Contest Entry for the Happily Ever After TwiFic Contest
Title: The Marshmallow Pizza
Summary: Edward is a vegetarian vampire who makes the best pizza this side of the Atlantic. And then, one evening Bella walks in, her blood singing to him…(Vamps, OOC)
Disclaimer: SM owns everything 'Twilight'. As for the songs…you know who owns them!
"Oh yes baby, just like that…You are so soft in my hands, let me knead you well and good…"
Edward's hands were busy with the most enjoyable task in the world, his moans audible, his hips moving in time. In fact he was enjoying himself so much that he did not even pay attention to Alice mentally yelling at him from outside. After all, he was not known for his 'magic fingers' without a reason.
"Can you feel the magic in my hands, when I touch and rub you the right way…"
And now he was singing. He could not help it. The song was just so…right for the moment.
"Strokes applied the right way—"
The kitchen door burst open.
"Not now, Alice," he whined, hands not stopping even for a moment. "I was just getting in the mood!"
Alice rolled her eyes and closed the door.
"I have no problem with your 'getting in the mood', Edward, or your singing. But please, not at the restaurant, and especially not while you are working in the kitchen. People can hear you outside, you know. Do you have any idea what they are thinking?"
"That's a rather dumb question to put to a mind-reader, isn't it?" he grumbled, then closed an eye and cocked his head. He didn't require it of course, but being in constant contact with humans had resulted in picking up many of their gestures, often without realising it. Alice stared at him, amused.
The rampant thoughts of random customers seated nearby hit him like a shower of tiny pebbles.
"Who is the lucky girl there with him?"
"They sure are having a good time…"
"I hope they stay away from the food…"
"What a sexy voice! He is better than Johnny Gill!"
"That's a great song for self-loving!"
"I wonder if he will go out with me?"
The last one was a male voice. Well, so was the one before that, but it was the last one that shocked Edward the most.
He turned off the sound, head snapping into a straight position and eyes wide with horror. The dough he had been kneading so lovingly fell on the shining, spick-and-span granite platform.
"They can't…" he spluttered, his expression the equivalent of a vampire blush. "How can they even imagine that I am…" He dropped his voice. "I would never do that while cooking! Any of it!"
Alice was snickering at his discomfort.
"Well, you pretty much sounded like you were doing something very non-related to cooking," she remarked sassily. "Or, if you were cooking something, it was nothing they would like to see served on their table."
Edward made a disgusted face. He began to break off the dough into evenly sized balls.
"Why can't people understand that making a pizza base is like making love? Unless there is sufficient foreplay, it will never turn out right."
Alice raised an eyebrow at the unusual simile.
"Perhaps we should renovate a bit—make the wall here a glass one," she suggested hopefully. "Then the curious spectators can satisfy themselves as to what is actually going on inside the kitchen. We can even charge extra for your song-and-dance routine while handling your balls…um,balls of dough of course, for the pizzas."
This time Edward rolled his eyes.
"We have discussed this before, Alice," he stated, ignoring her innuendo. Growing calmer, he bit lightly on a ball and rolled it out with a large rolling pin. The bite released a miniscule amount of his venom into the dough: that was what got the patrons of 'The Cullen Pizzeria' hooked on Edward's pizzas, and brought them back time after time. They simply could not be satisfied with any other kind of pizza, once they had tasted Edward's.
The pizzeria was large, with sufficient seating for a hundred and eighty guests when full to capacity. There was also a separate kids' section where they could play while their parents munched on in relative peace. It was essentially a family-friendly place, with the décor a mix of cheerful colours, courtesy of Alice. The restaurant was her brainchild, even though she had nothing to do with the cooking. However, her warm personality was perhaps as much responsible for drawing the crowd as Edward's magic with the amazing variety of pizzas he produced regularly.
"It would be too distracting for me, Alice," he explained patiently as the rolled dough reached at an expansion of ten inches. The next moment it was being flipped expertly and caught on the back of Edward's hands. It took him only a few seconds to smear their special pasta sauce on it, place the required toppings for the next order, and push it into one of the many, many ovens in the gleaming kitchen. Fluidly he reached for the next ball and began to repeat the whole process.
"You are a vampire, Edward. Surely you can multi-task a little? If you can tune out the hundreds of thoughts here…"
But Edward was already shaking his head, even while placing pineapple slices on a pepperoni pizza for a group of teenagers. Alice scrunched up her nose. Seriously, pineapple on pepperoni? Who ate that? As much as she loved human beings, she had to admit they did some weird things sometimes.
"Tuning them out is easy, but I don't want to be conscious of all those stares all the time. And you know sometimes I work ultra-fast so that people don't have to wait too much. Do you think the customers won't notice my speed? No human could do the rolling and flipping that quickly! That is why we do not keep any human staff here, even though they would not need to enter the kitchen." He nodded to the six small windows from where the waiters picked up the orders.
He was right, of course. Except for the cleaning staff, everybody working at the CP (as it was popularly known) was a vampire. The family members—Esme and Carlisle, Rose and Emmet—helped occasionally, when they expected a particularly huge crowd. Jasper managed the accounts and all things related to finance. For the wait staff, they had been joined by their Denali cousins—Tanya, Kate and Irina. They had got tired of living in the Alaskan wilderness, so they had come to Seattle to enjoy the city for a decade or two. Then there were Bree and Riley, two newborns who had found the Cullen style of vegetarian living fascinating and decided to take it up. Since vampires did not fall sick or get injured or even tired, the five of them were able to manage wonderfully. In just three months, the CP had built up a vast clientele and an enviable reputation.
"Alice," he began casually, thrusting a Reuben sandwich pizza in the oven and setting the timer, while she looked mildly amused at the question he was going to ask. "Do you think I…oh hell, just answer the question. You know what I want to know."
"Do you come across as gay?" she said it anyway, while Edward made a shushing gesture. It was futile though; their waiters had already heard and were laughing inwardly. Except Tanya, who was planning to convince him that he was very much a straight man.
That in turn made Edward shudder. He did not dislike Tanya, but neither could he think of being with her in 'that way'. She was very much a man-eater, having been with countless men in her existence of many hundred years. Edward on the other hand was still a virgin, in spite of having been a vampire for almost a hundred years. He believed in true love, and was determined to share his body only with the woman who would be his 'the one'.
"Hm," mused Alice, trying hard to keep a straight face. " You see Edward, being your sister and knowing that you are not gay makes it difficult for me to be impartial. Why don't we ask somebody who knows nothing about you?"
Edward's face was a picture as he flipped and prepared another pizza. "You want me to go out there and ask some stranger—Alice, that would be so embarrassing!"
"You are right," she conceded, her face scrunched up in thought. "What you need to do is to go flirt with a girl. If she reciprocates, voila! You don't come across as gay!"
"I am not even sure how to flirt with a girl. How does that work anyway?"
Alice sighed. Her brother was hopeless! But then she thought of his mind-reading skills and perked up. "That's easy! Go introduce yourself, pay her a compliment or something, and listen to her thoughts. Take it up from there!"
Edward nodded. This he could do. He stuck the last pizza of the day in the oven and smiled.
"Well, we are done for the evening. Let's go find the unsuspecting victim!"
Before he could take a step, the door burst open for the second time that evening, letting in what seemed to be a whirlwind of dark brown hair, centred by a pair of flashing brown eyes that had Edward mesmerised.
"I did not order the peanut butter and jelly pizza," she fumed, hands on her hips as she glared at both of them. "My server must have taken the order wrong. Now he refuses to acknowledge it!"
Behind her appeared Riley, shifting uneasily from one foot to another. He was well aware how much Edward disliked having a customer enter his kitchen, let alone to complain about anything. After all, vampires were not supposed to make mistakes.
"I am sorry Miss, but that is what you ordered. I have it right here on my order-slip."
Edward barely heard him. He was too busy drowning in the scent of Miss Flashing-Brown-Eyes. It was like nothing he had experienced before. It was a tantalising aroma, like the best pizza in the world which had not been even imagined by anybody as yet. He could practically taste the flavour on his tongue. He swallowed, wanting to pull the slip of a girl up to him and take a bite…
Alice flashed him a warning look. Then she casually moved in front of him. Edward felt a growl coming on. How dare she block him?
The girl seemed to have a similar idea. She stepped around Alice so that she and Edward were face-to-face.
"You are the chef here, right?"
He nodded. He was not in a state to speak, completely lost in her presence. His hand rose a little, trying to touch an errant lock. Alice cleared her throat.
"Why would I want a peanut butter and jelly pizza? Do I look like a child?" She stamped her foot to underline her displeasure.
Edward shook his head frantically. His eyes were automatically drawn to the fire-breathing girl's chest, encased in a tight red top. The neck was not too low, but the shape of her breasts was perfectly outlined, and her quick breathing made them move in an extremely distracting manner. His hand rose a little more, almost without his will. It intended to squeeze them, just lightly…
Suddenly his hand was gripped firmly by the girl. Even though her hand was much smaller, it did not lack in strength. The warmth seeped into him. He never wanted to let it go, so alive it made him feel.
"Isabella Swan. Friends call me Bella."
He forced his mouth to move.
"Edward Cullen. It is a pleasure to meet you."
Thank god for the manners drilled into him, both by his mother in his human life, and by Esme, his mother for all intents and purposes in his present life. But for them, he would have continued to goggle at her like a fish. That was not the way to impress a girl, and suddenly he wanted to impress her, desperately.
"I have heard great things about you, Edward. Now, what do I have to do to get the pizza of my choice here?"
He almost answered—"Kiss me." However, Alice's elbow in his ribs prevented that. For the moment.
"Just tell me what you wish for, Bella. I will have your order ready in a jiffy."
She looked at him in a manner that made no secret of what she wished for. Suddenly his jeans felt too tight for him.
"I would like a pizza with marshmallows and nutella spread, please."
Riley snickered lightly at her 'grown-up' choice. As for Edward, he felt as if he would have dove to the bottom of the ocean to bring the rarest creature for her pizza, should she have wished it.
"Of course, Bella. One pizza with marshmallows coming up! Why don't you take a seat and relax until then? Have a drink, on the house. Riley, please get the lady a drink of her choice."
Bella's million-dollar smile almost made him forget the nutella. Almost, because vampires can't forget anything.
Alice winked at him as soon as Bella was out of the kitchen.
"Well, that answers your question."
Edward shut the oven and turned to her, puzzled.
"If we are to believe Bella, you definitely do not come across as gay. She practically attacked you, dude!" She briefly glanced at his jeans. "Of course, you sporting a boner also proves the point. But we already knew that anyway."
As the venom inside Edward flew to the right head, he sobered. Alice heard him sigh and raised an eyebrow, sensing a brooding session coming on.
"Uh-oh, what is the matter now?"
Edward's hands raked through his unruly bronze hair.
"I am attracted to her, Alice. But I can't be with her. She is a human."
"So? Our cousins have been with human men for centuries. They never had a problem."
"The problem is that her blood smells great to me, and by great I mean tempting. Hell, it was practically singing 'drink me, do' to me! This is impossible."
"Really?" Alice was truly astonished. "I thought you wanting to bite her was a kinky thing. I had no idea you really wanted to…You controlled yourself so well."
Edward grimaced. "Yeah well, I wasn't thinking of her as food exactly. Mostly I was admiring her beauty, her fiery spirit—"
"Her long legs and pert ass in those light blue jeans as she left the kitchen," added Alice cheekily.
Edward ducked his head for a second and smiled. But when he looked up, he was serious again.
"I can't risk her life just to satisfy my need for her. I confess I want to be…intimate with her, but it would be incredibly selfish. Plus I don't even know if she is my mate. She can't be, can she?"
"Let me ask Carlisle. He should be home by now." Alice whipped out her silver phone and pressed the familiar button. The call was answered almost instantly.
"Alice darling," Carlisle's warm voice flowed out of the phone, "how are you doing? Is everything okay at the restaurant?"
Edward crooned 'I'm on fire' under his breath.
Alice sighed and explained the situation.
"That is unusual, very unusual—a human for a vampire's mate," agreed Carlisle. "And you say she appears to be his singer?"
"Yes, complicated doesn't even begin to cover it," Alice commented. "But what do you say? Can this be done?"
"Well, I would like to know what the girl thought of Edward. Did he tell you?"
Alice smacked her forehead. "I never even asked him! Clearly, listening to his emo babbling is killing my brain cells. Edward?"
Edward appeared to be in a daze. "Eh? What?" he replied brilliantly.
Alice rolled her eyes so far back her eyeballs disappeared for a second.
"What was Bella thinking while talking with you? Well," she qualified her statement, "apart from getting you to top her pizza? Because that part did not need mind-reading."
"You are so crude, Alice," he muttered, then frowned, and then frowned some more.
"What?" She arched an eyebrow.
"That bad, eh? Carlisle, I think Edward was too busy checking out her…dough—"
"No, that's not what I meant," whispered Edward, scowling at her rather impressively. Nobody could scowl and brood like him in the whole vampire world, and still look so handsome. "I meant that…I did not get a reading on her. I heard nothing but what she said out loud."
"So her mind was silent to you?" Carlisle asked, taken aback. He had never heard of such a thing. "Edward, this is worth investigating. Why don't you go talk to her some more? Maybe this is a sign that she is the one for you!" He became quite excited toward the end.
Edward shrugged. "Yeah, because in case we get married I will be able to say what every husband says to his wife—I can't read your mind!—and be able to mean it too. No Carlisle, I need something better than that."
The timer pinged. Edward took out the pizza, plated it, and decided to serve it to Bella personally. If he had just one evening with her, he was going to make it count. After that, maybe he would go on a long vacation and try to forget her.
The restaurant was half-empty by then, but Edward was still conscious of people staring at him. It wasn't their fault really. Vampires were by nature attractive to people. Edward (and the Cullens in general) genuinely liked humans, so people usually did not feel the threatening vibe with him around like they would with any other vampire. Of course the fact that he looked like Adonis personified, with his slim, toned body, chiselled features and mop of bronze hair only increased the attraction. The shy smile on his full lips as he approached Bella speeded up the heartbeat of multiple women customers, but he remained oblivious to their thoughts, deliberately focussing on the beautiful girl in front of him.
"Edward!" Bella greeted him exuberantly. "Thank you for indulging my whim. Will you join me for a bite, if you have time?"
Her unintentional use of the word 'bite' made Edward groan internally. But he managed to smile as he placed the pizza in front of her and cut her a slice.
"This pizza is for you, Bella. But I will join you for some conversation, if you like. This is the first time a customer has ordered this kind of pizza, so…I am curious about you."
Bella looked somewhat sheepish. Checking around to see that Riley was not in the vicinity, she murmured, "I have a confession to make. The server did not make a mistake with my order. I did order the peanut butter and jelly pizza."
Edward gave a crooked smile and leaned towards her. "I know," he said softly. "Riley does not forget…easily."
Bella's eyes widened. "Then why did you…" Her voice rose slightly in a question.
This time Edward's smile held a touch of sadness. "Never mind that. Why did you, though?"
"Oh," she blushed a light pink. "As I said, I have heard a lot about you. I wanted to meet you, but you are kind of inaccessible, you know?"
Edward nodded slowly. "Yes, I suppose that is true. Well, we have met. Now, are you going to taste that pizza and tell me how it is?"
Bella held his gaze as she lifted the slice to her luscious lips and took a bite. "Mmm," she moaned.
Edward controlled his own moan with some difficulty. He searched around in his mind for a distraction.
"I guess that means you like it. Now, why don't you tell me something about yourself?"
While Bella devoured her pizza, she told Edward that she was senior at the UDub, loved to bake and had lost her parents some years ago. They talked of the music they liked, the movies they did not, and the books they loved. With every word Edward found himself falling for her deeper and deeper. When, at the end of the meal, Bella asked him hesitantly if he would like to go out with her, he found it impossible to say the word 'no'. However…
"I like you very much, Bella," he admitted, "but I don't think going out with you is a good idea. I am not…good for you. I am really sorry."
Bella looked heartbroken. But she did not argue with him. Instead, she paid her bill and left quietly.
Edward shuffled to the kitchen, feeling a hundred years old. He noticed that it was closing time and the restaurant was empty. He nodded to the staff to leave and went inside.
Alice looked nearly as miserable as Edward felt. She tried to make him change his mind, but he just shook his head and began humming Whitney's melancholy 'I will always love you'.
Alice smacked him on his stubborn head, hard.
"Ouch Alice, don't do that."
"What else am I supposed to do, Edward? You are backing out of life, without giving yourself a chance for happiness."
"Come on Alice, you know I love her, but I can't do this. Even if I found a way to control my bloodlust for her, what kind of life will she have with a vampire? Always moving from one place to another, lying to friends and colleagues, never having children…And what when she grows older? Do you think she would like to be seen with a guy who is permanently stuck in his twenties? And when she dies—Alice, I won't be able to live without her. I will have to find some way to end myself!"
Alice's eyes widened and she began to say something, but Edward was on a roll.
"And all of that will come if she even agrees to stay with me once she knows who I am, who we all are. She will be disgusted Alice—she will run away as fast as she can!"
He closed his eyes and tried to calm himself. "It will be better if I leave for a while, until she graduates and…moves away, maybe. I can't bear to stand in this kitchen and make pizzas while thinking of her all the time. Even now I can smell her delectable aroma, listen to her heart going lub-dub, lub-dub—why Alice, why?"
"Maybe because she is standing right behind you?"
Edward jumped a foot in the air. Alice and Bella laughed.
"How did you sneak upon me?"
"You were too busy playing the heartbroken lover, brother dear. I did try to warn you, but…"
"Oh hell," Edward muttered, his shoulders slumping as he sank on a stool. "You heard everything."
Bella nodded. However, contrary to Edward's expectation, she did not panic and run. Instead, she beamed at him like she had won the jackpot.
"I want to show you something, Edward. I think that will make it easy to explain everything."
She plucked out a knife from the knife stand and slashed her thumb before either of them could blink.
Edward screamed. His first thought was he was going to drain her instantly. There was no first-aid box in the kitchen, so he did the next best thing and stuck her thumb in a ball of cold dough—a leftover when he had made the last pizza for Bella.
Bella looked at him as if he was the crazy one.
"Edward, I said I wanted to show you something!"
"Bella listen, not only I am a vampire, but I also crave for your blood specifically, like it was designed for me. Do you understand? I could kill you right now!"
He looked at Alice to support him, but she did not look worried in the least.
Bella smiled, pulled out her thumb and showed it to Edward. There was nothing to mark the cut—no blood, no scar—nothing.
"What…how did you…" he spluttered, "who are you?"
"I am a hybrid, Edward," she answered coolly as Alice smiled in delight. Edward was shocked. He had heard of hybrids, but never met one. In fact, nobody he knew had. They were considered something of a myth among vampires.
"Wait—you are a hybrid—like half-vampire, half-human?"
"Um-hm, exactly like that."
"So you have…powers?"
"I am definitely much stronger than your average human, yes. I am faster, have a much tougher skin, and stopped growing older after twenty two. I am likely to live a very, very long time."
"And your parents…"
"I was adopted from an orphanage, so I have no idea who my biological parents were. And I did lose my adoptive parents fifteen years ago: I told you the truth there. I was only twenty five then, so they never got suspicious. A vampire I met once gave me all the information about who I was, and I have been living in different cities since then, looking for more people like myself."
Edward heaved a sigh of relief. "So…you knew who we were when you walked in the restaurant?" he asked.
Bella shook her head. "I had my doubts. I had heard my friends talk of you. And when I met you today…But the vampire I had met was a nomad with red eyes and a wild disposition. You people are…different, much more like humans."
Alice patted her shoulder affectionately. "We have had a lot of practice, and of course, belonging to Carlisle's family gave us an edge."
Edward was staring at Bella in complete fascination. "You really want to go out with me?"
Bella suddenly felt shy. "Yes, of course. I fell in love for you the moment I saw you. I thought I would tell you the truth about me when we became closer; if you really were a vampire, or at least a hybrid. When you refused…"
Edward winced. "I am sorry, so sorry. But you see why I had to, don't you? I didn't want a temporary relationship with you; I wanted you forever. Thank god you came back!"
"Oh, that," she smiled, "I was so upset when I left that I forgot my backpack under the table. When I came back to pick it up, I heard both of you talking…I was so surprised to hear you say that…you loved me."
"Of course I love you," Edward declared as he finally stepped to her and pulled her in his arms. "You had me at 'marshmallow', I think, or even earlier…"
Bella put an end to his chatter by planting a kiss on his pretty lips. He didn't mind in the least.
"Well," Alice muttered, rolling her eyes once again. "I will just leave you two lovebirds to it, then. Be sure to clean the kitchen when you are done, Edward."
Edward detached his lips from Bella's with some difficulty.
"Don't be silly, Alice," he reprimanded her. "We are not going to do anything in here. Bella, will you please come with me to my house? I don't think I can let you go even for a moment now."
"Of course, Edward. I have waited such a long time to find my soulmate, after all."
"As have I. Thank you for taking a chance with me, my darling."
Alice smiled at the vision of their lovely wedding, and at the addition of a bakery unit to the CP. Then she sighed as she saw Edward belting out 'You are my heart, you are my soul' to Bella as he twirled her around in the kitchen while the customers waited. Oh well, newlyweds would be newlyweds.
End Note: So that was my little offering to the HEA Contest. Some readers have asked me to continue it, but right now—I don't know. Maybe if I think of something worth adding to it. Okay? :D