I disclaim all.

Everybody Join My Party - 4 -

Weeks came and went and I saw Edward Cullen now and again, across the quadrangle or in the cafeteria, but we didn't exchange so much as a glance.

One or two stories began to circulate about him. One or two dozen, that is. He was dating this girl, or that girl, who claimed he had clever fingers and a skilful tongue and that he could fuck for the Olympics. All night! the stories said. Again and again!

It didn't matter to me. I accepted invitations from Alex Garrett, who was in the water hockey team. First date, a movie, a quiet goodnight. Second date, dinner, some kissing. Third date -

We were at the gate back to the student's quarters and I was out of breath and really worked up because I had one hundred-eighty pounds of solid man pressed up against me with his hands tight at my hips and his tongue in my mouth. But this was going to be the extent of our relationship, I already knew. He was passing with B's, which unfortunately made him an unsuitable prospect. I had to be careful about who I dated, because it would impact on what people thought of me. If I was with someone officially, they'd have to be a high achiever, not a middling one. An academically middling boyfriend just wouldn't fit into how I perceived myself, and how I wanted to be perceived.

"Alex, this has been really fun, but I don't think we should see each other again," I told him, when his mouth left mine to explore my throat.

"Uh?" he said, hands gripping my ass. "Excuse me, but aren't you grinding on me right now?"

"Yeah." He felt really good. "Can we go back to your place?"

Alex's brain wasn't composed entirely of muscle, apparently. He was doing some processing. "You've just said you don't want to go out with me again, but you wanna fool around?"

Oh, yes, I wanted to fool around all right. He was hot, he was hard, and I was horny.

"That doesn't work for me. I can't do it. I can't take you to bed knowing that when we've finished you're going to give me the flick."

Apparently years ago, guys had no feelings and they weren't sensitive, and they would have sex with a girl and not expect to have follow-ups. Alex clearly wasn't taking part in a history module.

We straightened our clothes and he offered to walk me back to the block I lived in, but his reluctance was so apparent that I said no. We wished each other goodnight in impersonal tones.

I wasn't ready to go back to my room yet, I needed to be somewhere other people could drown out the inner monologue which was berating me for what had been an ill-timed admission. If I'd kept my mouth shut back then I would have been getting laid right now, and I could have broken the bad news in the morning.

Beans, the Campus cafe, was jumping. Disjointed phrases of conversation leapt out of the general noise, amongst laughter and music. Perfect. Debating whether to call Tyler and ask him to meet me, I suddenly spied Edward Cullen at a corner table, sitting on his own. So Bella had missed out on good times tonight? Edward Cullen would definitely be up for some good times, if all the rumors were true. Good times were what he was all about, and he didn't hang around for days afterwards like a puppy-dog, wanting you to love him. Furthermore, he didn't kiss and tell. All the stories about him had come from girls. I walked over and stood by his table, until he glanced up.

He looked surprised, but recovered quickly.

"Well, hello there," he drawled. "The tasteful Bella Swan."

"You got me pegged," I nodded. "What are you doing in here this evening, all alone?"

"What are you doing here? No speeches to write?"

"I've had a date, actually."

"Oh, really? Who with?"

"No-one you know. We had a great time."

"Why are you in here, then?"

"He's just dropped me off and I didn't feel like going to bed yet."

"You didn't feel like going to bed? Maybe that's why he dropped you off."

I'd forgotten quite how smug and annoying he was. "He's a gentleman, and he respects me," I stated.

At this, Edward snorted. "He's a castrato. All men want sex."

"Oh, he's not a castrato."

"There's only one way you could know that for sure. So why are you back so early? Was he a three-minute wonder? Did he have to go home to his wife and children?"

Oh yes, I'd forgotten. So kind of him to remind me. "Are you always this offensive?"

"I'll leave you to work out the answer to that on your own."

Gazing quickly around the room, I knew everyone in there, and they were all on the spectrum of boring to a greater or lesser degree. I didn't feel like talking to any of them. Edward was the only real source of entertainment on offer.

"I could beat you at backgammon," I told him, throwing down the gauntlet.

"You think so? How about a little wager?"

"Name the stakes."

His eyes gleamed. They were really very pretty. "Oh, I think I'll tell you after I win."

"Come on now, Edward. Are you really going to do this again? Put yourself in the position where you have to apologize to me for being suggestive and a creep just because you're actually suggestive and a creep? Why don't you spend an hour pretending to be a decent human being?"

"Jesus, that's a big ask."

He found a board and we set it up, because I just wasn't in the state of mind where I could go back to my room and try to sleep. We started off, and the first time he put one of my pieces on the centre board I kicked him under the table, though not too hard. He blinked and grunted, but he didn't say anything. The next time it happened I kicked him again.

"Will you stop assaulting me?" he asked.

"Will you stop taking my counters off the board?" I answered.

"That's how the game goes, baby."

"Well, this is how I go. Baby."

He snorted. "Oh, really? I fucking knew you weren't the Miss Prim and Proper you like making yourself out to be for your discerning voters. You might be fooling them - but you're not fooling me. I knew you'd be a firecracker."

He was way ahead. I was way pissed. "A firecracker?" I picked up one of his counters and put it in my mouth, daring him.

"Oh, Jesus Christ," he breathed at me. "Put that down."

"Come here and get it."

He said, "Do you know what you're doing?" but he was already across the table. He opened my mouth with his fingers and scooped the counter out, although I tried to bite him, then his lips were on mine immediately, his tongue delving in as though he thought he'd find his backgammon piece still there. This was so hot, and with electrifying potential - but we were surrounded by other students, in a reasonably well-lit place. Things could go no further.

I sat back down, waiting to see what he'd say and do next, wondering if I could endure two frustrating episodes in one night, wondering if I could bear to proposition him if he just smirked at me and announced he was leaving.

I needn't have worried.

"Come home with me," he muttered.

"Why would I?"

"You want me to fuck you. That's why you're being such a bitch." He was absolutely right, but there was no need to make things easy for him.

"Oh, I'm a bitch? Aren't you an unreconstructed prick?" I countered. "I seem to remember you mentioning it."

"Bella," he answered with a groan. "I meant I'm uncut. Do you want to play?"

I blinked. I coughed and swallowed and blushed. I'd never seen an uncut guy before. I could have demanded he pull his pants down then and there - I was so excited by his admission.

"Mmm, let me have a think about it," I said, outwardly cool, inwardly burning.

He wasn't smirking now. He ran a hand through his hair, which stuck up on end, and leaned towards me.

"Bella, I'll make you feel good," he said. "Trust me. I'm a man of my word."

Oh, are you, Edward Cullen?

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Here we go, here we go, here we go. Incense and apricot, chili-pepper nutmeg.