This was originally written for the Mark Me Contest that never happened due to poor response. (The Mark Me contest had to do with someone in the story having tattoos or piercings - hope that clarifies that a bit.)
So here you go my lovelies.
Disclaimer: These are not my characters. I'm only using them for my own amusement. No infringement intended.
Huge thanks to TwilightMomofTwo for her mad beta skills and to MsKathy for her prereading to keep me honest.
Summary: Oscar night in Tinseltown and Bella Swan is all dressed up with nowhere to go. What happens when her uptight coworker isn't as buttoned up as she thought?
Concealed in Stone
The air was filled with electricity that only comes once a year in Hollywood.
The best that movies had to offer was up for their annual awards this evening. The red carpet was stuffed with photographers and fans alike. All the while, glamorous stars were in their limos being shuttled across the city to the decked out Dolby Theater in hopes of standing on the stage to thank everyone and their brother.
And where was I?
Stuck in a boutique hotel across the street, my luxurious room not even facing the action. With a heavy sigh, I sat on the bed and turned the television on, hoping to at least glimpse some of the action. Of course, by the end of E!'s four hour pre-show coverage I'd want to punch Ryan Seacrest in his stupid, smug face and give poor Giuliana Rancic a sandwich, but I was here to work, not hobnob with celebrities.
Tonight wasn't just stressful for the high profile people who ran the most watched show outside of the Super Bowl, but for me and the rest of the Iconographic Images team. We were the behind the scenes people who made sure your Us Weekly and People magazines were brimming with amazing photos of the best and worst dressed. Our team of photographers were banking on getting the perfect shot that would not only fetch them a large sum of money, but their credit in the sidebar of those glossies. The only problem was there were hundreds of other people trying to do the same exact thing. It was a high stakes game of chicken to see who could post the photos first on their website, and this year, we were going to win.
"Bella, what's your twenty?" I heard Edward's crisp voice ring out from the expensive walkie-talkie sitting on the table beside my laptop.
Turning down Ryan's obnoxious voice from the television, I picked up the handset and replied, "At the Roosevelt, room five twelve. You headed back with Whitlock's shots?"
In an effort to process the coveted photos efficiently, we'd set up a relay system to bring me the shots our photographers took during the show allowing us to simultaneously process the images even while the stars did their walk down the red carpet . My job was to upload the zip drives filled with their photos onto our server back in the office so our production team could process and get them up on our website, allowing news outlets of all kinds to purchase them and have them available to the public by the very next morning. We were working an all nighter tonight, and it was only three-thirty in the afternoon. It was going to be a very long day.
"Yep, on my way up. Got a little caught up in security, but shouldn't be too bad once the celebs head in the building."
Edward's voice was always a bit chilly. He wasn't one to mince words, and was a serious and efficient manager. It was our first time working really closely together, and I was a bit apprehensive about the possibility of spending the next fourteen hours or so with him. It wasn't that I disliked him, but he was such a serious person, and while he was completely professional at work, I often wondered if he knew how to have any fun at all. I'd gone out to happy hour with various people in the company, including a few from his team, but he never joined us. Rumors among his staff made it sound like he was a bit of a stuffed shirt, but to me, it added a shred of mystery that my curious nature was itching to sort out.
I was shaken out of my thoughts by a knock on the hotel room door. Yanking it open, my jaw hit the ground. Gone was the buttoned up man with his horn rimmed glasses and ill fitting dress shirts; instead there stood Edward in a charcoal grey suit that suited his lanky frame perfectly. The dark fabric clung to his broad shoulders and the bulk of the coat gave him the appearance of having more meat on his bones than his usual day to day look. My gaze crept up and landed on his tamed locks. His usual mop of messy hair was groomed, allowing me to actually admire his chiseled jaw and amazing green eyes. I did a double take; I'd never noticed his eyes before, and it must have been because he'd put in contacts. Eyes that were now looking at me with a hint of amusement, and it took but a second for me to realize I'd been gaping openly at him and hadn't yet invited him into the room.
Stepping out of the way, I waved him in. "Sorry, you just look different in a suit. Gotta say, Masen, you clean up nice." I could feel the blush rise to my cheeks, and turned my back on him to avoid the awkwardness that seemed to creep into my consciousness. Walking over to my laptop, I pulled up the folder we needed.
The zip drive plunked down on the table, and I could feel the heat of Edward leaning down behind me. His breath washed over my bare neck. He smelled like fresh rain with a dash of cocoa butter. "You clean up pretty nice too, Bella," his voice whispered in my ear. I'd never been attracted to him before right now, and it gave me an unsettled feeling in the pit of my stomach that he was having such an effect on me now. I hardly knew anything about him, but realized I suddenly wanted to.
Mumbling a quick thank you, I got to work loading the photos from the drive, knowing Edward needed to get back and switch out the zip drives for a whole 'nother set. This was going to go on all night until the last photo was posted on our site.
"I spoke with Esme earlier. She's getting pizza for everyone working back at the office. Mentioned that we should order a meal if we find some time." His tone was matter of fact, and all business. "The team seems ready to go. How are you doing, this being your first rodeo and all?" He patted my shoulder and sat on the corner of the bed, watching me work.
Glancing up, I shrugged noncommittally. "Gonna be a long night. Ask me again in about five hours." His attention was drawn towards the television, and I took the opportunity to assess him further. I'd never had him so close to me, and while he'd always appeared lanky, he was actually quite imposing. His shoulders filled the space in a way I'd never noticed before and I found my mind wandering, wondering what he might look like stripped of the heavy suit and tie.
Edward swiveled back towards me, and I quickly turned my head to appear like I was still working instead of gaping like a fish at him.
"Man, that Seacrest really is kind of a douche, isn't he?"
I couldn't hold in the snort that escaped me. "I couldn't have said that any better actually." I continued to laugh at his comment as I closed down the folder I was working in and removed the drive. Spinning around in the chair, my elbow whacked him right in his junk. He dropped to his knees with an "Oof" and I immediately hunched down beside him.
"Oh my God, I'm so sorry." I tried to help him up, but with a wave of his hand he wheezed that he'd be okay in a minute and rested his hands on his bulky thighs taking in big gulps of air. "Jeez, Bella, if you'd wanted to totally incapacitate me, you succeeded." We were sitting knee to knee where I sat helplessly, knowing I couldn't do much to help him. Being so close, I had the inexplicable urge to comfort him, to run my hand through his slicked down locks and pull him into my chest. His gaze tracked from the plush mocha colored carpet and up to my face. Our eyes met, and even though he was still recovering, something flickered between us. Smoldering under the surface, I felt a shift between us. It simmered, bubbling around the edges and it felt like if someone threw a match into the room it would become a raging inferno. My thoughts pinged around my brain like a pinball machine, trying to sort out exactly what's happening between us.
"Edward, are you coming back?" Jasper's voice crackled on both of our walkies, bringing us back to the reality. We still had a job to do.
Grabbing the handset off the bed, I replied he was on his way and stood up to allow Edward some room to get himself together. Well, not only Edward, but myself too. My emotions were a bit all over the place and I was wondering why I was suddenly acting so viscerally towards him. This wasn't my style. I didn't get involved. Sure, I enjoyed the occasional short term relationship, but after a bad breakup a few years back, I'd sworn off relationships, especially with someone I worked with.
"I'll be back in a bit." I turned around just in time to see him striding toward the door, his jacket rising with every step and allowing me the briefest glimpse at his toned ass. Oh, boy, the simple sight of his pants fitted so perfectly on his butt made my insides go a bit weak. I had a thing for great asses, and from the looks of Edward's I thought I might have a new hobby at the office. Of course ogling Edward's fine backside might be a distraction that was all I could allow it to be. A fun folly, that's it. I'd learned the hard way that love and work did not mix.
When I was finally alone again, I wandered over to the mirror next to the television and stared at the image reflected back at me. Even though we'd all had to dress up in cocktail attire, I hadn't done much with my hair, pulling it back into a sleek high ponytail to keep it out of my face while I was working. The simple black dress was one I'd had in my closet for years and was a go-to staple for any wedding or other event that required me to be comfortable and yet still look put together. My makeup was similar to my everyday look except I'd swept on some berry tinted lip stain in an effort to dress myself up. Although we knew Edward was going to be our runner, we both needed to be dressed to fit in to the event should something happen. So here I was, all dressed up with nowhere to go. I tried to process what Edward saw when he walked in. To figure out what he thought about when he saw me standing before him in my fancy dress in a hotel room I likely wouldn't ever be able to afford.
With a sigh, I sat back down in front of my computer and began to get to work. Pulling the data off the drive was only part of my job, I had plenty to keep me busy while Edward was getting the next set. Even though I wasn't down on the street in the midst of the excitement, I still loved to see all the glamour of the event and pulled my laptop off the desk and nestled into the bed in an effort to multitask. I barely noticed when the door opened and Edward waltzed back in an hour later.
"Well- Don't you look comfy. I'm beginning to think I got the crappy job between us," he joked dropping the key card on the table and chucking the zip drive in my direction. "Screw seeing Kate Winslet, I'll take a beer with my feet kicked up any day.
Snatching the drive in midair, I replied "You do realize walking quickly in stilettos is virtually impossible, right? And to think you'd rather sit here and listen to Ryan Seacrest drone on and on about what Kate's wearing instead of seeing her in all her fabulousness? You're insane." I was a bit surprised by my own teasing tone. Edward simply rolled his eyes and wandered over to the minibar. My gaze tracked his graceful movement, his stride was purposeful, confident and sexy as hell. How had I missed seeing him like this at the office? When he grabbed a Coke from fridge, I found myself watching the bob of his Adams apple and wishing I could lick the stray drop that dribbled out of the corner of his mouth. His hand drew slowly across his mouth, stopping its path before it got too far. Shaking the dirty thought that was suddenly so freely flitting around my thoughts I placed the drive into the computer and got back to work.
"Man, it's a zoo out there." With a heavy groan, Edward took another swallow, appearing a bit run ragged. "Jasper said he'll have one more batch and then we get a breather until the winners hit the press room."
"Sounds good, I'm sort of starving, all of a sudden." My hands were busy clacking away, and it wasn't until I realized Edward hadn't responded that I looked up from what I was doing.
His stare was absolutely penetrating, and I had to wonder what he was so intently looking at.
"What?" I peeked down at my dress to make sure I wasn't flashing him my thong, but when I glanced back up, his gaze was raking over my body before finally meeting my eyes.
"Your, ah- -legs," he stuttered. "I don't think I've ever seen you in a dress before, that's all."
I caught the flush rise in his cheeks before he spun on his heel and examined something extremely interesting out the window with the view to nowhere.
His comment reminded me of why I rarely wore them. In a rush, I pulled the fabric down over my thigh in an attempt at making sure the jagged scar that ran along it was fully covered. "uh, yeah. I'm not a big fan of showing my legs. Not my best asset, bring five nothing and all."
I heard him mutter something, but before I had a chance to ask him to repeat himself he turned his attention back at the TV and audibly groaned.
"God, how do you watch this crap?"
I turned up the volume a bit and immediately agreed with his assessment. Ryan Seacrest was butchering an interview with Melissa McCarthy, who, God bless her, was allowing her comedic talents to save Ryan's fumbling ass.
"I don't know. I think I watch it more for the worst dressed than the actual winners."
Leaning back, he glanced over his shoulder and laughed. "This is the third time I've worked this show, and I still don't get the draw." His prone body was only inches away from my bare legs. I could feel the heat wafting off his arm, a shocking difference against the chilly air-conditioned room.
"I can't say I don't like seeing those nubile young women put all their, ah… assets out there, but it's not real, you know?" He sat up, taking his warmth with him. "I understand this show is supposed to be all about being at the pinnacle of your career, but these people all botoxed and squished into dresses within an inch of their life, it just seems a bit unfair really. We sit here and judge them based on their beauty and ability to pick out the perfect dress, when no one's actually talking about their accolades or the amazing piece of work they might have done, you know?" His voice had gotten a bit higher, as if this was something he was passionate about. "Our entire job tonight is to sell photos of celebrities who spent thousands of dollars getting themselves put together for this event, only to tear most of them to shreds because their hair doesn't match their gown, or they wore the wrong shoes. I get that it's a business, but some days it feels shittier than others."
My mouth was agape. I'd never heard Edward speak more than three sentences at a time to me, so this little soliloquy was astonishing, and actually really well thought out. Nodding was all I was capable of doing at that moment. Edward's assessment of the night made me feel like crap. I loved grabbing the People magazine the Tuesday after the show to see who they picked for their best and worst lists. My friend Alice and I would even cackle together over coffee about how horrible someone's gaudy color choice or messy hair. Not knowing what to say, I turned my focus back to the computer, steadily working my way through copying the file.
I felt the bed shift as Edward stood up, his shadow towering over me. "I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable. I just sort of wish people felt like they could come to these types of shows as themselves and accept their peer's recognition for a job well done, rather than if the press thinks they don't fit into the mold everyone in this freaking town has created." He shook his head angrily and continued, "I mean, look at you, Bella. You're tiny. You have all this long dark hair and big brown eyes and you come to work with this gigantic smile on your face that lights up the room. Why do people need to have a huge rack and bleached out hair to be considered beautiful here? I just don't get it." Scrubbing his face with his hands, I watched in stunned silence as he put his mask back on. Gone was the emotional man from a moment ago, and in its place stood the co-worker I knew.
"Alright, I gotta get back out there. Let's order some food after this, I think we'll have about an hour before I have to pick up the first set from the press room." With a gentle pat on my leg, he grabbed the drive from my outstretched hand. "See you in a bit."
As soon as the door shut, I closed my eyes and rested my head back against the headboard. I knew I still had things I needed to do, but felt awash of varying emotions I didn't know what to do with. Did Edward call me beautiful? I didn't even want to begin to think that, but why else would he even mention me. Or my smile. I didn't try to contain the wide grin that appeared on my face when I realized what he'd actually said. He thought my smile lit up the room, and while he may seem stone cold on the outside at work, I had a feeling perhaps there were many facets to this complex man.
Forty minutes later, Edward returned to the room, a satisfied smile adorned his face, but my eyes flashed past the grin and raked over his torso as he shrugged out of his suit coat. The crisp white shirt was pulled taut over his broad shoulders showcasing muscles I'd never seen in his usual attire of ill fitting work shirts.
"Looks like we have an hour or two to kill depending on how much this show drags." He offered me water from the minibar while he grabbed one for himself. "Jasper said he'd give us a ring after the first four or five awards have hit the press room. By then he'd have enough shots for us to process." He grabbed the room service menu off the side table and handed it to me. "I believe you mentioned you were starving?" He winked and headed towards the bathroom, saying he'd be right out.
The menu was filled with fancy steaks and pasta dishes with ingredients I'd never even heard of. But there, under the sandwiches section was what I'd been craving. A simple cheeseburger. Of course it was some kind of all Angus beef with gorgonzola cheese and bacon, and my stomach rumbled in anticipation. It sounded scrumptious and even though I was showing my modest roots, I didn't care. It was what I wanted to eat, and if it made Edward think I was a bit lowbrow, I was still going to order it.
Emerging from the bathroom, he'd loosened up his tie and was unbuttoning the top of his shirt while he walked. "So, what'd you decide on?" My eyes were more focused on him pulling the still tied tie over his head and hanging it over the top knob on the dresser than his actual question. "Bella? Did you decide?"
"Oh, yeah, sorry." I shook off my stupor and handed over the menu. "A burger. It's a fancy burger, but a burger nonetheless." Shrugging off my feeling of inadequacy I quickly stood up and spun around only then realizing he was mere inches away from me. I wobbled a bit, trying not to fall right into him
He was just as startled as I was to be standing so close but steadied me with a gentle hand and didn't release my elbow before asking, "You okay?"
"Yeah, of course. Just hungry," I mumbled, escaping under his arm and out from his hypnotic gaze. "There's lots to choose from, but if we only have an hour or so, we should probably order something soon." I didn't even bother looking at him when I'd spoken, trying to pull myself together. He was my co-worker, not some guy I was picking up at a bar. Falling for him could be disaster. If things ended badly, I'd still have to see him every day and try to maintain a good working relationship regardless. It'd taken me too long to find a job I was actually not only qualified for, but actually loved, and I wasn't giving it up for a quick ride on Edward's merry-go-round.
The menu being waved in front of my face shook me out of my musing. "We gonna order or daydream about living like the stars all night, Bella?" he teased, walking over to the phone to call room service. "Which burger are you having, because that one with gorgonzola has my name all over it?"
He waggled his eyebrows in such a childish manner, I couldn't help but grin at this whole other side of Edward. "I'll have the same, thanks. Medium well." Edward's face scrunched up in horror and I had to wonder what I'd said that was so wrong? "What?"
"Medium Well? How can you eat a burger like a hockey puck?" His look of distaste grew even more exaggerated with every word. "And here I thought we might have been a match made in heaven, but I just can't seem to fathom sitting next to a person who actually likes to eat burnt food."
I heard the click of mock jest in my sigh, and couldn't help but retort, "It's not burnt. I just don't want it still mooing on the plate, is that so bad?"
The operator must have picked up, because through the wicked grin he was throwing in my direction he gave our order to the person on the other end of the line. "Fries or veggies?" he called.
"Fries." I had to hold in the automatic 'duh' I wanted to add at the end of that, but figured I'd better keep some of my sparkling wit and conversation to myself.
He ordered the same for himself, and was surprised when he also mentioned adding a half carafe of their house Cabernet.
"Wine?" My tone went up about two octaves at the thought of trying to expense wine while we were working.
With a gentle pat on my shoulder, he walked around me, his hand barely skimming the length of my arm as he went, sending shivers through me. "Esme said as long as we kept it reasonable, we could have a drink. She did mention that we needed to be completely sober before heading back to the office, but suggested we relax for the next hour, because after that, there won't be much down time till dawn."
"Really?" Flopping down beside him, my mind reeled at the thought of a boss allowing you to not only have a drink on the job, but to put it on their tab too.
Turning his head away from the awards on TV he replied, "yes, really. Esme is one of the coolest bosses I've ever had. I imagine she'll be handing out Bloody Marys and bagels tomorrow when we're all through." He leaned in a bit closer, bringing all that warmth and sunshiney smell with him. "Haven't you noticed our company's pretty damn cool? The basketball hoop in back- -the free drinks in the fridge and the New Year's bonuses? We all work incredibly hard, because they reward us for our efforts. Our turnover rate is quite remarkable for a company of this size, really." At his sudden turn towards geeky facts, I began to see why Esme respected him so much.
"I guess I'd never thought of it that way." We sat mindlessly watching the Oscars until room service finally knocked on the door.
Not even giving me a chance, Edward said he'd get it and dealt with letting the waiter bring the cart to our room and signing off on the tab. I hadn't realized how hungry I was until the delicious smell of dinner wafted through the room.
I almost tripped over the comforter trying to get to the food as quickly as possible, and without that little pause, I would have missed Edward pulling out the chair for me to sit in. "Bella," he remarked, nodding towards that chair.
If I hadn't known better, this little romantic hotel room dinner would have seemed like a date. But alas, I did have better sense, and we were mere co-workers. There wasn't anything date like about it at all. Except the candles-and the wine- and the fact that Edward kept watching me like I was something on the menu instead.
My hand shook as I picked up the glass of water, trying to settle my nerves over something as innocent as dinner with a colleague.
"Wine?" Edward's usually crisp voice came out warm and seductive. I felt my cheeks heating up under his scrutiny and couldn't figure out why I felt like I'd been drinking all night.
Avoiding his penetrating stare, I took a big bite of my burger, choosing to nod my response in an attempt at not making a fool out of myself for my irrational attraction.
Pouring, he handed me my glass and raised his for a toast. "To long nights, and new friends," he whispered, clinking our glasses together.
The candlelight flickered across his features, making him appear almost ghostly. Well, if ghosts were incredibly handsome and debonair. My eyes raked over his features studiously, as if I was trying to memorize every detail of his chiseled jaw and slightly crooked nose. My brain was having a hard time merging the two vastly different Edwards into one actual person.
"How's the burger?"
My mind was so caught up in admiration, I didn't even hear the question? "-What?"
"Your burger? How's that charred side of beef? You know that puck you call dinner?" He took a deep swallow of his wine, and once again my mind wandered to his Adam's apple and the faint five o'clock shadow that seemed to be magically growing before my eyes.
After savoring the huge bite I'd just taken, I was able to reply, "Fabulous. And how is that still bleeding calf that you call yours?"
"Deeeelishous, best fifteen dollar burger I've never paid for."
Our conversation stayed light and effortless as we discovered more about how he'd ended up in Los Angeles and working for Iconographic Images. But for as easy as it was, I had one nagging question I couldn't help myself from asking. "I'm going to be a little blunt here."
His eyes widened in surprise, but as soon as the corners of his mouth crept up, I knew he was curious about my question. "I see the wine's started working," he teased.
"Okay, maybe so, but I have to ask." My hands were waving around, trying to make my point, a habit I knew that grew exaggerated the more I drank. "Why don't you ever go out with your team, I mean, you seem so stodgy at work, but tonight you're like a totally different person." With one final flourish of my hand to make my point, I knocked the half glass of wine out of his hand and all over the front of his starched, pristine, and very, very white dress shirt. "
Fuck!" I bolted up, tipping my chair over in the process in my hurry to try and lessen the mess I'd completely and thoroughly made.
He'd jumped back too, but it was too late. I could see the bright red splatter pattern on that shirt, making him look like he was right out of American Psycho. "Calm down Bella. It's just a shirt. I think my pants missed the brunt of your attack."
My eyes grew like a caricature when he shrugged out of his button down and started to pull his undershirt over his head just as he reached the bathroom. "You think this shirt will dry in an hour if I rinse it out?" his voice echoed from the small tiled room. My feet moved of their own volition, wanting to help do whatever I could to fix the problem. When I got to the bathroom, my jaw came unhinged for the second time of the night. Beneath his buttoned up exterior was a well muscled and extremely tatted up bad boy.
I tried to hold myself together, because if Edward wasn't making a big deal about it, I sure as hell shouldn't be, right? I mean it's not every day you get to see a coworker half naked in a bathroom. But man, if I stumbled into a bathroom with a shirtless Edward every damn day for the rest of my life I'd consider myself lucky. Across his upper back was a large tribal piece. Thick black lines curved around, creating a fierce, yet delicate dragon with its wings sprawled out across his shoulder blades. And as impressive as that image was, the one that really captured my attention was the piece on his upper arm. The color and detail of it was breathtaking. The scene was of a surfer, gliding into the barrel of a wave, his hand trailing behind him across the wall of water as he surfed into the sunset. I couldn't help but run my fingers across his strong bicep. "This is stunning," I muttered, forgetting completely that I'd originally come in to help him rinse out his shirt.
His body jolted from my cold hands, but once he realized it was me, he relaxed into my touch. "Yeah, my guy is amazing. He actually reworked a pretty famous piece called Pot of Gold to fit my style."
I studied the image intently, noticing how the tattoo used the ripples in his muscles to give the water depth and the illusion of movement. "Do you surf a lot? You don't seem like the type who carries his board around in the back of his truck seeking out the next great wave." I'd been around Los Angeles for a while and had even dated my fair share of surfer dudes, and Edward was a far cry from any of them. For one, he had a real job and actually a bigger vocabulary than "dude, the waves are gnarly today. Wanna go shred?" He was this incredible dichotomy of intellectual with this hidden badass side I really wanted to get to know better.
He peered down at me, his smile lit up his face with a childlike innocence that I'd never seen before. "I usually get out once a week or so. Back when I was in college it was almost every day. With work and everything I don't have as much time. But man, when I'm out there-" He shook his head, closing his eyes as if he could visualize being out among the waves. "-it's cherished. Definitely my favorite time of the week."
"I wish I had something like that." My fingertips trailed along his arm and across his lithe muscles as if they had a mind of their own. Dragging them across his heated skin, I traced the thick black marks on his back. "And what about this one?" I was embarrassed to hear how husky and deep my voice had become. I'd somehow lost all professional decorum as soon as I broached the bathroom threshold.
"Ah, yeah. That one's my baby. It's actually a combination between a Maori tribal tattoo I saw when I was surfing in Indonesia a few years back and a Celtic design I helped create to bring in a little of my family's history. I love the meaning of dragons in Eastern mythology and lore. To me it not only symbolizes strength and power, but balance. You know, a little yin with your yang? Just to keep me grounded, I guess."
"It really is beautiful, Edward. I'm beginning to sense you're a lot like an onion. With every layer I peel, I find something curious and new beneath."
Shaking out his now damp and slightly pink shirt, he simply replied, "I'm just a man, Bella. If you're curious, just ask. While I tend to keep my work and private lives separate, you don't actually work for me. So ask away." After hanging up his shirt, he leaned up against the sink, and I could barely keep my focus on his eyes. Between his sculpted chest, happy trail and the image of his dragon being reflected from the mirror, my senses were in overdrive. "You want to know why I don't go out for drinks with the people who work for me, right? Let's just say it's something I learned a long time ago as I moved up through the ranks of the corporate world. I'd love to go out for drinks with you sometime Bella, but usually there's someone from my team going, which means I can't go."
"You've never had a drink with your team?" I was stunned at his rigid stance and deep set frown at my inquiry. Then the light bulb clicked and I had to verbalize my hunch, "Did something happen, Edward?" My hand reached out and cupped his cheek. I knew it was crossing the line, but now that I looked deeper, I could see the sadness creeping into his expression. Someone had hurt him, badly.
He laid his hand gently over my own and visibly leaned into my touch. Things had changed in an instant, and even though I was terrified at the thought, it felt more right that anything I'd done in a long time. "I got fired for sexual harassment." He dropped his hand, but still continued, "We were all hanging out at a bar and a girl on my team was pretty drunk and stumbled into me when she missed a step from the booth we were sitting in. I wasn't ready for her and my hand landed on her breast. She joked about being a klutz, but the next Monday morning, I was called into HR. She had another one of her friends corroborate the story and so it was two against one. I didn't want anyone else to lose their job, and left quietly. So no. I don't go out drinking with my employees. I attend company functions but usually don't drink at them. Does that answer your question?" he mumbled, not able to even look up from the floor.
"Oh, Edward." I leaned up on my tippy toes and kissed his cheek. It was supposed to be a simple gesture of pity and sadness, but based on Edward's groan beside me, I wasn't sure how he'd taken it.
He pushed me away to arms distance, gazing deep into my eyes before saying anything. "Bella, you can't do that," he begged.
"Can't do what? I was just-"
His finger silenced my lips. "Please let me say this, because I doubt I'll ever have the chance or the guts to say it again." Taking a steely breath he began, racing through his words, "I've had this stupid schoolboy crush on you since the first day Esme introduced us in my office. You were wearing this ridiculous pair of black boots with a heel that was so high, I still have no idea how you walk in them. I can't remember what I said, but you laughed. This belly laugh that filled my room with sunshine and-and puppies or rainbows or something." Scrubbing his face, he kept going, and with each new revelation, I fell deeper and deeper for this gentle man. "God, I sound like an idiot. I know we work together, so if you don't feel the same, I'm not going to get all weird on you. I'll just stay in my office and it'll be business as usual. I won't bother-"
Now it was my turn to shut him up. "Hey, you're not an idiot. Well, liking someone like me might put you in that state of mind pretty quickly, but all in all, you're not. Unfortunately I can't say the same about you," I started, but when his shoulders slumped in defeat, I had to hurry to make my point. "But it isn't because I'm not interested. You've been this enigma to me. The mysterious Edward Masen, production manager extraordinaire who shows no emotion or weakness in the office. Until tonight, I didn't even really know who you were. You have this mask of indifference and seriousness all the time that I was beginning to wonder if you knew how to have any fun at all, really."
"Oh, I know how to have fun. Just not with any of my employees." His crooked grin was incredibly endearing, not to mention sexy as hell. "So where does that leave us then?" he whispered, his hand strayed to touch my elbow with a gentle caress.
My smile probably looked maniacal, but I couldn't help it. I was insanely attracted to him and wasn't going to pass up on this opportunity. "How about a kiss and we'll see where it goes?" Leaning on tiptoes to kiss his cheek, I was still unsure of how we were going to proceed.
I felt the heat from his large hand when it landed in the small of my back and pressed me towards him. The flimsy material of my dress allowed his warmth to seep through where his chest met my own. "You've no idea how long I've wanted to do this." He descended towards my lips only to pause and pull back. "Shit, Bella. I'm not the only one feeling this, right?" As soon as his words were out, I understood exactly why he was so tentative.
"Kiss me. " I placed both hands on his cheeks and tugged him forward. "I'm a big girl, Edward, and as messed up as I might be, I'd never say this wasn't consensual."
He must have believed my words, because the end result wasn't like any other kiss I'd ever had before. His lips were firm, yet smooth and when his tongue met mine, it wasn't sloppy or overzealous. He was pouring all of his passion into the kiss. His hands rested on my hips for a moment before they moved up my back, his thumbs running smooth circles as they moved higher. I was thankful he was still leaning against the sink, because if I tried making out with him at his full six foot plus stature, I'd have given us both neck aches.
My stomach fluttered in anticipation of what we might do next. I'd never been this worked up over a simple heavy petting session. I was panting unevenly and if we ended up shedding our clothes anytime soon, I'd probably embarrass myself with how wet he'd made me in record time.
His lips moved across my chin and nipped down the curve of my neck. I shivered when the brush of his fingers moved my hair off to one side, allowing him access to my shoulder. "Is this too fast?" he asked, his voice barely above a whisper.
I should have been torn, my mind telling me to slow down, that this was a bad, bad idea, while my heart and gut told me to live it up. Instead, I had no problem with what was transpiring. Being held in his strong, sure hands, it felt right to be in his arms. Not just right, but perfect.
Shaking my head in response, I allowed my own discovery of his jaw with my lips, my hands not able to stop from roaming across his defined chest and biceps. "Actually, I think this bathroom is cramping my style. How about moving to the bed?" I hoped my suggestion wouldn't be seen as slutty, but I really wanted to be on a level playing surface, and with my height as a steep disadvantage, I craved being horizontal
He pulled back, examining my expression thoroughly before asking me again if I was sure.
I couldn't help the anxious laugh that came out, and instead of answering him, I grabbed his hand and tugged him back into the room. As soon as the covers got pulled back, my nerves began to get the best of me. When I paused, staring down at the pristine white sheet, Edward's massive hands wrapped firmly around me, securing me against him.
"We can stop right here Bella. I can take you out on a proper date-I'm not in a hurry."
His words were meant to be soothing, but my body didn't want soothing. It wanted raw. It craved someone to pay inordinate amounts of time, focused solely on it. No, I didn't want to slow down. I spun in his arms, and instead of using words, my hands drifted down to his belt, flicking it open with hands appearing more sure than I actually was. Because even though I wanted him more than I'd craved anything in a very long time, I still had issues. No one wanted to be rejected by a gorgeous man, myself included.
While my fingers made quick work of his pants, Edward's were busy slowing tugging down the straps of my dress, his thumbs dragging along slowly as it fell, making me acutely aware of exactly how far they were in the process.
Finally standing before him in all my glory, I closed my eyes and gulped. In the bright bedside light, I knew every flaw and imperfection could be seen. It wasn't just my none-too-special breasts. While they were beautifully packaged behind underwire and lace I could already imagine Edward's sense of disappointment when they were finally revealed to be nothing more than your average B cup. The image of my sad boobs wasn't my only worry, I knew he'd eventually come across the six inch jagged scar on my thigh, and that was the one I didn't want him to see. Not only was it ugly, but for the history it represented.
"Bella," he whispered, his hand gently nudging my chin up. "God, you're so beautiful. Even better than I imagined for these past few months."
My eyes fluttered open at his revelation, "Really?"
"Yes, you silly woman. How could you think anything else?" He nudged me down onto the bed, and followed close behind, pinning me beneath his weight. His muscled forearms were beside my head, trapping me, forcing me to accept his words, his affection and his tender kisses. He undid my bra with one hand crept behind my back. With a flick of his fingers, he tossed it over his shoulder, freeing me from its confines. He didn't allow me to get self conscious, and buried his head into my chest, his lips caressing my breast, teeth gently grazing over my pert nipple.
I had to turn my brain off. If I wanted to enjoy the feel of his five o'clock shadow scraping gently along my clavicle and his heavily callused hands running down my thighs, I needed to tune out my bashful mind. His caresses were slow, and sure, driving me absolutely insane. I couldn't get enough of him and tried to push down his boxers to feel all of him. I needed his hot, fiery skin to soothe the chill I felt by being naked and exposed. Noticing my frustration at being unable to reach far enough to tug them down, He chuckled and leaned back asking me if I needed help with anything, the rise of his eyebrows insinuating his teasing nature.
"Boxers. Off. Now- I need to see you, feel you. Now."
He didn't wait but a moment, scooting back on the bed so he could stand to pull them down over the impressive erection that had been standing in my way. Without any reservations, he released his cock from its confines. I was staring in awe, realizing as soon as it sprung free, why he had every right to be confident. His dick thankfully wasn't gigantic, but was large and thick with a slight curve up towards his belly. I licked my lips in anticipation of getting a taste of him and sat up in a second. Grabbing his ass, I urged him forward and right into my mouth. My lips were around his cock before he'd even been able to reassure me I didn't need to.
Oh, but I do, big boy.
His head lolled back onto his shoulders as my tongue made its way around, licking and sucking him into my mouth. I could taste the precum, salty on my tongue, and I craved to get him off. Blow jobs were one of the things I knew I did well, and I wanted to expose him to all my fellatio goodness. I took him in as far as I could, needing to feel his tip at the back of my throat, filling my mouth, His eyes flicked down and as soon as they met mine, he let out a moan. Shockingly, I felt cherished, kneeling at his feet, his thick cock in my mouth, and his hand gently playing with my ponytail. Picking up the pace, I sucked and swirled, knowing he wouldn't last much longer.
His breath was coming out in heavy pants, with a quick tug of his balls and my fingers gently caressing his perineum he was about to come. He tried to pull back and out of my mouth, but I held him steady, allowing his salty taste to consume my mouth.
"Fuck, Bella, that was amazing," he groaned, pushing me gently back on the bed as his mischievous grin made a grand return. Kneeling down between my legs that were hanging off the side of the bed, he stared into my eyes. "This is one of those things I've been imaging as well." Without pomp or circumstance, he dragged my black lacy thong down my legs and threw them over his shoulder. "I'm gonna enjoy making you come, Bella." His palms pressed my legs apart and he went straight for the kill.
My mind exploded with sensations and I had to close my eyes to shut out the intense feelings I was having. Showing vulnerability wasn't my strong suit, and with our status still unknown, I couldn't put those emotions on my sleeve just yet.
His tongue lapped at my center, nibbling and sucking on my clit until I was writhing, unable to handle his onslaught. "Hold still, Bella, or I'll be forced to do it for you," he mumbled between breaths, his thick fingers opening me up so he could flatten his tongue against my entrance. "You're so wet and ready." Lifting a knee over his shoulder, he caressed my ass while the fingers of his other hand began pumping into me in rhythm with his feverish lapping of my clit. I could feel the bubbling of my orgasm in my belly, forcing me to pant and moan like a regular ol' porn star. "Come on, Baby-," he whispered, increasing his speed while adding another finger inside me. He pumped vigorously and varied the tempo of his tongue. I was overwhelmed with sensation, and it wasn't too long before I exploded against his mouth, my back wrenching up off the bed. Stars erupted beneath my clamped shut eyes just as I let out a hoarse moan I couldn't contain by biting my lip.
When I finally came down from my high, I noticed Edward had moved up on the bed and was cradling me against his side, surprised to feel his rebound erection brushing proudly against my leg. I nuzzled into his chest, feeling cuddly and bonelessly relaxed.
"How ya doin'?" he whispered, his warm fingertips glancing up my arms, down the center of my chest and back around. It was soothing and if I didn't know he needed some relief too, I might have been lulled to sleep by it.
Rolling into my side, I looked into his sparkling eyes, the same devious grin hadn't left his face. "Not bad, super star. Not bad at all. But I think the real question is how are you?"
Snuggled in tight against him, it felt like we were the only two people who existed on earth. I could see the flicker of the television we'd left on, but thankfully had muted during dinner on the wall beside us, but had no desire to actually look at it. As we both relaxed for a moment, caressing the skin we still had exposed, I felt safe and treasured. It was Edward who finally broke the silence in the midst of nibbling on my neck. "What happened here?" His fingers glided over my scar, while his lips never stopped their attention to detail. It was as if he knew how sensitive a subject it was for me and was trying to distract me with his talented lips.
Even though I really didn't want to talk about this, especially when we should be building up towards the climax of the evening, I knew it was better to get it out of the way now, and let him choose whether or not to stay.
It took every ounce of energy I had left in my body to pull away from Edward's ministrations to sit up and tell him my tale. "It was a car accident. About three years ago, now."
Edward didn't even let me sit alone for a moment, instead he pulled be back in his arms, angling me into his side so we were still touching, but he could look into my eyes as I spoke. "My car was hit head on by a drunk driver. Thanks to a great plastic surgeon, you'd never know my nose and cheek had to be rebuilt, but the accident was just the first shoe to drop." I really didn't want to go on, he'd only asked how I'd gotten the scar, not about the one that was hidden on my heart.
His hands were busy smoothing my now messy ponytail, over and over. It was extremely soothing and hypnotic. Kissing my neck with a quick peck, he asked me what happened after.
"Well, as you can imagine, I was in pretty bad shape. I hadn't heard from my boyfriend in a couple of days and went to see him at his apartment-" I had to take a deep steely breath in order to continue, "-He was busy fucking my best friend. My fucking best friend. While I was recovering from a fucking car accident." I was yelling by the time I was done, not even realizing the burn from the betrayal felt as fresh today as it had years ago. "He just looked up in mid-pump and mumbled some half-assed apology, not even bothering to stop what he was doing. And Jessica was even worse, telling everyone that he didn't want to end up with someone who looked like the Elephant Man." By now I had tears streaming down my face at the mortifying memories as they flashed across my brain like a bad horror movie.
My body was immediately encircled by Edward's warm embrace. Held tightly, I could feel Edward shaking with what turned out to be rage. "What a dick," he said through clenched teeth.
Spinning slightly in his arms, I glanced up and replied, "Yeah, he is. But that's not even the worst part, I still had to work with the both of them. It's actually what led me to find a job here, doing what I love So while he's a douche, at least something good came out of it."
"Well, I'm glad you're not the least bit scarred by that incident."
"Oh, I'm plenty scarred, but I'm also an optimist at heart. So what do you say, can you deal with my crazy?"
The question had barely left my lips when we both heard the squawk of the walkie talkie.
"Edward, we're ready for you," Jasper's voice crackled over the headset.
We groaned in unison, not ready to go back to doing what we were currently being paid to do. Which also happened to not be fucking each other like rabbits.
I tracked Edward's graceful movements as he stood up, and covered me with the sheet, a sad smile flitted across his face as he did it. "Guess it's back to work, huh?" After replying to Jasper that he'd be there in a little bit, he wandered into the bathroom to get his still damp shirt. I lay silently as he got dressed, pulling on his clothes one article at a time, studying his lithe form as he covered up the last bit of skin, hiding his muscles and amazing ink away from the business world.
He sat heavily down beside me, a look of longing in his eyes. "As much as I want to finish this right now, I think maybe it was actually perfect timing."
I must have looked utterly confused, because he kissed me again, as if he was trying to implore how much he really didn't want to be leaving me. "I hope you don't think I don't want to be here, but honestly, I'd like to take you out to breakfast when tonight is all over and maybe we can continue after that?" His shy smile was so endearing, as if he thought I'd say no.
"Sounds perfect, actually."
"Oh, and I'm fully prepared to deal with your crazy, have no doubt about that." With one last kiss he left me in bed, daydreaming about what trouble we could get into when we were weren't pulling this all nighter. A challenge my mind and body were completely ready for.
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