"There we are. If you could just turn over onto your stomach and spread your cheeks with your hands for me?"
Say what now?
My aesthetician's facial expression was entirely too joyous for someone whose job was wrenching out pubic hair by brute force. She had wide, creepily vacant brown eyes and a perpetual closed mouth smile. Her red hair was cut in a neat shoulder length bob and she dressed like an extra from Dirty Dancing. I was so busy staring at her and trying to figure out why she wasn't blinking, that she caught me off guard with the first strip of wax. And from there, bad went to worse.
I alternated between wincing and jerking from the excruciating pain and trying to burn a hole through her forehead with my eyes. I'd hated her from the moment she'd handed me the world's most narrow and translucent white paper thong and told me it was 'to keep me covered up'. Perhaps I was being a bit unfair. Although, I could say the same for her. 'This may sting a bit' was not sufficient forewarning for what she was doing down there.
Surely, I'd heard that wrong.
Standing with a little pep in her step, she patted my knee and stared at me expectantly.
"Over ya go. You said a full Brazilian. I need to make sure I got you all bare everywhere. Oh look at that! I made a rhyme!"
Figuring it would all be over faster if I just went with it, I tried to roll over with as much dignity as possible. The little liar of a paper thong chose that moment to snap and flash the 1.3% of the view that had remained covered.
I'll give you one guess who I have to thank for this.
The previous day...
After adding presumptuous to Edward Cullen's long list of personality traits, I spent the rest of my shift at the hotel taking my frustrations out on inanimate objects, which proved to be fruitless. It turns out that punching pillows and kicking bags of trash into submission did nothing but draw attention. And then I just ended up being pissed that he was able to have an effect on me even when he wasn't there. It seemed like I'd worked through every emotion I was capable of in the short week since I'd met him. And it was so tiresome. As if I'd needed any help in that particular area.
After I'd calmed down some, the nerves started. Although I'd been saddled with the decision for seven whole days and had actually confirmed it over the phone, the reality of it was slowly dawning on me.
I was being paid for sex.
For all intents and purposes, I was a hooker. The process was the same.
Approached and propositioned.
Sex in exchange for money.
A price established and...acquiescence.
By the time 2 a.m. had come and I was free to leave work, I was a basket case. In ten hours' time, I'd be upstairs with
Edward doing who knows what.
What if he expects sex?
I'm not ready.
I'd just gone to school all day and worked an eight hour shift. I could fall asleep on the spot if I stopped moving for a second.
And then I remember his words from the morning before.
"...precautions will be put into place before we...begin."
And those from the first morning. "...testing, birth control, a safe word..."
The thought that this is more of an interview eases my mind a bit. I ignore the fact that the interview usually happens before the job is accepted. I'm grasping at straws here and don't need my traitorous subconscious chiming in and annihilating my already shaky grip on sanity. I definitely need to rest before I see him again.
While going back and forth in my mind about what to do in the meantime, my body makes the decision.
I am so caught up in my thoughts as I walk out of the break room with my bag over my shoulder, that I don't realize there is a stack of delivery boxes in the hall leading into the lobby. I slam my left knee into them, causing a mini avalanche and earning an annoyed glance from who I assume is the delivery guy. He bends over and grabs the boxes, telling me to be careful.
Sleeping it is.
I mutter as I walk away and toward the parking garage. It occurs to me that his words of caution are quite fitting to my current predicament. Be careful. The enormity of what I'm about to do washes over me again. For the hundredth time since I've accepted, I've also considered that it isn't too late to back out. I could call him and tell him I'd change my mind. I could just not show up. Avoid my booth, or the lobby altogether. Ignore his calls if he tries.
At the same time, I know these thoughts of reneging are only for the sake of my dignity. And I feel oddly proud of myself for even having them.
Doesn't that say something about my character?
That even though it's been ruled the most practical solution, I'm still fighting it in my mind?
In your mind. Here in the real world, Operation Bang For Bucks is still a go.
No, I won't back out. I need this money and I've tried to find it in another way. I just can't keep up with the way things are going now. It's affecting my grades and compromising everything I've worked like a dog for up to this point. I simply can't deny what this money would allow me. By taking some pressure off of my financial burdens, I'll have more time to devote to school. And that's what matters. Keeping my place in the program. I absolutely have to buckle down and do better. And whether I liked the shape that my solution had taken on or not, it's what I have to do.
As soon as I'm through the door of my room, I'm stripping out of my uniform and feeling grateful that I have a single room. The odd hours I keep wouldn't be very appreciated by a roommate. Pulling on some pajama pants and a t-shirt, I set my alarm and climb into bed. It feels like I'm asleep before I hit the pillow.
By ten, I'm freshly showered and am moments away from a full-blown panic attack.
Standing in front of my closet and perusing my sparse wardrobe, it dawns on me that I have no idea what to wear.
I never put any stock into these things.
Fashion and I have always given each other a wide berth. My only criteria for a potential outfit is that it's clean...or at least smells clean.
My golden rule of clothing? Jeans go with everything.
It's always worked for me before. And after realizing that I'd spent an hour staring at my closet as if it were going to choose something for me, I settle on a pair of jeans, tank top, cardigan and ballet flats.
This is as good as its getting.
Finding myself with nothing to do for another hour, the panic sets in again.
What the fuck am I doing?
What the hell am I getting myself into?
What if he's some kinky sex fiend?
What if he's just a really sexy psycho?
What if he wants to kill me and wear my skin as a coat?
Okay. Time for a distraction. My overly active imagination isn't helping.
I pull out my Microeconomics notes and begin reviewing them for the test we're having on Monday. I know I'm not as prepared as I need to be and isn't that the whole point to this arrangement I've gotten myself into? To be able to concentrate harder on school?Yes, that's exactly the reason I'm doing this. It'll be worth it. It'll all be worth it. No one knows and no one has to. One day, I'll be able to move on and it'll be like this never happened.
An hour and fifteen minutes later, my nerves are only slightly eased and I am leaving for the hotel.
I may have calmed down some, but a nagging in my brain and having heard too many horror stories prompt me to leave a little strip of paper folded on my desk that reads:
I am meeting Edward Cullen in Penthouse One of The Westin Seattle at noon today, Sept 18th 2010. Isabella Swan
There. Now they'll know where to find my body.
And just like that, I'm back in basket case mode.
After parking in the Employee Lot out of habit and walking through the lobby doors, I register how odd it feels to be here outside of work. I realize that it's because I never have. What if I see someone I work with? Thank God Angela is off today, but I still don't want to have to explain if someone should ask. Hurrying to the wall of elevators, I press the button and wait. I stay facing the shiny gold exterior of the elevator doors and notice myself in the reflection.
My hair is falling over one shoulder in an attempt to shield my face from view, just in case. But it's the rest of me that catches my attention. I know that I'm not exactly hideous to look at, but I'm realistic enough to know that there are far better options out there. Surely looking the way he does, Edward Cullen could have someone far more attractive than I am.
It makes me wonder: why me?
As if my list of issues wasn't extensive enough, insecurity decides to make an appearance.
What if I can't do this?
Not actually carrying through with it, but...doing it?
I haven't had sex in years. Not since my sophomore year of college. If you could even classify that as sex. Five minutes, start to finish, on a cramped twin bed in a smelly dorm room. My expectations weren't that high to begin with. Even my first time felt...devoid. It was awkward and brief. A few minutes of unexperienced fumbling, some pressure and pinching and then it was over. Barely a blip on the radar. The couple of times I'd done it between the first and the last followed along the same guidelines. Uneventful and detached. After each time, I'd wondered what the big deal was. I didn't feel any of the things I'd heard you were supposed to. It seemed as though it was designed to cater to the guy alone.
In my freshman year of high school, I'd gotten mildly curious about all of the things I'd overheard from other girls. I figured, just like with anything else I didn't know about, I'd research it. And since internet was something Charlie viewed as unnecessary, my only option was the public library. Trying to be as inconspicuous as I could, I snagged one of those trashy novels from the adult section and stowed myself away in one of the private reading nooks.
I had no idea what to look for, but was hoping I'd know it when I saw it. Words like 'wanton' and 'desire' were braided in between exclamations of ecstasy. Moaning and writhing and sweating and thrusting. The woman's thoughts were clouded with pleasure. The way she described the sensations she was feeling was fascinating to me. The idea of being brought to a place of total abandon at the hand of another intrigued me...even as young as I was. I walked out of that library operating under an extremely naive misconception.
As I'd come to learn later.
My thoughts are interrupted by the ding of the elevator and I step inside it, pressing the P button and leaning back on the wall. In what feels like the blink of an eye, another ding sounds and the doors open. Walking out of the elevator, I turn left and head for the door I already know is the last at the end of the hall. I feel an eerie sort of calm settle over me. I'd have thought I'd be hysterical at this point. Though I am still feeling anxious standing outside the door, I also feel a sense of surrender. To the situation. To the inevitability of what is happening. It gives me an unexpected surge of clarity. I need to walk into this room with a clear head on my shoulders. I have questions. Concerns. I need to stay focused and not allow whatever deviant effect he'd had on me before to take over.
I raise my hand to the glossy white door and knock. I wait and hear nothing. Figuring he may not have heard me, I knock again but a bit louder this time.
Before I can lower my hand, the door is wrenched open and all I can see of Edward is his back as he walks away, his cell phone to his ear.
"I don't give two shits about his deadline. I'll drive down there myself and pull it apart beam by beam my goddamned self! You tell that ignorant little fucker that no one breaks ground until I give the word."
I've only stepped just inside the doorway and closed the door behind me. I'm not sure if I'm supposed to wait or follow him, and he's yet to even address my arrival. I can't see him from the raised foyer I'm standing in, but I can definitely hear him.
His voice is loud and angry.
A fraction of my nerves return.
"He can call the mother fucking chief of police for all I care. I'll tell him the same thing I'm telling you. When my people have the specs drawn up, I'll decide what happens next. And not a minute sooner. If he calls my office one more goddamned time, I'll come down there and shove his proposal up his fat, pimply ass!"
I hear the slam of what I assume is his phone against a surface.
Shuffling and pacing.
He appears in the opening of the doorway, hands on hips and staring at me with wide, impatient eyes. His eyebrows rise up slowly, as if he's waiting for the catch.
Sweeping his arm out dramatically to his left, he motions toward where I know a full sized dining table and chairs are.
His sarcasm is potent, even without words. I walk forward and down the two steps into the dining room.
I can feel him following me in.
I'm unsure about everything.
What to say.
Where to stand. Do I sit?
I take a chance and start to lower myself into a chair at the table. His voice sounds before I get that far.
"Don't bother getting comfy."
Turning and looking at him, I see that he's picked up his phone again and is focused on typing into it with both hands. His eyes, nor thumbs, leave the phone as he instructs me.
"In the bathroom, you'll find a white bathrobe on the back of the door. Shower and change into it. Only it."
He turns and seats himself at the table, placing the phone at his ear. I start toward the bathroom and hear his gruff voice ranting at someone as I close the door behind me, locking it.
The robe in question is hanging where he said and, because I do remember his utter lack of patience, I quickly start the shower and strip. Using the complimentary loofas and body wash provided by the hotel, I wash myself and think of how wasteful two showers in as many hours are. I take the time to appreciate the heat of the water and how it loosens the tension in my muscles. I'm not sure if I'm supposed to, but I wash my hair just in case.
Ten minutes later, I'm out of the shower and clad in the robe. It's very comfortable.
Soft and plush, ending at my knees. Knowing that extensive toiletries are also provided in the Penthouse suites, I seek out a comb and detangle my hair. Drying it with a hand towel and tussling it so that I look less like a drowned rat, I decide it's as good as it's going to get and walk out of the bathroom. I can't hear or see him, so I stop and listen.
Walking forward and through the sitting area, I return to the dining room table and stand next to it, clueless as to what he wants me to do.
Is this some sort of test?
Turning and looking throughout the suite, I see nothing that indicates he is still here. Or that he's left. Everything is as it was before.
Leaning forward and planting my hands flat on the table top, I begin to get aggravated. Did he do all of this just to make a fool out of me? Why? It doesn't make any sense.
And then I feel it.
The same one I'd felt both times before.
It starts out at the base of my neck and travels down my spine.
My body begins to hum and I can feel his eyes.
Hot and hard.
I whirl around and look at him. His blue eyes are boring into mine and his jaw is clenched tightly. He removes his dark grey suit jacket and hangs it over the chair at the head of the table. He's left in his matching dress pants and navy blue dress shirt, which he is slowly rolling up the left sleeve of as he moves closer and closer to me.
My eyes lock onto his fingers as they grip and roll the fabric higher and higher up his forearm.
I swallow dryly.
Without meaning to, I realize I'm backing up and my ass bumps the table.
My hands reach down and behind me to grip the edge of it.
I'm bracing myself.
Jesus...the look in his eyes.
The slow methodical motion of his body as he approaches me.
Closer and closer.
His head cocks to the side and that would-be beautiful half smirk appears again. Too bad he's such an asshole.
Oh who the hell am I kidding? It's beautiful, asshole or not.
He's noticed my reaction and it fuels him. He's switched hands and is now rolling up his right shirt sleeve.
And with the cocky half smile still.
He tips his head back and rolls it side to side, back and forth slowly across his shoulders.
He's readying himself.
I feel like I should brace myself.
My eyes don't obey when I try to pull my stare from the pale skin of his forearms.
Thick and muscular, the pale skin leads down to large hands and long, lithe fingers.
Both sleeves to the elbow, he slides his hands into his pant pockets and closes the distance between us.
He's so close that I can feel the front of his shirt brush lightly over the front of my robe.
Even through the thick terry cloth, my nipples harden immediately and I still. The sensation is completely foreign.
I know what's happening to me, but it just...doesn't happen to me.
He's done nothing but patronize me, insult me and roll his sleeves up in the short time I've been here and I'm turned on.
My heart feels like it's trying to slam its way out of my chest and I close my eyes in an attempt to pull my shit together.
My breathing feels ragged, heavy.I try to control it, not wanting to be a panting mess in front of him.
His scent. Oh God, his scent. I'd forgotten it. Warm and masculine.
A hot whisper in my left ear and he's moved much closer than I'd realized he had. My eyes fly open and my head snaps up.
He's got a good foot of height on me and he's staring down at me.
My breasts...my waist...
He leans around me and it doesn't surprise me at all when I realize that he's looking at my ass.
Everywhere but my eyes now.
I'm being perused and evaluated. This is the part I've been dreading. I'll be found lacking. I know it.
Maybe not now, but soon. There's no way I could ever suit his needs. As infuriating as he is, he is a force all his own.
Dominant and unmoving.
I'm so lost in my thoughts that I barely register the movement of his right arm around and behind me. I stay as still as possible and close my eyes again. I've managed to steady my breathing, but it's taking all of my concentration.
Concentration that is shattered into a thousand pieces with the sensation of his hand gripping my hair and abruptly pulling backward, snatching my head back.
My eyes fly open.
I'm looking up at the ceiling and the moan that slips from my mouth does so without my permission.
I'm breathing harder now, my mouth hung open and my heart beating furiously in my chest, which is rising and falling rapidly. I'm confused and thrown by my own reaction to his manhandling me.
A familiar standoff begins.
My head tells me to revolt.
My curiosity...my body. They feel differently.
My hands clench the table's edge tighter and my legs feel like jello.
From my periphery, I can see his head rise from the left side of my face and look at me. His head tilts to the side, as if he's contemplating something. I can't move to look at him, his grip too tight.
"You've accepted my offer, have you not?"
His voice is louder than a whisper, but still low. A slow, husky drawl of words. I nod my head minutely and he tugs back on my hair...hard.
I cry out from surprise. The sharp pain to the back of my head should frighten me, anger me.
But it has a much different effect.
My breathing accelerates and my hands twitch with the need to find purchase.
"Use your words, Isabella."
"Ye-yes. Yes, I accepted."
My words are breathy...spoken through pants.
"Mmm. Yes, you did, didn't you? Of course you did. Showing up right on time, doing as you're told." He fingers the front flap of the robe to illustrate his point. "So eager."
Never easing his grip on my hair, his head moves around and to the right side of my face.
Along my jaw and up to my ear, his nose never makes contact as he inhales one, long breath.
At the end of it, he exhales slow and long into my right ear.
"I can smell you. You're so fucking ready. Do you want my cock, Isabella?"
His words ignite a feeling in my stomach that panics me.
What's he doing to me?
It's warm and weighted. It roots itself there and the sudden warm wetness between my thighs takes me by surprise. I have an overwhelming urge to move.
So quickly that my breath catches, he uses his grip on my hair for leverage and turns my body around entirely, facing away from him and toward the table. The front of my thighs press into the edge where my hands were previously. Desperate for a way to ground myself, my hands shoot out in reflex and I spread them down flat on the black, granite surface of the table.
He pushes on my head and I bend forward at the waist. The feeling in my abdomen heightens. Every nerve in my body is on high alert. The feeling is completely unfamiliar. The sensations he invokes with so little touch is astonishing. It's overwhelming, yet I can't find a single reason to stop it.
I feel only his body heat as he rests both palms down just outside of my own on the table. Once again, close but not touching me. I fight the urge to press back against him.
Something tells me that it wouldn't be well received.
My wet hair hangs on either side of my face and I clench my eyes in anticipation of what's coming next. His head lowers to my right ear.
"Now that we've established that you can fall in line, have a seat, Isabella."
My eyes open and I turn, watching him settle down into the chair at the head of the table. In front of him is a manila folder that I was previously too preoccupied to notice. When he opens it and looks up at me, I realize that I'm still bent over, ass in the air, and staring at him in shock.
"Whenever you're ready."
Complete with a cocky half smile, he cocks his head to the side in mock concern.
"Is everything all right, Isabella?"
The cocky ass knew exactly what he was doing. I straighten up and immediately feel stupid for having lost my composure with him so quickly-after I'd been so determined not to. He pushed me on purpose.
He revels in the mind fuck he causes me.
Feeling, once again, like a mindless sycophant, I walk over to the chair closest to him and sit down.
He's back to business.
"There won't be any fucking until I know you're clean. Contact this medical office first thing Monday morning. They'll be handling your testing as well as birth control. The shot. Non negotiable. And of course, condoms will be used regardless of that. The cost has been taken care of already. No need to create a paper trail."
The impassive way he speaks distracts me for a moment. His ability to switch gears so cleanly is impressive, albeit a little disturbing. He continues talking as I try to keep up. My mind is still in a fog.
"Also, I like a clean work space. That means no hair. Anywhere. If it's not coming out of the top of your head, it goes. Understood?"
His tone of voice is militant.
There'll be no discussion.
I nod my head and make a mental note to schedule a waxing. While I keep it tidy, I'm not bare. Apparently, that's about to change.
"We'll start a week from today at 6 p.m., providing you test clean. Every Saturday. At this address."
He slides a second card to me. It's very familiar. I have one just like it tucked away in my bag. There's an address written by hand. I don't know it.
"Where is this?"
"My place." Clipped and annoyed. He's not used to being questioned.
His place. The thought makes me uneasy.
"I thought we'd be meeting here."
"Clearly, you thought wrong. And there's no need for you to waste your time thinking. It's not what you're being paid for."
"Why do you have to be so rude? Would it kill you to be civil for five minutes?"
He's pissing me off. I'm having a hard enough time coming to grips with this situation without his cavalier attitude.
He bites back quickly and angrily.
"Whether or not it would kill me is of no relevance. I'm not here to make nice with you. I'm here to fuck you. And you're here to oblige me. So oblige...and shut the fuck up."
"You're an asshole."
He leans back in his chair, places his elbows on the arms of it and steeples his folds his fingers together in front of him.
Here we go.
"Perhaps we have a misunderstanding, Isabella. You seem to be operating under the delusion that I give a fuck about you. I thought I'd made myself clear before. I have no interest in who you are. What you like and what you care about are of no consequence to me. Save the sappy shit for whatever poor bastard gets saddled with you later. This here..." He motions with his pointer finger between the two of us. "...is business. No talking, no cuddling and no fucking feelings. I fuck you, you get paid, we both get what we want. As long as you can keep your head out of the clouds and on my cock where it belongs, I see no reason why we should have a problem. Do you?"
Head out of the clouds.
It's an expression I'd heard from Charlie all too many times over the years. I'm seething inside, but wonder what good it would do to engage him. I hate myself for the thought as soon as it comes to me, but I don't want to piss him off. If he calls this off, I'm back at square one. What I really want to do is tell him and his money to kiss my ass. But I settle for telling myself that I'm doing this to have a better life. This temporary sacrifice of my dignity now will pay off for me later. And I hope that this thought is enough to carry me through. It has to be.
I grit my teeth and answer him.
"I'm sorry, what was that?"
"I said no. There's no problem."
I make no attempt at hiding the annoyance on my face and speak through tight lips.
"If at any point, you decide you can't handle this, just say the word. If you tell me you're done, you walk out and don't come back. No one is forcing you to be here.And believe me when I say that I won't be chasing after you."
Oh, I believe him. It'd be incredibly naive of me at this point to think there was anything redeeming about him. If I was going to stay sane, I needed to remember that.
"Fine, but I have a few questions."
He exhales hard and rolls his eyes.
"Of course you do. What?"
He bites the last word out at me. I make an attempt at salvaging my composure.
"You said if I decide I can't handle it. What exactly is 'it'?"
His face remains severe, but he arches an eyebrow.
"You need a definition?"
"No. No, I'm just not sure what you mean. You're not planning on...hurting me, are you?"
I swallow thickly and await his answer. I know I can't follow through with this if he has some whacked out pain fetish.
His laugh surprises me. It's low and rumbly. He's laughing at me.
"You mean do I plan on beating you? Whips and chains and what not?"
Again, a rumbly chuckle.
And then a stark seriousness shrouds his face.
"No. I don't need those things to make you scream, Isabella. And judging by the way you reacted before..." He juts his chin toward the end of the table I'd been bent over not twenty minutes prior. "...I'd say you're quite fond of the rough stuff."
My face heats at his words and I lower my eyes to the table top. I feel humiliated not only on being called out on it, but because the enormity of his taunt washes over me. That feeling that had me so confused at the time is so clear to me now.
I was aroused by how he handled me.
Stimulated in a way I'd never experienced before. And, like so many times since we've met, I'm not sure how these new feelings make me feel about myself.
"But I have no intention of marking you physically. And just so we don't have any mixed signals here, let me spell it out for you one more time. We'll be fucking. Hard. No caresses, no kissing, no tenderness. I don't care if you get off. I don't care if you like it. You're here for my benefit. You know what you're getting yourself into. If you want out, leave. But don't whine like a little bitch if shit gets too rowdy for you. Remember, fucking. Not love making. Now, if that's all?"
He rises from his chair, not waiting for my answer. Picking up his phone and jacket, he heads for the foyer and turns back to me just before he's out of sight.
He's donning the evil half smirk.
"Feel free to shower again, Isabella. That wet pussy can't be comfortable to walk around with."
I'm left sitting alone at the table, trying to catch up on what just happened.
Frustrated, angry with myself, pissed at him and yes, as loathe as I am to admit it...wet.
Back to the Present...
Every time I allow myself to think of our 'meeting' yesterday, it only aggravates me further. He's such an insufferable son of a bitch. Yet here I am, spread wide and fuming while the bush baby of pain wreaks havoc down below.
It occurs to me that this isn't the first or last time I'll find myself face down, ass up for Edward Cullen.