"I love you."

Simple words but they hold so much when I rasp them out, and she gifts me another of those sad but real smiles.

"I know. Never doubted that. And won't start now, either."

We remain staring into each other's eyes for a long time, so close, and not just in a physical sense. I know that she is waiting for me to say something, but it's hard enough to think as it is. When I finally break the silence, the only thing that leaves my lips is, "I don't know."

Bella is silent for a moment, then lets one of her hands slide down to stroke my cheek softly.

"Don't know what?"

"What I want to do now. If I still feel anything for him. If I even want to."

She blinks for a moment, taking in my words, and I can tell that they surprise her a little.

"You don't know or you don't want to know?"

The doubt in her voice makes me laugh, but it's a dry, pained sound.

"I'm not just another idiot in a long line who's been living in denial. I really can't say. It would be so much easier if it were just that, then I could just stop trying not to

whatever it is I do. Like him, need him, want him."

A light frown appears between her brows, and for a moment I get lost in studying the elegant curve of her mouth.

"But there was a time that wasn't so?"

My pained inhale is all the answer she needs, but true to her previous words, she doesn't seem horrified or even put off.

"But you got over him?" she presumes.

"Kind of."

"That's not a no."

"But also not a yes."

We keep looking at each other then, and after a while it all just gets too heavy for me.

"Do you mind if I just hold you?"

"Of course not," she whispers, then brushes another kiss over my lips before she turns around, ready to be tugged into my embrace. I mold my body against hers, with her head pillowed on one of my arms, while I snake the other over her abdomen. We stay like that for a while, our fingers entwined over her stomach, both of us lost in thought.

I have no idea how much time has passed – it feels like hours, but has probably only been minutes – when I hear her clear her throat.

"You know, I really miss what we had. And I'm not even talking about the mind-blowing sex. Just

us. Like after that first threesome, when we were

all lying in a heap of limbs on the couch with two boxes of pizza and a movie playing, and life was just so uncomplicated. I want that back."

Her words make me yearn for just that, but I know that we can never go back to that. Too much has happened. When I tell her that, she's silent for a moment.

"Why?"

"Why what?"

"Why can't we go back to that?"

"Uhm, because of the whole shit that went down?"

"That's maybe a reason to make it harder to get there again, but it didn't just turn our lives into a one-way road."

I'm stunned for a moment, and Bella uses that to turn over slightly until she can look back at my face.

"We're living in a relationship where expressing our love for each other comes with things like you letting a scary woman cane the soles of my feet.

We already make the rules for our world – there's nothing impossible there if we just want to make it happen. Stress on if we want."

"I feel like we're going in circles."

"Not really," she snorts, then get serious again. "The real question right now isn't what was, or what is, but what we want it to be. Do you want Jazz to be with us again? I'm not talking about you falling head over heels madly in love with him. No solution that will work as it is until the end of our days.

But right now, do you still want him? Or do you want him to be gone from our bed and house forever?"

I mull that over in my head for a while.

"No."

"No as in you don't want him anymore?"

"No, I don't want him gone."

We keep looking deeply into each other's eyes for several moments longer, before I slowly extricate myself from her, then draw her to her feet with me.

Never losing eye contact I kiss her one last time before I take her hand in mine and gently tug her towards the door.

"Come on, I think we already lost enough time in the last six months."

Chapter 26

My resolve falters when I reach the top of the stairs leading down into the living room. It's only a moment, barely long enough for Bella to walk by me so she ends up being the one to tug me after her and not the other way round, but in those seconds panic grips me hard. Suddenly I don't know what to do because everything seems like the perfect recipe for disaster, and I just want to go back and hide in the bedroom untill-

But this is where my thoughts grind to a halt and I'm able to calm myself again. I've been hiding and waiting for months, and a quick glance at the set of Bella's jaw tells me that she thinks now is the best time to stop doing that and move on.

Moments later we reach the room below and Bella lets go of my hand, but only after caressing my forearm lovingly.

"I'll go make some more coffee," she murmurs softly, then leaves me standing there on my own.

Looking over from her to where Jazz is sitting on the couch, I have to fight a new wave of apprehension, but one of a wholly different kind than before.

The way his shoulders tense I can tell that he's aware of our presence, but he doesn't yet look up from where he's slumped, his face buried in his hands. I try to remember if I've ever seen him that down, but come up blank. Not even after Alice has kicked him out has he seemed so lost.

I hate seeing him like that, even more so because I'm part of the problem.

And with that realization comes another – I'm so sick of feeling like shit all the time, with everything being plagued with issues and every situation about as awkward as it can get.

Using my newfound resolve to change that, I sit down on the sofa on the far side from Jazz. He doesn't move for a while, but then I hear him sigh softly as if he's gathering his strength. When he finally straightens and looks at me he's still weary, but I can see in his eyes that he's trying to steel himself for what's to come. Guess I can't hold that against him.

"If you want me to go, just say so, I'll spare you the bother of having to kick me out."

"No one's going to kick you out," I reply, surprised at how steady my voice sounds when inside I'm still feeling like I'm totally blindsided.

Jazz looks surprised for a moment, then accepts my words with a nod, and we both keep staring at each other until Bella joins us with the coffee.

"Gee, tone it down a notch, both of you, you're making my skin crawl with all that heavy, meaningful silence," she jokes, then sits down. Just not between us where there's the most space on the sofa, but on my left, squeezing herself between me and the armrest at the end of the seat. To make room for her I have to move towards Jazz, and I pointedly glance at her less than subtle hint, which she of course ignores.

The silence continues to stretch in all its awkwardness while we're busy caffeinating ourselves. And it just keeps getting worse by the minute, until finally I've reached a point where I just can't let it drag on anymore.Straightening, I lean back, not quite incidentally snaking my arm around Bella to keep close to her. She smiles a little at that but doesn't comment, nor does she lean into me, either.Turning back to where Jazz is studying us, I try to come up with something worthwhile to say, but as my mind is still sluggish, I decide to stick with being blunt. So far that has served us all well today."I'm so sick of all this shit." Jazz frowns at my words but holds his tongue, and with a loud exhale I force myself to go on. "I'm sick of feeling like a dumb fuck, and I'm sick of everything being so difficult and awkward. We've all made mistakes, and we'll have to deal with this mess eventually, but something has to change, now."I can feel Bella's silent approval from my side, but Jazz still looks doubtful.No wonder, considering that both he and Bella did a lot of talking, in the bathroom and afterwards respectively, while I've mostly kept my thoughts to myself.Looking down at my hands for a moment, I force myself to take the next step."I had thought that I was done with you, but listening to you and Bella today has made me realize that I still want you. Not in a mushy, 'oh I've been so heartbroken over losing you' kind of way, but simple, primal need. I want to fuck you, no more, no less."A hint of a grin starts showing on Jasper's face, but I go on before he can get his hopes up."But that doesn't mean I'm over what you did, or that either of us has forgiven you. It just means that we're willing to give you a chance." I deliberately stress that I'm talking for both Bella and myself, and when I stop there she picks up the thread effortlessly after squeezing my thigh."And by chance we mean one chance. Don't fuck up or I will personally kick you out for good."The underlying rage in her voice is scary, and it has a satisfyingly sobering effect on Jazz."I won't mess up, I promise," Jazz tries to interject, but Bella isn't done yet, and a look from her is enough to make him shut up at once."We'll see about that. I just need you to fully understand what I mean.Edward and I have moved forward a lot since our last threesome, both as a couple and in the playroom. As much as I'm happy to have you back with us, I won't let you come between us. I'm sure Edward will enjoy teaching you a thing or two if you want that and letting you be his sidekick, but I could never see you as my Dom. I also don't need you to be my knight in shining armor, because this damsel here really loves being in distress. If something freaks you out I expect you to just go and leave us to what we want to do, and later we can talk about it. But you can't intervene on my behalf, so to say, because I really don't want you to, and the last thing I need is Edward second-guessing himself just because what I need him to do makes you uncomfortable. Get that?""Loud and clear. And don't worry, I won't even try."Her snort is derisive, but she leaves it at that, obviously happy to have that conversation for another time. Jazz looks sincere enough that I don't think this matter needs any more stressing, but I'm relieved that Bella has been the one to tackle it - however he might really be feeling about it, hearing it from her will leave more of an impression than if I had said it."Good, now that that's settled I guess we can move on, right?"They both look a little surprised at my forced happy tone, but I don't dwell on that."Of course we can spend weeks now, or even months, to slowly re-establish our friendship and take baby steps to see just where this will lead to, but somehow I get the impression that none of us would really be happy with that. Let's face it, you want to fuck me, I want to fuck you, and Bella's a step away from happy feet at the thought of being the filling in that sandwich, so why wait?"Jazz nearly chokes on his last sip of coffee at my words, then turns a partly lopsided grin at me."You don't really believe in beating around the bush anymore, I take it.""Nope. Every time I tried to be subtle about something instead of stating blunt facts it ended in a mess. I'm done with that. Got any problems with that?""None, whatsoever.""Great, are we done with this yet? Because I really need to get laid, now that the number of available cocks has doubled for me."Jazz looks from Bella to me, then back to her and chuckles."You don't do subtle anymore, either, I see?"She laughs, then gets up in one lithe motion as she shakes her head."Subtlety is so overrated, if you ask me."Leaning down she plants a single, gentle kiss onto my lips, murmuring a soft, "Don't be a stranger," before she walks over to Jazz. The fact that she has to squeeze herself between the coffee table and me doesn't hamper the near predatory grace of her movements, her eyes never leaving Jasper's, not even when she straddles him and crosses her arms loosely behind his neck. Although her tits are right in front of him he keeps gazing into her face, as if he's still searching for something there.I half expect her to play coy and bite her lip, or add another remark that will dampen the intensity and turn it into something more comfortable, but she doesn't. Instead she makes him tilt his face up more by bringing her own close to his, then kisses him, slowly but passionately. He hesitates for a moment, then joins in, his hands kneading her hips just where her tank top has ridden up, revealing a sliver of warm, smooth flesh.I also expect some of the residual jealousy that has been riding shotgun throughout our last threesome to rear its ugly head, but watching them just makes me unbearably horny.Bella breaks off the kiss by leaning back enough to grin at Jazz, her fingers idly playing with his hair."Does that feel weird to you?"He shrugs, still focused on her, the motion letting him push up her top a couple of inches more."A little, as usual."Not the reply she's been waiting for, but she laughs it off easily enough."But is that a problem for you?""I'd say that's part of the appeal," he answers, then shifts his grip so that his hands steady her back as he leans forward in turn, licking along her clavicle and up the side of her throat. Bella laughs breathily as she turns her head to give him better access, the motion also making her look over at me. The lust darkening her eyes makes my cock respond instinctively, but she still seems to feel the need to encourage me."Why don't you come a little closer? It's creepy when you just sit there and stare at us."She even adds a pout, as if I don't know that she's teasing me, but instead of following her lead I remain where I am."Maybe because you two are so hot together that I just want to watch you for a while?"My reply makes her laugh, the sound turning into a squeak when Jazz grabs her ass and pulls her closer, burying his face in her still covered tits.He joins in her laughter then until she attacks his neck, causing him to squeeze her ass harder while she grinds her hips against his. His head lolls to the side then and now it's him looking over at me, once he opens his eyes again. The intensity in his gaze draws me in, and I already feel myself getting up when he agrees with Bella's previous assessment, offering a snorted, "Yeah, creepy."I don't really know what exactly I should do then, so I just sit down closer to them, and again Bella takes the lead. Sliding down from Jazz's lap and turning around, she ends up wedged between us, and while he's busy kissing her neck again, she turns her face to me. Never one to pass up such an invitation I press my lips against hers, my tongue deep in her mouth until I make her moan against me. Sliding my hand up her side I grab her right tit and squeeze it, then let my fingers find her nipple to rub it gently. She arches her torso into my grasp and moans again, this time clearly encouragingly, so I do the same with her other breast.Bella's hand soon finds her way into my sweat pants, eagerly grabbing my already hardening cock, but then she turns her head away, breaking our kiss, to glare at Jazz."Your jeans are a problem. Off!"He grins at her but doesn't make a move to obey her command, although the bulge in his pants shows that he's obviously not opposed to her hand rubbing over the denim as it is. Instead he reaches up and grabs her head to kiss her roughly, causing an indignant squeal from her that doesn't really sound like protest. I use the opportunity to bite down on the exposed side of her neck, adding to her distress. I've nearly forgotten just how much fun teasing her like that has always been, and the way she keeps stroking my cock she doesn't seem to mind herself.When he lets go of her hair again Jazz accidentally brushes against my right arm, and for a moment my skin where he has touched me seems to tingle. I can't even rationally explain why, with most of Bella's body mashed against mine that little bit of additional contact shouldn't matter, but it does, and judging from the cautious look on his face I'm not the only one feeling it. I wonder if I should touch him in turn, but it seems as if I'm not yet quite there yet. Bella doesn't miss us both freezing for a few seconds, but her incessant squirming against us quickly diverts our attention back to her."I don't know about you, but I'm wearing too much. Anyone in a mind to change that?"Jazz hesitates a little so I take up the challenge and draw her closer to me so that her back is pressed against my chest. I mash my lips against hers hungrily, then slide my hands underneath her already hitched up tank top.She's only wearing that and her yoga pants so I take my time, instead of undressing her I resume teasing her nipples. They are obviously still more sensitive from getting pierced not long ago, but as far as I can tell that's more of an advantage than a hindrance.Jazz shifts so that he's crouching on the sofa now, then moves closer so that he can run his fingers over the exposed skin at her hips and slide them into her waistband. When he incidentally touches my thigh this time it doesn't make me pause again, nor when he not so incidentally strokes my left forearm before he pulls her tank top off over her head.I shift my grip on her tits then so that I'm cupping them from underneath as I push them up and together, in a way offering them to him. Of course he looks at them – what guy wouldn't? - and it's funny to watch his eyes widen as he becomes aware of the recent changes neither of us has yet felt the need to inform him of. Leaning further back against me Bella chuckles, then strokes her nipples invitingly."You like?""Oh, me like a lot," Jazz replies, his eyes still glued to her breasts. Then they snap up to my face, a hint of a frown on his. "Your idea?"I don't know if I should be offended or amused at the assumption, but decide to let it go."Nope, all her idea.""All?""All," I confirm with a smirk, then continue to ravage Bella's mouth while my fingers keep digging into her tits. Jazz eventually overcomes his shock and picks up where he has left off before by dragging Bella's pants down her legs. Tease that she is she keeps her knees together so that he doesn't get a better idea of what said 'all' entails, but once she's naked herself she starts working on the fly of his jeans, unhindered by my hands still kneading her breasts.It takes a little shuffling and tugging to get Jazz out of his jeans, and I can tell from the way Bella keeps fumbling that she wants me to help. I'm more reluctant to let go of her tits than touch him, which makes me pause once again, but I'm not one to dwell on things like that for long. We end up kneeling on the couch with Bella perching on the edge of the coffee table, and I can't really bring myself to look away when Jazz catches my gaze.Following a spur of the moment impulse I grab his head and kiss him, telling myself that I should quit stalling after my dramatic speech from before. The taste, scent, feel of him invading my senses is still so familiar, yet oddly strange at the same time.