This is a little something new with my favourite boys. For those of you waiting for the next chapter of Learning to Fly, fear not - it's almost done! This plot bunny hit and had to be written. I'd love to know what you think - it's a little different to my other work.
Thanks to my pre reader Jasper1863Hale, and my beta mxpi1970.
All characters owned and created by Stephenie Meyer. The plot is all mine.
SUMMARY: A voice can change everything; it can consume your waking hours and weave its way into your dreams. In the end, what happens when it's all you want to hear?
All I Want to Hear
Checking the instructions in the letter, he calls the hotel to confirm the booking. When the voice answers, he is not at all prepared for the unfamiliar reaction.
"Dragonfly Inn. How may I help you today?"
The voice is deep; the honeyed tones making him momentarily forget his reason for calling.
Finding his voice, he speaks, sounding somewhat flustered to his own ears.
"Um, yes; I'm calling to confirm a booking for the 27th made for me by Hale Publishing. I have a lecture to present."
Why was he telling the man this? It was doubtless of no concern to him whatsoever.
"The booking is for just the one night, sir?"
Again the beautiful intonation, seductive enough in its cadence to send a bolt of something thought long forgotten through his chest.
"Y-yes that's correct. A single room for one night."
"According to instructions, we have a double booked for you, sir. Is that acceptable?"
The inflexion of the softly spoken question, the tone almost intimate, affects him quite profoundly. His breath catches as he struggles to reply in the appropriate manner.
"A double will be fine. Does the booking include breakfast?"
"Yes, sir. You can take breakfast in our restaurant or in your room if you prefer. If that's everything, I just need your name to complete the booking."
"Of course; it's Cullen. Carlisle Cullen."
His flight from New York to Maine is blessedly short. Uncomfortable away from his home after so long, he checks his briefcase repeatedly to ensure his lecture materials and script are safe. He only has carry-on luggage for the overnight stay, but has packed more than needed in case of emergency. He fears being caught unprepared.
How long has it been since he last left New York? He cannot remember. These days he finds it a trial to do more than the grocery shopping, having become an almost reclusive figure as his writing consumes more and more of his life. He keeps himself well dressed, a habit learned from his college days; his hair is neatly cut, still a glossy blond. To the outside world, Carlisle Cullen is the image of a successful man at the top of his game. There is no one person close enough to see the lonely man, so detached from the world that his only link is through his writing.
Leaving the airport, he hails a cab to the Dragonfly Inn. His conversation with the driver is limited to destination and 'keep the change'. The prospect of any further interaction unnerves him and he wonders how he will cope with the lecture.
Arriving at the inn, he makes his way to reception, eager to check in and close the door. He wonders if the man he spoke with is there today, and what he would do if he were.
The truth is, he knows the answer is nothing.
A pretty, petite young woman smiles at him across the desk and asks for his details. He confirms his name and she asks him to sign in, handing him the electronic door key for room 13 on the second floor. He offers thanks with a small, embarrassed smile, and heads to the stairs the girl has indicated.
The electronic door key is annoying and takes a moment to figure out. When the light finally turns green, he lets himself in and looks around. The room is larger than expected and beautifully furnished; there is a lot of polished wood in keeping with the style of the inn, and a large sleigh bed that dominates the space. It is a warm, inviting place and Carlisle is surprised at how safe he feels here. The feeling is somewhat unexpected.
With nothing to unpack but his clothes for the lecture, he hangs up the pants and jacket before firing up his laptop and settling in for the evening to write.
Just for a change.
He writes a little, but is surprised to find himself distracted. He knows the reason. He knows he won't be able to relax until he meets the owner of that expressive voice. Perhaps then he can finally put an end to the thoughts that plague him every night; inappropriate thoughts that have no place in his serious literary mind, but have crept in anyway, hiding in the dark recesses of his overactive brain, waiting for an opportunity.
He rubs his eyes with thumb and forefinger and wonders if a nap would help, but the sad fact is that Carlisle is an insomniac, born from years of writing til all hours. He can no longer fall asleep at will; instead he merely naps for a few minutes here and there, refusing to resort to pills to aid his rest. He often wonders how long he can carry on at this pace, drinking countless cups of coffee and never truly resting, just working until his body screams 'time out'.
Picking up the phone, he calls room service and orders coffee. The young woman from the desk asks him if he would like a meal as the restaurant is now open. His stomach reminds him that he hasn't eaten since breakfast, and he peruses the little menu by the phone, opting for a roast beef dinner and a decadent dessert. He figures that he might as well enjoy the amenities when the publishing house is paying.
Hearing the rattle of the trolley outside his door a few minutes later, he opens it to allow the man to enter and place his food and coffee on the table therein. He cannot help but look at the man and wonder if it is he that possesses the voice that has him captivated. Offering the man a customary tip, he is politely thanked with a warm smile and Carlisle thereby receives confirmation that this is not the man he seeks.
The food is good and energises him. The coffee is strong and hot, and soon Carlisle is writing again, deep into his work, the hours once again melting away.
It's late when he returns to reality, and he checks the little card before deciding to ring down for more coffee. When the velvet tones of his mystery man flow down the handset, he is almost unable to speak.
"Uh, sorry to disturb you, but I'd like some coffee sent up if I may?" The words are forced out, his lungs barely functioning.
"Of course, sir. What is your room number?"
"Oh, yes, it's room 13."
He thinks he imagines the pause that follows, but then the man speaks again as if nothing has happened.
"Certainly, Mr Cullen."
Of course he knows the night clerk has the names of each guest to hand. He knows it means nothing, and yet the thought at the back of his mind points out that the young lady simply called him 'sir'.
A member of the night staff arrives with his coffee, a polite and respectful gentleman who is also a complete disappointment to Carlisle. He wonders what he is actually expecting from this man. He has no preconceived notions about appearance or even age, although he admits to himself that the voice sounded young. In a moment of madness for Carlisle, he takes his room key and makes his way quietly to the stairs, intending to catch a glimpse of whoever is on the reception desk.
When he sees the desk is unmanned, he returns to his room, bitter disappointment like a knife in his gut.
He undresses, dons the luxury bathrobe provided, and then naps in the generously proportioned bed for a brief time, achieving nothing that could be considered restorative sleep. He then settles in to write some more, this time staying beneath the covers as much as possible, still shrouded in the warm robe. It is then that the thought occurs to him.
Stay one more night.
He knows he will have to change his plane ticket, and pay the additional room charge. Yet all he can think about is leaving without ever finding the owner of the dulcet tones that have owned him since that first telephone call.
As dawn breaks, he goes to take a refreshing shower and prepare for the day ahead. He fervently hopes the lecture will be a success, and that he will manage to complete it without mishap or embarrassment, proving himself to be the professional that others believe him to be. Looking at himself in the mirror, he sees pale skin in keeping with his blond hair, a straight nose and full lips. But in his own eyes he sees a story that few have ever bothered to stay long enough to read, and he wonders again if he is fooling himself with his thoughts over this man.
After dressing carefully, he takes himself downstairs to breakfast, knowing that at this hour he is likely to be alone to eat. The staff are readying the restaurant, and smile at his what they believe to be enthusiasm for his meal. Only he of course knows that it is purely an avoidance tactic to keep contact with others to a minimum; his day ahead will be fraught enough without crowded tables and stilted conversation.
He is first to be served, and sips his steaming coffee as his pen scribbles notes on a small pad secreted in his inner jacket pocket. His eggs are perfect, his bacon crisp; he drains his second cup of coffee and wipes his mouth with his cloth napkin before standing and leaving the table, nodding to the serving staff without meeting their smiling gaze.
Returning to his room, he fetches his case having checked the contents one last time to be sure that everything is in order. Pulling on his coat, he makes his way back down to the foyer and heads outside to hail a taxi.
In his bid to be invisible, his eyes on the carpet ahead, he fails to see the young man openly gazing at him, his bronze hair shining in the early morning sunlight.
He fails to see the look that most would recognise as desire.
Arriving at the university, he finds his way to the main office as instructed. Escorted to the lecture hall, he is both grateful and concerned by the attention the lady is showing. When she asks if there is anything he needs, he sees his chance and asks for coffee. She flits away to fetch him a cup, and he settles himself into a seat in the hall, breathing deep and trying not to panic. He admits to himself that what scares him most is that they are not much younger than he, and wonders if they might think him unworthy of giving the lecture.
His coffee arrives as the students file in. He dares not look up until his watch says it's time to start, the murmur of voices having reached an excited volume. Taking a deep steadying breath, he survives the lecture, barely making eye contact with anyone unless it is absolutely necessary. The students are entranced by his assumed air of authority, his knowledge holding them in thrall. They ask intelligent questions that he answers with a sense of accomplishment and relief.
The lecture draws to a close and he receives a resounding round of applause from his young audience. He fears that some might try to speak to him, but fortunately they all have classes to get to and he is spared the awkwardness of such an encounter.
When the auditorium has emptied he makes his way outside, having been effusively thanked by the Dean. It is only when he is sitting in a taxi that he allows himself to relax, and think of the man who has become so central to his current existence.
Arriving back at the Dragonfly, he remembers his plan. Waiting at the reception desk, he clears his throat self-consciously and waits for the young lady to look up. She smiles at him and he makes his request – is his room available for an extra night? She replies in the affirmative and makes the booking, confirming the charge will be made to his card, and not the publishing house. Using the public telephone on the desk, he then calls the airport and successfully changes his flight time to New York.
He feels strange, almost exultant, as if he has completed a great mission. Heading up to his room, he changes out of his suit and into his spare set of casual clothing that he brought in case of emergency. He then proceeds to lose himself in his work, feeling the words flow now that the pressure of the lecture has passed.
He writes until late; realising he has only minutes in which to order his evening meal, he calls down to reception. The young lady once again takes his order and his food arrives promptly, its arrival announced by the rattling trolley.
With his stomach once again full of good food and hot coffee, he settles in for a night of writing and research.
A little after midnight, he calls down for fresh coffee and is rewarded with the honeyed tones of his obsession.
"Yes, could I have coffee sent up please? Room -"
"13, yes of course, Mr Cullen. It will be with you shortly."
Carlisle replaces the handset, his chest tight, hand shaking almost imperceptibly with the rush of adrenalin.
This obsession isn't healthy.
For indeed, he now accepts it to be so; an obsession he cannot escape.
The soft knock on the door rouses him from his work once again. He answers the door, stepping back to allow the waiter inside.
The man is not one he has met before, and appears uncomfortable as he sets down the tray of coffee. Carlisle holds the door for him, but he hesitates and then speaks, looking at him hopefully.
"Uhm, forgive me, Mr Cullen, but I was wondering if you would like some company? I'm on my break and I..."
Carlisle reels at the recognition, his heart pounding so hard he fears he may hyperventilate. The owner of the voice is more beautiful than he could have imagined and, despite his own overwhelming draw to the man, he cannot understand why he wishes to spend his break alone with him.
The man is still looking at him and waiting for an answer, his face clouding as he assumes his company is not welcome. Carlisle finds his voice just as he turns to leave.
"Yes, I would."
He looks down at the tray to see two cups and is hit with the sudden understanding that the man planned this; it was not some idle offer. He beckons him in unnecessarily and the door closes, but this time, instead of shutting the world out, he has a small fraction of it here, on his own private plane of existence.
He is gawky, almost childlike in his awkwardness. The man motions to the coffee and pours two cups, handing one to him. The entire time, Carlisle is looking at him in wonder, taking in his height, his pale skin, crazy bronze hair that looks to be natural despite the vibrancy of the tone. And then there are his eyes; deep pools of green that threaten to swamp Carlisle's fragile vista and forever change the landscape of his world.
They sit and sip coffee, neither speaking, until the man finally puts down his almost untouched cup and breaks the impasse.
"I should introduce myself. I'm Edward Masen, Mr Cullen, and I just wanted to meet you unofficially. I recognised your name when your publishing house made the booking, and I wanted to see if you were like some of the other authors we've had staying here."
Carlisle watches his lips form the words, trying his hardest at the same time to both remain detached and appear comfortable in this unforeseen situation.
"In what way, may I ask?"
The man, Edward, looks past him, a slight flush rising over his throat. Carlisle is fascinated by the reaction almost as much as the timbre of his voice.
"Some are quite arrogant and demanding, liking the attention that recognition affords them. But you... the staff have hardly noticed you, and when you have appeared you were quiet and respectful. I have to say it's rather unusual from my experience. But then, what do I know? I'm just a duty manager in a small hotel; you're a big shot writer. One whose work I enjoy, I should add."
He flushes harder this time, as if the confession has cost him dearly.
Carlisle struggles with this information. He fears becoming entangled in fan situations; indeed his earlier lecture had ended successfully in his mind because he had not had to speak privately with any students.
Edward seems to notice his inner conflict and is quick to dispel his anxiety.
"Carlisle..." Hearing his name fall from those lips causes a ripple of goosebumps to flare across his back, the quickening of his own breathing almost undetectable.
"It's okay; I'm not some crazed fan. I just felt like I had to meet you, to talk to you. I'm not explaining it well and it's starting to sound weird to my own ears. Perhaps I should go."
He makes to rise, but stops when Carlisle speaks.
"How long is your break, Edward?" For the first time in a long time, he makes full eye contact, feeling once again that same punch to the gut at the open beauty of his gaze.
"Just 20 minutes. There are only two of us on duty overnight. In fact, my break is almost over and I should be getting back. I'm sorry to have intruded on your time, but I thank you for your hospitality. I hope I haven't kept you up; it's late."
He stands and offers his hand to Carlisle who clasps it, unprepared for the bolt of lightning that rips through him, leaving him weak in both body and soul. A sensation long forgotten rises to the surface.
His memory kindly reminds him that its name is desire.
Finding his voice, he responds with an almost desperate air.
"I barely sleep, hence the coffee. You certainly weren't disturbing me."
Edward steps to the door, turning to face him.
"It was a true pleasure to meet you. I'm glad you stayed an extra night; I enjoyed talking to you, albeit briefly."
Carlisle agrees, his heart in his throat, as he smiles for the first time in who knows how long.
Picking up the now empty coffee cups, Edward quietly leaves the room, leaving a void that can forevermore only be filled by a voice like liquid sex and expressive sea-green eyes.
Carlisle heads to the shower, bewildered by this turn of events and his own unexpected reaction. After freshening up, he dons the hotel robe once more. As he lies back against the plump pillows, his mind now races with desire for both the physical as well as the aural vision of his fantasy. He eventually drifts into a light sleep, laced with flashes of green and bronze.
In his slumber, he smiles.
Waking after an unusually refreshing sleep, he looks at his watch to see that it's 6am and that four hours have passed. He marvels at this, having not slept for longer than two hours in one stretch for many months.
The knock at his door sends him into a mild panic. Heart racing, he jumps up, pausing with his hand on the doorknob. Opening the door a fraction, he is met with the one sight he could only have dreamed of; he blinks hard to ensure he is awake.
"May I come in?" His voice, low and sultry in the darkened hallway, resonates through Carlisle who opens the door wide as if compelled.
"I hope this is okay; my shift just ended and I wanted to say goodbye before I left."
Carlisle is aware that he is nodding, holding the door open for Edward to enter. The room inside is dark, save for a bedside lamp casting a pool of light across the pillows. To Carlisle, having Edward in the room takes it from safe and cosy to oddly intimate. He is surprised to discover that he is more than happy with this transition.
Edward stands, fingers raking his hair as he sees Carlisle's robe and the disturbed bed linen.
"I woke you? I'm so sorry; I should go."
He turns, somewhat embarrassed, and it is Carlisle who speaks up, his voice shaking with the complex mix of feelings searing his blood in Edward's proximity.
"No; I was already awake, and believe me, you're disturbing nothing."
He chuckles self-consciously, the sound alien to his ears after so long. He begins to realise just how many things he has missed in his time of self-imposed exile. He sits on the edge of the bed, adjusting his robe, and motions to Edward to sit.
"Mr Cullen... Carlisle...I..." He sounds unsure, his former confidence appearing to desert him momentarily.
Edward points to the bed. "May I?"
When Carlisle nods, the mattress dips as he perches on the edge, his fingers tracing the carved wood at its foot. Carlisle watches his Adams apple bob as he swallows, and wonders what he could possibly want to say that is causing him so much difficulty.
After a drawn out pause that charges the air, Edward shuffles around to face Carlisle, a knee bent up onto the coverlet. He clears his throat, the back of his hand over his mouth obscuring Carlisle's view of his lips.
The fingers of his supporting hand are kneading the exposed sheet, his facial muscles twitching as he verges on speech. Carlisle's fingers slide along the sheet, wanting to soothe the anxious clenching; Edward's eyes follow their progress and there is an audible intake of breath announcing aloud his anticipation. Carlisle finds the courage from somewhere deep inside to push his hand forwards that extra fraction. The pads of his fingertips slide over the smooth, neat nails and settle, feather light, on his knuckles. This minute amount of skin to skin contact is enough to cause Carlisle further sensory shock.
Edward is not so hesitant; pushing his hand under Carlisle's, he laces their fingers together, finally dispelling any doubt that either man has. They both gaze at their intertwined digits in wonder; looking up, their eyes meet and lock, raw need, the basest desire of all, flooding the space between them.
It's Carlisle who surprises himself, moving closer to the beautiful man with the wide, sincere eyes as if in a dream. His face draws close to Edward's, and he feels his warm breath, hears its slight rasp as his intake becomes ragged. Carlisle gazes into pools of deepest green and prepares to drown.
Leaning into the moment, Edward's hand slips and he almost loses his balance. The moment is broken as their hands part, Edward trying to recover his composure with embarrassment painfully apparent in his now introverted posture. He stands, unsure of what he should do, and Carlisle watches him before rising to his feet. He says nothing, instead reaching for him, his fingers sinking into his unruly hair. He cups his head, feeling the warmth as Edward leans into the caress before meeting his eyes. The desire in their depths is intoxicating, and all it takes to ignite the spark is Edward's whisper:
Their lips meet, inelegantly and loudly, moans escaping as their mouths discover each other for the first time. Arms wind around necks, hands cup faces, tongues flutter and caress in a joyous whirlwind voyage of discovery. Carlisle is lost at sea, one small boat bobbing on ferocious waves that promise his destruction, and yet he cares not.
When out of sheer necessity they part, chests heaving, hearts pounding, Carlisle whispers in surrender:
"I want you."
Edward's answer is one of complete supplication.