Once again, I apologize for the length of time you've had to wait for this. But I do have some bittersweet news. All we have left is one more chapter and the epilogue. These two have come along away and I'll be sad to see them go, but I'm excited for the next project that is in the works.

HUGE thanks to MC for looking over this so quickly, but always with her watchful eye. She helps me get this to you guys as fast as we can.

And now, on with the story…

The Bare Essentials

The dam is broken, the floodgates open and water is pouring out. Edward made the first step in his recovery and since then, the man is a sexual animal.

Every time Edward and I have had a spare moment these last few weeks, Edward's lips and body were attached to mine. In the shower, sliding on his leather couch; he even wanted to take me on his desk the other day, but I drew the line of having sex with his employees all around us. That night, though, he did take me on the kitchen counter as soon as I walked into the room... I thought I was getting supper, but instead I got dessert à la Edward first.

I grin at the memory.

I drop my keys and purse in the foyer of Edward's house after hearing his voice call out, "I'm in the kitchen!"

It isn't unusual for us to eat dinner in each other's homes; with our busy schedules it's easier to grab take out or fix something at home.

This time Edward's kitchen island is filled with plates, paper bags and take out containers when I arrive. As soon as I walk around to greet him with our usual kiss on the lips, I'm shocked when Edward hoists me up on the counter without breaking contact.

My breath is panting at the sudden movement, but my legs open of their own accord, and welcome Edward to bring him closer to where we both want him to be. He grabs my leg and wraps it around his waist, and I bring the other one to join it, my legs encircling his waist.

Without another word, Edward's fingers trail up my leg, under my skirt and move my panties to the side. He inserts two fingers when he feels how wet I am for him already, and I moan hard. My hips thrust violently against his hand and he uses his thumb to rub my swollen clit until I'm calling out his name.

Before I have a chance to come down from my high, Edward takes his hand and swipes the paper bags out of the way then leans over me on the counter. His chest presses up against mine and he's clad only in his boxers. I don't even bother contemplating how that happened; the man's on a mission.

We writhe together, creating friction and kissing until our lips are sore and our bodies can't take another minute without release. Edward pushes down his boxers and slips a condom over his hardened cock. I long for the day where he feels comfortable without the second layer of protection, but press my lips firmly together so as not to say a word.

My panties are pushed aside for the second time tonight, but this time it's with his rock-hard erection and it feels so good. Edward grabs my hips and brings them closer to him, allowing him to go deeper. Then he thrusts hard into me, repeatedly, keeping his hands on my hips.

It doesn't take long for us to have our release, chests heaving with exertion, and once we finally still, I take a moment to survey our surroundings.

"Oops," Edward says, a bit sheepishly as he follows my eyes around the room, seeing the counter in disarray on all sides of us.

"It was worth it, Edward," I reassure him as best I can with a soft smile. "I can still see a few morsels for us to salvage."

Tonight it's my turn to take control; I want Edward to take the next step... I'm going to serve him one of his favorite dishes, and he is going to serve me Edward Cullen...bareback. After we eat this time, of course!

We've talked about it, and tonight I want more. I know Edward trusts in me, in us, and I believe he's ready.

As I take dinner out of the oven, and get the wine chilled, I look around and see I'm ready for another great night. The doorbell rings and I straighten my clothes before answering it.

The moment I open the door I see Edward, looking as gorgeous as always, and my breath catches a little when I take in his lust-filled eyes. He grabs hold of my hand and pulls himself to me, his lips are on mine and as he spins me around, he closes the front door with his foot.

Before I know what's happening, my back is pressed up against the wall in my hallway and his entire body is touching mine. I can feel how aroused he is and my breathing picks up.

While his lips attack my own, his hand reaches up and grabs my face, bringing us even closer. Immediately my hand goes into his hair, as if on reflex, and I tug him toward me, our mouths fighting for more.

Edward thrusts his hips into mine, and his left hand slides slowly up my thigh, lightly grazing my breast over my clothes. My hand reaches for him, but Edward roughly grabs it and pins it to the wall. It's the most erotic thing we've done yet and I can barely contain myself, my hips move toward him craving some sort of relief.

In mere seconds, my shirt is being pulled over my head and my hands are at work undoing Edward's pants. It doesn't take long for him to have me undressed and his hard cock lined up and ready.

It takes me a second to realize that this is happening very quickly for us, with no fumbling around or momentary emotional hurdles. Hitting me like a ton of bricks, it comes to me.

Edward isn't making a move for a condom.

I look up into Edward's eyes with a questioning look. His mouth starts to upturn slightly, but I need more confirmation than that.

"Are you sure about this Edward?" I ask, hoping against hope that he is indeed. "Last week we didn't use the diaphragm, but are you ready for this next step?"

"I'm ready as I'll ever be, Cupcake Girl." Without another word Edward thrusts roughly into me and my leg around his waist tightens in intense pleasure.

I'm still amazed at how much Edward has changed, but I can't dwell on it now as my senses are on overload, experiencing the incredible feeling of Edward inside me. Every ridge and inch of his smoothness brings on an intense sensation, and I whimper in delight.

Our hands are still seeking each other as Edward hits that perfect spot over and over again, causing my body to tighten and give me one of the hardest orgasms I've ever had. My body continues to convulse and I can feel Edward's entire body coil when his release comes moments later.

Heavily, he lays his head on my shoulder and lets out a deep sigh of contentment. I slide my hands up his back and into his hair; my fingers weaving through the silky strands as I soothe his body and soul from what I'm sure is very powerful emotions coursing through him.

After moments of holding each other in silence, Edward speaks, "Bella Swan, you are truly an amazing woman. Thank you so much for helping me through this. Not everyone would have been so patient."

Now seems to be the perfect time. There's no way I can stop the words from forming if I tried. I take Edward's face in my hands and bring it gently toward mine, all the while searching his eyes for reassurance.

"I love you, Edward," I tell him quietly but firmly. I want him to know the reason I have stayed by his side. His eyes close briefly at my words, but I continue anyway. "You are a wonderful man and I am more than thankful to have you in my life. I would do anything to help you become even more fantastic than you were the moment I met you."

Edward's lips come crashing to mine, gently at first but the passion slowly builds; our mouth's practically devouring each other. All too soon, Edward pulls away and whispers, a fire shining in his green eyes. "I love you, too, Cupcake Girl."

Both of us stand in the hallway smiling like a pair of loons, and I suddenly remember the reason Edward is here in the first place.

"I think our dinner might be cold," I say with a sad smile. "But maybe we can still enjoy it if we warm it up."

"It was worth it," Edward replies, repeating my words from a few weeks ago.

And the smile on Edward's face does make it all worth it, and more. Kissing my hand lightly, he bends down to retrieve our errant clothing and gallantly hands mine to me. Quickly, we dress and head into the kitchen to see what can be done of dinner.

The meal goes by without a hitch; filled with soft touches, sweet smiles, and conversation about our days. Rose's album is done and being printed as we speak; and the soundtrack with Colin Brady is well on its way to completion as well. I'm excited to see the finishing touches on both albums. It still amazes me I'm going to be on bona fide CD, even if it's just on one track. And in the background.

After we eat, Edward helps me with the dishes. His job is drying them, but for some reason his hands keep ending up in the water with mine.

My body shivers as he leaves a wet trail on my heated skin, his finger slowly gliding over my arm. Without a word, he leans his head down and lays a soft, sensual kiss on my lips. My hands move of their own will, wrapping my arms around his neck, the desire for more immediately coming to fruition.

I'm pressed up against the counter with Edward showing me exactly how ready he is to do this again, as he grinds his hips into mine. It only takes me a few seconds to realize I've soaked Edward with my wet hands. His shirt damp with soap and water.

"I'm sorry, baby," I say with a sheepish grin, pulling away slightly. "I'm sorry I got you all wet. I guess I got carried away."

He has a mischievous glint in his eye and his mouth is beginning to smirk; and right then I know I set him up perfectly.

I roll my eyes as he answers.

"I'm really hoping I'm not the only one who's wet around here."

Edward doesn't wait for my snarky reply and let's his mouth claim mine with a hard kiss.

"Let me show you how wet I can get," I breathe out with a saucy grin. Taking his hand and our glasses of wine, I lead him to the backdoor and out onto the patio. The confused look on Edward's face is almost comical.

Before he can say a word, I take my top off and drop it on the wooden floor. Edward's mouth is open as wide as it can go, and I continue with my strip tease.

Soon I'm left only in my matching bra and panties, and I motion for Edward to come closer as I walk backward toward the Jacuzzi. I had planned for this to be the place for our first condom-less encounter and had the jets warming the water in preparation.

I guess wall sex was a pretty spectacular place to go bareback for the first time, but I'm not letting this Jacuzzi go to waste.

Edward's eyes watch greedily as my hands reach around my back and unhook my bra. I can see his hands twist next to his body and I know he's dying to reach out and touch me.

"Care to join me?" I ask, and jerk my head to the water as I shimmy out of my panties and climb in.

The water feels even hotter compared to the cool night air, and the heat massages my sore muscles from the foyer earlier. I glance up at Edward and see him trying to get undressed as fast as possible. It would have been comical if it wasn't for his hardened erection straining to get out of his boxers.

I shudder in anticipation and lick my lips as I watch this gorgeous specimen enter the Jacuzzi and slide up next to me. I'm thankful for the millionth time that he's all mine.

The night sky is clear and fresh, and the stars twinkle above our heads, but all I can think about is having a wet Edward wrapped around me.

It appears Edward isn't the only one who had a sexual awakening. Now that I've had the man, I can't seem to get enough of him, especially with no physical barriers.

Edwards's eyes rake over my body, but it's the shy smile on his face which throws me for a minute.

"You are the most sexy, sophisticated, talented woman I've ever met," he tells me, and my breath hitches in my throat before he even finishes. "I love you, Bella Swan, from the bottom of my heart."

I'm speechless for a moment, and my eyes begin to moisten at his kind words. Hearing him return the sentiment was one thing, but having him declare it with such praise makes me wonder how I got so lucky.

"Shit! I'm sorry! Was that too much? It's just that it was begging to be let…"

Edward doesn't get a chance to finish. I grab on to the sides of his face and bring him to mine, our lips pressed tightly together as I kiss the hell out of him.

Finally, I break apart but keep my face close to his.

"Edward, it was the nicest and most honest thing anyone has ever said to me," I say quietly. "It just took my breath away for a moment. They were happy tears."

"They were?" he asks in surprise, taking the pad of his thumbs and wiping away the few that escaped.

"Yes. I was a little shocked you said it is all. I didn't think you were ready for declarations and here you go getting all sentimental."

Our hands become a jumble of wet limbs as we explore each other's bodies in the water. Edward quickly pulls me onto his lap and my very wet center glides over his extremely hard cock. My breasts rub against his water covered chest and the feel of slick skin on skin overwhelms me.

I take his cock in my hand and slowly slide my body on top of it, all the while watching Edward's face for any signs I should stop. It has only been one time without a condom, after all.

The face I see below me is one of pure ecstasy and I continue my descent, enjoying the feel of Edward filling me completely and the softness of the skin around his hardened length. He lets out a moan of pleasure and I leisurely move my body up and down, allowing both of us to enjoy the feeling of flesh and heat between us.

With the water bobbing around us and the wetness making our bodies slippery, it only takes moments for me to feel my body about to burst and my chest is heaving against Edward's.

"So close," I mutter, and Edward slides his wet lips up my neck and sucks on my ear lobe, knowing how sensitive I am there. My body quivers around him and my fingernails latch on to his back. The pressure of which sends a shiver down Edward's body, and with a deep groan he comes inside of me.

It takes a few minutes to come down from our sexual high, and we sit in the water holding each other close. Soft pecks and touches keeping the intimacy alive.

Edward runs his hands up and down my back, kissing my eyes, cheeks, nose, and forehead as he does.

"I love you," he whispers again. The sound of those words finally coming so easily from his perfect mouth make my heart clench and the happy butterflies in my stomach fly around in awe. "I'm going to tell you that often, to make up for all the time I haven't said it in the past."

"Edward, you don't have to. I had a feeling you felt that way earlier on in our relationship."

"You did?" His voice is incredulous as he speaks, and I smile at him proudly.

"Yes. Every touch, look, and unselfish moment you have shown me so far was proof of that. I was only waiting for you to believe it yourself."

He leans down and kisses me, softly and tenderly. "You are the most remarkable woman, Bella Swan. Thank you for sticking by me through all this and helping me. It was your love and support that led me here to today."

His eyes are tender and grateful, but the sadness still residing in them breaks my heart.

"You don't need to thank me, Edward. That's what people who are in love do."

I lay my head on his shoulder, and he quietly caresses my hair. We sit in silence, enjoying how far we've come as a couple until our fingers and toes start to prune. Edward scoops us up out of the hot tub and into the fluffy towels I had previously laid on the chairs next to us.

We dry off a bit and head inside for the dessert I made. I'm not going to let us forget about it this time, it happens way too often as it is. Grabbing two small plates, I place the Toffee Apple cupcakes on to them as Edward takes out bottles of water from the fridge.

Snuggled up in my living room, we quietly take bites and hold each other close. The apple butter cream frosting on top of the warm toffee cake is mouth-watering. And the caramel drizzle adds the perfect topping.

"These remind me of caramel apples I used to eat in the fall," Edward says with a smile. "Sooo good, Cupcake Girl."

He sighs in appreciation, the sound and the smile is all I need in return for my endeavors. But my brain is still going as I eat my concoction.

"I think I'll add some nuts next time," I say more to myself than him. "Give it a bit of salty and sweet."

Edward chuckles at my train of thought and places a light kiss on my nose. "I love you, Cupcake Girl."

"I love you, too, Mr. Pouty Lips." I lean over and lay a heated kiss on those luscious lips of his, but before either of us can get carried away again he pulls away.

"Let me finish my dessert, woman." He laughs, as I hit him on his arm playfully, but takes another bite, and we eat in silence until bed time.

As we lay in each other's arms I think over how far we've come. I'm still in shock from Edward's declarations of love, but I'm so proud of the steps he's taken to get where we are today. We've come so far, together, and I know our journey has just begun.

How are you feeling about our lovebirds now? I, for one, am pretty proud of what they've accomplished!