A/N: Again, thanks so much for your wonderful reviews. I really enjoy reading them. Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to get back to too many of them this last chapter, but I'll try to do better for the next. :)
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I have something **VERY IMPORTANT** to clear up. Edward was NOT married when he met Bella. I debated whether I should clear this up, but this misunderstanding does so greatly affect the story that I figured I should. I take full responsibility for any misunderstanding, but Bella did NOT say that Edward was married when they were together, rather that Tanya eventually became his ex-wife. Now from what she goes on to say it's obvious there was SOMETHING going on between Tanya and Edward when she met him, (and we'll find out exactly what soon) but they weren't already married.
Another FAQ section at the end of this chapter.
Okay, with all that out of the way, here we go:
Michelle Renker Rhodes is my beta and personal cheerleader.
All characters belong to S. Meyer
Chapter 4 - East End to West End
We walk half of London that night. The park narrows into small, private streets which widen past Queen Mary University. We stroll through Whitechapel – and I inform Sergeant Green Eyes, or rather, Edward, that this is the area where Jack the Ripper committed his murders. He doesn't appear very impressed, taking it all in quietly, his expression serene and calm while my own voice shakes around every syllable I utter. But if the way he keeps my hand tightly laced with his is any indication of his state of mind, then he's not as calm as he appears.
"Tell me about your family," he asks.
"My mum and little sister live just outside of London, in a small town by the Thames estuary, where the river and the sea meet."
"Sounds nice. Is that where you grew up?" he asks with a sideways glance and soft smile.
I nod. "It's a different sort of life over there; I suppose quieter. You have to take the rail, but when you get there, it's like you're somewhere completely different. I moved to London proper a few months ago to attend university, to keep a promise I made my dad. He passed away a few years ago."
He stops and faces me, eyes suddenly solemn. "I'm sorry about that."
I shrug. "Like I said, he was a copper; got into a scuffle with a bugger with a gun. It's been a while. My mum took it hard at first. She missed him very much. I helped her out with my little sister, Al, for a while. But Mum's much better, and we've moved on."
Really, there's so much more I can say on the subject, but for now, I leave it at that.
"My mom died when I was ten. She had cancer," he blurts. His eyes are abruptly full of so much pain that I know that as much as it hurt to lose my dad, somehow, Edward losing his mom was even worse.
Instinctively, one of my hands reaches up and cups his cheek. It's smooth and rough at the same time. My fingers tingle.
"I'm so sorry," I say quietly.
He reaches his own hand up and wraps it around mine. "She was…a good person."
"And your dad?" I ask.
Something flashes in his eyes. He snorts. "My father moved on too - though a lot quicker than I'm sure your mom did."
I simply nod, because I don't really know what to say to that.
He sighs deeply, fills his lungs, and then with a crooked grin leans down and kisses me, sucking my top lip between his, so I take his cue and suck his bottom one between my own. His lips are supple and warm. His tongue just barely grazes my lips, and when I meet it with mine, they simply touch and retreat, teasing, promising more…soon. The rain has stopped and the cool, night air blows at my hair, but I'm warmed by excitement and expectation.
When he pulls away from me, I'm dazed and breathless. He grins, obviously enjoying my reaction, the uninhibited way I seem to respond to him, before tugging on my hand and resuming our walk.
Our random directions have led us to Tower Bridge, its bright blue suspensions a sharp contrast to the two Victorian gothic towers it connects. The entire bridge glows with bright lights while below and around it, the usually green waters of the River Thames look black and sparkling. Edward leads me towards the bridge, and I follow. I follow, as I've done all night with him.
We take the pedestrian walkway, crossing under the majestic arches, and then about a third of the way over, Edward stops once again. He leads me towards the concrete railing, where I turn and look out over the city. Ancient and new London mix and intertwine: centuries-old concrete and new glass structures. I lean against the railing, my forearms over the top while the breeze whips my hair all about me, and I gaze down at the Tower of London right at the edge of the river, the old palace where kings and queens and peasants alike all lost heads. Edward embraces me from behind, wrapping his arms around my waist, resting his chin on my shoulder as we both look out. I feel the length of his body pressed into mine, and it's soft and hard and sweetly warm and maddeningly erotic all at once.
"King Henry the Eighth had two of his wives beheaded at the Tower of London," I say, just to clear my mind of him and the way he absolutely engulfs me. But it's useless.
What's worse, I think he knows what I'm trying to do. His face presses into my neck, and he chuckles.
"Your country has had some interesting leaders."
His breath tickles my neck as he speaks. I force my eyes to remain open and my legs to remain upright.
His hold on me tightens. "Are you alright?"
"A bit overwhelmed honestly."
Another chuckle. I roll my eyes.
"Have you been to the Tower, then?" I query.
He nods. "My father and I had a private tour a few years back."
My brows lift. Again, his voice changes when he mentions his father; loses its smoothness somehow.
I turn myself in his arms and then question the sanity of that action because now the heat multiplies. I'm locked in the emerald of his eyes. His breath caresses my face. His chest is so close to mine, I can almost feel his heart beating. Or perhaps that's just how hard mine is beating. I rest my hands on his firm abs. From the way he grins, I can tell he likes it.
"How did you manage a private tour of the Tower of London?"
He smirks. "My father is a U.S. Congressman. He has friends in Parliament."
"What, did Blair himself give you the tour?" I snort.
He continues smirking.
"Bloody hell, he did!"
"He wasn't prime minister yet, and it wasn't just my father and I," he explains quickly, pushing my hair round my shoulder because the wind is really kicking it up. "It was a few members of the House of Representatives, as well as a few members of Parliament - a political outing."
"So your dad is a politician, then?"
He nods. "And his dad before him, and his dad before him, etcetera, etcetera. It's the Cullen Legacy."
"The Cullen Legacy? So you're a politician too?"
"But you will be."
Again, he nods. "My tour of duty will be over in six months. Then I return to New York and attend law school, take the Bar, practice law for a year or so, then my dad will retire, and I'll run for his seat in Congress and then…"
"And then…?" I prompt with a grin, because his plans amuse me. He's quite confident of them, and they are so bloody exact. I can barely decide what color knickers to wear from one day to the next – and some days whether to wear them at all.
"And then...we'll see," he answers, much more vaguely than before. He reaches out and wraps a few strands of my hair round his finger, watching his own actions as he twirls the hair round and round.
"Your hair is so soft," he murmurs, eyes meeting mine while his fingers keep playing with my hair. "So what are your plans?"
"What, beyond tonight?"
Once more, he chuckles. "Yes, beyond tonight."
I bite my lip while his eyes hold me, refusing to let me go. "I'm afraid my plans for my life are nowhere near as exact as yours. I'm a Journalism major. I enjoy writing. Beyond that, I have no idea."
"Do you plan on getting married someday?"
"Someday, I suppose. I'd like to have a couple of kids eventually, I guess. And you?"
For a moment, there's something strange about his expression, but then he simply nods solemnly. "Someday."
Then he grins, that crooked grin that makes my insides coil tightly. His fingers leave my hair but then appear at my mouth, where one finger begins to softly trace my lips. I sigh unevenly, confused, exhilarated and frightened all at once.
"A Journalism major, then?"
He says the word 'Journalism' in what I can only assume is supposed to be my accent, his tone teasing. I simply nod.
"Well, I'm sure you'll figure out what you want to do. You seem like the type who always pulls ahead."
He drops his finger and returns both hands round my waist, gazing at me.
"How long are you in London?" I ask.
"Only through the weekend. We arrived yesterday, but have to head back Sunday afternoon."
Pain lances through me, shocking me in its acuteness. It makes no sense that this hurts, that I already miss him when I've only known him for a few hours and will only know him for a few hours more.
The entire time, he watches me carefully. It's as if those green eyes can see right through me, can read my every thought, my every fear.
I break our gaze and look down, afraid to let him see too much, startled that there's already so much to see.
"Hey," he says softly, but I don't look up at him.
"Hey," he repeats, and then I feel his fingers under my chin. He lifts my head and forces my eyes back to his.
"We'll figure it out, okay? We'll figure everything out."
And despite how simply bonkers all this is, I nod, because though his features remain as calm and serene as ever, his eyes burn with intensity, with truth and I want to believe. I want to figure out whatever there is to figure out with him.
He cups my face between his hands and kisses me again, but this time his tongue does find its way inside my mouth. I suck on it desperately. He's panting just as hard as I am when we end the kiss.
"Come on," he instructs, lacing his hand around mine.
Of course, I follow.
We continue our seemingly random walk through the city, even though it's about three in the morning. It's probably not the safest thing to stroll from the East End to the West End of London at this time of night, but I feel quite safe next to Edward. For one, though he's lean its clear to see that he's also well-built. U.S. Special Forces he says. Though I'm no expert, I'm quite sure they don't accept weaklings in the U.S. Special Forces.
Besides, he absolutely radiates strength and authority – I don't think any bugger would be stupid enough to come near us.
Edward asks me more about my family. I tell him that my mum is a primary school teacher; that my little sister, Al, is twelve years old and in secondary school; that she's my absolute favorite person in the world, and that she worships me, which I find quite enjoyable. I tell him random stories of our life. I tell him about Rose, how she's been my best friend since we were six. And that she and Leah and I are flat mates and attend university together.
"Do you have any brothers or sisters?" I finally ask, after I've exhausted my stories.
He shakes his head. "No, but my cousin Jasper and I are pretty close. His mom, my Aunt Esme, has been more or less a surrogate mom to me since my mother passed. And one of the guys back at the bar, Em, we've become good buddies."
"How long have you been in the service?"
"Over two years. I joined out of college. My father wasn't very happy about it – it messed with his long range plans a bit. My Aunt Esme did her best to smooth things over, but…he's come to see how my time in the service will serve a purpose in the long run."
"Serve a purpose?"
"It'll look good on my record once I run for office."
I'm not sure what that means, exactly. His eyes remain trained straight ahead.
"You're in Iraq, then?"
He shakes his head. "Afghanistan."
"Oh. How old are you, Edward?"
This time he crooks his head to the side to look at me. "I'm twenty-four," he grins, "and you, Bella? How old are you?"
"I'm nineteen…but I'll be twenty in a couple of months," I add quickly.
"Nineteen almost twenty," he nods, still grinning.
"Is that okay?"
The streets are mostly deserted until we arrive at Piccadilly Circus, where a few tourists still roam the area, taking pictures of the large electronic billboards, of the fountain with its glowing lights and its statue of Eros, the god of love.
We stand by the fountain and kiss again. My lips feel swollen - but in a wonderful way – from how much they've been kissed tonight. I'm quite sure I haven't been kissed this much in my entire life. He holds me close; his arms wrapped round my hips, hands resting on my lower back while my arms wrap round his neck, and I strain on my tip toes to reach him. It's quite late though, and I'm absolutely knackered from being on my legs for hours, so when I start wobbling Edward picks me up and holds me flush against him. I can feel every part of him, even through our clothes and jackets, and I feel the hardness between his legs pressing against me. It makes me squirm against him.
We pull away and gaze at each other, wordlessly knowing that the sun will be out in a few short hours and a decision must be made.
Just then, my mobile vibrates in my jacket pocket. Edward sets me down, and when I pull out the phone I see that it's Rose, and I grimace.
"Bloody hell, it's Rose," I mutter. "I forgot to ring to tell her I'd be out late. She's going to have my head."
"You go ahead and take it," Edward nods, pulling out his own mobile. "I've got a couple of quick calls to make too."
"Bloody hell, Bella!" Rosalie yells when I pick up the call. "I fell asleep in front of the telly and when I woke up it was almost four in the morning, and you weren't home yet! I nearly had a heart attack!"
I cringe, feeling guilty and embarrassed all at once for having been so entertained with Edward that I didn't even think of calling.
"I'm sorry, Rose. I…met up with a friend, and we've been walking round, and I guess I forgot to give you a ring to let you know I'd be back later than I'd planned."
My eyes flash to Edward. He's watching me curiously, his mouth moving quietly around his own call.
"A friend? What friend have you been walking round with for nearly four hours?"
"I…I met him at the pub earlier."
Silence. I close my eyes and wait.
"At the pub? Who in the world did you…" she trails off. "Wait a minute, do you mean one of the American blokes?"
"Bleeding…" – and here comes the eruption – "Bella, are you out of your mind? You get your arse home right now!"
"Rose, I'm okay. I'll be home soon."
"Never mind soon, Isabella! You need to come home right now! You said yourself that those bloody wankers were soldiers on leave. Effin' ell, do you know what soldiers on leave are like? He's probably on the pull and thinking you're up for it!"
"Alright, alright, Rose," I try to calm her. "Don't get your knickers in a twist. I'm on my way. I just have to tell-"
A hand suddenly covers my mobile. I look up into Edward's eyes.
"Can I talk with you for a minute?"
I nod. "Rose, just hold on for a sec, yeah?"
I pull the phone away from my ear, holding it pressed against my stomach.
Edward cups my cheek in one hand, gazing down at me intensely. "Bella…" – he says my name once more in that way he has, that worshipping, pleading way.
I wait, seemingly patient though inside I'm a torrent of nerves and excitement.
"Bella," he starts again, "I don't want you to go home."
I furrow my brows, because he can't honestly expect me to walk London town 'til sun up.
"I've booked us a room."
My heart stops. I stand there, staring at him, my mobile still pressed tightly against me.
This time he wraps both hands around my face, holding me firmly, locking me with those green eyes.
"Before you say no, I want you to know that it's not what you think. I know you're tired, and so am I. I just want to rest with you." He kisses me softly, and I close my eyes because I can't think; I can't focus; I can't reason when his mouth is on mine. When he pulls away, his eyes are as intense as ever. I wonder fleetingly if anyone has ever said no to this man.
"I can't let you go yet, Bella, not when we only have a day and half left. And I swear," he breathes empathically, his eyes boring so deep into mine it's as if I'm swimming in them, "nothing has to happen. I just want to rest with you," he repeats. "Rest, and then wake up, and talk and…whatever you want Bella. That's all I want - whatever you want."
But the problem is that I have no idea what I want right now.
Regardless, I know from the second he poses the offer that I'm going to agree to it. If anyone has ever said no to him, then I have no idea how she or he managed it.
With our gazes still locked on one another, I put the phone back to my ear.
"Rose, I'm quite fine, but I won't be home tonight."
"Or tomorrow," Edward mouths.
"Or tomorrow," I repeat.
"Bella, what's going on?"
"I'm staying with Edward for the next couple of days."
"Edward? Right, now who the bloody hell is Edward, Bella, and what about work?" she screeches.
I grimace. I'd forgotten about the pub. "Tell Jake that I went home to visit me mum; that it was a last minute emergency, yeah?"
"Bella, this is ridiculous. What if this Edward turns out to be a serial killer or something?! At least tell me where you're staying!"
I don't know exactly where, but even if I did, I wouldn't tell her. This is mine. Mine and Edward's only.
"He's not a serial killer. And I'll be here in London. Look, I'll call you, yeah? Every few hours to let you know I'm okay."
"Bella what are you doing? This isn't like you," she moans, but I can tell she's pretty much giving up.
"I know it's not. But I'm fine. I promise you."
She's quiet for a long while. Then I hear a heavy sigh.
"Bella, please be careful. And call me, yeah? Or I'll have the bobbies out looking for you."
"I'll call you."
When I put my mobile away, Edward takes my hand, and lacing our fingers together tightly, leads me away.
The hotel he takes me to is in Westminster, about a minute's walk from the lush St. James Park, at which point we cross over a small bridge. The opulent courtyard is lined with bare trees, twinkling with white lights, the red brick building is shaped like a semi-circle, and we pass under an archway guarded by concrete lions over classic white pedestals. When we enter, the floors are white marble, and the ceiling is full of glittering chandeliers. Circular, white pedestal staircases wind round the lobby.
I'm more than a little awed – and relieved that he didn't bring me to one of the dodgier establishments in the West End, like one would a right old whore.
Edward leads me to a plush sofa in front of a large, black marble fireplace.
"Wait here while I check us in," he smiles.
"Will they let you check in at this time?"
"I called already and let them know we'd be here in a few minutes, so there should be no problem."
I look round my surroundings warily. "I don't have any luggage."
He chuckles. "Neither do I. That's okay."
I watch him as he walks to the concierge, his strut confident and so damned sexy. He talks to a woman in a white shirt and black vest. His back is to me, but I can see that she's all smiles as she conducts her business with him, batting her lashes and giggling loudly. He's grinning when he turns and starts walking my way again. I breathe out through narrowed lips.
"What are you doing here, Bella?" I ask myself quietly.
But when he puts his hand out and waits for mine, when those green eyes meet mine again, all doubts fade away.
"Everything is set. Are you ready?"
I nod, smiling in return.
Our room is on the twelfth floor, and as we wind through the carpeted hallway, my heart beats wildly while Edward looks as serene and as composed as ever next to me. When we get to our room, he sticks the card in; the light turns green and he turns the lever.
I flip the light switch on as I walk in, and I'm already shocked by the size of the room before me. It's bigger than the flat I share with Leah and Rose, and I haven't even seen all of it. A sitting room with a large, plush sofa is directly in front of me, with a flat screen telly on the wall opposite it. Beyond that is a wooden bar area built into a wall, and beyond the bar is a table. In between the table and the sitting area is the opening to another room. I walk slowly and turn into it.
I don't flip the switch on in here, but the light from the sitting area streams in enough so that I see the king-sized bed, with checkered black and white canopied curtains surrounding it. The matching sheets, along with the white, goose down comforter, are already turned down – a small, wrapped piece of candy rests on each pillow.
My heart startles in my chest, and my breath hitches. Then I feel him behind me, his hands on my shoulders.
"The bathroom looks like it's through there," he murmurs, warm breath tickling my neck. "Do you want a bath first, or to get straight to bed?"
"Straight to bed," I whisper. "I mean to sleep. Straight to sleep. I'm absolutely knackered. I want to sleep."
He chuckles softly and kisses my neck. Shivers run throughout my body.
"Relax, Bella. I told you, I just want to rest with you. We'll figure everything else out in the morning."
I nod and draw in a deep breath, feeling my shoulders slacken. My hands, which had been in anxious fists at my sides, loosen.
With his hands still on my shoulders, Edward turns me to face him. He's removed his jacket, and he stands before me in his t-shirt and denims, which dried hours ago. In the dim light, I see his eyes firmly on mine as he removes my jacket and chucks it across the room. Out of the corner of my eye I see it land on a chair. Then he places his hands on my shoulders once more. For the first time since I met him a few hours ago, the jacket is no longer in the way, and I feel the searing heat of his palms burn through my own t-shirt. I breathe unsteadily, watching him watch me. His hands trail higher, ghosting over my collarbone, fingertips against my neck before they reach my face. Slowly he cradles my face and brings his mouth down to mine, his kiss soft and sensual. No tongue this time, but his lips taste mine and suck urgently. I'm lost in it, in his kiss, in his touch, especially now that we're completely alone, with the noise of the city only vaguely seeping through the walls. I put my hands on his hands and kiss him and kiss him, quietly moaning against his sweet mouth, only slightly embarrassed that I can't seem to be quiet when he is as silent as a mouse. Then his hands drop, and I feel them at the hem of my shirt.
I suck in a sharp breath.
"Shh," he calms me, mouth still on mine. "We are going to sleep, but do you sleep fully clothed, Bella?"
I shake my head.
"Neither do I."
My chest heaves as he raises my shirt. He only breaks our kiss momentarily to pull it over my head. Then he guides my quivering hands to the hem of his shirt, and I mimic his actions, our mouths still moving together.
He undoes my denims and guides them half way down my thighs, letting them drop the rest of the way. I do the same to his. His hands rest lightly on my waist. My stomach contracts the same way his does when I carefully place my hands on his stomach. All the while, our mouths give and take.
When he picks me up and carries me to the large, soft bed, I'm ready for anything. I'll give him anything.
Though I've only known Edward for a few hours, I'm beginning to trust him with my life. I'm here, so it must be true.
He places me in the middle of the bed and lifts the blankets over me, tucking me in carefully. Then he flips me over on my side. I feel him move away and a couple of seconds later the lights in the sitting area go off. Two seconds more and I feel the covers lift once again and then he's behind me, holding me. His hands lace with mine over my stomach, his mouth rests just under the back of my shoulder, showering it with soft, feather kisses. It makes me arch my back and suddenly I feel all of him – hard and harder.
"Go to sleep, sweet Bella," he breathes against my shoulder. "When the sun comes out we'll work it all out."
Work out what, exactly?
"Okay," I agree, and nestle myself against his taut body, fully aware of his erection, willing to give him anything and everything – and trying to figure out a way to tell him this.
But before I even know it, I'm fast asleep.
Q: Will the rest of the usual gang join the story?
A: Yes, most of them will, and soon.
Q: If Bella is only 26, how did she rise to the top of the M. Newton's Corporation so quickly?
A: She's a smart woman, and she admits to also have been lucky to have caught Mike's eye. Besides, how many billionaires and successful people in their early, mid and late twenties do we have in this world. (Not that Bella is a billionaire, but she is successful).
Q: Will Bella continue speaking cockney?
A: LOL. Some of you like this; some of you not so much. But this is who she is, especially in the "Past" chapters. She's older now, and we all know that once we get older, get a real job, real responsibilities, we sometimes change the way we dress, we speak, etc. So...yeah...that's my answer.
Q: Does this story have an HEA?
A: For the answer to that, you'll have to go my profile page.
Q: Will there be much angst?
A: Again, you'll have to go to my profile page.
Okay, I think that's most of the FAQs for now. If you've got other questions, definitely let me know. My son has predicted that the zombie apocalypse will now not occur until the end of this summer, so we should be able to finish this story by then. :)
Cheers! And let me know your thoughts!
Link to 'Stories by PattyRose' is on my profile page.
**This message is only for 'dazzledforeverbyEdward': I'm not responding to dispute your thoughts on the story; they're your thoughts and you're certainly entitled to them. I'm only responding to you to let you know that I DID NOT delete the anonymous OR signed reviews YOU or anyone else have left. Please don't accuse me of having done so. Perhaps you should take a closer look because they're definitely still there. I would've told you this in a PM, but it seems that you have that feature disabled, which makes it kind of hard to have a two-way convo.**