Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Little Massage Therapy Teaser...

From the Desktop of Bella Swan
Sunday, August 22

Edward Cullen’s bed is king-sized with a sturdy, squeak-free frame and wrought-iron headboard. Its firm, comfortable mattress is fitted with 400-thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets, feather pillows and a down comforter, all in varying shades of dusky blue that make his eyes look like the sea when he’s lying in it.

I know this because I spent the majority of the last twenty-four hours there.

If I could, I would make that bed my permanent place of residence. I would have every meal delivered and conduct all business from my laptop while firmly ensconced in that king-sized lap of luxury. I would leave only for quick trips to the bathroom to take care of life’s little necessities as they arose, or to enjoy long, languid showers and baths with Edward before we retired back to our four-cornered sanctuary. My perfect world would consist mainly of these three staples: Me, Edward, and Edward’s Bed.

I never thought I would describe a bed that large as “cozy,” but Edward made it so. Even in his sleep, he ignored its spaciousness in favor of curling himself around me and grasping me to him as if I were a body pillow. He sighed and snuffled on my shoulder; he snored softly into my hair. His arm took possession of my waist; then my hip; then my right breast. His legs were restless and unhappy unless they were tangled with mine. Wherever I moved in my percale cocoon, Edward unconsciously followed. Like a heat-seeking missile he honed in on my body and took it prisoner all night long… both sleeping and awake.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Massage Therapy, Chapter 13 - Transformation, part 3

Edward Cullen’s Little Black Notebook
Sunday, August 22 (cont’d.)
My hand tightened protectively around Bella’s for a moment until I recognized the voice behind the accusation.

“Look, Emmett, I’ve been meaning to talk to you,” I began, taking a few more steps toward my brother’s judgmental glare. Bella followed, her fingers still clutching mine tightly.

“I’m not treating Bella anymore,” I continued, looking Emmett square in the face. “I referred her to Katrina so there’s no conflict of interest if I see Bella privately now.”

Emmett’s face remained impassive save for a raised brow over slightly skeptical eyes.

“Edward would never do anything to put your practice in jeopardy,” Bella piped up in my defense. “He was nothing but professional every time I was in the office.”

Emmett snorted and shook his head at us like we we’d missed the point entirely.

“Honestly, it’s none of my business what you two do in private, as long as that’s where it stays. But you’ve been gone long enough that Dad’s on the warpath now, wondering why you aren’t around to support Mom on her big night.”

My fingers worried my hair as I let out a guilty sigh. “I did my Sing For Your Supper bit already. What else am I supposed to be doing that I wasn’t aware of?”

“Well, you missed the auction entirely, for one thing.”

“You always host that bit,” I argued.

“I know, and I did it with style and grace, as always,” Emmett said with a self-satisfied grin. “But that’s when Mom noticed that her favorite child was MIA, and when Mom’s worried, Dad is worried. To say the least.”

“I’m not her favorite,” I protested.

“You keep telling yourself that, Golden Boy,” Emmett said. “In the meantime, you’d better get your ass back to the festivities before Dad carves it up and serves it to the guests on a platter.”

“Fine. We’re coming,” I told him. He turned to lead the way and I gave Bella a smirk over the double-entendre. I was still trying to recover from the intensity of our “coming” just a few moments ago. I could barely think after our seismic encounter, let alone go face the ire of my father right now.

“Your dad seems so nice,” Bella commented as we followed my elder sibling back to the party. “I can’t even imagine him truly angry about anything.”

“You’re right. He rarely gets angry. But he gets disappointed quite often. He’s excellent at laying on the guilt with a trowel, nice and thick.”

“Ah,” Bella sympathized. “That ‘disappointed in you’ line--the ultimate chastisement. A parental standard since the beginning of time.”

“Or the advent of passive-aggressive behavior.” Of that, Carlisle Cullen was a master. He would deny it, of course. He always masks his disapproval under an impressive veneer of concern. But the day I dropped out of U-Dub, that mask finally cracked. He told me I was throwing my life away, right along with yours, Tanya.

I’ve never forgotten it. I’m still trying to forgive it.

“How are things going with Rosalie?” Bella called up to the hulking figure that stalked purposefully ahead.

Emmett slowed his pace until we caught up to him. “Things could not be better between me and Rosalie, actually,” he said, his face practically beaming. I wondered if that’s how I would look if someone asked me about Bella.

“I’m glad to hear it,” she smiled. “She’d probably kill me for telling you, but I know she likes you, a lot. I’ve never seen her like this before. She’s always humming to herself, with this smug little grin on her face. Like she’s got a really juicy secret.”

Emmett let out a hearty laugh. “Well, if she does, I wish she’d let me in on it. She likes me to play the guessing game, that’s for sure.”

“Well, no matter what she says, she can’t hide the fact that she’s just…happy. Really happy,” Bella told him. But her eyes were on me as the Mona Lisa smile staked its claim over her face. I gave her hand a squeeze as I smiled down at her. I knew I could get through whatever else the evening brought as long as she was there at the end of it.

I let go of her hand as we approached the light and noise of the gala, but I couldn’t let go of her. I put my arm around her waist, pulling her closer to me. She did the same, leaning into me and resting her hand on my chest. She looked up at me anxiously.

“Did we really miss an entire auction?” she whispered worriedly as Emmett spied Rosalie and left us to join her. “What kind of auction?”

“It’s not a big deal,” I tried to assure her. “We usually auction off a few antiques and some fine art. It doesn’t last that long.”

Bella’s eyes only grew rounder. “How long were we gone?”

I shrugged and shook my wrist free of the shirt and coat sleeves. “Less than an hour.”

“An hour?” Bella looked mortified.

“Really only forty-five minutes. Time flies when you’re having fun,” I grinned down at her. She did not look amused.

“Bella, honestly, don’t worry about it. For all anyone knows, we’ve been dancing this whole time. Look how many people are out there now.” I gestured to the jam-packed terrace and the lawn, where the tables had been pulled back to allow more room for people to dance and mingle. I thought I heard a familiar jangle of guitar riffing as we pushed our way into the crowd. Sure enough, Jasper had joined the orchestra and turned them into a jazz ensemble as he improvised a sweet solo. I hoped that the Java Noise execs were taking note. Alice certainly was, standing front row and center at the edge of the stage, cheering him on.

I maneuvered Bella into the throng and up to the front, next to my sister. Alice glanced over at us, her eyes growing large before narrowing up at me.

“Look at you!” she exclaimed over the volume of the music. “And you had the nerve to get on my case earlier!”

“What?“ I demanded in mock innocence, while Alice rolled her eyes. I smoothed my hair self-consciously and gave Bella a once-over for signs of our recent tryst. Her cheeks were still flushed and her hair was not quite as polished as it had been earlier, but her usually even-toned ivory skin was mottled in spots with a faint pink rash, probably from my beard stubble. I surreptitiously ran my hand over her brown locks, arranging them over her neck and chest to hide some of the evidence. Alice only grinned at us knowingly, probably thrilled at the way this evening was turning out. I was feeling pretty happy about it myself, I had to admit.

I looked around for Mom and Dad, anxious to get out of the doghouse with them as quickly as possible. I didn’t see them, but I did notice that Jacob Black was trying his hand at the timpani drums toward the back of the orchestra. He looked like he was having a good time, and Jessica was nearby, hooting and hollering in encouragement. I was happy to finally spot the Java Noise people, too, getting an earful of Jasper’s abilities. Between the fund-raising for the AHA, the advantageous networking going on, and the clandestine hook-ups for the Cullen clan, this had shaped up to be a pretty spectacular evening on all fronts.

I stood behind Bella and put my other arm around her, giving her a squeeze and holding her close. She leaned her head back on my chest and glanced up at me, her face all smiles. No one was paying us any mind, but it still felt good to show my affection for her in public instead of hiding it. I didn’t care if Jacob got an eyeful, either. Surely he had to have figured out what was going on by now, if Jessica hadn’t filled him in already.

The song came to a close; everyone cheered and tossed money into the hat at Jasper’s feet. I anteed up as well, throwing some cash into the kitty.

“That’s it, my friends--throw money! Just throw money and I‘ll play all night,” Jazz laughed. “You want to join me?” he added, raising an eyebrow at me.

“I think I’ll pass. You’re doing just fine without me.” Jasper’s skills on guitar were far superior to mine, and the only performing I planned to do was to play Bella’s song for her in private at the loft later on.

As the makeshift jazz ensemble continued, I scanned the crowd for Dad again. If he had sent Emmett out looking for me, it was possible he’d taken off to do the same. The last thing I needed was to have him ream me later on for sending a search party out on my behalf.

“I need to find my dad,” I whispered down into Bella’s ear, reluctantly letting go of her.

“I’ll come with you,” she offered, grabbing my hand. “Maybe he won’t get upset with you if I’m there.”

“Maybe,” I shrugged. But I was grateful to have her with me as I made my way through the crowd, scanning in all directions for either of my parents. I finally found them on the edge of the terrace, swaying slowly to the laid-back jazz beat that wafted over the lawn. Bella and I approached them together, a united front. I was unaccustomed to the feeling, but I liked it. I knew I could get used to it.

Mom was the first to see us. “Edward!” she exclaimed with a relieved smile. “See? I told you they hadn’t strayed too far.”

Dad turned and gave us a deceptively serene look. “You gave us a scare, there, son,” he said with a humorless smile. “It’s not like you to disappear on your mother’s big night, when she needs you the most.”

“Oh, Carlisle. The ball is pretty much running itself at this point,” Mom downplayed.

“I’m sorry. It was all my fault,” Bella spoke up, surprising the hell out of me. “I wanted to talk to Edward about something in private. I should have waited until another time.” Her cheeks flamed red with embarrassment, and my hand tightened reassuringly around hers.

I shook my head in denial at her words. “It’s not Bella’s doing. We needed to work some things out, and I’m the one who suggested a walk in the garden so we could talk. I’m sorry we were gone so long. I didn’t mean to worry you,” I added to Mom at the end.

“Honey, it’s fine,” Mom insisted. “Your father is a worrywart, you know that.”

“I just want to make sure you have your priorities straight, Edward. That’s all,” Dad said quietly. His calm cut more deeply than any raised voice could.

I tried to quell the irritation in my voice as I replied. “I’m well aware that this fund raiser is a priority, Dad. I’m sorry I missed the auction, but I did my part earlier. I don’t think anyone missed me.”

“Your mother missed you,” Dad interjected, a little more sharply this time.

“Carlisle,” Mom said reproachfully.

“I’m sorry that I disappointed you yet again,” I repeated, beginning to seethe inwardly. I tried not to let it show, but I knew my tone gave me away. “But Bella is a major priority for me now, so you might as well get used to it.”

“Don’t talk to your mother that way,” Dad ordered, his anger beginning to match mine.

“What way?” I asked, exasperated. “I’m just telling it like it is. You know damned well I mean no disrespect--at least not to her.”

Dad flinched as if I had punched him. In effect, I had. I think I must have looked as shocked as he did by my words.

“Edward, that’s enough.” The warning tone in Mom’s voice was one I took seriously.

My breathing slowed and I swallowed the last of my bile. “I’m sorry, Dad; Mom. It won’t happen again.” I turned and led Bella away, so grateful for her hand in mine that I wanted to weep. I was angry enough that the tears were already right under the surface, waiting for my permission to fall. I wouldn’t give them the satisfaction.

I found a small, abandoned table in a dark corner of the lawn, near the garden, and sat down. Bella took the chair across from me and grasped my other hand in hers.

“I’m sorry you had to see that,” I said at last, embarrassed that I had let my dad push my buttons like that in front of her.

“I’m not,” she countered. I looked up at her in surprise. “I want to know what’s going on with you, Edward. I want to be able to help you, and be here for you. I can’t do that if you don’t let me in.”

I shook my head in disbelief at my good fortune, that this beautiful girl actually wanted to deal with my baggage. I rested my elbows on my knees, bringing Bella’s hands to my face and pressing them against my cheeks. Her skin felt cool and calming. I closed my eyes and concentrated on the feel of it.

“Edward,” she said softly at last. “Why are you so angry with your father?”

I looked up at her, only mildly surprised that she had figured out our little exchange was only the tip of the iceberg. I sighed heavily as I contemplated telling her the truth. I knew it would ruin the best night of my life if I did.

“He… doesn’t agree with my career choice,” I made my careful admission.

She studied me a moment. “He wanted you to be a doctor.”

I sighed once more. “Emmett and Alice told you I had planned to go to med school, right?”

She nodded. “But they didn’t tell me what changed your plans.”

I could feel the panic begin to percolate in my gut. I couldn’t let it bubble to the surface. Not yet. Not tonight.

“I know I owe you an explanation,” I began.

“No, you don’t. You don’t owe me anything,” Bella contradicted me. “But you can trust me with anything. I wish you would.”

“I do trust you,” I told her, and I meant it. I know I’ll get the courage to tell her everything, when the time is right. But last night was not that time.

“I’m asking you to be patient with me,” I continued. “This has been a really special night so far, and I want it to stay that way. I want the majority of our memories of tonight to be good ones. Great ones,” I added with a knowing smile, which she returned.

“I won’t argue with that,” she said, giving my hands a squeeze. I hoped she could tell my expression how grateful I was for her understanding.

“Well, don’t you two look cozy,” came a sarcastic comment over my shoulder. I already knew who I’d see standing behind me when I turned to look--Bella’s date for the evening. So much for having a trouble-free remainder of the evening.

“Jake,” Bella said weakly, her hands going limp in mine. She didn’t take them away, though. “You sounded great up there with that orchestra. Are you having a good time?”

Jacob Black planted himself directly opposite us, hands squarely on his hips. “I’m having a great time, considering that my date disappeared with another guy,” he said dryly, his eyes angry and accusing.

She withdrew her hands then. “I’m sorry,” she said, getting up from her chair to face him. “I tried to tell you that coming here tonight wasn’t like a real date. I told you how I felt about mixing work with my personal life.”

His face registered disbelief before he let out an incredulous laugh. “Apparently Cullen here doesn’t have a problem with that,” he snarled, giving me a disparaging glance. I shot out of my chair, fists beginning to form instinctually at his words. “No wonder you left out the part about hooking up with your masseur when you were explaining how that ‘business and pleasure’ thing works.”

“Watch yourself,” I hissed at him, fighting the urge to add “MonkeyBoy” at the end. He glared up at me, his stance ready for a fight.

“Not that it’s any of your business, but Edward hasn’t been my therapist for awhile now,” Bella retorted. “He doesn’t have anything to do with what goes on between you and me.”

“Doesn’t he? We’d probably be dating for real right now if he hadn’t entered the picture,” Jacob fumed.

“Well, he did. And I’m not going to say I’m sorry about that, because I‘m not,” Bella spat defiantly. I felt a prehistoric sort of thrill permeate my body at her words.

“But I will say that I’m sorry if I led you on,” she added in a more conciliatory tone. “That wasn’t my intention.”

“What is it they say about the road to hell, Bella?” Jacob taunted.

“You say one more disrespectful thing to her and it will be your last,” I warned him, my voice quivering with anger. I wasn’t above taking out some long-standing frustrations with my father on the convenient target in front of me.

Jacob’s tightening fists flexed the gym muscles hiding under his cheap suit. “You’re going to stop me?” he snorted derisively, even though I towered over him. “You and what army?”

“This army,” boomed a baritone from behind me. I’d recognize that cavalry call anywhere. I glanced over my shoulder to see Emmett at the ready, giving Jacob a bemused, challenging look.

“Come on, you guys, stop it,” Bella pleaded, her eyes beseeching as they traveled back and forth between us. “This is not the time or place for this.”

“I agree,” chimed another feminine yet forceful voice. I looked over to see Rosalie joining Emmett, taking one of his clenched hands in hers. I soon felt Bella do the same. I looked down at her tiny fingers pulling gently at mine, and my anger dissipated. I had no reason to attack Jacob Black. I had already won.

His face was still the picture of fury and humiliation when Jessica Stanley trotted up to our little group, another mojito in one hand and a beer in the other. She stared at as all for a moment, then rolled her eyes as if we were the most ridiculous bunch of morons she’d ever seen.

“Jesus H. Christ! I leave for two minutes to get drinks, and all the animals were let loose from their cages,” she exclaimed. “What the hell is wrong with you people? This is a party! Eat, drink and be merry. Here, this should help,” she suggested, handing the beer to Jacob. He begrudgingly took it and thanked her.

“That’s better,” Jessica smiled, taking a sip of her mint drink. Rosalie let out a bawdy laugh.

“I like this girl,” she grinned. “I think I’ll have another drink myself. Emmett?” she coaxed, linking her arm through his.

“Good idea,” he agreed with a smile, leading her away from the fray.

Bella looked up at me, imploring. “Give me a minute with Jake, okay?”

I looked at her warily, then at Jacob and Jessica. Jessica shrugged one shoulder and took a couple of steps toward me.

“Let’s go get you something to drink, Edward,” she suggested. “We’ll be right back,” she told Jacob and Bella over her shoulder.

I begrudgingly followed her, looking back repeatedly to make sure that little shit wasn’t so much as raising his voice at her.

“You need to let them clear the air,” Jessica told me as we approached the bar. “They go way back together, and they have to work together now. It’s better for them to hash this out than to let it end with hurt feelings.”

“I think it’s going to end with hurt feelings no matter what,” I said before ordering another gin and tonic. I also ordered a glass of their best cabernet for Bella. “He doesn’t have a chance with her.” I tried not to sound to smug.

“So things went well in the garden, huh?” she grinned, raising her glass in a toast. “I saw you sneak off with her. I don’t want to know a single thing about what happened. But let me just say, congratulations.”

“Thanks,” I replied, unable to keep the smile off of my face. “And thank you for the cutting-in suggestion. It worked out incredibly well for me. I just wish it had for you, too.”

“Oh, it was fine. Jake and I have been having a good time. He won’t be hung up on Bella forever,” she said with confidence. “The quicker they work it out, the better, for both of us.”

I scrutinized her deceptively vacant face. “You are surprisingly wise, Jessica Stanley. My brother was lucky to hire you. And I’m lucky to have you here with me tonight.”

“Aw, that’s so sweet of you to say,” she smiled. “So does this mean I get a raise?”

That drew a much-needed laugh from my lungs. “I’ll see what I can do.”

“Awesome,” she grinned. She glanced across the terrace at the objects of our affection. “Okay, time’s up for that twosome. I say we go stake our claims.”

“Yet another excellent suggestion, Ms. Stanley.”

“Lead the way, Mr. Cullen.”

Bella and Jacob were seated and talking quietly when we returned. The minute Jacob saw me coming, he got up from his chair and caught Jessica’s eye as we approached. He ignored me completely as he offered his arm to her, asking if she wanted to dance. I wasn’t sorry to see them go, and happily took his seat.

“Are you okay?” I asked Bella, handing her the glass of wine.

“Yeah, thanks,” she said, taking a generous sip. I wanted to lick the heavy liquid from her lips.

“Did he say anything at all hurtful? Because if he was rude to you, I’ll make sure he can’t even open his mouth in the morning.”

Bella laughed and shook her head at me. “Boys and their testosterone,” she admonished. “Don’t worry, it’s fine. I explained to him that I wasn’t sure things were going to work out between us, and that’s why I never told him about you.”

“You didn’t owe him any explanations,” I interjected.

“I know. But I figured honesty was the best policy. It usually is. I never came out and told him I was interested in someone else, and I should have. I didn’t think I was stringing him along, but without anyone else in the picture, he was still hopeful. Now he’s… realistic.”

I reached out and ran my finger along the edge of her delicate jaw. “You’re pretty amazing, you know that?”

“Well, as amazing as you are, then if you say it, it must be true.”

I leaned in and tenderly pressed my lips to hers. “I can’t wait to kiss this lipstick right off of your face,” I murmured.

“What are you waiting for?” she teased.

“Mmm… I’ve waited this long. I can wait a little longer. I have special plans for that lipstick later on. In private.”

Her eyes widened with curiosity and, it seemed, a measure of lust. “When do we leave?”

I groaned softly as I let my hungry lips travel the side of her face to her ear. “Not soon enough. I think we’ll have to hang around until the party dies down a little, or I’ll have to deal with more crap from my parents.”

She let out a small laugh. “I like your parents. They obviously love you and want the best for you, even if they don’t always show their concern in a way that sits well with you.”

I studied her face for a moment. “I seem to have a lot of very smart women in my life to point out when I‘m being an idiot. I think that makes me a very lucky guy.”

“I think you’re right,” she grinned in agreement.

“Let’s go dance,” I suggested, standing up and tugging at her hand.

“I didn’t know you liked dancing that much,” she commented, rising and letting me guide her to the gaggle of couples swaying across the flagstones.

“I don’t. I just want an excuse to hold you close to me,” I whispered as my arm pulled her body to mine.

“I’ll let you in on a secret: you don’t need an excuse.”

We smiled stupidly at one another for a moment, lost in our little bubble of attraction.

“I want to know another secret instead,” I murmured.

“What’s that?” she asked, tilting her head back to gaze up at me.

“How are your panties holding up?” My grin was wicked and expectant.

One eyebrow shot up, but she didn’t miss a beat. “My panties are very damp. Soaking wet, you could say.”

“Hmmm. I wonder what could be causing that.”

“I don’t know,” she replied in a low whisper. I bent my ear closer to her lips. “There seems to be this thick, creamy substance between my legs. Just when I think it’s done, I feel more of it oozing out… it tickles. It just makes me even wetter.”

“Fucking hell, Bella,” I groaned, pressing the small of her back tighter to me. My growing erection struggled against my pants and pushed into her groin. “Do you have any idea what you do to me?”

A naughty-sounding giggle met my ears. “It’s hard to miss right now.”

I let out a small laugh myself. “You definitely won’t miss it later. I hope you get used to dripping with my cum, because I intend to fill you up on a regular basis.”

“You are shockingly vulgar, Mr. Cullen,” Bella informed me in a voice that sounded far more turned on than shocked. “You’ll be lucky if I ever let you near me with that massive dick of yours again.”

“’Massive?’” I repeated, wondering if that were true, or if Bella was just pumping up my ego with what every guy wants to hear. “Judging by the sounds you were making earlier, you were more than happy to accommodate my massive dick. Be nice to me or I’ll drag you back to the garden and bend you over the retaining wall.”

“Promises, promises,” she taunted me with a lusty gleam in her eye.

“Oh, that’s it. Now you’re getting a spanking before I take you from behind.” My erection pressed desperately against her.

“I look forward to it,” she said, her voice low and enticing.

“Fuck me,” I murmured with a sigh as I lost myself in her eyes.

“I’d rather you fuck me,” she replied, pressing her body into mine. I groaned as I moved in time with her to the music.

“I intend to. Repeatedly. Endlessly. You won’t be able to walk by Monday. And that is a promise,” I added gruffly, breathing gin and desire all over her face.

She said nothing, just stared up at me from under heavy lids that I was sure matched my own. Her hand gripped mine tightly as we danced; the other wandered up from my shoulder to stroke my cheek, my jaw, my neck. I wanted her so badly I couldn’t even see straight. I knew there was no way I’d last another hour at this fund raiser, no matter what reproach I’d face later from my family.

The song ended, and so did my patience.

“To hell with this. Let’s get out of here,” I decided. Bella nodded in agreement.

I made an effort to find everyone in my family, including my parents, to inform them of our departure. I ignored Dad’s judgmental look and took comfort in Mom’s benevolent one instead. The rest of our friends and family were too busy having their own fun to worry about ours.

I had managed to put my ardor on hold as I made the necessary pleasantries, but it simmered on the backburner of my mind and my body, ready to be brought to a boil the minute the opportunity presented itself. I wondered if I could keep it in check long enough to give Bella her final present of apology. Even though she insisted that she didn’t want or need them, I still felt the need to give them. I wanted to sing her the song I’d written. I needed to make her understand what she meant to me, if she didn’t already.

We were quiet on the drive back to my place. We talked briefly about the party, insignificant observations about what we’d seen and heard. Gravity hung thick in the air between us, waiting to be addressed and dealt with later. We were about to embark on something serious, something sacred. I no longer balked at the prospect. I welcomed it with open arms as I never had before. I couldn’t wait to begin it.

Our eyes were locked in promise as the service elevator groaned and wheezed its way to the third floor of the loft. I stared at her lips, and she parted them, inviting me to fulfill my earlier promise. But I only took her hand in mine to guide her out of the lift and into my apartment, where the song waited.

Lucky bade us noisy welcome as we opened the door, and I quickly dispatched him out the window in the hallway. Bella was the only audience I wanted now.

I led her through the living area and past my makeshift bedroom, turning on a few torchieres as I went. When I reached the piano, I stopped and let go of her hand. My eyes wandered between the keyboards and my guitar cases, deliberating how to proceed.

“The song I wrote for you and played earlier…?” I began awkwardly, looking to her for reassurance. She nodded, her eyes wide and expectant. “Well, that wasn’t the whole song. It has lyrics.”

She bit her lip nervously and waited. I could feel her anticipation, see it on her face.

“I didn’t want to sing them for everyone,” I explained. “They’re only for you. I want only you to hear them.”

She nodded mutely. I felt the usual nervousness flutter in my stomach as I again regarded the piano. I knew she loved it, but I had already played that version. I felt myself drawn to my favorite new guitar instead, a Martin D Mahogany acoustic with a sound so rich and buttery that I had to have it after I tried it out in the shop. The newfound feelings I had for Bella deserved to be accompanied by a new instrument.

I extricated the guitar from its case and motioned to the overstuffed couch, bidding Bella to take a seat. I tossed aside my cumbersome suit jacket, sat down next to her and checked the tuning on the guitar, making sure it was ready.

“I wrote this on the piano, but then I started playing it on the guitar. I like the rhythm version better, I think,” I explained as I warmed up. “It’s more hopeful. Optimistic,” I added hesitantly. She smiled in encouragement.

I took a deep breath and began.

Wasn’t looking for you

You weren’t part of the plan

Skimming over the surface

Only half a man

Never diving deep

Afraid of what I might see

A black, empty mirror

Where my soul used to be

You came and found me

Didn’t know I was lost

Scared to give in to you

Afraid of the cost

What I didn’t know

What I couldn’t understand

Was that you already knew me

Like the back of your hand


I can’t find the will or desire to fight

On the eve of such a beautiful night

There’s no darkness there in the depth of your eyes

Only the promise of such a sweet surprise

Bella Notte… my beautiful night

Bella Notte…my beautiful night

Loss has different weapons

But wounds you just the same

Makes you terrified to love

Makes you take the blame

But when I look into your eyes

Forgiveness is all I see

Makes me want to try again

To take back what was me

And I’m stronger than the fear this time

Braver than the guilt

I’m tearing down these useless walls

That self-protection built

I’m stepping out into the light

Though I can’t see the way

I’m putting my blind faith in you

To get me through this day


The brightest star couldn’t shed such a light

As my Bella Notte, my beautiful night

There’s no darkness there in the depth of your eyes

Only my beautiful blessing in disguise

My Bella Notte…my beautiful night

Bella Notte…my beautiful night

Bella Luce…beautiful light

Bella Notte…beautiful night

I pared down the impassioned chords to single notes at the end, slowing their pace to a stark and simple conclusion. I had only stolen glances at her while I played, too afraid that the song didn’t affect her nearly as deeply as it did me. Music was my way of laying myself bare when I couldn’t find any other way to do it. Naked and exposed, I let my eyes travel cautiously to hers, ready to cover myself if she didn’t respond the way I hoped she would. I held my breath as I braced myself for her reaction.

Nothing could have prepared me for it.

Her face was wet with tears when I was finally able to absorb it. She trembled as she leaned toward me, whispering my name, pushing my guitar gently aside. Wanting to kiss her, I reached for her face; but it was furrowed in concentration as she pulled at my tie and fumbled with the buttons of my shirt. I was a little surprised, yet not unhappy, that her instant reaction to my heartfelt professions was to rip my clothes off.

But when she had the first few buttons of my shirt undone, I saw what she was really after. She pulled the fabric over my left pectoral and pressed her hand to my chest, finding the rapid pounding of the heart that beat only for her. When she located it, she gave me a long, meaningful look before pressing her blood-red lips to the skin covering my heart. My hands found her face, gently pressing her to me. I fought my own tears, overwhelmed at her gesture of love for me.

When she finally lifted her mouth, we both stared at he perfect red imprint of her lips over my heart. No plan I’d had for her cherry lipstick even came close to this. I wanted to tattoo the image into my skin and keep it there forever, a symbol of our connection, of her ownership over me. I never thought I’d be so happy to be possessed.

“Bella,” I whispered as my hands lost their way in her hair. My lips found hers and tasted her wine at last, savoring the flavor and the feel as I kissed away the barrier between her mouth and mine.

There was nothing between us now. Nothing at all.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Massage Therapy, Chapter 13 - Transformation, part 2

Edward Cullen’s Little Black Notebook
Sunday, August 22 (cont’d.)

When I sat down to write an apology to Bella in the form of a song last week, I wasn’t sure what would come out. I noodled around for awhile with the chord progressions, searching for something poignant and profound, not too cloying but not too melancholy. Something that touched on the sorrow we had both been through, yet built to a hopeful end.

So the minor chords turned to major during the chorus, my bittersweet transforming to something sweeter. Once the structure of the music was established, the words followed. I can’t tell you how weird, but good it felt to write about someone who brings me happiness instead of pain. I know how that confession would hurt you if you could hear it, Tanya. But I can’t beat myself up over the truth anymore. And the truth is, I think I’ve found someone who can finally heal the wounds I’ve let fester under the surface for so long. Someone to turn my darkness into something brighter.

My Bella Notte…my beautiful night.

I don’t profess to know any Italian, but Bella’s name cried out for a tribute of some kind. The soft, dark warmth of her eyes was my inspiration, and I wrote down the words in a rush as they came to me, humming them under my breath to the tune I had just created. They aren’t the most lyrical words ever strung together, but they expressed how I felt in that moment as I thought of her.

I felt the same way last night, sitting at that piano. I hesitated for a moment after I sat down, wondering if I should sing the words. Wondering if I could. Like most of my verses, they felt so personal to me that I wasn’t sure I could share them. Not with this crowd of finely dressed aristocrats, or in front of a group of record company reps. The sentiments were from me to Bella. They were meant only for her.

I decided that she was the only one I would share them with. So I played an instrumental version of her melody, building to a sweeping chorus once, then once more after the second verse. I added some artistic flourishes at the end--a few piano gymnastics that might draw more dollars for the cause.

The applause when I was finished seemed fairly loud; more than polite clapping, at any rate. A few patrons left their tables to toss bills and coins into the large bowler hat Mom had set prominently at the foot of the stage; then more got up when she asked me for an encore.

I hadn’t really prepared anything else, so I did a bit of improvising, then settled into the familiar choppy chords of “Heart and Soul,” which drew a few laughs and even got Mom singing a couple of bars. After that I took an exaggerated bow before leaving the stage, while Mom encouraged the crowd to be brave and come on up.

As I returned to our table, Bella’s boss Mark, whom I’d met a couple of weeks ago, pushed back his chair and headed for the orchestra, to loud fanfare from our group. When he got to the stage, he borrowed the upright bass from its owner and launched into an impressive jazz piece, complete with some rather skilled scatting over the top of it.

“Who knew?” I heard Rosalie exclaim, whistling appreciatively.

“He used to be the bass player in a grunge band twenty years ago,” Bella explained as I took my seat.

“No shit,” Jacob interjected with a laugh. “Look at him go!”

“A bass is a bass,” I smiled, thinking that Jazz could probably do the same thing. In fact, I planned on encouraging him to get up there himself.

I was suddenly physically assaulted by a small, warm creature that nearly knocked me off my chair. Peals of giggles and dark curls alerted me to the fact that it was my tiny cousin again, who had left the Platt table and hurled herself at my lap. I laughed and picked her up, sitting her on my thigh.

“You were so good, Edward,” she told me. “Mommy and Daddy said you are the best piano player they’ve ever heard.”

“Your mommy and daddy are biased,” I smiled, waving over at my cousin and his wife. “But it’s very nice to hear all the same.”

“You did a Bella song,” she asserted, looking across the table at the song’s subject. “I heard you say so.”

“You have good hearing, Lilly. That was my Bella song.” I looked into the brown eyes across from mine to catch her reaction. The emotion on Bella’s face was unmistakable. I couldn’t help the smile it brought to my own.

“You made up that song? For Bella?” Lilly asked, eyes wide.

“Yes, I did. Do you think it was even half as beautiful as she is?”

Lilly pondered a moment. “Yes, I think so. I liked it.”

“Well, your seal of approval is all I need.” My gaze drifted back to Bella’s. “Almost.”

“I think there are few who wouldn’t approve,” Bella answered softly.

A quick glance at Jacob told me otherwise. His words were kind, but his tone was brittle. “Nice chops there, Cullen. Guitar and piano--impressive.”

I gave him a rather insincere smile. “Maybe you should get up there and show off a bit of your own talents. I’m sure the percussion section could use a hand.”

He emitted a staccato laugh. “That’s not exactly the type of music I’m used to playing. Maybe after another drink or two,” he allowed, raising his glass.

“I’d need a lot of liquid courage to get up there,” Jessica exclaimed. “Like, tequila shots or something. God, that would be awesome. Would it be bad to mix that with the rum I’ve already drunk?” She laughed giddily.

“I wouldn’t recommend it,” I warned her, hoping she wasn’t serious. Before I could stop her, she grabbed her purse, scooted out of her chair and made a beeline for the bar. I cringed as my eyes followed her, and Bella didn’t stifle her laughter this time.

I felt an insistent tug on my tie. “Edward, are you going to dance with me tonight?” my cousin demanded, pouting because my attention had strayed.

“Of course, Lillypad. You’ll be my first dance of the evening, as soon as a few more people hit the terrace.”

The sun was waning, and the staff began to light numerous iron torches that had been planted all along the edge of the party area. A few couples were brave enough to stroll out to the terrace and dance as another guest took the mic to sing, her sultry mezzo-soprano a big hit amongst the attendees. Mark returned to our table to loud hooting and hollering, while Dad and Jake both commented that his performance was worth a donation. They both left the table to go make a deposit, and my eyes locked with Bella’s as soon as her date was gone.

“Edward, that song was…amazing,” she whispered, leaning toward me over the table. “Thank you.”

“Well, I think that had something to do with the person who inspired it,” I answered. “It couldn’t possibly do you justice.” I couldn’t stop staring at her perfectly painted lips. I wanted to lick and suck on them until their natural pink hue shone through.

She shook her head at me, looking slightly overwhelmed. Maybe I had said too much again, but I didn’t want to hold it in anymore. I felt her shoe against my shin again, delicate but deliberate, rubbing slowly up and down until the sensation traveled up to my groin. I knew I needed to leave the table immediately or suffer the horror of getting an erection while a tiny child sat on my lap.

“Okay, little one, let’s go have that dance, shall we?” I suggested hastily. I gave Bella an apologetic look, then picked Lilly up and carried her to the terrace. She squealed with glee as I drew her in with the other dancers, whirling her around in time to the music and then finally setting her tiny feet upon my shoes. She stared, fascinated, as I moved my feet, her own helplessly transported along with them. She looked up at me with a heart-breakingly adorable expression as her hands squeezed mine, hanging on for dear life.

When the song ended, I picked her up and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “You are an excellent dancer, Lilly. I’m very honored that you were my first dance tonight.”

“I am honored too,” she repeated solemnly. “Now you have to dance with Bella.”

“You think so, huh? I’m afraid she has another date tonight, and so do I.”

Lilly looked up at me with a frown. “But you and Bella belong together.”

I gave her a surprised look, amazed at how astute a four-year-old could be.

“How do you know that?” I asked her.

“You just do,” she answered in a tone that indicated I was obviously some sort of simpleton.

“I can’t argue with that logic,” I told her with a grin. I took her back to her parents, who apologized for her bothering me. I assured them that it was no bother to dance with the prettiest girl at the party.

As I turned to go back to our table, half of its occupants pushed back their chairs, paired up and headed for the terrace to dance. The mezzo-soprano had settled in for a mini-concert, it seemed, and the old classics she sang were drawing people to the stage with wallets in hand before they hit the dance floor.

Bella was staring fixedly at her lap. I wondered if she was trying to avoid an invitation from Jake, who was eying her in a way that annoyed me greatly. Jessica was sucking the dregs of her latest mojito noisily through a straw, her empty shot glass discarded nearby. Dad got up and headed for the orchestra, either to help Mom with the emceeing or grab her for a twirl or two of their own. I glanced down at Jessica, her cleavage really quite impressive from my vantage point. I’d never been so disinterested in a great pair of breasts in my life.

I sighed and decided I’d might as well get it over with: I’d better ask my date to dance.

“Shall we?” I said as I caught her eye and offered her my hand.

“What, you mean dance? Well, I don’t really know how to dance to this old stuff, but yeah, sure,” she agreed, taking my hand. Bella looked up at me with what I wanted to believe was longing before we turned to go. Frustration began to build inside me as I led the wrong girl to the terrace and guided her gently across the flagstones. I’m not a great dancer, but it didn’t matter because Jessica didn’t really know how to foxtrot anyway. I stared absent-mindedly over her shoulder at the other couples around me, mostly middle-aged and older, but some young, like my siblings and their partners. The latter all looked amazingly cozy for dating such a brief amount of time. My annoyance at my own situation grew as I sighed a bit too heavily into Jessica’s stiffly-sprayed hairdo.

“You know, Edward, it was really cool of you to ask me here tonight, and I appreciate rubbing shoulders with your dad’s doctor buddies and all,” Jessica began, unable to keep quiet for more than three minutes at a stretch. “But I have to ask you something. Why didn’t you ask Bella to this soiree instead of me?”

I blinked in a surprise a couple of times, pausing to make sure she was finished. “Why do you think I should have asked Bella?”

“Oh, I don’t know, maybe the fact that you two haven’t been able to keep your eyes--and feet--off of each other all night. That was kind of a tip-off, there. But even Helen Keller would have been able to pick up on the UST between the two of you.”

“’Ust?’” I repeated blankly.

“Unresolved Sexual Tension. It’s an acronym, get it? Don’t you ever text or tweet or anything? Oh, right, never mind. Don’t answer that,” she muttered, giving me a look as if I were some hopelessly out-of-touch old man. “Anyway, the UST is, like, ridiculous between you guys. I mean, even the four-year-old figured it out. So I’m just trying to figure out why you’re dancing with me right now instead of Bella.”

I looked down into Jessica’s clear blue eyes, amazingly sharp considering how many drinks she had downed. I suddenly realized why Emmett had hired her. She might come across as an airhead, but in truth, the girl doesn’t miss much.

“I guess I’m more obvious than I thought,” I admitted sheepishly. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings or make you feel like second fiddle. That really wasn’t my intention.”

She rolled her eyes dismissively. “Oh, no, you didn’t hurt my feelings or anything. I mean, you’re my boss. Yeah, you’re handsome and charming and whatever, but I just don’t think about you that way, you know? That would be weird. Plus, you’re, like, way too uptight for me. No offense.”

I laughed with relief. “None taken. But I don’t feel right about the reason I asked you to the ball. The truth is, I knew Bella would be here with Jacob Black, and I couldn’t stand the thought of showing up alone,” I admitted cautiously.

“So you played the jealousy card,” Jessica grinned knowingly. “I totally get that. Sounds like something I’d do, actually. I’m completely fine with you and Bella being endgame for the evening. In fact, I am more than prepared to comfort her date when she dumps him at the end of the night. He is hot and a half. Seriously.” She fanned her face with her hand for emphasis. “Ooh, and speak of that little devil….”

I looked over in the direction Jessica’s eyes had strayed to see Jacob Black leading Bella by the hand to the terrace. They stopped several couples away from us and assumed the ballroom dance position, his left hand grasping her right, his other hand on her waist. I hated watching him touch her, even in the generic posture of a public dance. When the hell did I get so jealous?

“Stop looking so murderous,” Jessica advised as I spun her around. “Look cool. Unconcerned. Better yet, pretend we’re having the most awesome time together. Make Bella wish a black hole would swallow me so she could take my place. Milk it, Edward!”

I couldn’t help but snicker at her plotting.

“That’s it! Laugh. Look alive. That will get her attention much better than all that mooning,” she continued. She let out a big, fake laugh herself, which made me chortle again.

“You know, it’s pretty big of you to help me out instead of getting pissed and storming out of here. You have every right to tell me to go to hell,” I told her.

“Well, believe it or not, I’m kind of fond of my job and I’d like to keep it. I’m thinking of going into your line of work, as a matter of fact. I’m hoping some of what you do will rub off on me through osmosis.”

I stared at her in mild shock. “Your job would never be in jeopardy for not going along with my nefarious schemes. You know that, right?”

She literally snorted with laughter. “’Nefarious schemes?’ Edward, I hate to break it to you, but you’re about as nefarious as Clark Kent. Honestly, you say the weirdest stuff sometimes!”

I grinned in acknowledgement. “Yeah, I know.” I paused a moment, now seeing my date in a different, more favorable light. “I have to say, I’m actually glad I invited you here tonight, Jessica. Jacob Black would be lucky to have you.”

“Thank you,” she smiled with satisfaction. “Now all we have to do is convince him of that.”

“I have complete confidence that you will figure out a way to make that happen.”

Jessica waggled her eyebrows in agreement.

The song came to a close, and smatterings of applause filled the air. A few shouts of “Encore!” spurred the singer on, and she was only too happy to launch into another classic after a quick conference with the orchestra.

“Good God, this song is even slower than the last one,” moaned my companion.

“We can sit this one out,” I offered, only too happy to comply.

“No-no-no, wait! You should totally cut in on Jake and Bella,” Jessica exclaimed, her eyes bright from the light bulb that had just turned on in her head. “You know, all old-school suave and Cary Grant-like.”

The desire to do exactly what she suggested eclipsed my surprise that she knew who Cary Grant was. She must have seen the sudden determination on my face because she began pushing me in the couple’s direction.

I didn’t need that much prodding. I strode purposefully toward the edge of the terrace where Jake and Bella stood, swaying to the music. I made sure to use my smoothest, most persuasive voice.

“Excuse me. May I cut in?” I asked Jacob, politely but firmly.

He glowered up at me, his irritation poorly disguised. I suddenly heard Jessica pipe up behind me.

“Maybe we could swap partners for a song or two,” she suggested with infectious enthusiasm. “It’ll be fun. What do you say?”

Jacob’s face softened slightly, probably so as not to offend Jessica.

“Sure,” he agreed a bit sullenly, stepping away from Bella, his hands dropping away from hers. I wasted no time in claiming her abandoned fingers for myself as I drew her into the crowd with me. I couldn’t believe how good it felt to touch her again, to pull her close. My right hand closed around her tiny waist while my left hand captured her right. Her high heels made her taller, bringing her face near enough for me to feel her breath on my chin as she looked up at me. She smelled of wine now, mixed with the flowers and spice I’d caught earlier.

“God, I missed you,” I murmured as I moved her slender body with mine in time to the music.

She nodded slowly, her eyes hypnotic. “I missed you, too.”

We fell silent. The mezzo-soprano’s voice filled in the dialogue for us, the old lyrics still a perfect expression of new love.

It's not the pale moon that excites me
That thrills and delights me, oh no
It's just the nearness of you

It isn't your sweet conversation
That brings this sensation, oh no
It's just the nearness of you

When you're in my arms and I feel you so close to me
All my wildest dreams come true

I need no soft lights to enchant me
If you'll only grant me the right
To hold you ever so tight
And to feel in the night the nearness of you*

I never knew it was possible to stare into someone’s face, search someone’s eyes, for an entire song. There was no embarrassed laughter, no skittish glances aside. Just complete submersion in one another without a single thought of anyone or anything else. Our eyes were carrying on the conversation that we had tried and failed to have last week, and it was far more effective than the clumsy words we had exchanged.

But I knew that our wordless communication couldn’t last. I needed to find out exactly what I’d done wrong so that I wouldn’t repeat my mistake. I wanted to clear the air between us and move forward.

I glanced around after the song came to a close; Jacob and Jessica were not in the immediate vicinity.

“Come with me,” I whispered in Bella’s ear. My hand still clutching hers, I pulled her gently toward the sprawling garden north of the terrace, then down the path I knew best.

The sun had all but set in the west, the waters of the Sound glowing pale pink and orange in the distance. Bella’s skin was iridescent porcelain in the fading light, and I kept stealing glances at her luminous face as we maneuvered the winding garden path.

“Wow,” she breathed as I led her through the walks lined with hedgerows, many taller than I was. “You told me this garden was a maze, but I had no idea. This almost looks like something out of Harry Potter!”

I laughed and gave her hand a squeeze. “But nowhere near as dangerous. You can’t get too lost in here. Every path leads back to the perimeter eventually, or to a little nook, like… this,” I announced as we turned a corner and came to my favorite place in the garden.

The path we were on ended abruptly up ahead. The hedgerow remained only on one side of the walk, a waist-high retaining wall lining the other and forming an enclosed “L“ abutting the hedges. Rose bushes of varying hues were planted symmetrically along the ledge of the stone wall, their splashes of color interrupted only by soft green grass growing in between. At the enclosure before us was planted a large rose trellis, its latticework dripping a profusion of ruby-red roses that climbed six feet high. In front of that picturesque backdrop sat an ornate iron bench for two.

“Edward,” Bella gasped quietly, her pace slowing as we neared the end of the path. “This looks like something out of a fairy tale.”

“I know. I used to come and read here as a kid. I’d bring a blanket to throw on the bench and I’d sit here for hours. It was nice to get away from Emmett every now and then. And Alice, for that matter,” I added with a laugh.

She grinned up at me and I motioned for her to sit down. I sat close to her, turning toward her, unable to look at anything else. I reached tentatively for her hair; her lips parted in unspoken invitation. I gently pushed the chestnut waves away from her face, one finger lightly brushing the soft pink satin of her cheek.

“You look incredible tonight,” I told her. “I keep trying to find the right words, but there really aren’t any that are adequate.”

Even in the dusk that filtered through the trellis behind us, I could see her blush deepen. She smiled and reached up to take my hand in hers.

“You clean up pretty well yourself. It’s really not fair, the way you look in that suit. And then you have to go and be so sweet with your little cousin….” She shook her head at me, her expression almost aggravated. “That’s like a double-whammy on my hormones, you know.”

“You like kids?” I grinned, teasing her. I was fairly certain that babies were the last thing on Bella’s mind at her age, when she was so focused on her career.

“Well, yeah, of course. In theory. Not in practice. I mean, not yet, anyway. I didn’t mean… I wasn’t trying to suggest anything or scare you with that comment,” she stuttered, clearly flustered. “Um, why are we talking about this?”

I let out a rueful chuckle. “I have no idea. It seems like I’m always saying the wrong thing. I don’t know why I can’t seem to get it right with you. It’s driving me crazy.” My fingers let go of hers and raked anxiously through my hair instead.

“How can you say that?” Bella asked, sounding exasperated. “You write me the most beautiful song I’ve ever heard, and play it for me in front of everyone at your parents’ party, and you still think you aren’t getting it right? Edward, if you were any more perfect, I couldn’t handle it. You already overwhelm me completely. You take my breath away. You look at me like--like that--and I can’t breathe.”

Whatever way it was that she accused me of looking at her, I couldn’t stop doing it. Her words thrilled and maddened me in equal measure.

“So you’re telling me that I’m doing everything so right that it’s actually… wrong?” I questioned her, baffled.

“Something like that,” she answered, that damned crease forming over the bridge of her nose.

I let out a slightly hysterical laugh. “That’s… wow.” I couldn’t even find the words to describe how fucked up that sounded to me. “I can’t win with you either way, then. Is that it?”

“No!” she exclaimed, her agitation growing to meet my own. “You can’t lose with me. That’s what you don’t seem to get.”

I stared at her, incredulous. “If I can’t lose with you, then what the hell happened last week? I tried to explain to you that I want to make something work between us, and I screwed it up so royally that you ended up telling me you wanted time apart to think about everything instead.”

Bella’s face fell. “We both screwed up. I never should have made that crack about you not being a doctor. I overreacted when you said you weren’t going to treat me anymore. I knew why you were doing it, but in that moment all I felt was this irrational fear that you were abandoning me when I needed you most--just when I was finally making some progress.”

I shook my head penitently. “The way I blurted it out was thoughtless and cruel. But I was surprised that you took it so hard. I didn’t think my suggestion would shock you as much as it did. You knew how I felt about mixing my personal life with my professional one.”

“I know, I did. Like I said, my reaction was out of line. Sometimes I let my emotions run away with my logic. I realize that’s a foreign concept for you,” she added with a wry laugh.

“What do you mean by that?” I asked cautiously, wondering if I should feel offended.

“You always think first before you act. Your head rules your heart,” Bella said matter-of-factly, as if she were stating the obvious.

“Well, yeah, usually,” I agreed, thinking that this was an attribute, not a detriment. “But that doesn’t mean I don’t have any feelings.”

“I know that. You just don’t ever give them free reign. At least not when you’re sober.”

Aha. Now we were getting somewhere. “And when I’m not sober?”

Her eyes fell in the vicinity of my chest. She slid her hand under the lapel of my jacket and pressed her palm over the crisp shirt fabric that covered my rapidly beating heart. “Then you let me see a little bit of what’s really going on in here,” she replied softly.

“Bella,” I whispered, placing the crook of my index finger under her chin to lift her face to mine. “The alcohol didn’t make me say or do anything that night that I wouldn’t have done stone cold sober. I wish to God I hadn’t been drunk. You deserved so much better than that from me. I wish I could go back and do all of it differently.”

Her dark eyes suddenly flashed with anger as she leapt up from the bench. “You keep saying that. Do you have any idea how insulting that is? What would you do differently, Edward? What exactly do you regret? All the beautiful things you said to me? Or are you sorry for giving me the best orgasm of my life?”

I gaped up at her, dumbfounded. I thought back to how I had apologized for my behavior over and over… and this was how she interpreted it? She was trembling, her breath coming fast, her chest heaving. Her face flooded red, either from embarrassment or fury, I wasn’t sure which. Then she whirled around and stormed back down the garden path.

I only let her get a dozen feet away before I caught up to her. My hand closed around her arm and gently yanked her to a halt, turning her to face me.

“You know I don’t regret anything that happened between us,” I insisted between gritted teeth. “I only regret the way I did it, so drunk off my ass that I wasn’t even man enough to make love to you the way I wanted to, the way you deserve.”

I hated even thinking about that brief foray into impotence, let alone alluding to it out loud. Outraged at the memory and hell-bent on proving itself, my dick was already stirring to life as Bella stared up at me with wild eyes.

“Are you man enough now?” she taunted, raising her chin in challenge.

“What do you think?” I replied, my voice husky as I pulled her roughly to me. My hands dropped to her hips, fingers on the small of her back, pushing her against my growing erection. Her eyes widened slightly and she gasped; her lips exhaled wine into mine as her hands reached up for my neck, fingers tracing my jaw.

“If you had any idea how badly I want to kiss you right now….” My words trailed off as I gazed hungrily at her burgundy lips.

“What’s stopping you?” she whispered, eyes beckoning.

I shook my head as a wan smile curved the corner of my mouth. “If I do, that pretty lipstick of yours will be all over your face, and mine. I don’t think you want to go back to the party like that, with the evidence of what we were doing literally written on your face.”

“I don’t care,” she said defiantly, grabbing my tie to pull me closer.

“You’ll care when the first person you run into is the president of Java Noise. Or your buddy Jake.” For fuck’s sake, Cullen, when will you ever learn?

Her pretty lips pressed together in a not-so-pretty sneer. “Stop it. Stop using him as an excuse to keep this from happening.”

“I’m not. He’s not an excuse--he’s a fact. And it’s not just him. We both have a lot of people only a few yards away who are going to come looking for us if we’re gone too long.”

“They’ll never find us here,” she insisted, glancing around at our rose-covered shelter in the first shadows of impending twilight. She pressed herself against me, pushing her thigh between mine, rubbing against my groin. My cock swelled and stretched toward her in response, straining against the fabric of my trousers. My hands began to roam up and down her back, then lower, desperate for the feel of those round cheeks between my fingers. Bella pulled at my tie again, loosening it; then ran her fingers down the buttons of my shirt to the waistband of my pants.

She didn’t stop there. Her hand continued its journey, working its way between our bodies until it found the outline of my erection. Her fingers wrapped around it through my slacks, stroking it up and down, then reaching lower and cupping my balls, squeezing them before traveling the length of my dick again.

“Bella, please,” I rasped helplessly, only too willing to give in to her seduction. “Don’t start something you can’t finish.”

“What makes you think I can’t finish it?” she replied with the raise of an eyebrow. “I can think of several ways, actually.” With shocking speed, her hands found the tab waist of my pants and unfastened the closure. The minute as she pulled the zipper down, my grateful cock sprang upward. The invigorating shock of the cool night air was soon replaced by the warmth of her hand, gripping my naked flesh firmly and milking a shaky moan from my mouth.

“You went commando?” she marveled, stroking my member up and down in a maddeningly slow rhythm. “Maybe you were more ready for this than I thought.”

“I was born ready,” I scoffed, then grew serious as her hand continued to work magic. “Come on, Bella. You can’t want this,” I protested weakly. How could she possibly want our first time together to be a frantic quickie in my uncle’s garden with hundreds of people nearby? “Not here. Not like this.”

“If you touch me right now, you’ll know exactly what I want,” she murmured, her voice low and convincing. “Stop assuming what I want or don’t want. That’s the only thing you keep doing wrong, if you’re so hell-bent on me finding a flaw in you.” Her second hand joined the first, pushing my pants down, massaging my entire groin and reducing my thought processes to a mere crumb.

“But our first time should be….” I faltered, not wanting to impose my ideals on her yet again. Instead, I waited. And listened, this time.

“Edward,” she said softly, her eyes drawing mine into their hypnotic depths. Her fingers gently trailed up and down my abdomen, sending shivers in every direction. “I don’t care where or how our first time happens… as long as you promise me it’s not our last.”

The shuddering breath that escaped my lungs was one of complete and total surrender. I wondered if she had any idea of the effect she had on me. She didn’t just take my breath away. In that moment she took my inhibitions, my fears and my mistrust and crushed them into dust. There was only Bella, here, now. Nothing else mattered.

“I promise,” I whispered hoarsely.

I backed her against the stone wall and lifted her up on the ledge, seating her between two gorgeous rose bushes that still couldn’t compare to her beauty. I was reminded of hoisting her atop her kitchen counter that fateful night two weeks ago. It was the first time I had showered her with kisses, the first time I’d bared her sweet breasts, the first time I had wrapped those long legs around me. Now, her ruby lips taunted me no end, but I refused to smear that lipstick--I would give her no reason to regret this later. My lips found her cheek, her jaw, her neck instead. Her head tilted back, letting my hand and my mouth trace the long, delicate line from her chin to her collarbone.

“Beautiful swan,” I whispered into the hollow of her throat. She sighed, her hands twisting in my hair, sending tingles down my neck. My lips searched her ivory chest, working their way down to one breast, then the other, as I pushed the draped V-neck of her dress aside to reveal them. My tongue savored the feel of each soft, pink nipple hardening under its caress, Bella’s sighs and moans an accompaniment sweeter than any music. I ran my thumbs over each rigid peak, then licked and nibbled and sucked on them until they were bright pink and swollen from the abuse. Bella’s fingers tightened in my hair, pulling roughly at it in retribution.

My dick was throbbing with need by now, and I couldn’t wait any longer. I fumbled with the belt of her ebony dress, untying it and hastily pulling at the fabric until one side opened. The wrap dress was still closed on the other side by a silky black ribbon, which thankfully unraveled with one pull. The sides of the dress fell away easily then, exposing her to my greedy gaze. I leaned back to let my eyes take in her tiny waist, the subtle curve of her hips, the flat plane of her belly and the gentle swell of her thighs spread open before me. Between them lay a scrap of scarlet lace, attached by delicate bows to two strings of satin that disappeared around her hips.

My eyes slowly traveled back up her delectable body, my hands following suit, caressing the soft ivory curves that led to her neck. I placed my hands on either side of Bella’s face, looking deeply into her eyes.

“You are the most beautiful creature I’ve ever laid eyes on,” I said simply. What I lacked in originality, I was certain I made up for in sincerity. I couldn’t remember ever wanting, craving, needing someone this badly in my life. I leaned in and grazed my mouth gently against hers, just enough to feel the sticky sweetness of her candy-flavored gloss. She opened her mouth and set her tongue free, tracing my lips with it before sliding it in between them. My hands gripped her face more firmly as my tongue met hers, twirling and dancing in slippery sync as we kissed with our lips barely touching. The idea that her lips were temporarily forbidden suddenly made this careful kiss the most erotic I had ever had.

“Fuck,” I murmured softly as we finally parted, unable to restrain myself. I was afraid my penchant for cursing when emotionally overwhelmed was about to be revealed. We were both panting now, and my breathing only became more labored as I watched Bella’s nimble fingers work on the buttons of my shirt, opening them swiftly. I removed my suit jacket and tossed it in the direction of the iron bench, not really caring if the expensive garment met its target. I only cared about Bella’s fiery hands on me, pushing my shirt open, fingers splaying over my chest and slowly raking down my stomach. I mimicked the motion on her as well, savoring the warm creaminess of her skin and the twitching of her nerves underneath as I reached the sensitive spots I knew so well.

I eyed her crimson panties and debated ripping the flimsy fabric from her body. The thought of her spending the rest of the evening with no underwear on had my dick so engorged that I could feel my pulse throbbing through its length.

But for now, I settled for pushing the lace aside with my right hand and stroking her smooth labia until my fingers sank into the soft flesh between. She moaned and leaned back slightly on her hands, tilting her hips upward to grant me better access.

Suddenly my eyes popped open in surprise as I realized what I was seeing and feeling in the waning light. The skin of Bella Swan’s pussy was as naked as the day she was born: completely hairless, pink and glistening with moisture as my curious fingers spread her open.

“What did you do?” I asked pointlessly, searching her eyes for explanation. “You know you didn’t need to do this for me.”

“Maybe I did it for me,” she answered with rather false bravado. “Do you like it?”

The wan half-smile found my lips again. “I like you. So I like whatever else comes--or doesn’t come--with the package.” My eyes dropped to admire her utterly exposed anatomy again as I stroked it up and down.

“You’re being perfect again,” she accused half-heartedly.

“Sorry. But you make it easy.”

“Stop!” she laughed. Her laughter ended abruptly, replaced with a soft cry when I pushed my first two fingers into the creamy heat of her opening.

I leaned in and whispered into her ear, “I do like it. Easier access.”

Her hand came up to stroke my cheek, then my jaw. “I wanted to know what it would feel like with nothing between us. Nothing at all.” Her hand drifted down my body and wrapped itself around the swollen tip of my cock, then began pumping the length of my shaft in rhythm with my fingers stroking her deep inside. Her head fell back and she whimpered softly. I caught the back of her neck in my other hand, massaging it as my lips found her face again.

“I wish we could find out what that’s like,” I sighed in her ear, wanting nothing more than to bury my naked cock inside her this minute instead of having to fumble for the condoms in my wallet.

“What what’s like?” she asked groggily, gripping me harder, making me moan along with her.

“Sex with nothing between us. Nothing at all,” I repeated her words.

“What’s stopping you?” she asked again.

“Remember that conversation we had about kids a few minutes ago…?” I reminded her gently, understanding perfectly why her brain might be in a fog right now.

“Oh,” she said with a small giggle, her breath tickling my ear. “Don’t worry about that. I’m on the pill. I have been for over a year.”

I nuzzled her neck, pondering that bit of information. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d ridden bareback, if ever. I always used a condom, no exceptions. But suddenly I was seized with the desire to throw caution to the wind and go for it, now, this minute.

“There are other reasons to use protection,” I heard myself say, to the annoyance of every part of my body except my brain.

“Have you been tested?” she asked point blank. She stopped stroking me long enough to look me in the eyes with dead earnestness. I reluctantly withdrew my hand from her as well.

I nodded slowly. “I have, actually. I’m clean. As of four months ago, anyway. And I haven’t been with anyone since then.”

“I’m clean, too,” she said. “I got tested after my college boyfriend and I broke up, just to be sure. And I haven’t been with anyone since him, either,” she added softly, her eyelids lowering, as if this was somehow an embarrassing admission.

“I’m glad,” I told her, lifting her chin gently to make her look at me. “I can’t stand the thought of anyone else touching you.”

“Well, that’s one thing we agree on, then. I don’t want anyone else touching me, either. Only you.” The need, the desire in her eyes nearly brought me to my knees.

“Make me yours, Edward,” she urged, her voice as soft as her silken hair beneath my fingers. She scooted closer to me and slid her arms around me, planting her hands firmly on my backside, propelling me to her. It was killing me how forward she was being tonight; how much she wanted this, wanted me.

“I intend to,” I whispered into her ear, my tongue playing with the soft lobe as my hands continued to tangle her hair. “It’s only fair, after all. You already own me completely.”

“I do?” she asked, sounding both uncertain and pleased at once.

“How could you doubt it?” was my answer as my mouth drifted along her jaw. Her sigh sounded like one of relief.

“Mine,” she asserted throatily, her hot breath a welcome brand on my cheek.

Her hands snaked up my back, then down again, fingers spreading over my cheeks, pulling me more tightly to her. The tip of my straining cock was already slippery with fluid before it ever met its new home. It slid easily past the useless patch of lace between Bella’s legs and directly into her warm, wet opening, making me groan at the promise of what was to come. It was all I could do to keep from plunging into her with swift, brutal abandon, but I managed to pull back slightly instead. I wanted to savor this moment; savor her.

“Lean back on your hands again,” I ordered softly into her ear. She gave my ass a hard squeeze before she let go of it, forcing a growl from my throat. My eyes raked over her with blatant lust as she leaned back, tilting her hips up in invitation. I grabbed the satin cords of her g-string and pulled, but not hard enough to rip the fabric. She would need those panties later. I yanked them down her legs and over her stilettos, then stuffed them into the front pocket of the trousers bunched around my thighs.

“So fucking hot,” I sighed under my breath, unable to control myself as I stared at her. My hands pushed slowly, firmly up the length of her inner thighs, knee to groin, forcing her legs open wide. I loved seeing her sex unveiled so completely, clitoris bright pink and quivering, vaginal muscles involuntarily squeezing open and shut in anticipation of being filled. I traced the sensitive, puckered flesh down to the shiny wet opening with my index finger, teasing it until it was dripping wet. Bella’s eyes closed and her breath quickened, punctuated by small whimpers and moans.

“I think you’re ready for me,” I murmured with a faint grin.

“I was born ready for you,” she mocked my earlier words, adding her own twist.

I ran my fingers lightly up and down her open legs, over the smooth skin of her hips, her stomach, her breasts. My greedy hands neglected no part of her, worshipping this beautiful body that I was about to enter and possess. She reached one hand out to grasp my cock again, stroking and pulling on it roughly until my breathing was labored and my desire was beyond control.

I pulled her to the edge of the wall, my hand closing over hers on my cock. I guided it to her until the head met her clit, and we both groaned at the contact. Our hands worked in tandem, rubbing my rigid member up and down the length of her, pushing just the tip inside her and out again, until I couldn’t stand it anymore.

I pulled her hand away and sank my cock more deeply into her, again forcing moans from both of us in desperate unison. My eyes locked with hers as I pulled out almost completely, then pushed in again, deeper this time. She cried out softly, but her hips lifted to meet mine, pulling me in.

I continued this slow, inexorable plunder of her pussy with rhythmic precision, each time withdrawing almost completely before plunging further inside. The primal grunts and sighs coming from me were matched by hers as I filled her again and again, stretching her, shaping her to me. The soft, wet ridges of her vagina were like nothing I’d ever felt before; a million microscopic fingers massaging my unprotected cock into a frenzy, coaxing it to thrust harder and faster into that exquisite pocket of flesh.

I could tell that Bella was trying to stifle her cries, the faint noise and music of the party in the distance a reminder of how illicit our behavior was. It only seemed to spur us both on, making us more wanton and desperate, knowing that people were probably looking for us by now and we might get caught. Bella leaned further back, transferring her weight from her hands to her elbows, elongating her torso and allowing her pelvis to lunge up to meet mine. I grasped her hips and held them steady as I rammed my cock into her again and again, overwhelmed at the exquisite, almost unbearable friction that our naked flesh created together.

“Holy fuck,” I moaned as I gazed down at her, unimaginably gorgeous as she lay before me, her breasts surging upward with my every thrust. Every fantasy I’d ever had about her paled in comparison to the stunning reality of her body beneath mine. And yet it still wasn’t enough--I wanted more from her. I wanted to push her to the edge, maybe so I wouldn’t be teetering there alone.

“Lie back,” I commanded as I leaned over her. “You’re going to take every last inch of me, Bella. Nothing between us.” Her eyes were dark and glassy with desire as she gazed up at me.

I gently pulled her arms out from under her until she was flat on her back, hair spread out in the grass, the rosebushes on either side forming a colorful canopy of petals high above her while her open dress made a blanket beneath her. I ran my hands up and down her body again, still awed that this amazing creature was allowing me inside.

When I reached her knees, I lifted them up and pushed them back. I brought one scarlet shoe up to my shoulder, kissing her ankle, then working my mouth down her slender calf. I lifted her other leg high and did the same. Her ankles now resting on my shoulders, I guided my missile between her legs once again, firing deep, hitting the target with perfect precision.

“Fuck!” she gasped as my balls slapped her ass, my cock buried inside her to the hilt. I couldn’t help but smirk at her expletive.

“I’m glad it’s not just me,” I mumbled, half to myself, before drilling her again. She moaned more loudly than before, and it turned me on so much that I wanted to fuck her like a jackhammer until she screamed and swore at me like a sailor.

But more than that, I wanted her to come. I wanted to make her come even harder than she had the last time, because my dick was sick of being jealous of my fingers.

I slowly leaned my body forward, pushing her legs further back with each thrust, gradually changing the angle so that my cock would press more deeply inside her each time. She was surprisingly limber, and I was amazed at the progress she’d made in the two weeks since I’d last treated her. Before I knew it, my hands were in the grass on either side of her, Bella’s legs bent all the way back, her ankles still straddling my shoulders as I rammed her thoroughly and relentlessly. Her hands gripped my arms and her neck arched as her face twisted in what I hoped wasn’t pain.

“I’m not hurting you, am I?” I gasped.

Her eyes flew open with surprise. “No,” she assured me breathlessly. “It’s just so… intense. I can’t….” Her words failed and she shook her head.

I let go of her legs and let them relax on either side of my hips. I leaned down over her, pressing my torso against the warm length of hers, my fingers disappearing into her hair as I kissed her tenderly on the cheek.

“Put your arms around my neck,” I murmured into her ear. She obeyed, her eyes trusting as they gazed up into mine. “Now wrap your legs around me.” She obeyed once more, locking her ankles around my waist. I maneuvered until my cock found her heat again, then slowly slid all the way inside. She inhaled sharply, then let the air out in a low sigh.

“Hang on,” I told her. I placed my hands behind her shoulders and pulled her with me as I stood upright. When she was sitting on the ledge again, I slid my fingers between her dress and the round flesh of her ass, gripping her firmly. Then I lifted her completely off the stone wall and let gravity pull her body downward, my rock-hard dick driving upward, deep in her belly.

“Oh, God!” Bella cried, her limbs tensing, clinging to me as though I might let her fall. “Oh, geezus…Edward….” her words dissolved into something like a sob as her softness melted around my hardness in utter and complete unity.

I grunted as my hands grasped her cheeks and lifted her up, then let her body settle around me again, impaled on my cock, as we both moaned loudly.

“You feel so fucking good,” I rasped, my lips to her ear as she clung to me. “I can’t believe how you feel. God help me, I’ll never get enough of you. Never.”

I began thrusting upward rhythmically, my hands pushing her groin against me in time, bouncing her up and down forcefully on my cock. She began moving with me, riding me, her clutching hands moving from my shoulders to my neck to my scalp and back again. Her face was a blur of beautiful white skin, dark lips and even darker eyes as she rocked up and down, moaning softly. I had never seen anything so achingly beautiful in my life.

I wanted to tell her I loved her. I was shouting it inside. But the love was so tangled up in animal lust that I was overwhelmed once more. Nothing came out but unintelligible sex sounds, and I lost myself in our chorus of moans and sighs over the cadence of skin slapping against skin.

I couldn’t take much more. I knew I was going to lose it any minute and explode inside her. The sensations were too intense, too much to contain.

I withdrew from Bella and sat her back down on the wall, my arms shaking slightly after their exertion, even though she weighed no more than a sack of feathers. I slid my hands up her bare back under the fabric of her dress, holding her close. I covered her satin skin with kisses, so hungry for her mouth instead that I wanted to scream.

“Come for me,” I begged her in between kisses, moving one hand to her front, between her legs. I found the swollen button of her clitoris and rubbed it rapidly until a groan of pleasure rumbled in her throat.

“I won’t come unless you’re inside me,” she countered, her hands stroking my body up and down, roaming everywhere, giving me a taste of my own medicine and making me crazy. She ended her exploration at my throbbing erection, working it as frantically as I did her clit, and I knew I was going to blow if she didn’t stop.

I pulled her hand away and guided my member where it wanted to go. She took me in easily now, and it felt like I had already made my mark inside her, molding her tight walls exactly to my girth and length. This was where I belonged. I would never tire of making love to this girl, or fucking her senseless.

I did both now, still in awe that both desires could so seamlessly bleed into one. I pounded her fast and hard, and the sounds she made told me she loved it. God, how did I get so lucky? The friction between us reached a fever pitch, and I could feel her tightening around me, tensing, getting ready. Her chest was pink with arousal and exertion, and she leaned back on one hand for leverage, the other clutching my shoulder.

My fingers found her clit again, adding to fuel to the fire, and I knew she was close. Close enough for me to let go and wait for her to follow.

I felt the first spasm of my ejaculation deep in my groin, forceful and ecstatic, surging through my scrotum and ripping through my cock like a firecracker until I exploded into Bella, helplessly calling her name. I thought that nothing could compare to the feeling of unloading deep into her womb, over and over, each contraction of my muscles a whip-crack of ecstasy that shot from me to her.

I was wrong.

Her body answered the call with a force that made me cry out like a baby. Her hips bucked upward as the orgasm shook her, and the tiny line formed between her eyebrows again, but this time it was a welcome mark of ecstasy. Her body trembled violently around me, its powerful muscles ruthlessly milking the juice out of me until I swore again, a string of mindless profanities for which I apologized immediately afterward.

“Don’t apologize!” she exclaimed breathlessly, panting, as the quaking of our bodies gradually began to subside. Her fingers combed roughly through my hair and massaged my scalp as she looked at me with mild exasperation.

“I like it when you swear. I want you let go with me,” she murmured, her lips tantalizingly close to mine. “I’ve been waiting for it since the day we met. I could see it inside you, like an animal you thought you had tamed into submission. I’ve wanted to let you out of your cage for so long, Edward. I was so afraid I’d never find the key.”

I pressed my forehead against hers, eyes closed, and concentrated on the slowing of her breath and mine. I needed a moment to gather my wits, even though Bella seemed to take great pleasure in rendering me witless.

“You’re the only one who has the key,” I admitted, finally acknowledging to myself that this was bigger than I was. “You unlocked the door so quickly, I didn’t realize it was open. I think I forgot I was even in a cage. I forgot how to come out.”

Her liquid eyes were rich and warm with understanding as I bobbed contentedly in their depths.

“I’m glad you came with me,” she said, smirking at her double-entendre.

“I hope so,” I replied, matching her grin. “I plan to come with you quite often from now on.”

She sighed contentedly, and I bent my head to nuzzle her neck as I savored the last few tremors twitching my thoroughly spent cock. I didn’t want to withdraw it from its cozy nest, nor disentangle the rest of me from her limbs.

Bella seemed to read my mind. “I don’t want to go back,” she said. I wasn’t sure if she was talking about the party, or about the slightly rocky road we’d taken to find each other.

“I don’t either. Let’s just stay here until dawn and let everyone wonder what happened to us,” I suggested.

“I could do it. I’m sure of it,” she said. But when our eyes met again, reality and common sense had seeped back in around the edges.

“It’s only a couple of hours,” I sighed, reluctantly drawing the sides of her dress around her. “We can go be adults for just a little while, right?”

She nodded, her face a bit petulant. “Then what?”

“Then you’re coming home with me.”

Her adorable pout lifted. “I am?”

“Yes. I don’t care how. I don’t care if MonkeyBoy has to take you home first. I’m coming to get you.”

“What about Jessica?”

“Jessica would be more than happy to take Jacob off your hands,” I informed Bella.

“Ah. I kind of thought so. I hope Jake can get on board with that,” she smiled, reaching for the fabric of my not-so-crisp white shirt. She began buttoning it up lethargically, looking disappointed to see my skin disappear beneath the fabric. I couldn’t wait until she’d have the chance to open the buttons again.

I found the long black ties of Bella’s dress and pulled them together, making a neat bow on one side. I would no longer be able to put off the inevitable anymore--I was going to have to remove my penis from her vagina. Our struggle to dress each other while still joined together was bordering on comical at this point.

“I hate this part,” I sighed as I did the deed, slowly pulling out of her. The cool air hit the cream coating me and my dick shrank pitifully at the unwelcome sensation. I leaned in and kissed Bella as close to her mouth as I could, a long, sweet kiss that I hoped told her how much our closeness meant to me. Her hands found my face, gently stroking, returning the sentiment.

I sighed again as I reached down and pulled up my trousers. I tucked the shirt in and zipped my fly while Bella found the belt of her dress and tied it securely, making sure the fabric was wrapped as demurely over her body as possible. I went to the bench and retrieved my jacket, shaking it clean before donning it again. When I returned to Bella, I reached out and combed my fingers through the tangles of her hair, trying to smooth and tame them into a semblance of the perfect, glossy curtain that adorned her head when she had arrived earlier.

“It’s hopeless, isn’t it,” she lamented, trying to help me.

“It’s not so bad,” I fibbed, increasing my efforts to tame her locks. “I wish I felt worse about doing this to your hair, but the truth is, I love it. I love how you look with bed-head. I especially love it when it’s my fault.”

“If you’re trying to make me actually want to go back to the party right now, you are failing miserably.” She began working at the knot of my tie, pushing it up, straightening it. I smoothed her hair some more, and satisfied with its improvement, I dropped my hands and offered her one.

“Shall we?” I suggested.

She stared at me as if I were obtuse. “Aren’t you forgetting something?”

I looked at her blankly. “What?”

“My underwear,” she reminded me. She reached her hands into my pockets, fishing the tiny garment out.

“Give me that,” I demanded softly, stealing the strip of lace and satin from her fingers. I fingered it for a moment, fighting the urge to lift it to my face and inhale her intoxicating scent.

“This hardly constitutes what I would call ‘underwear,’” I continued as I waved it in her face. “It barely qualifies as a pair of panties. I really wanted to tear this useless scrap of material right off of your body instead of sparing it.”

Her eyes were round with feigned shock. “So what changed your mind?”

“Well, I could lie and say that it seemed like a shame to destroy such a pretty little piece of lace,” I answered coyly. “But the truth is, you’ll need them, although they might be a little flimsy for the job.”

She looked up at me in exasperation. “The job…?” she prompted, annoyed at my obvious enjoyment.

I ignored her question and knelt down, holding the panties open at her feet. She obligingly put one sparkling shoe in, then the other, and waited while I drew the fabric up and under her dress. I arranged the g-string over her hips and gently pressed the lace snugly between her thighs as I leaned over and whispered the answer.

“You’ll need something to catch my cum when it seeps out of you for the next hour or so,” I intoned wickedly.

She let out a quick breath, almost a laugh, as her eyes narrowed up at me and her eyebrow raised. “I’d argue with you, but….” She shook her head and stopped, because she knew I spoke the truth.

There was no point in trying to hide my self-satisfied smirk as I rubbed her gently through the lace, drawing some fluid from her into the fabric.

“I can’t deny it. I’m really going to enjoy imagining my cum dripping out of you every time you stand up, or walk, or shift in your chair….” I stroked her pussy some more, soaking the lace clean through. “You have to promise to tell me how it feels later.”

“You are one sick bastard,” she informed me, sounding not the slightest bit offended.

“You’re the one who wanted to let me out of my cage,” I reminded her, cocking a smug eyebrow at her.

She tried to smother her smile, but failed. “Sick,” she accused again under her breath.

“You like it,” I asserted, giving her one last stroke between her thighs before removing my hand. I then offered it to her. “Come on, let’s go.”

She took my hand, shaking her head at me like a schoolmarm chastising a naughty boy. Fingers entwined and sticky with the evidence of our lovemaking, we headed back down the garden path and around the first bend, back toward the noise and light of the ball.

Suddenly a hulking, slightly ominous figure loomed directly ahead, silhouetted in the light from the far-off torches. His face was obscured in the dusk as he blocked our path, hands planted commandingly on his hips. His voice was brusque and threatening as it boomed down the hedgerows toward us.

“You are in so much fucking trouble.”

*Writer(s): Ned Washington, Hoagy Carmichael

[By the way, my favorite arrangement of this song is by the inimitable Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. And strangely, I love Sheena Easton’s interpretation, too. Check ‘em out on you tube.]