Pick A Pic Challenge
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Rating/Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. This story is loosely based on the ABC TV Show The Bachelor (2002) and subsequent series. No copyright infringement is intended. Rated M for mature content including descriptions of sexual acts.
Summary: It was just a bit of fun, a chance for an all-expenses paid vacation, and a favor for her bestie. Never in a billion years could Bella have imagined just how much meeting Edward Cullen would invert her world.
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A/N: in my mind the characters are placed in the banner photo in this order, but you can imagine whomever you want, from left to right: Charlotte, Isabella, Rosalie, Irina, Kate (back) Jane (front), Victoria, Tanya, Jessica.
They were all stunning.
More than stunning, they each had their own individuality, their own extraordinary allure.
I had a real problem trying to discern why each one wasn't already happily coupled with an adoring man to worship them.
"Please Bella, I'm begging you. Two weeks, maximum. Think of it as an all expenses paid vacation," gushed Alice, my brilliant television producer bestie.
I scoffed. "A vacation that is filmed and syndicated across, how many continents?"
"See, global domination, your face will be recognizable everywhere, think of the possibilities to enhance your career! You can see how the other half live, and use it to, you know 'speak their language'," she air-quoted.
I stared at each individual portrait of eight exceptionally beautiful women, and thought how delusional Alice was to even think about including me as one of the 'lucky' women to be 'worthy' to pimp myself on international television – to catch a gorgeous billionaire.
Billionaire Edward Cullen to be exact.
He. Is. A. Douche.
I mean, COME ON! As if he needs a stunt to pick up women. The guy is seriously fucking drop-dead gorgeous. He's wealthy, a talented musician and entrepreneur. This whole television stunt is simply a means for him to continue to promote himself and his 'businesses', oh and throw in the most gloriously beautiful women to fawn over him to boot, under the guise of finding his 'one girl in a billion', or rather one in ten thousand that had bothered to fill in the rigorous and downright excruciating application to be considered as a participant. No, contestant is the appropriate word, a contestant on the most anticipated reality TV show ever imagined: One in a Billion.
"Please Bella, you're perfect. I promise, you'll meet him and you guys will not get along. He'll keep you around for the first two weeks and I guarantee, you'll be the first girl to get sent home. Why wouldn't you want an all expenses paid vacation in beautiful Australia? You've always wanted to go there, but you'd never make it on your meager salary; this is the perfect opportunity. Please, pretty please, I need you with me, even if it's only two weeks. I can't do it alone."
Alice was brilliant at her job; she had worked her fucking ass off. Her goal was to be one of the top female television producers in the country. This was her opportunity to really establish herself once and for all. She knew that I could never say 'no' to her, and I'd miss her terribly in the four months she'd be away filming this piece of 'iconic' crap reality TV. How hard could it be? In fact, I thought the whole thing would be pretty darn hilarious. Me, Bella Swan, charity fundraiser extraordinaire, living the life of Riley off the back of a TV show where the prize is a billionaire. How fucking off the leash is that?
Alice was right, I was attractive enough to complement their marketing of the show, but independent and sassy enough for Edward Cullen to instantly dislike me and get booted off in the first round.
Australia, here I come.
"OK, Alice. Where do I sign?"
The reality of what I'd gotten myself into hit home when the next two months were spent in preparation for the flight to Australia – dress fittings, makeup tests, spa treatments, psychological evaluations and health screenings, non-disclosure agreements printed on reams of paper, indemnity clauses that made my head spin.
The whole thing was planned out to the last intricate detail. Alice had gone ahead to Australia two weeks before, sending me email updates, gushing about the mansion, the production facilities and the Australian crew they signed on to live and work on site to make sure they captured every interaction, every word, everything.
The realization hit me like a slap in the face; everything I said would be recorded and could be used in the final edit of the twelve-episode show. Thank God, I'll only be there for two weeks. God help the poor girl that had to expose herself so candidly for so long.
The day arrived when I finally caught my flight. I met our minder, her name was Esme and she was simply adorable. I instantly loved her, she was kind and gentle and so eager to make me feel at ease on the long haul flight. Esme introduced me to two girls, Charlotte and Irina, that I recognized from the studio portraits Alice had shown me. They both lived in Washington State. I found out on the plane that the other girls came from LA, New York, Boston, and Chicago.
We were all exhausted when we landed in Sydney, but we were buzzed at actually being in Australia, especially when a limo drove us to the mansion along the north shore of stunning Sydney Harbor. By the time we got there it was very late but we were all too geared up to go to sleep. We explored every room, our individual bedrooms clearly marked with our names, our luggage delivered. After a delicious cookie and glass of milk from the enormous gourmet kitchen, Esme saw us off to bed, chanting that we needed our 'beauty sleep'.
I explored my opulently decorated bedroom, my home for the next two weeks. I opened the walk-in closet and stood awestruck. No expense had been spared; everything was new, with labels still attached; Chanel, Burberry, Alexander McQueen, DKNY, Prada, the list went on, including some designer labels I assumed to be Australian. Lingerie, shoes, accessories, beauty products, all supplied by the official sponsors of the show. This was decadence as an art form.
I shuddered. What an infuriating waste of money! Hundreds of thousands of dollars that could have been channeled into countless worthy and needy charities, but instead they were in my closet, for me to make myself desirable to a billionaire demigod.
I felt sick. Why the fuck am I here? This is not me. I tried to justify it in my head. I had almost busted an artery trying to get funding for charities that were left off the donation lists as 'not feasible' by large corporations – corporations like Edward Cullen's. After sacrificing most of my vacation time since college volunteering for charities, I deserved a little pampering. Didn't I? Does it make me a hypocrite, being here?
God, why had I listened to Alice?
I flopped on to the bed that felt like a fucking cloud and jerked my body when something crunched under my head. A letter addressed to me.
Oh My God, I can't believe you're here! I wish I could be there to welcome you, but as we're keeping our friendship a secret, I thought it best not to alert any one. I mean I am the producer, CAN YOU BELIEVE IT? I know you'll simply adore all the things we've got planned over the next two weeks. It's going to blow your mind. Sleep well, and I'll see you in the morning for the orientation day. All cameras will be off until six am Monday morning, so be warned, after that time, everything you do and say will be recorded and they've done such a fabulous job of hiding all the recording equipment, you won't even know its there. This note will self-destruct in 10 seconds...
Just kidding, but please tear it up and hide it somewhere. I love you.
The orientation day went well. I met all the girls, some were a little jet-lagged, and others were sprightly and annoyingly excited. We were told we had this day to get to know each other with the cameras off. After that we'd be reenacting our arrival at the mansion one by one and every minute would be recorded thereafter. We were always to be miked up and Peter the sound guy showed us how to arrange the wires and battery pack under our clothes and told us we were to wear them at all times. The only exception was when we were bathing. We even had to wear the microphone to bed.
I could feel myself blushing profusely. I had a tendency to talk in my sleep. Alice could have warned me.
Convenient she left that part out. What else hasn't she told me?
It became apparent after a few hours that cliques were already forming among the women. The dominant and competitive gravitating to the shy, modest girls. I had classified Rosalie and Tanya as the most assertive, followed closely by Jane. Charlotte and I gravitated to each other, along with Kate. Both girls were genuinely nice and excited to be there. Neither of them even mentioned Edward, they were more in awe of the mansion and excited to see Australia and participate in the myriad of activities that were planned.
I woke up at seven o'clock Monday morning, acutely aware that my privacy was no longer something I could count on. The only rooms that were without cameras were the bathrooms, yet we would be constantly wired for sound, so I had to keep my wits about me.
At breakfast Rosalie, Tanya and Jane were already playing the game.
"Edward is so handsome, I can't wait to meet him this evening," gushed Tanya.
"He's more than just handsome," breathed Rosalie. "He's into extreme sports and, did you know, he's even played water polo professionally."
"Yes, and he can run, fast. He did the Boston marathon two years ago in under three hours!" Exclaimed Jane.
On and on it went, each woman sitting around the grand breakfast table professing their adoration of Edward, each one trying to one-up the other on what they knew about him.
I picked at a croissant but said nothing. I had better than average knowledge of television production, thanks to Alice. I knew the editor, under direction of the producer, could expertly cut and compose the words and vision out of context, to make people appear vapid or clueless. I remembered also that Edward would get to see everything. I remembered from when Alice had shown me the floor plan to the mansion that Edward had the whole north wing to himself and his 'staff' and that the library in that part of the house would be turned into a 24 hour editing room, complete with the most expensive digital video editing suite and sound production facility.
Shortly after breakfast we were all ushered into the full sized parlor to be dressed, our hair styled and makeup applied in preparation to film our fake 'arrival'. This would be followed by a series of publicity shots before we finally met Edward; eight gorgeously beautiful women – and me – pampered and primped to meet a Billionaire.
The host of the show was Zafrina, a simply gorgeous Naomi Campbell look alike supermodel. I heard Victoria whispering to Jessica that Edward had dated Zafrina a few years ago.
What the fuck am I doing here? Oh, that's right; a favor to Alice, and from tomorrow I'll be seeing more of this beautiful country.
That evening we were all led to the grand foyer to await Edward's arrival.
Esme, along with Sue and Shelley, the other two minders, shuffled us into a semi-circle in alphabetical order:
Charlotte, Irina, me, Jane, Jessica, Kate, Rosalie, Tanya, and Victoria.
The makeup artist flounced around us, touching up lipstick, hair spraying and adjusting dresses.
"Can you wear these please?" she asked, handing me a beautiful pair of cream-white satin gloves.
"Um, why?" I asked, curious.
"It didn't matter for the photo shoot, they can fix that, but there's nothing more I can do to disguise your stubby fingernails. You really shouldn't bite them, it's gross." she said dismissively and carried on along the line.
I laughed internally. What, even my bitten fingernails aren't good enough for Billionaire Edward? I glanced down the line. All the girls had perfect manicures. Of course they did.
I absorbed it all, quietly grinning at the spectacle and the seriousness everyone was placing on this situation. I could have done with a beer to take the edge off, but then I remembered the industrial sized fridge in the kitchen only held French champagne. Naturally.
Alice appeared suddenly, her headset in place, her eyes shining with excitement. This was her moment. I watched her; so proud, so glad I was here to witness this, her career highlight. She would be a Jerry Bruckheimer in five years or less.
I watched as she took in our appearance, her eyes spoke volumes when they reached mine, she was more than excited, she was fucking high on adrenaline and supremely happy. She touched her ear, said something into the microphone and then the doors of the mansion opened.
I didn't know what I would do when I finally spotted Edward Cullen in the flesh. I thought he was gorgeous of course, but seeing him walk through those doors was a totally surreal experience.
The vibrant white lighting made his skin glow like some ethereal creature that belonged on the silver screen. The atmosphere shifted perceptibly in the room as the combined level of estrogen that filled the foyer was zinging at the presence of this beautiful demigod. I may have expelled a few eggs myself in anticipation of being fertilized by this perfect specimen of man. It wasn't even his ridiculously expensive clothes, his two day growth or the way he looked so casually styled; Edward Cullen could wear a ratty old T-shirt, baseball cap and cargo's and he'd still be insanely more attractive than 99% of all the male species. His presence in the room was almost spiritual.
Zafrina stepped forward, air kissed both Edward's cheeks and led him to stand in front of a very confident Victoria. The grin on Victoria's face was feline and predatory. Edward welcomed her, then he took her hand and brought it to his mouth in a swoon-worthy single kiss on her knuckles, never breaking eye contact with her.
They spoke in hushed tones as he smiled a sexy grin that had me blinking. Maybe he is a fucking mirage.
I closed my eyes, suddenly light-headed. I'm not supposed to be attracted to him. I can't fall for the unobtainable god who, by the way, thinks he needs to find a mate in a self-publicizing, ego-stroking, fucking 'Prince charming finds his Princess' entertainment program turned up by a billion!
I smiled to myself. He may be beautiful, but I won't fall for a guy so shallow, self-absorbed and materialistic. These two weeks will be a piece of cake. In fact, I may even enjoy pissing him off a little, use the opportunity to knock him down a peg or two, because as sure as the plain nose on my face, all the women here were going to be scheming and salivating to land Edward, the ultimate Billionaire prize. Guaranteed to skyrocket his already huge ego.
When I opened my eyes again I saw he was talking to Rosalie. He was laughing and tugging his hands through his gorgeous hair. When he pulled away from kissing her hand, she leaned in and planted a soft kiss on his cheek. He looked surprised while the smug expression on her face was sickening.
I watched as he greeted each girl. I absorbed it all. Poor Kate seemed so nervous, her cheeks were pink, and her eyes couldn't seem to focus. I wanted to give her a hug, she was so flustered.
When he got to Jane, I started to feel nervous. I'm next. I tugged at my satin gloves, then closed my eyes and thought of the absurd decadence; thousands of dollars worth of clothing in my closet, the opulence of my surroundings, the beauty of the women in the room, the fact that everything was staged for a TV show! How can Edward Cullen be taking this seriously? I became Isabella Swan, cynic and bitch.
I opened my eyes to see Jane kiss Edward fully on the mouth, leaving a deep glossy burgundy mark that looked surprisingly delicious on his pouty lips.
I watched as Edward smiled knowingly at Jane, before he swallowed and then he was standing in front of me.
In the instant that his eyes locked with mine, I knew I had his full attention. He was completely with me in that moment, present and focused. It was kind of disconcerting for a moment, and then I put it all down to the unseen camera's in the room and the fact that a twenty-eight year old billionaire, didn't get to be where he was without a set goal and a clear agenda. But his glistening green eyes gave nothing away.
"Isabella, it's so lovely to meet you."
He sounded genuine and casual.
I looked at his mouth, the lipstick mark left from Jane's kiss and even the faint pink smudge of Rosalie's lips on his cheek, snapped me back to a reality I wasn't prepared to be this affected by.
This is a competition, and I hadn't played by the rules. Alice had filmed and edited my selection video, filled-in all my forms to compile my application. I shouldn't even be here. I'd broken the rules; I may as well go all the way with this...farce.
That lipstick just has to go.
I lifted my gloved hand slowly. He didn't even flinch as I pushed my thumb over his mouth and wiped the fresh smudge off.
"That lipstick doesn't suit you, at all," I snarked, wondering if he got my insinuation.
My thumb slowly removed all of it from his lips and then I scrubbed roughly at his cheek with my fingertips. I could have just about spat on my gloves to get enough moisture to rub it off, like a mom would do to a child with a dirty face. Rosalie's 'smudge' was harder to remove. Having this knowledge was like a premonition.
"Thank you Isabella."
His hand captured my wrist. He inspected my glove, the swirl of pink and burgundy, was an ugly stain against the soft white satin.
"Your gloves are ruined," he stated.
"They're not mine, they were supplied by the generous sponsors." I couldn't help but grin then I bit my tongue.
"Still, something so beautiful should never be tarnished," he breathed and my heart sputtered. Was he talking about the gloves?
He dropped my hand and picked up the other one to place a small kiss over the glove. I could feel the heat from his breath through the fabric.
In that instant I was smitten, enraptured. Never in my entire life had I thought I would want to feel those luscious lips kiss my actual skin.
I stood in a daze. Edward smiled and then, my time was up. Before I could blink he was standing in front of Irina.
I tried to block out their conversation. He was focused on her now, asking her questions about her career. I felt sick to my stomach. He hadn't asked me anything about myself. Actually, I hadn't given him the chance; I'd simply rubbed at his lips and cheek like some feral clean freak. I had wasted my opportunity to connect with him. Then it dawned on me, compared to the women in this room I was not unique or special.
My eyes searched for Alice, she stood in a particular spot by the French doors that led from the foyer to the formal ballroom. She wasn't looking at me, and after a minute, I knew she was deliberately avoiding my gaze. I could feel myself blush.
Charlotte was the last girl and then Zafrina invited everyone to adjourn to the terrace for canapés, champagne and the chance to mingle with Edward.
I couldn't move my Prada encased feet as all the girls swished passed me, their gowns billowing and swirling behind them as the clack of heel on marble reverberated around the room.
I didn't follow. Alice disappeared. I need to get the fuck out of here.
"Bella? Are you alright?" I heard Esme's concerned voice.
I looked down at the lipstick stains on my gloved hand.
"Yes," my voice was shaky. "No," I asserted.
"What is it?" her hands touched my forehead as if I may have a fever. I smiled at her. She was a mom for sure; her genuine concern for me was the only thing in this whole situation that was real.
"He's overwhelming, and he's not the right guy for me," I blurted.
"But you've only spent a few moments with him. How can you make that assumption?" she seemed confused.
"I shouldn't be here–" I stopped myself. I didn't want Alice to get in trouble.
Esme pulled me over to a low chaise that was near the staircase.
"Bella, you're here now and you've been through an awful lot just to get here. Edward is probably just as overwhelmed. Don't you want to get to know him, enjoy your time here?"
"Of course," I said, hit by the sudden realization that we were being filmed and Edward would have access to hear and see this conversation with Esme.
"Take a deep breath, I'll get you some water and you can join the party." Esme phrased the sentence as a mom would, a gentle command that you couldn't disagree with.
"I don't suppose you can pull some strings and get me a beer?" I responded.
Fuck it! I need to do what I had planned to do. Just be myself and go home as the first dumped girl in two weeks.
Esme's face lit up. "Of course I can. Do you need a minute?"
I tried to smile in reassurance as she hurried off.
I can do this. I can be the sassy, assertive woman that I Am. Not to win his affections, the guy didn't need another woman fawning all over him. I suddenly regretted my actions. I should have just left the goddamn lipstick on his perfect skin, his luscious lips.
Alice knew. She knew I'd fall for him.
She'd better not come within earshot until my anger dissipates.
I mingled, but stayed away from Edward, which wasn't hard as his attention was completely dominated by the other girls. Even Kate was smitten. Charlotte hung back with me.
"He really is gorgeous," she said as she sipped her champagne.
I looked over to see Tanya, laughing at something he'd said, her hand resting on his forearm.
I slugged back my second bottle of Heineken, and looked at all the other girls. Edward worked the room, but whenever he got to close to me I casually headed in the opposite direction. I knew I was the only girl actively avoiding speaking to him. If he doesn't get to know me, he'll send me home. If I don't get to know him, I won't fall for him as hard.
That night I had a restless sleep. I dragged myself down to breakfast in time to hear the names of the three girls who would spend the day with Edward.
Charlotte, Jessica and Tanya.
The girls buzzed and blushed while they got ready to meet Edward for an unknown destination.
I spent the day by the pool, lathed in sun block, reading or watching the boats bob and sway on the harbor. I was determined to relax and make the most of my 'vacation' but the inane chatter from the other girls had me feeling as if my head was going to burst.
"They say he's hung like a horse and he's into bondage," whispered Jane.
"I've heard the longest relationship he's ever had was like, two months," purred Rosalie.
"I read that everyone thinks he's bi-sexual, and this has all been staged to prove he's actually straight," snickered Victoria. "No one knows much about his family, only that his dad is some sort of doctor and his mum died when he was seventeen."
I fumbled for my iPod ear-buds, shoving them tightly in my ears and turning the volume up. It's like being back in High School. How can I last twelve more days?
That night, we had dinner with Edward in the grand dining room. There were chair changes in between each course. I excused myself to the powder room each time, knowing that one of the girls would jump in my seat if he planned to sit next to me.
At the end of dinner, the second group outing was announced, an overnight stay in the Hunter Valley wine country. The girls invited were Irina, Kate and Jane.
"Bella, you must be going stir-crazy, I know you wanted to get out and see some things?" said Esme.
"That's OK, Esme, I don't mind."
"Oh?" she said and looked a little perplexed. "Well, I have four tickets to a concert tonight at the Sydney Opera House that the producer gave me," she whispered.
"It has to remain hush-hush to the girls that can't come along. So, who would you suggest I give the other tickets to?"
I couldn't believe Esme was asking me. Does she know Alice and I are best friends?
"Why do you want to take me, Esme? Why don't you go with the producer? Or take Sue and Shelly?" I asked sheepishly. Did Alice set this up, to soften my anger at her?
"Shelley needs to stay here in case the girls remaining need anything, and Sue went on the overnight trip. So Bella, what two girls would you like to come along?"
"Charlotte," I blurted, no hesitation. I thought about it. "Um, Jessica?" she seemed like a safe bet, well, better than Victoria or Tanya.
"Excellent! Be ready and in the foyer at six," Esme smiled and rushed off.
The night was amazing. The Concert Hall was spectacular, and so were the cocktails we consumed at the Opera Bar that overlooked the Sydney Harbor Bridge. I was blown away. Jessica turned out to be really nice, if not a little chatty and Charlotte and I were 'kindred spirits' – her words not mine. Esme, as always looked after us, making sure we were all having fun.
We caught a water taxi across the harbor back to the mansion. I lay in bed, replaying the night in my mind. At least I have this night, the highlight of my time in Australia.
I knew it would be my turn next to go with Victoria and Rosalie on a date with Edward, but was mildly amused when Zafrina announced something unexpected, a group date, on the harbor on a cruiser, all nine girls.
We were told to wear casual light clothing for the boat, but we'd be stopping somewhere nice for lunch.
I remembered how hot it had been by the pool yesterday so I once again lathed my body in sun block, pulled on my sailor shorts and a white tank and blue and white striped Keds. I topped it off with a huge sun hat and sunglasses.
We boarded the cruiser from the jetty. It was glorious. Then Edward arrived, casually dressed in white shorts and a pale blue shirt with white pin stripes over a white T-shirt.
Stop, wait, none of that. I looked away, and went to find Esme.
"Do you think it's OK if I take some photos?" I asked her. "I brought my digital camera."
"Of course Isabella," she smiled at me.
"Please call me Bella. Isabella is so formal, and I kind of hate it." I whispered.
She winked at me.
I made my way to the bow of the boat where the crisp salt air was refreshing. I was glad I'd thought to pull my hair back in a tight braid. The hat had to go though, the wind would have picked it up and blown it away. We powered through the harbor. People on other boats waved as we went by. I took photos of all the landmarks, wishing that Alice had boarded the boat. I missed her. I wanted to tell her about my confusion over the attraction I felt for Edward.
I slowly walked back to the stern, to see most of the girls surrounding Edward, champagne in hand, entranced by him. I observed him; he seemed animated, happy and comfortable. He answered questions, made eye contact. God, he's so attentive. I could not pick if he had a favorite girl.
Suddenly my stomach dropped, and it wasn't the pitch and fall of the boat on the harbor.
I walked briskly with unsteady legs to the bow again. I tried to calm my breathing, but this sharp sting of the air gushing across my cheeks more than contributed to my excitement.
I want to know him. I want his attention. I want him to look at me like that when he's speaking only to me. I pushed my open palm into my chest. There was an ache there, a hollow feeling. I'd never felt before.
"Bella, why are you all alone up here?"
I turned to see Esme; she was frowning.
"It's a little crowded," I breathed.
"You're deliberately avoiding him, aren't you?"
I hesitated then figured they wouldn't air any conversations I had with Esme, because she was supposed to be 'behind the scenes'. Also, the wind was ripping through as the boat powered over the water, I assumed even the most sophisticated microphones would have trouble with 15 knot streaming wind noise. Besides, I missed having someone to confide in.
"Um, kind of. What's the point of getting to know him when he'll be sending me home?"
"Why would you say that?"
"Isn't it obvious." I stated. "Why would he pick me, when he has women like Rosalie and Tanya fawning over him?"
I thought back to my completed application. Alice hadn't lied about my life, it was all fact, even the photograph she'd taken of me was kind of striking, but I'd never really thought about Edward approving the girls that were 'contestants'. Of course he did; he's the executive producer.
My pulse quickened with another foreign feeling. Hope. Hope that he could actually pick me and not send me home in two weeks?
I tried to suffocate the girlish glee I felt.
I stood next to Esme, put my arm around her shoulder and lined up my camera to point it at us and said, "Smile Esme!"
We smooched cheek-to-cheek as I fumbled to depress the shutter one handed and get us lined up as the boat dipped and swayed with speed.
Edward was standing in front of us, smiling at me. His eyes flicked briefly to Esme then he took the camera from my grasp. His long pale fingers lightly brushed my knuckles. His hand was cool.
I tried to suppress my shock at the feeling, but when I looked into his eyes, it was apparent he had seen my reaction.
Edward took some photos of me with Esme. Then Esme stepped forward, took the camera from him and literally pushed him to stand next to me.
"Now you two," she said all motherly and warm, with the most telltale grin of excitement on her face that made me blush.
I stood stock-still, my mouth agape as Edward slid his arm around my back and placed his cool hand on my hip.
"Closer please," Esme chanted, as she stared at the display screen on the back of the camera.
I slowly pushed my trembling hand up and around his back, just as the boat hit the wake of a passing ferry. My fingers like claws grabbed the back of his shirt, clenching tightly. His hand stayed firmly anchored at my hip.
I could feel his body heating up the whole left side of mine. His aroma, the musky spicy scent of cologne that was mixed with him, the smell of his skin mingled with the salt spray of the ocean.
He looked down at me, his features so close, so invitingly close that if I hadn't snapped myself out of it, I would have pushed myself up on tiptoe to kiss his inviting lips.
I looked forward to see Esme had disappeared and Edward and I were now alone.
"I'd love a copy of those photographs," he said, his hand, now extremely warm, still on my hip, my arm still clenched onto his shirt. I closed my eyes, willing myself to pull away from him, but I didn't want to. This is my chance to get to know him...
I slowly uncurled my fingers and turned to face him. His hand stayed on my hip, so I pushed my flat palm on his back.
Oh God, so firm, solid.
He stepped slightly closer to me. I stupidly looked up into his eyes, scorching emerald. I was finding it difficult to breathe.
"Isabella. Can we talk? It feels as though you've been avoiding me and I'm not sure why? Have I done something to upset you?"
I could have sworn I felt his pinky slip underneath my tank, and brush lightly across my skin. The feeling made everything else fade, the harbor, the wind, the boat, the sun.
"No, I mean, yes," I stammered, completely mortified by my loss of brain function.
"I have upset you?" He lowered his face towards me and I stood frozen with desire.
PLEASE KISS ME, I screamed in my head.
But he didn't, he stopped moving, though I could see in his face the emotion he was trying to suppress.
"I-I-I just–" he stuttered.
"There you are, Edward!"
The moment was broken. I snapped out of it. This little fantasy can't go anywhere.
Edward's hand dropped from my hip. He closed his eyes; his nostrils flared with...anger, frustration? I looked to see who it was.
I began my hasty retreat. Edward's hand grabbed my wrist before I could get away. "Please do not leave me alone with her," he begged me in a whisper.
He dropped my arm and turned to face her.
I stood, conflicted. I felt Esme's soft hand on my shoulder.
"I hope you don't mind Bella, I took some photos with your camera."
I looked up to see Tanya latching on to Edward's arm, trying to coax him back to the stern of the cruiser. I should interrupt, go and help him but I couldn't look at him. I simply averted my eyes to my camera, scrolling through the pictures Esme had taken of the harbor, then of Edward and me from a distance, his eyes absorbing me, to the intimate picture of us together, his eyes shining brightly, happily, and then me and Esme.
I stumbled backwards.
"Bella?" Esme called as she followed.
"Stay with Edward," I urged, hoping to fulfill his plea, while keeping a safe distance. "I need the bathroom."
Once inside the small enclosure I sat on the closed toilet seat. What am I doing? I couldn't even speak to him let alone try and work out my feelings.
I suppose I can't avoid him when I finally go on my group date. I'll just keep my distance until then.
I freshened myself up, smoothed down the tendrils of hair that had escaped my tight braid in the wind. When I opened the door, Edward was standing right outside.
He looked upset.
"I'm sorry, I thought Esme would stay with you, I didn't intentionally leave you alone with her," I told him.
I watched as he closed his eyes, his long lashes dark and thick. "We didn't get to talk," he whispered.
I realized our microphones would not be affected from the windy conditions outside.
"Sorry, um...what did you want to talk about?" I sounded unbelievably cold.
He furrowed his brow in a confused expression.
"Did you want to see the photos?" I blurted, thrusting the camera in his hand.
He looked at the camera display and smiled as he searched through. "Can I get a copy of all of them, please?" he asked.
"Sure, what's your email address?" I answered automatically, not thinking.
"I shouldn't –"
"Oh right, that's probably against the rules isn't it?" I looked to the floor.
"I'll set up a gmail account. You can email them there tonight?" he suggested, handing me back the camera.
"OK," I looked at the pictures. He wanted all of them; some had the other girls in the background, the most prominent being Rosalie.
"What address will it be?"
"How about you pick a word randomly, and I'll pick a word randomly and then that will be the address I'll set up later tonight." He smiled and stepped closer.
"OK, what's your word?" I smiled, hoping he wouldn't come any nearer, but silently wishing the boat would dip or hit a wave so I could innocently fall into his arms.
"My word is Beautiful," he said as he stared at my lips.
"My word is... Edward," I said shyly.
He smirked at me. "I'll set it up by nine."
That night I downloaded the pictures to my MacBook. I started attaching them, thinking I should leave the ones of me out. I typed in his address, knowing he would now know my email address.
I emailed him at exactly 9:05pm.
I opened an email from Alice, sent yesterday evening:
To: Swan, Bella
From: Brandon, Alice
Subject: Don't be mad
Yes, I arranged the tickets to the Opera House, but I didn't tell Esme to invite you, she picked you all on her own OK? I won't meddle. Edward has chosen all the group dates, so I have no control over what day you get to go. I've been dying to tell you a couple of things, but the timing is wrong. I know you think you'll be the first to be sent home, but I'm pretty sure Edward will send someone else home first, at least from the footage I've seen. It means you will be here a little longer!
I'm trying to arrange a time to get to talk to you alone, but it's just not possible. The editor is kind of super dependent, and if I didn't know any better, I'd say he has a crush on me :) I can tell you that the huge fig tree down opposite the jetty is out of audio range and there are no cameras on that section of the property. So, if you need some alone time, like I mean unrecorded alone time...maybe I'll be able to find you there one night if I can get away.
I love you Bella, I miss you, even though I see and hear you everyday.
I closed the email. "I miss you too." I said aloud, knowing if she were watching me, she'd know I was speaking of her.
I was about to close down my mail when I noticed I had a new message from Edward.
To: Swan, Bella
From: Beautiful Edward
Subject: Re: 8 great iPhoto's
Do you prefer Bella to Isabella?
You neglected to attach the photos of you and your minder, and the ones of us together.
Please let me know why you're avoiding me? I know you went through a lot to be considered, so why are you backtracking now, am I not your 'type'?
I stared at the email, my face flaming red. How in the fuck to reply? I knew he'd be a pompous shit.
Did he expect me to be like Tanya? To grope him and laugh and follow him around like a lost puppy? I thought back to how I was a blubbering red-faced, incoherent bimbo in his presence and I shook with frustration at myself.
Fuck you Edward Cullen!
To: Beautiful Edward
From: Swan, Bella
Subject: Re: Re: 8 great iPhoto's
Yes, Bella is my preferred name, but YOU can call me Isabella.
My avoidance is my way of communicating to you that since arriving here, I have realized that 'winning' this game show is not my goal. Why would I want to pimp myself to a man who obviously feels the need to publicize openly the fact he can hand-pick out of a pool of ten thousand plus, eight beautiful women. Women expected to preen themselves in the latest designer fashions (by my calculation, the contents of each woman's wardrobe is in excess of $250k - that's $2.25million just in clothes and shoes, not to mention the cosmetics and jewelry).
Why would I consciously choose to have every intimate conversation recorded for the WORLD to see and be happy that the said man is effectively dating eight girls at once...?
If I want to be in a relationship, I want to know he's only interested in dating me and me alone, and that he accepts that maybe some women don't want to be dressed-up in designer gowns or wear expensive jewelry to play the part of trophy girlfriend under 24 hour surveillance, and that maybe just maybe I have an individualism that would be stunted wearing someone else's approved 'style' and that the thought of wearing such clothes when the value of the collection could give a very needy charity enough money to keep afloat?
I am avoiding you Mr Cullen because we have nothing in common whatsoever, so no, you are not my 'type'.
Yes, I find you dashing and charming, and you make me feel things I never thought possible. I'm flustered and incoherent in your presence, why would I want to inflict myself with that? I'm sure you won't be offended, I have the right to change my mind, regardless of the fact I 'went through a lot to be considered' by you.
I wish you luck in your quest to find the perfect woman, one that will look glamorous on your arm while you showcase yourself using television as the medium. I'd rather keep my personal life personal...and I believe any intimacy between two people that are keenly attracted to each other should be kept private. I'm sorry that I didn't have the forethought to comprehend this before I was 'considered' as a contestant on One in a Billion... more fool me.
I am no longer in need of your consideration.
The missing photos are attached for your viewing pleasure. Have a nice evening.
I regretted sending the email as soon as it left my outbox. Edward wouldn't know my connection to Alice. He thinks I want to be here to 'win' him. He must think I'm a delusional psycho now after that high and mighty rant. God I'm such an idiot.
I had a fitful sleep. My nerves frayed. I wanted him to send me home, purely because I was too embarrassed to face him. I was being a bratty and insane twenty-seven year old.
The group date was announced. Me, Rosalie and Victoria.
We were told to wear casual street clothing, from our own belongings. A car would collect us at exactly nine in the morning and we were to be ready and waiting in the foyer.
I was nauseous when I walked into the foyer at 8:55am. The day was overcast, so I wore my comfy jeans, a retro T-shirt and I carried my favorite faded New York Yankee's cap; exactly what I would have worn at home.
I didn't even wash my hair, and apart from a little mascara, I was makeup free. Edward knew my mind now, and well, he'd just have to suffer me as is, jagged bitten fingernails and all.
Rosalie appeared in the foyer. She was dressed in tight distressed denim jeans and a light grey jacket. Her shoes were designer and at least three inches high.
Victoria bounded down the stairs, also in heels plus a tight jeans skirt and tank, with no jacket.
Rosalie grinned excitedly at me. "I wonder where we're going?" she gushed then walked purposefully past me and out the door.
The car that pulled up wasn't a limo. It was a mini bus. The driver greeted us. We still had no clue where we were going and I could tell Rosalie was a little annoyed by that fact.
We pulled up in front of a large elementary school. I spotted Edward talking to some student's then two adults, presumably teachers. They all piled on the bus, Edward behind them. He smiled at the three of us, not singling out anyone before he spoke.
"OK," he said, his voice firm and commanding. "This is Rosalie, Victoria and Isabella," he gestured to each of us. My pulse quickened when he said my name. "Let's get going," he told the driver. The bus pulled away from the curb.
Edward sat next to the driver, effectively dismissing the three of us.
My email had made him angry.
Instead of feeling good about it I felt wretched.
The entire twenty-minute drive had me thinking up ways to apologize to Edward. But then I'd get back to the same point. Everything I'd said in that email was true.
We ended up at a center for indigenous youth. The plight of young Aboriginal students was a sad one. They were less likely than their non-indigenous friends to get through High School and go to college. The center provided a place of education and inspiration, a place they could go to get one-on-one tutorials in areas of study they were lacking and a place that held regular indigenous events.
Today was an event to showcase their talents as performers.
I got to take aside some younger students to read with them. Rosalie took some girls aside to help them paint and Victoria, along with Edward, sat with another group in the music room to play piano and guitar.
Then the kids all gathered together to go on stage and perform.
It was the best morning ever. Even Victoria and Rosalie were speechless at the responsiveness of the children. A couple of them got a bit disruptive and started annoying the on site camera crew, but overall they were genuinely interested in us, and eager to show their talents.
I got to talk to a young boy who liked my New York Yankee's cap.
"Have you been to New York?" he asked me. His name was Nahuel and he never left my side.
"Yes, it's an amazing place. My dad took me there. Here, would you like this cap? I can get another when I go back."
"Nah," he said "The cops will think I stole it, I'd feel bad that you don't have your cap." He grimaced.
"Why would the Police think that you stole it?" I queried, completely perplexed.
"Because I'm a black fella, they know I don't have enough money to buy it. All cops are pigs." He scoffed with a genuine hatred that had me reeling with surprise and horror.
"My dad's a cop. I can tell you, not all police are like that. My dad is the best. He spends his days looking after people and making sure people are given equal rights," I blurted, suddenly overcome with emotion.
"Your dad?" he looked amazed.
"Yes, and I'm giving this cap to you as a gift. It was my dad that took me to a Yankee's game and he bought it for me. Really, Nahuel, I want you to have it."
His face lit up as he flipped the cap around, hip-hop rapper style. "Wow, your dad is a cop, in New York?"
"No, in the small town I grew up in."
"Oh," he said. "Whaddya think? Do I Iook like a famous rapper from New York?"
I stared at his face that was alight with happiness and pride.
"Yes, and one day, you will go to New York and show them what an Australian rapper can do. You just need to work hard for it, get an education, and make it your goal. Dreams can come true."
He playfully punched my arm. "You're really pretty ya know," he said with a blush. "I think that rich dude Ed really likes ya, ya know, he keeps watching. He hasn't even looked at the blond or the ranga chick."
I looked across the room to see Edward, staring at me. He looked away.
"I like him too," I whispered.
At the conclusion of the day, Edward presented a check for one million Australian dollars to the Center to carry on their work. I stood in a panic of confusion. He avoided my stares as she shook the Center Director's hand. The kids were ecstatic, the money would be used to enhance the facilities, buy new instruments, and employ a full-time literacy teacher.
There was no way Edward could have set this up overnight; it was obvious he had always planned to take me on this particular group date. I suddenly felt awful. I had accused him of being shallow and materialistic, yet here he was giving money away to an organization that really needed it.
Edward handed the keys to the minibus to the Center Director as an additional gift that they could use to ensure the students got home safely as well as being used for off-site day trips.
The Director was beside himself thanking Mr Masen, and it wasn't until he said it a few times that it clicked. Masen? Edward Masen? The name was recognizable to me because Edward Masen was a very generous supporter of many of the charities I volunteered for. Edward gives millions of dollars annually to charities under the name Masen, not Cullen? Why?
So many questions, but I didn't get a chance to ask any, as a limo picked us up to take us back to the mansion. Edward didn't come with us.
The next week went slowly. Many group dates, even some one-on-one dates, that obviously didn't include me. Edward was avoiding me this time and the sense of foreboding I felt was debilitating.
Every evening I'd go to the fig tree and wait for Alice.
She didn't show up.
Every night my dreams were of Edward, of holding him, touching him, kissing those beautiful lips. I'd wake up disoriented and morbid.
Before I knew it, it was time for the first girl to go home. I knew I couldn't stay. I'd lied to him, by not telling him about Alice. I'd also misjudged him; my email no doubt offended him. I'd blown my chance to get to know the real Edward Cullen. Him sending me home was all for the best.
It was time to meet in the ballroom for the first farewell. I was dressed in a designer gown, all my belongings packed. My fingers were literally trembling as I typed:
To: Beautiful Edward
From: Swan, Bella
I'm sorry about the curtness of my last email. I regret sending it. I came into this mansion with preconceived idea about who you were and why you would do this. I've misjudged you and not given myself the luxury of getting to know you better.
I only have myself to blame.
If I could go back, I would. I would have spoken to you, I would have listened to your funny stories and enquired about your charitable efforts. I would have been open to this experience.
I can't go back. I also can't change who I am. I'm a private person. I meant what I said. I can't be with someone so publicly. I want to be with someone that only wants me. Your life is in the spotlight, even more so after this TV show airs. I couldn't be what you need me to be, a doting public girlfriend that would be happy being seen at media events and public outings, wearing the expensive clothes and the flashy jewelry. I couldn't be myself knowing that eyes, millions of eyes were watching us.
I regret not letting you see the real me. Bella Swan.
I'm a homebody. My idea of a great night would be curled up on the sofa, a good movie, a nice bottle of Italian Pinot grigio and air-popped corn, no butter. I talk in my sleep. I hate wearing synthetic fabrics. I live for my favorite charities and my best friend, who I miss terribly. My favorite food is strawberries (even my shampoo is strawberry scented). I love to read the classics and watch science programs on the discovery channel.
I'll always regret wearing those damn satin gloves...I never got to feel your lips on my skin.
Goodbye Edward Cullen. Edward Masen. I hope you find the girl, your one girl.
I clicked on the send button.
I promised myself I wouldn't cry. But the dam burst. I pushed myself into the bathroom. Cynical and bitchy Bella Swan is getting what she deserves. Edward will be happier with someone like Rosalie, or Charlotte.
"Bella," familiar arms surrounded me.
"Alice!" I held her tightly; not wanting to ever let her go.
"It's OK, Bella."
"No, it's not. I've ruined everything." I blubbered.
"Bella, I told Edward."
"I told him that I forced you to come, that it was me being selfish, that I didn't give you a choice and that you couldn't say no because you've always wanted to come to Australia, since we were in elementary school, remember? We discovered my mom's old video of Grease. You fell in love with Olivia Newton-John and wanted to be her." Alice smiled.
"But Alice, won't you get fired? I never wanted to get you in trouble."
"I won't, Edward understands."
I watched as Alice listened to a voice in her headset.
"We have to get you fixed up to go down there Bella. He's sending you home. We thought it was for the best. If the media ever found out I'd had a hand in getting you selected, well, it could jeopardize the whole production and alienate our sponsors with bad publicity. I'm so sorry for putting you through this. I hope you can forgive me."
I sat unmoving as Alice fixed up my panda eyes. I contemplated that Edward knew. Somehow the knowledge made me feel a little less like the fraud I was.
As Alice walked me to the Ballroom, she whispered what would happen. Edward would give each girl he wanted to stay a bouquet of a yellow Australian native flowers. Then the last girl left would get to say her goodbyes. The limo would be waiting, the girl would be taken to the Park Hyatt and the flight left the next morning at 10am.
I composed myself.
I stood in the line of girls.
I watched as Edward, charming and warm, called each girls name to present them with the beautiful floral arrangement.
A little piece of my heart died when he gave out the last bouquet and Zafrina asked me to step forward.
"Isabella, thank you for spending this time with us here on One in a Billion," she smiled sadly at me.
"You can say your goodbyes."
I turned and walked straight up to Charlotte. "Goodbye, email me, kindred-spirit," I whispered and kissed her cheek. Then I walked to Kate, "I'll miss you." I said and gave her a hug.
I said goodbye to all the girls and then I stepped to Edward.
He looked incredulous and slightly uneasy as he took my hand. There was nothing there, no connection, nothing. The feeling of desire I held, I knew I would never feel again; not for anyone but him.
"Thank you Edward, for allowing me this opportunity. I hope you are insanely happy when you find the right girl for you." it took every ounce of self-respect and willpower not to break down.
I stepped back, but he didn't let go of my hand. The last thing I wanted him to do was to kiss me. I knew I would lose my mind.
I pulled my hand away abruptly and left the room.
Esme was waiting for me. So was the camera crew, who wanted me to say a few words before my departure.
"I know Edward will find the right girl, it was obvious, that wasn't me. I wish everyone the best of luck. I'm sad to leave this beautiful country when there is so much more to see, but I'll come back one day. Thank you."
Thirty minutes later I was checked in the hotel. Esme and I sat on the bed.
"Bella, I'm here if you want to talk about it."
"I've done a really stupid thing, Esme."
She instantly wrapped her arms around me like my mom would have done, and that was it; I burst into uncontrollable sobs.
"Bella, it's OK," she soothed. "Everything will work out."
"No, it won't, I've done it again, I always do it. I self sabotage, and now Edward will never know what I really feel for him."
"What do you feel, Bella?"
"I– I– I think I'm in love with him."
Esme rocked me, she smoothed my hair and she rubbed my back.
"I knew you were from the moment you touched his face. You hated the other girls marks on him, just as much as he did." She crooned. "I knew he felt it to, he can't hide those types of reactions from me, not anymore."
I stared at her in confusion.
"I always told him the TV idea was a bad one, but he insisted that it was the only way to weed out the women that were only after him for his money, and to find someone that had the desire to understand what it's like for him. He never knows what people really think of him, what they see in him, they always prejudge him based on his wealth."
"How do you know all this? You've met Edward before the show?" I queried.
"Oh Bella, I thought Alice would have told you. I'm Edward's step-mother."
My gut bottomed out and my heart raced. Everything I've ever said…
I held my clenched fist at my chest. What did it matter? Edward would have seen everything, heard everything anyway.
My devastation was complete now; even my friendship with Esme was ruined because I have effectively ruined everything.
There was a loud bashing on the door.
"I won't be far, I've leave you two to talk." Esme sighed.
I buried my face in my hands when I heard the door clicked closed. I was waiting for Alice to approach me to soothe me, just like Esme had, but she didn't. I couldn't blame her.
"I'm so sorry Alice." I breathed. "Please don't hate me, I hate myself already, I can't believe how stupid I've been. I don't want him to be with anyone but me."
I felt the bed depress as she sat next to me and without thought I reached to wrap my arms around her. My hands felt a firm muscled body, not a slim soft one.
It wasn't Alice.
My head snapped up to see Edward, his eyes red, his face white. "Bella," he moaned my name and then his thumbs brushed the tears from my cheeks.
"Edward," I whimpered.
What I did next was inexcusable, but I couldn't think of anything else. I launched myself into his arms, my lips found his, kissing passionately as my hands found purchase around his neck and my body straddled his.
He started kissing me back, his hands touching my hair, his soft lips held the taste of champagne, he grunted as he pulled me close to his chest.
I was gone. I am in love.
He'll never be mine. I've ruined everything, and now I didn't care, all I wanted was Edward. I wanted him.
"Make love to me," I breathed into his neck as I pushed my body forward. I could feel he was aroused. He wants me too?
"We, I, Bella, we have to talk," he groaned.
"No, please, just touch me. I need you Edward."
"Bella, please. I want to do this right."
I hung my head. Of course he doesn't want me, he's sending me home. Silent tears continued down my cheeks. I had no idea what to do, how to reconcile the way he made me feel and my internal conflict with all of it. I wrote in the email that I didn't want to inflict myself with the uncertainty of the emotions, with being flustered and incoherent in his presence. I now knew that was a lie. I would endure anything to be with him, lack of privacy, public shame...
"I want what you do. I want to be with you." Edward's velvet voice sent shivers down my spine. "I don't want it to be a public relationship, anymore than you. I hate that my personal life makes headline news. This, this stupid reality show, it was my way of finding someone, because I never have. Bella, every woman I've met wanted to be on my arm, wanted me to buy her expensive gifts. Don't you see, you're the only woman that didn't want to be with me because of those things."
"We've barely spoken. How can you know for sure? How can you make that type of statement, knowing you have to stay here?"
He wrapped his arms around me and pulled me close. "I know how you feel about me. I've heard and seen it. You can't fake that type of honesty, what I know, how I know. Bella, we have to try. You have to wait for me to finish this show. We can go away together. There's nothing I want more than the chance to try, for us to be together. Give me five months; time to complete filming, for the show to air. After that, we can be together, however you want me. I need you in my life."
He kissed me. It was slow, sensual. I returned his kiss, my head was light, my mind trying to understand what he was saying and why.
"You've been watching me?" I breathed out when he pulled away. Suddenly I realized just what he may have seen and heard. "Oh God, my dreams, what did I say aloud?" I cried and buried my head against his neck.
"Enough for me to know how you feel, what you want."
Edward's hands ran up my back over my shoulder and into my hair, his other hand touched my face. It was intimate, loving. We kissed, and then my need became unendurable.
"Show me. This one night and then in five months, more, everything."
"That's not fair to you. I can't make love to you and then send you away. It would kill me," he moaned.
"Killing me is denying me the chance to show you how I really feel. This one night, with me. You may not want me in five months Edward. How can I let you walk through those doors not knowing how much I want you, what I want to give you? Please." I begged.
I kissed him, needy and wanton. My tongue in his mouth. I was unable to hide my desire. Yes, the dreams, all about him, naked, slowly making love to me, whispering words of endearment, promises of a life together.
"Bella," he moaned.
He gently laid my back on the bed, his hands running down my neck to my shoulders.
"Tell me this is what you want. Tell me you can let me take you and then send you away, that you won't completely hate me for it, that in five months your feelings won't change," his words sounded desperate.
Soft, warm hands removed my clothing, wet delicate kisses all over my exposed skin. His hands roaming, his fingers searching. My head was spinning, his attentive worship of my body sending chills through me.
We lay together, naked. Exposed. There was nothing but each other's touch. There was no one else in my thoughts, just Edward. Everything was so right.
His kisses deepened and then his hands started slowly so lightly exploring me. He absorbed the whimpers that unconsciously escaped me.
His kisses drifted down, down my trembling body. His hands, light, unhurried swirled around, gauging by my bodies automatic reaction at how he was making me feel.
Then, in a dizzying realization his head was between my legs. I felt long soft kisses and languid licks. I wanted him inside me, all of him. My hands massaged his shoulders, as I thrust into his mouth. The lightness of his touch slow torture, my body aching to feel him.
Time seemed to slow. Why did I want to rush it?
I didn't. This night had to last in my memories forever. I was too pessimistic to think that he could want me, after this one night. I desperately hoped that he would, but I would never hold him to it.
A loud foreign moan of pleasure escaped my lips as I felt Edward push a finger into me and start rubbing while he continued to lick me.
My body shook and I could feel my skin flush with heat. I came, gasping for breath after a few firm rhythmic strokes.
"Edward," I cried out, tugging on his shoulders as he continued to slowly, softly slide his fingers in and out.
"Oh God Bella," he moaned. "I felt it," he whispered as he started slowly crawling up the bed to hover over me.
His eyes, so attentive and so close to me, absorbing me. I caught a glimpse of something there...doubt? No, no, please! I couldn't bear it if he shut me down now.
I slowly wound my hand around his shaft. "I want you, don't doubt it, ever. I'll wait for you Edward. I'm yours; I'm your one girl. Please..."
His chest was heaving; his eyes wide as he continued to stare at me and then I pulled him, guided him inside, just the tip.
Fuck! I was saturated with want.
I could sense the strain through his arms as he held himself over me.
I kept my hips still; I needed to know he wanted me too.
He didn't move.
I closed my eyes. Stinging silent tears gathered. My chest tightened, my head throbbed.
He doesn't want me, this way.
"Bella, open your eyes." he pleaded.
I lifted my lids, releasing the tears that flowed down my cheeks and onto my neck.
"I need to make this promise to you," he said with a strained and shaky voice. "I need you to believe me. You are the one, I have no doubt. Give me five months. I won't fail you. We'll be together. We don't have to consummate this right now. I want you to be sure, I want to know you're not just doing this because you think I won't be true to my word."
My body clenched around him. Oh God. As if I would stop this, he's right there, just inside; the need I felt was dizzying.
"You don't need to promise me. I'll wait Edward. There's no one else I'll ever want but you. Please...kiss me." I sobbed.
"Bella," he moaned and I didn't hesitate. I pulled his neck down and his body sank with it. He filled me completely as his lips connected with mine. I could feel his full body weight against me, heavy, solid, warm, encasing me with love. I felt loved.
We made love, together.
It was slow and sure. He was so attentive and present. His eyes roaming my face; memorizing me?
I kissed him, wanting to remember his taste, his soft lips, the first part of his body I'd touched. The satin gloves, stained and crumpled were hidden in my bag. The only item I couldn't bear to leave behind.
He stayed with me all night. We slept in each other's arms.
When we woke the next morning, I wasn't sad. I couldn't stop smiling.
Edward carried me, laughing, and elated to the shower. It was my turn to memorize him; the suppleness of his skin over firm muscles, the rough texture of his stubble under my tongue. The water dripping from his hair, his beautiful dark wet eyelashes clumped together. Edward's large, powerful soft hands, were touching, stroking and soothing me.
We made love standing, Edward balancing me against the cool marble wall as he held my ass in his hands in the shower.
I refused to believe it was the end.
Our beginning would be delayed, but I knew I'd wait until the ends of time to be Edward's.
His one in a billion.
One in a Billion (TV Series)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
OiaB is an American reality television dating game show debuting in 2010 on ABC. The show is hosted by former British catwalk model Zafrina.
The billionaire was bachelor Edward Anthony Cullen, 28, who was also the executive producer of the show. He appeared on Oprah after the series ended with his selected winner, former Sports Illustrated model and promotions consultant, Rosalie Hale. Said to be committed to "make it work", it was revealed several weeks after the Oprah pre-recorded special aired that Cullen "needed to spend time evaluating his life and businesses out of the public eye."
Rosalie Hale has since been photographed repeatedly with her former College boyfriend, Human Rights Lawyer Emmett McCarty.
The production company that developed the OiaB concept has refused to comment about frequent rumors the show was a set-up, with Hale receiving a lucrative financial payment to keep up the appearance that she was in a romantic relationship with Cullen. All nine contestants had signed a non-disclosure agreement that had a five-year lifespan.
Alice Brandon, the series producer was quoted before the Oprah special as saying "Edward is very much in love. I think we should all thank him for the brief glimpse he allowed into his life as a successful businessman. Now is the time to let the young lovers live in privacy, as we would want to do if we'd found our One in a Billion."
Several blogs have been set up to track down the elusive Cullen and keep up to date postings on all nine girls that appeared in the series.
Most of the women have retreated completely from the spotlight.
Charlotte Mendell, 29, the seventh woman eliminated from the show, married Peter Ashcroft, a sound engineer that she met whilst the show was being filmed in Sydney, Australia. Kate Manchester, 30, the fourth woman eliminated went on to create her own New York based fashion label, riding on the back of the show. It is rumored Edward Cullen was the angel investor involved in the business start up. Tanya Denali, 27, by far the most dramatic elimination, went on to appear in B-grade Hollywood film, Face Punch. To date, she still maintains that she and Cullen had a 'spiritual connection' that he 'didn't have the emotional capacity to understand'.
The first girl eliminated, Isabella Swan, 27, returned to Seattle afterwards, quitting her job working for a charitable fundraiser to go into hiding, citing increased recognition and embarrassment at being the first woman rejected by Cullen. It was leaked after the series ended that Swan was a former roommate of producer Alice Brandon, and when one of the selected girls withdrew from the show three days before filming, Swan stepped in to ensure the tight production was not halted. Industry sources say this story appears to be true, as there is no record of Swan's application or a show-reel of her video entry, a mandatory requirement in the rigorous assessment of each contestant.
Several blogs have speculated that a person resembling Swan was seen in Brazil with Cullen; arm in arm and obviously in love. A fuzzy wide shot of the couple appears frequently online. Cullen appears heavily bearded and Swan's hair now raven black. The supposed couple was also spotted on the Whitsunday Islands in Queensland, Australia as recently as last month. Theories range from the sublime to the ridiculous, all un-founded, but speculation is rife that Cullen did indeed find his one in a Billion, and promptly eliminated her from the show, only to resume their relationship in private five months later.
Regardless of the theories, the ratings were staggering. One in a Billion came a close second only to Survivor. It beat out The Apprentice, America's Next Top Model and Extreme Makeover. Plans are afoot for to do a second series. Names are currently being put forward to the now executive producer Alice Brandon, all of which are being kept under wraps.
A/N: I can't wait to find out who made the banner for my little story. Yes, my tongue is in my cheek. Glad I could make my wonderful beta CandyTwi cringe with my non-PC 'sly' Bella.
Don't even pretend you never watched at least one season of The Bachelor religiously! What, no really, no one? Those that did can leave me a review (please).
Now imagine the ratings of the show and the catfights that would ensue if Robert Pattinson went on such a show. TOTAL CARNAGE! I think I speak for all of us when I say Robert is our One in a Billion xx
Thanks for reading. Luv BBxx