Song Title: Right Girl by The Maine
Disclaimer: Twilight and its characters belong to Stephenie Meyer. The plot, words and lackluster formatting belong to me. No copyright infringement is intended.
Summary: Edward inadvertently falls for his mark. His attempt to make amends puts them both in great danger. EPOV. Lemony goodness.
New York City. Black tie. Champagne.
The concept of the affair was so much more impressive than the reality.
Hypocritical stuffed shirts making nice with people they despise. Foolish old men dating younger women with fake tits and faker smiles. Events like this were littered with both, all trying to validate their meaningless lives in the eyes of their societal peers.
The façade was transparent.
And I was beyond bored.
I drained another drink and handed the flute to a waiter as he passed, helping myself to a refill.
My eyes scanned the room for my mark.
The photos I'd been given were grainy. She wore large black sunglasses in every picture, like the ones Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis made famous. Stylish and good for hiding, but since I wanted to see her eyes, I found them kind of shitty.
Aro wouldn't tell me who she was, only that she was special and I was to treat her with care - a rather strange request coming from a man who put so little value in human life. Luckily for me, he had people that handled that part of his business. I found murder distasteful.
Two drinks became four. I was half in the bag already. I let the bar hold me up while I poured the last of the liquid in my glass down my throat.
Make that five.
"What will it be, ma'am?" the bartender asked.
A young woman stood next to me, brunette curls swept off her neck in an elegant twist and piled high on her head.
"Let me guess," I interrupted. "Appletini?"
She ignored me and addressed the bartender directly, looking through her lashes at him while she spoke.
"A White Russian."
Then she turned her eyes on me. My heart stopped beating for a moment.
"I prefer pomegranate to apple," she explained coyly, popping each p provocatively.
She was too busy scanning the room to notice me watching her.
"Did you lose someone?" I asked.
"I just like to know what I'm up against."
My cock twitched at the thought of her against me.
I snickered. She was a third of the size of most men in the room. I doubted she could cause much trouble.
She smirked and rolled her eyes, laying her invitation on the bar.
"I have to be on my best behavior tonight," she informed me.
"You're normally poorly behaved?"
She leaned towards me, and I realized I was already leaning towards her.
"Depends who you ask," she whispered, petitioning my silence with a finger pressed to her pouting lips.
I decided in that moment that I would kiss those lips before the night was over.
Or begin with a kiss.
"Are you alone?"
She brought her drink to her mouth and quaffed half the contents of the glass.
"How can I be alone in a room full of people?" she retorted.
Her wit was almost as contagious as her quiet giggle. I signaled the bartender for another round.
"I was alone until you got here."
"What makes you think you're not still alone?" she wondered, glancing at me sideways.
"You've sworn me to secrecy. Surely that means you'll stay with me long enough to have a drink."
"I have a feeling that one drink with you could get me into a lot of trouble."
"Only because of your self-admitted difficulty with behaving yourself. I'm harmless."
It was true. In terms of her physical safety, I was innocuous.
"I would expect that answer from a sociopath or felon. So which are you?"
Technically speaking, I wasn't a felon; my record had nothing but misdemeanors. I was more of a perpetrator than a felon, an uncharged and unconvicted larcenist.
"I guess that would make me a sociopath, but isn't everyone at these functions one? Birds of a feather."
The bartender put the drinks down in front of us. I discreetly slid him a tip.
"You're very sure of yourself."
"You wouldn't still be here if I weren't."
"One drink," she agreed, sliding onto the stool beside me.
"So tell me about this behavior problem of yours. Is it chronic?"
She nodded, licking the leavings of her sip from her lip.
I was already picturing her pale, pink tongue swirling over the head of my dick.
"I suppose you're innocent in it all?" I questioned sarcastically.
"Do I look guilty to you?"
The playful glint in her eyes had me staring.
"Not guilty, but far from innocent," I concluded.
"I guess that makes us even."
"So what brings you here?"
"Daddy's requirement. Have to keep up the impression of happiness for the press. You?"
"Attending in place of a colleague."
"A colleague of what?"
A smile spread slowly across her lips.
"You're a debaucher by profession? Interesting. Does it pay well?"
"Better than you'd think, though the payoff isn't always monetary."
"Don't let them hear you," she warned playfully, pointing to the crowd. "Money is the only thing that keeps them going."
"Would you like to get out of here?"
"Not one for parties, eh?" she teased, side-stepping my question. "I have to make my appearance here authentic. Besides, I don't even know your name."
"Edward. My name is Edward."
"Well, Edward, it seems duty calls." She gulped the remainder of her beverage and slid the empty glass away. "It was a pleasure meeting you, and thank you for the drink."
"The pleasure was all mine, I assure you. I'll be around if you're in the mood to…misbehave."
A beautiful blush covered her cheeks as she made her exit. I was determined to make it reappear later so I could feel the warmth of it under my fingertips.
I watched her work the room, impressed by her prowess.
Gracious cheek kisses. Smiles. Attentive conversation.
She excelled at seeming interested in everyone she spoke to - a priceless skill.
There was something entirely alluring in the way her body moved.
Sly glances in my direction. Eyes locking. Irresistible intensity.
I waited patiently for the right opportunity. Timing would be everything.
When she didn't find me at my place at the bar, her alarmed expression confirmed her interest.
A young man with dark hair and russet-colored skin led her on the dance floor. He was drooling over her like a dog; she was still looking for me.
I tarried for the bridge of the song.
"May I cut in?"
I looked only to her for the answer, not caring what the dog wanted.
He glared and growled something unintelligible as she stepped away from him.
I slid one hand to her shoulder blade and held the other out for her to take.
She slipped into position.
Leading her was as simple as breathing, her body anticipating each move I made and matching it fluently.
When the photographer turned his lens on us, I spun us away from his shot. It would have been careless to be caught. Photographs were evidence.
The song was over too quickly, but that was the point. I had to leave her wanting more.
"Thank you," I whispered, smiling and kissing the back of her hand before I let it go.
I went back to the bar and ordered our final round. She flitted to my side ten minutes later.
"A zombie? Tipsy isn't good enough for you?" she accused, giggling.
"Just stacking the odds in my favor."
"Trying to make it more difficult for you to behave yourself," I admitted sheepishly.
She curled her fingers around the glass.
"I don't need you to misbehave," she assured me.
"It would be more fun to be naughty together."
She smirked and looked directly into my eyes.
"I haven't decided anything yet."
"My offer stands. Finish your drink. If you're not ready to come with me when it's gone, I'll leave you to your night."
There was always tomorrow. Dragging out a game with her might be just what I needed.
"Your self-assurance borders on arrogance."
"But it brought you back to me."
"It could have just as easily driven me away."
"Or you might just have been playing hard to get. Who doesn't love a good chase?"
I raised my glass to toast the idea, clinking it gently against hers.
"You like the hunt, do you? Would you say the pursuit is more exciting than the acquisition?"
She was trying to expose my intentions, hiding her curiosity in wordplay.
"You would definitely be the greater reward."
Her finger rounded the rim of her glass while she considered my words.
"And if I decline your invitation?" she asked, staring down at her drink.
"I suppose my hand will have to do. A rather poor substitute if you ask me."
"That I'd like to see," she murmured, taking a long, slow sip.
I leaned into her body, letting my mouth ghost against her ear as I whispered my reply.
"That could be arranged."
She bit her lip to contain her grin and closed her eyes for a moment.
"Do you work this hard every time you pick up a woman?"
"What makes you think I've done this before?" I replied impishly.
"I'd be rather stupid to believe that I'm anything other than the latest in a long line of conquests."
She was wrong. I rarely mixed business with pleasure. In her case, Aro's instructions made me curious, and once I looked into her eyes, that curiosity exploded.
"I don't normally do this sort of thing. Something told me I'd regret not getting to know you."
"You have a line for everything," she noted cynically.
"If I had a line for everything, then you'd already be coming home with me tonight."
I glanced at my watch. It was time to close the deal. I tossed back the last of my drink.
"Let's make this easier on you. I'll go get us a cab. If you're not outside in ten minutes, I'll assume you've decided to forgo my invitation."
I got to my feet and put my hand on hers.
"Tonight, tomorrow, it's all the same to me. If I don't see you soon, I'll see you later."
I was hoping for very soon.
By the time the crisp October air hit my skin, I was considering going back in to get her. I suddenly felt very alone.
I stepped off the curb and put my arm up to hail a cab. She took my other hand just as it pulled over.
I helped her into the backseat and slid in next to her.
"Ritz Carlton, Central Park."
She planted her lips against my ear and whispered sweetly.
"My name is Bella."
Ah, the irony. Of course her name meant beautiful. It was the only name that would do her justice.
"I'm twenty-nine. I'm clumsy but love to dance."
"I have to disagree."
"Shhh," she pleaded. "Let me finish, or I'll never get this out."
I nodded, listening and wondering why I was still trying to resist her. I didn't know the answer.
"I sing in the shower, hog the covers and drink my coffee double single. I grew up in a loving home and adore my parents, even though they never agree with my choices. And I have no fucking idea what I'm doing in the back of this cab with you."
I turned to look into her eyes in stunned silence, not understanding why she'd shared such random facts about herself.
"One day you might look back at tonight. Maybe you'll remember the way we moved together on the dance floor. Maybe you'll remember hearing me sing and how cold you were all night or the kind of coffee you bought me the next morning. Hopefully it will be enough to move tonight beyond some random drunken sexual encounter in your memory."
"This isn't random," I murmured. "I went to the party tonight looking for you."
"Good answer," she replied, pressing her lips to mine.
There was fire in her kiss, a smoldering, patient passion begging to be ignited.
I was just the man for the job.
When the cab stopped, I shoved a handful of bills at the driver carelessly and helped Bella from the car.
I put my hand on the small of her back while we walked through the lobby.
Elevator ride. Ninth floor. My foot tapped impatiently.
She gently caressed my thigh in understanding.
I silently cursed the other guests in the elevator. Privacy seemed too far away at that moment.
Bell dinging. Doors opening. Relief.
Keycard. The green flashing light brought a moment of hesitation.
"You're sure about this?" I questioned, opening the door to invite her in.
It was so unlike me to offer an out.
She stepped inside in silent assurance.
My hands were at her shoulders, helping her out of her coat. She walked to the window while I hung it up.
"Beautiful view," she murmured.
"Yes, it is," I agreed, admiring the view in front of the window.
She walked back over to me. I kept staring. She was too beautiful to look away.
"I've always loved a man in an overcoat."
Her small hands worked to undo the buttons while I watched.
She slid the coat from my shoulders, folded it neatly, and laid it on the back of the chair.
I stood behind her, my lips on her shoulder, kissing a path up her neck.
She smelled like fresh flowers and autumn.
"You look stunning in blue. It's a shame I have to take it off you."
"You can fuck me with my dress on if you'd like."
It was a tempting offer, but I had other plans.
"I'd forever wonder what was underneath."
I slid the zipper down slowly, savoring her skin as it appeared.
"Black," she whispered.
Black bra. Matching panties. Sheer black lace garter belt holding up thigh high stockings.
My eyes popped. It was a vision constructed directly from my fantasies.
I spun her to face me.
"Those I might have to leave on."
"That's fine, but we'll take these off."
She started with my tie, pulling one end and slowly releasing the knot. It was agonizingly unhurried.
Next came my jacket, button by button. She circled behind me and eased it off my shoulders.
It didn't escape me that she bent over further than needed to lay it on the chair. The view of her ass was breathtaking.
She returned to her spot behind me, her arms encircling my body as she unfastened each button on my shirt.
One finger at each wrist popped my cufflinks.
She turned my body to hers, hands inching up my torso, splitting the shirt and pushing it off my arms.
Three steps and she was at the dresser, laying my cufflinks on the tray.
I met her there, pulling pins from her hair until it cascaded down her shoulders in loose chestnut spirals.
I'd wanted to do that all night long.
She pulled her hair up off her neck in polite request. I removed her necklace and laid it on the tray beside my cufflinks.
"I suppose you want to fuck me with the shoes on?"
"I've never understood that desire," I admitted. "I'd much rather watch you bend over and unbuckle them."
I hissed when she obliged me.
She sauntered over to me and playfully pushed me back on the bed.
Shoes removed. Socks discarded. Belt buckle jingling as it dangled from her hand.
I liked a woman who knew what she wanted.
She stepped away from the bed.
Across the room, she searched her purse, returning to me with a condom in hand. She flipped it up towards the pillow for safekeeping.
Button popped. Zipper unzipped. Trousers shed.
The anticipation was more than I could stand.
I pulled her on to me and rolled us over.
Mouths pressed together. Tongues tangled. The taste of alcohol mingled with sweetness.
Her hands on my shoulder blades. A featherlight touch. So evocative.
She just felt so fucking right underneath me.
My thumb on her cheekbone. Silky hair tickling my skin.
I was swept away in her.
With gentle fingertips, I traced the hollow behind her ear and let my fingers trail down her neck. I buried my lips there and breathed her in.
"Who are you, Edward?" she whispered.
"Anyone you want me to be," I murmured.
A stock answer with hidden meaning. In my head, I wanted to be whoever she needed to be.
"Tell me about yourself," she petitioned.
A tiny mew echoed when I nipped at her skin.
Her hand on my neck. Fingertips rubbing my scalp. I shuddered.
"There's nothing to tell."
Nothing I could tell. Nothing she'd want to hear. Only truths that would destroy the connection between us.
"Where are you from? Where did you go to school? How do you pass the time?" she asked softly.
Her words were meant to coax my resignation. They had the opposite effect.
Protective. Defensive. Closed off.
"Would knowing any of those things change what you want from me?" I challenged.
"I just want to know you."
"You just want me to fuck you."
She pushed me off of her and stood up.
I was an asshole. I wanted to be more than that, but I wasn't.
She frenziedly gathered her clothing.
Dress dragging on the floor. Shoes hanging precariously from her fingertips. Coat falling from its hanger.
"Your expectations are too high," I said, sighing in frustration.
"That's rich! Excuse me for wanting some scant information about the man I was about to sleep with. If you wanted a whore, you should have hired one."
Words like acid.
Panicked. No volume. Need crashing down on me.
I got up and blocked the door.
"Don't go," I whispered.
"I can't stay."
I finessed her things from her hold and laid them aside.
Tense hands. Rough kisses. Lips begging.
I needed to feel the purity and freedom that her touch brought in me.
Grasping her hips, I turned her and sandwiched her body against the door.
Arms pinned above her head. Eyes closed. My mouth on her skin.
Tonguing. Biting. Sucking.
I wanted to consume her, to take a piece of her inside me to fuel the way she made me feel.
No one had ever reached the place she touched.
I was afraid no one ever would again.
"Who are you, Edward?"
"A man. Barely a man."
I groaned, wishing with everything in me she'd stop pushing.
"A man who wants to fuck me?" she asked softly, her mouth pressed to my ear.
"Yes," I answered.
"Put your hand in my panties."
I slid my hand past the fabric and pushed my fingers into the heat of her pussy.
"Feel how much I want you," she encouraged.
I moved a finger inside her body.
So fucking wet.
"Please, give me something more than your name," she begged. "Tell me where you grew up."
The sadness in her voice was killing me.
My tone was tinged with anger. I pulled my hand out of her panties, hating myself for needing her.
But I did need her.
I cupped one of her breasts, running my thumb across her nipple until it peaked.
My hands reached behind her and fumbled blindly with the hooks on her bra, until I got it off her.
Her tits were utter perfection.
I bent forward to take one into my mouth but stopped when she pulled away a little.
"Please tell me what school you went to?"
Her eyes held the strangest combination of sadness and lust. The two emotions didn't belong together, and I had to remedy it.
She took my hands and pressed them against her tits.
"For what?" she pleaded, holding my hands in place.
Her gaze bore into me, expectant and unsatisfied.
"I dropped out in my second year and never went back."
"Thank you," she whispered sadly. "I'm sorry, but I just needed a little bit of you to keep for myself."
It was insane that she was apologizing for needing the same thing I wanted from her. I needed to make her forget that I'd ever caused her sadness.
She was mine.
At least for tonight.
I wrapped my arms around her, running my tongue along her nipple and sucking it into my mouth, claiming her.
Gasping. Back arched. She pushed her body into mine.
I kept working her until she surrendered.
"Please, I need to feel you inside of me."
We made our way to the bed. Any time we were separated by more than a few steps, I pulled her back to me.
Giggling. Skin-to-skin. Relief.
I couldn't get enough of touching her.
She crawled onto the mattress while I watched, scrutinizing the beauty in her movement.
She had no idea what she was doing to me.
Satin straps with clips unclipped. Lace top thigh highs rolled down. Creamy perfect skin exposed.
Her legs were so smooth and sexy that covering them with hose was almost a crime.
Hooks unhooked. Garter removed.
I inched her tiny panties down indulgently just so I could caress her skin.
Bella had a different schedule in mind for her indulgence. With a grin, she reached for my boxers and yanked them down with one pull.
I joined her on the mattress, sliding in between her legs on my knees.
She watched as I rolled the condom on. It was such a fucking turn-on.
Aching with need. Bodies aligning.
Her legs wrapped around me.
The moment of connection was pure bliss.
A slow, shallow rhythm.
Hands everywhere. Touching. Taking.
Giving lips. Affectionate. Tender.
I wanted to stay lost in the feeling forever.
I rolled Bella on top of me, looking for some way to stop time, or at least slow it down.
Watching her body work for our pleasure was even more intense.
Hips rounding. Hair swaying. Tits bouncing.
Every movement purposeful.
It wasn't just her beauty. Her essence was in every response.
There was no hiding from the emotion, not hers or mine.
She was just as lost in our connection as I was.
Breaking down. Losing myself.
I was too far gone to stop it when I realized what was happening.
I was hers, forever.
And I needed to show her.
This was the real piece of me that she could keep, a piece that was more real than what she'd asked for, and one I wanted to give.
I rolled her so she was under me again, holding tightly to her body.
Deep thrusts. Borderline desperation.
I tried to share what I was feeling. I needed to make her feel it too.
With each thrust, I pulled her hips to me to bring us closer, pushing my cock as deeply as she'd take me.
Panting. Moaning. Resisting.
There was no way I was climaxing without her.
Frantic movement. Skin slapping.
Fingers tightening. Nails digging in.
My name on her lips as she came undone triggered my release.
The physical connection between us was broken, but I could still feel the emotional one.
Her body lay against my side, my arm wrapped around her.
Sleep overtook her in seconds. I wasn't so lucky.
She was slipping away from me.
I wanted to stop time, to seize the moment and stretch it out infinitely, but I couldn't do it, no matter how much I wanted to.
And I couldn't change who I was. There was no way to make her understand that I would fail trying to be something else for her and how it would break me to see the disappointment in her eyes.
I tried to make peace with it, but there was none to be had.
A little while later, she was startled awake by something and looked up at me with drowsy eyes.
"Are you okay?" I wondered, kissing her forehead.
She nodded and rolled to her other side, pulling my covers with her. I muffled my laugh and let her have them. She was the only thing I wanted against my skin anyway.
"You were wrong," she mumbled sleepily. "You were the reward."
I pressed a kiss to her head.
"We'll have to agree to disagree."
I tucked myself around her, buried my nose in her curls, and waited for sleep to take me.
She woke me with a kiss and a smile, her hair glistening in the glow of the morning sun.
"I'm going to go grab a shower."
I studied her ass while she walked away from me, refusing to acknowledge that our time was almost finished.
Much to my pleasure, she left the bathroom door open.
Water against tile. Steam rising. She stepped into the shower and out of my view.
Intent on joining her, I padded over to the door but stopped when I heard her begin to sing. The sweetness of the melody washed over me. Our waltz from the night before. I listened to her instead, afraid she'd stop if I interrupted her.
I wanted her to have the freedom to sing and selfishly took credit for her joy.
Last night's clothing recycled. A note scribbled on hotel stationary: Back in ten with coffee.
On my way by the dresser, I made the exchange.
If I didn't do it, Aro would send someone else. The next guy might not be careful with her. I tried to accept that this was the only way I could protect her and slipped out the door.
Whoever said there was a Starbucks on every corner in New York wasn't at my hotel. I walked the four and a half blocks down but took a cab ride back so Bella's coffee would still be hot when I got it to her.
Reality crashed down on me when I opened the door.
The room was empty.
She was gone.
I felt my whole world shift.
It wasn't supposed to happen like this.
I was supposed to leave her. She was supposed to beg me not to go. At least that's how it played out in my fucked up fantasy.
It's what I wanted to happen, even if I didn't know how to make the other shit in my life irrelevant.
I wasn't ready to let her go.
Panic. Remorse. Regret.
A note on the bed caught my eye.
Elegant script. Lipstick stain. Lips pressed to paper.
You stole my heart. I want it back.
I stared at the lipstick impression and tried to understand its context in relation to the words.
One seemed at odds with the other.
I had stolen her heart, but it was a heart pendant, and I switched it out for a fake.
Well, not even a fake.
Aro insisted the replacement be genuine.
I did what he asked and crafted an identical replica of Bella's pendant, from the halo of small diamonds that formed the heart shape to the inverted pear-shaped center sapphire.
The duplicate was impeccable and probably superior to the original in worth based on the inclusion I could see as I studied the stone in my hand.
But there was no way for her to know what I'd done.
And if she wasn't talking about her sapphire heart, then…
No, that was impossible.
If it weren't, then she wouldn't have left.
I knew better than to dream of someone like her.
But I couldn't help myself.
It was the danger in dreaming.
I tossed the note aside and spent thirty minutes in a hot shower trying to rinse her out of my system. All I managed to do was get myself hard.
She was a mark - the beautiful woman in possession of a necklace that I was hired to steal. I didn't have to bed her to do my job.
My stupid fucking ego complicated everything.
I really was an asshole.
I had no right to feel hurt that she'd left.
But I did.
She wasn't mine.
She probably never was.
The problem was that she made me feel like she should have been.
It was impossible to forget how good that felt.
Dressed. Bags packed.
I hesitated leaving, trying to internalize what remained of our night together. Once I closed the door behind me, it would be like it never happened.
If only it were that easy to leave the memory of her behind.
Check out. Airport. Chicago bound.
After a quick stop at home, I met with Aro.
My mind was unfocused. Everything felt hollow.
"You're sure the fake was good?" Aro asked.
"One of my best," I mumbled.
"And you had no problems?"
"None. It was almost too easy."
So easy, I forgot it wasn't real.
"You did good, kid."
I nodded tightly.
"So are you going to let me in on why you wanted it so badly?"
"The locket?" he asked.
"The pendant," I corrected.
"Whatever. It's a long story. Let's just say that he had it coming."
I recognized the name from the benefit I'd attended.
"What did he do?"
"Why do you care?" he inquired, narrowing his eyes suspiciously.
I scrambled for a way to explain my interest without tipping my hat.
"I'm just trying to stay on top of things. The benefit dinner was loaded with bigwigs. I wouldn't want to cross the wrong person."
"Edward, you're like a son to me. I'd kill Cullen myself before I ever let him cross you."
"How does the girl figure into all of this then?"
"Collateral damage," he said, looking down at his hand as if he were studying his fingernails.
It was a sure sign that his answer was a lie.
"I don't understand, Aro. Won't she be the only one who's hurt if she figures out the necklace is a fake?"
"But she won't figure that out, will she? You said yourself that your copy was flawless."
"It was," I assured him. "But I don't understand how stealing a girl's necklace is going to teach Mr. Cullen anything."
"This guy thinks the sun and moon set around him. He takes whatever he wants without thought, even things that don't belong to him."
His perception was so ironic. The man he just described was just as easily Aro himself as it was Carlisle Cullen.
"So he took something from you?" I guessed.
"In a manner of speaking, yes."
"Why didn't you just have me steal what he took?"
It seemed far more logical to me.
"I can't get back what he took from me," he explained, a hint of bitterness in his tone. "This was a subtle victory, Edward. I know you think I'm a crazy old man for spending thirty-five grand to get my hands on a necklace worth less than ten, but I have my reasons. At the end of the day, I know I pulled one over on that prick, and that's all that matters."
It wasn't all that mattered. Not to me.
As I got up to leave, Aro stopped me.
"Aren't you forgetting about something?"
"You haven't delivered your end of the bargain yet."
Part of me was hoping he'd forget about the necklace altogether. I reached into my breast pocket and took out Bella's sapphire heart.
"What are you going to do with it?" I wondered.
"Why? Have you got someone you want to give a pretty trinket to?" he mocked.
Not give to but give back.
"If I did, would you let me have it?" I asked, smiling like it was all a big joke.
"This necklace is a memento to remind me of the things I've lost that I can't get back… a trophy heart if you will."
The necklace was all I had left of Bella. Her heart seemed much too precious to serve as the symbol for some pissing match between Aro and his enemy.
"You're sure? I could take it apart for you…maybe make it into something nice for your wife?"
"Thanks, but I don't want anything from Carlisle Cullen on anyone I love."
I carefully laid her heart in Aro's open palm, watching his fingers close around it greedily.
It was like losing her all over again.
I couldn't shake the memory of her.
So I stopped trying.
Everyday I read her note and tried to figure out what the hell I should do next.
Hoping. Wishing. Dreaming.
My research on Carlisle Cullen didn't shed any light on his connection to Aro, but the one to Bella was as clear as day.
I read the caption under the picture again.
Philanthropist Carlisle Cullen, pictured above with wife, Esme, and daughter, Isabella.
With her last name, I had her address.
And a plane ticket.
And no fucking idea what I was going to say.
I watched her townhouse for hours like a stalker, an asshole thief stalker with no right to be there, and when she finally appeared, she took my breath away.
Hoping against hope.
Bell ringing. Heels clicking on hardwood.
She opened the door with wide eyes and a slightly shocked expression.
Voice cracking. Hands shaking.
"Hi," I whispered.
She tucked a hair behind her ear and smiled shyly at me.
"I didn't think I'd see you again."
"I wasn't sure you'd want to see me," I admitted honestly.
She looked down at the floor, bracing herself against the wall while she removed her pumps.
"It just seemed easier to leave without having to figure out the goodbye."
She wanted easy.
Easy meant not dealing with me.
Throat closing. Immobilizing fear.
All I could do was watch her.
One shoe. No shoes. Ten tiny toes with magenta polish.
"And you said you liked a chase," she said.
In a million years, I never would have guessed her note was an invitation.
"What's the matter? Cat got your tongue?" she teased, her voice more like a purr.
"You wanted me to chase you?" I asked in disbelief.
She nodded, eyes on the floor again.
"Why not just leave me your address?"
"It had to be your choice to come," she explained quietly. "I knew you weren't looking for anything permanent that night."
"Neither of us were," I said, pausing to consider her words. "But things change."
She invited me in.
Following her lead, I slipped my shoes off to distract myself.
"You look well."
Anything seemed better than silence though.
"You, too. What brings you to New York?"
"You," I admitted, swallowing my pride.
The surprise in her voice was endearing. It gave me hope.
"Just you." I steeled my nerves. "I haven't been able to stop thinking about you…about what happened."
I had to know if she regretted that night.
"When I came back with coffee and found you'd left, I was sure I was alone in my feelings."
"Nope," she said, popping the p for emphasis. "I knew I didn't have the strength to walk away from you face-to-face. Goodbye felt too final."
"Are you saying you want me in your life?" I asked, seeking confirmation.
"Are you saying you want to be a part of it?"
It was time to put my cards on the table.
"Yes, I'd like to be part of your life. I know that…"
Her kiss cut my thought short.
Tender, giving lips that soothed away every fear I had.
Her hand in mine. Fourteen stairs.
She closed the bedroom door and pushed me against it, pressing her body into mine as she kissed me.
I ached for her. The need of the past few weeks without her ambushed me, converging on me like a violent storm. It took all of my focus to fight it.
"Bella, there are things you should know about me."
"We have time to get to know one another," she mumbled between kisses.
Once she worked my sweater off, she stepped back from me and unbuttoned her blouse, making my job of resisting her infinitely harder.
Skirt unzipped and on the floor, she crawled into the middle of the bed, inviting me to her with a flick of her finger.
I couldn't let myself move.
"I don't care," she announced.
But she would once she knew.
"I'd rather you make that judgment after you have all the facts."
"We spent an amazing night together, and you came to find me. That's all I need to know."
"I've done things…"
I couldn't hide the shame in my voice.
She got off the bed, removing her bra and panties as she walked toward me.
I groaned. In any other situation, I'd admire her gumption. At that moment, it just felt like she wasn't fighting fair.
"Edward, I don't care about the things you've done."
My resistance was failing.
Belt unbuckled. Jeans stripped.
On her knees.
I watched her luscious, pink tongue swirl over the tip of my cock.
When her mouth closed around me, I lost control.
My fingers wove into her hair, and I thrust forward, moaning as she took the length of me in.
I fought to regain my senses and lifted her on to her feet once I did.
She wriggled out of my arms and pulled me to the dresser.
I watched in silence as she took a condom out of the drawer.
I wasn't above begging.
She ignored me and rolled the condom onto my dick.
"Don't you want to fuck me?" she asked, a tiny pout on her lips.
I understood her game. Hell, I'd played it before, but I was dangerously close to my breaking point.
And I think she knew that.
She began to turn away from me.
I pulled her to me, hitching her leg over my hip.
"You know I do. Not a day's gone by that I haven't thought about fucking you."
She palmed my cock and held it still while she aligned her body with mine.
"Then what are you waiting for?"
I pushed forward slowly, gasping as the warmth of her pussy enveloped me.
Bella wrapped her arms around my shoulders without a sound.
I lifted her ass on to the dresser and pushed into her even further.
Bent knees. Shallow movements.
Her eyes shut tightly. Expression strained.
She seemed to be holding back her emotions, and if she was, I probably deserved it.
But I couldn't handle it.
The weight of my secrets, together with her silent lips, unnerved me.
I was suddenly unsure of everything, from what this meant to her, to whether I should even try to be with her.
Mostly, I was afraid of losing her.
So I made the only choice that was mine and let her in.
"I grew up on the streets," I whispered, thrusting into her and holding still once I was buried inside her.
Soft, caring lips pressed into my cheek.
I pulled out of her and pushed back in. My voice strained against my movements.
"I was so young when my parents died that I don't even remember them."
Whispers of sympathy in my ear; her beautiful, quiet voice like music.
I gripped her knee and pulled her leg toward my hip, thrusting into her again.
"I got mixed up with the wrong people and got into so much fucking trouble."
She pulled my mouth to hers.
Desperate kisses conveyed her absolution for my past.
But she didn't know the half of it.
"I'm not a good person, Bella. I've lived off of deceit for as long as I can remember…scams, theft, fraud."
I had to whisper the words into her neck to get them out.
My hips barely moved, the disgrace of my confession swallowing me whole.
"You did what you had to do to survive," she murmured, pulling her body closer to mine to comfort me.
I selfishly thrust into her, using her words to fight my shame.
"It started that way, but I became greedy."
I ground my hips into hers, searching for a deeper connection to her as if it would make my words untrue.
"I've never walked in your shoes, Edward. I'm not going to judge you for your choices."
"You should. You'd see how many mistakes I've made, and you'd know what kind of person I really am."
I pulled out of her completely and then filled her pussy like it was my property, feeling like a complete asshole.
A self-fulfilling prophecy.
She didn't deserve my animosity.
"Our mistakes don't define us. All that matters is that we try to do better," she murmured.
I couldn't fathom how a woman born into the lap of luxury could be so compassionate and nonjudgmental, especially of someone so worthy of censure.
My arms wound around her body and I held to her tightly, quickening my hips.
I tried to see myself through her eyes.
To be the man she saw me as, I had to make up for wronging her. Otherwise, I was no better than Aro or her father, just a selfish bastard who took what he wanted without thought for anyone else.
I wanted to be more than that to her.
"You never had the chance at a normal life," she whispered.
She could see how my circumstances had contributed to my choices and was able to look past what I'd done.
I drove my cock deep into her again and again, needing the closeness to hold on to her vision of me.
I knew I should pull back and wait for her, but I longed for the release only her affection could bring.
"Knowing what you've done doesn't change the way I feel about you," she said.
Her words were the ultimate wish granted.
I ground my hips into Bella until I came apart, shuddering and gasping as my orgasm pulsated through me.
As soon as I could think again, I lifted her to me and plunked her down on the bed, grinning self-consciously.
She pointed to the door behind me with a smirk.
I quickly got rid of the condom and joined her on the bed.
Snuggling up to her, I kissed her deeply. My hand dipped between her legs, stroking her sensitive flesh. She groaned and pressed her pussy into my hand.
I circled her clit until her hips bucked wildly.
She buried her face in my neck, biting and sucking at my skin.
"Right there," she said, all throaty and alluring.
I gave her exactly what she asked for, working my hand until she came.
Her back arched again and again as her climax shot through her. It was the sexiest thing I'd ever witnessed.
With Bella in my arms, sleep came easily.
Knowing it was her house and that she couldn't run away didn't hurt either.
It was early when I woke up. Bella was still crashed beside me, wrapped in every single bed covering.
I wiggled out of bed smirking, threw on my jeans, and went to look for coffee.
Coffee made. Newspaper retrieved from the front porch.
Bella joined me just as I pulled the scrambled eggs off the stove.
She wore only my sweater and a pair of panties. Her hair was a mess.
She'd never looked so beautiful.
"I would have made breakfast," she said.
"I didn't mind."
I poured her some coffee and handed her the mug.
"You remembered!" she said, smiling at me gleefully.
I would never forget how she took her coffee.
Breakfast eaten. Dishes done. Coffee refilled.
Bella sat with her legs pulled up on to the chair, her tiny purple panties a constant distraction for me.
"What did you want to do today?" she wondered.
"I just want to be with you. As long as you're never more than a couple of steps away, I'll be happy."
"So spending the day in bed suits your needs?" she asked, smirking.
I reached under the table and ran my finger along the satin fabric covering her pussy.
"As long as you promise to take these horrible little panties off, it suits me just fine."
"Deal, if you promise to take your boxers off too."
"I was smart enough not to put any on," I admitted, taking her hand and pulling her upstairs.
We fucked after breakfast and slept until noon.
When she went to shower, I snuck into the bathroom to hear her sing. Bella pulled me into the water and had her way with me. I silently praised the bathroom's interior designer for her forethought in putting a bench in the enclosure. It was put to good use.
We spent a few hours snuggled together on the couch. Bella worked on a crossword puzzle. I pretended to watch college football. Truthfully, I was just biding my time until my dick recovered, and as soon as it did, I fucked Bella on the couch.
Chinese food delivered. Red wine.
We had a carpet picnic in front of the fireplace.
I could tell she was too tired for sex, so I didn't even ask. I simply undressed her and pressed her naked skin to mine so I could feel connected to her.
Bella woke me just as the sun began to rise, and we watched it together.
Afterward, I spooned her in the bed and just breathed her in.
"What time does your plane leave?" she wondered quietly.
"How did you know I was leaving today?
"Just had a feeling."
"I have to go take care of something in Chicago. I'll be back."
"Can't it wait a few days?"
"Truthfully, I shouldn't have come until it was done."
"I don't suppose you'll tell me what it is?"
"I need to correct a mistake I made."
It was serious. I was getting Bella's necklace back for her. It was the only way I could make amends and hope to deserve her.
Bella made me breakfast in bed.
Taking care of me seemed to vivify her.
Or I saw what I wanted it to be.
Bright eyes. Wide smiles. Lively conversation.
Every bit of herself that she gave was a gift.
We went for a long walk.
Hand in hand. Playful teasing.
She promised me a blow-job in exchange for a piggyback ride.
I would have given her one regardless, just because she wanted me to.
Caught in the rain. Soaked to the bone. Giggle fits.
She was so easy to be with.
After a quick shower to warm us up, we fell into bed.
The hours passed in a haze of love and contentment.
Bella insisted on taking me to the airport.
As we stood by the terminal door saying goodbye, it struck me how normal the weekend had been.
It had been so long since my life was normal that I'd forgotten how good it felt.
What it was like to give a shit about someone other than yourself.
How it felt to wake up excited for what life had in store for you.
It's how Bella made me feel.
I'd never wanted to be normal so badly in my life.
But I wasn't there yet.
"Two days?" she asked.
"Two days. Three days tops."
I kissed her one last time and went into the terminal.
I was chasing normal now. I just had to catch it.
Everything was taken care of.
Notice given. Remaining rent paid.
Apartment cleared out. Furniture stored.
Everything essential was shipped to Bella's place.
I just had to meet with Aro.
I checked my pocket for the tenth time. Bella's replacement pendant was safely tucked inside.
I knew it was there. It just calmed me down to touch it.
Aro's house was brightly lit for his celebration - a sweet sixteen party for his daughter.
It was the perfect cover.
I gave my well wishes to Bree, Sulpicia and Aro as soon as I arrived.
When Aro stepped away from his family, I quietly asked to speak with him.
We walked to his office for privacy.
"Why so serious, son?" he wondered, slapping me on the back.
"I'm leaving, Aro."
"You can't leave. The party just started."
"Not the party. I'm leaving Chicago. For good."
"Are you in trouble?" he asked in a serious tone.
"I've met someone."
He laughed sarcastically.
"Why are you in such a rush? Did you knock her up?"
"No, nothing like that," I said, laughing. "I'm just ready to start over."
"So you came for my blessing?" he wondered.
"In a way. You've always been very fair. I felt like I owed you an explanation and a proper goodbye."
"So do I get to meet her?"
"I don't want her to be a part of this," I said quietly.
"Don't be arrogant, Edward. This life has been good to you. Your relationship will be a lie if you hide who you really are."
"I haven't hidden it. I just want more for her."
"I guess there's nothing left to do but wish you luck then."
"Thank you for everything, Aro."
I reached out and shook his hand. He pulled me in for a hug.
"Go back to your guests. I just have to make a phone call and I'll join you."
He nodded and left.
When I was sure he was far enough away, I went to his drawer and quietly opened it.
Just as I picked up the pendant, something hard cracked me over the head.
Everything went black.
I came to in a darkened room, tied to a chair.
There was no way to tell where I was or how long I'd been there.
My mind pondered whether Bella was safe.
I faded in and out of consciousness.
Scared whispers. A hand on my arm.
I fought to stay aware.
"Edward, wake up," the voice begged.
"It's Bree. What did you do? I've never seen Daddy so mad."
"It'll be okay," I promised.
This was no place for a sixteen-year-old girl.
"I overheard him talking to Marcus. He said you were moving?" she asked, confused.
I realized she hadn't heard them correctly, and if they were making plans to move me, it could only mean one thing.
"I am. I met a girl, and I'm going to live with her."
"So Daddy's mad because you're leaving?"
"I did something your father didn't like. That's why he's upset with me. I'm sure it's temporary, nothing for you to worry about. I need you to do me a favor though, please?"
"Do you have your cell phone?"
"Duh, of course," she retorted.
I gave her Bella's number and asked her to dial it.
She held the phone to my ear.
There was no answer. I waited for Bella's machine to pick up then whispered the only thing I could think of.
"I love you."
I thanked Bree and told her to leave before she was caught. I made sure she knew not to come back.
It was hours before Aro returned.
The echo of footsteps.
A solid slap to my cheek.
He circled behind me and hit me in the back of the head with something hard.
A small click. A tiny lamp came on.
Aro stood in front of me, arms crossed, the tip of his Beretta peeking out over his bicep.
"How could you?" he asked, emotionless.
He hit me again, coming down on my nose with the barrel of his gun.
Shooting pain. Blood gushing.
I remained silent.
He walked back and forth in front of me a few times.
"She wasn't yours to take."
Yes, he knew about Bella. I was moron to think I could hide anything from him. He likely knew every move I'd made, probably even how many times I screwed her. I just didn't know why he cared.
He slammed the handle of the gun against my temple.
I kept my head down.
"Selfish bastard," he muttered, grabbing my chin roughly and getting in my face while he pressed the barrel of the gun against my cheekbone. "I gave you everything…treated you like a goddamn son, and you repay me by treating me like my own flesh and blood is too good to be around me?"
What the fuck?
He unhanded me and walked away.
As he closed the door I heard him say, "Marcus, go get Alec. It's time. I want him out of my fucking sight."
I prayed she was safe as tears rolled down my cheeks.
Marcus and Alec were Aro's thugs - remorseless, incapable of independent thought, operating on Aro's command and getting off on the chaos they created.
If they were in charge of me, my fate was sealed.
I pretended to be passed out when they came into the room, but they hit me anyway because they could.
They dragged me through the halls of Aro's home. I recognized it now that I could see. At least I knew they wouldn't kill me there.
The bright sunlight caught me off guard as they brought me outside.
We were just getting into the car when I heard her voice.
"Let him go!" she demanded.
I turned and saw Bella there, hands on her hips like she owned the place.
Marcus turned his gun on her.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you," I threatened condescendingly. "If you do, you're as dead as I am."
"The cops are on their way," Bella cautioned.
"Bella, you need to leave, now! You're not safe here."
"Where's Aro?" she asked.
At the same moment, Aro walked out the door. The sight of Bella stopped him in his tracks.
"Tell your men to let Edward go," she insisted.
"Marcus has his gun pointed at her," I warned, fearing for Bella's safety.
"Stand down, Marcus," Aro commanded.
Marcus turned his gun back on me.
"Bella, please leave," I begged.
She looked directly at Aro.
"If you ever cared about me at all, you'll let him go," she said.
Aro looked at Alec.
"Put him in the car."
Alec grabbed the back of my neck and started to shove me into the backseat.
"No," Bella screamed.
I heard the clack of her heels against the cement so I elbowed Alec and spun around just as Marcus took aim.
I lunged at Bella to protect her.
Slow motion. The soft click of the gun's action.
We both fell to the ground.
"Are you okay?"
"I'm not hurt," she assured me.
I closed my eyes and let the pain take me.
Vague memories. Pieces that didn't fit together. Bella's worried face.
"Right here," she whispered, covering my hand with hers.
"Where am I?"
"The hospital. Marcus shot you."
"You weren't hurt, were you?"
"I wasn't, thanks to you."
"How on earth did you find me?"
"Remember when we were texting each other from opposite ends of the couch at my place? You asked where I was at, and I sent you that invite as a joke so you could find me? Well, welcome to Google Latitude, the app that lets you see where your friends are."
"You've got to be kidding me."
"Nope. When your stuff arrived ahead of you and I hadn't heard a word from you, I knew something was wrong. I came to Chicago to look for you. At the same time, I called my dad and told him everything I knew. With your location and background, he figured out your connection to Aro in no time."
"Your father must have told you that Aro was dangerous. Why would you put your life at risk?"
"Because I was the only person he might listen to."
"So you know?"
"My mother was really young when she got involved with Aro. He was physically abusive, so she left him when she found out she was pregnant with me. She landed up in New York at a shelter that my dad volunteered at. I guess things were meant to happen that way because they fell in love and have been together ever since."
"Did you know?"
"I always knew that my dad wasn't my birth father, but I didn't know about Aro until today."
"Aro hired me to steal your sapphire pendant and plant a copy of it," I admitted shamefully. "He told me that your father had taken something that belonged to him that he couldn't get back. I didn't understand until today that the something was you."
"So this is a fake?" she asked, laying the pendant on my chest. "I found it in your jacket."
I picked it up and studied it.
"Neither is fake. Aro asked me to craft an exact duplicate, but this is your original."
"How do you know?"
I pointed to the small dot that was barely visible with the naked eye.
"I memorized your pendant after you left the hotel room that day. I'd know it anywhere. That's why I went to Aro's. I had to get it back for you. It was the only way I could make up for what I'd done."
"You made this?" she asked, pulling the copy from her pocket.
"You have both?"
"After you were shot, the police arrived. One of Aro's men started shooting, and Aro was caught in the crossfire. When they were loading him into the ambulance, he asked for me and slipped the pendant into my hand when I went to speak to him. He told me that you were a good man, and that I shouldn't hold your past against you."
"I'm sorry, Bella. What I did to you was reprehensible. Not only did I steal from you, I put you in danger trying to right my wrong. I'll never forgive myself."
"I went to Aro's all on my own. And as far as what you did, it was pretty shitty, but if you hadn't done it, I never would have met you. Like I said before, things happen for a reason."
"Does that mean you forgive me?"
"That means that I'm locking my jewelry away so you can't touch it," she teased. "And I'm willing to give you ample chances to make it up to me."
"Breakfast in bed, foot massages, and piggyback rides?"
"That'll do for starters."
She bent over and placed a soft kiss on my forehead.
"You have some recuperating to do before you can really make it up to me," she purred.
"Recuperating? My dick didn't get shot."
"We wouldn't want to interrupt the blood flow to your healing body," she said wickedly, brushing her fingers over my cock.
A discreet cough.
I looked up to see a blonde man standing in the doorway of my room.
"Daddy!" Bella greeted, with a smile.
"How's our patient doing?" he asked quietly, walking to the foot of my bed and picking up my chart.
Bella grabbed his hand and pulled him to my side.
"Edward, this is my father, Carlisle Cullen. Daddy, this is my boyfriend, Edward…"
Red cheeks. Sheepish grin.
The fact that I was in love with a woman who didn't know my last name was kind of ironic.
I held out my hand to him.
"It's nice to meet you, sir."
A/N: I hope you enjoyed the story. I wanted to thank Project Team Beta and my betas on the story: siobhan'x and batgirl8968.
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