A weak and anaemic sun made its way unerringly into the sky the following morning, lighting up the snow to a dazzling, almost phosphorescent glow, but not even raising the temperature to zero.*
Thus, one of Edward’s prayers went unanswered.
All was not lost, however.
Upon entering the kitchen, he was assailed by the positively mouth-watering smells of bacon and toast.
Equally, if not more, delicious was the huge smile Bella turned on him as he walked in.
“Hey, you,” she said brightly.
“Hey, yourself,” he responded, moving closer and, after a moment’s hesitation, wrapping his arms around her from behind. He was encouraged when Bella made no move to extricate herself or chastise him, and it suddenly seemed like the most natural thing in the world to nuzzle her hair back with his nose and plant a soft kiss on her neck.
Bella giggled, reduced the heat under the pan of eggs and turned inside Edward’s embrace. Without further ado, she put her arms round his neck and reached up on tiptoes to kiss him.
“Ummm, and a very good morning to you, too,” he mumbled against her lips. He felt her smile, and then, even more welcoming, her lips parted and her tongue darted into his mouth, seeking its counterpart.
The kiss quickly escalated, and it was only the sizzle and pop of oil in the pan behind Bella which forced them apart.
“Shit, the eggs,” Bella cursed, turning back to the stove. “I hope you like yours well done.”
“What do you mean, mine?—I thought they were yours. Do me some fresh ones, woman,” Edward teased.
“Ha, just because you’ve copped a feel of the landlady, doesn’t mean you can take liberties, young man. Now shoo, go make the tea.”
Edward laughed, relinquishing his hold on her hips, but giving her bottom a slap as he turned away.
Bella squealed, turning and taking a swipe at him with the tea towel she had draped over her shoulder. But Edward was quick, and she missed, causing her to pout. This, in turn, made Edward want to scoop her up into his arms and take her to bed that instant.
“Enough with the pouty thing, it makes me want to risk hypothermia by walking through the snow to find a chemist.”* He scowled, although his tone was playful. “And if you want me to keep my hands off that amazing arse, you need to wear a burka.”
Bella laughed, revelling in this new ease they both felt with one another.
“Right back atcha, handsome—if my bum is fair game, then I’m calling open season on yours too, so watch out.” She grinned at him, and then once again told him to get on with making the tea.
They spent the rest of the day working in what was to become Bella’s office/studio. Edward had found all the tools and materials he needed to make a start on stripping the floorboards and preparing them for varnishing. He worked hard, and Bella couldn’t help but admire his diligence and perfectionism. How this boy had never been able to get a job which kept him off the streets she could not understand.
At one point, she came into the room with a fresh bucket of hot water for cleaning up behind Edward as he made progress across the room, only to be brought up short. Edward was on his hands and knees, and had stripped off his sweater, leaving him in only a form-fitting singlet and jeans.
Undoubtedly, he would be considered a little underweight for his age and height, but even in the few days since they’d arrived he had already started to look healthier, and it was very obvious that he had a naturally well-toned physique. His shoulders were broad, which emphasised his sculpted chest, tapered hips and endless legs.
As if further emphasis were needed, the thin cotton of his vest* adhered to his taut, unblemished skin, which was currently glazed with sweat.
Rearing up on his knees to look at his work and stretch his back, Bella couldn’t help but think that he looked like a statue of a Greek god—he was Apollo and Adonis, all rolled into one, both heroic and handsome beyond simple words.
And now she realised his skin wasn’t quite so unblemished as she had first thought.
With his hair pulled back in a short pony-tail, for the first time Bella could see that there was ink etched across his skin below the nape of his neck, disappearing beneath his singlet. She couldn’t tell what it was, and couldn’t help wondering about it.
Seeming to sense Bella behind him, Edward looked around and smiled.
“Over half way. If I get my skates on, I reckon I might finish the preparation tonight. I can help you with washing it down then, and it will have plenty of time to dry out before we put the varnish on.”
Bella put down the bucket of water and walked across the room, dropping to her knees beside him and taking his right hand in hers. It was calloused and bleeding, and she could see at least two pretty nasty splinters.
“No more today, Edward. We need to get your hands cleaned up, get these splinters out, and put some antiseptic cream on them so they don’t get infected. Don’t forget, we’re supposed to be having dinner with Alice and Jasper tonight, so let’s just finish cleaning up what you’ve done and get showered and changed, eh?”
He looked down at where she held his hand gently in both of hers, and smiled.
“Okay, I suppose it can wait ‘til tomorrow.”
They finished washing down the sanded boards and tidied up, before going their separate ways to shower.
When Edward got downstairs, he found Bella in the kitchen, sitting at the table. In front of her was a first-aid kit, and she beckoned him over to sit in the chair next to her.
“Let’s have a look at those hands,” she said, smiling up at him.
He held them up for her inspection, and she looked them over carefully, noting the two splinters she had seen earlier, plus another one in his left hand. Deftly, she wielded a pair of tweezers, removing all the slivers from Edward’s fingers, finishing off with dabs of antiseptic cream.
“There, all done,” she told him, but without letting go of his hands. Sighing, she rubbed her thumb over the calloused pads of his palms.
“You know, these hands are way too beautiful to be doing manual labour.”
“Yeah, well, you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do.”
He stood up, pulling Bella to her feet. “You know, my mum used to say I had pianist’s hands.”
“Oh, do you play?”
Edward snorted. “Nah… there was never any money for that sort of thing, and all my mates would have thought I was a shirt-lifter.”*
He smirked at her pout of disapproval and slipped his arms around her waist. As if to prove that he was, indeed, a hot-bloodied, heterosexual male, he pressed his mouth to hers and ran his tongue along her bottom lip to gain entry. What followed was passionate and needy, and it lit Bella up from the inside out.
Finally breaking apart, Bella blew a gust of air up her face, ruffling her hair where it fell across her brow, in an attempt to cool herself down.
Edward chuckled and pulled away. “Come on, let’s go next door before we do something stupid.”
“Hey, you started it!”
“Yeah, well, I’m not gonna finish it tonight… not unless Jasper’s got a condom.” He winked at her salaciously, and Bella couldn’t help but laugh, even though her frustration was growing with every kiss that promised so much but delivered so little.
Shaking her head, she followed Edward out to the utility room, where they donned waterproof boots and warm clothing, to make the short but icy trip across to Alice and Jasper’s house.
After a simple but delicious meal of venison paté and toast, followed by a hearty beef casserole and then crème brûlée, the four friends gathered around the Whitlock’s big, wood-burning stove and drank red wine. Edward still felt a little out of place, but at least now he could talk about what he and Bella had achieved in the house, and her plans for her new studio.
As the evening wore on, none of them seemed inclined to break up the party, the conversation flowing freely and the laughter coming easily. Alice disappeared into the kitchen at one point, returning with a large tray containing a cheeseboard and a large cafetierre of coffee. She set down the board, which contained cheddar, stilton and brie, plus a large bunch of red grapes, and poured the coffee. Jasper got up and walked over to a cabinet across the room, from which he retrieved a bottle of port and four small glasses, which he brought back to the table.
Bella groaned and rubbed her stomach. “Lord, I don’t think I can eat another mouthful… but that stilton looks absolutely yummy.”
“And it’s fantastic with a drop of vintage port,” Jasper told her, filling the little glasses.
“Oh, just a little taste then,” Bella sighed, leaning over to cut off a sliver of blue cheese and put it on a thin water biscuit.
They all tucked in, until they were all groaning about having eaten too much.
Edward pushed himself off the floor with difficulty, and dropped down into the soft, comfy armchair behind where Bella remained sitting, cross-legged, on the carpet.
“Jesus, I’m stuffed—take it away, pleeeaasse!” he groaned.
Everyone laughed, and, without even thinking about it, Bella scooted back between Edward’s knees to lean against his chair. Stretching her legs out in front of her, she looked over her shoulder and smiled up at him, as Edward reached out a hand to gently stroke her hair.
Alice cocked an eyebrow at her guests’ actions and looked round to smirk at Jasper, who merely smiled at his wife and shrugged. Something had changed between Edward and Bella since she had seen them just yesterday, and it warmed her heart.
“Hey, Alice, what are you looking so smug about over there,” Bella demanded from her spot on the floor.
“Oh, nothing, just really happy to have made two lovely new friends,” she replied, grinning. “Ooh, I just thought. There’s a new restaurant opening on the High Street next month, just a couple of doors down from my place. We should so all go out to dinner there. What do you think?”
“Oh, that would be great. What sort of cuisine is it going to do?” Bella asked.
“Um, I think it’s going to be one of those new places that fuses English and sort of French-European. You know the kind… they do fish and chips, but the fish is, like, halibut in a beer batter, and the chips are giant potato wedges fried in their skins and rolled in rock-salt, paprika and black pepper.”
They all laughed knowingly, except for Edward, who had never eaten in such a restaurant. He just smiled, and continued to trail his long fingers through Bella’s hair, revelling in the silky softness, and wanting nothing more than to bury his face in it.
“So, have you met the people who are going to be running it?” Bella queried, looking between Alice and Jasper.
“Yes, actually, the owner’s been in the shop a few times for coffee and a chat. He seems really nice… Carl something. He and his wife are going to be running it—he’s the chef and his wife does the front of house stuff and the admin. He’s making a real effort to meet other retailers and residents in the street. He was just in last week, actually, moaning about not being able to find any decent kitchen staff. He couldn’t understand how there are so many unemployed youngsters and none of them seem interested in catering as a career. I mean, he did say the money’s a bit crap to start with, but it’s a really good opportunity.”
Alice shook her head in obvious wonder at ‘the youth of today’.
Bella frowned. “Oh, so what sort of people is he looking for? I suppose they need experience?”
“Well, that’s the thing, you see. He says he’s looking for young men and women, between eighteen and twenty-five, who are enthusiastic and interested in food preparation. He says they don’t need experience—he really wants to do a sort of ‘Jamie Oliver’ and take on kids who want a job but who have never been given the opportunity before, and then train them. You’d think they’d be queuing round the corner, wouldn’t you?”
Bella nodded slowly, but said nothing more. She leaned her head back against Edward’s knee, closing her eyes in pleasure as he continued to stroke her hair. She would wait until they got home to talk to him about her idea.
Not long afterwards, she and Edward started making moves to leave. Jasper stood up and started collecting glasses and plates, and Edward took the opportunity to help him. Following his host out to the kitchen, he put the cheeseboard down on the worktop and turned to see if either Alice or Bella were in earshot. Satisfied, he turned to Jasper, clearing his throat.
He paused, causing Jasper to stop what he was doing and look at him.
“Is there something I can help you with, Edward?”
“Uh, yeah… I, um… well, I was wondering if you happened to have… uh, such a thing as, uh… well, if you use them, that is… and, you know, if you could spare one…”
Jasper laughed and clapped Edward on the shoulder.
“Are you asking me if I’ve got any condoms?”
Edward blushed and stared at the floor, before finally raising his eyes to Jasper’s and nodding sheepishly.
“Shit, Edward. I hate to say this, because clearly you are a man in some need, but I’m afraid Ally and I don’t use them—she’s… well, that doesn’t matter, all you care about is whether or not I have one, and I don’t. Sorry, mate.”
Edward couldn’t hide his disappointment, his shoulders slumping and head dropping.
“Oh, well, okay. I hope you don’t mind me asking… it’s just, you know, with this fu—bloody weather, it’s a bit difficult to get out to buy some.”
“Of course I don’t mind, I’m just sorry I can’t help you. I guess you’ll just have to be… inventive,” he chuckled, and Edward gave him a rueful smile.
“Hey, what are you two talking about in here?” Bella asked, walking into the kitchen.
Jasper gave Edward another friendly pat on the back and turned towards her, puffing out his chest and thumping it with both fists.
“We men… we talk about man-stuff… woman not allowed to know secret of man-stuff,” he told her in a gruff staccato.
Alice had joined them, carrying Bella’s and Edward’s coats, and joined in the laughter.
“Ooh, I love it when you go all Neanderthal, Jazz,” she giggled.
Edward shot Jasper a grateful look and then turned to help Bella on with her coat. Shortly after, having made plans for a return dinner if the snow persisted, or a night out if it thawed, Edward and Bella made their way back to Ivy Cottage.
Hurrying in through the back door, they stamped the snow off their boots, toed them off and hung up their coats. Despite the late hour, they went straight into the kitchen to make tea, which they then took into the sitting room. They each seemed to instinctively understand that they didn’t want to go to bed, as they knew that would mean parting company—which neither of them was ready for quite yet.
Settling down together on the sofa, Bella turned side on to face Edward, an expectant look on her face.
“Well—did you ask him?” she asked, her tone hopeful.
Edward didn’t need to ask her what she meant, and his shoulders slumped. Sighing, he turned to look at her.
“Yeah, I asked him, and the answer is no, he didn’t have any—they don’t use them.”
“Yeah, tell me about it.” Edward shook his head, and chuckled ruefully as he reached for his mug.
They both sat in silence for a few minutes, sipping their tea and pointedly not looking at one another.
Bella was the first to break the silence, putting her drink down and turning back to rub Edward’s thigh.
“Hey, never mind—the snow can’t last forever. Alice said the forecast is for the temperature to start going up before the weekend. Let’s see if we can clear the drive tomorrow and go down to the village. You know what they say… all good things come to those who wait.”
Edward put his own drink down and turned to Bella. Reaching out, he cupped her cheek, his hand warm from his cup. He smiled at her, before leaning in to brush his lips softly against hers. Bella needed no further encouragement, slipping both hands into the hair at the back of his head and pulling him in to deepen the kiss.
For the next ten minutes, they made out like horny teenagers. Bella pushed Edward against the back of the sofa and climbed onto his lap, straddling him. Closing the gap between them, she gripped his hair tighter and crushed her mouth against his, their tongues dancing and playing in wild abandon. She could feel him, hard and ready, right between her legs, and was powerless to stop herself grinding against him.
Coming up for air, they stared at one another, their desperation clearly mirrored in the other’s eyes.
“Oh, fuck, Bella, I want you…”
“I know, me too,” she gasped, leaning back and grabbing the hem of her blouse.
Edward just stared, wide-eyed, as Bella removed her top and then quickly reached behind her to unclasp her bra. His groan, as she pulled it off and threw it to one side, went straight to her groin. She grabbed both his hands and placed them over her breasts, then moved in to once again capture his mouth with hers.
If Edward thought he was hard before, it was nothing compared to how he felt now, with Bella’s beautiful, perky tits beneath his willing hands. He wasted no time, kneading them enthusiastically and passing his thumbs firmly over her pert nipples. Bella moaned into his mouth and instinctively moved against the rigid line of his cock. She longed to get off him, go down on her knees and release him from the restraint of his jeans. She wanted him in her mouth—something which she’d never been that comfortable doing with Jake, but which she now discovered she was desperate for with Edward. Despite her lust-haze, the irony that she simply daren’t risk it until he got the all-clear was not lost on her.
Edward broke the kiss and dropped his head to Bella’s chest, taking first one aching nubbin in his mouth, before moving to the other. He couldn’t get enough of them, alternately flicking and sucking each one in turn, as she buried her hands deep in his hair, scratching his scalp deliciously, as she moaned and swore softly.
Bella was now moving frantically against Edward’s hard-on, gasping loudly as she felt the muscles in her thighs and calves tense. But Edward was beside himself, suddenly relinquishing her delicious nipple and leaning back against the couch.
“Fuck, Bella, we have to stop, we have to—”
“Not yet, not yet… Jesus, Edward, I’m gonna…” She cried out, her head lolling back as she squirmed convulsively against him. “Oh God, oh God, ohhhh…”
She slumped against him, panting hard, and lowered her head to his shoulder.
Edward squeezed his eyes shut and, with a Herculean effort, willed himself not to come in his pants. He wrapped his arms tightly around Bella, as much to stop her moving as to feel closer to her. What had just transpired—watching her come, her beautiful face completely suffused with pleasure—was just about the most amazing thing that had ever happened to him, but now all he could think about was how much he wanted to be inside her.
As Bella’s breathing regulated, and her brain re-booted itself, she became aware of the fact that, somewhat selfishly, she had got off at Edward’s expense. Straightening up, she looked at him, cupping his face with her hands to prompt him to open his eyes. When he did, he couldn’t help the slow, almost smug smile he gave her.
“God, you’re stunning when you come,” he drawled, making Bella shiver involuntarily.
Without a word, she slid off his lap onto the floor, kneeling between his legs. He frowned as she flipped the button on his jeans and started pulling the zip down.
“Bella, what are you doing…?” He trailed off, aware of the redundancy of his enquiry.
She smirked up at him. “Well, I’m not offering to do your laundry!”
“You shouldn’t… you don’t have to do… anything.”
“I know I don’t, but I want to.” She grinned at him, silencing any half-hearted objections he may have had, by the simple expedient of delving into his underwear and wrapping her hand around his aching, needy cock.
The temptation to go down on him was strong, but she resisted, telling herself that there would be plenty of opportunities for that soon enough. Instead, she pulled back his foreskin, gathered up the fairly copious emission beading the head of his massively swollen dick, and used it to lubricate her hand. Starting with long, slow strokes, she moved her hand rhythmically up and down, marvelling at the feel of him, like a lead pipe covered in silk. On each downward pass, as his foreskin revealed the sensitive head, she let her thumb trail across it, revelling in the soft gasps and moans her ministrations elicited.
As she increased her rhythm, Edward knew it wouldn’t take long. He wanted to look away, to prolong the extraordinary pleasure, but he couldn’t take his eyes off Bella’s small hand as it pumped him ever closer to a climax which he could feel bubbling deep inside him.
“Fuck, Bella… yeah, like that… oh, God, harder… feels so fucking gooood…”
Finally, he looked up to meet her eyes, his mouth dropping open as his orgasm took hold of him.
“Jesus fucking Christ…!”
He jerked hard into her hand as his semen began to spurt out of him, his eyes falling back to where she gripped his pulsing cock, working him furiously.
And then he was leaning forward, pulling her hand away from him in order to grab hold of her. His hands seized her under her arms and lifted her up, whereupon he crashed his mouth to hers in a savage, all-consuming kiss.
Bella let herself be pulled back onto his lap, uncaring of the wetness, matching his fervour with her own.
When they had to break apart in order to breathe, Edward continued to pepper kisses along her jaw and down her neck. As reason returned, they simply held onto one another, not wanting to separate yet. But with reason came reality, and Bella suddenly became aware of her semi-nakedness and, with the fire dying in the grate, she shivered as her heated skin cooled.
“Hey, you’re cold. Come on, you need to cover up and get to bed,” Edward whispered softly in her ear.
Bella hugged him tighter. “I don’t want to go to bed on my own,” she mumbled petulantly.
She loosened her grip and leaned back. “I mean it, Edward. I don’t want to sleep alone tonight. We’ve proved we can be sensible… well, sort of. Please, come to bed with me. I just want to be held. Please?”
And just like that, Edward knew he couldn’t refuse her. The last thing he wanted now was to go to his own, empty bed. He wanted to sleep with Bella, to feel her in his arms, and wake up beside her in the morning. It occurred to him that, despite how awful his life had been before, it had been so much better when he found Tanya. Just having someone to share a mattress with, a warm body to hold onto at night, had made his shitty life a little more tolerable. The nightmares never fully went away, but they had eased a little when he had been with her—although he knew the drugs had had a lot to do with that. The combination of being drug-free and sleeping alone had undoubtedly contributed to their renewed severity, but Bella’s presence seemed to calm him in a way Tanya’s never had. But then, he had never felt for her what he now felt for Bella. The thought of sharing a bed with the incredible woman in his arms, of being so close to her whilst they slept, was something he knew he wanted.
His eyes finally met Bella’s as she waited patiently for him to work through his objections. But, with the loss of upper body contact, she was openly shivering now, and knew she needed to put her top back on. She reached out a hand and gently stroked Edward’s cheek, before wiggling off his lap and standing. She retrieved her blouse from where she’d thrown it across the sofa and quickly slipped it on, whilst he adjusted his own clothing. She then held out her hand and waited for him to take it.
There discussion about his future could wait until the morning.
Edward didn’t hesitate a moment longer. Pushing himself off the couch, he grasped her hand in his, revelling in the smile that immediately spread across Bella’s face. As she turned to lead the way, he pulled her back into his arms and kissed her softly. Moments later, they parted briefly to turn out the lamps, before leaving the room and going upstairs.
On the landing, Edward paused outside the door of his room, causing Bella to turn towards him with a frown.
“I just… are you sure, Bella?”
“I’ve never been more sure of anything in my life, Edward. Please… come to bed.”
And so he did.
Zero temperature –
0º Celcius (32ºF)
Chemist – pharmacy
Singlet/Vest – what Americans might refer to as a ‘wife-beater’
Shirt-lifter – euphemism for ‘gay’