Friday, November 30, 2012

89 UNPLANNED

~Chapter 89~
UNPLANNED

she
“Great, Angela. Looking forward to it.”

“Please tell Edward again how appreciative I am and not to worry. I’ll keep Garrett within striking distance.”

“Of you or Edward?”

“Dear Lord, I was referring to me! Can you imagine?”

Ick, I’d really rather not. Not with Garrett. “Maybe Edward will let you borrow his riding crop.”

Peals of laughter ring through the phone. “Ohmygod, Bella! You can’t just all of a sudden drop a riding crop into the conversation!”

“Sorry, my sense of propriety may be a little skewed.”

“You lucky bitch!”

I gasp. It seems my timid friend is also gaining in the bravado department now that I’ve shared a little more of my secret life with her. “I think I’ve corrupted you now.”

“It really had to be done,” she intones seriously.

“Okay,” I say brightly, “we’ll see you guys Saturday night.”

“What can we bring?”

“Nothing, we’re all set here.” Master hasn’t told me his plan yet, but he knows it’s busy season for our guests, and I’m sure Master will gladly put all his demands on me. I feel a familiar clenching below, the thrill of the unknown coursing through my veins, all roads leading to my panties.

“How about if we pick up some wine then?” she suggests.

I know Angela. If I don’t say yes, she’ll just make it even harder on herself. “Sure, Ange. That would be great.”

“Super. Have a great week, okay?”

“You, too.”

My week is most definitely going to be great; our first painting class is Tuesday, Master has something important planned for Wednesday, Thursday we have Marcus, and then Saturday this dinner/scene combo with Angela and Garrett. I can’t believe how boring my old life was in comparison.

I set my cell on the desk and head back out to the kitchen, where Edward is sitting at the counter with his laptop open. I know he hears me approaching, but he is riveted to the screen. I have really gone out on a limb with this entry—three limbs, to be exact. My heart thumps quicker and stronger just knowing he’s reading it. I can’t even go beyond that to imagine how Master might incorporate any or all of these leftover fantasies.

Without turning, he reaches out his hand behind him, beckoning me to join him. My feet shuffle along the floor as if tied to bricks, and I’m pretty sure the hand I offer him is cold and clammy. How does he still do this to me?

He pulls me into his side and wraps his arm tightly around my waist. His eyes are still locked on the screen in front of him as he slowly scrolls down the entry until reaching the bottom. Because he’s sitting and I’m standing, he has to tip his head up to look at me, for a change.

“Wow.”

My resulting blush is immediate and thorough. “I know.”

“You did not hold back.”

“No. I haven’t really found that to be an effective strategy where you’re concerned.”

He huffs lightly and stands, turning me to face him. “I think you’re amazing, Isabella.”

Those are the last words I hear before he pulls me into his kiss, but I know I haven’t heard the last from Master on this entry.

~/~

CURIOUS/Journal Entry Twelve
January 29, 2012
_____________________________________________________________________
Master's assignment: Pick three things you’re still curious about that we haven’t tried

Dear Master, After much thought and tedious research *wipes brow*, I give you my three. Please remember that my working definition of curious includes a healthy dose of fear along with wet-my-panties excitement. Each of these is very scary to admit, but as you say, the inventory is yours. Without further ado:

1. Discomfort (though pain is still a turnoff). We’ve played a bit with ice but I’d like to be challenged further; we’ve done leather cuffs but I’d like to try metal handcuffs (I THINK!); you’ve bound me with rope, but I’m curious about being hogtied. Those all seemed to lump together in my mind. If that counts for three, I’ll just stop right here!

2. An interrogation scene, because words are my medium and you spin them so well. This fantasy started with a video I once came across about a woman passing through airport security with a bag of sex toys. I think she eventually missed her flight. I’ve also been highly aroused by some of those pre-dungeon scene interviews with the submissive answering all kinds of questions about why she’s there.

3. Denial (I cannot believe I’m writing this. WHO ASKS FOR THIS? Insanity, right?) Denial of physical contact with you, because it is absolutely the last thing I want, but I would imagine the reunion to be all the sweeter. Denial of orgasm, because I feel like this is the ultimate erotic submission, and I suppose curiosity is the best way to describe my attitude toward trying it.

"’Curiouser and curiouser!’ cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English).”  

With deepest gratitude and trust in you, Master,
~your princess

~/~

HE
Truth is, I’ve been semi-hard all day since she groped me in that first fitting room, and it didn’t end in the swimsuit department. Isabella made a point of settling herself into the corner seat every time I shed my clothes today, which—thanks to Riley—was more than a few times. Though he acquiesced to Isabella’s taste in the final deliberations, Riley had me trying on shorts, shirts, and loafers (which thankfully did not require getting naked). The result was two armfuls of shopping bags and a set of balls on their way to turning blue.

Now this: handcuffs … hogtied … denial … interrogation. Music to the Master’s greedy ears. Isabella has provided me not only with a painful, urgent, physical need, but also a playground for some outrageous mental masturbation. I’ve always enjoyed the thrill of planning scenes and ruminating about toys and positions and wardrobe, but this gift of knowing exactly what titillates her right now adds a new dimension I’ve not previously experienced. Not that I haven’t asked submissives about their preferences in the past, but never before have I received such an honest and courageous accounting of some very intense inclinations.

It’s not easy to shut down the Dark Prince after reading her entry, but I manage to at least hit the pause button long enough to enjoy the here and now. Isabella appears to be as hungry as I am for something leaning away from the vanilla. I pull her roughly into my body and lock my lips onto hers. A shared groan rises between us as she feels my need.

My hands are up her shirt in a flash, yanking the inconvenient lingerie up and over her taut nipples and capturing the rebounding mounds of flesh in my palms. I falter, images of these beautiful breasts captured between artistically-wound lengths of colorful rope insinuating themselves despite my efforts to hold them at bay.

A naked girl, stomach pressed to the floor; wrists tied to ankles behind an arched back lifted off the ground; thighs spread wide and held open by tightly-wrapped cord tethered to strained elbows—a most beautiful and delectable work of art. The girl’s face morphs into Isabella’s right before my eyes, and before I realize what I’ve done, I’ve got my girlfriend stripped bare and bent forwards over the back of the couch, her wrists held at the small of her back in one of my hands.

Just as I’m about to enter her from behind, she turns her face sideways along the couch and smiles back at me.

“I fucking love you, Isabella. You know that, right?”

She spreads her legs wider and answers, “Of course.”

I take her urgently, groping her nipples as I plunge deep inside her. The smile never leaves her face as she silently draws me in. I close my eyes tightly as I explode inside her, a full day’s teasing reaching its inevitable conclusion. Folded over Isabella’s body, I form a protective outer coating between her and the rest of the world—a shell to safeguard her precious core.

When we eventually untangle ourselves and fall into bed together, I kiss her until she begs me to stop so she can sleep. I lie awake alone, watching her long after her body has found rest. Even asleep, my perception of her face doesn’t settle into one persona, but reflects all the different facets, all the pieces of her that I love.

I wasn’t expecting her revelations to have such a profound effect on my near-term plans, but the fantasies she’s exposed are far too significant to ignore. I set my Master mind to recreating the scene I had planned for Wednesday, our final chance to work on trust before we go live with Angela and Garrett. Yes, I can definitely make that work. I sink into sleep with a deeply satisfied mind and body.

she
I check my cell  phone a third time, but the text remains the same—Lobby 6:15 STARVED—and my watch only marches forward. Ten minutes late is just not like Edward, and after five more minutes pass, I am starting to work up a significant concern. Just as I tap open my favorites list, Edward bursts through the stairwell fire door, dazed and bedraggled.

When his eyes lock onto mine across the crowded lobby, my heart flies into my throat. I usually wait against the wall by mutual agreement so Edward can give me a body slam kiss, but something is wrong. I stride quickly to the center of the floor where he meets me, his usual good humor and zeal nowhere to be found.

“What is it?”

“I’m sorry, I can’t take you out tonight, Isabella, I’m going to need to rush home.” Edward is rambling and out of control. My pulse spikes but I try to be calm for him.

“Okay, let’s go. I’ll get a cab.”

“No, not that home. Home home.” His eyes fill with tears and his shoulders slump, letting his bag slide to the floor.

“Oh my god, Edward, what’s wrong?”

“It’s Boomer. He’s sick. We have to…” His voice trails off and he shakes his head briefly before dropping his face into the folds of my scarf. My fingers fly into his hair and I rock us slowly side to side, every scurrying rush hour person disappearing into a swirl of nothing; it’s only the two of us.

“I’m so sorry, Edward,” I hum in what I hope is a soothing voice.

His arms hang limply at his sides as he surrenders to the inevitability and the grief. The gears in my brain start to churn. Edward’s going to Philadelphia tonight. Could I swing it?

I don’t have anything earth-shattering until Wednesday’s team meeting for my latest prospect, and Philly is only an hour and a half by train. We could go tonight and return tomorrow afternoon, still make it in time for our painting class if Edward wants to try to shift gears. If not, screw it, we’ll take the next session.

He lifts his head and regards me through watery eyes. “I gotta go. I want to catch the 7:40 from Penn Station so Dad won’t have to stay up too late.”

He bends to retrieve his briefcase when I respond, “I’m coming with you.”

As he straightens back up, his entire being rejects the idea. “Isabella, I’m a big boy. I can handle this alone.”

“Of course you can, but now you don’t have to.”

He stares at me for a few seconds, looks as if he’s about to say something, but just shakes his head. “I’m in no position to argue with you.”

“Good,” I smile and take his hand. “That will make this much less unpleasant.”

Back in the apartment, we both change quickly and toss together our own separate overnight bags. I extracted enough details out of Edward in the taxi to understand that his dog stopped eating about a week ago. Carlisle and Esme have been amassing information for the last several days, and have now determined the tumor is malignant and inoperable, and Boomer seems to be in a lot of pain. Carlisle hadn’t want to upset Edward before he knew all the facts, but he didn’t want to put the dog down without giving his son a chance to say goodbye. The vet is due out to the house tomorrow morning to lay the dog to rest.

“Last chance,” Edward says from the doorway, his duffle slung over one shoulder. It looks like he splashed some cold water on his face and made some effort to arrange his wild hair, but I’ve never seen him look this disheveled and raw. “You sure you want to come?”

“Yes. I’m all set.” Last thing I want is to make him late for the train.

I meet him in the doorway and kiss his sweet, sad face. Without a word, I take his hand in mine. As we wrap ourselves in our winter coverings, Edward quietly thanks me again for going with him.

“You’re welcome and you can stop saying that now. You know you’d drop everything for me if I needed you, too.”

“Of course I would.”

Penn Station is loud and crowded and we’re lucky to find two seats together in the “quiet car.” Edward takes the window seat and pulls my hand into his lap as soon as I get organized. He spends most of the ride looking out the window, his reflection pensive and sad. My heart hurts for him, but I’m happy I’m here, especially when he occasionally squeezes my hand to draw support.

“You did tell your folks I was coming, right?” I ask as Edward watches the pick-up lane for the Prius at 30th Street Station.

“Yeah, I sent Dad a text from the taxi.” Edward smirks. “Mom’s fixing the guest room up for you.”

“Oh shit, really?”

“Yeah.”

Just then, Carlisle pulls up to the curb and hops out of the driver’s side. Edward only lets go of my hand at the last moment, as his dad pulls him into a long hug with extra back patting at the end. Both men are teary when they pull back, and when my turn with Carlisle is over, I, too, am sniffling. “Thank you for being here for Edward,” he murmurs into my ear just before letting me go.

There is much discussion about which of us should sit up front, but finally, Edward lets me convince him to sit with his dad. Still, he turns around to check on me every few minutes. Carlisle brings us up to speed on the situation, the vigilant father doing his best to protect his son from hurt. Edward is quiet and reflective and Carlisle leaves him to his thoughts, so I do, too.

HE
“How’s Mom doing?” I ask, as Dad makes the turnoff from the Schuylkill.

“You know your mother. She’s all tough on the outside, but underneath that suit of armor there beats a heart of mush. So far, it’s been all about medical data and logical decisions and discussing with the vet how it will all go tomorrow, but I’m pretty sure she’ll lose it when she sees you.”

“I hope that doesn’t make it harder on her.”

“It won’t. She needs to grieve; your being here will help jump start the process for her. You, too, Isabella. It was so sweet of you to come.”

“I just hope I’m not intruding,” she says.

I reach back and put my hand on her knee. “Never.”

“Of course not,” Dad confirms hastily.

Mom, tightly swaddled in a puffy down coat, is waiting on the front stoop when we pull into the driveway. “I’ll get the luggage,” Dad says, reaching across the front seat of the car to place his hand on my shoulder. “Your mother needs you right now.”

It’s so difficult to look into her eyes as I approach, but I force myself to absorb her pain, as she, no doubt, absorbs mine.

“Oh, Edward,” she cries, melting into my arms and sobbing softly.

“Sorry, Mom.”

“He’s such a good dog.”

“He is.”

I rock her slowly, comforting her as Isabella comforted me yesterday.

Mom opens her arms and welcomes Isabella into our hug. “Come, dear.” We both draw her in and the three of us sway together until Mom’s ready to break the hold.

“Did Dad tell you…what to expect?” She swallows hard over the last few words.

“Yes. I’m ready.”

Mom nods and turns the knob behind her. I have no trouble finding him; he’s lying in the middle of his favorite bed, a puffy denim circle with soft polar fleece broken in from years of use. I sink to my knees near his head, and he can barely lift his eyes to register my presence.

“Aw buddy,” I say softly, cooing into his ear and petting him with a feather-light touch. I want him to know I’m here, but I don’t want to hurt him in the process. His nose is dry and cracked and his eyes are glassy. He’s always had such an expressive face, and right now, I can read his resignation like a neon sign. My gut twists and I let the overpowering sense of loss flow through me. Another set of knees drops to the floor next to me and I feel Isabella’s arm around my shoulders.

“Isabella, meet Boomerang Aloysius Johnson Cullen, direct descendant of the show dog Caramel Corn.”

“Very nice to meet you, Boomerang,” she says sweetly, reaching two fingertips to his paw and touching him ever so gently.

I drop my face next to his and brush my cheek against his jowl. His breath is worse than usual, the stench of disease is well upon his old bones.

“Is he in pain right now?” I ask Dad while I settle in around Boomer’s weary body.

“No. We’ve been keeping him medicated. That’s why he’s a little out of it.”

“He looks baked.” I have to smile at my friend, the Yellow Labrador wonder dog, who has clearly been well tended by the good doctor.

“We’ll leave you alone with him,” Dad says, putting his arm around Mom and leading her out of the room.

“Do you want me to go?” Isabella asks quietly.

“No. I mean, not unless you want to. Is it too much for you?”

“No.” Isabella curls into my body along the dog bed on the floor and lets me pull my fingers through her hair and soothe myself the way Boomer always used to, the way I can no longer do. Dad wakes us up a while later, and we pull ourselves from the floor, coated in yellow dog hairs and weary from the uncomfortable late-night doze.

“Time for bed,” Dad says. “Mom fixed up the guest room for Bella.”

“Thank you,” she starts, but I pull her into my side.

“Dad, that’s not happening.”

Dad’s smile passes from me to Isabella. “I honestly have no idea why she did that. I mean, you’re a grown…” Carlisle waves his hand vaguely toward my pants.

“Exactly.”

Isabella cuts in, “Edward, I don’t want to disrespect your mother.”

“Dad, tell Isabella it’s okay.”

He smiles again and pulls both of us into his arms, kissing me on the head first, then Isabella. “I will take care of Esme. Go to bed ... together, for God's sake. The vet will be here at nine.”

“Thank you, Carlisle,” she says softly.

she
“Sorry about ‘The Awkward Show’ back there. Normally, I would’ve stormed the castle, but Mom’s not exactly herself right now.”

I’m standing over the sink brushing my teeth when Edward comes over and snags the toothpaste from my hand. Grinning at my reflection, he says, “That’s quite the outfit you got there.”

I spit and look down at the combination of my bright blue Yale Bulldogs tee and my green-and-yellow-striped silk boxers. “I didn’t even look to see what I was pulling out. I didn’t want to make you miss your train.”

“You look perfect.” He squeezes out a neat line of paste onto his toothbrush and replaces the cap, just like at home. He places the toothbrush into his mouth and starts on the lower left molars, just like at home. He brushes and brushes, and when he’s through, he bends and cups his hand, catching enough water to rinse—three times, just like at home. Afterwards, he gazes into the mirror with a critical eye, making sure he didn’t miss any stray pieces of spinach, or in this case, the meat loaf sandwich Esme brought out to us before she went up to bed.

The difference is that tonight, Edward’s looking into the mirror that reflected his face from the time he was a very young boy, saw him through his teen years, and right on into manhood. This mirror has seen it all, and suddenly I’m incredibly jealous.

“What are you thinking?” Edward is smiling at me in the mirror.

Busted.

“I’m sorry. It just occurred to me that it’s my first time in your home, and—”

The smile fades. “Oh my god, I am such a loser. I should’ve offered you a tour. I didn’t even offer you a glass of water.”

“Edward, please.” I turn toward him and press my hands onto his cheeks. “You don’t have to do any of those things. I didn’t come here for that.”

“This is unacceptable. C’mere.”

He takes my hand and pulls me into the bedroom. Reaching into the bottom drawer of his bureau, he pulls out a bright green Eagles hoodie and tosses it over to me. “Here. Put this on in case my dad decides to get a late night snack…oh hey, look! You match now. I’m gonna give you the grand tour.”

“Honestly, Edward, you don’t have to—”

He covers my mouth with a kiss, pulling me into his bare chest and flannel pants. “I know. I want you to get the full effect here, you know this place is a historic landmark! The birthplace of Edward Cullen.”

Twenty minutes and a whirlwind tour later, we’re back in his room. He seems to have gotten his second wind, and I worry that sleep won’t find him tonight.

“You need to get some rest, Edward.” I take his hand and pull him to the bed, tossing the borrowed sweatshirt over his desk chair and joining him under the covers.

He’s lying on his back staring at the ceiling when I click off the lamp on my side of the bed, plunging us into darkness. When I curl in close to his side, his arm wraps around me automatically and his thumb flutters randomly along my arm. His soft voice floats over my hair, “It’s so weird that we’re here…together…all of a sudden. This is not how I imagined I would bring you home for the first time. I just can’t quite reconcile the reality of you in my childhood bedroom.”

“I think I’d probably rather not think about what all went on in this room.”

He huffs, “That makes two of us.”

Of course, now I’m completely curious and I may never get to sleep, but this is not about me. “You need to quiet your mind, Edward.”

“I know. You’re right. My head is everywhere right now.”

“Keep it here, with me.” I roll on top of him and kiss him gently. Right now, it’s just the two of us—no past and no future, just this joining together. He pulls my shirt over my head and shimmies out of his pants while I push the boxers down and away. He holds me tightly against his chest as I open myself to gather him inside the comfort of my body. We rock together slowly and I swallow his need until he empties inside me. Edward’s breathing evens out and his body and mind finally seem to be tranquil.

“I just realized why I was such a lousy host,” he suddenly blurts out of the stillness of the night.

“Edward, you weren’t—”

“I was,” he insists, and I leave it alone so he can share this thought that seems so very important to him. “Granted, when you walked through that door with me, I was thinking about my dog. Even still, it felt so natural to have you here, I totally forgot it was your first time. You just fit,” he marvels, “into every aspect of my life. It’s kind of perfect.”

“It is. Now go to sleep, Edward Cullen.”

HE
“Where would you like to do this?” Dr. Banner asks Mom.

“I think he’ll be most comfortable right here in his bed,” she answers stoically. Dad puts his arm around her shoulders, and the doctor nods. We all gather in a tight circle on the floor, surrounding Boomer with our love.

“Okay, as I’ve explained, this first injection will completely relax Boomer. He’ll be conscious but just barely awake.” He flicks the needle with his finger and gazes once around our tight circle, waiting until each of us acknowledges that we’re ready. Isabella squeezes my side when I give my assent, and even though I can’t lift my eyes from the scene in front of us, I feel her presence as a warm blanket of love surrounding not only me, but my parents as well.

I lose it when Mom starts weeping, and I tighten my grip around her waist while Dad bolsters her on the other side. The tears slide down my cheeks as Boomer’s eyes close for the last time. “He’s still here,” the vet says quietly, taking up the other needle then pausing in case anyone has any last words. Our family circle seems to take a deep collective breath before gathering even closer, and when the doctor sees that nobody is going to speak, he softly says, “Okay, here we go.”

I have to close my eyes at the very end.

“He’s at peace now.”

Dr. Banner gives us a few minutes alone, tactfully cleaning up his supplies and preparing to take the body for cremation. He’ll be scattered over his favorite pond out back, where we can all imagine him spending eternity swimming his heart out and getting covered in the slimy pond scum he used to love shaking all over the house. The memory makes me laugh in a loud, inappropriate way, but instead of chastising me, Dad asks, “What?” like he’s dying to get in on the joke.

“I was just remembering how I used to bring him in the house after his walks and he’d shake that slimy pond scum all over the walls in the kitchen.”

“Ugh,” Mom groans. “He used to smell worse than the neighbors’ compost heap on a hot summer day!”

“How about when the pond was so low, it was just a giant mud slick? That was even worse,” I add.

Dad is chuckling now. “Remember how he’d stand outside and give us his most pitiful expression when we wouldn’t let him in? Nearly broke my heart when he’d do that.”

Mom gets in on it now, “Yeah, well, it’s not as if it was enough to make you or Edward take the hose to him. I always had to do that.”

“Because he hated it!” I answer in our defense, all three of us laughing together at the memory of how Boomer would strain on the leash when the cold water hit him. I turn to Isabella and fill in the gaps. “Dad finally had a special nozzle put on the mudroom shower so that we could close Boomer into the stall and give him a warm water shower instead. He didn’t like that much better but we felt less guilty and he couldn’t escape.”

“Yes,” Dad says, wiping tears from his eyes. “He’s the only dog in Pennsylvania with a Waterpik eight-mode pulsating shower massager.”

“Sounds like a very lucky dog,” Isabella responds.

“He had a good life,” Dad answers, just as the vet returns.

“He had a very good life,” Banner concurs. “Why don’t you good folks let me handle this part?” he offers, kindly shooing us away. Dad helps Mom up off the floor and leads her away, and Isabella does the same for me.

“You sure you don’t want us to take a taxi back, Dad? Maybe you should stay with Mom.”

“I’m fine, son. No need to get melodramatic here.”

“Okay, Mom. Would it be too melodramatic if I asked for a hug?”

“Oh honestly, Edward.” Mom rolls her eyes at me and allows me to wrap her in my arms. She’s girded herself in Mom armor again. Dad will probably get through to her later today, but for now, she’s set aside her grief, so I do the same.

“Take care, Mom.”

“You too, son. You take care of this sweet girl.” She turns to Isabella and takes her into a tight hug. “Thank you for coming, Bella. I wish you would’ve known Boomer sooner, when he was still himself, but at least you got to meet him. You’re a true member of the family now.”

Isabella’s eyes shift over to me behind Mom’s back and I can’t contain my smile. I give her my best “That’s-my-Mom” face and shrug it off, but deep within my heart, a match is struck and a tiny flame has been kindled.
_____________________________________________________________________
A/N: Sometimes, life just happens, and people have to hold each other up. This chapter was inspired by the memory of our own sweet Boomerang, who's been gone since 2011 but not forgotten.

Friday, November 23, 2012

88 PLANS

~Chapter 88~
PLANS

HE
“You better be getting yourself a new bathing suit, that’s all I have to say.”

“What’s wrong with my old one?” I complain.

“Um, okay. Let’s start with the fact that it’s not even close to its original color, and faded peach is really not your color, dude. Add to that the fact that penguins sliding down ice chutes are not exactly hot boyfriend material, and top it all off with the elastic shot to hell and while I love your ass crack more than life itself, your girlfriend is a classy broad and that shit is not gonna fly, so to speak.”

“Riley,” I laugh, “okay, man. Jesus, dude, I thought Sean was supposed to be mellowing you.”

“You harshed my mellow, Edward. How can you even consider shopping for your big tropical adventure without me? That’s our deal.” Riley doesn’t usually resort to pissy, so I’m figuring he actually is genuinely upset over this.

“Ri, come on, be reasonable. How is your boyfriend going to feel when you tell him you want to take me bathing suit shopping?”

“Who said I was gonna tell him?”

This is laughable. Riley couldn’t keep a secret if his life depended on it, and everyone knows it. “What else ya got?” I push.

“Okay fine. I hadn’t really considered that, I guess. Hey…maybe he’d want to come too. I could dress two birds with one stone.”

“If that’s a reference to your dick, I really don’t want to hear it.”

“So we good then? Bergdorf tomorrow at one? No, wait, we should go to lunch first. Let’s hit Caruso’s at noon. You can wow Bella by finishing off one of their famous chicken parm sub bombs. It’s perfect!”

“Holy shit.” I rub my forehead wondering how this is going to go over with Isabella. For all I know, she has plans I don’t know about. “We’re really double dating at BG Men’s? This is…weird, to say the least.”

“Oh, Edward. Stop being such a worry wart. You’re gonna give yourself wrinkles.”

“Let me confirm with Bella.”

“Hey, surprise me. You’ve got me in shopping mode now and I’m taking Sean either way. In fact, I’m going to do some closet surfing right now and see what I can talk him into trying on for me.”

“You guys aren’t gonna go and do anything embarrassing in the fitting room, are you?”

Riley guffaws into the phone. “I believe they call that ‘projecting,’ my friend. Doth thou have some dirty thoughts? And yes, the Pope shits in the woods.”

“You just answered your own question, Ri. I’m getting another call…oh wonderful. It’s the girlfriend’s bff’s asshat boyfriend. I have to go…”

“Lovely speaking with you, Edward. Hope we’ll see you at Caruso’s. And Bergdorf’s. I’m thinking you could really use some Tommy Bahama’s camp shirts for your trip.”

“We’re not talking about those damn shirts again. Goodbye, Riley.”

“Love you, Ed.”

-Accept Call-

“Hello.”

“Hello, um…Edward? This is Garrett.”

I grab a juicy green apple from the bowl on the counter and sit down on the nearest stool.

“Hi, Garrett.”

I wait, holding the phone away from my mouth. Crunch. Munch. Slurp.

“Yeah, so Angela said it would be okay to call you?”

“Mmhmm.” Chomp. Wait.

“I suppose I owe you an apology.”

“You sure? You don’t sound too convinced.”

“I hear I was kind of an ass.”

Jesus, this is the lamest apology I have ever heard. I take an extra harsh bite into the apple so I don’t rip his head off instead. “By any wild chance, did whoever told you that also explain exactly what assholish behavior you exhibited?”

He laughs nervously. “As a matter of fact, she elaborated quite eloquently on the topic.”

Finally, a human moment.

“Well, that’s helpful,” I comment, still waiting for him to man up.

“Yeah, not so much at the time.” Loud sigh. “So I’ve had some…alone time to reflect, and I really am sorry I came at you like that at our house.”

I wait. He’s just getting started here, and there’s plenty more for him to say without any help from me. He does what most insecure people do when faced with a void—he fills it.

“I guess I was still hurting over the breakup—on my friend’s behalf and all—and I was a tad judgmental. Okay, a lot judgmental—which was wrong, because I don’t even know you. And in the end, the only thing that matters is that Bella’s happy, and Jasper’s happy, and Angela’s happy. Come to think of it, I’m the only one who’s unhappy!” He ends on the same little forced laugh.

“Yeah, I guess that couch can be a pretty cold place in the middle of the night, especially when your girl is down the hall. So close, yet so far, right?”

“Right.”

I wait.

“So…Edward…how do I do this? How can I make it right?”

I bite off the last vestiges of flesh from the core and get up to chuck it in the trash.

“Okay, here’s the deal, Garrett. I don’t really give a rat’s ass what you think of me. The only part you got right is that all that matters is Bella’s happiness. She happens to love Angela, which means you and I might be stuck with each other for a good long while. I’m more than happy to coexist with you, if you can keep your narrow-minded views from being so insulting that everyone in the room feels uncomfortable. With me so far?”

“Sure,” he responds, happy to be led around by the nose and given a second chance.

“Good. Then how about we let the girls come up with a mutually agreeable date and you two can join us at our home for dinner—so long as you behave yourself.”

“Thank you, Edward. That’s very generous of you—”

“I agree, and I’m not going to be generous again if you screw this up. It would be sad if the girls were relegated to ladies’ lunch and the occasional girls’ night out just because you couldn’t rein in your colossal ego, but frankly, I’m not going to be the one whacking off into a hand towel and eating Froot Loops for dinner if that happens. You got me?”

“I believe I do. Thank you,” he says rather uncertainly.

“Later then.” I am so done with this guy. I click END and toss the remains of the apple into the barrel and briefly muse whether this guy is rotten to the core.

“Did you just tell Garrett he’d be whacking off into a hand towel?”

My beautiful girlfriend is up from her nap and she is standing in front of me with her arms crossed and left eyebrow arched. Whoopsie.

“I was describing a hypothetical situation.”

She smiles and shakes her head. “So what’s the verdict?”

“You need one more session with Master and then you’ll be ready. Pick a date with Angela any time after Wednesday night. Oh, and how do you feel about going clothes shopping tomorrow—with Riley and Sean?”

she
“I don’t get how you’re never cold,” I grumble. “Though I’m not really complaining about snuggling up into this soft leather jacket of yours and getting to hold your real hand and not some covered-up version.”

Edward turns his head and gives me one of his patented you-are-so-entirely-owned-by-me stares. “I was under the distinct impression you liked my leather gloves.”

The only response to that is none at all, which is exactly what he gets. After a light chuckle, he asks, “So what do you think about playing Friday night versus Saturday?”

“I certainly love that we have another whole day to be together tomorrow. I think I may have accidentally been willing away the first half of the weekend because I was always so anxious to get into scene.”

He nods. “And now we have the whole day ahead of us.”

“Yes. The only thing is, I’m not entirely transitioned out of submissive mode, you know? I mean, if we had some heavy social commitment tonight with other people, I’m not sure how well I’d do with it.”

“I might still have a few brain cells in Master mode, myself,” he admits. “That was a pretty intense scene today.”

“It helps that you changed clothes…gah, those boots!” I turn my face to the snow, shivering a bit at the giddy memory of his heavy Doc on my back just a few short hours ago. Still, I feel his smile.

“Well, I figured you’d be changing out of your gag and collar, so…”

“Oh, man,” I groan.

“Sorry,” he says with a soft laugh.

“Just don’t even pretend you are,” I admonish him.

Edward reaches into his pocket and smiles when he sees who’s just messaged. “It’s Marcus. He says he could meet us this Thursday.”

Suddenly, the temperature rises at least twenty degrees. Edward waits patiently for my answer. I’m beyond keen for this first meeting, and I nod. “So, where is this epic event  going to take place? I don’t think I could handle you two in public again—even if we’re not in scene.”

“We are most definitely not going to be in scene, but you’re right. This calls for a much more private setting. We’ll meet at Marcus’s place.”

“Holy shitfires.” I suppose the thought should’ve occurred to me before this moment, but I have been so caught up in the “what” that I failed to consider the “how” of it all.

Edward squeezes my hand, and I look up reflexively. I’m quite sure he doesn’t mistake my rosy cheeks as something weather-related. “I’m not leaving you alone with him unless and until you are comfortable.”

“I know.”

“AND I will be sitting within thirty feet at all times.”

I have to laugh. “Sounds like you don’t trust the guy!”

He gets real serious real quickly. “I trust him more than just about anybody on the planet, but your comfort means everything to me.”

“I get that. Thank you. So…his place…what are we talking about here? Torture chambers? Dungeons and dragons?”

“Hell, Isabella, you’ve got that brain going full-tilt now, don’t you?”

“Occupational hazard, yes.”

“Let’s all be thankful for that!” He adds a comical eyebrow pump.

“It’s just…don’t take this the wrong way, okay?...I’ve had my fair share of fantasies about playrooms and dungeons, I mean, what true submissive doesn’t, right? After I met you and we started…you know...scening, I kind of figured this was it, and I’m really not feeling any regrets, but I guess if I’m being honest, I can’t help admitting to a slight curiosity about all that other stuff.”

“Hmm, stuff like St. Andrews Crosses and leather whipping benches and suspension hardware and stocks and sawhorses?”

“Would you like to have to scoop me up off the sidewalk and carry me to dinner?”

“A little bit, yeah.”

“Keep it up then, my incorrigible boyfriend.”

“Highly encourageable.” He smiles that beautiful, happy smile.

We’ve miraculously arrived at Sprig without further incident, and as Edward pulls open the heavy door, we’re greeted by savory aromas and soft jazz. “Thanks. This is just what I need tonight.” Of course it is; he always knows exactly what I need.

Once we’re unwrapped and seated—and re-seated at an out-of-the-way table for two—Edward  rearranges the place settings so that we’re right next to each other rather than across the table. He weaves his fingers around mine and tucks our joined hands into his lap. “Want some wine or should we go with cocktails first?”

“I’m feeling wine tonight—as long as you can handle me a little bit mushy.”

“Mush away, sweetheart. Let it all hang out.”

He swiftly manages the wine list, and before long, we’re both sipping on a full-bodied red wine and dunking some really fresh bread into some even more delicious dipping oil and I’m about as happy as a person has the right to be.

HE
I rap my knuckles softly against the guest room door before walking across the room to her desk.

“Coffee?”

She stops typing and regards the outstretched mug over her shoulder. Her eyes drift up to mine and a bright smile appears on her Sunday-morning-recently-rolled-out-of-bed face. “Thanks. What time is it?”

“8:22.”

She smirks at my precision and sips at the coffee gratefully.

“What are you doing up so early?”

“I wanted to beat you to the kitchen for once.”

One eyebrow tips up. “Does that mean…?”

“Your veggies are diced and your egg whites are whipped, just like your boyfriend.”

“Oh! Are we role-playing so early today? Let’s see, maybe I’ll be Cleopatra today.”

I huff, “Perfect. Queen of Denial.”

“Listen, Julius, I’m almost done with this chapter. By the time you shower and make my omelet, I’ll be ready to join you.”

“Yes, my queen.” I give her a royal bow—something I picked up from The Tudors, most likely (damn, I love me a great King Henry)—and leave her giggling at her desk.

Conscious of the fact that I’ll be dressing and undressing multiple times this afternoon, I choose a T-shirt and crew neck over a pair of jeans with a zipper. Riley talked me into buying button-flies the last few trips, claiming if I’m not sober enough to get them open, I shouldn’t be allowed to unleash the beast. Does he not know you can just yank apart the sides? Scratch that, I’m positive Riley knows every damn shortcut to opening a man’s pants.

Isabella joins me in the kitchen just as I’m pouring the orange juice.

“Impressive,” she says, wrapping an arm around my waist and pinching my love handle.

“Save room for lunch,” I warn. “I’m taking you to Caruso’s today.”

She refills both our coffee mugs before sitting down at the counter with me. “That’s very brave before bathing suit shopping. Glad I already got mine.”

“Don’t I know it,” I admit, rubbing my belly thoughtfully. “I guess we’ll just have to work it off later.”

“Are you propositioning me?”

I laugh. “Actually, I was referring to the gym, but that works, too.”

“Figures, the one time you actually weren’t talking about sex…” her voice trails off and her head shakes side to side as she jellies up her English muffin.

“Must’ve been a steamy chapter. Exactly what have you done to that princess now?”

Judging from the blush that heats up her face, I already know it’s something especially filthy. She swiftly changes the subject.

“Did you make two separate omelets?”

“No. I figured I’d just stick with healthy…for now.”

Isabella nods and smiles. “The whippage is proceeding on schedule.”

“Yes, no doubt culminating in a spectacular display of emasculation at Bergdorf’s around, oh…let’s say five p.m.”

Isabella ruffles my wet hair playfully. “Poor fella. Just think about how hot you’re gonna look in your new duds, especially with those perfectly-tended feet!”

“Gee thanks. Let’s do talk about the pedicure again. Because that wasn’t castrating in the least!”

She giggles softly at my antics, so I ham it up a bit for her.

“You’re turning me into a capon here, baby. Pretty soon I’ll be buying myself gifts from La Perla!”

“Oh shit, Edward. Cut it out! I’m trying to eat here!” she snorts.

“Just sayin’.”

She dabs her napkin over her mouth and swallows whatever was in there before I started in on this tirade. “If you had any idea what the Dark Prince was up to this morning, you wouldn’t…you just couldn’t possibly have a moment’s doubt about my perception of your virility.”

“Do tell, princess.”

And the blush returns.

“Let’s just say that the idea of visiting a real-life playroom has been all kinds of inspiring for me.”

“Ah.” I can barely contain my grin. “Damn, honey, I can hardly wait to show you around the place.”

“I’m not sure I could survive it.”

“Oh, but what a way to go!”

“Just be prepared to catch me when I faint dead away.”

“You know, you’re not the shrinking violet you seem to fancy yourself.”

Her eyes click up from her omelet and she sees that I mean it as a compliment. She takes her coffee mug and settles back in her chair, soaking in my adoring gaze for several silent minutes.

A wide smile appears behind the mug. “Neither are you, my sweet dark prince. Neither are you.”

she
I’m in my happiest of happy places, lying sprawled along the couch with my head dead center of Edward’s lap. The book I’m not reading is open against my chest, but I don’t have the will to force my eyes open, especially with Edward twirling his fingers through my hair, along my forehead and behind my ears. He’s pulling me into a trance and I don’t ever want to leave.

With the Super Bowl exactly one week away, there’s a constant drone of testosterone-filled voices and an endless stream of football videos with epic musical accompaniments.

“Isabella?”

His voice is quiet, as if he’s afraid I’m really asleep. I open my eyes and look up into his warm, sage eyes. “Yeah?”

“I’ve been sitting here staring at you and thinking about what you said…”

“Which thing I said?”

“About fantasies unfulfilled.”

Oh shit. I pop up onto my elbows so fast he almost pokes me in the eye. “Edward, I hope to GOD you are not sitting there thinking for one split second that you have not fulfilled every fantasy I’ve ever imagined and a hundred more.”

He smiles and shakes his head. “Don’t worry, I’m not getting maudlin. I promise. Lie back down, would ya? I like your head in my lap.”

Gladly.

“I want you to do something a little different for your journal entry this time.”

“Oh.” So that’s what this is all about?

“We’ve had a significant number of scenes at this point, and it’s a good time for reflection. I certainly have my ideas about what I want to accomplish with you, but I realized when you mentioned the playroom that you surely have some other fantasies I haven’t hit on yet, and I’d really like to know what they might be.”

His voice is soft and his hands are loving, but his downward cast eyes and all his talk of future plans are making me squirm.

“What’s my assignment exactly?”

“I want you to pick three things you’re still curious about that we haven’t tried yet.”

“What do you mean by curious?”

Edward smiles down at me and drags his index finger down the side of my cheek. “You’re so suspicious today. Curious—you know, inquisitive, eager, wet-your-panties excited, maybe just a wee bit scared…?”

“With all due respect, am I not handing you the noose to slip around my neck?”

“Isabella, with even more respect, do you think I really need you to fashion the rope for me?”

“So this doesn’t mean you’re going to turn around and do these things?”

The hair twirling stops and Edward holds my head very still. “You do realize that the inventory of your kink factory belongs to me now, don’t you?”

A chill overtakes my bones.

“Take your time, sweetheart. I don’t want you to rush this with random thoughts off the top of your head. I want you to think back to before we met. What fantasies were getting you all hot and bothered? What was that fictitious master doing to give you that jolt in the pussy? I’m sure you can come up with just three we have yet to explore.”

At least that many are now swimming through my head. “Most likely.”

“Great.” He smiles and clicks the volume back on.

His fingers are still pulling through my hair but I’m no longer relaxed; my body is vibrating right off the couch as a delicious merry-go-round of kink spins before me. I close my eyes and try to focus.

My brain is flooded with all the things we have already done—feathers, cuffing, crawling, crop, tickling, domestic service, paddling, spanking, forced orgasm, public, anal, pet play, rimming, role play…WHEW!

He’s right. We have done so much in such a short time. At the same time, our love for each other has grown both in and outside of our scenes. It’s not as if I’m wishing for something else when he’s controlling me, but were there things on my hit list we haven’t done yet? Sure.

“Okay, I’ll see you in a little bit,” I announce, pushing off his lap. I need to be by myself for a time and try to put my head in a pre-Edwardian space, if such a thing is even possible. As I make my way back to my desk, I’m reminded of my fifth grade science teacher attempting to drive home the difference between a mixture and a compound.

A mixture consists of two or more different elements and/or compounds physically intermingled, can be separated into its components by physical means, and often retains many of the properties of its components. The classic example given was always salt and pepper; though I could never see sitting down to separate the two, I was assured it could be done. Have Edward and I progressed beyond this phase? Is it possible to separate our individual components and retain the original properties we once possessed? Could I ever go back to being the repressed woman who hid that essential part of myself from everyone—especially myself? Could Edward be the man he once was before knowing me? Ante-Bella, as it were?

Or have we progressed such that we are now a compound? Two or more different elements bound together, can be broken down into a simpler type of matter by chemical but not by physical means, has properties that are different from its component elements, and blah, blah, blah, something about ratios. Is the sum of our parts different from the whole, and in fact, have our individual parts ceased to exist? If so, it may be difficult to crawl back into that mindset of Before Edward Bella.


HE
“Okay, I will admit to feeling just a wee bit bloated.”

“Because that sandwich was insane,” Isabella laughs.

“Which way to the bathing suits, Ri?”

“Follow the bouncing ass.” Riley’s comment is accompanied by a loud thwack of his hand on Sean’s butt. Poor Sean grunts and heads in the direction Riley is forcing him.

I grab Isabella’s hand and lean in to mutter, “This should be interesting.”

“Here we are,” Riley announces, opening his arms to encompass the entire section.

“Where does one begin?” Isabella asks, clearly overwhelmed.

Riley points to a rack in the corner. “I vote for Speedos.” He starts propelling Sean that direction and I plant my feet firmly in the carpeting and hold my girlfriend back.

“He’s kidding.”

“Are you sure?” she asks.

“I’m sure he’s hoping for a glimpse of this in a Speedo, but I guarantee he knows that’s not happening in this lifetime.” Her eyes drift down to my zipper and she cracks a smile.

“So where do you want to go?”

“Over to the normal people swim trunks.”

“Lead on, McDuff.”

I turn to my left and find a colorful rounder. “Here, I’m a medium. Find something you like,” I instruct Isabella. She starts thumbing through, screeching hangers along the metal rod and holding up a few suits for my approval.

“Hey, Cullen! What are you doing?”

“Ri, I am not stuffing myself into a banana hammock for your viewing pleasure,” I yell back. Isabella giggles and looks around the sparsely-populated department. She knows I’m nearly impossible to embarrass.

All of a sudden, we hear the determined swish of the two of them, forcing aside racks of swimwear like two bushmen clearing the jungle growth with scythes. Riley’s expression is comical when he finally surfaces. “What the hell does she think she’s doing?”

“Finding a pair of swim trunks in my size.” I regard Isabella as she throws another hanger over her left arm.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Riley bellows, rushing to her side. “Those are all wrong. He can’t wear green!”

“Why not?” she questions.

“I mean, he can wear green, of course he can wear green, just not olive drab. It clashes with the yellow tones of his skin. And when he starts to tan, this is gonna read puce. It’s just…ugh, no!”

Riley shoves the rejected suit to the side. I stand back and fold my arms; Sean sends a supportive shrug my direction. Isabella stands by patiently while Riley rifles through every suit in her arms, reject, reject, reject, and then finally, he finds one he likes.

“Yes. This one’ll do.” I open my arms just in time to catch the thing before it hits me in the face. “You. Dressing room. Now.”

“With one suit? Can’t I wait—”

“I will bring you more when I find something that meets my standards,” he says.

Isabella steps between us and addresses Riley. “I will bring him more when you find another suit we both agree on.”

I have to bite the inside of my cheek when Riley looks over at me in astonishment. He hasn’t quite figured out how the boyfriend/girlfriend piece of us coexists with Master and sub, so he’s waiting for me to chastise her or something. I lift one shoulder and he rolls his eyes at both of us. “Fine…here…this, this, and that. Off with your sorry ass while I take care of my boy. C’mon, Sean. We’re going back to the Speedos.”

“Buh-bye,” I call after them.

Isabella chuckles. “You want to get started and I’ll keep looking?”

“Sure. Just don’t make me wait too long all undressed in there. I kind of hate it.”

“Aww, don’t worry. I’ll take good care of you, baby.”

True to her word, she’s back before I’ve finished trying on the three suits. She pops into the room and pulls the curtain shut behind her. “Mmm, that looks nice. You like that one?”

“I don’t really care. It’s fine. If you like it, I like it.”

She steps up behind me in the mirror and runs her hands down my chest, over my belly, which is still feeling a little full, and into the waistband of the trunks. “You’re gonna want to make sure there’s growing room in there.” My eyelids flick closed and I rock back onto my heels as her palm skims over my shaft.

“Don’t go starting something you can’t finish, baby.”

“I’m definitely gonna finish. What’s the expiration date on this?” She pumps me several times and I bite down my groan.

“I have a feeling it will stay fresh for a few hours at this rate.”

“Mmm, good. Because I’m almost done with my journal entry and when we get home, I’m going to be more than ready for you.”

“You’re not playing fair, baby.”


“Neither will Master once he reads my entry.”