Taste of the Forbidden Contest

Title: Working Relationship

Rating: M

Genre: Drama & Romance

Word Count: 10,998

Pairing: Edward & Bella

Summary: Bella, a fledgling lawyer, has better luck in a courtroom than with men. Enter the hottie in the pricey suit who offers to pay double her going rate, and he's not talking legal fees. The pair find themselves deep in a compensation-based misunderstanding until a few months later when she realizes she may be in love with her one and only regular.

Disclaimer: We don't own anything that belongs to Stephenie Meyer or Twilight. But the plot is ours.

Bella should have known it was bad when Emmett was still sitting there, half hour past the time they'd agreed to meet at the restaurant. "Sorry," Bella sighed, sliding into the seat across from him. "There was a crisis with the license agreement—"

"Stop it," Emmett snapped, pushing his empty beer bottle away. His eyes were storming and his brows drawn tight with anger. He still looked as gorgeous as the day they'd met at the bar mixer, when his animation was all outrage at the state of the juvenile justice system; he still made Bella's breath catch, even if it was her, and not the under trained guards, riling him up.

"Emmett—" she started, carefully.

"You know what?" Emmett didn't wait for an answer. "The only thing worse than having you ignore me for work is having you show just to talk about work, and those are the only two things you seem to do, I'm done. I kept thinking that it was worth it 'cause you're hot, but it turns out that not even I'm that shallow."

"I—"

"Put this in whatever computer system you use instead of a brain: looking pretty and sucking cock is not enough to get you a relationship. You can mail me my keys." He stood up so fast his chair rocked, and then he was hurrying away.

Bella gaped after him, hand raised as if she could somehow reach out and pull him back. She slowly sat back in her seat, trying not to look around to see exactly how many people had watched her utter humiliation, feeling her skin reddening and she kind of hoped to burst into flames right there.

No such luck.

Her phone buzzed—probably Marcus wanting to know if she'd incorporated the new changes into the latest draft of the contract. The funny thing was, Bella had desperately wanted Emmett to like her, and she thought Marcus was an ass, yet she'd spent 80 hours in the past 10 days on Marcus' contract and only maybe 10 minutes talking to Emmett in a context that wasn't either sex-related or while she was getting ready to go to the law firm.

I'm such a loser, she thought. Four guys, five years, all of them eventually in full rebellion against her workaholic tendencies. Apparently the only thing she could count on to stick with her, were her student loans.

"Excuse me, miss," the waiter said. "Will you be ordering?"

She wasn't up to talking, so she made the universal 'check please' hand gesture, knowing that she was being even more of a bitch—but apparently she didn't have any further to fall in that department.

She'd really thought Emmett liked her. And maybe he had, at first. Before she'd let her true colors show. Bella was good at her job, figuring out the tangles made by words and how to straighten them out and curl them up again to serve them to the client. She'd thought that they shared that intensity, but apparently all Emmett had seen was her face, just like everyone else. Dammit, she'd worked too hard to get where she was, to let up now. She was still a toddler in the big bad world of all things "law." If she didn't pull her weight, hell, more than her weight as she really didn't weigh anything, she might as well count on being viewed as nothing more than a legal clerk with no hopes of ever making partner.

Perhaps this was for the best. Emmett had just made her realize that her priorities were all about the job. There'd be plenty of time for love later. As for sex, there was always her fingers and her night table drawer, with its limited supply of illicit toys.

When the waiter arrived with the tab for Emmett's beers, she barely glanced at the total before throwing down some cash and storming out. She left a big tip, along with what felt like a chunk of her heart.

That had been a week ago.

Bella took another protective sip of her beer. It tasted more like soapy water than anything she'd actually want to drink, but the crowd at the bar was so packed that she was getting shoved this way and that, and an Appletini would have been an invitation to take a sticky bath, not to mention, taken a hell of a lot longer to get her hands on. She was considering it anyway-if she was lucky, maybe a hot guy would careen into her and then be gracious and offer to buy her another. Then again, she'd already turned down three come-ons, not counting the hands she'd removed from various parts of her person.

She really wanted to get laid.

She'd even dressed up, tight skirt, even tighter low-cut shirt, hair product and a little gloss and eyeliner. Her shirt practically had the slogan 'I could be yours if you play your cards right' on it. But every time she tried to smile back at them, she just flashed forward to a month or so later, when they'd be telling her that she couldn't just expect them to be around on the rare occasions she emerged for air and decided she'd like to be a pretend girlfriend.

Two more guys leaned in to whisper-yell in her ear before Bella decided there were better ways to use her night off than to lose her hearing and watch other people hook up. She'd just given a final 'no' and turned to the exit when the hottest man Bella had seen in the place, planted himself in front of her. He was wearing a suit as well-cut as any worn by the equity partners at work, except that the partners didn't generally pair a bespoke jacket with a muscle-hugging white T-shirt that was either damp with sweat or with the drool of onlookers. Jesus, the last time she'd seen pecs like that, she'd been flipping through a magazine. She bit her lip, trying to keep herself from reaching out and touching, then forced her eyes up enough to look at the guy's face. Longer coppery hair, strands stuck together with sweat, and deep green eyes glimmering with humor. Bella was short, but this guy was at least a foot taller.

Say something, she told herself. Except that the guy leaned down before she could formulate a sentence. His lips brushed her ear as he whispered, "Come with me right now and I'll pay you twice your regular rate."

For a second, all Bella could think about was the rate the firm billed her at. "Six hundred an hour?" she asked, nearly blank with shock, except the guy must not have heard it as a question, because he just nodded and grabbed her arm and started walking them towards the door.

Three steps into their retreat, Bella figured out that the guy had probably not been talking about the price of legal services and she nearly fell over her own feet. Somehow the guy just pulled her closer, keeping her upright, grinning like she'd just made a hilarious joke and Bella's brain vapor-locked.

'Why not?' was the first thing in her head when they pushed through the doors and the cooler night air hit her, startling her thoughts into rebooting. Not that she was going to take Hottie's money of course. But if Hottie thought that Bella was there to get paid, then there was no way he wanted anything other than her pussy and she wasn't going to be disappointed. No matter whatever else she wanted, it was obvious that she wasn't going to get it, so she might as well relax and have some fun, right?

"I'm Bella," she said, voice sounding too loud now that they were out of the bar.

Hottie looked over, amused, still holding her arm. "Edward," he said after a moment. Maybe it was an alias, Bella thought. "My hotel is just up the block." He sounded relaxed, like the evening was going just as he'd planned, but his tone didn't invite a response.

Right, so Edward wasn't into casual conversation. Why would he be? He hadn't exactly picked Bella out of the crowd because of her fantastic courtroom skills. She might be buzzing from the beer, but she wasn't disillusioned... before he'd been Edward, he'd been Hottie, which meant that Bella had precisely zero legs to stand on, even without the part where she was letting him assume she was a hooker. Also, apparently she'd overshot 'wants to get laid' by a country mile, which was... dispiriting. Maybe next time she'd skip the extra eyeliner.

Bella managed not to dig herself in further with failed conversational gambits by barely looking at Edward, at all, for the rest of the walk to the hotel, through the freezing lobby, and up in the elevator.

Edward was stripping off his jacket before the door to his room even swung closed, tossing it over a chair as he turned to inspect her, nodding to himself. "Why don't you take off your clothes?" he asked, the way one of the partners at the firm would ask if Bella wanted to take on an assignment—which meant he wasn't asking at all.

Bella hid her blush by pulling her shirt up and over her head. Then, because this was why she'd followed Edward, she unbuckled her skirt and slid it over her hips. She went to toe off her shoes, hoping to roll the thigh highs down without looking too stupid, but he growled at her, telling her to leave them. Oh-kay, she thought, keeping the shoes on and moving to the waist of her panties. Was she really going to do this?

Her hands hesitated on the top of her panties. When she looked up, Edward was sitting on the edge of the enormous hotel bed, shirtless. He was muscled like Hemsworth, elbows on his knees and chin in his hand, staring openly at Bella. "Don't stop on my account," he said, again with the disconnected note in his voice like he was ordering from a menu. Bella's stomach flipped and she tugged down her panties and then flicked the clasp on her bra, dropping that to the floor as well. Her nipples, already taking an interest, pebbled and thickened further as Edward smirked.

"I want you to suck my cock," he said, and maybe she should've disabused him of the notion that this was a 'business arrangement', except that Jesus-fuck it was hot to be getting ordered around like this, which-a small part of Bella's mind noted- was a little surprising given how much yessirring she did on a daily basis. Only this time she was going to get an orgasm out of it, instead of the usual backache/no-sleep/boyfriend-abandoning-her-in-disgust combo.

Snapping herself back to reality, Bella nodded and tried to cross the floor in as non-dorky a way as possible, and fortunately Edward wasn't all that far away. She sank to her knees between his spread legs and reached for his belt, thin hand tooled leather as expensive as the rest of his outfit. Edward's cock was already pushing out against the fine wool of his pants, and she hurried to get the fly open with almost equal concern for the suit as for Edward. Except that her mouth was watering, so maybe she was a little more interested in what was underneath the suit. Edward helped, undoing the interior button that helped his pants hang better and raising his hips so that Bella could get his pants and briefs down.

Bella stopped and stared.

She kind of wanted to say something, but figured that he was probably as used to comments on the size of his cock as she was to expressions of interest in her cocksucking mouth. Come to think of it, that was a good pairing. Like peanut butter and jelly, but with extra sex. Bella licked her lips and Edward made a small, impatient sound. Taking a deep breath, she bent forward, letting her tongue roll around him, the head swelling even as she got her first taste.

She was never going to get all of that in her mouth, so she brought one hand up, even as she worked herself down as far as she could, rising up on her knees. Edward's cock was just as thick and silky smooth under her fingers as it was in her mouth, thick veins rising under her fingers as she continued to suck down his shaft, using the spit leaking out of her mouth to ease her way back up. Edward's taste was strong, yet she found she wanted as much of it as she could get.

Edward was polite—or had a healthy respect for the ordinary gag reflex—and didn't shove forwards, so Bella put her free hand on his thigh, stopping to feel the muscle twitch and slid up until she was cupping his balls, her fingers trapped against the crease of his thigh. With her eyes closed, she felt weirdly safe. Like she could keep doing this forever, even though her jaw was going to crack and her tongue was going numb. Just giving pleasure, happy in the moment because there was no future to it at all.

When she pulled back to breathe, Edward put a hand on her shoulder and she looked up, lips still wrapped around that perfect sticky-smooth head. Edward's gasp told her just how she looked.

"Shit," he exhaled, pushing her hair out of her eyes. "I'm going to fuck you now."

Bella liked that plan.

She let his dick slide all the way out of her mouth, wobbling a little and rose to her feet, suddenly a tad unsure how to proceed as she hadn't exactly thought this through.

"Do you have..." she trailed off and Edward cocked his head at her.

"Yeah, in my wallet... in my pants." She nodded, retrieved the wallet for him, handing it over as she stood by quietly while he opened it and retrieved the little foil packet. Bella didn't miss the wad of green that was housed in his wallet.

Her stomach started to turn but then he was tearing the foil and seeing his hands working the rubber down his length was all the distraction she needed. She moved back to the side of the bed, where he was still sitting on the edge.

She lifted a knee, thinking she would just straddle his lap, but he caught it and spun her around so that she was facing the mirror on the other side of the room. With no fanfare he shoved two fingers into her wetness, checking that she was ready, then grabbed her hips and pulled her down onto his waiting cock.

"Fuck!" she ground out as he rapidly filled her, stretching her tighter than she could recall ever being stretched, and he grunted behind her. Edward felt even bigger than he looked, pushing in with a steady strength that said he could've gone faster if he wanted, grunting a little as he put his huge hands under her knees and pressed them up towards her chest. Her tendons were probably protesting, but she couldn't feel anything other than the thick slide of his cock. Gasping, she tried to relax and take it, letting her own hands fall to her sides, fisting the covers.

"Talk to me," Edward ordered.

Seriously? Yeah, Bella's day job involved producing words on demand, but this—

Well, okay. "Unnngh," she began, then took a deep breath. "Feel so fucking good inside me. So fucking hot, your gorgeous cock—" He thrust extra hard, and she basically lost the plot. When her head cleared, she was still babbling, something about how she'd suck him all night long if she could. Edward was urging her on, asking "You like that?" and variants, which meant that it was okay for her to dissolve into nothing much more than "yeah" and "please". Finally, when she thought she was just about to die, her reached down to push two fingers hard against her clit, and that was it, game over.

She came like she hadn't in months, maybe years, going boneless and heavy even as his dick seemed to swell inside her, their bodies slip-sliding together, both of them wet with sweat. Bella blinked up and saw the reflection of Edward's head thrown back, long line of his throat and jaw like some sculptor's wet dream.

"Fuck," he moaned—as good as Bella felt, it sounded like the wisdom of the ages, and she would've nodded if she'd had the energy—and came, his whole body stiffening and then collapsing back to the bed.

They lay there, panting, until Bella really had to move her legs, and then she sort of wriggled them feebly until Edward got the message and pulled out, carefully bringing the condom with him. Holy fuck she was going to be sore in the morning, but it had been worth every twinge.

Edward rolled onto his back next to her, breathing hard. "That was awesome," he said, tugging the condom off and tossing it over the side; Bella had a moment of ewww, not wanting to step on it later, and brought her head up just enough to see that Edward, amazingly, had managed to lob the thing straight into the trash can. Rich, hot, and well-coordinated. Bella had a flash of one of those Hollywood celebrities explaining why he'd hired a hooker—I don't pay them for the sex, the guy'd said. I pay them to go away after.

It was a little bit of a buzzkill, but she resolved to be well-behaved. As soon as she caught her breath, she'd leave—refusing any money of course, be out the door before anything could get awkward.

Except that Edward sighed, satisfied but loud, and folded his hands on his stomach. "Lick me clean," he said, like that was something that you could actually say and her mouth fell open. Edward looked over and grinned. "My hour's not up," he said.

Bella had the irrational urge to explain that she knew all about keeping time in 60 minute increments, but apparently that wasn't who she was tonight.

Tonight she was the girl who dutifully scooted down the bed, got on her hands and knees and started in again on that amazing cock, soft now and covered with a not entirely unpleasant mix of cum and condom residue. She used her tongue to sweep up and down, unwilling to miss any patch of skin. The taste wasn't the best thing ever, but Bella couldn't help but think about how all that mess got there, thick and salty and only somewhat plasticky, plus she could get almost all of his dick in her mouth this way and he was staring down at her like she was setting an Olympic record in cocksucking, so it was overall pretty hot.

When Edward's length started to swell, forcing Bella to back off some, she raised her eyebrows—are you fucking kidding me?—he simply shrugged, more smug than sheepish, as he got all the way hard again, faster than she had thought possible.

"That's good," Edward said, one hand on her shoulder to push her back. "You stay right there." He reached for another condom, and before she could really process what was going on, he was behind her again, pushing her up the bed and shoving his knees between hers, one hand heavy on the nape of her neck.

He pushed in even more smoothly this time, bottoming out like he knew exactly how hard to thrust to keep from crossing the line into pain. Bella felt strange, floaty, like even her heartbeat was tied to how Edward was moving inside her. She wasn't going to cum again soon, probably couldn't even if she wanted to, but every nerve was lit up with sensation. She concentrated on keeping her arms and legs from giving out on her and on rocking her hips back to match his movements.

He grunted and shifted his hand; holding her shoulders now, pulling her back as his knees pushed hers further out, destabilizing her and pushing her further down on his cock. Bella opened her mouth to protest but all that came out was a ragged "unnghh" that, even in her own ears, sounded more encouraging than pained.

Edward fucked her like that for a while, until her thighs were shaking and she'd lost control of her arms and face planted into the soft, clean-smelling covers. His hands had drifted down to her hips, holding her in place as if she had anywhere to go, and then he slid one hand all the way up her back, over her shoulder, curving around her neck and finally over her jaw, thumb pressing into her mouth with the same entitlement he had shown from the beginning. She moaned and let him in, sucking sloppily, nipping at the pad of his thumb.

"Fuck," he gasped, like he was surprised, then bucked his hips forward one last time, cumming. He collapsed down onto her in slow motion, his hand flailing to take care of the condom, and somehow they ended up smashed together in a way that was going to get uncomfortable fast, his mouth pressed into her neck and his leg splayed across hers. Her face was mostly pressed into a pillow; she had one eye and nostril free, and Edward was still playing with her mouth, letting her lick and nip at his fingers. They were rough and slightly salty and she could have kept going for hours.

"Mmm," he hummed. "I need a snack. You want to eat?"

Bella thought about it, to the extent that she could think. "What are my choices?"

He pulled away—Bella couldn't stop herself from wriggling a little, suddenly cold—and a menu landed next to her face. "Anything you want," Edward said.

"Look it over while I take a piss... call it in. I'll take whatever steak dish they have and a baked potato," he 'requested' as his naked ass waltzed away with an arrogant swagger. Bella shook her head, rolling onto her back to hold the menu above her. Fuck the potato, she was thinking the Death by Chocolate looked really good right about now.

It was something she normally would never order, worried that even smelling it would add five pounds to her ass, but she wasn't exactly doing 'normal' tonight and she had to have worked off at least six pounds already in cum and sweat.

She picked up the phone and punched in the numbers for room service, ordering two of the steak dinners and one of the sinful desserts along with sparkling waters. Edward came back out just as she was hanging up.

"They said it'll be here in about 45 minutes," she told him as she rolled over and propped herself up on her elbows, letting her fingertips casually brush the sides of her tits, bringing one knee up into a bend. "Is that so?" Edward asked as his eyes wandered over her, making her shiver even though the room wasn't cold.

Bella let her leg fall to the side, freeing her inner whore, "Yep. Whatever should we do to pass the time?" Edward's cock, which had been lying long and soft against his thigh, started to fill.

"Touch yourself." The words were just a whisper, but even at the low volume, they were deep and almost needy and brought a soft moan from Bella's throat. Keeping her gaze firmly fixed on his face, her fingers moved from the sides of her tits, up to her nipples where she teased herself to painfully hard points before one hand trailed down over her trembling abdomen, ending between her thighs. The flesh was tender and she flinched briefly at the contact but the way his lips fell open, as he watched her, negated the soreness and made her want to perform for him.

"Show me," louder this time as he began to do his own self exploration. Bella pulled her other leg up, so that both knees were bent, and added her other hand to her first. With her right, she spread herself open, with her left she slipped two fingers inside herself, into the tacky wetness that had been collecting for what felt like hours now, then withdrew them to rub wide circles over her clit.

They continued their erotic show and tell for several minutes as Edward's hand moved slightly faster over his cock, now beginning to shine at the tip, and Bella followed suit, bringing her circles in tighter and harder until it became almost painful, at which point she dipped her fingers back into herself to 'relube'. She had a moment of internal insanity as her thoughts wandered to porn fluffers and she let out a slightly manic giggle.

Edward's hand stilled as he looked at her quizzically, his expression asking her to explain herself. Distraction and redirect always worked in the courtroom, so why couldn't it work in the bedroom? "Let me suck your cock, Edward."

It worked. He was on his knees by her head in an instant, pushing that amazing creation into her mouth once again. He rested one hand on the headboard and the other against his ass, picking up a steady pump and pull in and out of her willing mouth. The taste seemed milder this time, and she sucked at him with relish as her own movements became erratic on her pussy.

Like dominoes, her pussy started twitching and zinging under her fingers and she clamped down on his cock, moaning and crying out around it, which he must not have been expecting because she abruptly had the choice of swallow or drown as her mouth filled with his cum.

A sharp rap at the door at that exact moment had them both laughing and talking over each other—

"Perfect timing."

"Don't need the protein anymore."

Edward gawked at her with humor in his eyes as he hopped off the bed, grabbing the bedspread and yanking it out from under Bella with a swift tug, like some parlor trick and wrapped it round his hips. He answered the door and returned a minute later, pushing the trolley with their food.

The silence as they ate was awkward. It seemed they had no qualms about fucking every which way, but sharing a meal was a bit too intimate and they couldn't finish fast enough. The cake was only half eaten when Edward pushed back from the table and stood, extending his hand. "Shower with me, I'm not done with you yet."

The 'clock' forgotten, Bella took his hand and let him her lead her into the luxurious bathroom. By the time they exited the shower, they had both been properly lathered, washed and rinsed and there was no denying the physical need they had to fuck at least one more time.

Which is how Bella found herself on her knees, ass up in the air as Edward slammed into her seconds after he'd gotten the condom on. His pace was almost brutal, as if he were battling some inner demon that wanted Bella ravaged and consumed. Problem was, she wanted to be, so she didn't fight. She laid there limply, keening and begging as he fucked her within an inch of her life. She knows she came while he fucked her, but not how many times. When his release found him, with a death grip on her waist and his balls actually curling up and slapping her pussy with each punishing thrust, he called out in some foreign language before pulling out and falling to the side on his back.

She'd get up in a minute. Tell Edward that it had been amazing, wish him the best of luck on his business trip, and disappear from his life.

In just a minute.

Bella woke with a foul taste in her mouth and the too-familiar ache of having left her contacts in too long. The phone was ringing, except she never had her phone set to ring.

Which was when she realized, as she rolled over towards the noise, was because she was still in Edward's hotel room. Also, fucking ow.

After a few pathetic attempts, she managed to grab the receiver off of the end table. An automated voice told her that this was her morning wakeup call.

Fuck.

Oh, she didn't need to be at the office until ten; on a Saturday ten was reasonable. But if she hadn't gone home—

"Edward?" she asked.

Silence.

When Bella investigated—moving slowly in the delusion that taking care would help her feel less like she'd been turned on a spit—she found her cellphone on the dresser below the big mirror, weighing down on envelope with the hotel's logo emblazoned on it; obviously Edward had used the phone to make sure she wouldn't leave without seeing the envelope.

"Fuck," she said to the uncaring, empty room. Carefully she pulled out the note, ignoring for the moment, the stack of cash it was wrapped around.

"Bella," the note read in sloppy but readable handwriting. "I had a fantastic time. Thanks for last night."

She stared at her phone like it was the idiot that had passed out and left her 'hookup' with the impression that her virtue was negotiable... for $3000, the envelope contents.

Either Bella's time sense was way off, or Edward was also a big tipper.

Now what?

Her stomach growled, and simultaneously she remembered that the Volturi deal memo was due on Monday, which pretty much decisively answered the 'what now' question. Bella had no idea what to do with the money. Maybe she could leave it with the hotel and ask them to return it to... Edward, if that was really his name, with no last name, staying in room 1918? Yeah, she could do that, if her best-case scenario was dying of embarrassment. Worst-case was some sort of horrible solicitation arrest, disbarment and slow starvation living on the streets—

Okay, no... too risky.

Maybe she could give the money to charity. Were there reporting requirements on cash? Shit, she'd have to look that up.

In the meantime, she had a walk of shame and a deal memo to finish.

Still, she couldn't help but smile as she opened the door to leave the room, and the lingering scent of Edward, behind. However it happened, the hottest guy this side of Robert Pattinson had picked her and they'd had crazy hot sex for hours. That was definitely worth some compensation-related misunderstandings. And when she remembered this—because it was going to be a key part of her fantasy life for years to come—she could edit out all those awkward bits.

Which worked fine until three weeks later, when her phone buzzed in the middle of a meeting and the name on the display was Edward's.

Bella froze for a second, then made some frantic hand motions that she hoped conveyed 'I have to take this' as she hurried out into the hallway.

"Edward?" she asked, dumbfounded.

"Bella, hi!" He sounded cheerful.

"You called," she said dumbly, then promptly wanted to smack herself in the face.

"Yeah," Edward said, dampened a little. "I programed my number into your phone, I hope that's okay?" He sounded tentative now, like he was going to try very hard not to be hurt if she reacted badly and not at all like he sounded the night of their 'encounter'.

"No, no, that's fine," Bella mumbled, because she didn't want to hurt Edward, who'd been a nice guy—apart from that whole paying-money-for-sex thing and Jesus Christ—

"Anyway," Edward cut in before Bella could really wrap her mind around revisiting previous events, "I'm going to be in town Friday night, and I wondered if you were... um... You know... Available."

"Friday?" Bella repeated. She didn't squeak, whatever the assistants in the hallway might have said to the contrary.

"I'll pay double, same as before," Edward said hurriedly.

Bella knew then, that if she explained the truth to Edward, he would hang up and never call back. Never answer any calls that she would never work up the courage to make in the first place. And Bella would miss out on another chance to fuck Edward and maybe find out if he'd actually manage to stay in the bed until she woke up with him in the morning.

It wasn't like she was going to get confused about whether this was a real relationship. Not with the meter ticking. She wouldn't want more than he could give, because what Edward could give was absolutely, one hundred percent clear.

"What time and where?" she heard herself ask, closing her eyes.

After she'd taken down the details, she went back to the meeting, where they were debating the extent to which they could incorporate the latest demands into the Volturi deal. Bella didn't even know why they were having this meeting, since the principals were set to resume negotiations at the end of the week, but she guessed that was why they paid the partners the big bucks.

Bella had spent half an hour she really couldn't spare Friday morning, picking out the tight white blouse that made her tits look extra full and the khaki pencil skirt that made her ass look amazing.

"Screw it, we're ordering in," Edward said as soon as he'd gotten a good look at her.

She flushed and wouldn't meet his eyes, but she couldn't suppress a smile, glad she'd spent the extra time.

At that point, he put his hands on her shoulders pushing her down to the bed and the philosophical portion of the evening was pretty much concluded.

Bella didn't donate the money, but she didn't spend it either. She put it in a shoebox at the back of her closet. Sometimes she looked at her loan balance and thought about being able to leave the firm, maybe do something she really wanted—one of her classmates was working at the Innocence Project, and she sent out these emails every once in a while that made her throat clench up—but she couldn't quite make herself do it. It didn't help that she was almost certain that she'd get busted for tax evasion if she tried and she felt like a criminal even looking up the rules for cash deposits, which her ethics professor had said were generally a sign that you were trying to figure out how to do the wrong thing and get away with it. So yeah. Shoebox, back of the closet.

Edward came to town every few weeks. They developed a pattern: they'd fuck at Edward's hotel, order some food, debate what tourist attraction Edward should see before he flew back, and then fuck again. Bella put her foot down at work and made enough time to see a couple shows or exhibits each week so that she'd be able to make solid recommendations. (Okay, maybe she only put a couple of toes down, and also cancelled her cable, but it worked out that she had more free time on balance.) She started running to and from work and showering and getting ready at the office, which took longer than the Metro, but kept her from feeling too much like some kind of 'before' picture when compared to the women she was sure Edward would usually go for.

Despite the fact that she turned down three assignments, or maybe because of it, her biennial evaluation was better than ever. "You really seem to have found your place," the partner leading the review said, and even though that wasn't exactly how Bella felt, she nodded, because she hadn't lost all good sense. And she still thought that contractual loopholes were fantastic intellectual challenges, but getting to talk to Edward about something else entirely turned out to be revitalizing.

They never talked about Edward's business either, though if it brought him to Washington DC on a regular basis, Bella figured it had to be either politics or defense-related. Bella was guessing defense contractor of some sort, important enough to get paid enough to drop thousands of dollars—on Bella—each trip, but not so important that a paid-companion sex scandal would destroy him. She was careful not to ask. The illusion that they only existed when they were with each other was fragile—and directly contradicted by those discreet envelopes—but important, important enough to Edward for him to pay dearly for it, and important enough to Bella that she couldn't afford to forget.

"Let's do something different," Edward said as soon as Bella answered her phone one crisp fall day.

"No more food," she said immediately, because she was still unable to eat sushi. Edward's sexcapade ideas were almost all excellent, but the occasional misfire was epic.

"No!" Edward made an embarrassed noise. "I mean, not like that. There's this restaurant, they do a tasting menu. Supposedly it takes four and a half hours."

Bella closed her eyes and spun in her chair, facing the unseeing polarized windows of the building across the street. "Edward, I... I feel bad about you spending that kind of money on—"

"I want to," Edward said, almost sullen.

Bella didn't know what to say to him. You should be careful or I might think this is a date? I'm already way too into you; I think about you every day you're not here? But the whole point of their—business arrangement, that was the only word for it, was that Bella didn't say no.

She cleared her throat. "What if we, you know, started counting after dinner?"

"Bella," Edward said, his usual good humor all but restored, "you're not gonna drive me into bankruptcy or anything. And I know the score."

"Still," Bella told him, "let's—you know, it's a frequent flyer discount, whatever."

Edward laughed, and Bella curled herself around the phone, wanting him there right now. "So do I also get a first class upgrade?"

Bella froze, flummoxed. "What did you have in mind?" If she'd just walked into some weird hooker lingo, she was going to be in deep trouble. Also, she was having a hard time imagining something she hadn't already allowed him to try.

"Why don't I leave it to your discretion?" he teased, and she relaxed.

In the end, they did go to the restaurant. The meal took nearly five hours. Between courses, Edward told Bella about his high school misadventures in Seattle and Bella gave back stories about Phoenix, carefully free of last names or any references further forward in time. They were stuffed like over inflated balloons by the time the dessert arrived at the table—also buzzed, because they'd split a wine pairing, nine glasses for nine courses, so if they walked a straight line back to the hotel it was only because they were leaning on each other and cancelling each other out.

Bella tried to put Edward into the bed, but he just pulled her down and wouldn't let go, so they passed out like that until he woke at ass-o'-clock and then totally took the ass part seriously. Bella ended up getting fucked as the predawn light seeped past the curtains, and then fucked again in the shower. After that, he declared that 'first class upgrade' meant a blowjob combined with a vibrator in Bella's ass, which worked well enough that it was totally worth having carried the little lipstick-sized thing around with her for a day.

After breakfast, Edward mentioned his planned tour of the Holocaust Museum. "Sounds great," Bella said, and he got this funny tight look on his face, which made her realize that she sounded like she was inviting herself along.

"I'll see you when you're back in town?" she said quickly, because even if Edward thought he was being offered a freebie, it wasn't in the terms of their arrangement that Bella got to impose like that. Anyway, the Volturi deal had suffered some sort of outbreak late Friday, right before they'd gone to dinner, and Bella needed to go in and start shoveling away at the resulting mess.

When she hung up her jacket at the office, she found the usual envelope, with the usual $3000. Bella thought that, if she really had been a prostitute, she would have appreciated Edward's polite discretion even more.

She didn't hear from Edward for another three weeks after that.

They'd compared opinions on Shakespeare, for fuck's sake. (Edward had this completely twisted preference for the comedies, when anyone could plainly see that Hamlet was the only play that mattered.)

Oh God, she was a Julia Roberts cliché. Except that Bella knew what the original ending of that movie had been, and she wasn't expecting any Disney bluebirds to flutter down and give her her fairytale ending. And even if Edward, through some miracle, decided to 'rescue' her, that would only expose all the lies: what could she say? Sorry, I have this job already, it involves billing two thousand hours a year, more if I want a bonus—yeah, I guess you could call my profession corporate whore. In a sense, I do screw people for money. Just not quite as directly as you thought I did.

Right, that was enough to shrivel the fantasy before it unfurled.

Regardless, when Edward texted her in the middle of a dank Wednesday, Bella felt like she'd been catapulted out of the office, soaring high into the clouds. "Free tonight?"

Edward had never wanted her except on the weekends. Heart pounding, she bent over her phone, carefully typing in the words. "You're in town? I'll rearrange my schedule." Marcus would live with getting the next draft tomorrow.

There was a delay, during which Bella fretted that she'd texted too needily, or something.

The response disabused her of any notion that it mattered. "Actually I have these two friends. I thought I'd give them your number. If that's ok?"

Her whole body turned to ice. Her phone began to slip from her numb hands, and she only just caught it before it smashed to the floor. Part of her wanted to see it shatter, have an excuse not to answer.

She was going to be sick.

When she managed to get herself to the bathroom, shoulder aching from something or someone she'd bumped into on the way, all she could do was sink to her knees on the cold hard tile and lean over the toilet. Nothing came up.

She'd been a fool.

She could hardly blame Edward, who'd been upfront about his intentions and his expectations since that first night. Bella was a travel luxury, like one of those super soft bathrobes in hotels. You didn't worry that other people used them, not as long as they were cleaned in between. Edward had never offered anything other than what he was willing to give, steak dinners and dead presidents.

Her hands were shaking and she mistyped at least a dozen times, but eventually she got the message together. "Sorry. Not taking on anybody new right now."

And if pressing 'send' felt like putting her hand through a wall, Bella didn't have to admit that to anyone.

Edward didn't respond.

Another three weeks passed. Bella said yes to a document review that should've made her weep with boredom, except it was a welcome distraction.

She thought about going out. It wouldn't have to be a bar. She could hit Borders, approach someone who was checking out the nonfiction.

The thought just made her want to curl up in the corner of her office and wait until the growing pile of paperwork smothered her. She didn't want to go out and make herself pretend to be interesting for some random stranger. She wanted Edward. Only she'd fucked that up, of course. Even when she pretended, her real, snooze-worthy self bled through.

Maybe she should've said yes to Edward's friends. They could've been not entirely disgusting. If Edward paid for it, after all, then anything was possible. She could have closed her eyes and thought about work to get through the experience.

Then Edward wouldn't have seen through her pathetic crush, and maybe he would've wanted her again. If there'd been any doubt after the dinner and the morning after, she had confirmed it when she'd turned down his friends: Bella was acting like a girlfriend, and Edward had never given any indication he was okay with that.

When Edward called while she was deep in parsing an expert report that she was pretty sure played fast and loose with Bayes' Theorem, Bella almost didn't understand what was happening. That was probably the only reason her voice sounded normal when she answered.

"Hello?"

"Bella, hi." Edward sounded—relieved? Nervous? Weird. "Hey, I know I haven't been around much, but is there any chance you're available Friday?"

"Friday?" Bella repeated, more out of shock than anything else. She blinked, trying to clear her head, and pulled up her schedule, as if that mattered. "Uh—"

"It's for me," Edward said quickly. "I mean, it'd be me. You and me. If that's okay."

"Sure," she agreed, mouth way ahead of her brain. "Yeah. I'd—yeah, great."

"Great!" he exclaimed, with considerably more enthusiasm. "See you then."

Bella minimized her calendar and stared at the sensitivity and specificity measurements on her computer screen, wondering what the hell just happened.

She arrived at Edward's hotel room resolved not to fuck up again, which wasn't a problem, since Edward basically picked her up and threw her at the bed. Bella's vocabulary devolved to 'yeah' and 'like that' at variable volumes for a while, which was more than okay.

When she realized that she was leaning over Edward's sated body, running her fingers through his sweaty, desperately-in-need-of-a-haircut bangs, she hesitated. But Edward had his eyes closed and made a displeased grunt when her hand faltered. So she figured that he considered the lesson taught, and redoubled her commitment to following his rules.

"So what educational pastime do you have planned for tomorrow?" she asked idly, her voice hoarse from the second time, when Edward had practically shoved his cock down her throat and Bella had come all over her own fingers.

"Haven't decided," he said, still not opening his eyes. "Any suggestions?"

Because Edward wasn't watching, Bella risked smiling up at him, feeling light and heavy all at once. "I haven't been able to check out the Smithsonian, but I hear it's cool."

Edward turned his face away, his shoulders tensing, and Bella carefully disentangled her hand. Their sides were still pressed together, sweat-damp, contact warming her and making her thoughts run syrup-slow. Edward's voice, when it came, was low enough that Bella had to lean forward to hear him. "You could. I mean, we could go together?"

Bella swallowed. She wanted to do that, stand in front of the exhibits and make jokes with him. Wanted people to look at them and think, 'they're together'. She could imagine the feel of Edward's hand in hers, big as the rest of him, warm and reassuring and—totally fake. If she tried something like that in reality, Edward was likely to conclude that Bella hadn't gotten the lesson the first time.

"I—I might have to work," she said, as close as she could make herself get to saying no, even though she knew that she was just tormenting herself.

"Work," Edward repeated, like the word tasted bad, and then he rolled further away, so that they weren't touching at any point, and sat up, shoving the pillows aside to make space for himself.

Bella figured that she wasn't supposed to stay lying down either, so she sat up, pulling the sheet over her chest as if that would offer some sort of protection.

"How many clients do you have?" he asked, an unusual strain in his voice as he leaned back against the headboard.

Bella suppressed the powerful impulse to say "one," because Edward had made it pretty clear how things stood between them. She thought about work, the client numbers it seemed like she dreamed about. "Four or five," she said, hoping it sounded plausible.

"And you, what, find them—?"

Edward was the one who seemed so familiar with the business in the first place, Bella thought with a touch of resentment. "Uh, referrals," she guessed, trying to keep the hesitation out of her voice. She shifted a little, because even on a soft bed, the fact that she'd gone six weeks without fucking Edward was making itself apparent.

"Oh, yeah," Edward said, like he was relieved. "But—how did you start?" His fingers were playing idly with the edge of one of the overstuffed pillows.

"Someone offered to pay me," Bella said, biting her lip.

"You do background checks, right? You don't just—geez, I should've given you names, no wonder you were mad." Edward's face was red now, spreading down his throat to his chest, as he looked away.

"Hey, no," Bella said, wondering how they'd gotten to this place where Edward was upset over having violated the—etiquette? Ethics? Rules? Whatever. She reached out and patted Edward's thigh. "You didn't do anything wrong." She'd needed the reminder, as it had happened.

"You're safe though, you don't just go with anyone." Edward had regained the confidence to look at her, but that was maybe worse, his eyes wide and sincere, all melting concern.

Bella nodded, because she would have said anything to reassure Edward at this point. "Yeah, I check them out, like you said." She thought about the conflict checks they ran on new clients at the firm. "Credit, criminal records, other stuff. I don't want to be somebody's Eliot Spitzer moment."

"But you didn't do any of that with me," Edward said worriedly, and Bella fought to hide her dismay.

"I, uh. Had a good feeling?" She tried to leer, but thought she was probably doing it wrong, given the expression on his face. "Seriously, Edward. I promise, I'm careful. Maybe I bent a few rules for you, but look how that worked out."

Edward didn't look satisfied. Bella hated the thought of making him unhappy. She was already screwed; the least she could do was make sure that Edward got what he wanted. "Hey," she said, moving to straddle Edward's legs, bringing her hands up to cup his sharp jaw, "don't worry about any of that, okay? Just let me take care of you."

And if kissing Edward hurt some, like she'd been punched in the chest until she was tenderized, it was still worth it.

The next morning Bella had to beg off the Meyerson deal, because the Volturi deal was bubbling towards a boil again after almost a month-and-a-half hiatus. Bella spent most of the day updating the language on calculation of profits, which, though not nearly as enjoyable as hanging out with Edward, was engaging in its own right—confirming that Bella was the dorkiest dork who'd ever dorked, but she was working on embracing her inner dweeb, since no one else was going to do it for her.

On Monday, Marcus had a surprise: both sides were now convinced that a deal was imminent, and Bella was going to get to come to the final meeting, where the principals would sign on the dotted line. The firm didn't usually allow that kind of staffing for what was essentially a formality—they'd have to write off Bella's time, but Marcus said that it was important for the client to get to know Bella for the future. If Bella wanted to make partner, she knew she had to do this kind of thing, and hopefully in the business context it wouldn't be that evident to the other people there that Bella was nothing more than a contracts casebook poured into a decent pant suit. She didn't really get why more people didn't want to dissect all the decisions that went into a big deal like this one, but she thought she could fake something like normal interest in weather and real estate if they just did a casual meet-and-greet for 15 minutes after the contract was signed.

She spent the week in a haze of combined reminiscence and anticipation—Edward was making up for lost time, coming back for the weekend. On Friday afternoon, just before Bella was supposed to leave for the meeting, Edward texted: "Be ready when you come in the door. I've got some celebrating to do."

Bella had to make a quick pitstop, because that got her turned on so fast it hurt. She'd have to sneak out of the reception early, find a bathroom stall where she could change. At this rate she'd show up at the hotel with her juices already dripping down her thighs. Luckily the thought was so hot that she came almost instantly, and even more luckily, her outfit was spared any damage, though her forearm was marked where she'd bitten to stifle her moan of ecstasy.

Marcus looked at her funny when she got into the cab—Bella figured her skirt was still rumpled—but then visibly dismissed any concerns, turning instead to the brief he was reading. Bella pulled out her own work, a draft Daubert motion to kick out that Bayes' Theorem-defying expert testimony, and they bent their heads in nearly companionable silence until they arrived at the other firm, a square white marble building with golden lions bracketing the front steps, arrogantly situated within a few blocks of the House office buildings.

Inside, they got visitor's badges with their pictures printed in black-and-white, pure Washington security theater, and were escorted by Alice—Bella's counterpart worker bee on the other side—to the conference room, where there was a standard display of bottled water, sodas, fruit, and cookies; the elderly and cantankerous Mr. Volturi himself; the other associate on the deal and a partner Bella remembered from checking the photo on the website during an especially boring conference call—

And Edward.

Bella stopped so suddenly that Alice bumped into her, sending her flailing forwards. Everyone turned to her, and Bella's shock was mirrored on Edward's face, shifting quickly to suspicion, then anger.

"Are you okay?" Marcus asked, with a decent approximation of true concern. "Everyone, this is Isabella Swan, the associate who's done such good work on the licensing. Bella, you know Aro, Alice, Gianna, and this is Edward Cullen, who's been keeping us all on our toes."

Bella couldn't breathe. She couldn't even blink.

Marcus had gone on and on about the wunderkind on the other side of the deal. What he'd failed to mention was said wunderkind mistook hapless lawyers for hookers, which didn't exactly scream 'genius' any more than Bella's acquiescence had done.

"So!" Marcus interrupted, clapping his hands together, either ignoring the undercurrents in the room or missing them entirely. "Any final questions before we put this deal to bed?" Bella almost choked on his choice of words and Edward's scowl deepened.

"Actually," Edward said, his voice sounding like it had gone through a garbage disposal first, "I had a concern about paragraph 147, page 64?"

Bella wanted to pinch herself, because this had to be a nightmare that was also some kind of wet dream. She'd worked on that paragraph for two straight days.

"Yeah?" she said, and winced when everyone turned to her; Edward might sound a little thrown, but her voice had come out cigarettes-and-whiskey postcoital.

"Why don't we all sit down?" Aro suggested. Bella let Marcus guide her to a seat and then they were off.

Edward excused himself after they'd come to an agreement on the disputed issue—Edward had closed the loophole Bella had deliberately left open, but it was still a good deal for the client, so she couldn't have been upset even if she'd had any room for non-freak-out emotions. After a minute, where Bella stared at the nondescript art on the conference room wall, her phone buzzed. She successfully refrained from falling out of her chair—at this point, she was calling that a victory—and read Edward's text. "Come tonight if you don't want your boss to hear all about your second job."

After that, Bella didn't really notice when they signed the documents.

Marcus had to jostle her shoulder to get her to stand up at the end, handshakes all around and congratulations—or at least Bella thought that was what they were saying; she'd pretty much stopped processing words. Edward even shook her hand, firm and pleasant. Only the dangerous, angry gleam in his eyes suggested that anything was other than ordinary after closing a nearly billion-dollar deal.

"You did great," Marcus said before he got into his cab. "Take the weekend off!"

Since Bella was pretty sure she was going to be unemployed come Monday, she figured she'd take Marcus' advice. She had just enough time for a quick trip back to her apartment before she was supposed to meet Edward.

Bella only let herself stand in front of the hotel room door for half a second before she knocked.

Edward opened the door, mouth already forming some angry statement, then stopped. "What's that?"

Bella held out the shoebox. "I didn't—this is all of it. I can give you interest, if you want. I mean, I'll have to write a check, but—I'm not. I never meant..." she trailed off, because Edward had taken the box and was examining the contents. "I was going to explain," she tried again. "But then I fell asleep, and you were gone, and then—"

"Okay," Edward said slowly, and backed up enough to let Bella into the room. Bella stared at him, trying to memorize all the details, because this was her last chance and she wanted to remember Edward like this, before Edward let loose about just how ridiculous an excuse for a human being she was.

Edward carefully put the shoebox down on the dresser. "What I don't get," he said, not turning back towards her, "is why you kept pretending. Was it just that fucking funny to you? You must've thought it was hilarious. God, I was such an idiot."

"No!" Bella protested. "No, I'd never—I didn't, I wasn't." She swallowed; it hurt, like there was a fist clenched around her throat. "I was trying to give you what you wanted. I didn't want you to think that I wanted more from you." She felt skinless, raw enough that she'd fall apart if Edward so much as touched her. "I'm the idiot, okay? You didn't do anything wrong—well, I'm pretty sure it was illegal, but... You were always honest with me, and I didn't want to give you up. I—I'm sorry." Edward stiffened, the muscles in his back knotting up, and Bella wanted nothing more than to reach out and dig her fingers in deep until they were both moaning. But she wasn't allowed.

And then, because this was it, the total collapse of her fantasy life, she decided to get it all out.

"But I'm not sorry for any minute I spent with you. You're funny and hot and I liked hearing what you thought about modern art, and you even cared about paragraph 147, and I would've been—I wanted to be yours. I know you thought I was getting too involved, and you were right. I know you don't owe me anything. I just—I can't help how I feel, and—I'm not sorry." Her eyes were burning and she couldn't breathe. She wasn't going to inflict her breakdown on him, though. At least she could keep her end of the bargain that far. She turned to go, hand on the doorknob.

She'd only pulled the door a few inches open when what felt like Edward's full weight slammed into her back, shoving her face-first into the emergency exit diagram. Bella's breath whooshed out of her lungs, not that she'd have been able to speak regardless.

"Where the fuck do you think you're going?" Edward panted. His hands, bizarrely, were scrabbling at the button on Bella's pants. Maybe sensing her confusion, he bit down on the back of her neck, wet and electric-painful-hot, so that Bella's hips jerked involuntarily. "Think you can say something like that and walk away. You know how fucking hard I tried not to fall for you?" Wait, what? But Edward was already continuing, his fingers having conquered the button and moving on to her zipper, shoving his hand in her panties. "Soon as I saw you, dressed like that, turning all those guys down. I didn't care, I had to have you. Knew I was being stupid, oldest story in the book, right? I wasn't supposed to fall for you, but then I did. I tried to be cool, 'cause I was paying you to like me."

"But," Bella said, confused. "You tried to set me up with your friends."

He snorted and pushed her pants and panties further down her thighs, pulling back on her hips to give himself more room to work. "Trying to remind myself that it wasn't real."

"But it was," Bella said, and she couldn't keep the pain out of her voice, grateful that Edward couldn't see the exact look on her face.

Edward froze. "I'm sorry," he said, putting a gentle hand on her back. "I really—I just wanted to give you what you wanted."

"Wow, we're really stupid," Bella realized, and they both cracked up, Edward swaying forward so that she felt hiscock hard and hot against her back, at which point she decided that bygones were substantially less important than the prospect of future, money-free, strings-attached sex.

He circled her entrance before quickly pushing two fingers inside. Bella gasped. "You aren't ready for me," Edward said, like he was considering what the appropriate punishment should be.

She guessed that pointing out that she'd expected that his priorities had changed wouldn't be helpful. Bella had, it seemed, been wrong about a lot of things.

Edward grunted forgivingly and dropped to his knees behind her. He pulled his fingers out in favor of grabbing her hips, locking her in place, and proceeded to suck and lick at her pussy, his hot, thick tongue going deeper with each thrust as Bella sagged further back and moaned into the crook of her own arm, braced against the door. Her pants were puddled around her ankles, and he slid his hands back so that he was cupping her ass, tugging her legs further apart, thumbs sliding up to tease her folds alongside his magic tongue.

"Stay just like that," Edward said when he pulled away. Since Bella's only other possible move was to liquefy where she stood, she complied.

He announced his return by pressing the head of his cock up against her, driving his weight forward so that he popped in against the resistance of her body. "Fuck," she moaned, wobbling forward until he grabbed her again and held her still. She pressed her cheek against the door, staring at her own hand braced beside it, and groaned and panted while he pushed himself all the way inside.

"For the record," Edward said, then stopped to suck in a couple of breaths. "You weren't—getting too involved. I want you—to be mine." He reached around and his fingers found her clit.

He might have said more, but Bella was too busy cumming to hear. Edward followed right after, his weight bearing her down to the floor. She gave a pained whimper when the head of his cock popped out, but he just smacked her ass, weakly. "Don't even," Edward said, honey-rich and tolerant. "You owe me big."

They'd both been pretty dumb, if you thought about it, but Bella wasn't prepared to argue the point. "Bed?" she suggested instead.

Edward wrapped his arm around her waist when they were finally naked and horizontal, pulling her in close. "So," he said, hooking his chin over her shoulder as he stroked his hand down her stomach, "did you really think you were going to get away with that trick you pulled in paragraph 147?"

Bella's nipples pebbled. "Marry me," she said without thinking.

Edward went rigid behind her.

She held her breath for a second, trying to figure out how to reassure him that she was just kidding, sort of, then realized that she didn't need more pointless angst in her life. "I love you," she said, putting her hand over Edward's. "Just something to think about, you know. In the long term."

She actually felt him swallow. "I love you, too... so... is next Friday good?"

Next Friday came, but instead of meeting in DC, they met in Vegas.

When asked how they'd gotten together, Edward just smiled and said he'd decided that he preferred a long-term contract to being billed on a per-hour basis. Which was a loophole Bella had no problem leaving open.