Your pen name(s):***
Your beta's name: ***
Your story name:Centrefold
Song that inspired you: Centrefold by J. Geils band
Summary: 1982: A man's world. A world of sleaze and glamour magazines. A world where women are used for titilation and entertainment. Is Edward Cullen, editor of lads mag 'Toots', like all the others?
Pairing: Edward / Bella
Disclaimer: Twilight and its characters belongs to Stephenie Meyer. No copyright infringement is intended.
"I'll be in touch." I promised, as I stood at the door to my office, dismissing the petite black haired beauty that had just left. I knew Alice Brandon would increase the sales of the magazine when her photos hit the pages of Toots. As always with the girls that gained my attention, I tried to look after them and put them at ease. This had definitely been the case with Alice. I received her grainy photograph several months ago and had been incredibly excited about meeting her. Unfortunately, she was only seventeen when she'd sent me the photos. So I placed her on hold until she reached her eighteenth birthday. I'd never even thought about using a girl until they reached that age. They were nowhere near mature enough to handle the pressures that would fall upon them if they "made it". And I couldn't help but think that seeing a naked girl, not a woman, was just wrong. I understood that a switch didn't just flick and turn them into a woman when they turned eighteen, but it made me sleep a whole lot better at night.
I also didn't just call them in and order them to strip, although I had needed to dissuade several women from doing just that. It seemed they were under the impression the "casting couch" was a rite of passage I expected them to complete with me. I didn't work like that; I never had and I never would.
When a prospective model came in for an interview, I took the time to get to know her a little bit. We'd discuss her dreams, what she expected from me and the magazine, and just how far she was prepared to go. I needed to judge her commitment to the industry and how important my intervention was to her career. If I was impressed with her attitude, I'd organise a photography session with Jasper-the best photographer in the industry-in my view. He had a way of putting the girls immediately at ease. I liked to sit in on these sessions, to see how they reacted to the camera and his instructions. It gave me a feel for whether they would be easy to work with in the future. I would not tolerate divas, or pompous behaviour. They could go elsewhere if they acted that way.
I was also well aware that having two men, unknown to them until that very moment, standing in a locked room with them whilst they undressed and cavorted around practically naked, was not something they were all comfortable with. I'd experienced girls in tears, refusing to completely strip, girls that just needed a little bit of persuasion, and girls so damn quick to take their clothes off and spread their legs - it was positively distasteful!
Jasper and I had seen it all.
Today, Alice had taken it all in her stride, and I hadn't missed the looks that had passed between her and Jasper. There had been a little bit of magic of their own making going on in that room. I'd almost felt the need to leave and let them get on with it, but I knew that Jasper would kill me if I'd let him take advantage that way. He'd settled on asking her for a date this evening, which she'd gladly accepted.
Alice was an incredibly attractive woman, and from what I had seen of the shots Jasper had taken, she had the look that I wanted for the magazine. Not all girls, however beautiful, had that magic quality that jumped off the pages. A woman could have the most beautiful body and face in the world, but if she didn't exude a certain quality on film, then I wouldn't take her on.
I looked back at my desk, staring at the pile of magazines that signified this week's releases; my rivals. It gave me a great deal of satisfaction to know that my magazine, Toots, was the best-selling lad's magazine out there. It outsold the others many times over, and every month the gap between us and our nearest rival grew. No one could beat us. I liked to think that my three years of running this company was the reason we were so successful. I knew what the male population liked, and I gave them exactly what they wanted.
I decided to pour myself a drink before studying the new faces in the magazines, preparing myself to see if I had anything to worry about. My drink cabinet rested proudly along the longest wall in my office. In only a week, the wallpaper that decorated the office was due to be removed, along with a complete renovation of the whole office. I couldn't wait. I hated the brown and ochre, nicotine stained wallpaper that had graced these walls long before I took l over the company. The look completely represented the seventy's, an era I had been sad to see go.
I poured the whiskey into a glass before wandering over to the full length windows. I pulled at the vertical blinds, creating a gap for me to stare out over the rainy grey skyline of London; I huffed loudly. The weather had been affecting my mood lately; it never used to, not when I was younger… and happy.
I'd changed so much. Sometimes, I hardly recognised myself.
I sipped the amber liquid, enjoying the burn as it slid down my throat. With a heavy sigh, I caught my reflection in the window. I edged closer; carefully wiping my finger under my eye, trying not to smudge the eye-liner I'd carefully applied this morning, or to dislodge the new contact lenses I was trying. Running my hand through my hair, I reminded myself why I should be happy, why I was the envy of many.
Most men would kill to have my job. They'd love to see naked girls every day of their lives – I was living every man's dream. But to me, that was all it was; a job, a career. And I was bloody good at it.
I remembered what I used to be like when I was younger. No one would have ever thought 'Nerdy Edward' would be running the most successful lad's magazine in the country. Even though I'd experienced the name calling and unpleasantness that came with wearing glasses in my teenage years, I'd had no fears or worries. It was a time when I'd not experienced life as a man, and a time when I met Bella Swan.
Edward Cullen at fifteen was shy, skinny, spotty, and geeky, but incredibly happy. Strange - now that I was twenty-three, confident, slim but solidly built, with clear skin and definitely not geeky - I wasn't happy.
The quiet knock on my office door brought my mind back to the present. I spun around, ready for the unexpected person to walk into my office.
"Come in!" I called, swallowing the remaining scorching liquid as I headed towards my desk. I smiled as I looked up and saw Tanya, my secretary.
"Edward," she started, "Miss Hale is here. Is it okay if…?"
"Oh my God, woman! He won't want to keep me waiting, will you darling?" Rosalie wriggled suggestively through the door as I frowned at her words.
Managing an apologetic smile at Tanya, I mouthed the word, 'sorry', before turning to Rose. She was already perched on the corner of my desk. Her long legs on show as she hitched her minuscule spandex skirt up even further - any higher and I'd see what colour panties she wore. Not that she normally wore any.
The door closed, and I sighed as I walked towards Rose. "You know I don't like it when you speak to Tanya like that."
"She'll get over it." She dismissed her rude behaviour so easily and it grated with me. She must have seen how unhappy I was with her attitude, so she pouted and leaned towards me. Grabbing the waist of my jeans she pulled me towards her; her fingers immediately opened the top button. "I'm sorry I've upset you. You're so moody these days…here, let me make it up to you." She tugged insistently on my jeans, her hands managing to undo the next button before I groaned in protest at her words. I backed away, scowling at her actions.
"Why is it always about sex with you? For god's sake, Rose. I thought we understood each other!"
I twisted away, turning my back to her as I walked to the windows again.
"Yeah, I understand." Rose's annoyed voice sounded out. I cursed the fact that my refusal had caused her to turn sarcastic on me. I hated sarcasm. I waited for the venomous words that were sure to come.
"You use me." she spat in my direction. "I'm good for your business. I provide you with a sexy date when you need one. You even fuck me when you need to let off steam! What do I get? Remind me, Edward."
I reached in my jeans pocket for my cigarettes, pulled out the lighter at the same time, before cupping my hands to light it. I screwed up the empty packet in my hand, keeping my fist wrapped tightly around it. I didn't need this today.
"I'm waiting." she sang at me.
I inhaled the acrid smoke, letting the nicotine rush into my system before I turned to face her. "You want to be my girlfriend. I don't want that from you; I never will. You know that. I promote you as the face of Toots, and you get paid honestly for taking your clothes off. I protect you from the slimy scum out there who want you to star in their porno movies. I look out for you. And at your request, you get fucked very well by me a couple of times a week. That is what you get from me - nothing more!"
I glared at her as she fluffed her permed, peroxide blond hair. She looked every bit the porno queen today. I wasn't keen on the look. Bright red lipstick and nail varnish, a fur coat, and the shortest, tightest red skirt I'd ever seen, were finished off with a pair of red stiletto shoes and white ankle socks. At least she had a matching colour scheme.
Bending over from her position on my desk, she pulled out her own cigarette from her sock. She smirked as she caught me watching her, but obviously mistook my gaze for one of lust rather than disgust.
"What are you doing here today anyway?" I asked. She knew I didn't like to be disturbed during work hours; not unless she was here for a shoot with Jasper.
"Just passing." she purred, placing the cigarette in her lips and gesturing for me to light it for her. I stepped forward and held the lighter to her cigarette, noticing how it was already covered in the sticky red gloss from her lips.
I sighed at the situation. I had to do something about it; I couldn't go on like this. It wasn't fair to her. "Rose, you never just pass. What do you want?"
"I can't make it tonight."
"Tonight?" I questioned, unaware I had organised to see her this evening.
"Well, it's my birthday today. I thought you'd want to take me out."
I drew another long drag from my cigarette, narrowing my eyes as I stared at her. How could she be so wrong?
"No." I stated, surprising myself with the harshness of my voice. "As I explained, you are not my girlfriend. That is something I would do for her…if I had one."
"But-" I heard the hurt in her voice. I knew it was time to cut the strings; she was becoming attached to me. I'd recognised the signs a while ago, but tried to ignore them. I mean, who wouldn't want her legs or tongue wrapped around them? Rosalie Hale could sell magazines like no one else I'd ever met, but six months of her inane and limited conversation had pushed me into a relationship of shallow satisfaction. She wasn't girlfriend material; I didn't see her that way – but she obviously did.
"Rose, it's not working anymore, is it?"
Her eyes dropped to look at the floor. I took her lack of response as a sign to continue. "I'm not what you want or need in your life, not on a personal level anyway. I think it best if we remain completely professional in our relationship from now on."
She suddenly stood up, equal to me in height with her heels on. Her eyes bore into mine as she took a long drag from the cigarette between her lips, and then stubbed it out in the astray on my desk. The smoke billowed around her as she stepped towards me, poking her finger into my chest.
"Fine! But you know your problem? You've no heart, Edward; not even a small one. All the time I've known you, you've never let me in; you've never opened up to me. Not once. You have no emotion, none at all. What the hell happened to you?"
I raised my eyebrows, catching her jabbing hand around the wrist. Her words had angered me. "Get the fuck out of here, Rose, before I throw you out! I may even rip up your damn contract, throw you to the wolves, and let them have every bit of you!"
"Go ahead then! You're not doing a good job of promoting me anyway. All the newer, younger girls are pushing me aside. When did you last have me on the cover of Toots, huh?"
"Rose, you know what it's like."
"Look at that new magazine, Throb, and their new girl, Stacey Swift. I want the sort of publicity she's getting! I may approach them for a contract."
"Just go, Rose." I sighed in exasperation. "I'll talk to you tomorrow. If you really want to leave us, I won't stop you. If you think I'm holding you back, I'll let you leave. But please, think about it when you've calmed down."
She huffed at me before sulking to the door, slamming it behind her as she left.
"Women." I muttered as I sunk into my chair. I never understood them…well, only one. But she was long gone.
I grabbed the unviewed pile of magazines on my desk and rummaged through them. I was curious to see the new girl, Stacey Swift, Rose had referred to. If she was as good as she had made her sound, then I realised I may have to persuade her to come over to Toots. I rolled my eyes as I saw the front cover of Throb. Stacey Swift was photographed sitting astride a chair. It was a traditional pose, usually involving a lot less clothing. This photo was a tease for what lay inside the magazine, which was wrapped in a plastic cover. You couldn't see the rest of her until you bought the magazine. I grinned as I tore the plastic away, liking their marketing ploy very much.
My eyes wandered over the front cover again, taking in her long legs spread on either side of the chair, the high heels and leg warmers that covered her lower legs, the perfect creamy flesh of her thighs and the big black box that hid everything above her thighs to her neck. Her face was covered in a veil, and only her eyes and dark brown curled hair were visible. I tutted at their ploy, ready to flick to the centre pages to see what she looked like when the black box was removed, but something drew me back to look at her face. I squinted, moving nearer to the magazine. I recognised the deep blue of those eyes. I'd never forget ones that colour, and there was only person who had eyes that shone as brightly as hers.
"Fuck. No! It can't be." I gasped, as I slammed the magazine down before flicking impatiently to the centre page, ready to see the promised nirvana.
There she was, laid out completely naked. She was a true vision for any man to see. To me, she was the woman I'd never forgotten.
My eyes didn't linger over her breasts or the dark silkiness between her thighs. They searched her face, looking for the angel I fell in love with seven years ago at school.
"Bella…" I whispered, stroking her cheek on the photograph as if I was actually willing her to talk to me.
I had no idea how long I stared at her photo, time could have stood still for all I cared. The photograph captured the innocent stare I had been on the receiving end of, all those years ago. It was like stepping back in time. The memory of shy blushes and notes passed between desks saying 'I love you'. I remembered the innocence of our meetings, the holding of hands, and the smiling gazes of two virgins playing as adults, but never daring to take things any further.
I sat back on my chair, cursing the fact that I'd just smoked my last cigarette.
"Unbelievable." I muttered, letting my eyes wander across her perfect body. I'd never even dared to touch what was hidden below her clothes all those years ago, and now, here I was staring at her naked form. She was perfect.
For seven years, I had mourned the loss of her. She didn't turn up at school one day; her family had just moved away. No notes or messages were left for me, nothing. Rumours spread that a local boy had gotten her pregnant, but I refused to even consider the possibility. She was too pure, too innocent.
I flicked to the next page. My eyes widened at the images of her seductively posed naked body. I saw the strawberry birthmark on her right thigh and grinned. She had relentlessly teased me about it when we were teenagers, always threatening to pull her skirt up and show it to me. I had told her about the scar I have running up my left side, one that I gained whilst falling from my tree house when I was younger. I chuckled as I remembered our light-heartedness and the carefree way we were with each other. I missed her so much, even now, after all this time. I'd never met anyone else who made me feel as complete as she had.
I shifted uncomfortably in my chair as my body started to react to the naked photos of her. I narrowed my eyes at the pictures. For three years I'd managed this business, and in those years I'd learned to control my most basic reaction to naked flesh. I couldn't sit in on a photo shoot with a ragging hard-on whilst the women posed completely naked. God, I'd frighten them all away! At first it had been incredibly difficult to view the female bodies and not get turned on, but these days I viewed it more as an art form, never as stimulation for my own pleasure. The nature of this business and the world I worked in was seedy and corrupt, and I'd desperately tried—and I think succeeded—in producing something more than just a magazine that men looked at whilst wanking. It seemed that Bella was the exception to my normal controlled reaction. I pushed my hand against the front of my jeans and rearranged myself into a more comfortable position. I moaned quietly; frustrated at the affect she was having on me, even after all these years.
I tried to distract myself by looking over to the clock on the wall. I frowned at the abstract patterned wallpaper again. It really was awful and was starting to give me a headache.
I realised that I needed to find Bella, and I needed to do it now. I closed the magazine and marched out of the office to speak to Tanya.
Within ten minutes, Tanya was rushing into my office with a mug of instant coffee in one hand and a slip of paper in the other.
"I called the magazine as you requested, but they refused to speak to me," she explained.
I huffed at the stupid games people played in this industry, but thanked Tanya for trying.
As she reached the door she turned back to face me. "But…" She grinned as she took in my pathetic face. "I managed to find out that she has a photo session in one hour, at the place I've scribbled down on that bit of paper. The one you've just screwed up!"
I looked down at my hands and saw that the paper she had placed on my desk was indeed, balled up in my palm.
"I suggest you drink your coffee and then get yourself over there."
"How…God, Tanya, you're amazing!"
"I know. Now get that caffeine down you to steady your nerves, and I'll order a taxi to pick you up in half an hour. I've already canceled your meetings for this afternoon; there wasn't anything pressing."
I grinned inanely as she closed the door behind her. Sinking back into my chair once more, I reached for my coffee. I smiled when I saw a new unopened packet of cigarettes next to it. Tanya must have left them for me when she brought my drink. She was a wonderful secretary and I knew I'd be lost without her. She looked after me so well, but I understood that it was my uncle who I needed to thank. She had been his secretary, and had stayed on as mine when I took over the business.
Lighting another cigarette, I turned to the windows and tried to think about what I was going to say to Bella when I saw her. I wanted to know what she had done with herself over the past seven years, and more to the point, why had she disappeared.
I wanted answers. I deserved to know what had happened; she owed me that much at least.
Stupid London traffic!
Diversions and traffic jams had ensured that I arrived too late to see Bella before her shoot. I sat dejected on the low wall opposite the doors to the shabby looking warehouse. Hardly anyone was out and about in this part of London. It was pretty grim, and it certainly wasn't a great area to be navigating by yourself if you were a woman. I had no fears about it though; I was more than capable of looking after myself.
I sat propped against the wall, hugging my leather jacket tight around my frame, as I waited for her. I let my eyes wander over the dilapidated warehouse, reading the tattered posters that had been illegally pasted onto the boarded-up windows; Adam and the Ants: the Prince Charming Tour; Kim Wilde promoting her new single, 'Kids in America'; Duran Duran with another new album, 'Rio'.
I huffed at the imagery. I hated the ridiculous full-on make-up that seemed to be coming into fashion with men these days. Looking down at my own clothes, I realised I wasn't a trend setter by any means. I didn't favour the stupid feminine blouses for men, and I hated the big permed hair that had become fashionable and ridiculously popular with others of my gender. My skinny black jeans fit my tall frame nicely, my heavy boots never aged with fashion, and my red and black striped t-shirt—the one that reminded everyone of Dennis the Menace—was a throwback to the late 70's. I missed the punk, kick-ass music and hated all these girly romantics that seemed to have taken over the scene. A man should look like a man for fucks sake.
I pushed my hands into my own hair. It was longer than I usually kept it, and on certain days I even wore a bandana to keep it off my face. But that was as girly as I got—well, that and the eyeliner.
My leather jacket creaked as the door of the warehouse flew open.
"Pervert! You complete and utter leech!"
I swallowed hard, jumping to my feet as I saw Bella. I watched as she slammed the door shut, before sinking onto the steps outside. She buried her face in her hands as loud sobs shook her whole body.
Before I had time to register what I should do, or how I should react, I was running across the road towards her. I took in her appearance as I approached, my pace reducing to slow apprehensive steps. All she wore was some sort of pink silky negligee that just covered the tops of her legs. Those very legs were wrapped in white socks, pulled up over her knees. She was shivering from the cold as her sobs pulled at her body.
"Bella?" I breathed, almost expecting her to disappear as she did every night in my dreams.
I wanted to ask her if she was alright; find out what had happened. But I already knew.
The industry I worked in was a man's world. They took advantage, thought all girls were fair game. Many men forced themselves on the girls, promising a quick rise to fame and the related money in return for sexual favours. Photographers and magazine bosses were the worst, present company excluded. It seemed Bella had fallen prey to the pervert taking her photos. I silently vowed to find out his name and end his career.
"Bella…" I repeated louder than before.
She lifted her face slightly, seeming curious to who knew her name.
I drew in a sharp breath when her eyes snapped up to meet mine. They were distorted by the makeup that was now smudged across her cheeks, but my Bella was still beneath the ruined vision.
She glanced at me, her eyes trying to focus through her tears, but quickly looked away. I was about to say something when she suddenly snapped her head back up to look at me again. Her eyes narrowed.
"Edward Cullen?" she questioned softly.
Her voice made my stomach knot. The clear, unmistakable sound of her whispering my name caused so many memories to come flooding back. I managed to nod, confirming for her that it was me.
"Can I?" I gestured to the space next to her on the step.
It was her turn to nod as she continued to stare at me. The shock on her face was clear; I was the last person she had expected to turn up here.
I sat next to her, my long legs stretching out in front of me, in direct contrast to hers, which were currently tucked tightly to her body. I began to take my jacket off.
"What are you doing here?" Her voice was husky, still weak from crying.
"Believe it or not, I was waiting for you. I didn't expect to see you so soon though, or so suddenly." I managed a slight smile as I spoke, but was unable to keep contact with her eyes as she looked down at the ground. I placed my jacket over her shoulders, hoping that the heat in it from my body would quickly warm her up.
"Waiting for me? You knew I was here?"
"Yep. I…well, look. Why the hell didn't you come to me if you wanted a career in the glamour magazines? I'd never let anything happen to you. Who was he by the way?"
Bella turned to me, confusion flooding her face.
"I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about."
I couldn't help my smirk. "Where are your shoes? And I suspect your panties are still inside somewhere." I nodded my head towards the door. "You want me to go get your clothes for you? It's not exactly warm enough to wander around like that." My hands motioned towards her thin negligee. I looked back to her face, my nerves suddenly disappearing as my need to protect her surfaced. When I saw her eyes—full of sadness and regret, watching me, reminding me of years ago—I nearly, so nearly spoiled it all by leaning forward to kiss her. My insides screamed at me to do it, to push my lips against hers for the first time, to claim a kiss from her as I should have done seven years ago.
Bella's eyes darted to my lips, as if she was willing me to move forward and close the gap between us, but the more serious side of me took over and I jumped to my feet.
"I'll go get your stuff. You wait here, because when I come out we're going for a drink somewhere quiet. We need to talk."
I saw the look of disappointment cross her face.
"You don't want to talk?" I asked sadly, sure that the croak in my voice was audible.
She looked down, avoiding my searching gaze. "I just don't think you'll like what I've got to say."
"I think I'll be the judge of that." I smiled, relieved that she wasn't refusing my offer to talk some more.
She nodded, still not raising her head from looking at her feet. I sighed, frustrated, and headed into the building.
As soon as I stumbled out of the building, Bella had pulled her clothes on over the skimpy negligee. She'd handed my jacket back, wrapping herself in a white fluffy sweater, and then balanced precariously as she wriggled one foot at a time, into her tight black jeans. After pushing her feet into a filthy pair of white ankle boots, we walked a few blocks before finding a café. We decided to test our luck with the food they were offering.
We sat in the greasy café, having ordered two of their monster fry-ups, listening to 'Don't You Want Me, Baby' by The Human League, playing on the juke box in the background. The tables were wipe clean plastic and the windows were steamed up with condensation. The servers chatted loudly behind the counter as the kettles of boiling water whistled quietly on the stove.
"You shouldn't have hit him." Bella scolded, but her lips curled, suppressing a smile as she spoke.
My hand was placed flat out on the table, wrapped in a couple of bags of frozen peas, all held in place by a tea-towel. The numbness created by the cold, still didn't dull the pain. My bottom lip throbbed where he'd managed to hit me and I dabbed at the cut with the bottom of my t-shirt.
"Yes, I should've and I'm glad I did; although my ability to smoke has been severely hampered." I offered my pack of cigarettes to Bella, who was sitting opposite me. She gladly took one whilst I lifted my own cigarette to my mouth with my left hand. It felt wrong, almost as if I'd never held one before. I picked up my lighter and tried to light it as it perched between my lips. It was impossible.
"Here, let me." Bella reached for the lighter, easily flicking the tab. I leaned forward holding the end of my cigarette steady whilst she lit it.
"Thanks." I muttered, smoke blowing out of my mouth as I spoke.
Bella proceeded to light her own cigarette, and my eyes found it impossible to look away from her lips as they held the smoking stick.
"I should think they'll fire me now—can't have a protective boy…er…well, man like you charging in and beating the shit out of the photographers."
"Only ones like James." I pushed, raising my eyebrows, challenging her to disagree. "They're not all like him."
She frowned at me. "How do you know his name?"
She nodded, tapping her cigarette on the ashtray before placing it back between her lips.
"He used to work for me."
"Work for you?" She sounded shocked, and I grinned. She had no idea what I did.
"Doing what?" she asked nervously, already stubbing out her cigarette before leaning backwards as if trying to move away from me.
"The same as what he should have being doing with you today…taking photographs."
"You…you're…you're in the glamour industry?"
"Yeah," I nodded. "I told you earlier, you should have come to me if this is the career you've chosen." I took a puff from my cigarette, feeling the nicotine rush into my system. It immediately calmed me.
"So you work for a magazine?" she asked. I could hear the excitement in her voice and allowed myself a smirk at her enthusiasm for more details.
"Look, Bella, I won't drag this out. I own a magazine."
"Toots," I replied, grinning as the word left my lips. I laughed loudly as Bella's mouth dropped open. "Hey, you'll catch flies." I leaned over the table and gently nudged her chin with my left hand. She immediately shut her mouth and frowned at me.
"But someone named Masen owns that magazine. I know—I did my research."
I smiled at her confusion. "Well apparently not thoroughly enough. My uncle, Carlisle Masen, owned the magazine. He became ill unexpectedly and having no children of his own, he asked me to take the helm so to speak. I had to drop out of college to learn the ropes." I explained, "He didn't want to lose the family name so I agreed to run the business under the name Edward—"
"Edward Masen." Bella finished.
I nodded and continued. "My mum was really upset when he died; he was her only brother. But I hope I'm doing well enough to make him proud of me, wherever he is." I grinned at my statement, knowing exactly how much of a playboy my uncle had been. Several of the girls who posed for the magazine also regularly slept with him.
"He lived his life fully." I explained, grinning even more at my memories of him. "He smoked…"
Bella's eyes widened at my words, looking at the cigarette wedged between my fingers. I stubbed it out.
"He also drank a lot." I smiled and glanced at my milky mug of tea. "Hell, do you fancy something stronger?"
Bella laughed and I remembered the sound instantly. My insides twisted; her laughter pulled strongly at my memories.
"I'm fine here." She smiled back at me. "Besides, I'm looking forward to watching you eat your greasy fry-up with one hand." She focused on my damaged hand as a frown crept across her face, her laughter already gone.
Glancing at her hands clutching her own mug, I'd noticed that there was no sign of a ring on her finger. At least she wasn't married, but then not many girls in this business were. I was desperate to talk to her about what had happened at school. I had nursed a broken heart since the day she had disappeared. But I didn't want to scare her, frighten her away when I'd just found her again.
Suddenly, she looked up at me. "You've not changed at all. I mean, you've lost the glasses, but apart from that you're still Edward."
I nodded, resisting the urge to add that I was always her Edward. No one else ever owned my heart the way she had.
"How do you do it?" she asked, staring straight into my eyes.
"Do what? Be Edward?" A grin pulled at my mouth.
"No, silly. How do you work with all those beautiful women and still seem like you did all those years ago. You've not changed at all."
I chuckled. "Oh, but I have, Bella. I've grown up—I had to. As much as I wanted to stay back in 1975, I had to face the world, and move on." I signed heavily; this was my chance. "Where did you go? What happened to you?" I pulled nervously at my hair as I saw her eyes glisten.
"I…I had no choice." She spoke so quietly I almost didn't hear her. "My parents made the decision to leave. I got home from school that afternoon and everything was packed. We just left. I didn't have a chance to say goodbye to anyone. And I have no idea how I would have told you."
"But why? Why did they have to leave?"
"Because of Riley."
"Riley?" I remembered her brother. He was three years older than Bella and me. I'd never really liked him; he'd always had a different girl on his arm every week. He was a cocky bastard, but very popular with the ladies. I had no time for him whatsoever.
Bella nodded. "He'd gotten two girls pregnant; Jessica Stanley and Victoria Clime."
"Yeah." She sighed heavily. "Victoria had an abortion, but Jessica had her baby. You must have noticed that she left school not long after our departure?"
"No, I didn't." I hadn't noticed anything for several months after Bella had left. I'd wandered around in a daze, not even listening when people spoke to me. I lived in my own little world filled with memories of her.
"Mum and Dad thought it best to leave, for his sake. Start a new life somewhere else, where nobody knew us, where he could start fresh. He always was their golden boy." Her eyes filled with tears and she swallowed hard.
"You okay?" I asked, seeing the tears roll down her cheeks.
"Sorry. That's twice you've had to witness me crying today. I'm not usually so emotional." She sniffed loudly.
I so wanted to pull her into my arms and comfort her, but settled for taking her hand in mine. "Hey, it's fine. You cry all you like, as long as I'm not the cause of the tears."
"I cried all my tears over you years ago. I don't think I have any of those left," she stated, her eyes darting to mine and then quickly looking to my hand as it covered hers.
"I've missed you so much, Edward," she whispered as the silent tears rolled down her face.
I couldn't stand it any longer and shifted from my side of the table, sliding next to her. My arm circled protectively around her shoulder as she buried her head against my chest. It was then that her tears really came in earnest.
"Angel, shh… please," I whispered as my lips kissed the top of her head.
"Don't," she sobbed, "I'm no angel, not anymore."
I held her tightly. I didn't care that she thought herself unworthy of the name I'd called her all those years ago. She would always be my angel.
Her tears slowly ceased, but she made no effort to move from my embrace. "I'm not the girl you remember" she sniffed.
"But, Edward…" Her head left the comforting closeness of my chest. I sighed heavily as she lifted her face to look directly at me. I saw hurt, sadness, and regret in the eyes that had always been alive with mischief, love, and compassion.
"What happened to you?" I whispered.
Her eyes closed as the question left my lips.
"So, so much."
I remained silent, wanting her to tell me why she was doing what she was. I couldn't believe that she had been posing naked because she truly wanted to. That wasn't the Bella I knew. Something had to have happened to force her into my world.
"My parents died in a car accident two years ago," she stated, still not raising her gaze from the stripes on my t-shirt. "They left me nothing; everything went to Riley. He was meant to use the inheritance to help and support me through the rest of college, but he didn't. I haven't seen a penny of it. I took waitressing jobs, did a few modeling shoots. The money helped to pay for some of my fees, but it wasn't enough."
I felt my hands start to curl into fists. The pain that surged through my damaged hand was nothing compared to the pain of the story Bella was relaying to me. Desperation had led her down this path in life, and it was no place for her.
"Eventually, I had to pull out of college. I just couldn't pay my fees, feed myself, and put a roof over my head." She sighed and lifted her eyes to meet mine. "I was desperate, Edward. I had absolutely nothing. I couldn't even feed myself."
I nodded my understanding. "We'll sort something out. I'll help you—I promise."
"But it gets much worse." Her words cut me off as her fingers covered my lips. I failed to see how things could have progressed for her, and narrowed my eyes as she continued.
"Riley refused my frequent requests for money, but mentioned that I had caught the attention of some of his friends. He suggested that they'd probably be interested in enjoying my company in return for money."
"No!" I gasped, understanding the meaning behind the words, "Oh, Bella…no, they didn't?"
The look in her eyes gave me the answer. I had no comprehension of how her own flesh and blood could allow her to be treated in such a way.
"That's the sort of people they were— exactly like Riley. No care or consideration for females at all. It was like a game for them, one that I got passed around in."
"He let it happen?" The astonishment and anger in my voice was clear.
She nodded. "He basically became my pimp."
I screwed my eyes shut, groaning with the anger that had built up inside me. If I ever met her brother I would kill him.
"Ironically, it was one of his 'friends' who gave me the idea that got me away from him. He wanted to take some nude photos of me. It got me thinking that if I could earn some money by posing in magazines, I could get away from my brother. I could claim my own life back and perhaps even manage to get back to college and finish my degree."
"What were you studying?" My question was completely out of context, but I was desperately trying to calm down. Any distraction from the horror she'd explained to me was welcome.
"English. I wanted to go into publishing. I love writing." She smiled, remembering her time at college. "I still dream about it, you know."
I nodded in understanding. It was an English course that I'd dropped out of, when Carlisle had requested I take over the magazine. The knowledge I'd gained in that course had proven extremely useful in my profession now. It wasn't all just about photographs of naked women. I'd written substantial editor's notes in each magazine, and had penned several features over the years.
Bella took a loud breath. "I researched the magazines and saw that Throb was about to be launched and that they were looking for fresh new faces."
I tutted and raised my eyebrows. "I can assure you they don't look at your face at that magazine," I added. I'd heard plenty about the ways in which the editor of Throb worked.
"So, I had a meeting with the editor, Jacob Black, and I was immediately taken on."
I'd frowned as she spoke his name. Most of the girls who were unlucky enough to catch his eye were offered ridiculous contracts. He knew the girls who walked into his office were usually penniless, desperate, and willing to do anything. He abused his position fully. He 'helpfully' offered to provide them with accommodations, not revealing that the rent he charged was a large chunk of their wages. Any photo shoot the girls were sent on had to be paid for upfront by them—he lent them the money, and then charged interest. Practically every girl he had on his books was at his mercy financially; he had them tied into ridiculous contracts they could only break by paying him an exorbitant amount of money. His twisted hold on the girls was only increased by the fact that he also ran an X-rated video company. He lured them into that side of his business with the promise of big money. Many of the girls who posed in the magazines had succumbed, following him into a career in the film industry. It was all incredibly sleazy and disgusted me.
I suddenly panicked as I wondered if Bella had been dragged into his film making.
"Have you only done photo shoots for him, Bella?"
"God, yes! I've managed to hold on to enough of my dignity to refuse his suggestions that I move into films with him. His ego is so big that he's preparing to star in one of his own movies! Apparently he wants me to be his co-star."
"Fuck, Bella. This isn't good." I was worried. I was sure she'd owe him some money, and if that was the case, he would use it to get what he wanted. That's how he worked.
"He is becoming quite insistent about the film side of things." She looked at me worriedly.
"I bet he is." I had no doubt in my mind that he'd been secretly high fiving himself since the day Bella walked into his lair. He'd have been planning this since the day he interviewed her. I was convinced he'd made the decision there and then to personally star in a porno with her. I shuddered at the thought.
"He's calling to see me today," she looked up at the clock, "in about two hours."
I frowned at her words. "What for?"
"Well, he says it's to collect my rent, but he's never called for it before. He also said he wants to chat with me about my options. I dread to think what he'll say when he finds out about what happened earlier."
I shook my head in dismay. Was she that naïve?
"Bella, he's coming to tell you that you'll be starring in one of his videos."
"I've told him no!" Her voice was insistent, but I heard the worry behind her words.
"Does Jacob Black seem like the sort of man who'll take no for an answer? Tell me, Bella, has he flirted with you—touched you?"
She lowered her eyes once again. Her actions had given me my answer. "I don't want you to be there when he calls around. I don't think it's safe for you to be alone with him anymore." I knew exactly what he was up to. I'd heard plenty of reports of how he'd forced himself on his models. It seemed to me that he was trying to get Bella into one of his films so he could, quite literally, fuck her. If she stood her ground and constantly refused, he'd just fuck her anyway, with or without her permission.
"But I have to be there—I owe him money. He'll cut me off from more work if I'm not there. I have to be there, Edward."
"No!" My damaged hand formed a fist and I split the bag of frozen peas, sending the small green balls scattering all over the table and onto the floor.
"Edward!" Bella shrieked as the peas rolled everywhere.
"I'm sorry." I closed my eyes, fighting back the rage I felt for all the people who'd used and hurt her. "I just can't stand all this."
Bella flinched at my words and I realised that she thought I was criticising her. "No, no. Oh, Bella. I don't mean it like that. It's just hearing how you've been treated. I feel so guilty about not being able to help you."
"But you couldn't. You had no idea." She managed a slight smile before she delicately unwrapped my hand from the tea towel and mess of peas. "If only I'd known Edward Masen was really Edward Cullen, and not been intimidated by the success of your magazine, huh? I mean, I was a complete novice, with no idea about any of it. I'd never have been accepted by you."
I raised my eyebrows. Was she serious?
"Oh, you would—I've seen the pictures!" I assured her.
She blushed a beautiful shade of red as I spoke.
"So, you've seen me naked then? Do I scrub up okay?"
"More than okay." I recalled the pictures I'd stared at earlier. "I'd love to have you working for me if that's what you really want to do. There'll be no hidden clauses in the contract from Toots, none at all."
"It's not that simple. My contract with Jacob is for two years and I'm only two months in. I can't pay my way out of it."
"But I can. I'll deal with Jake. Honestly, Bella, I'll be all over him. He's no threat to me or you anymore."
She bit her top lip nervously but nodded her agreement.
"Look, we need to talk about this properly. I don't want you to feel that you have to work for Throb or Toots. You have other choices."
"I don't, Edward." She shook her head slowly.
"You do," I stated, matter of factly. "Now, with your agreement, we're going to get a taxi back to yours and pick up all your belongings. You're going to stay at my apartment while we work all this out. You tell me how much money you owe slime ball and I'll pay it. I'll sort the end of the contract as well, if that's what you decide."
"Edward, you can't do that! It's too much."
I raised my good hand to her cheek before trailing it across her jaw. "It's too little, but hopefully not too late," I whispered, looking directly into her eyes. We gazed at each other, neither of us moving or managing to tear our eyes away. My thumb gently caressed her chin before I tentatively moved towards her. I was thankful she didn't back away as I inched closer to her, prolonging the moment as much as possible. I was remembering all the times we'd met in secret behind the bike sheds for a smoke, or when I'd offered her a croggy home on my bike. My mind flashed with the innocence of first love, of holding hands, but never a kiss. This was it. This was our first kiss, at the tender age of twenty-two.
My lips touched hers gently, and I breathed deeply as I felt their softness beneath mine.
"Bacon, sausage, eggs, chips and beans for two!" The server crashed the two plates on the table in front of us as we snapped away from each other. "And you owe me for those peas, Sunshine. Don't forget!"
Bella giggled, bringing her hand to her mouth, trying to hide her amusement from the server. I smiled at Bella before turning to the woman who stood over me with her hands on her hips. I sighed, and reached into my back pocket for my wallet, handing her the money and waving her away.
I shifted back to my side of the table as the server walked away. The plate of food was exactly what I needed. I grinned, remembering Bella's amusement at how I was going to eat it one handed.
"Tuck in," Bella instructed through a mouthful of chips. "It's delicious."
I reached for the bottle of ketchup and squirted it across my chips. My application of the red sauce earned a groan of disgust from Bella, and I'm ashamed to admit I secretly loved the sound.
I prodded at a chip as Bella seriously delved into her own meal. Her haste made me wonder when she'd last eaten properly.
"You need me to help?" she asked, still chewing furiously.
I nodded, knowing I was going to be unable to hold any cutlery in my right hand. I watched her face, unable to look away as she reached over the table and cut my food into bite-sized pieces.
"It's like feeding a child," she joked before sitting back down and digging into her meal again. I knew how pathetic I was, unable to even cut my food up. "I'm going to have to come and stay with you, aren't I? There's no way you can look after yourself with that damaged hand."
I laughed at her words, overjoyed that she would be coming home with me. I wanted to spend time with her, get to know her again, and if I was honest, I wanted a whole lot more from her.
My damaged right hand proved to be a serious impediment when we headed to Bella's tiny bedsit to gather her belongings. Carrying her things down to the waiting taxi in just one hand had proved a very time consuming activity. I'd started to get a little bit worried as I pushed her collection of vinyl records and cassette tapes into a carrier bag, noticing the time and realizing that Jacob would be there in ten minutes. I'd hurried Bella along, not fancying another scuffle today—well not a one-handed one with Jacob Black.
Luckily we'd departed before he'd turned up and we were relaxing back at mine. I'd placed a cassette in my stereo system and the music of Joan Jett and the Blackhearts was sounding out around us.
"Bella, some help please?" I called, as I held a couple of bottles of Coors up for her to see. I tapped my foot in time to the music, loving the rawness of the song. It was one of my favourites – "I Love Rock and Roll".
Bella rose from the sofa yawning, as she paddled barefoot across the room. I grinned on seeing her approach. She was dressed for comfort, in a pair of sweat pants and a loose top that hung suggestively off one bare shoulder. It was clear that she wasn't wearing anything else under the top.
After all the years I'd dreamt about enjoying her company and hearing her laughter, it was hard for me to believe that she was actually here with me. There'd been plenty of laughter this evening as well as more tears, when Bella told me in greater detail what had happened since that day in 1975 when she'd had to leave.
The talking gradually ceased as exhaustion had taken over both of us. I insisted that she select a movie for us to watch whilst I got us a drink. Unfortunately the bottle opener had been impossible to use with only one hand.
"What movie did you pick?" I asked, as she took the bottle opener from my hand.
"Rocky III." She grinned and I raised my eyebrows at her. "I thought it appropriate after your behaviour this afternoon."
I chuckled and she burst out laughing.
"I was protecting your honour," I stated through my own laughter.
"Hmmm… but did I have any for you to protect in the first place?"
I suddenly became serious, answering her with a resounding, "Yes."
Her laughter stopped as quickly as mine had. We locked eyes and once again, neither of us seemed willing to look away.
"Bella…" I whispered, moving my hand to rest on hers.
"Don't, Edward, please."
"Shhh…" Her fingers covered my lips and I kissed them gently. I expected her to remove them quickly, to back away from my intimate gesture, but she didn't. A timid smile crossed her lips.
"Let's go watch the film," she breathed, picking up the two bottles of lager before heading back to the sofa. I followed her across the room before shutting the blinds, turning off the music, and then crouching down on the cream rug that covered most of the floor. I removed the video tape from the box, slid it into the machine, and pressed play.
Bella was already propped up in the corner of my over-stuffed sofa, her legs curled under her body on the leopard print throw. Her hair was still damp from her shower and hung in lose curls over her shoulders. I couldn't help but notice how attractive she looked without any make-up on. Perhaps it was because her fresh face reminded me of how she'd looked back in school.
The opening credits filled the television screen, and I made sure the volume was set correctly before sitting down at the other end of the sofa. I hated the distance between us, and wondered whether she'd like to snuggle whilst we watched the film.
"Come here," I suggested, raising my arm across the back of the sofa and shifting so that she could rest on me and get comfortable. She immediately moved across the sofa, closing the distance as her head came to rest on my shoulder. I hugged her body to mine, relishing her scent and proximity. I was struggling to believe she was here with me, and it was only through holding her tightly that I could actually understand that truth. It was unbelievable that after all these years, I was actually touching her and holding her close. It was everything I'd wanted.
I couldn't resist moving my arm from around her shoulder, to circle the exposed flesh of her waist. I expected her to move my hand away, but she just snuggled in even further, settling into a comfortable position to watch the film.
We stayed in the same position as the film progressed, but towards the end I heard her breathing become deeper and more regular. I assumed that the events of today had worn her out; they certainly had me. I stretched my damaged hand, seeing the bruise already formed around the knuckles. I knew how lucky I was to only come away from James with a strained hand and cut lip. Shifting my head slightly, I tried to get a closer look at Bella to judge if she was asleep. As I moved she wriggled slightly, snuggling onto me even further. I smiled at her unconscious gesture, slowly pushing my boots off before lifting my own legs onto the sofa. I twisted my body into a comfortable position whilst trying not to wake her. Eventually I settled. I was stretched out, my feet hanging over the end of the sofa, with Bella trapped between the back of it and my body.
My hand curled around her hip, resting on the thin fabric of her sweat pants. Turning to the television, I chuckled as the final fight scene started in the movie. The vibration of my chest must have disturbed her, as she sleepily lifted her head from its position on my shoulder.
"You okay?" I whispered, as she wriggled deliciously against my body, trying to get comfortable.
"Hmm…not really." She sounded sleepy, but I didn't want to suggest she went to bed just yet. I was selfishly enjoying her closeness too much.
She lifted her head even more and looked over to the television.
"Has it finished yet?" Her sleepy voice was adorable and I smiled, raising my hand to the side of her face. I couldn't care less whether the film had finished or not; I was more interested in the beautiful woman that was lying next to me, with her leg wrapped over mine.
"Kiss me, Bella," I stated.
She turned her head to look at me. Even in the darkness, with only the glow of the television, I didn't miss the flash of excitement in her eyes.
My heart sank, but I wasn't giving up that easily.
"Please, kiss me."
She didn't respond, but continued to look at me. Her eyes slowly focused on my lips before resting back on my eyes. My hand stroked the side of her face. This was all so perfect. The moment was right.
"Shhh…" I closed my eyes and turned my head so I could meet her lips.
"I'm scared," she breathed.
I opened my eyes. "Scared?" I asked, questioning her words.
She nodded as she bit her bottom lip in worry.
"There's nothing to be scared of," I reassured her. It was only a kiss.
A deep breath escaped her before she raised her hand to gently touch my cut lip. "I'm scared about how you make me feel. If we kiss, well, I'm sure I'll want more. How can I not when it's all I've dreamt about since the day I was ripped away from you?"
It was my turn to be shocked. But it was a pleasant kind of shock. One that seemed to make my heart stutter, my hands go clammy, and my voice come out as a croak.
"You want me like that…after all these years? After everything you've had to endure?"
"Of course—I wanted it years ago. I was desperate for you to be my first, but we were too young. I was waiting. I would have waited. I have waited."
"Waited? For what?"
"You, Edward… I've waited for you."
I was bewildered. From what she'd told me earlier, I knew I wouldn't be the first man she'd slept with. She must have read my confusion and continued.
"I want you to be the first man that I give myself to willingly, with all my heart. You're the first man I have ever been in love with. The only man I've ever loved."
"Bella…" My voice croaked as I tried to speak.
"Shhh…" It was her turn to silence me. "I know I can't expect you to feel the same, but I want you to know that I never stopped loving you. Never."
I didn't even try to answer her as I pushed my mouth urgently against hers. I couldn't be gentle; I didn't want to be as I claimed the kiss that I'd waited over seven years for. My lips crashed against hers, and teeth knocked together as I forced her lips open and sought her tongue with mine. I ignored the pain that shot through my cut and bruised lip. A loud groan escaped my throat as I wrapped my arm around her waist, pulling her to lie on top of me. I grabbed her hip, squeezing it tightly with my undamaged hand as I continued kissing her. A small moan escaped Bella and I quickly pulled away.
"Sorry, so sorry," I muttered, ashamed at the forceful way I had kissed her and manhandled her body. I was surprised when I felt that same body shamelessly wriggle against mine, as she opened her eyes and smiled at me.
"I liked it," she stated.
A slow smirk spread across my face as I saw her eyes sparkle at me.
"Do it again," she demanded through her smile.
I groaned quietly before lifting my hand into her hair and gently pulling her head towards mine. I ignored her request for another forceful kiss and let the softness of my lips rest against hers as I slowly slipped my tongue into her willing mouth. Our tongues caressed each other at a slow, steady pace whilst my hand moved down her neck, tenderly exploring each new area of skin my fingers encountered.
I felt my body reacting to her closeness and I could do nothing to control it. I didn't want to control it; I wanted her to feel what she was doing to me. All we'd done was kiss, but I was overwhelmed by the sensation. For years, I had dreamt about been this close to Bella. My teenage dreams had been full of erotically charged moments that I only fully came to understand when I eventually slept with someone. But after I had experienced sex and all the emotions that came with such an intimate act, I longed to experience just that and more with Bella. Years had passed whilst I'd only ever dreamt of her. But now she was here—we were together. This was it!
I felt Bella shift so that her legs straddled my thighs. She broke our tender, slow kissing by sitting up, resting one hand on my chest and the other against the side of my face.
"We've lost so much time," she breathed, letting her hand tenderly trace my jaw. My left hand rubbed slowly on her thigh, tracing circles through her sweat pants, whilst my damaged right hand remained still. I so wanted to pull her higher so that she was resting directly over the part of me that was screaming for attention.
"We've got as much time as we want now," I replied, noticing that my voice sounded deeper than normal. She caused me to come undone so quickly. My hips shifted involuntarily beneath her, and I exhaled loudly.
"May I?" Bella asked, trailing her hand down my t-shirt before fingering the bottom edge of it. She lifted it slightly higher revealing my stomach.
I nodded at her request, lifting my arms as she tugged the red and black item up my chest and over my head. As soon as it was thrown to the floor, she bent to kiss each of my exposed nipples. I hissed loudly, pushing my hips up, searching for the friction I so desperately needed.
"Your scar," Bella whispered, her finger tracing over the white raised skin that marked my side. Her touch tickled and I squirmed away from her inquisitive fingers. She grinned at me and repeated the action, earning another wriggle from me.
"Stop!" I protested, laughing at the way her touch affected me. I remembered the strawberry birth mark on her right thigh; the one she teased me about at school, and the one I'd seen on the photos earlier today.
"Show me yours." I grinned at her. She laughed at my words, jumping from my body to stand in front of me. "Show me the strawberry that you teased me about when we were teenagers."
I shifted on the sofa so I was sitting up, my feet planted firmly on the floor. I sat with my hands by my side, worried that if I raised them to her clothed body, I would shamelessly rip everything off of her and throw her to the sofa. Her eyes watched mine as she carefully hooked her fingers in the sides of her sweatpants, pulling them over her hips. She turned sideways, pulling down the side where the birth mark was situated. I leaned forward on the sofa, squinting in the darkness, trying to focus on the mark and memorize every little detail. Her hands rested on my shoulders, as I shifted even further to plant a soft wet kiss over the mark. My arms wrapped around her legs as I pulled her closer, hugging her tightly. I never wanted to let her go. I felt so emotionally attached to her without even having made love to her. . It was just as it should be and I wondered if Bella was feeling the same strength of emotions I was.
I felt her moving above me and raised my face to look up at her. My breath caught in my throat when I saw her top had been removed, the soft material floating to the floor behind her.
"Bella?" I questioned, knowing that we were reaching the point of no return. If we carried on this way, I would be dragging her to my bedroom and devouring every inch of her perfect body. I'd never let her go.
"Make love to me, Edward...please." Her voice was husky, full of desire and need.
I sat upright, turning her around to place another soft kiss right over her belly button. I gazed up at her as she arched her back. The sight was magnificent! Her breasts lifted slightly with the new angle of her body and from my position, they looked like perfect peaks of softness begging for my touch. I raised my right hand tentatively towards the soft curve of one of her breasts, caressing it tenderly as my fingers sought her taught nipple. I managed to roll the bud between my fingers before a sharp pain shot through my hand.
"Shit!" I gasped as I pulled my hand away.
Bella looked down at me and started giggling at my reaction.
"Soooo, Rocky…something tells me that I may need to take charge here. Just to save you from damaging yourself even more." She carried on giggling as I slumped back on the sofa, trying not to laugh at the ridiculousness of the situation.
"I'm all yours." I informed her as seriously as I could. "What do you want to do with me?"
I swallowed hard as she spoke her words. Following her instructions I watched her carefully, trying to guess what she was going to do. I didn't have to wait long as she pushed her sweatpants from her legs, wriggling until they fell to the floor. She stood before me in just her panties and I drew in a shaky breath, unwilling to move my eyes away from her legs and the only other part of her covered body.
She stepped forward, bending over me and curling her fingers around the button on my jeans. Her fingers quickly undid the top button and continued with those that remained. I heard her gasp as she found my lack of underwear. I grinned when her gaze rose to meet mine; she smirked cheekily at her discovery.
"Lift up," she instructed, grabbing the top of my jeans on either side of my waist. I did as I was told, watching her, almost hypnotised by her actions as her hair fell across her face. My jeans were swiftly pulled from my body, leaving me totally naked. I was exposed to her, but felt completely as ease, as if this was something we'd done many times before. Bella's hands swept into the sides of her lacy panties and peeled them down her legs, before moving forward to sit astride me on the sofa.
Her hands were placed on the back of the sofa as she leaned forward to kiss me. I captured her lips with my own, bringing my hands up to her thighs, stroking her soft flesh as she moved against me. Our kiss started slowly but soon grew more intense, deepening with our passion and need. My body was reacting in a very obvious way and Bella pushed herself against me, wanting the friction that my hardened shaft provided. I groaned, grinding myself onto her, hating the fact that my erection was trapped between us and not buried somewhere else.
Bella broke away from our kiss. "Edward, I'm sorry…I want this to go on forever but I really need you…I can't wait any longer. "
I knew exactly what she meant. I wanted to make love to her all night, arouse her with my tongue and taste her divine juices. I wanted to make her scream as my mouth worshipped her, my name the only one on her lips, the only one she could ever think of pleasuring her that way. I wanted to wipe all the memories of others from her mind. I wanted to be the only one she would ever turn to in this way. But, just like Bella, my body had other ideas. It had waited seven long years for a reunion with the only woman I had ever loved.
"Bella, I want you too."
"Then let's just do it," she practically growled at me.
Her hand reached between us, grasping my erection firmly as she lifted herself above me.
"Wait!" I gasped. "Protection…in my wallet." I nodded my head in the direction of my jeans that were lying scrunched up on the floor.
She released me and leaned back to reach my jeans, grabbing them with one hand while I kept her from falling. She handed the wallet to me as she sat up, her hands once again touching me, rubbing at my length with growing insistence.
"Eager for me?" I questioned, not able to resist the teasing remark.
"Please…," she practically begged, as I pulled a wrapped condom from the folds of my wallet. She licked her lips, her eyes resting on mine as her impatience grew.
It would've been so easy to let her cover me and sink into her wonderful warmth, but I couldn't let that happen, however much I wanted it. She deserved so much more.
I growled playfully and managed to flip her over so that she was lying on the sofa, her head resting on the arm at one end.
"Edward!" she shrieked, as I quickly positioned myself low on her body. I felt my heart beating wildly as I lowered my lips to her stomach, placing several languid kisses across it. My hands pushed her legs apart as I kissed my way further down her body, and Bella moaned in pleasure, her back arching up from the sofa. I nuzzled the soft, silky hairs of her womanhood as I probed between her folds with my tongue. She smelled divine, sweet like flowering blossoms—all woman. Breathing in deeply, I savoured her scent as it flooded my nostrils and overpowered my senses. I moaned as I suckled her, worshiping her clit with my mouth and tongue. Whimpers and moans escaped Bella between her sighs of contentment. I continued arousing her, flicking my tongue against her core, licking all of her juices, and continuing to kiss and suck her clit. She writhed beneath me, her legs spread wide under my caressing hands. Her hands were in my hair, running through its length, pulling and encouraging me to take more of her, all of her.
I suddenly felt the change in her movements, understanding the gentle flick of her hips that would soon turn to full wanton thrusts. Her arousal was feeding my own and I knew that she wouldn't last much longer.
I lifted myself from her, quickly covering her with my body, as I planted a hard kiss on her mouth. I pushed the exquisite taste of her own juices onto her tongue, groaning at the way my body wanted to claim her. I wanted to last longer, wanted to do so much more to her, but the ache in my groin was begging to be satisfied. I rested my weight on my left hand, not daring to support myself with the damaged one. I tried to look into her eyes but they were closed.
"Bella, look at me. Tell me this is what you want," I breathed.
Her eyes opened slowly and she smiled, nodding her head. "It's what I've always wanted. You, Edward…no one else...just you. It's always been you."
"Fuck, Bella," I moaned as I buried my head in her neck. I paused momentarily, undulating my hips backwards, before slowly pushing forward. Her legs spread further for me and I was about to slip into her, when I suddenly remembered the condom.
I quickly pulled away, seeing the surprise in her gaze as she watched me. Grabbing the condom from the floor, I ripped the foil packet with my teeth and knelt between her legs.
"Let me?" she asked, opening her palm. I placed it in her hand, smiling as she sat up and grasped my length. Her gentle touch was in complete contrast to the way her body had reacted moments ago. She sighed as she rolled the condom down my length, her hands rubbing me as she carried out the procedure.
"Now, where were we?" I smirked, easily pushing her backwards with one hand. I held her wrist as I moved her arm above her head. Rubbing my length against her folds, I felt her wetness even through the thin layer of latex.
"God, I want you," she moaned gutturally. Her words crashed through me; I pushed forward, slipping into her. I grunted loudly as I sunk deep into her slick warmth. It was heaven; it was absolute bliss. It was what I had dreamt about for years.
Bella wrapped her hands around my back as I started to rotate my hips, slowly sinking in and out of her. I positioned my feet against the other arm of the sofa, using it for leverage to make my thrusts more deep and forceful.
"Edward…oh God…you feel so good," she gasped, her nails digging into the flesh on my ass.
I couldn't speak. The only sounds I made were gasping breaths that pushed from my lungs with each thrust into her body. I concentrated on kissing her neck, burrowing my face in her hair, as another part of my body burrowed deeper as well. I felt her walls squeezing me, trying to stop me from pulling backwards, but the friction was too perfect.
I hissed as she shifted under me, and her hand slid between us, rubbing her clit. As much as I wanted to be the one that caused her orgasm, I was experienced enough to know that our position wasn't ideal for a woman to reach those heights, not by penetration alone. If I'd had both hands to operate with, I would've taken over her ministrations. Unfortunately all my upper body weight was being held up by my undamaged hand, and I had proven earlier that my right hand was incapable of anything at the moment.
"So close…" she murmured, her lips making contact with the side of my face. I moved so that I could capture her mouth in a deep, tongue-filled kiss.
"Urghhhhhh!" Her voice filled my mouth, but I continued kissing and thrusting into her as her orgasm claimed her body. Her legs curled around my thighs as her body shook beneath me. I had never witnessed anything like it. No woman had ever reacted so strongly, so visibly, and so completely uninhibited with me.
Her actions created my own sudden need for release and I flexed my hips harder, pushing every last millimetre of myself into her. I wanted her to feel everything I could offer, needed her to understand just how much I loved her.
"Bella, Bella, Bella…" Her name was my mantra as my body exploded into hers. I buried my face against her neck once more, gasping and groaning as my orgasm surged through my body. Every inch of my skin felt like it was on fire—every nerve ending seemed to be exploding with pure ecstasy as I continued pushing my hips against hers, giving her every last gentle thrust that I could.
Eventually I collapsed onto her, exhausted from our love making, but feeling incredible. I understood immediately the strength of emotion Bella had felt a few moments earlier. I had never, in all my life, experienced anything like it.
"Oh, God…" Bella said breathlessly as she turned her face to look at me. "What the hell was that?"
I managed a chuckle and kissed her cheek. "I have no fucking idea."
She sighed contentedly as she stared into my eyes. "Did you feel it?" she asked tentatively.
I nodded my response.
"It was amazing." She paused and then grinned at me. "Just how many condoms do you have here?"
"More than enough," I replied, smirking at her words. "C'mon, let's get comfy and go to bed." I reluctantly slipped away from her body before standing and holding my hand out to her.
"You go and get settled. I just need to sort this out." I gestured to the condom that I needed to remove.
Bella smiled. "Whenever you're ready."
I growled playfully at her and shooed her in the direction of my bedroom. She giggled and practically skipped into my room.
Sighing, I ran my hand through my hair. It would be a very long night, but I could think of no better way of spending it than with a naked, excitable and highly aroused Bella.
Sleep eventually claimed both of us, but not before we had explored each other's bodies fully and made love several more times.
At one point, I had woken in the night to find Bella astride me, riding me to her orgasm. I couldn't believe I'd slept through most of it, but I had made up for my initial lack of involvement later in the evening.
I awoke first the next morning, gently pulling Bella into my arms as we lay in comforting silence.
Everything felt so right, and I smiled at how things had turned out.
Today would bring a whole new set of issues and people to deal with. Lawyers were at the top of my list. One to sort out my defence for my assault on James, just in-case he decided to sue me, and the other to get Bella out of her contract with Throb and away from that despicable Jacob Black. I hadn't forgotten about Riley, and when I found out where he was, I'd make sure he paid for the way he'd let his sister down and the appalling way he'd treated her.
I laid on my back thinking about everything, mulling over an idea that had been bugging me for months. I wasn't keen on Bella continuing to work as a centrefold, and it was a thought that surprised me. I had never had a problem with Rosalie doing it, but then I never had feelings for her. If Bella wanted to work for me as a centrefold, she could, but I had an even better idea for her; one where she could use her talents as a writer.
For months I had been thinking about setting up another magazine. I wanted something like Toots, something that showed flesh, well-defined, sexy models. Only this time, I wanted men to be the ones in front of the camera. I wanted to publish a magazine that appealed to the female population. And I wanted Bella to run it. I already had a model lined up, Emmett McCarthy. He had approached me months ago and quietly mentioned that he loved his girlfriend taking photos of him. He was a well-defined, powerful man and from the photos he gave me, hung like a bloody donkey! I remembered showing the photos to Rosalie, who practically self-combusted on the spot. I smiled, wondering whether I should try and introduce them—he looked like he could more than handle the contemptuous Miss Hale.
Bella stirred beside me, hooking her leg over mine as she kissed my shoulder. My hand tightened around her waist, reveling in the feel of her naked skin under my touch.
I turned to face her and kissed her nose.
"Morning," I whispered.
"Hmm… morning." Her lips pursed together as she attempted to kiss me back. I chuckled when she missed.
"We need to get up. There's a lot to do today, and you need to get dressed smartly."
She opened her eyes and looked at me. I quickly sat up, taking the covers with me, unable to contain my excitement at my new idea. Her gaze focused on me and she frowned, pulling the covers back over her body.
"I have a proposition, Miss Swan," I stated.
Her hand twisted in her hair as she waited for me to continue.
"We need to terminate your contract with Throb first. But when that is all sorted, I'd like you to work with me." I hoped she could hear the excitement in my voice.
"Edward, I'm not sure I really want to continue taking my clothes off, even for Toots. I did it because I had to—I'd like to try and work properly if you could just support me until…"
"Shhh…" I silenced her with a kiss. "I want you to work with me, not for me."
"What? Doing what?" I heard the excitement in her voice. It nearly matched my own.
"I want to produce a magazine for women."
She frowned at me, but before I could continue she understood what I meant.
"Male centrefolds? Men with no clothes on?" she asked as her eyes widened.
I nodded. "What do you think? It would be like a sister magazine to Toots. I want you, with my initial help obviously, to make this your baby. I want you to edit and run it. What do you think?"
"I think it's a marvelous idea! And you think I can do it?"
"I think you'd be brilliant at it." I chuckled at the look of astonishment on her face.
She flung herself at me— the force of her surprise attack knocked me onto my back with her lying on top of me. "Hey, steady there. I'm injured remember?" I lifted my still painful right hand.
"Edward Cullen, did I ever tell you that I love you? That I fell in love with you over seven years ago and I have never, ever loved another man in my life?"
"No," I whispered. "Tell me, because then I can tell you, that I fell in love with you when I was fifteen and I have never, ever loved any other women the way I completely and irrevocably love you."
Her lips met mine and I returned her kiss with the slow gentle caress of my tongue. My hands pushed her hair out of her face and I smiled against her mouth.
"I love you, angel," I breathed.
"I love you too." Her words were all I needed to hear.
My angel had come home. She was where she should have always been—with me—safe, cherished and loved.
Stacey Swift, Bella Swan, my Bella, my angel.
Editor of the woman's magazine, Bone.
I love you.
Endnote: Thank you for reading. Please leave a review and then check out all the other fantastic entries. Voting begins 11/1/11.