Saturday, June 25, 2011

Massage Therapy, Chapter 14 - Convergence, part 3

From the Desktop of Bella Swan
Sunday, August 22 (cont’d.)

As soon as I heard Edward’s voice, a wave of fear barreled through me. I was the proverbial kid caught with her hand in the cookie jar.

I turned wide, guilty eyes to Edward as he stood gaping at me. He wore only a faded pair of sweat pants that hung precariously around his trim waist. I was still staring at the ‘V’ of his hips when I began stammering excuses. I was afraid to look him in the eye.

“I’m sorry. I should have asked before I touched one of your guitars. I just--I was looking for the music to the song you wrote me. I didn’t find it, but I started looking at all your sheet music, and found these tablatures… and this guitar sounded so beautiful when you played it last night that I just….”

I ran out of words, and breath. In the moments that I had braved a glance at his face, he was giving me a vaguely perturbed look from under knitted brows that made me nervous.

“You told me you didn’t know how to play guitar.” It wasn’t so much an accusation as a question. He looked more confused than anything else.

“I don’t, really,” I insisted. “I know the basic chords, that’s it. I just wanted to see if I remembered them.”

Edward’s expression remained troubled as he came and sat next to me on the couch.

“Did you really think I’d be angry that you were playing my guitar?” The disappointment in his voice was impossible to miss.

“I hoped not. But musicians can be funny about their instruments. Especially one as nice as this.” I removed the guitar from my lap and set it gently on the floor, its neck resting against the sofa between our knees.

Edward reached out one strong, elegant hand to cup my chin and stroke my jaw.

“Anything I have is yours,” he said.

Wow. Considering how new our relationship was, that was quite a concession.

“I wish you had told me you could play,” he added. I saw the unspoken question in his eyes: Why did you lie to me?

“I can’t, honestly. I haven’t touched a guitar in years. This was the first time since… since my mother died.”

Edward released my chin and took my hand instead. “I saw that you had a guitar in your closet,” he admitted carefully, his gaze a bit sheepish at my puzzled look. “I actually forgot about it until just now. But when I got up to use the bathroom early that morning, I opened your closet door by mistake,” he explained.

I let out a tiny laugh, imagining it. Then I took a deep breath and admitted, “Yeah, I have a guitar. It was my mom’s. She taught me to play a little bit, and then I started to take formal lessons. But after the accident, I just couldn’t seem to pick it up again. It was too hard. Every time I tried, I just felt… paralyzed.”

Edward’s thumb stroked my hand reassuringly, his eyes more than sympathetic. They were far too understanding; too knowing. I longed for the day that he would reveal the details of his past to me. Then again, I hadn’t fully come clean myself. My eyes fell guiltily to the guitar resting between us.

“So this was a big moment for you, then,” Edward said at last, nodding to the instrument.

“Yeah, kind of.” I bit my lip, but couldn’t stop the satisfied grin that finally stole over my face. “Yeah.”

Edward’s smile matched my own as he placed his other hand over mine, squeezing it between his. “You don’t have to stop on my account. You can play any of my guitars, as long as you want. I can give you lessons, if you’d like. Not that I’m that great a player, but… I’d love to teach you what I know.”

Somehow, I had the feeling he’d be teaching me about a lot of things. He had so far. I felt my face grow warm as I remembered the things we’d done last night; the visceral way we had connected. I didn’t want that to fade in the pale morning light streaming over us from the nearby window.

“I’d love for you to teach me what you know, Edward.” He apprehended my meaning perfectly, his eyes crinkling around the edges as he raised my hand to his lips for a kiss.

“Okay, then. I’ll give you some lessons later today,” he promised, with a faintly wicked grin. “But I’ve got to have sustenance first. Are you hungry?”

“Very,” I replied truthfully.

“Good, because I’m starving. And I think I actually have breakfast food in the house. In fact, I know I do. Do you cook?” He raised an eyebrow at me hopefully.

I began laughing then. “Yeah, a bit. Do you?”

“Sort of. I suck at it, but I can scramble an egg with the best of ‘em.”

“You can be my sous-chef then,” I told him.

“That means I get to be under you, right?” he grinned rakishly, standing up and pulling gently at my hand.

“No, it means I get to be over you,” I replied with a raised eyebrow of my own as I stood next to him.

“I look forward to that vantage point,” he smirked. He put his hand on the small of my back to guide me back through the loft. He paused at the bathroom door and inquired, “Are you a brush-your-teeth-before-breakfast kind of girl, or a brush-afterward?”

“Well, that depends.”

“On what?”

“How soon you want me to kiss you.”

His hand promptly steered me to the left and through the bathroom doorway while I giggled in response.

“It just so happens that I have something for you,” he informed me. He pulled open the right-hand drawer under the sink and procured an oblong plastic package from its contents. With much pomp and circumstance, he bent the container along its perforation, pulling the top back to reveal the head of a bright pink toothbrush. He waggled his eyebrows as he pulled the brush from its plastic sleeve and presented it to me, a look of great expectation on his face, as though I should be swept away by his generosity.

“For me? You shouldn’t have,” I exclaimed, playing along. I knew that we were both thinking back to the evening he’d spent at my place.

“I didn’t. I just happened to have a spare,” he said with lofty nonchalance.

“Did you, now?” I narrowed my eyes as I looked up at him. “Nice try. You had this whole weekend planned, didn’t you?” I demanded.

His look of mock innocence was a thing of wonder. “Of course not. I bought this for myself. I just hadn’t opened it yet. And now I’m bequeathing it to you,” he beamed.

“’Bequeathing?’” I snorted. “Is this a scepter or something? I don’t see any crown jewels embedded in it… although it does sparkle,” I added as I studied the silver-flecked plastic handle. “Admit it, Edward Cullen. You had very specific plans for this weekend. The fully-stocked refrigerator, the candles everywhere, the spare toothbrush… you were hoping you’d lure me back here after the party last night.”

He hid his amusement behind narrowed eyes and pursed lips. “Has anyone ever told you that you have a suspicious mind, Ms. Swan?”

“Yes. You did, two weeks ago. And it’s a good thing, too, or I might’ve fallen for this innocent act of yours. You bought this hot-pink, ultra-girly toothbrush especially for me. And the Smithwick’s beer, because I mentioned at Billy’s a few weeks ago that it was my favorite. You wanted me to spend the night here. And maybe the next day, too,” I finished triumphantly.

His slow, crooked grin nearly knocked me off my feet. Good God, but he was gorgeous, smiling down at me like that.

“Are you unhappy that I seduced you and dragged you back to my lair, Miss Swan? Would you like me to take you home now?” Damn. How dare he unleash the Sex Voice on me before breakfast? The bastard didn’t play fair.

“Oh, no. You promised me breakfast. And your attempt at cooking is something I wouldn’t miss for the world.”

“I think I’m offended that you doubt my prowess in the kitchen,” he grumbled good-naturedly. “I am a culinary wizard with frozen waffles.”

My subsequent giggles subsided when he purposely brushed up against me in order to grab the toothpaste tube off the countertop. He unscrewed the cap and gestured for me to hold up my new toothbrush.

“Ladies first,” he said, squirting a glob of neon-blue gel onto my brush. Either there was something absurdly sexual about his actions, or I had just gone off the connotation deep end and everything he did reminded me of sex. I took one glance up into his mischievous eyes and I knew it wasn’t just me with a one-track mind.

Edward finally looked away long enough to ready his own toothbrush before re-capping the tube and turning on the faucet. He ran his brush under the water, then looked at me expectantly.

“Has it come to this already? We’re going to watch each other brush our teeth? There goes the romance,” I teased.

“Bella, I could watch you squeeze pimples and still be completely turned on. Not that you have any pimples,” he added quickly. And then, more appreciatively, “Your skin is beautiful. You’re beautiful. Now brush your teeth so I can kiss you.”

“Bossy,” I muttered as I reluctantly obeyed, trying to ignore the inevitable arousal that stirred between my legs when he began ordering me around. It was most disconcerting.

“On the contrary,” he argued in between brushing, his mouth oozing white froth. “If I had my way, I would have kissed you long before this. To hell with fresh breath. But I like to make you happy. So I’m brushing.” He grinned a toothpaste-filled smile at me in the mirror and I burst into laughter at the sight of it.

“Fine,” I relented, putting a lid on my self-consciousness and beginning to scrub my own teeth in earnest. We watched each other in the mirror and giggled like little kids at how silly we looked. Edward made goofy faces just to make me laugh harder until toothpaste dribbled down my face.

Suddenly he grabbed me and pulled me to him, his tongue lapping up the white bubbles from my chin until it reached my lips. He kissed me then, and our tongues swirled in minty, messy circles for a moment. But my irrepressible laughter soon turned to choking, and I had to turn away and spit the toothpaste into the sink. Edward wasn’t far behind, laughing and spitting along with me, and it suddenly struck me that this felt like one of the most intimate things we’d done together so far this weekend.

“Sorry, I couldn’t wait,” he mumbled in between gargling and grinning.

“That’s one of my favorite things about you,” I told him. I thought back to the dogged way he’d resisted this closeness; how long he’d made me wait before he so much as touched me outside the confines of therapist and patient. How different he was now that the dam had burst. I reveled in these unexpected waves of Edward’s affection spilling over me.

We eyed each other sideways as we took turns rinsing and spitting until our mouths were squeaky clean. Edward grabbed a hand towel off of the nearby rack and daintily dried my lips, then wiped the towel quickly over his own. I was still chuckling when his hand closed on the back of my neck and he dove in for another kiss, this one deep and undeniable. My mouth was only too happy to be invaded, launching a half-hearted counter offense; but my body surrendered entirely and sagged against Edward’s naked torso. My hands explored the warm flesh of his back, fingers slowly working over every hill and valley of the muscular topography. His arms tightened around me, lifting me off the ground as he kissed me hungrily.

Our kiss might have led us right back to the bedroom, were it not for hungers of a different nature. I soon heard, and felt, the unhappy grumble of Edward’s empty stomach pressed against mine, disrupting our kiss with its urgency. My laughter was sympathetic; Edward’s, rueful.

“Do you hear that? You wore me out last night,” he accused. “I’m gonna have to refuel before we start this up again.” He set me back down on the tiled floor and gave me a chaste peck on the lips, smoothing my tangled hair with a sigh before he released me.

I wore you out? As I recall, you were the one who was relentless,” I countered, trying to fight the warmth that crept into my cheeks at the memory.

Edward’s hands found the sides of my face and he frowned down at me. “Did I go too far last night?” he whispered, his voice laced with worry. “Tell me the truth.”

The truth was, I’d never felt so raw, so sexual, and so utterly, thrillingly alive. I shook my head in reassurance. “You went just far enough.”

His features smoothed in relief. “I don’t ever want to push you too far,” he said soberly.

“Don’t worry. If you do, I’ll push back.”

Edward’s answering grin was all I needed. “I’m counting on it.”

“All right, then. I’m pushing you into the kitchen now,” I announced, placing my palms against the soft skin of his stomach and gently shoving him back toward the bathroom doorway.

“Bossy Bella is back. You know how that turns me on.” He gave me a big, leering grin as he gamely stumbled backward through the doorway and into the living room.

“Well then, you ought to have blue balls by the time I’m done making you help me with breakfast.”

“Bossy and dirty-talking--you really know how to charm a guy.”

“I learned from the master,” I replied pointedly, giving him another shove in the pectorals. He let out a guilty chuckle as he let me guide him backward to the bar that separated the kitchen from the living area, then around its granite top to the refrigerator. I pushed him playfully aside and opened the door, perusing the contents to see what he’d stocked up on in preparation for my first morning at his place.

“Hmm. Eggs, milk, cheese…spinach, peppers and onions in the crisper,” I began. I opened the freezer door and continued my inventory: “Bacon, hash browns; oh, and whaddya know, frozen waffles. That’s amazing. You just happen to have all the ingredients to make omelets.”

“What are the odds?” Edward’s grin was so adorable that I wanted to forget breakfast and eat him instead. “So, do you make omelets?” he added uncertainly.

I practically snorted in response. “If you knew Charlie, you wouldn’t even ask such a question.”

Edward’s face twisted in a scowl. “Who’s Charlie? I thought you said your old boyfriend’s name was Mike.”

My snorts of laughter multiplied as I enjoyed Edward’s jealous pout. I finally gave in and admitted, “Charlie is my dad. My dad who lived on frozen pot pies and fried fish before I moved in with him. He was only too happy to let me take over the cooking duties, and his favorite thing in the world was omelets on the weekends. I can fold eggs in my sleep.”

Edward’s face relaxed into a grin again. “I’d like to meet your dad. Sounds like my kind of guy.”

I studied him for a moment, trying to imagining his bohemian good looks juxtaposed with those of my rugged, no-nonsense, mustachioed father. I wasn’t so sure Charlie would share Edward’s sentiment.

I turned back to the refrigerator and began withdrawing all the needed ingredients for our breakfast, hoping he would drop the issue. No such luck.

“Don’t you want me to meet your dad?” Edward asked, sounding mildly offended.

“Well, yeah, sure, someday,” I replied, temporarily burying my head in the freezer.

“You don’t think he’ll like me,” he accused.

“That’s not it,” I hedged as I closed the refrigerator door. I busied myself nosing around Edward’s cupboards in search of cooking utensils. He began opening the proper drawers and magically producing skillets, bowls, spatulas, tongs and a whisk. Apparently he knew more about cooking than he let on.

“Then what is it?” he pressed.

“Okay,” I sighed. “I don’t think you’re exactly Dad’s… type. But I’m sure he’ll eventually love you like I do.”

I emitted a tiny gasp when I realized what had just popped out of my mouth. My eyes were rounder than the frying pans on the countertop as I stared up at Edward, frozen. He didn’t looked shocked or even very surprised at my words. In fact, it appeared as if he were trying very hard to suppress a grin.

“It’s a good thing I’m not dating your dad, then,” he replied smoothly, one eyebrow cocked in acknowledgement. His face grew more serious as he bowed his head closer to mine. “I’ll consider myself lucky if he loves me half as much as I know my mom loves you.”

My insides wobbled like jell-o as if he had actually said those Three Little Words instead of dancing around them. It didn’t matter--I knew what he really meant.

“I’m pretty sure he will,” I answered. “In fact, I’m certain of it.” Edward knew what I meant, too. As always, our eyes spoke much more eloquently than our lips.

“Here,” he said at last, his gaze finally shifting to the raw vegetables piled on the nearby countertop. “These aren’t going to wash and dice themselves.” He quirked an eyebrow at me again before scooping them up and carrying them to the sink.

“I like a sous-chef who takes initiative,” I complimented him, a bit relieved that we were settling back into banter. If I was going to tell Edward I loved him, I really didn’t want to blurt it out in his kitchen the Morning After, face smeared with leftover eye make-up and hair looking like it had been styled with the egg beater on the counter in front of me.

“I aim to please,” he grinned over his shoulder before turning back to his work.

“And you’re damned good at it, too,” I muttered under my breath as I put a slab of frozen bacon in one of the frying pans and placed it on the stove.

“What’s that?” Edward called over the sound of running water and bacon fat sizzling.

“Nothing,” I replied innocently. I turned my attention to preparing the eggs, cracking five of them into a mixing bowl and measuring out five tablespoons of milk. I whisked them into a froth while Edward meticulously chopped the vegetables with a butcher knife that could have carved a side of beef with ease.

“How’s this?” he queried at last, brandishing his cutting board of crudités chopped into symmetrical little squares.

“That’s perfect,” I replied. I bit my tongue before I added, “like everything else you do.”

Edward beamed like I’d just told him he was going to be the next Food Network Star. He watched with fascination as I readied two more frying pans with a dollop of butter, then began separating the bacon with a pair of tongs.

“Are you going to make waffles?” I asked him, hoping he would stop hovering over me like a hawk eyeing its prey.

“Of course,” he replied. He yanked open a nearby cabinet door and pulled out a cookie sheet. “I’ll even put them in the oven this time instead of the toaster.”

“Impressive,” I encouraged him with a laugh.

I kept Edward busy with the waffles, then making coffee and getting out plates and silverware for us; but he was back at my side minutes later, peering over my shoulder as I began frying the hash browns and turned the bacon.

“You act like you’ve never seen anyone cook before,” I commented, trying not to sound annoyed. I never realized I was one of those cooks who preferred to be undisturbed until now.

“I never cared to watch anyone cook before. But I like watching you. I’d watch you do anything. Or nothing. Doesn’t really matter.”

I sighed in defeat as I looked up into those penetrating eyes of his, giving me a look so unnerving that I was ready to let the breakfast burn while I humped him on the kitchen floor instead.

“Edward, you can’t say those things to me right now, and stand so close to me, all shirtless and sexy and irresistible. Not if you want any sort of edible breakfast.”

He grinned wickedly before letting out an exasperated sigh. “Fine. Make me an omelet, Ms. Swan. I’ll watch your equally sexy and irresistible self from over here. But you are sadly lacking in the shirtless department.”

I silently pointed a spatula at him with a warning look before turning back to the food.

He seated himself on a bar stool several feet away, but I could still feel his eyes on me. I was as hyperaware of his gaze now as I had been the day we met. Maybe even more so, now that he had such intimate knowledge of what lay beneath the thin layers of borrowed clothing covering my body.

He remained quiet as I continued to flip the frying bacon and hash browns, then pour the majority of the egg mixture into the last pan. When I glanced back at him, he was studying me intently. I worked the edges of the solidifying eggs with a spatula, then folded a generous helping of veggies and grated cheese into them at the last minute. I threw in a few spices from Edward’s meager assortment, then sprinkled more cheese on top for good measure. I carried the skillet to the bar and gently scooped the omelet onto Edward’s plate while he watched me with eager eyes.

“Amazing,” he said. “That looks so good.”

“Well, hopefully it tastes good, too,” I smiled. I drained some bacon briefly on a paper towel before adding it to Edward’s plate, along with the hash browns. He looked like a kid on Christmas morning, and I had to chuckle a little at the sight. I wondered if any of his other girlfriends had ever cooked for him. He certainly acted as if I was the first.

I checked the oven to make sure the waffles were sufficiently browned before serving them up as well. I stole a separate plate for them from the cupboard so the syrup wouldn’t get all over the rest of Edward’s breakfast.

“Oh shit, I forgot the waffles!” he exclaimed. “I was too busy admiring the artistry of your omelet-making technique.”

“Is that so?” I said with a roll of my eyes. “What my sous-chef lacks in follow-through, he more than makes up for in flattery.”

“Baby, I’ll make it up to you with a lot more than flattery,” he promised with an eyebrow waggle at me before his attention went right back to his plate. “Now sit down with me so we can eat.”

“No, you go ahead. I need to make my omelet, but it’ll only take a minute or two. I heard your stomach earlier. Eat it while it’s hot.”

He frowned at me, but then dug in. He was soon making ecstatic noises not unlike the ones he’d made last night, which pleased me greatly.

“Oh, my God,” Edward exclaimed in between hearty mouthfuls. “This is delicious. Out of this world.”

“Good. I’m glad,” I answered with a self-satisfied grin as I quickly whipped up an omelet of my own. Edward had half of his plate emptied by the time I sat down next to him at the bar.

“You are an excellent cook,” he raved, giving me a gentle nudge with his elbow. “I could get used to this. No wonder this was your dad’s favorite.”

I could feel my cheeks color as I poured maple syrup on the waffles. I took a bite and returned the compliments. “The waffles are fantastic, too. You outdid yourself, I must say.”

“I’m amazed that the oven did me such a favor, since I rarely use it. But the toaster and I are like this.” He crossed his first two fingers into a good-luck sign. “Me and the toaster are tight.”

“Well then, you’ll have to toast the waffles for me next time. I can’t wait to see the two of you at work, since you make such a formidable team.”

“Nah, that’s you and me.” He eyed me meaningfully before grinning and shoveling in another forkful of eggs. I thought he was going to make my bashful smile a permanent fixture, until he made it fall agape with his next comment.

“Damn. I’m going to have to marry you so you can make me breakfast like this every day.”

I let out an abrupt laugh that was equal parts elation, shock and indignation. How dare he throw around the “M” word like that when he hadn’t even truly said the “L” word yet?

I decided to let indignation reign for the moment. “So marriage equals indentured servitude in your book? Good thing I’m finding this out now.”

“I wouldn’t force you to make me breakfast. I’d just beg and plead until you got tired of listening to me. Or I’d offer other services in exchange.” His grin was wicked and irrepressible. It drove me crazy.

“Such as?”

“Free massages…guitar lessons… whatever your heart desires.”

“Ooh. I think I’d be getting the better end of the deal there,” I insisted. “You have no idea how much I miss your massages,” I added with a sigh.

“Yes, I do,” he contradicted me quietly. His expression told me he missed them as much as I did.

“I still don’t understand why you can’t treat me instead of Kate,” I complained.

“Don’t you like her? She’s quite good.”

“She’s very good. But she’s not you.”

Edward couldn’t fight the slightly smug look that stole across his face. “Tell you what. I’ll check you out later and see how you’re coming along. I want you to keep improving. If she’s not getting the job done, I will.”

I tiny shiver danced down my spine at the willful tone of his comment.

“So I get a free massage today?” I was the one who felt like a kid on Christmas morning now.

“You know I can’t deny you anything,” he said. He leaned over and kissed my cheek tenderly, one hand twirling a lock of my hair before picking up his fork again.

“And you’re going to give me guitar lessons, too?” I wasn’t sure why I felt the need to pin him down to his promises. If he came through, this could turn out to be the second-best day of my life, after yesterday.

“Of course, I will. I love that you’re willing to try again, after all you’ve been through. And that you’d let me teach you,” he added softly.

“Let you? I’d be honored to have you as a teacher.” I took a sip of my coffee, then a deep breath. “Maybe I’ve just been waiting for the right time… the right person… to come along and inspire me again.”

His eyes were almost pained as they searched mine. “It’s been a long time since I was anyone’s inspiration. A positive inspiration, anyway.”

I frowned at the thought of Edward ever being a negative influence on anyone. I couldn’t imagine such a scenario.

“Anyway, I look forward to it,” he smiled, setting down his fork and giving my hair another stroke. “We can get started right away, if you want.”

“Okay,” I agreed, my heart leaping a bit at the thought of really doing this again--making music. And with Edward, no less.

“But I’d kind of like to take a shower first,” he added as he shoved his plate away.

“God, me too,” I moaned. “I think you’ve officially seen me at my worst now-- raccoon eyes and bed-head.” I pointed ruefully up at the rat’s nest falling all around my face.

“I love you with bed-head. You know that,” Edward said. My eyes darted to his, studying him to see if he had blurted the “L” word without thinking, or if it was deliberate. The twinkle in his eyes gave me my answer.

“You know what else I’d love?” he continued, his voice taking on that low, velvety quality that never ceased to melt me on the spot.

“What’s that?” I managed to squeak.

“I’d love you in my shower with me.”

My heart began its now-familiar gallop at the prospect of being close to Edward again, in a whole new way. Mental images of him naked, soapy and wet turned the gallop into a sprint.

“I’d love that too,” I murmured, my eyes surely mirroring the smoldering look he was giving me.

Finally Edward let his gaze fall to the plates in front of us. He got up from his stool, gathered all of our dirty dishes and carried them to the sink.

“Let me help,” I insisted as I hopped off my bar stool and followed him.

“Forget it. I’ll do the dishes later. The chef gets a free pass on clean-up,” he smiled.

“In that case, I will cook for you more often.”

“That’s what I like to hear,” he grinned triumphantly. He took my hand and pulled me toward the living room. He stopped short at the sight of our clothes strewn everywhere, looking rather sad and neglected in the harsh, albeit overcast, light of day.

“Oh, wow. I’m sorry about your dress,” Edward apologized as we approached the wrinkled pile. He let go of my hand and picked up the garment, gently shaking it out and looking it over. Its wrinkle-resistant jersey knit had fared pretty well after a night on the glossy hardwood.

“I’m the one who dropped it on the floor.” I reminded him. I could feel my cheeks redden at the memory, for no good reason. What use was it to be embarrassed now?

“But I told you to,” he said guiltily.

“Not true. At no time did the words ‘throw your dress on the floor’ leave your lips.” I bent down and retrieved his pants, giving them a brisk shake before folding them along their pressed seams.

“You are far too forgiving,” he insisted. He picked up the torn scrap that used to be my panties and waved them at me as evidence.

“Edward,” I said adamantly. “You didn’t do anything last night that I didn’t want you to.”

My favorite slow grin made its appearance. “I know,” he said.

He gestured to the bedroom, saying he was going to hang up my dress. I picked up my discarded shoes and followed him. I hung his trousers on a hanger next to my dress in his closet. It gave me a strange thrill to see my small, feminine piece of clothing sandwiched amongst his wardrobe of masculine shirts and pants. His closet smelled like heaven. I hoped my dress would absorb his wonderful scent.

Edward’s brows furrowed for a moment; then he abruptly began chuckling.

“What is it?” I asked.

“I just remembered what happened to my shirt last night,” he winked. “I’ll be right back.”

I took the opportunity to use the bathroom quickly while he was retrieving his dress shirt from the music room couch. When I returned to his bedroom, he was tossing the crumpled piece of fabric into a clothes hamper. The shirt was creased nearly beyond recognition. It must have gotten stuffed down into the sofa cushions, because I didn’t even remember seeing it when I sat down for my stolen moment with Edward’s guitar earlier.

“Oh no,” I groaned at the sight of it. “See? I’m as guilty as you of destroying personal property.”

He only laughed. “It’s salvageable, unlike your panties, I’m afraid.”

“I don’t suppose that while you were planning this weekend seduction, you happened to pick me up a spare pair of underpants?”

Edward let out a derisive snort. “Hell, no. If I had my way, you’d never have underwear on. In fact, I might declare the loft as a panty-free zone. And definitely bra-free.” He leered down at my diminutive nipples, which happened to be pointing up at him again from beneath the worn cotton of his t-shirt.

“Why stop there?” I retorted. “Why don’t I just parade around naked for you all day?”

“Oh, don’t tease me like that. That’s just cruel.”

“Of course, if I have to be naked, so do you.”

“I can definitely rise to that challenge,” he grinned.

“I’ll bet you can.” I barely got the words out before he smothered my mouth with a kiss. He lifted me off the floor; my arms and legs quickly wrapped themselves around him, now accustomed to accommodating his body.

He carried me to the bathroom, kissing me in between bursts of laughter as he tried to finagle his way through the doorways without dropping me or whacking my limbs on the door frames. I was still giggling as he set me down, but it halted quickly when he yanked the clothes from my body with two quick, decisive motions. His own sweatpants were around his ankles in seconds, his lengthening dick already beginning to point in my direction.

He moved away long enough to step into the shower and turn the water on to just the right temperature before pulling me inside. And then his arms were around me again, twirling me in and out of the water as he kissed me.

He finally relaxed his grip so that I could sweep the wet hair out of my eyes. I could feel his hungry gaze on me as I leaned my head back, eyes closed, and drenched my hair under the shower head. I returned the favor when he did the same.

His shower was large and lined with some kind of smooth stone-like tile. There was a bench big enough to sit on and various rails to hang onto. My mind began to enumerate the many types of sex that could be had in such a space.

Edward’s mind was obviously on the same track. He nuzzled my neck and ran his hands down my body, finally gingerly reaching his fingers between my thighs. “Are you sore today?” he asked.

“A little,” I admitted as he stroked the tender flesh. He removed his fingers and kissed me on the temple.

“I’ll take it easy on you, then,” he said sweetly.

I sighed with a bit of disappointment. “What about you?” I asked, letting my fingers wander over him before wrapping around his growing erection. “Did I chafe you to death last night?”

He only chuckled. “I’ll survive. Chafe away.”

I stroked him some more, marveling at the mechanics of the male penis. Its sizeable metamorphosis never ceases to amaze me.

“Where’s your soap?” I asked, looking around. He had some masculine-named brand of shower gel and a black nylon loofah in a caddy full of accoutrements on the bench. I squeezed a dollop of gel onto the loofah and began to rub Edward’s chest with it until it made a soapy lather. I then thoroughly and methodically washed him, head to toe.

He made soft sighing sounds as I worked. I silently studied and memorized every part of his anatomy, every hair and freckle and mole, as my hands and loofah explored while they cleansed. He groaned when I reached his genitals. I ditched the nylon scrubber for a moment and stroked him with soapy hands, reaching every nook and cranny between his legs and buttocks until his erection was nearly complete. I moved blithely down his legs after that, finishing with his feet. He obligingly lifted them one by one as I worked the loofah between his toes and scrubbed the slightly calloused bottoms of his feet.

His eyes were heavy with desire as I stood and pushed him under the shower head to rinse the soap from his body.

“You take good care of me,” he whispered, his hands cradling my face for a moment.

“You do the same for me,” I replied. My eyes roamed down his body, settling over his hard-on again. “I just want to try one thing,” I said.

His eyes were curious as I trailed my hand across his abdomen and over his hip, then walked behind him. I ran my hands down the sinews of his back and over the sculpted pale flesh of his backside. I sank to my knees and took in the view of his ass, admiring the look and feel of those two firm scoops of flesh in my hands. No wonder he loved doing this to me. I wanted to return the same pleasure he’d given me.

I kissed and gently bit at the smooth skin of his cheeks; he sighed and put his hand against the shower wall to steady himself. I slowly spread him open and ran my tongue along his sensitive skin, down to the apex of his perineum and his scrotum; then I gently sucked at his testicles until he groaned at the sensation.

I stroked him with one hand then, reaching between his legs to the tip of his throbbing erection and back again. The other hand pulled at one cheek so that I could reach him with my mouth, kissing and licking and tonguing every sensitive part of him I could, including the tight, round flesh of his anus. I was surprised that I was not only willing, but even eager to taste him this way. No part of Edward was repellant to me. When he cursed and his breathing quickened with pleasure, it was all the reward I needed.

“Turn around,” I ordered, just loud enough for him to hear over the running water. He obeyed at once, leaning back against the shower wall to brace himself. I took him between my lips immediately, my hands stroking his body up and down in matching rhythm as I sucked him in and out of my mouth.

“Holy fuck, Bella,” he sighed, his eyes dark with lust as they watched me at work. I massaged and stroked him with my hands, tongue and lips until every breath that left his lungs was a gasp or groan. He reached one hand out to grip my face, then clutch a wet hank of hair as he came closer and closer to his release.

“I love making you come,” I told him, repeating his earlier sentiment to me. I swirled and pumped the head of his swollen cock rapidly in my fist until his face contorted in ecstasy. He exploded moments later, the warm and creamy liquid splattering my face and neck. I quickly wrapped my mouth around him and sucked him clean as he collapsed against the wall, panting. I felt almost as high as if I had climaxed myself. Having the power to bring him to the brink of sexual rapture, then push him over the edge, was the most exhilarating feeling in the world.

He pulled me to my feet and under the water, washing the evidence of his orgasm from my face. He kissed me over and over, murmuring, “Why is it so good with you? So fucking good…” his words were muffled in my neck then as his lips worked their way south. He finally stopped at the hollow of my throat and announced, “Your turn.”

My skin danced with anticipation as Edward readied the loofah with more soap and came at me with a purposeful grin. My sighs matched those of his earlier as he took his time washing me, examining every pore of my body as I had just done to him. My nerves felt as if their raw ends were exposed to every brush of the body sponge and stroke of his fingers behind it. I was practically pulsating with need by the time he reached the nexus of my hip and thigh, working my well-known ticklish spots with his thumbs until I whimpered aloud.

Of course, he didn’t stop there. He worked the nylon gently between my legs, then replaced it with his fingers as he soaped me up as thoroughly as I had him. I was halfway to orgasm by the time he stopped and moved down my legs, finishing with a complete scrub of my feet, just as I had done for him.

He pulled me under the water and we both watched as the suds rolled off my body and down the drain. Then he wrapped his arms around me and whispered in my ear.

“I think you can come for me without any penetration, can’t you?” It wasn’t a question. It was a directive.

And then he was on his knees before me, and I was the one reaching back for the shower wall behind me. He tongued and fingered the length of my clitoris, gently probing my opening without actually entering. I could feel the blood rushing to my groin, my nerves now crying for mercy as he continued to tickle and stroke them with his tongue and fingers.

I gasped in surprise as he lifted my right leg and let it rest on his shoulder, opening me up to further stimulation from his mouth and hands. I trembled and clutched the wall behind me as his ministrations became rougher and more frantic against my clit.

“God, yes,” I blurted, astonished at how much my words sounded like an animal’s growl. His answering growl only drove me crazier, his breath hot on my throbbing flesh as he ceaselessly worked me into a frenzy.

I came so hard and fast that I cried out and dug my fingers into Edward’s shoulder, my vaginal muscles contracting in wave after wave of inner euphoria as Edward continued to stimulate the outside. His power over my sexual fulfillment stunned me even more than whatever power I had over him. He kissed and stroked me back into a semblance of calm after the quaking of my muscles finally subsided. My fingers wound through the wet curls of his hair as I drank in the unimaginable beauty of him kneeling before me, gently kissing and caressing my body.

I love you, Edward.

I could feel it bubbling to the surface, ready to break free. I could no longer contain it. But before the words could escape, Edward was on his feet again, pulling me to him and smothering the sentiment with a deep, soulful kiss. Our communion was wordless once again, and I only sighed in a contentment the likes of which I never thought I’d find.

We shampooed and rinsed each other’s hair; Edward contemplated taking a razor to his growing beard.

“You hate shaving,” I reminded him as I stroked his scruff. “And I kind of like your stubble. It’s getting long enough that it’s not so scratchy.”

“How about I shave you instead?” he offered.

I watched with fascination as he coated my legs in shave gel from the caddy, then ruined a perfectly good face razor on my legs. I had to concentrate on quelling the goose bumps that his touch invariably produced, so that I wouldn’t end up with razor burn everywhere. He even carefully shaved my underarms when he was through. Once again I was struck by the feeling that this act seemed somehow as intimate as the sex we had just shared.

We were quiet, perhaps a bit spent, as we toweled each other dry. Edward wrapped my hair into a turban atop my head, and I giggled when I caught a glimpse of it in the mirror. Dressed in our bath towels, we made our way back to his bedroom, where he told me to choose whatever I wanted to wear. He gamely let me comb through his dresser drawers, fingering his endless supply of worn tees, shorts and sweatpants. I chose a Jimi Hendrix shirt and sweats, hoping that the guitar muse would wear off on me during my impending lesson. Edward smiled at my selection, like he knew what I was thinking. We were getting better at reading each other’s minds, it seemed.

I went to the living room to find my purse and retrieve the small hairbrush I had inside. I checked my phone and saw that I’d received several text messages, all from Angela, wondering where I was and demanding that I let her know I was okay. I guiltily typed a quick message to fill her in, then hit “send.” I had been so swept up in Edward’s world that I’d forgotten to check in on my own. Soon, I hoped, those worlds would be one and the same.

Edward appeared then, heading for the kitchen to get another cup of coffee.

“You want one?” he asked as he added a little cream and sugar to his cup.

“No thanks,” I answered, already feeling a little uneasy about picking up the guitar again, especially in front of Edward. I was sure to feel clumsy and foolish, no matter how understanding he was. I didn’t need any more caffeine working on my nerves.

“Are you ready?” His eyes told me that it was okay if I wasn’t. And because of that, I was.

After I towel-dried and brushed my damp hair, Edward led me back to the music room, stopping in front of the guitars lined up along the wall. He proceeded to move down the row of cases, opening them one by one so I could inspect them. I remembered the Gibson Dove vividly from the first night I’d ever seen him play. Sandwiched between it and the Martin were a Washburn 12-string acoustic and two classic electrics, a Fender Stratocaster sunburst and a gorgeous Les Paul Custom.

“So which do you want to learn on?” he asked.

“Wow,” I answered dumbly, overwhelmed by my choices. “The Strat or Les Paul would be the easiest on my fingers,” I joked of the electrics. “But I’d be scared to touch them! The 12-string would kill my fingers. I think I’ll try the Martin again.”

“Good choice,” he agreed, pulling it out of its case and handing it to me. He reached for the Dove again, put the strap around his neck and began tuning it. I sat down on the couch and briefly checked the tuning of the Martin, which still seemed to be fine, or at least good enough for my purposes. Edward seated himself next to me, turning his body toward mine as he tightened a couple of pegs and pulled the strings back in tune.

“Where to start…?” he mused with a smile as he began strumming a basic G chord and its various permutations.

I couldn’t stand it anymore. “Play the song you wrote me again,” I blurted hopefully.

Edward’s cheeks reddened slightly, and I loved that for once he was the bashful one. But he did as I asked, and I lost myself once more in the beautiful, haunted words and his equally affecting delivery of them. I was near tears again by the time he finished.

I held them back this time, though, determined to be more than just a bystander in such an amazing musical expression.

“Teach it to me,” I begged him softly when the last chords faded into silence.

And so, he did.

I lost all track of time as Edward patiently walked me through the chords and showed me the proper finger placement to achieve them. He gave me tips on holding the guitar pick and finding the rhythm in my strumming arm, and he even taught me a little finger picking in between. We played until my fingers were sore, and I didn’t care. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d been this absorbed in learning something, or so eager to get it right. I refused to rest until I was able to strum along with Edward, however haltingly, as he played a slowed-down version of his entire Bella Notte. He sang along softly, pausing patiently whenever I needed a moment to catch up. I played along doggedly until I had successfully labored through both verses and choruses and actually completed the song with him.

We stared at each other in silence as the last chords faded. Edward’s smile was enormous, full of pride and joy at my accomplishment.

I took one look at it and burst into tears.

“Bella!” he said in quiet exclamation, putting down his instrument and pulling the Martin off of my lap. He put his arms protectively around me and wiped my tears with his thumb. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” I sniveled. “I’m just so happy. I’m so….” I shook my head, unable to explain. He had no way of knowing just how big this was for me. How tangled up the strings of a guitar had become in the horror of what happened to you, Mom. I couldn’t seem to form the words to tell him. I tried to blink back the tears before the emotional dam broke entirely.

“There are certain things I thought I’d never get past,” I said at last. “I never thought I could pick up a guitar again. Never thought I’d play a whole song. But you changed all that. You….” I trailed off, at a loss again as I stared into his expectant face. “You have no idea what you’ve done for me, Edward.” I threw my arms around him and buried my face in the warm scruff of his neck while I cried anew.

He rocked me gently and stroked my hair, almost as if he were soothing a child. “I’m happy I could return the favor,” he murmured. “You’re the best thing to come into my life in such a long time. The best thing to come into my life, ever.”

He pulled away from me slightly, his hands on either side of my face as his watery blue-green eyes swallowed mine. He took a deep breath, and then, in a reverent whisper, he said the words.

“I love you, Bella Swan.”

Oh, God. Oh God oh God oh God. There it was. My heart swelled so full that there was nothing I could do except let the emotion spill over. A fresh fountain of tears streamed down my cheeks as my hands grasped his face.

“I love you, too, Edward. So much. So much.”

I kissed him then, and his mouth was as hungry and desperate as mine. Our clothes melted away under the frenzied heat of our grasping hands. He pulled me onto his lap; I spread myself open to take him in. Deep, deeper; nowhere near deep enough. We moved together like dancers, in the slow and sensual rhythm of love. Our thirsty eyes could not get enough of each other; our lips and fingertips could not taste and touch enough. We moved in perfect time together, never quite separating before joining again. Our hips strained to do more than just meet; they ached and yearned to become one being, forged together through his sex in mine. I had never felt less self-conscious in my life as I writhed and undulated over and around Edward with complete abandon. I was conscious only of the feel of him inside me and beneath me and all around me, becoming one with me. Even as our movements intensified and quickened, our bodies straining with passion and need, there was an undeniable beauty to our primal union. We had found where we belonged. And as we reached our pinnacle of sobbing, gasping ecstasy, we were complete.

I don’t know how long we sat on the couch afterward, still joined together, inseparable. All I knew was that I had finally let go of the past. There was no more room for it between the two of us. I could feel it recede into the background like the darkness dissipates in the dawn’s light. I knew you would not begrudge my letting go. I hung onto the promise of this day, and the next, and the next, as I clung to Edward and stared into the face of my future.

I was wrong. Today was the best day of my life.

(P.S. Blogger hasn't been letting me answer the comments on my posts! So let me just say, thank you to my sweeties who have left me comments.  They mean the world to me!  *smooches* :)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Massage Therapy, Chapter 14 - Convergence, part 2

From the Desktop of Bella Swan
Sunday, August 22 (cont’d.)

“Are you actually suggesting that I take nude photos of you?”

Edward’s tone was incredulous; his face, cautiously hopeful. I gnawed my bottom lip a moment, then replied before I lost my nerve.

“I trust you.”

His stared at me a moment, reading me, perhaps deliberating. My pulse picked up its already swift pace as I watched his deliberation shift to decision. The left corner of his mouth twitched a couple of times before curving into a grin.

“You really shouldn’t have said that,” he smirked. Before I could react, he disappeared into the dusk behind me. I heard a drawer open, followed by the sound of rummaging, then the slam of the drawer closing. The sharp sound kick-started my heart again, and I wondered if I could go through with this.

I listened to Edward’s bare feet pad along the hardwood floor and I wondered when he’d removed his shoes and socks. I was dying to kick off my heels as well, but I had the feeling that they were adding to the look that Edward was so eager to capture for all eternity. I didn’t dare call it “sexy.”

Or did I? I peered into the darkness and watched his shape materialize in the moonlight as he returned to where he had been standing. When his eyes met mine again, there was something visceral in their depths that made me quiver in my already precarious platform shoes. I never imagined that it could feel this achingly good, down in the marrow of my bones, to be so blatantly ogled by a man. Yet his bedroom eyes didn’t feel lewd as they swept over me; the digital camera in his hand didn’t seem exploitive. Edward always made me feel like much more than an object of lust. Maybe that’s why I was okay with him taking pictures of me like this.

He raised one eyebrow at me and narrowed his eyes. “Are you sure about this?” His voice was a velvet glove reaching out to caress and sooth me.

My fingers gripped the bricks next to me and I began to lean on my arm to support me, shifting my weight to the other leg. I took another deep breath and nodded.

“God, that’s perfect,” he murmured of my new position against the wall. “Don’t move.”

He seemed to have trouble prying his eyes from me long enough to adjust the settings on the camera. He mumbled something about not using the flash and needing a tripod, but that he’d try to get a shot that wasn’t blurry. I silently hoped that the pictures would be so blurry that it would be impossible to make out my rigid nipples and hairless snatch under its sheath of sheer lace.

Edward held the camera up, looking at me on the display screen. I felt my body stiffen from head to toe. He frowned a little and raised his eyes to mine.

“Bella,” he said softly, his face softening. “There’s nothing to be afraid of. It’s just me.”

Just me. Just the guy who had turned my world upside down in five short weeks. The guy who had healed ancient wounds and opened new ones, unlocked desires I never knew I had, and touched my soul like no one I’d ever encountered in my twenty-three short years. Just me. As if he were no one special to get nervous or excited about.

Yet I felt myself grow calm under the spell of that velvet voice and hypnotic gaze. My eyes were still locked with his in welcome resignation when I heard the click of the shutter. I blinked and jumped a little, and Edward smiled. He hadn’t even glanced at the camera, apparently taking the chance that I was still in the frame when he pressed the button.

“Sneaky,” I accused with a shaky laugh.

His eyes crinkled with mirth for a moment, then smoothed quickly as he looked at the picture he’d just taken on the viewing screen of the camera. His face was serious now, and I wished I could see his eyes so I would know what he was thinking.

He began to walk toward me, still staring at the small LCD screen. He finally looked up when he was next to me. His expression was indescribable. I wanted to call it “love.”

“Here, look at this,” he instructed, handing me the camera. “Maybe now you’ll see what I see when I look at you.”

I took the camera in my unsteady hand and brought it close to my face. I stared at the image of a slender girl whose naked body formed a stark, ivory column against its backdrop of deep indigo shadow. Her gentle curves were transformed into statuesque arcs of light and shadow by the moonbeams slicing across her body. She looked otherworldly, like a goddess from some strange mythology, or a work of modern art hewn from marble or cast in porcelain. It would have been easy to disconnect myself from this surreal image; to write it off as a flattering trick of the light, were it not for one thing:

The look in my eyes.

The message written in them was as plain as if I’d had the words tattooed on my forehead. Even in miniature, it was easy to see the raw emotion glistening in those dark, vulnerable orbs. They were the eyes of someone hopelessly in love with the object of their gaze. The camera had captured what my words could not.

“Do you see?” Edward said quietly, his hand brushing a stray lock of hair over my bare shoulder. “…how beautiful you are?” His fingers were hot molasses trickling down my arm on the way to retrieving his camera. “You take my breath away.”

He wasn’t looking at the artful digital image when he repeated the words I’d said to him earlier this evening. He was looking at me, in the flesh, and I was the one who couldn’t catch her breath.

“I’m the luckiest bastard in the world,” he said, his gaze dropping again to the viewfinder.

“Why, because I let you take naked pictures of me?” I asked, making a feeble attempt at humor before I came undone completely.

“No. Because of the way you look at me.”

My heart skipped a beat, maybe two. “How do I look at you?”

My heart started up again, an aching throb, as I waited for him to say the words. His lips parted, and then he hesitated. I recognized the story in his eyes, because it was the same one etched indelibly in mine.

“Like I’m actually deserving of someone like you,” he said at last.

Those were not the words I was expecting; not the words I wanted to hear. I shook my head, baffled again at how little he thought of himself. “I’m the lucky one,” I insisted. “You bring out the best in me.”

His faint grin was sardonic. “Do I?” he murmured, reaching his index finger out and running it lightly along my jaw. “I think I bring out something a little… wild in you. I just want you to be sure that’s a good thing.”

“It’s a very good thing,” the wild part of me answered confidently. The rest of me vacillated between being thrilled and scared shitless.

“You think so, huh?” The Sex Voice was getting to me. I could feel it ooze down my spine, infusing every nerve ending with desire. Edward reached for my hair again, his hand so light upon the strands that I could barely discern them. “Sweet girl,” he murmured, his voice as feathery as his touch. His gaze was the opposite, unbearably intense, as he leaned in and asked, “Will you let me take another picture?”

A fresh wave of goose bumps washed from my scalp to my toes. Unable to find my voice, I merely nodded. His smile was gentle, but his eyes were beginning to burn with something much more urgent. His hand dropped from my hair to my arm, and he pulled on it carefully, turning my body toward the window.

“I want you to face the wall,” he said. A decadent thrill zigzagged down my spine at his words, a softly spoken command, but a command nonetheless. He ran his hands down my arms until they reached my fingers. He lifted my hands up and placed them, higher than shoulder-height, on the wall before me. I gasped when he let go of them and glided his hands all the way down the sides of my body until they rested on my hips. My spine arched instinctively, pushing my backside toward him. He rewarded my wanton behavior by gliding his fingers slowly down my hips and over my cheeks, giving them a squeeze that sent a surge of heat between my thighs.

“God damn,” he whistled in a low voice, his hot breath searing my ear. “You didn’t think I could pass up the opportunity to capture that sweet ass of yours, did you?”

I let out a short, shocked laugh at his words; and when he gave my right cheek a playful swat before he walked away, my laugh turned to a tiny hiccup of surprise.

I heard him pad across the floorboards again, presumably back to the same vantage point he had used earlier.

“Turn your head and look at me, Bella,” he said. I had no choice but to obey the Sex Voice. I looked over my shoulder back to where he stood, his eyes glued to my likeness on the LCD screen. I was sure the expression on my face belied my growing desire as I waited, exposed and vulnerable, under the camera’s watchful eye. “Put your weight on your right leg and bend your left.”

I did as he asked, feeling a little silly, but also a little sexy, as I posed for him.

“Now turn your upper body a little more toward me.” As I twisted myself slightly toward the window, I realized he was positioning me so that he could see the profile of my breasts better in the moonlight. The blood began to pulse heavily through my groin at the realization that he was turning me into his personal pin-up girl. The feminist side of me was incensed, but her grunts of protest were drowned out by the pleasurable sighs of my newfound wild side.

“You have no idea how gorgeous you are, do you?” he said, a statement of disapproval more than a question.

My wild side begged to differ. She arched her back again, turned her face toward Edward and gave him a look that was as seductive as she could muster. She was rewarded with a groan, a couple of choice curse words and the faint click of a camera button being pushed.

“Perfect,” he said, his voice thick.

He took a couple more shots and then returned to me, setting the camera on the window sill next to us. I began to turn to face him but he stopped me with another silken command.

“No, don’t move.” He stood next to me, chest facing the side of my body, one hand closing over mine on the wall. He trailed the fingers of the other slowly down my shoulder, to the crook of my armpit, then down my back, leaving a fresh trail of goose bumps in their wake. When he reached the satin chord of my g-string, he slid his fingers underneath it, letting the backs of them stroke my cheek as he ran his hand under the string and down toward the lace panel.

“Still wet,” he whispered, his fingers closing around the lace and brushing the delicate skin between my legs. A whimper escaped me before I could stop it.

“I think these panties are ruined, don’t you?” he murmured. I looked up at him, but his eyes were downcast, focused on my cheeks and his hand between them. I nodded in agreement, though he was scarcely paying attention.

“I think they should go,” he announced. And with a swiftness and strength that astonished me, he yanked the lace triangle away from my body. I heard the rip of the stitches tearing at the same time I felt the fabric snap sharply between my legs. I shrieked in surprise at the pinch of pain, then the deliciousness of being freed, as he tore the panties from my body and tossed them somewhere into the darkness outside our circle of moonlight.

“That’s better,” he sighed, his lips close to my ear. He ran his hand over my cheeks, one at a time, before sliding it between them. My legs spread involuntarily, opening me up to his probing fingers. I moaned softly as they worked their way down to the epicenter of my yearning, stroking the creamy flesh and spreading its moisture in all directions.

I sighed loudly, my head falling sideways toward Edward’s face as his lips claimed my neck. His fingers of his left hand slid between mine as he continued to press my hand to the bricks; the fingers of his right hand pushed straight up into my vagina, first one, then two; possibly more, as he pumped and filled me again and again until my cries of pleasure were as rhythmic as his strokes.

“You are so… ridiculously… fucking…hot ,” he murmured in punctuation to the thrusts of his fingers. His voice shook my spine as his fingers vibrated deep in my belly. “You make me cuss and say the nastiest things to you, when I don’t want to. I can’t help it. You make me crazy.”

“I don’t care,” I gasped. I wished I could touch him but he had me pinned to the wall, holding me like a cello, my other arm useless except to reach back and guide his hand, which was completely unnecessary. “I like you this way. I want you this way.”

“I know you do,” he whispered, blowing more heat into my quivering eardrum. He slowed his pace, then removed his fingers from inside me, stroking me from front to back again. “Have you ever thought about why you like to make me come unglued? Why you like it when I’m unpredictable?”

I felt my brows furrow as I looked up at him. I actually hadn’t give that question much thought. I had dreamed of pushing all his buttons and making him lose his inhibitions with me… but why? Was it only the sex I wanted? Or was there something more?

Edward searched my face; I was sure my sudden uncertainty was evident. I didn’t have the answers. And I certainly wasn’t capable of much coherent thought at the moment.

“You wanted so much to unleash me from my cage, with no thought to the consequences,” he continued. His hand began to roam further now, caressing my thighs, my hips, my back.

“Consequences…?” I questioned weakly.

“Did you think about what would happen afterward? What you would do with me after you set me free?” His fingers slid around my back and over my breast, rubbing the nipple into a taut button.

“I think I did pretty well earlier,” I replied, trying to sound brave even though my head-to-toe quaking threatened to invade my vocal chords. “You seemed quite satisfied.”

“I was much more than satisfied.” I could feel his lips curl into a grin as they brushed my neck. “Maybe you did think about what you would do with me. But did you think about what I would do with you?” He kissed my jaw. “…for you?” He kissed my throat. “…to you?” He kissed my collarbone.

Oh, God. If he had any idea of the dozens of fantasies he’d generated in my hormone-addled mind since the day I met him, he wouldn’t need to ask such questions. Yet I couldn’t bring myself to put any of those hidden desires into words; to confess the myriad ways I had imagined him ravaging my body. I could say nothing now. I could only concentrate on slowing my lungs so that my breaths didn’t sound like desperate panting as his hand continued to explore every inch of skin that it could reach.

“I think you wanted to release me so that I would do the same for you.” His hand snaked around to my belly, stroking the vulnerable flesh and making the sensitive nerves jump in anticipation. His lips pressed to my ear; his face nuzzled me and my head fell back, inviting his kisses down my neck.

“You wanted me to let go of my inhibitions so it would be okay for you to let go of yours,” he continued. His words ignited a fire deep in my belly even more than his fingers had.

There was a nugget of truth there that I had never consciously considered. In my estimation, I had always been an average girl, destined to live an average life. I had dated ordinary guys in high school and had ordinary sex with my ordinary first boyfriend in college. I used to have ridiculously overblown romantic fantasies in my early teens, like most girls do; but after the accident, the fantasies stopped. There was no point in daydreaming about some handsome prince coming to whisk me away from reality. I didn’t deserve such a thing.

But now, here he was anyway. The dream I’d given up on was looking me in the face: a man so outstanding in every way that I could still barely believe he was real. But most astonishing of all, he saw something outstanding in me. Something worth throwing all caution to the wind for. It never occurred to me that when I finally unlocked Edward’s self-imposed prison, it had been the key to unlocking my own.

He was right about all of it. Every time I was with him, I came a little more undone. He had made me bold enough with lust and love to seduce him twice already tonight. Now it was my turn to let him have his way with me.

He was behind me now, his body pressing closer, his hard-on pushing into my hip through his pants. While his left hand continued to hold mine prisoner against the wall, his right slid down my belly and between my thighs, pushing them open, stroking the nerve-filled hood of my clit back to my wet opening. I laid my head against his chest; his breath was heavy and hot on my cheek. I reached down with my free hand and placed it over his, pushing him against me, guiding him inside me, working his hand faster and faster.

“Fuck, Bella,” he growled, pulling his hand away and releasing me. I whimpered slightly in protest until I heard his pants unzip, followed by the blessed sound of them hitting the floor and being kicked impatiently out of the way. I reached behind me for his dick; he grabbed my hand and wrapped it around him, then guided it up and down as I had just done to him. I looked over my shoulder, watching him masturbate with my hand, and my pussy throbbed with envy. As much as I loved the feel of my hand pumping his velvety erection, it was nothing to the sensation of him plunging deep inside me.

I finally put my frustrated desires into words. They blurted out rather unexpectedly, and I wondered if this was what happened to him.

“Fuck me, Edward.”

It sounded harsh, almost guttural; an anguished plea turned into a demand.

He only chuckled as he released my hand. “Oh, I intend to,” came the Sex Voice over my shoulder. “I intend to fuck you very thoroughly, right here against this wall, before I carry you to my bed and fuck you some more.”

I groaned at his words, and the actions that accompanied them. He placed my right hand back against the wall, then ran his hands, silky smooth, down my body again, front and back, until every inch of me was gooseflesh. And then, as I sighed with pleasure, a loud slapping sound met my ears, accompanied by a sharp pain that seared through my right buttock. I gasped with shock at the realization of what Edward had just done.

“I didn’t hurt you, did I?” he whispered over my shoulder, rubbing the offended cheek soothingly with his hand, and then giving it a squeeze. I shook my head in denial, for the sting had been brief. Stranger still, the aftershock of it was rather warm and pleasant.

“I’ve threatened to give you a spanking twice before, and both times you seemed very eager to receive one,” he goaded me, his voice so sweet and melodious that I would have endured much more just to hear it. “You weren’t lying to me, were you, Bella?”

“No, of course--”


I let out a tiny shriek this time after he smacked my left buttock, another sharp sensation that resonated throughout my backside before settling into that warm tingle again. He massaged that cheek, too, when he was finished; then his other hand joined in, rubbing and squeezing both buttocks until I was nothing but soaking wet with need in between.

“I don’t think you were lying, either. I think you like how it feels. And I think you like the element of surprise. Spanking--” slap! “--stimulates all those nerve endings in a whole new way. It can be very sensual. A big turn-on.”

I was living proof of that, shivering and drawing shaky breaths as he massaged my tingling ass again. The last blow had been right across both cheeks, low and close to my genitals. The aftershocks burned through my groin, making me want him to fuck me worse than ever before.

“It turns me on, anyway,” he murmured into my other ear. “If you had any idea how sexy your ass looks when I play with it, you’d charge money to let me do it.”

I couldn’t hold back my snort of laughter. “That would make me a hooker.”


“Don’t talk about my girlfriend that way,” he ordered.

I wasn’t sure what made me giddier: the wild rush of endorphins caused by the minor assault on my backside, or Edward’s pronouncement that I was his girlfriend. Perhaps it was the strange confluence of these two seemingly incompatible events that sent me over the edge.

Either way, I began giggling in earnest then. Nervous laughter, I thought to myself. I had to release the tornado of sensations whipping through my body somehow.

“You think it’s funny when I smack your ass?” Edward growled in my ear. He circled his arms around me and pulled me flush against him. I groaned at the feel of his hot skin and hard muscle pressed against me. “Or do you find the idea of being my girlfriend laughable?”

I grew serious quickly. “You know that’s not true,” I protested. I dared to remove my hands from the wall to wrap my arms around Edward’s. I wanted as much of us to be touching as possible. I longed to turn around and kiss him, to see and touch his face; but he held me fast against him and rocked me gently in his arms.

“So you’ll let me be your boyfriend, then?” The words were muffled in my hair. I wanted to laugh again because the question was so absurd.

“Let you?” I asked in disbelief. “Like I could refuse you. Like I’d ever want to.”

“Mmm, I like the idea that you can’t refuse me,” he murmured. He continued to sway with me in time to some soundless tune, our bodies pressed tightly into one. “So does that mean that I get to hold you and kiss you and make love to you whenever I want to?”

Yes, please, I wanted to beg. I held out for more. “Of course. As long as I’m in the mood, too,” I teased him. I had trouble imagining an occasion when I wouldn’t be in the mood for Edward.

“I’d never force you, you know that.”

“I know,” I relented. His hands, and mouth, began to roam over me restlessly. Mine did the same, tracing the muscles of his forearms.

“And what if I feel like spanking you and devouring your pussy and fucking the hell out of you until you can’t do anything but scream my name… is that okay?”

He spoke these coarse and vulgar words in the deepest, most dulcet tones imaginable. I couldn’t deny the paroxysm of desire that seized me at the thought of the things he had just suggested. It was definitely okay. Better than okay. In fact, I was hoping that was exactly what he had planned for me in the immediate future.

“You’re awfully quiet, Bella,” he said. His hands began their perusal of my entire frame again, up and down, back and forth, as I moaned wordlessly. “A few minutes ago you told me to fuck you. Is that what you want?”

It was certainly what his dick wanted. Its firm length was pressed right between my cheeks, ready to divide and conquer. I was astounded at how badly I wanted that, too.

“Answer me, Bella,” Edward insisted quietly. I didn’t know how much more I could take of his breath billowing through my ear, straight down the squirming nerves of my spine. “What do you want?”

I reached back to grasp the outline of his shoulders in my hands, my back arching and my ass pushing against his cock. His hands quickly found my breasts; they swelled into his palms as he grasped them firmly.

“I want it all,” I finally whispered hoarsely. “Give me everything you’ve got, Edward. Everything.”

The growl that rumbled deep in his chest made my groin throb pitifully. “Greedy girl,” he said, his voice growing rougher. “I love that about you.”

I love everything about you. Why couldn’t I say the words? Maybe they weren’t necessary, at least not now. Edward made sure that I was incapable of forming coherent speech for the next twenty minutes, at least.

His mouth finally abandoned my neck in favor of my back, working its way down my spine to my tailbone. By the time he was on his knees between my legs, my fingers were clutching the brick wall again, bracing my body for the imminent assault on its senses.

Edward’s hands came down hard on my ass, fingers splaying over the round flesh, thumbs pulling me wide open. I gave up trying to control my moans. They started before I ever felt the intense jolt of electricity from the first touch of his tongue; they only got louder as he licked up and down my clit and probed deep into my wet opening.

“God, I missed the taste of you,” he mumbled between my cheeks before burying his face again. I sobbed and panted as he tongued my anus, then slowly pushed his finger against the tight opening. I remembered how I’d relaxed myself before, and I concentrated on doing that again, wanting to experience that strangely delicious sensation once more.

The pain was brief and less intense this time; the pleasure even greater as he pushed his finger upward, deep inside. I groaned in approval while Edward caressed my buttocks as he pumped his finger slowly, rhythmically into my rectum.

“You like this, don’t you,” he whispered against my left cheek, before sinking his teeth gently into my flesh. His moved his other hand to my clit again, rubbing lightly in time with the movements of his other hand.

“God, yes,” I sighed, arching and pushing my body toward this amazing source of pleasure. I was glad there was no one but Edward to hear me in this silent, open space. My sighs and moans seemed to reverberate around the room, and Edward echoed them, obviously enjoying what he was doing to me.

“That’s good, because I like filling you up,” he replied in a low voice. That’s when his middle finger found its way easily into the moist flesh of my vagina. I gasped and groaned as his fingers worked in tandem, front and back, pushing deeply inside me. When is ring finger joined the middle, I began sobbing in earnest, overwhelmed at how good the pressure felt. When he picked up the pace, thrusting faster, I could feel my wildly pumping blood begin to gather deep in my belly. He was going to make me come already. I could feel it stirring and building.

So could he, because he was relentless then, fucking me rapidly with his fingers. “That is my favorite sound in the world,” he muttered gruffly as the wet friction of his fingers plunging into me grew louder in the quiet air. “Come for me, Bella. I know you’re close.”

He managed to maneuver himself between my legs so that his mouth could find my clit, tonguing me in time with the ministrations of his hand. I thought I might black out as all the blood rushed from my head to my groin, only to be pumped violently through my pussy and back through my body as I came.

I cried out to Edward, God, Jesus and possibly some pagan deities as my body quaked with the intensity of my orgasm. The freedom I felt afterward was almost as good as the euphoria beforehand. Maybe it was the surrender of letting someone else know my body so intimately… the act of literally putting myself in Edward’s hands, and trusting that he would use that power only to help me discover heights of ecstasy--and intimacy--that I never knew I was capable of finding.

“I can’t even tell you how much I love making you come,” Edward sighed into my backside as he gently removed his hands from inside me. He began to massage me instead, running his fingers slowly up my torso and then down my legs, soothing my trembling muscles. His lips were soft on my skin, kissing my hips and buttocks and lower back, over and over.

“I can’t tell you how much I love it, either,” I rasped helplessly, trying to calm myself as I came down a notch from my ridiculous high. “You know just how to do it, too. You’re amazing. You’re….” I gave up trying to find adjectives. His hands were on my ass again, stroking, squeezing, occasionally swatting me gently. He wasn’t going to let me come down. After all, he hadn’t gotten his own satisfaction yet. But I had the feeling he was about to.

He moved his hand between my legs and stroked me again, then smacked the sensitive flesh lightly, rapidly, repeatedly until I groaned anew. He stood then and pressed his body to mine, its heat searing me head to toe. His erection was flush between his belly and the crack of my ass. We both made similar noises of pleasure at the sensation of our bodies brought together again.

“Women have it so good,” he declared, assaulting my ear with his steamy breath. “You can come over and over without any recovery time.” His lips pursed in a kiss on my earlobe. “I’m going to make you come again, Bella.” His tongue traced the thin skin covering the tiny bones of my ear, sending incredibly intense shockwaves through my entire being with little effort.

He moved away from me long enough to reach down and push his rock-hard dick between my legs. I welcomed its hot length against my raw and sensitive flesh, my body again arching and spreading in preparation.

He took me with one long, smooth, yet ruthless stroke this time, making me cry out at the sharp sensation. He felt impossibly deep from this angle, impaling my belly in a way that was so intense it was almost painful. But as he started to move slowly inside me, the intensity began to build to something far from pain.

“How can you feel so fucking good?” Edward sighed into my neck as he continued his relentless thrusting. “You were made for me, Bella. You were made to take my cock.”

I was still astonished at how much is crass language turned me on. My excitement was only heightened when he closed his hands over mine on the wall and then pushed them higher over my head, elongating my entire body as he stretched further inside me with every thrust. The noises I made were unintelligible, animalistic, as I reveled in my body being taken over by his.

“Is your back okay?” he murmured suddenly. “I don’t want to hurt you.”

God, how I loved him. Every time I thought I couldn’t love him more, he would say something like this.

“My back is fine. Don’t stop. Take me. Make me yours.” My words were so hoarse, I barely recognized my own voice.

“You are mine,” he grunted, his tone as raw as my own. He released my hands, but I kept them where they were, relishing the vulnerable feeling of being opened to him completely. He grasped my hips to hold them steady as he pumped his cock inside me, gradually escalating from sensual to primal as his pace increased.

“I know you like it when I make love to you,” he said, breathing heavily with exertion. “But you love it when I fuck you. You come when I fuck you.”

I sobbed with pleasure as he impaled me hard and fast then, the unbearable pressure turning into the familiar burn of my next orgasm waiting to happen. He said nothing then, just pounded me senseless, both of us making noises that were nothing but incoherent ecstasy. He was right. I loved it. And I was going to come.

“Oh, baby. That’s it. That’s it. Let me have it.” His frantic commentary pushed me over the edge. How could he know how to play my body so well already, to orchestrate my climaxes so skillfully that he could feel the crescendo swell through me before my release?

I clawed at the wall and cried out loudly as every muscle within me convulsed violently at the impact of my orgasm. My inner walls contracted so hard around his cock that he cried out with me, almost a whimper. I was glad his hands gripped my hips so firmly, because the rest of me sagged in defeat as I gave in to the powerful contractions that shook me.

“Edward… please,” I begged as my body went limp in his hands. He had already brought me to an unfathomable release twice, yet through my fog of ecstasy, I realized that he still hadn’t come. He was still hard inside me, still engorged and unfulfilled.

He wasn’t done with me yet.

I sobbed anew at the realization. I didn’t know how much more I could take. My sex seemed to be taking over my entire body, its throbbing demands the only thing I could register. He was going to fuck me raw, and if I admitted the truth to myself, I was thrilled at the prospect.

He withdrew and gently turned me to face him. I was finally able to look him in the eyes after our intense coming together. Everything I could possibly hope to see was there: the lust, the longing, the want, the need, the love. Everything I knew I was mirroring back to him.

He kissed me then, and it was the most delicious sensation of all. Open, searching, finding. Our mouths thrilled to being joined together as much as our sex did. My happy hands clutched his hair, toyed with the thick ducktail on his neck, fingered the moles that decorated it on either side. He circled his arms around me and lifted me up with a sigh, effortlessly pulling me off the ground. My arms and legs wasted no time in wrapping around him, and his hands quickly hoisted my thighs up to carry me. I gratefully took the opportunity to kick off my killer heels, sighing with satisfaction as they hit the floor with a loud thunk.

We were in his bedroom in seconds, no excess alcohol tripping Edward up this time. He managed to strip the covers back and deposit me in the middle of his bed with surprising grace. I scooted back toward the pillows, gratefully falling into them as Edward crawled over me. He stared down at me with such fervor that my pulse began to race. He looked lijke he was going to say something, but then swallowed hard, as if choking on the words.

Instead he leaned down and kissed me, his tongue slowly probing my mouth, savoring the feel and flavor as I did the same. I ran my hands up his arms as he held himself aloft; I yearned for him to let his body fall into mine. But I settled for his ardent kisses instead, and sighed as he moved them away from my mouth and down my body. He licked gently at the hollow of my throat; sucked and tugged at my hardened nipples; tickled the indentation of my belly button. I could only stroke his hair and massage the muscles of his neck and shoulders as he worked his way down my frame. I raised my leg between his, letting my knee and then my shin stroke the underside of his cock as he moved. He undulated softly against it, stroking himself on my leg. His mouth moved down to my surely bright pink pussy, and I didn’t struggle as he opened my legs wide and pushed them flat to the mattress.

“It’s a good thing I didn’t bring the camera in here,” he said at last with a gleam in his eye. “You would have turned me into a pornographer.”

I let out a small laugh. “Would you really want a picture of me lying spread-eagle like this?”

He gave me that look as if I were completely obtuse again. “Honey, I would hang a six-foot mural of your spread-eagle pussy on my wall if you’d let me.”

I laughed in earnest then. “You would not.”

“You clearly have no idea how beautiful your snatch is,” he said, his eyes working it over hungrily. “It’s truly a work of art. A work of art that I intend to plunder again. Because I’m the luckiest bastard in the world.”

I got my wish then. He stopped hovering over me and pressed his body into mine, scooting himself up until his lips were tantalizingly close and his hands smoothed the hair back from my face.

“I’m going to make love to you now, Isabella Swan. And you’re going to come for me again.”

I sighed in submission as his hardness found my softness once more and worked its way inside. His eyes never left mine as he moved sensually against me, filling me slowly and pulling out, languid and gorgeous and enthralling. My hands were free to roam his body, to examine the push and pull of his muscles as he moved, to feel their contraction and extension as he pumped in slow motion. He was the work of art, I thought. Yet I couldn’t seem to voice my adoration. The room was still, almost reverently so, bathed in the blue moonlight of a distant window. Speaking now would only break the spell that had bound us both.

He kissed me, his lips as sensuous as his hips, and I fell easily into this new, unhurried rhythm. Though he didn’t pick up the pace, I could feel his movements intensify, his eyes growing glassy, nostrils flaring, as he ground me more thoroughly into the mattress with every thrust. The more his abdomen pressed against me, the more vividly I felt the impact of his cock driving deep inside. I reached up and stroked his face, wondering if he could see in my eyes how much I loved this; how much I loved him. His eyebrows knitted and he pushed inside me even harder as he returned my gaze. No words were necessary now. They were clumsy and inefficient. Inadequate, as always.

I let my hands punctuate our wordless language now, sliding down his body, clutching the firm round cheeks of his ass as he drilled me in this new, inexorable rhythm. I wanted to pull him deeper; feel the weight of his body as he let it sink into me. I sensed the welcome burn beginning in my belly, and I lifted my hips up to meet him as best I could under the pressure of his thrusts.

Edward’s face was growing more impassioned as he worked, and he lifted himself on his hands so that he could drive his dick into me more forcefully. I moaned my approval, and he joined me, making soft, grunting noises with every thrust. The tension was growing inside me, thick and palpable, and I closed my eyes a moment to savor the sensation. I heard Edward’s raspy breath quicken, followed by two muffled, metallic ringing sounds. My eyes flew open to see Edward’s arms taut above me, hands clutching the top rail of the iron headboard. The muscles seethed and popped from his straining flesh as he surged inside me, using the headboard for leverage now.

He had stoked the slow burn in my belly to a fire with his actions. I was overwhelmed at the sight of him undulating above me; the feel of him slamming my body mercilessly toward ecstasy with his own. He was right again. He was making love to me now, with a simultaneously beautiful yet brutal intensity that I had never seen or felt before; and I was going to come.

But not without him this time.

My fingers slid between his cheeks and found the sensitive flesh between his scrotum and anus. I stroked his perineum in time with the rhythm of his thrusts, and he groaned loudly, his eyes wild as he stared down at me. Each breath was a whimper now and I could feel him swell inside me. The tempo of his thrusts increased at last as he came closer and closer to losing his famous control.

“Bella… please….” he echoed my earlier pleas. I had never been so happy to hear a man beg in my life.

“Come for me, Edward,” I ordered softly. I lifted my hips up to swallow him as I pushed him deep inside with my hands. He shuddered and groaned so loudly that the breath of it blew over my face in a hot, heady breeze. And then the delicious heat of his cum shot deep inside me, over and over, its molten lava igniting my own volcano.

As we came together, our eyes locked, fighting the urge to disappear behind our lids at such unbearable ecstasy. We gasped and panted and moaned in unison; and when I stared in awe at the film of tears that glistened over his green orbs, I felt one of my own slip from my right eye, down my temple and into my hair.

He let go of the bed frame then, easing his body onto mine, letting it settle into my welcoming flesh. His kiss was very nearly worshipful as he cradled my face in his hands. His muscles still quivered and I stroked him gently until he relaxed. I savored the feel of his cock twitching occasionally inside me as it, too, recovered from its exertion. The pores of my body gratefully drank in the sheen of sweat that emanated from Edward. As his body cooled, I reached over and pulled the covers over him. He didn’t move, save for his fingers softly combing the hair at my temples, and his lips softly caressing mine. Our eyes were dull and drowsy with slaked lust and punch-drunk love.

We never spoke. We stayed joined together even when Edward rolled to his side, pulling me onto mine. We simply entwined our limbs and stared sleepily at one another, sharing one pillow under our heavy heads. It was a strange sort of staring contest as we took turns dozing for a moment, then opening one sleepy eye to make sure the other was still there. He grinned at me at last before he gave in to unconsciousness; and, staring at his beautiful face, I finally succumbed.

Which brought me to this morning, and my sleepless study of Edward in all his softly snoring glory. Even his snores were sexy and comforting; soft, rumbling sounds not unlike the purring of a cat. They had lulled me to sleep more than once last night. But now I lay gazing at my favorite work of art, reliving the many ways we had ravished each other the night before. Wondering if I was up to continuing the love fest this morning. I was a little sore, but in a good way. A delicious, never-want-it-to-end way. I didn’t want any of this to end. Time could stop now and leave me here, on this day, in Edward’s bed, forever, and I would have no complaints.

He was so beautiful as he lay sleeping that it almost hurt to look at him. Still, I stared at him, unblinking, committing to memory the way pale morning light played over his cheeks and eyelashes. And then I remembered that I didn’t have to do that. I could capture that image forever.

I gingerly pulled myself away from Edward; he frowned slightly as his empty arm settled on the pillow next to him. I tiptoed around the room, glad to see that he had left a discarded t-shirt and shorts on the chair next to the dresser. I eagerly pulled on his worn clothes, breathing his faint scent deeply into my lungs before heading out to the living room.

As I approached the scene of our tryst against the wall, I let out a tiny laugh at the sight of our clothes strewn about: my dress, his pants, pooled into one wrinkled fabric puddle on the glossy hardwood; one scarlet pump adjacent; the other somehow five feet away, near the sofa. And thrown clear to the middle of the living room floor was the tiny, pathetic remnant of my torn g-string, a ruined casualty of our love.

I retrieved Edward’s camera from the window sill, turned it on, and took a picture of our discarded fancy clothes. I grinned as I viewed the digital image before it disappeared. He would laugh when he came across this later.

I returned to his bedroom, and my breath caught in my chest at the sight of him. He had pulled the pillow to him and was clutching it as though it were my warm body. His face was a tranquil sea. He was part little boy, part sexy man, and all Edward.

I approached the bed quietly and stood gazing at him for a moment before I took the photo of his glorious, unforgettable face. I opened my mouth to release the words I’d been longing to say, even if I was the only one who would hear them.

“I love you, Edward.”

He didn’t move, didn’t flinch, didn’t react in any way. He simply lay perfectly still, my sleeping angel with the devilish streak that I could no longer live without.

I finally tore my eyes away from their heaven and meandered back out into the loft. I couldn’t get the song he’d written out of my mind, the chorus repeating in my head like a siren song, tormenting me. I could remember some of the chorus, but very little of the verses. I wanted to hear the song again, or at least, read the beautiful, haunted words that Edward had composed for me. He had to have them written down somewhere.

I headed for his makeshift “conservatory” and made a beeline straight for the piano. No music sat upon its desk, so I opened the bench lid and rifled through the sheet music contained within. Nothing but printed classical music was stored there.

I frowned and looked around, my eyes falling on a stack of music next to the sofa. I flipped through the pile, but again, most of it was pre-printed guitar tablature. I glanced at the familiar markings, surprised at how easily it all came back to me. I could remember the finger positions for the major chords as if my last lesson were yesterday. Would it be that easy to try again? Like getting back on that bicycle, even after years of standing firmly on solid ground?

I turned my gaze to the row of guitar cases stacked neatly against one wall. My fingers began to itch and my heart thumped loudly in my chest. Maybe it was time to get back on the bike. What did I have to lose? I had given up all of myself to Edward last night, and the freedom was exhilarating. I knew he was here to catch me if I should fall. He had already patched me up once. I knew he was the one who could do it again.

My heart accelerated as I knelt before the newest case, the one that held that gorgeous Martin acoustic he’d played last night. It was the guitar for Our Song. My fingers trembled slightly as I unhooked the fasteners and opened the lid, but I couldn’t help but sigh with happiness at the sight of the shiny, brand-new instrument. It was breath-taking.

I grasped its rosewood neck and gingerly pulled it out, surprised at how lightweight it was. I carried it to the nearby couch and sat down. The guitar seemed to settle itself in the proper position, my right arm draped over its pale spruce top as the ebony back settled against my stomach. My left hand wrapped around the neck for a moment, fingers lying impotently on the frets. I lifted them off and let my right thumb slowly strum the strings, top to bottom: E, A, D, G, B, E.

“Elephants And Donkeys Grow Big Ears,” I whispered to myself. I could hear your voice as clearly as if you were in the room with me. I never forgot that phrase you taught me to help me remember the notes, Mom. I never will.

My left hand took over after that, fingers forming themselves into basic chords on the frets as I fought to press the strings down with my tender, callous-free fingertips. C, C7. D, D minor. F. G, G7. A, A minor. My right hand strummed along, and I tried not to wince at the barely-in-tune chords as I played them. All that mattered is that I was doing it. I hadn’t forgotten the chords.

I could feel happy, grateful tears form as I found A7 and B7. I should have known I’d never truly forget, anymore than I could ever forget you.

I was so engrossed in my musical rediscovery that I didn’t hear the soft pad of bare feet across the hardwood floor. I very nearly jumped out of my skin when a familiar velvet voice cut through the sound of my tentative, rusty guitar work.

“What are you doing, Bella?”