A/N: Merry Christmas to everyone! You all wanted this chapter earlier than later... lol I'm shocked! ;-)
Thank you so much for your comments and interest in my story. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday!
I'm aware that I've been in a real sorry state the last twelve days. I just haven't been able to get past the fact that decisions I've made have affected Bella's life and family in such a negative way. For the first time, I missed having Wednesday lunch with my own family. I don't know if I could have faced my parents even if Bella and I weren't in hiding. We haven't talked since before Catie's video hit the Internet and the uncertainty of where I stand in their eyes is unsettling. That relationship is just one more to add to my list of relationships that need mending.
Bella misses me, I know that. And I miss her in a way I hoped I would never have to feel. We are together physically, that is, living under the same roof, but emotionally we couldn't be further apart. Bella is restless, her privacy and pride shattered. But she is stronger than me; wanting to face the local media head on. I'm not sure how much longer I can convince her to keep silent.
Bella feels as though we have nothing to lose. Our bodies have been thoroughly exposed and along with them our souls. Charlie knows everything about our Dom/sub proclivities and that means Bella has no reason left to hide. We both want this madness to end, but I disagree that speaking publically will have anything but negative consequences at this point. The reporters at Channel 3, the only other news station serving the Port Angeles community, have had a field day the past week and a half at my expense. They love the fact that I'm off the air and will continue to dig up any little detail into my past to keep my story in the news, and subsequently preventing me from returning to work.
It seems my history at Coming Attractions has come back to bite us both in the ass. Looking back, as I've been forced to do every minute of the last twelve days, I see that it has been quite an extensive history. I want to tell Bella the whole truth of my past. I've never lied to her when we've talked about our lives prior to finding one another or my experiences as a Dom, but this scandal has brought to light many events from my early years that she still doesn't know about. Or at least she didn't until now.
For one thing, I still have not told her how many women I've slept with. Can I even use the phrase 'slept with' when there was no sleeping involved, and sometimes not even a bed? I don't want to hide from her any more than I want to continue hiding in Charlie's house.
Recalling the first time Bella asked what my magic number was makes me smile. She and I spoke to each other the night after our first scene together. Her beautiful face flushed that deep pink color I've come to expect every time she's embarrassed, and somehow I got out of answering her probing question. Knowing that Bella's number is a rather conservative four, including me, I fear what she will think of mine. But I need to purge myself of secrets; clean out the kinky skeletons in my closet, because I still fully intend to marry her and she deserves to know the real me before I ask her to be my wife.
I know that now is not the time to ask her, our lives are still fucked up and we're both trying to deal with the fallout of being publically ridiculed. Plus, Charlie pretty much despises me right now. But I received an important call this morning from my station manager that I hope means the tides are beginning to turn. I'm not holding my breath that this entire nightmare is behind us just yet, but I'm optimistic. It's time to stop wallowing and get myself back on track.
As for my Charlie dilemma, I want his blessing to marry Bella so he is first on my list of people to win over. He said he thought I was good enough for his daughter once upon a time and I'm determined to make him see me that way again.
My plan is to ambush his fishing trip today. It feels like a suicide mission. He's out by the lake, a place he has been going almost every day to avoid me, and Bella, and the news on TV. I have a fishing pole in one hand and a six pack of Rainier in the other as I step out of the woods and find him sitting alone on the water's edge.
"Charlie?" I say with trepidation in my voice.
He's clearly startled to see someone else out here, and even more so that it's me.
"What are you doing?" he asks. His eyes shift to my fishing gear and his expression turns to irritation.
"I hoped we could talk, you know, man to man."
He doesn't respond for a long time. He seems to be pondering whether to grant my request or maybe shoot me out here where there are no witnesses. At least five minutes pass before he says, "Sit down and give me one of those damn beers."
I hand him the whole six pack and take a seat a few feet away. He drinks the beer while I bait my line and cast the reel out into the middle of the lake.
"I need to talk to you about Bella, Charlie," I say calmly.
"I don't want to know any more," he replies clearly still irritated by my desire to talk.
"You should hear the other side of the story, the part the news isn't telling you."
"And what other side would that be?"
I launch into my story before he has a chance to object. "I'd been performing at the club six years when Bella volunteered to sub for me. It's true we met on stage, with the intentions of having a purely sexual relationship…"
Charlie winces as if in pain. "She was infatuated with you, watching you on the news every night. Don't tell me you didn't take advantage of her crush on you."
"No, I didn't," I reply firmly. "Bella and I share something that most other people don't understand. And we both thought we had to make a choice because of it, that we couldn't follow our natural inclinations for BDSM and also be a partner in a loving conventional relationship. We'd both given up on the latter, having determined that our sexual desires were too strong to ignore."
Charlie scoffs at my explanation but I don't dwell on it. I knew going in he wouldn't understand his daughters need to submit. I don't hesitate long enough for him to interject any comment.
"I wasn't expecting to fall in love with Bella, and it scared the shit out of me when I realized I couldn't stop it from happening. What she and I have, it's not normal and I know that, but it works for us. Bella saved me from a lonely meaningless life. I like to think I saved her too, because we were both going along thinking we'd never find a lover who wanted a little of both worlds. It's hard enough to find your soul mate out there, without adding another layer of complexity to the mix, am I right?"
Charlie finally looks at me with an expression that's less than disgusted, which is more than I hoped for. I know from what Bella's told me that after her mother left Charlie he was alone for a long time. He never dated as she grew up, and Bella's never seen him with a woman until only recently. He should be able to relate to how rare it is to find love, if nothing else.
Charlie thinks for a minute or so and then sighs. "When I first saw that video, and realized what it was you two were doing, I really wanted to kill you. The whole ride to Port Angeles I thought about beating your ass so hard you couldn't walk. Then Bella told me how she started doing that… stuff in college. So I realized you couldn't be responsible for filling her head with all that nonsense."
I'm not offended by his calling our D/s relationship "nonsense." It's been called much worse, especially over the past two weeks. Something else he said bothers me more. "But I am responsible for the pain she's in now. It's my fault Bella's lost clients, been humiliated in the press, and lost her connection with you."
Charlie huffs. "She hasn't lost me," he counters.
"She feels like she has," I say quietly. "Do you think you could ever accept our relationship?"
I sound confident but really I'm scared as shit. "It's sex Charlie. Me… having sex with your daughter. In what capacity could I do that with her that wouldn't make you uncomfortable? Every little girl grows up, gets married, and has sex with her husband. I don't think any father wants to think about his daughter in that way, but it's just part of life."
"It would be a hell of a lot easier to tolerate if you weren't hitting her."
"It's for pleasure, Charlie. I've never hit her to cause real pain or to punish her. I admit that there are Doms out there who do, but that's not my style. I've never left a bruise or a welt on her and I never will. You have my word. Everything I do is to please her. In and out of the playroom, Bella has me completely wrapped around her little finger. I'd do anything for her."
Charlie's face relaxes slightly. He was obviously still worried about how far I took my role as Dominant with his daughter. I'd like to tell him more, try to make him see how what I do to Bella is an expression of my love, but I think he's about hit his tolerance level.
"You're right that submission is something Bella found without me. And she'll continue to do it with someone, even if it's not me. But I hope you'll give me your blessing today because I want to be the one to ask her… to be with me forever."
Charlie's brows furrow and he looks at me. "How do you think this relationship you two have could possibly work? I know you say it does now, but what about in a few years? When you have children? How do you expect to continue this… this performing, as you call it?"
I shrug. "I haven't figured that all out yet. But I know it will work because it has to. I can't live without Bella." I choose not to mention that Bella is the one who would have complaints about kids getting in the way of playtime. Definitely not something he needs to hear.
He groans under his breath and recasts his line. I wait patiently for him to say something. Anything.
"When Bella was ten Jacob's father and I took the two of them camping on the reservation. We slept in tents, had a bonfire, and told scary ghost stories. Bella and Jake had the time of their lives out there. They were pulling sea urchins out of the tide pools on the second day when a wave came in bigger and faster than Bella expected and she fell in. She had seaweed in her hair and cuts on the palms of her hands but was otherwise unscathed."
Charlie chuckles at his memory of a young and apparently already clumsy Bella. I laugh too, trying to picture it. It feels like a very long time since I've laughed out loud. The sound of it surprises me.
"Anyway, Jake screams and throws off his t-shirt before diving in after her. She was only in two feet of water but Jake's always been overly protective of her; caring for her like a big brother, even when they were dating. He couldn't lift her from the water because they were both laughing so hard. For a long time Billy and I were sure they would end up falling in love and get married. I suppose that just wasn't meant to be."
Charlie looks out over the water, nostalgic from his storytelling and I wonder what point he's trying to make. I realize he will always consider Jacob Black his son but does he really still hope Bella and Jacob will reunite? Even I am not insecure enough to fear that happening. Bella's made it clear time and time again how she doesn't have romantic feelings for Jacob. And while I sometimes think Jacob might have residual feeling for Bella, he's not on board with her submissive tendencies, which he knows makes them sexually incompatible.
"What I'm trying to say," Charlie interjects, "is if you can make my Bella as happy as she was that day at the beach, then you have my blessing."
A huge smile breaks out across my face and I am overcome by relief. I know I have a long way to go in proving myself to Charlie, but completely earning back his trust will take time. It means the world to me that he is willing to let me try and make his daughter happy, even with his reservations about our relationship.
"But if you ever make me regret it I'll put out an APB on your ass and you'll be sorry you ever asked me. Understand?"
"Yes, Sir. I promise you I'll spend the rest of my life making her feel safe, happy, and cherished."
Charlie nods and turns his attention back to his fishing pole. I can see that our talk is over as far as he's concerned. That is fine by me; it's been a hectic and nerve wracking hour. Asking a woman's father permission for her hand in marriage is not something I ever want to have to do again. And I don't plan on ever doing it more than this once.
With Charlie's blessing in my back pocket I head back to the house to find Bella. I'm suddenly a man on a mission, after having spent the better part of two weeks walking around like a zombie. But talking to Charlie feels like the easier hurdle now that I'm faced with the task of coming clean to Bella. I may have overestimated my confidence.
When I return I find Bella upstairs folding laundry. She immediately starts questioning me.
"Edward, what's gotten into you?" she asks warily. I can't blame her for worrying. She knows me well enough to see I'm preoccupied by something. "You left the house this morning for the first time since we've been here and you didn't even tell me you were going out. Where were you?"
"I had to speak with Charlie. Come," I answer and turn towards her bedroom. She follows me inside and I shut the door behind us. Bella folds her arms over her chest and looks at me inquisitively.
"I'm ready to go home," I announce. No point in beating around the bush. She stares at me wide-eyed, completely dumbfounded.
"Gary called me early this morning. He wanted me to know the first official ratings numbers have come in since our story broke."
Bella looks at me in confusion. "And?"
"Viewers hate Kevin," I say cheekily. That part of my boss's call was not surprising to me. The guest anchor has been doing a wretched job in my absence. "Gary said that while the viewers' initial reaction to the video was outrage and shock, the scandal has made me more likeable among 18-35 year old women. Apparently the social media sites are overloaded with support for my return."
I'm smiling now and I can't help it.
"Really? People aren't still mad? We ran out of that city disgraced, Edward," Bella replies.
"I know. But Gary said once the dust settled and it became clear that I'd been forced off the air women from all over began calling the station demanding my return. Isn't that great?"
"Just women?" she asks skeptically.
"Well, probably not entirely women. But yeah, for the most part. At least that's how Gary made it sound."
Bella makes a displeased face. "So now that you're this secretly kinky anchorman you have a more dedicated female following? It sounds like I won't be the only one masturbating during your broadcasts anymore."
I laugh out loud. "That's what you're worried about? Honey, Gary asked me to come back to work. I don't care if it's because the women of Port Angeles decided they like my kinky side or just because they can't stand Kevin. Either way it means we can go home."
She thinks about what I've said for a minute and then her face breaks into a smile. "You think it's safe to go back? I mean, you're really ready to face PA again?"
I nod, just grinning at her like a fool in love. I want to lift her up and wrap her legs around my waist. And then smother her face with kisses and pin her body between mine and the wall… Ow, boner. How long has it been since we had sex? Shit, I've been really out of sorts lately.
"That's so wonderful! When do you start?" she interrupts my inner musings.
"Monday." Now for the awkward part. "But Bella, honey, before we put this entire horrific time behind us I feel the need to purge myself of some secrets I've kept from you. Or, rather tell you about a time in my life I've always been vague on. The news reported some pretty terrible stuff about me and I want to explain myself to you."
"Edward, you don't owe me any explanations," she says shaking her head.
"I'll feel better if you know everything," I reply sitting on the edge of the bed. Bella moves to sit down facing me, providing her full attention.
"I've just been thinking about the way things went down with Charlie. Anything unpleasant you might not know about me, I want to be the one to explain it to you, you know? On my terms," I hedge.
"Then out with it, Edward," she encourages with a relaxed smile and a roll of her eyes.
"Okay. So the reporters claimed that I've had over one hundred sexual partners. While that figure is totally exaggerated, I've always avoided telling you the truth about my conquests. Some of them I'm not exactly proud of."
"Like that young girl who'd been a virgin?" she asks hesitantly.
"I don't know how to feel about that girl. Paige was her name. I didn't think of it as taking advantage of her at the time. She was hardly innocent in a lot of other ways and was very clear about what she was asking of me. Maybe I feel guilty, because I did enjoy taking her innocence in front of a crowd of people. Paige knew at nineteen she was submissive, and I hear she's still in a committed D/s relationship. But I worry my involvement in something like that changes your opinion of me."
"No, Edward. I'll admit it was shocking at first. But you've had so many more experiences in our lifestyle than me that you do shock me every once in a while. I'd never judge you on your past, just like you've never judged me on mine."
I nod thoughtfully.
"Paige wasn't what you wanted to confess though was it?" Bella guesses.
I ruffle my hair with one hand. Here we go. "You know that Rosalie is the person who encouraged me to explore the BDSM lifestyle. She got into it first and convinced me to give it a try. She was Jenks' submissive at the time and introduced me to him. The first scene I ever witnessed was Jenks and Rose. I was a little put off watching my cousin naked and being dominated mere feet from where I sat but it was also the most exciting thing I'd ever seen. I quickly made the decision to let Jenks train me. I wanted to do what he did, and I wanted to be good at it. Jason and Rose were spending their time at a dungeon in Seattle, so that's where he trained me. I'd lie to my parents, tell them I was going into Seattle for a concert or to visit a friend and then spend all night at the dungeon."
"A dungeon? Wow." She says, her tone filled more with envy than shock or disgust.
"After a few training sessions with Jenks he unleashed me on the subs in the dungeon. He lined up a number of young women not much more experienced than me and we'd practice together. Some nights I'd play with four or five different women, one after another."
I can practically see Bella's mind as she tries doing that math in her head.
"I'm one of the best Doms at Coming Attractions for a reason, Bella. Jason saw my potential and he made sure I learned everything I could during that time. I didn't fuck them all, I promise. But not because I didn't want to. If I physically could have come five times in a row I would have. But I typically played with different women throughout the night and whoever was last would get the bonus of my dick inside them," I joke.
"So what are you trying to say, Edward?"
"When it was reported on the news that I've slept with hundreds of women, they were wrong, but the truth is I've sexually pleasured well over a hundred women. Once or twice you've asked me how many women I've fucked."
"You're finally going to reveal your magic number?" she asks warily.
I roll my eyes. "I honestly lost count, but it's probably between forty and fifty. I always used condoms, I swear."
I watch Bella closely as she processes this information. Her eyes widen and her mouth forms a perfect little O shape. But she doesn't scream, hit me, or run out. Yet.
"It's a little higher than I expected, or was hoping, rather. But don't be ashamed, Edward. You are no Genghis Khan."
I smile remembering the first night Bella and I talked at Coming Attractions. I mean, really talked, as friends rather than Dominant and submissive. She smiles at me too, probably reliving the same memories.
"Is that all?" she wonders.
"Pretty much. Except I think I should make sure you're aware of which women I've been with who still frequent the club," I murmur.
"Victoria… Jessica...," Bella starts counting.
"Bianca… Heidi…" Deep breath. Here comes the A-bomb… "Alice."
"Alice? Ewww!" she screeches, hopping off the bed and moving away from me.
"I know, I know," I moan hanging my head.
Bella begins pacing the little room, shaking her hands back and forth like they're wet. "Okay. She told me you two played a little when you met, but I thought that meant, like, fuck I don't know!" She stops in her tracks and glares at me.
"Did you date her?"
"No, there were no feelings. It was just scening."
She points her index finger at me menacingly. "How many times did you fuck her?"
"Why did you stop?"
"Will you put that finger away and calm down. We tried playing a few times. Our styles are very different and it didn't work out. She actually laughed at me in the middle of our last session," I admit fishing for a little sympathy. It works. While Bella's mouth is still set in a hard line, she lets a tiny giggle slip out.
"We realized we preferred each other more as friends. Unfortunately, in those days I wasn't as selective about who I engaged in intercourse with. I soon learned to wait and see if I was compatible with a woman before sliding home."
Bella smiles but then shakes her head like she's trying to get mental pictures out of her brain before they have a chance to attach.
"That little minx is in so much trouble! She let me think you two did nothing but a little bondage, some flogging, maybe a hand job or two."
I shrug, not knowing what else to say. I didn't do anything wrong; it was years before I met Bella. She just needs time to process the truth behind my brief relationship with my now cousin… and Bella's close friend.
"Does Jasper know?"
"Yes, I told him before setting them up on their blind date."
"No wonder he almost cancelled that first date. I always wondered why he would have been so reluctant to meet Alice just because she liked kinky sex," Bella replies.
"Yeah, he hated my interest in BDSM back then, and to find out Alice had already been with me first kind of freaked him out."
"Please tell me that's it for your revelations," she teases. "At least for today?"
I laugh and pull her closer by the hand until she's standing right in front of me. "That's everything. I promise."
"Good," she says and leans forward to place a kiss on my nose.
"Now that's all out if the way, let's discuss going home."
"Yeah. Gary said he wants me to start back next week. Channel 3 can't keep running the same stories over and over, and there's nothing more for them to uncover. Gary said there are a lot of outspoken fans who want me back on the air."
Bella looks at me curiously, thinking over what I've said.
"What do you say, Bella? Do we risk it?" I ask nervously.
Her smile just about reaches her ears as she leaps forward into my lap. I'm caught off guard by her sudden enthusiasm but my arms respond just in time to catch her crashing against me.
"Let's go home, baby," she agrees before kissing my lips with everything she's got.
A/N: Don't forget to leave me a Christmas present by hitting the review button! Happy Holidays!