Title: Shot In The Dark
Beta(s): ElleCC & babykay18. Thank you also to JiffSimpson for pre-reading.
Thank you also to StickyBuns for her help fixing my French xx
Summary: Love isn't blind- it just has something in its eye.
Disclaimer: Twilight is solely the property of the lucky Stephenie Meyer, but the words below are mine.
Thank you to everyone at the wonderfully run TwiHEAContest. This little HEA won 2nd Place Judges Vote, Best HEA, and Best Couple. I am endlessly grateful and shocked. I was lucky to even get this in on time.
"Bread, toothpaste, peanut butter."
"Bread, toothpaste, peanut butter."
It might only be three things, but I have trouble remembering my own cell phone number- shopping lists are no different. Who in their right mind thought it would be a good idea to do grocery shopping at eleven o'clock on a Saturday night? Me. That's who. Because I'm the idiot who agreed to pull a double shift at work.
"Bread, toothpaste, peanut butter."
Thankfully it's not raining. But it is bitterly cold, and the wind seems to find its way right through my jacket and the thick sweater underneath. Shivering a little as another icy wind blasts down the sidewalk, I begin to walk faster, my tired feet scuffing over the damp pavement. As worn out as I am, the walk, even the cold air, feels good. My feet are thankful not to be in heels, and it's nice to not be hounded by wait staff and impatient customers, or to have to plaster on my work smile and grin through another endless tirade from the asshole head chef.
"Bread, toothpaste, peanut butter … alcohol."
Tugging the hood of my leather jacket up and over my head, I trudge onwards. The buzzing neon sign of the convenience store looms ahead, and I'm only a few yards from the store and a bottle of cheap red wine, when a heavy weight slams into me from behind, sending me stumbling forward.
It only takes a second, but as I try to right myself, I feel someone attempt to rip my handbag from my shoulder.
He's strong, but for a split second I'm stronger.
"What the fuck?! That's my bag!"
Obviously my reaction is not a normal one, but it's been a long day; I'm tired, hungry, and my feet are aching- I may or may not overreact just a little.
"You piece of shit!" I shriek, lunging at him. My knee connects with his balls with a satisfying crunch, and with my bag still in his hands, he crumples to the wet concrete with a thud.
"Are you trying to steal my fucking bag?" I yell, grabbing it from his hands and hitting him repeatedly with it. "You asshole. Get a fucking job!"
I'm about to really give it to him, when a pair of strong hands pulls me back gently.
"Okay, slugger. I think you killed him."
Panting and angry, I turn around to find some guy all up in my business. "He tried to mug me!"
I take another swing, this time with my foot, but Mr. Nice-Guy pulls me away right before it hits its intended target.
"I know, I saw. But you beat the shit out of him, so I think you're safe now."
Looking down, I'm a little a little stunned to see my attacker groaning in pain as he clutches his soon-to-be-bruised balls.
"Are you okay?" the guy asks, holding me by the shoulders and ducking his head to meet my eyes.
My gloved hand brushes the hair from my face, and I nod. "I'm fine."
His hands release my arms just as the blood falls all the way from my face to my feet, and my knees begin to shake. Apparently I'm not fine.
Firm hands steady me just as the world begins to spin, my entire body trembling. "Let's get you inside somewhere so you can calm down, okay?"
Mr. Nice-Guy, who is also apparently Mr. Really-Pretty-Green-Eyes-Dude, looks around for somewhere to go.
"Come on," he urges, holding me securely as my wobbly knees push me forward.
Normally I'm not the kind of girl who follows strange men into bars, but my heart suddenly feels like it wants to rip its way out of my throat and run away, and there's a thin sheen of sweat forming on the back of my neck. I'm a little worried that if I don't sit down soon, I'm going to fall down.
The bar is dark and smells like stale beer and damp carpeting, but it's warm and dry, and there isn't some drugged-out freak trying to steal my purse. At least I think Mr. Nice-Guy won't steal my purse. Even so, I crush it to my chest, watching him surreptitiously from the corner of my eye
He seats me on a barstool, standing beside me with his hand pressed softly against my lower back. I can feel his warm touch through my thick coat; beneath which my muscles are tense like they're ready to bust out of my skin at a moment's notice.
Mr. Nice-Guy-With-Nice-Eyes puts a drink down in front of me. "Here, drink this."
I sniff it gingerly. "What is it?"
He smiles. "It's just Coke. No roofies, I swear."
Picking it up off the bar, I curse quietly as my hands shake so hard that half the drink spills out over my fingers.
"Can I get a straw, please?"
I scowl at the glass and then at him. "I can do it."
He rolls his eyes, and his brows pull together as he mops up the Coke with a napkin. "I'm sure you can. But if you use a straw, some of it might actually make it into your mouth."
The bartender brings me a straw and I pop it into my glass and take three big gulps, drinking most of what's left.
I nod as the sugar from the Coke floods my bloodstream, calming the rush of adrenaline and the fluttering in my stomach. "Thank you."
He smiles, shrugging. "It's fine. If anyone should be thanking me, it's the guy out there whose balls you probably ruptured. I kind of saved his life."
I laugh shakily, unzipping my jacket. "I did sort of go a little crazy, huh?"
He nods, pulling a black knit cap from his head and scrubbing hands through his hair. "Just a little."
In the low light of the bar, I can see hints of golden brown in his hair as it sticks out in every direction, looking like it needs a good cut. The auburn colored mess atop his head falls over the tops of his ears and curls at the nape of his neck, creating a haphazard mess that somehow suits him and makes me want to touch it at the same time.
"Well," I say, offering him a hand. "Thank you for saving me from jail time."
He shakes my hand, and I'm pleasantly surprised to find his warm, especially since mine are frozen and a little sticky.
I busy myself sipping the remains of my drink as Edward sits on the barstool beside me, watching intently as I drink. He is by far the most ridiculously good looking guy I've ever had save me from beating a hobo to death.
"You know, I'm feeling fine. You really don't have to stay."
He shrugs, signaling the bartender. "It's okay. I was just on my way home anyway."
A fresh glass of soda is placed in front of me, and Edward grabs the straw from my empty glass and drops it in before nudging the glass towards me, urging me to drink. "One more."
Obliging, I shuffle forward in my seat and take a sip.
His green eyes dart between my mouth and the rest of my face. "You've got a pretty mean right hook."
"Boxing classes at the gym."
He nods in understanding, twirling the discarded wrapper from my straw between his fingers.
"So, do you save women in distress often?"
Edward's nose scrunches up, and he smiles bashfully. "Well, like I said, I didn't really save you, I saved your mugger."
"Oh, right. So, do you go around saving defenseless muggers much?"
"Baby snatchers and perverts, too," he adds, making me smile. "It's kinda my thing."
"Well then, I guess he was lucky you happened to be around."
The straw in my glass gurgles as I hit ice. "Seriously though. Thanks."
A faint pink color touches his cheeks, but he turns away so quickly that I wonder if I might have imagined it. After a moment he turns back, his startling green eyes shining. "It's not like I had anything exciting planned tonight anyway."
My God. He really is incredibly attractive - even bundled up under a thick coat and scarf and hidden beneath a mop of unruly bronze hair. But as much as I would like to sit in a dive bar with a really sweet, good looking guy, the rush of adrenaline has subsided and a wave of exhaustion has crashed over me, leaving me barely able to keep my eyes open. Taking a deep breath, I press my hand to my chest, feeling the rhythm of my heartbeat beneath. When I open them again, Edward is watching, brilliant green eyes sizing up my pale face and shaking hands. I'm not even sure that my erratic heartbeat is the result of my near-mugging anymore.
"I should go," I murmur, surprised at just how much I would like to stay.
Edward's eyes drop from my face and he nods. "Yeah, okay." Inching the zipper of my jacket up slowly, I watch as he slips his hat back on and wraps his scarf around his neck. With a gentle hand at my elbow, he helps me from my seat and we walk in silence to the front door.
Stepping outside, we both shiver, bunkering down into our jackets as the cold air envelops us, and I flip my hood up again, tucking my hair in to stop it from blowing around in the wind.
"So, uh, are you walking home?" Edward asks, digging his hands deep into his pockets.
"My place is only four blocks that way."
His brow creases again. "Will you be okay?"
Shifting from one foot to another, trying to get the blood moving to keep myself warm, I can't help but smile at his concern. "I think I'll be fine."
His face scrunches up a little as we stand in silence for a moment.
A car rushes past, its tires whooshing against the wet road.
A siren wails in the distance.
Life carries on around us as though our little bubble doesn't exist.
"I'd feel better knowing that you got home okay," he declares with a shrug, tugging his hat down over his ears.
Now I know my heart is racing for an entirely different reason. "Are you offering to walk me?"
His answering smile is all I need to confirm my question, and I shuffle awkwardly for a moment before nodding.
He grins in return, and we turn in the direction of my apartment, our shoulders brushing lightly as we begin to walk.
"I hope I'm not keeping you from an exciting Saturday night."
"Not at all," he replies. "Anyway, someone should make sure violent criminals are kept off the streets."
I snort. "I think you'll find he's long gone, off nursing his balls somewhere."
He touches his shoulder to mine gently. "I meant you."
My laughter comes out a little stronger, and I can feel the shaking in my hands and voice subsiding slowly. Although with Edward and that damn smile around, I'm not altogether sure that the fluttering in my stomach will stop any time soon either.
We stop at a crosswalk. "So, why are you walking around at midnight on a Saturday with no particular place to be other than in bed?"
"I just finished a double shift at work." He sounds weary all of a sudden as he sighs quietly. "I haven't been home since yesterday morning."
I wince, instantly feeling bad. "Shit."
"No! Seriously, its fine—"
"No, I feel awful, Edward! My apartment is just up ahead. You should go home and get some sleep. I don't know how you're even awake right now."
His green eyes cut to me, sliding away just as quickly. "I guess I'm over-tired or something. I'm surprisingly awake."
I try my hardest to frown at him, but his sweet smile just melts the expression right off my face. I can't be upset at him for not being at home in bed when I really would rather he were walking me home.
We talk for a little while about nothing in particular- the weather, the neighborhood, our distinct lack of social lives- until we arrive outside of my building.
"This is me."
Edward looks up, eyeing my building. "Cool."
Having him here, outside of my apartment, I'm suddenly nervous and I don't know why. "Are you nearby? I mean, where you live- is it close?"
His eyes drop to mine, and his mouth falls open just a little, enough for me to want to press the pad of my finger to his bottom lip, just to see if it's as soft as it looks. Pretty hands and a lovely mouth.
"No, not really. I'm about eight blocks that way." He points back the way we came.
"Oh my God, Edward!"
He chuckles. "It's fine. I'll just catch a cab."
The idea that he walked me all this way- four blocks in the opposite direction– warms me a little until I remember it's basically one in the morning.
"I feel so bad. I totally ruined your night and I forgot to buy peanut butter, the one thing I was supposed to do."
"I was on my way to the convenience store to buy dinner."
"Peanut butter for dinner?"
I shrug as I fish through my new weapon of choice and pull out my keys. "I'm tired and I'm lazy."
Edward clears his throat as my keys jangle in my hand. "So." He pauses, his tongue peeking out to touch the corner of his lower lip. "I was thinking that I should probably get your number," he continues, sounding nervous. "You know, in case you need an eye witness report for the police. Or something."
It can feel the pulse of my heart in my throat, like it's about to jump into my mouth. Smiling, I reach back into my bag for my cell phone.
The screen isn't cracked; it's shattered and completely dark, even when I hold the "on" button down. Plus, the back cover has come off completely, revealing its inner workings.
"I didn't even know it could do that," marvels Edward, picking up a piece of my phone and turning it over in his hands.
Momentarily distracted from my ruined phone, I find myself kind of taken with his long fingers- they're just so pretty. The man has pretty hands.
"Yeah, me neither."
Frowning as he places it back in my hand, I shove it all back into my bag, wincing as I hear the screen crack a little more.
"Um, can I give you my home phone number?"
Pulling his phone from his jacket pocket, Edward hands it to me and I enter in the number, biting my lip to suppress the silly giggle that wants to pop out and ruin the moment.
"So, I'll call you then?"
I nod, and Edward smiles. My body answers with a flash of heat up my spine.
A beam of light washes over the two of us as a cab pulls up to the curb in front of Edward's outstretched arm.
"And I didn't mean it about the police report thing," he says, reaching for the car door. "I want to call you to talk to you. And maybe see you again."
"Yeah, I kind of guessed that."
"Okay, I just wanted to make sure."
"Okay." It's freezing cold, and my body is screaming at me to lie down, but for some reason I just can't be the one who turns around first.
In the end, it's the cab driver who calls the shots by yelling at Edward to get in the car, and he and I part ways.
"Toi ... Ey Toi ... putain de merde ... ey l'idiot, apporte-moi le couteau?"
A shaking sous chef hustles through the kitchen with the latest in the long line of Chef Reynaud's demands. Head down, I sneak past the kitchen window toward the back door, staying out of Reynaud's line of sight. I know the bare minimum of the French language, and thanks to world renowned master chef James Reynaud and his filthy mouth, it's mostly curse words. Tonight his entire repertoire is getting a workout.
It's a Sunday night, only three hours into dinner service, and I'm about ready to lose my mind. My new shoes are pinching, my underwear is riding up my ass, and it's been an entire week since I gave my number to a certain dashing copper-haired man, and I still haven't heard a thing. Life can suck my—
The door to the restaurant swings open, and Jessica stands there looking timid– like I'm the one she should be afraid of.
"Um, sorry, Bella, but there's a problem up front."
Sighing, I slip my shoe off and rub the red spot on my heel where I'm sure to have a blister soon. "What's up?"
Her fingers twist in front of her as she speaks. "So, uh, this man and his wife have turned up with a reservation, and there's nothing in the book. I'm not sure where to fit him in, and I think he's getting a little upset."
Standing, I run my hands down the front of my black pencil skirt. "Are you sure he has the right day?"
She nods as I follow her back inside, down the fluorescent lit hallway towards the restaurant. "I checked next Sunday and the one after and there's nothing there. He's saying he spoke to Jane."
Le Couchon Faim is not just the best French restaurant in the city, it's also one of the best in the country. We boast a Michelin rated chef, and one of the country's best sommeliers. If we really have messed up this guy's booking, it'll be down to me to rectify the situation. What joy.
Calmly, I stroll through the restaurant behind Jessica, toward the front desk. I reach for a waiter as he passes. "The couple on table three needs their water refilled, and the family on table nine are having trouble with the menu." He nods and disappears to attend to customers.
"He's standing by the desk there," whispers Jessica, standing aside.
As I approach the front desk, my footsteps falter just the tiniest bit before I catch myself. The man that stands to greet me at is almost unrecognizable. The bundled up and slightly unkempt man from the week before is gone. Tonight, in a pale blue button-down and slacks, he is utterly devastating.
And with his wife.
His head turns at the sound of my voice, and my stomach flip-flops at the sight of him.
"Bella," he replies with a smile that turns me inside out and upside down.
The woman beside him is stunning- a little older than him perhaps, but gorgeous nonetheless. She's shorter than him, even in heels, and her perfectly styled caramel hair sits softly over one shoulder, accentuating the delicateness of her décolletage.
I can't help but stare at her for a moment. No wonder he hasn't called me back.
"I hear there's a problem with your booking," I say quietly, ushering him and his wife to the side.
His long fingers wrap around the back of his neck as he shuffles awkwardly. "Uh, sort of. But we can always come back another night…"
"Nonsense," says the woman beside him, placing a hand on his arm and twisting the knife in my gut just a little tighter. "Edward made the booking over a month ago with a woman named Jane, and unfortunately"-she checks the little name tag on my breast pocket, and I've never felt more inadequate-"Isabella, the waitress has informed us that the booking isn't there. Now, we're not saying it's anyone's fault-"
"No, of course," I interject, smiling placatingly. "Let me see if I can find you something. Why don't you take a seat, and I'll be back momentarily."
I don't even wait to speak to Edward. Instead, I walk, almost unseeing, through the restaurant to find them a table. A stupid little part of me is completely crushed that Edward is the kind of guy to ask for a woman's number when he's married. But maybe I was reading too much into it. Maybe he just wanted a friend? Or maybe he's a serial killer. Maybe he set up the whole bag stealing incident just to get close to me so that he could infiltrate– okay, now I'm losing my mind.
"Emma, can you clear table twelve over by the window and set it for two, please."
Hands clenched into fists, I watch as she and another waiter redress the table with brand new crisp white linens, shiny silverware and crystal clear glasses. The table is tucked into a secluded little corner with a great view of the river where they can watch the sunset over the water, and fuck, it's probably their anniversary or something. What a douche bag.
Taking a deep breath, I paint my work smile back on and make my way over to where Edward is standing. With his hands tucked into the pockets, he makes standing in a restaurant waiting area look like a photo shoot.
"We have a table ready for you now, if you'd like to follow me."
As we walk, he quickens his pace to match mine, leaving his wife a few steps behind. I can't even look at him without wanting to headbutt that smile right off his face. "I had no idea you worked here," he says, and my pulse quickens at his proximity. He smells good, too. Bastard.
I turn to him slowly, stopping in front of his table, my voice low. "Obviously."
His head quirks a little at my response, and his brows pull together. Their waiter, Ben, pulls the woman's chair out, and she sits delicately, smiling at Edward as he takes a seat across from her. The ache in my gut flares as he smiles back, and I just can't take any more.
"I'll leave you in Ben's capable hands. Enjoy your meal."
And with that, I leave Edward and his wife to enjoy their romantic meal while I hide at the front desk until he leaves.
The restaurant fills slowly, and thankfully my brain space is mostly taken up with working and only a little with trying not to think of Edward and his wife probably giggling and feeding each other. And while I didn't think the night could get any worse, someone somewhere has decided to prove me wrong.
"I'm sorry, sir," I say reassuringly, trying to calm down the six-foot behemoth in front of me. "Restaurant policy states that closed-in shoes and a collared shirt must be worn."
The man stamps his sandal-clad foot, rolling his eyes. "Do you know who I am?"
Do I care?
"If you like, I can arrange another night for you to dine with us. But unfortunately, the dress code is final."
With some choice expletives – in English – he and his friends stomp off, causing a scene and generally just being a pain in my ass. When I turn back to my desk, the seething rage simmering under my skin hits boiling point, and a hot flush creeps up my neck.
"What can I do for you, Edward?"
His face is the most serious I've seen it, his green eyes fixed on me as I take my place behind my desk, happy to have something between us so that I don't stab him in the neck with my pencil.
"Is there something wrong? Did I say something, or…"
Erasing something from the reservation book a little too hard, I shake my head. "I'm fine. You should go back to your wife, Edward."
"My wife?" His eyes widen, and he smiles. "You mean my mom?"
My cheeks instantly burn, and I look up. "That's your mom?" I squeak.
He nods. "It's her birthday."
"God." I close my eyes, willing the earth to open up and swallow me whole as a mixture of relief and embarrassment washes over me. "I'm such an asshole."
"You're so very not an asshole."
"I am. Jessica told me … and I just assumed. I'm so sorry, Edward. You must think I'm such an idiot."
He rubs a hand across his cheek where a fine dusting of hair scratches against his palm. "I'm just relieved that you're not upset with me. I thought I'd blown it without a first date."
"No. God, no. In fact, I'm giving you a free pass. You're totally allowed to walk away and not ever speak to me again ... wait … first date?"
"Well, yeah. Maybe tomorrow night? If you're not working."
The urge to smile big and bright tugs at my cheeks. "I'm not working."
"Excuse me, Bella." I turn to Jessica, trying to hide the ear-to-ear grin on my face. When her eyes flicker quickly between Edward and me, I know it doesn't work. "There's a phone call for you."
I nod in thanks, and she disappears, glancing over her shoulder at me once more.
"Can I pick you up at eight then?"
"You can. You know where I live."
With nod and a smile, he returns to his table. This time I don't even try to focus on anything but him, sneaking furtive glances at him across the crowded restaurant.
An hour or so later, he and his mother stroll past the desk, looking happy and well-fed, and the smile he gives me just as he's about to leave is blinding, its impression burned into my eyelids. That night I dream of long fingers and five o'clock shadows against my skin.
The next morning is cold but full of sunshine and clear blue skies. The wintery air steams in front of my mouth as my breath comes in pants, the morning air feeding my burning lungs as I run along the river's edge. Even in the frosty morning, I'm sweating, and my cheeks and nose are pink. Daft Punk blasts through my headphones, keeping my heart racing and my energy high. I haven't run in over a week, and this morning it seems to be harder than usual. Stopping at the water's edge, I watch as the rowers whoosh-whoosh-whoosh across the river as I lift my foot up onto a nearby park bench to stretch out a cramp in my calf. Taking a deep breath, I stretch my arms up over my head, feeling the pull all the way down my back and into my sore hips. Suddenly, a light touch on my shoulder makes me jump so high I almost lose my footing.
Behind me, in track pants and a t-shirt, is Edward.
I pull the buds from my ears, holding a hand against my chest as my heart thunders beneath my ribcage.
He smiles. "We have to stop meeting like this."
"You have to stop sneaking up on me." I take a swipe at him with my headphones, realizing all too late that I'm probably a sweaty, pink mess.
Running a hand over my forehead and into my hair, I take in his equally as sweaty, but still ridiculously attractive, appearance. "You're out early."
He shrugs, unplugging his earphones from his iPhone. "Couldn't sleep."
"Bummer." Still breathing heavily, I lean against the stonework that borders the river, while he does the same, his arm pressed against mine.
"Yeah, big date tonight."
His eyes are bright in the morning sun, and leaning a little to the side, I nudge him, smiling. "Did you run all the way here?"
"Um." He pauses, looking at the ground like it holds the answers to life itself. "I was in the neighborhood?"
I snort in disbelief. "Are you stalking me, Edward Cullen?"
He makes a face, his middle finger rubbing at the skin above his eyebrow. "Stalking is such a harsh word. I was just running in the general vicinity of your apartment, in the hopes that I might … yeah, I was stalking you."
"Well, since you stalked all the way over here, you wanna get some a coffee or something?"
He pats his stomach, nodding. "I could definitely eat something."
Aiming for a patisserie just a block away, we fall into easy conversation. The cold morning air cools our overheated skin, leaving our cheeks pink my skin covered in goosebumps.
"So, you're the woman who decides who gets a table at that place?" he asks as we walk, his headphones swinging from his fingers.
"No. I'm the girl who has napkins flung at her when your steak isn't medium-rare enough."
"Uh-huh. So can you speak French?"
"A little," I admit, knowing what's coming next.
"Can you say something for me?"
We approach the café, and from my sports bra I pull out the twenty-dollar bill that I planned to spend on lunch. "Nope. It's way too embarrassing. My pronunciation is horrible."
"Please? It's not like I know any better."
I groan, checking out the display of mouthwatering pastries. "Promise you won't tease me?"
Ordering two lattes, Edward tilts his head at me, grinning. "Would I tease you?"
We both laugh as we take a seat, and thankfully, the topic is forgotten as two glossy little fruit tarts are set in front of us.
In a cozy little patisserie on the river, Edward and I spend a good portion of the morning drinking coffee and eating our weight in butter-rich pastries, completely negating any exercise we may have done earlier.
A twenty-seven-year-old paramedic, Edward lives with his older brother and his sister-in-law while he finds somewhere more suitable. Of course, finding a one-bedroom apartment in the city that won't cost you an arm and a leg and is actually habitable is a task of its own. I should know- I spent over six months searching before I found mine.
While his job can be long hours and tiresome work, the little glint he gets in his eye when he talks about it is more than I need to know that he loves it. He loves his family, especially his twin nieces, prefers dogs over cats, and when he smiles, he smiles with his whole face, flashing a set of almost perfect teeth. I say almost perfect because one of his eye teeth is a fraction wonky, making it stick out just a little farther than the others. It's simply a tiny imperfection in an otherwise perfectly proportioned, handsome face.
Just before lunch time, we finally emerge into the sunshine, unseasonable sun peeking through the morning clouds and gracing us with a clear, crisp day. The light catches the red-gold of Edward's hair as it sticks straight up in the air, falling haphazardly over his forehead in a way that makes me want to reach out and smooth it back just to watch it fall forward again.
I'm falling for him in a big way, and there's nothing I can do to stop it.
He licks his lips. "So, have you got plans for the rest of the day?"
"Nope. Cleaning my apartment, maybe."
"Yeah." He tugs at his shirt. "I need to do some laundry."
"But I'll see you tonight, right?"
"Thank you for a lovely breakfast."
His eyes hidden once again by his sunglasses, he smiles down at me, and standing so close to me, backlit by the winter sun, I realize how tall he actually is. "It was my pleasure."
The way his lips wrap around the word sends a shockwave of desire rippling through me. My mouth runs dry, and I can't even remember how to swallow properly.
"Okay," I squeak, watching as his tongue sweeps across his bottom lip before he smiles.
We both grin as we realize that one of us is, at some point, supposed to walk away.
Reaching up, I tug on my ponytail, the pinch of my hair enough to pull me out of my licentious thoughts. "I'll see you tonight."
He nods, and I turn, warring with every cell in my body as I walk away from him. The visceral response storming my insides is unlike anything I've encountered. My stomach clenches uncomfortably, but I like it. There's something about it, something exciting and new and unfamiliar and crap … I should have kissed him.
I've barely made it to the corner.
The cold air has turned the tip of his nose pink, and his lips are a startling rosy color against his winter-chilled skin. Taking a deep breath, he steps a little closer, his fingers finding their way into the palm of my hand, where they slip between mine before he tugs me closer gently. "I promised myself I wouldn't walk away from you a third time without kissing you. Once was stupid enough."
He leans forward and, Oh God, Oh God, Oh God, the moment his lips touch mine, it's like the entire world falls away.
The sound of the street around us quiets, and all I can hear, taste and smell is him. His hands are warm against my cold skin, his mouth a welcoming heat against my own. With a hand against his chest I can feel his heart beating through the thin material of his t-shirt, and when his lips open just slightly, I can't help but taste him, my tongue peeking out to touch his.
I've never been kissed like this before– this all consuming, igniting kiss that I can feel all the way to my toes and back. A flash of intensity explodes between us, like the pop of fireworks, and he holds me closer as his mouth opens a little more, my hands reaching for the skin of his neck, the material of his shirt, anything I can find to bring me closer.
I don't know how long we kiss for- minutes, days, forever, not long enough.
"Fuck," he groans, hot breath washing over my just-kissed lips. "Why am I wearing sweat pants?"
Eyes closed, I search for soft lips and dizzying kisses again. "What?"
He kisses me again softly, his hips flush against my abdomen. Breaking the kiss with a gasp, I look down, my breath lost in my throat as I see the nature of his problem pressed against my lower stomach. "Oh."
I can't take my eyes from it, and the longer I look down, the more my hand itches to slip inside the waistband of his pants.
His hands hold me tight to him, and when I look up he's blushing, the pink staining his cheeks all the way to the tips of his ears. "Just give me a minute."
Swallowing, I hold my bottom lip between my teeth, the pressure keeping me in the here and now as I battle with myself not to flex my hips against his.
"You know we could … I know we haven't technically had a first date and all…" I whisper, my hands sliding down his arms and over the backs of his hands. "But…my place is just there…and…" Oh, God, I'm such an idiot.
"Are you asking me to come back to your place?"
Swallowing hard, I finally look up from my feet. "Yes?"
The moment the elevator door closes, Edward has me pushed against the wall, the cold metal handrail pressed against my lower back.
His warm hands slip down the back of my workout pants as my mouth finds the skin of his jaw, neck, chin, the soft fleshy lobe of his ear. He tastes like salty skin- clean and warm and masculine. His breath rushes against my cheek as my fingers tighten in his hair, bringing his lips back to mine so that I can taste his mouth again. His kisses alternate between hard and insistent, and soft and playful- everything I've ever wanted in any kiss.
The elevator pings, and we stumble out into the hallway a mess of hands and lips and awkward feet.
I'm not even sure how we make it to my apartment, but by the time we do, we're both breathless from laughing and kissing at the same time. After fumbling with the lock for much too long, we almost fall inside, and with my back against the door and his thigh between mine I thank God I'm wearing my stretchy black tights because I can feel everything. My hands slip under the hem of his t-shirt, his narrow hips flexing under my fingertips. His skin is so warm and soft, and a hot breath spills across my neck as my fingernails drag across the taut skin of his abdomen, scratching through the little trail of soft hair at the top of his sweat pants.
"Bedroom?" he asks between kisses, his mouth leaving a damp path across my sternum and the swell of my breasts.
I point to the left, and his hands cup my ass tightly as he lifts me and veers slightly towards my room, kicking his shoes off.
"Wait, wait, wait!" I cry, my mouth open and gasping for air as a blaze burns beneath my skin, ignited by Edward's breath and lips and hands and everything.
In a brief moment of clarity, I remember the state I left my bedroom in- underwear on the floor, socks, books, an unmade bed.
"I can't do this standing up," Edward rasps.
"The sofa," I reply, pointing to the right. "The sofa."
With a quick turn to the right, Edward steers us towards my sofa, where he drops me gently, pulling my sneakers from my feet and tossing them over his shoulder with a smirk.
I wriggle free of my workout top and leggings, left in just my underwear and a black sports bra. I don't even have it in me to wish I'd worn something sexier. Edward pulls his t-shirt off over his head, and I tug his sweats down with my feet, the two of us laughing at my dexterity.
His weight is solid and warm above me, his skin flush against mine in all the right places. Beneath him on my silly second-hand sofa, I'm tipsy-drunk on his smell, dazzled, hazy-eyed and pulsing under his touch.
I don't know where it comes from, but when his lips meet the sensitive skin on my hip bones, my mouth becomes stupid-loose. "Oh mon dieu!"
A head of bronze hair lifts from my chest, and eyes ablaze find mine, his kissed-pink lips open as he looks down at me. "What the fuck was that?"
I gulp, insides trembling, outsides burning up. "I don't know. It just came out."
His gaze flickers between my lips and my eyes. "Say it again."
"Mon dieu," I whisper, and he swallows hard, his grip on my thigh tight. "Tu me rends folle."
"Fuck. I don't care if you just told me what he fish of the day is; that's the sexiest thing I've ever heard."
He kisses me so hard I can feel his teeth pressed against the inside of his lips, and still I want more, pressing my mouth and body up to his.
Open-mouthed kisses trail hot and wet down my neck and collarbone, over the material of my sports bra, where his fingers slip deftly underneath.
I nod. "Please."
His hand slips under my bra and immediately cups my breast. My nipple is hard in the palm of his warm hand. Moving the material up and out of the way, his mouth joins his fingers, and I'm lost to the sensation of his heat around me.
He exhales roughly as I lift my hips against his, feeling him press against the spot that makes bursts of light appear in my vision. When he replies with a flex of his own, I slip my hand between us, and I can feel him, hot and straining, beneath thin cotton boxers. As my hand runs the length of him, my knuckles drag over the damp spot on my own underwear, and I buck reflexively, making the two of us moan.
With some slight adjustment, Edward rolls to the side and replaces my hand with his own, pulling his boxers down enough to free himself. He's fucking perfect and swollen, and I want him so badly I could scream. My eyes find his, and he kisses me tenderly, his hands firm on my hip as my hand slides between the two of us, his smooth, hot skin twitching in my hand.
His hand slides from my hip to my underwear, his long, pretty fingers sliding under the waistband where it meets ready-slick skin. His fingers rub soft little circles over my heat, too soft, too slow, too good. I try to match his pace, to keep it slow, but my hips have other ideas, and the moment his middle finger slides between my legs I buck into him, my fist tight around him.
Sparks fly beneath my eyelids as he continues, and my body trembles as he pulls me closer and closer to my release. With my head pressed against his chest and my hand wrapped around him, his fingers curl and press, and all of a sudden I'm weightless, euphoric, shattering into a thousand-million pieces.
With his eyebrows pulled together and his green eyes watching my hand, he follows not a minute after me, his muscles tight and his eyes pressed shut as he comes.
Legs intertwined, damp chests pressed together, Edward and I lie quietly for a moment, our breaths warming the air between us, my body still singing as my nerve endings hum with delight.
Reaching behind me, Edward retrieves his t-shirt, using it to clean himself and my hand gently before tossing it aside again and pulling me against him.
Breathing deep, he buries his face in the crook of my neck, soft lips and then soft smiles the last thing I see before I doze, adrift on a wave of satisfied sighs and the smell of warm skin.
I don't know how long I sleep for, but when I wake, Edward isn't beside me, and I'm covered with a blanket. Sitting up, I peer over the back of my sofa, finding Edward standing in nothing but his boxers, a glass of water in his hand. "Hey," I say quietly.
He turns, smiling. "This is a nice place," he says, looking around my messy apartment, his eyes roaming over my possessions like he's drinking it all in, seeing things I don't.
As seems to be the norm when I'm around him, my heart is off and running again, thrumming against the inside of my chest like hummingbird wings. Soft-limbed and sleepy, I watch as Edward continues to look around, his fingers brushing the top of a photo frame, a little jeweled elephant trinket, and a little dish full of random keys and un-partnered earrings.
With cold bare feet, he slips under the blanket with me again, tucking me close.
"What time is it?" I ask, enjoying the feeling of his soft fuzzy hair against my skin.
I take a sip of his water. "Did you have reservations for our date tonight?"
Shaking his head, he smiles. "Nothing I can't cancel."
Putting the glass aside, I pull the blanket up and over our heads. "You want to stay in with me tonight instead?"
His eyebrow arches. "Well, I do need to wash my t-shirt before I wear it home."
Edward never really does go home.
He stops by his apartment to pick up some clean clothes after I wash his t-shirt. But he comes right back, and what's meant to be an overnight sleepover turns into a few days, which turns into a week, which turns into a toothbrush beside mine and a pillow all of his own.
We fall into a routine of ease and comfort, and before I know it I'm no longer just Bella, I'm an "us", a "them", an Edward and Bella, one half of a whole.
In the space of eight days and three unexpected and somewhat awkward encounters, Edward Cullen turned my life upside down and inside out in all the best ways. He's the reason for a smile, the warmth in my bed, the smell on my pillow in the morning and the hot body pressed against mine in the night. He's the person I wake up to and fall asleep with, laugh, ache and argue with. He still turns my insides soft and makes my heart hammer in my chest like no one else has ever done, or will ever do again. He makes me a better version of myself.
Love makes me want to be more, everything, anything, all of the things he will ever need.
Without him I am strong, but with him I am stronger.
*"Toi ... Ey Toi ... putain de merde ... ey l'idiot, apporte-moi le couteau?" - You, hey you ... motherfucker ... hey idiot, bring me the knife.
*Mon deiu, tu me rends folle – Oh my God. You drive me crazy.
If you didn't read any of the entries from the contest you NEED to read IReenH's 'El Camino' it was my pick and was flaw-less.
Thank you for reading