Disclaimer: The usual. S. Meyer's owns all.

AN: Sorry for the delay, I just lost my power panties for a bit and needed to get over all the intimidation. I seem to update on holidays or insane weather patterns. Yikes. That being said, Happy 4th of July (if you live in America).

Re-posted and edited by the darling DJ! Another update in the works so the next update will be a brand new chapter!

"Happily ever after doesn't begin with Once upon a time: it begins with Now." - The Frog Prince

Chapter 8

The Frog Prince

He looks incredible behind that wheel. It's a damn shame I can't enjoy this fine piece of machinery—a first. God, he's so distracting.

Bella took a deep breath and closed her eyes, hoping to regain her composure in the small, confined car. Absentmindedly she caught the slight nod of her head, wholeheartedly agreeing with her thoughts for once.

When his mouth wasn't spewing out asinine assumptions—challenging her every word—he did look incredible. He was always impeccably dressed and very well spoken, which just added to the mystery that was her present company.

He's one hot enigma.

She was now coming to realize the telltale signs in the way her body reacted when she was in his presence, an immediate and unprecedented cause for alarm. Her breathing would hitch and her heart rate would increase. Her skin would erupt in goose bumps and her flesh would instantly warm up. Bella would bet the bank that her heated reaction to being stuck in that elevator had nothing to do with her claustrophobia.

It was him—he set her off, and he was doing it right now, possibly unknowingly.

"I have to drop something off for my aunt. Would you mind a quick detour on the way back to the hotel?" he asked, glancing at her.

She cleared her throat and looked down, twiddling her fingers in her lap. "Not at all. And thank you for the ride." She added a small smile to her appreciative words.

"You're very welcome." He nodded with a slightly lopsided smile of his own that lifted the left corner of his mouth.

Bella wasn't shy, not in the least. She was the embodiment of fire, spirit, and passion, and she could go head to head with the best of them. It was just one of the many reasons her father had figured she'd follow in his footsteps and pursue a career in law just as her brother had. Yet here she sat, feeling completely out of character—silent.

Another first.

A rich chuckle to her right pulled her out of her mental debate. It also raised the hair on her arms, and she blushed as she took notice of the goose bumps that puckered along her arm, the hairs raising as if an unseen static current were directing them haphazardly.

Oh my—

"Something amusing?" she asked, a playful glint in her eye as she arched a single brow. Her top teeth latched onto her bottom lip, an old, nervous habit she thought she'd kicked years ago. Chapped and chewed skin was not appealing in the slightest, and she was often scolded for it. A smirk was his only response.

She turned on the radio; anything to break the silence.

Sex on Fire. Interesting taste in music.

"You," Edward finally replied.

"Me?" she asked, confused, twisting in her seat to face him as much as her seatbelt would allow.

"You," he repeated, chuckling as her face became heated. It was a deep, rich, and sexy sound.

Is your "Sex on Fire" yet? Because mine—

Bella quickly reached over and turned the radio off, and inwardly cringed at her mental verbal vomit.

Slightly swooning—which was another first—Bella took a second to admire how carefree he looked. Opening up her mouth to keep their banter going, Bella quickly found herself at a loss for a witty comeback. It went against that ingrained personality trait—flaw—that she was known for. She closed her eyes, sighed, and shook her head.

"Are you incapable of small talk when you're not chewing someone out?" He laughed when he noticed her scowling at him. "Come now, out with it. I'll even let you start."

Why, you insanely beautiful, humorous, infuriating, cheeky bastard!

Huffing, Bella stole her eyes away from the car's infuriating interior and looked out the window. Everything was going by entirely too fast. Much, much too fast. Started out of her inner daze, she gasped and fisted her seatbelt restraint, pushing herself back into the leather seat.

We're going to crash because of Need For Speed over here!

"You lost me about five blocks away," she stammered out between heaving breaths.

He's deliberately trying to rile you up! First the elevator, and now the car ride to hell?


"Can you please slow down!" she screeched, cutting him off mid rant. "You're going to get us killed with the way you're driving!"

Edward grinned and turned his face to look at her. "No, I'm—"

"Pay attention!" she shouted, throwing both her arms towards the front of the windshield. "Just slow the fuck down."

"Language, Isabella," he scolded in a forceful tone.

Reducing his speed a bit, Edward turned his head to look at her once more as they approached a traffic light. Lowering his sunglasses, intense green eyes challenged her to argue with his serious demeanor that only accentuated his sharp, strong jaw line. "I would never let anything happen to you," he assured her between clenched teeth.

What the fu—oh! Language, we know! Might I add that the use of my full name has never sounded so sinfully delicious?

"How would I know—" her voice lowering an octave, embarrassed by her mental train of thought, although she found herself agreeing more so than not as of late.

"I apologize," he interrupted. "I shouldn't have raised my voice."

"Well, that's—"

"And you are, in this single occurrence, absolutely right. You do not know anything about me," he replied cutting her off mid-rant. Shaking his head as if to clear his mind, he continued in a softer tone, "The one thing that I can assure you is that you are perfectly safe with me, Isabella."

"Bella," she corrected.

"Bella," he said softly.

"Don't you have speed limits over here?" she inquired in a shaky voice that betrayed her nerves.

"Yes." Edward tried to hold back a grin at her flustered state, his eyes dancing with amusement. He cleared his throat and pushed his Ray-Bans back up the bridge of his nose. "Moving along, shall we?" He playfully gestured to the road ahead of them as the traffic light turned green.

He's going to give us whiplash.

Bella cleared her throat. "Moving along, then."

"As I am always a gentlemen, although I am sure you would have your arguments to contradict me on this, I'll let you start with the questions first," he said, driving at a less hair-raising speed, for which she was grateful.

"What kind of questions?"

"How about we start with the obvious?" he asked, arching a brow.

"And what would that be?" she shot back, imitating his eyebrow quirk and making him laugh. It was a tense, strained sound that did nothing to simmer down her frazzled nerves.

"You have a quick tongue and a snarky way with your words when you want to. It goes against much of what I have already been privy to."

"In my defense, in most recent cases it has been warranted, encouraged even. If we're being all honest and shit," she spat.

"Language," he grumbled from his seat. "I'm sure you have just as many questions and I feel as though I have had the upper hand, having heard so much about you already—all which have been contradicted as of late," he added under his breath.

"You seem to have me at an advantage. Although why your source managed to have left out tongue lashings is beyond me."

"I know it must be killing you," he cut her off with a devilishly saccharine smile.

More than I care to admit. Touché!

Bella smiled and eased up a bit, immensely pleased with the sudden return of her wit and unable to stop her sarcastic train of thought before it passed through her lips. "I've got you pegged now." She smirked triumphantly. "You must be a comedian. A bit of car thievery on the side. Ripping off unsuspecting tourists just for the fuck of it when you get bored with the usual heist," she stuttered helplessly, unable to stop herself.

And there it goes again…

"Oh God, that didn't come out right at all." Bella shuddered, sinking down in to the plush leather seat as the car suddenly filled with riotous laugher.

"If you're inquiring as to whether or not I have stolen this car—like my fresh suit, you will be sorely disappointed." He smirked lightly, throwing her words from their recent elevator tryst back at her. "I have not now, nor have I ever, for that matter, participated in any illegal activities that would result in jail time. Grand theft auto included." Edward laughed at her flummoxed state, taking note of the reddening of her cheeks. "If you would like, I can have a copy of my credit card statement along with my dry cleaning bill sent to your hotel if you require further proof. My hands are completely clean." He brushed off an imaginary piece of lint from the lapel of his designer suit.

You could have saved yourself heaps of embarrassment if you had only asked. A simple "what is your occupation, Edward?" would have sufficed.

"Let's go over some of the basics, shall we?" he prompted. "That is usually how conversations start, after all." He gave her an encouraging nod as she looked over at him, continuing to blush profusely.

Bella groaned and leaned forward, burying her head into her opened palms as he continued to laugh at her obvious humiliation. How she managed to constantly reduce herself to a blubbering, classless, illiterate mess around this group, she'd never know. She rubbed her hands down her face and leaned forward to grab her bag from the floor, overcome with an overwhelming need to occupy herself with something.

"Fine then. Let's start off with your questionable occupation." She reached her hand under her purse to pick it up when she felt a painful sting. "Ouch." She flinched, quickly withdrawing her hand and shoving her finger into her mouth. The metallic, salty taste of blood immediately pooled on the center of her tongue.

That hurt like a bi—

"Are you okay?" he asked, turning to look at her in surprise from her recent outburst.

"Paper cut," she garbled out around the intrusion in her mouth.

"Those are the worst," he said with a wince.

Hmm, perhaps he works in an office. It would explain his sympathetic reaction, knowing firsthand how much these little bastards sting! With the heavy price tag on this car, we should be thinking along the lines of a high paying job. Lawyer, perhaps? He seems to own quite a few flashy suits.

"Are you a lawyer, Edward?"

"I have studied law, but no, I am most certainly not a lawyer." He grimaced as though the prospect of being a lawyer was distasteful to him.

Bending down, Bella went to retrieve the offending material that peeked out from under her bag, a tiny bit of blood from her cut staining the edge. Catching the bold-printed headline of the National Enquirer, her eyes widened, a shocked gasp escaping her parted lips.

"What are you—"

"Are you serious?" she shrieked, whipping the magazine up in front of her, turning in her seat to face him.

"Shit," he mumbled, quickly reaching for the magazine.

"Language," Bella chided, mocking him with a shit-eating grin.

"Give me that," he ordered, fighting her with one hand as the other remained on the wheel.

"What are you doing?" She pulled back the magazine towards her. "Two hands on the wheel, Perez Hilton." She laughed and lost her grip, watching the magazine sail into the back seat and land on the floor face down.

"Now look what you've done." She pouted around her injured finger; she'd shoved it back into her mouth.

Silence filled the car and she noticed Edward's hands clench and unclench around the steering wheel. It was just what Bella needed to push her over the edge.

Good Lord, here we go again…

Throwing back her head, she began to laugh like a maniac, completely helpless to stop herself as she squeezed her eyes shut and threw a hand over her mouth, her body wracking with the muffled sound. Peeking through small slits in her eyes, Bella took notice of Edward's demeanor. His neck was strained, a heavy pulse pounding away under the collar of his shirt.

Oh my…

Edward sighed and shook his head when she began to quiet down from her fit, a smile still playing at the corners of her mouth.

"There you have it, I guess," he said in a strained voice as his eyes narrowed on the road ahead of him.

"Looks like I hit the mother lode." She snickered sweetly, watching the frown lines deepen on his forehead.

"I have to say that I'm a bit shocked at your reaction. I never would have thought—" he started but was abruptly cut off by another round of laughs.

"I certainly wouldn't have pegged you for—"

"That is because you assumed—"

"I just never took you for the type." She cackled with glee at having caught him. "Is that your dirty little secret, Edward?" She looked up in time to catch his shocked expression—eyes wide, mouth agape. It reduced her to another round of uncontrollable giggles, and this time she made no attempt to silence herself.

Catching her breath and drying her eyes a few minutes later, she heaved a sigh and patted his hand atop the gear shift. Her action was sincere and sudden, taking her off guard and sending a shockwave through her system. His hand was warm, smooth, and felt perfect. Blinking rapidly, she pulled her hand away and folded them into her lap.

"It's okay, Edward," she said. "Your secret is safe with me."

"It isn't much of a secret Bella," he admitted, sounding extremely vulnerable. A sudden urge to hug him bit at her heart as she looked at his forlorn expression, halting herself from tossing anymore teasing comments in his direction.

Why so glum? It's just a trashy mag. You've read worse!


"We're here," he said solemnly, pulling up in front of a stylish townhouse and shifting the car into park.

He's overreacting. So what that you found out that he reads trashy tabloids? Everyone does these days!

Edward leaned forward across the console to open the glove box in front of her and retrieve a yellow manila envelope. His scent was even more overwhelming in such close proximity and she found herself taking in a lungful, relishing in it. Opening the door and stepping out, he sighed and pushed his fingers through his hair. "I'll just be a moment; please wait here."

Bella took in her surroundings, noticing a large iron gate that bordered the perimeter of the townhouse. Two large, intimidating men stood outside with their arms crossed over their chests.

Bodyguards, most likely.

He obviously comes from money.

Lots of it. You're sitting in a Maserati, for Christ's sake!

The look of relief on his face when she openly voiced her suspicion that he was a lawyer and a snide remark about definitely not being one helped quickly dispel that thought.

Unless he can talk his way out of many speeding tickets, I'd doubt he's a law abiding—

"Holy shit," she gasped, cutting off her train of thought.


"Edwards in the mob!" Bella turned her head once more to take in her whereabouts, her eyes lingering on the outline of what she assumed to have been gun holsters under the jackets of the men that stood guard. "Holy hell," she mumbled in a voice that she hadn't recognized as her own.

I'll say it for you this time. OH FUCK!

AN: Getting back on track. Another update to follow within the week. I'd love to hear your thoughts but to be honest, as the saying goes, "If you don't have anything nice to say—" I'll take constructive criticism but that is about it and I will not elaborate any further. Some readers should stop over looking the fact that it takes guts to put your work out here (try it before you open your mouth) and most importantly, it's a free read.