A/N: My thanks to Midnight Cougar for her help in making suggestions and adding all of those pesky commas to my words. She’s the best. xx
Song inspiration for this chapter: “All of Me,” John Legend
“Cause all of me
Loves all of you
Love your curves and all your edges
All your perfect imperfections
Give your all to me
I’ll give my all to you
You’re my end and my beginning
Even when I lose I’m winning
‘Cause I give you all of me
And you give me all of you, oh oh”
(Playlist for this story can be found on my YouTube channel, if you search for “ghostreader24”)
Disclaimer: Laura Numeroff and Felicia Bond own the adorable little mouse whose needs inspired this very adult version of their story. Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. I’m here having fun.
After I run out to my car and grab my stuff, I return inside to find Bella curled up on the couch with her glass of wine and a fresh beer sitting on the coffee table. I drop my bag near the stairs and make a beeline for the couch. I can’t wait to have her in my arms again.
“Do you want to watch a movie or something?” she asks, sets her wine glass on the coffee table, and waits while I stretch out on the couch.
“I don’t care. I just want to be with you.” I tuck a pillow behind my head and open my arms. “Come here, I need cuddling after your kitchen antics.”
“Mine? You’re the one who is all—I want you here and now, Bella. You’re getting naked.” She giggles, settling against my chest.
“I don’t think it went down exactly like that, but can you blame me?”
“No. I’m surprised we made it to the kitchen. I was betting on against the front door.”
“Hoping?” I wonder.
“Maybe. I got you another beer.”
“Thank you.” I reach for it, take a quick sip, and return it to the table.
“Are you tired?”
“Yeah, it hasn’t been an easy week.”
“Do you want to talk about it?” Bella asks, looking hopeful.
I close my eyes, enjoying the feel of her hand gliding repeatedly over my chest, and shake my head. “It won’t do anything other than break your heart, and I never want to do that to you.”
“Edward, if I can help shoulder this burden for you, I will.” She moves higher on my body until we’re face-to-face as she pleads, kissing my lips. “Please. Let me be here for you. I can handle it, I promise.”
“Oh, Bella.” I release a heavy sigh and think over what I can share from our past week of emergencies. The most difficult ones are when we lose someone despite all of our best efforts. We always hope for a zero loss week, but unfortunately, this wasn’t one of those. I can’t bear to revisit the automobile accident in the middle of the night from earlier in the week and recall emergencies with better outcomes. I suppose it’s a start. “Are you sure?”
“Okay. Um… we were called to a house fire north of town two days ago. It started in the kitchen and burned so quickly that there wasn’t much we could do to save the structure once we arrived.”
“All was lost?”
I nod. “It started on the stovetop and spread to the cabinets. With the furnishings used in newer homes, flashover is common, igniting everything in the room then spreading to the other rooms and floors rapidly. The entire home became engulfed in flames in less than four minutes—not a lot of time to escape. It takes us about that long to put on our gear and arrive on the scene, depending on the location. Sometimes longer.”
“Did everyone get out?” she asks.
“Yes. The mother has burns, but everyone was treated for smoke inhalation, including the father and three kids. I think the mother tried to put out the fire using water, but with a grease fire that can cause it to spread and end up making it worse.”
“And they lost everything.”
“Did they have relatives they could stay with once they were released from the hospital?”
I nod. “Your dad knows the family and alerted their relatives who met them at the hospital.”
I have so many concerns that constantly fill my head when I’m out on calls and away from Bella that I can’t contain my worries as they spill from my lips.
“When was the last time you replaced the batteries in your smoke detectors?”
“I don’t know. My dad probably does that.”
“When was the last time you tested them?”
“Are you calling me a bad cook?” she asks playfully; on the defensive by the smirk she’s giving me.
“Not at all. I just want you safe, especially with you being here alone now. I’ll check them tomorrow. Do you have a fire extinguisher in the kitchen?”
“I don’t know. Maybe under the sink.”
“We should check that too.”
She agrees with a nod. “Okay. Tell me about your next call.”
I release a sigh, feeling a bit lighter after sharing an abbreviated version of the fire with her, and continue. “We returned to the station not long after the fire and had another call, finding it to be carbon monoxide poisoning—an elderly couple. Their dog started barking and wouldn’t stop. The neighbors called it in, and after Garrett and I entered the home, the sensors attached to our gear went off instantly, indicating high levels.”
“Oh, my goodness.”
“The dog probably saved their lives.”
Bella’s quiet, and I wonder if she’s putting together my line of thinking after sharing this call.
“I should get…” she starts.
But I finish the thought for her. “A carbon monoxide detector and consider a dog too.”
She laughs as if she can read my mind. “I’ll check for one the next time I’m at the hardware store, but I don’t know about a dog. That’s a lot of responsibility.”
“Have you ever had a pet?”
“No, I had a cactus once.”
I chuckle. “Not quite the same.”
I wonder if she would consider adopting a rescue together and keeping it here—at least then she wouldn’t be alone. I want to bring up the idea of us living together, but worry she will think it’s too soon.
The sound of the oven beeping interrupts our conversation and Bella hops to her feet. “Hold that thought. I’ll be right back.”
I close my eyes briefly and wait while she removes our dinner from the oven. When she returns, my eyes pop open, and she’s grinning from ear-to-ear, settling back to where her head was tucked under my chin and laying against my chest.
“Your pizza looks fantastic, but it needs to cool. Now, where were we?”
I nod. “Have you thought about getting a roommate?”
“Is this still about me getting a dog?”
Us. I want to correct her, but I’m willing to table the idea of getting a pet in favor of another plan. I’m concerned she may not be ready, but she needs to know all of her options, and it won’t hurt planting seeds of possibilities. While there’s no rush, I’m eager to start planning the future with her.
“Yes and no. What if we did this—” I wave my free hand between us and around the room. “—all the time and your roommate was… me?”
“You want to move in together?”
“It would make it a lot easier to see each other with our schedules.”
“Where would we live?”
I can’t contain my smile when she doesn’t object to the idea immediately, but focuses on the where.
“My lease will be up in three months. So, we could renew and you could move in with me there, but pets aren’t allowed. It’s kind of small since it’s only a one bedroom, one bath when you’re used to more space here.”
She snorts. “I’ve lived in the tiniest of studio apartments that by comparison, your place would be considered spacious.”
“We could try to work out something with your father and pay rent while living here if you don’t want to leave.”
She shrugs. “This place is okay, but I don’t know. I’m not necessarily attached and I know Dad wants to put it on the market this spring.”
“If it were possible, would you want to buy it? I mean, it’s probably more than I can afford, but I do have some savings we could use.”
“I don’t know. At this point, I can’t imagine buying a place. I’m going to be out of a job in another month, and I have my student loan payments, plus the insurance on my truck.” She shakes her head. “I have no idea how much I’ll be able to contribute toward rent or buying a house.”
“We know I can cover our rent while you’re searching for a job.”
“But that’s not fair. I should pay at least half,” she protests.
“It would be cheaper if we were to share expenses. Maybe you can’t afford half right now, but once you have another job, you will.”
“I suppose that’s true.”
“So, you’re not against us moving in together? I mean, not that either of us have a lot of stuff, but it’s more than only a drawer type of commitment.”
Her smile is back firmly in place. “You want to upgrade, huh?”
“Yes, if it means I get to come home to you after every shift.”
“I’m not opposed to moving to your place. After all, it comes with free porn.”
“If Jane ever lands a sugar daddy and moves out, you’re going to be disappointed.”
“True, but maybe we can compare notes until then. I mean, the woman has some mad skills, I heard them before you woke up the last time I was there. I’m surprised that guy didn’t have a stroke with the way he was moaning.”
“I’m glad I missed that, but you know I prefer your methods for waking me.”
“I know you’re quite fond of Bella Swan—Fire Hose Inspector, Extraordinaire. Yours aren’t bad either, which reminds me—your surprise, and I bet the pizza is cool enough to eat. I’ll be right back.”
Bella disappears into the kitchen, and I can hear her digging through a drawer, probably looking for the pizza cutter. She returns with a plate full of pizza slices on top of a clear container, and I know exactly what’s inside.
After she sets the plate on the table, she offers me the container full of my favorite chocolate chip and M&M cookies, only the M&Ms are special Valentine’s Day colors of white, pink, and red.
“Edward, will you be my Valentine?”
If she hasn’t figured it out by now, I plan to be her everything: boyfriend, lover, Valentine, and hopefully in the near future, roommate.
If you give a postal worker a love note, she’ll wonder about the identity of the author when it’s delivered by an unintended mail carrier.
After a visit from a sexy firefighter, the mystery surrounding the note will add to her curiosity, but it won’t be solved any time soon, when she has no choice and accepts another job far from home.
Her secret admirer will hold on to hope for their paths to cross again, and when they do, he will find that being near her again is better than he ever anticipated.
Visiting her during his breaks and getting to know each other will be the best parts of their days, until one day she unknowingly makes his favorite childhood cookies, giving him the sign he needs to move forward.
She’ll hold back nothing as she tempts and teases him when they’re alone, testing his resolve, until a few adorable photos of him with a friend’s new baby causes an unexpected shift in her world.
As they grow closer, they’ll understand that the intimacy between lovers isn’t only about a physical connection, but the everyday interactions through the simplest moments and sharing of new experiences.
Through private conversations, their relationship deepens with the reveal of a variety of secrets, and with a new confidence, the truth of their adoration for one another is undeniable.
After another wonderful evening together filled with fun and flirting, she’ll realize that she’s never been loved like this before, and for as much as he wants to be everything she needs, she wants to be that for him too.
With constant reminders that every day together is precious, she’ll consider their future options…