Sunday, July 10, 2011

Massage Therapy, Chapter 15 - Profession, part 1

Edward Cullen’s Little Black Notebook
Tuesday, August 24

I love you, Edward.

The sound of Bella’s voice was embedded in my brain while I watched her nap Sunday afternoon. Her confession played over and over in my mind, and every repetition moved me as much the original.

I’m not talking about her second unintended utterance, or even her third tear-filled profession. No, it was the first time, early that morning, that was my mantra. When she thought I was unconscious and couldn’t hear. How could she think that I would still slumber when my outstretched arms met only emptiness? I had stirred and awakened the minute she left my bed. I pulled her still-warm pillow to me and pressed my face into her scent as I waited. She must have needed a drink of water, or to use the bathroom. She wouldn’t be long.

I dozed, dreaming of her. Dreaming of the things she did to me the night before. The things she let me do to her. The things we did together, joined into one desperate, delirious being.

I heard her feet, faint on the floorboards, as she entered the room. Still heavy with sleep, I waited, and wondered idly why she didn’t crawl back into bed.

I heard the quiet click of the shutter then. I wanted to smile at the symmetry of it--my need to capture her last night; her need to capture me this morning. But more than that, I wanted to surprise her and make her laugh. Grab her and tickle her and nuzzle her neck “good-morning” when she was again within my grasp. And so I lay perfectly still, until she came closer.

But there was only silence after the camera caught me. I ached to look at her and answer the puzzle. The indelible image of her burned on the backs of my lids was not enough. Why didn’t she come to me?

And then, the still air finally stirred with the whisper of a promise, a declaration, a confession for which no absolution was needed.

I love you, Edward.

How could such a quiet revelation be so profound? Such a softly-spoken assertion carry so much weight? And yet her words pinned me to the bed, sank my limbs like stones, smothered me in their truth.

But I was grateful to my assailant. Bella was now the force that pumped the blood through my veins. She was food and air and water. She was the fulfillment of my restless want; the answer to my insatiable need. And I felt the gravity of that truth with four hoarsely-whispered, heartfelt words.

I wanted to say them back. I needed to. I could feel them wailing insistently for release from behind their barricade of stunned caution.

But I remained inert and silent, fooling no one but her. As her bare feet padded softly out of the room, relief and frustration battled one another within. I stared at the ceiling and deliberated. I could easily pretend I had never heard her confession. I could continue the day as I would with any other girl after a night of mind-blowing sex, politely offering her breakfast and a ride home.

But Bella was not any other girl. And the sex was far beyond mind-blowing. The sex was in a realm I’d never experienced before, and I knew why. It came back to the four little words. Not, I love you, Edward.

But, I love you, Bella.

There was no deliberation, really. No decision to be made. The truth was absolute, irrefutable. I would find the right time, and I would profess it to her. I would say it in a way that left no doubt in her mind - or my own - what I felt, what I needed and wanted. I would say it so that I could hear her repeat the words back to me. Look into her eyes while she said them. Be sure that she was as lost and found in me I was in her.

She slipped later on and repeated her admission while talking about her dad, and I was so close to saying it then. But I bided my time, thinking, I will know when.

I toyed with the words, not quite saying them in their full meaning, but modifying them to fit our breakfast banter. I love you with bed-head. Which really meant, I love you, period. We both knew it. But it still wasn’t the time.

The music lesson was. I could feel it building inside, building between us, when she begged to learn the song I wrote to express my feelings for her. As I taught her the chords and repeated the words, I was reminded of just how much she had changed my life. This tiny, unassuming girl had possessed my every thought and desire, conscious and unconscious, in the space of a few short weeks. The song was my way of telling her how much that meant to me, as scary and thrilling and wholly unexpected as it was. And now I needed to take that next step and simply tell her, in naked, unadorned words.

She played remarkably well for not having picked up a guitar in so long. I was only shocked for a minute or two when I finally went in search of her earlier and heard the chords wafting down the hallway from the back of the loft. I immediately thought of the guitar case I’d seen hiding in her closet, and I wanted to kick myself and my hangover fog for having forgotten that crucial nugget of information. The explanation of her mild duplicity made perfect sense to me. After all, look at how much I’ve been withholding from her. Bad memories can cripple even the best of intentions.

When Bella finished the song with me, I was elated. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy for another human being in my life. I could see and feel how deeply this bit of progress affected her. My gratification over being able to help her achieve this step far surpassed any relief I’ve ever given a massage client.

I was thrown for a moment by her tears, but soon realized that they were the result of emotions too strong to contain. I could feel my own welling up as I held her; swelling and spilling over. And that’s when the words came tumbling out, free at last.

“I love you, Bella Swan.”

My own catharsis could not have been much less than her own. I never dreamed what release I would find in just voicing that simple, but essential, sentiment. I am still high from that moment, days later. Not just the knowledge, but the admission, that I love her like I’ve never loved anyone before. Love her like I’ll never love anyone after. Love who we are together. I even love who I am when I’m with her.

I’ll never understand all the contrary emotions and desires that seize me when we’re together. All I know is that she seems in sync with all of them, and responds to them exactly like I dreamed she would. One minute we’re as serious as a heart attack, sharing emotional closeness deeper than anything I’ve ever experienced. The next we’re joking and playing around like kids. And then suddenly I want to take her, possess her, make her bend to my will. Force sexual ecstasy from her. Isn’t it wrong to want to dominate the one you love, however briefly? Yet she surrenders so totally and willingly, and seems to enjoy the game so much, that I can’t quite feel guilty for playing it.

Maybe it’s because she’s just as eager to turn the tables on me and be the aggressor. To make me wait and suffer while she taunts me with the promise of that pinnacle of euphoria. She loves to torture me a little, and I love the tease. She broke me like an equestrian breaks a stallion. She was the one who was wild and free as she mounted and rode me after my admission of love Sunday afternoon. I was only too thrilled to meet every forceful buck of her hips with one of my own.

How much she had changed in such a short time. Where was the girl who was so self-conscious about her body, so worried that I would find her lacking in some way? I was not sorry to see her go. I hoped my reassurances and my blatant desire for her were the catalysts for her shedding that skin of insecurity. Her raw, open sensuality now was a thing of wonder and beauty to me. She bobbed atop me in broad daylight with the authority of a lap dancer, her rhythm slow and syrupy and delicious before it quickened with lust.

I could have stared ceaselessly at her body snaking all around me were it not for the distraction of her eyes. I had finally let myself drown in them the night before while slowly but purposefully grinding her body into the cushion of my king-sized bed. I had longed to swim in those depths, to let them surround me. To let her soul envelop mine. And now I did it again; gave in to her freely, eagerly. Allowed myself to see how much she loved me and wanted me. Allowed myself to believe it. Allowed her to see the same in me.

So this is what all the great artists throughout time have attempted to express. What painters try to capture with pigments, and writers with words. This union with another person so complete and life-altering that it begs celebration and veneration. And now I know how hopeless a task this is; but also, how irresistible the attempt.

These were the lofty thoughts I had as I stared into her eyes afterward, spent and pinned in place again by her sensual warmth. We held each other’s damp bodies tightly and breathed from each other’s lungs. I didn’t want her thighs to release me. I was at home inside her and didn’t want to let her go.

I had no idea what time it was, but my annoying stomach apparently did. It alerted me to the absence of its lunch just as it had done earlier for breakfast. It clearly had no idea what a mood-breaker it was, nor did it care. Now that other parts of me had been satisfied, it demanded my attention.

Bella giggled at the sound of its gurgling. “I am wearing you out,” she grinned.

“I’m glad you don’t sound very worried about it,” I answered, my arms stubbornly keeping her astride my lap. “I don’t feel like letting go of you yet.”

She sighed happily and kissed me. That kept my oral fixation satisfied for a good couple of minutes before my gut growled insistently again.

“What time is it, anyway?” she said, prying her lips from mine. “Is it lunch time already?”

“Probably way past it,” I begrudgingly admitted.

“You think?” Bella gasped, suddenly looking alarmed. She looked around frantically.

“What’s wrong?”

“Where’s a clock? Oh shit. How late is it? Oh, shit!”

She pushed impatiently away from me, disentangling herself from my embrace and leaping to the floor. The minute her feet hit the wood, she scurried to the front of the loft.

“Bella, what is it? What’s going on?” I called after her. I rose from the couch and stretched my stiff bones a bit before ambling after her. I couldn’t imagine what had her so agitated in the middle of a blissful Sunday afternoon.

When I got to the living room, I saw her snatch something from her purse on the sofa before making a beeline to the kitchen. She poured herself a glass of water and was fiddling with a round, plastic container as I approached. I recognized the ubiquitous pill dispenser and my stomach dropped.

I watched her push a tiny pastel-colored pill from its foil pocket and quickly pop it in her mouth before washing it down with several gulps of water. We stared at each other for a moment before I asked the obvious question.

“Was that your birth-control pill?”

She nodded. Her eyes told me that she normally took it earlier than this.

“When do you usually take it?” I asked somewhat moronically.

“Lunch time. Noon-ish.”

We both swiveled our necks to the nearby wall clock in unison.

“Three o’clock,” I sighed with relief. “That’s not so bad. I’m sure you’re fine.”

She stared at me, unconvinced. “You think so? Doctors always try to scare women into taking it at exactly the same time every day, no exceptions. The pill isn’t 100% effective, you know. Do you realize how much sperm you have deposited in my body over the past twenty-four hours?”

I couldn’t hold back my laughter at her observation. “Yes, I am fully aware of how many sperm deposits I’ve made. No birth control is 100% effective. Unless you want me to stop making love to you altogether, of course.”

Thankfully, she gave me a look that told me she found that idea unacceptable.

“Don’t worry,” I assured her, coming closer to take her in my arms. “When was your last period?”

“It just ended a couple of days ago.” She looked a little surprised that I might actually know something about menstrual cycles.

“Okay, so you probably won’t ovulate for a week yet. You should be good, even if your pill isn’t.” I gave her a gentle squeeze and kissed the top of her hair before I let her go. When I heard her exaggerated sigh of relief, I couldn’t help but add one more comment.

“But if the pill doesn’t work, have no fear. If I get you pregnant, I’ll just marry you sooner.”

She gaped up at me in mild horror for a moment before giving my chest a light shove. “Don’t even joke about that.”

“I’m not joking. I plan to keep you barefoot, panty-less, braless and pregnant while you cook me three squares a day. Why put off the inevitable? We could just get married now. I’ll check the airlines for the next flight to Vegas.”

She was already play-hitting me repeatedly by the time I finished. I could barely get the words out through my laughter and her curse-filled protests. I finally grabbed her slap-happy hands in mine and held them behind her back as I pulled her to me.

“Stop pretending you’re so offended by the idea. You know you want to.”

“You’re delusional.” She grunted and struggled against me, glaring up at me. I yanked her tighter, pressing her body flush to mine.

“You love me. You want to marry me and have my babies. Admit it.”

“No.” She appeared to be struggling to maintain her angry expression. She looked like she might laugh instead as she pursed her lips together.

“You can’t wait to watch your belly swell up with my spawn.”

“Hell, no. I’m too young. I have things I want to accomplish first.” She looked like she meant that one, and I didn’t doubt it. That was pretty much my sentiment, too; but it was too much fun to tease her.

“’First?’” I repeated. “So you have things you want to accomplish, and then have my babies.”

Bella narrowed her eyes at me. “Since when are you so hot to start procreating?”

“Since I started fucking you,” I grinned.

“You’re disgusting,” she declared, struggling to free herself from my grip. I chuckled as I relaxed my hold on her.

“You’d look really cute pregnant,” I insisted.

“You only want me pregnant so my tits will get bigger,” she grumbled, giving me another half-hearted shove.

“Ooh, I never thought of that. Bonus.” I reached for the pill container on the counter as I slyly offered, “Here, Bella, let me put these back in your purse for you.”

“Don’t you dare! Give me those,” she demanded, grabbing for my hand. I held the container out of her reach, passing it from hand to hand as she leapt for it. I knew it was childish, but she looked and felt too good as she lunged her naked body repeatedly against me. She didn’t have to play this game of fetch. She knew exactly what she was doing.

“Fine. I’ll just go renew my prescription,” she sniffed, giving up and walking back toward her purse in the living room. I followed her gamely, admiring the saunter of her bare backside.

“Here,” I relented, handing her the pills after I caught up to her. “I’m sorry. But you have to admit that I managed to do it.”

She looked at me suspiciously as she put the pills back in her handbag, but she took the bait anyway. “Managed to do what?”

“Get you to parade around naked for me.”

That brought on another physical assault, which I welcomed with a feeble attempt at self-defense and much laughter. She was half-laughing herself as she pummeled me for my crassness and manipulative behavior and whatever other accusations she could come up with.

“That’s enough,” I finally announced after fighting off her swings for a minute or two. “You’ve just earned yourself another spanking.” I bent down and wrapped my arms around her waist, throwing her over my shoulder as I stood upright. I carried her back to my bedroom while she squealed and beat on my back in mock protest. I was too distracted by the delicious swell of her ass next to my face to care.

When I entered the room, I lowered her to the bed, then quickly sat down next to her and pulled her face-down over my lap before she could get away. She squealed again as I held her struggling torso firmly in one arm while my other hand stroked the smooth skin of her buttocks.

“Such a naughty girl,” I murmured before bringing my hand down across her ass. It was a light snap of skin upon skin; just enough to color her cheeks a pale pink. Her accompanying shriek was largely theatrical. I would never dream of hitting or hurting her in any way. But I had always known instinctively that she would enjoy a little slap and tickle. I had tested that theory the night before, and was not surprised that she had responded the way she did. Even if her mind balked at the humiliation, her body embraced it. Her body reacted in ways that her brain could not control or explain. She proved it over and over again when I made love to her. She may not have ever given it much thought, but when it came to sex, Bella Swan liked it a little rough. A little hard. She melted in my arms when I romanced her, but she climaxed from friction and heat and force.

When I slapped her ass just hard enough for the sensations to vibrate through her sex, she gasped and groaned with pleasure. I massaged her cheeks gently before smacking them again, and her back arched in readiness. It drove me wild to watch her get turned on at the touch of my hands, whether it was from a soft caress or a rough touch.

“I think you’re enjoying this a little too much,” I whispered, kneading each cheek and salivating at the glimpse of what lay between them. I knew I needed to nip this in the bud before I took her again. She had already made love to me on the couch after she told me she was sore today.

“You wish,” she snarled indignantly. “Pervert.”

“Liar,” I retorted smoothly, fingers still caressing her pink backside. “It turns you on. And it definitely turns me on. Which is why we need to stop now, or neither of us will be able to walk tomorrow.”

I gently turned her body to face me, pulling her upright on my lap and cradling her in my arms. She gazed up at me, bewildered eyes searching mine as she shook her head slightly.

“How do you do that?” she finally asked quietly. “Your mood swings give me whiplash, but I keep jumping on for the ride.”

“Hmm.” I brushed my favorite lock of hair away from her face. “Maybe because it’s a fun ride. Unpredictable, anyway.” I paused while we both smiled at the complexity of our relationship. “I’m not this way with everyone, you know,” I added.

She wrapped her arms around my neck and gave me her Mona Lisa smile. “I know. You have no idea how badly I wanted you to be free with me. I guess I should have been careful what I wished for.” But her expression held no regret, despite her words.

“Too late now. You’re stuck with me.”

“You promise?”

God, how I loved her. There were no words strong enough to express it.

I answered simply, “I promise.”

And then my stomach added a frustrated growl as a grace note at the end.

“We need to get you some food,” Bella laughed. “Good thing you stocked the refrigerator. You knew we’d work up an appetite, didn’t you?”

“I hoped. But my wildest dreams didn’t even come close to the past twenty-four hours.”

“Mine didn’t, either,” she smiled. I kissed her, but she tasted too good and I had to stop.

“Clothes,” I sighed. “I need to be dressed to eat. We need to be dressed the rest of the day or I won’t be responsible for my actions.”

Bella let out a slightly wicked chuckle. “Our clothes are in the music room. Again,” she reminded me.

“There’s a reason I suggested we just stay naked. It’s easier.”

“Maybe next weekend,” she suggested. “After I have some recovery time.”

I grinned at the thought that this was my life now: weekends with Bella, doing whatever we felt like, whenever we felt like it. And some week nights, too, I hoped. I had always thought I would mourn the loss of my independence should I ever try to have a serious relationship. Now I realized I had it backwards. People get in serious relationships because spending time with one another is the thing they want most, the thing they can’t get enough of.

I held her hand as we headed to retrieve our clothes once again, and we helped dress each other. I was amazed at how much contentment I could feel by such simple acts. Bella’s irrepressible grin told me she felt the same.

We made sandwiches for lunch, a culinary creation with which I was much more comfortable. We were eating at the bar, immersed in chitchat about our upcoming week, when I heard a muffled but distinctly irritated mewling from outside the loft door.

Bella heard it too, and her eyes popped wide in dismay. “Lucky! He’s been outside this whole time!”

I only chuckled as I went to let the cat in. “Don’t worry about him. He’s an outdoor cat, for the most part. He can subsist just fine on mice in between feedings. He’s just annoyed that we’ve been ignoring him. Right, boy?” I addressed him as I opened the door.

He meowed angrily up at me before rushing into the room and checking his empty dish. Then his meowing turned into plaintive begging.

“Aw, poor baby,” Bella sympathized, hopping off her bar stool to go pet him while I opened him a can of tuna. Lucky rubbed himself all over Bella’s legs until I went to fill his dish; then his affections switched briefly to me before he buried his nose in the fish.

“Fickle,” I insisted with a laugh. “He goes wherever the food is. And occasionally a warm lap.”

“Like most males,” Bella teased, giving me a sideways look.

I shrugged in agreement. “What can I say? We’re simple creatures.”

Bella laughed loudly. “Edward, there is nothing simple about you. You are one of the most complicated people I’ve ever met. I don’t know if I’ll ever figure you out.”

I was a little surprised to hear that. I’d never really given it much thought before.

“Maybe that’s why you keep coming back for more,” I suggested. “That’s how you hooked me. I couldn’t quite figure you out, either. But I knew I wanted to, the minute I worked on your back.”

She looked as surprised as I had. “What about now? Have you solved my mysteries?”

I gazed into the Hershey’s syrup drops and knew that I could never fully know what lay in their depths. But I also knew that I would never tire of trying to find out.

“I think you may have a few surprises in store for me yet,” I grinned at last.

“Maybe,” she said cryptically. “Maybe my back will tell you something different today.”

“I think it might,” I agreed. I cleaned up our empty plates and put them in the sink with the other dirty dishes. I decided I’d take care of them after Bella had left, whenever that was. She could stay until Monday morning as far as I was concerned.

“Are you ready to find out?” Bella asked. “Because I am definitely ready for my massage.” Her face was bright with anticipation. I actually couldn’t wait, either. I missed my favorite patient.

“Let’s go,” I smiled, leading her back to the bedroom. She began to shamelessly disrobe in front of me, again reminding me how much things had changed since we had first met.

“Damn. I forgot you’ll have be naked again,” I sighed. “Why must you torment me so?”

She only laughed as she crawled into bed and pulled the sheet over her. “Do you want me face up or face down?”

“What a loaded question.” She gave me that look of exasperation again. “Face down,” I relented. “I want to work directly on your back. I may just do some Swedish massage today. You might want to put a pillow under your armpits and rest your chin on your hands.”

“What exactly is Swedish massage?” she asked, her voice obscured by the pillow as she pulled it under her and situated herself.

“It’s more of a relaxation technique. Broad strokes across your back instead of the intensive work in one small area at a time.”

“Sounds nice,” she commented. “Maybe I can massage you when you’re done. Not that I know what I’m doing or anything.”

“I don’t care if you know what you’re doing. There’s nothing I love more than your hands on me,” I told her.

“Ditto,” came her muffled reply as settled her face on the pillow.

I smiled and went to my top dresser drawer to retrieve one of the several massage gels I kept there. It had a faint lavender scent, designed to relax.

I rubbed the gel over my fingers before I put them to her back. She sighed a little as I spread my hands over her shoulder blades, up around her neck, and then down the length of her back to her tailbone. I was amazed at the difference I felt already. Her muscles were much looser now, easier to move and manipulate than they ever had been before. I couldn’t help wanting to check the areas I knew were troublesome for her, so I began working more slowly over her neck, shoulder blades and ribs. She had progressed very well under Katrina’s care. I could easily manipulate her fascia now and unravel the few twists I found. I could actually feel her spinal issues now, whereas before, her muscles had protected them so insistently that I could only point the problem areas out to Emmett and let him manipulate the bones. Bella still had some misalignment, but my brother had made great progress overall. My beautiful, damaged girl was on the mend.

It was with grateful relief that I worked my way down her back, stretching her where she needed it and then soothing the muscles gently afterward. I knew our sex had been a little rough, and I was worried that I had gotten carried away. I couldn’t seem to stop myself when I was inside her, my passion growing into something primal that was nearly beyond my control. I didn’t want to be responsible for causing even the smallest impediment to her healing process.

By the time I reached her tailbone, Bella’s breathing was slow and rhythmic. I wondered if she had fallen asleep. In any case, she was deeply relaxed. I gingerly examined her trouble spot, and again was amazed at the difference. Emmett had succeeded in aligning her hips and tailbone to a much more normal state, and her muscles had relaxed their stabilizing grip on the bones. I was able to gently smooth the fascia across her lower back, carefully watching her for signs of discomfort, but she remained still. My relief was profound now. She had no way of knowing just how far she had come since the day I first touched her. I knelt and gently kissed the left dimple where her back met her buttocks. I moved my lips to the right to kiss its twin.

Bella sighed softly, and I finished my session with a thorough Swedish rubdown, criss-crossing my hands up and down her back with broad, firm strokes until every muscle was warm and relaxed.

Suddenly I felt a small jostle on the bed. I turned to see Lucky atop the mattress, pussyfooting toward Bella’s form with his inquisitive nose pointing the way.

“What was that?” she murmured sleepily.

“It’s just Lucky,” I told her softly. “Being nosy as usual.”

“Cats don’t like to be left out,” she noted.

He sniffed his way up her body and stood between us for a moment as if to prove her statement.

“I can get rid of him if you want,” I offered.

“No, let him stay. He can sleep with me.”

“Are you tired? Do you want to take a nap?”

She nodded, the one eye I could see on the side of her face remaining closed.

“You wore me out,” she mumbled. I grinned, leaned over and kissed her temple.

“Just so you know, you’ve made amazing progress,” I whispered in her ear. “It’s like you’re a whole different girl from the one I first worked on.”

She smiled but didn’t open her eyes. “I am different. You changed me. For the better.”

She had no way of knowing what those words meant to me. I was glad she couldn’t see me fighting back tears.

“You have the same effect on me,” I told her. I pulled the sheet up over her body, and Lucky took the opportunity to plop himself down upon it, right next to Bella’s hip. She giggled a little before her face relaxed and her breathing deepened. Lucky put his head down upon his paws and squeezed his eyes shut, apparently deciding that a nap was a good idea, and this was the ideal place to take one.

I, on the other hand, was wide awake. I pulled up a chair and watched them for awhile, thinking. Not thinking. Just drinking in the tranquility. Wondering again how this was my life now. Wondering how it had happened, and in the seeming blink of an eye.

Eventually I heard a faint jangle of Hendrix guitar chords from the living room. May This Be Love. Indeed, it may, I thought as I rose and crept out of the room to answer my cell phone. It was still on the kitchen counter where I’d tossed it the night before, along with my keys and wallet.

“Is she still there?” My baby sister’s excited voice met my ears without preamble.

I tried to keep my laughter quiet. “Yes. She’s taking a nap, actually.”

“Damn, you’re good,” Alice giggled. “You can spare me the gory details, though. So things are good between you, huh? No misunderstandings this time?”

“None whatsoever,” I smiled. “What about you and Jasper? What happened last night? Generally speaking,” I added.

“Generally speaking, we had a fa-a-abulous time. Specifically, I stayed at his place. He just now escorted me to the ferry. He wanted to ride along, but I insisted that he not waste his time. He and the band are rehearsing tonight. I think he’s gonna call you about them coming over to the loft sometime this week.”

“He’s welcome to the space, he knows that,” I said. “Oh, man. Now you have to do the walk of shame back to Mom and Dad’s. That should be pleasant.”

“I know,” she groaned. “Whatever. I’m an adult now; they know that. They’ll just have to deal. Besides, they love Jasper. Well, Mom does, anyway.”

“Dad’s going to be wary of anyone who steals away his little girl,” I laughed. “Even if it’s someone he knows and likes.”

“Speaking of whom, how does he like Bella? What was his reaction last night when you were gone for so long? When you missed the auction, Emmett figured he had better go after you before Dad went ballistic.”

I sighed in mild irritation. “I’m sure he’s fine with Bella. We didn’t really get a chance to talk about it. He started in on me about disappointing Mom and I kind of lost my cool. Imagine that.”

“Oh, Edward,” Alice admonished gently. “You’ve got to get over this beef you have with Dad. You know he just wants what’s best for you.”

“He wants what’s best for me as long as it’s in line with what he thinks is best for me.”

“He just doesn’t want you to sell yourself short,” she argued. “He’s allowed to disagree with your life choices, you know. He still loves and supports you. You know that.”

“Don’t start with me, Alice.” I could feel my ire growing, and I didn’t want it to spoil what had been a perfect day up until now.

“I’m sorry,” she sighed. “But you’re so pig-headed sometimes. Every now and then you need me to point out when you’re being unreasonable.”

“Unreasonable. Okay, fine, you’re right,” I agreed abruptly. It was the quickest way to get her to get her off this topic and on to the next.

She sighed again. “I don’t want to fight. I actually had an idea that I wanted to run by you.”

“Okay, shoot.”

“What if we surprise Jasper and his band by inviting a few people over to hang out while they rehearse? You know, you can bring Bella and Emmett can bring Rosalie.” It was actually nice to hear her plotting and scheming again. That was the Alice I knew and loved, despite the aggravation.

“Ah, I see. That’s quite a stealth operation--not obvious at all. He’ll never figure out what you’re doing there,” I chortled.

“Hey, if he rehearses at your place, you have the right to listen in and bring your girlfriend. And if he invites me along too, we have a right to bring our brother, who then has a right to bring his new girlfriend. It’ll simply be a happy coincidence that my brothers’ dates work in the music biz. Am I right?”

“Those are a lot of ‘rights’ you have there. I think may have just come up with the next amendment to the Constitution.”

“Indeed,” she agreed, undeterred by my sarcasm. “So how does Wednesday work for you? I’m going to yoga Tuesday night, and I’m dragging Bella with me, even if she doesn’t know it yet.”

“Christ almighty, Alice--stealing my new girlfriend out from under me already?”

“Aha! I just got you to admit it out loud. It’s official, then?” she asked expectantly.

I laughed and shook my head. “Yes, it’s official. So I’m officially annoyed with you for butting in on my girlfriend time. But yeah, Wednesday night is fine for rehearsal. I’m not responsible for your scheme backfiring, though. I’ll claim to know nothing about it.”

“Fine. Coward,” she grumbled. “And Bella’s my new girlfriend, too, remember. I don’t have much time to hang out with you all before I go back to school,” she added wistfully.

“I know. It’s fine. Bella’s really improving, and I think the yoga is good for her. So you have my blessing, though that means nothing to you.”

“Of course it does,” Alice fibbed. “Oh, we’re pulling up to the dock. Wish me luck with the units. I’ll talk to you soon.”

We said our good-byes and ended the call. I wondered if Jasper knew what he had gotten himself into by dating my sister. The thing is, though, she usually got what she wanted through her wily ways. I had the feeling that Jasper would eventually end up being able to record his music, one way or the other. I could only be happy about that, because his talent deserves to be heard.

I returned to the bedroom to find my girlfriend and my cat consorting most shamelessly in their sleep. Bella had turned onto her back, and Lucky had snuggled up against her side, his head resting on her stomach. Her arm was curled over the cat’s body, fingers swallowed in the thick fur of his belly. The bed sheet had gotten pulled down a bit, exposing one of Bella’s pink nipples to the cool air. The entire picture was the most beautiful, sexy, adorable thing I’d ever seen.

I captured it on my camera, then sat and looked back through the pictures. There was the one she’d taken of me, right before she told me she loved me. I stared at it a moment, wondering what, exactly, she saw in me. Then I scrolled back to the pictures I’d taken of her the night before, stunning in their stark, simple beauty. Bella was a work of art.

She finally stirred a bit and opened her eyes, her hand lazily stroking Lucky’s fur. She looked around slowly, and when she saw me sitting at the side of the bed, she smiled.

“How long have I been asleep?”

I shrugged and glanced at the bed-stand clock. “About an hour, I guess. Maybe more.”

“Mmmm. I sleep well in your bed,” she said.

“When I’m not in it, anyway,” I laughed.

“That’s not true,” she pouted.

“You tossed and turned all night,” I informed her.

“That’s only because you’re so sexy, you distract me.”

“Nice save,” I grinned. “It’s okay. I don’t sleep so well in strange beds, either. I’ll make sure I get you home early tonight.”

She frowned. “Are you in a hurry to get rid of me?”

“No. God, no. If I had my way, you’d never leave. But I want you to get your rest. Tomorrow’s a work day and all.”

“Don’t remind me,” she sighed. “This weekend’s been like a fairytale, or a dream. I kind of feel like I’m going to wake up tomorrow and be turned back into a pumpkin or something.”

“I don’t think Cinderella turned into a pumpkin. And I’m certainly no prince. But I’m not going anywhere, remember?”

She smiled up at me through her sleepy bedroom eyes. “You are a prince. And don’t you dare argue with me about it.”

I shook my head in wonder and held my tongue. If she wanted to believe that about me, who was I to fracture that fairytale?

She finally got up, let me help her dress again, and we wandered out to the living room. We watched the news and ordered a pizza for dinner. I filled her in on Alice’s plans. Unsurprisingly, Bella was far more interested in getting her boss to hear more of Jasper’s music than she was going to yoga class again. But she agreed to humor my baby sister, and me, in the process.

By the time the sun had set, I reluctantly offered to take Bella home. She reluctantly agreed. I was glad that we were on the same page, at least, when it came to being apart. That was a first for me. It seemed silly to be so sad to leave her, when I was sure I could see her the next day if I wanted to. And we already knew we’d see each other on Wednesday, if Alice had anything to say about it. So why was it so hard to kiss her good night at her door and watch her disappear?

I couldn’t sleep when I got home. I was as restless in my bed as Bella had been the night before. The cat seemed to sense my unease and curled himself up next to me, but all I could think of was the way he’d curled himself around Bella hours before.

I finally got up, found my phone and sent her a text message. I knew she probably wouldn’t see it until morning, but I sent it anyway.

Can’t sleep. The bed’s too big without you.

I began humming the identically-titled Police song under my breath as I got myself a glass of water. I was surprised to hear the message alert of my phone go off. I grabbed it and read Bella’s return message:

The cold wind blows right through that open door.

I chuckled in surprise, recognizing the next line of lyrics that came after the ones I had just typed to her. I should have realized that she would know the song, no matter how vintage it was. I quickly typed my reply.

I knew there was a reason why I love you so much.

Her response was immediate. I hope that’s not the only one.

No, but the text limit won’t let me list them all.

Funny, mine won’t either. So I’ll just say I love you. And try to get some sleep.

What are you doing tonight? I replied. I imagined her laughter when she read this.

Making spaghetti and meatballs for Angela. Monday’s my night to cook. You want to come over?

I wished she could see the relieved grin on my face.

Yes, please. I’ll bring the wine.

Just bring yourself. But a nice Chianti would go well with the Italian, if you’re so inclined.

I’m so inclined I just fell over backward.

LOL Onto the bed, I hope. I could practically hear her giggling.

No, but I’m headed there. I think I’ll sleep better now.

Sweet dreams and Happy Monday.

It will be now.

Bella answered simply, XOXOXOXO.

I slept like a baby the rest of the night.

I managed to wake up in a cloud of leftover euphoria from my amazing weekend, and I hummed happily to myself like some moron in a bad romance movie as I showered and dressed for work. And, like the movie moron, I should have known that my bubble of contentment was about to be unceremoniously burst.

And yet I was still blissfully, ignorantly serene as I bought a cup of my favorite Columbian from the usual café, then rounded the corner to the medical complex where the Cullen offices resided. Both Cullen offices. And there, just beating me to the punch, was Carlisle Cullen, unlocking the outside door to the facility.

“Good morning, son,” he smiled as I approached. I raised my cup in acknowledgement.

“Hey, Dad,” I mumbled. I tried to grab the door for him, but he held it open for me instead. Once inside, I made a beeline for the Cullen and Cullen office door, hoping to get it unlocked before Dad had a chance to corner me. Naturally, I dropped the damned keys on the floor. I made a mad scramble to retrieve them, but was still bent over when I heard the ominous words waft over my backside.

“Edward, I’d like a word with you.”


  1. This is one of my favorite chapters so far. It’s beautifully written, with so many memorable descriptions of Edward’s feelings for Bella. Your Edward is wonderful! You also captured the incursion of Lucky the cat perfectly. I am continually amazed and charmed by this story. Thank you so much!!

  2. I have to second robsmacked's comment, this was a really sweet chapter! I think I've said this before but I love your Edward so much. Can't wait to see what's next! I really should be sleeping as it's already past 3 am here, but who cares, I have a day off tomorrow! :D