Chapter 3 ~ The Appetizers
As he held the door open for me with one hand, I noticed that his other fiddled in the pocket at his chest. In due time, he pulled out a pack of cigarettes and a lighter.
I let out a small gasp. "You smoke?" I asked, my eyebrows raised.
Edward rolled his eyes. "Yes, I smoke. I know that's unheard of in California, but yes—I smoke."
I paused in front of him as he patted his pack until one of the offending items poked through the top of the package. He then popped it into his mouth as I watched. Closely.
"It's not unheard of," I said. "It's just ill-advised."
He peered at me over his cigarette while he lit it, before he shrugged. "It seems like I do many things that are 'ill-advised'."
We started moving toward the parking lot behind the bar. "Oh? Like what?"
He stuck his free hand into the pocket of his jeans as we walked. His plaid shirt opened a little with his movement and I could barely see a hint of his pecs through the gray tee underneath.
"Like … moving to California where smokers are treated like lepers." I grinned at his words. "Like having that one last shot of tequila that night in Vegas two months ago. Like trying the blowfish at that Japanese place in New York last year … Like Carla Arnotti when I was a sophomore in High School."
"Ah…" I interrupted. "Did she break your heart?"
He took a long drag from his cigarette and I noticed we were walking very slowly. Unnaturally slowly.
"No, actually, but she damn near broke my balls." He looked down at my quizzical expression. "Long story. Another time, maybe."
I grinned up at him. He was really quite a bit taller than I. I hadn't noticed so much when we were inside.
"Tease," I mumbled.
"Ha!" he replied, brightly.
"So what other mistakes have you made?"
He looked down at me, silent as we turned the corner behind the building and into the parking lot.
"Come on, spill it. I like hearing about your ill-advised moments. Makes me feel better about myself."
"Oh, it's like that is it?" He chuckled.
Being the health advocate I was, I hated to admit it, but watching Edward smoke his cigarette was the single most erotic thing I'd experienced in six months. As his fingers moved toward his mouth, his lips wrapped around the tiny filter sensually and I would get occasional, tiny, yet delicious glimpses of his tongue as he ran it along his bottom lip after inhaling.
"Okay," he continued, thankfully breaking my train of thought. "I cheated off a friend on an exam, once."
I gasped. "Really? Ooh, that's kind of juicy … Did you get caught?"
"No.” He shrugged. “But I knew about it and my friend knew about it and I always got the feeling he thought less of me because of it."
Hmm … That was interesting. "Would it have bothered you so much if your friend hadn't known?"
Edward stopped walking for a moment and looked down at me. I had little choice but to stop along with him. My shoes made a crunching noise on the concrete below us as I looked up into his gorgeous, green eyes.
"That's a good question." He started to walk again, not bothering to answer it.
"I also think…" He threw his cigarette butt away and I decided not to give him shit about littering, but only this one time. "I think I may have made a mistake with you."
My head sprung up so that I could look at his face and ask him what he meant by that, but I was too late—my reaction too slow. His face was already changing, brightening into a large smile.
"Hey! What do you know? This is my car."
I looked at where we were. We were nowhere near my truck—the vehicle we were supposed to be walking to. In fact, my truck was on the other side of the street, in an entirely different lot. Instead, we stood behind a sleek, silver sedan that looked to have cost about twice as much as anything I could afford to buy, should I ever decide to break down and buy a new vehicle. It was not what I expected, however.
"A Volvo?" My voice betrayed the amusement I felt at his car of choice. I was used to seeing salesmen in BMWs and Mercedes', the occasional Audi. I naturally assumed he would likewise drive one of those, or something similarly flashy, as well. Salesmen, at least those I'd worked with in the last thirteen years or so of my career, always needed to make a friggin' statement. With everything—their cars, their wardrobe, their cell phones, their homes. The Volvo didn't quite fit the mold. "How very … responsible."
"Hey," he said defensively, running his hand lovingly along the trunk. "This is the S80. This baby is beautiful and carries a V8 under the hood."
"It's not my daddy's Volvo, then?"
He grinned and leaned his back against the car, pulling me with him. Not entirely sure why, I went. While his hands snaked around my waist, though, mine stayed safely on his arms.
"Definitely not your daddy's Volvo." He leaned his face toward mine to kiss my cheek and the feel of his lips and breath on my face sent a slight shiver through me. I could feel his smile against my skin as he whispered in my ear. "You wanna see the back seat?"
I stiffened and pulled away, slightly. I would have pulled farther, but Edward held my hips close to him.
I fought for something to say—anything to take my mind off of his lips and the way he just licked them. His tongue darted out softly and caught my eyes like it was an amulet used by a circus hypnotist circa 1896. Finally, I remembered where we were. "Weren't we supposed to be walking to my car?"
His hands moved as he laced his fingers together along my lower back. He spread his legs a little and pulled me closer to him, between them. I don't know why I was dragging my feet. It's not like I didn't have every intention of getting closer to him.
"We are." He bent his face toward mine and I felt his lips at my jaw bone as he whispered against my skin. "We'll get there. Eventually."
My breath hitched. "Eh-Edward?"
His only response was a soft "Mmmm…" moaned against the skin behind my ear right before he placed a soft kiss there.
"I–" I swallowed before trying the sentence again. "I'm not sure we should…"
His lips were at my ear and he whispered into it, making me squirm against him. "Not sure we should what?" He nibbled my ear lobe.
"Edward…" I pulled my face away from his mouth so I could think clearly.
We needed to discuss this. We were going to be working together, for Pete's sake. We couldn't just jump into the back seat of his Volvo and rip each other's clothes off, panting and squirming, our lips and tongues running over whatever portion of the other's skin was in front of us, our hands reaching and touching and squeezing, teeth biting, bodies grinding, limbs flailing.
In an instant, my hands had moved from his arms to his neck and I pulled him toward me, pulled those beautiful lips toward mine. My body arched against his, pushing forward in a desire to be closer, to be enveloped by him.
We wasted little time with sweet preliminaries. Our tongues met one another's and they played over each other—tasting, testing, teasing; wanting to know more. Edward tasted of cigarettes and beer, but for some reason nothing had ever tasted sweeter to me. His tongue was like silk against mine and I could feel heat spreading over my chest and face at the feel of his hard torso pressed against me.
The heat of his fingers burned through the light material of my top as his hands roamed by back. One came to rest at my hip as his fingers barely traced the curve of my ass. While one of my hands laced itself through his incredibly soft hair, the other moved down his neck and over his arm. I moaned a little when I felt the hardness of his bicep.
The sound of my moan in my ears served to bring me back down to earth and I pulled away slightly, begrudgingly breaking our kiss. His breaths were hot against my lips and they came rapidly—almost as rapidly as my own. Taking a deep breath, I pulled away a bit farther and dropped my eyes. I could feel a blush again on my cheeks.
"Wow," I heard him say, and I felt his lips at my forehead.
"Mm-hmm," was my genius reply. My eyes tried to focus on a spot just below his chin and above his collar bone. Trying to come up with witty repartee at that point was a lost cause. I saw nothing and heard little. I focused on catching my breath and not attacking his lips again with mine. That took every bit of willpower I didn't even know I had.
I felt his fingers at my chin as he simultaneously lifted my lips to his and moved his face toward me, intent on another kiss.
"Edward," I whispered against his lips. He stopped his movements, not kissing me, but also not pulling away.
"Yes?" He kissed me ever-so-lightly on the top lip.
Edward's fingers began to move at my throat, sending delicious tingles down my shoulders, all the way to my toes. I swallowed and saw his grin as he felt my small shiver. I shook my head and finally, I spit it out.
"We—we'll be working together." His fingers stopped moving and I took a deep breath. "As of Monday ... I just—I think we should think about this."
He moved his hand to the back of my head and pulled me forward, so that we leaned our foreheads against one another. He had a sweet smile on his face.
"I have found," he said, his fingers moving subtly though my hair. "That when you think too much about this sort of thing," he leaned in and kissed the top of my nose, "it tends to fuck things up."
"Maybe," I whispered. If I was surprised I was still able to speak, I was shocked beyond measure that I was essentially pushing this guy away. Somewhere, in the deep, dank recesses of my mind, I screamed at myself for being a fool and not at least getting a long and solid night of shagging out of this incredibly sexy man. But the more dominant, logical part of my brain was proud of myself; proud that I wasn't about to make a potentially horrific and career-damaging mistake on a whim. An exciting and exceedingly sexy whim, yes, but a whim, nonetheless.
"But still—I need to think about it." I shrugged and took a breath that was meant to be calming and while it was as deep as I could take at the time, it was not nearly deep enough to quell my thundering heart. "That's me. That's who I am."
Edward's hand again worked its way through my hair until it rested at the back of my neck. It felt incredibly hot and I had time to wonder if his body temperature ran a bit higher than normal before he spoke.
"Yes, but I have seen glimpses tonight."
My eyes watched his intently as his gaze scanned my face and he spoke slowly, the sound of his sultry voice sending currents through my body.
"Don't get me wrong. I love that you have a brain and I love how you use it." He smiled at the blush I felt cover my cheeks. "But I have seen glimpses tonight of the Bella you are when you turn off that brain."
He looked me in the eye, his green eyes dark. My breath caught at the intensity reflected there and I felt his hand tighten at the back of my neck, drawing me slightly closer to him.
"I want to see more of her."
His breath was hot against my face and I was overwhelmed by the heat of his lips as they burned into mine. A moan sounded from deep in my throat as I ran my tongue along his lower lip, wanting more. He responded eagerly and pushed his tongue out to dance with mine in a fiery, passionate pax de deus. It was electric. My head hummed. His hot fingers grazed the skin at my back under my top and he bent over me.
It was Edward who broke the kiss this time. He pulled away, straightening up as his hand moved from my lower back to my face again, where he smoothed my cheek and ran a few strands of my hair through his fingers. I watched the rise and fall of his chest as he straightened his back against the Volvo, smiling at me.
"Jesus, Bella," he said, shaking his head. "I'd better get you to your car, eh? Don't want you committing any professional faux pas you'll regret later."
I planted my feet to their position on the ground in front of him and straightened, smirking up at him. "First of all, I drive a truck. Secondly, what happened to 'turn off your brain'?"
"Well." He bent to brush a light kiss across my lips. "I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I didn't give you the opportunity to think this through. I don't want to deprive you of your favorite past time." He grinned as he kissed me again, a tad more intently this time. His thumb was soft against my skin as it trailed over my cheekbone.
I chuckled as I returned his kiss, my hand again weaving through his hair.
"Come on," he said, dropping his hand from my face. "I'll drop you at your truck."
"Sure. You'll drop me…"
"Come on. No funny business, I promise." He held up his hand in a traditional, three-fingered salute as he opened the passenger door to the Volvo with his other hand. "Scouts honor."
"Something tells me you were never a Boy Scout," I said, as I slipped into his car anyway.
By the time we had pulled up behind my old truck, which was all of four-point-three seconds later, probably, the butterflies in my stomach were doing the lambada.
The sound of Edward's chuckles brought me out of a daydream I had briefly been ensconced in. One in which Edward wore UPS uniform shorts and came to make a "delivery" at my house.
"This cannot possibly be your mode of transportation."
I smiled and straightened in my seat. I was used to taking abuse over my truck, but I loved her and would defend her until her death. Which, yes, would probably come sooner than later.
"Yes, this is it." I gazed lovingly at her faded-red exterior (although the right front corner panel was not as faded as the rest of the car, since it had been replaced after a run-in with an SUV some five years ago). I noted that from our angle we could hardly even see the small dent in the passenger-side door. I could, however, catch a glimpse of the duct tape I used to close the hole at the top of the passenger seat and I smiled as I recalled how it got there (the heel of a pair of Prada pumps that were alternately up in the air or wrapped around the hips of then-boyfriend Sam, aka Close-Friend-and-Co-Worker-of-One-Jacob-Black-Whom-I-Used-to-Make-Jacob-Jealous-During-A-Most-Embarrassing-and-Thankfully-Short-Lived-Period-of-Post-Affair-Extreme-Self-Pity-and-Quest-for-Vengeance).
Edward openly laughed. "Well, you have some nerve trying to mock the Volvo, young lady."
"Hey, you have your tastes, I have mine.” I shrugged. “Not all of us feel the need to drive around in such ostentatiousness."
"Oh, please," he said. "This truck is nothing if not ostentatious. The fact that it goes out of its way not to be ostentatious is what makes it ostentatious."
I gaped at him for a moment before bursting into a laugh. He joined me and we giggled for a few moments. What he'd said was amusing, but it wasn't really as funny as our laughter would have implied. It was fairly clear we just needed to let go of a bit of the tension that had built up in the car.
"Seriously," he said as his chuckles died down. "Why do you drive this truck? You are Director of Credit for a huge company I know from personal experience has some fairly deep pockets."
My ears perked up and my eyebrows raised at that bit of news, but he moved on.
"I know you can afford something newer, and much nicer, than this thing."
"I dunno.” I shrugged, still smiling. “It's history for me."
"I got news for you. This truck is history for America."
I grinned. "I mean, this truck has been in my family forever."
I paused before pushing forward and he took the opportunity to interject: "Emphasis on 'forever'."
I punched him lightly on the arm as I continued. "It was my dad's. I took it when he died a few years ago." I shrugged, willing myself into casualness and completely unable to figure out why I was about to disclose something so personal as what I was about to disclose, but disclosing it anyway. "You know, it's all I really have left of him."
After a moment of stunned silence, Edward sat back in his seat, the back of his right hand snaking up my arm until his hand reached my face. His fingertips traced the angles of my cheek as I looked into those beautiful eyes.
"Well," he whispered. "That makes perfect sense then, doesn't it?"
He moved his hand through my hair to the back of my neck and pulled me closer. As I touched my lips to his in a kiss, my hand fell to his chest. I could feel the hardness of the muscles there and that, combined with the feeling of his tongue trailing along my lower lip, made me moan softly for the umpteenth time in ten minutes. But also, under my hand, I felt the beating of his heart—strong, sure and extremely fast. My own heart jumped a bit at the knowledge that I was not the only one so exquisitely effected by what we had shared.
I pressed against his chest slightly until he broke our kiss. I had to lower my eyes under the heat of his gaze as I pulled away.
"Yeah," he said as his hands slipped down my back. His voice was husky and he cleared it lightly before speaking again. "I guess this is goodnight, then."
I smiled and looked into my lap. "Guess it is."
"Well. Goodnight then ... See you Monday," he added with a dark chuckle.
I smiled and shook my head as I turned slightly toward the door.
My hand almost made it to the door handle. Almost. I stopped with it held in midair, hovering above my thigh.
"Wait," I whispered, turning back to him and reaching my hands toward his face.
"Again?" Edward rolled his eyes and grinned, leaning toward me and obviously expecting another kiss. His look turned puzzled as I held his face in my hand and nudged it so he turned to his left and I looked at his profile. I pulled the collar of his plaid shirt away from his skin and palmed his neck, the tips of my fingers playing in his hair while I gazed at the play of the lights in the parking lot upon the hollow left in his neck by the stretch and dip of the tendons underneath his skin.
And I did it. I leaned forward and ran my tongue from his collar bone up his neck, over the edge of his jaw and to his ear, where I nipped the lobe softly before settling in for a wet kiss just behind it. His skin was salty under my tongue and I felt the vibration of his soft chuckle beneath my lips. When I pulled away, he was smiling down at me.
"Sorry," I smiled shyly. "Just had to. Your jaw bone right there is like ... It's like some seriously erotic porn."
"Jaw porn?" He laughed.
"Exactly." I nodded, chuckling. My hands gripped one another briefly before I grabbed my purse and reached for the door handle.
"Well..." I hesitated before getting out of the car. "Thanks. I mean, for the drinks and for dinner and everything."
"Oh, honey.” Edward chuckled darkly. “This wasn't dinner. This was just an appetizer."