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capitolo undici

Messaggio  simona80 il Sab 05 Mar 2011, 23:01

Chapter Eleven
By the next morning, Bella had not yet decided what to do about the bursary.
She was not in a hurry to do anything that would expose Edward‘s generosity to the suspicious minds of the University‘s administration, for she knew that that would be dangerous for him.
And she was not in a hurry to do anything that would expose herself as anything other than a serious graduate student and so she was reticent to go to the Chair of her Department and explain that she wasn‘t interested in the bursary. For the bursary would contribute an impressive line to her curriculum vitae and serious graduate
students were supposed to care about those kinds of things more than they cared about silly little things like personal pride.
In classical terms, Miss Swan found herself caught between the Scylla of protecting Edward and herself, and the Charybdis of holding fast to her pride. Unfortunately for her pride, the true peril aligned with her rejection of the bursary; the peril could be avoided if she just took the money.
She did not like that. Not one little bit. Especially against the backdrop of Alice‘s generosity in buying her a dress and shoes and Edward‘s secret attempt at replacing her ridiculous abomination of a book bag.
Though she hadn‘t told Alice that she had returned her abomination to L. L. Bean and was eagerly awaiting its replacement. And she fully intended to use it when it arrived, just to reassert her independence.
Friday afternoon, impatient for answers, Bella sent a short email to Alice, telling her about the bursary and asking if she knew who M. T. Masen was.
Alice texted her back immediately, with the following:
E did what? Never heard of foundation. Never heard of MTM.
MT = E‘s bio-mother? Grandmother?
luv, A.
P.S. J says Hi and Thanks.
Bella puzzled over Alice‘s text, but was persuaded by her suggestion. M. T. must have been Edward‘s grandmother, for she couldn‘t imagine him naming a bursary for someone he hated. And she was pretty sure Edward harboured hatred for his alcoholic biological mother.
Although it was possible, Bella thought, that if Edward was secretive even with Alice, that there were many things he could have kept from her. So in a fit of boldness, which was brought on by a shot or two of tequila, Bella sent another email asking if Edward had a girlfriend in Toronto who she could ask about the bursary.
And she immediately received the following response in her email inbox:
Okay, screw texting – the buttons are too small.
Edward has NEVER had a girlfriend, as far as I know. He never brought anyone home to meet Esme, even when he was in high school.
And no names or photographs, either. Ever.
Emmett accused him of being gay once. But Emmett has no gaydar.
Did you see how Edward‘s apartment was decorated?
And the photos in his bedroom?
Wait. Did you see those??
No girlfriend locally – for sure.
I think just FBs.
Although he acted weird when I asked.
He‘s 33 for God‘s sake – being a player isn‘t cute anymore.
Are you sure he didn‘t make M. T. Masen up?
It‘s lame enough to be Edward‘s brand of humor.
I‘ll ask Emmett and get back to you.
I don‘t want to upset Carlisle –he‘s a mess and . . . you know.
Jasper and I are on our way to the Queen Charlotte Islands to stay in a log cabin for two weeks.
No internet. No cell phones. Just us – peace, quiet and an outdoor Jacuzzi.
Please keep Edward from falling off the cliff until I get back.
We need some time.
Luv, A.
P.S. J wants to say Hi personally. Take it away, honey.
Hello, Bella. It‟s Jasper.
Thank you for taking such good care of my fiancée while she was in Canada.
She came back a different person and I know it wasn‟t because of Edward.
We all missed you at the funeral - would love to see you at Thanksgiving.
If you‟re not planning on coming home, would you reconsider?
It‟s going to be rough without Esme. Carlisle (and Alice) need their family around them, and that means you, too.
I have frequent flyer miles – I could send you a ticket.
Think about it.
Love you girlie,
Bella wiped away a tear at the sweetness that was Jasper, feeling happy and relieved that he and his fiancée were still very much in love. What Bella would not give to be loved like that by someone.
She wondered why Jasper‘s offer of frequent flyer miles leapt off her screen as something other than charity. Why she was instantly considering his very kind offer. And then it occurred to her – Esme was right. When there are no strings attached and a gift is given out of love, or friendship, which is a kind of love, there was no shame in accepting a gift.
And if Bella accepted Jasper‘s gift, she could still be part of Carlisle‘s first Thanksgiving without Esme, and give the empty Masen bursary back.
In thinking about Esme, Bella wondered if a small prayer to Esme for both herself and for Edward would be efficacious, for Esme was a true saint, a heavenly mother, and one that would no doubt send help to her children.
So while St. Lucy went on vacation with her beloved Jasper, Bella turned her attention heavenward and begged for her heavenly mother's intercession in all of their lives, lighting a candle in the window of her little apartment on a lonely Friday night in Esme's memory.
And before she crawled into her little bed with her velveteen rabbit, she resolved to accept Jasper‘s gift graciously, as evidence of her own new-found openness to charity and her ability to swallow her pride when appropriate. Which meant, not surprisingly, that her deadly sin was not so deadly.
In Peter‘s absence, Bella found herself spending a long Saturday and a long Saturday evening at the library, working on her thesis proposal in Professor Masen‘s carrel. Part of her secretly hoped that the Professor would surprise her again.
But he didn‘t.
And his words came back to her, ―I‟ll see you Wednesday. If I‟m still here.‖
Bella realized that despite what Alice said, it was more than possible that Edward had a girlfriend named Tanya. Bella remembered that Edward had assigned the chimes of Big Ben to Tanya‘s ring tone. Was Tanya in London? Was she English? Or was there something about the chimes that Edward thought was important? Bella looked up Big Ben on Wikipedia, but did not find anything particularly illuminating. Wikipedia can be like that.
She wasn‘t naïve, despite what Edward thought of her. She knew he wasn‘t a virgin and that he hadn‘t been when she met him. Still, knowing it and having it flaunted in front of her face were two very different things.
Her thoughts drifted to Edward and Tanya or some nameless, faceless girl, skin against skin, their bodies entwined. Edward kissing her lips and exploring her body with his mouth, his hands, his eyes. Edward giving and receiving physical pleasure from some tall, perfect, blonde blue-eyed girl. Edward in ecstasy screaming her name, gazing deeply into her eyes as his body climaxed. Edward becoming one with some other soul, belonging in this way to some other girl. Would she love Edward? Be kind to Edward? Would she want him to be a better man, or just want him for his body, his passion, his animality? Would she even care that behind those beautiful green eyes was the soul of a man long gone, wounded now and in need of both redemption and repair? Or would she want to drag him deeper down, ensnaring him with her body and her fingernails?
The thought of Edward taking another girl, any girl, to his bed perchance to his soul wounded her deeply. But somehow, the thought that there was another girl who warmed his bed for more than just one night was absolutely devastating.
Because she had wanted to be his girl, forever.
However sad and sordid her imaginations were, they didn‘t stop her from somewhat pathetically wearing his green cashmere sweater to the library and hugging her arms across her chest, just to embrace herself in his softness and his scent.
For that seemed to be the closest she was ever going to come to having his body next to hers.
In Professor Masen‘s carrel, Bella put away Peter‘s CD in favour of listening to Yael Naim. Bella loved the song, ―Far Far,‖ although she had no idea how apt Yael‘s words were. She found them soothing and distracting and they enabled her to make a lot of progress on her thesis proposal as she worked away until the library‘s close.
For Bella, like many other individuals, had begun to grow weary of rabbits.
After the library closed, Bella placed her earphones firmly in her ears and disdained the hot dog cart outside in favour of a Booster Juice. She purchased a very large mango smoothie and began to walk home slowly, sipping her dinner and thinking.
Because she was so deep in thought about Edward, wondering where he was and what he was doing, she almost missed Laurent, who waved at her as she came across the long line up in front of Lobby.
―Hey, Laurent.‖ She smiled at him as she took the earphones out of her ears.
He gestured to her to come closer.
―Hi, Isabella. Thanks again for helping with my text to Irina. She really liked it.‖ If Laurent could have blushed, he would have; his dark eyes sparkled and he smiled very widely. ―She‘s teaching me Italian now.‖
Bella grinned, happy that he and his woman were in love and happy.
―So Laurent, how are things tonight? Lots of people?‖ She glanced at the long line.
―I‘m about to let some more people in, but I have to take someone out first.‖
He rolled his eyes heavenward and shook his head.
―Your friend is in there drinking his ass off. The bartender is refusing to serve him now. Which means I need to put him in a cab and send him home.‖
Bella‘s eyebrows shot up in surprise.
Edward‟s here? What about Tanya?
―The last time I tried to throw him out he took a swing at me. Right now I‘m just waiting for one of the other bouncers to replace me on the line. And then I‘m going to have to go in after him. And probably take back-up.‖
He looked at Bella appraisingly. ―Unless you can persuade him to come out peaceably.‖
He grinned.
Bella shook her head violently. ―Are you kidding? He won‘t listen to me. I‘m not even a friend of his.‖
―That‘s not the impression I got when you three were in here, but I get it. It‘s cool.‖ He shrugged nonchalantly and looked at his watch.
Bella sipped her smoothie and began thinking about her promise to Alice. She wondered if this constituted a case in which she was morally obligated to watch out for Edward.
What if I walk away and he ends up in jail? He tried to be nice to me this week. I can‟t ignore that - it would be bad karma.
―Um, I could try to talk to him. See if he‘ll come out on his own,‖ she suggested somewhat hesitantly. ―I don‘t want him to get arrested.‖
―Neither do I. We like our VIPs to stay happy. But he‘s been throwing back doubles since he got here and we can‘t serve him anymore. Maybe he‘ll listen to the voice of reason and agree to go home and sleep it off.‖
He moved the velvet rope so that she could walk in.
―I‘m not really dressed for it.‖ Bella looked down at her sneakers and ripped jeans and Edward‘s heavenly scented but too large sweater.
―You‘re fine. But listen, if he‘s too far gone, or if you‘re just not up to it, come right back. He can be a handful when he‘s drunk, although I‘ve never seen him get aggressive with a girl.‖
Bella knew exactly what Edward could be like when he was drunk, but she reminded herself that he had been sweet to her that night so long ago.
She walked into the club, hoping no one would recognize her. She quickly pulled her hair out of its pony tail and draped it around her face, using it as a veil to hide from inquisitive eyes.
She prayed desperately to the gods of Manhattan style martini bars to keep Michael Newton, M.B.A. away from her tonight. She didn‘t want to run into him looking like this.
And then she pulled her navy surplus peacoat closed and buttoned all the buttons, because she didn‘t want Edward to see that she was wearing his sweater – still.
It didn‘t take long to find him. He was sitting on a stool with one elbow leaning on the bar and talking to the attractive woman who was seated on his left. He was staring not at the brunette, whose hand was tangled in his hair and who was pulling him towards her by his tie, but at his empty Scotch glass.
He didn‘t look happy, but that probably had more to do with his drinking companion than anything else.
From from her vantage point several feet away, Bella saw that the Masen whore who was practically sitting on his lap, her cleavage hovering in front of his mouth, was none other than Angela Webber.
Holy shit. Is he planning on going home with her?
Bella knew without a doubt that this was absolutely a case in which she needed to watch out for Edward. If Edward slept with Angela, not only would he be violating the non-fraternization policy and putting his academic career at risk, he would likely end up embroiled in a nasty personal situation with the hoping-to-be-future-Mrs. Edward Masen.
It was more than possible that Angela was trying to seduce him in order to exact revenge for what had transpired in Starbucks earlier that week – actions Edward had taken on Bella‘s behalf.
In either case, Bella was not going to let the seduction proceed. Not for one damn minute.
Hands off the Precious, Gollum.
Bella turned on her heel and walked back outside, coming up behind Laurent and whispering in his ear.
―I need your help. He‘s with a girl who he shouldn‘t go home with. She‘s one of his students, so I need to separate them before you put him in a cab.‖
Laurent shrugged. ―I‘m not sure what I can do about the girl. That‘s his business.‖
―What if one of the waiters distracted her by spilling a drink on her and sent her to the ladies‘ room? Then maybe I could talk Edward into coming outside.‖
―Do you think you can convince him?‖
Bella blinked as she took a moment to consider it. ―I don‘t know. If we separate them, I‘ll have a better chance. I doubt he can form a coherent thought with her plastic boobs in his face.‖
O gods of all trying-really-hard-to-do-a-good-thing-for-an-old-friend-graduate-students, help me pry that Masen whore off his dick. Please.
He laughed. ―A bit cloak and dagger, don‘t you think? But alright, I'm sure the bartender can help us out. He has a sense of humour. But if Masen gives you any trouble, ask the bartender to call me. Okay?‖
Laurent made a call on his cell phone and within two minutes, he was signalling to Bella to go after Edward.
Bella took a deep breath, squared her shoulders, and walked back into the club.
Edward was laughing. Something had struck him as funny and he was laughing, head thrown back, hands clutching at his stomach.
Bella had to admit that he was even more beautiful when he was smiling.
He was wearing a pale green dress shirt with the top two buttons open, revealing a little chest hair, which was poking out like a few blades of grass over the snowy white of his t-shirt. Mercifully, he had gotten out of the fifties and lost the bow tie; the silk tie he was wearing was striped black on black and hanging loosely around his neck. He was wearing a pair of black dress pants, which fit him snugly, and very shiny black shoes that were far too pointy.
In short, he was drunk, but he was perfect.
He stopped laughing and turned to her, a wide smile spreading across his face. He seemed very happy to see her. Too happy.
―Miss Swan! To what do I owe this unexpected delight?‖
He took her little hand in his and pressed it to his lips, holding it there for several seconds.
Bella couldn‘t help but frown. He didn‘t seem drunk, but he was being friendly, flirtatious even, so he must be drunk. Or he must have received a personality transplant from someone charming like, say, Daniel Craig.
―Could you help me flag a cab? I need to get home.‖ Bella withdrew her hand, wincing at the lameness of her excuse.
―Of course. Anything for you, Miss Swan. And I do mean anything. May I buy you a drink first?‖ He smiled widely as he peeled off a few bills and handed them to the bartender.
―Um, no. I have one.‖ She held out her smoothie and waved it under his nose.
The bartender glared at her and her garish styrofoam cup but settled Edward‘s tab and then went about his business.
―Why are you drinking that? Does it pair well with couscous?‖ Edward chuckled.
Bella bit her lip.
He stopped chuckling immediately and frowned at her, tugging at her lip not quite roughly with his thumb until he‘d loosened it from her teeth. ―Stop that. I don‘t want you to bleed.‖
He pulled his thumb back and brought his face closer to hers, too close, actually. ―I made a joke about couscous, Miss Swan.‖
Bella was still trying to catch her breath after the flash of heat that was the experience of having his thumb in between her lips.
―Although, it wasn‘t funny was it? It‘s rude to make fun of someone‘s poverty. And you are a sweet little girl.‖
Bella clenched her teeth, wondering just how much of his condescending attitude she could take before she decided to leave him (and his dick) in Angela‘s clutches.
―Professor, I . . .‖
―I was just talking to someone. You know her - she‘s a real vixen.‖ Edward‘s drunken gaze lazily swept the room and then rested back on Bella. ―She‘s gone now. I‘m glad. She‘s a nasty little bitch.‖
Bella nodded. And smiled.
―She looked at you as if you were trash, but I fixed her. She bothers you again and I drop her as a student. You‘ll be fine, now.‖
He brought his face close to hers again, and licked his red and perfect lips slowly, very slowly.
―You shouldn‘t be in a place like this. And it‘s past your bedtime, isn‘t it? You should be asleep in your little purple bed, curled up like a kitten. A pretty little kitten with big brown eyes. I‘d like to pet you.‖
Bella‘s eyebrows shot up.
I could retire to Tahiti for the blackmail I could get out of him for that little speech. Where the hell does he get this stuff? And what does he mean by petting?!
―Um, I really need to go home. Now. Would you come outside and help me hail a cab? Please, Professor?‖ Bella gestured vaguely towards the exit, trying to place some distance between the two of them.
He grabbed his trench coat immediately. ―I‘m sorry I left you to find your own way home unescorted on Thursday. I won‘t do that again. Let‘s get you home, little kitten.‖
He held out his arm in a very proper and old-fashioned way and she took it, wondering who exactly was leading whom.
When they got outside, Laurent was standing next to a cab, holding the rear passenger door open.
―Miss Swan,‖ Edward breathed, placing his hand at the small of her back, gently moving her towards the open door of the taxi.
―On second thought, I can walk,‖ she protested, trying to move out of the way.
But Edward was insistent and so was Laurent, probably because he was trying to get both of them out of there before Edward decided he didn‘t want to leave and decked him.
So for the sake of time and to avoid Angela, the Gollum who could reappear at any moment and try to snatch back the Precious, Bella crawled into the cab and slid over to the far side.
Edward climbed in after her.
Bella held her nose slightly so she wouldn‘t get an inhalant high from all the Scotch he‘d imbibed.
Laurent handed a few bills to the driver and then closed the door behind them, waving at Bella as the cab sped away.
―Manulife Building,‖ said Edward to the cabbie.
Bella was just about to correct the Professor and give the cabbie her address, when Edward interrupted her.
―You didn‘t come into The Vestibule for a drink.‖ He was looking at her clothes, his eyes resting somewhat hungrily on the exposed flesh at her knees, underneath her ripped jeans.
―Bad luck. I was in the way wrong place at the way wrong time.‖
―Hardly,‖ he breathed, a smile playing at the corners of his lips. ―I would say you have extremely good luck. And now that I‘ve seen you, so have I.‖
She sighed. It was too late to ask the cabbie to turn around now; they were driving in the opposite direction. She was going to have to see to it that the Professor made it inside safely, and then walk home.
She shook her head and took a long sip from her smoothie.
―Were you spying on me?‖ His eyes shifted to hers suspiciously. ―For Alice?‖
―Of course not. I was on my way home from the library, when I saw you through the window.‖
―You saw me and decided to come and talk to me?‖ He sounded surprised.
―Yes,‖ Bella lied.
―I only know two people in Toronto, Professor. You‘re one of them.‖
―That‘s a shame. I suppose Peter is the other one.‖
Bella eyed him cautiously, but said nothing.
She frowned.
―Why do you keep calling him that?‖
―Because that‘s what he is, Miss Swan. Or rather, what he hopes he will become. Over my dead body. You tell him that - tell him he fucks with the angel at his peril.‖
Bella arched an eyebrow at his eccentric and obviously medieval profanity and its attendant explanation. She‘d seen him drunk before, of course, and knew that his drunkenness vacillated between moments of absolute clarity and complete lunacy.
How exactly does one fuck with an angel? Angels are immaterial, spiritual creatures. They don‟t have genitalia. Edward, you are one sick medievalist.
They arrived shortly at Edward‘s apartment building and the two of them exited the cab. It wasn‘t that far for Bella to walk home – only about four city blocks. And she didn‘t have any cash to spare for a cab, anyway.
So she smiled at Edward, bade him a good night, and patted herself on the back for doing Alice a favour. And then she and her smoothie began the long solitary walk home.
―I‘ve lost my keys,‖ he called after her, patting the pockets of his trousers and leaning precariously against a faux potted palm. ―But I‘ve found my glasses!‖ He held the black Prada frames aloft.
Bella closed her eyes and drew breath. She wanted to leave him there. She wanted to pass along the responsibility for his well being to some other Good Samaritan. Preferably, a passing homeless person.
But when she looked over at Edward‘s confused face and saw him beginning to tilt to one side as if he was going to fall over and take the poor potted palm with him, a potted palm that had never harmed anyone, she knew that he needed her help. He was Esme‘s baby once and she couldn‘t just abandon him.
And she knew deep within her heart that kindness, no matter how small, was never wasted.
He can‟t even find his keys, for the love of Dante.
She placed her half empty smoothie in a garbage can. And sighed.
―Let‘s go,‖ she said, and placed an arm around his waist, flinching slightly as he wrapped his arm around her shoulder and gave her a squeeze that was almost too friendly.
They listed into the lobby like a galleon, waving at the concierge, who recognized Edward and buzzed them into the building.
Once they made it to the elevator, the Scotch seemed to hit Edward even harder. He stood with his eyes closed, his head lolling backwards and he groaned from time to time. Bella took the opportunity to search his pockets for his keys, which she found quickly and easily once she wrested his prized Burberry trench coat away from him.
―You picked me up, you naughty little kitten. I thought you didn‘t go home with men you met in bars.‖
Even while drunk, Edward A. Masen was still an ass.
―I‘m not picking you up, Professor. I‟m dropping you off. And if you keep that up, I‘m going to drop you,‖ Bella muttered, in a fit of irritation.
It took several attempts for Bella to find the key to his apartment, and when she did, she helped him in and pulled the key out of the lock. Her goal was to leave him there, assuming he‘d be fine on his own, but he started mumbling about feeling sick.
Bella worried about him choking on his own vomit and dying on a bathroom floor alone and friendless like a faded rock star, so she decided to stay long enough to get him to the bedroom and to see that he didn‘t throw up (and die).
She locked the door behind them and put his keys and his coat on the hall table. And then she quickly took off her own coat and placed it on top of her briefcase.
Edward was leaning up against the wall in the hallway that led to his bedroom with his eyes closed. Which meant that he wasn‘t going to notice that she was still wearing his sweater, like a teenage girl with a crush.
―Come on, Professor,‖ Bella placed his arm around her shoulder and grabbed his waist again, trying to ease him down the hall.
―Where are you taking me?‖ He opened his eyes and looked around.
―To your bedroom.‖
Edward began to laugh. He planted his feet and leaned up against the wall. And then he gazed down at her.
―What‘s so funny?‖
―You, Miss Swan,‖ he breathed, his voice suddenly husky. He smirked at her and half of his mouth turned up into a crooked smile.
―You‘re taking me to bed, but you haven‘t even kissed me yet. Don‘t you think we should start with kissing and maybe some canoodling on the couch for a couple of evenings? And then work up to bed? I haven‘t even had a chance to pet you, you naughty little kitten. And you are a virgin, aren‘t you?‖
Bella bristled, especially at the last remark.
―You‘ve never canoodled a day in your life. And I‘m not taking you to bed, you idiot, I‘m taking you to your bedroom so you can sleep it off. Now come on. And cut the chit chat.‖
―Kiss me, Isabella. Kiss me good night.‖ Edward‘s eyes grew wide and he fixated on her. He dropped his voice to a satin whisper. ―And then I‘ll go to bed like a good little boy. And maybe, if you‘re a good kitten, I‘ll let you join me.‖
Bella caught her breath.
He didn‘t look drunk now. He looked remarkably lucid and his eyes were caressing her, touching her, spending longer than was appropriate on the expanse of her chest. And then he began licking his lips.
Here comes the panty dropping smile . . . in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.
It was a good thing she was wearing jeans.
Bella let go of him instantly and backed up, averting her eyes, for in truth looking into the radiance of that smile was like staring into the sun.
He pushed off the wall and took a step towards her.
Now she was trapped. Her back was against the other wall and he was still coming closer.
Bella‘s eyes widened.
He was stalking her. And he looked hungry.
―Please, don‘t. Please don‘t . . . hurt me,‖ she whimpered.
A furrow appeared between Edward‘s eyebrows. He reached out and soft hands cupped her face gently, tilting her so that she was staring straight into his large, shining eyes.
―Never.‖ And with that, he brought his lips slowly down to hers.
As soon as they connected, skin on skin, Bella lost all ability to think and drowned in feeling. She had never felt more embodied than at the moment; never felt as if she existed less in her head.
His mouth barely moved over hers. It was warm and his lips were wet and surprisingly soft. She didn‘t know if he was kissing her like that because he was drunk or for some other reason, but it was as if their lips were frozen together. As if their connection, so intense and real, could not be broken even for a second.
Bella dared not move her mouth for fear he would release her, and she would never be kissed by him again.
He pressed into her firmly but gently, while his hands tenderly floated across her cheeks. He did not open his mouth. But the electricity that surged between them was more powerful than ever.
Bella‘s blood sang in her ears and she felt herself flush and grow hot as she pressed forward against his chest, closing the gap between them, and wound her arms around his back. She could feel the muscles underneath his shirt. She could almost feel his heart beating against her own chest.
But he was so gentle, so tender. His mouth left Bella wanting more, much, much more.
She wasn‘t sure how long they kissed, but by the time he released her, her head was spinning and she slid down the wall to the floor.
It was transcendent. It was emotional. The momentary fulfillment of her heart‘s deepest longing.
Memories and dreams of the meadow came flooding back. They were not the stuff of her imagination. The spark, the attraction was real and so stirring to her soul. She had not imagined it, but she wondered if he felt it, too. Or perhaps he was immune to those kinds of feelings now.
―Beautiful Isabella,‖ he murmured, as he staggered backwards. ―Sweet like candy.‖
Edward licked his lips as if he was savouring her taste and then whatever lucidity he had disappeared. He shut his eyes and collapsed against the other wall, close to passing out.
When she finally regained her senses and caught her breath, which took more than a minute, she managed to half-drag him down the hall and into his bedroom.
And all would have been well. All would have been well if he hadn‘t opened up his mouth at that moment and vomited all over her. And all over his beautiful and expensive British racing green cashmere sweater.
Which was no longer green by the time he was finished with it.
Bella gasped and heaved at the sight and smell of it all, for she had a very queasy stomach.
It‟s even in my hair. Oh gods of all Good Samaritans, make haste to help me!
―I‘m sorry, Isabella. I‘m sorry I was a bad boy.‖ Edward began apologizing over and over again, his voice like a frightened child.
She held her breath and shook her head.
―It‘s alright, Edward. Come.‖ She pulled him into the en suite bathroom and was able to position him on his knees over the toilet before the next volcanic stomach eruption.
While he vomited, she held a hand to her nose and tried to distract herself by taking stock of his elegant and spacious bathroom. Large two person or more bathtub? Check. Large two person or more shower with
decadent tropical rain showerhead and multiple body showers? Double check. Large fluffy white towels perfect for picking up puke? Check, check, check – and check.
Is this bathroom truly for one person? Wait – gods of large and pretentious and possibly open for group bathing washrooms – don‟t answer that.
When Edward had finished, she handed him a small but absorbent hand towel to wipe his mouth.
He groaned loudly and ignored her offer.
So she leaned over and gently wiped his mouth and then she gave him a sip of cold water to swish around with.
And then she stared at him.
Despite the train wreck that was her own family and her overall skittishness about marriage, she had thought from time to time about what it would be like to have a baby – a little boy or girl who would look like her and her husband. As she gazed down at a very sick Edward, she imagined what it would be like to be a mother and to care for her ill child.
Edward‘s vulnerability tugged on her heart strings for she‘d never seen it before except that once, when he cried in his office over Esme.
Esme would be happy that I‟m taking care of her child.
―Will you be alright for a minute?‖ Bella asked, pushing his lovely hair out of his eyes.
He groaned again, eyes closed, and she took that as an indication that he would be fine.
But Bella had a difficult time letting him go. So while he sat there, moaning, she petted him a little, stroking his hair and chattering to him as if he were her baby.
―It‘s alright, Edward. It‘s alright. All I ever wanted was to be nice to you. To care for you a little. Even if you never cared for me.‖
When she was satisfied that she could leave him alone for a few minutes, she went into his bedroom and quickly began looking through his chest of drawers for something, anything that she could change into. She resisted the impulse to rummage through his underwear in search of a prize that she could take home or sell on E-bay, and grabbed the first pair of boxer shorts she could find. They looked as if they would be too small for Edward‘s finely shaped derrière, and were black and decorated with the shield of Magdalen College.
Even Edward‟s underwear is pretentious, thought Bella, as she searched for a t-shirt.
She went to the guest washroom and quickly stripped off her fouled clothes, hopped into the shower just to rinse the vomit out of her hair and the stench from her skin, and then she changed into his things.
She was certain the boxers wouldn‘t fit Edward now; nevertheless, she still had to roll the waistband over a couple of times in order to make them fit. And his black t-shirt was far too large, but very soft.
She wrapped her long and curling hair in a towel and then tried to tackle the disaster that was Edward‘s cashmere sweater. She cleaned it as best she could, soaking it a little in the sink. Finally, she placed it on the marble countertop to dry out. He‘d have to have it dry-cleaned. Or burned.
Bella took the rest of her clothes and put them in the washer and then returned to the master bathroom.
Edward was sitting with his back against the wall, his knees up to his chest and his face in his hands. He was still moaning.
Bella quickly cleaned and flushed the toilet and then knelt down beside him.
She didn‘t know what to do. She didn‘t like the idea of leaving him in vomit-soaked clothes, but she didn‘t like the idea of undressing him, either. He‘d probably accuse her of sexual harassment or something and she didn‘t want to deal with a drunk and angry Professor Masen. Or a sober and angry Professor Masen.
For like a dragon, he could turn on you in a second if he thought you were pulling his tail.
―Edward? Edward, you‘ve thrown up all over yourself. Do you understand? Do you want to stay like this or . . .‖ She let her voice trail off.
Edward was able to shake his head with some semblance of understanding and he began trying to remove his silk tie. Of course, he had little success with his eyes closed.
So Bella gently loosened his tie still further, and then slowly pulled it over his head. She blotted it with water as best she could, and then left it on the counter. He would have to dry clean that, too.
While her back was turned, Edward began undoing the buttons of his shirt. However, it was much more difficult than he anticipated and so he began to curse and tug at the buttons, almost tearing them off in the process.
Bella sighed. ―Here, let me.‖ She knelt beside him once again, brushed his long fingers aside and quickly unfastened the buttons.
He shrugged out of his dress shirt and then immediately pulled his t-shirt over his head. But he was disoriented and unable to free his head from the shirt, so he just sort of sat there with it wrapped over his hair like a turban.
It really was quite funny.
Bella stifled a laugh, wishing she had her cell phone close at hand so she could take a picture of him. She would have loved to have used that shot as her screensaver. Or her avatar, should she ever have need of one.
She gently freed his perfect face from his shirt and then she sat back on her heels and gasped.
Edward‘s naked chest was stunning. Indeed, his entire upper body was a study in perfection. He had large, muscular arms, broad shoulders and perfectly toned pectorals. It was surprising to Bella that he had always seemed slender to her, especially when viewed in photos standing next to Emmett, who was the size of a bear.
But there was nothing slender about Edward. Absolutely nothing.
And Edward had a tattoo.
This surprised Bella greatly. She had seen photos of Edward and Emmett with their shirts off – pictures from summer vacations taken before she moved to Forks. But Bella could have sworn that Edward did not have a tattoo in those pictures. So the tattoo was recent, within the last six or seven years.
The tattoo was over his left pectoral, above the nipple and spreading over to his sternum. It was a winged medieval dragon that was wrapped around an oversized heart, crushing it between its two front feet. The heart was lifelike, not stylized, and the dragon‘s claws dug into its flesh so deeply, blood seeped from its wounds.
Bella gaped, open-mouthed, at the dark and disturbing image.
The dragon was green and black with a coiled, barbed tail and large, fluttering wings. Its mouth was open and breathing fire. But what captured her attention was the black lettering across the surface of the heart. She was able to make out the letters M A I A. Maia. Or was it M.A.I.A. – an acronym?
Bella had no idea who Maia was or what M.A.I.A. was. She‘d never heard the name from Alice before or from any of the Cullens.
It seemed to her to be completely out of character for Edward, the Edward she barely knew once and the one she was only beginning to know again, to have a tattoo at all, let alone one so large and haunting.
He has a tattoo like that underneath his clothes and he wears a bow tie? With a sweater?!
Bella wondered what other surprises lurked across the surface of his skin, and her eyes wandered a little lower. Even in a seated position, she couldn‘t help but notice his well-defined abdominal muscles and the deep V that extended from his hips and down beneath the waistband of his wool trousers.
Holy crap. Professor Masen must work out – a lot. Could I take a photo of his abs – and his V – for my screen saver??
Bella blushed and turned away.
She was being bad. She was ogling her professor. She wouldn‘t have wanted anyone to do that to her, especially at a low moment.
So feeling more than slightly guilty, she gathered up his soiled clothes and the towel that she used to clean up the sick that had dripped onto the Persian rug in his bedroom, and took them all to the laundry room. She quickly placed everything in the washer, filled it with detergent and started a wash.
She walked to the kitchen to fetch a pitcher of filtered water from the fridge and a glass, and returned to his bedroom.
In her absence, Edward had managed to get up and stagger to the imposing silk-draped bed that was in the centre of the room. He was now seated on the edge, barefoot and clad only in a pair of black boxer briefs, his hair sticking out of his head in all directions.
Holy. Cow.
Although there was probably nothing hotter in the universe than the sight of a half-naked Edward sitting on his bed, except perhaps for the surface of the sun, Bella averted her eyes and placed the water on a set of coasters on his nightstand.
Edward rested his head in his hands and leaned his elbows on his knees. Bella wanted to ask him how he was, but she thought maybe she should give him a moment. So she stood back and let her eyes roam around the room. And what she saw astounded her.
Edward‘s penchant for black and white photographs was even more noticeable here, for each wall but one was adorned with pairs, each extremely large and matted thickly in white and hung in imposing black wood frames.
It was the content of the pictures that Bella found surprising.
The photos were erotic. Pictures of naked, primarily female forms, although sometimes a female and a male together, with the faces and genitalia either absent or in shadow. Tastefully taken, they were quite beautiful and Bella would not have said that they were absolutely filthy. But they were highly sensual and amative, much more sophisticated than average pornography and far more arousing.
The first photo showed a couple from the side, facing one another and straddling a bench of some kind. The man sat on the left, his face hidden behind the woman‘s head. The woman was turning her back towards the camera, her legs around his hips, their torsos pressed together, his hands in her hair and her hands on his forearms. Bella blushed as she wondered if the photo was taken before, during or after the couple made love, for she couldn‘t tell.
The second photo was of a woman‘s back from the top of her shoulders to the curve of her behind and a pair of man‘s hands, one of which embraced her middle back and the other cupping her bottom. It looked as if he was cradling her, or perhaps she was poised on top of him. A tattoo ran across her lower back and along her right hip, but the writing was in Arabic, Bella thought, and so she couldn‘t read it.
The third photo, on the wall behind Bella, was of a man‘s bare knees, spread apart, as if he were seated low on a sofa, and a woman who was straddling him, blocking out his head and most of his upper body, with the exception of his shoulders and arms. Once again, all that was visible of her was her back and long strands of pale hair that hung like a mane over her shoulders. She was naked, of course, his large hands and long pale fingers firmly gripping her derrière. But no, Bella was mistaken. For one of his hands was resting just above the expanse of the woman‘s bottom, and in his hand he clutched the woman‘s hand, their fingers tightly entwined, wresting her arm backwards behind her. It didn‘t look comfortable in the least and rather looked as if he had trapped her.
Curiouser and curiouser . . . thought Bella.
The fourth photo featured a woman standing, once again with her back slightly facing the camera, and wearing only a very high pair of heels. A naked man was embracing her, with one hand wrapped around her shoulder blades and the other on the back of her right buttock, as he crooked her leg around his hip. His face was in shadow as he nuzzled the base of her throat, her head thrown back in ecstasy. His naked body was shown in profile and it boasted the firmest, most beautiful gluteus maximus muscle that Bella had ever seen. Not that she had seen that many, even in pictures. And the woman‘s shoes were very, very beautiful.
The remaining photos were the largest and they were hung over the bed.
The fifth photo depicted a woman lying on her stomach, exposing only part of her head, her beautiful back and the swell of her behind. A man‘s form hovered over hers, almost like a dark angel, pressing a kiss to a shoulder blade and splaying his left hand across her lower back. It reminded Bella of another of Rodin‘s sculptures, The Angel‟s Kiss, and so she wondered if the photographer had been inspired by that work.
But it was the sixth and final photo that took Bella‘s breath away, for it was the most overtly erotic and at first glance, she was immediately repulsed by its rawness and aggression. It was the side view of a woman lying on her stomach, with only her length from mid-torso to knee visible. Hovering above her, posed like an upward facing dog in yoga, was part of a male form. His hand was planted white-knuckled on her left hip and bottom cheek, his upper body visible but tense and rigid, his hips pressed tightly against the curve of her backside, his left thigh flush with hers. Once again, the man had a beautiful gluteus maximus in profile, and long, elegant fingers, but Bella was disturbed by the photo and immediately blushed a deep crimson and averted her eyes.
Why would someone have a photo of that hanging on their wall?
Nevertheless, from gazing at those six photographs, one point was abundantly clear:
Professor Masen is a back man.
Given his décor and his choice of artwork, Edward‘s bedroom appeared to have one purpose and one purpose only and that was to serve as a cauldron of seething lust. She knew, based upon what she had observed already, that he must have intended it to be so, despite its obvious and palpable coldness; a coldness that was in keeping with the overall glacial atmosphere of his entire apartment. In this taupe-walled space, the coldness emanated from the black and white photographs, the ice blue silk of his bed coverings and curtains, and the sparseness of the all-black furniture of the room, which was dominated by an over-sized bed with an ornately carved and high-posted headboard and a low and equally intricate footboard.
Medieval, thought Bella. How fitting.
But the photographs were not what captivated Bella‘s attention the most. No, when she finally dragged her eyes away from Edward‘s sophisticated nudes, she stood in shock and stared at the painting on the far wall, gasping loudly.
On the wall opposite Edward‘s large and medieval bed, and strangely out of place amongst the black and white erotica, was a Pre-Raphaelite oil painting in brilliant and glorious colour. It was a full scale reproduction of Henry Holiday‘s painting of Dante and Beatrice, the same painting that hung over her own bed.
Bella‘s eyes darted from the painting to Edward and then back to the painting again. He could see the painting from his bed. She imagined him falling asleep at night, every night, and looking at Beatrice‘s face. It was the last thing he would see before closing his eyes at night and the first thing he would see when he woke up in the morning.
Bella had not known that he owned that painting. He was the reason why she owned it; was she, by any chance, the reason why he did?
She began to shake at the thought. No matter who came into his bedroom, no matter who he held in his arms, no matter which girl Edward brought home to warm his bed, Beatrice was always there. Beatrice was ever present.
But he didn‘t remember that she was Beatrice.
Bella shook her head to suppress those thoughts and gently persuaded Edward to lie down. She covered him with the sheet and the silk duvet, tucking the edges under his arms, across his chest.
And then she sat down on the bed beside him, watching him as he looked at her.
―I was listening to music,‖ he whispered.
Bella stiffened.
―What kind of music, Edward?‖
―Hurt. Johnny Cash. Over and over. . .‖ Edward‘s voice trailed off.
―Why do you listen to that?‖
―To remember.‖
―Oh, Edward. Why?‖ Bella blinked back tears, for that was the one Trent Reznor song she could listen to without heaving, but it always made her weep.
He didn‘t answer.
She leaned over him.
―Edward? Sweetheart, don‘t listen to that kind of music anymore, okay? You need to walk towards the light. Do you hear me? No more Lacrimosa or Nine Inch Nails. Walk out of the darkness and towards the light.‖
―Where‘s the light?‖ He mumbled.
Bella exhaled deeply and shook her head.
―Why do you drink so much, Edward?‖
―To forget,‖ he said simply, closing his eyes and resting back on the pillow.
Bella thought that he would have been pretty as a teenager; all big emerald eyes and kissable lips and sexy bronze hair. He might have been sweet instead of angry or sad. He might have been noble and good. If Bella and he had been closer in age, he might have kissed her on her father‘s front porch and taken her to the prom, and made love to her for the first time on a blanket under the stars, in the meadow behind his parents‘ house.
She might have been his first, in some more perfect universe.
Bella contemplated how much pain a human soul, her soul, could bear without shrivelling completely, and turned to go.
A warm hand darted out to catch her.
―Don‘t leave me,‖ he breathed. ―Please.‖
His eyes were only half open and they pleaded with her.
―Please, Isabella. Please.‖
He knew she was Isabella Swan, but somehow he still wanted her to stay. And the way his eyes and his voice grew desperate . . . she could not deny him when he looked like that.
She wrapped her hand in his and sat next to him again. ―Edward, I‘m not going to leave you. Where else am I going to go? Just sleep now. You‘re safe here. And there‘s light all around you. So much light.‖
A smiled played on his perfect lips and she heard him sigh; the grip with which he held her hand loosened.
She took a deep breath, held it, and then ghosted a figure over his eyebrows.
When he didn‘t flinch or open his eyes, she softly stroked them, one by one. Her mother had done this when Bella wasn‘t able to sleep as a child. But that was ever so long ago; long before her mother neglected her in order to pursue other, more important interests.
Edward was still smiling and so Bella bravely moved her hand to his hair. Feeling the unruly strands running though her fingers reminded her of a day she had spent on a farm in Umbria during her year abroad. An Italian boy had taken her out to a field and they had walked together, her hand floating over the tops of the grasses.
Edward‘s hair was feather light and soft against her hand, just like the whispering Italian grass.
She began to stroke his hair, the way Esme must have done at one time. He was such a beautiful boy. He allowed her fingertips to trail down the side of his face, tracing his angular jaw and rubbing gently against his stubble. She touched the merest hint of a dimple in his chin and then began to move the back of her hand against his high and noble cheek bones.
Bella sighed. She would never again be this close to him; if he were awake, he wouldn‘t let her. He‘d have bitten her hand, she was sure, and then gone for her throat.
His perfect chest rose and fell with his now regular breathing. He seemed to be asleep.
Bella stared in admiration at his neck, the muscles in his shoulders and the tops of his arms, his collarbone and the tops of his pectorals. If he had been pale, he would look like a Roman statue carved in cold, white marble. But the merest hint of a tan left over from the summer made his skin glow almost gold in the lamplight.
Bella pressed a kiss against two of her fingers and then pressed those fingers tenderly against his slightly parted lips. ―Ti amo, Dante. Eccomi Beatrice.‖
Just then, Edward‘s telephone rang.
Bella looked at the phone on the nightstand. It was ringing very loudly. Edward was beginning to move, the horrible noise piercing his rest.
So Bella did a very foolish thing; she answered it.
―Who the hell is this?‖ A woman‘s voice, shocked and shrill, demanded.
―This is Edward Masen‘s residence. Who is this?‖
―This is Tanya. Put Edward on the phone!‖
Bella‘s heart thudded twice and then skipped a beat, before beginning to race.
She stood up, taking the cordless receiver with her, and walked into the bathroom and closed the door. ―He can‘t come to the phone right now. Sorry. Is it an emergency? Can I help?‖
―What do you mean he can‟t? Tell him it‘s Tanya and I want to speak to him.‖
―Um, he‘s indisposed.‖
―Indisposed?! Listen, you little slut, roll Edward over and put the phone in his hand. I‘m calling from the -‖
―He can‘t talk to you right now. Please call back tomorrow.‖ Bella pressed the end button, interrupting Tanya‘s torrent of furious words.
She‟s more demanding than a casual lover. She must be his mistress – and she‟s going to be pissed with Edward that I answered the phone.
Maybe she‟ll be so pissed she‟ll break up with him.
Bella shook her head at her continued bad karma and removed the towel from her hair, hanging it up to dry.
And then she walked into the bedroom and placed the telephone on its cradle. She was going to leave Edward to his dreams and go to the guest room to sleep, because she had promised that she would not abandon him.
Suddenly, two green eyes opened wide and began to stare right through her.
She jumped.
―Beatrice,‖ Edward whispered, reaching his hand out to her.
Bella shuddered convulsively.
―Beatrice,‖ he whispered again, gazing into her eyes with unblinking recognition.
―Edward?‖ She stifled a sob.


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Data d'iscrizione : 01.01.11
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