Friday, February 22, 2013

101 ANSWERS


~Chapter 101~
ANSWERS

she
I must look like a complete idiot—eyes bugged out, jaw dropped in utter disbelief. It’s just that Edward Cullen is not a man to take marriage proposal lightly, and I’m almost positive he didn’t “fall” out of the hammock on purpose.

I reach my fingers into his hair, and a mound of sand shakes out all around him. He looks a bit dazed. “Edward, sweetie, did you hit your head down there?”

“No. Look, I realize this must seem a bit out of the blue; trust me...this is not at all what I had in mind either. I have salt in my eyes and sand in my teeth and seaweed in places I don’t even want to think about, but look at me. I’m down on one knee and I’m asking you, please, Isabella Marie Swan, will you marry me?”

Holy shit.

...What I had in mind...? He’s serious. “You mean it, don’t you?”

All of a sudden, Edward starts to laugh, the kind just shy of bring-in-the-straitjacket-and-the-guys-in-white. “Yes, I mean it! I cannot believe how I botched the most important speech of my whole life.”

“This is a speech?”

“No. The speech was inspired and poetic and entirely irresistible. This...” the poor guy starts, shaking his head and wiping sand from his eyes with the back of his hand, “...this is a clusterfuck of massive proportions.”

“Even if I say yes?”

He stills and looks up at me. My beautiful, completely flustered man. My fierce dominant man on bent knee—for me. His gorgeous eyes, so earnest and completely unguarded; his enticing mouth, twisted and anxious and humble in his request; his entire body, yearning for the answer he needs to hear. “You’re saying yes?”

“Of course, I’m saying yes. I love you, Edward, every last detail of you that I’ve learned so far and all the rest that will unfold as we go. You’re  generous and loving and sexy as hell and smart and funny and full of surprises. I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for the two of us, and whatever will be, I respect and trust you and want you by my side.”

“Wow. I think that may have been better than the speech I meant to deliver.”

He is so off his script and out of his element, I’m not sure he realizes I’ve just accepted his proposal. “Dude, I believe the appropriate response to that is, ‘I love you, too,’ followed by a romantic bone-crushing kiss.”

Finally, the light breaks through, a giant childlike smile takes over his face, and he jumps up and tackles me on the hammock. Our skin is cool from the dip in the ocean and the subsequent shade, but I believe the goose bumps are entirely due to the way he so possessively claims me with his mouth. I’m dizzy with the rocking of the hammock beneath us and the intoxicating idea of becoming Mrs. Edward Cullen ‘til death do us part. To be honest, his kiss tastes as much like the beach as it does the ocean, and it’s not entirely pleasant, but it is highly memorable.

“How’s that for bone-crushing, baby?” His lips have taken a breather, leaving other body parts to crush my bones.

“A-plus.”

“Romantic enough?”

“Always.” I loop my arms around his neck and memorize everything about this moment: the weight of his body on mine, the exhilaration in his eyes, the utter perfection of the setting, and the complete unexpectedness of his proposal.

“At the risk of downgrading my rating,” he starts, “would it ruin the moment if I told you that I’m dying to get you back to the room, strip off that damn tease of a bathing suit, and run us a hot bath?”

Mmmmm.” What more is there to say?

His lips curl into a mischievous smile. “We might as well get good and dirty then!” Snaking his arm around my middle, Edward shifts suddenly and causes the hammock to flip, landing us abruptly side by side in the sand.

“I think you just tipped the scales to bone-crushing with that slick move.”

He’s looking awfully proud of himself. “You just said you love my surprises.”

“You are so incorrigible, Edward Cullen.”

He chuckles. “Maybe you should stop incorriging me then!”

“So, are you swimming me back to the room or carrying me?”

His eyebrows pop up and he squints down the beach to our hotel in the distance. “Whatever happened to the romance of hand-in-hand walks on the beach?”

“Fine, lazy bones. At least pull me out of this hole!”

Edward hops to his feet and offers me two hands. “That’s what he said.”

Despite our silly repartee, when we lock hands and start walking, there’s a definite something there that wasn’t there before. The shift is palpable. I lean into him, and he leans right back; our strides are lazy and inefficient. My shoulder meets his upper arm, and the two stay joined. Our words are playful and teasing, but our fingers are locked together, our palms gently colliding, thumbs brushing over knuckles, caressing and possessing.


My mind is racing behind the veil of our light conversation.

A hot rush of pleasure seeps through my body at the very thought that this incredible man has committed himself to me so thoroughly, no questions asked. No interrogation about careers or children or money... Whatever comes will not alter the way we feel about each other, the undeniable truth that we were put here to find and love and fulfill each other. All I can process right now is a joy so pure, I know I’ve never felt this before.

He’s mine; I am his. Now and forever.


HE
“Bye-bye, nipples.”

Isabella giggles at me and pulls her cover-up over her sandy suit so we can walk into the lobby. If the choice is between blowing the surprise and letting go of her hand, it’s an easy decision at this point. I drag her over to the concierge, and his face lights up to see us.

“Ah, Mr. Cullen. How is your vacation going so far?”


“Very well, thank you, Garth. We have a slight shift in plans for this evening.”

“Of course, sir. What can I do for you?”

“We’re going to need that champagne delivered up to our suite as soon as possible.”

Garth’s a trained professional, but still, his eyes slide subtly to Isabella’s finger. “Very good, sir. Right away.”

“Thank you.”

The elevator doors close, and Isabella asks, “Are you ever going to tell me what you actually had planned for tonight?”

“I don’t think I should,” I shrug. “I mean, I might want to pull it out on our fiftieth anniversary or something, and then where would be the suspense?”

“Okay, mystery man.”

I have a whole lotta happy coursing through me, and from Isabella’s ear-to-ear grin, I know she feels the same.

“I think we should take off our suits out on the balcony, so we don’t get sand everywhere,” I suggest.

She shakes her head. “You just want another naked plunge.”

“Not gonna turn it down if it’s offered.”

“I can’t imagine anything you’d turn down.”

“Neither can I.”

I lead her through the room to the open wall, and we peel off our clothes. Six tons of sand pours out of our suits. “Honestly, I don’t know where you were holding all that, Isabella. I mean, that bikini is tiny.”

She dips her toe in the pool and smirks at me. “And I don’t know how your suit held anything the way it was being forced open by that thing.”

I give my willy a little tug. “This thing?

“Mmhmm.”

I jump into the tiny pool and splash water everywhere. When my head pops up above the water, I hear Isabella giggling. “I really don’t think that’s what they intended when they built this thing.”

This thing?” I repeat, rubbing myself against her leg.

“Good Lord. Is every conversation about your penis?”

“Directly or indirectly, yes.”

There’s a loud knock on the door, and I yell over, “Leave it in the hall please.”

“Enjoy, sir.”

I unplunge indelicately, displacing probably as much water as I did hopping in. “You stay here. I’ll start the bath and uncork the champagne.”

Isabella submerges and works the seaweed, salt, and sand out of her hair while I trot, dripping wet, to grab the champagne bucket from the hall and set up the bottle and two glasses near the tub. Using the cover of the running water, I open the electronic safe and retrieve the ring box. I spin around in circles a couple of times holding the thing like a hot potato, trying to figure out where the hell to hide it until it’s time. Not like I’ve got a pocket handy. Not like I’ve got a plan.

The most logical place is the ice bucket, but it’ll ruin the velvet for sure. I finally settle for slipping it under the corner of the bath mat and vow to watch where we both step.

I’m chuckling to myself and shaking my head at how fucked up my plans got when Isabella steps into the bathroom. “You’re sure you didn’t hit your head, right?” she teases.

“What can I say, baby? I’m crazy in love.”

“And as corny as Kansas. How about some bubbles?”

“You get the bubbles, I’ll get the bubbly?”

“Oh my god, you’re trying to kill me now.”

“Sorry,” I finally laugh. “I think it’s the endorphins releasing. Either that or all the anxiety seeping out of me. You have no idea how sick to my stomach I’ve been the last few days.”

She pours out the contents of the bath gel container, and a satisfying heap of bubbles immediately forms. “You were nervous? Did you really think I’d say no?”

POP!

“The thought did cross my mind once or twice.”

Isabella nestles up to me and cradles my face with both hands. “Aw, you poor baby. Don’t you know I can’t say no to you?” She brings her lips to mine, and we kiss without sand crunching in our teeth.

“How about you hop in, and I’ll hand you the champagne?”

She gets settled under the mound of bubbles, and I hand her the flutes, then fill them both before slipping in across the tub. I take my glass from her, and we clink softly. “To us,” she says.

To which I add, “Mr. and Mrs. Edward Cullen-to-be.”

“Hmm, Mrs. Edward Cullen...Mrs. Isabella Cullen...Isabella Swan-Cullen...Edward Swan-Cullen...”

My heart sinks—not at her musings, but at my own narrow-minded assumptions. “Isabella, shit, I’m an ass. I didn’t mean to—”

Her toe nudges up my shin and a mischievous grin forms on her lips. “Teasing you. Come on, Edward, do you really think I’m the girl who feels threatened by taking her husband’s last name?”

“No fair. I’m still doing cartwheels on tilted earth, and you knock my hands out from under me!”

She downs her champagne and sets the glass down outside the tub. “Aw, poor baby. How can I make it up to you?”

I very quickly get rid of my own drink and pull her onto my lap. “Well, first, you can finish the job your damn bikini started!”

Isabella giggles and wraps her arms around my neck, settling in. “Is that how it will henceforth and forever be known? The ‘damn bikini’?”

“Yes. I think it was actually worse than going topless.”

She twists and grinds and presses her tits against my chest. “You didn’t like me topless?”

I reach up and grab two soft, slippery handfuls. “For my...eyes...only,” I grunt.

She teases, “I thought you liked a good public scene.” Her hand sinks under the water and she guides me inside her.

“Ah...nnnnn...the fun of that....is that the other people...nnnnn....don’t really see anything...don’t really...ahhhh....know anything.”

“So, Master’s not going to be sending me down to the beach with nipple clamps tomorrow and having me bare it all?”

A growl escapes me,  and I pinch those tight nipples between my fingertips and flex my hips. “You’re such a tease, Mrs. Cullen-to-be.”

“And you...wiggle...are so, so sexy...mmm...when you go caveman.”

“Oh, you like that, do you?”

“Mmmm”

“Ahhhhnnnnnnn”

“Oohhhhhhh”

“Nnggh...nnggh...”

Shared loud grunting, breathy squeaks. Gasps and stillness.

Happy sighs. Languid kisses and gentle nose-rubbing.

“Do you realize,” Isabella starts, then sighs, “that we’re going to be doing this for the rest of our lives?”

“Damn, that’s a happy thought.” I kiss her once more, then spin her around so she’s reclining against my chest, her head flopping back onto my shoulder. “Should I soap you up now?”

“I guess. Can’t we just sit in the tub all night?”

“Sure,” I chuckle. “Whatever you want.”

“Oh, shoot!” She spins her head suddenly. “I’m so sorry. You obviously had something else in mind.”

“Best-laid plans. No worries; they’ll keep.”

“What about...?”

Isabella’s eyes drift over to Master’s duffle bag. What the hell was I thinking? “Sweetheart, would you be very disappointed if we didn’t play tonight? I’m not entirely sure I could get my head in the game.”

Her smile tells me she understood this well before I did. “Nah, you know I love my Master, but I really need my Edward tonight.”

She scoops up a handful of suds and playfully attaches it to my chin. I return the favor, topping her off with a beret as well. Pretty soon, we’re both covered in bubbles, and the floor of the bathroom is one giant puddle.

“I’m gonna need to get out soon. My ass is shriveling up.”

“I should be so lucky,” she scoffs.

“Your ass is perfection, Isabella.”

“You would know. You’ve explored it from every angle.”

“Not quite.”

She rolls her eyes. “Well, now you officially have the rest of our lives to remedy that situation.”

“Be still my heart.” I step out of the tub and wrap a towel around my waist. Then, like the smooth mofo I am, I scoop the ring box into my palm and hide it behind the corner of the second towel, which I open wide for Isabella.

She steps out of the tub and into my arms. I towel her off, wrap her snugly, and fasten the towel under her arms. Pulling her back to my chest, I slide my hands down her arms and slip the box into her left hand.

she
“What’s this?” I flip open my palm—and holy shit! “Oh my...!” The breath is sucked right out of me. I twist my neck around to look at him. My boy is full of surprises today. “Edward!”

He smiles, a rare guileless smile he saves for those special occasions when I’m allowed to see his vulnerability, the soft underbelly I love to poke and rub and kiss. “I know I bungled this whole thing, but you didn’t really think I’d propose without a ring, did you?”

“I don’t know, I...honestly, it hadn’t even occurred to me.”

“Oh, hey then, if you don’t need that, by all means, let me take it back to the store,” he teases, holding out his hand.

I bat that sucker away. “I’m sure I would’ve figured out that something was missing...eventually. Once I came back down to planet Earth.”

“Can’t say I’ve landed yet myself,” he says.

My hand is shaking, the enormity of what’s inside suddenly making this all very, very real. I need help—I need Edward. Twirling to face him, I hold out the box. His face instantly falls.

“Change your mind already?”

“No! God no. Nothing like that. It’s just...will you?”

“Of course,” he answers, visibly breathing easier. He takes the box and runs a hand through his wet, messy hair. “I might as well...” he fumbles, sinking to one knee, yanking the towel off when it gets in his way. “Shit. This is going from bad to worse,” he laughs softly.

“Baby,” I cup his chin in my palm and wait for him to look up, “everything is perfect.”

He looks up at me with those deep green eyes, holding the tiny box in his big, capable hands, and then comes the smirk. “It doesn’t really seem fair for you to be wearing that towel when I’m so exposed here.”

Leave it to Edward to go for the naked proposal. “Fine.” I flick open the towel with one hand and he grins even wider when it falls to the floor.

“Somehow this feels right, no barriers between us.”

I have to laugh. “Definitely us.”

With a brief nod, he launches into what was clearly the prepared version.

Sooo...as I very romantically and bone-crushingly would’ve said at dinner tonight—fully clothed:
My sweetest Isabella,
You give me a deep sense of peace about being myself.You right me when I stumble, but you know when to knock me off balance.I love you ferociously,I lust for you continuously,I respect and admire you—mind and soul.
Marry me and I’ll worship you, tease you, please you;Amuse you, bemuse you, confuse you;Pamper you, comfort you, torture you;Soothe you, test you, protect you;Bathe you, dress you, undress you;Tie you down and set you free in the most profound sense of the word.
Will you please say you’ll be my wife and never ever stop loving me?”


The floor feels slanted like the fun house at a traveling carnival. Edward and his polar opposites. Vanilla and chocolate chips, lover and master, childlike and every part the man. I want all of them.

And then it hits me—for real. I HAVE all of them—more than one woman’s fair share of perfect man—staring up at me, wondering if maybe I’ve changed my mind now that I’ve heard the official deal because I’m standing here too dumbfounded to speak.

“Wow...that was...sorry, I’m a little overwhelmed here. Yes, my answer is still yes, and I will never ever stop loving you!”

“Phew, okay, then we can move onto the ring ceremony, I guess.” He opens the  box, and inside is a stunning round diamond solitaire set into a band of two gorgeous platinum strands wound together.

I extend my shaking left hand to my fiancé. Dear God, Edward Cullen, “my fiancé.” He steadies me and slips the ring over the tip of my fourth finger, watching my face as the diamond glides over the knuckle and reaches its destination. The band fits as if custom-designed. Shocking.

I’m hit with the memory of the assorted clothing—all in my size—that Edward so generously provided that first night in his apartment, when I first began to understand the depth of his stalkerish tendencies.

“Edward, it’s gorgeous.”

He stands, finally, and pulls me into his arms. I can’t help admiring the ring over his shoulder.

“I’m so pleased you like it. We must’ve looked at a hundred rings.”

I pull back. “We?”

“Riley. He’s really good at this. I told him I wanted something that was classic with a modern feel and also worked in the idea of weaving two together. This is called the ‘infinity ring’ because of the way the platinum twists around itself.”

“Twisted—so us.”

“Twisted together,” he corrects me. “The only way. And this stone was my very favorite of the bunch. It’s practically flawless—just like you.”

“Thank you, Edward. I love it, and I love you...so much.”

“Me too, baby.” He cups my cheek and kisses me tenderly. “I am so glad that’s all behind us.”

“It’s adorable that you were nervous. You have amazing taste, and besides, don’t you know you can do no wrong by me?” No sooner have the words escaped me than my father’s face drifts across my mind.

“What?” Edward asks, my expression obviously giving him cause to worry.

“I just thought of how my father’s going to react when he hears the news.”

He clears his throat and says, “Yeah, um...he’s on board.”

“Why, Edward Cullen, aren’t you the old-fashioned boy? Perhaps we should sit on the porch swing and drink iced tea?”

“Ha!” he huffs. “Yep, that’s me.”

“So what did Charlie have to say?”

“He said I was free to do with you what I will.”

“That’s because he knows you already have.”

Edward’s face twists into a grimace. “God, I hope not.”

I have to laugh because the idea is so very repugnant.

“Charlie likes me.”

“Of course he likes you. You’re exactly his kind of guy: strong, confident, smart—”

“He likes me because I make you happy,” he interrupts.

“That’s it?”

“And I challenge you to be your best.”

“He said that to you?”

“Nope. I extrapolated that part.”

“So he didn’t give you the least bit of a hard time about it?”


“Well,” he grimaces, “there was one thing.”

“Do tell.”

“He invited me fishing.”

“Aw, Jeez.”

HE
“Dinner last night was just perfect,” Bella sighs, leaning into my side in the constricting airplane seats. “I love it when you order for me. I was in no mood to think.”

“Neither was I,” I chuckle. “I ordered everything two weeks ago, thankfully.”

“I guess all your planning did pay off then.”

I close my arm tighter around her side, lifting her left hand out of her lap and tilting the diamond to catch the light. “You can say that again.” We both stare, totally mesmerized, as the diamond throws brilliant shafts of white light around our little slice of the airplane like a tiny disco ball.


“So, Edward, can I ask what other ideas you have bouncing around in that planful little head of yours? Have you pictured our wedding as well?”

“I’ve gotten as far as standing next to you and saying, ‘I do.’ I may be your master, but I know better than to tell the bride how to plan a wedding. I’ll happily play this however you like. Do you have any long-standing wedding fantasies?”

“I really don’t. My fantasies are mostly taken up by more interesting topics.” She turns a lovely shade of pink at her own remark.

“Thank heaven for that,” I respond, drawing her closer and planting a kiss on her forehead.

“I don’t know if it’s that I never had a sister, or it’s just not my personality, but I never played with dolls and didn’t pass my childhood dreaming about white tulle and fussy ceremonies.”

“No, I think I’m the romantic one in this pair.”


“Good, so you’ll plan the wedding then?” she teases—at least I hope she’s teasing.


“Isn’t that what mothers and best friends are for?”

She twists her head and grins up at me. “Actually, I think your best friend would be far better equipped than mine.”

I laugh so hard I start coughing. “You’re right. He’d be phenomenal, and I’m sure he’d love it, too. Have at him, but don’t try to snag Riley as your maid of honor because I need him to be my best man.”

“Aha! You have given this some thought after all.”

“I’ll admit, I’ve thought about the men I want to stand up for me. Dad and Riley are givens...”

“What about Jimmy or Zack?”

“I guess it depends how big you want to make the bridal party...” Long sigh. “My third pick would be Marcus, though.”

“I know he’d be so honored, Edward. He truly loves you.”

“Oh, man, I just had this vision...” She shifts in my arms in time to see a wide smile break across my face. “I’m picturing Marcus with Riley and Sean. Those three are gonna go nuts when they meet.”

“Psshhh, yeah. That’ll be some kind of fireworks!”

“It’s funny, I’ve been considering arranging a session with Marcus as a gift for Riley and Sean. I don’t know how comfortable they’d all be with it, or how it would even work. I really don’t know how open Sean is in front of other people, but I know it would ring Riley’s bells big time.”

“Oh, if Marcus could play with those two...”

“Yeah, it makes me happy just thinking about it.”

“Me, too,” Isabella says, getting a far-off look that makes me tickle her back to the here and now and her heterosexual fiancé. “I don’t suppose Marcus would just turn the two of them loose in the dungeon like he did us?”

“Isabella, Marcus doesn’t do that for anybody. Can you imagine the liability? Not to mention the ethical quandary?”

“I should’ve known you’d get special treatment.”

What can I say? “I earned my stripes in Marcus’s dungeon—literally.”

Just then, the flight attendant stops by to deliver our drinks and nuts. I’m not wild about the idea of unwinding my hand from Isabella’s, so I tear open one packet and hand feed us both. She sinks a little lower into my side, and I’m now fantasizing about lying on the couch with her head in my lap. Unfortunately, the seat belt doesn’t exactly enhance the experience.

“So besides your three guys, you really have no requirements of this wedding ceremony?”

“I’d really like my mother to be there. I have a feeling she’d be quite pissed otherwise.”

Isabella giggles in my arms. “Speaking of fireworks...wait till your mom meets my dad!”

“Well, that meeting is going to take place well before the wedding, I’d think...unless you’ve got a quick trip to Vegas up your sleeve?”

“Hmm, that doesn’t sound half bad. You’re an Elvis fan, right?”

“I like the guy’s music; not sure I want him marrying us.”

She lifts our hands and rotates our wrists in languid circles. “Hunh, so much for me being in charge.”

“Have some more nuts, baby,” I chuckle.

“Hey!” Her head jerks around suddenly; her eyes are bright with inspiration. “Why don’t we do it in Montauk? We’ll take our small wedding party and hit the lighthouse...get hitched where we first discovered we were in love.”

Kinda.” I remind her of our carefully-couched phrasing, and she smiles.

“Right.”

“You’re honestly going to be content with such a private ceremony?”

“Edward, hell...I would've done it alone right there in our bathroom if it had been legal. I don’t need anyone but you.”

With a hitch of my shoulder, I bring her in for a kiss. I even set down the nuts to cup the side of her head. “Boy, did I pick the right girl.”

“I hope so,” she tells me, “because there’s no getting out of it now.”

“Nope, I’m all in.”

she
We've turned into one of those disgusting couples that make everyone around them yell, “Get a room!” and I could not possibly care less. My world consists of Edward, and that’s it. Maybe when we land and get back into our routine, I’ll notice the rest of the world, but for now...my vision is delightfully limited.

“You've been to a wedding at the Water’s Edge, right? How was it?”

“It was nice. Classy, low-key, good food, spectacular setting. Everything else is about the people you choose to include.”

“I say we call the Inn when we get home and start thinking about dates.”

He grins at me. “Sheesh, I give you one night holding the reins, and now you’re all Isabella-in-Charge.”

“Bridezilla, here I come!”

“Pfft, yeah right. That’s so you.”

“There is one detail that this whole thing really hinges upon, you know? I mean, now that I’ve got you locked in for the next hundred years or so.”

“Hmm, what’s that?”

“Whether we can reserve John’s Pancake House for brunch.”

Edward throws back his head and laughs. “Damn, I do love the way you think, woman! Why not just do the reception there? Big Puffs for everyone! ”

We’re both quiet for a bit, lost in our own musings or possibly shared visions of our future. I want the plane to slow down; I want to stay suspended in this moment ripe with all the possibilities open to us, yet simultaneously, I’m eager to get started living that life.

“Edward...I really need to ask you something that may be a little touchy.”

“I can’t even imagine a topic you might think is touchy for me.”

I push on. “How attached are you to your apartment?”

“Oh. A little more attached than you, I’m guessing?”

I can’t get a read on his tone, but I’m not afraid to put my own feelings out there. “I love it, for now. I love that you took me in, no questions asked, opened your home to me, gave me my own space...I mean, I could’ve been an axe murderer for all you knew.”

A low, hollow laugh escapes him. “You’re the one who went home with a self-proclaimed dominant with a closet full of whips and chains.”

“You have whips and chains?”

“Yes.” His eyes get that dark look for a second, but it quickly passes and my fiancé is back.

“Anyway...”

“Anyway...” he chuckles.

“It feels like your bachelor pad to me, and I don’t mean that to sound denigrating in any way. It’s very nice, but it’s all yours.”

“I get it. You can’t possibly think I’m sentimental about a bunch of furniture in an anonymous building. Home is where the heart is; what’s your heart telling you?”

“I really have no idea. I guess I’d like to live somewhere we can be ourselves, have big Thanksgiving dinners and then when everyone leaves, scoot down to the basement and have some fun.” I give him a triple eyebrow lift so he gets my meaning.

“You’re talking dungeon.”

“Dungeon is such a strong word.”

His voice gets huskier. “What are you picturing right this second?”

“If pressed to pick just one image, I’d have to say...thespankingchair.”

I feel a sudden rush of heat, and Edward throws his head back and rolls his eyes to the ceiling.

“Okay, baby...okay.” Edward’s brain goes off to do a bit of filing, it seems.

Meanwhile, the sky outside our tiny window changes from light pink to orange. “Looks like a painting, doesn’t it?”

Edward huffs, “Not anything I could do.” His head turns back to me. “Have you decided what you’re going to tell Hope?”

Again, I can’t get a read on his tone, if there is one. “No way I’d give up two days a week with you right now...”

“But?”

“Yeah, I thought it was worth exploring. I think there’s so much I could learn from the experience.”

Edward chuckles. “You're hoping you might be able to manage me a little better with some professional training.”

I dig my elbow gently into his side. “I think I manage you just fine, thank you.”

He scoops me into a kiss that goes on and on until the person on the other side of me clears his throat. Edward pulls back. “Yeah, you do. I’m glad you’re going to try that. We need to keep broadening our horizons—separately and together.”

“So what’s gonna be our next foray? Have any big ideas?”

He smiles like he couldn’t wait for me to ask. “As a matter of fact, I do.”

“Do tell.”

“Dancing.”

“Really? Wait, what’s the catch? Are you talking about pole dancing or something naughty?”

“No!” he chuckles. “Wait, they have that?”

“Not at the Y!”

“I was actually thinking of something far less exotic, but now that you mention it...”

“Okay, that’s enough of that. What was your idea? Ballroom?”

“Latin, actually. It’s great exercise and sexy as hell, and who knows?...maybe we can use it on our honeymoon.”

“Oh! Have you already booked our trip?” I wouldn’t put it past him.

“No, sweetheart. I think we need to book a wedding date first, don’t you?”

“Never know with you.”

“Aw, come on; am I that devious?”

“Most definitely.”

“And you love me for it.”

“Most definitely.”

My mind races forward to another idea I’ve been kicking around lately. “What would you think about taking a creative writing class with me?”

His eyebrows pop up. “Are we talking porn here?”

“There are classes in that?”

“Not at the Y!” he repeats.  

I giggle. “I’ve been thinking that it might be really fun to try to write something together. You know, kind of a HE said/she said Master and submissive story?”

“Wow. So I’d write the Master’s voice?”

There he is again—the glimmer of the devil behind those bright green eyes.

“Yeah, I’d say that role is probably better suited to you than the submissive, but it would be fun to play around with that, too.”

Master’s gone into planning mode. “You know, there’s no reason we have to wait to take a class. You’re already a solid writer, and I’m sure I could pull something decent out of my bag of tricks. After all, planning a scene requires basically the same kind of outlining, plot development, and dialogue as good writing. I certainly have no shortage of ideas.”

“No, baby, you certainly don’t. So, you want to just try this on our own?”

He shrugs and smiles. “Sure. We could call it Kinkily Ever After. The worst thing that’ll happen is we get ourselves good and horny. Who cares if the writing sucks?”

“I see your point.”

He leans in and places his lips inside the rim of my ear. “Do you?” He pulls back and casts his eyes downward. “See my point?” Sure enough, the buckle of his seat belt is being lifted right off his lap. “Care to join the mile-high club while you’re still single?”

“As tempting as that is...I really think we can do better when we get home.”

“Okay,” he answers. “Don’t say I didn’t offer.”

“Oh, I promise I won’t.”

Edward pours the rest of his Diet Coke over the ice and regards me with amusement while he drinks it down.

“So, Mrs. Edward Cullen-to-be, what else is on your mind?”

“Very little.”

He smirks. “That sounds like something I would say.”

“To be honest, my head is still spinning.”

After securing the empty can and plastic cup in the pocket in front of him, Edward shifts in his seat so he’s almost facing me head-on. He runs his fingers lovingly down the edge of my face, reaches for my hair, and tucks a bunch behind my ear.

“It’s okay, baby. You already handled the tough part—saying yes. The rest is all smooth sailing.”

“Are you saying it’s all downhill from here?”

“Only in the best possible way.”

It’s no wonder my mind is wiped completely blank when he turns those brilliant, sexy eyes on me. If I could dive inside them, I’d happily stay forever.

“I never properly thanked you for planning this whole trip, not to mention the proposal and the ring.”

“Don’t mention it,” he says smoothly.

“You know, you better be careful,” I tease.

“And why is that?” Cocky grin.

“You might use up all your superhero romantic powers and not have anything left for Valentine’s Day.”

“Hmm, let’s see, it’s Tuesday, right? Our painting night?”

“Yes.”

“So, if by chance, I happened to have a container or two of chocolate body paint lying around, that might fit the theme?”

“Oh, you are so proud of yourself, aren’t you?”

“Pretty much.”

“So, what? We’re going to turn each other into bon bons?”

“It’s really not about the finished work, Isabella. It’s about the ‘process.’” He uses Hope’s voice and air quotes, and when he smiles at the end, I have to kiss him.

“A process, eh? Life’s a journey and all that jazz?”

“Sure. I mean, I have far more questions than answers about our future.”

In all this time, he hasn’t disappointed me once. I know he isn’t perfect, but he’s far better than that—he’s mine.

Sweet. Domineering. Intuitive. Tantalizing. Gentle. Firm. Sensitive. Honest. Loyal. Inquisitive. Clever. Uninhibited. Unembarrassable. Adoring. Demanding. Stubborn. Yielding. Strong. Vulnerable. Tender. Passionate. Sensual. Kinky Edward.

What I know, I love. What hasn’t yet been revealed, I honestly cannot wait to discover. 

“I’m surprised it doesn’t bother you more. Aren’t you the one who always likes to have things planned out?”

“Isabella, I have you. That’s all I need to know.”

--------------------------------------------------------------
A/N: A brief epilogue, accompanied by a massive author's note, will follow shortly. 

Many, many thanks to Alterite, Shell Shock, and Chaya Sara for their invaluable assistance with the last few chapters. Special thank you to the ladies of the Patch for helping me pick out just the right ring for Isabella. I think Discordia Writes had the winning ring, but there were certainly some lovely ones from which to choose.

64 comments:

  1. oh sweetie, I just loved it! What a wonderful way to end such a wonderful story. I can't believe it's actually over...and am very much looking forward to the Epi. I really loved each and every word. Thank you so much for sharing. :)

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    1. Lisa, your support throughout the story has been amazing. Thank you so much for your lovely words here.
      xx
      b

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  2. Oh Born the only thing I could possibly say is that, it was sweet, and just so KEA Edward and Bella. I mentioned before, that it has been a wild ride. In addition, it has been such a joy to read each week while these two discovered their "Kinkily Ever After". Some moments were so sweet, others were so intense. It has been a thrill to read this, and I sincerely wish to convey to you what a pleasure it has been to read each chapter while these two explored, challenged, and learned each other so thoroughly.

    Thank you again for sharing this gem. I hope that you will continue your writing, whether is be in the form of FF or OF cause, Born, you're just that damn good.

    I am so glad I happened on to OUAD.......

    Claudia...xoxoxoxo

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    1. Thanks so much, Claudia. I'm pretty sure I couldn't stop writing now if I tried...though I might give it a brief break! ;) Thanks so much for your kind words and support.
      xx
      b

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  3. That was sensational. Their perfect ending even though we get a glimpse of a little bit more in an epilogue. Can't wait!

    I'll always be thankful for that night 18 months ago when I stumbled upon KEA chapter one, read it and thought, "Huh, this seems like it's starting in the middle of something...I wonder if it's a sequel?" So I did a little research and realized there was this WHOLE other story I needed to read, and a few outtakes, in order to catch up and figure out what I was reading.

    Less than two hours later, I was completely obsessed with the story and couldn't stop messaging you. I think it was a week or so later that you told me you were 'crushing on me', LOL, and so began the journey of the Yumpkin.

    We've had tons of laughs along the way, and a few tears, mostly from me having earned my title of Yummush. But that's okay, I can be the mushy one. You'll always be my strong Punkin, my bodyguard with the protective orange coating.

    This story was a wonderful testament to your writing. You challenged us as readers, while Edward challenged Isabella and she challenged him right back...all the while challenging yourself and stepping into a world that was new to you, too.

    I was honored to take this journey with you...but I'm more honored to call you my friend.

    Well done, sweet friend.

    xoxo, Yummy

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    1. OH WOW, what a cool statement about all the challenges going on all around the story. It's the story outside the story within a story! LOVE IT!

      Thank you for all your warmth and support along the way. It's been quite the ride, hasn't it? This story has brought me so many wonderful new friends with all kinds of insights and life experiences we all bring to bear.

      And so we turn down the next road...
      xxx
      b

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  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  5. This story has been a part of my life for such a long time now - it is definitely a bittersweet feeling to know it is ending. Thank you so much for sharing these characters with us. I've loved watching them grow, seeing them fall in love, and all the rest *wink, wink* that came along with it! I'm honestly a little at a loss since this has be my first-thing-Saturday-morning routine for so long! I'm definitely going to miss this story! I will be following you (but not in a creepy way!) to whatever project you move on to next. You're a brilliant storyteller, and you have definitely inspired my loyalty.

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    1. I can't tell you how much that all means to me, Jordan. I have some ideas brewing for an OF, and in the meantime, I have entries in both the Heart of Country contest and the Taste of the Forbidden II...so if you dare, try and find me there! See you tomorrow for the Epi!
      xx
      b

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  6. One of my all time favorite stories.

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  7. Thank you for writing this wonderful story. I've enjoyed every chapter from Edward and Isabella's alone time to meeting their parents & friends. Really going to miss my Saturday updates. And what a beautiful ring!

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    1. Thanks so much, Donna. Discordia picked this one out. Shoot, I forgot to mention that! Thanks for your kind words about the story!
      xx

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  8. That was beautiful! With tears in my eyes that all great stories must come to an end and still this story continues on in dreamland. Born, your writing is amazing and loved it from beginning to end.
    I can possibly see a come back to this story and characters later on. Did you leave it open ended for that reason? Give us more perhaps down the road? Hmmm, are your wheels turning in that pretty little head of yours? LOL

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    1. LOL, Anon. Who knows what the future holds? I have one outtake scene already written, so I have a feeling you'll see these two again. ;)
      xx

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  9. Thank you, Born, for another amazing story. Like all of your other readers, I am sad to see this story end. Your writing is so exquisite, your characters so three-dimensional, and your themes so universal. Although the lifestyle these two lead is unconventional for most us, we easily recognize the nature of the unconditional love these two hold for each other.
    I am looking forward to whatever else is sure to come from that deliciously kinky mind of yours! Again, thank you for a delightful ride.

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    1. WL-
      Thank you so much for that beautiful comment. I'm so pleased you find the characters to be universal. I totally agree that every great relationship shares certain elements, and these two have it in spades--trust, respect, love, friendship, and dare I say, attraction? ;)

      Thanks for your loyalty throughout this long saga, and thanks especially for your insights along the way.
      xx
      b

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  10. I started this story when you started writing it, then lost my way for a bit. When I got the notice for Cahpter 100, I flogged myself and spent this last week re-reading and catching up. I am so impressed with your writing and my husband enjoyed the benefits of it (tho' he doesn't know). This story is in my go to file when I want something good to re-read. It's such an unconventional lifestyle (for most of us) but the love the two have for each other is something, I think, we all strive for. Well written and I look forward to reading more from you.

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    1. Thank you so much for that huge compliment, NanBel! And hey...maybe show it to your husband. I hear there are a few reading along out there! (I know, mine is!) So happy you got out your flogger and rejoined us.
      xo
      b

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  11. Love, love love it!!!!! Gotta to write the D/s pov story in their last convo, please???

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  12. Oh Born, so amazing. Loved, loved, loved it xxx

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  13. I can't come up with an original adjective to praise this chapter - or the story! Everyone has already used wonderful, sensational, sweet, perfect, and beautiful. Instead, just let me say how it has moved me. Right now, I feel really happy inside! (This is not a familiar feeling for me, so consider this a big compliment!)

    Thank you so much for sharing your stories with us! You are awesome!

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    1. *gulp* Happy works for me, especially if it's unfamiliar. And I couldn't hope for more than to hear that I've moved you. Thank you, truly.
      xx

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  14. In the begining I had no idea what I was getting myself into. And here at the end I find that it was perfection clear through. I found myself cheering for these two and all that they have accomplished seperately but mostly together. They are such a joy to read. It has been a fantastic journey with you and with them. Thank you for your story and your characters. I love them with all my heart. And with tears in my eyes, I am sad to see them go. This has been one of my favourite stories ever. Thank you.

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    1. I have to be honest, Nee, in the beginning I HAD NO IDEA EITHER! This story ended with the two of them wound together on the dance floor at the ball, and I already had Comp Sem halfway written before I started hearing these two in my head again, bursting to tell more of their story. Never did I imagine...well, half a million words.

      I'm so warmed by your praise. Thank YOU.
      xx

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  15. I don't know how you wonderful people do this writing thing so succesfully without going bat poop crazy. I wrote this heartfelt review to praise this chapter and my pc promptly ate it and sent it who knows where!!! Grrr I would throw my keyboard out the door if it was a chapter or story that I had worked so hard on lol.
    Born this chapter was perfect. We saw emotions and vulnerability and silliness. They are so perfect for each other. I have enjoyed this story (and your others) so much the last couple of years and through you I have found other wonderful stories and people to talk to openly and honestly. It has been a joy

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    1. Vicki,
      I have had a couple of horrific experiences like that where I had to rewrite a couple chapters, and I can only hope they came out better in the rewrite! Live and learn!

      I agree that the best part of this story has been the connections to other people, literally all around the world. It's been such a privilege to hear your stories and connect in a way most of us can't in real life. Thank you for your friendship and your openness.
      xx

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  16. Oh my what a great ending and I loved the proposal. very sweet and special. I'm sorry to see this go but I have to admit I can't wait to read the epi...I think the cutest part was when he said that they can name the story kinkly ever after...very cute. wasn't expecting it.

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    1. AH! You liked the story outside the story within the story! ;) That was a late-breaking addition when Alterite mentioned she was disappointed she wouldn't get to read their joint story! ;)
      xx

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  17. I'm a little late to the game. Sorry. I almost feel like crying. I know there's the out take and your "massive" author's note, but this story line has become such a part of my life...Thank you dear friend for sharing your abilities with us. Thank you for being so patient in answering stupid questions and most of all, thank you for you humor. I know I shall be reading this again and again. I think you've set a bar here that we'll have to try and at least me...we can never surpass it. Loves and Hugs
    Carol

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    1. Sweet, Dinia. I've loved every minute of it.
      xx

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  18. Loved his spontaneous proposal by the hammock. So filled with love and honesty. His rehearsed speech later was so touching as well. So enjoyed their journey. Thank you for sharing.
    Great chapter... excellent story... terrific author and amazing lady.

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  19. Born, What a wild ride you've taken us on! What will I do with my Saturday mornings? I looked forward to seeing KEA in my inbox each week (*snicker)...I will miss these two greatly...Edward's sweet sexiness and dominant yet vulnerable side and Bella's discovery of her sexual and sensual desires. Thank you for sharing them with us and looking forward to whatever else you have in store for us. Thanks, babe. Xo

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    1. Stay tuned, Ellie. Never know what's coming next! ;)
      xx

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  20. This is so sweet and I so totally love it! I'm so happy that it was so original, so many things that go unplanned are always the best moments in our lives, this as I've said before is so original and so true to real life, your characters are very important to me, and I feel as if we know them, it's very interesting to think that a life like there's could really be a possibility... It gives me hope.... so lovely and I too would love to keep reading the life of these two... Sad that it's ending but glad to have been here for the whole ride! *smooches*

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    1. Thank you for your sweet words, Lovely B. I would love to believe that a relationship such as theirs is possible...and why not? Anything is possible where love and honesty rule the way! Thanks for being here for the journey and sharing your kind words.
      xx

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  21. A very nice, fluffy ending with a proposal and what a proposal it was! Not to mention a tiny bit of tub sex to fill out the kinks!

    I always loved a good HEA or a KEA in this case!

    I'll say it again, I'm sure gonna miss these two!

    CC

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    1. Thank you, CC. We'll miss you, too! You've been here, week in and week out, with your wonderful words of cheer and praise and humor!
      xo

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  22. Born, Born, Born!
    I loved it! And even though, I'm sad it will be over soon. I know All amazing stories must come to an end sometime.
    How she responded, how he asked again, and her second yes, was just as perfect as the first one! I giggled soo hard at her comment about the kiss: To be honest, his kiss tastes as much like the beach as it does the ocean, and it’s not entirely pleasant, but it is highly memorable.
    The whole chapter I was smiling like a goon! Just like Edward and Bella were!
    I think the fact that they put Master and Princess on hold for the night, was perfect in how their KEA will be. They wanted to be Edward and Bella, ENGAGED! I love the ring you picked out! Gorgeous!
    And, I love how they were both completely bare, when he asked again and how he gave her the ring. It truly was perfect!
    Their conversation on the way home about the wedding, and their creative writing~ Kinkily Ever After! OMG! I giggled so hard! And to see his dark eyes come in and out, mmmm....and his seatbelt rising! OMG! I totally would have joined that mile high club! *giggles*
    This was absolutly and perfectly sweet! Through and through!
    As I said in my PM, it truly did affect me more than just the kink!
    Your way with words in all your stories make me think deeper!
    LOVED IT & I can't wait for the epi and authors note!
    I will miss my saturday morning ritual!
    XOXOXO
    Pates Greeneyes aka Grnidgirl aka Shelli

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    1. Grnid,
      I love that you smiled the whole way through. That's exactly how I felt writing it!

      Funny you mention putting master and princess on hold. I just couldn't see the scene, no matter how much I tried. Then I realized there was a reason for it.

      You naughty girl, going for the airplane sex. ;)

      Thank you for reminding me of all your alter egos. Sometimes, my pumpkin shell leaks a bit! Thank you also for your extreme loyalty to the story- and pretty much everything I've written. It means so much to me.
      xx

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  23. I read this last chapter will a silly smile on my face throughout most of it, then my eyes got a little watery when I realized it was done. These two have become two of my favorite characters and you have long time been a favorite writer of mine. You will me missed. Can't wait to read what you do next.

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    1. Thank you, Cheryle. That's EXACTLY how I felt writing. Smiling, mostly.
      xx

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  24. wow, that chapter felt like it flew by, so much dialogue, but these two did have a ton to talk about, just lovely how it all fell into place, so happy for them, and a lovely ring, our wedding bands have the infinitely ring on them, what a great symbol, these two have such a fun time ahead of them, their lives and their brand of kinky, so awesome, can't wait for the epi, sad to see this fic end, but just so awesome that i can read it again and again and again, thanks for sharing boh!

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    1. I love that it flew by for you, Char. I originally had a lot more conversation, but was wisely advised that less is more. They've already discussed the big topics along the way, and fact is, what matters is the two of them. They just work. Nothing else is important. (The rest, as they say, is commentary!) Thank you so much for your lovely words on every single chapter, Char.
      xx
      b

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  25. Wonderful chapter! I am going to miss these guys (all of them) so much ;)

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  26. I love the flustered dom! So uncharacteristic of Edward but so cute. I don't want to say goodbye to these two, and I'm sure you feel more sad than the rest of us as they are probably almost real to you! I wouldn't necessarily want to see them grow old and have children but I know their exploring is not yet done. I will be reading this again and again(and falling in love with my Edward, oops I mean your Edward, even more). Much love-don't stop writing and PUBLISH!! xxoo Jill

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  27. Hey Born

    Just wanted to add my congratulations along with all the other so very well deserved here. I never dreamt when I first read OUAD that it would lead me on this fantastic journey to KEA and one that I have thoroughly enjoyed every step of the way.

    I love this Edward this Bella…and yes no denying fell a little in love/lust with Edward myself…who wouldn't? To see him in this chapter as a little unsure was endearing, but to know what the man, the master behind is like..well phew! I to was smiling and skipping along the beach with them.

    It is bittersweet to see this come almost to the end and and yes I will feel a little bereft for a while but this is helped in the knowledge that a something 'more" is too come which will help "fill the void" left by this brilliantly written love story.
    Many thanks Born Love Twirly xxxx

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    1. TWIRLY! Thank you. It has been quite the journey, my friend.
      Please do stay in touch. You might be surprised where I go next...and so might I!
      xx
      b

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  28. Awesome ending to a really really good story....thanks for the trip and the education..

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  29. Thanks so much for this wonderful story. It's been amazing. I've loved reading about this Edward and Bella and their relationship, and would love to have an Edward like this for myself lol. Gonna miss them so much. Thanks again xxx sue

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    1. Aww, thank YOU. I wish we all could have a little bit of this guy to carry with us when we need him! (which is always)
      xx
      b

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  30. Wow, I cannot believe I sat on this update, I completely forgot how the last one ended, and I was on holiday, but just lovely. j-r-e

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  31. I can't believe that this is almost over. You know that I have loved every bit of it. Thank you for sharing your words with us.

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    1. Thank YOU for your loyalty to the story!
      xx
      b

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  32. OOh, actually got a bit teary!

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  33. Bravo! This chapter epitomized everything I love about this story! Their love, their journey, the fun, the playfulness, the kink.....the banter about it all. Thank you so much for this! I can't wait to start Remastering Marcus!

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