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Chapter 35: String Theory

"Little vices, Edward. They're good for the soul."

Looking back, there were a dozen instances when I could have avoided the outcome. Such thinking was a vicious cycle that opened up numerous paradoxes, yes. Nevertheless, despite my inability to reverse the consequences of my decisions or alter the events set in motions, I wondered what might have been avoided.

Following my recording session with Monroe, I arrived at the parking lot adjacent to the music building to find Tyler leaning against my car. At first, I almost didn't recognize him.

Mine was only one of a handful of cars scattered in the dark lot this late in the evening. As I approached, Tyler stood straight and dropped the hood of his sweater. He was thinner than when I'd last seen him a few weeks ago. His eyes were sunken and bloodshot, lips chapped. Overall, he looked like shit, sick, and as though he'd aged ten years.

"Hey, man," he said when I came closer. "How you been?"

"What do you want?" We hadn't parted on the best of terms, but it was the waiting for me in the dark that had my guard up.

He looked everywhere except in my eyes. Tyler licked his lips and fidgeted. "How are the guys?"

"Tyler." I leaned into his line of sight, but he turned his face the other direction and stared at the ground. "Why are you here?"

"Yeah, well. Look. I just wanted to—uh, you know…" He bounced back on forth on his toes, jittery and eyes darting in all directions. "Never mind. I'll catch you later." Tyler stepped past me. I grabbed his bicep.

"Spit it out," I demanded. He shook his arm free, making only a moment's worth of eye contact.

"I'm sorry," he said. "Take care of yourself."

Then he just jogged away into the shadows. I didn't know it at the time, but I would be the last person to see him alive.

I shoulda, woulda, coulda that encounter a hundred different ways, but I didn't. Instead, I shrugged him off and drove home. My father was flying in the next day, Bella's birthday was almost here, and I had a gig with the guys on Saturday. Too many personal concerns overshadowed any inclination to ponder the strange meeting longer than it took to start my car.

xXx

I missed my father the most when he was home. That logic was all backward, yes. I rarely thought about it during the months we spent talking on the phone across the country from one another. When he came to visit, it was then that I recalled how good it was to have him around. I missed the gleam of fatherly pride in his eyes. The way he hugged me as if every time I let him touch me was a gift. The sincere tone of his voice when he said he loved me.

Every time he got on a plane to return to New York, I almost went with him.

My fingers pressed to the frets and my cast-wrapped hand strumming across the strings, I played the same incomplete, disjointed bars of the song that had consumed me for weeks.

Carlisle used to watch me for an hour or more, standing in the doorway of the garage because he was afraid to interrupt my process. Though his entrance was always politely quiet, I would feel him there. And so I felt him watching me now.

"You can come in," I said. "I'm just messing around." I set the acoustic guitar aside and cleared off a chair for him. It was well past midnight. I'd left Bella asleep in her bed upstairs an hour ago.

"Actually," he replied as I turned to face him, "I was hoping my son would have a drink with me." My dad smiled, leaning against the doorway. "Perhaps a cigar."

"Doctor," I said, "I'm surprised at you."

"Little vices, Edward. They're good for the soul."

"You'll get no argument from me."

With a bottle of brandy—all this time I had never considered raiding his study for a secret stash—and two cigars, we retired to the back patio. The air was crisp, a slight breeze carrying the fragrant smoke away. We reclined in the matching Adirondack chairs.

"That one is new," my dad commented. He nodded at the reaper tattooed over my ribs.

"Yeah. Got it a few weeks ago. What do you think?" I raised my arm, leaning forward so he could examine the image in the glow cast from the security lights.

"It's…creative."

I laughed, resting back in the chair. "I figured as much."

"Bella drew it?"

"Of course," I answered.

"It is a very vivid image," he remarked. "Sam certainly does good work."

"Yeah," I agreed. "He's the best."

"Any new holes I should be aware of?" The corner of his mouth turned up in that way he had, trying not to appear too amused with his eccentric son.

"Nope. All accounted for since your last visit."

Telling my father about piercing my cock had been the most awkward part of the entire episode. I must have asked him a dozen times over the ensuing months if it would ever fully heal.

I blew a ring of smoke, watching the circle of opaque particles widen and dissipate as it traveled. The brandy burned my tongue and warmed my throat, the perfect compliment.

"Bella seems well," Carlisle said. "She's happy."

"She's glad you're home. It's been a tough week," I admitted. "Some days are better than others."

"I might have noticed a few new dents in the walls."

"There's that," I said. "But she's trying really hard. She'll get there."

"And you?"

"I believe in her. I know she can beat this thing. I'm just working to keep it together, you know? Be supportive."

"I have no doubts on either count," he replied.

That right there was perhaps the most significant of all the many reasons I loved my father; he had an unwavering faith in me, even if I didn't believe I deserved it. That sort of faith has a way of influencing a person. A man as good and honorable as Carlisle inspired me a to be a better person, if only because letting him down was such an unappealing prospect.

"I'm happy you've agreed to therapy," he remarked.

I exhaled. "Let's not make a thing of it," I replied. "It was a reasonable course of action, considering the circumstances."

"You made the right decision."

I knew my father would be pleased with the outcome of my disciplinary hearing. I also didn't want the attention associated with caving on this long-disputed point. Swallowing my pride in peace was preferable.

Carlisle puffed on his cigar, closing his eyes as his head tilted back. "I miss it here the most when I return," he said.

"I know exactly what you mean."

We sat in comfortable silence until our cigars were only stubs between our fingers and our glasses held more air than liquid. My headache, which had been a nearly constant annoyance lately, dissipated with the tension in my shoulders. I felt relaxed for the first time in a while. Quietly enjoying my father's company, appreciating the serenity of our remote property, was precisely what I needed.

"Is this a private party?" I looked over my shoulder to see Bella stepping out to the patio in those damn little shorts and my TOOL sweater. Bless that girl. "Menfolk doing men things and all that."

"Come here, sweetheart." I held the cigar between my teeth and grabbed her around the waist, dropping Punky in my lap. "See? The view just improved dramatically."

She rolled her eyes and smiled, embarrassed. "Your son is shameless," she said to Carlisle. "I don't know where he gets it." Bella yanked the cigar from my mouth and pressed a quick kiss to my lips before taking a drag.

"Never stop courting," he answered. "A little charm will earn a lot of forgiveness."

That was my new favorite discovery about her. Punky had always been shit at taking compliments—she used to punch me in the arm for saying she was pretty—but now a few sweet nothings had her blushing like the pope at a Boy Scout Jamboree. It did good things for my ego.

"You love it," I told her.

"You're only half as clever and a third as charming as you think you are," she replied. Punky gave me back the cigar then swiped my brandy glass.

"That's still twice as good as the next guy," I said.

Of course "forgiveness" had me remembering our discussion about make-up sex. A crass comment to the effect of "a big dick and a good fuck works twice as well," crossed my mind, but I thought better of voicing that in front of my father. Bella gave me a look. Either because she felt me pop half wood under her ass or she was just a fucking mind reader.

"Well," my father not so subtly announced. "I should get to bed."

"Goodnight, dad."

"Night, Carlisle."

He patted my shoulder as he passed, bending down to press a kiss to the top of Bella's head. "Goodnight," he answered. "See you in the morning. And happy birthday." Carlisle stepped inside and closed the door behind him.

"That's right," I remarked. "It's after midnight." I set the cigar aside and took the glass from Bella's hand. Taking her cheek in my palm, I brought her lips to mine. "Happy birthday, Punky." She tasted like cigar and brandy, and it was hottest fucking flavor on her tongue.

"What'd you get me?" she asked. Bella draped her arms over my shoulders, her eyes bright and expectant.

"Not telling. You'll have to wait." I cradled her to my chest, running my hand up and down her bare leg.

"It's officially my birthday," she argued. "I want my present now."

"Too bad."

"Edward."

"Bella."

"I want it now," she repeated with a bit more demand in her tone.

"Say it again," I teased.

"I want it."

"Oh yeah?"

"Yeah, baby. I want it so bad. Give it to me now." Bella put on her best porn-voice impression, cracking me up.

"You naughty little thing." I squeezed her ass. "You know I can't resist when you beg."

"So I can have my gift?" Her smile brightened with her excited expression.

"No," I answered. "But I'll give you a ride on cock."

She smacked the side of my head, pouting. "You suck."

"I'll suck, lick, bite … whatever you want, sweetheart." I pulled her closer. Bella swerved when I went for her lips, so I attacked her neck instead.

"A little hint?" she begged.

"You'll have to wait and see." I kissed along the underside of her jaw and down the little blue vein while my left hand moved inside the front of her sweater to capture a handful of her breast. "This isn't the liquor talking," I said, "and I'm not just flattering you because I'd like to get inside you in the immediate future." I brushed my thumb over her nipple, feeling it constrict under my touch. "But you have my very favorite set of tits in the world, Punky. Museum-quality."

She jerked away. "Did you really just say that?"

"Goddamn right, I did." I hoisted her up and sat her astride my hips. "They're enough to make David sport a hard-on and smack that cocky smirk off Mona Lisa's dull mug."

"How do you do that?" she asked with a sweet smile. My smile.

"Do what?"

"Be so perfect all the time. You're not living up to your reputation as an insufferable prick."

"I am that," I admitted. "And I'm not perfect." I urged her lips to mine again, kissing her softly. "I only need to be perfect for you."

"Shut up and screw me," she laughed, nipping my lip. "You've earned it." I gripped the underside of both thighs, sitting forward to lift us up. "No," she said. "Here."

I sat back, appraising her. "Here. Really?"

"Hmm-mmm." Bella kissed my jaw and traced her fingers over my shoulders. "I like it out here."

"Carlisle," I warned.

"I seriously doubt your dad is going to come looking for us," she answered.

"Can you keep your voice down?" I pinched her nipple. She yelped and the sound turned to a deep moan when I tugged on it. "That's a no." Bella was a loud lover. A fact I rather enjoyed, but my father didn't need the soundtrack. We were much closer to his bedroom out here than upstairs in one of our rooms. Although, the way sound traveled through the house, it might not matter where we were.

"I'll be good," she whispered. Bella sat back on my lap, dipping her head to flick her tongue over one of my nipples, teasing the piercing. She looked up from under lashes. My cock jerked. "Promise."

"You'll do no such thing." I tugged the sweater over her head and pulled her forward. She arched her back, shoving her tit in my mouth.

Bella writhed in my lap, grinding her hot cunt over my erection. With my right hand around her hips, I encouraged her movements. Teeth scraped the tight peak of her nipple. Her hands went to my hair, tugging and holding me there. I tended to the other breast, flicking my tongue piercing across the sensitive tip.

"Damn it, Edward."

Her hands dropped to my jeans. Impatiently, she ripped at the buttons until each one popped open. Punky's greedy fingers found my dick and pulled it free. I thrust into her hand then pushed Bella back until her feet met the floor.

"Off," I said as I snapped the elastic band of her shorts with one finger. With my left hand, I stroked my cock, appreciating the view of her pale and wonderful, half-naked in front of me.

She dropped to her knees. Oh sweet goddess of blowjobs. Bella positioned herself between my spread legs with her discarded sweater cushioning her against the wood floor. I let her tug my jeans down around my hips enough to gain unfettered access to what she wanted. Bella took hold of my dick.

"I'm not just saying this because I love you and I expect you to make me come so hard it hurts," she began. My cock twitched in her little fist. And if I had five favorite things in the world, one of them had to be the way her thumb couldn't meet her fingertips around my girth. "But you have the prettiest cock, Edward. Museum-quality."

I laughed, bowing my head. "Sweetheart, you're really something else."

"You don't know the half of it."

Bella licked over the head, swiping her tongue along the slit, and I collapsed back in the chair. My hands gripped each armrest. I engaged in a brief conversation with myself, reminding the hungrier, less civilized side not to grab the back of her head and fuck her throat. But shit, my girl really gave great head. Her tongue toyed with my piercing. Warm lips worked me over.

"Fucking Christ," I hissed as Bella pumped my cock while sucking on my nuts. She licked her way up the vein on the underside of my shaft before swallowing me whole. Forget civility.

"Look at me," I demanded. With her mouth full, Bella's eyes met mine. I wrapped my hand in her hair. "Nice and slow," I instructed. "Take all of me and keep your eyes up here."

She did as I said, sucking hard and massaging me with her tongue, slowly sliding up and down my dick. I pulled her hand off my shaft and placed it on my thigh to match the other one. Her head bobbed over my crotch, dark eyes fixed to mine. Her mouth felt fucking amazing, which was made all the more satisfying by her submissive posture.

Bella backed off to catch her breath. My dick fell from her lips. I traded my right hand into her hair, taking my cock in my left.

"You're gorgeous," I told her, and not just because she was a woman on her knees between my legs.

"I know what you want," she said.

"You."

"What you want from me," Bella answered.

"Everything."

Bella slid her arms behind her back. "Tell me you love me."

"Painfully," I confirmed. "Completely. I love you."

"Then I'm yours," she said. "I'm not embarrassed."

I moved my broken hand to run my fingertips across her cheek and along her jaw. Bella leaned into my touch, briefly closing her eyes. I cupped the side of her neck and encouraged her closer. Fisting my cock in my left hand, I slid the head across her parted lips. She maintained eye contact as I rubbed my shaft against the side of her face then back to her mouth, lightly tapping the head to her bottom lip a few times.

"Eyes on me," I reminded her again. "And you'll stop me if it's too much."

Bella nodded once. Her lips parted wider to accept my cock as I fed it to her. Slow and shallow at first, I held the back of her head to control her movements. After a moment, I brought her mouth farther down on me with every pass. Soon enough, I was hitting the back of her throat, fucking her mouth in deliberate strokes. Holding her face to my pelvis, Bella swallowed around my piece. Her throat constricted and pulsed around me, tugging on the head. I pulled her off, letting her breath.

"Shit, Bella." Any more of that and I'd come. "You feel so good, sweetheart."

I really wanted to come in her mouth. For that matter, I wanted to shoot a load all over those perfect tits and watch the thick semen slide down her flawless skin. But I only had the will to make it through one panic attack a night. For that reason, I hauled her from the floor and yanked down her shorts.

"Come here," I said while tugging her to straddle me. "Take what you need. I can hold out until you get there." At that I had plenty of practice.

Bella grabbed the back of my neck with one hand, the other fisting my cock to guide me in. I groaned and pressed my forehead to hers as she sank down, my dick prying open her tight channel. Punky was my second skin. Her pussy wrapped around my shaft, her body pressed to mine; she was my warm security blanket and suit of armor.

"Touch me," she whispered.

I complied at once. Cradling her ass in my lap with my broken hand, I moved my left between us to rub circles over her clit. Seated fully on top, Bella began to work her hips back and forth. She didn't lift up one inch, just sliding her ass across my thighs with me burrowed deep insider her warm, soft cunt, nudging and massaging her cervix.

"Edward," she whispered. "Fuck."

I found her lips, kissing her hard. I love you, they said. I worship you. You fucking own me and please don't ever take this away from me.

Bella began to bounce in my lap. I chased her lips, refusing to lose the taste of her on my tongue, the soft caress of her mouth. Gentle plunges evolved into hurried descents, her cunt dropping on my cock like an elevator snapped from its cables. Or rather, I suppose that was the other way around. Fuck it; she was incredible. Perfect.

"More," she whimpered. "I'm so close."

I grabbed her hips and held her over me, pumping into her with lustful determination. Bella's forehead fell to my shoulder and she held on. Muffled noises of anticipation were concealed behind her clenched teeth and clasped lips. I bucked harder, faster, impaling her to the hilt on every stroke. The sound of skin smacking intensified, but she still wasn't quite there.

"Hang on to me," I said.

Bella's arms closed around my neck. Hoisting us up from the chair, I took two strides and pressed her back against a pillar. Bracing her there, I swept both her legs over my arms so the underside of her knees were cradled in the bend of my elbows. With more freedom to move in this position, I slammed into her. I fucked her like the depraved animal I felt.

"This is what you make me," I grunted, stabbing her cunt quick and sharp. "This is how much I need you."

Again and again our bodies collided in a speedy rhythm. Her muscles tensed. I felt her snug hole clench around my cock. "That's it, sweetheart. Come for me. Come on fucking dick."

A tiny scream burst from her lips as I felt a hot rush of wetness soak me. The sound lasted only a split second before her teeth clamped down on my shoulder, silencing her announcement of completion. The sharp sting of pain shocked my system. I came hard, spilling inside her.

Bracing my body against Bella, her back to the pillar, I panted in exhaustion. Every muscle tingled and shook. I was barely fucking standing, so I backed up and took her with me as I fell in the chair.

"Fucking hell," I whispered. "Punky?" My hand combed through her hair. "You can let go now."

Her teeth retreated from the impression they left in my shoulder. Bella laughed a little. "Sorry."

"Don't be." I stroked my fingers up and down her spine. My dick twitched inside her. "That was fucking spectacular."

She nuzzled against my neck and ran her nose along the sweaty column, her lips leaving kisses along my throat. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah," I answered. And then I opened my eyes to the black spots still littering my vision. "Actually," I amended. "Yeah. Really okay."

Bella looked up. So fucking beautiful with her cheeks flushed red, her eyes sleepy, and her hair a wild mess. "You didn't have an attack."

"No."

"That's good." Her lips turned up and stopped before they revealed a full smile. As if she was reluctant to celebrate this fact. "Why not?"

"No idea," I replied. "And I'm not going to linger on the thought." I swiped my thumb over her bottom lip. "Maybe we'll just have to make love standing up from now on."

She laughed, burrowing her face against my neck. "Now I know why they call it 'the little death,'" she said. "I feel like I just got punched in the uterus."

My head fell back and I laughed with a full voice. "Goddamn, Punky. Such romance. Such poetry."

"Fuck off," she replied. "That thing needs a warning label."

"I'll do it," I told her. "I'll get a surgeon general's warning tattooed on my cock."

"Will you stop it with that?" Bella sat up, grabbing my jaw. "I like your dick just the way it is. No more ink or hardware on that part. Okay?"

"Whatever you say, sweetheart. He is your humble servant." Bella rolled her eyes. "But I am considering a tracking system of some sort," I went on. "Like tick marks. Maybe just right here above my groin," I said while looking down between us.

"For what?" she asked, eyes narrowed.

"Every time I make you gush."

"On that note…" Bella raised herself from me. A rush of hot wetness washed down my cock. Punky stopped, staring at my lap. Then she was up and grabbing the sweater from the floor. "You're never getting laid again."

She tugged my sweater over her head and then bent to grab her shorts. I caught her hand, pulling her over beside me. She wouldn't look me in the eyes. "Punky," I said in a serious tone, "don't you dare. Every time we make love is the happiest moment of my whole damn life. There is nothing embarrassing between us. Remember?"

She smiled and bent to kiss me. "I'm not embarrassed," she said. "I was just in a hurry to go carve another notch in my belt." She bit her lip, rather pleased with herself.

"Run along, then." I smacked her ass as she scampered off.

Two. Not yet a trend, but more than a fluke.