Have a fantastic christmas everyone. I hope santa gets you everything you wished for - including a wrapped up Edward Cullen.

Planetblue Prereads and Nutty Ginger Beta's.

Chapter 6

Pain.

It engulfs every sense. It's like the time Mike Newton, the class fat kid, whipped a string of conkers at my head at boarding school. I actually cried like a fucking baby before I pulverised him.

I can't blame anyone else this time; it's entirely self-inflicted. Before I even open my eyes I'm in escape mode. I know that time is up. Time for me to leave. Run.

It's instant and mechanical, I'm on autopilot.

I sit up in bed, slip out of the covers and pad around silently; picking up various items of clothing in disarray around the chaotic that is Bella's bedroom. I haven't even opened my eyes yet.

Six AM light engulfs me as I tentatively open my eyes and pull my jeans on. My feet touch broken glass, and I wince at the contact. Shit! When did the damn bottle shatter? I'm dusting shards off my left foot and my eyes catch the sleeping girl that I'm trying to escape.

At some point during the night she's pulled batman t-shirt over her head. The duvet is crumpled around her waist. Rays of sunlight from between the blinds highlight her face in a concoction of bright stripes. Bella's dark hair is dishevelled and messy on the pillow and her chin is slightly red, probably from my stubble, but mostly, I can't look away from the satisfied smile on her face.

I'm pretty satisfied too.

What a hot fuck.

Images of stroking into Bella, pounding her body flick through my mind.

I throw my shirt over my head. She's pretty too, I can't deny that.

And she has this strange way of keeping me guessing. I mean for a girl who couldn't give a shit, there's something so riveting ….

I blink.

Jesus.

Snap out of it, Edward Cullen. You're not drunk anymore. Standing here like a big idiot, staring at the girl you fucked last night isn't an option.

It's not something I do.

Bella could wake up any minute now. And then what?

Then I'd be stuck listening to more of her passages of trial and tribulation, probably in the form of 19th Century quotations.

Chuckling to myself, I purposefully don't glance back at the sleeping brunette as I make my way downstairs with my shoes in hand. I grab my jacket from the kitchen, stumble into my shoes, and make my way out of the house.

In the morning sunlight the street is less eerie; more like it's been taken out of a Roald Dahl book - full of wonky houses and bright doors. The chilly air hits my face and I reach around my pocket for a cigarette. A grey-haired police man in a black bullet vest stops in front of the garden wall and eyes me seriously.

"You should really get back in. Street is closed off."

"What?"

I peer to my right to see several cops scattered around the empty street. Apart from that there's not a soul in sight.

"Are you living in a different world, son? London is still in lock-down. Get back in there."

Shit, how could I forget? Alcohol brain.

"They haven't caught him yet?"

"Not yet. Police are sweeping this street. It's a precautionary measure, but you can't leave your house until we're done. Might be a few hours yet. I would advise staying in all of today."

"Right," I snort and walk back into the house and make myself comfortable at the empty kitchen table.

Looks like Bella's stuck with me.

She could definitely do a lot worse.


I'm tapping out an article from yesterday's interview with the chief constable on Bella's borrowed laptop in the kitchen, hating Don the Savage more and more with each sentence.

What a tosser he's turned out to be.

If this was any other day, I'd be back at home in my flat, showered; espresso'd up, maybe even planning a night out. But no, here I am in yesterdays clothes, sticky with ice cream, hunched over my old Dell with a banging headache. Thank fuck for Nestle instant coffee.

I've bashed out my third paragraph, and hit 'enter' with a pleased smirk when a girl walks in.

She's one of those tiny chicks with crazy hair that covers her face as if she's trying to hide from the world. Her black rimmed glasses cover the remaining part of her face like a glass shield. She's wrapped from arms to knees so tight in an olive green shawl, that you'd think we were stuck in a snow storm rather than a serial-killer orchestrated lockdown.

It's the cockblocker, Bella's roommate, I assume.

"Hello." I wave once from my place on the dining table as she kind of waddles forward in her too-tight attire. "I'm Edward."

She stares at me like I'm impinging on her personal bubble.

This staring goes on for a painstakingly long amount of time, so I open my mouth thinking I should add something though how does one actually introduce himself as a one night stand? It's not like I ever stick around long enough to do this.

"Bella's, um, we, er…" I point my thumb toward the front door. "I can't get out right now. Lockdown." Smooth.

"Oh…right. Right," She says awkwardly, understanding dawning on her features. "Alice."

"Nice to meet you Alice."

Alice doesn't respond. Her eyes dart to my post-coital bedroom hair and crumpled yesterday clothes and flick the spot of vanilla ice-cream on my t-shirt.

I shrug. "Your roommate has a thing for vanilla ice cream." On me hangs in the air.

She scrunches her face up in disgust, still not speaking.

"Too much?"

She clicks her tongue, shuffles past me and clicks the kettle on.

Apparently Bella's roommate is not a fan of conversation.

I can tell she's still staring at the back of my head as the kettle starts to boil.

I've never done the walk of shame mainly because I'm shameless, but today must be the closest I've ever gotten to it.

This is a little awkward.

No scratch that.

Way awkward.

I continue to type the article super-aware of Alice breathing down my neck.

I rewrite the same paragraph three times and then I can't take it any longer. I tilt the chair back on its hind legs, and yes, her eyes are boring into me like I'm in some the king of jungle on stand-off.

I scratch my eyebrow and turn back around.

Five minutes later. "You're not her type."

"Oh?"

So the girl does have a voice. I turn.

Alice has a 'Keep Calm' mug pressed to her lips.

"No," she says. The chair screeches against the floor as Alice sit's opposite me. "You're too, hmm, what's the word? Preppy? Rakish? No… cute."

I look at her, wondering if she's hitting on me.

"Her last boy was a punk from Dublin; rough, rowdy and fond of piercings. He was a bit too possessive if you ask me. The 'Bella' tattoo on his chest was over the top too."

I pull the hood of my laptop down, interested. "Really."

She nods, holding the mug with two hands. I've had girls beg, cry, write me letters, turn up at my work place – but never a tattoo. I'm impressed.

"Have long have you known her?"

"Bella? I've known her since primary school. We were in the same class. She kicked Jasper Whitlock's ass for pinching my bum. We've been friends ever since. Big heart and a sturdy set of balls. I mean what else could you want?"

I chuckle. "Sounds like the beginning of a great friendship for sure."

"We've been inseparable since."

"Cute." I mock playfully.

"Hmph." She says deadpan.

Alice looks at me curiously and when I think I've beat this urge to probe, or ask irrelevant type questions about the sleeping girl who I'm trying not think about … damn it, I blurt it out like I can't help myself. "So, about Bella."

Fuckity- fuck.

You did it, Cullen.

You went there. You opened that can of worms.

Alice smirks at me knowingly. "What about her?"

"Bella's … well, she's perplexing."

Well, since I've started I might as well continue. Later on I'll be sure to put it down to journalistic curiosity, but right now, fuck me, I want to know.

Alice raises an eyebrow and I shrug. "I can't help but think there's so much more that I don't know. Bella talks … and she talks…but she holds her cards close to her chest. There's more."

I stop because I just laid it bare to some girl in an olive shawl. Damn- this is not the type of vulnerable that Edward Cullen does.

But then again, last night wasn't something … or for that matter someone Edward Cullen does either.

Maybe it's something in the water.

Maybe it's me exploring my limits or some shit…

"Well that's because you've only caught a hint of the good stuff. You're hungry. You want more. And yes, there's more."

I screw my eyes at her, wondering if this cryptic crap was something these two girls learned in school.

"Good stuff?" I ask casually, remaining nonchalant.

"Her ex had her name tattooed across his chest after Bella dumped him."

I release a breath through my teeth. Man that's good. "Sucker."

I smirk, and say something Bella would probably say. "Don't judge a book by its cover, huh?"

Alice points at me and smiles. "You're learning."


Turns out Alice has a thing for watching the breaking news at volume 50 whilst giving impassioned commentary; I swear she's going to break into bad opera any second now. She gasps every time she sees the SAS scouring the streets and mumbles ugly things at the overused picture of Don the Savage.

My brain can't take it any longer, so I trail into Bella's bedroom, into the en-suite, splash water on my face and use a pea-sized blob of toothpaste and my finger to brush my teeth.

In the bedroom, Bella is lying on her side facing me, so I pull up the duvet and slide in next to her.

I might as well since there's nowhere else to go.

Bella's eyes drift open as my cold feet touch hers and her mouth quirks upward into a half smile when she speaks with a hoarse voice. "I feel like someone knocked me out with a bat."

"Tell me about it," I say, getting comfortable against the dark wood headboard.

"Why aren't you gone yet?"

"Are you trying to get rid of me?"

"I figured a guy like you would have found his escape route by now."

Again, I'm amazed at her astute way of calling me out, because I would be gone, so I tell her the truth.

I slide down so I'm lying facing her nose to nose.

"I tried, but Don the Savage had other plans. London's still in lock down. Public transport is closed down; blockades everywhere. They say they're pretty close, but, whatever. We've been ordered to stay at home and keep the doors locked for our own safety." I roll my eyes. "Wish they'd hurry it up, Edward Cullen's got a life to live."

She narrows her eyes. "Nobody's forcing you to stay you know. Police have probably moved on from this street. We have a back door."

I grin. "Safety comes first."

"Hmm…" Bella runs her hand through her hair and gets up on her elbow. "Do you really think you're safe here?" she asks, with mischievous eyes.

Her smile is bright and wide, and I smile back. My dicks waking up too.

"Maybe this is the kind of danger I like." I place my hand on her thigh.

"Oh really?" she says in a sleepy-sexy voice.

"Yup…" She's not objecting to my touch so I do something I wouldn't normally do.

Something like following a girl home.

Allowing her to control so much of the night.

And then getting back into her bed the morning after.

I move my fingers inside her shirt.

I shouldn't. I know I shouldn't, but I do.

"Oh god, oh god," she moans. Yep. Still no underwear. Perfect.

I slip her t-shirt off and kiss her naked, warm skin. My body engulfs hers, and I only move my hips up to give her room to unbutton my jeans.

"Isn't this like breaking a rule or something?" she mumbles into my neck.

I pause. Well if we're going there - the rules say that after the first night, I can only fuck the same girl once more. This is my second round, so I'm still in the green.

Even this I don't do. Because sex with a girl the morning after can be … different.

Like right now, she's quieter. It feels like she's holding me tighter.

There's eye contact. A lot of it.

I kind of want it to go on for longer.

Because this'll be my last time, obviously.

Probably.


Bella's breaths are hot and muffled against my shoulder as she descends from her high. She loosens her grip from around my neck and I push away a sweaty stand of hair from her eyes, staring at her puffy lips – fascinated.

It feels just as good as last night - maybe a little better if we're comparing - but I can't figure out why. It's another thing about Bella that hangs like a question in the air.

"You didn't tell me anything about you last night," I say looking down at her, my arms either side of her head.

Her breathing evens. "You know too much about me already."

Is she serious?

"I know nothing."

She raises an eyebrow. I roll off her and look at the circular cream swirl patterns on the ceiling. "Okay," I scan through the haze of yesterdays conversation and – what the hell – I'm ready to deny most of it.

"You told me you can get paranoid, that you use sayings and quotes from others to make you feel better… I know that you don't do one-night stands, and that you hold your drink pretty darn well –" I grin, looking at her. "—for a girl."

"Hey. Those are big revelations buddy."

I snort. "Please."

"Why do you want to know anyway?" She asks seriously. "It's not like this is a date."

This is true.

But Edward Cullen wants this. And I get what I want.

"Call it committed inquisitiveness."

"Or a dedicated case of snooping." She sits up; the duvet falls so I can see one nipple. "Alright, I'll do you this favour. Ask me something. Anything."

I grab a cigarette from the bedside table and light it. I take a drag and move the cigarette to her lips and watch as her mouth closes around the stick and she pulls in a deep breath.

"Why don't you do one-night-stands?"

She exhales and leans back against the headboard, watching the smoke form clouds and patterns and then fade around us."I mean what stops you. You're not bad."

"Why thank you."

"You're welcome."

"Coming from whore extraordinaire himself that's quite a compliment."

"You and your innocent mouth do much for my hungry loins."

For a second I think she's going to address me with one of her usual on point come backs – but instead, she bites her bottom lip and says, "There have been times I've wanted to. It's more about trusting someone enough to go there. It's about wanting it enough to get over this paranoid shit in my head."

"But you managed it. Last night. With me."

"I guess I did." I hold the cigarette toward her and she takes another drag.

"There you go," I muse.

She blows out to the right of me. "Yeah. So does it feed your hero complex if I say that you saved me from my own insanity or something?"

I chuckle. "I'm pointing out what happened. No need to get all touchy."

"Okay, Cullen, I admit it, tonight you changed my life," she says too emphatically.

"Still a bitch and I'm loving it."

"Did you think you were going to fuck the bitch out of me? And you don't love anything but yourself. I thought we cleared this already."

"Maybe."

"Hmm," she says all haughtily.

"Though you never told me if you did."

"Did what?"

"Believe in love."

"Really?" She raises an eyebrow mockingly, surprised I brought it up.

"Hey! You asked me yesterday, it's only fair you return the favour. After all it's a no holds barred 'ask me anything'."

"Since when?" She challenges.

"Since I make the rules."

"We're going have to change that you know." Oh really now?

I shrug. "Maybe we already have."

Her eyes hold mine, and I know it's a duel, a silent combat between players. So I don't look away, don't let my eyes fall, because this one is mine to conquer.

Her grin gets bigger and more gleeful still. What the hell is making her so happy?

"Edward?"

"Yeah?"

"Um, you're burning up."

Oh?

OH!

"Fuck!"

I throw the stub burning my thumb on the bedside table, stamp the cigarette out with my hand, and shove my thumb into my mouth. Fuck!

Bella starts to laugh like a victor; loud, untamed. She grabs the duvet and pulls it to her face try to muffle her loud guffaws. I think I might hate her.

The stupid thing is I'm chuckling too right along with her.

She's silly and unpredictable and infectious. Her laughter is bright and genuine.

It sucks me right in.

"I believe in connection … in intrigue," she says with subsiding giggles. "There are some people that interest you."

"Interest you. You make it sound like a case of fungus at the bottom of a jar," I say, pulling my thumb from my mouth and narrowing my eyes at the dark, burn mark.

"That's exactly what it's like." Bella takes my thumb in her hand, turns it over in her fingers and and examines it with interest. Her face is close to my fingers, her mouth heated against my skin.

I like it.

Shit, I think I might like everything this crazy girl does.

"I knew you were going to turn out to be a secret romantic," I say softly.

She smiles and lets go of my hand.

"There are some people you want to spend time with because it makes sense just for you and nobody else, and if you tried to explain it- all these others would never understand it anyway. And it's not need that brings you together, it's the other stuff. Something about them that makes you smile a little bit harder, something that captivates you because you discover things about yourself you never knew … like you want to study them and you wonder about them and you're a bit weirded out too because it makes no sense …. like with fungus at the bottom of jar." She shrugs. "I think maybe that's love."

I pause, watching her attention shift as she blows a strand of hair away from her face repeatedly. Any normal person would move the stray hair away with a finger, but not Bella. So I cross my arms over my chest and just watch her silliness.

None of her makes any sense to me, but it's okay, because I don't think I want her to.

"Bella."

"What?"

"You fascinate me; does that mean I'm crazily in love with you?"

She rolls her eyes and her lips curve upward. "Just like fungus?"

"The mushrooming type." I chuckle. "Tell me right now, 'cause i might need to make a couple of real big adjustments."

She punches me playfully on the arm. "You're mad."

I catch her fingers and pull her closer until her shoulder hits mine. "Well Nietzsche did say, there is always some madness in love, but there is also always some reason in madness."

Bella groans, unimpressed. "Exactly why are you still here?"

My smile mirrors hers.

Whatever the reason, I'm glad I still am.

xxxxxx

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