Divine providence - fate, it has a way of making things happen. When Bella performs a simple act of kindness for a stranger, it changes her life forever.
A/N: This story was spawned from a crazy, fun ass, amazing weekend I had in NYC. It grew legs and ran away from me, so it's not what I expected - but I hope you all enjoy. :) Katbug86 beta'd this on the fly - I was impressed, because this is a hefty bitch. Give her some love, she has some stories more than worth checking out. :)
Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight; all of the respective characters belong to Smeyer.
Under the Red Umbrella
I walk into the sweeping lobby of the hotel and it takes my breath away. The tall ceiling is adorned with large, ornate, brass flowers, and a beautiful glass chandelier hangs like a giant glowing star in the center of the room. It is magical - I feel an instant lightness to my step as I approach the eager bellman.
"Good afternoon Miss. Are you checking in today?"
"Um, yes, I have a reservation under the name of Swan."
"Very good. Let me take your bags and we'll step this way to get your key."
I follow the stout man in a maroon bell-hop suit, buttons lined neatly up the side of his chest. He informs the smiling woman behind the front desk of my name and she clicks away at her computer. Her eyes light up as she locates my room number and key card.
"Room 333," she tells me when she hands over the small rectangular envelope.
"Thank you," I reply. Taking the card I turn toward the long bank of elevators; a small ping chimes and a set of doors glides open, welcoming me in. The bellman joins me and I glance down at his name tag. The black letters carved into the shiny gold plate read Sean.
I follow quietly while he rolls my luggage down the long hallway. The immediate area outside of the elevators are made to look like a miniature version of the lobby, decorated with oversized comfortable sofas. The wallpaper covering the walls is nice. When I present my card, Sean unlocks the door and offers me entry first. I dip my head in thanks and squeeze past taking in the room with quiet awe. Elegant. That is the word that comes to mind, clean, classic. Elegant.
Sean walks in behind me, softly placing my bags at the foot of the bed. "Well, Miss Swan, if you need anything at all you can page one of us. I hope you enjoy your stay here at The Roosevelt."
"Thanks Sean," I reply with a lazy smile, already feeling the relaxation settling in.
He smiles at my use of his name, and I reach to hand him a tip. "No, thank you Miss Swan." He pauses at the door, hovering for a brief moment. "Say, Miss Swan, is this your first time in the city?"
"Yes, I've always wanted to come here though."
"That's wonderful. Well, we are happy to have you. Let me know if you want any insider information on the good places to go." He winks at me and then is gone.
The door closes behind him, and I am in a white wonderland. The room is crisp, the air conditioning pouring out busily into the room. The large bed is positioned in the center of the far wall. It is covered in white pillows that look like the softest place to lay my head. Everything is white - the walls, the bed, the lamps. Elegant.
I slip my flats off and toe the carpet; the fibers feel good under my weary feet. The room is cool, possibly too cold - but I love it. I glance at the bed once more; it looks warm and inviting. My finger runs loosely along the top of the dresser, the wood is smooth under my touch. The bed is calling me, and I can stand it no longer. I take three slow steps, inhaling softly as I drop my body down on the plush surface. It swallows me whole - pulling me in deeply. I snuggle down sighing contently.
This is right where I want to be. In a cloud, floating listlessly about my white wonderland, and my eyes close as I drift into unconsciousness.
The rain is coming down in sheets, not what I hoped for on my first day of sightseeing. I open my umbrella, standing precariously on the edge of the curb. My plan had been to walk the majority of the places I had mapped out, hitting all the major land marks, but it would be nearly impossible in the current weather.
The sidewalks were sparse with people, the roads full of cars whizzing by. There is a sea of yellow taxis, they pass by in chunks, but they are all full. I sigh, realizing it will be nearly impossible to hail a cab and decide to wait patiently. I spy several cabs fly by with their lights on and empty backseats; irritation begins to seep into my relaxed bliss.
"Shit, come on man!" A tall man next to me vocalizes my brewing emotions as another empty cab flies by, nearly splashing us both. He is neatly dressed, a suit and a tie, his hair combed back and I notice that he has no protection to the weather. The rain pelts his handsome clothes, wet dots littering his shoulders and back, melding together to form large dark spots.
I watch as he pulls a flimsy page from the newspaper out of a briefcase I hadn't noticed. He feebly holds the page above his head, succeeding on covering his already damp hair at least. The newspaper soaks up the rain and flops down atop his head, splashing more water into his dark locks.
"Jesus Christ," he spits out, shaking the paper and running his left hand through his now soaking hair. I stifle laughter that threatens my vocal chords, taking a step towards him without thinking. He is looking down, brushing off his charcoal suit jacket. He looks something like a grey cow - big patches of wet in the same shape of the ink splotch markings of a cow.
I pause beside him, lifting my umbrella up so it is sheltering both of us. I have to hold my arm high in the air to achieve this, as he is very tall, but he doesn't notice me and I look away from him like I was doing something I did every day.
The air stiffens around me and I know that he has finally noticed me. I turn my head slightly and see from my periphery that he is watching me. Leaning into my right foot so that I am not too close to him, I turn my head fully toward him. I smile.
His left hand goes back to his hair, his eyes dart around briefly before meeting with mine. They are green and bright and invigorating and for the first time I realize he is very handsome. The corner of his mouth tilts upward, the green disappears into a fringe of lashes as he looks to his shoes. I follow his gaze. They are nice shoes.
"Uh, thanks," he mumbles, his hand still in his hair, moves to his neck, and he rubs it lightly. He seems nervous. He is adorable.
He supplies me with eye contact once more, then glances up at my umbrella. "You're not from here are you?" He asks softly, playfully. I shake my head and can't help but smile at him. I assume it's because I did a neighborly thing. I don't suppose that happens often in such a busy place. Everyone is too preoccupied with where they need to be to stop and consider anyone else.
"How could you tell?" I ask, wanting to continue our conversation - I like his voice.
He laughs, short and clipped, his emerald orbs lift to mine but he says nothing. A moment passes between us - I am reading him and he is reading me and there is something there. But something is clouding that feeling. Insecurity? Doubt? I can't tell, but I feel it rolling off of him. There is a tingle in the pit of my stomach, our eyes locked is making me feel light headed. I like it.
He finally points his finger upward. My brow scrunches in confusion. I look up and all I see is my umbrella, our protection from the rain. I glance around, noting other people bustling through the streets, umbrellas covering their heads, and I shake my own.
"You have a red umbrella," he says with a chuckle in his voice.
I still don't understand what is different or funny about my red umbrella, and I shrug my shoulders.
"It's just, black umbrellas are kind of a New York thing. You don't see much color around here." He laughs again and his eyes twinkle and his mouth grows wide. I liked his face like that.
I looked around once more at the vinyl domes hovering above everyone's heads. Black, black, black, black, black … five black umbrellas pass us by on the opposite side of the street. He is right. Suddenly I feel like I stick out like a sore thumb.
"Oh," I mouth and a cab finally pulls up.
"You take this one," he says kindly, gesturing towards the cab.
"But - I - the rain. You'll get all wet." And I don't want to leave this beautiful stranger. I don't know why, it makes no sense, but I want to stand there all day, protecting him from the heavy rain drops under my red umbrella.
Before he could respond another cab pulls up. He peeks over his shoulder at it and then back to me. "Thanks again," he smiles at me, the corners of his eyes crinkling.
"You're welcome," I reply as he turns and darts for the second cab.
His cab pulls away and I regret that I didn't even ask his name.
I am wandering and it feels amazing. The rain has stopped for now, the clouds breaking, allowing the sun to shine through at times. There is a Farmer's Market set up along the street and I am eating the freshest peach I have ever tasted.
Finding a spot on a nearby bench that is relatively dry, I perch myself on it and people watch. There are so many interesting people that pass by, all from different walks of life. There are people in sweats perusing the market, looking for ingredients for their dinner tonight. There is a woman in a suit, heels clicking along the concrete as she goes right to what she wants - fresh basil and red peppers, pays for it and returns to her cab. There is a man haggling with another man over a bushel of apples.
I am entertained by the scenes that play out in front of me for quite some time, but then my peach is nothing but a pit and my stomach is asking for more food. I stand, meandering down the sidewalk toward the grouping of buildings I saw earlier with a few small restaurants.
I stop at the end of the plastic canopies that have been erected for the market. There is a small older lady selling freshly cut flowers. I am amazed by the variety, fingering the soft petals of a pot of pink lilies.
"Are these all from your own garden?" I ask the woman, eyeing a grouping of tall sunflowers, they tower into the air - they are beautiful.
"Yes, dear. I grow all kinds, you like them?" Her accent is thick, with an Italian slant to her words.
"Oh, yes, very much so. They are all so gorgeous."
"Grazie ," she smiles up at her sunflowers. I can't take my eyes off of them; they are like little suns, bright and happy.
"How long have you been doing this?" I ask, curiosity striking.
"A very long time. I come here every Sunday for forty years - even before dis Farmer's Market. I use to stand on de corner and sell dese beautiful flowers. It make me happy."
"Wow, that is amazing," I reply in earnest.
"I'll take two of those please," I hear a voice ask gently behind me and my shoulders stiffen. I recognize the voice, but only barely. I think my mind must be playing tricks on me. I smile kindly to the woman and turn to leave, eyes on the pavement.
As I step away a throat clears causing me to pause, I glance quickly over my shoulder and my vision is blocked by two bright little happy suns close to my face. I turn completely and see someone is holding them out to me. I lean slightly to the side so I can see the man who is offering me the sunflowers. His green eyes sparkle, belying his nervous expression, his left hand on his neck.
I stare at him, unable to speak. He is wearing khaki pants, pressed neatly, and a light blue polo shirt that does wonders for his eyes, they are vivid clovers against a blue sky. He looks just as handsome as the day before, but his hair is natural, lying in bronze waves atop his head. I didn't know what to say to him. Where did he come from? Why was he offering me flowers? He clears his throat once more, straightening his stance a little.
"Um, these are for you Miss…" he trails off and that tingle in my stomach grows.
I beam at him, trying to keep it to an easy smile and not the goofy grin my face wants to do. "Swan, but you can call me Bella."
He relaxes slightly when I supply him with my name. I take the flowers, pressing my nose into the bumpy center, they smell fresh. "Thank you …" I trail and it is his turn to reciprocate.
"Uh, Edward. Edward Cullen."
"Thank you, Edward," I repeat. It felt good to say his name, it was an excellent name - it fit him well.
"You are very welcome. I thought it appropriate to repay your kindness," he says simply, his focus falling to his shoes. He is wearing loafers today - they are worn and well-loved.
"It was my pleasure," I say.
He looks at me, smiling with his eyes and his mouth. "It was different," he counters. "Not many people - actually I don't think anyone would have done something like that."
I don't have a response. I am not sure why I did it.
"It was so simple," he continued, "but very thoughtful."
I inhale my flowers again, my grin growing dangerously close to goofy. "So are these - no one has ever bought me flowers before."
His smile falls slightly and it falters my next words. He looks to his watch, then back to me. "I should get going." he says, taking a step back.
"Oh, okay, well thank you so much, again." I motion with the flowers so he knows I am referring to them.
He nods, says nothing more, but turns and walks the opposite direction I was headed. I have to remind myself that he is just a stranger repaying a kind act and nothing more, but that doesn't help to stop the sad feeling that looms where the tingle had resided.
I was in the city to see things I had never gotten a chance to experience before. After three days, I had hit most of my must sees. I sit at the bar of my hotel sipping on my Malibu Bay Breeze, dressed in a black cocktail dress I had purchased the day before. One of the things I told myself I would do is dress up and go out. I had only made it as far as the lounge in The Roosevelt's lobby. I don't mind really, it is a beautiful and relaxed setting. There is light music playing, and Rob the bartender makes remarkable drinks.
"Would you like another?" he asks in his British accent. It sounds so proper, and I can't help but smirk. I nod and glance around. I am the only one at the bar, and there are only two other people seated in a back corner talking quietly. I lean in as he hands me another drink.
"Can you say check yourself before you wreck yourself?"
"It's just your accent, everything you say sounds so right and proper, and I wanted to test a theory."
He cocks an eyebrow. "And the theory being…"
I lean in closer and lower my voice to a hushed whisper. "That you could tell me to go fuck myself and I would take it as a compliment."
He leans away, shock apparent in his eyes, mouth hanging loosely. "You better check yourself before you wreck yourself." he says as if serious, but it still sounds kind the way his tongue twists the words.
I burst out laughing, and he beams back at me, proud of himself. My head is on the bar, tears escape as I shake with silent laughter. I look up and he is leaning into me, our faces inches apart. I can see the flirtation in his eyes, and I think briefly of the other things on my 'to do' list. One night stand being one of them.
"Now, go fuck yourself," he says lowly, his voice smooth as those words roll off his lips, and god damn it if that isn't the sexiest thing I have ever heard uttered.
"Say nachos," I reply, my voice coming out lower than normal.
"Nachos," he croons the word. A shiver runs down my spine, I sit up straighter.
I take a slow sip of my fresh drink - the sweetness of the rum, pineapple, and cranberry are sinfully good. I open my mouth to take my sinuous dip in our dance of seduction and piano music interrupts me.
I look up in the direction the music is coming from. I love the piano. I wish that I knew how to play. My fingers move absentmindedly against the marble bar top as if dancing along to the rhythm. I can't see the person playing, the open top of the piano blocking them. I lean a little to my right and am able to make out a mess of shiny copper. My heart stutters in my chest. It couldn't be.
And I am up and I am walking, and Rob and one night stands and English accents are all forgotten. I stay against the far wall so that he can't see me, but I can see him, and sure enough - there he sits. His fingers move skillfully against the keys.
It occurs to me that I have seen this man every day of my trip so far and I cannot believe the twist of fate. He is dressed in dark jeans and a white button-down, pressed shirt. He looks edible.
His eyes are closed as he gets into the heart of his song. Passersby's pause to watch for a second, but most smile and move along. I am frozen against the wall trying to keep myself from either, running and jumping on him, or self combusting.
The song comes to an end, and he opens his eyes. I have moved without realizing it and am standing in the center of the room. He is looking directly at me. I gulp and look down, suddenly nervous. When I gain the courage to look back up, he is gone. A wave of disappointment mingles with the dissipating nerves, and I am rattled.
"Bella," I hear his smooth voice call and my heart leaps.
I turn and he is standing behind me. I step to him holding my hands out slightly.
"What are you - " we both begin simultaneously.
I motion for him to speak and he does. "What are you doing here?"
"I am staying here, and you?"
"I, um. You are? Wow, really - that's such a coincidence."
I nod, my arms folding across my chest, and I remind myself of my mother when she is skeptical of something.
"I do this some nights - play here. It's sort of a hobby," he stammers - his nervousness from our first meeting has returned, his left hand is on his neck.
"Well, that is quite a coincidence," I reply, honestly surprised by it.
There is an awkward silence; neither one of us is sure what to say or do. I stare down at my feet, the points of my ridiculous heels drawing my attention. I think idly how I was shocked that the shoes were actually comfortable.
"So, are you on your way somewhere?" Edward finally asks.
"No, why?" I respond unthinking and look back to him.
He shrugs, pointing to me. "You are just dressed nicely, I thought …" his sentence falls away, getting lost in the tension between us.
I don't know what to say, so I merely glance back down to my black dress, remembering how low cut it is. I suddenly feel overexposed.
"You look nice," he says softly. "Beautiful," he mumbles even softer, and I don't think I am meant to hear that.
I swallow hard, attempting to find my voice. "Th, thank you - so do you. I, ah - one of my things was to go 'out on the town'," I say with air quotes. "But this bar is so nice, I haven't made it out of the hotel." I motion toward the bar and Rob smiles and waves with his left hand, his right hand busy wiping down the already clean wooden bar top.
Edward looks to where I motion, he eyes catch with Rob's, and I see his brow furrow slightly. "Oh," he says as he turns back to me, moving slightly so that he is now standing directly in front of me. I can no longer see Rob.
"What do you mean 'one of your things'?"
I dig the point of my heel into the carpet, debating on how to describe it to him. "Um, just a list of stuff I have that I want to do before -" I swallow, that is too personal, I shift my words. "Um, before I leave the city. It's my first time here," I mutter in explanation.
His eyes lock with mine when I stutter, he understands - he doesn't know, but he understands there's more. I pray he doesn't ask and I slump slightly. He doesn't, and I think he reads my body language - his eyes and ears miss nothing.
I smile, my hands finding the ends of my hair, and I curl a strand easily around my pointer finger. He returns my smile, but only with his lips. He is looking around now, trying to find his exit from our conversation without being rude. I don't want to leave, but I don't want to keep him.
"Well, I guess I should be going then," I say.
His smile falls and my stomach rolls with a surge of hope. He thinks for a moment, but then nods, taking a step back and says nothing - he is leaving the ball in my court. I am horrible at this.
Stepping by, I turn slightly back to him. "That was beautiful by the way."
He tilts his head, unsure of what I mean.
I cock my chin toward the piano. "The song, it was beautiful. What was it?"
His cheeks darken slightly along with the sheepish smile that spreads across his face, and it is the sweetest expression. His left hand fingers the hair at the nape of his neck again.
"Oh, that? Just something I wrote, something I've been playing with. It's not finished."
I raise my eyebrows. "It sounded finished, it was lovely."
"Ha, thanks. It's almost complete, but I just always feel like it's missing something." I know exactly how he feels, and I grin as his emerald eyes sparkle back at me.
"Well, Edward," I say, dipping my head and bending in a slight curtsey. "Perhaps I will see you again."
He nods and grins back, this time with his whole face, the pink returning to his cheeks. "Maybe."
I turn and take three steps before I hear his musical voice say my name, and I nearly trip over my own left foot.
I glance over my shoulder. "Yes?"
"Be safe," he says in all seriousness. I nod with a small smile and walk back over to Rob and the bar. I pick up my purse and drop a fifty on the shiny bar top for my two drinks. Rob is helping a man and his wife and does not see me. His accent alone earned him the tip, and I hug my red umbrella to my side, glancing back at Edward before exiting the hotel.
I am lost. I am 99.9% sure that I have no fucking clue where I am. Today was my exploring day. While, truthfully, everyday had been that, I at least had an idea of where I was headed and a mapped out route. Today I put my maps away and I just walked. Now I am standing on a street lined with brick buildings that looks too much like Sesame Street for it's own good.
I am being stubborn; I know this as I watch a cab pass by. I could simply hail one and ask them to take me to The Roosevelt, but I am telling myself this is part of the fun. I have been successful at keeping my phone in my purse and not bailing myself out with my GPS - but I am close to giving in. Maybe just a little help…
Stopping in front of a red bricked building I peer up at its tall mass, my right hand shielding my eyes from the mid-day sun. It is beautiful and old, and it feels like New York. There are flowers at every window and the black door is shiny and it looks new. I sigh and look down at the round metal trash can in front of me. Lifting the lid off with a soft metal pang I peek inside. "Oscar?" I whisper before I hear a chuckle behind me.
I am startled, dropping the lid with a loud bang back to the trash can and whipping around. A tall man grins back at me. He is huge, broad shoulders with a small tapered waist. It makes him look disproportionate. He has pitch-black hair that is smoothed back with more product than I have ever seen in my life. He looks greasy and I squirm under his increasingly creepy stare.
"This ain't Sesame Street sweetheart," he laughs, and his voice is a deep bass sound that I can feel rumble my own chest.
"I know," I laugh, attempting to go along with the joke, but offering no explanation. He is too close to me as he steps nearer. I do not like it.
"You lost baby doll?" I shiver involuntarily at his pet name. It is meant to be endearing I suppose but comes off menacing.
"No, I, uh - no." My brain has abandoned me, and I can come up with no cleaver excuse to get this man to leave me alone.
"You sure, baby doll, you don't look like you's from around here." His giant paw comes out and he brushes my hair off my shoulders. His eyes drop to my breasts and he licks his lips.
My brain flurries through everything I've ever been taught about self defense. Anything I've ever heard about it. I try to remember pressure points, I am reminding myself to bite down as hard as I can if necessary.
He steps in closer, his hand snaking around to the back of my waist. It rests at the top of my jeans, but it is heavy on my back and his fingers are so large that they almost touch my shoulder blades. I pull my knee back, preparing to strike him as hard as I can. He is standing with his legs wide apart and I have a clear shot.
"She's with me," I hear a voice say sternly, and it is impossible. It is ridiculous. It has to be my imagination. But the large man removes his hand and is looking at someone standing on the stairs to the red-brick house where Oscar the Grouch may or may not reside in the trash can.
The grease ball steps back with his hands up and walks away without another word. I am breathing like I have just run a 26 mile marathon. My chest is heaving in and out, and I can't control it, I can't calm myself. My hands are shaking and I drop my purse, my red umbrella rolls out. I look down and think that I should pick it up, but my body doesn't listen to my brain. I am in shock.
"Bella?" It's the voice again, and I have gone completely insane. I laugh bitterly at the irony that I would ultimately loose my mind on my vacation - where I was supposed to find myself. And then there is pressure on my lower back again.
Without thinking, I whip around, elbowing whatever it is hard. All of my muscles uncoil from the tension that had wound them up moments before, and I put every ounce of strength I have into the motion. I hear air rush out violently from whatever it is and then it falls with a thud, and I am dizzy.
My head swirls and so does the world around me, I put my hands out to steady myself, but my elbow is throbbing.
My vision stabilizes, as well as my balance, and I look down at the person huddled on the ground. It is a man, and there is copper hair and profanities being uttered, and I had hit Edward with all of my might - and I am dumbfounded that it is actually him.
I finally collect my senses and bend down to him. "Oh my God, are you alright? I am so sorry," my voice sounds shaky and rushed. I am still trembling from the adrenaline.
He shakes his head, and a laugh escapes his throat. I put my hands out to check him and they land in his as he looks up at me. Our eyes meet - smoldering green invades my vision and he looks concerned.
"I'm fine Bella - are you okay?"
My hands are in his hands. I can feel his soft skin under the pads of my fingertips - I am more than okay. But my brain and my body aren't corresponding again, and I can't speak. I nod.
He laughs softly once more, lifting up to his knees, but his hands keep mine captured. "You really knocked the wind out of me." He takes a deep breath.
"Sorry," I whisper and we stand together. He has not let go of my hands, I notice this, looking down at them joined together.
"So is this day four?" He asks jokingly.
I smile, feeling a wave of calm pass through me - my tremors lightening. "I suppose."
"What, were you out canvassing New York looking for me?" He jabs, his right eyebrow cocks and his mouth curls to the side. I want to bite his lip.
"No, I was just sort of wandering and may or may not have gotten lost," I reply, feeling more like myself again - the adrenaline all but gone.
He lets go of my hands and I want to cry, but he bends over and retrieves my purse and umbrella. I take them from him, saying my thanks, and then realize how odd it is that he is in a neighborhood far away from any businesses and it is a Wednesday morning. Shouldn't he be at work?
"Shouldn't you be at work?' I blurt my thoughts, and then slap my right hand over my mouth. He laughs, grabbing his stomach, his shoulders lifting and falling as he chortles.
"I am Bella," he replies, pointing at the house he came out of.
I look down at his clothes - faded jeans and a tattered, old grey shirt with a flannel thrown over top. It occurred to me then I have no clue what he does, but the first time I'd seen him he was dressed in a suit. I had assumed he was a business man.
"Oh," I said, confused.
"I work from home," he supplies, acknowledging my questioning look.
My face lights up with understanding. "Oh, that's nice - lucky," I reply simply.
"Yeah it is. I am a tax advisor so I have my own clients, and I don't interact with them everyday - so it's very nice."
I am distracted by our situation momentarily. I don't know this man, have not pursued him - yet he keeps getting thrown into my life. I think this must mean something, and I decide I should ask him out. I don't ask men out, so I have no clue where to begin.
I tap my foot nervously, fishing for the right words.
"Bella?" His left hand is on his neck - he is nervous too. I swallow, hoping against hope that he will spare me the embarrassment - that he is even thinking the same way I am.
He laughs again, his voice shakes, and he is so goddamn cute I may throw up all over him.
"I know this sounds crazy. I am fully aware you don't know me at all, but I just feel like… I don't know," he pauses and I am dying. I want to shout yes, I want to offer to take him inside and let him do whatever he wants to me, but I don't even know if he's going to ask me out on a date yet or not.
He squares his shoulders and his eyes meet mine. "Would you do me the pleasure of accompanying me to dinner this evening?"
That was perfect. This man is fictitious, and I consider if I have gone crazy again or not.
"Absolutely," I reply, and it sounds smooth and not like I may actually puke all over him - I am amazed.
"Wonderful," he grins. "I can pick you up around 6:00 at your hotel?"
"That sounds fantastic," I answer, my feet carrying me backwards - apparently my body thinks it's time to go. I wish my brain and motor functions would get on the same page.
"See you then," he smiles, stepping back up to his door.
I float down to the corner and hail a cab, because I couldn't give a shit about wandering anymore - I have found what I was looking for.
It is 5:30, and I have been ready for almost an hour. I debate on whether or not I should wait at the bar, but then I remember Rob and think better of it. At 5:50 I decide on the lobby, realizing he does not have my room number, and I do not have his phone number. When I step out of the elevator, he is waiting by the large round table in the middle of the lobby. The chandelier hangs directly above him, and he looks as if he is glowing.
I smile wide at him and his expression mirrors mine. He is wearing a striped, green polo shirt that is neatly pressed with dark jeans and black Nike tennis shoes. He is casual, and I am thrilled that I decided to stay casual as well. That had been a lengthy mental argument with myself - luckily, practical won out, and I was wearing a white cotton dress with a thick black belt around the middle. I had a black cardigan thrown over my arm with my purse and umbrella. It had started raining on and off again about an hour ago.
"Ready?" he asks offering me his arm.
I hook mine in his and nod. As we pass by the bar I catch Rob's eyes and Edward waves at him. I look at Edward and his grin is from ear to ear. I can't help but laugh. The rain is barely a drizzle, and I stand under the awning as he hails a cab. I don't pay attention when he gives the driver the address - I am too distracted by his smell in the small enclosed space. I want to bathe in it, swim in a river of it - I want it all over me, it is intoxicating.
He catches me staring and my cheeks burn as I turn and look out my window. I watch as New York blurs by in bright colors and flashing lights. I decide I love this city.
"So, have you gotten a lot done on your list?" He asks, drawing my attention away from the window.
I nod. "Yes, I only have a few more things to see, and I have a few days left. I'm hoping I get to them all - my main priority now though is to see the Statue of Liberty."
"You haven't seen it?" He asks, his eyebrows shooting up.
"No," I shake my head.
"You've never seen the Statue of Liberty?" He looks at me incredulously.
"Uh, no, this is my first time to the city - remember?"
He shakes his head as if clearing it and chuckles. "I know, it's just, I can't believe you've never seen the Statue of Liberty. That seems so foreign to me."
I shrug, "Yeah well this whole place seems foreign to me. I've never been anywhere so busy, not even close. Everything's so big."
He laughs loudly, and I'm not entirely sure why. "So Bella, tell me then, where are you from."
"Forks … Washington. It's a really small exporting town, not many people have heard of it. I've never gone anywhere but there and to Phoenix."
His mouth hangs. "Really?"
I smile, trying not to laugh. "Yes, really."
His eyes narrow. "How old are you Bella?"
He exhales, relief relaxes his face. "Good. I am twenty-seven."
I laugh again at his expression.
"It just never occurred to me to ask your age," he explains.
I nod and the cab comes to an abrupt stop, we have reached our destination. I step out and Edward takes my hand, I want to melt into him, but I restrain myself. We go inside the small restaurant and it is adorable. There is a bar as soon as you walk in with tall, freshly cut sunflowers stretching to the ceiling. I smile at Edward and he winks back at me.
On the opposite wall, which isn't far from the bar, are small tables that line up against the white stucco surface. The whole restaurant is very thin, but it stretches back further than I can see and wraps around a corner. We are seated at a table by the front door and our waiter joins us immediately.
"Good evening, and welcome to Palma - I am Nikko," he greets us, filling our glasses with water. "Let me tell you about our specials tonight," he continues, not missing a beat, and his Italian accent reminds me of the woman who sold Edward the sunflowers. I wonder if they bought their sunflowers from her as well. I smile hoping so.
Nikko describes the specials in detail, explaining the ingredients used and telling us what is freshest, and what was just purchased from the market the day before. I am overwhelmed - I am used to the same type of waitress, the one that walks up and asks 'what'll it be sugar'. And Nikko is slipping into Italian with some of his descriptions, and I just smile and nod. Edward seems to be faring better. He leans in and asks me if I drink, and I concur. He turns back and orders something in Italian, and I am a puddle of goo on the floor. The man speaks Italian! Nikko beams back at him and nods before he disappears.
I decide to take a chance and lean into Edward and whisper, "I really am not picky - please order whatever." Our eyes lock, and I am two inches from his lips. He looks down to mine, there is a buzz charging the air, it hums between us - I want the static pop, I long to press my lips to his.
I sit back before I do something stupid and his expression loosens, he felt it too. He nods smiling, he understands what I mean. "Okay, no problem. Do you like cheese?"
"Oh, yes." I smile.
Nikko returns with a bottle of champagne and two glasses, he pours them and rattles off something in Italian. Edward answers and Nikko looks pleased, heading back to the kitchen without another word.
Edward's voice speaking Italian is my favorite thing of all time. I want it on CD so that I can fall asleep to it. I want a chip implanted in my brain so that it is always playing in the background of my thoughts. I shiver. The restaurant is cold, I reach for my cardigan and Edward helps me put it on - such a gentlemen.
Nikko returns once again, carrying a dish that has what looks like fresh arugula with a large chunk of cheese in the middle and small cherry tomatoes circling it. Nikko informs me it is burrata mozzarella, and then stands and watches eagerly as I cut into the cheese and scoop up a tomato and arugula. I bite into it and it is heaven - creamy goodness. My eyes close and I moan before I realize how embarrassing that is. I open my eyes, my cheeks pink. Nikko and Edward are both watching me. Nikko is beaming, looking like a proud papa. Edward has a different look on his face, his eyes look like deep forest green pools, he looks hungry, but not for food.
"You like?" Nikko asks.
I look up to him and smile. "Oh yes, Nikko, very much - thank you."
He steps to the side of the table, closer to me. "Oh, very good. And may I ask, what is your name?"
"Me? Oh, I'm Bella," I answer shyly.
He takes my hands in his and bows down, placing a feather light kiss atop one hand. "Ah, la mia bella raggaza," he says, and I blush again, although I have no clue what that means. "What a fitting name."
He walks away and I barely hear Edward murmur, "Yes, yes it is."
The rest if the food is delicious. Every single thing that is placed in front of me tastes fresh and is simply delectable. Nikko brings us their 'famous' cheesecake and it tastes like it has earned that name. Edward pays and we take our time leaving, saying our goodbyes to Nikko.
"You made this an experience," I tell him, and it is true. He smiles kindly at me.
"Anytime you in New York, you come back and see me," he says in his heavy accent, kissing my cheek.
I find myself trying not to tear up, I want to tell him I won't be coming back, but Edward is there, so I hold my tongue. No one needs to be burdened with that information.
We are back in a cab and the sun is low in the sky, breaking past the looming clouds. The rain has let up and the glowing ball blinks through passing buildings. I don't ask where we are going - I could care less. The ride is quiet, we are both digesting our full bellies and simply enjoying one another's company.
Tall buildings give way to an expanse of grass and we drive around it. The cab drops us at a spot that is farthest from the city, alongside a river bank. We step out and I am awestruck at the scene in front of me. Across the river is the city's skyline. Lofty buildings tower to the sky, glowing orange from the setting sun behind us. It is breathtaking.
"You haven't seen the best part," Edward whispers, and I am acutely aware of his proximity, his lips so close to my ear. His fingers cup my shoulders delicately and he turns me. I gasp. Behind us is more water, but it extends into the distance. Standing firmly in the middle, not far away, is Lady Liberty. The setting sun making her glow as she holds her torch high to the sky.
"The Statue of Liberty," I whisper, a smile twisting my lips upward.
"Yes, well, you should still see it up close - but at least now you've seen it in person."
I turn, our bodies almost touching. "Thank you."
"You are very welcome," he responds.
We are so close, the buzzing is back, the tingles in my stomach are back. I lean in and so does he. My eyes fall close and just as I expect to feel his lips touch mine a fat drop of water plops down on my nose, causing me to yelp and jump back.
I open my eyes and look at Edward as the sky opens up. I fumble with my purse and finally find what I am looking for, pulling out my umbrella. I pop it open, stepping back into Edward, covering us both.
He is laughing and I can't help but join in. My hair is damp, I am praying my white dress has not become see-through, but then our gazes mingle once more, and I don't care about anything else.
The rain pitter patters against the red vinyl, and I say a small thanks for my umbrella - I never would have met Edward otherwise.
I inhale, his sweet smell intensified by the rain. His bronze hair is highlighted by the golden sun that stubbornly breaks through the bottom of the clouds, and sparks of red shimmer brightly.
"Bella, I-" he whispers, but stops, his gaze dropping. I swallow, my heart slams hard against my chest. I want to know what he was going to say, was he going to tell me he can't? That this is a bad idea? That we are only strangers? I open my mouth to ask him to continue when he looks up suddenly, green eyes a jade fire that flickers wildly. His hands find my waist and he pulls me to him, our lips meet with instant fervor. I toss my arms around his neck loosely, barely able to hold on to my umbrella, feeling weak from the surge of electricity that is pulsing through me. It stems from our joined lips, shoots through my body, flexes at my toes and back up through my fingers. The tingle is all over - no longer just in my stomach.
Our lips move slowly, getting acquainted with one another before I part my mouth and his tongue languidly smoothes along mine. I am barely aware that the rain has all but stopped, the umbrella perched haphazardly above us. I moan lightly as Edward's tongue mingles with mine, pressing firmly. I feel dizzy, thinking I should pull away to breathe, but not wanting to.
Reluctantly, I finally succumb to my human need and pull back slightly, our lips resting lightly together. We are panting together - I am breathing his air and he is breathing mine.
"Wow," he mumbles, and my mouth feels numb so I say nothing, just smile lazily against his mouth.
The sky has turned pink and blue, the sun on the cusp of setting, struggling to stay above the horizon. I turn my head to look at the Statue of Liberty, backlit by the hazy twilight and Edward presses his forehead to my temple. I think of my arms still wrapped around his neck and his hands still grasping my waist. I blink at the receding light, I think about watching one more setting sun, and I worry about the fact that this feels different - strong, too strong. I stand up straighter. Our contact is lost as I drop my hands and step back, closing the umbrella.
I am lying in bed angry. It is ten in the morning and I have refused to get up, not wanting to face the day. I am angry with myself, I am angry with life, I am angry with the bright sun that is glaring through my the window because I forgot to close the curtain last night, and I am angry that I am alone.
I felt bad lying to Edward and telling him I didn't feel well, asking to return to the hotel last night and cutting our night short. In truth, my stomach had turned when reality hit me, standing there watching such a beautiful scene unfold - with such an amazing person. It was like a movie, only I already knew the ending to my story and there was no happily ever after for me. Why did I want to drag Edward into such a shitty fairytale? It isn't fair, and I couldn't do it.
I told him I had a wonderful time and I kissed him goodnight. He had smiled, saying 'I'm sure I'll see you around', before he left me in the lobby. He did look disappointed, but he hid it well.
Now, here I lay, miserable, and not even doing any of the things I came to New York to do. Pathetic. Throwing the covers off of me, I stomp to the window and tug the curtains closed. The room is drowned in darkness, and I flop back onto the bed and close my eyes. I fall back asleep.
I wake up and feel disoriented. The room is still dark, but the blackout curtains make it hard to tell if it is still light outside. I stretch, wiping the sleepy haze from my eyes and sit upright. The small alarm clock on the bed side table glows red, it is 8:30.
I have slept my whole day away. I am even more pissed than before. I huff out of bed and go to take a shower. The water is warm, it pelts my skin and I take the punishment.
My feet touch the cold tile floor and I shiver. I miss the warmth of the shower, but force myself out of the bathroom. I slip on my black cotton dress with a lacey front, it has a bow around the middle and it is comfortable, and I feel cute. I step into my pink chucks, they are thoroughly worn, but they are my good luck charm - I have to wear them. Only spending a small amount of time drying my hair, I scrunch it and let it hang in loose natural curls, braiding just a bit of the sides to pull it out of my face.
With a light layer of makeup, I run gloss along my lips and inspect my reflection. I look put together, and that's all I care about, I am happy. I leave the hotel; the night is cool, but moist, you can feel the impending storm. I reach my hand out to hail a taxi and it takes only a moment.
I pull out the paper I had written an address on and tell the driver which direction to head. Sinking down in my seat I watch the scenery as we move through the busy streets. I am nervous, but try not to focus on it. I have wasted a full day - something I do not have the luxury of doing. I will not ruin my night. This will get checked off my list.
We pull up to the fairly non-descript building, and I squint up at it. Not what I expected. Paying the driver quickly, I step out of the cab and inhale slowly. I will check this off my list, I repeat to myself. I walk up some concrete stair, open the front door and continue up another flight of stairs - definitely not what I expected.
The stairway opens up to a lounge area with a bar. It is clean, with white walls and Duet in bold font hangs on the back wall. I look around, but see no one. This is sincerely not at all what I would have thought. When I looked up karaoke bars in the small handbook of 'places to go' in the hotel, I expected a loud bar crowded with people and horrible singers belting out the lyrics to Celine Dion songs - it was supposed to be crazy and fun. This place was empty, and I am disappointed.
I turn to leave when a voice stops me.
"Hello Miss? Are you here for karaoke?"
I turn around and a small woman is standing behind the bar, watching me expectantly.
"Um, well … I was, but it doesn't look like there is anyone here so…" my sentence lingers, and I shrug.
She smiles brightly, nodding. "Oh yes, everyone gets a private room, and you pay for the time."
I mouth 'oh' and feel like an idiot.
"Would you like a room?"
I shake my head, but eye the bar. "No thank you," I reply, taking a seat on one of the modern white stools.
"Can I have two shots of vodka please?"
Her expression falters before she catches herself and the plastered smile returns. "Sure, dear."
I know she feels bad for me because I am alone, but I am used to it, and I deiced to have a good time regardless. After a few more shots, I sip on a rum and coke and listen to the muffled sounds of music coming from down the hall. A door opens and a tall blonde stumbles out laughing. She walks to the bar and tells the woman she will be right back, smiling to me and then heading out the way I came in.
I close my eyes trying to hear the music better, my head swaying to what I imagine the rhythm is. Finishing my drink, I request another and make a mental note to sip it very slowly. I can feel the alcohol whizzing through my veins, my blood feels electrified as it pulses quickly to my heart and back out. I smile at the feeling.
The blonde has returned and she stops at the bar, resting on the stool next to me. The bartender has disappeared again, and I stare at the rows of liquor that line a mirrored wall.
I can feel the blonde's eyes on me, but I pretend not to notice. "Are you here alone?" She finally asks, and I sigh, turning to her.
"Yes," I smile and nod. She is stunning, her hair perfectly curled in ringlets, her blue eyes looking almost violet against her dark blue dress.
Her brow furrows and she glances down at the box she had brought back in with her. She pauses for a moment, appraising me and I say nothing. A small smile turns up the corner of her mouth. "What's your name hon?"
"Um, 's Bell… a," my words slur together and I am drunker than I thought.
She smiles, "Well Bella, I am Rose, very nice to meet you." She extends her free hand and I shake it loosely. "How would you like to join in on a birthday party? It's just a small group of us, but we are all pretty sloshed and making good enough fools out of ourselves - it should be fun to watch."
I can't help the enormous grin that spreads across my face. Normally I would say no, thank you, but no. However, something about her proposition sounded fabulous and I find myself nodding my head eagerly.
The bartender returns and Rose hands the woman the box, it is apparently a cake. She asks that it be brought back in a bit, fully lit to the brim with candles. I smile again at the mischievous glint in her eye when she describes how obnoxious she wants the candles to be. I decide I like Rose.
She motions for me to follow her as she moves back to the door down the hall where she had emerged from. The door opens and the music surrounds me instantly. Empire State of Mind is blaring and a very small girl and a humongous man are standing in front of a large screen hitting every word. I am impressed.
The room is dark except for the television screen, and I can barely make out the two other people sitting at the far wall watching. Rose attempts to speak above the music. "Hey guys, this is B - what the…"
And I am being lifted into the air, scooped into someone's arms. I cry out, the motion making me feel nauseous before I am set back to my feet.
"Edward, you jackass, what the fuck are you doing?" Rose cries and her words touch my ears but don't make sense in my brain. I look up and see his happy eyes and face smiling down at me.
"Bella, you sneak, how'd ya know?" He asks, his words even slushier than mine.
"You know her?" Rose questions and I cannot answer. I can't speak - I am stunned.
"Know what?" I whisper and the song comes to an end, but it was forgotten moments ago. The room in now quiet.
"How'd you know it was my birfday, that I'd be here?" His eyes grow wide, and he steps back grabbing over his heart. "You ARE stalking me," he gasps in a mock surprise.
"What! NO. I had no clue - I was just, I swear I didn't know!" I shout.
Edward doubles over in laughter, trying to pull me to the floor with him. I am able to stay up right by holding onto the door handle.
"I'm just fuckin with ya babe," he says through chuckles… and now he is hiccupping.
"Ok, big Ed - let's leave the poor girl alone," the large man says as he helps Edward off the floor.
Rose steps around Edward and the other man, eyeing me. "You know Edward?"
I nod, "Yes, kind of. I am here visiting and we have run into each other several times."
"Several times?" He bellows over Rose's shoulder. "Like every damn day! Now I call that - fate." He points at me with a finger gun, shooting an invisible bullet.
I open my mouth to respond, but Rose smiles goofily at his words and her eyes sparkle when she looks back at me. "Oh, Bella that's great! Well, let me introduce you to everyone else. This is Emmett," she motions to the humongous man who is still holding Edward upright by his arm. "And this is Alice and Jasper," she points out the only two people left, and I nod with a shy smile.
Just then the door opens up behind me, pushing me forward and I am nose to nose with Edward. He grins lazily and he is still so cute - even drunk off his ass. A man that looks like a waiter brings in two large pizza boxes and another woman follows with a tray of shots.
Edward licks his lips and makes a move for a shot. Emmett grabs him again. "Whoa there little buddy." He forces Edward to sit and then serves him two greasy slices of pepperoni pizza and a big glass of water. "For now, or you'll be shit tomorrow at the gym," Emmett says, and I can tell he's holding back laughter.
Edward huffs petulantly, but takes the water and a huge bite out of the pizza. The cheese looks gooey and delicious, and my stomach rumbles. Before my mouth can even salivate there is a plate in my hands and Alice is telling me to sit down. Jasper hands me a shot.
"To my obnoxious brother, who doesn't know what a douche bag he really is," Alice says jokingly, raising her shot glass. Her tone turns serious and her smile shows that. "May he get everything in life that he is searching for, and then some." Her eyes flit to me briefly, but I think it a coincidence and take my shot. Edward chugs his water and beams back at his sister.
"Thanks Sis, you always have such a way with words." They all laugh and Edward already sounds better with food in his system. I scarf down my pizza, and resist the urge to lick the grease off my paper plate. Alice and Rose hand me another shot and then music starts up, they both squeal and jump to the front of the room.
I take the shot and laugh as I realize what song they are playing.
"I hoped off the plane in LAX, with a dream and my cardigan…" Alice begins, her pitch nearly perfect. Rose joins in but with all her perfection, the poor girl couldn't carry a tune to save her life, but they keep going. Alice fills in where she needs to, and they are having a blast.
I tip back two more shots, the liquid warm and soothing, relaxes my limbs. Edward moves to my side and is smiling at me.
"So you really didn't know any of this?" I can barely hear his whisper in my ear.
"No," I shake my head. "Honestly, I found the name of this place in the directory at the hotel and this… this was on my list," I finish quickly.
His eyes light up even more, they are almost glowing in the darkened room. "Really? It is?" He laughs again, his left hand in his hair. "I can't even believe this - it is just - it's crazy Bella."
I watch his face, his expression is that of a little boy, it strikes me again how handsome he is, and that I tried to say my goodbyes to that face last night. I never expected to see him again - yet here he sat, something bringing us together yet again. His jade orbs dance as he looks over my face, he is beautiful, and I am lucking out more than I ever have in my entire life every time I run into him. "Remarkable," I mutter.
He beams back, "Yes. Remarkable."
Our gazes are locked and rum and vodka is flowing freely through my system. I barely notice when Alice tugs on my arm and Rose pulls Edward up. We are standing in front of everyone, and I am holding a mic in my hand.
The music starts, and I recognize the song right away, it makes me laugh. A duet.
"Picture perfect memories scattered all around the floor…" I begin, and I don't even worry how I sound, I just push the air from my lungs and sing from the bottom of my heart.
Edward watches me, waiting for his turn.
"And I wonder if I ever cross your mind," our voices mingle and I think it actually sounds good.
"Another shot of whiskey, can't stop looking at the door…" My knees nearly buckle when he sings his first solo line. His voice is rich. I want to wrap myself in it and never leave.
The music pushes forward, and we take our turns, singing together and apart. By the end of the song we are inches away from one another, and the air between us is vibrating. The room erupts in applause, and I flush, dropping my gaze.
I am floating, light and free and completely intoxicated by more than just the alcohol in my body.
We are about to get into a cab, Edward insists on sharing one with me; his friends and family don't seem to protest. They are all so nice and I say my goodbyes. Rose winks at me after she hugs me quickly.
As we ride down the road I am not paying attention to where we are going, but I assume he is taking me back to The Roosevelt. I think about the evening, I had ended up having one of the best nights of my life. Edward was more than just a pretty face; he was hilarious and quick witted. He seemed to care deeply for his family, which was evident in the way he hugged Alice tightly and thanked her over and over before we left.
I really, really like him, and I don't want the night to be over.
"Take me back to your place?" I blurt, resisting the urge to slap my hand over my mouth. Edward looks shocked, but not put off. His left hand is in his hair.
"Um, wha - are you, are you sure?" The small piece of worn paper with my list hastily scribbled down flashes in my mind. I think of the few things I have left to cross off.
"Yes," I say resolutely.
He tells the cab driver his address, and we are on our way. I try not to think, I let myself marinate in my intoxicated state, relishing the tingles and smile to myself.
"So what is left on your list?" He asks, but his fingers have found my hand in the dimly lit cab and he is rubbing small circles along my knuckles. I am brain dead.
"My what?" I mumble, my eyes fall closed, my head lulls back.
"Your list, love, what do you have left to see?" He says again, and his voice is a silky caramel, rich and inviting.
"Hm? Hot dogs," I reply, barely able to function with the attention he is affording my hand. It feels so damn good.
"Hot dogs?" he replies, his voice tremors with a stifled laugh.
"Yeah, I can't seem to get a goddamn hot dog in this city. They're on every corner, but I haven't had time to stop and get one," I attempt to explain - but I know it makes no sense.
He laughs and asks the driver to pull over. My eyes remain closed, and I relax further into my seat. The car door opens and a rush of cold air causes me to shiver, but I don't care to open my eyes.
A moment later Edward is back in the cab. I can feel our weight shift as we pull away, driving again. There is a thick smell in the air, and I finally open my eyes. Edward is holding a small foil package out to me, smiling like the goober that he is.
"What is that?" My brow furrows.
"A hot dog, for the lady," he replies, supplying me with the worst English accent I have ever heard. I laugh loudly and sit up straighter, accepting the spoils my prince has offered me.
The hot dog is delicious, it is juicy and it melts in my mouth as I chew it down. Edward and I share it, and I never would have thought eating processed food could be so romantic.
Standing just inside his front door, I try not to be nosey. I don't want to peek around, but I do. Looking for pictures in frames and any sign of what his life is really like. His place is very simple, clean lines, neutral colors, calm. There are a few paintings, but not many photos. I follow him to the kitchen where he grabs a bottle of water from the fridge and hands me one.
I smile, thanking him, and our eyes catch. It is quiet, but there is a lot being said. Glancing around I see one door that appears to lead to a bathroom, so I guess his bedroom is upstairs. Without another word, I turn and walk up the steps, slowly. Edward follows and butterflies assault my stomach.
This will be one more thing I can cross off my list - one night stand. But it does not escape me that I am thrilled that I have an excuse to be so forward with this particular person. He has captured my attention in a way no one else ever has. I can't describe it, but the connection between us is unfathomable.
As I reach the top of the stairs, his hand slips into mine, and he steps in front, leading me. There is another living area here, it is larger than the one on the first floor, the back wall being nothing but windows, and I gasp at the view over the water. I didn't realize you could see that from his house. It is breathtaking. There is a baby grand in the middle of the bay of windows.
"Play for me," I say without taking my eyes off the windows. The city lights are magnificent.
He does not respond, but pulls me with him to the piano. He sits and I lean against the side, watching the lights and occasionally looking down at him. His fingers move gracefully, the song I heard in the hotel lobby filling his living room.
My hands rest on the piano, and I can feel the vibrations with each note reverberate through my bones. My eyes are on him now; he is in his element, his mind far away, a place this song takes him back to.
He is so sexy.
I can't stand it, I want to lick his face; I want to bite his lip that is pouting out just barely as he concentrates. I want this man with every fiber of my being.
His left hand is closest to me, I lift it from the keys and he only pauses his right hand for a split second before he continues playing. I slide my left leg over his and settle my body down in the tight space between him and the piano. He returns his left hand to the keys and continues his song as I straddle his lap.
My lips find his forehead, and I breathe in his silky hair. I kiss slowly, down his temple, then lightly against his closed eyelids, his eyelashes fluttering gently against my lips. His skin is velvet.
My cheek runs along his; I feel the light shadowing of course hair scratch at my skin, and his song continues. It is the perfect background music. I take my time, my mouth resting barely against his. He inhales my breath and I finally allow my lips to press fully against him. My fingers curl into his hair - it is almost as soft as his skin.
Our mouths move along with the music, slowly and sinfully. It is magic. My nerves pulsate, shooting delicious sensations through my body. My fingers tighten into his hair, and I am pulling him to me. He moans and his hands are no longer playing the piano, they are on my waist, and I am being lifted onto the keys.
His mouth leaves mine, and I whimper at the loss. It returns, paying adoring attention to my neck and along the scooping line of the top of my dress. His tongue dips between my breasts, and I inhale sharply.
His fingers, long and lean, knead into my dress and skin, pulling the fabric up slightly. He is leaning above me as I lay back on the piano. The keys sound in disjointed notes as my feet search for steady footing.
We don't speak, but my mind is a rambling dialogue. Fuck me Edward, I want to shout. But I am demure and silent, enjoying his ministrations on my skin. The strap of my dress falls off my shoulder, and he uses his teeth to pull my bra strap with it. I shiver at the feeling of his sharp against my soft.
He pulls his face back up to mine, his eyes a liquid, emerald inferno. "Are you sure?" he asks breathlessly panting against me. Our chests rise and fall in time. I bite my bottom lip and nod, I don't want to speak.
He kisses me thoroughly while his fingers find the zipper on the back of my dress. He pulls slowly. The dress falls to my waist, and he straightens me for a brief moment, allowing the cotton to pool at our feet. I am placed back on the keys with another dissonant sounding chord echoing around us.
He licks and nips along my breasts, freeing one and pulling a nipple between his lips. The sensation shoots straight through me, and I throw my head back with a loud moan. My right hand slams down on another bunch of keys, drowning out my cry.
His lips travel along my belly and he kisses circles around my belly button. It is sweet, but it tickles and I squirm. His fingers dip under the lace of my panties, and he pulls them down smoothly.
I am bare to him.
My right leg is resting on his left shoulder, my hands fisting his hair as his tongue dips into my moist center and the sensation rockets through me violently. I scream out, pulling roughly on his mane, but he pays me no mind. His mouth goes to work and my muscles twist, winding tight with each sweep of his tongue.
He knows exactly what he is doing, I feel incredible. In this moment, I am a goddess. My moans shift to a constant keening, and I pant and whimper. The bundle of nerves in my core explodes and I scream out the only thing I can even think in this moment.
"Edward, oh God."
My finger nails scratch into his scalp, and he moves his body slowly back up mine. I am weak, and I am completely spent, but I want more. His mouth is on mine again, and I can taste myself on his lips, and want surges through me once more.
My legs are wrapped around his waist. I pull at his shirt and he helps me remove it. My fingers fumble with his belt and button-down jeans. They fall to the floor with a light clanking of his house keys.
His bare chest is against mine, and he is warm and remarkably smooth. I run my nails down his back and he hisses. For a moment, our eyes meet with all the intensity that is passing between us. He feels the immensity of whatever this is; I can see it clearly in his expression.
His left hand is on my hip, and he is not nervous now. I pull him to my mouth, our lips doing all the talking we need, and he drops his boxers, slowly slipping inside of me. He fills me completely and I groan deeply into his mouth. He echoes my sound as he moves in and out of me. We start off slow and sweet, but after a moment that is not enough, and we are pawing at one another, trying to get closer. His movements become firmer, as he thrusts deeper inside of me. I am close again and I huff against his neck while he kisses and sucks at my ear lobe - that alone may make me self combust.
My muscles coil until they can't anymore, and the release comes abruptly, causing me to cry out, screaming his name once more. I can feel his body tense as he thrusts one last time into me, the keys on the piano striking a final, beautiful chord enveloping his voice.
"Bella," he grinds out in a guttural, primal sound that sends a quake down my spine.
We rest atop the piano, his head lying on my neck. I peak over his shoulder and smile at the twinkling lights of the city.
The emotion settling through my body is familiar, but I can't place it. It is reminiscent of something long lost, and I think it must be from a dream. Complete relaxation soothes me, and I stretch wide in this unfamiliar bed.
I roll to my side and am faced with a wall of windows, it is morning but hard to tell. The sky is ominous with low hovering clouds casting menacing shadows across the city. I can make out rain coming down lightly over the river that has not yet made it our way. Everything is so gray, but I feel as if I have stolen the sun - I must be glowing. Taking in a satisfying breath, I smell the thick aroma of a good old-fashioned breakfast, my stomach rumbles loudly and I smile.
Edward comes in carrying a tray laden with food. I laugh at him as he balances it precariously in one hand and sets the orange juice down on the bed-side table. I sit up, eyeing the food and then Edward. There is every type of breakfast item atop the tray.
Eggs, oatmeal, pancakes, cheerios, a sliced orange, waffles, fresh strawberries, bacon, sausage - links and patties, and a bagel. He smiles shyly back at me. "I didn't know what you liked," he shrugs.
I pick up a piece of bacon and crunch into it - it is superb. "Please, eat some, there's no way I'm this hungry," I laugh, and he obeys, taking a bite of the waffles. I watch him chew and wonder if I am cheating, this cannot possibly be how most one night stands go. But as I bite into a forkful of eggs I decide I don't care.
We finish most of what is on the tray. Edward takes it back to the kitchen, and I sip my orange juice and then use the bathroom. When I return, Edward is laying back on his bed looking out the window, a calm expression on his face. He senses me and turns with a smile. His eyes fall to his shirt hanging loosely from my body and his smile grows. I blush, tugging at the hem of the shirt which falls to the top of my thighs.
He pats the bed beside him, and I run and jump like a three year old, just barely missing him. He chuckles, and I roll to my stomach, laying my head to the right so that I can see him, he mirrors my position. We are inches apart and not touching, but I can feel his hands all over me, the buzzing is still there.
Our eyes speak, yet our mouths remain stilled. I lift my hand, flexing my fingers as if I were going to trace my handprint. His right hand joins my left. Edward's fingers are much longer than mine, and the tops of his curl over the tops of mine. I open and close my fingers, feeling his life lines press against my own, I wonder if they match up - catching myself, and then I pray that they don't.
My mind wanders, and I think of things I have been desperately trying not to. Of Charlie, of Renee - of how my father and mother love me with every beat of their hearts, but they cannot save me and that is killing them.
"Are you an only child?" Edward asks as if he was listening to my thoughts. My eyes snap back to his, I will the tears away.
"Yes," I gulp out. "But you're not," I answer instead of ask.
"Yeah," he smiles, looking past me to the dreary day. "I have Alice, but that's it. What about your parents? Tell me about them." His hand moves from mine, but his pointer finger traces my hand slowly.
"Um, my father - Charlie, he is the Chief of Police in Forks. My mother - Renee, she got remarried a few years back and now she travels the world with her baseball playing husband."
"Anyone I would know?" His ears seem to perk up at the mention of sports.
I shake my head, "No, probably not, he's minor leagues."
"Oh," he responds, and the room is silent again.
I inhale slowly, "My father is a great man, but I worry that he is alone. My mother - well, let's just say Renee should be an adjective. She is kind of in a world all her own, and she is crazy and I love her for that, but I am scared that she will lose herself to it one day."
He listens intently, taking in every word.
"I had a normal childhood for the most part," I continue. "My parents didn't split until I was eight, and then I went and lived in Phoenix with my Mom. I loved it there," I smile remember the vast canyons and the red - the clay, so different from the concrete and bricks of New York City, and especially different from the green overgrowth of Forks, Washington.
"I moved to Forks with my Dad when I was a junior in High School, and I stayed there until I graduated. I stayed close to Charlie though - I didn't want to be too far away from him; I ended up at the University of Chicago for college."
"What do you do? What is your degree in?" He asks, running his finger down my palm and then circling my wrist.
"Early Childhood Education … I was a teacher," I swallow hard again hoping he doesn't ask why I said 'was'. His hand falters, his eyes look my face over, and he does not ask - but he heard it. Fingers resume their movement, and I take a turn asking a question.
"What about you, I know you do taxes, but how did you find yourself there, I mean your music is beautiful, I am surprised you don't do something with that."
The corner of his mouth twitches, and his eyes crinkle at the edges. "Yeah, well, I have to be practical I suppose."
My forehead scrunches in confusion. He is good. No, he is great - he should be doing that if it's what he wants to do.
"I actually went to school to be a doctor, with the hopes of pursuing a music career. That has always been on the back burner I guess."
"Why didn't you become a doctor? Did you not like it?" His fingers move gently down my arm, it is nearly numb, he has a good touch, and I think he would have made an excellent doctor.
Edward shakes his head, "No, I completed school and got all the required certifications, I just… I'm not sure. My father is a doctor, and he loves what he does - but that's all he does. I guess I just wasn't sure if it's what I wanted to do forever. I've always been good with numbers, so this was an easy job to fall into, and I still have time for my music."
I smile at that, so he is trying to follow his heart; I am thrilled to hear it. "Good, life is too short to not follow your dreams," I say wistfully, and he smiles and nods.
"What is your favorite color?"
"Blue," I answer. "You?"
"Blue," he grins wide. "Favorite food?"
"Hmmm… peanut butter and jelly."
He supplies me with a disbelieving look. "What? I am easy to please. If I was stranded on a deserted island, all I would need is a lifetime supply of peanut butter and I would be fine," I shrug.
He laughs, "Fair enough. Okay, favorite animal?"
"Cat, but you didn't tell me your favorite food," I chastise playfully.
He is all teeth and rolling eyes. "Spaghetti and meatballs," he answers simply.
"Typical boy," I say and poke him in the ribs. He giggles - giggles, and I can't stand it. I am losing it, laughing so hard tears are streaming down my cheeks.
"Pillsbury Doughboy," I tease, and he mimics the classic laugh, I poke him again. He is too much fun.
We lie in bed for hours quizzing each other on the basics of life. I feel like I am twelve-years old again - I am crushing so hard on this boy.
I finally decide that I cannot waste another whole day and ask if he would escort me back to my hotel. He says he is more than happy, and I find my clothes by the piano and change in the bathroom, washing my face and scrubbing my teeth using my finger and some toothpaste I find.
I expect to look like a mess, but I look more like a radiant star. I decide that must be the cause for the grey outside, and I wonder if Edward knows he has the ability to lasso the sun, because I can feel it's warmth in my heart. I pull my hair back and find Edward waiting downstairs. He looks more edible than anything on our breakfast tray from earlier, and I grin at him like the dork that I am.
A cab waits out front for us, and I realize he has called one. The rain is just a light drizzle, but the sky looks threatening. I hug my purse tightly to my chest as I climb in the taxi.
We talk quietly, his hand in mine as we ride through the busy streets. We get to my hotel in no time, and Edward pays the cab driver as I step out. The sky has opened up and it is pouring. I reach into my purse and pull out my umbrella - the umbrella, and it pops open easily. Edward smiles up at it and then down to me and kisses my forehead. I go to take a step forward and something is amiss. My footing falters, and I land on my knees. I cannot see. Everything is black. The red umbrella has fallen from my grasp, and I am getting drenched.
"Bella?" Edward's voice comes frantic in my ear, but it is full of static, and I wonder if I'm drowning in the rain because that's what it sounds like.
"Edward," I try to speak, but I am not sure if any sound actually escapes me, then the world goes silent.
I jolt awake, an incessant beeping pulling me from the blackness. I realize I am hooked to machines and am in the hospital, and fleetingly the feeling from this morning makes sense. At Edward's when I felt at peace - it was like all the times from before when I would wake up in my own bed and not the hospital, I would feel at home at last.
I hated hospitals, I had spent countless hours, days, and months strapped to a hospital bed, and I didn't think I'd ever have to see one again. Last time was supposed to be the last time, I was supposed to be cured; but that is life - it is unpredictable, and out of our control. And when the doctor told me that the medicine wasn't working, that I only had days left, my only thought was no matter what - no matter what, I would never have to be strapped to one of these things again.
Life has a funny way of always throwing you a curveball though, and I am faced with yet another unexpected moment.
"Bella," Edward's voice is like a mirage. I don't think it was real, I focus on the steady beeps and stare out the crack in the barely open curtains; it was night time. The sun has set, in the sky and in my heart. Edward knows I am broken now, and there is no way he stuck around.
"Bella?" Again. My mind was evil and it wants to see me desolate, it plays mean tricks. I sigh and roll over, finding green concern inches from me. "E-Edward?" My voice is a raspy mess, I am utterly confused.
He smiles, big and bright, and I think he must not know, he just thinks I am injured. "I was so worried about you love," he whispers and peppers kisses along my face.
"Edward," I shake my head no. I don't want this, I don't want to hurt him, I can't bear to see that look in another person's eyes - especially not his; they were my green meadow, my own secret place. I only want to remember them vibrant and glowing.
"Edward, you should go," I struggle to speak, my throat is dry.
He hands me water. "Silly girl," he smiles. "I'm not going anywhere."
"Edward - you have to go," I say with more force, tears filling my vision.
"Baby, don't cry, why do you want me to leave? I couldn't ever-"
"Because I'm dying," I blurt in anger, tears slipping easily past my lashes.
His mouth closes and he stares at me.
"I am sick, and they tried to fix me but no one could, and the medicine didn't work, and I am dying. That's why I came here - to New York. I wanted to see things before I left this earth, and I met you, and that's more than I could have ever hoped for or imagined, and I can't see that look in your eyes too, of sorrow and pity because you can't save me, so please just - just go." I close my eyes and turn my head back to the window.
"Aplastic anemia," he whispers, his voice shaking slightly, and my head snaps in his direction.
"How did you-"
His hand cups my cheek, his thumb wiping away my tears. "My father works at this hospital, I brought you here, and he knew there was something seriously wrong with you - you weren't responsive." He pauses, his hands find mine, and we are momentarily together.
"He found out your information and called your father. Charlie had your records forwarded here, and my father's been looking them over all afternoon. You didn't have a match?" He asks, but it is not a question, he already knows everything.
"My father wouldn't normally tell me, because of patient confidentiality, but … he wasn't sure what to do. Your parents are on their way, they are both on flights right now and should get in before the morning."
"I don't … I'm going to die," I say, my voice failing me. I have nothing more to offer than that. I don't want to say they shouldn't come, but I feel it. My body is fading, and I know I could go at anytime, I hate that they were rushing here for nothing. I am nothing.
Edward brings our joined hands to his mouth, his eyes telling me there was something more. They are deep canyons, and if they were red I would have sworn I was back in Phoenix. But they are green like the moss covered trees, and it is a perfect meld of the two worlds I know so well.
"Bella - I," he swallows. "I am a match."
I stare vacantly, no words surface, my mind is blank, my skin prickles. Tears flood from my eyes - there is no way.
"I know it sounds crazy, and it's such a low percentage that this would ever happen, but I am as close a match as you can get without sharing the same DNA, and… Bella, you're going to be fine - you are not going to die, I won't let you."
There is warmth and sincerity there, and I feel his honesty, but I still don't understand. My heart swells, but my brain warns against hope.
"Edward - I don't - how do you even know?"
His eyes fall briefly, and then return to mine, his expression is sad. "My mother. She had cancer and needed a bone marrow transplant. We all got tested, but none of us were a match."
"And she died?" I ask, my chest feels heavy for this poor boy. I want to cradle him, and I curse the damn tubes hindering my arms.
"Yes," he whispers, and his gaze is far away, and I can hear his song playing in my head.
His eyes are back and there is a determination there. "We don't have much time, my Father has scheduled an OR - we just need your consent."
Everything is so jumbled, I know there are risks - mine I don't care about. The possible benefits out weigh the risks by a land slide. But Edward - he could get sick, he barely knows me, will he regret this?
"I don't know if I can Edward," I say slowly.
His eyebrow shoots up, he looks angry. "Don't know if you can? You are going to die, and you don't know if you can? Did you want to die Bella?" Yes, he is angry, I am spitting on him with my hesitation, and I hate it.
"It's just, you could get sick and - you barely know me Edward," I implore him with my eyes.
His expression softens, and his left hand traces a pointer finger along my features. "I know you. I know you, Bella. We may have just met five days ago - but I feel like our souls were already well acquainted. I saw it in your eyes that first day when you opened your umbrella to me, you offered me protection from something as harmless as water. I saw your heart then, and the goodness there. I know our connection, and the electricity that is a constant energy between us.
I know you are beautiful inside and out, and funny, and amazing. I know that by some crazy course of events we were brought together every day that you have been here, and that maybe it's a sign. Maybe we shouldn't ignore fate. I have fallen for you and, no - I can't justify it - but I don't care. You have my heart, and I am willing to get lost in those brown eyes for as long as you will have me, because Isabella Swan, I will not let you die regardless. You offered me your red umbrella, now please - take mine."
I stare back, watery vision causing his face to blur and I nod. "Ok," I say, a sob escaping my throat. He pulls me to him, and I burry my face in his shoulder, loving the protection his warm arms afford me as they wrap around me. "I … you have my heart too Edward," I say, and he holds me tighter, he doesn't need to say another word, it is all there in his actions.
"Hurry up, slow poke," I call from the bottom of the stairs. Edward is finishing getting dressed, and I swear he is more like a girl than I ever have been when it comes to picking out what to wear. I laugh as he trounces down the stairs, swooping me into his arms once he reaches the bottom.
He kisses me, and I don't care that we are late anymore. We are both dressed nicely, and Edward is hyper with excitement when we get into the cab. He is playing his first real show and all of his family will likely be filling the bar. I beam at him, our hands intertwined, happier than I have ever been in my entire life. I think about the fact that I have many more of these moments to look forward to, and only one person to thank.
Edward saved my life, in more ways than one. He gave me his bone marrow, but he gave me his heart and soul too - and those were more valuable than my last breath. Those were things I would take with me no matter what, heaven would only be a place where we met again - but that wasn't something either of us had to think about for some time.
I am no longer Isabella Swan. I shed that name two years ago, as soon as we were both well out of recovery, about 6 months after that fateful rainy day. I am now Bella Cullen, Edward is my home, New York is where I live, and I am a teacher again but first and foremost I am a wife. My body accepted his bone marrow with no problems, and truthfully I never really doubted it would.
The cab stops and we get out. Gazing up at the bar, there is a line out the door - people were excited to see him play. I pause looking into my green oasis and run my fingers through his hair.
A feeling of nostalgia sweeps over me as I hear thunder rumble in the distance. I smile and reach in my bag for an old friend. I pop it open and hold it aloft, blocking the fat rain drops that fall slow and sporadically. Edward gives me his cheesy grin, and I know he is just as much a sap as I am.
"That thing is on its last leg," he says jokingly, knowing full well I would never throw it out. But it has seen better days.
"This thing, as you so affectionately put it, should be declared a historic relic - a national treasure even." I retort.
He laughs, "Yeah, I suppose it should." He kisses me, and a fire ignites through my entire body. I hold the umbrella with my right left hand, and my right hand grips tightly to the back of his jacket. His left hand rests loosely on my hip - he never gets nervous anymore.
I lean back, our lips brushing lightly together. "Edward Cullen, you are my angel," I say softly. He laughs, he has heard this before, but I feel the need to continue. I will never let him forget what he means to me. "I was dying, had lost all hope, given up. But you saved me, put a light inside me that I thought had burned out long ago. I love you, with my heart, and soul, my borrowed bone marrow, and even my red umbrella. Everything I have is yours."
He inhales my words, smiling against my lips. "I like it here, under your umbrella."
And I did too, and who cares if we stick out like a sore thumb in a sea of black. We are protected. We are one under that red umbrella; we have each other and nothing but a lifetime of love.
A/N: So like I said, this grew legs - it took on a life of its own, but I hope it was enjoyable. Please leave your thoughts as they are always appreciated! I need to say a HUGE thank you to Iris and CC for pre-reading and supplying me with ammo for this - #NYCforevsies (or somewhere cheaper - whateves.)
In case you aren't sure about what songs were sung when they did karaoke:
Alice and Rose sang Party in the U.S.A by Miley Cyrus [I do not own that]
Edward and Bella did Need You Now by Lady Antebellum [Sadly, I don't own that either]
Also, Iris brought it to my attention while I was writing this that there is a Faith Hill song Under the Red Umbrella. She sent me the lyrics and I thought it was sweat, so that's worth checking out. :)
Thanks so much for reading! -xo Buff