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An Accidental Text
From: JacobBlack [mailto: JakieB_Black at gmail(dot)com]
Sent: Monday, May 17, 2010 9:18 AM
Subject: It's time!
It's done! Can you believe it B? The restaurant is ready to be opened!
We've been doing staging the past week or so, but I have the grand opening scheduled for
Friday. There's going to be a photographer, someone from the paper and someone to do
a write up for Parade magazine!
B, it would mean the world to me if you would be here to share in this. You're my best
friend and I can't imagine making such a step without you here.
Please say you'll come.
From: BellaMSwan [mailto: BellaCygnus at gmail(dot)com]
Sent: Monday, May 17, 2010 12:40 PM
Subject: Re: It's time!
Are you kidding? Of course I'll be there!
Just let me arrange to get the time off. I wouldn't miss this for anything.
I am so proud of you Jake. So proud!
I'll text you with the flight info as soon as I get it.
Bella looked up from arranging the display for the newly released La Perla line and to see her regional manager approaching her. "Diana, hello!" she quickly replied.
Diana was impeccably adorned in a white lace and tweed dress and Bella was certain it was Chanel, and new. Her raven hair was so black, Bella swore in the bright sunlight it had blue and indigo highlights; today she had it swept up into a smart chignon with highly glossed and ornate chopsticks holding it in place. Her skin was pale and flawless with an imperceptible amount of makeup. She didn't need it. Her small, rectangular Prada eyeglasses were perched at the end of her nose. Diana was a bit OCD in her mannerisms and outwardly seemed like an ice queen, but Bella knew better; she was an excellent manager and mentor, and a genuinely good person. Bella couldn't have been happier with her job.
"Bella, you took my advice and bought that Carolina Herrera suit. It looks wonderful on you."
"I did. Thank you. You were so right; I just love it." Bella smiled and ran her hands quickly down the front of her new suit.
"So, you want to arrange for a little time off. Do you think you deserve it?" She looked over the end of her glasses at Bella and raised an eyebrow.
Diana's tone and reply took Bella by surprise. She was certain that she had banked more than enough vacation time and this shouldn't be a problem.
A quick smile crossed Diana's face. "You, my dear, in fact are overdue for a vacation. You haven't taken one in a year."
Bella released the breath that she hadn't realized she was holding and then laughed. "I guess I've been too concerned about making sure everyone got to take their vacation."
"Well, I'm glad you finally decided to put in for some time off before I had corporate asking me why I was working you so hard." Diana winked at Bella and began walking to the back of the store and her office. "So, instead of leaving on Wednesday, go ahead and leave today. In fact, leave now. I don't want to see you back here for two weeks."
"Thanks Diana! I really appreciate it," Bella exclaimed.
"Aaah! I can't hear you! Put down those panties and get out of here!" And she disappeared into the back.
A huge smile graced Bella's face. She quickly made her way to her office in the back, grabbed her purse and bag and was out the door. She'd not been back to Seattle for over a year and missed her best friend desperately. Even though she had a roommate and almost sister here in Rosalie, she wanted to connect with her home again. And to share the opening of Jake's new restaurant, that would just be the icing on the cake.
Sitting on the bus as she headed towards the apartment, she pulled out her brand new iPhone. She was absolutely tickled to have her new toy, but she hadn't found the time to enter all her contacts so she typed in Jake's phone number, followed by her text to him.
J - Guess what? I'm coming to town earlier than I thought. ~Bella
There! She thought. Now, once I get home, I can find a flight and I'll be on my way!
"Okay, are you sure this is the picture you want for your husband?"
Edward looked through his camera to frame the shot. What was displayed before him was probably one of the most unusual requests he'd had when it came to his photography. Sitting in front of a backdrop of a deep grey and white sueded cloth was an old, copper, claw foot tub. Lying in the tub was a petite, spitfire of a woman. Her head was thrown back and her strawberry blonde hair spilled in a cascade over one end of the tub. Her left arm was extended and in her hand she held a martini glass filled with a vodka and cranberry juice. Her right arm was covering her eyes, almost as though she was swooning. Her legs were elevated and scissored, her toes pointed, her toenails a bloody shade of red. Haphazardly pooled in front of the tub were a cheerleader's uniform and, a pair of white thigh boots and green pom poms. To top off this insane photographic … thing was a bottle of Captain Morgan's rum that he'd rigged so when he flipped a switch, the bottle would tip forward on the shower head and bathe the tiny beauty with rum.
Edward shook his head and considered having her sign a non-disclosure agreement that said she couldn't tell anyone that he'd taken the photograph.
"God, I can't believe I let her talk me into this," he muttered to himself.
"Did you say something Edward?"
"No, no – sorry. I was just talking out loud; making sure I had the shot all set up."
"Okay, I'm ready!"
Edward's back pocket started vibrating. "Just a sec Jenn," he said as he stepped back from his tripod and pulled out his phone. It showed he'd received a text message.
J - Guess what? I'm coming to town earlier than I thought. ~Bella
He ran his hand through his hair as he looked down at the text message in confusion. He blew out a breath.
"Hmm, wrong number. I don't know anyone coming to town, let alone someone named Bella." Shaking his head, he returned the phone to the back pocket of his well-worn jeans.
Edward Cullen didn't need to work, technically, but his family taught him the value of work and the importance of philanthropy, so he made a point of working and donating to several charities. His family let him explore what he liked and enjoyed as an occupation. Edward chose photography, or maybe it was photography that chose him. What rested deep within him was an innate ability to capture the right moment, be it for people or in nature. His preference was to work outside with the calming serenity of a landscape, but he would take the odd job for personal photography. Boy, this was an odd one, but Jenn was married to an old acquaintance of his. This was to be an anniversary gift from her, so he let her tell him what she wanted. Edward was actually able to pull her request back and this was the compromise.
All Edward needed was to get this shot and then he could retreat to his project – a series that held special meaning to him. Near his home was a pristine meadow; a sanctuary for him, where he escaped to think, to rest his mind and energize his soul. He'd taken numerous shots there at different times of the day, with different exposures and angles. He felt the set was almost complete, but he needed one final shot. It needed to be special, but to date, he'd not been able to find that missing piece. He would return today and sit and think until it came to him. The answer was out there, he knew it; he just had to find it.
Edward stood, rolled his neck, rubbed his hands together and returned to his tripod.
"Ready Jenn?" he called and set the shot within the viewfinder.
"I am! Let's do this!" she chimed.
He pushed the switch that tipped the bottle of rum and started snapping as Jenn squealed and laughed all the while being bathed in rum.
Back in Bella's apartment, she checked her phone waiting on Jake's incoming text. She wondered why he hadn't responded as he usually had a message within seconds of her sending. She shrugged and assumed that he was just busy at the moment, he would get back with her shortly, she was certain. He had to have a million things to get arranged before the opening on Friday.
Bella dropped her bag on the couch near the front door and deposited herself next to it, kicking off her shoes with a smooth and often performed ease.
"Rose? You home?" Bella yelled so her voice echoed throughout the apartment. The two had been dorm roommates all the way though their years at Northwestern. After graduation, they were lucky enough to find a nice sized apartment in a beautiful quiet neighborhood in the city. As Rosalie's family lived in Chicago, and it was difficult for Bella to get home to Washington during the school year, the Hales had welcomed her into their family, inviting her and including her in all their family events, celebrations and vacations. In turn, Rose visited Bella in Washington during the summers.
"Sweetie, I'm back in the kitchen. You're home early? You get fired?" Rosalie yelled back and finished with a laugh.
Bella stood and walked back to the kitchen taking a seat at the breakfast bar. Rosalie was in the middle of creating some type of dessert confection.
"Oooh, whatcha baking?" Bella reached out and grabbed a small nugget of chocolate. And was promptly punished with a whap to her hand by Rose's wooden spoon. "Ow! Hey! I am your quality control tester. No hitting the help," she protested rubbing the back of her hand.
"Oh you'll get to test it, but when it is ready, which it is not." She stopped and looked at the mixing bowl in front of her and pondered its contents. To Bella, when Rose did this it always seemed to her that she was trying to will the ingredients to tell her how they wanted to be mixed or folded together. Then she would cock her head to one side, close her eyes and a huge bright smile would cross her face. Bella called it Rose's "eureka" moment.
"You never answered my question Bella, did you get fired?" Rosalie went right back to the bowl tossing in pinches of this and that, working with seemingly no organization, but ultimately creating a delicious sweet delight.
Bella rested her chin in her hands and watched Rose work. "Nope, I told you Diana loves me. I'm her best employee there." She tentatively reached her finger towards the bowl. Rose raised her spoon menacingly at her and raised an eyebrow. "Remember how I told you that Jake was trying to open up a restaurant?" Rosalie nodded as she continued to work. "Well, he's done it! And the grand opening is scheduled for Friday. Diana was nice enough to let me take my vacation a day early."
"That's great! Does he need a bakery chef? I could probably see if I could skip a few classes." Rose was taking culinary classes; she'd decided that she wanted to be a bakery chef.
"I would imagine that if he's set to open on Friday, he already has that taken care of."
"Yeah, you're probably right." Rose chuckled in agreement, then put down her spoon and came around the counter to hug her friend in jubilation. "Jake will be so happy to see you! This is such great news for him!"
"I know, right? I haven't seen Jake since he came to visit sophomore year. And now, think of it. He'll be a restaurant owner. I can hardly believe it." Bella hugged her friend in equal happiness. "Speaking of him, he's not answered me back yet. I need to send him another text." Bella pulled out her iPhone and typed out Jake's number and another text.
Listen you goober, I know you're busy, but why aren't you answering me? ~Bella
Edward was zipping along the freeway in his red, 1969 Camaro SS when he heard his phone buzz on the console next to him. He turned his head slightly to look at it.
Listen you goober, I know you're busy, but why aren't you answering me? ~Bella
He picked up the phone and saw that he'd received another message from this Bella person. He chuckled and smiled putting his phone back down.
"Someone definitely has the wrong number." Edward had reached his exit and left the highway when his phone chimed again. He pulled into the parking lot of the building where his studio resided.
I'm sending you my flight info in a minute.
"Uh oh…" he mumbled as he read the text. A second later the text containing the mysterious Bella's flight info arrived.
I'll be arriving tomorrow from O'Hare to Sea-Tac on flight xxxx at xx:xx. Please pick me up? I promise I'll bring your favorite cupcakes from Rosalie. Will bribery get you to answer me? ~Bella
"Hell." Edward ran his hand over his face and then into his hair. "I can't let this chick arrive at the airport with no one to pick her up." He got out of his car, grabbed his bag and walked up the stairs to where his studio resided. After unlocking the door that said "Cullen Photography," he promptly sat down on the couch in his comfortable lobby. With a bit of trepidation, Edward set his phone on the glass coffee table before him and stared at the text messages he'd received today from this woman. He ran his hands over his face again and looked back at the phone. The screen had timed out and was now black, but he knew the messages that were there, taunting him. Should he text back to this Bella person, informing her that she clearly had the wrong number?
He groaned in slight exasperation with himself. "I should have done that after she sent me the first text message. Now, if I text her back, I'll probably only serve to embarrass her."
He stood up and paced back and forth a couple of times, each time he looked back at his phone. He wondered if he would receive yet another text.
Edward argued with himself as he continued pacing, when he looked up and saw the portrait he'd taken of his parents the year before. The elegant black and white piece was simple, but was the epitome of his parents. His mother was reclining slightly against his father, her head resting on his chest. His arms encircled her lovingly, her hands covered his. The perfection of this portrait was his mother's eyes closed, her mouth upturned in a smile of bliss. This was his parents; their love and devotion to one another. And as he gazed at this portrait, he heard his mother's voice in his head. She would tell him that he couldn't leave that poor girl to arrive at the airport expecting her friend and finding no one. It wasn't right and she'd raised him to know better. He was half expecting the phone to ring and for her to tell him exactly that. Edward stood up and went to the store room of his studio to find some matte board.
Bella made her way down the moving sidewalk in Sea-Tac, eager to get by security and find Jake. She texted him again just before they made her switch off her phone before they left Chicago, that he should meet her at security. As she approached the waiting throng of people she saw families reunited, lovers embrace after time apart. It seemed that everyone arriving on her flight had found their family, mate or significant other. She smiled and was warmed seeing and feeling the happiness of the reunions surrounding her.
But where was Jake?
Bella paused for a few moments and let the joy slowly fade. Perhaps Jake had pulled back from the crowd, and after all, she wasn't that tall or noticeable when not in her work clothes or heels.
When the last group of people from her flight meandered away, there was still no Jake.
"Hmm, he must be at baggage claim," she murmured to herself and followed the signs to reclaim her luggage and find her friend.
Edward pulled his Camaro SS into short term parking and turned off the engine, staring straight ahead at nothing.
"What the heck am I doing?" he muttered to no one.
He looked over at the passenger seat and saw the sign he'd made yesterday. In large, black block letters it said BELLA THAT'S WAITING FOR J.
"I can't believe I'm actually doing this, but it's the right thing to do. I'll find her and take her to this "J" person, drop her off and I'll have done my good deed for the day."
With a resigned sigh, Edward grabbed his ball cap and sign, and began walking towards the airport baggage claim. When he walked through the automatic doors, he looked up at the arrival monitors to see that Bella's flight had just landed. Now all he had to do was wait.
Edward turned to his left and saw what he presumed were three other limo drivers all dressed in black, each wearing a chauffeur's cap. Each gentleman held a sign bearing the name of the person and his or her place of business. Edward shook his head in bemusement, put on his ball cap, gave a tug to his worn brown leather jacket and held up his sign, a goofy smirk on his face. The three limo drivers looked amongst themselves and shrugged.
"So, how long do you guys usually have to wait for your person to arrive?" he asked as he rocked on the balls of his feet.
Bella took her time getting down to baggage claim, keeping a watchful eye out for Jake; she wanted to make sure she didn't miss him. A thought dawned on her and she stopped by a bench, sat and groaned in exasperation. "Ugh, I am such an idiot. I'll text him and hopefully he'll answer."
Hey, where are you? You weren't at security. ~Bella
She watched her phone, willing it to answer. It chirped in reply.
"Yesss!" she shouted and did a quick fist pump, thereby garnering some unusual looks from the passers-by.
At baggage claim.
She looked at the message and her face dropped just a bit.
"Well, that wasn't much of a reply."
Jake was usually pretty chatty and happy all the time, almost too happy. Bella shrugged, picked up her back pack and started to purposefully make her way down to baggage claim.
"So, you came here to pick her up?" asked driver number three.
"Sight unseen? She may be a serial killer!" said driver number one.
"Whoa," Edward paused for thought. "I, uh… never thought about that really…"
"What do you have against a respectable young man doing a nice thing for a stranger?" piped in driver number two.
Edward looked hard at the older man that just spoke. He vaguely reminded him of his deceased grandfather.
Driver number two continued. "If you ask me, if more people did things like this, the world would be a better place. Good for you, young man."
"Edward," he said and stuck out his hand to shake the older man's.
"Nice to meet you Edward, I'm David," said driver number two.
"My pleasure, David. Oh, if you'll excuse me." Edward pulled his phone from his pocket. He'd received another text.
"Is it her?"
"Yeah, she's asking where "J" is…"
"Go on, text her back. If you say you're here in baggage claim, you two are sure to meet up," David urged him.
"Okay," Edward replied and typed an answer to Bella.
"So, do you think she's pretty?" asked driver number one. He had a bit of a southern accent.
Edward chuckled at the innocuous question. "Uh, I don't know."
"Did her texts sound pretty?" asked driver number three, who Edward would have sworn was a doppelganger for Michael Palin. He had an English accent and his sign even said that he was waiting for "B. Fawlty."
"How in the world does a text message sound pretty?" Edward replied, completely befuddled by the question. "I don't know, I guess they sounded kinda cute and quirky. Does that equate someone being pretty? No idea…" But these words made him think. He knew that not leaving this girl/woman/she-man without a ride wherever was the right thing to do, but seriously, what did he know about this person? Would she be nice? Would she be some kind of hobo grease ball?
Edward had never really considered himself to be shallow and dwelling on someone's outside looks; as a photographer, he looked and strived to find what it was that made someone or somewhere beautiful. In fact, in the reviews he had received on his limited gallery appearances, there seemed to be a common thread by critics and people – that regardless of the subject, tone of the photo, Edward Cullen seemed to have a knack to find what was beautiful or captivating. So why was he now so nervous about meeting this mysterious woman? He was literally pulling at the collar of his t-shirt.
"You nervous boy?" David asked.
Edward chuckled with discomfort. "Ah, yes, I think I am. And I really have no idea why." He quickly swallowed his voice as he actively scanned the rapid influx of people making their way to the carousels to retrieve their baggage.
He concentrated on women that seemed to be unattached as it would be more likely that one of these would be his "fare." Women of all shapes and sizes, all ages and nationalities seemed to swirl in the waves of humanity. He turned his head momentarily to the right and saw a glimpse of glossy brunette hair and the hint of dark silver green under a mink colored leather jacket, but it was just as quickly hidden behind two enormous matronly women. Immediately he felt a strange flush creep up his neck and cover his face.
"Hey Edward, you're looking a little red. You feeling okay?" prodded Driver number three and giving Edward a good-natured elbow in the ribs.
"Yeah… I'm… uh, fine…" The words left Edward's mouth, but he really wasn't conscious of actually speaking the words. He was trying to get another look at the brunette who seemed to disappear as quickly as she had appeared. Maybe he was just seeing things. But, wait – there she was again, and this time, he got a good look at her. No wonder he'd lost her in the crowd before; she was a tiny thing. Well, tiny compared to his 6'1" frame. Her heart-shaped face was framed with a wavy curtain of brunette hair. He wondered if it would feel like silk as he ran his fingers through it, as he wrapped it around his hand and pulled those pink, pouty lips to his.
He shook his head and tried to clear the thoughts that were rapidly filling his mind and overwhelming him. David, or one of the other drivers may have been talking to him, but he couldn't hear them clearly. His hearing was clouded; he felt hot and flushed again. He chanced another look and his eyes found her easily. How could he have not seen her amongst all the other mediocrity? She was slender, but didn't look too thin. He imagined there was lean muscle under those weathered black jeans, ripped at the knees. Flat-heeled boots of black leather and buckles hugged her slender calves.
His heart was pounding in his chest. She wasn't a supermodel, but there was something about her. She had a look on her face and in her eye that made him want to find out more about her. What was the thing that made her beautiful? He wanted to know the color of her eyes. He wanted to hear her laugh and oddly enough he wanted it to be something he said to elicit that sound.
After he found Bella and before he took her wherever he was to take her, he vowed to find this lovely brunette and get her agree to let him photograph her. He had already put the sign under his arm and moved to extract one of his business cards from his wallet.
Bella anxiously scanned the crowd of people in baggage claim as she tried to vie for a spot near the baggage carousel.
Where is Jake? This is beginning to get irritating.
The baggage began to slide down the ramp when she felt the oddest chill run down her back. Her head turned in the direction of the chill and her eyes were drawn to a tall figure near one set of automatic doors. Brown, well-worn leather jacket, ripped and faded blue jeans, hiking boots, an old Pink Floyd tour shirt and a non-descript ball cap. All this was wrapped around a body and face that like none she'd even seen. A strong, chiseled jaw and eyes, even from across a crowded room, looked green and piercing. He was chatting and laughing with three older men, while he was digging for, what was it? Maybe his wallet? Her eyes honed in on his mouth and lips, and for a moment, her own mouth started to water just a bit. She found herself wondering what it would taste like to suck on that bottom lip, to lose herself and melt into that mouth.
She was jarred back into reality as someone bumped into her and grabbed his large duffle bag from the carousel, while mumbling some type of apology.
"Oh, excuse me," she said in a half-hearted reply.
Bella quickly looked back to sneak another peek at the man. He was quite attractive; in fact he was drop dead gorgeous. She wondered what kind of hair was under that ball cap and if there was enough for her to grab.
Then it happened. For a split second, their eyes connected – green fixed on brown, brown on green. Edward felt his stomach drop and his heart lurch as his eyes locked with the brunette. Bella's breath caught in her throat and she wondered if her heart skipped a beat or twelve. In that short span of time, it was as though a bubble encircled them and the people outside that bubble were simply statues. Their eyes were riveted on each other; no one else seemed to exist. Each felt that if he or she could just take that step towards the other, there would be no stopping until they were in each other's arms. But as much as they felt drawn to each other, their feet seemed to be fixed in concrete.
It was Bella that was pulled back into reality by the sound of her phone. An incoming text message. Was it Jake?
No, it was Rosalie, making certain that she'd landed safely in Seattle. Bella quickly typed back that she had indeed arrived and was now searching for Jake. She would call her later. Bella decided for good measure that she would text Jake again to yell at him for not being here.
Hey, I am in baggage claim. Where are you?
At that instant, Edward heard another message incoming to his phone. She was actually in baggage claim. He then realized that he'd foolishly placed his sign under his arm when he retrieved his business card. He quickly pocketed his phone and held up his sign. Was it big enough? Would she see it? He quickly double-checked to ensure that it was right side up.
Bella saw her bag slide onto the carousel and retrieved it, then took a few steps back to allow the other passengers to take her place. She turned again to look in vain for Jake when she saw the sign.
BELLA THAT'S WAITING FOR J
It was held in the hands of the beautiful man in the ball cap and brown leather jacket.
Was that sign meant for me?
Bella quickly turned around to see if anyone was approaching the man or paying him any attention. How could people not pay attention to him? But no, people walked in front of her, in front of him, going about their business completely oblivious to either of them.
David elbowed a speechless Edward. "That her?"
"Ah, I… uh think so… I hope so," he muttered.
David prodded him again. "Go and get her," he urged gently pushing him forward. Edward stumbled a bit as he looked back to David with a confused expression on his face.
Bella looked down to her phone and methodically typed in a message.
Are you holding a sign with my name on it?
She noted his face look down at his phone. She saw that he had maybe two or three day's stubble on his jaw. She swallowed hard. A smile spread across his face and he met her eyes again. His smile spread all the way to his eyes. She couldn't help herself from staring; his face glowed with a brightness that made her stomach do a couple of back flips.
His eyes returned to his phone and he typed something.
Yes, I am. Are you wearing a brown leather jacket and jeans with ripped knees?
Edward saw her look down to her phone and then looked at all the people wandering around her. He quickly typed another message.
And you're looking around…
Bella looked at her phone and then back at his smiling face. She nodded shyly, smiling in return. She raised her hand to her mouth to stifle a giggle when she saw the older man push the smiling face forward.
Edward, now certain that the lovely brunette was the woman sending the text messages, quickly closed the gap, after the initiating push, to stand before her. More truthfully, he towered over her, so he backed up a step.
"I'm Edward Cullen. You're Bella?"
This close, his smile utterly disarmed her. Were his eyes actually twinkling?
"Bella?" he asked again.
His velvet voice jarred her from the silly stupor in which she found herself. Good grief, I think he dazzled me.
In an attempt to recover herself, she put her hand out. "Hi, I'm Bella Swan. You must be a friend of Jake's?"
Ah, the "J" stands for Jake… I wonder if that's her boyfriend…
Edward put his sign under his arm and moved to collect her suitcase and backpack. "Um, well not exactly. Here, let's get out of people's way." He guided her without touching to some chairs near the car rental desks.
Bella followed him, but her eyebrows furrowed in confusion as she glanced to the three older gentlemen where Edward had been standing; they were all giving him thumbs up.
Edward gestured for Bella to sit, set her suitcase and backpack down, then sat himself leaving an empty seat between them.
"So," Bella said settling herself on the uncomfortable airport seat, "how did you say you knew Jake?"
He pulled off his ball cap and ran his hand through his bronze hair. "See, … um… I don't."
The smile immediately disappeared from her face. That bothered Edward. Her face should never have those lines between her brows. He wanted to reach over and gently smooth them away.
"What do you mean?" Her voice was filled with suspicion. I don't want this guy to be some weird creeper.
"How do I say this without sounding like some weird creeper… which I'm not!" He put his hands out in front of him as though he was showing he had nothing there. Bella found herself wanting to look at his hands with his long, elegant fingers.
"O. K. … Go on."
"The other day I received a text message that I now know came from you." Edward's voice was calm and smooth and Bella found herself relaxing. She hadn't realized how tensed her shoulders had become after he'd said he didn't know Jake. At the same time, she didn't know what to say, so Edward continued.
"The right thing to do would have been to text you right back – Sorry wrong number – but I didn't. For that I'm very sorry. I was in the middle of a photo shoot; I'm a photographer." Edward kept rambling on, but he fumbled to find and then give her the business card he had previously removed from his wallet. "Then you kept texting and then I had your flight information. I just couldn't leave you here with no one to pick you up. And honestly, my mom would never let me hear the end of it if I had left you stranded."
By then end of this awkward and babbled explanation, he was leaning forward with his elbows on his knees and he was playing with his ball cap, holding it with his long, beautiful fingers. Bella studied his face and thought he looked contrite and apologetic; it made her want to put her hands on his face and comfort him, as though he was the wronged party in all this. She seriously had to catch herself from touching him. Instead, Bella looked at Edward dumbfounded.
"Bella, my number is 206-555-1297. What number were you texting?" he asked softly.
She put her hand gently to cover her mouth as the realization dawned on her. She pulled out her phone. "I just bought this and haven't transferred my contacts. I dialed from memory… His number is just one different than yours… Oh Edward, I am so sorry." Bella gently rested her free hand on top of his.
Both felt an immediate sense of warmth, electricity and an odd familiarity. The pull went directly from the point of contact and spread to fluttering hearts and stomachs. For a few seconds, they stared at each other in wonder of the sensation, not wanting the feeling to end.
Edward spoke first. "No reason to be sorry Bella. I find myself very happy to be here."
"I'm just so embarrassed." Bella cast her eyes down, but didn't remove her hand from his.
He wanted to tip her head up so he could look again into her brown eyes. They held golden flecks of amber. All he wanted to do was lose himself and drown in those chocolate pools. "Bella." He loved saying that name. "Please don't be embarrassed. I'm just happy I had the chance to meet you."
His softly spoken words called to her so much that she wanted to look up to meet his eyes. Her mind told her the words that she should say next, but she didn't want to bring herself to actually say them. "I should call a cab. I've already inconvenienced you, taking too much of your time."
Edward shook his head, but smiled. "I won't hear of it. You are a damsel in distress, and I and my mighty steed shall save you from the clutches of Castle Sea Tac." He ended by holding out one hand as though he was brandishing a sword.
Bella relaxed a little and slyly smiled. "But, what if it's too perilous?"
He smiled broadly at her reply, then leaned down conspiratorially and winked at her. "I shall face the peril. Besides, it's not like this is Castle Anthrax or anything." They both laughed. "Just don't ask me to call you Zoot." He winked at her again and her stomach did a few extra back flips. Could he be any more adorable? "Where do you need to be and I'll make sure you get there." Edward rose, reluctantly releasing Bella's hand and picked up her bags. "Come on, my steed waits outside."
"Okay," she replied, biting her thumbnail. She stood grabbing her messenger bag and realized he was waiting to walk with her.
He likes Monty Python and he's a gentleman. Who is this Edward Cullen?
She reached in her bag and retrieved a note she wrote. "Here's the address where I need to go." She handed him the slip of paper.
Edward looked at the note and his heart swelled a bit. He knew exactly where this address was. "Yeah, I know where that is. I can get you there, no problem."
The conversation on the way to his car was short as they were concentrating on getting out of the airport and into the garage without getting hit by other people or cars. Each took the chance to sneak additional glances at the other. The conversation was really beginning to start again when all too soon they arrived at his car. Bella stopped to let loose a low whistle of appreciation.
"I have to say, Sir Edward, your steed's a beauty." She stepped back and took a good long look at his automobile.
Edward had just pushed down the handle on Bella's roller suitcase. "I think I love you." He walked over, unlocked and opened her car door.
Bella laughed, but at the same time her heart skipped a couple of beats as she processed those words. Something deep inside her wanted them to be true, not just a silly response to her about his car. She quickly tried to recover. "A '69 Camaro SS?"
"You know cars?" Edward asked in a bit of awe as he put Bella's bags in the trunk.
"Well, not so much really. Sorry to disappoint you. My dad used to have one, so he made sure I knew what this car was." Bella rested her arms on the roof of the car, staring at Edward.
"Ah, Lady Bella, I shall forgive you this egregious flaw." Edward mirrored her stance, his arms on the roof of the car. "Shall we away milady?"
She rolled her eyes at him, and then turned to get in the car. Edward lingered just a little longer before he opened his door. All that ran through his mind was that somehow he had to get to know this woman better.
"So Edward, you're a photographer?" Bella didn't know what to do with her hands. She didn't know what to say either, so she watched him drive. He'd donned a pair of Ray Bans when he got in the car. She found herself feeling like a school girl as she stared at his hand resting on the gear shift.
He chuckled. "I've been talking about my photography, telling you how I was the porn king of Seattle and you didn't say a word."
She looked at him with huge eyes. "You're kidding, right?"
"Of course I'm kidding!" he laughed heartily. "I prefer landscapes or unique personal portraits, but I also do a fair amount of contract magazine work to keep the business fluid."
"Have you done anything I've seen?"
He thought a moment before continuing. "Probably not. Most of my work is local… Unless you live around here?" Edward's tone was hopeful.
"Not really. I grew up here, but I went to school at Northwestern and stayed there after graduation. I live in Chicago now. I'm here visiting my best friend. He asked if I could help him out with something."
Edward's heart dropped at the mention of "he." He nodded listening to her. "You're a good friend to come all this way to help."
Bella shrugged. "He'd have done it for me. We've been best friends forever; I mean, he's practically my brother."
"Brother?" Edward smiled and looked at her.
A little light bulb emerged over her head. "Oh! And he's engaged!" she added quickly. "Jake and I practically grew up together. Our dads are best friends. So we just kinda became best friends too."
"Bella, I'm very happy that your best friend is engaged." He smiled broadly and reached out to take her hand, but then pulled back. That would just be too forward. She'd seen him reach toward her and realized how much she wanted him to take her hand.
"I am too."
Bella now took note of the fact that they were coming into an area that didn't seem residential to her. It looked like docks. "Um, where are we?"
Edward looked at a couple of signs and then turned left. "Well Bella, I'm pretty familiar with this area and your friend Jake lives on a house boat. I'm taking you to his dock. And we're just about there, but I need to park here." He pulled into a parking space and Bella looked out the windshield to see a dock with both boats and house boats moored in front of her.
"Which one is his?"
"From the address, I would say that it's probably the red and yellow one about mid dock."
"I seriously had no idea he lived on a house boat. It's a good thing I don't get motion sick!" she mused while craning her head around to try to see more of his place.
"Um Bella, before I get your bags, I'd like to ask you something." Edward had turned toward her with one arm resting on the steering wheel and the other reaching out and touching the back of her head rest. He was close enough that she could smell him. She couldn't identify what it was… Body wash? Cologne? Just him?
"Sure," she said with just a light hesitation.
"I … ah, have this thing I'll be shooting on Friday evening. I was wondering, if maybe you'd like to come with me?" He pulled his hand back and ran his fingers through his hair nervously.
"I'd love—this Friday?"
"Yeah, probably around 7?"
Her face fell and his did the same. "This Friday is when I need to go to this thing for Jake. It will be until very late, I'm sure. Otherwise, I would be happy to go with you."
Edward placed his hand over his heart in mock distress. "I'm hurt that you'd pick your life-long best friend over a man you just met at the airport that intercepted text messages for someone else."
There was that wink again. She gave him a crooked smile. "Just a minute, give me your phone."
Edward did as she asked and handed her his iPhone. "I'll put my number in your phone," she said as she typed. "Now, you can call me while I'm here. I'll be here for a couple of weeks on my vacation. I'm sorry I can't be available Friday, but it would be nice to get a phone call or even a text from you. I have a feeling Jake is going to be very busy after Friday, so I will probably have a lot of free time."
He looked at his phone and laughed to see that she had typed her name as "Lady Bella Swan."
"You can be assured Lady Bella, that I will call you."
She told Edward there was a slight chance she wouldn't be able to enter Jake's home, but that Jake was a creature of habit and she was nearly 100% certain where he hid his spare key. Bella asked Edward to hang back just in case. After she staunchly refused his offer to carry her bags to the house boat, he returned to his Camaro, but he vowed he would stay until he was she was safely inside.
Bella walked on board and searched around the door until she found the stupid fake frog, opened it and removed the key.
"Ah Jake, I know you so well."
She turned back and waved to Edward, letting him know that he could leave. She didn't really want him to leave though. She wanted to invite him for coffee or tea or a drink or hot, steamy sex… He stuck his hand through the window waving back, but drove at a slow, leisurely pace. Bella prayed that this was not the last time she would see that Camaro, or the lovely, delightful man it contained.
Slowly, Bella closed and locked the door behind her before she pulled out her phone to call Jake. This time she carefully checked the digits before pressing send.
"Jake! It's Bella!"
"Bells! Are you here or still in Chicago?" She heard him yelling to Leah who it was on the phone.
"Well, I am actually walking around your house boat. Speaking of which, why didn't you tell me you lived on a house boat?"
Jake laughed in that glorious, man-child way that was so uniquely him. She could see in her mind's eye that his smile and laugh were lighting up the room. He was always able to do that, but Bella was most happy that Leah was able to make him light up like no other woman could.
"You found my hiding place, huh?"
"Do you really think the same place you've hidden keys all your life will outsmart me?" Bella walked around taking in Jake's bachelor pad. She wondered if Leah would move in here after they were married. This place as it was right now was pretty Spartan.
"I guess you're right. Leah pretty much said you'd find it," he said. "So why didn't you text me? We would have picked you up at Sea Tac."
"Oh no, I know you're beyond busy getting Wolf Moon ready for Friday's opening. I was able to get a ride here with no trouble."
"I feel guilty, but I'm glad you got there with no trouble. I know there have been many a cabbie that has gotten lost on the way to my place. It's good he knew where to go."
"Yeah, he did." Bella thought appreciatively of Edward and that he went out of his way to pick up a total stranger. She rested her thoughts on his long, lean body, his hands resting lovingly on the steering wheel and gear shift. The line of his jaw and those lips that were off the charts of suckability. She hadn't dared to allow her mind to think what could be under those clothes. Bella already found her heart racing at breakneck speed. She refused to think of his eyes or his face lest she lose the ability to form a coherent thought. "I made sure to give him a nice tip for his trouble."
"You always treat people right Bella. Look, Leah and I need to finish up some things here and then we'll swing by to pick you up for dinner. That way we hope to sufficiently butter you up to help us the rest of the week."
Bella laughed. "I'll take the dinner, but no buttering up is needed. I'll help with whatever you need, you know that."
"Thanks Bells, I knew we could count on you."
"You love me, just admit it," she teased.
"You know it babe. Okay, help yourself to whatever's in the kitchen. The tv remote is on the table, you can take a shower, or a nap – whatever you want. We'll be there to pick you up around 6:30. Just be casual, nothing fancy."
"Sounds good Jake. See you later. Say Hi to Leah for me."
Bella pressed the button ending the call and walked to the windows and looked out over the calm lake. She felt the gentle movements of the boat. They were minimal, but she liked it; it felt like calm and quiet solitude. She missed water like this. Sure, she'd lived right next to Lake Michigan and had spent time on a friend of a friend's boat, but this was different. Lake Michigan was too big, this lake was nice. It was soothing and peaceful.
A thought and a face came to the forefront of her mind. She looked back down to the phone in her hand and made a snap decision.
Sir Edward, I thank you for rescuing me and delivering me to safety. Maybe one day I can rescue you. ~Lady Bella
She pressed send before she could change her mind and then sat, holding her breath and watching the phone.
Edward reluctantly pulled away from the houseboat where he left the lovely and mysterious Bella Swan. He had every intention of returning to his studio after attending to his charge at the airport, but seeing her changed everything. Getting the opportunity to talk to her, be so close to her, to breathe her intoxicating fragrance had completely disarmed him. And to top it all off, to find out that this woman was the one that had been sending him the errant text messages. He shook his head as he drove to his home.
It wasn't but about a ten minute drive from where Bella was staying with her friend. In fact he was quite sure that he could see the red and yellow house boat from across the lake.
He pulled up to his home, parked the Camaro and sat. Edward leaned back in the driver's seat and tried to make sense of what had just happened. He rubbed his hands over his face and laughed. Who would believe him if he told anyone? A beautiful woman had stumbled into his life because of an errant text message and now he couldn't get her out of his mind. There was something enchanting about her, he felt inexplicably drawn to her tender nature and her lovely smile. He had the feeling that it wouldn't take much for that slip of a woman to wrap him around her finger.
Edward stepped out of his car and went to his trunk to gather his equipment. Slowly, he walked into his own houseboat. Edward's home was across the lake from Bella's friend Jake. His home however, was much more house than boat. He had a large living room and kitchen, two large bedrooms and a deck off his bedroom. After dropping off his equipment in his office (which was actually bedroom number two), he found himself on his deck and looking across the lake, knowing Bella was out there. He wondered what she was doing, what was she thinking at that moment? Dare he hope that he occupied her mind as much as she had infiltrated his?
He felt the phone in his pocket before he heard it. Smiling, he looked at the iPhone to see he'd received a text message.
"Ah, Lady Bella, look at you," he mused. "Already wrapping me around your little finger."
The next few days went by in a whirlwind of activity for both Bella and Edward. Bella was helping Jake and Leah with the final aesthetic touches about Wolf Moon. She unloaded bottles of various brands of vodka and passed them to Quill and Embry, Jake's bartenders for the upstairs bar. Then they sent her down to Jared who manned the restaurant bar. She hung a few paintings and framed prints that Leah had obtained from various galleries. They were, of course, all wolf or lunar related. Bella placed Rubrum lilies in squat square vases. She ran errands for Jake, Leah, the bartenders, the sous chef and the pastry chef. If Jake had a doorman, she was certain that she'd be doing that person's bidding as well. Frankly, Bella didn't mind any of it. On one hand, she couldn't have been more proud of her friend and what he had accomplished. It would have taken an act of God to keep her away. On the other hand, she found herself constantly smiling as she conducted her tasks because her days were peppered with short amusing texts from Edward. Right at that moment, she found herself hiding in the bathroom setting up lilies and baskets of towels when her phone chirped at her.
Good morning Lady Bella
Hi Edward. ~Bella
What are you up to today?
Helping my friend with errands. What about you? ~Bella
I have shoots scheduled every day until Saturday.
You are quite the busy man. ~Bella
I manage okay I suppose.
A long pause ensued. Neither really knew how to continue. Bella had very much wanted to see Edward again and willed herself to type the words:
I want to see you again. ~Bella
She wanted to add "I want to kiss you. I want to touch every part of you," but she couldn't find the nerve to say that.
Before she began to panic at his lack of response, her phone chirped.
Bella, I know we're both busy on Friday, but I would like to have lunch with you on Saturday.
Her hand flew to her mouth and she had to stifle a very girly squeal. She put her phone on the counter near the sink and did a little dance. Bella took a deep breath to calm herself before she answered, but he beat her to the punch. Her phone chirped again.
Would that be okay?
Edward felt the nerves crawl up his spine. Why hadn't she answered? What if he made more out of their meeting than she did? What if her saying she was busy that night and her subsequent text was just Bella being polite and not wanting to hurt his feelings?
Before he could flounder in feelings of self-doubt, his phone vibrated.
I would love to have lunch with you on Saturday. ~Bella
Edward shot up from his seat and did a mental fist pump… and managed to bump his tripod thereby ruining his time-lapsed shot. He didn't care though, he could set it up again. He was going to see Bella!
I will pick you up at 11am.
Until Saturday, Lady Bella. ;o)
Sir Edward, I eagerly await your arrival. ~Bella
Their next meeting set, both Bella and Edward were pulled back into real life and all its expectations. Bella was called to the front of the restaurant. Edward readjusted his Nikon and tripod and reset his time-lapse shot.
Friday finally arrived and Bella was starting her preparations for that night at Wolf Moon. Jake had stopped by to say hello, but had left for the restaurant hours earlier to have a meeting with his sous and pastry chefs. Leah had recently left as well, looking stunning in a Herve Leger foil tank dress. Her caramel skin and long black hair were a perfect contrast and compliment to the silver dress. Leah's delicate features belied the fireball underneath. She was the perfect complement for Jake. In the business, Leah was responsible for the wait staff and their training. On this opening night, she would mingle amongst the patrons while Bella greeted and seated, after which Leah would explain the restaurant concept. Starting tomorrow, Leah would resume the job of hostess, meeting and greeting guests at the door.
After Bella finished with her hair and makeup, she stepped out of the bathroom to get her dress and finish getting ready.
"I hope I fit in tonight after seeing Leah. I'm not sure if my dress is going to cut it."
Rose had lent her a beautiful dress, but when she opened her garment bag, Rose's dress was missing and a note was in its place.
Go check your bed
Clad in only her lovely La Perlas Bella walked over to the bed and found a white box. Atop the box was yet another note.
Jake and I already know you're a knock out,
but with this dress and shoes,
you will knock it out of the park.
See you in a bit.
Jake & Leah
Bella opened the box and pushed aside the tissue paper to find a dark gold sequined, one-shoulder dress.
"It's beautiful…" she whispered, greatly admiring the dress. "I'll match Leah!" She giggled as she dove at the bottom of the box and found something else, gold and sparkling. Reverently, Bella lifted a pair of Jimmy Choo sandals from the box. Her jaw dropped at the sight of them.
"Leah, you weren't kidding. The dress is a complete knock out. Damn, I wish Edward could see me tonight," she said wistfully.
Bella removed her bra and then wiggled into the shining dress and stepped into the shoes. Unfortunately, there was no full length mirror for Bella to see herself, so she tried to see herself in the window reflection. Turning this way and that, she was able to get a good enough look.
"Not bad Swan."
Bella grabbed her bag and went to the door to wait for the cab she had called. "I wonder if this would be too overdressed for lunch on Saturday…"
Edward gathered his equipment that he planned to bring to tonight's shoot. At the same time he was looking around his studio and thinking about tomorrow. He had hoped after lunch, he could persuade Bella to visit his studio. He would start by showing her some of his magazine work, then the piece he sold nationally and if she was interested, he would show her his Meadow series. He thought about his meadow and Bella, and envisioned her in various states of undress lying in the wildflowers. Her skin would be flushed and shining as though she had been freshly ravished. Her hair would fan out beneath her. Her pert breasts, with rosebud nipples, would beg to be kissed and touched.
"Get ahold of yourself Cullen!" Edward growled and ran his hands through his hair. "You're totally getting ahead of yourself. She may look at your work and think you're a complete amateur, someone who worked at amusement parks taking photos as people arrived."
He gently beat his head against the wall in disgust.
"No. Okay, I've had successful gallery shows, I've been published in a couple of magazines. Why am I so nervous about bringing her here?" Edward muttered as he paced. "Tomorrow," he said. "Lunch tomorrow and then I'll show her. I want to impress, but not overwhelm her."
He took a quick final look at himself in the mirror. He had donned charcoal slacks and a black, long-sleeved shirt, no tie. After finding the lint roller in his desk drawer, Edward did a quick once over to make sure he wasn't fuzzy. He ran his hands through his hair a couple of times, shook his head and locked up the studio. He tenderly placed his camera bag on the floor of the passenger seat of the Camaro, then went to the driver's seat, checked the address provided by the client and pulled out of the parking lot.
Edward drove around to the back of the building as he had been directed and knocked on the back door. The door opened slowly with the rather large and bulbous head of someone dressed like a chef peeking out.
"What you want?" came the gruff voice. Edward noticed that the voice was accented, but he couldn't place it. From within the building, Edward heard another voice calling.
"Brady! I don't want you speaking to anyone like that. Haven't we discussed this?"
The burly man's head dropped in contrition, like a scolded puppy. "Yes, Miss Clearwater, you're right." The chef turned back to Edward who was a bit dumbstruck by the exchange. "Please enter." The man stepped back from the door and held his arm out in invitation. Edward's eyes then fell upon the voice of the Miss Clearwater mentioned by Brady. Dark, elegant and wrapped in body hugging silver, she extended her hand.
"You must be Edward."
Edward nodded and took her hand. "Yes, ma'am. I'm Edward Cullen. You and I arranged this shoot over the phone a couple of weeks back."
"Please, please come in." Leah ushered Edward farther into the kitchen and away from the back door. There was too much traffic back there to hold a business conversation. "This hulk of a man is Brady Evans, our pastry chef."
Edward hoped he masked his surprise at learning that the monster of a man was responsible for creating the desserts he'd been told about. "Nice to meet you, Brady." He extended his hand and it was swallowed by the larger man's enormous hands.
When Brady laughed, it made the entire kitchen rumble. "He he, you do a nice job for Leah and Mr. Jacob and I feed you." Again, Edward couldn't place that accent. "You need a little more meat on bones, like me!" Brady laughed again and rubbed his rather sizable belly. He elbowed Edward in jest and nearly knocked him over with the force of it. Edward wondered if he needed to do more strength training.
He rubbed his arm. "I'll do my best for them Brady. No worries." Edward smiled and gave the chef a wide berth as he attempted to catch up to Leah.
"Back here Edward." Leah gestured to a corner that was set up as an office of sorts. There was a raven-haired man sitting at the desk looking over some papers. "Jacob dear, the photographer is here."
The man looked up and was much younger than Edward expected. This man was the owner and head chef? He had dark coloring like Leah, but a bright happy smile that spread across his face. There was a lightness and charm that exuded effortlessly from him. The lovely Leah went to stand behind Jacob, placing her hands on his shoulders, finishing with a light kiss to his temple. Jacob placed one hand on Leah's and with the other he extended his hand. "Hi, Jacob Black. Sorry, I can't stand, but I'm guessing you've met my lovely fiancée."
"Indeed I have, and congratulations!" Edward exclaimed, genuinely happy for the two.
Jacob gave Leah's hand a tender squeeze and a smile before he spoke again. "Edward, you and Leah discussed what we wanted tonight, right?"
"Yes, I believe so. I'll be taking some gallery shots of the entire restaurant, lounge and bar for your website, as well as print ads."
Jacob nodded. "We'd also like for you to take some additional shots as the guests arrive and are seated. We want to show the atmosphere of the place after people are seated and dining. So others can get a good feel of how it will be for them when they dine here, not just the sterility of the empty pictures. That's not to say your work is sterile!" Jacob interjected. "I am quite a fan of your work. I've even purchased a few pieces that I have framed here in the bar and lounge."
Edward was stunned and then quite pleased. "I didn't know that, Mr. Black."
"Okay, Jacob. Thank you for the honor of hanging my work in your establishment." Edward laughed and ran his hand through his hair. "I'll be happy to take whatever shots you wish."
"Edward, I said you were welcome to bring someone. We'll feed them as well," Leah added.
He fidgeted, putting his hands in his pockets. "Ah… well, I asked someone, but she had a prior engagement." He half shrugged, almost in embarrassment. He fervently wished that he had Bella on his arm this evening.
"Oh. I'm sorry." Leah wondered what woman in her right mind, or what man for that matter, would turn down Edward Cullen on a date. "Well, please make sure to order something for yourself. We'd love for you to sample our menu."
"Thank you, I'd love to." Edward felt like he should say something about his lack of date, but didn't know what that should be. So, he decided to break the now quite awkward silence. "How about I just get started? If you can direct me, I'll get a feel for the place and set up the shots."
Leah motioned behind Edward. "Here, let me take you into the dining room." She took Edward's arm and guided him through the busy kitchen. Edward chuckled as he saw Brady going toe to toe with a much taller, gangly young man. He wondered how Brady wasn't blowing the younger chef over with merely the force of his breath. Leah noticed Edward's gaze and informed him that the other man was Jacob's sous chef and her brother.
"Really? Between your fiancé and your brother, I guess you have food in the blood, don't you?" Edward joked and Leah laughed in reply.
They stepped through a door and into the dining room bar. "Jared, this is Edward. He's the photographer this evening."
"Hey man," Jared said offering his hand in greeting. Edward nodded.
"I won't be in your way here will I? I need to look for a few minutes before I decide to start shooting."
Jared shook his head and went about his business as Edward took in the space before him. The long narrow dining room was flanked on either side with high-backed, half-moon shaped booths in deep rich brown leather and dark polished wood. The tables were round and adorned simply with a white tablecloth and a single votive candle. The overhead lights were low, giving the entire atmosphere a feeling of both quiet elegance and subtle romance. He could easily see couples being able to steal a kiss or two while in the booths. And in the square tables that took the middle space, loud and boisterous conversations could commence. It felt that each area was a small universe all to itself. He'd be interested to see if this panned out as he envisioned it when the guests began to arrive and the food was brought out. Slowly, his thoughts cataloging his shots, Edward stepped forward through the dining room.
Bella made her way up the stairs from the VIP loft to the bar. Leah had asked her earlier to check with Quill and Embry in the bar, but as of yet she hadn't. Just a moment ago, she heard Leah's voice coming from the dining room bar and decided she'd best get upstairs before Leah found her. While Bella had been enjoying her time working with them this week, both guys had become increasingly flirty with her. At the rate these two were progressing in their competition for her attention, she was considering always facing them, lest one decide to raise the stakes and go for an ass grab.
She recognized Embry's voice before she saw him. "Hi guys, you ready? Leah wanted me to check."
Both emerged from the bar to greet her, looking her up and down like she was a piece of fresh meat and they were hungry wolves. Protectively, Bella put her hand to her neck.
"Bella, Bella, Bella," Quill crooned, leaning one elbow on the bar, trying to strike a sexy pose. "You really need to go out with me."
Before she could open her mouth to speak, Embry continued. "No, you idiot, she should go out with me. You're a married man!"
Quill looked down at his left hand. "Ah, you're right. Claire would probably kill me."
"No she wouldn't kill you, she'd cut off your balls."
Quill placed a hand over his crotch in mock pain. "And I do so like my balls."
"Oooo-kay… you guys seem to have your balls and everything else under control, so I'm going to head back downstairs." Bella backed away slowly as the bartenders continued their good natured ribbing of each other, now totally oblivious to Bella's presence, or rather lack thereof. She shook her head and returned to the VIP loft.
Edward had captured several shots of the downstairs dining room and entry lounge. He'd taken pictures up the stairs to the third floor bar, but still needed to head up there for the specific views. Taking a moment, he stood and looked out the darkened windows and onto the street, his thoughts temporarily drifting aimlessly to a lovely brown-eyed girl.
At once, he felt an odd tingling up his spine, forcing him to turn around… and see her. He rubbed his hands over his eyes for a moment, blinking and looking again to the back of the restaurant. There, in the loft, near the top of the staircase was Bella looking like… well, he didn't have words for how she looked. He was simply dazzled. Bella was a vision in gold and sequins. Her one bare shoulder made him salivate and things start to twitch in his slacks. The dress hugged her body in a way that should have been illegal, but he thanked God wasn't. And her legs… Bella wasn't tall, but tonight, God help him, her legs didn't seem to stop in those shoes. They rose nicely to a lovely rounded ass. He wanted his hands on that ass right now.
"Wait," he thought abruptly. "Was the Jake she mentioned the Jacob Black that had hired him tonight? She was best friends with the owner and head chef? This is why she was busy Friday night…."
A huge smile spread across his face as he centered Bella's lovely back and backside in his viewfinder. This picture would be for him. Edward would get to see the lovely Lady Bella tonight, after all. He started towards the stairs that lead to the VIP loft.
Now that Bella had a few free moments and before patrons and invited guests arrived, she took the opportunity to stop. She found a booth in the back of the loft and hid, resting her feet. She knew that she'd be standing a lot this evening and wanted to catch a moment of rest when she could.
"Bella? Is that you?"
Bella's head shot up, looking for the direction of that velvet voice. She peeked her head out from one of the booths and looked around to see a tall, shadowed figure at the top of the stairs.
It couldn't be him. Could it?
"The very same," he replied with a laugh. He walked toward the booth where Bella's head peered around the corner. "So this is the place you had to be tonight."
She looked up at his tall form and drank in the long and lean of him. He was wearing just a shirt and slacks, but he looked absolutely delicious. "Please, have a seat!" She scooted farther into the booth and patted the place on the seat so he could sit next to her.
He placed his camera on the table and sat down. He caught a bit of her perfume and it made him want to bury his face in her neck. She caught his scent as he sat and wanted to bite him to see if he tasted as good as he smelled.
For a moment, they both sat and looked at each other, neither one certain where to start. Bella decided to take the plunge. "So, you are the photographer that Jake hired for tonight."
"I am. And this is why you couldn't be my date tonight?" Edward gestured to the restaurant and then tapped his long fingers on the table.
Bella laughed shyly and all he could think was how much he wanted her to keep smiling.
"So Bella, you know what I do, but I never did get a chance to find out more about you. You went to school at Northwestern and you stayed in Chicago, but just what does the Lady Bella do, other than help out her best friend when he calls?" Edward angled his body so he was closer to Bella.
She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and he wanted to be the one touching her hair. "Well… I manage a retail store in Chicago."
"Really? That sounds like a nice gig. What store?"
"Um… La Perla on Michigan Avenue."
Edward sat back, then smiled broadly. "Do you get to sample the merchandise?"
He winked at her. She loved when he did that; it made her heart skip a beat. "Actually, I do get a sizeable discount since I am a manager, so I have many pieces." Bella's fingers circled absentmindedly on the table.
Edward reached out and gently placed his hand over hers, silencing her fingers, but that warmth, that connection he felt when she touched him at the airport was back again. "I don't think that I have ever seen such beautiful things."
Bella looked at their hands, felt the tingling traveling up her arms. "Yes, they are quite lovely…." She paused before continuing. "I've been store manager there since I graduated. I stumbled into the position and I get along with my regional manager quite well. I'm very happy there." Edward started stroking her hand with his thumb. "I… uh… I do a good job." Her breath was catching in her throat.
She swallowed hard before she could open her mouth to speak, but Edward interrupted her. "I imagine you do." Edward slid a little closer to her. "Bella, you look so lovely tonight. I hope you don't find me too forward, but you make me feel…."
"Bella?" Leah emerged from the back stairway to the loft. "Oh here you are. And you've met Edward, wonderful. He's the photographer for this evening. How's it going Edward?"
"Very nicely, thank you. I have captured the dining room and the bar stairwell. I had just come up to take shots of the loft when I bumped into Bella here. She was kind enough to ask me to take a seat and well… we just started talking. I apologize if I was capitalizing on her time."
"Oh no, you're fine Edward, I just needed to grab Bella."
Bella and Edward shared a brief longing glance at one another before he slid out of the booth and then, ever the gentleman, took her hand and assisted her.
"I'll see you later Edward?" She looked back over her shoulder at him.
Edward nodded and watched as Leah took Bella down the back stairs. He needed to sit in the booth for a moment before he stood up and resumed his work.
Over the next hour, Bella and Edward only caught fleeting glimpses of each other as they passed in the dining room.
After her sly observation, there was but a stolen touch of hands as they passed each other on the stairs. With each look, each touch, each anticipatory thought, the electricity built up between them waiting to ignite to a burning flame.
Edward wondered why Leah wanted a shot of the restaurant bathroom, but he cooperated, moving to the singular door at the back most corner of the dining room. It was a unisex room and upon opening the door, he immediately understood Leah's request. The room was quite a bit larger than he had anticipated. He closed the door and realized that this could be a bathroom in someone's home.
There was a stylized pedestal sink beneath a very large gilded mirror. On the sink rested a dispenser of soap that somehow matched the mirror. To the left of the sink was a wooden shelf that ran from the mirror to the end of the wall. The shelf held eight vases of Rubrum lilies centered with clear glass votive candles flanking either side. Closer to the sink and the mirror was a basket with cloth-like, paper towels and another dispenser. Curious, Edward tested the matching dispenser.
"Huh, lotion. Nice touch," he said, as he nodded.
But when he stepped back, he truly realized why she wanted this room photographed. Not only did the room mirror the subtle elegance of the dining room, it held a work of art. The walls were a deep, dusky blood red, but upon stepping back, he saw the lines. He looked harder and saw the lines revealed a goddess standing, her arm outstretched as though reaching for something. Her Greek style dress flowed and blew in the breeze and her hair whipped around her face. Looking up to the corner of the room, almost near the ceiling, was what he presumed was a moon, in keeping with the lunar-related art elsewhere in the restaurant. He was taken aback by the simple elegance of the drawing on the wall. Though it was large, it didn't overpower the room. In fact if you didn't look closely, you'd miss it entirely.
Edward stepped back into the corner so he could capture the room. He had to angle and position himself as to not be seen in the mirror. He lined up the camera and was surprised when the door burst open and Bella rushed in.
They both exclaimed and then laughed. "Edward, why are you in the bathroom?"
"Leah had asked me to photograph the room. Why are you in here? Do you need me to step out?"
"Oh, no." Bella looked down at the towels in her arms. She kneeled down to open a hidden door and placed the towels inside. "I was just… ah… restocking the towels. I wasn't sure I had brought in enough yesterday. I'm glad I checked because I hadn't." She stood and awkwardly adjusted her dress.
Setting down his camera, he asked, "Do you need any more help with anything? What can I do?"
"Nope, nothing. It's all done."
An awkward, quiet moment passed between them.
"Bella, um… I meant to tell you earlier, your dress is beautiful." Edward fumbled with his hands and finally stuffed them in his pockets.
She took a step forward. "Thank you Edward," she replied shyly and took another step. He was right in front of her now. "You, um look very handsome yourself."
Edward's heart began beating that rapid staccato as it had each time he'd run into Bella this evening. "Th-thank you."
"I thought you looked very nice when you picked me up at the airport." Bella tentatively reached out her hand to touch his shirt. "But this evening… you look like you should be in front of the camera, not behind it." She finished by looking up into his deep green eyes.
"Bella…" he sighed. He wanted to touch her skin, her shimmering skin that was wrapped in that body hugging gold fabric. "I've never met anyone like you. You do something… make me feel…" And he lightly rested his hand on her naked shoulder and felt a slight tremor from Bella. "I suspect you feel the same way." He leaned over and breathed in her scent.
Bella moved her hand over his heart and felt it thumping fast and hard. She couldn't help herself but turn her head to give him access to her neck. She wanted him to kiss her. She wanted him to throw her up against the wall and wrap her legs around his waist as he took her. Bella let a delicate sigh escape her lips as she felt his lips and fingertips ghost and gently glide over her neck and shoulder. "Bella, is this okay?" He moaned the words as he slid his other hand down her back to cup her lovely rounded backside. He wondered if she was wearing La Perla panties.
"Yes, please…" she breathed as her left arm wound around his neck and into his hair while her other hand pulled at his shirt, bringing him closer to her. He lifted his head and met her eyes.
There were those molten chocolate pools. God, she was even more stunning with her eyes filled with rising passion. Her lips, red, pouting and wet beckoned him. She had to have known his thoughts because she nodded, ever so slightly as he licked his lips in anticipation. The hand he'd had gliding down her arm moved to her cheek.
Somehow their lips touched, but neither knew how it happened exactly. The kiss was soft and sweet and held definite promise of much, much more.
"Lovely," Edward breathed as he caressed her cheek with his thumb.
"Again," she replied, almost inaudibly. Edward smiled and lowered his lips to hers to taste her, to drink her essence. He wanted to taste more. Gently, his tongue touched her lips, asking her to open to him. She pulled him closer, feeling his hard body against him. She wanted to be closer to him, she wanted her skin to touch his. Bella wanted nothing more than to give herself to this man.
The door burst open. "BELLA! You in here?"
Both Bella and Edward jumped and gasped at the intrusion. Bella turned around and pressed her back against Edward, feeling that he'd been as excited by their kiss as she was.
"Jared!" Bella's voice seemed to be a couple of octaves higher than normal.
"There you are!" Thankfully, Jared seemed to be completely oblivious to what had just transpired between her and Edward. "Hey, Leah's looking for you. The guests are due to arrive shortly and she wants you out front."
Flushed and flustered, though it was difficult to see that in the candlelight of the bathroom, Bella turned to leave. "Will I see you later Edward?"
"Um, yes, definitely."
She gave him a quick smile and then disappeared.
"So…. Edward, what are you doing in here… with Bella?" Jared asked.
"Leah wanted me to take a picture of the bathroom. Bella showed me the drawing on the wall." Edward hoped his lie was good enough and that the light in the room was low enough that Jared couldn't see the straining bulge in his pants.
"Oh… It's pretty sweet, isn't it? Leah drew it. Yeah, you really need to take a picture of it." Jared drew his hand down the wall.
"I will, but I need to have the door closed so the light will be right."
"Okay man. No problem. Better hurry though, guests will be showing up soon. And you may want to lock the door so no one else bursts in here and messes up the shot." Jared closed the door behind him. Edward rested his head on the door as he locked it. He tried to slow his racing heart, first from desire and then from adrenaline infused fear. Taking a deep breath, he ran his hand over his face.
I just kissed Bella in a BATHROOM! But man, it was hot... Maybe she does want me as much as I want her.
Edward smiled and then ran his hand over head and rubbed the back of his neck."I want to finish that kiss," Edward murmured as he again set up the shot of the goddess on the wall.
Midnight had finally chimed and Bella felt like a pumpkin. She'd not seen Edward since 10pm and she was getting edgy, waiting for him to appear. He said that he wouldn't leave until he'd seen her. She grabbed his hand and told him that she would bring him the food he'd ordered at midnight in the upstairs bar. The guests all left at 11:00, Jake and Leah had been celebrating with the staff since 11:30 and now she was free to be in the bar alone… with Edward.
Her stomach was all tied in knots and she felt like she was burning up.
Maybe I have a fever?
Bella fanned herself as she recalled standing in the shadows earlier in the evening and watching him work, observing how he was able to move amongst the guests without being intrusive on their meals or conversations. She noticed how some of his chest hair showed when his shirt gaped just right.
I wonder how long it would take for me to bite off those buttons…
Now Bella was pacing back and forth with her shoes off, wondering if she would be able to stay calm and actually have a conversation with Edward, or if she would simply jump him and start kissing him. That earlier kiss was seared on her brain, her lips. Good lord, that man had her lady bits tingling from the second she saw him.
"Lady Bella, would these be your golden slippers?"
Bella whirled to see Edward holding her sandals. How had he been able to sneak up on her like that?
"Um, yes, those are mine. I think you know that very well." She rocked back and forth on her heels.
"I thought so. They are quite nice and did wonderful things to your legs." Edward swung the shoes back and forth from his pinky.
The compliment made Bella blush and she turned awkwardly back to the booth and then back to Edward who had reduced the distance between them. She turned to the table once more.
"A few minutes ago, Jake brought up what you ordered. He threw in an extra Kobe slider after he saw the photos you took. He told me he was incredibly impressed with your work. So, come, sit down and eat."
Edward looked at the table and saw the food and its beautiful presentation. "It looks too good to eat," he said, putting Bella's shoes down and sliding in the booth next to her. Their bodies barely touched, but the energy between them sparked and sizzled. He tried to turn his attention to the food in front of him, rather than focus on the delicious brunette next to him and how much he wanted to lay her back in the booth and kiss her soundly. If his life depended on choosing the food in front of him, or the woman next to him, he would pick her. Hands down.
Reluctantly he turned his eyes from her lips and to the food. If he refused the food, he may run the risk of offending Jake and his lovely fiancée, who also happened to be the one that wrote the checks. Sitting before him on a square, white plate were the three Kobe sliders, one in each corner with the fourth corner holding a small bowl of some type of homemade potato chip. Another round, clear and marbled plate, garnished with violets, held a small bowl holding the crab cake corn dogs. "Aren't you going to eat?"
With her chin in her hands, Bella replied. "I ate a while ago. I thought I'd just sit with you and talk a while, if that's alright."
He paused and smiled. "Of course it is. So, what did you have?"
Edward placed his napkin across his lap and Bella's eyes followed its placement. "Um, I sampled most of what Jake or Seth did tonight. Those crab cake corn dogs are to die for."
"Really? Then maybe I should start there."
Bella paid close attention to how tiny the corn dog looked when held by Edward's long, elegant fingers. Her mind wondered how talented he was with those fingers on things that weren't related to camera equipment. "What do you think?" she murmured, but was further distracted by his lips as he devoured the meat on the stick in a single bite.
Deep appreciation escaped his lips as he happily chewed and savored the food. "Oh man, I could just keep eating this. Jake could just have only this on the menu and people would line up around the block for these." Edward looked to Bella who simply beamed at him. "What?" He wiped at his mouth and then devoured another.
"Thanks for being the photographer here tonight and making Jake's opening a success."
Edward grinned and looked down. "I had nothing to do with Jake's success tonight. He and Leah and Seth and that goliath of a pastry chef deserve all the credit. I might be able to provide some pretty pictures that may entice people to come here, but it will be this food, this place, and those people that will guarantee their success."
Bella was rapidly becoming afraid, and yet unexpectedly excited, that she may be falling for this man she barely knew. "Okay, fair point. Then thank you for being the one he hired and the one that intercepted my text message."
He gently took her hand from the table and tenderly kissed her knuckles. "That, I will take credit for." Not only was Bella beautiful and sweet, but she was tightly wrapping herself around more than just his little finger. She was beginning to take hold of his heart. Logically, he knew there was no reason for it – they barely knew each other – but at the same time, there was something about her that made him feel as though he'd known her forever.
Bella beamed at him again. "Try the slider. I hear they're good."
"You haven't had one of these?" Edward pointed at the sliders and Bella shook her head.
Edward looked at the succulent little burger. White Castles these definitely were not. He figured it wouldn't be too couth to stuff the entire thing in his mouth, so he cut it in half and then shoved it in. His eyes closed in ecstasy as the beef nearly melted in his mouth. It was the perfect combination of meat, cheese, bun and some kind of sauce that made an exquisite, happy rush of senses across his palate.
"Oh. My. God," he moaned. "I think I love Jake." Bella burst out laughing. "I do! Seriously, this is just… I don't know – magical!" He rapidly took the other half of the burger and stuffed it in his mouth, chewing happily. "Bella, you have to try this!" Edward cut one of the other sliders into smaller sections and forked it, offering the fork to Bella. At the same time, he slid closer to her and reached his arm around the back of the booth, his hand so very close to her skin. The thought of her skin beneath his lips once again was something he fervently wanted, and soon.
She slid closer to Edward and moved to take the bite. Her lips wrapped around the fork, capturing the bit of meat in her mouth. Edward groaned inwardly as he felt the need to adjust himself. Watching her lips on that fork sent his mind into a spiral of erotic possibilities. Now it was Bella's turn to close her eyes in ecstasy. She slowly chewed and proclaimed breathlessly, "This is orgasmic." He forked another piece and offered it to her so he could watch the expressions on her face again. He wondered what else he could do that would make those expressions and others cross her face.
"Bella, wait, you have a little something…" He reached over to the corner of her mouth to eliminate the stray bit of sauce lingering there. "There, I got it."
Bella's eyes were wide and dark; she captured his hand before he could do anything more. "Wait…" She kissed his finger where he had cleaned her mouth. Then she kissed his next finger… and his next… and his next. "Is this okay?"
Edward moved his arm off the back of the booth embracing her, his kissed hand moved to caress her jaw. "Yes, Bella… please." Their lips came together, the food now long forgotten. The kiss seemed to start as they had ended it earlier. Soft, open, tender kisses that tasted, teased, explored. Tongues that tentatively touched, mouths opened, kisses deepening.
She was so delicious; she tasted like … honey, sunshine, his meadow… possibilities. He lifted her onto his lap and wrapped his hands around her waist, her shoulders, her hips. Bella's hands wound behind his neck and into his hair. They drank deeply of each other, mouths hungry and needy. Each whimpered, moaned and groaned in deep, deep appreciation and want.
His lips grazed her neck as he moaned. "Bella… I need you to know that I don't do this… I don't crawl over women… I don't kiss women like I am drowning… but I can't help myself. There's something about you… You make me feel… feel things I've never felt before." Panting and staring into each other's eyes, Bella nodded in understanding. His hands gently held her face. "You do this, Bella… You do this…"
She leaned down and kissed him. "You do this to me." She took his hand and placed over her heart. "I want to know you Edward. I need to know you. My brain tells me this is insane, but my heart is singing at finding you."
A blinding smile spread across his face and he nodded. They wound their arms around each other again and kissed, deeply and thoroughly.
A creak of wood made them both stop abruptly. "I don't want to be interrupted again," he chuckled. "Let me get you home." Bella pouted and kissed him quickly.
"Okay, okay. I don't think I want Jake catching us."
"Jake? Hell, I don't want Brady catching us! I value my life."
They both quickly gathered their things and Edward led her down the outside stairs, out the front door and around back to his car. Like a man with the devil on his tail, Edward opened the door for Bella, got her settled, then got himself into the driver's seat and took off.
He drove like a man possessed until they were parked outside Jake's dock. Bella removed her seat belt and quickly climbed on Edward's lap.
"Now… where were we…" Her words moaned into his ear.
Edward rested his hands on her thighs, touching and enjoying the feel of her skin. He traced slow paths towards her hips as their kisses began again in earnest. His hands continued on their course until he cupped her firm round bottom in his palms and pulled her against the hardness straining in his pants. Bella gasped in pleasure and moaned; he was sure that she melted into him.
"Bella, I can't lie. I want you." He kissed her neck and naked shoulder. "I want you naked in my bed and I want your lips red and swollen from my kisses." He gently tugged on her dress, pulling the part of the dress that covered her shoulder. Edward gently cupped her exposed breast, slowly, slowly sliding his thumb back and forth over her nipple. "I want to lick and kiss and pull at your nipples until you beg me for more."
She silenced him with another deep and luscious kiss, but his hands returned to her bottom for a squeeze, then to her thighs. He moved one between her legs and began to pet her over the lace of her very damp panties. "I want my fingers touching you, teasing you, stroking you, urging you until you come apart. Bella, I want to hear you scream my name when you come."
She groaned against his neck and ground against his hand and fingers. He knew at that moment, he could have taken her. She would have willingly opened her body and soul to give him everything that was her.
"I want you to touch me. I need it." She gently tugged on his bottom lip. "I can't express how much or why. I don't give myself like that, but I need you to want me." His hands and lips caressed her skin as she spoke. "Your voice alone sends shivers of pleasure down my spine."
Edward wanted Bella. He wanted her badly. But in his heart, he knew it wasn't right to do this in his car like a couple of horny teenagers, even though that was exactly how they were acting. If he was going to have Bella, he wanted to take her slowly, savor every inch of her, learn how to make her body sing in response to his touch. That was never going to happen in a car. He couldn't fuck her in his car, Bella was worth more than that.
"Edward," Bella crooned in his ear. "Please, take me inside."
Unfortunately, she just resolved his concerns. He wanted nothing more than to take her inside and lay her down and bury himself deeply bringing them both pleasure, but… dammit, he shouldn't do this tonight.
"Bella, I want to. Believe me, I want to, but not tonight." He looked at her sitting, mussed and half naked on his lap. "You're worth more than that. I want to take the time to worship you and your body, but I need to know that this is what we really want and we're not just wrapped up in the excitement of all this." All the time he was talking, he kissed her lips, her neck, the hollow at her throat. He more growled, than groaned. "I don't want to fuck you in my car." He stopped and held her face. "You are worth so much more than that."
She sighed deeply, her heart pounding in her chest, and rested her forehead against his. "You're right. And I'm angry that you're right." Bella ground herself into him and they both nearly lost their resolve over it. "I want to take my time with you too. I want to see what it is I feel." She placed her lips on his and continued, whispering against them. "I want to see your eyes as I ride you, as you bury yourself inside me again… and again… and again… Okay?"
Edward blinked, then kissed Bella deeply, nearly saying "fuck it all!" and throwing her on the hood of his car, her legs over his shoulders and losing himself in her.
"Grrrrrrrr….. must stop… must stop…" he moaned.
"Pick me up for lunch at 11 tomorrow." She peppered his mouth with one short kiss. "I look forward to it Sir Edward."
He opened his car door and she crawled off him with as much grace as a woman that had been trying to crawl all over and inside a man could muster. He leaned over and retrieved her purse and shoes.
He handed them to her and then bowed deeply and with a flourish. Out of the corner of his eye he saw her hips do a little wiggle and he wondered why. Slowly, he stood and took her hand kissing it lightly. "Until tomorrow at 11, Lady Bella. I may even be a bit early." He winked and then kissed her hand again.
"Wait." Bella grabbed his shirt and pulled him close as she stood on her tip toes to give him another kiss. "Good night Edward. I cannot wait for tomorrow." He felt her hand graze his pocket.
He watched her walk slowly onto the dock and then once she was in the house boat, he took a deep breath, putting his hands in his pockets. But his pocket wasn't empty. He looked down and removed a tiny pair of La Perla panties.
~oooOooo~ ~oooOooo~ ~oooOooo~
Well, there you have it, my first forte into the AH universe. I hope you enjoyed it. :o) And if you liked it, perhaps suggest it to a friend?
My inspiration for Wolf Moon is the restaurant called the Stanton Social on NYC's Lower East Side. Absolutely amazing food.
As always, my undying gratitude to my amazing betas stuff4ang and Jennybird32. Thank you to India Rose for making my beautiful banner and Go raibh maith agat to IrishTwiFicster (I hope I said that right!).
Finally, thank you for making a donation to this wonderful cause (Fandom4Tsunami).