Closer to the Edge : A Roman Candle Outtake
"You're late," I snapped without looking up. I kept my eyes focused on the bar, afraid to look at him. I had spent the entire morning trying to decide what I would say to him, and the last two hours growing progressively angrier. Edward hadn't been late since I had started sleeping at his place; these two hours were obviously his way of nettling me. If I hadn't been certain of that before he walked into the bar, his greeting proved it.
"You never called me back," he replied in a sing-song voice. "Turns out, I caught whatever it was that you had yesterday, and it took me a little bit to feel better. Though, it might not be completely gone. I may need to go home early tonight." His voice danced over the words; he was taking delight in being an asshole.
Any thoughts I'd had of apologizing to him went straight out the window.
"Fuck you," I spat, shoving past him in the direction of the office. I refused to look at him, the heat in my face a tell-tale sign that I had turned bright red. I slammed the door behind me as hard as I could, leaning back against it. I was shaking.
I felt humiliated. I had spent the morning thinking of how I could best apologize to Edward, or even begin to explain myself. Two nights pouring my heart out to Rose - from the bottom of a vodka bottle, no less - had me thinking that maybe it was time to come clean. Edward knew I had feelings for him; I knew I had feelings for him.
But there were to be no apologies. Edward had seen to that. He was out in the bar, my bar, acting like a petulant child who'd had his favorite toy taken away. I half-expected to hear him stomping his feet outside the office door.
"God dammit!" I swore, twisting my fingers into my shirt...his shirt. A tear slid down my cheek, and I angrily wiped it away. I didn't want to cry over Edward Cullen. I had cried enough over him. I wanted him out of the bar; I wanted him to never come back.
I had been so close to giving in. Rose had worn me down after two long nights of rambling questions, and answers I couldn't unravel in my own mind. She had reminded me of all the wonderful qualities Edward had to offer; he was smarter than anyone had ever given him credit for, he had those eyes that I felt could see my very soul-and the fact that he was so obviously, completely in love with me.
Or so I had thought.
His little performance out in the bar had me wondering if maybe my thoughts on Edward had just been a result of too much liquor, and too much of Rosalie trying to find me a happy ending. It made me miss the cynical version of my friend I'd grown up with; ever since she had met Emmett, she had softened. I was happy for her, though; it was nice to see the glow of happiness in her eyes.
But it didn't change my situation with Edward.
I angrily wiped at another tear that snuck its way down my cheek, throwing myself into the chair after locking the door. I didn't need Edward barging in on me tonight. It was probably going to be a slow night anyway; he would manage fine by himself.
Telling myself to put him out of my mind, I gathered up the various receipts and confirmations that had piled up, and started filling in columns on my bookkeeping spreadsheet.
If only it was so simple.
My mind swirled, recalling details about Edward I didn't want to remember. The man had quoted poetry to me, and he had done it without being hokey. He had been perfectly sincere; it had sent shivers throughout my entire body to hear his husky voice reciting the lines. Of course, I had ruined it by freaking out, but it hadn't robbed me of the memory of that night.
Rosalie hadn't tried all that hard to get it out of me. I had known. I had known since the night of the snowstorm how Edward felt about me; I had known how I felt about him. The storm had been an excuse to spend time with him. We lived in New York; I could have walked home. It wasn't far. But I let him believe that it was, and for some stupid reason, I let him believe he was taking care of me.
Edward was incapable of taking care of a goldfish. But damn it if he didn't try. He had the earnestness of a child, wrapped up in broad shoulders and a firm chest I loved to run my fingers down.
I smiled in spite of myself, leaning back in my chair and hugging my arms around my chest. I had put on his shirt before coming into the bar, hoping he would see it as a peace offering. Instead, I just felt foolish.
I wished I had another shirt in the bar to change into, just so I could throw this one in his face.
My phone buzzed across the desk, and I heaved a sigh, stretching out my hand to retrieve whatever message awaited. A small part of me feared it was a text from Edward, being passive aggressive from the other side of the office door. Instead, it was from Rose.
He show up yet?
Yeah. A few minutes ago. Being a jerk.
I set the phone down, squeezing my eyes shut. I knew her response wouldn't be long.
B, I love you. But I told you he was going to do this when you ignored him last night.
I gritted my teeth, gripping the phone in my palm without immediately responding. The pain in Edward's voice had come through loud and clear in the messages he had left me; he had all but begged me to go to him last night. I hadn't.
It had been my intention to text him, to tell him that I would see him at the bar; I had been crying for hours while talking to Rose, and I just didn't want him to see me like that. I had been very careful to reign in my emotions around Edward. I thought I'd finally gotten it under control after all those nights of watching him with Jessica in the bar. But somehow, he had started to work his way through to me over all the nights I spent wrapped in his arms.
He didn't know it, but I lay awake for hours, too afraid to go to sleep. Edward would collapse beside me in his bed, pull me to his chest, kiss my forehead and drop off to sleep. He fell asleep quickly, and he slept deeply, his even breaths acting as my very own lullaby. But though my eyes would grow heavy, I would struggle to stay awake, just to breathe him in...just to savor how safe I felt curled into his arms.
Listening to his voicemails had sent waves of guilt rushing through me, especially under Rosalie's watchful gaze. "I can't," I had whispered over and over again as Rosalie sat beside me on my couch, her arm around my shoulder.
"Bella, the boy is in love with you. He won't care if you've been crying," she had replied, her voice both soft and stern all at once. "He's not going to see you as weak. He's just going to see you, walking through his door. I'll drive you. Please, Bella. Don't do this to yourself."
All I had done was shake my head, feeling helpless and trapped by my own fear. I had promised myself I'd never be afraid again; I had promised myself I'd never feel so helpless. But that was all I felt, hugging my arms around myself on my couch. And it was all I felt sitting in the office, knowing Edward wasn't far beyond the door.
Enough, I told myself, nothing bothering to answer Rosalie's last message. I put my phone down, turning the ringer off. I told myself I would ignore Edward, and that was what I did.
Hours had passed when I heard a light knock on the door. I didn't want to talk to him; I had just managed to stop crying over him once again. I knew what I needed to do, and I didn't want to do it. I wanted to take everything back from the last few days, and go back to having Edward kiss me every night.
"Go home!" I called, forcing my voice steady and strong.
"Bella...open the door," his muffled voice called back. The door handle jiggled, and I was grateful I had remembered to lock it. I couldn't have him bursting in on me. I eyed the windowless room, wishing there was a way out. I knew I would start crying again if I saw him, and I couldn't handle that. I needed him to go away.
His sharp kick against the door made me jump, his voice seething with anger as he demanded I open the door again.
Fuck, he's not going away, I thought to myself, taking a deep breath. I could handle this; I could make Edward leave. There had been guys who had wanted more than a few kisses with me before; I could handle this one like all the rest.
"What do you want?" I demanded as I shoved him away; he obviously hadn't been expecting me to fling open the door and had all but fallen into me. I ignored the tingles that went rushing up my arm at touching him; I ignored the emotion building behind his eyes. I braced myself for his fury, and hoped it would be over soon.
"Why didn't you return any of my phone calls?" he asked quietly.
"I told you, I was sick! If this is what you needed so badly, then I regret opening the door. Go home, Edward. I have paperwork I need to do," I lied, starting to shove the door closed. I didn't have paperwork to do; I had been done with my paperwork for hours. But I couldn't look at him anymore. His face was a tableau of hurt and concern, and it made my resolve weaken. I wanted to fall into his arms and follow him back to his apartment; I wanted to listen to his breathing and steady heartbeat as he slept.
"You weren't sick." Edward's voice was dead calm. I almost wished he had started yelling instead. "We both know that. I've seen you sick. You're always here."
"Well, I knew you could handle it," I shot back, fighting for control of my voice. Lie better, I told myself, fighting the urge to squeeze my eyes shut under Edward's blistering stare.
"You knew I could handle it?" He barked out a bitter laugh, and I knew he wasn't buying my lie. He knew me too well. "You don't think I can handle anything. Not even myself, right?" The hurt seeped back into his voice, anguish flickering in his eyes.
"I don't know why you're picking a fight with me. Go home," I told him, fighting to keep a calm, quiet tone as I changed tactics. It pulled on my heart to know I was hurting him, but I knew I couldn't hold the walls up much longer. My throat was tightening, my eyes prickling with tears I didn't want to cry. He was fighting too hard, pushing too much.
"Would you fucking look at me?" His hand slammed into the door frame, and I jumped again. Edward seemed to be on the verge of losing control, and that brought the fear back to the forefront, making my heart race. "Would you fucking say something besides whatever carefully rehearsed lines you've got in your head? What the fuck is going on here, Bella? And why the fuck are you wearing a mini-skirt and my fucking T-shirt, but you won't touch me or even fucking looking at me?"
He sees right through me, I thought in a panic, forcing myself to keep looking at the wall behind him. I couldn't meet his gaze; his blistering stare would see right through me. He would see the fear, and he would see that I was barely hanging by a thread. I needed to find a way to make him leave, and I needed to do it quickly.
Swallowing my rising panic, I fought for control of my voice when I spoke again. "Go home. Just go."
"You know, I got a visit from Rosalie yesterday. And according to her, I need to get you to talk to me. But see, I told her I've tried. And you just...well you do whatever it is that you're doing right now. It's fucking maddening, Bella. Did you ever listen to the voicemails I left you last night?"
I couldn't answer him. I didn't trust my voice. I already knew Rosalie had been to see Edward; she had come to see me immediately afterwards. She had recounted the whole mess to me in agonizing detail. It had made me ache for him, made me want to go to him and make it right. But I couldn't.
I wanted to fall into his arms, sobbing that I was sorry, but I couldn't. I couldn't be that girl again, crying in the arms of a man who held complete control over her emotions. I was already too far into it with Edward. It was time for a clean break. I bit my lip, and waited for him to walk away.
"Fine!" He threw his hands up. It looked like he was shaking. "Fine, Bella, lock yourself up in your head. Don't fucking let me in. Don't fucking tell me anything. And when you can't sleep tonight, you can blame yourself!"
He turned away from me, finally making his escape into the bar, but something in me snapped.
His words were too much like Rose's. Let someone in, they said. Tell someone how you feel.
It is your fault, Edward, I seethed, balling my hands into fists at my side. This is all your fucking fault. I was fine until you came into my life. I was managing. You came into my bar and did this to me! You ruined it!
I was chasing after him without even knowing where I was going, and then the words were flying out of my mouth. "No, Edward, I am going to blame you!" My words breathed with a life of their own, fanning the fury boiling in my gut. So he had been on good behavior for a few weeks. So he had quoted me some poems. It didn't change the years before it. It didn't change anything. He was still the same lost little boy who couldn't do anything right but pour a fucking beer.
"I'm going to blame you for being such an asshole. I'm going to blame you for telling Rosalie the things you did, and making me think, for a minute, that I could be with you. I'm doing what I have to do to protect myself, and protect this bar. Who the fuck do you think you are, showing up hours late today? This is a business. I don't give a shit that you're mad at me. You should have fucking been here on time."
"Oh, like you were yesterday?" he threw back, turning back around to face me. His face was a mask of twisted fury, his arms folded tightly across his chest. He didn't so much as bother to apologize for his lateness.
"This is my bar!"
I don't have to fucking explain myself to you, I added on silently, letting the anger take over. I clung to it, letting it hold me up as I barreled forward. I needed Edward out of my life.
"You're a hypocrite."
"I'm a hypocrite?" I forced myself to laugh, forced myself to put on a blank face. I was running out of ways to make him go away; I was going to have to force him. "Try this one on then, Edward. You're fired. I don't ever want you in this bar again."
Because if I do, I won't be able to do this again. You'll win. I can't let you win.
His mouth opened, and then snapped shut as he gaped at me. Then his eyes narrowed, a snicker escaping his lips. "You're firing me? That's rich. You realize you're firing me while you're wearing my fucking T-shirt, right? And because I was late, even though yesterday you ditched because you were mad at me."
Back to the fucking shirt again. God damn fucking T-shirt. I should have burned it. I should have fucking left it at his house. I should never have let myself take this god damn shirt from his apartment.
A feral cry ripped from my lips, and I was beyond reason. I had the shirt over my head before I could stop myself, or think about how I was stripping in front of him. I wanted him gone, and I wanted him gone now. I threw the shirt at him as hard as I could, my blood thudding in my ears. "Now take your god damn shirt, and get the fuck out."
Edward didn't move. His eyes locked on me, and the unmistakable shine of lust appeared through his rage. I had seen that look in his eyes before; he was smoldering with desire, and I realized my mistake. I was furious, panting with rage, and I was standing in front of him in a skirt and my bra. My face flushed all over again, and I fought myself my instinct to cover my breasts with my arms. I couldn't let him know he was getting to me; I couldn't let him know that his smoldering gaze was setting fire to something other than my rage.
"No," he finally said, dropping the shirt onto the bar lightly. "I'm not. You owe me some answers." It was obvious he was trying to sound convincing, but his voice shook.
Stay focused. Make him leave, I told myself, fighting the twinge of emotion his vulnerability brought on. I forced my lips into a sneer, and spit the words out. "I owe you nothing."
It wasn't enough; he wasn't giving up.
"Did you listen to that fucking voicemail? Any of them."
No point in lying.
"And? Nothing? You have nothing at all to say?"
I bit the inside of my cheek, knowing this would be the hardest reply. Edward's voicemails had made the tears start all over again, and had made my heart race. I had been suspicious, at first, that it had been Rosalie's doing, that she had somehow put him up to it. But as the night had worn on, and his voicemails had become increasingly emotional, I knew it was Edward. It was Edward doing what he could to prove himself to me, but it wasn't enough.
It was too late to let my emotions win, to let my heart win. I had listened to my heart once before; it had nearly gotten me killed.
"I think it's awfully funny that Rose comes to see you, and all of a sudden you're leaving messages about needing me," I began, forcing venom into the words. "You've never once told me that, Edward. How the hell do I know you're not just following directions? In fact, you've never told me one god damn thing about how you feel about any of this. You've never once given me the impression that I'm anything more than a replacement for that slut Jessica. And I'm done. I'm done trying with you, and I'm done waiting to get my heart broken. I've spent years protecting myself, and I was stupid to think that maybe I was wrong about you." I took a deep breath, squeezing my eyes shut against the harshness of the words. They weren't completely a lie, but they weren't the truth either. I couldn't tell Edward the truth. "Now get out."
"You're trying?" he asked incredulously. His glare sent shivers down my spine as he quickly closed the distance between us. I could feel the rage rolling off him as he stood inches from me, but the lust still burned behind his deep green eyes in the dim light. The air was thick with tension. "Bella, you don't let me touch you. I tried to be romantic with you, and you had a complete meltdown. You don't want to have sex, but you parade around here in tighter, skimpier clothes each day. Like right now, standing here in this." He stopped ranting long enough to gesture wildly at my state of dress before he continued on. "But god forbid I try and get you shirtless in bed."
It all comes back to sex, doesn't it?
"Romantic!" I spat, giving up and finally crossing my arms over my chest. I was starting to shake as the rage boiled through my veins. "Bitching at me that we're not having sex is romantic?"
He seemed exasperated when he spoke again. "I wasn't talking about that!" he began, his tone pedantic. He took a deep breath, as if trying to center himself, but his eyes never left me. "I was talking about the night I quoted the poem to you. You flipped out. You tried to leave. You tried to shut me out. It was the closest I'd ever come to telling you how I felt about you, and you shut me down!"
Why Edward? Why did you have to bring up that night? Do you know I almost told you that night? I almost gave in, and told you everything. You were so earnest. You wanted me there, and it was so obvious, but I was scared. I am scared.
My thoughts raced as he stood before me, the heat of his body radiating from him. Edward's eyes were still on my body, and his voice was cracking with emotion. I was dangerously close to being unable to fight back anymore; I was dangerously close to throwing myself into his arms.
"I can't do this!" I shouted, shoving against his chest to try and escape. I couldn't have him so close to me. When he was that close, the heat radiating off of him, the scent of his cologne and sweat filling my nostrils, I couldn't focus. I spun back around, both dreading and hoping I would see him walking away. "Just get out. Out!" I yelled, letting the shrill panic take over.
"Well, you have to do this," he said forcefully, following me. I kept walking backwards until the cool wood of the bar was at my back. I was trapped between him and the bar, and he was standing impossibly close to me. His long fingers grabbed my chin, tearing my gaze from the bottles behind him to his face. "I want you, Bella," he growled, sending searing heat through my entire body. "I'm not going to lie to you, and you're not stupid. You know what you do to me. You've known. And I can respect that you're not ready, but tell me what the fuck you think you're doing dressing the way you are."
What is with the clothes? Why does he keep going on about my clothes? I haven't been dressing that differently! What does he want from me?
"Did you want me to start dressing like a nun just because I sleep next to you without fucking you?" I demanded, trying to push him away. The muscles in his chest went rigid under my touch, his feet planted firmly. "I just wanted to look a little nicer! For you! I didn't realize I was only allowed to care about that if we were fucking!" I went on, trying to get away from him. But his grip on my chin only tightened as I tried to look away. I slapped his hand away; I had to get away from him.
His hands moved to my shoulders as I fought him, keeping me pressed back against the bar inches from his body. We were both shaking.
"You've been torturing me, for weeks, and it didn't even occur to you?"
Torturing? Way to be melodramatic, Edward. Jesus. They're just clothes! You never said anything! You just kept staring like you always do...How the fuck was I supposed to know?
"No! No, I didn't think it was such a big fucking deal that we weren't fucking! What happened to your whole speech about needing me, Edward? Is it me? Or is it just a pair of legs to spread that you're looking for?"
My anger was getting the better of me again. It wasn't that I didn't want to have sex with Edward; I had wanted to have sex with Edward since that first night in the snow. But I couldn't. Sex with Edward wouldn't be like sex with another man, and I knew it. It was written all over his soulful expressions, and hidden in each of his soft words.
He was silent for a long moment, the expression in his eyes morphing. He was breathing heavily, and without warning, his hands fell to my hips. He yanked me sharply against him, pulling my body flush with his. I gasped as I felt his hard length suddenly pressed to my stomach; it wasn't the first time I had felt Edward's arousal, but he had never made it so intentionally obvious to me before.
The gasp had barely left my lips when his hands dropped down, and he was lifting me onto the bar. His mouth was on mine before my ass even hit the wood, his kiss urgent. Something in me snapped, and I couldn't hold back any longer.
My hands went to his hair, grabbing on tightly as I pulled myself closer to him. I was dimly aware of his hands on my legs, pushing them apart, pulling me closer, and then pressing himself to me. I wrapped my legs around his waist, pulling him in, craving the friction my body demanded. I gave into the kiss with abandon, biting down on his lower lip as I pulled back to catch my breath.
I was done fighting against him. I wanted him, and I needed him. I needed to feel the warmth of his skin pressed to mine, and I needed to have his lips on mine. I fumbled with his jeans, yanking him to me by his belt. "Take off your shirt," I demanded, licking my lips as he quickly yanked the shirt off. Once his shirt was off, he pressed his chest back to mine, leaving me little room get to the button of his jeans, but I managed. He kicked the jeans away as he held on to me, desperation in his touch. His hands were everywhere, pushing my skirt up over my hips, running down my thighs.
His responses were getting more and more wild, which triggered a level of lust in me I hadn't expected. When I felt his fingers loop around the elastic of my thong, I tried to push myself back, lifting my hips to help, but Edward wasn't having that.
He quickly put one hand on the small of my back, pushing me back to where I had been. "No," he growled in my ear, his tongue snaking down my neck and across my shoulder. He nipped lightly as he went, sending shivers through me.
My hands began to wander as his kisses fell across my shoulders, light bites accompanying them. The roughness was a shock, sending unexpected waves of pleasure through me. Edward wanted me, and he wasn't having any of my half-assed protests. He saw through me, and he still wanted me, no matter how much I had pushed him away.
I squeezed my nails into his flesh, gasping as I felt his fingers dancing down my stomach. He used one to spread the moisture between my legs around my entrance, teasing me with his touch. I moaned into his shoulder, desperate for him to keep touching me.
Dimly, I felt my underwear snap as Edward grabbed at them, felt the sudden rush of air as he ripped the fabric away. I reached for him, shoving his boxers down and grabbing him roughly with one hand. The other went to his hip, pulling him to me. I squeezed my fingers around his dick, pumping lightly as I felt him tremble.
Without warning, he shoved my hand away. I opened my mouth to protest, but Edward was already moving. He grabbed my hips, somehow managing to line himself up with me, and pulled - hard. I felt him fill me, and the moan I had been holding in finally broke free. I wrapped my legs around his waist, pulling him against me with each of his thrusts.
Edward wasn't gentle with me; for once, he wasn't treating me like I was somehow fragile. Since I had started sleeping at his apartment, he had become overly cautious with me, as if I was delicate. I didn't like it. I missed the Edward I had known for years, who kept up with my snarky barbs. As sweet as he could be, I wanted him to challenge me. I wanted him to push back.
I wanted him to fuck me on the bar.
Edward's hands were on me again, pulling me off the bar. He stumbled backwards, turning as he hit the counter running along the back of the bar. I didn't know what he was up to, and I didn't care. "Don't you even think about quitting so soon on me," I threatened, digging my nails into his ass as I pulled him to me. I wasn't ready to give up the sensation of him buried in me. "You think you're the only one who's wanted this?" I demanded, a plan formulating in my head as I eyed the bar behind him. I unwrapped my legs, giving him one last squeeze as I pushed him back.
"Get up on the bar," I told him, shoving his chest. My gaze dared him to challenge me, but he didn't. He scrambled up onto the bar, pulling me after him. I crawled over his legs, pushing his chest back until he was lying on the bar. Only then did I straddle his hips, sinking back down onto his straining cock. I bit my lip to keep from moaning, using his chest to balance myself as I began to rock my hips down onto his.
Edward's hands were on me again, fumbling with my bra. He had pulled himself up to a sitting position, and all the muscles in his chest and stomach strained with the effort. His mouth went to my breasts as the bra went to the floor, and the muscles in my legs froze as his lips sucked on one of my nipples, his tongue flicking against the sensitive bud. It took great concentration to remember to keep moving, to keep the heat between my legs satisfied as Edward's tongue continued to work at me.
When he bit down lightly, I couldn't take it anymore. Using the grip I already had on his hair, I yanked his head back, devouring his lips with mine all over again. I picked up my rhythm, driving him deeper into me with each downward thrust. I couldn't get enough of him, the feel of him between my legs, the warmth of his skin on mine.
Edward's fingers danced down my stomach again, and just when I thought I couldn't take much more, he began to rub against my clit. It sent bolts of pleasure through me, tightening every muscle in my stomach until my release exploded. I gasped as I kept riding him, waiting for Edward to find his own release. He came quickly after me, and I collapsed against him, panting. His scent surrounded me; sweat, cologne, the stale smell of alcohol, and that scent that was just him, it all filled my senses, and for one long moment, I was at peace. Edward's arms were around me, and he was still inside me, and I didn't want to move.
Until the realization of what I had just done slammed into me.
Fuck, what have I done? I shouldn't have done that. I should have never taken off that shirt. God dammit! This is never going to work. You know it's never going to work.
My heart was racing as I got off the bar, turning my back to Edward as I quickly pulled my skirt back down over my hips. I fished my bra off the floor, snapping it into place before pulling my shirt back over my head. I told myself to move, to put one foot in front of the other, to get out of the bar, but I couldn't. I was trapped in place, paralyzed by fear and the gravity of what I had just allowed to happen.
"Bella..." Edward's voice came from behind me, gentle and hesitant. His touch fell lightly on my shoulders, one hand tenderly sweeping my hair back from my neck. He had that tone again, the one that said I was a fragile piece of glass.
But this time, I felt like I was about to shatter.
"Don't," I managed to get out, but I heard the crack in my voice. I took a deep breath, stepping away from him. My heart raced with panic. "Just go."
"Come home with me," he insisted instead, his voice still gentle. It nearly broke my heart, the way he whispered the words. His hands were on my shoulders, turning me back to face him. "Bella...that...that wasn't...I didn't mean for that...I mean, I did, but not like that. Please."
I finally forced myself to look at him, and had to bite down on my lip to keep from crying out. His eyebrows were drawn together in concern, his warm eyes focused entirely on me. He sounded ashamed, and worried, and...like he was terrified he had hurt me. The concern was too much; it looked too real. He couldn't possibly...
A sob ripped out of my chest, and I tried to push against him, trying to get free of his embrace. It was too much. Edward was too much. His concern was too much. It couldn't be real. None of it was real. It was too perfect. He couldn't care as much as his eyes said he cared; he couldn't mean what his voice was trying to say.
I was scaring him; the fear coated his voice like a disease, creeping into the syllables and poisoning the words. Good, he should be scared.
"That was a mistake," I finally told him as I escaped his grasp, taking a few steps back. My eyes wandered the bar, unfocused. "I never should have...Edward, please, don't make this more difficult. You need to leave."
Don't tell him. Don't tell him about James. Don't tell him anything. Just make him leave.
"I'm not leaving without you," he vowed, but his voice shook. There was a crack in his determination; I had to find a way to make it splinter all of his resolve.
"I can't do this." My voice broke again, and I silently cursed myself. Where was the strength to lie I had always drawn on? Where was my ability to hide behind a carefully composed face? What had Edward done to me? "You need to leave."
"Why not, Edward?" I demanded, bitterness filling me. It was taking all of my effort to keep my voice from breaking again; I couldn't hide the pain coating the words. "Everyone leaves eventually."
It won't last. He won't stick around. He's taken what he wants. What else could he possibly want from me? I've fired him. He can't come back to work. He's fucked me. He can't possibly want me anymore.
"I'm in love with you."
The words slammed into me, freezing my blood in my veins. I could dimly hear him saying my name, but I couldn't move. The words tore through me like tiny barbs shredding my veins.
I'm in love with you.
He can't be in love with me. This isn't real.
"Are you kidding me?" I finally choked out, unable to put any emotion behind the words. I felt numb. Edward couldn't be in love with me. He didn't know anything about my past. And when he did, he wouldn't want to be with me. At best, he would be gone before I could blink. At worst, he would break me.
I had been broken once.
"I'm not kidding." His voice was tight, as if there were tears hiding behind his dark eyes. In the dim light, I could see the tightness of his jaw. I forced myself to hold my ground, to not shrink away from him. His words cut through me when he spoke again. "I think I've been in love with you since the first time we met. I was just too stupid to figure it out sooner."
No, no, no! my mind screamed. It's not true! He's been with Jessica for years! He's been rude, and it's only since he broke up with her that he's been this way with you! It's only because you went over there, when he was wasted! He's just bored, Bella. He just wants someone to warm his bed at night. Don't fall for it. Don't let him trick you.
I hardened my heart against his words, casting my eyes to the floor. "I see," I said quietly, unable to stop my feet from fidgeting. I couldn't say anything else. Each word was a struggle to push out of my mouth; my heart screamed for me to stop, to believe him, but I couldn't.
Why did he have to be like this? Why couldn't he just be like any other guy? Why does he have to look at me like that? Why couldn't he just get out? Why did I let that happen? I should have just kept pushing. Should have forced him to leave.
"Please come home with me. I can't sleep without you. I need you. And I don't want you to be alone right now. I know you're upset."
He's not going to give up. Just go. When he falls asleep, you can leave. Disappear.
Comforted by my promise to myself to escape, I nodded at Edward, and then began to force one foot in front of the other. I could feel my body resisting each step I took as I went into the office, taking my jacket and purse before shutting off the light.
Edward was thankfully silent as we walked back to his apartment. I could tell he wanted to say something; he kept sneaking looks at me out of the corner of his eye. His face was awash with heart-breaking concern. It was underlined by his own hurt; he had wanted me to say the words back.
I can't love you, Edward. I can't love anyone, I thought as I walked, my eyes on only the pavement in front of me. I was too lost in my own thoughts to even hear the sounds of the city around me, only dimly aware of Edward by my side as I followed him into the apartment. I kept trying to pull the rage back up from the pit of my stomach, to use it to wrap myself up in a protective cocoon, but I felt hollow. The night had taken too much from me.
I had spent hours in the bar, stewing, raging, as time passed and Edward still hadn't shown. When I had finally heard him walk into the bar, I had hoped for an apology; I had hoped for his sheepish, crooked grin. Instead, he had been defiant, sarcastic, and biting.
Yet still, he had managed to pull me into his arms, and make me want him. He had pulled me out of the office, and ignited a simmering burn through my entire body. There had been passion in his eyes, and need. No man had needed me like that - ever. The men I'd shared my bed with over the years had been place-holders, distractions from the loneliness that lived in the pit of my stomach.
That was all Edward was ever meant to be.
I shrugged out of my jacket as we entered the apartment, letting it drop onto the couch. My eyes settled on the windows, staring blankly into the city beyond. I couldn't look at Edward; it was too painful. I needed him to go to sleep, so I could leave.
Edward came up behind me, his arms going around my waist as he whispered my name in my ear. He dropped a soft kiss on my shoulder, and I fought myself; I couldn't react. He said my name again, pulling my body against his. I swallowed a miserable moan, hating how he felt; warm, and perfect. I wanted to stay in his arms all night; I never wanted to leave.
But I had to. And he was making it more and more difficult.
"C'mon, let's just go to bed. It's been a long day. We can talk in the morning," Edward pleaded with me, his lips still close to my ear. His warm breath washed over me, making me want to give in to him.
Instead, I just nodded and followed him. I got undressed, taking the shorts he offered me and numbly changing before sliding into his bed. I lay on my side, my back to Edward, but that didn't deter him. He wrapped me in his arms, pulling me against his warm chest. I choked down a sob, inhaling his scent deeply. It would the last time I would be in his bed; it would be the last time I would be in his arms.
Edward fell asleep quickly, his even breath falling over me. I could feel the rise and fall of his chest at my back, the comfort of the rhythm familiar. I imagined I could feel his heartbeat against me; I wanted to believe it. I wanted to believe that his heart beat for me, that he had meant everything he'd said.
I lay still for a long time, hoping Edward would fall into a deep sleep so I could untangle myself from his arms. Only when I heard his gentle snores did I ease myself out from under his grasp, wincing when I heard his breathing catch. When it evened out, I slipped out the door.
By the time I got to the kitchen, I realized I had left my sneakers in his bedroom. Shit. I looked around the apartment, taking a deep breath to steel myself for the return visit to the bedroom.
He's out cold. Calm down. Have a cup of tea. He won't wake up for hours. You know the way he sleeps.
I knew I was stalling, rationalizing in my own mind reasons to continue to stay in the apartment, but I shoved that part of my thoughts down. I knew Edward had tea buried in the cabinet above the stove; I had never seen him drink it, and for a moment, I shuddered at the thought that his ex had probably bought it.
Just make the fucking tea, Bella.
Trying to keep quiet, I took the small saucepan sitting in the dish drain and filled it with water. As I waited for the water to boil, memories began to creep in.
There were too many nights in this apartment; too many times I had cooked in this kitchen, watching Edward out of the corner of my eye. There had been stolen kisses while I stood stirring sauce or chopping vegetables, his arms closing around my waist as if it were the most natural thing in the world. I closed my eyes as I stood in front of the stove, and imagined him behind me, his breath on my neck, his soft chuckle right before he'd brush his lips against my throat. His arms would come around my waist, and just for a moment, he would pull me to him, molding our bodies together like clay statues.
Stop it. You can't stay. You know what happens if you stay. You can't believe him, Bella. It's too dangerous. You've been in Brooklyn long enough. You've stayed here too long already. Edward can't be exposed to your life. Let him keep the memories...
My memory swirled with those first nights we had spent together, the snow swirling beyond the windows. I made my tea, wrapping my fingers around the mug as I floated toward the windows. Edward had them open to the cool spring air, and the breeze swirled around my bare legs. I barely felt it. I was too lost in the memory of Edward's trusting eyes as I'd carefully cleaned the cuts on his shoulder when he'd fallen into the coffee table; too lost in the memory of how he always wanted me near him, no matter where we were.
It wasn't like this with James, Bella. I winced, just thinking his name. He never acted this way with you.
I'd been over the memories more times than I cared to admit; James had never been like Edward was. James hadn't touched me the way Edward did, like he was content sometimes just to brush his fingers across my arm. When he had told me he loved me, his eyes hadn't burned fiercely the way Edward's did.
Edward means it. He's not lying like James was. Even Rosalie believes him.
I sighed, taking a sip of my tea and staring down into the street. I wanted to believe Edward. I wanted to shove my fear and panic down, but it kept gnawing at me. My heart pounded in my chest at the thought of never seeing Edward again, but my mind kept pushing me to run.
Lost in my thoughts, I didn't hear Edward's quiet footsteps on the floor until he was nearly behind me. His hands settled on my shoulders as he murmured a sleepy greeting in my ear, before sliding down around my waist. I bit the inside of my cheek as I fought for calm, the kitchen memories slamming back into me. "Come back to bed?" Edward asked, resting his chin on my shoulder. He sounded so innocent, his voice filled with sleep.
"I can't sleep," I told him, tightening my grip on my tea. I can't fall asleep with you, Edward. I'll never leave if I do. You're too close, and I can't find a way to push you away.
He breathed my name out in a sigh, pulling me even closer to him. It was a gentle protest, and it sent my heart racing. He wanted me. He wanted me to come back to bed, and to sleep in his arms. He didn't want anything else; he just wanted me.
"Don't," I whispered, closing my eyes tightly and fighting against the tears I felt building in my throat. He was too perfect; too sweet, too loving. I needed him to be angry, to snap at me about my mood swings, to push me out his door. I was quickly discovering I wasn't going to be able to leave on my own.
He sounded confused, but there was a hint of apprehension in his voice. It was almost as if he could sense the storm brewing in the dark living room.
"Don't...just don't. Whatever it is you're about to say, about...earlier. Just don't." I forced the words to be cold, firm. I couldn't have him fight him; I couldn't even begin to explain my reasons. I'd have to tell him the entire story, about my mom, about James, about me...it was too much.
Edward was quiet for a long moment, and I briefly thought that maybe he would let it drop. The silence wrapped itself around us, holding us together in our warm embrace. I wanted to sink into his arms, and kiss him until he took me to bed.
But I couldn't. Edward wanted the whole story; he wouldn't take my half-assed attempts at being honest with him. And he didn't deserve them. He deserved someone who would give herself over to him completely.
And for all the times I judged Jessica...at least she wanted to be with him. At least she was just being who she is, and not hiding behind some mask she's built up. Edward thinks I'm strong, and I've got all my shit together...and I don't.
"Why?" Edward's voice broke the silence, pulling me out of my thoughts. Of course he wouldn't leave it be; of course he would continue to push. Edward knew he was close to breaking me.
Of course he wants to break you, Bella. That's what they do. They worm their way in, and then they break you. Quickly or slowly, they break you.
Edward pulled back from me, and it sent my anger rushing back. I had thought he was going to fight me; I had thought he was holding on this time, holding on until I could let go.
But he wasn't.
"Because I don't want to talk about it."
"I know." I heard the intake of breath as Edward sighed. It made my nerves tingle with nervous anticipation with what he was possibly going to say next. "But we have to. What happened in the bar..."
"Was a mistake!" I cut in, clinging to my anger. It was the only defense I had left against him. "Edward, I came back here with you because..." Because it was the only way I could think of to make you stop talking. Because I wanted you to go to sleep so I could run away, but I can't. I need to get away from you, but I can't. You've gotten under my skin.
I didn't say any of that. I lied. "Well, I don't know why I agreed, okay? But that can't happen again. It was...wrong. I'm your boss."
"You are? Because I thought you fired me."
"You know I didn't mean that."
What? Why did you say that, Bella? You meant it! He can't work for you anymore! You're leaving!
"I have a really hard time knowing what you actually mean these days."
That's right, Edward. Get mad. Hate me. It'll be easier.
"What the fuck is that supposed to mean?" I demanded, forcing as much nastiness into my voice as I could. I held onto my anger, hoping I could provoke his. He would admit it; admit that his love for me was a lie. It had been a construct to get to me, and now he was done with me. It would be over.
"It means that you're the queen of mixed signals!" I turned to face him, pulling the anger through me, keeping my expression carefully masked in the rage. I needed him to see it; I needed him to stay mad. It seemed to be working. His words were strangled as he barreled on.
"Bella, you have to know the way you're acting has been completely backwards, okay? You're standing here, telling me that we can't be together, but you've spent nearly all of the last month sleeping here. You were fine until Rose called me your boyfriend. And then last night...last night...I shouldn't have started that, okay? I know I shouldn't have. But you didn't say no, Bella. You didn't stop me. You didn't ask me to stop. And you...well it was sort of obvious that you...you wanted that, as much as I did. Not that way, I know. I didn't want it that way either. But it happened, and I'm not sorry it did. I'm sorry for the way it did. But not..."
"Rose, huh? So it's 'Rose' now? You had one little heart-to-heart with her, and now she's 'Rose'? Want to fuck her on the bar too?" I snarled, holding onto the coffee mug in my hand like it was my lifeline. I knew Edward didn't want Rose; I knew Rose would never betray me that way. But I was grasping at straws. I was running out of things to throw at him.
Edward's expression morphed into one of horrified shock. Then his eyes narrowed, his cheeks coloring with anger. "Just fucking stop it!" he yelled, startling me with the sudden outburst. "I'm in love with you, Bella! I said it in the bar, and I'm going to keep saying it until you fucking listen to me. Talk to me! Stop fucking pushing me away! Stop fucking acting like it's my goal in life to hurt you! It's not! I want you to be happy, god dammit. I want you to be happy, and I want you to be happy with me." His eyes slid closed, his hands flying behind his head as he clenched his fingers together. His jaw was tight, his entire body tense. The words were desperate, and the pain in his voice tore at me.
"Bella," he whispered, his eyes still closed. They opened slowly, and it was all I could do not to gasp. Edward's eyes showed it all; the love, the fear, the desperation to make me listen to him. He wasn't giving up; the expression on his face told me he was never going to.
He means it, Bella. Listen to him. Rosalie's voice, echoing in my thoughts.
"You told me a while ago that you needed time. I've given you time. I can't give you anymore. I'm tired of trying to hold myself back, and trying to predict if you're going to be in a good mood or get all...You need to tell me what's going on. Tell me what's causing this. I don't believe you don't care about me. It's something else. Tell me."
I broke away from his painful gaze, staring into my cup of tea. Everything in me was screaming to believe him, screaming to give him a chance to prove himself. The fear reared back up, and the words escaped. "I can't," I whispered without looking at him. I was losing the battle against myself, but I couldn't.
"Because then there's no going back," I choked out.
There's already no going back. You know that. Two choices, Bella. Run, or be with him. Rose says to trust him. Even Rich likes him. Rich says Charlie would like him. Rich doesn't like anyone...
Edward was pulling the mug out of my hands, gently moving my fingers to take the cup away from me, and then I was in his arms. He crushed me to him, holding on to me as if I would drown without his touch. "Bella...Bella, please. I would never hurt you. I don't want to ever want to leave you. I want a life with you. I want you to meet my sister. Hell, I want you to come to California with me for her graduation. I need you by my side when I face my family. I need...I want...I want so much more. Please, Bella, just...just tell me."
His words tugged at me. I could hear the fear in the words, the desperation for me. James had never sounded that way; James was always so sure of himself, of my love for him. Edward talked about a future, about wanting me to be a part of his family; James had never so much as introduced me to his mother.
Edward wasn't lying.
"I..." My voice broke, and I let the anger go. I sagged against Edward, my knees weakening beneath me as I clung to his neck. The tears poured over my cheeks, and I clung to him, my cheek to his chest. Edward said nothing. He just gathered me up in his arms like I was weightless, settling us together on the couch. He held me to him tightly, almost as if he were afraid to let go. I felt his need for me, and I latched onto it to keep the fear at bay.
I told him I didn't know where to start, but he didn't care. He slowly pulled information from me, always gently listening. He took my sharp barbs, deflecting them until he found a way to worm his way beyond all the defenses I'd put him up against.
He made me laugh, over something as simple as his inability to so much as boil a pot of pasta.
"Okay, bad example. You're definitely a much better cook." He sighed, brushing the hair back from my forehead, and his voice grew serious again. "But...you don't always have to be the one running the show, okay? I've never tried some things because I think you would push me away." He paused, taking another deep breath. The tension in his jaw sent a flutter of apprehension through me. "When you push me away, even over stupid shit, it's like you don't want me. It hurts, Bella."
I had hurt him. I hadn't meant to, but it was becoming clearer and clearer as I sat, curled in his arms. I had been pushing Edward away, trying so hard to protect myself, and all I had been doing was hurting us both. Edward thought I didn't want him.
Edward didn't know how wrong he was.
"I've always wanted you," I told him, sitting up more in his arms to look him in the eye. I needed him to believe me; I needed him to know. "It's...scary, how much I want you."
"Then why the hot and cold?"
If he had been accusing, it would have been over. But he wasn't. He was genuinely curious, and he genuinely wanted to know. It was exactly what I needed from him, and he had given it without even knowing.
I took a deep breath, and started talking. "I don't know what the hell I'm doing, Edward. If it seemed like I was doing that, I'm sorry. It wasn't on purpose. You make me...I'm all over the place when it comes to you. And the clothes...I didn't mean it, like that. I mean, I wanted to look nicer, but I guess it just didn't occur to me...I didn't mean it like that." I sighed, leaning my cheek down to his shoulder, tucking my legs up against his chest. I needed to be close to him, to feel his heartbeat under my hand. I needed to feel how real he was. "I...I don't know why what Rose said set me off like that, in the bar. That word...it's just...weighted. Sort of like the other thing that you said." It was the closest I could come to explaining James to him. That story would have to wait.
"That I love you?" he asked gently, his arms wrapped more tightly around me.
I nodded, my heart aching with the desire to say the words back, but I couldn't. Edward meant a lot to me, but love wasn't a place I had allowed myself to go. I couldn't. "The...the last person who said that to me...who had that title...it, um, well he didn't...he wasn't who I thought he was. But I didn't know that until it was too late."
Much, much too late. Too late for Mom. Too late for me.
"I'm not that guy. Whatever he said or did, I'm not him."
"I haven't had a boyfriend since. I'm...not good at this." I avoided his statement, his self-assurance that he was different. I wanted to believe him. I wanted it badly. But I was still uncertain. And he needed to know.
"Practice makes perfect." His tone was light as his touch on my arm, his fingers trailing soothingly over my arm.
I closed my eyes, preparing for the words. "I don't know if I'm capable of falling in love again," I told him, needing the truth out there. A part of me wished it wasn't true, but it was. I wasn't a big believer in romantic notions that love could fix anything.
"I don't believe that." His arms came around me again, holding almost painfully tight, but I didn't care. I could hear his heart beat where I pressed my cheek to his chest, and it was racing. . "Your heart is too pure for you to not be able to fall in love. You're gentle with me, Bella, sometimes, when you let go and you're just you. Like when I fell into the stupid coffee table. You took care of me. I wish you could have seen yourself, fussing and worrying like you did."
"I...that storm...being here, with you. I knew it was too late, then."
"To protect myself from you." I pushed back from his chest and lowered my legs before looking up into his eyes. I owed him an apology, and I needed to look into his eyes as I gave it. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry for being mixed signals girl. I'm sorry I didn't tell you about any of this when you asked a month ago. I'm sorry I made you feel like I don't want you, because I do want you, Edward. I couldn't sleep without you the last few nights, and tonight, tonight I thought maybe after...the bar...I could finally get you out of my system. But I can't. I need you." The last words came out as a whisper, but I forced my gaze to hold steady. It was the truth, and he had to hear it; I had to say it.
Edward was quiet at my confession, but his eyes were back to burning. His heart raced under my palm, and he leaned forward, tentative at first as he brushed his lips across mine. I wound my arms around his neck, giving in to the delightful sensation of his mouth moving slowly across my jaw and down my neck. When he finally brought his lips back to mine, there was nothing hurried about the kiss. It was sensual, and his emotions were in the kiss, in his hands in my hair; Edward laid himself bare to me, exposing all the facets of his love, and I felt it down into my toes.
"I could kiss you for hours," Edward whispered, his hands cupping my face. I believed him. It was in all of his actions, and all of his words. "The bar...Bella...I want to take you to bed, and make love to you. I want to show you how I feel about you, because I still don't think you believe the words. My body, my heart, my soul...they all belong to you now. And I give them freely. 'With love's light wings did I o'er-perch these walls; For stony limits cannot hold love out.'"
My cheeks flamed as I recognized the lines from Romeo and Juliet. Edward was quoting poetry to me again, and there was nothing cheesy about it. He meant every word; he knew what I had been doing. He knew I had been trying to push him away, to keep him out with the walls I'd built around myself.
"You really know how to make a girl blush." I nuzzled my lips against his neck, hiding my red cheeks from his view. I breathed him in, the smell of his skin a welcome comfort. I shifted on his lap, lowering my knees to either side of his hips. I had half-expected to find him aroused; Edward seemed to always be aroused around me, but he wasn't.
As he moved to kiss me, his mouth proved what I had been thinking. It isn't just about sex to him. He means it. I could feel it in the way his hand tangled in my hair, while the other fell to the small of my back, holding me to him.
I reached up, running my hands along his jaw and through his hair. I leaned my weight against him, needing to feel him, needing to feel his body. I just needed him. I needed his hands running up under the sweatshirt I wore, his sweatshirt.
He pulled away from me gently, tucking me against his chest as he took a deep breath. "You don't have to stop," I mumbled, my voice nearly lost in his skin.
"I do." His hands came out from under my shirt, wrapping his arms around me instead. "I don't want...I always want you, Bella. But what happened earlier...I need you to know how I feel about you...it's so much more than that."
The sincerity of his words pulled on my heart. He had me on his lap, straddling him, kissing him, and he was worried I would take it the wrong way. He wanted me to know how he felt; he wanted me to believe that he was in love with me.
He's not James.
Rosalie had been right. Edward was different. Edward meant it
Tears poured over my cheeks. I had been awful to him. The things I had said...the things I had done. Edward had just taken all of it, and seen through it.
"Bella?" Edward's voice was panicked, and I realized he must have felt the dampness of my tears on his shirt.
"I..." I pulled away from him, looking about the room before meeting his gaze. I had to tell him. "No one's...you're...after everything that's gone on with us, and who I thought you were...I was wrong. I wish I could say it back to you, and I wish I could feel it. I can't. But I want to, for the first time since...for the first time in years. I'm glad you fight me so hard. I can be really stubborn sometimes." I wiped at the tears as they fell, willing them to stop. I didn't want to cry anymore. I just wanted to be with him.
"Stubborn?" he teased with a quiet laugh. He reached for my hands, winding our fingers together. "I can't imagine that..."
I laughed with him, squeezing his fingers with mine. I wanted him to take me to bed, but there was still one more thing I had to know, one last nagging insecurity I had to have answered. I needed to know why he had been with Jessica for so long if he said he was in love me; I needed to know why he had spent years with her, though he saw me daily.
And without getting angry, he explained. He didn't hold back, and he didn't sugar coat. He admitted his own faults, his own weaknesses; he told me that he had felt unworthy of me. It broke my heart. Edward was worried that he wasn't good enough, that he couldn't change enough, that it was never going to be enough for me. He didn't know how wrong he was; he didn't know what he had already done for me.
I kissed him once more, lightly, and stood. I was ready to crawl into bed and fall asleep in his arms. His eyes were drooping, and it was clear he was exhausted. It had been an emotional day. "I'm...really glad you made me talk about this, Edward. I feel...closer to you. There's probably a lot more we should talk about, but I finally feel like maybe this can work." I looked down at the floor, but snuck a glance at him as he stood, wrapping his arms around me. I was admitting a lot to him, and it both thrilled and terrified me.
"Of course it can," he whispered in my ear, starting to walk backwards in the direction of his bedroom, pulling me lightly along with him. "I know it can."
"Well in that case..." I giggled as he stumbled over his own feet, falling with him against the wall. Edward's eyes bore down into mine, his expression filled with love and relief. I broke his gaze to snuggle against his chest, quietly asking him to take me to bed. As he swung me into his arms and started down thhe hall, I knew I didn't want to be anywhere else.
AN: Big thanks to Bookgeek80 for doing a fine beta job on this piece, even if it nearly killed her! Also to the FGB team for requesting this – I liked writing it more than I thought I would.
I've got a new project that some of you may or may not be interested in. Hickward. You may have seen him on Twitter, but he's the product of a new collab between myself and MsRason. The fic is called "Climax Springs" and we're going to start posting shortly. Find us on Twitter or www(dot)fanfiction(dot)net/~RasonforRuin
And no, I'm not abandoning RC. Just been recovering from surgery and entering too many contests. Hoping to write chapter 15 this weekend.