She can't help but notice the tables have completely turned on the way home—Edward is as nervous for this talk as she was about swimming; perhaps they share a fear of drowning after all. Not that Bella is exactly looking forward to the debriefing, especially with the new, confusing feelings coursing through her.
Whatever that was just now between the two of them, it was easily the most satisfying sex of her life—and not because of their dizzying simultaneous orgasms, though she wouldn't complain about that. It was the look in his eyes, the way he saw her, really saw her.
She hated getting out of bed, hated leaving the warmth of his sated body covering hers. She hated having to start this conversation, but it had hung over them long enough. She was supposed to be the "responsible one," though she was feeling anything but responsible about this thing with Edward.
"Did you want to talk?" he asks, breaking through her jumbled thoughts. Leave it to Edward to start the difficult conversation.
"Yes. First of all, thanks for today. I really appreciate what you did for me."
He turns and waggles his eyebrows. "Any time, Bella."
She whacks him playfully on the belly, and he catches her hand and traps it against his body. "I was referring to the swimming."
"Ah, you're most welcome. It was selfish of me, really. Once I got the image of you lying on the deck of my Sunfish in that bikini, I knew I'd pretty much do anything to make it happen."
"Be that as it may, I think you earned the medal of courage today as much as I did. I was a flaily mess, and you were all kinds of awesome."
He squeezes her hand and takes a quick peek at his passenger before returning his eyes to the road. "You don't scare me, Bella."
"Is that bad? Were you wishing I would?"
"Did we just leap to the talk part?"
"I think so."
"Okay." He sighs long and hard and continues without turning her way. "In the beginning, when I first read those depositions, I definitely fantasized about...some rougher stuff...with you."
Bella finds herself holding her breath, waiting.
"That first scene, in my chambers was...this weird clash of fantasy and reality, and I loved it and hated it." He pauses and looks over to see how she's taking all this honesty. "Know what I mean?"
"Edward, I should apologize for that. I had no right putting you in that spot. It was so clear that you are a man of integrity, and I jeopardized all of that. I just...once I saw your reaction in the courtroom, I figured I had an 'in' with you. I'm sorry, but I can't be too sorry because I walked out of there with my kids."
As she watches his profile, Edward's whole being slumps over the steering wheel in defeat. "Bella, I didn't rule in your favor because you seduced me, or dommed me, or intimidated me in some way. There was no question those kids belong with you—then or now. All you did was make it a whole lot harder for me to do what I had to do."
His words, gentle though they are, are a harsh blow. "I'm an idiot."
Edward reaches over and caresses her cheek. "No. You're a mom who wants the best for her kids. And you're a sexy-as-hell woman who read my need like an open book. If ever there were a man ripe for the pickin', it was me." Another long sigh. "It is me."
It's no wonder he felt used; it's exactly what he was. Bella's stomach twists with the reality that their entire relationship is based on a morbid fascination on his part and a desperate ploy on hers.
Not so, she reminds herself. Bella remembers exactly what she felt the very first time she met the kind, devastatingly handsome judge, a man so far removed from her experiences with the opposite sex, he deserved his own separate species.
The irony of Jake bringing them together again might've made her laugh out loud if not for the fact that she almost pushed Edward away for good with her maneuvering. And how they managed to skip from there to...wherever they just were...is beyond Bella's comprehension.
Which is exactly why they are supposed to be talking.
"Edward, of the things we've done together in scene, can you say what turned you on most?"
"Sure." His voice lightens, like the needle on a vinyl record slipping into the groove. "I loved getting you off when I was blindfolded, feeling my way around. It made me more aware of your body, and it made me crazy to see you. So worth the wait, by the way."
Bella feels the heat creeping up her cheeks. Yeah, that was a pretty good answer. "Anything else?"
"It was hot when you handcuffed me and rode my face," he answers. "Loved it when you touched me the first time. I thought I might lose my mind that day, I'd started and stopped myself so many times."
"Poor baby." She reaches over and pushes some hair behind his ear just to touch him. "What about the boot licking?"
"I didn't mind that. I would've done anything to touch you at that point."
"And wearing my thong?"
He turns his head to face her, and she already knows the answer. "Not so much, but I got that you were trying to put me in my place."
And there it is.
"How do you feel about being in that place, Edward?"
A flare of tension crosses his face, but he doesn't speak.
She goads him, needing his honesty more than anything right now. "How did you feel about my riding you around the floor? Strapping you with your own belt? Threatening you with a saddle and a butt plug?"
He drives on until a red light forces him to stop and meet her eyes. "I thought those things would excite me," he admits finally.
"But they don't?"
She holds her breath again, suspecting that everything is riding on his answer.
He glances at her briefly before turning back to the road. "I like the teasing. A lot. I like getting you off and waiting for mine...or not getting it at all." He turns to Bella and adds a bit sheepishly, "Maybe I shouldn't have told you that."
"I love teasing you," Bella admits, her lady parts already imagining the fun they could have keeping Edward teetering on the edge, though she's not at all sure she still has the heart to deny him entirely.
Bella can see the flush of his cheeks, and she smiles inwardly at his unintended confession. When he continues, his voice is more solemn.
"The rest of it...the humiliating talk and the crawling...I can be in the mood to watch it, and it still gets me hot, but it's just not working for me in practice. Don't get me wrong, Bella, I would happily carry you all over your house—or mine—but I'd prefer to be standing on two legs at the time."
She reaches for his hand again under the garish red glare of the traffic light. "Here's the part where you're supposed to be relieved your kink's not as harsh as you might have worried."
The light changes, but he ignores it, staring at her unflinchingly. "Here's the part where I worry about losing you. I know you have certain...needs."
His words suck all the oxygen out of the enclosed space. The car behind them lays on the horn, and Edward steps on the gas. His fingers clench the steering wheel so hard, his knuckles are white.
Tell him, Bella.
"Ever since Jake turned into a raging douchebag, I've had one instinct toward men—show 'em who's boss. I needed all the control, and I had no trouble finding men who were perfectly willing to give it to me."
Edward interrupts her with a derisive snort. "Sorry," he grumbles. "Go on."
"The more they got off on surrendering, the more I delighted in the power. I didn't need to worry about being hurt, didn't need to trust anyone but myself. That was all working pretty darn well for me—until you came back into my life."
"Sorry?" He's not, but neither is she.
"Once I realized that you were really not into it, something just snapped. I didn't have any desire to hit you or boss you around or shame you...for chrissakes, Edward, what kind of domme needs a hug?"
His hand instantly slides up her arm and across to the back of her neck, where he holds her as best he can—which is not nearly well enough for either of their liking. "Dammit! This is...hang on!" Edward spins the steering wheel and lurches them around the corner before throwing the car in park and hopping out. He dashes around to her side, yanks open the door, and takes her face between his hands.
She watches in astonishment as his chest rises and falls, his eyes burning into her with a heat she can feel down to her toes. "Bella, you are exactly who I want. I would take what we just did over all that other stuff any damn day of the week."
She wants to believe him, wants to let herself be drawn into those alluring eyes, but for once she's found a man she truly cares about, and he deserves the truth. The first release of tears slides down her cheeks, wetting his fingers. "Edward, I'm afraid you might be the one with needs I can't take care of."
Edward leans in and presses his lips to hers. If this is his way of saying goodbye, she'll savor his taste that much more. Desperate to make it last, she cradles the back of his head and holds him against her while their tongues deepen the kiss. She can taste the salt of her own tears as they flow freely down her face now, and when Edward finally pulls back, he places a gentle kiss over each eyelid.
"Bella," he murmurs, and she braces herself for goodbye, "don't you think it's about time you let someone take care of you?"
A/N: Dang, I really love eyelid kisses. Sounds like there is going to be a whole lot of taking care of each other in their future! Swoony swoon swoon.
Thank you for your wonderful feedback on the vanilla/chocolate issue in Sin 9. The consensus is that you guys want them to have EVERYTHING! (shocking)
Posting early because the mister's whisked me away to Las Vegas again...remember what happened last time we were there? A certain kinky scene was written for KEA involving silence and hot wax! Who knows what madness will be inspired this time?