The tinkling of the bell above to door had at one point been what Edward considered a pleasing sound, it's gentle chime interrupting the flutter of turning pages and whirring espresso machines. But now, after 17 minutes and 23 seconds of jerking his head up to look at the entrance to the store over and over and over, Edward was beginning to loathe the evil little bell that had turned him into a tall, desperate version of Pavlov's dog. His plan to arrive at their meeting place early had been borne out of his desire to not risk Bella being the one kept waiting for his arrival, better him than her. Worst plan ever for his sanity, he was certain. This time, when the bell sung out, Edward had kept his head buried in the book he'd been staring blindly into, letting himself have a bit of a sulk. His ire lasted about 3 seconds before he lifted his gaze to settle on the figure stepping out of the afternoon sun and into his favorite bookstore.
She was… perfect. There was no other word in Edward's vast vocabulary that better fit the absolute vision that was Bella Swan. Her long hair flowed in shiny loose ringlets over her shoulders, clothed in a sweet sheer cream-colored top paired with pale gray loose-knit open sweater. Her firm thighs were wrapped in a pair of tight, black leggings that ended brown calf-high boots with no heel. She raised her head to take in the room and their eyes met, brown touching green. Edward felt his hands moving to close the book he wasn't reading and place it gently back on the self next to him without any conscious thought, but his eyes never left hers. His legs are next, taking a step unprompted, then another and another.
But, Bella moved too, until suddenly the space between was gone and they were in front of each other. The way his eyes stared into hers reminded Bella of a line from that poem by Atticus, "he looked at her the way she needed to be looked at, like the whole world could crumble and he wouldn't blink". A heart-melting smile spread across his handsome face, and Bella couldn't help but blush furiously, her gaze lowering to the floor even as she felt her lips lift in a small grin. She felt his fingers on her chin as strongly as a jolt from an electric fence, but the pressure he used lifting her gaze to meet his once more, was immeasurably gentle.
"I thought your picture was the most captivating sight that ever existed, but you are even more stunning in person, Bella." Edward reached down and took her small hand in his, leading her deeper into the store. Bella acquiesced without a thought, trusting him implicitly as if her entire being recognized his importance in her life. Her body hummed at the contact from just his hand on hers.
Hours went by like minutes as they explored the store and its treasures. They orbited each other while browsing the shelves, brushing a hand against a hand, a hip, a neck. Always close, even if their attention appeared, on the surface, to be elsewhere. She'd barely glanced at the cafe in the corner before Edward was leading her toward the line. They shared sips of sweet, warm drinks and stories of the things they did to pass the years that brought them to this moment; here with each other.
Brushes turned into hidden caresses and then clenching hands holding tightly, refusing to let go of the other. Edward started quietly collecting the books she paged through a bit too long, glanced back at one too many times. Bella pretended not to notice. She pretended she wasn't already half in love with him as her heart swelled bigger and bigger, pressing against her lungs and making it hard to breathe. Every time she caught his gorgeous green eyes giving her that look, the one that says he wanted to keep her, she melted a little more.
Edward caught her gazing longingly at him several times too. The complete satisfaction he felt every time he made an effort to care for her and she responded favorably with a pleased smile gracing her pouty lips, was almost overwhelming. She was everything he had ever imagined and more, things he'd never even thought to imagine.
At one point, Edward looked up from the table of autobiographies he was perusing to find her staring ardently back and forth between his bicep and chest, clearly outlined beneath his thin sweater. The blush that blazed across her cheeks when Bella realized she had been caught ogling him was immensely sexy. Edward couldn't help but pull her close, lowering his face to whisper against her neck.
"Damn, baby. That sweet blush has me completely wrecked." Bella shivered at the feel of his warm breath on her skin, her belly aching deeply at his murmured words. "I wonder what I have to do to see that blush again…" Edward glanced around for only a couple seconds before inspiration struck. His face curled in a mischievous grin as he looked down at her. "Think I can talk you into playing a game with me?"
"What kind of game?" Bella questioned, biting her lip in a gesture of nervousness.
"A naughty game." Edward teased, as he drug her over to the erotic novel section. He snatched two random books from the shelf, passing one to his date before opening his own to a random page. "We take turns reading raunchy lines from these books, until someone caves from embarrassment. One who lasts the longest wins. What do you think?" Bella held the smut book to her chest in shock for a moment before laughing delightedly.
"I'm in!" Bella exclaimed, opening her own paperback. It seemed like her plot line involved a scoundrel pirate and a mouthy damsel who had found herself lost at sea. "I'll go first." She declared, moving to stand close to him to avoid being needlessly overheard. Letting the natural tone of her voice dip a bit to set the mood, Bella chose a couple lines to read and began.
"His voice is deep and smooth as silk. He runs a hand up her side, his fingertips grazing the side of her breast and then running back down to her bare thigh."
Already, Edward's breathing had labored a bit. Bella could feel the change as his back pressed ever so slightly against her back as she read. She glanced up to see that the tips of his ears had reddened a bit. Adorable. He cleared his throat before lifting his own book, deep voice causing his chest to rumble deliciously.
"He reached up and grabbed her ponytail, giving it a gentle tug. Tilting her face up, he slowly began kissing her neck, working his way up to the sensitive spot right behind her ear."
Bella knew she was blushing fiercely, but she refused to give up so quickly. She kept her eyes firmly on the pages in front of her, flipping swiftly and stopping at random.
"She couldn't help but moan as she felt his lips leave wet trails on her skin. He moved to her ear, licking and tugging on the lobe with his teeth."
Edward didn't think he could adore this girl more. The way she shivered when he'd read the salacious phrases, the way she boldly recited her own, even while her blush spread down her chest and under her shirt. He picked a more risque passage, and backed her into a cubby in the wall, surrounded by tall shelves and books upon books. He pulled Bella as closely as he dared, humming the words right next to her ear, surrounding her with his warmth.
"She moans in earnest this time, arching her back and pressing her backside against the thick, heavy member straining painfully against his trousers." Bella gasped, her body heating uncontrollably. She hid her face in Edward's shoulder, gripping his forearms tightly, having dropped her trashy romance somewhere between the words thick and heavy. "You're so fucking adorable, how is it possible that you're single? You seem like the kind of girl who gets pursued by the football star in high school and ends up blissfully happy with 2.5 kids. Don't get me wrong, I am so beyond grateful it's not even funny, but I kind of feel like this is all an amazing dream. There is no way I could actually be this lucky." Edward used the change of subject as a way of ending the game while he was ahead. He took her hand in his, leading her to the register by the door. The cashier reached under the counter and passed him a bag on their way by. Bella tried and failed not to seem overly impressed. Edward smirked as he led her out through the door. He smiled a bit at the sound of the tinkling bell that he had ignored entirely since the second he laid eyes on Bella hours before.
"I don't think I'm quite the catch you think I am. I didn't date much in high school to be honest. Guys didn't really scramble to date the daughter of the Chief of Police. Plus, I didn't meet many guys who caught my interest in any real way. According to my friends, I am a hopeless romantic with a shockingly dirty mind and way too high standards, a naive princess waiting for a prince," admitted Bella with a roll of her eyes. "I've had a couple short 'relationships' if you could even call them that. But, nothing even remotely serious ever developed, it always felt forced or like I was settling for less than I needed to truly be happy. Is it so wrong for a girl to want to be treated like a lady in public, completely and utterly ravaged in private, and thoroughly wooed for the rest of her life? Is that too much to ask?"
"No, baby, it's not too much to ask. Maybe you were just asking the wrong person to give you what you need," Edward said with a shrug, wrapping his arm around her shoulder and leading her through the parking lot towards a shiny silver Volvo.
"Are you saying you can give me what I need?" Bella questioned, her voice and smile both taking a naughty turn.
"To truly be happy? What do you think?" His grin turned crooked and cocky in a way that Bella loved.
"Well, that depends. Are you a perfect gentleman all the time?" She asked coyly with a smirk tugging at her perfect lips. Edward pulled her to his chest tightly, pressing her against the car and brushing his cheek against hers as her breathed her in deeply. His hands gripped her hips tightly, one sneaking down to almost grope the curve of her ass.
"You make it very difficult to behave myself at all, honestly," he growled into the night. "You have no idea how tempting you are, Bella. You're the innocent girl-next-door who doesn't even realize how fucking delicious she is. Sweet enough to bring home to your parents, and sexy enough to tear it up in the bedroom. You're the girl every guy wants to corrupt. But even more, you're the girl I'm desperate to keep for myself, protected and adored forever."
"I think on the surface, you're that perfect gentleman, but underneath, you're all sexy crooked grins, wandering hands and a seriously dangerous voice." Bella teased, leaning up so that her sweet mouth was close enough to his that he was easily in range of stealing a kiss if her felt so inclined. Lucky for all involved, a kiss was exactly where both their thoughts were circling. Edward lowered his face and pressed his lips to her, wasting no time at all before diving deeply and drawing a groan from her throat. Bella wrapped her arms around his neck, gripping tightly like she was desperate to keep hold of him. But, he wasn't going anywhere, because Edward was lost in the feel and taste of his dream girl, his Bella. He forced himself to pull back, leaving a last couple wet kisses against her pouty lips before reaching down and opening the passenger door for her.
"I'm not ready to let you go, yet. It's still pretty early, do you want to come back to my apartment? We could order take-out since we haven't had dinner yet. I'd really like to introduce you to my roommates. Emmett is probably still at the gym working out but we might be able to catch Jasper before he heads to the shooting range."
"Shooting range?" Bella questioned as Edward guided her inside the car with a hand on the small of her back. He quickly rounded the front bumper and opened his own door to climb behind the wheel. Bella tried to pretend she wasn't checking him out the whole time.
"Yeah, you know, like the whole guns and ammo type deal. It's not my thing, but Jasper loves that stuff. He's a 'good ol' Texas boy' as he'd describe himself," Edward attempted a southern accent which made Bella giggle. "Really though, he's just true to his roots. He loves guns, his momma and his horse."
"He'd probably make my friend, Alice, swoon. She loves the whole southern gentleman vibe. When we were kids she was obsessed with the Wild West and cowboys. You know how they have those Old Time Photo places at amusement parks and fairs where you can dress up in costumes and pose for souvenir pictures? There was a permanent carnival in the town over from ours that we used to visit all the time in the summers. No matter what, Alice insisted we have a Western-themed photo taken every time we went. The number of sepia-toned pictures I have of Alice, Rose and I dressed as saloon girls while holding fake pistols and bottles of whiskey is astounding… and embarrassing."
"Oh I would love to see those!" Edward said with a laugh.
"Not a chance, I'd like to keep whatever this is between us going at least a bit longer and those pictures definitely won't help," Bella joked. When she looked over at Edward, she was surprised to find him frowning and looking pensive as he navigated the route to his apartment. "Hey, are you ok?" She asked, reaching out to take his free hand in hers.
"What? Oh, yeah. I'm fine. I just didn't like the way that sounded for some reason," Edward explained somewhat vaguely.
"The way what sounded?" Bella pushed gently. Edward pulled into a parking lot in front of a very modern looking apartment building about 10 minutes from her own place and parked the car before turning to look her in the eyes.
"When you said 'whatever this is between us' it felt… wrong. I know it's only been about a week, but Bella I'm crazy about you. I really don't like that we aren't sure what we are to each other or that you feel like I'm going to lose interest. I think of you as my girlfriend, and maybe that's jumping the gun a lot, but it's how I feel. I just don't know how you feel."
"Edward, are you asking me to be your girlfriend?" Bella bit her lip anxiously. He met her brown eyes with his green and held her gaze for a few moments before he cupped each cheek with his large hands and leaned in to kiss her sweetly. To Bella's great relief, the kiss quickly grew deeper. Edward pulled from her lips and pressed his forehead against hers.
"Please be mine, sweet girl," He whispered into the silence between their gasping breaths.
"You know I already am," her chocolate eyes were glassy with unshed tears and so full of sincerity, begging him to believe her words. Edward pressed a few more soft kisses against her lips before pulling her into a tight hug.
"Come on, let's go inside and see if anyone is home, maybe we can watch a movie and cuddle on the couch for a while if your not ready to head home yet." He pulled away and opened his door to climb out, but Bella stayed put, knowing Edward would like to get her door for her. Those little chivalrous tokens of his affection made them both immeasurably happy. While he walked around to her side of the car, she pulled out her phone and sent a quick text to her girls.
"Telling your besties about your new official girlfriend status?" Edward teased as he offered her his hand with a wide grin.
"You act like you're not going to find a way to tell your roommates the first chance you get?" Bella shot back with a smirk and a raised eyebrow.
"Touché," Edward admitted as he held her close and led her into the building and up the stairs. "So wait, didn't you say before that you met Rosalie and Alice in Kindergarten? I can't believe you guys still hang out. I don't think I'm truly friends with anyone I met in elementary school," Edward commented.
"We came here for college together, actually," Bella explained. "We each got apartments in different buildings in the same complex last year because our parents all said they were willing to cover the rent rather than continue to shell out for crappy and cramped student housing, and after talking it over, we decided the best way for us to remain best friends long term would be for us to not live together. We still wanted to be close enough to see each other any time we wanted though." Edward nodded in understanding.
"I can imagine three girls living together would be tricky, regardless of how long you've been friends. So how did you actually become friends at five years old, argue over who got the first turn with the yellow crayon?" Edward asked, jokingly. Bella loved that he seemed so curious about her life. He treated her like a treasured new book he couldn't wait to read word by word.
"Alice came up to me on the first day of school and told me that I was going to be her best friend forever, then said we had to go find our other best friend forever so she wouldn't get lonely. It was Rosalie she was talking about, although I didn't know that at the time. I asked her how she knew there was another best friend out there waiting for us. And she said 'I just know'."
To be continued...