Acesta este, se pare, ultimul capitol! Un epilog va fi scris la jumatatea lunii mai, si un outtake care va fi publicat pe un alt blog.
I can barely breathe. Do I want to hear this? Edward closes his eyes and swallows. When he opens them again they are bright but diffident, full of disquieting memories.
“It was a hot summer day. I was working hard.” He snorts and shakes his head, suddenly amused. “It was back-breaking work shifting that rubble. I was on my own, and Iri – Mrs Lincoln appeared out of nowhere and brought me some lemonade. We exchanged small talk, and I made some smartass remark… and she slapped me. She slapped me so hard.” Unconsciously his hand moves to his face and he caresses his cheek, his eyes clouding at the memory. Holy shit!
“But then she kissed me. And when she finished she slapped me again.” He blinks, seemingly still confounded, even after all this time.
“I’d never been kissed before, or slapped like that.”
Oh. She pounced. On a kid.
“Do you want to hear this?” Edwards asks.
“Only if you want to tell me.” My voice is small, as I lie facing him, reeling.
“I’m trying to give you some context.”
I nod in what I hope is an encouraging manner. But I suspect I may look like a statue, frozen and wide-eyed with shock, my head remaining immobile.
He frowns, his eyes searching mine, trying to gauge my reaction. Then he turns onto his back and stares up at the ceiling.
“Well, naturally I was confused, and angry, and horny as hell. I mean a hot older woman comes on to you like that – ” He shakes his head as if he still can’t believe it. Hot? I feel queasy.
“She went back into the house, leaving me in the back yard. She acted as if nothing had happened. I was at a total loss. So I went back to work, loading the rubble into the dumpster. When I left that evening she asked me to come back the next day. She didn’t mention what had happened. So the next day I went back. I couldn’t wait,” he whispers as if it’s a dark confession… and frankly it is.
“She didn’t touch me, when she kissed me,” he murmurs. He turns his head and gazes at me. “You have to understand – my life was hell on earth. I was a walking hard-on, fifteen years old, tall for my age, hormones raging. The girls at school – ” He stops, but I’ve got the picture: a scared, lonely, but attractive adolescent. My heart twists.
“I was angry, so fucking angry at everyone; at myself, my folks. I had no friends. My therapist at the time was a total asshole, my folks – they kept me on a tight leash, they didn’t understand.” He stares back up at the ceiling and runs a hand through his hair. I itch to run my fingers through his hair too. But I stay still.
“I just couldn’t bear anyone to touch me. I couldn’t. Couldn’t bear anyone near me. I used to fight… fuck did I fight. I’d get into some god-awful brawls. I was expelled from a couple of schools. But it was a way to let off steam. To tolerate some kind of physical contact.” He stops again. “Well, you get the idea. And when she kissed me, she only grabbed my face. She didn’t touch me.” His voice is barely audible.
She must have known. Perhaps Esme had told her. Oh, my poor Fifty. I have to fold my hands beneath my pillow and rest my head on it in order to resist the urge to hold him. He needs this bedtime story, this confession… I need it. It’s a precious insight into the man I love.
“Well, the next day I went back to the house, not knowing what to expect. And I’ll spare you the gory details, but there was more of the same. And that’s how our relationship started.”
Oh fuck, this is painful to hear.
He shifts again onto his side so he’s facing me.
“And you know something, Bella? My world came into focus. Sharp and clear. Everything. It was exactly what I needed. She was a breath of fresh air. Making the decisions, taking all that shit away from me, letting me breathe.”
“And even when it all finished, my world stayed in focus, because of her. And it stayed that way until I met you.”
Oh no. What the hell am I supposed to say to that? Tentatively he reaches up and smoothes a stray lock of my hair behind my ear.
“You turned my world on its head.” He closes his eyes and when he opens them again, they are raw. “My world was ordered, calm and controlled, then you came into my life with your smart mouth, your innocence, your beauty and your – quiet temerity… and everything before you was just dull, empty, mediocre… it was nothing.
“I fell in love,” he whispers.
I stop breathing.
“So did I,” I murmur, with the little breath I have left.
His eyes soften.
“I know,” he mouths.
Hallelujah! I smile shyly at him. He knows!
“Finally,” I whisper.
“And it’s put everything into perspective for me.”
“When I was younger, Irina was the centre of my world. There was nothing I wouldn’t do for her. And she did a lot for me. She stopped me drinking. Made me work hard at school… you know. She gave me a coping mechanism, allowed me to experience things that I never thought I could.”
“Touch,” I whisper.
He nods, wide eyed.
“After a fashion.”
I frown, wondering what he means.
He blinks at my reaction and hesitates.
Tell me! I will him.
“If you grow up with a wholly negative self-image, thinking you’re some kind of reject, an unlovable savage – you think you deserve to be beaten.” He stops.
Oh shit… you are none of those things.
“She channeled my anger.” His mouth presses together in a bleak line. “Mostly inwards, towards myself, I realize now. Dr Banner’s been on and on about this for some time. It was only recently that I saw our relationship for what it was. You know – on my birthday.”
I shudder as the unwelcome memory of Irina and Edward verbally disemboweling each other at Edward’s birthday party surfaces in my mind.
“For her it was about sex, and control, and a lonely woman finding some kind of comfort with her toy-boy.”
“But you like control,” I whisper.
“Yes. I do. I always will, Bella. It’s who I am. I surrendered it for a brief while. Let someone make all my decisions for me. I couldn’t do it myself – I wasn’t in a fit state.”
“So dropping out of Harvard?”
“That was my decision. We were no longer together. It was the best decision I ever made, until I met you.”
His lips quirk up in a soft smile.
“The best decision I ever made was marrying you.”
I blink at him.
“Not starting your company?”
He shakes his head.
“Not learning to fly?”
He shakes his head.
“You,” he mouths. He tucks an errant hair behind my ear again. “She knew,” he whispers.
I frown, not understanding.
“She knew what?”
“That I was head over heels in love with you.”
“She encouraged me to go down to Florida to see you, and I’m glad she did. She thought you’d freak out and leave. Which you did.”
I flush. I’d rather not think about that.
“She thought I needed all the trappings of the lifestyle I enjoyed. ”
“The Dom?” I whisper.
“It enabled me to keep everyone at arm’s length. You know why,” he adds softly.
“Your birth mom?”
“I didn’t want to be hurt again. And then you left me.” His words are barely audible. “And I was a mess.”
“I’ve avoided intimacy for so long – I don’t know how to do this.”
“You’re doing fine,” I murmur. Reaching up with my index finger I trace his lips. He purses them into a kiss.
You’re talking to me.
“Do you miss it?” I whisper.
“Yes. But only insofar as I miss the control it brings. And frankly, your stupid stunt – ” He stops. “That saved my sister. That’s how I know.”
“That you love me.”
“Because you risked so much… for me, for my family. And you’re still here.”
My frown deepens. He reaches over and traces his finger over the middle of my eyebrows.
“You have a v here when you frown,” he whispers. “It’s very soft to kiss.”
“Why are you surprised I’m still here? I told you I wasn’t going to leave you.”
“Because of the way that I behaved when you told me you were pregnant.”
I blink at him and his finger runs down my cheek.
“You were right,” he murmurs. “I am an adolescent.”
Oh shit… I said that. My subconscious glares at me – his doctor said that!
“Edward, I said some awful things.” He puts his index finger over my lips.
“Hush. This is my bedtime story,” he breathes.
He shifts on to his back again to stare up at the ceiling.
“When you told me you were pregnant – ” He stops. “I’d thought it would be just you and me for a while. I had thought about children, but in the abstract. I had this vague idea we’d have a child, sometime in the future.”
Just one? No… Not an only child. Not like me. Perhaps now’s not the best time to bring that up.
“You are still so young, and I know you’re quietly ambitious.”
Ambitious? Me? Am I?
“Well, you pulled the rug from under me. Christ, was that unexpected. Never in a million years, when I asked you what was wrong, did I expect you to be pregnant.” He sighs. “I was so mad. Mad at you. Mad at myself. Mad at everyone. And it took me back, that feeling of nothing being in my control. I had to get out. I went to see Banner, but he was at some school parents’ evening.” Edward pauses and arches an eyebrow.
“Ironic,” I whisper. Edward smirks in agreement.
“So I walked and walked and walked, and I just… found myself at the salon. Irina was leaving. She was surprised to see me. And, truth be told, I was surprised to find myself there. She could tell I was mad. Asked me if I wanted a drink.”
Oh shit. We’ve cut to the chase. My heart doubles in speed. Do I really want to know this? My subconscious glares at me, a plucked eyebrow raised in warning.
“We went to a quiet bar I know, and had a bottle of wine. She apologized for the way she behaved the last time she saw us. She’s hurt that my Mom will have nothing to do with her any more – it’s narrowed her social circle – but she understands. We talked about the business, which is doing fine, in spite of the recession… I mentioned that you wanted kids.”
I frown. What?
“I thought you let her know I was pregnant.”
He blinks at me.
“No, I didn’t.”
“Why didn’t you tell me that?”
“I never got the chance.”
“Yes you did.”
“I couldn’t find you the next morning, Bella. And when I did, you were so mad at me…”
“Anyway, at some point in the evening – about halfway through the second bottle – she leaned over to touch me. And I froze,” he whispers, throwing his arm over his eyes.
My scalp tingles. What’s this?
“She saw that I recoiled from her. It shocked both of us.” His voice is low, too low. Why won’t he look at me? I tug at his arm and he lowers it, turning to gaze into my eyes.
Shit. His face is pale, his eyes wide.
“What?” I breathe.
He frowns, and swallows.
Oh… what isn’t he telling me? Do I want to know?
“She made a pass at me.” He’s shocked, I can tell.
All the breath is sucked from my body. I feel winded, and I think my heart has stopped.
That fucking bitch troll!
“It was a moment, suspended in time. She didn’t say anything, as such, but she saw my expression, and she realized how far she’d crossed the line. I said… no. I haven’t thought of her like that for years, and besides,” he swallows. “I love you. I told her, I love my wife.”
I gaze at him. I don’t know what to say.
“She backed right off. Apologized again, made it seem like a joke. I mean, she said she’s happy with Seth, and with the business, and she doesn’t bear either of us any ill will. She said she missed my friendship, but she could see that my life was with you now. And how awkward that was, given what happened last time we were all in the same room. I couldn’t have agreed with her more. We said our goodbyes – our final goodbyes, and she went on her way.”
I swallow, fear gripping my heart.
“Did you kiss?”
“No. We shook hands. It was very amicable.”
“I was miserable. I wanted to come home to you. But… I knew I’d behaved badly. I stayed and finished the bottle, then started on the bourbon. While I was drinking, I remember you saying to me, ‘If that was my son…’ And I got to thinking about Junior, and thinking about how Irina and I started. And it made me feel – uncomfortable.”
A memory blossoms in my mind – a whispered conversation. Edward’s voice:
“But seeing her finally put it all in perspective for me. You know – with the child. For the first time, I felt repulsed.”
He’d been speaking to Esme. Repulsed, eh?
“I’m sorry,” I mutter.
“Being so angry the next day.”
“Baby, I understand angry.” He pauses, then sighs. “You see, Bella, I want you to myself. I don’t want to share. What we have, I’ve never had before. I want to be the centre of your universe – you know. Your sun to rise and set with me.”
“It does. That’s not going to change.”
He gives me an indulgent, sad, resigned smile.
“Bella,” he whispers. “That’s just not true.”
Tears prick my eyes.
“How can it be?” he murmurs.
“Shit – don’t cry, Bella. Shit. Please, don’t cry.” He caresses my face.
“I’m sorry.” My lower lip trembles and his thumb brushes it, soothing me.
“No, Bella, no. Don’t be sorry. You’ll have someone else to love as well. And you’re right. That’s how it should be.”
“Blip will love you too. You’ll be the centre of Blip’s – Junior’s world,” I whisper. “Children love their parents unconditionally, Edward. That’s how they come into the world. Programmed to love. Think about it.”
His eyes widen as he realizes to whom I’m referring. He withdraws his hand, fisting it at against his chin.
“No,” he whispers, and freezes.
“Yes. You did.” My tears flow freely now. “Of course you did. It wasn’t an option. That’s why you’re so hurt…”
He stares at me, pale, green eyes wide and raw. He looks so vulnerable.
“That’s why you’re able to love me,” I breathe. “Forgive her. She had her own world of pain to deal with. She was a shit mother, and you loved her.”
He gazes at me, saying nothing, green eyes wide and haunted – by memories I can’t begin to fathom.
Oh Edward, please don’t stop talking.
“I used to brush her hair,” he whispers.
“She was pretty.”
“One look at you and no one would doubt that,” I murmur.
“She was a shit mother.”
I nod and he closes his eyes.
“I am so scared I’ll be a shit father.”
I reach up and caress his face. Oh my Fifty, Fifty, Fifty.
“Edward, do you think for one minute I’d let you be a shit father?”
He blinks, then smiles, as relief slowly lights up his face.
“No, I don’t think you would,” he breathes. He caresses my face with the back of his knuckles, gazing at me in wonder. “God you’re strong, Mrs Cullen. I love you so much.” Leaning forward he kisses my forehead. “Now, that’s the end of your bedtime story. How’s your head?”
Frankly it’s about to explode with all you’ve told me!
“Does it hurt?”
“Good. I think you should sleep now.”
I blink at him.
“I have one question.”
“Oh? What?” He eyes me warily.
“Why have you suddenly become all… forthcoming, for want of a better word?”
“You’re telling me all this, when getting information out of you is normally a pretty harrowing and trying experience.”
“You know it is.”
“Why am I being forthcoming? I can’t say. Seeing you practically dead on cold concrete, maybe. The fact I’m going to be a father. I don’t know. You said you wanted to know, and I don’t want Irina to come between us. She can’t. She’s the past – and I’ve said that to you so many times.”
“If she hadn’t made a pass at you… would you still be friends?”
“That’s more than one question.” He arches a brow at me.
“Sorry. You don’t have to tell me.” I flush. “You’ve already volunteered more than I ever thought you would.”
His gaze softens.
“Probably. But her making that pass was a step too far for me. Please, believe me. I’m not going to see her again. You said she’s a hard limit for you. That’s a term I understand,” he says with quiet sincerity.
Okay. I’m going to let this go now. My subconscious sags into her armchair – Finally!
“Goodnight, Edward. Thank you for the enlightening bedtime story.” I lean over to kiss him, and our lips touch briefly, but he pulls back when I try to deepen the kiss.
“Don’t,” he whispers. “I am desperate to make love to you.”
“No, you need to rest, and it’s late. Go to sleep.” He leans over and switches off the bedside light, plunging us into darkness.
“I love you, Edward,” I murmur as I cuddle into his side.
“I know,” he whispers, and I sense his shy smile.
I wake with a start. Light is flooding the room, and Edward is not in bed. I glance at the clock and see it’s 7:53. I take a deep breath, and wince as my ribs smart – though not as badly as yesterday. I think I could go to work. Work – Yes. I want to go to work. It’s Monday, and I spent all of yesterday lounging about in bed. Edward only let me go out briefly, to see Charlie. Honestly, he’s still such a control freak. I smile fondly. My control freak. He’s been attentive and loving and chatty and… hands-off since I arrived home. I scowl. I am going to have to do something about this. My head doesn’t hurt, the pain around my ribs has eased – though admittedly laughing has to be undertaken with caution – but frankly, I’m frustrated. I think this is the longest I’ve gone without sex since… well, since the first time.
I think we’ve both recovered our equilibrium. Edward is much more relaxed; his long bedtime story seems to have laid some ghosts to rest, for him and for me. We’ll see.
I shower quickly, and once I’m dry browse carefully through my clothes. I want something… sexy. Something that might galvanize Edward into action. Who would have thought such an insatiable man could actually exercise so much self-control? I don’t really want to dwell on how Edward learned such discipline over his body… We haven’t spoken of the bitch troll once since his confessional. I hope we never do. To me she’s dead and buried.
I choose an almost indecently short black skirt, and a white silk blouse with a frill. I slide on thigh-highs with lacy tops, and my black Louboutin pumps. A little mascara and lip-gloss for a natural look, and after a ferocious brushing I leave my hair loose… Yes. This should do it.
Edward is eating at the breakfast bar. His forkful of omelet stops in mid air when he sees me. He frowns.
“Good morning, Mrs Cullen. Going anywhere?”
“Work,” I smile sweetly.
“I don’t think so,” Edward snorts with amused derision. “Dr Singh said a week off.”
“Edward, I am not spending the day lounging in bed. On my own. So I may as well go to work. Good morning, Gail.”
“Mrs Cullen.” Mrs Cope tries to hide a smile. “Would you like some breakfast?”
“I’d prefer scrambled eggs with whole-wheat toast.”
Mrs Cope beams and Edward registers his surprise.
“Very good, Mrs Cullen.” Mrs Cope says.
“Bella, you are not going to work.”
“But – “
“No. It’s simple. Don’t argue.” Edward is adamant. I glare at him, and only then do I notice that Edward is in the same PJ bottoms and t-shirt he was wearing last night.
“Are you going to work?” I ask.
Am I going crazy?
“It is Monday, right?”
“Last time I looked.”
I narrow my eyes.
“Are you playing hooky?”
“I’m not leaving you here on your own to get into trouble. And Dr Singh said it would be a week before you could go back to work. Remember?”
I slide on to a bar stool beside him, and Mrs Cope places a cup of tea in front of me.
“You look good,” Edward says.
I cross my legs.
“Very good. Especially here.” He traces a finger over the bare flesh that shows above my thigh-highs. My pulse quickens as his finger runs across my skin. “This skirt is very short,” he murmurs, vague disapproval in his voice, as his eyes follow his finger.
“Is it? I hadn’t noticed.”
Edward gazes at me, mouth twisted in an amused yet exasperated smirk.
“Really, Mrs Cullen?”
“I’m not sure this look is suitable for the workplace,” he murmurs.
“Well, since I’m not going to work, that’s a moot point.”
“Moot,” I mouth.
Edward smirks again and resumes eating his omelet.
“I have a better idea,” he murmurs.
He glances at me through long dark lashes, green eyes darkening. I inhale sharply. Oh my. About time.
“We can go see how Emmett’s getting on with the house.”
What? Oh! Tease! I vaguely remember we were supposed to do that before Charlie was injured.
“I’d love to.”
“Good,” he grins.
“Don’t you have to work?”
“No. Kate’s back from Taiwan. That all went well. Today, everything’s fine.”
“I thought you were going to Taiwan.”
He snorts again.
“Bella, you were in the hospital.”
“Yeah – oh. So today, I’m spending some quality time with my wife.” He smacks his lips together as he takes a sip of coffee.
“Quality time?” I can’t disguise the hope in my voice.
Mrs Cope places my scrambled eggs in front of me, again failing to hide her smile.
“Quality time.” He nods.
I am too hungry to flirt any more with my husband.
“It’s good to see you eat,” he murmurs. Rising he kisses my hair. “I’m going to shower.”
“Um… can I come and scrub your back?” I mumble through a mouth full of toast and scrambled egg.
Leaving the breakfast bar he tugs his t-shirt over his head, treating me to the sight of his finely sculptured shoulders and his naked back as he heads out of the great room. I stop mid-chew. He’s doing this on purpose. Why?
Charlie is in good spirits. Billy is visiting too, and they’ve both settled down in front of the large new flat-screen TV in Charlie’s room. I suspect Edward had something to do with that. We leave them waiting for re-runs of the Mariners games from the previous weekend.
Edward is relaxed on the drive North. He’s been this way ever since ‘the talk’. It’s like a weight has been lifted; Mrs Robinson’s shadow no longer looms so large over us, maybe because I’ve decided to let it go – or because he has, I don’t know. But I feel closer to him now than I ever have before. Perhaps because he’s confided in me. I hope he continues to do so. And he’s more accepting of the baby, too. He hasn’t gone out and bought a crib yet, but I have high hopes.
I gaze at him as he drives, drinking him in. He looks casual, cool… sexy. Tousled hair, Ray-Bans, pin stripe jacket, white linen shirt and jeans.
He glances across at me, reaches over and clasps my leg above the knee, his fingers stroking gently.
“I’m glad you didn’t change,” he says.
I did slip on a denim jacket and change to flats, but I’m still wearing the short skirt. His hand lingers above my knee. I put my hand on his.
“Are you going to continue to tease me?”
“Maybe,” Edward smiles.
“Because I can.” He grins, boyish as ever.
“Two can play at that game,” I whisper.
His fingers move tantalizingly up my thigh.
“Bring it on, Mrs Cullen,” he challenges, his grin broadening.
I pick up his hand and put it back on his knee.
“Well, you can keep your hands to yourself.”
“As you wish, Mrs Cullen.”
Dammit. This game is going to backfire on me.
Edward turns into the driveway of our new house. He stops at the keypad and punches in a number, and the ornate white metal gates swing open. We roar up the tree-lined lane, under leaves that are a mixture of green and yellow and burnished copper. The tall grass in the meadow is turning from green to gold, but there are still a few yellow wildflowers dotted amongst the grass. It’s a beautiful warm day. The sun is shining, but the smell of fall is in the air; the smell of fall, and the salty scent of the Sound. This is such a tranquil place, tranquil and beautiful… and to think we’re going to make our home here.
The lane curves round, and our house comes into view. Several large trucks, sides emblazoned with ‘Cullen Construction’, are parked out front. The house is decked in scaffolding and several workmen in hard hats are busy on the roof.
Edward pulls up outside the portico and switches off the engine. I can sense his excitement.
“Let’s go find Emmett.”
“Is he here?”
“I hope so. I’m paying him enough.”
I snort, and Edward grins as we clamber out of the car.
“Yo, Bro!” Emmett shouts from somewhere. We both glance around. “Up here!”
He’s up on the roof, waving down at us, beaming from ear to ear. “About time we saw you here. Stay where you are. I’ll be right down.”
I glance at Edward, who shrugs. A few minutes later Emmett appears at the front door.
“Hey, Bro.” He shakes Edward’s hand. “And how are you, little lady?” He picks me up and swings me round.
“Better, thanks,” I giggle breathlessly, my ribs protesting. Edward frowns at him, but Emmett is oblivious.
“Let’s head over to the site office. You’ll need one of these.” He taps his hard hat.
The house is a shell. The floors are covered in a hard fibrous material that looks like burlap; some of the original walls have disappeared, and new ones have appeared. Emmett leads us through, explaining what’s happening, while men – and a few women – work everywhere around us. I’m relieved to see the stone staircase with its intricate iron balustrade is still in place, and draped completely in white dustsheets.
In the main living area the back wall has been removed to make way for Tanya’s glass wall, and work is beginning on the terrace. In spite of the mess, the view is still stunning. The new work is sympathetic and in keeping with the old-world charm of the house… Tanya’s done well. Emmett patiently explains the processes and gives us a rough timeframe for each of them. He’s hoping we can be in by Christmas, although Edward thinks this is optimistic.
Holy crow – Christmas overlooking the Sound… I can’t wait. A bubble of excitement blooms inside me… I have visions of us trimming an enormous tree, while copper-haired little boy looks on in wonder…
Emmett finishes our tour in the kitchen.
“I’ll leave you two to roam. Be careful. This is a building site.”
“Sure. Thanks, Em,” Edward murmurs, taking my hand. “Happy?” he asks, once Emmett has left us alone. I am gazing at this empty shell of a room and wondering where I will hang the pepper pictures that we bought in France.
“Very. I love it. You?”
“Ditto.” He grins.
“Good. I was thinking of the pepper pictures in here.”
Edward nods his approval.
“I want to put Jake’s portraits of you up in this house. You need to decide where they should go.”
“Somewhere I won’t see them often.”
“Don’t be like that,” he scolds, reaching up and brushing his thumb across my bottom lip. “They’re my favorite pictures. I love the one in my office.”
“I have no idea why,” I murmur, and kiss the pad of his thumb.
“Worse things to do than look at your beautiful smiling face all day. Hungry?” he asks.
“Hungry for what?” I whisper.
He smirks, his eyes darkening. Hope and desire unfurl in my veins.
“Food, Mrs Cullen,” he murmurs, and he plants a swift kiss on my lips. I give him my faux pout and sigh.
“Yes. These days I’m always hungry.”
“I brought all three of us a picnic.”
“Three of us? Is someone joining us?”
Edward cocks his head at me.
“In about seven or eight months’ time.”
Oh… Blip. I grin goofily at him.
“I thought you might like to eat al fresco.”
“In the meadow?” I ask.
“Sure,” I grin.
“This will be a great place to raise a family,” he murmurs, gazing down at me.
Family! More than one? Dare I mention this now?
Reaching down he spreads his fingers over my belly. Holy shit. I hold my breath, and place my hand over his.
“It’s hard to believe,” he whispers, and for the first time I hear wonder in his voice.
“I know. Oh – here, I have evidence. A picture.”
“You do? Baby’s first smile?”
From my wallet I pull out the ultrasound of Blip.
Edward examines it closely, staring for several seconds.
“Oh… Blip. Yeah, I see.” He sounds distracted… awed.
“Your child,” I whisper.
“Our child,” he counters.
“First of many.”
“Many?” Edward’s eyes widen with alarm.
“At least two.”
“Two?” He tests the word. “Can we just take this steady? You know, one child at a time?”
We head back outside into the warm fall afternoon.
“When are you going to tell your folks?” Edward asks.
“Soon,” I murmur. “I thought about telling my dad this morning, but Billy was there.” I shrug.
Edward nods in understanding, and opens the hood of the R8. Inside is a wicker picnic basket and the tartan blanket we bought in London.
“Come,” he says, taking the basket and blanket in one hand, and holding the other out to me. Together we walk into the meadow.
“Sure, Kate, go for it.” Edward hangs up. That’s the third call he’s taken during our picnic. He’s kicked off his shoes and socks, and is sitting watching me, arms on his raised knees. His jacket lies discarded on top of mine, as we’re so warm in the sun. I lie beside him, stretched out on the tartan picnic blanket, both of us surrounded by tall golden and green grass, hidden from view in our own bucolic haven. He feeds me another strawberry, and I chew and suck it gratefully, gazing at his darkening eyes.
“Tasty?” he whispers.
“Of strawberries, yes.”
His eyes glitter dangerously, and he grins down at me.
“Mrs Cope packs a mighty fine picnic,” he says.
“That she does,” I whisper.
Shifting suddenly he lies down so his head is resting on my belly. He closes his eyes, and seems momentarily content. I reach down and my fingers tangle in his hair.
He sighs heavily, then scowls, and checks the number on the screen of his silently buzzing BlackBerry. He rolls his eyes, and takes the call.
“Jenks,” he snaps. He tenses, listens for a minute or two, then suddenly sits bolt upright.
“24/7… Thanks,” he says through gritted teeth, and hangs up. The change in his mood is instant. Gone is my teasing flirtatious husband, to be replaced by a cold, calculating, angry master of the universe. He narrows his eyes for a moment, then gives me a cool, chilling smile. A shiver runs down my back. He picks up his BlackBerry and presses a speed dial.
“Kate, how much stock do we own in Lincoln Timber?” He kneels up.
My scalp prickles. Oh no, what’s this?
Edward continues, “So I thought… Consolidate the shares into CEH, then fire the board… except the CEO. …I don’t give a fuck… I hear you, just do it… thank you.” He hangs up, and gazes at me impassively for a moment.
Holy shit! Edward is mad.
“Linc,” he murmurs.
“Linc? Irina’s ex?”
“The same. He’s the one who posted Smith’s bail.”
What? Why? I gape at Edward in shock. His mouth is pressed in a hard line.
“Well – he’ll look an idiot,” I murmur, dismayed. “I mean, Smith committed another crime while out on bail.”
Edwards eyes narrow and he smirks.
“Fair point, well made, Mrs Cullen.”
“What did you just do?” I kneel up, facing him.
“I fucked him over.”
“Um… that seems a little impulsive,” I murmur.
“I’m an in-the-moment kind of guy,” he counters.
“I’m aware of that.”
His eyes narrow and his lips thin.
“I’ve had this plan in my back pocket for a while,” he says dryly.
He pauses, seeming to weigh up something in his mind, then takes a deep breath.
“Several years ago – I was twenty-one – Linc beat his wife to a pulp. He broke her jaw, her left arm and four of her ribs, because she was fucking me.” His eyes harden. “And now I learn he posted bail for a man who tried to kill me, kidnapped my sister and fractured my wife’s skull. I think it’s payback time.”
I blanch. Holy shit.
“Fair point, well made, Mr Cullen,” I whisper.
“Bella, this is what I do. I’m not usually motivated by revenge, but I cannot let him get away with this. What he did to Irina – well, she should have pressed charges, but she didn’t – that’s her deal. But he’s seriously crossed the line with Smith. Linc’s made this personal by going after my family. I’m going to crush him. Break up his company right under his nose and sell the pieces to the highest bidder.”
“Besides,” Edward smirks. “We’ll make good money out of the deal.”
I stare into blazing green eyes… that soften suddenly.
“I didn’t mean to frighten you,” he whispers.
“You didn’t,” I lie.
He arches a brow, amused.
“You just took me by surprise,” I whisper, then swallow. Edward is really quite scary sometimes.
Leaning down he brushes my lips with his.
“I will do anything to keep you safe. Keep my family safe. Keep this little one safe,” he murmurs, and reaching down splays his hand out over my belly in a gentle caress.
Oh… I stop breathing. Will I ever get used to this? Him touching me there? Touching Blip? Edward gazes down at me, his eyes widening, darkening. His lips part as he inhales and in a deliberate move the tips of his fingers brush against my sex. Holy shit. Desire detonates like an incendiary device igniting my bloodstream. I grasp his head, my fingers weaving into his hair, and tug hard so my lips find his. He gasps, surprised by my assault, giving my tongue free and safe passage into his mouth. He groans and kisses me back, his lips and tongue hungry for mine, and for a moment we consume each other, lost in tongues and lips and breaths and sweet, sweet sensation as we rediscover each other.
Oh, I want this man. It’s been too long. I want him here, now, in the open air, in our meadow.
“Bella,” he breathes, entranced, and his hand skims over my backside to the hem of my skirt. I scramble to unbutton his shirt, all fingers and thumbs.
“Whoa, Bella – stop.” He pulls back, his jaw clenched, and grabs my hands.
“No.” My teeth clamp gently around his lower lip and I tug. “No,” I murmur again, gazing at him. I release him. “I want you.”
He inhales sharply. He’s torn, his indecision writ large in luminous green eyes.
“Please,” I whisper. “I need you.” Every pore of my being is begging. This is what we do.
He groans in defeat as his mouth finds mine, molding my lips to his. One hand cradles my head, while the other skims down my body to my waist, and he eases me on to my back and stretches out beside me, never breaking contact with my mouth.
He pulls back, hovering over me, gazing down at me.
“You are so beautiful, Mrs Cullen.”
I reach up to caress his lovely face.
“So are you, Mr Cullen. Inside and out.”
He frowns, and my fingers trace the furrow in his brow.
“Don’t frown. You are to me, even when you’re angry,” I whisper.
He groans once more, and his mouth captures mine, pushing me into the soft grass beneath the blanket.
“I’ve missed you,” he whispers, and his teeth graze my jaw. My heart soars.
“I’ve missed you too. Oh, Edward.” I fist one hand in his hair and clutch his shoulder with the other.
His lips move to my throat, leaving tender kisses in their wake, and his fingers follow, deftly undoing each button of my blouse. Tugging my blouse apart he kisses the soft swell of my breasts. He murmurs appreciatively, low in his throat, and the sound echoes through my body to my deep dark places.
“You’re body’s changing,” he whispers. His thumb teases my nipple until its erect and straining against my bra. “I like,” he adds. I watch his tongue taste and trace the line between my bra and my breast… Tantalizing and teasing me… Taking my bra cup delicately between his teeth he pulls it down, freeing my breast and nuzzling my nipple with his nose in the process. It puckers at his touch and from the chill of the gentle fall breeze. His lips close around me and he sucks long and hard.
“Ah!” I groan, inhaling sharply, then wincing as pain radiates outwards from my bruised ribs.
“Bella!” Edward gasps, and gazes down at me, concern etched on his face. “This is what I’m talking about,” he admonishes. “Your lack of self-preservation. I don’t want to hurt you.”
“No… don’t stop,” I whimper. He stares down at me, warring with himself. “Please,” I whisper.
“Here.” Abruptly he moves, and I’m sitting astride him, my short skirt now bunched up around my hips. His hands glide over the top of my thigh-highs.
“There. That’s better, and I can enjoy the view.” He reaches up and hooks his long index finger into my other bra cup, freeing that breast too. Reaching up he grasps both of my breasts, and I throw my head back, pushing them into his welcome expert hands. He teases me, tugging and rolling my nipples as I cry out, then sits up so we’re nose to nose, his greedy green eyes on mine. He kisses me, his fingers still teasing me. I scramble for his shirt, undoing the first two buttons, and it’s like sensory overload – I want to be kissing him everywhere, undressing him, making love with him all at once.
“Hey – ” he grasps my head and sits back, green eyes dark and full of sensual promise. “There’s no rush. Take it slow. I want to savor you.”
“Edward, it’s been so long.” I’m panting.
“Slow,” he whispers, a command, and he kisses the right corner of my mouth. “Slow.” He kisses the left corner. “Slow, baby.” He tugs my bottom lip with his teeth. “Slow. Let’s take this slow.” He unfurls his fingers in my hair, keeping me in place as his tongue invades my mouth, seeking, tasting, calming… inflaming. Oh, my man can kiss.
Oh, Edward. I caress his face, my fingers moving tentatively down to his chin to his throat, and I start again on the buttons of his shirt, taking my time, as he continues to kiss me. Slowly I pull his shirt apart, my fingers trailing over his clavicles, feeling their way across his warm, silky skin. I push him gently back until he’s lying beneath me. Sitting up I gaze down at him, aware that I’m squirming against his growing erection. Hmmm. I trace my fingers across his lips, to his jaw then down his neck, over his Adam’s apple to that little dip at the base of his throat. My beautiful man. I lean down, and my kisses follow the tips of my fingers. My teeth graze his jaw and kiss his throat. He closes his eyes.
“Ah,” he breathes, and tilts his head back, giving me easier access to the base of his throat, his mouth slack and open in silent veneration. Edward lost and aroused is just so exhilarating… so arousing for me.
My tongue trails down his sternum, twirling through his chest hair. Hmmm. He tastes so good. He smells so good. Intoxicating. I kiss first one, then two of his small round scars, and he grasps my hips, my fingers still on his chest as I gaze down at him. His breathing is harsh.
“You want this? Here?” he breathes, his eyes hooded with a heady combination of love and lust.
“Hmmm.” I murmur my assent, and my lips and tongue graze across his chest to his nipple. I pull and roll it gently with my teeth.
“Oh Bella,” he breathes, and circling my waist he lifts me, tugging at his button fly so he springs free. He sits me down again, and he’s hot and hard, and I push against him, delighting in the feel of him beneath me. He runs his hands up my thighs, pausing where my thigh-highs stop and my flesh begins, his thumbs running small teasing circles at the top of my thighs so that the tips of his thumbs touch me… touch me where I want to be touched. I gasp.
“I hope you’re not attached to your underwear,” he murmurs, his eyes wild and bright. His fingers trace the elastic along my belly then slide inside, teasing me, before grabbing my panties tightly and pushing his thumbs through the delicate material. My panties disintegrate. His hands splay out on my thighs and his thumbs brush against my sex once more. He flexes his hips so his erection rubs against me.
“I can feel how wet you are… no hands,” he whispers, his voice tinged with carnal appreciation, and he suddenly sits up, his arm around my waist again, so we’re nose to nose. He rubs his nose against mine.
“We’re going to take this slow, Mrs Cullen,” he breathes, “I want to feel all of you.” He lifts me, and with exquisite, frustrating, slow ease, lowers me onto him. I feel each blessed inch of him fill me…
“Ah – ” I groan incoherently as I reach out to clasp his arms. I try to lift myself off him for some welcome friction, but he holds me in place.
“All of me,” he whispers, and tilts his pelvis, pushing himself into me all the way. I tilt my head back and let out a strangulated cry of pure pleasure.
“Let me hear you,” he murmurs. “No – don’t move, just feel.”
I open my eyes, my mouth frozen in a silent Ah! and he’s gazing at me… hooded licentious green eyes into dazed brown. He shifts, rolling his hips, but holds me in place.
I groan. His lips are at my throat, kissing me.
“This is my favorite place. Buried in you,” he murmurs against my skin.
“Please, move,” I plead.
“Slow, Mrs Cullen.” He flexes his hips again and pleasure radiates through me. I cup his face and kiss him, consuming him.
“Love me,” I breathe. “Please, Edward.”
His teeth skim my jaw up to my ear.
“Go,” he whispers and he lifts me up and down. My inner goddess is unleashed and I push him down on the ground and start to move, savoring the feeling of him inside me…. riding him… riding him hard. With his hands around my waist he matches my rhythm. I have missed this… the heady feeling of him beneath me, inside me… the sun on my back, the sweet smell of fall in the air, the gentle autumnal breeze – it’s a heady fusion of senses: touch, taste, smell… and the sight of my beloved husband beneath me.
“Oh Bella,” he groans. Eyes closed, head back, mouth open… ah… I love this. And inside, I’m building… building… climbing… higher. Edward’s hands move to my thighs, and delicately his thumbs press at their apex, and I explode around him… over and over and over and over… and I collapse, sprawled on his chest, as he cries out in turn, letting go, calling out my name, with love and joy.
He cuddles me against his chest, cradling my head. Hmmm. Closing my eyes I savor the feel of his arms around me. My hand is on his chest, feeling the steady beat of his heart as it slows and calms. I kiss and nuzzle him, and marvel briefly that not long ago he would not have let me do this.
“Better?” he whispers. I raise my head. He’s grinning broadly at me.
“Much. You?” My answering grin reflects his.
“I’ve missed you, Mrs Cullen,” he breathes, serious for a moment.
“No more heroics, eh?”
“No,” I promise.
“You should always talk to me,” he whispers.
“Back at you, Cullen.”
“Fair point, well made. I’ll try.” He kisses my hair.
“I think we’re going to be happy here,” I whisper, closing my eyes again.
“Yep. You, me and … Blip. How do you feel, incidentally?”
“Fine. Relaxed. Happy.”
“Yeah, all those things,” he murmurs.
I look up at him, trying to gauge his expression.
“What?” he asks.
“You know, you’re very bossy when we have sex.”
“Are you complaining?”
“No. I’m just wondering… if you miss it?”
He stills, gazing at me.
“Sometimes,” he whispers.
“Well, we’ll have to see what we can do about that,” I murmur, and kiss him lightly on his lips, curling around him like a vine. Images of us together, in the playroom, at the Heathman, in the elevator, in the R8… I love his kinky fuckery – our kinky fuckery. Yes. I can do that stuff. I can do that for him, with him. I can do that for me. My skin tingles as I remember the riding crop.
“I like to play too,” I murmur, and glancing up I’m treated to his shy smile.
“Well, maybe when we get home,” he whispers, leaving that promise hanging between us.
I nuzzle him once more. I love him so.
It’s been two days since our picnic. Two days since the promise of ‘well, maybe when we get home’ was made. Edward is still treating me like I’m made of glass. I put the stack of query letters I’ve been reading aside on my desk and sigh. Edward and I haven’t been back in the playroom since I safeworded. And he’s said he misses it sometimes. Frankly, so do I. My thoughts are interrupted by soft, lyrical music that fills the apartment. Edward is playing the piano; not one of his usual laments… a sweet melody, a hopeful melody – one that I recognize, but have never heard him play. Whoa!
I tiptoe to the archway of the great room and watch Edward at the piano. It’s dusk. The sky is an opulent pink, and the light is reflected off his burnished copper hair. He looks his beautiful breathtaking self, concentrating as he plays, unaware of my presence. He’s been so forthcoming over the last few days, so attentive – offering small insights into his day, his thoughts, his plans. It’s like he’s breached a dam, and started talking.
I know he’ll come to check on me in a few minutes… and it gives me an idea. Excited I steal away, hoping that he still hasn’t noticed me, and race to our room, quickly stripping off my clothes on the way, until I’m wearing nothing but the pale blue lace panties that Taylor bought. I find a pale blue camisole and slip into it quickly. It will hide my bruise. Diving into the closet I pull out from the drawer Edward’s faded jeans – his playroom jeans, my favorite jeans. I fold them neatly, kneel by the bedroom door and wait. The door is ajar, and I can hear the strains of another piece, one I don’t know. But it’s another hopeful tune… it’s lovely.
The music stops abruptly. I begin to count… and thirty-seven seconds later the door opens. I look down at his bare feet as they pause on the threshold. Hmm. He says nothing… for ages he says nothing. Oh shit. I resist the urge to look up at him, and keep my eyes downcast.
Finally he reaches down and picks up his jeans. He says nothing, but heads into the walk-in closet, while I remain stock still. Oh my… this is it. My heart starts thundering and I relish the rush of adrenaline that spikes through my body. I squirm as my excitement builds. What will he do to me? A few moments later he’s back, wearing the jeans.
“So you want to play?” he murmurs.
He says nothing, and I risk a quick glance… up his jeans, his denim clad thighs, the soft bulge at his fly, the open button at the waist, his happy trail, his navel, his chiseled abdomen, his chest hair… his green eyes blazing, and his head cocked to one side. He’s arching an eyebrow. Oh shit.
“Yes what?” he whispers.
His eyes darken and my breath hitches.
“Good girl,” he murmurs, and he caresses my head. “I think we’d better get you upstairs, now,” he adds. My insides liquefy and my belly clenches in that delicious way.
Oh I love this man: my husband, my lover, father of my child, my sometimes Dominant… my Fifty Shades.