Chapter 14 – The Man I Love

Disclaimer: Stephanie Meyer & Little Brown Publishing own all rights

RPOV

Once we were reunited, Edward’s eyes did not stray from me. As he spoke to Sergeant Swan, he retained an air of professionalism, but a hand was always resting on me. Though his words were directed at the men in the uniforms asking him questions, the answers were canned, perfunctory and mechanical. Sergeant Swan’s questions faded when he saw that he wasn’t going to get much further and Edward muttered something about stopping by the precinct in the morning. Edward continued to stare at me, his fingers splayed across my lower back as though I would disappear from under his fingers, and Swan dismissed us. Swan’s gentle eyes met mine and I smiled, almost apologetically, but he nodded, finally granting us leave to reunite more privately, and completely, back at the estate.

I rested my head on his shoulder as we walked out of the warehouse toward the Fleetwood. I knew I had to be strong, had to be keep myself together until he and I were alone. His hand fit perfectly on my hip has he held me tightly to his side. Much to Emmett’s chagrin, Edward insisted on driving home. Emmett protested, but once Edward got an idea in his head, there was no getting around it. We were quite similar in that respect. Emmett climbed into the back of the car and Edward and I walked around the back, my skirt flitting the chrome metal bumper. Before I got into the car, he pulled my arms around his neck and pushed me gently into the side of the car. “I’ve got you, Rosie. You’re safe and you are my home.”

In that moment, I knew he had seen my message to him on the gun. I would have never thought this would be the way he’d find it, but I was happy he did. It was my own whispered, “I love you” message in the dark.

The car ride from the warehouse to the estate was surreal, Emmett and I in the back of the car while Edward was in the front, driving. My mind would have found it a bit funny if it weren’t still envisioning Royce’s leer and his dirty hands touching me.

Emmett continued to apologize to me until I rested my hand on his forearm and begged him to stop. “I’m fine, Emmett. Please. I’m more concerned about you.” I had him lean down so I could look at the back of his head and the large welt that had formed from the jolting slam of the butt of Royce’s gun. I fussed as I looked at the bump, wondering aloud whether we should call Edward’s father or swing by the Cullen’s house.

I knew that my attention toward Emmett and his injuries was a way of blocking my feelings, but it was necessary. I continued on until Emmett put a stop to my fretting. His large hand clasped over mine and he promised that he would see Carlisle in the morning. He assured me that he felt fine and that he wouldn’t be alone during the night. I blinked at the declaration a few times and his eyebrows raised at me, hinting at the exact meaning. Nodding my head vigorously, I shut my trap and saw his shoulders shake as he chuckled at my reaction.

I continually saw concerned flashes of green in the rear view mirror and finally I leaned forward in the seat, whispering “Eyes on the road, Cullen,” before leaning back on the mohair once more, winking at him. I saw his eyes crinkle and I knew that, even though I couldn’t see it, he was smiling.

While I tried to play it cool, I knew it was only a matter of time before we’d be alone together and my walls would come down. I was torn about expressing my feelings but even more, I was torn as to what I was actually feeling. The events of the evening were daunting and while I had no question in my mind that Edward would arrive to save the day, it still was an ordeal that I wished had never happened.

I watched as we drew closer to the estate and my eyes found Edward’s in the mirror once more. Such a range of emotions were visible within the small mirror. Now, they held a different expression and it was one I wasn’t used to seeing, one that was difficult for me to decipher.

Both Edward and Emily insisted that I eat something, even though my stomach was still twisted in knots from the events of the day. Refusing them was pointless. He sat beside me as I ate my sandwich, refusing one of his own. Jasper sat across the table from us while Edward was next to me. After I had finished eating, Jasper excused himself, rounding the table and leaning down toward me. His lips met my hairline and he cradled my face for a moment. I grabbed his hand with mine and pulled him closer, giving him a hug. “You really came through, Jasper. I… I’m so very grateful.”

His eyes were soft and in that moment, he reminded me of our father, through and through. “You would have done the same for me.” He planted another kiss on my head before walking to the door. “Oh, and Rosalie? I’m so proud of you. I only wish I got to see your Joe Louis moment instead of just hearing about it.” I smiled at his reference to the boxer who’d recently won the Chicago Golden Gloves Tournament of Champions. He grinned back and began to whistle, tapping his hand on the door frame he walked out of the dining room. I heard his whistling fade as he walked down the hall but my mind jumped back once again to Royce leering over me and my swift punch to his face, the sickening sound it made as my knuckles hit his face. I rubbed my hand absentmindedly until Edward grabbed it, bringing it to his lips.

His actions were sweet and sincere but I could tell that he was hiding something, hiding some feeling away that he didn’t want me to see. Once more I attempted to analyze the expression, which was carefully stoic but the hidden feeling shone clearly in his eyes. Daddy always told me that you can tell someone’s true intentions by their eyes. They always were Edward’s tell and I could see something there that didn’t quite make sense to me.

Guilt.

I started to ask him what he was thinking but Emily appeared at that moment. She cleared my plate and held me to her before bidding us a good night. We adjourned up the stairs to my room, to our room. I knew that while we were there all the carefully crafted walls that we put up for others would fall and we’d see each other for who we truly were. While I was the one who wore make up on my face, we both did a good job of hiding things from others. Never from each other, though.

I sat at my vanity, running my brush through my hair, the requisite hundred strokes. Edward lay on the bed, uncharacteristically quiet, watching me. He seemed to sense my need to work things through my head, to come to an inner peace. Now I was the one watching him in the mirror, my eyes trained on him while I absently went through the motions.

No longer interested in my regimen, I rose suddenly, placing the brush down and sitting next to him on the bed. His fingers flitted to my exposed neck, swiping from hallow to base. Questioningly, my eyes searched his for an explanation.

“There was a bit of dirt… from the warehouse, I guess?”

Of course. My feelings reflected the grit that I’d picked up in the filth of that place. I could see how Edward’s job could make someone hard and rough around the edges. I only felt it minimally after one night and I remember that first meeting when he came off the same way. Something had changed between then and now and I could only think it was me. Still, I allowed myself to share, “I feel dirty.” A few tears that I didn’t know were there found their way down my cheeks. My body collapsed on his and I took a few moments to just feel his arms gently wrapped around me, listening to his quiet reassurances that I was safe and home and his.

The thoughts were seeping in from the afternoon, even with his calming words and light kisses along my hairline. I wanted to wash away the soiled memories and from my body. Rising once more, I quickly wiped my cheekbones with the palm of my hand before his hand caught my free one. He played with it, threading his long fingers through mine.

“Where do you think you’re going?”

My smile was present but strained. I leaned down to kiss him. “I’ll be back in just a moment. I need a quick shower.” My mind jumped back to the time in his apartment when he’d asked hopefully if I would be joining him in his shower. I repeated his question now but he just shook his head, explaining that he had some things to think about.

I made my way into the bathroom, looking forward to the warm water and the cleansing of both body and mind. We still had things to discuss but I knew that once I felt clean, the conversation would flow. It always did.

EPOV

I shut the door behind us and kept my focus on Rose, watching as she went to sit at her vanity. Tendrils of her hair had freed themselves from the confines of her chignon and it was much too untidy for Rose’s taste. She quickly pulled the netted chignon away and the pins holding it in place. Plucking up her hairbrush she began a routine I’d watched countless times. She’d sit demurely at the vanity and brush the minimum one hundred strokes while I’d lie on the bed, transfixed and unabashedly watching her. She’d feel the heat of my stare and toss her hair over her shoulder pretending to be switching sides. Then she’d grace me with a coy flirty fucking smile. This time though, she wasn’t smiling at me, tempting me as usual. She wasn’t with me at all. Her head was still in a dingy warehouse that smelled like moldy concrete.

I sighed as I took off my suit jacket and lay it down on the bed, propping myself up on my elbow. I was quiet as I watched her, allowing her that moment to think and make some sense of the evening. I watched her pull her boar’s hair brush through her hair and wondered what she was thinking. Your average dame would probably be in a state of hysterics, or at the very least wanting to talk about what had happened. Not Rosie though. I wondered if she was just trying to protect my feelings, or if she really was that strong and brave. I knew she was, under usual circumstances, but tonight’s circumstances were far from fucking usual and her silence worried me a little.

She rose from the vanity and sat down on the edge of the bed near me. I moved to the edge to sit beside her and as she turned to face me, I noticed a smudge of dirt on her buttermilk white neck. My fingertips brushed away the grime soiling her, I had to remove all traces of the evil that had dirtied her. She looked at me curiously and smiled softly at my explanation.

“I feel dirty,” she confessed, but the tears welling in her eyes told me so much more. My arms snaked around her while I peppered her forehead with soft kisses and promised her that it was all over and she was okay and I was there for her. She let me hold her and soothe her and take care of her for a a little while. Then, with a quick kiss, she left me to take a shower. I realized then that Rose just needed a little time to put things in perspective. I smiled softly back at her and told her I’d wait for her on the bed.

As I listened to the water running through the pipes, I thought about the ring box in my jacket pocket. I couldn’t decide how to bring it up or if she was ready to hear it. The more I thought about it, I decided that not planning it out would be better; I’d just ask her when the right moment came. Despite the tiny butterflies in my stomach, I couldn’t help but wonder what her reaction would be. It was a little frightening to acknowledge the power that outwardly insignificant black leather box held over me. Under its lid nestled in black satin was a ring that would symbolize my devotion to her. Only Rose had the power to transform the symbol into reality, and it all depended on if she’d consent to be mine.

To be perfectly frank, I wasn’t entirely sure she’d say yes. Rose was so independent and this was a huge step forward. If you’d have asked me a year ago if I thought I’d be getting hitched, I’d have said there wasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell. I’d venture Rose would have said the same thing, in a more…elegant manner of course. That’s exactly why we were so perfect for each other. Independence was a trait we each admired in the other and we respected the need to maintain that to a point. She when she left me to take her shower, I understood immediately and allowed her the space she needed. That was the best way to take care of Rose.

It made me sick that her physical safety was put in jeopardy because of my profession. I wasn’t sure how to fix that problem, but I knew I had to find a way to make sure nothing like this ever happened again. I had to do whatever it would take to keep her out of harm’s way. That’s when it dawned on me. Being a husband meant thinking of the other person first, putting your wife before yourself and putting someone else’s needs above your own.

Time to fucking grow up and be a man, Cullen.

There was no doubt in my mind I was finally ready to do that. I was ready to take care of her. I didn’t mean coddle her, but simply make a promise to her that no matter what, I’d be there to back her up and that I’d always try to rescue her. As long as she wanted rescuing.

The door to the bathroom slowly opened and Rose emerged looking lovely, every visible trace washed away. Her face was flushed from the steaming hot water and wrapped in a long peach colored silk robe. I smiled broadly at her when I caught her eye. She smiled back and climbed into the bed, lying on her side and scooting herself against me as closely as she could. Her arm wrapped itself around my chest and squeezed tightly. She lifted her head off the pillow for me to slide my arm under, while the other wrapped around her, pulling her to me just as tightly.

“Rose,” I started to tell her how worried I’d been, how horrified I was at the thought of anything happening to her and that I loved her. But none of that came out of my mouth. “Rose, I’ll never let anything like that happen again,” I murmured instead as my hand drew little patterns on her back. I wasn’t sure how I’d keep that promise and keep up my job, but I’d find a way.

“You can’t always protect me, Edward. All you can do is promise that you’ll always come for me, just like you did tonight,” she whispered back. It wasn’t nearly fucking good enough to my way of thinking but I let it go. For now. I released her from my grip and sat up. Gently sliding my hands to her knees, I let them play there for a moment before slowly pulling them apart. Once she understood what I wanted, Rose shifted her position and I shifted myself between her legs. I leaned over her, our hips matching up perfectly and rested my forehead over her heart.

“That’s a promise, baby doll,” I vowed solemnly. She exhaled deeply and I felt a little bit of her tension melt away. I wished I could’ve said the same for myself. Her slender fingers ran through my hair and my grip around her tightened with false hope that my own stress from tonight’s ordeal would somehow be diffused the closer she was to me. She was here, alive and safe and warm, and that should’ve been enough. But it wasn’t. I wasn’t close enough to her to make it feel real yet. I needed to prove that we were still vibrant and here together.

I lifted my head and looked into the depths of her blue eyes looking for the extra push I needed to spit it out.

What’s wrong with you, Cullen? Just fucking tell her you love her.

“Rose, I need to tell you-” Her finger flew to my lips and silenced me.

“You don’t have to say it, Edward.”

“I don’t?” My eyes crinkled in confusion.

“Nope. I already know.”

“And you? Do you…feel the same way?” I asked hesitantly. I wasn’t generally the type to doubt myself, but Rose made me vulnerable. She held a power over me no one else had.

“Ya know, for being a detective, you aren’t very quick on the uptake,” she teased lightly. Her playful little smirk told me she was shaking off the eventful evening.

“But I-”

“Stop talking, Edward. In fact, you’d better stop thinking too, while you’re at it.” And with that, she grabbed my tie and pulled me toward her. Then she shut me up with a deep, passionate kiss.

That was all the green light I needed. I laughed at myself, remembering when I’d said that before, the night of the gala months ago. We had the same passion then too, but it was driven lust, not to mention one fucking distracting red dress.

Things feel different now, Cullen, and you know it. There’s something else going on this time. This isn’t just about lips and tongues and hands and-

“Edward, stop thinking,” she commanded. I stifled a chuckle; she knew me so well. I thought of that little black box and smiled against her lips as we kept kissing. Her hands quickly unraveled the knot of my tie while I untied her robe. I rolled over onto my side and propped myself on my elbow, giving me a better view of her lovely face. My hand moved up to her collarbone, my fingers slid under the lapel of her robe. Her skin turned to goose-flesh and she shivered while my fingers made their languid way over her breast and nipple, down along the sinuous curve of her waist and over her hip, finally pushing the robe off one side of her body.

Her trembling hands reached for the buttons of my shirt and made quick work of them before she pulled the shirt off my shoulders. I sat up on my knees and finished the job, tossing it on the floor and then pulling off my undershirt on one swift movement. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught Rose licking her lips. I ginned back at her wickedly.

The feeling’s completely mutual, Rose.

She sat up beside me and her hands moved to my fly. She reached up and pulled my pants and boxers down, to my knees. I sat back down beside her and pulled them off my feet, along with my socks and shoes. My gaze went back to Rose. Her eyes took me in, all of me and her lips curled in a possessive smirk. I cupped her face in my hands and coaxed her back on to the satin pillows. I couldn’t ignore the underlying current of insistence that blended perfectly with the tenderness in her touch. Her fingers flitted over me gently, and although her hands were slow and tender, her mouth was devouring mine with a ravenous need that took my fucking breath away.

I broke the kiss to catch my breath. “What do you want, baby doll?” I whispered, wrapping my arm around her waist and curling her against me while my other hand threaded through her hair.

“Mmmmm, just you, all night. Every night,” she cooed breathlessly. I chuckled and my eyes darted to my jacket, where the little box was hidden.

Every fucking night. I brought my forehead to hers and a hand to either side of her head. Our eyes locked and for a moment I believed in heaven beyond any doubt, because I saw it reflected back at me from the depths on her soul.

“You amaze me, Rose.” I brought my lips to hers and coaxed her back onto the pillows. For hours I worshiped her, determined to leave no part of her unexplored. My…expedition taught me Rose squealed like a child when I’d nibble her knee as my hand held her ankle securely against my shoulder; she couldn’t escape me. Yet she went wild when my lips grazed along her hip bone. She’d arch her hips off of the bed, eager to be closer to their firm insistence, moving herself closer to my mouth, begging for me to taste her.

My hand moved between her legs, two fingers carefully dipped into her while my thumb slid upward to her peak. I started with controlled rhythmic movements, increasing in speed as her breathing did and watched her in fascination. Her skin was dewy in her desire, her cheeks flushed with florid heat and her lips glistening and seeking mine. She was…glorious. I remembered being awestruck by her beauty when I first met her. As I watched her head toss and heard her moaning my name as I brought her to the brink of blissful oblivion, I was awestruck again by the chance this beautiful, fascinating creature would let me hang around her indefinitely.

You’re the luckiest son-of-a-bitch in the universe, Cullen.

She was frantic now; her groans evolved into cries and her hips lifted off the bed to meet my hand. I started to shift my position to pull a condom out of the nightstand drawer, but Rose pushed me back down and threw a leg over me, straddling me. She leaned over me and reached for the drawer. The position made her breasts brush against my face and I took one in each hand. Lifting my head, I wrapped my lips around one hardened nipple, suckling and nibbling as I greedily palmed the other, making it clear I was fucking ready for her.

She tore open the little envelope marked “Devil Skin” and slid it on me effortlessly. I smiled, remembering the first time and how much she’d blossomed sexually since then. That’s why I wasn’t shocked in the least when she grasped me at my base, and guided me, a smile of wicked indulgence dancing across her glowing face. She took me in fully, resting her weight on me as she sat and paused for a moment, letting us both revel in that moment of perfection. She leaned forward and our eyes locked again, and that’s when I saw it. In the devoted blue depths of her eyes, it was there glowing like a lighthouse to always lead me safely home to her.

She loves me.

It was enough to make me come. She sat up again and started to move, setting a quick, deep pace. I brought my hands to her hips, pulling her down deeper as I brought my hips up to meet her. Her head fell backward making her breasts jut out, refusing to be ignored. My hands traveled up and cupped them, rolling her nipples between my thumb and finger. I slid one hand down between her legs again in search of the place I knew would finish her. My thumb had no trouble and as I started rub and stroke, her cries became loud and more desperate. She was almost there and so was I. Her pace quickened and I had no trouble matching it as I met her again and again. Her pitch grew higher and my finger moved faster and we were there together, in that moment of loving perfection when we fell off the brink, together. She fell forward on me and we melted into each other for a few minutes, taking the time to appreciate that moment and savor it. Soon, she reluctantly pulled herself off of me and rolled over. I rolled toward her and gave her a soft kiss before getting up and heading to the john.

When I came out of the bathroom, I went to my suit jacket to pull out my smokes and lit one. As I tucked my pack of Lucky’s and Zippo back into my pocket, I pulled out the tiny black leather box. My eyes flitted to Rose, who was under the satin sheet, sitting propped up by all those pillows and watching me closely. I took a drag of my Lucky and looked down at the possible future in my hand once more.

Stop being a pussy.

I exhaled with a whoosh. “Catch, Rose” I said and tossed the box gently to her. She caught it with an easy grace and examined it for a few seconds. The smile that spread across her face could have arguably rivaled the birth of our Sun for brilliance. Her eyes flew to mine.

“Whaddya say, baby doll?” I asked, grinning like an idiot.

RPOV

Edward returned after a quick trip to the bathroom and lit the traditional after sex Lucky. He stood next to the bed, thoughtful expression on his face before gently lobbing a small leather box in my direction. My breath hitched for a moment while my mind raced at what it might contain. I caught the box with one hand and flicked the lid open, my heart pounding and threatening to jump from my chest when I looked down.

It wasn’t him on bended knee in front of family and friends. At one time in my life, I had dreams of how this event would come to pass. That was before the past year, before everything had happened. He wasn’t able to ask my father’s permission but it was my father who had brought us together, in a manner of thinking, and the thought alone made me smile and my eyes shine with happy tears.

A beautiful diamond ring twinkled up at me and from its look alone, I knew it was one that had been in his family for years. It wasn’t shiny and new, it wasn’t what convention would dictate someone leading my life would have.

I wanted it just the same. I loved it because I loved the man its promise was attached to.

My eyes jumped from the ring to him, standing there beside the bed with an easy grin on his face.

“Whaddya say, baby doll?”

I decided to tease him, as it was our way. I rose to my knees and shuffled to the edge of the bed, close to where he stood, the box in my hand. Coyly, I looked down at the ring in the box and then back up at him. “‘Whaddya say?’ Really, Edward. That’s anything but a conventional way to ask for my hand in marriage.”

He set the cigarette he’d been smoking down in the crystal ashtray on my nightstand and it’s a good thing he did. Once I began moving toward him, I couldn’t stop; I managed to place the box down on the bed before throwing myself at him, our bodies colliding as he caught me. My arms twisted behind him, holding my chest flush against his, both hands spread widely across his back as my legs wrapped around his hips. He stood holding me and I breathed out, a fast and hot exhale. His words danced in my hair and surrounded my head. “I don’t want just your hand. I want all of you. Besides, we are anything but conventional.”

Our relationship swirled in my head, from our first meeting at Lou’s restaurant, to the gala and the night that we spent in this very room, my cosmetics strewn across the floor for the first (but not last) time. Our times together at his apartment or when I was able to help him on the “easy” cases, as he called them. Spending days in the beating summer sun and returning to the house to the staff who stopped being staff long ago and became family. No, we weren’t conventional, but that’s what made us good.

Considering Edward’s assertion that we were unconventional, I had to agree with him. “But we work.” My grin was just as wide and ridiculous as his. This wasn’t expected but none of it was when I was with him. He kept me on my toes and never let me get complacent. He was everything I always wanted and needed.

The grin had never left his face but it widened as I leaned over, reaching for his cigarette to take a quick drag. It was a show of our give and take, our letting each other pick up dirty habits while bettering one another, each step of the way. He tilted his head back and his eyes roamed my face. “So… you wanna?”

Throwing my arms around his neck once more, I kissed him long and hard. “Yes!”

The end