Hey! Thanks again for the awesome reviews. I appreciate them all so much.

TwilightMomofTwo continues to dazzle me!

Thanks to thir13enth and 4mejasper from PTB. It's a great organization, and I'm always grateful for the help.

For anyone who is lemon-averse, please skip to the page break. Some of you will enjoy this chapter, and some of you will want to throw things. We shall see.

As a recap, when we left our happy couple, they were going back up to her apartment.


I followed Bella up the stairs, worried about what she'd meant. The suggestion that we go back to her apartment shouldn't have seemed like a big deal, but I knew it was. We didn't speak as she unlocked the door, and the silence unnerved me. I watched as she reset the alarm, clicking the last button with an exaggerated motion. She stood, turning around and leaning against the desk with her hands braced on either side of her hips. Staring, she assessed me as though she was weighing options I didn't know existed.

"Would you mind sharing what you're pondering so hard over there?"

"I think we need to find out if this is going to work—physically, I mean," she said, looking up at me and down.

Was she saying what I thought she was? I opened my mouth to speak, and she held up a finger.

"You kissed me, but you haven't tried to make another move. That tells me some things. Either you're a true gentleman, and you're waiting for me to give the 'all clear.' Or, you're very inexperienced, and you're not sure how to begin. If that's the case, I don't mind starting things." She pushed off the desk and took a step toward me. "Either way, let's get this ball rolling, so to speak."

God help me, I wanted to grab Bella and pull her to me. It took everything I had to hold up a hand. "Wait. I need more information. Is this some sort of test? You and I go to bed as an experiment? What happens if I fail? If we fail?"

Bella stepped closer, looking into my eyes but not touching me. When we were cuddled in bed last night, her body heat had been comforting; now, the warmth taunted me, igniting desires I tried to hold back. Surely, this was something we could delay until we knew each other better?

Her voice was a bit huskier now. "Can you honestly tell me you haven't thought about how this would work?" She motioned from her chest to mine. "You just keep showing up, saying all the right things, making it harder and harder to resist you, but what if we can't do this? Do we switch to some sort of brother-sister relationship? Do we become friends? Because I'm not thinking about you that way." Her heart sped up a bit on the last few words.

"There are women I consider sisters and friends, and I certainly don't see you that way, but I was hoping this was something we'd explore later. We can get to know each other better." I took a step back, hoping to put some distance between me and temptation. "I respect you. I was raised to take this kind of relationship slowly."

She smiled at me and shook her head. "Well, I guess that answers one question. You're an old-fashioned gentleman." Her tone wasn't sarcastic, but it was close.

"Of course. I would have hoped that was obvious. Yes, I've stolen some kisses. God knows, I'm having trouble staying away from you, but when I was growing up, sex was something you saved for marriage."

She started laughing and backed up a few steps. "I'm sorry to burst your bubble, but people have been having sex out of wedlock since the notion of wedlock was invented. When I arrived in the colonies, a lot of brides walked down the aisle with a bun in the oven. Pretty ironic, huh? The land of the Puritans couldn't keep their teenagers from getting it on. It kills me that each generation seems to think they invented hormones and promiscuity."

"I know you're right. This is a discussion I've had with Carlisle several times over the years. It doesn't change the fact that I was trying to be a gentleman." I ran my fingers through my hair. "Yes, people have been following their hormones for years, but I didn't want to do that with you. Don't you see? You matter! I wanted to take the time to show you that."

She inhaled sharply, closing her eyes for a moment. "Will you stop doing that?" she whispered, seeming to deflate a bit. The brashness faded, and she looked much more vulnerable.

I smiled innocently. "Stop doing what?"

"You know what! Saying sweet things. Confusing me. Making me imagine I can have a real relationship with you."

"I think we can have that relationship, and I understand what you're saying about the physical side of things. I don't think this is a good idea. At least not right now. What if I hurt you?" I took another step back, distancing myself from the scent that kept getting stronger as her heart beat faster.

Her eyes went wide, and she glared back at me. "Seriously? Every other man on Earth would take me up on this offer in a heartbeat. If not now, when? What are you waiting for, Edward? Marriage?"

I spoke slowly, knowing she wouldn't like my answer. "I was trying not to think that far ahead. I didn't want to scare you off."

"Oh, for God's sake," she muttered, "I never thought I'd have to do this." She put both hands on my shoulders and shoved.

I let her push me against the front door, controlling how hard I hit. She reached up and grabbed the back of my neck, pulling my head down.

"Don't you see? We need to know," she said before pressing her lips to mine. The scent and taste of her were like a gale wind, blowing away my resolve.

Giving in for the time being, I did what felt right. I put my arms around her and pulled her close. Her body pressed against me from hips to chest, and every inch felt warm and soft. As her heart raced, I could smell the scent of her blood rising between us, and it reignited the fire in my throat; I quickly pushed it back down. Bella made a small moan low in her throat and shifted against me. The movement rubbed her breasts against my chest, and I knew I'd need to control more than my thirst before I ripped out the fly of my jeans.

My hands roved down up and down her back. This was my opportunity to do something I wanted to do since I met her. Reaching up, I flicked my fingers, snapping the band around her ponytail. She usually kept her hair trapped, but I needed to touch it. Breaking free, the soft strands flowed over my hard skin. I reveled in each sensation that came with holding her, committing each scent, taste, and sensation to my perfect memory.

Her hand squeezed between us, pulling at the hem of my shirt. Bella gave an adorable little growl when the fabric wouldn't come free. I paused, pulling my hand from her hair. I could still end this. If I stopped her, we'd have time to talk through the consequences of what we were about to do—

"Dammit," Bella muttered, pulling back and looking down. Her hair fell forward, hiding her face. We were still pressed together from thigh to shoulder, but she might as well have been a mile away. It was like watching a flower wither. She tried to take a step back, retreating, but I refused to release her.

She didn't look up as she started speaking. "Edward, just let me go. It's obvious you're not ready."

Her heart was still pounding, but she wouldn't look at me. I pulled her closer and tucked her head under my chin. "Just give me a minute. You knocked me for a loop. That's not an easy thing to do."

She made a small snorting sound against my chest.

"Just give me a minute," I repeated. "I didn't expect this to happen today. I'm not refusing. I've just never been very good at going with the flow." Even as the words left my mouth, I realized how rigid I sounded. When had I become so tight and unyielding? Is this what happened to vampires who lived long lives alone? Did they eventually become so closed off to new experiences that they couldn't let anyone new in? Wouldn't that make their loneliness an endless cycle?

What if I decided to change the pattern? Had I already done that, just by spending time with Bella? God knew, that fact that I couldn't read her was a new experience, and her history made her intriguing. Perhaps, I was ready to continue this journey. I'd changed more in the last week than I had in the last twenty-five years. In spite of my reservations, this might be the next logical step. I could still respect the teachings of my childhood, but I was making the conscious decision to grow and change and make a connection with her.

"Bella, we need to move."

"What do you mean?" she asked into my chest.

"I don't want to do this against the door."

She inhaled swiftly, leaning back and looking up at me. "Are you absolutely sure? I don't want to end up the villain here, stealing your virtue."

She might have been trying to be funny, but I had other things in mind. Tangling my hands in the soft locks, I tilted her head back, pressing my lips to hers. I tried to express everything I was feeling in that moment. All my fear for her safety, my excitement at this experience, and my affection were carried in the kiss. When I pulled back, her eyes locked with mine, the pupils wide. Her heart pounded, and the scent of her arousal filled the room. She'd never been more alluring.

I reached down, pulling the hem of my shirt free.

She sagged against me in relief before she kissed me deeply. Reaching down, Bella grabbed the offending material. As she stepped back to pull the shirt over my head, I couldn't help leaning forward. The angle put my mouth even with her throat, and she gave a low chuckle.

"Don't even think about it, mister."

My laughter quickly turned to gasping as ran her hands over my chest, exploring each inch. For a moment, I wished I was still human. How wonderful it would be to match her temperature and explore her body without fear of hurting her. What would it feel like to just let go and get lost in the moment? My wishing ended as she leaned up to run her tongue along the ridge of my collarbone. Maybe this was perfect, after all.

"Edward," she whispered between kisses. She didn't say anything else, but she took my hand guided it to her sweatshirt zipper. With her hand over mine, we both watched the fabric part. Even with the T-shirt underneath, it was one of the most erotic things I'd ever experienced, and I felt my erection growing. Bella gave a small laugh as the seam along my zipper gave way, and I wondered quickly if I'd be stuck here without anything to wear.

That thought fled as she stepped back, pulling me away from the door. Each movement took us closer to the bedroom. Her T-shirt followed mine to the floor. Her black bra was simple, but still alluring. I wanted nothing more than to see what it hid, and I got a good glimpse when she stopped to quickly unlace her boots. Such an ordinary action shouldn't be that sexy.

By the time we go to the bed, she was down to her underwear. Her skin was lovely, and I wanted to see and touch and kiss every square inch. Bella seemed just as transfixed as I was, and we were quickly a flurry of roving hands, eyes, and mouths. Reaching up, I slide one bra strap down, kissing the newly exposed flesh. With gentle fingers, I pushed the cup aside to expose the peaked nipple. Bella's back arched, thrusting the pebbled flesh against my lips.

"Oh, God. That's cold," she said with a gasp, and I began to pull back. Throwing her arms up, she wrapped her fingers in my hair, holding me in place. "I didn't say it was bad, and don't you dare stop."

Growling low in my throat, I did as she asked and loved every minute of it.

Shoving one hand behind her back, Bella must have unsnapped the bra, because she gave a quick tug and it fell away. I couldn't resist the invitation and moved to the other breast, licking my way across her skin.

Bella writhed under me, lifting her hips. I froze against her, realizing that I hadn't planned far enough ahead to figure out how to do this without hurting her.

"Hey. Don't worry about this," she said, cupping my cheek. "I have an idea that might work." She pushed herself up on her elbows, kissing a line down my chest. Shifting again, she sat up. Mimicking her earlier motion, she put both hands on my shoulders and pushed. I fell back against the pillows, stunned she was taking over again. I'd usually imagined being the aggressor with her, but I was beginning to think I could get used to this.

With little fanfare, she pushed her panties down, and the scent of her arousal was so much stronger. It was heaven. I'd hoped explore her that way, but I didn't think I'd be able to wait. The desire to be inside her was too strong. Whatever idea Bella had, I was all in. I reached down and tugged, ripping off the remnants of my jeans. I no longer cared if I had to leave her apartment in a bathrobe, I just needed to be naked.

"Oh," was all she said, but her pupils dilated again. She licked her lips, and I fell back, closing my eyes and groaning. She obviously had no idea what that did to me.

Spreading her palms across my chest, she swung one leg over my hips, settling astride me. I could feel the heat radiating from her and it took everything I had to freeze in place.

"Grab the headboard. You'll be less tempted to touch me." Her voice sounded like she'd swallowed gravel.

She must have seen the dismay on my face, but I complied. Anything to get closer to her. To be a part of her.

I grabbed the headboard, watching as she reached down and gripped me tightly. Easing back once, then again, she found the perfect spot, circling me around and around, gathering her moisture and transferring her body heat. By the time she sank down, I was about to lose my mind.

"Bella, this won't take long," I managed through gritted teeth, crumpling the headboard beneath my grip.

With smooth, gliding motions, she moved on me. The sight of her was spectacular, breasts bouncing and hair tumbling down her back. Up and down she rocked, seating herself fully before beginning again. Reaching down, she slipped her fingers between us and I watched as they began moving in slow circles. It was the image of her hand between her legs, glistening with moisture, that sent me over. With a groan, I froze as I heard her cry out. The expression on her face could have been ecstasy or pain, and for an instant, I was terrified I'd hurt her. I relaxed as Bella crumpled onto my chest, panting.

"Bella! Talk to me!"

She laughed—a deep, husky, sexy laugh and relief coursed through me. The laughing continued, interspersed between kisses across my chest.

"If you keep laughing, you're going to hurt my pride," I said, rubbing my hand lazily across her back.

"Edward, your pride isn't in danger." She pressed more kisses across my chest. "Believe me." With a deep sigh, she dropped her head onto my chest and closed her eyes.


"Wake up, Sleeping Beauty." I leaned down, running my nose alongside hers, inhaling deeply.

Bella grumbled a bit and reached up to push me away, rubbing a hand across her face before snuggling back into the blanket. Her retreat only lasted a few seconds. As I watched, her eyes started to flicker, then opened.

"Good morning. What time is it?" she asked, stretching like a contented cat.

"It's after nine. I wanted to let you sleep, but your stomach has been growling for a while. You didn't eat much yesterday, and I didn't know how much nourishment you'd need after …" I didn't try to hide my obnoxious grin.

"Oh, yeah. I could definitely eat." She said, and her stomach rumbled again as if on cue. That was when it finally seemed to register for her. "Wait, what's that smell?"

"Breakfast in bed," I said, turning back and pulling the tray off the dresser. I presented my offerings with a triumphant flourish. Looking down, I thought the egg, vegetable and cheese mixture looked and smelled disgusting. Maybe it would be fine. Considering how long it had been since I'd eaten food, there was no way for me to know.

When I looked up at her face, her lips were pressed tight together, and her chin wobbled a bit.

"Hey. Hey! Wait! What did I do wrong?"

"Nothing. It's perfect," she said through sniffles. "Thank you." Before she took the plate from me, she reached up, cupping my cheek and pulled me down for a quick kiss.

"Okay, then," I laughed while passing her the plate. "Eggs are good. Very good," I said to myself. Sitting on the edge of the bed, I watched while she picked up the fork and dug in.

"It's not the eggs, you dork," she said between bites, looking up at me from under her lashes. "I'm not sure anyone has voluntarily cooked for me. Servants, yes. But someone going out of their way to take care of me, not in as long as I can remember."

"Oh. Well, we can fix that."

"Edward, for someone who doesn't eat, these aren't bad. How did you do this?"

I held up my phone. "There are lots of cooking videos on the Internet. It took a few tries. I owe you a new carton of eggs."

She gave a short laugh. "You did a good job, Chef."

"Oh, wait. I forgot." I rushed out of the room but returned at normal speed, holding a small glass of juice so it wouldn't spill.

This brought a fresh smile, and I sat on the edge of the bed waiting for her to finish. Each time she moved, the sheet slipped a bit, and I watched it like a birdwatcher waiting for a rare specimen.

Realizing what I'd been doing, I tried to pull it together. I'd never again be able to tease Emmett about losing brain cells when Rosalie was near.


Bella paused outside the bar door, smoothing her hair and checking her low ponytail. There was no need. She looked the way she always did at work, professional and a little kick-ass. "I can't believe I'm late," she muttered. "What are you doing to me?"

"Well, we had to stop to buy jeans, and if you hadn't pulled me back to bed for that last round—"

"Shut up back there." Shaking her head, she pulled the door open, grousing loud enough for me to hear. "One sparkly boy shows a little interest, and I start acting like a love-struck teenager. I'm pathetic."

I grinned and followed her inside. Actually, I was pretty sure I hadn't stopped smiling all afternoon. Eventually, Bella and I would have to talk about what had happened today, but for right now, I was just going to enjoy it.

"Hey! I'm glad your back," Austin called as Bella walked through the door.

He looked her up and down, but he didn't see anything out of the ordinary. Because it was the first time she'd ever called off work, he'd been genuinely worried about her. When I walked through the door, he managed to hide his surprise. Only the pink tint on his cheeks showed he'd put two and two together, figuring out why Bella had missed work and then showed up late.

To her credit, Bella just started asking questions about what had happened the night before. I wasn't about to let her out of my sight, so I tagged along as they walked toward her office. I was proud of the fact that Bella showed no embarrassment at all. It reminded me of her sitting in front of our fireplace, burning her shirt and bra. Maybe she was right about our Puritan morals being a more recent invention. I'd have to do some reading on that.

As we walked through the darkened bar, I nodded in satisfaction. Somehow, Emmett and Jasper had cleaned up after the break in, complete with finding replacement parts and righting any damage. They'd done such a good job that the bar had opened the next night with no one being the wiser. It was impressive. Maybe I could start a new business and hire them out as a clean-up crew.

Once we reached the office, I settled myself on the couch and waited patiently while they discussed staffing changes, sales figures, and upcoming promotions. Bella made a small face when Austin told her the deposit from the last few nights was still in the safe.

"Sorry about that," he said. "With you out, I didn't have enough employees to send an escort with the person dropping the deposit at the bank. I know you don't like anyone having to do it alone."

"You did the right thing," Bella told him. "I'd much rather it wait, than take the risk of someone being mugged and getting hurt. What I'd really rather do is find a new armored car service, so we can stop dropping the deposit ourselves. Did the new place call back yet?"

She looked over at me, explaining, "Our old armored car service went out of business with no notice. We haven't had good luck finding a replacement."

I leaned back and spread my arms along the rear of the couch. "I'll be happy to walk with you tonight." Finally, this was a service I could easily provide. I'd be a good bodyguard for Bella.

With a small, indulgent smile, she thanked me for the offer.

Austin looked me up and down, thinking I wouldn't be much help in a fight, but he was smart enough to hold his tongue. He was going to insist on coming along if Bella and I tried to go alone. Her safety was his primary concern. The more time I spent time with him, the more I liked him.

Through the door, we heard the music volume increase. Austin gave a small sigh. "It sounds like we're open. I'll go check the door." He gave me a tense look before turning back to Bella. He'd been putting off this piece of information, hoping he'd have time alone with her. Austin knew there wasn't anything romantic going on between Jacob and Bella, but he was still uncomfortable with the situation. "Oh, I almost forgot. Jake called last night. He said to tell you he'd be home soon."

Bella's reply was absolutely frigid. "Is that so?"

Austin took a step back. That wasn't the response he was expecting.

She sighed and held up a hand. "I didn't mean to shoot the messenger. I'll be happy to talk to discuss his travels with him as soon as he returns." Austin heard the unspoken, I'll be kicking his ass while I do it. Nodding, he left.

Bella pushed back from the desk. "How long ago did Jacob call, telling me how very worried he was? I wonder how long it actually takes to get back from where-ever-the-hell he was? It seems to me that someone so concerned for my safety would have gotten here a little bit faster."

By now, I understood she was simply voicing her displeasure; there was no reason to respond. I sat quietly while she organized the inbox on her desk and checked e-mail. If the desk drawers slammed a bit too loud, and the computer keystrokes were a bit too firm, I could understand. When Bella gave a resigned nod and looked over at me, I knew she was ready to get on with her day.

I stood and reached over to take her hand. "Come on, boss lady. It's been days since I've gotten to watch you work."

She made a huffing noise as she led me out of the office then pointed up at the VIP section. Austin had already put a 'Reserved' sign on the booth I'd used before. As soon as I sat down, one of the newer waitresses came to take my drink order. She was dying to ask me about my relationship with Bella, and she thought that maybe after a drink or two, she'd be able to get some juicy gossip out of me.

Two drinks later, the same waitress was back, trying to get chatty with me. Unfortunately for her, I wasn't answering with anything other than grunts and ambiguous nods.

"But did you at least met Jacob?" she asked in a high-pitched voice that reminded me of a cartoon character. "I mean, they're really close—like brother and sister close. If you're gonna be involved with Bella, you gotta know Jacob."

From across the bar, I heard a voice bellow loud enough to be heard over the sound system. "Honey, I'm home!" A tall, broad-shouldered young man stood in the doorway. He was grinning with his arms flung wide.

"Oh, my God! That's Jacob. He's back," the waitress said, hopping up and down in excitement. Even without her annoying clarification, I'd have known who he was the moment he walked through the door.

As though it was orchestrated, the crowd parted a bit, and Bella began running to him. Jacob bent a bit, bracing himself and holding his arms open to her. He watched her come forward, laughing as she neared. Everyone in the room seemed to hold their breath, waiting for this touching reunion.

I heard multiple gasps as Bella stopped a foot from him, pulled her right arm back and punched Jacob in the jaw with enough force to rock him backward.

"Took you long enough to get here, asshole. Welcome home."


I put a link about colonial life on my profile page. It was a fascinating time. Ben Franklin is one of my favorite historical figures. From everything I've read, that generation knew how to throw a party!

As always, thank you for reading! I have two classes this semester on top of everything else, so review replies might be slow.