So... this little ditty was my Love Is In The Air contest entry. It won 1st place in the public vote and 2nd place in the judge's vote. Huge thanks to sophiejax (Jaxon 22), Bleriana, Phoenixfan1, HollettLA, and sscana for this, as well as everyone who voted. HUGE ;)
Thanks to my beta, Stratan, for being lightning fast with this... but not for all the shit he gave me about a certain um, something. Not cool, dude. I'm still mad at you *narrows eyes*. Thanks to johnnyboy7 for prereading and giving me some amazing feedback on it. I need to borrow your Eagle. You know why...
I am aware (now) that there's a part that is similar to Sophia Kinsella's Can You Keep A Secret? (I think that's right). As you can tell, I've not read the book, but just like with Stephenie Meyer, no copyright infringement was intended. I don't own it or Twilight. Boo.
Love Is In The Air Oneshot Contest
Title: Come Fly With Me
Rated: M for some language and a lemon
Word Count: 9,997
Summary: Despite her fear of heights, Bella books a flight to Chicago to complete a book deal with a demanding author. But fear of flying isn't Bella's only problem. With just a few twists of fate, Bella learns that the man sitting next to her on the plane isn't who she thought he was at all.
Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight and its characters; I'm merely playing with them.
Come Fly With Me
Bella sighed heavily as she crawled into bed with her laptop. She reached out for the glass of wine she'd set on the nightstand and took a long, deep pull of the heavy liquid while her laptop continued to boot up. This was her favorite time of day, when she could push away everything that had gone wrong and lose herself in what she loved the most.
No one knew about Bella's secret hobby, but if they had, no one would be surprised. Fan fiction was just an extension of what Bella spent her entire life doing: reading. She'd even made a career out of it. Every day, she poured over manuscripts that came into her office and worked deals with the authors who'd written them. She loved her job, and mostly, her life. However, today had proven to be… horrible, to say the least. The latest manuscript to find its way to her desk was brilliant. It was smart, sexy, captivating, and had just enough humor and action to keep a reader on their toes.
It was too bad she couldn't say the same for its author.
Masen Anthony was difficult and demanding. She'd spent hours with his agent on the phone, trying to come up with some way to get him to sign with her. Nothing she offered him was satisfactory, and she got the distinct impression that he wasn't truly interested in becoming published with her company. She hated how much time she'd wasted on this one, particular author when there were millions of other hopefuls waiting in line. Bella had an eye for talent, and Masen Anthony had an overabundance of it. If the man hadn't had such a gift, she could have tossed the manuscript in the shredder and sent him on his way.
But that wasn't an option. Her boss had made that perfectly clear. It was either get Anthony to sign or find another job.
She focused on her laptop and opened her browser, burying her hand deep in the fur of her Balinese, Viola, and smiling when the feline purred in contentment.
Shopping for plane tickets, she thought, feeling a spurt of fear run through her. She was terrified of planes. Well, it wasn't so much the aircraft itself, but the thought of plummeting tens of thousands of feet down to the ground at unsurvivable speeds that frightened her. She hated heights—loathed them, really—yet here she was, booking a roundtrip flight from Seattle to Chicago, all for one measly manuscript. She'd lived in the Olympic Peninsula all her life and had never even stepped foot in the Space Needle.
Considering this trip just proved that she'd clearly lost her mind. No job—no author—was going to be worth what she'd have to go through to get there.
Browsing through the numerous ticket options, she heard the familiar pinging sound of her chat program. She beamed; she couldn't help herself. That ping sent an electrifying rush through her every time. She toggled over to the appropriate tab and let her smile widen further.
She knew nothing concrete about the man pinging her, but he still felt familiar from the few small details she'd picked up in their many chats over the last few months. They'd randomly come in contact with one another in one of the many forums designated for fan fiction and started talking about one particular 'fic', which then progressed into more. He shared her passion for books, and was one of the only seemingly straight men she knew willing to give her guilty pleasure a shot. He was perfect on paper: smart, witty, kind, successful. She had no idea what he looked like, but it didn't seem to matter. It only added to the mystery.
EAMC0604: Reading anything good?
She shook her head, even though he couldn't see it.
BookLuver0913: No. I'm booking plane tickets, actually. Are you?
EAMC0604: Wait, what? Plane tickets? I thought you hated to fly.
Bella giggled, and then cut it off when she realized how ridiculous she sounded.
BookLuver0913: I do. But I have to go on a trip for work.
EAMC0604: Ah. Where are you going?
BookLuver0913: You there?
You're not going to believe this, but I actually live in Chicago.
Bella's heart stupidly stuttered in excitement. What was it about this man that made her so giddy?
BookLuver0913: No shit?
EAMC0604: None. At all. I assure you that my apartment's perfectly clean.
She laughed at his attempt at a joke.
EAMC0604: Possibly. So have you made your flight arrangements yet?
BookLuver0913: I was working on that now, actually.
Eamc0604: When are you flying out?
BookLuver0913: As soon as I can so… Monday. I need to close this deal.
EAMC0604: I have a suggestion.
BookLuver0913: Which is?
EAMC0604: Spend a few extra days in Chicago. I could show you around over the weekend or something.
Bella's heart nearly thumped right out of her chest, and for a moment, all she could do was stare at the screen in disbelief. He actually wanted to meet her.
The pinging sound startled her, which in turn, disturbed Viola. She meowed unhappily and jumped off of the bed, slowly walking over to her usual spot in the corner and plopping down unceremoniously.
Bella turned her attention back to the screen and noticed she'd kept him waiting longer than usual.
"Keep it cool," she murmured to herself. "He could have eleven toes or three nipples or have a giant wart on his face." Her face scrunched up in disgust with the last one. "Ew."
The words might have come out of her mouth, but she didn't believe any of them. She wasn't sure how, but she just knew this man was gorgeous.
BookLuver0913: Seriously? You'd want to hang out with a loser like me?
EAMC0604: Ha. Ha. Funny. And yes, I do. I talk to you almost every day. It's only right that I finally meet the girl behind the handle and vice versa.
Bella, unfortunately, thought of herself as plain. Nondescript, long, wavy brown hair to match her nondescript, wide brown eyes. She was thin, yes, but lacked the curves so many other women had. She hated to admit all of this to him, but there was no point in watching his face turn down in disappointment when he finally laid eyes on her.
She took a deep breath and typed out her thoughts.
BookLuver0913: I'm nothing special. Believe me.
EAMC0604: I highly doubt that.
Bella's cheeks flamed at his response, but it did nothing to boost her confidence.
EAMC0604: So will you do it? We can be tourists together.
BookLuver0913: How can you be a tourist if you live there?
EAMC0604: Easy. It's called pretending. You should try it sometime. I hear children are masters at it.
BookLuver0913: I'm rolling my eyes. Too bad you can't see them.
EAMC0604: Come on. Don't make me beg.
BookLuver0913: Begging's not necessary. I'll be there. I just might be drugged up beyond lucidity.
EAMC0604: That sounds interesting. What's your drug of choice? Ativan? Valium? Xanax?
BookLuver0913: You know an awful lot about anxiety meds. It's kind of scary. You're not planning to lock me in a basement somewhere, are you? Because I'll warn you, my dad's a cop. He'd be on your ass in a heartbeat.
EAMC0604: Lol. Definitely not. But it's good to be cautious. Maybe someone could come with you. You could probably use some support on the flight, anyway.
Bella hadn't thought of that. As much she knew she should be leery of meeting some strange man halfway across the country, she wasn't. Bella couldn't find it in her anywhere to be scared. She was simply… happy at the prospect of finally meeting him. And for the slim chance for sex. It'd been far too long since Bella had a man in her bed.
"That's depressing," she scolded herself. "Stop thinking about that."
BookLuver0913: I can probably clear my assistant to go with me. Is that ok with you?
EAMC0604: Sure. Let's just… keep how we know each other a secret. If anyone knew… Jesus fuck. I'm shuddering.
BookLuver0913: Haha. Ok. Got it. So we can meet you at a restaurant or something, and then you can show us around.
EAMC0604: Not necessary. I'll come pick you up from your hotel.
BookLuver0913: Now that's not necessary. I can find my way around Chicago just fine.
EAMC0604: Not the point. My mother would kill me if she found out I let a couple pretty girls roam the city by themselves. Chivalry and all.
Bella ignored the "pretty" comment and opted for sarcasm instead.
BookLuver0913: How sweet. You're still not picking me up.
EAMC0604: You like to argue, don't you?
BookLuver0913: I have been known to, yes.
EAMC0604: Ok, no picking you up. I've got to go. I'll be on later if you want to read. I've got a good one for you to try. I think you'll really like it.
Bella grinned again, anticipating a new read.
BookLuver0913: Ok. I'll be here. See ya then.
Bella quickly closed the chat box and started perusing flights again. She absent-mindedly picked up her cell phone and dialed her assistant, Alice, as she attempted to figure out the layover times, but she was completely clueless.
"What amount of time is good for a layover?" she asked when Alice answered.
"An hour or so in case of a delay," Alice responded. "But I'm sure you could get a direct flight. Why?"
"We're flying to Chicago next week," Bella answered, clicking on one of the flights.
"You don't fly so again, why?"
"You know why."
Alice sighed. "You're being awfully vague; it's a good thing I keep up with everything you do at work and know that jackass author lives in Chicago. I'll put in the schedule that we'll be gone from Monday to Wednesday at the latest. If he hasn't agreed in two days, I'd say forget it, Bella."
"Um…" Bella could almost hear Alice's curiosity over the line. "Yeah, let's make it a week. This guy's… I really need that book."
"Alice," Bella groaned. "Don't make me."
"Spill it now, Swan. Why exactly are we going to Chicago? And don't you dare leave out any details."
"Okay, fine. Yes, we're going to Chicago to seal the deal with Anthony because if we don't, I'll lose my job." She ignored Alice's gasp of surprise. "I just… uh, might have a chance to seal the deal with someone else?"
Bella's body slipped down into the bed and blushed from head to toe with the admission.
"You're seeing someone?" Alice practically screeched. "How do I not know this? I'm your best friend!"
"We're not seeing each other. He's just an acquaintance who happens to live in Chicago. He heard I'd be there and asked if we could meet up."
"Then what's with the sex talk?"
God, Bella thought for sure her skin would ignite on fire at any given second. "It's been a while… a long, long while, Alice," she replied weakly. "I'm not objecting to a one night stand at this point."
"Oh." Alice was briefly silent. "Okay, so you need a wax, pedicure, a haircut, a couple of new dresses-"
"Christ, Alice. Shut up. I don't need all that," she interrupted.
"When was the last time you waxed?"
"Not your eyebrows, Isabella," she said sternly.
"I know," Bella said, her voice going up an octave with her discomfort.
"So I think I can get you in at my salon tomorrow. Let me make a few calls and I'll call you right back."
Bella stopped trying to argue when she realized that Alice had already hung up. Sinking into the bed further, she opened one of the many emails sitting in her inbox and began to read the first of her latest updates until her Mr. Fic was back online again.
Edward fucking hated Seattle. It pissed and poured every time he was here. To add insult to injury, it was foggy as hell, delaying half the flights scheduled for the day. The only reason he ever traveled here was to help out his father, who was slowly fading right before his eyes. Carlisle Cullen liked to pretend he was fine, but Edward knew otherwise. And that knowledge made Edward feel as though a huge hole had been punched in his gut.
In a rush, Edward bypassed the line of people waiting to check their luggage at the counter and went straight to a kiosk. He swiped his card, entered some more information, and had his pass printed before the first person in line could even weigh their suitcase.
He snickered at the morons still waiting, grabbed his boarding pass, and hurried to the security checkpoint.
The line was long, so Edward sat down his small suitcase and pulled his phone out of his jeans pocket. He checked his email and found one from the girl he'd spent so much time talking to lately. As always, he responded immediately. For some reason, she intrigued him. So much, in fact, that once he'd found out she had business in Chicago, he typed out that he wanted to meet her before he could even think about it. Not that he regretted it. She'd at least be good for one night of fun—no strings attached—if nothing else. And if they didn't click on that level, it wasn't a big deal. She'd go back to wherever she came from and they'd continue as they had before.
He moved up a little in the line just as his phone started buzzing in his hand. "Hello, Rose," he said blandly.
"You have an appointment scheduled tomorrow with the acquiring editor in Seattle." Rosalie didn't stop once for a breath. "You remember her, don't you? The one you made me argue with all day?"
"Their offers weren't good enough," he said with a shrug.
"Bullshit. Their offers were amazing. You're just being a stubborn prick."
"Rosalie, you have no idea what you're talking about," he warned.
"Whatever," she snarled. "We meet with her at nine tomorrow morning. Don't be late. And for God's sake, don't show up looking like Hobo Wannabe Author. Wear a fucking suit and shave."
He scratched at his stubble, laughing, and hung up the phone. He didn't know with whom at the publishing house he was dealing with, nor did he care. He knew his book was good and simply wanted—no, needed—the best deal available. If that meant shopping around, then so be it.
He made his way through security then to his gate. He noticed a small, black haired girl standing on her toes and practically screaming at the woman behind the desk, but he paid her no mind. The woman beside her, though… Jesus, Edward felt every drop of blood shoot straight to his groin with the sight of her. Her body was lithe and slim underneath her tight, white t-shirt and jeans, and perfectly curved in all the right places.
He licked his lips and let his eyes roam back to her face. Beautiful, dark brown eyes darted between the tiny woman and the airline employee. She looked incredibly lost and innocent, yet had an inner strength to her that shone through the streams of tears that fell down her gorgeous face. Her hair was long, almost the color of pure chocolate, and cascaded down her back, stopping just where her bra strap should be. All he could think about was taking her from behind and wrapping her hair around his hand so he could tilt her head back and see her while he was driving into her.
Never had a woman affected him so severely with just a glance.
He cleared his throat and managed to find a seat as far away from the woman as possible. It was a shame to watch her cry like that, and yet, he wanted to grab a hold of her shoulders and shake some sense into her for letting everyone see her weakness, whatever it was.
Not my problem, he reminded himself.
It wasn't long before he was filing down the jetway with the rest of the passengers like cattle. He found his seat and quickly shoved his suitcase in the overhead compartment before moving out of the way of everyone else doing the same. He quickly fastened his seatbelt and turned off his electrical devices, securing his place in the coveted window seat.
The seat next to him shifted as someone sat in it, and he gave the woman a cursory glance, only to then stop and stare again as he realized that the woman from inside the terminal was sitting right next to him.
Her hand trembled as it came up to swipe at her nose. She sniffled once, and then started searching for her seatbelt. He watched her struggle with it, shaking too badly to get it buckled properly, and realized that it wasn't weakness he'd seen earlier. It was terror.
Instinctively, he reached out to help her. She gasped as his skin brushed over hers, and for a moment, all her fear was gone, pushed away by the electrical current pulsing deep in her body. His green eyes—so vibrant and comforting—locked on hers and captivated her, disabling her from being able to move at all.
The click of the seatbelt jerked Bella out of her trance. She gave him a watery smile, and tried to focus on something else so that she didn't stare at the man beside her. But he was so… beautiful. She couldn't help but keep glancing his way. His hair was a mess of curls on top of his head, shimmering an odd copper color in the dim light streaming through the window. She could see his muscles contract under his skin as he moved his arm further away from her, reaching up and rubbing what seemed to be at least two days worth of growth on his face.
"Scared of flying?" he asked casually, watching her cheeks pool with blood curiously.
"Uh…" His voice was like sex, caressing her whole body and making it tingle. "Yeah."
He nodded, very nearly coming undone with the way her lips moved as she spoke. "Have you ever flown before?"
"And you're by yourself?" he asked in disbelief.
"My um, my friend was supposed to be on the flight with me, but they messed up the reservation. Or I did. I don't know. She can't…" Bella stopped and tried to keep her voice from cracking. "She got bumped, whatever that means. She'll be on the next flight."
"Shit," Edward cursed when the woman practically yelped at the feel of the plane lurching away from the gate. "Okay, it's okay. What's your name?"
"Bella. Bella Swan," she gasped. Her heart thundered in her chest, and she could have sworn by the way the man was staring at her that he could hear it too.
"Edward Cullen," he said, holding out his hand. "Nice to meet you."
She hesitantly took it, causing something to spark inside Edward. And almost as if she felt it to, she blushed and pulled her hand back to search through her purse.
"No," she nearly sobbed after a few seconds, shoving everything to the side. "Please, no."
"My friend has my anxiety medication."
Edward's mouth opened to say something back, but any response on his tongue dissipated when he saw the fear flash in her eyes.
He ran his hand through his hair and decided he needed to distract her. "So do you live here or in Chicago?"
She blinked in surprise. "Um… Here."
"Did you grow up in Seattle?"
She shook her head. "Forks."
"Where the hell is Forks?" he asked with a laugh. "My parents have lived here for years, and I've never heard of it."
"West. It's… tiny," she admitted.
A flight attendant came over to their row and leaned over the woman on the other side of Bella to speak with them. "You need to turn off your cell phone," she said to Bella softly.
"My what?" Bella asked stupidly. "Oh. Right. Sorry."
Edward's curiosity was piqued further when she blushed again.
"Are you embarrassed easily?" he asked lightly, watching her fumble with her phone.
"What?" Bella glanced over at him with a frown, and then abruptly felt her face. "Oh, that. Yeah, I guess."
"It's…" He laughed and shook his head, refusing to voice his thoughts aloud. He smiled up at the flight attendant instead, watching her eyes glaze over as he did.
"We could use some liquor here, I think," he said with a wink. "And some ice. Whatever you've got will do, I'm sure. Won't it, Bella?"
Bella nodded once, too disarmed by that crooked grin to speak. Bella noticed the plane had stilled, so she leaned forward to try to see out the window.
"We're waiting for our turn," Edward murmured. His eyes fell downward to the gap of her shirt, his mouth watering as he caught the swell of her breasts.
They snapped back to her face the moment she started talking again, and he almost thought his cheeks mottled with embarrassment. "How long does that take?"
"Depends on the visibility. Hopefully long enough to get you buzzed," he said, nodding up at the incoming flight attendant.
They were silent as the woman handed them a few tiny bottles of vodka. Edward pulled out his wallet to pay her and found Bella's suddenly on his arm. Her skin was soft and smooth against his, and he blew out a slow breath as he looked over at her.
What the fuck is happening to me?
"What are you doing?" Bella asked him. "I can get that."
"Nah. I've got it." He moved his arm out of her grasp and handed the flight attendant a few bills.
Bella pouted but was too freaked to argue, so she simply took the bottle out of his hand silently. She twisted open the cap and poured it over the ice, sifting it carefully in the cup then throwing it back before she could change her mind.
She gagged, causing Edward to grin that damned crooked grin that made her heart stutter. "That's disgusting," she breathed.
Edward handed her another bottle. "That it is. Drink up."
She made a face but drank the vodka anyway. Its warmth was beginning to spread through her just as the plane started to move again. She tensed up and watched the yellow and black of the tarmac slowly go by, only to scream out when the plane suddenly jerked.
She slapped her hand over her mouth and chanced a look over at Edward, who was staring back at her.
"Bump," Edward finally said. "Good God, girl. You really could use those meds. What kind were they?"
Bella just gave him a wry smile. He had no idea. "Xanax."
He nodded once. "Good stuff."
The pilot drove the plane to the edge of the runway. Bella felt the plane turning, but she didn't dare look out the window. She wasn't sure she could. The whir of the jets surrounded her as the pilot readied the plane for take off, and then without warning, they were moving, gradually gaining speed with each second that passed.
She suddenly felt like she couldn't breathe.
"Oh, God. Oh, God." Her eyes landed on the tiny window and widened almost comically. And just when Bella thought she couldn't embarrass herself any more, she did the inexplicable.
White knuckling the armrests, she said the first thing that came to mind. "It's been three years since I had sex. I do not want to die with cobwebs between my legs." She gaped in horror, but then kept talking, spouting off the most unimportant and random facts of her life's history.
"…I've never been more than two hundred miles from home because I'm afraid of heights…"
Bella let out a little screech as the plane did a terrifying swoop when it hit an air pocket. She wanted to look anywhere but outside, but she couldn't tear her eyes off the window. The trees got smaller and smaller…
Edward noticed her face blanch the further up in the air they got and immediately slammed the shutter closed, hoping it would help.
"I've never been in love. Can you believe that? I'm twenty-seven years old, and I've never been in love."
Edward went to respond, but Bella gave off a sound that was similar to a hyena, stunning him silent.
She gulped in a large amount of air, preparing for the spewing of word vomit that just. Wouldn't. Stop.
"Fuck, I… I… I love my life, but I just feel like something's missing," she said passionately, realizing that she was telling this strange man things she'd never even admitted to herself. "I have a fantastic job, a big apartment… a cat. But I just… I feel like I'm going to wind up being the old spinster that lives on the first floor. I keep waiting for something to happen to me, like something… to thrill me. I want fireworks and excitement and I… I don't know, a fucking earthquake—not literally, of course-"
"Of course," Edward managed, struggling not to laugh. She was absolutely… He didn't know how to describe her. Crazy, perhaps, but he couldn't seem to take his eyes off of her.
"And I read fa-" She abruptly cut herself off and started searching around for one of those white vomit bags Alice had told her about. "I think I'm going to be sick…"
Alice Brandon was always one to trust her instincts. From the moment she'd stepped off the plane, they'd screamed that something was horribly wrong with Bella. Her eyes were red and puffy as if she'd been crying, and she looked absolutely exhausted. But Bella never once mentioned anything to Alice; she simply gave her a quick hug and led her to baggage claim, where Bella's bag had been held in the security office while she'd waited in the terminal for Alice's arrival. The entire way to the hotel, Alice kept watching Bella, waiting for her friend to finally tell her what made her look so… distraught. By the time they made it inside their small suite, Alice thought she'd explode with curiosity.
"I forgot to get my anxiety meds out of your purse." They were the first words Bella had spoken since she'd arrived in Chicago, and they made Alice feel awful.
"Oh, shit, Bella! Are you okay?"
Bella barked out a laugh. "No. I… Oh, God, Alice, you should have seen me. I humiliated myself. There was this man…" Bella trailed off, remembering how gorgeous Edward Cullen was. "It doesn't matter. He thinks I'm a total nutjob now."
"Why? What happened?"
Bella recounted the flight to Alice as she started changing into a pair of pajamas. It was barely seven, but Bella couldn't bear for this day to go on any longer. She just wanted to sleep it all away, focus on her meeting tomorrow, and spend a couple of days playing in the city with her Mr. Fic.
"What happened after you puked?" Alice asked when she was through, following Bella into her bedroom. She wanted to laugh, but kept her lips pressed together so she didn't. Making Bella feel even worse was not going to help.
"I drank some more vodka and abruptly passed out on his shoulder." Bella collapsed on the bed with a groan. "Alice, I drooled on the man. He was hot as fuck, and I drooled on him. It wasn't enough that I told him my life story and puked in a paper bag in front of him, but I had to drool on him too. What is wrong with me?"
Alice finally did let herself giggle a little, getting a heated stare from Bella in return. "Nothing's wrong with you. Not now, anyway. You made your escape."
"After he asked me if I needed to see a doctor!" Bella protested. "He was probably thinking something along the lines of a psychologist!"
"At least he was considerate." Alice smirked at her joke for a moment, and then continued. "Just think of it this way: you'll never see him again so it doesn't really matter."
Alice did have a point. "I guess."
"Go to sleep so you can kick ass at your meeting tomorrow morning." Alice patted Bella's leg and started to retreat from the room. "Then we can celebrate with your… acquaintance. You can start that involuntary chastity thing you had going all over again when we get back to Seattle."
"Night." Alice went to shut the door and shook her head as she closed the door. "Three fucking years. What a waste."
"I heard that!" Bella shouted through the door.
"Good. Maybe now you won't be such a prude," Alice shouted back.
Bella laughed softly. She loved that woman.
The next morning, Bella found the downtown office building her meeting was scheduled in and strode through the door, glancing around for the reception area. After getting directions from the receptionist, she rode the elevator up to the eleventh floor—careful not to look out any windows—and went to the conference room to prepare.
She poured over everything she'd discussed with Anthony's agent last week, trying to figure out what went wrong. It was an amazing deal, one that kept him in control and gave him more money than most newly published authors would ever dream of getting. Bella still couldn't understand why he'd turned it all down. Most authors would jump at the opportunity they were giving him.
Bella glanced up at the sound of the door opening. She blinked rapidly in confusion as a man that looked very similar to Edward Cullen came into the room.
Realizing that it was Edward, Bella flushed furiously and cast her eyes back down to her paperwork. She couldn't look at him for fear of spontaneous combustion. He looked incredible in his black suit, and he'd shaved, allowing Bella to truly see all the angles of his face. She wanted to run, but was frozen with fear. She'd assured herself that Alice had been right and she'd never have to see him again, and now… Now he was walking into her conference room like he owned the place.
Although, judging by the look of him, maybe he did.
"Bella," Edward greeted, unable to hide his surprise. She'd bolted right out of her seat when they'd landed and disappeared from sight. He'd honestly thought he'd never see her again—which was oddly disappointing—yet here she was, falling right into his lap again.
"Edward," she squeaked. "Can I help you?"
Edward noted that she couldn't look him in the eye. "I doubt it," he said with more bravado than he felt now. "My agent and I are here for a meeting. Considering what happened last week, I think it's going to be a waste of time."
Bella's head snapped up, and her eyes burned with a fire Edward hadn't known she'd possessed. It was one of the sexiest things he'd ever seen, and that included the dark red pumps that were currently adorning Bella's feet. "You're Masen Anthony?" she asked, feeling her entire body blush again.
He smirked at her reaction. "Guilty."
It was a nom de plume. Of course. She was such a fucking idiot. And suddenly, she realized she could have blown this entire deal with her behavior yesterday.
Her heart dropped. She loved her job. To lose it over some mild form of acrophobia and a chance of fate… Fuck.
She started to apologize, because that was the only thing that might salvage this deal right now, but was interrupted by the sound of the door opening again. Rosalie Hale's voice bounced off the walls as she shouted at the person on the other end of her cell phone. Her cream colored suit hugged her generous curves flawlessly, and her light blonde hair fell over her shoulders in effortless perfection. Even angry, her face was regal and stunning.
Bella suddenly felt incredibly uncomfortable being in the presence of this woman.
Edward watched the shift in Bella as Rosalie came into the room. He could almost visibly see her turning into herself; any trace of the fire that once burned brightly in her brown eyes was gone, and he was left… bewildered. How could anyone as beautiful as she be so self-conscious? Rosalie was gorgeous, yes, but Bella… She was more. And Edward was fairly sure that no one could ever make a plain, black pencil skirt look anywhere near as hot as Bella could. It was something out of every hot-blooded, straight man's fantasies.
Simply put, he ached for her.
Rosalie ended her call and let her violet eyes focus on the little lamb standing at the front of the conference room. She nearly laughed at how easy this was going to be. Bella didn't stand a chance against them.
"Let's get this started, shall we?" Rosalie sighed. "I have another appointment in an hour."
"Getting your nails done?" Edward quipped.
Rosalie seethed. She absolutely hated him. The only reason she took this job was as a favor to her fiancé, Emmett, who just so happened to be Edward's brother. "No, I'm working, asshole. Some of us do that, you know."
"If you insist." Edward took a seat in the farthest chair away from Bella and made a rolling movement with his hand. "Well, Bella, you heard the woman," he said dryly. "Dazzle us."
Bella's eyes narrowed against his tone. Surely this was not the same man she'd sat next to on the plane. That Edward Cullen was kind and considerate, helping her when he hadn't really had to. This Edward Cullen, however, made her blood boil. He was snide and arrogant and made Bella's hands itch to slap him.
She crossed her arms over her chest and pushed out her hip angrily, making Edward's dick twitch with the picture. "What exactly do I have to do to close this deal?" she snapped.
His brow arched challengingly and threw his written proposal out at her. "That, Miss Swan, is what you need to do to close this deal."
Bella picked up the proposal and flipped through the pages. She could feel her hands trembling more with each sentence, feel her job security slip right out of her grasp.
"Mr. Cullen, this is… I…" Bella stopped speaking and read the proposal again. "This is what established authors make for multi-book deals. You can't be serious."
Edward clasped his hands together and placed them on the table, leaning back in his chair. "I'm entirely serious. I know what I'm worth. Can you refute that?"
Bella shook her head mutely. "Let me make a phone call. I have to get approval for this. We've never…"
She trailed off and ducked out of the room, leaving Edward and Rosalie alone.
"What do you think of her?" Edward murmured to Rosalie when the door was securely closed.
"I think she's scared shitless," Rosalie answered.
Edward laughed. "I think it's more like uncomfortable. For good reason."
Rosalie's head tilted to the side. "What's that mean?"
"Nothing, Rose. Mind your own business."
Rosalie huffed in annoyance. "Then don't bring it up."
Bella eventually came back into the room, gazing at both of them expressionlessly. Edward smiled with how good she was at this, given the circumstances. He could almost guarantee that had she not rambled incoherently in front of him on the plane yesterday that she'd have him agreeing to whatever she wanted.
Lucky for him.
"They're willing to accept your proposal," she said as she gathered her paperwork up, "on one condition."
"Which is?" Rosalie sneered.
"The agreement is for five books total, not two. They know you have talent and are willing to change… procedure for you. It's a good offer, maybe better than anything else you'll get." Bella felt the wind rush out of her, and she had to grab a hold of the chair to keep from falling over. Her job was gone if he didn't agree to this, regardless of the fact that it was no fault of her own. She hated that her fate rested solely in the hands of the greedy bastard sitting in front of her.
"I'll think about it," Edward replied simply.
Bella was astonished. "Think about it? What is wrong with you?"
Edward remained passive. "It's just business, Miss Swan."
"Just business," she mumbled, dazed. "Right."
"We're done here, Rose."
Rosalie hesitated to leave, glancing between Edward and Bella for a moment suspiciously. Something was going on… She just couldn't place what it was.
"All right. Call me when you've made your decision."
With Rosalie gone, Bella finally gave into the will to collapse. She dropped her body into the nearest chair and let her head fall against the table with a dull thump.
Edward chuckled. "I guess you weren't expecting me to walk through that door, huh?"
She lifted her head just enough to glare at him. "No." She knew she needed to apologize still, but the words seemed to stick to her tongue. Good looking or not, she despised Edward Cullen right now.
He gathered up his paperwork and nodded. "Same here. It's good, though, to see you."
Bella wanted a machine gun to miraculously appear in her hands so she could kill this man. "Entertaining, wasn't I?"
"Yes, but that wasn't…" Edward didn't finish. The look in her eyes told him not to. He dragged his hands through his hair as a twinge of guilt came over him, but it was gone as soon as he reminded himself what he'd come here for. "I'll let your office know what I decide."
"Why am I here again?" Jasper Whitlock asked his best friend as he glanced around the darkened bar.
Edward rolled his eyes. "Blind date, you idiot. You're my out if this goes bad."
"What if it goes well?" Jasper countered.
"Then you can take her friend home."
"You stuck me with the ugly chick. I just know it," Jasper complained. "You fucking owe me."
Edward nodded and took a pull of his beer. "Yeah."
He hadn't been able to stop thinking about Bella since he left her on Tuesday and now, it was Friday. He just kept picturing her face, the hatred that flashed in her eyes when he told her he'd think about it. Her offer was phenomenal; he couldn't deny that. He just wasn't sure if he was willing to commit for five books if he could get close to that for only two. He needed as much money as he could possibly get, otherwise…
Jasper elbowed him in the ribs. "Dude, is that her?"
Edward glanced up to see two familiar women looking around the bar, both wearing exactly what his fic girl had described and looking damn fucking good doing so. Edward let his eyes roam over the taller brunette's body, wishing he could get a look at what was hidden behind that short, tight, dark blue dress she was wearing. Then, he hesitantly let his eyes move to her face and watched it contort in myriad of emotions as she recognized him as well.
"Fuck me," Edward groaned and drained his beer.
"No shit. I don't know which one is supposed to be yours and which one is supposed to be mine, and I don't care. I'll take either one," Jasper laughed. "Holy hell, Edward, where'd you find these girls?"
"Online," he mumbled.
Jasper laughed harder. "Didn't know you were into that online shit, but it worked out."
No, it didn't, but Edward kept that thought to himself. His fic girl was the girl from the airplane, who was also Bella Swan from the publishing house.
It was a fucking nightmare.
Bella searched the bar for her Mr. Fic, and landed upon Edward Cullen instead. Her heart skipped a beat, whether it was from how delicious he looked in the loose jeans and long-sleeved, green button up shirt, or if it was out of shock, she couldn't be sure. It'd been three days since she'd heard anything from him, and she was beginning to spiral into a deep depression with the thought that the career she'd worked so hard for was about to be taken away from her.
Because of him.
That sparked a little of the fire back in Bella.
She got Alice's attention and started toward his table, determined to be professional and pleasant despite the urge she had to scream and kick and demand he take the deal so she could keep her job.
"Edward," she greeted with a nod. "How are you?'
"Fine." His voice was conflicted, confusing Bella. "How are you?"
"Oh, I'd be better if I had an idea of what you were planning to do… before I went back to Seattle."
He laughed awkwardly. "Yeah. I'm still debating it."
"Take your time," she said through her teeth.
"Bella, where's your guy?" Alice asked, bouncing around impatiently. "I could use a drink and a bathroom break. Not in that exact order."
Jasper chuckled. "What do you mean, 'where's your guy'? She's looking right at him."
Bella gave both men a strange look, and then it all started coming together. Green shirt, jeans, sitting with a guy with blonde hair… EAMC0604 was Edward Cullen. Edward Cullen was Masen Anthony. It was… It was…
"Oh, my fucking God," she gasped. "You're my fic guy?"
Edward's eyes darted over to Jasper, and he prayed that Jasper hadn't caught her slip. "Seems that way," Edward mumbled.
Bella turned to face Alice. "The date's over. I can't… I can't stay."
"What?" Alice nearly shrieked. "Why?"
But Bella didn't answer. She was too busy trying to flee the scene before Edward saw her cry in disappointment.
"Where's she going?" Alice demanded, turning on Edward. "What the fuck did you do?"
"Me?" Edward sat up defensively. "I didn't do shit!"
"This was the only thing she stayed in Chicago for after that meeting she had on Tuesday. Why would she just suddenly change her mind?"
"Tuesday's meeting?" Edward asked, suddenly panicked. "What did she say about it?"
"That if she couldn't figure out how to get Anthony's signature before she left, she was going back to Seattle unemployed."
Edward jumped out of the chair and started weaving his way through the other patrons of the bar. He threw himself out the door and looked in both directions for Bella, not seeing her until a few people went into the next building.
"Bella!" he shouted. "Wait up!"
Bella craned her neck to see him, and then picked up the pace. She knew she couldn't outrun him in her heels, but she wouldn't let him see the affect he had on her.
She felt so stupid, falling for a guy she didn't even know, but that's exactly what she'd done. Talking to Edward during their chats had always made Bella feel… alive.
Now that she'd met him, she felt pathetic.
Edward caught up with her and spun her around, watching her eyes narrow defiantly as he did.
"Don't touch me," she spat, glowering up at him. "You don't get to touch me."
She's pretty when she's angry.
He cleared his throat. "I'm sorry. I didn't know about the job. I didn't know who you were. Who you… are."
"Would that have mattered?" she countered. "Would it have made you any less greedy knowing my job was on the line?"
His eyes flashed darkly at the insult. "Greedy? You think I'm greedy? You know nothing about me."
Tears sprung to Bella's eyes, and Edward suddenly felt his heart wrench in his chest.
"Fuck, Bella, I didn't mean that."
"You're right. I don't know you. I know only what you've allowed me to see, which is practically nothing." She sniffled and pulled away from his grasp. "I'm an idiot, but it's okay. We never have to talk to each other again. That's the great thing about us living almost two thousand miles apart."
As Edward watched her walk away from him, it struck him that he couldn't let her go. Not like this. Her friendship, if that was all he could have, meant more to him than this.
"The money's for my father," Edward called after her.
Bella stopped and slowly turned around, unsure if she'd heard him correctly.
"I'm not greedy," he continued. "It's just…" He'd never really told anyone why he was such a hardass about his manuscript, but he found himself telling Bella without any second thought whatsoever. "I've worked on it for ten years, Bella; since I was twenty. I've poured my heart and soul into this story. I can't let it go without knowing that I did everything I could to get the best price for it. Writing is… all I know how to do. This is the one shot I have to save him."
"He has pancreatic cancer. He's exhausted his insurance benefits, and if I don't-"
"I get it." Bella smiled sadly, realizing that her job was as good as gone now for reasons she couldn't ever fault him for. "And I'm sorry. I hope you get what you need, Edward. I really do."
And with that, she was gone.
But Edward didn't get what he needed or rather, what he wanted wasn't exactly what he needed anymore. He didn't even bother checking any of the other publishing houses that had shown interest in his novel to see if they could offer him something better. He'd ignored all of Rosalie's phone calls. He just wanted… God, he didn't know what he wanted now. It had all been so clear when he went into this: get an agent, submit the manuscript to every publishing company known to mankind, play hardball, and get the best deal. Once his first payment came in, Carlisle could undergo another round of chemo.
Then, Bella came into the picture and made everything so complicated.
Bella was never online, in what seemed like an aversion tactic, so Edward had resorted to emailing her a dozen times in the last two weeks to apologize, though he knew "I'm sorry" by email was lame. Regardless of that, he'd heard nothing back from her, not once—even for a "fuck you"—and it drove him insane.
It also made him realize how much he missed talking to her.
"What is with you?" Jasper groaned, flopping down on Edward's black leather couch. "You've been emo for two fucking weeks, dude."
"The online girl?" He snorted. "What the hell happened with that, anyway?"
"A mix up," Edward answered vaguely.
"Then un-mix it," Jasper countered. "I really don't see the problem."
"I wish I could, but I… I really fucked it up," Edward admitted. He let her leave for Seattle, knowing she would lose her job if she didn't come back with a signed contract.
Christ, he couldn't believe how stupid he was sometimes.
"That's usually the way it works."
They were silent for a while. "So…" Jasper finally said. "You want her back?"
The glint in Jasper's tawny eyes made Edward suspicious. "Who's asking?"
Jasper grinned at his best friend. He knew him well. "Alice says she's miserable."
"Alice?" Edward blinked a couple times. "The little black haired chick?"
"She's… hot," Jasper replied with a shrug.
Edward chuckled for the first time in two weeks. "Nice."
"Thanks. So do you?"
"I never had her in the first place, Jazz," Edward sighed, dropping his head back to the couch.
"Yes, you did. You had her the second she sat down on that plane."
Edward groaned because he knew Jasper was right. Something had happened on that flight, to both of them. "God damn it."
"Alice says that you have to do the grand gesture. Mr. Darcy shit, or whatever that means."
Edward lifted his head and cocked his brow. "Did Alice also happen to take off with your dick when she went back to Seattle?"
"Fuck you," he laughed.
Edward grinned, but he'd taken Jasper's advise to heart. He just needed to figure out what the hell it was that would possibly make up for this.
Bella was elbows deep in a batch of sourdough kneading the pale yellow dough in an effort to release some of this boredom she'd found herself feeling lately. She'd gotten home and basically boycotted books, which left her with a huge hole that needed to be filled. She'd tried it all and so far, nothing had worked.
She felt… lost now.
Bella cursed when she heard the light knock on her door. It was late, Viola was hungry, and Bella was without a doubt, completely miserable. She was in no mood for some random house call of Alice's to check up on her, so she kneaded the dough a little harder and shouted for her to go back home.
Only Alice didn't answer. A familiar, deep voice sounded through the door, sending chills down her spine. "Well, I guess that means I have the right apartment."
Bella froze in place as she tried to figure out why Edward Cullen would be on her doorstep. Viola wound through her legs, tickling her, but she still didn't move. She didn't want it to be some sick joke, like everything else had been lately.
"Come on, Bella. Just let me talk to you," Edward yelled, sounding a little hurt.
Good. She might have understood his reasoning, but it was nice to know he didn't just go about his life in Chicago like she'd never existed when she left.
Bella growled in frustration and wiped her hands off. She pushed a piece of hair out of her eyes and stomped over toward the door.
The second she opened the door, Edward lost the ability to speak. She smelled so good, like freshly baked bread with a warm, sweet undercurrent of something more. Flour smattered her skin and hair, and he nearly lost all sense of reasoning when he saw that she had barely anything on, just a gray, ribbed tank top and a pair of dark blue boxers that barely covered her ass.
He swallowed hard and risked a smile. "Hi."
"What are you doing here?" she sighed.
"You won't answer my emails."
"Because there's nothing else to say, Edward," Bella answered. "I understand why you couldn't sign the contract. Your father is important, and I commend you for what you're doing, honestly."
"But you won't talk to me." He cocked his head to the side and studied her face. "Why is that?"
She could feel the traitorous blood rising to the surface of her skin. "I…"
"I miss you," Edward chanced. "I miss reading with you, talking with you."
God, she'd missed him too. She'd done so well so far in making a clean break from him, knowing that she could never pretend to be just a friend when she felt something more for him. Now that he was here, Bella could feel her resolve slipping.
"I miss your smile," he continued, "and your laughter. I finally got to hear your voice, and I managed to screw it all up. I'm sorry, Bella. For it all."
"I signed a deal," he said, taking her by surprise. He held out a legal sized, manila envelope. "Here. Take a look."
She took the envelope awkwardly. "Um, okay, I guess."
She fumbled with the clasp, but finally managed to open it. She pulled the papers out of the sleeve, stopping as soon as she saw the familiar publishing house's letterhead at the top of the page.
"What did you do?"
"I signed the best deal," he said nonchalantly, "with one condition."
"They give you your job back," he replied lowly.
She flipped through the pages, searching for verification. Seeing Edward's signature scribbled in all the necessary places brought tears to her eyes. "Why?"
"Because I want you in my life. I want to be with you."
"But, Edward, you were right. We don't know anything about each other."
His jaw tensed and he closed the distance between them. "Want to tell me that lie again?"
But she couldn't.
"I know you, Bella," he said emphatically. "Your cat is named after one of the characters in The Twelfth Night because you love dramatic irony. You hate cheese, and you're allergic to cinnamon. You went to school at the University of Washington, and your parents both live in Forks—which I researched, by the way. Cute town."
Bella was speechless. He'd listened to every word—both on the computer and the plane—she'd ever said to him.
"You're afraid of heights, explaining the freak out on the plane. Your father still calls you 'Bells', and your first boyfriend was an Indian boy from some reservation around here. Jake, if I remember right. Xanax, according to Alice, makes you act like a loopy idiot, and you've not had sex in three years, which if I'm being totally honest, is something I'd like to remedy now because you look insanely hot in those shorts."
"I know you enough to know I care about you, Bella, and that I want to know even more."
"I… I wasn't talking to you because I needed a clean break. I couldn't pretend I didn't feel anything for you and that everything was back as it was before. I missed you, though. Every single day," she whispered shyly.
He watched her cheeks redden and knew she was telling the truth. Suddenly, he couldn't stand being so far away from her. He cupped the back of her neck and pulled her in for a long, deep kiss, groaning as their lips came together and he finally got a taste of her.
She jumped up and wrapped her body around his, loving how his entire chest rumbled with a chuckle from her urgency. The second she rolled her hips against him, he reached back and slammed the door shut, intent on finding the bedroom. He touched her everywhere, letting his hands roam beneath her shorts, and then slide around to her ass, pressing her even closer to him.
She broke away from the kiss, gasping for air. He moved his mouth down her neck; the whiskers on his face scraped her skin while his mouth made a glorious path to her chest as he moved blindly through the room. It was pleasure and pain all rolled into one, and it felt so good, Bella whimpered.
"Where the fuck is your bed?" Edward growled as he kicked something hard.
"Down the hall and to the left," she breathed.
As soon as he found it, Edward fell with her on the bed and moaned when he felt how hot she was under him. He grabbed a hold of her tank top and pulled it away from her body, grinning wickedly when he was finally face to face with her perfect chest.
"God, your tits are gorgeous," he said, dipping his head down to flick one of her nipples.
With his mouth on her, Bella couldn't form a coherent sentence. She grabbed at his shirt and ripped it off, needing to feel more of him. She explored every inch of his skin with her fingers, tracing over the lines of the muscles in his torso and arms until she got the courage to touch the waist of his jeans.
She opened his fly and let her hand slip inside, gently wrapping it around him and watching his face contort with pleasure as she did.
He groaned and sat up to pull Bella's shorts down. He slid them over her legs and watched her squirm with anticipation below him as he lowered his body back down on hers, careful to take in how beautiful she looked beneath him.
He touched her and she thought she'd explode with need. She was slick and ready, but Edward took his time, drawing out her orgasm with his mouth and hands until she was shuddering and gasping for air. As much as he wanted to fulfill every naughty fantasy he'd had of her since their meeting and just plow right into her, he needed to make this last. For her.
She jerked at his jeans and boxers roughly, annoyed that they wouldn't seem to cooperate with her. She needed him, not on top of her, not surrounding her, but inside her. She'd never needed anyone like she needed him, and it was enough to nearly drive her mad.
"Don't rip them," he said with a crooked smile as he helped her push them down.
She glared up at him. "Edward Cullen, I swear to God…"
His laughter was cut off when she led his body to hers. "I need a condom," he said seriously.
She made some garbled sound of annoyance in response.
He dipped his hand between her legs again to push a finger inside her as he dug through his wallet. He ripped the package open with his teeth, hurriedly rolled the latex on, and readied himself (literally) for the plunge.
The moment he sank into her, his head dropped and his entire body tensed with how fucking good being inside her felt. He drew in a shaky breath and pulled his hips back, watching her face for any discomfort as he thrust back into her.
Their movements sped, and their skin dampened with sweat. Each pass was harder and more demanding as fire raged inside them both. Hands were everywhere, frenetically searching for release; their eyes never left each other's. Edward bent his head to kiss her again as he felt her body tightening around him and hitched her leg up over his shoulder.
Her back arched up off of the bed and she clawed at Edward's back as she came hard. He let out a guttural sound with the feel of her coming around him and thrust into her one last time, nearly collapsing as his own orgasm shot through him.
They stayed as they were for a while, wrapped up in each other, until Edward finally groaned and moved off of her to dispose of the condom in the nearby bathroom. He got washed off and hurried back to Bella's side, slipping into the bed and bringing Bella against him.
She sighed and placed a kiss on his chest. "When do you go back?"
"I… I don't know."
She leaned back to stare up at him. Her eyes were heavy with sleep and sadness at the thought of him leaving, and he hated that he helped to put it there. "What do you mean?"
"This was kind of a spur of the moment trip, Bella," he admitted. "I thought I could stay with my parents for a while so we could see where this goes."
"Don't you have obligations, friends, in Chicago?"
He shrugged. "I can write anywhere, you know." She nodded. "And my parents moved out here when my dad got sick to be closer to his doctor. I stayed because… Well, because of my brother, Emmett. But he has Rosalie now, so…" He trailed off awkwardly.
Bella sat up with an incredulous look. "Are you thinking about moving to Seattle?"
"Maybe. Mom would love it," he replied.
"How long have you been thinking about this?"
"Since you left." He could feel his face warm with his discomfort. "If you would rather I not-"
Bella cut him off with a kiss, and then giggled with happiness. "I would rather you stay, Edward. Definitely."
He grinned back and cradled her face with his hands, wanting to feel her body move with his again.
Seattle, he thought, might not be so horrible after all.