Wanna Be A Hardcore Nerdward Contest
Title: My Crazy Engineer
Summary:I wasn't looking for a relationship when I walked into that classroom, but that's exactly what I got.
Word Count: 7976
Disclaimer: SM owns Twilight. I own Engineerward.
Beta: kikikinz and Jessica1971
I'm still not quite sure how it happened, how I ended up meeting the man of my dreams amongst a bunch of nerdy engineers.
I shouldn't have been surprised when I walked into that room and stood in awe of the state of the art equipment or the amazing learning environment this company had built. I definitely shouldn't have been surprised by the people that walked in the room or the sea of plaid, khaki, and glasses.
And yet, I was, because the minute I saw him, I knew this class was going to be different from any other I'd ever taught.
~7 Months Prior~
"Bella, it's so good to finally meet you in person," Mary Alice said as she greeted me with a warm smile and a firm handshake in the lobby. "Welcome to The Greyson Center for Leadership."
I smiled easily. I had always been good at meeting people and making small talk. This time was no exception. "Thanks. It's a pleasure to be here," I said.
As she walked me down the hall, I took in the gorgeous architecture and view of the river just over the horizon. The "Center" was essentially a full service conference facility, complete with hotel rooms, a formal dining room, recreation space, and classrooms. In short, it was a little oasis on the outskirts of Chicago, and it was stunning.
"You're in room 3306. Take a few minutes to unpack and get situated. I know you probably had a long day traveling. Why don't we meet at 4:30, so I can show you to the classroom? I know you'll probably want some time to get oriented to the equipment and organized for tomorrow morning."
She said all of this with that same warm smile, and I noticed how blue her eyes were as she grinned a bit wider.
"Thanks. That sounds perfect. So 4:30?" I asked, just to confirm, even though I knew that was what she'd said.
And with that she was gone, and I was in my room alone.
As the students started filing in, some laughing and joking, I felt my nervous stomach twist a little bit more. Everyone looked… well, like I guess engineers look. They were all pretty much wearing khakis, button down shirts of all types, although plaid seemed to be the most common look, and glasses galore. Most of them sat quietly fiddling with their blackberries, reading newspapers, or chatting with acquaintances at their tables.
The room filled up, and when the clock struck eight, I cleared my throat, made my way to the front of the room, and introduced myself.
"Good morning, everyone. My name is Isabella Swan, and I'm with the Volturi Group."
I smiled at the murmurs of "good mornings" that echoed around the room, and then proceeded.
"I'm glad to be here with you this week. I know we're still missing a few people, but we've got a lot to cover, and I'd like to keep us moving."
With that, I dove right into the agenda, class expectations, and objectives. I could tell by the dazed looks on their faces they weren't really impressed or engaged, so I decided on the fly to do an icebreaker. I often did these with my other classes, but I wasn't really sure what to do with this group.
"All right. You're going to be hearing a lot from me over the course of the week, so let's change things up and hear from you. I'd like each of you to introduce yourself, say one unique thing about yourself, and then at your tables, find three things you all have in common." I smiled, hoping my grin might help get them into the spirit, but the quiet grumbling around the room told me otherwise.
I felt the tension in my chest build and took a deep breath. "Okay," I said tightly, "take ten minutes, and we'll reconvene."
Needing a quick minute to reset myself, I walked outside the classroom to the break area and poured myself a cup of coffee. A frazzled looking guy came barreling down the hall and would have knocked me over had I not shifted to the side at the last minute.
"Shit! Sorry. Do you know where the leadership class is?" he asked hastily, frantically looking around the space.
I smiled, feeling my face flush. This guy was hot. And had pretty lips. I blinked and looked up to meet his eyes. Green. Pretty, too. Focus, Bella. "Yeah. It's right here. Take a breath and collect yourself. The participants are just working on a quick icebreaker.
"I'm Isabella Swan," I said, extending my hand.
He grinned, sort of a lopsided half smile, as he wrapped his fingers around mine.
His grip was warm and firm, a feeling I appreciated and rarely got from men, and left me feeling all sorts of unsettled.
"Nice to meet you, Isabella. Edward Cullen," he said, his smile widening before he looked down. "Are you the instructor?" he asked, suddenly shy, my hand still in his.
I nodded. "I am. But just call me Bella."
He bobbed his head once in acknowledgement. "I apologize for being late, Bella" he said as he looked back up at me, lips pursed, and released my hand.
I smiled, trying to help ease his concern over being late. He really hadn't missed anything, yet, anyway. "No problem. Just find your name tent on one of the tables and jump right in."
"Thanks." He smiled, this time a warm, slow, soft smile, and walked in, glancing over his shoulder at me as he pulled the door open.
Stop it, Bella.
The next couple of hours progressed well. The icebreaker turned out to be fun and interesting, and I was surprised to find that while they all enjoyed their work, they didn't spend all their time in front of a computer or television screen gaming. There were a few beer brewers, a guy who roasted his own coffee, and a bunch of musicians of one sort or the other.
After being in this business for a while, I had heard pretty much every answer under the sun, but Edward said something that completely caught me off guard. He was into researching personality assessments. He didn't elaborate; I didn't ask, but deep inside I was doing a little fangirl swooning. This was my bread and butter, and this hot guy was totally into it, too.
I'll be getting more on that later.
As the class loosened up, so did I. That's not to say I was uptight or anything, but it was nice to feel like I was able to be myself. As they joked around and said goofy stuff I didn't understand about algorithms, linear and organic thinking, and their respective jobs, I started to enjoy myself and even cracked a few jokes when they started sharing analogies using comic book heroes, sports stars, and actors.
Of course, there were always a few of those participants, the kind you want to punch or wring their necks. Yeah, this class was no exception. There was an annoying guy named Emmett who would not shut up. Seriously, this guy talked incessantly, probably just to hear his own voice, and I actually had to avoid calling on him to ensure others had a chance to talk. Another guy, Mike, a punk kid with blond hair, thought he was the shit. He had the ego of a Super Bowl, World Series, and Stanley Cup MVP all combined. It was ridiculous. Again, with the know-it-all behavior. Ugh. Shut up already.
I also had a few shy guys – a lot of those, actually – and in some cases it was like pulling teeth to get them to speak. I almost had to resort to calling on people directly. It wasn't my favorite technique, but a girl has to do what a girl has to do when no one responds. It seemed, though, once I got a few of them on board – Angela, Ben, and Marcus – things flowed more smoothly.
At one point during a break, I pulled Ben aside and asked him if everything was okay. He blushed and told me he was just on the quieter side. We talked a few more minutes about him engaging in the class and sharing his thoughts. I explained how critical it was for everyone, not just Mike and Emmett (I kept that bit to myself), to contribute. He nodded. And once he spoke, the others did, too.
And then there was Edward. Throughout the day, I found myself glancing at him… more often than I'd like to admit. He was one of the quieter participants, speaking only when he was asked a direct question or quietly at his table. I could tell he was thoughtful and introspective but not quite like the others.
For one, he was gorgeous. And I mean hot with a capital H. Hot in an all-encompassing sort of way. Where some of the people in the class were sort of geeky cute and had that "I have no real social skills" look to them, Edward did not. That's not to say he didn't have that nerdy appeal I was surprisingly starting to dig. His hair was a messy mop of golden brown, sort of looked like he just rolled out of bed, and his eyes were stunning – dark green with gold and hazel flecks – yes, I was that close to him. Sue me.
But it was his jaw, clean-shaven and sharp, that made me drool. Several times I found myself staring at him as he shared something with the group. I could see the way his Adam's apple bobbed up and down with each swallow or the way his jaw muscle clenched and bounced when he was noodling on something. Or even better, the way the tip of his tongue, pink and perfect, stuck out when he was deep in thought during one of the reflection exercises.
Secondly, he had a quiet way about him that left me wondering what was going on in his mind. The more he shared, the more I wanted to get to know him. I had that feeling sometimes when I was in a program, but I'd never felt that curious about any of my participants. Not like this. He had a quirky sense of humor, laughing at the most random things – so random in fact, I was still reeling a bit about him linking the molecular structure of an atom to the importance of building a strategy. It was deep and well thought out, and the rest of the class seemed to get it. So, I went with it.
As class wrapped for the day, Emmett and another participant, Rose, approached me.
"So, Bella, you wanna join us for dinner?" Emmett asked, grinning like a fool.
I smiled. "Thanks, but I think I'm going to go workout and then grab a salad. I have some work I need to do before tomorrow's class."
"Well, if you change your mind and are up for a party, we're all going to be in the lounge chillin' and drinkin'. You do know everything's free, right?"
I laughed. Really laughed. Both at his question and the smack he received across the chest from Rose.
"Ignore him. He's a dork," she said, a smile already forming on her beautiful face.
"Ow," he said, rubbing his large man-hand over his chest. "That hurt. And so what if I like free beer."
"No one's judging, Emmett. Enjoy your evening," I said as I packed up my stuff in the front of the room.
I noticed Edward at the back of the room with a handful of people, and I couldn't help but take a second to appreciate the pretty. He really was pretty. Tall, lanky, lean…
I had just finished gathering my bag and purse when I heard the door close, and I looked up. The room was empty, and I had an inexplicable sense of emptiness.
The next two days passed in much the same way. The class joked and seemed to enjoy themselves. I felt like I was connecting with each of them – at least those who wanted to be there and who sort of got it – and in my book, that was success.
Emmett and Mike continued to drive me nuts, but were tempered more and more by others in the group who had gotten tired of hearing them talk – dominate – every conversation.
"Mike, would you mind letting Sarah say something?" I asked, trying to hide my annoyance.
"It's just-" Mike tried talking over me.
"Dude, let someone else talk," Eric finally said just as I was about to speak.
Mike stared at him, dumfounded, sat back in his chair, and condescendingly waved his hand at Sarah to continue.
As if she needed an invitation. So annoying.
"Well, what I was going to say is that I think the key to building better leadership skills is to honestly evaluate how others perceive you," Sarah said.
"Excellent. And what are some ways to do that?" I asked.
I looked around the room and noticed Mike was purposely not making eye contact with me. Grow up, please. I waited in silence, knowing full well someone would speak up.
When Edward finally did, I felt my heart pinch a bit. I had never been this affected by one of my participants, and it was sort of throwing me for a loop.
"There are all sorts of evaluations you can take. Psychometric surveys, personality assessments, that sort of thing. You can even do a 360 with your team to get feedback from them, as well as your boss and customers."
I stared at him. I was sure most of them had probably taken the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, but it seemed like he knew a bit more than the average participant. There was something really sexy about that, especially since most engineers rarely put much stock into the validity of that kind of thing.
"How many of you are familiar with some of the assessments Edward just mentioned?"
A few hands ticked upward, but in general, the majority of the class hadn't been exposed to them.
"Well, as Edward shared, there are many great resources at your disposal for doing just what Sarah mentioned."
We spent the next hour talking about assessments and how they could best be used. It was interesting and fascinating watching them come alive, especially Edward. My earlier assumption that he'd had some exposure to this kind of thing was dead on. It turned out he was a certified instructor for several different assessments. As he explained the differences between each of them, I found myself being lulled into a very happy place.
His voice was soft and gravelly, and the longer he talked, the more awkwardly confident he grew. He didn't have that strong, loud confidence most professional facilitators had, but his presence was undeniable. You couldn't help but be drawn in by him. Add all that to the way his eyes crinkled when he smiled or how he stared intently at people when he was listening – really listening – to them, and you got a hotter than hell engineer that left me turned on in every possible way – body and mind.
As we broke for afternoon snacks, I walked over to him.
He turned and smiled, a slow, gorgeous, melt my panties sort of smile. I blinked, caught off guard for a second.
My name never sounded so good. Breathe.
"Um… I just wanted to say thank you for sharing so openly with the rest of the class. How long have you been administering these tools?"
He paused, thinking, except it felt like the whole thing happened in slow motion. He closed his eyes and ran his hand through his gorgeous locks, pulling the ends, which immediately made me think of what it would feel like to run my own fingers through his hair. Soft. Silky.
"I've been doing the MBTI for about three years. The other two are more recent."
"Right. It sounds like you're pretty passionate about helping people. Is that what got you into this stuff?"
He smiled that same smile, although this time it had a sort of embarrassed look, as he pursed his lips and looked down for a second. Those lips. When his eyes met mine again, he chuckled.
"Um, actually, no. I mean, I do want to help people, but I really got into this stuff when I got curious about the algorithms behind the survey."
I stared at him blankly.
He pressed on. "You know, the stuff behind the scenes that makes the survey run. I wanted to understand why certain questions and the subsequent answers resulted in a given profile.
"The more I delved into it, the more fascinated I became. I started researching and reading everything I could get my hands on. I even built a computer program to simulate how the survey worked. It, amazingly, worked well. Most of my friends took both the official MBTI and the one I created and got almost identical answers," he said, his face shining with pride.
I had no idea what to say. I was shocked by his dedication, impressed with his initiative, and turned on by the passion and enthusiasm he showed while he was talking. It felt silly to get that star struck over a guy who built a personality assessment program, but heaven help me I did.
"Wow." That's all I could say. I felt simultaneously ridiculous and incompetent and annoyed at my own inability to articulate how impressed I was by him.
He chuckled again. "I know. Pretty geeky, huh?" His hand reached around to grab the back of his neck, and I could see I had made him feel uncomfortable. I took a step back, hoping a little more space between us would make him less anxious.
"No, not at all. I'm just really impressed." And I was. Truly. I had never met anyone like him.
"Nice try, Bella. I know I'm a geek. I mean seriously, how many people do you know that would build a computer program to better understand how a personality test works?"
"Apparently you," I quipped, smiling the whole time.
We both laughed then before he excused himself to take a quick break. I started rounding people up, knowing I was about to get us off schedule.
The remainder of the day passed quickly, and I found myself drawn more and more to him. There were times I was sure I felt his eyes on me, but when I looked his way, they were focused elsewhere. I felt weird and disappointed about that. On one hand, I didn't want to cross any lines – official or artificial – but on the other, he was hot and intriguing and I was infatuated for sure. I really wanted to scratch beneath the surface, to really get to know him.
I wrapped things up for the day, dismissing them a little bit earlier than planned. It was a nice day out, and I figured everyone could use a dose of fresh air after being cooped up inside all day.
"See you all tomorrow morning. Be here at eight with a copy of your pre-work assignment."
They murmured their acknowledgement and packed up their stuff. I began gathering my materials, chatted with a few of them, and just as I was about to log off the computer, I heard him call my name.
I turned to face him only to discover we were alone. That same fluttery feeling I'd had earlier in the day immediately washed over me. I felt my palms start to sweat, and I subtly tried to wipe them on my pants.
He walked over to me, slowly. Okay, that was only in my mind, but it did take him a second to weave through the chairs and tables to get to the front of the room where I was standing.
"Hey," I said all breathy like. Bella!
"Hey," he said, scrubbing his hand through his hair.
"Hey." I closed my eyes, annoyed at myself for saying what I'd already said and repeating what he'd just said. What was wrong with me? I was usually so articulate, but this guy left me feeling all sorts of edgy and anxious and discombobulated.
"Hey," he repeated when I looked down. It wasn't until I felt his hand lightly touch the crook of my elbow that I looked up. I knew my face was red. I was embarrassed by my earlier "hey," and then to have my heart practically pound out of my chest and my skin sizzle at his touch was too much.
"Bella," he said, swallowing nervously, "I was wondering if you'd like to eat dinner with me tonight." I watched him shift to the other foot in anticipation of my answer, and something about it put me at ease. Maybe it was the fact he was so adorable as his hand coursed through his hair just before he spoke or that I really did want to talk to him more; regardless, I wanted to spend time with him, and that alone was enough to make me say yes.
I smiled. A genuine one. "I'd love to."
We settled on our plans. We both knew it wouldn't be private. We would be amongst all the other class participants at the Center, but that seemed okay. Probably for the better at this stage. I was, after all, his instructor, and even though we were both adults, it somehow felt wrong.
After my workout and a quick shower, I took extra care dressing for dinner. I knew it wasn't a date, but I also needed that little boost that comes with dressing nicely. No matter how crappy I felt, the minute I slid on my power bra and panties, my comfy jeans, and my favorite V-neck shirt, the better I felt. It was psychological and ridiculous, but I didn't really care. I was a huge believer in "if it works for you…" and so I did. I worked it.
Well, I say that. I didn't actually work anything, because there was nothing to work. At least, that's what I told myself when I saw Edward waiting at the top of the dining room stairs for me.
The minute I saw him I knew I was in way over my head. Edward was wearing a pair of dark blue jeans with little rips in them, a slightly wrinkled grey and black striped shirt that had the sleeves rolled up to the middle of his forearms... untucked… with black leather shoes. His hair, I swear, looked like he'd had a roll in the hay or something. It was sticking up in a way that screamed I really don't care, even though it was clear he did and had tried to do something to it.
And were those glasses? He hadn't worn them to class all week, and I was taken aback at how hot he looked in them. Talk about the epitome of every nerd girl's dreams… he was it. And I wouldn't even classify myself that way, but damn was he delectable.
As I approached, I could see his jaw tighten and then his Adam's apple bob as he swallowed. His hand ran unconsciously through his hair, and all I could think was "Lord help me; I'm not going to make it tonight." He was sexy as hell, and the fact that he seemed nervous – just like me – was endearing.
"Hey," he said, and we both laughed.
"Not that again," I chuckled.
That helped break the tension. Slowly, we walked down the stairs, chatting quietly about our respective workouts. I had taken the time to run a couple miles, knowing I needed to burn off some of the adrenaline that had been coursing through me since our earlier exchange. Of course, standing next to him and seeing him dressed like sex on wheels had erased pretty much everything I'd just burned off.
Conversation between us flowed smoothly. There were no awkward lulls as we talked about how we ended up in our respective positions. I told him about graduating and never really finding something that seemed to fit.
"The one time I really felt alive was when I was conducting a training seminar on a new product we had just developed. I wish I could explain what it was like to see the looks on peoples' faces when they finally got it. You know, the look people get when they unlock something deep inside themselves that they never even knew was there. It's just… amazing.
"Plus, I'd be lying if I didn't say I loved the thrill of being in front of a group of people, all their eyes trained on me, and creating a space where people can really open up and share."
He smiled, his eyes crinkling in the corners.
"I get what you mean. That's how I feel when I get really engaged in something. I know I sort of made light of that whole MBTI thing earlier, but building that program, getting lost in the research, testing for hours on end… it just filled me with this sense of purpose. There's something really cool about seeing how all the lines of code come together to create something incredible."
He scratched his jaw, clearly trying to formulate another thought. I was content to sit in silence watching him.
"The other reason I got into it was because I've never really been that good at reading people. I can be pretty awkward and shy when I get into different social situations."
He paused to take a slow sip of his wine, almost punctuating his point.
"So, after a failed relationship or two, I decided to try and do something to help me better myself and understand people. I wanted to know what makes people tick or respond in certain ways. And once I knew that, I had to figure out what to do with that information.
"The deeper I got, the more fascinating it became. In the end, the program and everything was just an experiment I wanted to see through to completion, something that was just for me."
Without a thought, I reached my hand and sat it on top of his, briefly, before pulling it back. Warmth. "Don't apologize or make excuses, Edward. I think it's amazing how you took the time to work through something you were curious about.
"It's admirable, and most people wouldn't have done it. If it's important to you, that's really all that matters," I said quietly.
We both sat in silence for a second, our plates long cleared away and only the dregs of wine left.
"Thank you for saying that, Bella," he said after a beat. I could see the sincerity in his eyes and hear it in his voice. There was something there, but it didn't feel right to pry. And so I didn't.
After another minute or two, I decided to shift the tone of the conversation.
"So," I asked, almost coyly, "did it help?"
"Did what help?"
"The programing, the research… did it help with your relationships?"
He smiled that half smile that made his eyes sparkle and the corners crinkle. "I guess we'll find out."
Seeing that playful, flirty side of him come out to play was so forward and bold, and it was such a turn on.
After dinner, we decided to take a walk. With flashlights in hand, we slowly made our way down the trails to the river. It was sort of a long haul, but the night was warm and had a nice breeze. We didn't talk as we walked, both content in our own thoughts. I had no idea what was going on in Edward's head, but I knew mine was whirring at warp speed.
Yes, that was a Star Trek reference. I was sort of a geek at heart, too.
The longer we walked, the more I tried to wrap my mind around all the crazy weird feelings I was having for Edward. He was hot and smart. Kind and thoughtful. And interesting. So damn interesting, and the more time I spent with him, the more I wanted from him. I found myself imaging what it would be like to touch him – his hands, his face, those lips – knowing I couldn't cross that line. Sure, we were both adults, but he was my participant. It just felt… wrong?
He stopped walking, suddenly, and I glanced over to find him staring at me.
So hot. Even in the low light of the evening.
We both laughed. "Do you want to sit on that bench over there?" he asked, pointing to what looked like a well-used old bench.
We made our way over, and I could feel the tension, intense and thick, between us as we sat a couple inches apart. I found myself wanting to close the gap, to get closer, to touch him. My inner monologue was practically screaming at me to do it.
Maybe he wants me.
Keep telling yourself that, Bella.
He does. I know he does.
This isn't like high school or college. This is just a random corporate training class.
But you could get fired.
You don't report to anyone. This is a one-time thing.
But you could use this client for other opportunities.
Yes, he is. So damn hot.
Just kiss him.
I took a deep breath, tried to be subtle, and stared out at the water. The moon was hanging high in the sky, creating a gorgeous reflection on the rippling water. It was one of those ideal moments in a movie when the characters finally kiss and the music blares.
Except this moment didn't end like those do. Well, it did in a way, except we didn't kiss. Instead, he reached over and took my hand. I think we both realized it would be weird the next day if we had done something like that.
It was warm and soft, just like the first day I met him, but it felt more intense this time. I could tell there was something bubbling under the surface – for both of us – as his fingers laced with mine. His thumb brushed across my knuckle, and I felt my breath catch.
Over and over, his thumb skimmed my skin, and with each pass, my heart pounded and stomach fluttered. We didn't talk or even look at each other. We didn't have to. We knew.
We just had to figure out what, if anything, we were going to do about it.
We managed to spend virtually every free minute we had on Thursday together. Sometimes we were alone, but most of the time, we were with other participants from the class. We all talked, laughed, played bar games in the lounge after class, and had a great time.
A part of me was sad to share Edward on our "last night" together, but the other part of me recognized the importance of being in social settings, even if these weren't really his close friends. It certainly gave me insight into how he interacted when he was a bit more uninhibited.
He laughed easily – a rich, warm, silky laugh that left me feeling all tingly inside as it washed over me. I found myself completely enthralled as I listened to him and two other participants talk about building video games and programs to do whatever they wanted.
Smart. So smart.
And sexy as hell.
I looked over at him and felt that same connection that had steadily been building sparkle with intensity. His eyes met mine, and his lips quirked up slightly. I could see the flicker of mischief in his eyes, and I wondered what he could possibly be thinking.
I smiled shyly and grinned, hoping to encourage him to wrap up his conversation. He got the message, tossed back the remainder of his beer, and said goodnight to everyone. He nodded his head toward the main corridor, and I casually – as casually as one could in an environment where people were always watching – got up and followed him.
As I rounded the corner, he pulled me to him, and for a second I thought I was going to pass out. He smelled like man and some very light cologne. I closed my eyes and inhaled, allowing his scent to fill my nose. I bet his skin had a very light bite of alcohol from the cologne he was wearing, and I was just about to lick him when he pulled back and looked at me.
"Are you smelling me?"
I felt my cheeks heat up, and I was grateful for the dark. "Um… yeah."
"Then I get to smell you," he said as he buried his nose in the crook of my neck and brushed his lips against my skin.
I shuddered, caught off guard, and maybe even moaned a bit at the sensation of his slightly roughed chin against the tender skin on my neck.
For a second, I allowed myself to get lost in the sensation of his touch, his scent, the softness of his lips. It felt good. So damn good.
My heart was pounding, and my body was tingling in all the right places. I wanted him to keep going, to touch me, to kiss me, but the shred of responsibility that was still alive and well in my brain told me this wasn't the most appropriate place.
I put my hands on his chest and gave a slight push. He stepped away and looked at me curiously.
"As much as I'm dying to continue this... we can't do this here."
He nodded and ran his fingers roughly through his hair as he exhaled slowly.
"You're right." And then that mischievous glint was back, and he simply said, "Come on."
I didn't have much of a choice, so I followed him. I sped up to keep pace with him. We walked down the long corridor and stopped at the very last set of Lodge Rooms. He pushed the call button for the elevator, and while we waited, he laced his fingers with mine.
Slightly rough. Warm. More tingles.
When the elevator dinged and the doors slid open, he pulled me in and moved us to the back wall. My back pressed against the metal railing as his lips found mine. Unexpected. Intense. Amazing.
I knew this was it. Not it, but just that he was definitely someone I wanted to pursue. And I definitely wanted to keep on with the kissing.
His tongue flicked across my bottom lip before he sucked it into his own. Our tongues slid against each other, tasting, touching, teasing. By the time the bell sounded, I was a breathless panting mess.
He grinned and pulled me off the elevator and down the hall to the living area. One of the fireplaces was lit, and he tugged me onto the sofa that was secluded a bit in the far corner. He wrapped his arms around me, and I felt that same warm sensation, the one that made me feel safe, wanted, and secure.
"How do you do it?" I asked.
"Make me feel this way? I've never done anything like this, and the more time I spend with you, the more I don't want to say goodbye tomorrow morning." I blushed at my own words, knowing how unusual this was for me.
"I don't know, Bella. But the feeling's mutual." He brushed his lips against my temple and tightened his arms around me. We sat like that for a long time, well into the night, talking, kissing, but never anything more.
This wasn't the right place, and we both knew it. We decided to leave the details of what happened when class was over to tomorrow.
Friday morning arrived in the blink of an eye. Edward walked into the classroom wearing a slightly wrinkled black button down shirt and jeans, clearly going for a more casual look. His hair was messy as usual, but his smile was anything but. Yeah, he rocked that look.
I couldn't help the way my cheeks flushed whenever he spoke. I mean, who could blame me when all I pictured was the way his hands brushed against my face and shoulders as his lips caressed mine. Seriously, who could blame a girl?
I asked the class to take some time individually to do some final reflection on their actions plans and then to share with their tablemates. I took a minute to appreciate how well this week had come together. In hindsight, I wasn't really sure why I was so apprehensive. All classes typically go the way this one had – even if there were bumpy patches or annoying people with whom I had to deal with.
My eyes drifted over to Edward. His hand was covering his mouth as he listened intently to one of his tablemate's action plan. Even under his hand, I could see he was half smiling as he leaned to the side, paying close attention. One of the other people said something that must have been funny, because he, along with everyone else at the table, busted out laughing. His hand brushed through his hair as his eyes met mine, and I knew my cheeks flushed.
Damn him for looking so good and for looking at me like that.
He looked so at ease, and I wondered again how everything between us had happened so quickly and easily. It wasn't like me to just dive head first into something like this, to be so free-spirited, but there was something different about Edward. Maybe it was his quirky sense of humor, his quiet personality, or his love for personality types and the algorithms behind them; regardless, I knew I was forever changed.
After class ended and we left the Center, I checked us into a hotel room, unsure what would happen but knowing whatever did was just the beginning. The tension between us was palpable as we set our things in the room and turned to face each other. I could see the worry on his face, and I knew he could probably see it on mine.
"Bella..." he said, toeing the ground and averting his eyes as if he had a major confession to make. I had no idea where he was going with this. That ball of nerves that had settled in my stomach dropped a little further as I imagined him saying he didn't really want this. I had no idea what I'd do.
It was clear he was nervous. I was, too. I'd never actually hooked up with a random guy like this. But as I looked at the man before me, I felt nothing but calm. Edward was anything but random. He was everything I never even realized I was missing.
"I've never really done this sort of thing."
Relief washed over me as what he'd said sank in.
I walked up to him and placed my hands on his chest, my fingers trailing down the soft fabric of his t-shirt and settling at his waist. I wanted him to know I felt that same sense of nervousness, that I had never done this before either.
"I've never done this before, either, Edward. But..." I paused, knowing that once I said what I was thinking there was no going back. "But this feels right to me. I want to be with you." I paused again as I watched that spark of energy deep inside him grow. There was a fire burning in his brilliant dark green eyes, and I knew it wasn't a mistake to be totally honest with him.
"We don't have to have sex. Hell, to be completely honest, as much as I might like to, I'm not sure I'm ready for that. But I do know I want to be here; whatever is going to happen, I want it. With you."
As the words tumbled from my mouth, I could feel my cheeks heat up, and I knew my face was probably red. But I didn't care; it was the truth. I wanted to touch him. I wanted him to touch me. I wanted him to kiss me again like he had on Thursday night.
He didn't speak. He didn't have to. His hands cupping my face and his lips brushing against mine was all the answer I needed. As his mouth slid easily against mine, that slow burn that had been building deep inside for days blazed.
"Thank you," he said when we broke apart, just barely, and touched his forehead to mine. "I needed that."
We stood there for who knows how long kissing and just touching through our clothes, slowly beginning the journey of learning what the other person needed and wanted.
Some time later, when both of our stomachs were growling and begging for food, we decided to order in. Neither of us really wanted to venture out or allow others into the little bubble we'd created. As we ate cross-legged on the end of the bed, we talked and laughed. It was easy, unforced, and full of silly quips and jokes.
After dinner, we snuggled together against the headboard of the bed to watch a movie. As the colors danced on the darkened walls of the room, I couldn't focus on the screen in front of me. My head was a bit fuzzy from the wine we'd been drinking, and all I could think about was the feeling of his body behind me, the way his arms were holding me close.
Feeling brave, I twisted slightly and nuzzled my nose into his chest, burrowing myself into him. He looked down, a small smile playing at the corner of his lips, as his eyes met my upturned face.
"Kiss me," I whispered, wanting nothing more than to pick up where we'd left off earlier.
His nose brushed mine as he slowly dipped down and touched my lips. Our kiss was lazy and warm, the perfect accompaniment to the slow pace of our evening. But as our mouths moved and tongues tangled, the intensity of the moment began to build.
He shifted me so I was practically straddling his lap. I could feel him beneath me, his body hard and hot. But when his hands wrapped around the base of my jaw and he tilted my head and began kissing my neck, I thought I would explode.
Edward was gentle and tentative, and I could feel him pause as if wondering where to go next. We hadn't talked about past sexual experiences, but I was pretty sure I wasn't his first.
Lost in my thoughts and the feel of his touch, I gasped as his hand cupped my breast.
"Tell me what you like, Bella. Help me know you," he murmured against my ear as his lips burned hot and wet down my neck.
"That. I like that," I half moaned, half rasped as his thumb brushed across my nipple.
With fumbling fingers, he unbuttoned my shirt and slowly revealed my black lace bra. He stopped and just stared. I wanted to be self-conscious, but I couldn't be. The look on his face and in his eyes was like a thirsty man staring at a well of water. He wanted me, and damn if the way his mouth opened and his tongue licked his bottom lip didn't turn me on even more.
Ever so slowly, I reached behind my back and unhooked my bra. As I pulled it off, his eyes widened and his hands found home. His hands, soft and gentle, touched, held, and caressed me. The sensations were overwhelming, but I needed more.
"More, please," I begged softly.
He pinched my nipples and looked at me with questions in his eyes. "Is that what you want, Bella? Do you like it when I do that?"
I moaned my answer, lost in the sensation of him gently tugging and rolling them between his fingers. I could feel sharp tingles shooting through me, landing between my legs and everywhere in between.
My hips flexed forward against his, over and over. The more he touched or tasted, sucked and teased, the more overwhelmed I became. His body ground against mine just as intensely as mine did against his.
I could feel how close I was; I knew it wouldn't take much. The friction, so delicious and perfect, increased as his movements became jerky.
"I'm so close, Bella. Please tell me you are, too," he ground out, his jaw tense.
"So close," I said, my eyes locked with his. "Put your mouth on me, Edward."
And he did. The heat from his mouth, the way he sucked my nipple into his mouth and swirled his tongue around it, was exactly what I needed.
"Ohhh," I cried as white and black flashed behind my closed eyelids.
He didn't stop. I didn't stop. Together we rocked through my orgasm and his until we were breathless and I'd collapsed against him.
We spent the better part of the night exploring, touching, tasting, loving, and when we couldn't keep our eyes open, we fell asleep in a tangled mess of lazy limbs and mashed bodies.
It was perfect.
And it was just the beginning.
As we packed our things the next morning, Edward asked me out. He said he knew it was crazy how fast things had happened between us but how right everything felt. He didn't want to let this go just because I lived on the other side of the country.
So, we decided to make it work.
Which is exactly what we did.
"Do you have everything?" he asked as he stood at the door to my apartment in Seattle.
The last seven months had been some of the best and most difficult of my life. Being away from Edward after that first weekend and every subsequent one was challenging. Of course, we found ways to close the distance. Skype became our best friend – we had some very fun times on there – and we were both glued to our phones. We talked almost every day, and when we couldn't, we texted. It wasn't perfect, but it was enough to tide us over until the next visit.
Not long after we first got together, Edward came out to Seattle for a visit. We spent the weekend walking all over town. I shared all the places that had important memories for me, and we explored and made new ones together.
But those weekends, even the week or two we'd taken off to be together in the interim, were never enough. So after a particularly rough goodbye, we decided we'd had enough of being apart. It was time to close the gap, so to speak, and move in together – in Chicago.
With Edward's job tied to Chicago and mine being so transportable, we agreed it was the best choice. It wasn't an easy decision because I loved Seattle, but it was the right one.
I took one last look around the room, mentally saying goodbye to the space that had been home for the last five years, and turned to face the person who had irrevocably changed my life.
My crazy engineer.
A sense of peace washed over as I walked over and grabbed his hand, a huge smile on my face. "I'm ready."
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