Declaimer: I don't own anything Twilight, but I do own this story!
Wow, it's been awhile. Sorry guys! I've been so caught up in school and life that I pushed back this story! Without further ado, chapter 2!
Summary: The sweet, innocent brunette on the dance floor is way out of her league in this hot singles club. And the minute Edward Cullen recognizes that, his protective instincts step up to the plate while he tries to rescue her. If that means pretending to be Bella Swan's blind date, well, so be it. But before he can escort her to safety, she starts whispering some not so innocent suggestions in his ear. How is a guy supposed to be noble when all he can thing about is hitting the sheets?
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Edward eased the champagne glass out of Bella's hand slowly, not wishing to scare her away by appearing too domineering. Didn't she know the dangers of picking up a pre-poured glass of anything in a crowded nightclub?
He'd have to talk to Alice about getting ride of those filled glasses on top of the champagne fountain right away. The drinks were perched in a place where anyone could have access to them- not a good setup when date-rape drugs were so widespread. It took half a second for someone to drug a drink; a stat savvy club-goer kept in mind.
Not Bella Swan.
Her brand of innocence could be downright dangerous.
Applying light pressure to the small of her back, Edward nudged her toward the table he'd staked out for himself in the back. Over her head, he crooked his finger at one of Alice's waitresses.
"Why don't you let me order you a fresh drink?" He rolled out the Cullen charm, needing to keep Bella entertained and out of circulation in the lounge. "My sister is something of a food and drink wizard and she works in the back. How about if I ask her to prepare us something a little more exotic?"
Bella seemed to weigh the idea for a moment. Then she smiled up at him in a half-crocked grin that struck him as a rusty movement. "Yes. Absolutely. Exotic is exactly what I'm looking for tonight."
God help him.
If she'd said as much to Don Juan the barfly who'd tried to corner her before, the guy would have hustled her out of the club and back to his room in five minutes flat.
Apparently Bella had no sense of how to protect herself in the bar scene.
And although Edward hadn't intended to misrepresent himself tonight, he also wasn't about to allow Bella to wander the club alone looking for her idiotic blind date.
What kind of moron lured an innocent woman like Bella into the most scandal-ridden hot spot in South Beach? A guy who didn't deserve her, that much was for sure. For that matter, maybe this Mike guy had sleazy intentions.
In which case, Edward definitely wasn't going to let him have a shot at her.
As he and Bella slid into the seats of the round booth table in the back corner, Edward asked the waitress for a couple of Good Fortune Potions, Alice's most recent creation.
He'd simply enjoy a drink with Bella until he could put her safely in a cab back home. Surely he could justify not telling her the truth since he was only protecting her. It's not like he had designs on her for himself.
Still, in an effort to forestall any question about him, Edward thought he'd better take the conversational lead.
"Bella is a great name." Okay, admittedly his dating small-talk skills needed a little sharpening up, but it was the best he could come up with on short notice.
"It's short for Isabella, but I never really liked being called that." She peered around the club from the safe haven of their table, her dark-brown eyes absorbing the action with the passive interest of a woman accustomed to observing life rather than taking part of it. "My mother thought if she gave her daughter an exotic name I would eventually live up to it." Bella shrug, her exposed shoulder calling attention to it a few feet away from him. "But no luck so far. I'm an out-of-work art historian with an interest in antiques. Not exactly the outgoing and adventurous type."
Edward allowed his gaze to wander over her again with this new information in mind. But his eye was distracted by the shadow of her body beneath her dress and the…
She was naked underneath that dress.
Thank you, God, he wasn't in the middle of taking a drink or he would have spewed it for sure. Luckily the waitress chose to make a reappearance just then, bringing with her a tray laden with the exotic concoction his sister had demanded he taste just last night for the first time. The blend of fruit juices, rum and who knows what else, garnished by a fortune cookie had been delicious.
Bella reached for hers, a gesture that put her breasts in close contact with the silky thin fabric of her lavender dress. Breasts he could now see that were shaped like small apples, tipped with dark, tight nipples.
A rush a male appreciation swamped his senses, alerting his every stray blood cell that a sexy woman sat within tantalizing reach. Heat crawled over his skin, making his whole body edgy and very…ready for action.
Great. This was just what he needed- he was trying to be noble and in the course of two steamy seconds his body had turned traitor to the cause.
How had he ever thought that dress of hers was conservative?
"I'm sure you're living up to the name." His words scratched across a throat gone slightly hoarse. Maybe this swearing off women thing hadn't been such a good idea. His self-imposed sexual deprivation of the last few months was robbing him of necessary objectivity. "You risked accepting a blind date tonight. That takes a healthy sense of adventure."
"Maybe a little." She sipped her drink through the straw, her forehead puckered in a wary concentration as she tasted the concoction. And smiled. "My compliments to your sister. This is delicious. Much better than champagne."
She bent forward for another sip, her breast grazing the fabric of her dress again. Not that he had a clear view with the table in the way and her sitting at a forty-five degree angle to him in the round booth. Still, his imagination easily supplied what he couldn't see with his own eyes.
"You're an art historian?" Think conversation. Think conversation. He refused to morph into some slick pickup artist just because he'd caught a glimpse of bare breasts. He could maintain an intelligent discussion even if Bella was naked beneath her dress. He hoped so anyway.
"I just left a position with the South Beach historical museum that I held for five years. We focused on preserving Floridian culture and we recently added a small exhibit on native architecture." She did a double take as the lights dimmed on the dance floor and the music changed to a salsa beat. The club-goers who had populated the floor moved to one side to make room for the hourly show. Leaning close, she whispered in Edward's ear. "What's happening now?"
Warmth tripped through him along with her hushed words. What was it about a whisper that created an immediate veil of intimacy around two people?
"There's a floor show every house. Sort of a Vegas-style event with lots of-"half-naked bodies. Painted-on tattoos over women's nipples. See-through feathers in the place of panties. "-costumes."
She's see for herself soon enough. The parade of perfect female bodies and fluffy white feathers was already snaking through the club toward the open dance floor. He and Emmett had been trying for weeks to convince Alice that the sex-drenched club was no place for a young woman to work, but to no avail so far.
Edward didn't take any note of the parade of bare flesh, however. He simply watched Bella's reaction, mesmerized by her transparent features as her face registered surprise, titillation and pleasure at the seductive moves performed by the Moulin Rouge's dancers.
Her cheeks flushed pink the first time a dancer sent a limber high kick in their direction. Her soft lips parted on a little gasp when another woman brought her supple bump-and-grind routine a few inches from their table.
Was Isabella Swan- who, according to her, had never quite lived up to her name- as innocent as she appeared? She had to be in her mid-to-late twenties if she'd worked as an art historian for five years. Didn't that sort of profession call for some kind of post-graduate work? Surely she couldn't be all that inexperienced. But there was an undeniable naiveté about her actions, an unexpected sense of wonder Edward found incredible appealing.
So many women he'd dated were blatantly in charge of their sexual desire. The dating mentality these days seemed to be I want this, I want it nonstop for 12.2 minutes and I don't want to wait for it. Did it make him a chauvinist to think that in women's rush for control in the bedroom a certain willingness to go with the flow, an openness to try new things, had been lost?
Spontaneity seemed like a quaint notion of the past.
However, it seemed like a quality Bella Swan might possess.
Too bad he wasn't going to act on the growing attraction he felt for her.
Besides, Bella wasn't the sort of woman a guy could just cart back to his room. She was much more demure than that. More subtle. A woman with dedicated ethics and old-fashioned values.
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Just how did a woman go about enticing an Italian stud back to her bedroom?
Bella pondered the question as she stared across the table at her sexy-as-sin date.
The seductive performance of the feather-clad dancers had just ended and the music pulsing through the club switched from the blood-pumping salsa to a funky R&B song that had everyone on the floor. Something about the staged show remained with Bella, some vaguely erotic longing, a latent desire to perform and be noticed in the bold manner the dancers had called attention to themselves.
If she could claim that kind of sensual power, she would surely be an in-charge woman to be reckoned with. A fierce female. A woman who ran with the wolves.
All of which was exactly what she needed. And she'd be on her way to having those things with one simple seduction.
The decision to pursue her date wasn't nearly as difficult as she might have expected. She couldn't deny an instant attraction to his dark good looks and his fathomless green eyes. Under normal circumstances she would have crossed her fingers that he would call her- knowing all the time he wouldn't- and wasted a lot of time being disappointed.
But under her new life principle, she would do the opposite of wait around. She'd call the shots; she'd seduce him, and maybe-just maybe- she'd actually get what she wanted in life for a change.
Of course, Bella fully recognized the brilliant plan was probably helped along by the happy combination of champagne and Good Fortune Potion zipping through her system. Other women did this all the time, however, so she refused to worry about the consequences.
Her date- Mike, she reminded herself- leaned closer, the short sleeve of his black T-shirt brushing her shoulder as he did. "So what did you think of the show? The Moulin Rouge Lounge has caused a bit of a local uproar with the antics of their dancers."
Bella rejoiced over the conversational opening and prayed she wouldn't blow it. "I thought it was incredibly sexy. Very…stimulating. Definitely inspiring."
Mike's jaw dropped just a little. Bella hoped that was a good sign.
"Really? Some of our local politicians are making a push to put more restrictions on the creative license of the performance."
"The audience is appropriately mature here." Bella shook her head, thinking of all the risqué artworks from antiquity that were accumulating dust in the basements and storerooms of museums all over the world. "Throughout history, there has always been a movement to suppress sexual art, but who exactly is getting hurt in the wake of a little titillation at an adult dance club? She cast him what she hoped was a suggestive smile and flipped her hair over one should. "So a few more men and women go home together tonight because a provocative dance has gotten them fired up. What harm is there in that?"
Mike's dark eyes widened.
Did he have no clue what she was driving at here? Perhaps a woman needed to be more overt about what she wanted.
"I agree there's no harm," he started, the words seeming to stick in his throat a bit.
Bella rushed to clarify. "All I'm saying is that we ought to be able to appreciate the invitation to seduction without feeling guilty because we enjoyed it, you know?"
Mike shrugged. "I wouldn't say I feel guilty. But some people-"
"That's great." She squeezed his forearm, relishing the way a man's arm contained muscle in the most innocuous of places and hoping positive reinforcement would help steer him in her direction. "Because I don't feel guilty either. You want to walk me up to my room?"
"You have a room here?" His voice rasped across another throaty note.
Bella handed him his half-full glass. "Tonight was a birthday present from your mom. Mrs. Newton reserved a room for me when she set up our date so I wouldn't have to worry about taking a bus home."
"I would have never put you on a bus at two o'clock in the morning, Bella." His dark eyebrows knit together in that serious manner that warmed her insides. Mike Newton knew enough about chivalry to make a woman's heart beat faster.
"Maybe Mrs. Newton just wanted to give me a place to retreat to in case our date didn't go as well as she's doped." The dear woman. Bella couldn't wait to give her a big hug and some homemade bread for sending this gorgeous man into her life if only for one night.
"About my mom-"
Bella jumped up from the table, certain that this line of conversation would only distract them from the flirtatious atmosphere she'd struggled to maintain every since the feathered dancers had departed the lounge.
Doting mothers were not a topic she wished to discuss while in seduction mode for the first time in her life.
"How about one dance before we call it a night?" She extended her hand to him in yet another unprecedented move. Bella Swan, the woman who'd busted the grading curve in every class she'd every taken, the college geek turned scholar for life, was asking the most gorgeous guy in the room to dance with her.
And as if her lucky stars were in perfect alignment over her head, the DJ changed the pace to a slow groove, a song that was sexy and danceable and just right for getting close to this man.
Either because of his chivalrous nature or else because he knew fate was conspiring against him, Mike slid out of the booth and rose to his feet. Bella gulped as his arm slipped around her waist, the warm expanse of his palm connecting with the small of her back.
"How can I refuse a beautiful woman's request?"
No one had every called her beautiful before. Cute, maybe. And she knew better than to fall for idle flattery, but something about the way he looked at her when he said it made her feel beautiful. Strong. Confident.
As they made their way toward the floor, Bella revised her former opinion that she had been overdressed for tonight. Right now, with long masculine fingers applying light pressure to her spine, she felt as if she wore nothing at all. The thin silk of her dress seemed to scorch and vanish beneath that sure, possessive touch.
She scoped out the dance floor, hoping to find a place for them among the mob of other couples vying for space on the hardwood floor. But she needn't have concerned herself. Before she'd analyzed all the options, Mike twirled her toward him, somehow halting her mid-spin so that she ended up face to face with him, firmly in his arms. Every schoolgirl fantasy she'd every hoped for in vain was granted in that long minute as she stared up at him. It didn't matter that she'd never been greatly noticed, fawned over or otherwise admired by a charismatic male in the course of her younger days because right now the forces of cosmic balance were finally tipping the scale in her favor.
And she was winning big time.
She could have gazed into those dark green eyes of his forever, but the subtle sway of their feet beneath them jolted her back to awareness. They were dancing.
Not the awkward one-two-three, one-two-three of stepping on one another's feet that had been a staple in her personal repertoire. No, she wasn't even sure how they were dancing or why her body knew just how to follow his, but they moved together in supple agreement as smoothly as if they'd been choreographed.
His body met hers- hip to hip, thigh to thigh- in a warm, sinuous connection. Her skin flamed right through her silken skirt as she realized how little a barrier her gypsy dress provided. And her breasts…
She didn't dare move away from him now that her breasts grazed his chest. Her reaction- and attraction- would be immediately obvious.
The music enveloped them, folding her into the slow bass line as the dance floor lights all turned to a moody shade of blue. In the dimness, she could almost convince herself they were alone as they moved together in total accord.
"Thanks for sharing a drink with me tonight, Bella." His voice emanated from above her, but she was close enough to hear the rumble of speech in his chest. Through the thin layer of black cotton that covered superb pecs. Through the faded pine scent of his aftershave that she only detected now that he was near.
"I hope you mom didn't have to twist your arm into coming tonight." She kicked herself as soon as she said it because it sounded like the kind of paranoid comment an eighteen-year-old would make. Did she not only have to monitor all her actions but her speech now, too?
He didn't look turned off by her insecure comment, however. He trailed a thumb over her cheek and tipped her face up to his.
"No one twisted my arm, Bella. You were a definite choice of my own free will."
Something inside her sighed with pleasure.
Goosebumps popped out over her skin, a mix of shivery chills and tingly anticipation. His sure touch made her eyelids flutter, fall closed for one long moment.
When the kiss that she'd hoped for didn't materialize, she pried her lips open again and decided the new Bella wasn't a woman willing to wait. The new Bella wanted her kiss and she was determined to have it.
Confident that her bold decision fit in with her plan to take charge of her life, she pressed her body closer to his.
She hadn't been prepared for the shock waves that kind of movement would send straight to the intimate heart of her. She was in way over her head with this man, but she found she didn't care.
More than anything, she wanted this one change to be daring, this one night to be bold and in control of her body, her actions.
He readjusted his hands to accommodate their new closeness, his hands on her waist while his fingertips dangled pleasantly down the curve of her backside. Bella wondered what it might be like to make love to him, to have him lower his hands even more to guide their bodies together…
Smoothing her hands up the hard planes of his chest, she inched her way closer to what she wanted. He stared down at her with steady dark eyes, fully alert to her every move yet letting her choose the pace of what was happening between the,.
After those horrifying moments locked in her creepy former boss' office, Bella appreciated Mike's willingness to let her take the lead.
And damn it, she was taking the lead.
Even though her senses were all keenly tuned to the moment, a small part of her rational brain stood aloof from the heated action on the dance floor and seemed to star down at her from above, applauding her boldness.
You go, girl.
As the final strains of the slow song hummed through her, Bella reached for the prize she'd been dreaming of since she laid eyes on her sexy blind date. And with no more thought of the consequences, she touched her lips to his.
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HOLY SNAPPERS! So how was that for a cliff hanger? And so early on in the story too! What will happen next? Please review!