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