Hey there. It's Thursday so we're back with chapter 24! The painting mentioned in this chapter is The Scream by Edvard Munch goo*gl/2gqYS.

The song we chose is "August Day Song" by Bebel Gilberto youtu*be/DV8PoUWQ5tc. It's rather lovely.

And here is our pic tease: i48*tinypic*com/23h7p4z*jpg Discordia got some reader input on FB and the lovely Katie Mack sent over a picture of a couple in bed. With a bit of finagling, Discordia was able to make it Edward and Bella.

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

Big thanks to our incredible team of betas: karenec, LJ Summers, AshesAshes and jakeward. You ladies rock our socks!


Chapter Twenty-Four: Happy

"Bella?" a soft voice whispered as fingers brushed my hair away from my face.

"Hmm?"

"It's five a.m. I wasn't sure what time you needed to be up to get to work."

"It's morning already?" My voice was hoarse.

"Mmhmm." When he stroked my cheek, I smiled reflexively.

"Where did you sleep?" I asked.

"On the couch for a little while after I brought you up here, then the guest bed."

I winced, feeling guilty for putting him out. "You could have slept in here and put me in the guest room."

"I was fine. How did you sleep?"

"Like the dead, apparently." I rubbed at my eyes, trying to wake up a little more.

"If you want to sleep a little more, you can. I'll set the alarm."

"Mmm, sounds nice." I relaxed back onto the pillow my eyes closing involuntarily.

He chuckled. "You're already falling asleep again, aren't you?"

"Mmhmm," I said sleepily.

"What time do you want to get up?"

"Six-thirty."

"Okay, I'll set it." He kissed my cheek and turned to leave the bedroom.

"No, stay here," I mumbled reaching up, tugging weakly at him. He moved to set the alarm and just before I drifted off to sleep, I felt him slip under the covers and wrap his arms around me. In moments, I was out.

The next thing I noticed was the beep of an alarm clock. Edward was twisted around my body, his knee between mine, his hand on my left breast.

I muttered, "Shut it off," and he groaned, rolling over to make the beeping finally stop. He wrapped himself around me again and I sighed. "I should get up but I really don't want to."

"No," he muttered. "Stay here in bed."

"It is comfortable." I stretched and opened my eyes, not really feeling motivated to get ready for work.

My ass brushed his cock, making him groan again. "You know, if you're trying to convince me to get up, that isn't the way to do it."

Instead of answering him verbally, I pressed back against him.

"You're definitely not getting out of bed now," he said huskily. His hand moved back up to my breast and cupped it through the thin fabric of my bra. The nipple tightened immediately and he moaned, pressing a kiss to the back of my neck. He took the nipple between his thumb and forefinger and rolled it, putting the lightest of pressure against the sensitive tip. I gasped, shocked at the way pleasure shot through me, pebbling my skin with goose bumps. He released my nipple before moving to the other. I shifted restlessly on the bed, quickly becoming wet and aroused.

His fingers trailed down my stomach to slip into my panties. He slid two fingers along my wetness and dipped inside of me before moving back up to circle my clit. His cock nestled against my ass and I parted my legs, wanting to feel him inside of me.

"Please, Edward," I said breathlessly. "Please."

"How do you want me?" His voice was rough; needy-sounding.

"On your back."

He slipped his fingers out from between my legs before rolling away. I turned over to watch him as he sheathed his cock with a condom and then lay on his back, his face turned towards mine. I sat up on my knees, my eyes drinking in the sight of his body stretched out for me, waiting for my touch. I unhooked my bra, tossed in on the floor by the bed, and wiggled out of my underwear, throwing them to the side as well. I settled over his hips, straddling him and could feel his hard cock was hard. I took it in my hand, sinking down slowly over him, the air catching in my throat when he was fully inside. His hands moved to touch my outer thighs, his fingertips brushing over the skin. I watched his chest rise and fall rhythmically as I began to move and his eyes fluttered closed. His hands traveled from my thighs to my breasts, his thumbs brushing over the nipples and making them ache.

I rocked over him, still feeling half-asleep, my movements slow and easy. I watched him unabashedly. His tongue slipped out to wet his lips; I reached forward to touch my fingertips to them. His lips curved up at the corners, kissed my fingertips, but he didn't open his eyes. I trailed my fingers across the light stubble on his jaw and down his neck to his collarbone. My hands moved to his chest and then followed the light smattering of hair that tapered to a fine trail leading to his cock. My fingertips brushed where we were joined. His eyes opened, and he watched as I touched myself, lightly at first, stroking the skin of my lips, then between to circle my clit.

I threw my head back as a spike of pleasure shot through me. Edward's hands moved to my hips, helping me rise and fall faster on top of him. My teeth clamped down on my lip as I clenched around him, my orgasm beginning to build.

"It's incredible, watching you like this," Edward said lowly. His fingers gripped harder onto my hips and I cried out when a strong thrust sent me over the edge. I stiffened over him, little shocks of pleasure coursing through me. Edward's body went rigid below me; his mouth fell open, and air left his lungs in short, strained pants. His cocked throbbed within me as he came, moaning my name quietly.

I collapsed down onto his chest, his fingertips skimming along my spine before they came to rest on my lower back. He rubbed small circles there as I melted into him, feeling relaxed and content. One of his hands moved to my hair, combing through it with his fingers. I sighed and rubbed my cheek against his chest, my mind hazy and blissfully free of thought.

"I really don't want to move, but..." Edward's voice trailed off and I realized he was beginning to soften.

Reluctantly, I sat up and gently lifted myself off him. He sat up and disposed of the condom before looking over his shoulder at me.

"Shower with me?"

"No, I'll grab one when I get back to my place." He frowned with disappointment and I reached out to touch his hand where it was resting on the bed. "Believe me, I would really like to, but if I shower with you I will never get to work. Rain check though?"

"All right." The tension in his face eased.

I kissed him briefly and stood up, gathering my clothing from where it sat neatly folded on a chair near the bed. "Did you undress me last night?"

"Yeah, I thought…" His words dropped off.

I nodded, reassuring him that it was all right. "Thanks. I did sleep really well."

After I finally located the underwear I had discarded earlier, I made my way into his bathroom. I could see Edward looking at me in the mirror, his eyes lingering on my legs before I disappeared inside.

I cleaned up and dressed, then left the bathroom. Edward was partially dressed in sleep pants, sitting at his desk in the office on his laptop. I walked downstairs to retrieve my handbag and made my way back up the stairs. I stopped at the top to watch him for a moment. With his sleep mussed hair, bare chest, and the intense look of concentration on his face, it was hard to remember that I was supposed to be getting ready to leave.

"Edward, do you have an extra toothbrush?" I asked eventually.

He turned to look at me, looking slightly startled. "Hmm?"

"A toothbrush. Do you have one I could steal?"

"Oh, yes. Sorry; I was reading an email from a colleague."

"That's okay."

He found me a brand new toothbrush and left the bathroom, partially closing the door behind him. I brushed my teeth and splashed some water on my face before patting it dry. I had a minimal amount of makeup in my bag but it was enough to keep me from looking like a complete fright. I brushed my hair and pinned it up out of the way.

Edward was still immersed in his email when I came out; I had to touch his shoulder gently to get his attention.

"Hey, I'm headed out, okay?"

"Sorry," he apologized again. "I'm really excited about a possible collaboration with the Tate Museum in London and I just got a response from someone there. I kind of disappear in work sometimes."

"That's okay." I could hardly fault Edward for something I did all the time myself.

"Can you wait one second while I brush my teeth so I can actually kiss you goodbye?" He smiled sweetly at me and I found it nearly impossible to resist.

"Sure."

While he brushed his teeth, I went back into the bedroom to make sure I hadn't left anything. Without really thinking, I pulled up the sheets to make the bed, falling into my usual ritual of straightening up before I left for work.

"What are you doing?" an amused voice asked as I fluffed the last pillow and draped the throw across the foot of the bed. I turned to see Edward leaning against the wall, staring at me with a grin on his face.

"Uh, sorry. It's habit."

"You make your bed every morning?"

"Yes. You don't usually?"

"Well, I try to but I don't always succeed."

"Sorry," I apologized again, gesturing to the bed.

He shrugged, unconcerned. "It's fine. I guess I should let you go though, huh?"

"Yeah." I glanced at the clock.

"I'll walk you out." He pulled a T-shirt from his closet and slipped it on, jamming his feet into a pair of running shoes.

"Okay."

When we reached the lobby, he turned to look at me. "There should be a cab out front for you. I called them while you were getting ready."

"Thank you, Edward," I said, touched by his thoughtfulness. "I didn't even think about it."

"You're welcome." He put his arms around me, pulling me against him. "Call or text me, okay?"

"I will."

I leaned forward and kissed him, closing my eyes at the feel of his soft, warm lips against mine. His stubble was rough against my palm where I rested it against his cheek. When I pulled away, his hand reached up to capture mine, turning his head to the side to press a kiss to my palm.

"Have a good day," he said, his eyes never leaving mine.

"You, too."

I climbed in the cab and directed the driver to my place. I leaned my head back against the headrest, spending the ride home with a smile on my face. I didn't even mind the scowl that Jacob directed at me when I returned wearing the same clothes I'd had on the night before.

I quickly showered and dressed before heading to the office.

~LTOYL~

From the astonished looks I got from Bree and Lauren as I walked in the building, my good mood was obvious, as was the fact I was coming in to the office nearly two hours later than I normally did.

Three minutes later Bree came in to my office.

"Morning, Bella," she said tentatively.

"Morning, Bree!" I said cheerfully.

"Are you all right?"

"I'm great, actually. I slept really well last night."

"You look well-rested; really happy," she said, a twinge of confusion coloring her voice.

God, was it that rare that I came in with a smile on my face? I wondered, then realized that it probably was since Riley left.

"I had a good night last night, and a good morning."

"I'm glad. I noticed you didn't grab your usual latte; would you like me to run downstairs to get you one?"

"That would be great, it completely slipped my mind. Thanks, Bree."

"You're welcome. Is there anything else I can get you while I'm there?"

"No, thanks. Wait—actually, a blueberry muffin sounds fantastic," I added. "Oh, and maybe a yogurt. I'm kind of hungry this morning."

"Sure, absolutely."

I logged into my email, checking it while I waited for Bree to come back. When she returned, I ate my breakfast and took a moment to send a text to Edward.

Thanks for the great night.

Edward responded almost immediately. You're welcome. I had a great time, too. How late were you?

Almost two hours. Definitely worth it though.

Good. Pack a bag for tomorrow morning so you won't be late.

You're awfully sure I'll come over tonight. ;)

Just confident.

The ringing office phone caught me by surprise and I answered, quickly getting caught up in my work. It wasn't until an hour later that I realized that I hadn't responded to Edward's message.

I'll tell you what, go running with me in the morning and you have a deal.

I can think of a better workout.

I never said we wouldn't do both.

I waited, but didn't get a response until after lunch. I found myself glancing at my phone several times throughout the afternoon even though my day was jam-packed. Finally, when I got a response, I read it right away.

Ugh, first real break I've had since I got here. Meetings.

None on my schedule for the day. Paperwork coming out my ears though.

I've been thinking about you all day. Made the meetings tolerable.

Thought about you once or twice, too.

Want to do dinner tonight?

What did you have in mind?

Butterfly at Pier 33 sound good?

Sounds great.

I loved Butterfly. It was an Asian Fusion restaurant with a strong emphasis on seafood. It was near my apartment; I often picked up takeout there on my way home from work. I liked that Edward seemed to know my tastes and wasn't afraid to make suggestions about dinner. Whether it was somewhere new, or a favorite restaurant, he had yet to pick anything that I hadn't enjoyed.

With a regretful sigh, I pushed Edward from my mind and got back to work. I worked through lunch, eating a salad Lauren had picked up for me. She had gotten the order wrong, but it wasn't bad. I was so intent on my work I didn't really care enough to lecture her about it, anyway. By the time six o'clock rolled around, I was exhausted and my shoulders were tight, but my desk was clear. I had a pile of papers that would need to be filed in the morning, and I knew I would have to go over it at least three times with Lauren, but it felt good to have it completed. I sent a quick text to Edward and got my things together.

Finally done with work! Are we meeting at the restaurant, or your place?

My place, if that's okay. You can leave your car here so you'll have it in the morning.

Perfect. I'll be there in about forty-five minutes, if you don't mind stopping at my place later to pick up my bag.

Sure. We can stop there after dinner; just let me know when you get here.

I will.

I texted Edward once I got to his place and he responded that he'd be out in a few minutes. I took a moment to smooth my hair and touch up my lipstick. I had just finished applying it when he came through the doors of his building. He was dressed in grey dress pants and a white button down shirt, under a V-neck black sweater. He looked incredible. His hair was disheveled; it caught the late evening sun that slanted through the trees beside his building. He grinned at me; his face lit up with happiness. He opened the door for me and I snapped my compact closed, tossing it and the lipstick in my bag before grabbing my purse and coat from my car.

"Hey," he said softly, pulling me into his arms.

"Hey." I swung my bag carefully around his shoulders and he kissed me on the cheek.

"I hate lipstick sometimes," he grumbled. "I really want to kiss you."

"It's long-wearing; it won't smudge off on you, kiss away."

He eyed me skeptically but kissed me anyway. I closed my eyes, sighing with pleasure. If only every day ended with a kiss like that, I thought, and then guilt immediately followed as I realized exactly what I had just thought. I pulled away from him, offering a small smile to hide what was probably flashing across my face. He eyed my lips as if expecting to see the lipstick completely gone.

"Huh," he said in surprise.

"And not even a smudge of it got on you," I teased him.

"It gets my seal of approval." He kissed me again quickly before he reluctantly let go of me. "Ready for dinner?"

"Yes."

~LTOYL~

Butterfly was a large, open restaurant with a wall of windows that overlooked the water. The restaurant's understated decor was warm, and with the late evening sunlight pouring in through the windows, it made everything look washed in golden light. We were seated at a table not far from the windows and Edward took his seat after helping me in to mine.

"I like this place a lot, Edward."

"Good, I thought you might." He grinned at me and I reached for his hand, wanting to feel his skin against mine while looking over the menu. .

"Everything looks incredible," I said, "I'm having a tough time making a decision."

"I came here with Alice and Jasper once; everything I had was very good. You'd have a hard time choosing something bad, I think."

"Oh, I know. I eat here all the time. The problem is I always want one of everything." I laughed lightly.

"Well, I guess I'll have to bring you back for dinner another time then," he suggested.

"That sounds like a great solution."

I finally decided on the wild mushroom cappuccino soup and Edward ordered the duck confit spring rolls, with the promise to share a bite. Although their cocktail menu was wonderful, we both skipped them in favor of a bottle of Chenin Blanc from France.

As we sipped our wine and ate our appetizers, I asked Edward about the work he was doing to make a collaboration with the Tate happen.

He explained, "They're doing a huge Edvard Munch exhibition in 2012, and it would be a really big coup for us to be able to bring it here. They worked with the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Munch Museum in Oslo, so I'm in talks with all three of them, trying to make it work." He took a drink of my wine and leaned forward. "This is something I would really love to see here in San Francisco. It would tie in really well with the Stein collection we just did, and unfortunately, many artists outside of France, England, and the U.S. are really under-appreciated in the modern art world. I'd like to bring a more global perspective to the works we show. Frankly, a Norwegian painter isn't as far from the European-North American influence as I'd like to get, but from a historical perspective, Munch is key."

"Good luck. I really hope it works out for you. Frankly, I'd love to see his works. The Scream may be his most famous piece, but he has many other noteworthy pieces. He hardly seems to get the attention he deserves."

"Thank you," he said, smiling at me.

"How is it going?" I asked. "Do you think it will happen eventually?"

He shrugged and pushed away his empty appetizer plate. "It's going. Not quickly; I'm afraid to get my hopes up too much, but I have made some progress."

"What is delaying things?"

"The usual. Bigger museums with more influence get first pick. Not that San Francisco is insignificant, but we're still behind New York and Chicago."

"That makes sense. It must be frustrating through."

"It is," he said.

"Have you ever thought about moving to Chicago or New York?" I asked him.

He shook his head. "Not really. I love San Francisco, plus I have no desire to move away from my family and friends. I'd rather work as hard as I can to bring the art here. Sure, I could move to New York, but I would feel like I was taking the easy route. I'd rather be proud of myself for knowing I fought my hardest, and lose a few shows than wonder if it just happened because of the name and influence of the museum I'm at. I feel like there's an important distinction there."

"There is," I said. "I'm really impressed by you, Edward. Your passion and your dedication to art is something I really admire."

"Thank you," he said. "I truly believe it's important work, but occasionally I wonder if maybe I should have gone into something else—something where I could have made a bigger difference in the world."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Well, sometimes you get some asshole at a party talking about what a waste of time and money supporting the arts is; you start to wonder if it really means much in the long run."

I shook my head and asked, "You don't believe that, do you?"

"Of course not, but I've had moments where I've questioned my choice of careers. There is so much misery, poverty, and disease in the world, and I wonder if a career in art is really making a difference. My father is a surgeon, so I've wondered if maybe I should have followed in his footsteps. It's rare for me to doubt myself like that. I love what I do, and frankly, my father has always been a staunch supporter of my choice of career. But I have occasionally wondered what difference I'm making."

I thought for a moment on what he said. Art had always been an interest of mine, not just for the picture but the meaning behind it—the passion. "Not just museums in general, but specifically your museum has made a huge impact in my life, Edward. I go there not just to learn or admire, but to get away from my life. Art can be therapeutic; it draws you out of your own life and your own inner turmoil, into someone else's mind. Preserving art for future generations, bringing it to people who might never have those experiences otherwise, is great work—work that has had an impact on thousands. Don't doubt what you do is important."

"Thank you." He squeezed my hand. "Knowing that someone like you, someone equally passionate and dedicated to their work, respects what I do means a lot."

The waiter came to clear our plates and I sat back for a moment. When he was gone, I leaned forward again to speak. "I struggle with the same thing sometimes, Edward. I'm a lawyer and you know how we get painted as being greedy and vicious, out to win at any cost." He nodded.

"I know people often have a bad impression of lawyers, but it was pretty brutal the first time I ran across someone who told me that to my face. He didn't give me time to explain about the pro bono work our firm does, or talk about the truly deserving clients we've helped. I went home and cried. But I got a little tougher, and I made sure the next time they listened to me explain what we do. I know how much good we do."

The waiter brought our entrees, and then Edward spoke.

"One of my colleagues at the museum is working on expanding our children's education programs, not just for school trips, but offering more access to art for underprivileged students. Once they get it off the ground I plan to volunteer some of my time to it, and I've already donated some money. If you'd ever be interested in donating, let me know, I'll put you in contact with Marcia, the woman running it."

"I would love to donate to that, Edward," I said enthusiastically. "Time or money. It sounds like a great program."

I was glad he had asked me; it meant a lot that he wanted me to be involved in something like that. Although our firm did a great deal of pro bono work and I supported several prominent charities in the city, I liked the idea of doing more. I would happily donate money as well, but being able to volunteer my time seemed more meaningful.

When dinner was over, he paid the bill and escorted me out to his car. He stopped before pulling the passenger door open and kissed me. It wasn't overly deep or intense, but surprisingly passionate, however brief.

"Can I ask you a serious question?" he asked after we were settled in the car and pulling away from the restaurant.

"Sure," I said a bit apprehensively.

He took a moment, as if choosing his words carefully. "Are you ready to spend the night in my bed, with me?"

I nodded, unsurprised by his question. "Edward, last night when I woke up in your bed, alone, I wanted you there beside me. I was glad you stayed this morning. I'm not going to promise you that I won't still freak out, but. . . yeah, I am."

I glanced over at Edward and it warmed my heart to see him smile. I knew I'd still have reservations, but waking up the night before and realizing how much I wanted Edward with me gave me the courage I needed to take the next step. I wanted to—for Edward.

"I promise, if I have a hard time with it, I'll go down to the guest bedroom and sleep; I won't just run out."

He gave me a pleased look. "That's exactly what I hoped you'd say."

"You have been so understanding, Edward," I said. "Thank you for being patient." My throat was tight and I barely managed to choke out the words, but he reached for my hand, squeezing my fingers reassuringly.

We swung by my place to pick up a change of clothes for the morning and he came up with me. He hovered in the doorway of my bedroom while I packed; I understood his reluctance to step into the room. I had given him every indication that he wasn't welcome in here. He took my bag when I finished and we walked hand-in-hand back to the car.

Back at his loft, we changed into more comfortable clothing; a pair of yoga pants, a T-shirt, and sweater for me. Sleep pants and a long sleeved cotton shirt for Edward. I liked seeing him so casual and happy. When he took a seat on the couch and held out an arm to me, I curled up beside him, my head on his shoulder. We watched a few more episodes of the documentary on Renaissance art and I felt myself completely relax in Edward's arms. I drew small, looping circular patterns on his thigh with my index finger, idly touching him. As he played with the ends of my hair, I was reminded of how easy it was between us, how comfortable. How much I had missed him when I pushed him away and how much happier I was when I was with him.

When we'd both yawned a half a dozen times he turned his head to look down at me. "Are you ready to go to bed?"

"Yes. I promise you don't have to carry me up to bed this time."

He stood up and held a hand out to me to pull me off the couch. "I didn't mind."

"I know. You could have slept in your own bed, though."

"I wasn't sure what you were comfortable with."

"I know I'm all over the place sometimes—"

"Hey, it's okay. I told you, I was patient." He brushed my hair away from my face, kissing me softly.

"You are, Edward, it's been really good. You make me happy." I ran my fingertips across his jaw and his eyelashes fluttered. "I don't think they recognized me at the office today. I came in late, looking well-rested and with a smile." He kissed me again and I moaned against his lips. "Take me to bed."

He carried my bag up the stairs and gave me a few moments in the bathroom. I took out my contacts and my eyes were irritated from sleeping in them the night before. I hesitated before I put my glasses on. I didn't like wearing them, and I had never allowed Edward to see them before. I slipped them on, frowning at my reflection in the mirror, sure that he'd be turned off. I changed from my clothes into my robe and finished getting ready for bed before leaving the bathroom. The moment I walked into the bedroom, he tugged me into his arms and gave me a searing kiss. I drew back to look at him. "What was that for?" I asked, amused by his fervor.

"These." He tapped the frame of my glasses with his fingertip. "I like them."

"I can tell," I said with a laugh.

"I told you I had a thing for brilliant women. They add to that."

"Good to know." I stepped away from him, grinning over my shoulder as he stared at me in my black silk robe. "Get ready for bed, Edward, I'll be waiting."

When he went in the bathroom, I turned out all but one of the lights, slipping out of the robe before I slid into bed. When he emerged, he paused beside the bed, just staring down at me.

"What?" I asked self-consciously.

"I'm glad you're staying."

"Me, too," I said honestly. "Now, come here."

He slipped his pants off, leaving him in nothing but boxers, and crawled into the bed beside me. As I turned on my side to face him, he mirrored my actions. He reached a hand out to draw me close and I nestled against him, feeling relaxed and content.

He rolled so he was half on top of me and kissed me, his tongue tenderly meeting mine. We kissed slowly, as if we had all the time in the world. I found myself sinking into it, winding my hand through his hair and pulling him closer. Eventually, his lips moved to my jaw and he whispered. "I could kiss you for hours."

"Mmmhmm," I agreed, feeling dazed with desire, my body soft and pliant against his. My fingernails scratched his scalp lightly and he moaned.

"There are just so many places to kiss you."

My breath hitched when his tongue lapped at my throat. "Here, where I can feel your pulse beating."

His lips moved down to my collarbone. He sucked so gently on my skin I could barely feel it. "And here, right over the delicate bones."

He pushed the soft fabric of the sheets away from my breasts and his lips followed. "Here, where you're especially soft and sweet."

He began in the middle before working his way to the left. "And right here," he said in a low, compelling voice as he took my nipple between his lips. It made me ache

I gasped in pleasure, accidentally pulling hard at his hair, yanking his head back. His eyes glittered in the soft light. He lowered his head again as I relaxed my grip. He didn't move on, instead licking around the tight, aching bud before closing his teeth around it and tugging.

A jolt of arousal shot through me; I whimpered and reached for his shoulders, pulling him towards me. His hands reached out to part my legs and he settled himself between them. My clit throbbed with anticipation; I arched into the pressure of his body against mine. He continued his torturous assault on my other nipple and by the time he had finished, I was panting and eager, rocking against his cock.

His lips moved down to my stomach and he laved at the skin with his tongue. I shivered, clutching at the sheets, desperately wanting him to continue down my body. Instead, he moved across to my hip, and then to the other side, repeating the teasing motion. Finally, finally he moved his head between my thighs, looking up at me with an intense gaze. "And here... I could taste you for days."

He took one slow, long lick and I arched into him, my fingers threading through his hair to hold him tight against me. His hair was soft and thick, tickling my inner thighs. I felt a shudder run up and down my spine. I gasped and writhed under the touch of his lips as he explored every inch of me. He brought me to my climax and I hovered there, my heart racing in my chest.

He sat back and held out his hand to me, helping me to my knees. He gently took me by the hips and guided me so I was facing away from him. I fell forward onto my hands and knees, arching my back. Once Edward was ready, his fingers moved to my hips and he bent down, placing a kiss on my spine. With an easy push, he was inside of me. Instead of the rough fucking the position usually called for, it was a slow gliding movement, shallow and effortless. As he rocked within me, I felt the pleasure slowly build.

"So good, Edward," I cried out. His fingers never stopped moving, tracing soft, teasing little patterns along my spine. Suddenly, he stilled and guided me back against him.

"Sit back," he whispered and I followed his instructions until he was resting on bent knees, my hips flush against his and my back nestled against his chest. His right hand moved to my breast, gently teasing it. His lips caressed my neck and I let my head fall to the side until it lolled back against his shoulder. When he began to move, I gasped at the feeling of the unfamiliar position. I felt consumed by him, every inch of my body being touched and caressed by his talented hands.

I reached back, threading my hands through his hair as his lips captured mine. The slightly awkward angle didn't diminish the extraordinary pleasure of his mouth against mine. We moved together for what felt like ages, slowly and steadily, never roughly or frantically.

"Oh, Bella, you feel so good," Edward whispered against my temple. He rubbed his nose against my hair and I sighed, nuzzling back against him. His hand slipped between my thighs, his fingers coming to rest on either side of my clit. He moved them with a slow, smooth motion that made me gasp and tighten around him.

"Please, Edward," I begged. "I'm so close."

He continued his gentle stroking as he whispered softly in my ear, coaxing me toward my climax. I reached down, gripping his thighs as they flexed against mine. With a breathy moan, I came around him, my body clenching down on his cock as I shuddered and shook, falling apart in pleasure.

He came just moments after, his breath warm against my neck. He made a low sound of pleasure that reverberated through my body. He trailed gentle kisses across one shoulder, his lips warm and lingering. One hand softly stroked my thigh, the other pulled me tighter to him.

We stayed joined for another few minutes; caressing each other as we came down from the staggering pleasure. When we did move, it was slowly and reluctantly. Edward disappeared for a moment to clean up while I slid under the covers. When he returned, he slipped into the bed beside me and I willingly went to him. He rolled on his back and held his arm out for me.

He kissed the top of my head and exhaled with contentment, his eyes closing as we both got comfortable. My fingers idly played with the soft, sparse hair on his belly. I felt his body melt against mine as he drifted off to sleep, but I didn't fall asleep as quickly.

Despite the great night out and incredible sex, I felt a slow tension begin to build in my body. When I shifted in Edward's arms, he pulled me a little tighter against him. I stilled and began to stroke his stomach again until he fell back asleep, not wanting him to think I was leaving. Instead of pushing away the uncomfortable feelings, I took a moment to examine why I was feeling so anxious about staying.

It was the first time I'd consciously decided to spent the whole night with Edward, and despite the fact that I wanted to fall asleep and wake up in his arms, it wasn't easy for me. Giving myself physically to someone other than Riley was a lot easier than opening up emotionally. Letting Edward get close to me, allowing myself to be vulnerable and trust him was much harder.

Although my first instinct was to bolt from the bed, I knew how hurt Edward would be. If I chose to stay in the guest bedroom downstairs, he'd understand. But I was tired of running. I wanted to be okay with spending the night with Edward. As I inhaled slowly and evenly, eventually my panic subsided. Staying in bed with him was a big step, but it didn't have to mean it was a bad one. Admitting to myself that I was beginning to move on from Riley was hard, but I couldn't deny I had feelings for Edward. I cared about him. I didn't want to hurt or disappoint him because he mattered to me.

I closed my eyes and inhaled the clean, light scent of Edward's cologne. His long, lean, body was warm against mine and surprisingly comforting. I rolled onto my side and Edward sleepily turned over, spooning behind me. I felt the worries swirling through my head begin to ease and snuggled closer to Edward. He was out again almost immediately, his breathing deep and steady against mine, his embrace gentle and protective.

As I drifted off to sleep with a blissful, sated body and clear head, I was suddenly struck with a feeling of belonging. The loneliness I carried with me throughout my days was pushed away and every breath I took was mirrored by Edward.

I was happy.


Thanks for the reviews so far, you all have been great! Let us know what you think about chapter 24 and we'll see you next Thursday with chapter 25!

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