THE SILVER LINING

A/N: Well, I lied. One more chapter after this one. Sorry, but Silverfox and his Bella are getting awfully wordy AND horny. I didn't think you'd want me to make them shut up yet. Or keep their paws to themselves.

Things I own: A blue custom-made Star Trek the original series dress that I'm going to wear at Comic Con. Oh yes, folks—geek central, right here. And of course it's blue—science officers for the win.

Things I don't: Anything Twilight. That's all Stephenie Meyer's.

CHAPTER 15

I wake up with my nose being tickled. I blink my eyes rapidly and realize that the tickle is just Bella's hair. I inhale deeply, unable to get enough of the scent that is uniquely my Bella. I tighten my grip around her body, pressing myself as close as I can get. Smiling, my brain flashes back to last night and I remember.

Yes.

Bella said yes.

My smile bursts into the most satisfied grin that's ever sat upon my face. I've never been happier in my life. The woman I was always meant to be with is going to be all mine. I lace my fingers into hers then stop short.

Her ring is gone.

I look at her hand and sure enough, no ring.

I throw back the covers and start searching for the ring. Maybe it just slipped off of her finger. I try to keep my growing panic at bay, but I'm suddenly seized with terror that she might have changed her mind in the last eight hours.

Bella isn't fully awake yet, her hand is feeling around blindly for my face. I turn her body toward mine and lightly tap my hand on her cheek to wake her up.

"Wha?" she looks up at me sleepily.

"Ring, Bella. The ring. Gone," I blurt out, sticking her ringless finger near her face.

She smiles then starts to giggle. The giggle blooms into a full rolling laugh, all while I look at her with genuine pain.

How is this funny?

She reaches across the bed and picks up an item from the nightstand. She kisses it then shows me what it is. Her ring.

"But… it's not on your finger," I say, confused.

"It's too big, Silverfox. It kept slipping off, so I set it aside in order not to lose it."

She does have a point, I guess, and I am reassured, but I still don't like seeing it anywhere except on her finger.

"We'll get it resized. I'm sure Mana can find someone to take care of it for us."

"I'm pretty sure Mana has better things to do with his time than get my ring resized."

"Well, I'm pretty sure that Mana needs to make this priority number one. So there," I grin.

Just then, there's a knock on the door. I slip on my robe and pad over to the door.

"Bonjour Monsieur et Madame," Mana smiles at me. I open the door so he can wheel in the breakfast cart.

"Bonjour, Mana. Comment-allez vous?"

"Très bien, Monsieur Cullen. Et vous?"

I rush over to Bella and grab her hand to show him. He looks at me, uncertain as to why this ring is so important.

"We are engaged," I explain to him.

His eyes open wide. "Mais… you are not already 'usband an' wife?"

"Not yet, but soon," I assure him.

"Félicitations!" he cheers.

Bella blushes, and it's only then that I realize she has the sheets pulled up around her body because I requested that she only wear her ring to bed. Oops.

"Mana? Would you please set up the breakfast on the balcony for us?"

"Bien sûr, Monsieur."

As Mana readies the breakfast table, I discretely hand a robe to Bella. Once she's presentable, I kiss her cheek and apologize.

"Petit déjeuner iz sairved," Mana announces with a slight bow.

"Merci beaucoup," I answer.

He pulls out a chair for Bella and seats her properly. "Café, Madame?"

"Yes. I mean oui," she smiles sweetly then gasps suddenly. "Birds of paradise!"

"Oui, Madame, zee flowairz are juss for you," Mana explains. "Monsieur 'ad me peek zem up."

"Thanks to both of you, then. I love them. Edward brought them for me on our first date."

"Oui, 'ee tells me ziss lass night, Madame."

"So sly, Silverfox," she beams a smile at me. I love making her smile like that.

We dig into our breakfast and talk about what we'd like to do today.

"Well I noticed that they have an introductory scuba class on board, so I think we should do that since it's on your bucket list."

"Speaking of bucket lists, I think we have some more things to cross off of it," I grin, pulling a copy out of my pocket.

"You have a copy of your bucket list in your robe pocket?"

"Yes, is this a problem?"

She doesn't respond, she just giggles and grabs the list from me. She scans it over and I watch her eyes open widely.

"You typed in 'Marry Bella.' When did you do that? How did you know I'd say yes?"

I'm silent for a moment, considering whether or not I should confess the entire truth.

"Well, my mind has been resolved on this issue for some time, as you know," I start. "The idea of being able to call you mine is an incredibly appealing one."

I pause for a moment and Bella circles her hand in the air in a get-on-with-the-story motion.

Heaving a deep sigh, I opt for the entire truth. "I was interested in marrying you shortly after our first date."

Bella's calm reaction to my admission is to spit out her coffee across the breakfast table.

"What?"

"Silverfox, we barely knew each other. How could you have wanted to marry me so quickly?"

Undaunted by her response, I continue. "In a way, I think the very first time I saw you in the Laundromat, when I was trying so hard to figure out how to do laundry, I just knew. You were so familiar in a way I can't even explain. And then we started talking, and it was like I'd known you forever."

"You sound awfully touchie-feelie for a guy who's supposedly ruled by science," she teases.

"I worried about what type of ring you would want very shortly after I met you," I explain. "I wanted something arty and unique. Beautiful. I wanted to represent who you are in a ring. That's when I remembered my great-grandmother's ring. Carlisle had it in his safety deposit box; our mother had intended to give it to her daughter, but she only had sons. It went to Carlisle because he was the eldest child. I asked him if I might use it for you and he loved the idea of it being used again."

I see her gazing down at the ring, but she doesn't say anything.

"I went out on a limb, guessing you would like this ring, but if you don't, I'm more than happy to let you choose something for yourself."

She shakes her head vehemently. "No, I love this ring. It's perfect. The fact that it's your great-grandmother's makes it even more special. The stone isn't a sapphire, but it's such a brilliant shade of blue. What is it?"

I take her hand in mine, bending her fingers in a way to show off the ring. "It's an opaque lapis lazuli gemstone in an oval setting. The lapis lazuli is believed to be the stone of truth, bringing honesty and harmony to a relationship. The band is platinum to symbolize strength and longevity. The stacked diamond hearts along the band were chosen by my great-grandfather, meant to show his eternal, abiding love."

"Please tell me that you googled all that to find the meaning."

"In fact, no. My brother told me about it."

I see tears well up in Bella's eyes again, so I pull her into my lap. "What is it?"

"It's perfect. I'm proud to wear your ring, even if I never believed I'd want to get re-married. I'm surprised at myself. Happily surprised."

"So, those are happy tears?"

"Very happy tears, yes."

I kiss her tears and wipe them away. "You've made me the happiest man alive, you know. I feel like I won the lottery the day you walked into my life."

Bella sniffs and her breath stutters, a result of her coming down from the tears. Grabbing the list, she flattens it out on the table in front of us.

"All right, we're going to tackle scuba diving today, which leaves us with sex in the ocean and getting married."

"We'll have the bucket list completed by the time we get home, except for the marriage part."

"Um," she pauses, biting her lip.

"What?"

She shakes her head quickly. "Nothing. I'm just not ready to figure out wedding logistics right now."

I kiss her cheek. "I know. I'm not in a hurry. We can do this at whatever pace you choose."

She snuggles into that space between my neck and my shoulder and murmurs a "thank you."

~xXx~

Several hours later, I find myself in the ship's pool with Bella, learning the basics of SCUBA diving. Well, I'm trying to focus on the basics, but Bella is wearing a bikini. It turns my brain into the consistency of agar when she has so much skin showing. Our instructor, Juliet, is very patient. Bella and I are her only pupils today.

While Juliet is getting our equipment ready, Bella turns around and gives me a very deep, passionate kiss. Pulling away from her with a huge smile on my face, I wonder what the kiss is for. Bella seems to sense my confusion.

"I need to let Juliet know that you are not her Romeo."

"What, baby? I have no idea why you're even saying that."

Bella rolls her eyes at me. "She touches you every chance she can get, Silverfox. She's a real Daddy's girl. Ick."

"She is? Really?"

"Oh come on! How could you not notice? She's practically using her breasts to do all the talking."

"There's only one pair of breasts in the world that I'm concerned about, and those would be yours. Which now belong to me."

I get a goofy grin on my face just thinking about the fact that Bella is all mine. I lean over to give her a kiss and pinch her nipple through her bikini to emphasize my point. Naturally, Juliet appears just as I'm pinching Bella and I put my hand back into the water as if it's on fire. Bella wastes no time grabbing my hand in hers. I love the fact that she feels just as possessive as I do—it's very reassuring. I remind myself how I felt when Buzz was all over Bella during our skydiving adventure and feel a bit justified that she has to go through the same thing.

Once we have on all our gear, we finally get to submerge ourselves. While it's only a pool, I'm still in awe of how it feels to be weightless underneath the water's surface. All I can hear is my breathing—the silence is wonderful. It's a challenge to coordinate everything we've learned, but eventually I get it. Bella and I are trying to communicate to each other underwater, and we both recognize that it's going to take a bit of practice before we get that one down. Juliet taps me on the head to signal it's time to come up.

"So, what you think of diving, Edward?" She asks in her French accent.

"I can't wait to do the real thing."

When Juliet's only reply is a wink, I start to understand that Bella may just have a point.

I cough to clear my throat. "Heh. Um, is it almost time for lunch?"

"Oui, zee lesson is finished."

I look over at Bella and her arms are crossed in front of her. "Yes, let's get to lunch, MY Edward," she grabs my hand and starts to drag me out of the pool.

I decide that I'm enjoying possessive Bella very much.

"What's the grin for?"

"I'm just amused. I feel like this is the universe righting itself after our experience with Buzz and skydiving."

"Well, I'm glad someone is enjoying this," She says, huffing loudly. "I want to find out if she's doing the dive tomorrow. If so, I might request another instructor."

"Hey, it's not like you have any competition, you know."

Bella rolls her eyes at me. "Dry that one out you can fertilize the lawn."

I grab her arm to slow her down. "Just a second here, missy. Say what you want to about Juliet, but never question my affection nor my attraction to you. There is only one woman who will ever make my world turn, and her name is Isabella Swan. Soon to be Isabella Cullen."

"I have an issue with that, actually…"

"What? Have you changed your mind?" My heart starts to sink in my stomach and feel nauseated.

"About the name Cullen."

Relief floods over me. "That we can talk about. Your not marrying me, I can't even go there."

I notice Juliet starting to walk by, so I grab Bella, pull her in close to me, and kiss her with all the passion I can summon. When I finish, we're both panting and Juliet is nowhere to be seen.

"Now, let me bring you back to our room and spend s few hours showing you just how little what's-her-name means to me, hmm?"

"Yes, please," Bella says almost breathlessly.

~xXx~

We choose to eat in the dining room tonight, just for a change of pace. While elegant and delicious, it's just not the same as having Bella all to myself on our balcony. We decide to have our after dinner drinks at the bar; we have yet to visit that part of the ship, as we've been rather busy exploring every last inch of our room up until now. When we arrive, I see a beautiful Steinway in the corner and my fingers start to itch. Without even thinking about what I'm doing, I walk straight to the piano and take a seat. I run through some scales to see what kind of action the keys have and it's so smooth I could swear the piano is playing itself. It's been years since I've really played and I didn't realize how much I miss it. My fingers are stiff but it's amazing how keen muscle memory can be. I drift into playing some Chopin, my favorite. I close my eyes, soaking in the sound and feeling of my fingers on the keys and I lose myself. Nothing else exists in this moment except the music I'm playing. When I hit the last note I let out a contented sigh, then remove my hands from the keyboard. To my surprise, a round of applause follows. I open my eyes and realize that I just played the piano in front of a bar full of people. I can feel my cheeks flush with embarrassment, but what I notice the most is the look of reverence on Bella's face.

"You play the piano?"

"Uh, yeah, I guess I do."

"Do you have any other hidden talents I need to know about? Double-O seven? Ninja master?" she laughs.

"Well, it never came up," I explain. "I guess I forgot."

"Silverfox, how did I ever get so lucky to find you?"

I pull her down onto the piano bench and give her a kiss. I whisper into her ear, "It was the thongs, Bella."

She leans over and then whispers into my ear "Oh, then it's a good thing that's what I'm wearing tonight."

"Did you mean to kill me, or was that inadvertent?"

"What good would it do me to kill you? Then you won't be able to fuck me," she whispers again.

"In that case, let's just fuck the idea of drinks and go practice removing that thong of yours. I have a feeling I need a lot of help in getting it off," I smile against her cheek.

"You get off just fine," she smiles, taking my hand and towing me out of the bar.

I groan and follow my vixen back to our room. What else could I possibly do? I'm thinking with my penis at this point.

Once in our room, Bella walks to our balcony. It isn't until I see her standing there that it dawns on me—she's wearing one of her dresses that ties on the side. How did I not notice this before? She's holding her arms out to the side, just waiting for me to come undress and defile her.

I'm very okay with this idea. Happily, my penis agrees with me. I practically run out to the balcony to meet her, but I'm stopped short when she places her hand on my chest.

"Stop—I have a question for you."

My cock is hard and my brain function has gone back to its agar-like consistency. Can't possibly answer a question in this state. I can only garble out a noise that sounds like "dkadjfldjvdkfs."

"Am I untying my dress, or are you?"

Oh, I can answer this one. Well, I don't even need to answer, because my hand just shoots out and lands on the tie, yanking it open.

I can feel the smug grin on her face even if I can't see it, but I don't let that stop me. The minute the tie is undone, I yank off her dress and she stands before me in nothing more than her thong. No bra, no hose, just a thong. Sweet jesus in heaven, she is so hot. I would try speaking again, but I know I'll only utter more Cro-Magnon noises.

Fortunately, Bella handles the talking part for both of us. "Silverfox," she croons softly. "Balcony sex."

I nod my head vigorously to signal my approval.

Silently, she starts to remove my clothing, but insists on doing it slowly. What in god's name put the idea into her head that I can handle anything slow right now? I try to hurry her along by helping, but she only swats my hands away. We're in the midst of breaking the record for the longest undressing in the history of mankind and she swats my hands away. I make more unintelligible noises and end up putting my hands into her hair. I tug impatiently then realize that she's on her knees, unzipping my pants. Her mouth is no more than two inches from my cock and she stops to look up at me. A grin forms on her face and she keeps her gaze on me while her hand starts to rub my erection.

The woman is clearly a sadist.

"Baaaaaby," I moan at her. Whimpering, I start to plead with her to hurry it up. "Please? Pleasepleaseplease?"

Fortunately, my wife-to-be has some mercy in her soul and pulls my boxers and pants off in one swift movement. Sliding her hand down my shaft, she grabs the base and squeezes as her tongue circles around the head. I wiggle my hips back and forth, trying so hard to let her lead, but damn, I want to just thrust myself into her mouth.

Most of the time, I like to think that my Bella is a kind-hearted soul, but she's showing me that she's nothing more than the devil. Looking up at me once again, she commands, "Fuck my mouth, Silverfox. Fuck it as hard as you know you want to."

Trying to be quiet as I follow her directions, I watch myself sliding in and out of her gorgeous mouth and I couldn't possibly ask for a more perfect woman. She reaches down and cups my balls, giving them a little tug. I have to clench my teeth in order not to scream. I can feel my orgasm starting to build, but want to slow it down so I can finish inside of her. It takes all my willpower, but I slip myself out of her mouth.

"What?" she pouts.

"Lube," I grunt, incapable of uttering more than a syllable.

Understanding dawns on her face and she runs to grab the bottle. When she returns, I point at the railing. Kneeling down, I squirt some lube all over my hand and carefully slick it over her outer lips, her clit, her opening. I slip three fingers inside her with one hand and rub her clit with the other. When she starts to moan as I press on her G-spot, I stand up.

"Are you ready for me, baby?"

"Yessss."

I put some lube on myself and turn back to Bella, who is practically hanging off the balcony railing she's trying to hard to get her ass into the air for me. Unable to resist, I give her cheek a spank and she shrieks out a squeak. I'm hoping to hell that our neighbors are still at dinner so they are oblivious to our loud antics.

"Shhh," I tell her as I laugh at her response. Soon we're both laughing, up until the moment I thrust my cock into her.

Watching myself moving in and out of her is one of the best sights in the world. I'm struck by the fact that I'm having sex on a cruise ship balcony off the coast of Tahiti with the most amazing woman I've ever known. I never expected to be able to have any of these experiences and I'm awed by the fact that I'm actually here in this moment. I'm a completely different man than I was just a year ago and the incredible, deep love I feel for the woman who made this all possible is overwhelming.

It isn't until I hear the loud knock on the door that I realize that Bella and I are making quite a bite of noise with our moans and gasps and "fuck me harder"s.

"Shit!" Bella says in a half whisper.

I slide out of her quickly and dash into the room to find a robe. The lights are out and I have no idea where I left it. Frantic, I grab a sheet from the bed and wrap it around myself. Bella runs to hide in the bathroom while I answer the door.

Mana is standing in front of me with a pained look on his face. "Yes?"

"Monsieur Cullen," he starts. "I am 'appy you and Madame Cullen enjoy zee rhoom so well. But per'aps you enjoy eet a beet more quiet, oui?"

I feel like my entire body is blushing. We've been busted by the butler for having loud sex.

Clearing my throat, I reply. "Of course, Mana. I'm so sorry you had to do this. We'll behave from now on, I promise."

Mana's face breaks into a huge grin. "I deed not say you muss be'ave, Monsieur. I only said wees less noize," he slaps my shoulder heartily.

I grin back at him. "Okay, Mana. I promise to enjoy my wife-to-be with vigor, but a more quiet version of vigor."

"Oui, quiet vigor," he says, shaking my hand. He bows and walks away.

I go to retrieve Bella from the bathroom.

"Oh my god, we were busted for being too loud, weren't we?" she says, slightly panicked.

"Yes, the butler busted us, baby," I chuckle.

"That kind of makes us sex gods, doesn't it?" she grins.

"I believe you are correct."

She pulls the sheet from my body, tossing it aside and walks into the shower. "Then that means you need to fuck me against the shower wall."

Now I truly feel like I must have died and been transported to someone else's life. I mean, no one's life can be this good. Do women like Bella even exist outside a man's private sexual fantasy? I pinch myself and it hurts. Huh, I guess it is really my life.

All the commotion has deflated my otherwise awesome erection, but that doesn't stop Bella for a minute. Grabbing my cock, she starts to stroke me while cupping my balls. Like a good boy, he behaves for her beautifully, and I'm ready to fulfill our version of sex god royalty.

I back Bella into a corner and she hooks her legs around my waist. This time I place a hand firmly over her mouth as I thrust in and out of her to ensure that any screams will be muffled. I manage to get her off before I come and it feels just as incredible as it always does.

As we pant together, recovering from our awesome sex, Bella nudges me. "I need a high five for that sex, Silverfox. We're oldsters and we got busted. That's pretty amazing, huh?"

"Don't you dare insult us by saying that was amazing. It was beyond amazing. It was so incredible, we need to coin a new adjective. I think the best place for us to think one up is to do some power snuggling in bed. Get your adorable heinie under the covers before I spank you all the way there."

Bella covers her ass and giggles her way to our bed. When I slip in next to her, she pretends to fight me off. I don't buy it for a second. I pull her in close to me and whisper in her ear, "You are the best thing that's ever happened to me, Bella Swan. I don't even recognize my life anymore and thank god for that. Thank you for that. I swear, I love you so much it hurts."

She turns in my arms so that she's facing me. "Oh, my Silverfox, you have no idea. When I was young, love felt entirely different. It was simpler. You loved someone, they loved you, and that was it. When Jake found Nessie, I could see that while he might need me, he wanted Nessie, and those are two entirely different types of love. When I watched him look at her, I understood the anguish of wanting, too. Or not being wanted. I think both are equally as painful. No matter how much it hurt me, I couldn't see that look of desire on his face and deny him that. At the same time, I grieved, recognizing that I would never be the one who was wanted. I closed myself off after that, focused on raising my children as best I could. Now I can see that I was just trying to spare myself the pain of being unwanted by someone else. When I saw you look at me the same way Jake looked at Ness, I could hardly believe that finally I was wanted, too. Being wanted and loved by you is the most satisfying, unexpected thing I've ever experienced. There's nothing more I want or need in my life than you."

"I love every last inch of you, Bella, but I'm not going to lie—your brain is the part I love most of all," I squeeze her tightly and kiss the top of her head. "And there's no one I'd rather get busted with than you."

I feel her burrow into my chest and we quickly fall asleep after our exhausting day.

~xXx~

I wake up the next morning in an empty bed. Bella's side is cold, so she's been up for a while. I sit up suddenly, my brain sending out "Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!" signals all over the place. Although it's a suite, our room is still small, so it's fairly obvious that Bella isn't here. That doesn't stop me from looking in the bathroom, the closet, under the bed. Nope. No Bella.

I throw on some clothes and hustle to the restaurant. I can't imagine that Bella opted to have breakfast without me, but I'll just go crazy if I have to sit and wait for her to appear. I'm not one of those people who can wait patiently for something to happen—I'm all about action.

To my shock, Bella is sitting at a table, deep in conversation with a woman who has what appears to be a small ball of fluff in her lap. I'm clearly having a Twilight Zone moment; the only thing missing is Rod Serling's narrative. I walk over to the table and stand in front of Bella, perplexed. When she finally notices that I'm there, she squeaks out her delight.

"Silverfox! You found me. Sit," she points at the chair next to her. "This is Maxime. She's from Paris, and she breeds Pomeranians."

I look back and forth between the two women, confused. Apparently, the information Bella has given me is supposed to mean something to me. Meanwhile, Maxime is leaning toward me with her cheek jutting out, waiting for the kiss-on-the-cheek greeting that all Parisians employ.

Am I still dreaming?

The ball of fluff starts licking my hand and I can definitely feel it, so it appears as though I am not asleep.

Bella starts talking a mile a minute, so it's clear that she's already had several cups of coffee that are fueling her chatter. Maxime and the dog chime in here and there, so I'm being bombarded by estrogen and I haven't even had a cup of coffee to help me deal with the onslaught.

"Woke up… realized that we have two houses… what are we going to do, Edward… Hhhoneee Bunnn… juste un petit bisous, Monsieur Silverfox… then we need to figure out the wedding…yipyipyipyip"

I clunk my head on the table in a sign of surrender. The fluffball decides this is the perfect moment for an ambush. In less than a second, I have a Tribble licking my entire face. Do Tribbles even have tongues?

I slap my hand on the table to clear the air.

"I. Need. Coffee. Now," I say it as calmly and plainly as possible in order to slow things down.

"Yes, of course," Bella pours me a cup and slides it under my nose. The two women even give me a moment of respite in order to get a sip of coffee into my mouth. That's precisely the moment Bella chooses to go in for the kill.

"We're going to adopt a kid. Isn't that great news?"

The coffee never even makes it into my throat. Here, in the midst of a luxury cruise restaurant, I'm making the scene of a lifetime by spraying my coffee all over the table.

Coughing, I manage to choke out a loud, "WHAT?!"

Bella is taken aback, her look one of surprise and disappointment. Maxime snatches her dog from in front of me as if I have offended it.

Okay, so if I'm not dreaming, then my life has turned into the equivalent of a human version of Fantasia. And this is all before 8:00 in the morning.

Bella's face is all screwed up as she looks me over, then she starts to laugh. Loudly.

"Oh, not a real child, Silverfox. God, no! A kid, like a puppy. Like little Honey Bun," she points at the dog in Maxime's lap.

I take a deep breath in and out before I speak. "How about we start from the beginning? And at the speed of life, not the speed of light, please."

Bella sympathetically puts her hand on my cheek before she starts.

"I woke up at sunrise and couldn't get back to sleep, so I stepped out on the balcony to watch the sunrise. I nearly woke you up to see it with me, but you were snoring so soundly I didn't have the heart to disturb you. Then I was hungry so I came to get a bite to eat. I met Maxime because little Honey Bun escaped from her lap and attacked me with cuteness. Then Maxime and I got to talking about her life and Paris, and she offered to get us connected with a breeder in the States."

"Ah. That helps a bit. Thank you, love," I kiss Bella's cheek. "If the price of marrying you is adopting a furry child, I'm all for it."

I turn toward Maxime to offer my apologies. "Maxime, je suis très désolée. Pardonnez moi, je vous en prie," I take her hand in mine and kiss it lightly. She blushes furiously, so I know my work is done here.

Before I know it, my lap is filled with the fluffball once again. She's sitting there with her little front paws on the table as if she's participating in the conversation and I have to admit, she's actually pretty darn cute. It certainly wouldn't have been my first choice for a dog breed—I prefer a larger dog who can run with me—but I know it means a lot to Bella, and I'd move heaven and Earth to make her happy.

I'm trying to scarf down some breakfast while I listen to the ladies banter and keep Honey Bun from eating my meal before I do. When the hostess slips a small piece of paper to me, I can't believe this morning could get any stranger. I open the note and see it's from Mana.

Cher Monsieur Cullen

The scuba trip will leave shortly. Please inform me if you wish still to attend or no.

Mana

I look at my watch and see we have only a few minutes to prepare for the trip. I scowl at my wrist, as if that will somehow change the time. I hate being late.

"What is it?"

"We're supposed to go diving any minute. We'll have to run back to the room to get ready."

Bella's eyes dart away from mine, almost as if she's nervous. "Oh."

"Bella?"

"I just thought that, erhm, I would take a spa day today. I have an, um, crick in my neck."

"What?"

"Yeah, I think that's why I woke up early."

"But I can't go diving without you, Bella. I mean, what's the point of that?"

"There's another dive when we get to Bora Bora that we can do together. This way, you can focus on learning how to dive instead of gaping at my bikini."

"Is this because of Juliet?"

Bella's eyes dart quickly to mine. "Why? Is she leading the trip? I thought it was someone else?"

"No, she isn't going to be there. I just thought maybe you'd soured on the experience because of her."

"Nope, I'm just achy. The dive only lasts a few hours, I'll see you again by this afternoon."

"Bella—I…"

"It's fine, Silverfox. You'll be fine. Now shoo! Go get yourself ready," she gives my pouting lips a big kiss, then leans to whisper into my ear. "I promise to make it up to you tonight."

"I don't know…"

She crosses her arms and gives me a look. "Please, Edward. Please do this for me."

"Oh, all right," I say with resignation.

"Thank you. You won't regret this, I swear."

I turn and place four kisses on Maxime's cheeks, just like they do in Paris. "A toute à l'heure, ma belle madame."

"D'accord. Hhhoney Bunn waits for you. Bye-bye."

I walk away from the table feeling miserable. I'm so confused by Bella's uncharacteristic behavior. Why would she get up before me and leave to have breakfast on her own? She didn't even wake me up to see the sunrise. Plus, we've been planning to go scuba diving together for months. I can't believe she'd bail out at the last minute. There's also the issue that she couldn't look me in the eye, which is so unlike her.

What on Earth is going on?

~xXx~

Silverfox's Bucket List (as it stood at the beginning of the chapter)

1. Skydiving

2. Scuba diving

3. Yoga, during which I will not become sexually aroused.

4. Sex in the ocean

5. Sexting

6. Phone sex

7. Sex in public

8. Sex with Edward, tied up and at my mercy

9. Voyeurism

10. Porch swing sex

11. Marry Bella

END NOTE: This chapter is dedicated to little Honey Bun, who recently passed away. She was a real-life Pom who was rescued by faithful reader burntcore; we're talking 100% cuteness. Rest in Peace, little one.

Agar is a gelatinous substance derived from seaweed that is used in laboratories as a biological culture medium to culture cells.