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Messaggio  simona80 il Lun 07 Mar 2011, 02:52

Chapter Twenty-Two
―Will someone please explain why there are cops in the house? What did Edward do now?‖ Emmett stood in the kitchen staring down his sister and her fiancé.
After dinner, he had taken Rose to the drug store in town to pick up a few things and then they had stopped for ice cream. When they arrived home, they were panicked to discover two police cruisers in the driveway. Officer Jessica Stanley was interviewing Bella in the living room, while Officer Embry Call was interviewing Edward in the dining room. Carlisle had already been questioned.
Jasper walked to the fridge and pulled out a Samuel Adams. He opened it and handed it to Emmett, who drank it gratefully. ―Jacob Black attacked Bella.‖
Emmett almost spat his beer out. ―What?! Is she alright?‖
Everyone‘s gaze swung to Carlisle, who shook his head minutely. ―I promised her confidentiality.‖
―He fucking bit her,‖ Alice interjected. ―And she almost broke her hand when she punched him in the face.‖
―Did he …‖ Rose‘s voice was matter of fact, yet she would not say the word. Her husband linked his pinkie finger with hers surreptitiously.
Alice shook her head. ―I asked her. Maybe I shouldn‘t have, but I did. And she said no.‖
Everyone breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Emmett slammed his beer down on the counter. ―Well, where is he? Let‘s go, Jasper. Someone needs to teach that asshole a lesson.‖
―Edward got to him first. Embry told me that they had to take Jacob to the hospital to have his jaw wired shut before they took him to the station. Edward smashed his face in,‖ Jasper explained.
Emmett‘s eyebrows shot up. ―The Professor? Why would he do that?‖
Rose and Alice exchanged a knowing look.
―I would be happy to take the case pro bono if Edward needs an attorney.‖ Rose flicked her long, blonde hair over her shoulder as she settled down on a bar stool. ―Sounds like the bastard got what was coming to him.‖
―We need to pay him another visit and finish the job.‖ Emmett cracked the knuckles on his right hand.
Jasper shook his head. ―Trust me, Edward finished it. And they‘ve arrested Jacob, anyway. They‘re holding him at the station.‖
―You still haven‘t explained why Edward would get his pretty little hands dirty for Bella. He barely knows her.‖
Alice leaned over the kitchen island towards her brother. ―They‘re a couple.‖
Emmett blinked like a lazy stop light.
―Come again?‖
―Just what I said. They‘re – together.‖
―Holy shit. What the hell is she doing with someone like him?‖
Before anyone could offer a hypothesis, Edward walked into the kitchen. He looked around at the faces of his family and then frowned. ―Where‘s Isabella?‖
―Still being interviewed.‖ Carlisle smiled at his oldest son and then clapped a hand to his shoulder. ―I am very proud of you, for what you did for Bella. I know we‘re all grateful you arrived in time.‖
Edward pressed his lips together and nodded stiffly.
―Clocking Jacob Black will earn you a medal. But screwing around with Bella will earn you a beating. You‘re not good enough for her. Not by a long shot.‖ Emmett put his beer down and straightened up to his full height.
Edward‘s guys glinted coldly at his brother. ―My personal life is none of your business.‖
―It is now. What kind of professor screws his students? Don‘t you get enough tail already?‖
Rose and Alice inhaled collectively and slowly moved towards the door and away from the impending titanic clash.
Edward‘s fists clenched at his sides and he took a step closer to his larger but younger brother.
―Speak about Isabella in that way again and you and I are going to have more than words,‖ threatened Edward, his voice icy.
―Alright you guys, cut the Cain and Abel bullshit. There are cops in our living room. And you‘re scaring the ladies.‖ Jasper stepped in between the seething men, placing a light hand on Emmett‘s chest.
Edward nodded just to indicate that he had heard him, but did not loosen his fists.
―Bella is not the kind of girl that you screw around with and then dump. She‘s the kind of girl you marry.‖
―You think I don‘t know that, Emmett?‖ said Edward quietly.
―You‘re right - who you date is none of our business. But when you go after a girl who is like our sister, then it becomes our business. Don‘t you think she's had her quota of assholes?‖
Rose walked over to her husband and wrapped her arm around his waist. ―Honey, that‘s enough.‖
Emmett looked at Rose curiously.
―Edward beat up the animal who attacked her. Give him a break.‖ Rose nodded slightly.
He stared at her as if she had just told him that the earth was flat. And everyone, except him, already knew it.
Alice jumped in, eager to change the subject. ―By the way, Edward, I didn‘t know you knew Jessica Stanley. Did you two go to high school together?‖
―Yes.‖
―Were you friends?‖
―Vaguely.‖
All eyes swung to Edward, who turned on his heel and disappeared.
Carlisle waited a few minutes for the tension in the air to dissipate and then he turned his attention to his remaining son. ―Emmett, I‘d like a word with you, please.‖ His voice was calm but firm and so Emmett knew better than to argue with him.
The two men climbed the stairs to the second floor and walked into Carlisle‘s study. He closed the door behind them.
―Have a seat.‖ He pointed to a chair in front of his massive oak desk. ―I want to talk to you about your attitude towards your brother.‖
Emmett sat opposite his father and prepared himself for what was to come. Carlisle only brought his children into the study for the most serious of conversations.
Carlisle gestured to a reproduction of Rembrandt‘s The Return of the Prodigal Son, which was proudly displayed on one of the walls. ―Do you remember the parable behind that painting?‖
Emmett nodded slowly.
He was in trouble.
-
Bella sat bolt upright in bed, gasping for air.
It was only a nightmare. It was only a nightmare. You got away.
It took a moment to bring her frantic breathing under control. But once she realized that she was safe in the Cullen‘s guest room and not underneath Jacob on Charlie‘s kitchen table, she was able to relax. Somewhat.
She leaned over to the nightstand to turn on the lamp. The light dispelled the darkness of the room but did not cheer her.
She picked up the glass of water and the pain pills that Edward had left when he tucked her into bed several hours earlier. He had curled around her, fully clothed, and held her tightly until she fell asleep. But he was gone now, likely asleep in his old room a few steps down the hall.
I need him.
More than the pain pills or the light or the air, Bella needed Edward, to feel his body wrapped around hers, to hear his velvet voice whisper words of comfort. He was the only person who could make her forget what had happened. She needed to touch him. She needed to kiss him and then she would be able to blot out her nightmare.
Bella took the pills to soothe the pain in her hand and then she tiptoed down the hall to Edward‘s room to soothe the pain in her heart.
She was quiet as a mouse, listening for any stirring or footsteps in the other rooms. And when she was satisfied that she would not be surprised, she silently opened Edward‘s door with her uninjured hand and closed it behind her.
It took a moment or two for her eyes to adjust to the semi-darkness. He had neglected to pull the shades on the windows and was lying on what was normally her side of the double bed. She wondered if it was accurate to say that she had a side of the bed.
She quietly walked to the other side of the bed, pulled the covers back, and placed one knee on the mattress.
―Isabella.‖ Edward‘s low whisper startled her.
She clapped a hand to her mouth so that she wouldn‘t cry out.
―Stop.‖
She froze.
When her wits finally returned to her, she lowered her head. ―Um, I‘m sorry. I shouldn‘t have bothered you.‖
Shame flooded through her and she blinked back tears as she slowly turned to go.
―That‘s not what I meant. Wait a second.‖
Bella saw him throw off the covers and then stand up, his back towards her. He was almost naked and the streaming starlight through the shades sparkled across his back. It was an optical illusion of sorts, the delicate points of light shimmering across his perfect form. She saw his shoulder blades and his spine, and the muscles of his lower back where the skin stretched as he leaned over to find his pyjama bottoms.
And of course, the most beautiful backside and legs …
When he had pulled his pants over his boxer briefs, he turned to face her, his brilliantly sculpted chest and shoulders perfect in the dimness. The tattooed dragon slightly muted but ever present.
―Now you can crawl in with me.‖ He chuckled. ―I thought I'd make you nervous if you found me in my underwear.‖
Bella rolled her eyes. She didn‘t like when he laughed at her, but she saw his point. Or rather, she didn‘t actually see it, but she understood what he meant.
―Come here,‖ he whispered, extending an arm to her and drawing her close so that when they reclined, her head rested naturally on his naked chest.
―I set my alarm so that I could check on you. It would have gone off in fifteen minutes. How is your hand?‖
―It hurts.‖
―Did you take the pills I left for you?‖
―Yes. They haven‘t kicked in yet.‖
Edward carefully shifted so that he could reach her right hand and then he tenderly pressed his lips against her wrapped knuckles. ―My little warrior.‖
He stroked her hair, caressing the waves with his fingertips.
―Were you having trouble sleeping?‖
―I had a nightmare.‖
―Do you want to talk about it?‖
―No.‖
Edward squeezed her more closely to indicate that he‘d heard her and that if she changed her mind, he would listen.
―Would you kiss me?‖ she asked.
―I thought that after what happened ... you wouldn‘t want me to touch you.‖
Bella angled her head so that she could bring her lips up to his, effectively ending their conversation.
Edward‘s kiss was soft and gentle, barely moving over her lips. He could feel that her mouth was still tender, and he silently cursed Jacob for making it that way.
But Bella was having none of that. She wanted to drink him in, to let his fire engulf her, so that he was all she could feel or think about.
Edward, make me forget.
She opened her mouth and traced his bottom lip with her tongue, savouring his sweetness. And then she pushed her tongue inside his mouth, laving his with hers and dancing, tangoing, tripping over it.
Edward‘s fingers tightened in her hair, gently pulling her head back to grant him deeper access to her mouth. Now his tongue pushed hers back, entering her, caressing her. He was far more talented than she.
Bella began to hum at the sheer pleasure of his unhurried affection.
It was working. While she was kissing him, she could think of nothing else.
She hugged her injured hand tightly to her chest to protect it, and with her free hand she found his hair, pulling and twisting it.
Edward growled slightly, but didn‘t stop.
She felt his body began to stiffen next to her, pushing out against her bare thigh. Edward ran his right hand down her side, ghosting over the swell of a breast, tracing circles on her ribs and then her hip.
He liked the way Rose‘s tank top and yoga shorts were slightly loose on Isabella‘s form, skimming her curves spaciously. Exposing a great swathe of pale skin across her shoulders and above her breasts. She was beautiful, even in the dark.
All of a sudden, she was on her back while he hovered over her, pressing his weight into his forearms. His knee came between her legs and she parted them willingly.
She wanted more. She needed more.
Her breathing was ragged and coming in gasps as she refused to loosen her hold on his hair, forcing their mouths together.
Edward responded by stroking her breasts over her tank top with his long fingers, teasing and moving, applying just enough pressure to make her tingle and want more but not enough to satisfy her desires.
Then he was pulling back, gasping, leaning on one forearm and Bella could see that his eyes were dark.
This was her moment. Without even thinking about it, she grasped the hem of her shirt with her good hand and tried to shimmy it up over her chest to expose her naked breasts.
Edward‘s hand came to hers and pressed down on her abdomen. His lips found hers and they were kissing and teasing each other with their tongues, panting with warm and moist breaths.
Bella freed her hand from underneath Edward‘s when he moved to stroke her upper thigh, dragging her leg around his hip as he pressed closer to her. Now that her hand was free nothing prevented her from wresting off her top. She found the hem again and began to pull, twisting and writhing beneath his naked chest.
Now both of Edward‘s hands clasped over hers, effectively stilling her movements.
―Isabella,‖ he gasped, for he was breathing hard. ―Would you ... please ... stop trying to ... take off your top?‖ He rocked back on his heels and kneeled next to her, trying to catch his breath.
The surface of Bella‘s skin was vibrating with Edward‘s electricity and the heat he had elicited. It was difficult to breathe. She was seeing stars and began to wonder if it was only because of a lack of oxygen flow to the brain or for some other, more mystical reason.
―Did you want to do that?‖ It was the soft voice of an innocent and it made Edward‘s heart clench.
He shook his head and closed his eyes.
As his response sank in, so did something else. All of the crude things Jacob had said to her began to roar in her ears.
You‟re a stupid little girl.
You‟re going to be a lousy lay.
You‟re frigid.
No other man is ever going to want you.
Bella rolled to her side, effectively side-stepping him, and swung her legs over the edge of the bed. She wanted to make it to the door before a sob ripped from her throat.
But before she could use her good hand to push herself off the mattress, two long, strong arms wrapped around her waist and she was trapped again.
Edward placed his legs on either side of hers and pulled her back so that their bare legs were dangling over the side of the bed together and her back was flush against his naked chest. She could feel his swift heartbeat and his breathing through her shoulder blades.
It was an odd but especially erotic feeling.
―Don‘t leave me,‖ he whispered, pressing a light kiss to the shell of her ear. He leaned forward to bring his mouth to the right side of her neck, nuzzling her.
Bella sniffled.
―I didn‘t mean to hurt you. Are you hurt very badly?‖
When she didn‘t answer, he kissed her ear again and squeezed her more tightly.
―Not physically,‖ she managed, stifling a sob.
―Then tell me,‖ he whispered. ―Tell me how I hurt you.‖
Bella threw her hand up in desperate frustration. ―You don‘t want me! You said that you wanted me, but when I finally work up the courage to throw myself at you, you reject me.‖
Edward inhaled sharply, his breath making a whistling sound against her ear.
She felt his arms stiffen and his tendons press into her skin. And something else, further down, pressing into the curve of her behind.
―Believe me, Isabella, I am not rejecting you. Of course I want you. You are so beautiful. So very lovely.‖
Edward reached down to kiss the side of her face. ―We talked about this. Our time is coming. Are you ready to give yourself to me? Right now?‖
Bella hesitated, and that was the only answer Edward needed.
―Even if you were ready, darling, I wouldn‘t make love to you tonight. You‘re injured, which means you‘re going to be on the disabled list for a while. I need to make sure that you‘re fully recovered before we explore – ah – various positions.‖
Bella could hear his smile colouring his words. He was trying to make her laugh.
―But most importantly, there‘s this.‖ He shifted so that he was leaning around her left side, gently tracing a finger around the angry bite mark on her neck.
She winced at his touch and a flame of anger flared within him.
He inhaled and exhaled several times to get his anger under control and then he placed a gentle kiss near the mark over and over again, until she sighed and let her head relax against his shoulder, eyes closed.
―You were fetal a couple of hours ago. I wouldn‘t be a very good boyfriend if I capitalized on your vulnerability. Does that make sense?‖
Bella thought about it and then nodded, slowly.
―Something frightening happened to you. Of course you want to feel safe and cared for. It‘s not a crime, Isabella. And I want to help you, my love, so badly. But there are many different ways to do that. You don‘t have to take your clothes off in order to capture my attention. You have it. Completely. You don‘t have to have sex with me in order for me to make you feel better. I promise.‖
―How?‖ Bella‘s voice was a tentative whisper.
―Like this.‖ Edward pressed a kiss to her neck and then pulled her so that she was reclining on her back.
He lay on his side next to her, propped up on his elbow, staring down into her wide, sad eyes.
Starting with her hair, he began to touch her with gentle, unhurried caresses.
He stroked her face to remove her tears. He traced her chin, her jaw line, her eyebrows. And then he moved to her neck and down to the lines of her collarbone.
She inhaled sharply when his fingers followed her sternum between her breasts to her abdomen, where he drew circles on her naked skin. He placed his palm flat against her and then leaned over to kiss the very tops of her breasts, above the tank top.
When he withdrew, her eyes were closed.
―Darling?‖
Her eyelids fluttered open.
―In this bed, there is only us. You and me. You are all that matters.‖ He smoothed his hand across the curve of her waist and down to her left hip, where he gripped her loosely.
―If you want to go back to your room, I‘ll walk you back. If you want to sleep alone, I‘ll let you be. I just need you to tell me what you want, and provided it‘s within my power, I‘ll give it to you. But please darling, don‘t ask me to take your virginity. Not tonight.‖
She considered what he said and then swallowed noisily.
―I want to stay here. I don‘t sleep well without you.‖
He laughed softly. ―I barely sleep at all without you. I‘m glad the feeling is mutual.‖ He kissed her lips and then began to skim his hand lightly over her thigh and back to the lower curve of her bottom.
―You know that I care for you, deeply. Don‘t you?‖
She nodded and reached up a hand to touch his naked chest while he leaned forward, brushing his lips against her neck where the skin was unmarked.
―I‘m sorry I did this.‖ Edward circled the fading love bite from the day before.
Bella looked into guilty eyes. ―Don‘t, Edward. That was different.‖
―I need to be more careful with you.‖
She sighed and shook her head. ―You are very careful with me.‖
―Roll over, darling.‖
Her eyes held a question but she rolled onto her stomach and moved her head so that she could look at him, trusting him completely.
He knelt beside her and gently brushed her hair to one side.
―Just relax. I want you to feel as beautiful as you are.‖
He began slowly, massaging her lightly with both hands, exploring every inch from head to toe.
Then he stretched out by her feet and lifted them, paying special attention to her arches and her heels.
She moaned softly.
Edward chuckled. ―Do you remember when you stayed with me after that disastrous seminar?‖
Bella looked over at him and nodded.
His eyebrows knit together. ―You were very suspicious of me. Of course, you were right to be suspicious, but even then I‘d already decided that I … You‘re safe with me, love. I promise.‖
When Edward finished with her feet he crawled back up her body, allowing his lips to explore where his hands had been, nuzzling, kissing, nipping.
Bella looked up into his eyes and saw deep affection reflected back at her and as he sank down by her side, she kissed him deeply.
―Thank you, Edward,‖ she breathed.
He smiled in satisfaction, winding his fingers through her hair.
It was in this space of peace and security that Bella realized her moment had come. They had already agreed that they would bare their souls before they bared their bodies.
And there was a part of her that was weary of keeping secrets. Of keeping his secrets.
Edward had shared parts of his past with her already. Why had she withheld herself from him? It was going to be painful to speak the words aloud, but perhaps it would be even more painful to have this thing between them remain unexplained.
She inhaled deeply and shut her eyes, and then, without warning, she began.
―I started dating him my freshman year. Our fathers had been friends but I didn‘t know him very well. We didn‘t hang out in high school ...‖ She cleared her throat a few times and then continued in a whisper.
―He was friends with Leah, my roommate. The three of us spent a lot of time together. When we came home for Christmas, he showed up at my house Christmas morning to surprise me. He knew I liked Italian things and so he bought an old Vespa and fixed it up for me. He painted it candy-apple red. Bella red, he called it.‖
Edward raised his eyebrows.
―Of course, my love for all things Italian came from you. But I was blown away by his generosity. He‘d always been nice to me, so when he asked if I would go out with him on a date, I said yes. We dated casually for a few months, more like friends really, and then he asked if we could go steady and I said yes.
―It was nice, that first year. We were friends and I enjoyed his company. But the next year, things began to change. He started getting more physical. More demanding.‖ Bella‘s cheeks flushed deeply in the darkness.
Edward felt the temperature rise across her skin and so he began to lightly rub her shoulders.
―He said that sex was his right as my boyfriend. When I said no he called me frigid. But I didn‘t want him that way. I was waiting for you. I know that sounds stupid.‖
―Isabella, it‘s far from stupid to assert that you should be the one to decide who you will and will not sleep with. And I am honoured that you thought of me.‖
―The more he pushed, the more I withdrew. He started getting angry and possessive. He didn‘t like me hanging out with Alice. If I even spoke to another guy, he‘d flip out.‖ She shook her head. ―He was really mean like that.‖
She paused, trying to figure out how to say the next part.
―Did he hit you?‖ Edward forced himself to sound calm.
―Not really.‖
―That‘s not an answer, Isabella. Did he hit you?‖
Bella could feel Edward‘s body begin to shake with anger. She wasn‘t about to lie to him, but she was worried about what he would say when she told him. So she chose her next words very carefully.
―He pushed me around a couple of times. One night he lost his temper and forced me up against a wall. He punched a hole in it right next to my head. Leah had to pull him off of me.‖ Bella stopped, uncertainly.
―I want to come back to this again. Another time.‖ Edward rubbed his eyes with both hands.
―Honestly, the things he said to me were far worse than anything he ever did. Part of me wished that he would have hit me. I could have taken a punch and it would have been over in seconds. That would have been better than having to listen to him over and over again.‖ She shuddered. ―At least if he had hit me, I could have told Charlie. I would have been able to show him what he was really like.‖
Edward cringed at Bella‘s admission, but stayed silent. She could almost hear the wheels turning in his mind.
―Since I wouldn‘t sleep with him, he demanded - um, other things. But I was terrible. He said if that was any indication of what I‘d be like in bed, I‘d be a lousy lay.‖ She laughed nervously. ―I wasn‘t going to tell you this. I guess you have a right to know before I disappoint you in Florence. On top of being frigid, why would you want me if I can‘t even do those things properly?‖
Edward unthinkingly let loose a string of profanities that would have curled a profane person‘s hair.
Bella remained very still, her nose twitching slightly, like a mouse. Or a rabbit.
―Isabella, look at me.‖
He placed a light hand on her cheek.
―Everything he said to you was a lie. You have to believe me when I tell you this. He said those things so that he could control you – so you wouldn‘t leave him.
―Of course I want you. Look at you! You‘re beautiful and warm and intelligent. You‘re forgiving and gentle. You might not realize this, but you bring out those qualities in me. You make me want to be gentle and kind. And when we make love, that‘s how I will be with you.‖
He cleared his throat as his voice grew raspy.
―Someone as giving and as passionate as you could never be terrible at anything sexual. You just need someone who will make you comfortable enough to express yourself. And then the tiger will emerge. He didn‘t deserve to see that side of you and you were right not to show it to him. But we‘re different. Last night, the night in the museum, even earlier tonight I have seen your passion. I‘ve felt it. And it‘s breathtaking. You are breathtaking.‖
Bella looked into his earnest eyes in silent wonder.
―You told me you believe in redemption,‖ he whispered. ―So prove it. Forgive yourself for whatever you‘re ashamed of and then let yourself be happy. Because really, Isabella, that‘s all I want for you. I want you to be happy.‖
She nodded and kissed him, revelling momentarily in his touch and his words, knowing that the worst of her story was yet to be spoken.
―I wanted to participate in the junior year abroad program. But I couldn‘t tell him that. So I applied for it behind his back and I didn‘t break the news to him until two weeks before I was supposed to leave. He was furious with me, but I was back in Forks so he couldn‘t really do anything. I asked Charlie to return the Vespa and then I didn‘t hear from him.
―But while I was in Italy, we started talking again. He would write these amazing emails and send me pictures. He told me he loved me.‖ She swallowed hard. ―No one had ever said that before. We sort of got back together over the phone. He said he‘d changed. Um, and Leah said he‘d changed, too.‖
She took a deep breath. ―I didn‘t come home for Christmas or for the summer because I was taking extra courses and doing some traveling. When I came back, Alice took me shopping as a welcome home present. Esme had given her some money and between the two of them they bought me a really pretty dress and a pair of Prada shoes.‖
Edward nodded.
―Um, you‘ve seen those shoes before. I wore them on our first da – um, I mean when you took me out for steak.‖
He ran his fingers over the curve of her cheek. ―It‘s alright, Isabella, you can call it our first date. That‘s how I think of it. Even though I was an ass.‖
Bella took another deep breath. ―He made all of these plans to celebrate my birthday. Alice insisted on helping me get ready at her apartment and then I was supposed to drive to our favourite restaurant to meet him. But I forgot my camera. So I went to my dorm room first.‖
Now Bella began to shake. Every muscle, every part of her began shivering as if she was freezing cold.
Edward wrapped her in his arms. ―You don‘t have to tell me anymore. It‘s alright. I‘ve heard enough.‖
―No.‖ Her voice shook, but she continued. ―I need to tell someone. Not even Alice knows everything.‖ She inhaled and exhaled a couple of times.
―I opened the door and the room was dark, except for the lamp on Leah‘s desk. I was going to walk to my side of the room to get my camera, but before I could take another step, I saw them.‖
Bella went very still. Still like a statue.
Edward waited.
―Jacob was fucking Leah in my bed. He was behind her and she was on all fours with her ass in the air screaming his name. I was so shocked I couldn‘t move. At first, I thought it couldn‘t be him. And then I thought, it couldn‘t be her. But it was. And …‖
Now her voice dropped to a whisper.
―He turned and looked at me. And he grinned. He said that this was what I was missing. That I needed a good fuck and he was going to give it to me. He collapsed on the bed, gesturing to me to join them. Said he wanted both of us. Said Leah would start on me first. That maybe she could loosen me up as a kind of birthday present.
―She‘d been my roommate since we were freshmen. She was my friend. And he was laughing and saying they‘d been fuck buddies on the side since high school. I was standing there like an idiot because really, I couldn‘t understand what he was saying. It was as if he was speaking a foreign language. Leah walked over to me, naked, and said that she‘d always wanted me. I froze. My mind left my body and it floated up to the ceiling.‖
Bella‘s mouth snapped shut. But it was too late. She‘d pronounced the words. She‘d said them aloud. And all of the agony and horror that she felt that day washed over her again.
She moved to kneel and press her cheek against Edward‘s chest. But she did not weep.
Edward held her tightly, pressing his lips to the top of her head.
I should have killed him.
He was silently glad that he hadn‘t known. He would have killed Jacob, of that Edward had little doubt.
He‟s the Angelfucker. He was going to fuck my Isabella like an animal. Only he practiced on her roommate first.
They sat in one another‘s arms for a while as she tried to calm herself and Edward sought to push his murderous thoughts aside.
When he felt her heartbeat slow, he began to whisper to her. He told her how much he cared for her. He told her she was safe with him.
And then he asked her quietly if it would be okay if he talked to her a little.
She nodded.
―Bella, I‘m sorry that happened to you.‖ He shook his head. ―I‘m also sorry that you didn‘t grow up in a house with a man and a woman who shared a bed and loved each other. I had that benefit.
―You know what Carlisle and Esme were like, always touching one another, always laughing. I never heard him raise his voice to her. I never heard her say anything snide or rude. They were the perfect couple. And as much as it is embarrassing to think of one‘s parents having a sex life, it was obvious they were very passionate.
―When Carlisle gave me the infamous birds and the bees talk, he cited a line from the Book of Common Prayer, a vow that he had made to Esme during their wedding ceremony, ‗With this ring I thee wed, with my body I thee worship, and with all my worldly goods I thee endow.‘‖
―I‘ve heard that before.‖
―It‘s beautiful, isn‘t it? And in the context of my rather uncomfortable conversation with Carlisle, he pointed out that this vow is a pledge that the husband will make love to his wife, and not just use her for sex. He said that the vow expressed the idea that making love is an act of worship. The husband worships his wife with his body, by loving her and giving to her and moving with her towards ecstasy.‖
Edward cleared his throat, which was now hoarse. ―I think it‘s safe to say that what you witnessed was predatory and despicable. And I know that you saw similar things when you were growing up in Phoenix, things that a little girl should never see. It‘s possible you thought that‘s just what intercourse is – and maybe you thought that all men were like him – malicious predators who use and abuse.
―Carlisle‘s description of love making was completely different. He said that it is no less passionate than other pleasures, because the context provides the freedom and acceptance to explore one‘s desires in all of their various forms, whether they‘re desperate and needy, or slow and tender. The point is that the feeling that undergirds the act is one of mutual respect and giving – not taking or using.‖
Edward brought his lips to her ear so he could whisper to her.
―I wandered far away from Carlisle‘s lifestyle but I always wanted what he and Esme had. When I told you that I was intending to worship you with my body, I meant it. With all my heart. I will never take from you. I will only give. In my bed and outside of it.‖
Bella smiled against his chest.
―You and I are both starting over and behold, all things will become new.‖
She reached up and kissed him softly on the lips and whispered words of thanks to his mouth.
His affirmation comforted her. It didn‘t take the pain away or erase the memories, but it relieved her to hear that he wouldn‘t hold her past weaknesses against her. For truly, one of the things she was most ashamed of was allowing herself to be treated so badly. It was why she had kept her secret. It was why she had feared exposure.
―Love, you don‘t have to talk about it anymore if you don‘t want to. But I‘m wondering what you told Charlie. I owe you an apology for getting into a shouting match with him at the hospital. I said some things I shouldn‘t have.‖
She eyed him curiously.
―I told him he shouldn‘t have sent you back to live with your mother. That it was his job as a father to protect you and that he failed, miserably.‖
Bella was surprised. No one, not even Alice or Esme, had ever confronted Charlie about his choices. No one.
An expression of wonder spread across her pretty face.
―Aren‘t you angry?‖
―I can‘t be. Thank you, Edward, for defending me. No one has ever done that before.‖
She took his hands in hers and kissed the slightly swollen knuckles and the places where the skin had split. His battle wounds were almost as dear to her as his beautiful, expressive eyes.
―While Leah was talking to me, my mind raced back to my body. I escaped and ran downstairs. I got into my truck and I drove to Charlie‘s house.‖
―You drove all that way?‖
―I was so upset, I didn‘t even remember the drive.‖
―And then what happened?‖
―I didn‘t tell my dad everything. Just that he had cheated on me with Leah and that I couldn‘t live with her anymore. And that I wasn‘t going to speak to either of them again. It created kind of a problem since he was dating her mom and was best friends with his dad. But he never complained.‖
―How very noble of him,‖ said Edward, sarcastically.
―I spent a few days in Forks trying to calm down and then Charlie brought me back to school. He moved me out of the dorm and into a small studio apartment. You would have laughed at it, Edward. It was even smaller than the one I‘m in now.‖
―I wouldn‘t laugh.‖ Edward sounded hurt.
―It‘s just that you‘re so particular. You would have hated it even more than you hate my current apartment.‖
―Isabella, I don‘t hate your apartment. As I said before, I hate the fact that you have to live there. What happened next, after you went back to school?‖
―I hid. I was afraid of running into them so I kept to myself and avoided all of the places where I might be seen. I went to class, I worked on my Italian and my applications for grad school, and I stayed home. I kind of – retreated.‖
―Alice mentioned something like that.‖
Bella sighed deeply.
―I wasn‘t a good friend to Alice. After that night, I stopped taking her calls. I wouldn‘t even speak to Esme even though she wrote me the most beautiful letter. I sent them a card at Christmas and tried to explain, but I was too humiliated. Alice knows I caught them together because Leah finally told her. But she doesn‘t know how bad it was. And I don‘t want her to know.‖
―Anything you tell me is strictly between us.‖
―I didn‘t want to admit that I had been so stupid as to get myself into that situation. I wanted to pretend it happened to someone else.‖ She looked up into Edward‘s face, which was remarkably sympathetic.
―Please don‘t say that you are stupid ever again. Shame on them both for how they treated you. They‘re the villains in this story, not you.‖
He kissed her forehead twice and then buried his face in her long, brown hair.
―I think you need to get some sleep, sweetheart. It‘s been a long day and we want you to heal.‖
―Won‘t it upset your family when they realize we're in here together?‖
―They figured out we‘re a couple. And for the most part, I think they approve.‖
―For the most part?‖
Edward sighed. ―Carlisle doesn‘t object to us as a couple; he has conservative views on sex. So although I promised that we wouldn‘t be doing that under his roof, he would prefer we slept in separate rooms. Although I‘m sure he‘d turn a blind eye tonight and tomorrow night because of what happened to you.‖
―But what about Alice and Jasper? They share a room.‖
―They‘re getting married. Alice has always been supportive of me and I think she's supportive of us.‖
―What about Emmett and Rose?‖
―Emmett is very protective of you, and he knows that I‘ve been a libertine, so ...‖
―You weren‘t a libertine. You were just lonely.‖
He kissed her softly. ―That‘s very generous of you, but we both know it isn‘t true.‖
They both reclined and Bella rested her head on his chest, running her fingers across his upper body. She hummed to herself as she thought over his words. How he had cared for her and wanted to worship her.
They were, perhaps, the most important words she had ever heard.
She traced a hesitant finger over his chest, outlining his tattoo.
Edward‘s hand quickly covered hers. ―Don‘t,‖ he breathed, pulling her hand away.
―I‘m sorry. What‘s M.A.I.A.?‖
Bella heard him catch his breath.
―I didn‘t mean to bring it up. But we were telling secrets. I thought ...‖
Edward began to rub his eyes with his free hand, but he didn‘t let her go.
―Maia is a name.‖ His voice grew rough.
―Did you – love her?‖
―Of course I loved her.‖
―Were you together long?‖
He coughed. ―It wasn‘t like that.‖
Bella squeezed him tightly and then closed her eyes.
But Edward lay awake, staring at the ceiling for a very long time.
-
She awoke the next day to find him sitting in a rocking chair a few feet from the bed, fully dressed and watching her.
She yawned slightly and stretched in the rays of sunlight that streamed from in between the blinds.
―You stayed.‖ She smiled at him. ―You didn‘t have to do that.‖
He walked over to her and sat on the edge of the bed, pulling her into a warm embrace.
―I‘ve been up and about but I returned a little while ago to check on you. You‘re very peaceful when you sleep. And very entertaining.‖
His lips pulled inward slightly, as if he was restraining a grin.
―What do you mean?‖
―You were talking in your sleep again.‖
―What did I say?‖
―Oh, nothing much.‖ He leaned over to whisper in her ear. ―I didn‘t know that you were an ass girl.‖
―Edward!‖ She smacked his arm lightly and then they both began to laugh.
He caught her around the waist and pulled her onto his lap.
―However, I would like to state unequivocally that my ass is quite flattered.‖
―Oh really?‖ She arched an eyebrow.
―Extremely. And he wishes for me to convey his very best greetings and – ah – he looks forward to making your acquaintance in a more personal manner when we‘re in Florence.‖
Bella shook her head at him and then leaned forward, begging for a kiss.
She was rewarded with a brief but tender exchange before Edward pulled back.
He grew serious all of a sudden.
―I need to talk to you about a couple of things.‖
She chewed at her lip and waited.
―He‘s been arrested and there are multiple charges. He‘s hired Jason Jenks to be his lawyer and the rumour is that he‘s trying to plea bargain.‖
―Why?‖
―To avoid prison, if he can. Jenks avoids court like the plague, so I‘m sure that he‘s hoping to cut a deal in any case. Charlie has recused himself from the investigation but Emmett placed a call to the prosecutor and received his assurance that your case will be given a very high priority. Emmett emphasized that all of us would like to see the outcome include prison and not some sort of halfway house or treatment program. It‘s too early to tell, though.‖
Bella made a mental note to thank Emmett for speaking up for her. ―What about you? Are you in danger?‖
Edward grinned. ―Jenks made noises about pressing charges. Thankfully, I am represented by Mrs. Rose Cullen, who had a short but illuminating conversation with the prosecutor. They won‘t be charging me with anything. Needless to say, the prosecutor is now sick of the Cullens.‖
Bella closed her eyes and exhaled slowly. The thought of something happening to Edward because of her was painful.
―Carlisle would like to take another look at your hand when you‘re dressed and ready. Alice can help you shower, if you wish.‖
―I‘m not an invalid. My hand hurts, but I can use my left.‖
Edward smiled and kissed her nose. ―Duly noted. I would dearly like to shower you myself, but I‘m afraid such an act would scandalize and shock my relations.‖
Bella giggled. ―Well, I can‘t have you scandalizing your relations, Professor Masen.‖
―Indeed, Miss Swan. It would be most shocking. Most shocking. So in the interest of decorum, my very flattered ass and I will forego showering with you.‖ He leaned forward, his eyes glowing. ―For now.‖
She laughed again and he left her to her daily ablutions.
Showering with only one hand was not easy, but Bella persevered and was even able to wash her hair reasonably well.
While she was struggling to dress herself in the bathroom, her eyes alighted upon a pink and white cardboard box that had fallen beside the waste basket. She leaned over to pick it up but stopped when she realized what it was.
It was a home pregnancy test kit.
She picked it up with her left hand and placed it in the basket, covering it with wadded up toilet paper so that no one else would see it.
Her thoughts immediately went to Alice and the upcoming wedding. Things in the Cullen household were about to become a lot more interesting …
When Bella returned to her bedroom in search of her hair brush, she found Edward hovering in the hallway.
―Is something wrong?‖
He shook his head. ―I wanted to be sure you didn‘t fall or something. You‘re slightly accident prone, you know. And one trip to the hospital this weekend is more than enough.‖
She rolled her eyes and swept past him into her room. When she found her hair brush, she began to pull it awkwardly through her long, tangled tresses. It was rather difficult.
―Let me do that.‖ Edward walked towards her and took the hairbrush from her hand.
―You‘re going to brush my hair?‖
―I‘m not completely heartless, Isabella. It‘s painful to watch you struggle. Here.‖ He pulled out a chair and encouraged her to sit down and then he stood behind her and slowly began to run his fingers from crown to ends, disentangling her hair manually.
Bella closed her eyes.
Edward continued for a moment or two and then he brought his lips to her ear. ―Does this please you?‖
She hummed at him, her eyes still closed.
He chuckled and shook his head. She was easy to please. And he wanted to, desperately.
When all the tangles had been removed, he gently stroked the brush through her hair, working slowly, section by section.
Never in her wildest dreams had Bella imagined Edward as a hairdresser. But there was something instinctual about the way he touched her, and the feeling of his long, thin fingers coaxing her hair made her skin warm and her cheeks flush.
She could only imagine that joys that awaited her in Florence when she would be able to enjoy all of him.
Naked.
She crossed her legs quickly.
―Am I enticing you, Miss Swan?‖ His honeyed voice whispered.
―No.‖
―Then I must not be doing this correctly.‖
He restrained a chuckle and slowed his movements through her hair. He pressed his lips to the edge of her ear, ―Although my true purpose is to make you smile.‖
Bella murmured softly in response. ―Why are you so kind to me?‖
Edward‘s fingers stilled.
―That‘s an extraordinary question to ask your lover.‖
―I mean it, Edward. Why?‖
He moved his fingers through her hair again, even more slowly.
―You‘ve been kind to me since I met you. Why wouldn‘t I be? Don‘t you think you deserve to be treated with kindness?‖
Bella elected not to pursue her original question further.
Despite the fact that she had been overwrought the night before, she knew that she had confessed her love to him at the hospital.
But her declaration had not been returned.
This is enough, she thought. His actions, his kindness, his protection. This is more than enough. I don‟t need the words.
Bella loved him so much it hurt; she had always loved him and her love had burnt so brightly that even during her darkest days its luminosity had not died.
But Edward didn‘t seem to be there. At least, not yet.
When he had finished with her hair, he insisted on making her lunch. Afterwards, they sat together in the kitchen, making plans for the evening.
Until the telephone rang and Carlisle walked in, carrying the cordless phone.
―It‘s Charlie,‖ he said, handing the phone to Bella.
Edward intercepted it and covered the mouthpiece with his hand. ―You don‘t have to talk to him. I‘ll take care of it.‖
She held out her hand. ―It‘s alright. We‘ll have to talk eventually.‖
Bella slipped off the bar stool and walked into the dining room so that she could speak with her father privately.
Carlisle shook his head at Edward. ―You can‘t get in between Bella and her father.‖
Edward gazed at his adoptive father coolly. ―He hasn‘t been much of a father.‖
―He‘s the only father she has. And she is the light of his life.‖
Edward‘s eyes narrowed. ―If he cared for her at all then he would have protected her.‖
Carlisle placed a hand on his shoulder. ―Parents make mistakes. And sometimes, it‘s easier to place your head in the sand than to admit that your child is in trouble. And that it‘s your fault. I know this from personal experience.‖
Edward pursed his lips but said nothing.
Within ten minutes, Bella returned. Despite Carlisle‘s continued presence in the kitchen, Edward drew her into a hug and kissed her cheek. ―Are you alright?‖
―My dad wants to take me to dinner tonight. In Port Angeles,‖ she blurted out.
Carlisle seemed to recognize her admission as his exit cue and so he retreated to his study.
―Do you want to see him?‖
―It‘s going to be uncomfortable. But I said I would go.‖
―Isabella, you don‘t have to do anything. I‘ll take you to dinner, instead.‖
She shook her head. ―He‘s trying, Edward. He‘s my father. I have to give him a chance.‖
Edward shook his head in frustration but elected not to argue with her.
-
At six o‘clock sharp, Charlie appeared on the Cullen‘s doorstep wearing a tie with a dress shirt and trousers. He tugged at the tie nervously. He wasn‘t used to wearing one. But for Bella …
Carlisle quickly welcomed him into the living room and entertained him while they waited for Bella to come downstairs.
―He‘s here. Are you sure you want to go?‖ Edward was reclining on his bed, watching Bella apply lipstick with the use of her compact mirror.
―I‘m not going to stand up my own father. Besides, Rose and Alice are dragging Carlisle to see a chick flick and you are going out with your brothers. I‘d end up sitting here all alone.‖
Edward pushed himself off the bed and walked over to her, wrapping his arms around her waist. ―You wouldn‘t be alone. You‘d be with me. And I do know how to keep a lady entertained.‖
He began pressing wet kisses behind her ear to try to persuade her.
She shook her head.
―You‘re stunning.‖
She blushed. ―Thank you.‖
―Alice found you a scarf.‖ He fingered the edge of a blue silk Hermès design that his sister had artfully wrapped around Bella‘s neck to conceal her mark.
―It was Esme‘s,‖ said Bella softly. ―A gift from Carlisle.‖
―Carlisle liked to spoil her. Especially in Paris.‖
―You are very like him.‖ Bella stood on tip toe to press a kiss to his cheek.
―Wait ‗til we arrive in Florence.‖
He pulled her close and kissed her passionately before releasing her.
―So what will you be doing with your brother and your brother-in-law tonight? Hunting?‖
Edward snickered. ―Hardly. Would you trust Emmett with a gun? I don‘t think so.‖
―Camping in the woods?‖
―Not a chance. My idea of camping is staying in a standard room at the Hilton.‖ He winked at Bella to indicate that he was joking.
―Not a – strip club?‖ She looked up at him through her eyelashes, looking a great deal too adorable.
Edward frowned. ―Do you think I‘d do that?‖
―Isn‘t that what boys do on their nights out?‖
He caressed her cheek with the back of his hand. ―Do you think Rose and Alice would approve of such an excursion?‖
―No.‖
―And what about me, do you think that‘s what I want?‖
Bella looked away and didn‘t answer.
―Why would I go look at other women when the most beautiful woman in the world shares my bed every night?‖
He leaned forward and kissed her softly. ―The only woman I want to see naked is you.‖
Bella smiled and then giggled slightly. ―What was my question? I can‘t remember what I was asking you.‖
He smirked. ―Good. Come here.‖
-
Later that evening, when the house was dark and everyone had retreated to their beds, Bella slipped into Edward‘s bedroom wearing a simple blue nightshirt.
He was sitting in bed reading. He was shirtless and wearing his glasses, his knees bent up casually.
―Hello there,‖ he smiled, placing The End of the Affair on his nightstand. ―You look lovely.‖
―Thank you for going to Charlie‘s to pick up my things. And my phone.‖
―You‘re welcome.‖ He held out his hand and she crawled into bed next to him.
He kissed her before he noticed that she was still wearing Esme‘s Hermès scarf around her neck.
He tugged on one of the ends of it. ―Why are you still wearing this?‖
Bella stared down at the sheets. ―I don‘t want you to have to look at my scar.‖
Edward‘s eyes met hers. ―You don‘t need to hide from me.‖
―It‘s very ugly. I don‘t want to remind you.‖
He stared deeply into her eyes, searchingly.
And then he slowly undid the scarf. He tugged on it so that it gently brushed across the back of her neck and down into his hand.
The tiny hairs on Bella‘s neck stood on end. She felt herself goose-pimple from the trail of silk across her skin. And Edward‘s blazing gaze.
He placed the scarf on his nightstand and then leaned over to press his lips against the mark repeatedly.
―We both have scars, Isabella. Mine just aren‘t on the skin.‖
―I wish we didn‘t,‖ she whispered. ―I wish I was perfect.‖
Edward smiled at her sadly. ―Do you like Caravaggio?‖
―Very much. His painting of The Sacrifice of Isaac is my favourite.‖
He nodded. ―I always preferred The Incredulity of St. Thomas. Carlisle has a copy of it in his study. I was looking at it today.‖
Bella‘s eyebrows knit together. ―I always thought that painting was – strange.‖
―It is. Jesus appears to St. Thomas after the resurrection, and Thomas places his finger in the spear wound in Jesus‘ side. It‘s quite profound.‖
Bella did not see the profundity and so she said nothing.
―If you want to wait until your scar disappears, Isabella, you will wait forever. Scars never disappear. Caravaggio‘s painting made that point to clear to me. Scars might heal and we might forget about them in time, but they‘re permanent. Not even Jesus lost his scars.‖ Edward ran his fingers through his hair thoughtfully.
―If I had troubled myself to stop being selfish, I would have realized that. And I would have treated Esme and my family with greater care. I would have taken greater care with you in September and October.‖ He cleared his throat. ―I hope that you‘ll forgive me for the scars I‘ve given you.‖
Bella crawled into his lap and kissed him forcefully. ―You were forgiven a long time ago and for far less than leaving scars. Please, let‘s not speak of this again.‖
The two almost lovers shared a quiet moment and then Edward asked her how her evening went.
Bella squirmed. ―He cried.‖
Edward‘s eyebrows shot up.
Chief Swan cried? I don‟t believe it.
―He described what he found at the house. And when I told him what had happened before you rescued me, he cried. I didn‘t tell him everything, but I described the fights and some of the things he used to say to me. And my Dad cried, right in the middle of the Bella Italia restaurant.‖ She shook her head. ―We both cried. It was a mess.‖
Edward pushed her hair out of her face so that he could see her better. ―I‘m sorry.‖
"It was good for us. There were some things I needed to say and he listened - maybe for the first time in my life. I don't know where things are going to go from here, but he is trying. And that's a big step already. And when all of that was out of the way, we talked about you. He wanted to know how long we‘ve been seeing one another.‖
―And what did you say?‖
―I said that we hadn‘t been seeing one another for very long but that you were - important. I told him that you had done a lot for me and that I cared about you. A great deal.‖
―And did you tell him how I feel about you?‖
She smiled. ―Well, I left out the part about you wanting to make love to me in Florence, but I said that I thought that you liked me.‖
Edward frowned. ―I like you? Really, Isabella, is that the best you could do?‖
―Edward, it‘s Charlie. He doesn‘t want to hear the romantic sentimental stuff. He wants to know if you‘re still doing drugs and getting into fights. And if you‘re monogamous with me.‖
Edward winced.
She hugged him tightly. ―And of course, I told him that you were a model citizen and that you treated me like a princess. That I don‘t deserve you.‖
―Well, that‘s a lie.‖ He kissed her forehead. ―I don't deserve you.‖
―Nonsense.‖
They kissed softly for a moment or two and then Edward took off his glasses and placed them on top of his book.
He turned out the light and they spooned together blissfully.
Just as they were drifting off to sleep, Bella whispered, ―I love you, Edward.‖
When he didn‘t respond, she assumed he was already dreaming.
She sighed slightly and closed her eyes, snuggling backwards against his chest.
A strong arm flexed across her waist, pulling her tighter still.
And then she heard him inhale deeply and pause.
―Isabella Swan, I love you.‖
Relevant Link:
Caravaggio‘s Painting of ‗The Sacrifice of Isaac‘.
Caravaggio‘s Painting ‗The Incredulity of St. Thomas‘.

simona80
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