capitolo quattordici

Andare in basso

capitolo quattordici

Messaggio  simona80 il Dom 06 Mar 2011, 01:49

Chapter Fourteen
The graduate students sat in the now silent seminar room, stunned.
And then as they slowly realized that the steel-caged death match they had just witnessed was over, and that there would be no second round (or popcorn), they began filing out. With the exception of Angela, Peter, and Bella.
Since none of the other students were Dante specialists and none of them wished to be, they quickly dismissed the steel-caged death match as an entertaining (albeit aberrant) internecine debate. Academics could be
passionate about their subject matter; everyone knew it. Some, like Bella and the Professor, were more passionate than others. Today‘s seminar was a train wreck, of course, but not entirely surprising.
Not as bizarre as some of the things that happened the previous semester in Professor Singer‘s Medieval Torture Methods seminar . . . which turned out to be surprisingly hands-on . . .
Angela, however, fixed Bella with narrowed eyes and then went after the Professor, like a co-dependent duckling.
Peter closed his eyes and groaned. ―Are you suicidal?‖
Bella seemed to be shaking herself awake from a dream. ―What?‖
―Why did you provoke him like that, Bella? He‘ll swallow you whole in one bite!‖
Bella was only now able to grasp the gravity of her predicament. It was as if she had been another person, spewing venom and anger, without any thought about the audience.
And now that she had vented her anger she felt deflated, like a lonely and empty balloon left on the floor after a children‘s birthday party.
She slowly began packing her things into her recently improved abomination of a book bag and tried to steel herself for what she knew would be a very, very unpleasant conversation in the Professor‘s office.
―I don‘t think you should go,‖ said Peter.
―I don‘t want to go.‖
―Then don‘t. Send him an email. Tell him you‘re sick – and you‘re sorry.‖
Bella thought about that for a moment. It was so very, very tempting.
But Bella knew that her only chance at saving her career would be to woman up and take her punishment, and then try to piece her personal life together afterwards. If that was even possible.
―If I don‘t go to his office, he‘ll be even angrier. He could demand I drop the class. And I need this class or I won‘t be able to graduate in May.‖
―Then I‘m going with you. Better yet, I‘ll speak with him first.‖
Peter drew himself up to his full height and flexed his arms.
―No, Peter. You need to stay out of this. I‘m going to go and apologize and let him yell at me. And when he has his pound of flesh, he‘ll let me go.‖
―The quality of mercy is not strained,‖ muttered Peter. ―Not that he would know anything about that.
―What were you fighting about, anyway? Dante didn‘t have a mistress called Tanya.‖
Bella blinked rapidly.
―I found an article about Pia de‘ Tolomei. Tanya was one of her nicknames.‖
―Pia de‘ Tolomei wasn‘t one of Dante‘s mistresses. There were rumours of mistresses and illegitimate children, so your meat market discussion wasn‘t wrong. But I‘m sorry Bella, Masen is right; no one believes that Pia was Dante‘s mistress. No one.‖
Bella chewed the inside of her cheek thoughtfully.
―But he wouldn‘t let me explain. And I just kind of – snapped.‖
―You snapped, alright. If it was anyone else, I‘d be cheering you on thinking that he got what was coming to him. The uptight prick. But in your case, I knew he‘d overreact.‖ Peter shook his head. ―Let me talk to him.‖
―You‘re writing your dissertation with him, you can‘t have him angry with you. If it‘s too much, I‘ll leave. And then I‘ll make an appointment with the harassment officer.‖
Peter gazed down at her with a very worried expression. ―I don‘t feel right about this. He‘s furious with you.‖
―But what can he do? He‘s the big bad Professor, I‘m the little grad student. He has all the power. And he knows it.‖
―Yes, but power does funny things to people.‖
―What‘s that supposed to mean?‖
Peter looked around to make sure that they were alone and then he stuck his head out the door of the seminar room to check the hallway.
―Masen is a twisted fuck, Bella. He was involved with Professor Singer and that means that he . . .‖ Peter stopped suddenly, and shook his head.
―That means that he – what?‖
―If he‘s been harassing you, or trying to get you to do things, let me know and I‘ll help you. I promise.‖
Bella gazed at him blankly.
―There‘s nothing sinister going on here, Peter. He‘s just a crusty Professor who doesn‘t like to be contradicted. I‘m going to eat humble pie in his office, and hopefully, he won‘t make me drop his class.‖
―I hope you‘re right. He‘s always been professional with his students. But with you, things are different.‖
Peter walked Bella to the Professor‘s office and then without warning, knocked on the door.
Professor Masen opened the door quickly, his eyes still an angry, sparking green.
―What do you want?‖ He spat at Peter, while shooting daggers at Bella.
―Just a minute of your time,‖ said Peter mildly.
―Not now. Tomorrow.‖
―But Professor, I . . .‖
―Tomorrow, Peter. Don‘t push me.‖
Peter gave Bella a very worried look and then mouthed the words, ―I‘m sorry.‖
Professor Masen waited until Peter had disappeared around the corner, before stepping aside to let Bella in.
He closed the door behind her and walked over to the window.
Abandon hope all ye who enter here . . .
The Professor‘s office was dark, illuminated only by his desk lamp. He had drawn the blinds and was now leaning as far away from Bella as possible and pinching the bridge of his nose with his inky fingers. His eyes were closed.
Bella moved her offending knapsack in front of her like a shield, clasping it with two hands. And then waited.
When he did not speak, she busied herself by glancing around the room. Until her eyes alighted on a chair; the very uncomfortable Ikea chair that she sat on back in September during her first ill-fated meeting with the Professor.
The chair had been smashed to bits and was lying in small, bent pieces that were scattered across the Persian carpet.
Bella‘s eyes slowly moved from the pieces to the Professor and back again.
He smashed a chair. He smashed a metal chair.
His eyes opened and she saw a strange and dangerous calmness in their emerald depths. Here was the dragon, in his den. And she was unarmed.
―If you were anyone else I‘d have you expelled.‖
Bella shook as soon as she heard the tone of his voice. It was deceptively calm and soft, like velvet brushing across bare skin. But the undertone was steel and stone.
―That was the most disgusting display of infantile behaviour I have ever witnessed in a seminar. And your disrespectful attitude was absolutely unacceptable. On top of that, I can‘t even begin to express the anger I have over what you said about Tanya. You are never to speak about her again. Do I make myself clear?‖
Bella swallowed hard, but was too upset to answer.
―I said, do I make myself clear?‖ He growled.
―My self-control is tenuous at best. You would do well not to push it. And I expect you to fight your own battles and not manipulate Peter into rescuing you from your own stupidity. He has his own problems to worry about.‖
Bella looked at the carpet, avoiding his eyes, which seemed to glow in the darkness.
―I think you wanted me to lose my temper. I think you wanted me to get angry and make a scene; then you‘d be justified in running away. You wanted me to behave like every other abusive asshole that has knocked you around. Well, I‘m not an abusive asshole and I‘m not going to do that.‖
Bella looked down at the twisted wreckage of the chair, a nice, Swedish chair that had done nothing in its short life to hurt anyone, and then she looked back at the Professor.
But she didn‘t argue with him.
His tongue darted out and he licked his lips.
―Is this a game to you? Hmmmm? Playing us off each other like something out of Prokofiev? He‘s Peter, I‘m the Wolf. What does that make you - the duck?‖
Bella shook her head.
―What happened in my seminar today will never happen again. Do you understand?‖
―Yes, Professor.‖
She clutched at the doorknob behind her. It was locked.
So she decided to make an offer for a public apology.
―I‘ll apologize to the class.‖
―And expose us to even more gossip? You will do no such thing.
―Why wouldn‘t you talk to me? One phone call. One meeting. I could have spoken to you through a door, for God‘s sake. And instead, you finally choose to talk to me in the middle of MY fucking graduate seminar!‖
―You put my bra in my mailbox . . . I thought -‖
―Use your head!‖ He snapped. ―If I had mailed it to you, there would have been a paper trail. That would have been far more incriminating. And I wasn‘t about to leave your I pod on your front porch in the middle of a rainstorm.‖
Bella was confused by his non sequitur but decided not to question him.
―I started this clusterfuck by changing my lecture, but you finished it, Isabella, and you finished it with the equivalent of a hydrogen bomb.
―You are not going to drop my class. Clear? You are not going to drop out of the program. And we‘re going to pretend this debacle never happened and hope that the other students are too wrapped up in their own lives to bother noticing.‖
Edward fixed her with an impassive look.
―Come,‖ he pointed to a space on the carpet.
She took a few steps forward and stood just to the right of his desk.
―Have you returned the bursary?‖
―I can‘t. The Chair of Italian Studies has the H1N1 flu.‖
―But you‘ve made an appointment?‖
―So you made an appointment with him, but you didn‘t have the courtesy to send me a two word text message when I was desperate to know you were alright,‖ he growled.
Bella blinked.
―You‘re going to cancel that appointment.‖
―But I don‘t want the money, and . . .‖
―You will cancel the appointment, you will take the money and you will keep your mouth shut. You‘ve made the mess; I have to clean it up. You will do as you‘re told.‖
He glared at her darkly. ―Understood?‖
Bella held her breath, and then nodded rather reluctantly.
―The email you sent me was a total disgrace. A real slap in the face after all the messages I sent you. Did you even listen to the voice mails I left? Or did you just delete them?‖
―I listened to them.‖
―You listened to them, but you didn‘t believe them. And you sure as hell didn‘t answer them. You used the word harassment in your email to me. What did you hope to accomplish by that?‖
―Um - I don‘t know.‖
Edward closed the gap between them, standing only inches from her.
―It‘s quite possible that that email has been red-flagged by someone already. Even if I erase that email, and I did, someone could still find it. Emails are forever, Isabella. You are never going to email me again. Is that clear?‖
―I am beyond furious with you. You seem to be the only person capable of pushing all of my buttons, and I do mean all of them.‖
Bella glanced over at the door, wishing she could fling it open and escape.
―Look at me,‖ he breathed.
When she met his eyes he continued.
―I‘m going to have to do some damage control. I just handled Angela, and now I‘m going to have to deal with Peter. Thanks to you. Angela is a menace, but Peter was a good research assistant.‖
Was a good research assistant?
―Leave Peter alone. Please. It‘s my fault he came to you. I‘ll make sure he doesn‘t say anything.‖
―Is he who you want?‖ Edward‘s tone grew glacial.
Bella fidgeted with her book bag.
―Answer me.‖
―I tried.‖
―And nothing.‖
―It doesn‘t look like nothing when I see you in his arms in front of the mailboxes. It doesn‘t look like nothing when he knocks on my door, like a white knight, ready to fight me to protect you. Why can‘t you tell me what you want, Isabella? Or do you only answer to Rabbit?‖ Edward‘s voice dripped with sarcasm.
Bella‘s eyes widened in surprise, but she said nothing. She didn‘t know what to say.
Is he – jealous?
―Fine. I give up.‖
He waved his hand contemptuously at the door.
It took a moment for Bella‘s brain to tell Bella‘s clumsy feet to walk towards the door, but eventually they did. She walked with lowered head and hunched shoulders, looking remarkably like a butterfly that had had its wings torn off.
But she had kept her spot in his class. And she had not been expelled. Small consolation for some of the other losses she had just incurred.
Edward stood motionless, as she fumbled with the door.
A whimper escaped from her lips as she struggled with the lock. She was trapped.
He stepped behind her and reached an arm around her waist to unlock the door, brushing against her left hip.
When she didn‘t flinch, he leaned closer, bringing his lips to her ear.
―So all of this agony was for nothing?‖
She could feel the heat of his body behind her. It radiated from his chest to her shoulder blades. The silk of his bow tie brushed against her hair, penetrating it, until it grazed across the surface of her neck, causing it to explode into goosepimples.
―You exposed us to malicious gossip for absolutely nothing?‖
―You were cruel.‖
―So were you.‖
―You hurt me.‖
―As you hurt me. Is revenge everything you dreamt it might be?‖ Edward continued whispering, his warm breath huffing across her cheek.
―You‘ve transformed from a Rabbit into a furious kitten. Well, you scratched me deeply today, my Kitten. You drew blood with every word. Happy now?
―Happy now that you‘ve humiliated me in front of my students by reciting all my secret sins? It was a true Bonfire of the Vanities, with you igniting the fire.‖
He brought his lips even closer to her ear, and the air from his mouth caused her to shiver.
―You‟re a coward.‖
―I am not a coward.‖
―You‘re the one who‘s leaving.‖
―You told me to leave.‖
―Do you do everything the big bad Wolf tells you to do? Where‘s my furious Kitten now?‖
―I‘m just a student, Professor Masen. You‘re the one with all the power. You could – destroy me.‖
―Bullshit. Is that what you think? That this is a power trip?‖
Edward pulled her book bag from her tense and twisted fingers and cast it aside.
He spun her around and grasped her face, moving his hands to the curves of her cheeks.
―You think I‘d destroy you? After our history?‖
―I‘m not the one with the memory problem, Edward. You think I‘m happy? You think this is what I want? I‘m miserable. To finally see you after all these years, and to see you like this? I don‘t even recognize you!‖
Edward spoke through clenched teeth. ―You never gave me a chance. How the hell would I know what you want, Isabella, when you won‘t fucking talk to me? You tell me nothing!‖
―Shouting at me won‘t persuade me to be explicit!‖
Edward‘s mouth collided with hers, passionately but briefly, until he tore himself from her lips to whisper in her ear.
―Talk to me, Isabella.‖
His lower lip trailed temptingly along her earlobe.
Bella was silent as she felt the energy between them shift, like a serpent circling back on itself, swallowing itself whole.
Anger and passion feeding off one another.
―Tell me that you want me, or go.‖
When she didn‘t answer, Edward slowly began to withdraw.
She felt ill from the loss of contact and didn‘t even think about the words as they tumbled impetuously from her lips.
―I never wanted anyone else.‖
He stared down into her eyes before he initiated the kiss. Lips met tightly, warm breath against warm breath, mouths wet and slick.
Edward‘s right hand smoothed across Bella‘s cheek and slowly past her ear, before moving to the nape of her neck. As his mouth engulfed hers, he began to rub circles across the surface of her skin, coaxing her to relax.
Their lips floated together, sliding and smoothing.
After a moment or two, he tilted her head back slightly. A silent plea.
Open for me.
Bella wasn‘t breathing. How could she when the sensation was so intense? The taste of peppermint, the scent of Aramis, the way his breath consumed her.
When Bella didn‘t respond to his plea, Edward‘s tongue slowly emerged, hesitantly exploring her lower lip, before curving over it and coaxing it backwards dexterously into his mouth.
Bella inhaled sharply at the strange but intimate sensation.
He pulled her lip between his, tugging and teasing. It was all so new, yet strangely familiar. Lips, teeth, the gentle play of tongue.
Passion remained and twin flames, but anger gave way to a bracing electricity that burned and crackled all around them, as Bella answered his invitation and opened to him.
But her jaw was tense. He could feel it.
Edward slipped his left hand from her cheekbone to the curve of her jaw and began stroking, willing her to loosen.
As she relaxed under his fingers, he grew bolder. The tip of his tongue rolled over her lower lip as he tugged on it with his mouth, and then slowly his tongue touched hers. There were timid introductions as their tongues met first as friends, shy and soft, and then as lovers, sensual and erotic, as the heat exploded in their mouths and the dance of the two became a tango of one.
It was better than Edward imagined. So much better than in his dreams before or in his carrel vision. She was real. Beatrice was real. And as he pressed his lips to hers and explored her mouth, he could say in those moments that she was his, body and soul. If only for those moments.
So sweet, thought Bella. So warm.
She tugged Edward closer, her little hands tangling in his hair, pulling him until she was sandwiched tightly between him and the door, her petite curves pressed up against his tall, muscular frame.
Edward moved his right hand to cup the back of her head, protecting it with his knuckles while he groaned loudly against her mouth.
He groaned because of me.
It was loud.
It was feral.
It was erotic.
Bella would remember that sound and the way it vibrated against her lips, echoing into her mouth, for the rest of her life. She felt the blood course through her, hot and thick, as her skin bloomed under his touch. She had never wanted anything more than to feel his arms around her and his lips against hers.
There was no Peter.
No Angela.
No University.
Just them.
Edward‘s lips enveloped her, owned her. A fire ignited inside as their bodies moved together, soft curves against unyielding steel.
Bella inhaled frantically but it wasn‘t enough. Her head grew light.
Edward swore he could feel her heartbeat through his shirt, they were so tightly bound together. His left hand trailed under the hem of her blouse to inch towards the bare skin of her lower back.
He moaned again as his long, thin fingers spread across that valley, claiming it, owning it. He didn‘t even need to see it to know that it was beautiful and precious.
Until . . .
Bella began to gasp, her breathing laboured and uneven.
Edward did not want to stop. He wanted to continue, to carry her to his desk and lay her back, so they could finish what they started.
He wanted to explore every inch of her and gaze deeply into her dark eyes as her body gave up its secrets.
But prudence took hold and he slowed his movements, even as his body ached at the mere thought of separation.
He held her tightly, still protecting her head and then pressed three chaste kisses against her open mouth. And then brushed his lips, angel-soft, all the way down her neck to where her curve met her shoulder. One more kiss under the ear, with a flick of his tongue against her flesh, more of a promise than a farewell, and Edward stopped.
It was celestial.
She was celestial.
He‘d never been so angry before a kiss and so pleased afterwards.
He‘d never enjoyed a kiss so much.
It was almost better than . . .
The thought both tantalized and surprised him.
Edward slid his hands down her arms and brought them to rest on her hips. He traced small circles with his thumbs, willing her to open her eyes.
He swore he could hear their heartbeats, echoing a frantic but almost synchronous rhythm in the silent dark office.
Lines from T.S. Eliot‘s first of Four Quartets sprang inexplicably to his mind,
―The trilling wire in the blood Sings below inveterate scars Appeasing long forgotten wars. The dance along the artery
The circulation of the lymph Are figured in the drift of stars.‖
She did this to him. She bewitched him, body and soul. Blood and flesh.
He gazed down at her in wonder, and brushed his lips once more against her parted mouth.
She did not respond.
Edward peered at her closely, slightly panicked.
―Bella? Darling? Are you alright?‖
Edward‘s heart halted as she collapsed in his arms.
She hadn‘t fainted. Not really. She‘d just been overcome by sensation and sense and diminished oxygen. But she knew that he was holding her tightly in his arms. And she knew that he was whispering kindly in her ear.
Edward stroked her face with his fingertips. When this elicited no response, he pressed his lips to her forehead. ―Beatrice? Are you alright?‖
Bella‘s eyes popped open.
―Why are you calling me that?‖
―Because that‘s your name,‖ he murmured, stroking her hair now. ―Are you alright?‖
Bella breathed in and out quite deeply.
―I think so.‖
―I think you forgot to breathe while I was kissing you.‖
Edward kissed her forehead again.
Bella suddenly remembered Edward‘s fury and his strangely glowing green eyes.
―This is wrong. You‘re still my professor. I‘m in so much trouble.‖ She tried to wrench herself from his arms but he would not let her go.
She leaned back against the door.
―What have I done?‖ She fanned a hand to her forehead.
Edward frowned darkly and released her.
―You disappoint me, Isabella. I‘m not one to kiss and tell. I‘m going to protect you, I promise.‖ He picked up her knapsack and pulled it over his shoulder and then he picked up his briefcase in one hand and wrapped his other arm around her waist, drawing her to him. ―Come with me.‖
―Peter is waiting.‖
―Fuck Peter.‖
Bella‘s eyes fluttered.
―He‘s nothing more than a pet to you. A pet Rabbit.‖
―He‘s not a pet; he‘s a friend. He‘s my only friend in Toronto.‖
―I‘d like to be your friend,‖ Edward said, gazing down at her. ―And I‘m going to keep my little friend very close to make sure she doesn‘t run away again.‖
―This is – complicated. And dangerous.‖ Bella began willing herself to forget the feeling of his lips on hers and to focus on the insurmountable problems. But it was impossible, especially since the memory of the sounds he had made while kissing her still echoed in her ears.
―You didn‘t seem to think that it was complicated and dangerous when you pranced around my apartment in my underwear. You didn‘t think it was complicated when you left a breakfast tray in my fridge with something that could only be described as a love note. Why is everything more complicated now that I‘ve kissed you?‖
―Because we‘ve gone - public.‖
Edward‘s face hardened. ―No, we haven‘t. Apart from the email, the only public thing is an argument, which is open to interpretation. The burden of proof is on our antagonists. We‘ll deny everything.‖
―Is that really what you want to do?‖
―What‘s our alternative, Isabella? Besides, at the time of the seminar there was no relationship to deny.‖
He bent over to pick up a key ring from the floor. ―Are these yours?‖
Bella held out her hand. ―Yes. Thanks.‖
―P as in Princeton? Or P as in Peter Rabbit?‖ Edward mocked, as he dangled the keys in front of her face.
Bella grabbed the keys out of his hand with a grimace and shoved them into the knapsack he was holding.
Edward smiled at her reaction.
―Wait here while I check the hall to see if Peter has his gun out, ready to shoot the Wolf to save the duck.‖
He unlocked his door and quickly peered into the empty hallway.
―Hurry up. We‘ll take the stairs.‖ Edward pulled Bella swiftly into the hallway and locked his office door behind them.
―Are you okay to walk? We can take the short cut through Victoria College and then walk up Charles Street. Or I could call a cab,‖ he whispered, as he opened the door to the stairwell for her.
―I‘m okay to walk home.‖
Bella tripped over her own feet as she crossed the threshold and in a flash Edward was at her side, holding her up.
―I‘ll take your dreaminess as a compliment to my abilities as a lover.‖
Bella stared at him.
―Where are you taking me?‖
She relaxed minutely.
―Home . . . with me,‖ he clarified, bringing his face closer to hers.
―I thought I pushed all of your buttons.‖
Edward pulled his face back and straightened up to his full height, still holding her up.
―You do. All of them. But it‘s six o‘clock and you‘re fainting from hunger. There‘s no way in hell I‘m taking you somewhere public after what happened. And I can‘t cook you a proper dinner at your place.‖
―But you‘re still angry. I can see it in your eyes.‖
―I‘m sure you‘re angry with me, too. But hopefully, we‘ll get over it. Right now, every time I look at you all I can think about is kissing you.‖
Edward released her and began to lead her down the stairs.
―Peter could take me home.‖
―I told you – fuck Peter. You‘re my Beatrice. You belong with me.‖
―Edward, I‘m not anyone‘s Beatrice. The delusions have to stop.‖
He frowned at her.
―Neither one of us has any monopoly on delusions. Our only hope is to take time to realize who we really are, and then to decide if that‘s a reality we both can live with. And hope we don‘t kill one another in the process.
―I‘ve had enough vexation with you to last a lifetime and I‘m putting an end to it. We‘re going to sit down and have the conversation I wanted to have with you ten days ago. And I‘m not letting you out of my sight until that‘s happened. End of discussion.‖
With one look at the resolve on his face, Bella realized there was no point in arguing.
As he led her through a side door and behind the Centre, she pulled out her cell phone and guiltily sent Peter a text. She told him she was okay, that she was too embarrassed to talk about it, and was already on her way home.
Peter had been hovering by the elevators, purposefully staying out of sight as he waited for Bella to come out. He‘d walked by the Professor‘s door from time to time, but hadn‘t heard anything. And he didn‘t want to antagonize Masen by waiting just outside his door.
As soon as he received her text, he immediately ran back to the office. He knocked on Masen‘s door. But no one answered.
Peter ran to the stairwell and flew down the stairs hoping that he could catch her.
As Edward followed Bella into his apartment, he put their bags down and turned to her. ―Are you hungry?‖
―Did you eat lunch?‖
―I don‘t remember.‖
―Isabella! What about breakfast?‖
―I remember having coffee . . .‖
He swore under his breath. ―You need to take better care of yourself. No wonder you‘re so pale. Come.‖
He led her to the red velvet wingback chair in the living room, where he made her sit down and he gently lifted her feet and placed them on top of the ottoman.
―I don‘t need to sit down over here. I could sit in the kitchen, with you.‖
―Stop arguing with me and do what you‘re told.‖ Edward glared at her mildly as he turned on the gas fireplace. He let his hand pass over her head, brushing back her hair.
―Kittens should be curled up in their chair by the fire on a day like today. You‘re safer here than on one of the bar stools. I‘m going to make dinner, but I need to step out and pick up a few things. Will you be alright by yourself?‖
―Of course, Edward. I‘m not an invalid.‖
―If you feel scorched, flip the switch and the Inferno will go out.‖
He leaned over and pressed a kiss on top of her hair, and then he walked to the front door.
―Promise me you won‘t leave before I come back,‖ he called to her.
―I promise.‖
Bella wondered if he was really that worried about losing her.
And then she thought back to what had happened earlier in the lecture and the events in his office. She didn‘t know why she had felt light-headed, but she thought it might have had something to do with Edward‘s kiss. It wouldn‘t have been the first time that he had affected her this way. . .
Bella closed her eyes just for a moment as the dull murmur of the gas fire hummed in her ears.
The sound of a woman‘s voice, passionate and soulful, floated through the air. Bella recognized the song before she opened her eyes. Edward was playing Edith Piaf, ―Non, je ne regrette rien.‖
It was an extraordinary choice.
Bella opened her eyes to find Edward smiling down on her, looking very much like a dark but beautiful angel. An angel with wild hair, a mouth made for sin, and piercing green eyes. He‘d changed out of his school clothes and was dressed in a black button down shirt and a pair of black trousers. He pushed his shirtsleeves up to expose his muscled forearms. He had been cooking.
―Isabella?‖ He smiled, and offered her his hand.
She took it and he led her into the dining room.
Edward had set his formal dining table with a white linen tablecloth and lit the candles on an ornate silver candelabra. Bella saw two place settings of china, crystal and silver and a bottle of what appeared to be champagne chilling in a champagne bucket.
Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin vintage 2002, she read on the label.
―Are you pleased?‖ He moved behind her and rubbed her arms with his hands.
―It‘s beautiful,‖ she managed politely, eyeing the expensive champagne with suspicion.
―Then allow me.‖ He pulled her chair out for her and handed her a white linen napkin. ―I‘ve tried a second time with the flowers. Please don‘t destroy them like you did the last ones.‖
Edward smiled wryly as he gestured to a tall, modern glass vase that held an arrangement of purple hyacinths.
―If you‘re a good little Kitten, I‘ll let you read the card,‖ he whispered, as he poured her a glass of champagne.
Without waiting to watch her taste it, he disappeared into the kitchen.
Bella regarded the flowers and with a quick look over her shoulder to be sure she wasn‘t being watched, she removed the small card that was nestled in amongst them. She opened the envelope, pulled out the card, and read the following in a very elegant, old-fashioned script,
My Dear Isabella,
If you wish to know how I feel about you,
just ask me.
Smug bastard.
Bella sputtered at the card, and then hastily replaced it, hoping that Edward hadn‘t caught her reading it.
As she sat there, annoyed, a number of different things caught her attention. Edward had chosen Edith Piaf for mood music; she was now singing La Vie en Rose. The tablecloth, the place settings, the champagne, the flowers . . . he hadn‘t gone to such trouble for Alice.
All the arguing and passion in his office had lit their bodies on fire. And the way he had kissed her . . . Bella had never been kissed like that before.
She shivered in remembrance, solely from pleasure. It was a new feeling, but not an unwelcome one.
She knew that he had struggled to stop kissing her, as if he was at war with himself. The tension between them had been palpable, almost concrete. She knew that he was a very sexual man who was never in want of female companionship, by his own admission. And now that he had tasted her while sober he wanted her.
It was overwhelming to be desired by such a beautiful, sensual creature. She felt like Psyche being desired by Cupid. And she could not deny the attraction she felt for him, or the way she fluttered with longing on the inside when he kissed her. Story of Cupid and Psyche.
But Bella did not share. Which made all other romantic or sexual considerations moot.
She decided to wait until after the salad course to tell him that.
When Edward sat next to her at the head of the table, he picked up his water glass, which was filled with Perrier and toasted their evening.
As they clinked their disparate glasses together, Bella realized he wasn‘t drinking champagne.
―No Veuve Clicquot?‖ She asked, sipping away incredulously.
He smiled at her and shook his head. ―Non, seulement de l‘eau ce soir. Mon ange.‖
Bella rolled her eyes at Edward‘s French, but it wasn‘t because his pronunciation was faulty.
―You will probably find this difficult to believe but I don‘t drink all the time. But I don‘t expect you to finish this bottle by yourself. We‘ll save it for Mimosas for breakfast.‖
Bella‘s eyebrows shot up.
Breakfast? You‟re awfully sure of yourself, Casanova.
―I searched my collection for a vintage from 2003 but had to make do with 2002.‖
It took a moment for Bella to realize the significance of the year and when the realization hit her she blushed and looked down at her hands.
Edward watched her over his salad and his water glass, but said nothing. He had hoped for a more vocal reaction, but he surmised rather quickly that she was overwhelmed by the tumult of the day.
She‟s nervous; she‟s quivering and her cheeks are flushed.
Edward reached over to stroke the skin at her wrist from time to time, just to reassure her.
Whenever their eyes met he would stop whatever he was doing and smile at her encouragingly, hoping that she would engage him in conversation. But she would only duck her head and look down at her plate.
Until the strains of a certain song filled their ears.
It was no longer Edith Piaf, but Bella recognized the song, even though it was sung in Spanish.
Besame, besame mucho . . .
Edward watched Bella carefully. When the realization flooded over her, along with a deeper shade of rose, he winked.
―Do you remember this song?‖
―How is your Spanish?‖ He gazed at her expectantly.
―That‘s a pity. The words are very beautiful.‖
He smiled at her somewhat sadly and she looked away.
When Edward wasn‘t singing the words, he was watching her, the movement of her eyes, the fidgeting of her hands, the blush of her skin. And when the song was over he smiled, stood up, and pressed a long kiss to the top of her head.
He cleared their dishes, topped up her champagne flute and then served their entrees, spaghetti con limone with capers and tiger shrimp. It was a rare treat and one of Bella‘s favourite dishes so it surprised her that he made it.
Maybe Alice had . . .
Bella pushed all thoughts of Alice aside. This was between she and Edward. Period.
Except for the spectre of Tanya, who was haunting them both . . .
―You‘re not the same man you were in the meadow,‖ Bella announced flatly, the champagne making her bold.
Edward rested his fork on his plate and stared at her for a moment.
―You‘re right – I‘m much better.‖
Bella laughed bitterly. ―Impossible! He would never have been as cold and as indifferent as you have been.‖
―You don‘t know what you‘re talking about.‖ His eyes flashed to hers. ―So you should take me at my word. I‘ve never lied to you; why would I start now?‖
A flush of anger started in her cheeks and then spread across her face.
―I won‘t let your darkness consume me.‖
Edward was puzzled by her sudden hostility and was sorely tempted to call her out on it.
Surprisingly, however, he cocked his head to one side.
She watched as he wet his finger in his Perrier and began running it around the rim of his water glass, smoothly and sensuously. Soon the crystal goblet was singing in their ears.
And then Edward stopped.
―You think darkness can consume the light? That‘s an interesting theory. Let‘s see if it works.‖ He waved his hand like a magician at the candelabra. ―There. I just threw some darkness at those candles. See how successful I was? They‘re still burning.‖
He smirked at her and then returned to his meal.
―You know what I‘m talking about! Don‘t be so damned condescending.‖
Edward‘s eyes darkened slightly.
―I have no wish to consume you, but I won‘t lie and say that I‘m not attracted to your luminosity. If I am the darkness, then you are the stars. In fact, I‘m quite taken by la luce della sua umilitate.‖
―I won‘t let you fuck me.‖
Now Edward sat back in his chair, with a look of shock and disgust on his face.
He silently resolved that she had drunk her last glass of champagne.
―I‘m sorry, did I ask you to?‖
His voice was smooth and unruffled, which made Bella even more upset.
Liar. Liar. Beautiful copper hair on fire.
He grinned at her impertinently as he sipped his water, watching her face over the rim of his glass.
He wiped his lips with his napkin and brought his face inches from hers. ―If I were to ask you to do anything, Miss Swan, it wouldn‘t be that.‖ His eyes danced with amusement.
Edward smiled, sat back in his seat and almost cheerfully finished his dinner without another word.
Bella seethed.
She stopped eating and kept her eyes on her plate. She knew he was staring at her; she could feel his eyes on her face, her mouth, her shoulders that were shaking. But nothing escaped those piercing green eyes. She felt as if he could read her soul and still he did not look away.
―Isabella,‖ he said at last. He moved his hand underneath the table to catch her wrist and pull it out of her lap, brushing the top of her thigh as he did so.
His voice was velvet and smooth, and Bella felt the warmth of his touch travel all the way down to her toes.
―Look at me.‖
She tried to withdraw her hand, but he held her fast.
―Look at me when I‟m speaking to you.‖
Bella slowly raised her eyes to his. They were softer and less ominous than his tone, but remarkably intense.
―I would never, ever, fuck you. Clear? One doesn‘t fuck an angel.‖
―Then what does someone like you do with an angel?‖ Her voice trembled slightly.
―Someone like me would cherish her. Try to get to know her and puzzle her out. Start by being . . . friends, perhaps.‖
Bella squirmed under his grasp.
―Friends with benefits?‖
―Isabella,‖ Edward‘s voice held a warning in it.
He released her hand and stared at her momentarily.
―Is it too much to believe that I want to know you? That I want to take my time?‖
Edward bit back a curse.
―This is new for me, Isabella. Your prejudice is warranted to some degree, but don‘t deliberately try my patience.‖ His tone was clipped and he glared at her.
―We both know that professors are never friends with their students.‖
―We could be,‖ whispered Edward, gently pushing her hair back behind her shoulder and allowing his fingertips to graze the exposed curve of her neck. ―If that‘s what you want.‖
She didn‘t know how to react to this stunning utterance so she angled away from him.
―I don‘t seduce virgins, Bella. Your virtue is safe with me.‖
And with that, he cleared the dinner dishes and disappeared into the kitchen.
Bella quickly finished her champagne in two quick swallows.
He‟s a liar. If I hadn‟t said no, he‟d have flashed his signature smile and had me naked and spread-eagled below him before my panties even hit the floor. And he‟d probably demand that we reproduce one of the poses from his black and white photographs. And maybe Tanya would call right in the middle of it.
Edward returned and hastily removed her now empty champagne glass and the bottle of Veuve Clicquot.
A few minutes later, he brought her an espresso served with a small twist of lemon rind.
Bella was surprised. It was difficult to imagine him zesting his own lemons, but nevertheless, there it was; perfect and fresh lemon rind.
―Thank you, Edward. Espresso Roma is my favourite.‖
Edward looked at her smugly. ―I thought it was time we switched you to something non-alcoholic before you threw up on me.‖
Bella scowled. She felt fine. She felt slightly less inhibited, but still in command of her faculties.
She thought.
―What did you write in the card? The one you left on my porch?‖
Edward stiffened. ―So you honestly didn‘t read it before your tore it up?‖
―I was upset.‖
He shrugged. ―Then I suppose it‘s a good thing you didn‘t read it.‖
He turned on his heel and disappeared.
Bella sipped her espresso Roma slowly, trying to guess what he had written. It must have been something sufficiently intimate for him to be so out of sorts.
She wondered if the pieces of the card were still in the flowerbed in front of her apartment building. She wondered if she would be able to piece them together.
A few minutes later, Edward returned with a single piece of chocolate cake and one dessert fork.
―I thought we could partake of a single dessert.‖
He moved his chair so that he was sitting closer to her; too close, actually.
―Isabella,‖ his velvet voice sang in her ear, ―I know you‘re partial to chocolate. I bought this to please you.‖
He held out the fork under her nose, just so she could pick up the scent.
She licked her lips involuntarily. It smelled divine.
She reached out to take the fork from him, but he snatched it out from underneath her hand. ―No. You need to let me feed you.‖
―I‘m not a child.‖
―Then stop acting like one. Trust me. Please.‖
Bella turned her face and shook her head, resisting the urge to watch as he brought the fork up to his own mouth and darted a tongue out to catch some of the frosting.
―Mmmmmm. You know, the act of feeding someone is the ultimate act of care and affection. Sharing yourself with someone else through food.‖
He held another mouthful of cake under her nose.
―Think about it. We are fed in the Eucharist, by our mothers when we are infants, by our parents as children, by friends at dinner parties, by a lover when we feast on one another‘s bodies . . . and on occasion, on one another‘s souls. Don‘t you want me to feed you? You don‘t want to feast on my body, but at least feast on my cake.‖
Edward chuckled.
When Bella didn‘t answer, he turned his full attention to his dessert.
She scowled. If he thought this disgusting display of food porn was going to get her attention and maybe make her a little hot and bothered until she was putty in his hands . . .
he was right.
The sight of Edward eating chocolate cake was perhaps the most erotic thing she‘d ever witnessed. He savoured every morsel, licking his lips and then laving his tongue suggestively across the fork after every bite. He closed his eyes and groaned from time to time, making feral, throaty noises that were achingly familiar. He moved slowly and sinuously towards the plate, the tendons in his arms clearly visible, extending forward and then moving backward. His eyes burning into hers with every gentle and obvious rhythm.
Before he had even come to the last bite, Bella felt the room begin to grow stiflingly warm. Her cheeks were flushed, her breathing laboured, and she felt little beads of sweat beginning to form on her forehead. And lower down . . .
What is he doing to me? It feels just like . . .
―Last chance, Bella.‖ He made the fork dance before her eyes.
She tried to resist. She tried to turn away, but somehow when she opened her mouth to refuse, he slid the fork past her lips and into her warm little mouth.
―Mmmmmm,‖ he hummed, smiling widely and showing all of his white, perfect teeth. ―That‘s my good little Kitten.‖
Bella blushed more deeply, and ran her fingers across her lips, gathering up the last of the crumbs. He was right, the cake was delicious.
―Now that wasn‘t so bad, was it? See how nice it is to be cared for?‖ He whispered, chuckling at the blush that coloured her pale skin.
She was beginning to wonder if she even had a chance at resisting his seduction. All thoughts of what he said about her virtue miraculously flew out of her head.
Edward reached out and grasped her wrist, drawing her fingers to his mouth.
―You left some chocolate behind,‖ he purred, looking up at her through his eyebrows. ―May I?‖
Bella inhaled sharply. She didn‘t quite know what he was going to do, so she said nothing.
He grinned wickedly at her silent acquiescence before drawing her fingers into his mouth, one by one, sucking them slowly and then swirling his tongue unhurriedly around the tips of her fingers.
Bella bit her lip to suppress a moan as her skin exploded into flames.
Holy. Fuck. Edward.
When he had finished, she closed her eyes and wiped the sweat from her forehead.
Edward regarded her silently for what seemed like an age.
―You‘re exhausted,‖ he announced suddenly, blowing all the candles out. ―Time for bed.‖
Bella opened her eyes and looked up into his face as he bent over her.
―What about our conversation?‖
―We‘ve done enough talking for one day. Our conversation is going to be a long one, and we should approach it when both of our heads are clear.‖
―Please, Edward. Don‘t do this.‖ Her voice grew low and desperate.
―One night. Spend the night with me and then if you want to leave tomorrow, I won‘t stop you.‖
He picked her up carefully and pulled her tightly to his chest.
Bella said nothing, the last of her will and self-control ebbing out of her. She was spent. He had worn her down and her resistance was decimated.
Perhaps it was the champagne. Perhaps it was the drama of the day and their explosive encounter in his office. No matter the explanation, she couldn‘t resist him any more. Her heart was already beating a fevered pace, her insides melting at the heat that floated across her body. And further down, near her womb, came the not so subtle flutterings of desire.
He will consume me, body and soul.
In her dreams, it was always Edward to whom she gave her virginity. But not like this. Not with such hopelessness in the pit of her stomach, and whatever illegible emotion there was in his.
He carried her down the hall to his bedroom and tenderly placed her in the centre of his large, medieval bed.
Edward moved slowly. He lit a few candles and placed them around the room, on the night stands, on the dresser and the credenza underneath the painting of Dante and Beatrice. And then he turned out all the lights and disappeared into the bathroom.
Bella took this opportunity to examine his black and white photographs.
But they were gone.
The walls were bare, with the exception of the Holiday reproduction and six hooks and bits of wire that testified to the previous presence of the now absent pictures.
Why did he remove them? When did he remove them?
Bella was glad they were gone. She was afraid of how they might look in the flickering candlelight; their images glowing raw and Satanic in the semi-darkness. Depicting her soon to be sealed fate. Naked, nameless, faceless, soulless.
She only hoped the most aggressive one, the sixth photo, would not be what he had in mind for her first time.
Is that what he would want? Is that what he would demand? Tearing her clothes off, shoving her onto her naked stomach, pushing into her from behind . . . to not even look into her eyes as he took her virginity, no kisses, no love-making, nothing but aggression and domination.
Bella only knew of his sexual predilections from the photographs, and the fact that he had described what he did to women as fucking.
Her breathing began to speed as panic washed over her and she heard an old voice in her head,
―I want to fuck you like an animal.”
Edward returned just then, wearing a hunter green t-shirt and a pair of Black Watch tartan pyjama bottoms.
He placed a glass of water on the nightstand next to one of the candles, and then he pulled the covers back on the bed and lifted Bella so that he could place her under the sheets.
He undid her sneakers and gently pulled off her socks.
Bella flinched, but he pretended not to notice and reclined on his side by her feet, drawing them close to his chest. Then he began to tenderly caress the soles of her feet and her toes, rubbing gently and making her moan in spite of herself.
―Relax, Isabella. Don‘t fight it. This is supposed to be nice.‖
He murmured from time to time, more to himself than to her, and at one point Bella thought she heard him say la sua immagine. But she couldn‘t be sure. His voice was low, like a whisper, or a prayer.
Bella silently wondered which debauched gods he was addressing, and just as silently begged them to aid in her escape, instead.
Please don‟t let him consume me.
―I seem to recall that you liked my Magdalen College boxer shorts. They‘re in the top drawer, if you‘d like to borrow them. They don‘t fit me anymore.‖
Bella sniffled.
―Your pictures. The ones you used to have on the wall. Is that what you want . . . with me?‖
Edward‘s hands stilled against her feet. ―What?‖
Bella‘s eyes darted nervously to where the sixth photograph had hung and then back to Edward.
His face morphed rapidly from surprise into horror.
―Of course not, Isabella. What do you take me for?‖ His voice was a tragic, offended whisper.
―You‘re here, you‘re tired. I don‘t want to run the risk of losing you again before we talk.‖ He smiled smally. ―I wanted to make you a breakfast tray with parsley and orange sections, not take your virginity. And certainly not like that.‖
Edward shook his head.
―I‘m not a barbarian.‖
When she didn‘t respond, he placed her tiny feet under the covers.
He tucked her in as if she were a child and pressed a light kiss to her forehead, smoothing her hair back from her face.
―Let‘s try to forgive one another, shall we? We‘ve both been hurt and we‘ve both wasted so many years. Let‘s not waste any more time jumping to conclusions.‖
Then he stood up and began rubbing his eyes with the heels of his hands.
―It‘s quite possible you won‘t want me tomorrow, anyway,‖ he muttered.
―Call me if you need anything.‖
While Bella tossed and turned alone, she heard Edward playing the piano, softly but fluidly. She recognized the music, the first Arabesque by Debussy. And with the sounds of arpeggios imitating water falls, she eventually fell into a light sleep.
Later that night, Edward was lying on his back in the guest bed, his arm crooked over his face. He was hovering in between wakefulness and dreaming, when he felt a slight shift at his left.
A warm but small body moved towards him, gently tugging at the covers.
He thought he was dreaming.
The body crawled in beside him and moulded itself to his side. He felt long, soft curls whisper across his now naked chest. He heard a small, contented sigh as an arm slid across the ridges of his abdominal muscles, eventually resting on top of them.
Edward pressed a gentle kiss to the forehead that was crooked above his tattoo, and then slid his arm around the shoulders and down to the lower back, hesitantly moving his fingers under the t-shirt until they came in contact with soft, smooth skin. And dimples just above the waistband of a pair of boxers that were far too large.
The warm body sighed again and pressed soft, pillowy lips to his stubbled neck.
―I tried to stay away from you,‖ Bella‘s voice was hesitant. ―But I couldn‘t.‖
―I tried not to lick chocolate off your fingers. But I couldn‘t.‖ Edward‘s voice was playful, but there was a note of underlying sadness.
She hummed unconsciously at his remark.
―Why did you remove the photographs in your bedroom?‖
Edward squirmed slightly in her arms.
―Because I was ashamed.‖
―You weren‘t before.‖
―That was before I decided to bring an angel to my bed.‖
Lazy but curious hands caressed naked skin, exploring gently but chastely. Sighs commingled in the dark, as two souls breathed as one.
Two heartbeats synchronized when they recognized one another.
And then two troubled, conflicted minds finally came to rest.
Just as Edward was drifting off, he thought he heard her talking in her sleep; not sentences, just words that grew progressively more panicked, culminating in her breathless utterance of a name he‘d not heard before.
Relevant Translations:
Edward‘s French over dinner: ―Non, seulement de l‘eau ce soir. Mon ange,‖ translates as ―No, only water tonight. My angel.‖
Edward‘s Italian: ―La luce della sua umilitate,‖ translates as ―the light of your humility.‖
―La sua imagine,‖ translates as ―her image‖


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Data d'iscrizione : 01.01.11
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