capitolo cinque

Andare in basso

capitolo cinque

Messaggio  simona80 il Gio 03 Mar 2011, 23:01

Chapter Five
On Friday, Bella received a form in her mailbox stating that Professor Masen had agreed to be her thesis supervisor.
She was staring at the form in amazement and wondering why he had reversed himself when Peter came up behind her.
―Ready to go?‖
Bella greeted him with a smile as she placed the form in her knapsack.
They exited the building and began walking down Bloor Street to the nearest Starbucks, which was only about a half a block away.
―I want to ask you about your meeting with Masen, but before I do that, there‘s something I need to tell you.‖
Bella looked over at the tall, dark haired man who was walking beside her with something that resembled anxiety.
―Don‘t be scared, Rabbit. It‘s not going to hurt.‖ He patted her arm, gently. Peter‘s heart was almost as big as he was and so he was very sensitive to pain in others.
―I know about what happened with our little note.‖
Bella closed her eyes and cursed. ―Peter, I‘m so sorry about that. I was going to tell you that I screwed up and wrote on your note, but I didn‘t get a chance. I didn‘t tell him it was your handwriting.‖
Peter pressed his hand against her upper arm to stop her. ―Bella, I know that. I told him.‖
She looked up at him in astonishment. ―Why would you do that?‖
As he probed the depths of Rabbit‘s big brown eyes, he knew, without doubt, that he would do anything to keep someone from hurting her. Even if it meant his academic career. Even if it meant dragging Masen out behind the Centre of Medieval Studies by his girlish and completely overdone hi-I-just-rolled-out-of-bed-after-having-hours-of-great-sex hair and giving him the serious ass kicking he (and his hair) so richly deserved.
―Mrs. Cope told me he was hauling you in and I figured he was going to chew you out. And then I found a copy of our note, front and back, in a pile of photocopying Masen left for me.‖ He shrugged. ―Occupational hazard of being a research assistant to a total Dickward.‖
Peter pulled Bella slightly to persuade her to keep walking, but waited to continue their conversation until he had purchased her a very large sugar free vanilla latté. Once he had settled her like a cat in a purple velvet
armchair and had satisfied himself that she was both warm and comfortable, he turned to her with a sympathetic expression.
―I know it was an accident. I should have walked you to his office myself that first day, you were so shaken up. Honestly, Bella, I‘ve never seen him act the way he did in that seminar. He can be kind of uppity and touchy about things, but he‘s never been so aggressive with a female student before. It was painful to watch.‖
Bella sipped her coffee and waited for him to continue.
―So when I found a copy of the note in with the junk he left for me, I knew he was going to rake you over the coals. I found out what time your appointment was and scheduled a meeting with him for fifteen minutes before that. Then I confessed that I had written the note. I even lied and tried to say I‘d forged your signature as a joke, but he didn‘t buy it.‖
―You did all that for me?‖
Peter smiled widely and casually flexed his substantial arms. ―I was trying to be a human shield. I thought if he shouted at me and got it out of his system, he‘d have nothing left for you when you came in.‖ He studied her expression thoughtfully. ―But I was wrong, wasn‘t I?‖
Bella looked at him in gratitude. ―No one has ever done something like that for me before, Peter. I really owe you one.‖
―Don‘t mention it, Rabbit. I only wish he‘d taken his anger out on me. What did he say to you?‖
She focused all of her attention on her coffee and acted as if she hadn‘t heard the question.
―That bad, huh?‖ Peter rubbed his chin thoughtfully. ―Well, it must have blown over because he was polite to you in the last seminar.‖
Bella snickered. ―Sure. But he wouldn‘t let me answer any questions, even when I put my hand up. And Angela Webber was all over him like a dog in friggin‘ heat.‖
Peter observed her sudden flash of indignation with amusement. ―Don‘t worry about her. She‘s in for some trouble with Masen over her dissertation proposal. He‘s not going to pass it. He told me.‖
―That‘s terrible. Does she know?‖
Peter shrugged. ―He thinks she should. Who knows? She‘s so focused on seducing him, she‘s letting her work slide. It‘s embarrassing.‖
Bella noted all of this and tucked it into her memory for future reference and then she sat back in her chair, relaxed, and enjoyed the rest of her afternoon with Peter, who was charming and thoughtful and made her glad she was in Toronto.
-
At five o‘clock, Bella looked at her watch and realized she needed to go home. Her stomach rumbled and she clutched at it in embarrassment.
Peter laughed good-naturedly and smiled to let her know not to be embarrassed. She was so cute about everything, including the way her stomach growled. ―Do you like Thai food?‖
She smiled widely. ―I do. There was a great place in Seattle I used to go to before . . .‖ She caught herself before she said the words aloud. That restaurant had been the place she had always gone with him. She silently wondered if they were going there now, eating at her table, laughing at the menu, mocking her. . .
Peter cleared his throat to gently bring her back to him.
―Sorry.‖ She ducked her head to hide her embarrassment, and rummaged in her knapsack for nothing in particular.
―There‘s a great Thai place down the street. It‘s a few blocks away, so it would be a bit of a walk. But the food is great. If you don‘t have plans, let me take you to dinner.‖
Peter‘s nervousness was telegraphed only in the slow and subtle tapping of his right foot, which Bella detected out of the corner of her eye over the edge of the coffee table.
She looked up into his kind, dark eyes and thought briefly about how kindness was worth so much more in the world than passion and she said yes before she could even contemplate saying no.
He laughed as if her acceptance gave him more than a secret delight, and picked up her heavy knapsack off the floor effortlessly, and swung it to his shoulder. ―This is too heavy a burden for you,‖ he said, gazing down into her eyes and choosing every word intentionally. ―Let me carry it for a while.‖
Bella smiled at her toes and followed him outside to the street.
-
Professor Masen was walking home from the Centre to his apartment. It was a short walk, although on inclement days and days on which he had evening engagements, he drove.
He was thinking about the lecture he was going to be delivering in the Centre on lust in Dante and Aquinas. The thought of lust, almost as much as lust itself, was tantalizing, and Professor Masen found himself pulling his trench coat closed so the offending but slightly spectacular sight of the front of his trousers would not attract untoward attention.
That‘s when he smelled her. He stopped, closed his eyes and inhaled a deep and thorough breath. Strawberry. Purity. Vanilla. Innocence.
A smile played upon his lips tantalizingly and when he opened his eyes and looked across the street, he found the source of the extraordinary scent.
Miss Swan.
Except Miss Swan was not alone.
He pushed aside all consideration of how he recognized her scent after so short an acquaintance, and how he could smell her so far away on a busy day downtown. Because the sight that caught his attention elicited a far more dramatic reaction.
Peter was holding her abomination of a book bag and walking with her down the street. They were chatting very easily and laughing, and walking dangerously close to one another.
Carrying her books now, are we? How very adolescent of you, Peter.
Professor Masen watched as she stumbled, and his heart leapt in his throat as he instinctively leaned forward as if to keep her from falling, but Peter helped her up, his arm wrapping around her waist to hold her and his large paw inspecting her tiny little hands for injuries. He looked as if he was going to kiss them better.
A growl rumbled low in Masen‘s throat and his lips curled back from his teeth.
What the hell was that?
Professor Masen took a moment to collect himself and as he leaned against the window of the Louis Vuitton boutique, he tried to figure out what the hell had just happened to him.
He was a rational animal. He wore clothes to cover his nakedness, he drove a car, he ate with a knife and a fork and a linen napkin. He was gainfully employed in a job that required intellectual ability and acuity. He controlled his sexual urges through various civilized means and would never take a woman against her will.
Nevertheless, as he stared at Miss Swan and Peter he realized that he was a monster. Something primitive. Something feral. Something made him want to go over there and rip Peter‘s head off and claim her. To kiss her senseless and then sink his teeth into her and mark her as his.
What the fuck?
The thought scared more than the hell out of Edward Masen. In addition to being an ass and a pompous prick, he was a knuckle-dragging, potentially mouth-breathing Neanderthal who felt some proprietary ownership over a younger woman he barely knew and who hated him. Not to mention the fact that she was his student and he was in a position of power over her.
He needed to go home, lie down on the couch and pinch the bridge of his nose with his fingers until he calmed the fuck down. And then he was going to need something else, something stronger to calm his urges.
As Professor Masen continued his walk home, dragging himself painfully away from the sight of the two young people together, he pulled out his I phone and quickly pressed a button to make a call.
The woman answered on the third ring. ―Hello?‖
―Hello, it‘s me. Can I see you tonight?‖
-
The following Wednesday, Bella was walking out of the Centre after Masen‘s seminar when she heard a familiar voice call to her.
―Bella? Bella Swan, is that you?‖
She whipped around and was drawn into a hug that was so tight she thought she‘d choke.
―Alice,‖ she managed, as she fought for air.
The petite, black haired girl squealed loudly and hugged Bella again. ―I‘ve missed you. I can‘t believe it‘s been so long! What are you doing here?‖
―Alice, I‘m so sorry. I‘m sorry for everything and for Esme and. . . everything.‖
Two friends were quiet in their shared sorrow and held one another for a long time.
―Why didn‘t you tell me you were here?‖ Alice reproached her tearfully.
Bella‘s eyes shifted uncomfortably from her friend to Professor Masen, who was staring at her angrily and gaping like a codfish.
―I wasn‘t sure I‘d be staying. The first couple weeks of school have been really, um, rough.‖
Alice, who by all accounts was very intelligent, noticed the strange and somewhat conflicted energy radiating between her adopted brother and her former best friend, but for the moment she overlooked it.
―I was just telling Edward that I‘m going to cook for him tonight. Please come home with us for dinner.‖
Bella‘s eyes grew wide and round and she looked mildly panicked.
Edward cleared his throat. ―Ah, Alice, I‘m sure Miss Swan is busy and has other plans.‖
Bella caught his look, pregnant with meaning, and began to nod obediently.
Alice whirled around. ―Miss Swan? Don‘t pretend you don‘t know all about her, Edward! She was my best friend in high school and we‘ve been friends ever since. Just because you‘ve never met her before doesn‘t mean you have to be so formal. And frankly, Edward, your attitude and pretension is really a bit much. Do me a favour and lose the pole from your keester.‖
She whirled back around to see Bella swallowing her tongue. Or at least, that‘s what it looked like she was doing as she almost turned blue and began to cough.
―We should meet for lunch. I‘m sure Profess- your brother wants you all to himself.‖ Bella forced a smile, conscious of the fact that Edward was staring daggers at her over Alice‘s head, which barely came up to the top of his abdomen.
Alice glared at her. ―He‘s Edward, Bella. What‘s wrong with you two?‖
―She‘s my student, Alice. There are rules.‖ Edward‘s tone began to grow steadily more cool and unfriendly.
―She‘s my friend, Edward. And I say screw that noise!‖ Alice looked between her brother and her friend and saw Bella looking down at her shoes and Edward scowling down at both of them. ―Will someone please tell me what‘s going on?‖
When neither Bella nor Edward elected to reply, Alice crossed her arms in front of her tiny chest and stamped her little foot.
―Edward Anthony Cullen Masen, have you been an ass to Bella?‖
Bella smothered a laugh and Edward scowled darkly. Either reaction would have been enough to tell Alice that her preternatural instincts were right, as usual.
―Well, I don‘t have time for this nonsense. You two will just have to kiss and make up. I‘m only here a week and I expect to spend lots of time with both of you. So the two of you can just deal.‖ Alice grabbed each of them by the arm and dragged them towards the car.
-
Alice Cullen was a twenty-three year old clothing designer from Seattle, who lived a happy life with her long time sweetheart, Jasper Whitlock, who worked for Microsoft. She was very pretty, fine-featured and small-boned, with short, spiky black hair and snapping black eyes. She was also very extroverted, which sometimes exasperated her much older, introverted brother.
Edward kept his lips firmly pressed together during the drive to his apartment, as Alice and Bella squealed in the back seat like a couple of high school girls, giggling and reminiscing about old friends. He didn‘t relish spending an evening with the both of them, but Alice was suffering at the moment and he wasn‘t about to do anything to add to that suffering.
Soon the two-thirds happy trio were riding the elevator in Edward‘s apartment building, which was a few blocks east of the Centre. He owned a condominium on the top floor of the Manulife Building, which was an impressive luxury high rise on Bloor Street.
As they exited the elevator and walked to Edward‘s door, Bella noticed with interest that there were only four doors on the hallway.
Wow. These apartments must be huge.
Once Bella entered the condo and followed Edward and Alice through the small foyer into the central and open concept living space, she realized why his sensibilities had been so offended by her studio.
The condo boasted floor to ceiling windows in almost all the rooms, which were hung with dramatic ice blue silk curtains, looking out to the CN tower and over Lake Ontario. The floors were a rich, dark hardwood, with Persian rugs adorning them, and the walls were a light taupe.
His living room furniture looked as if it had been chosen from Restoration Hardware, and ranged from a lovely and large chocolate brown leather sofa with nailhead detailing, to two matching leather club chairs, to a red velvet wingbacked chair that was angled next to the fireplace, with a matching ottoman.
Bella looked at the lovely red chair with more than a little envy. It would be the perfect chair to sink into on a rainy day, while sipping a cup of tea and reading a favourite book. Not that she would ever have that opportunity.
The fireplace had a gas insert and Edward had suspended a flat plasma screen television over the mantle as if it were a painting. Various pieces of art, oil paintings and sculpture adorned the walls and some of the furniture. He had museum quality pieces of Roman glass and Greek pottery, interspersed with reproductions of famous sculptures including the Venus de Milo and Bernini‘s Apollo and Daphne.
In fact, thought Bella, he had entirely too many sculptures, all of them female nudes.
But there were no personal photographs. Bella thought it a good deal more than strange that there were black and white pictures of Paris, Rome, London, Florence, Venice and Oxford, but no photos of the Cullens, not even of Esme.
In the next room, near the large and formal dining table, stood an ebony grand piano. Bella took in its richness and expanse and wondered if Edward still played. Esme had kept a baby grand piano tuned and at the ready in case Edward visited. She had covered her piano with photos of her children.
Edward‘s piano was bare except for two things; a large, crystal vase and an ornate silver tray that held various crystal decanters, each filled with amber coloured liquids, a crystal ice chest and crystal old-fashioned glasses. Silver ice tongs completed the vignette, angled across a stack of small, square white linen napkins with the initials E. A. M. embroidered on them. Bella giggled to herself when she envisioned what those napkins would look like if Edward‘s last name had been, say, Turner.
Bella thought it very strange to turn a piano into a bar, but it was Edward‘s condo and perhaps that was the way he wanted it.
In short, Professor Masen‘s apartment was aesthetically pleasing, tastefully decorated, scrupulously clean, intentionally masculine, and very, very cold. Bella wondered briefly if he ever brought women home to this frigid space, and then she tried very hard not to imagine what he would do to them when he brought them here. Perhaps he had a room for such purposes so that they wouldn‘t soil his precious things. . . she ran a hand across the cold, black granite countertop and shivered.
Alice immediately began rummaging in the large kitchen. ―Edward, why don‘t you give Bella the grand tour, while I start dinner.‖
Bella clutched her abomination of a knapsack to her chest, unwilling to put so offensive a piece on any of his furniture.
Edward took it out of her hands and placed it on the floor under a small table. She smiled at him in appreciation and he found himself smiling back at her.
He didn‘t want to give Miss Swan a tour of his condo. And he certainly wasn‘t about to show her his bedroom and the black and white photos that adorned those walls. But with Alice there to remind him of his obligations as a (reluctantly) gracious host, he didn‘t see a way out of giving a tour of the guest rooms.
So that is how he came to be standing in his study, which had been a third bedroom, but which he had converted into a comfortable working library by installing dark wood bookshelves from floor to ceiling.
Bella gasped at all the books; titles new and rare and mostly hard covered in Italian, Latin, French, English and German.
The room, like the rest of his condo, was intentionally masculine. The same ice blue curtains, the same dark hardwood, an antique Persian rug centered in the room.
Edward stood behind his ornate and rather large heavy oak desk. ―Do you like it?‖ He asked, gesturing to his library.
―Very much,‖ said Bella. ―You have so many books.‖
She reached out to stroke the velvet of the red wingback, the mate to the chair she had admired by the fireplace. But she didn‘t think he‘d like that. Professor Masen was of the sort to object to his things being handled, and so she stopped herself just in time. He‘d probably snap at her for ruining it with her grubby little fingers.
―That‘s my favourite chair, also. It‘s quite comfortable, if you‘d like to try it.‖
Bella smiled as if he‘d given her a present and sat in it quickly, pulling her legs under herself and curling up like a cat.
Edward could swear that he heard her purring.
He smiled at the sight of her, momentarily relaxed and almost happy. And on a whim, he decided to show her one of his most precious things.
―Here‘s something for you to see.‖ He waved her over and she came to stand in front of his desk.
He opened a drawer and withdrew two sets of white cotton gloves.
―Put these on.‖ He handed her a pair, which she accepted mutely, copying his movements as he pulled them over his long fingers.
―This is one of my most precious possessions,‖ he explained, withdrawing a large wooden box from a now unlocked drawer.
He placed the box on his desk and for one horrible moment Bella was afraid of what she might find inside.
A shrunken head? Perhaps from a former graduate student?
He opened the box and withdrew what looked like a book. Opening it, it became evident that it was a series of stiff paper sleeves accordioned together, each labeled in Italian.
He leafed through it, gently but briefly, until he found the sleeve he wanted and then he removed something, cradling it in both hands.
Bella gasped at the sight of it.
Edward smiled with pride. ―Do you recognize it?‖
―Of course! But this – this can‘t be the original?‖
He chuckled softly. ―Sadly, no. That would be beyond my small fortune. The originals date from the fifteenth century. These are later reproductions, from the sixteenth century.‖
He held in his hand a copy of a famous illustration of Dante and Beatrice in Paradise, the original having been done in pen and ink by Sandro Botticelli. The illustration was about thirty-eight centimetres by forty-eight centimetres and even though it was only ink on parchment, the detail was breathtaking.
―How did you get those? I didn‘t know there were any medieval copies.‖
―Not only are these medieval copies, they were probably done by a former student of Botticelli‘s. But this set is complete. Botticelli prepared one hundred illustrations of The Divine Comedy, but only ninety-two of them survived. I have the full complement.‖
Bella‘s eyes grew wide and round, shining in excitement. ―You‘re kidding.‖
Edward laughed at her reaction. ―No, I‘m not.‖
―I had no idea. I went to see them when they were on loan to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. The Vatican has eight, I think, and the rest are owned by a museum in Berlin.‖
―Quite. I thought you‘d appreciate them.‖
―But I‘ve never seen the remaining eight.‖
―No one has. Let me show you.‖
Time flew as Edward showed Bella his treasures and she was very quiet in her admiration until Alice‘s voice interrupted them.
―Edward, get Bella a drink, would you? And stop boring her with your antique crap!‖
Edward rolled his eyes and Bella giggled.
―How did you get them? Why aren‘t they in a museum?‖ Asked Bella, as she watched him store his illustrations in their respective sleeves.
He pressed his lips together. ―They‘re not in a museum because I refuse to give them up. And no one knows I have them but my lawyer, my insurance agent, and now you.‖
He set his jaw as if he was shutting down all further discussion and so Bella elected not to press him.
It was probable that they‘d been stolen from a museum somewhere and that Edward had purchased the collection on the black market. That would explain his reticence in revealing their existence to the world.
Bella shivered when she realized that she had seen what only a half a dozen people in the world had seen. And they were so breathtakingly beautiful. A true masterpiece.
―Edward.‖ Alice stood in the doorway of the study with her hands on her little hips, scolding him.
―Fine. Fine. What would you like, Miss Swan?‖ He walked over to the wine fridge in the kitchen.
―Edward!‖
―Isabella?‖
Bella started at the unfamiliar name as it dropped from his lips. Alice noticed her strange reaction, but then disappeared into the stainless steel fridge in search of vegetables.
Bella was momentarily distracted by the double doors of the large refrigerator, which were completely bare of magnets, photographs, notes, anything. Perhaps Professor Masen really was as anal as they said he was.
―Anything would be fine, thank you Prof – Edward.‖ Bella closed her eyes at the pleasure of finally being able to pronounce his name to him. And then she settled herself on one of the elegant bar stools at the breakfast bar that was part of the large, central island.
Edward removed a bottle of Chianti from his wine fridge and set it on the counter. ―I‘ll let it come up to room temperature,‖ he explained, to no one in particular. And then he excused himself and disappeared down the hallway, to change into more casual clothes.
―Bella,‖ Alice hissed at her, putting a pile of vegetables into one side of the double sink. ―What‘s going on with you and Edward?‖
―You need to ask him that.‖
―I plan on it. But why is he acting so weird? And why didn‘t you just tell him who you were?‖
Bella looked as if she was about to burst into tears. ―I thought he‘d remember me. But he doesn‘t.‖ Her voice shook and she looked down into her lap.
Alice was puzzled by what she said and by her overly emotional response and immediately flew to her side to press her into a hug. ―Don‘t you worry. I‘m here now and I‘ll straighten him out. He has a heart, somewhere, underneath everything else. I know, I saw it once. Now help me wash some vegetables. The lamb is already in the oven.‖
When Edward returned, Alice was whirling through the kitchen like a cyclone preparing dinner.
He smiled to himself slightly wickedly as he opened the wine. He was in for a treat and he knew it. He knew how Isabella looked when she tasted wine, and now he would have a repeat of her erotic performance from the other night. He felt himself twitch more than once in anticipation and wished that he had a video camera secretly placed in his condo somewhere. It would probably be too obvious to pull his camera out and take snapshots of her with black and white film.
He showed her the bottle first, noting with approval the impressed expression that came across her face when she read the label. He had brought this special vintage back from Tuscany after his last visit, and it would have pained him to waste it on an undiscerning palate. He poured a little into her glass and then stood back and watched, trying very hard not to grin.
Just as before, Bella swirled the wine slowly. And then she examined it with her eyes in the halogen light. And then she closed her eyes and sniffed. And then she wrapped her kissable lips around the rim of the goblet and tasted it slowly, holding the wine in her mouth for a moment or two and then swallowing.
Edward sighed as he watched the wine travel down her long and elegant throat.
When Bella opened her eyes, she saw Edward swaying slightly in front of her, his green eyes hooded, his breath somewhat laboured, and the front of his charcoal grey trousers . . . She frowned at him. Hard. ―Are you alright?‖
He passed a hand over his eyes and willed himself into submission. ―Yes. Sorry.‖ He poured a large glass for her and one for himself and then began to sip it slowly, watching her intently over the rim of his glass.
―You‘re probably starving, Edward. I know what a monster you turn into when you‘re hungry.‖ Alice spoke over her shoulder as she stirred something on the stove.
―What are we having with the lamb, Alice?‖ He was watching Bella like a hawk as she brought her wineglass up to her luscious mouth once again and took a large draught.
Alice placed a box on the counter in front of them. ―Couscous!‖
Bella spat her wine out, drenching Edward, and then in shock at her sudden expiration, dropped the wineglass, dousing herself and his hardwood floor in the process. The crystal goblet shattered on impact at the foot of her barstool.
Edward began shaking the wine droplets off of his expensive white French-cuffed shirt and cursed. Loudly.
Bella dropped to her knees on the floor, and swiftly tried to pick up the scattered glass shards with her bare hands.
―Stop,‖ said Edward, quietly, peering down at her over the edge of the breakfast bar.
Bella continued her desperate mission, tears escaping her eyes.
―Stop,‖ he said more loudly, walking around the counter.
Bella transferred some of the glass shards to her other hand and then tried picking up the remainder piece by piece, crawling on the floor pathetically like a wounded puppy that was dragging a broken paw.
―Stop! For God‘s sake, woman, stop. You‘ll shred yourself to ribbons.‖ Edward towered menacingly, his anger descending on her from on high like the wrath of God.
He pulled her to her feet by her shoulders, and then forced her to dump all the glass from her hands into a bowl on the countertop. Then he guided her down the hall and into the guest washroom.
―Sit,‖ he ordered.
Bella sat on the top of the closed toilet, and heaved a subdued but shuddering sob.
―Hold out your hands.‖
Her hands were stained with red wine and now small trickles of blood. A few crystals of glass sparkled on her palm. Edward thought briefly how beautiful it would be if Bella‘s skin sparkled like crystal in the sunlight, and then he rejected that notion as fanciful nonsense.
He cursed a few times and shook his head and then he opened the medicine cabinet and removed a few items. ―You don‘t listen very well, do you Miss Swan?‖
Bella blinked at her tears, sorry that she couldn‘t wipe them away with her hands.
―And you don‘t do what you‘re told.‖
Edward looked over at her and then stopped.
He didn‘t know why he stopped and if you had asked him afterwards he would have shrugged and given you no explanation. But once he had stopped what he was doing, and seen the poor little creature that was huddled in a corner crying, he felt . . .something. Something other than annoyance, or anger, or guilt, or sexual arousal. He felt protective of her. And he felt sorry that he had made her cry.
So he leaned over and began to wipe her tears away very tenderly with his fingertips. He noticed the hum that came from her mouth as soon as he touched her and he noticed once again that her skin felt very familiar to him. And when he had wiped away her tears, he cupped her pale little face in his hands, tilted her chin upwards . . . and then retreated quickly and began cleaning her wounds.
―Thank you,‖ Bella murmured, noting the care with which he removed the glass from her hands. He used tweezers, meticulously searching out even the smallest fragment from her skin.
―Carlisle taught me.‖
When all the glass had been removed, he poured some iodine onto some cotton balls.
―This is going to sting.‖
He watched as she steeled herself for his touch, and he winced slightly. He did not relish the thought of hurting her. And she was so soft and so fragile. It took him a full minute and a half to work up the courage to put the iodine on her cuts and all the time she was sitting there, wide-eyed and biting her lip, waiting for him to just do it already.
―There,‖ he said gruffly, as he wiped away the last of the blood. ―You‘re all better.‖
―I‘m sorry I broke your glass. I know it was crystal.‖ Her little voice interrupted his reverie as he returned all of his medical implements to the medicine cabinet.
He waved a hand at her. ―I have dozens. There‘s a crystal shop downstairs. I‘ll pick up another if I need it.‖
―I‘d like to replace it.‖
―You couldn‘t afford it.‖ The words escaped his mouth without him realizing it. And he watched in horror as Bella‘s face flushed and then went very pale. Her head went down again, of course, and she started chewing at the inside of her cheek.
―Miss Swan, I wouldn‘t dream of taking your money. It would violate the rules of hospitality.‖
And we couldn‟t have that, thought Bella.
―But I‘ve stained your shirt. Please let me pay for the dry cleaning.‖
Edward stared down at his lovely but obviously ruined white shirt and cursed inside his head. He‘d liked this shirt. He‘d bought it in France. And there was no way Bella‘s spittle mingled with Chianti would ever come out.
―I have dozens of these as well,‖ he lied smoothly. ―And I‘m sure it will come out. Alice will help me.‖
Bella raked her upper teeth across her lower lip back and forth and back and forth.
Edward saw the movement and it made him rather queasy, like a kind of seasickness, but her lips were so red and inviting, he couldn‘t look away. It was a bit like watching a car wreck, while standing on the deck of a ship.
He leaned over and patted the back of her hand softly. ―Accidents happen. They‘re no one‘s fault.‖ He smiled at her and was rewarded with a very pretty smile as she released her lower lip.
Look at her. She does blossom under kindness. Just like a rose, opening her petals.
―Is she alright?‖ Alice asked from the doorway.
Edward withdrew his hand quickly and sighed. ―Yes. But apparently Isabella hates couscous.‖ He winked at Bella slyly and watched as the flush spread from her cheeks and over the surface of her porcelain skin. She truly was a brown eyed angel.
―That‘s fine. We‘ll eat that tomorrow. I‘ll make rice pilaf, instead.‖ Alice disappeared and Edward followed after her, leaving Bella to try to stop her heart from trying to escape out of her chest.
While Alice packed away the offending couscous into the fridge, Edward went to his bedroom to change his soiled shirt, depositing it with more than a little regret in the garbage. Then he joined Alice in the kitchen to clean up the broken glass and wine from the floor.
―There are a couple of things I need to tell you about Bella,‖ she began, over her shoulder.
Edward stood up and walked the glass shards to the garbage bin. ―I‘d rather not hear it.‖
―Edward, what‘s wrong with you? She‘s my friend, for crying out loud!‖
―She‘s my student. I‘m directing her Master‘s thesis. I shouldn‘t know anything about her personal life. Her friendship with you already presents a conflict of interest. End of story.‖
Alice placed her hands on her hips and shook her head, her dark eyes snapping. ―Well, you know what? I don‘t care! There are some things I can‘t tell you, because Bella won‘t let me. But what I can tell you is that I love her very much. And so did Esme. So you remember that the next time you‘re tempted to shout at her.
She‟s been broken, you jackass. That‘s why she hasn‘t kept in touch with me this past year. And now she‘s finally crawled out of her shell, a shell I might add, that I thought she would never leave, and you‘re forcing her back into it with your – your arrogance and condescension! So drop the Mr. Rochester-Mr. Darcy-Heathcliff British stuck-uppity bullshit and treat her like the treasure she is! Or I‘m coming back here and putting a Christian Louboutin pump in your ass!‖
Edward straightened his shoulders and cast her a withering stare. ―By ‗pump‘ I take it you‘re referring to a lady‘s shoe?‖
She didn‘t back down. Or even flinch. In fact, she grew taller. And almost menacing.
―Fine, Alice.‖
―Good. It‘s hard for me to believe that you didn‘t recognize her name, after I spent hours over the years telling you how much she was in love with Dante. How many Dante enthusiasts from Forks do you know who have the last name Swan?‖
He leaned over to her and placed a kiss across her furrowed brow. ―Go easy on me, Alice. I try not to think about anything connected with Forks if I can help it.‖
Her anger melted at his words and she hugged her brother tightly. ―I know, Edward, I know.‖
-
A few hours and another bottle of expensive Chianti later, Bella stood up to go. ―Thanks for dinner. I should be getting home.‖
―We‘ll drive you,‖ Alice volunteered, disappearing to find her coat.
Edward frowned and followed her.
―It‘s alright, Alice. I can walk. It‘s not far,‖ Bella called down the hall.
―No way. It‘s dark out and I don‘t care how safe Toronto is. Besides, it‘s raining.‖ Alice shouted back at her, before finding herself engaged in a heated discussion with Edward.
Bella walked towards the door so that she wouldn‘t have to hear him telling his sister that he didn‘t want to drive Bella home.
But the two of them reappeared shortly thereafter and the three of them walked down the hall to the elevator. Just as the elevator was arriving, Alice‘s cell phone rang.
―It‘s Jasper.‖ She hugged Bella tightly. ―I‘ve been trying to get hold of him all day and he‘s been in meetings. Let‘s meet for lunch. Thanks for the spare key, big brother!‖
Alice walked back to Edward‘s apartment, leaving a scowling Edward and an uncomfortable Bella to take the elevator down to the garage.
―Were you ever going to tell me who you are?‖ His voice was slightly accusing.
Bella shook her head and hugged her knapsack more tightly.
He looked at that knapsack and decided then and there that it had to go. If he had to look at the ridiculous thing one more time, he was going to lose it. And Peter had touched it, which meant that it was polluted now. She‘d have to throw it away.
Edward led Bella to his car and she immediately walked to the passenger‘s side of the Volvo.
He pressed a button and the Land Rover next to the Volvo chirped. ―Um, let‘s take this car, instead. The four wheel drive is better in the rain. I don‘t like taking the Volvo out in weather like this if I don‘t have to.‖
Bella tried to hide her look of surprise at Edward‘s embarrassment of riches. He opened her door, helped her in and then closed the door behind her. She wondered if he had felt the spark that passed between them as he touched her arm. Of course, he had.
―You let me make an ass out of myself with you.‖ He scowled at her as he drove out of the garage.
You did that all by yourself, thank you. Bella‘s unspoken thought shimmered between them and she wondered, briefly, if he could read her mind.
―I would have treated you differently. I would have treated you better, if I‘d known.‖
―Would you?‖ She asked. ―Really? And found some other student to rip apart? If that‘s the case, then I‘m glad all your anger was directed at me. Then you couldn‘t take it out on anyone else.‖
Edward gave her a stony glare. ―This doesn‘t change anything. I‘m glad you‘re Alice‘s friend but you‘re still my student, which means we need to be professional, Miss Swan. And you will be careful how you speak to me now and in the future.‖
―Yes, Professor Masen.‖
Edward searched her face for any sign of sarcasm but saw none. Her shoulders were hunched and her head was down. He‘d made his little rose wither. Any blossoming had now been completely undone.
Your little rose? What the hell, Masen?!
―Alice is very glad you‘re here. Did you know that she was engaged?‖
Bella shook her head. ―Was? Not anymore?‖
―Jasper asked her to marry him and she said yes, but that was right before Esme got sick. Alice doesn‘t feel like planning a wedding now, so she‘s called it off. That‘s why she‘s here.‖
―Oh, no, Edward. I‘m so sorry. Poor Alice.‖ She shook her head. ―Poor Jasper! I loved him.‖
Edward frowned at her slightly. ―They‘re still together. Jasper loves her, obviously, and agreed she needed some time away. There was a lot of – fighting at my parents‘ house when I was home. She came to see me to get away from the rest of them. Which is laughable, really, since I‘m the black sheep of the family and she‘s the favourite.‖
Bella nodded as if she understood.
―I have a problem with anger, Miss Swan. I have a bad temper, I have trouble controlling it and when I lose my temper I can be very destructive.‖
Her eyes widened at his declaration, and her mouth opened slightly but she did not speak.
―I can never afford to lose control around someone like you. It would be very damaging . . . for both of us,‖ he breathed, a declaration so honest and so frightening, the words burned into her like fire.
―Wrath is one of the seven deadly sins,‖ she remarked, turning away from him to gaze out the window, trying to alleviate the burning sensation in her middle.
He laughed bitterly. ―Remarkably, I have all seven; don‘t bother counting. Pride, envy, wrath, sloth, avarice, gluttony, lust.‖
She quirked an eyebrow, but did not turn around. ―Somehow, I doubt that.‖
―You may be a magnet for misadventure, Miss Swan, but I am a magnet for sin.‖
Now she turned around. He smiled at her crookedly with a look of ancient sadness and she offered him a sympathetic look in return.
―I guess I understand why you sent gardenias. And why you signed the card the way you did.‖
―I‘m sorry about Esme, Edward. I loved her, too.‖
Edward looked into her eyes, how kind and open they were, and he saw traces of sadness and incalculable loss.
―I see that now,‖ he said, and then he looked away.
―You have satellite radio?‖ She gestured to the console as he switched on the radio and pressed one of the preset buttons.
―Yes. I usually listen to one of the jazz stations, but it depends on my mood.‖
Bella reached out a tentative finger to the preset buttons, but then withdrew it quickly.
Edward smiled to himself at her reticence, remembering the way she had purred when he gave her permission to curl up in his favourite chair. He wanted to make her purr again.
―It‘s alright. You can choose something.‖
She ran through the presets, smiling at his choices, which included the French CBC station and BBC News, until she came to the last one, which was labelled ―Nine Inch Nails.‖
―There‘s an entire station devoted to them?‖ She sounded incredulous.
―Yes.‖ Edward squirmed a little, as if she had uncovered an embarrassing secret.
―And you like them?‖
―When I‘m in a particular mood.‖
Bella pressed the button for the jazz station and then turned to look out the passenger window.
Edward felt rather than observed her visceral reaction. He did not understand it, but elected not to probe it.
Bella hated Nine Inch Nails. She changed the station whenever they came on the radio. If a song of their's was playing somewhere, she left the room or the building. The sounds of their music and especially Trent Reznor‘s voice creeped her the hell out, although she had never told anyone why.
She first heard them in a club back in Seattle. She was dancing with him and he was grinding all over her. She hadn‘t minded at first, that‘s how he always was, but then that song came on and as soon as the music began, Bella felt mildly ill. It was the strange sequence in the opening bars, and then it was the voice, and then it was the lyric, ―I want to fuck you like an animal,‖ and the look on his face as he brought his forehead to hers and whispered it to her, staring straight into her soul.
Whatever Bella‘s religious beliefs and her half-hearted attempts to pray to lesser gods and deities, at that exact moment she believed that she had heard the voice of the Devil. Lucifer himself held her in his arms and whispered to her. And the very idea, coupled with his words, scared the crap out of her.
Bella had wrenched herself from him and fled to the ladies‘ washroom, looking at the pale and shaking girl in the mirror, wondering what the hell had just happened. She did not know why he had spoken to her like that or why he had chosen that moment to confess. Nevertheless, she knew him well enough to know that the repeated lyric was a confession of his deepest and perhaps darkest intentions and not just a mindless repetition.
But Bella didn‘t want to be fucked like an animal; she wanted to be loved.
She would have foresworn sex forever if she thought it would guarantee her the kind of love that was the stuff of poetry and myth. The kind of love she craved desperately, but didn‘t actually believe that she deserved.
She wanted to be someone‘s muse; to be worshipped and adored body and soul. She wanted to play Beatrice to a dashing and noble Dante and to inhabit Paradise with him forever. And to live a life that would match the beauty of Botticelli‘s illustrations.
And that is why at the age of twenty-three Bella Swan was still a virgin, with the photograph of the man who ruined her tucked in the back of her underwear drawer.

simona80
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