capitolo sedici

Andare in basso

capitolo sedici

Messaggio  simona80 il Dom 06 Mar 2011, 03:14

Chapter Sixteen
Peter, hi. Sorry. Didn‟t hear doorbell. Broken? Masen scolded me but won‟t have to drop class. (phew) Have to find new advisor. Working on it. Chat later & thanks, B.
Peter stared in confusion at the text message he had just received from Bella. A broken doorbell? That seemed convenient.
He didn‘t know whether she was giving him the brush off because she was embarrassed about her altercation with Masen or for some other reason. In either case, he didn‘t have time to track her down and find out; Masen had emailed him with a list of books that he wanted checked out of the library and delivered to his office before one o‘clock.
Peter sent Bella a short reply saying he was glad she was alright and then he walked quickly from his apartment to Robarts Library, shaking his head.
-
Bella knelt backwards on the leather sofa, resting her chin on her folded arms. From this position she could see much of downtown and part of Lake Ontario. The view through Edward‘s floor to ceiling windows was remarkable. The trees of the city had changed colour and were now dappled in gold and yellow and brilliant orange and red. They reminded Bella of the oil paintings Peter had taken her to see at the Art Gallery of Ontario; paintings by The Group of Seven.
She had volunteered to help Edward clean up after breakfast, but he wouldn‘t hear of it. He‘d kissed her forehead and asked her to relax.
As if relaxing was even an option.
Gazing at the Toronto skyline enabled her to focus on something beautiful while she replayed her conversation with Edward over and over in her head, trying to match it with their previous encounters.
How had she been so blind?
And why had the Cullens hidden Edward‘s addiction from her? They had always told her that she was a member of the family. But not even Alice had ever breathed a word about it. Unless one considered what she said recently about his darkness. Did all of the Cullens speak in extended metaphors like metaphysical poets? Bella would have needed a literary criticism class in order to interpret their allusions.
Edward leaned up against the fireplace, staring at her. She looked remarkably at home perched on his sofa, looking out his window. But her tense shoulders telegraphed worry.
He sat next to her, purposefully leaving a healthy gap between them. When she made no move to inch closer to him or even to look at him, he extended his hand.
―Please.‖ He smiled at her.
Bella took his hand reluctantly and found herself pulled to his side. He wrapped both arms around her and kissed her hair.
―That‘s better,‖ he whispered.
Bella sighed and closed her eyes.
―Comfortable?‖
―Yes.‖
Edward felt her little body all that had been discussed he was rather surprised that she could relax with him.
―When was the last time someone held you like this?‖ He began stroking her hair absentmindedly, when in reality he was anything but.
―Last night.‖
He chuckled. ―I seem to remember that. But before?‖
―I don‘t remember.‖ Bella‘s tone was defensive and so Edward elected not to press her.
She‟s probably starved for physical affection. Alcoholic mothers don‟t have the wherewithal to look after their children. And that Jacob character probably didn‟t hold her – unless he was trying to rip her clothes off.
The mere idea made him furious – that someone would treat her with so little care. He knew that something about their physical connection calmed her, as it did him. And that led him to believe that she had had little experience with positive physical contact.
―Is this alright? Holding you like this?‖ he whispered against her hair.
―Yes.‖
―Good.‖
And for effect, Edward traced the hairline around her face, brushing a wisp of hair back from her cheek. ―So beautiful,‖ he whispered. ―So lovely.‖
They sat like that for some time until Bella found her voice and decided to ask a question that she had been wondering about.
―The photo that you had over the bed, where the man is kissing the woman‘s shoulder blade, where did you find it?‖
Edward pressed his lips together.
―I didn‘t.‖
―Then where – ―
―Does it matter?‖
―If you don‘t want to tell me, that‘s fine. I saw it in the closet when I was looking for a sweater. It‘s very beautiful.‖ She tried to move away from him, but he held her fast.
―Do you really think it‘s beautiful?‖ His voice grew soft and he lifted her chin so he could gaze down into her eyes.
―Yes,‖ she breathed.
―And the others?‖
―Not so much.‖
Edward smirked at her.
―I didn‘t find them. I made them.‖
―You made them?‖ She pulled back in surprise.
―Yes.‖
―But they‘re ...‖
―Erotic?‖
―Yes.‖
He smiled wryly. ―Is it difficult to believe that I could take a beautiful and erotic photograph, Miss Swan?‖
―I didn‘t know you were a photographer. And those aren‘t regular photographs.‖
―I‘m not much of one, really. But they turned out nicely, I think. I have others.‖
Bella‘s jaw dropped.
Others?
―And the women?‖
Edward shifted slightly.
―The women are, or rather were, friends of mine.‖
―Models?‖
―No.‖
Bella crinkled her face in confusion until the answer finally dawned on her. And then with eyebrows raised, she gave Edward a very surprised look.
He sighed and began rubbing his eyes.
―Yes, I‘m sure it was in poor taste to display them. And it was certainly in poor taste to subject you to them when they‘re personal in that way. That‘s why I felt it necessary to remove them before I brought you into my bedroom. But the photos were taken with their consent. In a few cases they begged, actually. And you‘ll notice that I‘m in more than one of them, too. So I was far from being a prurient observer.‖
Bella forgot her question about which photograph was of Tanya and drew back in complete and utter astonishment.
―That‘s you?‖
―Yes.‖
―But the one – I was asking you about, that‘s you?‖
His eyebrows knit together.
―Don‘t act so surprised. I thought you found me attractive.‖
―But you‘re naked in that photo.‖ Flaming red and very flustered, Bella began waving a hand furiously in front of herself, fanning her heated skin.
Edward laughed heartily and drew her in closer.
―I am naked in all of those photos.‖ His voice oozed sex as he crooned in her ear.
―That photo was my favourite too, even though in the end I didn‘t like the woman very much.‖
He smiled a slow, smouldering grin and kissed the top of her head.
―I‟d like to take your picture.‖
―I don‘t think so.‖
―You‘re beautiful, Isabella. A photo of you – even a photo of your smile or your profile or your elegant neck would be far more lovely than any of the art I own. Including Holiday‘s painting.‖
Bella shook her head.
―I‘ll ask you again some day. Now, how about a reservation tonight at Scaramouche? It‘s one of my favourite restaurants.‖
―I don‘t think dinner out is a good idea.‖ Bella was still trying to catch her breath.
―Why not?‖
―Didn‘t you say we shouldn‘t be seen in public?‖
Edward frowned.
―But I know the owner. I can reserve the chef‘s table where we‘d be away from prying eyes. Unless you‘d rather go to Harbour Sixty to see Antonio. He has been pestering me to bring you back.‖
―Really?‖
―Really. He told me all about the meal you shared with he and his family at the Italian-Canadian Club.‖
―Antonio was very kind to me.‖
Edward nodded and then moved as if to kiss her, but she placed a hand on his chest to stop him.
―I can‘t go to dinner with you tonight. I have a meeting with Katherine Picton tomorrow and I‘m not ready for it.‖
―Tomorrow?‖
―She invited me to tea at her house. I was asked to bring my proposal. She kind of scares me.‖
―Wait ‗til you meet her. She‘s tiny and looks like someone‘s grandmother. But don‘t let that fool you, she‘s brilliant and definitely no-nonsense. She‘ll expect you to address her as Professor Picton and she doesn‘t do small talk or speak of anything personal.‖
―Only pretentious Oxonians prefer to be addressed as Professor,‖ murmured Bella.
He frowned at her until she winked at him.
―She‘s very formal but she‘s a hell of an academic and if you can work with her, it will be very good for you. Just be on your best behaviour and I‘m sure she‘ll take to you. As much as she is capable of doing.‖
Bella shivered slightly and Edward responded by tightening his arms about her.
―Don‘t worry, she will be interested in your proposal. I‘m sure she‘s going to change it but if I were you, I would accept all of her corrections without argument. She knows what she‘s doing.‖
―I‘m sure she has more important things to do during her retirement than supervise random grad students.‖
―I helped her out with something once. So when I told her I had this brilliant student but I didn‘t feel comfortable supervising her because she was a friend of the family, she agreed to meet you. She‘s pretty sceptical about today‘s youth; she doesn‘t think they‘re as talented or as hard-working as they were when she was in graduate school. So she didn‘t promise me anything.‖
―You didn‘t have to do this for me.‖
Edward wound a lock of her hair around one of his long, thin fingers. ―I wanted to do something nice for you. I‘m sorry you weren‘t able to go to Harvard this year.‖
Bella looked down at her hands. ―It led me back to you, didn‘t it?‖
Edward smiled, even with his eyes. ―Yes, it did.‖
After an intense moment, he shifted his weight so that he could check his Rolex. He groaned.
―What is it?‖
―I have to go. I have a meeting.‖
―I should go, too.‖
She climbed off the couch and walked quickly to pick up her knapsack, slinging it over her shoulder and searching for her coat.
Edward crossed the room in three strides and put his hands on her shoulders.
―Stay. I won‘t be long and I‘ll come right back.‖
She brought her lip between her teeth and grazed on it thoughtfully.
Edward poked his thumb in between her teeth and her lip, effectively freeing her scraped
flesh. ―Don‘t. It troubles me when you do that.‖
He withdrew his thumb quickly lest she misread his intention, but not before accidentally grazing her tongue.
It was difficult to tell whose accident it had been.
―What‘s your meeting about?‖
Edward began tugging on his hair, coaxing the bronze and copper strands to stand on end.
―It‘s with Angela. It‘s going to be unpleasant. But it would go much easier if I knew that you would be here waiting for me.‖
―I have so much work to do. And I have to call Peter. Apparently he went to my apartment last night to check on me.‖
Edward‘s eyebrows went up.
―I sent him a text telling him I was fine. I said I wasn‘t going to have to drop your class, but that I had to find a new director. I don‘t know how I am going to explain having Katherine Picton as my advisor.‖
Edward fumed.
―You don‘t owe him an explanation. Tell him it‘s none of his business.‖
―He‘s a friend, Edward.‖
―Then mention something about a connection between your Harvard application and Katherine. She‘s a friend of Garrett Armstrong.‖
She nodded and began buttoning up her coat.
He took her hands in his. ―Bella, wait for me.‖
He walked over to his study and disappeared for a few minutes. When he returned, he pressed an old hard-covered book into her hands.
She read the title, The Figure of Beatrice: A Study in Dante by Charles Williams.
―I want you to have this.‖
―Edward, I can‘t. I want you to stop giving me things.‖ She held it out to him.
―You will impress Katherine if you are familiar with this book. She‘s a fan of Dorothy L. Sayers and Sayers borrowed a lot of her insights on The Divine Comedy from Williams.‖
He cleared his throat. ―There are no strings here, Isabella. And no shame.‖
Bella stared at the volume and smoothed her hand over its old binding.
―At least take it until she agrees to be your advisor.‖
―Thank you.‖
―You‘re welcome. Now, we need to talk about something else.‖
She looked up at him nervously.
―It would be much easier if you weren‘t my student, but you are. At least for now.‖
She inhaled sharply.
Edward pulled at his hair. ―Sorry. That didn‘t come out right. What I mean is, I can‘t be your thesis supervisor. Obviously. But that still leaves the problem of the Dante seminar.‖
―I need that seminar. It‘s too late to replace it with something else, so dropping it would throw me off track from finishing in one year. And I need that seminar for my specialization. And my thesis.‖
―The non-fraternization policy covers students in a faculty member‘s classes, not just students under thesis supervision. That means that I cannot have a relationship with you while you are my student. Next semester, of course, is entirely different. You won‘t be my student anymore.‖
She knew this. The Declaration of Graduate Student Rights and Responsibilities had said as much. Faculty were not allowed to sleep with their current students, that much was clear. And graduate students were not allowed to sleep with supervising faculty members. Or else ...
Of course, Bella wasn‘t planning on sleeping with Edward.
She wondered if he remembered that.
―I won‘t lose you again,‖ he whispered. ―And I won‘t keep you from doing what you came here to do. So we‘re going to have to figure something out. In the meantime, I will have a conversation with my lawyer.‖
―Your lawyer?‖
―A preemptive, privileged conversation about what I can expect from the University if I intend to date one of my students while she is in my class.‖
Bella placed a trembling hand on his sleeve. ―Do you want to lose your job? To have to leave here and go somewhere smaller and less prestigious?‖
―Of course not,‖ he said roughly.
―I‘ve already jeopardized your career once. I won‘t do it again. We‘ll have to stay away from one another and when the semester is over we can talk about this again. You might change your mind, you know, and decide you don‘t want me.‖
She looked down at her sneakers and nervously wiggled her toes.
―That is not going to happen, Isabella.‖
―We‘re still getting to know one another, Edward. Maybe five weeks of friendship is just what we need.‖
―Friends go to dinner. How about tomorrow night?‖
She shook her head forcefully. ―Why don‘t you call me? I promise I‘ll answer my phone.‖
Edward frowned.
―So when will I see you again?‖
―At your seminar next Wednesday.‖
―That‘s too far off.‖
―That‘s just the way it is, Professor.‖
Bella gave him a half smile and walked towards the door.
―Aren‘t you forgetting something?‖
She quickly checked her knapsack to make sure she had her keys.
―I don‘t think so.‖
Edward stalked towards her, his eyes momentarily dark.
―No kiss goodbye for poor, lonely Edward?‖ he whispered, his voice intentionally seductive.
Bella gulped. ―Friends don‘t kiss the way you do.‖
He came closer, until her back was pressed up against the front door.
―Just a friendly peck. Scout‘s honour.‖
―Were you ever a Boy Scout?‖
―No.‖
Edward brought his hand up slowly so as not to spook her, and then he gently caressed her cheek with the back of his hand.
He smiled at her disarmingly and she found herself smiling back.
Edward pressed his lips to hers, firmly but lightly.
And then he held them there.
Bella waited for him to do something, to open his mouth, to move, anything, but he didn‘t.
He was frozen still, applying gentle pressure to her lips, and then he pulled back and gave her a crooked smile.
―That wasn‘t so bad, was it?‖ He chuckled as he traced her jaw line with the tip of his finger.
Bella shook her head.
―Good bye, Edward.‖
As the front door closed behind her, Edward leaned up against the wall and rubbed his eyes, muttering to no one in particular.
-
After Edward returned home from a very unpleasant and slightly colourful meeting with Angela Webber, he grabbed a Perrier from the fridge and dialed the number of James Greenspan, his lawyer.
Edward had not had need of James‘ services for quite some time and he preferred to keep it that way. James had some shady clients but he was the best and Edward knew it, especially when it came to Canadian criminal law. However, James was not a specialist in employment law, which he pointed out to Edward more than once during their thirty minute conversation.
―I need to warn you, if the non-fraternization policy is a condition of your employment, you violate it at your peril and at the peril of your job. So let me ask you a question – are you sleeping with her?‖
―No,‖ said Edward tersely.
―Good. Don‘t start now. In fact, my professional advice to you is to keep your distance from this girl until you hear from me. How old is she?‖
―Pardon?‖
―The girl, Edward, the twinkie.‖
―Call her that again and I take my business elsewhere.‖
James paused. Edward was a tough son of a bitch, he knew, and a bit of a brawler. And James didn‘t have the energy for a telephone altercation.
―Let me rephrase, the young lady in question, how old is she?‖
―Twenty-three.‖
James breathed a sigh of a relief. ―Good. At least we‘re not dealing with a minor.‖
―Once again, James, I‘ll pretend I didn‘t hear that.‖
―Listen Masen, I‘m your lawyer. Let me do my job. I can‘t give you a professional opinion on your situation until I know all the facts. My partner sued the University of Toronto last year, I‘ll get her to bring me up to speed. But for now, my advice to you is to steer clear of this girl but whatever you do, don‘t sleep with her. Do you understand what I‘m saying?‖
―Yes.‖
―And let me be even more explicit. Don‘t engage in any kind of sexual activity with her, at all. We don‘t want to be drawn into a Clintonian debate about what constitutes sexual relations. Do nothing with her; it doesn‘t matter if the activity is consensual.‖
―What if we‘re involved romantically, but not sexually?‖
James paused for a moment and began cleaning his ear out with the tip of his baby finger.
―I didn‘t quite catch that.‖
―I said, what if I‘m seeing her socially but there is no sexual contact.‖
James laughed loudly. ―Are you kidding me with this, Masen? I don‘t believe you, and I get paid to. No one else will believe you, either.‖
―That‘s not the point, James. The point is, if I am not engaging in sexual activity with my student, does our relationship violate the policy?‖
―No one is going to believe that you are having a relationship with a student that does not involve sex, especially given your reputation. Of course, the onus is on the employer to provide evidence of the relationship, unless your chiquita files a complaint against you or someone catches the two of you in a compromising situation. Or she ends up pregnant.‖
―That isn‘t going to happen.‖
―Everyone always says that, Masen.‖
Edward cleared his throat. ―Yes, but in this case, it would be beyond the realm of possibility. For more than one reason.‖
James rolled his eyes and decided not to give the Professor a biology lesson. ―Nevertheless, if you were caught, and there was no sexual contact, you‘d likely face only a reprimand for an improper relationship. But I can‘t state for certain without reading the policy. And I need to know from my partner what kind of precedents the University has set up for itself.‖
―Thank you.‖
―It‘s your ass and not mine if something blows up here, so be careful. I get paid either way, remember that. I‘m going to seek counsel on this from my partner. You‘ll hear from me soon.‖ James cleared his throat. ―And Edward?‖
―Yes?‖
―I would stay out of trouble and out of the public eye for the next little while. No girls, no fist fights, no public drunkenness, or anything of the sort. Any lawsuit with the University will expose your past, remember that. Let‘s try to keep the past in the past, okay?‖
―Alright, James.‖
And with that, Edward hung up the phone and grabbed his keys, deciding to work out his frustration at his boxing club.
-
When Bella returned to her apartment, she eagerly searched the now hibernating flower bed for any fragments of Edward‘s card. Sadly, all she found were a few ripped pieces, far from enough to reconstruct his note.
Now she would never know what he had written to her.
She spent most of the day skimming Charles Williams‘ book, making notes that she hoped would help with her meeting with Katherine. She had to admit, Edward‘s foresight on this point was almost providential. Williams had a mastery of Dante that offered her a lot of suggestions for her thesis.
Later that evening, Bella telephoned Charlie to give him the happy news that she had won a bursary that would enable her to fly home for Thanksgiving. She had hoped she could ask him a few questions about what he remembered about Edward. Unfortunately, she only reached his answering machine. She left a brief message and asked him to call her back. And then she wondered with a slight shudder if Charlie was spending the night at Sue‘s house.
Before she went to sleep, she sat on her bed listening to her iPod and thinking about Edward. He had uploaded two songs for her; the second song was Dante‟s prayer, also by Loreena McKennitt.
The song made Bella weep,
―When the dark wood fell before me And all the paths were overgrown When the priests of pride say there is no other way I tilled the sorrows of stone
I did not believe because I could not see Though you came to me in the night When the dawn seemed forever lost You showed me your love in the light of the stars
Cast your eyes on the ocean Cast your soul to the sea When the dark night seems endless Please remember me
Though we share this humble path, alone How fragile is the heart Oh give these clay feet wings to fly To touch the face of the stars
Breathe life into this feeble heart Lift this mortal veil of fear Take these crumbled hopes, etched with tears We'll rise above these earthly cares ...”
When she had dried her tears, Bella stumbled over to her dresser drawer and removed a photograph. She fell asleep that night with the photograph under her pillow, pondering the following three things:
First, Edward was a drug addict. She knew without doubt that if his addiction ever overtook him it would overtake her, as well; dragging her down to depths she did not wish to inhabit.
Second, any relationship with Edward had the potential to taint both their careers. Once their connection was discovered, he‘d be the gifted young professor who‘d tapped a piece of ass he found in one of his seminars, making him the subject of tantalizing innuendo at faculty cocktail parties. She would be the young slut who spread her legs to get her degree because she wasn‘t smart enough to do it any other way. It didn‘t really matter if they waited until the semester was over or not, the gossip would tarnish them both.
Third, she had fallen in love with Edward Masen when she was seventeen. She had tried to suppress it when he didn‘t come home; she had tried to kill it by developing feelings for someone else. But snuggled in his arms the night before, a wave of emotion had crashed over her and all her little defenses were carried out to sea like a toppled sandcastle. The love she had for Edward was still there, a small flame burning brightly that not all the water in the ocean could extinguish.
So perhaps it was the case that she had no choice now because she had made her choice then. She had made her choice when he asked for her hand and she‘d offered it without question. Once he touched her she knew she was his. Afterwards, he had always been there in the shadows, like a ghost who would not leave.
And now the ghost had decided that he wanted her.
But Bella believed that he would never, ever love her.
-
The next morning, Bella checked her cell phone and was surprised to find a message from Edward. He had called after she had fallen asleep and left the following voice mail:
―Isabella, you promised you‟d answer your phone. (sigh) I‟m assuming all is well and that you‟re in the shower or something. Call me when you get this message.
―I‟m sorry I couldn‟t take you to dinner this evening, but I would like to have dinner with you tomorrow night. Can we at least talk about it? (pause) Call me, principessa. Please.”
Bella immediately saved his number on her phone, but entered his name as ―Dante Alighieri.‖ And then she called him back.
Unfortunately, she reached his voice mail.
―Hello, it‟s me. Um, I‟m sorry I didn‟t get your message last night. I fell asleep. Um, of course it would be nice to see you but I think dinner is too risky. I want to get to know you again Edward and I‟m hoping we can find some way to do that. Sorry I missed your call. I‟ll talk to you later.”
Bella didn‘t like speaking to voice mailboxes, for they always made her feel awkward.
She spent most of Friday working on her thesis proposal before her meeting. She kept her cell phone on, just in case. But Edward didn‘t call her.
She did, however, receive a call from Peter. Their conversation was cut short because Peter was interrupted in his study carrel by Professor Masen. But since Masen seemed in a much better mood that day, Peter had only a slight reticence in believing that he had gone easy on Bella. And Bella did her best to eliminate that reticence.
They made plans to accompany each other to the Professor‘s lecture, which was scheduled for a week hence, and they also discussed the possibility of visiting the Florentine art exhibit at the museum when it arrived in two weeks.
By the time Bella ended her conversation with Peter, she felt much better and from the tone of his voice, she could tell that Peter was much relieved.
Crisis averted.
After her very interesting meeting with Katherine, Bella came home and fed herself a modest meal of cream of tomato soup. Then she decided to take a long, hot shower and wash her hair.
When she was finished, she wrapped herself in a purple towel that barely covered her from breasts to bottom and wandered over to her closet to choose a pair of flannel pyjamas to wear to bed. In view of the chill in the late October air and the proximity to Hallowe‘en, she decided that jack o‘lantern pyjamas were in order. If she could find them.
That‘s when she heard it.
Tap, tap, tap.
Startled, Bella yelped.
A muffled voice from outside her window started speaking rather loudly and the tapping noise continued in earnest.
She ran to the window and threw back the curtain.
And looked straight down into the worried face of Edward.
―You scared the hell out of me!‖ she screeched, unlocking the ancient window and trying with one hand to pull it upwards, while anxiously clutching her towel with the other.
―You wouldn‘t answer your phone. Or the doorbell. I thought something was wrong. Then I walked into the backyard and saw your lights were on.‖
Edward noticed that she was struggling and slid his fingers underneath the window. ―Let me do this.‖
With one movement, he lifted the window and then proceeded to hand her a couple of paper bags.
―What‘s this?‖
―Dinner. Now stand back, it‘s cold out here.‖
Edward placed his hands on the windowsill and appeared to be trying to hoist himself up.
―What are you doing?‖
―I‘m crawling through your window. What does it look like I‘m doing?‖
―I could let you in the front door like a normal human being,‖ she protested, putting the paper bags on her card table.
Edward eyed her somewhat hungrily as he swung his legs through the window. ―Not undressed like that you can‘t.‖
He closed the window tightly, locked it and then pulled the curtain closed.
―You should put some clothes on.‖
Bella shivered as Edward reached out a finger to stroke the skin of her bare shoulder. Smooth, soft, young, wet and warm.
She wrapped the towel more tightly around herself as Edward averted his eyes. She was barely covered and damp from the shower, and the sight of the two together ... he twitched. More than once.
―Please get dressed now, Isabella.‖ His voice was low and rough.
Bella reacted to what she thought was his embarrassment and immediately began backing up towards the closet.
―I‘ll change in the bathroom,‖ she mumbled, hurriedly searching for a yoga outfit and her old shearling slippers.
―Why don‘t you have the heat on?‖ he called to her as she darted into the bathroom.
―It is on.‖
―Hardly. It‘s almost the same temperature in here as it is outside. And wandering around in a towel and nothing else will make you sick.‖
Bella closed the door behind her, effectively ending their conversation.
Edward adjusted himself as he looked around for a thermostat but of course, there wasn‘t one. He was soon on his hands and knees wrestling with the aged radiator that was the only source of heat in the main room of the apartment.
How can she live like this? It‟s freezing in here.
When Bella exited the bathroom, she found Edward still in his dress coat, kneeling in front of her radiator as if he it were an altar.
She giggled.
―You‘re on your knees more than the average professor.‖
Edward shot her a look.
―Very amusing, Isabella. This radiator is useless. Do you have a space heater?‖
―There is an electric baseboard heater in the bathroom. But it‘s expensive, so I don‘t use it.‖
Edward shook his head as he got to his feet and strode past her into the bathroom. He cranked the heat and then made sure to leave the bathroom door wide open.
―Just let me warm the apartment up a little and then I‘ll turn it down. Your hair is wet and you‘re going to catch cold. You should let me make you some tea,‖ he said, hanging his coat up on the back of her front door.
―I could do that,‖ she said softly.
―Allow me.‖
He pressed a kiss to her forehead. Then he picked up the electric kettle, filled it with water from the bathroom faucet, and got down on hands and knees to plug it in underneath the dresser.
Bella tried very hard not to stare at the way his black wool trousers clung to his really very fine derrière as he plugged in the kettle. To distract herself, she compared his current behaviour with the way he had behaved during his last visit to her little hobbit hole. It was as if there were two Edwards and she was only now being visited by the nice one.
This newer model is just as beautiful, but infinitely more attractive.
―Now,‖ he said, looking around. ―I need to warm you up.‖
Edward fixed his eyes on her and pulled her into a hug, rubbing his hands up and down her back.
―Are you alright?‖
―Yes.‖
―Why don‘t you answer your phone?‖
―I answer it. Just not while I‘m asleep or in the shower.‖
―I was worried. You didn‘t answer last night and you didn‘t answer about an hour ago.‖
―I was washing my hair.‖
Edward buried his face against her neck, inhaling her scent.
Strawberry.
―Isabella,‖ he began, staring down at her and bringing his left hand to touch her face.
She blinked rapidly. ―Yes?‖
Edward was silent.
She looked up at him in surprise. His eyes were dark and he was staring at her intensely.
He leaned over and began feathering his lips up and down the left side of her neck, beginning just under her ear lobe and ending at her collarbone.
A flash of want immediately flared in Bella‘s stomach and lower down.
He‘d never kissed her so lightly; so softly, his lips barely floating over the surface of her skin and making every drop of blood in her body rush to that space.
His touch had never felt so erotic, so affectionate.
Up and down and up and down, he worshipped the curve of her neck, now and then darting his tongue out to taste her skin. Now and then he withdrew his lips so that he could nuzzle her gently with his nose or his chin, the slightest hint of stubble subtly scratching across her flesh.
He fluttered his mouth with soft kisses down to the hollow at the centre of her throat and pressed his lips there firmly, and then began his sojourn up and down the right side of her neck.
Bella moaned and closed her eyes, sliding her arms up his back to wrap her hands in his hair. Her fingertips moved of their own accord, stroking the edge of his hairline just above his shirt collar.
―Mmmmmmm,‖ she breathed.
―Does this please you?‖ he whispered, continuing his gentle kissing.
She murmured her appreciation.
―I want to bring you pleasure, Isabella. More than you know.‖
He paid special attention to the skin around her ear and just under her jaw line, teasing her slightly with his tongue.
―Tell me if I‟m pleasing you.‖
She barely heard the question, focused as she was on the myriad sensations that coursed through her body and the warmth that bloomed across her flesh. She no longer felt cold. She no longer felt anything but him.
―You please me, Edward,‖ she whispered.
―This is a declaration of desire,‖ he breathed against her ear, making her tremble. ―If we were lovers, I would kiss you like this to signal my intention to take you to bed. And you can only imagine the delights that await you there. But at this moment, I can only declare that I burn for you. And I won‘t let myself touch your lips for fear that I wouldn‘t be able to stop.‖
Bella moaned even louder and Edward continued, moving her hair away from her shoulders so he could expand his exploration. He poured out the lightest of kisses, covering her neck until he finally took the edge of her earlobe in his mouth and drew on it slightly, tracing the edge delicately with his tongue.
―If I were to taste your mouth now I couldn‘t answer for the consequences. So I can only adore this beautiful white neck. And I know in a few seconds I will have to pull away, before the temptation becomes too much. It‘s too much already. You have no idea the effect you have on me. You have no idea how much I want you.‖
Edward‘s voice rasped and he seemed to be breathing rather fast.
Bella felt her legs grow weak and she started to sway ... And that‘s when the electric kettle began to whistle at them.
Edward pressed a chaste kiss to her cheeks and then went to make tea, while Bella sat down shakily on one of the chairs.
Her heart was thumping so loudly she thought she was having a heart attack. She leaned her head forward, holding it in her upturned hands trying to ward off a faint.
If I‟m this unglued while he‟s kissing me, what am I going to be like if he were to …?
―What kind of tea, darling?‖ Edward‘s voice held only the smallest edge of amusement as he watched her try to catch her breath.
Of course, the only reason why he was able to catch his breath so quickly was because he had walked away from her. And he was far more skilled than she at hiding his feelings. Except upon visual inspection.
―Lady Grey. It‘s in the tin by the teapot.‖ Bella‘s voice was shaky.
―I‘m not a tea drinker, so it won‘t be as good as yours. But hopefully it will be potable.‖
She arched an eyebrow at his pretentious choice of adjectives, but politely thanked him when he placed the pot of tea and teacup and saucer in front of her.
―I bought a few things for dinner. Have you eaten yet?‖
―I had soup.‖
―Isabella.‖ He sat next to her and gave her a scolding look. ―Soup is not a meal.‖
―Yes, Seinfeld, I believe I‘ve heard that before.‖
She rolled her eyes and Edward laughed.
The first items he took from the bag were a bottle of wine and a Rabbit corkscrew.
―Do you have wineglasses?‖
―Yes.‖ Bella stumbled over to her small kitchen area to fetch them. She still had doubts about Edward‘s relationship to alcohol, especially in light of his past. But she had decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. For the present.
When Bella returned to the table, she read the wine label.
Serego Alighieri Vaio Armaron Amarone 2000.
―Is that who I think it is?‖ She extended a finger towards the bottle.
Edward took her hand and pressed his lips to her palm. ―Yes. Dante‘s son bought the vineyard in the fourteenth century and the Masi family still produce wine from it.‖
He sat back in his folding chair and regarded her quietly. She seemed awestruck.
―I didn‘t know his family had a vineyard.‖
―It‘s a very good wine, Isabella. Although in light of our past, perhaps you find the choice overly sentimental?‖
She shook her head. ―No. No, I don‘t.‖
―I had to work late, but I wanted to have dinner with you, so I went to Pusateri‘s and ordered take out. There‘s manicotti, Caesar salad, and a loaf of bread. How‘s that?‖
Bella looked at the array of food set in front of her and immediately felt hungry.
―What are these?‖ She pointed to a cellophane package of cookies that had a reindeer on the label.
Edward grinned. ―Lime cookies from the Dancing Deer Baking Company. They‘re my favourite. Why don‘t you let me look after this while you dry your hair and drink your tea?‖
He reached out his hand to run it through Bella‘s long, wet curls.
―Why do you keep feeding me?‖
His hand stilled.
―I told you, I like giving you pleasure.‖ He withdrew his hand and cast her a quizzical look. ―This is how a man acts when he is interested in a woman, Isabella. He‘s attentive and anticipatory.‖
He flashed her a wicked grin. ―Perhaps I‘m trying to indicate that if I am this attentive with respect to sating your culinary longings, I‘ll be even more attentive with respect to satisfying other – ah – appetites.‖
Bella flushed immediately and Edward touched her cheek with his hand.
―Your blush is lovely,‖ he breathed. ―Like a rose in first bloom.‖
He gazed at her admiringly.
―Alice stopped blushing when she started sleeping with Jasper.‖
Bella gave him a questioning look. ―How do you know that?‖
―As I recall, we all noticed it. One minute she was reading The Little Prince and the next she was buying lingerie.‖
Bella chewed at her lip thoughtfully. ―I loved that book.‖
―On ne voit bien qu'avec le coeur. L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux,‖ quoted Edward.
―Exactly,‖ she murmured. ―I like the part when the prince talks to the fox about the process of taming.‖
―Isabella, I think you should dry your hair now.‖
He removed his hand from her face and stood up quickly, turning his back on her allegedly so that he could prepare dinner, leaving Bella to wonder what had so disquieted him.
-
After dinner, they found themselves sitting on her bed as if it were a sofa. Edward propped up some pillows against the wall and leaned back, putting his arm around Bella‘s waist.
―I‘m sorry it‘s so uncomfortable,‖ she apologized meekly.
―It‘s not uncomfortable.‖
―I know you hate this place. It‘s small and cold and -.‖ Bella didn‘t finish her sentence, she just gestured to the room with a wave of her hand.
Edward shook his head.
―I will regret forever what I said to you when you were kind enough to invite me in out of the rain. I don‘t hate this place. How could I? You‘ve made your apartment a home.‖ He interlaced his fingers were hers. ―And this is where you are.‖
―Thank you.‖
―Thank you for making everything beautiful just by being.‖
She smiled as he brought their hands up to his mouth and kissed each of her fingers tenderly, one by one.
―Now tell me about your meeting with Katherine.‖
Bella had to wait a moment until her fingers stopped tingling before she began.
―Well, she was exactly as you described. But she was very happy I‘d read Charles Williams. I think that warmed her up a little. She agreed to be my advisor.‖
―And what did she think of your proposal?‖
―Um, she thought it was derivative and so she suggested that rather than comparing courtly love and lust, I should compare aspects of the friendship between Virgil and Dante with the theme of courtly love. So rather than discussing lust and love, I‘ll be discussing love and friendship.‖
―Are you happy with that?‖
―I think so. We decided that I should take Professor Leaming‘s Aquinas seminar next semester because it‘s going to be on love and friendship.‖
Edward nodded. ―I know Jennifer Leaming. She‘s quite good.‖
Bella fidgeted with the duvet.
He placed his hand over hers.
―What?‖
―Nothing.‖
―No hiding, Isabella. What is it?‖ He lifted her chin so that he could look into her eyes.
―I emailed Professor Leaming a week ago to ask if she would be my director. That was before you and I had our, um, conversation.‖
Edward‘s eyes grew momentarily cold.
―And what did she say?‖
―She didn‘t.‖
―Jennifer is very busy. She‘s untenured and I doubt she has time to supervise graduate students in the Philosophy Department, let alone other students.‖ He paused. ―When I told you I would find you another director, did you not believe me?‖
Bella squirmed. ―I believed you.‖
―Then why did you feel the need to go behind my back?‖
―I wanted to see if I could fix it on my own.‖
Edward pressed his mouth into a hard line. ―And how did that work out?‖
―It didn‘t.‖
―Sooner or later you are going to have to trust me. Particularly about things having to do with the University. Or this isn‘t going to work.‖
She nodded, chewing the inside of her mouth slightly. ―Tell me about your meeting with Angela.‖
―I‘d rather not. She‘s a pest.‖
Bella tried in vain to smother a smile.
―She‘s far too busy trying to rescue her dissertation proposal to trouble us. I won‘t accept her project as it is, which means she has to find another supervisor. And as you know, I‘m the only professor supervising theses on Dante at the moment.‖
―So Angela is out?‖
―I told her today that I would give her until December 18th to turn in an acceptable proposal. And that was a gift. So don‘t worry about her anymore. Her academic future hangs by a thread, and I‘m holding the end of it.‖
Good, thought Bella.
―I had an interesting conversation with my lawyer today.‖
She took another sip of wine and waited for him to continue.
―He said that he‘s going to look into the non-fraternization policy, but he strongly warned against any kind of romantic relationship with you while you‘re in my class.‖
She reddened. ―Does that include kissing?‖
―Assuredly, but he pointed out that the University is concerned primarily with sexual activity. So as long as we‘re chaste and discreet this semester I don‘t think we‘ll have a problem.‖
Bella reddened even further and looked down into her wine glass.
He gave her a lopsided grin.
―So you‘ll have to keep your hands to yourself, Miss Swan, until I‘ve turned your grade in. After that, well …‖ Edward grinned at her suggestively.
―You can‘t be kissing me one minute and grading my essay the next.‖
―At this point, I couldn‘t be objective about your work even if I tried. I‘ll have Katherine grade it.‖
―Won‘t she find that peculiar?‖
He smiled. ―I‘ll make an excuse. And I‘ll buy her a bottle of sixteen year old Lagavulin. It would resurrect the dead.‖
―You‘re still proposing fraternization – of a sort.‖
Edward cupped her face in his hands. ―But it‘s less serious than an affair and therefore puts us at much lower risk with the Administration. I have my lawyer looking at all the loopholes.‖
―I don‘t want to be a loophole.‖
He gave her a very serious look.
―I don‘t view you as one. But do you want me to stay away for five weeks and not see you at all? Not hold your hand or put my arms about you? Is that what you want?‖
Bella thought for a moment and the thought made her ill. Not trusting herself to put her feelings into words, she simply shook her head.
―I‘d like to continue to see you, as friends of course. You‘re still deciding if you can trust me and we‘re still getting to know one another. And what the University doesn‘t know won‘t hurt us.‖
Edward took her wine glass and placed it alongside his on the card table. When he returned, her pulled her so that she was almost sitting in his lap.
―We can pretend we‘re both seventeen and living in Forks. I‘ve just climbed through your window to sneak into your room while your father is asleep. And because we‘re good little teenagers and slightly old-fashioned, we‘ve taken a vow of chastity.‖
―You‘ve given this a lot of thought.‖
―I have a vivid and detailed imagination when it comes to you,‖ he whispered. ―And maybe I wish we‘d been teenagers together.‖
―So this is headed towards an affair?‖
Edward was quiet for a moment.
―I had in mind something less tawdry. But Isabella, much of what our relationship will or won‘t be rests entirely with you.‖
She nodded to indicate that she had heard him and then they both fell silent.
Eventually Bella closed her eyes, breathing in his scent and feeling strangely calmed by the regular rhythm of his heartbeat.
Edward stroked her hair and whispered to her in Italian.
―Isabella?‖
Silence.
―Bella?‖ Edward leaned down to discover that she had fallen asleep against his chest.
He didn‘t want to wake her. But he also didn‘t want to leave without saying goodbye. And he wanted her to lock the door behind him.
He lifted her carefully and placed her underneath the sheets and duvet, hoping that she would wake up.
But she didn‘t.
Edward regarded her little form, the way her chest rose and fell with her gentle breathing, her lips slightly parted.
She was beautiful. She was sweet.
He couldn‘t remember the last time he‘d spent a chaste evening with a beautiful woman who wasn‘t a relative. A chaste evening that was fraught with desire and passion and an overwhelming need …
He needed her.
He wanted her.
But the old conflict loomed large in his mind. He did not want to change her, to make her like him. He did not want to hurt her or cause her to bleed. And he seriously doubted his ability to be involved with her physically and not lose control, for the mere sight of her in a towel had almost broken his resolve.
This is what comes of years of unbridled lust – now you don‟t even have the ability to court her like a gentleman. You want to make love to this girl without lapsing into fucking, but can you? Can you be sexually involved with her without treating her like a pretty toy that has been constructed solely for your carnal satisfaction? Can you love without sin?
Edward‘s thoughts troubled him. And all the while, he stared at the rosy cheeked lamb that trusted him enough to fall asleep in his arms, oblivious to the passion that boiled in his veins.
He emptied his pockets on the card table and turned off his iPhone. Then he went to the washroom.
He turned down the baseboard heater, as promised, and quickly stripped to his t-shirt and boxer briefs.
He took an inventory of Bella‘s shampoo and bath products. He wanted to commit their names to memory so that he could be sure to stock his bathroom appropriately for her next visit. He definitely preferred strawberry to vanilla.
Although strawberry and chocolate ...
He turned out all the lights and then climbed into her little twin bed. It was far too small for two adult persons; in truth, it made Edward almost nostalgic for the residence hall beds at Dartmouth or Magdalen College. Almost. Those beds were barely tolerable for sleeping and certainly far from ideal for any kind of sexual activity.
It was fortunate that such activity was off the menu for this evening.
As Edward rolled to his side, his hand fastened on a small, smooth paper that was wedged underneath the single pillow. He retrieved it carefully and held it up against the moonlight that was streaming in from the window.
What he saw more than surprised him.
Underneath her pillow, Bella kept an old photograph of Edward from his Dartmouth days. He recognized the varsity rowing jersey he was wearing.
How did she get this?
How long has she had it?
He slid the photo back under the pillow, the ends of his mouth turned up in wonder. Something akin to hope began to warm his middle.
Edward lifted Bella carefully so that she was on her side, facing the wall. He had never been a fan of spooning; it was an act far too intimate for him. But tonight it was what he wanted. He curved his body around hers and stretched his left arm over her waist, placing a light hand on her flat stomach.
They fit together perfectly. And Edward sighed with contentment at the soft warmth of the young woman‘s body he treasured in his arms, his nose buried in long, soft strawberry-scented hair.
-
Some time around three o‘clock in the morning, Bella opened her eyes. A strong arm tightened its hold on her and the scent that was Edward‘s filled her head.
She was wrapped in Edward‘s arms, his chest against her back, in her lumpy and narrow bed. Although Edward had moved seemingly in reaction to her anxiety, the sound of his breathing indicated that he was still asleep.
Bella looked at him in the darkness. How many years had she waited just to be sleeping at his side once again?
She shifted slowly, so that she was lying on her back. With his eyes closed, and a look of peace on his face, he looked much younger. Almost like a boy. A beautiful boy with bronze hair and red lips, who smiled gently in his sleep.
Bella looked over at him and sighed her aesthetic appreciation.
His eyes flickered open. It took a moment for him to be able to focus on her in the dark, but when he did, he leaned over to press his lips against hers.
―Are you alright?‖ He whispered against her mouth.
―You stayed.‖
―I wouldn‘t leave without saying goodbye. Can‘t you sleep?‖
―I thought this was a dream.‖
Edward smiled at her in the darkness.
―Only for me.‖
―You‘re beautiful, Edward. You always were, you know.‖
―Camouflage. Nature‘s cruelty. The most beautiful predator is also the most dangerous. But I‘m ugly on the inside, Isabella.‖
She kissed him back firmly, trying to convey the truth of the words she was about to speak before they were audible.
―Someone who is ugly on the inside wouldn‘t have bought me a messenger bag and kept his generosity a secret.‖
Edward stared at her, trying to read her expression.
―How long have you known?‖
―Alice told me when I refused it.‖
―And did it make you more likely to accept it, or less likely?‖
―At the time, only half and half.‖
―I noticed you don‘t use it anymore,‖ he whispered, reaching up to push the hair back from her face.
―I will use it again.‖
―So you like it?‖
―Very much. Thank you, Edward.‖
He rubbed his nose lightly against hers and smiled. ―You were merely beautiful at seventeen, Isabella. You‘re stunning now.‖
―Everyone is pretty enough in the dark,‖ she whispered.
―No, they are not.‖
He kissed her and then pulled back abruptly, willing himself to stop.
She rested her head on his chest and closed her eyes, listening to the steady beat of his heart and trying not to drink too deeply of the energy that charged between them.
―It just occurred to me that I only seem to get honest answers out of you whenever we share a bed.‖
Bella immediately blushed and even though it was dark, Edward knew it.
He chuckled softly.
―Why do you think that is?‖
―When we‘re in bed you‘re gentle with me. I feel - safe.‖
―I don‘t know how safe it is to be with me, Isabella, but I promise that I will try to be gentle with you. Especially in bed.‖
She hugged him tightly and nodded against his chest, as if she understood the full implication of what he was saying. But she didn‘t. How could she?
―Are you going home for Thanksgiving?‖
―Yes. I called Charlie to give him the good news.‖
―I promised Carlisle I‘d come home. Would you – consider flying out with me?‖
―I‘d like that.‖
―Good.‖ He sighed and rubbed at his eyes. ―It isn‘t going to be a pleasant holiday.‖
―I don‘t like Thanksgiving. But Esme always made it nice.‖
―Wasn‘t it nice with your family?‖
Bella squirmed. ―We didn‘t really celebrate it.‖
―Why not?‖
―I did all the cooking unless my mother was in recovery. And whenever I tried to do something special …‖ She shook her head.
Edward tightened his arms around her.
―Tell me,‖ he whispered.
Bella shrugged. ―You don‘t want to hear this.‖
She tried to turn away from him, but he held her fast.
―I didn‘t mean to upset you. I‘m just trying to know you.‖
The tone of Edward‘s voice was such that it tugged at her, more powerfully than his words or his arms. She drew a deep breath.
―During my last Thanksgiving in Phoenix, Renee was on a bender with one of the boyfriends. But stupid me, I decided to cook a Martha Stewart recipe for stuffed roast chicken, twice baked potatoes and vegetables.‖
She stopped.
―I‘m sure it was delicious,‖ he prompted.
―I never found out.‖
―Why?‖
―I kind of had an accident.‖
―Isabella?‖ He tried to lift her chin so that he could look into her eyes, but she wouldn‘t look at him. ―What happened?‖
―We didn‘t have a kitchen table. So I set up a card table in the living room and set it for three. It was stupid, really. I shouldn‘t have bothered. I put all the food on a tray to carry it to the table and the boyfriend stuck out his foot and tripped me.‖
―On purpose?‖
―He saw me coming.‖
Edward seethed with instantaneous anger, his hands curling into fists.
―I went flying. The dishes shattered. Food was everywhere.‖
―How badly were you hurt?‖ he spoke between clenched teeth.
―I don‘t remember.‖ Bella‘s voice instantly cooled.
―Did your mother help you?‖
She shook her head.
Edward growled, low in his throat.
―They laughed. I must have looked pathetic on my hands and knees, crying, covered in gravy. The chicken skidded across the tiles and under one of the chairs.‖ She paused thoughtfully. ―I was on my knees for a while. You would have had a stroke if you had seen me.‖
Edward stifled the urge to ram his fist through the wall behind his head.
―I wouldn‘t have had a stroke. I would have beaten him and been sorely pressed not to horsewhip her.‖
Bella traced his fist with one of her fingers.
―They got bored and went into her bedroom to fuck. They didn‘t even bother to close the door. That was my last Thanksgiving with Renee.‖
―Your mother sounds like Anne Sexton.‖
―Renee never wrote poetry.‖
―My God, Bella.‖ Edward unclenched his fists and hugged her close.
―I cleaned up so that they wouldn‘t get mad at me and then I hopped on a bus. I rode around aimlessly until I saw a Salvation Army mission. They were advertising a Thanksgiving meal for the homeless. I asked if I could volunteer in the kitchen and they put me to work.‖
―That‘s how you spent Thanksgiving?‖
She shrugged.
―I couldn‘t go home and the people at the mission were friendly. After the guests were served, I had a turkey dinner with the volunteers. They even sent me home with leftovers. And pie.‖ Bella paused thoughtfully. ―No one ever baked me a pie.‖
He cleared his throat. ―Isabella, why didn‘t Charlie take you away from her?‖
―He did.‖
She began fidgeting with his t-shirt, gathering the soft cotton in between her fingers and tugging slightly.
―Ouch. Careful.‖ Edward chuckled. ―You‘re pulling out what few chest hairs I have.‖
―Sorry.‖ Bella nervously smoothed the cotton with her fingers.
―Um, Charlie used to call me on Sundays. I was talking to him one day and I let slip the fact that one of the boyfriends had wandered into my room the night before, completely naked, thinking my room was the bathroom.‖
She cleared her throat and began speaking quickly, so Edward wouldn‘t have a chance to ask that question.
―Charlie freaked out, wanting to know if the boyfriend had touched me. He hadn‘t. He wanted to speak to my Mom and when I explained that I wasn‘t supposed to bother her when one of the boyfriends was over, he told me to go into my room and close the door. First thing the next morning, Charlie showed up to take me back to Forks. I guess it was a good thing the boyfriend was gone by the time he arrived. I think Charlie would have killed him.‖
―So you left?‖
―Yes. Charlie told Renee that if she didn‘t get rid of the boyfriends and get off the alcohol, then he was going to take me away from her. Permanently. She agreed to go into rehab and he brought me to Forks.‖
―How old were you?‖
―Eight.‖
―Why didn‘t you stay with him?‖
―He was never home. He had a busy job and he didn‘t know what to do with me. When school finished for the year, he sent me back to Phoenix. Renee was out of rehab by then and she was working in a nail salon.‖
―But you came back to Forks eventually?‖
Bella hesitated.
―You can tell me, Isabella.‖ He squeezed her tightly and waited, softly stroking her hair. ―It's alright."
She swallowed. Hard.
―The summer before I turned seventeen, Charlie brought me home.‖
―Why?‖
―Um, Renee hit me. I fell against the corner of the kitchen counter and had to go to the hospital. I called Charlie and said that if he didn‘t come and get me I was going to run away. And that was it. I never saw Renee again.‖
―Do you have a scar?‖
She took his hand and brought it up to the back of her head, pressing his fingers against a raised line of flesh where hair no longer grew.
―I‘m sorry for this.‖
He traced it a few times and then pressed his lips against it.
―I‘m sorry that those things happened to you. If I could, I‘d beat them all senseless. Starting with the bastard who is your father.‖
―I was pretty lucky, actually. Renee only hit me once.‖
―Nothing you have told me sounds even close to lucky.‖
―I‘m lucky now. No one hits me here. And I have a friend who feeds me.‖
Edward shook his head and cursed. ―You should have been cuddled and adored and treated like a princess. That‘s what Alice had.‖
―I don‘t believe in fairy tales,‖ she breathed.
―I‘d like to make you believe.‖ He leaned over and kissed her forehead.
―Reality is better than fantasy, Edward.‖
―Not if reality is the fantasy.‖
Bella shook her head, but she smiled.
―Edward, can I ask you something?‖
―Of course.‖
Her smile faded.
―Do you have any scars?‖
Edward‘s face was impassive.
―You can‘t hit something that you don‘t know is there.‖
Bella leaned up and pressed her cheek into the crook of his neck. ―I‘m sorry.‖
―It‘s difficult to know what‘s worse – being hit or being ignored. I guess it depends on what kind of pain you prefer.‖
"I'm so sorry, Edward. I didn't know."
She took his hand in hers and wrapped their fingers together. And then she took a deep breath.
―Are you going to go home now?‖
―Not unless you want me to leave.‖ He stroked her hair again, carefully avoiding the place where the flesh was raised.
She rested her head on his shoulder and sighed.
―I want you to stay.‖
―Then I‘ll stay as long as you want me.‖
Bella fell asleep while Edward lay awake contemplating the scars his little lamb had shown him. And wondering with queasiness and anger about the scars she had not revealed.
Translation: Edward's French is a quotation from Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: On ne voit bien qu'avec le coeur. L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux. ("It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.")

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