THE LIGHT OF DAY
I have no business feeling utter joy first thing this morning. My heart has no right to be singing with hope. My fingers have no right to be itching to run through his russet waves, or down the curve of his spine, or over his firm chest. And under no circumstances should I be aching and wanting this man beside me as desperately as I already do.
I don’t deserve this after the way I hurt Jasper. I shouldn’t get to be happy again while he’s still miserable. I shudder to think where he might be right now. Home, in our apartment, surrounded by indisputable evidence of our perfect attachment? It’s my name on the lease, but we’ve been living there together for the better part of three years. Or would he have sought comfort in Alice for the night? If only as a friend? Or might he have shown up two days early for Christmas at his folks’ place in the Berkshires?
No matter, he’d have his cell with him, though coverage is spotty in the mountains. I slip out of bed gingerly, so as not to disturb Edward. I’m not ready to deal with that tour de force quite yet.
Tiptoeing my way across the carpet, I accidentally step on something furry. Bending over to see what’s gotten in my path, I examine the long curvy piece of dark fabric. It takes my groggy brain and weary eyes a moment to decipher that I’m holding Black Velvet’s bowtie. Stifling a giddy giggle, I loop the tie over the doorknob on my way out.
Spying my purse on the guest room bed, I open the clasp, grateful that I’d fully charged my phone prior to leaving for the ball. 7:43 AM. Ugh, no rest for the wicked.
11:45 pm- Bel-WTF???? Call me immediately! Who is this guy Edward? And what happened to J, you know, your BOYfriend? You’re not engaged??? I’m worried about you!! Merry XMAS, btw. Hugs, Ang
Yeah, I snort inwardly, I would imagine that text from last night must’ve been a bit confusing for her. Hopefully, she’ll understand and forgive me when I tell her about the sharp veer I’ve taken off the smoothly paved highway I’d been on to this bumpy off-road ride that is Edward Cullen.
Ang, Sorry to have alarmed you last night. All is well. Actually, so much better than well. I’ll call you later on my way to the Hamptons. MC to you, too. xx Bel
And before I lose my courage, I send a message to Jasper as well.
Jas- Can we find a time to talk today, please? b
I don’t hear back right away, so I hop in the shower. Unfortunately, my hair is saturated before I remember that I have a zillion bobby pins buried in my updo- well, what was formerly an updo, but what now is a wet tangle of sticky knots and hardware. As patiently as possible, I pull out the pins one by one and pile them neatly in the corner so I don’t send anything unwelcome down Edward’s drain. I’d imagine the Dark Prince would have something to say about my blocking up his plumbing, I observe wryly. Well, it doesn’t take much to appeal to my dark sense of humor today.
Eek gads, the Dark Prince. I can’t help but replay my moment of discovery on the dance floor. What a downright fool I’ve been all this time, completely missing what was right in front of me. How utterly I was deceived by Edward’s plotting and planning and messaging and toying.
And why am I not mad at him? Without Edward’s magnificence in front of me, I finally spend an honest moment sorting it out.
Did Edward’s on-line persona once lie to me or advise me irresponsibly to take up with Edward? I can’t recall feeling anything but benevolent (dare I believe- loving?) advice from that angle.
And what of Edward, ‘the real man’? Sure, he hid knowing what only Black Velvet was privy to, and sure, he used that knowledge to his advantage. But did he harm me? Not once. On so many occasions, in fact, he protected me and kept me safe from myself. He never pursued me, not so much as a text message that I hadn’t prompted first. Every step was my decision. Every lunch date, my decision to leave Jasper-finally, my submission. Did he seduce me, pull me under his spell, bewitch me? No question. But every part of me wants to kiss his feet for that, and I hope I’ll get to do so soon.
Oh God, Bella, you are such a kinky slut, I chide with one final inner eye roll as I twist off the faucet. Painstakingly gathering every bobby pin, I exit the shower refreshed and resolved. Today is a day to close one chapter and embrace the next. With all my being.
Meet me at 1 pm at home? Jasper has written. I have no right to miss his usual affection and warmth, but I still do.
Sure. Thank you. b
If there’s one thing at which I’ve become proficient as a high-level executive, it is compartmentalizing. I close the phone and turn to my clothing choices. I select the laciest, sexiest matching lingerie and slide on my jeans and a skimpy tank. Perfect outfit for preparing breakfast in bed for my new…Edward.
I sense her absence long before I reach my arm out behind me to confirm that she’s left my bed. Having no real clue what kind of mood she’ll be in this morning, I roll myself out of bed at…8:27? Fuck, how long has she been gone? Why did I sleep so late today? I hop out of bed and neaten up the sheets and comforter. Plenty of time for changing the sheets later.
The warm stream of water soothes me, and I try to refrain from celebrating until I see Isabella. Because last night was beyond amazing, but if that’s all I get, I think I may actually be worse off for having experienced a glimpse of heaven and knowing the particular joy I’m being denied. I don’t even know if she’s still here, but I try not to become morose. After all, she might be just down the hall getting dressed, or in the kitchen preparing us breakfast. Grilled cheese and tomato soup will suit just fine, I muse.
The suspense is killing me, and I hurry through my normal grooming, figuring she’ll forgive a little scruff on my chin if she’s still here. If not, I’ve got the rest of my life to shave. I hastily select a pair of boxers and pull on the designer jeans that Mom likes. I’m a pleaser. On the way to the closet, I notice my tie from last night, looped playfully around the doorknob, and I chuckle to think of her rescuing Black Velvet from the sea of comforter and sheets on the floor. Sliding my arms into the long sleeves of my green striped Oxford, I hit the hallway while I start the process of buttoning, but I don’t get any farther than the bottom button when I’m distracted.
My ears are rewarded with the domestic sounds of clattering pots and pans, accompanied by the smell of something…interesting cooking on the stove. Relief floods my system like a pot of cold water dousing a campfire, leaving the same steamy residue. I turn the corner to the kitchen, and my eyes are met with the largest mess I’ve ever seen, bar none. Every square inch of the countertop between us is covered in mixing bowls, utensils, egg shell remnants, puddles of milk, sprinkles of cinnamon and god-knows-what-else. Her back is to me, and she’s humming cheerily away as she flips something with the spatula and gets ready to pile the finished product onto a tiny lunch plate.
Now I know this girl has done something to me, because normally, I’d never see past the mess, but it barely registers. Because there in the middle of it all, is Isabella, in her brand new tight jeans and a skin-hugging blue tank, and her hair is down and wet and natural, and her feet are bare, and she’s entirely at home in my kitchen. She’s stayed the night, she’s showered and changed, she’s cooking for us, and she’s not going anywhere soon.
I absolutely cannot resist the pull to touch her. Scooting around the filthy counter, I slide myself directly behind her and set my nose behind her ear, right in the middle of her damp hair.
Thank God you’re still here, I don’t say.
“AHh!” she jumps. “Shit!”
“Sorry, sweetheart,” I say, backing away. “Didn’t mean to startle you.”
“I guess I’m a little jumpy yet,” she admits.
“So what’s all this?” I ask, gesturing to the room in general.
“A failed attempt at breakfast in bed, apparently.”
“Oh, sorry again,” I tell her, attempting to smooth it away with a kiss. “I’m not one of those guys who lolls around in a robe and slippers, perusing the Sunday paper from his La-Z-Boy.”
She chuckles. “Good, I wouldn’t want you to be. Guys in terry cloth robes, blechhh, that’s a total turnoff for me. I just really… wanted…”
And here it comes-
“I wanted to serve you,” she says, eyes fluttering down to my chest as a deep blush takes over her face.
“Good instinct.” Pausing to consider my options, I finally ask, “How long are you mine today?”
“I told Jasper I’d meet him at 1, so maybe 12:30?”
“Fair enough. We’ll have plenty of time for you to do some serving after breakfast then.”
She smiles shyly and I twist her face to where I can give her a nice kiss. “Am I forgiven?”
“This time,” she huffs adorably.
“Come on, let’s set up in the dining room.”
As if I can chew and swallow food with the thought of serving him looming all around us. He never even finished buttoning his shirt, and he seems completely unruffled at the fact that it’s open all the way down to the bottom button at his …zipper. I didn’t know IT guys were built like this behind their pocket protectors. Edward exudes sex without even trying.
The bottle of syrup and the powdered sugar shaker taunt me, against the backdrop of Edward’s buff chest and abdomen, which I continue to picture face-up along the table. Pour me on, teases the syrup. Sprinkle me over, mocks the sugar. Lick us off! they both scream incessantly. I’m in a daze of sugar-and Edward-induced sweetness when he interrupts my latest reverie.
“Bella, you lied to me,” he says, taking in a mouthful of French toast.
What? Huh? Sugar? Lies? “Sorry?”
“You’re a great cook,” he says with a wink.
Good Lord, this man has me on edge.
“Done eating, Isabella?”
“Mmm hmm,” I answer, hoping he won’t notice I’ve taken three bites.
“Okay, then, let’s go clean up this mess you made.”
“You’re helping me clean?”
“Do I have yet another apology to dole out? Did I just spoil a French maid fantasy for you? ‘Cause we can certainly do that one, but I didn’t bring you here to be my scullery maid. Or my cook. I assume we’ll share those duties.”
“Besides, the faster we get these dishes out of the way, the sooner I’ll have you on your knees and crawling around for me.”