Pop the Question Contest Entry

Title: In a Hopeless Place
Word Count (without the A/n and header): 5012
Pairing: Edward/Bella
Rating: M
Summary: Edward and Bella have been in a long relationship with quite the ups and downs. Will Edward finally realize that Bella is the only one he wants and after Bella's sordid past will she ever agree?
Warnings (if any): Nothing really, I tried to stick mainly to fluff. Also SM is still god and my beta is awesome.

In a Hopeless Place

Edward stared at the naked body beside him unable to resist tracing the scales of the dragon tattoo on Bella's back. The tail started out on her gorgeous left voluptuous hip wrapping around her back and up her right side ending just over the slope of her breast. Edward thought it was her sexiest tattoo—with all of the greens and yellows and the bright red roses intermingled—or maybe he was just biased because it was his tattoo.

"Edward, stop, that tickles," Bella giggled, arching her back, to move away just as his fingers reached a bright red rose.

"But it's just so beautiful," he purred and lightly licked a line up her side.

"Mmm," she couldn't help her groan, goosebumps rippling across her flesh, "you're such a tease."

"Who said I was teasing?"

Edward flipped Bella towards him, and she groaned. His eyes shamelessly moved across her body and he licked his lips. Bella was simply the most beautiful thing Edward had ever seen.

Her skin seemed even paler in contrast to the ink, scattered across her body. Her nipples pebbled at the tip of two very luscious breasts. Bella's lips were full and always seemed to be pouting at him to kiss her. Her brown eyes were always full of warmth, but now they were on fire; like she may devour him at any moment.

"Edward," Bella said. Placing her hand against his bare chest, she could feel the way her touch made his heart race.

"Hmm?" He nibbled along her neck and collar bones, trying to get her to cave to his every whim.

"You promised me we would actually get out and do something today."

"It's not even noon yet, we still have tons of time to do stuff," he pleaded, sliding his hand downwards across her stomach.

Bella grabbed Edward's hands, pulling it to her lips, and softly kissed his palm.

"Later, please? I really want to do some sightseeing, it's not every day that we're in San Francisco!" Bella squealed excitedly.

Edward loved her enthusiasm and couldn't tell her no.

"Fine, get ready, but you owe me big!" he said, getting out of bed.

Bella watched Edward stretch his gorgeous naked body in front of her; his tattoos rippled under the strain of his muscles.

"Enjoying the view?" he asked, cocking one eyebrow.

"Maybe we could wait a little longer, like you said, it's not even noon yet..."

"Oh no, now we're going. You can wait, besides, I actually already have the day planned," he teased, dragging an exasperated Bella out of bed.

"Tell me, tell me, tell me!" Bella exclaimed, jumping up and down on the bed in excitement.

"It's a surprise, and, as much as I love seeing you naked, you probably don't want the rest of San Francisco seeing it. Go get ready," he said, playfully smacking her ass. Bella hopped off the bed and skipped into the bathroom.

Edward chuckled.

The water started and Edward listened to Bella's off key singing.

"As your shadow crosses mine, what it takes to come aliiiiiiiiiiiive."

Edward shook his head, he really didn't like that rap stuff, but even coming from Bella's out of tune singing he had grown to love this song. It had somehow in its few words managed to capture their relationship perfectly.

He pulled a pair of boxers on and threw a tee shirt over his head thinking back to when he had first met Bella nearly six years ago, she had been such a different person.

The door opened causing the shop bell to ring. Jasper sat biting his lip intently, staring at the art work in front him.

"Hi, um," said a timid voice before clearing its throat, "I was wondering if you guys are hiring?"

"You'll want to talk to Eddie back there," Jasper said without looking up from his work, nodding back. There sat another man hunched over working just as intently. It was silent for a moment and all that could be heard was the hum of tattoo guns.

"Excuse me," the timid voice said again, "you're Eddie?"

"It's just Edward," he turned to look at the person speaking, only to find himself looking at a slim brunette who looked as though she hadn't slept in days.

"I was, uh, wondering if you guys were hiring."

"We weren't really looking for anybody, what exactly were you looking to do? You don't tattoo, do you?" Edward's eyes scanned her bare arms for any sign of ink.

"No, I don't tattoo. I was thinking maybe you need a receptionist or something..." She trailed off.

Jasper's tattoo gun was finally silent. His head turned in their direction wondering what Edward would do.

"Hey, darlin'," he called, he realized just how beautiful the young girl was. Jasper winked at her suggestively making Edward scowl at him.

"Well," Edward said, thinking intently, "I'm not really sure."

"Look, I'll do whatever you guys wants. I'll clean, I'll run your errands, I'll do you're laundry, for God's sake. I just really, really need a job. Even if it's just part-time and temporary. Please."

"Alright, we'll have a trial today and see how you can handle working with us. Tattoo artists can get... touchy." Edward looked poignantly at Jasper.

"Thank you so much, I'm Bella, by the way." She flashed a smile at Edward.

"Nice to meet you. Now you can just go stand behind the front counter up there and when the phone rings... ya know, answer it. Don't really care what you say when you answer it, but try to say the shop's name, and uh, let me know if you have any questions or anything." Edward turned back around without another word, the hum of the machine beginning again.

Jasper winked at Bella before turning back to his own work, and no one noticed Bella hug herself tightly, smiling so wide she thought her cheeks would crack.

"Baby, how do I look?" Bella walked out of the bathroom, pulling Edward from his thoughts.

"Gorgeous, are you sure you want to wear heels today? There may be some walking involved," Edward nodded his head towards her bright red pumps.

"Of course, Edward, what other shoe would I wear with my black and white polka dot dress?" She retorted, rolling her eyes before grabbing her clutch.

Edward sighed; he knew there was no arguing with this woman about shoes and he had to admit she did look perfect. Her hair was pulled up half way in an two large curls resting atop her head, her lips a bright cherry red and her eyes just lined in black. She wore a black and white polka dot dress, accentuated perfectly with the red pumps. All of that mixed with her pale skin and she was a modern day pinup, covered with tattoos.

They had been on the tour bus for nearly an hour and a half now, and Edward could hardly focus on the tour, watching Bella enjoy herself instead.

They were on a double-decker bus with the top open. Of course, Bella had insisted on sitting at the top. She looked around at all the sights her mouth slightly open in awe. It almost seemed she couldn't take in enough through her black and red cat eye sun glasses. Taking them from her face she pushed them atop her head. Her laughter disappearing into the wind that tangled her hair; it was music to his ears.

"Oh, Edward, can we get off here please?" Bella begged. The tour bus was already beginning to pull over at Haight and Ashbury.

"Of course! That's why we're here—to do whatever your heart desires."

Stepping off the tour bus they were in another world. Bright colors lined both sides of the street doting images and ideals from a different; buildings were adorned with images of idols long ago: Jimi Hendrix, Janice Joplin, and Jim Morrison.

Shops had peace signs painted on their windows where colorful pipes, clothing and other various things were on display.

Bella and Edward ducked into someplace called the "Red Victorian", thankful to see it had a coffee shop inside. Bella went to find the two a seat while Edward grabbed them some coffee and a light snack to tide them over until they could find a good place for lunch.

Looking around for Bella, Edward furrowed his brow in concern when he couldn't see her anywhere. Not all of the tables were full, so Edward was surprised to find Bella sitting with a group of others at a table. He marveled with how at ease she looked talking with complete strangers.

"There you are," he said in an almost questioning manner, wondering why they were sharing a table when there were plenty of seats for them to just have some time together.

"Everybody, this is Edward," Bella introduced while he was greeted with friendly "hellos".

Edward sat down, still baffled at what exactly was happening. They explained briefly to him that the owner of the shop asked that others sit with people they don't know. Something about broadening horizons and making friends. It all sounded very hippie to Edward, but Bella seemed to be enjoying it so he sat back and observed her.

He was in awe with how at home she seemed to be. She laughed heartily with them, his own mind slipping back to the introverted and scared girl he had first met.

The first week of Bella working at the shop seemed to fly by in no time. Edward had to admit she was a great help setting up stations and taking appointments. He was also highly intrigued by her.

Bella wasn't the typical girl. She didn't seem to swoon over any of the tattoo artists like most girls who had tried to work there in the past. She wasn't chatty; that alone made Edward want to know everything about her. She was so reserved it seemed she wasn't there at all. The only reason anybody knew there was a woman working at the tattoo shop because of her scent. Edward couldn't pin it, but she smelled like sweet and candy, good enough to eat.

That Friday night Edward had been working late with a client, who had thankfully just left. It was nearly 1A.M. Edward stretched his limbs, his muscles feeling tight from him being hunched over for so long. Standing up he began to walk around the shop making sure that everything was locked up and secure.

Edward nearly jumped out of his skin when he saw Bella in the back room, crouching down while putting some supplies away. He briefly checked out her ass, then chastised himself from doing so. Thank God Jazz wasn't there to see that, Edward would never hear the end of it since he'd already been giving him shit that Edward had only hired Bella to try to get in her pants.

"Hey there, looks like I'm not the only one pulling a late night," he tried to tease, making her jump up and bump into the rack that was in the storage room; supplies rained down beside her.

"Oh, sorry about that!" he apologized, bending down to help her pick up things while he mentally berated himself.

"No, I'm sorry," she said timidly a bright red color filling her cheeks.

"Hey it's alright, this stuff can wait until we come in tomorrow," Edward said with a wave of his hand. "Let me walk you home."

Bella seemed to stiffen at his words and he wondered if he had said something wrong.

"Thanks, but I'd rather just get this done tonight," she somehow stammered, backing away nervously.

"You sure? I wouldn't want something to happen to you, it's pretty late."

"I'm sure, I don't really like...people...knowing where I live," she started before quickly adding with a nervous laugh, "I'm kind of paranoid."

Something about her response seemed off, but Edward accepted the excuse, jotting his cell phone number down on a piece of paper. Bella looked at him wide-eyed, taking the paper gingerly from him.

"It's just in case of an emergency. I don't like women walking home alone at night, so if you need anything call me alright?"

Edward realized how horrible of a pickup line that had sounded, but he wanted to know Bella he'd be there for her if she needed. His cousin Rose had been attacked shortly after she had gone away to college walking home one night and he hated the thought that nobody from the party she was coming from had offered to walk with her. Maybe they could have prevented it, and he'd be damned if he'd let anything like that happen on his watch again.

"You sure you're alright?" Edward asked again, suddenly feeling very apprehensive about leaving her at the shop alone.

"I promise, I have pepper spray," she teased patting her pocket.

Edward was still skeptical but left anyway after a few uncomfortable minutes of watching Bella work.

Over the next few months both Edward and Jasper noticed that if they worked late Bella was always there burning the midnight oil with them. Every time both men would offer to walk her home, but she always refused.

It drove Jasper nuts, Rosalie was his twin sister, so the thought of not being allowed to protect someone who could potentially be harmed made him crazy.

Neither of them thought Bella staying late meant anything, at least not until one Sunday morning. Edward couldn't sleep and was feeling the itch to draw. He often got this way and it didn't bother him.

It was 4:35 in the morning. Throwing a light jacket on, Edward headed down to the shop, he was surprised to see a small glow coming from somewhere inside. Jasper always forgot to turn that shit off, and he made a mental note to talk to him about it yet again.

Slipping inside quietly, he headed towards the room where the light was coming from. What he saw stopped him dead in his tracks. Bella was laying on one of the tattoo tables in the back room. Looking around he noticed her bags near her feet and suddenly it was all making sense.

His heart dropped realizing just how little he knew about this woman who he had employed. In her sleep Bella's face looked more peaceful.

"Edward," he heard her whisper and he panicked thinking she had woken, but she didn't make any other sounds or movements.

Realizing what he was doing, Edward walked away quickly. Going to his station Edward began to draw, and was soon lost in the lines and the shading and the sound that reverberated in his mind of Bella whispering his name. He didn't know how much time had passed but jumped when he heard a small gasp behind him.

"Morning, sunshine." Edward's voice sounded rough from his mouth being so dry. He always had a habit of drawing with his mouth open, tongue slightly protruding.

"I'm sorry," she whispered, "I'll go."

Edward turned towards her to say something only to notice she was no longer behind him. Standing up he moved towards the back room where she was gathering her things.

"What are you doing?" he asked, his heart beating erratically at the thought that she might be leaving for good.

Bella looked at him dumbfounded. Her face was full of pure fear as she shrank back towards a wall, drawing Edward further into the room.

"Bella?" he whispered.

Looking like she a frightened mouse, Bella fell to her knees.

"I'm sorry," she said so softly Edward wasn't sure if he'd actually heard it or not.

"Bella, it's alright," he said, crouching down near her, feeling the need to be at her level.

Suddenly she started sobbing. Edward couldn't help but wrap her in his arms; he was entirely confused by the situation but couldn't ignore the warmth of Bella's body next to his. He stroked her hair, surprised by how soft it felt beneath his finger tips. He felt her fists ball into his shirt and he suddenly felt protective of her, tucking her head under his chin. After a few minutes her breathing began to slow. She pushed away from Edward's tear stained shirt, too ashamed to look up at him.

"Please, I can't lose my job," she whispered.

"I'm not going to fire you," Edward answered.

Bella sniffled but nodded her head never taking her eyes off of the floor.

"But," Edward emphasized, "you aren't staying here anymore. You can stay with me."

Edward felt Bella's form go rigid in his arms.

"Look, nothing's going to happen to you, I promise. I have a spare room that no one uses. If you still feel uncomfortable about it, I'm sure Jasper's girlfriend Alice will be happy to make some space for you."

Bella's head shot up, the fear in her eyes evident.

"No, I think I'd feel more comfortable with you... if you don't mind." Edward heard the determination and a hint of trust.

Edward knew others trusted him, but there was something about knowing that she trusted him that meant so much more. He nodded his head, causing Bella to sigh before resting hers against his chest again.

"Earth to Edward," Bella was saying, waving her hands in front of his face.

"Sorry, what?"

"Can we go shopping? Pleaaaaaase?" Bella begged, looking almost childlike.

Edward laughed. He would have to have a talk with Alice about how she had broken his girlfriend when they got back. Bella said goodbye to her newfound friends, even hugging a few of them before they left. Once outside, Bella sucked her bright red bottom lip between her teeth seriously examining the outside of the shops. Edward couldn't resist pulling her to him, capturing her lips with his own.

Bella giggled, leaning away from him, and pointed towards a shop that Edward was quickly being dragged inside of. It was called the "Crossroads Trading Co". Edward listened to her small laughs while she flipped through clothing racks. He wasn't entirely sure what she was looking for but she seemed to be having fun doing so.

"I'll be right back!" she exclaimed before disappearing into a dressing room.

When she reappeared, Bella was adorned in an entirely different outfit, looking as though she belonged to the 60's. She had bell bottoms on which had flairs wider than her head and a ridiculous flower print adorned them. She had a white shirt underneath a vest with the same hideous print that matched her pants. Wrapped around her head was a scarf, another perfect match to her pants and vest.

"How do I look?"

"Different, that's for sure," Edward laughed.

Bella checked her reflection in the full length mirror.

"I like it, I'm going to get it," she declared finally.

Edward was left outside of the dressing rooms to hold the garments while Bella continued to try on the multiple other things she had taken into the dressing room.

Edward and Bella slipped easily into a routine. Bella would cook them dinner, and every morning Edward would make them breakfast. They didn't talk about it, they didn't really talk about anything. Jasper sensed something must be up but never let on to the two.

They hadn't touched at all since Edward had comforted Bella in the back room, but it was all both of them could think about. The tension was driving them crazy but neither had the guts to make a move. Edward was afraid of the unknownshe seemed so scared and nervous about everything, and he didn't want to lose what he did have with her, whatever it was.

It was now nearly nine months since Bella had started working at the shop and the tension between the two was driving Jasper crazy what with all their goo-goo eyes and longing glances at one another. It didn't help that Bella had recently purchased a new wardrobe with the help of Alice, and Edward had definitely taken notice.

She was now wearing dresses or ridiculously tight leather pants that Edward just wanted to peel off of her. She was taking on more of the pinup look that Alice carried herself and Edward liked it. He more than liked it, he wanted to strip her clothes off of her and stamp a seal of approval on her naked ass.

"Jesus fuck," Jasper suddenly interrupted, the buzzing of his tattoo gun coming to a halt.

Bella turned to look at him, an eyebrow raised; Edward glanced up momentarily from the tattoo he was working on.

"Seriously you guys, how long is this going to go on for?" he said, exasperated, and both Edward and Bella looked at him perplexed.

"Oh no, don't look at me like you have no idea what I'm talking about! There's so much tension between you two it's making my dick hard!"

Bella's face immediately turned a bright red. Shaking her head, she turned around and walked out of the room.

"What the fuck?" Edward asked, pissed off that Jasper had upset Bella.

"I'm sorry, something had to be said. You two are driving me nuts, and frankly you both need to get some."

Bella told them about an hour after hiding out in the back that she was going to head home early, feigning that she wasn't feeling well. Edward knew she was probably upset about what Jasper had said, but let her go, knowing that she probably just wanted time alone.

Edward left as soon as he could manage later that day, although it was still nearly five hours after Bella had left. He headed home wondering if Bella would be there, praying that she hadn't fled. Even though Jasper's approach was anything but conventional he was right, and they did need to talk; to figure out what the hell was going on.

Heading inside Edward heard the shower on and sighedshe hadn't left. He hoped he'd still have the courage to talk to her. Heading into his room he tried to keep the images of warm water cascading down Bella's naked body out of his mind. Instead, he tried to think of different ways to tell Bella just how much she meant to him without freaking her out.

The water stopped, and Edward sat on the edge of his bed, picking at an invisible thread trying to think of how to start this conversation with Bella. What if she rejected him? What if she left? He would be devastated. He knew very little about Bella, yet, he was drawn to her. Edward somehow just knew how special she was. How special Bella could be to him if she gave him a chance.

He heard his door creak open and was suddenly aware he hadn't turned on the light when he saw Bella's shadow cast across the floor from the light behind her.

"Edward?" she whispered nervously.

He sat stunned, Bella stood before him in only a towel. It was so quiet Edward could hear the water drip from her. Edward wasn't breathing, afraid that a single breath might blow her away and make her disappear forever. Yet, he couldn't help the sharp intake of breath a moment later, when she dropped her towel.

Edward snapped himself out of his flashback that time. After all of the sexual tension from the morning he didn't want to think about that particular memory.

"Are you thinking about me naked?" Bella whispered lowly from over his shoulder.

Edward tried to swallow but failed, his mouth suddenly dry. Bella smiled seductively at him, plucking the garments he was holding from his hands before walking to the register, with a little extra sway in her hips.

They were finally finished at Haight and Ashbury and continued their way on the tour bus, stopping at the Golden Gate Bridge. Bella looked out at the sky line of San Francisco sighing contentedly.

"Take a picture with me Edward?" she suddenly said to him.

He happily obliged finding someone nearby to snap a few photos of them with the skyline and then the Golden Gate Bridge itself behind them.

Bella climbed up on the stone wall, tucking her dress beneath her resting her head on her knees. Edward moved closer to her placing his chin on her shoulder.

"Have you ever seen anything so beautiful?" she asked him, not taking her eyes away from the expanse of the water.

"I've never seen anything more beautiful then you," he said earnestly, placing a kiss on her shoulder.

"I want you to do a tattoo on me," Bella said suddenly to Edward, interrupting him from the current stencil he was drawing.

"Finally going to lose your virginity?" Jasper teased.

Bella ignored him, rolling her eyes, her hands clasped tightly together while she waited for Edward's response.

"Will you?"

"Okay," Edward answered, "What do you want to get?"

"A dragon."

"How big?"

"I want it to go from my hip to just under my arm."

Edward squinted at her, unsure if she was being serious or not.

"That's an awfully big tattoo for your first, are you sure?"

"I'm sure," Bella said firmly.

Edward didn't argue, just told her it would be a few days before he had an outline ready. By that Sunday Bella was laying on Edwards tattoo table, butterflies danced around in her stomach.

Bella felt her body tense as the needle touched her skin for the first time, but told Edward to continue on.

"So why this? Why now?" Edward asked.

Bella knew it was one of his tricks he often used with his clients. Get them talking about something to keep their mind off of the pain. Bella had something else in mind that she wanted to talk to him about.

"I'm married," she spit out suddenly and Edward's gun stilled momentarily before starting back up again.

Bella glanced back at him and saw his face screwed into an expression that she didn't recognize.

"He used to abuse me," this time Edward's gun stopped completely, but Bella continued on, not ready to look him in the eye yet, "like not just calling me names. He used to beat me...I nearly died because of him."

The gun started again, and Bella wondered what Edward was thinking.

"I ran away. I knew he would never look for me in this city, especially of all places in a tattoo shop. He thought I was too afraid to ever leave him, told me once that a big city would swallow me whole. Ha." Bella laughed bitterly before continuing.

"Anyway, I've been afraid to file for divorce, because I don't want him to know where I am. But since I've fallen in love with someone, I know it needs to be done."

"Bella," Edward started, but Bella shot him a poignant look.

"I was so afraid when I first came here, of everything. It was like he was following me, just hiding in the shadows waiting for a time when I'd be vulnerable. But then you and Jasper were there, and you were wanting to protect me and for the first time...for the first time I feel safe. No, not just safe. I feel strong. And I wanted to get the dragon because it represents..."

"Power," Edward interrupted, and Bella watched him nod in understanding.

"I don't need you to be a hero, Edward. I don't need anyone to save me."

She saw a flash of anger in his eyes, his lips drawing into a tight line, but she continued on.

"I just want you to be with me, support me. Just keep doing what you've been doing."

Edward nodded, although Bella didn't know how much he was exactly agreeing with. The next six hours of the tattoo were completed in silence. While Edward wiped the ink away from Bella's skin she could have sworn she heard him whisper, "I love you, too."

They were by Fisherman's Wharf now, looking for a place to eat. Bella held Edward's hand tightly, taking in all there was to see. She loved the cool feel of the ocean air on her skin.

The day had become overcast but still had a balmy feel to it that was sometimes broken through by an ocean breeze. Suddenly a loud clap of thunder could be heard overhead, followed almost immediately by a huge downpour of rain.

Bella let go of Edwards hand. Skipping around on the dock and laughing, she tilted her head back to the sky. Edward stopped and thought about how he had never seen anything more beautiful in his life.

"I love the rain!" Bella yelled sticking her arms out and spinning around in circles, her head still thrown back.

Edward moved towards her, wrapping his arms around her waist; she tilted her head forward and looked up at him through rain soaked lashes.

"Did you know it's been one year since your divorce was finalized." Edward stated suddenly.

"What?"

"Marry me?" Edward whispered just enough so that Bella could hear him.

"What?" Bella repeated, a huge smile playing on her lips.

"I didn't plan this..."

"How could you plan the rain," Bella teased.

"Bella, let me say this."

Bella nodded her head, pretending to lock her lips and throw the key into the ocean.

"All day I kept thinking about everything we've been through. Everything I love about you. You are the strongest, most beautiful, most resilient woman I have ever met in my life. You are quirky, and snarky, and you drive me insane sometimes, and I love that about you. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Marry me."

Bella smiled at him, her hand smoothing his water-logged hair away from his tear filled eyes. Bella nodded her head vigorously, her own eyes shone from unshed tears. Edward beamed mashing their lips together. Picking her up, he swung her around, water cascaded around them, their lips never breaking contact.