Chapter 10: 15th June
It was early morning, and Bella was tossing and turning. Her exam results were due today, and she had been on tenterhooks for the past two days.
I wrapped my arms around her, and she stilled momentarily, draping her arms over mine. Unfortunately, it was only a temporary reprieve to her anxiety.
"What if I've ploughed my finals and don't even scrape a Third Class Honours?" she murmured. "All that work ..."
"Bella, baby, you are brilliant. You know the material better than most professors." She wasn't soothed. "What can I do to help you relax? A massage, perhaps?"
"Actually, that would be great. You don't mind?" I snorted with laughter. As if I minded getting my hands on her smooth, supple body! "Yeah, okay, stupid question," she agreed, a smile in her voice.
She turned onto her front and pulled off her little nightie. She was nude underneath. I reached into my bedside drawer for some orange-scented massage oil. I drizzled some into my hand and warmed it between my palms before gently rubbing her shoulders. She groaned lowly.
"Feels lovely, Foxy."
I massaged her neck and shoulders lightly and then worked my way down her back. She moaned quietly from time to time, and after about ten minutes, the moans were replaced by little breaths. Assuming she was asleep, I kissed the small of her back and turned off the light.
"Don't think for one second that you're done, Edward," she told me as I lay down next to me.
"I'm holding an awful lot of tension in my buttocks, and lower ..." Her voice was deep and husky, and travelled straight to my dick. In the dark, I stroked her from her upper back to the crack of her arse, and then kneaded each of her cheeks in turn. She sighed deeply. I continued by slipping my hand down to her dripping kitty, and explored with a finger.
"More!" she demanded, arching her back and sticking her backside high in the air.
I gripped her by her hips, which was no mean feat given the massage oil, and moved behind her.
"Want my cock, baby?"
"Yeah, fuck the stress out of me."
I didn't hesitate, and pushed into her waiting pussy. I leaned over her, my chest sliding along her back, and grabbed a handful of boob with one hand. Bella loved having her nipples pulled and I was happy to oblige her. I used the other to rub her clit, and she mewled and bucked.
"Faster Foxy, I'm close."
I pounded into her as fast as I could while trying to keep my balance, and sweat dripped from my forehead onto her neck, but she didn't seem to notice.
"Bella, my sexy, sexy girl, come for me, let go."
I teased her clit faster and her tight canal walls began to clamp down on me as she screamed my name.
"Yes, yes ..." she wailed. "Yes, Edward!"
Once she rode out her climax, she flopped forward, utterly spent. I finished seconds later, and fell to her side to catch my breath. She curled into me.
"Thank you, Foxy. I love you," she murmured, sleep creeping into her voice, "forever."
"I love you so much, my beautiful Bella, always."
We drifted back into a contented slumber.
It was with considerable trepidation that I opened my email at precisely eleven o'clock. After taking a deep breath, I finally clicked on the email that held all my hopes for the future.
First Class Honours.
Yes! I'd done it. My plans for a future with The Fox were all falling into place. I couldn't wait to tell him, so I headed straight out of college to the labs.
"Isabella?" Professor Banner approached me as walked through Lady Margaret Hall's pretty North Courtyard.
"Have you got a minute?" he asked, smiling warmly, so I wasn't too worried. "Would you mind stepping into my office?"
I followed him through.
I just wanted to show you this." He handed me a transcript.
Examinations score: 86%
Dissertation score: 93%.
Dissertation grade: Distinction.
Honours: First Class
Awards: Gold Medal
"G-Gold Medal?" He nodded.
"Yes. And your place on the Neurosciences PhD programme is confirmed."
"Are you sure about this? It's just too good a score. Perhaps Professor Masen made a mistake ..."
"Bella, Professor Masen didn't mark your dissertation."
"No. He didn't tell you?" I shook my head. "Back in December, when it became obvious that your research was a big part of the work he and his team were doing, he suggested that it would be a conflict of interest to mark your dissertation. He stated that he couldn't be objective when it benefited his lab for you to have a good grade."
"I see. So who did mark it?"
"Professors McCarty and Hale. Then it was reviewed by the Faculty board, including me."
"Thank you Professor. I should get upstairs and tell the lab. They'll be delighted. And I should discuss the research I'll be doing with Professor Hale." I was overwhelmed with my enthusiasm.
"Isabella, Professor Volturi is going to be your supervisor, not Professor Hale."
"P-P-Professor Volturi?" My enthusiasm crashed and burned.
"Yes, he was officially appointed to be Head of Neurosciences this very morning. He's chosen you to be his doctoral student. Having seen your stellar performance, he was adamant that he wanted you to work on his team."
No way in hell. I'd rather do my PhD at Chumpsville College, Nowheretown.
"But I've already done nine months' worth of research on Professor Masen's project on glutamate-mediated cell death, to form my undergrad dissertation, and have contributed to three publications. Wouldn't it make sense for me to continue with the same labs, especially when Professor Hale is looking at pharmacological targets based on Prof Masen's work?"
"Yes, you've done very well in their labs, but in the grand scheme of things, their project isn't generating much interest from the pharmaceutical companies; it won't until they're at least five years on from where they are currently."
Banner didn't let me interrupt.
"Professor Volturi is bringing with him funding from a huge company, for a major piece of research into the role of neurotransmitters in neuropathic pain and potential drug targets. He's very keen to have you on board to get the project off the ground."
"I guess I should see that as an honour," I began, feeling queasy inside. As Head of the department, Professor Slimy had final say on which doctoral students were accepted onto the programme. If I wanted to stay at Oxford, I would have no choice but to accept a doctoral post in his lab as there was clearly no way he would honour any request I made to work with Jasper Hale or anyone else. "As Head, he would have the perk," I tried not to say the word with disgust, "of choosing who he supervised."
"Yes, indeed. He officially starts in September but no doubt he'll set up a meeting with you soon. I've passed on your email address."
"Oh, I have no doubt."
I left Banner's office and ran to the labs as fast as I could.
I could hear the shouting from the lift lobby.
"... That man is going to suck the life and soul from our department!" Edward was shouting.
"What do you propose we do, Edward?" Emmett's deep voice boomed.
"We're in the minority here. The rest of Neurosciences are salivating over having him, his reputation and his grant money," Jasper said.
"Ugh, before long they'll be calling us 'Eclipse Neurosciences, Oxford' instead of affiliating us with the university."
"Um, hi," I interrupted.
"Bella!" Emmett gave me a friendly hug. "So, can Jasper officially call you his PhD student?"
I shook my head glumly.
"Sweetheart, what's wrong?" Jasper asked, hugging me too. "Don't tell me you didn't get a First? We marked your dissertation, there's no way ..."
"Ninety-three percent on the dissertation. First Class Honours. Gold Medal."
"Bella, that's fantastic! So why do you look like someone shot your puppy?"
"I've been granted the honour," I said the word with disdain, "of having Professor Volturi as my PhD supervisor next semester. He chose me personally to work on his new, Eclipse-funded project." I looked at Edward who had gone rigid and white, and promptly burst into tears. The thought of even being in the same room as Slimy made me feel sick, let alone working with him every day.
"Oh, no, don't cry, Bella ..." Jasper said, starting to put his arm around my shoulder.
Edward strode over, nudged him out the way and pulled me into his arms. I sobbed against his lab coat, gripping it in my little hands to get closer.
"Shh ... shh ..." He rocked me gently and I felt his lips brush against my forehead. "I'm here, Baby. I'm not going to let him touch you," he whispered.
"Holy shit!" Emmett exclaimed. "So, that's why you didn't want to mark her dissertation! Jas ..."
"Alice was right!"
When I calmed down, Edward and I looked towards his friends.
"I love her," was all he said. "Bella, are you all right to get home? I'll meet you there, but first, I need to have a chat with Professor Banner."
"We all do." Emmett echoed.
Emmett, Jasper and I trooped over to Banner's office as soon as Bella left the lab, having agreed upon an ultimatum; it was us or Volturi. Unbeknownst to me, Jasper had been approached by his former undergrad supervisor, Siobhan McCloud, a neuroscientist in London who worked in the same field as us, to join her new labs at Kings College, and he was pretty confident that she would accept the rest of us.
I didn't want to move to London, however, and I knew Bella, who had, in part, grown up there, had no desire to move back. No, if I was to leave Oxford, it would be for Harvard to work for Carlisle Cullen, as long as Bella was happy to go with me. If she wanted to stay here, I'd work in a bar if I had to, in order to be with her.
"Ah, Edward, Emmett, and Jasper, I had a feeling you might come by today," said Banner. "Sit down."
"Doug, we won't stay in a department headed by Aro Volturi," I told him, cutting to the chase. "The grant money he will bring in is not worth the compromise to the integrity of our work."
"He's well known to spend his time chatting up pharmaceutical executives and shirking his teaching commitments," added Emmett.
"Look," began Banner, clearly not believing that we would follow through, "you three have done a great job since John retired, but if we want to continue to pull the big grants, from the commercial, government and charitable sectors, we need a big name. Aro Volturi is that name."
"And this department will crumble once that 'name' starts interfering with our meticulous protocols," cried Jasper.
"Gentlemen, I think your egos have taken a little knock by Aro's appointment," replied Banner, still fucking oblivious. "I doubt that you'll notice any difference once he starts, apart from better equipment and more tech support."
Emmett, Jasper and I looked at each other, resigned.
"Doug, we aren't going to wait to be proved right," I stated. The three of us handed him envelopes. "Here are our letters of resignation. We're giving you the statutory two months' notice, but we each have five weeks of annual leave to take so we will be leaving the week before the undergraduate graduation ceremonies. We will email you next week to discuss arrangements for our doctoral students' supervisions."
"Gentlemen, I think you're jumping the gun ..."
We all stood and walked out.
It was official. We were leaving Oxford. I couldn't believe it. Nearly twenty years of my life spent here, and it was over, just like that.
"Pint and a burger, gents?" suggested Emmett.
"Fuck, yeah," agreed Jasper. "Edward?" I hesitated, feeling overwhelmed. "Come on, a bracing lunch will do us good."
Half an hour later, the three of us were ensconced in the warmth of The Eagle and Child, each cradling a pint of Deuchar's and picking at giant hamburgers.
"Alice totally predicted this would happen the minute I mentioned that Volturi turned up, back in April," began Jasper. "She said she had a feeling it was the beginning of the end, and that we'd be moving back to London."
"Rosalie's tolerated Oxford for the past ten years because of my career, but she's a Londoner born and bred," stated Emmett. "She'd love to move back, but are you sure that Siobhan McCloud could accept all of us, Jas?"
"She said as much the last time I saw her. But she thought we were happy here and asked about meeting to talk about forming a research network between her lab, ours, Carlisle Cullen's at Harvard and the new lab taking off at Stanford."
"Are you going to phone her later?"
"Yep, once I've spoken to Alice."
"Once I've spoken to Rosalie, could I perhaps piggy-back that call?"
"Sure, Em." Jasper turned to me. "Edward, you okay?"
"So you and ..." Emmett began, and I narrowed my eyes at him.
"Em, we're in public," I warned. The Eagle and Child was one of Oxford's busiest pubs. You never knew who would be around the corner. "Don't say names."
"How long has it being going on?" he asked, his voice quieter.
"Um ... January."
"Alice said that she was sure you two were into each other by the way you reacted to the mistletoe at the Christmas party."
"Damn that Alice," I replied, thinking of the conversation I'd had with Jasper's wife a couple of months ago. "She had me pegged from the beginning. Tell her I owe her some chocolate."
Jasper and Emmett laughed.
"We told Alice she was wrong, but she was adamant," added Jasper. "You said you loved B ... her."
"I do. Heaven help me, Jas, I love her so much it hurts."
"She's an amazing girl," said Emmett, downing the last of his pint. "Smart, sweet, gorgeous ..."
"But ...?" I interjected warily.
"She's young, Edward. And you've not had a relationship that's lasted longer than two years for as long as I've known you."
"I'm fully aware of both those facts, Em, but it doesn't change how I feel, and God, she makes me feel loved. I can't think of anything without thinking of her first."
"As long as you're sure, Edward. Just don't act in haste, okay? Neither of you deserve to get hurt."
I nodded my agreement.
"What are your thoughts about London, Edward? Are you interested? Do you think a certain student would want to do her PhD there?" asked Jasper.
I hesitated before answering. Jasper, Emmett and I had worked in partnership for ten years, in near-perfect harmony. I hated the thought of not seeing them every day, but there was an offer from Harvard on the table, for Bella and for me, and I couldn't see us turning it down.
"I'm so sorry, guys, but I don't think London is an option for me, for us." I told them about Carlisle's offer. "If he's still keen, and if she wants to go, I'm going to take up the Deputy Head post at Harvard."
They both looked disappointed. I held my face in my hands. Damn Banner and Volturi. Things were great until they decided to fuck it all up.
Emmett's great big hand clapped down on my shoulder.
"Edward, it's a great opportunity for you, and even though it's shit that we're not going to be working together anymore, you have to do what's right for you and your girl."
"Besides, we'll get this research network idea of Siobhan's off the ground and we'll see each other plenty. We could come out to Boston for holidays and you'll be coming back once in a while, right?" said Jasper, always the optimist.
"Right," I agreed, looking up.
"I think it's home time. I need to see Alice."
"Yeah, Rosalie's been texting for the past half hour, wanting to know what's happening."
"I'm going back to my apartment," I told them. "To be with my girl."
Bella was sitting on the sofa biting her nails when I came home, but scrambled to her feet when I walked through the door.
"So, what happened?" she asked, her eyes wide with anticipation.
"Give me a moment, Baby, and just come here a sec?"
She walked into my arms, ran her hands into my hair and tucked her head into the side of my neck. My muscles relaxed a little with her touch, and I sighed.
"Bella, when you said, 'forever,' did you mean it?" I murmured, tears tingling behind my eyes.
She kissed the skin of my neck and tilted her head up.
"Of course I meant it. You're my Fox—my one and only. Why?"
"Because the three of us quit. I'm leaving Oxford, and I'm hoping, praying, that you'll come with me."
"Of course I'll come with you. I told you before. I belong with you, wherever that may be."
We clung to each other for a while, just absorbing the events of the day.
"Harvard?" I eventually mumbled, when we parted.
"It makes sense, Foxy. Carlisle's desperate to have us."
"Hopefully he won't have appointed someone else."
"I doubt it. It takes time to write out a job advertisement, put it into the scientific press and organise interviews," she reasoned.
"What about the PhD offer he made you?"
"He said that it would always be on the table, that he'd always make room for me."
"Good. I should talk to him. It's nine am in Boston. I'll see if he's on Skype now."
"I'll email him to see what I need to do to secure the place on his doctoral programme."
"Wait." I caught her by the forearm and gently tugged her back to my arms.
I softly touched her perfect, soft lips with mine.
"I just needed to do that."
She kissed me back, a little more firmly, before stepping away, just before I got carried away.
"As much as I want to do that all day, Foxy, we have positions at Harvard to secure."
Thank you all for your lovely reviews and apologies for being especially bad at replying to reviews. The real life stuff isn't going anywhere for the time being. The next chapter will be in two weeks' time.