Bella wearily made her way along the hallway to Edward’s bedroom, his heart-rending cries spurring her on, as she jogged the last few feet and threw open the door. She wasted no time in going to him.
Quickly discarding her robe and slippers and pulling back the covers, she climbed into bed beside him where he lay on his back. His hands were locked tight around his hair as he shouted his despair, but as soon as Bella put a gentle hand on his chest, his cries became whimpers, his hands falling away from his head.
“Shhh, it’s okay, Edward, you’re safe,” she whispered, pulling herself closer to him as his arms crept around her and held her tight. She moved her hand in soft circles over his heart whilst continuing to murmur meaningless but comforting noises, until he finally quieted. A few minutes later, his even breathing let Bella know that he had fallen into a deeper sleep, and she stilled her hand.
A part of her was disappointed that Edward’s subconscious was still tormenting him so violently, having bared his soul so dramatically that night. However, she couldn’t say she was surprised, as it was inevitable that the events he had described would have left an indelible and terrifying mark on him. It would probably take months, if not years, of therapy before he could find a way to come to terms with it.
After Edward had queried Bella’s kindness, she had been unable to answer, merely smiling and shaking her head. How could she tell him that she could do nothing else but help him? How could she explain that, in three short days, she had grown to care more for this beautiful, but troubled, young man than anyone else she had ever known outside of her family? How could she admit that she would do whatever it took to keep him with her for as long as he was willing to stay?
So, she sat him down and encouraged him to finish his story, listening as he described the long years of poverty and hardship, living rough on the streets at the beginning because he was too young to get a job and too terrified to go home. When at last he was able to get work, it never lasted very long, nor paid enough to afford any kind of decent accommodation, leaving him moving from hostel, to squat, to acquaintances’ floors and back to squats—or worse, shivering under a blanket in a shop doorway. He told her about the drugs which helped him forget, and of his fear of ending up like people he’d known, dying on the street or in squalid, vermin-infested rooms, a belt looped tightly round their arms, and a hypodermic buried in a vein. He talked of those whose veins had collapsed, who injected into their groins, or between their toes.
She had cringed as he described his efforts to avoid those who preyed on vulnerable and desperately lonely young men and women, her imagination filling in the gaps which she was sure he left in his story. He explained how he learned to fight, and how, despite the impoverishment of his diet, he had been fortunate to experience a growth spurt which had enabled him to more easily defend himself. She internally thanked God for such mercies, whilst, at the same time, cursing the system which allowed youngsters like Edward to fall through the cracks.
And then he had told her about the girl.
Tanya had been a runaway at fourteen, and a world-weary crack and heroin addicted prostitute when he met her at eighteen. By then, her looks were already fading, and although they were the same age, she seemed so much older. He could tell that she must have been stunning once, but now her strawberry blonde hair was thin and lank, her English rose complexion was sallow and marred by pimples, and her tall frame was emaciated and androgynous. Her drug habit made her sullen and combative one minute, needy and full of faux affection the next. She was a liar and a thief, who would sell her own mother out for a fix, but Edward recognised the frightened, lonely child inside her, and tried hard to take care of her.
As Bella lay in the darkness, listening to Edward’s steady breathing and feeling the strong thump of his heart beneath her hand, she could hardly conceive of the horrors he’d experienced in these last four years. Barely more than a child himself, he had put himself on the line to protect Tanya—an ultimately futile endeavour.
He had wept again as he had described the squalor in which they lived. How she had become pregnant and been beaten up by her pimp—a cruelly ironic reminder of the event which had set him on this course. Answering Bella’s silent question, he had haltingly told her that he had no idea if it was his child or not.
Despite the beating, the foetus had survived, only to be born prematurely, already addicted to crack and heroin. He could barely get the words out as he talked of how the child screamed and cried endlessly as it underwent enforced cold turkey. Tanya had no milk, and even if she’d had any, it would have just prolonged the baby’s addiction, so Edward begged, borrowed and stole the money to buy powdered baby milk.
Bella listened, tears rolling down her cheeks, as Edward described the morning he had woken up to silence. How he had, at first, revelled in it, until he realised that it was too quiet.
Pushing himself off the dirty mattress he shared with Tanya, he stumbled into the next room where little Katie slept in a cardboard box lined with grubby blankets. Looking down on her tiny, undernourished body, he touched a finger gently to her waxen cheek. She was so still and so cold, and the knowledge that she was gone and that she might have been his daughter brought him to his knees. Minutes later, he wasn’t even aware of Tanya coming into the room until he heard her shrill, keening wail. But when he got up and tried to give her comfort, she pushed him away, dashing back into their bedroom.
Following close behind, he could only stand in the doorway and watch as she cooked up her morning fix, filled the syringe with shaking hands and looped a belt around her right forearm. Then, gripping the strap between her teeth, she pulled it tight, before extending her arm and slapping at the crease of her elbow. The veins in her left arm had long since failed, but she managed to raise the one in her right arm sufficiently to allow her to plunge the hypodermic home.
Moments later, she had been wholly unconcerned about the sad little corpse in the next room.
Edward had wiped away his tears and got dressed. He knew he should probably stay and try to offer comfort, but Tanya would have neither known nor cared in her present state.
And, if he was honest, he was very much afraid he’d be tempted to follow her into oblivion if he hung around.
So he had left and walked around for hours. As his grief threatened to swamp him, he'd lost track of time, but when it started to rain, he had finally headed back to the flat.
He wished he hadn’t.
When he returned to the squat he called home, Tanya was awake, the baby was gone, and Roy, her pimp, was propelling her out the door. Edward had asked about Katie, only to be told that it had been ‘taken care of’. Appalled, he had challenged Roy to tell him what he meant by that, but the next thing he knew, the odious pimp’s two thugs had pushed him to the ground and given him a good kicking.
After that, he didn’t see Tanya for over a week. He’d managed to find some work carrying an advertising board and handing out leaflets for a local sports shop, and when he got home one night, Tanya was just sitting there. Clearly she’d been beaten up, although she wouldn’t say whether it was Roy or a customer—‘Why does it matter?’ she had asked him dully. She had refused to go to hospital, merely lighting up a fresh crack pipe and slumping back onto the mattress.
Two days later, Edward had returned home to find her lifeless body lying pale and cold on the floor of the furniture-less lounge, a needle still in her arm and the sickly stench of vomit and death all pervasive in the small, crumbling apartment.
Without hesitation, he had packed his few belongings, including the emergency twenty pound note he’d stashed under a floorboard. He then called an ambulance and walked out of the flat for the last time, leaving the door open.
That night he saw Paul.
Instinctively, Bella tightened her grip on Edward as she recalled the terrified expression that had instantly clouded his face when he whispered this latest revelation.
After leaving the squat he had shared with Tanya, he had managed to get a bed at a hostel near Kings Cross Station. The next day he had tried, unsuccessfully, to get some work in one of the many cafés and restaurants nearby. As the darkness closed in and the temperature dropped, he had headed towards a pub he knew near the station, in the hope of maybe getting some cash-in-hand work collecting glasses, only to stop dead as he rounded a corner. Frozen to the spot, he watched as Paul pushed through the door of the pub and stepped out onto the pavement, glancing around him with a speculative look on his face.
Edward had shot back out of sight, flattening himself against the wall. Peeping tentatively back around the corner, he breathed a sigh of relief as the heavy-set man from his past walked off in the opposite direction. Waiting until he had disappeared up the road, Edward ran across the road and into the pub, walking straight up to the bar. It was still only late afternoon and the pub was quiet, so he was quickly able to get the barman’s attention.
Upon enquiring, his heart had sunk to his boots when he discovered that his nemesis had clearly been asking about him. Fortunately, the barman had been unable to tell Paul anything, and, indeed, had obviously not, in any case, been particularly interested in helping him. However, just the fact that the star of his nightmares was here and specifically looking for him, had scared the living shit out of Edward.
He’d left the pub immediately and hurried off in the opposite direction, away from his mother’s murderer. He’d walked for nearly an hour, before catching a bus out towards West London. He’d thought hard about what to do, eventually remembering a friend from when he’d first lived on the street, who had left London for Bristol a couple of years earlier. Edward still had his number and, even though he got no response when he called from a phone box, he reasoned that the mere fact it was ringing was a good sign. Thus it was that he decided to head to Bristol, and found himself looking for a lift on that fateful night just a few days ago.
So, now Bella understood, finally, why Edward had been driven to such desperate and ill-considered measures. She had held him as they sat together on the sofa, her heart aching for him. By the time he was barely old enough to vote, he had experienced more tragedy than anyone should have to deal with in a whole lifetime, and now it seemed he feared for that very life.
But he was safe now; Paul would never find him here.
That thought alone made Bella smile to herself. If nothing else kept Edward in her life, that fact surely would.
And without it even occurring to her that she should probably now get up and return to her room, Bella settled down beside him and fell asleep.
Had they been observed, it would have appeared as if they were connected by an invisible string, because, even in their sleep, as one would turn, so the other would follow. Each time, they would end up spooning, chest to back, as the one behind would drape an arm over the one in front.
In this way, wrapped in each other’s warm embrace, they both passed the remainder of the night in dreamless slumber.
Edward woke first, immediately aware, from the way the light poured through the window, that it was late in the morning.
Concurrent with this observation was the very interesting fact that he wasn’t alone.
Lying on his side facing the wall, he realised that Bella was snuggled up against him, her breasts squished against his back and her arm tucked under his, so that her hand rested on his chest.
He was warm and comfortable, and whilst he absolutely revelled in the feeling of having Bella wrapped around him, he also couldn’t help thinking about the one-hundred-and-eighty degree turn his life had taken in the last three days.
On Friday he had walked away from the corpse of his girlfriend, little more than a week after the death of her child—who might also have been his. Hours later he was running from the man who had murdered his mother, only to end up almost dying of hypothermia.
And then Bella had happened. She had literally driven into his life, scooped him up, and transported him to a place of beauty, comfort and safety.
That’s all it had taken for everything to change. And not just in terms of his survival and comfort.
Was it possible to fall in love in three days?
And, having fallen in love, was there any chance that the object of his desire would reciprocate at all?
He shook his head against the pillow, internally remonstrating with himself. Of course she wouldn’t. Why would a woman like Bella Swan be interested in him?
She was beautiful, clever, talented and wealthy. And he was just a stupid kid, whose formal education had ceased at fifteen. He had no qualifications, no job, no money and no future. What the hell did he have to offer I M Swan, successful artist and author?
But right now, she was here, in his bed, pressed so close to him he could feel her heartbeat and the warmth of her breath on his neck. Her hand was clasped tightly to his chest. Her leg was tangled with his and he could feel the heat… oh, fuck… the heat from between her legs against his lower back.
Not wanting to move, lest he disturb her and cause another panicky withdrawal like the morning before, he nevertheless couldn’t resist putting his own hand over the top of hers.
He froze as her breathing stuttered slightly, and then she was wiggling against him, almost as if she was trying to get even closer, her fingers flexing under his.
Then, she moaned… very softly, but so close to his ear that he couldn’t miss it. All of a sudden, he was glad their positions weren’t reversed, as his cock went straight from sleeping puppy to rampant horndog in about two seconds flat. In fact, so quickly did the blood rush to his groin, he was pretty sure that if he hadn’t already been lying down, he would have been in grave danger of fainting dead away.
And then, Bella wriggled again, whimpering quietly. Edward’s eyes, which had been half-closed, flew open in shock.
Holy fucking hell!
This time, it was Edward who groaned, as he realised that not only was Bella apparently having an erotic dream, but she was... rubbing herself against him, causing his t-shirt to ride up… and she was…
Oh, fuck me, she’s so wet.
Edward wanted to turn over so badly—but he knew he couldn’t… mustn’t. If he turned to face Bella, one of two things would happen, both with equally dire consequences.
She would either wake up and re-enact a replay of yesterday morning’s debacle… or he would rip off her underwear and ram himself hard and deep inside her before she’d even properly woken up—an action which would be guaranteed to get him thrown out into the snow… at best.
Worst case scenario? She would knee him in the bollocks and call the police. Although, maybe that would be better, because at least he’d have a nice, warm cell and three square meals a day for the next few years.
What. The. Fuck?!
Had she just said—or, rather, breathed—his name... in her sleep… in the midst of a fucking erotic dream?
Bella’s hand suddenly fisted against his chest, her hips jerked once against him, and she let out a long, soft sigh.
Arsenal, Man U, Chelsea, Liverpool, West Ham, Spurs….
Edward silently tried to reel off all the teams in the Premiership* in a desperate attempt to stop himself focussing on the fact that he was pretty sure Bella had just had an orgasm—which might well trigger one of his own!
… West Brom, Man U, Fulham, Chelsea, Man U, Sunderland, Everton, Spurs… oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck…
He felt Bella suddenly twitch against him, and then she was pulling her hand away. He sensed rather than felt her roll onto her back and stretch her arms up above her head, a contented moan escaping her.
He didn’t dare turn round—he could have someone’s eye out with what he was sporting in his pyjamas—but he chanced a quick look over his shoulder.
Bella was stretching like a cat, her eyes closed and a small but contented smile on her face.
Edward quickly looked back at the wall, feigning sleep, just in time to hear Bella inhale sharply in a small gasp of what he supposed was realisation. There was a brief pause, during which he imagined her glancing over at him to ascertain whether he was still asleep. As he lay still, eyes squeezed shut, he felt the mattress flex, followed by the rustle of clothes, and then he heard Bella quietly pad out of the room, opening and closing the door softly.
The moment the door shut behind her, he let out the breath he hadn’t realised he’d been holding and flopped over onto his back. Sliding both hands through his hair, he glanced down at the tent he was pitching, and decided he needed to take a shower… STAT.
Rolling out of bed, he trudged into the bathroom and turned on the shower. Divesting himself of his t-shirt and pyjama bottoms, he managed, with some difficulty, to point his independently-minded dick at the toilet bowl in order to relieve his bladder, at least.
As the room filled up with steam, he stepped under the torrent of hot water and, not for the first time, gave silent thanks to whatever deity might finally be on his side, for the incredible luxury of his new home and the gift of on-demand hot water.
However, it didn’t take long for his thoughts to meander off in an altogether different direction, as memories of Bella’s hot little body pressed against his, and her incredible sex noises, had him reaching for his aching cock.
Sex with Tanya had been intermittent at best—usually when they were both drunk or stoned—and it had been a long time since the last occasion. In fact, he couldn’t remember the last time they had fucked. For Tanya, of course, the sex had meant nothing, merely an opportunity to be close to someone she actually liked. He knew she didn’t really enjoy it, and she never came—she didn’t pretend either, telling him she had to do that with punters, so she didn’t want to do it with him. She was happy for him to get off, more often than not offering him a hand or blowjob, but he knew that, for her, it was more about the closeness and affection he could provide than the sex.
And, if he was honest, he didn’t often fancy Tanya enough to want sex—especially when she’d spent the day or night being endlessly fucked by a succession of random men.
Ultimately, their relationship boiled down to a mutual support system, and the occasional sexual release was just a by-product of that.
Plus, of course, the smack* totally suppressed Edward’s libido.
Edward had never injected heroin, always having been terrified of needles and the risk of infection. And if that hadn’t been enough to put him off, watching people he knew desperately looking for a useable vein in the most obscure and disgusting places, would have solidified his antipathy.
He did, however, smoke it.
When he had first arrived in London, he had been scared to do more than puff on the occasional joint—something he had done with Mike before he ran away from home. But as his situation worsened, it didn’t take long for him to take refuge in the oblivion offered by smack.
But when friends died, it gave him pause—and because he didn’t mainline,* he was able to cut down somewhat. He also tried to work whenever he could, constantly canvassing bars and cafés for whatever he could get. It was rarely long-term and, without a permanent address, it was hard to get anything more than washing dishes, but it helped to keep his habit under control. Then, when Tanya was well into her pregnancy, it occurred to him that he needed to get straight, because he doubted she ever would, even after the baby was born—a belief that proved to be accurate. So, a month before Katie was born, he chased his last dragon.*
Going cold turkey had been difficult, but not as bad as it could have been if he’d been a heavy, intravenous user. But in the aftermath of Katie’s death, he had almost caved when he saw how it wiped away Tanya’s grief in seconds. And, perhaps, if Roy hadn’t turned up and pressed her back into service on the streets, he might well have done.
Now, of course, he had good reason to be grateful that he’d managed to stay clean long enough to get himself out of London and, by extension, fall into the path of his beautiful guardian angel.
And, clearly, his libido had returned with a vengeance.
With visions of a naked and wanton Bella moaning as she writhed beneath him, he worked his well-soaped cock in a fast, even rhythm, grunting as he leaned his forehead against the back of his hand where it rested on the tiled wall of the shower. It didn’t take long for his climax to hit, leaving him gasping as the hot water washed away the evidence.
At last, washed and dressed, he made his way down to the kitchen, where he found Bella sitting at the table, sipping a cup of tea and looking pensive.
Walking in, Edward crossed straight over to the table, pulled out the chair opposite Bella and sat down. As he reached for the pot of tea and started filling the mug which was set in front of him, he glanced up at her.
“’Morning,” he greeted her quietly, before furrowing his brow in confusion as a bright pink glow suffused her cheeks.
“Um, hi… good morning…” She put her cup down and jumped up, dashing over to the worktop. “I was, uh, going to do scrambled egg on toast… is that okay?”
Edward stared at her back, wondering if what he had revealed the night before had her re-thinking her decision to let him stay.
“Yeah, that would be great. Do you, uh, want me to do anything?”
“No… um, well, you could light the fire?” Bella glanced over her shoulder to see Edward smile and nod, then get up and head into the sitting room.
Turning back to the worktop, she sighed with relief, feeling her blush fade. The moment Edward had appeared, her mind went straight to the amazing dream she’d been having before she woke up this morning. Thank God Edward had still been asleep, because she was pretty sure the reason she woke up was because she’d moaned aloud as she’d come.
Mortified, she’d crept back to her room, where she’d discovered the evidence of her arousal as soon as she’d stripped off her underwear.
What did they call women like her these days? Pumas or cougars or some such ridiculous thing?
When Edward had walked into the kitchen and sat down it was as much as she could do not to sigh aloud, and she was thankful for the thick jumper she’d chosen to wear, which hid the way her nipples immediately sprang to life at the sight of him.
Oh, this was not good… not good at all.
She wanted him.
There… she’d let herself think it. For all the good it would do her!
Oh, God, he’d think she was a really sad old bint, she was sure.
Stop torturing yourself, you numpty, she chastised herself.
Bella turned and opened the fridge, retrieving eggs, butter and milk, and set about making breakfast.
I will not think about his beautiful eyes… his kissable mouth… his chiselled jaw… his strong arms… his enormous—
Oh, for fuck’s sake!
Smack – Heroin
Mainline –Intravenous drug use
Chase the dragon – Smoke heroin
The Premiership is the top division within the English Football (Soccer) League; there are 20 teams, so what with him repeating several, Edward was way too distracted to even get close!