My heartfelt thanks go to my wonderful beta V, and chrissy1201 and prassacut for being the best friends any writer could ask for!
I'm sorry it took me almost two months to update, but life has been complicated and difficult for me, and all that even without the stress of the looming exams come February. I'm trying hard to update at least once a month, preferably every two weeks from now on. Thank you for hanging in with me! Your support really means the world to me!
Those of you who have been reading my stories before TEMC know that I'm a very sex-positive person; I'm trying hard to send a message of tolerance with my writing. Please think twice before you make prejudiced comments about anyone based on their sexual preferences. You might insult more people than you've intended to.
Last but not least, AGoT got a banner by the wonderful and very talented catonspeed! You can find it on my facebook page, or the blog!
After spending the last two entire days with almost no sleep, I should have been ready to crawl into my bed and drop into a coma before my head even hit the pillow, but my bed – where I had sex with Edward twice in the last week – was about the last place I wanted to be right now. I briefly considered calling Tanya to have her burn my bedding, but then I considered that I would need to find replacements fast, because being on a bare mattress while sleeping away the hangover I wanted to soon conjure up didn't sound very appealing. But getting drunk was the best idea I had in years. Way better than taking that stupid class or hooking up with a guy who took 'no strings attached' and 'non-exclusive' to a whole new level.
When I checked the liquidity of my funds, which was somewhere between meager and non-existent, I briefly considered just buying a bottle of something that would kill my higher brain functions fast, and getting drunk in the park, but the last thing I needed right now was to wake up with something worse than the hangover I yearned for, so I quickly discarded that idea. Instead, I walked the few blocks off-campus to one of the bars Tanya had scouted out months ago, and found myself a cozy seat at the end of the bar.
The bartender was a woman in her forties, and like so many of her profession, she seemed oddly aware of my state of emotional turmoil as she got the vodka bottle to pour my shot.
"Hard week, sweetie?"
Considering I was easily young enough to be her daughter, and she didn't card me although I knew she could have, I felt like I could forgive her the appellation, and gratefully gulped down the first glass she pushed in my direction.
"You could say that."
"Wanna talk about it?"
That made me blink. She couldn't get paid enough to do this job and seriously want to listen to strangers whine all evening long.
"Do you want to know?"
She shrugged, then offered me a small smile.
"If it keeps you drinking, sure, why not?"
Now that was a concept I could grasp.
"Today I walked in on the guy I had sex with twice last week getting fucked by the guy I refused to have sex with two days ago. Quite frankly, I feel like a fool."
She snorted, but it was a good-natured sound.
"Here, this one's on me. Forget them. Better now than ten minutes into your marriage, right?"
I hated it when people disrupted my wallowing by making sense, but as it came with free booze, I didn't protest, and instead nodded gratefully at her.
"True. But today nothing worse exists in the world. Oh, the joys of being young!"
That made her laugh, and once I had downed the second shot she gave me another refill, but put the bottle away afterward.
"No guy is worth drinking yourself out of this week's food budget, girl. Unless you find someone willing to buy you the next drink, you'll have to make do with that one."
I blinked, momentarily angry at her reasoning.
"Who says all college kids have to be poor as church mice?"
"The privileged ones don't order the cheap stuff," she confided with a wink, then left me to brood on my own. I still didn't know what to make of her words when the guy next to me saw that as an opportunity to make a pass at me, but as I wasn't that desperate to get drunk, I shot him down with a single scathing glare. At least that still worked, even though my womanly wiles seemed to be tuned for 'sleaze-bag' of late.
That conviction only got underlined when he moved once he got the message, only to make room for a guy I didn't want to see anymore, yet knew somewhat better. For a second I let myself hope that it might be coincidence, but why else, except to track me down, should Edward have wandered into this very establishment?
I tried to ignore him, but that was almost impossible when he leaned toward me, almost invading my personal space.
He sighed, and I felt my ire rise when it sounded less depressed and more exasperated than I thought appropriate.
"Bella, please, just listen to me, okay?"
When staring straight ahead didn't work to make him go away, I turned to him, but my glare seemed to have lost its strength between the other guy and him.
"Why should I? There's nothing to explain." The anger and feeling of rejection rising in me was turning my voice brittle, but I swallowed both down so I could add, "You also don't owe me an explanation."
"I know, but I want to explain nevertheless."
He didn't even seem to be affected by the cold shoulder I was trying to show him, and that made my anger boil hotter again. Narrowing my eyes, I fixed him with what I hoped was a stronger glare now.
"Maybe I don't want to hear your bullshit explanation. Have you considered that? Probably not, insensitive asshole that you are!"
"Insensitive?" he bristled, his green eyes lighting up with anger of his own now. "Why am I insensitive? You and I had sex – that's it. Your own words, if I may remind you. I owe you nothing – no loyalty or anything. I can screw who I want, when I want, and where I want."
Apparently, lack of sleep and not enough booze to get me drunk didn't really further my eloquence. We stared at each other, both fuming, and a tiny part of me even cheered that it would be awesome if now he just kissed me with that same passion, and we ended up fucking in the dark alley behind the pub, but thankfully it was very easy to ignore that voice.
Edward actually had the gall to laugh, which only added to my frustration.
"That's the worst you can come up with? I'm starting to feel like you're not even trying."
"And why should I? You're just some stupid loser who thinks he's something special because his pervert of a professor fucked him on his desk. Good riddance, if you ask me."
He didn't even take me seriously, and just kept on grinning.
"Yeah, the fact that you didn't even look at me once during the entire time of class, and the way you ran off afterward, clearly speak of your indifference. And what do you even know about my motives? Your high horse isn't really that different than mine. You were just too chickenshit to do what gave me no qualms."
It was obvious that I wouldn't win this argument, and right then I wasn't really up to fighting a losing battle. Slapping down some money on the bar, I slid off my stool, then started to walk out on Edward. The effect of that was seriously ruined when he didn't hesitate to follow me.
"Leave me alone!"
"Only after you've heard what I have to say," he quipped as he caught up to me outside, his longer legs easily falling in stride next to me.
"Why should I even listen? As far as I'm concerned, I'm through with you."
That made him stop, and I was starting to hope that he would just let me walk off, but things didn't get any better when he called after me instead.
"Are you really such an insecure little girl? If that's the case, I'm sorry I ever stuck my dick in you!"
I hated myself for being unable to let that go, just as much as I hated the triumphant grin that appeared on his face when I also halted and turned to face him.
"I'm not insecure, and don't you dare call me a little girl when you're the one acting immature!"
"Me?" He extended his arms to the sides as he slowly started closing the distance between us. "What is immature about my behavior? I didn't run off, three times, just to avoid confrontation. I don't blush until my face resembles a tomato just because I feel rejected. I don't take two adults having sex as rejection, when it clearly has nothing to do with me."
I'm normally not a fan of violence, but his words made me want to hit him so badly that my entire body seemed to vibrate from the tension. I could tell that he knew that, and I probably would have followed that instinct, if he hadn't switched tactics then. Instead of continuing to gloat, Edward forced his grin to disappear, and he looked sad instead.
"Because, really, it has nothing to do with you. Or not in the way of excluding you. I didn't cheat on you, nor did I use you to make sure once and for all that I'm gay – and I think you know that. What happens between Carlisle and me doesn't influence what is going on between you and me."
"Now you're on a first name basis, huh?"
"It would be weird to have sex with someone and not call them by their given name."
"Whatever. And nothing you've said so far makes any difference to me."
He grumbled something unintelligible under his breath, then crossed his arms over his chest.
"Straight facts then, okay?"
"And 'straight' being the important word about that, eh?"
I think he was a step away from rolling his eyes at me, but didn't, and instead took another deep breath.
"Carlisle approached me with the same offer he approached you with. Unlike you, I didn't throw an indignant hissy fit, but saw the opportunity for what it is – an opportunity for something that I will never consider once I'm out of college and start building a career and family. Right now, I don't have any obligations to anyone; I'm free to do what I want. What's so bad about that?"
"What's bad is the fact that you're banging your teacher! You could end up ruining your entire life over your inability to keep your dick where it belongs! Or your ass cheeks firmly pressed together. Or whatever! How can you be so reckless and stupid?"
Although he clearly fought it, a smile reappeared on his face during my ramble, but he did his best to remain serious.
"Why should it all get out? It's not like anyone has to know."
"How can it not get out when random people like me walk in on you?"
Surprise flitted over his face at that.
"You do realize that he set you up, right? There was nothing random about you walking in on us."
"You were part of that? Asshole!"
"No, I wasn't," he tried to deflect my anger. "But in hindsight it's obvious. You're exactly the kind who shows up, well prepared, and wants to set things up ahead of time. You had to come by his office just then. I didn't think of it, but I probably should have. Why else would he have called me there today?"
"And you support that 'plan'?" I added the air quotes with my fingers. Edward just shrugged.
"Actions speak louder than words sometimes, right?"
The longer this went on, the worse I started to feel, and I really didn't need to be told just how stupid and ignorant I had been during the last weeks, so I started walking again. Edward, of course, followed me.
"Don't you even want to know what this is about?" he asked when it became apparent that I was determined to keep my trap shut for now. I shook my head, but that didn't deter him. "It wasn't coincidence that he singled you out, you know? Besides the fact that you're really one of a kind, he did it at my suggestion."
"And just how should that make me feel better?" I bristled. The fact that part of me wanted to, just increased my self-loathing.
"Who said it's supposed to? After I agreed to be part of his experiment he asked me who I thought would be best suited to join us, and you were the first, and only, one I thought of."
"Oh? And what makes me so special?" I huffed, trying to speed up a little, but he had no trouble catching up.
"That you're an exceptionally intelligent woman with a wicked sense of humor, who is not afraid to question norms and discuss things in detail. Most girls your age are just that, girls, but you're much more mature than them. Except for when you're trying to run away from things that make you uncomfortable because of your ignorance, that is."
"Continuing to insult me will not make me change my mind, just so you know."
"But it will make you think, and hopefully see reason eventually."
I hated that he was right, but at that moment I felt completely justified to keep acting like a five-year-old girl, even though I hated it.
"Doesn't look like there's anything there to consider, much less anything reasonable."
He stopped again, and this time he didn't follow when I kept walking. Leaving him standing there in the middle of the sidewalk should have felt liberating, but it didn't. I just felt lonely, pathetic, and terribly naïve.
Once I reached the campus, I avoided the shortest way to my dorm as it would have led by the coffee shop. Tanya was still out and about, although the candle she had stuck in the last remaining muffin made me smile slightly. Not feeling like celebrating a victory that wasn't one, I put the muffin in the fridge, then changed into an old t-shirt and shorts and crawled into my bed.
I fell asleep surprisingly fast, physical exhaustion winning over mental turmoil. By the time my alarm shrilled, it was morning again, and while I didn't really feel rested, my world was just a little less bleak. As usual, Tanya made no move to indicate whether she was awake or not, so I tiptoed to the door, on my way to grab an early morning shower before most of the dorm got the same idea.
I almost slipped on the folded piece of paper that lay on the floor, where it had been slid underneath the door. My brain was still too confused from sleep to wonder much about its origin, so I unfolded it, expecting a party invitation flyer or something like that. Instead, it was a handwritten note. I didn't recognize the scrawl, and it wasn't signed, but the message stood well enough for itself.
If you change your mind, talk to C. You're missing out big if you don't.
Gnashing my teeth, I took the note with me to the showers, where I tore it up and threw it into the trash. Part of me hated Edward for having to be so insistent. The far greater part hated myself for even considering following his advice.
Happy New Year everyone!