Edward stood for a moment, his mind in turmoil, as he realised that Bella had almost wilfully misunderstood him.
“Motherfuck!” he exclaimed.
Galvanised, he shot out the door and ran into the kitchen, only to find it empty.
Crap, crap, crap, she’s already gone to her room. What the fuck am I gonna do? I can’t just bang on the door and demand that she let me in… not when she thinks I’ve already rejected her. But if I don’t explain, it’s gonna be all kinds of awkward again tomorrow. Dammit, Bella!
Upstairs, Bella stood in front of the mirror in her bathroom, hands planted on either side of the washbasin, staring at herself.
Isabella Swan, you are one deluded dipstick.
She raised her left hand and brushed the tips of her fingers over the ugly, psychedelic bruise. Although the swelling had gone down, to her over-critical eye, the top of her nose appeared slightly bulbous, her eyelid still looked a little puffy, and the discolouration seemed to have spread further across the left side of her face… what man in his right mind would find her attractive?
Shaking her head and sighing in resignation, she pulled back from the vanity. Turning away, she pulled her camisole over her head and tossed it into the laundry basket in the corner. She hooked her thumbs inside the waistband of her leggings and sat on the toilet seat to pull them off, together with her socks, before adding them to the basket.
Dressed in just her bra and a thong, she grabbed her electric toothbrush and proceeded to clean her teeth.
She didn’t hear the soft, tentative knocking on her bedroom door.
After rinsing with mouthwash and quickly relieving herself, she washed her hands and then used a cleansing wipe to freshen her face. Finally, she grabbed an elastic hair tie and walked back into the bedroom whilst, at the same time, pulling her long hair up to tie it into a ponytail, preparatory to applying moisturiser.
“Oh, fuck me!”
Bella’s head shot up and her eyes met Edward’s wide, panicked stare.
“Jesus, Bella, I’m sorry… I did knock…” He trailed off, unable to articulate further—or to stop staring.
Equally, Bella was rooted to the spot, her hands frozen in the act of pulling her hair through the twisted tie. But then, as she watched Edward’s gaze rake down her body, she suddenly seemed to become aware of her semi-nakedness and dropped her arms, letting her hair tumble down around her face and shoulders. Glancing quickly around her, she spotted her robe lying across the end of the bed and made a grab for it. She turned her back on the apparently dumbstruck man and pulled it on, fumbling, in her haste, to find the armholes. Looking over her shoulder as she tied the sash, she noted that Edward was still frozen in place.
“What are you doing in here, Edward?” She was angry—with him, with herself—and failed to hide the sharpness of her tone.
Jolted out of his near trance-like state, Edward finally seemed to take stock of what he was doing, and where he was. Fiercely running both hands through his hair, he dropped his gaze and shuffled his feet. As Bella turned once again to face him, he abandoned the attack on his unruly locks and pushed his hands into his jeans pockets.
“Edward, I’m tired, so whatever has you so het up that you felt obliged to barge into my room uninvited will have to wait until tomor—”
“Bella, please, you’ve got it all wrong. Whatever you’re thinking happened downstairs… look, I need to say my piece, so you know why I said what I said… and then… well, if you want me to go, I’ll go… I mean, I’ll leave in the morning… if that’s what you want. But you have to hear me out… please.”
He finally raised his head to find Bella’s gaze fixed intently on him. As their eyes met, he saw her pupils dilate, and then she was breaking the connection, forcing herself to stare at a point somewhere over his left shoulder. She said nothing, but he could see the tension in her shoulders and in the way she crossed her arms tightly over her chest.
He took a step towards her, but as soon as he saw her bristle, he stopped. How had they gone so quickly from the torrid intimacy of barely twenty minutes ago, to this cold impasse?
“Bella, I… Jesus, how do I even say this?” Edward removed his hands from his pockets and clasped them around the back of his neck. Sighing, he tried again.
“The reason I stopped… downstairs… if you’re under some ridiculous impression that I don’t want you… God, Bella, nothing could be further from the truth.”
Now she did look at him, a bemused expression on her face.
“But you said—”
“I said we needed to stop, because the last time I had sex was with Tanya—a heroin and crack addicted prostitute. She said she always used a condom with punters, but… well, I can’t remember if we always did… if we were, you know, stoned, and it’s possible she forgot with customers—or… you know, maybe they refused. Sometimes I thought Katie might be mine, but mostly I reckoned she probably wasn’t… I mean, she didn’t look like me… Anyway, the point is that I don’t have a condom, and I’m thinking you wouldn’t have had one handy either, and I really need to get checked out… you know, at a clinic, before I can…” He gestured vaguely towards her with his hand, two bright spots of colour lighting up the pale skin of his cheeks.
“So, um, it wasn’t because of my face or because I’m… too old,” Bella mumbled, so softly he had to lean forward to hear her.
“What the fuck? How could you think that? You’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever set eyes on, even with the damage that bastard did to you.”
He took a chance and stepped closer. Bella still seemed a little wary, but she dropped her arms, her fingers playing nervously with the sash of her robe.
“Really.” He continued to move slowly towards her, until he was standing less than a foot away.
“But I think I’m probably a lot older than you,” she insisted.
“That’s daft—you can’t be more than four or five years older than me. I’ll be twenty in June.”
Bella gasped and met his gaze. “Twenty? You mean you’re nineteen right now?”
Edward chuckled. “Yep, all legal and above board.”
“Yeah, right… well, I’m gonna be thirty next September.”
Edward stared at Bella for a moment, and then cocked any eyebrow.
“So, you’re just twenty-nine, in fact.”
“Well, yes, but… bloody hell, Edward, I’m nearly ten years older than you. Not so attractive now, am I?”
She started crossing her arms again, casting her gaze to one side so that she wouldn’t see his inevitable rejection.
But Edward was having none of it. He reached out and pulled at her arms, sliding his hands down until he had hold of both of hers. Squeezing them gently, he cocked his head to one side to try and get her to look at him.
“Listen to me, Bella. The first time I saw you, with your face all swollen and bruised, you took my breath away. Every day, the better I get to know you, and the more you heal, you become more beautiful. I can’t believe you’re twenty-nine—you absolutely don’t look it, and even if you did, it wouldn’t make the slightest difference to me. I know it’s only been a few days, but I feel like I’ve known you forever… I feel like I’ve been waiting all my life to meet you. Does that make any sense?”
Bella swallowed hard and finally looked at the stunning boy in front of her. She glanced down at their joined hands and then back up at him. It was foolish… ridiculous … and yet, she couldn’t deny that it made perfect sense. Never in her life had she met anyone with whom she’d felt so instantly connected, despite their very different backgrounds. Yes, they had only known one another for a ridiculously short time, but something just felt so… right. Like when you’re trying to catch your breath and you just can’t take in enough air, and then, all of a sudden, you inhale deeply and feel your lungs fill completely.
“Yes,” she breathed.
“Yes, it makes total sense… to me.” She smiled up at him, her first smile since they had parted company downstairs.
“Good. So, I take it you now understand that if I had a condom right now, or there was any chance at all your old granny was a bit of a goer and left a box of ‘extra ribbed’ in the bedside table, I’d be all over you like a cheap suit.”
Bella giggled. “I suppose.”
“There’s no ‘suppose’ about it. If you don’t believe me…” He guided Bella’s left hand down with his right and then pressed it against the fly of his jeans, causing her to gasp when she felt the rigid bulge beneath the material.
“See? That’s what you do to me… like, all the bloody time.” He stared down at her, his eyes hooded, and licked his lips.
Bella felt her heart rate pick up alarmingly, and she finally understood the expression, ‘my heart was in my mouth’, because she could feel its staccato beat in the back of her throat. Unconsciously mimicking Edward’s gesture, she, too, licked her lips, causing his eyes to focus intently on her mouth.
“You make me wish for all kinds of things I can’t have,” he told her softly.
“Who says you can’t have them?” she whispered, tilting her head up in a clear invitation.
“Guys like me aren’t supposed to get girls like you,” he responded, dipping his own head so that his lips now brushed hers in the lightest of kisses.
As he went to pull back, Bella let go of one of his hands, raising it in order to curl her fingers around the nape of his neck, bringing him back to her. She sucked his lower lip into her mouth, feeling, rather than hearing, the groan which escaped him.
And then his arms were around her, his mouth all over hers as he kissed her with an intensity and a passion which he had never previously felt with anyone else.
Both of Bella’s hands found their way into his hair, as she attempted to get ever closer to him.
For long minutes, the only sounds in the room were the smack and suck of lips, soft, barely audible moans, and the odd grunts of frustration and need.
It was Edward who drew away first—partly in want of oxygen, partly because he knew that if he didn’t stop now, he wouldn’t stop at all. Bella was practically naked, and just a few feet behind her was a big, comfortable bed.
Inhaling vital air and breathing heavily, Edward attempted to slow things down without prompting a similar reaction to the one Bella had had downstairs.
“Bella… God, Bella, I don’t want to stop, but if we carry on, I’m going to do something really, really stupid. Please, have mercy on me.”
He used both hands to sweep her tousled hair away from her face, leaning his forehead against hers.
“Dammit to hell, Edward, maybe I should call Alice and see if she has any condoms!” Bella was on the Pill but, for the first time, desperately resented the snow which made it impossible to simply drive the mile and a half to the 24-hour petrol station for urgently needed supplies.
Edward chuckled, although she could clearly hear the edge of frustration behind it.
“Yeah, I’m sure Jasper and Alice would love to be woken up at one o’clock in the morning by their horny neighbours.”
He pulled further away, holding Bella by the shoulders and keeping her at arm’s length.
“Look, we’ve only known each other… what, four days? And we’ve both had a lot to drink. Tomorrow morning you may well have second thoughts, and I don’t ever want to do anything that will make you feel awkward, or think less of me.”
Bella rolled her eyes and put her fingers over his mouth to shush him. Then she slipped her right hand into his left and pulled him towards the bed. At first, he tried to resist, but then, when she sat down and patted the space beside her, he quickly joined her, swivelling his body to face her.
“Edward, I could say the same to you, but I think it’s pretty clear that there’s something going on between us. You’re right, of course, about getting checked out at a clinic—not because of the sex thing… well, not entirely because of that, but to make sure you’re healthy. It was remarkably foolish of me to forget about that, and I’m glad there’s at least one sensible, mature grownup around here. I feel pretty stupid right now.
“As for the amount of time we’ve known each other… I’m starting to think that it wouldn’t matter whether it was four days, four months or four years. I can’t deny that I’m a little concerned about our age difference, but I suppose if it were the other way round, neither of us would give it a moment’s thought, so I’m probably being a bit paranoid…”
“You are! Honestly, Bella, I really don’t give a toss about it. Even if you looked your age—which you absolutely don’t—it wouldn’t matter, not to me. I just...”
“You just what?”
Edward sighed, picking up her right hand from where it lay in her lap, and gently rubbing her fingers.
“I just think you’ll wake up in the morning and realise it’s the drink talking and that I’m not good enough for you.”
“Oh, Edward, that’s nonsense—”
“Is it, Bella? Really? I left school when I was fifteen; I don’t even have GCSEs*, let alone a degree; I’ve never had a proper job, and until a few days ago I was living in a squat with a junkie prostitute, who was shooting up two minutes after finding her baby dead. I have no idea who my father is, and I’m on the run from the man who murdered my mother. In anyone’s book, I’m a pretty bad bet.”
“Well, I think you’re decent and brave, extraordinarily resourceful and resilient, and a bloody hard worker. On top of all that, you’re drop dead gorgeous and sexy as hell… oh, and a phenomenally good cook to boot—which, by the way, is not only really cool, but also incredibly sexy. Just where the hell did you learn to cook like that?”
Edward’s chin dropped to his chest, a shy smile lighting his face.
“You think I’m gorgeous?” he asked, glancing up through his unfeasibly long eyelashes.
Bella pursed her lips. “Don’t forget sexy… and that’s all the ego-stroking you’re getting tonight.”
Edward smirked. “Well, it’s not my ego I want you to stroke right now.”
She gasped and slapped his shoulder. “Edward Masen, you are shameless. And you’re the one who put the brakes on, so stop revving my engine unless you’re prepared to take me for a ride.”
“You’re right, I’m sorry. I just… shit, Bella, I just want you… you know?”
Swivelling to face him on the bed, she reached up and cupped his cheek.
“I do know, Edward, believe me.” She dropped her hand and sighed deeply, focussing on her lap. She said nothing for a moment, and when she glanced back up, she found Edward looking intently down at her, brows furrowed.
“Are we being foolish, Edward? I keep telling myself that we only met four days ago, but we seem to be hurtling into something over which neither of us seems to have any control.”
“Bella—” Edward’s expression became ever more concerned; he didn’t like the way this was going.
She held up her hand, palm out.
“Hang on, just let me finish. That’s what I keep telling myself, but what I’m feeling is… God, I don’t know… it just feels totally… inevitable? Like, no matter what I do, even if I were to send you away, somehow it wouldn’t make any difference. I keep thinking that, even if you’d got a lift from someone else that night, something would have happened to bring us together.
“Christ, I sound like an idiot. I honestly don’t believe in all that bollocks about fate and destiny—I think, to a very great extent, you make your own luck. And yet… oh, take no notice of me, I’m starting to babble.”
She went to stand up, but Edward grabbed her arm and pulled her back down. As she turned to look at him, he took her face gently in his hands.
“You’re not babbling,” he told her softly, “you’re absolutely right.”
He kissed her then, softly, passion abated for now.
Pulling away, he smiled at her, and was rewarded by an answering smile. By mutual, unspoken agreement, they both got up, and Bella walked him to the door. There, they kissed again, a light, chaste touch of soft lips on soft lips.
“Goodnight, Bella. I hope you have an undisturbed night.”
She nodded in understanding, but said nothing. Although she didn’t want Edward to have to endure another hideous nightmare, she knew it would be untrue to say she’d be upset if she had to rush to his room again tonight.
“Oh, and Edward?”
He paused with his hand on the edge of the door, and looked back at her quizzically.
“Please don’t mention my grandmother and condoms in the same sentence ever again.”
He laughed and walked away, down the passage to his own room, where he turned to look at her one more time, before opening the door and disappearing from view.
Bella lay awake for a long time, listening out for the tell-tale signs of Edward having another nightmare, but the silence of the night remained unbroken. In fact, it was the first time since she’d arrived that Bella had been quite so aware of just how profoundly quiet and dark the countryside was. It was a little like being in one of those sensory deprivation tanks, and, as sleep eluded her, she started to find it almost oppressive. In London, it was never completely silent or dark, and she began to feel a little claustrophobic.
Turning the light on, she immediately felt both relieved and a little foolish. She sat up in bed and picked up her Kindle from the bedside table. For a good ten minutes, she tried hard to concentrate on the words in front of her, and not think about Edward, half-naked, in his room down the hall.
It was an exercise in futility, if ever there was one.
She glanced at her radio-alarm clock, groaning when she saw that it was gone three o’clock.
She got up and ran quickly to the bathroom to pee, shivering in her thin pyjamas—with the heating off, the warmth had quickly leached from the house through the single-glazed windows.
She closed the bathroom door quietly as she returned to her room, and wondered for a moment if she dared creep into Edward’s room and climb into bed with him—just for a cuddle. She even went so far as to put on her robe and slippers and tiptoe out of her room and down to his.
For almost two minutes she stood outside his door, trying to summon up the courage—and a sufficiently good excuse—to go in. But, in the end, she knew it was a bad idea. There was still enough alcohol in her system that, if Edward gave into temptation, she would just let him, and damn the consequences, which she knew would be a remarkably stupid thing to do.
Bella sighed and turned away. Back in her own room, she threw off her robe and slippers and climbed back into her still-warm bed. With the duvet pulled up to her chin, she let her fingers slide down over her breasts, gently circling her prominent nipples, before easing down over her stomach and inside her pyjamas. Parting her legs, she pushed her middle finger between her lower lips, knowing that the moisture gathered there would provide more than enough lubrication. Finding her clit, she wasn’t surprised to discover that it was already a little swollen, and proceeded to rub against it in tight little circles, the motion speeding up, along with her breathing, as she desperately sought relief from her gnawing frustration.
Squeezing her eyes tightly shut as a wonderful tingling sensation started to blossom in her abdomen, she forced herself to remain quiet.
In her mind’s eye, it was Edward, lying beside her, who was wringing such pleasure out of her, and she almost bit her tongue when her orgasm swamped her, rolling over her like a wave and pulling her under.
“Edward… Jesus… yessss,” she hissed in a tortured whisper.
Her hand fell away and she breathed heavily as she came down. She told herself she’d get up in just a minute to clean herself up and wash her hands. But just minutes later, her breathing had not only returned to normal, but had evened out and become deeper, and she fell into a dreamless sleep.
Down the hall, Edward had sat up in bed when he heard Bella outside his room. Suffering from a similar bout of insomnia, he had heard the creak of the old floorboards as she had crept down the hall, and he had waited with both dread and anticipation for her to come in. When she didn’t, he wasn’t sure whether to be relieved or disappointed.
He pushed the duvet off and looked down at himself. Because he kept the curtains drawn back, his room was bathed in a silvery light from the moon, and he could clearly see the bulge in his pyjamas. But even if his room was as dark as Bella’s, he would have been more than aware of his aching cock.
Now, with Bella in retreat, he had no alternative but to release himself from his pyjamas and take matters into his own hand.
It didn’t take long, and round about the moment that Bella was gasping through her orgasm, Edward’s own was spurting and splashing across his stomach and over his hand. Unlike Bella, he forced himself out of bed and cleaned up. He then got back under the covers and, again, in contrast to the sleeping woman at the end of the hall, he lay awake for another hour, praying—to whom or what, he didn’t know.
Edward’s pleas to a higher power were two-fold.
He desperately hoped that Bella would, in the cold light of day, feel the same as she had when they’d been together in her room.
And he prayed really, really hard for the snow to melt.
GCSEs are exams taken by 16 year olds in British schools. After that, 17-18 year olds study for their A-level exams, which are what they need to get into university.