Monday, June 11, 2012

The Cocky and the Cougar, Chapter Fifteen - The Awakening

Chapter 15 ~ The Awakening
"Wow. You really know your way to a girl's heart, don't you?"
Edward's eyes sparkled at me over the rim of his glass of champagne before he set it down on the table in front of him.
"Do I?" he asked.
I smiled, feeling a bit flushed. "I'd say you seem to have studied the road map, yes."
After breakfast, we'd decided to take a cable car to Fisherman's Wharf. Although it was sunny out, it was quite cool, so I wore an extra layer consisting of a tight tank top underneath my sweater and blue jeans. Edward wore jeans, as well, topped by a long-sleeved, gray shirt that was, of course, extremely soft. He wore a leather jacket over it and as we walked along the streets of the city, I continually slipped my hand beneath his jacket to run it along the luxurious material.
Since Edward had never been on a cable car before, or seen San Francisco, we took the car until the end of the line at Ghiradelli Square. We passed through the beautiful, Victorian houses on Nob Hill and gazed out over crooked Lombard Street as we passed it by. After buying hot cocoa at the Ghiradelli store, we strode around Aquatic Park, gazing out at the ocean and laughing at the seagulls, all of whom seemed to be either in love or fighting with one another—it was hard to tell which emotion was behind their strangely aggressive behavior.
We strode down the coastline toward Fisherman's Wharf and after taking a gander at the seemingly thousands of fresh crabs on display for us, settled down on a bench to eat Clam Chowder from the most scrumptious sourdough bowl I had ever tasted. Since neither of us were all that hungry, but neither could we deny the temptation that the smell of said chowder was to our watering mouths, we decided to split a bowl. This meant I got to feed Edward, dipping bits and pieces of bread into the thick soup before holding them up to his mouth ... which meant Edward licked my fingers. Often.
There might have been an ulterior motive to sharing.
By the time we'd finished eating the soup, stuffing the last bits of soggy bread into our mouths as if it were our last meal, he was kissing me fiercely. The taste of chowder was still in his mouth and I attempted to suck it from his tongue. His hands, still cold, since I had been holding our hot meal, framed my cheeks. I tried not to touch him, as my hands were sticky from our food, but my wrists went to the back of his head. My legs were crossed over his and his hand slipped down to my thigh as he pulled me up onto his lap.
We broke our kiss when we heard the sounds of children laughing and I buried my face in his neck as he chuckled against my hair before standing and setting my feet on the ground.
"We'd better get moving," he said. "Before we get arrested for public indecency."
We walked hand-in-hand up a path toward several restaurants, the smells emanating from them making my mouth water despite the fact that I'd just inhaled about a week's worth of bread and sinful chowder.
He turned to me, kissing me on the forehead before I spoke.
"Um ... I really have to um..." I danced around a little, hoping he would understand my meaning without my having to say it.
He laughed. "You need to use a restroom, Bella?"
I nodded. "Yes, please."
We ducked into a small, nautical-themed restaurant/bar and Edward spoke to the host while I stood next to him, trying to think of anything besides my aching bladder.
"Restrooms are for customers only," the wiry guy said to us.
"Is there a public restroom close by?"
The guy sighed in a most irritated manner and motioned up the street. "There's one about half a mile up that way."
Edward looked down at me.
"There's no way," I said, my eyes wide.
"Can we just come in and have a drink?" he asked the host.
"Of course," he replied, his entire attitude changing in a moment. He led us to a small table in the crowded bar area.
I didn't even bother sitting and instead made a beeline for the large, wooden sign that said, rather plainly, Head.
When I returned, a bottle of champagne sat in an ice bucket next to our table. There were two glasses sitting on the table itself and Edward sat on one side, his elbows on the table and his hands laced together in front of him.
As I sat down, his eyes brightened and he smiled winningly.
"Champagne?" I asked, my eyebrows high.
"Oh, not just champagne," he said as he reached for the bottle. 
As he lifted it for me to see the label, my eyebrows lifted even farther as I saw the label. 
"We got the Dom," he said with a wink.
I gasped and clapped my hands together. "I've never had Dom Perignon!"
I shook my head and he continued to smile at me. His eyes were more green than ever and I wanted to stare into them for the next several days.
He raised his glass. "Here's to San Francisco."
"Here's to us—in San Francisco," I said in reply, bringing my glass to his with a clink.
"I thought a special occasion demanded a special champagne," he said, still smiling.
The dancing bubbles tickled my mouth on their way down and I closed my eyes as I took another sip of the delicious, cold liquid.
"Oh my God," I said. "I don't know when I've had something so wonderfully delicious in my mouth."
I opened my eyes to find Edward's eyebrows raised and I chuckled.
"You say these things on purpose, just to bait me, don't you?"
I laughed. "This time? Yes, totally."
I took another drink. "Wow. You sure know your way to a girl's heart, don't you?"
"Why the hell didn't you tell me?"
Edward chuckled and wrapped an arm around my shoulder as we walked.
"What was I supposed to say?" he asked.
"Well, a little something along the lines of 'Well, Bella, we can certainly do this, but you need to know that I can actually sing — very well — and attempting to sing with me is going to make you sound like a complete ass.' That would have been fair and ample warning."
On Pier 39, a distinctly touristy section of shops on the waterfront, but nonetheless a fun stop on any trip to the bay area, we stepped into a karaoke recording studio. Basically, you pick a song and make a recording of it to play for your friends. We decided to record a heartfelt and stirring rendition of I Got You, Babe. You know, just for shits and giggles—something to laugh about whenever we listened to it.
And then Edward opened his mouth and began to sing. I mean, really, truly sing. The man had a serious set of pipes on him that not only made the pop song sound like a legitimate and lovely ode to living on love, but made my poor attempts to sing along sound even more horrendously out of tune than they would have ordinarily, simply by comparison.
We stopped at the railing that ran along the walkway and stood looking out at literally dozens of sea lions that had propped themselves up on the docks in front of us, relaxing in the sun amidst the boats docked there. And making lots of noise. Lots and lots of noise, as they barked and hiccuped, talking amongst themselves.
"See? Even they sound better than I did in that studio."
He laughed. "I think you're being a little hard on yourself."
I glared at him and he laughed again, kissing me on top of the head.
"Bella, did you not know what your voice sounds like?"
"Well, of course I know I can't sing. But it's one thing if we both sound horrible—then it's funny. When one of us sounds like friggin' Frank Sinatra, it ruins the whole thing."
"I don't sound like Frank Sinatra." He laughed again.
"Oh, sorry. Dean Martin. He was the better singer, after all."
"Really? You think Dino was a better singer?"
I glared up at him. "Your attempt to change the subject will not work."
He laughed again and bent his head to kiss me. I kept my lips stiffly closed, but he kept at it until I relented and smiled, returning his kiss.
"I'll throw the CD in the fireplace, if you wish," he whispered.
"Oh, you bet you will. But then I think we should go back in there and have you record, like, an entire album's worth of songs on your own." I wrapped my arms around his waist. "I totally want to show you off to everyone I know."
He threw his head back and laughed again before we moved along.
Although it was a few miles over San Francisco's notoriously hilly streets, we decided to walk back to our hotel and take a detour through Chinatown. It was a section of the city I'd not spent much time in myself and as we walked through the ornate archway at the edge of the neighborhood, it was as if we were being transported to not just a completely different country, but quite possibly a different world altogether. Strains of lyrical Asian music wafted through the air. Multicolored flags flew from the tops of buildings that were colored just as brilliantly in the mid-afternoon sun. The scent of Dim Sum and various spices and foods assaulted our senses.
We passed through a multitude of small stores selling everything from whole ducks and parts of animals I did not recognize (nor did I care to), to shoes and statues of Buddha. Edward chased me around one shop with something that was supposed to be a back-scratcher, but looked suspiciously like some kind of Asian sex toy. We received some very stern looks from the shop's proprietor before we hurried out.
We were laughing as we exited the shop and almost fell out into the street. Completely wrapped up in our own joyful teasing and laughter, I was oblivious to the small, elderly lady standing in front of me until I almost mowed her down on the sidewalk.
"Oh!" I grabbed onto her forearm, to be sure she didn't fall. "My gosh, ma'am! I am so sorry!" I was falling over myself, trying to make amends. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, yeah," she said, giving me what amounted to the evil eye. "Let go!"
I quickly dropped my hand from her arm. "Ma'am, I am so sorry."
"You should watch where you’re going!" She pointed one short, wrinkled finger in my face.
"You're right, of course. I'm so sorry."
She stopped and looked up at me, squinting in the late afternoon sun. "You," she said. It was a simple word, but if an old Chinese lady who stands all of around four-foot-nine can sound intimidating, she certainly did.
"Pardon?" I asked, unsure of myself. I felt Edward's hand wrap around my waist.
"I saw you," she said. I had no idea what she was talking about, but in truth she kind of freaked me out a little.
Edward finally spoke up, then. "Ma'am, please accept our apologies. Can we buy you some tea or something?"
Damn, he was a nice guy.
"Why would I want tea?" She almost spat the words at him, impatiently, as she continued to stare at me. 
My eyes darted toward Edward, but he wasn't looking at me.
"You work too hard," she said to me, still peering intently at my face.
"Um..." I rubbed my hand along my thigh. "Well..."
"You're right about that, actually," Edward said. I glanced over to see a grin on his face.
"You don’t need to prove yourself every day. Everybody already knows you’re good at your job. They know you’re smart." She looked at me curiously, seeming to wait for a response.
"Okay," I said, warily. "That's good to know." I glanced again at Edward, hoping he'd come up with a way for us to politely take our leave of the woman.
"And you need to let him go."
My mouth fell open at that and I spun my head to look at her. "What?"
"Let him go." She shook her head and brought her fingers to her lips in concentration for a moment before she continued. "No. He left a weight on you. Here." She reached up to touch her forefinger to my head and though I instinctively withdrew, slightly, I noted that her finger felt amazingly warm considering the chill in the air. "Let that go. He’s gone and why he left has nothing to do with you. He found new love and has a new baby, yes? You’re good on your own. You’re strong. You’ll find a new love, one that is better for you."
I felt my face paling. I did not know this woman and I knew perfectly well there was no way she could know anything about me, but her words left me cold. The palms of my hands felt clammy.
I heard Edward chuckling next to me and I tore my eyes away from the woman's wrinkled face to glance at him.
"I think those are words to live by," he said, obviously not taking her seriously. He looked at me, smiling. "Hey, she said you'll find a new love that will be better for you."
The woman was undeterred by his casually dismissive attitude.
"And you." She turned slightly and pointed at his chest, a stern look settling on her brow, making her frown. "You are a good man. But you need to tell the truth. Tell her the truth and she will love you. Until you do, you have no chance." She looked him up and down before continuing. "It’s probably too late anyway." 
And with that, she turned away from him, waving her hand as if in dismissal before she shuffled across the street without another word.
"Um ... okay..." I looked at Edward, trying to plaster a grin on my face in spite of how uneasy I felt. "Something you'd like to tell me?"
He was grinning, as well. "The truth?" I felt the arm he had at my waist leading me forward as we continued our walk up the street. "The truth is, I'd like nothing more right now than to pull you into a back alley around here and have my wicked way with your body."
I chuckled. "I'll keep my eyes open for the opportunity. But you heard what she said. It's probably too late."
We finished our walk through Chinatown, but the lighthearted fun we'd shared before seemed almost forced now. That old lady had left me feeling unsettled. I didn't know who she was or where she'd come from, but her words had not left my mind since she'd uttered them. They just seemed so ... accurate. In all honesty, short stature aside, she'd reminded me of Charlie. Though he was far more subtle than the old lady, he never let me get away with much and always pushed me to get through whatever demons in my head were holding me back. And he usually knew what those demons were before I did.
I tossed her words around in my mind, looking for ways they could just be generic anythings she'd say to anyone who happened to run her over in the middle of the street, but no matter how I looked at it, she just seemed to ... know me. If she'd only said I worked too hard and left it at that, I could have laughed it off, but the rest of what she'd said sounded as if she knew what I'd been through with Jacob. And feeling that way made me wonder about what she'd said to Edward, as well. Was he not being honest with me?
The second I let myself think that way, I could have kicked my own ass. I knew Edward. He was sweet and kind and warm and considerate and he made me laugh more than any man I'd ever known and even if he was cocky as hell, I knew there was no way he'd do anything to hurt me, at least not intentionally. I did not know that crazy lady.
"Everything okay, baby?" Edward asked as we neared our hotel.
I wrapped an arm tightly around his waist and pulled closer to him as we walked. "Yeah, fine. I'm just tired, I guess."
He kissed the top of my head for the umpteenth time that day and I smiled.
"I just want to clean up a little before dinner, okay?"
I locked the door after entering the bathroom. I figured dealing with a pouting Edward after he failed to break into my shower was better than having him ruin my little surprise.
After a quick shower and hurriedly brushing my teeth, I ran a brush through my hair and fluffed it with my fingers. It had gotten a bit damp despite my efforts to keep it dry, but it would have to do. I quickly coated my lips with clear gloss and slipped into the nightie I had recently purchased with Edward in mind. Made of silk in midnight blue, it fell to just the top of my thighs. The sleeves fell below my elbow where they were gathered with a ribbon tied into a bow. The neckline dipped dangerously low and was edged with lace that crossed under my breasts and wrapped around to the back. My breasts were cradled and framed by the lace rather nicely, if I did say so myself. Apart from the fact that my breasts looked like they might spill out of it at any moment, the nightie was not overtly sexual or even terribly revealing. In fact, it bordered on demure, but I knew Edward would respond to it's more subtle sexiness.
I opened the door and found him standing in front of the small table in the bedroom. He was looking down at the Guest Services book and he did not look up as I leaned my back against the door jam.
"Hey, babe," he said. "Do you want to hit Happy Hour at the Tonga Room here in the hotel before dinner or–" 
He glanced up and did a double-take when he saw me. His mouth hung open as he looked me up and down and a smile slowly crept across his features before he finally met my eyes.
"Or we could just get room service," I said, a sly smile on my lips as I turned slowly toward him.
"Wanna join the Mile High Club?" Edward nibbled at my neck and whispered into my ear as we flew somewhere over the Pacific Ocean.
"The bathroom?" I chuckled.
He pulled away from my neck just enough to look me in the eye and wag his eyebrows, making me chuckle even more.
"You've obviously never had sex in an airplane bathroom, or you wouldn't even bring it up."
He chuckled and returned his lips to my neck. "Why is that?" he asked, between nibbles.
"There's no room. I mean, I guess we could sit on the toilet, but really? Sex on a public toilet? Is it really that important to you?"
"You know, this conversation is doing wonderful things for my ego." I could feel his smile against my skin.
I giggled and reached to put a hand in his hair. "Yes, well, I think some things are much better in theory than in practice."
"Hmm ... how about right here?" 
He whispered his question in my ear, but I still glanced around to be sure no one could hear what we were discussing. 
"We could get an extra blanket,” he said. “Nobody would see what's going on underneath it."
I chuckled again and opened the Air Mall catalogue. "That might be a better idea at three a.m., rather than three p.m., when everyone's awake."
As if she read my mind, the stewardess came by to take our drink orders.
I was looking at an ad for an outdoor sound system when Edward put his hand on mine.
"Hey, Bella?"
"Were you ever in love before? I mean, before Jake?"
I put the catalogue down on my lap and shrugged. "Not really, no. I mean, I had crushes on boys and stuff, but ... well, I mean, I was pretty young when I met Jacob."
He nodded, looking down at the Coke in front of him.
"How about you?" I asked. "Have you ever been in love?"
He shook his head and seemed to be lost in thought. "No," he said quietly.
We didn't talk much on the drive back to Edward's house after we landed, apart from his seemingly bottomless-pit of one-liners about my truck, the condition of my truck, the comfort of my truck, the drivability of my truck and the age of my truck.
Apparently, I was dating Don Rickles.
We were both tired, I knew, but there also seemed to be something else in the atmosphere; something unspoken that left me feeling uneasy. Although our last night and morning in San Francisco had been divine and essentially a nonstop fuck-fest, there was a definite, although subtle, tension in the air between us now. After we arrived at his place, I almost decided to go home and spend the night alone, but Edward ushered me into a bath before I could even protest. He brought me a cup of chamomile tea while I relaxed and he scrubbed my back for me. When I'd finished, I settled into his bed with the copy of James Joyce's letters he'd bought at City Lights while he took a shower himself.
"Hey ... Bella?"
I looked up from the book to see him standing at the door to his bathroom. He wore only a pair of long pajama bottoms and a look of anxiety such as I'd not seen except when he'd inadvertently admitted to following me the night we met.
"Edward? Everything okay?"
He smiled, although he still looked stressed, and walked toward me. "Yeah, no worries. I just..."
He sat on the edge of the bed, looking at the floor. I removed my glasses and set my book aside. He looked pale and he ran a hand through his hair before he spoke again.
"I want to tell you something. I'm just not sure ... I'm not sure what your response will be."
"Well, that sounds ominous." I smiled, but he was making me nervous. We'd shared such a lovely weekend and now he was acting like that might have been the last such weekend we'd share. Everything that old woman had said about his telling the truth came flooding back to me and I tried to peer into his eyes, so I could get an idea of what was coming.
He swallowed and tried to smile, not yet looking at me. "Not at all, really. It's a good thing ... I mean, I think it's a good thing."
I smiled and put a hand on his arm, hoping he would look at me. "Well, what is it then, Teddy?"
He shifted his body on the bed, and finally turned toward me. His eyes met mine and although he was still smiling, he still looked pale and he swallowed before he continued speaking.
"Bella, I just ... you know, this weekend was–" 
His smile broadened and as he saw me returning it, he laughed, softly. "It was really great. Perfect, I'd say."
"I don't disagree." I lifted my hand to run down his arm and he took it in his, placing them both on his thigh.
"Bella..." He reached with his other hand to run his fingers along my cheek. "My God, you are beautiful."
My cheeks were heated from a slight blush and I was nervous. I couldn't tell if what he wanted to say was good or bad and I just wished he'd come out with it, so I could deal with whatever it was. Several things ran through my mind—the fact that we'd had sex without a condom, the possibility of other women in his life; maybe he wasn't happy in California and wanted to go back to Chicago.
And then he said it. The words flew from his mouth quickly, almost as if he wanted to get them out before he lost his nerve.
"Bella, I love you."
I heard my quick, startled intake of breath, not even conscious that I gasped so until it sounded in my ears.
"You–?" I couldn't finish. I had no words.
He looked away from my eyes, down into his lap. He dropped his hand from my face and it fell top of our hands that were intertwined on his lap.
"I know. I know it's super-early for me to be saying that and I—I mean..." He looked back up at me, his eyes full of questions. "I don't wanna scare you, Bella, but ... I do. I love you. And I wanted you to know that I love you."
I stared at his face. When I realized that my mouth was gaping open, I closed it and swallowed. My heart pounded in my ears.
Edward loved me. Edward loved me?
How long had we known each other? A few weeks? Four? Five? Wasn't it too soon to fall in love? My mind raced.
And as I watched his face cloud over, watched as his gaze fell away from mine to look down in his lap, watched as he turned away slightly, I knew I'd hurt him. My shocked and silent reaction was just what he'd feared when he'd opened is mouth. He had tried to be honest with me, just as that old lady had told him to be, and I'd given him nothing but stunned silence in response.
My chest clenched and I wanted to cry. I knew then that I'd wanted to hear those words so badly—not from just anyone, but from Edward. I knew that I wanted him to love me because I loved him, too. I stared at nothing in front of me as it all clicked in my mind and fell into place. He already made me feel loved, even before he'd said the words. He made me laugh. He made me feel incredibly sexy and beautiful. He made me think about things in a way I didn't usually think about them. I admired him, I cared about him, I worried when he travelled. I wanted to learn more about him and I wanted spend every possible moment with him. More than anything, I loved him, too.
Edward started to rise from the mattress.
"I'm sorry, Bella. I probably shouldn't have ... I just shouldn't have–"
"My God, Edward. Shut up."
He sat back down and looked at me, stunned. "Huh?"
"Well, I'm just ... I'm processing. Can't a girl process?"
"Um ... yeah." He shook his head, still dazed.
"I'm sorry. It's just ... I mean, I was half sure you were gonna tell me you had a raging case of the Clap or something."
His jaw dropped and I wasn't sure if he was going to laugh or cry. "What?"
"Edward," I reached out to put a hand at his cheek and sighed at the sheer beauty of the man in front of me. "You're really one of a kind, you know?"
"Me? Look who's talking. I tell you I love you and you start talking about venereal diseases."
He chuckled and shrugged a little, shaking his head. I took momentary note of the fact that his usually cocky demeanor was completely gone. And I liked the sensitive, vulnerable man beneath it. I liked him a lot.
"Edward ... I am very much in love with you."
His head shot up as he looked at me, still seemingly dazed.
I chuckled lightly and nodded, my hand dropping to caress his arm. "I don't know that I figured it out until this weekend, but ... Edward, I don't even know if I thought it was possible for me to love someone again, but I do. I do love you, Edward. So much."
"Oh my—fu—really?"
He turned toward me, grabbing me by the upper-arms. He looked like an excited little boy, his eyes wide and alight with excitement. I laughed and nodded at him and he jumped up on the mattress. He pulled me by the calves so that I slid abruptly down the bed, making me laugh more as he loomed above me.
"Fuck, Bella. I was so scared."
He kissed me, eagerly, as I smiled into his mouth.
"Don't be scared, Edward," I said as he pulled away from my lips to kiss my neck. My hand was in is hair, pulling him to me. "Please don't ever be scared of loving me."
He looked down into my eyes, the green of his bright and almost dancing in their sockets.
"You aren't scared?" he asked.
"Well ... yeah," I admitted. "I am. A little."
He chuckled and ran a finger along my cheek.
"But the more I know you, the more I don't think I have to be," I said. My face felt hot as I only at that moment realized the truth of what I was saying.
We made love then, despite our physical exhaustion. I felt tears well in my eyes as I pulled his face tightly against mine. Our kisses were joyful and urgent, peppered with laughter and smiles. His hands moved to the hem of the T-shirt I wore and pulled it over my head. He cupped my breasts in his hands and his mouth moved between them as I arched my back, offering myself to him. We made quick work of our remaining clothes and I held him to me. My hands grasped him tightly, running through his hair and gripping his shoulders. His hands gripped me in an urgent intimacy and he buried his face in my neck and against my shoulder. We came together and I cried out in intense joy, his voice echoing mine. Never in my life had I experienced anything so deeply intimate; so powerful. Every wall I had built up over the past few years came crashing to the ground and I was overwhelmed with a love so powerful I felt it would break me in two. Tears slipped down my cheeks and he wiped them away, kissing me where they had fallen. He didn't ask, but seemed to understand where they came from.
I made us a quick breakfast the next morning. I was going to have to run home before work, so we'd gotten an early start. The phone rang while I was puttering around in his kitchen, cleaning up the mess I'd made, but I took little notice and let his machine pick it up. I wasn't sure if we were at a place in our relationship where I should be answering his phone. 
What I heard as the person on the other end of the line left her message made me stop in the middle of putting a plate in the dishwasher. My mouth fell open and I was lucky I didn't drop the thing. Edward was lucky I didn't walk into the bathroom and throw it at his head while he showered.
"Hey baby," the female voice purred. "I'll try you on your cell later, but I wanted to let you know that my flight arrives at LAX at 8:30 on Friday. I really miss you and am really looking forward to showing you just how much." She chuckled in a throaty voice that made my skin crawl. "You won't believe what I bought at La Perla, just for you, baby. I love you." And with that, the call disconnected.
I froze for several moments, my head pounding with the now-rapid beat of my heart. I put the plate in the dishwasher and leaned over the sink, holding onto it for dear life. I would not cry. I refused to cry. Not there, anyway, and certainly not in front of Edward. Once I got hold of myself, I walked into the bedroom and hurried into my jeans and T-shirt. I grabbed my purse from the coffee table where I'd left it, grabbed my overnight bag and walked out his front door.

1 comment:

  1. oh no....not him....he's not a cheater...he can't be....there must be another explanation.....she must be hurting so badly right now....