up.
I glance around the bathroom, but the only clothing I have in here is the sundress from last night.
I don't have time to think about what to do, because the next thing I hear is another knock. Not at my front door, but on my bathroom door!
I should be freaked out. But I know who it is. And, worse yet, I am not scared at all. I am thrilled.
I hastily wrap the towel around my body and open the door.
As I expect, Edward Cullen is standing there, in the same ripped blue jeans and white, v-neck sweater from last night. Except, unlike me, he looks perfect. Immaculate. Not real.
But he is real. And he is here.
I try to sound indignant as I demand, "How did you get in here, Mr. Cullen?"
"You left the door unlocked," he states matter-of-factly, as if that gives him the right to walk right in.
I watch as his eyes, still amber but less unusual-looking at the moment, travel over my body, covered only by the towel.
The way he looks at me, like I'm something to eat, makes me feel as if I am completely naked in front of him.
Maybe, in a way, I am.
I feel sure Mr. Cullen knows what I am thinking.
He smiles knowingly and takes a step closer to me. "Isabella, you left rather abruptly last night. I was worried."
His voice lulls me. I say nothing. I make no move.
Mr. Cullen closes the gap between us, and his cool hands caress my shoulders.
He chuckles. "You are so warm, Isabella." Mr. Cullen leans closer still and inhales. "And you smell delicious."
I finally find my voice. "What are you?" I dare to ask. "Who are you?" my voice rasps out.
"I'm Mr. Cullen, remember? But I'd prefer if you call me Edward," he says as his nose travels up the length of my neck, while his hands move into my wet hair.
"Edward," I whisper, intoxicated once again by his touch.
I close my eyes and feel his fingers gently comb through my wet hair, removing any tangles and knots. It feels good . . . too good. I am weak now.
I sigh, and dare to lean my forehead against Edward's shoulder. It is unyielding. I am not surprised. I feel the coldness of his skin emanating from beneath the thin material of his sweater. And it is indeed cashmere.
I ask my question, the one he left unanswered, once again. "What are you?" I mumble into his shoulder.
Edward pulls my head back to look into my eyes. The otherworldly amber shade has returned. He must be able to control it, I think to myself. He is allowing me to see the real Edward Cullen.
"Does it really matter what I am, Isabella?" I inhale his cool breaths, and no – it doesn't matter.
I close my eyes and push up on my tiptoes, seeking his lips. I want to feel Edward's lips on mine. I am intoxicated by Edward.
I feel Edward pull back slightly and his hands fall to the sides of my waist, holding me in place.
"Beg me, Isabella," he demands.
Something within me likes Edward's demand, so I comply.
"Kiss me, please? Please?" I plead.
Cool, firm lips meet mine, and conform to the shape of my lips perfectly.
Edward's lips are solid, yet somehow pliable.
The kiss is unlike any I have ever experienced. It is different, and it is strangely better.
I want more. I crave more. I silently beg for more, as I allow my towel to fall to the floor.
Edward pulls away yet again, and my lips burn at the loss.
"Beg," Edward whispers at my ear.
"Tell me what you want, Isabella," he says, his tone low and even.
"You, I want you," I whisper in return.
I hear nothing, so I slowly open my eyes.
I forget how to breathe as my gaze falls upon the now gloriously naked body of Edward.
I lower my eyes, and let out the air I am holding in my lungs.
"Beautiful," I hear myself say.
Edward chuckles and pulls me—a little rougher this time—to him. This time his lips hungrily devour mine, and I match his now-unrestrained passion.
So quickly that I am left dizzy, I find myself on my bed. Edward holds himself slightly above my body. I see something that I perceive to be a moment of indecision trouble his breathtakingly-perfect face.
I lose myself in amber eyes, eyes that belong in a different world. A world I am morbidly curious about. A world my head tells me is probably deadly, but my heart doesn't care.
My heart urges me to do as Edward asked in the bathroom. Beg.
Beg before he changes his mind.
"Edward..." I begin.
He meets my eyes with such intensity; I finally feel what I know I should be feeling: fear.
"I want you," I say quickly, as desire extinguishes fear.
"What do you want me to do to you?" Edward asks. His eyes dance playfully - taunting me, daring me to say it.
I bite my lower lip, and push my body up against the coolness of his body. In the process, I feel something harder than the rest of Edward. I know what it is, and it makes me groan in need and anticipation.
The tip of his hardness is now at my own sex, and there is something about that part of Edward's body that is diametrically different than the rest. It is hot, not cold. Hotter than my own heat, but not uncomfortably so.
Now, I want this more than ever. If that is even possible.
I push my core towards the heat, but Edward moves back, just out of reach.
More dancing, playful eyes, and I hear this, "Isabella, beg."
"Please, Edward, please fuck me," I beg with no hesitation.
I am rewarded as Edward pushes into me. Carefully. Slowly. Fire. Ice.
Time, as I know it, ceases to exist. Life, as I know it, ceases to exist.
I know, for me, nothing will ever be the same.
The pleasure I feel cannot be put into mere words. My entire body—no, my entire being—becomes one with Edward. There is a purity of ecstasy that fills me. Every part of me.
When it is all over, Edward is gone from my bed. I don't know it, but I sense it.
A sense of time returns, and I take a glance around my bedroom to confirm he is not here.
My body is numb, but feels satisfied in a way I have never known possible.
With Edward's stone-like body, I am fully expecting to see bruises . . . and maybe worse.
But I look down at my nakedness and am surprised to find I look no different than before. There are no bruises. There are no marks. I am unscathed. But not unchanged.
How am I supposed to go back to a 'normal' world after experiencing Edward?
Just as I feel a lump forming in my throat, Edward comes back into my room. Against my better judgment, my heart soars. He is still here, after all.
"You're still here," I say out loud, astonished.
Edward sits on the edge of my bed, and I notice he is fully dressed. Torn blue jeans and white pullover sweater. Cashmere.
I roll to my right side to face Edward. He reaches out and runs his fingers over the swell of my left breast, over my hip, and down the side of my thigh. I shiver, as I feel wetness return to the throbbing area between my legs. I need more of him.
Edward smiles knowingly, and I am, again, lost in his amber eyes. Intoxicated.
Firm fingers push my willing legs apart, and glide along my wetness. I moan. A sure smirk from Edward. Cool fingers move within me, in and out. Circling . . . teasing . . . until I hear my voice scream out the name of the being giving me such intense pleasure. Otherworldly pleasure.
I close my eyes, I am spent.
"Isabella?" I hear my name.
I open my eyes, and Edward is still on the edge of my bed, only this time he is holding something in his left hand. Photographs. Edward is holding the photos I developed earlier.
"Why do you have my photos?" I ask, my voice sounding like a tiny echo.
"Technically, Isabella, they are my photos . . . since they are of me," Edward answers in a tone that hints at finality.
I know he is going to leave. I know he plans to take the photographs I took of him last night. No other person can see these photos. The ones that reveal the real Edward.
These were just for me.
I know, with sudden clarity, that Edward has orchestrated this whole thing.
As I vacillate between feeling foolish and feeling flattered, Edward spreads out a set of five glossy photographs on my bed for me to see.
Three headshots and two photos of Edward at work, seated at a huge desk. These are the types of photos James will be expecting. They are, obviously, professional done and show only the Edward Cullen that the world is acquainted with-not the Edward I know exists.
"Will these suffice?" Edward asks me, but it is not a question.
I nod, because what is there to say? It is not my decision. It is Edward's.
We both know it, so Edward stands and leaves the five glossy photographs next to me.
As he reaches the doorway of my bedroom, I find my voice. "Will I see you again?"
Edward looks back. His eyebrows rise in a questioning manner.
I realize what he is waiting for. "Please?" I implore.
Edward smiles cryptically and leaves me with no answer. Not a yes and not a no.
I dress and walk aimlessly through my apartment.
Now, he really is gone. There is no trace that Edward was ever in here. I go into my darkroom, and all of the photographs I developed this morning, as well as the other two undeveloped rolls of film, are gone. No surprise there.
"Will I ever see you again?" I ask aloud under the red glow of the darkroom lighting.
Of course, there is no answer.
I return to my bedroom and gather the five photographs I will pretend are my own.
One of the headshots of Edward falls to the floor. I reach down to retrieve it and notice a piece of paper under my bed. No, wait. It's a photograph.
I reach under my bed and pull out the photo. It is one of mine. It is one I took of Edward, wearing those ripped blue jeans and that white cashmere sweater, walking up the stairs to his study.
It is the only photograph I developed in which Edward looks human.
It is the only photograph that would be safe for him to leave behind, purposely.
I flip the photo over and find a note, scrolled in a fancy script, on the back.
See you soon, Isabella it reads. Four simple words that give me the answer to my question.