A/N: And here is my "beast" for this go round, as I have affectionately called it through the entire time I was writing it. Sorry for the length :)
AN: Two hundred fifty to five hundred words (or so) will be written as the beginning of the exercise and you the author must come up with what happens next. Anything is possible. The goal is to see what the possibilities could be and help with writer's block. Word count is unlimited and is completely up to the author.
All beginnings have been written by ericastwilight
Current participants: ericastwilight – kyla713 – SpunkRansom101 - cheshirekat516
Challenge Three – Coffee and Fumes
For three years, she came to the same place, ordered her favorite drink of the week, sat at her favorite table and did what she loved to do. She'd been doing it since she was child, and found her calling in writing fiction in a few different genres. It was there, that she wrote her first published book at only twenty-three years of age, and had written three more since.
She found her sanctuary in the corner of a beautiful pergola-type patio. Most of the other regulars would pass her by, offering a quick hello, knowing that if her hand was scratching away in her notebook it best not to bother her.
It was too bad that he wasn't a regular.
Cocky, arrogant and annoyingly persistent he was always there when she arrived every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning for the last month.
She remembered the first time she met him. She was already sitting in her spot, deep in concentration in a pivotal scene between her protagonists and antagonist. A thunderous roar of a motorcycle, near the turnabout where many people were dropped off, startled her.
She scowled at the little tear in her notebook page, resisting the urge to turn around and flip off the asshole. When it happened again, she shifted in her chair, making sure the skirt she wore didn't ride up her thighs, but froze when she heard a deep, rich groan.
The sound was followed by another rev of the engine and a noxious cloud of fumes. She wanted to scream, but managed to only glare toward the culprit that dared interrupted her. Instead of an apologetic smile, she met a cocky smirk and matching arched brow. Being a constant observer of her surroundings, her perusal of him was meticulous, taking every detail in.
He was tall, straddling a huge Harley, dressed in dark jeans and jacket, and black combat boots. There was scruff on his angled jaw, with hints of auburn highlights that matched his hair beneath the spiked helmet he removed and held under his arm.
When her eyes returned to his face, she nearly growled at the smirk that seemed to have doubled in size. His eyes were a bright green that seemed to dance with delight. It was his remark that made it worse for him, "Want a ride?"
"You can't park there." She cocked her eyebrow, kept her face as blank as possible, and then she yawned. That earned her the hardest glare she'd ever seen. Had Bella known that by doing what she'd done, that he wouldn't allow her a moment of peace, she would've rethought her actions.
He parked in the space closest to her table at first. Had spent and inordinate amount of time on his bike, trying to get her attention again. And when that didn't work, he started to sit at the table beside her and get her to talk. She answered in monosyllables each time.
Yet, he kept coming back, even started to get there early. His reasoning, he explained once was, "You don't seem to like the Harley. So I thought it would be best that I'd already be here when you arrived."
She changed her schedule after that, but it didn't work. He'd been there waiting. After the second week, she'd given up and spent about twenty minutes answering questions every day he was there. Through those questions she found out more about him and she had thought it would be no different that day.
It wasn't. Her table was free, but Edward was not at the one beside hers, where he usually sat. She racked her brain, trying to remember if he mentioned something that would explain his absence.
Twenty minutes after arriving, lost in her writing, she heard the unmistakable sound of a car parking in his usual spot. Curious, she looked over her shoulder and gasped. She watched as Edward's corded body walked around a black SUV, helping a beautiful little blue-eyed boy from a car seat in the back.
He offered her a smile as he set the child on his feet, barely reaching Edward's knees. "Come on, buddy." Hand in hand the duo climbed up the patio's ramp, disappearing inside the store.
Bella's heart pounded in her chest. Edward Cullen had just become irresistible. She rolled her eyes at her own mind's denial. He'd always been, she knew that even when she tried to deny it, but before he seemed to have only one thought on his mind.
Getting in her pants, and he didn't seem the relationship type. She stayed away from those type of men, having been burned twice before.
Would a child, whether his or a relative's, prove to Bella that there was more to him?
She'd have to wait and see.
"Come on, kiddo, Let's sit down so you can eat before we go see Mom," Edward said from across the patio, holding the door open for the little boy as he came back out from beneath the man's arm.
Skip, skip, hop. Skip, skip, hop, the child bounced across the patio with an energy that was the envy of most adults. Bella was unable to tear her eyes away as he came to the table beside hers and struggled to climb into the chair being held by Edward. "Juice, pwease."
Wow, such manners for a little boy, Bella mused with a smile, forcing her eyes back down to her notebook.
Out of the corner of her eye, however, she covertly continued watching them as Edward poured the juice into a sippy cup for the little boy and broke apart the muffin on a plate for him. Bella shifted uncomfortable in her seat, feeling an all too literal ache in her abdomen. She tried to ignore, as much as possible, the ticking of her biological clock at times like that—any man being so gentle and attentive with children. However, with one as handsome and rugged as Edward, seeing the softer side of him tugged at her more than it should.
"So, how is your morning going?" Edward's voice cut through her thoughts and she looked toward him, his aggravatingly sexy smirk back in place.
"Good," Bella replied simply. "No polluting the environment today, I see. The birds and I really appreciate it."
Edward's rich laugh sounded and ran his hand over the little boy's blond hair. "Yeah, his mother wouldn't have appreciated that too much."
Bella tried to nod and keep her smile in place, but more than she wanted to admit, she felt her stomach plummet. "I can see how that could make for an unhappy homestead."
Edward's head tilted slightly as he looked at her, but then his grin returned. "He isn't mine. Caleb is my best friend's little boy. Rose had to work last night, so my little buddy spent the night getting spoiled by Uncle Edward, right, munchkin?"
Caleb nodded enthusiastically as Edward kissed the top of his head, munching on a mouthful of muffin.
So, Edward has a female best friend? Huh, interesting, Bella thought. Yet another layer peeled away from the mysterious man she couldn't quite figure out. "So, his dad wasn't available?"
Edward's reaction surprised her—his jaw clenched, his head moving back and forth to crack his neck. He looked angry, and maybe even just a little jealous. Was he one of those guys who had a thing for his best friend, and got broody when other men were mentioned when it involved her? Did he wish he was the little boy's father? Neither his facial expression nor his words gave her a definitive answer. "No, he's not in the picture much."
"Oh, sorry," Bella apologized, lowering her eyes to her notebook again.
"Cwums, Unca Eddie," Caleb said suddenly, tilting his face up. Bella looked over again to see Edward's smile return as he took a napkin and wiped the muffin crumbs from the child's mouth. "Tank you."
"You're welcome, little man," Edward replied and his eyes rose to meet Bella's again. "So anything interesting happening on the pages today?"
Bella chuckled, relieved to feel the air of tension lifted between them. "No, not yet. Hit a snag in the plot that I need to work the kinks out of."
Edward's eyes had a glint to them and Bella quickly averted her gaze. She never spoke of her works in progress with anyone except her agent, yet she had just volunteered information to someone she barely knew. It was the first time she had divulged so much about the subject. What was he doing to her brain? "Well, if you ever want someone to talk it out with, I did take creative writing in college. My professor actually tried convincing me to give up my major and for with writing instead."
Bella felt her brow rise and her jaw drop. "You write?"
"Why is that such a surprise? It's the bike, isn't it? Owning a Harley automatically deducts at least twenty IQ points, huh?" Edward replied with an amused expression.
"Well, you actually wear a helmet, so maybe only ten," Bella teased back and then blushed, not knowing where that had come from. His return laugh set her at ease slightly and she rubbed her fingers along the back of her neck to work out the knot there. "Thank you, but I'll figure it out. I always do."
"The offer is always open," Edward replied and turned his attention back to Caleb. "You just about ready to go, bud?"
Caleb nodded, stuffing one last piece of muffin in his mouth. "I weady. All fuw."
"Okay, grab your cup and let's get you to Mom," Edward said, gathering the trash and plate, and then lifting the little boy onto his hip. "Can you say bye to Bella?"
Caleb turned his big blue eyes to Bella and gave her a shy wave. "Bye-bye, Bewwa."
"Bye, cutie," Bella answered with a smile and the little boy giggled, resting his head on Edward's shoulder with his juice cup at his lips.
"See ya later," Edward spoke softly to her with a smile and a wink, and then began walking away.
Bella nodded and couldn't take her eyes off him as he handed the plate to the barista and disposed of the trash, and then began walking down the ramp. He bounced Caleb on his hip with soft grunts and evoking another round of giggles from the little boy. He was so damn adorable with that kid, it made her ache even more. "You're only twenty-six, Bella. You still have plenty of time."
Her soft murmurings to herself proved fruitless as she continued to observe him while he meticulously buckled Caleb into his booster seat, tugging gently on the seatbelt to make sure it was secure. He looked up to her again as he closed the door, waving once more before settling into the driver's seat and smiled when Bella returned the gesture. She felt so alone after watching him drive away, but instead of welcoming it as she normally would, she sighed sadly. Usually, he would sit and talk for at least an hour, and now, a few minutes hardly seemed like enough.
Bella's mind was so unfocused that after about twenty minutes, she packed up her things and decided to head home. Edward had completely set her off kilter that morning, seeing more of him than just another cocky man with a motorcycle. Everything was different about him in the presence of one little boy—his smile was more genuine, his eyes and voice softer, and completely wrapped around Caleb's tiny finger.
He'd make a great dad, Bella mused, her thoughts getting away from her for a moment before shaking them free from her mind.
"Oh, Bella, shut up!" she admonished herself as she pulled into the parking lot of her apartment complex.
Unfortunately for Bella, her mind didn't listen as she sat down at her computer that evening, tapping her fingers lightly on the keyboard, but not typing a single word. She wondered if she would ever figure him out completely, and why it even mattered to her. After several non-productive hours, she closed her laptop and decided to make herself an early dinner, watch some television and then head to bed—the first time she'd been in bed before nine since she was about eleven, without being sick.
Bella's sleep was fitful that night, unable to dispel Edward or that beautiful little boy from her dreams. Behind her closed lids, she saw them running around together in a grassy park, splashing in the ocean as Edward taught the boy to swim, and finally, the most heartwarming of all images her mind could conjure—Caleb atop Edward's chest as they lay on the couch, both sound asleep.
When she returned to her spot on the patio the next morning, she nearly growled in her sleep-addled grumpiness when she saw that her table was taken, and not even by Edward. She begrudgingly took a seat at the next one over, pulling her Kindle out of her bag to read while she waited for the occupants to leave. She was concentrating so hard on forcing her tired eyes over the printed words on her screen that the sound of small, yet heavy footsteps on the wood surface of the patio startled her a little. Her head shot up to find little Caleb moving in his half-skip, half-hop gait and then her eyes met Edward's, though they were covered in sunglasses.
"Did they forget to put the 'Reserved for Bella' sign out this morning?" Edward asked, nodding subtly at her usual table.
"I guess so," Bella replied softly with a chuckle and then looked to Caleb. "Another sleepover at Uncle Edward's again last night, I see."
"Uh-huh!" Caleb announced cheerfully, climbing onto Edward's lap and sitting on his leg once Bella had gestured for them to join her. "We had pisa!"
"Big, cheesy pizza," Edward added with a laugh and then met Bella's curious eyes, and whispered, "M-o-m had a d-a-t-e."
Bella's lips formed a silent "o" and she nodded, and then turned her attention back to Caleb. "So, how old are you, sweetie?"
"I dis many," Caleb chirped, holding up two fingers.
"No, remember, buddy. You just had a birthday?" Edward said, gently straightening another one of the child's tiny digits.
"Oh yeah, dis many!" Caleb exclaimed excitedly, holding his hand up above his head.
"Wow. Three years old. That is so cool," Bella replied and then found herself at a loss for words again when she glanced back at Edward. He looked amazingly sexy that morning in a dark blue t-shirt, somehow making the accents of his messy hair stand out even more. She could only imagine how green his eyes would have appeared since his sunglasses remained covering them.
Edward seemed just as speechless as he continued to gaze at Bella, but there was something different about him that morning that she couldn't quite put her finger on. His smile was off and his fingers tapped impatiently around his cup of coffee until he brought it to his lips to take a sip.
"Unca Eddie, I firsty," Caleb broke the silence, tugging gently on the front of Edward's shirt.
Edward smiled and reached down beside the chair, digging into the small backpack resting there and pulling out the juice cup in there for Caleb. The little boy took it with a soft 'tank you' and rested back against Edward's chest like his own personal recliner as he began taking deep pulls off the cup.
Bella couldn't stand the quiet anymore, so she closed the cover on her Kindle and set it in her bag, looking back to Edward. "So, I'm surprised to see you here on a Tuesday. Thought maybe you worked or something."
Way to be subtle, she groaned to herself. Just lay it out for him that you've noticed his absence on the days he doesn't show and actually put thought into where he might be at those times. Seriously, join a convent now and save yourself a whole lot of time. You'll be single for life anyway.
"Yes, Bella, I actually work," he replied with a bemused laugh. "But tax season is over, so it's a little slower and I have a bit more free time."
"So, you're an accountant, then?" Bella asked, unable to mask the surprise in her tone.
"You make it sound like a disease or something," Edward joked and she watched his cheekbones rise with his smile. "But yeah. And I'm freelance, so I make my own schedule around my clients."
"So, good with numbers and words," Bella said before she could stop herself and then pinched her eyes closed. "Sorry, sometimes I should just not speak words."
"Really, Bella, it's fine," Edward assured her, adjusting Caleb on his lap. "Gives me time to write when I'm not working with a strict eight to five schedule."
"You still write, then?" Bella inquired curiously.
"From time to time. I'm not published or anything," Edward replied and his eyebrow appeared above his sunglasses. "Nice work on 'Beckon of a Dove's Call', by the way."
Bella's eyes widened and her mouth went suddenly dry at the mention of the title of her last book, blushing furiously and speaking softly. "You read my book?"
"Why are we whispering?" he asked teasingly and then smiled. "Is it supposed to be a secret or something? If so, you might want to speak with the baristas in there. It was all they could talk about last week."
"No, I mean, it's just not the kind of book I would expect a Harley-riding man to read. It's a romance," she replied, still keeping her voice low.
"A good book is a good book, regardless of the genre," Edward answered with a quirky smile.
"Mommy!" Caleb squealed suddenly, causing Edward and Bella to look up to see a tall, statuesque woman walking up the ramp. His smile broadened as she lifted her sunglasses to set atop her wavy, blonde hair and crouching to the ground as Caleb squirmed off Edward's lap and ran toward her.
That is Edward's best friend? Now it all makes sense, Bella internally sighed, thinking back to his reaction the day before during their conversation. At that instant, she was positive she had pegged him right—he had a thing for his best friend, and hell, who could blame him. I know I would, too, and I'm not even a lesbian.
"Oh, baby, I've missed you," she cooed as she caught Caleb in her arms and hugged him securely to her. "Did you have fun with Uncle Edward last night?"
"Uh-huh! He give me choc-late miwk," Caleb said cheerfully, his entire face brightening as he gazed at his mother.
"Shh, buddy. That was supposed to be our little secret," Edward whispered conspiratorially, but his smile was more genuine as he stood. "It was only a little cup, I swear."
"Mm-hmm, sure it was," the woman replied, attempting to sound threatening, but failing miserably as she smiled and rolled her eyes when he kissed her cheek. Yup, these two are close. "You are such a sucker, Edward. And please tell me you are not using my son to lure some poor unsuspecting woman your way."
Bella's eyes widened when the two looked toward her, shifting slightly in her seat. "No, not at all. We were just talking."
Edward also took on an uncomfortable air, clearing his throat and shoving his hands into his pockets—extremely uncharacteristic of what she had seen from him in the past. He nodded his head toward me and led Caleb's mother over to the table. "Nothing like that. Rose, this is Bella Swan. I make a habit of annoying her with my Harley. Bella, this is my annoying and nosy best friend and Caleb's mother, Rosalie Hale."
"Bella Swan? Like the Bella Swan?" Rose asked with wide eyes that shifted toward Bella. "Holy … shoot."
Bella laughed at the woman's censoring of her words and held her hand out to her. "It's nice to meet you, Rose."
Rose adjusted Caleb on her hip to shake Bella's hand. "Same here. I keep telling him he should get rid of that death machine on wheels, but he never listens to me. But you actually got this bonehead here to read a romance and had him weeping like a baby. That's a feat."
"Thank you, Rose. Strip me of the remainder of my masculinity in front of a beautiful woman, and everyone else within hearing range," Edward said in a low voice, and Bella tried her hardest not to blush.
"Well, that statement right there only acknowledges the truth behind it. And I want my book back, by the way," Rose answered with a smirk and looked to Bella again, drawing tracks down her face with her fingers. "Weeping."
"It's in the car," Edward replied, nodding toward the parking lot and nudging her with his elbow, his jaw tense and only causing her to laugh more.
Rose noticed Bella draw in a deep breath and shook her head. "Don't worry, I'm not that type of squealy reader who will embarrass you in the middle of a coffee shop, begging for you to sign my book. I just enjoy getting under his skin. Besides, who knows what state he's left my copy in. He's a spine creaser."
Bella laughed as Rose crinkled the bridge of her nose as if it was the most horrendous offense he could commit. "That's truly a horrible trait indeed. If you want one, I can send a copy along with Edward the next time I see him."
"Really? You would do that? Thank you so much!" Rose beamed happily and then looked to Edward. "It better be pristine when I get it."
"All right, I got it. Come on, let's go," Edward replied, placing his hand at the small of her back and hoisting the backpack over his shoulder. "Excuse me, Bella."
"It was nice to meet you, Bella!" Rosalie called back to her as they walked away and down the ramp.
"You, too. Bye Caleb!" Bella answered and Caleb waved enthusiastically, and then she noticed that her table was free. She gathered her things and moved them over, returning to grab both her coffee and Edward's still left behind. He was planning on returning, she thought with a smile and then shook it off. As she sat back down, enjoying the shade of the umbrella at last, her gaze was drawn out to the parking lot where Rose was settling her son into the back seat with Edward coming to stand behind her.
Bella tried not to eavesdrop, but when their faces took on a more serious expression after Rose closed the door, she couldn't help it, even though their voices were low.
"Thank you for taking him last night," Rose said appreciatively and Edward answered with a nod. "And I'm sorry about what happened. I would have taken Caleb with me, but Emmett was worried he would come back or follow us."
"Rose, it's fine. But if this happens again, you're going to have to call the police," Edward spoke deeply, shifting his had abruptly as she reached up and tried to tough his cheek. "Because if he ever so much as comes near you or Caleb again, one of us won't be walking away."
"Edward, it's his father," Rose sighed, her hand falling.
"At his convenience or whenever you decide to try moving on," Edward growled, his fists clenching as they had the day before at the brief mention of Caleb's father. "One of those sample cups is more of a father than that."
"Please, just don't do this. I would never forgive myself if something worse happened to you," Rose replied sadly and he stepped forward, wrapping his arms around her trembling shoulders. She hugged him tightly around the waist and then nodded at something Edward whispered to her, too low for Bella to hear. They pulled away from each other and he reached in the window of his car beside them, and then handed her the promised book. Rose's eyes met Bella's as she took it from him and her gaze averted to the table, embarrassed at being caught staring.
"Okay, I love you, buddy," Edward's voice rang out again and Bella glanced at them from beneath her lashes, watching as he kissed his fingertips and pressed them to the glass between them.
"Wubbu, too!" Caleb's muffled response sounded from inside the car and he pressed his palm to his mouth, slapping it against Edward's on the other side of the window.
"Love you," Rose murmured, kissing Edward's left cheek and he returned the sentiment in reply, waiting until Rose was safely in her car and backing away before he began toward the ramp again.
Edward forced a smile onto his face as he came back to Bella and sat down in the chair, pursing his lips as he sipped the lukewarm liquid. "Sorry about that. But I think you just made her year. She deserves something to smile about."
"Don't worry about it. Are you okay?" Bella asked, concerned about the way he had winced away from his friend's touch.
Edward's jaw tensed again, and for a moment, Bella thought she had seriously overstepped her boundaries, more so than with the offense of eavesdropping. She was surprised when he wordlessly lifted his sunglasses and she released a gasp as she viewed the purple bruise at the corner of his eye "I'm fine. Just had a little altercation with a certain asshole who thinks he's too good to pay child support, but still insists on interfering in their lives. But I won't continue to bore you with the details. I've already taken up enough of your time."
"You're not leaving, are you?" Bella asked, unable to restrain the sadness in her tone.
Edward gave her a small smile and drained the rest of his cup. "Unfortunately, I have to. I was just waiting for Rose to come and pick up Caleb. I have an appointment in about twenty minutes. But I'll be back tomorrow, if you're around. It's Wednesday, after all."
Bella laughed at the teasing tone returning to her voice, even though she knew it was at her expense. "Okay, I'll see you then."
Edward nodded to her and turned to leave, and she immediately reached into her bag to retrieve her notebook. Unlike the day before, her thoughts were whirling with inspiration, and before he had even begun to pull away, she was already scribbling furiously on the paper.
Three hours, eight pages front and back, and a half a pen later, Bella was already finished with her second iced coffee and her hand was cramping. She knew she should call it a day, but her mind wouldn't stop. She packed away her notebook and grabbed her voice recorder, beginning to ramble her thoughts as she made her way to her car. Despite the obvious tense situation that morning in the parking lot, Edward had been just the inspiration she was needing for the glitch she found in one of her characters.
Gerald's strength was not enough to make Aisling's choice to be with him believable. Brute muscle was not what he needed to possess to make her see that he was the one for her. He required more tenacity, fierce loyalty and devotion to the people be loved. The ability to put others above himself and have a gentle heart, with the physical strength being merely a balance point as well, while not making him flawless. Perfection never made for perfect characters.
Edward had all of those things in spades; she could see that in his interactions with her, Caleb and Rose. She was watching his layers slowly peel away, and behind that cocky smile and the sometimes overconfident demeanor—not to mention the annoying and obnoxious motorcycle—there was a man. A real man with every characteristic a woman could want. An amazing rapport with that little boy, the ability to be a true friend, and willingness to admit his weaknesses. Yet, at the same time, not perfect. For one, he had an obvious temper that he visibly had difficulty restraining at times, especially when it concerned the people he loved, given the "altercation" and the evidence of it in his harsh words and black eye.
All of those things were being blended into her character of Gerald, and suddenly, Aisling's love for him made sense at last. Bella fell onto her bed that night, still mumbling into her voice recorder as sleep began pulling her under.
Bella returned to the coffee shop the next morning more rested than she'd felt in months, and when the familiar roar of a Harley sounded, a smile replaced the scowl that had once been present in response. She stood and walked to the rail of the patio, rolling her eyes when he revved it loudly for effect.
"You know, you still can't park there," she teased once his helmet was off, folding her arms on the wood plank and leaning forward.
Edward looked up to her and smiled broadly with his laugh, obviously seeing the jest in her eyes. "Well, I am a rebel, you know."
Bella laughed and stepped back to the table, sitting down and waiting for him. She was surprised when, instead of going inside to get a coffee, he came directly to her. "Morning."
"Good morning," Edward replied softly, lowering into the chair beside her and frowning as he gazed at her right hand. "Did you hurt yourself?"
Bella's forehead creased but then suddenly remembered the wrist brace she was wearing that morning. "Oh, no. Just a little carpal tunnel acting up. Occupational hazard."
"So, no writing today?" he asked, also noticing the absence of her messenger bag.
"Nope, just coffee today. Giving myself the day off, but I couldn't let you think I was skipping out on you on your day off," she replied, lifting her cup to her lips and taking a sip.
"You're free today, then?" Edward inquired curiously with a raised brow.
Bella's stomach flipped with his question and the way he was looking at her with what seemed like hopeful eyes. "Yeah, I guess I am. Why?"
Edward shrugged and his eyes lowered to his hands, which folded in his lap. "I was gonna ask if you maybe wanted to take a ride with me."
Bella sucked in a breath—he wasn't joking that time. She let it out slowly and began shaking her head. "No, I don't think so."
"That's okay. I understand. You barely know me and I could be a psycho or something for all you know," Edward replied, trying to force another smile.
"It's not that. I definitely don't think you're a psycho, or else I doubt Rose would trust you with her little boy," Bella said softly, watching his eyes return to her once he removed his sunglasses. The bruise from the day before had darkened a little at the center while the edges had taken on a yellowish tint. "I've just never been on a motorcycle in my entire life. They're a bit scary."
"Not as much as you might think. And what's life without a little danger, anyway?" he asked with a smirk. "You'll be completely safe with me, Bella. I've never even spilled out once in the ten years I've been riding. I promise, I'll bring you back in one piece. Please?"
Bella breathed in deeply with his gentle tone, looking down to her apparel. "I'm not exactly dressed for it."
Edward's eyes ran over her, and she fought not to squirm under his gaze. She was wearing a white tank top and skinny jeans, with a pair of thin, canvas tennis shoes. He took off his leather jacket and Bella bit back a sigh as his arms came into view—lean, muscular and with a hint of a farmer's tan beneath the sleeve of his t-shirt. He held it out to her with a smile, the subtle pleading still in his eyes.
Bella swallowed hard and relented, taking the jacket from his outstretched hand and looking down at it. The surface was smooth and well-worn, but still held that distinct smell of the leather, blended with the all-male, mucky scent of Edward. "Helmet?"
Edward stood from his seat and pointed out to his bike, and she turned her head to see a spare resting on the back seat. "Do you think I would have asked if I hadn't come prepared?"
"What about my purse?" Bella continued, grasping at straws while her hands trembled.
"I can lock it up in the back compartment," Edward answered and rested his hand on the back of her chair. "Bella, if you don't want to go, you can just say so. You don't have to feel the need to make excuses. I'll be just as content to sit here with you if you're scared."
Bella shook her head and stood, sliding his jacket one and sweeping her hair out from underneath. It was still warm from his body, and as she tugged it around her, a gust of that glorious mixture of scents flooded her face. "No, I'm good. Let's go."
Edward's smile returned and they walked side by side across the patio, where she disposed of the remainder of her coffee, and down the ramp toward the beast of a motorcycle. It seemed even more monstrous as she stood beside it while he took her purse to lock it up after she'd set the alarm on her car. Her attention was drawn back to him as he began to lower the helmet over her head, a look of concentration on his face while he hooked the strap under her chin.
Bella stood stock still as she watched his long leg swing over the bike and he settled onto the seat, putting on his own helmet. She just realized that she would have to put her arms around him and that thought caused a shiver to run through her body. It was both a thrilling and terrifying prospect, and she was frozen by it.
"You coming?" Edward asked, looking back at her as he slid his sunglasses back on.
Bella quickly snapped out of her trance and nodded, swinging her leg over the seat as well and sitting down behind him. The loud roar of the motorcycle beneath them caused her to jump and she slid her arms around his waist, holding on tightly and trying not to groan as she felt the tight muscles of his abdomen against them. With one more rev of the engine, they began to move and she slid forward as much as she could until her body was pressed firmly against his back.
The light turned green and they turned out onto the road, speeding along the asphalt. Bella was surprised at how freeing the sensation was, feeling the wind gusting around her and almost as if she were flying. No confines of a car around her, nothing but wide open air. He was right—the hint of danger that accompanied the freedom was invigorating, more than anything she'd ever felt. And while they couldn't talk as they would be able to in a car, there was the closeness of their bodies that only something like a motorcycle could afford.
It was nothing less than amazing.
Edward finally slowed after about twenty minutes and Bella felt a hint of disappointment fill her. They were coming to a stop, which meant she would no longer have the excuse to hold him. Once he parked and removed his helmet, she loosened her arms from around him and got off, taking in her surroundings as she lifted hers off as well.
They were at a park of some sort, with a large rock formation towering in front of them, a mix of reds and browns and absolutely breathtaking.
"This is incredible. Where are we?" Bella asked in wonder.
"How long have you lived here that you have never been to Papago Park?" Edward responded with a chuckle, pointing over to a larger parking lot. "Phoenix Zoo is right over there."
Bella blushed and shrugged. "All my life. But I usually come to the zoo to see the animals or the lights at Christmas. I've never come out here."
Edward laughed and moved to the back of the bike to retrieve a saddlebag from the compartment, wordlessly gesturing to her purse. Bella shook her head and he locked it up again, pulling the strap of his bag over his shoulder and resting his hand on her back. "Come on, I want to show you something."
They walked together toward the rock formation and Bella paused at the foot of the trail leading up. "We're climbing that?"
"Yeah, don't worry. I won't let you fall. I come up here with Caleb all the time," Edward replied gently, his hand coming to her elbow and guiding her up the first few steps of the path.
"I'm sure Caleb has more grace in one of his baby fingers than I do in my entire anatomy," Bella groaned after her foot slipped on the dirt, causing Edward's grip on her to tighten.
"You'll be fine. Remember, I promised to keep you safe and return you in one piece," Edward replied with a smile, moving a few paces ahead of her and turning to hold out his hand to her.
Bella breathed in slowly, setting her fingers in his palm as his closed around them to pull her p the incline. His hand didn't release hers as she came to stand beside him, holding on securely as they continued up the path. A few impatient tourists passed around them, but she barely took any notice of them or their grumbling, her eyes transfixed where he held her, until she tripped on a rock. "See, I told you this was a really bad idea."
Edward only shook his head with a chuckle, but she could almost imagine him rolling his eyes at her from behind his sunglasses. His hand tightened around hers more as the trail curled around, leading into an alcove, where voices loudly echoed off the walls of rock, and moving straight through where it opened up again. She looked down to where his bike was parked below and then straight out, gasping at the scenery in front of her, hardly able to believe that she was looking over the busy city of Tempe. "Wow, this is amazing."
"Yeah, I can't believe you've never been up here," Edward replied, finally releasing her hand. "It's no Grand Canyon, but definitely less of a drive."
Bella shivered at the loss of contact with him, her skin feeling cold without his against it and tucked her fingers inside the sleeve of his jacket before she embarrassed herself more by reaching for him again. She returned her eyes to the scenery around her, attempting to hide her humiliating disappointment.
"This isn't what I wanted to show you, though," Edward spoke suddenly, crouching down next to her and lifting the flap of his saddlebag.
Bella watched as he pulled out leather-bound journal and she knelt beside him, while he sat firmly on the ground. He opened the book, revealing a beautifully colored illustration and she gasped. "Oh my God, Edward. Did you do this?"
Edward smiled shyly and nodded, handing the journal over to her. "Yeah. This is what I was talking about when I said I write. It's a book I'm working on as a Christmas present for Caleb."
Bella turned her head quickly to look at him in surprise and he shrugged nervously. Her eyes returned to her lap and she began turning the pages, each one just as colorful as the last, with a story written about the adventure of little Caleb and his Uncle Edward on a safari through Africa. Each figure, animal and landscape was intricately detailed and the printed script was crisp and clear. It could be printed as was, keeping the unique characteristic and personalization the handwriting gave it without marring it with generic type. "So, why aren't you published? This is extraordinary."
"I've never submitted anything. It's just a hobby," Edward answered with a sigh. "Besides, a man writing children's books?"
"Like that's never happened before?" Bella retorted sarcastically, gazing over to him. "Dr. Suess, Lewis Carroll, Hans Christian Andersen, L. Frank Baum…"
"All right, point noted and taken," Edward stopped her with a laugh, with the hint of a blush coloring his cheeks. "I don't know. Writing is more of a relaxation tool for me, and it's way too personal for me to consider publishing anything."
"Yeah, I guess I can understand that. We all tend to put a little more of ourselves into the stories we tell than we intend to at times," Bella replied with a nod, continuing to flip through the pages until she reached the end. "So, how does it end?"
"Caleb falls asleep as his uncle finishes the story," Edward said with a smile. "And he begins dreaming of their next adventure together."
"Sounds amazing, as does the uncle," Bella hinted, nudging his arm lightly with her elbow and handing him back the closed journal.
"Thanks," Edward replied softly, sliding it back into his bag. His eyes returned to her right hand and the same hint of a frown touched his lips. "I hope the carpal tunnel means you've worked through your glitch?"
"What else?" Bella laughed as she stretched out her fingers and wiggled them a little, and then her eyes widened at his smile and soft chuckle. "Oh, God. Forget I said that."
"My mind didn't go to the gutter until you started blushing," Edward replied and Bella hid her face in her hands. "So what was giving you trouble, if you don't mind me asking."
Bella pressed her lips together as she glanced over to him again, her mind stirring with the character of Gerald and all the inspiration for him that the man beside her had brought about. There was no way to explain that to him without making her want to leap from the edge of the surface they sat upon in embarrassment, but she also didn't feel the reservation she normally would at the idea of sharing some aspects of her story. After all, he had helped her, however unknowingly. "It was a love triangle problem. There was no real reason I could see for my female character to choose the one she was meant to be with over the other, who was just as good for her, but in different ways and wasn't 'the one', you know?"
"No offense, but love triangles are the worst thing to ever happen to literature, or life, for that matter," Edward replied seriously, folding his hands and resting his elbows on his bent knees.
"You don't believe in the possibility of being in love with more than one person?" Bella asked curiously, shielding her eyes with her hand against the sun.
"Oh, I'm sure it's possible. Just not the kind that means you are absolutely meant to be with someone," Edward said, shaking his head. "I believe that if there is a choice to be made, there is no right one. And no one walks away from the situation unscathed. Add that to holding the possibility of doubt later on, as to whether you chose the right one for you, beyond that moment of decision, and there really is no winner in that. That is not something I would want for myself or the woman, should she choose me. It should be about someone you desire above all others, not just your best option. I'd be willing to bet that at least half of the divorces in this country are a result of something like that."
Bella was rendered speechless once again by him, but in utter amazement. His beliefs made perfect sense to her and she found that she couldn't have agreed more. While it did make for a suspenseful novel from time to time, there really was no winner in the end. The depth of thought in the man beside her only served to make him all the more appealing to her, not at all what she expected the first time she saw him ride up on his Harley. He was so intelligent and insightful, and each thing she learned about him fascinated her even more.
"I really am sorry if I've offended you. I'm way too opinionated for my own good," he said with a sigh, cursing to himself under his breath as he looked away.
"No, you're right," Bella replied and his head turned back to her, his eyebrow raised. "I've never actually considered it that way before, but you are absolutely right. I just have to wonder if you're speaking from personal experience or simply a deep seated belief."
"Option B," Edward answered with a smirk. "I'm not only opinionated, but I'm also very selfish. If a woman isn't absolutely certain that it's me she wants to be with, I make the decision very simple for her. Relationships shouldn't be a competition over who can best who. And that's probably why I'm still single."
"There's nothing wrong with waiting for the right one to come along, rather than settling for someone who deems you good enough. I would think it makes everything more worth it in the end," Bella said, shrugging her shoulders.
"You're a very unique and interesting woman, Bella Swan," Edward replied softly, lifting his hand to tuck a blowing strand of hair behind her ear as his eyes flickered over her face.
"I could say the same thing about you, Edward Cullen. But a man instead of a woman," Bella said, smiling back at him while her skin tingled where his fingers brushed the skin of her neck as his hand fell away.
"We should probably go," Edward spoke quietly as their surroundings began to fill with people, causing the once semi-quiet environment to be littered with voices.
"Okay," she replied with disappointment in her tone, taking his hand once he stood and rose up beside him.
What the hell did I do today? Bella asked herself in her mind as she laid in bed that night, repeatedly thrusting her head back into the pillow.
She should have kept to her original plan; meet him there that morning, give him the book for Rosalie, maybe exchange a few words, and then go home. It was a good plan—a simple plan, but she'd allowed herself to become swept up in his charms with the first roar of his motorcycle. And then, he had to fucking smile.
"Damn it! Why does there have to be an actual human beneath the jackass? I could stay annoyed with just a jackass," Bella groaned, driving her hands into her hair. "But a children's book? Are you seriously kidding me, God? What are you doing to me with this guy?"
And why did she get on the back of that motorcycle? She'd never been on one in her entire life, and had never wanted to, yet he had convinced her so easily. Then, to top it all off, she enjoyed it; the feeling of floating on air as if she were flying, the rumbling beneath her, and her chest pressed firmly against his back as her arms linked around him. She was so close that she could still smell him on her clothes when she got home.
"And damn he smells so good," Bella whimpered, turning over and burying her face in her pillow. She had been a loner by choice since high school and it had served her well in all that time, with no one and nothing to distract her from her craft. She knew that someday, that would change, that she'd want someone to share her life with and children eventually—but not so soon.
And with a guy on a motorcycle? No way. Yet, she couldn't stop thinking about him, nor could she kick the disappointment she felt when they'd left the park and again when he dropped her off at her car. So much so that she almost forgot to give him the book for Rosalie.
Edward was much more than she would have ever thought with her initial impression of him, and it consumed her mind. He was deep, caring, and so damn intelligent, it unnerved her. She felt her heart pounding as she thought about the pages she flipped through that morning. So much passion went into each illustration and printed word. And the ferocity with which he spoke as he gave his viewpoints on love triangles, causing her to rethink her entire storyline.
No one, not even her agent, had ever made her question herself so deeply and she growled in frustration as she looked over to the clock on her bedside table. It was two in the morning and she was still nowhere near sleep. She threw the covers off and got up to grab an energy drink on her was to her desk, settling at her computer.
Bella stared at the document she'd been working on earlier, her hand clenching her hair at the top of her head and she clicked the "x" in the corner. Taking a deep breath, she selected the same file in the folder and struck the delete key, her eyes tearing as she moved the cursor to confirm and closing them as she clicked.
All that work she'd done—gone. However, it wasn't the story she wanted to tell anymore. She needed a completely fresh start and began typing up the new outline of the story she had swimming in her head to send to her agent in the morning—well, later that morning, anyway—with Edward's words running clearly through her mind.
For the next few days, Bella barely slept, ate, or even left her computer. At one point, she even woke up with her forehead resting on her desk and her fingers still resting on the keyboard. Her head throbbed from watching word after word, line after line, fill her screen, but she couldn't stop. She was afraid that if she did, her flow would cease.
Each morning, she contemplated going to the coffee shop, but rain or shine, she always wound up remaining in her apartment. Yet, her thoughts were never far from Edward. She wanted to see him again so badly, it hurt. What if she finally went back, and he wasn't there anymore? She missed his conversation and company, and even little Caleb. She couldn't imagine never seeing them again.
The following six weeks had been the longest she'd spent away from that spot on the patio, but in that time, she managed to complete the entire first draft of her novel, more quickly that she'd ever finished anything. One hundred and twenty three thousand words later, and she had finally typed the final line. She saved it to her flash drive, grabbed her purse and headed out to the nearest copy shop to have it printed. And when she laid down that evening, she felt accomplished and fell into the first full night's sleep she'd had in a month and a half.
Bella stomach was knotted in her throat as she sat at her table that Monday morning, and the longer she was there, the more she felt disheartened. He wasn't coming back. She'd gotten her hopes up, despite her mantra all morning that if he showed, great—if not, that was okay, too.
"Bewwa!" Caleb's excited voice called from the parking lot and Bella's head shot up to see him racing toward the sidewalk.
"Caleb, stop!" Edward yelled in a panic, running after the little boy and scooping him up into his arms just before Caleb darted across the drive-thru pullout. His eyes were closed as he held Caleb against him and visibly released a heavy breath, stroking his hair and waiting for the car that had just slammed on its brakes to pass. The driver yelled at him to "watch his kid" and sped away, with Edward's glare following him. "Never run away from me like that again, Caleb. Do you understand?"
"I sowwy," Caleb replied sadly, bowing his head with tears rimming his eyes.
Edward kissed his hair gently and then looked up to the patio, meeting Bella's eyes and he gave her a little wave. "Hey."
"Hey," Bella replied, watching him as he shifted Caleb onto his hip and held onto him tightly. She felt guilty for being the cause of the little boy running from Edward and was still mulling it through her mind when they came back out, with Caleb still in his arms. "I am so sorry about that, Edward."
"It's my fault. I shouldn't have taken my eyes off him for even a second. He's just never taken off on me like that," Edward said, shaking his head and mumbling under his breath before looking back to her again. "So, long time no see. Thought maybe I'd scared you away. I'm sorry I was so persistent about the motorcycle."
"What?" Bella gaped with an astonished laugh and shook her head. "No, I've just been busy. I actually had a lot of fun that day. Would you like to join me?"
Edward offered her as small smile and a nod, settling on the chair beside her with Caleb on his lap. The little boy nuzzled into his chest and wiggled his fingers in a wave to Bella, which she returned in the same fashion, causing the little boy to giggle through his tears.
"I'm surprised he even remembers me," Bella said softly, folding her hands under her chin with her elbows resting on the table.
"He asks about you every time he comes here with me," he replied with a smile and Caleb hid his face in Edward's shirt. "He missed you. A lot."
Bella watched as Edward's eyes rose to hers again, a shyness in their depths that almost had her believing that he wasn't talking about the little boy at all. Which was quite obviously ridiculous, and a whole lot of wishful thinking on her part. They still barely knew each other and children tend to form bonds more quickly that adults. Their innocence and still undeveloped cynicism of the world around them allowed them to trust in a way that grown men and women were all too often incapable of. She smiled at Caleb, finally breaking eye contact with Edward and reaching out to rest her hand on the little boy's knee. "I've missed you, too, Caleb. I just had a lot of work to do. I'm sorry."
"S'okay," Caleb replied with a sweet smile and took his cup from Edward, relaxing against him as he brought it to his mouth.
"I'm his personal recliner, if you hadn't noticed," Edward joked and then drew in a deep breath as she laughed, drawing her attention back to him. "So, who got the girl?"
"Neither," Bella answered with a shrug, chuckling as his forehead creased in confusion. "I trashed the manuscript. I thought a lot about what you said at the park and deleted it that night."
Edward's eyes widened and he brought his free hand to cover his mouth. "Oh, God. Bella, I'm sorry. I never meant—"
"I know you didn't. But it's a good thing," Bella replied and Edward sighed, rolling his eyes and obviously not believing her. "No, really, it is. Talking with you made me realize some things that I never thought about before, and why I was struggling. I wasn't doing justice to my story or my characters by writing something that, deep down, I didn't believe in. So, I'm saying thank you."
Edward's gaze followed her as she bent down to her bag, pulling out the manila envelope she'd slid in there that morning. She set it on the table and slid it toward him, taking a nervous breath as his eyebrows rose. "What's this?"
"It's my book. And I know it's a romance and Rosalie might never let you live this one down, either. But I would love it if you would be the first one to read it. I never would have been able to do it without you," Bella said, swallowing hard but her eyes never left him.
"You finished it already? From scratch?" Edward asked in astonishment and Bella nodded, watching as his fingers rested on the envelope with his name scrawled on it. "Bella, I think you're giving me too much credit. You're very talented, I just have a big mouth."
"Well, I won't argue that," Bella teased him, causing him to laugh. "But you inspired me to write something that I can actually be proud of, not just something I scribble out to fulfill a part of my contract. I understand if you don't want to read it, though."
"I didn't say that," Edward replied quickly, pressing his hand down more firmly on the envelope as she began pulling it away. "So, I was your muse, then?"
"Cockiness might get me to change my mind, too," Bella shot back as he smirked and tugged the packet closer to him. "But yeah, I guess you could say that.
Edward's lips relaxed into an easy smile, even causing a slight simple to appear on his cheek. "Bella, I would love to read it. I'm very honored."
"Wead me stowy, Unca Eddie?" Caleb asked, looking up at Edward innocently.
Edward's eyes widened and he cleared his throat, glancing over at Bella, who was pressing her lips together in an effort to keep from laughing. "Not this one, buddy. I'll read you one of yours a little later."
Bella watched as Edward kissed the top of Caleb's head again, easily placating him. Her hormones raging out of control were going to drive her insane. They sat in silence for a moment, just gazing at each other. She couldn't get over how it felt to be there with him after all the time away, and how much she wanted him to stay. She was hard pressed to remember a time that she'd actually felt the loneliness she had in the past few weeks, even though she'd always been alone. The quiet had never bothered her at all, as it had lately, hence all the time she'd spent writing. Aside from inspiration flowing through her, it filled the empty silence of her apartment and she could forget it for a time.
"So," Edward started, breaking the quiet with a clearing of his throat. "Does this mean you're going to start coming back more often again?"
Bella shrugged non-committally. "Probably. Once I send this to my agent, I'm sure I will have some editing to do, and then notes from the actual editor to go through. And I still have another book to write to fulfill my contract. And being cooped up in the apartment for weeks has made me a little stir-crazy."
"Oh," Edward replied, lowering his eyes and tracing his fingers over the envelope. He sounded disappointed, which both confused and saddened her. He'd actually appeared happy to see her that morning; what had changed?
"I mean, I don't have to," Bella said, her own gaze lowering to her lap until he gasped and she looked back up to him.
"No! That's not what I meant," Edward replied, shaking his head abruptly. "I've missed seeing you here and talking to you. And I'm going to need to give you my thoughts on your book when I finish as well, right? But I'm going out of town for a few days. So I guess it was just my backwards way of asking you for your phone number so I can stay in touch with you."
Bella's eyebrows rose in surprise at his shy tone and nervous demeanor. He seemed more like an awkward teenager asking the popular girl at school out on a date, and that wasn't at all who she thought he was. She'd always envisioned him as the guy who would have been the bad boy, with girls falling all over him and never having to ask for a single phone number. Another layer, she thought to herself. And another example of never judging a book by its cover. "Of course, you can have my phone number."
Edward smiled and shifted to slide his hand into his pocket. His eyes widened as he pulled it back out, patting his jeans and shirt, and sighing. "Damn, I forgot my phone. Rose is going to have my head."
Bella reached into her bag and pulled out a pen, writing her number on the envelope and then looking back to him. "Send me a text later when you get your phone. I don't answer private numbers, so that way, I'll know it's you."
Edward nodded, sliding the envelope into the backpack at his side and lifting it onto his shoulder as he stood with Caleb in his arms. "Will do. I'm sorry I have to leave. I'll be talking to you soon and see you in a few days?"
"I'll be here. Have a safe trip," Bella replied with a smile. "See you later, Caleb."
"Bye bye," Caleb answered, waving enthusiastically to Bella as they began to walk away down the ramp.
Bella caught Edward's eyes as they passed and he gave her a smile and a wink, and then made his way to the car. She decided to head home herself, having nothing to do and feeling that loneliness settle in again that she couldn't shake.
Once back at her apartment, she found herself pacing and biting at her thumbnail, checking the phone in her hand every few minutes for a new message. Each time the light blinked, she felt her heart pound and then fall again when it was only an email.
After three hours, she sat down on her couch, flipping through the television channels mindlessly to pass the time. Did he forget? Or change his mind? Her stomach was churning as she thought, what if he's started reading and hates it, and then her phone began to blink again.
Sorry. Couldn't find my phone and then had a raving mother to calm. Talk to you soon. Edward
Bella slapped her forehead with her palm. "You need to quit being so damn paranoid, Bella."
She continued to mentally berate herself as she saved his number to her contacts and then began typing her reply.
No problem. Hope you have a good trip. Can't wait to hear your thoughts.
Bella paused, staring at the unsent text and shaking her head before deleting the last statement and signing her name to it. She didn't want to seem over-anxious or pushy, even though his opinion mattered to her more than it really should have. After sending it off to him, she made her way to the kitchen, anxious for something to do in order to distract her mind, so she impulsively decided to bake.
Nothing passes time and kills monotony quite like making bread, cookies and muffins, she thought. Even if I am the only one who will be eating it.
"You are so depressing," she mumbled under her breath and then groaned loudly. "And I really need to quit talking to myself."
She got herself busy and by the time she laid down that night, she felt somewhat accomplished, and also had another text from Edward sitting there, staring back at her.
Sitting at the airport, waiting for my flight. Starting to read. Thank you so much for making her a brunette, not a blonde ;) ttys
Bella chuckled nervously, blushing a little as if he was sitting right there instead of on a plane somewhere, as the text was sent over an hour before. And most likely, still reading. "God, what was I thinking? This is nerve-wracking."
Bella saw more and more of Edward's personality emerge with each text he sent her as he read. He was very passionate in his opinions, even causing her to laugh at some of his rants that went on for three or four messages. There was rarely a full hour that passed where he didn't contact her, with the exception of the wedding he was attending on Wednesday. And even then, she got one saying Who gets married in the middle of the week? Only my family :(.
That night, Bella was just stepping out of the shower and she heard her phone ringing in the bedroom. She quickly wrapped her hair and body in towels and rushed out, grabbing it just as it stopped ringing.
"Damn it," she cursed, seeing two missed calls from Edward and immediately dialing back.
"Hi, Bella. Am I disturbing you?" Edward asked when he picked up, his voice soft.
"No, not at all. I am just getting out of the shower. What's up?" Bella replied breathlessly, trying to sound casual despite the racing of her heart at the sound of his voice.
Edward cleared his throat with an "oh", and was quiet for a few moments before taking a deep breath and continuing. "So, I got to this point in the story, and I had to call. What do you mean Lorcan leaves?"
"Oh, that," Bella replied, sitting down at the edge of the bed and removing the towel from her hair. "Did I not explain that right? Too abrupt?"
"No, his reasons were explained fine, but yeah, abrupt is an understatement. I mean, he loves her and wants to be with her, but he's going to do something idiotic like that?" Edward began in another one of his passionate rants. "Why do men become so stupid when they fall in love?"
"He just doesn't think he's good enough for her. He's seen and done things in his life that makes him feel unworthy of someone so pure and innocent," Bella replied with a shrug.
"And breaking her heart is so much better? God, he's so stupid," Edward retorted and Bella could imagine him tugging roughly on his hair as he began mumbling under his breath.
"So, should I change it?" Bella asked nervously, tugging at her lip with her fingers.
"No, just," Edward groaned and then sighed. "Can you at least tell me that she doesn't become some wilting flower that thinks she's worthless without him?"
"Wouldn't that kind of spoil the reading experience?" Bella asked in a teasing tone and he grunted stubbornly in response. "Fine. No, she doesn't."
"Okay, good. I hope he comes back to find her moving on because he was an idiot. And he has to fight tooth and nail to get her back," Edward mumbled, almost like a petulant child.
"Other than that, how is it so far?" Bella inquired nervously, though she felt silly in her current lack of confidence.
"Bella, if the story wasn't amazing, you'd never hear me this animated about it. And I wouldn't want to knock Lorcan senseless. Your portrayal of the characters and the emotions are perfect. Don't be so hard on yourself. You know I just have a big mouth and I'm overly opinionated," Edward answered reassuringly and she released a slow breath of relief, chuckling in response. "I'm flying back tomorrow and will likely finish this on the plane. Can we meet up Friday morning at the coffee shop?"
Bella couldn't stop the smile that stretched across her face and she stood up abruptly, the towel falling from around her and onto the floor with her movement. "Shit!"
"What? Do you have plans that day or something?" he asked softly.
"No, I just dropped my towel. I'm sure my neighbors appreciated that," Bella replied, shrinking down to the floor to hide behind her bed and covered her face with the towel at his chuckle. "Oh, God. TMI!"
"More like 'lucky neighbors'," Edward said and then cleared his throat loudly. "I, uh… I'm gonna go and read some more before I go to bed. I'll see you Friday?"
Bella released a shuddering breath and swallowed hard, still reeling from his previous statement. "Yeah, I'll see you Friday. Goodnight."
"Goodnight, Bella," he replied and she ended the call, thrusting her head back against the side of her mattress.
Every time she talked to him, he became more and more of that perfect combination of sweet and passionate mixed with a little jackass and flirt and a dash of shyness and gentleman. That perfectly imperfect recipe of the man she'd based Lorcan on. She only hoped that he didn't read that within the pages of her novel.
The next morning, she rose to find her phone blinking again, and after going through several emails, she came to a text from Edward.
You're probably still sleeping with the time diff. Boarding now, almost done with the book. Amazing work. :)
Bella's smile grew effortlessly and she stood from the bed, heading off to her shower to start the day. She was nervous about hearing what he thought of the book as a whole and had no idea how she was going to be able to wait until the following day.
More than that, however, she'd missed him. His texts and phone call had been great, but she wanted to see him, and she still had at least twenty-four hours to wait. Maybe he would at least call that night? Or she could call him? No, she would not appear that desperate.
Bella attempted to fill her time with reading, but she couldn't concentrate on the words. She went to her computer to attempt jotting down some notes for her next book, but ended up playing solitaire instead.
Around two, she jumped as her phone rang beside her, looking down to see Edward's name lighting up the screen. Her hands shook with excitement and she even dropped her phone twice before getting a good grip on it, answering softly, "Hello?"
"Hey. Are you busy?" Edward asked, his voice gravelly and rushed.
That doesn't sound like a good sign, Bella thought, rubbing her hand over the back of her neck. "Not unless playing countless losing card games counts as busy. Why?"
"I need to see you. It can't wait 'til morning, if at all possible," he replied in a hushed tone and she could hear every step he took, and brisk exhales of his breath.
"Um, okay. I can be at the coffee shop in about twenty minutes or so," Bella said nervously, dragging her fingers through her hair.
"No, uh. I need to see you privately, if I can. How far are you from Sky Harbor?"
Bella's breath caught in her throat—he wanted to come there, to her apartment. She hadn't had any man at her place since her father's last visit, and that definitely didn't count. That was Dad; Edward was completely different.
"I know, I'm an ass for just inviting myself over like this, and you can tell me no. But I would really like to see you and not anywhere public. Please," Edward continued, sounding more desperate with each word and ending with that final plea.
Bella couldn't say no to him, and in that moment, she really didn't want to, either. "I'm about thirty minutes east. Did you just land?"
"Yeah, and I still need to hit baggage claim. Can you text me your address and I'll be there in about forty-five?" he asked, calming slightly.
"Sure. I'll see you soon," Bella replied and they said a quick goodbye.
She sent him her address and shot up from her chair, rushing around the apartment to straighten things up and load the dishwasher. Once she was done, she glanced down at her apparel and groaned—no way was he seeing her in her frumpy, lounge around the house comfy clothes.
Running into her bedroom, she began tossing around her clothes until she found the jeans and top she was looking for and quickly slid them on. She remained barefoot so she didn't appear like she was trying too hard and threw her hair up into a haphazard ponytail, with ten minutes to spare.
That left her ten minutes to agonize over his urgency of seeing her the instant he landed; what couldn't wait until the next morning? She couldn't sit down, so she made a pot of coffee to keep herself busy and had just set the carafe back in when the buzz of her callbox sounded.
Bella's hand pressed to her abdomen where her stomach was flipping as she made her way to the door, taking a slow breath before pressing the answer button. "Hello?"
"Hey, it's me," Edward's voice came through the grainy speaker, distorting it slightly, but it was definitely him.
Bella buzzed him in and rested her forehead on the door, trying to collect herself. "Breathe, Bella. Just breathe. And for the love of God, don't make a fool of yourself."
Edward's soft knock vibrated against her skin from the other side of the wood where her brow rested, and she took one last deep breath of preparation before pulling it open. There he stood, slightly disheveled from his flight and his hair a complete mess, sticking up every which way, but still devastatingly gorgeous. The first few buttons of his shirt undone, wrinkled around his hips where it had obviously, at one point, been tucked into the waist of his jeans. She watched his Adam's apple bob as he swallowed hard before he began to speak. "You failed to mention the nine page love scene at the end."
Bella's mouth dropped open and she felt her face burning, continuing down her neck. "Was it bad?"
Edward's eyes widened and began shaking his head quickly. "Are you kidding? But did I mention nine pages? And all while I am sitting next to an eighty year old grandmother?"
Bella stiffened as she caught sight of the man from across the hall stepping out of his apartment and gazing at them questioningly. She took Edward's arm and pulled him inside, closing the door behind them, "As you can see, I do have neighbors, and some of whom do not know what I do for a living. And I would like to keep it that way."
"It's not like you sell yourself on a street corner, Bella," he replied and then lowered his eyes in sincere apology. "Sorry."
"And I'm sorry I didn't warn you. I guess I just figured you'd know it was coming since you did read my last one," Bella replied, folding her arms around herself nervously.
"Yeah, I did. Just wasn't quite prepared for that, especially in a period piece," Edward answered, clearing his throat and shifting uncomfortable.
"I'll remember to warn you next time," Bella said without thinking, watching the movement of his chest and hips, and then her eyes met his sharply again. "I mean, not that I'm expecting you to read anything else of mine. I feel a little bad for even forcing this one on you."
"You didn't, Bella. And I'm glad you asked me to read it. I couldn't put it down, and I'm a man. It was nice to read something that actually had story and one sex scene, and not a little bit of plot thrown into a bunch of sex. If this doesn't make it to the bestseller list when it's published, there is something seriously wrong with this world," Edward replied, holding her gaze and stepping closer to her. "And Aisling was everything a woman should be, and what I'd hoped. Strong, beautiful, and she didn't need him. That made her love and want for him all the more believable. She didn't depend on him to validate her existence and make her whole, or fall all over him when he came back. She made him prove that he loved her before taking him back. Very powerful character."
Bella couldn't break her eyes away from the deep, intense green of his and she swallowed hard, unable to truly read him. It made her nervous, but at the same time, stirring something deep inside her. He intrigued her and he was so close to her, she inhaled his musky scent and tried hard to restrain the shiver wanting to course through her body. "And Lorcan?"
"He needed her, but not in the way that makes him a weak man or character. She was his balance, his other half, and it brought the fight out in him that was missing before. The fight for what truly mattered," Edward replied and his breath ghosted over her face with his closeness. "But I have a confession to make."
Bella stilled, running her tongue over her dry lips in her nervousness. "What was wrong?"
"Nothing…with the book," he whispered in that gravelly tone she'd heard on the phone, shaking his head. "On the contrary, I found myself relating to Lorcan more and more throughout the story. I understood him and his feelings of not being good enough for her. Undeserving. Thinking she would be better off without him, but wanting her so badly, it made him almost selfish."
"You did?" Bella asked breathily, her chest rising and falling quickly with her respirations.
Edward nodded, his eyes moving between hers. "I didn't call you the moment I landed only to discuss your book. I wanted to see you. I missed you every second I was away, even more than I have for the last six weeks. And that's saying a whole lot. I kept finding things to text you about, and that call…I needed to hear your voice. I just happened to have found a reason without coming across truly pathetic. I know I can't really hope that you feel the same way, but I had to tell you before I went crazy. You've completely consumed me. And I hope this isn't the last time I see you."
Bella felt her pulse pounding in her throat as his eyes grew sad and broke contact with hers. She took a step closer to him, fighting the urge to touch him but relishing in the heat radiating from his body. "Why would it be?"
"You could feel awkward around me now. You don't think of me that way. I've just made a complete ass of myself, falling at your feet. There are plenty of reasons, Bella," he replied softly, shrugging his shoulders and finally lifting his eyes to hers.
Bella couldn't hold back anymore and brought her hand to rest gently on his face, tracing her thumb over his cheek. "If that's making an ass out of yourself, then I guess it's my turn. I've missed you, too. And I wasn't 'giving you too much credit' when I said I couldn't have written this book without you, Edward. You were more than just my muse, you were my inspiration behind Lorcan. So much so, that I even changed his name from the original, because he wasn't Gerald anymore. Not even close. You made him the man he was with the man that you are. Will this be the last time I see you?"
Edward's eyes flickered as he gazed at her speechlessly, seeming to absorb what she had just told him. He then closed them and rested his forehead on hers, his hands slowly coming to rest just above her hips. "I'm a jerk at times."
Bella sighed, weaving her fingers into his hair as she'd only imagined down dozens of times before. "I'm a neurotic mess pretty much all the time."
He chuckled softly, gently squeezing her waist. "I can't give up my motorcycle."
"Gives me just one more reason to hold you," she said with a meek smile.
"I'm a neat freak."
"I did a Flight of the Bumblebee cleanup before you got here."
"A gym junkie."
"Allergic to cats."
"I guess I can live without them."
Edward paused, sliding his arms around her and pressing his palms against her back to pull her closer. "I've fallen in love with you, Bella."
"Well, that's one thing we share in common, then," Bella whispered, rising up on her toes to brush his nose with hers. Her heart pounding the way it was against the walls of her chest emphasized the truth in her words. She did love him—God, how she did. She couldn't put her finger on how or when it happened, but it had. He was her perfect man, the one she had been unconsciously waiting for. "And that's what truly matters, right?"
Edward didn't answer with words, but instead, sealed his lips over hers and gripped his arms rightly around her waist. She moaned into his kiss, her fingers clenching in his hair at the feel of his solid body pressed against her. She brushed her tongue lightly over his bottom lip and he went rigid, breaking away from her and breathing heavily. "Bella, we need to stop, or this might go too far. I'm still recovering from the effect your love scene had on me, so my control is not the best."
Bella opened her eyes and felt his hips shift subtly away from her, and her eyebrows rose. "Is that why your shirt is untucked?"
"Like I said, I was sitting next to an eighty year old grandmother," Edward mumbled softly, swallowing hard.
"I thought men were more visually affected by things like that," Bella said, still not releasing him and running her fingers along the back of his neck.
"It was pretty vivid, Bella. Not difficult to visualize, even without the actual imagery," Edward admitted, his hands moving up and down her sides. "But I didn't come here for that."
"Would you think less of me if I told you I wanted it?" Bella asked nervously, the corner of her lip pinched between her teeth.
Edward gazed at her and shook his head slowly. "No. But don't you want me to at least take you out on a date or two first?"
"You'll still want to even if this happens, right?" Bella inquired, tilting her head curiously.
"Of course, I will. Why wouldn't I?" Edward replied with a tightened brow and she shrugged, lowering her eyes. "Bella, I don't sweet talk women into bed just to have my way with them and leave. I'm a jerk at times, but I'm not a complete asshole. Has someone done that to you before?"
Bella shook her head quickly and drew in a deep breath. "No, nothing like that. And I'm not a virgin or anything. I mean, I'll be twenty-seven in September. But I'm not overly experienced, either. There's been no one at all since college."
Edward appeared to be mentally doing the math in his head and then his eyes bulged. "Years?"
Bella cleared her throat and looked down again, shrugging. "I've been busy writing my books and haven't really thought that much about it. Haven't met too many men along the way and no one I actually wanted this way. And I do want you. But if you want to go on a few dates first, that's okay."
Neither of them moved for a few moments and she listened to the sound of his slow, uneven breathing. She was scared that she had turned him completely off, the practically born again virgin that she was. A man like Edward seemed as if he would want a woman who knew exactly what she was doing, with at least a little experience behind her. And not just the minute amount she had.
Then, she felt his hand rise to the back of her head, pulling the hair tie loose and allowing the strands to fall down onto her shoulders. Her eyes rose to his face again and watched his gaze move over hers as his fingers ran through her hair. "We've had several mornings over coffee."
Bella nodded as she continued looking up at him. "And the day at the park."
"Long enough to fall completely in love with you," he whispered, ghosting his lips on hers. "I've never opened myself up to anyone this way. Not even Rose."
"Neither have I," she replied, wrapping her arms around him again. "I trust you."
"You probably shouldn't. But I'm glad you do," Edward replied huskily, pressing his lips to hers again and holding her tight.
Her feet left the floor as he lifted her closer to him, his hand cupping the back of her head and his tongue brushing over her lips until they parted. She brought her legs up around his waist and moaned as their kiss deepened, feeling him pressing between her legs. Her body was aching more for him that she could ever remember feeling with anyone else, however limited her experience was. She'd felt lust and desire, but it was nothing as powerful as that.
Is this what it feels like when you fall in love? Everything becomes more intense, fuller? she thought as his mouth moved fluidly with hers.
Bella had written about love, described it in a hundred different ways, but never what she was feeling right then. Red-hot, fiery desire, mixed with tender emotion and passion. She wanted him to take her and consume her completely, to feel his skin against hers, but not there in her living room, or against a wall, or on a table…
"My bedroom is straight back there. Please ignore the mess," Bella whispered against his lips, clasping his face between her hands as she continued to kiss him repeatedly in breathless pants.
"Last thing on my mind, baby," he replied in a deep, resonating voice that sent tremors through her and she whimpered as he began carrying her down the hall. He pushed the door open with his knee and as they reached the bed, his foot caught on a pair of her jeans she'd tossed across the room earlier, sending them toppling to the bed together.
Bella kept one arm around him as they both started laughing, covering her face with her free hand and his forehead rested on her shoulder. "Casualty of the Bumblebee Rush."
Edward lifted his head and pulled her hand from her face gently, lowering his lips to hers and weaving their fingers together. "Still not thinking about it, Bella."
Her hand ran through his hair again and she moaned in ecstasy, losing herself in the feel of his lips and his body above hers. It was beyond heavenly. "Shit."
Edward froze in his motions and opened his eyes, parting from her slowly and watching her forehead tighten. "What's wrong? Change your mind?"
"No. God, no," Bella whispered, clutching him to her and kissing him firmly. "This is going to kill the mood, but I don't have anything and I'm not on the pill or shot. Never had the need for any of it."
"Bella, I'm a guy. We carry something in our wallets from the time we hit puberty," Edward replied, brushing his lips on her cheek and her hold around him loosened a little. He leaned down toward her ear, kissing her earlobe before continuing. "Doesn't mean I make a habit of using them. I've thrown more away still wrapped than used."
Bella sighed heavily and gripped around his shoulders again. "I know, insecurity is so attractive."
Edward's hand palmed her cheek and she opened her eyes to see him smiling down at her. "You're way too hard on yourself, you know that?"
Bella didn't have a chance to respond as his mouth began moving sensually over hers, and she felt his length press firmly between her legs with a roll of his hips. Her previous thoughts fled her mind and she was once again flooded with desire for him. She tightened her thighs around him and turned them over, straddling his hips and taking his face between her hands, kissing him with fervor. She was desperate for him and she was beyond caring about showing it.
Edward's hands ran down her sides, cupping around her ass and pulling her to him, groaning against her lips. "Fuck, I want you, baby."
Bella sat up, causing his breath to hitch with her movement over him, and lifted her shirt over her head. She held his gaze as she reached back and unhooked her bra, curling her shoulders to shrug out of it and swallowing hard against the lump in her throat when his eyes lowered to her breasts. He rose from the bed without a word and sealed his lips over her pert nipple, rolling his tongue over it and her head fell back at the sensation it sent straight to the pit of her stomach. Her fingers began clawing at his back, aching to remove the shirt from his body and feel his skin against hers. He brought his hands between them to unbutton it the remainder of the way and allowed her to push it down his arms.
Bella tossed the shirt to the floor and watched him lay back down, her eyes running over his sculpted chest and arms. Gym junkie, indeed, she mused silently before lowering to him again and pressing her lips to one of his pecs. His muscles flexed under her touch as she continued kissing down his body, moaning against his hard abdomen and tugging at the button of his jeans with her fingers. Her lips brushed over the dusting of hair leading down into the waist of his pants as she lowered his zipper, glancing up at him with a smile. He returned it and lifted his hips to allow her to tug his jeans down his legs, removing his shoes and socks to toss his clothing onto the gathering pile of fabric on the floor. He reached down for her hands, pulling her back up to him and flipping her onto her back. As he rolled on top of her, she waited for him to kiss her again, but he only brushed his nose along her jaw before moving down her body and unfastening her jeans. She shivered when he pulled them and her panties down her legs, pressing her thighs together as she lay there completely naked, every imperfection of hers on display.
Edward knelt on the floor at her feet, kissing her anklebone and running his hands along the sides of her calves. "Are you sure you want this?"
Bella's tongue darted out over her lips and she nodded. "Yes. I'm very sure."
"Then just relax, Bella," he whispered with one last brush of his lips on her skin and then reached back for his jeans to retrieve his wallet and the foil packet residing inside.
Bella watched as he parted her legs with his hands and crawled between them, pressing the condom into her open palm and kissing along her inner thigh. Her chest rose and fell rapidly as he moved closer to where she ached for his touch and gasped as she felt his fingers make contact with her slickened skin. It had been so long she she'd felt a man's touch in such an intimate way and her hips bucked the moment his mouth came in contact with her bundle of nerves. "Oh shit!"
"We only have one condom," Edward mumbled against her, sucking lightly at her skin. "I'm going to make sure you get yours at least once."
"Dawn, I'm a lucky woman," Bella replied, intending it to remain inside her head, but he rendered that capability impossible as his lips closed around her again and a single finger entered her. His deep chuckle resonated through her and her hips rose against him, moaning loudly with the pleasurable vibration it caused. Her hand released the packet and she brought it to his hair as her body writhed beneath him. "God, don't stop."
"Mm-mm," Edward hummed, causing her to pinch her eyes closed. His tongue circled her as he added a second digit, groaning at the snug fit and replacing his lips with his thumb. "Damn, Bella, you feel so good and I'm not even inside you yet."
Bella whimpered when his fingers curled within her, clenching around them as the heat began rising in her body more with each of his movements. She was dangling on the edge, so close to falling, but something kept her there. She began moving her hips in time with the thrusts of his fingers, trying to reach that peak and groaning when it continued to elude her. "Please … your mouth … I need … your mouth … again."
"Fuck, baby," Edward moaned, claiming her with his lips and giving her just what she needed to send her shattering below him.
Bella's entire body shook violently, her breath lodged in her throat with the intense orgasm surging through her. Her muscles were rigid and her grip tight on his hair, but he never relented until finally, she melted beneath him and her breathing resumed in heavy pants. Her arms fell to her sides, her fingers searching for the condom and closing it securely in her hand. "Just give me a second."
Edward removed his hand from her and crawled up her body, kissing the corner of her mouth. "Take all the time you need, Bella. I'm not going anywhere. And damn, you're so beautiful when you know what you want."
Bella chuckled and turned her head to press her lips firmly to his, her arms encircling him slowly. He was so damn tender and gentle with her, despite the solid muscles she felt beneath her fingertip that could easily overpower her, and it only made her want him more. She slid one hand down his side and into the waistband of his boxers, feeling the curve of his hipbone and tugging his bottom lip lightly with her teeth. "Get up and take them off."
Edward's eyebrows rose at her sultry tone and then he smirked, rising up on his arms to lift off her. "You do it."
Bella growled at his teasing and shoved his boxers down over his hips, and then brought her hands to his chest to push him onto his back again. "Demanding, aren't you?"
"And you're not?" Edward replied and she rolled her eyes, moving down his body to discard the final article of clothing between them.
Bella straddled his thighs, circling his length with her fingers and stroking him as she tore the packet open with her teeth. She took a moment to gaze down at him, his eyes closed and lips parted with the pleasure she was giving him. He truly was a sight to behold and she could have sat there staring at him all night if she didn't want him inside her so damn badly. She pulled the condom from the packet and rolled it down his erection, leaning over to kiss him as she positioned herself over him. "No, I just know what I want, remember?"
Edward held his breath as she began lowering onto him and brought his hands to her hips as she winced a little when he was only halfway inside her. "Go slow."
Bella nodded, closing her eyes tightly to hide the hint of embarrassment she felt at not being able to take him inside her all at once. His fingers massaged her skin and then began guiding her movements in slow rises and descents, pressing a little deeper each time. She breathed in labored pants as she stretched around him until she finally settled over him completely and swallowed hard, opening her eyes to look down at him.
Edward gripped her firmly as she began to move and shook his head. "Just stay right here for a second."
His voice was deeper than usual and she traced her fingers along the tightened tendons of his neck. "Are you okay?'
"Yeah," Edward whispered and then cleared his throat. "A little too okay, maybe. You feel … God, you feel amazing."
Bella rested her forehead against his and breathed slowly, running her thumb along his jaw. "Tell me when."
Edward nodded and gradually, his body began relaxing and his hands rose to her waist. "When."
Bella lifted her hips and lowered against, moaning as he filled her. Their eyes met as they began moving together, his hold tightening and guiding her into a rhythm with him. She'd never felt anything like that before, taking their time to really enjoy each other instead of racing for the finish line, and for that, she was glad.
That was what she wrote about and dreamed of having for herself one day. She was amazed that she could feel his love and passion for her in each of his movements, in every look in his eyes as he gazed at her. Sex had never been really bad for her, but it was empty. But not anymore.
Edward's arms encircled her waist, turning them over again to settle above her. "I'm close, Bella."
Bella hitched her leg along his side and his hand gripped her thigh as she began rolling her hips in time with his thrusts. She was close, as well, and the added friction against her over-sensitive skin from his previous ministrations increased the tightening of her abdomen tenfold. Her fingers grasped his shoulders and her back arched, soft whimpers escaping her lips as she built up. They eventually increased to incoherent murmurings that rumbled in her throat and she clenched around him, sending them both hurdling over the edge together until he collapsed on top of her, breathing heavily.
"I really do love you, Bella," he whispered after a moment, pressing his lips softly to her neck.
Bella's fingers traced along his neck and she kissed his damp hair. "I love you, too."
Twenty minutes later, Edward had returned from the bathroom and they lay side by side in her bed. She felt so content in that moment with his arm wrapped around her shoulders as her head rested on his chest, tracing the lines of his muscles with her fingertips. Questioning the how or why they got to that point together so fast would drive her insane, she knew that. So she decided to not think about it at all, and simply enjoy it. She wanted him, he wanted her; he returned to her in bed instead of getting dressed to leave. He'd laid himself out on line for her, knowing she could very easily have turned him away. She had no reason to doubt him at all.
"So where would you like to go for our first official date?" Edward asked, pulling her from her thoughts as he ran his fingers through her hair.
"Photo studio," Bella replied with a smirk stretching across her lips. She lifted her head and chuckled at the confused look on his face, kissing him gently.
"Why a photo studio?" he mumbled against her lips.
"Well," Bella stated, nipping at his chin lightly. "I wanted to ask you this before, but after seeing this body, I'd even be willing to beg."
"What?" Edward asked as her hand trailed down his chest to where the sheet was draped over his hips and back up.
"Would you be willing to pose for my book cover?" Bella asked, causing Edward's eyes to widen. "You're the perfect body type and you did inspire Lorcan, after all."
Edward was silent for a few moments, his expression unreadable, and she began to think that he might actually say no. Then a slow smirk appeared on his face and his arm slithered around her waist. "You want to flaunt what's yours to your adoring public?"
"Well, not originally, since it wasn't mine," Bella whispered shyly, lowering her eyes to his chest. "But yeah, maybe a little."
"Bella, I've been yours from the first glare you shot at me," Edward replied and she looked up at him again, his other hand rising to trace along her cheek. "And the first time I felt your arms around me, I knew I'd never want another woman for as long as I lived as much as I wanted you. I'll do it. Face, too?"
Bella shook her head quickly, taking her lip between her teeth and pressing her body more firmly against his side. "Oh no. Some things I want to keep all for myself."
Edward sucked in a sharp breath as her hand gliding down his chest toward the sheet and covered it with his. "Bella, we can't."
"I know. Guess I'm going to be making an appointment with my doctor for the shot as soon as possible," Bella sighed, sliding her arm around him and kissing his jaw. "Thank you."
"Okay, I have a condition for this," Edward began and she lifted her head, tilting it slightly in question. "I'll put on the kilt and bare my chest for you, if I get to see you in the corset."
"You want me in the shot with you? On the cover of my own book?" Bella asked with wide eyes and he nodded, the cocky smirk that she loved to hate—and loved to hate to love—curled the corners of his mouth. She growled slightly and gave him a narrowed glare, causing him to raise an eyebrow. Then her lips lowered to his passionately and she moment against them. "Deal"
Edward pulled her to lie across his chest, gliding his tongue along hers when his phone began ringing from the pocket of his jeans on the floor. "Shit."
"What?" Bella asked as he kissed her again and then rolled out from beneath her to grab his jeans, mumbling "Rose" under his breath. She sat up, clutching the sheet to her chest and watched him fumbling for his phone in the pocket.
"Hello? Yeah, I know, sorry. I forgot to call. I had something I needed to do. Is he still awake? Okay, yeah, I'll be right there," Edward spoke quickly into the phone as he began pulling his clothes back on and then looked to Bella.
She gave him a smile that she hoped was convincing, and tucked the sheet around her as she rose. She knew that he most likely had plans with Rose and Caleb that night, and had gotten sidetracked with her; she just needed to collect herself a little before she could watch him leave. She couldn't even figure out why she felt that way—it wasn't as if he were just walking out on her and she would never see him again. And she wasn't the only one that he'd been away from for the past three days.
"Hey, Rose?" Edward's voice sounded behind her softly, long after she thought he'd hung up, and his arm slid around her waist. "Would you mind if I asked Bella to come along with me tonight?"
"Bella Swan?" Rosalie's voice screeched through his phone and he had to hold it away for a moment as his ear rang. "Oh my God, Caleb would love that! And I wouldn't mind seeing her again for a bit!"
"Okay, hold on," he said, the phone still a few inches away, and turned his head to Bella, kissing her cheek. "Feel like babysitting with me tonight?"
"Really?" Bella asked, searching his eyes and finding an almost pleading look in them. He wasn't any more ready to leave her than she was to watch him go, but he had missed Caleb, also. And she had to admit, one of the sexiest things about him that made her fall in love with him in the first place. "I'd love to."
Edward kissed her soundly, ignoring Rose for a moment and smiling against her lips. "Okay, Rose. Give us about twenty minutes."
"Edward Cullen, what did you do?" Rosalie yelled into the phone just before Edward hit end call.
"I'm gonna pay for that later," Edward said with a chuckle, turning her around to face him. "But so worth it."
Bella giggled against his lips as they met hers again and he pulled the sheet off her, tossing it to the floor. "Edward, we have a little boy waiting for us. And a best friend you just hung up on."
Edward sighed, bringing his hands up to cradle her face. "Yeah, I know. I love you."
Bella hummed in contentment as he kissed her gently, her hands running up his sides. "I love you, too. And coffee and juice is on me in the morning."