“…Come on baby, make it hurt so good
Sometimes love don’t feel like it should
You make it…”
“Hoooo-leee shitfire!” I gasp, as the onslaught of consciousness brings with it the burn down below.
And waking to this goddamn song? Seriously? Is the universe fucking with me? I roll my eyes as I stretch over Edward and slam my hand down on the ALARM OFF button.
“Crap!” My hands fly to my temples in an attempt to soothe the dull pain of a hangover I really didn’t need today on top of everything else.
Edward flips onto his side to watch the freak show. “How are things in Rio?”
“See if I let you find out, you rat bastard,” I grump out.
He attempts repentance. “Can I put some cream on you after your shower?”
“You wish!” I push out of bed with as much dignity as I can muster and slink off to my retreat.
“Aw, don’t be like that, baby,” he yells across the hall, and I can picture him trying to suppress his grin.
Even with the special twenty-bucks-for-two-ounces-so-called-miracle-ointment, Master’s secret formula healing powder, and my silkiest pair of panties, the nylons still feel like pumice stone against my crotch.
Edward seems sincerely empathetic when I waddle out to the living room. “Sure you want to walk today? I’m sure I can hail a cab if your—”
“It’s fine, Edward,” I answer through gritted teeth. I’ll never admit that my timing for giving up our cushy ride sucks eggs. The irony doesn’t escape me, however. I offered because I was worried he was feeling whipped; at this particular moment, I think it’s pretty fucking clear who has the whipped pussy in this relationship.
“Here.” I slap my shoe bag against his belly none too gently and he lets out a satisfying, “Oomph!”
“I’m sorry you’re not feeling well today,” Edward says without a trace of sarcasm, once we hit the fresh cold air.
“Don’t be nice to me,” I grump back, causing him to chuckle softly.
I look up to see his eyes focused forward, all business, my shoes gently swaying at his opposite side. I want to stay mad at him because I’m so damned uncomfortable, but after about ten indignant steps, I know there’s just no way I’ll be able to sustain any kind of resentment. And really? What would be the point? Truth is, I’m grateful as all hell my Master stepped in where I couldn’t bring myself to go for it on my own. Not to mention the guy is some kind of maharishi at helping me through difficult situations of all shapes and sizes.
Plus, his consideration last night both in scene and after? Intuitive, thoughtful, and downright sexy.
I suddenly force my gloved fingers through the spaces between his bare ones. His head whips around, startled at first, and considering the way the morning has gone, probably worried I’ll twist his fingers clear off his hand. I’m not prepared to say anything, so I just keep walking, eyes forward, but I catch his relaxed smile in my peripheral vision before his gaze leaves me once more.
I sense an added bounce in his step that wasn’t there earlier, and we walk in contented silence for the remainder of the way.
“How does your schedule look for lunch?” I ask, slipping the handle of her shoe bag over her wrist.
“The Chief would like to ‘catch up with his daughter,’” she answers.
She giggles at my pout and leans over to give me a goodbye peck on the lips.
“Okay, sweetheart. Have a great day.” I glance down to where I know she’s uncomfortable and add, “Hope you feel better.”
“Me, too. I don’t like being out of commission. Why couldn’t you do this before we were separated for three nights, anyway?” She cuffs me on my arm.
I wondered when she’d get around to that question. “I researched the optimal length and you weren’t quite ready.” Her jaw drops and she stares in amazement, making me smile. “Were you unaware of my propensity for detail?”
She shakes her head and answers, “Your propensities still catch me off guard once in a while.”
She shakes her head and answers, “Your propensities still catch me off guard once in a while.”
“Good. Now get up there and do some work so we can get out of here at a reasonable hour.”
She leans in and kisses me again. “Don’t worry, I just need to tie up a few loose ends and get some ‘Attagirl’s. Should be a light afternoon.”
“Excellent. I’ll see you soon then. Give my best to Charlie.”
She rolls her eyes. “Apparently you’ve already done that. ‘Edward this. Edward that’…ugh.”
If not for her broad grin, I’d worry she was jealous, but it’s easy to see her pride. I know how much her father’s opinion means to her, and it would be rough on all of us if he weren’t in my corner.
“Off you go,” I respond, spinning her body to meet the awaiting elevator and watching her disappear into the crowd before turning to my stairwell.
Down on the sublevel, the heavy fire door closes with a loud click behind me as I’m met with an unfamiliar but most welcome sight—Emmett working industriously at his desk, elbow-deep in the pile of trouble calls he’s shifted from my cubicle to his. He looks up when he sees me arrive and grabs a short stack of papers.
“Hey, Edward, I have a coupla questions for you.”
I’m not sure if I’m more astonished that he called me by my proper name or that he has actually rolled up his sleeves to do some honest-to-goodness work. Seems the boss knows how to motivate her subordinate.
“Hit me,” I tell him, pulling off my coat and rolling my chair over to his workstation. As I do, I notice that Rosalie is watching us through the glass, huge smile plastered on her face.
“Hey, Alice. How are you?”
“I’m good, Miss Swan. You?”
“Ugh. Do you think you could ever call me Bella?”
She blinks at me a couple times, smiles and answers, “Sure.”
My Alice-tension balloon feels a pin prick and the stale air inside begins to make its slow journey to the tiny exit hole.
“Is my father…?”
“Bellarella!” he calls out. “Come in, I’m starved!” Dad has an open-door policy both at home and at work that I’ve always appreciated.
“Thanks.” I smile at Alice.
As I pass her cubicle, I clearly hear Alice answer, “You’re welcome, Bella.”
Her small concession warms me as Dad pulls me in for a hug. “Wow, Bells. You really knocked their socks off, huh? Come, sit. I ordered your favorite today.”
He pulls out the chair for me and I sit gingerly, hoping against hope he won’t ask me why. Should’ve known better.
His voice fills with concern. “What’s the matter?”
“Nothing, Dad,” I answer too quickly, avoiding his watchful eyes.
He slips into the seat next to me and pulls the napkin from under his fork, making a big show of fluffing it out over his lap. I’ve seen this act before. He’s waiting, good-cop style, for me to start spilling my guts. It’s highly effective, and we both know this. Worked every time when I was in high school.
I’ve squealed like a pig about breaking curfew, drinking, detention…even, I remember now with a bright blush, the time I let Gordon “The Flash” Jenkins put his hands up my shirt. But Dad’s not getting this.
“It’s a girl thing,” I say finally, the one thing he can’t and won’t question. And I have to admit, it’s fun to make him blush for a change.
“Eat your lunch.”
I tap my napkin over my lips unnecessarily to conceal my victory smile. “Thanks, Dad. This looks amazing.”
“Nobody makes duck like Chef Antonio.”
“Mmm, I think it’s the pureed parsnips and the citrus glaze that get me.”
“Well enjoy it, champ. You just earned this company a big, fat client.”
“Me and my team, Dad. All of them were phenomenal. You should’ve seen Roger dazzle them with sales projections. I think that’s when I knew we had them locked in our clutches.”
Dad chuckles around his sautéed spinach. “He’s a good man, Roger.”
“He is. Sharp as a tack but also has that intuitive piece. He knows exactly where to draw the line between conservative and cautiously optimistic for each client.”
“That’s a delicate dance.”
“It is.” I steal a corner of the chocolate chip blondie and look up when I hear Dad snort. “What?”
“You know what,” he answers. “You never could finish your dinner before starting dessert.”
“I could if I wanted to,” I protest. “I just don’t see the point. I know I’m going to eat the whole thing anyway, so why not get these calories in me first?”
His eyes twinkle. “Yeah, you wouldn’t want to fill up on empty calories like vegetables and protein instead.”
I take a forkful of spinach just to show him I can go back and forth. “It’s sweet that you’re still worrying about me, Dad.”
“Of course I’m gonna worry about you. You’re my daughter.” I nearly drop my fork when he adds, “Even if Edward does seem to be doing an admirable job taking care of you.”
“Taking care of me? What am I, chattel to be passed along like the livestock and monogrammed silver tea service?!”
“It seems I’ve touched a nerve,” he says regretfully. “I’m sorry if I offended you.”
“Of course you offended me! You make it sound like I need to be taken care of by some…man!”
I’m seething. I have never known my father to be a male chauvinist pig and I’m just about to chew him out big time when he covers my hand gently with his and calmly explains himself.
“Bella. Everyone needs to be taken care of by someone. You think I’d last one week without your mother? And though I do not know—nor do I want to know—the particulars, I am quite positive that you are taking fantastic care of Edward right back. I realize you are a fully emancipated woman, and I would never suggest otherwise. Nor would I want you any other way.”
I look into his perfectly reasonable, loving, caring blue eyes, the ones I’ve trusted since I was a little girl, the ones that have never once let me down. Taking a deep breath, I unclench my shoulders and my jaws and my fists.
“Sorry, Dad. I don’t know what got into me.” Though I do.
“’Tsokay,” he says, smiling kindly and lifting his brownie with a big wink.
We talk numbers and strategy, then Dad dazzles me with his new technology skills.
“Hey, listen to you,” I tease him proudly.
“Yeah, that Edward turns out to be a pretty good teacher.”
“Yes, I’ve had the pleasure.” Do not blush, Bella. “Thanks for lunch, Dad. Except for the part where I bit your head off, it was really nice just to sit with you.”
He tosses his napkin on the table. “Remember when you were a little girl and Mom used to bring you up here to visit?”
“Of course! She taught me how to read the subway map and we’d stop in Rockefeller Center for her favorite truffles and you’d carry me all around the office on your shoulders and Mom would always go nuts when I’d stand against the windows…”
“And here you are, one step away from a corner office yourself.” He says it so matter-of-factly, crossing his arms and watching for my reaction.
“Sure, Bella. You’re one of our biggest producers. The management team has been watching you for quite some time now.”
“I’m glad I didn’t know that before my pitch!”
He waves his hand dismissively. “As if that would’ve mattered. You’re solid gold, Bellarella. Solid gold.”
Tears nip at my eyes as I see the pride swell within his. “Thanks, Dad.”
We’re both out of our chairs and hugging and then it’s time to collect myself and get back downstairs. I’m struck by a serious case of déjà vu as I exit my father’s office. There, huddled inside Alice’s cubicle with her, is Jasper with two big salads he’s obviously just delivered, along with an impressive bouquet of irises wrapped in a bright yellow ribbon. The two of them look cozy and happy and I’m entirely pleased that I feel nothing but joy for them both.
Jasper bolts out of his chair when he sees me, force of habit I think, not because it’s me, but just because I’m a girl. “Hey, Bella. Congratulations on the Warwick account,” he says, holding his hands awkwardly by his sides. If I were anyone else, I’m quite sure I’d be on the receiving end of a big, friendly hand shake. No matter.
“Thanks. Well, enjoy your lunch, you two.”
“See you, Bella!” Alice calls cheerfully, confusing the heck out of Jasper, who looks between us quizzically. Leaving it to Alice to explain, I give them both a final wave and head to the safety of the stairwell.
E-Calgon, take me away! xx
E-Calgon, take me away! xx
Be up in three minutes.
Sure you don’t want to just meet in the lobby?
We have a date! I’m picking you up the old-fashioned way.
Suit yourself. But hurry!
“Evening, Jessica.” I march past her toward Isabella’s open door.
“Oh, Edward, hi, wait…let me…” She jumps from her chair and races me to Isabella’s office. I pick up my pace just to mess with her and she practically tackles me at the door.
“Bella, Edward’s here!” She huffs and puffs with the sudden burst of effort.
Isabella is pulling on her coat at the window and turns to see what’s going on. She takes one look at our body language—Jessica, blocking me with a straight arm across the door frame, and me, standing behind her semi-respectfully, waiting to be received by the Princess of Swan with what I can only imagine is at least a mildly irritated frown on my face.
Isabella smiles beneficently and decrees, “Jessica, Edward is heretofore granted entry any time he should so desire, unless I have someone in my office and the door is closed. M’kay?”
“Oh. Sure.” She turns to look back at me over her left shoulder and I give her a little wink. She drops the strong arm routine and I wish her a very happy weekend. I wait until she’s out of visual range before pulling Isabella into my arms for a kiss.
“That was very sexy, you all in charge and stuff.”
Her brow lifts. “Really? I didn’t know you went in for that kind of thing.”
“It has its time and place,” I mumble between kisses. “Can we get out of here now?”
“Yes!” I start to lead her out the door when the yellow and blue box catches my eye. “Hey, how about we do a good old-fashioned game night tonight?”
She looks at me sideways and asks, “What’s the catch?”
“Why, Miss Swan. However did you grow to be so suspicious?”
“Oh gee, I don’t know. Maybe when I learned that red cards mean strokes of the crop and black ones mean Master’s finger?”
“Fair enough. But honestly, I was just thinking how long it’s been since we’ve been anything close to vanilla, and what better way than our special game?”
“So, no timer challenges or penalties for coming up short?”
Day-ummm, girl! I smile and kiss my sweet kinky girlfriend and post her ideas in long-term memory. “Why don’t we save Strip Boggle for a night when everything is …operational?”
“Okay. One night of G-rated games coming right up!” She almost looks disappointed, bless her heart. “Shall we drink iced tea on the porch while we’re at it?”
I take her shoe bag and the game and lead her out to the elevator. “I was thinking vodka on the couch, actually. Oh, unless you like Scotch.” I hold up the bottle her boss gifted me with this afternoon.
“Where did you get that?” she smiles in amusement.
“Bailey was appreciative.”
“Wow, he got off easy. Here I had to do unspeakable acts with strangers in a chat room.”
She’s blushing a little bit even though we’re still alone in the elevator, and I have to chuckle. A few people get on when the doors open on 27, so I lean over and whisper into her ear, “You love doing unspeakable acts.”
And now she’s blushing a whole lot. She struggles for a response and finally comes up with, “You don’t even like Scotch.”
She shakes her head in wonder and doesn’t say anything until we’re both through the revolving door. “So…I went off on my dad today at lunch.”
She hesitates for a second and I realize how hard this is for her. “There was a moment in our conversation where I thought he was kind of handing me over to you, you know? Man to man.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t understand.”
“He started talking about how well you take care of me and I got all prickly.”
“Why? I thought you liked it when I take care of you.” A warning pit forms in the depths of my belly.
“I misunderstood him and thought he was saying that I couldn’t take care of myself.”
“I’m sure that’s not how your father sees you, Isabella. He has boatloads of respect for you as a woman and as a professional.”
“Yeah, I know that. And we’re okay now. I guess I was just feeling a bit defensive, you know, in light of everything?”
“You mean, you were feeling weak for craving dominance? As if it makes you less of a woman or less capable as a person?”
“I guess that was playing in the back of my mind.”
This is not entirely unforeseen, but it is still upsetting.
“So do you feel that I’m weak because I missed you while you were gone? Or because I didn’t sleep well? Or enjoy my TV show without you at the other end of the couch?”
“What? No. It’s not the same thing,” she argues.
“But it is. You take care of me in all kinds of ways. Like tonight for example. You’re going to make me quesadillas and tomato soup. And you’re going to keep me company and snuggle with me on the couch and probably beat my ass at Boggle. And you’re going to fill my apartment with your laughter and your cold feet and your…your sore pussy…” I pause while she giggles, “…and who knows what else is going to happen once we get blitzed? But don’t you see? It doesn’t matter. It’s totally mutual. So if you’re weak, then I’m weak, too. And I’m pretty sure I’m not weak.”
“As usual, your logic is airtight.”
“That’s all I’m saying.”
“We better stop at the store if I’m cooking dinner. Otherwise, we’ll be eating Raisin Bran and pb&j.”
“No way, baby. You’re going to wow me tonight.”
“Come on, ‘splooj? How is that a word, Edward?”
“Would you like me to use it in a sentence?”
I cross my arms. “Yes, I’m sure that would be delightful.”
He rises to the challenge, “He came with a violent shudder, spurting a hot stream of splooj between her juicy tits.”
“Oh yes, I see now. How very colorful,” I smirk.
“So we’re good then?”
“No. Not this time, Buckwheat. Even if that word, miraculously, were to somehow enter the vernacular of some pornographic subculture, it would most definitely not end in a ‘j’.”
“Hey, haven’t you heard of ‘raj’ or ‘taj’?”
“Okay, fine. There are about six words in the English language that end with a ‘j’ but I can guarantee you splooj is not one of them.”
“Meanie,” he pouts, crossing the word off his list. “It’s not like I could ever hope to catch you at this point. You could be a little more generous with your rulings.”
“Because giving you ‘twattle’ wasn’t enough?”
He looks up sheepishly. “You love it when I twattle you.”
“You’re right. I really, really do. But the splooj? Not so much.”
His eyelids drop that infinitesimal fraction of an inch and I know, without a doubt, that our Boggle game has just officially ended.
“’Zat so?” he challenges.
I shrug, trying out coy for a change of pace. He’s not buying it.
Edward sweeps away our papers, the letter cubes, the timer—all of it—in one dramatic bat of an arm. Next thing I know, his knees are between my thighs and he’s pushed me back into the sofa cushions. Edward looms large above me one second, and the next, his well-worn MIT shirt covers my cami as he falls forward onto his hands and smothers me with a frenzied kiss.
I’ve limited myself to one weak drink tonight, not willing to risk spending another night tossing and turning or another hangover like the one that greeted me this morning. Edward, on the other hand, has had a couple strong belts, and I can taste the Grey Goose and the wild abandon on his tongue. This is a rare combination, sober-ish me and drunk-ish him.
He drops his full weight on me, just the way he knows I love it, and one hand slides under my shirt. My nipples have forgiven him for the ‘diversionary medical tactics’ he used on them last night. It seems he might be on the right track, after all, because all my erogenous potential seems to have been redirected north.
Edward’s kisses are sloppy and wet and I feel him grinding against my leg, two layers of pajamas no match for his enthusiastic hard-on. “Feels so good, baby,” he grunts out, his breath hot against my cheek before he tongue dives again.
All I can manage back is, “Nnnnghhh.”
He rolls his hips and kisses me hard and kneads and pinches under my top. Then, his lips move to my ear, moist warmth and deliciously tempting words. “How’s your pussy tonight?”
Without waiting for an answer, he starts his hand on a slow journey down my chest and over my stomach. Brushing his fingertips teasingly over the skin just above my bottoms, he asks, “What would happen if I just…dip inside here…and touch you…?”
I ache to be touched, long for his delicate skillful fingers like never before. I lift my hips in invitation and I feel his smile against my cheek. He flattens his palm against my abdomen and sinks lower, kissing me again, pressing his insistent need against my thigh, and oh bloody hell, that grunting! He’s pure lust, enticing and satisfying all at once and I want him more than ever, but—
“Ssss!” I gasp as his fingertips reach my sensitive skin, though he’s barely touched me.
His hand snaps back like a stretched rubber band and he pushes himself up to one elbow to check for damage. “Sorry, sorry, sorry…” he mumbles again and again. His eyes search my face in that way he has, guilt and concern seeping from his every pore.
“It’s fine,” I reassure. “I’m just gonna have to…sadly…take another night off. I should be fine tomorrow.” I have to be. It’s our night to play, and Edward has let on about having some “big plans.”
His head is still a bit foggy with lust but the reality of my lingering discomfort seems to act as a cold bucket of water, at least for the moment. He rolls onto his side and brings his hand to my cheek. “Do you still hate me?”
“Not even a tiny bit,” I answer, realizing he’s not going to take any amount of teasing well right now. Not when he already feels guilty and he’s jacked up just enough to let Insecure Edward show his face.
He kisses me gently and sweeps his thumb back and forth across my chin. “In retrospect, this may not have been the best idea for your homecoming.”
“Shush. It was perfect. Just think about how great it’s going to feel when you can finally touch me.”
He licks his lips. “Do you honestly think I’ve been able to think of anything else?”
“Hey, I have an idea. Why don’t you show me how that splooj thing works?”
His face brightens. “You mean like use it in a sentence?”
I reach down and find his eager cock. “Yeah, baby. One sexy…”
I pull my hand out of his pants and sneak under the hem of his shirt. Edward hisses when I meet his skin. He watches my face, not moving, barely breathing, as I roam across his abs and tickle my fingertips through the telltale happy trail.
“You do it,” I whisper. “It’s so fucking sexy when you do it.”
Edward breathes fire onto my lips, and I see the exact moment he agrees to take matters into his own hands. There’s a brief flash of surprise followed by intense excitement. And then he gets right down to it, shimmying off his pants without leaving my side. Our eyes remain locked together as he reaches for his cock, and I watch, enthralled, as his mouth drops open and the pleasure passes across his face with each stroke.
The rhythm of his hand plays against my leg, and I have to look down every few strokes to take in the sight of his elegant fingers curled around his shaft, swirling and pumping and delivering the exact pressure he needs.
I lift away my cami, tossing it onto the floor, and I push my pants down to my thighs. He looks, but that’s all. With one arm trapped beneath me and the other well occupied below, he doesn’t have a free hand to touch.
I scoot his shirt up with my knuckles and tease at his nipples. He groans and nips at my lips. I trace the hollows inside his hip bones and he jerks and grumbles. I tickle and scratch down his abdomen and he pinches his eyes shut and clenches his jaw. He’s an artist-worthy model, the most gorgeous three-dimensional depiction of mounting tension. He leaks several drops of fluid over his white knuckles and his feet flex against my calves.
“Open your eyes,” I beg him.
He’s so far gone, I’m not even sure he notices my eyes flicking down to the heated scene below, watching as his beautiful cock twitches in his hands. Not sure he hears me implore him, “Splooj me, baby” just before he releases gloriously onto my stomach and, as promised, my tits. Not sure he hears my hum of contentment as he relaxes and becomes his sweet, wonderful self again.
I scatter soft kisses on his forehead, his nose, his chin, and I smile when his lips bend up into a happy grin.
“It’s not a verb,” he informs me. “You don’t splooj someone; it’s a noun. It’s…that.” He tips his chin to the cloudy fluid on my skin.
“Thanks for the grammar lesson. Now how about getting us a towel, Merriam Webster?”
I watch as his perfect ass disappears down the hallway, his low chuckle warming the heart lurking just beneath his fresh coating of splooj. I suppose he has a point. It’s a pretty awesome word.