The "Ho Hey" Contest

Story Title: The Ugly Duckling

Pen name: dolphin62598

Pairing: Edward & Bella

Rating: M

Word Count: 9022

A/N: Thanks to breath-of-twilight for whipping this entry into shape! She's the best! I hope you all enjoy this – it's based very loosely on some of my own life events!

There are 3 song references in this little one-shot: Nine Inch Nails ~ Physical, Muse ~ Madness and, of course, the contest namesake, The Lumineers ~ Ho Hey.

I don't own Twilight, these characters or the songs! No copyright infringement is intended.

. . . .

The Ugly Duckling

I sighed in exasperation as the inky black of night blossomed into the orange and pink of a new day. My forehead rested against the plated glass of the warehouse loft that I called home in downtown Seattle, Washington. I enjoyed having my office on the lower level of my home, but at times, I felt like I never really stopped working. It was hard when my work surrounded me constantly.

My loft was littered floor to ceiling canvases of photos I'd taken. Most of them were in black and white, but a select few threw splashes of warm color around the space. Landscapes and buildings used to be my specialty when I started my business. Now, I focused mainly on people.

After several cups of coffee and reviewing photos from my latest shoot, I gathered a few jump drives from my desk and headed out my friend Garrett's print shop.

"Baby Bella," Garrett, my printer, called out cheerfully as I entered his shop. Usually I printed my own photos, but when it came to larger sizes and canvases, I brought all of my work to him. I considered myself lucky that his shop was right next door to my own. We'd become great friends over the years.

He was a nice bit of eye candy as well. His dark hair and vibrant blue eyes had many women entering his shop to drool over him under the guise of looking at photos he had for sale. It was ridiculous, but he ate up every second of it.

"Hey, Gar Bear." I smiled and flipped a jump drive at him. "I need four canvases made with those photos."

"Are they for the tatt convention?" he asked, grinning as I nodded and rolled my eyes. "Do I still get to go with you?"

"Yes, Garrett," I huffed.

"Good, cause you know I can't resist a chick that's all tattooed up," he exclaimed excitedly.

"I'm tattooed," I whined.

"You are," he nodded and leered at me jokingly. "I don't shit where I eat though, and you know that."

"Yeah, yeah," I sighed. "I'm just lonely and sick to death of capturing the happiest days of my client's lives when here I am, all alone, every night. I say we make a pact that if neither of us is married or in a serious relationship by the time we're forty, then we'll get together."

"Sounds like a good deal to me," he agreed and stuck out his hand to shake on it. "Although, we're not going to need that pact, Bella. You're a beauty, even if you don't see it yourself. I don't know any guy that wouldn't fall to his knees for your delicious, chocolate waves and your deep, soulful eyes."

"Oh my god," I laughed. "Did you turn gay since last week when you brought that groupie home from the bar?"

"No, baby, just calling it like I see it." He winked and smirked. "How long do I have to get these canvases done?"

"The convention is next weekend. I have to get my slideshow together as well," I said, mentally formulating a list of projects that I needed to complete before the convention.

After some more small talk, I bid farewell to Garrett and went next door to my shop. I spent a couple hours putting together a beautiful slideshow to a large array of music. It was a challenge to find music that wouldn't send people running from my booth at the tattoo convention.

"Bella Swan?" a small woman asked as she walked through the front door to the shop.

"That's me," I nodded looking up from the computer. "Welcome to the Ugly Duckling Photo Studio. What can I help you with?"

"My cousin just bought a tattoo studio a couple blocks over and the old owner told him to send me here to have my newest tattoo photographed." She smiled and motioned to her shoulder as she spoke.

"Okay great. Which tattoo studio is it for?"

"Rotten Ink," she stated.

"Oh, your cousin is taking over for Brian? I didn't realize he was trying to sell the business."

"Yeah, his fiancé was transferred out of state for her job so he packed up and went with her. My cousin just moved back to the area from the east coast so he jumped at the opportunity."

"Cool." I nodded and grabbed my camera, ready to lead her back to my studio room. Most of the work I did for tattoo parlors was because they were too busy to take their own photos. Brian came to me after his receptionist took over twenty photos of tattoos that he'd done without taking the lens cap off the camera.

"What's your name?"

"Alice," she replied. I grinned and sat her on a stool in the middle of a large white sheet. Quickly, I took in her petite form. She had chin length black hair with bright red steaks throughout it. Her lower lip was pierced, off to the right, with a simple hoop. She also had a tiny diamond stud in her nose. Her bright green eyes were heavily lined with black eyeliner. She reminded me of the chick from the cover of that one Godsmack album.

"Okay, what am I photographing?" I asked, and she lifted her shirt over her head and pointed to her shoulder. There was a beautiful tattoo of a koi fish and Hawaiian flowers surrounding it, but part of her tank top was covering the art.

"Would you be comfortable taking off the tank top?" She nodded and carefully removed her shirt. I asked her to cover herself with her arm and lean forward on the stool slightly while looking over her shoulder towards the tattoo.

I got a few shots from the side, and then some from the back, as well. The pinks and oranges in the tattoo jumped out against her alabaster skin. Her complexion was beautiful, and the tattoo seemed to really highlight it.

"All done," I chirped and handed her both of her shirts. I turned my back and proceeded to load the photographs onto my laptop.

"Is the email address still the same for Rotten Ink?" I asked, glancing over my shoulder to see if she was decent.

"I'm not sure," she hummed. "Here, I have a card for my cousin. Why don't you give him a call and ask him how he wants you to handle the photographs?"

"Sounds great," I agreed.

"Are you going to be at the convention next weekend?" Alice asked.

"I am." I nodded.

"Awesome," she murmured. "I'll see you there."

"Sure," I agreed. "It was nice meeting you."

"You too, have a great day," she sang and waved as she exited the shop. The muffled thud of the front door closing signaled that she had left.

I pulled up the photos and did a little editing and retouching before saving them in the Rotten Ink file under the name 'Alice'.

Long after I'd closed the shop up for the night and after several glasses of wine, I still couldn't get the luminous green color of Alice's eyes out of my head. There was something about her that was very familiar, but I couldn't put my finger on what it was.

. . . .

"Rotten Ink," a monotone voice buzzed through the receiver of my cell phone.

"Uh, can I speak with…" I trailed off as I frantically looked for the card that had somehow managed to bury itself in paperwork on my desk. "Edward," I asked, finally finding the stupid card Alice had given me yesterday.

"Hold on a sec," the girl droned as the line went silent.

"This is Edward," a smooth, deep voice melted its way into my eardrum as his words whirred around my brain.

"Hi, um…this is Bella from Ugly Duckling Photo Studio. I photographed the koi fish on Alice yesterday, and I was wondering if you'd like me to email the photos to you, or I could put them on a disc and bring them down to you. It's your choice."

"You can email them; it's the same email address that Brian used. I've been meaning to call you as well, actually." He sighed; apprehension and irritation were clear in his voice. "Brian said he just sent his clients down to you when he was done tattooing them. Is that how you want to work this or do you want me to make appointments with you?"

"No, you can just send them down when you get done with them. I live right above the studio so if the shop happens to be closed they can just ring the buzzer next to the front door. I'm usually open until six or seven during the week, and then on the weekends the shop is appointment only."

"Sounds good," he breathed. "Hate to cut this short, but my next appointment is coming in. I probably won't have another client for you until later this week."

"Alright, have a nice day."

"You too, Bella," he said and ended the call before I could say goodbye.

. . . .

I spent the remainder of the week putting the finishing touches on the slideshow I was planning to show at the convention. I always liked to have slideshows finished well before the show I was doing so I could let them sit for a few days before I reviewed it all again. I always made sure to allow myself ample time to perfect the finished product.

Garrett asked me to go out with him to celebrate a large account he'd landed a few days prior. Before I started getting ready to going out, I decided to call my parents. I hadn't spoken to my mom or dad in over a week and I figured now was a good time to get the obligatory phone call out of the way.

"Dad," I said as he gruffly barked a 'hello' out.

"Bells," he greeted. "How's life?"

"Good, good," I sighed, "Getting ready for a big convention next weekend."

"Oh that's good."

"Yeah, so where's Mom?" I asked, not really comfortable with the awkward conversation we always seemed to have.

"She's in the shower. We're going out tonight."

"Oh really, with who?" I asked, my curiosity peaked.

"Esme and Carlisle," his said, his tone hinting to the fact that I should know those names.

"Who?" I asked.

"Esme and Carlisle," he repeated. "You went to school with their son. I think his name is Edgar," Dad mumbled. "Your mom and Esme were great friends when you and Edgar were little. Then your mom started working full time so she didn't socialize with her as much once you were older. They moved away when you were still in high school, but now they're back."

"Oh," I said quietly, trying to remember a boy named Edgar. I couldn't put a face to the name though.

"You used to play with Edgar all the time when you were about five or six. Actually, I think he might have been a little older than you," he trailed off. I was sure he was trying to remember how much older Edgar was, but I really didn't have time to sit silently on the line while he recalled that information.

"Okay, well tell Mom I said hello and let her know that I'm fine. I'll call again next week."

"Sure, Bells, have a great night," he said and hung up the phone.

I shook my head and plugged my phone into the charger before heading off to the shower. After an hour, I deemed myself ready and caught a cab down to Garrett's favorite bar, Moe's.

"Baby," Garrett hollered when I hopped up on the barstool next to him.

"Hey, Bear." I smiled and nodded to Alec, the regular bartender. Within seconds, he had a shot of tequila and a bottle of Bud Light sitting in front of me. I blew him a kiss and downed the shot before sipping my beer.

"Kate's here," Garrett whined. Kate was his girlfriend of five years. She always showed up here on Friday nights, and I was sure she was looking for Garrett even though she was always hanging off the arm of a different guy every time we saw her.

"She's a bitch," I crowed and took a healthy gulp of my beer.

"I still love her," he admitted with a sigh.

"I know you do, Bear." I acknowledged his admission with a pat to his shoulder. "If it's meant to be then it's meant to be."

"You don't really believe that," he scoffed and narrowed his eyes at me.

"I do," I sighed.

"You don't because yours got away and never came back and I know for a fact that you thought he was meant to be," he pointed out. I rolled my eyes and perused the bar while memories flooded my mind.

January 1995

Being a freshman at Forks High School wasn't exactly a coveted position. I started the year a frizzy haired, brace face, flat-chested girl. I was barely a girl. I had no idea what style was; and I never admitted this to anyone, but at the beginning of my freshman year I still played Barbies with my neighbor who was three years younger than me. I just wasn't ready to grow up.

The first day back from winter break was when I saw him. I wasn't sure how I'd missed him the first three months of school, but he'd escaped me somehow. He was tall and slender with black shoulder length hair. I saw him every day between my Earth Science and English classes. He always wore black Doc Martens and a flannel with a thermal shirt underneath. His jeans were baggy, and he sort of looked a little like Trent Reznor. He was my dream man.

After a week of drooling over him in the hallway every single day, I decided it was time to change my look. It was time to grow up. I stopped playing with Barbies and begged my mom to take me shopping. It seemed that overnight I'd grown a set of breasts, and my mom definitely noticed, so she helped me pick out clothes that accentuated my body type. Several weeks into February, my braces came off and I'd been making regular trips to the salon to tame my disaster of a mop.

I had transformed and I knew it. I was drawing attention from several guys, but never the one that I wanted. He never looked at me even though I stared at him every time I passed him. He was always alone walking down the corridor.

By late April, I'd given up hope that he'd acknowledge me. One fateful day brought him into my realm though, and I'd never forget it for the rest of my life.

The seniors had been struck with a bad case of senioritis and none of them wanted to be in school any longer. They had less than a month left and it was like a thick blanket of anticipation settled over the school. Everywhere you turned lockers were covered in shaving cream and long streams of toilet paper littered the halls. The boys were rowdy, and the girls were sneaky, but they all got their tricks in before being caught.

The bell signaling the end of Earth Science rang, and I scrambled out of my seat running for the door so I wouldn't miss my Reznor look alike. The hallway was practically empty just as it always was every other day, but as I approached the halfway point, a group of boys came sprinting towards me hollering and yelling at the top of their lungs. I had nowhere to go so I tried to get as close to the wall as possible so they wouldn't bump into me, but it was a fruitless attempt. As they knocked me to the floor, my backpack opened, spilling it contents in a wide array around me.

I gasped and struggled to my knees, gathering my things quickly. I didn't bother looking up because I didn't want my guy to see me like this. Before I could right myself completely a beautiful, deep voice breathed right in front of me.

"Are you alright?"

I looked up into pools of electric green. His face was even more beautiful up close. I sighed and smiled slightly as he searched my face.

"I'm fine," I breathed.

"Those guys are idiots." He nodded in the direction they had ran in with a furrowed brow. I wanted to reach out and smooth his eyebrows and forehead with my fingertips, but I held back.

"Thanks," I whispered as he offered me his hand to help me stand. Warmth shot through my fingertips and radiated up my arm, sending sparks of longing down my spine. I felt almost empty as he let go of my hand.

"No problem. Watch out for them though. I have a feeling the next few weeks will be even worse."

"Uh, okay."

"Take it easy," he said with a slight smirk and a wink before he took off in the opposite direction. I stood motionless for several moments before the warning bell snapped me out of my trance. I didn't even get his name.

"It wasn't meant to be," I murmured finishing off my beer.

Alec set another shot of tequila in front of me along with another beer. I nodded in thanks and proceeded to consume more alcohol than I needed. I hadn't thought about my black-haired god in so long. I never even knew his name.

It wasn't meant to be.

"She's not worth the trouble," Garrett grumbled.

"I know something that'll make you feel better." I grinned, feeling the warmth of the tequila seeping through my veins.

"No," he whined.

"Yes, come on. You know it'll make you feel better, and if she still loves you it'll make her crazy with jealousy," I pleaded.

"It just makes you feel better because you know every guy in here will be staring at you," he laughed out as I dragged him to the middle of the bar and sat him down in a chair. I nodded to Alec who grinned and quickly changed the music causing a few moans and cries of protest.

I smiled as the industrial sounds of Nine Inch Nails pounded through the speakers. Garrett just rolled his eyes and rested his arms on his thighs while I circled his chair with my fingertip sliding across his shoulders and down to his chest as I walked.

I wanna take you baby

I wanna take you out

I wanna wine and dine you

Oh I wanna twist and twist and shout

I leaned down and rested my palms against his thighs as I sang in his face. Then I dropped to my knees in front of him, running my hands up and down his thighs. I could tell he was already perking up. As much as he hated to admit it, he loved it when I did this to him. I stood quickly and thrashed my hair around as I ground myself on his lap.

I want your roughhouse baby

I want this right in your ear

You let me feel your danger

I let you make this feeling clear here

I grinned as I sang and circled his chair again, dropping down to the floor every once in a while and twisting my hips.

I want the touch of your charms

The heat of your breath

I wanna say all those things

That would better unsaid

He smirked finally and grabbed my hips as I stood in front of him belting out the lyrics with my head thrown back.

You're really just too physical to me

The crowd erupted in cheers as the song came to a close. I smiled and took a bow as Garrett looked up at me dreamily. I glanced around for Kate, but she was nowhere to be found.

"Marry me," Garrett said playfully. I smacked him in the chest and pulled him back to the bar.

"You're such a guy," I chuckled as I downed another beer.

"Do you give those out freely?" a voice asked from beside me.

"No, I sure don't," I snapped without looking at the guy.

"Well I'd pay for one," he offered.

"Uh, no thanks," I said into my beer bottle while peeking at him out of the corner of my eye. I only caught a flash of brown hair before he muttered something unintelligible and walked away.

"That guy was standing in front of me watching you while you were dancing," Garrett chimed in after the perv left.

"Whatever, I don't do it for attention. I do it to make my best friend feel better." I smiled and side-hugged Garrett.

"I'm just sayin'," he slurred, "he was totally drooling over you."

"Okay, time to get you home," I said and gathered my things before exiting the bar.

"Baby, I don't wanna go home."

"You can come over," I offered. He nodded and soon we were in a cab and back at my loft. Garrett passed out on the couch, immediately, while I got ready for bed. I was sure he was going to be in rough shape tomorrow.

The next morning, Garrett was not in the best frame of mind. He was slightly hung over and brooding miserably about seeing Kate, yet again, hanging with another man. I reminded him of my scandalous lap dance, but it only perked him up slightly. By ten o'clock, he was out the door and heading back to his own place.

I had showered and dressed in preparation for a day of work. I wanted to put the final changes on my slideshow for the convention and find out if Garrett had finished my canvases. I needed to look for some fabric for the backdrop of my booth and a table big enough to accommodate the photo albums and the monitor I was bringing.

My plans were thwarted when the buzzer to the shop started incessantly ringing only moments before I was heading out.

"Can I help you?" I called down through the intercom system.

"Yeah, Edward sent me down from Rotten Ink. I've got a tatt I need photographed."

"I'll be right down." I sighed and hurried to the lift, descending down to the lower level and into my studio. After unlocking the door and allowing the tall, blonde gentleman into the shop, a strong sense of dread floated over me.

"You can follow me right through here." I led him into the studio room and sat him on a stool in the middle of the sheet-covered area. "Where's your tattoo?"

"It's on my hip, and thigh." He smirked.

"Okay, are you comfortable taking your pants and underwear off?" I knew it was a stupid question once I saw the sinister grin cross his face. "I have a towel that you can cover up with."

"Sure, I'll take my clothes off for you."

"I'll just give you a moment," I said and handed him the towel. I walked out of the room and grabbed my camera from the front of the shop. Remaining in the front for a few moments, I tried to catch my breath and steel my resolve to do this photo. I had a feeling that this guy was not going to make use of the towel.

"Bella?" a familiar voice called from the front door. I looked up into the most intense green eyes I'd ever seen. I wanted to peruse his body and his face, but I didn't have time as he stalked across the room towards me.

"Yes?" I questioned.

"Did a tall, blonde guy come down here saying that I sent him?" he questioned.

"Who are you?"

"Oh, sorry, we haven't been formally introduced. I'm Edward Cullen, the new owner of Rotten Ink."

"Okay, then yes, he's here now," I said and pointed over my shoulder towards the studio room. "He's getting ready."

"Son of a bitch," he murmured, fury flashing across his face quickly like a lightning strike. He sprinted towards the studio room and growled loudly.

"Get your fucking clothes on Mike. I told you not to come down here and that I didn't need a photo of that tattoo," Edward hissed, venom lacing every word.

"What the fuck, dude? This is some of your best work. Why wouldn't you want a picture of it?"

"You know why, you asswipe. I told you if you pulled this shit, I wouldn't tattoo you ever again and I meant it. You can find someone else to finish it. I won't tolerate you disrespecting me or Bella like this."

"Whatever," Mike said before storming out of my shop. "You'll pay for this, Cullen."

"Just get the fuck out," Edward spat. Mike pushed the front door open, slamming it against the outside wall. I jumped and gasped waiting for the glass to break, but the shattering sounds never came.

"I'm so sorry, Bella," Edward said softly. I couldn't tear my eyes away from the door. More than once, I'd wondered if inviting freshly tattooed guys into my shop during non-business hours was a good idea. Garrett was always right next door if I needed him, though, and now it was apparent that Edward had the good sense to pick and choose who he had photographed.

"It's okay," I whispered. I finally looked up, letting my eyes roam slowly over his face. Pooling saliva was certain to start dribbling down my chin in seconds, of that I was sure. Edward was a gorgeous specimen with rusty brown hair that was extremely chaotic. His green eyes were piercing and sharp with their saturated color. His face was angular and defined with a few days worth of reddish stubble gracing his chin and cheeks.

My eyes got as far as his broad chest covered in a tight black t-shirt before he cleared his throat. My gaze lazily lifted to his face again, and my knees wobbled as soon as our eyes met. He had one eyebrow raised in question while his lips curved slightly upward in a smug smirk. One side of his mouth lifted just a tiny bit higher than the other side leaving his smile a little lopsided, but it fit his face perfectly. For the first time I noticed the viper bites in his lip. It was the sexiest thing I'd ever seen, and I had to bolster my will power so I didn't reach up and pull him in to lick those little silver balls.

"So, Bella," he started pulling me from my fantasy. "Are you going to be attending the convention next weekend?"

"I am." I nodded. "I will have a booth set up there to display my work and hopefully gain some more clients."

"I'll be there, as well. I have a couple of clients that have agreed to let me tattoo them during the convention. So I will be showcasing my work."

"That's great." I replied and offered a timid smile. He looked so familiar, but I couldn't place him. There was something about his eyes.

"You were at Moe's last night," he stated. My brows knitted together in concentration as I quickly tried to recall if I had seen him there. Maybe that's why he was so familiar. I couldn't remember seeing him though.

"You gave your boyfriend a lap dance," he chuckled, but it was strained, almost forced.

"He's not my boyfriend," I mumbled. "Just a friend and we were trying to make his ex jealous." I had no idea why I felt the need to justify my actions to this semi-stranger.

"Oh," he raised both eyebrows as his features slowly relaxed from their pinched state. "Good to know. I might call upon your services if I need to make an ex jealous. You had every guy in that place panting after you," he pointed out.

I shrugged and toyed with some papers on my front counter. I needed something to keep my hands busy. The more he spoke, the more I wanted to run my hands through his messy hair.

"Most of the guys there are regulars. They've seen my show before," I admitted.

"I'm not a regular," he said. "At least not yet," he added quietly.

"Well, Edward, I hate to kick you out, but I have a ton of work to get done before the convention and I have several errands to run today."

He visibly deflated as I started walking towards the door. "Of course," he said. "It was a pleasure meeting you, Bella. I'm sure I'll see you again soon."

"I'm sure you will," I agreed and ushered him out the door, closing and locking it after he was outside. He waved through the front window and strode down the street.

His scent lingered in the shop long after he had left. It was a pleasant, masculine aroma that I longed to bottle. I'd never really noticed if a guy smelled good before, and I certainly never found myself fantasizing about taking a bath with oils scented like them.

. . . .

All too soon, the convention was upon us. Garrett closed up his shop early on Friday so he could head to the arena to help me set up. Once we were there and I realized that my booth was right next to Rotten Ink's booth, I almost had a heart attack. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to concentrate and talk to potential clients with Edward working right next to me.

I pressed on, trying to appear unaffected and coaxing my mind into the job I had to do. I'd found a deep scarlet red fabric for my backdrop as well as a satiny black that shimmered under the lights. I laid the black fabric first and then overlapped the red in a type of striping fashion. The canvases were placed in the middle of each red stripe. The sharp contrasts of the black and white canvases really popped with the red behind them. I brought a black tablecloth pinstriped with thin red lines and laid that over top of the folding table Garrett dragged in for me. We attached the banner with my studio name and logo to the front of the tablecloth then set up the monitor and photo albums.

We left the arena Friday evening without seeing Edward or any of his staff. I was slightly relieved, but my nerves were present and accounted for on Saturday morning when I walked into the arena and headed for my booth. I carried a travel mug full of coffee as well as a small cooler filled with ice water to my booth.

"Jesus Christ." I heard his smooth voice before I saw him. Glancing over at his booth, I didn't see his head of crazy hair anywhere so I quickly set down my things and peeked over the small dividing wall that separated our stalls. Edward was crouched down on the floor with his tattoo chair turned on its side muttering swear words under his breath.

"Need help?" I asked causing him to startle and topple to his side.

"Fuck, Bella, you scared the shit out of me." He laughed and righted himself before offering me a warm smile. "I'm just trying to put this stupid ass thing together. It should have been done last night, but I got tied up at the shop and couldn't get down here before they locked up."

"Don't you have anyone helping you today?"

"Yeah, my cousin is supposed to be here now, but she's running late," he huffed and continued turning a wrench at the bottom of the chair.

"Do you need me to do anything?"

"Nah, I'm good. I just have to finish setting this up, and then I'm ready for action."

"Okay, well if you need me I'll be right here," I offered and moved to set up my laptop and the slide show I'd created. Quickly, I hooked up the monitor and started my slideshow so I could view it a couple of times before the doors opened to the public.

I stood on the other side of the table sipping my coffee and staring at the monitor when Edward's hushed voice floated into my ear.

"Beautiful," he whispered.

"I know," I agreed. "They were a very photogenic couple." I said looking at the beautiful couple on the screen.

"I wasn't talking about what's on the screen," he murmured into my ear. I spun around to look into his eyes and gasped. Intense passion shot like fire from his eyes as he stared me down. "Your work is beautiful though," he added without removing his eyes from mine.

"Thanks," I whispered, licking my bottom lip with the tip of my tongue. His eyes shot down to my lips just as my tongue disappeared back into my mouth. He groaned and inched closer.

"Why can't I take my eyes off you?" he wondered aloud. "All these years…" he trailed off cryptically.

"Wha…" I started to say, but was cut off by the electric feeling of his lips on mine. The firm, but pliable kiss had me melting on the spot. His lips were amazingly soft, and as he took my bottom lip in between his, I whimpered. I had never experienced a kiss like this before in my life. I didn't have tons of experience with men, but I wasn't a virgin either.

Edward was so different from any other man I'd kissed. He took control, but gently, and he wasn't sloppy. Before I could protest, his hands were cupping my cheek and neck, and his tongue probed my lips so gently that I couldn't help but open up to him.

I was fighting for breath as he stole the oxygen from my lungs, but the burn was a sweet torture that I never wanted to end. Before long, he pulled away with a grunt and a sigh.

"Amazing," he uttered, cupping my cheeks. I opened my eyes, drunk on his apparent ability to numb my senses.

"Mmmm…." I hummed, closing my eyes again slowly. Somewhere deep within my brain the word dangerous was flashing repeatedly, but I ignored it. Losing myself in a kiss couldn't be that dangerous.

He pressed his cheek against mine and spoke quietly in my ear, "I think you have a visitor," before he slowly moved his face away from mine.

"I don't care," I responded breathlessly. He chuckled and pressed his thumbs into my cheekbones softly.

"I think he might care though," Edward spoke softly into my ear again, pressing a kiss into my neck. I opened my eyes and turned my head towards my booth. Garrett was standing there with a wide smile on his face.

"Baby," he greeted.

"Hey, Gar Bear," I called and turned back to Edward.

"Oh, this is the non-boyfriend," Edward said.

"Yes, Garrett, this is Edward, the new owner of Rotten Ink. Edward, meet Garrett, the owner of the print shop next to my studio."

"Nice to meet you," Garrett said and offered his hand to Edward.

"Likewise," Edward said grasping Garrett's hand firmly while circling my waist with his free arm.

"You've obviously met Bella," Garrett laughed.

"I have," Edward said softly while looking down at me.

"Well, the doors are going to be opening in about five minutes, so if you've got any last minute stuff to do, I suggest you do it now," Garrett said to me, but glanced at Edward's arm that clung to my waist.

"I have to take a leak," Edward announced and gave my side a squeeze before sauntering off. His cousin still hadn't arrived, and I was slightly worried that he'd be trying to tattoo a client and speak with people at the same time. I hoped someone would arrive to help him soon.

Moments later, people of all shapes and sizes started flooding the aisles. Colorful images littered the skin of the people now milling about. It was beautiful and mesmerizing. Seeing some of the intricate and lifelike designs had me longing for another tattoo. The black swan in the middle of my back needed to be embellished. It was time.

For the next few hours, Garrett and I both fielded several questions about my business, and his. I was confident that we had both gained a few new clients. I hadn't had any time to even glance Edward's way since the doors had opened, and now that it was nearing late afternoon, I decided I needed a break to grab a sandwich and use the restroom. Garrett asked me to grab him a sandwich as well. Since I was taking orders, I stopped at Edward's booth, relieved to see his cousin chatting happily with some potential clients. Edward was sitting in his tattoo chair smiling up at a petite brunette.

"Hey," I called as I walked closer. His smile widened causing me to grin in response. "You want anything for lunch? I'm taking orders."

"Sure, I'll walk with you. I need to stretch my legs and get away from this booth anyway," he responded and stood from the chair. His arms reached up above his head elongating his spine and raising his t-shirt above the waistline of his jeans. A small sliver of skin and the wide band of his Calvin Klein's presented themselves in the most enticing fashion. I could make out the black lines of a tattoo across his abdomen, but I wasn't sure of the design. My eyes shot over to the brunette that was speaking with Edward when I walked up and I smirked as her mouth gaped open in astonishment at Edward's gorgeous physique.

"Ready?" he asked, approaching me with his hand outstretched. I laced my fingers with his and he turned at the last moment to address the gaping-mouthed woman.

"It was nice to see you, Rachel. I'll catch you later," he said and waved while pulling me along down the aisle.

"I didn't think I'd ever get away from her," he sighed and squeezed my hand.

"She looked smitten with you," I teased him.

"She wouldn't leave me alone, and it was all Alice's fault," he growled.

"How is that?" I giggled at the look of disgust on his face.

"She saw some hot guy approach the booth and pushed Rachel off on me," he whined.

"You're pathetic," I pointed out as we approached the sandwich stand.

"I'm not," he growled into my ear as he got behind me in line. His arms circled my waist and his nose buried itself in my hair. Shivers raced up and down my spine sending waves of goosebumps across my skin.

"Do you have any idea how much time I've spent observing you today?" he whispered, nipping my earlobe.

"No, honestly, I don't," I replied truthfully, trying extremely hard to appear unaffected by his affections.

"You're so fucking gorgeous, and I watched so many guys approach your table today just to get a closer look at you," he admitted. "You have no idea the affect you have on people."

He pressed his back into my chest, pressing my body into his. Slowly, my vision blurred around the edges. It was almost like a bubble had formed around us as the lively sounds in the arena became muted. I spun around in Edward's arms and looked up into his captivating face.

The green of his eyes pierced through me in the most delicious way. Heat spread from between my thighs outward, warming my entire body. My eyes rolled back into my head as his lips met mine gently. I parted my lips slightly, inviting his tongue into my mouth, but he resisted, instead barely touching my lips. Whisper soft touches brushed across my face. My breath was coming in shortened gasps as I struggled to hold onto some semblance of sanity.

"You are so easy to get lost in," Edward murmured, nudging me forward with his feet. His arms firmly cupped the small of my back, bending me to his will, as he moved us forward in line.

"Yeah?" I asked lazily. "I feel the same way about you."

"What time does this thing end?" he mumbled while scattering kisses across my cheeks.

"Seven," I replied.

"Have dinner with me," he whispered.

"Kay," I agreed easily.

"In the meantime, let's order a sandwich," he once again whispered into my ear pressing my back against something hard.

"I'll have a turkey on sourdough," Edward spoke up, looking away from me.

"Anything else?" a nasally voice asked, and Edward's attention turned back to me.

"What would you like?" He smirked, looking into my dazed eyes.

"Ham and swiss on whole wheat," I breathed almost ashamed that he had such an effect on me. "Oh, and I need an egg salad on white, too."

Edward looked back up at the girl taking our order and raised an eyebrow. He still had me pressed against the counter with my back to the sandwich stand. I chanced a glance over his shoulder at the line behind us. Most of them were men, but the few women that had gathered were glaring openly at me. I offered a sweet smile then buried my face in Edward's chest, breathing him in deeply. His concentrated scent was almost overpowering.

. . . .

"Do you have any objections to going to my loft rather than going out to dinner?" Edward asked as we exited the arena.

"No," I replied hesitantly.

"Are you sure? I'm okay with going somewhere, but I thought it would be a bit nicer to have somewhere quiet to talk."

"It's fine," I replied. "Did you drive?"

He nodded and reached out for my hand to lead me to his car except he stopped at a sleek, black motorcycle. It looked so powerful and fast. I gasped and looked up at him wide-eyed.

"This is yours?"

He nodded and smirked before plopping a shiny, black helmet on my head.

"I've never been on a motorcycle," I said shakily.

"Really?" he asked, sounding astonished. "I thought… never mind," he cut himself off.

He straddled the bike and then held out his hand to help me hop on behind him.

"Hang on tight," he said before he fired up the bike and started down the street. The power of the motorcycle felt as if it were being transferred to my body. It was so exhilarating and so liberating. Even though I was holding onto Edward with a death grip, the ride excited me in more ways than one; and when he stopped in front of a building not too far from my loft, I was saddened slightly.

"So?" he asked as he walked his bike into a service elevator.

"That was awesome," I breathed and followed behind him, fluffing my flattened hair.

"It's pretty freeing," he agreed with a smirk. "What would you like for dinner?" he asked as the elevator stopped on the top floor.

I gasped and looked around at the open space that was almost identical to my loft. I stumbled over to the windows looking out over the city and quickly realized that he could easily see my loft from here as it was only a couple buildings away. There were only a few low buildings between our homes.

"Don't worry, I haven't been spying on you," he whispered from behind me. One of his arms circled around my ribs as his lips pressed into the pulse point on my neck.

"I haven't seen you prance around in your bra and panties. I haven't seen you pressing your forehead to that glass, gazing out over the city. I haven't seen you dance around like no one is watching," he admitted quietly, his breath washing over my skin, leaving goose pebbled flesh behind each wisp of hot air.

Momentarily, I thought I should probably freak out that this guy was a major creep, or that I at least needed to buy curtains, but a much larger part of my brain took over and reassured the panic stricken portion that he wasn't going to harm me.

"How…how long have you lived here?" I stammered.

"A couple weeks," he replied, his fingers feathering touches up and down my ribs.

"Why don't I feel scared?" I wondered aloud.

"Because you know I'm not going to hurt you, Bella," he reassured. His fingers crept under the hem of my shirt and pushed it up, the cotton bunching awkwardly under my breast. "I've imagined fucking you against this window so many times since I found you again."

"Since you…" I started, but he spun me around and cut me off with his lips. Gentle, commanding pressure against my lips again. I surrendered easily this time, my body molding to his. I felt like a puppet being dominated by a master puppeteer. I didn't protest when my shirt or pants seemed to disappear. I didn't complain when Edward's clothes vanished either. I barely had time to appreciate his beautiful body before my panties were ripped from my body and I was pressed against the cold glass.

"Fuck, you're so gorgeous," he grunted as he entered me.

"Edward," I gasped, surprised and amazed at how good he felt.

"Perfetto," he mumbled.

I moaned at the Italian word that fell from his pouted lips. He used one arm to hold me up as the other hand slid up and cupped my breast. My back arched away from the glass, unconsciously searching for more contact. His touch, his scent, his presence was simply intoxicating.

"Fuck, baby, I'm not going to last long," he grunted.

"Me…me either," I panted. "You…so good," I stammered. He growled and leaned in to capture my mouth again. The cool feeling of the steel balls in his bottom lip felt amazing against my heated flesh. His tongue probed and shifted with mine languorously. The taste and his scent were too much for me, and as he reached around to rub my clit with his thumb, I came undone. Edward followed only seconds later, his head thrown back, an animalistic growl bubbling from deep within him.

Panting and satiated, he walked us over to his bed and gently laid me down, then hovered over me. He brushed the hair from my face gently and gazed down at me before pressing a tender kiss to my lips.

"I'll be right back," he said quietly and disappeared into the bathroom. I breathed deeply and just let the sensations of euphoria wash over my body. The softness of his sheets felt luxurious against my skin, and for a moment, I imagined feeling like this every night.

"How about some wine?" he asked, startling me as he crawled across the bed like a lion stalking his prey. His black boxer briefs left little to the imagination, and I could already feel desire flooding my senses again.

He smirked and waggled a finger at me. "We'll have time for that again later," he chuckled. "I want to feed you first, though."

"Wine would be nice," I murmured, my voice sounding slightly deeper than normal.

Edward clothed me in one of his t-shirts that seemed to be saturated with his scent. He fed me spaghetti from a great Italian place just down the street, and after two bottles of wine had been consumed, we were lying in his bed face to face, our legs tangled loosely.

"I have a confession," he admitted sheepishly.

"You're a stalker," I pointed out playfully. When he didn't respond, my brows furrowed and my heart rate sped up.

He looked up and must have seen the panic written on my face because he was quick to reassure. "No, no, I'm not a stalker, I swear," he breathed out, fear filling his green eyes.

"Then what's your confession?" I asked impatiently.

"You don't remember me," he said quietly.

"What are you talking about?" I snapped.

He sighed. "How to start this?" He rolled onto his back and rubbed a hand over his face roughly.

"Why not at the beginning?" I suggested.

"Okay, I grew up in Forks," he offered, looking over at me with a raised brow.

"You…what?" I breathed in surprise. "How old are you?"

"Just about three years older than you," he replied. "We used to play together when we were little. Our moms were great friends, but once your mom went to work full time they kind of lost touch."

"Oh my god, you're Carlisle and Esme's son," I gasped in realization. He nodded with a smile. "My dad thought your name was Edgar," I laughed.

His nose wrinkled and he laughed. "I've never been all that fond of my name, but Edgar would have been so much worse."

"There's more," he said once we stopped laughing. "Do you remember when you were a freshman in high school and the seniors were acting like idiots right after spring break?"

"Yes," I admitted with a sharp nod.

"That day when you got knocked down in the corridor between the English and Science wings…I was the one that helped you up," he admitted quietly.

My eyes widened and my eyebrows shot up in shock. "No way," I said. "It can't be. You're my Reznor look-alike."

He laughed openly, his eyes sparkling with mirth and joy. "He was my idol when I was a senior in high school. I look a little different now," he confessed.

"I'll say, but how did I not realize that it was you? I mean, if we played together as kids, how did I not know? We knew each other before high school," I rambled in confusion.

"We played together when you were in kindergarten, Bella. You wouldn't have remembered me," he pointed out. "Let me tell you something though," he started and paused looking into my eyes, "I never forgot about you. We belong together. We were always meant to be together."

"Edward," I cried and launched myself at him. He caught me easily and nipped at my bottom lip playfully.

"You're mine," he uttered and seized my mouth before I could formulate a response. He flipped us over and pulled away, looming over me. "I've waited so long," he whispered, but before he could say anything else, I rose up and pressed my mouth to his, ensnaring him in a passionate kiss. It wasn't long before our clothing was shed again, our bodies twisting together like two puzzle pieces.

He did belong to me, and I belonged to him.

6 Months Later

"Bella, come on, we're going to be late," Edward called from the kitchen.

"I'm coming," I huffed and stumbled out of the bathroom. "If you would have let me start getting ready an hour ago, like I wanted, then we wouldn't be running late," I scolded him.

"Hey, you're irresistible, what can I say?" he chuckled unapologetically.

"Charmer," I murmured as we exited the building. Edward had a cab waiting and held the door for me so I could slide in.

Several minutes later, we pulled up in front of Moe's, hopped out and hurried into the building. Alice, Edward's cousin, greeted us as we walked in. We'd become great friends over the past six months, and she'd managed to finally pulled Garrett out of his slump.

"You're late," she snapped playfully as we hurried to the table she held for us.

"Blame him." I jerked my thumb in Edward's direction.

"I can't help it, she's too fucking sexy," Edward growled and nipped at my neck from behind me.

"Save it for later. Garrett and Ben are in the back room waiting for you," she told Edward. He nodded, pressed a kiss to my lips, and then disappeared into the crowd.

"I'm so excited," Alice admitted happily as we sat on stools right in front of the stage.

Edward, Garrett, and their friend Ben had decided to form a band shortly after the tattoo convention. They'd been practicing their asses off for the past few months and Alec was finally able to convince the owner of Moe's to let them debut their music here.

"They're starting," Alice squealed as the boys strolled onto the stage. I admit that I swooned like a teenager when Edward swung the guitar strap over his shoulder and immediately went into a cover of Muse's latest song.

I…I can't get these memories out of my mind.

And some kind of madness has started to evolve.

I…I tried so hard to let you go.

But some kind of madness is swallowing me whole, yeah.

Edward looked directly at me as he sang. The hairs on the back of my neck rose as goose bumps covered my skin. He was so gorgeous when he sang. I'd been at almost all of their practices, but nothing could compare to him standing on a stage.

And now I have finally seen the light

And I have finally realized

What you need.

His eyes narrowed and his brows furrowed as he sang the lyrics. Power and domination oozed from his voice and his stance.

I have finally realized

I need to love.

The song ended, and I bit my lip, a flush covering my body. Edward smirked down at me and winked. I blew him a kiss and sighed as his guitar opened for the next song. It was our song, and the first time I heard it, it had brought tears to my eyes.

I've been trying to do it right

I've been living a lonely life

I've been sleeping here instead

I've been sleeping in my bed

I smiled brightly as his lips caressed the microphone and his voice strained sexily. The corded muscles in his neck flexed and released as he strummed the guitar.

I belong with you, you belong with me

Your're my sweetheart

I belong with you, you belong with me

You're my sweet

For us, that was life. We belonged together, and I was his sweetheart.