Sunday, October 9, 2011

Massage Therapy, Chapter 18 - Countdown, day 6

Edward Cullen's Little Black Notebook

Saturday, September 4


The hairs on my neck rose at the sound of my name piercing the noisy air, though I'd now recognize that overzealous shriek anywhere. I craned my neck to find the source, refusing to give up my place in line at the beer ticket booth.

I soon spotted Jessica Stanley, impatiently elbowing her way through the Seattle Music Fest crowd to get in the queue, and somehow she'd recognized me in the throng. I looked on either side of me, realizing I happened to stand almost a head taller than the guys on either side of me.

"Hey, Jess," I called as she made her way toward me.

"Hey," she said with a huge grin, panting and wiping her brow. She turned to the guy behind me and did an impressive eyelash-batting thing before imploring, "Can I cut in, please? We got separated and I've been looking for him forever. You know how it is." She hooked her arm through mine for emphasis as she spoke.

Her guileless expression had the guy behind me grumbling, "Sure, whatever," with a shrug.

"You're a good liar," I whispered after he turned back to his buddy.

"I prefer to call it 'stretching the truth,'" she replied. "Besides, we did get separated, at 5 p.m. yesterday, to be exact."

"Indeed we did," I said with an appreciative grin. "I like how you think."

"It comes in handy," she agreed. "I gotta get plenty of beer tickets, or the natives will be restless. Literally," she added with a laugh.

"What do you mean?"

"I'm here with Jacob Black," she said with smug satisfaction. "Well, and the whole Wolf Pack, really. They kind of let me tag along. They dropped me off at the gate to come and get the beverage tickets while they park the van. But I get to spend the whole day and night with Jake, so that's progress, right?"

"Absolutely," I said with a smile. "I'm not sure Jacob deserves you, though."

"Aw, that's sweet of you to say. Unless you know something I don't. He's not still hitting on Bella, is he?" she ended in dismay.

"Not that I know of. I think she made herself clear where they stand. But I've never expected that kid to give up too easily."

Jessica looked worried, which made me add, "But if anyone can win him over and make him see the error of his ways, it's you."

Her face brightened and her usual confidence returned. "You are so right about that."

We shuffled forward in line, but not quickly enough for my liking. The sun was warm and I was thirsty. I was sure my siblings and friends were getting anxious for a beer.

"You know, I almost didn't recognize you," Jessica said, eyeing me up and down. "You dirty up real nice."

I chuckled as I glanced down at my ragged t-shirt and jeans. "I guess you've never seen me outside of the office, other than at the Black and Red Ball."

"No, I haven't. I'm a little surprised. As uptight as you are, I always pictured you in a polo and designer jeans," she teased.

"Oh, geezus. Do me a favor and shoot me if you ever see me in such a getup. It will mean I've either lost my mind or I've been kidnapped and brainwashed by aliens. Either way, death will be a sweet release."

Jessica let out a hearty laugh. "You surprise the hell out of me sometimes. It's like there's a secret side of you I've never even seen before. A whole different Edward Cullen."

I raised one cryptic eyebrow. "Maybe there is."

"Stop," she ordered. "I love a man of mystery, but I'm not barking up that tree, attractive as it is. Like I said before, that would be weird."

"Very weird," I agreed. "And Bella would have your hide. At least, I hope she would."

"Are you here with her?"

"Sort of. She and Rosalie are working." I pointed back at the stage area, where I could barely see the two of them in the distance, their heads bowed over a clipboard. "I came with Emmett and Alice, and some other friends. We've got a big blanket spread out on the lawn, stage left, if you want to come over."

"Oh, wow. That's cool," Jessica said. "Maybe we'll come sit with you."

"Sure, that'd be great," I said with a smile, wondering if I was as convincing a liar as Jessica was.

We each bought the maximum number of beverage tickets allowed, then wove through the crowd to the nearest beer tent for our first round. Unfortunately, the Wolf Pack showed up right before we were served. I made nice, congratulating them on their record deal. Front man Sam thanked me, and said that if all went well, they hoped their band would be performing at the Music Fest next year. I wished them luck, avoiding Jacob Black's surly gaze. I actually liked the guys in the band. For that matter, I had liked Jacob well enough before I'd confirmed his connection to Bella. I decided to put my feelings about that aside and have a drama-free day.

"Edward and Emmett are sitting over there," Jessica told them, gesturing across the park. "You want to join them?"

"You're welcome to come over," I added in the sincerest voice I could muster. "The more the merrier."

"Cool," Sam said, and the others agreed. Jacob's eyes narrowed at me, but he said nothing.

The band helped us carry beers back to our crew. Emmett, Alice, Jasper, Angela and Ben cheered when appeared with their brews.

"Sorry, bro, I should have gone with you," Emmett apologized as he came to help us distribute the cups. He'd been up at the stage, talking to Rosalie, when I had decided to make a beer run. I was still so irked that I could barely stand the sight of her.

"Eh, it's fine. Jessica and I had a nice talk." I winked at her and she grinned.

"I really don't want to know what that's all about," Emmett said with a laugh.

"Me neither," Jacob said jokingly, though the joke fell flat. He put his arm protectively on Jessica's shoulder, which she ate up like a famine victim getting a bowl of gruel.

I tried not to sneer openly at him, turning my attention to the next band on the roster of local talent. I was grateful when their loud music filled the air, cutting off any meaningful conversation for awhile.

It was a beautiful day in Gas Works Park, the sky a brilliant late-summer blue, the air growing warm and heavy as the day went on. That didn't stop a mosh pit from forming in front of the stage, the crowed getting drunker and rowdier with each band that came on. The Wolf Pack members talked about jumping into the fray, and I hoped they would. I was getting tired of Jacob's beady eyes on me, stealing surreptitious glances every now and then and making me wonder what the hell his problem was.

I didn't have to wait too long to find out. As soon as all the females of our group left to visit the portable toilets in one predictable flock, Jacob made his move.

"How about we go get refills for everyone?" he suggested, standing up and motioning to the nearest beer tent.

I nodded and got up to join him, bracing myself for whatever was coming.

"So how are things going between you and Bella?" he blurted as we made our way around the perimeter of the crowd. He tried to make it sound nonchalant, but I don't think that particular subtlety is in his repertoire.

"Not that it's any of your business, but things are great," I said. It came out in a clipped tone that was less than convincing.

"Really," he said skeptically, a comment more than a question. "Then why doesn't she seem very happy lately?"

I bristled at his nerve. Of course, since he didn't know a thing about what Rosalie had done, he assumed that Bella's preoccupation at work had something to do with me.

"What makes you think she's unhappy?" I asked, genuinely curious.

"I've known her a long time," he said, the implication being that he therefore knew her better than I did. "I can tell when something's bothering her. She gets that little line in her forehead, between her eyes, and she doesn't focus on what you're saying."

I know that little line well. I dreaded its appearance on Bella's lovely face, and I hated the thought that she was still that uncomfortable at work. I also felt like telling Jacob that maybe she didn't focus on him because she didn't give a rat's ass about whatever he happened to be yammering about at the time.

"So what makes you think that whatever's bothering her has anything to do with me?" I asked as we approached the beer tent line.

"Well, the last time I saw the two of you together, that day that you were at Java Noise, you were pretty cold toward her. I assumed you were upset with her about something."

"Again, none of your business, but I was a little upset that day. We had a slight misunderstanding and that was it. Everything's fine between us. No need for you to worry about it, or her."

"Yeah, well, I do worry," he retorted. "She's an old friend of mine and I don't want to see her get hurt. I didn't like how you treated her that day. If I find out that's how you treat her all the time, you're going to have to answer to me."

He stopped at the end of the beer line and crossed his beefy arms, puffing out his chest; but he still had to look up at me, no matter how high he jutted his chin. Part of me wanted to slug the antagonistic smirk off of his face, but the other part of me refused to acknowledge his threats as anything more than a ridiculous joke.

"Why don't you worry about your own date tonight instead of mine?" I suggested tersely. "Jessica is a great girl. You should give her a chance."

"She's nice," he said noncommittally. "A little flighty for my taste."

"She might surprise you in that department," I told him. "I underestimated her myself. You could do a lot worse."

He raised an eyebrow and shrugged. Again, I was tempted to slug him.

"Or maybe she could do a lot better," I added under my breath.

"What was that?" he snapped.

"Nothing," I said, motioning for him to move forward in line as the people in front of us advanced.

Luckily the queue moved quickly, because he and I had nothing more to say to one another. We carried our beers in stony silence back to our group, offering them to the girls first.

"You look like you're about to blow a gasket," Alice hissed up at me as she took the last beer. "What did I miss?"

"Nothing. Just Jacob Black sticking his big, fat nose where it doesn't belong again."

"Is he still crushing on Bella? I thought she took care of that the night of the ball."

"Apparently he has a hard time taking 'no' for an answer. I'm not surprised."

"Well, maybe now's your chance to drive the point home," Alice said with sudden enthusiasm. She waved wildly at someone in the distance. I turned my head toward the stage, only to see Bella weaving around the swarm of sweaty bodies in front of it. She looked ridiculously hot in her skin-tight jeans, Converse high-tops and body-skimming t-shirt, tied in a knot at the waist. She was still in bed when I left this morning, and she was already at the park by the time I got off work. I'd only waved at her from a distance so far. The closer she came, the more my heart raced. I wonder if my heart will ever stop racing for her. I can't imagine that day ever coming.

I went to meet her halfway, grabbing her in my arms and swinging her around before covering her in kisses.

"Wow," she said with a happy smile as she broke away. "What was that for?"

"Because you look incredible, and I missed you today," I proclaimed, which was true. I left out the fact that I might also be looking to obliterate any lingering hopes Jacob Black had of stealing her away from me.

"I missed you too," she said, still grinning up at me. "You like my rocker chick look, don't you?" she added with the quirk of one eyebrow.

"You have no idea. I'm about ready to drag you back to that rusty old gas plant and have my way with you," I said, referring to the mammoth gasification structures that loomed in the background behind the crowd.

"You and public sex," she teased. "You aren't going to let that go until we cross it off our checklist, are you?"

"I wasn't aware we had a checklist. But if you're keeping one, I'd love to see it."

She rolled her eyes slightly and changed the subject. "Listen, I don't have to be backstage again for another hour or so. Rose told me to go ahead and take a break, and get something to eat. Have you all had dinner yet?"

"No, not yet. We've just been getting drunk instead," I said with a laugh as I steered her back toward our friends.

"There's a surprise," she replied. "We should all go get a brat or something."

We met our friends, or enemies, as the case may be, arm in arm. I tried to keep my possessive nature at bay, but it was no use. I wanted to rub in Jacob Black's face that there was absolutely nothing for him to be suspicious about concerning Bella and me - no trouble in paradise whatsoever. I'm determined to keep it that way for ten more days, at any rate.

Alice, Jasper, Angela and Ben opted to join us on our quest to find food; Emmett decided to wait for Rosalie, who said she'd take a break when Bella returned. Likewise, Jessica said she'd stay with Jacob, who obviously had no wish to go anywhere with me and my girlfriend.

"So were you shocked to see Jessica here with Jake?" Bella asked me as we walked away. "He didn't tell me he was bringing her here."

"That's probably because she's still his second choice," I said as we trailed behind the others to the food trucks.

"I don't think so," Bella argued with a shake of her head.

"Oh, I know so. He asked me point blank if you and I were getting along. He thinks you're unhappy, and I'm to blame."

"What?" she exclaimed, her eyes flashing angrily. "He actually said that?"

"Well, not in so many words. He says he thinks something's bothering you, and since he knows nothing about what went down with Rosalie, he assumes it must be my fault."

"That's ridiculous," she said, the tiny line Jacob mentioned earlier forming between her brows.

"Is it?" I asked uncertainly.

The line deepened. "Of course. If I look unhappy at work, it's because of Rosalie. It's still hard for me to look her in the eye. On the other hand, I'd look into your eyes twenty-four seven if I could." She tilted her head up and blinked her eyes dramatically at me to make me laugh.

"Neither of us would get much done, though, would we?" I said, still grinning.

"I think I'd be okay with that." She grinned back.

"I don't know. You're in your element here, surrounded by music. And you look hot with that VIP pass around your neck. So official."

She laughed and waved the laminated plastic in the air. "Stick with me and I'll take you places, kid," she joked. "No, seriously, I want you to come backstage with me while Vegan Vamps is playing. It's kind of a big moment for me and I want you to be there."

"What about Rose?" I hedged.

"To hell with Rose," she declared. "I don't give a flying fuck anymore. I've been here all day going over set lists and schedules and listening to unsigned warm-up acts. I'm tired and hungry, and if I want my boyfriend to be with me when my first recording act makes its debut headlining performance, then damn it, you're allowed to be there."

We came to a stop behind Alice and Jasper at the seafood booth, and I stared at Bella for a moment, mouth ajar. I'd never heard her sound so angry and fed up, or so passionate about wanting me with her. I was touched, and more than a little turned on.

I reached my hand up to cup her face, rubbing my thumb along her jaw.

"How do you do that?" I asked.

"Do what? Lose my temper?" she said with a laugh.

"Make me fall more in love with you every day."

Our eyes did that little dance; shared that knowledge beyond words.

"You make it easy," she said softly.

I wished that were true.

Alice interrupted us then, asking us what we were going to order. I didn't even care about the food anymore, but I knew Bella was famished, so I picked something off the menu after asking her what she wanted.

We all sat in a circle, cross-legged in the grass, and ate our fish tacos and sandwiches. Bella filled us in on what she'd been doing all day while we were lazing around on our blankets, enjoying the results. I loved seeing her excited like this, face flushed, eyes shining. She did look tired, but happy. I felt that ache inside me again; that yearning for her. I suggested we take a walk around the park before she had to go backstage again.

She agreed, and took my hand while we made our way around the perimeter of festival-goers. The crowd thinned as we reached the rusted fossil of the old coal-burning plant, surrounded by a chain link fence to keep people from poking around its remains.

"I wonder how often people sneak over this fence and check out the old buildings?" I mused as we reached the back of the abandoned facility.

"It's probably an electronic one that'll zap you if you try," Bella said with a laugh.

"Nah, I doubt it. I'll bet we could scale this fence and no one would be the wiser." I looked up at its meager height, then down at Bella with a quirk of my eyebrow.

"You aren't serious," she said.

"I can't think of a more interesting place to make love to you right now," I whispered. Before she could pipe up in protest, I covered her lips with mine, devouring her in a hungry kiss. I couldn't stop myself - tongue roaming her mouth, fingers tangling her hair, body pushing hers against the chain link fence.

She responded with a stifled moan, her own mouth and hands answering the call, her body straining to meet mine. And then she wrenched her mouth free, turning her head quickly in either direction, obviously nervous about anyone watching. There was no one around. We were alone in the dark at the back of the plant, and I felt my need for her consuming every other consideration.

I slid my hand under her t-shirt, pulling at the thin cotton of her bra until my thumb found her nipple. I rubbed it into a rigid button while my other hand grasped her face.

"No one's here. No one's watching," I murmured before my mouth took hers again. She whimpered and her hands worked their way under my shirt, hot brands on my back that only spurred me on.

I dropped both hands to the zipper of her jeans, unbuttoning and unzipping them while she protested weakly. I pushed them down her hips until I could slide my hand easily into her panties, finding her sweet spot and stroking it until my fingers were wet.

"Do you have any idea how sexy you are when you're passionate about your work?" I said, my voice gruff with desire now.

"Oh God," she whispered, sounding half turned-on, half frustrated. "I'm glad you think so, but that's the thing - I'm working."

"You're on break," I reminded her. I unzipped my own pants and grabbed her hand, guiding it where I needed her touch. Her fingers gripped me, perhaps out of habit or instinct, even as she continued to protest.

"There's not enough time to do this right now." But her hand began stroking me up and down, in rhythm with my fingers pushing inside her.

"I have the feeling we can finish each other off pretty quickly," I answered in between labored breaths. I kissed her again, and our mouths mirrored the movement of our hands, working in time together, tongues stroking and probing, breath hot on each other's faces.

In the distance, the air was filled with music again; the next band was beginning their set. I took advantage of the background noise to make more of my own, voicing my pleasure at what we were doing to each other.

But Bella suddenly stiffened and pulled away, removing her hand from me and wrenching my wrist out of her panties.

"Shit! I have to get back. I was supposed to be backstage by the time the next act started." She yanked at the zipper of her jeans and buttoned them closed while I blinked at her, stunned at her abrupt withdrawal.

"Surely Rose can live for another ten minutes until you get there," I said with a tinge of bitterness, stuffing my still-throbbing dick back in my underwear. "You don't owe her any favors, as far as I'm concerned."

"It's not just about her. This is my job. I said I'd be back, and I keep my word."

I nodded silently, zipping up my jeans and trying to arrange my hard-on so it wouldn't be so obvious until it had time to calm down.

"Edward," she said softly, her hand closing around my forearm. "Do you remember what you said about never doing anything to compromise your integrity when you're at the office? You said you wanted to be above reproach."

My eyes softened as they regarded the seriousness of hers. "Point taken," I said guiltily.

She slid her hand down until her fingers laced with mine. "Don't worry. I'll make it worth the wait later on, I promise."

I leaned down and gave her a soft kiss. "I'm sorry if I pushed you."

She shook her head. "Are you kidding? I love how turned on I make you. That's the best feeling in the world."

"You might as well put a leash on my dick and lead me around with it," I replied ruefully.

"Now there's an interesting thought," she said with an eyebrow waggle at me. "But for now, I think I'll go irritate the hell out of Rose by bringing you backstage with me."

"I'm all for that," I said with a grin.

We walked hand in hand all the way back toward the shoreline stage, and Bella waved her VIP pass at one of the burly security guards who stood between the surging crowd and the band onstage. Next thing I knew, we were climbing the stairs to the rear of the stage, where Rosalie and several other industry types were watching the current artists perform.

"Sorry I'm late," Bella said to Rose.

Rosalie gave us one of her patented forced smiles. "No problem. There's still another act before Vegan Vamps. I'll go grab a quick sandwich and be back before you know it."

"Don't hurry on our account," I told her.

Rosalie and I exchanged tense looks.

"Emmett hasn't eaten yet. He's waiting for you," I added a bit more gently.

"Thanks. I won't be long," she insisted again before leaving. "Bella can show you around and introduce you to our next 'big thing.' They're in the green room right now."

"The 'green room?'" I asked Bella with an incredulous laugh.

"There's a trailer set up out back for the bands to eat, drink and be merry," she explained. "And there's a warm-up tent before they go on, too."

She showed me around the backstage area, introducing me to promoters and crew. Then we went out to the trailer to meet her first Java Noise find, the oddly named Vegan Vamps, and their manager. We talked music for a bit, and I found out their influences were mostly old-school Seattle grunge, but also a lot of older work that I always connected with. It was fun talking shop with them, and I vowed to somehow introduce Jasper and his band to the group. Bella thought that was a great idea and said she'd try to hook them up.

We followed them out to the warm-up tent after a bit, where they were able to plug in and do some preliminary rehearsing before going onstage. The Seattle Music Fest was still a relatively new showcase for up-and-coming local talent and featured only one central stage, though plans were in the works to expand the festival so that two alternating stages would be available.

I could feel the excitement beginning to buzz in the air as I watched the guys rehearse, amping themselves up for their biggest gig to date. I allowed myself to imagine, just for a moment, what it would feel like to be one of those guys. To be gearing myself up to face that many people watching me. Judging me. But maybe, in the end, embracing me.

The thought was mostly terrifying, but there was a certain appeal to it, too. Just going out there, balls to the wall, and giving it all up on the stage, letting the chips fall where they may. I was certain the catharsis would be exhilarating, ten times more intense than anything I had felt in my little coffee house performances. But if I faltered, it would be a hell of a lot longer and harder a fall than I'd ever experienced, too.

"What are you thinking about?" Bella's voice wafted softly up to interrupt my reverie.

"That these guys are brave," I said at last.

She squeezed my hand. "You know what they say - no guts, no glory."

"You've got that right," I agreed with a wan smile.

As always, she seemed to know instinctively what I was thinking. "You could do this if you wanted to."

There was no pressure in her tone, only quiet confidence.

"I'm glad you think so," I said.

"You're stronger than you know," she insisted, squeezing my hand again.

You're the strong one. You always have been, I wanted to say.

But it was nearly time for Vegan Vamps to take the stage, and Bella and Rosalie went to assist the band's manager while the crew set up their gear. Bella made sure band's set list was taped to an onstage monitor and that they had plenty of bottled water at their disposal. I could tell that she liked doing the hands-on, little things, even though she wasn't really responsible for them. She never did anything half-way. I felt my love and respect for her grow, when I didn't even know there was room for more.

I watched her as much as I watched the band while they performed, just like that first night at the Wolf Pack show. She mesmerized me completely. Just the way she was; who she was. Excited, happy, living in the moment. She brought me there with her, and I loved the stay.

I stayed as long as she did, which was long after the show was over. She wanted to congratulate the band and have a celebratory bottle of champagne with them. She had discovered them, and now they had just headlined their first festival, with a debut CD coming out next week. I could see that this was her moment; she had arrived. Even Rosalie looked utterly sincere as she raised her glass to Bella, and everyone cheered. Bella's eyes brimmed with happy tears, but she blinked them back and raised her glass, letting herself revel in the glory for a minute. I hadn't even known her when she had gone to bat for this band, but I couldn't have been more proud of her if I'd seen every step she took to help get them to this point.

Shortly after, Rose left in search of my brother. I asked her to relay the message that I'd be going home with Bella. She said she'd be happy to, and again, her expression was sincere, maybe even contrite. My heart felt a little bigger tonight, and my "Thanks," to her was honest.

Bella and I stayed until the champagne had run dry. I let her drink most of it and offered to drive her truck home. She readily agreed, but not before she dragged me in the backseat and had her way with me. She let me make love to her in the mostly empty parking lot, insisting that it was still a public place and thus constituted taboo sex.

"What makes you think I'm obsessed with taboo sex?" I asked as I wrestled with her skinny jeans, trying to pull the reluctant fabric from her body.

"You're the one who brought up having sex in public, at that diner last week," she reminded me.

"Yes, because I think it would turn you on. You like a little mild perversion. Don't deny it." I leaned in and covered her mouth with mine before she could answer.

"Lucky for you," she gasped when I finally moved my lips south. "Mr. Handcuffed Anal Sex Toy Spankings," she said, her words slightly slurred with alcohol.

"Just say the word and it's straight missionary position from now on," I said with mock solemnity.

She scowled and fumbled with the zipper of my jeans until her hands found their way to my erection.

"Shut up and fuck me," she commanded.

I was only too happy to comply. I made love to her in the missionary position anyway, and she climaxed most spectacularly, her face as flushed and excited and exhausted as it had been earlier, during the show. I was ecstatic that I could make her as high as her other passion did. It felt like a privilege.

I hovered above her, memorizing her satisfied face, relishing the feel of her spent body beneath me.

"You complete me," I said softly with a slight grin.

She didn't laugh. "I didn't even know I was incomplete until I met you," she said quietly.

I nodded, and our eyes said the rest.

We fell asleep in the back seat of Bella's old Chevy. My neck was stiff and my back was aching when the dawn's light awakened me, but it was still one of the best nights of my life.

No comments:

Post a Comment