Disclaimer: We do not own Twilight. We also don't own the same area code anymore. *pouty face* Jiff is officially a Texan. Let's drown our tears in some Vampward, shall we?


Chapter 10

EPOV

My arms tighten around Bella as I process everything she's told me.

Not only is Bella a prostitute, but she's also an informant for the FBI. She's also working with two investigators to help bring down a large drug and prostitution ring that my lawyer just so happens to be right in the middle of.

Fucking James! I knew he was a sleaze. I can't say that I'm surprised to learn of his lifestyle choices, but I had no idea it was bad enough for the FBI to hound him.

Then, there's Bella. I know she's a strong woman; it's one of the things I admire most about her. The idea of her being an informant, though, makes me ill. She's doing it to help get her and her friend out of hooking, which is honorable, but the danger she puts herself in - I just can't bear to think about it.

I know prostitution isn't any less dangerous, but it still doesn't settle my mind. In fact, I'm not sure what, exactly, will settle my mind right now. Well, that's not true, but I have other things to tend to first.

"Bella, I have some phone calls I need to make. Why don't you take a bath and I'll order you some lunch to be delivered?"

She pulls back from my chest and looks at me questioningly. "You're not going back to your office?"

I run the tip of my finger along her cheekbone, while gazing down at her. "No, I have more important things to do today." I watch her body shiver at my words and can't help but chuckle. "Besides, we have many things to discuss before our evening out."

Bella looks confused for a second before realization dawns on her. "Shit! I forgot about the gala; I still don't have a dress!"

"Shhh, it's okay. Let me take care of everything. You just go relax for a while. I'll let you know when the food has arrived."

She nibbles on her bottom lip before agreeing to my suggestion. I want to suck and bite that lip so fucking bad. Soon. I hope.

Once Bella has closed the bathroom door and I can hear the tub filling up, I pull out my cell phone and call my office. After I order Demetri to cancel my remaining appointments for the day, I call room service and place an order for various foods to be delivered for Bella's lunch. Lastly, I dial the number to an exclusive dress boutique that I'm familiar with, thanks to my sister. Speaking to the designer and owner directly, I arrange for ten dresses to be delivered. All of them red.

Thirty minutes later, Bella's wrapped up in her robe, having a picnic in bed. Finished with my work and phone calls, I walk into the room, kick off my shoes, and sit with her.

"Let me guess," she says in between bites, "you're not eating."

"I ate...earlier." I give her a smirk, but it quickly turns to laughter at her unamused expression. I don't even remember the last time I laughed, truly laughed, and it feels pretty damned good. Bella seems surprised as well.

"That's the first time I've ever heard you laugh."

I clear my throat, feeling self-conscious for some reason. "Well, I don't usually have a reason to laugh," I say, truthfully.

I don't want to address the pity in Bella's eyes so I change the subject. "Isabella, I know that your job working for the FBI is important to you. I have no doubt that you're capable in that job, but I'd rather you not go after James."

Her beautiful features harden, making her dislike of my words obvious. I ignore her glare and continue my plea.

"Is there any way I can convince you to quit the case? Maybe there's someone else who can take over for you?"

"No, Edward, it's my case and I want to finish it," she replies stubbornly.

I pinch the bridge of my nose, willing myself to remain calm. After a moment, I look up at her, resolved. "I feel very...protective of you, Bella, and I will not just sit here and willingly let you face danger. Not when I can possibly help you, that is."

She seems surprised by this because she just sits there, staring at me for a few minutes. I continue, "I don't want to interfere, but if there's anything I can do to help, I'm here for you."

"Can I ask you a question?"

"Is this off the record?" I ask, jokingly.

"Wha-what? I'm not a reporter, Edward."

I chuckle again and place my hand on her thigh, rubbing gentle circles. "I know. That was my attempt at a joke. Seems as though I should stick with mergers and acquisitions."

Bella blushes and looks down, watching my movements.

"Sorry, I guess I'm just not used to having a normal conversation with you."

I nod my head, knowing I deserve her mistrust. "It's fine. I know I haven't been very open with you, but after you bared your soul to me earlier, I decided that the least I can do is be more...human...with you. My life is consumed with work; it's easy for me to forget how to act around people."

Bella removes my hand from her thigh and holds it between both of hers, smiling at me. "I understand. I do that, too, with my other job. It's easy to shut people out when you're used to them only wanting you for one reason. If it weren't for Alice, I'd really be a hermit," she laughs softly.

"So, what's your question?"

"Oh, I almost forgot!" She giggles and I'm mesmerized by the sound. I want to hear it again. "I, um, was just wondering if you knew about James' extracurricular activities?"

"I'm not surprised that he's being investigated but, no, I didn't know the extent of his life outside work."

"Why aren't you surprised, then?"

"I've known James for a long time and he doesn't always hide things most people would keep secret. He and his wife, Victoria, have a very...open relationship, so he sees nothing wrong with hiring a prostitute when the desire hits him. Besides, who am I to judge that particular aspect? As far as the drugs, I don't know if he deals or only buys, but you saw him at dinner. He could've easily been high rather than drunk; I just never paid attention before. He's always done what I've needed him to do, in relation to his work, so I stay out of his personal life."

"Fair enough. I'm going to have to tell Jake and Garrett that you'll be helping collect information. They may want to talk to you, too."

"That's fine, but understand this: my priority is you. I really don't care if James gets caught or not. We all have our secrets and sins. If it means a better life for you, then I'm all for it. My main concern is keeping you safe."

I hear her breathing accelerate and I'd give anything to be able to read her mind right now.

"So what? You're like my own personal hero?"

"Make no mistake, Bella. I'm no hero; I'm quite the opposite."

The air is thick with tension and unasked questions, and I can't help but feel relief when I hear a knock on the front door.

"Ah, that'll be your dresses."

"Dresses? What do you mean 'dresses'?"

I stand up and grab Bella's hands, pulling her next to me. "I arranged for a few dresses to be delivered. You can try them on and decide which one you want to wear tonight."

Her eyes light up with excitement; I watch with pure amusement as she drops my hands and runs to answer the door. After the dress racks are rolled into the living room and the delivery person has left with a large tip in his pocket, Bella turns to me, exasperated.

"Edward! This is a bit more than just a 'few' dresses! And, what's with them all being red?"

I shug. "I wanted to make sure you had plenty of options to choose from and I love the color red."

She rushes up to me and throws her arms around my neck, hugging me tightly. I'm shocked by her actions, but have enough sense to hug her back. Before either one of us realizes what's happening, Bella's mouth is on my cheek. My jaw clenches on instinct and she immediately pulls away, covering her lips with her fingertips.

"I-I'm sorry, Edward. I don't know what I was thinking. I'm just so overwhelmed by your generosity," she says, wringing her fingers nervously.

I grab her hands to still them. "Bella, it's fine. It was a very...nice surprise, but you don't have to thank me. Seeing your excitement when the dresses were delivered was thanks enough. Now, go try them on. I expect to see you in every one before you make your decision."

Her smile is breathtaking as she runs back to the racks and chooses the first dress to try on.

Half way through Bella's private fashion show, I'm still reeling from the fact that she kissed me. I'm always taken aback by the buzz that flows through my body any time she and I touch, but nothing compares to how it felt to have her lips on my skin. Well, almost nothing. The feeling of being inside her is nearly impossible to describe. I can't think of a word that adequately depicts the euphoria that surges through my body with every push and pull.

Of course, I'm hard now.

"I think I've decided on a dress!" Bella calls from the bedroom.

"They've all looked wonderful; I can't wait to see this one."

Bella slowly, but confidently, walks back into the living room where I'm sitting. I only thought I was hard before. Seeing her in this particular dress makes my cock strain, desperate to be released from the confines of my clothing.

The dress is cherry red and hugs her body perfectly. The deep V-cut in the front shows off the sides of her perky breasts but still manages to remain tasteful, while the lace back is demure and classy.

I want to rip the dress from her body right fucking now!

"What do you think?" she asks, shyly.

"You're the most beautiful woman I've ever seen; you are absolutely stunning." She must notice the huskiness to my voice because her heart rate accelerates and she licks her lips while staring at me.

Barely above a whisper, I hear her say, "I'm ready, Edward."

"For what, Isabella?"

"To scream your name."

Holding back the growl that's fighting to escape, I say through clenched teeth, "If you want to wear that dress tonight, you need to be the one to take it off. It won't survive if I do it."

She quickly, but carefully, slips the material from her shoulders and down her body, leaving her standing completely bare before me. My eyes never leave hers as I stand up and remove my shirt and pants.

Biting her bottom lip, she walks backwards into the bedroom, while I follow like a predator after its prey. Bella lies down, opening herself to me immediately and, again, I'm filled with the desire to taste her, devour her with my mouth. Instead, I circle her navel with my tongue before dragging it up to her breasts. I swirl, lick, and suck on her hardened nipples, careful not to let my teeth touch her.

I can smell her arousal, so I know she's ready for me. After sheathing my cock in latex, I rub the tip up and down her slit before sliding inside. Our hips now flush, I hold myself over her with our faces almost touching. We've never had sex this intimately, this close, and everything feels different. It's almost too good and too much all at once, my body shaking from holding back my natural desires.

I sit back on my knees and bring Bella up with me, sliding her up and down my cock. She closes her eyes as her mouth falls open, and I'm in my new personal hell not being able to kiss her. I tempt myself even more by rubbing her bottom lip with my thumb, which causes Bella's eyes to fly open. We're watching one another, both of us curious about whether or not the other will finally break the one rule between us. Sensing that I'm still not ready to give in, Bella slides her mouth over and down my thumb, swirling her tongue around it.

"Fuck!"

I reluctantly remove my thumb and gently nudge her body back onto the mattress, while I stay upright.

"Grab onto the rails!" I command.

Bella raises both arms over her head and holds onto the rails of the headboard before I lift her hips completely off the bed. In this position, she really can't meet my thrusts on her own, so I control her movements, pushing and pulling her on my cock. She's moaning incoherently, getting louder and louder, but it's time for her to start screaming my name. I slide my thumb over to her center and press down on her clit, watching in amazement as she loses herself in her orgasm.

"Edward! Fuck!"

Only a few thrusts more and I come hard, my body only slowing down after every drop of me has spilled.

*****BD*****

Standing across the crowded room, I can hear everyone's petty conversations, but I'm only paying attention to one. It happens to belong to a stunning woman dressed in red, who's garnishing the attention of every man in the room.

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to spend much time with Bella tonight. I don't attend many of these black tie functions so, when I do, I'm often hounded by people as though I'm the main attraction. My date has held her own, though, and we've even managed to share a few winks and smiles throughout the event. Remembering the lovely shock I felt when Bella's finger grazed the top of my hand as we passed each other, just moments ago, has me wanting to find her right now so she can do it again.

It's no secret that she's here with me tonight. We obviously arrived together and ate dinner together. Well, she ate; I sat next to her and tried to convince her I simply wasn't hungry, but still, we were together. Now, during a social break for the auction, we're both being pulled in opposite directions and I'm growing tired of being away from her.

All evening, I've marveled at how Bella handles herself. She's polite and pretends to be interested when it's needed; she's demure and well-mannered, as well. She's simply downright charming. Everyone here has fallen under her spell, but no one more than I.

Bella catches my eye and gives me a dazzling smile, causing my breath to catch in my throat. No woman has had this kind of effect on me in a very long time, not since Angela. Angela was my girlfriend at the time of my changing and if things had been different, we'd be married with grandchildren by now.

I haven't thought about Angela in many years, but doing so tonight makes me smile to myself. Bella reminds me of her in some ways. They have similar personalities, but it's more than that; it's how I feel when I'm around Bella. To be perfectly honest, I haven't felt anything in a very long time; I've just acted on instinct. But, spending these past two weeks with Bella has slowly chipped away at the ice I've buried myself in.

My inner ramblings are suddenly interrupted by a woman who's been trying to catch my attention since dinner. I know she wants me, but I have no interest in her at all. Still, it's part of my job to be well-mannered and civil, so I feign interest and tolerate her flirtations.

"Good evening, Mr. Cullen," she says, smiling seductively.

"Good evening," I reply, curtly.

"It's a shame that someone as handsome as you is standing here all alone," she purrs, running a finger down the sleeve of my suit coat.

My attention is taken away from the woman as a man, whom I haven't yet met, walks up to Bella.

I lose whatever manners I was maintaining a few moments ago, and brush the woman off. Turning and walking a few paces over, I now can focus on Bella.

She's been standing by the bar for the last ten minutes, making small talk with a few people she met during dinner, so I've been watching her from a distance - enjoying the view. After a polite exchange of names, Bella's acquaintances excuse themselves, leaving her alone with the man. The sight of them together puts me on high alert. I'm not sure if it's jealousy or instinct, but I don't like it.

I get my answer when I hear their conversation take an unexpected turn.

"Bella Donna," he says, in a thick Italian accent. "What a surprise to see you here. On business, I assume?"

I hadn't even thought about something like this happening, but I assume she would possibly have met some of these men before in her line of work. I'm not ignorant. I know I'm not the only man who prefers a professional. Instinctively, I want to go to her rescue - protect her, but she wouldn't want me to. I'm also curious to see how she'll handle herself. She fascinates me.

"Pleasure," Bella replies, her tone clipped.

"And whose pleasure might that be?" he asks, as he scans the room.

"It's none of your business," she answers, defensively.

"Well, will you be occupied all evening? I could use a good stress relief," he chuckles darkly. "Do you think you could help me with that, Bella? I would pay you, of course."

"Leave...me...alone!" she seethes.

Her request and his obvious refusal to do as she asks, causes a growl to escape me. I'm trying to maintain my composure and not walk over there and rip the guy's head from his shoulders, but my control is slipping. I know that Bella is capable of holding her own. I've seen it for myself, but she shouldn't have to put up with shit like this. She's better than that.

"Let's play nice, Bella." His voice takes a menacing turn when he realizes she isn't going to give into him or his advances. "Everyone here knows you're a whore. You can play dress-up in all the fancy clothes you'd like, but the truth is that underneath the lace, you're still a whore. Who's the man? Who convinced you that you could be something else, even if just for tonight?"

Bella says nothing in response. Her body is frozen as she stands there with her arms crossed. I can see her hands grasping her arms tightly. What I can't see is her face and I need to. I need to know that she's not listening to the lies that this douchebag is spewing. I start moving toward her, trying hard to stay at a normal speed as I walk across the large ballroom.

As I'm excusing myself around people and working my way through the maze, I lock eyes with the man. I see a knowing look on his face, but I couldn't care less. I'm not ashamed of Bella or how we met.

"Would the man you're here with tonight be a Mr. Edward Cullen?" he asks.

Again, he's met with silence, which only provokes him.

He leans in to whisper into Bella's ear, placing a hand on her shoulder. "Does he know that you're a fucking whore? Does he, Bella? Does he know just how good of a fuck you are? Oh, I'm sure that's why you're here...because you're just so fucking good. That's all he wants you for. You know that, right? A man like Mr. Cullen is only after one thing."

His words make Bella break away from his hold and run out. I want to stop and deal with him - make him pay for the hurtful words he just spoke to Bella and for upsetting her - but I need to get to her and make sure she's okay.

We exchange icy glares as I pass by him on my way out the doors. The snarl on my lips does not go unnoticed; the color draining from his face is evidence of that. I show my teeth to intimidate him even more - treating him like one of my prey. I might not be able to cause him physical harm right now, but I can make him want to crawl out of his own skin - I can make him as uncomfortable as he made Bella.

I watch him down his drink in one long pull. Slamming his empty glass on the bar, he does an about-face and walks the opposite way, putting as much distance between us as possible. I will make him pay for this.

I smell Bella's scent as I pass the main doors and I know she's taken refuge outside. When I'm out of the watchful eyes of the attendees, I move quickly, catching up to her as she slips around the corner of a dark alley.

"Bella!" My voice startles her, as she didn't expect anybody to be following her.

"You scared the shit out of me!" she exclaims, one hand over her pounding heart.

"I'm sorry, but you shouldn't be out here alone. It's dangerous."

"I can take care of myself, Edward."

"Are you okay?"

"I'm fine. I just needed a little fresh air."

The stench from the garbage in the alleyway burns my nostrils and I almost laugh. "I'm not sure how fresh the air is out here."

Bella's nose wrinkles up and a small smile plays on her lips.

I notice goose bumps appear on her arms, so I take my suit coat off and wrap it around her shoulders.

"Don't let what he said do that to you." I pause and watch her expression soften - her furrowed brows relax a bit. "There'll always be assholes like him who think they have some sort of power over you, but they don't...not unless you give it to them. You're not a whore. You might be paid to have sex, but that doesn't make you a whore." The words tumble out of my mouth before I even think about what I've said...or what I've admitted by saying it.

Bella looks at me, as she crosses her arms, protectively around her torso. "How do you know what he said to me?"

"I overheard."

"How? You were all the way across the room, chatting it up and flirting with some tall blonde. I saw you!"

"I was not chatting it up and she was flirting with me!"

"But you're not disputing the fact that you were across the room?"

"No."

"How did you hear our conversation, then, Edward?"

"I'm a good lip reader."

"I don't buy that," she says, quietly.

We stand there in silence for a few minutes. Bella never takes her eyes off me, and I can tell by her expression that she wants to say more.

"You've got to give me something. I told you everything. You owe me!"

"I don't owe you anything, Bella. I'm paying you to be here, in case you forgot!" Her demand of information puts me on edge and I speak before I think, throwing up the brick wall that's usually firmly in place. It's only been this past week that it lowered for the first time in years, but this inquisition into my life forces me to put it back up. I can't tell her about me. I can't give her anything more than what I already have. If I did, she'd be gone. She would never stay if she knew the truth.

"If you're not willing to give me anything more, then I see no point in staying."

With that, she tosses my coat at me and begins walking back down the alley.


A/N:

Well, Jiff is in the process of setting up her new house today, as I'm typing this! Thanks for the prayers and well wishes for a safe move.

We promise to be back to regularly scheduled programming ASAP!

Hope you guys enjoyed this chapter. Please tell us your thoughts, suspicions...your deepest darkest secrets. ;) We LOVE hearing from you guys! Reviews are like writing fuel...they totally keep us going!

We have to thank our super beta, Mauigirl60! Thanks for all of your hard work, B! We really appreciate you!