Abbracciare Il Cantante by Bratty Vamp COMPLETE | Breathing

Fanfiction based on Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight Series Warning: Rated MA for Mature Adult.

Abbracciare Il Cantante
By BrattyVamp

Summary: What if Edward left Forks after his first encounter with Bella, and he never returned? Fate couldn't keep these two apart. But meeting at a later time and place might have changed the nature of their relationship.

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1. Chapter 1

I sat with my fingers drumming on the small desktop in front of me. I didn't need the movement. But the humans around me did. They tended to be more relaxed and at ease in the presence of beings that could at least imitate their perpetual motion and constant state of aggravation. If my fidgeting could help them be more at ease while sharing a learning space with a one hundred and eight year old vampire... then I could make myself move from time to time. Besides not making meals of the people in my vicinity... it was the least I could do. Not that they were in any danger. I had given up drinking human blood more than eighty years ago. Now, I just tried to fit in to their world. For this reason specifically, I tapped out a light rhythm on my desk and allowed my eyes to shift around the room as if I were actually interested in any of its inhabitants. If I hadn't been looking around the room, my eyes might not have skimmed across the woman who had just entered. But they did. And on reflex, I did a quick second glance. I wondered if the sight of thick, chestnut hair would ever stop catching my eye. Her hair obscured her face, as her head was turned away from me. She was apparently listening to the girl beside her. The blonde was chattering about a date she had the night before. It was completely uninteresting. I wished I could control the irrational awareness my body always felt when someone like this brunette crossed my path. It was annoying. Her physical description was entirely too common. Brown hair... brown eyes... medium height. At least twice a day my attention would be captured by similarities. The other one was thousands of miles away. And the hair on this one... too long. Her figure... more rounded. Not the same. And yet, when she raised her hand to push her hair behind her ear, I got a glimpse of the same creamy, translucent skin on her wrist. I focused, and could make out the heartbeat pushing her blood through those light veins that were made visible to me above the band of her watch. My body tensed. I gripped the edge of my desk and leaned forward. Something else was different... I couldn't immediately place what had me so uneasy. She sat no less than fifteen rows in front of me, in the farthest section from my own. Her head was still angled as she listened to the girl beside her. I had yet to see her face. He actually told me that I remind him of Britney Spears. I couldn't tell if that was a compliment or not! I mean- was he saying I was pretty? Or crazy? Or both....

The blonde was still rattling on and on about her date. It was a boring story at best. I couldn't believe that I was actually listening in. I snorted in derision. Then, to my surprise, the girl with the chestnut hair snorted too. I smiled at the soft sound that was clear to my ears even at this distance, and I wondered at the reason behind it. Did she find a part of the story amusing? Or was she, like me, laughing at herself for having her attention drawn to such trivial nonsense? And then I froze. Why was I wondering at the reason? Shouldn't I have already heard the internal thoughts of the girl- that would tell me with no uncertainty exactly what she was thinking? Only one person had ever been beyond the scope of my extra ability to hear thoughts. I focused harder. I mean... was he referring to the cheeto-eating-star bucks-drinking Britney? Or the flat-abs-hotBritney? I don't look fat... do I? The blonde wouldn't shut up. But beside her, there was only silence. The brunette answered by shaking her head from side to side. The movement pushed her hair further away from her face, and made her profile available to my eyes. No. No. NO. I immediately stopped breathing. The girl finally turned then, her hair making a curtain over her face as she dug through her bag on the floor. Then with pen in hand, she slowly raised up. I was motionless as her face was revealed to me. I would have known that face anywhere. The same, heart-shaped face. The same small chin. The same full lips. And the same deep, chocolate brown eyes met mine now. The same girl. The complete destruction of my entire world all wrapped up innocuously in a pair of jeans and a college sweatshirt. Though I hadn't picked up her scent in this room yet- I could recall that with perfect clarity. Venom flooded my mouth, just imagining it. My head spun and I stared, helplessly. Her eyes darted away. But then she looked at me again. I knew what I would see. I had seen it before. She had looked at me with the same nervous embarrassment when she caught me staring at her the day that she enrolled in my high school three years ago. It had been a day like any other. My family was living in the tiny town of Forks, Washington. And the arrival of a new student mid-way through the year was enough to excite the entire student body. Pathetic. I saw the girl through a dozen minds before my eyes ever laid sight on her. Just an ordinary girl, like any other. Or so I had thought. I should have known, when I saw her across the crowded lunchroom, that nothing about her would be ordinary for me. . My curious gaze had been met with complete silence from where she sat. I could hear the rush of the hundreds of other minds in the room. But her 'voice' was hidden

from me entirely. I couldn't hear her thoughts. I couldn't guess her feelings. It was as if she had a shield around her, keeping me from knowing what was going on behind those expressive eyes. My extra ability had never failed me before... and I was frustrated at my inability to break past this barrier of silence. When she entered my biology classroom, my first instinct was one of relief. The seat beside me was the only one available. She would have to sit next to me. I was confident that her nearness would allow me to solve the mystery of her silence. It would allow me to break down the wall she had somehow erected to keep me from hearing her thoughts. Once that happened- and it would- she could fall right back into the ranks of ordinary to me, and I would be able to ignore her as easily as the rest of the children I shared classes with. I was so concentrated on the task, that I was unprepared for the force of what would happen next. She moved down the aisle next to me, and a sudden gust of air from the heater vents swirled her scent in my direction. I was hit by a wave of desire and hunger so strong that I was almost undone. The force was like a freight train, and I pulverized the edge of my desk beneath my hands just to remain seated. A scent so unique, and so delicious, that I had struggled for an entire hour to keep myself from slaying the room full of innocent children just for the chance to taste this girl on my tongue. Eighty years of unswerving conviction and diligent practice had almost been ruined in the two seconds that it took for her to flip her hair over her shoulder to provide a curtain between my angry stare and her delicately flushed face. The movement had created a new cloud of that intoxicating aroma to settle around me. I gritted my teeth and swallowed back venom... holding my breath and trying not to imagine the way her warm wet pulse would feel spilling into my mouth. The monster within me- usually cloaked so well behind the humanity that I clung towould have won if not for the sound of the shrill school bell setting me free from that nightmare. I got up quickly and ran from the room. And I didn't look back. My father had a theory about what had happened to me. He said that she was my 'singer'. Her blood, so much sweeter to me than any other scent I had encountered in my existence, sang for me. It called to me. A wretched siren's song that would lead me to either the blissful ending of her life by my hand... or my utter discontentment as I denied myself that which I craved more than anything else the world had to offer. But I knew the right choice to make. The only choice I could make, if I planned to retain any of the humanity I had struggled to hold on to through the years. I would not kill an innocent. I refused. I knew I had to leave. I had to leave Forks, and I had to leave the horrible temptation of her scent behind me. I went to stay, for a short visit, with another like-practicing coven of vampires in Denali. I attempted to forget her eyes, and her face... her silence and her scent. But not even the distractions offered by a beautiful and willing female vampire were able to tear my mind from the one thing my body was now obsessed with having.

And so I left. And because my family knew that my leaving Forks was largely to do with my desire to protect them and keep their secret from the world, they remained loyal and left with me. We took up residence further north, in a small Canadian province. And we tried our best to blend into society again. But it never was as easy for me after that. And they knew it. Living on a diet of animal blood was already a sacrifice we made- to survive while not allowing ourselves to become the monstrous predators of innocent humans. But now the thin blood of the creatures we hunted was made even less appetizing to me by the remembrance of her scent and the taste of the air around her that had settled on the back of my tongue and tainted the sustenance I still required. I was surly and withdrawn. It was a testimony of my family's love that they were even able to tolerate being around me at all. And so, after two years... I decided to give them a break. I left behind the pretense of being a high school student, and I enrolled in Dartmouth. The prestigious Ivy League school offered a full compliment of night courses...and the nearby wilderness held plenty of wildlife to meet my basic nutritional needs. And after two years- I finally felt I had a better grip on my memory of the girl. Because every single day, her memory had stayed with me. And it strengthened my resolve. I recalled her scent as a reference point for comparisons on a daily basis. I wasn't sure if I would ever encounter anything quite so overwhelming or powerful. But if I did... I would be ready for it. I steeled myself daily for the possibility. The next time, if there was a next time, I would be ready for it. And I would never be forced to run away again. And now- here she was. Her brown gaze was locked on my own. I expected the rush of blood to her cheeks, and felt my muscles tighten in reflex when it happened. I knew what would happen next. She would look away quickly, to hide her embarrassment. That... didn't happen. Instead, her brows lowered and her mouth turned into a frown. And then- her full top lip pulled back ever so slightly into a sneer. She didn't look nervous, or embarrassed. She looked... annoyed. And she was very deliberately shooting me a dirty look. She turned her head then, and muttered to her friend. "Asshole." I blinked in surprise. For almost three years, I recalled the sound of her clear voice in my mind. And now- after all this time... the first word I heard from her mouth was "asshole?" I hurried to catch up with the story that her friend was still sharing... the one I had let drift into the background as I had become lost in my own thoughts. I was curious to figure out what had elicited such a harsh response from Bella. "Who?" the blonde asked.

"The guy back there.... Over my shoulder. About ten rows back. Reddish hair? He's totally staring like some kind of creeper!" Wait. She was talking about me? The blonde glanced over her shoulder and giggled. "He's gorgeous!" she announced. I forced my eyes to my desk and continued to listen attentively. "Like that gives him a free pass to be rude?" Bella asked heatedly. "Don't look at him!" My mind was spinning. I stared hard at the desk in front of me. My own personal demon... summoned from hell to tempt and torture me. The bane of my immortal existence.... Just called me an asshole? And then, even though there was absolutely nothing funny about my situation, the current air I had been holding in my lungs expelled in a loud laugh. Both girls turned their heads to look at me. I just forced my eyes down to the small wooden desk in front of me and cursed every higher power that had brought this girl back into my life.

2. Running but not away

I made sure to collect my things and leave the lecture hall ahead of Bella and her friend. I didn't want to follow them even innocently and risk being called a creepy asshole again. I also didn't want to give in to the temptation of getting any closer to her. I needed time to think. And I needed fresh air. Of course, I didn't physically need to breathe. But I did crave the cleansing comfort of the cold air on my face and in my lungs. And once outside, I did feel marginally better. I hunched my shoulders and set on a determined course towards my car in the student parking lot. I walked down the cold, dark sidewalk with my hands shoved deep into my pockets. When I felt my cell phone vibrate beneath my fingers, I pulled it up so that I could see the caller id. I had missed three calls. All from Alice. I rolled my eyes. I would call her back later. I could already guess why she was calling. Alice- my sister for all intents and purposes, shared a very important likeness to me. Yes- we were both vampires. But our differences set us apart even within our family group. Like my ability to read minds, she also had a special ability. She could see visions of the future.

Human pretenses first. Because.I had promised myself that a similar situation would never force me to run away again.Her visions were subjective. It was extremely irritating. What had I contemplated? Did she see me slaughtering the entire group of Dartmouth students that had been unfortunate enough to register for a second semester Ancient History night course. anyway? I ran to the far Eastern edge of the forest. Now here she was in the same predicament.. I was never sure how I had the strength to leave. A woman now? I did the calculations in my head. or on a bench where she might have happened to stop to study? Wouldn't there have been something that might have clued me in? My mind started to sort through ways to get the answers to my questions. But I couldn't really remember anything beyond the surprise that I felt. I left my things inside my car and exited through the side door. and later to stay away.I drove my car to the house I had purchased on the outskirts of Hanover. as always. where I knew black bears could be more easily found. The years had provided her with longer hair. I. And then I was running. Once I parked in the garage. If I was going to stay. to embrace my natural instincts and just be myself. I finally allowed myself to think of the girl. It was an amazing release. I knew with .. Had I even considered it? I had been shocked to see her there. She had barely escaped our last meeting alive. Surely the school records here wouldn't be that difficult to get my hands on. no doubt. and a less angular figure. Everyday I worked to control my reflexes and my actions to better assume my human disguise. The girl was safer if I remained far away from her. They changed based on the decisions being made by the persons concerned. Of course. The girl.I also didn't expect that fate would toss the exact same girl right into the path of the most dangerous creature in the world to her. She had walked into my biology classroom almost three years ago as a junior in high school. I refused to be a coward.. I felt the familiar exhilaration take hold as I ghosted through forested areas. I pressed myself to run faster. I could only imagine the possible visions that had come her way this evening. obviously. how long she'd been here already or how long she planned to stay. couldn't come right out and ask her what demon from hell had invited her here to torture me. And while my muscles relaxed with the easy motion and my tensions eased. I would need to drink more than usual. What kind of cosmically bad luck did she have. I would have to make sure that my hunger was completely sated.. That would make her twenty years old by now.just to get to the girl whose blood I knew would satisfy me like no other? I lowered my brows and frowned.. Still.. before being in Bella's presence again. But I didn't even bother to go inside. How long had she been in New Hampshire? Was it possible that she began Dartmouth the fall after high school graduation? Could she have been in attendance here all of this time without me knowing? Wouldn't I have run across a hint of her scent in a hallway.

I have this under control. "I had a very distinct vision that you were going to Denali. I let my fingers work the buttons at my cuffs and up the front of my shirt while I held my phone between my ear and my shoulder." I was still smiling.." "Nothing else?" I knew I sounded skeptical. And she knew the pride and satisfaction I felt when I was able to suppress the monster inside that had so nearly ruined me." I didn't have to explain who 'she' was. Our additional abilities set us apart. ignoring her question. "Well yes. surprised." I stated. "I'm not going to Denali. Alice answered just as I was pulling the material away from me. But I smiled. I'm OK.." Alice continued. "I should be worried that I don't know what you are talking about.certainty that I would not stay away from my class on Thursday night.and I knew that she would be there too. She saw how hard I had to struggle to fight off the instinctual urges to drink the life out of that one sweet source. "She's here. that settles it then. but her voice sounded tense. "Everything is fine. Later at home. Alice would have surely seen that possibility as well. I could tell that she was worried about missing something. . and because of them. "No. "But you thought about it?" "Yes. Through her visions. I was being vague and it bothered her. "Well." Alice finally said. Briefly. How interesting! Running to Denali must have been the only real option that I had contemplated when I looked at Bella. Should there have been?" She sounded confused. "Does this have anything to do with you going to Denali?" "Denali?" I asked. "Alice?" I decided to be straight with her. Alice knew. I had thought that her calls earlier would have been about some vision she had seen of violence concerning my thoughts when I recognized Bella in my class. we shared an indescribable closeness. Alice's musical laughter filled my ear while I tossed my shirt into a laundry basket." she sounded amused. as I imagined killing an entire classroom full of innocent teenagers to get to Bella. I began our conversation without a polite greeting. she had witnessed every gruesome image that had passed through my mind. If I had considered any violent course of action. "Are you already so bored with your classes that you are looking for escape routes?" Alice joked." I informed her.

I missed my family..her face showed absolutely no signs of recognition. He and Alice were best friends.. It seemed almost ludicrous to me..combing it away from my face in an effort to look older. I wanted to be prepared for seeing Bella again. and soul mates. my hair had been worn casually messy. This is a song for the lonely I stared into my mirror. I didn't want to take any chances. "Don't argue. partners. doing a little last minute grooming before leaving for my class. I planned to stay right where I was.. Whatever title you wanted to give him. "You need us. And having Alice around for a while to warn me about the decisions I might make would probably be a good thing." I sighed.. Edward. Right? Maybe you really will be fine. My eyes stared back at me in the mirror. Because I didn't plan to leave. but only because everything about our first encounter had been burned on my brain and revisited in my memory every day since. She . her smell.." she warned.Jasper was her guy.tricky. Had our previous meeting truly been so inconsequential that Bella had forgotten me entirely? When she had given me a dirty look two days ago." Jasper was also a part of my family. "But you know what? I think you'll be OK. I wanted to be. And that could get. "Alice. I mean. I looked exactly the same. you saw her today and didn't go bizerk. "It will probably be a couple weeks before we leave." 3.. Her face.. My call earlier was to make sure that you weren't really going to Denali. I had tried.. I didn't want to have to change our plans." I began."Settles what?" "Jasper and I had been planning to visit. I could never have forgotten her. But now I frowned at my reflection. In high school.a brighter shade of gold since I had gone hunting again last night. "I always do." "You. Other than somewhat more tamed locks." Alice murmured. I was wearing my hair differently these days. And believe me." "Keep an eye on things.. just in case?" I asked quietly. might be right.. I traded the look for something a little more mature. And the two were a package deal. I hoped I was as strong as she gave me credit for.

. I allowed myself one more quick glance in her direction. It was a typical scenario. And I had a pretty good idea that her luck was not often of a fortuitous nature. Again." . I raised my hand to signal my presence. I purposely arrived at the lecture hall just moments before class would begin.. A part of me hoped that she wouldn't show up to class. I wondered. I shouldn't want. in roughly the same area of the room where she had sat before. Many students signed up for courses. Apparently he didn't see the motion. She hadn't looked up. Mixed emotions of despair and elation filled me at the same time. I gave myself a pep-talk in the hall. I shouldn't want her to notice me. Her head remained bowed down over the notebook she was doodling on while her friend chatted beside her. My thoughts were brought back to the front of the room when the professor began reading the class roster from a computer print-out..now that I knew that Bella was at Dartmouth.I argued with myself. how long would it have taken me to find some other way to observe her? To be close to her? To. "Edward Cullen?" I let out some of the breath I had been holding. "Here. know her in some small way? "Edward Cullen?" The professor called my name as it was written. I certainly didn't need to sit through Methods and Theory of Ancient History. and then took in a deep breath of air to hold in my chest as I walked in. I shouldn't hope for her to recognize me from that meeting at all... He was drawing lines through the names of the students who had decided to drop the course. But I couldn't be so lucky. She hadn't noticed my entrance at all. My eyes scanned the group of students quickly. Removing myself from one class was not the same thing as running away. I might have let my gaze linger a couple of seconds too long. I shouldn't want her to recognize me. But then I forced my eyes to the floor in front of me and deliberately walked to sit in the furthest possible seat and row away from her. Bella could very well be one of those students.definitely wouldn't recognize me now by my eyes..I wasn't taking any chances. They had been black with hunger and the barely suppressed urge to kill when she had seen me last.and found her sitting next to the same blonde. But really. The remembrance of a monster that I did not want to be. it would be a remembrance of one of my darkest hours.. If she did. Once in my seat. I had to beat back the disappointment I felt. and my voice rang loud and deep from the back of the room. why I didn't add my name to the ranks of those drop-outs. only to drop them from their schedules after seeing the syllabus during the first session. for a moment.

Then. . The professor had obviously noticed as well. Confusion? Perhaps my name triggered a piece of her memory and she couldn't quite place where she had heard it before. as I lowered myself into my new chair. and forced my chin down-all the while berating myself for my stupidity. I grabbed my things quickly and moved down the aisle. The night course was already small. but now the less-than-fifty students that remained obviously didn't need so large a space. But she was biting her lip. Maybe she hadn't changed all that much either. I steeled myself. She was already turning back towards the front of the room. But I had to be sure. I was happy that I moved... But it was there alright. Or her.. In a moment..from her chin to where her sweater laid against her collar bone. "Isabella Swan?" "Bella. The room was divided into three long sections. "I don't want to use the PA system. while Bella took notes about the importance of historical documentation. if we all just move on down to the first ten rows.? My eyes trailed down the creamy expanse of her neck. I let out the breath I had been holding and I inhaled through my nose." She corrected him in reply. and she did look perplexed. Oh my hell! Her scent was mixed with those around her. with the seats inclined like those in a theatre.but not before I saw a small flicker of some emotion cross her features. when I thought I was ready. And it was so sweet and so unique that it stood out from all the rest. "I think it will work best. How could I really be interested in the various types of documentary evidence available to the ancient historian with such a beautiful creature sitting just a few rows away from me? When she tapped the center of her full bottom lip with the end of her pen? When she threw her long curtain of shiny hair over her shoulder to reveal the alluring patch of skin just below her ear.even better than I had remembered.. But I stomped that down. trying to make sure that I would still have a seat available as far away as possible." he began. Moving a little closer to Bella wouldn't kill me. I felt as if burning flames were ripping down my throat and through my chest. And so. the professor called her name as well. I felt strong enough to handle this. I was feeling fine.." I felt a moment of panic. I clutched the edge of my desk. But then. It could have easily housed two to three hundred students. I didn't want to be caught looking their direction again.Both Bella and her friend turned their heads in my direction at the sound of my voice. I hazarded another glance from under my lashes.because I could very easily see her profile from the corner of my eye while I pretended to be raptly interested in the lecture that the professor was beginning. so I averted my gaze. It made me smile. I leaned forward and licked my lips. squeezed my eyes shut.

Zebco I hurried outside. and there were no witnesses around to be impressed or shocked by my speed. And I didn't have time to worry about it right then. It was my phone.. while I fought back the overwhelming desire to literally leap over the people between Bella and myself and sink my teeth into her delicious throat. It came from the blonde sitting next to Bella.. I was aware of the sound of a cell phone. I had forgotten to turn my cell phone to a silent setting. But I then I couldn't help the smile that tore across my face. I swallowed convulsively against the venom that was filling my mouth. and now Cher was singing loudly from my pocket.. Idiot! I yelled at myself. I thought I had made my policy on cell phones in the classroom clear. I could do this! My phone rang again. Here I was.. But it was dark. and concentrated on the musical ringtone like it was a life-line. I felt victorious. Strange guy. He's kinda cute! Only the last thought I picked up mattered to me. grabbed my papers. I realized that it actually was a life-line.. so maybe I was leaving class early. I probably looked like a madman. I stood as quickly as I could. and moving a little too fast to be considered human on my way to my parked car.. I was gripping my desk in the effort to stay seated. . But in my anxiety about seeing Bella again. What the fuck is his problem? Ooh... every eye in the room turned to stare at me..Somewhere through the chaos of my sudden blood-lust. and tried to run for the door at a human speed. And in a second. gulping the night air by huge mouthfuls. I dodged the thoughts of my classmates and my professor as I made my escape. And Bella was still safe. 4. and I opened it before Cher could finish the chorus.. It had seemed funny at the time. and it was a ring tone that Alice had programmed to play specifically when she called. Ok. rapidly gaining control. And now.

"I'll be able to be closer to her. I can do this.." My voice had dropped to a near whisper. I wasn't hungry at all. I didn't need to hunt." Her certainty made me feel high. "Do you think I do?" I asked. I see the two of you talking soon." "You knew she would be there. "Then what happened?" "I was in class. "I'm not killing anyone.without her scent burning the back of my throat. She was silent a moment as she considered whatever visions of me she could muster up in her busy mind.. But four days would also give me time to think. But I could tell she had calmed down. "Do you need us to get there earlier?" I knew she was talking about the visit that she and Jasper were planning."Alice? She thinks I'm gay!" "If you decide to murder every person who thinks you are gay.you'll have to take out half of the Northwest United States.. "I'm fine." "What will get easier?" Alice asked warily. "No.. Four days without seeing Bella-without being acutely aware of her nearness. this will get easier." I muttered. and I smelled her. And as soon as I got home.. I ran again.. I would have four days. a little at a time. again.. . that now.. but I knew Alice could still hear me.honestly! Do you hate yourself that much?" Alice's voice was reproachful. "I think. But I ran for the freedom and release it provided. I was not going to hurt Bella." "Why would you want to be?" Alice huffed." I gritted my teeth. She sighed. I think you are right. And plan.." "I did it on purpose.it might be more painful to try to stay away." I admitted. She obviously could see that my course had changed. I wanted to see if it would be the same. if I can desensitize myself to her scent. "Edward." I repeated it as much for myself as for her. This desensitizing thing is going to work for you. "Are you that depressed? Is this like the EmoVampire version of cutting or something?" "I'm not sure. "But I have a feeling..." she scolded.

On Tuesday evening. I decided to set my grand scheme in motion. Since being made a vampire. But I stifled the urge. But reading her mind and knowing her thoughts would certainly help me to defuse any serious tampering with the girl's feelings. and stretched her arms up over her head. I felt the smile on my face grow wider as I considered it. And I watched as she walked to the front of the room and out the side door. I entered the classroom just before lecture began. I sat in the middle section. after all. no.or female. But I didn't remember any of those urges or feelings now. I would have to be attracted to men for that to be true. I was a little closer to Bella and her friend. I felt my mouth fall open when my eyes locked on the tiny piece of skin on her hip that was revealed when her shirt pulled up.ok?" "Sure. Ok. I could easily use that to my advantage. It was then that I leaned back in my seat. I hadn't found anyone. exhaled the long breath I had been holding. She thought I was attractive. and sucked in more air..to taste the part of her that was in the air. I was sure that during my human life. "I need a Coke and I need to make a call.." Bella said. Then getting to know Bella would only be a matter of time. I would have to be careful. I was biding my time. I was sure I could convince the girl to forget all about the Cher incident. First. But I'll be out in a minute. and was better able to surreptitiously study her profile while I took notes. That was utterly ridiculous. I just planned to get to know her so that I could be near her friend. She tugged her shirt back into place quickly and turned towards her friend. I wouldn't have a safety net. but I could certainly nose around in the thoughts of the girl who sat beside her each day in class! Getting to Bella would be easy. our professor announced the ten minute break that I was waiting for.. She really was lovely.holding my breath and keeping my eyes to the floor. I could be considered asexual.. and I could read her thoughts trying to reconcile her notes to the lecture. "I need to work on this. halfway through the session. Want to come?" "Umm. and maybe even befriend her..that aroused such interest in me. I had been attracted to women... But I ignored the small guilty feeling and kept working my plan in my mind. We all sat in the first ten rows. And then. .I would have to make sure that the girl knew I wasn't gay." her friend sounded distracted.I was impressed by how quickly an idea formed in my mind. I could get to her through her friend. male. but this time. I had heard the girl speaking to Bella on our first evening in class. But I had become a master at faking human behaviors. So maybe that wasn't gentlemanly at all. If anything. And the simple fact was. Bella stood. I was filled with the morbid desire to inhale again. I didn't want to be less than a gentleman.but I also wouldn't disrupt the class again. Bella had been talking about me with her friend. I really didn't feel sexually attracted to anyone. I did make sure that my cell phone was turned off. I may not be able to read Bella's mind.

" I kept my teeth hidden behind my smile." I smiled at her. the burn.. And they finally met mine. she thought. her eyes darted around the room quickly... "I thought maybe your parents. "Well. she had given up on her notes and slammed her notebook closed in aggravation. Her scent was still in the air. "I'm Edward. I threw out a little bait and she gobbled it right up. After about five minutes. He's not gay! I smiled wider. Edward. Easy. Thank God." I kept my voice silky.you know... Not gay! her mind was screaming. Whoa. I crossed my arms over my chest. So I deliberately let my eyes linger on the curves she was presenting before pulling them back up to her face. It was like fishing.." she smiled. But that didn't mean she was right. "Hi. But it was tolerable. making her cleavage more pronounced above the v-neck of her sweater. and tilted my head slightly towards the empty seat beside me. I was staring. She was wrong about all of those too. It seemed to be working. and maintained eye contact." she pointed out. But I knew that eventually she would glance my way.. My job was nearly done. It was a move she had obviously practiced before. Eddie Van Halen?" "I have never had anyone guess that before.Ahh. "Hi. Less severe.. Katrina and the Waves. confused for a moment. In fact.. I could handle this.. "Was there a reason that you wanted me to come over here?" She was going through a list of possibilities in her mind.. So I raised one eyebrow. As in. and pushed her breasts closer together. I knew there wasn't much time before Bella would re-enter the room. and turned my attention to the blonde.. Would she be meeting her in the lounge by the Coke machines? Or would she be outside. My statement was true. . Hello there. and used the voice I used when I was trying to keep humans at ease. Her heart beat picked up. She sank down into the seat beside me and leaned over her arms." she finally said when she was standing in front of me. The action brought her face closer to mine. on the phone? As she turned. but began to walk my way. But I humored her. given my actual age. and I was encouraged by the positive reaction. But I was in a hurry. She looked a little confused. Then she stood and wondered about where Bella might be. And I was right. "I'm Katrina. I pulled the corner of my mouth up in a crooked grin that seemed to work best on the opposite sex. her guess was downright silly. "Were your parents big Van Halen fans?" She giggled. I lowered my brows.

I'd say that class is about to start again. but my steps faltered when Bella lifted her head to look in my direction." she still sounded a little confused as she turned to walk away. "Where were you?" Bella asked. and comparing her to my sister.the burn was stronger. When she looked a little disappointed." Katrina still hadn't sorted her thoughts.. She was a blonde too.. And I felt rooted to the spot as her wide chocolate gaze held my own. Parched My efforts to be amiable towards Bella's friend must have worked better than I thought. But Rosalie didn't have to work quite so hard to attract attention. I smiled politely.. The two girls would have to wait until after class to talk again. The professor was picking up his lecture where it had ended. And this time. She stood. it wouldn't be because Katrina thought I was gay. "Umm. And I smiled. And it was exactly what I needed to help desensitize myself. I won't keep you." I stared deep into her eyes until a dazed look came over her face. I did my best not to laugh. Her heartbeat picked up again." she finally mumbled and turned her face away. "Don't be a stranger. The scent was stronger. the girl's hair reminded me a lot of my sister. I steeled myself and let myself breathe through my nose. It wasn't the first time that I had wished to be able to read her mind. "Well Katrina. right. I reached forward and purposefully twisted a piece of her long hair around the end of my finger... It was the first time that our eyes had met since she had caught me staring on the first night of class. This girl wore a little too much make-up." I murmured. and I smiled at the success of such a simple action before I let my hand slide back to my desk top. To be honest. Oh.. I was pretty sure that if I did come up in conversation again. I was better than I thought. She made it back to her seat just as Bella made it back to hers. I was studying her. still keeping my voice light. As soon as I entered the lecture hall Thursday evening. 5. This girl had been sitting next to Bella for an hour."I just wanted to say hello. and I almost felt bad for playing with her the way I had. Her thoughts were a jumble and I smiled. Rosalie. And her clothes were a little too tight. But her thoughts were smug as she assumed that I was checking her out.. "Huh? Oh.here. Katrina stood and thought 'There he is!' at the same time that she began waving and motioning to the empty seat beside her." I shrugged one shoulder and tried to look nonchalant. "Sure.. So it worked. But if I was adequately reading her .

I grew uncomfortable and shifted in my seat. And more importantly..heat running through my body... . When I lived in Forks. And so when the professor moved to the front of the room to begin lecture. But my meadow was secluded and private.expression. But she wouldn't know that. And I memorized every silken strand in front of me because I was an obsessed fool.. I would have to settle for imagining the glory of it. warmest brown mixed with cinnamon. Then. She giggled a little and turned her head back towards the front of the room. Absurd. lying on the ground beside me. It was the brilliant effect of the sun on my skin. Typical vampire tales would end horrifically with me combusting into ashes in the light of the sun. and I waited. I could imagine how much it would shine to life in the sun.sending prismatic rainbows reflecting off hidden facets in my epidermis that kept me away from the public eye on clear days. never meant for me to see. The seat next to Katrina had. Preposterous. But in reality. she merely looked up from her book as if curious to see who her friend was practically doing a cheerleading routine for.trying to calm my nerves. it was my habit to spend sunny days in a beautiful little meadow high in the mountains. holding up one finger as if to signal that I needed a minute... It was physically impossible for vampires to sleep. Her hair and her scent. Bella's hair cascaded like ribbons of the deepest. It was one of the most peaceful and lovely places I had ever come across. It really was ridiculous. I closed my eyes and smiled as I began to do just that. would mingle and dance with the flowers and the grass.. Darker near the roots. Bella's hair in the sun. In fact. Katrina was staring over her shoulder again. When I opened my eyes. I imagined the way she would look. Her gaze had been as tangible as a touch to me.A tension. lighter towards the ends. So I pulled my cell phone from my pocket and pressed it to my ear. I needed to conquer this fear of the unknown. her eyes drifted back down and were hidden from me once again. I took notes because I was expected to. How could she be so completely unaffected? I had literally frozen in my tracks. clearly. I always enjoyed the feel of the sun on my face. curiosity sated. It allowed me to pretend interest while trying to ignore most of her ridiculous thoughts. I smiled apologetically at her playful pout and then deliberately chose to sit just three seats directly behind Bella. it allowed my gaze to have free access to the back of Bella's beautiful hair. The angle allowed Katrina to send glances over her shoulder in my direction. made warm by the sun. and the earth around her. I glanced from time to time at Katrina because she hoped that I would. And I knew with no uncertainty that I was not ready to sit in the close proximity that Katrina was offering. And now the memory of that magical spot was made even more wondrous because my fantasy had put Bella there. how on edge I felt. I could practically feel the warmth of the sun that my fantasy was creating in my mind. I took my fake call into the hallway.. It was almost too warm. thankfully been filled. I might have been disappointed to know what she was thinking. I needed to once again. She barely looked interested. I stole in through the side door. My eyes could clearly see the natural red tones in her hair that were all but hidden by the harsh commercial lighting in the room. take control of myself... She thought I was falling asleep in class. A sight. I could almost imagine a sort of..

"The class is pretty boring huh? I saw you dozing off. Katrina had noticed my interest." . and twisted her hair until she could pull it over her left shoulder. Feigning interest. I had done it. acclimating myself with tiny bursts of her scent until I was actually able to breathe in and out at regular intervals once again. The smile on my face was impossible to suppress. I smiled again at the imagined vision. Anyone sitting close enough might have thought I was panting.. Just a tiny little pull of air through my nose.and I wondered at the wisdom of encouraging her further. When she reached her hands through those silken tresses. I inhaled. I wanted to bury my nose into the back of her hair and breathe her in deeper.. So I did the next best thing. Katrina's thoughts towards me had definitely strayed to a dangerous territory. "Katrina.. Bella. I barely let my eyes flicker over her face. But as I had predicted. Especially since so many of my thoughts seemed to be centered on the girl in front of me. I had no idea what Bella was thinking. and stepped a little closer to place her hand possessively on my forearm." I smiled and made my voice warm. My eyes flew to Bella's face immediately. but she blushed quickly and averted her gaze. The back of her neck was exposed to me.. and the Waves. I felt my jaw go slack. I was too close to pretend that I hadn't heard her. I could understand Katrina's reaction. Instead. I didn't care." And fantasizing about your friend in a field of flowers. and I could hear the heart beats of the two women quicken in response. But her words faltered when her eyes flew up in my direction. If anything. When the professor announced our ten minute break. It was fortunate that my mind was able to concentrate on more than one task at a time. it was met with no violent urges. Now was my moment. She was comparing my smile to that of an actor she had the hots for. I continued stretching myself in this way." "I wasn't sleeping. resting my eyes.. "Just. She blushed prettily. and I stared hungrily at a tiny freckle that was now visible just below her hairline. Failure was not an option. I wanted to taste it. I allowed myself another breath.... "Edward? This is my roommate. And another." I responded truthfully. But I hadn't made it more than three or four steps when she called my name loudly. I needed to play this just right.. I stopped and sighed.I hastily returned my eyes to the notes that my hand had not ceased writing. And there was the accompanying pain I had come to expect. I stood rapidly and prepared to exit the room. I turned and pulled the side of my mouth up in a lop-sided grin. I could read the inner workings of her mind.?" Bella had been speaking to her friend. "What are you.

My eyes had involuntarily strayed towards the soft swaying motion of Bella's hips as she walked in front of us. it would be rather rude to be caught staring at her friends ass while I was pretending to talk to her. "Want to come with?" I nodded.. She wouldn't be so impolite to ask." Katrina smiled." I started my denial. but didn't hold my gaze for long. and only half-listened to her attempts at making small talk. Katrina was . on the edge of town. She spoke to me.. "Do you stay here on campus?" Katrina had asked. And now I was invited to do so. She was judging my sincerity. While I needed her to get the idea that I was only interested in friendship. It's a very safe neighborhood. And of course.." I commented as though their safety was of the upmost importance in my mind. "I have a house. "Bella and I share an apartment on Lyme road. "Hello. and I loved it. I concentrated on keeping my expression friendly and non-threatening. before my house opened up. I grinned in amusement.because she had already turned away to face Katrina. Two letters.. I walked beside Katrina. "We're getting drinks. "Coke?" She asked. but Bella had already turned to start walking away.even though I was already calculating the shortest distance between my home and Lyme road. I couldn't tell. She had whirled around and was giving Katrina a look of reproval. I forced my eyes away from Bella's delightful rear end and grudgingly turned my attention to Katrina. Surprised by the inner tone of my thoughts. It was nearly hypnotic." Katrina smiled. If she was impressed. she finally turned and stepped closer to the vending machines." she mumbled. "I stayed in an apartment in that area for a while. Bella's eyes flickered over my face again. I'm very pleased to meet you. it was. "Or I'm going to be falling asleep like your friend here. My attention was drawn by the can of diet Coke that Bella now held in her graceful hand. One syllable. I tried to put her at ease. It didn't matter. Bella stopped and I would have crashed into her if I hadn't stopped walking too. She spoke to me. I was feeling more and more human." I informed her. "Hi. She obviously didn't appreciate her friend giving out the details of their living arrangements with a virtual stranger. My body automatically wanted to follow behind the brunette that was making her way to the door." "I wasn't. She pulled her eyes down my simple clothing and wondered where I worked. Her mind was sparked with excitement then. I listened to Katrina talk about her first apartment on campus with forced patience. Satisfied by whatever she saw there." I said as politely as I could. and how much money was in my bank account.Roommate? Bella raised her eyes to mine again.

I blinked rapidly and swallowed hard. Not only was I able to be in close proximity to Bella without being ruled by the monstrous desire to kill. And she had said my name. her soft voice.. I didn't know what was wrong with me. the corner of her mouth pulled up in a tiny grin. no. I didn't need to spend more time ogling Bella's butt.I was feeling warm again now. Edward?" 6. And I was pretty sure I'd run out of the patience required for chatting with Katrina. My jaw had gone slack. She meant it innocently enough... I hope you brought a late slip "Are you thirsty. It was mildly concerning me that I could actually imagine that I felt shaky just thinking about it. walking ahead of the girls this time.. With her attention diverted. I watched her tongue dart out to remove the syrupy fluid that had clung to her lower lip.we should probably get back to class. I waited for a sign of the discomfort she must be feeling under the stare I could not seem to break. And the flashes of heat. She said my name. and tilted her head back as she drank. She blinked twice... She smiled at me. "And now. Edward?" She had asked. She closed her eyes. who even now was busy checking out the way that I looked in my pants from a rear-view. I saw the long arch of her throat constrict as she swallowed the bubbly liquid. Finally.... and I knew I was staring. pretending to be concerned about missing lecture.speaking. "But thanks. She merely wanted to know if I would like a Coke also. she didn't see as my eyes became locked on the motion of Bella raising the Coke can to her mouth. her gaze. But I swear her smile. And when she lowered the can again. I mentally congratulated myself on the complete success of my plan. I felt warm again.. Once in my seat again. I felt guilty for twisting such a simple suggestion into something so degenerate.. I watched her full lips purse against the edge of the can. I already felt bad enough for the turn my thoughts had taken. and making her own beverage choice at the machine...the whole scene was like something out of a vampire porno.." I turned and shoved my hands into my pockets." I hurried. "Are you thirsty. "Um. but she talked to me. like a gift from heaven. I picked up the pace. I felt like I was on fire when she finally spoke. and even the distracting burn of her scent had faded behind this new heat that I felt. the way her lips formed the words.. and looked at my face curiously. Bella was actually smiling at me.. I waited for irritation to cross her features as she caught me. ." I tore my eyes from her and looked down at the floor.

I was in no mood to listen in to anything he had to say. For a vampire. I actually went to her street. This time I would. . Her cheeks were flushed as she tried to get to her seat with as little commotion as possible. It was really only a matter of time. In my eagerness. I scowled and huffed impatiently.. But when I inhaled again. My time spent in this class had been both heaven and hell. I looked forward to the quiet solace of my typical run.. During one of my nightly runs. I could pretend confusion or ignorance of the subject if it gave me an excuse to initiate conversation. But not tonight. time is an entirely different concept.somewhere inside this white building. I had found it strongest in front of a large old white house that had been renovated into apartments. cradled against her hand? Or was Bella a restless sleeper. Where were they? I took a pen from my bag. when we spoke next. and the cleansing qualities of the night air. and I satisfied myself with imagining the way she looked in sleep.. Finally it was Tuesday evening. But not the dreams that I wanted to see. The meadow of my fantasies was replaced with soft bed linens. But I forced myself to leave.. searching for her scent. the past eighty years of my life seemed to have gone by with much more swiftness than the four days I had to wait to see Bella again.but I really was aggravated and annoyed. Tonight I needed to hunt. Would her cheek rest peacefully.I tried to sort through what I knew of the physiology. My head flew up in time to see Bella hurry in through the side door. Physical and chemical processes. Alice could probably already see me. to limber my muscles. The entire neighborhood was asleep. and began tracing lines on the paper in front of me. Standing on the sidewalk was good enough for me. More human pretense. When the professor dismissed us for the night. standing at the foot of her bed like some creepy stalker. and I would be able to see her again. The professor began his lecture.of my vampire body. My disposition was completely soured.or the almost shaky feeling of my hands. Grumbling under my breath.. watching her sleep and trying to decipher her dreams. If I stretched out my senses.talking in her sleep? My curiosity nearly led me to seek out her apartment. I waved over my shoulder and kept moving. Could it be that just the memory of my long dormant human reactions would make me imagine the sensations with such clarity? I was going to have to ask my father. the sweetness in the air had changed. though different from those of a human. But I couldn't recollect an explanation for the warmth I felt at different times this evening. I walked up and down the sidewalks. Maybe I would be invited to sit near them again.as it were. I actually went to class early. This time I would ask to compare notes with the girls. Those were hidden from me.. I stomped up to the tenth row and dropped down into a seat. her dark hair would tangle in a riot on her pillow. and I frowned darkly. to search out her specific living quarters. I could make out flickering pieces of dreams from those in slumber nearby. But when I got to the lecture hall I had to swallow back the bitter disappointment I felt when I saw that Bella and Katrina's seats were empty. And so I stood on the sidewalk in front of her building for hours. I kept my head down and moved towards the door quickly. to aid in my regenerative healing process. And still. "See you next week Edward!" Katrina called out.to produce venom. I didn't allow myself inside. still took place inside me. Carlisle.

Maybe I could offer her mine to copy. but I saw her chestnut hair move in my peripheral vision as she looked up to see the purveyor of the caffeinated gift.moving at human velocity put me at a disadvantage.. And she appreciated it.. It took a while to get it started." I heard her whisper to a girl she passed. studying her work while she replied. and all was suddenly right in my miserable world once again. She immediately began scribbling notes in her notebook. But I guess it was going to have to be up to me. And then the professor began the second half of class. Did the professor look pissed?" "Nah. Hmmm.. I returned to the classroom with my trophy in hand. And that part made me feel weirdly happy. I intentionally walked up the aisle closest to Bella's desk. I think you are fine.."Sorry. She took notes. "Where's Katrina tonight?" I heard the girl ask. I nodded an acceptance. In a few minutes. I could see her mouth pull up only in profile." Bella smiled in her direction. . and it would give me an excuse to approach her during the class break. As reluctant as I was to stop eavesdropping. Yep. I stood from my seat and walked out of the classroom." she mouthed silently in my direction. and I was annoyed to know that I wouldn't get to see it from a front angle tonight. I smiled and kept walking to my seat." I watched her delicate shoulder shrug and smiled. it wasn't like I had much of an option there either. "Thanks. I watched her for the rest of the class.so that she wouldn't be missing anything. That would be gentlemanly. I had been counting on her over-friendly attitude to get me back on Bella's radar. Bella didn't look around. Bella kept her head down. "Then my car was acting up. My body relaxed immediately. She was obviously skipping her break to catch up on her notes. And since Bella was foregoing her typical trip to the student lounge in order to catch up on her notes. She was in the room. cramps. Yes. The girl sitting next to Bella leaned over and produced her notes the minute that the professor dismissed us for our break. I felt really smug even for having thought of it. I didn't look her way. And then as I moved past. "She stayed home. But once again. with my eyes straight forward and the corner of my mouth pulled up into a grin. "Thanks. and she drank the Coke that I had brought for her. Once I lowered myself to sit. I was in." The girl yawned and stretched her arms up over her head. I allowed my eyes to move back down to her. I casually reached to the side and placed the diet Coke I was carrying on the edge of her desk.. The movement made me think of Bella and it gave me an idea. And she was watching me with a smile on her face. I provided something that she desired. Katrina wasn't in class tonight.

Small Favors I walked to the parking lot. "I can't get it to start. "You should be nice to your car. she was engaged in a conversation with the girl who had leant her notes. and I didn't even need to glance up to get to where I was going. and the relative silence was relaxing. But I didn't hesitate. I didn't want to do that. When I was sure that she had enough of a head-start. "It's older than both of us.yelled by the sweetest voice I had ever heard. But then I remained in my seat and took several deep breaths." It probably wasn't smart. Again. And I couldn't help the laugh that escaped my lips. still yelling.outside of prison movies. I would know her voice anywhere. and walking on auto-pilot to where I had left my car. there was the object of my attention. Maybe I would speak with her first. and together they were walking out of the room.COCKSUCKING BASTARD!" I blinked in surprise." I told her. "Can I give you a ride somewhere?" . I wasn't sure if I would have the opportunity to speak to Bella. "FUCKING PIECE OF SHIT. I was staring at the ground beneath my feet. That wouldn't be a lie.." she mumbled. despite the fact that she was screaming and growling profanities the likes of which I had never heard from a woman. The area around me was empty. The sidewalk was empty. I could tell her that I missed her in class. Leaving after Bella might make me tempted to follow her. Surely Katrina's human-female problems wouldn't keep her out of class again on Thursday. Her absence had definitely affected my plans in a negative way. I pretended to search through my bag and gave her the opportunity to approach me after class. allowing the quiet of the night to soothe my disappointment. It's older than you are. Two days and I would see Bella again.Because Katrina wasn't in class to call me over. But then my calm surroundings were shattered by the harshest string of profanities imaginable. 7. And then she pulled her full mouth up into an embarrassed looking grin. I moved faster towards the parking lot. Instead of running for the door. and turned to look at me.. And now I think I'm going to be late for work. She froze in mid-kick then. As I turned the corner.. and doing her best to kick the front tire off of her old faded yellow Volkswagon Beatle.. just to guarantee an invite to the seat beside her. I shoved my notebook and pen into my bag a little too roughly. combined. But when I looked up. I threw my bag over my shoulder and walked slowly towards my car. Her ire was the funniest thing I had ever seen.

It was pretty popular with students.." I nodded and turned my eyes to look at her profile for a quick glance. "It is really nice of you to give me a ride tonight.... "You know. She would probably notice in the closeness of my car if my breathing suddenly stopped. Ah hell." . You probably thought I was staring. I was trying to figure out if I should try to hold my breath for our entire journey.. I heard her get into her car for something. But I was being false.. I hadn't been there myself. Bella?" I asked as I started the car. She said my name again. alone. and I offered to cover her shift. but I did know where it was located. We drove in silence for a few minutes. I'd really appreciate that. "Anyway.. And then her feet scuffled along the sidewalk in an effort to catch up with my pace. Just because I was able to handle her scent enough to speak with her in a public setting. I probably gave you a dirty look. "Think nothing of it. "Where do you work. in class. I set my jaw and turned to walk to the next section of the parking lot. And I almost wished that she would.." I suggested. I stared straight ahead. then. "Someone was sick." I shrugged and motioned with my hand off the steering wheel as if her thanks were unnecessary. Because it all meant more to me than she would ever guess. I probably owe you an apology. the first time I saw you." she huffed next to me as she caught up. Do you know where that is?" I nodded. My thoughts had been racing. And the Coke earlier. didn't mean that she would be safe while trapped inside the small confines of my car with me. I was shocked by her words. was to keep her talking. Katrina will be able to come get me after work. I smiled." Bella said." she said quietly. I would have less time to think of her as food. but I did compose myself enough to remember to open the passenger side door of my Volvo for her to get inside.She looked like she might decline the offer for a brief moment. "You did." she breathed.. The Midfield was a soccer-themed bar about five miles from campus." She was looking down now. and slam the door. But I could clearly see when Bella turned her face and started watching me." I said nothing. It seemed my best option. giving the road more concentration than it required. "But I deserved it. I wanted her to think everything of it. "I usually don't work on the nights that I have class. "For what?" "I think I had you pegged all wrong. If I could concentrate on her as a human. "Thanks Edward.. "I'm a waitress at the Midfield.

I hadn't expected her to remember it quite so clearly.. "That's funny! Because when the professor read the roster. I had heard her call me an asshole for it. you reminded me of someone I met before.." I said. Bella had turned in her seat and was bouncing up and down with excitement. My first day of school. "I do apologize. "Though I moved from there. with a surprised look on her face. remembering. mostly in the Northwest before moving here... I felt terrible guilt for that.. "That must be where you heard my name. "I was. was changing. we sat next to each other in biology!" She was still thrilled about her discovery. "Wow. your name sounded very familiar to me. "No way!" She gasped. I was still trying to be truthful with her. The truth? If I lied now. really upset that day!" Her face pulled into a frown now...." I finally said. I was fairly mortified. It was infectious and I grinned at her." I nodded. "It's just that. But I forced my features to look relaxed. "We were lab partners!" My eyebrows shot up." "Population three thousand. Her eyes turned up towards me again. even now. one hundred. I'm sure. Close enough. the horrible tension between us as she sat beside me in that class." There... "Well.Of course she thought I was staring. "Well... very angry about having to leave. Everything in my world. only for one day.. Washington......" "No! I've got it!" She looked triumphant. what if she figured it out later? "I doubt it. "I lived. "It was my last day at that school." "You were really.. "So did I!" Bella exclaimed. She didn't deny my charge now. I can't believe it. Do you think it's possible that we have met somewhere before now?" I pressed my lips together and stared through my windshield.. almost three years ago now. I lived in Forks. at least for the past three years. and twenty?" I added a touch of incredulousness to my voice. And I hated it." I was trying to stay as truthful as possible." ." I said quietly.

The alcohol disintegrated immediately on my tongue.'" Of course.. I raised the glass and let a small amount of the alcohol pass my lips. "You should park and come in for a minute. "I wasn't too happy about starting school there that day. Her touch and nearness had thrown me. When she left. I didn't drink. I felt a little out of place here. The irony made me laugh. she smiled. In fact. She wouldn't need to know that. Her white knee socks only made her legs look longer. Let me buy you a drink to say 'thanks. and waited for Bella to come back.. I drummed my fingers on the bar table next to me. "I just took a chance. I tried to ignore the mental image that he was providing. He had noticed Bella as well. After the second or third pass. I perched on it and tried to look comfortable in my surroundings. however. When she did. "You look like a bourbon kind of guy. either. I turned the car into a parking space." I licked my lips and tried not to stare at the shiny silver whistle that hung from a cord around her neck and laid directly against the middle of her chest. I was thankful that the loud music masked the groan that escaped my lips. I smiled at Bella to show my gratitude. But I'll be right out!" She wove her way through the crowd to a door behind the bar. and the oak barrel it aged in. But when she smiled at me like that. I froze when Bella pulled my arm and pushed her face towards mine. dressed in my typical Khaki's and button-up shirt. It was closer than I had ever been to her." She turned her face to look out the window as I pulled up in front of the bar where she worked. I could taste the sour mash. My teeth gnashed together and I put my glass on the table so that it would not break in my grip. pretending to enjoy my drink. I was in the process of losing some more of my drink to the floor beside me when I clearly heard him fantasizing about bending her over a pool table in the back room. and I felt that unfamiliar warmth rush through my body when her mouth came close to my ear. I felt a . I had just left my home behind. and then followed her into the Midfield. I have to change into my uniform. This girl was going to be the death of me. Each time she passed. and I tried to breathe normally again. She wore little black shorts and a tight-white t-shirt that was silkscreened to look like some sort of referee's garb. That reason alone kept me sitting there. Bella stayed busy. And it was loud. She grinned and placed a tumbler full of amber-colored liquid and ice on the table beside me. And because she was watching me expectantly. The only saving grace is that she wore the unlucky number thirteen on her back. I couldn't resist. Then she turned her face back towards me with a wide smile. The burn wasn't entirely unpleasant. I really did appreciate the thought." she smiled. When I spied an empty bar stool against the wall. I picked up on the disturbing thoughts of the man standing next to my table. I poured half of my drink on the floor beside me. his thoughts were beginning to infuriate me. The bar was full. "I'll just be a minute. and she swung her hair over her shoulders with a grin before she turned to start taking drinks to other patrons." she replied in a soft voice."I think I could relate.

I considered breaking another of his filthy fingers. "I'm fine. I will remove it from your fucking wrist." Her heart beat was not back to normal. and watching me. I felt rage seething through me. In an instant.tugging her towards him. And her scent was made stronger by the adrenaline coursing through her body. I needed to get away from her. I needed to run. breathing heavily.. and I reacted before the bottles on her tray had time to hit the floor. But somewhere through the red haze of anger I became aware that Bella was still standing there. I finally had a reason to act. I needed air. .. he reached out and grabbed her roughly around the waist. I could hardly call him out for his sick inner-thoughts. I tried to compose myself before turning to her. He couldn't have mistaken the seriousness of the situation he was in. really. "I have to go. The man had imbibed in enough alcohol to make him bold. Her eyes were wide as she stared up at me. and I released his hand with disgust. I turned and pushed my way through the crowd as I made my escape. Do you understand me?" My hiss was low enough that no one else would have heard my threat. and I was waiting for an excuse to approach him. I saw the thin material of the back of her shorts bunch under his crude fingers. When Bella passed again.fierce possessiveness over take me. I nodded and gritted my teeth. I was still shaking from suppressing the urge to cause the man more pain.. I needed to feed. "If you ever put a hand on this woman again. I leaned forward so that the man could feel my words as well as hear them. "Are you alright?" The episode had left my voice rougher than I would have liked. and I smiled when I pinched one of his fingers between two of my own and felt the thin bone snap under the pressure. When Bella came by with another tray of bottles and glasses. Two bouncers appeared near my shoulder then. and at Bella's direction. Her chest still heaved under her efforts to control her breathing." I muttered. And then. Instead of giving in to the violence my body craved. led the man to the door. The man nodded. The man yelled out and sank to his knees in front of me. I gripped his hand and whirled her out of his grip.

the inner tone of her thoughts weren't very friendly towards Bella.. with her head bowed over her notebook when I entered. And apparently Bella had eaten some of Katrina's microwave popcorn without asking.. I wasn't sure why it had become so important to me. I really didn't know what to expect when I saw Bella. Too bad.her thoughts. I had nearly lost control when the man grabbed Bella. her inner voice lamented. Now. Katrina sat beside her again. 2020 I walked into class Thursday evening. subdued. and had the man on his knees with his offending hand in my grip. I frowned. And I wanted her to know me. I held up my hand in a half-wave sort of greeting as I met her eyes. I only barely suppressed the urge to squeeze my fist around his. I had no way to know how Bella felt about the piece of my true nature that had been revealed. he would not have been able to walk away so easily.. I also would have made myself less worthy to know the girl I was trying to protect. A primal urge to protect her had sent me moving before I could think of the possible repercussions. There was a list of mild complaints.. and the curious on-lookers of the bar.. When last I saw her. My calm façade had slipped.but seriously! Who does she think she's fooling? I saw that look on her face when she was talking about him. If not for the frightened girl standing beside me.. I let the voice drone on. . She was in her seat. I know she says that she doesn't like him in THAT way. causing him extreme pain. I wouldn't have let him leave with barely more than a mere threat. Bella did say that Katrina had cramps on Tuesday night. She returned the gesture with a small smile that seemed to match her inner enthusiasm. and I listened to them for a few minutes before I finally heard something that caught my attention. 'Need' might have better sufficed the strange obsession that was rapidly taking over my best judgment and common sense. and looked up when I entered. wondering about what put her in such a foul mood. Had I scared her when I stepped in to handle the situation with the man at the bar? It would be understandable. without the ability to read her inner-thoughts.. Maybe hormones were to blame. But I did want to know Bella. I settled a few rows behind them and decided to satisfy myself my picking through her mind.8. Katrina was busy grumbling in her head about having to do the dishes when it was clearly Bella's turn. if I had. Surprisingly. I pulled her away. Since she hadn't waved me over. Her expression was wary. feeling completely nervous. And I would have enjoyed his agony. the anger and rage in me hadn't been disguised. In fact. 'want' was probably the wrong word.

including my own. I felt angry to know that Bella was involved in a relationship with another man. I made sense of the situation immediately. I quickly flitted out of her mind and focused on my own inner turmoil. . So then. The way it should be.. and tried to bury my despondent thoughts as the professor began his lecture. and I really hoped that I would be able to pull it together enough to be friendly. She wanted to reinforce her prior claim. Katrina was busy planning to come speak to me during the class break. Wow! He's gorgeous. She looked as though she had stepped out of a rock video featuring every school-boy's fantasy. she was still the best gateway to the very unavailable girl sitting beside her.. But I rolled my eyes instead. dark feelings that were pulling me under.. I crashed. A man. And now jealousy was the only way to describe how much I hated the thought of someone else being closer to Bella than I could ever be. The first half of class passed while I wallowed in my dark mood and slumped unhappily in my seat. And just like that. My face steeled into a frown. listening intently and unable to keep the smile from my face. She blushed and looked away. In fact. I had imagined it. I knew that Katrina would be up to say 'hi' in a moment. I wanted it. Her skirt was way too short. Katrina stood when the professor excused us for break. I let my hand take notes and wallowed in the strange. Though it didn't make sense. and the possibilities that I imagined there. Yes. And what is Bella thinking. Though it hadn't previously come as any sort of a conscious thought. that I smile widely at her. And yes. I had felt so happy at the turn that her thoughts had taken. Another man. wrapped in a designer version of a Catholic school-girl's uniform had stepped dramatically into the doorway. Was Katrina thinking about me? My question was answered when Katrina glanced over her shoulder at me.. yes.. Had I really imagined that she could have some kind of a similar relationship with me? And then I knew. anyway? She's got a boyfriend already. and she wore little black-framed glasses.I leaned forward in my seat. it caught everyone's attention. and I stared blindly down at my desk. See? He's totally interested! Her mind went on. I wanted to laugh. Bella had a boyfriend? And why should that fact bother me? It shouldn't. but faltered when a small commotion by the door caught her attention. But waves of disappointment kept crashing over me. why did the news of her relationship shake me to the core? I felt myself shutting down. A tiny brunette with compact curves. After all. I might have actually been amused had it not been for my exceedingly bad mood.

. Katrina and Bella had finally made their way out of the room. frowning at her show. I adored my sister." I reminded her.. just a little." I pulled her name between my teeth in a quiet warning. I shook my head and found that I actually could grin at her. Like shooting fish in a barrel. in your head." she purred as she dimpled a smile at them. I sighed as I heard Katrina's thoughts." "Ew!" Alice wrinkled her nose cutely and I actually felt myself grinning. Alice practically skipped over to the professor. For all of her aggravating ways. and muttered her name under my breath.. She raised one dainty hand to lower her glasses to the end of her nose-glasses that I knew she didn't need.I wanted to see this with my own eyes!" "You've seen this already. "Did you think I ran here? I wasn't going to mess up my hair!" . Now she thinks that you are my girlfriend. "We just got in. They scattered on the floor at her feet.Two guys on their way out the door literally knocked into one another when they saw her. "It's not the same!" she insisted. I saw Bella when I came in. I'm looking for Edward." Alice pouted as she wrapped her arms around my shoulders and kissed me on the cheek. "Great. causing one of them to drop the papers he was carrying.." The professor addressed my sister. "Alice. It really was good to see her.. Katrina and Bella both watched as Alice lightly stepped up the stairs to where I sat." "Ugh. and I wanted to see you! Plus." she said flippantly." I groaned. "You could pretend to be happy to see me. I folded my arms across my chest. This one would be easy for her. "Sorry boys. "You aren't as cute when you look all crabby like that. "I'll only be a minute.. She's very pretty! And she does smell so good!" "Alice. Lighten up!" she scolded. I totally get it. "Where is Jasper?" "He's out in the car. "What are you doing here?" I asked. I could see the dazed expression come over his face as she batted her big gold eyes in his direction." she grinned. "It's OK sweetie." I rolled my eyes at her entrance. while indicating for her to sit beside me. She just giggled and pushed the corners of my frown up with her fingertips to try to make a smile again. "By the way. waiting for me. "Excuse me? Miss? This is a closed session.

9. Bubbly As soon as the professor dismissed us for the evening... "No problem. I looked around to make sure no one was within hearing distance. it's time for the annoying little sister to leave. and was pretty much blocking the buzz of the students around me. I swear to God.. She just shrugged and stood." I cut her off.. I'm looking at rentals. Yeah. as usual.. and then slowly turned to face her and Katrina as they hurried in my direction. Katrina was clearly watching Alice and me from the corner of her eye. "I won't rent on her street. I was startled by the sound of Bella's voice as she clearly called my name over the crowd. and doodling on the paper in front of her.and Alice? See if you can leave without messing with the professor any more. "I'll see you later at your place!" I cringed..?" "Not tonight." she laughed as she sashayed down the stairs. shaking my head." "Oh hush!" She shook her head. "Only for a couple days..diet Cokes in hand. But every fiber of my being wanted to rejoice in the fact that she had.. Bella and Katrina were back at their seats. Because I kept my head down. "Oh. Katrina and Bella had heard that. I threw my bag over my shoulder and started for the door. Students were beginning to trickle back into the lecture hall."Are you staying at the house?" I asked. "Alice.." I said. Bella was showing no interest. . I think we are going to stay in the area a while." "If you say that you are looking on Lyme road." "Aren't you going to introduce me. I could only guess why Bella had called my name.. I froze in place. But maybe somewhere close! Then you can visit when you get tired of being a stalker and watching her sleep!" "I don't!" "But you will!" she sang. She was obviously put-out by my assumed relationship status.. He's already going to have a tough enough time getting back to lecture. Katrina's thoughts were of Alice.

"Hey Edward!" she smiled pleasantly. it was nothing. But my eyes wanted to dart back to Bella's perfect features. "You don't owe me thanks... with my eyes closed. coins... I cleared my throat again and blinked to look at the girls.. My voice sounded deeper to my own ears. She actually seemed a little excited about the project.. we are going to be given the opportunity to break into small groups. what's up?" I finally broke after holding the door for them to exit ahead of me. On the outside." Did she hear the way my mouth worshipped her name? I cleared my throat. "Then he puts our names on a list so that we can use the historic documents vault at the library.. I could have told them the same information." "I have a friend who took this course last semester. The professor had been thinking about the assignment at the end of class tonight. Her cheeks were still pink. anything that can be hunted up in history.. "You know! Stone writings. It was getting easier each time. gives us free reign to just. "What does any of this have to do with me?" I asked.. "Will you walk out with us?" Of course I would.dig through records. Here was an invitation that I could not resist. Inwardly. and I was staggered anew by the scent of her. computer codes to access documents at sister schools... I closed my eyes and focused on the burn in my throat. papyrus." I had to work to make my voice lighter. wanted to say thanks again. "Bella.. The delicate pink in her cheeks caused me to suck in a quick breath." I said.. and blushed. any records of historical documentation we can find.. "We wanted to talk to you. . I needed this." Katrina hurried to join the conversation. I nodded and shrugged a little to pretend indifference. I was jumping to the side and tapping my heels together in the air like some character from a cheesy musical.. "Rumor has it." Bella began. looked down.. If she was worried about my behavior in the bar." Katrina confided in me." Bella stumbled on her words. The two girls looked at each other and then back in my direction. . "That next week. she was hiding it well. "The professor likes each group to choose some subject.." Katrina began.. For the other night. And the groups have to search through and find different sorts of documentation that provide evidence..." "Like a treasure hunt!" Bella smiled. "So." Bella continued. "Really. "I. "Hello Katrina!" I tried to smile in her direction also.

And this will probably be a lot of late nights at the library. Stay cool. drying her newly painted toenails. Having a guy to work with when we are coming and going so late.Bella might be in a relationship with someone. I found Alice. I was still reeling from the suggestion when Katrina spoke again.. I entered my garage in much lighter spirits than I had been in when Alice had found me earlier. I absolutely knew that I would." I shook my head at her. Sure. we'll see you Tuesday.. Of course. A good night indeed." before they got into her car. And then we were at Bella's car. I decided to just let her think as she was." I smiled.. They must not have decided to ask you until after I left. . But she had asked ME to work as part of her group. Both girls seemed to sigh in relief at the same time. "You seem like a smart guy. it was for a school project. "Yeah. Yes.." Alice shrugged. Her mind was already off the project and guessing that I was in a hurry to get home to Alice." I licked my lips and nodded. Bella grinned and offered a quiet "Good night." I said. With anyone but me. That sounds great. "Maybe you seemed a safer choice once they figured that you were unavailable? In which case.I was practically ready to dance at the very thought of it.. Hell. for the time being. But I'd take it. Of course it would be safer. I could have whistled."We wanted to know if you'd work as part of our team!" Bella gave me a small smile. looking around. In fact.. You know. It will probably be safer. But while I knew I shouldn't offer to work in such close contact with the girls. "No.. she would already know that I had been invited into the project group by Bella and Katrina. "Welcome home. I felt stunned. "Well. "I'm parked in the next lot. Yes." "Where's Jasper?" I asked. huh?" Katrina asked.you owe me one.. "Sure! I'll see you!" I concentrated on not sounding too excited." Alice grinned. "Have you bought a new notebook and pen set for your latenight trips to the library?" "You could have clued me in. sitting with her feet up on the large ottoman in my living room. She invited me to spend time with her outside of class. I pushed my chin down and turned to walk away. Edward.

The jet was useless to me. and saw him sprawled out in the corner of the long spa unit. I turned my head away with a grimace... but also to absorb the moods of those nearby. I walked to the deck. Nothing else. the Jacuzzi on the back deck had been a big draw for me when I bought the place. Jasper. I never used it. "It's not like I thought I would need to pack swim trunks for a trip to New Hampshire in the middle of winter!" Then he laughed. to the control panel that turned on the large swimming jet in the middle of the unit. "What's got you so chipper?" "I was asked to be a part of her project group... I laughed at his greeting and he opened his eyes to look at me... "Jesus. I laughed at his observation. When Jasper started to rise up out of the water. Submerging myself in the luxurious depth of water was better than a shower or regular bath. "I'd say I've been lucky enough. "Hmm." I groaned. Jasper was a man who enjoyed indulgences... I am a superior creature and all. And the warmth made me feel." he drawled. I enjoyed the sensation of the hot water swirling around my body. I only want to spend more time with her. He had thrown his arms out to the sides. man!" he grinned up at me. proud of his nudity and impervious to the elements as he dripped water onto my deck." Jasper snickered. spraying up at me as it bounced off his immobile form. I mean. "For the love of all that is Holy.. "But I can understand if you are a little intimidated by me. He already knew all about Bella from Alice.." Other than the wooded area that crept up to the back of my home. "Couldn't you have at least worn trunks or something?" "What's with the modesty?" Jasper grumbled good-naturedly.." I smiled.. "Way to go.. maybe you'll get lucky!" I frowned in his direction."Outside. I didn't need to explain to Jasper who I was speaking of." he replied." "Yeah. The water forced against him in a rush.. I wasn't surprised that he had already found it. He moved towards me under the bubbling water. I need a place with one of these things. He could sense my happiness." he said to himself. "It's good to see you. you are feeling pretty damned relaxed too. Jasper had the ability to influence the moods of those around him.. and his eyes were closed.' But at the moment. It was meant to provide resistance for a human to swim against the forced current. "I'd say 'better than you. His blonde head was tilted back. almost human. How are you?" I greeted him warmly. "Now." . That kinda tickles.please help me talk Alice out of getting a rental. right. It merely splashed past Jasper until he pressed the button to end the cycle. Sitting in your Jacuzzi. just to get the invitation.

Not him. Together they caught me up on the happenings at home. watching as Jasper stood up.. But often. I was willing to bet that Alice. Even Rosalie and Emmett travelled from South America to see everyone. unsuccessfully. swinging his wet hair out of his face and laughing. I knew they would stay in the area for as long as Alice thought I might need them. had an apartment secured and furnishings moved in by Monday.he really was the perfect big brother figure. and Jasper made a point of dressing himself before joining us. I didn't ask how long they would be around. But when Alice and Jasper started getting a little too comfortable with each other on the sofa. Then that surge of jealousy would over-take me again and I would have to combat it by reminding myself that I would see her on Tuesday evening. of course. 10. While the idea of spending time with Emmett sounded great. Stain resistant I entertained Alice and Jasper in my home for the rest of the weekend.spending time in Rosalie's presence sounded about as appealing as fruitcake. including the Jacuzzi-with advanced notice. Afterwards. Jasper complained about not having a Jacuzzi. For those three hours in class.I decided it was best to go for a run and leave them to a little privacy. I promised Jasper that he could use any of the conveniences of my home whenever he liked. she would be with me. I found myself wondering what she was doing over the weekend. You deserved that one. I hadn't chosen to go home for Christmas this year. or who she was spending her time with. I let my hands streak out to push him backwards into the tub. I followed Alice indoors. Alice stood at my elbow in less than a second. but Alice was stubborn. "No way. Concentrating on that made me feel somewhat better. we watched movies. "You could have warned me!" he laughed at her.. didn't even know yet. To show my appreciation. to keep thoughts of Bella having a boyfriend out of my mind. Alice. true to her word. herself." she smiled down at him. I was glad I skipped it. It really was impressive what not having to sleep and an unlimited cash supply was able to help accomplish when one was in a hurry. And I loved her for it. much to my 'mother' Esme's disappointment. I tried.Before he had time to see it coming. She didn't want to buy a house for so short a stay. . To say we didn't get along would be an understatement.

She scowled and flipped her phone closed with a deep sigh. I couldn't keep the pleasure from my voice. Apparently. it was a text message. however. before dropping it back into her bag. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. Katrina was wearing a strong perfume. and I only half-registered that Bella's phone was signaling a call from the deep resources of her bag. of course. closer to where I usually sat.." I shrugged. With my lips pressed closed. And when that familiar burn pulled its way down the back of my throat. saying that I was annoyed to find Bella and Katrina's typical seats empty would have been an understatement. Instead of sitting in their usual seats. my eyes flew open to glance again." Katrina ordered. "Are you saving that seat for someone?" "Sit. I didn't hesitate. It was worth the discomfort. She didn't finish her question as she began to read the tiny screen. I realized my error. confused for a moment. I also noticed. "Wow!" Katrina angled her shoulders towards me and looked over my arm. So when I finally entered class on Tuesday evening. she was near. I smiled when I saw the seat that was conspicuously left between them. trying to keep from throwing or hitting something in my sudden burst of irritation. reveling in the unaccustomed closeness. Had my effort to desensitize myself really been such a success that my instinctive urges had become repressed? I smiled widely at the possibility. and she seemed a little distracted. Bella barely even glanced. As long as I burned. and I was rewarded by a smile and slightly dazed look from each of them. "Good evening. When she lowered her hand and retrieved her phone. I was. "Are you going to answer that?" I lifted an eyebrow in her direction. Its vibrations should have been unknown to me. Bella's natural scent.?" she began as she flipped her phone open. But I busied myself with pulling out my notes from the last lecture." I said politely when I stepped up to them. My mind was whirling with the new information. and took another deliberate breath through my nose.My internal countdown to the Ancient History course was making me feel pathetic. "You have the nicest writing I have ever seen. This time I winced. I stared at the cute little line that settled between her eyes before she blinked twice and turned her face to look down at her bag. But I was too happy about sitting beside her to dwell on the possible reasons. But I counted the minutes in my head. She still looked irritated by whatever it was that she read in her text message. The two girls were in the room. It had been programmed to some sort of a silent setting. . that the burn was not accompanied by the typical pin-prick sensation at the back of my mouth that occurred when I produced venom. "How did you. they were sitting a few rows back. much to my surprise. madly curious. She looked at me. none the less. I ran my tongue across my teeth and wondered about this new development. Bella had turned her chin away while I got settled. tore through me with a burn that I had begun to appreciate. For a guy. I sat back in my seat.

She simply reached over to write on my paper once more. What subject? Bella's breath had hitched slightly at my sudden nearness. the professor did introduce his project idea to the class. We'll tell you during break. to write on her paper.but seeing our names scribbled across the professor's paper side by side made me feel some tangible connection to her. as long as I was able to work with Bella." Such a silly little thing.. and inspired some not-so-innocent thoughts to pass through my head. and released the breath I had been holding when she rested her arm on her own desk again. with resignation. I wrinkled my nose and forced her thoughts away. So I casually leaned towards Bella. When the professor dismissed us. she conjured up mental images of Alice and I that frankly.As Katrina predicted.. she had begun to consider speaking to a dark-haired man in the second row. I nodded my head to acknowledge the message. I wondered what she was thinking of.. I felt warm again. But I knew that I would have to at least feign interest. I admit. I had previously spent quite a bit of time following . She still assumed that Alice and I were a couple. and she had taken to doodling in the margins of her paper. This time I had to suppress a groan when her arm brushed my chest as she pulled it back. Her forearm casually rested on top of mine as she lifted her pen to write on the margin of my paper. I initially stayed seated to tuck my notes into my bag. And the mental images she was providing for that were too graphic for me as well. I liked the way her pencil pushed the curves across the page when she wrote "Edward Cullen.. I didn't have a preference one way or the other. Smart girl. and it was my turn to hold my breath when she caught her bottom lip between her teeth. Bella stood right away.stretched her arms over her head and yawned. I didn't really want to imagine how endowed he might be. And I tried to stay out of Katrina's mind entirely. Finally. Bella's posture had relaxed. She and Katrina already knew the subject that they wanted to search. When he passed around a clipboard. This innocent action put the soft curves under her sweater almost directly at my eye-level. Bella's hand left her paper and had moved over my arm that was resting on my desk. When the professor pointed out that we should have our Document-Search subjects chosen by Thursday evening. so I pulled back. and I smiled at the souvenir she had made of my notes. Heat sprang up from the slight contact between us. grossed me out. We've already got this. I took immense satisfaction in the way that Bella wrote our three names to indicate group status. and forced myself to avert my gaze. She looked around. With a pleasure that nearly matched the first time she spoke my name out loud. I stiffened in my seat. I was still dwelling on it while the professor talked about the project and I took notes. Don't worry. And while that helped to cool her interest in me.

We were nearly alone. Deep breath. But now I was completely distracted by guessing at the softness of her skin beneath that fuzzy blue sweater. "I'll meet you guys at the Coke machines.the rest of the students had begun to make their way back to class." she bit out. she looked faintly upset. Inwardly. "Everything's fine. we were standing so closely that we were practically shoulder to shoulder. she was not going to elaborate. I still couldn't believe my luck. I moved to fill the gap between the two girls. Bella faced me again." Katrina smiled. Obviously." she was already moving down the aisle towards the door as she spoke. Right now.. I walked alone to the student lounge and leaned one shoulder against the wall. I didn't have to be told twice.I felt that unaccustomed rush of heat flash over me. I was dying of curiosity. it was to find Bella standing.. When I opened my eyes again. Burn. Her flirting had been met with success. and I had an excuse to let my eyes drink her in." Bella sounded as glum as she looked. "Edward? You go ahead. and I closed my eyes to ward away the strange sensation.her back-side with my eyes. Her shiny hair . frowning down at the screen on her cell phone. But in an effort to remain secretive. When she entered the room. Of course. Katrina ignored her sullen mood "Did you tell Edward about your project idea yet?" My eyebrows shot up with interest. "I have to return a call. Again. Burn. It was an invitation to step closer." she muttered. Deep breath. waiting for Bella to arrive. "I'll catch up in a minute. watching her force coins into the vending machine with barely suppressed agitation. "Bells? That cute guy in the second row? The one with the dark hair? His name is Brad! He totally asked me for my number!" Ah! I had been replaced." She was planning to go talk to the dark-haired guy that she had been watching during class. I could have kissed Katrina for instigating the conversation. Bella raised her wrist and crooked her finger in my direction. She shook her head as she glanced around the room.being invited to work this closely with Bella. The smile that stole across my face was genuine.I hoped she was successful in her attempts. "Everything alright?" I asked. I nodded. So I just waited patiently. "Good luck with that. It wasn't good for me to keep letting her believe that Alice was my girlfriend. I hated not being able to read the source of her consternation. She was too graphic with her mental images. Katrina flounced into the lounge area almost right away.

she looked even more annoyed than she already had.. "I was rude first. someone ruthlessly drug the needle across the album of sweet violin music that had been playing in my mind like some sort of soundtrack to the moment. And Bella thought I looked stupid? I was momentarily side-tracked by this unwelcome information.. I'm just in a bad mood." I tore my thoughts from my clothing problems and tried to consider my options... "Stupid? So are those Dockers. And her scent. She looked completely serious.. The silence slammed against me and I blinked rapidly.. She just stood there. to her pointy chin.almost touched my arm as she leaned in. No hint of mischievousness alerted me that she might be joking. is really . as Bella parted her lips to speak. Her top teeth pressed lightly against her full bottom lip to form the word she whispered to me. If anything. She swallowed. and finally rested on her mouth.I'm sorry. What? Bella didn't like my pants? Katrina was laughing in earnest now.. waiting for my reaction. The soft. .. but found no hint of humor there. Bella wanted to search for documentation about vampires? My first reaction was to dissuade her. Both girls watched me as I tried to process this new information. But I was trying to be polite by not saying anything!" Bella said snidely. Had I heard her correctly? I searched her eyes." I frowned." And with that single word. stupid!" I blurted out. Her features darkened the instant the insult passed my lips.. That was rude.. v-neck sweater she wore drew my attention to where it lightly lied against her collar bones. she smelled amazing. My eyes travelled up her neck. "Listen. mesmerized. My eyes reluctantly left her collar bones. "Vampires. fuzzy. only to devour the long column of her throat. It was my fault.. And I was at a loss. and I watched that play of muscles under her delicate skin.. you should have plenty of time between now and Thursday to get into a new group. I had thought to look older by wearing casual dress clothes. I watched. "That idea." "If you don't like our search subject." "No. Bella rolled her eyes and continued.

I smiled and nodded. That familiar shaky feeling was starting to set in. But Bella seemed genuinely excited about getting started on the project. Stories of my horrific reality.While the idea of working alongside Bella while we dug up documentation about vampires seemed like something out of a bad B-movie--the alternative was to not work with Bella at all. I could almost feel her nose on my skin. "I'd just like to look around." She shook her head. But I didn't want to make her uncomfortable.. Our group is set. as always. Which meant. Before the professor began the second half of lecture. The professor told us that we had open access to the historical documents vault at the library. After class. "We have plenty of time. she turned and leaned into me to whisper.. I had hoped that she would change her mind in the last couple of days. She turned with a grin. But I turned my head to return her whisper. But that girl was stubborn. Like I would deny her anything. I watched as Bella walked forward to the professor's desk and wrote our search-subject on his paper." she whispered again. "Are you busy after class? Do you want to walk with me. This was going to get interesting. I wondered if I should have offered to help. and her long brown tresses touched my arm. obviously happy with herself. and gave Katrina and me a thumbs-up. "I'm not busy. and gave each group an envelope that held computer access codes that we might need. After break. Katrina was busy thinking about Brad. together. awed by her nearness." Bella wanted to talk to me. And Bella and I returned back to our seats. 11. At least if I worked beside her. Katrina conveniently stayed in the seat beside her new crush. I was busy thinking about Bella. along with a strict set of guidelines about how to handle the materials. And I'd like to talk to you. "No. there was no alternative for me. . and followed her down the steps to Katrina. over to the library?" I was. I might get some insight of what in the world she thought of the stories she would find. I pulled my own wool coat on instead." I steeled my jaw. Nocturnal Admissions On Thursday night in class. Bella stood and started to pull her coat around her shoulders. I didn't know we'd be starting tonight though.

"Trina? I'll give you a ride home.. So she is planning on contributing to this project during her lunch breaks. "Yeah?" "It was. You know I work early." "Thanks!" Katrina smiled. Bella pulled a worn-looking stocking cap from her pocket and pulled it down over her head. I moved there from Phoenix. "Want to walk with?" "Ah hell Bella. Do you really need me to?" "Oh. It was lightly snowing outside. Bella just proceeded to the exit with me in tow. She works during the day. but when I moved to Forks. my idea to ask you to work in our group." I tucked my chin low into the pulled-up collar of my coat and considered what she had said.. I actually hated the cold weather." I told her." Bella responded. if you need one. "So."We're walking over to the library. Katrina and I keep very different schedules. my schedule is different. Then. and pushed my hands into my pockets." "Ok. No.. "The weather isn't great. I was jealous of every tiny snowflake that got to touch her cheek. "It's hard to believe. And she likes to be in bed by eleven during the week.." Bella told her roommate. The way she tilted her face right into the wind only illustrated the truth of her words.. Brad almost became my new best friend when he stepped into the group." A tightening in my chest made me halt my steps for a moment." Bella finally said. I flipped up the collar of my long coat as an acceptable ruse. She looked so adorable that I couldn't help but smile." "But. and the rain and the cooler temperatures really had me down for a while. "The truth is.. to look around.or in the evening. I have a confession to make..." . That's ok." she began. "If you'd rather do this another time?" "I like the snow!" Bella smiled. She made sure to raise her eyebrows emphatically in our direction once Brad had turned to pick up his things.it kind of grew on me. "Why?" "Well.

. "Anyway..I just wanted to be up front. she was comfortable with it... the tiny green-hooded desk lamp bathed the workspace in a warm yellow glow." Bella smiled. cherry table that was tucked away in the corner. The small table in the corner seemed totally intimate to me. I don't sleep at night either.my days and nights are switched. A small bribe to the night watchman should ensure us a slightly more flexible schedule. noting that the typical closing hours were listed as midnight. I don't even know when you'd prefer to work! If you like to work early.anything that would give me more time with her. we can find each other easily. "It just so happens. "Yes. "So when we meet to work." "And this leads to what Katrina said before. We each signed our names to the clipboard outside.it will mostly be just the two of us?" I tried to sound unaffected. I sat across from her. Heck. Her scent was so specific to me.." "I remember.I'll re-adjust somehow. I smiled when I thought of making that a gift to Bella... Bella led the way to the back room that was designated for historical documents." I supplied. Call it a small part of my contribution to the project. She could hide in any nook of this large library. On the seventh floor. With the flick of her wrist. and pulled my mouth into a small grin... who was grabbing me. Several of the students from our class were already moving around the computers and long shelves of books. And then we can meet up with Katrina. She quickly moved to walk beside me. Like. It's not unusual for me to be awake until three or four in the morning. and stepped into the quiet inner area." "I got the idea that night at the Midfield. and I'd be on her in seconds. Bella sat in one of the two chairs and ran her hands along the smooth top of the table." I pushed my chin down and started walking again. "It's safer to have a guy around." I held the library door open for her. "Since working at the bar. She sighed. after class." As if I needed help to find her. Bella bypassed the material and led us to a very small. from that one guy. I don't really sleep at night."How so?" I asked. awkwardly. "You stepped in so quickly to protect me." Bella continued to explain. "This should be 'our' desk. Apparently. "Otherwise.. So I thought I would do most of my work late." I followed Bella silently through the lower level of the library.. I didn't see any reason for the anxiety that I was beginning to pick up from her. Our wash of yellow light was like a dome over our personal space.

" I sighed. But I instinctively knew that she would not appreciate my reminder.. I reached across the table and lightly picked up her wrist. I wanted to know what had put her in such a foul mood. I laughed. all of that stuff?" Again. "I don't know really. in removing someone from this space if it made Bella happy. She had called this 'our spot. But I knew that I would have no problem. "You don't seem the type. and I was thankful. "What is that supposed to mean?" She looked into my eyes with interest. "You obviously don't dress in an entire 'Hot Topic' wardrobe." she said with a shrug and a grin. .' I liked the sound of that.." I mumbled. "Sorry. I just raised one eyebrow and pretended to take in her appearance quickly. "Yes.." Bella's eyes were wide. I tried to add a derisive tone to my question. "Would you think badly of me. But I waited on the edge of my seat for her reply."What if someone takes our spot?" I asked with mock concern. with extreme prejudice." "Oh. instead. I was happy that she didn't look as upset as she did on Tuesday night. and the light danced in their teasing depths.awake all night." I pointed out her lack of trendygoth attire. I held my breath as she looked up at me from under her eyelashes. and placed mine under the table. But the coldness of my touch was probably startling to her. So it's not that you necessarily believe in. But I had been endlessly curious about her desire to search for documentation about vampires." she smiled. "You asked about how I chose the subject?" She changed gears. The warmth of her skin felt amazing to me. "That's alright. if I did?" Bella asked quietly. You know. "We'll remove them. whatsoever. to open a different line of questioning. I released her hand quickly. sleeping all day.I was hesitant to utter the word. looking down.. I frowned.. leaning towards each other over the table.. as if I thought it all was nonsense. The idea sort of sprang from that. "Why this subject?" I couldn't bring myself to say the word. Without thinking about it. "I was teasing Katrina about how my schedule makes me feel like a vampire. As if I hadn't already completely memorized the way she looked in the lamp-light. So I decided. We sat. I wanted to ask her about those text messages. "You aren't even wearing black nail polish!" I clicked my tongue in a teasing 'tsk' while her eyes travelled down to look where I still held her wrist in my hand." I continued..

" she answered. alright. I felt restless. But I remembered why I couldn't." I finally muttered. She hurried to continue.. I flashed to it. that sounds just about perfect!" Yes. and allowed me to follow the line of her neck with my eyes again.. but then heard my phone ringing from across the room. I briefly considered calling Alice. Perfect. She had completely changed the subject again. "When you touched my wrist. Fast Food Humanity I spent quite a while. "Pardon me?" "Your hand. "So. I couldn't. And all of these stories. Then we can balance each other out! I'd say. and it threw me. "Well. "I'm always cold. 12. that date back so far. But not actually close to death." She was hot."Impossible." she leaned in. "I wish I was one of those people. stay close to me then." I should have known she would have caught that. But I try to never rule out possibilities. I didn't answer.. with a speed reserved for times when I was alone or with family and held it to my ear with a smile." I watched her face for her reaction. The only urge I felt was one to touch her again. I'm about to die with this coat on. . From completely different cultures and different areas of the world? They had to have come from somewhere. Not right then. right?" She asked. She smiled and shrugged." she smiled. "I don't know. She turned her face from my gaze. I guess not really. "Well... reading through random books of poetry. on Friday afternoon. I'm always running hot. I could never think badly of her. I nodded slowly at her suggestion.at least not like you see in movies.. as if afraid that she had offended me.are you always so cold?" She asked. anyway.. your hand felt very cold. My breath caught again when a wide smile pulled across her features." I spoke the truth.especially for believing in the existence of a creature that happened to be sitting across the table from her. "You can be like my personal air-conditioner. But I didn't expect that she would mention it. "Yes.

"I'll go with you." Alice warned teasingly. "You know I like it when the girls look!" "Don't let him corrupt you. I could hardly stop in the middle of the afternoon to snoop around. "Edwarrrrd. She laughed. I liked knowing where she was." He wrinkled his nose and nodded while Alice looked up from her canvas and hissed." I mumbled." she growled."Yes. Jasper looked up from where he sat in the corner of the sofa and gave me a dirty look." I pretended to wince and then walked over to kiss her on the cheek that wasn't splattered with paint. "He's turned into such a tease!" . If I don't see the inside of a shopping mall for the next twenty years." "Does he have clothes on?" I frowned. And something that. He was bitching just to hear his own voice. though. to not know if she was alone. So I continued on my way to Alice and Jasper's place. "But I've been unsuccessful. Alice held her paintbrush up towards my face with mock warning." Alice spoke. "I need help." He smiled. "Yes! I told you. only taking a slight detour to drive down Lyme road. and shrugged." Alice grinned. "Bella doesn't like my clothes. "What brings you by?" Alice asked. Yes." Alice said. He knew he had an open invitation. I drove to their new apartment. Bella's faded Volkswagon was parked near the curb in front of her apartment building. shows off the package. "Hey! Nice. "What?" he asked defensively. "You know I gave up shopping when I left the high school gig behind.." I nodded while I looked around..that will be fine by me!" She turned back to her painting. Jasper stood up. She was not-surprisingly. very good. Edward. man. It bothered me. She stood in front of an easel. "Are you sure I won't be interrupting anything?" "I'm trying to get Jasper to pose for me. "I could use some new jeans. We are home. "You don't know?" "I didn't look long enough to find out. I want something that makes my ass look really good. come on over. with green paint smeared across one cheek. "Sure. You can say that while you are sitting in your Jacuzzi!" I grinned. "You have been boring me lately!" "Ouch. I laughed. you know.I've been unsuccessful!" Alice had been spending her time practicing oil painting." It had been bothering me all week.

" "You think a lot of yourself. She'll go home and call her friends and brag about how some cute guy in the mall was checking her out. . He liked attention. I made her day.. But if you ask me even once how your ass looks. and turned to walk towards the door... I'm leaving you there. In the mall..doing his best lecherous-human impersonation.." I reminded him. "What do you mean?" "I mean. "Too lazy to hunt?" "Nah. you don't wish you could live just a little more human. like. he leaned back against the passenger seat and turned his attention to the long row of fast-food restaurants that we passed." I muttered dryly.. Or. they could cram a bear into one of those cardboard Happy Meal boxes for you or something. The more time I spent around Bella." I drove in silence while Jasper flipped rapidly through the radio stations." Jasper smiled as he blurred to a stop behind her and put both hands on her butt. I sighed as he turned around to ogle a particularly endowed young lady that passed us." Jasper said over my shoulder.you can come with me. "Besides. Settling on some warbled-country song." he laughed. that at least now and then.. Come on. He wasn't lying. It amuses me to bat them around a little and listen to the sweet little tinkling sounds they make!" I groaned quietly while I walked to a table of v-neck t-shirts. you love it. Girls that passed us twittered to each other and blushed while he smiled and winked and made a general spectacle of himself. it's fun. You can't tell me. Jasper just laughed. You know I love a good run. "You are un-available.. They were faded. "You should get a few of those.." I didn't need to mention in how many ways I spoke the truth. "Jasper. the more it was true. They are kind of like cat toys.. "Do you ever wish they had a drive-thru for us?" He asked." "You know I do. The cotton was thin. "They fit well. and soft. you could drive up to the little menu board and order up some Mountain Lion." I responded quietly."Aw. "Cut it out!" I ordered. "I know." "They'd have a hell of a time getting that through your car window." "Of course I do. "It's not nice. "But she doesn't. I frowned at Jasper's overly-staged antics. Sometimes these sort of thoughts just amuse me." Jasper knocked into my shoulder to detour me into a store.

"Hello? No. His sister's fiancée.. Bye now sugar!" Jasper clicked my phone closed and turned to look at me. I walked to the dressing room area. I would have taken him down. Bella and I had exchanged phone numbers before we left the library. I'll give him the message." I spoke out. Edward is busy at the moment. "Sure.. He just grinned and turned his shoulders away from me. Then I threw myself from the dressing room and thrust my open hand in front of Jasper's face. with that big goofy smile in place. "No. thank you. go for faded or distressed jeans. "What was that?" I barely controlled my voice. That would be a fight for the books. "She probably already knew you were going to call. But manufacturer's specifications often did. That girl does all her shopping online these days. and so I followed. But I did need jeans.we'd love to! Sure. I thought briefly about leaving him. can I take a message? Oh well. If we weren't in a public place. like Jasper did." "I got it. And while I didn't place quite as much emphasis on needing to show off my assets. I pushed both feet into my khakis and tried to fasten them as quickly as I could without breaking the zipper. ." Jasper smiled that damn infectious grin again and then stepped back to a wall of denim.. Ok. I heard my phone ring." I tossed my phone over the low divider. We aren't busy tonight. From beyond the door. Hi there Bella!" I hurried to get out of the jeans that were around my legs.. With a few pair in hand. and laughed a little in the mirror as I imagined him trying to drag Alice anywhere. not to remind her of an eighth-grade boy in his back-to-school clothes!" "I do not have a goal to make Bella want anything like that!" I sputtered. Nothing too new." Jasper yelled from beyond the door. Thanks Mom. I didn't expect that she would call so soon. "I want to see if Alice needs me to pick her up anything. She was a ferocious little thing. "Hey! Throw me your phone. My size never changed. I couldn't drag her to a mall if I tried. I wanted to make sure the jeans at least fit properly." I glared at him.And you don't want anything that looks too new! Your goal is to make Bella want a ride. I heard him answer the phone. It's very nice to talk to you too!" His southern drawl came out when he was trying to be charming. "Remember. Well. "I'm Jasper. Well.

"Don't even say it. "She did say something about wanting to go to the library with her roommate tomorrow." I kept my voice low. "You would!" Jasper was not going to be deterred. Pull the stick out.. and I held my palm up facing him before he could twist my words into something dirty." Ah! At least that made sense. But only so I can give her the things she needs. Because I think I just got you a date!" I couldn't help myself. Come on man! It sounds like fun! And Alice is going to be pissed if you back out of this opportunity!" "Since when do you like to hang out in bars?" "I like beer!" Jasper tilted his head up. "We'll go. man.." I muttered." My eyes glared at him again. "She said she gets off work early tonight. But you really need to lighten up. For a little while." Jasper got a devilish grin. "Tell me what was said." "I wasn't gonna!" He insisted. And she said that you have the envelope with the computer codes." "No way." I warned.. "Well. "She has a boyfriend. I can be cool. have to act civilized." I snapped. and closed my eyes. But it didn't make any sense for her to just issue an invitation to meet her out." Jasper allowed. "Us?" "Yes. I gripped his collar tightly and heard the material resist as I pulled him back towards the dressing rooms. I snorted. It was hard for me to say out loud." ."I hope you got yourself a nice pair of jeans there pal. "And you. "Aw.. "Did she say why?" "Does she need a reason?" he asked. "Jeez Edward. She invited Alice and I along. And that she wants us to come to the Midfield!" Jasper was barely suppressing laughter. "Fine.

. I watched as he leaned over the space. and Alice clung to my arm as we wound our way through the crowd at the Midfield. "I brought the things you asked for. if you drink all of that. "I have a 'reserved' sign on that table over by the wall.. mid-turn with a tray of drinks held to the side. "What about you. flirting shamelessly with the cashier. "Oh! Edward!" She smiled widely. Of course." . "Edward? Hi!" "Hi!" I smiled in her direction. Alice giggled and leaned her head into his arm. playfully pulling her closer to his side." I warned him. I was envious of the ease in which he lived just a little more human. "I get off work in about twenty minutes.. Your Vampire Body and You Jasper stepped straight to the bar. waiting for Bella. Jasper tilted a bottle of beer towards his mouth and took a long drink.. you are just going to have to make yourself puke it up later. "You know. But secretly. I knew from experience. Now. His body wouldn't digest it. Soon Jasper found us. I rolled my eyes at him again. I followed Bella's scent until she almost crashed into me. But the way Jasper was drinking would not end with the same results. and the three of us perched on barstools. 13. The excess liquid would have to be expelled somehow. Alice? Have you decided to take up drinking as well?" "Not beer! But that guy over there looks pretty tasty!" Alice teased." she said. Bella took that moment to stroll up. She nodded and walked away. Can I meet you there?" "Sure. We didn't have to worry about becoming inebriated. and then her curious brown eyes landed briefly on Alice's hand that was still draped through my arm. The bourbon Bella had given me before had done just that. I patted the manila envelope on the table. "Most of the people in this place will end up puking tonight!" Jasper rebuffed.a tiny bit of alcohol would merely absorb in our mouths. Our bodies would not process the alcohol in the same way that a human body would." I said. as she looked down at her wrist watch. Alice smiled and walked ahead of me to find our seats.Jasper took his items to the check-out counter and whipped out his credit card. Jasper growled and tugged the belt loops of her jeans.

"You get used to it." I heard Bella mutter. of course. "I can tell!" She laughed. And tonight." Bella rolled her eyes. "The uniform doesn't help!" Bella indicated towards her tight referee t-shirt and little black shorts. and I inwardly thanked her for the lie. and she smiled easily. Alice. "I'm not really much of a drinker. he's offered me a ride home at least three different times. and pretended to watch the people on the small dance floor. "Even these two bone-heads are staring!" I frowned at her and turned my head." I added." I introduced them." Bella smiled. Jasper was taking a good long look too. "I mean. "A cruel joke. for instance. Bella laughed with her. . really. I tried to keep my own eyes from lingering but fell short. made a joke of it."Hey there Bella! I'm Jasper. I turned my attention back towards her. remembered Alice from her dazzling appearance in our class. He's been in here a few times recently. We talked on the phone!" Jasper merely nodded instead of offering his hand. Jasper had turned to look at the man in question. "You have no idea. and he shall arrive. "His ex-girlfriend used to love that song!" She sent me a pointed glance. "Neither am I." Alice dimpled. "She's the devious one who programmed my phone to play 'Cher. I didn't need Bella taking bets about my sexuality again. She. "Take.'" I pointed out. "Oh. and Jasper just grinned. I have drinks on occasion. that guy in the brown coat by the bar. Knowing him. Alice. "Did you all want drinks?" Bella asked. hi!" Bella's eyes had landed on Alice once again. Jasper snorted." Bella shrugged. She was absently rubbing Jasper's arm. He didn't care that he was caught. no doubt. "This is my sister. he was probably considering messing with the guy. But I don't hold my liquor very well! So I try to avoid it." "I'll bet it isn't very appealing after having to deal with drunk people all night!" Alice offered." Alice and I said in unison. "Speak of the devil. Bella's eyes flew open wider. just for fun." "Poor thing!" Alice said sympathetically. "No thanks. and saw the man in the brown coat approaching our table.

He was just drunk. leading them both towards the dance floor. after all?" "No thanks. my attention was drawn entirely to that part.. reached forward to pull Bella away from me.. I saw her whisper quickly in Jasper's ear. she got serious fast. And then Alice. In his drunken state. Snuggling close.in a way that I still couldn't understand. Except right then.. Unfortunately for me. Yes!" Bella said loudly.. could not move. Let's dance!" She suggested. "Hey there. It only took a moment to realize what was happening. I saw Jasper stand a little straighter and pull his shoulders back. The guy in the brown coat turned away just as Alice turned towards us with her hand over her mouth to stifle her laughter." the man spoke directly behind Bella. "Is this guy your date?" Mr. staring at the twisting lights on the dance floor. I didn't perceive the man as a threat. I was feeling very. Bella was almost close enough to be able to figure out just how much her touch was affecting me.. number thirteen. I wondered. And then. Because while I wasn't absolutely sure what was going on. but his easy-going smile had turned into a hard line. But when her eyes met the desperation in my own. God love her. than you are!" I relaxed a little. And suddenly. I could guess now. I was frozen as she lifted her hands and pushed them into the back of my hair. His hands remained on Alice's hips. Brown-coat asked. His thoughts were blurred by alcohol. She was having a vision.. I knew something was different. and Bella stepped backwards on reflex." Bella tried to sound polite as she turned. pretend for a second until he goes away. But other than thinking Bella was pretty. he wasn't being crass. he did stumble forward a little. with a far-off look on her face. she fully turned between my knees and pressed her body up against mine.From the corner of my eye. but my eyebrows shot up incredulously as I turned a panicked look to Alice. her motion placed her very awkwardly between my parted knees. . what she saw. I sat there on that low bar stool. "Come on Bella. Her hands were in my hair. "Sorry Edward. and her delicious bottom in her barely-there shorts was inches away from certain parts of my anatomy that I typical gave very little thought to. Her hot breath was still swimming around my head. "I thought I'd make sure you don't need that ride. briefly. She stood. And the confusing situation with my body only made me feel mortified. "Umm. Ok?" I literally. Just. he was picking it up from my own emotions.. and she rolled her eyes towards me where he couldn't see. Maybe she just naturally drew out a need to protect. "I already told you. And I am in better shape to drive. I have my own car. what had brought on such a quick sort of over-protectiveness from him towards Bella. Or maybe. she purred into my ear. my jeans were feeling tighter than they had before. very warm again.

they take off all their clothes and." I picked up an ashtray from the table beside me. "Stay out here with me for a minute.. ah. "You want her." I growled between my teeth. Be serious for a minute here!" I sounded frantic..." I admitted." "Jasper. you really." I suggested." he put his palms up. ah. really like each other. "You are in a serious state of denial. He easily deflected it with a flick of his wrist. and I could only glance down towards the front of my pants with disgust. He spun my shoulders under his hands then until I was facing him. he tried his best to stop laughing." "I don't understand. "Ah. Edward. Play nice. We don't need to buy these people new outdoor furniture. I mean. "It's called an erection. easy. They were foreign. "Well. and the small object crashed against the side of the building.." I took deep breaths to calm myself.. It's not the time for us to go at it. my friend. When a man and woman really. really want her. "Why in the hell is this happening to me now? I didn't even know it was possible.. and more than a little disorienting. don't know. "I can't go back in there like this." he scolded. "If you weren't so freaked out about all of this. I got it... Edward. To his credit.I swear to God it would be the funniest shit in the world. But I got it. and he must have picked up the mood from me immediately. What is going on?" "I. and threw it at him with the speed of a bullet..Jasper threw his arm around my shoulder and started pulling me alongside him towards the patio doors. "How is this even possible?" I groaned.." Jasper lectured. I didn't even try to resist. trying to make sense of the new feelings coursing through me." . "I meant. "What's going on with me?" I asked.. "Holy shit.. "Alright." I pushed my hands up over my face and into my hair." "No kidding! You're pitching a tent!" Jasper was laughing in earnest now. I just allowed myself to be herded until we reached the concrete pad behind the bar and the door closed behind us.

My traitor body had relaxed. "I've got to get going.take matters into your own hands. "I guess I just always thought I was meant to be alone. "I understand how the process works." Jasper hedged. to anyone like this.. "You'll just have to. And you know it!" Jasper laughed a little and shrugged. "That isn't what I meant. I nodded curtly and turned for the door.. "We both know." "Give you a boner?" "Nice.." When I was certain that I was under control.. . you know. I scowled and began to pace. man. Whoa!... "Irrelevant. "What am I supposed to do?" I slumped my shoulders. Jasper. I was angry. maybe not. I just shook my head. Jasper and I walked back into the bar.. been attracted.. and a sort of despondence was taking over.. it would take some cosmic connection to my perfect mate to." "That would pose a problem.. perhaps a little too loudly. Jasper elbowed me roughly. We found the girls. thanks for bringing this by. "Well? Maybe you were right!" "She's a human!" I yelled." I winced.. "Our relationship isn't like that. just returning to the table. You mean you never.?" Jasper looked dumbfounded." I said. So I picked up the envelope and held it in her direction. I wasn't quite able to meet Bella's eyes.. maybe..." "How is that possible?" Jasper was clearly amazed. "Well.." Bella said quietly." I continued speaking loudly.." he said thoughtfully. Do I need to draw a diagram?" "Go to hell!" I snarled." "What do you mean?" "I'm talking about masturbation. Like." I said through gritted teeth.."Whoa. "I have never. "I'm just trying to lighten the situation. that is a physical impossibility!" "Maybe..

Jasper stared out the side window and sang through cartoon theme songs in his mind. "Don't be an ass. Freezy Breezy I got behind the wheel of my car." I said. "I'll be right back!" She changed quickly.. She hadn't heard me approach. "Are you going to be ok." he hissed. "Thanks again."She looks like someone kicked her puppy." Bella said by her door. I could see Alice and Jasper in my car as I walked Bella to hers." I stood and watched her drive away before facing what was waiting for me in my car. for coming up here tonight. he turned . and looked up quickly at the sound of my voice. I left them by the door and walked back to where Bella stood. I'm going to change my clothes in the backroom. "It's not her fault that you decided to finally go through puberty!" I glared at her. to prevent me from hearing more serious thoughts. As if he knew that I would be concerned. and met me by the door. And then I'll have one of the guys walk me to my car. "Sounds good." I murmured. He knew how to throw up a brick wall. I was met with silence. She felt sorry for me. Bella smiled up at me. I wondered what he might not want me to be hearing right then. I didn't want to leave Bella so abruptly. "It really wasn't a problem.. "I'll wait for you. getting home?" I asked. but then decided to heed their advice." "Want to go to the library. after?" she asked. "Oh yeah. Alice looked into my eyes as I found her in the rearview mirror. "See you Tuesday." I looked up to see Jasper and Alice both exit and I sighed. thinking that she had done something wrong." Alice warned. 14. prepared for the massive amounts of ribbing I was sure to get from Alice and Jasper. in class.

. Any manly desires I had ever had while human had long been forgotten. Her indefinablething that made me feel a pull to be near her. This I understood.. Rows of windows adorned the building. I frowned for a moment. I passed another bear. I needed to stretch my muscles. I inhaled deeply. as I crouched with my fingertips touching the cool stone below.a perfect match for my unholy design. And for a human girl? Yes. I could smell him. I moved a small distance away and leapt to perch on a large rock. I was thirsty. when I sensed that most of the occupants were asleep. Without conscious thought. I considered . I was still amazed by my body's reaction to Bella. Changing direction to follow a scent more desirable than those of the smaller animals I had passed and left in their hiding spaces.. I was in no mood to play.. There in the darkness. I slunk up behind the brute. I could hear the bear. I dropped my chin and let myself be ruled by my senses. Though not my favorite. scanning the moonlit scene before me and trying to find peace that usually came with this familiar ritual..even at this distance. I left my car in my garage and I went out for a run. tasting the night and the life around me. I stayed in the forest fringe and on back streets until I once again stood in front of her apartment building. It wasn't even her body. Once in town. The forest floor flew beneath my feet. though I would have begged to differ earlier in the evening. I only felt alone. I kept my feet beneath me. I had to admit. I didn't want to get blood on my new jeans. After I dropped them off at their apartment. then shoved the depleted carcass away. I found myself running in her direction. I stayed that way for quite a while. I didn't need them. and the wind pushed against my clothing and hair. he would do. and nowhere near as tempting a scent as the humans I denied myself everyday. This time. Right then.. Ah! It was something he didn't want her to hear. or if any of the windows would lead me to what I was looking for. I could taste him. This I knew. It would wait. He flashed his eyes towards Alice. I passed small animals.. Right? Still.. I dove into him. I drank until the creature collapsed beneath me. I crept silently to the back of the structure. closing my eyes as the warm rush of its blood began to fill me. Instead.her blood was the most intoxicating scent I had ever come across.. I wasn't sure which apartment was hers. But it seemed my body was confused about its needs. The events of the evening weighed heavily on my mind.. She could be my perfect match in only one way.his face towards mine and shook his head infinitesimally. and I roughly bit through the fur and the muscles on the side of his neck. I needed Bella. It was her essence. I didn't expect that they would resurface now. it was not her blood that I craved.

I stayed by the window while I took my first wary breath. I swallowed hard as I looked at the way her thin white tank top exposed her shoulders and lower back.. The force of elements brought my attention to a small flicker of motion in one of the second floor windows. I felt powerful in my control. The curves of her rear end were wrapped in dark blue cotton panties.scaling the wall. But little by little. I had fallen in love with this woman who slept in front of me. Typical. Someone who had left a window open. No flux of venom.it wouldn't have been hard. I felt immediate release of the tension and stress I had been feeling. or when it happened. It was hers. blowing outward with the wind. it was starting to make sense to me. But nothing I couldn't handle. staring at her the way I was. beautiful burn. battling myself. Just to make sure that my mind stayed on chaste matters. Alice had as much as told me that I would do this.. in some sick way. my body was not behaving at all the way it had earlier. But oddly enough. Her scent was on everything in this room. Not tonight. It was a bedroom. with her cheek pressed against the pillow that her arms were folded beneath. I inched the window up. No.during the winter. Someone who might be in need of a personal air-conditioner. Bella lied on her stomach. rather than the craving for her blood. I felt like her vision gave me permission. . My craving for her nearness. and peering through the darkness. I wouldn't be. I wasn't sure how. A strong winter wind blew up and around me. Instead of feeling repulsed by my own weakness. She smiled a little in her sleep. I felt a little ashamed. My good intentions flew right out the window like the edge of that curtain. I was up the wall in two seconds. Someone who always ran hot. I smiled in the darkness and moved closer to her. just a crack. I reached and carefully lifted her blanket to cover her. It wouldn't be enough. Her nearness was the balm that I needed. glorious. My mind was going a million directions as I slowly breathed in and out through my nose. Would a glance inside the darkened windows give me enough of a clue to find Bella's apartment? And would I be happy merely learning which was hers? I knew the answer. and her light blanket was twisted to lie across the back of her thighs. and soundlessly entered the room. It was the fluttering of a curtain.newer desires replacing the old. And yes. Her legs were sprawled wide. No urge to feed. and wiggled further into the comfort of her bed. She didn't have a chair in her tiny room. and so I backed away and rested against the low top of her dresser. Yet still I stood there.

But pain could come in many forms. I sighed. Bella began to mumble in her sleep and I froze.. She giggled a little. I knew I would be back. I let my eyes take stock in her beauty. Lowering myself. I leaned forward. I was in love with a girl I couldn't have. I couldn't stand the thought of hurting her. I would not allow it to happen. Her thick lashes. so badly. that I could never intentionally hurt her." she whispered in the dark. I was in love with her. In a moment. And then her lips pursed together. to stay and listen to her sleepy voice. A girl. She smiled in her sleep. if she caught me there? I decided to not push my luck. This was as close as I could ever allow myself to get to her. Bella shifted in her sleep. It was too tempting. . and my muscles tightened reflexively. Bella turned her head to the opposite side and settled back into her pillow. Mike? She was still dreaming and mumbling as I turned back towards the window.. to know what was going on in her mind. But as I took a step forward. I didn't want to hear any more. If I didn't cause direct harm. I stepped closer. I was positive. I wanted. I sat on the floor beside her. I smiled. But now that I had the knowledge. Had I always been in love with her? I didn't know. what in the hell was I going to do with that? I left the dresser. The little shadowy place under her bottom lip. she moaned lightly. and walked back to the side of the bed. The delicate curve of her cheek. Her sleeping face was pointed in my direction. something about my life would. I wouldn't be able to stay away. "Mike.who belonged to someone else. What would I do.From her tangle of dark hair to the bare feet that already found their way out of the blanket in search for cooler air. Would her dreams give me a clue? What if she dreamt about me? I could hardly suppress the excitement I felt over that imagined possibility. and so I rose to leave. She sighed.

I wanted to press my lips against it. a long.. tormenting myself with thoughts of Bella with this other man. But a man." Bella smiled. Other than his name.15. with my arms resting across my bent knees. masochistic stalker. I don't know how long I spent.. I breathed her. provided inwardly or outwardly. The sky was growing pink. I didn't want to hear details about her date with Brad. She didn't say his name again. I opted to stay in the auditorium to review Katrina's project notes. . And then with a sigh. I sat beside her. But she didn't say mine either. I wanted to pick it up and twist it around my fingers.who had no presence in her room.or I would make myself crazy. she mumbled about clowns. winding tendril of her hair curled over the edge of her bed. It was time. Bella and I would have to carry the project.. It was all I had time for before the professor began his lecture. I had made myself completely miserable. Bella and I dressed in our coats and walked together towards the library. His personal belongings weren't left in her closet. "Hello Edward. By Tuesday night. Katrina's lunch-hour didn't give her enough time to search in great detail. and feel the texture there. I went back again." I replied. And once. when she rolled away. Instead. And I watched her.. I glanced through the meager list of items that she had searched for and found in the library. On Sunday night. After class. It seemed to beckon to me. And again. rubbing the back of my finger along that shiny lock of hair. and slumped quietly in the seat that Bella and Katrina had saved for me. Brad saw to it that Katrina was taken safely to her car. During our break. He had no picture representation stuck into the frame of her mirror where other friends were displayed. "Ladies. The only things on her list tonight were items I probably could have found on Google. By the looks of things. I found myself sitting in silence beside Bella's bed. A man she obviously dreamt about. But that was neither here nor there. or bathroom. Technically Shmechnically Like some sick. I lifted myself and took leave of the solace I had found. And I finally decided I would have to work up the nerve to just ask Bella about him." Katrina offered. he was a complete mystery to me. "Hi Eddie. As predictable as the night. But I restrained myself. And I was completely thankful for that. I walked into class later than usual. watching her sleep.

But we'll be re-admitted at the side door.. So I just assumed... nothing like that." Bella muttered.."Katrina's lunch hour didn't give her much time to search. I would have paid double for the smile she delivered. His name is Gary.." False. .girlfriend." she blushed and looked down." I began.. "But I'm not sure we'll be able to do much better. "Wouldn't your boyfriend be upset to know I was pretending to be him on Friday night?" "How did you know. I had only come by the knowledge from reading Katrina's mind. as a way to start conversation. Actually. I had nearly forgotten the arrangements that were already in place.what would you say if I told you we have unlimited access to the library?" "I'd say you were full of crap. Why?" I smirked." I answered lightly. But I was endlessly grateful that she brought the subject up. But he agreed to let us in the side door promptly as 12:05 on any night that we wished to work late. "Your sister mentioned an ex. If she only knew how completely and totally I belonged to her. "Why hasn't some lucky girl trapped you yet?" "How do you know one hasn't?" I raised an eyebrow. The library closes at twelve." "I'm teasing. "Bella." I hurried to correct my error. "I know the night watchman. like everyone else. "What about you?" I finally asked. Because it gave me a perfect opening." "Too busy with school?" "Something like that. I had bribed him heavily." I hurried to reassure her. "She means well. "I am not seeing anyone." "You really are too good to be true!" Bella nudged me with her arm while we walked. "We have to leave at closing hours.. We were nearing the library." "Katrina mentioned that you had a boyfriend. sorry. "Are you kidding me?" Bella's face lit up. "Oh. It was worth the effort to see her reaction. I called in a favor. and I was afraid I would run out of time." I smiled as we walked side by side.

They'd already offered so much.I would save money to handle the rest. I want to talk about it. We were friends first. It looked like she wanted to talk. And that's how everything started." Bella didn't seem uncomfortable about the topic." I nodded.." "You don't have to explain." "You started dating because he was your lab partner?" "Not right away. she seemed a little resigned.. My car. But come on. .. "First of all. Instead of walking up the library steps. Especially if it was true that he wasn't really her boyfriend..you might remember him! His name is Mike Newton. he and I were teamed up.. So I promised myself that if they were paying my tuition. during my senior year.. Bella smiled gratefully in my direction. He lived in Forks too!" I scanned through the names and faces I remembered from my time in Forks. If anything. "He doesn't live here.." Bella frowned. As a matter of fact. Or else you would know why you were 'filling in'. "Mike was in my biology class.. I was faintly able to match the name 'Mike Newton' to some blonde kid who played basketball. he's not really my boyfriend. my mother's second husband got recruited to a major league baseball team. I didn't want any more support from them. Tuition was really more than I felt comfortable accepting. she turned and sat on the low brick wall that ran along the sidewalk. He goes to school in Seattle. And Phil got a really nice signing bonus. It's very confusing.."She must not have mentioned very much. Pretty much." "No. Perfect.. I mean. I dreamt of coming here. And they both wanted to send me to Dartmouth. "Katrina is sick of hearing about it. Our class.. A part of my mind was considering how things might have been different had I stayed in Forks. I mean.. I quietly sat beside her." she corrected herself. But then we started dating the summer before our senior year. "So what happened?" "Well.." And I wanted to hear every single detail. "His lab partner got mono! And since I didn't have a partner after you moved." I pushed down the jealous feelings and tried to listen attentively. I'm here..." "Well.. I guess technically he might think so. my apartment.

"Hey Bella?" I asked. "You deserve to be happy Bella. my mind was busy planning. He's just so sure that we should be together. We don't know each other. "Just because you've known him a while." she sighed. He doesn't want to just let go. But really.I don't feel close to him at all. Bella blushed and smiled before continuing past me." she gave me a sad smile.. it doesn't mean you owe him anything. Maybe he needs closure. "I don't want to lead him on. She didn't belong to Mike Newton. And I was right in my opinion. I'd be happy to act like your boyfriend anytime you want me to.. But I feel like maybe we should sit down together and really talk. It was not her side of the issue that I was sympathetic to. If one could refer to it as a relationship at all.." she frowned.." she twisted her mouth into a humorless grin. "Yes?" "Let me know if you ever need me to fill in again. I couldn't imagine anyone in their right mind letting Bella go without a fight... ."After graduation. "Again. And I stayed in Forks to work and save money. When I held the door for Bella to enter ahead of me." I sensed the end of the conversation." "Yes.." "Thanks Edward... I couldn't resist thinking about the possibilities. At least. and stood to lead the way up the stairs. "He wants to come here for Spring Break.he's determined to try to make it work. It was his. "And." I nodded in understanding. is he?" "I haven't decided yet. Her face was inches from mine." "And now you are all the way out here. "But it doesn't feel good to hurt a friend. didn't work. Mike went to Seattle. She wasn't really in any sort of a relationship that she was happy about." She looked up in surprise at the husky quality that laced my voice." I said quietly. as she passed through the door in front of me. I told him that I didn't want to have a longdistance relationship. It just." Hope began blossoming in my chest. Things have been over between us for a long time. He only thought she did. And while I knew she couldn't ever really belong to me. on my side. We've grown apart in the last year and a half.. We only saw each other a few weekends and on school breaks.

We were only looking for documentation on these different theories.. My eyes continued to travel upwards to the curve of her palm where it rested under her ear. and the faint blue veins that were visible through her nearly translucent skin. She was not entirely immune to my presence.. Flirt The next portion of our evening was spent in silence. I felt warm again. I actually relished these desires that made me feel more a man than a monster in Bella's presence. Bella wrapped her right hand around the side of her neck as she leaned forward. As if she felt my need from across the room. My thirst was much easier to control now. I wanted Bella to be happy that she had chosen me to work with. The look on her face as much as told me that it was not fear that made her pulse speed up. My horrific reality. Nope. The sound encouraged me. folklore. She didn't want him. Fairy tales. But could I make her want me? I might be tempted to find out." Was it my imagination. We weren't trying to find evidence or proof of anything. Bella's eyes moved above her monitor and locked with mine. I wanted to press my face against the very spot on her neck that was being cradled by her hand. and I shifted in my seat as my body reacted in a way that did not alarm me any longer. I'll.or did she stutter? I grinned. In what I was beginning to associate as a habit with her. She faced me."Thanks. I pulled a few books from the stacks and actually worked to write notes from them. And so I allowed a part of my mind to search for dates associated to cave drawings that depicted blood drinkers. I wanted to breathe her in.her skin. Still.. though her eyes remained trained to the screen in front of her as she read. another part of my mind was inexplicably drawn to the woman who sat at the bank of computers.. I could easily hear that her heart beat had sped up. I pressed my lips together tightly as my pen pressed into the paper under my hand. She blushed and smiled a little before looking back down.. not her blood. .. I stared at her delicately turned wrist. Let you know. I wanted to taste. Interesting. But could it really be attraction? I wanted to find out. 16. I wanted to know how soft that skin was.. Could she want me? Should she want me? No. I felt as though a huge weight had been lifted.

" I murmured. I let my fingers slide through its silky weight as it drifted down again over her shoulders. if she liked. we could work late.. My time with her was drawing to an end this evening. "I saw your reflection in the monitor. "I think I'm finished for the night. feeling much more at ease that she offered. "How did you know?" I said smoothly near her ear. "If you're trying to sneak up on me.A glance at my cell phone let me know that it was almost midnight. I lowered my chin until it nearly touched her shoulder. casually collecting the books from the table before me." her eyes darted to her notebook and she sighed. After returning them to the designated area.I was sure that I had been stealthy. I was rewarded when she shivered.. And I chuckled at my own inability to see the obvious. As casually as I possibly could. I would help her with that too. . Instead. watching her bite her lip." I could hear the smile in her voice. I circled around and approached Bella from the opposite side.I don't know about that. If she had any inkling about the thoughts racing through my mind. Then leaning over the back of her chair. I was looking down into her face.' "Oh. I closed my notebook and rose. "Umm." Bella complimented while buttoning her coat. She wasn't alarmed in the slightest by my sudden nearness. If you are available?" "Sounds good." I moved to rest against the desk in front of her. you'll have to do better than that. I didn't immediately go back to my seat. "I just came over to tell you that they'll be kicking us out soon. Yet. But her voice was still amused as she spoke. I wanted to taste that too. though my wandering hands might get in me in trouble if I was allowed near the front of her body.. "Always such a gentleman.. Duh!" "Oh!" I hadn't considered such a simple solution. She smiled gratefully as she turned her body to slide her arms into the parka I held in front of me. "But Thursday night. I reached my hands under the curtain of her hair to pull it out of the confines of her coat." I smiled. I felt like I should thank her for the opportunity that she presented and the small liberty I was about to take... and folded my arms across my chest. This time as she stood. Wellat least the time we spent together while she was awake. she would have never offered me the title of 'gentleman. I stared at the back of her head as I silently approached. I pulled Bella's coat from the back of her chair and held it out to help her put it on. "Would you like to work late tonight?" I asked." I couldn't help but feel disappointed.

I wanted. "People aren't always what you assume. "Hey!" She yelled.." "Maybe you shouldn't try. Remind me of that sometime when you aren't holding the door open for me. not as gently as I had planned." I lowered my voice and looked into her eyes. Warmth rushed through me." She grinned teasingly and ducked under my arm. she tossed her head back and laughed. She turned to face me. "Give it back!" "Come and get it!" I teased." "Sure." I shook my head and let her lead the way to the door. and I tugged her upright. and my fingers curled tightly into the fabric of her coat. But when she came down the last time. The instant I saw her begin to slip. She jumped up and down while I laughed and dodged her flailing hands. Instead of merely righting her position. It was as close to a warning as she was going to get from me. Bella's cheeks were flushed from her jumping. I brought her crashing up against me.. I swallowed and closed my eyes to try to find some measure of control." Bella spoke with certainty. her laughter. I was struck by the overwhelming urge to be closer still. She laughed and chased after me.. I reached up and stole it from her head quickly. I wanted to slide my arms around her back.. "See? I'm not always a gentleman!" I laughed and jogged a few paces away. But I will. A freezing mist had begun to fall while we were inside the library. I wasn't sure how she felt at all. Her wide eyes looked a little startled. "You're right!" she grinned. pulling it down over my own head instead. I let her catch up to me and laughed when she started trying to jump up high enough to snatch it from my head.walking out into the cold night. Instead of acting nervous. I wanted to tangle my hands into her hair. and from the cold air. my hands shot out to stop her fall. "I shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth. her feet could not make purchase on the somewhat icy sidewalk beneath her. I haven't figured it out yet. Bella pulled on her knit stocking cap to ward off the elements. But I knew how I felt. and I was the one that was affected by our nearness. My fingers gripped the sides of her coat. "There's something rare about you Edward. .though I wasn't sure how much of that was a reaction to her near fall and how much was because I still held her firmly against me.."I do.

. "Don't worry about it. Not your typical cartoon theme song I stood in front of the large picture window in my living room on Wednesday evening.. I pulled her cap from my head. while she turned on the heat to warm her vehicle. "At the risk of sounding like a helpless female. And I was still standing there Thursday morning. That was it. 17. We should take it a little more slowly. The sidewalk was icy.as if my irritated stare could thwart the elements and somehow raise the temperature outside by a few degrees. It was so frustrating! Finally. glaring angrily at the icy rain and sleet that had begun to fall." I whispered. please. But I only saw it as one more thing that stood between me and what I wanted. safely. as the slow and steady precipitation covered everything in glistening ice. . The process might have been beautiful. I couldn't be sure what she was thinking." Bella sounded breathless. "Bella?" "Yes?" "At the risk of sounding like a gentleman." I suggested. "Maybe. The icy mist managed to leave a light glazing of ice on the parking lot and on our cars. "could I follow you home? The roads seem to be getting bad. I scraped Bella's windshield for her.I think I was talking about our walk." I turned to walk towards my car. "I'd have to say 'yes. And now." she grinned. And I'd feel better if I knew you were home. Our care turned out to be necessary. At least. I'd follow her. I released her and took a step away. I risked looking at her..."Sorry about that.. and reached to pull it down over the top of her hair once more.' I'd really appreciate that.I would have a legitimate reason for knowing where she lived. to guess at the slightly shaky sound of her voice. But as usual. Thursday evening classes were cancelled." I was rewarded by another of her smiles. Yeah.." I teased.. I was talking about our walk to the parking lot. watching the crystalline formations slowly build upon each other to decorate the winter landscape. And then with a horrible effort.

." Jasper agreed readily. and kept you company for a while?" "You just want to use my hot tub. warm. Jasper answered. Pottery or some shit. I would have to find something else to keep me occupied until it was time for my typical nighttime visit. I began pacing back and forth. I wanted to throw something. I couldn't deny myself those stolen moments of happiness. Where I could see her. I would be near her again. Ok. looking windswept and wild." I confessed. alright." "You have got to be the only person on earth that could make that sound like a bad thing!" Jasper joked. Maybe I would have Alice and Jasper come over. . I eased the guilt that I felt about my nocturnal visits by doing my very best to keep my thoughts pure while sitting beside her and watching her sleep.. was anything more inappropriate than my simple un-invited presence in her room. or rip something apart. And it pissed me off. I had begun measuring time by the increments of periods spent with and without Bella. But not tonight. I knew that sometime later. "Yeah. With her. clenching and unclenching my fists at my sides. So maybe she was technically waiting for class to start. But I was still there." "Well.. Some company would be nice to get me out of this mood. What I did deny myself. I hardly ever even thought about how much I would love to crawl up into her bed to press my body against every single soft." I rubbed my forehead with my free hand.. What if I came over.. But I did not feel like having to replace anything in my home because of my sudden fit of temper. So instead. Alice is working on some new project. Certainly I could find something else to do. I was supposed to sit next to her in class. when Bella was asleep. I don't know. and not waiting for me. I shook myself out of my musings and went to pick up my phone. I needed to get a grip. The weather had stolen these hours from me.. fragrant inch of her.I snarled a few choice expletives and turned away from the window. however.though nothing sounded as appealing as the first rush I always got when I entered the class and saw her sitting there. After the second ring... and smell her and hopefully even talk to her. "My history class was cancelled for tonight. "Edward! What's up?" "I'm going stir-crazy." Jasper arrived fifteen minutes later. "Come on over. It's boring the hell out of me. waiting for me. We had plans to work late in the library. that too.

" "If my name was Nancy. I could hear his thoughts." "Ah!" I nodded." he commented.I've had to work twice as hard to keep you from drowning in your own misery. He grimaced. Do you plan to stay clothed?" "Damn Edward. "I know." Jasper was ready to make a few admissions of his own. Maybe he wanted to explain whatever it was that he didn't want me to hear in his head that night that we all went to the Midfield together." I finally admitted. torn." "I know. Let's just stay in. shaking icy crystals from his hair and wiping at his eyes. That's what she said!" Jasper snorted and laughed at his own joke.. running in the sleet. I sighed and sunk further back into the chair." "Fine. I don't want to make you feel all insecure.. It wasn't a subject I was opposed to. "I'm.I really wanted the chance to speak with you alone. But without him here.. "So. She was interested in that thing she's working on. "Depends." I sat in the large recliner in the room while Jasper lowered himself to sit on my leather sofa." I answered the question in his head." "You're getting everything all wet!" I complained." he began..." ." I retorted. But he kept his mind focused on me so that I couldn't pre-empt that part of the conversation. "Usually the role of 'goofy-bastard' goes to Emmett. "Pshh.. He wanted to talk about Bella. It would feel good to actually talk to someone about how I felt. "It's going well. I might not mind so much. Jasper just smirked. "And anyway. "You know. "I know I'm a sexy beast. You are such a nancy."It's a trip. "Really?" The teasing was gone from Jasper's face. I can feel it. Alice was welcome to join you. "But I think it's finally letting up." "You know you don't have to. following me as I turned to walk into the other room. "Wanna sit in the Jacuzzi while we talk?" Jasper asked.." Jasper lowered his brows.

I love you." "I want to be with her.." "You don't plan to leave again?" "I. A human girl.. I needed to believe it. Jasper's thoughts started flickering quickly through hundreds of images. "She's human. "I've been thinking an awful lot about it Edward." I said it more for myself than for him. Bella. can't." He ignored my question and continued. I don't know if she would even want me like I want her.." "Well. I've been thinking about that part too. "Bite-size?" "Just Bella. About it being an impossible situation. fine. in his mind's eye. Fragile. "But you are sexually attracted to her." "Only sometimes." "It's going to have to be. But you know I can feel that hell rolling off you. quizzically when his mind stopped at the image of a pretty red headed girl with bright blue eyes. "Anyway that she'll let me." "About how fucked up this whole situation is?" I groaned and put my face in my hands." "Cupcake?" he tried out the new knick-name. "You've actually been a lot happier recently." "Should that worry me?" "I've been thinking about what you said behind the bar." he chuckled. Just being around her isn't going to be enough.it would be too dangerous." "Fine. I just. Flashes of colors and bursts of sound had a strobe effect as he filtered through memories to the one he planned to share... "I'm not fronting Edward." His light tone was back and he grinned at me. need to be around her." "I'm sorry. Delicate. Nothing is impossible. I think your little snack-cake of a girlfriend is good for you!" "Don't call her that. "It really just depends on what you want from her Edward. borrowing from his memory.Jasper held up his hand to silence me. I could distinctly feel the passion that he had for her. I could see the freckles over the bridge of her nose. But even if she did..." My voice was quiet as I admitted it out loud. I choose to joke around a lot because it's easier for me not to get pulled under this way.. And then. I could also ." I said quietly. I looked up at him. It must suck to be around me. I could smell the scent of flowers that lingered near her wrists.

I saw. I complied. why didn't you just hook up with another vampire?" . This was not a memory from his human life.or whatever the hell you did with them. That I attempted to." Jasper smiled again.." "The red-head?" "She was the first. didn't get that far.have relations? Again. He had already been changed.. "was me.feel his thirst for her blood." Jasper began. I could have picked away at it. Jasper shook his head and leaned back. "You never had sex when you were human. And I would have had sex with them. But I knew that he would better appreciate telling me his story. watching him curiously. I did.. it was more than once... After I had been changed." "You probably wouldn't.." "But. Right?" "Correct... And what you saw. "Long before I met Alice. "It was a very.. "You've had sex with a human!" I said incredulously. though he wasn't as relaxed as he pretended to be. His eyes looked a little sad at the memory. if I tried." "How?" I breathed." "If you wanted sex. I could see through the cracks of the barrier he put over his thoughts. A couple of times. "I didn't actually have sex with her.. I stood up so quickly that my chair nearly toppled over behind me." "I don't understand. to give each other pleasure. It just. trying to forget my newly acquired limitations and enjoy something that I remembered quite fondly from my human life. And. Jasper's mental-block was immediately back in place.. in fact. instead. Jasper flattened his palm out. And I remembered it rather fondly! So fondly...." Jasper cut me off...." "Well.. indicating that I should have a seat." "There are other things men and women can do together. very long time ago.

what we have together is absolutely perfect and I could never want for more." "Help yourself." "Just.." His mind was open and I could quite clearly see him in the vicinity he mentioned... Sure." Jasper insisted again. My experiences ended. I didn't need to think of Alice in any sort of sexual situation with Jasper. I tried to push the thought away as quickly as it came... " "You didn't. ." I tried really hard not to think of how Bella always ran hot. I couldn't recall anything that could quite compare to a hot.. Alice and I weren't together..." "But Edward.. think about it.. But that was so long ago! I hadn't even begun to consider giving up human blood yet. But I wasn't entirely successful. I can't say that I wouldn't be willing to give it a try again now." "Jasper!" I groaned. Well.." "I did... "What happened? With them?" I asked to distract myself. I'm much more practiced at ignoring my thirst. think about it.. He shrugged and turned more somber." "I don't know. If you tell Alice this. And you know. if we are done here. that. "There is a delicious artery in the groin. If for some reason. since I was down there anyway. Jasper had given me a lot to consider. you have control like I can not even fathom. I could never take that sort of chance with her." I muttered absently... Jasper's fond recollections disappeared from his features.. I thought I could keep the desires separate. "But before I met her." He nodded." I cringed at some of the images that had begun to slip through the cracks. "Well? It's the truth! Vampires are superior creatures." "I get it.. I mean... my brother. Because she's wonderful... "Now. And whether I wanted to or not. is hard to beat.. I get it. badly for the humans involved. "Both times. ended badly. You know? And truthfully.. But the heat of a human......."Ah.I will tear you apart. "I. don't think I could ever be close to Bella like. moist mouth wrapped around my. I really would like to go sit in your hot tub.I was still searching. And you...

His desire for blood had only barely been stronger than his desires for physical contact. that it had been very close for him.... Yes. Would she be safe? I had to think harder about that one. And I would fight any deity to keep her safe from harm. and would be never-ending..) I would have to be fine with that. Could I provide the things that Bella desired? I found pleasure in her very nearness. Could our relationship be . My mind was preoccupied by the information that Jasper had just shared. I stood there brooding about what I needed. And what implications it might hold for me. I could tell.. I would be a fool not to borrow from his shared memories.I was thinking about it. if she ever did want to be involved with me. It wasn't accompanied by a production of venom or any violent urges. even back then... The only responses my body had to her nearness now were those of a man to a woman. Could I bring her pleasure too? My mind automatically went back to what Jasper shared of his sexual history with humans.staring blankly through the glass but seeing nothing beyond. at least from his mind. Decisions I resumed my position in front of the window. I was sure of it. Could I offer even a resemblance of the normal relationship I believed she deserved? Would it be a loving relationship? I was certain that if I existed another thousand years. and most realistically. 18.. But if by some miracle she could ever return even a small portion of the tender feelings that I had for her. As unpleasant as the task might be. the . mutually satisfying? I was a selfish creature. My late night visits to Bella's room kept me so wonderfully desensitized to her scent. In the end. The burning sensation was welcome now.. She had altered me completely. and controllable... and what I wanted. I had to face the possibility that Bella may never be interested in having any sort of a romantic relationship with me. First. She may never see me as more than this casual acquaintance. My feelings were all-encompassing. Yes. I'd rather be destroyed myself than ever hurt her. I would never love anyone the way I loved her. She would be loved. or friend (as I hoped I was now considered.

. I could look her up. Even if I was forced to become nothing more than a shadow in her periphery.. I was distracted again by that new idea.. playing on some social-networking website. Maybe it would help me relax. That might be possible.. There I was. As if on cue.. I twisted my lips together in a derisive sneer. with her computer.. a little more patience. Like any of this mattered. Lovely! Now I was turning into a creepy. An ever-looming problem arose from that hope. again. Could I make Bella happy in every way she deserved? God..... Even if she allowed me into her life. Big blue eyes turned to a wide-brown stare that watched me as I licked and nipped my way down. For now. I needed her. Like everyone else.temptations of his vampire nature over-ruled those of the man. anyway. But I needed to focus. over-analyzing everything I could not control and torturing myself with impossible dreams. Bella's face began to replace that of the red-headed girl. I had no real way of knowing if Bella would ever want me the way that I wanted her. No. Ok. I would never be able to stay away from her. So I had to admit." . Impossible. She was a smart girl. She. The warm water might help dissipate the frozen feeling that was growing inside. completely at ease with the cancellation of class. As my thoughts lingered there. at that moment.I wanted to try. my phone rang. But given just a little more practice.. I glanced at the number and then my fingers actually fumbled in my haste to lift it to my ear. a little more control. Sooner or later she would notice our differences. Did Bella use Facebook? If so. it wouldn't take long before she questioned my peculiarities.she would hate me. and she would revile me for the monster I was... "I hope I didn't call at a bad time. internet stalker too! I groaned and turned away from the window in frustration. "Bella?" "Hi Edward!" Her sweet voice flooded my ear and it provided more warmth than my Jacuzzi ever could.. was probably at home. It wasn't just sexual.. I shook my head again. And when I told her the hideous truth.. Maybe I would go sit with Jasper in the hot tub..that I did not eat food or sleep.. But I hoped to earn a place more substantial in her life.that I did not age.. I blinked and determinedly shook the distorted image away from my head. She would fear me.

." "That's a smart idea. "So. I was thinking that maybe you'd like to come over here to work for a while. "Edward?" "Huh?" "I think we have a bad connection...." Did that sound lame? "Me too. relieved? "I need to take a shower. I wouldn't have answered if it was a bad time.." Bella announced." Crap.."It's never a bad time." O. and kind of divvy up the work that we want to do. maybe we could watch a movie or get some pizza?" I was reeling.. "If you don't have plans for tonight.. She sounded. "Well.. Of course... I cringed. but couldn't quite hide my incredulous tone." "True!" she laughed. wonderful. my mind put her there." I replied... "I was bummed about class being cancelled tonight!" Wow.. I asked if eight sounded ok?" "Eight sounds.. "If you're busy..weighing her hair heavily down her back. That sounded desperate. And a movie. yeah.." Bella replied." "To.k. She might have misread my immediate silence.... sliding the soft soapy bubbles down her slick skin. Warmly.. But I heard her sigh on the other end of the line. Hot water poured down over her. I was just looking out the window. I let it wash over me.. "Katrina made the suggestion that maybe we should all sit down. That way. And pizza.. "That's actually the reason I called. "And when we are done." "Yes. So it wasn't so lame." She laughed again. "I mean.we wouldn't accidentally step on each other's efforts. it's finally stopped sleeting." "What time do you want me?" My voice came out deeper than I had intended. and if you aren't too nervous about driving out in the ice." I didn't want her to forget. your apartment?" I was trying to keep it light. "Do you need me to bring anything?" Flowers? Wine? A Barry White CD? ." I confirmed. It almost sounded like a date. Really? "I guess our study session will have to wait until next week. I was actually being invited to Bella's apartment. For studying.

We'll see you in about an hour. "Great..." I supplied. I forgot. help me." "Do you remember how to get here?" "Yes. but Jasper already knew I felt anything but nonchalant about the invitation. Katrina was going to be there. Jasper leaned back in the corner again. "Edward?" He asked again. Yeah. with his eyes closed and a serene smile on his face. I added internally. Whatever you prefer. it almost makes me feel like turning cartwheels. I tried to look indifferent.or a laptop. "So." "Ok. I stopped and faced him." Blindfolded. ." We'll. "I don't need to ask if that was your Bella on the phone.. "Are you thinking about. Please no. I closed my phone and tossed it happily from palm to palm as I walked out onto my deck.what are you going to do?" He asked. "You're so damn happy right now. There is not enough bleach on the planet to burn an image like that from my brain. Paper."Just something to take notes with. We are in apartment 2C." Jasper opened his eyes and laughed loudly at my joke. Now I just have to get her to realize it. "She's invited me over to study. she's already mine. I'm pretty sure I can find it. Not naked cartwheels. I shrugged and turned for the house." 19. actually trying to get that girl to be yours?" I thought about it for a second. I was practically giddy. "Jasper." "Oh God. then laughed wickedly and smirked.." he drawled. Heat Wave Oh! Lord.

" I nodded and followed her into her living room. It was easier. Of course she would be dressed to combat the heat. "Nice place!" It sounded like an appropriate compliment. she excused my rudeness. She was barely dressed." I was forced to admit with a small smile. "What's with the sauna?" I asked. "You said you're always cold. "We called the Super. And I could already tell that it was going to be extremely difficult for me to not stare.. But the weather is so bad.. "I forgot to tell you. I winced inwardly and tried to make myself relax a little. . I expected it that time. Ok. It must have been eighty degrees in their apartment. He said he'd try to come out tomorrow. This was more than I had previously seen of Bella's apartment. our radiator is broken. As if it would be somehow less intrusive of me as long as I stayed out of her kitchen. I can't get the damn thing to turn off!" Bella turned to lead the way into her apartment. right?" "Right. She technically wore less clothing to bed." she grimaced apologetically.. But it was the least amount of clothing I had seen her actually awake and moving around in. I was hit by a tidal wave of her scent made deliriously potent by the hot air that swirled it forward to slam into me. "Do you need me to take a look at the radiator?" "Do you know anything about them?" "Not really.. I squeezed my eyes shut and threw my hands up to brace against the doorframe. If she noticed that I sounded irritated.I didn't have to open my eyes to tell who had opened the door of Bella's apartment. and I was faced with another difficulty. And she had a soft pair of cut-off sweats rolled low on her hips. As soon as the door began to swing backwards." I nodded. So that wasn't entirely accurate. though I visited every night. What the hell? "Edward! Hi! Come on in!" I braced myself before opening my eyes and taking a more cautious breath. She wore the same type of tight little tank top that she favored for sleeping. I never allowed myself to go beyond Bella's bedroom or adjoined bathroom. And anyone with basic cable could see more skin than what she presented now. "Hopefully it won't be a problem.

." "You know.. Better. "Why don't you have a seat?" She offered. But it's so much nicer than living at home. "It's a little small.. The room was decorated with a small sofa and two chairs."It's alright. "It's fine. "The 'supermodel' look?" "Aww." She must have thought she offended me. I stretched my legs out in front of me and tried to adopt Jasper's sloppy posture.. I could practically see the heat rolling off the radiator vent in the corner." Her shoulder shrugged under the thin strap of her tank top. pulling it up and over my head. in Forks?" "Having the Chief of Police sleeping right down the hall is a little limiting for one's social life!" Bella laughed. "I really am sorry about the heat.. Really. I had been wearing my hair combed back this year." she looked at me thoughtfully. Bella re-entered the room just as I was tugging my t-shirt back down into place. "I like it this way. I stood and quickly shed my coat." Shit. I pulled the corner of my mouth up in a cooked grin. you remind me so much of the first time I saw you at Forks High. and she took a long drink of water before she bypassed the chairs to sit on the opposite end of the sofa. Opting to sit there. she was the one to look selfconscious. Do you want one?" "No thanks. Her eyes widened as they scanned across my torso. I looked around." "You mean. And then. I scrubbed my hand up through my messy hair self-consciously. I hadn't made the effort. I needed to look more relaxed than I felt. and raised my eyebrow in her direction. That was it! Bella was wearing summer clothing and I was way overdressed for the heat. Thank God for that! I thought while I laughed along with her. She flounced from the room and I looked around. Something was still not right. and would therefore be the closest to anywhere that Bella chose to sit. You're just trying to be modest. I reached for the hem of my sweater. "Don't get me wrong!" She said quickly..." she mumbled. "With your hair like that. and if I wasn't mistaken. "I'm going to get a bottle of water. Admit it!" . "Not all of us can pull off the 'supermodel' look under these conditions!" She began to twist the end of her ponytail in her hands. The sofa was placed centrally. When class was cancelled.. come on Edward! Don't pretend that you don't know how good-looking you are." I smiled. briefly wondering where she would like me to sit.

. and Bella pushed a few buttons on the stereo. She almost completely stopped thinking of me in any way other than a friend. Her thoughts all evening.. Katrina took that moment to arrive. and deliberately let my eyes glance down her clothing so that my meaning would be clear. I gave her ponytail a playful little tug before I released it and leaned back. With a sudden surge of confidence." "What does it mean?" Katrina asked. had been centered on her new love interest. "God it's freaking sweltering in here!" She complained loudly." "Hi. As a matter of fact.one of my favorites. both girls wanted to know what languages I spoke. "Abbracciare il cantante. Katrina pulled her coat off with a loud groan." When we finished working. When I offered to work on anything that may need translations. She was holding her car keys between her teeth while juggling a purse and a couple DVD's in one hand and a large pizza box in the other." Katrina grinned up at me. and Katrina pulled one of the chairs up to the coffee table between us so that we could work.Brad. I stood and took the pizza from her. "The only thing I will admit. An Italian opera. naming only a few of the languages I spoke fluently.even as she had called my ability to translate text "hot". Though she kept it low. is that I am a little glad your radiator is broken. Katrina smiled and walked over to pick up the DVD's she had brought home." I lowered my voice when I said it." I placed the pizza on the coffee table. her mind had been wondering if Brad could speak any other languages. Bella had just admitted to finding me attractive. I looked into her eyes and responded without thinking.. but I inwardly rejoiced at yet another thing Bella and I seemed to have in common. My gaze stayed locked with Bella's. I recognized it immediately. I leaned forward and stole the end of her ponytail from her hand. "Would you say something in Italian?" Bella asked quietly. It was all business as the three of us chose the periods of information and types of documentation that we wanted to look for while working on our group project. while Bella tossed the movies onto the entertainment center. She blushed prettily and it made me smile. Katrina rolled her eyes. Bella and I reclaimed our places on the sofa. "To embrace the singer. I groaned when she flashed their titles. "That's so hot. "Hi Eddie. Then fearing that I was behaving too forward. I must not have offended her.I was honestly shocked. I really was modest.. I was able to smile at the compliment. .

"True!" Bella nodded enthusiastically. "Bella Lugosi is classic.. thankfully misunderstanding my aversion to the scene. "Tom Cruise is just a tool. The blue glow from the television screen highlighted the light sheen of perspiration across her forehead and the top of her chest." I accidentally added my own commentary and curled my lip in disgust when Tom Cruise served the blood of a rat to Louie. Instead. That is. Bella reached behind her and flipped the switch on wall. I couldn't imagine a less erotic thing in the world than my own painful experience with Carlisle when he gave me immortality. I looked at her incredulously." "Ah! But Brad Pitt is sexy!" Katrina threw in. "Interview. The girls made comments to one another throughout the beginning of the movie. Was it the actor? Or the character? Katrina turned off the stereo and put the movie in the player. "Are you serious?" "Classic vampire movies!" Bella grinned. "Awesome!" Bella laughed. At least I could watch Bella and try to guess what in the hell she found so sexy in Brad Pitt.. It was hot in the apartment." I frowned." I muttered." she shook her head. desperate for her to finish her thought. "Give the guy a break!" Bella scolded. I leaned forward." I sighed. "Don't you think it's noble? That he doesn't want to kill humans? He wants to try to survive on the blood of animals. "If you stay--I'll let you pick!" She wanted me to stay. The idea of drinking the cooling blood of a rodent was almost as repulsive to me as the pizza I watched the girls eat. Katrina seemed to think it was terribly erotic to watch Tom Cruise bite into Brad Pitt's neck before the story version of his "transformation. sending the room into darkness."Interview with a Vampire! And Lost Boys!" She proclaimed. "Come on Edward!" Bella pouted cutely. I wanted to scream in frustration. . I wished I could read Bella's mind. "Ew. I couldn't believe I was going to be subjected to this. she turned her attention back to the television. looking for the words. I was instantly even more aware of Bella sitting just a few feet from me. But I was starting to feel a familiar warmth make its way through my body that had nothing to do with the broken radiator.

Katrina rose when the phone began to ring, and excused herself from the room to answer it. Bella and I sat there, alone, watching Tom Cruise dance across the screen with a corpse. The image made me cringe. Bella was still watching the movie, but turned to rest her back against the armrest. Bella pulled both feet up onto the cushion in front of her, and absently reached her hands down to massage one of her heels. I tried to ignore the fact that her legs were displayed so prettily in front of me. "Are you ok?" I asked with a deep voice. "Job hazard," Bella smiled over towards me. "Beth couldn't make it into work today, because of the ice. So I took over her shift. My feet are killing me." "Why don't you let me?" I patted my thigh as an invitation. Bella looked at me with a curious expression before she shrugged and stretched both of her long legs across the couch and placed her feet on my lap. I thought she would laugh away my suggestion. But instead, she watched me expectantly. I didn't want to disappoint. And so I reached for one of her ankles. Bella physically jumped when I touched her skin. "You're hands are freezing!" she gasped. "Sorry!" "Don't apologize. I like it," she smiled. "It feels great. Don't stop!" She didn't have to tell me twice. I picked up her foot again. This time she didn't react other than to close her eyes with a sweet smile. And so I began applying the smallest amount of pressure with my fingers to her heel. I was glorifying in the fact that I was being allowed to place my hands on her skin. And I concentrated on testing it's pliancy under my fingers...the resiliency of the muscle beneath my hands. I deliberately tested the strength I needed to exert, in order to not hurt her. She showed no indication of being in discomfort at all. In fact, when I turned the same ministrations to the delicate arch of her foot, a very sexy purring sound came from the back of her throat. I swallowed convulsively and shifted her unattended foot a little lower in my lap. I didn't want her to see how obviously excited I was about giving her a foot massage. I really didn't need her to think I had some freaky foot-fetish. Desperate to find a diversion for my thoughts, I unintentionally eavesdropped on Katrina's phone conversation from her bedroom. What I heard made me smile. I placed Bella's foot on my leg and began tending to the other. When Katrina came back into the room, she carried an over-night bag with her. She didn't seem to think it was odd that I was sitting there rubbing Bella's feet for her. She just smiled at both of us.

"Will you two be ok if I take off and go over to Brad's?" she asked. I turned my eyes towards Bella. "Sure," Bella nodded. Apparently she didn't mind being alone with me. I smiled my goodnight and said a silent 'thank you' as Katrina left the apartment. I had stopped rubbing Bella's feet, but she still lied with them across my lap. My hand rested lightly across her ankle. We didn't talk through the rest of the movie. And before Brad Pitt's interview with Christian Slater's character was over, Bella was asleep on the sofa next to me. I sat as still as a statue, watching her sleep. When the television turned to white noise, I soundlessly pushed the button on the remote to silence it. I was prepared to act like I, too, had fallen asleep... in the event that Bella should wake up and become alarmed by my lingering presence. But she never did. Once, she sighed. And she smiled in her sleep. And then my breath caught in my throat when she spoke out loud. "Mmm. Feels so nice. So cool.... Edward." She said my name. Not Mike's. Not Brad Pitt's or Tom Cruise's. She said my name. I curled my hand possessively around her ankle, providing more of the coolness that she found comfort in. She sighed again in her sleep and rested easier. When the subtle sounds of morning started to indicate that the world outside the apartment was waking, I reluctantly slid from under her outstretched legs, and made my way to her door.

20. Distracted

Bella and I walked towards the library in silence. She frowned at the small screen on her phone and read text messages. I crammed my hands into my pockets and tried my best to resist the urge to snatch the thing out of her hands to read it for myself. It drove me crazy, that I couldn't simply read her mind and know what she was thinking. So far, I had resisted every deplorable urge to pick up her phone while she slept, to look through her saved messages. I would not steal her privacy from her in that way. I refused to sink so low. If she wanted me to know anything about it, she would tell me. At the bottom of the steps, Bella waved her phone at me with an apologetic little grin. "I need to return his call. Do you mind if I meet you inside?" "No. Not at all," I mumbled before turning to enter the library alone. I did mind. I hated that she was calling Mike. On my time. I threw my coat over the back of my chair, and went to pull

several books from the shelves. I might have placed them on the table a little loudly, in my irritation. I received several dirty looks from students in the vicinity. I muttered under my breath and sat down, pulling long breaths between my teeth in an effort to calm down. I rubbed my temples with my fingers. That seemed to help marginally. Then I closed my eyes and I just concentrated on relaxing. Every less noble part of me wanted to sneak to the side of the building, where I could eavesdrop on her conversation. I wouldn't do it. Instead, I sat and tried to plan just how I could let Bella know what was on my mind. I was going to have to step up my game. I was going to have to make my feelings known. Bella needed to know that she had options. And I wanted to be sure to let her know that I was one of them. I opened my eyes to see Bella lowering herself into the seat across from me. She didn't say anything about her absence. I just gave her a small smile and went back to writing my notes. In a moment, I noticed that she pulled one of the books from the pile I had placed on the table, and ran her finger across the embossed title. "What is this?" she asked. I thought she had made an interesting selection. "It's mostly to do with the erotic undertones of vampire lore," I informed her. "Erotic?" Did she have to sound so damned sexy saying the word? "I know. Silly right? There is nothing even remotely romantic about murder." I watched from under my lashes to gauge her reaction. She shrugged. "Well... maybe not that part of it. But I can see where the whole image could be considered erotic." Ok. She was going to have to stop saying the word. It was making my body react in bad ways. "Like, how?" I asked. I was genuinely interested in her thoughts on this particular topic. "I just mean... you know," she shrugged. "Like in books or movies. They always use the image of the dark and brooding vampire... the whole... neck thing. I'm not talking about the scary monster vampires. Just the pretty ones." "Pretty ones?" I raised an eyebrow in her direction. "Never mind," she muttered and turned her attention to the book in front of her. But I wasn't finished with the conversation. Not by a long shot. "You think I'm stupid," she protested. "Bella! Look at me." When she raised her eyes to meet mine, I smiled softly. "I could never think you are stupid." I suddenly saw a brilliant opportunity. So I lowered my chin and deliberately let my gaze delve deeply into hers. "Come here."

Bella's jaw dropped a bit, and she looked dazed. Trying to lighten it up a little, I laughed. "Chicken?" I taunted. I was rewarded when she stood and walked around the table. I merely pushed myself back in my chair, and surprised her by pulling her to sit across my lap. "What are you...?" "Pretend I'm a pretty vampire," I whispered. She blushed and looked down. "You are making fun of me now." "No," I insisted. "I am merely trying to demonstrate that I know what you were talking about. This, for instance." I gently lifted her wrist close to my face. Carefully, I traced the blue veins with the tip of my finger. "A pulse-point. And highly sensitive. Am I right?" I deliberately brushed my lips across the soft skin on the inside of her wrist. The goose bumps that appeared on her arm gave me my answer. "One could associate the sensitivity to something pleasurable. Thus making a bite here, seem erotic." "But it wouldn't be," Bella spoke calmly. "Not really." "No. It wouldn't be." I frowned and dropped her wrist back to rest on her leg. I thought she would stand then, and leave me. But she did not. Instead, Bella tossed her hair behind her shoulders and leaned closer to my chest. "And the neck?" she asked somewhat breathlessly. I couldn't believe she was giving me license to continue. Unwilling to stop myself, I deliberate raised my hand to the collar of her button up shirt. Using one finger, I traced the line of the v-neck down to its first button, and back up. My eyes didn't leave her skin as I spoke. "Another highly erotic zone, played up for movies and romance novels." "Mmm hmm," she hummed. "Lean back," I ordered softly. She complied by putting one arm around my shoulders, and arching against the hand I had placed on the small of her back. Her hair fell like a curtain behind her, and she closed her eyes before tilting her chin up. The creamy expanse of her neck was laid bare to me. I couldn't resist pushing the tip of my nose against the shadowy spot at the base of her throat. I inhaled her scent deeply and she shivered. "Perfect access for a vampire," she whispered. I nodded, and my lips skimmed gently across the skin of her throat. She didn't need to remind me. I could feel the warm rush of her blood, just a hair's breadth away from my mouth. I didn't care that we were in the library. And I didn't care that other students were nearby. I could only focus on the woman in front of me. I traced my fingers up the smooth column of her neck, and let my lips lightly follow their path. Always a whisper away... so close. I breathed against her skin and her pulse accelerated. She swallowed hard and bit her bottom lip. I wanted to kiss her.

When my fingers reached her chin, I gently cupped it and turned her face away from me so that I could bury my nose in the soft hair behind her ear. Once there, I gulped in her fragrance. Never had I been encompassed by such maddening desire. It was both heaven and hell. And because I couldn't deny myself any longer, I finally allowed my tongue to trace a cool circle on the skin just below her ear. Bella's fingers curled into my shoulder, and I felt her squeeze her legs together, tensing her body while she sat on my lap. "Mmmmm Edward..." she moaned quietly. "Edward? Edward!" Bella's voice was louder than I expected, and sounded somewhat amused. I blinked twice and saw her standing before me. Snow still decorated the shoulders of her coat. "Wow! Earth to Edward. Where did you go?" She was teasing me. Bella had obviously just finished her phone call. I lowered my brows and looked down at the book in front of me. "Sorry," I mumbled. "This book. It's just... I...." I was actually stumbling over my words. "It's snowing?" I opted, instead, to change the subject. "It just started," she said quietly before placing her coat on the back of her chair and sitting across from me. I was at a loss. Somehow, my inner thoughts about making my feelings known to Bella had become derailed by my horny teenage body. Apparently, my fantasy life was strong enough to completely negate the fine vampire senses that were typically on constant alert. I hadn't even been aware that Bella had approached the table. I glanced down, completely thankful that outward signs of embarrassment were impossible for me. If I were capable of blushing, I am sure I would have been bright red. When I got past my own consternation, I noticed that Bella was staring at the table between us with a frown on her face. She looked... lost. Any lingering imitations of seventeen year old raging hormones were quickly replaced by concern. "Bella?" I asked. "Is everything ok?" "Yes. I'm sorry," she shook her head. "I mean... no. Not really. But we have a lot of work to do." "We have plenty of time," I insisted. Bella looked up into my eyes, and then her glance darted to the people sitting at nearby tables. Guessing at her hesitation, I stood and tilted my head, indicating that she should follow. I felt high when she silently stood and began to do just that. Extending my hearing forward, I searched for a quiet corner on this floor. I found it, in a section of books that were rarely visited. Turning my back to the wall, I lowered myself and patted my

hand on the floor next to me. Bella smiled and moved to slide down the wall too. We sat there, side by side for a moment before she began talking. "He isn't making this easy," she breathed. I knew she was talking about Mike. I didn't mind. If what she needed from me was friendship, I would provide it. "Are you... still trying to end things?" I asked. I tried to make my voice sound less hopeful than I felt. "Yes," she nodded. "It's just hard. Because none of this is his fault. He did absolutely nothing wrong. You don't know..." "You could tell me," I offered. She smiled over at me. "When I moved to Forks, I was miserable," she began. "I never really fit in anywhere. I was terribly shy. And I was clumsy... to the point of almost being disabled." She laughed lightly and I listened attentively. "Mike was one of the first friends I made. And his friends welcomed me into their group. I finally belonged. We were very socially active... it helped me to become more selfconfident. I wasn't as shy...." "And the clumsiness?" "It got slightly better with age," she smiled and nudged my arm with her shoulder. "I think I was just grateful to Mike for being my friend. I should never have tried to feel more... Everyone just seemed to expect that we..." she seemed unable to finish her sentence. "And he doesn't agree that you would be better off as friends?" I asked. She shook her head sadly. "I never wanted to hurt him. I felt like I owed it to him... to at least try. But I just couldn't..." She had lowered one hand to pick at the carpet between us. "Edward? Do you believe in fate?" she asked softly. Bella brought her eyes up to meet my gaze, and I felt as though I were drowning in their depths. "Without a doubt," I answered truthfully. She smiled serenely before turning to stare straight ahead once more. "So do I," she breathed. "And it's hard to explain. But I always felt like something was missing. Like...I was never going to find what I was meant for in Forks. Does that make any sense?" "It's not your fault." "It wasn't his either," she sighed. "Mike was always fighting a losing battle against something he couldn't even see- Fate," she explained.

and tucked her chin down towards her chest. Bella didn't pull away. "Sorry for wasting work time." she apologized quietly. Then realization came to me. "Hey Edward?" she asked as she looked up from her book. "About the singer. right?" she asked. She just sat there in the darkened corner." I reminded her. "Yes?" "What was that phrase you spoke in Italian? At my apartment. we took advantage of our arrangements to work late. Instead. but I couldn't trust my voice. I hadn't said anything about the opera. Anytime you need to talk. I reluctantly released Bella's hand so that we could both stand.. . on the floor. During that time. It was the happiest I had ever been. For the first time." I smiled. I took a deep breath to prepare myself for rejection.watching the floor as we walked back to our table. hours later. I wondered if that was an old habit born of her innate clumsiness. A quick call from my cell phone ensured that we were permitted to re-enter the building at the side door. "We have plenty of time for research. "Abbracciare il cantante. Bella's voice seemed loud in the quiet of the building when she finally did speak. "I'm here. 21.. And together we worked until nearly four a. The boy and the bubble When the subtle electronic tones played over the loud-speakers to indicate that the library would close soon. or if she was specifically trying to avoid looking at me. And then I slowly reached between us to place my hand over hers.when you were talking about the opera that was playing?" I lowered my brows in confusion. and let me hold her hand. we didn't speak other than to compare notes right away.m. Anytime at all. Ok?" She smiled her thanks.I wanted to say more.

"But why would a vampire try to resist? I mean. and it smelled better to me than any other dessert in the world.. noting the rough translations and missing text... I'd just order the chocolate shake and be done with it... "In some of these old stories.. even though I understood it all far too well. and so I tried to summarize. Bella nodded." I pretended to be confused by it.'" I stepped back to look at the book again. and leaned over her shoulder to read. The translation was obviously lacking. it is believed that certain humans held blood more tempting. my father. "Like on Interview with a Vampire!" she declared. "I understand the tempting part. had once called Bella my 'singer'. But how can it be more powerful?" "Huh?" "You said 'more powerful.. And about it being more difficult to resist.. I stood and walked to stand behind her. "It would be like if a vampire found the scent of one particular person's blood more intoxicating than any other. because of the call of her blood to me. My eyes scanned the information quickly." I turned away from her then. I planned to ask Carlisle if he knew more on the subject." I nodded." I shrugged." "I don't understand.. That person would be considered his 'singer. She was closer to the truth than she realized. I hadn't been referring to the opera. savoring the sensation. if I liked a chocolate shake. "What does singing have to do with vampires?" Bella turned her face towards me.. 'Cantante.. "It's not complete." "Drinking a shake wouldn't make you a monster. Though I couldn't make sense of it.' she looked back down to where her finger pressed onto the page. I closed my eyes.. more powerful. Bella was watching me with interest. more painful to endure. It did refer to the powers of the blood. and I felt her breath on my cheek. Well. "This book keeps mentioning the word. "When Louie tried to eat animals!" "Probably." I realized that I had slipped into male and female pronouns that could describe the two of us."Yes. But what I did see made me tuck the information away for future reference." "Hmm. More impossible to resist. before moving a little further away. Bella didn't seem to think anything of it. Carlisle." I said quietly. It's not very clear.. and more difficult to resist for certain vampires. ..' Because her blood would 'sing' for him.. and then her eyes brightened with a new understanding. She was right.

Our cars were parked in the same lot. "We should get you home. And I still loved to run. nervous about her reason for calling me over. As if to demonstrate.. She hadn't shared her visions with me lately. "That's probably a good idea.. As I opened the door. I was fairly sure the tender friendship we had begun to forge would be ruined by that quirky little habit of mine. She seemed completely at ease. Probably something about how its lure is more powerful than that of others. "You don't have to. Mind over matter. I didn't want to tempt fate any more than I already was. The next evening. "What are you doing?" I asked. I heard Alice bid me to enter."I'm not sure." Alice smiled sweetly. And while I had no issue with actually being out in the daylight hours. "Well. Dawn was fast approaching.. I drove by Bella's apartment to make sure that she got there safely. The roads should be fine. I wouldn't have time to sit beside her as she slept this morning. And of course. I saw her sitting with her legs crossed beneath her in the middle of the floor. It didn't snow much." I pressed my lips together. "Do you need me to follow you home?" I asked. You too." Of course." she thoughtfully bit down on her lower lip. Fate. I went back towards my stack of books. in my presence. and I helped Bella put on her coat. Tonight's conversation with Bella gave me a lot to think about on that subject. I hoped that was because Bella really was safe now. I didn't ever want to take the chance of getting caught in Bella's room.. I spent the last hours before the sun came up. and couldn't help but notice when Bella yawned hugely. We exited through the side door and we walked slowly to our cars. It was still easier to be close to Bella when I kept my thirst firmly in check. watching her sleep." I stated." "Thanks. "It's choppy information to do with the power of the blood. When I knocked on the door. In the darkness my imagination let her run beside me. I received a summons by voicemail for me to meet Alice at her apartment." I admitted. I began to wonder if I had worried needlessly . I went with a bit of unease." she nodded." "Hmm. "Blowing bubbles. hunting near home. We placed our books on the return desk. she lifted a tiny plastic bubble wand in front of her lips and produced a stream of small delicate orbs that drifted and danced in the air around her. drive safely. I took a detour before driving home.

" "Just..about her reasons for inviting me. When I moved closer.. "And because I wanted to pick her brain." she frowned darkly. "He's always trying new things these days. huh?" She was being a smart-ass and she knew it. I noticed a scent that was entirely too familiar and impossible for me to ignore. she's never seen 'Phantom of the Opera?'" "What does that have to do with anything?" "Oh. She would never elaborate if I didn't comply.." Alice said easily.. "Alice. "Where is Jasper?" I finally asked.. You can actually spend time with someone. I knew better. "You know that bossy shit doesn't work on me.." I softened my voice and gave in." I growled lowly." "There are elk and bear in the area." "Please. So I called her and asked if she wanted to go. "Did you know. It's amazing. I just thought that most people had at least seen the movie version!" "Ok. "Why?" "Because I don't have any friends here. like that?" "Yes. Shocking." she admitted. Nothing really." I wasn't sure where she was leading me with this information. "He went away for a few days." "Say 'please'." Alice sighed. Just like that. Get to know her a little better." she shrugged and blew another wand full of soapy solution into the air. I walked to the center of the room. She was so stubborn. "Explain. "We traded numbers when we were dancing at the bar. and lowered myself to sit in the same fashion across from her." "I think he was craving something more exotic. "When were you around Bella? And why?" "This afternoon. But I could tell I wouldn't get more from her unless she wanted to offer it. just by making plans and asking. He said he wanted to hunt something larger than squirrel. and he knows it." Alice pouted. explain." . "She said she knew of a good book-store in town.

I pressed my eyebrows together and looked at the floor. "Thus concludes your daily lesson in 'safe sex' with Alice!" she imitated an announcer's voice. and for how long.... "You and Emmett used to see how many bubbles you could bounce. "Why. I can feel it give. "Last night.. "What if I lost focus? What if I got. You caught less. "Honestly Edward!" Alice huffed. too excited and hurt her?" "I don't think you could. narrowing my eyes at her. it's no problem at all. I smiled." I insisted. She isn't nearly as fragile as a bubble. They would pop faster. I was so consumed by.." Alice agreed. only to catch it once again. I didn't even notice that she was talking to me!" "That would change if she were actually with you.." "It's not that hard. She just blew more bubbles in my direction. staring at the soapy film of the bubble I had caught on my finger. under my touch." "I can't think clearly around her. "You just have to test the strength of the bubble." "You can't be sure either!" Alice insisted... "Emmett was always in a hurry to catch more than you. "Because you took your time. but you were especially careful with them. I wondered if she knew anything about the conversation that Jasper and I had about his past history with human women. balancing the bubble before giving it a little bounce. a daydream." Alice grinned at me and twisted the lid back onto her little bottle of bubble solution." I reiterated. before they would pop." I murmured. and not apply more pressure than necessary." "I always won. "Why you are so nervous about how to handle Bella is beyond me.. You'd be too concerned about hurting her to forget yourself.. . But Alice didn't seem upset.. and held out my pointer finger to balance one of the delicate spheres on its tip. "Do you remember this game?" Alice asked then. "What?" I asked... If I pay attention." "Bubbles don't make me lose my head. My mouth popped open." I boasted.." "You don't know that. you little sneak!" I accused.

. . And of course.."Exactly. Bella seemed completely unaffected by my presence. But Katrina sat beside her.. she hadn't yet decided if Mike Newton would be visiting during our week hiatus..' "All I know is. I even remembered to say 'please. I glanced over at Bella again and wondered if she had made plans." I insisted. everyone was anxious for the time away from class.. I couldn't be sure how Bella felt. Ink splattered my paper and covered my hand.. "I bet they'd be plenty welcome. and by the sound of things. Bella is going to ask you to kiss her. "Alice.. Alice was pushing the subject awfully hard.. I gritted my teeth and squeezed my pen in my fingers.?" I let my voice drop. The typical noise was buzzing even more loudly with everyone making plans for their Spring Break. And then something occurred to me. "Damn it.." "What do you know Alice?" She just smiled wider. I didn't know whether to hope that Alice's vision was true.. And I'm not ready to take that chance. I could hear 'Music of the Night. When last we talked.' And. I had a feeling they would be spending more time in the lodge than on the slopes. "I. It was only a week away... The thoughts around me in class were more annoying than usual.." "Oh." Alice smirked. you need to tell me.." 22. I'll take anything!" I know I sounded desperate.. Just thinking about the possibility made me angry.. my advances would be welcome." I ground out when the pen broke. Alice had seen a vision of Bella asking me to kiss her. and so I tried to stay firmly away from her inner thoughts for a while. As intrigued as I was. Duck and Cover I watched Bella through Thursday evening's class. don't even know if. as usual. Everyone but me. "Please.carefully looking for any signs that she might really be attracted to me.." "It wasn't a detailed vision!" she promised. "If you know something... or wish for once she'd be wrong. I glanced up from under my lashes. doodling and fantasizing about the ski trip that she was taking with Brad. looking at her sideways.

"A little bit. And if Mike Newton was going to be anywhere near her.. I was going to find out if Bella had made a decision about letting him visit. Maybe we could all get together? I mean. and then went to find the girls with a new purpose in my step." Bella shrugged. I knew where my irritation stemmed from. He might be fighting. I would fight harder. flirting with her boyfriend. I'm just. I glanced up and frowned at my reflection. But damn it. "I think that's why everyone is so excited about Spring Break. She was mine. But what if he showed up and she changed her mind? What if she realized that she missed him. I would do my best to make sure that no reconnection was made." "No?" I raised my eyebrow and looked down at her. She had made her feelings perfectly clear." Bella quickly reached into her bag and handed me a Kleenex.." Bella sighed and turned from the window. or felt guilty enough to make another attempt at a relationship? He could not have her. I followed as she began her way down the hall towards our class. "Everyone is ready for a change in scenery.. he probably remembers me and my family from school. I scrubbed the ink with the abrasive industrial paper-towels until the stain was gone. "I really can't afford it right now. She only wanted to remain his friend." ." I mentioned. Katrina stood in the corner. "I'm not going anywhere. "But I don't mind the weather. "Well... staring at the space beyond and quietly drinking her diet Coke."Here.. I casually walked up behind her and smiled as my gaze met hers in our reflection.. Bella stood in front of a large window. "Tired of winter?" I asked." I clenched my fingers close to my sides and tried to keep the tension from my voice.. I'm not going anywhere either.." I couldn't agree more. and I had to leave the girls to try to scrub the ink from my skin.. The professor excused us for break." Bella shrugged. I didn't even realize that she had noticed me beside her at all. I wanted to keep Bella from Mike. While I stood there at the sink. ready for a change. "And Mike is going to come here instead.

Bella didn't tell me 'no. I sat there. You don't have to do that. She twisted her hair around her fingers and bit her lip often while writing. at the library.Edward. Wow. I know. I know. It makes me a terrible person. She wanted to think about it. got things out of the way without dragging it out. I also had a sneaking suspicion that I already knew what show was playing in Boston that week. sort of lied to him. I halted and missed a step in shock. "Boston is a short drive." "I want to. I knew that I would creep into Bella's bedroom again to watch her dream. . I know. It was devious. She really meant it. I matched my steps to hers and prepared for her refusal. It had the opposite effect on me. That was good enough for me.. Surely. Let me know."That sounds like a wonderful idea!" Bella stopped and turned. catch a show at the Opera house. "I." Bella said quietly. that I had to fight hard to keep a giant grin from stretching across my face. Bella turned and started walking forward again." Her words made me feel so happy. she raised her hand to fan herself before twisting her hair up in an elastic band.. "I wasn't really sure what to do for the weekend while he's here. I told him I had plans for later in the week." "Wow. "I'll think about it. She had no idea how much I wanted to. staring at the back of her neck and thanking God for central heating systems. We could get dinner. beaming up at me.' I smiled stupidly at my paper while I took notes from lecture. And I enjoy the theatre. "Yeah. which was fine by me. I was euphoric. Once.." "The weekend?" Bella nodded again. But I quickly recovered and pretended to be as nonchalant about it as she seemed to be.? My treat. "I don't have any plans for Spring Break. This action was obviously meant to cool her off. I wasn't going to push her. I already knew that Katrina would be gone for the week. my way of thanking you for making me a part of your project team. She could have refused me right away. I was thinking of inviting you and Katrina to go to Boston with me for a couple days. Later.." she nodded. she would take this time to point out that Katrina already had plans and that she didn't feel comfortable accompanying me on the trip alone.." I shrugged. She usually went to bed so late that I wasn't afforded as much time in that dark room as I would like." Thanks to Alice's vision. "And you'd be doing me a favor. Sort of. But I thought it would be best if we just. I pretended to search through the computer database while I surreptitiously studied Bella above my monitor. "You wouldn't feel bad about lying if you really did make plans." I insisted. We didn't stay past closing hours.." I shrugged.

I hissed under my breath when a slight shadowy form rounded the side of the building. She made faces. I couldn't believe I had so nearly almost gotten caught in Bella's room. I stood and hurried out her window and down the side of the building. but I knew I needed to take the chance to get the hell out while I had the chance. Bella stomped her way towards her bathroom. I pulled back farther into the shadows. The mirror started banging on the wall with a rhythmic jolt that matched the sudden loud sounds of voices from the other side. Then with a loud sigh. and watched the person. In the dark. I was once again grateful for the opportunity to watch her in slumber.. The smell of the apartment alone should have alerted me that someone else was there. Katrina obviously had company in her room. Horrified. staring down at the ground in front of me. I rose and walked to the edge of the woods. and folded my arms across my chest. From the darkness of the tree line. She was so beautiful. I was so used to tuning out her dreams that I hadn't listened closely enough. Restless movement from beyond the wall made me think that Katrina was awake. Bella threw the covers away from her and swung her legs over the edge of the bed. What in the hell was wrong with me? My obsession was causing me to become careless. and hazarded the chance to rise up to my hands and knees. Bella was so fascinating to me while she slept. I began to crawl silently towards the window and my escape.. ready to spring. I moved to rest the back of my legs against her dresser. But I was too wrapped up in Bella to notice. I froze when Bella sat straight up in her bed. I patiently waited for the day that I might hear my name on her lips again. Even then I was considering if I should or should not attempt to reenter the room once things quieted down. But I gave it little thought until the large mirror behind me shook violently. "Jesus Christ!" Bella yelled sleepily. she flung her pillow violently towards the wall. . Was it an intruder? Was Bella in danger? I crouched low. Things were beginning to slip. Sometimes she talked. And then with a dissatisfied groan. and small noises. "Keep it down!" I heard her flop back down on her bed. and I wanted to stare at the way she looked walking past in her little yellow panties. I had to stealthily lie flat on my stomach and roll sideways towards the wall just to avoid being stepped on. I cursed under my breath. She had pulled the remaining pillow over her head to block out the lustful sounds coming from her roommate's bedroom. It missed me by inches as I literally dropped to the floor to avoid being caught there. And so as soon as her bathroom door closed. I stared up at Bella's window. my eyes popped wide open.looking for signs of mischief. A peace settled around me and I smiled as I kept my vigil there at the foot of her bed. I leaned there against the wall with my hands on my knees. I turned with a start.And as I slid her window open enough to allow easier entrance. It seemed little yellow panties destroyed my ability to think logically.

in an effort to keep myself from reaching for her. she turned and rested her back heavily against it. Apparently. hunting anacondas. I gripped the tree trunk tightly under my hands. I didn't know why she stood there in the wooded area. I didn't even allow my breathing to break the silence of the night. Random penis jokes and hilarity ensued. I was inches from her in the dark.A cold wind blew her scent to me. she wiped her sleeve across her face. took a deep breath. I thought nothing of it. 23. and walked back to her apartment. And I could taste the saltiness of her tears. She was softly crying. and I stared at her dark window until the sun began to lighten the sky once more. I could hear her ragged breathing. I considered inviting him to visit soon.." I muttered absently. I wanted to be able to fix whatever it was that was hurting her. I wanted to comb her hair back with my hand and kiss her forehead. and placed my palms against the rough bark. When she got to the tree where I stood. but I could see that she was wearing a pair of sweatpants. crying. and entertained me with stories from his trip. Bella seemed hell bent on following me. "Why didn't Alice pick me up?" Jasper asked. Instead. But I couldn't. . So I stood motionless... What was Bella doing outside? She was hunched inside her coat. and . "I have no idea. The best I could do was stay with her so I knew she was safe. There was enough bear in the area to make it worth his while. But I felt a very real pain rip through me with the knowledge that I couldn't do a thing to help her. and I straightened my posture cautiously. I wanted to move around the tree and pull her close to my chest. Flip-flops? Didn't she realize it was winter? And what was she doing. And then I heard the faint sniffle. walking into the woods? I silently ghosted to stand behind a tree further in. I didn't climb back up. Emmett was a lot of fun to hang out with when he could escape Rosalie for a while. my phone rang. I sat with my back against the tree where she had stopped to cry. Jasper threw his bag into the back of my car. So close to me.. he and Emmett had spent the week in South America. and I silently inched closer to the side of the tree. I was almost sorry I missed it. When her tears had run their course. My brows lowered. "Something about being up to her elbows in a new project?" As if on cue.. I could feel her there. in the dark. out loud. Designated Dave When Alice called and asked if I could pick Jasper up from the airport.

Love you.." "Did you get him?" "Yes." "I thought she said she wasn't much of a drinker?" . "Please Edward? I shouldn't drive."Speak of the devil. Do you want to talk to him?" "I have no time." she giggled." "What are you talking about?" "No time.. "Hello Alice. "Don't let him talk you into a detour. incredulously. "Jusht a little. "Fine. Could you please . Ok?" "OK. I just shook my head." The connection was broken a second before my phone started to buzz again." she said sharply." I said. Bring him straight home." I told her. He's sitting right beside me. Bella was slurring. "What's going on?" Jasper asked. Don't move.. signaling another call. "Also.. I stocked your refrigerator and I put a few items in your guest room.. I clicked my phone shut and pushed harder on the accelerator. Jasper sat there." "I'll be there soon. You can thank me later.. coming to pick me up from work?" I figured it out then. "Bella called from the bar.. looking at me quizzically. "Bella? Are you alright?" I asked. You have a call coming in. Bye. Alice was being weird. "Edward?" Bella's voice sounded all wrong.I just took a few things over to your house that you are going to need. But it was her. "I wasss wonderingggg. "Hello?" I asked. She's drunk and needs a ride home. Would you mind. I was instantly on alert. Listen." she sounded breathless.. I didn't recognize the number. flipping it open." I scrunched up my face and looked over at Jasper.. I had no idea what was going on. "Are you drunk?" I asked. No problem.

" she muttered." "Out!" I ordered. I practically shoved him out of the passenger seat." She pressed the side of her forehead to the glass beside her. "She sounds like she's tanked.. then the drinking. with my eyes on the road. and Jasper had to scramble to get his bag from the backseat before I tore back out onto the road. Shuze.. "You have no idea.. . Just saying. I had to know. Just. "Can you walk to the car? Or should I carry you?" I asked. She looked as inebriated as Bella. And then I stood to place a hand at Bella's elbow to help her to her feet. this ish Shuzi.. I walked to the car slowly. Her questionable balance was hindered even more so by the alcohol she had consumed. When I entered the crowded bar. Something was going on with her. and so I cursed under my breath and put my arm around her waist. Edward. "I'll make sure she's alright until her ride gets here. First the crying." I nodded towards him. practically carrying her against my hip." I offered dryly. and stared out the window. I broke most traffic laws getting to the Midfield as fast as I could. and she finally sighed.." she frowned. holding her more securely to my side. I quickly moved to her side." "Susie works here too. "Edward. don't let go of me."Apparently she was telling the truth.. getting my attention. "Drowning your sorrows?" I asked." "Pardon me?" "You heard me.. "I can walk. "Men suck. and tipped sideways on her stool while she tried to wave me over.. She let me buckle her into the passenger seat of my car.." called the bartender. I waited in silence. "My shister is on her way. Men.. Suck...." "Thanks. and I began the drive to her apartment building before speaking." "Drunk chicks are easy. I saw Bella leaning heavily on a table to my right." the girl slurred. "Yes.. I was willing to bet she was trying to cool her flushed face with the cold glass." I muttered as I pulled into the parking space in front of his apartment. She was unsteady. "Edward!" she called my name loudly. if not more so. "Do you have a ride home?" I felt obligated to be sure." "Susie? Pleasure to meet you.

You aren't perfect.. "Answer my question first... "She broke up with him." "I don't hate anything about you Edward.. And the ones I want aren't interested in the slightest. why is it that the entire gender is under attack tonight?" "Suzie's boyfriend cheated on her." "I never said I was. "How in the world did you know that?" Bella asked." she sounded irritated and crossed her arms over her chest. After three attempts to unlock ." she slurred as she scolded..." I leaned forward to sniff." I began walking her forward." Bella cringed and reached for the door handle as I pulled up in front of her building. It was really rather adorable. If you must know. I worked an early shift today and didn't feel like going home yet.. "Let me help you." Bella announced sloppily. I lifted her against my side once more. and I am the one that is giving you a ride home right now. And your perfect smile. "My problem is that I don't want the ones that want me. And your perfect eyes. Mr. But I couldn't imagine her not being able to have anyone she wanted.. "Vanilla vodka?" I asked. So she was drinking away a broken heart. and your perfect Dockers." I laughed then.. Cullen. She just slumped against me in defeat.. When she nearly toppled from the car. I continued to chuckle as I helped her up the stairs to her apartment. "I thought you hated my pants. "You.... I hadn't worn anything but jeans in weeks. so why not?" "Ah.."Aside from the fact that I am a man." I told her plainly. "Now.. "You smell like you bathed in it. What ailment were you trying to fix with an over-dose of.." "I thought you just said I wasn't nice. It would make no sense to try to argue with her while she was intoxicated." "Quit pretending to be so nice. I just shrugged. You are too nice." I insisted. I know it.." I reminded her.with your perfect hair. "Fine. "You have a dark side. How did you know that I was drinking Vanilla Vodka?" "The scent. And she wanted someone to have a drink with her." I frowned while I drove.

I didn't know what had upset her enough . I just wished it were under different circumstances. And to be honest. Esme.. I can't stay here. I had never seen a more beautiful sight than Bella. Jasper would give me crap for it later... The ride was silent aside from the back and forth swishing of the blades on my window and the quiet breathing of the girl beside me. and rubbed her cheek into the pillow that I usually laid upon. I wish I hadn't.. She fell asleep while I drove. But she wasn't. wanting to put my arms around her. I took the keys from her hand and opened it for her. can't listen to this." "You shouldn't have to.. and stared out the window. Bella backed up into me with her hands over her face. And they were very vocally taking advantage of having the apartment to themselves. "Where are we going?" she asked. sleeping deeply on the warm gold comforter on my bed. Bella mumbled a little. I just.. and pulled Bella with me down the hall. "I can't. I liked the comfort of lying down occasionally. watching the snow fall. Bella only made a small sound and reached to wind her hands behind my neck. Katrina still had company. We could quite clearly hear them from the door. I turned to walk from the room before I could be tempted to crawl up beside her. trying to decide what to do with the sleeping bundle in my arms. But my room was adorned with a large and comfortable bed. As soon as I opened the door." Bella shook her head and turned to press her face into my chest. I never slept. It had begun to snow again. "I haven't slept. I turned then.. I placed Bella carefully on the covers. I lifted her from the passenger seat as gently as I could. It seemed an obvious choice to bypass the living room and take her straight to my bedroom. And I simply couldn't take advantage of the fact that she had way too much to drink. After I parked in my garage. and untangled her grip from the back of my neck. Bella was serious about being tired.. I am exhausted. I had learned early that a fully furnished home made it easier to keep up pretenses when necessary. letting it trail across my pillows." I muttered and closed the door again. sounding small and tired. I took my hands and brushed her hair away from her face. Because I could. But I knew that even he would behave more nobly under the present circumstances. I wasn't sure what was going on in that head of Bella's. I looked around. Once inside the door. "I'm taking you to my house. When she inhaled deeply and smiled." I had to turn on the windshield wipers halfway through town.... My mother. "Please Edward?" She moaned into the front of my shirt front. I sat on the sofa in my darkened living room..her door. I froze. always insisted on it. I would have given anything to have made that gesture something that she offered while conscious.

"I guess I shouldn't be surprised that you have the cleanest toilet I have ever seen. It bothered me a little that she wasn't readily sharing her visions with me. Cool hands and Warm Breath Eventually I stood and began pacing back and forth in my living room. unsure of how I could assist. Bella threw the lid to the toilet up. was that I had her here. I rushed to her side and half-dragged her into my private bathroom. . and heaved into the porcelain bowl. My eyes noted a new toothbrush. dropped to her knees. In my home. I pushed my bedroom door open with alarm and hurried through the door.. I was not above taking full advantage of the situation as it had presented itself. This time was mine. A smile broke across my face as the snow began to fall more heavily. she laid her cheek against the arm that was still draped over the toilet seat and closed her eyes. And while I would never take advantage of the girl who was sweetly sleeping in the other room. What I did know for a fact. I would have to find a way to thank her for the grocery shopping. "I'll bet you are pretty grateful for that fact right now. contemplating this turn in events. 24. I filled the small glass on the counter with water and moved to place it in Bella's hand." she moaned." she mumbled. and a half of a tube of toothpaste lying neatly by my sink. And I didn't know why she had thought it would be a good idea to get drunk. so she could make my home ready for a guest.. I wondered if the two could be related. "You have no idea. But I understood that it was her way of trying to not interfere or influence the natural course of mine and Bella's relationship. Alice had obviously known that Bella would be here. still in its packaging. Understanding the problem immediately. Her observation made me laugh lightly. I wondered which items Alice had left in the guest room and was about to go find out when a loud thump brought my attention to the other side of the hall. When Bella was done retching." I teased. God Bless you Alice.to make her cry the night before. Once inside. She asked me to pick Jasper up from the airport. Bella stood beside my bed with a panicked expression and her hand firmly clamped over her mouth. I stood by the door.

"But I'll be right outside the door if you need anything.got to take care of my 'perfect smile. She looked so miserable that I longed to comfort and take care of her.." she whispered shakily. Being able to touch her was like heaven to me. But the lie wouldn't hurt her. I really never drink. there is a new toothbrush here that you can have." "Sorry. She was still wobbly." she complained." she shook her head slightly. "I have extras." I insisted." Bella took the toothbrush from my hand with a thankful-looking smile." I told her. "If you are certain that you are finished being sick." I said. "It happens to the best of them. And then Bella lifted the glass to her lips sipped it cautiously. so I made sure she was stationary at the sink before I turned on the faucet and un-wrapped the toothbrush for her. I lifted my hand to sooth her forehead and her flushed cheek. When Bella pressed her lips together." She relaxed visibly under my touch... Actually." "Shhh. Her announcement made me laugh out loud." I said.." she groaned quietly. "You are supposed to be forgetting about that. I predicted that Bella wouldn't want them.. the bathroom door opened and Bella grinned at me sheepishly. "And forget about any mortifying thing I might have said earlier. "God.. . And I stepped out of the room. "You have no idea how good that feels. "I shouldn't have.I'd really appreciate it."Here. "You know. "This is so embarrassing." I smiled. But I didn't mean it..'" "Oh!" She buried her face further into her arm. Though I wasn't sure if my ministrations would be welcome. ' I helped Bella to her feet. In a minute.. and I smiled.." she mumbled. Not bloody likely." "I don't want to take your toothbrush. I didn't bother to pull down the covers." "If you could." Bella squeezed her eyes shut tighter." "I'll do my best. I had to chuckle at the disgusted look that crossed her face. "I'll give you some privacy." I continued stroking her hair away from her face. I had a very good idea.. "My mouth tastes like ass. see your way towards forgetting all of this." "Thank you. "Drink this. I illuminated the path to the bed by flicking on the small bedside table lamp.

." she mumbled. "I thought you would be more comfortable here.. Bella reached out and placed her hand firmly on my forearm. "The guest room doesn't have its own bathroom. "Edward?" she asked with a tiny voice in the darkness. She didn't ask me to share the bed. Because I love you. I swallowed as she crawled back up into the middle of my bed." "Why are you always so nice to me?" Bella asked. my mind screamed. Her eyes were already closed. "Sure Bella. "Is this your bedroom. Before I pulled my hand away. "Move over." she whispered. even more than to hold her. She only wanted my cooling touch." Bella kept one arm thrown out for balance as she slowly made her way back into the room. I wasn't sure if Bella was sober enough to not have this cause her later embarrassment. she was giving me an invitation that would allow me to do so! But no. "Thank you. I nodded and reached to turn off the light. As much as I wanted to give in to my baser instincts. "Yes?" My voice was warm and throaty in reaction to her touch. "It's very nice. settling in against my pillows. "I got it.. I carefully sat beside her on the bed. Edward?" "Yes. was her trust.. I would not take advantage of her while she wasn't in her right frame of mind. rub my forehead again? That was." I murmured. nice. What I wanted." I said in a low voice.." I explained.. How many times had I stood in her room." When she did." Every muscle in my body tensed as I fought to stay rooted to the floor. Slowly and tenderly. "Because you are my friend. I began to push her hair away from her face. wishing for an excuse to crawl up to lie beside her? And now. And I soothed her forehead ." It was a true as I could be without scaring her away. And I care about you. So. "Will you stay with me? Just."Do you need help walking?" I asked..

"Hello?" I smiled as I pushed the lever down on the toaster. I made sure to shower and change my clothes before Bella woke the next morning. And then I stole quietly from the room. I quite clearly heard her raspy. "Alice wants to talk to you. "No. "No." I poured Bella a cup of coffee and pushed it across the bar in her direction as she rounded the corner and walked towards me." I reminded her. "Sure.. and by the sound of her voice. I purposely shut the refrigerator door loudly so she would realize I was there. Even a two year old could make toaster waffles. I totally understand." I straightened my shoulders and listened in. "Good morning. She handed the phone towards me with one hand while reaching for the coffee with the other.." . voice answer. In the silence of the house. I'm at his house right now." "It's ok. "Oh. "Sorry. staring out at the snowy scene quietly. "You would know. But Bella was moving around. I didn't stop until I was sure she had fallen asleep. Hi Alice. I was calling for a ride. But your brother came to get me. She stood. Of course. "Yes." A pause. I wouldn't feel so bad about listening in if my presence was known. with her sleeprumpled clothes and her hair sticking out in every direction. There really wasn't time to explain things yesterday." Bella looked adorable. That's alright. Bella sipped her coffee and stood with her back to me. I even had time to figure out how to work the stainless steel coffee maker on my counter before I heard the sound of her cell phone ringing from the other room." Pause. sleepy.and her cheek with my fingers.thank you anyway. she was coming closer to the kitchen." she mumbled while avoiding my eyes. Well. offering no more than the innocent touch she had requested. even though I knew it was invasive. Alice. "Have a nice night?" Alice asked. Yes." I watched as Bella turned and blew across the top of her mug while walking to my patio doors. I picked up the phone and greeted her. Alice chose food I could manage easily." "I told Bella that she was welcome to use anything of mine that she needed from the guest room. he's right here.

I hope she could hear how much I meant it. I was just telling you to enjoy your day." ." I watched as Bella leaned towards my glass patio door. You know you are snowed in. She parted her lips. But I knew it was there." I couldn't help but laugh at her rude comment. entranced. 25." I murmured. you wouldn't be stuck here. "I would be stuck with Katrina and Brad the Wonder-Lay. "No reason to be.. and breathed onto the glass." she apologized. if I had left you at your place. I leaned forward." she laughed lightly." Bella offered quietly. "Does that upset you?" I asked. It was just waiting for another warm breath to bring it back to life. I walked over towards Bella and handed her the phone... "Of course! And you owe me." "Thank you Alice. Snow Day "Your sister said we are snowed in. right?" "I assumed. "Edward? Did you hear me?" "I'm sorry. What?" "Nothing. I was worried about her answer. fogging it with condensation. making the heart disappear." "You're right. looking over her shoulder. "I just feel bad to be invading your space like this." I insisted. Alice hung up before I could say goodbye. The condensation had already dried. "I know. She lifted her pointer-finger and drew a little heart. "Sorry. Alice laughed in my ear.. She turned and smiled shyly in my direction. The roads will be clear by morning."And I am sure you considered every possibility." I kept my words deliberately vague.

All this is yours?" Bella asked." I said honestly. "I don't remember." I said sincerely. Pathetic. "How long has it been since you've made one?" I watched her." I said.. "Just a few acres. what are we standing around for?" Bella turned with an impish grin.. "The biggest draw for me. "Freak snow storm.. making wide arcs in the snow. I walk out to a little wooded area behind my apartment. She was an angel. "Are you ok?" I rushed towards her. "Not pathetic." I said truthfully. lying in the snow. I go out there a lot. Bella trudged a few steps forward and then turned to fall straight back into the snow. was the property. "Wow.. I thought for sure we would be done with this for the year. we both walked around the side of my house toward my back yard. It wasn't fenced in. "I mean. huh?" Ah. "I would too." Bella shrugged. I cleared my throat. Like I could ever tell her 'no. pink cheeked and laughing. in buying this place. "Let's take advantage of it! Would you like to go play in the snow with me?" I smiled stupidly at her. Mystery solved. "Sometimes when I feel really homesick.. I would get bored being snowed in by myself. Just to feel closer to home." "I'm sure it will be the last.." I agreed.' Fifteen minutes later.. "Well then. When her surprised eyes turned up toward me." She didn't need to know why. or lonely. Right?" "Right. "Snow angel!" She called out." Bella turned to look back out the window. "I miss the forests.. The woods made a natural border.."I'm glad you're here.." "Really? Why?" The only plus-side to being forced to ask Bella to explain her thoughts was being able to hear her voice while she tried. "I am jealous. but stopped when she started moving her arms and legs outward." she smiled. if I were you. "Well come on down!" .

Now it's your turn to decide. When I returned. "Let's make a snow man!" For the next few hours we played outside. more relaxed..pajama bottoms and a t-shirt . and I noticed Bella's teeth chattering. She grinned at the image and her breath clouded around her face while she exhaled and pointed at the designs we made.with an upraised eyebrow.I laughed at her enthusiasm. I was starving! I hope you don't mind?" She shook her head as though it didn't bother her in the least. We rolled snow and piled it up to build a snow man. I just shrugged instead. It's your turn. she was sitting at the bar.. what's next on the agenda?" Bella asked when she was finished. "I don't know. When I stood.. and I placed my hands on the counter. When the sky began to get darker. "I made you play in the snow. pushing my arms and legs out in a similar pattern. side by side in the snow. And then. "I know it was rude of me." I wanted to point out that my happiness had everything to do with my present company." . and then went to my room for a change of clothes as well.. She couldn't hide a little yawn before she continued." Bella motioned with her hand for me to follow as she turned. I heated some soup for her in the microwave. Her simple observation made me feel as though I really was floating somewhere above the ground. But I ate while you changed clothes. You aren't having any?" I knew she would mention it.. "So. What do you want to do?" "Ah ah.. She moved to the sink to rinse out her mug. I thought it was a brilliant idea. "Is the soup good?" "Delicious. Our prints were nearly touching. I left it for her in a steaming mug on the counter. "Come on. "Look! We're flying together!" She smiled. I finally convinced her that we should go inside. we made a snow woman so our first creation wouldn't have to be lonely. at Bella's insistence. Bella noted my casual clothing. and spooned the warm soup into her mouth while I tried not to stare. More laid back? Happier. and moved to lie near her in the snow." she said. "How so?" "Just." Bella smiled. and not my flannel pants. I offered a hand to help her up again. "You look different when you are dressed like that. While Bella went to the guest room to change into borrowed clothing.

I really would like to apologize again. "I think. She frowned at me for a moment." she smiled and came to sit on the foot of the bed by my feet." "Sorry." I grinned and set the book aside. I could think of a thousand things I would like to be doing with her." I said. We'll take a nap now. it's your turn to pick again." I waved her off. I was thinking. A nap would be great. less chaste than others. Many of them.when you wake up. "You?" "Wonderful. "Edward? Listen . "Did you have a nice nap?" She asked. I stepped toward Bella then. "Something like that." "It's not necessary.. I smiled when a tentative knock sounded on my door.. to gently touch her cheek with the back of my fingers. "I really haven't slept well for the last couple nights. and my hand came up." she nodded. I read through a book and counted the next one hundred and twenty-eight minutes and seventeen seconds until I heard Bella moving around in the other room. And say thanks for."We're taking turns?" I smiled and folded my arms across my chest. But I could see that she honestly was dead on her feet.. "Come in. She sighed and closed her eyes. When she shut the door behind her. . "Can I finish please? It's important." Bella smiled and I walked her to my bedroom door. "that a nap sounds nice. I went to the guest room to read while she slept. Sure. Thanks." I replied honestly." I nodded. I remained casually sitting up in the bed. "Are you sure?" I could hear the relief in her voice. I noted the shadows under her eyes with a small twinge of guilt for my selfish thoughts.. I liked the fact that she didn't argue again about changing rooms. It thrilled me to know that she was sleeping in my bed. "I feel better now. as if of its own accord. Not wanting to appear as anxious as I was to see her again. And later.." I mumbled. lowering my hand and stepping further back." Her eyes popped open and she smiled.. Bella looked at the way I sat with my back against the headboard with my legs stretched out on the bed in front of me. "I'm sure." "Yes.

I was so pathetically weak..or hid out in my room with a fake head ache so that Bella could enjoy the hot tub alone. "Edward? Is it still my turn to choose what we get to do tonight?" "Yes. But how in the hell was I going to keep a respectable distance when I knew she was right there. But my appalling male desires won the battle over right and wrong.." "Thank you Bella. And then I splashed quickly down into the water and began pushing buttons on the control panel to turn on all the jets. like you've been for me. And her eyes flew to mine yet again. But you. Never mind the fact that the heat of the tub would likely make breathing near her feel like acid in my throat. "If there is anything I can ever do.. I tried to cover by pulling the corner of my mouth up in a grin. and blurred outside to clear a path in the snow before Bella could make her way out to the patio. "Was that a jacuzzi I saw outside?" I dressed in my trunks as quickly as I could. And I embarrassed myself.. Stupid! Stupid.. fighting ... Did I have to think of 'bubbles'? I groaned.. do you think."I was a mess yesterday. Over-tired and over-emotional does not mix well with alcohol. "So. and our class together ends?" "You just try to get rid of me.. Again." Bella picked at the knee of her sweatpants and her cheeks turned a delightful shade of pink in her consternation.?" "What?" "Do you think we can manage to stay in touch. you came through for me. barely dressed.. Damn it. and she relaxed and returned my smile. stupid! I should have claimed that the damn jacuzzi was broken.. she turned and leaned against the dresser with a devious smile on her face." I nodded. And I couldn't guess while her back was turned to me.. She twirled a little piece of pink fabric on the end of her finger.. I would take it gladly... I didn't know what Bella was looking for. I just want you to know... curious about what she might come up with. stupid." I didn't have better words. In a moment. It all came down to getting to see Bella in that pink bikini. I would deserve the pain for putting myself in this situation. to be a friend for you. Then she stood and walked to where Alice had folded several items of clothing on the dresser." It didn't come out in the teasing tone I had hoped for... She had no idea how much her genuine offer of friendship meant to me.. I'd like to. I would need the rapidly churning bubbles to distract me from what would be under the water. even after our project is done. within my reach? I pulled my hands up through my hair in aggravation.

Alice left a bikini. Maybe Unashamed.. "I'm really more of a one-piece sort of girl.. it is not?" "Ummm. "Yes. And suddenly. "Bella?" "Don't laugh!" She exhaled the words loudly and closed her eyes.. I watched her as she gingerly made her way across the somewhat slick patio. and the horny teenage body celebrated its victory. But it really would be so much easier for me if you would just . I found myself leaning back in the corner of the tub like Jasper. she's also like." She switched her answer back and forth and then frowned. "Is. though the temperature outside was still clearly below freezing. No." she bit her lip again. Bella looked at me. I'm feeling a little over-exposed at the moment. She walked barefoot. Everything is alright? Or no.. Yes.but with trunks on. And I know it probably sounds very. she made no move to hurry into the warmth of the water. looking strangely nervous... turn around!" .. And. and bit her lip. So . She stood. and I was beginning to become concerned about her suddenly odd behavior.. and she started blushing furiously..." Bella explained..... and stood at the edge of the jacuzzi. "And well. shy. Yet.. soft towel.with myself and trying to get up and just go back in the house when Bella emerged from the patio door with her hair tied up on top of her head. which even from where I sat were looking very cold from standing on the frozen patio planks.. 26. She shifted her weight from side to side on her feet. way smaller than I am.. everything alright?" I finally asked from my corner.. wrapped in a large.. "Yes. "What in the world do you think I'd be laughing at?" "It's just. Everywhere.. Because there was no way in hell I was going to miss this. She dropped her head to stare at her toes. holding her towel tightly around her.. I need you to turn around so that I can get in the hot tub!" "What?" My eyebrows shot up. very silly. "I'm.. The gentleman lost this battle. I was glad that I had at least thought to remove the snow from her path..." She finally said quietly.as if leaving had never even crossed my mind....

I just moved. "Bella." "Yes?" her voice was breathy... And it was then that I realized that I was still holding her very tightly to my chest. if you would rather just go inside. I listened to the sound of the water moving against her skin as she made her way down the stairs into the water. please!" I nodded and rose to stand.Bella somehow managed to deliver her entire rushed appeal in one breath. My fingers found themselves on her waist. And then I lifted her from her place on my lap and moved her deliberately away. But I managed to force out a light laugh. the horny teenager got his ass kicked by the little girl with the pink cheeks. I wondered if she was still staring at me. just turn around. Her nearness had shaken me. "Nothing is hurt but my pride. Her skin burned me everywhere that we touched.. and turned my back to her. Water drops laid heavily on her cheeks and eyelashes... And thankfully.. And then. It was as though an electric current were passing between us.. I squeezed my eyes shut tight and tried to ignore the urge to taste the water drops on her lips." she mumbled. I could feel it. the shocked look on her face told me that she was feeling it too.. And unless I was severely mistaken. "Bella. and tightened instinctually on the skin there. I silently fought for some measure of the control I needed.. I. I didn't think about it. She looked up into my face. thought you said that your clumsiness improved?" My voice was not right yet. "The skin isn't broken. She didn't move for a moment. assessing possible injury while she spluttered and pushed her wet hair away from her face. The water splashed loudly... I turned with alarm as I heard the unmistakable sound of her slipping on the stairs. she did the same." I was able to assure her with confidence. Bella's eyes widened perceptibly as she glanced down my own bare torso. I just smiled. . I pulled her up from the water and cradled her against my chest with one arm. in what I hoped was a calming manner. I wondered if my pale skin was alarming to her. And just like that. but didn't cover the sound of the back of her head connecting with the side of the tub. "Bella? Bella! Are you ok?" "Aside from terminal humiliation? I'm fine!" She winced as my fingers touched the tender spot on the back of her head. Was the pallor of my skin unattractive to her? In a minute. fanning against my face. My other hand cupped the back of her head.. I heard the rustling as she dropped her towel on the bench seat next to the jacuzzi." "No. "I...

Sure. I couldn't." If she only knew the truth I spoke of... We both settled into opposite corners of the hot tub. for the churning water than hid everything below its surface." she grinned. I didn't answer."Oh trust me." Bella gave a little moan. I had to suppress a groan when Bella lifted one long leg from the water and pointed her toes towards the dark. The tension of the moment wasn't entirely erased. Thankfully. What I wanted probably wouldn't be good for her.. Starting at her toes and making my way down. I just wanted to touch her again. "The company makes it worth the risk. no urge to strike. "Edward?" Bella was looking at me when I blinked my eyes open. even for a moment. the most delicious feeling ever?" God.. What would she do if I moved just a little closer? I closed my own eyes as I imagined placing kisses along the path my eyes had just taken. starry sky. "Isn't the combination of the hot water and the cold air. in the pleasure of her touch. but she seemed as willing as I to try to ignore it. I couldn't help but return her smile at the compliment. I watched as she closed her eyes and tilted her head back. "Mmm. I was grateful that her eyes were closed. . could I trust that I would remain in control? I suppressed that urge and put my arms against the outside of the tub as though I could anchor myself to the corner. Even as I tasted her scent swirling in the humid air around me.I might be able to be close to her without wanting to drink her blood.. She was temptation personified. Therein laid the problem. as I let my gaze travel from the tips of her toes to the water that swirled around her firm thigh. But my body answered. And I was terribly thankful.... once again.. A few years ago I would have broken my leg just trying to cross the patio!" "And now. I felt no venom being produced.. you risk life and limb just to sit in some hot water. she had placed her leg back under the churning water.. But it wasn't hunger for her blood. But how many ways could I hurt her unintentionally? If I forgot myself.. Then I stared at the exposed column of her throat with barely concealed hunger.

I was both excited and terrified about the prospect. And maybe I really do like the idea of getting to know you better too!" The words hung between us in the air. "I want to know you better. Bella was the one to break the connection as she turned her chin to the side and bit her lip. "Is it so hard to believe that I really would like to thank you both for making me a part of your project group?" "Don't answer a question with a question!" Bella argued with a louder voice. "Fine." I refused to look away." "The truth." she reminded me with a frown. "You say that you would like to be my friend. Then answer one question.." she finally said softly. Maybe I thought I could get your mind off things by offering a trip. Truthfully.." "Ok. and I frowned at the thought.. "Bella." I said edgily. I looked at her stubborn expression for a moment before nodding." I sighed. My voice was a little loud too. I was going to be as truthful as I could. you keep saying things like that. "It's like you are warning me against something.. I took a deep breath. Just one." "Maybe I am." Her eyes squinted a little as she looked at me. "You know." I said quietly."Yes?" I had to clear my throat. Knowing me too well could only end badly.. She deserved that. I do care." Her chin was set as she looked at me." "Why did you invite Katrina and me to Boston?" "I. "Maybe I don't like to see you so upset over Mike Newton.. ." Her statement surprised me. The look of annoyance left her face and was replaced by something I couldn't name.. "What's wrong?" Bella asked. That you care? But then you push me away. "You might not like everything you learn. "You confuse me.. "I'll try.

If she knew the truth about me. a little smug. and had to force my eyes back up to meet her stare.. "I included her because I didn't want to scare you.. But I couldn't. She knew I was getting an eye-full and she did nothing to try to cover herself. Neither of us was willing to back down. she'd be scared. I wondered how much I could disclose about myself before she would be scared away. And more powerful than the image was the saucy little statement she made about not being one to scare easily.. she turned and offered me a very tempting view of her barely covered bottom as she made her way up the stairs... I .. I sighed and tried to clear my mind.. The girl kept me spinning. I watched the water drops slide down her skin. The borrowed bikini did very little to conceal the beautiful curves of Bella's body. "you should know that I don't scare easily.. And she looked. you shouldn't have included Katrina in the invitation!" Our eyes warred with each other. 27.... That prospect filled me with pain. very slowly she stood and placed her hands on her hips." With that. I needed her. I stared up at the night sky." I said more softly." she began. And my body's reaction to her state of undress made it necessary for me to stay outside for a while. and I contemplated the discussion that Bella and I just shared.. My eyes immediately drifted downward to capture the vision in front of me. It would be the right thing to do. Bella raised one eyebrow and smiled as if she guessed at the effect she had on me. My mind was occupied with thoughts of how Bella looked in that pink bikini. Then. to give her an excuse to run..."Well then. Bella loves Jake I sat outside alone for at least a half hour. maybe.. So ridiculous. and went into the house. And rightfully so. Did it mean that she wouldn't have been opposed to going to Boston with me? She wanted to get to know me better. "Maybe. Obviously. "Maybe. I couldn't help it. And then she lowered her voice.. picked up her towel." Her eyes narrowed again as she looked at me.

I was thankful to see that she once again wore the toolarge sweatshirt and sweatpants that she had on earlier in the day. If I did. Bella dressed much more quickly than I would have guessed she was capable of. She must not have been too angry with me. if she took the time to make my dinner as well.would have to give it more thought." she breathed. I let the sandwich and chips fall into the garbage disposal. I heard the shower turn off. and decided to not let myself dwell on the mental image of Bella in my shower. I found Bella sitting on my sofa with a remote in hand..the easier things would be on me. She had left a plate on the counter for me holding a sandwich. See you in a few. The empty plate in the sink indicated that Bella had eaten while I was outside. Which made me extremely happy. The more covered she was. Next.. and I stepped back quickly before I could get her dry clothing wet. "How about a movie? You could choose something in the living room while I shower and get dressed. sorry. I popped the top of the coke and emptied its contents in the sink. In the back of my head. And so I pushed aside my selfish thoughts and walked towards the kitchen to see what I could prepare for dinner." "Sounds good. I just wasn't looking forward to the decisions I might have to make. She stared at my chest and then averted her gaze. When I was positive that I could walk through the house in my trunks without embarrassing myself.. a delicious blush tinting her cheeks. remember?" Bella asked. I quickly washed the dishes in the sink and then turned to make my way down the hall." Bella turned and left me there. I smiled. I showered quickly and dried my hair with a towel before donning my flannel pajama pants and a t-shirt once more.' but I simply couldn't let myself consider it while Bella stayed under my roof. "Oh. potato chips. She almost ran into me as she exited my bedroom door. I heard the water running from my bathroom. I'd be hiding out for another long while.. As soon as I finished. "I just need to get in the shower." "And then what?" "Excuse me?" "Your turn. "What do you want to do after?" "Oh!" I pressed my lips together and scratched my hand up through my hair. and an unopened can of diet coke. navigating her way through the menu screen of a movie. But I was only wearing my trunks. It wouldn't do to leave the evidence of my uneaten meal in the trash can where Bella might find it. I could hear Jasper suggesting that I 'take matters into my own hands. Apparently she wasn't harboring any sour feelings from our time outside. I left the jacuzzi and went inside. . It seemed wrong somehow.

She turned her head so that she could smile up at me. I chuckled when Bella did." I said truthfully." Bella finally interrupted the movie dialogue. I let my fingers reach out to pull her hair across my leg. "You know."Sixteen Candles!" She smiled up at me. Then.. "Is it ok?" "Fine. I was memorizing their texture and the way the light played on the chestnut undertones." I would be too busy watching Bella to concentrate on a movie anyway. She didn't seem to mind. It really doesn't matter to me what we watch. "When I was younger. her body so close that I could feel her warmth radiating across my chest. I pretended to be very interested as Bella looked up at me. "Alice. willing her to be comfortable against my hard thigh. I rolled my eyes. I pretended to absently touch the strands.. Her face was inches from mine. Bella laughed and moved across the sofa until she was next to me. I didn't really watch the movie. we watched in silence. she was watching the television screen again. But in reality.. . "Edward?" I looked down and she was smiling. she merely readjusted her position and lowered herself until she could rest the side of her face against my leg. It's a good thing that breathing wasn't necessary for me-though I did feel obligated to fake that human function while she was so near." she pulled strands of it up. For a while. And I turned my attention to the screen on the few occasions that I felt her head move and knew that she would be looking up at me. When the characters on the screen started talking about their sexual histories. "At least he has nice hair. "I like it like this. I wanted to complain when I felt her move away. She moved her body to the end of the sofa to make room for me on the other end. and I felt my throat constrict. In the next moment. making it stick out erratically. I stayed as still as I could. And then she sat up on her knees and pushed both of her hands into my nearly dry hair. I was shocked into immobility." "Mmm. "More than ok." I muttered. itching to touch her. "Your hair is a little like his. It's not as severe as when you brush it all back. "Is this ok?" She asked." I commented.. But instead of going back to her end of the sofa. I thought I would marry Jake Ryan!" I looked at the lead actor on the screen and frowned." I closed my eyes and relished in the feeling of her nearness. And her fingers in my hair felt absolutely divine. I lowered myself into the corner while she started the movie.

. "You seriously want me to believe.." she laughed lightly. I was incredibly curious about her reaction. "Of course. "Is it a really high number?" "Why would you think so?" I turned to look at her. not actually.. "Do I seem like a slut?" She frowned for a moment." I muttered." Bella mouthed the word and looked down.." she grinned and an adorable dimple danced in her cheek.. "Well. my admission might have seemed noble. At one time." I admitted quietly.. that we could get through this thing between us now. "I've never really been interested in anyone like that. "But I won't act ashamed for having high standards. Hell. Having the ability to read minds had given me more than enough insight to how willing certain women might have been to help me explore carnal pastimes... "What?" I finally asked.. that you've never. I shifted uncomfortably underneath her. While I had tried really hard to not imagine her in sexual situations with anyone else.." .. "Have you had a lot of girlfriends?" "That's not the same thing. "Oh come on!" Bella nudged me playfully. Never. But come on! I'll bet you have girls throwing themselves at you all the time!" "That doesn't mean I would take advantage of the offers. "How many babes have you bagged?" "Pardon me?" "You heard me."What?" Borrowing a line from the movie. "You mean.." She shook her head. she asked." "Wow.?" "Nope.even a few men would have made offers. you and Mike." "Believe what you want.or respectable. Her words caught me off guard. he thinks that if I would have been a little more willing to let our relationship grown in that way. No. and she frowned and sat up." I said mildly. But what did Bella think of my inexperience? "And here I thought I was likely the last virgin over the age of eighteen in the Eastern portion of the United States. Bella pulled her chin down and stared at me with a curious look on her face. I had assumed that she and Mike had been intimate." I said off-handedly.

" I laughed lightly at the mini-moment of awkwardness." I sucked in a deep breath. I wanted to dance. Good night Edward. I didn't want to leave Bella for long." I smiled. wearing my shirt. Once there. And my shirt from yesterday is pretty gross. "Sleep sweet Bella." "Do you have a t-shirt I could borrow?" She asked. She looked at me from across the sofa. "This sweatshirt is a little heavy for me to sleep in." Bella stood and stretched. and the movie was completely forgotten as we stared at each other. She had never given herself to Mike. I could feel my eyes widen in surprise. It didn't matter that I wore flannel pajama pants and a t-shirt. It didn't matter that I was barefoot.. bumbling guy in the back of his parents SUV at prom? I was always waiting. Instead. "I'm getting tired. "I think we should go to bed. But I couldn't stop the torrent of emotions that were running through my body.." I smiled and stood. It's getting late.. Then I laid the shirt across the bottom of the bed and walked to the door." Bella said. But I tried to be extra careful when spending time with Bella. I slid down to sit with my back at the wall near my bedroom door. "I think I'll finish watching the movie and then close things down for the night. I wouldn't go far. "Probably the whole 'fate' thing again. "I never wanted to be that girl. And I listened to Bella breathe until I knew she was asleep. "I mean."Why didn't you?" I knew it was horrible for me to ask. and failed miserably.. The first couple of deer I could find would have to be good enough to satiate my thirst. Give it up for some sweating. And it had been a few days since I had last eaten. I opened my top dresser drawer and withdrew a grey cotton t-shirt. I didn't necessarily need to hunt." "You too. Bella followed me down the hall and to my room. I held it up for her inspection. for something more.." "Alright. To sleep. . Then I stood. And in a moment a look of pure embarrassment crossed her face." I didn't watch the end of the movie." Bella sighed. "But can I ask a favor?" "Anything. "You go ahead. The elements were barely noticed as I ghosted through the woods near my house. and she smiled and nodded. We should go to bed." she said. You know. I tried to not imagine what she would look like. turned off the television in the living room and stealthily made my way out the patio door." "Of course I do.

sleeping in my t-shirt. "I'm right here. So I kept my voice hushed." Bella opened her eyes." I continued to lightly stroke her shoulder through the thin cotton material. "You ran away. I rushed through the darkened house. I realized that she could not see me in the dark bedroom as clearly as I could see her.. With that thought. just stepped out for some fresh air." Her voice sounded a little less shaky." I whispered. terrified to find out what I had done.Satisfied and full. But the sound of her sobbing was more compelling to me than my own drive toward self-preservation. I would face her feelings head on.. I could clearly see her lying on top of my covers. Did she wake while I was gone? "Wait.. pine needles and undergrowth merely whispered across my skin as I gave myself up to the unadulterated release of the movement. I would have been able to hear her brokenly sobbing through the quiet of the night. "Edward?" "Yes. I could hear that Bella was awake.. She was curled on her side with her knees to her chest. The only thing to compare to the pure excitement that coursed through my body was the way I felt thinking about the beautiful woman that was at home waiting for me. It's me.. "How could you?" She sobbed. "Bella? I'm right here. . Surprise I froze for a moment.. "Don't. I finally turned and made my way back to the house... "You left me.. I pushed my patio door open as quietly as I could. I touched her shoulder and she shuddered." I was confused.. The moon provided an unnecessary glow and the soft brush of branches. She was crying and I needed to go to her." "I.. trying not to upset her further.. But I realized right away that my silence was not necessary. My t-shirt was pulled down and stretched over her legs. shh.. in my bed. Even without heightened senses. I stretched my muscles and ran across the snowy forest floor. But I would not ignore them.. and blinked slowly.. pausing only a moment outside my door when I heard her gasping voice.. what she had discovered that made her so upset. Inside the dark bedroom. don't leave me!" I hurried to the side of the bed and dropped to my knees." she sniffled. "Edward? How could you do this to me?" 28.. She looked confused and frightened. She moaned and rocked. Tentatively.. crying against my pillow with her eyes shut tight.

having adjusted to the dark. I couldn't. just as I had envisioned so many nights while watching her sleep. and her eyes. So very.." I continued to speak softly. . I bent my arm under my pillow so that I could rest my cheek on my forearm. I gripped the pillow under my head in my fist. "I'm not leaving. "Bella.. and helplessly lost. and she turned to her other side. and I could tell that she was near tears once more." she sighed. very lost. but her words made me relax entirely. My eyes didn't leave hers as I moved to lie on my side. I was able to close my eyes and savor the feeling of her beside me.. But when Bella shifted again to rest her cheek on my chest. without you. trying to soothe her. "Good." she whispered. "Will you stay? Please?" "If you want me to." Her voice sounded so small." "I do. and took in a deep breath. and she smiled at me sweetly. And I was a vampire." she breathed." I wished I could continue and tell her that there was nothing to be afraid of." Her voice broke again. Her sorrow had been caused by a trick of her subconscious. Completely. Her scent swirled around me strongly. It crossed my mind that I may never wash my bedclothes again. And I was so lost. watching me. I closed my eyes and leaned into her touch. we were walking in the woods... I slowly moved around the bed. But it seemed a horrible lie to push past my lips. "It's over now. "I'm here. We were not merely a man and a woman. You ran away... I couldn't help myself.. As lost as she had been in her dream."I had a nightmare. And then Bella sighed and moved closer to me. She was a human. I was brought back to a crashing reality. and fisted the front of my shirt as though to keep me there. saturated through my pillow and on my sheets. I froze as she curled her body up against mine. And I was lost. It was in the air and on my face.. She reached forward and lightly touched the hair above my ear." I felt it necessary to remind her. "I dreamt. And you left me.met mine pleadingly. All of our differences were forgotten and together we were simply a man and a woman. I would never leave you.." "Don't leave me now. I stared at her face. facing her. For a brief moment.

I pulled her even more firmly against me and held her tight. I took her movements as further invitation. But she did not protest.. It reverberated through my own silent chest strongly enough for me to pretend that it was my own. and face the very real possibility that she might not like what she discovered... I felt her heart beating through her back. I meant what I had told her earlier. But I was finished with pretending. Even as she drifted to more peaceful dreams. I would have to grant her request to get to know me better. She felt safe enough to sleep beside me. And I knew why. I would never have done that. I would have to do my best to become a ghost. fate really did mean for us to be together. any part of my association to Bella's life would have to be by her choice. And then because it felt like more of a dream than reality. I buried my nose into her soft hair and breathed deeply.. and I knew it was in response to my cold breath on her neck. I held her as closely as I dared and began making silent vows to the sleeping angel in my arms. I would have to start by being as truthful with her as safety would allow. She did not complain or make any move to get away. With my hand splayed across her abdomen. She just relaxed into me. How many seconds would lapse before she noticed the absence of the sound of a beating heart? I put my hand on her shoulder and began to move her away. She would have hated me. It would be so easy..The point was driven home by the ear that she rubbed against the front of my shirt.. If by some miracle. neither would I deny any evidence that she stumbled upon. I swallowed back the poisonous fluid along with a healthy dose of derision for the thoughts I had allowed to enter my mind. only because she didn't know me. As she slept.she was sleeping. From that point on. and threw my arm over her hip. I could feel the prickling sensation of venom at the back of my mouth.. well then.. to steal her as my own. A small sigh of contentment left her lips as she shifted her weight and nestled back farther into my lap. Of course. But I would always watch. She protested until I whispered reassuringly. It would have been so easy for me to press my teeth against the tender skin at her shoulder. I would try my hardest to never interfere in her happiness. to lay there and imagine that she could love me as I loved her... to banish me from her life. "Shhhh. to bite and to infect. cradled in the arms of a lie. I would never leave Bella.. She shivered against me. instead. If she decided. I would be prepared to stay in her life in any capacity that she would allow." I merely rolled her over face away from me and then moved so that I could curl my body around the back of hers. But the fact was. While I couldn't disclose the absolute truth. I couldn't. .

we were nearly chest to chest." she pouted good-naturedly. I felt the softness under my fingertips. I could hear her going through her morning routine in the other room. "Anytime. She offered to be my friend." I mentioned. and I was captured by the strong desire to want that bit of normalcy in my life every day. She deserved to know what she was getting herself into. I cursed the light of day that signaled an end to Bella's stay in my home. "The roads should be clear.in case I never got the opportunity to see something so fine and amazing again. And I would have to put a little faith in the power of fate that Bella so easily alluded to. "Can I use your shower again?" "Please do.No more lies. and I would have to take Bella back to her apartment. So I lifted my hand and gently brushed the back of my fingers down her cheek. I didn't pretend to be sleeping when I felt her stir against me. "You slept soundly. And when she turned under my arm." I said quietly. and traced her jaw before dropping my hand back to my side with a sigh. . My eyes searched her face." "Thanks!" Bella flounced into the bathroom. "Well fine. I was going to do my best to help Bella get to know me better. I'll have breakfast waiting for you. and I stood for a moment. I did loosen my grip on her when she stretched and yawned." she smiled. we might actually enjoy a meal together for once?" Bella laughed lightly and I twisted a crooked grin in response. I wanted to memorize the way she looked. "Good morning. And I dreaded the changes that I knew would have to take place between us. And take your time. She looked neither shocked nor offended by my closeness. I knew that the roads would be clear. Even if it meant that it would force her to leave." I hoped fervently that she would take me up on the offer. No more lies. "Good morning. looking down at the rumpled blankets on my bed." I shook my head and reluctantly rolled so that I could stand on the floor by the bed. "I hate to disappoint you." she said softly. But not this time. "More waffles for me then!" She rolled off the bed also.waking up in my bed." "Thank you for staying. "Can I make you some breakfast before I take you home?" "Do you mean.

" I insisted with a nod. "You are a little naughty." "Surprises aren't always bad. With less than one week left before our project was due. and placed it in her mouth with a satisfied smile. I watched with fascination as she ran her finger across the sticky puddle left on her plate. We had collected quite a bit of documentation." . "Tempting.." I smiled. "I am working day-shifts this week. we seemed to be looking good for meeting our deadline. are they?" Bella turned with her question as I pulled up in front of her apartment building. "If we get the rest of what Katrina has found." "Hey!" I laughed out loud and cut off the rest of her sentence. And because she wasn't sporting a tender stomach caused by a hang-over that morning...By the time Bella met me in the kitchen." Every night with Bella." We discussed our project as I drove her home. I had a plate of waffles and a mug of coffee waiting for her. but no." I mentioned." "I doubt she's found much unless Brad has had it stapled to his. huh?" "I was thinking almost that exact same thing.. we could put it together Wednesday night and have it ready... "I guess that depends on the surprise." "Ok!" She stood and placed her dishes in the sink before turning to rest against the counter. Just so we can work every night if we need to. "I guess it's time to get back to reality.. "Are you sure you don't want some?" she finally asked while licking her lips.. "Can we get it wrapped up and ready to hand in on Thursday?" "I'm sure. she even enjoyed a copious amount of sweet syrup poured over her breakfast. "Though you do surprise me sometimes. aren't you?" "Does it bother you?" "Nothing about you bothers me. "We have Tuesday and Thursday of class left.sounded perfect to me.

"Vampires can't go into the sunlight. Katrina's heart-beat picked up a little as she continued to look at me. "It's not like any of this is real anyway." Katrina sniffed." I opened my mouth to contradict." I said. Her thoughts let me know that she felt as though we were teaming up on her. I pressed my lips together. Bella turned and grinned at me. She liked the way I was wearing my hair these days too. But from time to time she looked up and thoughts of me would flash across her mind. where I easily listened in on her thoughts. I reached over and nudged the edge of her book with my pen and smiled in her direction as she looked up. Katrina and the Waves. "Myth!" Bella smiled. "It's discussing the enigma of vampires in the sunlight. Snowmen and movies? And she was at his house for two nights? Bullshit. "Edward?" Bella came from behind me and knelt down beside my chair. Bella grinned at me. she whispered. "That's just Hollywood propaganda! How do we know that vampires couldn't easily exist in polite society with the rest of us? Even in the daylight hours?" "What about the coffins?" Katrina asked with a raised eyebrow. We've uncovered enough documentation to prove at least a basis for all of the stories to have derived from. "I wouldn't want to sleep in a coffin. I smiled as I looked down at my paper. "Try to never rule out the possibilities. Bella must have told Katrina all about her stay at my house." Katrina muttered. It was in those rogue thoughts that I got better access to Bella. With her finger pressed to the page of the book she held. There is no way Bella didn't tap that. I had to listen to her think about Brad and their upcoming ski trip." My hushed tone matched hers. Myths and Truths I sat across from Katrina in the library while we worked. "What does this say?" I glanced at the Italian script on the page. "They burn into ashes. "What do you think?" Bella asked me.29." . so as not to annoy the other students working in the area. but Bella spoke instead.

I moved silently to stand behind her. I tried to concentrate again on my notes. while inwardly rejoicing at Bella's seemingly casual acceptance of another secret facet of my life.'" Bella interrupted. and went to search for Bella." Katrina wrinkled her nose in distaste. nothing. "What?" Katrina asked when my questioning stare met hers. Their diet is.. ."But the aversion to garlic. "Not 'ew. "Is it disgusting when a lion eats a gazelle?" Bella asked. "Oh." I muttered. I'll be back. and intentionally stepped close enough that my chest was against her back. Instead." I stood then. We've found nothing to dispute that fact. By the tone of Katrina's thoughts. holy water. "Or when we eat pizza? It's not like vampires can help what they have to eat to survive!" Katrina made another face. reaching above her head for a book that was just beyond her grasp.. she thought. she had also decided to decline.. If she was that smart. told Katrina about my invitation to Boston." Bella stood and walked away. she was standing at the far end of a long shelf of books." she smiled slightly and took the book from my hands. When I found her. Bella had.. I turned to look at her with rapt interest. "I just remembered something I saw in another book. I frowned. "You can't tell me that isn't totally disgusting!" Katrina argued with her. I'm afraid. I laughed at her expression." I grinned at her to pull her back into the fold. "I still say it's gross. Katrina continued to watch me as I worked. But she looked much more relaxed when she turned in front of me and leaned against the shelf. and retrieved the book that she was obviously unable to get for herself." "Ew. presumably to get another book. I quietly handed her the book. unfortunate. I didn't move away. and remained standing where I was. She stood on the tips of her toes. apparently. I should get it... all of it. and crucifixes? The stake through the heart?" "Rubbish. she'd be going to Boston with Edward! My head lifted automatically upon hearing her inner thoughts. She stiffened slightly when I reached my arm over hers. "And the blood drinking?" "Ah. "Thanks. Bella's such a know-it-all sometimes.

." "Oh."Anytime. and watched her eyes widen. "I. "You didn't ask me. I was thinking. "You know Bella. "Then why won't you consider it?" It didn't make sense to me. It was clear then. you invited Katrina and me together." "Yes?" "You never did tell me if you wanted to go to Boston.. "Well. sure. and didn't seem nervous about it then..." Her words sounded so true.. I smiled. in that case. I broke eye contact and closed the gap between us even more." I felt her tremble. and pulled my face back so I could see her expression again... We were all alone in this section of the library.. "I'll be careful with you. doubtfully." . I let my cheek brush hers with the barest of contact while I moved to speak across her ear." "Are you scared to be alone with me?" I asked. I already let my boss schedule me to work next weekend. "Well. Bella smiled like sun coming through the clouds. confused. Then.." Bella said. would you have me beg?" I whispered. "It's just. that she was being difficult because I hadn't been more formal with making my true intentions clear. than to have you join me in Boston." She sounded unsure. "Absolutely. we could go during the week. I stepped a little closer. Edward. "Maybe Wednesday? And I could have you back in time to work on Friday night." I promised. with a stubborn set to her chin. She swallowed loudly and looked stunned." "Well. I'd love to go with you. Then I lowered my chin and looked deeply into her eyes in an effort to be more effective... I trust you Edward. I know." "Are you sure you don't mind?" she asked. almost touching her. She had been snowed in at my house. "No. But I still spoke lowly.." I insisted." She spoke clearly and definitively. "You'll be safe with me. I couldn't help but feel happiness surge through me." Bella wrapped her arms around the book and pulled it against her chest. "Bella..." I said quietly.. Perhaps I had tried too hard. And she has other plans.. "I would love nothing more. Her features tightened slightly. don't know." I offered. Her body language did not bode well for me.

Believe me." "See you in class tomorrow Edward!" Bella smiled as she let Katrina pull her away.Her acceptance of my offer seemed surreal. And so I lifted one finger and slowly traced it down her cheek. Bella's eyes came open quickly. I just had the strong desire to touch her again. She still seemed out of sorts. I wanted to celebrate. and I thought it best if I just gave her a little time." "I'll ask. if you two are really finished.? Bells? Let's get out of here. . Her tongue darted out to lick her lips lightly as I leaned closer.. Bella noticed the direction my thoughts had traveled to and her breathing became shallow. and left me shaken. cursing under my breath." Bella blushed and looked down again.. "Brad won't mind!" "I could eat. And as if she could feel the same magnetic pull." "Oh yes." It wasn't a lie. In that moment. "There you two are!" Katrina rounded the corner and started to walk loudly in our direction." I grinned. but mostly. "I am pretty sure that Jasper will be excited about the idea. "That's right!" Bella looked up finally. "For now. "I'm sorry." More than excited. I feel indebted to her as well. Relief and happiness rushed through me... I let my gaze move to her lips. "Make sure to ask them if they would like to get together when Mike is here! It might not be so awkward if we went out as a group. Smart girl." "Are we?" Bella asked. Bella tilted her face and leaned towards me. "Well. and I want to go meet him for dinner. moving slowly and trying not to frighten her. Surely this would be acceptable? A simple brush of my lips against hers? A 'thank you' for agreeing to accompany me to Boston? I could handle this." Bella agreed..... as if she knew I was thinking about her in that bikini. She sounded breathless and still didn't meet my eyes. "Are you two nearly done? Brad sent me a text. "Do you two want to join us?" Katrina asked. and I felt her warm breath touch my lips as her eyes started to drift closed. for letting me borrow her things while I stayed at your place. I took a step back. "It will be a good chance for me to thank Alice too. and looked at me.. to dance and sing. right? Bella sighed... and she hurried to look down at the floor. I really had planned to visit Alice and Jasper. I have plans with my family tonight. Jasper would be down-right thrilled. I'm starving. The responsive flush that rose under my finger only served to excite me more." I yielded..

"Give us a minute!" I shook my head and leaned back against the wall."See you later. 30. He wore a pair of loose sweatpants. In a couple of minutes.. but stopped when I heard Jasper's voice. Jasper opened the door and grinned somewhat sheepishly at me. "Looking for something?" I asked." "She was." He found a pack of cigarettes as soon as he mentioned them." I muttered. Burgundy I raised my hand and knocked on the thin door more loudly.. And I waited. Oh hell.. "We were in the kitchen. I looked around. then pressed one to his lips and lit it before lowering himself to the couch." Jasper laughed when he saw what I was doing. And they weren't playing scrabble in there. I could smell. incredulously." I replied. otherwise occupied. I righted my position and followed him inside. .. This truth thing wasn't so bad. untied and slung low on his hips. I wanted to sit. "My smokes. "Sorry I didn't call. bending one knee up so that my foot could press against the faded paisley wallpaper that someone had once thought would make this area more sophisticated looking.. But I could clearly hear them inside. "Come on in. "I figured Alice would expect me. I could smell them alright. and tried to decide which piece of furniture was left unsullied by their evening of marathon-sex." he invited. Yeah. And I smiled.. but thought it would be terribly crude of me to sniff for a clean place to do so. Unabashed. I didn't call to check that Alice and Jasper would be home. he ran his hand up and down his bare torso in a lightly scratching motion and glanced around the living room. "You smoke now?" I asked. I made a face and turned to leave." Jasper laughed. "Not like it's going to kill me!" Jasper shrugged.

I remember that little prick. fuzzy yellow robe.. Mike Newton?" Jasper's face screwed up like he smelled something nasty." "You might remember him. so I didn't bother inquiring about her absence. he's coming this weekend. You are going to owe me big time. and Jasper grinned widely." Jasper continued to complain. he wasn't that bad. "She's got the post-nookie glow that's making her be nice. And you loved it!" Alice reached a small hand up to ruffle the top of his shaggy hair. "Just your typical high school boy.. technically." "You'll have to forgive her."Thank God you don't throw dinner parties. He used to stare at Alice's ass in geometry. "He went to high school in Forks. Bella wanted the three of us to join them for a night out." "Why?" Jasper wrinkled his forehead. "Yeah.." "Oh. "This is sounding interesting." I nodded." Jasper leaned forward and placed his forearms across his parted knees. ex-boyfriend is coming here for Spring Break. ." "Why is he coming.. Thought he was a super-jock. "But it's not like I have a choice. um." Jasper jerked a thumb behind him in her direction." "Oooh. "Bella's. She stood behind the couch and smiled. Well. She's still dazzled by my skills. I don't know.. I could hear that Alice was in the shower... if he's her ex?" "They aren't. bitch." "Same guy. "Anyway." "And you're ok with that?" "Hell no!" I muttered and pulled my hand through my hair." I rolled my eyes. Eduardo?" Jasper licked at his bottom lip and flicked his ashes into the palm of his hand." Alice argued." I mumbled. "That guy was a douche bag.I owned you." "Oh." "Ugh. broken up yet.. "To what do we owe this honor. I just watched quietly as Jasper pulled the smoke from his cigarette into his lungs. "Because he's hoping to make things work out between them." Alice strolled from the back room in a large. "Of course we'll go out with you.

" "Personally. Jasper rolled his eyes and called her a 'smelly pirate hooker' in his mind. "Since you've seen this all play out. huh?" Alice switched gears and leaned forward to place her hands on Jasper's shoulders... I knew you would have fun planning it for yourself. Completely true. "I can see what you've decided. I imagine you would have already made our travel plans? Hotel reservations. He really was her bitch! "Don't try to impress her with money Edward. Funny. I knew you'd find the nerve to ask her.." Alice frowned. "Of course he wants her to think.. "Hello?" Jasper's voice was muffled behind Alice's hands... you're going to Boston. "So." "I just want to know. It will only embarrass her or make her feel like she owes you something for your generosity. And for what it's worth. The two of you will take this trip. ." I muttered.. I wanted to ask if the rest of her vision was still intact. "Don't even think it. But then I realized he hadn't actually called her that. It was still my worst fear that I would somehow.. Though I was pretty sure that I never wanted Bella to call me 'bitch'.." Alice ordered." Jasper joked. It wasn't the first time that I felt envious of their easy comfort and love for one another. Alice rewarded him with a slap to the back of the head.. that she'll be safe."True. And though she couldn't technically read my mind." I shrugged and ignored Jasper's teasing. I think you should.. I can't make you promises. but don't get too extravagant.. a nice hotel. Alice clamped both hands over his mouth. But I knew she was trying to not interfere." he agreed..." Alice lectured.." Jasper began.." "You mean the balls." "Thank you. she is going to appreciate your attempts at honesty." I said quietly. Alice smiled reassuringly." . Edward. But there are elements that you and Bella have no control over. theatre tickets?" "Not on your un-dead life!" Alice snorted.. "I don't know.. "This is your first real date.... Just as Alice had requested.. I can already see that someday. that can change the entire nature of things. "I don't' think you'll be a danger to her.make sure you. unintentionally harm her. "Good for you. she guessed really well.. "You saw it first. "Get good tickets to the theatre. He was merely reciting the lines from a Will Farrell movie in his head to block his thoughts from me.

Jasper waited until she was in the bedroom before leaning towards me to speak in a conspiratorial whisper. "Well. my furnishings. and they both turned back towards me. or my artwork. It's the bad-boys that chicks go for. entering the room again.. "Unless you are talking about sex. I don't need any reminders that she should stay away from me. "Spoil her a little. "You were too easy to catch." "Just be cautious!" Alice said. More is always more. "I still think that Alice is wrong about you being honest with Bella. I could understand Alice's point... The dangerous ones." "How much more dangerous does it get than someone who wants to drink your blood?" I asked disdainfully..." She sat across Jasper's lap and kissed him sweetly before he stopped to rub the tip of his nose against hers. Flowers." Alice finished.. The entire time that Bella had stayed in my home. In which case. "I should get dressed.." She flounced from the room before saying another word. less is more!" Alice announced." Jasper grinned down at her. In a moment.." "But remember." Alice used her hands to turn his face towards hers and glowered at him for a moment before kissing him on the forehead." I nodded. nice guys usually finish last. "You still believe that you were the one to catch me?" . She was obviously still listening in. "And yet. "Bella is not the type to be impressed by monetary things." Alice murmured while running her hand down his cheek. she never commented on the size of my house. man. He enjoyed the pampering for a moment before lowering his head again to speak to me."Jasper? No." "Aww. We'll have company soon. I don't! In the human world.. She complimented my clean toilet and she liked my trees. Don't listen to this bonehead. "You're right... something pretty. I smiled at the memory." Jasper winked and Alice straightened her tiny figure with a far-off look on her face. "Believe me. Jasper snorted but leaned back on the couch and tilted his head up towards Alice as if asking permission to speak. Jasper..you obviously fell for my bad-boy routine. she relaxed and smiled comfortably again. "Go ahead.." she breathed and stroked his hair away from his face. "And continue being as honest as you can be. So Jasper raised his voice to a normal level.." We both heard Alice hiss from down the hall. then pulled her hands from his mouth. She sighed in resignation. my simple vampire.

Jasper. "Alice? Esme asked me to thank you for the painting you sent. I started to rise to leave. I chose to re-route my trip here for a lay-over so I could see you all. Jasper and I were pleasantly surprised by the figure of Carlisle stepping through the door." I grinned and elbowed him lightly. "I am well. I hadn't seen him in months. She hopped off Jasper's lap and was replaced by his acoustic guitar as he picked it up from where it rested against the side of the sofa and started softly strumming. He smiled his greetings towards all of us. . I had no idea that you were planning to stop by!" "I was at a medical conference. We walked back into the room together while Carlisle nodded toward the couple on the couch. How are you?" Carlisle asked. She's put it on the dining room wall." he smiled." "I'm glad you did." I smiled. "I wasn't watching." Alice smiled." "I knew it would look good there. and the recent snow-storm changed the flights around. But the sound of a knock at the door brought all of our eyes to the front of the room. You too. "Are you here long?" "Only a few hours.Nearly reaching my breaking point for how much I could stand in one day." "You too Son. "Alice. and I stood to go to him. It's lovely. "The chair is safe." Carlisle looked around. "Come in!" Alice trilled. "Carlisle! It's good to see you." I said. and his nose twitched slightly. He looked thankful and took a seat while I lowered myself onto the ottoman. I smiled because his reaction had been much the same as mine when I had entered the room earlier. Knock Knock Though Alice was the all-seeing exception. Alice dimpled up at him. 31. and so I happily allowed him to pull me towards him with a rough hug and a hearty clap to the back.

" he grinned and nodded. and the two shared Jasper's own memories of the trip. sloppy.." I told him.. That's the last thing I need." Carlisle addressed Jasper. Jasper's hand paused for a moment on the strings and he frowned. Carlisle and Alice came back into the room." "Ah.. "You're right. Alice and Jasper stood and walked both of us to the door. "But you might want to avoid Emmett for a while. Laugh it up. "Then. "I do want to talk to you about Bella." "You bowl?" "You're surprised?" "Not really. "For bowling!" Jasper reminded me." I began. "Go ahead. can we at least go bowling or something like that? It could be fun to whip his ass on the lanes. I'd love to take you over to my house." Jasper huffed." "No Jasper. There are a few things I wanted to discuss with you." I said as I walked out. and I watched quietly for a moment. When they finished. girlie tears? That might make it worth my time. I could hear Carlisle musing inwardly. Of course. "I would never!" Carlisle insisted. "If you have the time. and I could take you back to the airport after. "So.. Jasper continued to strum his guitar.. "That depends. While we drove. no. and I stood. He thinks the entire situation is hilarious!" .."Emmett told me about your hunting trip. I'd like to ask you what you know about some old text she found while researching. Alice would have filled him in. you are ok with going out with Bella and Mike?" I asked. "Can I make him cry or something? Some big. Bella would feel sorry for him or something. "I'll see you both Saturday night. His comment was met with laughter. You can't make him cry. your vampire research project." I shook my head. I needed to be sure. There really weren't many secrets among my family members." he nodded." "Fine. But more specifically. Alice offered to show Carlisle a new painting she was working on in the other room. As if I could forget." I answered out loud. considering what I might want to talk to him about." "Sounds fine. "Carlisle." he pursed his lips.

I've never heard of a vampire's singer who has survived their introduction. and he nodded with approval. But I thought it odd that the references were made time and time again to the 'power' of the singer's blood." Carlisle read the page again with a thoughtful frown pulling downward on his lips.I've been comfortable here." I turned to lead him into the living room. I am comfortable with her scent now. I continued..." "Power is what I wanted to talk to you about." I gave Carlisle a quick tour of the house. I had rifled through them and handed the paper in question to Carlisle. And that the love you feel is powerful enough to help you resist. "It could very well be that she is your singer. "It would be impossible for me to correctly ascertain whether Bella truly is your singer. We'll have to come for an extended visit soon.... I'll speak with Esme about having it shipped to you.. visiting at home? Not with Bella here.most of our tales of singers are passed down so that they have been changed and altered. "It's a short sprint to the White Mountain Range. But the power. And yes." "I don't imagine we'd see you. has desensitized me." I murmured. Carlisle quickly read the paper and then brought his eyes back to mine. Frankly. blurring past most as inconsequential. not the strength or potency. "Being near her. what I know may be no more reliable than wives-tales or folklore. "Unfortunately."I'll bet. "To be honest Edward. and retrieved the large binder of our project notes from a side table.." Carlisle said." "I have never encountered anything so painful to resist.. In a moment. It was obviously transcribed badly. not the attraction. Pieces are missing. I expect the pain and am prepared for it.." Because Carlisle was looking at the view from my back patio door.." I admitted quietly. The call of the blood is simply too tempting. "Which brings us back to what I wanted to show you." ." "Probably not." "You are always welcome. And you have more than enough room for your piano. Not the lure.." "Very nice.." Carlisle added.. "This old document is one that Bella found.." "Thank you. I could read his mind thoroughly going through hundreds of snippets of information and pieces of conversations. touching the paper he still held lightly with my finger. "Your home is lovely. I didn't bother denying it." I agreed with a sigh. or just a very desirable scent." "And you love her. "What do you know about 'singers'?" I asked.

. and I heard Carlisle replay it again in his thoughts.. being informed might help you both. Carlisle thought." "It can't compare. "You plan to stay with her then?" "I won't leave her. "Well. you have control that is unheard of. "I have seen first-hand the amazing powers of love. I thank you. I eagerly sat with my laptop and began making plans and reservations for my upcoming trip to Boston." I offered sincerely." "Well. Maybe it was time that I let her know. We both remembered the story.. perhaps you have truly found your singer then." Carlisle shook his head again. Bella had been safe with me so far. I do not remember ever feeling a pull as strong as the one you have described.." "Have you ever.." "Again. He still smiled at the compliment that was intended. I loved her. "It's a highly unusual situation." I said distinctly. And in this case. Carlisle was right. And the fact that she is still alive... Emmett had shared his desire in his thoughts." I said miserably.?" No. . and I was back home. I have a few acquaintances that might know more. Even that incredible pull does not compare to what I have to endure when I am around Bella. in that case. it might just well be the more powerful of the two forces. well." Carlisle pointed out." I tried to smile but it felt strained. "I'll try to find more about the 'powers' that are mentioned here." Carlisle spoke out loud again.." When Carlisle was delivered to the airport. "Who knows if the woman was truly his singer? Or if she just smelled particularly tempting that day? He seems to believe that it was the strongest urge he had ever felt. "Again.. I dropped my head." "I learned from the best."Like Emmett?" I asked.. "But I can testify to this. "I felt his hunger through the memory he shared with me.

"I'm going to get a drink. . no moving... closing her eyes.." I stood and walked down the long row of stairs." Bella said quietly without looking up.. "Any idea what's wrong with Bella?" I asked. I sat there. do you think I could borrow that blue sweater of yours for my trip? Brad really likes it and it will look cute if I wear it in the ski lodge. Borrow whatever you want." Bella groaned the words roughly and then put her head down on her desk. I found Katrina pressing a button on the vending machine with aggravated force. She didn't even kick her blankets off in typical Bella fashion..32.. If I hadn't witnessed first-hand that she had slept all the night before. reading through the book that Bella had left on her bedside table.. she looked tired." "Shit. Katrina's inner thoughts did nothing to help clue me in." she announced before stomping off. She merely slumped in her chair and took out her notebook when the professor began his lecture. Mm Mm Good I spent the latest hours of Monday and the earliest of Tuesday. And. Trina. "Bella.. But she seemed to want to be alone. Yet on Tuesday evening in class. "There's no reason to sit there and stare at me. When she addressed Bella during break about her most recent thought. She slept hard. she was rewarded by a dirty look. She barely greeted Katrina or I. I don't care. I wouldn't have guessed it. other than sit and stare at her." "Would you. she wasn't very nice. How had she known? "You might as well enjoy your break too. Just wake me up if I fall asleep.. The hell? Katrina wrinkled her face at Bella's attitude and stood with a shake of her long blonde hair. The tell-tale dark circles under her eyes and the limp way she held her shoulders were a dead-give away. like me to bring you a drink or something?" "No. I really didn't have anything better to do. She was busy making eyes at Brad and still obsessing about her ski trip.. I already said.no talking. I sat back against the side of a round table and folded my arms over my chest as I watched her. looking at the top of Bella's head. I blinked.

" I vowed. We had found images of coins that were stamped to represent the blood of life flowing into a chalice. I think it's a great idea. She wasn't asleep when I sat down. We were merely to compile documentation." Katrina smiled. and that had nothing to do with the fact that Katrina was inwardly threatening to remove my testicles if I screwed up. or find supportive evidence to discredit assumed facts. The casual show of affection pulled my mouth down with envy." "You do?" Katrina smiled and walked over to rest on the edge of the table with me.." "Hey.. "She told you about that?" I raised my eyebrow. sure she did."Your guess is as good as mine. It was a promise easily made. Brad strolled out of the men's room and Katrina gave me one more sideways grin before walking over to join him. "Too much alone time isn't good for anyone." Katrina nudged me with her elbow... softening her tone. Just. And I love Bella.." Katrina popped the top of her drink and turned to look at me." she said quietly... "Of course I do. Alright?" "I'll do my best. This came with his re-stated directions that we were not to try to prove theories. "Well. in time for your trip.. "You're a good guy. Maybe she's coming down with something." "Hmm. "And." she pouted. I placed the soda I had bought for her on the table near her elbow.I'm sure she'll be fine. but made no move to open it. "Are you ok?" I whispered. I needed to get back to Bella. and I laughed lightly.. but her body flinched as if she almost was." She nodded at the diet coke. They linked their fingers together and walked down the hall toward class. don't mess with her. Edward. Thanks. Papyrus scrolls . we had found studies of cave drawings depicting the drinking of blood. "She slept on the couch all day long. I stood.. "I'm glad she's going.. from as far back and from as many different sources as possible. "I just have a headache. Bella finally pulled her head up. The professor began by reminding us all that our projects were due on Thursday." she nodded..." "Bella's alone a lot?" "I wasn't talking about her. The professor had already begun writing notes on the over head projection screen for the second half of the lecture. swinging their joined hands between them.

It had bothered me all evening. She had claimed a headache. I was in the process of staining the pages of the leather-bound journal I had found to aesthetically present our finished project. Even in sleep. "We'll be fine. Wider than usual. Maybe she was getting sick? As gently as I could. Our research had been copied meticulously. "It's good enough. It totally ruined the view I had of her bare legs. Humans were frail. Which is why I leaned forward and released Bella from obligation for the night. Why don't you take the night off? Go home. and I hoped that she had taken some medicine for it and gone to sleep. Then she sniffled a little and coughed." I asked." I nodded.. When she was comfortably buried in her pillow. "Bella. "Hmm?" "I am almost done putting the project together. Of course. Her window was open. When I was sure that Bella and Katrina would be equally as pleased.. I noticed a half-filled glass of water on her bedside table next to a bottle of ibuprofen. We were. to imagine the way she had rested her head so weakly on her arms. I would have to remember to thank Alice for the idea.had been located with ancient translations that could be traced to tales of vampirism. lightly touching her arm. So I moved away again before I got myself in trouble. I pulled her blanket from near her feet and laid it over her sleeping form. ." Bella closed her eyes and nodded in acquiescence. and Bella slept heavily with her blankets down by her feet. to try to soothe her. I spent a great deal of time. she grew still again. Bella moved her head to the side and frowned in her sleep. It really did look nice with our completed project inside the carefully deconstructed pages. but I was a little more concerned about the idea that she could be coming down with something. Take some medicine?" "Are you sure we've got it all?" she whispered. I longed to place my finger tips to her temples. scanned and printed. essentially done already. her brows pressed down and she seemed uncomfortable. Pages and pages of recounted stories had been made note of. I tied it closed with twine and slipped out my door to go check on Bella. staining journal pages and burning around the edges to provide an interesting way to present our materials.

She didn't kick the blanket away. In fact, she didn't move again for the rest of the night. When I left, I pulled the window almost all the way closed behind me, and hoped that she wouldn't notice. I didn't want her to get a chill. Bella called to cancel study plans on Wednesday. Her voice sounded weak. She was congested and she coughed hoarsely in my ear. Yep. She was sick. I made sure she stayed covered that night. And once again, I closed her window by a considerable margin before I left. On Thursday, Bella showed up to class with a red nose and a wad of tissues balled up in her fist. She looked so pathetic and miserable that I insisted she go home right after we turned in our project. "Katrina drove," Bella coughed. I picked up her backpack as well as my own bag, and stood. "Well... I'm driving you home. Now." My tone invited no argument, and she followed me meekly. Once in my car, she slumped down in the seat. "Thank you. For this. I probably shouldn't be over-doing it." "You need your rest. And fluids," I said sternly. "I know. And believe it or not... I'm actually feeling much better than I was yesterday." I raised one eyebrow and looked at her critically. It was hard to believe. "It's true," she insisted. "I even ate a little today!" "You haven't been eating?" I asked loudly. "I didn't feel like it," Bella shrugged and blew her nose. I ground my teeth together as I drove. "Edward?" "Yes Bella?" I tried to make my voice sound less irritated than I felt. "I'll eat some soup when I get home." "Damn right you will," I said stonily. "You'll get yourself a hot bath. And I will make you some soup. And you... will... eat it." "You sound so bossy," she giggled weakly. "I can imagine you'd actually shove me in the bathtub yourself, and force the soup down my throat if I tried to argue!" "I might." I sent her a half-smile so she would know that I was teasing. But I did enjoy the mental image of bathing her for a minute or two longer than was necessary.

Bella didn't argue. She dropped her coat across the arm of the couch and went straight into the other room to start her bathwater. I rummaged in the kitchen until I found a can of condensed chicken noodle soup and a microwave-safe bowl. Pouring the foul contents into the bowl, I wrinkled my nose and tried not to be offended by the mushy-looking overly-processed ingredients in front of me. After all, Bella had unknowingly defended my source of nutrition. It wouldn't do for me to be rude about hers. The soup had already cooled considerably when she made her way down the hall dressed in a large plaid bathrobe. I tried not to think about what she may or may not have been wearing underneath as she tucked her feet under her on the couch. I placed the mug of soup in her hands, and sat, watching with satisfaction as she ate. "Mmm. This is good. Thank you," Bella smiled. I wanted to argue. But I was happy that she was enjoying it. "You need your strength," I mentioned. "Isn't Mike supposed to be flying in tomorrow?" I didn't want to bring it up. But I felt I needed to. "Yes," she nodded and continued to spoon the soup into her mouth. "His flight comes in around three." "Would you... like me to pick him up from the airport? Give him a lift to his hotel?" I don't know what suddenly gave me a case of the Over-Helpful-Vampire-Syndrome. But I kind of wanted to kick my own ass for offering. "No. But thanks," she smiled. "I really am feeling a lot better. I'm sure I'll be able to pick him up tomorrow. And anyway- he's staying here." "Here?" My voice might have squeaked. "Yes. Here," she nodded and ate her soup. I blinked rapidly... processing the new information. Then when I heard Katrina's key turn in the lock, I stood and thrust my hands into my pockets. "Leaving?" Bella asked as Katrina came into the room. "Yes. You need your rest. It will be a long weekend." "Thanks again for all the work on the project Eddie," Katrina grinned. "It looked really great." "You're welcome. Have fun on your trip." And with that, I turned and stormed out.

33. WWVE Raw

Friday was a very heinous kind of torture. I knew why I had offered to pick Mike up from the airport. I wanted my presence in Bella's life to be made known. I wanted to stake my claim. I wanted to leave them less time to be alone together. Bella didn't accept my offer. It had been nine hours since his plane had come in. And I spent every second of those nine hours worrying about the possibilities. Did he hug her when he got off the plane? Did she let him kiss her? Did he hold her hand while he talked about his trip and waited for his luggage? Did she have the opportunity to have the relationship-ending, closure-providing conversation that she said she wanted? Did he have time to change her mind? Was he working on that, even while I ineffectively paced across my living room floor? I gripped my hair tightly in my fists and yelled out my frustration. "Ouch- man. I know I didn't knock. But do you have to be such a drama-queen?" Jasper asked as he walked into the room with his hands cupped over his ears. I looked over at him, tense enough to explode and tried to make my voice sound civil. "I'm sorry." I was attempting to sound calm even though I was nearly drowning in the panic inspired by my imagination. "I've been torturing myself all day- wondering what Bella and Mike are up to. I've literally had to fight myself to not go over there..." "Alice thinks you shouldn't," Jasper frowned. "She thinks that Bella will appreciate you letting her handle things on her own. Something about you not being an 'over-bearing bastard'." "You don't sound as though you agree," I said darkly. "I don't," Jasper shrugged. "If that guy was spending time with my lady... I'd be forced to step in. No way would I take that. And I wouldn't trust him either. Do you even remember what he looked like in high-school? That kid looked like a serial date-rapist. He probably brought a bag of roofies with him from Seattle..."

That was all the incentive I needed. I was out the door before Jasper could finish his thought, running at an impossible speed toward Bella's apartment. I would not interrupt. I just needed to see her. To make sure she was ok. I wanted to see them together... to listen to his thoughts and know that she had broken things off as she said she would. I just needed to be there. It was mere minutes later that I stood at the back of her building. And then I noticed it. Her window was closed. She never closed her window. And while I knew that Bella was unaware of my late-night visits, something about her window being closed that night felt like a rescinded invitation. And it angered me. I was about to scale the wall to her room when I was hit by the force of a wrecking ball, coming at me from the side. Not expecting the blow, I could not keep my feet beneath me. But I twisted and managed to wrap my arms around my attacker, rolling him with me to the ground. As soon as I disentangled my limbs, I jumped up to a defensive crouch- baring my teeth and snarling. It didn't matter that my sense of smell had already identified my attacker as Jasper. I still wanted to kick his ass. "Edward? Calm the fuck down!" Jasper ordered. He placed his palms outward towards me in a submissive fashion. I felt a wave of calmness take the edge off my anger, and knew that he was using his ability to diffuse a potentially bad situation between us. "What are you doing here?" I growled lowly. Already I could feel the tension leaving my muscles, and my posture starting to relax. He was good. "I'm here because it was my fault that you came over here in some hyped-up pissy mood. Hell... I didn't mean half of what I said back there. I didn't know you were going to freak out! Alice would remove every appendage from my body if you ruined everything with Bella because of me!" Jasper's eyes never left mine, and we both rose to stand in front of each other. "I hate that he's up there with her," I whispered. "Can't I just check on her? I won't let them know I'm here. I just... what if you were right?" I asked. "How do we know he can be trusted? I mean... She sleeps in next to nothing!" "Oh? Then maybe I should check on her!" Devilment danced in Jasper's eyes as he laughed and blurred to the side of the building.

"Forget it!" I tore after him. But he slipped through my outstretched hands. "This I gotta see!" Jasper threw himself up the side of her apartment building, with me hot on his trail. "Jasper!" I ground out and grabbed his ankle, pulling him downward while his fingers raked against the wood. "Come on! One little peek," Jasper complained and pushed his free foot against my cheek, trying to kick me off. "No!" I grunted and tugged harder, getting him to release his hold and throwing him to the ground below. I scrambled up the side of the building, but Jasper had already jumped to his feet and flashed up to wrap himself around my back. He twisted my head to the side and tried to crawl up on my shoulders in order to beat me to the window. "Mmmph," I grunted as he managed to kick my shoulder hard. "Sorry!" he whispered. This wrestling match was not meant to hurt me. He was helping me get rid of my tension, and I knew it. But I still didn't want him to see Bella in her panties. Somehow Jasper still managed to beat me to the window. "Hey! I see boobs! But that is not Bella!" he whispered in a disgusted voice. I was hanging from her window ledge beside him in a split second. Bella's body was completely obscured by the man who slept in her bed. He faced the window in his sleep, bare-chested and snoring loudly. And I wanted to destroy him. My hands slid the glass up quickly, and I had one leg thrown over the window ledge before Jasper grabbed me in a headlock and pulled backward as hard as he could. We struggled like that... me fighting to get into the room and Jasper fighting to get me out of it, until he was finally able to get leverage with his feet on the side of the building and pushed off. He pulled me with him and my foot caught the edge of the open window as we both crashed to the earth below. It would have been comical if under different circumstances. We both looked up as the window, dislodged by my foot, crashed closed and broke noisily. "Oh... shit!" Jasper whispered. The light came on in the room, and we both took off running into the cover of the trees. I stopped as soon as I was safely hidden in the shadows. I didn't want to let the window out of my sight. Jasper, on the other hand, ran like hell was chasing after him. I'm not sure how far he

made it before he realized that I wasn't by his side. I stood, watching Mike inspect the damage at the window. I waited for him to move aside, so that I could see Bella as well. Jasper eventually circled around and joined me once more. "My bad," he whispered from by my arm. I clenched my fingers into fists. Mike turned from the window, and the light went off again. "If you hadn't been trying so hard to see her underwear..." "I was joking," Jasper insisted. "You would have looked!" I growled. "Well... yeah. I would have looked," he shrugged. And with that, I bent at the waist and shoved my shoulder into his abdomen, charging forward until I threw his body against the trunk of the nearest tree. The tree lurched behind him, and Jasper's laughter was low and husky. "Feel better?" he asked. He knew. "A little," I admitted, standing again. We both froze in place when the beam of a flashlight cut through the darkness at the corner of the building. "Up!" I whispered. And Jasper and I quickly lifted ourselves into the boughs of the tree we had nearly felled. We could hear Bella and Mike as they approached the woods beneath us. "I'm telling you," Bella said calmly. "I leave the window open when I sleep. It probably just slid down and broke on its own. It's been slipping lately. I've noticed a couple times it's been lower in the frame when I woke up..." "But I closed it," Mike whined. His thoughts told me that he was nervous about being outside in the dark. "He's scared!" Jasper mouthed to me. Then he grinned and made a motion at the front of his pants to indicate that Mike was a jerk-off. Classic Jasper. I rolled my eyes. "Maybe you just thought you did," Bella suggested. "There is nothing out here." "We shouldn't be out here," Mike said. "It's creepy." "Nonsense," Bella scoffed. "I come out here all the time. It's perfectly safe. No monsters." My silly, brave girl.

I wished I was capable of taking a piss too. I gave him a death-look and drew a line in a slashing motion across my throat with my thumb to shut him up. "Mike.." she clarified. I thought I had been clear enough earlier." The forest was silent again. "You don't love me.." Atta girl.. like that." Bella said clearly. Mike was running through scenarios in his head. feeling her emotions in a way that made me completely jealous of his ability. "No." Bella sounded irritated. No. "I could keep you safe. Mike had questions. and I could see the top of their heads. "I'm sorry Mike. And suddenly.. I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself. "Would it even make a difference Bella? If I lived here?" All of us held our breath. I wanted to hear the answer for myself." Bella's voice broke the silence." Bella sounded caring. But just." "Not in the way you deserve. and I hoped he would ask at least one out loud. I told you." Mike whined. "What if I moved here?" His voice sounded as desperate as his thoughts did.. . but firm. They had stopped almost directly under our tree. from Seattle."It's not safe Bella. "Just like that? Just 'no'?" Mike's voice was pained. imagining the look on her face. trying to think of anything to work his way back into a relationship. "I'll always care about you.. "I'd like to know how you would manage. You need someone to make sure that you don't act so recklessly!" "Oooh! She didn't like that!" Jasper whispered.. pointing at the target below. Then I continued to listen in.. See? This is what I was telling you. "I want to be here. "I wouldn't be so far away if you would just come back home." he stepped closer to her. "I've never wanted to be able to take a piss so badly!" Jasper whispered. not. I smirked though.

"Is there. do you think we could go back inside?" Bella asked.. you can trade rooms with me. Mike sighed and his thoughts were relieved." "It can't be helped. "If the broken window bothers you.. someone else. She had invited us to go out to eat dinner with her and Mike as well. "So." I promised. There was a pause. perched in the branches above her. Bella said that there isn't someone else.. I smiled in the darkness.. I hoped I wasn't imagining things. but Bella sounded a bit disappointed.citing Alice and Jasper having a previous engagement as an excuse. Bella?" That was the one. and we confirmed plans to meet at the bowling alley at seven. "I've been sick all week and I really do need to get my sleep so I can continue to get better. "That guy is hurting. My hand gripped the branch beneath my feet so hard that I thought it might snap in two. in an effort to not make myself crazy again with worrying. 34." I said.. We watched until the two made their way back to the apartment before we jumped to the ground..?" Jasper asked cautiously. And so. "Since we didn't find any boogey-men." Mike put an arm around her shoulders and turned her back toward the building." "That's fine." Jasper said quietly. on looking good. "No. Katrina's bed is more comfortable and I really don't mind sleeping with the window open anyway. I concentrated instead." Bella murmured. "There will be. but I declined. Not in the way you are thinking.. pressing my lips together firmly. ." I heard Bella offer.. but her voice floated up to where I sat. Bella had called around noon. She had been sleeping in Katrina's room. Vampire Bowling I spent an extraordinary amount of time getting ready to go out Saturday night. Her face was turned toward the ground. "I almost felt bad for him..

" She held her hand out in a manner that invited no argument. surveying my work." I announced. Golf-Digest sort of way. "Or...It was pure and unadulterated vanity. "Good Lord. I spent well over an hour attempting to look as though I looked good without having tried to. It didn't look too dressy when worn with the distressed jeans I had chosen. Even my hair. pulling from it a clear urethane bowling ball with a large. "Bill Murray had one of these in the movie 'King Pin. Alice's shirt said "Jasper's." she hummed thoughtfully. "And Bella is going to want to stick her finger in this!" She lightly tickled my leg through the small hole in the denim on my thigh. "Perfect!" She smiled again. Jasper had Alice's name stitched across the right breast pocket. red. I rolled the sleeves of my black button-up shirt halfway up my forearms and straightened the collar. Alice and Jasper wore matching bowling shirts with the team name "Deadly Strikers" emblazoned on their backs. I wanted to look better than Mike." "Cute. in an annoying. I should have guessed that they would play-up the couple-cuteness factor with their clothing choices. her tongue!" Jasper wagged his eyebrows and planted a kiss on the back of Alice's neck while she giggled. It certainly wouldn't be complimented by the ugly bowling shoes I would be forced to trade my Doc Martins for. He was a good-looking guy. Alice just laughed and then walked in a circle around me. All-American. was purposely made to look more so. "Nuh-uh..' I had one made to match it. apple-pie. "You should see his shoes!" . I admit. and as soon as she had it. plastic rose suspended in its middle." I grumbled. she pushed it down over my head. My logic confused even me. I got to Jasper and Alice's at six o'clock. "Here!" She reached and popped another button loose on my shirt to expose more of my neck and chest. "Hmm. He pulled the leather cord from around his neck. but I couldn't do much about that. "You have your own bowling ball?" "Of course I do!" Jasper scoffed at my tone and unzipped the bag." Alice sniffed.. usually casually messy. "Jasper? Give me your necklace. The tiny titanium ring at the end of the cord fell against my skin." I groaned when I spied the leather bowling bag that was resting on their sofa." "That is the tackiest thing I've ever seen.. All in all. I saw him the night before..

Jasper. He also thought that bowling was lame." I stated. "That's right. "You guys probably remember my ." Jasper grinned and spun the shoes so that the heels faced me.... Alice was right. Did I imagine that her cheeks turned a little pink when her eyes briefly met mine? "Hello!" she said. "It's too long this way!" She complained.. Jasper walked with his arm slung over Alice's tiny shoulders. Each was labeled with a large red circle and the number thirteen written in white. I was kind of hoping that I needed a bigger shoe than Mike. He found the reunion to be unnecessary. Geometry-Boner a reason to look at your ass all night..Mike Newton? Mike? This is Jasper and Alice. I smirked.. but largely annoyed that Bella decided to get us all together while he was in town. "That's utterly ridiculous." . Bella smiled when she saw us. I don't want to give Mr. You know what they say about men with big feet!" I rolled my eyes and Alice laughed. They were colored in fluorescent shades of orange and blue. "Check this. "You are wearing your shirt un-tucked." Jasper said. But inwardly. He wanted to be alone with her." His hands were already pulling the material out of her jeans. I usually wear an eleven. and jumped from her seat to rush forward. And Edward." "Speaking of.. It covered her to mid-thigh when he finished. Good call." Alice laughed good-naturedly and left her shirt out over her jeans.I raised my eyebrow and Jasper pulled a pair of worn suede bowling shoes from the bag. and so we found Bella and Mike sitting on a bench outside the bowling alley waiting for us.. with a friendly smile. A size thirteen looks much more impressive. The night air was unseasonably warm. I could hear Mike's thoughts. but I was partly serious. Jasper snorted. Jasper picked up his bag. He was already sizing me up. or twelve. and the three of us left to go meet up with Bella and Mike. "Shoe size!" he explained. "Your lucky number?" I asked. "Ouch! My eyes!" I teased. turning to look at Alice. "I bought these when I saw that they were mis-labeled. He was curious about us. "You enjoy attention way too much. I crammed my hands into my front pockets and tried to appear casual.

Damn straight. he had muttered in his mind. Jasper smiled from where he waited and gave me two-thumbs-up.. "And I heard you got my biology partner. I could already tell by his peevish attitude that I would win Bella's favor by being a gentleman. I don't know. Maybe she just didn't feel like going out alone with Mike. Mike. The girls got theirs.. I never went to class." I frowned. "Diet coke?" Bella asked. then I smirked as I got mine in size twelve. "Sorry.. He was also unsure about the nature of Bella's and my relationship." I nodded his direction in a greeting. "I guess I have you to thank for bringing Bella and I together then. huh?" I tipped my head back and laughed lightly. might have had gym together. Jasper sat at a row of chairs and started lacing up his obnoxious. Which was a good thing." Jasper offered. "I'm not sure I'm owed thanks. "We skipped dinner. and Mike and I stood side by side. Because Mike's thoughts weren't kind as he eyed me stonily. Right?" Mike was flustered that Alice remembered him. "Why don't we go inside?" Bella asked quickly. mis-labeled bowling shoes while we stood at the counter to rent ours. A tall table was large enough for all of us to sit around it."Of course we remember Mike!" Alice stepped closer and extended a hand. Good Genes." Jasper smiled. He had noticed that Jasper. "We had geometry together. . we made our way down to the lanes. and so mine stayed in my pockets. You're showing your hand buddy. In a town the size of Forks. Mike had a small frown on his face. I waited until he requested his size ten and a half's. Awww. "Hell. "We. Jasper might have felt that. The thought made me smile. Jasper was only just then releasing his hand. I pulled up a slow. you two would have met anyway!" Excellent. Bella didn't feel like going out. lazy smile.. Jasper and Mike ordered beer and Mike also ordered some nachos. He pulled Alice away and quickly replaced her hand-shake with a firmer one of his own. I held the door open while everyone entered ahead of me. "Did we?" Mike was still stunned by the pixie. Alice and I looked exactly as we had in high school. and a bowling alley attendant came by to see if we would like food or drinks." he muttered in apology. She had seemed happy to make plans for dinner with us earlier. With our feet wrapped in rented shoes. He was intimidated by me.

Jasper made his way over to the jukebox to select music while Mike practically glared at me over the table. "So. Thanks. ." Mike answered. "I feel a lot better. darlin." I didn't offer more than that. But he only wanted Bella. "Oooh! I love this song!" "That's why I chose it. I could give him the inside scoop. Alice pointed one dainty foot up in the air as Jasper took her hand and helped her to hop down from the stool.good. Mike thought Alice was gorgeous. "What is it that you study?" I turned the topic back to him and pretended to really be interested. I worked hard to keep my features friendly and unaffected." Bella blushed a little and Mike had nothing but resentful thoughts toward me as he noticed. "I just don't have much of an appetite yet. "It's time. He wondered if there was more between us than Bella had led him to believe. and they led the way down to our bowling lanes. Well. I almost wanted to laugh." Jasper smiled. My foot swished the air beside her ineffectually." Bella explained. "No thanks. "Civil Engineering. Edward." I told her. "The raw food diet?" Bella asked with interest." Alice announced sweetly. He was trying to send a signal for Mike that Alice was taken. Jasper twirled her once under their joined fingers." he said my name as though he hated to do it. "What about you and Jasper? Do you both attend Dartmouth as well?" "I'm a student of the world." I attempted to kick her under the table but she predicted my response and moved her leg out of the way. But then he took the attention away from himself and turned towards Alice. Let him wonder." Alice wrinkled her nose at the mess of cheese and chips. Lots of veggies right? No processed foods? No cooking? Everything is raw.. Mike's food arrived and he offered to share it with us."I've been sick this week. sliding his arm around Alice's waist and kissing her loudly on the side of her neck.." "You are looking much better. "I've heard of that." Alice avoided answering and instead squealed at the song by 'Muse' that had just begun." Jasper answered for her. I knew it would serve me well in the end. "We eat raw. "Bella tells me that you are in her history class?" "Yes.

"I. have to go to the bathroom!" Mike practically ran to the men's room by the bar. Mike was thinking of the imagery that Jasper provided. God that is a great ass! Mike's thoughts rang clear and strong.. let me help!" he offered. But Mike jumped out of his chair and went over to her. I worried that he might offend Bella with his overt sexual innuendos. I gritted my teeth as Mike purposely lined his body up against Bella's back. to silently convey my message.. That was before. he got a mischievous look on his face. in an effort to drown out some of the memories he was running through his mind of him and Bella. "Here. "What the hell?" Mike screamed in his mind when he realized the feelings that had just coursed through him.Trying to bowl like a human was. Jasper sensed Mike's mood as well as my own and stopped joking around with his ball. She really was a little naughty! Of course. an experience. and bent her forward slightly to demonstrate how to better release the ball. This had Jasper's handiwork written all over it. She just watched him. But I took to the challenge eagerly. There were many reasons.over and over in the most lewd and wicked way that he could devise. Jasper didn't bother to hide his laugh. It was a challenge to approximate the human ability to roll the ball towards the end of the lane without sending the tiny thing like a rocket through the back wall. But she just laughed with delight. and so was slow to rise. Bella turned her head to look at Mike when he paused. Sending Mike feelings of lust for the man in the next lane? Priceless! . She isn't with him anymore. that made me want to practice controlling my vampire strength and speed. He stood up quickly and stumbled three steps away from Bella. and she followed his line of sight until she saw what he was staring at. My eyes darted from Jasper to Mike and back. so I sent him a dirty look to get him to stop. I would ruin everything if I came unglued and started pummeling him in a fit of jealousy. looking thoroughly confused and maybe a little disgusted. I didn't want Mike thinking of Bella sexually. but at least he pretended that it was in regards to something that Alice had said.. lately. I was about to jump from my stool when I realized that Mike's eyes were trained beyond Bella and were locked onto the very exposed and very hairy ass-crack of the guy at the next lane.. And he definitely was. I had been watching Jasper. "I'm so terrible at this. Jasper honed in on one of those reasons when he began demonstrating the way to properly insert one's fingers into a bowling ball. Then." Bella laughed as she stepped toward the lane for another turn. I started singing out loud to the current song that was playing.

looking sulky and drinking another bottle of beer. But I didn't think you had it in you to be so cruel!" Bella was indeed. she did. I. And fell. who was very innocently rubbing the top of his beer bottle in a slow circle with his finger. It was almost amusing. was caught in a fit of hysterical laughter at the table.. When Bella got up for her final turn. Oh My God! Bella fell on her face! That is the funniest thing I've ever seen. "No... Mike? You might be upset with me. And because Bella had gone back to bowling.. Because I pretty much agreed.. . Mike came back to our table. laughing. on the other hand. I guessed that I would look better to Bella if I wasn't trying to show off and if I appeared to be a good sport. oh! Wait a minute. "You know.. "I don't think it's broken. smiled a lot. She's probably hurt. Bella slid straight forward on her stomach. Bella's eyes had filled with tears.. And that's fine. I couldn't pretend to be as bad as Bella at bowling. "HA!" Mike snorted. He grunted. My eyes flashed to Jasper. I was by her side immediately." I said. all the while baring his teeth like he thought he was a rock star.. "Let me see. Bella was getting more and more annoyed. congratulated both of their efforts. and even managed to throw a gutter ball. Alice was a competitive little imp. and I took it gently between my hands. I shrugged that one off and pretended to be embarrassed. Mike.. I looked up at Bella and her eyes were squinted in anger as she looked at Mike... who was still laughing like a madman at the table. she looks totally pissed. very upset. helping Bella up while she cradled her wrist against her chest.Jasper looked up at me then. on the other hand.. Mike started to sober as soon as she was gone. eventually sounding off the loud buzzer when she crossed the foul line. Damn. somehow the girl managed to trip over her untied hot-pink shoelaces. His eyes were watering and he snorted and gasped and hit the table with the flat of his hand. A small smile played on his mouth. stop. and used his pointer and pinky fingers to throw up the devil horns. but I did manage to make sure that Mike took the lead. I dropped her hand as she stomped off toward the ladies room with Alice close on her heels. I threw him the devil horns right back. Pretending to be human made me slow enough to not be able to catch her before she fell. She didn't even bother to fake incompetence as she threw strike after strike." But I could tell it hurt. And . He bent low and cursed if the ball didn't go where he planned it to. I was slick. was working up a sweat trying to beat me. Why am I laughing? I can't. And Mike. Just twisted. She held her wrist toward me. He gritted his teeth. I was plotting." I said soothingly.

35. I felt a little guilty for that distinction.. Right? Mike walked over to Bella and tried to put his arm around her shoulders while apologizing profusely. It meant a lot to her that I had rushed to her aid while Mike had laughed at her. But I was going to use any edge I could." she shrugged his arm off. Jasper and Alice started doing a touchdown dance behind them. I really wished I could do one too. She glanced at me and let me read her thoughts. She quickly let me read her replay of Bella's conversation from the bathroom. I was ready to go to Boston. and the car was full of gas. Jasper stood to join me and gave Mike a disgusted look. And the sun was fucking shining. Alice was skipping behind her with a slight smile on her face. and how rude Mike was in comparison. "No harm done. reaching for my phone.. My overnight bag was stowed. Bella and Alice returned from the bathroom a few minutes later. Mike probably would have helped her too. God." Jasper said snidely." Alice answered my call like she was an automated voice message. "Forget about it. want to go do something else?" Mike offered. my suit was hanging in the back." he sounded dumbfounded. I think I should just go home and get some sleep.. You win. And I knew she wasn't talking about bowling. "Do you. later this week. it wasn't like I could control Jasper. ... the exact time and temperature will be. Bella shook her head. It was cute. I don't know what came over me.. Bella had told her about how nice I was during the evening. I usually laugh at myself when I fall too. I want to make sure I'm completely healthy for my trip to Boston." Bella looked up and stared straight into my eyes when she said this.. still standing at her side. she grinned at me."I'm sorry. but I was still irritated. I was so proud of my brother. "Not cool man. I had no idea how he managed to keep a straight face when he knew that he had orchestrated the entire fit of hysterics. "You know.. "At the tone. I am pretty tired already." But her voice didn't sound forgiving. I had hunted two nights in a row. Hard Candy Normalcy I slammed the trunk of my car closed and went back inside. Besides..

I see you two really having a great time together. what I was saying. And if you allow yourself to just relax. And I won't interfere. Otherwise. You'll look very handsome. She was also affording me as much privacy as she could. for reassurance." Alice said with conviction... I thought you said it would be on my side?" "And it will be.... I'm sure of it. You know I can't exactly change the weather patterns for you. I was distracted. I couldn't continue to use Alice as a crutch. Bella will ask you to kiss her." "Alice?" "Sorry." I warned low. And I won't... So I softened my tone.. You have to relax.. tell me... Please stop doing that to yourself.I'm sorry. that Bella would be safe on this trip. you will not hurt her.. Call if you need to." "You should be fine to leave by two-thirty or three...... But the clouds are coming in a little later than I thought." Silence stretched between us."Funny Alice. "I'm sorry. I guess that we could go back to kindergarten science for this one.. I was just ready to leave." "Edward? I know that you are stressed-out. I haven't looked beyond the Opera House." "I will. But." "But?" "I see the two of you going to the Opera House. I wanted to ask Alice again. But that is where my vision stops. You two make a very good-looking couple!" Alice apologized.. In her way. It really wouldn't do to take my mood out on someone who was trying to help me. You have my phone number.." I promised. The sun is always shining. Nice choice on the suit-jacket by the way. And again." "I know.... she was forcing me to find the inner-confidence that I would need to actually work towards a relationship with Bella. Sometimes the clouds temporarily block it from our view. The rest is all up to you. . I see cloudy skies and even some rain for your trip. I was counting on the weather. and then I sighed." I knew what Alice was doing. "Anyway. without a doubt. Please?" Alice sighed.. Why is it still sunny?" "Hmm. I won't look any farther if I can help it. I wanted to know. "Alright." "Alice. I'm trying. Again. let's see Edward. "Edward. you are on your own. "Alice? I. while showing me exactly how much faith she had in me. "Just.. You haven't decided what you'll do yet. You won't have any fun at all if you spend all of your time worrying! And Bella won't have any fun either.

And my bags are packed! Are you still picking me up at noon?" "That's what I'm calling about. Bella. I would have to try harder.. "I. "I'm really looking forward to this trip.... It seemed special to me that besides my family members. I think Mike mentioned it while we were bowling?" Nice try." I offered slowly." she said quietly. I'll expect a full report when you get back on Friday!" "Will do."Alice? I love you. "Oh. "Well. And he just left." I exclaimed.. Posing it as a question didn't make it less of a lie. "Hello?" "Bella?" "Edward! Hi!" "What are you doing?" I laughed lightly. ok. I shook my head as I glanced through the pre-set phone numbers on the phone I held in the palm of my hand. She sounded breathless when she did. need to postpone our trip. I chose her name from the list and waited for her to answer her phone." "Me too." "I love you too Edward. "I was worried for a minute that you were going to cancel!" "Never. came up." "I can't believe they waited five days to get someone out there.the sun. "I was outside. She sounded as though she had been running a marathon." Like." Bella accepted my excuse easily. Something. Have a good time. I hadn't even realized my error until she pointed it out. "Anyway. Hey! How do you know when it was broken?" Bella asked incredulously. If that is alright?" .. between two-thirty and three. "Umm. Just for a couple of hours. I cringed. they couldn't send someone out over the weekend. he just left. "Oh!" She exhaled and then laughed a little.. "I'll be there.. Thank you." I muttered. Bella was the only other number listed." I smiled into the receiver and ended the call. A repairman was here to fix my bedroom window. And I was determined to be as honest as possible with her.

closed my eyes.. Almost regretfully. natural earthy shades that I had begun to associate to Bella and to the way I felt when she was near. absorbing the notes with my eyes and hearing the music playing along in my head. The sun through the window warmed my skin. But I was far more anxious to drive to get Bella. The journal held compositions. I placed the journal aside.. looking for something to occupy my time for a couple more hours. Or make some lunch. A melody of rich notes began to swirl like colors around me. . And I didn't stop until I noticed that the glow from my skin had faded and my page was shrouded in grey. Musical notes skipped upon the lines. And I'll see you soon. almost of their own accord. I smiled as the warmth transformed to music in my mind. And even though the temperature was in the low fifties. I frowned. she wore her flip-flops. I'll nap first. it also brought about this wave of creativity that provided a great distraction. Bella answered her door with a smile. I smiled slightly as I flipped through the pages. and made red patterns play behind my eyelids." She ended our call and I glanced around. When I got to the last page of my writing. without hesitation. The journal still had many pages left to be adorned. and glanced out the window. I walked to my bookshelf. As a matter of fact. I looked up then. I hadn't opened it since long before then. I took my journal to a chair that was placed near the window. and let my fingers glide across the side bindings of some of my favorite books. She wore a hooded sweatshirt and baggy track pants. I began to put my new melody to paper. and let my head fall back. Never bet against Alice. written with my signature handwriting. The clouds had moved in. My fingers stopped." she explained when she noticed my attention to her appearance. I wrote and wrote as the music played itself in my mind.." "Ok! See ya. I leaned back into the chair. "I like to be comfy when I'm on a road trip. at a leather-bound journal that I hadn't touched since I placed it on the shelf when I moved in. I stole a look at my watch. Placing the open journal on my lap. Two-thirty. Unless you want to stop somewhere on the way?" "No. My fingers itched to continue their course."Perfectly fine. Then. You go ahead and eat. Even though it was the reflective properties of my skin in the sun that delayed my trip with Bella. I opened my eyes and retrieved a pen from the side table. and with her long brown ponytail swinging behind her. and sat down to revisit the scores. music that I had written in the past. I didn't even mind the dancing lights that the sun reflected from my skin onto the paper under my hand. oranges and yellows.. a tapestry of browns and reds.

I thought we would play it by ear. sliding the car into gear. The crisp air that cut between us helped to attenuate Bella's scent. It also made loose tendrils of her hair dance along her neck and play against her cheek. She blushed prettily and I picked up her small suitcase from where it sat by the door. And in the confines of the car." she explained. "I wasn't sure what we would be doing. She also rolled her window most of the way down to create a virtual wind-tunnel in the confines of my car. Bella's open window was a blessing. and I couldn't help but laugh at her playful attitude. I wanted to be prepared. I had no escape. "I do have tickets for a show at the Opera House tomorrow night. she smiled at my own bag hanging on the opposite side." I smiled. if your goal is to drive me to complete and utter distraction. just in case. She pinched her fingers against both ends of its cellophane wrapper and twisted it open before popping the sugary rectangle into her mouth.." I told her." "I shouldn't have kept it a surprise. I nodded." ." I answered truthfully." "Oh."You're perfect. and locked the door behind us as we left. And she really was. Other than that. "Why do I have a feeling I'm in big trouble?" I asked. I watched as Bella took a small green candy from her pocket. "How did you know?" She mocked me with her eyes open wide. "I guess I should be happy I packed a dress. "Is this alright?" she asked tipping her head towards the open window. "Jolly Rancher. It was more than alright. Yes. It was more than alright. When she placed her hanger over the hook in the back seat. "Apple. It was still bordering on excruciating for me to breathe at such close proximity to her for very long. The easy comfort with which we began our trip carried throughout the drive." "The Opera House? Will a little black dress be appropriate?" "It will. She just laughed and flipped her ponytail behind her. Bella grabbed a bottle of water and her zippered garment bag. Bella kicked off her shoes and placed both of her feet on my dashboard. tucking the candy into her cheek.." she smiled. "What is that?" I asked.

My first reaction was to freeze. "I vote for adorable.. I am often told I worry too much. And because my attention was back on the road. "You have a very nice singing voice. "Sorry. I grimaced and thought about swallowing it. and I wrinkled my nose." Bella grinned." I pressed my lips together and thought about it. don't stop!" I complied by happily finishing the song while she listened and twirled the end of her ponytail around her fingers. I pushed the button to lower my window and abruptly spit the offensive little piece of chemically-laden sugar outside. snorting a little in the process.. And I'm very." I apologized. and you're sweet." she complimented." "Well. Disgusting. "I like you. When the song came to an end. looking somewhat ashamed. "Thank you. I have a horrible temper too." I smiled. I started to sing along. When a song came on that I liked. She tipped her head back and laughed like I hoped she would.." I nodded my head with fake solemnity and turned my attention to the road ahead. And. Though I hated to be so rude. It shocked me to have her fingers so close to my lips... "I don't know whether to think that was adorable or completely cheesy!" she giggled. is there anything that you don't do better than the average human?" I exhaled through my nose sharply. "Ummm. We drove in companionable silence for a few minutes while we listened to the radio.. But she pulled her hand away quickly and smiled. just to have it out of my mouth." "Interesting. "Edward. But I knew I would have to choke it up later if I did. obnoxious smell. I was completely taken off guard when Bella's hand came up to my face and pushed a hard little rectangle of candy into my mouth. I'm too uptight. Bella looked over at me with a smile across her face.. You've seen evidence of my epic clumsiness. very stubborn. leaving a horrifically sweet and sticky lump in my mouth to deal with. she turned the volume down." . "I have a horrible temper. trying to make her feel better. "Well..It had a sour. And I'm not very patient. "You don't like sweets?" Bella asked.

but somehow managed to contain my glee. But her eyes watched me carefully. I finally glanced at her from the corner of my eye and grinned. "Food. Bella laughed with me." I said. "You really don't know me very well then. "I was hoping we could both get to know each other better on this trip." "We could ask each other questions! Take turns." she answered coyly." I finally answered. "I thought my invitation would be better received if I extended it to both of you. "I warn you. It was like she was daring me to lie so she could catch me. ." A small smile played at her lips." "That sounds. "Well. "What about you?" she asked. Food." I confessed.."Well we are obviously both wretched people. I felt her eyes on me. If you'd let me. "I'd like to know you better. "Hmmm. I was intrigued by the idea of getting to ask Bella any questions at all. When our laughter died away. Don't ask me anything about food. I'm an open book." I turned my head to glance at her serious expression. "Is there any subject that is off-limits?" I raised an eyebrow toward her. Edward. I am very inquisitive." I told her. "Mike. I'd rather not even think about him." I joked.. reasonable." she countered. "No. "Did you ever really want Katrina to come along?" Bella sat with her back to the open window." she suggested with a bounce of excitement. Her hair was flying riotously behind her." she pressed her lips together and tapped her fingers against her knees. I shook my head. After a great deal of thought. I grinned over at her. "Any taboo subjects?" Where could I begin? I was going to try to be as honest as I could with the girl.. "Bring it on. I could. Don't ask me about Mike. "Food?" "Yes.." I wanted to smile." "You've got to be kidding me!" She looked like she was waiting for a punch line.

And now that I'm here. back and forth. television shows. What about you? Why are you a history major?" "Would you believe me if I said that I randomly pointed to a page in the student catalog and ended up with history?" Bella laughed.' And so we began the second hour of our journey. People place entirely too much emphasis on food. An entire date centered around a necessary function? It's very un-original." Bella said... books and authors. "You?" "Yep!" She stuck her tongue all the way out and leaned forward to give me a good look into her mouth. They make it an event to eat." "Sounds wonderful. She looked thoughtful for a minute then shrugged. "Did you go to your prom?" I asked next. We decided to temporarily end our question and answer game as I navigated through Boston traffic. Favorite colors. I could explain the location and cause of at least ten scars on her body. "You haven't decided?" I asked. as she made a face. "It probably sounds very pathetic of me. I shrugged." I asked instead. "No. I could only guess her answer had something to do with Newton.. "No. I won't ask you anything concerning food during this trip. When we reached the hotel I had chosen. Bella slipped her shoes back on and straightened her hair before getting out of the car. tell me why you are a history major. "Sorry. I have no idea what I'm going to do with myself. "Ok. I was amused at myself for actually thinking her candy-stained green tongue was cute." I said with a smile. I always dreamed of coming to Dartmouth. "Have you had your tonsils out?" she asked. She might have felt a little subconscious. as she explained her choice to use a liberal arts degree as a stepping stone to a graduate degree in business or perhaps even law.." she sighed. using her hands." I continued to watch her from the corner of my eye." I liked the way she said 'ex. shooting questions towards one another. And you won't ask me anything about my ex-boyfriend.."I think it's a boring topic.. And for the most part. her questions mirrored mine. "No tonsils there. "Skip that question." I concurred. Ok. songs. It was the truth. I watched her talk animatedly. .

She seemed at ease and had an inner confidence that radiated from her. "Edward Cullen. She frowned at my insistence and clicked a few more buttons on the keyboard before sighing." Bella remained standing at my side. Edward Cullen. dressed for comfort and totally wind-blown from the two hour drive with the window down. "I specifically made reservations for two rooms. I made reservations. Two rooms. I need to call my manager. I walked beside her proudly as we were led to the inner recesses of the lobby to check into our rooms. She wore heavy black eyeliner and bright red lipstick. I nodded at her dazed expression. I remembered it well from women in the 1940's. Reaching into my . "I'm sorry." We were greeted by a young woman who wore a grey suit and had her platinum blonde hair pulled back into a severe chignon. The woman finally blinked twice and looked confused. "I'm sorry sir. "Hello." The woman gawked at me blankly for a moment...." I spoke slowly as though I could somehow force her to understand. "Welcome to the Liberty Hotel. She is the one that changed the reservation in the system. did you say. But the computer indicates that your reservation is for one room.." I supplied again. Was she really so addle-brained? "Yes. I frowned. Bella snickered at my side and I glanced at her quizzically." Bella snorted lightly beside me and I looked over at her again before turning to argue with the woman behind the desk. The girl scurried to the side of the desk where she started talking into a black telephone with a frantic but hushed voice." My response was probably more curt than was necessary. Do that. I didn't pay much attention. Cullen?" She asked. moving toward the computer on the desk. I always smiled when I saw this look being repeated. She seemed to be functioning better when concentrating on the screen in front of her. "I have reservations for two rooms. One of our suites." "Fine. I was more worried that Bella would assume the worst of me. "I'm very sorry sir. But Bella straightened her shoulders proudly as the curb-side attendants removed our items to a luggage rack and took the car away. "I'm sorry sir.standing at the front of a five star hotel. two rooms?" She sounded perplexed. with an amused look on her face." I greeted her pleasantly with a smile.

. "If you are sure." Good. "It's not like we haven't shared a room before.. So I would appreciate if we could go back to the reservations as indicated on this paper." Her smile was sweet as she reminded me of the night we had stayed together in my bedroom." I calmed immediately at her gentle tone and touch. And. I was about to argue that I didn't care which entire fleet of waterbed-salesmen were having a convention and had taken my rooms. There is a convention being held. She insisted that Mr." I hoped she was. But I definitely had a feeling that someone else I knew and loved was probably kicking back in my hot tub at that very moment. we can look for another hotel that isn't booked." she finally shrugged. "Well. Bella barely glanced at the paper.back pocket.... Bella and I quietly followed him up the elevator to the suite that we would share. I was further comforted when the desk attendant returned and informed me that the reservations had been changed by the manager at three o'clock that afternoon. "Don't worry about it. "I am..quite nakedcongratulating himself on being a sly mother fucker. She had been reduced to dumb-as-a-rock status and it was getting annoying. am very sorry about this. there has been an error. I am Mr. But she was looking dazed once more.. Maybe I was trying too hard to be charming. The girl behind the counter sighed audibly and continued to apologize profusely while giving the bellman his directions.I wanted them back." "I really don't mind.when Bella reached up and tentatively laid her hand on top of mine." Bella shrugged. "I am very sorry sir. and attempted to point out the fact that I had indeed reserved two rooms. Cullen. ." I murmured in the elevator. "These things happen. mistakes happen. But your rooms were very quickly assigned to new guests. And clearly. Cullen had called to change the accommodations.. Not even I could have pulled off changing the reservations with Bella beside me in the car. I frowned and she looked back to her computer screen." Her nonchalant attitude did make me feel slightly better." The hand that was pressed to the paper on the counter curled until I had formed a fist on top of it." I smiled and slid my print-out toward the girl. "I. "If you'd like. Alice might have promised to not interfere. Won't it Edward? I'm sure it's large enough for two people. "The suite will be fine. I retrieved a folded print-out of the reservations I had made online.

"Do you know what sounds like fun? We should go see a movie!" "It does sound like fun. More importantly. and I tried very hard not to imagine Bella in it. "So. "Aren't you having anything?" "I'm not hungry." I smiled. "Thank you. She found me a few minutes later. And I let . "If I slip and fall while getting into this thing..which was hard when she stepped next to its edge and smiled at me over her shoulder. Bella's small." I agreed. "This is lovely.. It seemed the most natural thing in the world to be sitting beside her that way. I wasn't aware of anything on the screen. and I purchased two tickets for a romantic comedy that had just started. She didn't argue. We just turned and continued chatting as we made our way back toward the hotel. what would you like to do this evening?" I asked. enjoying the view from the open-air terrace." I began. Sitting next to Bella in the darkened theatre felt so completely normal that I couldn't imagine being happier. Until she reached over in the darkness and placed her hand in mine. It wasn't like I would sleep anyway." she said quietly... and I suggested the walk.. Eventually we stopped to dispose of Bella's garbage. are you going to rescue me?" she teased. and showed us around the spacious quarters before accepting my tip on his way out. I hoped to God she didn't want to discuss the movie later. And she had placed it there... stopping only when laughter broke our stride until we came to a small concession stand where Bella allowed me to buy her a corndog and a drink. Our first real date. "Would you care to go for a walk along the Esplanade?" "I'd love to. "Let me think. We followed a path that wound through the park lands and continued our game of questions and answers. I claimed the couch." I smiled over at her. The large four-fixture tub looked easily large enough for two." Bella pursed her lips.The bellman brought our things into the room. The floor to ceiling windows that formed two walls of the living room area made me eternally grateful for the thick grey clouds that graced the sky.. I didn't answer. We were able to take a cab from the hotel to a nearby movie theatre.she wasn't offended or off-put in the slightest by the temperature of my skin. I just laughed uneasily and left the room. looking out at the Charles River. leaving the master bedroom for Bella." Bella and I found our way over a connected pedestrian bridge to the beautiful grounds beside the river. Bella smiled as we both went in to explore the master bath. because from that point on. It also sounded like a date. warm hand was gently resting in mine. "Since we are taking turns." "The view is not nearly as lovely as my company.

as we walked together through the lobby. I kept my eyes trained on hers. Of course she would. She just leaned there. and I realized then. It would the logical way to end the evening. . Bella smiled as I took the initiative and wrapped my hand around hers again." I finally offered.took a deep breath. once I was sure I could. It was then that I knew." she agreed. Waiting.. We had been on a date. "I am. for. so warm. while I walked her through the suite to the door of the master bedroom. my awkwardness returned. For once. "Tomorrow morning... She didn't drop my hand. I knew she felt it too. I was not expecting the jolt that I felt run through my body at this chaste contact. Bella's heartbeat sped instantly. And she didn't turn to leave.and pressed my lips to the top of her hand. or that the day hadn't been the most perfect one of my existence so far. She leaned in the doorway. But in the room. looking sweet and as hesitant to say goodnight as I was. "Goodnight Edward.. something.amazed and shocked to actually be kissing her." she smiled. I pulled our joined hands up towards my face.. So I purposely did my best to level a look at her that left her nearly as dazed-looking as the girl at the check-in counter had been earlier. Her skin felt so incredibly smooth against my lips. But I wasn't sure yet if I could control myself while having my mouth anywhere near her skin. that she expected a kiss goodnight. I wasn't the freak watching the happy couple pass me by.. I watched as her eyelids drifted downwards. I was thinking... and only lifted my face when her cheeks began to blush such an attractive shade of pink that I wasn't sure if I could resist testing myself further. She smiled in the dark and glanced over at me. and her mouth parted a little in surprise.. Her face tilted up ever so slightly. I wasn't sure. hand in hand. I didn't want to let her or this new found intimacy go. "Goodnight. "You look sleepy. And my hesitation caused her eyes to open in confusion." I mentioned. A little. I let my mouth linger there. When we got a cab to return to the hotel.. and so delicious.my fingers wrap around and through hers.." She sounded a little breathless. I actually felt like part of a normal couple. looking at me. I panicked. I didn't want to leave her thinking that I was unaffected by her. Hope sprang forward in my chest and I smiled back at her. I wasn't caged by a necessary separation from the world and its accompanying loneliness. Warmth tingled from where my lips met her skin and pushed its way through my entire body. I could do this.. And then in a romantic gesture perhaps better suited to another time.. maybe we could visit the Museum of Fine Arts?" "That would be really nice..

I was still trying to decide if I should present Bella with a gift. "Did I?" I rose to stand straight and walked into the room. I crouched and rapidly moved indoors. She was bent at the waist. Having Bella near of her own volition filled me with a comfort that allowed me to quietly prowl through the rest of the suite as an alternate activity. These accommodations weren't necessary to impress Bella." . Bella had been taking a drink of water. illuminated by the glow from the small refrigerator as she pulled a bottle of water from its shelves. and casually tossed it to the top of my bag before walking out onto the terrace. looking for signs of danger. I watched her sleep in less on most nights. 36. folded my arms across my chest. And of course. I wasn't tempted to watch her. The cool night air caressed my skin and I breathed in the night time scents of the city and the river below. She didn't respond." I whispered. Breaking the Rules Well into the night. dining room. "I'm sorry. Alice had been correct.though she had commented on the view. I contentedly occupied my time while Bella slept peacefully in the adjoined room.as had become habit to me. for the opportunity to keep Bella close. She just turned as I released her hand and walked quietly into her room. I wasn't shocked by her state of undress. I leaned my shoulder into the frame of the door. "Is that my shirt?" I asked quietly. Only one scent permeated the air. and watched her. It would have seemed indulgent to an extreme if we weren't forced to take the suite by a Jasper-arrangedproblem with our reservations. But what? Jewelry would be way too presumptuous. "Oh my God. A living room area. and my voice startled her so that she splashed her drink." Bella sounded nervous. I pulled the hem of my t-shirt up and over my head. and even a butler's pantry were made available for discerning guests. Even after the refrigerator door shut. I was going to owe him big time. and I stood upright and followed it until I found Bella in the butler's pantry. I could see her clearly. Perhaps a flower? My head turned quickly toward a sound from the inner recesses of the suite. But her particular choice of sleep attire that evening made me smile. She didn't care about the décor."Sleep well. Something pretty.as Jasper had suggested. "You scared me!" She wiped her mouth on the back of her hand. Bella.

" I continued to tease." she said with a determined voice. I stepped lightly around her. "I know I'm safe with you. She shivered. "What if you're wrong?" It was painful to voice my fear out loud. washed your shirt." she argued firmly."It's ok." I moved very close to her. But Bella's heartbeat picked up in pace and thrummed loudly.." I said softly." I laughed lightly." "You." "I wasn't sleeping." Again. Her hand reached out and she tentatively touched my chest. "I hope I didn't wake you.. circling. "I'm not. "And you aren't wearing pants. I just couldn't resist. "I think." She wore the same t-shirt that I had loaned her to wear when she stayed at my house." Bella replied. I wasn't sure what to attribute the breathy quality to. "What were you doing?" Sleep had made her voice raspy. I had moved all the way around her and was standing in front of Bella once again. I took a step backward and her hand fell down to her side. a fact that was not lost to me in the dark. She blushed intensely... "Oh really? Ok." She moved a step closer to me as if to illustrate her conviction. "I.she spoke with that breathy voice. As her fingers slid downward. "Something tells me that maybe I should be nervous. I planned to return it to you. my stomach muscles contracted under her touch and she took a shaky breath. You aren't getting it back. Bella nodded but looked no less determined. We stared at each other.." I finally suggested. "No. in the semi-darkness. "I decided to keep it. But truthfully. I should let you get back to sleep." "You probably should be. aren't wearing a shirt. "Am I making you nervous?" I asked. ." "Damn. I told myself it was to allow her to see me in the dim lighting provided by the city beyond the window. If you insist." I admitted quietly.. But I'm not. "I was standing outside.. I let my hands move her hair behind her shoulders so I could speak near her ear..

I did." I told her truthfully. I buttoned my shirt as I walked back through the suite. I could never have the type of relationship that I hoped to have with her. I wasn't referring to the weather.. however. I was walking on the edge of a blade with Bella. At the same time." I indicated the breakfast selection. I wasn't ready to give any of this up." She smiled and I held the door for her as we set out for a morning of sight-seeing." "Well then. a pretty table was waiting with trays of sweet breads and fruits. get back to whatever it was that you were doing. "Good morning. fresh-faced and ready for the day. coffee and milk. Bella felt safe with me. Her hair blew in soft-looking waves behind her. Bella smiled her gratitude and I left her to her meal. "Are you ready to go have some fun?" "Absolutely! But."And I should let you. but I didn't want to come on too strong. and couldn't resist commenting as I moved to stand beside her.. I put in a call to room service and had breakfast sent to the room. Good night. Morning arrived. until she fully understood the threat involved by having me in her life. This time. The wind chased her hair into her eyes. I escaped back out to the terrace and stared unseeing at the dark landscape. "Beautiful. ." I hoped that an assortment of foods would make my abstinence less noticeable than if I had ordered individual plates.. looking out at the horizon much as I had done the night before. "You look great. By the time Bella emerged. I was certain that disclosing the true danger if our association would only force her to leave. I was the one to turn first. Again." I said. "It is. I was struck once again by her beauty. isn't it? It's going to be a gorgeous day!" Bella turned towards me with a smile. Bella was standing on the terrace with a cup of coffee. "We'll be back here in plenty of time to get dressed for the theatre. and I never wanted to make her regret that. I wasn't sure what you'd like.. find a new focus for my determination. am I dressed alright?" Bella glanced down at her light-pink cotton pullover and jeans." I murmured. and I reached forward to tuck it behind her ear. and I still had not come to any definitive conclusions. "I'll just shower while you eat. When I heard the water running in the other room.

thanks. "Would you like to stop for lunch?" I asked. Sometimes she would try to describe how the colors or subject made her feel. When we came to a piece that appealed to her. Bella often stopped to ask my opinion about certain pieces. Bella reminded me which of the pieces of art she had been most taken with. But she knew what she liked. Sometimes she would try to explain why she was drawn to the artwork. She didn't pretentiously point out light sources and brush technique. Bella's favorite paintings were found in a collection of Renaissance artwork from Italy. Half-way back to our hotel. She was trying to know me. . and paid him as Bella exited the cab and made her way to the nearest bistro. and she didn't rush her enjoyment of the experience." I smiled. we would simply stop and look at it until her eyes had absorbed as much of the detail as she hoped for. Bella shrugged and smiled.she would use her hands in sweeping motions while she talked that made me think back to the way those warm and expressive hands felt when held inside my own. She ordered pasta and a glass of wine before the waitress turned to take my order. We spent most of our time in the gallery that housed them. than hurry past a million things that don't interest me just so I could say I had seen them all." Her smile was so beguiling that I wanted to tell her right then and there that she had pretty much summed up my entire existence so far." I said politely. I didn't bother to lecture her with art history. Bella sighed loudly.Bella and I spent hours literally strolling through the Museum of Fine Arts. Bella was by no means an expert in art. Yes. When I casually mentioned that we would never be able to visit even half of the museum in the time that remained. We were seated in minutes and Bella quickly chose from the menu. "Nothing for me. The waitress left with an intentionally flirtatious offer for me to let her know if I changed my mind and would like anything. "I would rather spend all of my time truly appreciating one beautiful thing. pointing toward the window. As we left the building and waited at the curb for a cab. Always. "Did you have any favorites?" "My favorite wasn't hanging on a wall. "What about you?" She asked. as I held the door of the taxi open for her. Bella smiled. "I'm glad you asked. She wanted to know about my thoughts and my feelings. colorful umbrellas and tables called my attention to a string of small café's with outdoor seating. I'm starving!" I directed the cab driver to pull aside. She didn't want to know what could be learned in a book.

"Since you aren't anorexic. And." I shrugged. It really was only a matter of time. they have to be questions I can answer with 'yes' or 'no. You get two questions. I'm nothing like Gandhi. So I can't assume you have any kind of eating disorder. "Don't try to distract me. you should be allowed to ask me something about Mike now.. I've tried. I'm sorry. Inwardly I dreaded the turn the conversation had taken.'" "You are stubborn!" Bella's lips pressed into a hard line. She just watched me with an amused look on her face.. And then I presented the gift to the woman sitting across from me at the table." I declined.." .." She huffed good-naturedly.. Grasping a single green stem." I let the smile play on my lips and answered truthfully. making it spin as I smiled at Bella over its cheery yellow crown. I wrinkled my nose and pretended to playfully cringe. "No. "You started the rule-making. some sort of religious thing?" "No." "You think I'm in great physical shape?" I smiled coyly while letting my fingers play against the small flowers in the vase on the table between us. "I suppose since I broke the rules. "I'd much rather pretend that I'm the only man you are thinking about while we are together. "Well.."Edward." she frowned." I cut off her attempt to prolong the topic. rather not. Are you fasting?" "Yes.. The 'food thing' is making me nuts. Two questions? 'Yes' or 'no' answers?" she suggested.. "You are obviously in great physical shape. I plucked a daisy from the arrangement. Only two. I can only assume that you are fasting for some particular reason that you don't want to talk about." Bella said sternly. "Ok.." "Is that a question?" I asked. "I'd . "Fine. I pinched it between my fingers." I answered with a nod. are you like Gandhi? Are you fasting to make a statement about something? Against the clubbing of baby seals or some other crime against humanity?" I tossed back my head and laughed with earnest. And I've already answered two of your questions. "Yes.. She just frowned and looked down at the table. "Is it. But I am going to have to break one of our rules.

cringing from the rain and hiding under large umbrellas. "To have just broken up with him a few days ago. however. "You must think I'm horrible. "Like that's ever stopped a couple of kids from Forks. of amusement." she mumbled. But when one man walked near.. we decided to walk for the remainder of our trip back to the hotel. emotionally.." "Are you ready to move on?" I asked. Bella squeezed my hand in agreement.. and we playfully kicked water at each other from puddles." I commented as I looked up at the heavy clouds hanging above us. and Bella seemed more than eager to accept my outstretched palm with a smile. We smiled. We earned quite a few stares while we played in the rain. It was much more difficult for me to remember those details of my human life. My smile grew impossibly more wide when I heard the jealous thoughts of one individual we passed. grinning and holding hands while the rain soaked us through. I was anxious to hold her hand again. about the weather. unaware of how she had attracted the man's attention. "Yes. "It looks like rain. that relationship has been over -for mefor a long time. Bella and I just walked as though oblivious to the weather. and ending it was not something I treated lightly.. causing her to spin towards me before I pulled her close to my chest. I think you are amazing. I was a little worried. his thoughts made me turn my face toward Bella with alarm. But I tugged her hand hard. I couldn't remember having more fun. I picked up thoughts around us. of confusion. Washington?" She giggled and I laughed with her.. "But." I told her.. urgently.. But I learned that Bella had taken ballet lessons (and hated them." Bella smiled at my acceptance of the situation. Together. and laid the flower down next to her napkin when the waitress served lunch. Physically." "I understand.. We laughed. She was skipping a few steps in front of me. and yet seem so ready to move on already.. .. In fact. Some passed us on the sidewalk. We had gone no further than a city block when the sky opened up with a torrential downpour.Bella's cheeks turned pink as she took the flower from my hand. Pedestrians huddled under awnings and in store-front doorways. The conversation easily went back to our previous game of questions and answers while Bella ate. "And I don't think you are horrible." She met my eyes with sincerity in her gaze. Bella skipped a little.) and Bella discovered that my one true love as a boy was for the game of baseball. peering at us from beneath the cover of his umbrella. I didn't care. We asked for and shared memories of our childhoods.

"Edward!" She was taken by surprise and shocked by my sudden movements. Rain dripped from her hair and down her face as she turned her startled brown eyes up toward me. "What is it?" "Your shirt," I said while gritting my teeth. I steeled my jaw and turned my face away from Bella, trying to afford her some privacy. But my body was reacting very strongly to the warmth of her chest pressed against mine; separated only by a couple layers of very wet- and in her casevery transparent cotton. "Oh my God!" She whispered, looking down. I could hear the mortification in her voice. "I had no idea!" "Here," I muttered. I immediately unbuttoned my shirt and took it off, trying to block her from the view of other possible bystanders. She quickly thrust her arms through the sleeves. While she pushed the cuffs up past her hands, I fastened the buttons down the front of the shirt, feeling the back of my fingers burn where they brushed against her. "Thank you," she said quietly. My own a-line t-shirt offered me no protection from the elements. But my navy button-up covered Bella completely. "My pleasure," I smiled, trying to alleviate her embarrassment. "I guess you can't have a real Spring Break without at least one wet t-shirt contest, huh?" Bella was joking, but still sounded nervous. I looked up at her and stared deep into her eyes. "You, my dear, would have won first prize." Bella tipped her face up toward the rain and laughed, tension finally gone. "Did you look?" She slapped at my arm while I shook my head and refused to admit to peeking. "And I was just about to accuse you of being a gentleman again!" I took her hand with a twisted grin, and we walked the rest of the way to our hotel. Bella giggled breathlessly as I pulled her through the fine lobby. Our shoes squished and slid across the elegantly waxed floors. We looked half-drowned as we dripped water from our sodden clothing all the way to the elevators. It was within the small confines of the elevator that I noticed Bella's teeth chattering. "I never thought I'd see the day," I teased. "But Isabella Swan, you look cold!" "I'm freezing!" She admitted. Once in the room, I walked straight to the master bath and turned on all of the faucets to fill the over-sized tub with hot water. I twisted the lid of the hotel-issued bubble bath and sniffed at it cautiously before turning the entire contents of the bottle into the steaming water. Bella giggled from the doorway while removing her shoes and socks.

"I could probably step into that bath fully clothed, and still end up less wet than I am right now!" Bella joked. "Hmm. You're probably right," I agreed. Then I rushed to her side and scooped her up into my arms before she had time to see my intentions. "Edward!" She squealed and squirmed against my chest. "What are you doing?" "Testing your theory!" I said. I strode to the edge of the tub and placed her, fully clothed, into the water. The look on her face was so comical, it was priceless. Her mouth hung open in shock when she realized what I had done. So I laughed. "I... can't believe you!" she sputtered. I just grinned and pulled my own socks and shoes off, tossing them to the side. "Scoot back!" I instructed. As she complied and slid to the back of the tub, I launched myself over the edge with a large splash. I could hear her laughing when I emerged, shaking my head and wiping soap from my face. "You've gone crazy!" she laughed. "Maybe I have!" "I think I like it," Bella complimented with a smile. I just pulled my thin white t-shirt up and over my head before tossing it to the floor near my shoes with a wet thwack against the marble tile. Bella grinned and shed my button-up shirt, throwing it in the same direction. Her pink t-shirt joined it and I could see the white lacy straps of her bra above the bubbles that hid everything below. She raised her eyebrow as if she was challenging me to continue. So I tugged my denim jeans off, made heavy by the water, and added them to the pile of soaking wet clothing on the floor. Bella pursed her lips, and the water sloshed as she struggled to remove her own jeans below the suds. Soon, they were thrown out of the tub too. She looked at me again then, checking my next move. I laughed. "Don't worry! I plan to leave my boxers on, so I won't compromise your modesty!" "Good idea," she sighed. As if it were the most natural thing in the world for us both to bathe together in our underwear, we leaned against our respective sides of the tub and warmed our bodies in the fragrant water. "What show are we going to see tonight?" Bella asked, stretching her toe to rub against the gold fixture on the side of the tub.

"The Phantom of the Opera." The water splashed against the sides of the tub while Bella sat up quickly in excitement. "Bubbles," I warned her. "Sorry," she blushed and sank back down under the water and out of my line of sight. "I just can't believe we are going to that show. I've never seen it. And I've always wanted to!" "I know," I admitted quietly, though I would have loved to take the credit for the idea. "Alice told me." "That's right!" I could hear that she remembered the conversation she had with my sister. "I really like Alice, Edward. And Jasper too. They are very kind. And they are lots of fun." "They really like you too," I said sincerely. Bella slid down until her head disappeared under the water. I held my breath until she reemerged. Then I moved forward with a washcloth in hand. She sat still under my attention as I carefully wiped the soap away from her eyes. "Thanks," she breathed. "Anytime." Bella opened her wide eyes to look at me when I didn't immediately make a move to return to my side of the tub, and I swore the water increased in temperature by at least twenty degrees. My eyes shifted down to her mouth. I stared at the water drops that lingered there. Her breath caught, and I raised my hand tentatively towards her face. She didn't move away. I swallowed hard and let my fingers graze lightly down her cheek. Then, as softly as I was able, I cupped her chin in my hand and allowed my thumb to trace her lips. "Bella... I want..." "Yes, Edward?" Her scent swirled around me, and I held my breath. I was hyper-aware that we were both barely dressed. And I was fairly sure that if I gave in to the feelings that were coursing through my body, I'd never stop with just a simple kiss. "I want... to let you finish your bath." I slid away from her before I could change my mind. "You should probably cover your eyes!" And then I jumped from the tub and wrapped a large towel around my waist. Wet boxer-briefs probably wouldn't be conducive to protecting Bella's modesty, and certainly not at my current state of arousal.

I didn't look at her as I picked up our wet clothing and dropped it into the sink basin. I also took an extra towel and mopped up the large puddle of water that we had created, so that Bella wouldn't slip when she got out of the tub. When I finally dared to look back at her, Bella was resting with her head back and her eyes closed. A small smile played around her lips, making me believe that she wasn't upset with my sudden departure. "Hey Edward?" Bella called my name as I was leaving the room, causing me to take a step back and look at her. Her eyes were still closed. "Yes?" I asked, cautiously. "You should know... I peeked," she grinned. I shook my head and laughed. "Well then, you should know... I did too."

37. Unmasked

I could clearly hear Bella moving around in her room, and so I risked a gentle knock on her door to get her attention. "Come in," she invited. I opened the door and then hesitated in the doorway to appreciate the view in front of me. Bella was standing, wrapped in a hotel towel, with one foot resting on a padded stool near the dressing table. Her hands were applying lotion to her raised leg, even as she turned her head towards me with a smile. I tried to pretend that I wasn't staring at the dangerously- high angle the towel cut across her thigh as she stood in that position. "I... am going to send our wet clothes down to laundry service. I thought I might have my suit steamed. Would you like me to send your dress down as well?" "That's so thoughtful," Bella smiled. Then she held up her hands, palms-forward, to show me the lotion on them. "Would you mind getting my bag? It's hanging right there." "No problem," I shook my head. I walked quickly through the room to retrieve our wet clothes from the bathroom sink, and then grabbed her garment bag on my way back to the door. "Am I running late?" Bella asked. "It will take me forever to dry my hair..." "We have a little over an hour before we should leave. Unless you need to eat first?"

"No. I am still full from lunch." "Ok then," I smiled. I needed to get out of the room. The sight of her in that soft white towel was causing me to seriously consider skipping the theatre all together. Fantasy images of me stripping the towel from her body and kissing every exposed inch of her tantalizing skin was creating a need in me that was almost painful. And her scent was nearly as agonizing. Her body was warm from the bath, and the natural scent of her was only heightened by the sweet smell of her shampoo and the lotion that she applied. I groaned and squeezed my eyes shut as I closed the door and leaned against it for a moment. She tempted me in every imaginable way. My suit and Bella's dress were pressed and returned immediately, with a note that our other clothes would be brought to our room as soon as possible. I opened Bella's bedroom door just wide enough to slide my arm through to place the hanger over the door knob. I wasn't going to risk stepping inside with her in any state of undress again. "Thank you Edward," Bella called out from somewhere inside the room. "Thirty-minutes," I reminded her of our departure time. "Would you like a glass of wine before we leave?" "That sounds wonderful. I'll be out soon," she said. I poured a glass of wine for her and took it to the balcony. The rain, fortunately, had ceased. A cool, brisk evening was left in its wake. The breeze pushed my hair back and I closed my eyes to enjoy the cleansing freshness of it. When I heard her step behind me, I smiled before I turned. Bella was a vision. She didn't need a lot of make-up to improve upon her features. And she didn't use it. The lightest traces of coloring brought attention to her wide eyes and her full mouth. She had captured her hair behind her head in some sort of clip that allowed wild chestnut curls to tumble behind her shoulders and back. And her dress... a simple black dress that exposed her collar bones and the tops of her shoulders with a wide v-shaped neckline that only made her tiny waist look even smaller before the dress fell in soft folds just past her knees. It looked like something Grace Kelly might have worn- or some Hollywood movie starlet from another time. Classy. Elegant. "Miss Swan," I said, while stepping forward and handing her the glass I held. "You leave me speechless." She smiled as she accepted the wine and carefully looked me over. "And you look incredibly handsome," she complimented. I didn't say anything else. I was afraid anything that tumbled out of my mouth would sound incredibly corny and would leave me looking like a fool. Instead, I just enjoyed the rare beauty in front of me.

Bella took a sip of her drink, and then shrugged her shoulders forward in a self-deprecating gesture before looking down at her feet. "I'm sure I'll probably break my leg trying to walk in these on the cobblestones." I looked down at her delicate, strappy, high-heeled shoes. "Don't worry Bella. I won't let you fall." "Thanks." Her smile was genuine. "But, you might want to start out with them fastened correctly," I suggested. I had noticed the thin strap around her left foot was not buckled properly. I knelt quickly in front of Bella and turned her ankle in my hand- securing the shoe for her. I let my hands linger on the soft skin above her shoe, trailing my eyes up her smooth calf to her hemline. In a moment, I felt Bella tentatively touch the top of my head. Afraid I had offended her, I slowly released her foot. But I didn't rise. I just closed my eyes at the sensation that Bella created when she began lightly brushing her fingers through my hair. I could have hummed with the pleasure that her simple touch evoked, and nearly did. I was quite literally, at her feet. When her hand stalled, I finally looked up at her. "Sorry," she whispered while looking down into my eyes. "Please- don't be," I implored. I didn't want her to be sorry, for anything. I didn't want her to have any regrets. It was one of the only reasons that prevented me from pulling her down against me and taking her mouth with mine. Alice said she had a vision of Bella asking me to kiss her. Surely I could wait for that invitation if it would mean that Bella would hate me less afterward. She might not consider me so selfish for taking what was freely offered. Shouldn't I wait for that opportunity? I would. I could wait. But still... My head turned at the sharp sound of a knock at the suite door. Bella sighed loudly. "Laundry service," I guessed as I stood. "They are probably returning our clean clothes." From the corner of my eye, I saw Bella finish her wine in two long gulps. I answered the summons at the door and placed our folded laundry on the table beside my car keys and the valet receipt until it could be re-packed later. "Are you ready to go?" Bella asked, with a polite though slightly distant-looking smile. "Yes," I grinned, trying to alleviate some of the tension I felt between us. I placed my hand on the small of her back as I guided her out the door. For a few more hours, I would take Alice's advice. I would try to relax. I would have fun. The night would be mine to make what I would of it.

"It's so beautiful. The stage lighting reflected upon the pools of moisture that had formed over Bella's beautiful chocolate-brown eyes. in turn. Curious. When an observant young man walked by and allowed his thoughts to consider Bella a little too intimately. she laughed. intrigued. I wished I could read her thoughts. Bella smiled.. Her mouth had formed a . She was a joy to watch. Bella gasped softly. though her attention was stolen from the stage and was fully on me. was entranced by her. I stared at the crystalline droplet for a moment before bringing it to my mouth and touching the salty liquid to the tip of my tongue. and enraptured. she shivered but nestled closer to me. motioning towards the renovated architectural adornment that helped to make the Opera House such a lovely venue. she mimicked the same posture by leaning against me and resting her cheek on my shoulder. I wanted to truly understand the emotional connection she felt to the music that caused this response in her. and my eyes flew guiltily to hers. scene Seven. Her cheeks were flushed pink and she was positively glowing under the soft theatre lights. I wrapped my arm around her waist possessively and sent him scurrying away with a dark look. unaware. Bella did not shift position until Act II. Back at our seats. When the lights dimmed. and leaned further into my side. Excited thoughts swirled around me. She did not move away. I admit. and I soaked up her enthusiasm. as I led the way to our balcony seats. adding my own comments about this particular performance. I took much greater delight in watching Bella's reaction to the performance." Bella smiled. She took a shuddering breath as one jewel-like tear tumbled past her lashes and drew a silver line down toward the corner of her mouth. she shuddered and she sighed. Bella leaned forward. I had seen the play before. I reached over and took Bella's hand in mine." The Phantom sang so plaintively. and I imagined Bella's internal tone to match those of the minds I could easily read. We strolled through the lobby during intermission. "Our games of make-believe are at an end. entranced by the performance on the stage. Bella talked animatedly about the performance thus far. I basked in the luxury of normalcy as I led Bella through the crowd of patrons who were also there to enjoy the evening's performance. I held one arm loosely around her. It was perfect. had I not been completely intrigued by watching Bella's emotions chase across her face. I put my finger out to gently capture the tear on her cheek. I kept my arm around her proudly. The Point of No Return was a song that would have drawn my attention as well.. She smiled.The distance to the theatre was a short ride by cab. pleased that she allowed me this near-embrace. The music and the story were familiar to me. When I let my fingers trace light designs on her shoulder. I. with my hand resting on her lower back. Her eyes still glistened with unshed tears.

I sat. She didn't stop at the restrooms." I wanted to say. I could hear the play's progression behind the closed doors that I passed as I followed Bella's scent down the richly carpeted stairs. My hesitation. In a second. Bella had left the theatre entirely. I felt a frown pull across my features as I pushed my way through the heavy glass doors. against any of my urges that might surface? We sat surrounded by a theatre of witnesses. Suddenly her scent became stronger to me. And then. had not gone un-noticed. I would take this moment for my own. to walk alone in a strange city at night! I walked quickly. I could hear her. Bella opened her eyes and blinked up at me. Would she ask me to kiss her? Would this be the invitation I had waited for? Or had I unintentionally changed the course of the path we were on? Perhaps Alice's original vision had been altered. I followed her trail straight through the lobby to the main doors. I would wait no more. I stood while the audience offered applause. however. My selfishness would finally win out. I parted my lips to speak. . The hallway was deserted. I was completely at a loss as to the protocol of how to handle the situation. I knew that she was near. our faces moved toward one another. breathing in short bursts to ensure that I was still moving in the right direction. Surely Bella would be safe here. and I looked at her mouth longingly. And then she gritted her teeth and stood abruptly. her brows lowered with an emotion that looked to be a mix of confusion and consternation. I closed my eyes and inhaled deeply. like magnets. She was angrily wiping tears away from her face with the back of her hand. I rounded the corner into a dark alley. Bella's long lashes fluttered down. and I was waiting for a request from Bella that would never come! I pressed my lips together with sudden determination. Then. "Wait. but frustrated by her irrational behavior. Maybe I should give her a few minutes and wait for her to return? By the end of the song. She avoided my eyes. and found Bella leaning with her back against the brick wall. my anxiety would allow me to wait no longer. but I was able to ascertain that she had turned right and was walking in the direction of our hotel. and I inhaled sharply. stunned. I had no idea what had just occurred that angered Bella enough to get up and leave in the middle of a musical number. She had no reason good enough for being so fool-hardy as to leave the safety of the theatre. She offered hushed apologies as she stepped over the legs of the people in the seats beside us. I was propelled forward with an urgent need to find her. I touched my lips with my tongue in anticipation and held my breath as I moved closer. and found her small black purse. I was willing the words to come. I could hear angrily hissed whispers and annoyed internal comments about rudeness and bad etiquette as Bella began making her way to the aisle. Her scent was diluted by the night air.pink "o" in surprise. My worry for her safety was tinged with annoyance for her reckless action. and followed her path to the balcony exit. But Bella had already moved her head and was looking around both sides of her.

was not like that. "Of course I care!" My voice had risen in volume."Bella. "You feel protective of me.." she shrugged her voice was bitter. Bella's startled gasp didn't stop me. rational thought left me completely. This. We were both breathing heavily as we faced off. . concern.. "What in the world were you thinking?" I was working hard to check the emotions that were threatening to run over. "Then what is it?" Bella threw her hands up in exasperation. Sometimes Bella and I would be sitting in a lovely spring meadow of flowers when we shared our first kiss. Bella's chest rose and fell harshly with her rapid breaths. At all.after we watched Sixteen Candles together. The black and white movie scenes in my mind had always played this situation out differently. Hell.. But my controlled façade was becoming difficult to maintain under the circumstances.. trying to find you? You can not just wander the city streets alone!" "Yeah. But every scenario that had played itself in my mind was always slow. "Why else would I be out here. Because when our bodies collided. This silly." I exclaimed with a loudly expelled. Like a friend. I pushed my hands into the back of her hair and fairly slammed her back against the brick wall.."Why did you leave?" I could hear that my voice sounded angry. "How can you not know how attracted I am to you? I've been doing my best to. Sometimes in my imagination. frustrating girl was being completely absurd. "My feelings for you are hardly fraternal. Confusion. I was briefly aware of being thankful that my hands cradled the back of her head so that it wouldn't be hurt when I shoved her against the wall. I get it. yeah. she would pull me toward her in her bedroom for that magical moment. And I wasn't going to wait for more of an invitation than that. irritation. I closed the gap between us with more speed than a normal person could manage. If anything. it encouraged me. gritting my teeth." I warned lowly.. and tender.. I approached her with caution and with care. "Are you not attracted to me at all?" "Have you gone mad?" I allowed my voice to get louder still. worry. like I'm your sister!" She spat the last word out as though it were dirty. be respectful and keep my hands off you since we got here! I don't even think I have the strength to stay away from you anymore!" "Then don't!" She yelled at me. I was completely befuddled by her harsh tone. "What do you care? Go away!" Bella sniffed angrily. And before either of us could be distracted or change our minds.. I even imagined the slow-motion kiss while we bent towards each other over a birthday cake. My hands clenched at my sides.

I couldn't control my emotions if I tried. Bella licked her puffy-lips . I could feel the distinct prickling sensation at the back of my mouth. Bella slipped her hands from my hair. but did not loosen her hold in my hair. I breathed my cool breath against her and she shivered. Bella gasped at the sharp contact. And then I finally crashed my mouth to hers. She didn't know that she was offering herself to a monster. and could taste the venom that was beginning to coat my teeth. the anxiety.. A soft growl started in my chest when Bella opened her mouth for me. all was replaced by this violent craving I had. But my need for her surpassed it all. and allowed me to trace the edge of her teeth with my tongue. The confusion. I love you. the worry. I proceeded to deepen our kiss. and I feasted on her mouth like a starving man. She sighed my name against my mouth and reached up to twist her fingers in my hair. The walls were down." And then my lips plundered hers again." I ground against her mouth.. That same voice started reminding me that I was no better than a thief. Brick by brick the wall came down. stealing this from Bella. I gave her the best excuse I had and prayed that she would someday find comfort in knowing how much it really meant to me. When her tongue darted out to meet mine. My male desires for this woman were stronger than any pull I felt towards the blood rushing through her veins. And I didn't want to give her a reason to push me away. We were both breathing heavily.. I could only hope to offer her every truth I could in the kiss. "I love you.With my hands in Bella's thick hair. leaving me shaken and exposed. A wave of pent-up longing and lust wrecked me the moment that our lips met. pulling me closer. "I love you. My thoughts had taken a very different turn when the worst thing I could imagine cut through the haze around me. Maybe now she would understand the desires that I had hoped to shelter her from. Though her scent still swirled around me and tempted me... I took advantage of her surprise and tasted her bottom lip. I was no longer able to contain my emotions.that I should take the moment and seal it away as a perfect memory to last me throughout time. Her response thrilled me and made me want more. I pressed one hand behind her on the wall to help myself remain upright. But Bella wasn't afraid. but only to grip the lapels of my jacket.. the raw sexual need I had for her was stronger still. I pulled my hands from her hair and gripped her hips roughly. I groaned against her mouth and shoved my hips against hers. But I didn't want to stop. I drug my lips from Bella with a groan and pressed my forehead to hers. I felt like laughing. sent flames burning down my throat. I angled her head up to the side to give myself better access to those lips that had haunted my waking dreams. A small voice inside my head began persistently telling me I'd had enough. Her soft lips moved under my onslaught and her hips rocked against mine. Her complete and utter surrender to me was my undoing. Because I still could not detect any venom in my mouth. No. But I pressed my eyes shut. Not for her blood. pulling her against my body.

But I needed to keep them away from Bella." said the third man. Why? Why was this happening? I thought for sure that my body's reaction toward Bella was more human in nature.. It was then that I realized we were not alone." They allowed me to retrieve my wallet. Rage that I was being denied what I wanted most. Anything they chose to brandish when facing me would be ineffective. I hope we aren't interrupting. the venom pooling in the back of my mouth." I said quietly. dark haired man on his side lewdly rubbed the front of his pants while he looked over my shoulder toward Bella. My first priority was to keep Bella safe. I reached my hand over my shoulder and she placed her purse into my palm without argument. Rage was the most dominant feeling coursing through my body abolishing the rest.. I would give them anything they wanted. I shifted to stand between them automatically." the tallest man sneered. "Well. My vampiric reaction was to the threat that these men offered. inhaling deeply to try to control myself. crouching low and putting my arms behind me." I stated distinctly. that's a pretty name.. "Shhh. Can you blame him?" The smaller." I mentioned while keeping my hands where they could see them. I wasn't sure what weapons the men carried. I spun quickly. But I would not let them believe for a moment that they intimidated me. hand me your purse. "My wallet is here. "Bella. But I could tell by the thoughts of the man in the lead that he was only pretending to have a gun in his pocket. "You are. and send them on their way. I could feel the muscles in my back tightening.trapping Bella within their confines as she still stood against the wall." the man laughed behind him toward his cohorts. I curled my lip. And rage. He was closing the distance on Bella's opposite side. . But I fisted my hands onto the wall above her head and turned my face away. "Take the money and go.and tilted her face to kiss me again. "Bella. "Look at her. of course. I summed up the danger of the situation and slowly rose to a standing position. I slid my feet closer to him on the sidewalk. And then I hissed quietly as three men walked toward us from the shadowy corner. Yet. It had nothing to do with Bella. "Pretty boy is pissed off that he's left with blue-balls." I warned. I held it forward and spoke calmly as I reached toward my inner pocket. well.. and I tossed it along with Bella's purse to the ground near the tallest man's feet. keeping my eye on the other two. "Edward? What is it?" Her voice sounded nervous.

He yelled in agony and grabbed his arm. I would enjoy their screams when I delivered the punishment they deserved for frightening Bella. Bella screamed again as the knife sliced through my jacket and my shirt. and wrapped his other hand around it when he dropped the knife with a curse. had I not been so completely incensed by the insult of his suggestion. she was still afraid for my safety. I curled my fingers into claws and felt a growl building up in my chest. while I still let you. the blade snapped and broke. "I'm fine. The same sweet mouth that had been offered to me just minutes before. I crouched there." I quietly warned. I saw then. It was too much. ok?" She sounded breathless. The first man hurried to pick up my wallet and Bella's purse before all three turned to run away." All three men laughed loudly. I turned my head. My defenses were completely down and I wanted nothing more than to give in to the violent urges to tear them apart piece by bloody piece. that she was not screaming because of any personal injury. I needed to get a grip. I was shaking and unstable."You should take me up on that offer.breaking his arm. I needed to control myself. trying to put her at ease. I laughed. fearing the worst. When his arm extended past my shoulder. A scared sob broke forth from Bella's lips that enraged me. She had seen what I had missed while dealing with the man who had tried to touch her. I twisted and grabbed his wrist before smashing the palm of my hand up and against his elbow.. stolen from me by these pigs. quickly. "What do you say. and for ruining the most important moment I'd ever had. quivering with the need to follow them. . The rage I felt. Her wide brown eyes stared wide open with shock and fear. "Pick up the money and go. compiled with my earlier lapse in emotional control.. But the hoarse sound sounded false to my ears. The man on my left had pulled a large switch blade knife from his jacket pocket and was swinging it in a wild arc in my direction." he smiled through yellowed teeth. "Fuck you!" Bella spat. Then the man made the mistake of lunging towards Bella. I cringed from the contact. After all she had witnessed. But she was unharmed. I would have smiled at her determined and feisty retort. When the knife met the impenetrable skin of my chest. "Are you. darlin? Want to come see how it feels to be with a real man?" The growl in my chest was growing slow and steadily into a snarl and I bared my teeth. Bella's scream pierced through the night and nearly rendered me immobile with terror. tripping backward in his haste." I promised. "That's all I'm askin. The man jarred his wrist on the impact. When Bella placed her hand on my shoulder.

But as she lifted her hand towards the broken edge." I lied. refusing to piece together the truth she must face. searching the ground at our feet. and I felt them crumpling to dust under the force of my grip. fighting herself. I lowered my head and looked at the ground. She shook her head violently. "You know. . I turned and faced the brick wall. The scent of her released blood slammed into me with a force that I could not fathom. I was so full of the desire to chase and torture and kill that I couldn't come up with something better to distract her from the evidence.. And then she stared in wonder at my unmarked skin beneath. to the large slash marks that clearly showed my skin beneath. "Oh!" she exclaimed as the red blood bubbled to the surface and blazed a red ribbon down her finger. holding my breath and squeezing my eyes shut to try to ignore the killing urge."How?" Bella sounded confused. I saw as she bent to pick up the broken knife.. "DON'T!" It was too late. more firmly. "You already know. "It. she roughly pulled the material away from itself with a fierce rip." she said again. Confusion turned to anger as she looked up at me." I insisted.. My feet were cemented in place as I struggled to root myself to the sidewalk and not chase after the bastards who had just fled. "HOW is this possible? I saw the knife cut you." Bella spoke firmly. "How? I saw the knife. Perhaps she wanted to see for herself. Without hesitation.. I yelled. And the blood-lust that overwhelmed me at that moment was more than I could bear. I looked up to see the stubborn refusal stamped across her features. "You know what I am. that it was real. How are you not hurt?" Fear laced her questions as she stood there. My fingers clawed into the wall as if it could anchor me there and keep me from attacking her. "How?" She asked again." My voice was quiet. She moved around me." "No. must have been a fake knife. The bricks were not sturdy enough. I couldn't do it any longer. Bella cut her finger against the sharp broken blade." Her eyes darted down the front of my jacket. My defenses were down. shaking it back and forth in denial of what I was about to do. begging for understanding. "No. My admission was tortured.. Bella frowned at my weak attempt and brought her fingers up to the gash in my shirt. I felt broken. I was weakened by trying to control my urges already. And then she put her head down. "What are you doing?" I asked. It wasn't even a good lie..

Unforgivable. while I could still keep myself from diving onto her throat and drinking every delicious drop of the blood that filled my senses like no other. I squeezed my eyes shut tight against the painful memory.in its wake.when I saw the terror in her eyes. I had nearly given in to my temptation for Bella's blood. And then.for taking advantage of her naiveté and giving her such a graphic insight to who I really was.resentment. I needed her to go before I hurt her. I had never hated myself more. the thugs that destroyed the evening for Bella and I.that she finally understood the monster I had been hiding within. and left its bitter sibling. far and fast. It tortured me to know that I had been forced to send Bella running into dark city streets that were unfamiliar and unsafe. I had been barely able to suppress the myriad of emotions that had taken me by storm.. I closed my eyes to force away the image of the raw fear that flashed across her face. and to understand the very real situation between us. Theatre patrons were leaving. And it tortured me more to know. It soaked through me. Bella ran. I didn't know who to be more angry with.crouched in the dark like the animal I was. I wrapped my arms around my knees and tried to shrink into the dark shadows of the alley. walking noisily past me. Busy pieces of conversation and laughter floated past where I remained hidden from their humanity. washing away Bella's scent.. 38. clenching the rubble of ruined brick in my fists as the sounds of her footfall faded into the city noises. that any danger she might encounter would be better than the danger she faced had she stayed with me. She had recognized it for what it was.. I needed her to take me seriously.. It would be her nature to come to me. The cold wetness showered over me. I knew. or myself. So I turned and glared in her direction. And I had come close. facing away from her. Time Time meant nothing. Umbrellas opened as it began to rain. rinsing clean the rage. in the worst possible scenario." I growled. like the sound of my salvation. I could hear her hesitation. would have been to actually rip the throats from our would-be attackers with my teeth. to reach out for me and to try to comfort me. . I stood there. I heard her heels clicking on the pavement as she did as I demanded. And in my instability. as the rain soaked through my ruined clothing and chased away the lingering scent of the girl who ran away. I needed her to run. Then I finally slumped down upon myself. The only thing I could have done to be more horrific in that situation."Leave me. She had seen the hunger on my face. "LEAVE ME!" The growl tore through my teeth and my chest heaved as I yelled my anguished warning to her.

She might have been terrified of me. but it was weak. Fear. She didn't answer. and then I would go... The well-lit room greeted me with silence. I didn't know if she was safe. toward the bathroom door. and landed on the empty space on the carpet near the closet where her suitcase had once rested. slowing only when I detected pedestrians that were out late and might have noticed my passing. I turned then. Bella had returned. When I got near the hotel. The room was in no more disarray than it had been earlier. I walked toward the master bedroom and knocked quietly against the partially open door. But Bella wasn't there.breathless from laughing? The card-key for our door had been in my stolen wallet. never forgive myself if something happened to her because of me. I was sure that the lights had been turned off when we left for the evening. My destroyed suit dripped water onto the floor. wearing obnoxious red-jackets.and I had no idea where Bella was. and hurried back through the rest of the suite. my feet picking up the pace as panic started to set in. and my wet hair hug heavy across my forehead as I kept my eyes trained downward. My eyes darted across the unmade bed. I sniffed the air warily. and I silently prayed that she had made it to the hotel unscathed. the bracelet that had rested near the lamp. I twisted the metal doorknob in my grasp and shoved the wood above it with the heel of my handhearing the internal locking mechanism break as the door pushed inward. A clock hanging above a corner-bank indicated that it was almost midnight -the witching hour. I was uncomfortably aware of a more persistent emotion swirling in the mist around me. I would never. I had sent her running into the night. Bella's scent permeated the area. I flashed through the city when I could.. They didn't even seem to notice as my wet clothing brushed up against them.But as I slowly stood. I stepped into the suite. did not deter me. "Bella?" I called. The miserably slow pace made me clench my jaw tightly as I moved forward. The book that had been left on the sofa cushion. Only a few hotel staff members took notice. Had it only been this afternoon that we had traveled this route together. Cautiously. The lock. however. She might have hated me. So I pushed the door open with my fingertips. I needed to know if Bella had returned. Finally I made it to the lobby. I began walking. A late-night group from the convention inside stood drunkenly continuing their party.wet from our walk in the rain. glancing left and right. I tried to ignore their inner curiosity about my appearance.. even the laundry I had placed on the table . Thoughts of concern and pity were predominant. I didn't know if she was hurt. I took a deep breath of relief. repressing the urge to shove a few of them out of my way in my haste to get into the hotel. I scowled and moved between their bodies. concentrating instead on the ghost-sound of Bella's wet tennis-shoes squishing along beside me with footsteps that matched mine. I'd make sure she was safe. It was gone. I was forced to assume a human gait that set my nerves on edge. My eyes took in the details I had missed in my eagerness to find Bella safe in our room.

earlier was devoid of Bella's items. And next to it. Bella must have driven quickly. staring at her window with my hands clenched at my sides. I dropped my head and turned to go. I could have wallowed in that misery for an indefinite amount of time. Guilt kept my feet on the ground. The hood of my car was cool to the touch. She didn't want to see me. I pushed myself. itching to pull myself up and push that glass out of my way. with a heavy sigh. Feeling remorseful for the liberty I was still not above taking. However. or burn them for all I cared. That fact was obvious. Tension left my body as I absorbed the fact that she had made it home. None of it mattered. or she had quite the head-start. because my silver Volvo was parked in front of her apartment building. Bella didn't want to see me. I walked away from everything. safely. She had been in a hurry. I walked around the corner of her building and looked up toward her window. at all. harder and faster. But I still wanted to see her. indicating that she had been home for a while. They could box up my possessions and mail them back to me. my car keys and valet ticket were gone as well. It was a significant clue that she didn't want me knocking on her door to retrieve my keys. Finally. I slid my back down the wall until my legs were sprawled out on the floor in front of me. as I ran back home to Bella. the moonlight glinted off the keys that were still hanging in the ignition. She was anxious enough to be away from me. She didn't sit around the suite waiting for me to return. As I passed the side of the car. It was closed. . I actually returned to Hanover in less time than it would have taken an average traveler by car. Bella didn't care if someone stole my vehicle from its place by the curb. I ran through side-streets and back yards of slumbering residential areas until I reached the city limits. Bella had been in the room alright. that she had stolen my car. What had I done? I put my face into my hands and cursed every wrong decision I had made to bring me to this fate. I left the hotel. It was disappointing that I couldn't find my usual peace while I soared through the darkness. But I wouldn't be at peace until I saw that she was truly safe. The room charges and fees for the broken lock could be placed on my credit card. with only one goal in mind.long enough for her to get her things and leave. Then wooded areas allowed me to open up my body to the speed it was capable of. I am not sure how long I stood there. I still needed to see her with my own eyes.

Now. I frowned. Bella's scent was in my car now. the music had died once more. as it threw my shadow upon the piano in front of me that I refused to touch. I almost wanted to throw the fucking thing through the wall. I reluctantly withdrew myself from the engulfing fragrance and walked into the house. I twisted my lips into a sneer as I looked at the piano. I sat there. and I huddled inside its sanctuary. When Carlisle had suggested that he and Esme would ship the piano to my home. I had let the music pour out onto paper. Bella wouldn't have heard it from inside. My lips pressed together hard. Something was different.My car started with a low-hum. I tossed my keys onto the counter and moved stonily through the rooms until I located the reason for their visit. Thank God they hadn't stayed. and force me out of the shell I had constructed to keep me numb. Then I turned the wheel away from the curb and drove home. I leaned my head against the headrest and breathed deeply.or that it was stolen. My piano adorned the great open area reserved for a dining room. FRIDAY SATURDAY SUNDAY MONDAY The rising and setting sun indicated the passage of days. I didn't blink. Instead of retreating from the room. I had lost all inspiration to create music. I hadn't played a note on the thing since I had moved from Forks. She would assume that either I retrieved my car. I felt the burn. It was useless to me. And I didn't move. I had actually been happy to accept the idea. I knew that just one sound would break me. With my head bowed over the keys. The silence wrapped around me like a blanket. I walked to the bench and sat down. I would have given anything to be able to sit and play the melody that had woven itself through my mind as I thought of Bella.only after she noticed it missing. to surprise me. Wednesday morning. and held it in my lungs as though I could keep a part of her with me. . with the hopes of hearing it someday soon.. Instead. My nose twitched as I narrowed my eyes and looked around. I stared at the simple black and white lines before me until they blurred together in a static-image that meant nothing at all. and bathed it in a blue glow. After parking the car in the garage. I didn't want to see anyone.with her gone.. Alice and Jasper had been in my house while I was gone. Jasper and Alice must have moved it in place while I was away. Moonlight spilled in through the arched windows. I didn't breathe.

I was so wrapped in my latest vision of her laying on the piano above me.Bella had come to visit me while I sat there. "I'd say you did quite well." I cut her off sharply. "I didn't see what would happen until Bella left the theatre in such a hurry. that I cringed at the unexpected sound that broke the solitude from near the door. It changed everything. My immortal Bella. my imagination gave her no voice. ending her explanation. Edward. luminescent skin. you didn't. She flitted across the room and began to open the windows behind me. "You aren't responsible for any of this." "Yes. You look like hell." she continued.the Bella of my darkest fantasies. gossamer gown was only slightly lighter than her pale." "Oh really?" I looked back up at her then. Bella made it home safely." Alice said with a determined voice. My voice was raspy from lack of use." Alice remained determinedly optimistic. It was the first time I had moved in days. me. "Do you hate me?" Alice sounded worried as she stepped into the room and moved closer to me. The fact that the words were not uttered out loud did not alter their impact." I closed my eyes wearily. That was your primary concern. I had to move slightly. "You can hardly be blamed for the direction things went. golden ochre that matched my own. "Thanks." "I don't want the praise. I could see myself through her eyes. It's all. . I don't even think Carlisle..." Alice insisted. I winced and looked up to see Alice step into the room. The chocolate-brown color of her eyes was replaced by a warm.. tempting me to feel the pain of imagining a future that I would never have.I have no idea how you have so much self-control." "But. A strong breeze blew the curtains inward. that's not true." I muttered." "Well.. to give her room. And there was no time for Jasper or I. She finally moved to sit beside me on the piano bench. "You did the best you could. And to be honest. "I am not going to let you beat yourself up over this. But because my mind craved the silence. She danced around the room gracefully... "I could have killed her. and had to agree with her assessment. Her white." I couldn't argue with that part of her logic. Jesus. and they floated up and against the sides of my arms. "Under the circumstances. my face twisted with self-derision. Not the Bella that had left me. a frown on her face as she took in my appearance.

"Tell him I will. I saw him in a vision. Alice recognized it and made an apologetic face. the moment I saw him. I leaned into Alice's touch when she gently began stroking the back of my hair. "Let's leave the vampire-stuff out of this." "I knew Jasper was the one for me. But I quickly stopped their descent by placing my fingers on her wrist. You two are supposed to be together." I sighed in agreement." "What's your point?" "What I'm trying to say is.. "It doesn't matter." I put my head back down. "No.." she continued.. and I hadn't seen him coming. singer or not. human or vampire." she sighed. "Please don't." "I think you are wrong. But if he happened to walk into the same café where we met. "Sure. raising her hand to smooth down my rumpled lapel. "Jasper was threatening to come drag you out. "You can't stay hidden out in here forever.." Alice raised her finger to trace the shadows I knew she saw under my eyes. "I just can't stand his brand of help today." Alice looked down at the keyboard and raised her dainty hands above it." I said quietly. I tipped my head down and looked at the soiled and torn clothing I still wore.. "You'll have reason to play again." Alice suggested.. But I really have a strong feeling about this Edward." . "How do you know? Have you seen something?" I hated the note of hope that escaped in my voice. You need a shower. I still would have known.. "I wish. You should change your clothes. "Soon. for now. Edward." Alice gave me a small smile. she suggested in her thoughts.Alice turned her head and frowned again." I shook my head." "You'll need to hunt soon." I didn't want to seem unappreciative of their concern." "Ok. Soon.." she retorted. "At least." I implored. I think Bella is the one for you. I haven't seen anything concrete. I don't think Bella has made her mind up about anything yet." she reminded me lightly. "You looked so handsome in this suit.. She's all over the place.. "Keep him away.

thinking about everything she had said.. I refused to even consider it. But I would never be far away." I whispered." Alice jerked her tiny chin up and down with a satisfied nod then stood to leave. I would make myself invisible to her. "Should I leave?" A soft voice spoke from the doorway. "Exactly. Only noise. "I'll try to keep Jasper occupied. the way her lips felt beneath mine." I gave her a half-grin and Alice's answering smile lit the room.. Not Jasper. Leaving was not an option." I inhaled and closed my eyes."Fate. my first concern was for Bella's safety. over anything. But in doing so. There was no joy. It had been years.. I would not interfere. I swallowed hard against the pain that threatened to come to the surface. I would watch her make a new life for herself. I sat there after Alice had gone." she grinned. If that was what Bella needed.. but I couldn't change a damn thing. But that idea was as fleeting as the mirage of the girl who sat beside me. get married and have babies. I hit the keys hard with my hands in one last burst of aggravation. The way her nose wrinkled when she laughed.I had sent her running from me in fear. I tested a few chords and then sighed heavily and slumped forward." Alice laughed and left me alone once more. Throughout it all... and then paused as I heard my front door open and close. There was truth in her message. I almost thought I might be able to enjoy playing. but she was unharmed.. "But I can't make any promises. to cherish and to replay in my mind. "Play for me.. The immortal Bella sat beside me on the space left vacant by Alice. Edward.. Yes." "Then he needs to give me some time. "Beer and porno-magazines aren't going to fix things this time. With her newly delivered bell-choir voice.. It was an ugly set of compromises. the way her cheeks flushed. but my fingers remembered their way home." I muttered.. loudly. "I am really not in the mood for this!" I yelled out. she spoke softly across my cheek. "I am not going to tell him that you said that! He will be convinced that you have lost your mind. finally lifting my hands to the piano keys. You know he just wants to see you happy. I had protected her. If Bella wanted all evidence of me removed from her life. well. I would always have the memories of the time that we spent together.. . find love. She now knew me as a monster. I guessed Jasper wasn't so easily deterred.

. smooth top of the piano.because she was real. "Bella. going to need you. The Truth The steady breeze behind me pushed forward on my shoulders and ruffled my unkempt hair. to just stay over there. and I held myself completely motionless as she requested. Her heart beat had picked up a faster tempo." Bella spoke clearly." I winced at the precaution that she felt it necessary to take. In a vast contrast to the Bella that my mind had conjured to keep me company in my despair." Bella's shoulders relaxed and she took a deep breath. she stepped forward again.. "I promise I won't hurt you." I breathed. Placing the flat of my hands against the cool.. When she noticed my acquiescence. "Would it matter if I did promise?" I asked." "Thank you. I rose to stand. as if she were trying to make sure that her answer would be true. and tried to put as much sincerity behind my words as possible. I stared for a long moment.39." she finally nodded. and her voice sounded more sure. But the figure in front of me remained solid and true. She watched me cautiously through red-rimmed eyes. The sheer gossamer gown and flowing tresses were replaced by a baggy jeans. though her shaky hand gave away her nervousness. this very human girl looked disheveled and tired. I moved my hands to my lap and quietly watched her. I will believe you. a sweatshirt. "I'm not going to hurt you Bella. "If you give me your word.. My mind didn't have to create her. waiting for this newest apparition to fade away like the other." I replied quickly. My movement startled her." I said softly. and an untidy ponytail. "Yes. I stared into her eyes. and she took a step back while raising her palm up in my direction. "Can you promise?" Bella asked. trying to find a glimmer of the faith that she seemed to want to place in me.. She paused for a moment. "You should know that I told at least three different people that I was coming to see you today. She had come to me. I nodded and slowly sank back down to sit on my piano bench.. "I'm. of her own will. "Stop." Bella instructed. So if I don't make it back home. Somehow her state of disorder made her the more beautiful figure of the two.. keeping her scent at bay." "Then I promise.

" I said quietly. "Bella? Look at me. "I am the same person. I hated knowing that the truth was such a painful thing for her to process and accept. "Yes. I'm still me. and its proximity to where I sat at the piano. I looked at the way that she awkwardly stood in the doorway. She seemed to be judging the distance from the chair to the door. I thought I was.." . "Why did you come here?" I had to ask. "And. I couldn't believe this girl was brave enough to walk into my home." Bella shook her head. "No thanks... if it would earn me more time in her presence. "It's just. "Vampire?" I supplied the word for her." I implored." "You're right." I said distinctly.. You just know more about me now." I tried to keep my expression relaxed while I waited for her to begin her questioning. My chest felt tight. "Would you like to sit?" Bella glanced at the chair with a frown on her face. I sighed. or insanity...a. Bella leaned her shoulder against the door frame as if she suddenly needed more support to stand... You do. I would tell her anything she wanted to know.. "I'd rather stand. Finally. I watched her eyes blink rapidly in nervous embarrassment as I confirmed the conclusion that her mind had tried to write off as imagination. before tilting my head toward the chair in the corner of the room. "Are you scared?" "Hell yes. I broke it. "I'm sorry." I agreed. But she was matching my truthfulness with her own." she continued quickly. She slowly raised her head until her sad eyes met mine. I'm scared!" She didn't like admitting it. "I needed to make sure that you were alright. Her lower lip trembled slightly as she dropped her eyes to the floor. Bella shoved her hands into the center pocket of her sweatshirt and shifted her weight from side to side. And I was. "Is it true.. a. but I could hear her clearly." Her cheeks blushed crimson and she seemed unable to say the word out loud..Silence hung between us as we intently looked at one another. actively seeking me out." "As you wish. "I didn't want to. then? Are you." Bella admitted quietly. so there would be absolutely no confusion. "I think I deserve some answers." She struggled for her words as her head rocked from side to side." she was whispering.

" "Yes. I couldn't tell you. "My parents had already succumbed to the illness. and you're Jewish." Bella nodded." I said it again. "When?" She looked up again. a. It still sounded harsh and bitter.." I informed her..' is a pick-up line you would have much success with. . Edward. and I was thankful for that."God Edward!" Bella half-groaned and half-laughed and it just sounded strangled..." "I know. "You are supposed to be a movie character. She nodded." "Vampire." "So." "Wow." I put my head down." I watched as the disbelief on her face was replaced by acceptance. means more than you can know. folk lore..." I offered.. "I was seventeen years old." "The fact that you are here.. he's like you?" "Yes. legend." "I am sorry. "It's not like I'm Catholic.. This is a pretty big deal. "It's a lot to take in.. at all.. but no air accompanied it.all hope dashed away by her bitter words." "I don't suppose 'Hi. "To be honest. he gave me this life... I squeezed my eyes shut and bowed my head." Bella murmured. She begged him to save me. He couldn't heal my mortal body." Bella gnawed at her lower lip while she contemplated me.. keeping the word from her tongue." Bella laughed. Carlisle is a.. So. "And you are here.. "Yes." "I was dying of the Spanish Influenza." "Yet.. "But it helps to know that I haven't lost my mind." I disclosed. My whole family is. I just don't know what to do with that. Thank you. but I could tell she was trying to lighten the situation. "Can you tell me how that is? How did you become. "When did this happen?" "Nineteen-eighteen.here I sit." I looked up to watch her face. "Yes. I could tell she was doing the math in her head.. Carlisle acted on a dying wish of my Mother's." Bella's mouth formed the word. "You aren't supposed to be real. Here you sit. I'm immortal." Bella continued.

" "I can understand. "My family and I hunt animals for nourishment. "But there were too many emotions to hold at bay. I needed to keep her talking.." I stated.. "Bella? I promised. It goes against our true nature. so I could understand what was going on in her mind. "From animals.. Right now. I wasn't sure if she wanted to be reminded of our intimacy. "Maybe that is why I didn't recognize you right away. Her lip curled as she tested her ability to say the fact out loud.. I don't want to be a monster. And then those men showed up." "I'm thirsty."I was afraid.. "For a while. And I was so angry that they interrupted us. A small line formed between her eyebrows while she looked deeply into my eyes." Bella said quietly." "Until..." I watched from under my lashes as she cringed. My eye color changes when I'm thirsty." Her feet tentatively moved a couple of steps further into the room. She needed to hear the truth." "You drink blood. I . You're safe with me. I looked up again." "Your true nature is to..." She shook her head at the memory.. as she stared into my eyes. drink from humans?" "Yes. I just remembered the first day I saw you in Forks. Her cheeks were flushed again. as harsh as it might be." "In Boston." She didn't make it a question. But we choose to live this way. from the corner of my eye.. "I was livid that they threatened you. they are black again. "What?" I finally asked.. am just trying to explain the difference." "I am usually much better at controlling myself. I always thought of you as the boy with the black eyes. when I met you again here? Your eyes have always been. I heard her heart-beat begin to race and she looked alarmed. My very worst characteristics came out." . I was worried sick when you left the theatre." Bella seemed to suddenly notice that she had moved." I dropped my eyes. "But then. "I don't want to hurt anyone." I watched her again." I swore." "You were trying to protect me. "I was thinking. golden. I can't believe I forgot that. and hastily retreated back to her haven in the door way." "I was. I cut my finger. as she contemplated my face from where she stood." I hurried to add. "But I haven't had human blood in over eighty-years. I've never seen your eyes so dark. actually.

" . If I hadn't been so selfish." I said. if you wanted to." I kept my head down. Silent tears were tracking down her cheeks.I squeezed my eyes shut tight." "Then how were you able to stay this time?" Her voice was laced with curiosity. I didn't want to see the fear on her face again." "But I did. "Bella.." I heard her gasp from her place near the door. To. it because I was bleeding? Is that why the scent was so much stronger?" "Partly. I needed to leave for your safety. I didn't want to remember the scent of her blood or the horrible reaction I had to it.. "Was. "Bella? I am so sorry. "Am I. I didn't realize I had spoken the last sentiment out loud. She just stood where she was.." I was beginning to hate the word. "I have spent the last three years." It was the worst thing to admit.. Her heart beat thrummed wildly." "You have had so many chances to hurt me.. "Because of me?" "I didn't want to hurt you. monstrous urge I felt. mentally preparing myself for the chance that I might be so tempted again.. I could have killed you Bella. "And the scent of your blood. She needed to know the real situation between us.. After this news. I listened for her footsteps to carry her away. I never expected the original source of that temptation to cross my path. I let her deal with the new information without my intrusive stare. "When you sat next to me in biology that first day." I whispered..than anything I've had to resist before. your singer?" "I have never known a stronger desire for human blood. "I was already barely in control of myself. was more than I could take.. kill me. but the most important truth for her to hear. And I was so weak in that moment. even contained. When I hazarded a glance in her direction again. And then. in all my life. I was barely able to keep myself from giving in to every disgusting. I needed you to leave before I hurt you. It's unlike anything I've ever experienced. It's so much stronger to me.." I concurred. I would have gone away again and kept her from this pain.. But she didn't move.I got to know you... "Is this like the thing I read about in that book?" Bella asked meekly." "I was determined to be stronger.to not be weak again. I could see that her eyes were closed. Of course.. as well as to protect my family's secret. 'Sorry' wasn't even close to describing the deep remorse I felt for her having to go through any of this.. I needed you to help me... "That's why you left Forks?" Bella finally asked. I couldn't look up. she would surely decide to banish me from her life completely. your scent is a strong pull to me. But you haven't.

. It was more than I could have hoped for. instead of years." Bella said softly. at least. Her soft. It wasn't even a question." I said.. Bella had not shut me out of her life. "Yes. I turned my head and looked at her once more. I closed my eyes and let music be born under my fingers. In that simple suggestion. Bella was not asking me to stay away from her." Bella didn't respond in any way that I could read. trying to contain the pleasure her words brought me. and deeply regretful for taking a gift so blindly given. before. "I'll be there." She faced away from me while she made the statement."You have to believe. She was inviting me. I love you. willingly." her cheeks turned bright red.. The keys in front of me suddenly seemed to beckon my hands forward. With a newfound peace. "I need to ask you one more thing. I was both madly elated at her response. I twisted my fingers in my lap and looked down at them. "I meant it. and her tongue danced deliciously against mine. sweet lips were opened to my hungry kiss. and her heartbeat slowed to a more normal pace. After everything I had disclosed. and in my recollection of the moment she asked me about. "Did you mean what you said when you kissed me?" For an instant. after three steps. I had every answer I needed.a nocturne by Chopin.. I complied. I offered the only excuse I had for my behavior. "I couldn't live with myself if I caused you harm. 'I love you. A favorite of mine.flowed effortlessly as though I had played it by memorization only days. she really believed in my good intentions toward her. I exhaled loudly." I offered her sincerely. as .." "I do believe you. waiting for my answer. Bella was pressed between my body and the wall.. However. When I heard the quiet click of the front door closing. I got lost in the depths of her eyes. and she took a deep breath. Finally she turned on her heel and began to walk away. It was wonderful and freeing. and finally love. cradling me and carrying me to a comforting place of hope and optimism. She bit her lip and considered me for a moment. Her cheeks cooled. "I need you to tell me.." Bella said quietly. I felt the music surround me. "So. I felt my lips twitch up in a smile. and hoped for." Bella stood before me.and these might be the last words she would ever hear me speak. She was about to leave. to continue our casual public contact. she stopped to speak once more. but her gaze did not waver. before I go. Her hands were fisted into my hair." I pleaded.. She blinked. I wouldn't taint them with a lie. For the first time in days. groaning against her mouth. I'll see you in class tomorrow night.

Under the spray of the hot shower. Finding no desire to continue with the unsatisfying animal.. and to my reaction to her scent.had indeed re-introduced me to the music I always found such pleasure in playing. When the song changed again. and I recognized the newer strains of the music my mind had only recently begun to create. even the substitute nourishment to which I had grown accustomed was not satisfying me that evening. but soon stilled as I pulled his life-force through the gaping hole I had created in his throat. I found a small herd of deer easily.the size of their group making their scent thick in the air. and painted the foliage around me with hues of pink and red. and would remind me too much of the relationship that had. listening and smelling. Deciding to hunt first. and unfortunately. and then turned to run back home. I pushed it roughly away from me and ran further toward the mountains. unappetizing. The next time she saw me. I would have to grow comfortable with knowing that my own love story would never match the one of Esme and Carlisle. I forced myself to drain the bear before walking away and leaning against a tree. But I was obviously incorrect in assuming that the stag I had captured was sick. But she was allowing me to remain. Their song was of eternal love and interconnected souls. Yethappiness was mine to hold if I chose to do so. That much was certain. I knew that. . The setting sun peeked rosily between the parting clouds. I wasn't sure to what extent she would allow me to remain in her life.and I made a meal of the largest buck in their midst. I felt my body warm from both the water and my thoughts of the girl that I loved. I needed to shower. Bella was giving me that.the nocturne slowed and changed to a piece that I had composed for Esme and Carlisle.. I pushed away from the piano and briefly considered my options.. watery. I was left with the same disappointed response to its blood. It would probably be the same effect to a human. A black bear met with the same fate. I frowned. I pushed my patio door open and tore into a running pace toward the forest. worrying about the reason.unappealing. That was enough. I shook my head. Bella had noticed the black color of my eyes. The bear was just the same. I needed to satisfy the hunger that gnawed inside me. seemed attainable to me. I had a sinking suspicion that it had to do with Bella. the blood tasted wrong. The fresh spring growth absorbed the reflected light from my skin as I ran through the underbrush.shipping the piano to me. searching for sustenance. at the time. and her blood. Esme always loved when I played it.. It was too soon. where larger prey waited. For some reason.. She would be happy to know that their gift. I lifted my head before the creature was entirely depleted and wondered if the deer was diseased in some way. Weak. and then given only weak broth to enjoy instead. I also needed to hunt. they would be gold again.. If I planned to go to class. I wasn't ready to play the song that I had composed for Bella. He kicked violently under my initial attack. The blood of animals had always been a poor substitute for human blood.as if they had been tempted with the sight and smells of wonderful roasted meat... I deliberately halted the motion of my hands.

she thought. "How was your Spring Break?" My eyes darted to Bella. I wanted her to know that I appreciated her attempts to trust me. I wrinkled my nose a little as I tried to ignore the intimate details that flitted around her mind. They had not left the typical seat between them open for me. She probably knew that. Their trip away seemed to bring them even closer together as a couple. I only had one plan in mind. trying to distract her. She smiled again and began sharing details of the slopes. to follow Bella's lead. I put my head down and began to make my way up the stairs. "We had a lot of fun at the museum. I had been right. Just like that. My gratitude was extended toward far more than just the saved seat.. but didn't attempt to join the conversation. I didn't let my eyes linger for long. She and Brad had spent most of their time indoors. Instead. she lifted the bag and placed it on the floor. Brad hurried from where he had been standing while talking to friends. She looked wind-burnt and happy. "How was yours?" I asked. Bella looked up toward me and moved her hand to the bag that rested on the seat to her left. and to try to keep things normal between us. and the lodge. 40. I wanted to do everything possible to lessen her anxiety and make sure that she didn't regret her decision. But as I passed the row in which they sat. Bella noticed my reaction from the corner of her eye. a small motion caught my attention to the side. I sighed heavily with relief and lowered myself into the chair.I could survive on weak broth. and sat in the seat at Katrina's side as the lecture began. As I saw Bella and Katrina sitting side by side in our usual seats. I'ts not easy being green When I walked into class on Tuesday evening. ." I breathed. she didn't even lower her book until the professor took his place at the front of the room. she had invited me to sit in the seat beside her.. that Bella hadn't said much. for being able to remain in Bella's life. She trained her eyes back on her book and nodded her head. I watched as he threw an arm casually over the back of her chair." I mumbled. I had no idea what Bella had told her. It would be a small price to pay. Maybe he'll give up more details than Little-Miss-I-Don't-Kiss-AndTell. "Thanks. It worked. With a small smile. Katrina's frown matched her inward disappointment. I tried not to frown. I could tell by the timbre of her thoughts. who was doing a good job of at least pretending to be absorbed in her book. and kissed her temple before they started writing notes on each other's notebooks and whispering quietly back and forth. They looked like two people in love. In fact. "Hey Eddie!" Katrina leaned forward to greet me over Bella's desk. Finally.at least on the surface.

I frowned and glared forward. . Bella frowned and picked up her book again. Katrina and I stood at the same time. I wouldn't have come to class at all if Bella hadn't indicated that she would see me here." "Sorry baby. I threw my arm over Katrina's shoulder and raised my eyebrow up toward Bella. "I'm not thirsty. I felt bad for over-reacting. it started to bother me." Brad shrugged and kissed her on the cheek. "I'm sorry.." I gave her my best smile and was rewarded when she squealed and wrapped her arm around my waist.. and let Katrina turn us toward the stairs. going to stay here. Anyone else?" Katrina looked hopefully towards the three of us.. "I am getting a drink. Yet she kept stealing surreptitious glances in my direction that made me feel as though I were under a microscope. Bella looked up and I felt a little smug when I noticed the surprised look on her face. The more I considered it. something to help me release some of the pent up irritation I had begun to feel. I couldn't be certain what she was thinking. but it seemed as though she was watching and waiting for me to jump out of my seat and turn into a bat or something equally as ridiculous. though it hurt just the same. Finally. daring her to protest my casual contact with her roommate.. the more annoyed I became. She said she trusted that I wouldn't hurt her. "I knew someone loved me. I moved my hand towards her arm as I apologized. It was understandable." He turned to meet up with his friend at the front of the room. "What?" I finally turned towards her and mouthed the word silently. It was plain to see that she didn't trust me. wishing he would just dismiss us for break so that I could get up and move. "Dan and I are going to see if the projects are graded. I took notes and tried to relax. But the cute-couple theatrics of the people sitting on the other side of Bella. combined with her obvious discomfort around me was setting my nerves on edge. For a while. and looked down at her paper again.. and Bella shifted away from me quickly.who sat stiffly side by side in our seats. and Bella and I. my face showing my frustration. we were excused from class for our break. "Nothing!" Bella blushed at being caught staring.. "But I'd be glad to walk with you." I sent a pointed glance down at Bella. still watching Bella. I understood her trepidation. "I'm." I whispered. But she was the one that had invited me to sit beside her. Then after a while." Katrina teased. Katrina pouted and I took advantage of the opportunity. She didn't want me to touch her. but I noticed each and every time that Bella peeked at me from the corner of her eye. Katrina and the Waves. She thought she was hiding behind her hair. I ground my teeth together and stared at the professor. I laughed lightly. I promised Bella that she was safe. I let her believe that her attention was going unnoticed.It was a glaringly distinct difference between the two of them.

stopping her in mid-sentence. "Tell me more about your trip. "Excuse me. "I do want a drink after all. I'm coming too. I immediately took another chair from the table and turned it so that I could straddle it in front of her. and sat in front of her again. My eyes flew from the blonde on my right to Bella. When Katrina got her drink. it seemed. Katrina paused her story telling and finally looked up at Bella's stony countenance before frowning and wondering at the cause. It wasn't working. Jeez Bella. I strode over to where Bella stood." I encouraged." Katrina's teasing thoughts turned more somber when she sighed and slid out from under my arm. was to go back to square one. . muttering under her breath while glaring at the coke machine. I smiled a little more.this time moving my chair closer to her so that one of my knees touched hers. I walked back to Katrina without saying a word. to no disastrous results. What in the hell is her problem tonight? Katrina sipped her drink and Bella cleared her throat loudly during the break in our conversation. "I'm sorry. We were only playing. Bella might relax and follow. You were saying?" I smiled when she continued her story." I grinned at Katrina. If anything. She cursed under her breath as it spit the soft paper back out in her direction. I was totally aware of Bella. If I could engage Katrina in comfortable conversation. With drink in hand. Bella chewed on her bottom lip and kept her expressive eyes trained away from me. who had pointed her chin downward and was frowning at the floor while she walked on my left. I only suggested it because I knew it was a subject that would likely keep Katrina gushing for the next several minutes that I needed to portrait myself as friendly and non-threatening. frowning and trying unsuccessfully to shove a wrinkled bill into the money-feed on the front of the vending machine. I even reached out and touched Katrina's knee briefly with my finger tips while I asked her to elaborate on a funny story about being on the ski lift. she sat in a chair. she stood. I looked her in the eye. Bella walked over to us. and nodded. and I reached over her shoulder with a bill from my own wallet. and pretended to listen while smiling and being as polite as possible. I didn't care about her trip in the slightest. by joining us. I fisted my hands in my pockets and walked between them. She didn't bother to pull up a chair."Wait!" Bella shoved her book into her bag. but Bella didn't turn. I just tried like mad to figure out a way to make her relax and see that I was the same person she had walked to this lounge with on many different occasions. My best bet. she leaned the back of her legs against the table and watched our exchange with the same scowl on her face. Bella seemed to be growing even more agitated by my nearness to her roommate. I resisted looking up at her. Instead. An uncomfortable silence fell between the three of us as we made our way to the vending machines. laughed a little easier. Katrina was contemplating which shoes she wanted to wear with a new dress she bought. With pink cheeks and a frown. The feed pulled it in immediately. I wrapped my arms around the back of the chair and put a pleasant smile on my face. Lighten up. Bella probably thought she was protecting Katrina from me.

could it be that Bella still cared? "I might have been overlyfriendly. She didn't answer until she had pulled me around a corner and the lounge was no longer in sight.. Not to upset you. 'Oh Katrina and the Waves. "Oh please." Bella looked down and kicked the scuffed toe of her shoe into the linoleum. I was a little stunned that she was actually touching me. "I was trying to be friendly. "Do you really think Katrina needs to be protected from me?" I asked darkly.. tell me about the ski-lift. See you two in class. Katrina rolled her eyes. "What are you talking about?" Bella retorted loudly. confused." Bella squinted at me. Blah blah blah!'" Bella used a ridiculous voice to imitate mine. in the lounge. and I would have laughed if she wasn't so far off-base with her assumptions." Her voice was still laced with sarcasm. See you later!' "I'm going to find Brad. and Bella reached down and wrapped her fingers around my forearm. Bella turned then and dropped my arm. I was hoping to ease your mind.."Edward? Do you think I could speak to you? Alone?" Bella's voice sounded terse. "You were flirting with her. "What in the hell kind of game are you playing?" Bella's cheeks were red as she stared up at me with her eyes flashing.flirting.. "And don't push me. You'll only hurt your wrists. "I'm talking about you flirting with Katrina to make me jealous!" Bella twisted her mouth angrily and shoved her hands against my chest. "Wait.. And I wanted to prove to you that you have no reason to be." Katrina stood and walked away. "But I thought that you were afraid for your friend. Bella's just a little stressed out because she found out that I'm a blood-sucking monster." I insisted.. "Where are we going?" I asked. "What are you talking about?" I nearly growled." "Don't tell me what to do. Edward. I was trying to process the fact that Bella actually seemed upset because she thought I was. "Did you think I didn't notice you staring at her through class? You were a little obvious!" "I wasn't." Bella huffed and rolled her eyes." I softened my voice. I could hardly apologize to her. I'm what?" I was. And Brad. It was the first words she had spoken to me since I questioned her about staring at me in class.." I admitted. She had no idea why Bella was acting so strangely. I was looking at them both. She started tugging me until I stood and followed her down an adjacent hall. 'Gee Katrina. though she had lowered the volume. If she was really upset over the thought of me flirting with someone else. "I was looking at her. It's not like Katrina is wearing a .." "Whatever. just now. "We are in a school full of witnesses.

you never have a reason to be. was an easy one to understand. that's the good thing about me. "Our project was graded. I could look at a million faces.." I tilted my head towards the end of the hall. "Oh my God! There you two are! Our project was graded." I said quietly." "What? How do you know?" Bella lowered her brows in confusion. I've got all the time in the world. When her eyes met mine again.. "Other women hold no interest for me." I snorted a little at the joke Bella had made. I reached out and cupped her shoulder with my hand. where I knew Katrina would appear any second. whatsoever. . Not really. you seemed nervous.. Edward. You kept looking at me in class.bunny suit and skipping around in the forest after dark.." "I wasn't. Taking a chance.. I didn't.." I turned my head towards the corner when I heard the thoughts in the mind of the person approaching." Katrina hopped from foot to foot in excitement. "Thank you. and she looked down at the floor again. I'm not. and she glanced up before tentatively smiling in response. "We got a ninety-three! Isn't that awesome?" Bella smiled widely and Katrina grabbed us both around the waists. I was encouraged when she didn't pull away. but her pink cheeks gave away the lie.." I smiled again. I pulled my mouth into a tiny grin." Bella's voice softened." "Ah. worry about her safety with you.." "I'm not nervous around you." Bella denied it. I released her shoulder to run one finger down the soft blushing skin. pulling us until we formed a very awkward sort of three-way-hug in the middle of the hall. and she looked away. I only see you. "I'll let Katrina fill you in. "I thought you were worried.. Bella opened her mouth to say something else. her request. "Hey. but was interrupted by Katrina bouncing around the corner. for one minute... But I assure you. and then had to laugh when she giggled at the absurdity of the situation. Bella." Her statement. "I need time. "I didn't even know there was a chance that you could be jealous.. "Well." Bella's cheeks grew impossibly redder.

farther back in the parking lot. I don't know. I'm a subscriber!" . Uh. And I'm just going home." Katrina pouted. Alice is busy kicking some online-ass on Ebay. I didn't linger or engage them in conversation. "Newest edition." "Pooh. "I guess we'll just have to celebrate alone. "What are you doing?" I asked." "Hello. I knew I needed to give it to her. After class." I could read her new plans to celebrate. "I was reading. Fresh off the presses. "I'm tired. Within ten minutes. I could feel the hesitance rolling off of her posture. Alice snorted and rolled her eyes. Instead." Jasper unrolled the girlie magazine in his hand and held it under his chin so that I could see the cover. "Did he tell you he was reading?" "Yes. and knew that Bella and I wouldn't be missed. Jasper answered the door wearing faded blue boxer shorts and some white tube-socks with yellow-stripes pulled up around his calves.. Then I pulled out my phone and called Alice. looking at his attire. and all that. I knocked on the door of Alice and Jasper's apartment. I disengaged myself from the group and smiled."That's wonderful." Bella looked noticeably more relaxed. "Great teamwork. "It really is." "Brad and I are going out for drinks after class to celebrate. She had just asked me for time. You two should join us!" "Oh.." Bella looked down at her feet again." Alice barely glanced up from the computer that balanced on her lap when I walked into the room." I nodded." I excused myself from the invitation. I called out a casual 'good night' as I kept walking to my own car. A large smile pulled across his face. "I have plans tonight. I followed behind the girls until they made it safely to their cars. "What are you reading?" I glanced down at the rolled magazine that Jasper held in his fist. She was still watching me oddly. I listened to them chat back and forth about their work schedules and things they might do throughout the week. "Yeah." Bella seemed more subdued in her enthusiasm.

"Would you like to join us?" I asked Alice. a pretty brunette with glasses and a lip-piercing. I nodded and he left the room. Alice had filled him in. "I would.. gets down on all fours." I protested.. after she was once again happy with the progression of the auction. he's just fine." he joked."Good Lord.." "Here she is!" Jasper flipped the glossy pages open to show me his latest paper-girlfriend." "This doesn't bother you?" I asked incredulously.. shaking my head lightly and laughing at his wagging eyebrows and comical expression.. "Good thing you can't get paper cuts.. She is my whore. "He likes to make up songs for his favorites.. "Sexy.." Jasper sighed.. "Miss May is special. "Her name is Tor. Jasper just grinned and pressed the open magazine against the front of his boxers. But some whore is trying to outbid me on this necklace that I have my eye on." Alice pointed out. "I know the song is coming. wasn't in a very good place when I saw Alice last. "He's already written her song. and gives me more.. "I. "A song." . So." I folded my arms across my chest and took a moment to appreciate hers before Jasper started singing the silly lines he had made up for Miss May.." she stated. "To what do we owe this honor?" Jasper finally asked." "Written her a what?" I asked.. dirty little librarian." I commented. you need to see Miss May!" Jasper began thumbing through the pages. "As long as I am the only three-dimensional girl he's singing to." Jasper smiled.I came by to see if you wanted to go out." Jasper just nodded." "Nice.. "Seriously. "I'm in love.." "Let me get dressed. Alice laughed from the couch and Jasper turned and tossed the magazine beside her on the couch. Alice cursed on the couch and clicked the buttons on the computer in front of her. "He's singing to a magazine.." I quipped." Alice nodded.. "I told her that I'd be ready to hunt soon. She glanced up again and then frowned down at the computer screen. looking for a picture to show me.

"Why don't you just buy a new one?" "It's one of a kind and it was made the year that Rosalie was born. My last attempt to drink had been recent." Alice explained. Jasper entered the room and kissed Alice on the cheek before we both left.I moved so I could look at the monitor too. Our special abilities lent us far more advantages." "Why do you bother celebrating?" I asked..a tangle of arms and legs. His thoughts were trained specifically on the kill. From my right side." "Well. His laugh hung behind him in the air. "I don't know why you try. It was time to hunt. 41. strike harder. After so many years. My steps faltered. And I love buying them. We spent a great deal of time that way." I offered. since his last meal. We rolled to the ground together. good luck with that.. to be the dominant male. Playfulness was gone. in this situation. enjoying the forest as our playground. "She loves the gifts. his body already out of sight. celebrating the night. before Jasper's thoughts and my sense of smell both alerted me at the same time to a herd of deer nearby. Ben and Jerry I dodged to the left and avoided being slapped on the back of the head by Jasper's outstretched arm as he ran by me in a blur of motion and sound. and claimed the largest buck for his meal." I shouted out. "What's so special about it?" I asked. spurring our feet forward with the animalistic urge to strike first.laughing and throwing good-natured punches before jumping back to our feet and speeding away in opposite directions. "You know that Rose likes to be Princess for a day. but so largely unsatisfying that the burn of hunger now was intense to the point of painful. I growled lowly as he busted through the trees first. when Jasper over-took me and moved into the lead. Jasper could likely sense my jovial attitude when I dropped out of a tree to land on him as he passed below. . it seemed pointless. As always. I thought it would be nice to give it to her for her birthday. however. I turned on my heels and started running in the direction of the herd. "I'll always hear you coming!" We laughed and darted through the undergrowth. It had been longer for him. I heard Jasper rapidly approaching. Jasper's feeling of hunger paired with my own to double the edge of need. our vampire nature took over. I lowered my head into the wind and ran. and made sneaking up on one another nearly impossible.

that was something new." "We all go through phases." I finally began to explain. while hunting. He didn't seem to notice anything amiss.. "No. Tonight. It's a sacrifice we make. "That's not like you." Jasper quietly tested my mood. He knew I was a far faster runner than him. "Nah." Jasper smiled and walked closer. "I thought the deer was sick at first. I curled my lips back and let the suddenly-still body of the deer I held fall to a heap on the forest floor.. and he was feeling a little arrogant at having bested me. "I could tell as soon as I saw you tonight. and together we climbed up to sit on a craggy rock under the open night sky." . Jasper turned towards me then. "It's probably what slowed me down..." Jasper lifted a shoulder. "You've never let me beat you to the dinner table before!" His eyes were already a warmer gold." I looked down toward my shoes and kicked a small hole into the soil. "I tried to hunt the other night. but good I think." I frowned. "I guess I was distracted. I turned to walk beside him. "It's not like these mealy little animals are what we really desire." "It's worth it. It was all I could do to force myself to swallow." Jasper said encouragingly.. His inner thoughts were of playful conceit. My eyes moved above the kicking creature below me. that things are going better for you and Bella. "Did you notice. "Tonight was weird. Just the same as it always does. and I quickly grabbed a smaller creature before it could escapetearing into its throat and groaning as the warm rush of blood filled my mouth." I reminded myself and we both sat silently for a few minutes." I shrugged." "Didn't taste right?" Jasper asked thoughtfully. breathing calmly and obviously satisfied now that the hunger pains had been dulled. to watch as Jasper quickly drained the prize of the herd.." I smiled over at him and put my hands behind me on the rock while I leaned into a more casual position. We were near the foothills of the mountains. Jasper frowned a little and pushed his hands into the pockets of his jacket. "Well. I wasn't really looking forward to the taste of it.The animals fled in terror. It was nearly intolerable. it was just the same. "Speaking of what we desire. Did the blood taste differently to you?" I asked. I tried bear after.

" "If you want my opinion. looking at me intently." I smiled wider and shook my head." "I wish I could read her thoughts. I thought she was staring at me because she didn't trust me. And to be honest. "She wore irritation like a cloud around her when that Mike guy was around. "I assumed that you of all people. "She asked for time. Bella was jealous. She won't respond well if she thinks you are bullying her or trying to influence her. you should give it to her!" Jasper leaned forward." I nodded. "She didn't like being made to feel like she couldn't take care of herself. "Even you have that advantage over me... and so I continued."Yeah?" Jasper seemed genuinely interested." "You have common sense." Jasper disagreed. You are asking her to trust you." I was afraid to hope for as much. "If she's jealous. You can at least know how she is feeling.." "That is excellent!" Jasper threw back his head and laughed." I nodded and stared forward into the dark.it was pissing me off.. I laughed lightly at his serious expression. I think you should just take a giant step back and give the girl all the space she needs." Jasper informed me." "That wasn't the case?" "Nope. she thought I was flirting with her friend." Jasper argued.... or make her own decisions. "She kept staring at me through class." "You're right." "I think you are right." "I hope so. You should have to place a little trust in her. too. . give it to her." "Then. "The way to win this girl is to give her what she needs. "How do you think she's feeling? She didn't run away screaming." I admitted. If she needs time. would be busy plotting out ways for me to use her jealousy to my advantage!" "Hell no. man. she wants you. We sat for another long moment.. "Turns out." "Maybe. The silence between us was not uncomfortable. She's sticking around.

and she'd be right too. "Would you change her?" Jasper didn't turn his gaze to me." "I know. He wasn't trying to interject his own feelings on the subject or influence mine. it will only be half your battle. but it was more important to me." "Not that I would use that. Something told me that if I gave Bella the time she was asking for. doesn't mean it would be perfect for her. "Free will.. But I wasn't sure I could... frowning as I considered his words." It took physical effort to expel the words that were the key to the entire situation between Bella and me.. Jasper won." I sat up.." I shook my head. I rocked back a little.. After much thought. There was no guess work. She'll argue and say that I have it reversed. With my arms wrapped around my knees. If. No games. "Even if this girl comes around. We just. I skipped class on Thursday night. I can feel it.. I absolutely hated giving up the time that I could have been sitting beside her and watching her and breathing her and hearing her." I smiled and stood. "From the moment I walked into that café and saw Alice. But of course I would." "I envy you." "It would make everything easier for you." I nodded. He stood and pressed his hands down the front of his legs and crouched into a position to jump off the rock. "Race you to the meanest bastard of a bear we can find?" "You're on." Jasper finally said.. "Right now I'm just hoping that she'll take some time and decide that she wants me in her life.. after careful consideration and much inward struggle." "Yeah. loving her was perfect for me." "What?" Jasper turned his eyes towards me." All teasing was gone from Jasper's voice as he tilted his head back and contemplated the stars above. changing her would be perfect for me. And even though my presence wouldn't be known to her... I had thought about it far too many times. if it ever came to decisions like that."I don't know how you do it. He clearly wanted me to finish my thought. I stayed away from her .. belonged together. "I would. "Just because it would be perfect for me. And so. "I'm still thirsty. Clearly he had decided to let me off the hook with the conversation. she was mine. Could any of it be perfect for her? I had no way of knowing. I decided to follow Jasper's advice and my own gut instincts.. her decision. that she would appreciate it. He was just curious. to give Bella the gift of my absence.." Jasper announced.. He would be able to feel my emotions without observing my facial expressions or change in body language. Knowing her was perfect for me..

This is a surprise. In two days. With surprise. feeling dissatisfied with the experience. a week would have passed since Bella had asked for more time. even though every minute away from her had been a struggle. I read. and I spent hours composing music and playing old favorites. I recognized Bella's number. "Katrina and the Waves. "Hello?" I asked. I was considering calling her when my phone vibrated under my fingers. I wouldn't be able to keep myself away any longer. According to the time and date.. different scents and different tastes. indicating an incoming call. I spent time much as I always did. No messages. It was a number I did not recognize. I had thought to recreate Bella's scent in order to somehow feel closer to her. Just considering it made my body ache for her.bedroom as well. I would be next to her in class again. something was missing. different animals. Once underneath the hot water. I frowned over at the pathetic line-up of various strawberry-scented shampoos and body wash that stood in a wasted line of failure on the built in shelf that formed a ledge around the stall. Still. I watched movies. I missed Bella. I was full. I lowered my brows in confusion. I began to wonder if my dissatisfaction with the rest of my life wasn't tainting this area of my existence as well. After lowering myself to sit on the edge of my sofa. It would also get me out of the house and give me something to do to occupy my time. Yet I still drove back to Hanover on Sunday.. My shirt bore traces of the animals I had slaughtered. her laundry detergent or her mouthwash. Maybe I was depressed and it was affecting my appetite. I scrubbed a towel through my hair and walked back toward my living room. she had called me Friday evening. I quickly pulled it over my head and tossed it into the basket in the corner of my room before walking to the shower. Maybe Jasper was right. I took my car keys and decided a road trip was in order. The mountain lion was marginally better than the game near my home. My lips pressed together as I scrolled through the last calls made to my phone. I hadn't visited her at night since before our trip to Boston. "Eddie?" It was Katrina. By then. My hunger had been completely sated by the hunting trip. Maybe I was going through a phase. It had always been my favorite. I felt happy about my self-control and hoped one day that my efforts would not be in vain. Freshly dressed. I was trying to give her what she needed. She hadn't left a message. Instead. I snorted a little at my ridiculous attempt. I hoped that crossing over into Canada would bring a different thrill to the hunt. Hopefully that would be enough for Bella to at least notice my effort. My piano brought a new distraction. It wasn't her shampoo or her soap. Of course not." . I finally palmed the phone I had left on the coffee table and pressed the button to bring it to life. I ran. When I became thirsty again. It was a combination of all of those things mixed together with her own special essence that no bottle or package could contain.

"What in the hell are you doing here?" Bella frowned darkly and placed both hands on the door. attempting to shut it in my face. at least thirty minutes ago.. My car screeched loudly on the pavement in front of her apartment building.. however. was a half-gallon of chocolate ice cream with a silver spoon . looking beyond her into the apartment.." Bella pursed her lips and nodded her head in a mock-serious fashion. At her apartment door. like a complete mess. looking around at the atypically messy apartment."Sorry for calling so late. and I ran inside as quickly as I could. I have to go. concerned about Katrina's motives for calling me. There." "Is she ok?" I stood. "I'm coming!" I heard Bella yell." Bella offered sarcastically." Katrina disconnected the call before I could get more information from her. Taking a step back. Relief over her well-being made it somewhat easy to ignore her surliness. Good luck." I tried to ignore the jab about her being in mortal danger. I stopped the motion with one outstretched palm. I couldn't see a thing wrong with her. I raced around corners and through stop lights when possible. ok? Right away." "Oh yeah. I could have made it to Bella's apartment faster by running. the car would be handy to have around." I frowned and stepped past her. "Bella? Bella?" I heard footsteps inside. I struggled to calm myself as I raised my fist and rapped loudly on the wood. "Katrina said you needed me. And then the door opened. and I concentrated my efforts until I heard the familiar heartbeat of the person that neared the door. obviously. "She isn't even here. "I can see where she would call you over to rescue me. "Just go to our apartment." Bella insisted. on the counter. looking for all intents and purposes. and followed Bella as she walked into the kitchen. I was. "She left for Brad's house. "Come on in. "Katrina called me. considering possible witnesses in the area. in mortal-danger from the chocolate ice cream I was about to finish eating. It's just. Bella rolled her eyes and relinquished her hold on the door. Bella needs you. But other than the general aesthetic indicators that she had neglected personal hygiene for a couple of days. I was. Bella stood before me. I cursed loudly into the silent receiver and hurried to my car.. She made it sound like there was some sort of an emergency.. but if she was hurt and I needed to transport her." I explained.. she folded her arms across her chest. already reaching for my car keys.

"I was trying to give you the time you asked for." "I was worried about you." "Why did you go to Canada?" I could share the truth with her now. instead. if I had known it mattered. But I did. "I'm fine.. I thought. I heard the spoon hit the counter before she started speaking in a rush. I couldn't keep myself from moving closer to her. Not unless you tell me to go." she moaned. I would have told you where I was going. As if to illustrate her intentions. "It's an emergency all right." .. studying her knotted hair and rumpled clothing. I told you before." she continued. And then when you didn't answer your phone. I won't leave you. "You look like hell. I only want you to be happy. "I went to hunt. "You weren't in class Thursday.. "I called you. Bella." Bella sneered." She exhaled her worry and closed her eyes tight. "Well? Are you ok?" "I don't know." I took a moment to watch her. I wish you could believe." I finally said. Bella turned and hopped up to sit beside the carton.resting next to it." she finally admitted. somehow. "The caloric content of my dinner is pretty terrifying. I wanted so badly to reach out.. I clenched my fingers in the air." "You didn't leave a message." "Where were you?" She asked in a small voice. and push her hair from her face. keep my hands by my sides. "Mmmmm. "Bella." "That's not what I meant!" It was my turn to roll my eyes. "Gee. she lifted the spoon and dug out a heaping portion of the sticky brown confection before sliding it into her mouth. I'll be fine. thanks. I am far too selfish a creature." "What?" "I thought I made you leave again. I'm committing chocolate suicide. "Are you ill or something?" Bella finally dropped the sarcastic front and lowered her eyes." She pressed her lips together while she stared at the floor. I went up to Canada for a couple of days.

" Her voice sounded weak. but it just sounded uncomfortable. forced smile.. stupid!" I was truly worried about the self-derision that I heard in her tone. still facing away from me." "You're making it worse!" Bella groaned and twisted her head away from me. I swear to God. "I've tried. I was confused by the action until I saw her shoulders shake and heard her sniffle.. Edward?" Bella lowered her hands and turned her tear-streaked face up towards mine." I admitted quietly.. "Tell me what I can do. I needed her to help me understand. "Are you trying to be a hero. I quickly tipped her face up to me and covered her mouth with my own. "God! What's wrong with me?" Bella's voice broke on a sob. "You can't save me from myself!" "I don't understand!" I was frantic to find a way to ease her pain. but I still want you. afraid to hear what she was about to say. I lifted a hand to smooth down the side of her tangled hair. None of it matters. I'd stay away from you.to fix whatever it was that was hurting her."Oh. "Bella? Why are you saying that?" I couldn't read her mind. "It's not like you can just grab a carton of ice cream when you want a snack. I was at a complete loss as to what was causing her such distress. I watched her shoulders rise and fall with the effort to control her breathing.. "I've gone over every single reason why I shouldn't. I can't. "I'm so stupid. and I instinctively put my hands on her knees.. and favored me with a tiny. I still want you Edward!" I was moving before my name had a chance to pass her lips... "Bella? What is it? What can I do?" I pleaded. Bella melted . She slid from the counter and wrapped her arms around her torso as though she were trying to hold herself together.right?" She laughed a little at her own joke. At that." She turned and looked at me with wide. She lifted her eyes then. anguished eyes... I let her move away from me.. "No. afraid I could be wrong. Bella raised her hands and covered her face. searching for a way to comfort her. if I was smart. and her chest heaved sharply with her aggravation. but she stopped at the doorway and did not leave. "Because. not moving. She cried freely and her voice was bitter.." she moaned.. I stood. "God! I am just so. With my hands on the sides of her head.. Her cheeks were flushed from her crying. I've tried!" Bella held her palms out in front of her. with her fingers clawing at the air as they pulled tight into fists. afraid to hope what it all could mean..

Finally. . never breaking stride until I came to the door that I knew belonged to her bedroom. a welcome and invited guest. driving me mad with desire. a deep growl rumbled through my chest between us. At the thought." Bella gasped. I was aware that no venom hinted a presence in my mouth. I was satisfied to follow her lead. Bella's hands had slipped inside my collar. The lights were off. even. Bella was breathing heavily. Bella responded by pressing her lips fully to mine again.as a man to a woman. Bella finally knew me. but I was lax to give up the sensation of her hot fingers on my skin. of course. I wanted to feel her hot hands.against me immediately. and I fought myself to not kick the door down in my haste. opening the path for us to walk through. but that made no difference to me. I navigated through the darkness easily. "Don't change your mind. "Don't leave me. as I realized that I was finally where I had always wanted to be. the bridge of my nose. And she willingly gave herself to me anyway. My hunger for Bella's blood was minimal in comparison to the ardent way that my body wanted her. and were clutching at my shoulders. "Sorry.. however. she did not show it.to make her my own. But she had opened her door for me. She knew what I was. I squeezed my eyes closed. everywhere. This was better than any sensations my mind had conjured up while alone.." I implored in return. She gave it to me.." she directed me. I waited for her to reach a hand down and twist the knob. Excitement made my body feel like a live wire. she slanted her mouth across mine and tugged my bottom lip between her teeth before caressing it with the tip of her tongue. as her warmth permeated my body and groaned when she pulled away to speak. Her window was open.. Once again. simply by giving me this glorious moment only to take it back later. And she kept on giving." I apologized between frantic kisses. "My room. She moved one hand to point. "My bed. and deepened our kiss greedily. I groaned and bent down so that I could wrap my arms around her hips to pull her off the floor against me. I carried her rapidly through the apartment. Better. I didn't steal this from her. If she was frightened. It was heaven to feel her warm lips scatter against my closed eyelids. I wanted to claim her. She had the power to destroy me. Instead. my cheeks and even my chin. turning my mouth up toward her eager ministrations." Bella whispered urgently against my mouth. Bella took advantage of the height difference and twisted her fingers into my hair. Bella shivered against me with apprehension. that the kiss we had shared in Boston. and a mewling sound she made in the back of her throat was the sweetest surrender I had ever heard. I opened to her.

"Edward? Wait.. "Hey!" I complained." "Are you fucking kidding me?" Bella's voice rose an octave in her disbelief. . Her small hand flicked on the bedside lamp. pulling away from my kisses.."I know where it is." I assured her. "I'm sorry!" I was.. trying to draw her back to me. My need for her was nearly as difficult to control as any thirst I had ever felt for her blood." "You leave your window open. My head was literally spinning. I automatically lifted towards her... I sat up and tried to move to hold her.. I pulled in a shaky breath. I swallowed her kisses and turned when I got to the bed.." I whispered and smiled up at her in the dark. that is?" Bella huffed. I had imagined this very scenario. "You... please.. and raised myself up on one elbow to face her more fully. and her cheeks were flushed a delightful red. And. so many times before.... It took me a long moment before I realized that her hands had stopped gripping my shoulders and were suddenly pushing against me." "Why?" I rasped.. Bella hopped up to her knees and pummeled me a few more times with the cloth-covered feathers. "How.. I didn't mean. you knew were my bed was.. "Do you even comprehend how.. and she quickly moved until her back touched her headboard and her knees were bent up under her chin." "Bella? Come on. "I know this room like the back of my hand. "I don't sleep. Get out. "You said. The flats of her palms pressed against my chest and she tightened the muscles of her neck. How did you know this was my room?" Her voice was breathless.. likely a reaction to nerves. interesting to me.. creepy. But her eyes flashed warning signs in my direction. Bella's lips were swollen from my attention. I knew I was in trouble when she swung a pillow from behind her head and hit me in the face with it.. but her ire was not laughable.." I didn't expect the rush of cool air that flooded me the second she rolled off of my body. Bella's body squirmed against mine.. At all. igniting a fire everywhere that she touched. lowering myself so that Bella was laying above me. "You've. but she scurried to the other side of the bed and stood before pointing her finger toward the door. been in my room before?" Her voice definitely was gaining strength. It was an ineffective weapon. watching you sleep was always very." I was horrified at her reaction to my confession.

sent Katrina two-dozen yellow-roses. 42. The last session of masturbatory indulgence may have involved strawberry-scented conditioner while I was in the shower. so I kept a straight face. No matter how small the chance might be." "Making me leave now. I wanted back on that bed. I couldn't blame her. and then as if she had second-thoughts. My visits to her room had been a horrible invasion of her privacy. "Good!" Bella crossed her arms stubbornly over her chest and cocked one hip to the side. And.. I was surprised by the barely suppressed jealousy in the thoughts of the man who approached me from behind. put her hands on my shoulders. "Get out of my room Edward Cullen. do not come back unless you are invited!" "Wait. she wanted me.. Herbal Essences By the time Tuesday evening arrived. Just outside her apartment. I'd take it. I was fairly sure I had learned my lesson about keeping some details of my creepy habits to myself after Bella made me leave her apartment on Sunday. I could still taste the sweetness of her mouth on my lips. Bella was angry about my late night visits.. will hurt. Trying not to smile at the illogic male tendency to over-react. Bella began to turn away." I told her sincerely. "I would hit you with something heavy. I was inspired and encouraged by the subtle reference Bella had made to someday inviting me to her room again. I nearly fell backwards when she pulled the door open behind me. Not that Bella would ever hear of it."Get out!" She yelled. and then went inside and closed the door. I caught myself and turned around. and stood on tip-toes to kiss me quickly on the cheek.. I leaned with my back against the door and smiled.. "Just so we're clear. I had hunted again. I stepped to the side and allowed Brad to catch up to me. It wasn't without effort." I promised. she spun on her heels. I ducked away and hurried for the door as she had ordered. Before I stepped into the classroom.. and masturbated four times." "I'll be there." . "Edward.. She had every right to make me leave. and one I did not intend to repeat.. but it won't hurt you. She frowned once more for good measure." Bella was trying to look stern. "I'll see you in class Tuesday night. does that mean you'll invite me sometime?" "Out!" She yelled and threw the pillow at me. Still.

let it wait.. "Brad." "Would you like to ask me now?" "You can't guess?" Her eyes were narrowed again as she looked at me contemplatively." Bella suggested. Katrina greeted Brad with a warm kiss. My eyes were drawn in the same direction as Bella and Katrina walked toward us. Men sometimes needed reinforcement. Katrina was curious about Brad and me talking. "Good. breathing her in. Katrina had obviously explained my gift in the same way." I kept my features pleasant and. Brad sighed loudly and turned the two of them away. hopefully. It makes him look 'less smooth. man. "It was the least I could do. "I was just being honest. I gave Katrina roses before he did. Her features relaxed into a smile. I had to laugh at the direction in which his thoughts had shifted. Quite a show you put on there. "Trina got your flowers last night." I swore." "Oh? Were they nice?" I asked. "Yeah. Brad wanted to be sure my motives didn't lie elsewhere." Brad's thoughts shifted instantly." I mentioned quietly." I smiled. He's convinced he has to work harder now. Bella's cheeks flushed a pretty pink as she smiled up at me from under her lashes. "Eddie? Thank you for the roses!" Katrina grinned over at me from under Brad's arm." . "Nope."Brad.. likes to play matchmaker I guess." "Well. she um. "Class is about to start.'" "Were you just trying to kiss my butt?" Bella narrowed her eyes and cocked her head. to thank her for getting Bella and I together. "You gave me a far better gift. Because I have a favor to ask later. Bella stopped a foot away from me." Brad rubbed the back of his neck and looked away. Two days had been too long." she said in a breathy voice. looking at Bella while I spoke.. And now he thinks I'm being a butt-kisser too. Then we are off to a great start this evening. "What is so funny?" Bella asked. "Hi. deliberately acknowledging that he had been in her apartment to see them.. non-threatening as I turned to face him. "Hi.

then she returned to write again. and I knew I was smiling like a fool. I was held captivated by the way the pressure of the eraser pushed the rosy color away from her skin. I didn't know if she meant that as good or bad. But I didn't care. Quite the auspicious beginning. -You are staring. -You are beautiful. I accepted the invitation and wrapped my long fingers around her warm hand. When the professor excused us for our break. I was in complete agreement. We walked into class. I think it's funny. "I forgot all about that.. Bella turned to face me. and instead pretended to listen to the rest of lecture. Bella tentatively held her hand out to her side. As unorthodox as our relationship was. I leaned back in my seat. Bella and I were a pair. her scent would stir up around me and burn a trail from my throat to my chest.. -Are you going to call me an 'asshole' like you did the first time I was caught staring? Bella's cheeks blazed as she realized that I had been aware of that insult all along. wouldn't you say?" . -You are making me crazy. Sitting beside Bella was always a mixture of denial and delight.. She chose to ignore the question.for as long as she'd have me. "I'm sorry.. my muscles clenched and warmth swept over my body for an entirely different reason. the blood would rush back to fill the void. I caught a movement in my peripheral vision. When she lifted it. but I tried hard not to smile as I edited the note I had begun." she rushed. holding hands between us. with her palm facing forward. feeling amused by her embarrassment. She grinned up at me. a couple. Bella turned her face and caught my openmouthed trance. I smirked and moved my hand to the paper on her desk. Katrina noticed and nudged Brad. Bella reached that pencil over my arm and wrote on the edge of my paper. establishing our status as a couple. But as I watched her repeatedly press the soft pink eraser of her pencil into her full. Every time she threw her hair over her shoulder. fleshy lowerlip. who silently admitted that we made a cute pair." "Don't apologize.As I turned toward the door. Her lips flattened as she considered my words. It was during one such time that Bella caught me staring. Her lip had become puffy from the repetitive teasing and I yearned to lean forward and soothe it with my tongue.

and so I enjoyed every minute of it. When she turned with her drink in hand." Bella whispered with a breathy voice. It amazed and baffled me that my entire world had shifted on its axis. "Seriously Edward. "You better make good use of your time. Mr.or maybe just shout out my happiness to make it clear. I wanted to grab someone. "Let's go get the human something to drink. She pouted a tiny bit at the lack of full contact." Bella suggested. turning her back against the wall. "We have to be back in class soon. Cullen." Her eyelids were heavy as she looked up at me from under her lashes." I pulled my eyes downward and tried to fake remorse. obviously more at ease. I had spent far too long hiding my attention... I grabbed her hand and started to pull her down the hall." I said. My brows immediately lowered with my confusion. It's doing bad things to my respiratory system." I smiled and leaned forward to rub the tip of Bella's nose lightly with my own before glancing a kiss near the corner of her mouth. and I used the opportunity to place a small kiss on her full lower-lip that had owned me for the first half of . or you should be prepared for me to completely pounce on you!" Her teasing threat was enough to send me out of my seat. and the sound of her accelerating heartbeat. "It's either that. she smiled as she caught my gaze and walked back over to me. going about their business. Her cheeks flushed and her eyes sparkled. "You better. "You should know. she didn't bother opening it. placing my hands against her cheeks. She giggled and let me lead her from the room. I marched us around the corner to the same semi-secluded spot where she had accused me of flirting with Katrina. I finally had the right to watch her openly." Her small smile let me know that she was being playful in her reproach..Bella chuckled. "You have got to stop looking at me like that. Had I offended her in some way? "Like what?" "It's that thing you do with your eyes.." "Oh! Sorry." I whispered near her ear." I warned. and shake them to awareness. I took a seat and pushed away from the small round table so that I could easily keep an eye on Bella. placing the cold coke can against her cheek. We passed other people in the hallway. "I need you to myself for a moment. I plan to kiss you. "Where are we going?" She laughed.. and yet they were all able to continue walking upright. unaffected by it all. I stood and offered my hand to help her from her seat. My eyes never left her as she made her way to where I sat. She laughed and then leaned down to speak lowly. which she accepted graciously. Instead. I absorbed her scent..

"I trip at least twice a day. "In every way.. When I was able to stop laughing. and then my surprise was compounded by an uncharacteristic clumsiness that caused my toe to dig into the linoleum beneath me. With that immediate urge satisfied. It made me laugh. I was able to go back to being intrigued by the tiny mystery she presented. I kissed her one last time on the forehead before releasing her face. I turned startled eyes up toward Bella.. I couldn't believe that I hadn't been thinking of the earlier cryptic mention of a favor." I accused with wonder... We turned and began walking back to class. In fact." I admitted. being shoved by my brothers or even a few . who watched the seemingly inconsequential event with a slight look of amusement on her face." Bella sighed and placed her hands on my forearms as I ended my tender ministration. My arms were thrown out and my fingers were spread wide as I tried to hold my balance and prevent myself from falling. Bella smiled then. I began laughing so hard and so long that Bella started giggling in response to my uncontrollable hysterics. "Such a gentleman. "Are you going to let me know now?" I asked. "You. "That kind of relates to the favor I wanted to ask. Her fingers slid until we held hands between us. She pressed her lips together and nodded. Had she really asked to stay the night at my house? A thousand inappropriate images flooded my brain at the mere suggestion." Bella smiled over at me." Bella told me. Finally." I muttered. I actually stumbled forward two steps before I stopped myself with alarm.. I wasn't trying to create a situation that would make either of us uncomfortable. rain. I let my lips mold over hers.not used to doubting my hearing. No demands. "It's really not that big a deal. with only moments until her nosy roommate would likely come looking for us. rockslide.class. and I felt her breath fan my face in a sigh. So I placed slow.. "In how many ways?" She asked quietly. "I was just wondering if I could stay over at your place tonight?" I turned to look at her in shock. small kisses all over the face I cherished so much. and it was happening to me. no pressure. mud. I had been too distracted by wanting to kiss the girl. I put my arm around her shoulder and pulled her close to my side so that I could speak quietly. I continued. "It's not easy to control myself with you. At her confused expression. "I don't think I've ever tripped before. ice. "Elemental forces. just warmth and the connection that I needed as a reminder that this was real." I told her. She had absolutely no idea why something so typical to her everyday life was such a source of amazement to me. made me trip... She was trying to keep the mood light. but I could see the seriousness in the depths of her eyes. I was fully aware of the fact that we were in a very public place." Bella shrugged.

"Which is why I'd like to stay over. Sure. my eyes focused on the white. I watched her for those moments. I continued on to the next lot. over my own two feet. the flowering trees around me that shook their perfume to the sky.. For the short drive home. or she wanted an escape plan in case I did agree to it. it refused to mingle or be confused with the rest. Curious. immediately apprehensive. Bella must have already discussed the fact that she would be staying with me. The fresh. "I'll see you soon. though welcome. We were not alone.. The reason for Bella's request. I was prevented from asking Bella to elaborate on her reasoning by a group of students that actually walked in a small crowd around us to the parking lot. so Bella and I walked silently side-by-side down the lighted path. Katrina parted with Brad with no more than a quick 'goodnight' in our direction and a mind full of thoughts pertaining to having the apartment to herself for the night. I pulled my car into the garage and stepped outdoors to meet Bella where she had parked in the drive. I would have tried to delve deeper into Katrina's musings to try to hear details of that conversation. all of which provided a heady bouquet. while I breathed deeply and held a myriad of different scents and tastes borrowed from the night air against my tongue. It wasn't her school bag. When she started straying away from the path. I knew her studies were important to her. I moved my eyes forward to see her beat-up old car waiting in its familiar spot." I vowed. anywhere. I was enthralled by how Bella stood out from the rich spring flavors around me. I swallowed hard." Bella shook her head. "I'll follow you?" Bella asked. "Of course you can stay over. retrieving something from the back.. I was still insanely aware of her sitting beside me.. Had I known that. the sprouts of young grass. but I did my best to help her concentrate on the lecture." I nodded. Perhaps it was because I was so attuned to her. drawstring bag that she had tossed over her shoulder.. and therefore. Either she wasn't sure that I would agree to her visit. but not really by her own choice and not since we had crossed over into couple-territory.. She was bent over her seat. I watched the reassuring head-lights of Bella's car in my rear-view mirror. I wanted only to thank the same source of fate. . I kept my eyes trained away from Bella. Right now.these things have caused me to lose my footing on occasion. My body would know hers.. But I don't remember ever just. Is it ok?" "You never have to ask. Bella's unique fragrance was so singularly inimitable. It was an over-night bag. was a mystery to me. Bella had stayed over at my house before. She chewed thoughtfully on her bottom lip. I smiled in the dark interior and considered a time when I had cursed any deity that had brought Bella back into my life.. tripping...." Bella smiled again and we walked into the lecture hall together.. Yet. to find my car. wet earth. After class.animals. You distracted me!" "There is so much I have to learn about you. eager for her attention.. they were important to me. For the second half of class.. When she opened the door. favoring me with a side-look and a grin from time to time.

..." I mumbled." I shrugged." Talk.. toothbrush.massage lotions. Thank God she couldn't read mine. relief was feeling like a pretty good choice. ." "Why do you have a bedroom if you don't sleep?" "I like my privacy. "Private bathroom and all. What was in it? Toothpaste.. It was an observation. "Fine. clearing my throat and gripping my books fiercely.. hairbrush. and I'm actually quite fond of laying down." Bella commented. It wasn't quite the R-rated scenario I had been playing in my mind. I walked her down the hall. "Let's go inside. It wasn't a question. "Do you mind if I." she held the bag up a little higher." I explained. "Please. make yourself comfortable." I apologized for my rudeness.. But for the moment. I need to know more about you. "Edward? Are you alright?" Bella asked with a small look of worry on her face. She glanced over at my bed before looking back up at me. "You can use my room again." "Have you had many?" Bella asked. Furniture also helps to keep up the human pretense.. my body reacted accordingly and I was forced to move my school books to cover the front of my pants.The bag was deliberate. and automatically turned into my room.." I unlocked my front door and walked half-way through the foyer before I realized my error and turned to flip on the hallway light switch.. I don't. "Sorry. "I just felt that we have a lot to talk about. I began to wish that I could add x-ray vision to my list of super-natural abilities. I let out the breath that I had been holding and smiled a little easier. and this is the one place I know we can really talk without being interrupted. It would be so much easier if I could just read her mind. Of course. She wanted to talk." I insisted. "It's comfortable and relaxing.condoms? My eyes must have been bulging from my head with my rampant imaginings. Would Bella have packed the other theatrically show-cased items of seduction? Racy lingerie. or relieved..." Bella pulled her bag from her shoulder and wrung the nylon cord in her hands.. I didn't know whether or not to be disappointed. "You don't need the light. You know. "No.. "I appreciate you letting me come over here. Everything I had seen in movies made me intensely curious about the contents of that little white bag." Bella sighed when I flipped on a small table light to cast the living room into a muted orangeglow. for guests.

Gratefully. "Her visions are subjective. "You said 'some of you." "I think so. not repulsion. He can feel and influence the moods and emotions of people near him. I grinned and let myself out so that she could have some privacy with the mysterious contents of her overnight bag.' Who else has special abilities?" "Jasper. thanks Edward. taking the steaming cup from my hands." I smiled." "So she knew we would get snowed in together. I accepted her invitation and sat on the opposite side. Bella spun so that she could place her heels on the cushion between us with her knees bent upward. My body was doing a pretty good job of imitating good old teenage hormones." . "She knew that you would be calling me for a ride. Encouraged. a signal that I could leave. Bella had come over so that we could be alone to talk. Bella rejoined me in the living room.. "Some of us. "You have tea." I told her. and her hair was tied into a loose knot on the top of her head. thank you. She didn't really fill me in on anything else. but had modestly donned a pair of pink cotton pajama pants.. I was sure she remembered her drunken condition the night I had brought her to my home.. Yet my crazy imagination had done everything short of conjuring up fuzzy pink-handcuffs and a cheerleading uniform. And that's reason enough to make me inordinately happy that I own that bed. and blew across the top of her mug before taking a sip." Bella looked over her cup at me. "Better?" I asked." "How did she know I would be here?" Bella looked curious. "Well. right before we got snowed in. But you don't drink it. My reaction to that innocuous little bag had been ridiculous. She wore her typical little tight tank top." Bella's cheeks were pink. Bella blushed and looked down at her feet." Her eyes darted toward the door. just because so many little decisions that we make can change the course of events. After just a few minutes."Just you. "Will you sit with me?" I smiled as she lowered herself into one corner of my couch. "Much. handing her a cup of tea that I had warmed in the microwave. have special abilities." she answered. Alice can see the future. I chuckled just thinking about it. I nodded and continued. Her face was scrubbed clean. and a bit confused." "Oh." "No way!" Bella's wide gaze was sparked with interest. "Alice stocked the kitchen with you in mind..

"I said. "No. I panicked for a moment. "It's a little embarrassing to know that all along. obviously liking the news that her thoughts were still her own." I assured her. "If we are." "Ah! Maybe that is one of my super powers!" Bella grinned.." Bella nodded. "I wondered how you seemed to know what everyone around us was thinking." I admitted. tying to tune it all out. "More than ok. It's completely silent to me. Sorry..." "What? Really?" "Really. "What else can vampires do?" Bella asked.. Wouldn't you agree?" "I don't agree with the 'if'' part. . in that way." "It's not always comfortable. I can't read your mind. "I read minds. "I meant." Bella spoke a little louder. You are the only person I have not been able to hear. hoping that she wouldn't connect Mike's odd behavior to what I had just revealed. and I watched as Bella stood......."Wow. With my arm across the back of the couch.. I turned toward her a little more. She merely moved closer to me." Bella shook her head and placed her mug on the table in front of us.." I laughed. "Didn't that book say that the Singer had some powers?" "I'm having Carlisle look into that. "I don't know why that is. with her back to my side. She didn't seem to dwell on the information. she nestled against me." I told her. I hummed from the closeness. you've known just what I have been thinking. "What about you? Do you have some hidden super-power?" I smiled at the way she likened by abilities to a comic-book hero. "It's extremely exhausting. which made it a little easier to talk about our differences. I can hear you just fine. watching the smile fade from her face. going to be together like this." "I can't hear you. and sat again. She was facing away from me. "We are together. we should know as much as possible. I smiled." My chest felt tight." I shook my head." I consented." "I knew it!" Bella grinned widely and bounced on the sofa a little. most of the time.." Bella said quietly. so that she was comfortably leaning back against the side of my chest. "Is this ok?" She asked.. it's a little embarrassing to know." "I'm sorry.

"It would be better for you in the day. "Edward?" "Hmm?" ." Bella got quiet for a minute. "I'm fast." "Oh." I told her." "But you could." "Shit. I see as clearly in the dark as any other time. "Faster. Bella's breathing and posture remained relaxed." I grinned and kissed the tip of her nose." I told her. You wouldn't be able to see anything right now." "With one hand. "You saw my piano?" "Yes. "Really? Right now?" Bella turned to look at me. Her eyes were as bright as a child's at Christmas. "How strong?" "Hmmm." "Alice probably moved it in here by herself. "No..." Bella turned away again." "I could take you out for a run. and I let her sort through her thoughts before beginning a new line of questioning." I thought for a moment." I smiled and kissed the top of her head." I chuckled a little at her reaction and began again."We are strong. "Yes." "Roller-coaster fast?" She asked. "I like roller-coasters.

.."I am curious. it is controllable and tolerable." I tensed a little behind her. to not be near you.. But to answer your question. I don't want to be un-PC. "I wouldn't want you to change a single thing about yourself." "What about. "Is it." Bella sounded sad...." "My blood. The things I am most attuned to are things you have no control over. no.." She picked at the knee of her pajama pants before she spoke again. "I just want to know everything about you. "But being around you so often has desensitized me in a way that.. I will be honest with you. "It is far more painful for me.... "Sometimes. to make it better?" Bella asked." "That sounds horrible." I explained.." "Thank you. There is nothing you can do.. Can I ask a sort of. Your scent.." "Umm.'" "What if I told you.." "Is there anything I can do. "It's not every day someone tells you that your presence is 'tolerable. "What?" "I'm just afraid you won't like some of the answers. I knew that she was more nervous about this question. "Anything I could change?" I smiled and pressed my lips against the top of her head. "But you can ask me anything. my time of the month?" . But you don't have to answer if I offend you in any way. inhaling the scent of her hair and feeling the accompanying burn.. gross question?" I rolled my eyes above her head." "You are trying to be politically correct towards a creature that shouldn't even exist." I said softly. hard for you to be around me?" Her heartbeat and picked-up a little..." Bella breathed deeply. your pulse. that being away from you is completely intolerable?" I whispered it near her ear and she shivered. "You can ask me anything.. about a few things.. as well she should have been.." "Yes. and she felt it." "I'm glad you do.

..I tried not to laugh because I could tell by the tenseness in her back that it was hard for her to ask." "Oh. "Tell me something that makes you afraid. she would relax." "How. how does someone become a vampire?" I held my breath and closed my eyes. I would never do this to someone who didn't want it. and I felt her cringe against me before she dropped her face down into her hands.?" "What? No. No. and smell. Never." Bella stared forward. I am neither repulsed nor attracted to this aspect of your physiology. and I took a deep breath. Bella startled a little and raised a hand to her lips. "I guess you aren't talking about my feelings. "You haven't been in danger. how do you know that?" "Heightened senses. I lowered my arm from the couch and wrapped it around her lightly. I probably know your body's cycle as well as you do.. taste. and my fingers lightly stroked the skin of her arm. "Our vision. "Don't be embarrassed.. hearing. "Bella. It helps with hunting.. I've been around you for several months now.." "Bella. for changing someone.." "Have you ever. She lifted her head and leaned back into me.. our sense of touch." I told her. My arm still wrapped over her chest.." I hoped that by sounding clinical." "I'm on the pill. It did seem to help. You're very regular.." I murmured." I began. But you are so delicate. Ew!" Bella grasped what I was saying." .. "We.. What I was about to explain to her was at the very core of my deepest wishes and desires. I assure you. are venomous. I pulled her fingers away and lightly intertwined them with my own.so fragile. It's not at all the same. I am positive that I could never intentionally harm you. "I am afraid of hurting you.. Our bodies create it. It is also necessary. "I am fascinated by the way your body works.." The silence fell heavy between us. I have to constantly check myself to make sure that I don't hurt you by accident.. But how. I can feel when venom is produced.

. if not minutes away from death... Trying not to wake her. It's. Even after the details I had given her. excruciating. and Esme. "But I know the mechanics of it. She didn't speak for a while. I listened as her pulse slowed once again. I already explained that to you. I was hours. breathing softly inter her hair. have any more questions for me?" I finally asked." I nodded." Bella continued." "Will you tell me?" Bella's voice was soft. and kissed her tenderly on the top of her head. it is very difficult to refuse it. she felt safe and comfortable enough to fall to sleep in my arms. "When we taste blood. . understandable. "A person is made into a vampire when the venom is forced into the blood stream and left to travel through the body.. "No. an incredible blood-lust takes over and the victim dies before any sort of transferal of venom can be initiated. "Edward?" Bella's sleepy whisper made me stop near the door.. I silently walked down the hall." Her sweet words caused a warmth to radiate from the center of my chest. She turned immediately and pressed her face into my pillow. and placed Bella softly upon my bed. He did what he felt was right. "I have the rest of my answers. I leaned down and kissed her chastely on the cheek before turning to go." "That sounds simple enough.. "Do you remember when you were changed?" "Only the pain of it all. Her pulse slowed. in the way that you are holding me. inhaling deeply and smiling.. But Rosalie."Well." Bella shifted her weight a little and sighed." "That is." Bella stated. I turned and pulled her into a careful embrace." Bella shuddered and I pulled her a little tighter in my embrace. curious and pensive. "There must be thousands of vampires. "Do you.. Usually.." "Not as many as you might think. Her breathing became slow and even." "And the rest of your family?" "The same. did Carlisle ask your permission?" "No." I admitted. "Jasper and Alice joined us later. I leaned in again. I felt as her body became more and more relaxed against me. I swallowed hard.." I shook my head.. Carlisle brought them to this life as acts of mercy.. I wanted her to know.

As gentle as I had tried to be. She just mumbled in her sleep and slid her leg a little further into me. I softly rubbed her leg through the thin cotton pants until she blinked her eyes open and looked at me. pulling her against me. there would be no way to hide my obvious arousal. Bella sighed and rested her cheek and her tiny hand against my chest while her body curled against my side." It was the invitation I had hoped for. She yawned and stretched. "Good morning. and her voice carried a raspy quality that tickled my ears. No. That would be inexcusable. She was the picture of innocence. She looked like an angel."Yes?" "You can watch me sleep. She slept comfortably in my arms through the night. As if to illustrate my musings. Bella's features were still softened by sleep. and it tumbled around her sweet face. chasing away the blues and the blacks and warming the room with its golden light. Her hair was mostly loosened from the tie that once held it on top of her head.I considered just letting Bella keep her leg right where it was.. I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to will away my body's reaction to her innocent shift of position. I was once again glad that my cooler temperature was a comfort to her. almost sick. rather than a source of repulsion. And the fact that I was turned on by that was just. "What if I just hold you. "Even better. making me swear softly under my breath. moving it away from such dangerous territory. Commando I watched Bella as the morning stole its way through the curtains and under the doors. If I shifted my hips just a little further toward her. Bella began to stir next to me. Sicker still." She smiled sweetly.. If she awoke." 43. I moved back to the other side of the bed and crawled up onto it. Bella shifted in her sleep and pulled her leg up and over my hip. I was very glad I didn't sully the moment my acting like a horny bastard and rubbing myself against her leg while she slept. Because my hand was still around her knee. If you want to.. Apparently she didn't need a window open with me to sleep against. while you dream?" I asked.. I sighed and gently cupped her knee with my hand. How could I take advantage of something so precious? . I stopped breathing when her knee lowered to rest directly over my groin. Common sense won the battle.

"As long as you keep calling me 'yours. changed her mind about the type of relationship that she wished to have with me? Would such intimacies as kissing. "Your boyfriend?" Bella blushed prettily and rolled back onto her side. my.... I leaned close to her face for a moment. But nothing terrible. hoping she wouldn't notice. I leaned up on my elbow so I could look down into her eyes. I was just thankful that she wasn't pushing me away again. after receiving the answers she had sought. Bella. is that what I am?" I shook my head and forced my eyes away from her stomach. stretching like a cat. "It's a little.?" A crease formed in the middle of her forehead as she struggled to find an appropriate term." I replied." She chuckled and smiled cutely at me. She looked shy." I teased. "I don't really care what title you give me. "It works as good as anything else. smiling in response to the twinkle in her eyes. I moved across the room.. "Are you sure?" "Positive.. there had been no other hint of impropriety whatsoever. "Good to know!" She dropped her hand and rolled onto her back. and I felt instantly relieved. But what else could I say? You are my. "Would you like to take a shower?" I asked.."Good morning.. "Did you sleep well?" "You would know." I replied. and inhaled deeply. a little stale. "Unless it bothers you.. "So.." I smiled." Bella mumbled and scowled behind her hand. mimicking my pose.'" Bella laughed and I reluctantly moved to stand next to the bed. I know you aren't a boy. now be reconsidered? "Morning breath. I watched her movements. My eyes drifted down to linger on the smile that played on her lips. She made stretching look like a dance. Apart from Bella sleeping against me. I mean.. She was actually graceful when off her feet." she explained with a shrug of her shoulder. when your boyfriend has super-smelling abilities!" She was trying to joke. "Is that a suggestion? Or a proposition?" Bella raised her eyebrow in a teasing manner while she looked up at me. "What's wrong?" I whispered. embarrassing. Had Bella. The thought made me smirk. we had behaved very politely since she had arrived at my home. My traitorous body began to react to the look she was giving me. until a worried look crossed her face and she placed a hand over her mouth. . entranced by the small patch of her stomach that was revealed to me when her tank top rolled up. "Hmm.. Even in the unorthodox sleeping arrangements..

I was right. and I lifted my hands to the keys. My fingers found the notes and chords of Debussy's Arabesque No.." I chose to ignore that comment. and these new images. "Mind if I join you?" I asked.'" "Be serious.. "Aww shucks. I grinned at her reaction." she hummed. "I have to work an early shift today. pushed my tongue out of the side of my mouth as though I was really working hard.. But it did make my mind wander to the possibility of one day really taking a shower with her." I smiled. Soon." Bella smiled. "Much. and then grinned. I was strung tight. I lowered myself to sit beside her." I could tell all along. I was sure my shower would be finished in record time. I followed the tinkling sounds of my piano keys until I found Bella. that her comments had been made in jest. Though really. "I'll pass then. You've had several decades to practice. "Better?" I asked. She had obviously used the main bathroom to dress and freshen up while I had been otherwise occupied. "I shouldn't be surprised that you are good at this too. "You smell like strawberries. switching her attention back to the instrument in front of us. Bella started giggling wildly when she recognized my poorly executed rendition of 'Chopsticks. and much relieved.. before I get in there. Freshly showered." she scolded and slapped lightly at my arm." I mentioned. I would have to play the piece I was writing for her. No good would come of an explanation.cold water might have been smarter choice. With the combination of Bella's leg over me while she slept. "Mmm. "I'll be out soon. I thought for a moment. I smiled at her before straightening my back and letting my fingers caress the keys." she continued to joke. Bella smiled and leaned against my arm."I was merely offering the use of my shower. and Bella sighed. I furrowed my forehead into a serious look of concentration. 1." she smiled and slid to make room for me on the bench. The mental image made my body remind me of the necessity of stealing away for some time under the hot water. right?" ." Bella sat up and pushed her messy hair behind her ears. pretty." she nodded. "Please do. I'll just grab a shower when I go home to get my uniform. moving toward the bathroom door. "What would you like to hear?" I asked instead. by her playful tone. "Something. twisting my folly into a familiar piece.

" "Well. It was strange. "I would be showing off. "I'll take you out if you'd like. "You said Alice could lift this thing?" Bella patted the piano beside her. she managed to push herself up to sit on the top of the piano." Bella answered. "Bella." I continued to play lightly. With a bounce." I shrugged and kept playing. right. "I'll carry you on my back." "Oh. "What time do you work today?" I asked. . "Would you still like to go for a run with me?" "My roller-coaster ride?" Bella asked excitedly." I pursed my lips. She eventually stopped when she had made it nearly all the way around. "It's not showing off if I ask you to do it. hearing her comment about my age so casually. She stood and began to walk around the piano." Bella insisted. "You weren't kidding?" "It's a pretty morning." "Hmm. Bella turned her back to the piano then." I admitted. let's see you do it.. Super-strength and all that. only partly paying attention to the music while we talked." Bella grinned. Until six. "Noon. "It's beautiful." "Not that I'd need it!" I laughed. trailing her finger along its smooth edge as she went. I leaned sideway and kissed her cheek reassuringly. you are light as a feather.." I mumbled. with her legs dangling over the edge. and pressed her hands onto the top of the wood behind her. I laughed at her."A few." "But how would we. She had no idea how simple the task would be. Thank you. "Yes.?" Bella began to ask about the process.. "I have a couple hours before I'll have to leave." "Will you show me?" "What do you mean?" My hands finally ceased their playing and fell away from the keys while Bella glanced around the room..

I missed this. I smoothly lowered my arms until the piano touched the floor again. allowing me access to the sweetness within... My body pressed flush against hers. Her heartbeat thundered in my ears.." I warned her while I stood. I desperately pushed against her and kissed her more deeply. The pleasure of teasing her tongue with my own was as close to heaven as I could imagine. Very deliberately. I was feeling the warm rush traveling from the top of my head to the tips of my toes. drawing me in like a dare. down her calves. That part was rapidly beat into submission when Bella thrust her fingers into my hair and wrapped her legs around my hips." Bella wrinkled her nose playfully. a feeling I was beginning to associate to Bella and the mad way that my body craved her. She could not have budged me if I didn't want her to. and Bella's tennis shoes dangled in front of my face. And God help me. Bella's lips parted a little with surprise when my hands grabbed her knees and pulled her legs apart so I could stand between them." I laughed then and moved to stand in front of her.. of offending her with my aggression. almost pulling her completely off the piano. staring into her eyes. I stopped when my arms were fully extended. She locked her ankles behind me and moved her body against mine. In the next instant. Show me what you got. I could feel the heat where our bodies met. I needed more. I moved close.. I happily let her pull me against her chest and eagerly accepted the kiss she pressed against my lips." "Now you're just bragging. As soon as I straightened my back to a standing position. intoxicating me and luring me with the possibilities." I groaned. When she pulled my bottom lip into her mouth and bit at it. My breathing matched hers. exciting me even more. When I was able to feel the bottom edge of the piano under my finger tips. I tugged her body closer to mine. "Remind me to do more heavy-lifting. and the sharp contact made a small part of my brain worry about moving too fast. Her fingers pulled at my hair and her mouth swallowed my urgency. Bella surprised me by gripping my shirt and tugging me forcefully toward her. I smiled at the flush on her cheeks. "God Bella. .. She laughed with delight from her perch above me.... I smirked at her before raising the whole thing.. I pulled away with a groan. She sighed and opened her mouth for me. "Come on big boy. I was hungry for this. This time. in front of me. I might have shocked both of us when I lowered my hands from her waist and dug my fingers into her hips. She wasn't hesitant. I followed her lead and licked at her top lip."This is really nothing at all. "You could go sit on the hood of my car and ask me to do the same. flat and even. if it gets a response like this from you!" "Edward? You had me at 'Chopsticks. The teasing banter encouraged me.'" I smirked and lowered my head to kiss her again. and reached up to kiss her lightly on the end of her nose. Her eyes widened when I slid my hands from her knees.

Her surprised eyes traveled over my shoulder and she unlocked her legs." Jasper offered. She hadn't been around Jasper or Alice since she had learned the truth about my family." "Should we maybe go to the living room?" I suggested. "I'll just bet he was!" Jasper's booming laugh cut through the room and Alice elbowed him sharply in the ribs. I wasn't used to it myself. "Yes. I turned to follow the direction that her attention had been drawn to." Bella offered.I quickly pulled away at the sound of someone clearing their throat from the side of the room. I knew he wasn't really sorry." she rolled her eyes at Jasper's antics.. "So. . He wasn't uncomfortable in the slightest. Jasper had a huge. goofy grin plastered to his face. I knew what was coming.." A quick glance over my shoulder at Bella confirmed that she was blushing like crazy. looking at us." Alice stated her apology out loud for Bella's benefit. I hoped. "We won't keep you long." I offered dryly. Jasper nodded and smirked. "Sorry to interrupt. anxious. what were you kids up to?" "Edward was just about to take me for a ride." "Hi Alice.. Alice looked apologetic and a little worried. Alice and Jasper stood in the doorway. "Since Alice decided to stay out of your future. I laughed a little. usually helps to avoid interruptions... The sexual tension in this room is making me a little. get me away from the scene of the crime. I leaned back between Bella's legs and lightly moved my hands up and down her calves in what was... even though by then I was clearly aware of who I would see. I need to ask you something.. If you get my drift. a reassuring manner. but I had no idea how she felt about being outnumbered in a room full of vampires. Please. "Now what would be the fun in that?" Jasper laughed..." I saw Bella wave tentatively over my shoulder. I turned and sent Jasper a nasty look.. "Edward. feeling nervous. and I couldn't get enough of it. "This really cool invention.. But I liked it. I'd already heard it. Bella's cheeks were flushed and her lips were swollen. I liked feeling that rush. I knew she was comfortable around me.. I hadn't exactly filled her in on the details of just how distracted I became while with Bella. I gritted my teeth at her innocent comment. we didn't know that you would have company. She felt bad for the interruption and wondered how they were able to surprise me. "Hi Bella. it felt almost like a human reaction.. the door bell.

." she finally said.. "And you didn't go home for Christmas." Alice cringed then and looked apologetically over toward Bella."We'll be right in. "The whole thing has Ally freaking out.. He wasn't supplying a mood to the room. I kept my back to Bella and slid closer to her." I told her. He just shook his head. "We are going to Carlisle and Esme's place next weekend. I stopped so that Bella could slide down my back and sit in the chair opposite Alice." "But Rosalie's birthday? You know she doesn't give a shit if I'm there." I groaned and pushed my fingers through my hair. She didn't like her visions to not be correct.. I saw that Alice sat in a chair while Jasper sprawled in his signature way across most of the couch. "Maybe you saw it happening when you decided to buy the necklace. The Vanilla Ice fan changed the future. I swear to God that if I ever figure out who 'IceIceBaby69' is. "Hop on. "You're giving me a piggy-back ride?" she giggled. "What do you have to ask me?" "You know next weekend is Rosalie's birthday?" "I am aware." Alice glowered darkly. Cool." .. "That bitch who was bidding against me got it." Jasper reminded me. He took my cue and followed Alice into the other room.. "She saw Rosalie getting that necklace. "You haven't seen him in forever." Jasper smirked.. I stood between the three of them and folded my arms over my chest." "Emmett will be there too. Sorry. Rose and Emmett are flying in for her birthday. So spill it. I'll rip her damned head off." I suggested." "Oh God Alice. "Ok." "Maybe. I glanced toward Jasper. Bella really was comfortable. Did you get that necklace that you were trying to win on Ebay?" "No. We'll go for our run when they leave." I told him. "Regardless. "You haven't even seen the new house since they moved to Seattle!" Alice argued." Bella wrapped her arms around my shoulders and kissed my neck lightly while I lifted her legs against my sides. No. And I want you to go. When I got to the living room. looking completely at ease." Alice sounded doubtful. "Oops. man. "Might as well practice." Bella shrugged and grinned.." "Wishful thinking?" I offered.

" she gave me a stern look." She blinked a couple of times and looked dazed. just.. "If Bella will go with me." I groaned again. um.. "You did mention that you needed to talk to Carlisle. I'll go then. up in Forks.. I lowered my chin and looked up at her through my lashes. I frowned. But I wasn't going without her." Bella spoke quietly from her chair. We had never been particularly close. about all of that stuff we found while researching." Excellent. "You don't need to give me that look." I told her.. Carlisle chose to relocate the family when I was forced to leave Forks." Alice continued." I shrugged. it was practically a war zone. What do you say?" "Oh. Then she frowned and slapped my shoulder. Alice looked like she was ready to start cheering. But in the few times we had been near each other since I moved. We can visit your Dad. "Cut it out.. you and I can spend a day alone in the city before coming home.. I. I really can't afford."And Esme really misses you. I was playing dirty. "Please Bella? I really do want you with me." "You just said that you think you should take whatever opportunity you can to spend time with your family.." "You just have to get Monday off work.. She closed her mouth and narrowed her eyes stubbornly. "This could be a nice opportunity to do that in person. "I'll get the tickets. Then we'll drive down and spend Saturday with my family. But then an idea turned my attention back to Bella. "I can't. She was actually helping them to team up on me! Alice smiled widely in her direction and Jasper gave her a thumbs-up." I raised my eyebrows. But I'm paying for my own plane ticket. She had just played herself right into my hands..." Alice stood and jumped up and down. I moved close and knelt next to her knees..." "What?" Bella opened her mouth in confusion at the switch in events. excitedly clapping her hands. Pulling out the big guns." I told her softly. but I held up a hand to slow her down. I'll go. On Sunday. "Ok. and Rosalie had held a grudge against me. "Oh Bella! We'll have so much fun! And the family is just going to love you! You'll see!" .. "Ugh. "You really think I should go?" "I think you should always take whatever opportunities you can. to spend time with your family.

. So-Irrationally-Emotional took off like his skirt was on fire.. yeah. And Edward almost crawled into the window to kick the shit out of your boyfriend. . and I folded my arms and smirked because I had gotten him in trouble too. sleep half-dressed. She turned a menacing look first toward Jasper and then toward me.. I chased him over to your place.." Bella muttered."Yeah." I explained. "Well. he was trying to see your underwear!" I pointed my finger at Jasper." Jasper smirked and threw his arms against the back of the couch." I said through clenched teeth." "And Mr. exactly.. He didn't catch it in time. telling me that I shouldn't trust Mike alone with you.. "I was curious!" Jasper threw his arms out. "Edward is the one that broke your bedroom window!" "You did?" Bella looked over at me. I turned to glare at him.. That shit was personal and I had a feeling she wouldn't find it amusing at all.. He was the only one still sitting and it irritated me that he looked so comfortable. did my window get broken?" I sighed and decided to come clean." "It can't be much more than what Edward owes you for the window repairs.. who immediately earned a vicious slap to the back of the head by Alice. "How. She actually looked mildly amused.. "Not exactly." "And my foot got caught on the window. "I mentioned that you. I prayed that Jasper would just leave out the whole part about us eavesdropping on her conversation with Mike under the trees." Jasper shrugged. Jasper really could be an ass sometimes. "Then he tore up the side of the building trying to get a peek!" "But then I saw man-boobs.. "Edward was the one talking about how she sleeps in next to nothing! I just wanted to see what the fuss was about!" Bella crossed her arms over her chest and stuck her hip out to the side. uh. "Oh hell! You didn't tell her?" Jasper was grinning and I knew I was in trouble. "Jasper!" Alice sounded exasperated.. "Jasper was over here. "Now I just have to come up with the money... I was encouraged to rat Jasper out for his hand in it. but I pulled him away. "What window repairs?" Bella asked suspiciously." I finished lamely.

Alice rolled her eyes at our argument. she's saucy!" Jasper's voice held a bit of awe. I'd show you all my underwear right now." "Let me save you a little effort. 44. "Ooooh. "I wouldn't have been so curious. flipping it and Jasper back up to a more natural position. "You boys will continue this later. I watched with pride as she bent forward fearlessly." "Fine. There. "We'll do this shit at home." Suddenly I was laughing with him. I was actually looking forward to the trip. Rosalie absolutely hated when the three of us wrestled." "I'm standing right here. if I was wearing any!" Jasper laughed loud until I flashed in front of him and turned my foot sideways into his chest. but the message was clear.. we are leaving. Bella and Edward have plans. You know that Emmett will want to get in on it too. Jasper grinned over at me "Damn. Cullen!" he finally growled." he grumbled. I couldn't believe it. Alice skipped over and used one hand to grip the corner of the couch." Jasper made excuses. I don't own crotch-less panties. "It never would have happened if you women didn't insist on keeping your lacy things covered. Alice chuckled appreciatively. Now you don't have to be curious about my lacy things anymore. She won the staredown." Her words were light. Jasper laughed from his seat on the couch. I finally allowed myself a small smile." Bella moved to stand closer to Jasper and looked down at him. Bella and I just looked at each other for a minute. . "I don't know what the big deal is. "I wear boy shorts. Jasper remained in his seated position." Alice shook her head toward Bella and smiled.. . Jasper.Game on. New World When Alice and Jasper left.. or anyone else." I grinned. "He really just does this stuff to get a rise out of Edward. and I won't floss my ass with a g-string for your brother. with his head on the floor and his feet in the air. The entire sofa slid backward twenty feet before tipping over. Knowing that Bella would be with me. silent for a moment. "Sounds great." I reminded her. or high-cut bikini briefs. and you won't have another excuse to climb the back of my building. Bella tapped her foot and frowned at both of us. "I apologize for him. as if she was spoiling the secret.

You kind of owe me." She kissed me softly and I was stunned again by how fortunate I was to have found her." I said quietly." Bella cautioned. I heard her move closer. I want to see." Bella noted. relieved that she hadn't decided against the trip. "It's really ok. "Hmm." I said thoughtfully." the clouds are thinning. "But. "When I run alone. "You'll really go to Seattle with me?" "Forks first. "I'll call Charlie on my way to work." I told her. "We might see some sun today."I'm sorry about your window. I look different. I looked up to see an amused expression of forgiveness on her face. "Plenty of time. and let him know to expect us." "It will be fun." "I'll be sure to stay in semi-open areas. I want you to be prepared. She kissed the side of my neck again." I breathed." I concurred. "I want to know everything about you Edward." "Deal." "What time do you have to leave?" Bella looked over at the clock and frowned." I insisted with a grin. We don't need me to start bleeding. I wouldn't want you to be scratched or anything. branches and leaves don't bother me. "Well.. "Probably best to avoid that. In the sunlight. But I am going to let you buy my plane ticket now. . bowing my head." I nodded." she pouted. right?" Bella asked. "I want to meet your father.. all gross-looking?" "Depends on who you ask. and I squeezed her legs before stepping outside onto the deck." "Do you get like. I laughed lightly. I suppose." Bella smiled. and I turned so that she could hop up on my back once more. "Absolutely. "Do you still want that ride?" Bella's face broke out in a happy smile." "Yeah. and then felt her fingertips pushing my hair away from my forehead. "In about an hour." Bella whispered near my ear.

I slowed to a walking gait. I watched her warily. tiny pin-points of light that danced with the grass that swayed near my feet. light reflected and bounced away from me in a thousand directions. I thought that if you wanted." I felt a little nervous and didn't finish my thought aloud. As we reached the tree-line. trying to find the inner-strength to accept whatever reaction Bella had to this new facet of me. "Wow. and her heart beat more quickly with exhilaration." "As good as a roller coaster?" I asked. Having Bella with me made one of my favorite activities even better." she whispered."Hold on tight. Even as I pushed my muscles to move more quickly. But it did serve to prepare her for what was going to happen. It was an amazing and powerful thing to accept. I had switched from the role of natural predator to natural protector. My body was subconsciously making allowances for the girl on my back. I nodded and turned so that we could walk side by side toward the lightness beyond the trees. I took off like a rocket toward the tree line. "Just. and I took a deep breath before leaving her and walking straight out toward the middle of the field.. there was no way she could mistake the way that my skin threw rainbow prisms in the sun." I said. It was an unnecessary warning. I continued to hold her until she was steady on her feet again. I could feel the sun on me." I nodded. When I saw a break in the trees ahead of us. "That was. supplying strength when she noticed my weakness. She looked around. "It's sunny. "Better!" Bella giggled as I let go of her legs and she slid from my back. Even from this distance. let me get my equilibrium back. I wouldn't let her fall. when I saw that she looked off-balance. As soon as my feet touched the grass beyond my deck. She watched me curiously.. Bella dropped my hand and paused in the shadowy space under a large pine. I turned immediately and put my hands on her waist. I didn't have to walk far before I lost the protective covering of the trees that surrounded the small grassy area. I could see the warm glow of the sun in that open space. The smell and sounds of her around me and with me made my senses alert and made me feel alive. I knew what she would see as I slowly turned to face her. Bella wrapped her hand around mine. "Let's go." she smiled. I could tell that I wasn't running as fast as I normally could.. "Why did we stop?" "There is a clearing ahead. I kept my back turned and continued walking until I was satisfied at the distance between us. Still. I laughed in genuine delight. . I understood her hesitation. I could feel Bella's arms hold tight around my shoulders. A familiar path helped me cut through the thinly-forested area nearest my home. unbelievable. She laughed and her hair flew out behind us.." Bella breathed. Like I had crushed diamonds under my skin. And then.

.. It was such an intimate gesture. I couldn't fight the grin that pulled up the corner of my mouth. "Tell me what you are thinking. I continued to watch her as she moved her feet and walked around me. a sparkly vampire!" Bella gave way to a torrent of laughter until tears squeezed from underneath her lashes and she shook with mirth. trying to suppress her giggles. We sat that way for a minute until I felt her shudder against me. By the time she had traveled the circle. "My hair doesn't grow. She touched my eyebrows and drew a line down the center of my nose..." Bella instructed. I opened my eyes as she pulled her face away. I let her come." she finished." she teased. she looked like an angel on earth. "You don't have to shave." She hummed. I lowered myself to the grass at her feet. "You are handling 'strange' surprisingly well. Her expression was one of curiosity and slight tension. with the sun making a halo around her wavy chestnut hair." "I know!" Bella smiled widely and I returned the gesture by putting my arms around her and hugging her close to my chest. She left her respite near the tree and walked deliberately toward me. I looked up at her. "Edward? Sit down. But to me." I did as I was told. I pulled back." Bella bit her bottom lip. When I did. "What? What's so funny?" I asked. do you?" Bella asked. Especially when she smiled down at me the way she was.. the more fruitless her efforts became. "My boyfriend. I kept my eyes closed. The more she tried. but was really too nervous to do more. I wasn't sure what kind of a freak show my appearance presented in her mind. "I need sunglasses." I said.is . Her shoulders shook once. I held my breath. I didn't move.. Bella squinted when she stepped close and flinched her face away from the light that bounced up toward her eyes. twice." I told her. and her thumbs lowered to rub my jaw line. With my knees bent up and my heels pressed into the ground.. "Strange.Bella began to move then.. not releasing my hold. Taking me completely by surprise. I offered a small smile. Bella pressed her hands over her mouth. "Close your eyes. Her legs rested on my hips and her feet pressed into the ground behind me. "Mmm. and then she leaned forward to rub her cheek against mine. Both of her hands cupped my cheeks. "You look. she still wanted to be close to me. I literally couldn't stop myself .. Bella moved close and straddled my legs before lowering herself to sit on my lap... her heart-beat had slowed to a normal pace and her smile was relaxed again. I felt her tentative finger tips trace the features of my face. and then I heard the distinct sound of her laughter. Her face was inches from mine.. My chest felt tight at the fact that even after all of this.

" "Ok. Her eyes were bright with unshed tears and her cheeks were pink with a happy blush. and held her more firmly against me. We could stay just like this. and then sprinted toward the trees to take her home. Bella had opened herself to me and accepted me for the creature I was." Bella whispered. Sitting with her as I was.." she finished. She stroked the back of my neck while I cradled her in front of me and placed one more lingering kiss on her full mouth. I turned so she could get on my back." She blinked her eyes slowly.." I nodded.. "But what are you doing after work?" Bella smiled again and raised an eyebrow.maybe going over my notes for tomorrow night's class. My long-dormant heart felt full again because of her. and sat back up. and she caressed my cheeks with her fingers. she raised her hands to my face again and tenderly cupped my jaw before she lowered her lips to brush back and forth against mine. She didn't say a word. I didn't need her to. forever. Well. Of course she hadn't meant anything by her simple statement. are you asking me out on a date?" Her smile was radiant. holding her against me. I captured her lips with my own. "If you'd like to?" "Edward. My hopes dropped. watching as the sun warmed her hair in a riot of red shades that usually remained hidden. Quickly. She finally gasped. "I wish we could stay here. trying to catch her breath. "But I have to get ready for work." I shrugged. in a moment of desperation. "Nothing. she pulled her head away and moved her fingers to trace my mouth instead. "Yes. "Bella. as she arched her back against my arms and rocked." Bella frowned and I gently placed her on her feet. forever. and I had to work to make my smile look genuine.. "I still have to go home to shower and get my uniform.. I love you.. Instead.from laughing with her. Reality crashed around my shoulders. We sat that way for a long while. "Are you sure you have to go?" I whispered against her cheek. Instead of merely dropping her legs so she could slide down my back. I jumped to my feet beside her. Bella was breathless from our run and from laughing when I stepped back into the house. I wasn't sure if she'd ever looked prettier to me... My chest constricted. My hands played in the sun-warmed tips of her hair. This was different.. . We could! My mind screamed. I had told her how I felt before. as well as the man that I wanted to be. acknowledging my words with a small smile. Eventually. I reached behind and shifted her legs so that I could pull her around my side and into my arms. laughing until she couldn't laugh anymore.. Why? Did you have something in mind?" "I thought it might be fun to take you to a movie. I offered her my hand as she rose off my lap. sharing deep unhurried kisses. like this.

If you'd like to pick me up?" "I'll be there."I guess I am. I didn't like it. Finally I had found inspiration to finish Bella's song. I had spent so much time at the piano that I had to rush to get ready for my date. or her feet scuffling across the floor." I told her. ending the piece with a beautiful optimism that made me feel warm and happy. I stood in the doorway and watched her wave before she pulled away in her car. don't.." "I'm so sorry. it rang." I promised.." I grinned. I grabbed a few necessary items such as my wallet and my car keys. I wished she didn't even have that job.. I recognized Bella's number and answered it. I hated the long hours she was forced to keep.. her breathing and her heart beat. the swish of her hair as she pushed it behind her shoulders. I won't be able to go out tonight. Bella seemed to like it messy.. Our time spent running together through the woods. Just as I palmed my phone. and the memory of holding her against me while we kissed. With her gone... the sound of her skin brushing surfaces as she passed. I didn't have to do much more than that. All of those things twisted through the final chords and notes. "I was just leaving the house. "I'm sorry. and ran my hands through my hair.. It was six-thirty. "I could be ready by seven." Her voice matched my plummeting spirits. Our future together seemed limitless with possibilities that I could hear through my finished composition." Bella said. But I'll start again at seven and work until close. I hated the idea of her wearing that revealing little uniform and working with drunk men." Bella grumbled. I spent the afternoon at my piano. To chase away the pressing silence." I told her sympathetically. I smiled while I imagined sharing it with the woman who placed the music in my heart. I would consider asking her to quit if I didn't know how much her .. "Why?" "Suzie can't make it in to work. "Well. buttoned a clean shirt around me. I could actually feel her absence in the air around me. Bella retrieved her over-night bag from the other room before leaving. the way that she let me love her even while the sun glaringly pointed out our differences. the silence around me was deafening. "Hello?" "Did I catch you before you left?" I glanced at my watch. I had been so in tune to the other sounds of Bella. Even without providing her inner voice to flood my mind. "I have to work a double.. I changed my jeans. I am on a break now.

reading under the warm glow of the table lamp when I heard a car slow and turn off the main road. I'll leave a light on. My front door opened and closed with no preamble. Ok?" "Sure. framed in moonlight by the glass door." Bella mumbled. She dropped her purse on my side table and started walking toward my patio doors. carrying cases of beer and liquor. I didn't invite her over until she was already at work." she breathed. My arms and my back are killing me. ." "You were that sure I'd come over?" Bella raised her eyebrow." "I was too." I nodded. She was accustomed to having her own space. "Of course it is. I looked up from my page and smiled at the girl who stood in the doorway. I let my eyes drift back to the last paragraph that I was reading when I heard the car pull into my driveway. An idea started to form in my mind. I'll think about it. I was going to have to work on that one. Her feet shuffled with heavy steps." I held my breath and waited for her response. And now I have to wait tables all night. but I was having a very tough time being away from her in general. I decided that I would enjoy it myself. if you aren't exhausted after your shift. I smiled and set my book aside." I offered.. I have been in the stockroom all day. But no. I was really looking forward to our date. Bella turned to look at me. I glanced up at the clock on the wall. I chuckled. She smelled like beer. "You know. It wasn't like she had time to pack. "Alice might still have that extra bathing suit in the guest room. an excuse to spend time with Bella anyway. "I hoped you would.. Finally. "I'm just tired. Pieces of her long hair had fallen out of her messy ponytail and framed her face." I offered. just in case. I needed to respect that. We can do it another time. I heard her feet on the walk. It should be ready. There was absolutely no way that she would accept financial support from me. I was sitting on my couch." "I considered that. and she looked tired. "Is it still ok for me to use your jacuzzi?" Bella asked. I was fairly positive Bella wouldn't like it if I acted too needy or too clingy. It was best for me to keep my mouth shut and just try to be supportive. "I turned it on earlier. Of course she wouldn't. I noticed she didn't have her over-night bag with her. even if you decided to go home after work. The hot tub is great for sore muscles. Not only was I sincere in my idea to erase the discomfort that her day of lifting had caused. I smiled to myself as I listened to her car door close. "Thanks Edward. you are welcome to come back to my place.. and saw that it was almost two-thirty in the morning." I hoped she would take me up on the offer. "I know I'm whining. She wore her Midfield work uniform.. moving around kegs.independence meant to her.

I had been sitting there. Bella dipped her toes into the hot water and smiled before grabbing the hem of her t-shirt and pulling it up and over her head. Bella smiled and moved over to me." With that.. "That feels heavenly." Bella said." I stammered like a school boy. I smiled and leaned forward to kiss that small freckle on the back of her neck that I had always been so intrigued by. she pulled her black work shorts down her legs and left them on my living room floor. "Come here. My mouth popped open as she began to walk outside. "Well Edward? Are you going to join me. She was already settling into the corner of the tub with a smile on her face and a relaxed sigh when I spun and went inside to get dressed. I shifted back a little further on the seat. She smiled and opened her eyes while I lowered myself into the other corner seat. Her fingers rapidly made me forget . I was staring like an idiot at her cute little green and white polka dot bra. When she moved her hands to rest on my knees. And honestly Edward. Bella just shrugged and yawned before stepping down into the hot tub. It was disturbing how quickly my body responded to her casual touch." "Do your arms still hurt? Your back?" "It's getting better. I spread my legs wide." she stated. I. trying diligently to not imagine her lack-of-clothing and the way her skin felt under my fingers. "This was a perfect suggestion. "You didn't take long. and then relaxed immediately when I started massaging the tight muscles under my hands. I couldn't seem to help it.. I moved my hands to her shoulders."My underwear covers more than that bikini.. She actually moaned and her head fell forward." I wasn't trying to play a game or be cool. It was the simple truth. I was back on the deck seconds later. And I really did over-do it in the stock room today. "I was eager to get back to you. But when her fingers began moving under the water." Bella shrugged. She tossed her number thirteen jersey onto a deck chair and grinned at me over her shoulder. and she sat on the edge of the seat in front of me. my hands faltered for just a moment. I stood and followed like a man in a trance.." I told her. or not?" "I'm. I'm just going to go get my trunks. "Suit yourself. My hands caressed her wet skin. looking at Bella's contented smile while I stepped down into the hot water to join her. it isn't like you haven't seen my panties before." she murmured when I stepped over her legs. I didn't bother trying to dress at human speed." she said quietly. dragging lines up and down the outside of my legs. She shivered at my initial touch. applying the proper amount of pressure to her shoulders and neck muscles while she relaxed further into me. "I already feel less tired. the tempting curves of her bottom displayed nicely in a pair of navy-blue boy-shorts.

my body grew hard and I hoped I could find a way to politely put distance between us so that she wouldn't be offended. To my surprise. My moral code warred with my natural urges... She just looked at me with a strange mixture of curiosity or confusion. where she stopped to speak quietly. My throat felt tight and I let my hands fall away from her shoulders. I wasn't sure. But I opened my mouth to try to dispel the strange awareness between us. melting against me. I just have a century of additional repressed urges to deal with. She didn't say a word. feeling like I should say something. if things worked the same for you. but only so she could brush her lips across my cheek.. I pressed myself into the corner of the tub as far as I could... tracing the planes of my chest. Her touch caused my abdomen to tighten reflexively and she smiled. It didn't help that she wasn't saying anything. like I should apologize for my body or for every impure thought I had ever had toward her. in this way. a safe distance away. hoping she'd take my subtle hint and move to her own seat. She was just. lower still. even sure." She silenced me by placing her finger tips against my mouth.. She looked thoughtful and bit her lip while she deliberately drew her fingers lower." I whispered.. "And I wasn't sure if. if you were attracted to me in this way... however. Instead. we are alike. She leaned into my cool frame with a contented sigh.. My hips jerked involuntarily at the unexpected sensation and Bella moved her body .. She placed tiny kisses toward my ear.. She simply turned herself on the seat so that she could look at me.." "What do you mean?" I asked. "I've spent the last few days learning about all the ways that we are different." I admitted. "Shhh.gently under the surface of the water making light designs against my stomach. My voice was husky with the pleasure that her touch provided. Bella moved then. Behind her. she did not move away." "I'll say!" Her eyes were wide as she let her fingers drop lower still. "All done." she whispered. "And I suspect my body works the same as that of any other man. I like knowing. but she didn't stop until her back was firmly pressed against my chest.. and I didn't know how to proceed. briefly touching me through my trunks.your body worked the same. I panicked." I froze when her fingers dropped to my shoulders. "I wondered. that in this way." Bella confessed softly. I. "I wasn't.. "Bella. or some other emotion I could quite put my finger on.. I closed my eyes and gritted my teeth when she slid her hips further into the corner. Because as soon as I felt her back stiffen in response. Her fingertips played at the waistband of my trunks and she looked deeply into my eyes.." "I am desperately attracted to you. she sighed deeply and slid back toward me. waiting? For what..my good intentions.. I knew that she had felt exactly what it was that I was trying to hide..

The water around my naked body was doing delicious things to me. I felt her lips biting and sucking and placing kisses against my shoulder and the crook of my neck." she whispered again. "Do I make you feel good. resting them on the outside edge of the fiber-glass Jacuzzi.. driving me crazy as she rubbed back and forth.up mine until we were face to face." I said. and kissed me again." she whispered near my ear with a teasing tone. This time." Bella instructed. My breathing became labored on instinct and my hips restlessly started moving of their own accord in time to her efforts. She smiled and raised one of her hands to brush my hair away from my forehead. and I let my head fall back. She was being careful and cautious about my unknown reactions to the way she was touching me. I turned my head to find her lips again. I wanted to hold her. But if anything. torn between my need to stop her and praying to God that she wouldn't. "Do you trust me. playing with the hair just under my navel. Bella pressed her chest against . She settled in next to me. waiting.. "Shhh. gliding and twisting around me. She chuckled against my mouth and pulled away slightly. Bella's hand touched me once. she made the decision for me. I kissed her deeply. sliding her hand down my torso again. trying to search for the intention behind her words. Her cheeks were pink. and she actually looked excited by my response. I tried to relax the muscles of my arms and I understood why she requested for my hands to be moved away from her. I stunned her with my fast movements. Edward?" I looked deeply into her eyes. It felt so much different with her touching me. "Take these off. I moaned into her mouth and brought my arms around her. I groaned at the contact. snapping the waistband of my shorts against the taut skin of my stomach. Who was I to argue? My shorts were around my feet before she could blink. and the look on her face was causing incredible pressure to build within me. Edward?" Her throaty whisper across my ear nearly sent me over the edge. I held my breath. I closed my eyes and lifted my arms above the water. and her finger traced a line from the tip of my penis to the base before she wrapped her hand firmly around me. her fingers slid under the waistband of my trunks. "You are going to be awfully upset if you ruin your hot tub. "That's going to take a while to get used to. soft skin causing such amazing friction. The feeling was intense. "Yes.. pulling her wet. and my hands clenched into the sides of the tub. I was so afraid of my vulgarity upsetting her. Once again. I swallowed hard and waited to see what she was going to do next. The combination of her warm. Then cupping my chin with her tiny hand. "Fuck yes!" I bit my lip the instant that the harsh words left my mouth. "God Bella. and her kisses calmed me even while her hand below the water started doing wicked things to my body. slick body fully against my chest." she grinned. to crush her against me and feel her body under my hands the same way that she was once again exploring mine. But a slow smile made its way across her face." she ordered. "Put your hands on the edge of the tub. she seemed to like it.. she pressed her full lips against mine." I groaned. When her hand slid down my stomach once again.

And because her delightful bottom was so close to my head. The sight of them there caused my throat to constrict painfully. I didn't want to let her go. I grabbed a soft t-shirt from my dresser drawer. sensing release just seconds away. My hand hesitated on the bathroom door when I realized that I could hear the shower water from within. I started to return to Bella." I told her. And so I tentatively opened the door. "I always want you near me. throwing her unceremoniously over my shoulder. then released her hold below the water and moved both of her hands up to brush through the back of my hair. "Stay?" I was worried that what happened between us would cause unnecessary awkwardness. She would probably appreciate the gesture. When I was sure I was able. I pulled my mouth from hers. "Ow!" "Quit squirming. I would." I emphasized my words by pulling her across my lap. pulling her tight against me and placing grateful kisses along her collar bones and the top of her chest. "We're going to get you into some dry clothes. looking down at the water." I shrugged. I lowered my hands from the edge of the tub and wrapped my arms around her. but I felt her pulling away. Bella slowly stroked me for a moment more. She pulled and sucked at my lips in time to her more eager movements under the water. Only the faint outline of Bella's body was visible through the steamy condensation on my shower door. and gripped me tighter. and I moved quickly. "Put me down!" Bella was breathless and laughing. but received no response. and pressed my forehead into her shoulder.mine and crushed my mouth under hers. She held my face against her skin as I shuddered and came down from the incredible high she had just elevated me to." I nodded. My body tensed. she surprised me. "I'll have to borrow dry clothes. but stopped and pulled a pair of my boxers from the drawer as well. "You are going to have to use extra cleaning-chemicals in this thing." I ordered. I knocked lightly. "Would you like me to?" "Of course. Bella blushed and nodded. I reached up and playfully spanked her once. "Will you stay tonight?" I asked. But again. ." Bella smirked. Bella felt it too." "I have a few lying around. She squealed loudly and kicked her legs when I stood and began walking out of the hot tub." I walked Bella straight into my bathroom and placed her feet on the soft rug in front of my shower. carrying her into the house. "or Jasper is going to be pissed!" My mouth flew open in pretend insult at her reference to what had just happened between us. Her bra and panties were draped over my towel rack to dry. "I'll be right back. squeezing my eyes shut tight and groaning as my climax tore through me. pulling my trunks back up into place. In my room.

"What?" Bella's eyebrows lowered in a concerned look. "Do you need water? Or can I get you anything."Edward?" "I'll just leave these clothes on the edge of the sink." Bella smiled as she crawled up onto my bed.. right.. and making my clothing look way more sexy than I could ever have imagined.." I smiled.." I closed the door softly behind me.." "Ok... "Did you want to watch a movie or something?" "I'm actually pretty tired." Bella said. When she was situated in the center of my bed.." "I wish. "I'm amazed by this every single second that we are together." "I've been waiting my whole life for you Bella. I didn't bother with a shirt.. The room was cast in shadows. She looked at our joined hands thoughtfully for a moment." she whispered." "Tonight was. She bent her elbow and held her hand out between us with her fingers splayed. and I'll be ready for bed. "It felt. "I'm just going to wash my hair." . I went to her." "What is it?" "You're so strong." she said simply." I told her.." I muttered.?" "Just you. but light from the window leant enough of a glow for her to see me looking at her. My breath caught and my body warmed at her admission. "I'd like that. fit.. "Does it amaze you..." I whispered. that I could touch you too." I swallowed hard and paused.. we just. scary. I pressed my palm against hers and entwined our fingers. "What do you wish?" "I wish.. "For all of our differences... When I heard Bella moving around in my bedroom. and used a towel from the bathroom down the hall to dry my body before I dressed in comfortable pajama pants. laying on my side and resting my face on my arm.. "It's.. My chest rose and fell as my breathing picked up nervously." she whispered. "Will you stay with me?" "I was hoping you'd ask. I turned off the light and went to join her. Bella responded with a slow smile.. "I liked touching you. how well we compliment each other?" Bella asked." she licked her lips and shook her head a little. "But.

But the knowledge that she had been in a serious relationship was in the back of my mind.. "Also mine. That sounds pathetic. was strictly over-the-clothes. "I've probably had a bit more experience than you. "Knock yourself out. "So.. "I just thought." I stated simply. "Waiting to be explored?" I felt like a boy at Christmas.... "I know.. I didn't want to elaborate and bring the unwanted images to my mind... and I deliberately blew my cool breath against the sensitive skin there." . "I would never hurt you Bella.. "You've already seen me more undressed than Mike ever did. pressing a kiss to her knee." I shook my head.I raised our joined hands to my lips and placed kisses on the tips of her fingers." Bella nodded. "Do you mean.?" "Anything we did together. I dove back under the covers. But." Bella teased." I wrinkled my forehead as I tried to accept what she was saying. all of this. "Mine." she giggled.. "What makes you think that?" My brows lowered. not like I feel when I'm with you. Magellan.." My lips moved up her arm as I moved closer to her on the bed. She giggled above me and I moved further up. I never felt like this.. I didn't want her to be nervous with me. "I only want to make you feel as good as you made me feel.. striving to keep the situation light. "It's astounding. that you and Mike. But. "You're right." "I know." she continued to stroke my cheek and smiled shyly. "Is unchartered territory?" "Yep. and I really hadn't meant to wonder about what kinds of things that her and Mike had done together. I couldn't. pulling the blankets back off my head as I held my weight above her with my arms. "You have more experience with this sort of thing than I do." Bella stiffened then and gently pulled her arm away. I just couldn't fake feeling for him in a way that I did not." I laughed then and dove under the blankets. She shivered but did not pull away.. Bella reached out and ran her fingers down my cheek.. I hadn't meant to offend her.." I let my finger trace her hip under my t-shirt..." "It's not pathetic. I picked up her leg and kissed the inside of her ankle." My lips pressed a kiss to the inside of her elbow. I finally surfaced." she whispered.. playful and joking as I tickled her legs and her sides until she breathlessly laughed with me." I pursed my lips..

She tasted delicious. She was stunning. or something that makes you uncomfortable. even in the darkness. With care." I told her. Bella moaned softly and arched her back. I smiled. I leaned forward to place a slow. pressing herself more fully against my palms. A confidence I didn't know I possessed stole over me and I lowered my hand to the bottom of her t-shirt and pulled it up and over her head. My eyes locked on hers." she breathed. "Edward.. open kiss on her mouth. I lowered my mouth and pulled one of her nipples into my mouth. I felt only the manly urges of my body. I forced my hand to still. "You are so beautiful. Would she give me her heart? I raised my hand to her hip. My eyes drank in the soft swells of her chest. . "Every part of me is yours. Bella crossed her arm over her chest.. and the feel of her on my lips and tongue was like ambrosia. exposed before me. and I lifted a hand to brush the back of my fingers over her breasts. I lowered my face then. I wanted to make her love me. "You have to be specific with me. My fingers glided back and forth on her smooth skin. I was fascinated by the way her body responded to me." she whispered. and pulled me toward her. effectively rolling her onto her back so that I could look at her in the moonlight. and the teasing was gone. taking the kisses she offered and pressing lightly down onto her so that I could feel her chest against mine. My thumb moved up to caress the bottom of her breast. I could do this. I went eagerly. I was encouraged by the fact that in all of this. She needed me to be sure. You need to tell me if I do something wrong. and slid it underneath the t-shirt she wore. Furthermore. the part I wanted more than anything.. "Let me save you the effort. I wanted to bring her pleasure. I could see the blush on her cheeks. in a self-conscious manner." Bella murmured." "I will."It's going to take you days if you plan to claim every one of my body parts. I placed a quick kiss on her thigh before moving up her body again and shifting to my side next to her. to drag my lips down the center of her chest." Bella teased. I moved my hands up her torso and cupped her breasts in my hands. I could do this." I told her. My hand was shaking a little as I skimmed it up her side and wrapped my fingers over her ribs." Her words sent happiness flooding through me. and Bella shivered against me. "Do you want me to stop?" "God no!" Bella pushed her hands into my hair. Bella trembled beneath me. I paused and pulled my head up to look at her. I stopped at her belly button and swirled my tongue against the funny little recess before I moved back up her body. content to come back to it later. Only one part of her was in my mind. "I can't read your mind. But I quickly took her wrist in my hand and pushed it into the mattress beside her.. Hurting Bella was the furthest thing from my mind. I paused in my game.

Her cheeks flamed and she bit her lip. eager to learn what would bring her the most pleasure. and it brought the lower half of our bodies in closer contact. I held her hand close to my face and wrapped my fingers around hers again. teaching me and showing me the way her body needed me to move.. And I could smell her arousal in the air around us.. And so I rolled until I could lay on my hip beside her once more. I could tell by the way that Bella was moving against me. I bit my lip as I slowly moved my finger inside. I was rewarded by the glorious noises that she was beginning to make in the back of her throat. Slowly I reached up to remove one of her hands from my hair. It was calling me to claim her. I wasn't sure if I'd asked too much. And then I brought our joined hands down between us. wet and hot and so tight.?" "Please Edward.. and I ghosted my hand with hers. Thoughts of blowing bubbles crossed my mind.. lower to tentatively pause at her opening. that she was searching for more. But I knew that this needed to be about Bella. "Show me." Bella gasped. drugging me with her open-mouthed kisses. I smiled against her skin. and then I turned my hand to lay against and over hers. Bella's eyes squeezed shut when she felt my hand. "We feel perfect. my own need had risen again to a feverish pitch. and by the way that her hips began moving to meet and match our touch. She was bolder when I wasn't watching." Bella whispered against my mouth. I wanted so badly to move over her and press into her. It was incredibly erotic. I wanted to know that I could do this for her.. I slowly traced my fingers against her sensitive skin. "Can I. Bella tossed her head back into the pillows and I followed the column of her throat with my nose. I moved my hand with hers and groaned once more when I felt exactly where she had taken me." I said against her mouth. Her fingers moved less hesitantly now. And I was a patient student." Her hand wrapped around my wrist then guiding me toward her. "Show me exactly how to touch you. and I had to bury my face in Bella's neck to hide my amusement. I didn't have to worry about hurting her. I felt so damn good. Please. I kissed her instead. She moved her face to mine. to see her touching herself with me. I groaned into her and had to concentrate on making my mind clear."We're perfect. Bella moved against my hand eagerly. this." I told her quietly. accepting her increased pulse and her quickening breaths as confirmation that I was making her feel good. Wanting to encourage her. I was taking mental notes and hoping . "Yes. and I groaned and lowered my face to lick and suck and kiss her neck. She surrounded me completely. I needed this to be about her. Bella gasped against me. and sucked her skin carefully between my lips. I caressed her tongue with mine. I turned her palm until it rested flat against her fluttering stomach. "Like." Bella's eyes widened at my words. stopping to place a lingering kiss on the pulse-point at the base of her neck.. Bella was breathing heavily and watching me as I licked and kissed the tips of her fingers." She hitched one leg up at the side of my hip. I groaned at the sensation and kissed her again. Leaving her hand in place. I leaned forward and kissed her again. But then I felt her hand slide under mine.

I felt her muscles clenching around my hand and my name was on her lips as she threw her head back in the ecstasy of the moment. I shifted my hand so that my palm cupped her fully while my fingers moved according to the pace she had set for me. "Edward? Were just oogling my goodies while I was sleeping?" "Shamelessly. her cheek resting on her crossed arms. She blushed and pulled it over her head." I whispered there." Bella whispered. When I got to the place I wanted to be. lovingly watching while Bella slept. Her hands had given up leading the way. Her face was turned towards me. But Bella rocked against my hand and arched her back off the bed. and studied me for a moment. I handed her the t-shirt that she had worn the night before. Her body's natural resistance warned me to be gentle. Her eyes were still closed and her hands still gripped the sheets tightly. I planned to have a thousand lifetimes to claim every part of Bella for my own. "More. throaty moan from the girl beneath me. Bella scrunched up her face and then opened her eyes to the light of the room. The sunlight illuminated the soft curve of her naked back and made the soft. The added friction sent her spiraling over the edge. I turned my attention to her chest again. and she was gripping the sheets on either side of her head. As if sensing my wakeful interest. Bella turned her face then. I could only imagine the way she would feel moving around other parts of my anatomy. My lips drew a line from her navel up the center of her chest. licking at the slight salty perspiration that rested there.there would be a test later. 45. I smiled at the sight of my boxer shorts wrapped low across her hips. bringing new and interesting curves to the light." I nodded. Edward. and was rewarded with a low. fine hairs on her skin turn golden. writhing under my attention. I trailed my fingers up her hips and wrapped them around her waist. And it was all me. if you'd let me. I slowly removed my hand from between her legs. She quickly pulled the sheet up to block herself from my eyes. Moore is less I laid still. I lowered my lips to kiss the skin directly above her pounding heart. I increased the speed of my movements and the affirmative sounds coming from Bella made me feel victorious. I kissed her again deeply and moved another finger to join the first. "I'm sorry that I don't have any food in the kitchen. My grin widened when she mumbled and rolled to her back. "Mine. to not push so far. A look of consternation passed her features when she became aware of her state of undress. As a sort of apology." ." I told her. She really was lovely. "I'd like to take you out to breakfast.

" I smiled smugly."That sounds really nice." "Like what?" . licking a tiny drop of syrup from the corner of her mouth." Bella muttered dryly." "Thanks professor." "You have no desire to learn more than is absolutely required?" I cocked an eyebrow in her direction. I had respected her wishes and gave her some space to concentrate on her studies before our trip." "I'll help you study on the plane." I shrugged. keeping her eyes on the page..." She pulled her book up in front of her face and made an effort to ignore me. "I don't know why you are worried about the final. trying to get back in her good graces. You've been pouring over that text. "You've gone to the library every night this week. we sat side by side in a booth at a small local café." Bella said.. "We're going to have to find time to study for our final this weekend. It's not just memorizing facts." I said. "He's not going to cover material that is not in the study guide." she smiled." Bella spoke quietly. I quizzed her at first. She had claimed that I was a distraction when we were nearly caught making-out in a corner of the library. She smiled her appreciation and made sure that she reminded me of that promise while we were flying at thirty-five thousand feet on Friday morning.. "What were you doing then?" I frowned. Bella pulled her class book and the papers she needed from her carry-on bag." she huffed after I added to an answer. Thanks. "That's not even in here." Bella argued. "But I don't need to know that for the test." "I wasn't really reading for the class. Bella. "But it's correct. "I was.. Bella sipped coffee and ate French toast while I took advantage of the free internet service and looked for airline tickets for our trip. looking through some other things.. As soon as we were comfortably in the air. "I can't believe our class is almost over. and searched through the book to see if my points were accurate. "Now if you don't mind.. She glowered.. An hour later. but her mood turned edgy every time I corrected her on fine details of her answers. "Learning is an on-going process.

" . She turned her face finally." She made her admission without looking at me.. "You're right." Bella's lips twitched and the corner of her mouth pulled up in a begrudging smile.. It kills me that you don't have to study. and their singers. "This is too easy for me. "I wasn't looking through documents. It was a habit of hers that I had grown to love. "You're right. "I mostly read through old short stories and legends. Bella sighed. just because you have to study and I don't. "And you don't have to worry about looking that stuff up." Bella rolled her eyes when she whispered the words in a rush. I might not have met you. while she tapped her highlighting marker against her lower-lip. just to throw humans off the truth."I was looking for more stories about vampires. flicking her study guide with the tip of my finger." "Really?" "I think most of that crap was made up by vampires. I picked up the Sky Mall catalogue from its resting place on the back of the seat in front of me and started idly flipping through the pages. I didn't have my translator with me. She was clearly irritated about having to study.. Her ire was adorable. "I don't know." "I like to learn things on my own." "Or memorize them.what? Do I really need an approved reading list?" "You are being crabby. "If I hadn't chosen the class." She grinned over at me ruefully." I smiled.. I tried to smile. "Did you find anything interesting in the books at the library?" I switched the conversation back to her earlier reference. but Bella glared at me and turned her attention back to her work. of course. I knew she couldn't argue when I alluded to fate bringing us together. giving more attention to the gadgets on the page in front of me than was necessary. randomly." I folded my arms across my chest. Carlisle should have plenty of information for us by the time we get to Seattle. I guess you can blame it on fate.. I considered her for a minute. "Why did you even bother to take the class then?" Bella huffed. "Yes and no." I told her." I teased. "So. and she was taking her moodiness out on me." Bella frowned. "But many of the stories derived from at least some element of fact. After a few minutes." Bella shrugged." I finally said. and looked exasperated.

making silly faces at the camera. I also tried really hard not to think about the fact that I would be meeting her Daddy in a few short hours. three pictures for a dollar.. "I'm positive that will be your bed for the night." Bella pointed near the couch. They looked like friends." Bella pointed out while walking."I know." I retrieved our bags from the backseat while Bella tripped up the front steps. "Don't forget to breathe. I followed her. There was no intimacy between them. I remembered. My hands pulled a small strip of pictures away. I have a key..." Bella opened the door and I smiled as I walked into the tiny bedroom. "Charlie's room is there. I had glared at it for hours before leaving town after her first day at school. I issued a snore. I placed Bella's bag at the foot of her bed before turning a slow circle and looking around.." Bella whispered and hit me lightly with her elbow." Her eyes went back on her text book. We pulled the rental car up in front of the white house. It was the type of picture strip that could be purchased in a photo both at a carnival or a mall." "Looks. "Come on. In each picture. here." she pointed again. noting that the police cruiser was not in its usual spot. and she wouldn't be able to if she was worried about missing study-time. I closed my eyes and leaned back in my seat as if I were sleeping.. The statement made under her breath made me grin widely as I followed her into the quiet house." Bella said. quite easily. this is it. "You can drop your bags there. muttering about how some things never change. to look at it more closely. right?" . He should be here soon. We are making our own memories now. a neglected journal resting on her desk. I wanted Bella to enjoy our weekend. I could tell by the worn cushions that Charlie would have to give up his usual sleeping space in front of the television while I was a guest in his home. and so I concentrated on being silent so she could finish her reading. Dusty books on a shelf above her bed.. standing beside me." I nodded. "Charlie said he had to work. I contemplated the possibility of Bella ever being talked into studying topless." she shut the door behind us. Pictures of Bella with her high school friends were stuck under the mirror frame. I smiled over at her and carefully tucked the pictures back into their space on the glass.. Bella and Mike Newton stood shoulder to shoulder. comfortable. "The bathroom is up the stairs. "Does that bother you?" Bella asked. Traces of the girl she had been still lingered as evidence that she had lived there. With my eyes closed. "Well.. I moved to the mirror and smiled. That's why I read them. "No.. how to get to Bella's house in Forks. "And this is my room. I barely had time to glance at the pictures on the hallway wall before Bella ushered me through a quick tour of the downstairs. looking at her watch.. which earned one of her giggles before I settled in for my fake nap.

" I agreed and rolled over onto her. I laughed then. We took turns holding the camera above us. "Lots and lots of practice.click." She didn't stop kissing me.. Bella gasped and giggled when I started kissing under her jaw and down her neck." "Hush!" Bella scolded playfully and pushed the buttons until a picture of us kissing filled the screen. and then sat on the edge of her bed and motioned me over with her finger." "It could use some work. She moved to pull her digital camera from her bag. "I know. we need to stop. "He has a gun. When finished with our impromptu photo-shoot.click. She just shrugged. clicking pictures as we laughed beneath the lens. or the one with your finger up my nose." I told her." I deadpanned. We touched our noses together. ." I frowned. I kissed her cheek. "I like this one. "Come here. Bella just smiled. Bella covered my eyes with her hand. Our mouths and tongues danced together and I let my weight rest on her fully. we both laid back against her mattress with our feet on the floor. "I don't know which one I like better.." I moaned. pulling me closer. So Chief Swan probably wouldn't appreciate coming home to his daughter being groped.click. We both pulled the necks of our shirts up to cover the lower-halves of our faces. sitting up and pulling my fingers through my messy hair. "You are going to be the death of me. "Your Dad doesn't need to come home to find us like this." Bella sighed. "Maybe we should practice?" Bella turned her wide playful gaze in my direction. I hurried to sit beside her. "The one of us looking like bank-robbers.click. At her suggestion. pulling my lips across her ear. "Ok. and rolled off of her.." "You are bullet-proof." she raised her eyebrows in an invitation."Nothing like the present!" Bella smiled. and I was almost pulled under." I warned." "You were the one doing the groping. I hissed under my breath when Bella pushed her hands up the back of my shirt and clutched at my back. "Damn it Bella. But soon our playfulness slipped away and we both fell into the familiar territory of desire and need. we remained where we were and flipped through the viewer on the back of the camera." I reminded her..

" I was able to say with clarity." "And neither of us will be safe if Charlie gets back to find the house filled with smoke. "Let's go. hugging him while he smiled and lifted her off the floor. and together we walked hand in hand toward the tree line." Bella chuckled. Bella stopped to rest against a mossy tree-trunk before we made it to the end of the path." I told her. I actually helped as Bella put together a pan of lasagna in her kitchen. cleaning in her wake." . "Thank you for bringing me here. Charlie Swan made his way into the kitchen.. Footsteps on the stair indicated that we were not alone. it's good to have you home. if we had gotten to know each other like this. She would argue that I was more of a hindrance than a help as she moved around the familiar space. After a hiking a satisfying distance. humming and putting together the ingredients for a dinner to share with her father while slapping my wandering hands away from her body when she happened to move too close to me in the small room. and tried to stay productive until she put the layered dish in the oven. Would we have stood here together? "It wouldn't have been the same." Bella smiled." "Sounds good. and she rested her hands on my waist before pressing the top of her head into my stomach. "I had to leave. I casually moved to stand between her knees. "Bells.. freshly showered and dressed in a comfortable flannel shirt and jeans. offering my hand as she got up off the bed. I could tell she had missed the sights and smells of the familiar trail that we walked down. I could see her house through the foliage. just ahead. when we were in high school?" I looked around at the trail we were on. "Let me throw together some dinner for him. and we entered the house laughing. Human speed. She breathed deeply when we stepped off her back porch. and tried to imagine another time in the past. we turned and made our way back toward the house."Tell you what. "Do you ever wonder what it would have been like. I moved around then. And if I didn't. "Dad!" Bella rushed forward and jumped into her father." Bella suggested with a smile. You wouldn't have been safe with me. "Let's get some fresh air. There are some nice trails behind the house." she suggested. Then I'll pop it in the over and you and I can go for a hike or something. I would have spent every day trying to find the strength to do so. I brushed my fingers through her hair until she looked up at me with a smile. I need to get dinner out of the oven." I pulled a few stray leaves from Bella's hair.

" I picked up Charlie's interest in the sport from his thoughts. I had never spent time around Charlie. call me Charlie.when a hiker went missing. Emmett? He helped out with a search party once. "I'm Edward Cullen. tell them 'hello' from me.I stood. Dad. Edward. I could hear a kind-of mash of general feelings and ideas." "Feel better. Edward ate lunch on the plane and it upset his stomach.v while you two enjoy your meal? I think a Mariner's game is on. It's nice to meet you. I don't really remember you. watching with rapt interest.. "I remember your older brother.." Bella pretended to console me while she gave me a sly smile and a kiss on the cheek. though not as silent as his daughter's. Charlie grinned over at her before speaking to me again. You know. so please. He and Esme are living in Seattle right now. "Is it ready? I'm starving. Please. "Looks like you'll have more left-overs..." "I guess that's good. and it was a surprise to me that his thoughts." "Dinner smells great.. I'll just watch a little t. Bells. It means he didn't spend any time in the back of your cruiser." "I sure will.. Charlie had showered and changed out of his uniform intentionally." Bella bit her lip and looked up at me." "Um. don't let me interrupt. "Hi. "Remote is by the chair." I tried to look pitiful and patted my stomach through my t-shirt while I smiled gratefully in her direction. I escaped to the living room while Bella and her father moved around the kitchen and eventually sat at the table to eat.." Charlie wrapped an arm around her shoulder and squeezed her to his side lightly. I couldn't pick up specific words as he thought them. I'll join you when we are done." Bella giggled." I smiled. I smiled when Charlie's face lit up. "Chief Swan?" I leaned forward and offered my hand to shake his. "But Bella worked hard. He was curious about meeting me. He didn't want me to feel intimidated by his badge. ." "I'm sorry to say. Please. How's he doing?" "I remember. I was a friend of your father's for a while when your family lived here in Forks." Bella grinned while Charlie exchanged my greeting pleasantly. Score one for me. Make yourself comfortable there Edward. were not entirely clear to me.. "He's doing fine. He's a good man. Instead.

I'm happier than I've ever been. huh?" Charlie said around a bite of food." Her voice gave me no clue as to what she was thinking. they spoke as though they were merely finishing a conversation already in progress. I could tell that they spoke often. "He seems like a good guy. . "I just hope they like me. After a few moments. Bells?" A pause. "He really is.. chewing his food again." Bella said after a pause.. bringing him home to meet the Old Man. Yeah." Bella sighed then. "Good honey. "So. They were speaking about me. "I didn't think you'd want one. When the volume of their voices dipped lower. I settled in to listen as Bella and her father ate their meal and talked. "Yes." Charlie continued. and leaned back into the sofa with a smile. The Mariners are already ahead by two." "I'm looking forward to meeting them. I listened a little more intently." I nodded slightly toward the television and Charlie sank into his chair to catch up on the game. That's all I can ask for.Once the game was on television. Charlie spoke again. Dad. rinsing dishes and wrapping left-overs while Charlie came to join me in the living room.." Charlie mumbled." "Cook for them. on the phone. and I could hear a smile in her voice. "Does he make you happy. Instead. they are good people. I wished I was in the room to see her face.. "They'll love you!" Bella laughed easily at his suggestion." "His family.." Bella stayed behind in the kitchen." I heard the truth in her softly spoken words. "I don't know Dad.. I guess so. "But thank you." Charlie indicated toward the can while he spoke. "Yeah. He popped the top open on a beer and glanced over at me. "I guess it's pretty serious?" I sat forward. anxious to hear Bella's response. With your stomach being upset and all." Bella said. I smirked. as they weren't in a huge rush to fill each other in on every detail of their lives. "You're right." I smiled.. "I mean..

I knew he was making reference to the sleeping arrangements." he reminded me. Charlie seemed satisfied at our discreet separation and turned his attention back to the television as though he hadn't been spying. Love you. I was a little surprised when he spoke completely off-topic." He rested further into his chair. "Sorry. "Bella says she's happy. I'm sure I'll be very comfortable. I felt Bella slump beside me." "Charlie. . and I nudged Bella with my arm. She yawned hugely and stood without argument. "Night Dad." I whispered. She gave me a sleepy smile and turned to go up to her room. He had switched gears intentionally to see how I replied under pressure. The bedding items that Bella had stacked in the corner of the sofa forced her to sit with her leg touching mine. shuffling toward the stairs. He nodded minutely at me. honey." I shook my head." We had been talking about pitching techniques. and we watched the game in silence for a few minutes." I said quietly. I smiled. "Sleep well." I stood beside her and walked Bella to the foot of the stairs. It was the cop in him. He seemed to be summing me up before he spoke again. Because I couldn't read the specific thoughts in Charlie's mind. do you?" Charlie turned his eyes toward the pillow and blanket that rested near the arm rest. When Bella joined the two of us in the living room. Charlie noted our closeness with interest. "You don't mind. After two innings. Charlie. but his thoughts were contented. I smiled and placed a small kiss on Bella's forehead. A bum call by the home plate umpire inspired another round of conversation about the current Mariners bullpen. "I hope so. I turned so that I could meet Charlie's eyes honestly. "Good night Bells. "Bed time. "Not at all. I looked at her softened features with a silly grin across my face." she mumbled. It was something that we had in common. I forced a grin from my face and sat back down on the sofa. "I appreciate you letting me stay. Thank you. and her mouth was slack. before I looked up and recognized the same adoration on the face of her father. she handed Charlie another beer before sitting beside me on the couch. and conversation remained easy between us. sir. her cheek was pressed into my shoulder." I said. Her eyes were closed. Charlie was eyeing us surreptitiously from his chair in the living room.Bella's father knew a thing or two about the sport.

and she. It was unusual for an animal to not flee from the danger that my presence naturally emitted. then I believe her. make sure she stays that way. what else would I do all night? I studied the grade school pictures of Bella that adorned the hallway walls. bringing her palm against my mouth for a kiss.." Charlie warned. she had a really tough time.' She had signed her name 'Bells'.. The creature did snap its neck up in my direction when the door behind me quietly clicked closed. a cartoon fish with giant red lips and over-drawn eyelashes that proclaimed for his birthday. The full moon illuminated the area before me. I watched. "I'm heading on up to bed. It made me feel good to know that I had his approval." Charlie told me. "Yes. I know it was difficult for her to make such a move and start all over again out East. It was a good game. I finally stood and made my way around the house." "She's a strong person. he deserved a 'nice piece of bass. His record collection indicated that he liked the Rolling Stones. Then I stretched out on my make-shift bed until the sounds above me indicated that Charlie was asleep. I closed my eyes when I felt her hands in my hair. "She knows her own mind." I smiled in agreement. "Thinking of hunting?" she asked softly. "And she's as stubborn as the day is long.. drinking the last of his beer and relinquishing the television remote control to me."When she first moved here. I pushed the buttons to turn off the television and cast the lower level of the house into shadows and silence... The game had ended while we talked. It might have seemed rude to do so. "If she says that you make her happy." I complimented her. The deer jumped gracefully back into the protective cover of the trees as Bella moved up behind me. came out of her shell. But really. Eventually I moved through the kitchen. drawn by the night beyond the back door." Charlie issued the threat pleasantly. I quietly sat on the top porch step and placed my elbows on my knees. I turned and reached for her wrist.." "Thank you. with a little heart.." "Just. He was more satisfied with our talk than the end score. I flipped through the game and fishing magazines that Charlie had stacked in the basket next to his chair. uninvited. as a small deer flirted in and out of the tree line at the furthest edge of the yard. As he ascended.. . I laid the blanket out over the couch and made a show of pressing the pillow into the corner while Charlie deposited his beer can in the kitchen recycling bin and moved toward the stairs. enthralled. Eventually she made friends. Charlie's last birthday card from Bella still rested on a shelf." Charlie sighed.

And Rosalie. "I know it might seem sudden to you." We sat in silence for a small while." "What happened?" "When Rosalie was brought into our family."No. but also very funny. "I love you Bella. wonderful." I whispered." I sighed. "You know. and nervous about her reaction." "She didn't want you?" Bella asked. She never wanted me." "Are you serious?" Bella turned her face toward mine. you can tell me anything. "Sometimes it's not so bad." . But I've waited my entire life for you. I think I'm nervous about meeting your family.. "You already know Alice and Jasper. and that tension never entirely went away.. What are you doing awake?" Bella moved to sit beside me and I put my arm around her shoulders. "No. looking more anxious than before. I frowned down at the sidewalk at the base of the stairs. what Esme was for him. Under different circumstances. for permission to ask you to marry me.." I shrugged. I think I need to explain something to you. But Rosalie was vain enough to be offended that I didn't even consider it." Something about being in Washington. and I apologize if my words are coming too soon. "For either of us. I wouldn't have hesitated to ask your father tonight." I hurried to tell her. But we got off on the wrong foot initially. I'm sorry if that's too far out of the range of normal." Bella whispered." "You shouldn't be. "Bella. turning to look at her. It just pissed her off that the feeling was mutual.." I said. noting how the strong shoots of grass pushed between the broken edges. "It never was that way. Emmett is very sincere. "Rosalie and I don't always get along. But I was hesitant. Carlisle and Esme are. trying to keep them from touching. Carlisle assumed that she would become to me. Just enjoying the night." "Oh. "What about Rosalie?" Bella pulled her bottom lip between her teeth as she worried. and meeting Bella's father had brought out the urge in me to make my intentions known. I wanted Bella to know the extent of my feelings and devotion toward her. pulling her against my side. "I couldn't sleep.

"You. desperate to keep her with me... . without your consent." I continued.. "I know you love me. and pleaded for her understanding." Bella whispered.. I know you mean it. So very much. I would still love you." I swallowed hard. it should seem too fast. to change me. humans." I breathed heavily and closed my eyes. I'm altered. incorrectly. When you say it. I reached for her hands. "I would. "Time doesn't mean the same thing to us." "I do Bella..." she shook her head.. completely. want.." I said again. "People. Or. for the rest of mine. "I would be lying if I told you that I hadn't fantasized about the two of us."Not much about us is normal. She changed her mind." I told her fervently." "What do you mean?" I asked her to elaborate.. use words like 'never'. I will stay with you for the rest of your life.." "I do.. But... "I never want to be without you. I was restless and becoming more and more eager to make my feelings known. it means something different.' and 'always'. being together forever. never. "Yes.. But never. you've changed me. "I should be afraid.. "It will always be your choice." My gaze held hers captive. and 'forever.if you choose. Her heartbeat remained slow and steady. and remained frustratingly silent. And you're right. "When you say." Bella gasped softly as the meaning behind my words became clear. "Bella. waiting for me to deny it." Bella turned her head to stare out at the moonlit scene before us.. She sat beside me.. giving a shaky laugh." I put my finger under her chin and turned her face so that she could see my eyes and the sincerity on my face. "you can stay with me." She stared into my eyes. She lowered her brows and opened her mouth to say something." she explained." Bella whispered. "If you wanted to stay human. because of your existence..." Bella blinked and turned her face away again. If you'll allow me. if I wanted to stay human?" "Yes. lost in thought.. "But I want you to know." "Would you love me..." "Forever.

"And I'm in reasonably good shape. I probably have another fifteen years or so. I would never allow that to happen. need time.. "My friends." Bella struggled with putting her thoughts to words." "Then you'll have it. but wasn't really addressing me. The decision would have to be made in her own time.. What if I wanted to finish college? What if...." I promised. I just. complete in themselves... She turned her body to face me." Bella teased. I'm still young. what if I wanted babies someday?" Bella asked her questions out loud." Bella smiled her thanks. "As much as you need. "I always believed that when you find someone." I told her quietly.."There is so much... You are worth it. "I like cougars. I would be giving up so many things." I joked. and kissed me deeply. She knew the desires of my heart. "They are tasty.... Katrina? And my dad." Bella told me. two people. But rather. She was merely setting her worries free to the night air.. don't think I'm complete yet... Bella raised her face to mine.. and I would just look like a 'Cougar' with a hot young boyfriend!" I laughed at her attempt at humor and kissed her softly. . "We'd be like Demi and Ashton. I moved my arm around her again. and fall in love. "It's too much to give up.. "You are. or longer. slowly. I might change my mind. joined together to create something wonderful and larger than could be contained originally." I let her find the words she searched for. "Yes." Bella giggled and moved her hands up around my neck.. Mentioning it again would only feel like I was trying to pressure or persuade her. "You know. "Don't think you aren't worth it.. I understood. She knew what I was offering. what about Charlie?" She shook her head." "For life. so much. "I." "If you start calling me Ashton." she whispered back. "For life or longer. "Will you wait for me?" Bella asked." I vowed. and tasting them on her tongue.." I whispered against her mouth.. that you should be not two-halves of a whole.

Bella pushed the plate of her half-eaten breakfast in front of me with a wink before standing to pour her father a cup of coffee. "Maybe next time. After a handshake to me. "I'd kind of just like to get on the road. my mood was improved when Bella stowed her book and we sang along to songs on the radio." I could tell by the satisfied tone of his thoughts that I had just scored a few more points on the Charlie-Scale-Of-Worthiness." Bella pulled a second plate from where she had kept it warm in the oven. and a bone-crushing hug to his daughter. we drove toward Seattle. Eyeing my plate. he nodded. "Feeling better. You've been home one day. had Bella not complained every time she noticed the speedometer creeping too high for her comfort." Charlie greeted us. And so we did. and served her father. Thanks. She really needn't have worried." I grinned amiably over at Charlie. and left for work. catching up on her studies.46." Bella kissed his cheek and sat in the chair between us. Bella shook her head. and I'm already spoiled. "Bells. sit down. while I inwardly grumbled about being forced to drive like a little-old-lady. Bella laughed. Later.. "Good morning. With our bags in the back of the rental car. Emmett looked up from where he sat perched on the back of the couch playing Guitar Hero. Bella was a horrible singer. We could come for a longer visit." she told me. "I would have loved to take you fishing out in the boat. "It's too bad that I have to work this weekend. ." Charlie muttered. "The semester is almost over. Charlie reminded Bella to call when she got back to New Hampshire. She read for a while. "Is there anything you'd like to do around town today?" I asked. Chex Mix As Charlie made his way into the kitchen the following morning. Eventually. Edward?" "I am. Our drive time could have been cut in half. and I was glad that an insight into my family dynamic seemed to be relieving her nervousness about meeting everyone. I shared tales of previous family get-togethers.." Bella squeezed my knee under the table and smiled. As soon as we entered the house.

Bella.. Esme moved to her and embraced her like I knew she would. I loved and appreciated her for making the effort. Bella giggled. "Esme? I want you to meet Bella." "Charmed. clapping him on the back." Esme said. "This big lug is Emmett.. "It's good to see you. "Where is everyone else?" I looked around the seemingly empty house. they can't tell how many people are really enjoying the food. ." Emmett stood watching where they had disappeared. primping." I heard Bella laugh lightly as the two women rounded the corner out of our sight. I didn't even realize how much I had missed her until I leaned back and saw the genuine adoration and happiness on her face. I'd like to help. "We have a few more human guests arriving tonight. and he brought pizza!" I shook my head and moved forward to hug my brother warmly."Hey Everyone!" He called out with a large smile on his face.. Esme entered the room. When she was free again. she's cute. "Dude. wiping her hands on a small towel... Bella. twisting her fingers in front of her since we had entered the house." he leaned down and pulled her hand up to kiss it magnanimously. "Alice and Jasper should arrive soon. "Rose is upstairs. too." "Please.. I shoved him away. I put my hand on Emmett's arm. Why don't you take Bella's things upstairs dear? I was just finishing in the kitchen. who may choose to eat. "Welcome to our home. My goal is to make the plates so full." Emmett shrugged. turning to lead the way." Bella had been standing to the side." "It's nice to meet you. "Edward's here. if I may?" Bella moved to stand next to Esme. "Carlisle had to go to the hospital for a while today." Esme smiled." Bella smiled at me over Esme's shoulder." I smiled. "I'd love it. But he'll be back before the party begins. It's so nice to meet you.this is Esme. "Edward!" She hurried to fold her arms around me.

What is this facial expression you've got going here? Could it be. "All sweet and gooey. a smile?" He poked his finger into my cheek. "She's. and I don't want the yard destroyed. too." "Well no shit. Rosalie moved to join the girls and rolled her eyes." I muttered under my breath. . "Yes. coming down the hall. "There is no time for a wrestling match. and we raced downstairs to meet our siblings. We both stopped on the stairs when Rosalie stepped from a room and stood in front of us." Emmett grinned.. I hardly recognized you.." I nodded. We had no sooner placed the bags in a spare room. special.. and we all need to get dressed for the party. and I dropped Jasper's legs on the floor before moving over to her." Rosalie grumbled.." "Enough!" I laughed. Be nice..and those big brown eyes." Bella turned her worried eyes up toward me. Guests will be arriving in less than an hour. is this a formal event?" Bella frowned and stepped up around Esme. "Shut up." "Umm.. "Did you bring her?" "Hello Rosalie." I pushed his hand away. Beautiful.. "It figures that my idiot brother forgot to tell you that we dress for these parties. She pushed past us on the stairs and Emmett shrugged an apology. "Did you see the way that she didn't even flinch when Esme was talking about the food situation? Is she really that cool with everything?" "It would seem so." "Fine.. Emmett grinned at me. "It's nice to see you again." I said.. She's in the kitchen with Esme.. than the front door opened loudly signaling the arrival of Alice and Jasper.. Alice merely skipped to the side while Emmett and I picked Jasper up off the floor and began to carry him outside. blonde Rosalie kissed him on the cheek before sending me one of her patented scowls. We both picked up my and Bella's bags and started carrying them upstairs."Cute?" "Cute like a cookie. "No way!" Esme scolded." Emmett hit me with his elbow.. "Hey babe.

. Rosalie picks a theme every year."Don't worry." I smiled at Bella. I cringed to think of the fashion nightmare that awaited me. I had learned my lesson." I told her. If she had been successful in blocking her thoughts. "We can find something together. After knocking lightly and being granted permission to enter. Bella was already searching through the clothing and grinned at me over the top of the trunk. She seemed distracted. "I'll just let you get ready. One year I nearly went dressed in a speedo when she told me her party would have a Baywatch theme. Bella stood in the middle of the room. "It should be fun." Bella took my hand and let me lead her upstairs." she smiled. I would have been nearly naked in a group of people that were all dressed in renaissance themed costumes." "Thanks. while leaving the collar of my white shirt popped up. and then excused myself to retrieve the large trunks that Emmett had mentioned. and the party is centered around it. looking like a hot eighties-throwback. You two can pick something out to wear. What it is this year?" I turned to look at Emmett for the answer instead of Rosalie. I showed Bella to her room. I opened the door and paused in the doorway. this alright?" Bella pointed toward her clothes. "Is. "The theme is 'I love the 80's' Emmett grinned." I assured her. She wore acid washed jeans that were torn across both knees. I actually looked. like a complete tool.. "I truly am sorry I forgot to mention that we dress-up. I laughed at myself and then moved back to Bella's room to check on her progress. finishing their own preparations for the night." I said. I sighed heavily and put the piano-key tie around my neck.. ." she shrugged. "It's not a black-tie party. "The bathroom is here. I'll be back soon." I told her. My eyes were glued to the exposed skin on her neck and shoulder. I could hear my family in respective areas of the house. and an electric pink shirt that was cut to fall off her left shoulder. When combined with my black parachute pants. closing the door behind me. and I smiled and moved into the room. flipping on a switch in the adjoined room. Her hair was pulled into a silly side-ponytail and held in place with some bright green colored ribbon. but not overwhelmed by the task at hand." "Come on. I went in search of the boxes that I knew held some of my own clothing. "Esme has trunks of clothes upstairs that she's saved from that decade.. "You look great.

and pulled them up her wrists with her back to me. with a reproachful grin. "In every way imaginable. She was enjoying it. and I let my fingers touch the skin on the back of her leg that had teased me just a few minutes earlier. As she bent over at the waist. "Your family is just down the hall. I released her wrists.." she warned." Bella turned away from me and bent over the trunk. . "You smell so damned good. My hands clenched and I moved quickly to her. Bella found the bracelets. "How?" She licked her lips. Immediately. It was sexy as hell. the bottom of her ass was nearly exposed through the separated denim.." She sounded breathless and stopped when her back touched the wall near the window. She gasped at my cold touch.. My hands slid around her.. before giving it a little tug and elongating the open expanse of her neck on the opposite side.. before lowering my mouth to hers. Bella's breasts pushed up in that position as her back arched." Bella kept moving backwards.. I gave her a predator's smile and moved forward.. Bella shivered. Her pulse thrummed as I moved my mouth down over her bare shoulder.. but pressed herself into me. some rubber bracelets in here.. I moved in. She had noticed the look on my face. I can't lie. With a wicked smile. "Edward. backing away from me. I pulled her arms up above her head and placed them against the wall." I touched her ponytail then. and tugging on my tie to bring me closer. "How do I tempt you?" She wasn't afraid of me." I told her. Her skin tempted me. I didn't need the bracelets to hold her captive. but they made for fun handcuffs."I saw. I slid my fingers claw-like down her arms until I hooked them into the rubber-bracelets around her wrists. I easily twisted the fingers of one hand into the thin plastic bands. With the accessories in place. causing my eyes to go immediately to the deliberate slice in her jeans at the top of her right thigh. I kissed her ear and slid my lips down the long arc that was available to me. you tempt me. Bella rewarded me by sliding her hands between us. and stepped around the trunk.." I said against her. holding her in a submissive pose." I told her. and so I answered the call. "We have a party to attend. she turned and uttered a startled "oh!" when she realized that we were practically chest to chest. I stepped closer. and her accelerated breathing just brought more attention to the curves in front of me. "God. "It took a long time to do my hair.

"Edward? Are those your actual clothes?" Bella glanced down and I cringed before nodding."Cut it out!" Jasper's voice came harshly from the hall. "Jasper! Put a shirt on." I admitted. Her eyes stayed trained to the area where Emmett was squirming and deflecting the attack of our much smaller sister at the same piece of floor where Bella stood moments before.. I hugged her close before leading us both down the stairs to join the others." he huffed.. "Emmett? I thought Vanilla Ice wasn't popular until the nineties?" Bella barely had time to utter her observation before I swooped her into my arms and took her across the room. "Are you wearing eye-liner?" I scoffed. where Jasper had taken over the Guitar Hero game. . Then she started laughing. punches and kicks. Esme slapped at his bare shoulder. When he turned his head in my direction. complete with braided headband and leg warmers. along with slaps to the door that shook the frame. Esme looked like a preppy business-woman in a bright blue suit and with giant shoulder-pads. "I think I was probably a fetus when this stuff was in style!" Bella teased me. Almost too fast for human eyes to see. "I do not want to feel your horniness all goddamned night!" I pulled away from Bella and smiled. "I think I remember wearing these." she said." Jasper shrugged. Bella's attention moved toward the stairway and she laughed. We moved into the living room. "Got me a hell of a lot more play than your gay piano tie ever did. I could tell it was going to be a fun night. Bella cringed against me and covered her ears against the loud sound. We don't want to scare the guests!" "Fine. I joked with her about destroying the Ozone while I touched her teased-out hair. but couldn't quite force myself to feel apologetic. He wore black leather pants and nothing else. Emmett was tackled to the ground in a rainbow flurry of crinoline. Alice had opted for a black bustier and a giant ruffled rainbow-colored skirt like something Cyndi Lauper would have worn. Rosalie looked gorgeously appropriate in an exercise leotard. "Your pants are shiny.elbows and dark hair. I couldn't help but laugh. pulling a mesh tank over his head.

He managed to make Miami Vice look good." Bella said quietly. "Emmett outbid Alice for Rosalie's gift on Ebay. She landed one more kick to the crotch of his ridiculously baggy pants before Jasper was able to pull her safely away." Esme warned. Bella had tears in her eyes from laughing while watching me attempt the Running Man and the Cabbage Patch."Jasper! Get her off me!" Emmett yelled and Jasper straddled Alice. glaring. the party went well. "What is going on?" Bella asked near my ear. "Language. She placed trays of food on the tables. however. resplendent in a white jacket and pants with a pink shirt. "You are the 'Mad Hatter?'" Emmett asked incredulously. Rosalie loved the necklace that Emmett had given her as a gift. Eventually the guests took pity on us. preparing for the party as though the fight that just occurred was commonplace. and I demonstrate some of the more popular dances from the eighties. I walked up to give Rosalie my gift last.. Damn Alice! You nearly took my fricken arm off!" "Next time I'll shove it up your ass!" Alice warned. his behavior was odd. But Rosalie made a point of thanking both of them for the kind thought. a short smile. I was slightly bothered by his distracted greeting. Alice and Jasper gave her a gift-certificate for a lingerie store. I set her back on her feet and explained. Alice was still pissed. I was slightly embarrassed when the furniture was moved aside in the living room. I proudly introduced him to Bella. It was Jasper's last-minute idea and earned him a high-five from Emmett. "Duh! It's an 'Alice in Wonderland' reference!" Alice was still incensed. She just figured it out. but for someone who knew him as well as I did. "Well you could have said something. Carlisle mingled with the other guests that he had invited from work.. Carlisle showed up. and friends of Rosalie's that had been invited as well. Bella seemed unaffected. and Rosalie insisted that Emmett. Jasper. "You asshat!" Alice glared over at Emmett. wrapping his arms around her middle and pulling her. "Remind me never to bid against Alice!" After the initial clash between Alice and Emmett. and we used the cleared space as a dance floor for the couples to dance together to one hit wonders. and was met with polite interest. "I was watching that gift for days!" Emmett stood up and adjusted himself inside the absurd clothing that Bella had pointed out as belonging to the white-rapper who obviously inspired Emmett's Ebay account name. away from Emmett. . still spitting and cussing. and the promise that we would speak more later." "Shit. Carlisle and Esme gave her tickets for a trip to London.

I pulled the tie from around my neck and twisted it in my hands before letting it lay against the top of one of the leather chairs. "I already have one of these." Rosalie turned and looked at me then. "I'm going to shower and go right to sleep. They both just laughed. dear." I explained. looking at the rectangular item in her palm. staring out the window. dumb-ass. Consider it payback for the last twenty years of crap-music he's bothered you with. "Did you get your Pop Tart tucked into bed?" Jasper grinned over his shoulder." I began. "I will." When the last of the guests departed." I reached across and pushed the button to light up the screen on the item I had given her. "He's in his study. You should visit your family while you have the chance. "Thank you Edward. "We didn't have a chance to talk earlier.." Esme smiled over at me then made her way to the stairs." Emmett suggested." I told them. I need to speak with Carlisle first. Each and every song is guaranteed to annoy the piss out of Emmett. an ipod. "It's wonderful. "You guys have got to stop calling Bella by food-names. I frowned and wondered what he was trying to keep from me. Jasper and Emmett were laughing at a horror movie on television. and was combing the hairspray out of her hair. "From opera. "Please. Carlisle stood." "Can I come back later?" I asked. "Sit down and watch this with us." Bella told me. "This one has over three-thousand songs on it. laughing. I bid everyone good night and took her up to our room. From classical to Josh Groban. I'm exhausted." Carlisle turned and looked apologetic. "You better!" She kissed me on the end of my nose. I went down the hall and knocked at the door to Carlisle's study before walking inside. and I left her to get ready for bed... His thoughts became a buzz of static. With the first genuine smile that she had shared with me in years. I made my way out of the room and downstairs." I growled lightly."It's. . Esme had already cleaned the evidence of the party away." Rosalie frowned. She gave me a look that illustrated her inner-thoughts.. to Barry Manilow. she wrapped her arms around me and hugged me tight. and Emmett had run out of creative snack-food knicknames for Bella. don't feel obligated to stay. "I knew our conversation would be best kept until after the party." she said.

"Everything we think we know can be questioned.." I said gruffly. I didn't even have the advantage of reading his face." Carlisle shook his head slowly and stood to walk over to his book shelf. "I've been doing the research that you asked me about. I've been given additional contacts. if you spent more than five minutes with her. and made into new mysteries." "Yes." Carlisle looked down and dropped his hand. "I didn't want to come to you until I had it all figured out.. "Whatever you've heard. "Super-natural things don't give much credit to studies and the intelligence of man.. "I don't think that you and Bella were ever meant to be together." A loud whooshing sound filled my ears." I told him." "We had guests..." "And?" I was nervous. "I've always prided myself on this life I have chosen. It annoyed me that he was keeping me out. mortal or other-wise." Carlisle scoffed. I'm still waiting to hear from one more contact." "You don't look pleased. When he moved his eyes away from mine. and knew that his earlier brush-off had been intentional." he continued quietly." I called him on it. We all agreed with him. "You might too. "We are together." "You aren't making sense. "What's going on?" Carlisle moved to lean the back of his legs against his desk." "Bullshit." I began. and I realized it was the sound of the breath that I had been holding. We made the choice to live as he had. "According to the things I've heard so far. He raised his hand to brush along the spines of some of his favorite reference materials. I've spoken with a few of our kind. I watched a pained look cross Carlisle's face. and folded his hands quietly in front of him.." "None of it has been good. His static thoughts were not helping to ease my anxiety..... "I always thought that it was the most humane." I made the statement softly." I agreed with him. My words were delivered with an underlying tension that I felt tearing through the muscles of my shoulders and hardening the space in the center of my chest. "That's ridiculous. and intelligent choice."Everyone seems to like Bella." .

Though the reason for his sentiment was unknown. what I suspect to be true now. "I wouldn't have helped you run." In a flash I was slamming his frame back into the bookshelf. "You are blocking me. And even if you weren't. by imposing this life on you.. "Of course this life is right." Carlisle looked into my eyes. "Stop talking around in circles." Carlisle muttered and looked down.. "I want you to tell me what you mean. He was being so damned clinical and distant.." "Listen to my thoughts." "What do you mean?" My voice had risen in my aggravation." I hissed." I dropped my head. But.." Carlisle's features softened in confusion." I told him through clenched teeth.." Carlisle turned to me then." I snarled. Any of it. I wouldn't hurt you if there was another way. "I'm not blocking you." I dropped him back to his feet and backed up three paces. I think.. Even as his body was held pinned by mine. His face looked pained.. Bella and I wouldn't be together now!" "Exactly." Carlisle continued on as though I hadn't spoken. without hearing from at least one last contact. he didn't raise a hand to defend himself.." ." Carlisle's voice was soft and laced with regret. "Your last 'contact' can go to hell. Bella is mine. Edward. You are wrong." "I can't hear your thoughts. "Fuck your research. it doesn't matter. You were never meant to resist it. "I have always tried to support you.. I've failed you... His features remained calm and sad. If not for following this path.. I would have helped you hide the body. Edward. and just say it!" "If I knew then."I can't say for sure. I don't want it. I don't. One arm was braced across his neck and I growled into his face. You know I am telling the truth... I think I've done it wrong... "I'm trying. it stoked my anger. "A vampire from South America who supposedly saw some of the events first-hand." "Why are you not supporting me?" I suddenly asked. He was avoiding my eyes. her blood is powerful for a reason. You can't take her away from me. "If Bella is your singer. "I don't even feel the urge anymore. "You said love was stronger. He was blocking my thoughts.

"Edward. I turned my tortured eyes to him. "But I don't agree with the 'not right' part. "My contact. That it's not right." I said loudly. "What's going on?" Jasper asked." Jasper was already sitting on the tree I had knocked down." "Keep it." "I've never seen you like this." I shook my head. I don't want it."It's un-natural for you to love her. "Calm down man. "It is un-natural. "He thinks it's un-natural.. The city lights held me captive in a space too small to hold the resentment and frustration that poured through me." I felt Emmett's strong hand on my shoulder. pushing it away from me with unsatisfied anger. "I'm sorry.." "Edward. "Arrrrrrgh!" I screamed into the night and uprooted a tree. "Could you walk away from Rosalie?" I looked over at Jasper.." I replied." "But if Carlisle thinks. They wanted to be sure I was alright. "I can't leave her." Emmett said quietly. desperate for him to understand the pain I felt." Carlisle said." "No!" I turned and sprinted from the room. I ran into the wooded area that surrounded their home but was forced to stop sooner than I would have liked. "Loving her is the only thing that's ever felt right!" I clawed at my chest. you are happy." I groaned and put my head in my hands. and I slumped forward. Emmett's hand on my arm guided me to sit between them on the destroyed Maple." Both men sat quietly for a moment.. With Bella." Jasper continued.. The front door was pushed away from its hinges in my need to escape. "How about you? What would it take to make you leave Alice?" ." Carlisle shook his head. "Keep it to yourself. "Carlisle thinks that Bella and I shouldn't be together." Emmett began." "I really am.. "You have tortured yourself since I've known you. "Everything about my miserable existence is unnatural. My brothers had followed me.

." "What happened?" Bella held on to the front of my shirt and pressed her cheek against me." I moved quickly to lay beside her on the bed. "Carlisle as much as told me that I should have killed her when I met her. unnatural. I didn't know where you were or if you were ok. and pulled her against my chest. 47. My fingers ran down the length of her hair in an automatic motion meant to soothe. and my brothers walked back to the house at my sides. Anything. I rushed to her side immediately.. heard you yelling. Bent but not broken I left my brothers in the living room and went straight up the stairs.. "I didn't mean to wake you. Jasper shook his head in shocked disbelief.. ... I love her. Our thoughts matched one another's. Remember?" "Is everything ok now?" Bella asked. "To hell with right and wrong. I tried to be silent as I pushed open the door to Bella's room." "Oh Bella. but my precautions were unnecessary. I have a terrible temper.. speaking to no one.." I explained. "A disagreement... Natural.Both men remained quiet.. I rocked her against me and held her close.... "I told you. They didn't say another word.. We were all lost in thoughts about the women we loved and what we would be willing to give to stay with them." Emmett's hands clenched into fists where they rested against his thighs. wasn't thinking. "I love her. why are you crying? Are you alright?" "I.. a crash. Neither could comprehend what Carlisle suspected that could possibly be frightening enough to make him suggest such a thing to me. and I saw tears streaked down her cheeks. "Bella?" She sniffled quietly as I pushed her hair away from her face. "And then. As I realized the soft sounds that came from the girl on the bed." I insisted with a strangled voice." I stood. "Sweetheart." Bella whispered. I.

We've said our goodbyes. His thoughts were disturbed. I didn't mean to frighten you. who had been more upset by the evening's course of events than he had let on. All of their thoughts turned toward the sound of our feet in the hall. looking through the songs on the gift I had given her. Bella pulled a hooded sweatshirt over her tank. I pulled out of the drive. Alice was firmly standing by her resolve to stay out of my future as long as she was able." Bella nodded.. and apology. and I moved back to better see her face. "Don't you." Bella looked at me intently." "Of course. One last glance toward the house let me see what I expected. just want to be alone with you. "We can go. but she wasn't arguing. Bella quietly stared out the window as I drove us toward Elliott Bay. He hadn't moved. I was just worried about you.. Two in the morning or ten-thirty makes little difference. But they all let me go without argument. His eyes met mine across the distance."It will be. She was angry with Carlisle. It was further proof that we were meant to be together. filled with sadness. With Bella in the car beside me. She didn't look like she believed me." I pressed a soft kiss to her lips and rolled to turn on the tiny lamp by the bed. "I'm so sorry. "Bella? Would it be ok with you. want to say goodbye to everyone in the morning?" "Bella. The valet service attendants hurried to my car as I pulled up in front of the luxury waterfront hotel that I had chosen for our . Jasper and Alice whispered quietly to each other. Carlisle stood silhouetted in the window of his study. and then we tossed a few of our items back into our bags before walking toward the door. I quickly traded my parachute pants for more appropriate jeans. perhaps trying to read my expression in the dark. "Please? I. alone. I heard the restless movements of my family in the home around me. Esme was in her room." "Thank you. but remained wearing her pajama bottoms. if we left? Now?" She stiffened against me. remorse.. Emmett." "You didn't. was on his way out the door to hunt." Her words were like a balm to my aching soul. Rosalie was in another room. I turned my face from him and drove away. He was angry for me.we are vampires. My actions only alarmed her because she cared for me." I promised.. and looking for a way to release his own pent-up frustration. I smiled and hoped it didn't look as false as it felt. and missing me already.

The fact that it was nearly three in the morning mattered very little when the attendants worked in such a lush facility. and went to join her. Too tired to get dressed for dinner. Once in our room. or just breathed in everything about her that made me more certain that her place in my life was necessary and right.stay. and were directed to the covered vessel that carried us to search the nearby waters for Orca whales and other marine life. we peered out the windows and looked for the creatures and sights that our boat operated pointed out to the passengers." Bella shook her head. Knowing our plans for the day. She kicked her shoes off in the middle of the floor. We stopped at the southern tip of the island. We would stay together. I had to wake Bella up to get her to eat breakfast. or hugged her. with the key to every torn emotion I felt inside still warm on her lips. hurrying to make it to the harbor in time for the trip I had booked on the Victoria Clipper. "I would go anywhere with you Edward. Bella didn't even bother looking around. From time to time. Together. we spent a little time walking through shops on the island before making the return voyage to Seattle." "Don't apologize.' Yes." she sighed and closed her eyes. dropped her sweatshirt into a chair. I held Bella against my chest with our hands held tight to the rails in front of us. "As long as we are together. while we cruised across the frothy water. "I'm sorry I made you leave. and favored me with a sweet kiss. she had never taken a trip out for whale watching. She ate quickly and we both dressed. 'Together. kissing her palms. and crawled into the middle of the soft bed. The ocean wind was cathartic." I whispered quietly and kissed her cheek. I tried to keep Carlisle's words in the back of my mind. We both enjoyed the journey on the high speed catamaran to Vancouver Island. Bella turned in my arms." "Really?" Her words thrilled me and I held her hands to my mouth. Finally. "I know you are tired. Anytime. and did its best to carry our worries away in the briny air. No matter what. I could taste the salt water on our mouths before she pulled away and turned her attention back to the sea. I felt horrible. Their discreet attention was rewarded with generous gratuity. Bella bit her lip and looked at me with a concern that I felt sure mirrored the worry that slipped across my features. Our day went well. I refused to let my worries force a wall between us. I watched her fall asleep. Bella's hands fussed with her wind-blown hair until I captured her wrist and kissed the underside tenderly. I pulled her into my arms and kissed her. When I saw it happening. I was surprised to know that while Bella had visited many of Seattle's tourist-attractions while she lived in Washington. While I was distracted. I could tell that she was exhausted. we stopped in a seafood restaurant before going back to the hotel. . I pulled my jeans off.

"Stop. "You've been distracted.... The way Bella's hand felt inside my own. thinking. off and on.." she leaned against me and I put my arm around her shoulder. "Edward?" I felt Bella tug at my hand and looked over at her. 'eating dirt' kind of gross? Or is it like 'Fear Factor Ultimate Challenge' kind of gross?" She drew another piece of crab across her bottom lip before pulling it into her mouth. that even imagining her sweet blood didn't stir the production of venom in my mouth? Perhaps my reactions to her really had become un-natural. just as delectable as she ever did? Why was it. the way her side brushed against mine in perfect alignment.disgusting. But in my case. Her eyes got wide when I leaned forward with a smile.. The butter made her lip glisten. She took note of my attention." I confessed." I assured her. How could anything that worked together so effortlessly be un-natural? Perhaps 'effort' was the term best to be considered. Then her cheeks blushed a bright red that made me laugh even more.. and looked back down at her food. is it like. I probably wouldn't enjoy kissing you.the way our steps found an exact and comfortable rhythm to match each other on the city street. picking at her meal with her fingers. I lowered my mouth and deliberately licked the butter from the center of her lip. completely. and Alaskan King Crab. I watched as she pulled the tender white meat through garlic drawn butter and slid it between her lips. that would be considered a blessing more than a curse. all day.. "I mean.. Bella looked dazed. Cupping the back of her head under her hair. putting her at ease." Bella crinkled her nose and I smiled. and I moved my chair closer to her. You look gorgeous.. "Forgive me?" "Of course.. right after you had finished a meal either. I chuckled then and leaned back in my chair. I stopped to suck gently at the lingering taste of crab on her mouth. holding hands. Certainly it was easier to be around Bella now.. "Fine." "I've tried not to be. She smiled and shrugged and let me lead her inside.." I whispered against her. But didn't she smell just as intoxicating... "You taste good enough to make me ignore the garlic. "How gross is this to you?" Bella asked." .. I'll remember that. "Hello? Where did you go?" "I'm sorry. everything seemed to point out the wrongness of Carlisle's opinion.. I was. Bella and I discussed the day's adventure while she enjoyed a meal of an arugula salad.." We walked together back to the hotel." I kissed the top of her head. "If we are being honest.. She smiled then. Did you say something?" "Nothing important. Once seated. "It's.

Her words adequately pinpointed the problem I had been struggling with in my mind." Bella argued softly. while I let the water rinse the suds down my body to the drain near my feet. Let me try.. "You say that my blood Sings for you?" I sucked in a sharp breath. I was afraid to speak. You make me so happy.. "Of course you can. Bella shrugged out of her jacket and offered me the use of the shower first. and then leaned forward with my arms extended to the shower wall in front of me. before the glass doors slid closed once more." I told her." "About?" . My fingers pressed into the tiles in front of me. I could feel her lips. I could feel her move her head from side to side. left from our day near the sea. in an effort to keep me from turning and scaring her.In our room." She hugged me to her." Bella placed a small kiss on my back.. I just want to make you feel better.. I had to bite back a groan when I felt her naked body come in contact with my own. and I relaxed in her embrace. and chase away what I was nearly convinced to be a trick of my imagination.?" "I. "You do. I lathered my body quickly. "I think." "It's nothing you try to do.. just want to be near you. I can't take it anymore. cascading over my shoulders and down my back. Bella moved forward then and wrapped her arms around me. Please. "Can I join you?" Bella asked from behind. Bella.. My muscles tightened in surprised awareness when I heard the bathroom door open. and then held my breath when the glass shower door slid open as well. The hot water felt wonderful.." Bella whispered. "You've been so distant all day.. "Bella? I'm curious. I smiled my thanks and carried my pajamas into the bathroom to wash the salt from my body. I tucked my chin to my chest and closed my eyes.. what are you. pressing her hands flat against my abdomen. brushing my back as she spoke. I feel like we're miles apart. "I can feel that you are upset." "I never meant to for you to feel lonely.. I listened intently. "Bella. Edward. I heard Bella's tentative footsteps come behind me in the small space. I spoke with a voice that was raspy and deep. that something inside you calls to me too. I can feel that you are sad. I swallowed hard and straightened my back." I pulled her hands up so that I could place them over my chest.

I did oogle your goodies while you were sleeping. I didn't mean. my erection pressed into Bella's side and I pulled away from her mouth with a low hiss and an apology. right? But that isn't the same thing. Her naked skin pressed against the front of me was even more delicious." I whispered. and threaded her fingers into my wet hair. and caressed her mouth tenderly. "What?" I asked. Aware that my body was reacting in its typical way. "I mean. I know I've seen pictures. you look at me like you love me. unable to resist feeling the warmth that flooded her cheeks. you know...." "It's only fair... "I don't mind. "I'm sorry.. but I don't feel shy with you." I smiled to make her relax and she giggled a little in my arms. So very. In a moment... My heavy breathing matched the rise and fall of her chest against me." Bella was obviously still embarrassed. Bella giggled and looked up at me." "I do Bella.. so quickly that it might have startled her had I not wrapped my arms around her tightly and crushed her to my chest." "Oh. "No shyness. I turned my hips slightly. ." Bella blushed and I put a finger under her chin. forcing her to keep her eyes on mine.. like to look at me?" I asked quietly. very much..." I brought my lips down to hers. I just wanted her to know how much she meant to me. remember?" I asked. But her curiosity won out. like this." I had to cup her face with my hand. "Would you. and I could have sworn I saw a hesitant curiosity there. she raised her eyes to mine again." I continued to encourage her. And movies. "I mean.. and I had no expectations..."How did you overcome your shyness enough to get into this shower with me?" I turned then.. if you don't mind. "I was just thinking. Bella's eyes darted down to the way our bodies were tightly pressed together and frowned before biting her lip.. Even so. "What were you thinking?" "I was just thinking that I have never really seen a man naked. She reached her arms up to place them around my neck.. "Well." Bella's words rushed out quickly and she closed her eyes against the embarrassment that her confession made her feel. "It might sound strange.. I think it's because. I didn't want to frighten her with my ardor. So I put my hands on her hips and began to move her away from me..

I felt her nose skim the side of my arm and she inhaled deeply. I felt her hands doing the same. She stepped a little closer and raised her hand. I was no longer ashamed to show her just how much I desired her. "I don't want you to watch me.. My grip on self-control was slipping. I did. It twisted and turned and burned a curved line to the center of my stomach. Her hands wrapped themselves around my hips. Intimidating. "So smooth. intent on bringing her lips to mine. so sweet. "It's pretty. When I dropped my hands... I kept my eyes closed tight when I felt her draw her fingernails over my nipples.. "Bella?" . but slipped away when she continued moving around me. I closed my eyes and let my arms rest easily at my sides." she whispered. "Wow. I could feel her eyes on me.. "And you taste."But close your eyes!" Bella instructed. as still as a statue under the spray of the water.. "Pretty?" My eyebrows shot straight up... One finger traced the path of water down my shoulder. "Close your eyes again. I waited for her to pick an adjective. "I love how you feel under my lips..." Bella crooned. I actually felt a little dizzy while I stood there. it is!" Bella argued." Bella bit her lip and scrunched her face. Slipping down... Bella smiled and giggled at my reaction while she nodded. letting her eyes learn my body. A jolt of electricity shot through me when I felt her tongue lick a straight path up my spine." Bella finally said." I mumbled. "Did you know that you smell good to me too?" Bella asked." I smirked and did as I was told. Bella was studiously looking at my penis. "Is that a good wow." I tried to warn her." I groaned and reached up to push my hands into her hair." Manly. Yummy. Enormous.. or a bad wow?" I laughed a little and squinted one eye open. "It's. My jaw tensed. I looked down too. And then I felt the distinct chill left behind when she stepped away from me.." Bella finally muttered. "Did you just call my penis. Her fingers grazed my skin as she moved to my back. lightly scratching against my skin. Bella laughed softly against my skin and kissed the center of my chest.. pretty?" "Well. "It's actually kind of. Anxious to see if she would keep up this new exploration. I stood. "Shit. and I felt her move around me. But she grabbed my wrists and put them back down at my sides." "Bella.

My hips thrust forward in surprise when I felt her gentle touch wrap around my erection. And then the warmest, most insanely wonderful sensation made my knees go weak when she touched her mouth to me. My eyes flew open and I looked down at where she knelt in front of me. She held me in her hand, and looked up at me with her eyes made heavy by a passion that matched mine. "I want... to taste you everywhere," Bella said with a husky voice, and she gave me a little squeeze. I groaned loudly at the sight and closed my eyes. My mind was screaming for me to grab her by the arms and pull her up from her knees. My morals and notions of chivalry dictated that a woman should not be treated in this way. But damn it all, if my horny-teenage self wasn't right back in the ring- jumping up and down holding a big, shiny, championship belt over his head. Oh yeah. He won this round by a knock-out. I could only nod and give her permission to continue. Bella put her mouth around me, and it was bliss defined. She moved tentatively, sliding her mouth over me and her tongue around me. She slowly grew bolder, encouraged by the lustful sounds that I could not force myself to keep inside. I whispered that I loved her. I whispered that she was beautiful. I whispered expletives that should have shocked her, and I begged her not to stop the sweet, sweet torture of it all. I looked down then. My hands found their way to her hair, but I only brushed it away from her face. I couldn't be so crass as to direct her motion when she was obviously enjoying being in control. I couldn't help my hips, however, from moving of their own accord to match her movements. I realized too late that watching her was adding a visual stimulation that was rapidly pushing me toward the edge. Her lips and her tongue and her teeth were already bringing me sensations that I didn't know were possible. When she hummed her pleasure against me, and reached to cup my balls in her hand, I knew that it would all be over much faster than I wanted it to be. Afraid of hurting her, I pulled my hands away from her head and flattened one palm against the shower tiles. My other hand curled tightly over the metal frame that held the glass shower doors. "Christ, Bella... I... I..." I tore my hips away from her at the last possible moment, and shuddered as I released myself onto the shower floor. Bella remained where she was for a minute, with her hands wrapped around my thighs. She stood then, and put her arms around my waist, pressing her cheek to my convulsing chest. I let my hand slide from the shower door frame, and twisted it into the back of her wet hair, holding her to me while I struggled to control the shuddering of my body. I couldn't even form words. I just stood there, pressing that girl against me while I trembled in the aftermath of the absolute pleasure of it all.

"You're shaking," Bella laughed against me. "You have that effect on me," I admitted, kissing the top of her head. Bella pulled away enough to tilt her face and look up at me. Her hair tangled down her back. Her lips were puffy and swollen, and water drops held court on her flushed cheeks. She had never looked lovelier. "I love you, Edward Cullen." I blinked down at her. My lips parted, but I was literally speechless. She smiled up at me with a light that could rival heaven. "I just thought you should know. I love you." I lowered my head and captured her vow with my lips. Her hands pressed against the center of my chest, and if my heart could have beat, it would have been for her. "I'll never let you go," I swore against her mouth. "I love you Bella." Our kiss was broken when we turned our heads toward a loud grinding sound at my right. In my altered state of mind, I had unwittingly bent the metal frame above the shower doors. I was mostly impressed to see the metal twisted instead of broken. I must have been more in control than I thought. But the glass had shifted to perilously lean from its frame. "I should get you out of here," I told her. "A whole lot of broken glass and a whole lot of naked me sounds like a very bad mix," Bella nodded. I pulled her easily up into my arms and slid the door aside as gently as I could. The glass rocked back and forth, but did not give up its tenuous grip. I hurried Bella from the room, grabbing a towel as I went. When I placed Bella on her feet next to the bed, she didn't complain as I knelt before her and started to dry her body with the towel. I took my time, making sure that she knew how much I cherished and wanted to tend to her. With her skin flushed and rosy from my attention, I turned and retrieved one of my t-shirts from my bag and pulled it down over her head. "If you don't mind," I smiled down at her. "I like you sleeping in my shirts." "I don't mind," she shook her head. I leaned down to kiss her lightly, and then stood. I was still undressed and didn't want to get her wet and cold again with my body. "I'll be right back," I told her. I turned and made my way back into the bathroom. After a little maneuvering, I was able to straighten the shower door frame well enough to hold the glass more securely. I would probably still have to pay for the damage. I smiled. It would be worth it. I quickly dried myself with a towel and dressed in the pajama bottoms that I had placed near the sink.

It hadn't been more than ten minutes, but I returned to find Bella sound asleep on the bed. I carefully moved up beside her. As softly as I could, I trailed my fingers across her cheek and pushed her damp hair away from her face. Bella smiled a little in her sleep but did not wake up. My chest felt full with the love I felt for this girl sleeping in front of me. A tremor ran down my spine, just from remembering the insane physical pleasure she had given me. But even that could not have compared to the pure, unadulterated joy I felt when she had said the most beautiful words I had ever heard. "I love you Edward Cullen."

48. His and Hers towels

Once back in New Hampshire, I was forced into a compromise. Bella loved me. But she didn't have a very pleasant personality when she was stressed and studying for our final. My attempts to help her study always played out the same way: I made a suggestion or pointed out random facts. Bella told me off. We both sat in silence for a moment, before she crawled up on my lap and apologized for 'being bitchy.' I, personally, loved the way that she chose to apologize. But that, in turn, led to less study time and another excuse for the cycle to begin again. Because of this hindering rotation, I was denied Bella's company until the end of the week. Truthfully- I was fine with that. Bella promised that we could have a picnic in the woods on Friday, to make up for the week apart. During class, I concentrated on letting the regurgitated facts that were bouncing around in the thoughts of those around me turn into a quiet hum in the background while I imagined having Bella to myself, in that clearing in the woods. My fantasies got me through the week. On Thursday night, I pressed Bella against her car door and kissed her sweetly. She was dead on her feet from her study efforts, but much relieved to be done for the semester. "I am going home to sleep," she yawned and wrapped her arms around my neck while I held her tight. "But I'll be over tomorrow, as soon as I wake up." "I'll see you then," I whispered. 'Then' turned out to be noon the following day. Bella arrived looking fresh and rested. Her little white t-shirt and khaki cargo shorts were perfect for the sunny weather that we were expecting. She laughed and pointed out that the colors of our clothing matched. Tugging the end of her braid, I smiled. "This is cute."

"I thought it would be best, for running," Bella grinned. "You are going to run with me, aren't you?" I could see the excitement in her eyes. "Hop on," I told her. Bella threw her small back-pack over her shoulders and vaulted herself up onto my back. "This has its advantages," she grinned, biting my ear lobe between her teeth. I growled softly. "If you want to leave the house, you better stop that," I warned. Bella apologized with a small kiss to the side of my neck, and I smiled. It was going to be a good day. With the warm spring air rushing past us, and the forest floor flying under my feet, it was easy to imagine Bella and I as the only two people on earth. With no concerns to weigh us down, and no one around for miles to distract us, we were young and alive and free to laugh and to love. I took her back to the same meadow we had visited before. Bella was breathless when I lowered her to her feet, and we walked hand in hand to the center of the clearing. I bent to pluck wildflowers on the way through the grass, and Bella smiled over at me shyly. "I am not sure I'll ever get used to the way you look in the sun," she admitted. "I'm not sure I ever want to." "What do you mean?" I asked. I took the thin blanket that she had folded into her bag, and spread it out on the ground. "I just don't ever want to take you for granted," Bella told me. "Every time I look at you, I am amazed." "I'm inordinately pleased that you aren't horrified," I grinned. I sat on the blanket and patted the open space between my knees, to indicate that she should join me. Bella lowered herself to sit with her back to my chest, and I carefully pulled the hair tie from the bottom of her braid. "It took me forever to braid that," Bella scolded. "Hush," I leaned forward and kissed the back of her shoulder. "Every time I look at you, I am amazed as well. Let me enjoy this." Bella relaxed and I let my fingers gently separate the tight plait of hair. Combing through the soft tresses, I smoothed her hair until it fell in wavy ribbons down her back. Bella reached forward to pull an apple from her bag, while I began twisting the wildflower caps from the stems I had collected, and wove them into her hair. I smelled the sweet, tangy fruit hit the air when Bella took a bite. It was a delicate scent that mixed with Bella's charming fragrance, and didn't smell nearly as unappealing as other food choices she might have considered bringing along for her picnic lunch. I was grateful she had chosen this aromatically neutral snack. I chuckled at my own romantic thoughts. A beautiful girl smelling of sunshine on warm skin with strawberries in her hair... tart apple on her lips. The

poetry of the memory might have been tainted had she decided to pack a tuna-salad sandwich for her meal. "So... Miss Swan," I asked while twisting colorful flowers into the chestnut hair under my hands. "What are your plans for the summer, now that class is over?" "Working," her shoulders slumped forward. "And possibly getting a second job, if I don't find a roommate in a hurry." "Wait. What?" My hands halted in their task and I crinkled my forehead in confusion. "Where is Katrina going?" I had spent the majority of time in class this week, happy to relegate the thoughts of those around me to a low static-y buzz. It was annoying to hear people study. But I hadn't heard one internal thing from Katrina about a change in housing arrangements. "Our lease is up at the end of the month," Bella said with a twinge of irritation. "Katrina and Brad have decided to get a place together." I moved my hands to Bella's tense shoulders and began to apply a gentle massaging pressure to help her relax again. My mind was spinning with possibilities that my mouth was too cowardly to present. I knew she wouldn't accept charity on my part. But if I offered something outlandish, perhaps she would be more likely to accept a second, seemingly less-intrusive offer? "You seem... not-happy about the situation," I said. "No," Bella sighed. "I'm actually really happy for Katrina. I just wish she had given me a little more warning. I can't afford the apartment on my own, with the hours I work now." It was my opening. I licked my lips and scooted closer to her on the blanket, holding her between my thighs. I let my hands cup her shoulders and leaned forward to breathe near her ear. "You wouldn't have to get another job, if you let me help you," I suggested. "I could give you Katrina's share of the expenses." I felt Bella's back straighten in front of me, as I expected it to. And as I also expected, she was quick to decline my assistance. "I'm not taking money from you Edward," Bella said. Her voice was quiet, but firm. I grinned a little, imagining the look on her face while feeling grateful that she couldn't see the smirk on mine. "Hmm... well then," I shrugged and let my hands slide up and down her bare arms. She shivered a little. "Maybe if you won't accept my help... you'd consider letting me be your roommate?" Bella turned under my hands and looked at me. I fought to keep my face impassive.

"Why would you want to give up your house to move into a crappy little apartment?" Bella scowled at me. I couldn't help but laugh at her expression. "Your lease is almost up," I shrugged. "Why don't you just move in here?" I hoped I didn't look as nervous about her answer as I felt. I was trying to play it cool. Bella's features actually darkened, and she stood up quickly, brushing her hands down her shorts before walking away. I watched her move forward a few paces before turning to look at me sharply. She stared hard at my face and frowned, before putting her hands on her hips and raising an eyebrow. "You are trying to con me!" "Excuse me?" I raised my eyebrows in the most innocent expression I could muster and Bella smiled knowingly. "Ask for a cake, when all you are really hoping for is a candy bar?" Bella twisted her lips in a humorous sneer. "That's so 'Leave it to Beaver', Edward!" "Actually, I got the concept from an episode of the Brady Bunch," I admitted, and placed my hands behind me on the blanket so I could lean back. "I still think it could work." "What could?" "You moving in with me," I shrugged. "I have plenty of space. You would be comfortable here." "Living with a con-artist vampire," Bella muttered. She moved back toward me and turned to sit on the blanket once more. She kept a healthy distance between us, and hooked her arms around her knees. "A con-artist vampire who draws inspiration from Nick at Night," I playfully amended. She giggled and turned her head to look at me. "I don't know..." "I do." I spoke firmly. "It would certainly help with your situation. And just think of all the gas you would be saving me. I wouldn't have to drive all the way across town every night just to see you. You'd really be helping to save the Earth's resources..." "So now you are taking the environmental approach," Bella scoffed. "I got nothing else." "How about honesty?" I reached out and grabbed Bella's shoulder, pulling her to lay back against the blanket. On my side above her, I traced my forefinger down her cheek.

I want to think about it. "Not while you are kissing me. unwittingly. I let my fingers open the buttons on the front of my shirt. opening her mouth for my tongue. "Unfair coercion. And." I murmured between kisses..." Bella breathed. and she laughingly began to push me away. I gave full attention to her top lip before favoring the bottom between my own.. I accepted the unspoken invitation greedily and moved my mouth to hers." "Fair enough. without getting a second job?" "Yes. I didn't open my eyes." Truer words were never spoken. you would have to let me pay my own way. I need you... and are comfortable with."I love you Bella." I'd also toss the money into a separate account that she could draw from later. "I can't think straight when you are kissing me. I smiled. I moved my mouth lightly over hers. pay to me. and I basked in it. But when her hands came to my wrists. Whatever you currently pay. and I moved to lay on my back beside her. "Are you comfortable with your arrangements now?" I asked. You know... she pulled herself closer to me.." I felt the corners of my mouth pull upward.. Instead of dropping my hands." I opened my eyes to look at her. relishing the scent and taste and texture." "Good. But that didn't need to be mentioned. and utilities? Are they affordable to you. Bella sighed. I'll even write you up monthly receipts if you'd like. While Bella remained silently considering my suggestion. "You won't say yes while I'm kissing you?" I moved to her neck instead." I shrugged. She was staring at my bare chest. But you'll have to wait. her expression changed. "If I said yes. Bella remained next to me in silence before she spoke. "Pay that.. and pushed it away from my chest to lay at my sides. The sun felt glorious. "Say yes. "Would it make you feel better if you took your shirt off too? I don't mind." Bella whispered. in respect to fairness and all. I am not nearly finished kissing you. Bella nodded up at me.. I closed my eyes and reveled in the sunlight that warmed my skin. "With your rent. Bella's lips were slightly sticky from the apple she had eaten." I teasingly moved my hands to the edge of her t-shirt." . "Well. dragging my mouth down the column of her throat while she twisted her fingers into my hair.. now you are trying to unfairly influence my decision. After a moment.

And true to my plan to keep Bella on the right-track with her decision-making. My chest moved heavily up and down while I struggled to get a grip on my control. "That sounds like a pretty good reason to not stop." I urged. "I admit. I groaned and pushed myself against her. I selfishly hope there will be a time for us. "Say it's never been like this before.. I tilted my face to the sun while she raised her lips to my throat. so concentrated that I could taste it on my tongue while I kissed her again and again. I kept our intimacies under careful control. "Bella? We need to stop. The crushed grass beneath our blanket and the wildflowers in Bella's hair caused a heady cloud of scent to envelop me. Say it's only for me."I was hoping you'd say that. while she kissed me and moved against me in ways that . I lifted Bella's hand to my mouth and kissed her knuckles softly. rolling so that I could see her face.." Bella sighed with a smile. and savored the way she made me feel. "Why do we need to stop?" "Because I want to make love to you. Her cheeks were flushed pretty pink. and I needed to clear my head. My vision actually became hazy for a moment. ever felt this way before.. and I hopped to my feet before offering my hand to help her stand. and she looked like a wood nymph or a fairy with her wild hair tangled with flowers." Bella's hands gripped my hips when I rolled to lay above her." Bella smiled." I said earnestly. "Why?" Bella laid beside me. "I don't want any of your decisions to be about sex. It was difficult." Bella promised. We shared the task of folding the blanket and I put it back into the bag that Bella slung onto her back. too.. "Only for me. With our bodies in more intimate contact. But I don't want you to feel unfairly influenced in making your decision. I want you to move in with me Bella. my head felt light." Bella nodded in understanding. But I need you to be sure that you want that. I tilted my head back to give her access to my throat. When her tiny tongue flicked out to taste and tempt me." "I've never. especially when Bella seemed hell-bent on pushing my limits. and reached out one hand to rest against my stomach." With great effort. "Ready to go?" "I guess. I rolled away from her. A casual movie date ended with Bella straddling my lap on the couch. swirling in colors and vivid hues. I closed my eyes." I told her. Things were rapidly getting out of control. During the next two weeks. I did not bring up the conversation that we had in the meadow. and laid with my back to the earth.

and tried to let her know exactly how happy she had made me.. but instead. "I think so." "Yes?" "I was wondering if. The petulant look on her face told me that she was becoming irritated by my constant redirection. I was to let her pay the same rent and utilities that she paid at her own apartment. I would have missed out on Bella dressed in cut-off sweat-shorts and a very tiny tank top. pressing her body into the corner while scattering excited kisses across her cheeks. sweating and lugging boxes around with me. I captured her lips beneath mine. Bella was very clear that she wanted to pay her own way while living with me.. her plan had its advantages." I told her." "Anything. however. I had to admit. It was a task that would have taken me a very short amount of time. I patted her back pocket lightly and moved her to sit beside me once again. "No.were probably illegal in some countries. She laughed lightly at my exuberance. "Are you upset with me?" I asked. And she would be in charge of buying her own food items. But then. which meant that I couldn't sneak in during the night and load her items into the rented truck on my own. But I had already learned that Bella did things in her own time." Bella nodded. Bella sighed heavily and reached for the bowl of popcorn that I had placed on the end table for her. I couldn't push her on the issue. I moved across the couch. maybe. She checked her voicemail constantly. but!" Bella broke the kiss and held a finger up in my face. she munched a bit of the salty snack. and on her own schedule. "Mmmm. was trying to be patient while she considered her housing options. Bella licked a piece of fine salt from the corner of her mouth and pressed her lips together before setting the bowl aside. . brooding in silence. I knew better. The tiny crease between her eyebrows let me know that her thoughts were far from the comedy on the television screen. I wanted her to be as anxious about the idea as I was. I suspected that Bella was still considering getting a roommate. forehead.. My hands ached to grip her hips and pull her roughly against me. "We are going to be clear on a few things. I." she mumbled. I was a little put-out that she didn't immediately see the benefits of living with me. and nose. you would be available to help me bring my things over this Saturday?" The smile that dominated my features couldn't even be dimmed by the fact that she still had a worried expression on her face.. "I was just thinking. She also wanted to move her own things 'like a normal person'. With her attention back on the movie. "Are you sure?" I smiled against her mouth.

So please. "This was the first place I had on my own. "Are you ready?" "Yes." Bella nodded and bit her lip before turning into my room. The taste of her sweat on my lips made me want to lick her. Once in the house. My house was already furnished." "What do you want?" Bella looked at me. driving the rental truck. but I sensed her mood wasn't matched to mine. of course. When I finished placing her sofa in the room. if you'd like.. I was glad that her back was turned so she wouldn't see my smile. if I'm being honest. My first act of independence. things continued to feel strained between us.Pretending to only carry half the weight of furniture was amusing to me. "Thank you. I moved behind Bella and wrapped my arms around her waist.. Her mood was hard to determine and I was trying to play it safe. frowning.. But you are welcome to use my room. "Will you miss it?" I asked. Bella followed behind me. I had to force my features to reflect a false nonchalance while I moved my clothing to the back of the closet to make room for hers." I shrugged." she mumbled. Though I wished otherwise. "We didn't really." I answered carefully. the apartment was completely bare. if you want your own space. "Look Bella. just put your things wherever you would like them." I couldn't help but notice that her confirmation was delivered on a sigh." I began. She looked confused. "I want what you want. Doing things without any help. we began storing her things in the empty room at the end of the hall. Bella frowned again. I turned and found Bella standing in the hall with an armful of clothes on hangers.. you can have the guest room as your own. placing a tiny kiss on her shoulder. When finished.. But it's not part of this renter's agreement that you have to share your space with me like that.. "I will." "Oh!" I raised my hand to rub the back of my neck.." ." I hugged her more closely against my chest.." Bella nodded solemnly. "I'm going to get some more boxes from the truck. discuss sleeping arrangements. I was quickly becoming irritated by treading so lightly around her. I rather like you there. "Well. We spent Saturday morning loading a rental truck with Bella's items. Bella stood in the empty space. Bella blushed and looked down. hoping that my silent support was what she craved. "Is something the matter?" I asked. and many of her items wouldn't be needed. "No problem. "You've been comfortable sleeping in my bed.

"If you don't want to use the things I have. there was space for her appliances as well. "Where am I supposed to put my things?" Bella asked. she looked up at me with an expression of incredulity. that she was not. Her plates and glasses fit nicely beside mine.. I don't care. After a while. and happily worked at my task. and then slid a box across the floor toward a cabinet near the stove. Bella dragged her feet out of the kitchen.. I wondered for a moment. Bella came in and stared at the cardboard tower that stood beside the counter. or I'll give it to charity. It can go in storage.. After some rearranging. That frown was still in place. With a little rearranging and reorganizing." Bella nodded. Bella noticed the look on my face and moved around me to unload a box. We'll make as much room as you need. "What?" I asked. "You don't want to know." "I'm sorry." "The truck is empty." I stepped back. and her skin glistened with perspiration from her efforts. we'll box it all up. I listened to Bella showering in the other room. And I'm stressed. "Why don't you let me take care of the kitchen things? You can go take a nice hot shower and relax. then I smirked when I imagined the slap I would receive if she had the ability to read my mind. She opened the next cabinet door and shook her head in disgust." I shrugged." "I think I will. I suspected. The good humor was gone from her voice entirely. Bella shook her ponytail from side to side. When she opened the door. Her hands were on her hips. "A juicer? Are you kidding me?" Bella pulled the mechanical gadget that was the focus of her ire from its hiding place below my counter and looked like she wanted to launch it at me. and I began to move things aside in the cabinets to make room for hers. however." her shoulders slumped forward.I let Bella continue to bring in her clothing while I carried boxes that were marked for the kitchen." I replied honestly.. "You have a waffle maker!" "Bella. would Bella come to see how nicely we fit side-by-side too? . Her mood. "What's so funny?" Bella asked. I wished she could be as thrilled as I was about her move. I couldn't understand why she was so irate about kitchen appliances. I'm just tired. "I'm so sorry Edward." I told her. "Why do you have a juicer?" "You never know if a guest will want juice. had not improved. She brushed it away angrily. if I had room in my medicine cabinet for Midol. obviously. "There is no room for my things!" Bella's voice sounded nearly hysterical and I moved to put my hand on her shoulder. and I was willing to try anything to get rid of it.

inhaling deeply. and her arms were wrapped around her knees. I started pulling random items from the box. high-pitched scream that instantly diverted my attention and had me blurring through the house in my haste to get to her. Frustrated. Then.. but I had to search for it. and opened it with a frown. I found Bella. sitting on the bathroom floor with her back to the wall. Pickles.. As soon as I reached for a hand towel. She hid her face in her arms and her shoulders shook. I let the water rush over it.. Still. And yet. "I. Bella was laughing. As a hunter. I placed my palms flat on either side of the sink. Still. washing the paste from my hands. bitter and brittle laugh and I leaned back in surprise. I curled my lip in distaste as I lifted out some other condiment and pushed it toward the sink to wash the sugary residue away. the smell was mild. I tossed the remnants of the container into the trash and stood at the sink." Bella finally said. in a moment of confusion. I watched as the glass bottle in my hands slipped from my fingers and crashed into the stainless steel basin.the smell of the vinegar and peppers was so faint in the air that I wasn't sure if some chemical-reaction was to blame for its lack of aroma.I moved another box to the counter.. I depended on my olfactory sense.. that I was shocked enough to drop that bottle of hot sauce. saw a spider. and turned my nose to the grape jelly. It was a box of food. and I lowered myself to sit on the floor.. By the sink. I heard Bella in the other room. I frowned and clenched my hands tight enough that the peanut butter jar was destroyed and I was left with a clump of brown sludge in my fist. Frightening possibilities sprung to mind. water. I realized then... She let out a terrified. Salad dressing. and it had apparently been jostled too much in the truck. Red chili peppers. A broken jar of jelly covered items near it with sticky." "Do you. that she was not crying. I could smell the components separately. opening them and holding them to my nose. Sweet.. "Bella? Are you okay? What happened?" I reached my hands towards her face.. and leaned down close to the source. It was a humorless. tipping her chin up so that I could see her eyes. I thought she was crying. A large towel was tucked around her body. purple goo. it was when I realized that the jelly also had a weak scent.. I was confused and worried about the weakened potency of those scents to me. I moved to the box. using my fingertips to remove the sticky gel. It broke harshly. "A fucking spider. When I concentrated. . Her mouth was twisted and her expression pained. and my confusion only strengthened in response. I had become desensitized to Bella's scent.an open jar of peanut butter still held in my hands.. vinegar. Could this be the warning that Carlisle had been trying to give me? Would other scents become weak to me as well? The possibility offered its horrible ramifications to my mind. want me to kill it for you?" I turned to look for the creature while Bella stood. While each food had a distinct scent. Peanut butter. salt. The shattered bottle of hot sauce spilled like blood down the drain.

and stroked her tongue with my own. "I can't do this! This is stupid!" My frustration was at a boiling point. I had put up with her strange mood all day. don't be!" I yelled. and lose myself to some relationship. I pulled my lips away and pressed my forehead against hers. "Damn it. Still." I said against her mouth. I followed her quickly. I told you. .. Our mouths met frantically. pulling at her bottom lip and groaning with pleasure when she pulled my hair to bring me closer."Don't you realize how stupid this is?" Bella was nearly shouting. and for once.. "You never had to say it.. I had enough of being polite. I needed to be sure. "I can't do this. My own mind was full of new worries and revelations..." I fought to control my voice. "It's been written all over your face. I rushed to the closet and grabbed an armful of her clothes. "What can't you do? Move in with me? Why don't you just admit that you never really even wanted to!" "I never said that!" Bella shook her head in denial.. Hangers bent and twisted as I spun with her clothing in hand. and in your body language!" "It just. That's not what I imagined for myself!" Livid about being referred to as 'some guy'. "I want you so bad." Bella tried to explain. Bella." I said hoarsely. "We didn't plan this. I slanted my mouth against hers. I grabbed her by the shoulders and my voice rose as well. "I need you here because you want to be. it scares me!" I caught her as she crashed into my chest. The fire that always ignited between us when we touched was raging instantly.. Bella lowered her hands to claw at my shoulders and met my mouth greedily with her own. and I bent her back over my arm. then you should damn well just let me know!" "I want you. I was hesitant to resist its flames. "I was never going to be that girl Edward! I wasn't going to just. and I turned to look at her once more.. "I screamed over a spider! And I'm moving in with a vampire!" Bella turned with a huff and stomped into my bedroom. I don't want you to be here just because you think it's what I want! You have to know what you want! And if that isn't me. it doesn't make sense. but her eyes couldn't lie.. shack up with some guy. "If you don't want to be here.. I do want you. I tossed the items on top of her still-open suitcase on the floor. With two quick steps." Bella was shaking her head and rushed to me." Bella shook her head.

We were both breathing so heavily that romantic music playing in the background would have been pointless. and I . trying to capture my mouth again." Bella urged. I love you. Instead. "I want you to undress first. I need you. We needed each other. into the middle of my bed. "Then have me.. If she wanted to stop." She was pulling at my shirt even as she explained. Bella sighed against my mouth."I do want to be here. Please say no." I groaned. Our mouths collided. but damn it all. 49. I placed my hands under her arms and lifted her straight up against me before stumbling forward and dropping us both. We didn't need a fairy tale. "God. and it was perfect for the two of us. tossing them across the room loudly. When my jeans and boxer shorts joined their discarded ranks. I blinked and swallowed hard. and almost ached with my need. "You are wearing more clothes than I am. "Should I stop?" I hardly recognized my own voice. and Bella's hands reached up to frame my face. Please say no. She held me to her and moved her lips beneath mine. I imagined that other parts of our body would imitate this differential friction and pleasure. Crashed There was no candlelight or roses. But the moment was ours. She giggled when I bent down and pulled my shoes off. trying to control myself. delicious and perfectly paired in its contradiction. drawing me into her sweetness and tempting me with delights my mind could barely guess at. I didn't sweep Bella up bridal-style to carry her to a paradise of pillows draped with diaphanous gauze and butterfly lace. "No. The fact that she stood before me wearing only a bath towel was doing very bad things to my resolve." Bella shook her head. Her glazed eyes and puffy lips tempted me beyond all imagination. breaking our kiss. A victory march played loudly in my ears while I allowed her to pull the cotton over my head." Bella shoved her chin forward. rubbing my thumb across her bottom lip. It was an offer I knew I would not refuse. Please say. A hiss escaped my lips when Bella bit at my thumb.. without preamble. I pressed myself eagerly against her leg and let my hands grip the towel she wore. if I wouldn't need every bit of self-control in my possession to honor her request. I would have to respect that. I turned and found my prize once more." Bella gasped. Her soft lips pressed silky and wet against my less-pliable mouth. I pulled back and put my hand against her jaw. Her words nearly sent me into a frenzy. Her chest rose and fell quickly with her labored breathing.

and turned her face away from me. Bella's lashes laid heavy on her flushed cheeks. "Edward. "I love you Bella. "I rather like the idea of you being able to see me. our naked skin scorching between us. I was the one to stop and look at her. baring the long side of her neck to my arduous advances.kissed her again to breathlessness.. and the heart beating ferociously against my chest. Tenderly." I kissed her another time. All of my passion had been held in check for this moment. I slid over her. The towel fell completely to the sides when I slid my hands up her ribcage to capture her breasts against my palms. But I was judging by her response to my kisses that she wanted this just as badly as I did. and I nudged the edges of the fabric apart with my nose. then. and I closed my eyes tightly to try to find some measure of control. and I held a Cheshire smile against the bottom of her throat before snaking my way further down her body.for the satin skin beneath me." My name was a siren's call that beckoned me back to her mouth. "Do you want me to shut out the light?" I asked.. instead. wild on my pillow. Bella's pulse hammered like mad. for permission to proceed. My hands held her face for me. and her fingers gripped my hips while she offered herself to me completely.. I gripped the towel in the center of her chest with my teeth and smirked up at her before I tore it open. and deliberately. This time when I grabbed her towel in my fist. At least I wasn't being entirely selfish about her comfort. "Does it matter?" Bella shook her head. I kissed her skin there and ran my nose and lips over her heart. "I'll leave it on.. Bella's mouth popped open in a surprised "o". I felt wicked. . I should have asked for confirmation. And then I kissed her with every bit of pent up longing that I had held inside for a hundred years. and the blush that stole across her cheeks fueled my desire. "You can see me just as easily in the dark. softly. Her innocent surrender cut through the lust that clouded my brain. I gripped her chin then." "See you?" "See me loving you." I smiled crookedly down at her and leaned to kiss her once." I clarified. and my fingers twisted into her hair. I sucked Bella's earlobe between my lips before breathing across her ear and dragging my tongue straight down to her collar bone." I breathed.

" I smiled and raised her foot to kiss the inside of her ankle. and I sighed. I tasted the skin of her leg higher and higher. I also had the common sense to know that even if I was very. Bella's stomach muscles tightened beneath me. Mine would come after.this experience would not be nearly as wonderful and satisfying to her as it would be for me. Confused for a moment. I returned the look with a devilish one of my own before moving my body down to the foot of the bed. and I traced their contours with kisses and cool breaths that caused goose bumps to break out in my wake. Her eyes remained closed and she bit her lip.. always moving a step behind my fingers. It was my absolute delight to provide everything she needed. it seemed ludicrous to even recall the time when I had been afraid to touch her. It really wasn't a chore to put Bella's needs before mine. so close to that enticing pulse-point? I wanted her to know that I was not tempted in the slightest... I held her waist and pressed her hips into the mattress below us while I teased her midsection with my tongue. . With that in mind. I looked up Bella's body. I kissed and licked at her chest. Her body was my favorite distraction. I was able to squeeze her soft flesh without worries of causing her pain. "You don't have to be afraid. before trailing my fingers up her calf and following the forged path with my lips. I smiled and pressed my nose in the concaved area. I felt powerful when my hands grazed the muscular indentation of her inner thigh. She threaded her fingers through my hair when my lips traveled lower down her torso. Bella drew a shaky breath and nodded. I grinned once more. ever deliberately." I said quietly. Her cheeks turned crimson as she slowly lowered her hands and shielded the juncture of her thighs from my view. I loved knowing that I made her feel good. I adored worshipping her with my lips and my hands." I whispered against her mouth. While concentrating specifically on pleasing Bella. to see her looking down at me with a dreamy smile. "Let me love you. "I'm being thorough. Bella watched me with a tentative look on her face. Every moan from her mouth encouraged me and made me feel secure in my ability to be this way with her. and I looked up from where I was. Ever slowly. I frowned. "What are you doing?" Bella asked breathlessly. and celebrated the way that her body responded to me. Her reaction caused me to frown. My hands prepared the way for the attention of my mouth. The womanly scent of Bella and the heat that radiated from her drew me forward.I knew that I wanted Bella." Bella whispered. Was she nervous about my ability to control my desire for her blood.. "I'm not afraid. and a new-found resolve in place. Then understanding dawned. where I knew the femoral artery pulsed heavily. She was the prettiest thing I had ever seen. I smiled and rained kisses down across her forehead and over her cheekbones. in every way. Bella arched against me and wanted more. Her body fit under my hands like she was built for me. Bella stiffened beneath me. I set out with a determination to help Bella find pleasure first. I felt no desire for it at all. very careful with her. breathing deeply.

. but I was firm. Carefully I lowered my face again. I placed her hands on each side of her. punctuated by tiny cries of pleasure. The noises that she made really could have helped me to find my own end. But I was encouraged by the tiny gasp that I heard from above me. I was rewarded immediately when Bella arched her back from the bed and screamed my name while she broke into pieces around me. but I wanted it all."Don't hide yourself from me. And you are all mine. I had never known such confidence." I whispered. I stayed very still until I felt her relax again. I pulled her response with my kiss. A glance back up to Bella's face confirmed my suspicions. Still." I reminded her. I watched her as I lowered my head and kissed her once.. softly.I had to make absolutely sure she was satisfied first. I kissed her collar bones and eventually breathed kisses up her neck and to her ear. "You are beautiful. The less hesitant I grew. I kissed her hip bones. and nuzzled into her to give her the most intimate of kisses. Lifting my hand. Her breathing was harsh and shallow. She writhed against me and said my name over and over. the more relaxed she became. gauging her reaction and preparing her for my touch with my breath. and I kissed her sweet curls once more before moving my way back up her body." Bella had her eyes closed tightly and was biting her lip again. I pushed two fingers into her and pressed my lips to her tightly. but tension rolled off her in waves. She resisted slightly. My body was tight with the pressure and pain of wanting her. You are amazing. "You said I was pretty. . pulling her into my open mouth." I lowered my mouth closer to her. and very little reference to draw from. "Shh. It should have been enough. I could see her struggling to relax. and tilted her to my mouth. My hands reached beneath her then. and my control made me bold and made me feel free to explore her body with my lips and tongue. I cupped her breasts again and brought each to my mouth in turn. Knowing that I was responsible for her reaction made me feel wild and primal in my need to claim her. so that I could look down at her body unhindered. "You are so much more then pretty." I murmured. and her pleasure became my own when she lifted her hips in a subconscious move to meet my efforts." I watched the corner of Bella's lips turn up in a small smile as she remembered. and forced her to shudder against me. Bella was sweet and soft and pure before me. and the slightly sweaty skin below her navel. Bella. I shook my head from side to side and reached to move her hands. Bella's hands found my hair and I smiled victoriously as she pulled me closer. "You looked at me. I had no idea what I was doing in this area at all." Bella trembled a little before relaxing in front of me. I groaned into her. "Don't be embarrassed with me.

I cupped Bella's face between my hands and moved up to kiss her. It was a mediocre compliment at best. Now I needed mine. I closed my eyes and groaned. Inch by inch I moved to bring us together. of course..her eyes still closed as she recovered from her own rise to pleasure." she smiled shyly.so damn good." Bella nodded again.. I groaned heavily into her mouth." "I'm yours. "You. It helped me to continue." I hadn't even moved yet." I rushed. and I had to fight myself every second of the way to not give into my animalistic urge to plunge into her.. watching her face as I began to press myself into her. She moved her hips against me until she found a more comfortable position and I fisted the sheets to keep myself in check.. This action.. and I hissed when she touched where our bodies joined. "Say it." I hadn't realized I was gripping her so tightly. "Look at me." I told her. I released my hold immediately.trying to quell the desperate desire I had to throw myself against her over and over. Just. "Say you are mine. Bella put her hands on my shoulders and kept her eyes trained on mine. "Edward? Kiss me. yeah. "Hold on a second. you are hurting my hips a little. urgently.. "Are you ok?" I whispered. I pulled her chin with my fingers and forced her face down. you have no idea. It was delicious and slow torture. "You just feel. Bella was tense all the way around me. I had taken her there. I nudged her legs further apart and settled myself between them. "Umm. "I won't hurt you.. are. But you have to be very clear if you are too uncomfortable. Now.. Bella just swallowed hard and nodded. Bella . Words could not describe how it felt to finally be connected to my sweet Bella so fully.." My words came out as a groan. Bella slowly opened her eyes. Only yours.pushing forward and closing the final distance between us.." I stated. "Ok." I happily obliged."I need you." Bella breathed." I said through gritted teeth. caused our lower bodies to rock together.. and I was already teetering on the edge. so I closed my eyes and pressed my face into her shoulder." "Good? God Bella. Her pupils were dilated and her eyes were glazed with passion.." Bella winced a little and shifted beneath me. "I'm sorry. I could read the love and the trust that she had for me. I felt her hand slide between us." I whispered there. "I think that's good. mine.

"You aren't hurting me. didn't last very long. uncomfortable. I groaned harshly and my muscles tensed as I shuddered against her and came to my own release. Do it." Bella hurried to reassure me. "Bella. ." she said. Bella. that I'm glad you didn't take long for our first time. "Was it horrible for you?" Worried. Bella rose her hips into me. Although our coupling had really only taken us minutes to reach where we were. I was able to push against her more firmly. "I think I'm glad." Bella giggled and kissed my chest. Which was a very. She was still smiling. I pulled away slowly and thrust back into her." I breathed her name into her neck. Urgency was building inside me and I moved faster.. cradled against my side.. "Without a doubt. "It will get better. But not horrible! I just meant. It was all too much. With my free hand. and more confidently." Bella smiled over at me.. Each movement was pure bliss.seemed to like my reaction.. "Bella? Are you alright?" "Sorry!" Bella laughed and her body shook around me." I licked my lips and looked up at the ceiling. and she tentatively moved her pelvis against mine. "Oh God. I rolled to my back and brought her with me. I liked that she referred to it as 'our first time. "It was. She moved to nestle her head into the crook of my arm and ran her fingers lightly across my chest while we laid there in silence. I concentrated on learning her body and understanding her limits. "I. Each time..' That meant she wouldn't be opposed to doing it again. "I'm sorry.. I looked over at her face.." I promised..." I smiled and kissed her forehead. no! I didn't mean for it to sound that way.. I idly brushed through her hair. very good thing." she whispered. was really cold!" Relieved.I knew I wouldn't be able to last long.. the altered angle and added sensation was more than I could take. "Just let yourself go Edward. as we moved together in the timeless lover's dance..." I started moving against her then. But that. I laughed against her shoulder before pulling away. When Bella lifted her legs to wrap them around me. My eyes rolled back in my head.. "I should have expected that at the end. following the natural instincts of my body. It probably made it easier. I sucked at her throat and her shoulders and pushed into her as hard as I dared. Bella let out a high-pitched squeal that filled me with immediate alarm.

without sounding weird. And Charlie would always get a bag of frozen vegetables out of the freezer for me to hold on the area." "Yes." "Probably impossible. bumping into things and getting bruises. After a few more moments of silence.. Which is kind of a must-have for any one as coordinationally-challenged as myself. "What is it?" I asked. I placed a finger under her chin and raised her face so that I could kiss her sweetly. for me?" Bella whispered." Bella began.." Bella continued to blush and she looked away. "Well. I hoped that my eagerness wouldn't leave bruises or soreness...." I laughed at her. "Your efforts to not sound weird are failing miserably. I was constantly spraining my ankle or breaking a toe." I was curious about her story. Her words caused me to catch my breath in stunned surprise. "Of course I do. "I don't think I'll be any more sore than any other girl. . "You usually sound weird." "It was feeling like we were one person." Bella twirled her fingers in a pattern over my heart." I wasn't sure where she was going with this. I felt Bella stretch beside me. I squeezed her tight and smiled into her hair. "I was just trying to think of how to explain this." "Alright. Give it a shot." "Keep going.. when I lived in Forks. Charlie didn't even own an icepack." "Really? I tried to be careful. Right? And that I used to be even worse." I promised. "Are you feeling alright?" I asked.."Do you want to know the best part. "We both know I am a total klutz." I laughed.." "Well. "We are one. "I hope you aren't. She sighed against me. too sore." "Oh!" Bella blushed a little and looked down..." "Ok.

She giggled and moved away from me to turn her omelet on the stove. and then took my own while she busied herself in the kitchen. "What was with the box of food on the floor?" Bella asked. I continued to run my fingers through her long tresses. gripping her hips and holding her in place while I kissed her again. I guess what I am trying to say is that. "Unfortunately. you do horrible things to my ego!" Bella smiled contentedly and snuggled into my chest." "That sounds fun. I hope nothing was ruined. I joined her. I might be a little sore. I could tell she had fallen asleep. sex with you is better than frozen peas.. "Distract me anytime you'd like. essentially. Bella was the key. sliding her food onto a plate and turning off the burner. and lightly tossed it from hand to hand. then leaned back and laughed up at the ceiling. and spent the remainder of the night holding her to me and going over the million things she had brought to my life to make me feel happy and whole." Bella said.. I had never felt more at peace with myself." Bella waved the spatula in a small arc. So. I sort of forgot all about it. So. "Sex with me. looking at me from the corner of her eye. "The kitchen looks great.. "Maybe you could get us some of those doilies."It turns out that the frozen vegetables actually worked better than any old ice-pack I had used before. making breakfast. Bella's growling stomach woke her early." I smiled... "Bella." . "Oh! I'm sorry.." "It's my fault for distracting you." I looked at her incredulously." "You feel better about things now?" "So much better.. is better than frozen peas! I need that on a t-shirt. "I promised Katrina that I would meet her uptown to shop for new things for her apartment... you know I'm a slob with my drinks.." Bella blushed and smiled. running a hand through my wet hair." I laughed. "Good. or coasters." I told her. And well. "I'm sorry I had such a freakout. I stroked her hair and after I stopped laughing. and with my place in this world. what do you want to do today?" I lifted an apple from a basket that Bella had placed on the counter." Bella stood up on tip toes and pushed her hand into the back of my hair before offering her lips up to mine... But you are awfully cold. I'm going out for a while. "I was unpacking that when the spider in the bathroom attacked. I offered her the first use of the shower." I shook my head.

"I was just getting ready to leave though. What's going on?" I released my grip on Jasper's mouth and sent him one more death look before he pushed his hands into his pockets and shrugged his shoulders. all the while mumbling obscene tokens of congratulations into my palm. "Well." Bella explained. "Hello. Alice smiled. "Holy shit!" He yelled. "Going somewhere?" she asked.. I couldn't blame him.. I moved closer to him.. finishing breakfast. An exaggerated knock came a moment later." I grimaced. followed by the aggressive raping of my doorbell." I clamped my hand hard over his mouth and tried to look stern while giving him a silent warning. Bella happily finished her breakfast while I went to admit entry to my siblings.. Bella laughed and returned the embrace. "Hi. Bella walked into the room and looked at us with an amused expression." "I'll bet. Alice grinned and turned her thumb toward the moving truck that still sat on the driveway." . sniffing while he stepped into the house.. my roommate bailed on me." I grinned widely. Alice giggled and stepped aside as we wrestled back and forth." I smiled and opened the door. ready to pounce if I needed to. "And Edward was willing to let me stay here. Jasper clapped a strong hand on my shoulder and studied my face in silence for a moment. "She's in the kitchen." Jasper grinned. I placed the apple back in its woven container and turned my head toward the door.Bella slapped at me lightly and smiled. "Maybe I'll just buy a big can of bug spray!" "But then I can't come to your rescue." "Congratulations!" Alice moved forward and hugged Bella tightly. "Eddie here was just telling us that you moved in. Jasper tried to pry my fingers from his face." Bella frowned. He had to be curious. "Did Bella move in?" Alice's face was alight with excitement. "You got lai. He seemed to be playing nice.." I pretended to pout and Bella laughed at me again. I knew he was trying to feel my mood. guys. "I promised Katrina that I would meet her to shop for house stuff. "I smell girlie-things!" Jasper scrunched up his nose. I couldn't stop smiling. "We have company.

"The fact that she seems fine this morning. and how I had been successful when he had not." I said over my shoulder. I'll get you some new candles for the deck outside or something. I could read his curious questions." I smiled. and determined their source." "I told you about those human girls I tried to be with!" I considered the stories he had shared. in shock. man!" "Yeah.. "Mind over matter.. "Bite her?" I asked. still smiling." Jasper shook his head. Edward! You didn't!" "Oh yeah. But I am happy for you.. No thanks. I couldn't help myself... are." ." Jasper sat with an awed expression that made me laugh. you know. I don't know how you did it. All of us turned our heads in her direction... Can you follow behind me so that I can return the truck?" "You got it!" Jasper and I were both favored with sweet kisses before the girls left us alone. Edward? About freaking time. "Ew.. What do you say?" "Sure."Could I come along?" Alice asked. Didn't you. get tempted to. "You. the man. Jasper was fast on my heels. uh. it feels new. "I could buy you a house-warming gift. yeah. "Call it a 'moving-in' gift then. "Come on! I'd share details with you!" "About Alice?" I asked. Jasper knocked heavily into my side. Jasper must have picked up on my smug feelings immediately. says a lot. "Only in the human way. "I'm not giving you details. I did." I muttered. with you here. Don't ask. As soon as the door shut. Alice just shrugged." I tried to explain.. "I wasn't tempted to hurt her.. "Your eyes are dark too." Jasper bared his teeth and gnashed them with a low growl. "Well.." Alice smiled." "It's not a new house!" Bella laughed. "Damn.." I smirked and moved into the other room." "I will never understand that level of self-control. "What the hell.

"You needed it more than I did. "You were thirstier than you thought!" "Maybe. Jasper looked over at me." Jasper's lip curled back to show his teeth. moving my feet faster to leave him behind. Jasper finished his and stood. "Learn how to use your dick." he shrugged one shoulder." I nodded." "You're gonna be stuck with squirrel!" I goaded. and tore into the side of its throat greedily. surprised by my aggression. "What's the matter Edward?" Jasper laughed. and ran into the woods." I muttered. "We could hunt for furry things while the girls are hunting for bargains. Jasper and I picked up the same tangy scent from a large animal ahead. each of us concentrating on the sights. "I'm sorry. leaning against a tree and watching me. breathing heavily. Seven or eight of them. He was right. "Why did you stop?" I asked. My eyes were dark with repressed hunger. sounds. We finished all of them for our meal. "This one is mine. Jasper stood nearby. I licked the last drop of blood from my lips and stood. Together we ran through the forest."Thank you. and scents around us. "Deer." I nodded. I felt over-fed." I groaned. at the same time. I drained it of its unsatisfying blood in moments. following the scent of the herd.. I found the bear first. and dropped the heavy carcass near my feet. "I don't know what came over me." "It's probably a good idea.. and forget how to use your legs?" I knew he was teasing. "And are they?" I got up to look in a mirror on the wall." Jasper shook his shaggy hair and grinned. but it made me angry. I was exceedingly happy that I didn't seem to be having any more issues with scents. I clenched my hands into fists and lowered my head." "Smell that?" Jasper tilted his face up to the wind with a small smile. . I pushed myself toward my goal. I didn't really feel thirsty. Want to go again?" "Why not?" I tried to return his smile. aggravated when Jasper caught up with me. We sprinted side by side for a while. He slowed his feet while I kept going. charging ahead until I had moved up beside him again. "Want to go out for a run?" Jasper suggested. The creature didn't stand a chance. "That's enough. "Bear. Together we left from the back of the house.

" Jasper worried out loud. I couldn't hear my own feet on the ground. pressing quiet crashed down around me. The deprivation of sound was so complete and so startling that my feet lost their hold and I stumbled forward.. "Edward? Edward!" Jasper was frantic. I went completely deaf. I lowered my hands and looked up at him. A single. Jasper ran joyously through the woods beside me. and he was speaking. Her eyes were huge. "Edward? Say something!" "I can hear you."Maybe now that you aren't thirsty. "What the fuck just happened?" Jasper demanded." "Yeah. Jasper and I ran.though I could not hear him. I startled and threw my hands over my head when I felt something touch my arm. and I shook violently with its force. and then away. At the speed I was running. My world of sound crashed back around me. I felt my throat making the words. We cut a course toward my house. He wove close. terrified. and her shoulders shook as she . I won't beat you so easily in a race!" "You're on!" I laughed. I hit the ground hard." I was too shaken up to argue. The absence of his laugh was the first thing I noticed when my world went silent." "Something is not right with you. He had a panicked look on his face.. the birds. And then I was forced to throw my hands against the sides of my head... my shoulder tore a trench into the forest floor beneath me.. until we got to the house. until finally. "I don't know. I could hear his voice again. Jasper lent a hand under my elbow and helped to hoist me to my feet. I stopped. I could always tell his position by the sound of his laughter. The left side of my clothing was shredded and I was covered in dirt and mud. highpitched tone agonizingly slashed through my brain. I shook my head and tried to stand.. "Let's get you back to the house. And then I looked up and saw Jasper standing above me.. I didn't need for her to worry before I knew for sure what was going on. "I can't hear you. "I couldn't hear anything. though I could not hear it. I could feel myself breathing heavily. Turned sideways into my fall. For thirty yards I ripped through the earth with the side of my body. winding through the trees. and was met with the tortured face of my sister. at a slower pace. I shook my head. but they were silent to my deaf ears. It was like. I couldn't hear the wind. the trees... I just hoped that I could get back to the house before Bella returned and saw my disheveled appearance." I closed my eyes and shook my head. Sudden. I pushed through the door first." I called out. but his inner thoughts were completely absent." I muttered.

" Alice said in a small voice. I could deal with it. Bella arrived with a bustle of excited chatter and bags from various stores. they both promised that they would say nothing to Bella about what happened while I was out with Jasper.. "When will he be here?" "Tomorrow." I turned and left them. Edward. so I could change out of my ruined clothing before Bella got home. what?" "I wasn't trying to look." "Is something wrong with Bella? Where is she?" I heard the alarm in my voice. "You need to see him. House Call Jasper and Alice left before Bella got home.looked at my destroyed clothing." I dropped my head in defeat.. I was only looking into Bella's future to see if she would find a way to use a gift I had planned. until I could talk to Carlisle and better understand what was going on. "I missed you." Alice shook her head and kept it pressed into Jasper's chest. 50... Alice turned to look at me like I had gone crazy. the situation I had with food losing its scent. She dropped her purchases on the floor and ran to meet me. "Alice. relieved that my worries for Bella were unfounded. crying tearless sobs. "Bella is fine! I left her with Katrina.. We were all being secret-keepers. wrapping her arms around my neck and kissing me fully on the mouth. It's you Edward!" I leaned heavily on the chair in the room.." Bella smiled.. "I called Carlisle.. When Jasper entered the room.. let me show you what I bought!" . It was the way I wanted it. I didn't mention to either of them. His arms circled her comfortingly. "Hello!" I laughed against her. If the problem was with me. And Alice never told me what she saw in her vision.. "I know I promised. she threw herself against him. "Here. While Alice did not agree." "Fine.

"What do you give a man. magnets for the refrigerator door and a vase for the living room table. "I have to get ready for work. and listened to the rustling of paper. "Everything. sliding off my lap and standing. She had the picture of us kissing on her bed enlarged and framed. "What's that?" I asked. who has it all?" Bella asked. "You have given me everything. They would also serve to scatter pieces of her influence around my house. "I do have one more thing to give you. and a soap dispenser. We kissed like that for a long time. Bella had developed her pictures from our trip to Washington. "You can put it wherever you like. "Me." I placed the frame carefully on the floor beside me." . They were small." Bella's eyes twinkled." I did as she asked. "I have a present for you. rectangular object in my hands.." I told her. "No peeking!" she scolded.Bella and I sat on the floor while she removed items from her bags.. Now you can look!" I opened my eyes and smiled widely at the gift in front of me. "Just what I always wanted!" I said sincerely and kissed her once more. and I loved that. "Ok. I love it. Just holding each other and sharing the warm affection that made everything feel right for me again. I laughed at her coy expression. "But you have to wait to unwrap it." I looked into her eyes until she cupped my jaw with her hand and pulled me down to her. while Bella climbed up onto my lap. "It's beautiful." Bella tipped her head down and looked up at me through her lashes. nervously." My hand touched the glass reverently." Bella giggled. "Come here. "I'm not!" The corners of my mouth were pulled up in a smile as she reached forward and put a flat." Bella said teasingly against my mouth before tugging my bottom lip with her own. unnecessary items that would help Bella to feel more at home. But close your eyes!" "Ok. Hand towels.

Turns out. I felt pathetic. and Bella smiled up at me. I couldn't tell if I was relieved or annoyed not to know. and I watched as the man sipped his drink and stared at her retreating form. I walked through the thin crowd anxiously. I remained unable to read the thoughts of those around me. Bella was right. "I had to come out here to 'cool off. I'll bet I can take my break now. I wondered what he was thinking as he followed her with his eyes. "It's stale in here." I hadn't been on that patio since the time Jasper and I had stepped outdoors for our talk about vampire birds and bees. The establishment wasn't busy at all. But it had been a confusing day. It was disconcerting and strange. not being able to stay away for just a few hours. "You were acting weird that night." "I remember. "Jasper and I came out here once. "Sure. so I quickly sat in one of the chairs and pulled Bella into my lap. I didn't want to be left alone. It was one of the stipulations she had made that brought her to live with me." I explained. from having the internal voices of the world's inhabitants silenced for me.'" . "What?" She asked. And it's always slow on Sundays. Bella skipped away. listening to music. We were alone. "For some fresh air." "It was the first night I realized how horribly aroused you made me. I arrived at the Midfield at nine o'clock and waited in my car. "Can I come see you?" I asked. I'll have a break around ten. "You're early! But give me a second." I smiled." "Wonderful. and it's nice on the patio. Now." Bella told me." I admitted. For years I had wished for the peace that would come. But I could hardly start criticizing her desire to work.it wasn't. While my hearing was fully restored outwardly." "Ok. at best.I placed my hands on the floor behind me and frowned." I smiled and tried to look like waiting until ten would be easy. "Want to sit outside?" Bella returned and pulled me by the hand. "Hi!" Bella smiled at me and reached up to give me a kiss on the cheek before spinning to deliver a mug of beer to the man sitting at the table beside me. Still. And I wondered if I would have enough time to grow accustomed to the lack of my ability. Bella's eyes widened at my confession. The memory made me smirk. or if it would simply return to me as my sense of smell did. until closer to the time she had suggested I be there.I knew it would be a lot to get used to.

I didn't want to worry her needlessly.. patch things up? I mean. She wanted me to let her in. "I don't think we have to be joined at the hip just because you've decided to move into my house." "Can you tell me?" Bella's eyes were so easy to read in the moment. I think that's a really good idea." Bella smiled. and I licked my lips." I growled and lunged my lips at her neck while she laughed and rocked back in my arms.." I smiled up at her. Or a strip club! You know.. Bella never pressed for details." I nodded. I could have some of those little pasties. "I do want to apologize for invading your space like this. "The uniform could be worse. Something was bothering me though. "I need to get back in to work..... I appreciate that. "I could work at Hooters." I smiled. I promise to make an effort to give you as much personal time and space as you need. Sensing that it was uncomfortable for me. But she didn't want to push me. "I don't mind. teasingly. "We have a few things to discuss." . "There are a few things that I need to talk to you about." "Really?" Bella looked interested. In fact. playing with a stray thread on her thigh.. I sighed. and so I pulled away after a few quick kisses and looked into her eyes." Silence hung between us for a moment. "The shorts have the same effect. "And now?" She breathed near my ear.." "I know. but Bella understood that it was the disagreement between my father and I that drove me away from the house. thanks." "It's ok. But it isn't much. "At home." I sighed.Bella giggled and put her hand on my chest. I debated how much I really wanted to disclose before speaking with Carlisle." I told Bella. "Is there a particular reason?" Bella frowned. "I can tell you what I know. "Carlisle is going to come for a visit tomorrow evening. We never discussed the situation that occurred in Seattle after Rosalie's birthday party." Relief flooded her features and she smiled before kissing me softly." Bella scoffed.. But .. "Are you two just trying to.

"Tomorrow. turning her face toward me. when I heard her preparing for bed." I wrinkled my nose at her and she stuck her tongue out at me in a comical expression before leaving the room. "I kept you up last night. "Hmmm." I scolded." I smiled at the memory and moved to rub one hand lightly up and down her back. you'll let me do all the heavy lifting. "Fine." I murmured. She didn't argue the fact that I would be involved in any future moving experience. She looked so exhausted that I couldn't stand the thought of bringing up anything that might deter her from getting a good night's rest. Then." she groaned. Bella yawned. still stroking her back. Bella walked into the bedroom. Her efforts were needless. you do." I moved to enclose her in my arms." I promised with a whisper. she was asleep. Within moments." Bella said as she stepped through the room." she giggled. "With pleasure. I smell like popcorn and Heineken. "I need a shower. I left the piano and went to join her. "I'm not complaining about that. "I'm so tired. Bella busied herself tidying my already clean house.."I'll see you in a few hours. "Hold me?" She asked." she huffed with a sleepy smile on her face." "Yeah.. and flopped face down into a pillow without preamble. nervous about Carlisle's visit." "Next time. but you said we needed to talk. "You should try to sleep. but I leaned one arm above the fireplace and smiled while watching her. My hands halted for a minute.. I continued to play while the water ran for her shower.. Her ." Bella shuffled in to find me playing the piano. Such a small detail didn't escape my attention. and Bella nestled the side of her face into my chest. and she shook her tired head. "Keep playing. if for no other reason than the fact that I can't stand the thought of moving all of my things again." her voice waned at the end. "But I'm afraid you are stuck with me.

and Bella squealed when she fell straight down into my waiting arms. I was suddenly very turned-on to see her holding the power tool. She turned to pick up a cordless drill that she had placed by the door. and I could happily hold her ass in my hands every day for the rest of my life." Bella grinned. moving forward. "Come here then. Bella shrieked when her feet left the floor. "Agreed. flipping her hair over her shoulder. but then giggled when she realized what I was doing. "All dopey. "Like what?" I shrugged.sweat pants hugged her backside deliciously as she bent and stretched to dust and sweep." she said above me. and her neck was adorned with a string of heavy pearls.. and carefully placed our picture on the wall.." I nodded. "Ooomph!" She landed hard and looked up at me. then she lowered the drill to rest below her. "Let's never get a step stool!" Bella laughed down at me. "I like having you here. pressing the tip of the drill to the wall. Bella's sweats transformed into a spotted house dress with a full skirt. trying to impress a visiting member of my family. turning her toward the fireplace." I grinned. She smiled and wiped her hands on the front of her pants. "I agree with that too!" I dropped my hands from beneath her. "I want to!" Bella pouted. watching her bustle around. She walked toward me with a curious expression." Bella wrinkled her nose and I laughed. and I had to admit. "Do you have a step stool?" "Why?" "I want to put the picture I gave you on the wall. I picked up the framed picture instead. With devious delight. "I can do that for you. "It looks awesome. as if she were sitting on a hydraulic chair. above the mantle. that I might as well have worn a cardigan and held the stump of a pipe in my teeth. I grabbed her hips. I waited until she secured the hanging elements. we were the perfect image of domestic bliss. In my mind." I said. I felt so content. I rather enjoyed the view from below." I shrugged. "That was mean!" . "Why are you smiling like that?" Bella asked. and stood it on the wood of the mantle where she would be able to reach it. I put my hands directly under her butt and lifted her toward her goal on the wall. and dreamy.

I hissed at the warmth that traveled under my skin.. reacting to her touch. "I hope you aren't too attached to this. "Edward. I took only a moment after dropping her shirt on the floor to raise my hand and smooth her hair. memorizing the colors and taste of her. I felt her throat . Her fingers flew to the buttons of my shirt. Bella hastily pushed the material off my shoulders. and I smiled. With the simple pinch of my fingers. and I smiled against her skin. My mouth met Bella's with a new determination. Her breathing was ragged. I grew slightly aggressive and cupped her ass again. and then her hands were on my chest. One of my fingers trailed over the length of a long spiraling curl down to where it rested against her lace-covered breast. "That depends on what you have in mind." Bella's throaty voice and hand that caressed my jaw was enough of an incentive to run with her in a blur to our bedroom. but I was too impatient to wait for her hands to be on me. Her hair drifted back down to lay against her creamy shoulders like a soft cloud of mahogany."I'll make it up to you." I smirked into her kiss before gripping the hem of her t-shirt and pulling it up over her head. the delicate material that held her bra together in the front tore away and I was able to push the offensive garment aside with my face before attacking the newly exposed skin with my lips and tongue. Her heartbeat picked up immediately in response. but only kissed me more ferociously as I began to grind myself into her. lifting Bella and bringing her in full contact with my hardness." I said gruffly.. I tore the shirt open. placing my hands tightly on her hips. moving my face toward hers. She caught on to my mood immediately. sending buttons flying in odd directions. Bella trembled under my attention. I lowered my chin and gave her a look to let her know exactly what I had in mind." Bella sighed and pushed her hands into my hair. Bella whimpered a little.. I like it. but pushed right back against me. Mr. Bella's lips were under mine. moving in a frantic tangent with my own as I lowered her feet to the bedroom floor.." Bella urged against my mouth. Struggling to push negative thoughts away. "How?" Bella sounded a little breathless. should my senses fail me again. It barely registered through my lust-crazed mind that I was taking inventory of all of the things I might miss. "Shall I take it you aren't entirely opposed to taking a break from all of this cleaning nonsense?" I asked deeply. and I stood. "Don't tear mine. Cullen. She moaned against the onslaught. and I groaned. The thought darkened my mood considerably. falling to my knees while pressing my face into her soft cleavage." I murmured. It pissed me off that worries dared to creep into my mind while I had heaven at my fingertips. and I released her mouth to let her catch her breath. pinging on the wood floor beneath our feet.

. and pulled her legs further apart for me. dragging it back and forth across her lips until she teased my tongue inside her mouth with her own. and touched me as I was touching her. and moved to place her on the bed. "Yes. I might have been encouraging her to stop me.. she was sexy when she was bossy! My hands fairly ripped the button from my pants. With no other course but to give into the mad desire rushing through my body. and I worried about the bruises I might leave before struggling to lighten my grip. "Perfect. Bella seemed to be just as frenzied as I. only far enough away to pull her sweatpants and underwear down her legs with one rapid tug." I said the word. "I need to be inside you. "Perfect." Damn it.. "Fuck!" . and wrapped her arms around my waist. I stood nude in front of her.. Soft to hard. "Let me.. "Please. I had no idea.constrict under my mouth as I tore my lips down her throat and sucked harshly on that soft. Bella stepped to me then. I changed the position of my hands on her legs to pull them up and against me while I thrust my body into hers. "Let me.." I placed her feet on the floor again. "Bella?" It was a tortured sound that came out of my mouth." I hissed. These. She clutched at my shoulders and bit at my neck while I let my hands tease and tempt her body. I moved my hands to her thighs. My need for her was too great. "Do you feel how perfect we are?" Bella moaned against me." I groaned there against her throat. I squeezed my eyes shut and threw my head back. There was no way I would be able to slow things down with us. Edward. "Shit. I was asking for everything. She moaned a little.." "Please.. In moments.. and pressed her hands against me through my pants. Off. let me. I just needed her. "Get. Bella writhed beneath me." I didn't even know what I was asking. I scooped her up into my arms then. and kissed her deeply." I agreed on a groan. Bella stepped out of them eagerly." Bella moaned.. Our bodies met and melded together. Fire to Ice.. She reached her hand between us." she threw her head from side to side and wriggled her body under mine. I placed my hands on either side of her face. Bella gasped and threw her head back at the same time I yelled.. sweet spot at the base of her neck.

But Bella tipped her head down toward me then. fully pushing into her and holding her tight while her pleasure brought me to my own satisfying end.. My hands were on the bed on either side of her. panting harshly and holding her tight against me. The sounds that erupted between us were of mutual need and pleasure. Grabbing my face in her hands. but I knew instinctively that I was not hurting her." I said." She didn't say another word. I lifted her from my lap to lay on the bed once again. I reached between us. "I had no idea. I watched her for signs of distress. Bella stiffened against me. and I gripped her hips. I thrust my hips faster.. gritting my teeth. ." I whispered against her hip.. rocking forward in time to my movements. "Oh God. she pulled me up to her and bit my lip. where I let my tongue soothe the splotchy area. "Edward." she breathed." she purred against me. I think. and I instantly regretted it. Finally. as hard as I dared.. With one hand. I pulled her hips hard. "I was rough with you. kissing her chest in front of me.. "God Edward!" Bella moaned.. She cried out my name at the same time that I felt her muscles tremor and contract around me. I'm.. and I stopped to kiss every red mark I left behind. moving her up and down on me. I knew that tomorrow. so good!" My voice low and thick with barely controlled emotion...I didn't mean to. desperate for release.." "Me either. A guttural sound tore from my chest that was part groan and part growl. putting my arms around her so that I could carry Bella's body with me. She instinctually wrapped her arms and legs around my body. and Bella lifted her own legs against me. Feeling sorry for the marks would mean I regretted our passion. I groaned and fell forward again. Her eyebrows pressed down hard. and let me love her with my eyes and my mouth for a long while until our breathing slowed. I pressed my knees into the bed then. expelling the most exciting sounds as her high-pitched gasps changed and her breathing hitched. and stroked her just above where our bodies joined. Bella let me hold her in that position. bruises would mark where I had been.not pain. "You feel. I did not. My eyes roamed over her skin.. and all primal. and gave me the sexiest smile I had ever seen. The new position and angle of our bodies brought harsher gasps and moans from our mouths while we moved together. and in one quick motion I sat back on my calves. and her mouth dropped open. I licked her throat and her shoulders while Bella's head fell forward and her hips swiveled hard against me. tightening her arms and biting her lip. "My thought exactly. I dropped my head to her shoulder..

"That was incredible. "It's so nice to see you again. and I felt thankful to my father for going out of his way to be polite. Bella seemed relaxed. It wasn't like they had always been discreet throughout the years." Bella blushed prettily. It was a great choice. I stood aside. Carlisle arrived promptly at eight o'clock.. "How was your flight?" I asked conversationally. I smiled and moved up beside her on the bed. Not speaking. tracing my lips with her finger. Still. and I realized he was trying to convey something through his thoughts. His slight nod let me know he probably did. I had Bella's modesty to consider." I chuckled at the thought and kissed her fingertip. And I behaved myself in the shower. Bella teased that she would normally feel obligated to provide drinks and snacks for a guest. I traced my finger across her abdomen. if it was too much. barely touching."I would have told you. just soaking up the bliss of being together." Bella eventually whispered." Carlisle smiled and took her hand between two of his own. I infinitesimally shook my head from side to side and hoped he would understand. and was completely charming while the three of us chatted about inconsequential things. After we all chatted through a movie. "Bella." I murmured. and welcomed him in the door. and shared a shower. I reluctantly smiled when I noticed how gentlemanly he behaved toward Bella. It really was luck.." "I love you too. We both got up together. Neither of us mentioned our strained parting in Seattle." she smiled. "Thank you. kissing her softly. "You have company coming." Bella sighed above me. The three of us moved further into the house." Bella gave me a languid smile and crooked one arm over her head on the pillow. "We should get up. preparing for Carlisle's visit. "Pleasant. to get the . and I would hate for him to find us like this. We stayed that way for a while longer. It would serve any member of my family right to have to deal with my new found intimacies. Mostly. "I love you Bella. she actually suggested that we play a game of Scrabble. Edward. knowing that whatever had transpired between Carlisle and myself was obviously not causing tension anymore." Carlisle looked at me a little oddly.

I reached out and patted her knee. even though Carlisle and I had ages of words to our advantage.a habit of his when feeling pensive. "She's sleeping." she sighed. Right." "Thank you. . I softly began humming while I pushed her hair away from her face and down her back." "Vampires? Remember?" I clicked my teeth together playfully as she snuggled into the pillows." "For me?" Her head rose a little. soon. and looked surprised to see me lounging on the bed when she returned from the bathroom. until she asked.tiles one needed to form words. "What is that?" Bella whispered against my chest." "We'll see each other again." I grinned and kissed her on the tip of her nose. She dressed in her pajamas quickly. And Bella held her own in the vocabulary department. "Seeing you off to sleep." Carlisle spoke softly as I entered the room. I didn't even realize what song it was.." I excused myself and followed Bella from the room. He'll be awake. "I hate to go." "Oh yeah. "Go ahead and get some rest. and she slipped under the covers while looking at me curiously.. I had pulled back the bedclothes. When Bella was peacefully asleep. looking at Carlisle.. "Yes. "A song I wrote. "I'll join him soon. I'll play it for you tomorrow.. "Time for bed?" I asked. "But." Bella smiled and I just held my arms out for her to move in next to me. "What are you doing?" She asked. "I've had such a lovely evening. I left the room to find Carlisle waiting for me. your father. go to sleep. for you. and I cupped her cheek and brought her back down against my chest. quietly. With silent footsteps. as I knew he would be. Now." he replied. He stood looking through the window in the living room.." she smiled. Sweet dreams. When Bella's eyelids started looking heavy.. If you'd like.. I rolled away from her and placed my feet on the floor..

. "Why don't we start with what you do know?" Carlisle suggested." "I said things. I lowered myself to face him on the couch. belongs to you now. I tried several items." I nodded." "You don't." "And then?" "And then. piercing notes carried my sound back.." I said honestly." I nodded and let my fingers touch my chest. "Horrible." I began. "I should have listened to you.. Bella was my life now.. when I was moving Bella's things into the kitchen. I couldn't hear anything at all.. I will not leave Bella." Carlisle smiled. "I owe you an apology... When he finally moved to sit in one of my chairs. But I thought it best to let him control the pace of the conversation. "That heartbeat... I still haven't recovered my ability to hear the thoughts of those around me. "Then while I was hunting with Jasper. listening intently." My eyes dropped to the floor. My equilibrium was thrown off." "Indeed. Everything smelled weak.." He turned to face me then. just beyond the wall.. yes. "The other night. He understood." "Please.. and I fell.everything was back to normal.. A melancholy little smile played at the corner of Carlisle's lips as he listened in a little longer. "Her heart beat is lovely.. I nodded and folded my hands in the space between my knees." "I wouldn't dream of asking you to.." I swallowed hard at the memory. The next day.. that perhaps... but only outward noises. I noticed that human food didn't smell strongly to me. cocking his head to the side." I didn't know what else to say to lead into our conversation. "I don't know what Alice told you. "I over-reacted..." I held up a hand. "But I warn you now. She didn't tell me about her vision. diffused somehow. my hearing failed me. too.. I shouldn't have.." . I was completely deaf. I wanted to ask Carlisle a million questions. I'm not sure what happened."Yes." Carlisle looked pained. "Your hearing returned right away?" "Painfully.

and for you.. It is the reason that even after we drink." It was true.Carlisle nodded thoughtfully....even human blood. . "We aren't meant to resist it." "No. And I will continue to do so." "That's ridiculous. "It's certain.. "I need to know. "I'm not thirsty for her." I scoffed. At all. yes. to deny the information you tried to share with me.. He took a moment and closed his eyes while he thought." he instructed." "Your body would always be searching." I interjected. That urge is gone for me. I'm not surprised. and you've suppressed the urge. waiting. "Our bodies live for that source.." I lowered my brows and flinched at the reminder while he continued. and unique. even as I could clearly relate to the dissatisfaction and endless drive he spoke of." Carlisle offered me a sad smile.the potential for someday finding our singer is the one driving force behind our thirst. "I was wrong before.. "The power of the singer's blood is rare." Carlisle mumbled.." Carlisle nodded again." "You are stubborn and you are strong-willed. "Based on the research I've done recently." "What does any of this have to do with me losing my hearing?" I changed the course of the topic." "Are you saying that these things are happening to me because of Bella?" I couldn't keep the ire from my voice... hungry for her.. we are restless and never fully satisfied." I looked into his eyes. I love her." Carlisle nodded." I denied his claim. "Bella is your singer." he sighed. "In a way." "But I am resisting it... Our bodies always crave that one perfect source of nourishment that is made for us." "You do.. "The lure. "Every single time you have ever drunk. animal blood." Carlisle explained... But it is still there.. "If I never met Bella." "We guessed that. "Consider your life as a vampire. "I'm not even slightly tempted by her scent anymore. I need to know what you've found. with his face drawn into a tight frown...

. in Forks. I knew that tone.... My shoulders were held in a tense frame while my hands bunched into the fabric of my pockets.. Carlisle Cullen had broken. Edward. Essentially.. "Your body is breaking down.." Carlisle whispered.' "I suspect this has been going on since the first day Bella crossed your path. while you embrace your singer.. You are. I trippedtwice! Could it be that I was slowly being stripped to the typical abilities of a man? "If what you say is true.." Carlisle spoke slowly and clearly.. and in my life."You are turning your back on your vampire nature. forge ahead into the human world and away from you? This should be cause for celebration!" "Edward. dizziness at her nearness. Why aren't you happy for me?" I couldn't meet his eyes. "If I am. The inner-voices of others in my head had become easier and easier to ignore." I said.. Animal blood tasted wrong. I thought of all the times in the past.. I had never known Carlisle to be selfish.. The clinically smooth façade of Dr.. "Your human body died over ninety years ago. Little things that I liked and enjoyed because they meant she was near. Though. "Does it sadden you so much." "I hunt. assuring them that he and his team had 'done everything they possibly could... when I felt "more human" because of Bella... lack of concentration. I had noticed discrepancies in my typical behavior and abilities. in close contact with her." The joy I should have felt at his words was strong-armed back by the tone of Carlisle's voice. waiting for him to continue." I said. looking at him curiously. I couldn't run as fast as I usually did. in a way. "I drink often!" "Your body knows the difference. It was the same way he spoke when greeting families in the waiting room of the hospital. I tipped my head to the side." Carlisle argued. "You are starving your body of the one nutrient it wants. Almost since the beginning." I turned when I heard his voice break. when I saw her in class. only to be replaced by a look of ancient sadness and grief.. forcibly removing my hands from my pockets and throwing them into the air at my sides. becoming human." I stood and moved to Carlisle's place by the window." I blinked hard and looked down at the floor. you don't understand. my siblings -hell.. . they were fading. hearing bitterness in my voice... Your condition has progressed exponentially faster since staying. to see me leave the life you created for me? To see me. "It is rejecting what you are offering as a substitute. a rise in body-temperature.... there is no way to be absolutely certain. you are also embracing your humanity. becoming more and more human..even Bella had been able to sneak up on me.

. waiting for him to defend himself and tell me I had heard him incorrectly." "Which is?" Carlisle waited so long. "All of the sources confirm. I turned and fixed a murderous glare on my father. "Different languages.... all of your sources agree? There.. but only saw the ghostly reflection of a broken man staring back into my eyes." "And?" I whispered.." "So. A lighter reflection of a man. I left. The word 'sacrifice' is the main connector in them all." Carlisle wearily ran his hand over his face. "Il sacrificio cantanti?" I repeated it. it's her life for mine?" I was too loud." he said quietly.."What does that mean?" My voice sounded strangled. I promised her. The distinct and steady thrumming of Bella's heartbeat from the other room flooded my ears and wrapped itself through my chest. stood silently behind him. I dropped my voice to an angry hiss and spoke through clenched teeth. "The events have already been set in motion.. who could not meet my eyes.." I waited for a moment. "You are dying.. "Your body is dying. "There is no way to reverse this?" "I was waiting for my final source when I saw you last. I swore I never would. Sacrificio... Panicked that I might wake her. I was hoping he could tell me differently.The sacrifice of the singer?" I asked incredulously. I searched for solace in the darkness beyond the glass.. ". "It would not matter." I inhaled sharply and turned back toward the window.." Carlisle spoke softly. Edward.?" I had to choke the dreaded words out in a whisper.. "They've all confirmed the only cure. "And. already in mourning. even as his words fought for their translation in my mind. giving his words time to settle into my brain. "There is no contest. "Il sacrificio cantanti.." . She will not sacrifice her life to save mine." Carlisle repeated sadly. different cultures. "If. I promised myself. I nearly asked him again." I swallowed hard.

I turned to my father with one more request. "She has a right.... "How long?" I heard the resolution in my voice. Everything. "No!" I said loudly." he whispered.. My mind flooded with all of the information I had just learned.. I couldn't help but feel a strange sense of peace knowing that I. I couldn't get back to her soon enough.. I needed to hold her and love her enough to last. it would be taken from me."I wouldn't expect you to say otherwise. Still. I nodded my understanding of his prognosis.to have me kill her!" "To save yours.. then. His voice was firm with his resolve. I didn't know." "Thank you. but for the remainder of the time I might need him. His voice held his hushed agony. "Possibly... Just when I finally found love. "Honor me this request Carlisle. You would have been willing. "Before you loved her Edward. He knew I wasn't talking about right then. After a few minutes of silence. "I. Once again. tell her what I can. My shoulders relaxedand I dropped my arm to my side." I whispered." I suddenly said." Carlisle confirmed. to sacrifice her life. nothing about the issue of the singer's sacrifice. I was already accepting the inevitable. promise. Every muscle in my body was tense while I waited for his reply. was so unfair." Carlisle expelled a rough breath. I turned to the night beyond the window." Carlisle said." "She's not to hear of this. that you would have helped me hide the body. "That's why you told me what you did in Seattle. . "I won't be far." he said quietly. I could hear how hard it was for him to admit." Carlisle softly argued. But I want her to know nothing. knew true happiness.. for longer than I would have ever imagined. "Days?" I asked. "Will you stay?" I asked my father. Make sure that no one tells her of this. I pointed my finger toward the wall that separated her sleeping form from our discussion. I will. "Weeks?" He could only guess. I needed Bella." Carlisle admitted. "I have no idea.. Promise me!" I clenched my jaw and closed my eyes. "I'll be with Alice and Jasper..

. and it was hard to take." she whispered. do something for me?" "Anything.. It is Done I left the room before Carlisle had a chance to reply. I could clearly imagine how she looked as a child. There were no words strong enough to describe how I felt. She smiled contentedly in my arms and didn't wake. and love and enjoy every second that I could. "Mmmm. I had come to a very peaceful place in my mind. "You said you loved me... perhaps. will you. Bella opened her eyes slowly. By the time the morning birds called their salutations to the new day's light. Edward. "You were talking in your sleep. Be sure to tell her that I said it was all worth it. My muscles would not assume the tension that might cause Bella discomfort or harm against me.. .with silver in her hair and laughing creases near her eyes earned from a life well-lived.. pushing her hair away from her face. His love and pride for me shone from his eyes.. even though I held her. so I looked away." Bella whispered in her sleep." I smiled while tracing that pale line of skin with my finger. I was livid.love. And I imagined her as I would never see her . "About what?" Bella stretched her arms over her head. her lashes still heavy with dreams." 51. knowing that everything I loved was about to be stolen from me in such a cruel twist of fate. I stared at Bella's features while she was relaxed in sleep. I leaned down to kiss her as a response to her greeting. I wanted no space between us.. Bella sighed and moved into my side as soon as I rejoined her in our bed. I wanted to live. I pressed my fingertips lightly to her mouth. "When this is over with.. Yet my seething anger was kept imprisoned in my mind alone. "Good morning. and I was momentarily distracted by the small slice of her stomach that showed when her t-shirt bunched up. with full cheeks and pig-tails and scraped knees. I would not paint my remaining time with Bella in shades of sadness and self-pity.. I laid with my head propped up so I could watch her throughout the remainder of the night... so I could feel her breathy words." I said. a little too close. I was furious. please. be sure to tell Bella... as if she somehow felt and appreciated the loving confines that sheltered her from my inner turmoil." he vowed."Carlisle.

" Bella chided. and the weightless material of the skirt swirled around her legs." she whispered. The triangle-cut top twisted to tie behind her neck. I pushed it aside as she sat next to me. and Bella climbed up to lay on top of me." I smiled as she walked up on to me on bare feet. All lies. She reached to throw a pillow at me. "Edward." she grinned. it . Her arms dropped to circle around my neck...."Lies. The smell of her freshly showered skin drew me to her. I dropped my hands from her face. "You look amazing. I like you girlie. rising up on my side.. and I turned to cup her face in my hands. beneath you all day!" "No way!" Bella shook her head and rolled until she was off the bed. and I caught it and held it in front of my chest while I watched her make her way to the bathroom. "Play for me. I began to play the melody that my love had designed for the woman at my side. wistful and dreamlike. With my elbow planted in the mattress." "Thanks. waiting for her." "Mmm. I wouldn't oppose to being held captive here. "I'm glad I let you have your way." "You are already the most glorious creature I've ever seen. I closed my eyes while she placed tiny kisses along my jaw line. "It's not fancy.. Bella found me sitting in front of my piano. "Shh. "I remember. and kissed her cool. I barely brushed my lips back and forth against hers. "Though. enjoying the tickling sensation. Bella wore a light sundress in shades of blues and greens. Her hair was still wet. hopeful and optimistic. I want to look pretty." Bella mumbled against my throat. I propped the side of my head up against with my hand." I said smoothly. And then I left the room for her to get dressed. "It's not every day a girl gets to hear a song that was written for her! Humor me. I just felt like being girlie. The song wove through her hair and the color of her eyes. Bella watched my fingers as I played." I nodded my head in approval and she pushed her arm into my side playfully. swallowing hard and forcing my adam's apple to move against her mouth.." Bella teased. Bella giggled. "But you do have to wait for me to shower and get dressed. and she had brushed it straight." she breathed her warning against my mouth...." I said. bare shoulder. Without another word. Every single sensation was to be cherished." I smiled.. "You promised you would play my song for me today. I smiled softly and reached for the notes. and let them fall to the keys in front of me. I straightened the bed while Bella showered.

" "Just say you'll try. "That you'll find an excuse every day. I reached over to pull her across my lap. not wanting her to see the seriousness of my request in my eyes." "You could just play it for me every day.. so you can listen to it as often as you like.in my direction." I urged." I swallowed." "Edward?" I shook the melancholy note away from my voice and pulled her hips a little to hold her closer." I touched the tip of her nose with my finger." I said simply. I ignored her suggestion and leaned in to kiss her softly and sweetly. "I love you. Bella raised a hand to trace my eyebrow. "But I have to say. Consider it a public service. "I will. I stood with her still in my arms. to softly touch my eyelashes. Done." I suggested suddenly. The endless possibilities I imagined while I composed the piece swirled in the music around us. The music had already more elaborately expressed the same sentiment." Bella sighed. "Bella? I want you to be happy. Bella turned her big brown eyes." she laughed." "I am. .I wanted her to remember this day and her promise." Her answering smile lit the room for me. "Let's dance. I needed to know that she would be happy when I was gone. And I wanted her to find her smile again. Her eyes shone with adoration." "Ok.. "I shouldn't be the only person to benefit from such beauty." Bella smiled. and placed her feet on the floor in the center of the room. But eventually.." Bella reached down to press her palm against mine. I lowered my head. with our fingers intertwined. and finally. "Share it with the world. to rest in the shadowy place just below my bottom lip in the center of my chin. to smile like you are smiling now.traveled on the bouquet of her scent and it pulsed with the beat of her heart. "Promise me. the way you see me is slightly ridiculous.swimming with appreciative tears. When I finished.. With a forced smile I continued. "That is the most beautiful thing I've ever heard. "I am going to record this for you. I knew my death would cause her pain.

" I hedged the truth. "I just wanted to feel the warmth.. it was better to stave off the pain I would be causing. it was my time with Bella that I knew I would miss the most. I beat back the panic and handed the book to Bella. I was testing my tolerance to the heat when Bella entered the room.. loving Bella so fully that she would not forget the moments we shared. and read words she didn't understand. "But we don't have any music. and I collected memories to chase away the dread. But I realized just a few minutes before that my sensitivity to touch had begun alternating between being hyper-sensitive. so we took to sharing morning strolls on my property. We held hands and walked through the tall grass at a human pace. just thinking of having to say goodbye to her. or sometimes we read." Bella giggled while I twirled her under my arm. and my body was changing so quickly that Alice couldn't even see when things might happen. The next two-weeks went by in much the same way. so I had taken to doing that. she and I would lay together. We watching movies. I made sure that forged documents were in place to ensure that my worldly possessions would be transferred to accounts in her name. I lifted my hand up and down in the space above a red-hot burner. I took care of business. I would rest with my head in her lap. The heat wouldn't hurt me. When she was away at work. and I knew it. which was perfect. but soon became natural again while I honestly enjoyed Bella's hilarious attempts to read with a French accent. I was afraid of running with Bella on my back. Bella collected wildflowers for the vase on our table at home. Still. I laughingly suggested that she try to read to me."I would love to. without a doubt. One evening. She stepped into me then. when the words began to blur alarmingly on the page in front of me. standing in front of the stove in the kitchen. I couldn't fathom causing her pain before it was necessary. A searing chasm tore through my chest.. I played my piano. My future had shifted so drastically. "What are you doing?" Bella questioned me with one eyebrow drawn up. and I ran in the woods with my family." "We'll make our own. . to being so dulled that I could not feel the pen in my grasp that I had been writing with. And because the only possible cure for the declination of my health was Bella's death. because I couldn't get enough of her. instead. and I listened to my favorite songs. I wrote in my journal. I looked over at her." I smiled.I decided not to tell her of my impending demise. Curiously. Bella especially liked when I read from original French texts for her. And though the music was only in our hearts. spending my time. she let me hold her against my chest and she danced with me across the room. In my mind. Bella didn't seem to mind spending all of her free time with me. Bella caught me the following afternoon. And I spent those hours away from her doing the things I knew I would miss.her sacrifice.. In the evenings. but that made her heart pound loudly as I spoke them. feeling guilty about being caught before turning the burner off. My laugh was brittle and forced.

If I couldn't follow scents.You've given me a gift. Jasper's eyes didn't twinkle with mischievous merriment. but I knew them well. And I've been so happy. I might not have felt secure enough to try. I stood. I held her. Carlisle. His usual jovial expression was severe. Jasper looked up from the creature he drank from. and Alice let Bella and I enjoy our time together. He didn't say a word. things didn't merely smell weak. She was convinced that she should have seen something that could have helped me. "I think I have an idea to help you feel some warmth. when Carlisle delivered the news. how could I continue to hunt? Carlisle stood from where he crouched over an animal with a look of concerned understanding on his face. I wouldn't change a moment I've had with her."Hmm. watching my brother and my father feed. sweet Alice. "I'm glad you didn't see anything. "Beautiful.. I could no longer read their minds. held almost immobile in fear. I stopped midrun when my sense of smell left me.. I stood in the center of the forest." I borrowed quiet strength from Jasper and Carlisle. Jasper. Without you.. His expression was stoic while he looked in my eyes and mouthed "thank you. While hunting with both men." Bella tapped her chin while a playful smile tugged at her lips.. His hands were held clenched by his sides." Alice cried against my shoulder and I lifted my eyes to see Jasper standing behind her. and so I followed the sound of their work until I joined them. .. turning a slow circle while inhaling deeply through my nose. I could hear Jasper and Carlisle ahead of me. though they didn't hover. Still. With fresh carcasses on the ground. trying to get a trace of the deer we were tracking. Don't you see? You've helped me. brother. Sometimes I made love to Bella slowly and tenderly. They all imagined the pain of having to be separated from their own life-mates. She blamed herself and was full of self-derision and misery. There was no scent at all. Carlisle simply lifted the animal before him and carried it in his arms until he placed it by my feet." I shook my head. I couldn't detect it. Oh. I felt their supportive presence. and stroked the harsh lines of sadness from her face with my hands. Sometimes we were both just eager and desperate..more than you'll ever know. and I'll love you forever for it. were divine." I laughed and let her pull me by the hand toward our bedroom. Happier than I ever thought possible.the private moments held between us when we were alone like that. They wouldn't deny me the time I needed to be with mine.. Unlike before. My sensitive sister had the hardest time.. and watched in silence. Bella accommodated my desires and held me completely captivated in the love she shared so uninhibitedly. the smell of the carnage should have laid thick in the air.

beating down the fear I felt rising in me. Bella shrugged and looked tentatively up towards Carlisle." Bella wrinkled her nose playfully and nodded. are you going to tell me why you are home early?" Bella's cheeks blushed lightly and she smiled. He heard what I did not. Bella walked around the corner. They suspected. When we were alone. and greeted us with a smile. "Want one?" she playfully asked. "I need a shower." I stood under the water. "I'm filthy." I smiled apologetically.. "Call me. "Hello boys!" Bella grinned. The three of us entered the house from the backdoor. She still held her purse and keys in her hand. When I found Bella in the kitchen. I know it's weird. "It's time for me to get going. her intuition startled me. I heard a low growl emanate from Jasper as he frowned at my casual play on the truth and walked from the room. but Carlisle held up one hand in warning. as I did. "I'll make dinner while you get cleaned up. Her shift was hours from being over." My muscles tensed under his hand before he let it slide away and went to join Jasper. I just called in a favor and left early. My shower lasted longer than I knew.. I just. and its temperature was not defined by any reference I could recall. She snapped the lid shut on the container and placed it back in the ." She moved forward as if to hug me. "Call me silly. And truthfully. I've worked enough shifts for other people. Traces of fur and blood were evident on my clothes..." I tried to tease. Neither warm nor cold. I tried to keep my features relaxed and shrugged. "Did you have a nice day out?" "They caught all the good ones. had a really strange need to get home to you." he said.. I knew my family would bear my weakness and help me. He took the hint immediately and put his hand on my shoulder. wearing her work uniform. but it did not warm me. but I took a step back. she had finished her meal and was scooping ice cream into a cheery yellow cone for her dessert." I nodded in stunned appreciation. It felt like no more than mist on my naked skin. I addressed Bella again. I opened my mouth to speak.. if you need anything. Jasper and Carlisle hunted for me that day."Edward? Drink. "What are you doing home so early?" I glanced over at the clock. leaning behind her against the counter. and dropped to my knees to finish his offered animal. that the animals they supplied would be my last meal. The gauge on the wall indicated the water's heat. "So.

I couldn't smell her. I pounded the mattress with my frustration. Bella let me hold her that way until the trembling in my limbs forced me to pull away." I wrapped my arms around her waist. "Edward?" Bella's voice was nervous with worry about my burst of temper. Urgently. and I clung to her. Nothing. I couldn't taste her. I still had that. Her tongue darted out to press against the cold treat. Once. I inhaled deeply as I moved across her body and rubbed my cheek against her.freezer before turning to hop up onto the countertop beside me. On our bed. My mouth opened. "You're shaking. waiting for my answer. "Edward?" Bella had a curious look on her face. She sat up. I wrapped my arms over the violent contractions that ripped through my abdomen. I leaned in and licked the opposite side of her cone. and parted her lips with a gasp. Furious. Bella pushed her hands through my hair while I moved my face against every bit of her exposed skin. and pressed the side of my face against her chest.. I knew the scent was there. I slammed my fist into the mattress beside us.. Then with a suddenly very clear . and listened to her heart beating below me. "I. what do you want to do tonight?" I watched as she brought her ice cream to her lips. Nothing. I clung to it. and I couldn't keep my face controlled. I walked through the house." I told her honestly. Before I could blurt out everything. and it melted instantly against the heat of her mouth. kissing her desperately on my path to the bedroom. hoping the friction would release some of the fragrance that had been imprinted for so long in my brain. twice. and her ice cream fell forgotten to the floor. I shook my head and clamped my lips together. Guilt seized me hard and sure. I needed to. just want to spend time with you. and silenced my own confession with a kiss. I wanted to. I moved to stand between her legs and grabbed her face between my hands. Bella wrapped her arms and legs around me. I tasted nothing. I was being denied it.. I was shaking so hard that I was afraid I might hurt her.. I pressed my mouth against hers. I lifted her against my waist. clearly alarmed when my muscles clenched and pulled me forward into a curled position around myself. It looked almost as though she were trying to understand a riddle or solve a puzzle. Holding her in front of me. I could feel the itchy burn in the back of my throat. Bella held me. I looked up at her. and before I knew what I was doing.. "What is wrong? What's happening?" Concern laced her voice and clouded her eyes while she reached to stroke my forehead and run her fingers down my cheek. Her eyes widened in a surprised response. I couldn't tell her. "So. and stroked her fingers through my hair while I held on tight to the woman I loved..

The only comparable pain I had known was during my transformation to becoming a vampire. tearing away at the tissues and scorching me. frantic behind me. I threw myself from the bed and flashed to the bathroom. Sensory deprivation was a curse as well as a gift. Worse. "Please. cool on my forehead. Rosalie's clear voice read poetry in broken pieces from my bedside. Every now and again. I raised a hand to the air and pushed my palm back. I felt Esme's hands. From feeling nothing. Emmett's strong arms held me when my body threatened to break. My body purged the blood that my father and my brother had offered me earlier.. And even that experience seemed somehow dull by comparison. Torrents of red poured from me and stained the pristine white below. to a cold so intense that it burned every inch of my skin. Alice's sweet soprano wove itself through my thoughts while she sang to me. I barely pulled the lid up before my body began heaving. couldn't hear. In flashes that may have lasted seconds or years. Thousands of times I had wished to be able to sleep. in pieces I could hear and sense those around me. From my mouth. And then. I was grateful when I heard her leave the room. attacking me one at a time.knowledge of what was about to happen.. my nose. I was held painfully trapped inside the dark cage my body had become. But my throat could not feel it emerge. But then I would be forced to deal with over-stimulation of those very same senses..to not succumb to the pressure and simply disintegrate. From silence to ear-splitting noises that made my brain feel like it might explode. But I would take every one of those misspent wishes back had I known that my version of unconscious would be like this. and my arms strained with the effort to hold my frame. everything went black. I didn't want her to see me like this. I couldn't tell. I could hear my own tortured cry. It was agonizing to have everything taken away. When finished. couldn't feel. falling to my knees in front of the toilet. squeezing me and forcing every cell of my body to struggle to hold its shape. couldn't smell. "Edward!" I could hear Bella. I didn't float in a dream-like state of tranquility and peace. My knuckles pressed into the cold tiles on the floor." I choked. like a man surfacing from water and praying for air. I couldn't see.. Jasper's calming influence forced away the terror that gripped me in more lucid moments. I came in and out of this agonized state. I knew the terrifying image I presented. I collapsed against the tile. I was certain I screamed. . I felt my back arch in the violent deliverance of fluids that expelled from me. I heaved and spat until nothing was left inside of me. go Bella. The darkness pressed down on all of side of me.

Warm and sweet nectar pulsing and exploding against my tongue.. There is nothing. but could feel them coming apart.because the times when I was aware of Bella's presence were pure agony. I was causing her pain. I wondered if it might be the heaven that Carlisle wished for us all. "Please Carlisle.the glorious taste that flooded through my mouth.. as I drifted. .My family had come. and held them inside my sinus cavities... From the wound I saw her fresh blood still beckoned to me with scent and flavor that threatened to drown me with want. beckoning light. Oh.. I felt as though my back was being cut by the sheets below me. so very.. and then. I was certain it was. And my death would not come easy. Then at long last. when I surfaced. Silence again. In and out. scents. memorizing them in case they would be stripped from me again." sobbed Bella at my bedside. bringing more of the sweetness inside me even while my mind began arguing against it. filling my head with explosions of returned sensation in glorious shades of reds and oranges. And when I sucked in that lungful of air. My hell would be reliving her tortured sobs every moment while the pain racked through my body. It wasn't a soft. My lips pulled at the well of life. I pulled the most luscious scents from the air. when tremors lifted me and slammed me hard against the bed.. "Tell me what I can do to help him!" "Nothing. very wrong. the smells around me left me inebriated with ecstasy. Such a perfect representation of heaven in flavor. I tore my mouth from its delivered paradise and forced my eyes to open." My friend.. rushing closer and closer to me.. I had long since lost control of my muscles... I was eager for the moments when I could draw strength from their nearness. And I laid in excruciating limbo knowing that I had failed. my father. Bella slumped beside me like a marionette with her tethers cut.. Light and color swirled vividly into focus behind my eyelids. was honoring my last request. This could not be the heaven I had imagined. It was more brilliant than the sun and it was barreling forward at a speed I could not comprehend. For just the briefest of seconds.. delicious and freeing and like nothing I had ever known. a pinpoint of light broke free from the anguish that sucked me under.. this intoxicating.... and textures of my room. I could feel the bed beneath me.. I knew they were there. Her broken and masticated wrist was twisted and crushed in my hands. and gave me something new to focus on. I had only ever imagined one source being this perfect. I could hear the room around me. Groaning with the expended effort. Warmth and strength flowed into my atrophied muscles that made me gasp in pleasure and relief. I swore to never hurt Bella. I recognized the sounds. And then..

Tipping my face to the ceiling. but it was still there. son." In my confused resurgence of abilities.. "Did I do this?" I couldn't understand how my body had found the strength to attack her." I whispered. His face was resolved." "Who told her?" My agony carried my voice in a whisper. distressed." I shook my head. and wishing for the painful darkness to wash over me again. "You don't have to be without her. I hadn't felt the use of my muscles at all. "She was willing to give up everything. The pain was easier than this. however. She gave her blood to you. was disgust for what I realized I had just done. Somehow had I missed the quiet flutter that Carlisle brought to my attention. I had fed from Bella." "She didn't want this life. "Not without her. just for the chance that she might save you. ." I rocked her against me. I was moments away from my own death. hating everything I was. I had ruined her arm and drank her blood and left this deathly pale shadow of the girl I loved. "I don't know how she knew. though no tears would come to wash away the sin I had committed. wasted on the floor beside me.. "She gave you her sacrifice. Her sacrifice gave you life. my senses were not yet clear." "I don't want it.." "But you didn't try to stop her. Or so that you both. could end this world together. I screamed until I had no air left in my lungs.. I swear we did not tell her. I screamed.. standing in the corner of the room. And then I pulled her up onto my lap and I cried into her hair. "She cut her own skin. I looked up to see Carlisle." The single word pulled me from my misery. and I inhaled so I could scream again. Listen closely." "No. It is beating for you. "Her heart still beats Edward. It was slow. I wished for the death to come back. "Edward. his countenance sorrowful." I wrapped my arms tighter and brought her to my chest. "Edward. Sobs wracked my body." Carlisle moved closer." Carlisle continued..The larger emotion.

it was the least I could do. She didn't give me permission to make her like me. and I bit into her skin. It was her choice. or longer. then I could make myself move from time to time. Not that they were in any danger. .. Now." I closed my eyes and concentrated until the blessed venom came into the back of my mouth. 52. I bowed my head over the nearly lifeless body in my arms.. And he heard her as she lifted her bloodied arm and dripped the life-giving fluid onto my lips. "For life or longer. Edward. someday. I tapped out a light rhythm on my desk and allowed my eyes to shift around the room as if I were actually interested in any of its inhabitants. and I listened as her weak heart clenched and released. For life.Hear my thoughts.. I'll love you for life or longer. He saw everything from his quiet vigil in the corner of the room. His first instincts were to run to her side and pull her away. I fought the urge to drink and thrust my tongue against the wound to stop the flow and to close my venom inside. Besides not making meals of the people in my vicinity.. Bella. but I wasn't willing to let her go. I just tried to fit in to their world. He didn't see how she cut her wrist. Epilogue -EpilogueI sat with my fingers drumming on the small desktop in front of me. I did this to keep her as mine. If my fidgeting could help them be more at ease while sharing a learning space with a one hundred and ten year old vampire. But the humans around me did. Deliberately I lowered my teeth to her neck. For this reason specifically. This time. I had given up drinking human blood more than eighty years ago." I murmured against her skin.. Edward. crying. And I prayed she would forgive me. forcing my poison further into her body. Carlisle's inner-voice urged me to see the scene unfold from his memory. but he smelled the bouquet the second her blood was released to the air. The push of the blood was weak against my mouth. I didn't need the movement. "For life or longer. for taking the choice away from her. I had nearly drained her completely. They tended to be more relaxed and at ease in the presence of beings that could at least imitate their perpetual motion and constant state of aggravation. He saw Bella in front of me. And I lifted her still perfect wrist to my mouth to repeat the procedure. but he struggled to remain where he was..

.. I wondered if the sight of thick. Her hair obscured her face.. There was so much more in the world that she wanted to learn. And on reflex. "I'm glad we waited this long." Two years passed before we enrolled for classes at the University of Alaska." The bell-like voice next to me caused me to turn my head with a wide smile. I wouldn't deny her anything. But our reunion was joyful and held not a single hint of anger or despair. Perfectly equal. At least twice a day my attention would be captured by similarities. "But I can handle this. we lived together in a remote wooded area. Her physical description was entirely too common. chestnut hair would ever stop catching my eye. Bella reached to pull her hair back into a messy ponytail. smiling a little at a sense of déjà-vu that came over me. introducing Bella to society slowly and only after we were sure that she was in great control of her new vampire urges. It was completely uninteresting. Bella wanted to be with me. "Feeling ok?" I asked quietly. I did a quick second glance. Brown hair.. I knew it was empty. I straightened in my seat and looked forward as the professor started roll call from his class roster. She was apparently listening to the girl beside her. Carlisle was right. rather than memorize. She placed her bag on the floor and a diet coke can on the desk in front of her. as her head was turned away from me. if she catches you staring. Bella shook her long hair over her shoulder and lowered herself into the seat to my left. "You know. medium height. But they did. And she never denied me. I conceded and let her choose our course of study. brown eyes.. When she awoke to a new world as a vampire. she was confused and disoriented. Her wide golden eyes moved from mine to scan the room and the students who shared it with us. she'll probably call you an asshole. During that time. then turned her eyes to the book in front of her and tapped her pen against her lower-lip. I wished I could control the irrational awareness my body always felt when someone like this brunette crossed my path.a prop she insisted made her feel more natural. I placed my hand over hers and squeezed it reassuringly. I feel fine.If I hadn't been looking around the room." Bella nodded. my eyes might not have skimmed across the woman who had just entered. It had been her decision to come back to school. It was annoying. The blonde was chattering about a date she had the night before. our definitions of 'forever' finally matched. I huffed and shook my head.

Her body temperature matched mine now. "Here. I smiled. She really hadn't changed all that much. I turned to watch as Bella doodled on the edge of her paper. Her big brown eyes looked like butterscotch. "Bella. "Isabella Cullen?" She looked up. Yeah. "Edward Cullen?" My name was called. But she was still the same girl I had fallen in love with." I replied. ~*~ The End ~*~ . and her skin was a paler shade." she corrected him in reply. Her strength matched my own.

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