She knocked twice on the door—just like he had told her to—and waited. The alley behind the shop was dimly lit, and the temperature had dropped dramatically as the sun went down. Bella shivered a little, wishing she'd thought to put leggings on under her skirt; not that she would need them for long.
Minutes passed. Or, maybe not minutes, but the door still had not opened and she was feeling impatient. Goosebumps covered her legs and her kneecaps were shaking. She raised her hand to knock again and the door swung open.
The first thing she noticed was his dark t-shirt. An angry-looking milk carton was marching across his chest in protest with a sign that said: I am the 2%.
They stood in silence. A strong breeze whipped through the alley taking Bella's long, unruly hair with it. The chill of it snuck up under her skirt and her kneecaps wobbled even more violently. "Um, can I come in? I'm freezing."
"Oh... yeah." Edward pushed his back up against the door and ushered her in with a sweep of his arm. Their eyes caught for a millisecond as she squeezed by in the narrow hallway and the shiver in Bella's knees changed character completely. "Go on in. I have a table set up for you."
Inside the shop, Bella grabbed the mass of her windblown hair and pulled the strap of her messenger bag over her head. She took a deep breath; the heady scent of Barbasol was in the air. Looking back over her shoulder, she could clearly see the artful scruff on Edward's face. His hand was torturing the wild, russet-colored hair on the crown of his head but it didn't look like he'd shaved recently. He peaked an eyebrow at her in question and she turned back around letting her bag fall to her side.
"I'll get some towels. You want to get ready?"
"We'll start with you on your stomach."
She dropped her bag next to the table as he walked away. Moments later she heard the distinct sound of a dryer door popping open and the squeak of the spinning drum as he emptied it of warm towels.
She hurried to push her Converse off and reached for the buttons on her skirt. Her knees quivered again as she heard the dryer door slam shut.
Bella kept her back to the laundry room door. She pulled her button-fly open then slowly pushed the denim off the swell of her hips. The skirt quietly hit the floor and she stepped out of it.
Behind her his footsteps halted.
This was the fifth time. The fifth time she would lay on this table in front of him. Since the very first time, every shift and breath sent tingles over her scalp as she waited to see if this was the moment when he'd reach out and touch her with a purpose beyond laying ink to skin. It was ridiculous at first. At that point she had only just met Edward. But his juvenile humor and green eyes had drawn her in immediately. The taut, muscular body he hid behind his ironic t-shirts didn't hurt either. Neither did the brush of his long fingers as he tattooed dark-blue outlines of daisies and blades of grass on the flat of her stomach and the curve of her hip.
She unzipped her hoodie and dropped it to the floor with her skirt.
No sound came from Edward.
Standing there—just in her underwear and her t-shirt, knowing he was watching her and doing nothing to give her more privacy—Bella felt a surge of what she could only call gumption. With her back to him she could only imagine his eyes on her. A flash of warmth spread across her chest and cheeks. She pressed her thighs together, hoping he didn't notice; hoping he did.
Reaching up under the back of her shirt, she unhooked her bra. Nothing felt better than taking that off after a long day. Well, other things felt better, but that release from tortuous elastic, combined with the quiet electricity in the air, felt pretty fucking awesome. A quick Houdini move and she was sliding it out of her sleeve and leaving it in the pile with her skirt and hoodie.
"That gets me every time."
Bella turned, pulling her t-shirt down in the front with one hand, smoothing her underwear in the back with the other. Tanga. Low in the front, high in the back. Tempting, the saleswoman had assured her.
"The way girls can magic their underwear off like that."
"Every time, huh?"
Edward approached the table and spread a warm towel over the 'pleather' surface. His eyes glided quickly up and down her body as she stood waiting for him. She fought the urge to cross her arms over her chest and stood up straighter instead. The corner of his mouth twitched slightly and he took a second towel, folding it over several times before laying it at the head of the table. He was fighting a second look. She could tell. He rolled a third towel and handed it to her.
"Anything else before we get started?"
"A juicy box? To have on hand?"
The twitch at the corner of his mouth cracked in a full, crooked smile. He left her holding the warm rolled-up towel and turned for the mini fridge in the corner. She caught the end of something mumbled as he walked away:
"...what he said..."
Bella carefully laid down on the table. The warm towels took the chill away and she settled with one arm over the rolled towel and the length of it under her head.
Edward returned with a juice box and put it on the cart next to his stool.
Her hand, awkwardly seeking out the long tangle, collided with his. Rather than fighting him for it, though, she dropped hers. He gathered the bulk of her tresses at her neck and fashioned a messy braid that he draped carefully over her shoulder.
By this time Bella knew her face was red. Not a delicate blush. Not a hint, but a broadcast of the effect he was having on her.
She shifted again, pressing her body against the towels and flexing the muscles at the apex of her thighs. She knew her nipples were hard. She could feel the damp gathering in the crotch of her underwear.
She lifted her hips and inched the hem of her t-shirt up to her breasts. She lifted them more and pushed the delicate mesh of her underwear down.
Oh, yes. She had waxed for this.
Tonight the outlines for the daisies and the blades of grass would be extended over her hip and the top of her thigh; right where her underwear sat. They had to go. When she'd pushed them beyond the reach of her own fingertips, she tried to catch Edward's eye. Any attempt to push them lower on her own would leave her completely exposed and she wasn't quite ready for that. Edward stood, dumbstruck, looking at her ass. She cleared her throat quietly.
"Um... a little help?"
"Oh. Yeah. Sure."
Bella dropped her hips and lifted each of her knees as Edward slid her underwear down the length of her legs. She tried not to think about how wet they might be. Instead she focused on his touch. The path that his fingers had taken down toward her feet burned hot in the opposite direction. A desperate wanting bloomed between her legs. It felt like... a gasp, a shock, like dropping over the crest of a hill in a car that was going too fast. She pressed her face into the towels and pushed her tongue between her molars, biting down as hard as she dared to keep from moaning out loud. Instead she played what that moan should have sounded like over and over in her head.
She heard Edward shifting things around on his cart. The wheels of his stool squeaked as he tried to get comfortable. She was anything but comfortable.
Something crashed to the floor and she startled. Pushing up on her arm to see what had happened she found Edward sitting on the stool, his head hanging down.
"Edward? Are you okay?"
She took quick stock of him. No blood. He didn't seem injured. He didn't look sick. He looked... like he was holding her crumpled underwear in his hand.
The word left her lips low and slow as he raised his eyes to meet hers. On the outside, everything was slow. But inside, she felt every frenetic pulse of blood in every vein. Every breath that beat in time with her racing heart.
"This is how you feel about me? This is what I do to you?"
He held up her underwear, still grasped tightly in his hand. Bella could only bear the intensity of his gaze for a few moments. Seconds. She closed her eyes, pushing the last bit of air in her lungs out of her nose. Her closed mouth and chin quivered minutely as she nodded.
"I didn't know... I thought maybe...but, this?"
He stood, the delicate panties held out toward her. Bella buried her face in the towel again. The blush was back, but it burned in embarrassment. He didn't want her, when she so clearly wanted him. And he knew it. Her lust was only matched by her mortification.
She pressed her thighs together again hoping to suppress the desire that she felt, at the same time plotting how quickly she could get up and out of the shop. Only... he was holding her underwear. Her wet, sexy underwear that she had bought especially for him, hoping to gain his attention. Well, she had succeeded. Only, not at all like she wanted to. Just as she was about to keen in frustration, she felt Edward's hand come to rest on her hip.
Everything came to a stop. Her pulse. Her breath. Her mind.
He glided his hand slowly down to the crease of her ass and then up. He'd had his hands on her before, but this felt so different.
She managed only the slightest of sounds as he ran his hand over her. He crossed over her lower back and then back down over her ass, curving the tips of his fingers briefly between her cheeks. Her arousal had spread, slick between her thighs and when his hand reached her there he paused; she knew he could feel it. Knowing that sent a fresh wave of moisture rushing from her and she clenched her muscles seeking relief, and satisfaction.
"Bella? Do you want me to touch you?"
"You already are."
She couldn't help the humor in her tone as she peeked back at him. He answered her snark with a derisive grin and the tension that had been building between them eased.
"I think we both know what's happening here. I just want to be sure... do you want me to?"
And like that the intensity was back.
Despite her state, Bella was still able to manage recalling all the fantasies she'd had about Edward. The fantasies about how this might happen. This moment where everything would change between them. She'd listened to him talk while he tattooed her, watching his mouth in utter fascination. She'd thought about running her tongue along the stubble over his top lip; nibbling at the edges until he opened his mouth to let her in. She'd imagined him pushing the whole of his flat hand against her ass as he pulled her tightly against his chest; pressing up against him as he ran his hand up, inside of her shirt, grazing her breast. Grabbing her. Pinching her.
These were the thoughts racing through her head when his fingers found her.
She'd imagined lots of things. But this was not one of them.
"Why didn't you tell me, Bella?"
He was whispering in her ear, licking lightly at the shell of it. His hand pushed her legs apart and his fingers cupped around her sex. He started to rub and Bella gasped in response. Where was that goofy, immature guy now?
"This... is me telling you."
Her words were wedged between whimpers.
"I'm all ears."
The only answer was a muffled moan from the rolled-up towel.
Edward's pace was just past the point of exactly right and Bella found herself flexing her hips and grinding into his hand. He quickly took the hint and she went from feeling really good, to well on her way to an orgasm surprisingly fast. She felt it building: a quiver, deep inside. Grabbing at the edge of table, she tensed and pulled, unconsciously inching away from Edward's hand. She wanted it so bad, but at the same time it felt like too much. Like she might lose it entirely.
"Ah, ah, ah..."
"Where are you going?"
"I'm coming... I'm going to... oh, shit..."
Edward's hand came down on the small of her back and wrapped around her hip. He pulled her back. Back to his fingers, and back to the edge of delirium.
"Yes, you are. And I can't wait to see it."
With those throaty, whispered words she let go. A hot, shuddering rush flooded through her and she found herself grunting, quaking, thrusting erratically against his fingers.
"Shitshitshitshitshit... Edward. Ahhh, shhh-it..."
For a moment, even her own words were muffled to her. Everything felt far away. The only things she knew were her gasps, the rhythm of the blood in her ears and the feeling of Edward's fingers as he caressed her trembling sex.
When she could hear everything clearly again she recognized that his rough intake of breath matched her own. He pulled his hand from between her legs and brought it to rest on her thigh.
She met his green eyes over the curve of his shoulder. He didn't look sheepish, like she felt. He looked proud and curious. Edward dragged a finger behind her ear and pressed a gentle kiss on the apple of her cheek.