The pile of clothes on the floor was growing in sync with my frustration. I had no idea I had so many irrelevant clothes until I started trying to find something to wear to Edward's for dinner forty-five minutes before I was supposed to be there.
It gets a little chilly at night.
My legs finally look tan.
I'll probably ride my bike over there.
I finally settled on the jeans that make my ass look good and a white cotton halter that showed enough skin to be sexy but covered enough to prevent slutty. I couldn't remember a time I had been so nervous before a dinner date. Edward was such an anomaly. Was I going to have dinner with the warm friendly guy that whispered his goodbyes to me or the ice cold guy I knew he could be? Thoughts of our bodies tangled together, which had been haunting me since that day, were doing nothing to ease my nerves. His hands. His chest. His breath tickling my skin. I flushed at the memory once more.
I threw together fixings for salad and a bottle of Pinot, I wasn't sure if Edward was actually making me dinner or heating up something from town, and I wanted to come prepared. I grabbed one more bottle of wine, checked my lip gloss in the front hall mirror and headed out.
It was an unusually warm evening, so I loaded up my backpack and pulled out my bike to ride over to Edward's house. The meadow between his house and mine was one of my favorite places on Earth. A crooked stream ran through it, dividing it into marshy grass and wildflowers on one side and a grazing field for the horses and cows on the other. It was framed in tall douglas firs and whispering pines and outlined by the Cascade mountains. The sun was still high enough to warm the field but the shadows were getting longer and when the sun set, the temperature dropped fast.
When Edward's house came into view, I marveled at Peter's wonderful design work. He had a gift, and during weak moments, I wondered what my life would have looked like if I had stayed with him. I usually got stuck on the undoubtedly fabulous closet I would have, which confirmed I had made the right decision to cut him loose because I knew that closet would be filled with luncheon dresses from Lily Pulitzer and pastel purses to match. Peter deserved better, and so did I. I turned into Edward's drive and carefully dismounted from my bike. The entry to Edward's home was regal. Tall trees, trimmed high above the roofline, four long stone steps led to a big porch covered with an awning of exposed wood, probably reclaimed lumber if I knew Peter. There was a dog bowl filled with water by the front door. Interesting, he has a dog. I ran my hand through my hair in vain. I had ridden over slowly so I wouldn't have a mess of knots but now that I arrived my heart was racing like I had just been in the Tour de France. I prayed I wouldn't break out in hives in this shirt! I didn't have a chance to think through my anxiety because the front door flew open.
"Bella, welcome!" Edward was barefoot with a pair of dark but well loved jeans. I could see a tan t-shirt under an untucked blue plaid shirt. He looked relaxed. Happy and relaxed. That was a relief.
"Hey!" I said...a bit too loudly. I was definitely still nervous.
"You had no trouble finding my house?" He smiled mischievously and leaned against the door frame.
I laughed. "Yeah, no trouble."
"That's good." His smile never faded, only grew bigger. He looked over my shoulder, "How'd you get here? Did you walk?"
I shifted my backpack higher on my shoulder and gestured towards my unconventional mode of transportation for those L.A. types. "No, I rode my bike through the meadow. It's not that far, about fifteen minutes."
He leaned out and made a face. "Do you honestly think I'm going to let your ride your bike home in the dark?" Angry Edward was resurfacing a bit. "There are wild animals out there, you know."
I laughed nervously thankful that despite my haste, I still remembered to grab a sweater and my headlamp for the ride home. I hadn't thought about how silly I would look, but what could I do? It really did get dark at night. Even on a clear night with the moon shining, you couldn't see you hand in front of your face.
His smile was back and he crossed his arms against his chest. "Depending on how much I have to drink tonight, we might have to turn this into a sleepover."
Mentioning a sleepover brought back all those memories of our limbs intertwined and chests pressed together. I cleared my throat and tried to remain calm. "I would hardly classify a horse as a wild animal, Edward. Regardless, I came prepared."
His eyes grew wide as I showed him by night gear, before he laughed out loud. I quickly wondered if Peter had built and escape hatch in this porch. He brought his gaze back to mine, but didn't hide the teasing in his voice. "I'll bet you did. One thing I know for sure about you is you are always prepared. Like a goddamned Boy Scout or something."
"You weren't complaining when I saved your ass, were you?" I smirked back at him, sounding much more confident than I felt. Why hasn't he invited me in? What the fuck? "Still scratching Edward?"
"Come on in, Bella," he said, skirting my question and stepping to the side.
As I stepped past him, I felt his hand brush my neck. I shivered at his touch then felt the weight of my backpack lifted as he smoothly slipped it off of my shoulder and onto his, kicking the door closed with his foot.
The smells of new construction mixed with home cooking hit me as I took in my surroundings. The foyer was magnificent. It rose to the second story allowing a view of the upper landing and was lit with a huge chandelier that cast a warm light over the mixture of wood and stone. His shoes were tossed haphazardly by the front door and I wondered if I was expected to take off my shoes too. Eeek. I hate it when hosts expect their guest to take off their shoes. It's so presumptuous. What if I had ratty socks on? What if my toenails were chipped?
"I can only imagine what you have in this backpack," he pondered aloud.
"I brought some things to make a salad and some wine. You know...just in case."
Edward chuckled. He was so different from the other times we were together. So much lighter. "Just in case I forgot the wine?"
I shrugged. "Just in case I needed...more."
"So you think you need more wine to make it through an evening with me?" he teased.
"You make me very nervous," I admitted.
He stepped close, so very close. Leaning to whisper in my ear, he set my heart aflutter. "You make me a little nervous, too, Bella Swan."
Shit. I was not as prepared as he thought. Here I had been focused on dealing with warm or cold but was instead greeted by Rico Suave. This was out of my league. He was out of my league. I had to force myself to take a breath. He smelled like shampoo and some manly deodorant. His face looked fresh and smooth, like he had just shaved. Maybe it was his aftershave that smelled so divine. I wanted to run my nose along his jaw and bury it in the crook of his neck. I was so glad I brought the extra bottle of wine.
The moment was interrupted by a very large, very ugly dog as it barreled into me from behind. It hit me so hard that I fell against Edward, causing us both to stumble. I felt myself steadied by strong hands on my arms. I gripped the front of his shirt as he reached around me to push the beast off.
"Jake, down!" Edward commanded, but his voice held a softness. The dog didn't move, instead pawed at my ass and barked back at him. Edward pulled me closer to him before tucking me into his side, swatting Jake down and putting his index finger in the mutt's face. "NO!" Jake backed off and sat down with a thud, tail wagging, waiting for his master's next move. "Stay!" Edward straightened up but kept his finger pointed at the dog. Jake yawn and then licked Edward's finger. It was obviously not very intimidating to this animal. Edward pulled his hand back. "That is no way to treat our guest. This is Bella." He looked down at me. "Bella, this is Jake, my not so well trained guard dog."
I reluctantly removed myself from Edward's grip bending down and holding out my hand. "Nice to meet you Jake." The dog eagerly placed his paw in my hand for a shake, causing me to laugh out loud. "No wild animals in here. You seem to have taught him some basic manners, Edward." I scratched the huge animal's head and turned to face him. He had a strange look on his face, a cross between amusement and bewilderment. "What?" I asked, suddenly self-conscious.
"Nothing." He shook it off and grabbed my hand pulling me towards the kitchen, which was again a masterpiece. Peter was so very good at what he did.
Edward set the backpack on the island and with his hand poised on the zipper he lifted his eyebrow. "Miss Swan, may I?"
I snickered at his humor. "You want a peek in my pack, don't you Edward?"
His eyes crinkled as he laughed. "You have no idea." He gave me a big cheesy grin as he unzipped it, unloading its contents. His face fell in mock horror. "What is this? No first aid kit, no matches, or special snake bite ointment? I'm a little disappointed."
I came up beside him and took out the last of the ingredients for the salad. "First of all, you don't put ointment on a snake bite. And I am hopeful that I won't need a first aid kit just to have dinner with you...but after having met Jake, I am questioning my reasoning."
I smirked as I continued, "Edward, you have to promise me never to go hiking again without an experienced guide. How you two didn't end up dead before you found me, I will never know."
He gently nudged me with his elbow. "Trust me, I'm not so sure I know how we survived without you. Sometimes I think Emmett's damn lucky. Good things just come his way. He doesn't even have to try."
I wondered how he managed to plan this dinner without Emmett knowing about it.
"And I have no intention of hiking again with anyone, except maybe you." He turned away from me, carrying the vegetables over to the sink and digging in one of his cabinets for a cutting board and a large salad bowl.
He'd go hiking with me? Oh, the things I would do to this man if I ever got him in a sleeping bag again. I wasn't quite ready to show my hand. "That's mighty presumptuous of you. You were a little green up there if I recall. I might require you to take a basic survival class before you're invited into my tent again." I felt my face instantly heat as I realized my word vomit sounded more like an invitation for sex than camping. He froze for a moment looking at me with his eyes wide and his mouth agape. He chuckled and obviously decided to let me off the hook.
"Yeah, well, I can't say I blame you for not wanting to hike with me. I was a bit of a disaster out there." He moved easily around his kitchen. Perhaps I had been worried about his cooking abilities for naught. He washed the vegetables I brought and then started chopping.
"Can I open some wine?" I offered.
He pulled on a drawer and handed me a corkscrew. "You really did save us out there."
I shrugged but smiled. I felt uncomfortable receiving all the glory after what felt like a bloody battle at times. "How is everything, really? No more itching?" He definitely looked fine from what I could see. His arms looked good. Hell, his arms looked great from where I was standing. His forearms flexed as he chopped the ends off the carrots. I bit my lip to suppress the moan that might have escaped otherwise.
"No more itching, thank God. I truly thought I was going to die for a few days. That was worse than having the chicken pox as a kid."
I opened the bottle of wine. "Glasses?"
Edward pointed to a cabinet on the other side of the kitchen. I made my way over and pulled out two glasses. He really had lovely stuff. He was definitely interesting. This was no bachelor pad. I poured us each a glass and set one next to where he was working.
Edward had an air of worldliness about him. He did not seem like the kind of person who would like to travel to such a remote area. After spending one day with him in the mountains, I doubted very seriously his ability to be alone for very long. He seem to crave civilization. And if this house is any indication, he was used to the finer things in life. Edward Cullen didn't rough it.
"This place, this house is amazing." I edited my thoughts as I spoke.
He looked up at me with the most adorable boyish grin. "Thanks. I really wanted somewhere I could escape, you know? Somewhere that felt like a home. Simple, inviting. Peter really understood my vision for this retreat. My place in L.A. is totally different."
Ah, he did have a bachelor pad. It was just in another state.
"I think that's what I love about this area in general. You can slow down and enjoy things. Lord knows we all need to do that every once and awhile."
Edward stopped to take a sip of his wine. He watched me as I did the same. "Would you characterize your life as typically busy?"
I grabbed the lettuce and started gently washing it at the sink behind him. Working together in the kitchen felt right. "I'm about to be very busy. I have to head back to Seattle for a bit before going to the Grand Canyon for a few weeks. I really want some early Autumn pictures. I have a gallery show coming up and I am not sure which pieces I am going to use. Seattle is a tricky market for my style of photography. Everyone out there thinks they can take a picture of a tree or a flower in the rain and call it art. If I chose the right shots, it could be a huge. If not, it could be a disaster."
Edward was an amazing listener. He listened to me talk about my photography and passion for it. He asked questions and fed me pieces of red pepper as we made the salad together. He didn't talk too much about himself, dodging many of my questions by turning the attention back on me.
"So, how long do you think you'll stay here before the lure of L.A. becomes too great?"
Edward had moved on to the making the pasta we were going to have for dinner. He lifted the lid off the saucepan and stirred the contents slowly. "Sometimes I wish I never had to go back, but then I remember I enjoy having a roof over my head and food in my pantry and I realize I'll have to go back and work one of these days. I am scheduled to go back on Thursday."
That's only two more days. "What is it that you do exactly?"
Instead of answering my question, he lifted the wooden spoon and blew on the delicious looking red sauce. "Come here."
I slipped off my stool and stood beside him. He brought the spoon up to my lips. "Do you think there's enough garlic?"
His eyes never left mine as I tasted his the sauce off of the spoon. I held his gaze and let out a soft, "Mmm."
"Good?" he said with a snicker.
"I think I should be grateful you're cooking and not Emmett."
Edward scoffed. "Emmett's culinary skills max out somewhere between frying bacon and cracking a beer."
I smirked. "Hmmmm. Nothing wrong with bacon and beer. It sounds good to me."
Edward resumed stirring the sauce while he quirked his eyebrow at me. "For breakfast?"
I giggled but defended Emmett nonetheless. "Bacon is good anytime and Emmett is a sweetheart and obviously well fed. I am sure he is capable of charming someone into making him a good meal."
I took a sip of my wine and leaned against the counter as Edward set the spoon down and turned to me.
"Is that what you're doing, Bella?" He was suddenly very close and I could smell the wine on his breath.
I looked up at him as leaned down closer to me and whispered, "Are you charming me into making you a good meal?"
"I, um. I don't know. Is it going to be a good meal?" I sputtered.
"Mm-hmm. I guarantee it." He leaned in even closer putting his hands on either side of me. "Good food. Good company."
I licked my lips and hoped, prayed he would lean in just a bit closer. I was paralyzed as I watched him part his lips and close his eyes. I gripped my wine glass with both hands as my prayers were answered and his lips softly grazed mine. I watched him lick his lips before pressing them against mine again. They slid across my mouth as I finally closed my eyes and sucked a gulp of air, pushing away from the counter and into him. I felt his hands round my back gently pulling me to him. The kiss was soft and slow. I desperately wanted feel his body against mine, but my hands were trapped between us and knowing me, if I tried to move I would spill my wine. The hiss of the pasta water boiling over caused Edward to pull back and glance over his shoulder at the pot.
He looked back at me and murmured, "Very good company," before swiftly kissing my lips again and pulling the lid off of the spilling pot.
I looked down at my glass of wine and was thankful it wasn't empty as I took a large sip followed by a deep breath.
The dinner table was already set. I smiled, thinking about him doing all the prep for this meal. I fought the nagging thoughts of him being an experienced wooer and took my favorite Pollyanna approach to life and convinced myself he wanted to just woo me. With the first kiss out of the way, the dinner conversation and the wine flowed easily. We compared travel notes and found we both still wanted to spend more time in Italy. I gave him the cliff notes version of my history with Peter and how thrilled I was he was following his passion. He shared funny stories his family and his frequent temper tantrums concerning one very hairy piano teacher. His parents ultimately relented and let him take guitar lessons from his nineteen-year-old neighbor named Victoria. His dream of being a professional guitar player fizzed when Victoria went to college, but I could tell he still had a passion for music. His face lit up when he talked about it.
"So that was what you wanted to be when you grew up? A famous rockstar?" I asked, setting my knife and fork across my plate.
Edward looked at me intently, clearly thinking about his response. "No. Not a rockstar. I definitely did not want to be famous. I never gave it enough thought, I suppose. My life went in a certain direction and at times, felt like it was on autopilot. But I have no regrets, certainly no complaints. I have a great life. Looking back, I may have made different choices, but who knows." His eyes twinkled as he picked up his glass of wine and gestured around the room. "I mean, here I am in a beautiful house having a delicious meal with a..."
I leveled a look at him that interrupted his cheesy line before he embarrassed himself and me. "Please don't finish that horrible sentence."
His face broke out into a huge grin and he chuckled at his faux pas. "Bad?"
"Very." I sipped my wine and smiled at him. I felt warm and relaxed and leaned back in my chair. I tipped my head back and admired the ornate chandelier hanging over the table. It looked heavy and masculine but was still elegant with an antique silver finish and crystals that caught the dim light. It was beautiful and it sparked an idea.
"Hey! You promised me a tour. I mean, if the offer still stands?"
"Absolutely." He stood first with his wine glass, and I began to gather my plate before he stopped me. "Leave it." He held his hand out and I placed mine in his. His fingers curled around my hand and he gave me a smile and a slight tug.
He led me from the kitchen to the beautiful formal dining room. The house was magnificent, but the details were what made me smile, knowing the thought and consideration that went into them. Peter was an expert at capturing subtle details that turned a home into a sanctuary. We weaved through the downstairs until we landed in the family room. It offered a panoramic view of the meadow which was glowing as the sun lit the ring of mountains from its setting point. I was drawn to the wall of windows, inadvertently releasing his hand. I wanted to kick myself as I felt his fingers slip from my hand and the cool air hit my palm.
I looked out the window and tried to regain some of my composure. If nothing, the stillness of the meadow and the majesty of the mountains grounded my thoughts. I didn't want to over think tonight, but it had been a long time since I had feelings for a man that ran deeper than physical and I didn't trust myself to feel too much.
"I am completely envious of your view. It perfectly frames the whole meadow and the mountains..."
Edward came up close behind me, pointing his left hand across me. "There's our lucky mountain, right? Mt. Jefferson?"
"Our mountain?" I smiled, turning my head and looking back at him. I found myself licking my lips as if I was preparing to indulge in a little more of that kissing we enjoyed before dinner.
His eyes were locked on my mouth as he mimicked my lip wetting. "Yeah, our mountain. The one where I found the woman I think I've been looking for."
His words pulled the calm right out of me. Holy shit! That doesn't sound like a cheesy line. I licked my lips and prayed my mouth and brain were still working. "Me? Funny, that's not exactly how I remember it."
"What do you remember?"
Hmm, to tell or not to tell. I remembered some very not so flattering things. That was what I remembered. "I remember running into you guys on the mountain and you not being too happy about it. I remember you yelling at me about my camera."
Edward smiled softly and tipped his chin down as I turned to face him.
"And, I remember you actually accusing me of giving you a rash." I playfully poked my finger gently into his chest. "I really thought you hated me."
Before I could retract my hand, he had captured it with his and pressed it into his chest. He looked down at me with remorse in his eyes. "I did kind of hate you, at first. But I was wrong. I read you all wrong."
He confirmed what I knew to be true. Not that I wanted him to hate me, but at least I wasn't imagining things. What confused me is that he thought he read me wrong. Was I sending him mixed signals?
"What changed your mind exactly? Was it my incredible knowledge of camp cuisine or that I didn't take my magic backpack and leave you guys for dead out there?"
He squeezed my hand. "I think it was your lack of knowledge that did it actually."
Now I was definitely confused, but it didn't matter because Edward pulled me into his chest with his right hand and kissed with an intensity that was not there before dinner. He made my head spin with what he said, what he didn't say, and with his tongue that was now wrapping around mine. I had never been kissed like this before. He let go of my hand on his chest and wrapped his long fingers around the back of my neck. His grip tightened and he tipped my head to give him a better angle. As he deepened this kiss I felt more than heard a soft moan vibrate from his chest. It was the sexiest thing I had ever experienced, and I responded by gripping his shirt and sliding my other hand around his shoulders and into his hair. I ran my nails across the base of his neck and I felt him shiver as he pressed me tighter against his chest, his tongue still exploring my mouth.
I pulled away first. "You really know how to sweep a girl off her feet. You could give Cary Grant a run for his money."
Edward's brow furrowed and then he began to laugh. His head fell to my shoulder as his laugh turned into a soft groan. "You are too much. You know that, right?" He pulled back and looked me in the eyes before leading me back into the kitchen.
He ceremoniously took a big, round frosted cake out of the butler's pantry. "I hope you like cake."
"Who doesn't like cake..." Feeling giddy from the kissing and wine, I dragged my finger across the base of the cake collecting a scoop of the white frosting on my finger. I licked my finger-foregoing any attempt at being seductive knowing I would just look ridiculous- and realized it was caramel, not vanilla, and maybe moaned a bit as slowly licked the delicious cream. "Ohmygod, but I love caramel and I'm not sick, so..." I used the same finger and scooped out another taste.
Edward was staring at me, holding the cake with both hands, mouth agape. "Would you like a moment alone with my cake?"
I should have been embarrassed, but instead I laughed out loud and answered by taking the cake from him and setting it on the counter. I pulled my finger through the frosting again and held it up between us. I smirked as I looked up at him, trying to sound disbelieving. "Now Edward, I'm loving your frosting. But did you honestly make this? Because if you did..." Before I could get my finger in my mouth Edward grabbed my hand and pulled it towards his mouth. I held my breath as his lips closed around my finger. I could feel his tongue swirl around as I curled my finger and began to pull it back. I was confident my jaw was on the floor, but soon enough, it was in his hands and he was pulling me towards him with his finger under my chin. I could taste the frosting on his lips as he gently pressed kisses on my mouth, his tongue grazing my bottom lip. His fingers slipped from my chin and twisted in the my hair at the nape of my neck as he deepened the kiss. He was only touching me with his mouth and hand, but I was on sensory overload. Every inch of my body was on fire. I tried to get my brain to catch up with my body. I needed to slow down, waaaay down.
I'm so not a throw-caution-to-the-wind kind of girl. I'm the first-aid-kit-packing-check-the-weather-before-I-go-outside kind of girl. And the forecast had Edward going back to California in a few days and I wasn't sure what that meant for me other than I was suddenly thinking that caution throwing thing wasn't such a bad idea. I let my arms wrap around his waist. His body felt so good under my hands. Nothing that felt this good could be that bad. Could it?
Edward was the one who had more sense. He pulled back and slipped out of my arms to retrieve two forks. I struggled to regain my composure.
"You're a test to my self-control," he said, handing me a fork.
"How's that?" He seemed to have everything under control. Although, his cheeks were a bit flushed.
"You're the first person who's ever made me consider skipping dessert." His coy smile told me this was no line. I felt my own face heat at his confession but decided to keep my own desire to forego caramel cake to myself.
"Well, we can't have that, can we?"
"No, no we can't." He laughed before plunging his fork right into the cake. Then, those perfect lips wrapped around that damn utensil, making my knees weak. "Dig in," he mumbled with a mouthful.
Oh, God help me. I wanted to dig in.
"I always thought I would teach History to high school kids or something. I never imagined I could actually earn a living taking pictures, doing something that I love. It's my dream come true. I always had a camera in my hand, even when I was little. Most photojournalists are either unemployed or stuck taking pictures of babies and brides. I just lucked out. I believe a good photo can make an impact, but a great photograph can change the way people think, what they believe, how they vote. It can be very powerful. I'm not trying to make any statements or push an agenda, I just hope that I can make someone feel something, anything, when they look at my pictures."
We were sitting on the marble counter of his kitchen, shoulder to shoulder, caramel cake sufficiently devoured. Edward's eyes focused intently on mine as I spoke. He seemed to be processing something. "You must be very talented. I doubt luck had much to do with your success, Bella. I would love the chance to look through your lens. Give me a chance to see how your mind works."
"How my mind works?" I laughed at the thought that I was anything other than an open book as I leaned into his side. "My lack of filter gets me in more trouble than I even want to know. You're the enigma, Mister Temple of Tennessee Williams. I know you have the ability to toss together a good pasta, know where to buy the best caramel cake," I say as I playfully bump his shoulder, "and have an irrational fear of mountain lions and cameras." I look up at him trying to remain light but I was beginning to wonder what he was protecting. "But other than that? Nada. You are the mystery. What are you hiding?"
Edward hopped off the counter, picking up our discarded fork and tossing it into the sink where it landed with a loud clank.
He turned stood inches in front of my knees which were now firmly pressed together to keep me from giving in to my inner hussy. "I think it's important that you know a couple things." His expression turned serious. "I love jelly beans, I own three copies of every Police album ever made, and I once fell in the fountain outside Caesar's Palace. I will not admit to being drunk at the time nor will I confirm that I was wearing Elvis costume." He moved even closer until his muscled abdomen was pressing against my knees and I could feel his thumbs graze my thighs . "These are all the things you can't find on Google. Which reminds me, why haven't you googled me yet? Your lack of interest has me worried."
"Maybe I am not that interested." I teased but the intensity in his eyes took the sass right out of me. "Honestly, I haven't googled you because I feel like there's a reason you don't want me to."
"Well, if we're being honest...I kind of like it that you're getting to know me like this and not through Google."
"Well, Google is no good if it doesn't know you like jelly beans, I'm not sure what good it's gonna do me. You know?"
Edward lets out a chuckle that makes me smile. "True. It didn't know you shamelessly double dip your finger into other people's cake."
"Hey, now. My fingers were clean. Does it know you've had poison ivy on your..."
"I sure as hell hope not." His voice dropped as he inched closer, I could feel his breath on my face. I am so getting another kiss. "It didn't know you snore."
What?! "I do not snore!" I push him away with both hands on his chest but his arms circle around me so I end up just stumbling into him.
"No, you don't snore." He murmurs and his lips graze my forehead. "But you do talk in your sleep."
I tilt my head and run my lips along his sharp jaw. "Hmmm. Learn anything interesting?"
"You make grocery lists." He pulls me closer and I feel his tongue on my neck. "Ice cream." He tucks his face into my hair. "Shampoo." As his hand slides up my neck, his thumb grazes my bottom lip. "Dental floss." He is so close. My lips part. "Mouthwash." His lips graze mine as he chuckles. "Carrots."
I breathe against his lips. "I do like carrots."
His hand brings me firmly to his mouth as his lips move softly and gently across mine. His tongue explores my mouth as his his hands move down my back pulling me flush against him. The way this man kissed and moved and held me was intoxicating. He didn't loosen his grip but his kiss eased and he pressed his forehead against mine.
"Want to finish your tour, upstairs?" He whispered.
Knowing that I couldn't sleep with him and retain any sort of dignity after he left for LA, I leaned back and looked into his eyes. "I would." I pressed my lips to his again. "But not tonight."
He pulled me into him once again, pressing his lips to my neck with a groan. "You're so good. So...fucking responsible."
"Edward, I'm sorry," I said softly, embarrassed, I looked down at my feet dangling from the counter. I felt like a tease. "I want to be irresponsible, But you're leaving in 2 days. I know zero about you. I am going back to work soon and I just..." I just what? I just want to know you longer than this minute. I just do not need another high maintenance, emotionally unstable romance. I just want you to come closer and kiss me again. Screw it.
He smiled too, but his eyes were flat, and spoke at the same time, "No. You're right. It's getting late."
Ouch. From invitation to dismissal? Seriously?
I held his gaze for a moment, giving him the opportunity to take it back. Nothing. Asshole.
"Right." I slid past him and and nervously rubbed my hands over my face in an attempt to regroup after that sudden shift in Edward's demeanor. I turned without meeting his eyes and started searching for my things. The silence was too much, so I began my senseless rambling.
"You're right. It's late. Sooo, I should probably go. Thanks again for dinner...and dessert." I searched for my backpack around the counters. "You have a beautiful home." Aha! On the floor by the wine cooler. "I had a great time." I pulled my sweater and head lamp out of my pack and shoved my arms in the sleeves pulling the sweater over my head. Edward had not moved from his post by the windows, but I could feel his eyes following me as I made my way around the dining room to the kitchen. I paused and finally leveled my eyes at at his since my next move was to leave. Jesus, are you going to say something or at least walk me to the door? What the fuck is your deal? Seriously, who raised you? Walk me to the door.
Edward shifted uncomfortably, moving his hands to his pockets then pulling them out again. He finally moved into the kitchen and braced himself on the sink behind him as he continued to watch me. He licked his lips and cleared his throat before running his fingers through his hair and looking down at the floor.
I sighed as my anticipation turned to frustration. "Goodbye, Edward. It was..." I struggled with the right word, "...nice meeting you. Have a safe trip back to California." I lifted my chin to a respectable height and strode out of the kitchen towards the dark foyer, gaining confidence with my graceful exit.
Until I felt myself stumbling over a sleeping, 100-pound pile of dog. "Shiiiiiit." I whispered as I tried to regain my footing without actually stepping on Jake, who was now awake and trying to stand. We were a tangle of feet and fur. I heard Edward's quick footsteps behind me but refused to look back. I didn't want another confrontation, so I quickly pulled the heavy door closed behind me. I felt like a seven-year-old with a heart thumping like I was being chased by a big hairy monster. I nervously giggled at the bizarre turn of my evening. Why am I surprised? If nothing at least his mood changes were predictable.
Just as I straddled my bike and was about to click on my headlamp, a warm hand covered mine. I didn't scream, but I took in enough air to fill my lungs twice as I looked over my shoulder.
Edward opened his mouth to say something but nothing came out.
"Edward, you don't have to say anything. I get it. You're very private. There is something you don't want to share. Whatever, I really don't care. I am just going to pedal home and …"
He squeezed my hand and interrupted me.
"I am not being fair. I want to know you take you in without letting you know me. I want to read you like a book. Window shop. This isn't easy for me." He looked down at where our hands are connected. "Letting people in is hard, but I don't want you to leave without knowing when I am going to see you again."
"Well, I have a studio in Seattle. The next time you come to visit your sister, give me a call."
"You make it sound easy."
"It's only as hard as we make it."
He nodded. I was just as good at making relationships more complicated than they needed to be. Maybe we both could learn to let people in this time. "Goodnight, Bella. Thank you for coming."
I smiled at him. "Goodnight, Edward."
Edward's hand lifted off mine and gently rested against my cheek. He still tasted like caramel as he kissed me sweetly. It was a soft kiss, not nearly as passionate as our earlier kisses but still somehow better. It didn't feel anything like a goodbye kiss.
I licked my lips, hoping to still taste him as I flipped on my head lamp. Edward leaned back and held his hand up to shield his eyes from the blinding light. "Wow, do you ever shine bright." Amusement in his voice once again.
I laughed. "Oh trust me, I'm very...illuminating."
I could hear him laughing as I pedaled off into the night.