Whataya Want From Me

Jessica Stanley had never been one of my favorite people and having to spend four hours at her twenty-eighth birthday party certainly wasn't my idea of a good time. However, Edward said we should still attend because it would be good to see all our friends in one place. I knew deep down in my gut that decision would bite us in the ass. Nothing associated with Jessica ever ended well, and having to sit through four-hours of self-centered, look-at-me behavior was sheer torture. She'd catered the event at the same club that hosted our prom. Seemed like someone was trying to reclaim her glory days of prom queen and win back the long-lost Mike Newton. And really, while their egomaniacal tendencies probably made them a perfect match, Mike cheated on her, and bailed. Classy guy. Since it had happened, Jessica wandered around like the walking wounded when really, she'd done the same thing to Mike only a year before. I was surprised they stayed together, given how self-absorbed they both were, but maybe that was why they did. I really didn't care what the reason was; all I cared about was losing four hours of my life watching her hit on anything that moved. Including my Edward.

The only consolation for the party was having Edward there with me. While we mingled and talked with our friends both together and separately, I was always aware of where his hands were, what they were doing, and the looks he gave me.

Edward and I had been together for over ten years, and I couldn't imagine being with anyone else. He was the other half of me; he knew me better than anyone did or could.

Since the day I met him, I'd always been keenly aware of him, his presence, and how he affected me. Like tonight, for example. Edward was across the room, locked in conversation with Ben and Angela, but his eyes were on me. My body filed with heat under his constant stare, and when I cocked a brow at him, almost challenging the thought I knew he was having, he smiled warmly at me and winked. Something about his smile, the way it was slightly crooked and so sexually offered, I needed to fan myself to cool down. That was Edward, able to convey so much in just a look or a smile. A few minutes later, Edward joined me as I talked to Lauren, another one of my not-so-favorite people. When his fingers brushed over mine as he handed me a drink, desire thundered through me.

I started clock-watching, counting down every minute until we could leave. I imagined the drive home would leave us fighting against lustful urges to pull over and make-out on the side of the highway. The car would crackle with unspent sexual energy and once home, our clothes would come off quickly, and who knew where we would finally make love, but it would be passionate and fulfilling, just like it always was.

Edward must have read my mind because he gently placed his hand on my lower back, brushed his fingers just beneath my waist, and placed an all-too-hot-for-public-kiss on my jaw. He whispered softly, telling me he was going to go talk with Eric and would be back soon so we could leave. His words fell like a lover's kiss over my neck and caused me to swallow hard and breathe deeply.

As I watched him walk over to the bar, I knew how lucky I was that he was mine. Lauren's and Jessica's eyes followed Edward as he crossed the room, as did a few other girls I barely spoke to back in high school. I could only imagine the nasty thoughts they were having knowing that Edward was, as he had been years ago, off the market.

Soon after Edward left to talk to Eric, Jacob, my best friend, arrived with his latest in a string of three-dates-then-dump girls. He'd recently broken up with Nessie and seemed to use serial dating as a form of therapy. I couldn't understand why he didn't just call Nessie and smooth things over. They were great together and clearly loved each other. Jacob said it was because she was too young – eight years his junior – and he didn't think she was ready to settle down.

Truth be told, based on his serial dating, it looked like he was the one that wasn't ready, and he was using Nessie's age as the excuse. He found me out on the patio and broke down, telling me the girl he'd brought just dump him and left with another guy. I spent close to an hour talking with him out on the patio, the noise of the party largely blocked by the large glass windows and French doors.

When the boy started crying at the mess he'd made of his life, I couldn't help but console him. He seemed like he was heart-broken by what he did and was living in his own hell. He was broken and as tears streamed down his face, I wrapped my arm around him, offering words of encouragement. I told him to get a coffee, call Nessie, and work it all out that night. After wiping his eyes with the back of his hand, he nodded and promised me he would do just that. I offered him a friendly kiss on the cheek, which he returned – a little too close to my lips might I add, gave him a hug, and wished him good luck with what lay ahead in his night. I stayed outside for a few minutes longer, wanting to enjoy the sound of complete silence before having to deal with Jessica on hyperactive hamster mode.

When I finally rejoined the party, Edward was sullen and detached. I half-wondered if Jessica had gotten to him, and if he wished he'd never hit the "yes" on the Evite.

Our ride home was strange, not like I had expected; it was silent. I tried twice to engage him in conversation, only to find his eyes fixed on the road ahead, a blank look of indifference on his face. I waited for him to tell me, but gave him space to do so. I asked him to talk to me as we pulled the car into the garage, but my request fell on deaf ears.

We walked into the house through the garage door, and I set my purse down on the kitchen desk. Edward stood at the end of our large L-shaped island, and I sat down on the attached built-in bench a few feet away, resting my arms on the table, and waited for Edward to say something. The sounds of the clock ticking in the living room broke the silence. I counted my breaths as I waited for him to say something. Then the sound of the refrigerator clicking on filled the room. Still, he didn't say a word. He didn't leave his position at the end of the island, his hands shoved in his pockets, and his eyes directed at the counter, and seemed lost in thought – all visual signs that he wasn't going to say a word to me. Clearly, no conversation was going to happen. In annoyance to his silence, I stood up, walked out of the kitchen and down the front hall. After slipping my shoes off, I listened for Edward's movements in the kitchen. Not a sound.

"I'm going to bed," I called to the back of the house, to where I'd last seen him – standing by the island. I gave it a few more seconds, then grabbed my cell phone, and started up the stairs.

"So that's it?" Edward asked as he turned the corner, becoming visible to me. "You're just going to bed?" He looked wrecked: dark circles under his eyes, cheeks sunk in, and his eyes were without their usual sparkle.

"Well, yeah. That's what you do at one in the morning after a night of partying. You go to bed," I answered, sarcastically.

"Right. Because talking about Jacob mauling you isn't important. Neither is his kissing you." Edward looked . . . hurt? No, that couldn't be. He had no reason to worry about Jacob's actions, not in the past and certainly not now. It was just Jacob.

"What are you talking about? What mauling? What kissing?" I questioned. "What the hell, Edward?"

"You think I didn't see him out there, arms draped all over you? I saw him kiss you, Bella. You kissed him on the cheek, and then he kissed you –not on the cheek."

"It was nothing. He was upset. I'm sure he had no idea what he was doing."

"Really? Because it sure as hell looked like he was playing the 'poor me and my ruined life' card with you. Again."

I closed my eyes, counted to five to calm my thoughts, and then spoke. "Edward, he messed up with Nessie and I talked to him about it. He said I was right, that he still loved Nessie and was going over as soon as he left to talk to her. I didn't want him to make things worse by sleeping with some random girl."

"So now you care about who he sleeps with?"

"Yes, I do," I answered honestly. Edward's sarcastic scoff raised my hackles.

"Why? Because you can't take that it wouldn't you?" he sneered.

My eyes went wide and my temper hit the roof. "Okay, what the hell is wrong with you? You know I love Nessie, and Jacob was wrong to break up with her. So . . . yeah, if I need to spend an hour making sure Jacob doesn't mess things up with her any more than he already has, then I'm going to do it."

"Oh please, Bella!" he disparaged. "You act like I have no idea about the history between you two. Jacob Black wants to fuck you now just as much as he did when he was sixteen."

"Excuse me?" I asked, completely shocked by his statement.

"Oh, I see. Play the innocent card. I saw him, Bella. I saw him sneering at me when he hugged you. He made damn sure I was watching and every move he made was plotted and planned."

"Oh my god! Do you really think Jacob is that manipulative?"

"Yes." he answered. "Call Nessie and ask her if Jacob has been there or even called tonight."

"Edward, this is so ridiculous. I'm not calling her. It's late!" The last thing I wanted was dragging someone into this. Especially how late it was.

Edward took the phone from my hand; I didn't even try to stop him. "Okay. I'll call her." He scrolled through my contacts to find her number, pressed 'send', and then placed the phone on speaker.

"Edward, you can't call her; it's late!"

"I'm willing to bet she's still up. You know she works late on the weekend. And if I wake her, I'll apologize and blame it on a miss dial." He was silent for a few seconds as the phone rang.

"Hello?" Nessie's voice drifted out of the small earpiece on my phone.

"Nes? It's Edward. Did I wake you?"

"No, I actually just got in from work. What's up?"

"Is Jacob over there? Has he called you at all tonight?"

"What? No, um . . . I haven't heard from him at all. Why?"

"Not even a text?"

Nessie sighed. "No, nothing. What's going on, Edward?"

"He told Bella he was coming over to try and work things out with you." Edward's voice was flat but his expression glaring.

"Ha! No! He knows better," Nessie said, her laughter edged with disdain. "Last time I talked to him, I made it clear I'd kick his ass if he showed up here again."

"Thanks for clearing that up for us," Edward said.

"Sure . . . I guess. Night," she added before hanging up.

Edward placed my phone on the small table next to the stairs. "Still stand by his broken heart theory?"

I couldn't believe it: Jacob lied to me. He'd lied about going to talk to Nessie and work things out with her. If he lied so easily about this, what else had he lied about? My mind swirled violently around moments, flashes, and glimmers of moments with Jacob over the years when his troubles seemed near insurmountable and he said he could only make sense of them if he was with me, talking to me. How much of it was lies? The sinking feeling in my gut told me all of it was. I was going to kick his ass the next I saw him.

I pushed past Edward, and walked to the kitchen. "So he didn't go over there. So what?"

Edward followed me, went to the fridge, and pulled out a beer; the tension clear in his posture and face. "When it comes to you, he doesn't have boundaries, Bella. You know this."

The realization that Jacob lied to me was slowly sinking in, but it was almost more than I could comprehend. I didn't want to believe Jacob could have been acting the way Edward said he was, but the truth was there was too much to deny Edward was right. Jacob had taken me for a fool, and that fact hit me like a Mac truck and ignited my anger once again.

"Bella, he lied to you about Nessie tonight. Please don't deny the amount of times he has lied in the past."

"He hasn't," I said with exasperation; not wanting to accept being played by my friend.

"Bella, he has. He may want you to think he is your friend, but he also wants to manipulate your emotions. He hates us being together. You know he does."

"Edward, that so isn't true! He's my friend!" I didn't want to hear what I now felt to be true.

Edward twisted the cap off the bottle. "Really? Would a friend tell you that your boyfriend of over ten years wasn't right for you? Would that same friend lie to you?"

"He said that to you?"

He threw the plastic cap in the sink. "Yeah, he has. Now tonight, he told you that he was going over to work things out with Nessie and he isn't there. He hasn't even called her! You know this is all just a game with you. He does this shit all the time."

It was no secret there was tension between Edward and Jacob. Trying to placate him, I said, "He has some issues-"

"Issues? Is that what you want to call his lies? Come on, Bella! Was it an issue when he told you that he was convinced I was cheating on you? All he had as proof was a girl's number you didn't know on our phone. Turns out it was my cousin calling to take us out to dinner. But you? By the time I got home, Jacob had you so twisted up you were convinced I was cheating on you."

"God, do we have to go over that again? I told you I was sorry!"

"Sorry? You didn't believe me for two days! It wasn't until you actually talked to her that you calmed down. You couldn't – and didn't – take me at my own word!" I felt sick under his heated glare. He was right. I hadn't believed him, and a part of me almost expected that at some point, what Jacob had accused him of would happen; that it was only a matter of time before Edward left me. "Not enough for you? How about back when we first started dating in high school. Remember how he kept showing up when you told him we were going out? And he wouldn't leave? Remember that? And don't try to tell me he was a kid, because that's no excuse. We were only a year older than him. He did it on purpose, Bella."

"Are you done?" I asked; my cheeks slightly sucked in.

"Not by a long shot. Let's go more recent, shall we? What about when he tried telling you that he wanted to ask Nessie out but he felt he wasn't worthy of her? Remember that one? You were over at his place all the time, talking to him, and telling him all the great things about himself."

I shook my head and scoffed. "That's what friends do; they support each other and help them see the good in themselves when they don't want to."

"For weeks on end? And do those same friends text at one in the morning saying they just can't sleep and need to talk? Don't tell me he needed you, Bella. Did you know that he was already dating her back when he told you she wouldn't give him the time of day? I bet she had just left for the night when he called you with all his woes, too. And let's not forget about the day he told you he thought Nessie was going to leave him and you cancelled having lunch with your fiancé's family? Didn't I need you?"

There it was. He said that one word and I froze. Every muscle in my body didn't dare move. My heart thundered in my chest, every breath a struggle. My throat tightened to an uncomfortable level, but I had to speak. Softly, and most controlled, I said, "I'm not your fiancée, Edward."

The color drained from him, his eyes seemed to dim, and he looked defeated. "No," he said, his voice rasped as he spoke. "You aren't. Believe me, I know that for sure. No matter how many times I've asked, you won't – you can't – You know what? You go ahead and call Jacob. Find out where he is right now. Let him spin another lie that you'll believe and tomorrow, I'll propose again just to have you turn me down. Our normal life, right?"

"That's so not fair, Edward!" I spat.

In a flash, the color returned to him. "I'll tell you what's not fair! I've been with you for eleven years, Bella. I love you! And I've been shot down so many times; I've almost come to expect it. It hurts like hell, but I . . . . Yet, you always go running to Jacob. Every time he 'needs' you, there you go. How the hell am I supposed to process that?" he said, angrily.

"Because you love me?" I questioned as my volume spiked.

"He wants you, Bella! It's like a sick, twisted game. He wants you to leave me and then what? Once he has you, what new ways will he manipulate you? Because you know he will!" Edward set the bottle of water on the counter, and then placed both palms down flat on the polished granite surface. Only the island separated us.

"God, Edward. Do you really so little faith in me?"

"Bella, he won't stop, he hasn't yet, he only backs off for a while. Then when it looks like he might, he just comes back and weasels his way back into stealing all of your time again. I can't call that friendship. I'm sorry, but I can't."

"So what? Jacob can't have an off day?"

"Fucking hell, Bella!" Edward said as he slammed his fists on the counter. "He's had an off eleven years!"

Edward started to struggle to catch his breath. His eyes pleaded with mine; pain was slowly showing in his features and in his posture. "I've been dealing with it, Bella. All of it. I just don't know how much more I can put up with."

I filled my lungs, hoping the act would calm me down. "Well I'm so sorry I've turned us into something you have to' put up' with," I said, venom lacing my words.

"Jesus, Bella! You just don't see it, do you? Funny, I would have thought by now your first allegiance would be to me. Guess I missed the mark on that one." His eyes lit with fury and as he spoke, his lip sneered.

"What do you want from me, Edward?" I shouted, the anger finally spilling over.

Edward glared at me, his eyes fixed and locked on mine. "I already told you, Bella. Countless times." Even with the look in his eyes, I could hear the pain in his voice.

My heart thundered in time with my blood as it pounded from anxiety. "Really? Back to this?"

His stoic expression finally broke, showing the deep-seated anger he harbored about this topic. "'Back to this'? You really don't care, do you? You don't care that all I want is for us to be married? Is all of this, us, a game to you?" He looked both hurt and furious.

"It's not a game, Edward. I just don't see why we have to talk about this once again? You know where I stand on this. I've told you all this before." For years, I struggled with my own reasons for not saying yes. As a child, I made my decision on marriage based on my mother and how completely irresponsible she was. How my father loved her and how it nearly killed him when she left him.

"Yeah, right. That you don't believe in marriage. Well I call bullshit on that one," he growled. "I saw you at Alice's wedding, and your dad's. You cried and said how wonderful it was when people committed that way. So what? Are you saying you just don't want that with me?"

"Edward, please don't," I whispered. My palms started to sweat and the knot in my throat made it impossible to swallow. I wanted to run, to escape the feeling inside me that was building from my anxiety. I shook my hands hoping it would free them from the tingling feeling, but it didn't; it never did.

"No, let's just be done with this argument once and for all. Do you or don't you want that with me," he asked, his nostrils flared and his lip twitched slightly. He was furious.

His question launched every insecurity within me, as well as the panic attack that came along with it. I loved him, deeply, but what he was asking me was so outside what was safe, it left me in the middle of a panic attack. I shook out my hands again, and measured and weighed each word before I spoke them. Edward was nothing if not precise in the words he used, so I knew one wrong word could change everything.

"Edward. We've been over this before-"I pleaded.

"Answer the damn question, Bella!" he barked.

I nervously licked my lips. My heart hammered and I felt sick. "No." If felt as if I were going to throw up, either that or break down in hysterics. I knew my answer would kill him; it would crush his heart and destroy his soul, but I wouldn't lie to him.

The silence that fell between us was palpable and I felt even closer to getting sick. We stood, just looking at each other for what felt like minutes. I tried to read Edward, but it was just too hard; his features were locked in an unreadable mask. I was denying him the one thing he wanted most in life – to be married and I felt like shit for it. But for as strong as that feeling was, the very idea of marriage left me petrified.

Edward picked up his water, walked to the sink behind me, and dumped the contents down the drain. He opened the cabinet under the sink, and placed the empty plastic bottle in the recycle bin. He closed the cabinet door, and then walked, silently, behind me to the doorway.

"Where are you going?" I whispered, almost afraid of the answer.

He turned and looked at me; his eyes brimmed with pain and sorrow. "I'm leaving. I'm tired of fighting and trying. So, I'm leaving."

He turned and walked down the hallway. I could hear him picking up his keys, then nothing. I couldn't hear a sound coming from within the house, and it terrified me. I knew he was still there but as I couldn't see him. My gut dropped again and my breath was stolen from my lungs. What if he left? What if he really left and didn't come back? Panic filled my being and as my heart pounded fiercely in my chest, I felt both as if I would pass out and throw up. I was stupid for continuing the argument after I realized he was right about Jacob, hell, I was doubly stupid for believing Jacob's lies. Now, I found myself seconds away from losing Edward forever and I nearly disintegrated on the spot. My body was frozen, unmoving and unable to call out to him. It was as if my voice was stolen from me – not even a squeak was uttered. My mind raced, my body shook, and a terrible chill settled over me with one thought: Edward was leaving me.

Then I heard it - the solid weight of his steps as they fell on the hardwood as he stormed back into the kitchen. "Tell me, Bella. Tell me why the fuck would I stay? What would I stay for? A woman who can't tell her 'friend' to fuck off, and who won't allow me to call her my wife let alone accept a marriage proposal? Sure as hell seems like some great reasons to stay, Bella!" His voice was tight with anger; the vein on the side of his neck pulsed as he yelled.

"I can't believe you! All of this over Jacob? What if this was reversed and this was Rose, huh?" I spat.

"Rose can take care of her own problems. She doesn't need to come running to me when my brother gets his head up his ass."

"But you would help her, wouldn't you?" I challenged.

Edward shook his head as he exhaled in frustration. "Yes, but not to the point where it was intrusive or where you or Emmett would wonder what the fuck was really going on."

"But what if she did? What if Emmett walked out and called it quits with her?" I confessed. Somewhere in the dark places of my mind, I lived in fear that Edward would leave me for Rose. She was beautiful, confident, and so together. In short, she was everything he needed and everything I wasn't.

A sigh slipped past his lips. "You have nothing to worry about, and you know it."

"But I still worried! Remember when they had that massive fight a few years back, you were always talking to her!"

"Shit, Bella! Have you totally forgotten that even when all that shit was going on with them I was still asking you to marry me? Has that small but important fact conveniently slipped your mind? No wait, I know the answer to that. It did because you can't answer a simple fucking question!"

"Damn it, Edward," I spat, my voice nearing epic rage levels. "What the fuck is your hang up with that question? Isn't it enough that I want to be with you? You have to make it legal, too? After more than ten fucking years, it isn't enough now? What? Is it that I don't legally belong to you? That I'm not your property?"

He charged toward me, our bodies only a fraction of an inch apart, and his eyes met mine with fierce intensity. "If anyone has ever treated you like property, it's Jacob Black," he said, seething. "He treats you like a possession, something to be fought for and won. He couldn't possibly love you when all he sees is a possession to be won." He paused; his eyes searched my face for some clue as to what I might be thinking. "Don't you see it? He plays games with people but you are his favorite toy."

"Just like you can't seem to get enough of your proposal game?" It was low, I admit, but I was losing my steam on staying angry with him and was about to cry.

Edward's face was lit with anger then, rapidly, it crashed into the most pained expression. "It's not a game, Isabella. I love you," he said, his voice tight with emotions. "I just can't understand why you wouldn't want to be married when it's all I think about when it comes to you. What is so wrong with me that you won't marry me?"

The pain in his voice was mirrored in his face. His eyes were dark as if storm clouds were rolling in, his lips trembled, and his shoulders rounded in. The hurt he felt was evident and it crushed my soul. I did that. I reduced him to what I saw before me. Me and no one else.

With my own lips starting to tremble, I summoned the truth from the corner of my heart, where it was being held in an effort to protect itself. "Edward, it isn't you," I said, the words that fell softly from my mouth were painted in anguish. "It's me. I can't marry you because . . ."

My words wouldn't come. Edward waited as patiently as he could, but I couldn't force them out. "Why? Why, Bella?"

Until I met Edward, I was certain that nothing could shake my resolve when it came to my anti-marriage stance. However, slowly Edward changed things. I found myself wanting to be with him forever and even daring to think that maybe I could be a decent mom. One thing, however, never changed - my needing marriage to have those things. Edward didn't see things as I did. He felt marriage was the next step and something he thought about often. However, I didn't see things the same. I couldn't see why you couldn't stay the course and have it all – just minus the ceremony and legal side. Doing things this way would keep me from ever having the same problems my mom and dad had. I couldn't help but blame the formality of it all.

Edward felt it was something you did after a certain point but then what? What happened once he needed more? That frightened me. It frightened me so much so that I shut down. I refused his proposals, no matter how grand or romantic. With each "no," my heart clenched in my chest and I wound up in the bathroom crying for hours once he fell asleep. I hated doing it to him, but what I knew of marriage was courtesy of my mother and seeing what havoc she wreaked, I couldn't stand the thought that one day, I would end up doing the same to Edward. I wouldn't do the same to Edward.

The tightening in my throat was beyond painful; the tears that pricked my eyes left me fighting to let them fall. "Because, I'll fail you."

"What? How could you ever fail me?" Edward whispered.

"Because," I said as the tears started to fall like a hard summer rain. "I don't have the best role models on marriage and you? You do. You have an example that I can't possibly match."

Edward looked at me, his eyes taking me in, all of me, for probably the first time ever. He finally had the answer to the one question I had never answered for all of these years; he finally had his truth. The only thing that remained was what he would do with it.

"So you won't marry me because you think you'll disappoint me? That I have some set expectation for what a wife should be?" he asked. "That we would end up like your parents?"

I could only nod in response.

"Bella? Whether you want to admit it or not, us being together for ten-plus years is really the same thing. For me, this is very important. I was raised differently, yes, but had I known this . . . what you just told me, I wouldn't have kept asking and pushing. Why didn't you ever tell me? You always tell me everything, Bella. Why didn't you tell me this?"

A choked sob and a wave of tears, as I crumbled. All the anger, the frustration, the hostility washed away as my tears fell and my sobs echoed in the room. And from the depth of my emotions, I could feel one thing above the pain that brought on my tears: my love for him.

"I'm so sorry, Edward," I said as I cried, the words hiccupping out.

Edward cautiously embraced me in hug, my face pressed against his chest; relieved by the physical connection I was so scared was lost.

"Bella, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you. I just – I love you so damn much and I want to feel like in some way, some way no one else has, that you belong with me. I don't care what happened between your parents or about what my parents have. I just want you. We're not them, and you will never be like your mom."

"You want me?" I asked, my voice so soft, I didn't know if he heard me.

He squeezed me tighter against him but didn't answer, and in that hug, it clicked. I really did want to be his, damn the fact that it scared me more than anything else in this world; I wanted to be his.

"Edward?"

"What?" He let go of his hold enough so I could slip back and look at him while still in his arms.

"Edward." My voice dropped, lust and desire heavy in my voice.

Without thought or warning, his hand cupped the back of my head and his lips crashed against mine. His kisses started soft and sweet, tentative against my lips. As I let go and melted into his touch, they built, hungry and full of unspent emotions. I backed into the island, Edward's hands descended on me, moving over every part of my body he could reach. I nipped and sucked his lower lip. With each layer of clothing he removed, another layer of my resolve was crumbling away. My skirt, top, and bra lay in a heap next to the sink, and Edward worked his hands over my bare skin. The heat of his body and the fire in his touch were electric.

Edward lifted me onto the counter, circled around to the built-in bench , and kneeled on the cushion. I turned to face him. His hand slid up my thigh before he pulled me around to face him. Both hands eased over my bare thighs, rubbing a hot trail as he went from outside to in. His hands smoothed over my hips; his finger teased the outline of my panties, dipping between me and the thin silk fabric, and my breath hitched in response.

With confidence, Edward removed the small piece of clothing and as I began to sit back on the counter, his hands cupped my ass and pulled me to the edge of the granite surface. Without a word, his mouth connected with my body, licking and teasing, and lightly biting my clit. As my breathing escalated, so did his actions. I finally had to lean back on the counter, my arms supporting my weight.

He slid his fingers into me, working me into a rapid frenzy as his tongue worked and nearly made me come. Just as the tension built to a level I couldn't physically fight, he stopped. He moved back on his knees, his eyes moving over me, filled with hunger and passion. He reached behind him and shoved the black, oval table away from the bench, then stood up and started to undress. As I watched him remove his shirt, slowly unfastening one button at a time, the starched fabric of his Oxford shirt firmly moved over his shoulder and down his arms and back until it pooled on the floor. Breathlessly, I looked over his chest and arms; the outline of his muscular chest and stomach caused my gut to drop. He undid his pants and I watched expectantly as he slid the denim down his legs. My eyes cast to the large bulge concealed behind the cotton fabric of his boxers. My heart rate increased at the sight.

He slipped his boxers off and I marveled at the sight of his thick cock. He shoved his pants, boxers and shoes – which clearly had come off at some point – back into the table base. His hands gripped my thighs and he pulled me closer to the edge of the counter; he thrust his hips forward and his cock slipped powerfully inside me.

His hands held my hips firmly as he drove into me deeply. My heavy sighs and moans filled the silent kitchen, almost echoing off the granite and marble. I tried to keep a rhythm with him, but his swift, strong strokes were overpowering. Edward's hand smoothed up over my stomach to the center of my chest; his soft but strong hand pushed against the shallow between my breasts, silently demanding I lay back on the cold, smooth surface.

His hand moved over my breasts, stirring my desire even further. His fingers pinched and twisted my nipple, which elicited a load moan from me when he teamed his actions with a powerful thrust forward. He was almost relentless in his pursuit of claiming me, claiming us. His grunts and moans were adding to the white-hot fire and sexual tension that filled my body.

I reached up to touch him but was rebuffed as he grabbed my wrist and held it firmly against the counter. The action was as clear as words could have been – he was in control. My gut dropped and my pulse quickened when his free hand moved to my clit and drew small, tight circles over my sensitive flesh. Within seconds, I was half screaming, half moaning as I clenched around him, finally releasing all the sexual tension and frustration from our fight with each wave of my orgasm.

Edward rocked, thrust, and drove harder and deeper until his hips moved erratically, his cock twitched, and his moans became a throaty groan. I was desperate to touch him, to feel his body, and do what I could to push him over the edge. He let go of my wrist and moved back so his back was straight. He lifted my ass off the counter, thrusting his hips forward and speeding toward his orgasm. Quickly, I placed both my hands on what little part of his chest I could reach, and dragged my nails down, leaving faint red marks on his perfect flesh.

"Jesus, Bella," he groaned.

I scrapped my nails again as I clenched around him. That was all it took. Edward came hard, his hips slammed into me, and his lustful growls of pleasure filled the room. He collapsed on top of me, spent and exhausted, and I ran my hands over his back before tangling my fingers in his wild hair.

I can't be sure how long we lay like that, but it didn't matter. Not an hour before, he and I had been at each other's throats, engaged in a fierce argument masked by Jacob's actions and my failure to accept his many proposals. After my confession to him about why I hadn't accepted, I realized how unfair I had been in not telling him what I should have years before. I was afraid I was going to be like my mother if I got married – flighty, half-witted, and never fully committing. But as I lay on the cold counter, Edward's heat radiating into me, I realized I had committed to him many years before. I thought about the flash fear I had when I thought he was leaving me, and I couldn't breathe. Now, as I heard Edward's breaths return to normal along with a soft sigh of contentment, I knew. I knew beyond doubt that I wanted to be his, forever, in every possible way.

"Edward?" I hushed quietly.

"Hmm?" he whispered over my bare breast.

I ran my hand through his hair, then down his back, placing small massaging circles on his shoulder blades.

"I'm sorry," I said.

"I know. Me too, Bella."

The emotions I felt teamed with the newfound thought-turned-reality tightened my throat and made my heart beat so fast, I was worried he would hear it. I focused on the feel of him against me, and resting between my legs.

Edward lazily eased back. "Let's head upstairs; the bench is giving me a wicked Charlie horse."

I had to laugh, I hadn't thought of our position for him, only how cold the counter had been.

He helped me off the counter and we embraced and kissed so deeply, my knees became jell-o. I pushed up on my tiptoes to kiss him again, then pulled him to the front hall toward the stairs. As soon as I had one foot resting on the stairs, I stopped.

"What's wrong?" Edward asked, his hand gently brushing over my back. The feel of his warm hand on my cool skin was electric.

"I need to do something first."

Edward watched as I left the stairs for a moment. I found my cell phone and returned to stairs and his questioning gaze. Butterflies took flight in my chest; I wasn't sure how Edward would react to what I wanted to do.

"I'd like to send someone a text." His brow rose as I continued. "A text telling them to fuck off and never, ever contact me again."

Instantly, his shoulders released the last of the tension they'd held all night, the hard edge to his eyes and features softened. Then he smirked. "Can I hold the phone as you type?"

I placed a kiss on his cheek. "I'll even let you hit send."