It was late when they called it a night. After dinner, they had returned to the sitting room, where the red hot coals of the fire gave out an all-encompassing, radiant heat. As more wine and beer was consumed, the conversation flowed freely and easily, the four of them chatting like old friends. Even Edward, at first so tongue-tied and awkward, found that Alice and Jasper were affable and amusing company, despite the difference in their ages and education—it was as if they intuitively understood that his background precluded certain subjects, and steered the conversation accordingly, without ever seeming to patronise him.
As for Bella and Alice, it was clear that this single evening would see them forge a deep and long-lasting friendship. Bella had never really had a close friend growing up—at least, not one who could rightly own the title of ‘best friend’. After she left school, she pretty much lost touch with her classmates, and at college, between studying full time and working every minute of her spare time, there simply hadn’t been the time or opportunity to make close friends. Certainly, there was no money for socialising, and the invitations which came at the start of college quickly dried up in the face of her constant refusals. Seen as stand-offish and unfriendly, it soon became clear that no lasting relationships would come from her academic career.
Later, as she had become established at the restaurant, she had made her first close friendship with a fellow waitress, Rose. She was beautiful and feisty and so full of confidence, that Bella had developed a bit of a girl-crush on her. The other waitresses hadn’t liked her very much, but Bella loved that she didn’t give a flying fuck what people thought of her, and envied the way she never took any shit from grabby or unpleasant customers. Rose had told her once that she had dropped out of school at sixteen, refusing to reveal why, but it was clear she was a highly intelligent and articulate woman.
In fact, Bella had cause to be grateful for Rose’s feistiness and quick thinking on one particular occasion when she had been pretty much on her own in the late afternoon, with just one table of business men who’d enjoyed a long and wine-soaked lunch. As she had tried to politely ask if they wanted anything else, hoping they would ask for the bill, one of them had made some pretty graphic and unpleasant requests. Shocked, Bella had become flustered and embarrassed, which seemed to encourage a couple of the others, one of whom decided to make a grab for her. In the space of just a few seconds, what had been a bit of an annoyance had become incredibly threatening and scary, as two of the guys stood up, effectively cutting off Bella’s escape route back to the kitchen, where her colleagues were all taking a break.
And then, as if out of nowhere, Rose appeared. Coming up behind the most predatory of the men, she jammed her knee into the back of his, making him suddenly crumple. Immediately, she put one arm round him, her free hand supporting his elbow as she guided him to an empty seat.
“Woopsy-daisy, there, sir. It looks like you’ve probably had a little bit too much to drink. Let me get you the bill so you can take yourself home,” she cooed, as he gazed up at her in confusion.
Meanwhile, the other men, distracted by what was happening with their friend, finally turned away from Bella, allowing her to quickly scoot around the table.
“Ah, there you are, hun… why don’t you go sort out the bill while I clear the table for these gentlemen,” Rose smiled, flicking her eyes towards the bar to indicate that Bella should move. She didn’t hesitate, and fifteen minutes later, Rose was shepherding the party out the door, smiling and thanking them for their custom. As she closed the door on them, she turned back to see Bella standing by the bar, a grateful look on her face.
“I don’t know how you did that, Rose, but I owe you,” she said softly.
The blonde waved her hand dismissively and said nothing, heading into the kitchen. As she passed Bella, she smirked and gave her a wink.
That day, they had forged a friendship which, if not necessarily close, had been mutually beneficial, the two of them partnering up to help each other out in a crisis—covering shifts and generally keeping an eye out for one another.
Bella learned a lot from her new friend, who had taken great pains to try and instil in her confidence and self-reliance.
Even after she left the restaurant to pursue her illustrating, they had kept in touch, meeting up occasionally for a drink. But she was ashamed to note that, since moving in with Jake, their friendship had somewhat fallen by the wayside. She had found all her time being swallowed up, not just by her new career, but also by her role as lover, housewife and occasional punch bag. Looking back, she was angry with herself that she had forgotten so many of the lessons Rose had taught her, allowing Jake to subsume and abuse her.
Bella couldn’t help thinking about Rose and what she might be up to now, as she and Edward said their goodbyes to Jasper and Alice. It was over a year since she’d seen her, and she made a decision to try and re-establish contact.
With promises to reciprocate soon on the dinner front, and an open invitation to both Bella and Edward to visit the shop for a free coffee, Jasper and Alice bundled up and set off across the snow-shrouded garden. With their way clearly illuminated by the moon’s silvery reflection on white, they headed unerringly towards a barely discernible gate in the back fence, where they disappeared from view into their adjoining property.
Exhausted and a little drunk, Bella headed back to the sitting room, where she picked up the dirty glasses, following in Edward’s wake as he carried empty cans and bottles into the kitchen.
“Leave everything, we can clean up in the morning,” she told him, smiling wearily. Too tired to argue, Edward nodded.
“I enjoyed tonight, Bella—thanks for including me… for making me feel like I… belonged.”
She looked round quickly from where she was depositing beer cans and bottles into the recycling bins in the pantry, but before she could respond, he was gone. She sighed, once again feeling that familiar ache of compassion for his wounded soul.
After banking the fire and putting up the fireguard, Bella turned everything off and headed upstairs to bed, calling goodnight to Edward as she passed the bathroom.
As she climbed into bed, Bella hoped that he would rest easier tonight, anticipating that all the drink they’d consumed would allow him to enjoy a dreamless slumber.
Bella had no idea how long Edward had been screaming, but by the way his voice was starting to crack, it must have been a while. This time, she wasn’t brought to sudden wakefulness, but, rather, found her dream being invaded by the chilling cries of a broken man… cries which gradually morphed from her subconscious to her conscious mind.
As Edward’s heart-rending screams faded out of her dream and into her reality, Bella finally drifted awake, registering at last the dreadful noise emanating from his room. Now fully alert, she quickly got out of bed, remembering this time to grab her robe, fumbling with the sleeves as she rushed down the passage.
She didn’t even bother knocking this time, just twisted the knob and pushed the door open. In an almost exact replay of the previous night, she found Edward twisted in his sheets, grappling with some unseen enemy, as his plaintive cries filled the room.
In the light cast by the moon through the uncurtained window, Bella dashed to the side of the bed and climbed up to kneel beside the frighteningly distressed boy. Gathering him into her arms, despite his flailing hands, she pulled him to her chest as she sat back on her haunches. Wrapping him in her warm embrace, she rocked him from side to side, softly shushing him, as his cries died to quiet sobs and whimpers. Assuming he was still asleep, she bent and kissed his head, as she combed her fingers soothingly through his hair.
And then his arms slid around her waist and held her tight as he nuzzled in between her breasts.
Bella froze, her heart going from nought to sixty in record time.
For what seemed like the longest ten seconds of her life, neither of them moved or even seemed to breathe.
And then Edward pulled his face away from her chest and looked up at her, his jade eyes red-rimmed and haunted. The cold half-light cast by the moon as it filtered in through the window, bleached his skin of all colour, giving him an other-worldly appearance.
As Bella gazed down at him, the shock and disquiet she felt at being in such an intimate embrace quickly dissolved, to be replaced with compassion and heartache for the overwhelming sorrow which was etched into Edward’s face and buried deep behind his beautiful eyes.
Bringing a hand round to cup his cheek, she softly stroked her thumb across his cheekbone.
Oh, Edward, whatever happened to you? she thought, wishing she could take away his pain.
After a moment of her gentle ministrations, Edward’s eyes began to droop and she prepared to extricate herself from his grasp. However, as she dropped her hand and started to pull away, his grip tightened and his eyes flew open, revealing a fear she couldn’t hope to understand.
“Don’t go… please,” he whispered, his pleading voice hoarse from his earlier screaming fit.
“Edward, there’s nothing to be afraid of, you’re completely safe here,” she told him, trying hard to offer him some comfort.
“I… I know, I just… please? Just ‘til I fall asleep?”
He sounded so desperate, she couldn’t, in all good conscience, desert him, but she couldn’t help feeling a little awkward.
“It’s cold, Edward—”
“Shit, of course you are. Do you want to get under the covers?”
Bella stared at him for a moment, but all she could see in his eyes or hear in his voice was fear and longing; she could detect no artifice or ulterior motive.
“Okay, then, just for a few minutes… shift over.”
He gave her a watery smile and slid across to the other side of the bed. She stood up, and then lifted the covers, crawling in beside Edward and lying on her back. A moment later, he scooted down to lie beside her. He thought she’d probably be pretty uncomfortable in her robe, but said nothing, not wanting to give her any reason to leave him at this point.
“Thank you,” he whispered in the dark.
Bella turned her head to look at him and smiled. “You’re welcome, hun. Now, try and get some sleep, eh?”
He wanted to turn and reach out for her, wanted to feel the comfort of her arms around him, which had felt so good a short while ago. But he resisted the urge, merely rolling onto his side so that he was facing, but not touching her. A few minutes later he drifted into a mercifully dreamless sleep.
Bella woke, feeling really hot, and like there was a huge weight pressing her into the mattress. It turned out there was a very good reason for both.
Attempting to stretch, she became aware of two things.
That she was no longer wearing her robe.
And Edward was completely entwined with her.
With his arms wrapped tightly around her, his head on her chest and his leg flung across both of hers, she was completely pinned down.
As she tried to move, Edward made a soft, sort of harrumphing sound and tightened his grip.
Bella turned her head to look at his face, which, like the night before, was nuzzled against her breasts.
Lord, he’s beautiful, she thought.
A part of her wanted to push him off in order to extricate herself before things became awkward…
But another, much bigger part, revelled in the embrace of this handsome young man, and she couldn’t stop herself dipping her head slightly to bury her nose in his hair and breathe in his wondrous scent.
She shifted again, conscious now that she needed to use the bathroom, but as she wriggled, Edward moved again and suddenly she became hyper-aware of an altogether different problem.
Edward was sporting an erection—a very large, very hard one—which was currently pressed against her thigh.
“Oh, God,” she groaned, both embarrassed and fascinated… and, if the truth be known, incredibly aroused.
Embarrassed, because she was worried Edward would wake up and be mortified at her perceived impression that it was she who turned him on. Fascinated, because… well, it really did feel enormous, and she was just a little curious to get a look at it.
She squirmed a little, telling herself she was just trying to make him move so she could get up. What she wasn’t prepared to admit to herself right now was that she wanted to feel more of it… in fact, the urge to reach out and touch it was close to overwhelming.
Her movement, small as it was, caused Edward to mumble something incoherently against her breast—which made Bella smile—followed by a shallow thrust of his hips—which made her gasp. But her sharp intake of breath was cut off as that first movement was followed by a slow, sensuous undulation against her leg, accompanied by a long, low moan from Edward.
Oh my God, he’s humping my leg!
Bella knew she had to stop him before things got… messy. Oh, but the feel of his massive cock rubbing up and down her thigh, so very close to the promised land, was intoxicating.
“Belllllaaa.” Her eyes widened like saucers as her whispered name fell from Edward’s lips, his thrusts becoming more urgent.
And it was at this point that Bella knew she had to move… fast.
Wriggling her arm up between them, she put her hand on his chest and pushed, simultaneously pulling her legs away so that he released her and rolled onto his back.
Edward’s eyes few open and he looked up at where Bella now stood beside the bed, her own eyes wide and an overly-bright smile plastered onto her face.
“Shit—” he started to say, but she cut him off.
“Yeah, so I was just going to make a cup of tea, and I, uh, thought I’d pop in and see if you wanted one…?” It was the thinnest of excuses, and she inwardly cringed at how ridiculous she sounded.
Edward frowned, unconvinced that she had just arrived, but too embarrassed to speculate on what might have just happened if that wasn’t the case.
“Uh, yeah, that would be great, I’ll give you a hand.”
He started to get up, only to realise that he was sporting morning wood—something which hadn’t happened in quite some time.
“Fuck… um, I’ll be down in a minute… just got to… uh, use the, erm…” He trailed off, glancing towards the door, then back to her, where his eyes seemed to become transfixed on her chest.
At last, Bella seemed to become aware that she was just standing there, staring at him, her nipples like bullets, and she practically jumped on the spot, which, in turn, made Edward flinch. She was conscious that this might possibly be the single most awkward and embarrassing moment of her life.
Without another word, Bella started to turn away, only for her feet to get tangled up in her robe, which lay on the floor beside the bed.
She was about to find out that she’d so far barely mined the surface of her potential for humiliation.
What happened next took on the quality of a slow-motion segment in a bad sitcom.
With one foot sliding into the arm hole of her robe and the other into the pocket, Bella was brought up short. She lurched forward, her arms flailing, as she overbalanced and fell across the bed. Her face buried itself unerringly, and in a manner guaranteed to cause the maximum amount of embarrassment, right into Edward’s groin. Her cheek slid along his rigid cock, whilst her right hand landed high on his left thigh, as Edward’s eyes widened and his mouth fell open.
“Fuuuccckk!” he exclaimed in a pained whisper-yell.
Struggling to right herself, Bella attempted to kick the robe away from her feet, whilst her hand, seemingly of its own accord, squeezed Edward’s thigh harder, and his cock twitched alarmingly against her face as she squirmed in his lap.
“Bella, please… oh, Jesus, you have to stop moving.” He sounded like he was going to cry, as he gripped her shoulders and pushed down, forcing her face away from his tortured dick.
Bella finally managed to scramble off the bed, toppling inelegantly in a heap on the floor, where her robe still lay, now so innocent and inanimate. She grabbed the offending article and angrily pulled it on, her face so hot, she was pretty sure she could fry eggs on it. She was tempted to literally crawl out of the room on her hands and knees but was aware that, not only would that make her look even more of a fool, but would also present Edward with a view she wasn’t keen to provide him with—especially in view of his current… situation.
Suppressing a groan, she got up, muttered a barely audible apology, and practically ran out of the room without so much as a backward glance.
As she flew down the passage to her room, she once again became aware of her aching nipples, which were straining against the thin material of her camisole like organ stops.
And she didn’t even want to think about the wetness between her legs!
A few minutes later, Edward stood in the shower, one hand splayed out against the tiled wall, whilst he took himself firmly in his other hand. It was a long time since he’d wanted, or even thought about, sex, and knew he’d never been this aroused in his life. With the hot water cascading down across his pale skin, he set up a rhythmic motion, stroking along his length from base to tip and circling the sensitive head with his thumb. All the while, images of a naked Bella, kneeling between his legs with his cock in her mouth, flickered through his mind like a nickelodeon picture show, until, with a grunted expletive, he climaxed explosively against the wall.
He stared with a kind of detached fascination as the thick, opalescent emission ran down the tiles, to be washed away by the steamy downpour of the shower. Shaking himself, as if awakening from a dream, he pushed away from the wall and reached for the shampoo.
He drew out his ablutions for as long as possible, further delaying the moment when he had to leave the sanctuary of his room by taking his time picking out his outfit for the day. He couldn’t stop mulling over the events of the morning, desperately looking for a tangible clue to tell him what had been real and what had been a dream. That is, up to the point where Bella face-planted into his lap.
By the time he had dressed and made his way downstairs, Edward was still none the wiser. However, even more so than Bella’s epic nose dive, the memory, no matter how illusory, of holding Bella in his arms, was impossible to dispel, especially as he could even recall her scent and the softness of her skin.
He paused at the bottom of the stairs, willing himself to stop thinking about how it had felt to have her hand on his leg, and her face rubbing against his cock, even through the bedclothes. He was utterly mortified at how his body had reacted to her proximity, and, much worse, Bella had very obviously and understandably been horrified. He dreaded having to confront her, but knew there was no avoiding it.
So preoccupied was he with thoughts of his roadside saviour, that, on entering the kitchen, he was surprised to see her standing in front of the hob, brandishing a spatula and singing softly along to the radio.
He leaned against the door-jamb and pushed his hands into the pockets of his jeans. After a moment, Bella stopped singing and put the spatula down, resting both hands on either side of the cooker and dropping her head.
Edward frowned, recognising the defeat in her posture and assuming he was the cause. He had to make this right, but he had no idea how. Just a couple of days ago, he had been so determined to get to Bristol, even knowing there was unlikely to be any more for him there than in London. Now, though, he knew that, even if there hadn’t been such a heavy snowfall, he wouldn’t want to leave this place… leave Bella.
But after what had happened last night, and, even worse, this morning, he knew she would probably feel way too awkward and embarrassed having him around, and it was inevitable she would want him to leave.
He recalled the evening before, shared with Alice and Jasper; he couldn’t remember the last time he’d enjoyed himself so much—if, indeed, he ever had—and he wanted more of that. His mind went to the odd moment in the kitchen, when Bella had told him over and over that he was good-looking… did she really think that, or was she just being kind? Was she attracted to him? Could a woman as beautiful and talented—and wealthy—as Bella want someone like him?
He shook his head, internally berating himself. He was being ridiculous. The Bella Swans of this world weren’t interested in useless nobodies like him. She could have her pick of men—although judging by that bruise on her face, which he’d seen more clearly this morning without the camouflage of make-up, she wasn’t very good at picking good ones. Regardless, she was never going to pick him. He almost laughed at himself when he thought of all the men out there who were better qualified for the role of boyfriend—men her own age or older… men who had money, were well-educated, with good jobs, and who were from the same social strata.
He sighed in resignation, and Bella’s head immediately came up as she realised he was behind her.
She took a deep breath, and he watched as she seemed to straighten her spine and square her shoulders.
This is it, she’s going to tell me I have to leave, regardless of the weather, and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it. Shit, shit, shit.
He tried to prepare himself, knowing that there was little which would soften the blow. He dropped his head so he wouldn’t have to see the anger and contempt in her eyes when she ordered him to pack his bag and get out.
Bella turned, having finally made up her mind, unsurprised to find Edward standing in the doorway, but shocked to see him looking so utterly… cowed.
She sighed. Say something, you moron. Just put the whole debacle of this morning out of your mind and bloody say what needs to be said.
She opened her mouth to speak, but, despite her inner pep talk, she immediately felt a wretched blush consume her face. She clenched her fists where they hung by her side, and forced herself to look him in the eye as his head came up to meet her gaze.
“Edward, we need to talk.”