Twilight Characters are owned by Stephenie Meyer
I was sitting in the back of the small diner, hiding in a corner booth with tall walls, waiting for my manager to bring the car to the back alley. I kept my head down and hoped I wouldn't be recognized.
Everyone was dressed in western clothes because of the Rodeo in town and I felt out of place. My style was more about funky jeans and retro tennis shoes. I usually felt stylish, but it seemed like everyone was wearing a hat and boots.
I let my dark hair fall around me as I tried to keep my head down on the off chance I would be recognized. I wasn't sure I was being left alone due to my faux pas or the fact nobody in the country western world would have a clue as to who I was.
A tall cowboy slid into the seat across from me and I sighed loudly.
"Sorry, I didn't see anyone sitting here," he explained.
"The dishes are still on the table," I pointed out.
"I just wanted this booth, are you leaving?" he asked. I was so ready to be out of this stupid town. He was extremely good looking, but I couldn't even find it in me to be impressed by his grey eyes or strong jaw.
"I'm waiting for my car," I said sullenly. "Are the paparazzi out front?"
He gave me an odd look and nodded as he suddenly looked around the room. He scooted to the far end of the booth and leaned against the wall, out of the view of other patrons.
"Are you here for the rodeo?" he asked me.
"Yes and no," I answered and noticed him smirk a little. "I'm here doing penitence."
"Here at the diner or at the rodeo?" he asked as he chuckled.
I gave him a squinted glance and asked, "Are you Canadian?"
"Promise?" I asked just to make sure.
"I'm from Northern California, I promise," he laughed. "Do you want me to recite the preamble?"
"Like I would know it?" I said with an irritated tone and rolled my eyes at him. I didn't know people actually learned stuff like that.
"Yeah, I don't either," he admitted.
"Okay," I said as I leaned closer to talk softly, "I said something that was taken out of context, so I have to sing at the opening ceremonies of the Rodeo to make it all good."
"About Canadians?" He asked, leaning in, too.
I nodded and let my eyes drop. "I called the country America Light," I embarrassingly admitted.
"It doesn't matter, I didn't mean anything bad, and now I'm stuck with a bunch of animal abusing rednecks because of my big mouth."
I had no idea why I was confiding in a perfect stranger, but there was something so open about his mannerisms I couldn't help myself. He moved Mike's plate out of his way and sat his hands on the table before he spoke, trying desperately not to laugh.
"Two things, sweetheart; cowboys wear hats, boots, and extremely large buckles. And I seriously doubt a two-thousand pound animal is the one being abused."
I felt my face turn red as I realized he was wearing a hat, boots and buckle. I just couldn't control my big mouth and it was going to cost me my career if I didn't get a handle on it, soon. But I wasn't going to let him get away with the animal remark.
"A real cowboy wouldn't use a saddle and that thing that goes around the horse's head..."
"The bridle," he offered.
"Or," I continued, "the thing that goes in its mouth…"
"A bit," he added.
"Why can't they ride like the Native Americans rode? They didn't need all that crap. I think it is mean and shows a lack of skill."
I was hoping I was giving him something to think about, but he was biting his lip to keep from laughing and I crossed my arms and waited for his smart remark.
The back door opened and Mike motioned for me to come out, so I scooted to the end of the booth. "I suppose you want my autograph," I said, feeling I owed him something for keeping me company for a few minutes. I quickly signed my name on a napkin and handed it to him.
He glanced at my name and extended his hand, "Nice to meet you Bella, I'm Edward."
"Have fun in Canada, Edward," I said and ran through the back door to my awaiting car.
I was taken to the large indoor arena and made a lengthy sound check. I would be singing the Canadian National Anthem and then sit in the celebrity booth with the announcers. I could hardly wait for the night to be over.
The arena smelled like manure, and I had to breathe through my mouth so I wouldn't get sick. I stood on a platform and worked on the sound settings as horses rode around me. I tensed whenever they got close and was sure I was going to be trampled by a wild stallion.
"Bella, your clothes arrived," Mike told me and led me to a trailer in the back. The entire parking area was filled with horse trailer and RV's. I was stunned so many people would be into such a brutal sport. I looked at the clothes lying in front of me and took a step back.
"I am not wearing that," I yelled.
"You need to look like you belong, not stick out like a sore thumb," Mike said angrily.
"Get real, Mike. I will be photographed tonight. I'll wear the vest but that is it," I offered.
"What are you going to wear, then?"
"I'll throw something together, but I don't need to look like Annie Oakley."
"Fine, but don't say anything about the clothes when you're being interviewed. You are happy to be here and enjoyed seeing something new."
"I'll say, I'm happy to be invited to sing, but these freaks should be put in jail for hurting innocent animals," I said angrily.
"Bella, don't make it worse or you will fall off the charts faster than Ricky Martin."
"Just play nice, and give me some peace."
I looked through the clothes I had in the trailer and found a large oversized black t-shirt with some black leggings. I put a silver belt around my waist and the glittery vest over the tee. I decided on some black stilettos, knowing they were not a good choice for a dirty rodeo arena, but I would walk out to the platform from a wooden ramp, so I decided to chance it.
Mike didn't comment on my outfit when he came to get me. I stood in the back of the arena, irritated, while I waited for the opening ceremony to be done with all the parading horses and get to the real stuff. When my name was announced there was some cheering, nothing like the noise I got when I was introduced at my concerts, but at least they weren't booing.
I walked out and smiled as I waved in every direction of the arena. I took the mic and began the A cappella version of the Canadian Anthem. The crowd went wild and I relaxed. When I finished with the song I bowed and waved around the arena again, before making my way to the booth, where a name plate sat on the table in front of my seat.
The platform was removed and the parade of various rodeo queens exited the arena. The lights began to flash off and on as spotlights moved rapidly around the ring. The crowd went insane and the screams were louder than anything I had ever experienced.
The announcer next to me yelled into the microphone. "Ladies and Gentleman, please give a warm welcome to the reigning All Around Cowboy, Edward Cullen."
The crowd actually got louder and I was tempted to cover my ears, but instead I applauded with curiosity. A horse came galloping into the arena and the spotlights followed the rider as he made lightening fast rounds waving the entire way.
The announcer seemed shocked and said over the speaker, "Edward is riding his horse, Man-o-war, without bridle or saddle, let's give him and extra round of applause."
My heart sank; it couldn't be the same Edward I had complained to earlier, could it? Just my luck, I had called the most famous of the rednecks, a redneck animal abuser. I wanted to hide under the table.
I watched in shock as he stopped in the middle of the arena and made his horse walk slowly right towards me. He was smirking and I could tell I was blushing. He made a funny noise with his tongue and his horse began side stepping as he came even closer to me.
"I suppose you want this," he said holding out a piece of paper. I took it and saw he had handed me his autograph, making me want to die from humiliation.
"Now watch me show America Light how it's done," he winked and rode away.
My heart was pounding loudly and I looked around nervously. When everyone sat and the rodeo began a girl sitting next to me leaned over, "Do you know, Edward?"
"A little," I said hoping she wouldn't ask me details. "I know nothing about rodeos," I admitted.
"Oh, I can help with that," she offered too quickly.
She launched into a diatribe about the spectacle I was witnessing and I tried very hard to appear interested. "There are timed events and rough stock events. The cowboy who makes the most money in at least two events is named All Around Cowboy at the finals in December."
"What does Edward do?" I asked and hoped she didn't read too much into my curiosity.
"He's a bareback bronc rider and a bull rider."
"Isn't that dangerous?" I asked stupidly.
"That's why they make the big bucks," she laughed. "His brother Emmett is a bullfighter…"
"He kills bulls?" I asked in shock and was ready to run from the place and begin picketing out front.
She laughed at my ignorance and said, "No, he's a rodeo bullfighter or maybe you would call it a rodeo clown. They protect the bull riders by distracting the bull.
"Ah," I said acting like I fully understood.
"His sister Alice is the reigning barrel racing champion. She is so amazing."
The girl actually sighed and I felt my mouth falling open so I immediately extended my hand in order to refrain from insulting yet another Canadian. "Um, I'm Bella," I said since I would be sitting next to this girl for the night.
"I'm Angela, I'm the rodeo queen," she said as she rolled her eyes.
"No, that's really cool," I lied.
"I'm obsessed with the Cullens," she admitted with a blush. "They are like celebrities in the rodeo world; I even have a shirt with Edward's face on it."
Her comment made me wince at the fact I had acted like such a diva in front of a guy who was more known than I was with this population.
The first event was bareback riding. Angela smiled and said, "Edward got a really good draw, he should score high."
"I have no idea what you just said, but okay."
She laughed and explained. "A computer matches the cowboy with a random horse. Some are known for how well the buck and the score can be higher if you draw a good horse."
"They don't ride their own horses?" I asked stupidly.
"No, they ride special rodeo stock."
I watched in amazement as cowboy after cowboy was thrown to the ground or scraped along the railing. I had no idea why a sane person would even consider this sport and grimaced at the sight of the spurs on their boots.
When Edward was up the crowd went wild again. I was actually shaking from how nervous I was for him. He was the only cowboy I knew and I wanted him to ride the full eight seconds.
Angela nudged me and pointed to a large man on a horse at the far end of the arena. "That's Emmett, Edward's brother. He's a pick up man for this event. He'll ride up to the bronc, if Edward stays on, and help him get off safely."
I nodded and looked at the huge muscle bound man as he stared intently at his brother getting ready in the chute. It was sweet, in a brutal gladiator kind of way. The gate opened and I quickly covered my eyes. I couldn't watch and waited for the buzzer to signal if he made it or not. The eight seconds were the longest of my life.
The buzzer sounded and the crowd screamed loudly, so I lowered my hands. I saw Edward grab onto his brother's arm and be lifted easily onto Emmett's horse. I cheered right along with Angela. Edward slid off the horse and walked toward the alley as he waited for his scores.
I watched the way he walked in his chaps, with his hat low, hiding his eyes. There was something so manly about him and I couldn't help but smile. When a score of 92 was given the crowd erupted again and Edward took his hat off and waved to his fans.
His hair was long compared to the rest of the performers. It had a natural wave that sent curls in all directions around his head.
After his third successful ride the crowd thinned a little. I lost interest too and was glad when Mike came to rescue me to eat. I was taken to a back room and instantly noticed Edward being interviewed by a reporter. I tried not to stare, but he saw me looking at him and he winked.
I sat at a table and was handed a plate with a thick steak and a large potato. I smiled at the server and then glared at Mike sitting across and down from me. He smiled and shrugged and I began to wonder how I could get the morbid slab of meat off my plate.
"Hi, Bella," Edward smiled as he pulled the chair out next to me.
"Hi, um…good…I mean you rode…what do they call it?" I asked.
"Bareback bronc," he laughed and I let my head fall in humiliation.
"I'm sorry about earlier. You didn't have to get rid of your saddle and stuff for me. I have a big mouth sometimes."
"I just wanted to show you modern cowboys are just as skilled as the natives."
Emmett walked up and his size scared me. He was so much larger up close. He completely ignored me and spoke directly to his brother. "Watch your left leg, your spurring was sloppy," he said to Edward.
"Like hell it was, did you see the scores?"
"You are getting points for crowd approval, you need to focus and not get sloppy when the judges can't see."
"I was focused," Edward said angrily, "my knee is still sore."
"Bullshit, you're babying it. Keep your hand centered and let your legs spur evenly."
Edward nodded and I had no idea what they were talking about. Both guys removed their hats and I noticed Edward's long unruly hair was a contrast to Emmett's short tight curls. My attention was drawn to a gorgeous blonde who walked up and kissed Emmett on the cheek.
"You're favoring your knee," she said to Edward. He hissed loudly and began buttering his roll harshly.
He took a quick bite and pointed with his knife toward the steak sauce. "You using that?" he asked me.
"No, I don't eat meat," I said as I handed the bottle to him.
He froze and looked at me with shock, "Steak or any meat?"
"Any meat," I told him and realized everyone was listening to me.
"You're not going to eat that?" he asked looking at my steak. He acted like he had never heard of such a thing as a vegetarian and the idea stumped him.
"No, please take it, I don't want it on my plate," I told him and pushed my plate next to his.
He narrowed his eyes at me for a moment, and then shook his head in disappointment as he stuck his fork in the meat and put it on his plate.
"Where are you from, Bella?"
"Washington State, but I live in L.A. now."
He chuckled and nodded like it all made sense to him now.
"Why the degrading laugh?" I asked angrily.
"Nothing, our worlds are so far apart," he chuckled again.
I knew what he meant. We were both from California but I thought people like him only existed in old John Wayne movies. I had no idea they were living among us.
"I'm only here because I have to be," I added angrily.
"Yes, I remember the national insult."
"I just don't get the whole need for the man verses beast thing. Animals weren't put here for our amusement."
"No, they were put here for our nourishment, but you won't eat them so I have to ride them," he laughed.
"How can you eat another creature?"
"With steak sauce," he answered and Emmett laughed loudly.
I looked at Mike, wanting him to get me out of the situation, but he was being overly attentive to yet another rodeo queen and wouldn't even look at me.
I began picking at my potato when Edward addressed me again. "Are you coming to the dance tonight?"
"What dance?" I asked in confusion.
"Each night they have a dance, I'm sure you won't know the band, but it is usually a lot of fun."
"I don't know how to western dance," I told him.
"I'm sure you are coordinated enough to catch on," he smiled and it made me feel stupid.
"I don't know what Mike has me scheduled for," I lied and noticed how Edward seemed a bit disappointed.
I wondered if he wanted me to come and I got a little nervous at the thought. I felt like he was the type of guy who would be rude or feel entitled to be able to grope me.
A man walked up to our table and spoke softly, "Black won in San Antonio."
"Of course he did, all the competition is here," Edward said angrily.
I listened quietly as they talked about points, and dollar amounts, and different locations. They might as well have been speaking in French, since none of it made sense to me. The blonde asked the quiet guy about someone named Alice.
"She's rubbing down Georgia," he said. "I just gave him a shot and she doesn't want his leg getting stiff."
"What's wrong with him?" Edward asked.
"Nothing, his fever is slightly elevated. I think he'll be fine after he drinks more fluids. She doesn't want to use Sarsaparilla; she thinks the dirt isn't deep enough."
"They'll bring in more before tomorrow," Emmett said and the quiet guy just shrugged.
"What do you know about Sweet Feet, Jasper?" Edward asked seriously and I realized the quiet guy was named Jasper.
He look a long breath and thought for a few moments before answering. "He'll go away hand, but keep your feet evenly planted in case he belly rolls. He'll be an easy ride, so don't suicide wrap."
"I never do," Edward said and Emmett kicked him under the table.
Jasper walked away and Edward turned his attention back to me when he caught me listening. "Do you feel like you entered a foreign country, instead of just America Light?"
I glanced around to see if any reporters were in earshot.
"I'm sorry, but I know the meanings of the words you use individually, but the way you put them together has me so confused."
He laughed loudly and put his arm on the back of my chair and turned to face me fully. "Have you ever ridden… a horse that is?" he said with a wink and I felt my heart speed up.
"Is that supposed to be a sexual reference?"
"Strictly recreational," he said with a crooked smile and I wondered why he didn't have a woman sitting next to him like his brother did.
"No, never had any interest," I admitted.
"Are you dating anyone?" he asked and I felt shocked by his boldness.
"Why?" I asked trying to sound cavalier.
"I want you to come tonight, you don't have to dance, just come hang out with me."
I laughed and let my head fall to the side in a condescending way, "Come on, Edward, the rodeo queens are a mile deep; each one panting over you."
"Never had any interest," he said as he stared into my eyes.
"I find that hard to believe."
He shrugged and began to run his thumb up and down my back lightly as he continued to stare at me. I felt a shiver run through me, and I chuckled nervously as I sat forward to get out of the reach of his thumb.
"You're good, I'll give you that much," I admitted.
He leaned in and spoke directly into my ear, "You have no idea."
"But, you don't realize something about me," I warned him. "I live in L.A. and I have seen every game in the book."
"You don't realize something about me," he said and licked his lips. "I never quit and I never lose."
"Eight seconds, not a big selling point," I laughed.
He grabbed his chest and acted like he had been wounded, making me laugh. "I'll be honest with you," he said seriously, "Today was nothing; it's easy to ride a bronc. Tomorrow will be intense and I make it a practice of living fully the night before, just in case."
"Define, living fully," I challenged him.
"It differs, tonight it means getting to know Bella Swan."
I stared at him and knew I was being played, but there was something so appealing about him. I hoped his own 'celebrity' would make him leery to talk about me with any reporters or paparazzi. I looked over at Mike and he was still gushing over the girl with big hair.
"Why not?" I said and Edward frowned.
"You don't seem sure, is there something holding you back?"
"I'm not easily played, Edward. I will be aware, and if you are just looking for someone to 'ride' you better look elsewhere."
"We have a saying in my family; 'it's not my first rodeo', which means we know what we're doing and we don't play games. You are different and it fascinates me. If I was only looking for someone to relieve the tension, I wouldn't have to look far."
"Fine, we'll hang out," I relented.
He smiled and my heart pounded in my chest warning me I was making a terrible mistake.
I walked through the doors of the large conference center across the street from the arena. Mike came with me, anxious to meet another queen, no doubt. I felt out of place in my skinny jeans and low cut v-neck t-shirt. I didn't have any boots and wasn't about to purchase any, so I wore my converse high tops.
The music was loud and the liquor was plentiful. I told a young man at the ticket table I was a guest of Edward Cullen's and he immediately rose to show me the way. A woman next to him grabbed my hand and stamped it. Mike wandered off as soon as we entered the hall and I was led toward a table on the far end of the room.
It was full of people and I was so relieved when Edward saw me and smiled, as he headed my way.
"You came," he said and took hold of my hand.
His hand was warm and I liked how tightly he held mine. "You were right, I don't know the band."
He was holding a long neck bottle and put it in the front of his jeans as he pulled me forward to make introductions. I tried to concentrate on the names, but the bottle sticking out of his pants kept breaking my concentration.
"Bella, these are my parents, Carlisle and Esme."
I extended my hand and smiled in earnest. "Hello," I said as they both shook my hand. I noticed his father gave Edward a sideways glance and his mother was more than welcoming. They were both beautiful and I understood where their kids got their looks.
"You remember Emmett and Rosalie," he said as we passed his brother and his wife. I didn't have the nerve to tell him I wasn't actually introduced to them, but Rosalie's demeanor was very intimidating, so I remained quiet.
"This is my sister Alice, and her fiancé Jasper. Jasper is our veterinarian, too."
Alice jumped up and I was shocked at her tiny size. Her brothers were so tall and she was dwarfed by them. She noticed my eyes and laughed. "Yeah, I'm the runt of the litter."
"Oh, I didn't mean…"
"It's okay. I have the biggest personality, so it evens out," she laughed. "I actually know who you are, Bella. The rest of these cowpokes don't have a clue. I like your music."
"Thank you, I'm actually enjoying being just part of the crowd," I confessed.
"Then you will want to stay far from Edward, he relishes the limelight," she said as she punched her brother in the gut.
"Hey, it follows me, what can I say," he teased.
"You want some cowboy Kool-Aid?" she asked as she handed me a beer.
"I think I'm going to need a lot of these tonight," I said softly and felt Edward tighten his grip on my hand. He pulled me to an empty spot at the table and we sat down. I watched the dance floor and got nervous. I had no idea how to do the steps everyone seemed to know.
"Hey," Edward called to get my attention, "feeling like a fish out of water?"
"That's putting it mildly; I feel more like a whore at a virgin's convention."
He laughed and took a swig of his drink before saying, "Nobody here's a virgin, so relax."
"Well, I wasn't admitting I'm a whore," I clarified.
He looked at me for a moment and then went back to his beer. His eyes made me nervous and I wasn't used to being the star struck one. It felt like the balance of power had shifted and I didn't like feeling weak.
"So, whose place am I taking tonight?" I asked him.
"What do you mean?" he asked.
I rolled my eyes at his pretence. "I know how celebrity works, Edward."
"Really, so how many groupies do you bring around your family?" he asked in irritation.
I saw his point. I had guys come to my trailer before, but I never had them around my family. It made me feel special he had actually invited me here, but also scared the shit out of me. I was not looking for a relationship and especially with a cowboy. I still found his sport barbaric.
The band began playing another song and the crowd went wild. Edward jumped up and yelled for Alice. She actually walked across the table and jumped onto the floor in front of Edward. A spotlight landed on them and he grabbed her around the waist and they began a very complicated dance.
The song was about rodeos and everyone was singing along loudly. I didn't understand why nobody else came to the dance floor. It was as if the song was only for Edward and Alice. I looked at his family to see if they would give me an explanation. Rosalie finally walked over to me.
"Only the All Around Cowboy dances to this song," she said and I nodded. "It's Rodeo by Garth Brooks."
I stuck the information away for later, so I could listen to the song again. It had an infectious hook and everyone seemed to enjoy the tempo of the song. When it ended Edward removed his hat and tossed it high into the air as the crowd cheered for him.
I couldn't help but smile as he picked up his hat and walked towards me. "Nice," I smiled.
He nodded toward the dance floor and I instantly tensed. "I can't do that," I assured him.
"You won't have to do anything," he said.
He took my hand and dragged me into the middle of the crowded dance floor before pulling me into his arms. I naturally raised my hands to rest along his biceps. His entire body folded around me as he bent his knees slightly and pulled my body snuggly against his. It felt so intimate, until I realized all the men were dancing that way. I slowly let my hands ride up his arms and around his neck as he buried his face in mine. His hat kept us securely hidden from the prying eyes and I couldn't believe it when I sighed.
His arms tightened even more and I could swear I felt him kiss my exposed skin, where my neck met my shoulder. He finally said with a thick voice, "I can feel your heart racing."
"The whole fish out of water thing," I said with a shaky voice.
"Are you sure?" he asked in a whisper.
I couldn't answer. He was having an effect on me and I wasn't about to admit it to him. I knew with a certainty someone else would be in his arms tonight, if I wasn't here. I couldn't let myself fall for a guy who I had absolutely nothing in common.
When the song ended, and everyone broke apart, he raised his head but still held me tightly. "You okay?" he asked with concern.
"Great, I just feel….I mean I have on tennis shoes….I think people…" I finally stopped talking since I had no idea what I was trying to say.
"Do you want to leave?" he asked and I wanted to scream the word yes, but I was afraid he wasn't meaning he would come with me.
"I have a hand stamp; it would be sacrilege to leave."
He laughed and took my hand in his again and led me back to our table. Emmett was pouring shots and everyone would drink it down fast and then guzzle their beer. I gave it a try and felt like my throat had been set on fire.
Everyone laughed and Edward wrapped his arms around me, "Sorry, that's a riders drink. It shows you something more painful than being dumped by a bull."
"What was it, moonshine?" I said with a raw throat.
"Moonshine?" Edward asked incredulously. "We're not hillbillies."
"Sorry," I mumbled and wanted to smack my big mouth again.
"Try it again," Emmett begged as he handed me another shot glass. "It's an acquired taste for a gunsel."
"Leave her alone," Edward said sternly, but I had no idea what he called me and noticed everyone staring. I wanted to feel like part of the group so I took the glass and downed it quickly. This time I had to hold my hand over my mouth to keep it from coming back up.
"Come on, I'll get you a sweet drink," Edward said as he pulled me away from his laughing family.
We headed to the bar and he ordered a sloe gin fizz and handed me the pink drink. I took it but was becoming worried about staying upright. Edward ordered another beer and when he took a long drink as he stared into my eyes, I instantly took a big gulp of the sweet drink.
The shots were starting to hit me and I could hear myself beginning to giggle and I couldn't force my brain to connect enough to stop.
"What's so funny?" he asked with a crooked smile.
"This whole thing is surreal," I laughed. "I mean guys like you don't exist in my world."
"Guys like me?" he pressed.
"Yeah, I mean look at the size of your buckle." He looked down at his pants. "I would think it was due to some incompetency you were trying to hide, but then you climb on wild animals for kicks."
"For money," he clarified and I only laughed harder.
He smiled and said, "You are going to pass out from laughter, when you see my truck."
"I'll show you," he said and took hold of my hand again.
We tried to make it out of the room but he was being descended upon by adoring fans, mostly female. Everyone wanted his attention and he soon began leading us back to his table. Nobody approached him there and I understood there must be some sort of code of etiquette concerning the table.
I wasn't sure if I was disappointed or not, I wanted to see what he was going to show me, but I was also afraid to be alone with him while feeling tipsy. The last thing my career needed was a front page picture of me wearing nothing but chaps as some rodeo hero got his kicks.
The thought made me laugh out loud and Edward leaned into me and asked, "What's so funny, now."
"I had a very disturbing image run through my head," I admitted without any control over my mouth at all. "I saw myself wearing chaps."
"And nothing else, I hope," he added and I nodded stupidly. "I've been having the same image," he admitted.
"Then why aren't you laughing?" I asked with a slight slur.
"I don't find it funny, only sexy as hell."
"You, Edward Cullen, are much more dangerous than any bull. How many cowgirls have you thrown?"
He surprised me by taking hold of both of my hands and kissing them gently. "I know the difference between riding a bull and loving a woman," he said softly and I felt my heart racing again. "I do both quite well and there is nothing remotely similar between the two."
I stared at our joined hands and finally looked back at his eyes and asked, "Why am I here?"
"You tell me," he said without a smile.
"You asked me to come," I pointed out.
"And you came, why?"
I looked around the room and nothing felt familiar, except Edward. He felt…warm, and safe. "I don't let people get close because they always want something from me. I guess you didn't give me the impression you wanted anything."
"You're wrong, love. I want something."
I felt tears sting my eyes and I bit my lip as I nodded in understanding. He wanted someone in his bed and thought I would be an easy target. I was so stupid and fell for it. He reached up to wipe my tears away but I pulled back out of his reach. "Don't touch me," I warned him.
"Just let me explain," he begged.
"No need, I have to go," I said as I stood and the room began to spin. "Shit," I yelled loudly and sat back down, "you got me drunk."
"If you want to go, I'll take you. I'm not the kind of guy who lets a girl leave alone."
"And I'm sure you're not the kind of guy who lets a girl sleep all alone in her big scary bed either," I said harshly.
His jaw tightened and I could tell I was making him angry. "I have a big day tomorrow, so I doubt date rape will be on my agenda tonight."
"Live to the fullest, remember?"
"Look around, pumpkin; if I wanted an easy lay I could have my pick. I want to get to know you, that is what I want from you. Why are you so sure I only want to fuck you?"
I opened my mouth to answer but I had to admit I didn't have an answer. He hadn't been disrespectful to me; he had been sweet and tender. "I have to be careful, the press can be brutal," I finally said.
The band began playing another slow song and Edward led me to the dance floor again. This time I melted right into him. I was dizzy, but I wasn't so sure it was from the alcohol.
I actually recognized the song playing, only without the western edge, and when the band sang, You want a man with a slow hand, you want a lover with an easy touch. I thought my entire body was going to explode.
When he kissed my neck I sighed, and he began making his way with kisses to my ear.
"You fit so nicely in my arms," he whispered and I felt my knees turn to mush.
I ran my hand into his hair that was sticking out from his hat and twisted it around my fingers. He backed up just enough to look into my eyes and tilted his head, so his hat wouldn't bump into me.
"Do you want me to take you back to your hotel?"
I didn't trust my mouth so I shook my head back and forth.
He leaned in so slowly, I thought my heart would stop beating in my chest, and kissed me very softly. It was torturous and I wanted to jam my tongue down his throat. I tightened my hand around his neck and pulled him in again. He kept the kiss light and just barely brushed his lips against mine, driving me absolutely crazy.
"Kiss me," I complained, wanting so much more than his feathery touch.
Someone knocked into us at that moment and I would have fallen down, if he wasn't holding me so tightly. Edward glared at the guy and said emphatically, "Apologize to the lady."
The man looked me up and down and sneered at my shoes, "I don't see a lady."
I was stunned when Edward grabbed the guy and pushed him into the deep crowded dance floor. "Now you're going to apologize twice," he yelled.
The man narrowed his eyes and a couple of his buddies stood next to him with their hands pulled into fists. I grabbed Edward's arm and said, "It's okay, really."
"Go sit down," Edward said and turned back to the men. Emmett came to stand next to Edward and smiled largely.
"James, are you starting some shit?" Emmett said with a chuckle.
"Your brother thinks I need to apologize to his whore, he's wrong."
Edward swung so quickly James never saw it coming, until Edward's fist connected with his jaw. "You owe her three now," Edward screamed.
I had no idea what happened after that point. The entire dance floor erupted into fighting and Alice pulled me back to the table, completely unconcerned. I stared in shock at the violence around me and she laughed, "Don't worry, its how they play."
"Play?" I asked suddenly feeling very sober.
"They relieve the tension by hitting each other, it makes the bulls less scary," she giggled.
"This is insane," I said under my breath. I watched the band just continue to perform as if nothing was happening.
I had no idea what made it finally end, but the police were not even called. The man named James walked over to me, with a swollen eye and a bloody lip, and tipped his hat, "Sorry," he said and I nodded numbly.
Edward came back and sat down like he had only taken a bathroom break. I stared in confusion and finally said, "You're bleeding."
He put a napkin up to the small cut next to his eye and said, "It's nothing."
"What the hell was that?" I asked as I continued to stare at him.
"He was rude, he needed to apologize," he stated bluntly.
"I'm guessing you're not big on turning the other cheek."
"I'm not weak," he said as if I had insulted him.
Emmett came up and extended his fist for Edward to bump and said, "Nuts and guts."
Edward said it back and both guys smiled. I looked at Rosalie and she jumped on Emmett's lap and kissed him passionately. Obviously Emmett's fighting was foreplay to her. I noticed Edward's parents were on the dance floor and I wondered if his father had been fighting, too.
This whole world was so confusing for me. Edward was kissing me too lightly one moment and punching a guy's face the next. Maybe psychotic people were drawn to this lifestyle.
Mike walked up to me with a pretty girl on his arm. I smiled at the girl and then glared at Mike. "Can you take a cab?" he asked me.
"Sure," I said and pitied the poor girl.
"I'll take her," Edward said and Mike smirked knowingly at me as he said "I bet he will."
"You better watch your attitude," Edward warned him.
"He's my manager," I explained, and prayed Edward wouldn't punch him.
"I don't care who he is, he better treat you with respect."
"You're not my father," I said as I rolled my eyes.
Edward's brow furrowed and he looked confused, "What does that have to do with anything?"
I ignored him and turned back to Mike, "When do we leave tomorrow?"
"Um, I'm not sure; I'll leave you a message after I check."
I had a suspicious feeling Mike did not tell me everything about this 'eating crow' trip he had arranged for me. I had a concert next weekend in Denver and hoped I wasn't going straight there from here.
"Don't forget about the concert in Denver next weekend," I reminded him before he walked away and I turned back to Edward.
He smiled in a way that made me so nervous. He was going to take me back to the hotel and I had to find the strength to send him right away. I grabbed a beer off the table and took a long drink. I immediately felt the effects again and sat down. Edward pulled a chair up next to me and I picked up a napkin and dabbed his cut again.
"Does it hurt?" I asked him and he chuckled as he shook his head back and forth.
"I'm guessing you have plenty of scars," I said, not meaning I wanted him to show them to me.
"Not too many, I told you I'm good at what I do."
"And why do you do this?" I said as I motioned toward the crowd.
"It's a way of life, my dad lived this way, and his dad, it's ingrained in my genes."
"I just don't get it," I said softly.
"We are a normal family. We live on a ranch in California and we work hard, as well as, play hard."
"I'm an only child," I said with a smile.
"Your parents must be very proud of you," he said and moved a strand of hair behind my ear. I felt my face blush and shook my head in the negative.
"They felt college would have been a better avenue."
"Surely they are proud of your success."
I felt the tears form again and took a deep breath. "It's hard when you want to be a grown up and the rag magazines report every sordid detail of your life for your policeman father to read."
"Am I a sordid detail?" he asked.
"Let me see, famous cowboy takes Bella Swan back to hotel after drunken brawl….hum….your looking pretty sordid," I laughed.
"Why don't I go get the microphone and you can insult France this time, so I get left out of the story," he laughed as if he came up with the perfect plan.
I smiled and stared at his beautiful face and then sighed, "I think I better take a cab back to the hotel."
"Or you can stay here with me?" he suggested.
"It would just sell more magazines," I told him honestly.
He played with my fingers and spoke softly without looking at me. "The cameras here only care about the cowboys. I think you would be noticed less here than at the hotel."
"But the walk of shame in the morning would be plastered across the news stands, as I scurried back to the hotel."
He raised his eyes to meet mine and my heart began racing yet again. "I want you to stay," he said quietly.
He was actually asking me to spend the night with him. How could I say no, he was so sweet and made me feel protected? But the truth was I didn't even know this guy, and maybe he was going to film the whole thing and sell it on the open market. I had to be smart and not place all my trust in a cute guy.
"I can't," I said sadly.
He looked at his watch and said, "Will you take a walk with me?"
I smiled and leaned my forehead against his before saying, "A walk doesn't mean sex, does it?"
"No, just a walk," he said sadly and I felt badly for insinuating anything different.
"I would really like to take a walk with you, Edward Cullen." I smiled and he returned the gesture as he stood and pulled me toward the back of the center.
We headed down a narrow hallway and a security guard opened a door revealing a long path under the street to the arena. When we exited the other side we were in the back of the arena where all the RV's were parked. People were all over the place caring for animals and he led me to a temporary corral filled with horses.
"This is my best friend," he said as he rubbed the head of the horse that came right up to him.
"Man-o-war?" I asked.
Edward smiled big and nodded; seemingly impressed I remembered the name of his horse. "He's an American Quarter Horse," he said and I had no idea what that meant. "He would give his life for me, of course he is worth much more than my life is," he laughed.
"Are horses expensive?" I asked as I tentatively put my hand out to touch his horse.
"That one over there," he said pointing to a horse with a braided mane, "cost Alice over a hundred grand."
"Holy crap, and my father complained about the price of guitars. Do all these belong to your family?" I asked as I looked around the tight enclosure.
"Yeah, my father and Jasper are vets. My dad takes care of the ranch stock and Jasper takes care of the rodeo stock. I'll show you my other baby," he said taking my hand again.
He led me to a truck, with tires up to my waist, and loaded with every option you could imagine. His name was painted on the side with a picture of him riding a bull.
I laughed loudly and walked around the massive thing, "Oh, man, you are really trying to compensate for something. This must get five miles per gallon."
"I think it is my version of manifest destiny," he laughed. "There are no lands to conquer so I have to conquer the road."
"Does everything you ride have to be dangerous?" I teased.
"Not everything, there's my trailer," he said pointing to a gorgeous motor home with more pictures and his name everywhere.
"How did you get them both here?" I asked as I looked back and forth between the two.
"A driver brings the trailer," he explained.
He walked over and opened the door for me to look inside. I was so jealous at how much nicer his trailer was than mine. I looked at every inch of the thing before turning back to look at him. He was leaning against the counter of the small kitchen and I realized I had fallen for his game.
"Shit," I said under my breath and he gave me an odd look. "I fell for it; you got me into your trailer."
"I'm not blocking the door; you can leave if you don't want to be here."
I didn't like the way he phrased it, because it forced me to admit I did want to be there. I glared at him and he only smiled. "How old are you, Bella?"
"So is Alice, I'm twenty five."
"Is that old in cowboy years?" I asked.
He chuckled and said slyly, "I'm in my prime."
I felt a shiver run through me again and I crossed my arms awkwardly.
"I wish you had some of your music on you," he said as he nodded to the couch. "I would love to hear it."
"It isn't your style, believe me," I laughed and sat at the end furthest from him.
He shrugged, "I would still like to hear it."
"I'll give you a CD," I offered.
We sat in silence for a moment and I finally found the courage to look at him. He licked his lips and I watched his tongue glide over his mouth and disappear again. I swallowed and noticed how dry my mouth felt.
"Come here," he whispered with a jerk of his head, almost taking my breath away.
I wanted to stay put so badly. My mind was screaming at me to walk out that door, but my body had a will of its own and moved towards him. He held his arms open and I collapsed into them as he lay back on the cushions, pulling me on top of him.
"Ow," I yelled, "Is that a weapon?" I climbed off of him to stare at his massive gold buckle.
He let his head fall back in laughter and I realized how my words sounded. "I was talking about your buckle," I said with a red face.
"Damn, I was ready to get rid of the truck," he teased.
"Get rid of the buckle and work up to the truck," I said shaking my head. I walked back to the end of the couch and sat.
He stood and looked right at me as he pulled his shirt from his jeans and removed his belt. I reached out for it and he laid it in my hand, which immediately dropped from the weight of it.
"Oh my God," I laughed. "How do you carry this huge thing around?"
"We're still talking about the buckle, right?" he said with a sultry voice. He pulled on the ends of his shirt and the buttons quickly unsnapped showing his bare chest. His muscles were taut and rippling, even though he had a thin frame.
I tried so hard to look away but his body was perfect, just like his face, and I wanted to touch it. I pulled my hands into a fist and forced myself to remain sitting. He stuck his heel in some contraption and pulled his leg, leaving the boot on the floor. He repeated the action and then came to sit next to me.
"There, nothing dangerous left."
I shook my head in disagreement. "I already told you, you are a very dangerous man."
He looked into my eyes and then at my mouth before saying, "I wouldn't hurt you."
"Really…Because you're killing me right now," I whispered with a smile.
He put his hand on the back of my head and held me captive as he moved toward my mouth. I reached up and pulled his hat from his head and tossed it before putting my hand into his hair. He kissed me very lightly again and I wanted to cry from the frustration it produced.
I followed him as he backed away, placing my lips firmly onto his and wrapping his hair in my fist. He moaned and I lifted off the cushion, pushing him back so I could stretch out onto him. His legs wrapped around my calves holding me pinned to the couch.
I ran my hands over his chest, not used to men who didn't wax, and moved his open shirt out of the way so I could kiss my way around his muscles. He let his arms drop over his head, and he closed his eyes, as he moaned loudly.
Something was off and I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but I was getting more and more aggressive as my body demanded his attention. He held my face in his hands and tilted my head away as he kissed my neck so tenderly.
I was panting loudly and wanted to rip his jeans from his body when it dawned on me what was different. He was touching me softly and moving slowly, and I had expected the exact opposite. I thought he would be rough and wild, like he was with the bronc.
I began to follow his pace and take my time with every inch of him. I let my lips trail over his as my fingers outlined his face gently. When he flattened his hands against my shoulder blades and pulled me tightly to him, I pushed up onto my locked arms and looked into his eyes. I could see the fire burning right under the surface and his control amazed me.
"You are so beautiful," he murmured.
"I'm quickly losing control," I told him hoping he had enough for both of us.
Instead he reached under my shirt and pulled it from my body. He looked down at my chest and touched my bare back very lightly, before kissing the exposed skin. I arched into him, wanting to beg him to let the torture end and move quickly.
He rolled over me and sat up; bringing my foot to his chest he pulled off my shoe and sock and then cleared the other foot. He bent over, still on his knees to kiss my stomach and I lifted my body up to meet him. He kissed his way up to my bra and unhooked the front clasp with his teeth causing me to laugh.
"It's not my first rodeo," he said against my skin.
"Obviously," I laughed.
He finally, finally, came to my mouth, letting the full weight of his body lie against me, and kissed me like I had been wanting. His mouth consumed me and I couldn't catch my breath. I felt like I was fusing into him and would never be able to be just Bella again.
My arms were wrapped so tightly around him I wasn't sure if I was hurting him or not, but his kiss deepened even more and I cursed the jeans we were both still wearing for blocking my path from truly having him.
He finally moved from my mouth and I gasped loudly for air and heard him growl into my neck. "God, Edward," I yelled out.
"Tell me what you want," he said into my ear.
"You, I want you," I panted, feeling actual pain from wanting him so badly.
"How, tell me how you want me," he asked and I cried out when he rocked his pelvis against me.
"Just fuck me already," I said with labored breath.
He chuckled and shook his head, "I don't do that," he whispered and I pulled on his hair, making him look at me.
"Then show me what you do and stop with the teasing," I demanded.
He stood and pulled me to my feet. I was about to let loose with a string of profanities when he picked me up and headed to the large bed in the back of the trailer. As soon as I was on the bed he began undoing my jeans and I quickly kicked my legs out of them.
He removed his in one fluid motion along with his boxers and I stared at him like a he was manna. He grabbed the tiny side of my panties and ripped them with his bare hands as I pulled him to me.
"Bella, think about this, if you want me to stop, just say the word."
"Are you insane?" I said and began kissing him passionately.
"I don't want you to regret anything," he said as he pushed away a bit.
I took a deep breath and he stared at me, waiting for the go ahead. "Edward, I know this is happening so fast, and I know you either want me to go away afterwards, or show up again tomorrow night. I just want you to keep quiet about it, okay?"
He moved away from me, and sat up against the head of the bed, as he tried to steady his breathing. "I want to get to know you, Bella. I don't want you going anywhere."
I crawled up to him, sitting next to his lap so I could look at him closely. "I'm trying to stay detached, because a guy like you could really break my heart. I'm not asking for anything from you, except for what I need right now."
He looked at me for several moments and then gently moved me to the side. "You can get dressed and I'll call you a cab."
I watched in complete shock as he climbed off the bed, grabbed his jeans, and left the room. I looked at my torn underwear and threw them at the door as I pulled on my jeans. I walked out, to put my bra and shirt back on, just as Edward hung up the phone. He turned to face me and I said, "Don't you dare speak to me."
I got dressed and angrily tied my shoes without putting on my socks and walked out the door. Edward ran after me and I put my arm out to stop him.
"Please, just let me leave without any more humiliation. Haven't you had enough fun at my expense?"
"I told you I wanted more, I wasn't playing you," he said angrily.
"More what?" I asked him. "I will never see you again, so how exactly do you want more?
He shook his head and took a couple of steps back, "Goodbye, Bella."
I walked to the front of the arena and found a cab waiting. As soon as I entered the back seat the driver asked, "Aren't you Bella Swan?"
"Yeah," I tried to smile, "I sang at the Rodeo earlier." I turned my head so the driver couldn't see me clearly and tried not to cry. I was mad, upset, and extremely frustrated. When we pulled in front of the hotel I tossed a fifty on the seat and ran from the cab to the elevator. I could see the flashing of the cameras and only hoped I had kept my head down enough to make my face undetectable.
I ran a hot bath and sat in the bubbles as I cried. I was mad at myself for being so stupid, I didn't even know the guy and I was crying over him. I forced myself to admit it was only the sex I was missing, not him.
I got out of the tub and pulled the towel off of my dry hair. I put on a robe and was lathering on the lotion when I heard a knock at my door. I was sure it was Mike making sure I was safely back and was surprised to see someone from the front desk through the peep hole.
"Yes," I asked, keeping the door closed.
"I have a delivery for you, Ms. Swan," he answered.
"Just leave it by the door," I told him and went back to finishing the lotion. When I was done I walked to the door and opened it only holding my robe shut in front of me.
Edward was sitting on the floor next to the door and looked up at me. I looked around in confusion and he smiled. "I had myself delivered to you," he said.
I tried not to smile and folded my arms in front of me. "What do you want, Edward?"
He stood and stepped closer to me and I automatically backed up, but he took another step. "I want to apologize," he said softly.
"For what?" I asked wanting to know exactly what he was sorry about.
"For letting you leave, I'm sorry I let you leave."
"You owe me some underwear," I said and wanted to kick myself. I had no idea why I said those words, but looking at him had me flustered and I couldn't think straight.
"Okay," he laughed, "I guess I got carried away."
The elevator opened and I reflexively moved back into the room. Edward followed and closed the door softly. I raised my eyebrows at him, letting him know I had not invited him in.
"Can we talk?" he asked with a sad face.
I nodded to the sitting area and we both sat on the couch. I waited for him to speak and he seemed to be struggling with what he wanted to say. "Can you...If I asked…I mean Denver is my next stop."
"You want to see me in Denver?" I asked slightly confused.
"No, I want to take you to Denver," he clarified.
I laughed, but he didn't, so I let my mouth fall open. "Edward, I can't just go off with you."
"You're going to Denver and I have to be there for a rodeo, so I'm offering you a ride."
"I don't even have my concert clothes with me," I explained.
"They can be sent," he said, knowing how things worked.
I bit my lip and decided to talk honestly. "Edward, you scare me, and not that I think you would hurt me or that you are actually dangerous, but I'm a small town girl and you're this larger than life guy."
He shook his head in disagreement. "Bella, I'm just like you. I'm doing what I love to do and just happened to become famous for it. I want a woman who wants to know me, not the poster version of who they think I am."
I understood what he meant. He made me feel wanted without even knowing I was famous or what my music sounded like.
"We have nothing in common," I pointed out.
"I've done the common route; it's not what it's cracked up to be."
"Mike won't allow it," I said as my mind began actually considering his proposition.
"You're his boss," Edward pointed out and I was a little pissed for not figuring that out earlier.
"Come here," I whispered and watched the smile grow on his face.
He scooted closer and lifted my legs over his lap and let his head rest against the couch. As he stared into my eyes his hand began moving slowly up my leg and under the robe. I inhaled deeply and my body began to shake from all the pent up need.
I straddled his lap and began undoing his jeans. "You asked me how I wanted you, just like this," I told him.
He kept his head back and moved my robe back to expose my hips so he could hold them tightly. I set the pace and moved with a purpose, meeting all my needs in one explosive release. I let my head fall onto his shoulder and he rolled me onto my back as he went to work again.
I had never known a man this knowledgeable about how to please a woman. I couldn't keep my mouth shut as I praised him, thanked him, and cried out for him. He was covered in sweat and when he finally got there his strength was amazing. He lifted my hips off the cushions and held them with one arm as he arched into me in spasms.
He was beautiful and manly at the same time and I felt like I wanted to cry. He dropped my body and kept his arms locked to stay above me. I ran my hands up his arms and begged him, "Come here, come to me."
He lowered himself slowly and kissed me softly as he whispered, "Thank you, Bella."
"You are so amazing," I said with what little strength I had left.
"That was all you, love," he said as he buried his head in my neck.
I held him to me and smiled when I heard him beginning to breathe deeply and steadily. I didn't want him to get too deeply asleep, since he was still wearing his clothes and had his jeans around his knees.
"Edward," I said softly and ran my hands through his hair.
"Yeah, I'll go," he moaned.
"I really want you to stay," I said and he lifted his head to look at me sleepily.
"Please, tell me I'm not dreaming."
"If you are, I'm going to cry," I told him honestly.
He stood and pulled up his pants following me into the bedroom. I took off his shirt and pants after he removed his own boots and turned down the bed. He walked over and took off my robe and then nodded to the bed, "Ladies first."
I decided at that moment I loved the cowboy culture. He was the first man I had met who actually put my needs ahead of his own and I felt my heart make room for Edward Cullen to enter. I snuggled up to his side and he pulled me into his arms and sighed.
"Bella," he called out softly.
"This has been my best night, ever."
I smiled and kissed his chest. I had been so angry at Mike for making me come here and now Canada would be my favorite country.