That was the only name Edward could come up with for utter rapture that filled every cell of his body when he came inside her. The build-up to his climax had been almost too much to bear, and its release was even more overwhelming. His body shook with strain as his arms held him aloft while his belly convulsed against hers. He hoped the condom protecting them both was a strong one, because he was sure the force of his orgasm would have propelled his cum straight to Bella’s ovaries without that barrier to stop it.
That was physically impossible, of course. But his thoughts were chaotic as the blood coursed through his body after being congested in his groin for so long. He opened his eyes after the spasms had calmed, and he was immediately engulfed in the soft, dark gaze aimed up at him. Heaven, his mind reiterated. She was all warmth and comfort and haven in the golden haze of candlelight that surrounded them.
He collapsed into her, letting her warmth envelop him completely. She stroked his hair as her eyes roamed his face. What did she see there, he wondered? How did he appear to her after greedily possessing her body until this own pleasure was too much for him to deny? Did even a fraction of his gratitude show? Had she obtained even a smidgen of the bliss that now pervaded him as he gazed down into her lovely face?
That was the word that still flitted through her mind as she looked up at Edward in those moments after he came. She was mesmerized by the metamorphosis of his handsome features, contorted in relentless, driven passion before transforming to relieved, satisfied bliss. He looked . . . happy. She realized that this was the first time she’d seen true happiness, or at least contentment, on his face.
Bella continued to run her fingers through the damp hair curling on the back of his neck, and stroked his jaw with her thumbs. It unclenched completely under her gentle massage, its jutting tension released as his mouth grew slack and his cool breath grew more shallow on her face. His body felt hot and heavy as he relaxed, and she loved the sensation of him sinking into her, even though she had a little trouble getting her breath. She could feel the subtle aftershocks of Edward’s orgasm inside her, his dick twitching sporadically as it calmed down with the rest of him. She loved that, too.
So this was what it felt like to be used for a man’s pleasure and still derive immense satisfaction from it herself. Maybe she’d been able to do that because Edward had wanted so badly for her to enjoy it as much as he had. That alone made her failure to do so inconsequential to her. She hoped it was to him as well.
She smiled reassuringly up at him though her body still throbbed uncomfortably. She was torn between wanting him to pull out and never wanting to let him go. She definitely didn’t want his blissful expression to fade, nor the tender look in his eyes to harden. He was an open book right now. She had opened her body to him and gained his open heart in return, if only for a fleeting moment.
Too soon, the moment was over.
Uncertainly clouded his eyes as they searched hers, and she didn’t know why. Couldn’t he see that she was happy, too?
“Are you okay?” he finally asked.
“I’m . . . ” she trailed off. She had no words for the myriad sensations and thoughts that tumbled through her.
Edward looked so worried that she quickly found some.
“I’m so much better than okay. I don’t even know how to describe it.”
His frown lessened slightly. “No regrets?” His question was still hesitant.
She didn’t hesitate at all. “None whatsoever.”
Relief washed over him. He couldn’t bear her disappointment. He hoped to God that she wasn’t lying to make him feel better, or trying to convince herself that he was worth the wait and expense. What if he had come nowhere near to meeting her expectations? For that matter, who could? She’d been putting guys off, waiting for some bigger-than-life thrill, he surmised. He knew he’d fallen far short of that. He probably ought to give her a refund since he couldn’t even slow down enough to wait for her orgasm. Maybe he should ask Rosalie about introducing a new policy: virgins’ first dates on the house.
But that would imply that Renaissance Escorts was a brothel selling sex for money, which was, of course, technically untrue. If any activities of a sexual nature occurred as a result of a Renaissance date, then that was between the two consenting adult parties involved, and had nothing to do with the escort service. Employees were officially off the clock as soon as that line was crossed. Edward shuddered to think of how many times that line had been crossed, to the point where it meant nothing to him anymore.
Bella looked up at Edward’s eyes shifting aimlessly, not looking at her. She wondered what the hell was going through his head that was ruining what had been such an intimate moment.
“Edward. Look at me,” she ordered, gripping his face more firmly, willing his eyes back to hers. “I wouldn’t change one thing about tonight. You were amazing. What we just did was amazing.”
He wanted so badly to believe her, even though he knew she wasn’t being entirely truthful. But this was not the night for him to be in need of her reassurances. His fears were immaterial.
“You deserve nothing less,” he told her. He kissed her gently, several times. He took solace in the fact that her mouth still eagerly received his.
His insecurities had made him soft, in more ways than one. “I’ll be right back,” he whispered, giving her one last kiss before reluctantly withdrawing from her warmth and retreating to the bathroom. He ridded himself of the used condom and cleaned up as quickly as he could. He was afraid to give her too much time to ponder what had just happened between them and find it - or him - lacking.
The only thing she was pondering was why he was so hard on himself. How could her first time mean that much to him?
When he returned, he perched next to her on the bed. “Do you want to take a shower or a bath? The tub has jets,” he said, motioning to the tiled alcove at the far end of the room.
“No. I want you to get back in bed and warm me up again. I’m getting cold.”
That made him smile a little, she noted. When he scooted in next to her and pulled the covers over them, she pressed her body to his immediately, making his smile grow.
“You smell good,” she said, tucking her head under his chin. “I don’t want to wash it off.”
He laughed a little and pulled her close, one hand beginning to play with her hair. “You like the sex smell,” he corrected her. “It smells like sex in here. And maybe scented wax,” he added.
“No, it’s not the candles,” she mumbled into his neck. “It’s you.”
She nodded. “Sex smell,” she agreed. “I love it.” She inhaled deeply for emphasis.
I wish you’d loved the sex itself, he thought. But he wasn’t going there again. His deflated ego couldn’t take it.
He stroked her hair with one hand and trailed the fingers of the other along her arm. She mimicked him, gliding her hand over his chest, swirling her index finger around his nipples, one by one. He enjoyed the quiet at first. It felt peaceful. But after awhile, his tranquility began to unravel around the edges. He was afraid that Bella was reverting back to her earlier silence.
“You’re awfully quiet. No more Twenty Questions?” he teased.
“No. I know everything I need to know about you.” She said the words with that matter-of-fact confidence that continued to confound him.
“Is that so?” he countered. “You sound pretty sure about that, considering you just met me a few hours ago.”
“I know the stuff that matters,” she insisted quietly. Then she shot him a playful grin. “But if you want to tell me your favorite color, or food, or music or sports team, I’m all ears.”
He chuckled, relieved to be asked fairly trivial questions. “Let’s see. I like the color of a good burgundy when you swirl it around the bottom of a wine goblet - like the wine we had earlier. I love Italian food - any comfort food, I guess. I’ll probably be a fat old man some day,” he added with a laugh. “And I’ve got to root for the Mariners every spring, no matter how they disappoint me by summer’s end.”
“Good answers,” she said. “But you forgot one. Favorite music.”
“Right,” he stalled. He should have known he wouldn’t get out of that one - not with her. “My taste is all over the map, really. I love to play classical because it’s the most challenging. But what I listen to just depends on my mood.” He shrugged the shoulder that wasn’t pillowing Bella’s head. “I love to go to blues concerts. There’s nothing like a really good blues guitar solo to get right down in the bottom of your soul and wallow there for awhile.”
She smiled up at him, because he was smiling. Music was obviously both his passion and his escape. She wanted to suggest that they go to a show together sometime, but she didn’t want to seem too forward. She was afraid he might laugh at the idea of seeing her again during his free time. Or worse, he might inform her that none of his time was free, and give her a price quote for another date.
“What about you? What are your favorites?” he asked, not just because he always tried to divert attention from himself, but because he wanted to know more about her. He wanted to know everything.
“Hmm. Favorite color depends on my mood. I usually like yellow because it’s cheerful, like the sun. The sun never shines in Forks, so maybe that’s why I love it.”
“Forks - is that where you’re from?”
She nodded. “You’ve heard of it? It’s up near the coast - a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it little town. My dad is the Chief of Police there. He used to embarrass me by driving me around in the squad car with the lights flashing, so my first order of business when I moved there was getting my own set of wheels.”
“High priority,” he agreed with a grin. “So what did you get?”
“A rebuilt vintage truck,” she said proudly. “It’s kind of a rusty old piece of crap, but it’s all mine. At least I know no one will ever try to steal it.”
“Good point.” He was dying to see it. “So you said you moved in with your dad? When was that?”
“When I was sixteen. My parents divorced when I was little, and I lived with my mom in Phoenix for a long time. But when she remarried a minor-league ballplayer, she wanted to move to Florida with him, and I didn’t really want go there. I guess the real reason was that I felt a little like a third wheel. Mom and Phil acted like newlyweds all the time, and I always felt like I was interrupting something just by coming home from school every day. So I decided to try living with Charlie and moved up north. I guess I got used to the gloomy weather because I’m still here.”
“Lucky for me,” he murmured. He wasn’t sure he’d said it out loud until he saw her cheeks redden.
“Me too,” she said. She felt like she must have the goofiest grin in the world on her face, but she couldn’t seem to remove it. He was smirking a little, too, so at least she wasn’t alone.
“So Charlie is your dad?” Edward prodded.
Bella nodded. “And he’s your typical meat-and-potatoes kind of guy, so I never get to eat anything too adventurous when I’m home. I like to try new things when I’m here and I don’t have to cook for him. I love Indian food, and most any Asian cuisine, unless it’s got squid or some other scary creature in it.” She made a face and shuddered slightly. Edward immediately wanted to take her to some of his favorite restaurants around the city so she could broaden her palette.
“So, you cook? Or do you eat out?”
“I like to cook, but I’m afraid to experiment too much. I’d eat out more often but I can’t afford it.”
Edward’s eyebrows knitted. Of course she couldn’t afford it, with a small-town cop for a father who probably struggled to help put her through college. He hated the thought of how long she must have scrimped and saved just to spend this evening with him, in this lavish suite. He was seized again with the fear that she was disappointed in the outcome.
Bella regretted her last words as soon as she said them. That troubled mask had consumed Edward’s features once more, and she began to panic. She’d said yet another thing to make him shut down. Maybe he felt guilty about taking her money. She was determined to make him understand that he was worth every penny and then some.
“So where were we? Sports teams, right?” she said brightly. “It’s against the law here to be anything other than a Mariners and Seahawks fan, isn’t it?”
“Pretty sure it’s in the city bylaws somewhere,” he agreed, trying to muster a smile to match hers.
“Right,” she said, adding a laugh that she hoped didn’t sound too forced. Then she gave up and admitted, “True confession - I’m not that big of a sports fan, really. Don’t tell my step-father, though.”
His smile turned appreciative. It hurt him to see her trying so hard. He was the one who needed to try harder.
“I think you forgot something in there,” he said in mock reproach.
“Favorite music.” He raised his eyebrows expectantly.
“Oh, right. I like all kinds, too. If it makes me feel something, deep down, then I’m a fan.” She searched his eyes for a moment, wondering how far she could safely push him. She didn’t want to see that wall come up again. “I loved what you played for me earlier. It was so full of passion, it was almost . . . ugly. The notes weren’t even in harmony, yet it was perfect that way.”
“Dissonance,” he informed her softly.
“Right. I loved that. It was almost brutal, and the way you attacked the keys . . . It gave me goose bumps. But then the ending was so different - so beautiful. Ethereal. Like the calm after the storm. Made me feel like I was floating.”
He smiled in spite of himself. “The reason the end was different is because it wasn’t part of the piece.”
“What do you mean? It was from another song?”
“No, I made it up.” He shrugged again.
She stared at him in surprise. “Wow. That’s amazing. I guess you did tell me you like to improvise, though.”
“Yeah, I do. It’s easy for me because I can play by ear. It used to drive my theory teachers crazy because I couldn’t transcribe half of it into written music later. I actually had a hard time learning to read music because I was so used to playing by ear. It’s hard to explain.”
Bella had propped herself up on one elbow so she could see his expression better. “I get it,” she said. “Your music comes to you by instinct, instead of being something you learned. So, it only makes sense that it would be hard to learn the rules your teachers tried to impose on you later.”
“Right. But in music, rules are important.”
“Fuck the rules,” Bella said defiantly.
Edward let out a raucous laugh. “You have to know what the rules are in order to break them effectively, my little rebel.”
“Maybe,” she said, clearly still unconvinced. “But maybe you’d be better off if you didn’t even know there were rules to begin with. Maybe then you’d be free.”
He was propped on one elbow now too, facing her. “Freedom is great, in theory. It’s a wonderful ideology - the one our country is based on. But everyone is bound by something. Duty, honor, obligation. Freedom always has a price. And sometimes you find things in life that are more important to you than your own freedom.”
She wished she knew what bound him, and how to set him free.
“Well, it’s a good thing I broke the rules and came to your agency, then exercised my freedom of choice when I picked you. Otherwise tonight never would have happened. I never would have found you.”
He couldn’t stifle the grin that crept across his face at her willfulness. “You did choose a pretty unorthodox method to lose your virginity. I still don’t quite get it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I guess I should be thankful that you’re such an impatient girl.”
Bella let out a small laugh. “I guess I am.” She sighed and made a face. “Do you really want to know what drove me to it?”
“Only if you want to tell me,” he answered. He wasn’t quite ready to spill his life story in return, even though he was itching to hear hers.
“It’s stupid, really,” she began with a roll of her eyes. “I spent a lot of time over the summer with a buddy of mine, Jake - an old family friend. He’s a couple of years younger than me so I never really thought of him as dating material, you know? But all of a sudden he had this growth spurt and he doesn’t really look like a kid anymore, even if he still acts like one.” Edward detected a bit of resentment in her tone.
“Anyway, he kept complaining that he needed a girlfriend because he didn’t want to start his senior year of high school as a virgin. I admitted that I hadn’t found the right guy, either. We joked around that if we didn’t find someone by the end of the summer, we should just do the deed with each other and kill two birds with one stone. It sounded good in theory, since we were friends and at least we’d be sleeping with someone who cared about us.
“Long story short, the summer came and went without any progress for either of us in the romance department. We met up at a huge end-of-summer beach party near my hometown - I think every high school and college kid within a sixty mile radius was there. Everyone ate, drank and was merry. Very merry. Very drunk, basically. Jake eventually cornered me and was making the moves, trying to get me to go back to his car with him; and I thought, why not? Maybe it’ll be great. After all, we were good friends, so why not see if there was more?”
She sighed and bitterness twisted her features once more. “So I followed him to the junk heap of a car he’d been tricking out all summer, trying to get it to run over fifty. We were in the back seat, making out, and before I knew it, his hands were everywhere, like an octopus. Groping underneath my clothes; trying to shove my hands down his pants. He was drunk and aggressive and I just - froze. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t go any further. So then he whined and begged, trying to talk me into it. When that didn’t work, he just got mad.”
Her brows furrowed, and Edward felt his own doing the same. He hated the thought of any guy trying to force himself on her. He wanted to knock this Jake’s block off, sight unseen, even if he did understand the kid‘s frustration. He wondered how Bella had missed the fact that her “friend” had wanted much more from her than friendship all along. She seemed to be good at deluding herself when it suited her purposes.
Her eyes were still far away, reliving the moment. “I guess I was prepared for his disappointment. But it was worse than that - it was more like humiliation that I’d rejected him. And that quickly turned to anger. He unloaded on me, telling me that I was a ‘fucking cock tease’ - those were his exact words - and that I’d led him on all summer with the promise of something at the end of it. I never saw it that way at all. I thought our pact was a joke. Or maybe I thought that if it wasn’t, I’d be able to go through with it. I just never dreamed he’d turn on me like that. Maybe it was the booze that made him so volatile, I don’t know. I’d never seen him like that before.
“He stormed off and left me in the car. I sat there in shock for a few minutes, then fixed my clothes and hair and went back to the party. By the time I got there, everyone was whispering about me behind my back. Literally pointing and snickering, like grade school kids. Apparently Jake had already complained to his buddies about how I chickened out. I heard words like ‘frigid’ being thrown around. And comments like, ‘I thought college girls were supposed to be more experienced. Bella can’t even get laid in a university with thousands of guys in it.’ Shit like that. It was ridiculous.
“I tried to tell myself that they were all immature assholes and that what I did with my body was my business and nobody else’s.”
“Which is absolutely true,” Edward interrupted sharply.
“I know. I know it is. But that one question just kept nagging at me: Why? Why couldn’t I go through with it? I dated a few nice, normal guys before Jake, the human centipede. But I couldn’t seem to do it with them either. I started almost panicking, thinking something was wrong with me. Wishing that I could just have sex already so I’d quit worrying about how and when it was going to happen, and stop feeling like a freak.
“So, I decided maybe I should consult a professional, and I went shopping online.” She stopped and the smile finally returned to her face. “As soon as I saw your face, I knew you were the one. I don’t know how I knew. I still wasn’t sure I should trust my instincts when I showed up here. I about had a panic attack just standing outside the door, trying to get the courage to knock on it.
“But now, everything makes sense,” she concluded, her expression sage. “I couldn’t do it before because I was waiting for you.”
Edward stared at her, unable to speak over the lump that was lodged in his throat. She could see the doubt in his eyes, so she sought to erase it.
“No one ever would have been as patient with me as you were tonight. As gentle and thoughtful and . . . kind. You made my first time perfect.”
He couldn’t stop a self-deprecating snort from escaping. “I couldn’t even slow down enough so that it would be good for you, too. If I would have held out longer, maybe you could have come. I was anything but perfect.”
“I didn’t say you were perfect. No one is. I never expected sex to be perfect either, and I never will. But you did everything in your power to make my first time wonderful, and because of that, it was. I can’t imagine losing my virginity a better way, to a better guy. So . . . thank you.”
If she had meant to lessen his disbelief, she had failed. His countenance was one of utter bewilderment.
“Don’t thank me, Bella. You paid me well to make this night as perfect for you as possible,” he reminded her. He wasn’t sure if he meant it as a barb, or just a grim truth.
She wasn’t sure how to take it, either. But she soon realized the real truth of the matter.
“You didn’t go to all that effort because I paid you,” she said quietly.
Her bittersweet chocolate stare dared him to deny it.
His sea-green gaze could not.
“I guess you do know the stuff that matters,” he whispered.
That pleased, self-satisfied smile he had come to know spread across her face. She scooted closer to him and tucked her head snugly under his chin. He took her in his arms, pressing his lips briefly into her hair. Blanketed in Bella’s warm embrace and cool breath on his neck, Edward fell into a deep and dreamless sleep.