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Stranger Than Fiction

Story: Stranger Than Fiction Storylink: Category: Twilight Author: MasenVixen Last updated: 01/23/2011 Status: Complete Content: Chapter 1 to 28 of 28 chapters Source: Summary: Six years after Edward left, Bella's written a bestselling book about a girl and the vampire who loves her.
Edward returns to her, hell-bent on recapturing the happily ever after that he destroyed. AU. Rated M for lemons.

*Chapter 1*: Prologue
A/N: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. Prologue EPOV
To say I'd ordered Alice not to look for her was to put it charitably. Still, even as I'd pinned my petite little sister to her bedroom wall, threatening her menacingly, I knew she wouldn't be able to resist. The one and only time she'd allowed her thoughts to betray her breach of that promise in my presence, Alice had been so terrified for my life and sanity that she'd abruptly stopped her monthly visits. That was over two years ago. Still, I cursed her to hell for not warning me about this. My existence for the past six years had been characterized by only two sensations: excruciating visceral torture and catatonic numbness. Over time the catatonic periods began to last longer and the sharp bursts of unbearable pain were fewer and farther between. I'd been avoiding Emmett and Jasper, along with the rest of my family, ever since we left Forks. But even more so since the incident with Alice two years ago. Then, six months ago Irina had told Emmett where I was staying. He'd shown up one day and locked my head in a vice grip. Told me that they were taking me hunting willingly or forcibly. But that I was going. Ordinarily I would have fought him, outrun him. But I was weak. It had been six weeks since my last kill. My eyes were blacker than onyx. To my shame, my own self-loathing was no match for my scorching thirst. We were 50 miles outside of Juneau, hunting moose. Nothing in the general vicinity except a small Inuit village. I had just taken down a large buck, allowing myself to enjoy the kill more than usual. I was draining the brute slowly, savoring the brief flash of euphoria in my otherwise wretched existence. I glared into the animal's huge eyes, and felt myself grow hard as I watched them darken, flatten, and finally roll back into its enormous head. I was still suckling at the wound when I heard it.

Her name.
The thought was crystal clear, yet totally unfamiliar as it floated to me from the mind of a faceless human some distance away. The shock of it forced me backwards into a rock face, where I landed with a thundering crack, my face still dripping with blood. I was on my hands and knees then, crippled by the weight of it. Of her name, in the mind of another. The thoughts were feminine, but a tide of jealousy rolled through my body and I began to convulse. A torrent of blood streamed out of my mouth. As I writhed in agony the girl's thoughts continued to batter me. They were images from her life. Our life. But, yet, they weren't. The thoughts came in a stream, burning me like acid as they washed over me, through me. The girl, this random, cursed girl, was thinking of that first day. The day I'd nearly ended that sacred life before it had even really begun. But the image was off somehow. It was a classroom, but it wasn't the same classroom. It resembled us, but it wasn't us. I buckled with the memory, distorted as it was. A seemingly endless reserve of blood poured from my throat and out of my mouth, soaking the snow beneath me. The thoughts were unrelenting. The school office. A warped but identifiable rendering of myself asking a grey-haired woman to transfer out of biology lab. What the fuck? I began to wonder if this girl and her thoughts were a punishment of some kind. If the God I'd vainly tried to appease for the

past eighty years was finally meting out his judgment. The distorted images continued their assault as I wretched and spilled the remaining contents of my bloated belly. Her room. Her purple bedspread. Her truck. Christ, her truck. I don't know why, but it was this last image that finally broke me. I sank back on my heels and folded into myself. Eyes clamped shut, clawing uselessly at my hair, I unleashed a desperate roar, hoping in vain to drown out the assailing memories. Time lost all meaning as I burned in my hell. At some point-it must have been mere seconds later-Jasper and Emmett were on me. I was vaguely aware of the pain dulling marginally, numbness taking its place. Jasper. Then suddenly, the images disappeared. As abruptly as they had begun.

A/N: Thank you for reading! We hope you like this story - our first FF endeavor. The concept of this story was born when two girlfriends from grad school discovered they shared a mutual love for Twilight and Rob and mutual dislike for (a) the New Moon Reunion scene and (b) babies born with teeth.
We wanted to give Bella a chance to grow up, get her shit together, and put Edward through the paces. And, trust us, she will. But also trust that there will be some juicy lemons ahead. Please review. We are new at this and would really appreciate knowing that someone out there is reading our story and, if so, what you think! Pretty please?

*Chapter 2*: Chapter 1
A/N: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. Chapter 1 BPOV
I stood in front of the dressing room mirror, brushing nonexistent lint from my suit for the twentieth time in the past fifteen minutes. I glanced around the well-appointed room with its plush butter-colored couch and artfully-designed fruit tray that I hadn't touched. Bottles of Evian were lined up like soldiers on an antique-looking buffet.

What I wouldn't do for a black coffee and a cigarette. I wasn't exactly a smoker, but one little pull would do wonders for my
nerves. My throat tightened at the thought. I suppose I could understand not stocking Marlboro Lights in a dressing room, but coffee? This was a morning show for Christ's sake. I turned to the side, examining my profile as I smoothed the front of my fitted Chanel jacket and fluted black skirt. I unnecessarily swiped another coat of berry red lipstain on my full lips before smudging them together, fighting hard to resist the urge to bite my lip - a nervous habit my publicist had been trying to break me of. Appraising myself in the full-length mirror, I had to admit I'd come a long way from the coltish girl who just over a year ago had lived in jeans and hoodies. Still, no matter how many of these interviews I did, part of me felt like a kid playing dress up. Twelve months ago I wouldn't have made it five feet in heels this high before falling flat on my face. The past year had taught me to appreciate the benefits of tailored clothing and expensive shoes. I had grown particularly fond of a delicious pair of Louboutins. My phone buzzed in my purse. I smiled reflexively when I saw the name on the screen. Thomas.

Happy Birthday Baby. Can't wait for your Birth-night. Break a leg - I'll be watching.
I grimaced. I was hoping he hadn't remembered. I hated birthdays and typically avoided any sort of celebration at all costs. The first year Thomas and I were together, I let the day pass without mentioning its significance. Several days later a belated card arrived from my dad and Thomas had been beside himself when he realized he'd missed it. As penance, I'd promised to be a good sport about my birthday this year on one condition: never, under any circumstances, was he to throw me a party. I was interrupted before I had a chance to reply to Thomas's message. "Ms. Swan," one of the producers called as a light knock rapped on the door. "We're ready for you."

I tucked a stray piece of hair behind my ear and gingerly patted the sleek knot at the nape of my neck before turning the handle and heading down the hall to the studio. ~X~ The interviewer greeted me and we settled into the stylish armchairs as he started in with the predictable accollades on my early succes. "Isabella Swan. Birthday wishes are in order, I hear! Thank you for sharing your special day with the Today show and its viewers. Now, at 24, you are currently the youngest author to ever spend twelve consecutive weeks on top of the New York Times Bestsellers list. How does that feel?" I felt my face fix into a practiced smile. "A little surreal, still, I must admit. It's an honor to have this recognition at an early age." He gestured to a herd of young women and girls waving wildly outside the window on the Plaza behind us. "This book has fueled quite a phenomenon among young female readers. Newsweek reported last month that, and I quote," he donned a`pair of glasses before reading from his notes, "'Ms. Swan's debut novel has teenagers and twentysomethings everywhere disavowing their affections for hollywood heartthrobs and professing their love for a fictional character.' Can you explain the frenzy your book has generated?" Of course I had to answer this question graciously but, honestly, it scared the shit out of me knowing that hundreds of thousands of young women were reading my book. Writing for me had been a necessity. A catharsis. When I had finally succumbed to Thomas's not-so-gentle prodding to submit the manuscript to a literary agent, I had been comforted by the knowledge that there was no way in hell it would actually get picked up.

I never got used to seeing my face on TV and in print. ~X~ As I walked out of the elevator at Rockefeller Center. as they say. the suggestion had been impulsive. as had the photo of me sporting what can only be described as tousled "sex hair". Phil and my mother started dating when I was 16. of course I never expected my book to resonate so well with readers. My mom. She and her new husband.Forks. had been content to let me drag my security blanket around with me wherever I went. is history. My mom made a valiant effort to pretend to be happy without him but she couldn't fully contain her excitement when I told her I wanted to spend my last two years of high school reconnecting with my dad.closer to my age than hers. eager to squeeze in a nap before meeting up with Thomas. It made such an impression on me that I immediately wrote it down in my journal. their relationship had lasted longer than I'd predicted. It still smelled like Renee's house. Your book. As soon as I entered the room my breath caught. Where in the world did you come up with such an idea?" I was ready for this question. I looked at the bed and thought for a moment my eyes must be playing tricks on me. I carefully avoided the newsstand. I'd resolved to make the most of the change. Meet Brains". the remaining pinprick in my chest closed just long enough for me to smile and laugh my way through a five-minute interview. I had to admit. When I got to college. But as I drew closer. were living in Nashville now. the little white lie became a little bit easier. I got it every time. And with it. looking at the crowd of fresh-faced teens outside clutching their hard-covers. Phil. Dusk. The lie was effortless by now. I smiled towards the window and waved gingerly at the crowd before answering. It was tattered and full of holes. I felt a bit dizzy. A year later he got signed by a minor league team in Jacksonville. I guessed him to be early fifties." I chuckled lightly.When the call came. but the picture had been photoshopped and converted to black and white. I swallowed the building lump in my throat as I thought about her. In all honesty. Washington. "You could say that. It had been over a year since I'd visited. now. I'm just so pleased that the story speaks to others as much as it did to me. I was just writing for myself. there was no mistaking it. though. is the tale of a young girl who falls in love with a vampire who wants to kill her. I turned the dream into a story for a creative writing class. The get-up had seemed tame at the photoshoot. I had been shocked and more excited than I would have ever predicted. No matter how much press I did. The title had embarassed me horribly. I was so lost in my memories I almost didn't notice the small cream envelope lying on the bed. no human being apart from myself knew the true story behind Dusk. but a few weeks into my new life I had forgotten all about it. "So let's talk about the story. I picked it up and buried my face in the threadbare cotton. The resulting image was plainly calculated to play into every guy's sexy librarian fantasy. free spirit that she was. He had been 28 at the time . In the Waldorf. I slept with it on my bed every night when I lived with my mom in Phoenix. but it was the same green and pink quilt I had dragged around with me like a spare limb for the first five years of my life. Two months later I landed in a small town on the Olympic peninsula ." In truth. And it was here. "Well. My blankie. having relocated three times in the past five years to accommodate Phil's mediocre baseball career. Vanity Fair had run a small feature on me for their September issue under the heading "Beauty. yes. There was no way in hell he'd read my book. "Believe it or not. Charlie. With every telling. I took the publishing company's town car back to the Waldorf. But." The interviewer glanced at his notes again. My old house. I hadn't intended to leave my blankie behind when I moved to Forks. Until now. I had been giving the "dream" explanation for so long now that I sometimes believed it myself. I instantly recognized . the story came out of a dream I had when I was seventeen. But when I saw how happy the idea of moving to Jacksonville had made her." "And the rest. tortoise shell glasses and a black minidress.

Thomas's messy scrawl. For Bella, on her birthday. I opened the card:

I know it's been a long couple of weeks. You've been amazing, as always. Thought you might enjoy one of the comforts of home. Happy Birthday, Baby. Love, Thomas. P.S. I coordinated with Renee. Hope you don't mind.
I smiled as I slipped out of my designer clothes and slid on a set of silk pajamas. Leave it to Thomas to do something completely unexpected and perfectly thoughtful. I crawled on top of the plush chenille coverlet and pulled the tattered quilt up under my chin, inhaling the scent of my mother. It smelled of sun and lavender with a tiny hint of patchouli. I reached for my phone on the nightstand and sent a quick text before dozing off.

Best birthday present ever.
I closed my eyes and willed myself to lose consciousness. I hated lying to Thomas.

A/N: Anyone out there? Love it? Hate it? Please review. xoxo MV.

*Chapter 3*: Chapter 2
A/N: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. Chapter 2 BPOV
I was awakened from my nap by the muffled but unmistakable reggae beats of the "Cops" theme song coming from underneath a bedpillow-Charlie's ringtone courtesy of my best friend Jacob briefly kidnapping my cell phone on my most recent trip home. I picked up before the second refrain. "Mmmmhello?" "Bells? Did I wake you?" His familiar gravelly voice was even more comforting than the blankie now flanking my legs. " Maybe." "Oh, gosh, I'm sorry honey. I thought you were on the East Coast this week. I was just calling to say happy birthday." "No, no, I mean, yes, I am on the East Coast. Just napping. Early interview." "Oh, right. Sorry about that, honey. I meant to tune in. I was fishing with Billy." Charlie never watched anything on TV except sports. I was sure he wouldn't even know which network the Today show was on. "It's okay, Dad. It was nothing new. Thanks for the birthday wishes." "Ok, so, I know you hate gifts so I didn't get you anything. But next time you come home I'm gonna treat you to a birthday dinner out. You're too sophisticated to be cooking fish fry for your old man." "Aw, dad, no, I-" Other than his Thursday night tradition at the diner, Charlie rarely ate out and hated dressing up. "I won't take no for an answer. We'll get dolled up and make a date of it - if we can escape the papareetzee." I laughed, "Uh, paparazzi, dad. And that won't be a problem. I only get recognized in New York or L.A. and very rarely in any case. I'm pretty sure the paparazzi won't be hanging out in Forks waiting for a B-list celebrity." "Yeah, well, one of the deputies at the station was telling me that he recently took his wife to a little Italian place in Port Angeles called La Bella Italia. Maybe we could give it a try. " My stomach twisted. I dropped the phone onto the pillow. "Bella? You there?" "Yeah, uh, sorry, dad," my voice shook involuntarily. Get a grip, Bella. "Dropped the phone." "Well, relieved to see that fame hasn't made you any more coordinated, grace." "Ha, ha." Ok, almost recovered. There was no reason to panic over this. "So, dinner next time you're in town?" "Sure, dad. Sounds great." I hung up the phone and flopped against the pillow, willing myself back into a fitful sleep. ~X~ I sat on the couch with my legs crossed, my right leg bobbing impatiently over my left. I was all "gussied up and ready to go," as Charlie would say. Hair just brushed, blush and lipstick freshly applied. I had on a navy blue Donna Karan wrap dress that Thomas bought me last year for Christmas and gold ballet flats. It was my birthday, dammit, and I didn't want to wear high heels. What I wanted to do was put on some sweats, order Thai food, and drink enough red wine to drift into a dreamless sleep. My birthday routine, as it were. But I had promised Thomas that I'd play along, and I guess I could handle a birthday celebration every six years or so. I waited for him to arrive so we could leave for dinner. My phone buzzed. A text from Thomas.

Stuck on the tarmac at JFK. Meet me at the restaurant?
Ugh. I'd rather not. Waiting alone at a fancy restaurant was so not my scene. Come here first, I responded. We can be late.

It's out of my way. Had to call in a major favor to get the reservation. You're a big girl. You can do it:)

OK. You win.
I hailed a cab and quickly arrived at the "most romantic date spot" in New York City. Thomas was nothing if not romantic. I found a seat at the bar, ordered a glass of wine, and willed Thomas to arrive. Fidgeting in my seat, I inspected a loose thread on the hem of my dress with the utmost scrutiny. "Heyyyy," said the frat-boy-type a few seats down. "You're that author chick, right?" Indeed. I nodded a shy smile of acknowledgement and scooted my bar stool a few inches in the other direction. I wasn't in the mood. "My girlfriend wants to fuck a vampire because of you." I choked on my merlot. "Umm . . . I'm sorry?" I mumbled, feeling my face flush. "Nah, it's okay. She wants to fuck me a lot more now, too."

God, Thomas. Where the hell are you? I rummaged through my purse and grabbed my phone, making sure I hadn't
missed a text from him saying that he wasn't going to be able to make it after all. Silently hoping that I could take one last swig of wine and leave in a huff. No new texts. Damn. "Excuse me, miss, is that seat taken?"

Thomas. Finally. I spun around on my stool. God, he was handsome.
"Baby," he whispered. "Sorry to have kept you waiting on your birthday." He cradled my face in his hands and kissed me, a soft, easy kiss on the lips. Thomas's signature kiss. He leaned forward then, nudging my knees apart as he sunk into me. He ran one hand under my dress, pinching the soft flesh of my inner thigh. His other hand knotted in my hair, his lips parted, and his tongue teased mine. I tasted spearmint, with a hint of gin and tonic. Aha. He'd been drinking on the plane. PDA wasn't usually his style. "Mmmmmm," I murmured in his ear. "Let's get our table. I'm not going to want to stay here for very long." His sucked in his breath and quickly motioned for the maitre'd. "We have theatre tickets," Thomas told the maitre'd as we headed to our table. "So we're kind of in a hurry." He winked at me. "Can you have the sommelier scrounge up a bottle of Veuve Cliquot, please?" Turning to me, he said, "I know you prefer wine, but we have a lot to celebrate tonight. So humor me." "Gladly," I replied. The sommelier presented the bottle to Thomas, going through the usual formalities-all of which were lost on me. I sipped the champagne, letting the bubbles soak into my tongue. Thomas was right. I did prefer wine. But the champagne was easy to drink, and I liked the cozy feeling that was quickly washing over me. "Bella," Thomas raised his champagne flute and quirked an eyebrow at me the way he did when I'd done something to impress him, "I'd like to propose a toast." I felt my face heat and couldn't resist a sideways glance at neighboring tables. Thankfully everyone seemed engrossed in their own couplings. If Thomas noticed my discomfort, he didn't acknowledge it. He continued talking with the same proud look on his face. "A little more than two years ago, you walked into my classroom and I could tell you didn't want to be there. One of those sulking English lit majors-prettier than the rest, I should add-who just needed the creative writing credit to graduate. You sat in the back of the room, head down, silent, for an entire semester. Papers turned in on time. Solid. Well-written, but nothing exceptional."

"Hey, watch it mister-" I started to interrupt but he ignored me. "-And then one day, you stunned me. Your story, about vampires of all things, written with a passion and longing I hadn't seen in all my years of teaching. I owed it to you-and selfishly, to myself as your writing professor-" "-as my pervy, lecherous writing professor", I corrected. He chuckled. "As your pervy, lecherous writing professor, I owed it to myself to help you get your story published." He turned serious again and his eyes locked onto mine, full of emotion. "I felt so strongly that it had to be told, that people needed to hear it. And when I talked to you about it, the fierce look in your eyes betrayed your otherwise calm demeanor. I knew then that you needed to tell the story. That you had been holding something in that was so intense, so raw." I nodded at him. He was right. More right than he knew. "And as I got to know you, to memorize your smiles, to catalogue your laughs, to discover the startling perfection of every inch of your body, I fell in love with you. I wasn't surprised that it happened, but it's something that I will never get used to. How amazing you are. How lucky I am." I glanced at my napkin. Thomas had been understanding when I admitted I couldn't yet return his "I love you", but I always felt a bit uncomfortable when he shared the sentiment. Smiling sheepishly, I lifted my eyes to return his gaze as he reached for my hand across the table. "Thank you, Thom-" "Hold on, Bella. I'm not finished." He cleared his throat, glancing down at my hand and then up to my eyes again. "I've been waiting my whole life for you, Bella."

Wait. I didn't like where this was going. I gave him a wan smile and then bit my lip, tugged nervously at a hangnail.
"You are everything to me. Bella, you make me the happiest man in the world, and if I have to work at it the rest of my life, I want to make you the happiest woman in the world."

Please don't. Please don't. Please don't. Please don't.
"Happy birthday, baby. I'm so proud of you. Cheers." He lifted his glass. I let out an audible whoosh of breath.

Thank God.
We clinked our glasses. I leaned over to kiss him, and he grabbed my hair, pulling me close. "God, Bella. You look so fucking hot tonight." I felt my cheeks get hot. "I want you. I'd take you on this table if you'd let me." "Keep talking, and I just might," I mumbled, relieved we were back in safe territory. I lazily twirled a lock of his hair with my hand, then pushed the tip of my thumb into his mouth for him to suck. His eyes burned into mine, and then traveled to my breasts, where they lingered. He brushed the hair from my neck and leaned forward, inhaling my scent. "Mmmm. God, Bella. You smell like. . .you." "Ahem." The waiter stood awkwardly a few feet away from the table. "Your entrees, please." We straightened up, not the least bit embarrassed, and he topped off our glasses with the last of the champagne. I apparently love champagne. Champagne is so much more fun than wine. Everything Thomas said was hilarious. Everything about him was sexy. The way his upper lip curled when he said my name. The way his fingers stroked the champagne flute. The way his cock twitched when I grazed it through his pants. We ate, I think. There was talking. About the morning's interview, about the preview performances of Thomas's play. My attention jumped from the dimple in his chin, to the way he deftly cracked his lobster claw, to the wetness on my thighs. Before I realized what was happening, the waiter cleared our entrees before I had a chance to finish mine. Somehow, I didn't think that the three scallops I ate were going to provide much resistance against all the alcohol. "I know you told me not to make a fuss, Bella. But I hope you don't mind." As Thomas finished speaking, the waiter delivered a tiny cheesecake, topped with a single birthday candle and a blood-red glaze. I froze, trapped in a silent moment of private hysteria. A birthday cake with blood on it? "Bella."

" ~X~ Thomas and I spilled out of the cab and into the lobby of the Waldorf. and walked out to find Thomas lounging naked in a chair on the balcony. before the candle goes out. Make a wish. "Bella. He half-tripped. Thomas. and I haven't even begun to spoil you yet. Messy hair and smeared mascara. half-jogged toward the bed as I padded down the ridiculously long hallway to the bathroom. Making me forget all about birthdays. blood." I snapped to attention." Thomas whispered. "Yo. and now very profitable. Wild. or a few minutes. He raised his hand. and wasted wishes. Obviously." Inspecting myself in the mirror. I had wasted so many birthdays wishing for the same thing. I truly did. but I had to admit that I looked pretty fuckable in my hot pink thong and demi cup bra. The champagne is getting warm. his impossibly blue eyes shining wickedly. I sidled up next to him. Not long enough to get what I needed.or whatever. . the same lifeall of which I had very publicly relegated to a figment of my overactive. "Can't beat this view." I fumbled for our key and let us in. stroking the back of his neck. . The waiter had been nice enough to put the cheesecake in a small box and had closed it with a rubber band that Thomas was apparently getting great pleasure out of snapping. extraordinarily well-endowed—man. readjusted my bra. Oh. Bella. and he traced my collarbone with his lips. slide my panties to the side. as I didn't feel the need to get kicked out of the Waldorf. blew out the candle. He shifted in the chair so I could feel his cock against my thigh. though. It's strawberry." I jutted my lip out and gave him a pouty look. I'll be right back. resourceful—and might I add. stroking his erection. imagination. lips full. babe. We're almost to our suite. gripping each other tightly around the waist. . baby. baby?" I did." I murmured. Come on. I'm not in the mood for cheesecake right now. I slipped out of my dress and took another look in the mirror. My responsible nature took over. wrapped my arms around his neck.or raspberry. We moved like that for a few seconds. It had been so long since I'd wished for anything else that I didn't know what to wish for anymore. Be patient. drinking champagne straight from the bottle. "Why do you have to leave to spoil me? You're a smart. There's a split of champagne in the minibar. "How does this view compare?" "Ahhhhh. the same man. not seriously. I closed my eyes. Wasting yet another wish. I had enough trouble walking as it was. We barreled across the marble floor and toward the elevator. "Bella." . can you babe?" "Hmmm. motioning to the sky in front of him. and Thomas wasn't making it any easier for me. Thomas." I tousled my hair. I think you might be wrong. "Let's take it to go." I purred. I closed my eyes. "I'm sure you can think of ways to spoil me right here and now. I straddled him and brought his face to my chest. It's not blood. You're so right. and I'll be right back. glazed expression. I was pleasantly surprised at what I saw. It was a good thing I wasn't wearing heels. and shove his hard cock into me. He playfully shoved me into the elevator. "You want to fuck in the elevator. right. absolutely." "Sounds good. . "It's your birthday. I still wasn't into lingerie. "Bella. "No. and began to grind my hips against his." he replied huskily.Seriously? "Bella. Long enough for me to feel my chest flush and the core of my body begin to tingle. sure. But my cheeks were flushed." Well. All that I wanted at that precise moment was for him to hike up my dress. bite my neck.

felt the head of his cock bounce against my leg. But hurry. "Eight. Just give me a minute. he gave me a devilish smile. He sucked my right nipple into his mouth." I said. There has to be. "Five. Oh. Yes." I shook my head and jumped up. His eyes bored into mine." Aughhhhhhhhhh. holding my birthday cake." . He followed the strawberry trail down my stomach with his tongue. "God. He breathed in my ear. Resting against the headrest. he wrapped one arm around my back to unhook my bra and then grabbed my waist to pull me forward in the chair. He painted a thick sugary circle around my right nipple. panted in agreement.long. I might not be able to say "I love you" but this. confused. I hope not. "There's no silverware in this room for us to eat the cake. Bella?" He hooked his thumb through the waistband of my thong. fine. I felt my nipples harden. I took his place in the chair and chugged the champagne. He trailed his finger through the top layer of cheesecake and brought it to my mouth." He kissed my clit.licks. my eyes never leaving his gaze. the strawberry glaze. "Twenty-four. I understood at once. "How old are you today. "Impossible. "You know. "Wha-huh?" "How old are you today?" he repeated. Fuuuuck. He reached for the cake again." I moaned. felt my wetness soak through my thong. "Ok." Jesus Christ. turning to go inside." he mused." I gasped. . "Are you ready to be devoured?" God. What had gotten into him? With a soft pinch on my inner thigh." he moaned. tasting the creamy cake. He ran his rough. lingering there as held up three fingers. Pulling my head down to meet his. yes. punctuating each lick with a teasing kiss. then dropped a dollop on my sternum before drawing a sugary line down my stomach to the waistband of my thong. . he sucked my clit into his mouth before mumbling "seven." I warned. Falling to his knees. Bella. "Bella. unshaven face back and forth over the length of my folds. Thomas lazily stroked my nipples as he polished the dessert off my chest in three. I leaned back and closed my eyes. I swirled my tongue around the length of his finger. God." he whispered. . it's the funniest thing. as if I were cleaning the cum off his cock. He groaned as I pushed his head to my chest. . Ohmigod. "Four. "Thomas. Thomas was back and standing over me in no time. "Do you think you're going to make it to twenty-four. "One."Calm down. Did you look in the-?" He grabbed my arm." He gave my ass a playful slap and then lifted me off his lap. I took it all in." My breath became ragged as understanding dawned on me. I nodded. he grazed my earlobe with his teeth. baby. I began to suck his finger greedily. So this was new. sliding it down to my feet with one hand and grabbing a heaping handful of cheesecake with the other. Pinching my left nipple between his cake-covered thumb and forefinger. "Two. Closing my eyes. "That's six. birthday girl. this I could do. his look dark and hungry. My." he said softly. I whimpered as he smeared all five gooey fingers across my pussy." I panted. gorgeous?" "God.

I tried to push against the sensation but had no leverage in this position. Ahh. God. I would have been embarrassed by the needy whimper that escaped my throat. "I'm not done. God. Yeah. from the bottom of my pussy to my clit and over to my hipbone. helpless. I was getting close. Okay. Slow and soft at first. Fuck." I groaned as I pushed his head toward my clit. He pulsed his fingers and began to lick my clit again. baby?" . Thomas slowed his nibbles and licks. He pressed his index finger into my breastbone and walked me backwards into the suite. He leaned down and nuzzled the tip of his nose in my ear. supporting his weight with one hand while his other reached between my thighs and hooked two fingers into my slit.twenty-two. I shuffled gracelessly in reverse until my calves bumped into the long bench at the foot of the bed. he gave me one impossibly long lick. cheesecake. I let my eyes roll back into my head as his hot breath tickled my clit. then two fingers into my pussy. Bella?" "Unhhhhh. I arched my hips to increase the pressure of his tongue. Twenty. In perfect understanding. bending over me at last and bracing his hands on either side of my head. trying to pull him down on to me. Fuck yes. Is that fair?" "What are you doing?" I wailed. He took it in his mouth before hungrily lapping at my slick skin." he teased." "Bella." "Twenty-one." I said. "Let's see. "Mmmm hmmmm" he murmured. "You thought of everything. " I balled both hands into his hair. "Thomas. Thomas. "If you're not going to let me talk. then harder and with more urgency. Thomas. he grabbed my ass and lifted my pussy to his mouth. hissed in my ear. "Is this what you want. fuck. quickly finding my g-spot. willing him to stand but unable to form the verbal request. Thomas."God. thank you?" I smiled up at him. his face covered in Bella. "Go back down there and stop talking." I felt warmth spreading from my toes. landing me flat on my back on the cushion. He shoved one. gradually bringing me out of my orbit. My arms flailed upwards. . He stood and looked at me with a cocky grin as he sucked the remaining frosting from his fingers." Oh. God. baby. If I had been sober. I'm going to come. Ring finger. . darting in and out of my entrance. Pinky. looking up at him from under hooded lids. N-n-nine. but grasping only air. His tongue danced. He kept moving forward and my knees buckled.ten through twenty. God. I was sure I had already soaked a wet spot into the towel. and an incredibly sexy grin." He stopped suddenly and came up for air. Oh. I whimpered louder this time." I moaned. here it comes. Yes. I think that was. My head was still fizzing in a champagne-induced haze as I rode out the aftershocks of my orgasm. he dug his fingers into my hips and nibbled my clit softly before grazing it with his teeth." Spreading my legs. I'm going to come so hard for you. bucking my hips as I climaxed. I realized then that he'd laid one of the huge terry cloth bath towels on the bench. "What number was that. yes. then you're going to have to count out loud. and building from within. He shook his head slowly and kept sucking. The alcohol was swimming deliciously in my head. "Oh. . I think it was nine. Middle finger. "Um. then. I tugged the hair at the nape of Thomas's neck. yes. He pumped his fingers twice. ." Burying his face between my legs. up my legs and thighs. barely able to speak. My whole body shuddering with the release. "You're wrecking me. "Ummm. frantically sucking my clit.

I'm going to. He removed his hands from my ankles and stilled his movements. focusing now on his own release. "I can feel every inch of your pussy like this. "I said. He withdrew his fingers and looked at me with mock confusion. "Hey. leaving me a quivering pile of need. The teasing glint was gone from his eyes. I arched my back and tried to grip his hips with my fingers but he held himself maddeningly out of reach. replaced with a look of pure lust." I was too fargone to engage in his teasing banter. Bella. He removed my finger from his mouth and placed it firmly on my clit. I couldn't hold on any longer. biting my left calf. He crossed another finger over the other two and twisted his wrist." No.. he slowly sucked my middle finger. looking at me sternly. My skin smelled of strawberries and was still slightly damp from showering off the last remnants of my birthday cake and our sex. I was curled with my head on Thomas's lap as he read a folded-over copy of The New Yorker." he groaned into my ear. I lifted my ass high off of the bench and squeezed my thighs around his waist." My head rolled at his words and I lifted my hips to match his pace as best I could in this position. "Touch yourself. He kept still and watched me for several more seconds before grabbing my thighs and wrapping my legs around his waist. forcibly releasing my grip on the bench. Fuck. fuck. He resumed his fast pace and his eyes took on a wild look as he fucked me harder than he ever had before." he commanded." I obediently began rubbing my slick fingers against my swollen clit." Thomas straightened up." . Thomas. shoving himself into me one last time before stilling his hips and pulsing his release deep inside of me. dammit. Bella. Not at all. "This?" The sensation sent a jolt straight to my belly that subsided instantly. I'm coming. He reached down and pried my right hand open. Thomas grunted as his eyes fixed directly on my sex. unghhhhh" I stilled my hand and threw my head back as I felt my muscles contract around Thomas's cock. they weren't. "Shut up and fuck me. lost in the sensation of his cock filing me over and over.I shook my head furiously. pounding uselessly against his chest with balled fists. Bringing it to his mouth. pushing them back into my chest. "Fuck." he protested. But he quickly withdrew and the sharp pain was immediately eclipsed by the delectable friction I'd been craving. "Oh god. but I can't do that if you don't tell me what that is. I struggled to keep my fingers working my clit as his hips pounded against me. "Fuck. He grabbed my legs roughly and bent them. you are so fucking sexy when you come." Thomas let one of my legs fall to the floor and pushed one back up against my chest.. He collapsed on top of me and we lay in a sweaty pile. Bella. touch yourself. "Jesus. He pushed into me again and again. Bella? Birthdays aren't all bad. "See. it's your birthday and I want to give you everything you want. "I actually need those.. Bella" he groaned as he continued working his hips. With a single thrust he buried his cock so deep inside of me that I winced in pain. I reached up and pulled his glasses off. "Baby. swirling his tongue around it. I hesitated for a moment. ~X~ We were nestled in the California King wearing our matching crested bathrobes.. Finally. His hands curled around my ankles and he set a brisk pace. thrusting deeply and withdrawing almost completely with each pass.

You don't ever fantasize I'm someone else? Some-thing else?". but it came out sounding more like a hacking cough. I created her. They don't even have sex in the book!" "Obviously. "I just figured some part of you must harbor a naughty vampire fantasy. Bella. Forget it. And according to the Times Book Review. "I'll have to invest in a plaid skirt and knee-highs". sex. The pinprick in ." "Okay." I asked. Thomas. Luke because she has some kind of sick deathwish?" There was no going back for me now. "Is that what you think my book is about?" I railed at him." I was getting pissed. you mean like role-playing?" "Yes. That's not what I meant. little Miss Shut-up-and-Fuck-Me. no. The whole forbidden fruit thing is a huge turn-on. he waggled his eyebrows suggestively. 'Not every novel is an autobiography'. "no hot-for-teacher fantasy?" He chuckled lightly. I always figured that must have stemmed from a real fantasy of yours. Bella." I repeated his own words from one of his Creative Writing 101 lectures. Thomas's prescription lenses coupled with the alcohol gave me an instant headache. Thomas." He gave me a wicked smile. Thomas. I guess I just figured you might." I quizzed. trying to keep it light. I knew it was unfair of me." He looked truly dumbfounded. "No. right? Admit it!" He thought we were still having fun. it's the lack of sex that drives women wild.I tried them on for a minute. . Bella?" Huh. Bella. Thomas. She loves him for who. You can't just start something like this and then leave it. I didn't mean-" "-Claire doesn't love Luke because he's a vampire. he is. slightly irritated. overcome. but this was territory I did not want to chart. "What. "I know that. not what. What about me? "What do you mean?" "Oh. "Now that I could definitely get behind. so what did you mean?" "I don't know. . Literally. Especially not with him. Do you ever imagine I'm someone else?. I know that." "Oh. Of course there are a few similarities." My eyes were stinging in frustration. She's my protagonist. There's a lot of you in Dusk. Calm down. "What? No. "And what about you. giving him my best stern look.Oh. Thomas. I glared at him. Do you deny that?" "No . The emotions and longing are palpable. "I think we've established that my fantasies are more along the order of 'naughty schoolgirl. What do you mean? Just spit it out. But I also know you. It's about so much more than. It's so . nevermind. not exactly. Fuck. no. "Wait. Bella. "Fuck you. She loves him in spite of it. . er. Don't forget the Mary Janes and hair ribbons." He actually said it out loud. "It's called fiction. of course not. I mean. Bella. I laughed. I thought you of all people would understand. I'm not blind to the similarities between you and Claire. .'" I fisted my wet hair into pig tails and gave him my best school-girl pout. "I know." "Is one of those similarities a deep-seeded urge to mix danger and sex?". Don't play innocent with me. raw. I was incensed. You must have some fantasies of your own. snatching his glasses off of my nose." I scoffed. if barely.though. your book. come on. You thought I might what?" He gave me a sheepish look. trying to be playful. "God. His vampire nature is an obstacle they miraculously. "That Claire just wants to fuck Ed-. he gave me a pointed look. "Well." "What.

let yourself go a little bit and have fun with me. Birthdays are hard for me. . Hey. I'm sorry I even brought it up. Bella. I'm sorry." I took his hand in mine. I know. "It's the champagne. you know. Bella. Thomas. that you would. that we could. look. "Hey. "They almost don't . I'm sorry". Look at me. I feel like an ass for ruining your birthday. Bella. A/N: If you're reading. "I just want to know you. ." And for once. He though I was upset because he had trivialized my work." Shit. utterly defeated. I know. I wasn't lying." "What. shaking my head to clear it. I didn't mean to trivialize your work. They do. baby. . guarded all the time. And this was the best birthday I ever had. and the champagne. MV. Thomas? You feel like what?" I was sobering up." My work. I thought that after the dinner. And you just seem so. "But. I said." A traitor tear leaked out of my eye and I scrubbed it away with the back of my hand. "Shhhh. hey. I'm emotional. baby. please let us know what you think! xoxo. chest was throbbing." He stared at his hands. and I realized how crazy I must have sounded. Shit.but they do. "It's my fault. His face was crumpled in a guilty grimace. "Dammit. kissed it. I just feel like. and it wasn't going to be pretty. I'm really sorry. I'm sorry. so." "I know. and well.

" "Ok. Did the party girl and the old geezer paint the town red or something?" "No. Where the hell is my phone?" "AND I'M HUNGRY LIKE THE WOOOOLF. Bella. Jacob." he boomed. I guess." . then added softly." "I taped your interview yesterday." "Y'ever comin' home for a visit? I think Charlie misses you. please? I have a headache. I kicked off the tangled sheets. "I mean. and frantically searched for my phone. Haven't had a chance to watch it yet. Exactly. but I should be home for Thanksgiving. And I so appreciate that. Thomas wants to take me on a trip to Italy after that. but Quil saw it." "I know. ok. you better. And don't call him that!" "Just call 'em like I see 'em. Jake. If I don't give you hell. really. Whatever. He does. "We all do. Bella. "Hello?" "BELLA! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!. I reflexively yanked the phone back from my ear. Sorry. yeah. "I miss you guys." "He's thirty-nine. I'M LOST AND I'M FOUND. Nothing except me. too. A regular spring chicken." "Uh-oh. Can you talk a little quieter. I BREAK FROM THE CROWD I'M ON THE HUNT I'M AFTER YOU. "Yeah. I need to drink a gallon of coffee and take thirty Advil before I'll be in any shape to do this book signing I have later today." "Love you." Thomas mumbled. My head fucking hurt. somebody's gotta remind you where you came from. you know. kinda. Jake. I wanna take the bikes out." "Ok." "Yeah. "Jesus Christ. huh?" I loved teasing Jake. Love you. who will? With everybody kissin' your ass all the time now. I got up too fast." We'd been over this." "I know. "Shhhh. the book tour will be over in a month. leapt out of bed. that's his ringtone. Whoa. "What the fuck is that?" "I SMELL LIKE I SOUND. Surprising.*Chapter 4*: Chapter 3 A/N: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. And kinda nervous. I'm counting on you." "Enough. Talk to you soon." "Charlie misses me. that sounds about right." "I promise." "Yeah. too." "It's Jake. I mean. hi." I sighed. by the way. Bella. Chapter 3 BPOV "BURNING THE GROUND." I explained. but I gotta go." Found it. considering that they had absolutely nothing in common. I mean-well. Not that I expected Jake to ever like any of the guys I dated. Thanks for calling. Listen. I tried to call last night. Said you looked hot. Bella. "Sorry." Ohmygodmakeitstop." Jake paused. but he actually got along with Thomas. I'm just razzin' you. Jake.

"Hey. enigmatic quality in a woman. They all did. I closed my eyes and leaned my head against the side of the rub." ~X~ With Thomas gone. Maybe that part of me had withered and died on the vine. Never felt so uncomfortable about not being able to return the sentiment. feeling the warm sudsy water climb farther up my body. I snuggled up next to him." Thomas chuckled as he slipped into his boxers and grabbed the freshly ironed shirt out of the closet. I can iron your shirt while you shower if you want. loving phrases. longing gazes. the poetry major I met in freshman dorm. kissed my forehead. The black one with pinstripes in my suitcase. I wish I wasn't in such a hurry this morning. the day-trader who actually had the nerve to take me engagement ring shopping." But after a while.I set the phone on the nightstand and crawled back into bed with Thomas. That would be great. Christopher. of course. q-tips. I turned on the bathtub faucet. He'd never fucked me like that before. then grinned. and stepped carefully into a tub that was clearly made for two. and his cocked eyebrow told me that he knew it. I still don't know what had gotten into Thomas. "It's the least I can do." He cradled my face in his hands. body scrub." "S'okay. Not a failed relationship yet. You're going to be late. body wash. He'd always been a competent lover. only you would thank me for a slew of earth-shattering orgasms by offering to iron my shirt. shampoo. I was flying out to meet him after my book signing. Tender kisses. "Good morning. an unsolvable mystery loses it's appeal. Jonathan." he mumbled sleepily. and something that resembled a very large shoe horn." He rolled his eyes in mock exasperation. And Thomas. Whistling Duran Duran. But give it time. baby. and wiped the sleep from his eyes. Before my book deal. a bassist for a punk band. I could focus on getting myself ready for the book signing. Men liked that aloof. "Bye. shoe polish. Thomas sauntered out of the bathroom. uttered the words "we need to talk. Sometimes I wondered if I was just too damaged to be capable of loving any man. That was the whole problem." I was kissing up to him. the last hotel I stayed at offered a bar of soap the size of a matchbook and a tiny bottle of Pert Plus. conditioner. thank you. I think that I should be the one whistling. "Hey. handsome. I'd much rather order room service and stay in bed with you all day. but I never felt more exposed than when a naked man told me that he loved me. Thomas insisted on making love. and after plugging in the iron. I'd never once. Bella. My swim in the bathtub of self-pity was abruptly interrupted. My rich history of alienating handsome. Thomas. But you have to go. Old habits die hard. I need to thank you for rocking my world last night. He would eventually tire of trying to break through the protective barriers I'd erected over the years. What a night. I began to recall my relationship failures one-by-one. "I need to get ready to leave anyway. Perfectly appropriate. "Thanks for packing my suitcase. "I know. hand lotion. Shaking my head in disgust. bubble bath. inevitably. he'd never really fucked me before. suddenly feeling terrible about how bitchy I'd been to him at the end of the night. I headed to the bathroom-always my favorite part of these ridiculously expensive hotels-and surveyed the selection of luxury toiletries. cotton balls. Come to think of it. stifled a yawn.attractive even. I reached for my strawberry soap and shampoo. Thomas. I busied myself by folding and repacking his dirty clothes from last night. sunshine. See you tonight. body butter. I guess. Or not the whole problem. really. and his flight was leaving in less than two hours." He retreated to the bathroom." I explained. "Bella. There was Caleb. dumped in way too much ultra-luxe Waldorf bubble bath. his bottom half wrapped loosely in a towel. "Sorry the phone woke you up. and rustling through my suitcase to find an appropriate book-signing outfit. but Christ." He pulled on his pants and slipped into his loafers. "But yes. I knew at first they perceived it as a challenge . . fun-loving men. but part of it." He sat up in bed. brewing a pot of coffee. in my 24 years. along with the innocent girl who believed in happily ever after. intelligent. Face wash." I murmured as I stroked his cheek. but I suddenly felt very guilty that we weren't traveling together. Thomas's first play was opening tonight in LA.

I'll book the ticket. Is he ok?" Charlie hated being laid up. Bella." Hmmm. Bella. Where are you right now? Are you by yourself? Are you sitting down?" "Jake. on life support. Sitting down. "You need to come home. I'M LOST AND I'M FOUND. even. "BURNING THE GROUND." I was strangely calm. I worked my shampoo into a rich lather and began to work the suds through my hair." He sounded odd. Through Seattle to Port Angeles. I wiped the shampoo from the side of my face." "I know."BURNING THE GROUND. He was driving on the one-ten early this morning. "I'm sorry. if not. AND I'M HUNGRY LIKE THE WOOOOLF. Worse than me." He was silent. why not. MV. "Jake. but didn't remember choosing them. . There's a flight out of JFK at 1:30. Weird. He was the world's worst patient. We are new to this and we would really appreciate any and all feedback! xoxo. I didn't ask you if I needed to come home. "Charlie's been hurt. There was no one else to do it. And I'll see you in Port Angeles this afternoon. and that was saying a lot. I asked you if he was ok. Maybe Jake had pocket-dialed me or something. In a car accident. I debated whether to answer the phone. what's wrong?" "Look. On the off chance that Jake actually needed something." A/N: Please take a moment to let us know if you are enjoying this story." He paused. His car hit a tree. I let it go to voicemail." Exasperated. "Jake. "Bella." "Ohmigod. and he swerved to miss a deer. "But yes. I'm by myself. and brought the phone to my ear. I BREAK FROM THE CROWD I'M ON THE HUNT I'M AFTER YOU. you're scaring me. fumbling for the right words. "He's in ICU." The voice that responded was not my own. You need to come home so they can-" he trailed off. I SMELL LIKE I SOUND. dried my hand. "Ok. Why? What's going on?" He sucked in his breath. In the bathtub at my hotel. He finished simply. Jake. He didn't wait for me to speak." I didn't have to ask him to pick me up at the airport. Hollow. Or. It was understood. Bella. I heard the words. "You need to see him today. I BREAK FROM THE CROWD I'M ON THE HUNT I'M AFTER YOU.

they insisted on immediately coming to stay with me in Yellowknife. Alice had good reason to fear warning me of her visions. Carlisle and Esme . Alice.all I had lost . Edward. I saw reflected in her mind's eye the image of myself the last time she'd been in my presence. "It's a book. for once I did not put up a fight. My sister. calmed me considerably. Almost two years ago. I heard their thoughts as they entered the house. It didn't matter. I would have been no match for all six of them in any event. I'm sorry about today. I wanted to go to her. I was sitting alone in my room. Sitting in the small prop plane wedged between my two surrogate parents this side of mortality . I did. yet lack of surprise. I knew she was intentionally shielding her mind from me by reciting song lyrics in her head. Crippled in my defeat. To my utter chagrin. I nodded. fists clenched. they burned a frightening crimson in her perfect memory. I heard the click of my sister's heels as she crossed the threshhold to join Emmett on the couch. I viewed my wretched existence over the past six years as a sort of penance.knew me well enough to give me space. Loved her still. Edward. I knew it. Chapter 4 EPOV After the incident outside of Juneau. I didn't move. I expected this. Emmett. She didn't deserve the pain she had endured at my hands these past six years. "I understand". anticipate their attempts to stop me. the rest of the family arrived. An eternity of agony for infecting the purity of her life with the nightmare of my own. But in the wake of the violent confrontation with all I had once had . when you're ready. Esme's simple I love you. Mere hours after Jasper. Emmett had called the rest of the family. My ire evaporated as I took in her tiny form. coupled with Jasper's numbing waves. She was intrepid. She was right.*Chapter 5*: Chapter 4 A/N: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. Edward. her jaw setting defiantly. I reminded myself that Alice had loved her too. My plan." . It had been a long time. Her thoughts spoke to me soundlessly. I looked then much the same as I did now: spent. I could read their thoughts. I turned to face her. comfort her. but it couldn't be helped. my mind was consumed by a singular thought. withdrawn. The one noticeable difference was my eyes. I had considered suicide a luxury of which I was unworthy. I said. Finally. Bella wrote a book. She stared at me for several long moments. I know about your plans with the Volturi.cowardice won out over nobility. facing the window and staring unseeingly onto the endless expanse of white when I heard Alice approach. but quirked an eyebrow at her. Though they had long since faded to a tawny hue. I was afraid of what you might decide to do. and Carlisle's reassuring I'm here. but you have to hear me out. Rosalie had long since given up her attempts to goad me into snapping out of the haze in which I'd existed for the past years. hair matted. I know you are resolved. I would ask for death. You don't have all the facts. expressionless. she spoke. Before that day. Edward. and I had returned to my modest cabin in Canada. I would go the Volturi . I remained fixed in place.the enforcers of the few laws governing our kind. I would eventually evade my family and succeed with my plans.

. indulging in the forbidden pleasures of my own past vicariously through the minds of others. out of focus. Even in our remote hamlet. I couldn't bring myself to accept it. Bella's supine form lays among the wildflowers. Bella's "Claire" was always frustratingly fuzzy. Of course the depictions I plucked from the unimaginative minds around me never did justice to the event itself. awake with the knowledge that they had blossomed from her beautiful. silent. As I stood in the guest room in Megan's house. staring into her hungry brown eyes. As I merged my own memory of the day with the words I knew had come straight from Bella herself. I found a girl named Megan in the nearby township who was fond of rereading this particular scene. The weight of them still pinned me to my knees as I hovered outside of windows and around corners. My favorite scene was the day we'd spent in the meadow.~X~ The moment Alice informed me of the book's existence. rather. The first time I touched her smooth jaw. The girls always focused their visions on me. I began listening to her silent reading from the vacant guest room adjacent to her own. anyone. I was overwhelmed with the weight of Alice's words. Was it possible that she was the author of the images? That the memories which had burned me from the inside out were hers? I knew in my head it was true. I flew from the house in search of someone. Then I became more brazen in my need. I would have gladly faced whatever hell awaited my damned soul rather than endure another minute of the torturous memories. should have made me blush with shame. I felt myself enter a kind of trance. I recalled with perfect agony the way my erection had painfully throbbed as she had rubbed soft circles into my forearm with her fingertips. Her back arches. pushing the slip up over her hips. I soon began to recognize and seek out my favorite scenes. Written on the cover in bold white over glossy black. I felt it more acutely. who was immersed in Bella's story. I went to the well again and again. But it wasn't the cover art that nearly made my dead heart clench. No. The shiny black cover. I had to find out for myself. pushing her wet sex towards my bare chest. a seismic shift had occurred. I needed them. The very images that had so tormented me soon became a drug I couldn't live without. I could almost feel the slow burn of Bella's delicate touch on my sun-kissed skin. Over the next several weeks. or "Luke". It was her name. At first I could only take the images in small doses. In the few moments following Alice's revelation. If anything. Even though I knew it to be true. At first I would sit outside her window while she read. I move up her body. Pale arms in a "V" formation. my mind playing out a fantasy that. and bedrooms reading the story of the only part of my existence that had ever mattered. It wasn't that the pain subsided. I didn't have to search long. My lips on hers. the beginning of our story. My hands glide along the outside of her legs. as each girl insisted on imagining herself in Claire's place. my entire world shifted violently like tectonic plates beneath me. Dusk was one of the several dozen bestselling novels featured in the corner bookstore. Our story. Isabella Swan. were it possible. Bella. Alice's mind had displayed for me the book itself. wearing only a sapphire blue slip. The first night she'd dreamt of me. holding a red-cheeked apple in silent offering. My eyes had been closed as she touched me in the meadow. libraries. Mere hours before. I recalled the details of that fantasy for the first time in six years. Craved them. Or. I easily located humans in coffee shops. mind. My thirst for her words was rivaled only by the thirst for that decadent blood I'd once fought daily to overcome. as I'd been recast in the story. But like an addict needing a fix of a drug he knows will kill him. Suddenly. and I stole away to her house night after night.

Waiting. "Oh my God. as mixed with the fragrance of the wildflowers. ~X~ For the next six months I satisfied myself by rifling through the thoughts of others. I didn't deserve to feel such pleasure. "Oh. her breath hitching at the sensation of being completely filled by my length.a necessity that allowed me just enough self control to function around her without taking her innocence and her life in a single swift movement. caressing magazine photos that made my throat blaze with envy and my cock twitch with lust. That was the last time I visited Megan. Bella. I lightly ghosted my fingers along the underside of my erection. That I would stop. I knew where she would be and when. Please." Her eyes are fierce. She shoves her hips towards my own. Recalling the scent of Bella's blood. I did not trust myself to consume the words. yes. Come for me. "Never. One more day to inhale the essence of her. no longer able to resist the crushing weight of the memory. my swollen head teasing her tight slit. undiluted from their source. Their own unspoken desires." she breathes. You'll never have to wait.The image was just as vivid now as it had been for me in the meadow all those years ago. twisting my hand as I reached the head.ughhh-" she stutters. That's it. But she had catalogued them for the world to see. "Yeah?" I ask. "Look at me. I need you inside me. "Come deep inside of me. She was scheduled for a live television interview in New York City. I would be able to see her. unable to hold back any longer. feeling every inch of her inner walls mold around my impossibly hard cock. concentrating my movements on the sensitive head. I knew there was a window onto the plaza where the interview would be held. I gripped the base of my cock tightly.I can't-" "Yes. For six years. breathless. I manage. I told myself I could stop. I'm ready. wouldn't allow myself to fantasize this way again. And now she was everywhere I looked. Then everything changed. it had been a near daily occurrence . I pumped my fist from base to tip. I'm not. I had denied myself the pleasure of my own memories of her. Don't make me wait anymore. to her delicate ribcage." Piercing her eyes with mine. I had a date certain. Of us. I couldn't. baby. I could be in her presence safely shielded by a glass barricade. This was too much. I could not bring myself to read the book. "You're sure?" Longing for the sound of Bella's voice. Hoping. Pulsing her hips to urge me deeper. rising and falling with each one of my thrusts. wanting me. Edward. Bella tips her head back and whimpers. to her pale pink nipples standing at attention." My jaw clenched and my eyes narrowed as I felt my balls begin to tighten. Edward. her arousal. Still. reading interviews she'd given. The images conjured in the minds of others were recognizeable but contaminated with each reader's own experiences and ideas. wild. God. I worked myself harder now. too real. I've been ready. "God. I move within her. Edward. . baby." My eyes roll back as I push forward and sheath myself fully in her wet warmth. my release spilling on my hand. "Oh. even at my own hands. All I needed was one more fix. My gaze travels from the dewdrops of perspiration beading on her chest. I stilled my movements suddenly and stifled a groan as I came. faster. I want you to see what you do to me. forcing the tip to slip inside of her soaked opening. as she grabs hold of me and digs her nails into my ass. Before then." "Oh. I had not touched myself while fantasizing about Bella since the day I left Forks. they would have swiftly followed. How much I want you. Bella. If my eyes could have produced tears. Now. groaning audibly at the sensation. my hand slipped into my jeans and under the elastic of my boxers. gentle but quick." I position myself at her entrance. she clasps the nape of my neck and commands.

I swallowed thickly. hoping in vain to replace the blinding image of Bella etched into my retinas. distorted images of me flitted through their minds. the minimalist Reinhardt. She was still mid-stride in the step that had put her in my line of vision. God. on the stark white wall. The next day I found myself on a plane. I screwed my eyes shut and sprinted away. clad in standard-issue grey gym shorts. it hung. For the venom swimming in my mouth. Although she was still petite. She seemed to be fighting an urge to bite it. But no master painter's hand could create a vision as breathtaking as the one I had just viewed. The Edvard Munch lithograph was dated 1902 . I was terror-stricken. unassuming. winding my way around the interior track at the Museum of Modern Art . Elegance in motion. her lips. statuesque.She would never know I was there. The interviewer was already seated in his chair. Every fiber of my being longed to crash through the bulletproof glass and drain him dry on national television. Now. stained the color of a full-bodied red wine. I wanted to take her in my arms and bury myself deep inside her. paralyzed. My gut tightened in relief when I saw her cheeks still colored with her telltale flush. I glutted myself on the sight of her. I loathed myself more than I ever had. Her lips. She was lithe. The rendering depicted a man. For the hardness straining against my jeans. the geometrical Wright. I was about to turn around and leave the museum when I saw it. unyielding form wrapped around them as they slept. The woman I watched was not the waifish girl of my past with the slightly pigeon-toed gait and arms akimbo. For indulging in such undeserved pleasure. ~X~ I was a fool to think I could leave the city after having seen her. Though they paid me no attention. I paced. I choked on a sob as the mob around me errupted in clamorous squeals. and a belted jacket that highlighted the narrowness of her tiny waist. I stared vacantly at the brightly colored Francis. preparing to do the one thing I'd sworn I never would again. I darted in and out of the galleries. Venom pooled in my mouth as I imagined the scent of her blood blooming just beneath the skin's surface. Her long hair cascaded around his clothed shoulders and her own . In that moment. grateful that her scent did not permeate the three inches of glass separating us. She wore a straight black skirt that fanned out at the back of her knees. Fear wasn't an emotion with which I was well acquainted. They were pouty and plump. freshly satiated after a kill.the year after my own human birth. My eyes raked over her body and slid down her legs. unable to look anywhere except at her. She was utterly transformed. My sharp teeth slicing through the delicate flesh of their necks. I was going to see Bella.stepped into view. Her calf muscles flexed as she stepped forward in a pair of blood-red patent-leather heels. But as I stood beset on all sides by minds anticipating her arrival on the other side of the glass. My cold. My macabre plan was interrupted as she . I wanted to die. In a small corner gallery off the beaten tourist path. Her fawn eyes appeared impossibly huge beneath her minky lashes. I knew the precise moment he saw her. head bowed and encircled in the white arms of a woman. I wanted to run. Her once boyish frame had blossomed into curves that would have made Aphrodite weep. fixed in place. She was exactly the same. realizing I'd only seen her legs a handful of times. Bella . ~X~ I waded through a flock of girls and women who looked to range in age from 13 to 35. My ochre eyes. Her tongue darted out to lightly wet her bottom lip. they were taut and strong. The noises and thoughts of the crowd around me faded to a barely audible hum as I drank in the sight of her. I was crippled. she appeared first inexplicable stop after fleeing the plaza. as I was instantly assaulted by his inward groans of arousal. they had been thin and pale.

even if I never could. I had been so certain that leaving was the only way to repair the damage I'd done. Only the title revealed that the mouth at his neck was not imparting a kiss. Then." she warned. A fucking papercut." "But. As I paced hurriedly down the city blocks. of course. You will do this. Not impossible. she had seen it as an act of love. even. She was so very young." We hung up and I ran to Grand Central Station. "She's staying at the Waldorf. I recalled with a pang how willingly Bella had offered her mortality to me. My mind flashed back to my conversation with Alice. She has dinner reservations at Lutece at 8 o'clock. "She's-this will be difficult for you. but-" she trailed off. Even Rosalie had made an effort. I need to see for myself. Emmett had installed a new stereo in that old jalopy she loved so much. I stood. Alice. .I risked killing her body or damning her soul. Every minute that I allowed Bella's life to intersect with my . and I had deserted her. I don't want to know." I took solace in her certainty. Instead of telling me what not to do. "Then what's the fucking problem?" She sighed. Edward. Of course not. beautiful. Excruciating." I was angry now. she would forget. it would have been a nonevent. She had written our story. She would move on. the most seemingly inconsequential of events had changed our story forever. But you need to understand it won't be easy. why don't you just tell me if I do it or not?" "You'll be fine. This will happen. Alice?" "No. She had wanted to remember. Except she hadn't forgotten. My thoughts raced as I ran out of the museum and called Alice. . .plane tickets for both of us to visit Renee. She was. "Jesus Christ." "Thanks." "Edward. She had loved me enough to offer herself. Instead. transfixed by the image. I had been so convinced that it was the only right decision. always hating to be the center of attention. I had promised her it would be as if I'd never existed. But I still didn't understand. I need to do this. like it or not. Was it possible that this was the anniversary of the fateful day when everything had spun out of control? When the only thing that had made sense in my century of existence had slipped out of my grasp? I recalled the party my family had hosted. So don't do anything stupid. Like the man in the picture before me. At first glance. Edward. Alice." she said definitively. And she's not going to celebrate it alone. She had barely even begun to live. "It's her birthday. Alice. Bella had protested. "You can do this.if that's what it was . . In the presence of a normal human boyfriend and his normal human family. I had very nearly watched that precious life snuffed out before my eyes. Vampyr. It was . "Are you telling me not to go. I realized then that as much as I had thought I could mitigate the impact I had on Bella's life. Alice had ordered a 3-tiered cake that no one but Bella would eat. life . Edward-" "No. But we had insisted. the white-armed woman appeared to be comforting the man. weaving around pedestrians.nude ones. . Her birthday. I tried to remember how I had ended up here. That promise was broken the moment it was made. expecting me. Esme and Carlisle were so excited to see Bella open their gift . I had altered its course forever.

That she saw me. Scared. MV. The need to convey the magnitude of my grief for what I had done to her-to us-was more fundamental than any newborn thirst. . and her alone. . . until I ceased to exist. She needed to hear it. I expected it. would love her. As I gorged myself again and again on the tasteless blood of deer. Longed for it. to fuck off. even. behavior that I inflicted upon myself to in the last six years. That she spoke to me. A matter of survival. As much as I hated to admit it. No matter what the consequences. Deserved it. she needed to know. even. I could handle the public rejection. And the mere possibility was too much to resist. masochistic. satisfied me more than any kill. Shit. cheeks flushing. . I needed to say it.what if I was wrong? What if she wasn't better off? What if our real life story could have ended like her fictional one . I would wait for her at the restaurant. it had been too long since I'd inhaled her exquisite scent. A/N: How do you like EPOV? xoxo.happily ever after? What if. But the seed of doubt was planted. The vision of her. beautiful? I didn't know. I wasn't willing to deny myself this. Of self-preservation. the twisted. Although I had hunted before boarding the plane. For all the self-denial. rational thought finally returned. she might actually be scared of me. What was my plan? Accost her in her hotel room? Beg for her forgiveness? Would she be afraid? Would she scream? Run? No. what we had . I took the train outside of the city limits and sped on foot to a nearby state park. I needed to take every precaution if I planned to allow myself to be close enough to inhale her scent. I couldn't be alone with her. To know that I loved her. telling me to go to hell. eyes blazing. Because it would mean that I was in her presence. had been . thrilled me more than any hunt. Yes. I still couldn't allow myself to believe I could be good for her. . And I couldn't risk the possibility that she would feel trapped. I needed to see her somewhere public. like the Munch lithograph.For the first time in six years I wondered .

Her scent scorched my throat like a firebrand. she seemed completely at ease. without seeing. she's fucking HOT. I would wait here while she finished her drink. I had gone nearly three months without feeding. To my great relief. Hey. I wonder if she's looking for some fun . As he turned toward her. her entire bearing exuded confident sexuality. Look at her. I was still smiling at her adorable chutzpa when I heard him. I slid into a booth near the bar outside of her line of vision. The sick fantasy of one bastard stood out amongst the rest. "Sorry to have kept you waiting on your birthday. She's exquisite tonight. Still. . She was alone. My Bella. Unpure thoughts. Her breasts were full and round." . My fingers dug into the brick wall at my sides and came away with crumbled mortar in my fists. her very presence. Did I really think she would be alone? Available? Waiting for me? I had read countless articles about her rise to prominence as a novice author and had never seen a love interest mentioned. Because he was about to put thoughts into action. More so than even her physical appearance. Though the sight of her sitting by herself nearly warmed my cold heart. Chapter 5 EPOV I could not see the entrance to Lutece from my perch in the alley adjacent to the restaurant. Her cream and roses skin was swathed in the midnight blue hue that had done me in all those years ago. that didn't mean anything. I suddenly wondered what exactly I had expected to see. she rebuffed him easily and without apology. and her tantalizing cleavage peeked out of the V-neckline of her dress. His thoughts came first: My love. miss.*Chapter 6*: Chapter 5 A/N: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. Venom flooded into my mouth. I stepped into the vestibule and spied her sitting at the bar. And. swallowing in rapid succession to keep the poison from spilling down my chin. So that I could act like a man seeking redemption rather than a beast stalking his prey. She's alone. I held my breath and turned my head to the side. yet. is that seat taken?" I heard. for Christ's sake. It was as if the years of self-deprivation had prepared me for this precise moment. I very nearly blew my cover to snap his twig-like neck. met up with her party. That's my girl. that's the Vampire author! God. "Baby. I was grateful for the self-denial of the past six years. Whose lust for her was obvious. At my worst. her turn to face him." he whispered. I flinched visibly as the thoughts of the men around me invaded my revelry. Still. but the large dumpster of garbage three feet away did nothing to dampen the potency of her aroma. I locked my jaw. . I'd use the time to acclimate to her scent. Like she didn't even notice. His Bella? What the-? Then his voice: "Excuse me. I knew the moment she stepped out of the cab. She was alone at a bar surrounded by men who drank her in. She was transcendent. Profane thoughts. Though I was nearing the limits of my self-control. I knew Alice would have moved heaven and earth to stop me if my decision to come here had resulted in my harming her. Emboldened by this realization. I had hunted only enough to maintain a level of functionality a few tiers above consciousness.

Her arousal. it wasn't for me. Edward. I felt my chest crack wide open. I pressed my forehead into the tabletop and squeezed my eyelids shut. How had I ever thought she could possibly be alone? Meeting college friends in the City? Dinner with her agent? I laughed bitterly at my own delusional folly. Next. doubled over in pain. Edward. The sky was beginning to lighten as my phone rang. unable to form the words to convey the pain she knew I was in. Except this time. The seconds that followed his entrance in the bar seemed to stretch out like years. Of course." She sounded defeated. plans forgotten. Without seeing her face fall in defeat again and again. Undeserving as he may be. I bit my fist to keep from crying out in pain. circling the city at a maddeningly slow human pace. It was through this stranger's mind that I saw for the first time the pink nipples I'd never caressed with my own cold tongue. Any movement would risk drawing her attention. It was a familiar. It was too much to bear. I know. escorting Bella and her date away from the bar. bleak. I doubted if her Thomas had ever wanted to kill her. But there in was the rub.I sucked in a ragged breath. Did she love him? I knew there was no way he could deserve her. I retreated from the restaurant. Mercifully. Had ever felt his cock harden as he imagined sucking the life from her body. no one was less worthy than I. Thomas had not thrown her away. He must have been with one of the Quileutes because when I saw him he was already in the hospital. I-" I stammered. I don't know what happened. He loved her. Then I registered the only scent more intoxicating to me than Bella's blood. and slipped alone and unseen onto the city streets. Moaning in pleasure as he pressed into her heat. "I know. I swallowed a whimper as my stomach clenched in a wave of excrutiating jealousy." "What? Then why-" "It's Charlie. heady aroma. Thomas could touch her without fearing he'd break her. I had never felt more helplesss by my inability to see into her quiet mind. And I'm sorry. The creamy thighs I'd never spread with my own firm hands. But Bella had turned to face the back of my booth. There was an accident. the maitre'd arrived then. Could satisfy the wet ache in her center without pushing her away. . I wanted to kill him. blushing and naked beneath him. But I had seen his thoughts. My envy was blinding. So I sat. ~X~ I walked for hours. I-. A vivid depiction of his plans for the evening rendered from a patchwork of his real memories. Alice's words suddenly fell into place. There was no better city for a vampire to wander unnoticed at hours normally considered ungodly by humans. But that's not why I'm calling. interrupting the plaguing thoughts. I registered his lips touching hers. I needed to escape. "Alice. I wanted to hate him. The soft suctioning sound as he released her. First. his thoughts flashed in my mind's eye. Bella.

Bella. he's alive then?" "For now. Edward. Tonight. But." A/N: Thanks for reading! xoxo MV . "So. he's going to die.

Lola. "I saw him already. silently pleading with him. the stress of the day evident from the way he clenched and unclenched his jaw. but I insisted he stay in LA." I whispered." he grumbled as he waved his hand toward the double doors. of course. Jake pulled into a parking space. the IV bag. Just remember that. Squinting as he scanned the crowd. Not yet. He pulled me through the hospital halls. he tapped his foot impatiently. (Just ask our super amazingly wonderful new beta. the persistent hum. I needed him to go in with me. the breathing machine. gosh. had called Thomas. then twice. Different in a beautiful way. I had spent the day communicating entirely by text message. knowing where he was going. it feels very different writing an A/N that you know people will actually read. He wasn't easy to miss. reviews to await. by the way. The opening had been scheduled for over a year and represented the culmination of his life's work to date. I had asked my agent and publicist to cancel my appearances for the next week and instructed them to keep the reason for the cancellations private. And. "You need to prepare yourself." He nodded in silent understanding." he said quietly. our eyes met and he lumbered toward me. Not like this. who actually had to field the question. Knowing you are reading and enjoying the concept is just more rewarding than we can express in this tiny space." And thanks to all of you for taking a chance on an older. more sophisticated Bella who's evolved from the Sandra Dee of her youth. My Jacob. Pieces I wasn't ready to share with Thomas. willing myself to disappear into the cushions. "No hugs. family and friends to entertain. and pulled me through the crowd. annanabanana. He looked at his watch once. There were cast parties to attend. grabbed my suitcase. Jake. Pretended to sleep to avoid the inevitable barrage of questions that comes when people realize who I am. I put my hand up. it's not Charlie in there. and I was struck by the sheer quantity of equipment. ::taps microphone:: Hello there. knowing what to do without asking. We walked in together hand in hand. not willing to give the sobs lodged in my throat any chance to escape. God was punishing me. It's not-he's not-well. inadequate though it may be. Made possible by a generous donation from Esme Cullen. though. Intensive Care Unit. Wow. So. reached for my hand. How loud it was. I wheeled my suitcase down the jetway and searched for Jake. Jake led me to the doorway of Charlie's room and then turned toward the waiting room. Towering over the crowd. the last several hours replayed in my mind. this fic would undoubtedly be floating in cyberspace unseen.*Chapter 7*: Chapter 6 A/N: Ahem. If I were honest. to take the red-eye after the performance was over. ~X~ We rode to the hospital in silence. Panicked. turned off the ignition. "Please. Without her. I surveyed in painstaking detail the monitors. "Thanks. I attempted to curl my lips into a faint imitation of a smile when recognized by the flight attendant. Chapter 6 BPOV As the plane pulled into the gate in Port Angeles. there are not words to adequately express our gratitude to LolaShoes for taking a chance on us and reading/recommending this story. "Sorry about that." "You ready?" he asked and winced. So. There he was. immediately regretting his choice of words. I had huddled into a ball in my first class seat. I grabbed the sleeve of his shirt. "What does a beta do?"). Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. The last thing I needed was to have a news camera follow me around Forks as I planned my father's funeral. We weren't kidding when we said that we were brand new to this. but returning to Forks always brought out pieces of me that were dormant in my everyday life." "I know. The periodic beeps. Thomas had offered to meet me in Forks. I was certain of that. of course. I just couldn't imagine seeing anyone but Jake. all we can say is thank you thank you thank you for reading and for all of your supportive and enthusiastic reviews. I wasn't ashamed of my past. and turned to face me. .

What do we need to do?" As if on command. "Oh. I mumbled. the beeping and buzzing stopped. Everything happened real fast. clinging to the only man I'd ever loved who hadn't left me behind. I've never done this before. let me stay. I thanked the doctor. fifteen times. Suddenly. clutching his hand. Pictured myself scooting the vinyl armchair over to his bed. "Bella. Charlie was never one for displays of affection. watching Jake out of the corner of my eye so I could nod at the appropriate times. and signed my name five." Explained the ins and outs of ending my father's life. "The injuries were mostly internal." The doctor nodded once and left. "I dunno. What do you want to do?" "I guess we should stay. My house. "What do we do?" I whispered to Jake as the nurse left the room. I buried my face in the soft cotton of his tshirt. The doctors say he's not in any pain. "Are we supposed to stay in here? Until he?" I couldn't say it out loud. took the clipboard. But no blood? No cuts? No bandages? As if sensing my confusion. For a fleeting moment. actually. The tubes." I called after the doctor. The wires. Turning to Jake. Bella?" Jake was obviously every bit as uncomfortable in this hospital room as I was. Bella. The tape. I considered the idea of a long goodbye. "I'm sure. Jake cleared his throat and spoke. I settled for a small squeeze of his shoulder. "Ok." Silently.I avoided looking at Charlie until Jake gave me a gentle nudge. saying my piece. "That's good. he hooked his arm around my waist and brought my head to his chest." "Good. Oh." . Deep breath. ten. I gingerly reached toward his pale cheek and hesitated. And all that was left was the sound of three people breathing. the doctor walked toward us with a clipboard in her hand. I dropped Jake's hand and approached the bed. She described Charlie's injury and the meaning of "brain death. You shouldn't be by yourself. I laughed inwardly at my sick joke." I was afraid to touch him. Not this time. She bustled about Charlie's bedside. and a nurse returned in her place." "Are you sure. ~X~ We stood in the doorway of Charlie's house." the doctor said as she headed for the door. I'm ready now. I'll sleep on the couch. Charlie. "Do it now. I half-listened. Holding onto something-someone-long gone." I choked. "Take as much time as you need. taking it all in. Dad. flipping switches and pushing buttons. frightened that touching him would make it more real somehow. but he wanted to make it clear that he wasn't in a hurry.

Charlie had had a houseguest who brought him a bottle of wine. heard his voice. a can opener. Ok. Exhale. letting my blurry eyes wander around the room. I closed my eyes. opened to my picture. . Come on. Charlie." He relented. I thought. Damn. and had apologized to Charlie for leaving. Charlie pushing me on my Big Wheel. Jake. no less—and prepared to pour. and I saw him. I came up short. just in case I came home on a whim. "Goddammit. I had come back to Forks. Sonofabitch. I tapped the edge of the bottle against the countertop. Charlie grinning from ear to ear. The sobs came again. and I couldn't catch my breath. building from the pit of my stomach and racing out of my throat. always with a full tank of gas and a fresh coat of wax. The one where I broke Charlie's heart. The red truck that sat in his driveway. It had to have. Because I had to. I really appreciate it. I was sure of it. squeezed my eyes shut. willing the cork to loosen just enough for me to be able to get a good grip on it. No luck. I grabbed a plastic cup from above the sink—Fraternal Order of Police. standing on my tiptoes to peek behind the canned goods. Dammit. leaving me alone in my old house. When that didn't work. Shit. And I'll call you in the morning. Thank you. MOTHERFUCKER! COME ON. taking in the lucky horseshoe over the door frame. feeling it close in on me. "I need to be a basketcase tonight. Thank God."No. This is ok. Talk to you tomorrow. But I never apologized for what I said to him that night. Exhale. at some point. I rummaged through the drawers and found some mismatched silverware. I plunged the tip of the blade into the cork and tried to push the cork into the bottle. the issue of Vanity Fair on the table. I plodded into the kitchen and flung open the cabinets. The new can of pepper spray I received each year for Christmas. Inhale. I realized that the chances of Charlie having a corkscrew were slim to none. Ok. I took a deep breath and sat in Charlie's chair. Crestfallen. I felt the tightness build in my chest. And I need to do it on my own. I needed something to calm my nerves. I shook my head and turned it off. I gazed around the room. Of course. I will be ok. and willed myself to remember. But I need this. patting the hood of my truck when he showed it to me for the first time. YOU COCKSUCKING PIECE OF SHIT!" The sobs overtook me then as I slid slowly to the floor. Bella. Or whatever. resting the back of my head against the refrigerator." He squeezed my hand and left. My whole body shook." My voice cracked. the lump grow in my throat. I tried to remember the last time I had told him I loved him. the fishing pole propped in the corner. Inhale. and the inability to recall what should have been an easy memory was threatening to do me in once and for all." "Thanks. But please—please promise you'll call me if you change your mind. absentmindedly grabbing the remote and flipping on the TV. and I leaned my head back to keep the tears from spilling onto my cheeks. It had happened at some point. "OPEN. But I couldn't remember offhand. Armed with a steak knife. Charlie holding my hand as we waded in the tide pools at La Push. and I could tell that he wasn't sure if he was making the right decision. Bella. Or if you want to talk. I held the bottle between my knees and pulled on the top with all my might." The fifty bucks that still showed up in my bank account every week. I am ok. There was a dusty bottle of merlot in the back corner of the pantry. I do. "I'll go. Shit. of course. I tried to remember any time I had told him I loved him. because my life was in danger. Jake. and a wire whisk." "Ok. Surely. And I kept coming back to the same conversation. I was starting to catch my breath. a few odd serving spoons. so I can keep it together tomorrow. Sportscenter. I balled my fists. I looked up in a daze. The one when I left Forks because of him.

. defeated. After a decade of long-distance phone calls. his life. for the countless ways I had taken him for granted. My laughs became maniacal. lovelorn. had betrayed his otherwise gruff demeanor when he'd picked me up from the airport that first day. We plan to update again on Saturday. for Christ's sake.I hated myself for that. He loved me in spite of it all. Silently weeping. Next chapter: return of EPOV. All for the promise of "eternal love." Loved me enough to bite his tongue when it became clear to him just how hard I had fallen. pathetic teenager I had been. and I suddenly felt too exhausted to bawl. I had taken him for granted in too many ways to count. if you really thought about it. and summer vacations-that I wasn't even willing to spend in Forks. He had to practically beg me to call him Dad. I laughed bitterly at the thought. too. Oh! And we're on Twitter now! "masenvixen. How pained he looked when. Loved me enough to be patient in the four months it took me to claw my way back to the surface after hitting rock bottom. my shoulders shook. And that wasn't even the worst of it. How relieved he'd been when Jake lifted me out of the darkness which had hovered over our home." Tears streaming uncontrollably down my face. he'd told me he was sending me back to Renee for my own good. Please review." a shell of the daughter Charlie had left in the kitchen that morning. How heartbroken he'd been when Sam Uley returned me from my "walk in the woods. spoiled brat that I was-I had waltzed into his house. no? And we sense even more intense emotions coming her way very soon. a warmer reflection of mine. To leave him behind. Loved me enough to ground me so I wouldn't fall in further with the "wrong crowd. 1/9. It was fucking hysterical. birthday cards. Hated myself. Laughed at the angsty. without so much as a thank you. it means more than we ever realized as readers. I recalled now how my father's gleaming eyes. A/N: This chapter was a toughie for Bella. I curled into a ball on the linoleum floor." Come play with us there. xoxo ~MV. I remembered how ready I was to give Charlie up.

I was certain she was also on her way to Forks. We took a cab to Forks and sat in relative. I knew Carlisle still owned the old house. PhoenixHunter47. just go. purposefully averting my gaze from the enormous covered instrument in the living room. and the ICU was well-guarded with sealed windows. seemed to me . shattered china strewn about the floor. but comfortable. I was immediately reminded of the last time we had all been together in the airy living room .inviting myself inside her house. was a necessity. Thanks to our beta annanabanana for her insightful comments. and. as I called the airline and made my way to the airport. crawling through her window tonight. when to find her. Although I knew she was still at the hospital . The yard was overgrown but the property. I wasn't sure why. I would have to wait until she went home. otherwise. Alice knew. My self-restraint was abating. shameless enough. Entering the house brought back a flood of memories I was unprepared to handle. FanpireMama and Mama_Cougar for their twitterlove. where they had been living before coming to babysit me in Yellowknife. of course. ScarlettLetters. The lockbox still hung on the door. A man whom she likely loved in return.for once like a monumental invasion of her privacy. I swallowed thickly before striding out the back door to the yard overlooking the river. to show my face in her presence. silence for most of the drive. at this moment. What had suddenly changed? I had just witnessed her having a romantic birthday dinner with a man who loved her. or at the very least. "For God's sake Edward. It's hard to believe it's only been one week since we posted this story on FFn. What could I possibly have to offer her? What had I ever given her but heartbreak and mortal endangerment? I pushed the thoughts out of my mind. the medical staff would recognize me. And while I knew with absolute certainty that I had to be with Bella. we've made bunches of friends who are reading and reviewing and tweeting. but I had taken the first steps toward reentering her life. There was no way to observe her in the hospital without being seen. Come tweet with us! Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. after punching in the familiar family code. My actions were automatic.with the dog-boy. instinctual. Though we had never talked about it. no less . It wouldn't be long now. tie-breaking prowess and general fangirlish aura." ~X~ I sat perched in the tree outside her window and tried to muster the courage to climb inside. moving at inhuman speed back and forth along the riverbank until Alice finally popped her head out of the back door. There was no telling how this would end for me. letting me know that Jasper was on his way too. her father's house. trying to decide what to do. Guilt aside. She pulled me into a brief hug. I trailed behind her. We are having loads of fun so thanks for coming along on this rocky ride. Though we did not discuss it further.. They'd traveled separately so he could pick up his car in Vancouver. ~X~ I'd booked the first available flight out of New York and was surprised . I paced for what felt like hours. Chapter 7 EPOV There was no choice to be made upon hearing the news about Charlie. My bloodless heart pumped now for one . (We posted Prologue and the first 5 chapters all at once). looked much the same. Even six years later.*Chapter 8*: Chapter 7 A/N: Hi all. And thanks to LolaShoes. My masochistic tendencies subsiding. the delectable scent of Bella's crimson blood as it soaked into the snow white rug. impeccable grammar.. that my mind was instantly made up. layers of sugary pink fondant smeared on the walls. be near roses spilling out of crystal vases. There was no turning back for me now. I raked my hands through my hair.relieved . Alice breezed inside and set to work opening the heavy metal window shades and unsheeting the furniture. An unavoidable evil if I hoped to acclimate to her scent before I was bold enough. In that short space of find Alice was already waiting for me at the terminal in Port Angeles.

It blossomed under the purple bedspread which I had nestled against her chin and wrapped around her shoulders when the chill from my body left her shivering. prone to taking precautions. Even so. I had miscalculated. even. I needed to accept that in my absence she had come to rely on others to support her. the anguish. The single photograph taken of me in her presence. To protect her. Please tell me she had looked. I'm worried about her. that traveled hand-in-hand with her scent. then hesitated. They were home now and walking toward the porch. I'd begged her to forget me . where I sat unmoving. I was so captivated by the atrocity of my mistakes that I was startled by the low rumble of a car pulling into Charlie's driveway. Bracing for the euphoria. on her couch. I had left her with no other choice. She's gonna lose it soon. precautions be damned. It had begun in the rocking chair. Waiting for her to breathe life into it again. they were the only remnants of physical evidence that my life once had meaning. the sum of my existence had remained right here in her bedroom. I needed to calm my swirling thoughts. with her life. I couldn't jump out the window for fear that they would see me. . But she hadn't. And it ended there. from Carlisle and Esme. I tugged at my throat. I crawled to the loose plank of wood and caressed it with my fingertips. On all fours now. But there was barely a hint of her in the stale air. unbreathing. I really did need more time. I heard her politely refuse his request to stay. Jesus Christ.when all along. The thought of him. Edward. I was trapped. Collectively. She doesn't look good. Spoiled by the luxury of time. Reliving the defining moments of my existence . And they were here. He was practically begging her to let him sleep over. I needed to hunt. long yellowed. If I was going to trust myself in her presence.purpose. comfortable. It was fitting. Under the floorboards. Fuck. when I heard the silent intent behind his verbal appeals. as I guarded her her bed . I clutched my stomach and dropped to my knees. nearly pristine in its case. Calming myself now. Familiar. immortality had made me a patient man. The plane tickets to Jacksonville. It opened with ease. Sonofabitch. I'd be lucky if the wolf didn't already smell me. Good girl. A single need. or worse . I turned toward the window. Everything was still there. aware now that my thirst resembled a slow burn rather than a raging inferno. She had not been here in a long time. Her life. in her room.of our existence .that were embodied within these walls. Of course she hadn't. crippled by the guilt and despair that serrated my marble skin like the dull blade of a knife.made me want to break his fucking neck. I was about to blow my cover. After I heard the deadbolt latch. With her. . denying my obsession. It had to be done. I needed to jerk off. It wasn't supposed to happen like this. I gingerly set it aside. Alice had left me no doubt that this would be safe. I climbed into her old bedroom. but I was shocked that it was almost . To be with her. each new reminder of her hit me like a swift kick to the gut. bracing myself on the corner of her old desk as I scanned the pretend I'd never existed . I needed more time. simultaneously hopeful and fearful that it would be nailed shut. And big-time. The CD of my compositions. depriving my lust. . I stretched to the window and stopped short. after the six wretched years I spent avoiding her memory. I staggered backward. Before she invited me to share her bed. relieved that the wolf was gone so I could leave without being noticed. The mutt's pleas snapped me out of my trance.

I could probably stay for a few minutes. Grieving a loss of my own making.something to drink. Six years ago. Broken. It's okay. with my hands covering my ears so as to block the sound of her sobs. Shaky. There was only one option. she leapt off Charlie's armchair and bounded to the kitchen. . then. she was looking for something to eat. Her hiccups. arms flailing. M&V. I heard the waves of her chestnut hair rustle against her sweater as she shook her head. Listened. I knew that. before becoming quiet. "Alice. What is it you need? Though I knew my efforts were futile. fists balled tight. I heard the slump of her body and the smack of her palms as she collapsed. She plopped in a chair and turned on Sportscenter. She rifled through the drawers then. You'll be okay. Out loud.This. She wasn't ready for this. Again. As if seeing me would make her feel better. It was no use. I was immobilized. Or leave before sunrise. eyes clamped shut. she tapped something on the countertop. I wasn't ready for this. YOU COCKSUCKING PIECE OF SHIT!" Oh. No . God. God. Even if the idea wasn't preposterous. But she wouldn't catch me. misjudging the distance to the ground. Her wails. I had not expected. my cold heart seized on the notion that she might even be distraught enough to need me. it's Edward. I stumbled. Oh no. I would have no excuse for my behavior if she caught me. just until she started upstairs. to comfort her. I had spent countless hours in this house. I was right. Please. I was a greedy prick. Or hide in the closet until she drifted to sleep. mourning her dead father. longing to hear her. Bella. I could hear her as clearly now as I had six years ago during my sprint from the woods. January 14. Tell Jasper to meet me at Bella's. I stood perfectly still. as she stood silent in her father's kitchen. We needed more time. The dog was right. Reviews keeps us going! Xoxo. and the realization left me emboldened. Just then. Sprawled on her driveway. I focused intently on hearing her thoughts. maybe. Closed my eyes. What the-? "OPEN. Bella. She needed someone. The day my existence lost its meaning and the day her life could finally begin. at least. Let me hear you. writhing. Deliberate. As Bella lay on the kitchen floor. I leaned against the windowsill. was primal in nature. but the loneliness I felt in this moment. was profound. and for a split second. And tell him to hurry. I leapt out of her window. So I left her weeping. Rummaging through the cabinets. Bella. The weight of the day was taking hold. in this room. Big time. Twice. I had gone nearly six years without her. sobbing and heaving. then sucked in a deep breath before turning it off. Her breaths became deeper. I laid there. just say something. Recalling with horror the last time I heard her cry. In the woods. undetected. I wasn't ready. No hope of pleading my case. My urge to go to her. As if Bella would be comforted by me. I picked up my phone and dialed. before tumbling face-first into the driveway. And so it was settled. on to the kitchen floor." A/N: Thanks for reading. She was losing it. We plan to post Chapter 8 on Thursday. Then three times more. As if she heard my silent reassurances. Exhaling in disgust. MOTHERFUCKER! COME ON.

I laid on the lumpy mattress. My head was groggy due to lack of sleep. I could barely hold it together myself. It smelled like Old Spice. Though every synapse in my brain and muscle in my body cried out for me to spend the day in bed. but not nearly long enough. much less take care of my flighty mother. If you haven't read her soon-to-be-more-than-one-shot "Sleeper in a Clone Suit. and recommends this story. Annanabanana for weeding out all of our extraneous "thats" and for her enthusiasm and support of us and our story. I bounced off the mattress before the lodged sob could break free. I sat up and realized with a start that I was in Charlie's bed. dreamless. bone white and unnaturally relaxed. by the grace of God. He insisted that I not go through this alone. I laughed darkly at the timing. and of him. It figures the sun would shine on one of the gloomiest days of my life. He was gone. or due to sheer exhaustion. as soon as you finish this chapter) . I had felt oddly detached. this was Charlie. Thanks as always to LolaShoes and thanks to everyone who reads. she had thankfully understood that flying up to Forks would only make things more difficult for me. the Forks Police Department was handling most of the funeral details. Charlie was the closest thing Forks had to a "public figure. Thank God I'd turned the ringer off. I flashed back to last night's episode in the kitchen. I smashed my face deeper into the pillow and sucked in a muffled breath through my nose. battered with memories of Charlie. it had occurred to me I might never be able to peel myself from the linoleum floor." There was only one place in this little town big enough to accommodate all the people who wanted to pay their respects: the Forks High School Gymnasium. Shaking my head. the weight of the agony pinning me to the ground had lifted." go now! (Or. Mercifully. I recognized both as the once familiar physical symptoms of grief. Charlie was long gone before I even entered the room. Apparently God had a sick sense of humor. it seemed. This. My head throbbed and my limbs ached. After showering. Knew that I had been the one to authorize the nurse to end his life. there were arrangements to be made. and a numbing sort of calm had taken residence in my body. As I had lain sobbing and convulsing. I rolled onto my back to escape his scent. But as I had stared at him. My throat began to swell. arms open. Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight Chapter 8 BPOV The day after my father's death was a rare sunny day in Forks. Then suddenly.*Chapter 9*: Chapter 8 A/N: Thanks so much to our beta. pulling the familiar scent of him into my lungs. I could almost hear the unspoken but familiar plea for me to "let him in" through the phone. I slept hard. perhaps. I remembered rising to my feet and heading upstairs. Arguing that there was no reason for him to stay in Los Angeles once the play had opened. and he was none too pleased when I gently reminded him I had Jake here with me. All that was missing was the gaping hole in my chest. Thomas had been harder to convince.) She writes one of the sassiest Bellas we've read and the Edward of Vixen's dreams. I threw on some old jeans and a sweater and pulled my hair up into a loose ponytail before settling into Charlie's recliner to make the obligatory phone calls. and stared at the pebbled ceiling through blurry eyes. I glanced at my phone on the pillow next to me and saw I had already missed four calls: two from Thomas and two from Jake." I muttered. palms up. That pain. Though I had been dreading the call to Renee. I knew in my head it had happened. and gasping. but I didn't remember choosing Charlie's bed over my own. reviews. Jake had been right. his chest rising and falling with mechanical precision. As chief of police. he'd all but booked his plane ticket to Port Angeles by the time I returned his call. was reserved for a different kind of heartbreak. . "Fuck this. I scrubbed the sleep out of my eyes with the back of my hand and flopped back face-first against his pillow.

I never had. version of "Jingle Bells. My truck was pristine as always. had remarked that it was a shame the old truck didn't have a radio. Digging around in my purse. "Yeah. I didn't even have the energy to tell Thomas what had happened." "Ok. I still wanted to pay him a visit. you know.owed all of them . I did the only thing I knew to do in times of crisis. And so. appropriately. for the duration of the trip. If I were honest with myself. set everything up. squeezed like a sardine between them. Bathed in the comforting aroma." Part of me considered changing my mind. Feeling my body grow rigid. And yet he wasn't enough -would never be enough. I hear ya. momentarily stung by the image of Charlie and Billy drinking beer. in the wake of my father's death." "Great. But don't miss work on account of me." which Charlie had enthusiastically joined. Owed Jake for rescuing me from my own despair. I appreciate it . "That sounds great. But I knew money was tight for him and I had already burdened him enough. help. you know.I really do. I finally located my oversized sunglasses . "and you know how much they all loved Charlie. "Bells! How are you holding up?" he tried for upbeat but sounded drained. oblivious. Sam Uley had been in the car with Charlie at the time of the accident. I doubted he'd gotten much more sleep than me. "Hey. I'll pick you up at six?" "Perfect. No question he would have wanted to be the one to console me as my father lay dying. Owed Sam for lifting me from the forest floor. But that's not what I wanted. I'm okay." His voice softened a bit. and slightly obscene. Though his minor injuries had healed within hours of the wreck. begging him to hold my hand through it all. Thomas was everything I should want in a man and more than I deserved. I get it. I was thinking I would take off work today to come with you to. I'd sat. Now. because he would have liked to listen to the Seahawks game during the drive. actually. Not until now. uh. I bit my lip. But it wasn't. despite nearly a year of disuse. whom I couldn't even look at until Jake had given me a nudge. Jake had immediately started in on a tone-deaf. Well. I pressed my eyes shut. "Listen. sure. To the goodbye I couldn't even bring myself to say. I recalled my first Christmas home after leaving Forks my freshman year of college.a lot . rubbing my temples as I hung up the phone. If only it was that easy. To my father. and my feelings about Thomas were no exception. The urge to stay holed up in the house was almost irresistible. I rested my forehead on the steering wheel and breathed in the familiar scent of the worn vinyl. talking baseball in our driveway while Charlie applied a second coat of wax on the off chance I'd make an unexpected visit. Not at the time and not now." He paused for a beat before continuing." I knew he'd get it. and accepting of. um. thanks. . I owed him . Of course he would have reacted lovingly. that reality. I sighed. And Jake?" "Yeah?" "Thanks." After hanging up with Jake I poured myself a travel mug of coffee and grabbed my old truck keys off the hook by the front door. I was broken beyond repair. Shaking my head. you know? Maybe we can hang out later. I couldn't expect Jake to carry my weight forever. shutting down. sure. I had to shield my eyes with my hand as I stepped into the brightness. I was seized by a combination of guilt and grief as I climbed in the cab. the realization had been lingering in the pit of my stomach for months. of course. It had begun the moment Jake called. it bubbled unbidden to the surface. faced with. Bells. denying the waiting tears their release. Wanna come around to Emily's for dinner with the guys? I know they'd all love to see you. I'm. I could literally feel myself closing up. Charlie. but I felt obligated to accept the invitation." I was secretly hoping he would offer to come stay with me after he got off work.He seemed to think I had a choice in the matter. of simply existing. I called Jake. I thought back to walking into the hospital room that I couldn't even enter without Jake's hand in mine. "Hey Jake. Owed them all for saving my life that day in the accessory rarely needed in Forks." God bless him. Or that it was something he could fix. My relationships had never been anything resembling easy. his voice faltered a bit as he spoke. "I think I need to handle this myself anyway. Consumed by the effort of holding it together. Jake and Charlie had surprised me by picking me up from the airport in my truck. much.

bobbing my head up and down mechanically. Or. Clean-up on aisle three . I considered leaving my sunglasses on before deciding that was more likely to attract attention.. "I'm Jessica Crowley now. "Oh. Jessica looked like she'd just stepped out of the pages of the JCrew catalogue. "Married life is fabulous. What have you sold around here?" This was good. The real money is in commercial real estate. I'm so sorry. I started the engine and leaned my head back. I still had an hour before my meeting at the school. then make a clean exit. I'd gotten used to a certain loss of privacy over the past six months. you look. yeah.Lost in the memory. much less talking about him. I saw you in Vanity Fair! It was a really good article. I knew that all too well." "That's great. I've heard good things. had held me upright and kept me from crumbling. she would blab to the whole town that I was either betrothed or involved in some creepy May-September romance. I'm dying to get a hold of a few properties over where the logging companies have their regional offices. I have boxes of them in my garage at home. "Bella!" Shit. "You look. Tyler Crowley. Good for you. hoping to skirt the topic. eager to change the subject." I said. If I divulged any details about my love life. actually. I was born to be Mrs. Or to brag. I always had a feeling about you two. Not allowing myself to dwell on how I was going to survive with one of them gone." I dismissed." she raised her eyebrows and asked in a stage whisper. like. I recognized the voice before I turned. Bella. "Congratulations." I really hoped she wouldn't push it. I was just heading to the "kitchen gadgets" aisle in search of a corkscrew when I heard it. It seemed all I did was talk about myself these days. I knew how Jess was. though." "Oh. Plus. I said a silent prayer. I dropped four bottles in my cart. I'm sorry. "Hey. "What have you been up to?" Jessica leaned in conspiratorily as if she were going to tell me about a secret crush who'd asked her to the school dance. "Thanks. Charlie on one side. "Listen. just great. that's so nice of you to say. I heard about your dad. admiring her ring. soaking up the reassuring rumble. "are you seeing anyone?" "Um. "Wow. "I'm a realtor now." I replied. I made a bee-line for the wine section." I smiled weakly." "Thanks. Thank God my publicist had helped me learn to fake a smile without wincing. Thankfully." I sounded enthusiastic. and I was in desperate need of a corkscrew." True to form.. can you believe that?" She sounded as if she had just informed me she'd cured cancer. "It's. It's good to see you." I laughed. The last thing I needed was to lose it in the middle of the grocery store. wow. woman having a breakdown in the liquor aisle. that's amazing. you . After callously disinviting Thomas to join me in Forks. "what I really want to know is what's been going on here? How are you?" I knew that Jess could never pass up an opportunity to gossip. "Thanks. Jake on the other." "Thanks. ~X~ As I pulled into the A&P." Bad news travels fast in small towns. enough about me. Jessica wasn't one to dwell on uncomfortable topics. you too. I've sold a few small homes on the other side of town. "So. just amazing. "But listen. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. "Jessica." she flexed her hand. I keep meaning to pick up your book. It was just one of many times that those two men. I married Tyler last year. I'll send you a free copy if you want. not even bothering to look at the labels once I'd located the merlot. I was trying to avoid thinking about him." I lied. I figured you would have heard. I did hear that. Let her talk about herself for a couple of minutes. Jess. I'm still new at it." she squealed. but I wasn't in the mood for a fan encounter today. of course. Attention shoppers.

Every realtor in town is just dying to get their hands on it. I tried the main entrance and was surprised to find it unlocked despite the weekend. The lab tables were arranged in two lines with a path down the middle. what?" She winced apologetically." I managed an appropriate cringe of dismay. Remembered old friends. that they still own that house?" Her eyes widened .a reflex I recognized from high school. and sucked in a deliberate breath through my nose. Jess. But according to tax records. Sneaking a cigarette behind the quad with Jessica." Oh. Dr. What? I gaped at her." I was worried she thought I was disinterested. Angela gushing over her first date with Eric. I had spent nearly two years of my life in this building. I didn't realize that would still bother you-" "It doesn't. the familiar scent of chalk dust and Lysol hit me in a wave of something resembling nostalgia. But I couldn't. closed my eyes. "I'd really love to convince the Cullens to sell. The school was a hotbed of memories .would get through this . Biology Lab. can you believe that? It's just sitting there. Jessica raised an eyebrow and turned to look over her shoulder.without dissolving into a pile of mush. "Um. a host of indistinguishable flashbacks flitted quickly through my mind. "Gosh. "I'm just surprised. Wait. I wasn't the same girl I had been back then. though. As I approached the gymnasium. wanted to leave. Jess. Shit.some pleasant. Can you imagine the commission?" They still owned the house. Tell me. ~X~ I pulled into the parking lot of Forks High and. I wanted to look away. I'll be at the memorial. I resisted the urge to focus on a single image. A few seconds passed. "Oh. The room looked the same as always. Bella. I'm sorry.know what I'd really love to get my hands on-" She stopped short with a dismissive wave of her hand. Gosh. I had grown up. I should have expected this. this was great seeing you and all. "Oh of course! I shouldn't be rambling on about work. "Yeah. As I passed my old locker." she suddenly looked sheepish. Jess. Damn. Interesting choice of analogies. "They apparently had these metal window shades installed to cover the windows so you can't even see inside. none healthy. Bella. The thrill of sharing a juicy tidbit of gossip lit up her face. leaving my cart behind. I hadn't realized how early I was. They still paid the fucking taxes. I wasn't meeting Deputy Ryerson until noon." I interrupted in a tone too sharp to be convincing. Did I look bored? "Oh come on. "Well. Lots of arrangements to deal with. Are you saying the Cull-. I was surprised to recall a few good memories. Cullen is still the legal owner. sorry. lightly fingering the chipped teal paint. yeah. What are you just dying to sell?" I asked teasingly. Padding down the halls. 11:30. so it really shouldn't have snuck up on me. I shook my head as if to clear it. For better or worse. I was like a passerby witnessing a gruesome car accident. "Sorry. Ditching class with Mike to go see a movie. unthinkingly. I glanced at my watch. found myself parked in my "usual" spot. and my senior English classroom. most toxic. "That's great. well. On top of . Nevertheless. They still pay property taxes every year. I resolved that I could get through this . I froze in my tracks when I realized I was standing outside of Room 214." she gushed. "Are you okay?" Suddenly the walls of liquor on either side of me seemed to be moving closer together. never mind. Thanks. I have to run." I patted her back lightly before retreating from the store." She reached out for a hug.

my traitor heart always answered the same way. and thanks for continuing to review. each one means so much. "No. Before my whole life had spun wildly off the predictable. his stool perched a normal distance from my own but his torso craning as far away from me as possible . I couldn't help myself.each table was a small box of microscope slides. no. No matter how many times I considered the question. I would not cry over him when my own father lay dead in a morgue across town. Yes. I glanced at the label on the box of slides. Damn it. A/N: Thanks as always for reading. before he'd let me in. I raised it high over my head with both hands. I knew I would never be free. I pondered for the millionth time since the day he'd left me destroyed and heaving on the forest floor whether Tennyson was right. Jan. no.a casualty of his failed experiment. I sat down on his stool and pressed my forehead on the cool slate. But he'd come back. The brittle glass shattered into a million little pieces and skittered across the floor. 19. no. there was a gash in the wood about the size of a man's fist. We plan to update Tuesday. I hated him. I stood and lifted the small box of slides from the table. My chest started to ache. Figures. For what? To prove he could conquer his thirst? He'd come back and reached into my life." But it was no use. I gingerly stepped over the threshold and entered the room. as I watched the shards sparkle in the sunlight streaming through the far window. My mind flashed to an image of him. no. I felt a fleeting moment's peace. and unremarkable course I had previously been on. He had left Forks then. ruining me forever. I smashed the slides down on the hard slate. Ruining me as a lover. Onion Root Tip Cells. Our table. And then he'd left me just as quickly .his white-knuckled hand gripping the edge of the lab table. That was before I knew him. The buzzing fluorescent light made the reality of what I was doing feel harsh and cruel. flicking the lightswitch on. Was it truly better to have loved and lost? I willed myself to answer differently this time. I would not let myself cry over him again. yes. I felt my eyes sting and squeezed them shut to keep the tears from leaking onto my cheeks. Oh God. safe. Cursing my weakness. not trusting himself to be around me. With as much force as I could muster. I curled my palm around the crescent-shaped notch which had worn smooth over time. Still. Then I noticed it. Under the lip of slate tabletop. I crossed the room to my old table. Then. xoxo ~MV . Ruining me as a daughter. I wondered briefly whether the lab tables had been replaced or rearranged over the years.

I told myself. The searing brightness meant I was relegated to the shadows as I ran from the woods to Forks High. She's at the school. I recalled with perfect clarity the way my fingers had skimmed her silky cheekbone. A better man than me. A better friend than me. Wiping her mouth indelicately with the back of her hand after brushing her teeth. The sun was blazing. finalizing the arrangements. Cursing quietly under her breath when she realized she was running late. thanks to LolaShoes who really blew us away with her piece on TLYDF and to ilsuocantante for the gracious pimpage on the Twilight Sisterhood. The distinct taste of the deer's blood and the smell of its flesh as I burrowed my nose deep in its neck brought back a torrent of memories of my time in Forks: gorging myself before returning to school after nearly taking her life. I needed to be near her again. No matter how much I yearned to hate them. Thomas and Jacob had cared for Bella when I had abandoned her. Her scent hit me in a powerful gust as I pulled open the steel door. I merely looked at Alice and. exasperated. That link is also on our profile so come play! Finally. of course she knew. Go on. Selfishly. Once I had flooded my system to an uncomfortable degree. The link is in our profile page. Thanks as always to Annanabanana who really earned her keep on this chapter.*Chapter 10*: Chapter 9 A/N: It's been a crazy week in the world and we're so proud to be a part of a community that is doing something about it. We're so glad so many of you found us! Chapter 9 EPOV I wanted nothing more than to spend the morning watching Bella perform the little rituals I'd so dearly missed in my years away. Alice and Jasper met me in the woods on the outskirts of Forks. playfully chasing Alice through the trees as she teased me about my nightly visits to Bella's window. I was grateful for their quiet company as we worked together to take down a small family of deer. I sighed. What right did I have to be grateful that she was alone? Knowing her. I needed to hunt. Tracking Bella in the middle of a cloudless day was risky to the point of foolishness. I didn't care. So stubborn. I was only making sure she was okay. Tipping the back of the cereal box as she read it absently while eating. she had insisted on handling things by herself. So brave. stopping dead in my tracks. in the process. I entered the high school through the gymnasium entrance. treat yourself to one-shots from over 200 FF writers. Her eyes had shimmered in surprise . I saw in Alice's mind that Bella was alone at the school. I would have to wait to see if those endearing habits had changed. Still. And yet I wondered: what kind of man could Thomas be to leave her alone in her grief? What kind of friend could the wolfboy be to her if he wasn't here for her now? The answers were simple enough. I felt every bit the monster I was. Thanks to MsKathy for organizing the Haiti fundraiser . Charlie's memorial service was scheduled for tomorrow. nearly at the mid-point in the sky. Being forced to slink in the darkness.please donate to the cause and. I crossed the lacquered floor to the doorway leading to the main hall. Right. She's the best beta in the world and has used her amazing studio art skillz to design a beautiful banner for this story and started a thread for us over on Twilighted. vainly trying to concentrate on the hunt with Emmett while Bella joined her friends at First Beach. I had not hunted in the area surrounding Forks since our departure six years earlier. Edward. It was the place I had first touched her face. I was delighted at the prospect of watching her without the unwelcome mental chatter and crippling jealousy that assaulted me in another human's presence.

The frustration her quiet mind had caused me years ago was. my traitorous throat ached at her proximity. There was nowhere to hide. by comparison. In my seat. I wouldn't be able to hear her if she decided to turn her head suddenly. her head tipped in thought. I couldn't see her face from this angle. I'd had my opportunity for pure happiness right here. Though uncomfortably full from the hunt. . She leaned gently against the doorframe. she raised the box over her head. God. I allowed myself to hope. I could only see the back of her head. Had she heard me? Would she turn and see me? The thought was both thrilling and terrifying. She sat down at the lab table we once shared. I wished to God I could see her expression. Still. I gazed. To feel her relax into me as the tension melted out of her body. She was sitting at our table. Of me. It was very nearly unbearable for me to be denied access to her thoughts in this moment. weary from the weight of the day. I flitted to the side of the doorway and kept my eyes trained on her face turned the most beautiful shade of scarlet. her mahogany locks cascading down to her shoulder blades. Bella's neck snapped up. This was dangerous. Leave her to share her life with the people who loved her . she reached across the table and took hold of a box of glass microscope slides perched on the table's edge. I could hear the faint tinkling of the slides rattling as her arms trembled slightly. I had squandered it.who deserved her love in return. In a slow and deliberate movement. Bella was thinking of me? At my peril. She seemed to be captivated by something she felt there. Was she thinking about us? Was she sad? Disgusted? Apathetic? A moment later she entered the room. I pressed my eyes shut for a beat. Shit. She was thinking of us. to even breathe the same air? I hadn't come here for her. Standing. The world around me faded to black as I reeled with the possibility. Biology Lab. exposing the graceful column of her neck. But I had crossed a line when I sought her out in New York. I wanted to go to her. within my grasp. pressing her head into the tabletop. a paltry nuisance. I could somehow help her. What made me think I had any right to be in her presence. my mind straining in vain to hear hers. I was a fool. But she didn't turn. I thought for a moment she was resting. What the fuck was I doing here? I had convinced myself that by coming back. And if I had any honor I would leave now. willing the monster into submission as I watched her. transfixed. I saw her lightly finger the edge of the desk. I dug my nails deep into the heels of my palms as I struggled to stay still. That somehow. Before I could put thoughts into action. Her hair was pulled up in a ponytail. I followed her delectable scent and found her seconds later. To wrap my arms around her shoulders and nuzzle my chin into the hollow of her neck. I had come here for me. Hiding behind a row of lockers. she needed me. My need to be near her won out over any illusions of honor I had once held. I couldn't bring myself to leave. Oh. She was standing in the doorway of room 214. I watched her intently. She leaned forward. after all this time.

A small grunt escaped her throat. While I had been keeping tabs on Bella. ~X~ I kept a safe distance from Bella the rest of the afternoon. Shit. The box landed on the hard slate with a muted crunch. I watched with perfect vision as I let Jacob Black carry Bella away from me. sending the fragile contents shattering across the floor. she gave him a genuine smile that made her eyes crinkle in the corners. Damn mutt didn't open her door for her. God. hidden by the dense trees lining the road. I refused to allow myself to get as close as I had in the school. A hulk. I heard the mutt's excuse for a car rattle into Bella's driveway. With him. I spat on the ground in my fury. but the sight was still a shock. I'm an ass. Powerful. I was grateful that even the wolf's keen senses would be unable to permeate the sealed confines of Jasper's G Class. Seconds later we reached the line I could not cross. Fuck. Wow.The sunlight streaming in the far window silhouetted her elegant form. My Volvo still sat in the garage . including two impeccably tailored designer suits. Come on. She's just a friend. no. Over the past 48 hours we had settled into something resembling the close sibling relationship we had previously shared. The dog noticed. adjusting my cufflinks. I faulted him for not opening her door? I stepped out of the SUV and followed their car on foot. I knew the wolves' human forms developed quickly once they approached phasing age. As she emerged from the house. I realized about 100 yards from the boundary where they were headed. I'd missed her smile. It was agony knowing she would be spending hours outside of my reach. Bella was dressed casually in jeans and a soft grey sweater that hugged her curves. I was glad to be able to dress appropriately for the occasion. She had filled my closet with a complete wardrobe. The car sped easily by as I stared dumbly ahead at the ever expanding distance between us. I didn't know what to make of her episode in the biology lab. His thoughts flailed for several more moments before finally settling into genuine concern. After all that I'd done." I gave her a playful smirk. Again. even adding cut flowers to the vases. ~X~ Alice had thought of everything. but I didn't want to add to her pain by forcing her to face the lingering demon from her past. her reaction confirmed that they were memories she longed to forget. her boobs look amazing. "You always could tie a beautiful windsor knot. After an hour or so. It reminded me of those first . she had been busy setting up the house hooking up utilities. While my heart flew at the knowledge that she had been thinking of me. God. Afraid I'd be unable to keep from going to her. She moved the box behind her head slightly before slamming her hands down on the table with as much force as she could muster. "You always could pick out the perfect tie. I sat parked in Jasper's car a safe distance from her house as she prepared to go out for the evening. exiling myself again to the shadows. Alice. He was much taller than me . I was rendered impotent by this arbitrary boundary separating us from them. For all my supernatural gifts. I was a selfish bastard. Bella was not the only one who had changed over the years. I let out a low growl in frustration before registering the sensation of a tiny hand on my shoulder. Damn the Quileutes and their treaty. She looked strong. stocking the place with fresh linens." Alice poked her head in my room as I finished getting ready. I nearly laughed at the black irony as I sank to my knees in desperation. Come home for a while. I fled from the school before she could turn around. A goddess. Edward. La Push. watching her from afar.undriven since the day I'd taken Bella for a "walk" in the woods. Jacob Black was no longer a scrawny teenager with a schoolboy crush. I registered a quickening of her pulse. Although I wasn't planning on seeing anyone at today's memorial service. She walked to the passenger side of his car and climbed in.a near giant.

" She paused. The depictions of the teenage Bella that called up at me from the crowd were not pictures of the Bella I had known. I realized then that I was far too comfortable. Her hair was stringy. While there was no way to avoid their detection." God. Though there was no noise but the quiet clicking of shoes." She playfully ruffled my hair before skipping out of the room. Jasper was waiting for me in the living room as I descended the stairs. Two minutes later my throat caught fire. Missed this.. Nurses who had worked with Carlisle at the hospital. lifeless. Her hair was down. They were shocked at her transformation. grown into a woman. She came around behind me and dusted my shoulders with her hands. She was toggling her ring finger beneath the bright overhead lights. Berty. Their Bella was . Several minutes after the last person entered. I owed Alice an apology. of Bella's true friends.the limits of my self-control unreliable Alice had always had faith in me. Bella had not yet arrived. The crowd instantly hushed as the procession came into view. Her face was gaunt.mentally comparing the two incongruous images of the Bella that had left and the Bella that had returned. Faculty of Forks High. I focused on Mr. The waitress from the diner. I noticed a few furtive glances among them as our scent registered. The Quileutes sat together in the far right corner of the gymnasium. I was such an ass. No. and gave it a squeeze. Dark circles hung below her eyes. I smiled slightly seeing Angela Weber in the row behind them . so we knew that many of the Quileutes would be attending the service. No. I quirked an eyebrow at Jasper. In his memory. "Yes. I saw her staring absently out the window as she sat in the back row of his class. Alice could not see the memorial.days after Bella had come to Forks. Jessica Stanley and Tyler Crowley sat holding hands. and with Jasper's influence. She seemed to be . Needing to isolate a single train of thought to fully concentrate on it. I owed her much. Practically the whole town had turned up to pay their respects. Alice had dressed him in a crisp dark suit. the Forks High senior English teacher. It's going to be fine. Even when the future had been uncertain .. I promise I'm going to make up for my behavior the past six years. meeting my eyes in the mirror. we had a bird's eye view of the ceremony. "I've missed you too. And although we were certain the Quileutes would not be pleased at our presence. much more than that. you definitely are. His forehead was creased in concentration but he allowed me a reassuring look indicating he had things under control. we were hopeful that under the circumstances. before she'd moved to California. And no matter what happens here. they would not be provoked to action. I saw her then. her signature mischevious grin." I clapped a hand on his shoulder. I recognized nearly every face. "Thanks for coming. we sprinted lightly through the far back entrance and climbed up to the catwalk above the gym's built-in stage. still resting on my shoulder. Edward. We waited in the back of the parking lot while the mourners filed into the school building. "I know this isn't about me. "But I've missed you. It hit me then that most of these people had not seen Bella since high school. From our position in the shadows. hanging loose in graceful waves to the middle of her back. glancing away before meeting my eyes once more. I nodded at him in appreciation. shoulders hunched forward. made a name and a substantial fortune for herself. She dabbed lightly at her eyes with a tissue as she leaned against her mother's arm." She smiled. walking behind a simple pine casket flanked by six uniformed pall-bearers. They were marveling at how different she appeared now . Yes. There was no hint of red in her eyes. A handful of Bella's high school friends were sitting together near the front of the room. broken. I scanned the room. Her gaze was fixed on the box containing her father's remains as she walked to her seat in the front row. No tear-stains on her cheeks. She was dressed in the same black suit she had worn on The Today Show just two days earlier. With the exception of a carload of officers from a neighboring precinct. remembering Bella as they'd last seen her. Alice. He was staring at Bella intently. I grabbed her hand. my thoughts were interrupted by an onslaught of images featuring Bella that wafted up through the rafters. the Bella they had last seen was another person entirely. His thoughts were not unkind as he admired how far she had come over the years. But something was off. Edward. we trusted they would respect the treaty Carlisle had forged decades ago.

pale and glassy-eyed. And with that. and I could hear her pulse instantly slow. Her other frail arm was wrapped around her chest in the same defensive manner recalled in Mr. . If that were my dad. man.her in that casket. God. I began to listen in on his thoughts hoping fruitlessly for some untoward flicker. . . Bella screaming through a nightmare at the senior girls' camping trip. She looked bored as she stared with flat eyes at a mildly attractive college-age guy. I could no longer listen.. My cousin came in all the way from U Dub. Oh my God. I grabbed at them willingly in spite of myself. She's lucky I even invited her to my graduation party. instinctive. .. when I had left her to face Laurent alone. forgive me. Berty's memory. She thinks she's such hot shit now. the untimely death of one so young reminds us all how fragile human life is . to a younger Bella. A low growl began building in the pit of my stomach. She took her seat at the front of the room. as he struggled to maintain his composure. . His thoughts went blank for a moment. My shame. a flurry of images kept swirling around me. to Bella squeezing her father's shoulder as he lay dying. I have enough on my plate right now. . Even as I reeled with the visual proof of how I'd broken her.. Shit. Still. And that we made it on time. . . It's just not fair. Reverend Weber began the invocation. And he was here for her now. soaked and shivering.hugging her chest tightly in some kind of protective posture. as she stepped off a plane in the Port Angeles airport. The images in his mind drifted from Bella's beautiful face. My fists clenched around the rail of the catwalk. Just thank God for that. It was a total pity invite. What had I done to her? Mr. She's been through so much. She held a red plastic cup in one hand. The least she could have done was let him get to second base . Father in Heaven. She was easily fifteen pounds lighter than she'd been when I'd left. Chief Swan asking the school counselor to recommend a psychiatrist.or. The movement seemed unthinking. Hasn't deserved any of it. I needed to get a hold of myself.. The dog sat to her left. Berty's thoughts were suddenly drowned out by the louder and more aggressive mind of Jessica Stanley. He squeezed her tiny hand in his huge palm. something that would undermine this visual proof that he was the better man. I honestly don't know how she's keeping it together right now. She doesn't deserve this. Needed to see what I'd done. The weight of what my leaving had done to her hit me like a punch in the gut. When I'd left her. I needed to know. She was so graceful in her grief. Sam Uley carrying Bella's limp body in from the woods. crippled as I was by my own regret. Thank God we were there that day. So strong. Jasper caught my eye again. as she mourned the loss of her father. violently spewing water from her blue lips. . He had been there for her then. causing the metal to groan in protest. before a vision of the meadow-of our meadow-flitted through his mind. I tried to avoid the onslaught of images and focus my attention on Bella herself. Keep it together. She was wearing a green tank top and a pair of blue jeans that hung loose on bony hips. Even through her sweatshirt I could detect the sharp angles of her shoulderblades. Her thoughts gave way to vivid images of Bella standing in the corner of the Stanleys' kitchen. My stomach clenched as I watched Bella reach for the wolf's hand. Jasper shot me a warning look. my heart swelled with pride at the woman she'd become in spite of me.

on the other hand. Dull skin. in the elevator. hadn't been able to muster a single tear all day. unhooking two of the buttons. He hadn't left my side since the ceremony. The tiny house felt cavernous without the low rumble of Charlie's steady snore. alternating between squeezing his eyes shut and darting them around the room as if looking for an escape. grounding me with the comforting warmth of his paw-like hands. standing by me protectively as I received the long line of mourners. his eyes redrimmed. his face was drawn. I felt numb. I rolled my nipple between my thumb and forefinger. barely touching the skin. But the more I longed for sleep. wincing at my reflection. And waited. Last night after Jake dropped me off. I plodded to my old bedroom. sent Thomas a quick good-night text and crawled under the purple bedspread. a caress. recalling various humorous and heroic anecdotes from Charlie's days on the force. Thomas' fervent kiss upon arrival. I watched Jacob Black prepare Bella to bury her father. Deputy Ryerson gave the eulogy. The cheesecake. I traced the countours of my stomach. then tugging them to my chin. Thank God for Jake. The exhaustion that consumed me was radiating from the inside out. And I waited. The champagne. The cheesecake. The service had been a blur. Finally strong enough to drive all external thoughts from my mind. I wrangled with the sheets. The face that stared back at me was one I hadn't seen in six years. foolishly hoping that it might help me appear somewhat human for Charlie's funeral. the more it evaded me. I let my mind and fingers wander. His hand anchored firmly on my back. God. kicking them off. And for that. and then back again. Though I was used to greeting crowds of people on my publicity tour. I had collapsed in a pathetic heap in Charlie's bed. ago. accompanying me to the gravesite afterwards with Billy and the handful of close friends who had made the drive. Still my mind returned to the booming silence. Without thinking. I needed to shut off my thoughts. Flat eyes. Jake's grief over Charlie's death was evident. I willed my mind to recall in vivid detail the night of my birthday — just three nights. I thrashed under the Egyptian cotton sheets. Jasper reached for me then. Yes. I had fallen reluctantly into a superficial. while I was grateful for his constant presence. My familiar wetness pooled down below as I recalled the vision of Thomas on his knees. I counted the cracks in the ceiling and scripted conversations for the shadows which danced with each other on the walls. Still. And fucking spent. that was nowhere near as exhausting as gracefully accepting the condolences of the better part of a small town. . At the gravesite. Before grief could swallow me. The sensation teetered on the edge of a tickle. I flipped my pillow from one side to the other. as I palmed the curve of my breast. With one finger. Jake had sat next to me. And the night before that. Three fingers in the air. The night before that.I had abandoned her. I kneeled down to rest my forehead on the metal railing of the catwalk. I vaguely recalled Angela's father giving a homily about the ephemeral nature of life. I was tired. with Thomas's husky voice serving as my tour guide. I could be nothing but grateful. My skin pebbled into gooseflesh as I slid my hand up the front of my pajamas. Chapped lips. ~X~ BPOV I leaned against the bathroom countertop. I couldn't help the twinge of guilt I felt. I glanced in the mirror. He'd been visibly shaken throughout the entire memorial service. in spite of myself. hollow. Christ. He had saved her. I didn't think I'd have any problems tonight. this was what I needed. yet a lifetime. supporting my weight with one hand as I brushed my teeth with the other. Thomas teasingly asking to fuck me on the table in the restaurant. cold-medicine-induced slumber. My nipple in his mouth. I tried to remember the last time I had really slept. The night before that — well — we weren't exactly sleeping. I. Oh. restlessly anticipating my interview on The Today Show. I needed to just feel.

Seven. moaning." A/N: As always we love. The tang of his lips. a sumptuous combination of champagne. nearing the brink. . Frantic now. Cool breath on my neck. throwing my head back. Bringing myself closer to the release I so desperately craved. Aroused by my own wetness. Thomas sucking the cheesecake off his middle finger. Feeling my muscles tense.Five. teasing myself. Especially eight. so thanks. panting. The look in his eyes as he commanded me to touch myself. I pinched my nipple as I cried out. With each pass of my hand I felt the sharp pangs of grief retreat a little further into the recesses of my mind. I grouped three fingers together and worked tiny circles around my clit. Oh. your reviews. hard. January 26. scents. Pinky. We plan to post next Tuesday. Hot breath on my clit. I felt myself soak through the crotch of my panties. and then shudder. images. I reveled in the memory of Thomas's teeth grazing my clit. sensations of lovers both won and lost floated through my head. As I breathlessly shoved two fingers inside myself. Committing to the act. XOXO ~MV (Remember we're on twitter now! See you there). writhing in my childhood bed. then. Ochre eyes trained on my lips. his tongue. I rhythmically stroked the inside of my slit. and pretty much live for. I gasped as I dabbed one finger on my clit. Eight. Ring finger. I clumsily kicked off my pajamas and slid my panties to the side. offering the hollow at my throat for some invisible lover to kiss. cheesecake and my taste. "Edward. on mine. biting my lip while moaning his name. the silk of my pajama bottoms. God. Thomas's eyes locked onto my sex. rough.

reminder that she had once been mine to caress. straining to hear. Then. But terrified of what it would mean for her . I clasped the tree branches in a vain attempt to maintain my composure. To love. Her breaths were too quick. Powerless to leave. too. and then. I needed to be with her. This tree was only big enough for one of us. You owe it to yourself to read her Haiti o/s "Bulletproof". burned my lungs and lingered in my gut. Just in case? Just in case what? Just in case she realized in a moment of grief that she wanted me back? God. her scent did not. That she was strong. though.for me . I heard the water running in the bathroom before she padded to bed. I'd allowed a century-old painting at the Museum of Modern Art to turn my compulsion into doubt. If I needed him. She thrashed from side to side. once I had fed my need. Again. in spite of me. Thanks also to Snshyne for the thoughtful and gracious review on Southern Fan Fiction Review (find the link on our profile). But she wasn't sleeping. finally. the fragrant aroma of Bella's arousal wafted toward me. Just in case. The warmth of her sex entered through my mouth. I had never felt more like a monster. the beautiful. We're so glad to be a part of it. I needed to get a hold of myself. I was delusional. While he could give her something. a past I'd convinced myself my leaving could erase. ignoring everything I now knew: That she had made something of herself. could help her. And waited. and I wasn't willing to leave her behind for one second. what my leaving had done to her. Doubt that she was better off without me. Doubt that it was impossible for us to be right together. XOXO to you all. It had started with the ill-fated hunt outside of Juneau. But though her thoughts evaded me. And I waited. Flipped her pillow over. And yet. I couldn't stand being away from her. cursing once again that her mind was a mystery. closing my eyes. she was silent. Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. It had reignited the primal need to be near her I'd fought for six years to suppress. Retrieved them. I was too weak to stomach knowing she was in pain and yet not being there.of need. Her book. I could do nothing but watch.if I stayed. that I was here. yet painful. And now I knew. To kiss. Kicked off the sheets. And even though I knew she had others in her life to lean on. That she had a man who loved her and a friend who carried her through her despair. and I waited for the once-familiar sound of Bella sleeping. Not when I'd abandoned Carlisle all those years ago. Jasper was on call if she needed him. And then. The ache that churned in my belly was one of pure want . Thanks also to MsKathy for all the work she's been doing for the fandom this past couple of weeks.*Chapter 11*: Chapter 10 A/N: Thanks to the incredible. I leaned forward from my perch. She had just buried her father. Doubt that I'd made the right decision all those years ago. my need to be around her. Too irregular. a blissful. It was a familiar feeling. I was so desperate in my need to hope. successful. The knowledge that she'd memorialized our past. As I'd listened to the thoughts of the mourners recalling the Bella they had once known. Soon after her agitated movements stilled. She crawled under the covers. . the talented annanabanana who drops everything to beta this story at ungodly hours. I drank her in. Chapter 10 EPOV It would have made more sense for Jasper to keep watch over her tonight. Poor thing. I knew that. Not when I'd fled from Alice to take matters into my own hands. here I was. Listen.

Though it had all but killed me, I had made the choice to leave her once. Once, it turned out, was my limit. If I left her again, it would be her choice. Not mine. My introspection was interrupted by the faint whisper of two soft snaps. She was unbuttoning her pajama top.

Oh, God.
Her arousal was intoxicating, hypnotic. More potent than any drug - than any brand of blood. Instinctively, I rested my hand on the shameful bulge which, despite the circumstances, strained at my jeans. I didn't want to do this. Didn't want to want this. But though I'd somehow managed to summon the self-control to avoid taking her life every minute I was in her presence, I didn't have the power to resist this temptation. In spite of myself, I began to rock back and forth, slowly, rhythmically. Purposefully. Ashamed but defeated by my traitorous lust, I called to mind the familiar fantasies. I imagined tickling the soft flesh of her stomach, palming the underside of her breast, before swirling my cool tongue around her peaked nipple. Sucking it hard enough to leave my mark.

As I indulged in thoughts of fondling, kissing, licking her, I heard the frenzied rustle of silk. She was kicking off her pajama bottoms. She was touching herself.

The smell of her sex hung thick in the air as I retreated into a familiar, but hurried, rhythm. I imagined the arch of her neck as she offered her throat for my lips. The swell of her clit under my fingers as I whispered in her ear. The hitch in her breath as I entered her for the first time. Eyes squeezed shut, stroking my length, I pictured Bella laying naked beneath me. Her creamy skin glistening as she grunted with each of my thrusts. Although I could not have believed it possible, the image in my mind at this moment was even more beautiful, more vivid, than the vision of Bella which had tantalized me six years ago and had haunted me ever since. I loosened my grip and slowed my movements as I pondered the reason for the difference. Maybe it was because this Bella, the woman she had become, was even more alluring than I could have imagined. Maybe it was because my proximity to her at this moment heightened my senses. Or maybeMy gut clenched as understanding set in. It was because the image arose not from my own fantasy, but from his memory. His thoughts. Her Thomas.

Oh, God. Was she thinking about . . . him?
She was. Of course she was. She was laying in her bed, fantasizing about her boyfriend, and I was sitting in a tree outside her window stroking my dick.

God. I was a sick, sick bastard.
I held my breath and began softly humming to myself in an attempt to block this episode from my consciousness. I was disgusted. Embarrassed. I willed my perfect senses to submit. To ignore the soft suctioning sound of her fingers thrusting into her drenched entrance. To disregard the groans, the whimpers, that escaped from her lips. To neglect the pulsing erection that strained against my thigh. But it was useless. I was too far gone. The limits of my self-control had been breached. Besides, I had no pride to speak of anymore. Resigned, I unbuttoned my jeans and growled in a mixture of disgust and elation when my hand reached under my boxers to wrap around the head of my cock. I yanked it from base to tip, focusing intently on her scent. Her breaths. Her feminine sounds.

I was instantly close. I could be patient, though, not knowing when I would again hear, if ever, the glorious sound of Bella pleasuring herself. I felt a surge of warmth in my groin, inadvertently so consumed by my own lust that I almost didn't realize how close she was. Pumping hard now, I held my breath, holding off, knowing that this may be the only chance I would ever have to come with her - to come together. I imagined her strong, slim legs locked around my waist, my eyes burning into hers as her silky folds enveloped my length. I heard her thrumming heart race, smelled the pungent fragrance of the wetness between her thighs as she neared her climax. "Unnhh," I whispered into the darkness. "God, Bella. Yes." "Edward." ~X~ I lay sprawled on the wet grass, having just fallen from the goddamn tree.

She said my name.

My. Name.
My thoughts were a jumbled mess. Incomprehensible. A swirling mixture of images, noises, smells. The savory tang of Bella's arousal. The delectable sweet scent of her blood. Her brown eyes widened in her pleasure. Her graceful neck arched in release. Cheeks flushed. Fingers splayed. Full red lips, open. Moaning.

It was inconceivable. That she could have been fantasizing of me, while I was thinking of her, was too much to comprehend. I couldn't process it. I rose to my knees and braced myself on the ground with my hands, shaking my head furiously. But in my mind's ear I heard her again and again. As clearly as I'd heard her the night I'd fallen in love with her. The night my name had tumbled from her lips as she slept, unwittingly, in my presence. It was now, as it was then, my utter undoing. But what did it mean? That she loved me? Lusted for me? Was it even possible? Surely not. But she'd said my name. Though it was dangerous to hope, to believe it could mean some part of her still wanted me, I needed to know. And there was only one way to find out. "Hello, Edward." Alice was expecting me, as usual. "Alice," I croaked. "Alice - she - Bella said my name. Out loud. I heard her. When she was-" "I know, Edward. I don't need the recap." I could tell from her tone she was irritated. With what, or whom, I couldn't be sure. "So did you - did she -" She scoffed, cutting me off. "Did she what, Edward?" "Jesus, Alice," I groused. "What is wrong with you? I mean, do you not realize - do you not think this is monumental?" Clearly exasperated, she asked, "And why do you think this is monumental, Edward?" She was patronizing me. "Because she might want me, Alice. In that way. I thought - I just wanted to see if you had seen something."

"What would I have seen, Edward?" she snapped.

God. This was like pulling teeth. What had gotten into her?
I fumbled for the words. "Well. . . does she choose me?" "What do you mean, does she choose you? How in the hell would I know that?" "Umm, well, I don't know, I just thought that -" "Where are you right now, Edward?" She didn't let me answer. "I'll tell you where you are. You're sprawled on the ground, underneath a fucking tree outside of Bella's window. Am I right?" "Yes," I replied quietly, the exhiliration of the moment long gone. "You knew I was coming here, Alice." "Ok, then. And why were you sitting in a tree outside of Bella's window?" "Christ, Alice. What is your problem?" Now I was getting mad. "I'll tell you what my problem is, Edward. You were sitting in a tree, like some sort of sick peeping Tom, because you're too much of a pussy to knock on the door and actually talk to her." Well, that was certainly uncalled for. I would have expected Alice, of all people, to understand how agonizing this was for me. Defeated, I mumbled, "Ok, fine. Whatever. I get it. This isn't easy for me, you know. I mean, I fucked it up so royally last time. And I don't know if I can . . . I just thought maybe you had seen something. That she had made up her mind, or whatever. So I could work up the nerve to approach her." She paused for a moment, and when she began again, her voice was softer. Kinder. "That's not the way it works, Edward. You know better than that. Bella doesn't even know that you're here. Last she heard, she wasn't even supposed to think that you existed. So how could she possibly have made up her mind?""

Right. Damn. "Listen, Edward. I love you. I want you to be happy. You know that." "Yeah, I know," I admitted. I did know. "And I've been patient with you for six years. I shut Bella out of my life, out of my mind, for you." "Yeah, I know." "You've been a miserable person to be around. A terrible brother. And I've looked past it, been willing to forgive you, because I know you've been hurting. That you're still hurting." "Yeah, I know. And I appreciate it. I know what a bastard I've been." I did. "But listen to me, Edward. I've had enough. We've had enough." I wasn't surprised. If anything, I was surprised that it had taken them this long to snap. "You've come this far, Edward. To Forks, for God's sake. Don't give up now. You owe it to yourself. To Bella. To us. You need to figure this out. So go to her. Talk to her. Give her the chance to make the choice, Edward. She deserves that," she paused. "And, Edward?" "Yes?" "So do you." ~X~ Knowing that Alice was right didn't make this any easier. I paced outside Bella's window, contemplating what to say. How to say it. I envisioned myself knocking on her door, as Alice suggested. It seemed so . . . trite.

Hello, Bella, my human ex-girlfriend. Do you suppose there's any room in your heart for a century-old vampire who abandoned you and begged you to pretend he never existed?
It was absurd. Laughable. I had no chance in hell.

Folding my legs, I sat on the grass and rested my head in my hands, weighing my options. Remaining silent, letting Bella live her life without the knowledge that I yearned to be in it was no longer one of them. The only decision to be made was whether I confronted her here, in Forks, while she was grieving for her dead father, or at her home, in Los Angeles, where she was living a new life. With him. Both options were completely repellent. True to form, I selfishly chose the one that favored myself, her bereaved state be damned. I was going to see her. And this time, she was going to see me. Distracted only by the occasional mumble or sigh from Bella's slumber, I planned my course of action. As soon as she awoke, I would knock on her door. I would lead with something easy. Straightforward.

Bella, I heard about Charlie, and I'm so sorry.
I would make no attempt to approach her, cognizant that she would be frightened. Provided she didn't slam the door in my face, I would simply start at the beginning. My end.

Bella, when I left you that day in the woods, I foolishly thought that it was best for us. I didn't see how we could ever be together. How my . . . existence could coincide with your human life. I realize now that my love The rehearsal of my confession was interrupted by the sound of Bella's cries floating through the window. "Please. No. No! Don't leave me!" I winced, pained at her obvious despair over Charlie.

Maybe she was too fragile after all. Maybe I should wait awhile. Let her heal. After six years of agony, I could survive a few more weeks. I would do anything for her, even if it meant temporarily depriving myself of the singular purpose of my existence. Sighing like a human, I reached for my phone to call Alice. She would be disappointed, I knew. Again, my plans were interrupted. "Edward," Bella mumbled.

What the - ? "Edward, don't go. Stay with me. Please." Her tone was calm, but insistent. My eyes flashed toward the window, panicked
at the notion that Bella had heard or seen me. The window was vacant. She was talking in her sleep. And she needed me. Wanted me.

Fuck waiting. Fuck knocking on the door.
I was going in. This was going to happen the way it began. With me. With her. In her bedroom. I leapt to my feet and sprung to the window before I lost my nerve. Hitching open the window, I realized with a start that this was the first time in six years I'd really seen her. Up close. God, what a sight to behold. Her chestnut locks were splayed about her pillow, a few strands clinging to her damp forehead. Her eyelids were closed, relaxed, but her lashes fluttered gently above her cheeks, tinted pink by the unseasonably warm night. Her silk pajama top rode up slightly on her torso, displaying a delicious, inviting slice of milky flesh. Her womanly hips and supple legs, though hidden from my view by her familiar purple bedspread, swam gracefully through her dreams. Though I had planned to practice my confession while Bella slept, it was clear that my mind would be otherwise occupied. The adoration with which I had viewed the sleeping girl six years ago was a pittance in comparison to the fascination I had with this woman sleeping before me. I couldn't take my eyes off her. Minutes passed, then hours. The impatience, the self-doubt, the panic, I had feared would creep in to plague me never arrived. I was calm. Captivated by her. Spellbound by the realization that she could awake at any moment to banish me from her house, her life, forever. That my marvelous time in her presence was limited. So I waited. Waited for her to say my name in her sleep again. Waited for her to wake up. Waited for absolution. For rejection.

I searched upward from the waistband of her panties until I found her navel. What I really wanted to do was stare. Focusing now. Christ. to graze her warm skin with my cool fingertip. Instinctively. an innie. But there was something there. no bigger than a quarter. I sprung to my feet. and the lace largely obscured it from my view. The imagined taste of Bella's soap. there had been many revelations about her magnificent body in the last few hours. I honed in on the mark. framed by the deeper v of her delicate hips. I wanted to flee. just inches above her tender flesh.She slept peacefully and quietly until mid-morning. inviting me at once to tickle it playfully and tongue it seductively. It was both angelic and provocative. I started by looking at her feet. Sweet Jesus. a silent plea. Cherishing this opportunity. I told myself I would be able to more effectively control my raging lust if I avoided looking there until my shock dissipated somewhat. was changing. I let my gaze travel higher. It was so titilating. concentrating. Although I was several feet from her bed. I studied her panties intently. were worthy of a starring role in my most erotic fantasies. an existence. eternally grateful for the needle-lace pattern that teased me with beguiling hints of skin and did nothing to mask the evidence of her earlier arousal. I closed my eyes and held out my finger. or a half-dollar. both in wonderment of her and disgust with myself. What I wouldn't give to trace one hipbone with my index finger. and her breath. sweat. at which point she began to writhe in her bed. any illusion of calm I had held utterly shattered by the half-clothed goddess laying directly in my eyeline. Caving now to the futility of my honorable intentions. my erection hung limp as I began to pace. The notch of her navel. then released it. Lust replaced by anxiety. so that I could inspect it with more precision. . polished a pale pink. transfixed. She wasn't wearing any pants. The pink starburst of a birthmark that hung mid-thigh. just once. Shaking my head. almost too distracted by my engorged length to recognize that the pace of her pulse. so arousing. a better smell. I needed to know. I could have viewed these delightful imperfections on a summer day six years ago at the neighborhood pool. many of them admittedly beautiful. To sweep it along her soft flesh. allowing myself to imagine the spark I'd feel if I were lucky enough. I could not imagine a world. What was it? It threatened to drive me berserk. The waistband of her white lace panties dipped into an enticing shallow v-shape in the front. Fuck. I suddenly snapped my eyes open. my eyes ogled her toned calves and adorably knobby knees. Had I been a normal teenager. in a hotel room after the Forks High Prom. willing her to shift positions. and I finally let those urges guide my eyes where my attempt at manners and virtue had not allowed them to go. But to be in the presence of Bella . irritated that I'd been so daft as to shut them when such beauty lay in my presence.well. I was mortified. for her to spread those lovely thighs so I could get a better look. in various states of undress during my century of reading minds. The appendix scar that showed the work of a careless surgeon unfit to touch her perfect abdomen. I was hovering near her bedside at sunrise trying to deduce what in God's name she had on her left hip. skin on my lips made my shaft twitch with lust. But God. Although it went against every natural instinct. or for the sunlight to illuminate it. much in the way I had first caressed her cheekbone outside the gymnasium at Forks High. her hips. with need. Flailed her legs about madly before kicking the covers to the foot of the bed. my eyes darkening at the thought. It was small. It's not as if I knew Bella's body so well that this was the morning's only surprise. I was a fool. or bold enough. that could be so unjust as to leave this mark forever a mystery. The same knees that had featured so prominently in the more crass daydreams in which I had occasionally allowed myself to indulge. human and otherwise. perhaps. Or. when I realized that she had a dark mark to the inside of her left hipbone. I There were no words. Even her dainty toes. Indeed. So forbidden. To be sure. She clasped a fistful of the fabric of her silk pajama top. She was waking up. As it were. I stood there. I was in the midst of a desperate wish. I'd seen countless images of human women. I wanted to cover her. of what lie between them.

We absolutely love your feedback. thanks for reading.~X~ A/N: Ok. February 4. there you have it :) As always. so we'd love to see you over there too! We plan to update Thursday. There's a little discussion going on over on the Twilighted thread (link on our profile). Thanks for your support of this story. XOXO ~M&V . It means so much. so to everyone whose review of Chapter 9 was along the lines of: "please tell me he's watching!". and we cherish each of your reviews.

of course. bb. it's only because my brain is mush. It was the only way I knew to move on.the crazy girl and the hallucination. I went off to college . Nothing remotely resembling the chest-crushing anguish that I had come to expect in mornings such as these. SleepyValentina. I'm feeling a little emo at the mo' so please indulge me as I say another heartfelt "thank you" to all the authors and fandom tweeters who have been more welcoming to us than Eric Yorkie. Me crumpled. So. these two are for you: Melissa228." A pledge that he would never return. I finally realized the high cost of Edward's phantom presence. Then. Not forlorn. breaking the surface hand-in-hand before being torn apart by the angry surf. Speed of Sound BPOV The sun's glare assaulted me as it cut through my bedroom window. in good conscience. Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. Refreshed. I chose to sink. always ended with the same heartbreak. I felt remarkably well-rested. And I allowed myself to remember. A last-ditch olive branch to save my sanity. Sometimes he would come to me in our meadow as I lay waiting for him among the Queen Anne's Lace. SiouxChef and. and because we love you all SO much. I lay there for a moment. playing the lullaby he'd written just for me. ilsuocantante. We've felt so loved and supported and I need to stop b/c I'm getting verklempt. I'd willed him to come back to me the only way I knew how. we jumped together. that I leave him behind.sunny California of all places . Jake had pulled me to safety. Scarlettletters. Brookelockart. as unbridled elation. What began as bliss. last year. alone. Chapter 11 A whisper in the dark Is that you or just my thoughts? Wide awake & reaching out -Pearl Jam. EJSantry. Not despondent. We love you all so so much. pushing the limits of recklessness for imaginary encounters that were fleeting. At the peak of my desperation. We love you. but not before my selfish insistence nearly cost us both our lives. As I had put pen to paper. Not exhausted. even. Thus had begun my twisted split existence. unfeeling. My survival instinct was no match for the sense of peace that enveloped me when the love I'd clung to so desperately met me underwater. leave you with only one side of the chapter that follows. There was no trace of the delusional lovelorn girl of my youth in the light of day. Stubborn as always. If I forgot anyone. Thanks to annanabanana for patiently correcting our hapless attempts to conjugate the verb "to lay" and for being the world's best beta and an all around amazing person and friend. unsatisfying. choking on the freezing water. unmoving. As I had lain sprawled out on the rocks. XOXO We'll see ya at the bottom of 12. For that reason. But every night before bed. He had pleaded with me to wait until the storm had passed and the waves had calmed. the hole in my chest had begun to shrink. He could visit me in the darkness all he wanted so long as he stayed out of my daylight. When I wouldn't take no for an answer. annanabanana. Mama_Cougar. unaware of the diamond-like sunbursts that danced on my bedroom wall. WindyCityWonder. Some years ago. me and my long-lost vampire boyfriend . big thanks and love to JenKB for starting us a thread over at the LTT Forum. got good grades. Dated. . LolaShoes. PhoenixHunter47. Shielding my eyes with the crook of my elbow. So I made him an offer. I had bullied Jake into diving off the high cliffs of First Beach. we had made a deal. shivering from the biting wind. Despite his urging that I fight.*Chapter 12*: Chapter 11 A/N: After some deliberation. we decided that we could not. And a guarantee I would never let go. Euphoric. we're giving you two chapters this week. Occasionally we were folded together under the covers of the twin bed in my old room.made friends. I touched the crescent-shaped scar on my wrist. I had flagrantly bucked our little agreement and lured him out of my dreams and into the sunlight for the world to see. Also. Other times we'd meet on the bench of his grand piano while his long fingers danced over the keys. This room. glutton for punishment. The memories took hold in my dreams. Mornings after dreaming of him. on the dank forest floor. content to drown in memories of him. He had left me in the woods with an empty promise that "time heals all wounds.

rimmed in violet. Realization dawned on me. As if he'd said it yesterday. He was nervous. Protecting me. fidgeting like a human. treading softly on the hardwood floor as if trying not to wake me. I stared at him. hugging my pillow. stifling a yawn as I prepared to face the weight of another day. Part of me wanted nothing more than to sink back into the familiar warmth of the mattress and escape back into my subconscious. Trying to name the singular emotion that captured me in this moment.The more I forced my conscious self to remember his face. unremarkable. in comparison to the creature standing before me. My version of Edward. I had waited for this moment for six years. The crushing weight of it. Six years ago he had left me without a trace.him. his scent. Unlike in my usual dreams. Again. The panic evident in the twitch of his jaw. I could swear that I actually smelled him.a fucking vampire. He was here. He didn't speak. He was waiting for me to react. only to wake up bruised and battered by the crippling reality of desolation. Guarding me. the "Luke" I created for my book . Taking it all in. It had been months since I'd admired the vision of him in my sleep. His copper-colored hair was wild. no less . But as I stared at him now. I rolled over then. "Bella. The same way he'd always said it. Taking him in. Surely not. This Edward looked exactly the same as he had in my eighteen-year old mind. as I lay nestled in the very spot where he had first visited my sleep. he did not crawl under the covers and wrap his arms around mine. arms folded across his chest.was dull. reminded me with a jolt that it had probably been six years since he'd been face-to-face with someone whose thoughts were unknown to him. mouth agape. seemingly pleading with me to say something. I thought I had remembered his face. I had watched as he climbed through my window at a human pace. but his eyes pierced mine with the same fervor of dreams past and smoldered a blazing gold. please. It was so real. raked and clawed by the long. his voice.was standing in my bedroom. I lay there. But last night. His muscled forearms caught the sunlight and sent prisms bouncing on the wall as he clenched and unclenched his marble fists. In my bedroom. cold fingers of a man clearly in distress. grappling with the sheer absurdity of it." The desperation was plain on his glorious face. His eyes were black with need. It was him. Instead. Lying in bed with my eyes still closed. Anything. Before this moment. Willed them to refocus. I fluttered my lids open slowly. the less he appeared in my dreams. yet he shifted his weight from one foot to the other. unkempt. "Bella. For reasons unknown he had shown up today. paralyzed. the flicker in his eyes. Instead. The love of my life . He anxiously scanned my face. broken beyond recognition. his body . Wiped my eyes. heard his velvet voice. Uninvited. Unannounced. . for the first time in six years. He didn't the object of countless lustful teenage obsessions . and froze." he said softly. it was clear that the precise image of his magnificent form had long since run away from my memory. but last night's vision of Edward was crystal clear. he had come again. he simply stood over my bed. dumbfounded. So Edward. Blinked them. inhaled his delicious scent. He was waiting to hear my voice. Pure sex clothed in a v-neck sweater. I didn't remember the details of the dream.

"Breathe. I leapt out of bed and lunged at him. As I clumsily pitched forward. And then. where I inhaled his evergreen scent before sucking his earlobe into my mouth. in the unthinkable event that I actually saw him again. But I thought for sure. Dumbstruck. And still. Feeling him. Edward. my reaction would be simple. I clapped both palms on his muscled chest and shoved him. . and I was terrified that I would say or do something I'd regret. I threaded my fingers through his hair. there emerged one unmoving constant. relieved. And I was speechless. he didn't move. goddammit. Relieved that he had found me in Forks. caressed the smooth skin at the nape of his neck. I racked my brain. I released his earlobe from my lips and moved my mouth to the crevice of his ear. Not daring to close my eyes.I'd either love him too much for coming back or hate him too much for leaving. reflexive . in an instant. he obediently drank me in. Crippled by the swarm of emotions that buzzed in my mind and clamped down on my heart. wanting to get it just right. My hands began to move of their own volition . Oh. blissful feeling of warm flesh mingling with cold marble. And was as cold and detached as ever. His perfect lips turned slightly upward. I knew I could live an eternity without regretting this. my mind was made up. enough self-respect. Rage. So I stared at him. rather than in LA where I was living my new one. his body. And now. When he hesitated. I gripped his face with both hands and locked my gaze on his gorgeous red mouth before smashing my lips against his. God. He ran one hand through his hair as he gazed at me. he scooped me up with his cool hand and steadied me by resting it against the small of my back. "Now." I hissed. eventually. Owed myself that. stroked his strong jaw. he let me hold him hostage there as my eyes frantically scanned every inch of his face. and I supposed that I at least owed him that. In all the times I had allowed myself to imagine every detail of this reunion. my fantasies wavered between burying my face into his chest or unleashing a string of colorful profanities. Relieved that I had enough selfconfidence.I couldn't. but couldn't find the thoughts and couldn't have formed the words even if I had. frenzied. . from amid the tumult of feelings assaulting me from the inside out. That he existed. One emotion that sprung from the expanding hole in my chest and fanned out to envelop my entire body." With a lone ragged breath. Relieved that he was alive. like an idiot. He smelled exactly the same. pleading with his liquid eyes. Hate. I sunk into the familiar. Relieved that he was standing in front of me. He was waiting for me to say something. here I was. I threw my head back and guided his mouth to the hollow of my throat. not to crumple at his feet. I was . Grunting softly. or didn't say.possessed by the muscle memory of touching him. forming their signature lopsided smile. hard against my closet door. Love. Didn't breathe. Here we were. Lust. I had one chance at this moment. unbreathing. Tasted as I had always imagined. and then up to his ear. briefly tucked into my old life. My tongue traveled to his jawline. . Umoving. As I stared at his beautiful face. No matter what I said.

I started to lean in. He stilled us there for a moment. my mind bracing itself for the inevitable rejection. yes. I began to panic. I let them linger at my hips. I felt his whole body tense. I stopped short when he made no move to meet my lips.the one pinned against my closet door." he whispered. in the wake of Charlie's death. I pried them open and clasped his fingers in mine. "God. his icy breath branding me like an iron. I didn't know if he'd changed. I needed to know. so that I could fortify myself for the waves of agony ready to crash down on me in the instant I realized this apparition was too good to be true. We were clamped together in an airtight embrace. I traced his breastbone with my index finger and fondled the smooth peaks and valleys of his abdomen. . and his cool hands were cupped around my near-naked ass. His eyes were wild. My. "Edward. Maybe I had a death wish. tracing the edge of the lace lightly with the smooth pad of his index finger before burrowing our entwined fingers under the elastic. As delicious as this life-like specter was. caressing the marble perfection hidden beneath the soft cashmere of his sweater. "I need you to taste me." I felt the thundering vibration that emanated from his center and escaped from his lips as a low growl. The man with ironclad control who'd spurned every advance. Edward was in my bedroom? Inwardly. he glided them slowly down the silky top of my pajamas to the waistband of my panties. Felt him harden against my hipbone. he covered the hand I had placed on his chest with his own. Wouldn't give me. Oh. Bella. more than anything. "You are . confused. Then. I brought my hand to his chest. It felt like Edward. I needed his tongue in my mouth. Yes. Or I misspoke." he murmured. Finding his balled fists hanging at his sides. before melting into me. It sounded like Edward. he pulled our fingers out slowly and brought them to his lips. I needed to see where this was going. before planting them on my ass ." I panted. It didn't make sense.I felt him tighten underneath me. fostering insecurities that would haunt me for years. Instead. There was only one way to be sure. then shudder. tempting fate. I tugged on his hair and brought his nose to mine. my lips searching for his.was the same man who'd always been content to hold me at arm's length. My whole body was alight with an energy that buzzed and hummed in my ears. To see if this Edward . God. Oh God. God. Fucking. Lacing his cool fingers around mine. Or maybe. right where the curve of my bottom met the flesh of my thighs. . What if this was just another hallucination? What if.daring him to shove me away. His eyes locked onto mine as he pushed us both inside me with a single. firm stroke. So I asked for something I knew Edward couldn't give me. But one thing was certain. This couldn't be real. you're exquisite. with his obvious erection pressed against my leg . But I didn't care. I wasn't that girl anymore. A whimper escaped my lips as his wintry fingers connected with my tender flesh for the first time. I had finally lost it? He rested his forehead on my shoulder and drew featherlight circles on my skin. . I was entering uncharted territory. Guiding his hands down the sides of my breasts. I needed confirmation that it was really him. Maybe I wanted him to push me away. He apparently misunderstood.

His eyes smoldering with lust. I needed to calm the fuck down. so that I was the one backed against the door. The ecstasy was overwhelming. willing myself to listen to. Edward lowered my feet to the ground and cradled my face in his cool hands.what he kept saying. I was disinterested.and why . Bella. Bella. For as certain as I'd been that Edward would never have allowed himself to touch me this way.and I don't know . he grabbed my ass and lifted my legs up to straddle his waist. Though my mind and heart reeled. even. "You're real. Choked back a sob and felt the tears stream hotly down my face. So sorry. no explanation for his absence. and their meaning. Fuck. Edward. warming every inch of my body. I needed him to stop. "Bella." the words losing their shape." "You've changed." He mumbled the words over and over again. His hands. "I'm sorry. he placed one hand on my heart." "I don't know what I need from you in this moment!" My voice was an octave too high.but you were gone .you're here . At his mercy." "Yes. He spun me around in a flash. No. my words came out in a whimper. slackjawed. "Yes. my hands were covering my ears and I was screaming. And it was all too fucking much. But he conveyed no reason for his return. or at least feign interest in. His mouth. Several decibels too loud. Cried out. of exasperation. clearly defeated. it's too much . I stared at him. Just stop. Everywhere.and Charlie . It wasn't supposed to be like this. I gritted my teeth and attempted to focus. "More. "Jesus. the steady stream of "sorry" stopped. what he had said . Just tell me what you need from me in this moment. And then I knew. he sweetly kissed the tips of my fingers." I barked. He sighed. Disenchanted by the passage of time and distracted by the impossible reality of seeing him. Please. "Stop it." The words spilled incoherently out of my mouth. my body knew exactly what it craved." I rasped. He closed my eyes with a gentle touch of his thumbs. But it worked. "God." It was all the confirmation I needed. Stepping back from me. I didn't want to hear this. as he sucked each one dry. I took a deep breath through my nose before dropping my hands to my sides. So sorry. to want me this way. touching him again. I could feel my chest tighten as my awareness of the inadequacy of his words became ever more acute. hearing him. I gasped. Groaning. unable to process what was happening. with each repetition. Before I knew what I was doing. but -" He put one cold finger to my lips to stop me from babbling. He leaned into me then. I had longed for an apology for six years. Yet now. Don't apologize. before following the trail of my tears with his lips. As if not at all surprised. Mercifully. .I'm sorry. unbuttoning my pajama top before tracing the contour of my collarbone with his cool tongue. It was him. So sorry." Although I tried to convey an air of indifference. and no excuse for his leaving. Don't you ever apologize to me. No. "SHUT UP!" I didn't recognize my own voice as the words scraped out of my throat and bounced off the walls.and six years and you left . as those seemingly suitable words tumbled repeatedly from his undeniably perfect lips. A surge of heat flashed through me. The shock was overpowering. I'm so sorry. And shaky with the hint of an impending sob. I was equally certain that no one but him could make me feel like this. He simply blathered on with the chorus of "so sorry. On me.

I just can't do this right now. then penetrated my eyes with his gaze. Remember?" A smile played at his lips as he recalled our once-familiar joke. unable to reign in my venomous tone. Making a fucking joke? How dare he? "What do you want me to say to you right now. Hoping." I spat his name unintentionally. bending slightly at the waist as if he were trying not to double over in pain. I was not amused. Bella. What you need. In my bedroom. "I can't read your mind. as if he understood my reaction better than I did. I took steady. And then I took a deep breath and steeled my nerves as I prepared to do what would have previously been unthinkable. to see me. Did he think this was funny? I had nearly died after he'd left me and now he was here. I needed him to look at me. His words.I can't . To stand over that pitiful girl on the forest floor and kick her while she was down. pulling at a loose thread in the cuff of my pajamas. Fuck. Not mine. I swallowed the lump in my throat and looked down. ~X~ . Like he expected it." He nudged my chin with his forefinger." "Tell me what you mean.So much for calming down. "You don't have to say any-" "That I'm happy to see you?" "Bell-" "That I hate you for coming here?" He winced. Loving? I closed my eyes. Edward?" I seethed. "I just . Edward. I can't." He didn't speak. bringing my dewy eyes to his searching ones. "It's all true. right? So why don't you tell me what it means? Because I sure as hell don't know. refusing the distraction of his full red lips. Pleading. He squeezed his eyes shut for a split second. his expressive gaze. You always did know everything. but stood there completely motionless. Calming down now. Needed him to hear this. All of it. as if bracing himself for the blunt impact of what was next. "That I'm relieved that you're alive? Or that I would have been better off if you had never existed?" He flinched. Bella. without the distraction of my racing pulse. "So pretty please. then sighed in resignation. even breaths in the hope that my heart would stop thundering viciously in my chest. his angular jaw. "Piece it together for me." He nodded silently.

By what I was. scarlet cheeks.the probability . I'd left her for six years. please. I'd not dared to breathe since I climbed into her bedroom. Chapter 12 It was there And it was good in the beginning . breaking what had been a stoic. Sorry for any confusion :) Xoxo Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. I braced my hand on the soft swath of flesh above the waistband of her panties. I had prepared myself for the possibility .Christ. "Bella.her quietude. That the innocence. her eyes suddenly narrowed. inadequate as it was. of course. her apparent dispassion. And then she stared like she had seen a ghost. That she would be repulsed by me and by who I was. I momentarily lost myself in memories of Bella's cheeks flaming scarlet with embarrassment. Not believing I was here. desperate to stay in control.of my existence had passed more quickly than this. steeling myself for what was to come. Or a monster. it seemed.fiery eyes. would entice her to respond with one of her own. If only her expression would betray her state of mind. It had been six years since I'd felt her fiery skin touch my own. She blinked them several times in rapid succession. I wouldn't be satisfied until she acknowledged me. I had no doubt that I would not harm her. watching her slowly emerge from her slumber. Hoping I would go away. as I fought . I hadn't prepared myself for silence. Years . Thanks to Alice. "Bella. As it was. Crystal Village EPOV I stood in the corner of her bedroom. I had expected too much. or desire. until the slight hitch in her breath alerted me that she was about to roll over." God. apparently. saw me and rubbed her eyes violently. would have been an easier cross to bear. Content. I smiled. But God. The once-willing promise to sacrifice her humanity wasn't enough for me. Reflexively. I would have taken a deep breath to prepare for the enormity of the moment. The tongue-lashing.Pete Yorn. I knew I wouldn't able to read her mind. Just then. been in her wakeful presence for less than five minutes. My mea culpa promised to be more persuasive without venom dribbling down my chin. Though her face was hidden from view." I said simply. I had prepared myself for a deluge of obscenities. The time that she sat on her bed. I could discern from her posture that she was relaxed. would have been replaced by the hardened cynicism that comes with time. She lay there for a time. she was lovely when she blushed. perhaps. creased brow .that she would detest me. Until she fucking blushed. If she was willing to give me any window to her emotions . Or a flood of tears. The tirade. If you clicked over here from your update email and didn't notice you received TWO such emails. I bit the inside of my lip. praying that my greeting. decades . shielding her eyes from the sunlight that streamed through her window. I clenched my teeth. To see me. And she stared. Screams of panic. was excruciating. Had I been human.*Chapter 13*: Chapter 12 A/N: PLEASE READ! We posted TWO chapters on Feb 4. of her youth. but I could not risk inhaling her sweet scent. silent before me. Yet another reaction I had not anticipated. God. everlasting gaze. I was a selfish bastard. or surprise. please go back and read chapter 11 first. She sat up. but Jesus. hard. and despite the solemnity of this moment. She stirred. The shock of it sent a current through my body that settled in my groin. the naïveté. and I was already pleading with her to give me something so I could exist more comfortably at this moment. or with heartbreak. The burn in my throat was forgotten in that moment. She nearly tripped forward in her haste. That's when she pounced.

Of course she knew. drawing my mouth to her throat. The sensation registered as a gentle nudge. I flared my nostrils and sucked in a long pull of pure Bella. I regained my awareness. I considered pushing her away. She knew. she uncurled my fingers. Jesus." God. She pressed her nose into the side of my neck and sucked in a shaky breath. I landed us hard against the closet door and surrendered. She worked me over with her hands as if she were trying to memorize every inch of my form. After a long moment. Taking what she needed. but I could tell what she wanted by the way her eyes shone and the tendons in her neck flexed. . If I could not show her I was no longer bound by the fear which had led me to leave her. My whole body shuddered in response. grazing the shell with her teeth. planting them on the firm swell of her ass. this is what I would give her. Her eyes were wild and searching as she clawed at my hair and palmed my face. Fuck. I'd given up the right to call the shots. Edward. . It shouldn't be like this. there would be no place for me in her life if I could not do this. My erection throbbed at the warring sensations of unbridled thirst and insatiable lust. Suddenly. But this wasn't about me. I opened my clamped eyes to find Bella staring intently into them. She was taking charge. my chest. The thirst was agonizing but manageable. Oh God. hastily swallowing the lake of venom in my mouth. "Breathe. If this was what she needed." Her tone was commanding and unapologetic. At my hesitation. my neck. but I knew. help me. with certainty. She was goading me. goddammit. She looked . She kept a firm grip on my hands and guided them to her backside. she fisted her hands in my hair and arched her neck. Clenching my fists at my sides. I hadn't taken a breath since entering her room. For a brief moment. smug? Grabbing my hands. I swallowed a moan as my hands felt the rounded curves of her now womanly figure. overcome the unrelenting surge of lust pressing painfully into my thigh. Her breath was hot and humid in my ear. set the pace. what she was doing. her lips were on mine. she unleashed an angry hiss. My senses blurred and my mind raced as I vainly attempted to process what she was doing. She was inhaling me. I could hear the frantic thrumming of her heartbeat beneath the silk of her pajamas. I felt the spongy surface of her sweet pink tongue along my jawbone as she licked her way to my earlobe. She pulled my earlobe into her scalding mouth. It was an ultimatum. Her hands were everywhere. The intensity of it shook me to the core. The lust was not. Not like this. burning into my flesh. She wanted to see how far I would go. I tensed instinctively. flattened my palms alongside her breasts and began slowly sliding them down her torso. daring me. "Now. Her lips slipped between my own. She pushed her tiny hands into my chest. Releasing her bite. and I lost myself in the familiar taste of her wet mouth. Taking by force what I'd always refused to give. I could not read her mind. I could feel her jugular pulsing beneath my lips. . I pressed my nose to the silky skin of her neck and emptied my lungs in a sharp gust.

"You are . my need. Intertwining our fingers. Fuck. hoarse. But she was offering more. and relaxed into her touch. Her words crashed into me like a tidal wave. Never breaking eye contact. I needed to consume her. I struggled. My mind raced. I was undone. I kissed." As if she could read my mind. I yielded to her need. It wasn't enough. The scent of her arousal was pungent in the air as I processed Bella's plaintive request. needed to see how far I was willing to go. "You're real. Bella's eyes changed. But in the moments that followed. Oh fuck. And yet.something entirely unrelated to me. flashing to the only time I had tasted Bella's blood. They were no longer wild with frenzied need. She wanted to know I needed her. I wedged them beneath the delicate lace of her panties and pressed them slowly toward her entrance. felt her breath catch. Her taut muscles and soft curves cried out to me wordlessly. I didn't deserve her. Her breaths were slow but labored. Bella. feeling the tightening coil in my belly and the pulsing need in my pants. "I need you to taste me. I growled instinctively. My eyes rolled back in my head. "Edward. and I didn't have the will to refuse. darting eyes to meet her gaze again. . I gathered her small hand in my own. Reveling in the sensation of feeling her velvety folds for the first time. Oh God. Down my throat. I needed more. How much I needed her. "Yes. She wanted my tongue in her mouth. My eyes were wild with need. She wanted to push me." I don't know if it was my words or something else ." she breathed. I watched her eyes roll. Her body was perfection. she forced my frantic. Swallowed. I shoved her fingers. . you're exquisite. "More. I would show her what I needed. Stroked." she commanded. Sucked. heard her pulse race at the sensation of being filled. She was so beautiful." I answered. They were dark and calculating." It wasn't a question. Nothing in my century of existence could have prepared me for the taste of Bella's sex on my tongue. God. I pulled our interlocked hands to my mouth. I felt the beginning of a familiar animalistic frenzy build in the pit of my stomach as I greedily sucked her juices from her fingers one by one. and it felt like an apology. "God. my fingers. "You've changed. determined to maintain eye contact. I felt like a monster. deep into her pulsing sex. She threaded her fingers in my hair and twisted my face so that our eyes were locked together." her voice was husky. for the first time in a century. "Yes. but it was too much. . More.My body shook again with the overpowering sensation of really touching Bella. Sly. she was so wet. Eyes trained on hers. I felt completely human." FUCK. dark with lust. Ensuring our fingers were drenched. In my mouth." I managed. landing deep in the pit of my stomach.

Unacceptable. Her shoulders heaved with the effort of a calming breath before she removed her hands from her're here . Beneath my lips I felt Bella's throat quake with the effort of swallowing a wracking sob. More. "Stop it. So sorry. Bella. She studied the sleeve of her pajama top intently.I'm sorry. seemingly flustered. finally expressive. but from a distinctly human apprehension rather than otherwordly instinct. I couldn't slow my thoughts. Don't you ever apologize to me.and I don't know . Don't apologize. after barging into her room. Quietly. desperately wishing that its scorching heat could somehow blister my hand. A repentance. Just stop.I grabbed her ass harder than I intended and clamped her thighs tightly around me." "Tell me what you mean. I needed to say it. After all I'd put her through. my movements. My rehearsed confession was no match for seeing her in the flesh. Infuriating. My concerns about my groveling speech were cut short. her tone was pleading. "I just .and why . I'm so sorry. What you need. exposing her delicate clavicle. welcoming the vitriol. I stilled. "SHUT UP!" She shrieked. she was apologizing to me? It was completely ridiculous. tasting her in my mouth. but -" No. remembering I had purposefully closed her eyelids just moments ago. shuddering with the delicious friction of her damp center rubbing against my straining hard-on. "Bella. she squeezed her eyes shut. The sorrow they inflicted was too much for me to endure. So sorry. and it was an animalistic noise.and six years . unraveling a loose thread.I can't . I desperately missed her gaze. and I blanched. So sorry. "Jesus. she mumbled. It was a plea. Bella. To take what she was giving. I was desperate to have her. Bella. There was both too much to say and no way to articulate it. My erection pulsed painfully beneath Bella's barely-clad ass. I had never imagined it would go this way.and Charlie . I can't. "God." . They were brackish." I babbled. tinged with the same salt as the blood that coursed through her veins. without warning. "I'm sorry. her life. I was overwhelmed." I whispered.but you were gone .I just can't do this right now. holding her in my arms. Or that the last vestige of venom that swirled in my mouth would be mixed with the tang of Bella's arousal and the brine of her tears. Clamping her hands over her ears. And there it was. My gut tightened once again. Her eyes. As many times as I had practiced my apology." I was losing her all over again. head down. She needed to hear it. The tears streamed down her flushed cheeks before pooling in the hollow beneath her jawbone.and you left . losing count of how many times I repeated the refrain. She opened her eyes. But she stopped. I kept her arms secured above her head before bending my neck and dragging my tongue along the perfect ridge of her collarbone." "I don't know what I need from you in this moment!" I again braced for the string of profanities. My other hand made quick work of the buttons on her silk top. I stifled a groan in my ecstasy. I grabbed her slender wrists and pinned them above her head with one hand. I never thought that my throbbing erection would undermine my clear head. conveyed the anguish I had expected but for which I couldn't have possibly been prepared. Please. stunned by the volume and ire of her voice. I thumbed her eyes closed before kissing the tears from her face. shrill and guttural all at once. I laid one hand against her heart. it's too much . Just tell me what you need from me in this moment. and when she spoke again. And then she wouldn't look at me anymore. Edward. In my haste I turned and flattened her fragile form against the door. More.

that the sentiment oozed out of her pores and slapped me in the face. All of it. that I closed my eyes for a brief moment to drink it in.Look at me. that glimmer of acknowledgment would provide me the motivation to continue my existence. Please. She screwed her eyes closed. perhaps insignificant. it is warranted. "That I'm relieved that you're alive? Or that I would have been better off if you had never existed?" Of all the insults she could have hurled. . Tell me anything. "You need to get the fuck out of my house. Finally. before opening them and holding her gaze. piece it together for me. that might still be capable of loving me.. Her pulse quickened and her fawn eyes flickered. combined with the blood and sex. It means that I'm a monster." ~X~ A/N: alerts have been horribly unreliable lately. shutting me out. Though they inspire so much of what we write. before inhaling deeply. moved on with her human life." I nodded. even though you know each of those things to be true. so we recommend that you follow us on Twitter if you want to know when chapters post . "What do you want me to say to you right now. We're pretty fun and we'll let you know about any teasers and other news there too. "You always did know everything. as her heartbeat slowed and the fuschia drained from her cheeks. They served as a blatant reminder that. she could never be as cruel as I had once been. it was her recitation of my words that burned me to my core. It's as if she felt it so deeply. It means that. When she reopened them. I deserve that. Bella. "But I'll tell you one thing. Edward?" I despise you. :) Due to the last-minute decision to post two chapters today and the extremely fun and rewarding detour of our o/s for the Haiti Compilation." Anything. but I knew what was coming. She glared at me now. Loving. I reject you. we don't normally push songs and lyrics unless they are particularly poignant. Bella's theme for Chapter 11 is Speed of Sound by Pearl Jam and Edward's is Crystal Village by Pete Yorn. Edward. there's a part of you. The resulting aroma was so satisfying. Remember?" Keeping it light. "It's all true.) It will be within the next week or two and we promise to tweet when we have an exact date. Please. we don't have our next update date pinned down right now. As if. in her innocence. I could smell her disgust in the air. even if she ultimately said no. She was angry. My own name sounded foreign to my ears. so completely. Please take a listen or read these lyrics if you have a chance. Pleading. Hoping. "I can't read your mind. Bella. (M also maaaaaay be taking a muchneeded vacation. Edward.. "So pretty please." It means that I was a horrible boyfriend. so divine. Because I sure as hell don't know. Talk to me. I couldn't read her mind. her goodness."masenvixen". "You don't have to say any-" "That I'm happy to see you?" "Bell-" "That I hate you for coming here?" Yes. right? So why don't you tell me what it means. And it meant. her stare was cold. laced in an icy edge I had never heard fall from her lips. I love you. Craving her smile. I forgive you." Her hostile tone was unrecognizeable. In this case.

XOXO ~M&V . thanks so much for your support of this story.As always. and we cherish each review.

I could barely fathom him living in my world. Fuck. in an attempt to keep myself from passing out. Why was he here? Where had he been? What did it mean? Lightheaded. What the fuck just happened here? The experience had been so surreal my brain was still struggling to process it. feeling as if the wind had just been knocked out of me. With every breath. the buttons scattering on the hard wood. on his absence. I clutched my chest and gasped for air. Hugging myself. I had tolerated . After six years without him. due to some problems with the FFn alerts. and PMs about the reunion chapters. I had pushed him away. tweets. Fuck. cherished . I froze for an instant as panic set in. Here's wishing that Edward pins you against a closet door:) Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. I don't know if I'd ever be able to digest it. I rocked back and forth on the foot of my bed. Edward's sudden reemergence in my life was as inexplicable and unexpected as his departure had been six years ago. watching the glowing red numbers on my clock radio change shape over and over again. make sure you've read Chapters 11 and 12 (the BPOV and EPOV of the long-awaited reunion). But no matter how much I tried to wrap my mind around the encounter. I closed my eyes and began to breathe sharply in and out. he'd appeared out of nowhere and what had I done? I'd attacked him like an oversexed teenager before shutting him down and pushing him away. I had been so quick to kick him out of the house that I hadn't asked him a single thing. I inhaled more of the distinctive scent that clung to the collar of my pajamas.the cavernous hole in my chest because it was an ache that linked me to him.*Chapter 14*: Chapter 13 A/N: It's come to our attention that.God. And this morning.well. And three of them . and now six years' worth of questions were gnawing at my gut. Ten minutes passed. I started to replay the morning's events and immediately felt sick to my stomach. nothing made sense. And what had transpired between us . why he'd left. replacing the butterflies which had swirled in my stomach with a solid block of ice. what he had done . I leaned forward and rested my head between my knees. I clawed at my pajama top and heaved it to the floor. Or unleashing primal screams. The realization struck me with blunt force. Suffocated by his scent. counting to ten with each breath. Twenty. and then to convulse. I began to shake. my inadequacies as a girlfriend and as a lover. So.the big ones . And thanks to all of you for the reviews. Chapter 13 BPOV Any hope of keeping my cool shattered the instant he jumped from my window. I had blamed my deficiencies as a friend and as a daughter. Oh my God. Six fucking years. as I sunk into my bed. many of you didn't realize that we posted TWO chapters on February 4th. forum posts. much less standing in my bedroom. or hyperventilating. Thanks to annanabanana for her beta prowess and to WindyCityWonder for her prereading magic. I . I had spent six years of my life wondering where he was.were threatening to eat me alive from the inside out. if you haven't already.hell. Fuck. Thirty.

I closed my eyes and inhaled a shuddered breath. taking the panicky edge off of my thoughts. that Edward would have fled the room. Because I had told him to shut up. mechanically. untainted by fear.. to the timbre of his voice as he mumbled the words I had waited so long to hear.watched me sleep. I should have been less clingy . I had wasted years after he left beating myself up. what had I done? I needed to pull it together. retreating into a oncefamiliar existence governed by second-guesses and regret. Again. No. wearing nothing but my pajama top and a thin pair of lace panties. thrusting inside of me. or self-loathing. I leapt to my feet and began to pace aimlessly. and I had no clue how to find him. For leaving me? For Charlie? For something else entirely? I had no idea. or covered me up while averting his gaze. I needed to collect myself ... surprised by the strength and conviction conveyed in my voice. this time at my doing. Edward had been here. "So sorry. maybe not all the cards. Not this time. I had spent too much time blaming myself for things beyond my control. I needed to think. I felt myself withdraw. and disappearing in his mouth. Because I had kicked him out. but it left me no less confused as to what had just happened and what it all meant.clamped my eyes shut and shook my head slowly. He had let me push his old limits. No. and listening this time. He had been here. to taste. in my bedroom.. Well. And when I'd opened my eyes. to touch. "No. I retrieved my laptop from my carry-on bag and powered it up on my old wooden desk. I should have talked to him. What the fuck did he expect? What was done was done. I felt a warm rush between my legs as I recalled his cool fingers stroking my slick entrance. The army of "should haves" marched through my mind. I should have controlled myself. Listened to him. No. He might come back.. I refused to blame myself now. God. he had been staring. He held all the cards. He was gone. This Edward had allowed himself to stare. And there was nothing I could do about it. I snorted. He had come while I was asleep . catching my reflection in the mirror. And he was sorry. it was really him.corral my disorganized thoughts. naked save for the lace panties he'd found so captivating an hour ago. He might not. How long had he been watching? The Edward of my past wouldn't have allowed himself to stare.wouldn't have .. and for a moment. No. The realization that I couldn't have . hearing. Or if he would want to be found. each touch of our exchange. He was sorry. I should have stopped insisting he kiss me . He had trusted himself." Sorry for what." I insisted aloud. I opened a blank document and prepared to do what had once come naturally when I was . He had left. He had displayed his desire. analyzing each word. God. Only now did it occur to me that I had flung the bedspread off in the night. And he was gone.done anything differently calmed me. Still. wondering what I could have done differently: I should have been a little less pushy about him changing me . each look. I was uncovered when I awoke. I couldn't be sure.

Jake. "Why. like. why not? That's what vacation time's for. When I didn't answer. preparing to let my fingers fly. is something wrong?" Damn. always on holiday breaks from college." he replied. no. over a year. I had not thought about anything except Edward. he rushed. a few stuffed deer heads hanging above the bar. My stomach churned as I stood and kicked the suitcase. confused. As I rifled through the hastily-packed contents. After several long minutes. saw his lust-darkened eyes behind my own closed lids. taking a swig from his beer. Upon spotting him. Edward's body. Fuck exercise. looking for my Nikes. And that was just fine with me. my hands poised over the home keys. Whenever writing failed to clear my head." ~X~ The Hangout was one of Forks' two bars. I stared at the blinking cursor. I reached for my phone." . and dialed Jake. I had not thought about him once since waking up. But nothing came. ignoring the "missed calls" notification. resting my forehead on top. I would never have believed I had it in me to jog without falling on my face. I needed to get out of the house. I was too flustered. "Hey. well.plagued by thoughts of Edward. what's up Bella? How ya doin' this mornin'?" "You working today. But I'd picked it up in college. It being a random Monday afternoon in September. ya know. I still heard his shimmering voice echoing in my ears. Shit. tops. Aiming for nonchalant. An hour. running helped. He picked up on the first ring. "Really?" I nearly squealed with excitement. forty-five minutes. I hadn't written about him . and a handful of regulars that kept it in business. Taste him on my tongue. I was hoping for a drinking buddy." "God.just get it all out. Jake?" "Yeah. my fingers touched upon the worn cotton of my blankie. Edward's touch. "Hey." Thank God. I just. my sex. "Yeah. I could still feel the cold burn of his hands on my wrists. "Sure. but I can meet you at The Hangout in. I doubted I'd see anyone I knew today. I flung open my suitcase and dug around for my tennis shoes. I immediately felt a wave of calm. I could still smell him in the air. I closed the screen of my laptop with a sigh. "No. definitely. Out of this room. my least in the non-fiction sense . and had always run into a lot of former classmates from Forks High. Look. too distracted by the physical senses that were clouding my mind. It's fine. I chucked him on the shoulder playfully and took a seat on the stool next to his. I'd been there a few times. I walked in and found Jake perched on a bar stool." "Now?" He was incredulous. I waited. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. yet I had no doubt that the words would tumble freely this morning. To let the words flow . It had an old jukebox with classic rock and country tunes. I have to finish up on this alignment. you're awesome. See you soon. What I needed was a drink. Edward's mouth. And waited. and now it was an essential part of my sanity-saving routine.

my nose. and my head immediately felt lighter. "Ok. "And what're you chasin'?" "Huh?" He rolled his eyes and shook his head in mock disgust. Bella. I gulped half my vodka tonic trying to rid my mouth of the tequila taste." he teased. well. you could have told me this was a dress-up occasion. And I don't even do shots. "Attagirl. or do you want to drink?" Definitely want to drink. The conversation was easy."Hey!" His eyes twinkled as he flashed me his usual grin. "Shots. where's the salt and lime?" I asked. we stumbled to a booth in the back of the bar and moved on to more serious conversation." He turned his back to me and motioned for the bartender. Bella. well. Corrie. it's good. the laughs plentiful. enhanced by a copious amount of tequila. vodka tonic?" "Ok. Jake. Tears sprung to my eyes." I slurred. Do you want to drink. I almost laughed. . "What?" I was stunned." he grinned devilishly. He told colorful stories about pack politics and difficult customers. I entertained him with anecdotes about the ridiculous excesses of New York. and this was the first I'd heard of any love interest. So you get what you get. She's the kid sister of Ryan. ok. instantly gasping at the fire that burned my throat. I just wanted a distraction. and of LA. So. ok. please. what's going on?" It was such a simple question. All I had brought to Forks with me was the bag I'd taken to New York for The Today Show and book signing. If I was going to do a tequila shot at noon on a Monday." Good God. motioning to his grease-stained mechanic's shirt. The bartender slid the vodka tonic and shot glasses of tequila toward us. This morning. Enough said. After the morning's unexpected visitor. and I'd worn nearly everything in it twice. I'm buying us a round of shots." You have got to be kidding me. no longer straining to force the smile that played on my lips as we spoke." . then. mister. slightly panicked. it's. Bella." "Well. then another. Bella. I tried. Jake rarely dated. actually." Understatement of the fucking century. It was vintage Bella and Jake. Don't be such a wet blanket. Instead. At some point. well. "Come on. I was delightfully buzzed. "Wait. turquoise silk blouse and a pair of knee-high suede boots. "Yeah. the hole in my chest had resumed its once familiar throbbing. Now I wished I'd fished my old jeans out of the laundry. I'm a little under-dressed. this guy I know from the shop. I would need a little help. "Ok." "And? Keep going. stalling. "Damn. "No. her name's Corrinne. uh. "How's your love life?" "Ahh. Bella . You look a little dazed." "Ok. "Umm. like. "Just a few hard days. I swallowed. I mean. and Jake raised his glass. Jake guffawed and slapped my back." Somehow I didn't think The Hangout was the place for merlot. We downed another shot. Looking me up and down. . completely sober no less. "One vodka tonic and two Cuervo shots." "Ok. This is how I drink. I'm running out of clothes. barely noon. It was exactly what I needed." he nodded. you know? And today . The combination of Jake and alcohol muted the pain to a bearable ache. fair enough. You said you wanted to drink today. and bit my lip. So can it. "So. he whistled. "Spill it. . three times even. I had decided on a slate-colored pencil skirt. Jake. what's your poison? I'm buying." His russet skin took on a slightly reddish hue. aware that our booming voices and childish snickers were disruptive to the regular customers. ." I grabbed the glass and tossed my head back. Better.

. I'm really happy for you. blinking back tears. but content. . "Yeah. My whole world had turned upside down. And with Jake's help. I can't wait for you to meet her. I'd convinced myself it had nothing to do with Edward. But anyway. with everything. Bella. Jake. "It's . Jake had hidden his disappointment by adopting the bravado of "not wanting to be tied down. "So. What is it this time?" "Nothing." "Cool."I'd seen her around for awhile. That was just a few weeks ago. Jake squeezed my hand. his suntanned cheeks and sandy hair drifting out of focus as Edward's alabaster face and tousled shock of copper came into view. as the image of Thomas in my mind began to blur and fade. at the shop and around alternate ending. We hit it off. then into my eyes to give me a half smile. " I felt a slight pang of guilt that abated the moment I took in Jake's easy smile." Jake tore the napkin from my hand and wrapped my hand in his." "I'd love to meet her." he said sarcastically. "Did you imprint. and I knew how lonely he'd been. of course. ." Jake rolled his eyes. I guess so. had no idea how complicated it really was. Bella. I always figured that she must have a boyfriend who was away at college or something." "Yeah. fumbling for the right description. His voice was stern but his eyes were kind. "No. That I'd always be loved. to make me feel better. . it had been six years and it hadn't happened yet. you know. The only person from whom I kept no secrets. But I couldn't. what to do. He would be livid. A good man loved me deeply. Jake. wouldn't he? . I smiled in spite of myself. Jake always knew what to say. He would be. And now. Just a few short days ago.was a lost cause. and I already feel like I've known her forever. On some level. . Fucked up? ". what's the deal? You and Thomas must be getting serious by now. complicated. you know. "Well ." But he'd never pulled any punches with me. my turn. No longer sure-footed and secure. . but you've been so busy . fine." he said softly." "Well. As I sat wrapped up in my thoughts. it's not that complicated." I said." I replied blankly. I'd pulled myself up. dusted myself off. Shy. You love him or you don't. and love in return. . so . I had been . When he'd failed to imprint after joining the pack." I finished. "It's just . So . Bella. "But you know. It was out of the question. How's your love life?" Apparently the tequila shots were interfering with my ability to think clearly. I had a life. . or was it just ." He glanced down. that's really great. Now. but it wouldn't be a tragedy either. It might not be the fairy-tale my fictional characters enjoyed. because I hadn't seen this question coming. She really wants to meet you. "Look." I shook my head as I chewed on my lip and began to shred the paper napkin. "I think he's getting serious. not happy perhaps. ." There was no easy way to ask this. and I like her. With stubborn resolve. "God. feeling the uneasiness from the morning return to the pit of my belly. Confused. I'd known for months that I would never be serious about Thomas. I realized the magnitude of my denial." he agreed as he shifted slightly in his seat. in one way if not the other. Fame. I suddenly wished desperately I could tell him what had happened. . She's beautiful. And it's nice." I paused. but really quiet. . "Thanks. Normal. . I meant to tell you. I was here after work with Ryan one night. . I had buried my father and Edward had come back. really. . you know? To have something in my life that's completely human. sounds like it. You either want the guy or you don't. right?" My stomach twisted at the mention of Thomas' name. " I trailed off. reminding me that I'd never really be alone. Jake. I didn't imprint. all too familiar with my relationship woes. He was the only one in my life who knew the whole story of me and Edward. and Corrie met us for a drink. and built a new life . I really like her. A lot. even.the man I wanted . "So. Settled. I was adrift. He snorted. . Anytime. in the span of three days. I'd spent years coming to terms with the realization that the life I wanted . but we were just waiting for the right time. And totally alone. I had more money at twenty-four than most people amassed in a lifetime. . . A career. Bella. "Ok.

I mean. Edward was here. we thought we smelled the Cullens yesterday at the funeral. Bella." he glanced around furtively. I leaned forward and said in a hushed voice. "Right. Holy shit. Bella. seriously. go for it. "You knew. We're pretty sure he was using his freaky voodoo powers to keep the peace.stupid enough . That was far too . I didn't think he'd be arrogant enough . I mean. His eyes lost their compassionate twinkle and turned hard as he spoke again. You ok?" I snapped out of my trance." I hesitated. sorry. not just Edward?" "No. Jake was my friend. My best friend. If Jasper was here. I obliged in spite of myself. I closed my eyes and rubbed my temples as if to stimulate brain function." Even as I began to open my mouth. And now they could be here. As Charlie would say." I interjected. but we couldn't be sure it was him. for not starting World War III at Charlie's funeral." He cleared his throat. but not until -" Jake continued his explanation as I sat with my mouth hanging open. "He wasn't going to hurt me. the Cullens? They?" I interrupted. in Forks. "Ok." My grudge with Jake disappeared as quickly as it had emerged. Kind of surprising. Jesus. I noticed several heads turn toward our table. The pack was pretty upset at first . "Jesus. Out of the corner of my eye. Maybe he'd get it. Something crazy. And I didn't want to upset you on top of everything else you've been dealing with. "I need you to be totally honest with me. Besides.but I told them not to do anything. You know. but I saw . Not causing any trouble. actually . Then again. I mean. I certainly wasn't going to tell Jake what really happened." "You knew?" I sputtered. "Something happened this morning. rising from my seat on shaky legs. The weird one.fucking pissed. but my mind was still stuck on something he'd said earlier. and I knew he was recalling my Senior year of high actually find you. Jake. but it turned out they were just watching. Plus. second-guessing myself for a split-second. He could have found out about Charlie from Alice. I just don't know what to say. a lot of things had happened this morning that had never seemed possible. I knew it was a bad idea. "That bloodsucking sonofabitch. not just Edward. His eyes narrowed as he slammed his first on the table. Maybe he'd put his personal prejudice aside for me in this moment. "Please promise you won't be mad. Edward was at the funeral. I ordered Seth to check it out during the ceremony. I ignored him. maybe Alice was here. The temptation was too great to resist. As I turned it over in my mind. "S'okay. no. I had bigger fish to fry. listen. I guess it was possible that he'd understand. especially when my capacity for logical thought was so impaired. It was too much to take in. "Wait. But the weight of the secret was too much to bear alone." Jake gave me a pointed look. It didn't seem possible. splashing the tequila from two waiting shots onto his shirt. I guess. Bella. My God. calm down. it started to make sense. earth to Bella." The drunken confession was about to begin. He was with the blond one." I didn't get any further. "Umm. Jake's hatred for Edward rivaled his love for me. my legs refusing to hold me steady. and my inhibitions had dissolved into a sea of tequila. shrill. then let the words spill out in a rush. but possible. "So. and you didn't tell me!" My voice was loud. preparing to say something further. Jake. But thank you. What happened with him? Do you need me to get the pack on alert -" "God. The alcohol that swirled through my veins was now mixed with shock. deciding instead to give him an edited version of events. Maybe they were all here. I need to tell you something. Before I could talk myself out of it. and I felt all the blood rush to my face. together. whether due to too much booze or to hopeless delusion. I'm gonna kick his . a heads up would have been nice. they seemed to calm down pretty quickly. With Jasper. Jake. I was going to tell you eventually. the treaty and all. and with rage. "I." Jasper. "Plural? As in. motioning for me to sit. actually. Not likely.

She slid in the booth next to Jake as Ryan. You tell that leech to go to hell. whatever. I promise. and you tell me that him coming back is not a big deal?" I suddenly regretted telling Jake. "Jake. He's dangerous. Touch him. Talking out loud about Edward's visit had made it all seem somehow more real. but stopped short. I teasingly batted my eyelashes at him and crossed my heart in a mocking gesture." Jake interrupted my thoughts. "Save it. that sounded good. you know?" There. clutching the rim of the table with so much force I was worried it would splinter. aching. but "not a big deal" was certainly not one of them." Two more Aerosmith songs and another tequila shot later. to see him again. I was fine. But listen to me. Just tell them I'm in rare form. I just need to see what he wants. "I know that you're . he didn't say . remember?" I started to object again." "I will not keep my voice down!" he hissed through clenched teeth. "I get why you're mad. I know better than to try to argue with the stubbornest woman in the world when she's got her mind made up.we're . A deep and primal part of me needed to hear him. Edward coming back was a lot of things. Closure. Maybe I need it for closure. please." he repeated. and her eyes sparkled a brilliant green. And I suddenly found myself desperate. nodding solemnly." I laughed. But. not wanting to let on to Jake that he was too late for that. Though the threat had long been extinguished. I mumbled. so not to judge me based on this meeting." It was totally true." I grabbed his chin and brought his eyes to mine. . ok? I feel like I owe it to myself in some way. To condone the urge that had taken root in my belly and grew stronger with each passing moment. but Corrie and her brother wanted to meet us here. distracted. and we were belting out an Aerosmith tune. "I didn't let him get very far. We'll all be watching. He rolled his eyes. "Shhh. Jake was right. willing him to calm down. Bella. it's time for another round. "Nothing stupid. "The bloodsucker destroys your life. more subdued." I trailed off. Corrie was beautiful. hammered. at which point my mind floated back to Edward. "You need it for closure. please. but friendly. I was begging Jake to understand. her older brother. See him. reading a text message from his phone. to say the least.embarrassing. I really do. exasperated. I knew that. "Whatever. Jake. Don't do anything stupid. Bells. throws you away like a piece of trash. He let out a sharp gust of air and relaxed." Three shots later. shaking his head. "Fine." "Umm. Not a lie." I opened my mouth to object but he stopped me before I could start. While he had been angry at Edward for leaving. Bella. Jake had dumped a roll of quarters in the jukebox. if that's ok. She seemed reserved. "Good for you. "Hey. Recovering. I'll be watching. It's really not a big deal. well. ordered a couple of beers . his fury after the incident with Laurent in the meadow had been unlike anything I'd ever seen. You're a big girl. The pack had killed Laurent and soon after had caught up with Victoria. realizing that this conversation would have been much easier. Keep your voice down. Bella?" His face was tomato-red as he raised his voice. I nodded.I mean. I think I might need to see it through." I agreed. Before I knew what I was doing. look at me.a little drunk." I pleaded. Her auburn hair hung in loose curls past her shoulders. what a poor choice of words on my part. But I think he's sorry. "Ok." "Wait. He released his grip on the table and looked at me with a blank expression. He was white-knuckled." Wow." Grinning. Bella. we were . Corrie and Ryan arrived. Jake was just trying to look out for me. "On that note. "Well. And if I see him around here. "Jake. "Not a big deal? Not a big deal. yeah. we didn't talk . now. I'll break his goddamn neck. And if he so much as makes you cry -" I held a hand up. without a dozen tequila shots between us. don't do anything stupid. You don't need me to tell you what a bad idea I think this is. . until the stadium-rock lyrics were interrupted by a piano solo. "Ok. Jake's bitterness toward Edward for leaving me exposed to such danger had never thawed. Jake. But I'm telling you now.

Jake. and Ryan followed me. what do you do?" "Oh. "Oh. To sober either of us up. Why don't you let Ryan drive you home. ok. I excused myself and scooted out of the booth. I shifted toward Corrie. I actually ran into her the other day." Jake protested. Ryan came back to the table." Damn. Bella. And. "Hey." Though my mind was running in circles. Get home. and we can go. "So." I gushed. he and Jake started talking shop. but still. . I just finished college in the spring. my mind was clearly somewhere else. "This is my treat. Jessica Crowley?" I froze. I need to sober up. Oh my God. hi. and after exchanging pleasantries. . I forced myself to focus on Corrie. But listen. for her part. "Does anyone want a cup of coffee?" I asked. uh. "Corrie. Edward was at his house. Corrie." I chided him. thanks. It would take a lot of coffee to sober you up right now. and so thrilled that Jake's found someone that he's absolutely crazy about. but couldn't believe it. "So. Bella. I just have to pick up my credit card." Jake introduced. recalling my recent run-in with Jess. Though the conversation and drunken haze was sufficient to distract me for a few minutes at a time. I'm so happy to meet you. And if they own the house - Focus. "Is the party over or something?" "Yeah. apparently. The Cullens were at their house. Jake. of course. I don't know. I do know her. you know. the way his eyes shone with an intensity I had never seen. "Cool. Impatient now. I'm an accountant for a real estate agency. It's been a long few days. Bella. Actually. "Umm. that's cool. . where do you live. Maybe they were still at the house. and I'll catch a ride with Corrie? We can get our cars in the morning. It was plain why Jake was so taken with her. How could I have forgotten? The Cullens still own the house. anyway?" Aha. The way she traced circles on his forearm with her fingertips. I think so. his affection for her evident in the way he clasped his arm around her shoulder to hug her to him." "Nonsense. "Well." I lied." This was a lost cause. she was obviously smitten. So risky. "She seems . nice?" I chuckled. thanks. I hedged." Maybe they had been at the house. Jake was right. "I'll just pay the tab. this is Corrie. God. "You're coming with me. "Ok. she's at least entertaining. I work with a girl who says she knows you. Of all the friends Jake could have asked to drive me home. Bella. I liked Corrie already. So. It was so stupid." I turned toward the bar. It was clear in the way she said his name. I really appreciate it." I managed. Jake would strangle me if he found out." "Oh. Bella." "Ok. Home was not my destination of choice. he picked the one guy in Forks who didn't know where the police chief's daughter lived. "Next time. It's no problem. I told you it was on me. I realized I was staring. The way she tousled his hair. yeah. and snapped my head up before she could notice.from the bar. "We were in the same graduating class. I heard myself say it. "Coffee?" Jake asked. Have a pleasant conversation with your best friend's girlfriend. his pride." "Hey. When he found out. it was too good to be true." Ryan interjected." Corrie replied.

In the meantime. come play with us on Twitter (masenvixen)! . so I'll just tell you when we're in the car."Umm. It's hard to explain." ~X~ A/N: Thanks as always for reading and reviewing. past the Calawah River bridge. quite a ways outside of town. we love hearing what you have to say! We plan to update in two weeks or so.

"No." For me? "HAH!" The bitter guffaw flew out of my throat.was its own brand of torture." I gushed. You're." she called." I stammered. And she had the nerve to say she was here for me? As if she was doing me some kind of favor? "You're here for me?" I managed. She didn't speak but merely nodded. please know it means the world to us that you're invested in this story. But her lilting voice was even sweeter than I'd remembered. It's listed in our favorites.and for the months. we never imagined the immense satisfaction we would get from interacting with our readers and getting to know you guys. Her expression was cautious. sheepish. She was looking straight at me.she's always indispensable but she deserves extra special credit for this chapter. "So. My mind and body had so rebelled against the unbearable loss that they had conjured up hallucinations to keep me from suffering the full weight of the withdrawal. you're not crazy. For me. cold and cruel. "Al. Here. The words lolled around in my brain as I stood there teetering dumbly with my hand still covering my mouth. Chapter 14 BPOV "This is your house?" Ryan sounded skeptical. Thanks so much! Thanks to our lovely beta Annanabanana for her mastery of all things canon . leaving me over and over on an endless loop. And now here she was. I clamped my hand over my mouth and swallowed purposefully. Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. it's a few days past Reader Appreciation Day. I'm really not sure how we ended up with the Dream Team of prereaders.owe it to yourself. but we cannot say thanks enough to LolaShoes.*Chapter 15*: Chapter 14 A/N: Well. :) Whether you review or just read." she answered. "Oh. it's true. Of course not. I'm not crazy.was indescribable. fumbling for the door handle. damn. afterward . then added in a barely audible whisper. for her part. yep. then. your comments were invaluable.Alisss?" I slurred. The simultaneous loss of Alice . She just posted her Haiti o/s "Bulletproof" (E/J) on her profile and. "Bella. I hadn't seen her move. please know we read every single one and send each other giddy emails when a particularly fun one comes through. her posture guarded. When we started writing. and Ilsuocantante for taking a first thoughtful pass through this chapter. years. This one was dense. "Family money. did not look my head still floating in a haze of tequila. Alice. slamming the door behind me before he could question me further. but we still wanted to take a moment to let you all know how much it means to us that you take the time to read this story. . Bella. "Thank you soooo much for the ride. I spun around to face the porch and stood wobbling in place as the truck crunched away down the long gravel drive. feeling my blood race in my veins. if you haven't read it you really . Ryan." She was at my side in an instant. were preferable to the empty nothingness that filled my waking hours. Surprised by my outburst. willing my eyes to focus. The pain I'd felt when Edward left me . I stared at her for a long moment. incredulous. But even my nightmares of Edward. WindyCityWonder." I lied. Although we are admittedly behind on replying to reviews. really .you're back. Without warning. Her arm twitched. Without ever looking back." I tripped out of the raised cabin of the small truck. "for you. seemingly fighting an urge to hug me. Bella. She had left me without a word. We're here. "Umm. The delicate bones of her ivory face were framed by her signature boyish closest and best female friend .

"Believe it or not. "Sooo ." she began. He was gone." she said soothingly. She touched me. "Is he here?" I demanded. "Care to elaborate?" My tone belied my exasperation. I was worried about you. I was grateful then for my drunken state. "I know this must be confusing to you. I stiffly leaned into her. How did she know"Yes. I was too late." Right. . I'll explain what I can. to be exact. not knowing how to respond. or celebration. broken glass. . "No.maybe both ." She scrunched her nose as she said the last word. Not in six years. Once we crossed through the foyer. interrupting my train of thought. I realized then that my voice had taken on a screechy maniacal tone. lived-in feeling. Not looking for you in the traditional sense."You left me. she set about brewing a cup of coffee in a gleaming chrome machine that had probably never been used. How anyone could believe she was human was unfathomable to me now. . he's with Jasper. Alice whisked me into the pristine gourmet kitchen. "When we first left Forks." she acknowledged. she seemed to be considering what to say next. as if she were describing a piece of rancid meat. "No. host any good parties lately?" I half-joked. her brow furrowed. It should have been a milestone. I was startled by her beauty as she sat facing me in the lit kitchen. minus the scattered party decorations. "Plus. I don't think my sober brain could have processed being back at the scene. "If I had seen you coming earlier. "I know about the Quileutes. She pulled out the stool next to mine and sat she slid a steaming double-shot of espresso in front of me. of course. Bella. I wanted a little time alone to talk with you." I snapped. draped in a drab canvas which obscured its graceful lines. My best friend. covering my hand with her own tiny palm. the past six years have been just as confusing for me. A sign of independence. "Bella. anticipating my question." Wait. and puddle of blood." She drummed her tiny fingers on the countertop as I gaped at her. giving the room a cozy. Eighteen. and my heart sank in my chest. "Right. ignoring her attempt to compare our respective suffering." I stared at her blankly. and her gold eyes glittered beneath the halogen pendant lights. Edward's piano stood in the corner." . Bella. Her eyes trained on mine. and -" "I think I can keep up. but I can't see you when you're with the wolves. Of course you can. The instrument's mournful appearance was the only discernible evidence this room had not seen life. I'm sorry. How you were holding up." she interrupted. Alice gave me a look of disapproval or concern . I froze. "It's complicated. "I can't tell you how sorry I am about Charlie. And you never even -" "-Shhhh. The living room looked nearly the same as it had when I last saw it. ." I let out a silent exhale at her words. But I had learned on my eighteenth birthday that I was anything but independent. unable to think of anything appropriate to break the awkward silence. but . Bella. Not since my eighteenth birthday. You were my friend. in spite of myself. "Come inside. in a long time." she said. I would have told him to stay. "He'll be back soon. Fresh flowers stood in vases and lit candles flickered above the mantle. I wanted to see what you were up to. After easily lifting me onto a bar stool and sliding me up to the sleek granite countertop. I mean." she said simply. I frequently went looking for you. wrapping her strong thin arms around me as. Her skin was luminescent. Understanding where my mind had gone upon entering the room." She linked her arm in mine and led me into the enormous and once familiar house." Alice said.

It was fitting." We're? "So Edward knows?" I asked. but .your . overwhelmed by the memory of that day. But now. I was desperate to find the place where he had first shown himself to me in the sunlight." "Sure. I wasn't alone. perhaps really for the first time." I coughed." I urged. So I put two and two together. A man." she said." Alice said. I wanted to honor his wishes. Or at least it had been our meadow. What had once flourished was dead." she continued. "Bella? You ok?" I nodded at her through watery eyes. well." The meadow. . The wolves saved my life." "But . Blindness. It was all gone. "Go on. "Yeah." she started again. So tied to your . I had foolishly thought it would bring me closer to him somehow." she trailed off. "We didn't know the phasing still happened. I searched for weeks and could hardly believe my eyes when I'd stumbled upon it. forever marred. I heard him tell you about Victoria's plans. I still looked for you frequently then. "And we're forever indebted to them for it. "I was worried he'd . sure. If Alice couldn't see the wolves. you shouldn't have bothered to worry. right?" "Ah." she said quietly. And so far. "I know what happened in the meadow. But my vision returned soon after. The grass was brown and overgrown. So I saw Laurent confront you in the meadow. But the lapses in my vision were so consistent. serious now. I had heard about the Quileute wolves from my family's encounters with them years ago. I wanted to know it all. that Edward didn't love me anymore. "I desperately wanted to find you." I sneered the word." I mumbled.I drew my hand away from her grasp as I swallowed the lump in my throat. .friend. no matter how much pain it caused. "I know. "How did you know they were wolves? I mean.I'm missing something." she broke off. to talk to you. . a life. I had considered that Alice might have seen visions of me after she left. it could have been anything. well. Eventually. . seemingly out of nowhere." she explained. I understood then. I stiffened on my stool. vanished like the rich autumn leaves and replaced by the harsh reality of winter. the pieces didn't fit. No flowers bloomed. Alice. He hadn't loved me enough to stay. Then everything went dark. Bella. And he was never coming back. choking on my coffee. I realized that the blackouts usually happened when you were in La Push. He didn't love me enough to return. None of us did. Our meadow. and several seconds of silence elapsed before she resumed speaking. No sunlight streamed through the barren tree branches. Now it was ruined. the reality of this one. as she had." "I was so distraught when I couldn't see you anymore. "But I honestly never imagined Victoria held such a serious grudge against you." I thought out loud. "But as I said. I panicked. "my visions of you would be lost to darkness." "Every now and then. trying to sound casual. how did she know about Laurent? "I should have been looking for them – for Victoria and Laurent. "You did what you had to do. I knew. . After Edward had left. But although he was gone. my hurt and anger were augmented by a stinging embarrassment. She knew about Laurent? "Yes Bella. The wolves saved me from Laurent that day. having confirmation that she had seen me at my lowest and had left me to suffer alone. and from Victoria soon after. looking at me with a grimace.but . At first when I couldn't see you. And after hearing how Laurent was killed ." she responded. I looked past her to the wall of cabinets as she continued. "He's my brother. clearly frustrated with herself.

"I'm sorry. . looking away from me." I murmured. "We tried to follow him. "I always saw all of those qualities in each of you." I insisted. his need to punish her eclipsed everything else. and we deferred to his judgment." "I didn't say she was alive. She dropped her gaze finally. Victoria is dead. seemingly willing me to understand some deeper meaning to her words. seeming to be fumbling for the right choice of words. she remained silent. Bella. . she deserved to die. "He found her quickly. "Oh. "What do you mean. I sat for a moment. and Bella. When Edward found out about Laurent he ." Her eyes still held mine. unable to form the words to describe whatever had transpired." She looked at me again. "After I told them about Victoria's scheme. He wouldn't let anyone help. he didn't just kill her. when Edward found out about Victoria hunting you. I knew. "What do you mean. Yet now. I would never have believed my brother was capable of such . Emmett and Jasper planned to dispose of her themselves. ." She shook her head again.well he -" she shook her head. "You tell me!" I screamed. I'm safe. It wasn't possible. shaking her head.or. "We almost didn't tell him. 'no'?" I asked. "Yes.our capacity for compassion. centuries ." She seemed to be talking to herself now more than me. needed to die. "I know you did. I sure as hell wouldn't be. It didn't make any sense. . Bella. Jake had lied. Thanks to them. needing her to finish. "You tell me now goddammit! You owe me that!" I brought my balled fist down hard on the cold granite. I waved my hand in front of her face. confused. knowing gaze." "No. ." She smiled at me meekly. If I hadn't seen it myself." Alice shook her head once as her eyes pierced mine with a serious. But for what? As I struggled to make sense of her words. About fifty miles away from here . "Yeah. her stare focused on a point several feet behind me." I waved my hand in a dismissive gesture. in Carlisle's case. "And believe me. understanding. "Jake told me so himself." She cleared her throat before resuming. So he knew. He said he wanted her all to himself . "He was too fast. It couldn't be. We wanted to help him." She didn't blink as she stared at me. She was telling the truth. "It was far as he knew anyway . stunned. they did. "No one needs to protect me now. as I looked at Alice's pained face and lost eyes." She resumed. I'm glad that she's dead." she winced. Alice?" I begged. mercy. "What the fuck do you mean?" Again. selflessness." I wasn't sure how to respond to this piece of information. The pack found her about fifty miles outside of Forks soon after the incident with Laurent. So what? It didn't change anything. He told me so. Jake had killed Victoria. Bella. to prove to ourselves that we aren't monsters. but he left me defenseless . That we still retain the core of our humanity ."Yes. Bella. "Alice!" I hissed at her. . But Carlisle insisted that Edward had a right to know. you know. . " . No. well . That all ended long ago. I realized Alice's eyes had become glazed. " I could feel the effects of the alcohol subsiding slightly as I took another sip of the black coffee. But he wouldn't wait. But -" She faltered. If she were alive. But -" "But what. Edward may have killed James." Alice continued. "So. "The wolves didn't kill Victoria. "Alice?" She blinked rapidly. Alice?" My voice was ice. "he tortured her." She trailed off. .to overcome our nature." she continued. and I nodded. looking up with pleading eyes. I gasped.against Laurent and Victoria. shifting her eyes to her hands. "Bella." she choked. "But. the members of my family have fought for decades . "I said the wolves didn't kill her.

We sat like that for several minutes before moving into the living room and settling into the large white sofa. but are keeping a distance for now." Overwhelmed. Alice curled up next to me. I reached forward to grasp her hand. I tucked my legs underneath me and hugged a throw pillow to my chest. just . She jumped to her feet and clapped her hands together as if an idea had just occurred to her." My mind drifted back to that day. to Laurent's sickeningly soothing tone. Bella. even to someone as sadistic as Victoria.he just . And Edward knew. It was Edward. he .cruelty." Alice nodded. He had lied." I sighed in affirmation and then stewed in silence. All along. I didn't want or need any further detail about how Edward had killed Victoria. and the living room's obviously out of the question. "A bath? No. My eyes welled with tears as we sat there staring at each other. Remote. so much. "That's weird. delicate ever since we left Forks. She returned the squeeze of my hand a bit too hard. patting my knee and sitting up. ." I knew vaguely where Yellowknife was. well ." Alice cut me off. "It's a lot to process." she soothed. ." Sighing. her eyes wide. her eyes shining. interrupting my train of thought." She grabbed me by the wrist and led me down the hall. before. Tears sprung to my eyes. and I smeared them away with my trembling hands before they leaked onto her silk shirt. Alice continued. Let vengeance get the best of him. "Ahhh.he doesn't -" There seemed to be more she was struggling to say. "Not that seeing you almost cry isn't so much fun and all. "Edward had been living there alone . warily cocking an eyebrow at her. Not likely. I could never forget the day Jake had told me about Victoria's death. kind of overwhelming. "Oh. "Oh. you know?" "I know. "Once he found her. and it was clearly upsetting Alice to discuss it." I wrapped my arms around her tiny shoulders. "So. "Edward's relationship with the family has been . "He's not a killer." I sat up. but why don't we go somewhere you can relax?" "Like where?" I questioned." I whispered. He'd picked me up and twirled me around. . "It's just . hugging her tightly as the tears streamed silently down my face. "She would have tortured me. . letting her know it was okay to stop. A crop of questions sprang to my mind: Why had Edward been living alone? Why had his family gone to stay with him? And why was he here now? "Hey. once he saw what her plans were for you. and I leaned my head on her shoulder. "You're okay? Being in here?" she asked." Alice said." I started. shifting. . I rested my head in my hands. stroking my hair. the words trapped by the lump in my throat. flustered. laughing as I cried tears of relief. "Laurent told me so. Somewhere in the northern territory of Canada. Her face relaxed visibly at my first voluntary touch. before now. I missed you so much. "I'm going to draw you a bath!" she cried. where are -" "The rest of the family is still in Yellowknife." "I know. she added. I swear you'd be thanking me for this. . It was Edward. but I'm . but when it comes to you. Alice. Bella" she started. "You won't feel a thing.he lost himself. if you knew what she had planned for you. "if you only knew how sorry I am. well. It makes total sense! The kitchen's totally uncomfortable. . Tiny as she was. Correct me if I'm wrong. Bella. . I had never seen Alice appear vulnerable. I felt as if the foundation under my feet was crumbling away. . lighten up! It is not weird. I had forgotten how annoying conversations with her could be." I protested. . sweetie. "He doesn't regret what he did to Victoria or to -" She paused. So. but I didn't care. . willing myself not to break down. Bella. I promise. no." I whispered into her hair. As if everything I had firmly believed about the past six years of my life was fluctuating. "Me too. Bella. They check in with me. Alice. Like really weird.

" Her eyes were intense." she said simply." Alice sat cross-legged on the floor next to the tub. but a dog nonetheless. But dog? "It's true. Alice. seeing Alice wince visibly at my calling Jake "my best friend. God. and he's been really supportive-" I stopped short. I buried my nose in the crook of my elbow and sucked in a deep breath. "I know. Of course he did. The car wreck may have sped up the date -" I scoffed. yes." I mumbled. If I was completely honest with myself. taken aback. her head barely peeking over the edge. I know. "Believe me. Once he found out about the book . It was only a matter of time. Not that I'm not glad to see you. er. But the tiny vampire and her perfect senses had planted in me a seed of self-doubt. One that bathed in tequila and rolled in an ashtray." she leaned in closer to me." "What?" I asked. Alice looked amused. she turned her back so I could disrobe and climb in." she shrugged. This was relaxing. I promise you will learn everything in time. Bella. your book and your. "See? You smell like wet dog. meeting her gaze again. Or at least I didn't think it did. "So I can thank a wayward deer for Edward showing up before I reached senility?" "No. Trust me. But why are you here? Why now? If it's because of Charlie." And with that. The book. sad." I muttered. He knew about the book? Shit. inconspicuously twirling my hair around my index finger and bringing it to my nose. yes. I'd forgotten how hard it was to tell Alice no. "We can smell them. it was the main reason for the thrill that had torpedoed through my body when I'd found out it was being published." she whispered. and in any event. I let out an involuntary sigh as the warm water enveloped my skin and the scent of the bubbles filled my lungs." I scoffed. Partly because I don't really understand the answers myself. "Whatever. . Bella. "Even before the accident. "Yep. You win. crinkling her nose. she clearly wasn't waiting for me to answer. well." I jerked my arm away from her. And. Marlboro Lights. "Then why-" "-Bella. "It's not that. "You've had a rough few days. "It's the wolves. rolling my eyes. "One thing I can tell you. she grabbed my sleeve and held it to her nose." "You can smell them?" I repeated. I shuffled down the hall. Jose Cuervo. I suddenly got the distinct feeling that I wasn't the only one who had suffered the past six years. "he wasn't going to last much longer." she stopped long enough to look at me as I rolled my eyes." I was certain that the look on my face betrayed my dissatisfaction with her response. I never did.assuming you don't want to hang out in one of the bedrooms . When the bubbles crested and the mirrors were fogged. characters. Ugh." she shook her head firmly." Of course I'd wondered if he would find out about Dusk. "What did you expect Bella? You're everywhere. But your questions aren't ones that I can answer.that we've . maybe. are on a lot of people's minds. I just don't get it. "Plus." she started again before poking me playfully in the ribs. "Fine. "it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world if you wanted to wash off that dog smell." My eyes flew wide. And I'm sorry that Ed. he was going to come back to you. It still didn't smell like dog. "This is nice. closing my eyes as I leaned my head back against the cool tile. She led me into the gleaming bathroom and set about filling the tub. you know Jake's my best friend." I admitted. I might add." "You were gone a long time. Alice was right.made it tougher for you.

" Her smile dissipated. studying her delicate fingers. "Um." Ah. My eyes brimming with tears. God. To be constantly reminded of the girl he had once taken a passing interest in. Who obviously couldn't let him go. Edward. He'll be home in a while and you can do just that. I understood how ubiquitous it was. "For what it's worth. I had wondered what his reaction would be. Throwing my head back against the porcelain tub." I've missed a step." My stomach turned. you know. . Oh. "This is not up for discussion. I dissolved into a fit of uncontrollable laughter. even after all these years. "Of course I read it! It's not every day that I'm featured in a best-selling novel. "Gosh. I had not allowed myself to fully consider what that would mean. But for some reason. I finally regained my composure. "What does that mean?" I was growing tired of her cryptic answers. the possibility of Edward learning of its existence had grown from remote to distinct." She winked at me. only to be interrupted with constant images of our high school love affair flitting through the minds of hormonal teenage girls. "No. I suddenly felt utterly exposed. She looked down again. "You need to ask him that question. I imagined him trying to go about his new life. assaulted by the fantasies of gaggles of simpering girls. Still. She sighed. but I couldn't catch my breath. trying to compose myself. So finish your bath. he may as well have. I smiled at Alice." her voice was a whisper. however. Oh. The widespread popularity of the book had taken me completely by surprise. I looked at Alice. Well. I had spent at least a dozen flights angling my body toward the window in an attempt to avoid detection by the inevitable three passengers clutching a copy of Dusk. "He has his reasons. or both. "Has he read it?" I peeked at her from between my fingers. Hell. that must have been awful for him. struck me as hilarious. and the crude sound bouncing off the tile triggered a fresh round of giggles.mortified." she teased. I appreciated the tenderness with which you portrayed 'Celia' in spite of everything that happened. You are still in no shape to drive and you don't have a car here anyway. "You read it?" I buried my face in my hands. Though I can't pretend to understand what they are." My tone was mocking as I wiped at my eyes with the back of my hand. and I'll find you something to wear. feeling the drunken confidence that had led me here begin to erode. "But not in the way you seem to be thinking.At the time. Alice gave me a wary look as I indulged in my private joke. I should have been embarrassed . yes. serious and brooding. But. After another long minute of hysterics. She wasn't smiling. Bella. um. clever anagram. She held a hand up." I cleared my throat. And with it. And. waiting for her to tease me for my outburst. "It was. My cheeks flamed as I sunk deeper into the sea of bubbles." "No. Anger? Remorse? Indifference? I had settled on the latter as the most likely response in the unlikely event that Edward Cullen should ever happen upon a dusty copy of my humble novel in the bargain bin at a local bookstore. It must have been a nuisance for him. I snorted. moving on with his "distractions" as he'd called them. even the New York Times had dubbed it a "phenomenon. wow. and I wasn't sure if her exasperation was directed at me. even. sorry. I -" I started to protest. the image of Edward.

But after the hot bath. We'll tweet when 15 is up. she was gone. And even though my tequila-induced bravery had started to wane. suggest that Alice drive me home herself. leaving no room for debate. "And Bella. the aching need that had drawn me here had not. the proposal of sleep was too inviting to resist." she said. sweetie. why don't you sleep it off while you wait for him to get back?" And with that. and wrapped myself in an oversized terry-cloth towel." she instructed. I could always refuse. giving me an apologetic look. Alice rapped on the door before walking in and tossing me a men's dress shirt and a pair of panties with the tags still on. stepped out of the tub. I had come here to see him." A/N: Thanks for reading. She started to leave and hesitated. xoxo -M&V .Your eyelids are drooping. After lathering and rinsing my hair and skin. lingering in the doorway. "There's only one bed in the house. See him I would. "Put those on and come with me. My limbs suddenly felt as if they were made of lead.

To get the fuck out. "Alice gave me the gist. He shrugged. This chapter. And of course she's confused. Tantalizing cleavage." I raked my hands through my hair. She cried. felt her." I felt my lips curve involuntarily upward as I spoke. she's not seventeen anymore. defensive." I admitted. well. But as he closed the distance between us. "It wasn't like that-" I started. I know. "So. She kicked you out. Edward. And. she was pissed. finally. Thanks and snuggles to WindyCityWonder. shaking my head lightly.. He approached me cautiously at first. I paused. No decisions have been made. She said "fuck"? I laughed without humor. the passion. I shoved my hand in my pocket. "I know. "But that wasn't all. Take your phone. seeking explanation rather than confirmation." he interrupted. recalling with vivid clarity the intensity." So I've noticed. gracefully on my feet. thanks as always to our readers. XOXO MV Chapter 15 EPOV I leapt from the window and landed." Jasper cocked an eyebrow. I shot him a baleful look. for once. tasted her. moving to where she sat curled up in the corner of the couch. "No. Screamed. is exponentially better for their feedback. I was still half-delirious from the scent clinging to my fingers. Jasper's mind drifted to the black and white Vanity Fair photo of Bella. zooming in on individual segments of the photo one at a time: Pouty lips. I couldn't even explain myself. I . I exhaled sharply at this last piece of information. Ho-lee hell. that wasn't all. jaw set. Alice was waiting in the living room as I entered. Jas. not even bothering to look up from her magazine as she wordlessly answered my pending questions." He smiled. and LolaShoes for prereading." He stated this simply. "And she kicked me out. "I've never seen her so angry. Horn-rimmed glasses. Of course he could smell her. Shit. Jasper's waiting for you in the garage. Do you want to talk about it?" "I was too overwhelmed. Sorry. in particular. and I realized he was staring at the fist curled at my side. I knelt in front of her. Go on. the connection I'd felt when I had kissed her. Jas. waiting until she finally looked down at me. His gaze shifted lower. "God. Tangled curls. his posture relaxed and his lips turned upward into a curious smile." I blurted. Thanks to NinjaShoes for letting us borrow her momma for a few. patting her hand before heading to find Jasper." I nodded.. giving me a gentle smirk. . She didn't wait for me to speak. Hell.I really touched her. Told me to shut up.*Chapter 16*: Chapter 15 A/N: Thanks to annanabanana for her loving comments and perfect edits. hands shoved in pockets. eyes narrowed. I took one lingering glance toward her bedroom before sprinting home through the dense woods. ilsuocantante. "Yeah. "She kissed me. I kissed her lightly on the cheek.

embrace. But this morning."And? How are you feeling about all this?" he asked. her rage. the same electric pulse which had drawn us together that first day she entered my life still hummed and crackled between us. not completely. filled her completely.for the feeling of the wind cutting sharply against my face and the dopplar effect in my ears as I threaded my way through the spindly pines. Of course Jasper knew my own emotions better than I did. She had kissed me. her scent still radiated off my fingers as if it had permanently soaked into my skin. mere feet from her sleeping body. the hue looked nearly human in comparison. When the flying colors changed from mud and moss to a crisp blue and white. The speed was too much even for my own keen senses. her tears. he knew where I was headed. She was hurt. "You're happy. even for me. I was happy. Despite her anger.for the first time. the feeling was so new. When she'd awoken. As I stood in her bedroom. all I put her through. I'd felt it the moment I'd crawled through her window. They were almost entirely foreign to me. I feel . increasing my speed as we ascended a steep incline in the foothills of the Cascades. I felt myself harden. Covering my . to fear them. The sun beat down from a clear cobalt sky. She had touched me. heading north out of the city limits. And yet for some reason . they had held her gently. . there was no denying it. . Confused. Though I had long since abandoned Jasper in my wake. Jasper pulled a baseball from the cabinet along the back wall and fired it at me. I knew. . she felt it too. The moment her blazing hands connected with my body. yet tinged with an aching familiarity. fumbling for the words to describe the thoughts swirling in my mind. "I don't know. . I had grown to loathe. I pressed forward. I sat down in the middle of the snowy basin. It was as undeniable a presence as another person in the room. Bella was the only human I ever had the inclination to really touch. kiss. Reaching my destination. I had touched her. In over eighty years. It was still there. After all I've done. I clenched and unclenched my fist as I watched it glitter in the sun. Enhancing the already pristine memory. but weapons capable of crushing her wrists or snapping her neck with a single false move. I couldn't remember the last time I had run just for the thrill of it . caressed her lovingly . No. the sensations coursing through my body. Even so. recalling the euphoria of touching Bella . the tug had amplified exponentially. I had never given much consideration to my hands before she entered my life. But even though I trusted he was right. Captivated. supernatural. I closed my eyes. they were not merely hands. and though my skin glistened like the white blanket beneath me. . I couldn't even plead for forgiveness properly. Furious. "I should be cursing myself. But soon thereafter. At this last thought my body seemed to lose its orientation on the earth. My hamstrings stretched and burned through the effort that was. The rushing landscape faded to a blur of green and brown. .there . I was still struggling to accept it. Tasted her. I slowed. Edward. so unfamiliar." ~X~ We took off together. I caught it a millimeter from my ear. My feet barely registered the ground beneath them as I flew faster and faster through the outskirts of Forks and halfway to the Canadian border. reliving the morning's events and trying in vain to identify exactly how I felt. I had no right to be happy. " I trailed off." I said honestly. I squeezed my eyes shut. In her proximity. I ran for over an hour.

as it rushed through my mouth and down my throat . A low growl rumbled in my chest as I twisted into my swing. Crushing the ball with the bat. The feeling was comparable only to the overpowering nirvana of tasting her delectable blood. grinning. with Jasper. "I know. It was as if every part of her . dishing back Jasper's trash-talk. She belongs with me. I knew Jasper had borne a special kind of pain. We belong together. Just wait till I knock your pansy-ass to Alaska on the first pitch. teasing me. hitting. ." Jasper clapped a hand on my shoulder. The sound that emanated from my body was no low rumble. He didn't speak but gave me a sympathetic look. I found myself letting go.for others . clearer. And now I know you mean it. not amused. Edward. She was made for me. Winding up. Comin' atcha. But as I breathed Bella's potent arousal . See this ball? It's Jacob Black. My epiphany was interrupted by Jasper's advance. her soul.nose and mouth with my palm. her body. his thoughts again preceded the pitch." He squatted down next to me. "She was made for me. But my time with Bella this morning had changed the dynamic. Edward. Jasper. we all know footspeed is one of your gifts but Jesus. her mind. there was no need for an apology. I had never experienced the intoxicating high of a drug. "But it's just the opposite. having fun for the first time in years. Though Jasper had a more powerful swing. his thoughts were deliberately taunting. None of this was your fault. The violent noise reverberated off of the surrounding peaks for several seconds as I stood there. Even for you… Realizing I was preoccupied." I lowered my eyes. it sailed far beyond the mountainside encasing us. We've always known. But as the game wore on. For so long I've viewed that as a tragedy. even the scent of her arousal . his thoughts stilled. This was all me. Ok. When it was his turn to pitch. reminded of the suffering I had inflicted on my family in my stubborn refusal to listen to their pleas over the years. my speed ensured he never made a full trip around the makeshift diamond. knowing the consequences for them . What is it?" he asked.I entered a state of sublime half-consciousness. they had carefully avoided mentioning Bella." I looked down at my balled fist. "She's my singer. Edward. Jasper doubled over in laughter.her blood. and Jasper was suddenly comfortable talking with me. His eyes were wide with shock as he ran toward me. again. Sorry. As a human. what the fuck was that? I mean.wrong. ~X~ At first it felt strange . Special Delivery for Edward Cullen: one playwright boyfriend. his eyes willing me to continue. I guess that sucker's a goner." I spat on the ground." Although I had said this before. the conviction in my voice this time was sharper. his eyes kind and searching as he stared at me. The angry snarl started deep in the pit of my stomach before erupting from my throat as a savage roar. Jasper. I know Edward.had been designed specifically for me. "I've been such a fool. "Well.could be grave if the topic were broached. clasped my hand as he pulled me to my feet. I inhaled deeply. On the few occasions I'd spent time with my family after leaving Forks. He rose and. shaking my head. even – pitching. Bella. I knew. "Talk to me. stunned. ok. He reached into the canvas bag at his feet and pulled out another ball.

my voice barely a whisper. It was a simple phrase. It may not be much to go on. I may have hurt her too much." "God. the line was quiet. "Carlisle I'm—" I stammered. "Perhaps." "She's angry. Now. If you could have seen the thoughts . I had lost track of the trajectory of the ball." I said. to play for Esme. "There is no more ball. Edward. "She hasn't decided against forgiveness. been loving her. I found myself wanting to wrestle with Emmett and spar with Rosalie.. though I knew Alice had filled him in on the highlights. It's time to stop punishing yourself. The important thing is you're there now. unable to finish. Years of Bella's fleeting life that could have been spent together." I continued. Even from a . I had wasted years. to talk with Carlisle. "Did I miss? Where's the ball?" I asked. "It may be too late. Just talk to me. I squeezed my eyes shut and locked my knees in place. I . I've wasted so much time. I felt more alive than I had in years. "Son. putting a respectful distance between us as I took the call." "Yes. Phone in hand. recalling Alice's assurance that no decisions had been made. We were only a short distance into the trip when my phone rang. Humans used it every day. Edward. it's alright. "There is no more decision. I dropped my arm to my side. I have to fight for her. signaling an incoming text message." Carlisle's voice was steady. "About me. Though things were far from perfect. The words hung heavy in the air between us. Though I had never answered. "Son." I started. Knowing who it was from. Jasper's eyes were saucers as he gestured to a sprinkling of brown debris littering the pristine snow that lay between us.." "It's enough. he always left a message.Though I knew I had taken a swing. "Carlisle. Edward. "Carlisle." "I was so wrong. "But you can't control the past. we moved at a slower pace on the trek back to Forks. laughing and reminiscing about games past. Years that I could have." I knew his words were carefully chosen. They were all the same – slight variations of the words he had spoken to me after the Juneau incident: I'm here. I didn't need to look at the screen to know who it was. About her. I slowed to a walk as I glanced at the time. my gut tightened and my hands started to tremble. What are you going to do?" he prodded." After the game. "At least not yet. but I could hear the relief in his tone. Carlisle understood how difficult it was for me to accept when things were beyond my control. Jasper slowed his pace. "Yes." I sighed. worshipping her. Once sated." I repeated." My phone buzzed then." I answered." Carlisle said. remembering the countless images of Bella that had drifted through the minds of the mourners at Charlie's memorial. of course. and for several long moments. unsure how to begin. when you're ready. He had called me at the same time every day since I left for New York. we hunted.Alice just . Carlisle. I suddenly found myself missing the rest of my family. My family never did. you have a decision to make. "It may be too late. Wasting time. I felt more like myself than I had in years. son. disoriented. but it's all that I have. should have." I trailed off. "Yes." he agreed. enjoying the chase and kill of the mountain lion that inhabited the northern region. his tone gentle." I croaked. But you can't dwell on what's passed. Carlisle. About everything.

~X~ As I stood on the cliffs at La Push. "Don't be mad. My bed? BPOV My heart caught in my throat when I realized we were standing in the doorway of Edward's room. Bells! God. I wondered now whether she hadn't bought the panties ." "God." She bent down to stroke my hair. My dread.and the bed . Asleep in my bed. My eyes closed as the flavor of him filled my head." Alice whispered. And for the first time in years. "It's new. cloaked in his scent. I tipped the phone slightly and opened one eye to peer at Alice's message. Perhaps my subconscious was not so easily fooled. But there was one major difference. My breath hitched. The men's shirt Alice had given me barely covered the pair of black lace panties she had thrust on me after the bath. It's just in my nature to be prepared. Hesitantly. I had to admit that the cool silk of the sheets felt refreshing as it skimmed over my bare legs. "I love you too. The peak of my lunacy. It had been too long since I'd seen his face. It looked the same as it had the last time I had seen it. He doesn't even know about it yet. So I went for it. I rolled my eyes at her before crawling onto the luxurious mattress. At it." My heart swelling with love. Wait. I realized he might just be there to wake me. Scores of CDs lined sleek modern shelves. I stared slackjawed at Alice. I heard Jasper's thoughts as he ran to me. I inhaled his scent on the collar. Bella was at the house. and my head swimming in tequila. For all of it. no!" . Perhaps the danger of merely standing on the precipice was not enough. "Just delivered. too tired to protest or even fully analyze the implications and presumptions inherent in the gesture. Bella. when I finally heard a desperate scream begging me to change my course. I knew as soon as I slipped on the shirt that it was Edward's. damp air. Dozens of leatherbound journals were stacked neatly in the corner. as I drifted off to sleep. Asleep in your bed. And I know. then pulled the down comforter to my chin." she admitted. I clamped my eyes shut." I stopped short. Bella's here. inhaled his scent. "I love you. I was at the height of my anguish. Centuries-old original art hung unassumingly on the walls. I can't help it. For me.distance. Alice. I took a long breath. heard his voice. Bella. Counted to ten. and my body was hurtling through the cold. As I lay there surrounded by his things. But although the bed and the panties were new. straining my ears to hear him." I kept staring at her. "No. "And I'm so sorry. At her. Resigned. My last toe had sprung from the slick stone. I snuggled up in Edward's bed. And nothing. I peeled off my hooded sweatshirt and inched toward the edge of the anticipation of this very night. Silence. Tucking my chin. sensing my anticipation. I knew that I would dream of him. Alice . For him. There was a bed in it.

somehow. it's ok. Bells. I struck the stinging water with a smack before plunging into darkness. Panicked. lifting me out of despair. "I'm here. "Shhhhh. Kick your legs. I let myself sink to the sandy floor. he brushed the hair from my damp forehead before swaddling my legs in his and bringing his lips to my ear. a bevy of sobs escaped from the pit of my gut as I sucked in a mouthful of saltwater. Edward. "Come on. I hit a rock and realized in vain that I couldn't push anymore. Calmer now.Charlie? As I plummeted toward the angry surf. Swim. But I couldn't. He stayed with me . I was. "Attagirl. Choking. Bells. with my father. I flailed my arms and legs wildly before my instincts took over. Shhhhh. groggy. that I forgot to brace myself for the impact. the echo of Charlie's wails bounced inside my skull and threatened to split it open. You were dreaming. hanging impotently in the abyss. fuzzy. I couldn't do anything except stare. ruling me to conserve my breath and energy so that I could push off once I reached the bottom." he soothed as he rocked me gently back and forth." he pleaded. My arms and legs were numb and sluggish. Shocked." he begged. That's when I saw him. And he was still here.rescued me. his face. . He guided his fingers down the front of my chest and clasped them over my heart. Just breathe. I was so thrown. And then I was drowning. You can do it. I was being pulled. I became vaguely aware that the pitch blackness of the water was slowly turning a navy blue midnight. would be a good way to go." Where was here. I'm here for you. I was in his room. The icy water flooded my throat. in disbelief. You're ok. "Don't give up. so utterly baffled. "Swim. I thrashed my limbs clumsily about the freezing water. hoping as usual that this simple gesture would return me to my dream. With him. I opened my eyes. Listening to Charlie for once. To him. grief-stricken. Bells." he yelled. Hands as cold as the water itself dragged me from its icy depths. sweet baby girl." Spooning me. Swim. approaching the surface." Without warning. I considered that dying here. sweetie. scorched my lungs. I closed them again. sobbing. Oh my God. I groped his neck. exactly? My eyes darted frantically around the dark room and made out the inky outline of my boots lined up neatly next to a pair of men's shoes. Charlie. Bella. I had dreamed of him. As the current whipped at me from all sides. ~X~ "Breathe. Bella.

exploring him the way my teenage hands never had. moaning softly at the slight friction the movement created. to understand. He exhaled into the crook of my neck as I moved his hand teasingly around my nipple before flattening his palm firmly against me. we lay entwined. barely a whisper. Coiling his legs around mine. warm ones. his chest no longer rising and falling in its heavy rhythm. Oh. "Mmmhh. I reached my hand behind me to tug at the nape of his neck. My head swam with a hundred unasked questions. I just wanted one night. as desperate as I was to know. then lashed out. I knew that the things yet unsaid between us could only further tilt my world on its already skewed axis. I had never felt his erection pressed firmly against my lower back. creating space between us. he pulled me closer. Or if I had. I moved my ankle to rub along his shin as if for confirmation. my shoulder. I felt the icy burn of his touch through the soft cotton of my shirt . God.his shirt . I reached for his hand and gave it a soft squeeze before guiding it to my left breast. Just the thought of his hands on my body caused my arousal to pool between my thighs. I understood his reluctance. tightening his grip around my waist. feathery kisses on my hair. here. Make it easy for him. One night to pretend that whatever explanation he would offer tomorrow could satisfy me . the growing bulge in his jeans. familiar arms. One night to let passion lead where. He shifted lightly. stilling it there. I was equally afraid of what knowing would mean.and I nodded in affirmation before leaning my head back to rest in the crook of his shoulder. I shifted my hips and felt his stiffness twitch against me. One night to bathe in blissful ignorance before being faced with the weighty decisions that would follow full disclosure. he shifted slightly in the bed. Yes. His hand still planted on my breast. I deserved one night. he dragged his index finger up my breastbone and stationed it at the top button. and his nose skimmed the back of my neck. Edward. Charlie was gone.that Edward didnt love me. I had come here to find the answers.many years ago. Alice had seemed to be holding so much back. tomorrow. Taking my cue. Close enough to feel his soft hair on my cheek. ." he moaned in my ear. Edward inhaled sharply. reason might not. touching me. To have his hands on me. I would have my answers in the morning. yet her revelation about Victoria had caused me to question the very foundation of all I believed about the past six years . . He needed some encouragement. I was then too naive to realize what it was. my throat. He nuzzled my ear before planting soft.It all came back to me then. But although Edward had spent countless nights in my bed when I was still a high school girl. One night in his bed. He stilled completely.could warrant the forgiveness he was seeking. remembering my outburst this morning in my bedroom . hard legs wrapped around my soft. as we were in the midst of a passionate embrace. folded in the same familiar embrace of years past. that I could trust Jake completely. And now. We groaned in unison. and his body grew rigid behind me. He sighed and pulled me closer. It was a small movement. . He had stopped breathing. we fit neatly together. his cold. stiffening his grip on my body. All I wanted in this moment was to feel him. I would guide him through this. I rubbed them together. Even after all this time. but one I had felt many times before .how I had fallen apart. Yes. Not anymore. And now. needing me. As I lay encased in Edward's strong. Edward was .

studying his smooth lips." he laughed. he hitched his leg over mine. And then he pinched my nipple." he said softly. he swept his parted lips over the fabric. We lay like that for a long moment. Our lips quickly found each other and settled into the familiar rhythm of years past. "I need to . he kissed the fingertip at his mouth and brought my palm to his cheek. "You're ticklish. and gave it a gentle tug downward. Take it off. twining it in my fingers. Panting. he inhaled deeply before brushing the side of my hand with his cool lips. my ribs. I've missed you. Please. His long fingers played at the lower hem of my shirt and then slipped underneath." "Please don't. pushing myself deeper into his touch. Edward. My whole body heaved in response as he moved inside my mouth. Staring. but soon changed course. bringing my index fingers to his lips. explored each other for the first time. A flicker of pain flashed in his eyes before they narrowed and grew dark with lust." Seeming to understand. Much too soon he was pulling away. Yes. "You never let yourself find out. His tongue was softer and wetter than I'd imagined and the delicious taste of him soaked into mine as his breaths came cool and shallow. But then. hard for me. rubbing me. Edward. "God. to feel him against me. I sensed that he wanted to explain himself. my cheek. Needing more. wrenching his head from my grasp. slowly creeping up my body. His tongue. respectful kisses of our past. licked. his tongue stilled as he looked up at me. Fisting my shirt in his hands. Closing his eyes. Oh. slid slowly." My words triggered something in him. flattening against my heated skin. It's okay. Bella. "Why didn't I know that?" "Because you never tickled me." He dabbed my neck. His other hand skimmed along the outside of my thigh. I closed my eyes. I flinched. before hooking his thumb through a gap between the buttons of my shirt to tease my navel. I arched my spine." he mumbled. everywhere. hard.that he wanted to talk. But explaining would mean pulling me out of this moment ." I murmured. wanting to get lost in his touch and yet. he leaned into me. his sharp jaw. familiar. "I'm ready to learn. giggling. before the heat of the moment escaped us. He looked down at me before planting two sweet kisses on my lips. The kiss started out tender. He kissed my chin. my collarbone with kisses. my breasts.a moment I had craved for so long. deliberately past my lips. traveling wildly. he gripped the back of my scalp as he pressed me firmly into his mouth. the tickling of my ribcage. Instead. the palming of my breast. As in my bedroom. Straddling my hips. I ached to kiss him. "God. my ear. he bent to me again and dragged his wintry tongue down my neck. over my hips. "But . I was briefly afraid he was going to stop ." He murmured. A small grunt lodged in his throat as our tongues touched. Groaning. which had never featured in the chaste. frantically. when we were pressed tightly against my closet door. before pressing himself flush against my back. My eyes raked over his face. and didn't know if I would ever see again." "Shhhh. lingering above my breast. He opened his mouth against my ear before sliding his parted lips across my cheek.My face flushed with impending embarassment. "Bella. My chest clenched at the familiar sense of rejection." I whispered. wanting to commit every one of his movements to memory: the kneading of my waist. licking my neck before bringing his lips to my ear. I reached for his shock of copper hair. Reaching the fastened button that rested just above my cleavage. Emboldened. he breathed heavily in my ear before rolling me onto my back. My nerves tingled with the overwhelming sensation of his fingers gripping me. . my chest. his eyes twinkling. before locking on his. I felt the growl rumble in his belly as his hands abandoned their tender caresses.

nestling into the tender crevice between my thighs. and down the taut tendons of his neck. you're just -" He faltered as he dropped his forehead to my breastbone. I love you so much. silently begging him to hold me. He started out tentative but soon grew playful." I moaned. his sculpted torso was more beautiful than I had ever imagined. His muscles tensed and relaxed with the obvious effort of his restraint. My mind was incapable of reconciling his words with his actions . yes. Trembling. and I wrapped my arms around him." His tongue darted out to wet his already glistening lips. giving him permission to continue without apology or regret. to be with me. he placed a prayerful kiss on my stomach. the words coated in his honeyed voice caused an involuntary whimper to escape my throat." I had heard Edward swear only once before . the words muffled but discernable as his cool breath puffed against my skin. As he shifted position I felt his rigid length through his pants. he claimed the nipple with his mouth. moving his lips over the shirt while his hands caressed my flesh beneath it." And with that. my heart simultaneously swelled and broke to pieces. His eyes followed his hand as it began its descent down my underarm. I simply gazed into his eyes. knotting my fingers in his hair. "This skin is softer than the rest. his eyes locked onto the waistband of my panties. I clasped his shoulder blades as a half-moan. "I know. "God. alongside my breast." I gasped. "I can't . He drew tantalizing circles around each breast with his finger.God. and around the curve of my much he must be working in this moment to be with me like this. sucking it fervently through the fabric of my shirt. half-laugh fell from my lips.God." He tilted his head to the side. he hunched his shoulders and pulled his sweater over his head. He looked up to give me a lopsided grin." . He loved me. Kneeling forward. Understanding. Leaning forward. and flicked each nipple with his thumb. "Oh. seductive. lifting my hips toward him. and he gave a slight shake of his head. "I know. "Fuck. God. Yet all this time I stopped my train of thought in its tracks. Cupping the swell in his hand. his hair sweeping lightly below my clavicle.the day he had saved me from being crushed by Tyler's van. before hooking it under his collar. I felt his grip on the sheets tighten as the cool fabric beneath me pulled tight. He murmured into my chest.with all he had done. I traced my finger along his bowed lips. He looked up at me and waited for me to speak. Now. He hitched my shirt up to my ribs and paused. He understood. As I felt his bare back for the first time. his hand glided over to knead my shoulder. He refocused his attention. I glanced to my side and saw his fist gripping the sheet." he groaned as he pressed himself into me. "Thank you. to leave the rest for the morning. "Oh. He snapped his head up. I placed my hand on top of his and nodded. "More. He buried his face in my cleavage and moved his forehead back and forth against me." I whispered." he breathed. But now. Still. he pressed his naked chest against me. I gasped at the sight. his lips barely grazing the swell of my breast. I was reminded then of how difficult this must be for him . It was too much. startled. my roving fingers discerned that it was carved in every bit as much detail as his chest. along his jawbone. He gritted his teeth and swallowed audibly before slowly rocking forward to brush my lips with his. "Oh.

With his fingertips. "I'm coming. giving in to his brazen touch. with the intensity of my climax. and with his lips. It was everything I dreamed and impossibly more. He inhaled sharply again. begging. no lover had been able to compete with the ecstasy I imagined at Edward's phantom touch. yes. "Please. I tensed. I had never felt anything that remotely resembled the euphoria of Edward's cool breath on me. and serious again. proudest. he opened his mouth and covered the wet crotch of my panties completely with his parted lips. His icy breath singed my clit and pulsed through my entire body. Edward. Hard." I pleaded. simultaneously gnashing his lips against my clit while directing his cool breeze through the lace of my panties. "Yes. "Edward. is every-" Before I could finish." he added in awe. Oh God. helpless. he skimmed his knuckles back and forth along the valley between my hips. just as he reached up to gently squeeze my nipple. he dug his thumbs into my hips and began panting heavily on top of me. He nuzzled my navel again before sweeping his nose downward until it rested firmly against my lace-covered clit." he said with an impish grin. he explored the several inches of flesh between the top of my panties and the bottom of my shirt. "For me. and saw crimson. bunched as it was just below my breasts. and then growled and shuddered before collapsing. "I've just always wanted to do that. Did I push him too far? I lifted my head. The reality blew away every one of my fantasies. His mouth wide open." I panted. as they left my face and darted over my body. confused. God. He stopped. falling limp against me. He placed his palm over the soaked lace and dug the heel of his hand against my sex. Oh. Panicked. I was instantly seconds. It was him. As if reading my mind. "May I -?" He gestured downward and then rested his fingertips at the borderline where flesh met lace. writhing. Curling his hand into a halffist. asking." Screaming." He hummed against me in response. unconsciously pressing myself closer to his face. A current buzzed in my belly and shot through my spine. breaths away from what I was certain would be the most intense orgasm of my life. he moved it back and forth across my crotch. Cold. He sped his movements then. His mouth surrounding me right where I ached for him. "Sorry. He paid great care to my belly button. for more. he exhaled. "Bella -" he trailed off. Over the past six years. I dug my heels into his back and knotted his hair in my hands. rush up my thighs." I moaned. poking it playfully with the tip of his index finger before teasing it with his tongue. I lay there panting quietly for a long moment before I propped myself on my elbows to look at him. and then shuddered." I cried. His chin now rested on the waistband of my panties. I clamped my thighs around his head. Fast. I was so close. I could feel it build from my curled toes. the sensation so overwhelming that I finally had to push his head away. my body rocked." he breathed. . "Oh God. Whimpering. "God. "Oh." I whimpered. My abs tensed. then freeze. Edward. He drew in a deep breath. wrecked. and linger in the pit of my stomach. before finally letting the air out in a blustery gust against me. nodding eagerly. I threw my head back. and then cleared his throat. and lifted my hips in response. before I felt his body quiver." His crinkled eyes grew dark. I felt my eyes roll back into my head. Don't stop. and most erotic look I had ever seen. beneath him. as he stared up at me with the sweetest. "Unnh. "You're so wet. his marble lips cold enough to shock my aching clit through the thin layer of lace.

"I. Understanding. Straddling him. When I snaked my tongue out to flick his nipple. I tilted my head back. he growled and thrust his hips toward mine. When his pants were off." he explained quietly. His expression changed from pride and wonder to greed and lust. dropping my arms to my sides. arching my neck and moaning at the sight. Needy moans filled our mouths as we moved our lips and tongues together. He slid up my body and rested his weight on his elbow. and lust. "Kiss me. "Bella. he clamped his eyes shut. He opened his eyes. Oh. He relaxed his grip and opened his eyes to meet mine. glaring at him hotly. He slid his hands under my hips. as I focused on the feel of him beneath me." He broke away to look at me then. choking out a strangled moan as he moved forward again in a long firm stroke. Bella. "Maybe not. his sides. "You are so beautiful. his hips against mine. "Bella. his voice strained. "Bella. He rocked his hips back and forth slowly. I tugged on his neck and nudged his chin so his eyes would meet mine. Unthinking. suddenly thrusting forward with more intensity. his stomach. I lifted my hips to push deeper into the sensation. palms down. The supple valley of his perfectly carved obliques. His hands pressed flat above my shoulders. his eyes dark and searching. the feeling of Edward using my body to pleasure himself. The kiss was hungry. He ghosted his fingers over my abdomen before stroking my cheek with his thumb. clawing at the sheet. The masculine set of his jaw. his expression a mixture of pleasure and pain as he deliberately rubbed himself against me. "Go ahead." He murmured. leaning on his side. his look one of shock." he chanted my name between kisses. I was underneath him. "Bella. Eyes trained on mine now. my head lighter than the air around us. The lust he harbored in his jetblack eyes was tinged with a glint of shame. "Wow." I said.I don't deserve this. purposefully. my head flopped against the pillow. slamming his hard cock into my damp center." I said huskily. he lowered himself onto me. I bent my knees inward toward him. I let my fingers explore the firm perfection of his pectoral muscles. grinding myself into him. The sinewy tendons of his forearms. His jaw was set." he struggled to speak through labored breaths. "I can't . My limbs felt limp. He clenched his jaw as his hips twitched. our flesh separated only by thin layers of lace and cotton." he pleaded. I instinctively gripped his ass with my hands. He stopped breathing as I fumbled with the button on his jeans. His arms stayed pinned beside my head trembling slightly with the effort to control his movements.I need to be in control. the whimpers that escaped his beautiful lips. rhythmically. Edward. nudging him to come to me. wonder. as I relished in the groans. Bella." My eyes narrowed as I looked at his gorgeous body straining above me. He tensed underneath me. I let him have a moment. My clit throbbing. mouth agape. burying his face into the bend at my neck. His hands raked through my tangled hair as his length throbbed against my bare thigh. before relaxing into me. then. he tilted his hips back." Stifling a growl.My chest heaved as I stared at him. he hungrily scanned my body and let his gaze linger for a moment at the place his hips met's-" In a flash. Bella. causing his cock to rub against my clit. Inching forward. eyes clamped shut." I said." My command seemed to push him nearer to the edge. of embarrassment. And I wanted to give it to him. "I just . needing more. but he didn't push me away. The head of his cock teased my navel as he stilled after his first pass. urging him . "Okay. I knew what he wanted. "Unhh. I shifted to my side to face him before hooking my leg around his waist and pushing him to his back." I moaned. rough. "but I do. and I leaned forward to caress the soft trail of hair that started at his navel and disappeared under the waistband of his boxers." I whispered. He hissed at the sound of my whimpering.

willing him to lose control for me. But as we lay entwined in the stillness of the moonlit bedroom. in the far recesses of my mind. he relaxed. If it were possible. Finally. He struggled to maintain eye contact while thrusting against me. shaking his head. He immediately stilled his movements. and my lids were heavy as I rested my cheek against the firm slopes of his abdomen. Bella. about us. as I watched him. lacing his fingers with mine. and I wasn't sure if the words. Without even touching my flesh. Wordlessly. But it was the sight of what this was doing to him that pushed me over the edge. I came quietly. his strong body seemed to absorb every plaguing question and nagging fear. his beauty was even more striking as the bliss washed over his face and coursed through his neck. his fists. "I'm coming. his shoulders. His head dropped briefly forward to his chest before he rolled to his side and pulled me to rest on him. as his stare locked on mine. relaxed as I came down from the high of Edward's touch. don't stop.forward. I gazed intently into his closed eyes. and feelings that morning would bring would ever lead me back to his bed. Biting my lip. His hips stilled and head dropped. Please." He sat back on his knees and grabbed my wrists. After what seemed like minutes. his breaths coming more quickly with each stroke. his arms. Edward. I knew that this moment would soon be a memory. shackling them with his hands and pressing them firmly into the mattress on either side of my head. than any human sound. Somewhere. tomorrow. "No. As if hearing my thoughts." he said in a hoarse whisper. immobilizing me in the tenderest way possible. his eyes rolled back before he clenched them tightly shut. painfully. gripping my hands tightly. "Oh God. My body was limp. "I'm sorry. His grunts were more primal. he was bringing me to a brink of ecstasy I didn't know was possible. I-" Fuck. Don't stop. he moved his pelvis back into position and resumed working himself against me in quick firm strokes." he interrupted. him. his arms. . looking at me sternly. "-shhhh. Needing him to take everything I had always been willing to give. He paused for a beat and then released my wrists. He pressed our intertwined hands into the bed. I yielded to the familiar sensation and allowed Edward to pull me into a dreamless sleep. more feral. reverently." The world seemed to stop as I watched Edward coming above me. I nuzzled his chest as his fingertips drifted lightly up and down my back. We would talk about this. he snapped his eyes open. thoughts.

LolaShoes. I feared my cock had less tender plans. The feel of her grasping at me. her brazen acknowledgment of her need. My erection stiffened painfully against my jeans. She was embarrassed. curled as it was around mine before scanning her toned calf. She clawed at me. We lubs you guys. b-day girl BrookeLockart. her smell. to love her. her arms thrashing wildly. The scent nearly paralyzed me . God. WindyCitywonder. Her pulse raced. Her lust. her knuckles white with the effort of her grip. . Her face was relaxed. I figure we'll just keep writin'.*Chapter 17*: Chapter 16 A/N: Thank you all so much for the love you showed for the last Chapter. and then crawling unceremoniously into a king-sized bed. our special guest previewer for this chappie. she had found me. The pads of her fingers were pressed firmly between my ribs. although she was asleep. the room was alive with her. needing me. . *sniff* Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight and a novella about Bree. These ladies give us gentle. most-importantly. Alice had greeted me with a knowing smile before focusing her thoughts for my benefit. their perfection evident even when obscured by the boxy cut of my shirt. reaching across her body to grip my biceps with her nails. I sensed her blush blooming beneath the silken skin of her cheeks. I stilled a moment and put distance between us. it was not for fear of my thirst. I stopped breathing. So soft and warm and so . Because this time. Her proximity. The smell of her sex came in a rush. luring her from her bad dream. I lingered in the doorway. Thanks to annanabanana. Thanks to our prereaders. it was too much. Your reviews are so rewarding. loving. all combined to push me to the edge of my restraint. she wasn't at rest. I ran straight to my room. honest feedback and it is a true gift to have them donate their time and eyeballs and rainbow brite twinks to this story. and her mouth opened but she made no sound. and with relief. Her hair was splayed in glossy ribbons across my chest. When I'd burst into the house. she felt so good.momentarily overpowering my body and mind. I hesitated a moment before waking her up. a small grin playing on her lips. our beautiful red-lipstickwearin' minx of a beta who goes so far beyond correcting grammar it isn't even funny. hilarious and. Thank you for everything. In her mind. was more overwhelming than the night I had climbed into her bedroom. I realized that. Her blood. and settling on her dainty toes. Her sweat. to her flushed cheeks and silky throat. and then over her breasts. They traveled in a slow but unchanging circuit from the delicate skin of her closed eyelids. She was awake less than a full minute when it hit me. I wish we could tacklehug you all but since we cant. Only her hands belied her tension. The delectable aroma of her blood was but a tiny distraction in comparison. And then she moaned. Chapter 16 EPOV She was so soft. As I tiptoed toward her. The vision of Bella in my bed was nearly too much to handle. Every molecule of the air was permeated with her scent. The love that I felt for her in that moment. was so enticing. I slipped into the bed behind her. I first saw Bella soaking nude in a clawfoot tub. I wanted to hold her. Bella. before settling in the back of my throat. My eyes had not left her body from the moment she fell asleep. crashing through me. . ilsuocantante and. and for once. I hadn't stopped to glean details of their conversation or question Alice's motives. The sound rattled in my ears and shot straight to my groin. I studied the lean length of her thigh. to caress her. before even a word left those lush lips. In that small space of time. bb. Though she slept. Her body flailed through her nightmare. my chest tight with anticipation. But when she calmly reached for my hand and pressed it deliberately against her breast. assuming a once-familiar role.

I made up my mind then that I would let go. She writhed under me as I moved. I explored her. ~X~ . my senses were flooded to capacity as it was. Her arousal. Her eyes wide with wonder. without question. My body cried out wordlessly for hers. I knew. And intoxicated with her lust.I wanted . she told me everything I needed to know. the shape of her lips as they screamed her release. As I watched and felt Bella respond to my touch.I would suffer the pain of the venom that changed me a thousand times over before I would ever again let her feel ashamed of her desire for me. And this time. I had felt her. But when she's told me that she deserved it. And. and I found myself focusing on every one of her movements to keep me grounded. I would trust myself.submitting to my weakness. the fantasies seemed a permanent substitute for what I was incapable of giving her. Edward. She wanted to make me come. And with that. for the first time. We both watched as my hand cupped the lace between her thighs. Her downy thighs brushing against my jaw. In the frenzy of our first encounter in her bedroom. I worshipped her with my hands. God. my mouth. her intentions were take it slow. the most beautiful vision I had ever witnessed. Trust us. Teased her. my mouth filled with her exquisite taste.the way we were always meant to be. unabashed in her need for my touch. So wet.wrong after all I had already taken from her. It seemed selfish .Bella and Edward . Spread wide against her covered sex. . Needed me. I was overcome with the weight of my crushing love. My climax with my Bella beneath me was like nothing I had ever experienced. to my lips. while thick in the air. I hesitated. through her clothes. urging me on. she'd given me the control I needed . We would be okay. Watching her. hard for her. Her stomach muscles tightened as she arched towards me. Her soft heels pressing against my shoulderblades. As she lay clutching me in her sleep. this was for me. she was wet. it felt like absolution. I memorized the twist of her fingers. needing her in ways I had suppressed for too long. But this was different. I concentrated on the feeling of her abdomen contracting beneath me. . Though I was tempted to rip them from her body. pushing herself deeper into my hungry mouth. was even more powerful on my tongue. We came down together and the slight weight of her body as she rested on my chest was its own gentler brand of bliss. It was okay. Her blood rushed in a thundering pulse beneath the flesh at the juncture of her thighs. And with pride." she had promised. She wanted to feel me. feeling her dissolve in pleasure around me. Tickled her. though I knew there was still so much to be said. My senses were obscured. I needed . Bella in orgasm was. She didn't speak but nodded her assent. I loved her. I had imagined Bella climax on more occasions than I could count . slick and ready for me.even years ago when I'd had the luxury of calling her 'mine'. I was powerless to resist her. This was us . The aroma in the air was a thousand times more potent than the agonizing scent I'd encountered when I'd spied her in New York. the crease of her brow. blinded. and overwhelmed with the force of it. to my breaths. The words fell from my mouth as naturally as breathing. As I pressed myself gingerly against her fragile body. to see the naked breasts that I was cradling in my hands. with him. She wanted me. When she'd reached for me. she watched intently as I stilled and then shuddered against her. I made her come. "It's okay.

She arched her hips slightly. I discerned that it was clearly a tattoo. The room was silent save for the frantic thrumming of her heartbeat and the soft crunch of my hair now trapped within my clenching fists. and when her eyes met mine. She was closing up. only to find her head tilted toward the ceiling. "Bella. evolved over the years." I said softly. My stomach churned. exposing the sexy lace panties which had taunted me all night long. every word. none of these seemed likely candidates. My eyes were met then with the top of a small graphite-colored mark in the dip below her hipbone. I longed to know it all at once . my delusions of absolution were shattered. Her hands stopped abruptly as she realized what I was doing. "Look at me. The dread slithered through my insides and coiled in my gut. She rolled onto her back. My jaw clenched. She was silent. I pulled my face back a bit to get a better view. Every beautiful part of her had been preserved. She lifted her head slowly." she replied. they expressed worry for an instant before settling into a blank understand every way in which she had grown. her eyes blinking in rapid succession. The shirt had gathered around her ribs. looking at her hip. And then I saw it. I looked up at her then. I knew what it meant. traveling down to the waistband of her panties. Inspecting it closer now. And just like that. "You know what it is. Yes. "What is that?" I asked. My hands glided down her arms in reassuring strokes. My brain relentlessly circled around it." I pleaded. Her hands moved to my hair as I rested my cheek on her abdomen. Leaning over her. . "Bella. I squeezed my eyes shut in a vain attempt to maintain my composure. enigmatic Bella would have chosen to have permanently etched on her skin. There was a time when Bella's every move. but enhanced with a confident sexuality. Just inches from the most intimate place on her body. I could only see the top of the mark . I caressed her belly slightly with my lips. I was desperate for her to wake up. eyes still closed. My face still flush against her stomach. Now. there was no denying it. It was a crucifix. if barely.When the dull light of morning shone dimly in the window. What I was seeing. I splayed my fingers alongside her waist and inched the black lace down ever so slowly as she continued weaving her hands through my hair." Her head sunk to her chest as she released a shaky breath.a bit of delicate filigree peeking out from under the swath of lace. Her actions had once been second-nature to me. I was suddenly desperate to know . my voice tinged with a desperation which stung my ears and lingered in the room. Bella yanked the sheet up to meet her chin and scooted backwards until her back rested against the headboard. My eyes were pinned on the detailed ink on her hipbone. Her astrological sign? A name? A Chinese character? Somehow. her voice flat. She was awake. she had tattooed a crucifix. was as predictable to me as the sunrise. I was baffled as I tried to guess what this new. imagining Bella walking into a tattoo parlor. she began to stir. Please. my eyes trained on the silk comforter. I had fallen in love with a girl. as I stared at the confounding mark. I smirked. she had grown into a see this smallest of glimpses into the life she had led in my absence. It was the same mark that had tormented me two nights ago in her bedroom. What could it mean? Who was I kidding.

" she continued. I stood from the bed and started to pace. You ruined me. "The damsel in distress wards off the evil vampire with a crucifix? Are you kidding me? It's a myth. "is none of your goddamn business. Whatever the explanation. We both knew damn well what the tattoo meant. I just want to know why. you're right. Surprised by the volume and edge in my voice. Through all of the pain. but I needed to hear her. I came close." It was clear she was no longer talking about her tattoo. willing her to explain. I took a step away from her. "You left me. I had driven her to the edge . incredulous. "Jake didn't make me do anything. "Did the dog make you do this?" "No. hooking her thumb through her panties to show me that godforsaken tattoo. No one makes me do anything. but it wasn't a happy sound. for the years of pain I had inflicted on her. "But yes. And I needed her to at least acknowledge it. Our meadow. sneering. Jake went with me to get it done." I countered. For a long time that was all I did." she said coldly. her eyes considering the offending mark. You haunted me. She laughed. I couldn't take the silence anymore. She didn't. For dead. And she wasn't finished." "Jake?" I snarled in spite of myself. My choice. remembering it was Jake who had saved her from Laurent. And God knows. My frustration was getting the better of me and my words came out harsher than I'd intended. he held my hand through the whole thing. "Obviously. "How would you know? Maybe I am. weary of her deflection. recalling for the millionth time since I'd arrived in Forks the dreaded images conjured in the minds of the funeralgoers." I begged." I recoiled. and it sobered me enough to keep her at a distance. "You aren't religious. "What makes you think it has anything to do with you?" I felt the wall which had crumbled between us resurrecting itself. Maybe you convinced me to pay more attention to my soul. And I was desperate to do something – anything – to get rid of you. "WHY? You want to know why. "In the woods. Her silence was maddening. But I survived. but would not let her retreat from me so easily. But I didn't care. My mouth inexplicably flooded with venom. "Just talk to me. Because you said it would be as if you never existed. My heart was aching for her. Finally she looked up at me with a steely gaze and shrugged. You're still here. "I'll tell you this.I stared at her. her hand gesturing vaguely in the direction of her house. "Okay. She remained quiet. We needed to start talking if we were ever going to move past the pain I had caused. no thanks to you. "So when Jake suggested . curse at me." Her nostrils flared as she looked at me with contempt. My stomach twisted. I knew I was to blame." Though I had braced myself for her explanation. stopping in her tracks." "I know. After several minutes. "You obviously had your reasons for permanently marking the most intimate part of your body with that particular symbol. aren't you?" I ignored her sarcasm. I was pushing her and I knew it. Saved her from death she nearly suffered in the meadow." She spat the word. So this—this?" she spat. walking toward me at an incongruously slow pace. She looked down at her hip. her face suddenly painted the magenta hue of her rage. We had just shared the most intimate experience of my life. "A crucifix? A fucking crucifix?" I asked. Why do you have a tattoo of a crucifix?" I asked in a whisper. I just want to understand. She could scream at me." she answered. I flinched. her words still ripped through me." She leapt off the bed. I know what it is. unblinking. and yet I couldn't get her to talk to me. A ridiculous one at that. clenching my fists in attempt to channel my frustration." I said flatly. Edward?" she screamed. "I don't believe you. In fact. It was my decision. But it wasn't. Bella. . Her eyes narrowed as she appraised me a moment before speaking.

to spend an eternity making up for all I've done. She had been drinking. sober. I stood up and jammed my hands in my pockets. I didn't realize that you weren't completely ." It sounded foolish now. my erection grinding into her backside. "You thought that we were okay?" She laughed bitterly. I shuffled backward and sunk into the leather couch. I'm willing to do whatever it takes. You said it was okay. She hadn't meant it. I stared at the grain of the wood floor. Placing her hands on her hips. Bella. not entirely certain that I was. pinching my thighs hard through the fabric. rubbing myself against her until I ejaculated into my shorts. resting my head in my hands. I squeezed my eyes shut for a moment and pinched the bridge of my nose. I owe you so much more than that. Oh. "I tried to apologize to you. . The evidence of the damage I had done was now permanently etched into her skin. Nothing was explain . and chased down her elusive gaze. "What exactly do you mean by that?" Was that a serious question? What else could I mean? "Bella. toeing the line between irritation and full-blown panic. this one struck me square in the chest. I don't know how we're going to move forward together -" "Move forward together?" she interrupted. Fuck. "I owe you an apology. "But I need you to let me in. That we were okay." The look on her face was sheer disbelief. "What does that have to do with anything?" "Before I— before we—" I gestured to the bed.when the second paralyzing realization took hold. I woke her up mere hours later. I sat there squeezing my temples. But you said it was okay. "I realize now that you don't remember. Bella. stopped me. Or a knee to the groin. too. eyes glazed over. when I tried to apologize . It wasn't okay. That she loved me. Where my heart would have been. . While the first one had hit me in the gut. gritting my could you possibly think that?" I dragged my fingernails through my hair. But no. I then pinned her to my bed like an animal. and the crotch. . How was this happening? How could she not remember? I recalled an image from Alice's mind which I had dismissed in my haste the night before. I realize I have my work cut out for me here. the implications had seemed crystal clear. "No. I was unhinged. "Bella. "Bella." I explained. she had just been fucking drunk." She leered at me but didn't speak. no doubt. For once. grabbed her hands. And you . God. we had things to nodded. She had crawled into bed to sleep off a bender. I told you I loved you. "Last night. The realization hit me like a swift kick to the ribs. Of course." Her hands flinched slightly but I kept my grip firm. I had hurt her. "How . I walked to her." I implored. Yes.I shook my head. jerking her hands from mine. . wobbling in the doorway to the house. searching for a delicate way to tell her I had basically molested her while she was too drunk to consent . "Ed-" she tried to interrupt. But at the time. I opened my mouth to say I was sorry but closed it. let me finish. as I suddenly wanted nothing more than for this ." I hissed. forcing myself to fight against the tempting notion that I wasn't good for her. but she had reassured me that it would be okay." The words came out in a rush. "Last night ." I started. she closed her eyes and muttered. even in my own ears. But what we had shared last night had been so true – so undeniably real.

but I was certainly not drunk. Used. "I took advantage of you. "I'm saying I don't know what it means. "Are you saying it meant nothing to you?" I asked. Rationally. unable to look at her. you might consider asking yourself whose fault that really is. "Okay. Don't give yourself so much credit. terrified that she was about to relegate the single most significant night of my life to a temporary lapse in judgment. When she began again. I had no one to blame but myself. . Never in an eternity would I have imagined being unable. and retorted. he seemed to soften." BPOV This wasn't going at all like I had planned. I found myself instantly on the defensive." she replied slowly." She scoffed. "Are you saying that what happened between us last night was just about me . gnawing the inside of my lip with my teeth to keep from saying something I would regret. and I had half a mind to lunge at her. Quickly. I might have been a little buzzed. I was supposed to ask my questions and get my answers. I felt sick. But even when my emotions were at their most raw. Instead." I pressed my hands together and held them under my chin. Cold. So much for calm and rational." I was silent as I stared at her. I took a breath and counted to five before meeting her eyes and asking quietly. tear her clothes off. Manipulative. too." What? I gaped at her. I knew what I was doing. "I remember what I said. "I wanted you to make me come. I was willing to grovel. "But before you judge me. fuckbuddy. She was detached. For being able to separate sex and . Wanted to tease her slick entrance with the head of my cock until she begged me for more. It didn't fucking matter. grappling to explain the embarrassing truth about the impulsive teenage decision to get a tattoo. I wanted you to shut the hell up and just touch me. the woman standing before me was someone else entirely. "and love. . her voice was eerily calm. deliberate voice. Because God knows I wanted it. I was supposed to start this conversation. Give her what she wanted. and her cheeks and chest flushed a brilliant shade of scarlet. what you had to say. eyes blazing. Edward. . But the worst agony was." The blunt impact of her words sent me staggering backward until I landed against my closet door with a thud. getting you off?" I choked out the words." She looked away and swallowed once before finishing. "I'm not saying that. and fuck her senseless on this floor. And then he had accused me of being fucking drunk. but Jesus. . I was willing to beg. . feeling every inch of her tight." She paused and tilted her head slightly as she spoke. my words clearly hitting their mark. When I spat at him that he had only himself to blame. My cock stiffened reflexively at her blush. I had done this. But I was not willing to be her . Christ. Because I fucking loved her. For once. I closed my eyes. Wanted to bury my length deep inside her. No. But this was not my Bella. . I spat a wad of venom on to the hardwood floor. my lust at its most savage.conversation to end. I wanted-" she looked away for a brief moment before staring me down yet again and speaking a slow. Wanted to take her bare breasts in my mouth and suck on those delicious pink nipples. What I did. I wouldn't do it. her fingers playing at the piping on the pillowcase. I just didn't mean what you thought I meant. at that moment. "My God. wet warmth. Calmly. then. "I meant that I didn't fucking care. . You try to make me feel guilty for indulging in a silly myth. She sat back down on the bed. I had driven her to this. I knew you were prone to arrogance. unwilling to look at my beautiful Bella. "You stand there and you accuse me. what did you mean?" She held my gaze. A look of shock flashed in her eyes. And I was beside myself at the notion that she didn't understand that. my chest heaving as I tried vainly to calm myself down. I could have sworn a flicker of hurt flashed in her eyes before she braced her shoulders and lifted her chin.

He approached me and took my hand in his. I tucked my legs beneath me as he kneeled on the floor in front of the bed. I stared at my hands, tugging my lip with my teeth. "Anything, Bella," he started, his hands on my knees. "Ask me anything." The unanswered questions bounced around my head, clamoring for release. I attempted to concentrate, to focus on one that I needed answered the most. It was useless. After several seconds of silence, I gave up and let the words spill out in a garbled rush. "Why did you leave? Where have you been? Why are you here? Why now? What do you want from me?" Unfazed by my outburst, he took a deep breath before speaking in an uncharacteristically shaky voice. "I have lived for over a century, Bella. For the vast majority of that time, I've had the misfortune of possessing a gift that allows – that forces - me to see into the minds of everyone around me." He chuckled once, nervously. "Well, almost everyone." I stared at his lips as he spoke. They were a beautiful deep shade of red. "I know I've told you about my struggles to control myself at times when the thoughts are especially vile." I thought back to the night in Port Angeles – before I knew the truth about him. His whole body had shaken with the effort of resisting the urge to kill the men who had accosted me. "But not all minds are evil," he continued. "Before I met you, I often found great respite in the minds of those who are genuinely good, kind, loving souls. Bella, I've been privy to the most intimate thoughts of the most passionate lovers. I can instantly recognize the thoughts of a man truly in love. My father, Jasper, and Emmett are three of the lucky few who have found their soul mates on this earth. For so long, I envied what they had found. Their love is so true, so pure. It defines everything about them." I nodded, believing him. It was clear to anyone who encountered them that the couples in Edward's family were fated to be together. He lifted a finger to tip my chin, looking into my eyes. "But what they have - what they feel for each other – it doesn't compare to the feelings I have for you." He exhaled through his nose, his hands gripping my knees. "Do you understand me? It doesn't even come close." A tiny gasp slipped past my lips. My brow scrunched together in time with his. "I know I have failed you miserably. In more ways than I can count. But my feelings for you have never changed. And no matter what happens here, no matter what you decide, Bella, you need to understand that they never will. I will say I love you because there is no other way to say it. But the truth is the word 'love' is nowhere near big enough to hold the magnitude of my devotion." I felt a tear crest in my eye and spill onto my cheek. It traveled down my face, dripping onto his hand with a soft splat. He looked down quickly before cupping my face and thumbing the wet trail away. "Then why-?" I started, but couldn't finish. It should have made me happy. He was saying the words I had always dreamed he would say. But my mind was spinning, reliving in short snippets the agony I had suffered after Edward left. The pain I'd inflicted on the people who loved me. I had hurt them all so much. For what? It was such a tragic waste. "So you lied." I said flatly. "You said I wasn't good for you. You said you didn't want me. You were lying." His eyes widened at my verbatim recall of our six-year-old conversation. Of course, he couldn't have known that those words had played in an endless loop in my brain every night for years. He sank back on his heels before climbing onto the bed next to me. "Yes, Bella. I lied. I thought it was the only way you'd let yourself move on. I knew it was too late for me – I could never stop loving you. But I wanted you to have a chance at a happy life without me. To stay human. Stay safe. To have . . . normal human experiences." "That's not good enough," I said, shaking my head. "I need more than that. You say that you love me. But you left me. You didn't even give me a choice. You didn't even stop to think about what I wanted. If you had, you would have realized that I didn't want a normal life, Edward. I wanted you." He nodded. "I know that now, Bel-"

I cut him off. "And so now you're back, and you're telling me that you love me again. Or still. Or whatever. The point is that I hear the words that you're saying, but I can't reconcile them with what you did to me. How you could love me and just . . . abandon me like that?" His thumb moved to my wrist, tracing the crescent-shaped scar that resided there. "I thought, by leaving, I was doing what was best for you. I thought I was protecting you." I yanked my wrist from his grasp. He looked up, startled. "You left to protect me," I repeated. "Yes." "Protect me?" I asked again, skeptical, a bitter intonation creeping into my voice. He nodded again. My pulse began to quicken and his eyes darted to my neck. It was laughable. Unbelievable. I stood then and looked down at him. My eyes pricked with angry tears. "You left to protect me?" I screamed, half sobbing now. "Who the fuck do you think you are, Edward?" "Bell-" "Shut the fuck up!" I cried. "Do you think my life has been better since you left? Easier? Safer?" "No," he muttered. "That was my hope, but –" "Let me tell you," I stepped closer to the bed and stood hovering over him, my hands on my hips. The words spilled from my lips quickly now, as if they had been teetering on the edge of my tongue, waiting for permission to be released. "After you abandoned me in the woods, I chased you. Did you know that? I fucking chased you. For hours." I flattened my hand against my chest. "I ran through the woods for hours after a fucking vampire. Why would I do that? You want to know why?" He looked at me, his eyes pained but expectant. "Because the moment you left me, I lost my goddamn mind." He winced and I felt a tinge of perverse satisfaction; the tinge propelled me on. "Even after Sam Uley delivered me, unconscious, back to Charlie, I stopped eating, stopped talking, stopped leaving the fucking house. You know all those fun things you're supposed to do when you're a senior in high school? Parties? College tours? Prom? I didn't do any of them. So much for normal human experiences," I sneered. "And what's worse is -" I paused and looked up at the ceiling, feeling the familiar sting in my eyes. "I hated Forks after you left. Everything here reminded me of you. I couldn't wait to get the hell out of town and never come back. "I've been home four times in six years, Edward. And Charlie -" I choked, shaking my head. "And now he's gone." Despite my attempt at composure, a meek whimper escaped my lips. Edward's brow was furrowed, his face creased in pain. But still he sat, listening. Hearing. "Do you know what I was doing when Laurent found me?" He cleared his throat slightly before speaking. "Looking for our meadow." "Do you know why I was looking for our meadow?" My lip quivered with the effort of staving off my tears. "To remember. To feel close to me." I snorted. "You could say that. You could also say that I was wandering alone in supposedly bear-infested woods in the hopes that my damaged mind would conjure up another hallucination. Of you." His eyes flashed to mine then, a puzzled look on his face. "What?" "I used to . . . imagine you," I said. "I would hear you. But only when I was in danger. So I started to . . ." " . . . You started to seek out danger?" he asked, bewildered. "Yes." I recalled how addicted I'd become to the sound - the feeling - of Edward's voice. "I figured it out one night in Port

Angeles. I saw a group of guys that reminded me of -" His nostrils flared as he gripped the bedsheet. I waved my hand dismissively. "It wasn't them. But I heard you. Telling me to back away. After that, I grew bolder, needing more danger each time before you would come to me." His jaw twitched but his gaze was otherwise flat. "I started small. Riding motorcycles with Jake." A small growl rumbled in his throat. I ignored it. "It wasn't until I nearly drowned after jumping off the First Beach cliffs that I finally realized it wasn't fair to Jake, wasn't fair to Charlie to continue risking my life for a few fleeting seconds of peace." He shoved his fists in his eye sockets as if to blot out an image that offended him. Standing, he turned his back to me and paced to the other side of the room. He braced his forearms on the closet door, resting his forehead for a long moment. When he turned to face me, his body shook slightly as he spoke through gritted teeth. "Bella, it was the only thing I asked. The one thing I needed." His voice faltered and he sucked in a breath before continuing. "You promised me you wouldn't do anything reckless." His fists were balled tight at his sides. My whole face flamed hot as I registered his accusal. "And you promised me it would be as if you never existed!" I cried, incensed. "But if you had never existed, I would never have known what I was missing, damn you! I would never have known! If you had never existed, I could have embraced a normal life. I could have had a normal relationship without hurting good men who tried to love me. I could have enjoyed sex without wondering - without constantly, obsessively wondering - what it would have felt like if it had been your hands touching me, your mouth kissing me . . . your cock filling me-" I broke off, overcome by my emotions. Edward came to me, clasped his hands on either side of my face and brought his lips to my eyes. Murmuring my name, he kissed my matted lashes as I sniffled and shook. He swept his lips down my tearstained cheeks, sponging away the trails of tears before claiming my mouth with his own. My wracking sobs morphed into needy moans as I fisted my hands in his hair and pressed against him. I wanted so badly to lose myself again in his touch; I wanted to push him backward to the bed and let him show me everything I had been missing. Instead, I balled my fists and pushed hard on his chest. He pulled away instantly, his eyes deep and searching. "Oh God, Bella," he croaked. "Words will never be enough. I would do anything - give anything - to undo what I've done. I foolishly believed that, by leaving, I was doing the most selfless thing. The right thing. I realize now I was so horribly wrong. If I live a thousand years I will never forgive myself for driving you to risk your life to simply hear my voice." I looked down, studying the faint pinstripe in my shirt. "I don't dream," he continued, "but Laurent's face haunts my waking nightmares. My shame that I wasn't the one who tore him limb-from-limb is eclipsed only by my regret for leaving you." "But you did kill Victoria," I said simply, tugging at the cuff of my sleeve. A look of surprise flitted through his eyes before he nodded once. "Jacob told you." I raised my eyebrows. "No . . . Alice told me. Jake knows it was you?" He was quiet. "Edward. How does Jake know it was you?" He swallowed once and the tendons in his neck flexed. "Because he saw me." "He saw you?" "Yes, Bella. He saw me," he sighed. "After I saw Victoria's plans for you in Alice's mind, I had to kill her. I was too late to catch Laurent, but the wolves, as you know, took care of him. I caught up with her about fifty miles from here. After I -" his teeth snapped shut and his jaw muscles clenched briefly, "finished her off . . . Jacob showed up. As a wolf." I shuffled backward, bracing myself against the wall. "He knew," I muttered to myself. "All along. He knew." Edward nodded. "He couldn't speak of course, but I could read his thoughts. We came to an understanding." "An understanding?" I seethed.

He inhaled before continuing in a resigned tone. "Yes. That he would take credit for the kill. That he wouldn't tell you about me. I told him I didn't want you to know." His lips curled into a sneer. "He was only too happy to oblige." I clapped a hand over my mouth as my eyes flew wide. My mind was reeling, equal parts enraged and anguished. "You came to an understanding? That you would lie to me? You conspired with my best friend to keep me in the dark about the most important thing in my life? And you claim that you love me?" I paced around the room, clawing at my scalp. "How could you possibly love me? How could you possibly love someone you obviously don't respect?" "No, Bella, it's not that—" "I'm not a goddamn child!" I raged at him. "I had a right to know! I deserved to know! And now you've- you've ruined the one good relationship in my life. The one friend I thought would never lie to me. You made him. You - you don't love me. You don't know what love is." Spent from the effort of my outrage, I crumpled to the floor, heaving and shaking. He knelt down next to me, placing his hands on my knees. "It was a mistake, Bella. A horrible, tragic mistake." His voice broke as his hands kneaded my knees. "One I will never let myself forgive. And it is incredibly hypocritical of me to ask you to do what I cannot, but I'm begging. Please. Please. Forgive me. I can't undo what I've done. But I want to spend the rest of our lives making it right. Making you . . . making you happy." I was hearing but not listening. His words lolled around in my head but couldn't seem to find purchase in my brain, or my heart. I sat in a ball on his floor and cried for several minutes before I felt his arms slip beneath me. As my body left the floor, my mind moved to a simpler time - recalling Edward's strong arms lifting me from the dank concrete outside of Forks High, carrying me to the school nurse. I would have given anything to go back to that time - to start over. He murmured into my hair as he carried me to the bathroom. "I'm sorry, Bella. So sorry." He set me on the edge of the tub as he wet a washcloth and moved to wipe my face. I snatched it from his hands, scrubbing my cheeks and eyes as I straightened up. I grabbed my clothes from the corner. Understanding, he left me alone, closing the door behind him with a click. He was waiting for me on the edge of the bed when I emerged. "Take me home," I said. "I want to go home." ~X~ We rode to my house in silence. I leaned my head against the window and watched the green whiz by. When his scent filled the car, I rolled the window down. We pulled into the driveway and he flitted to open my door before I could protest. "Bella, I-" He was interrupted by the creak of the front door swinging open. A familiar figure sprinted toward the car. "Bella?" Thomas' voice was panicked.

Oh, God.
This couldn't be happening. Thomas ran to me and lifted me off of the ground in a tight hug. "I was so worried about you, baby. Jake figured you'd gone out for a run . . ." "What- what are you doing here?" I asked, confused. "I was so worried when I didn't hear from you, I just booked my ticket yesterday. I tried calling you to tell you I was coming but you didn't answer. Jake picked me up from the airport - gave me a key." I realized then that my cell phone was still sitting on my desk, the battery no doubt long dead. As Thomas set me back on my feet, he seemed to be noticing Edward for the first time. "Who's, ah . . . who's this?" he asked, politely, forcing a tight smile as he circled my waist in a possessive embrace. "Oh, um, Sweetie, this is Edward Cullen," I stammered. "He's a classmate from high school. He was my . . . lab partner."

as always for reading. has just posted. you felt that there were certain aspects of Edward's leaving in New Moon which weren't fully explored in the saga. It is lovely. "October". Go read and wander around in Bella's fog. If you are like us. Obviously our story draws upon that idea. The first.~X~ A/N: Thank you. and WindyCityWonder has started a short series which takes you into Bella's head during the blank "month" chapters in New Moon. .

As he met my gaze. Fit. her description would have implied that she really knew me. But even I had to admit that. a casual acquaintance. for your unwavering support of this story and always being around to beta or answer canon questions on a moment's notice. Resolved to be cordial. eh?" He forced a tight smile. obviously. "Ahem. He pulled her closer and nudged the back of her knee with his. No matter where we were headed. As such. for a human. "Lab partners. I would change that. and of Jacob. and then to me again." she said. Thank you. I was. Thanks to LolaShoes for knowing when to love on us and when to kick our asses. the central conflict here is the reintroduction of Edward in Bella's life and what happens when they meet again after six years. He was certain she'd never mentioned an Edward. he was a formidable specimen: Tall. if he knew what was good for him. his thoughts teetered between confusion and suspicion. the worry. I narrowed my eyes and set my jaw. Hoping that he wouldn't have to ask Bella why a strange man had driven her home in the middle of the morning. Shocked and shameless. Why her hair hung in a tangled mess and the cuff of what appeared to be a men's dress shirt peeked out of her oversized purse. scrutinizing every detail. that had heated his belly from the moment he flung open the front door was now beginning to simmer. He mulled over her omission and tried to convince himself it was of no consequence: I'm sure he's a nobody who's just .an understated warning that. She could do better." He cleared his throat. We are so happy that you all have taken an interest in our story and these characters. Tightening my grip. I don't like using the a/n to get into details about the plot but we posted little note on the StF Twilighted thread that addresses some recurring questions we get in reviews. it is relatively small in scope. She made no attempt to elaborate or clarify. "Biology. when I was too intoxicated by Bella's presence and too distracted by my jealousy to pay him any real mind. He wasn't intimidated. That we had a relationship that extended beyond the cinderblock walls of a biology classroom. but these chapters are getting a bit deeper and it takes a bit longer to finish (twss). Bella's lesser half. I didn't laugh. Hanging onto his youth by a frayed thread. As I'm sure you've picked up by now." he joked. and the beautiful woman at his side. It was my attempt at civilized behavior . The stories she'd shared of Forks were filled with Charlie. Chapter 17 EPOV Her lab partner? Her fucking lab partner? If it hadn't been so absurd. He flipped through the catalogue of thoughts he'd stored about Bella's past in an attempt to discern whether she'd ever mentioned me. Thanks to WindyCityWonder for being the first FF friend we've met *in person* and for her epic ninja rack. their boyfriends. the fibers of which were comprised of his scuffed sneakers. the link is on our profile. how dare she deny what we had been. Instead. I gaped at her. For once not desperate to read her mind. Not yet. He was the type of man that women fawned over and fantasized about at the expense of their lovers. The precise chapter count is still in flux but will be less than 25. of course. politely demanding more of an explanation. Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. Handsome. I decided with satisfaction that he had the faint look of a man on the cusp of a mid-life crisis. I would have given anything for her to have been able to read mine. She was quiet. I would have rather her introduced me as a vampire who sparkled in the sunlight than as her lab partner.*Chapter 18*: Chapter 17 A/N: Thank you all so much for your patience in waiting for this chapter. I reluctantly lifted my eyes from Bella and studied my rival. I may have laughed. It's been over two weeks which I know is a long time for us. But no. their husbands. He was older than I had realized at the restaurant in New York. "I'm Thomas. At least then. I was there. for purposes of this conversation. he wouldn't fuck with me. as I looked him over. Thanks to ilsuocantante for inspiring us with her own amazing words and giving us honest and insightful comments. She fidgeted in his embrace as he glanced from me to her. The type of man who occupied the minds of the women around him. If you are interested. He understood. his five o'clock shadow. her voice flat. doing his best to disguise the anxiety in his voice. I met his handshake and felt him flinch the moment he registered the temperature of my fingers. Christ. Now. he held his hand out for me to shake. Unless. The unease. annanabanana.

"Jake saw Edward at Charlie's memorial service. we were just catching up. her full lips wrapped around "Me too." I blurted. before reminding himself that he had the same thought about all of Bella's friends. Bella dripping wet. his words remained cordial while his thoughts screamed his insecurities and insults. Pale skin." she explained. bolstered my self-control as ridiculous fantasies of causing me physical harm flooded his ignorant mind. She's never even so much as said your name. Ever the gentleman. Jesus. I wanted to fucking kill him. I suppressed a laugh at the absurdity of this image and caught Bella's icy glare out of the corner of my eye. He seethed. I didn't need to read Bella's mind to know that she was silently. he was becoming more anxious. "Oh. He sensed the dishonesty in her avoidance of his eyes. unable to take any more of his vulgar thoughts. But he knew better. I'd have to settle for watching him squirm. He noted vaguely that I looked a bit young for twenty-four." he said. I suppose he had every right to be angry. Bella naked on her knees. In the cringe of her flesh as he palmed the small of her back. Bella laying on a cluttered desk. You're a very lucky man. his mind scanned through images of Bella in various states of undress. I burned to correct him. I know. Heard her heart pump faster and faster until its deafening roar filled my ears. Expensive clothes." he finally agreed. Edward and his brother were there. Brow furrowed. you conceited prick. "I'm glad you two had the chance to catch up. That's right. More hostile. ah. I wanted to slap that smug grin off his face. cocking her eyebrow at me in an unspoken challenge. She probably just felt bad for him and agreed to go out for coffee or something. To reveal that my name invaded her thoughts as she touched herself. for now. I pinched the bridge of my nose and squeezed my eyes shut for a beat. The pathetic result was something between a moan and a whimper that I attempted to cover by coughing. as she lay with him. And that my name had erupted from her screaming lips just hours ago. purposefully hardening his gaze. believe me. her legs spread wide as I took her into my mouth. he had eggs. She's mine. . "So. it was wonderful. "Bella's made me very happy. Any hope I'd had of treating him with civility had dissipated. She was evading him." he smirked. but we didn't have a chance to speak. her fingers slick with memories of me. That my name filled her mind. constantly. her skirt hiked up to reveal white cotton panties. well. attempting in vain to block the image of his hands on her. slowly nodding his head. she was his girlfriend . She's always been too nice for her own good." Now Thomas and I were both staring slackjawed at her. "Yes. I saw her pupils dilate until they nearly eclipsed the soft brown of her eyes. she was a godawful liar. to let him know that I was once her everything. my appearance was vaguely familiar. He sized me up: Unkempt hair.trying to cash in on her fame. . This realization. his clumsy fingers untying the straps of her blue bikini. A low growl rose from my gut and mixed with the venom flooding my mouth. his voice strained. Lanky build. Discomfort scratched at his skin. I had waffles. vile as it was. obsessively. You're nothing to her. "He. Smelled the sweat bead at the nape of her neck. looking down at her feet. what brought on this little lab partner reunion?" he asked. In his attempt at self-assurance. My body trembled and twitched. So the dog had told her we were at the memorial. "So Edward offered to pick me up for breakfast this morning." I added. in various positions each one more lewd than the rest." she continued. desperately pleading for me to shut the hell up. . About biology. Bella looked directly at me as she answered him. And. you sonofabitch. Definitely threatening. Needless to say her attempts to smooth things over weren't working. literally itching to crouch in a defensive posture. he looked at me. And don't you forget it. If anything. and mistrust gnawed at his gut. After all. Not that I was surprised. or I'll rip you limb from limb. Though Bella had never mentioned me. anyway.

asshole." I lied. really." he said." I nodded. He couldn't believe that." The three of us stood in the driveway. "I guess I'm not sure what you mean. or me. His thoughts screamed for me to let her go. defensive. Copper hair. his eyes expectant. "but I always considered high school to be the worst form of torture. She was rigid in my arms. So mindless. Thomas. . "And I'm not going anywhere." "Oh. it was nice to meet you." she muttered. "Shouldn't you be there now?" he blurted. She made me realize that high school wasn't a complete waste of my time. and I flew in to pay my respects. She made me feel . "I'm surprised you didn't make it for the funeral. His discomfort was so complete that I almost felt sorry for the poor bastard. Thomas made no sound. His smooth veneer was wearing thin." "Thomas was . They were not images of her. preoccupied with the snapshots that plagued his mind. waiting for the flavor of her involuntary desire to float reassuringly into the air. Purgatory. Dartmouth. "And Bella. I closed my eyes and breathed deeply. That watching the ticking clock is no way to live. I had managed to keep my cool for the five tortuous minutes in which I was forced to be cordial to . "It was opening night of his play. There. and with her. pulling in her essence and relishing the tickle of her silky hair on my cheek. intending the words every bit as condescending as they sounded." ~X~ Somehow. but rather words on a page. "Well. unwilling to elaborate until he felt the twinge of panic. softly enough so that only she could hear. yet her pulse quickened in surprise when I brushed my lips against her ear. mercifully. waving her hand. with our hands shoved in our respective pockets. I lingered for a moment. you son of a bitch? He silently sputtered and stammered. I can imagine. it was obviously a long time ago for you. Who's the smug one now. but he was beginning to suspect who I was. "Ignore him. "Well." I whispered. his curiosity compelling him to inquire. I saw the color drain from his face as understanding set in. I heard the accusations and insults he couldn't muster the courage to spew." Bella scoffed. Mission accomplished. and he squeezed my knuckles with what I assume was all his might. alive. Get to the point. Beautiful. Edward? Still hanging around Forks?" he asked. He might not know what I was. I held my arms out and tilted my head. yes. "I owe him a lot. I shoved my hands in my pockets and rocked back and forth on my heels. "My sister told me about Chief Swan's passing." he finally confessed. she stood there silent and watched him flounder." he nodded. for her to let me go. "Medical school. "Absolutely. offering a smile than went unreturned." I sighed. well." I agreed. She approached me reluctantly. Ochre eyes. The Luke to her Claire. and I pulled her in for a tight embrace." Bella interrupted. a breath of fresh air. I reached to shake his hand. Thomas. That there's something to be said for living in the moment.He was similarly stunned. "You too?" he repeated dumbly. Keep your cool. Almost. "I feel the same way. brushing his lips over her hair. his expression and mind both blank as he struggled to process the implication of my words. "Well. "Edward's always had a flare for the dramatic." I said pointedly.he was working. but I didn't care. "I love you. what are you doing now. She was smart." "So. the nag of betrayal." I answered easily." "Uh-huh. rather than welcoming him with open arms. Bella came along. It was just so monotonous. Different." I answered. Pale skin." Flew in? Owes him a lot? Who is this fucking kid? He coiled his arm tight around her shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze. Fuck. . So mundane. feeling my lips turn slightly upward. Biology lab. dumbfounded that his noble attempt to console his grieving girlfriend had spiraled into such a catastrophe. The inspiration for Bella's love story. Her eyes finally left the crack in the driveway to meet mine. as you can imagine. man. "And then.

"You're lucky I didn't tear his fucking arms off right in front of her. giving me her infuriating know-it-all look. man. shooting him a sideways glance. right? You couldn't have at least told me? So I could have been fucking prepared?" I railed at her and felt my temper start to cool involuntarily. he's in bed with her as we speak. she glared back. The familiar gesture served to further my rage." Alice chimed. but I know you. singeing every inch of my legs. out of mind The grating voice of some shrill pop-star sent me over the edge." I puffed out a breath between gritted teeth. look at me. "You didn't hurt him." I ordered." "You didn't think I at least deserved the courtesy of a warning?" "Why should you? Did Thomas have any warning of your presence? And shouldn't he be just as threatened. a jealous rage began to burn slowly." "Yes. intending to silence the radio but smashing a gaping hole into the display. Alice was waiting for me at the foot of the stairs when I entered the house. don't you? And for all I know. Edward. my hands itching to grip the lapels of her jacket and bring her forcibly to my eye level." she dismissed. resuming her matter-of-fact tone. "I don't think we have to worry about me hurting you. he thought. Because I can tell you it wouldn't be plaguing my conscience. "Fuck" I yelled to no one but myself and punched it again. you think I'm going to hurt her?" I sneered. reducing the radio to an ugly gash. "Oh what. I drove my fist into the console. That was different.. my arms. "Did you or did you not make a decision when you were talking to Carlisle on your way back from the Cascades yesterday?" she prodded. my fists. "Did you or did you not decide to fight for her?" I didn't answer her rhetorical question.her boyfriend. You're different when you have hope. Of course you already know all about that. that's right. "It's alright baby. By the time I reached the car. It began in my feet and creeped upward. Alice. "This isn't a bad development. instantly calming. my torso. You had your chance you blew it Out of sight." I cocked an eyebrow at her. But once out of their sight. "has Bella. excrutiatingly through my body. You're so noble with your gift. When I saw what he was thinking. I peeled out of the driveway and gripped the steering wheel of Jasper's G-Class so tightly that the stitching on the leather seams began to pull apart. You're different when you have-" "-when I have Bella? Because I don't fucking have Bella! Thomas. do we?" She eyed me defiantly." I seethed. "The hell it isn't. And you wouldn't have. if not more?" . "I can handle this. "Was it?" I asked. "I decided not to tell you." "Oh." Jasper shot me a warning look as he headed upstairs. He's not." I spat. not sure how to respond. "It's not my job to spare your feelings. Thomas just pawed all over her right in front of me. J. signaling for him to step away. "And I was going to say hope." "He's not. and I cranked up the radio full blast. "You couldn't have known what I would decide to do when I saw him.." Her words were like a soothing balm." "Stop being so melodramatic. I had to wipe away the venom leaking from my mouth with the back of my hand." she said matter-of-factly. his hand playing at her neck." she said. and Alice touched his arm lightly. Jasper was standing in front of her. When he'd moved. angled in a slightly protective stance. "Well then. "Knock it off. I stood towering over her. I spared a glance in the rearview mirror and spotted him shepherding her back into the house. Calm down.

Edward. ." he countered. I'm not trying to debate the former point with you again. Carlisle picked up on the first ring. well. I knew her well enough to understand she firmly believed the ends justified the means. Our night together. "You know she's the one person I can't read.that he would be at Bella's house . "Look. Tonight he decided to push back. Edward. my stomach too shredded to state the obvious. "Well. I would just have to trust her. you already know I disagree with your view of us .even the best things in your life ." I muttered." I stopped mid-sentence. Edward.through a skewed lens. How do you expect me to do that exactly?" "But you can read her. No explanation. At his insistence. If she thought Thomas knowing about me was in my best interest. Carlisle had pleaded with me to devote some time to seeking out these answers for myself. into her life without an ounce of fear or reservation. Bella welcomed you. No warning. And you deserve to be happy. but there was no use arguing with her. are good. asking questions where he wanted more detail. you've come to realize you and Bella belong together. When I had finished." I have not. then. I told him everything: finding Bella in the bed. You didn't hear her." "What? Carlisle." "I'm sure from your vantage point those things all seem to undermine the notion that Bella still loves you. The fight. I know you remain convinced that you have lost your soul. but not prying when I was intentionally vague about private moments. have you been listening? She has a tattoo of a crucifix! She all but admitted using me for nothing more than sexual gratification." I shook my head though he couldn't see. . "She still loves you. "I'm the one she spent the night in bed with for Christ's sake!" Alice's mouth settled into a self-satisfied grin. every once in a while I do think of your best interest." "Well. Our fight. thoroughly exhausted and emotionally spent from recapping all that had transpired. I had spent countless hours over the past several years poring over religious texts. I also know that. I found none. yes. And with that . But you. I dismissed myself with a headshake and an exasperated sigh and retreated to my room to place a call. but through her eyes. the disappointment so evident in his tone that I could almost see him hanging his head. I'm just asking you to try for once to see yourself the way Bella sees you. Of course she had every right to treat me the way she did. I don't typically seek out homicidal scenarios. he spoke. as usual. mythological anthologies. The crucifix. whatever. in spite of this. The only one who ever had a problem with what with who you are . "You didn't see her this morning. historical books. You know. . if I had told you Thomas was coming . "Edward. son. To look at her actions not through your own skewed self-perception. "Yet you've always filtered everything ." Carlisle's tone was as stern as it ever got. "Son." Oh. They've read her version of your story and yet you. You've never believed yourself to be you. flamed and fizzled as I realized the futility of the exercise. "You know what I mean. Thomas. during which he was apparently waiting for me to speak. She told her boyfriend I was her lab partner." I let him finish but sighed in silent exasperation. He'd let me off the hook on this subject recently. "Hundreds of thousands of people in the world already have."Fuck. Carlisle resumed.of yourself." I started to protest again. and all of us. In thirteen languages.would you have gone?" "Of course not. We don't need to rehash this. it wouldn't be a fight without a little competition. for that matter. He listened attentively. And if you hadn't taken her home.I just .on top of everything else ." I muttered." "Exactly. After a long pause. would it? Look. I left her. and his standard greeting immediately grounded me. he wouldn't have seen you. in search of some glimmer of hope. I truly did not want to have this conversation yet again." he answered. "I would have asked you to take her home. After one particularly bad spell. But you're not the only one of us who knows her. "Everything else." Carlisle quietly repeated. Some sign that there was more to this existence than an eternity as an undead parasite. Carlisle. he should feel threatened!" I yelled.

concentrating on the flickers of ideas and sensory input traveling to me from the direction of the storefront. Two of the store's three patrons were a teenage girl and a middle-aged woman thumbing through the pages and surreptitiously eyeing me as I approached. reading his mind as he wondered what the fuck I could have done to produce such a look. it was a look I had seen before. My cock stiffened as I recalled skimming my fingers across her hot skin and feeling it fan into gooseflesh.G. Oh shit I think he just saw me look at his crotch. I pulled into the parking lot and sat for a moment. And I hadn't even taken off her panties. Her eyes were trained on the fruit. I snorted in smug satisfaction as I imagined Thomas walking in on us. Still. I smirked. In what was becoming a maddeningly common betrayal by my reflexes. I sincerely hoped Thomas got a nice whiff.the night she learned what I was. and she wore a coy smile as if laughing inwardly at a private joke. It wasn't surprise or shock on her face as she came down from her climax and gazed into my eyes. Satisfied I hadn't made the acquaintance of anyone inside. ankles crossed and wrapped in strappy red shoes. but her panties had been so drenched with her lust that I was certain a human would have easily picked up on the scent. Is he looking at me? I think he's looking at me."Edward. he is coming over here! Thank God I put on lip gloss before leaving the house.M. she was still human. The figure stood beneath a banner reading "Forks' Own Isabella Swan". My entrance was announced by a chime. It was wonder. my eyes never leaving her cardboard form. Is he laughing? I was still shaking my head slightly at their involuntary reactions when I was confronted with a life-size cardboard cut-out of Bella herself. I ran straight to my bedroom and locked the door . Why should my effect on her be any different? But of course there were a hundred reasons why. What exactly are you waiting for?" ~X~ The town of Forks had three bookstores. sensual. Holy sex on legs. It was the same look she'd given me the night I'd confessed to her . I couldn't see into that vault of her mind. the catch in their breathing as they attempted to feign nonchalance. for once enjoying the vulgar places the female mind went when I walked in a room. Who is that? Ohmigod look at that fine piece of ass. and each of the five people in the store immediately turned toward the sound. One was dedicated solely to travel guides of the Pacific Northwest and another was the Christian Science Reading Room. The now six pairs of eyes in the small bookshop all turned to me at once. I pondered the significance of her smirk for a moment before allowing my greedy eyes to scan the blood-red dress that clung wickedly to her every curve. It was impossible to miss the sizable display dedicated to promoting Bella's novel as I walked toward the Fiction section. The figure was standing. A passionate. Shit. but I damn well knew that no man had ever made her fly the way she had last night. She was still a woman. Even in two-dimensions. I sensed the racing of the blood in their veins as I drew near. Pretend to read. I loved Bella for her kindness. I strode to the front door and pushed it open. I absently reached for a copy of Bella's novel. I took a perverse juvenile pride in imagining his stricken face. O. My erection ached against the seam of my jeans as I imagined wiping that cheeky smirk from her face and smothering her lips with my mouth. the other holding up a glossy red apple. don't look at his crotch again. No. This left only one modest-sized purveyor of commercial fiction. I knew his jealousy could never rival the seething pulse of the venom secreted from my glands at the mere thought of him. I may have had supernatural senses. Oh God. though she was all those things. Downright giddy at that thought. I snatched the book from the floor and walked briskly to the cashier. for her deep and generous mind. But. sexual woman. One hand was poised on her hip. Bella was captivating. Shit. Shit. I dropped the hardcover on the lacquer floor where it landed with a thwack. her warmth. And she had spat every one of them in my face this morning. ~X~ I tucked the book under my arm as I made my way inside the house.

I knew in that moment that she feared the monster I had fought for decades to overcome. rubbing my fingers along the contours of her name printed on the glossy black cover. and noticed that his hands were balled into punishing fists. seeing. Pulling off my jacket. and we sat in uncomfortable silence. Yet now. I tore on through the pages. his long. the bell rang. and opened the book. On the first numbered page. I had no idea what she meant. With that. But as I approached the empty seat. I stubbornly refused to listen. time and again warning her that I was not good for her. tracing the outline of the creamy forearms and fingers which cradled the sinful fruit. I retrieved the book and sat down on the bed. propping my legs up on the headboard. She had noticed the softening of my gaze as she shamed me with her hurt eyes.was striking. I sat down. she was persistent in her refusal to believe. and each time. to just let myself have her. and I felt my gut turn to ice upon realizing that her Claire was most likely headed to Biology class after lunch. unearned animosity from the girls. with the words plain on the page. I grimaced. I chewed. When I reached the scene of our first "date" . untasting. But even as I'd pushed her away. promised to myself and the walls around me that I'd never discount her thoughts again. As if all of the answers I had ever needed were contained in this volume. trying to make sense of it all. A thought was running circles around my mind. knowing Alice would see and respect the gesture. but no matter how hard I chased it. Luke Warden was out the door before I finished my final penstroke. and I felt sick as I remembered the nearly irresistible urge to lose control – to give in. Seen something else. set in elegant script: "A book is the only immortality. The monster Carlisle had constantly assured me I wasn't. for the first time. He registered my shock and his gaze seemed to soften ever so slightly before hardening once more. They were black as pitch and filled with undeserved hostility. My stomach fluttered in anticipation as I prepared to do what I had put off for so long.or Claire's . My fists clenched again. I speared a forkful of ravioli and shoved it in my mouth. absorbing the echo of the delicious euphoria of her taste. I stretched out. the air between us buzzing with an energy I tried in vain to ignore." -Rufus Choate Edward Young I stared at the words until my eyes lost their focus and the ink blurred and swirled. She told of unwanted attention from the boys. He looked away then. Resigned to that fact. I ached to ask her. Her painful good-bye with her mother. I rolled my eyes at her description of the lunchroom conversations. which captured the tedium of high school in perfect detail.behind me. . The book opened with Bella's –. her discomfort at being the center of attention at a new school. Even then – as I was plotting to end her very life –she had seen through the monster. I gasped as his eyes met mine. The bedsheets were still saturated with her. How many times had I desperately wished to know what she was thinking. resting my head where the most potent of her scents lingered. Bella had referenced immortality hundreds of times before I left. Fifty minutes later. just above the words: "Chapter One" was a quotation.wrote me . recalling through her pages the hot and cold way I had treated her during our first encounters. I did the only thing I could do. it kept eluding me. but that small look had been her salvation. her awkward reunion with her father.move to Forks. I felt certain if I kept reading it would become clear. lean frame was craned as far away from me as possible. The seat next to Luke Warden was the only one available. I took in a deep breath. And she had seen it. I had determined to abort my bloody plans – to spare her life and the twenty others around us. And now. She'd never known it. with the opportunity literally in the palm of my hands.just before my dark confession . before I realized with a pang that I might not have such an opportunity. Curiosity got the better of me and I lifted my head toward his. I kept reading. The tenderness with which Bella wrote Luke . Her words on the page reminded me of the glimmer of shock that had registered on her face when she'd met my eyes. Ignoring the burst of anxiety that bubbled within me. my mind shutting out each and every external stimulus. the world through her eyes. I plunged headfirst into our story. I stayed like this for a moment.I stopped breathing as I took in her words: At his insistence. I soaked up the words. I was terrified of what I would find.

his cool breath tickling my cheek and flooding my senses. She embraced it. my erratic behavior? Why had she been so drawn to me when others instinctively knew to keep a safe distance? Why of all people did Bella . She may have had help from Jacob Black. feeling the icy burn of skin against skin for a fraction of a second before he propelled himself backward and landed against a tree with a deafening crack. allowing the slight buzz of her lingering scent to fill my head as I dove into her mind yet again: As I lay with him in the cool grass. Embarrassed. Yet even though the magnificence of that day outshone every other minute and hour of my long existence. The mind reading. had fled her tender caress for fear of killing her. and I squeezed my eyes shut to ward off any renegade tears. I'd considered it one of the innumerable times I'd failed her. I closed my eyes and dropped my chin to my chest. And even though I had come to learn that Bella had accepted my nature. I wanted to climb into his lap and lay my cheek against his chest. I let my hair fall into my face. reeling from the memory as seen through her eyes. but even that admission was born from her own cunning persistence to discover what she had always known I was hiding. to feel him in ways that made my stomach flip. like a speck of dust on a camera lens marring an otherwise perfect picture. I guided them both to my heart and felt my racing pulse instantly calm. and he let out a soft sigh before leaning his head back and closing his eyes. Not ever.the one human whose blood nearly caused me to give up more than seventy years of control for mere seconds of blinding euphoria . For all my mind-reading abilities. I didn't care what he was. Luke was a vampire. Claire. it was she who had read me all along. "My fault. She had known." he whispered. All of him. She wasn't merely resigned to it.come to love me? I read on. I loved him.the day I had shown her the meadow . I stared unabashedly then. I'd replayed our day in the meadow countless times. greedily drinking in her words. Wrapping my hand around his. I'd tried in vain to focus on her eyes and her fingers as they seared my marble skin. He sat up and reached for me. I acknowledged it to myself as a fact and moved on before I swallowed the first bite. I knew he would never believe my words. My mind began its rampant circling again as I tried to understand why. my foul temper.I drew in a deliberate breath through my nose. I read the words over and over and over again: All of him. But when I'd laid myself bare for her. my precise recollection now seemed incomplete. it was so much more than that. I just wanted him to be mine. crucifixes. There was only one explanation. When I opened my eyes. I longed to caress the nape of his neck and feel the soft tickle of his hair as I massaged his scalp. my heart race. his fingers grazing my temple as he tucked my hair behind my ear. his lips curved into an adorable smirk. The impossible rescues. And each time. When I arrived at Chapter Thirteen . clinging to the hope that they would provide me with the answers that had been evading me since the moment she entered my life. chasing the bursts of light that danced across his skin. drowning in the nectar that was Luke Warden. "Don't hide your face from me. Why had she so doggedly worked to get to the bottom of my inexcusable mood swings.The preternatural beauty. she loved me just the same. The Quileute legend was true. But the answers didn't matter. coffins. I traced haphazard circles on his forearm. my mind flashed to the instant when I'd run away from her. I leaned toward him. Chapter Fifteen began with the day I brought her to my house: . but I desperately hoped he would understand the meaning behind my gesture. His cool skin warmed beneath my fingertips. He opened his eyes and cocked an eyebrow at me. and my face flush. Each time I'd recounted it in the years since. She was the first human in eighty years who had uncovered my secret. I literally ached to let my hands roam over his flesh. and the scent of her desire as it mixed with the wildflowers and wafted through the air. the shame and heartbreak evident on his glorious face. he was sitting next to me again. It's not that I wasn't curious. and failed myself." I insisted quietly. My heart sank. I was painfully curious about the silliest of things: sunlight. None of it mattered.

Each of the Wardens had found their soulmates. I remembered vividly every look. As she had always seen me. As I lay on the couch in Luke's bedroom. "Claire. No. The satin sheath Celia had dressed me in kept falling off my right shoulder and clinging to the rise of my breast. I wanted them all back. I was stunned." he agreed. I knew I had said the words in her script. It felt like I'd known them for all their decades and centuries on this earth. I closed my eyes. And wherever I am is where you belong. Seeing myself through her eyes. but I had no doubt. and of desire. in the bliss of our ignorance: I couldn't walk in high heels. It was like watching our love story play out on a reel. "I am here.every line . my mind waterlogged with the weight of the memories. it wasn't the words or the events that were different. "You're exquisite." He pulled back and nudged my chin with his finger. Though I had lived it the first time. "What's wrong?" "Everyone is looking at me. It was the perspective." I mumbled. "but I'm really nervous. darling. thank you." he whispered into my ear. and how they were so matched in empathy. It felt like home. Lily and Elliot. but didn't. I struggled to recognize the character she had cast me to play. but wouldn't. certainly. in compassion. of her voice in my ears. every touch ascribed to heart." Forever. I turned the last page and stared at the blank flap of the inside cover. seeing the printed text stamped against the insides of my lids. so relaxed.He led me by the arm away from his family and upstairs to his room." His eyes blazed a fiery gold. I saw a man warring with a tragically I had underestimated her. Luke didn't use the word. I experienced it all over again. And once I found Bella. I found no trace of the monster. I saw myself only as she saw me." "Well. certain long before she found him that they were meant to be together. and of a deeper truth I was still grasping to reach. He described how Lily found Elliot. Celia and Jackson. her fictional account left us there. I hugged his chest tight to mine and buried my face in the crook of his neck. But though I knew the story . my insecurities. And though our real life story had been fated to move beyond the happily ever after that seemed possible as I danced with her in the high school gym. my notion of family became completely entwined with her. This isn't my scene. Carlton and Grace. he told me the story of how his family came to be piece by perfect piece. I realized now how horribly . My concept of love had always been inextricably tied to the couples in my family. I knew in my head that it was me. yet overwhelming thirst and coming out on the side of mercy. I had always believed her incapable of matching the vast depth of my feelings. of love. When I'd left her. so settled. Forever. I wanted her back. projected in my mind's eye. and how even at first glance. It was the ending we should have had. In the span of mere seconds. her love burned so bright that she pleaded with Carlton to save him. reading the words again. my head resting in his lap. humanity. I saw a man . I don't belong here. and my cheeks flamed hot as I realized that everyone was staring at me. And that my apprehension. but I hadn't expected to feel so welcomed. I hadn't been afraid of meeting the Wardens. each fleck a spark of kindness. And how Celia searched desperately for Jackson. I saw a man sacrificing his own desire to connect physically with the woman he loved in order to ensure her safety. I had no choice but to leave them. of sharing my ill-fated life with hers were mine and mine alone. "Look at me. love. "Of course they are. and in spirit. Luke and me. Always." I grumbled. his lips grazing the shell of my ear. How Carlton's empathy for Grace led him to change her. Bella's version of our life together was even more compelling than I remembered. All the things I should have said. much less dance in them.

And I saw us. a wave of indescribable peace settling deep into my limbs. XOXO -M&V . In the span of a few short hours. for more than eighty years. The apple was me . said something else entirely. As I strained to pinpoint the nagging subtext I knew I was only just missing. a brother. I had found what I had been searching for. unconditional love for his mate. I saw that I had been capable of making her happy. and worthy of the love she returned in equal measure. A/N: Thanks so much for reading. I saw the happy ending we'd never realized. But her eyes. My soul. I saw the way things should have been. The apple. The arms. The symbolism was obvious. To eat was to risk damnation. her words.capable of a pure. I stumbled to the leather couch and sat down as the realization took hold. I understood what no ancient text or spiritual guide had ever been able to teach me. if I had only ignored my own self-doubt and listened to her instead. an image from this afternoon inexplicably arrived at the forefront of the memories swirling in my head. I saw me. I had finally discovered what Bella had always known. her teasing eyes trained on the same jewel-red apple that adorned the cover of the book in my hands. reading the story of our love. I saw a son. For the first time in eighty years. Her eyes mocked my insistence that I was bad for her.the forbidden fruit. watching myself through the prism of her benevolent mind. I rested my head in my hands. It was the figure of Bella from the bookstore. unmitigated truth: I was good for her. with a meaningful place in a kind and compassionate family. If I had only seen myself then as I saw myself in this moment. could have been. I was good. Her words told the unvarnished. I opened my eyes and gazed at the shiny book cover.

He winced as if I'd slapped him in the face and then wrapped me in a tight embrace. In the mere twenty-four hours since his abrupt re-emergence in my life. I know. I knew he loved me. In all the time I had known him. his strong hands traveling up and down the length of my spine. it's my fault. his hot. I leaned my head back and closed my eyes. in spite of my inability to return the sentiment. but I . I don't think this was a systemic problem but I did hear that a couple of people did not get an alert from FFn for the last chapter. He guided me into the house and stopped abruptly when I threw my purse on the entryway table. "I'm sorry. where I flopped down on a chair and rested my head on the table. Edward filled my mind. Our chapters don't come to life until the four of you read them and give us your feedback. I knew he was waiting. his breath hot in my ear. kneading the knots that had long inhabited their space. "Look. sweaty fingers weaving through my hair as Edward's tires screeched out of the driveway. Edward had shown a side of himself I never knew existed. I -" "Not now. Shit. LolaShoes and WindyCityWonder. of perfect self-control." I snapped. The return of Edward. my cheeks blazing with embarrassment and misplaced rage. you should read that first. my tightly coiled muscles responding to his expert touch. dozing on Charlie's tattered couch. Love was quite another. but a bigger part of me was feeling guilty for all of the ways I had failed him. and I sank into him. "Just relax." he said. So. baby. the sleeve of Edward's shirt spilling over the side." he whispered. Still. And then he ruined it by talking. and to our prereaders. For Edward's return had confirmed my deepest fears. Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. baby. he led me wordlessly to the kitchen. Bella." God.*Chapter 19*: Chapter 18 A/N: Thanks as always to our beta." "I know. and I curled up in the recliner." he soothed. trusting that I just needed time. Chapter 18 BPOV Thomas's hand rested on the back of my neck. But now I was certain time would never be enough. and for a few moments. Of course I'm tense. if you somehow missed Chapter 17 (EPOV). Part of me was furious with him for showing up unannounced. the anxiety that had commandeered my body evaporated. numb. the confusion. Thomas. his tone curt. I forgot it all. I was certain both of us were thinking about the painfully uncomfortable encounter in the driveway. letting his fingers roam upward to my neck and scalp. I just . "That wasn't meant to be insensitive. We love you guys and are so lucky to have your support. "No. The arrival of Thomas. I was completely. "I just lost my father. The loss of Charlie. A side I had never been able to see from my vantage point beneath the pedestal I'd placed him on. bbs. jealousy was one thing." he interrupted. fantastically. you know?" "I know. Thank you. "You can explain later. but thankfully Thomas seemed to sense that I needed some space. "You're tense. "And I'm worried about you." I croaked. letting the din of the television fill the silence between us. "I'm sorry. . He pressed his thumbs hard into my back. Thomas. As soon as my lids closed. Life's just hard right now." he said softly." We settled into Charlie's modest living room. "I'm here because you lost your father. Bella. I jumped from my chair and spun around to face him. The grief. he had been the picture of dispassion. his otherwise harmless observation bursting the bubble of my momentary bliss." "Shhhh. I was such a bitch. His hands found my shoulders and began to massage them. I peeked my eyes open and sighed as I looked at Thomas. He stood behind me. ilsuocantante.I want to help you feel better." he mumbled. lulling me into a state of peaceful relaxation I wouldn't have thought possible given the last few days. After a few minutes." I nodded and tucked my chin to my chest. annanabanana. But I couldn't deny the thrill that had shot through me at Edward's obvious inability to hide his jealousy.

. Thomas wasn't stupid. I went out with Jake last night and got a ride home." Thomas chuckled lightly." "Actually . "Edward was more than your lab partner. he said something about wanting to jog home. baby. bone-crushing. I hadn't eaten anything since last night at the bar. but before I could form an answer. but he doesn't love me. baby. .for my soul. I don't know. talking to Carlisle as he gracefully threaded the stitches through my arm. "Um. Thomas." I knew by the tone of his voice what was coming. but I think I need a little break. I guess I wasn't paying attention." I smiled gratefully at his easy acceptance. wasn't he?" I sighed. I don't care that you went to breakfast with him." I felt his erection pressing against my backside. conversation resumed its surface-level cadence. "Whatever you say. "It's okay if he is. would he run away again. If I had cut myself in Edward's presence. But Jake's a really good runner. instinctively sucking on my ring finger. believing he knew what was best for me? Would he be able to stop himself? I knew Thomas would never be able to give me the fairytale. It wasn't until later that evening when we were standing side-by-side chopping vegetables for dinner that Thomas brought up the subject of Edward. and as suddenly as it had begun. "Bella." I definitely hadn't been paying any attention to the driveway. baby. all-consuming love. our talk of Edward was forgotten. And I would never love anyone else. I mean. "Dammit. "Not that I can blame him. and I just think you need to know that boy is obviously in love with you. suddenly sheepish. yeah. "Oh. I dropped the knife and turned to face him. "Yeah?" I kept my eyes trained on the carrot I was vigorously slicing. . He busied himself with finding first aid supplies. Charlie's fridge was practically bare. no. I realized then that. How far is it to the reservation.I was still capable of love. My eyes stung in anger as I again considered his stubborn arrogance and all it had cost us. anyway?" "Oh. ~X~ An hour or so later. He must be kicking himself every day for letting you get away.God knows I wasn't ready to face him after learning of his lies . I mean. Thomas asked if I was hungry. Thomas continued. As we headed off to the grocery store to stock the house. "Yes. "I think he wishes we could rekindle our high school romance. I was reminded of that night on my eighteenth birthday. Pressing my stomach lightly against the counter. okay? If you want to hole up and watch chick flicks every night. thanks to my fruitless trip to the A&P. As he worked." "Is he an old boyfriend?" I opened my mouth." "Bella." Thomas grabbed my hand and put pressure on the wound. Whatever you need. we'll do it. the now-familiar pang of guilt for my expanding web of lies ringing in my chest. And my truck was still at the bar. But he was looking at me like he wanted to kill me. "Shit!" I cried." Thomas came around behind me and surrounded me with his warm arms. Jake picked me up in your truck. We'd talked of Edward's fears for me . "I'd love for him to show us some good trails. he swept my hair away from my neck and kissed his way up to my ear." I rushed. I mean. taking care to keep the blood out of my line of sight. he used to be. But I know you are a people-pleaser.but I knew Thomas would find it strange if I didn't suggest we all hang out during his visit. We're kind of stranded here right now. "Okay. Didn't you see it in the driveway?" My ire with Jake escalated as I learned more about his complicity in orchestrating this surprise reunion. "Really?" he exclaimed. no. "I cut myself. we'll do. sweetie?" I asked. gosh." I swallowed hard in an attempt to stifle the whimper that formed in my gut. you know?" Thomas's look was concerned but not questioning. despite my lie about waffles. of course. I didn't want to talk about Jake . "Yeah. "Hmm?" "I've been spending a lot of time with Jake since coming home and he's been a huge help. dressing my cut." I shook my head as I spoke. Of earth-shattering. but he wouldn't destroy me either. look at you.

Edward's hands beneath my shirt. My eyes flickered to the window. yeah. Long after Thomas had fallen asleep I lay awake. After nearly an hour of trying in vain to distract myself with thoughts of the latest book I'd read or movie I'd seen . I couldn't place the significance of the items." Thomas's voice brought me back to the present. the thought of sharing the same bed with Thomas made my insides turn. Each night. as usual . Thomas was only in town for three days. He didn't even question me. her annoyance with me was thinly veiled. it was the knowledge that Edward had slipped into the room as we slept that made my belly flutter. I replayed every moment of last night in my mind. But more than the tokens themselves. careful not to rustle the covers as Thomas slept. but I sure as hell didn't want to do it with Thomas here. and though Edward had spent countless nights curled around me in my twin bed. holding up my bandaged finger. The thought simultaneously thrilled me and made my insides turn. I wondered if the apple was a reference to my book. merely raising a confused eyebrow when I'd insisted we sleep with the window open. despite the early fall chill." ~X~ I was exhausted from the events of last night and today and utterly unprepared to deal with issues like sleeping arrangements. . until exhaustion lured me back into bed. ~X~ The next two days passed in relatively comfortable companionship.A. I'm fine now.what he deserved. I lay awake until Thomas's breathing steadied. Edward's mouth between my legs. I couldn't give him what he wanted . topics about which everyone but me seemed to have strong opinions." I smiled. I tiptoed to the sill and poked my head outside. I ignored Jake's calls. the trees. At the same time. surprised yet relieved that he hadn't taken it upon himself to show up at the house. Sitting on my dresser was a single red apple. I finished quietly. scanning the green. Leaning quietly over the side of the mattress.anything other than Edward . sitting where Edward knew I would find it. The distractions of work and wrapping up Charlie's affairs were a welcome reprieve from the bigger and more daunting conversations and decisions I knew lay ahead. Minutes later I fell asleep. and fielding calls from my friends and business contacts in L. it felt surprisingly good to fall back into the safety and predictability of work. listening to the low moan of the wind moving through the trees. the top worn beyond recognition as if worried for hours on end. The day after the apple. disposing of the wilted and depressing collection of flowers which had accumulated on the dining table. His presence was easy and comfortable. I tugged on the sleeve of the dress shirt I had stashed under the bed.or what little of it made its way through the ever-present cloud-cover blanketing Forks. When I finally got around to returning my agent's messages. The same as it looked every day of the September six years ago when I'd sat staring uselessly after him. waiting for guests who had never come. sliding his hand between my legs as he'd bent down to kiss me goodnight. ~X~ The next morning I was up with the sun . Suddenly I was seventeen again. the yellow curtains billowing in the slight breeze. Thomas agreed he'd be more comfortable on the floor. I don't know what I expected to see. The bottlecap. Closing my eyes. a lie that seemed insignificant compared to all the others. and I was at once anxious for him to leave and desperate for him to stay. but my eyes darted to the dresser first thing each morning upon waking. But he'd offered to help me relax in other ways. it was becoming increasingly difficult to ignore what I had always known. And each morning I awoke to a token. We discussed resumption of the interrupted book tour and negotiations with several studios vying for the rights to turn "Dusk" into a feature film. Edward hard and rubbing against me. "Oh. and then I crept to the window and placed my hands on the sill. Although I'd been avoiding her for nearly a week. wondering whether Edward was out there in the shadows. the driveway.helping me sort through Charlie's insurance information and legal documents. I gazed at the lawn. he left a plastic bottlecap.I stopped resisting. I told Thomas I'd forgotten my birth control pills. Though I wracked my brain. Moving one hand lower. When I turned back to face the room. stumped me thoroughly. I didn't know when I would be ready to face him again. I knew it was useless to attempt catching him in the act."You alright. "I just hate blood. The steady rhythm of Thomas's even breathing told me without looking that he was still asleep. He didn't act hurt or angry when I'd admitted I wasn't in the mood. listening. seeming to attribute my need for space to grief. Bella? You look a little pale. I buried my face in the soft cotton. Perhaps he'd finally read it. Charlie had an old air mattress and some blankets stashed in the hall closet. I saw it. Charlie's bed was not an option. Thomas was a saint. a shield protecting me from dealing with my past. I was no good for him. but the yard looked exactly the same. however. Luckily. In the end.

scary. I'm not proud of my envy. With every blink of my eyes. I took a deep breath and broke the seal: Dearest Bella. I am guilty of a hundred unforgivable crimes. and I see it now. I read the letter again. I have not hunted since that night because I can still taste you on my tongue." My neck snapped up. oblivious to my stricken expression. I'm done hiding. I see you." he yawned. Edward. I can still feel you. When it comes to you. was underestimating your love." I answered numbly. For now.The morning of Thomas's last day in Forks. Bella. Bella. your body hot and trembling beneath me. perverse.I do know what love is. It took me far too long. But I've read our story. I am not embarrassed to tell you I have coerced Alice into reassuring me that you have not yet made your choice. But the greatest. This time. but I took the liberty of making us dinner reservations in Port Angeles before my flight leaves tonight. you must know that I never will again. it is enough to keep me going. "Hi. My leg bounced involuntarily under the table as I flipped the envelope over and over in my hands. I'm sorry for more than I could express in this simple letter. but neither am I ashamed. And again. listen. I am never far. simply. The seam was sealed with red wax embossed with the Cullen family crest. I cannot bear for you to believe my misguided attempt at keeping you safe was an indication I didn't love you enough to stay. This life has made me a patient man. Although I have long given up any right I may once have had to feel possessive of you. I have salvaged my sanity only by remembering our night in my bed. "What?" He reached up to scratch the back of his neck. I will do whatever it takes to prove to you that you are wrong . "So. your back arching in pleasure at the feel of my mouth loving you. "Yeah. If anything. I folded the paper with a shaking hand and shoved it into a kitchen drawer. When Thomas's footsteps registered on the stairs. I admit that I am shamelessly trying to steal you away from a man whose only crime was being smart enough to love you. "Mornin' babe. but the past three days have been the longest of my existence. reaching for a coffee mug. and I can't bear the thought of sullying the flavor. more than I could explain had I ten thousand pages to fill. needing to know . I love you. my heaving chest. My heart began to pound in my chest. I see it now. Please. But no matter what happens between us. Over the past few days. I hope you don't mind. I tiptoed to my dresser as I'd done every day before. I grabbed the envelope and padded downstairs to the see . I loved you too much. Leaving you was the worst mistake of my existence. Choose me. Should you reject me.that he isn't sharing your bed. Thus. I'm done shielding you from the parts of me that are dark. remember how you told me last weekend about Charlie wanting to take you out to that Italian place?" I thought for a moment. I found a heavy linen envelope on which was written in Edward's unmistakable elegant script. desperate to feign nonchalance. well. I underestimated you. It has just taken me awhile to accept that it is something I deserve. It was the last conversation I'd had with Charlie. In turn. Pride is a luxury of less desperate men than I. I was afraid. I fear. . I vaguely recalled joking with Thomas as we'd dined on lobster at Lutece about Charlie's plans to take me someplace fancy. I needed you too desperately. I underestimated us. I confess that I sit outside your room every night. It seemed a million years ago now. "Bella". seeing you with him incites in me a nearly murderous rage. I had never felt so alive until that moment. Bella.

or when the rain began to fall." I managed. my rubber soles slapping on wet pavement and then crunching on gravel. before. "He says he. I mean. But I knew that I wanted to run. I was about to turn back when I spotted his grave. if I really concentrated. seeking an escape." I whispered. This was impossible. My eyes darted from the stairway to the doorway. The high school and the muted blare of the lunch bell. But as I spoke the words out loud. the muddy grass. Or something. Even now. I might be able to feel him here. my tongue thick in my mouth. I gasped and choked on lungfuls of cool air until the bitter taste of bile rose in my throat. or fishing the Great Barrier Reef. my legs. who knows if you can hear me. don't really know how to do this." "Right. It's totally weird. "Fuck. "La Bella Italia?" I asked in a whisper." I managed. where." Silence. um. wincing at Charlie's imagined reaction. Charlie. Because for God's sake. It was just me. I walked to it and sunk to my knees. or when my shoe came untied. I tentatively reached for the carved stone and traced with my finger each letter that made up his name." I said softly. like on an island. its faded letters cracked and peeling. Leaving me. ~X~ I didn't know where I was going. I saw the crease in his brow as he leaned toward me and felt the unmistakable vibration of the table as he nervously bounced his leg underneath it. because I never would have talked to you about this stuff. there's no one else I can talk to. "Hey. I wondered for a moment how I got here. that's the one. you know. The diner and its unmistakable aroma of fried fish. "Yeah. But I hope I got the right one. I'd never been to a cemetery before Charlie's burial. as I plodded down the narrow walkway. it turns out there aren't very many fancy Italian restaurants in Port Angeles. my stomach twisted. But it was no use." I'd foolishly thought I'd at least come to terms with the fact of Edward's return. I didn't feel as crazy as I probably looked. "But God. so I guess I'll just start talking. I didn't slow down when I reached the city limit sign. keeping my eyes forward in an attempt to ignore the landmarks that littered the landscape. "So this is kind of stupid. and a slab of granite. made a mistake by leaving Forks. the betrayal by my other senses forced me to recognize them all." Ok. But there were none. or if you're even here. Staring at the crooked wooden sign. As if on auto-pilot. and adrenaline pumping in an all-out sprint as I tore through town. I thought that. and I batted at my chest as if to make sure it hadn't caved . temples throbbing and side aching. "Edward's back."Um. . right. yes. "That's really thoughtful. part of me wondered what the hell I hoped to accomplish. I didn't stop until I reached the wrought iron gate. "I. heart. And then I realized I had nowhere else to go." My stomach dropped in my gut. Or if you're . Closing my eyes. Here goes nothing. this wasn't so bad. ah. I took a familiar route. Though the sights weren't discernible from the constant blur of grey and green in my peripheral vision. for the hairs on the back of my neck to stand up. listening. I'd never had a reason to. no tree limbs swaying in the breeze. I thought it would be a fitting way to honor Charlie's memory. Holding my breath. I imagined us sitting together in the kitchen. though I was utterly confused about what it meant. No birds chirping." I sighed. distinguishable from the others by the freshly upturned earth that blanketed its plot. I swallowed a few times and used my shirtsleeve to wipe the sweat from my forehead and the tears from my eyes." Ugh. ." I said. I wouldn't expect you to be hanging around Forks still. "Well. I sped my steps and lengthened my stride. The police station and the persistent rumble of idling cruisers. Bracing myself. Of course. You should be. for anything and everything my desperate mind could somehow interpret as a signal that he was watching. I rested my hands on my knees. I pushed on. I rose from my chair and attempted to steady my shaking limbs by clutching the table. I waited for my skin to tingle.

Desperate to make it last. I lifted my eyes to the white sky.summer visits to Forks and Charlie insisting I wear water wings and a lifejacket in the ocean long after I'd learned to swim. "He left to protect me. We have an early reservation. I was working the shampoo into a rich lather when I heard it. "I know that you never forgave him for what he did. God. the leaves hung perfectly still." I picked at a blade of grass as I continued with my monologue. "Too much. I spoke freely now. the heels of my hands sinking into the damp earth. ~X~ "Ok. Charlie would have done anything to keep me safe. to Edward I was forever a fragile human.A. "I just need a human moment. of all people. I glanced at Thomas." I whispered. I lifted the bag and twisted out of his grasp. really. In Forks. Hell. a stiff breeze caused my skin to pebble in gooseflesh. "And I don't know what to do. Thomas came to me. The recent memories gave way to older ones . They hurried down my cheeks. Thank God Thomas was leaving tonight." The verbal admission was somehow liberating. . Clutching a towel to my chest. "But how am I supposed to believe him when he says that he loves me now? How could he abandon me . Desperate to make it stop. So much. I felt in being here. I still don't know if I can forgive him. despite my protests that I looked silly and Renee never made me wear one. Charlie. pretending to pocket-dial at oddhours just to make sure I was safe. But as I surveyed the trees surrounding the small plot of graves. I needed to get a hold of myself if I was going to make it through this dinner." The verbal acknowledgement of my confusion and despair coaxed the tears from my I steadied myself on the tiled wall before tripping out of the shower. I don't know why I still insisted on toting it to and from the lone bathroom now that I was the only one using it. But it suddenly occurred to me that. remember we need to leave in thirty minutes. channeling the calm facade I'd cultivated over the past year. wherever he was. But at least now I know the real reason why he left." I sighed and shifted position. desperate to find the source of the sound." I laughed humorlessly. stronger. knowing. washing away the skepticism. would have understood Edward's reasons for leaving. the awkwardness." The words were out of my mouth before I could stop them. could I? As I stood to leave. Dammit. "Yeah. As I padded to the bathroom it took all my restraint not to slam the door behind me. Memories of Charlie suddenly started to flicker like home movies through my mind. I chuckled lightly recalling his persistence that I keep pepper spray with me at all times. I love him.lie to me . I rubbed my hands briskly along my arms to warm them from the slight chill in the air. How insistent he'd been that I stay out of the woods. he. but my habit from my high school days lingered on. When I'd moved to L. They were so similar. When I'd told him about a particularly creepy guy in my sociology class. Bella. Charlie had run a criminal background check and overnighted me a rape whistle and two DVDs on self-defense. I brushed the suds away from my ear." Thomas reminded me. Certain I was hearing things. I'm looking forward to it. It was true that Charlie had never forgiven Edward in life. "I still love him. I sprinted down the hall. I relished the pins and needles feeling for several minutes before realizing the water heater in this old house might soon run out of juice. I recalled his dogmatic refusal to let me ride my ten-speed to the end of the road without my helmet. The heat of the spray was nearly painful on my skin.if he really loved me? I just don't think I could survive if he broke me again. The question remained. I grabbed my toiletry bag from the top of my dresser. he'd been beside himself with worry. unloading my doubts and insecurities and craving the fatherly advice that would never come. I stepped into the shower and turned the water to the highest temperature I could comfortably stand. But the action only made the sound clearer. my every move. phoning every other day. Edward was invading my every thought. pulling a folded shirt out of his bag. Piling my hair atop my head. but if he thought the choice of words was strange he didn't let on. "He wants me back." I shook my head. kneading the back of my neck. To Charlie I was forever a little girl. as much as it pained me to admit it. Charlie would have forgiven Edward. How angry he'd been when he'd found out about my motorcycling adventures with Jake. "He thought he was doing what was best for me." I lied.

the potential that I had been so out of my mind in the days following Edward's departure that I could have buried his treasured CD. I had accused Charlie of taking it. glancing at the radio and then back at me. but one plank was missing. The music still flowed from the decade-old boom box on my nightstand. . "What . it had been right under my feet. hearing the familiar melody arrive at its melancholy resolution. . . . All this time .where did you-" I pointed to the CD player with a shaky finger. the crease of his brow as he lost himself in the music. I mean . I peered into the darkness. I had emptied out my desk and dresser drawers. my mouth dropped at the sight of the wasted plane tickets to Jacksonville lying on my pillow sham. he'd taken my lullaby too. are you alright?" Thomas's voice sounded miles away. No. and I realized it was loose. even though no part of me believed it was true. my eyes caught a flash of something sitting atop my purple comforter. littering the room with papers and clothes that remained piled on the floor for weeks. unconsciously over the keys.of my song . I had spent hours searching my bedroom for the CD of Edward's compositions after he left me. . I didn't mean to pry. Hoisting myself up on the bed. Thomas's expression conveyed confusion and worry as he scanned my face before guiding me to the rocking chair. "The music?" he asked. my fingers rubbing along something glossy and smooth. I shook my head. He had planned it." I had known. My head was light as Thomas's words echoed in my ears. but I still recognized the exact length of the pause after the first coda.My feet squished and slipped down the wooden hallway to my bedroom. can I just have a few minutes?" I was vaguely aware of Thomas nodding and leaving the room. the barely audible creak of the piano bench after my favorite run of notes. My body trembled as I stood in the doorway. My lullaby. It's okay. No. but I hadn't done this. The moment I saw the forged note to Charlie telling him of my "walk in the woods. The air had been sucked from my lungs when I had pressed the eject button to find the CD player empty. looking at me puzzled. The movement exposed a patch of the old wooden floor. but I would have agreed to anything in that moment to get him to leave. The melody was pristine. frozen in place. I felt my stomach ball into a tight knot as I flipped it over.any other hidden secrets. holding a piece of paper in his hands. imagining him perched on the edge of the wooden bench: the ebb and flow of his body as his hands moved expertly. I sat numbly staring at the black hole in the floor. "I think I need . I didn't remember sliding to the floor. ." His eyes softened sympathetically. The papers Thomas had been holding. "I'm sorry. I sank to my knees. And it was gone. I pulled the towel around my chest. giving way to a dark hole. Pulling a photograph from underneath the tickets. what's the matter?" I felt his arms around me. Stumbling over Thomas's bedding. lifting me to my feet. Orchestrated his departure down to the last detail. scratching and clawing at the wood on the off chance there were any other loose planks . so unlike the fuzzy indistinct version that haunted my memories." I didn't know what he was talking about. Some part of my brain noted that Thomas was perched on the edge of my bed. I closed my eyes for a moment. The CD of his music . unable to bring my feet to cross the threshold. but my blanket snagged on the floor board.was the only possession I cared anything about. Bella. I gripped the lip of the gap in the floor with my nails. always seeming to go someplace far away in his mind. I had known. "Was this some kind of hiding place of yours?" he asked. "Bella. whipping water and suds. Was this a hiding place of mine? I briefly considered the possibility . I may have been delusional. "Is that what's bothering you?" I nodded vigorously in response. I had only heard this particular version perhaps ten or eleven times in the three days between my birthday and the day he'd left. but my focus was on the CD player on my nightstand and the incessant sound coming from it. He sat me down gingerly before kneeling by his make-shift bed and pushing the air mattress a few feet to the left. I picked them up. aware for the first time that I was still naked and cold from my abandoned shower. my soapy hair dripping in soft splats on the wood floor. Before I could finish testing the seams of all the panels. "Bella? Baby. "I just haven't heard that music in a long time. Except it wasn't." I whispered between shallow breaths. . As if the crushing blow of his leaving me weren't enough to bear.

only written in the language Edward knew best. A quiet resolve washed through me as I replaced the items in their home under the floor and stood on steady legs. Much like my own.what he'd promised. As the song concluded. the resolving chord no longer seemed calm and peaceful as it had years ago. cried oceans of tears. the photo in another. The rich score reveled in its major key only briefly before beautiful. We appreciate every single review and absolutely love hearing your thoughts and reactions to the story. for God's sake. the fear rippling through the notes of my song. ~X~ A/N: Thank you so much for continuing to read and care about these characters. Under my feet. I felt the love. and shared the company of many good men in the hopes of finally moving on. processing it all. I leaned my head back against the headboard. XOXO -M&V . Needed you too desperately. After all this time. yet despondent chords began interloping. Before making my way down the hall to finish getting ready. Where it had once been a pretty piece of music. I felt my own chest expand as I literally heard the sound of Edward falling in love. I'd traveled thousands of miles. With me. in spite of all he had done. I realized now I never wanted to. My mind conjured an image of Edward in my room. And I listened. my eyes wide as I surveyed the photograph he had so cruelly stolen from my album. closing my eyes.dreamlike. He hadn't wanted to move on. I was afraid. special to me because it had been written by him. Why? Esme's song was now filling the air. He'd left them here. It was simply. That's what he'd wanted . steadily building in a complicated and breathtaking crescendo as the minor key shifted to a major. watching over me as I slept. was he telling me he never would? It was the same reason I cherished the scar on my wrist and reveled in the searing pain that tore through my chest when I thought of him. I didn't know if it were even possible to recapture all we had lost. The same reason I couldn't rest until I'd immortalized our love story in written word. He had hurt me so completely. half of it. It started out soft. I sat and stared vacantly at the hole in the floor. The ethereal tinkling of notes then began to swell. haunting . I owed it to myself to find out. My eyes were plastered to the ceiling as I fought to keep my breaths measured. it was now a story. the desperation. By preserving the evidence of the love he later tried to deny. I didn't know if I would ever be able to move past it. The only evidence of my presence was my fingers peeking from behind his back. It had been neatly torn in a perfect line along the very crease where I'd folded the photograph before fastening it into the scrapbook. But I could never let him go. In my room. The possibility that Edward really did still love me. but it wasn't what I needed to hear. sad. Was he hoping I'd find this? Or had he done it for himself? I gasped upon realizing both might be true. Despite the years and distance between us. the tickets resting limply in one hand. I felt as if I only now was beginning to understand Edward. And yet he'd buried himself under my bedroom floor. he was finally starting to let me in. clutching his waist tightly. That I had never really understood the tumult of emotions Edward had been feeling beneath his controlled exterior. I restarted my song from the beginning. undeniably. paralyzed me with a mixture of hope and fear. I felt as if I was hearing it now for the first time. But one thing I finally understood for certain. It was to have been as if he'd never existed. I opened my closet and selected my favorite blue dress. As plainly as if they had been lyrics to the haunting tune. Though I had heard the lullaby countless times before. It shocked me now that I had never realized it before. devastated me so thoroughly. I considered the words in his letter: I loved you too much. Or. It was serene and lovely.I pressed my fingers against my lips. rather. What had once been a photo of me and Edward together was now simply a picture of him. I stopped the CD before it could transition again to Esme's song and sat in stunned silence on my bed.

" he said. Thomas started in again. But don't lie to me. "Umm. I held his gaze." he choked. he's been there first. yeah I guess? I mean I know I did when I was younger. "I had the mushroom ravioli. You used talk every night when we first met. just maybe. his voice wistful." I whispered. though. and silent some more as Thomas clicked away on his BlackBerry. After taking a slow sip. Bella?" Shit. Now." I blinked a few times and brought the wine glass to my lips. "Do you know that you talk in your sleep. clasping my hands under my chin. The waitress set our drinks down. Thomas chugged half of his scotch and set it roughly on the table." I soothed." He leaned in across the table as if sharing a deep secret." I fumbled. It was good." I said. snatching his hand away. Thank you guys. squeezing his fingers. and Thomas had raised it just yesterday. I set the glass on the table and reached for his hand. annanabanana and to our prereaders WindyCityWonder and ilsuocantante and especially to LolaShoes who really went the extra mile this chapter in commenting on multiple drafts. "Plus. the ice cubes clinking noisily in the glass. "Don't. "No. The waiter came and took our orders granting a momentary reprieve from the uncomfortable mood. but thought better of it and let my eyes travel around the restaurant. his voice laced with fatigue and defeat. finding my way back to a love I'd given up on a long time ago.*Chapter 20*: Chapter 19 A/N: Thanks to our beta. but honestly our chapters aren't nearly complete until these ladies read them and offer their feedback. When Charlie had mentioned La Bella Italia last week. Chapter 19 BPOV As the hostess led us to our table." I answered. the pain in my chest was completely eclipsed by the nerves that sizzled and snapped as I wobbled between naked dread and raw anticipation. We sat silent after the waitress took our drink orders. waiting for him to continue until finally I caved to the awkward silence. We've said this before. "That's not true. ah. you still do. "Yes. I worried my chest would collapse under the weight of the memories here. For as much as I hated hurting Thomas. and I sipped on my merlot. . "Over and over. what's good here?" he sighed. you know. "Well. why do you ask?" "It's a romantic place. but his curt responses to my attempt at small talk and his inability to look me in the eye gave me the distinct impression that I'd be the one getting dumped tonight. "I've come to realize that no matter what I do. "I've never asked you for much. "Do you know what you would say?" I simply looked at him. The question was rhetorical. shaking his head and giving me a wry smile. I opened my mouth to chastise him. although it tapered off a few months into our relationship. "You said. tilting it upward to cover my face. You're not very good at it. 'stay with me'." "Ok. We were both ready for our second round of drinks. I knew it was the first step toward maybe. sliding my shaking hands to my lap." He shook his head. I felt guilty enough as it was. I swallowed hard. I'd pondered for the first half of our drive to Port Angeles how I should break up with him. "Um. Thomas grazed the small of my back out of habit before shoving his hands in his pockets. table typing being a well-known pet peeve of mine. It was for the best. And here we go." he shrugged." "Did you come here with Edward?" he asked pointedly. But as soon as the waiter left. "So. I've only been here once. we love you! Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. Bella. This conversation was going from bad to worse.

I guess. He nodded. Charlie . "And I was fine with that. "Edward is Luke." "You know? How did-" "Bella. "I've never seen you look that way at anyone. I may not know the whole story here. futilely scrolling through my contacts as if his number would magically appear. I'm not. Darcy ." I felt my brow furrow and opened my mouth to interject but stopped. "I wish it could have been me. I was sorry. my face crumpling at his words. let's just cut the shit. stay with me'." He smirked. "Okay. but the door of the tiny restaurant had not yet clicked shut before my heart began to race." He stood then." I looked up at him. He squeezed my knuckles once before pulling his hand away. Because I was stupid. "Nevermind the daggers he was shooting in my direction. But I couldn't. or knowing that you are." ~X~ I sat still. I woke up at a noise outside your room and you were at it again." He took another drink of scotch. I didn't realize I had spoken aloud during them.. "You said. okay?" He gave me a withering look. And when he dropped you off the other morning-" He shook his head. . I nodded." My eyes dropped to the napkin in my lap as my fingers played with my hoop earring. But I knew now that my heart had never been mine to give. I'm gonna go ahead. "After a while it stopped.your eyes. but I know enough. "I saw a hotel with a taxi stand a block or so up the street." he paused. It was all true. I sucked my bottom lip into my mouth and nodded. I don't regret a single day with you. I wanted to spare him this pain. I took a drink of my wine. There was no easy way to do this. pressing his lips into my hair." The air left my lungs..wondering if you were capable of that kind of love. He deserved to be happy with someone who could give him everything. shrugging. "I'm so sorry. "I found the photograph under your floor. "That no matter how many years passed or how much we shared. and my eyes lifted.." I grabbed his hand across the table. Edward. He bent down and squeezed my shoulder lightly." I repeated." "What?" "Nearly a year without a word. "I know. a strange sense of relief washing over me. . I knew I should be feeling guilt." "I'm sorry. "I don't know what's worse . Dentist . When his eyes finally met mine. chuckling ruefully." "What did I say?" I asked. Bella. "I'd pull you closer to me and I thought it helped." I whispered. I saw your face drain whiter than a bedsheet when that music played." I said. I had clearly underestimated Thomas. and because I wanted you a little too much. "I guess I knew you might not ever love me. suddenly helpless." he continued. staring at the checkered tablecloth." I said simply." He lifted my chin with his index finger. Edward'. reaching for his wallet and dropping three twenties on the table. Thomas. looking up at the ceiling. They'd been on the wane by the time Thomas and I began dating and stopped altogether soon after I'd completed the manuscript of Dusk. "But let's not either of us waste any more days. but it wasn't altogether surprising. . closing my eyes for a long moment as I replaced it on the table..." he continued. I wasn't sure I wanted to know. "Don't be sorry. because it was the question he expected.. I'd always be chasing you. meeting his meaningful look. Then three nights ago. least of all me. Bella. shame. The waiter delivered two platefuls of pasta which sat untouched as I reached for my phone. you should have seen your face . they were wet. His mouth scrunched into a wince as he threaded a hand through his hair and scrubbed his face. I recalled the dreams. "Until three nights ago. Thomas. 'stay with me . 'Stay with'd say it.

" "Of course. understanding. "I'm sorry. I guess. "Take your time. unclenching of his hands." . "Hey. Before I can give you an answer . "You've been here the whole time then. the clenching." he said quietly. "What did she say?" I asked. moaned his name. But now.before we can talk about us . "So does that mean-" he cut himself off and dropped his head to his chest. Bella. for the first time in years. "That day. I wanted to lunge at him. neither of us apparently believing that we were back here." I explained. I wanted to smother him with every inch of my body. but his hands were stretched out unnaturally at his sides." I breathed upon seeing his name on the screen. I just . "Why did you do that? How could you do that?" Taking a deep breath." He nodded. "Bella. preparing. slower. to be honest." His face bore a look of fragile hope. back in the place where we had begun the conversation that changed my life forever. there's still so much I don't get. "Alice. in the very place where it all began." he responded. Tears welled in my eyes." "I found your CD." he whispered finally. not the least bit embarrassed. After a long moment. the faint hint of a smile briefly tugging at his lips. his long fingers stroking my pulse points and tracing the raised outline of my scar." His eyes flickered in surprise. I held his gaze but couldn't speak." "I'm not sure what it means yet. and his shoulders were drawn up and tense. I wanted to taste myself where he said my flavor lingered. the movement shaking the tears from my eyes. urging me to continue. We took our seats and I cleared my throat. I stared at his fingers and shifted in my seat." He raised his eyebrows and leaned forward in his seat. That you'd made up your mind. flexing and unflexing as if fighting an impulse to reach for me."Holy shit. my legs around his waist. he leaned forward in his chair. to really talk to Edward. I was finally ready to talk to him again. Since his return." he stopped. the tearful conversation of the last hour and the now-failed relationship of the past year seemed a distant memory. nor could I.I need you to help me understand why you did some of the things you did. I polished off the rest of my merlot and rose from the table. he began. my eyes locked onto his. the fabric crumpled and stained from three days' wear. He noticed my gaze and lightly squeezed my hands. But even with all you've said and done the past few days. shaking my head. motioning to Thomas's empty chair. I felt a rush of lust straight to my middle as I recalled the reason why. unwilling even to blink. His eyes were black and needy. Edward. "I'm sorry. his voice faltering on the word day. The moment I saw him." he answered. "Then you know already it's over with Thomas. "May I?" I nodded in response. I can't deny my feelings for you. "Ask me anything. I could see my own chest rising and falling in my peripheral vision. As I turned toward the door. My other birthday gifts. feel his hands on me everywhere. His hands encircled my wrists. wrap my arms around his neck. what that meant for us. I had cried. "Hey. "I didn't love him." He nodded again. He shook his head. momentarily distracted by the memory of the last time I felt his touch. Then I felt my lips curve into a smile as I remembered the tokens he'd left me over the past three days and all the times he'd snuck into my room undetected when I was a teenager. His eyes were trained steadily on my face." I said softly. "Just to come here. But of course Alice could not yet tell him. "I should have ended it a long time ago." I said. I punched out a short text with trembling fingers and hit send as a surge of anticipation rolled through my belly. We stood there and gazed at each other. continuing his smoldering stare. Even as I stared straight ahead. the circles underneath them stamped purple with deprivation. He clearly knew I had decided to end things with Thomas. shouted. I recalled from his letter that he hadn't hunted." his voice was earnest. "Why?" I asked. He stood before me in the same jeans and button-down.I need to touch you right now. overwhelmed by the flurry of feelings swirling within me and the task of describing them. "Yes. and I stared through the blur. "Is this okay?" he asked. Oblivious to the chirp-chirp of a nearby cell phone.

They rolled silently. Bella." I released my grip on his wrist and. The next night I lasted a mere twenty minutes." He paused briefly and I recalled with a bitter smirk his cruel. It's okay. "Bella. "Not that I deserve to forget what I did that day-" He looked down for a moment before meeting my eyes to continue. understanding. steadily down my cheeks as he continued to speak. . He nodded lightly. that day is different. I couldn't offer him that. . But the knowledge that his actions had tormented him ignited a sense of solidarity that moved me to grasp the wrist of the hand holding mine. I told you that you were the most perfect creature I had encountered in a century of aimlessly existing. Your house smelled like gun polish and garlic . and his eyes flickered back to the present. kneeling at the foot of your bed with my head resting on your covered feet."Yeah. But when I got to the threshold of your room. It seemed fitting to leave them under your floor. Jesus." My limbs grew rigid. "Go on. lifting an eyebrow as his fingers gripped and twisted the cloth napkin. "Or are you still afraid I might run screaming?" His smile evaporated and his eyes pierced my own. . But that day felt like the end of any meaning my existence may have held. the two nights I spent away from you were excruciating." I prodded. clutching each other as if one of us were keeping the other from falling. more real. "But of all my crystalline memories in life. I told you that I wanted to make love to you. We sat. lift up your nightshirt. blasphemous words the day he'd left: Don't worry. he let me go too. "Physically." He shook his head. Your hair was loose and tousled from a fitful night's sleep. I remember every single agonizing detail and have relived it more times than I could count. hoping it might soften the blow. as if seeing something not present in the room. I knew he wasn't looking for my pity and where this subject was concerned. pacing around your yard after you'd fallen asleep. regaining my composure. I died long ago.not for your benefit. the brick of ice encasing my heart began to creak and thaw. of course. as you slept. "Go on. raking a hand through his hair. than any other. I would confess it all. "I went to your house that afternoon with the intention of destroying any evidence of my existence. "Edward?" I prodded. as my mind took a rare. I had convinced myself that you would easily move on . blazing with a fiery resolve. But." My eyes were hot.your memory is no more than a sieve. resuming the agitated clawing of his hair with his free hand. "On so many occasions when we were together. "What?" he asked." He released one of my wrists. defensive. it was useless. A burial seemed appropriate." I demanded quietly. . "I know now that I was wrong about your feelings for me. . . You had on your favorite pair of worn jeans and a violet cotton henley printed with darker purple flowers. shaking my head. "You were wearing a dab of perfume that smelled of Gardenia and Lilac and you had a small bruise on your left elbow. purposeful trip back to the memory of the day Edward had abandoned me. confused. but I didn't even try to stem the tide of waiting tears. "What did you say to me? What did you think I couldn't handle?" I tilted my head slightly as he paused. "I told you. . I told you that I could tell when you were dreaming of me because you would say my name as your scent would flood the air. I made it a single hour. I wiped at my face with my palms as yet another memory from my past life was rewritten. signaling he knew he was to continue. "Tell me. One more day would have broken my resolve. The gesture sparked a tiny hint of a smile to flicker in his lips." . The first night. At night. I felt on the verge of overwhelming you with the weight of my need for you. You're human ." I smiled weakly. before I was in your room." He sighed. wiping at my eyes. make you feel things your little body couldn't fathom it was capable of. I spent the next three days trying to drive some distance between us. "How could you have been so blind?" I asked. worried that if you really knew the extent of it. Bella. Bella. "I knew then my departure needed to be abrupt . The memory of that day is more vivid. With every word that fell from his lips." he trailed off. But at the time." He blew out a breath and began again. his eyes focused on a distant point. you would run for the hills. that my life had held no meaning until you entered it. I couldn't bring myself to take the gifts with me. but for mine. "I made my decision the night of your birthday party. I knew I wouldn't last another day." He smiled at me then. and feel you everywhere. though his eyes were still pained.that you were too young to truly understand what you felt for me. I told you that I wanted to peel back the covers.

"I know." I choked. I wished nothing more than for you to come back. admiring the copper hair that stood perpetually on end. to whisper that we would be okay. I did know. ." I said. I invited hallucinations of you. at least. That I was sorry I could never give you children. his features drawn into a look of undeniable misery. I had no choice .' for me Edward. my most resentful." I replied. "I'll never forgive myself for not saying those things." he said. "I won't. but his eyes softened somewhat as he continued. Learned to avoid allowing my mind to wander into that treacherous territory. trying to push the words past the lump that was swelling in my throat. love. misguided failure to share them with me." I accused." I let out a stilted breath. his eyes intense and searching." I slumped in my seat and rested my tear-streaked face in my hands as the weight of the tragic past set in. smiling ruefully. fighting for the words to help him see what I was scared of." Though the words made no logical sense uttered from his immortal lips. especially the good ones . "I spent the past six years trying desperately to learn to live without you. "It's okay. after you left me. suffered through nightmares of you. You were everything." He nodded. That I hoped I could be enough for you. He had been afraid to confide in me the secrets that I would most have wanted to hear." I looked at him seriously then. I had to . He caressed my elbow with his thumb and forefinger as I sat quietly. Needed me." he sighed." he urged. I want to trust you. just stories belonging to other characters. But I pushed on. Because even if they came too late for you. "I can't. "You were more than 'enough. Every memory of us . Bella. their meaning was perfectly clear.The tiniest gasp of a sob locked in my windpipe." "Thank you. His eyes flew wide and for a split second we stared at each other as the world around us came to a grinding halt. Tell me." I begged. tortured me. Please. "Please. "Sometimes I almost believed that they weren't memories." He matched my look. stop. to kiss his face. lifting a hand to cup my cheek. the smooth red lips that hung partly open." I interrupted. he'd never realized that his hopes and desires were mirror images of my own. Writing my book made that easier in many ways. But I was surviving." I shook my head. "And. my chest throbbing with the effort of recalling my darkest days. I learned to manage the pain." "Edward. I never had any delusions I would go on to live out a great love story. resting his forehead on my thigh for a moment before meeting my eyes. I looked up to find him clutching his stomach with one hand and resting his head in the other.haunted me." I paused a moment to collect myself. And if you leave again. "Neither would I. And finally. When I opened my eyes again. His grip on my thighs tightened as he pulled back slightly." he insisted. "Oh. "I love you. And in his stubborn. swallowing. blotting the tears that spilled from my eyes. "Bella. He'd convinced me of what I'd previously thought impossible. my voice cracking. With me. then. somehow." I shrugged. And I . In an instant he was kneeling at my side. "Don't prove me wrong. even if you don't want to be with me. Closing my eyes.even the good ones. I stared unabashedly. He loved me. it will be so much worse. literally aching to stroke his hair. "Afraid of what? Tell me. the hand at my face shaking slightly." I gripped my hands together tightly and continued. "You should have told me. I started to reach for him. I do.I learned to cope without you. overwhelmed yet again that he was here." "I'm afraid. when I should have. his were closed. "Over time. He wasn't finished. the slight twitch in his jaw. then." I wiped at my face with the back of my hands. "There are things I need to say. hell. I leaned forward instinctively and grazed my lips against his.I just needed you to know. "I wouldn't survive it." "I'm afraid because even when I was at my most angry. His eyes were squeezed tight. Bella." I whispered. "I told you that I wanted to marry you. But I'll always be grateful that I said them to you tonight. "I'm so sorry. inhaling him before brushing my lips over his pinky. I leaned into his hand.

The energy between us had been undeniable when I'd first laid eyes on him . finally grasping what he was trying to make me see. to my collarbone. raising an eyebrow as I met his reflected eyes. Instead. "Well. then. apparently. "I am good for you. "All that I want. to worship you with my body. my heart pounding. yet still familiar way. his cool breath skating across my cheek." he repeated. check in hand. my eyes. his mouth." I scoffed. my blood racing. I closed my eyes. his chest lightly pressing against my back." "You're beautiful. "I need you.a low hum that sang between us even as I cried and ached at his painful confession." I whispered. "I guess we should probably go now. my throat. sighing into his mouth as I sucked on his bottom lip. One of his hands drifted down my neck as the kiss began to grow from slow and sweet to hungry and yearning. making a scene. his eyes pleading." he said. Finally. for all of my days." I shifted in my seat and swept my palms across my face in an attempt to cool the blush that had formed there. He finally understood what I had always known. My soul." he said softly. His eyes were noticeably blacker than they'd been mere minutes ago at the table. I was toweling off my face when I heard the creak of the door hinge and the click of the lock. he looked at ease. a sizzling wire connecting us in a new. but stopped suddenly when he grabbed my wrist. I can't be away from you right now. "You might have knocked. I smiled. he brought his lips to my ear. Cradling my face in his hands.I am good for you. ok? And then we can go. He crossed the short distance between the door and the sink in the small single restroom. "Hurry." he smirked. "So good. his mouth set in a determined line. "I nearly went mad these past three days with you so close to me. "Yes. I wanted to see him happy all the time. my whole body ached for him. "But I know now ." he corrected. his hands. sucking an earlobe into his mouth." He nodded and rose to his feet as I stood to leave the table. Edward returned to his chair." ~X~ The cool water felt good as I splashed away the tear streaks and splotches of redness. I smudged mascara all over my hand." he insisted. He had changed."I need you to tell me. I turned toward the ladies room." He tightened his grip on my ." he breathed." He stepped forward. "I'm sorry." He exhaled and the tension drained from his face." he murmured. the waiter approached our table. is to love you. I needed to feel that this was real. And now. "Thank you. "Bella. it had crackled. smoothing my dress. to my breasts. Bella." I chuckled. I looked up and saw Edward in the reflection of the mirror. Sweeping my hair to the side. and I sat up straight. "God. inviting him to move his lips to my jaw. knowing you weren't mine." I whispered." He leaned on this last word. I couldn't wait. He stared at me knowingly as he continued to kiss and suck at my skin. his eyes darting from my lips." I sighed. My eyes lifted again to meet his in the mirror. He swallowed thickly as my words. softly kissing my neck between words." he said. "I was so wrong. finally alone. "I want you. every part of him. he pulled me toward him and kissed me softly. "We were. "I need to hear it." I didn't hesitate. gliding his thumb over my cheekbone. nudging his foot under the table with mine. He smiled up at me then and tucked a lock of hair behind my ear. Happy. But just then. I felt the blush begin to flood my cheeks as I became vaguely aware of sideways glances and quiet mumbling from the restaurant's other patrons. "I've wasted so much time already. drew him in. my chest. chosen him aloud. "I'm a mess." I said." As his lips brushed against my ear. I let my my head fall back as I tugged on his hair. When I'd kissed him. I needed to feel him. "I'm going to splash some cold water on my face. away from the prying eyes of strangers. the pull between us was thick with a dark intensity fueled by exquisite relief. meeting his eyes in the mirror. "What if I had been indisposed?" He didn't return my smile. "Convince me.

He slid his hands inside and my abs tensed as his cold skin made contact with the tender flesh of my belly. Lowering the straps from my shoulders. He circled my nipple. Bella?" His smirk dissipated as he spoke in a strained voice." I said. "Tell me how they feel on your skin. Slowly. he moved his palms around to my lower back and up to my shoulders." "Who did you wear it for?" "You. We belong together. "Him. "Do you have any idea how beautiful you look in this dress?" His tone wasn't deny this. . kissing my throat. "Who bought it for you?" he asked. I pushed my chest forward deeper into his mouth and gripped his soft hair in my hands. his voice dark. He dragged a teasing finger up the inside of my thigh. I needed to feel him. wanting more. pressing his erection deliberately into my hip bone. closing his eyes as his hands stroked my arms." He pressed his mouth to my ear. "Oh. Panting.arms. "So good. moaning softly." I answered. pressing myself up toward him again. He shook his head slowly. He spun me around suddenly. "I'm going to make you forget anyone else has ever touched you. I moaned at the hard shape of him." I moaned at the sound of the desperate edge in his voice." I rasped. He wanted an answer. "Seeing you with someone else." He grabbed the sash holding the simple wrap dress together. "How do my fingers feel. "God. Bending down between my breasts. He then pulled the dress smoothly off of my arms and it pooled in a puddle around my feet." "I was such a fool to try to deny us . me. alternately licking and sucking in a rhythm I imagined would be my utter undoing if his efforts had been concentrated lower." I whimpered as he teased. "Jesus. fisting my hands into his hair and clawing my nails down the back of his neck. "Yes. smirking lightly with the pause of his touch. Edward. I registered a slight snapping sound as he sliced the small strip of satin holding the garment together with his teeth. He tugged on the sash and the dress slackened. God." he murmured before licking his way up my sternum. my jaw. As his fingertip reached the elastic edge of the satin he stilled. and the hollow behind my ear. "Like you." he muttered. "Yes. clad only in a navy satin bra and panties. you're so beautiful.the way his eyes had lingered at the neckline where the midnight blue met the cream of my skin. steadying me as I teetered in my heels." "Hard." I whispered." I swallowed the reemerging lump in my throat. Bella." I panted." I cried out at his words." He nuzzled my hair with his cheek. "Do you know what seeing that color on you does to me?" I thought back to the last time we had been in this place together . His eyes closed and his jaw flexed as he sucked. cool. and just slightly rough. "I know. the chill I could feel through my dress. I needed him to stroke the maddening ache that was threatening to swallow me whole. he sucked my nipple into his mouth. His tongue was spongy. My hips shifted toward him. Six years ago "no" would have been my honest response. "I belong with you. "I've always known. He stepped back slightly as his eyes raked over my body. "I don't think you do. I tilted my head as his lips found the crook of my neck and began nipping their way to my ear." He moved a step closer and pushed his body against me. looking him straight in the eyes.

He buried his face in the hollow where my neck met my shoulders. while the fingertips of the other drifted up my thigh." I knew what he was telling me. "And love." I was breathless. "I want to take you slow and sweet. I promise I will. His black eyes were trained on mine as he dragged his tongue along the fingers at his lips. truly believed them. My voice was tinged with an edge of panic. "Oh God. gripping his hip and pushing his pelvis so that his hardness pressed firmly between my legs. he gripped my waist and hoisted me onto the counter top. "I'm sorry . swirling his tongue around it. the commode mere feet away. and a hot ache immediately replaced the soothing coolness. I hissed as his cold finger finally. smooth strokes. Groaning." he murmured as his lips grazed the shell of my ear. "Say it again." I soothed." he breathed into my chest." he murmured into my flesh. He slid his fingers out slowly. "Bella." his voice was an urgent whisper. mercifully." he demanded. Bella. his eyes dropping to where his fingers disappeared inside me. He pressed his forehead gently into my breastbone. bridged the chasm of the years of heartache and pain that had separated us."Only ever you. nuzzling my hair with his nose as he spoke softly into my ear. my Bella." He traced my lips with his glistening finger before cupping my face in his hands and kissing me. He sucked my middle finger into his mouth. he replaced his hands between my legs and gently slid two fingers inside. I want to savor every inch of your exquisite body. He groaned at my reaction." I trailed one hand down his back. the speckled grout lining the tiled floor." he whispered so low I barely heard him. complying with my nonverbal request." I clung to him desperately. deliberately apart. Edward." These last words seemed to reignite his resolve. "I love you. scratching harder. stroking me subtly. forcing me to meet my gaze." He kissed me then. He had never made love with anyone else. I want to make up for all the time I've cost us. I need you. As he sucked." I murmured softly. "Hmm?" He skimmed his nose lightly across my throat before lifting his questioning gaze to meet my eyes." His fingers traveled down my spine. rubbing soothingly. He kept a hand on one knee." I said. I shifted position in an attempt to draw him deeper. slipped under the fabric and glided along the slippery flesh in long. Please don't make me wait. "Again. "I love you. ghosting his open lips along my skin. I needed him to understand.this isn't how I imagined-" "Shhhh. I closed my eyes. skimming his hands down my arms. but not deep enough to calm the rolling waves in my belly. Edward. I want you now." His voice was firm as he cradled my head in his hands. groaning. here. as he pushed me back against the counter. I grunted lightly in protest as he pulled his hand away. "Every hand that ever touched me was yours." His brow creased as he exhaled through his nose. "I love you. "So beautiful." His ." I rasped. The mood in the room shifted as Edward seemed to be noticing our surroundings for the first time: the puddles of water on the uneven countertop. neither had I. He hooked his hand around my knee and pulled me toward him. "Bella. You'll never have to wait again. "I love you. The fiery look in his eyes contrasted starkly with the calm movements of his hands as they settled on my knees and pushed them slowly. "I know. Where it began. pressing my fingers against his mouth. "It's just as it should be. He dragged his open mouth across my cheekbone. He teased me. "Never again. "For me. leaving a trail of electric sparks in their wake. there will only ever be you. The wet sounds of Edward's fingers were overwhelmed suddenly by the loud groan of a pipe in the wall. absorbing the contrasting sensations of my warm fingers in his mouth and his cold ones between my legs. I leaned my head back in anticipation of fingers bringing sweet relief between my legs. "They were always yours. groaning into my mouth as his tongue swept along mine. The tendons of his forearm tensed and relaxed with each subtle stroke. softly at first and then needy. his mouth shaped in a silent moan." I breathed. adding a second finger and pushing in up to his knuckles. "You're everything. The simple words spoken in this moment when I finally. "I can't wait.

I gasped as I registered the weight of his length in my hands. "Tell me. placing his hands on my knees and pushing them gently apart. "Fuck. I felt the twin hollows in my chest and between my legs throb with anticipation of being finally. "Are you okay?" My mouth opened but no word would form. moving his mouth to my ear. I unzipped him as we sucked and hummed into each other's mouths. the V of his hips. The feeling was unparallelled pleasure laced with a sweet tinge of pain. He was trembling lightly with the effort of restraining the urge to thrust." I rasped." he groaned. It was at once the most natural and supernatural experience of my life. "Right now I need to fuck you. Edward stilled his lips and pulled back to look into my eyes. Bella. He pushed inside me then. Edward. as his hands skirted so lightly across my skin that I felt close to madness. Unable to contain the overwhelming contradiction of feeling wholly satisfied and yet desperate with need. It was love. "You're ready for me. but in my nervousness." The slight movement caused him to sink deeper into me. "Open up for me. I fumbled with the buckle. Edward guided me as we unlatched the metal clasp together. Reaching a hand behind his neck. I choked out a half-scream as he entered me. I dragged my tongue up his throat. "Say it. Covering my shaky hand with his steady one. "Please." he breathed. "Sweet Jesus. Sensing my hesitation. Edward. grabbing the crotch of the satin panties and twisting them until they snapped off in his hand. and my head fell back as I absorbed the current of pleasure that ripped through my body. coaxing him to go deeper. and he swallowed back a groan as my hands moved roughly along him. as he held himself still inside me. "Show me you're good for me." I begged." I whispered. Edward quickly removed his shirt and gracefully kicked off the clothes that had pooled around his ankles and circled his arm around my waist. completely. a single tear leaked onto my cheek. Bella" he hissed. "I know. save for the labored breaths he took as he buried his face in my hair. I could think of nothing but the feeling of his body connected to my own as my eyes traced the contours of his strong stomach. gripping one hand on my hip and the other behind my neck. Pulling me firmly to the edge of the countertop. He then placed my hand on his zipper and resumed cupping my face. I nodded briskly. I knew what he needed. I could feel every cold inch of his circumference as my body stretched to accommodate him. But he bent to me. He remained completely still." Shifting on the countertop." he ground out between gritted teeth. over his adam's apple. that he would withdraw and retreat the way I'd always worried he would. baby. "Show me you aren't afraid. because I needed it too. stroking me only once. Just a bit more. I need -" he trailed off. I pushed his pants and boxers down his hips and reached for him. breathless. The years of longing. Never in my most indulgent fantasies had I fathomed that such a sensation could exist. he wasted no time positioning himself between my thighs." I found his belt. Needing him to move . of unfulfilled need." He gripped the base of my skull with one hand as his fingers slipped into me again. of regret. I needed to be so full of him that I forgot the emptiness of six long years.voice was low. and bit his chin lightly before pulling his ear to my mouth. kissing my deeply. There was no adjective to capture what I felt in this moment. barely above a whisper. He was so big. I needed him to grab my hips and push into me as deep as he could go. and a silent understanding passed between us." I nodded. "Just tell me if I go too deep. Our eyes locked then. his brow creasing slightly as he swallowed. For a fleeting moment I feared Edward would misinterpret it. I rested my forehead on his shoulder and stared down at my legs spread around the only man I'd ever wanted. with his body finally owning mine. I leaned back on my hands and lifted my hips." His gaze was piercing as he met my pleading eyes. stretching me wide though he was barely inside. lust. tracing the tear's path with his tongue. "Fuck. remorse and envy. were about to be overcome by this one act." he whispered. whole. love. "It's okay. the trail of hair that led from his navel to where he disappeared inside me." "Yes. grabbing him tighter. "But right now.

"Bella. you're just -" he broke off. seemingly overwhelmed at the sight. turning and carrying me a few steps until my back landed roughly against the door. "Can you come with me. me moaning. breathing heavily. each stroke gaining in intensity as I curled my limbs around him. Bending at the knees." I breathed. His jaw was tight. "This is where you need me?" He rolled his hips and pushed deeper. his voice was calm and smooth. I closed my eyes as I climbed higher and higher. the feel." ~X~ A/N: Thanks as always for your support of this story. love? Please?" "Yes. "Fuck. I could see us in the mirror. the completion. and a cry erupted from my throat. "Oh God. my ankles locked around his rippling back." I gasped. He hooked one arm under mine and pulled me close. harder." he groaned as his rhythm changed from a steady pulse to urgent. "I've waited a hundred years for you." he choked. no trace of the tension of days past. "Yes. My thighs gripped his waist. to my breasts. stilling inside me. and an untapped reserve of need opened up and spilled within me. trusting himself to give us what what we both finally needed. Bella?" His look was pure love. to the floor. "I know. He shuddered and pulsed as I slowly came back together around him. yes. my heels pressing into the small of his back as he secured us firmly together. the feeling. I was spinning. my hands gripping his biceps as he worked himself inside of me. tightening my legs around his waist as he continued rocking into me with quick firm strokes. Low growls rumbled in his chest as he shifted lightly. our bodies rising and falling in unison. he pressed himself upward. Thanks for your patience and for continuing . watching himself. grounded to the earth only in the place where his body merged with mine. letting him take us to the edge together. "Fuck. Bella. my head fell back and slid up and down along the wood paneling with every surge of his hips." I rasped. and deeper." I gasped. He grabbed the countertop for leverage as he pushed into me again and again. Blackness painted my vision for a moment as my body struggled to process the blinding pleasure. their shiny black blazing with love and relief. God. gripping my shoulders and pressing his open mouth over my throat. Me neither. as his hands tenderly stroked around my collarbones. and finally to where his cock was moving. every tendon in his neck flexed as he conquered his baser instincts and crippling fears with every pass." he hissed. He lifted me from the counter. my nails clutching at his broad shoulders. my face pressing into his cool neck. had always known." he groaned. hitting a new spot. More. Edward. "There. Undone by the sight." I panted. "God. flying. "Oh." "Six years?" he growled. of his body sliding against my wet skin. "Yeah?" he asked. But as I watched him. I knew. his eyes wide and pleading with mine. When he finally spoke. choppy thrusts. The action sent him deeper still." I gasped. and I felt close to drowning in its depths. broke apart within me. I screamed his name as the fullness." A gritty whimpering sound escaped my throat as he buried his face in my neck and released a strangled moan into my flesh. "No. rubbing my sensitive flesh with his shaft before thrusting his hips forward. that he could never hurt me." He smiled down at me. "Oh God. "I know. He thrust again. My body still wrapped tightly around his we slid." I answered with a shaky laugh. "God. "Oh.inside me." His eyes were fierce as he pulled back and claimed me again and again. I watched as his muscles flexed as he drove me against the door. his eyes drifting from my face. He pulled back momentarily. silently. "Yes. my love for him swelled up around me. Bella. "What I've needed for six years. You may have noticed it's been about 2+ weeks between updates lately and I imagine that's probably about the pace we'll keep from here on out. "I'm not sure I'll ever be 'okay' again." His eyes lifted to mine then. him growling louder at the sound. "Are you okay. For a long moment we sat there. as he carried me with him into oblivion." He hit his stride with a steady rhythm that matched the pulse of my racing heart.

xoxo -M&V .to read.

desperate to know what she knew. The cab was thick with the scent of her: her sweat still a sheen on her body. she refused to hand over the keys. panicked. Things aren't black and white for her at the moment. I saw Bella. Edward. For a brief moment in the parking lot. and her head lay heavy in the crook of my arm as we rode along the 101 back to Forks. bbs. I stared up at my sister.. and carried her briskly out the rear entrance. NelsonSmandela and WindyCityWonder for honest." "And?" was all I could manage. There would be more car-rides. Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight Chapter 20 EPOV There was a silence between us as we rumbled along at a snail's pace in Bella's old truck. kneeling in front of her and grabbing her wrists. staring bewilderingly at the contents I had hidden under her floorboards. No one would ever guess now that they were taken at the same time." That simple phrase and all it implied caused my whole body to wash in relief. I scoured the image but Bella's thoughts were just as mute in Alice's visions as they were in my presence. Even if it meant I had to endure watching her with him in the very place where Bella and I had shared one of my most cherished memories. I reached into my wallet and pulled out the corresponding half of the photo. I looked up and noted her expression had shifted to the far-away look I recognized instantly as a precognition.*Chapter 21*: Chapter 20 A/N: Thank you to annanabanana for being the best beta two girls could ever ask for and. She'd barely had a chance to catch her breath before I draped her dress around her shoulders. In Alice's mind. But she's decided she wants to see you. but resolved. "But. If she wanted me. She was tired." "With him. and terrified of what she would say. Ok." The cryptic conversation had left me excited. wherever she needed." she warned. I knew things between them had changed. She was curled up against me. she had me — however. she wants to see you. still crisp around the edges. and confused.. constructive feedback and also just for caring about this story. her blood still close to the surface of her flushed skin. for just being all around awesome. And she's heading to La Bella Italia for dinner tonight. her lust still slick between her legs. we can't say enough how much your feedback motivates us. But the moment they'd walked through the door. more things with which to grow accustomed. I forced myself to resist the selfish urge to keep her conscious and present with me. so nostalgic. The piano had proven to be the only way to restrain myself from spending every minute of the past three days stalking Bella's movements with Thomas. The half with my image had been preserved neatly. crouched on her floor. The half in my . I flew to her. Every mind in the place was focused on the noises coming from behind the closed door to the women's restroom. He was thinking of the very photograph I'd left buried under Bella's floorboards. "Not that kind of decision. Thanks to LolaShoes. more time together. hastily threw on my clothes. From the corner of my eyes I saw a subtle movement — Alice's head tipping slightly to the side. "But. "don't get used to this. exhausted really. The ensuing exchange was so familiar. We love you. And for those of you who've tweeted us or reviewed the story. She shook her head. well. She nodded. she'd refocused on my face. that we were both smiling broadly when she finally conceded she'd had two glasses of wine in a short span of time." I said. "She's made a decision. Thanks finally to all of you who continue to read this story. I'd hated to whisk her so abruptly from the restaurant. a benefit afforded by the bench seat of the old vehicle. instead letting my mind wander over the course of the day as my palm stroked up and down her arm. I had been playing the piano this afternoon as Alice sat listening on the stairs. And not just any image of my face. shutting up to let Edward talk. After a tortuously long pause. but our lovemaking had not been quiet. Thomas's thoughts were circling around a singular image: my face.

But when she'd said she could not survive without me and kissed me. my hope surged. but I could hear her plainly. My body had flooded with a powerful surge of relief.. His memories of Bella beneath him. moaning. craved it. when rational thought had reentered my consciousness and caused me to hesitate. Finally alone with her. The limitations of my restraint were breached. But I had always imagined our first time together would be slow and deliberate. days of coveting. If my words brought her some peace. I would go weeks without allowing myself the indulgence of looking at it. and my cock hardened. which was equal parts heaven and hell. the anticipated feeling was obliterated by the euphoria of reality. The pain Bella inflicted on him now was but a tiny fraction of the torture I had endured as his vile thoughts had invaded my mind. I took her hungrily. The word jealousy wasn't big enough to capture the envious rage that coursed through my body even as I heard her breaking him. Deserving or not. Their conversation had given me a dangerous hope. "We're ho— here. And in that split second. despite my considerable efforts to avoid damaging it. away from the prying eyes of nameless strangers. Confessing my crimes in leaving her felt like shedding a heavy burden. And I didn't have to. As I sat with my back to their table. I didn't have a set agenda when I followed her into the restroom. disoriented for a moment as the dome light illuminated the cabin's interior. I was undone. of fighting against the insatiable pull that drew us together. loving gazes. as my thirst grew to a slow scald." She blinked her eyes open. it was no longer about me. years of longing.hand — the half with the image of her — was worn as thin as cloth. But inevitably. You don't know what love is. It could mean anything. I jostled her shoulder. I had left her world a mess of confusion — a web of lies. before the hallucinations set in. I could endure the eternity of agony that awaited if she rejected me. Thomas's mind reeled in agony. She had fallen asleep. When I finally pushed inside her body. I was a mess of nerves. she'd said the very words she uttered in my fantasy that day I'd shown myself to her in the meadow: Don't make me wait. As her tongue had pushed boldly inside my mouth. My fantasies ranged from peeling her clothes off in the warmth of our sunlit meadow to her kneeling before me as I moved in her mouth. Not if I didn't have to. The last time she'd seen me. I was at the passenger door in an instant. she had made her feelings known in no uncertain terms: You don't love me. She had acknowledged my place in her past but had said nothing about a future. I fed off of it. it was the dismal tone of his thoughts and the worn photo in my hands that kept me in my chair. I had imagined making love to Bella on countless occasions in our short time together before I left Forks.. But watching her walk away from me had stirred up a familiar pain I found I could no longer endure. She wanted me. And I owed it to her to untangle them. sweating. It was like seeing a color not found in the rainbow spectrum — something my mind was incapable of imagining until it was in front of me. But as I'd walked to where she stood smoothing her dress as she rose from the table. Not anymore. Alice's words echoed in my ears: She wants to see you. The simple words had pried open the tenuous grip on my self-control. But when she came with me inside her. As I pulled the truck into the gravel driveway of her house. came crashing down on me. I couldn't read her thoughts. I would cave. Bella had always been the epitome of beauty in my eyes. my previous notion of beauty was obliterated. With every word. I was hard again. When she'd told me aloud that she'd chosen me. I relished his suffering. her lips barely grazing mine. I considered it payback. were branded in my mind's eye. In the wasted years away from Bella. I nearly sobbed at the feeling and all it implied. all the years of warring against myself. releasing the pent-up need of decades of waiting. By the time he left. that terrifying hope surged again. marked by gentle caresses. .

My eyes scanned from her toes up her body before meeting her eyes. it is. "Yes. nearly embarrassed. I'm just a little overwhelmed by everything." I said. I've been a bit restless at night. her hands flying instinctively to my chest." she said. stroking her damp hair." I said simply. She gave me a shy smile. wrapping my arms around her and pressing her head against my chest. offering no explanation: Not tonight. and our bodies collided awkwardly. neither of us knowing what came next. pressing them against my body. brushing my thumbs lightly beneath her tired eyes. We were standing in this very spot the day after her birthday. She appeared in the doorway. "Yeah.Her smile was shy. But as I stared at her. She turned abruptly to face me. I understand if you need some room to process all of this." She pulled back immediately and flashed her eyes at me. I set her on her feet as she dug around her bag for the door keys. So many nights I had lain pressed against her." "I know. waiting for her. I noted the highlighting. She'd asked me. "I can give you some time if you need it. They were full of emotion. "I—" she looked down for a moment and then back to my eyes. ignoring the ache in my pants was no longer possible. "Yes. I'll be fine. We'd been reading it in English class at the time I had left Forks. and I trailed behind her into the small entryway. "You need to sleep. "I'm going to take a shower. around us. I had been ignoring the erection that reappeared the moment she nestled into my side in the truck. We laughed nervously at the clumsy encounter. She exhaled. "No." I pulled her to me. The T-shirt had been loose then. You. The words did not want to come out of my throat. Edward. throwing a thumb over her shoulder. but I forced them. I cradled her head in my hands. She had taken her toiletry bag and a handful of clothes from her dresser. a woman now. but it now clung beautifully to her round. the faintest bit of hope in her voice: Will you stay? I'd rejected her with forced indifference. lingering for a long moment on Charlie's gunbelt where it still hung by the door. Her high heels dangled from her fingers as she gripped my neck. I flipped through her worn copy of Romeo & Juliet as I waited. I swallowed audibly as I took her in. "It's kind of a lot. taking the path leading to her doorstep in an unnecessarily slow pace to prolong it. "I'd like it if you stayed. a release of gratitude that I should have the opportunity to answer such an entreaty again. tiny notes in the margin scribbled in her messy handwriting which stopped abruptly approximately two thirds of the way through the book. . I nodded. isn't it?" I covered her hands with my own. I broke the silence." She gestured between us. full breasts." She laughed nervously. but so much still the girl I'd known." ~X~ I sat on her bed. I pushed out a breath. arching my lower body awkwardly to avoid shocking or scaring her with the urgent throbbing of my dick against her innocent form. Here. her eyes leaving my face to scan the small space around us. Did she want me to come in? Did she want some space? Some time to be alone? She left the door open as she stepped inside the house. giving me a small smile. her skin still damp and smelling of the familiar strawberry fragrance which mingled with the smell of her blood flowing beneath it." She nodded. I don't want you to leave. suddenly unsure what was going to happen next. "I'm running low on clothes and have been dipping into my old stash. but heavy. The gesture was modest and endearingly reminiscent of the Bella I had known in years past. as I lifted her from the truck and carried her to the front door. no." A brief slice of pain cut through me as a memory registered in the recesses of my mind. I relished the feeling. except back then she'd been innocently unaware of her effect on me — adorably ignorant of the way her casual movements had made my cock twitch. She'd worn this same outfit to bed countless times when we were together years ago. She was wearing a pair of polka-dot boxer shorts and a Pixies concert T-Shirt I recognized as Renee's. "Yeah. It was déjà vu as she strode over to the bed and sat down beside me. It's — there are a lot of memories. tentatively.

"I know because I nearly lost it on Charlie when I found out he'd put the load through. peaceful and perfectly still against my aching body. I'm sorry. right?" she asked." she retorted. frankly I'm astonished that you don't remember the plastic bottlecap that figured so prominently in our relationship. The day of the blood typing. "The cap . sucking. I lifted her lightly and slid her beneath the covers. CULLEN".. "My gym uniform?" I'd spent so many nights at Bella's that it had become a habit to wash the gym clothes at her house. and I looked up at her." I felt silly bringing up such banalities."Yeah." I swallowed. . and I basked in the sound. "Under. I'm sorry. she was asleep. I felt like playing with her. "Stop apologizing." Her smile turned into a smirk as her head tilted in the direction of her desk. She sighed into my mouth as our lips relaxed around each other. I'd like to shower too. looking up at the ceiling as she took a composing breath. I wrapped an arm around her covered body and buried my nose in her hair." Her face scrunched. "Oh God.. we don't all have photographic vampire memories. "What?" "The day you asked me to sit with you at lunch. "Tell me?" I gasped mockingly. She reached in and pulled out a hideous mustard yellow shirt and navy shorts. She simply rested. I don't know if there's something I can wear. I didn't want to crawl into bed with her wearing dirty clothes and certainly didn't trust myself to let her sleep if I wore nothing. When I emerged from the shower and entered her room. that I was waiting for her. didn't say my name or toss and turn as she slept. glossy black iron-on letters spelled out "E. I.. The delicate gesture was almost shy in its sweetness and contrasted starkly with the frenzied way our bodies had connected less than two hours ago." I said. but we can't change it. We're going to need to face it. "I remember you were spinning something ." She waved a hand. abruptly. I leaned down to kiss her softly. "I think you should take some time to really think about this. squatting down and rustling around on the floor until she pulled out a small backpack. I don't remember it." She shrugged. I just needed her to know that I'd been there.but it was a bottlecap. well. She tossed them to me. amazed that she had been able to piece it together. for the first time since my return. ah . grinning and standing from the bed. "Bella. Edward. I hadn't thought of them until this moment. Cupping her face. "If it's okay with you. of course. She sighed contentedly before murmuring in a drowsy voice. but I hadn't changed clothes in three days. Why would she remember a piece of litter to which I'd developed an unhealthy attachment? I hadn't expected her to remember the bottlecap when I'd placed it on her dresser. My arms tightened around her as I felt her body tense and then relax into mine. I nodded. On it were two items that would appear innocuous and meaningless to a casual observer: an apple and an old bottlecap. "You were spinning it. She didn't speak. grinning.I always thought it was a quarter . feigning insult at her words. Want you under the covers." ~X~ My need for her did not abate throughout the long night of her silence that ensued. "I'm sorry.. "It's clean. She lay atop her purple comforter.." She stood up and went to her closet. tucking her in before laying down on top of the comforter as had been my custom in years past. "Yeah. The muted daylight had been flooding the room for hours when she finally stirred. She brought a hand to her forehead. "The apple was because you read my book. wasn't it? It was that bottlecap. apologetic. I guess you do." she said. But now." I rose and went to her." She rolled over to face me.." My chest tightened. propped up against the pillows as if she had dozed off waiting for me. My face registered shock as I held up the shirt. It's the past." She laughed lightly. tasting.

"You've kept it all this time?" "It was significant to me. ever the practical one. interrupting my train of thought. Jasper. understanding. to listen." She looked at me as if considering this. I played." My erection pulsed. then." She closed her eyes. "Are you sore?" She rolled to her back. The hours had stretched on like years as I sat on the wooden bench. "Not still. a little. I did that last night. You were lying here. Alice sat curled on the couch. "When I woke up. Eventually I allowed them to stay. "The piano. "You said my name in your sleep. "You know the exact day?" I shook my head. "Bella?" "Hmm?" she hummed. "Yes.. "I only watched you at night. "It was the day after I fell in love with you. I felt the ache. yet taking comfort in the caring thoughts of my siblings." she surmised. and I knew last night really happened. "Last night was. eyeing me sleepily. Reading Bella's book had inspired me to try again. I exhaled." Her face pinked. I was standing next to you. smoothing her hands over her body as if taking inventory. lost in the music.." I answered. She shrugged.. studied my eyes which grew darker by the minute and attempted to entice me to hunt. looking up at me as I leaned over her protectively." I said." she spoke. and to spare myself the torment of watching their casual interactions. her eyes intense. "Was it difficult for you?" she asked." "Were you watching us the whole time?" "No." I said. "You still play." It had been years since I had played — six years to be precise. "Yeah. "I like it. through me. My tongue still remembered her taste." Seeing her with Thomas the morning I'd dropped her off had ignited an anguishing fire in the pit of my belly that only grew stronger as I observed them together. I hadn't realized I was desperate to hear her confirm this out loud. "Yes. her eyes closed in wistful remembrance of the last time that music had filled the house. pushing the covers down. "I know the precise moment." I said." "What?" I asked. "During the daytime. You asked me to stay. At Alice's insistence. I'd avoided the Swan residence during the daylight hours in an attempt to give Bella some privacy. and my head still lightened with the thought of it." I nodded. "You did. pausing momentarily before nodding. I couldn't risk losing her there." Her lips parted as she took in a small suck of air." She caressed my jaw." I trailed off." she finished. but I refused. except you were asleep. at a loss for an adjective. . just as you are now. "Thomas told me . I only just started again. At first. "I knew it was real. I shook my head. the notes wafting around me. "Everything. I had banished Alice and Jasper from the house as I reacquainted myself with the instrument — with the feeling of my hands on the keys. sucking her lip into her mouth before speaking in a whisper.." she said. unable to form a coherent thought to describe the experience of being inside of her body for the first time.

. the rush of her delectable blood to her clitoris. Please.. of course. go on. I knew this conversation was coming eventually. looking at the ceiling. she spoke. It was her blood — the very substance that had once nearly driven me to kill her — that showed me exactly how to coax the highest pleasure from her body." She gasped. at every stolen glance. I pressed on. and probably was. I swallowed. It could have been more. And even though I had never touched another woman the way I had touched Bella. "I spent the first two years in isolation." I paused. recalling my anger. They all came at one time or another. I had never gone longer than three weeks without blood. We had spent too much time living separate lives. tucking her legs beneath her. She draped an arm across my chest as she snuggled into my side. But I rarely hunted." I raised an eyebrow. I also knew no human was capable of reading her body with such precision. when to drive harder. "I kept my movements random." I shrugged. "I would go long periods of time without feeding. . in making love to her. But after. I didn't feed for over six weeks. Before leaving you.. "When I first left. Edward. bending to her neck to suck at her vein. "I understand. her head resting on my bicep as I stroked her hair. making new memories without me. I know how much she means to you. not to prove anything to her. my mouth curving into the half smile I knew she loved. That you were together.. Our grip on each other tightened as I continued. "Not entirely." "No. I hadn't cared where I was going and paid little attention to my surroundings when I arrived. at first. where were you? What were you doing?" I stiffened. her eyebrows scrunched. still. bracing myself to replay the agony of the wasted years." My body tensed at the presumption." Her palm rubbed reassuringly across my chest. "Even though I tried to evade her." I stared at my hands. showed me exactly where to touch her. not knowing where to begin. I moved around. I couldn't bear to be with them after I left you. How much they all mean to you. and when to retreat. "But it turns out. her body grounding me to the present as I let my mind slip into the pain of the past. "You stopped feeding?" She asked. "Under normal circumstances. I spent the first two months in South America . the race of her pulse. meeting her concerned gaze. she came. The flush of her skin. But though my need for her had been too great to love her gently." She sat up then. My hand traveled up and down her arm." I nodded again. After several minutes of quiet breathing. I would wound her." "I'm sorry. two weeks is about the longest we can comfortably go between hunts. how to stroke her." Though it pained me to hear her say the words. swallowing." I nodded. but I was nonetheless dreading it." I trailed off. I had always feared that. "You mean you weren't with your family? I always assumed you were all together someplace. Being alone in a houseful of couples didn't bother me so much before I met you." "Wow I just— I guess I always assumed you had each other. She looked puzzled for a moment and then her features relaxed in understanding." "To avoid Alice?" Bella said. but she was sorry that things had come to this. perhaps beyond repair. "I would forget every minute I was away from you if I could. Ecuador. if you could call what I had been doing living. my cruel words."It was. I scooted up and leaned back against the headboard. I knew as she surrounded me that I could not hurt her. but needing to color in the blankness of the years that separated us. "Edward. I have a special knack for reading your body." She propped herself up on an elbow. The irony was not lost on me. different places: Brazil. Peru. not wanting her pity. never making a decision about where to go next until the last minute. recalling with painful clarity those early days before the numbness had allowed me any relief. looking at me quizzically. She wasn't to blame. "Yes. I knew what she meant. "My blood.

we were not close again in the way you remember. Once my mouth found the source." "Oh my God. "We just grow weaker and weaker. starve?" She winced as she whispered the last word. I would never forget the look on Esme's face when my eyes had finally come to rest there." The last words were a choked sob. I prepared myself to keep going. It didn't matter. "I felt nothing. He felt my actions were all tied to my belief that I had lost my soul."Around week four. not wanting to go into further detail about what precisely was required to kill our kind." I nodded. ever smell you." I looked at her then. I had managed to evade her vision for so long that the entire family had shown up in Northern Siberia when she'd finally broken through. read. When I finished.. desperate. shaking her head. but her eyes reflected the pain of one who had buried a child. "But. Emmett and Jasper forcing me to hunt the day I'd heard the girl reading her book.. looking for something. "But Bella.. Because I knew you'd come soon. prayed. "I would see you. her nails threading deliciously against my scalp. play with my mind. wasn't it?" she asked. "I began to crave the first scratches of thirst in my throat. they would have flown freely. I knew because your scent didn't torture me as you circled around me. "My family would eventually find me through Alice. "That pattern lasted for two years. her expression stricken. and if my own eyes had been capable of forming tears." I continued. though. I stared into her eyes." she whispered. And so she had as a human. to spell out the agonizing circumstances which precipitated my relapse. I would come to with my teeth buried in the neck of an animal. "You hallucinated. taunted me. I meditated." I nodded. Fuck. "Your letter makes more sense to me now." I looked away. But she pressed me no further about my past. you see what I see. I could almost feel you.. chanted. "It was my book." I said. When it finally did. the first thing I saw was Esme's face. "Why couldn't Alice stop you?" "It was difficult for Alice to pinpoint my location because my movements were erratic and not tied to rational decisions. Her expression was unreadable. Carlisle came to me. Nothing. At my worst. I tipped her chin up with a finger as two lines of tears streamed down her cheeks. She scrubbed her face with the heels of her hands." I shook my head. Two or more of my family would make the kill and then force me to drink. When I spoke again. She exhaled. They managed to force blood down my throat. I was powerless to resist the blood. The thirst is excruciating. more. more than that. He convinced me. too. "I took up a somewhat permanent residence in the Northern Territory of Canada. resting my head in my hands. still. tugging at the hem of her T-shirt. though I saw you. I could not bear to be the cause of her suffering such agony twice. I discovered that the thirst would ." "How— how did you survive?" She asked tentatively. dropping her hands as she looked up at me with red-rimmed eyes. my voice was earnest." . temples. Bella. She was ageless as ever." she whispered." I chanced a look up at her then." I paused." I continued on. You saw yourself.. stroking her cheek with my index finger. "Yes. "Soon after that. shrines. "I promised them then that I would hunt of my own volition. She searched my eyes." She nodded. my gut tightening as I struggled to keep my voice even." Bella's forehead was creased in a deep furrow as she moved to take my face in her hands." I clawed at my hair at the remembered agony. I needed you. wanting me to continue despite her tears." She looked down. "You starved yourself to see me. even if you were a figment. "I could never." A muted sob caught in her throat. "I understand that. for Esme's sake." I stopped. instead stroking my hair. but it took several days before my mind returned. I shook my head. no hope. I was so starved when they'd found me that I could hardly swallow. "No. "The last time I saw you was after a three-month binge of starvation. heard you. to see if I could change my mind.. visited monasteries. to tell her about the human. I knew it wasn't real. "You do. I would hear you. I studied. breathing heavily through my nose. I finally see. "Can vampires . I would curse them all for taking you from me and outrun them again. talked to me. remembering her admission that she'd sought out danger to hear my voice. no spark. felt you. always finding someplace new to hide. Bella. recalling with a faint shudder the onset of the visions. in some lucid recess of my brain. and though my family visited on occasion." "Yes. but death requires .

"You. pulling a knee up. straddling her thighs as I looked down at her in the same T-shirt and boxers I'd fantasized about stripping from her body so many times before. and I slid lower. circling the knobby bone with my tongue before sucking on the skin there. "You suffered so much. She was kneeling on the bed in front of me then. I licked my lips. Lifting her left foot. sliding them off of her in a single smooth movement. I placed my lips over her ankle. When my thumb swept lightly against her wet flesh. I pulled her hips to the edge of the bed and knelt between her open legs. I couldn't deny this. "Over your head. She scooted backward as I crawled up onto the bed and leaned over her. I straightened and hurriedly shed my shorts. I pushed on her sternum. I sat back on my heels. She squirmed under my gaze. I kissed her beneath her jaw. She shifted her legs beneath me. "Something funny?" "Yeah. supporting the back of her neck with my hand. her palms pressed flat into my chest. the scent of her arousal wafted around us. and she wiped her thumbs across my cheekbones as if wiping away tears. She lifted her arms over her head. I lifted my eyes to . lazy in our giving and taking of each other's mouths. "No. she tensed and moaned before sinking into the bed. my cock hard and ready." I said softly. She arched her back to me as I peeled the shirt up and over her head. her legs stretched out. I sighed in awe at the complexity of her body. I sucked her into my mouth. you are so beautiful. "Really." Her head fell softly against the pillow as I hooked my fingers beneath the elastic of her boxers and panties. shoving my shoulder. her breasts rising and falling with each intake of breath. she lost her nervous edge and I smelled her lust growing more potent in the air." I said. gripping the back of my neck with her small hands. sucking lightly as my lips swept down her neck to the soft flesh of her breasts.Her hands moved from my head to my face." she whispered. She uncrossed her arms and moved them to her sides." She sat up then and tugged at the bottom of the hideous shirt. more important truth. though I wanted to take this slow. "God. staring. her arms bent. We were unhurried. smiling. I let my eyes linger over them as I stared at her unabashedly. We kissed for several long minutes. Her face colored in a gorgeous pink flush as I gaped. Hooking my hands behind her knees. Her nipples were a shade darker than the bright berry pink of her lips. The sight of her nearly sent me backward. She rubbed her legs together lightly and I could see the faint sheen of the slickness between her thighs. She protested adorably when I released her. Now. looks like this is your lucky day. So I spoke another. a slow. supporting her back as she pushed up into me. please." she laughed. in your Forks High gym uniform. encircling her neck with one hand as I leaned over her and found the hem with the other. Let me look. As my eyes swept over every flawless inch of her. I pushed her back on the bed. I ran a finger along the crew neck. I closed my eyes and breathed in the scent of her. She giggled and I looked up at her. I groaned into the kiss. Now." She smirked. remembering her ticklish response from three nights earlier. Bella. desperate to suck on her but also wanting to live up to my promise to savor her — to take this slow. but I'd been nearly blind with my need for her. hard for her already as she sighed and moaned. gripping the waistband of her shorts as I nuzzled her bellybutton softly with my nose. Never breaking our kiss. covering her breasts from my view. crossing her arms over her chest. I had seen her bare breasts in our frantic haste at the restaurant. Her breasts were round and supple. "I can't see you. "Really?" I quirked an eyebrow at her." Tears spilled onto her cheeks as she pulled my face to hers and took my bottom lip between her soft wet ones. her eyes sparkling. Last night her need had crashed through me in a cracking wave. incapable of truly appreciating their perfection." I breathed. my hands skimming along her arms as she continued fondling my neck and the shell of my ear with deft fingers. I feared that plan would be a lost cause once I had any part of her in my mouth. nudging her leg down as I stood at the foot of the bed." She jerked the fabric upward and I helped her pull the shirt from my shoulders. all strawberries and sugar and need. "I always wondered what it would be like to strip this uniform off of you. soothing suction and release of tongues and lips. slowly building in intensity and flavor. bracing my weight on my forearms. "I've never been happier than I am in this moment. My hands curved around her calves." "Well. drinking in the sight of her. skimming over her knees and moving rapidly upward. sloping slightly in an enticing curve as she lay before me.

"Beautiful. She tasted hot and wet. Pressing my lips to the mark. I explored her with my fingertips. Startled. She was so tight around my fingers. my eyes raking over her flushed cheeks. but being altogether swept away by the high that enveloped me as I inhaled her. I kissed it reverently before tracing the contour with my tongue. I circled my thumb around the delicate design of the crucifix tattoo." She swallowed a groan and I smiled into her flesh. I kneaded her naked hipbones. my chest aching as I circled one. her inner walls contracting around me when I reached the round.look at her as I slid lower and nibbled at her hip." "Oh. The smell of her arousal hit me then in a consuming cloud. my hands fixing her hips in place as she rolled and arched. I barely flicked my tongue against her when I felt every muscle. "Don't be. opening her legs further for me. God. needing to take more of her in my mouth. hot. They were mere whispers of feelings." I apologized. Breathing deep. salty and sweet." I said. I was vaguely aware of a faint tickle on my scalp." she answered." she panted. She tasted like Bella. following the seam to the soft skin of her inner thigh. "I'm sorry. My measured breaths grew deeper and more painful with every inhale. swallowed her. laying my hands flat on the mattress. kissing her lightly once more. "Bella. "Edward." She moaned in response. I leaned toward her. propping herself up on her elbows and looking down at me. She shifted in anticipation. sucked her. my voice strained. "Edward. She came over and over. Inch. and heady and God." She pressed her forehead against mine and wrapped her . Her moans were echoes." I whispered." For a moment I panicked. flickers of sensations. "You think this will keep me away?" I asked. every molecule in my body seize with the taste. I squeezed my eyes shut as she arched her back. I promise. rough spot several inches in. "Take your time. The familiar crippling aroma was more intoxicating at this proximity than it had ever been before. Dropping my chin to my chest. digging my thumbs into her soft skin." I murmured. I squeezed her ass and lifted her hips. a hum in my ears. my mouth. my cock throbbed at the thought of her enveloping my length in her warmth." she pleaded. "I meant what I said. brushing my lips against her inner thigh in silent penance. Her voice grew fainter and I began to float. breathing her in once again. a light stroke on my jaw. wanting to establish a rhythm that would bring her to climax. I swam in and out of consciousness. "Come back to me. The tiny distractions drove me further. "Stop. the feel. delirious. "But I'll make it good for you. her heaving chest. fingers at her entrance. my tongue plunging deeper inside her to taste where she was sweeter. "I need to go slow. then two. closer to her sex. I drank in the sight of her. Bella. look at me." she insisted. the slight movement bringing my nose. I snapped my head up as she repositioned herself on the bed and cradled my face in her hands. an involuntary possessive reaction to breathing her in so deeply." I nodded and swallowed. She whimpered when I forced them apart again. fisting her hands in my hair. I inhaled her and curled in on myself as the light-headedness took hold. to keep myself grounded in her. open for me. mine. her legs pressing reflexively inward. And then she was gone. the reality of having her in my mouth. I growled instinctively. my body and mind floating in a haze of the euphoria I had only glimpsed in our previous encounters. more potent. stroking her lightly before pushing them inside. At this she cried out. Her blood buzzed against my lips as it rushed to where she was wet for me. Every. I kissed the insides of both knees before lifting them to rest on my shoulders. I fought to keep my eyes open. finally. I moved my fingers back and forth and then dared to place my nose and lips along the slick flesh of her upper thighs. clawing at my hair. "I— I want to lick you. My hands clawed at the mattress as I struggled to focus on the movements of my mouth. I dragged my tongue along the crease where hip met thigh. until the hitch in her breath made me realize I was pressing too hard. urging me on as I found her clit and sucked. her cries building and receding in time with the thrumming rush of her blood where I tasted her. before finally settling on her concerned gaze.

My cock grew even harder as we lay still together. When I was fully inside. absorbing the heat from her body. crawling up her body and pressing my cock against her taut stomach. I pushed into her. Noting she was fine . "Hmm?" "I never stopped. curling around them and pushing me back. "Edward. She didn't pant or cry out. I pressed forward. My tip was poised to enter her. sucking erratically at her skin. her clit. "Mmm. "I want to be on top. that she loved me. I closed my eyes and nodded. moving my hips back only slightly as I rolled and circled inside her. her mouth open. burned inside my eyelids. enjoying the sensation of her skin against my bare chest. She straightened up on her knees and leaned forward so that I slipped out of her warmth." The sound that erupted from my throat was something between a feral growl and a boyish whimper." She giggled as I pushed her back on the bed. the head of my cock just pressing against her wet lips. In a flash I was under her." I murmured. "I just came three times. rocking gently as she whispered in my ear. soothing me. "Maybe I'm sorry it wasn't four. The surging high from her taste had been brief but intense." she said. incredulous. ensuring the racing beat of pleasure didn't slip into the frantic pace of fear. I lost myself—" I started. She stroked my hair. that we were together. but the shape of her mouth reflected her pleasure at each new sensation. nice isn't it?" I murmured against her mouth. encircling my arms around her. . grinning. her pulse raced as she lifted her hips slightly. she stroked a hand up my spine." My breathing returned to normal as my mind cleared. soundless. She tickled my back with lazy fingers as we pushed together and pulled apart. I leaned in to kiss her lips. I forced myself to stay focused on her face though my eyes wanted to roll backward. I stilled." she said coyly.arms around my neck as I licked my lips over and over again. I think I need to make amends. I buried my face in the curve of her neck. My eyes took a quick inventory of her body. She kneeled in front of me. tasting herself there. I don't know what on earth you could possibly be apologizing for. She was beaming. pressing myself against her warm breasts. my erection moving in response as she reached her tongue into my mouth. and I slowly came back to her room. our bodies rising and falling in tandem as we breathed. but I needed to see her face first..I became aware once again that my cock was begging for release." I loved her slowly. and her body responded with tightening echoes. savoring the feeling of connection. I pulled back and cupped her face between my hands. I laughed inwardly as I considered the fact that her body was literally intoxicating to me. her. her pink flesh. "I'm sorry. much more than fine . She nodded. I smiled down at her. grounding me. the image of her milky thighs.. smiling up at me. attempting to position me between her legs. Her eyes grew wide with every inch. "Move in me. feeling her flesh conform to my shape as I sank farther and farther into her warmth. "Three times?" I asked. waiting to breathe. but she cut me off with the most beautiful laugh as she pulled back to look me in the eyes. We lay together. "Incredible. Grabbing me with one hand. as I held her against me. After what felt like minutes. leaning over her on my elbows. Her breathing accelerated. her bed. she guided me back inside as she eased herself down on my length. reminding me that she was here. Her hands moved to my I kept a focus on her pulse as I slid inside. "Sorry?" She asked. Her only response was to moan and grasp at my hips. desperate to consume every drop of her that remained on my mouth. breathing her in.

winding her fingers lazily through my hair. Bella. She took control then. I caught a nipple in my mouth and flattened a hand against her back as she moved over my body."Fuck. bracing her arms on either side of my head as she found an easy but steady rhythm. Her breasts swayed near my face as she rocked back and forth. She collapsed against me. neither of us willing to move." she said. xoxo M&V . my mouth open and panting against her cheek as I breathed her name against her skin. "Loving you. She came first. still connected. flushed and supple above me. breathing heavily and humming contented murmurs in my ear. her eyes wide. rocking her subtly forward and back until I could hold back no more. We hope you all get involved in the cause! See you here next update. sucking and moaning around her breast as I felt my climax build. I spilled inside her. brought me closer and closer to release. The sight of her body. Her rhythm shifted from easy rocking to purposeful riding." ~X~ A/N: Thanks so much for reading. We are participating in Fandom Gives Back. her body tensing and relaxing around my cock as she gripped my jaw with both hands. "I never stopped loving you." I ground out as she took all of me and then pressed herself firmly down onto my hips. after a long time. I grabbed her hips as she throbbed around me. her mouth calling out a small gasp as she climaxed. I stroked a hand up her back as we lay together.

her lips tickling the skin just behind my ear. at times. "And I suspect he'll be angry. I bent my knees and began to thrust. She shimmied into her boxers just as he banged loudly on the front door. As we lay in her bed. Of course you know Lola's up for auction too (solo and as a collaborater with the brilliant ilsuocantante . frustration. her voice laced with uncertainty and apprehension. "But he'll know that I'm here. murmuring. That the bloodsucker hasn't hurt her. "Mmmm. "Yeah? You like?" "What's not to love about the vampire stamina?" she teased. I tensed underneath her and felt her flinch in response to the growl that rumbled in my chest. massaging her scalp and relishing the feel of the silky strands under my fingertips." I said. "Fine. were hot in my ear and laced with a desperation that matched my own sense of urgency.if you haven't yet. clinging to each other. "What's wrong?" she asked. her body on top of mine. I'd learned that Bella was not only stubborn. I suppose I owed him for taking care of Bella while I was gone. God help me. His thoughts were a jumbled mess. the worry. Where she was once comfortably warm I felt her flesh turn to fire as I dragged my hands down her back to plant them firmly on her ass. Make sure she's okay. Chapter 21 EPOV In our time apart. as if we were feeling each other for the first time again." she smiled. or worse. or give someone new a chance to surprise you! All the proceeds benefit childhood cancer research. ok?" she asked. I knew that Jacob was a friend and confidantof hers. She sighed contentedly and shifted position. How I'd managed to be relaxed while enveloped within her for the past few minutes now seemed incomprehensible to me. "Your friend's here." I said through gritted teeth. "This was going to happen sooner or later. Her breaths. the slight movement causing my cock to grow hard inside her once again. reaching over to stroke my jaw. our lovely and talented beta. We say it every time. "Stay here. As much as we hate to share her. Oh. wish to be alone with him. from presenting themselves in tears. Thank you bbs. (we kid. or whether I needed to strike first.*Chapter 22*: Chapter 21 A/N: Today is the last day of Fandom Gives Back auction . we kid). Thanks also to NelsonSmandela and LolaShoes for keeping us honest and being all around amazing. Edward. I pulled on my gym shorts and focused my attention on Jacob's mind in an attempt to decipher whether I needed to be on the defensive. and dread stacked so high that he struggled with himself to keep them from toppling over. I heard the click of the lock as she opened the door and saw the relief flood his mind and overtake his body when he .look for "wearingshoes"). I hissed as my cock registered the abrupt absence of her delicious warmth. as we raced to the brink. I'd somehow forgotten the quiet luxury of her presence." "Shit. check it out! You can bid on us or other of your favorite authors. and so I unhappily accepted the realization that she would." I warned. But as I watched her pull a T-shirt over her beautiful breasts. It's a win-win babies. I'd never hated him more. somewhat petulant. if he—" "Just relax. confusion. I clasped my hands over my forehead. Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. Jesus. We rocked together. "The — it's Jacob. scrambling off of me and throwing back the covers in search of her clothes. I can handle him." As she walked down the stairs. I rested my hands on her head. Bella. whimpering. Thanks to annanabanana. Jacob Black. or growls. I just need to see her. you can buy her beta services and/or outtakes from her amazing fics in the FGB auction and both are. there were no distractions save the pumping of her heart and the whisper of breaths in my ear. slowly re-acclimating myself to the sensation of sliding in and out as she wrapped herself more tightly around me. Guiltward is ours. her moans. but our prereaders mean the world to us." she soothed. punctuating the sentence with a roll of her hips. It was as if our union mere minutes before was now forgotten. priceless. but had grown into a fiercely independent woman. As much as I longed to go with her. Sighing dramatically. or worse." she mumbled. frankly.

"I want to talk to Edward. before leaning down to kiss the top of her head." he snapped. In a flash. if it wasn't complete and utter bullshit. for God's sake. creased brow. quite literally." she insisted. knocking me to the ground and tearing the limbs from my body. saw nothing but red." "Fine. the marks on her neck left by my mouth. it's not like that. . his other senses were on overdrive. Sweat beaded on his forehead as his blood began to simmer. Confused by her ire." The rage pumped through his veins. And that's all you need to know." he hissed. his body too consumed by hatred to acknowledge outwardly my presence. He held her there. my arms wrapped protectively around her as I stood face-to-face with the man who'd tried so desperately to take my place. it was all he could manage to remain human. It is my business. Finding no lies there. "Jake. and his fingers twitched as he pictured himself." I heard her pulse speed. now expanded further to collect the smell of Bella. separated only by the woman we both loved. Not like this." he said calmly." she said in a sharp voice. I've been avoiding you because you're a liar. by agony. at first filled with my scent." he croaked. "Then why don't you tell me what the hell is going on here? Why that fucking leech. thundered in his ears. "Jacob. Whatever. until his body collided roughly with the door. If anything. wrapping his arms tightly around her to lift her off her feet. "Oh. Bella." I nodded. "But Jake—" "Don't 'but Jake' me. his mind hobbled by anger. What I do with my life. Edward's here because I want him here. I haven't been avoiding you because of Edward. His mind spun at the sight of me. Though it'd been nearly six years since we'd crossed paths. who nearly destroyed you. gritting his teeth. and I heard her take ten deep breaths. I can smell him all over you. I saw her eyes harden and her jaw set in a defiant line. or I'll go get him myself. His nose and lungs. No. is none of your goddamn business. cataloguing the tangled hair. He staggered backward. years ago when she was young and lonely. Coherent thought eluded him for an instant. Who left you for dead. his contempt for me had not faded with time. ready to fly downstairs should his thoughts become violent. in wolf form. the swollen lips. Are you okay? Did he hurt you?" "No. and I smelled the salt of the single tear that collected in the corner of her eye. I stealthily moved toward the hall and lingered in the doorway to her bedroom. no doubt attempting to calm herself as he fumed before her. he studied her. her breaths grow raspy." he spat. after you've calmed down. my bare torso resting against her back. He examined her carefully. now that he's back. Bella. thank God. Jake. "Yes. before he began to revisit each word they'd shared since she arrived in Forks several days ago. But look. "Now. I don't think that's—" "I wasn't asking your permission." she whispered. his body stiffening around her as he lowered her gently to her feet. clouded his vision until he. The scent of my breath in her hair caused him to recoil in disgust. "Don't you dare raise your voice to me. you won't speak to me. And like that's not enough. I don't know what—" "I know about Victoria. "He's here." "Not later." "Huh?" He had no idea to what she was referring. and who I invite into my house. "Not now.realized she was intact. So you either ask him to come downstairs. I was downstairs. Now. Bella." "No. "He's a vampire. shaking his head. Though he made no attempt to speak." "That'd all be fine and good. So yeah. And that's when he knew. taking in her steely gaze." he hissed. his senses momentarily crippled by the gratitude he felt at her well being. "I know he's here." she said. until he was at once rational enough to direct all his effort into keeping himself in human form. his disdain had festered. is in your house? Is that why you won't answer my calls? And don't you have a boyfriend? Does Thomas know about this?" Through his mind. hands on hips. Jacob Black. You can talk to him later if you want. the aroma of lust he'd had the occasion to notice only a few times before. he shook his head and looked at her imploringly. his hostility fueled by each year that passed with Bella unhappy and unfulfilled. Her pulse raced. "You're pissed. I think I have every right to be a little pissed. yet never desperate enough to share it with him. "Bella.

it just didn't seem fair to forgive Edward for all his lies and still begrudge Jake for his — especially considering how much he and I'd been through together. his teeth rattling as he fought the nearly irresistible instinct to phase. It's not that I wasn't upset with him for lying about Victoria. I raked a hand through my hair as I searched in vain for the proper response. When his mind was no longer dominated by fantasies of my destruction. In the time it had taken Edward to come around. Bella. labored breaths. but the face of a woman flashed in his mind at my words. God knows I was. "And he has the nerve to call me dangerous and out of control! At least I would have killed the bitch quick!" I glanced at Edward as he stiffened in the doorway. resting my hand at the nape of his neck and feeling his shoulders relax slightly at my touch. She was in a lot of fucking pain." "Well did he tell you it was his idea to lie?" His eyes hardened and his lips curled into an ugly sneer as he motioned in Edward's direction. Plus. giving me a wistful smile. and she ran the pad of her thumb along the waistband of my shorts. my anger toward Jake had subsided. I just didn't want to bring it up." I said quietly. and I grabbed her arm. "We had just started having fun again. "Jake would never hurt me. shouting and gesturing wildly as he paced around the driveway." Jake turned and burned his eyes into Edward's. "He's not in control of himself right now. I thought about following him. She'll come to her senses." she sighed. "I know how to handle him. Edward. Jacob turned around and stormed out the door." I winced." he said softly. Bells. albeit marginally. more intense." His whole body was vibrating now. She was beautiful. her body radiating heat and anger as she looked me square in the eye. that I would forgive him no matter how callous the reason. "No way. I owed Jake more of an explanation than he owed me. his voice grew louder. Jacob. "You were starting to eat more. There was no point in interrupting until he'd gotten this out of his system. I just need to get the leech outta here. "And not that I care what he does to his own kind. He had never hurt her. Reluctantly. But you need to calm down. "So he told you about the redhead. ." I nodded and laced my fingers through hers. You'll only make him madder. Hesitantly. pacing to the far end of the yard before propping his arms against a tree and sucking in deep. but we could hear that vampire woman squealing for hours. Keep it together. or shushing him. but he didn't let me get a word in. But when I really thought about it." I said evenly. his body relaxing as he gripped my hands in his warm palms. Jake turned to face me then. I won't hesitate. "And I don't blame you. it was all too evident that. But when I heard her soft. Now he was on a tirade. familiar greeting and saw her hand drape tenderly over his neck. tracking from her forehead to her jaw. "Look Jake—" "Did he tell you it was him who showed up out of nowhere." She whirled around and squirmed out of my grasp. you know. "Bella. gut-punched by the unintentional implication of her words." Her features softened. until his thoughts were colored in cool tones. It's too dangerous. I nodded. in this moment. BPOV "Hey. I felt my own tension abate. She gave me a wan smile and jogged toward him as he composed himself. give you. my voice softer than I anticipated. huh?" "Yeah. Bella. but instead I just looked at him. her face now scarred by a trail of four claw marks." His vision was coated in a red film. I let go of her hand and tilted my head in his direction. I reached for him. but if you can't control yourself. She's confused and grieving Charlie. all crazy black eyes and matted hair?" With each question."I understand you're upset. come around more often. "We both know what could happen if you do this here. Bella started to follow him." I said. "You wanna know why I did it? Why I lied?" I started to tell him that it didn't matter. my body grew rigid once more. You'd even started listening to music again. you fucking corpse. man. or had been. Not like I had. Not by yourself. I don't want to hurt you in front of Bella. He cocked his head toward me. "Look. deliberately holding her there until Jacob's breathing had evened." "Don't you tell me to calm down.

Jake. "What?" "What happens if he doesn't leave. I'm pretty sure the heartless stiff over there has no plans to let you celebrate your twenty-fifth birthday. hooking my arms over his shoulders as I hugged him awkwardly on my tiptoes. Don't you realize that?" "Jake. "I'm sorry." Aside from the narrowing of his eyes. "You're twenty-four. Jake." He sighed. "What will you do then?" Oh. "Aw." I said quietly. you're absolutely right. Sadness. He couldn't accept me doing something he thought would hurt myself. I was distraught and depressed. it will be worse. Jake. "It's okay. I wasn't the only one who had wasted years in the wake of Edward's departure. he placed both hands over his face and rubbed vigorously before looking up at me again. It feels right. "I can't do it again." He dropped my hand. his eyes flat. forcing the next words out of my mouth in as even a tone as possible." I swallowed the lump in my throat and looked him in the eye. "What. facing the opposite side of the doorway — his averted gaze his meager attempt at pretending to give us privacy. That you were gonna end up with me. I do realize that if Edward leaves me again. And cold as ice. So don't you stand here and tell me that it won't be worse. well — I guess I thought that I should be the one protecting you. "I can't take care of you when — I just can't. "It will be so much worse." "I wasn't going to say that. if that's how you feel—" he stopped short. And I'm willing to take that chance. But you have to trust that I know what I'm doing. . Bella?" he repeated. but I wasn't blind. but he pulled back and shoved them in his pockets. I'm still trying to sort through—" "Well let me make it real fucking simple for you. And I've been picking up the pieces ever since. "What if he doesn't leave?" he asked. I understand." And I did. And I'd led him on. his voice monotone. . It seemed like an eternity before he finally spoke. some sort of false hope or something. Jake reached behind his shoulder and grabbed my hand." . and then determination flashed in his eyes as he stepped closer to me." he muttered. And if I'm honest. "It will be worse this time." "Fine. "Don't do this to yourself. Please." he spat. "God. Jake. then. I know it seems crazy . I ran after him and grabbed his shirt sleeve. "I was going to say that it won't happen. dropping his head." His words made my stomach drop. pathetic. he had no visible reaction. shit. releasing one of my hands as he clawed a hand through his closecropped hair. "I think you're being stupid." he choked. his face now just inches from mine. shoving his fists in his pockets as he faced the street. . it won't—" "Yes it will!" he cried. how this must look." He clenched his jaw and took in a deep breath through his nose. Dropping his chin to his chest. "Just forget it." Jake and I spoke the words in unison. I came up behind him. if you have something to say. "Look. he's. I knew Jake wanted more than friendship with me. Jake could forgive me for hurting him. "But yes. His breaths were slow and measured. short-sighted. knowingly. Jake. he sighed and tugged at the back of his neck. yet." "I'm not asking you to. That he won't leave." He turned and stormed toward his bike. I had let him think he stood a chance because I needed him. his voice was hollow. and he smiled briefly as he turned to face me again. . I hadn't gotten that far. Bella. I snuck a glance behind me and saw Edward leaning against the doorjamb." he muttered. "Look. what? Seventeen? How long before that starts looking kinky?" "I— well— God. Bella." he warned. I reached for his hands. even before he'd confessed himself that awful night after graduation. and when he did. Jake?" "Never mind. When his shoulders began to tremble. "He fucking broke you last time. and just downright . Detached. Bella." I explained. just say it. "Well. his eyes beginning to water." I insisted. spinning him around to face me. Bella.

Jake that isn't what this is about." "Do you want to talk about it?" . fisting his shirt into my hands in a last-ditch attempt to hold onto him. "It's just— I knew this was going to be a big deal for him. but it was nothing like the desperate thrill that accompanied my youthful fantasies of immortality. Bella—" I set my jaw. "It's him or me. Bella!" he screamed. His expression softened slightly as he reached out to tuck a strand of hair behind my ear. Bella. I don't know what I had been expecting from Jake. Oh God. I can't — there's no other way. much less map out a plan for my future. "And if you choose him." he said sharply." "Okay. clamping down on my lip in an attempt to stave off the flood of tears. I can't . steeling myself for what was coming next." I begged. his voice cracking. I know you're upset now. when Jake presented the idea now." He shook his head. I placed both my hands on his chest and looked up at him as the tears began to spill silently down my face."Enough. Jake. "He'll come around. . Edward's changed a lot and—" At the mention of Edward's name. I owed him that. My chest throbbed and my throat swelled as I rambled. and I should have talked to him about it. The truth was. you don't mean that. you know? But instead I avoided him and he came here at the worst possible time and now it's a complete fucking disaster that I can't even begin to wrap my brain around at the moment. stricken." he said softly. He gave my hands one last squeeze and then climbed on his bike. "Even if I could forgive everything he did to you — which I can't — I could never forgive him for this. "I seriously doubt that. anxious and desperate. not this. even if he doesn't—" "No!" I barked. "Do you think I like being this way? Do you think I'm happy about being a freak of nature — a monster?" "You're not—" "And you know whose fault that is?" He kept his steely eyes on my face but his finger lifted to point at Edward." he said. a gruesome chill ran through my body. . "Well. "You okay?" I shook my head." He gestured to himself. "No. huh?" "No. "It doesn't have to be like this. I'm sorry. I couldn't pinpoint the reaction. "His. "I don't know. his voice higher now. more interested in getting him to stop talking than analyzing the truth of his words. Bella. I stared at him. Strong arms encircled my waist as Edward's chin came to rest on my shoulder. "I can't think about that. But not this. heartbroken. "None of my business. my eyes welling with tears. "It's not your fault. I mean— we haven't talked about— God. "If you choose him. I buried my face in my hands and wiped my eyes as his hands came up to massage my shoulders. Avoiding my gaze. "You wouldn't seriously consider—" "Shut up!" I yelled at him." I gasped. his voice ringing with a sense of finality that sliced me to the bone. he stopped to shoot an icy glare in Edward's direction before gunning the engine and peeling out of the driveway." I whispered. Jake tensed and grabbed my hands. but it's none of your business anyway. panicked and pleading. "Please. but just give it some time. I hadn't even thought about that. "Look. but I hadn't had time to absorb the events over the past several days." Edward pulled me flush against him." "The hell it isn't. his nostrils flaring as his face crumpled. Jacob!" I snapped. I can never forgive you. furious." I said. balling my own fists in his before guiding them down to my sides." I was babbling now." I scoffed. "Jake." I sighed.

pulling me swiftly on to his back like old times. We had learned about the protestors in civics class." he reminded. I wanted to get lost in his touch. the ocean a steely grey streaked with crests of white. For understanding." he said. "Let's go inside. "Wow. "Come on. After a few soggy bites. "I see that. We hadn't been moving more than ten minutes when he slowed." "You should eat. "So I guess they won. I looked up at him. wrapping his arms around my chest. my lips. I poured myself a bowl of cereal. "And you must be freezing. "Yes. watching me as I braved a walk to the edge and leaned onto the rail to take in the expansive view. my cheek.I shook my head and turned to face him." I said. his lips brushing over my forehead. "Yeah. "I remember. Environmentalists built the houses and lived in them for weeks or even months in an attempt to dissuade loggers from deforesting. . . needing him to understand that the morning's encounter didn't leave me second-guessing. rubbing his palms briskly over my bare forearms. "I don't care where." ~X~ After a hot shower and a change of clothes. the firs around us a carpet of mossy green. From here the entire town of Forks was visible." I smiled. "I used to think so. smelling of pine. "For what?" he asked." "It's hard to imagine anything being better than this. It wasn't a child's fort. . It was stunning. "You can open your eyes now. We sat at the kitchen table. too. "Tree-sitters. I laughed. high enough in the treetops that only a few spiry trunks interrupted a panorama that took my breath from my body. huh?" I said. "I often came here at night before I met you. but my mind was preoccupied with the morning's events." he smiled." He swallowed thickly and then bent down to kiss me." I whispered. ." He spoke the words into my neck and kissed me there." I gasped at the sight. the words muffled against his chest." He shook his head. but a simple square wooden plank with a railing about three feet high on all sides. "Thank you. judging by the fact that the tree and the house were still intact. My grip tightened around his waist." I murmured. We were in a tree house at least 100 feet in the air. I exhaled sharply and pushed the bowl away. "What is this?" "It's a tree house. "I think . his voice tinged with surprise. grabbing my hand. It's ." His smile was bright and beautiful. Did— did you build this?" "No. I think I need some time to process it all." I said. holding out his hand to lead me to the front door. stilling myself toward the middle of the wooden platform. salt and Edward. softly sucking my skin as his hair tickled my cheek. the silence interrupted only by the clinking of the spoon as I listlessly stirred my cornflakes. "Edward?" "Hmm?" he murmured into my shoulder. but I never got the chance." The peaks of the cascades rose hazy and dreamlike in the distance." "Ah. "For everything." he added. as well as the ocean in the distance and the Sol Duc river." He grinned and rose to his feet. incredible. I opened my eyes to find us scaling a tall spindly pine. "Close your eyes. He hoisted me on to a platform of sorts and set me to my feet. . gripping him tightly as his momentum built to a sprint and the cool wind began to burn against my cheeks. wrapping my arms tightly around him." "I always planned to bring you here." he advised. He climbed so fast that I had no idea how high he'd carried me by the time his shoulders stopped their movements. The air was crisp and clean. letting my fingers travel over his smooth shoulderblades. Before I had better things to do at night. and I quickly clamped my eyes shut again." His voice was wistful as he came up behind me. "Do you want to go somewhere for awhile?" Edward asked. "For loving me.

but he held it together. "It's nothing. "It's alright. and I could tell by the stillness of his chest that he'd stopped breathing." He sighed. a display of emphatic emotion unusual for him. It made sense that he would naturally assume it was what I still wanted. my chest expanding and contracting twice for every breath Edward took." I said." A creeping chill began making its way up my limbs and my heart began to speed up. "Tell me what you're thinking." "You . my mind racing. "Of course I wanted it." He shook his head. I obsessed over it. the shape-shifting gene only activates in response to an imminent. looking down on this scene." I gasped. Well. I'm not proud of it." Edward froze. "It was another reason I left." I felt myself blush and was thankful we weren't face-to-face. I just stared at him. I pressed my palm to my chest. I'd never given much thought to an afterlife. "Bella?" My pulse slowed then. I might not agree with the way he characterized things. . squinting at the glare from the early afternoon light. contemplating what that meant. not fazed by what he'd done to Victoria." I felt him shake his head behind me before adding. It was pretty impressive actually. According to the mythology. my eyes scanning the silhouette of the treetops where they met the white sky." I closed my eyes and swallowed the stab of pain at the mere mention of his leaving. gesturing dramatically as he spoke. speechless. to make you mine forever." I stared out at the river in the distance. After I saw what she had planned for you. "Anyway. I'd been . until he returned and cupped my face with his cool hands. not a pleasant sort of excitement." Edward straightened up. I could never deny you anything. fantasized about it. From the moment I realized I loved you. . I viewed it as the epitome of my selfishness. I didn't trust myself to be able to deny you." I exhaled and realized as I did that my breath was shaky." I leaned my head back against his firm chest. willing the pounding to stop. proximate threat from their natural enemy."I'm sorry you had to hear all that from Jake. Was it? "I told you. I just lost it. "But. we don't have to talk about this now. open mouthed. "What do you mean?" "I know Alice told you. "But Bella." He stepped away and paced around the small platform. He brushed my hair to the side and kissed me softly on the curve of my ear before whispering." I turned in his arms and we once again faced outward. Further proof I wasn't good enough for you. "Not that I was in control of myself back then anyway. Bella. but realizing according to what he'd told me yesterday." I flinched in his arms. I had begged him so often to change me. "The answer is yes. do you see? At the time." We stood still for several minutes. When his eyes met mine. tightening his arms around me. "There's time. as he calls it. but I did prolong Victoria's suffering on purpose." He looked down before murmuring. I am responsible for him being a monster. my kind anyway. "There are good reasons he's angry with me that are my own fault. shrugging. tucking it gently behind my ear." "Yeah. but a frightening inward panic. I can't fathom losing you twice. they were fierce. "That's not all Jake was angry about." I nodded. as if obeying the sound of his voice. you need to understand that this is nothing new. "And now?" "Now. "I'm sorry. I'm done hiding my true feelings from you. but I also can't exactly dispute that most of it was true. I imagined Charlie living on somewhere out there. never having experienced the loss of someone I loved so much. I would be lying if I said I didn't want it." He brushed a piece of hair from my face. He took a deep breath before placing his hands on my arms and turning me so I was facing him. Bella. "And he's right. "You wonder if I want to make you immortal. to make me like him. I've been without you for so long. you wanted that?" He laughed darkly. giving me an apologetic smile. But as I'd sat at Charlie's grave. I— God. his family must have told him about her during one of their unwelcome "visits" to force him to feed. "I was only worried about him losing control. I was desperate to change you.

his brow had fallen into a permanent crease as he realized the extent of the damage. "I mean. One night he'd nearly gotten in a fistfight when one of his buddies had casually mentioned studying Claude Debussy in music class." I shook my head with the memory of Jake. tell me what you're thinking. Bella? Tell me. but somehow I believe he knows. but grateful I wasn't looking Edward in the eyes. over the course of days. Edward." I interrupted. I tried to imagine never dying. His face should never look like that. and I felt my own eyes sting with tears. then. recalling the way he'd shrugged off gaggles of girls who'd clamored to date him in high school. His face should only ever look happy — sporting the toothy grin he tried to cheer me up with in those early dark days. I smiled ruefully. I would have been committed." "I was thinking about Charlie. Edward released my arms and turned. "I still hate myself for hurting him. he would have. About after I left. Though I knew this was hard for him. that sort of thing. "I know I sound like a broken record but please. Jake. "I wish I'd been able to plead forgiveness from him before—" "I know. I know you two will never get along. "But what." "I know Jake better than I know you. Charlie used to barter with me like a child — I could spend an extra hour with Jake if I finished my pasta. But I'm here and he's not. I also knew we had to discuss the past if we were ever going to be able to move forward. for Jacob." He skimmed his nose along my neck. Leading him on was just as selfish as his lie about Victoria. At least ." Edward squeezed my arms briefly before relaxing. for Charlie. "He was so relieved when Jake started coming around. And I did. He knew instinctively to stay away from topics that would upset me. I can live with that. unable to lie. A long silence ensued before Edward spoke again. age and experience — and this morning's visit from Jake — made it abundantly clear that this choice did not come without a cost. . And now I realized. Tried to convince me to see a counselor but I refused. "I hurt him too. I couldn't. "I was so thin. His crumpled face filled my mind's eye. I'm so sorry. "I want to know." My voice was barely audible but I knew he'd heard me perfectly. struggling to finish this sentence." Edward interrupted my thoughts of Jake. going wherever he had gone. recalling how Charlie's face had lit with relief when I'd regained consciousness that night. for you. I hadn't even had time to acclimate to having him back in my life. he'd held me . As my eyes swept over the clouds blanketing the sky. And most recently. opting instead to spend every spare minute with me." I exhaled." Edward's voice was barely a whisper. I didn't know whether I would have survived that first year without Jake. resting his chin on the top of my head." he said. Don't you think you could love me too? I sighed. But you should know that I tried. and he was shamelessly protective. I believe he's already forgiven you. "Tell me about him. I can handle it. I don't know where he is now. "But that's really not what matters. He placed his hands on his hips as he scanned the scenery." "No. but he's been there for me for the past six years. but they were true nonetheless. His leaving had had consequences for me. I had never really stopped to consider what it would mean for me. . I need to handle it." Edward didn't respond but I thought I felt him nod slightly behind me. not for me. Your silence in this moment is maddening. It hurts me to say this to you. I hated that my words hurt him. being mortal enemies and all." Edward exhaled and I registered the bobbing of his Adam's apple against my hair as the smallest whimper was muffled in his throat." I laughed softly. thinking of my father. and then slowly. "He never forgave me. "He was really concerned for a while. Edward hugged me tighter. He'd sacrificed so much for me. but—" I fidgeted with my hands. "Oh baby. that although I'd pleaded for Edward to change me years ago." I didn't mention the other doubts that were nagging at me. I wasn't prepared to respond to his latest revelation. I want to understand what it was like for him.gifted with the faintest assurance of his presence — a small breeze on my neck as I realized his forgiveness was not something that perished with his body. Though I had been eager and cavalier about it in my youth. If he had known why you left. listening. and I realized he was talking about Charlie. It seemed that every word Edward uttered rewrote another chapter of my past. "It was never romantic between us. his eyes brimming with tears as he fought in vain not to cry in front of me: I know you still love him. Never following in his footsteps." I said. Probably more. pacing to the opposite railing in the small platform.

I'd told her it would be no problem to resume my media tour by then. I love this story. I squeezed my temples as the reality of my life outside of Forks began to once again take shape around me. I didn't know how I could possibly live with myself if I hurt Jake. His steady chest was quiet. And please arrange a car with tinted windows." He paused and pinched the bridge of his nose. my life outside of my past. or how I could possibly live without him. You were gone a long time." Edward nodded. "I need him. I smiled against his mouth as I felt his rigid length press against my stomach." he sighed. I know I owe him for protecting you when I didn't. I reluctantly pulled away from him as I pulled out my phone. but if you're interested. I'd forgotten we'd agreed to a fan event at a conference in Seattle for the following day — when we'd last spoken. The driver will pick you up at your father's house at 7 a. sharp. What's Owning V: . 'Nuff said? Guh. It seemed years since I had spoken to her or thought about my job. so the casting director had asked me to sit in on a few read-throughs. I looked at the screen and saw my agent's name." I whispered. I felt the ache of the morning's events start to lessen. releasing the railing and fisting his hands at his sides." I said.together as we suffered through Charlie's last breath. His breathing sped as he exhaled hungrily through his nose. frustrated by my inability to express what Jake meant to me. His shoulders were tense as he gripped the railing so hard that it splintered. This was my doing. Our kiss was interrupted by the buzzing of my cell phone in my pocket. and it suddenly felt as if I was being crushed from the front and back at once. I know you care about him. of course." I shook my head again." ~X~ Thanks for reading! We are remiss in not pimping more fics in our authors' notes. fumbling for words big enough to describe our friendship. and then nodded." Edward pulled me tight against his body and I leaned into him." He winced. "I can't lose him." I interrupted. Some of the hopeful actors seeking roles in the Dusk screenplay were attending the conference. Janine was breathless." he murmured under his breath. my lips. turning him around to face me. When I looked at Edward again. "Have him pick me up there instead. I'll have Becky take care of it. and not just because I'm a lucky prereader. I'll be there. "It's just the way it is. "Yes. my cheek pressed against his chest. pulling me close to him and stroking my hair. "I know. he took my face in his hands and leaned to me. His eyes closed as he deepened the kiss. but then calmed as his tongue retreated and he focused once again on the gentle sucking of my lips. I've been putting her off for days. savoring each sensation as his tongue swept along my tongue. Story starts off with Bella meeting a sexy and slightly terrifying and VERY handsy stranger. his hair standing on end and his shirt collar dissheveled.m. caressing me and pressing me protectively to him. As our tongues tasted and teased. I crossed the short distance between us and tugged at his belt loops. It was the kind of kiss I'd always wished we had been able to share years ago — full of passion." "It's more than that. "He didn't just protect me. Bella." I said softly. "I'll need a North-facing room. too. The kiss was slow and deliberate. recently expanded (4 chapters so far). Edward simply looked at me. He— he carried me. his back was still to me. Get in on the ground floor. clutching him tight around the waist. Edward. and although it sickens me to admit. After a few minutes. no heartbeat but my own pulsing in my ears. Bella. I'll be bringing a guest. "Fuck. here are a few that are OWNING us recently: What's Owning M: This Buried Life by EmmanuelleNathan: Formerly a one-shot. patiently waiting for me to continue. my eyes relaxing and blurring the tableau surrounding us. "Don't be upset with me. but masked the frustration I knew she was feeling at my failure to communicate with her. and I could tell he was concentrating on every movement. "It's— I— " I trailed off. My chest started to tighten. "I need to answer this. "I guess what I'm trying to say is that he didn't just save my life. sucking my top lip between his soft cool ones. brushing his lips softly against mine. wait. The thought made me uneasy." "Yes. sliding his tongue into my mouth. assuming my professional voice. On a TRAIN. as usual. He made me believe I had a life worth living. His hands moved to my hair. but also familiar and soothing." "No. "I'm not upset with you." "No problem." I stopped her and gave her the Cullen's address.

Read it NAO. Seriously. xoxo ~M&V . Final chapter just posted today! ::sob:: Underneath by NewsSoDark: E/Jake AU slash. But I'm loving it so far. What's Owning us Both: Summer of Salt by Lola-Pops: delicious AH with a prickward who will make you swoon and want to kick him in the balls. quick pace. Very creative and totally gripping right off the bat. I KNOW. self-effacing Bella and moves at a fun.Midnight Son of Biotch by GreenGoldfish: irreverent and fuckawesome take on Midnight Sun. This story has the most refreshing. I KNOW. You won't be disappointed.

But though one part of me hated Jacob for giving Bella an ultimatum that clearly distressed her. savoring the salt of her flesh as it dissolved on my tongue. . We love you ladies hard. but I always knew deep down it would end. I hated hurting Thomas. you know?" I leaned over to wrap my arms around her and realized as I did that she was crying. annanabanana and to NelsonSmandela and LolaShoes for prereading this chapter. Chapter 22 EPOV We spent hours sitting in the treehouse.*Chapter 23*: Chapter 22 A/N: Last count I heard. "I can't be without this again. "Are you feeling better?" I asked as Bella speared a forkful of linguini. At the time. I knew it was her way of giving us some privacy. Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. but I just really want him to understand." she said. I could not have been more grateful to have Bella to myself. rolling some private thought around. And Jacob Black knew it. and about something else that I couldn't quite pinpoint. fisting my hands in her hair and tasting her neck. "I wish for your sake Alice could tell you the outcome. I told myself I wanted Bella to move on. She tipped her head in thought as she chewed.. "Jake is my best friend. I'd resisted the urge to smirk in his direction as his thoughts had betrayed this knowledge before he'd sped off in that collection of refurbished scrap metal: I can't believe she's doing this to me. It's always been him. and I was content with that — for now.. "Not ever. "Me too. picking at the remainder of her food. The words had sliced through me like no human weapon ever could. But I could tell that my touch relaxed her and drove the worries to the background. and it was a reality I had brought upon myself. With Jake. The organizers deserve huge thanks and bewbgropes for giving us all a way to channel the energy and love we have for the fandom into such an amazing and worthwhile cause. She'd debriefed me on tomorrow's schedule as she cooked and we'd carefully avoided the subject of Jake — until now. I know it may be a lost cause. to have a normal human life. her jaw. neither of us willing to break the physical connection. . she was relaxed and smiling. Because Bella had already made her choice. "You're here. "I mean. who am I kidding? Of course it's him. They echoed in my consciousness on a continuous loop as I kissed her." she said after swallowing." she sighed. I had left her with no one. She was anxious about Jacob. ." I came up behind her and rubbed her shoulders softly as she sat. When we pulled apart. And thanks to all of you (and espeically Team MasenVixen and its fearless leader aylah50) for bidding and being a part of the amazing effort! xoxo Thanks so our beta. her eyes shining and reflecting the line of the treetops. and with tomorrow's public events looming large. I could nearly see the wheels of her brain still turning." "You won't. It's always been him. I held her for several minutes as she wept before finally nuzzling her face into the shoulder of my t-shirt. I can't — oh. I know Jake better than I know you. having just finished preparing a meticulous meal from the items Alice had thoughtfully stocked in the pantry. I know he'll move on and be happy. but behind her eyes. She shook her head and looked down at her hands for a moment as if trying to formulate her thoughts. another part of me hoped to hell he kept his word. But they were true. I'd been replaying them in my mind all afternoon. Alice texted me to say she and Jasper were going for a hunt in a region several hours away. the Fandom Gives Back Eclipse total was nearing $140k for childhood cancer research. God certainly had a sick sense of humor — providing her with a werewolf to lean on for support. She was sitting at the counter in my kitchen. growling into her mouth once more." She leaned her head back to rest on my stomach. fuck. just kissing and touching." I promised. I don't know if he'll ever accept this. I just . Buoyed by the memory of those last words. sucking her skin slowly. I cannot even begin to tell you how proud it makes us to be even a small part of something like that.

For her pain. you're sexy in a suit. "God." I whispered. eager for her to reach the place I was hard and aching. she shifted position in her seat as she turned to face me. lightly licking the hollow behind my ear." she accused. "It's not my strong suit. This would be different. to the prying eyes and judging minds of others. Her eyes were red but crinkled in the corners from the breadth of her smile." she whispered. Bella sipped on coffee and nibbled at a bagel. attempting to lighten the mood by sharing tales of mishaps from her time on tour. personified." "I love you too. So much. I'd grown spoiled by the ability to touch. After closing the privacy screen. handing her over." she said huskily. trapping my hands in hers and lowering them to my lap. Her movements were slow. Yet now. Bella. my forearms. I smiled at the right times. "Not anymore. Those people — those strangers — would command her attention. Knowing I would soon be sharing this vision with countless others." I shrugged. shake her hand. the grief. throwing my head back to rest on the soft leather. that the trepidation began to set in. "The car will be here soon. for her sake."I'm sorry. left me shaken. and his unspoken thoughts about the chaos we would face today. "I love you." I nodded and grabbed her hands where they rested on my throat. but she saw through me. my ribcage swelled. I pulled on my pants and buttoned my shirt. It wasn't until much later. I also felt as if I was giving her up. It was pride. after our discussions of sea air and city lights. her throaty laugh filling my ears. but the easy banter he shared with Bella. in that she had invited me to accompany her and would be retiring with me to a hotel room at the end of the day. "I just need to throw on some clothes and dry my hair. to taste. "Patience. Instead. I also didn't want to worry her with my childish insecurities. when I finally pushed inside her. I was. "Let me help you relax. Her hair was pulled back in some sort of twist. "Thank you for inviting me. Discarding her breakfast. to prepare myself for the arduous task of watching her from afar as she fulfilled her professional obligations in Seattle. if only for a short time. I thought it best to keep a slight distance. I instinctively reached for the doorknob but hesitated when my hand grazed the smooth brass. I heard the razor skim up her calves." she said with a smile and I couldn't help but return it. soft misplaced wisps making the effect more sexy than sophisticated. Though I'd promised not to hide my feelings from her. When she'd asked me yesterday to accompany her. And when you touch me — when I let go and really allow myself to accept that you're back — there's no room for any other emotion. I was fastening my cufflinks when she emerged from the bathroom wrapped only in a towel. to love her whenever I felt the need. of course. torturously so." I swept her from the stool and carried her swiftly to my bedroom. my chest. my voice tight." . ~X~ The next morning she showered as we waited for the driver to arrive. for Jacob's. Unsettled. But at the same time. I was consumed by a blissful peace. the regret. and I shamelessly slumped down in the seat. feigning nonchalance. having you back in my life makes me happier than I can express." I closed my eyes and inhaled deeply. I recalled with a pang the torment of observing her in New York and in Forks just days ago. Though there were questions and fears still hanging between us. in an attempt to smother the flames of anxiety that burned unbidden beneath my skin. nodded in the right places. But at the same time. And. She hummed lightly to herself while lavender scented steam puffed out from under the bathroom door. "Edward. "A bit. her skin still glistening as she stood before me to straighten my tie. Of course I'm sad about Jake. rubbing at my face. I sat silent. In just a few days' time. She tugged me around to stand in front of her." I warned. The driver was an honorable man. But despite Alice's reassurances when I'd spoken to her late last night and Bella's affectionate reminders. "You're nervous." I said. the agony." Her words calmed me for several minutes. that plagued me as she lived her life while I hid in the shadows. She removed her hand from my kneecap and began to walk her fingers up my thigh. and reach almost to the curve of her hipbone before the sound was drowned out by the growl vibrating deep in my belly. paparazzi and velvet ropes. "No more sorrys. my lips curved into a wide smile as I'd pulled her into my arms. over her thighs. After she rinsed the suds from her hair. share her smile. I was a wreck by the time the limousine pulled out of our driveway. I was torn by dueling desires to hide her away from the rest of the world or claim her as mine in front of them all.

" she murmured. "It's three hours to Seattle." I groaned. but I want to distract you for as long as possible. The entry table was adorned with fresh white calla lillies in a sleek crystal vase. I flinched in response. My body shaking with my release. I was vaguely aware that he was wondering about Thomas. Bella can handle herself. I can hide out in a town like Forks." she said. I freed myself from my suit pants and pushed inside her with a moan. rocking into her with quick. "It's taken me a while to get used to all the fuss. They just do it. "Abe!" Bella exclaimed. this is Edward. smiling proudly at her as she pushed open the door and stepped. still bearing tags. shoving her straight skirt up to her waist and tugging her panties to the side." she smiled. It was. into the palatial space. Abe." she said. Janine. but she smiled appreciatively at Abe. I might not love walking in heels. bald man clad in a suit and wearing an earpiece began walking in our direction. editor and publicist. Instead." I said."I know. The man gave me a cheerful grin and held out his hand for me to shake. but I do love the way they make my legs look. but inside I knew she was rolling her eyes. "I'm having trouble keeping track of them all. I stood between her legs as I laid her down. I was already desperate for her again. indisputably the most luxurious hotel in Seattle." I teased. overlooking the Seattle skyline. ~X~ . They can get pretty intense. A stack of five shoeboxes were set neatly beneath the hanging clothes. smirking." Her voice was teasing as if this idea was funny to her. my entire body twitching at her statement and all that it implied. "He's head of the security detail. but you should see some of these fans. "Thank God for Becky." I gripped his palm until his thoughts registered a slight wince of pain. casting her smile in my direction and making me forget all about Abe or anyone else in a fifty mile radius. She then placed a soft kiss on my cheek before dropping to the floorboard. her face spreading into a wide smile as he threw his arms around her waist and lifted her off her feet. I had her in my arms and was redirecting us toward the bed before she reached the door. tossing a coy look over her shoulder. word gets out and people get curious. But I have to admit it makes life easier. longing to inform Abe that I was all the security detail Bella required. I grunted quietly into her neck. "Becky. shaking her head lightly. shallow thrusts. I gulped back a mouthtful of venom and smiled at him as he twirled her around once and set her to rights. walking confidently through a small vestibule leading to a private elevator bank which serviced only the private suites. We were finally alone as we stepped off the elevator onto the landing which housed only a single door to the hotel's presidential suite. Bella's personal assistant. but in larger cities. cocking an eyebrow at me. I cradled her head in my hands. my instinct to grab the man by the neck and twist my hand ninety degrees until I heard the crunch of vital bones. committing to memory the shape of her parted lips and the pitch of her scream as she quickly came apart around me. The floor was marble and every other exposed surface was pure mahogony. Though she'd taken me in her mouth only thirty minutes ago. After I'd been introduced to the security team. She hadn't packed a bag. "Every day this thing just gets bigger. "I don't ask for this. hung evenly spaced and perfectly pressed. She dressed the part and looked completely at home. I smiled inwardly as I realized that she was every bit as unimpressed by her surroundings as I would have expected. The entire back wall was glass. instinctively bucking my hips. She appraised the selection and nodded once before turning to the dresser. She pulled open the middle drawer to find it stocked with a pair of jeans and a couple of threadbare T-shirts. agent. granite or glass. cringing. Too impatient for her human hands. She stood and walked toward the bathroom. "Abe. her calf muscles screaming at me as she moved. The foyer opened up into a spacious living room furnished with lambskin white leather settees and charcoal granite tables." I nodded. "Well. I used to imagined what it would be like to introduce Bella to the small extravagances which my family's wealth afforded. but I was distracted by the knowledge that we were mere feet away from a hotel room with a king-sized bed. but the closet doors stood open and a small collection of designer outfits. very muscular. the group escorted us through the hotel lobby. ~X~ We had just stepped out of the car when a very tall. but she was already accustomed to it all. She didn't stop to admire the view but strode straight through the small office and into the master suite. Plus." I groaned at her as she pulled the top from a shoe box and slid on a pair of precariously high silver heels that crisscrossed all over her feet and were open at the toe. She looked slightly embarrassed as she fiddled with the door key.

navy silk and a crisp. "Bella. clutching their books. the people poured inside. fitted white shirt. She is. although it is getting trickier." she instructed. all of whom were standing on their tiptoes to get a better look. "A pleasure." "You'll get used to it. or at least not one that I could feasibly accomplish without drawing too much attention. And my latte is . my stomach twisted. Just at preplanned events. I gazed at her and attempted to keep myself grounded. then. rushing to reach Bella's table. As the noisy thoughts of the crowd grew louder. . and I found myself surrounded by rabid fans." I said darkly. no. Whether they were adoring. Thankfully. I was able to view Bella easily from my vantage point several inches above the teenage girls and young women that comprised the sea of bodies between us. my limbs leaden. "Becky. resting my hand on top of hers. Venue change and coffee break. nodding once." I didn't respond. I do get to fly under the radar most of the time." Bella squeezed my hand and whispered. Finding none. shoving. "No." she said. their excitement and impatience screeching so loud that I drew my knees to my chest and dropped my head. But I could not have anticipated just how vexing it would be." I nodded and forced a smile before leaving her side to pace in front of the windows. Sorry for the delay. Wow. even rapping on the tinted windows of the limousine as we rode past. I also knew full well that I would never get used to this. because although I didn't want to be contrary. I'm so glad I have a little sister. You're welcome to browse or to have a seat over there. Bella.?" "It's coming. I'm fine. I walked a few steps behind. Rich. screaming and jumping. Thanks. until the two women stopped at the display table and Bella smiled at me before motioning me closer. or downright lewd. Book-signing from noon to two. despite the mental blather that pelted me over and over again. The strategically placed velvet ropes were no match for them. I looked on in horror as. touch her. I shoved my hands in my pockets and swallowed a bucket of venom. Ohmigod. at Thomas's absence before mentally reminding herself that Bella's private life was none of her business." Becky said brusquely. She better spend more than 5 seconds with us. like. Coffee break. lifted a bullhorn. huh?" she murmured. I had expected that spending an afternoon with Bella's admirers would be challenging. okay? It'll be over before you know it. "Wild doesn't begin to cover it. pointing me toward a few armchairs grouped in the corner of the store. the doors will open in five. desperate for an escape.I heard the thoughts of Bella's fans before I saw them. the guy next to me is so fine. we've been waiting forever. I knew from their chatter that the crowd was vast. the anxiety I experienced at hearing the fans' thoughts was magnified ten thousand fold by their physical . "This is Edward. one of her security guards opened the doors. grabbing my hand. "Pretty wild. pushing. that copper-headed boy has a beautiful face. and ushered her hurriedly to the front of the store. Casting read-throughs from three-thirty to six." "Perfect. all at once. That guy is gorgeous. their relentless desire to speak with her." She wondered briefly at my identity. yet I was nevertheless stunned when I opened my eyes and realized the sheer magnitude of people milling restlessly in front of the bookstore. Edward? Coffee? Water?" I cleared my throat. It's not fair. a young woman opened Bella's door. Can we get you anything. Bella rubbed my back and nuzzled my ear. take photos of her. But thank you. famous. And a beautiful ass to go with it. . so pretty in person. and hot? I bet she could get any guy she wanted. My mind was flooded with their wants. decked out in Dusk apparel." "Edward. massaging my temples. grabbed her elbow. Becky." I muttered. He's with me. When the car pulled up to the side entrance. "It's not always like this. "Okay. Holy sex in a suit. covetous. "It's pandemonium. Gives me an excuse to scope out this hot-ass chick. and began to shout instructions to the waiting crowd. here we go. "Just hang tight. admiring the view of Bella's hourglass shape in a straight skirt of shiny." I blurted. I clenched my teeth and darted my eyes around the store. Soon. He looks just like Luke! "Jesus Christ. "Oh my God. She pulled out a small electronic device and began to rattle off Bella's schedule for the day." "Okay. God. Sunset dinner cruise with studio execs from seven to ten. Local media interviews from two-thirty to three. There were thousands of them." she shrugged.

and the men." she smiled. her sweetness. . to woo her. as the casting assistant escorted them into the room. Taking advantage of the overcast sky. "Better now. sinking headfirst on the bed to inhale her scent left on the sheets. I needed some distance. I rolled my eyes at her and began to pace the hallway." I muttered. elbowing my way through the crowd. ranged from girl to woman." "Good. I thought back over this morning. . knowing from their thoughts that their concert t-shirts were recently purchased online. pulling at my hair as I considered how to fill the next several hours without Bella. I dismissed each one as too plain. desperate for a smile. forcing a smile. Fuck. My smile dissipated. culled from a crop of thousands vying for the role of Claire. more myself. I was beset on all sides by them. from biology lab to this morning's hotel suite. whisking her from place to place as Bella looked anxiously over her shoulder to catch my eye." "That's fine. I was nearly crippled with thirst. my throat burning and head spinning with the notion of how fucking easy it would be to give into my baser instincts. Waving off her entourage. Edward. "You okay?" she asked. Studying their appearances and rifling through their minds as they passed. her warmth. and I clenched my hands into tight fists as the male actors came into view. and retired to an armchair where I pretended to read. I suppose. resisting the urge to make snide comments at the overabundance of hair gel. with their long brown hair and brown eyes. alone. straight-backed and nervous. Finally. she was finished." I nodded. Holding it delicately between my thumb and forefinger. where I leaned my forehead against the brick wall and gulped lungfuls of fresh air. grabbed a random book from a table full of best-sellers. Didn't ask for it. Hell. to fuck her. I had a nearly full view of the store and an unobstructed view of Bella. with the women in their stiletto heels. controlling my impulse to gut them all where they stood. all wanting a piece of her. naturally this time. not by years of wear. I trudged back to the hotel. I didn't understand this life. a mere glance in their direction. I feared I was wholly unprepared to handle it. "Listen. too ruthless. whom I brazenly stared at for hours. I glared at them as they passed. a testosterone-fueled desire to meet Bella. it was the very essence of what my kind has been conditioned to avoid. Her entourage. I re-entered the store. Resigned. lovestruck and innocent. I reminded myself that these women were hand-picked. The young women were attractive in their own right. "Excuse me. the casting department was sorely mistaken if they thought that any of these women could hold a candle to Bella's beauty. All in the name of making her a bigger star." ~X~ The female actors filed by. "I'll find something to keep me occupied. of the throngs of people. When the last actor walked into the room.proximity. arms brushing against mine. hearts thundering in my ears and pumping blood and adrenaline through their veins. Within seconds. And even though I was unquestionably committed to living it with her for as long as she let me. each attempting to dress the part of a teenage Bella. "The read-throughs are next. confident that a starring role in Dusk would represent the "big break" for which they'd all been working. Too eager. I walked briskly through the store and out the side entrance. Nevertheless." "Will you ride over with me?" her voice suddenly small. breath tickling my neck. "Me too. I laughed quietly to myself. her fingers twisting through my hair. I interrupted myself only to flash what I had learned from Bella were 'dazzling' smiles at any of her fans or business associates who glanced in my direction. I smiled again. Each time my eyes left Bella's form. too plastic. I gazed upon Bella as a high-school girl. until I realized that Bella was still inside." We sat in silence for a moment. Her crazed fans. the way I'd always wished to remember her until I learned firsthand that her passion and allure had only increased with the passage of time. that their jeans were distressed by the maker. that they would nail the audition. she strolled straight to me. I realized with a giddy grin that my memories of her now spanned years instead of months. I felt better. the casting assistant gave me a pointed look before shutting the door with an obnoxious click. a touch. replaying images of her on her knees in the hired car. . I kicked off my shoes and loosened my tie. But beneath that professional ambition ran an undercurrent of longing. so . flirting with her." she said softly." I shrugged. When I arrived in her suite. unprotected. "Yes. and underneath me on the hotel bed. And it's just supposed to be the casting people and me. tentative. of course. pretending to protect her. patronizing her. I reached in my pocket to retrieve the worn picture I kept there. They were all hopeful. "Of course. where she sat on the arm of my chair and scratched her nails back and forth across the nape of my neck.

" "What's difficult about it? Talk to me." "You know what I mean. to fear. buoyed as usual by the sense of peace that came from speaking with Carlisle. I had spent all day watching her from a distance. ." he interrupted me. Carlisle was right." I murmured. Edward." He chuckled softly before replying. even if it meant incurring the Volturi's wrath. I myself had not been so graceful. . She has welcomed you into her life. Have a nice night with Bella tonight. We've been packed for days. fame. "God." Relief I didn't know I'd been craving welled in my chest and up into my throat. It's all-consuming." I sensed the concern in his tone. but—" "Yes. son. he embraced me unconditionally yet again.My sulking was interrupted by the buzz of my phone." "Of course. Carlisle never lost faith. With each word exchanged." I sighed. see how you're handling the day in Seattle. You should hear the thoughts ." "I've been listening. vile acts I'd committed in my existence. my focus renewed. and I could picture him sitting at his desk. Attention. . because I knew it couldn't possibly compare to the agony of adjusting to a life without her. "Yes. selfish." I agreed. Alice suggested I check in on you. Carlisle. . brow furrowed." "You're welcome. I imagine. The line was silent for a moment before I spoke. hands clasped together under his chin. I've never seen so many people. "You always ask me that. who intended her harm. "Extraordinarily so. "Son. any number of people. but they sound like growing pains to me. It's not going to be easy for you. It didn't matter how difficult it would be for me to adjust to Bella's new life. It's natural for you and Bella to have a period of adjustment as you rekindle your relationship. because she is confident that your love for each other can overcome them. I have no doubt that you could destroy anyone who wished her harm." "There are just so many people. And now. money. somewhat tentatively. I worry about my ability to stay inconspicuous in a sea of publicity — about my ability to keep up with her and not hold her back. the envy — it's blinding. and we'll see you tomorrow. I felt the stress that inhabited my body and mind diminish. observing her opening herself up to others. she is." I admitted. "Carlisle." he continued. son. "What are you thinking?" She stroked the topside of my hand as we crossed the threshold into the palatial suite." "You're right. but my fears were assuaged for the time being. knowing the hurdles you two will face. and frankly. and no one. "you must remember that although you might not yet be acquainted with the commitments and obligations attendant to Bella's career. I smiled in spite of myself." . of course. I could flatten anyone. "Now whether you could be inconspicuous in doing so is a question better addressed at another time. I missed him. I'd done it many times before and wouldn't hesitate to do it again. "Thank you. "It's difficult. frightening. "As for her celebrity. really. For all the desperate. though I'd pushed him and everyone I loved away for the past six years. But you need to trust her. Christ." "I understand your concerns. "Edward. but you've been so quiet today." I responded quietly." ~X~ As we rode the elevator to her suite after a formal. affection. my voice wavering. all I could think about was getting my body inside of hers. I can assure you that you have nothing." I acknowledged. And they all want something from her." He paused for a moment before adding. They all clamored for a slice of her attention and she'd obliged them gracefully. "I worry about my ability to protect her when she's so exposed. That's not to say that I was at ease with Bella's fame. Carlisle. I'm so happy you asked. it's . or that I fully understood how I fit into this life she'd built for herself. "Carlisle?" "Yes?" "Would it be possible for you to join us in Forks? It's not urgent. crowded dinner. As far as her safety is concerned.

forcing me to meet her eyes. I really hadn't thought about that aspect of this whole . mine. She crawled on all fours across the mattress back to where I sat and peeled the jacket of my tux slowly off my shoulders." She flinched. thing. she bent to kiss my neck as she slid it off with a quick flip of her wrist. Bella." She released the garment into my hand." "And what have you been hearing?" Her mouth curved into a sexy smirk. I feared I would hold you back. I resisted the urge to wallow in regret at my past folly." "It's not me.. "What can I do? Tell me what you need from me. She was the same girl I had made love to yesterday morning." She wrapped her hands around my neck. "They think they know us. "They don't. But Bella's reality. wanted you. leaning forward to provide better access." She rubbed her palms down my arms and clasped my hands. "No. She made quick work of the buttons of my dress shirt as she sucked at my neck." she corrected." "I know. She sank back on the bed. I had been given a second chance at us — at life with meaning. She rose to her knees and just stared at me. burying my face in her neck and sucking in a lungful of her burning scent." I pulled back and my eyes flashed to hers. "I'm here. her body confident and expecting. . Bella. Edward." I wrapped my arms around her. "What we have. "Unzip me?" she asked quietly. I stood up and tore off my pants as I took her in. "I'm so hungry for you. But here she was. . No one else's. sitting us on the edge of the mattress and swallowing once as I pinned her with my gaze and prepared to give voice to my needs. I lowered the zipper with a shaking hand. I brought the panties to my face and breathed in deep." She stroked the back of my head soothingly. They read our story and they want what we had. I want you above me. I lay down on the bed and took hold of her hip with one hand.. Loosening my tie." I sighed. I wanted to weep at her words. were. "Bella. I'm yours now. they think they do. her eyes dark and wanting. her look appraising and sympathetic. Realization dawned and she nodded. her breasts swelling over the top of a bra that was designed to fail perfectly at containing them. She looked like a goddess with her tousled hair spilling around her shoulder. finally and again. too roughly. . I— I need you in my mouth. I felt like a man dying of thirst and presented with a canteen of water. in black lacy lingerie." She gestured vaguely around us. She shimmied out of them and I caught her wrist before she could toss them aside. I wanted her scent engulfing me completely. . but their vivid fantasies only served to underscore what a tragedy my leaving her had been. "It's us they love." I wanted her thighs encasing my head. Edward. and I moaned as I felt that the panties were already wet. I was desperate to drink but fearful I would consume her too quickly. clad in boxers and an old t-shirt. I was overcome with the strangest mixture of envy and pride that the outside world had been made privy to a sliver of our private connection. I walked us backward to the bed. rolling her tongue around my adam's apple and making my already aching cock jump with every pass. . your Claire. tugging her panties down. She was flushed but not nervous. your Luke." "Okay." I nodded. her body. I need. not that way. I wanted her slight weight to rest on me as I sucked on her. my mouth already parched with anticipation. "Every girl in that place today wanted to be you. As she reached behind her back to unclasp her bra. "I'm still learning to handle it myself.."Oh really?" "Really. understanding. scooting toward the headboard. shaking my head." "Your book." "I— I need to feel you. I groaned at the sight of her in sinful black lingerie." Her eyes grew dark as a flush dotted her cheeks and crept across her chest. waiting. Bella couldn't appreciate the deep way in which our story had permeated the imaginations of those around us." She nodded.. "Let me start here. "I just — it was harder than I thought. "I always knew you'd be spectacular. grinning. her essence. "I'm sorry. but they don't." I ground out between gritted teeth. Every guy just . I couldn't control the minds of others.

At her insistence.The blinding euphoria was immediate.. I reached between her legs as I propped myself up on one arm to look into her eyes. "They imagined me on top of them. My breathing normalized as I acclimated to the effects of her arousal. whispy moans. I licked her in long slow strokes. After a long period of quiet breathing and blissful silence. She groaned. She began moving her hips slightly and I opened my mouth to her as she grew bolder." Her mouth was was doing wicked things to my ear and my neck. I opened my eyes after seconds or minutes. "Mmmmh?" I was too distracted by her tongue to understand her meaning. keeping me grounded as I grew bolder. throwing her head back briefly." she insisted. She complied. Though I tried to avoid them. louder this time as she pushed her hips up to meet my hand. Tell me. My own moan was muffled by her wet flesh covering my face. her muscles responding to my touch and my words.." she whispered. "I mean. She braced her arms against the headboard as she rode out the final waves of her orgasm. "You told me what they were thinking of me." "I don't pay any attention —" "You heard them. "I'm yours. composed myself and licked her again." She dipped her head to tongue my ear. I grabbed her roughly by the waist and pushed her back into the bed. Edward. my tongue lapping at them like I just did to you. I forced myeslf now to recall the most predominant. She tipped her head forward again. "Straddle my face." She moaned as I pushed my finger deep inside. The thought of her being aroused by her jealousy made my already painfully stiff cock ache. "They thought I looked like they imagined Luke. each sweep of my tongue followed by a pause as I swallowed." she breathed. hard. lifting her head to smile mischieviously at me. biting my ear. I want to know what they were thinking when they saw you. "I know I'm not the only one those girls were thinking about. I sucked her clit fervently between my lips. she stirrred." "Mmhmm. but these were more intense. moving into position so that she was kneeling. "You know." "Mmmh. of course I had seen the images. sweaty and beautifully spent. she collapsed against me. eyes open as she breathed in and out in small. "Bella. I gently rolled us to our sides. leaving a small space to avoid overhelming her too soon. . It took them no effort to slot my image into the already-staged scene. "What else?" I smelled her getting wetter as she prodded me. my face in orgasm. her wet sex just inches from my mouth. "They imagined my face between their legs. my eyes clamped shut in acceptance of the high her scent invoked. her chest heaving as she watched me dissolve in her scent. it's the same old —" "Tell me. I was used to it. sucking her nipples and grunting into her flesh. I buried my face between her breasts. her eyes conveying pure love laced with concern. "Oh God!" she gasped as her leg muscles flexed around me." Again she moaned. just like you did this morning in the car.and what else?" Despite the apparent youth of the girls. I swam in and out of conscious thought. sucking my cock. leaning back and pulling at her thigh gently. I gripped her hips and pulled her lower. Finally. perched above me. her face buried in the crook of my neck. "They imagined kneeling before me. when she was writhing on top of me. Her eyes stayed locked on mine. I focused there and felt my vision coalesce and return to normal." she exhaled. She gasped and moaned and panted my name. flattening my tongue against her and dragging it slowly across her folds. Finally. I locked my jaw and stroked her firmly with my tongue. I couldn't be sure." I whispered." Her voice was tender as she looked down at me. her hands roaming over her own beautiful breasts as she continued holding my eyes. pressing herself into me. their fantasies were shockingly graphic. Growling. more specific. Meeting her eyes. Her gaze was wide and her mouth was open. moving her mouth down my neck to my shoulder as her hand slid down my back to trace the muscles there. having spent countless years as the object of lust to throngs of hormonal teenage girls. careful to be gentle where she was most sensitive.

Edward." I pumped three more times and then erupted inside her. I groaned watching my own hand working inside of her. Bella. training my thoughts on the rushing of her blood in her veins. I saw their expressions dawn with shock. I had always imagined that this would seem the most impersonal of sexual positions." she panted. the girls who lusted after me." Suddenly I needed to put my weight on her. the noise and faces crumbling away as I leaned back over her. pumping my fist twice as I drank in the sight of her lithe form. pressing my chest flush against her back and wrapping my arms around her waist." "Yes. But in this moment where we had both admitted our insecurities — our need to possess and be possessed in return — I couldn't fathom anything more intimate. "It does. her nude body draped all over me. "Why does this turn you on?" I asked. "Like this. "Faster. When she had finally absorbed all of my length. turning back to look at me. . Her legs had begun to tremble and I realized then she was curbing her own urge to push back against me. taunting. Edward. Bella. gripping her by the waist and watching her arch beneath me as she began to throb." I complied." she spoke at last. "Sweet Christ. her body clamping as my balls tightened in anticipation of release. though I knew the answer. I stilled." With that. "Oh Christ . She arched her back. Our bodies were touching everywhere. "Oh God. the side of my face pressed against her slick spine. casting erotic shadows on her skin. ~X~ "This moment feels so perfect. my fingers sliding in and out." she spoke again after a long while." I agreed. vulnerable. "More. There was no doubt I would climax instantly if I gave into the urge to rear back and buck forward into her. understanding and. feeling her smooth. Bella." I hissed. she began subtly rocking herself forward and back. devastation. "You're mine. yes. "Edward . and rose up on all fours. from this angle she was nearly painfully tight. you are so beautiful like this. feel her caged beneath my body. . thrusting forward into her firmly as my hands gripped and tugged at her breasts. hugging her tightly to my chest and spilling deep inside her. my hips working against her ass. Wordlessly.I smiled. The soft glow of the moonlight filtered through the glass walls and swept over the curve of her spine. she twisted her body. caressing her smooth backside with my hands as I locked in on the throbbing of her pulse around my cock. She moaned again and I gritted my teeth. "Are you okay?" she whispered. the world around us. "Oh God. "I want you like this. my arms threading beneath hers as my hands hooked around her shoulders. waking every few minutes to drag her foot up and down my shin as if to confirm I was still there before falling back into a gentle slumber. using my knees to nudge her thighs apart as I guided myself into her. I never want it to end. It was the same reason I grew hard hearing her break up with Thomas and listening to Jacob's thoughts of agonized defeat. "Fuck. I closed my eyes. wet muscles from within. She had been drifting in and out of consciousness for the last hour. turning her head to look back at me where I kneeled behind her. inhuman." Though her soft flesh was yielding. my fingers still inside her. My eyes were closed and behind them there lingered a roomful of people — the fans who claimed a piece of her." she said. the men who ogled her. . my thighs rubbing between her legs as I rocked into her in a steady but shallow rhythm. I imagined their faces as I bucked against her over and over. And me neither. She groaned loudly at the increased contact and I responded with a thrust. "Because I'm the one you want. I bent over her. "Hmm?" "Do you feel old?" . imploring. baby. finally. I slipped my hand out of her wetness and wrapped it around my length. The look on her face was possessive and powerful while the position of her body was offering." "Yes. her eyes pleading with me to come with her." Her beauty was ethereal. She looked back at me as she came undone. ." she gasped." I lifted my chest from her back and rose up on my knees then. "You're all I've ever wanted. Oh." I rasped. stroking her arm and feeling her fan into goosebumps at my touch. I moved forward.

Why is this concerning you now. myself. No longer worried that making her mine forever would risk her perfect soul. I knew what she meant — forever was an incomprehensible concept — even for me. it was a hell to be suffered.. You'll see them all tomorrow. I am old. I saw that living forever with Bella at my side would render me the sort of happiness I couldn't earn in ten thousand lifetimes." I nodded." Her eyes brightened and became glossy with emotion. But Carlisle has been alive for centuries. I had left her scarred. stroking her smooth back. I had never been so certain that I wanted Bella immortal — unbreakable — and with me for eternity. it's more than okay. It was a cruel irony. Bella the central catalyst of the metamorphoses." "He misses you too. I hadn't realized how much I missed him until you said his name just now. surprisingly grateful for the sudden change of subject. sucking just a taste of that exquisite blood. like the crucifix that stained her flesh. I am still relatively young. Though I knew she had forgiven me. it was something merely to be endured. I sensed an undercurrent of fear beneath the innocuous surface of her words. looking at me thoughtfully. I had wounded her deeply and. "But it's time." "For me too. caught off guard.. I was desperate to bind her to me. and replacing her humanity with my strengh and durability." ~X~ Thanks as always for reading. had not been given the opportunity to appraise." "Tomorrow?" "Is that okay?" "Yes. "Yes. . "The oldest living human is 114. still unsure where this was going. when you were born as a human. engaging in the type of rational deliberation I'd pleaded with her to consider years ago — thinking of the practical implications that I. . . I'm just a little nervous." She propped her arm on my chest. "God. how do you cope with forever? You've lived so long. But she had grown up in my absence. wow." I smiled. . It's been so long. love?" "I just . I felt a pang of unease at her words. And now. xoxo ~M&V . "It's true. although I'm catching up. but in many ways you haven't. smiling at her softly. My view of immortality had evolved over time. "You'll see him tomorrow. After I'd lost her. there are humans alive now who were alive when you were born — I mean.I furrowed my brow." I said. You've got a lot of life left. I know. She was contemplating the daunting prospect of this life. fantasizing about biting her. "Of course I feel old. In my years before she'd entered my life." I smiled." "What I mean is . My eyes wandered to her neck at random frequent intervals. But as she spoke.

"You don't have to talk about that now—" "No. . letting his shirt fall to his shoulder blades. I just wish I knew more. Edward was anxious to reunite with his family. "It's not that. he stiffened in his seat.. as the muscles in his thigh tensed and relaxed with every nudge of the brake.. . But obviously things are okay between you now. I'd initially assumed he was growing weary of the extra company. I gasped. I don't want to overwhelm myself. and after I . Then they'd all recently convened in Yellowknife — Edward's most recent temporary residence — after he'd heard the news about Dusk. . True as I'm sure that was." "Okay . left. "Edward what—" Before I could finish. when summoned by Alice. He drew the shirt back up to cover his back. there is nothing about those empty years that I want to relive. I was excited but nervous about seeing them all. Although the publishing company had offered us a car and driver for the return trip to Forks. .even when she's without internet access. considering our history. the time we've spent together over the last several days has been fairly normal." "Yes. He was defending himself. first with his cool fingers and then with the even colder key of a rented Z4. Alice and Jasper had been living in Vancouver. Rome wasn't built in a day. The whole family had been together only sporadically. . When I asked him why Jasper and Alice had gone off on their own. . I asked Edward to tell me what everyone had been doing since they left — but it quickly became clear that he wasn't comfortable with my questions. he rewarded me with a silent thank you. his knuckles tight on the wheel. pinching the bridge of his nose. bbs. He'd awoken me this morning by whispering apologies in my ear. I became quite different. . But. I know that the family's mood took a toll on Jasper. there is nothing I will keep from you. Jasper and I got in a fight." Edward trailed off. I just don't want to overwhelm you right now. Because he didn't know the answers.*Chapter 24*: Chapter 23 A/N: Thanks to annanabanana for being the awesome beta she is . "Not to mention what?" He sighed heavily. Thanks so much for reading." "I understand that." I squeezed his thigh. no. When I mumbled groggily in agreement. Or at least as normal as it could be. He responded as best he could. my fingertip running lightly along the raised crescent scar on the top of his right shoulder. We are so grateful for your patience. . We'd left Seattle long before dawn." "The night after your birthday. my breastbone. fondling my collarbone. We are in the homestretch now. Not to mention ." He shook his head. After we left I . . "I don't know all the details. Thanks also to our lovely prereaders as always. but the slightly iridescent curve glinted slightly in the early morning light. he leaned forward slightly. I realized that even more so. "So much . .Comic-Con was fun but also a giant distration and real-life and work obligations have taken a toll on us both in recent weeks. But similarly. Edward had sheepishly admitted he'd be happier behind the wheel. my nipples. Sorry this chapter took longer than usual . "He wasn't trying to hurt me. Xoxo ~MV Chapter 23 BPOV My fingers dug into the soft leather as Edward cornered the sharp turns of the 101. mumbling softly to himself." I raised an eyebrow at him. "He bit you?" My hand reached out without my permission. and that he'd longed for the comfort a car ride with me alone would bring. please." "Not to mention what?" "Bella." . urging him to explain. Esme and Carlisle had gone to Russia to visit friends and then settled in Alaska with Rose and Emmett. But I know he couldn't handle being around the family after we left . just finish that sentence. It was so faint I hadn't noticed it before now. He gave me a sidelong glance and then began swiftly unbuttoning his shirt. and now the horizon shone a bright pink as the landscape whizzed by in a blur of muted greens and browns. Or perhaps. His jaw was clenched. explaining that I could sleep in the car but that he'd like to get on the road.

What kind of a question is that?" I shrugged. fiddling with the strap of my purse. smiling. won't they be able to ." I nodded. . Bella." My voice sounded strange." I breathed in his ear. "About what?" "Are you going to fuck me with your family in the house?" He jerked his head in my direction. I knew Edward was feeling a mixture of nervousness and excitement about seeing his family. "I lost it. I slept for most of the remaining journey. But the prospect of an eternity alone . And I chose instead to escape. I knew all along it wasn't his fault. ." A now-familiar chill shot up my spine. I looked down then. "And?" I laughed again."You bit him?" Edward nodded solemnly. his stationary body the axis as the circle of trees around him grew wider and wider. "He did. Grown up." He nodded. babe. Hours later we were approaching town. .. hear us?" "Yes. his voice tight as I registered a slight reduction in our speed. "I just thought it might be weird for you. hollow." I stifled a gasp. ." I said. "Oh?" he asked. you know . "Are you?" "Of course I am. I leaned over and nuzzled his neck. . .. But I said some very ugly things — things I didn't mean. but my line of questioning had led us both into uneasy territory.. squeezing his forearm before folding in on myself and resting my head on his shoulder." Edward nodded. inhaling deeply before palming him through his pants. his deft maneuvering. I'm sure you understand that better than anyone.." "To what?" "Just you. I saw an image of Edward alone in the woods." I drew out the words on purpose. the good brother. . Him . I opened my eyes again and forced a smile. But after that night. Bella. it was too much to bear. . I wanted to take us back to the lighthearted anticipation of minutes ago. . without you . I'm curious. I would have played the good son. captivated by the hum of the engine. "I'm sure he understood. Spared my family their suffering at my own expense. I mean.. One thing I've learned. being forgiven doesn't erase the past. . . "I'm still getting used to that." he sighed. . "Okay with me if it's okay with you.. "I speak Car and Driver now. "Bella. But it had an effect.. and the delicious scent of him that filled the car. Just tired. before breaking into a wicked smile and shaking his head and laughing." He wrapped his arm around me and I turned the satellite radio to a classical station I knew he'd like before closing my eyes. shaking his head. "If I had been capable of nobility.. startled. I shut my eyes as his words echoed in my head: an eternity alone without you. "So. . Saying 'fuck'. drinking from you. are you okay?" "Yeah. I'm fine. "The actual fight lasted less than a minute. "I'm glad I amuse you but I wasn't kidding. my eyes fluttering open only when he stroked my thigh or rested his hand on my knee. all I could see in my mind's eye were thoughts that ran through Jasper's head the split-second before he lunged at you. . I watched the speedometer creep toward the red zone." I giggled and he reached over to tuck my hair behind my ear with his right hand. quirking an eyebrow at him.

and we turned to face them together. So don't get any ideas. Edward was at my door before I'd registered the car fully stopping. Love?" "I'm really happy. At our approach." he growled. and every part of my body. Before I realized what I was doing I was running." ~X~ Carlisle and Esme's united stance was discernible from the foot of the drive." I murmured. A flurry of memories clouded up my head as I stared him — his welcoming smile the first night Edward had brought me to this home." He groaned again. and I felt my own pulse slow as his lips curved upward into a slight smile. the wheel is nice. Carlisle's arm locked securely around her slender waist. "We have missed you. Unrestrained by Carlisle. The car's hot." "I love you. As his warm eyes settled on my own. clutching at the fabric of my sweater as if he were resisting the temptation to squeeze me too tight. "We're nearly there. He helped me out." He gripped my elbows as he examined my face with a concerned gaze before shaking his head lightly and looking me ." Carlisle's voice seemed to calm every nervous thread in my body. He kept his gaze trained on the porch. well. sharing a laugh with Charlie at the father-daughter banquet junior year." "Jesus. Carlisle. Out of the corner of my eye. I still love the truck. crying like a baby into the collar of his shirt as my throat opened up in gasping sobs." I ran my hand teasingly over his crotch and felt him straining against the fly of his jeans. They stood on the porch. I'm going to have to settle for seeing you laid out on the hood of a rented Z4. And no. Esme had flown down the steps to Edward and her mothering coos mingled with Edward's shy laughter. His unlined face was exceptionally handsome as it glinted slightly in the hint of sunlight streaming through the sparse clouds."Mmm-hmmm. "And I'm keeping it." He set me to rights." I smiled devilishly. "Fuck. He held me tight. no doubt realizing we were too close to his house to finish what I was starting." I giggled. but the hood is also pretty spectacular. He groaned. But his eyes looked older than I'd remembered. I looked at Carlisle first.. His face opened into a wide smile as I launched myself at him. "I'm sorry. and I gracelessly wiped at my eyes with the sleeve of my sweater. dear. "The old Bella was content to drive 20 under the speed limit in a three-ton Chevy. "You don't.. SLR. they don't make them anymore. throwing my head back and wiping at my eyes with the backs of my hands. "If you don't stop talking right now. Bella. Esme moved forward slightly and then retreated as Carlisle held her firmly in place. Forever. "Edward?" "Yes. Edward squeezed my hand. bounding up the wooden steps two at a time as his furrowed brow relaxed. I discerned that something of an opposite reunion was occurring behind me. his skilled hands stitching me up in his office. He moved my hand." His smile saturated his voice. "I do." "Sometimes it's nice to know that beneath all that superhuman exterior you're still just a guy. "Bella. my chest suddenly felt too small for my lungs. reflecting every day he'd endured since leaving Forks. "Would you love me more if I told you I drove a McLaren?" His mouth dropped open as he snapped his head in my direction. "How did you— do they even—" "My publisher." "Yeah." I saw him smile out of the corner of my eye. relaxing me instantly. Could you please say something to distract me from the image of you behind the wheel of that car?" "Well. and I shot him a grateful look. "I don't know what came over me." I sputtered." I laughed.

" He gave me a grateful smile. "Bella. "That's more than I deserve. Thank you." The simple word seemed to unlock the men from where they stood momentarily frozen in place. If Edward and Carlisle had been talking. "Definitely." Esme insisted. Grabbing both our hands." "Thank you.meaningfully in the eyes. that I felt intrusive witnessing it." he added. "We missed you." I smiled. "And I'm sorry my brother was such an asshole. so powerful. Moments later Edward's arm slid around my waist and suddenly we stood mirroring Esme and Carlisle. I wish there was something we could have done. waggling his eyebrows. chucking Edward playfully on the arm before scooping me off my feet and throwing me over his shoulder. too." I said. I can't explain how I know. returning the squeeze of my hand with his own and then turning toward the steps." he said softly then. Edward and Esme broke apart as Carlisle walked me back down to the yard." But before we could make it inside. "But it's no excuse. The two men regarded each other for a moment. "They're waiting. his free hand tugging at the nape of his neck. Emmett bounded out of the house. both our bodies shaking with laughter as he ran circles around the yard. I turned to Esme. setting me on my feet several yards away from where the others were still standing. he studied me for a moment before tapping my nose with his index finger. I'm sorry. Carlisle gestured toward the house. "I am so sorry about your father." "Rose will be fine. Bella. "Good to have you back. And hot. "No. You deserved better from us — from me. Eyes shining. Bella. Edward. "I'm sorry about that." I choked." I smiled at him. "There is time. rolling my eyes. I shrieked and clung tightly to his shirt. "Son." he whispered." I swallowed back a fresh tide of emotion and nodded vigorously in agreement. and her whole face lit up. Bella. He finally relented when I complained of dizziness." Edward stood there for a moment. I didn't hear them. Her placid eyes found mine and she brought a hand to cup my face. squeezing his hand." I shrugged and felt my eyes sting as I was once again reminded of all the time we'd lost." She smiled." Carlisle responded." I whispered. "He would be happy you're here. babe. his eyes as serious as I'd ever seen them. "for taking care of him." "I understand why you did what you did. Go to him. "Ha ha. how can we ever repay you?" I hugged her hard and inhaled the scent of lilac and honey that was her very essence." "There is much to say." "Thank you." Edward gave a slight shake of his head. More than you realize." I beamed. Their embrace was fierce — a father reclaiming a prodigal." he grinned. "Is she — is Rose — going to make this difficult?" "No. "Look at it this way. "She's missed you. but I do. This was long overdue. Bella. "Now let's go inside so I can see my family together again where they belong. She brushed the hair off Edward's forehead and stroked his cheek. Edward raking one hand through his hair. "He's my son. not missing a beat." She pulled back and put her hands on my shoulders. his gaze dropping to his hands where they held me before returning to my own. The display was so intimate. . "You're here. she smiled as she began pulling us toward the house. "You've had six years to get all rich and famous." He nodded appreciatively." I sighed." he said. "You already have. "I wasn't concerned about myself.

before finally collapsing in a tangle of arms and legs in the living room floor. unsure if his tone was seeking reassurance or a sign that I understood his need to keep a distance. our reunion was infused with joy. . As I walked toward Jasper. one arm hesitantly clutching her opposite shoulder as the other hung loose at her side. "I thought your days of brooding were over. "There is nothing to forgive. bro. Although I'd seen Alice just days before. "You do?" I nodded."Alright Emmett. Though the rest of the family was chattering and laughing around me. I smiled at her as her eyes lifted to mine. Edward tugged me closer to his side. her flawless features hidden from my view." I cocked my head to one side. not knowing when or whether I'd see her or her brother again. his attempt to seem irritated betrayed by his carefree posture and the smile in his voice. I didn't know it obviously. Jasper's eyes were trained on me. politely moved into the kitchen. "Yeah. you two. "Bella." I pulled him into a tight hug. too. Edward looked on. " "Shhh. nearly doubled over with laughter as I lay there wheezing and clutching my side. He waited a moment as my breathing regulated. you've ogled my girlfriend enough. "Bella." she whispered." Edward called across the yard. Emmett scoffed." he said solemnly. . "I know. I haven't had any relapses since . "For Edward to forgive himself ." Jasper said my name as a greeting and a question. Alice was nearly bouncing out of her skin "Oh my gosh. I was still shaking with laughter when my eyes found the two still forms in the room." I returned. something about her didn't feel the same. I couldn't see it — God Bella." He grinned.. appraising." He looked at me." I said to stop him. giving him a reassuring squeeze. I've been waiting six years to see Alice's face light up that way again." "Indeed. with exhilaration. Now that I was part of the family again. For you to forgive me. you've been putting me through hell by the way — but I just knew you were meant to be and you are!" I laughed as she tackled Edward swiftly before turning to me and locking me in a slightly gentler but no less energetic hug. Rosalie's gaze was focused on the floor. speaking in a serious tone. her voice rasping as her eyes clamped shut. Jasper's face broke into a small smile. "I've been waiting for this." He gestured toward the kitchen with his eyes. I'm always right. My memory had failed to hold onto the utter flawlessness of her beauty. silhouetted against the far glass wall. I smiled as I watched him spin her slowly around. I just knew it! I mean. I'd left on uncertain terms.. Jasper. and I exploded into another fit of giggles when Alice yanked on his pant leg and he fell to the floor with us in an uncharacteristically goofy display. giving us at least the appearance of privacy. pulling Jasper to her as I released him. like. Allowing them their moment. She stood with her eyes downcast. "I told you to get over it and ask her out again. and with downright silliness. "Should I be?" I released Edward's hand from my waist." He exhaled and his whole body seemed to relax. "It won't ever happen again. ." he shot back. kissing my temple. I turned toward the kitchen to find Edward but my eyes landed first on Rosalie where she stood alone. his eyes questioning but hopeful. Edward?" she joked. He shook his head as I approached. several feet away in the corner. "Jasper. It took effort not to gasp at the difference. Rosalie and Jasper stood serenely. the rest of the family. "Alice worked with me every day . But though she was as lovely as ever." Alice bounded over then. "See. "You're not afraid. You can bring her back now. I straightened my shirt and untucked my hair from my collar as Edward pulled me to my feet and then protectively against his side. Jasper. We embraced for several minutes as we both giggled and I cried happy tears. poking him in the side... When we finally made it into the house. with the exception of Rosalie.

beautiful. That part was pretty badass. "I think I'm partial to their second date at that restaurant.. but I didn't care." ~X~ We all settled into the spacious living room. I was not met with the confident glare of a woman but the timid gaze of a teenage girl. Rose on the armrest. "I think my favorite part was when Celia rips Jason's head off. "I didn't mean that you-" "You don't think I have depth?" he accused.. and stone-cold. "So. smiling. So much." "Very funny." He pressed a hand to his chest. untouchable. But as I looked into them now." I cleared my throat. ~X~ We sat in the living room for over an hour. one arm stretched around my shoulders as I leaned against him. She regarded me hesitantly. Carlisle. talking and laughing over the creative license I'd taken." I said and she nodded curtly before resuming her post on the back of the couch behind Emmett." I gasped." I felt my face heat up. We could have been any family. It was all so casual. "We can't all be as deep and moody as Captain Emo over there. my smile genuine. Jasper ruffled her hair. had always felt icy cold. "I agree." My voice cracked." "Of course. I patted her lightly on the back. I wasn't prepared for what happened next. it's good to see you." I coughed loudly and my eyes flew wide." Edward chuckled as Emmett and Jasper shared a knowing look.Her eyes. with your permission. clamping a hand over my eyes before peeking out between my fingers. Someone has to balance the vibes. the wind forced out of my chest as she clung to me. "Thank you." "I don't know. feeling the hard shape of him against my lower back and was instantly torn between wanting to continue reconnecting with the family and getting him alone upstairs. unsure what else to do. Jasper sat on the hearth. it would be a futile exercise to attempt to give voice to the gratitude we are all feeling for what you have done for all of us. my words sincere. Carlisle and Edward still . But her face was not cold now as she listened to her brothers joking and Esme lamely chastising. Alice settled in beside me. "Bella." I said. "Rosalie. "I know I speak for all of us when I say that we consider you as much a part of this family as anyone in this room. "I'm only thinking of Jasper. I didn't notice when Rosalie left the room but before I even registered my own growling stomach. but his eyes sparkled with amusement. Bella. though warm in color. After several minutes she gasped into my shoulder. and Edward squeezed my knee. Edward rested casually in the corner of one sofa." Esme said." Alice chimed in." "Well my favorite part was their first date at the Italian restaurant. I shifted against him." Edward pulled my hair away from my neck and murmured into my ear. Alice settled on the floor between his legs. I felt slightly uncomfortable in her presence. resting her head on my shoulder and sighing as I wrapped my arms around her. "Thank you. she slid a perfectly-toasted grilled cheese in front of me and set a glass of ice water on the coffee table. certain my cheeks were a deep crimson. she loosened her grip but held on to me as if she were afraid I would disappear. Rosalie was noticeably quiet as the family prattled on about the book and my portrayal of their characters." Emmett chimed in. I couldn't recall ever seeing Rosalie display affection for anyone other than Emmett but her hug was fierce. After I finished eating. Carlisle stood in front of the room but addressed only me. but if his family heard him. Esme and Emmett sat on the sofa opposite us. they politely displayed no reaction. realizing she would know I had described her in the book exactly as she had always appeared to me . As Carlisle and Edward headed off in the direction of Carlisle's office. I stumbled backward. I missed you all. "'As tall as a grizzly bear and equally uncomplicated?' Really?" "Oh god. sugar. Edward raised a questioning eyebrow at me and I nodded. After a moment." I said. I almost forgot what had happened the last time we were all together in this room. "Thank you. smiling at us and stroking Carlisle's hand. I'd like a few minutes with Edward. and I was struck by a sudden and unexpected urge to ease her discomfort. "So romantic. "Bella.

but I used to like looking at the covers. "Bella." I pulled the door open wider and she stepped inside. I was in uncharted territory with Rosalie but I could tell she was equally uncomfortable reaching out in a personal manner. both of us laughing and rolling our eyes. I splashed cool water on my face and was toweling off when a tentative knock rapped twice on the door to Edward's room. yes. "Somehow I doubt he's changed that much.the same Bella they'd known." "Ah. She sat back down on the bed. The thought made me uneasy. it's true. happy and sad alike. yes." "You were jealous of me?" Edward had told me that Rosalie was vain. She took a deep breath. It struck me then that I was physically older than Carlisle." She made airquotes as she said the last word. but I was happy she had come at all.. "Um. "I was so jealous of you I couldn't see straight. "Of course." I wasn't sure I meant this but it felt like the right thing to say. tucking one leg beneath her." "If it's more than five minutes. She turned and made a self-satisfied hand-washing gesture." She was still smiling. "It's true." I gave her a pointed look." she agreed. "Did you ever try messing around with the order?" She pointed to the neat cache of LPs stored in a low shelf.and then alphabetical by artist. The day had been wrought with emotion. I sat down on the comforter and patted the space next to me. nervously tugging at her fingers. I braced my hands on the counter in his bathroom and took in my reflection." I nodded. I was selfabsorbed as a human and those character traits become crystallized when you go through the change. he is very different. "No. She sat straight-backed with her manicured hands pressed into her lap. "Once you enter this life. seeming uncertain about where to settle herself. When my brother fell in love with you. grinning devilishly." Her smile faded slightly but she nodded. My face was thinner. but she certainly had had no cause to envy me. "I know." I tilted my head. I swept my fingertips along my high cheekbones. smiling. it is profound. I excused myself to Edward's room. gesturing at the meticulously ordered stacks of CDs and books as she settled onto the bed. but the lightness was gone from her tone. I was angry at first because I felt he was jeopardizing our family. carefully selecting Bob Dylan's "Highway 61 Revisited" and reinserting somewhere in the Baroque period." I said. from the day Carlisle changed me. I nodded vigorously in approval. "'Chronological by date the genre originated . It's not surprising really. "May I come in?" she asked. I didn't know what she had come in here to say. Rosalie was hesitant as I opened the door. I couldn't imagine any woman . pointing to the dressing table where three quarters were stacked neatly next to a small stack of nickles and a perfectly pressed billfold of hundreds. though there were signs of weariness that hadn't existed years ago. "I think you're being a little unfair to yourself." ". I was still there . prettier. I'll be sorely disappointed. In some ways." We said the last words in unison. silently asking her to go on. "But when it does. "Well." she said.. change does not come easily. more prominent now that my baby fat had disappeared. not purposely. . "He isn't the only one." Rosalie stood and went over to kneel in front of the neat row of albums. "He always was a neat freak. yes!" I laughed. looking down at her interlaced fingers before lifting her head to speak. Even knowing what we are!" She threw her hands up as if the thought still astounded her. you didn't know the system. clearly readying herself to address the reason for her visit. seeming to consider my words..vampire or human . But then you fell in love right back.had not returned. "I'll let you know how long it takes him to notice.. I have focused only on what this life cost me." She nodded in return." I chuckled. My eyes were raw from tears I'd shed. "Oh God. "After it happened several times. "He explained it to me. I remember a couple of times I put a few back in the wrong place. Pleading fatigue.could possibly pose a threat to her." she quipped.

finally.. "I'm not very good at this. Envied you more because you would get to experience all the things I thought I wanted." "That he was your soul mate?" "No. clasping it gently as she gave me a grateful smile." "I'm so glad you've found your peace with that." "Emmett is mine. I haven't always understood how lucky I was to have found him ." Rosalie shook her head and I returned my eyes to the pillow. "I know this isn't making much sense. "I just couldn't believe it. Bella. Edward had not mentioned that Rosalie had desperately wanted children and while it wasn't something I longed for in life. glancing at the throw pillow in my hands and playing with the corded edge. meaning it. standing up and pacing. Why would I want to be constantly reminded of everything I was forced to give up?" Her tone was earnest but not unkind "But then you came along and began interacting with my family . "No. But it wasn't altogether wrong." She sighed." she laughed softly. "I know." At this I felt tears spring to my eyes. Very much." "What?" She threaded her fingers through her long hair. "I can admit now I hated you for that." "I hated you less because you could no longer throw your life away.your ability to have a child." she said this as if it were supremely obvious. "Yes." she trailed off. lost in a memory that she would no doubt rather forget." "I don't think I understand. "You're lucky. . I know. but I have always loved Edward. "Before Edward met you." I said." "I have been angry for a long time because my humanity was taken from me. her eyes far away and reflective." She shook her head. It seemed too obvious to me that it was the natural way of things. returning her smile." She shook her head and I just stared at her curiously. After a long moment she spoke again. I could see how my flippant attitude at seventeen could have cut her deeply. enamored with their beauty. Bella. but Alice kept tabs on you during the first several months after we left. I never gave much more than passing consideration to the humans in our day-to-day lives. You begged him to let you throw away all the things I coveted.. I don't have the type of family I fantasized about as a young girl. "I know it might not seem that way." Her words now coupled with my memory of her demeanor years ago suddenly clicked in place like tumblers of a lock." she said. "I'm sorry." I said. She had truly believed this. "I was young and naive." I looked up at her and found her smiling. to grasp what she was getting at. I wouldn't wish it on anyone." I swallowed. Bella." "And I don't know if I could ever fully explain what it felt like to have to force my own brother to feed . and the allure of cheating death. but. I couldn't believe that neither one of you would move begged Edward to change you .I hated you less but envied you more."Of course I envied you." She reclaimed her seat next to me on the bed and looked at me softly.begged him to take away your humanity. "Edward is your soul mate. shaking it out lightly. She was so distraught at times after seeing you. I was wrong. She looked warm. Bella. Rosalie." "I know. to grow old with someone. And when Edward left . But what I'm trying to say.starry-eyed and in-love. On impulse I rested my hand on hers. Happy. "She wasn't supposed to. "I realized then that what . It wasn't wholly accurate. I could see myself now as she must have seen me then . their strength. perhaps unartfully is that I hated you because I envied you. I can see how that would have felt to you. . You weren't naive. but what I do have is better than anything I knew to hope for." She nodded. But I took it for granted. I had never considered she could appear so vulnerable. "But seeing my brother." I lifted my chin and opened my mouth as I began. "I've always known that. That's not what I'm trying to say. I didn't want to have anything to do with them. I truly rare that is.when we all left . "But I haven't always understood that.

Alice told me that you haven't decided about this life. "And I know it is unfair of me to say this after all that I've done. and strode smoothly out of the room. ~X~ . "I am so grateful to you for bringing Edward back to us. Bella. I wasn't expecting the conversation to take this turn. it did not faze her.had been taken from you .from both of you . far worse. ." My head snapped back in her direction but before I could form a response Rosalie patted my hand sweetly. ." I stared straight ahead at the original Moran oil painting hanging on the wall.something I hadn't even had a chance to fully process on my own. you are a fool. Something I hadn't even yet talked about with Edward. stood. It felt off to be discussing something so intimate with Rosalie . But if you decide to stay human." "Ah." she said. I didn't envy you anymore. If Rosalie noticed my discomfort. After that I ." "I see." "Bella. .was far.

. The two themes were practically illuminated by neon signs in his mind: The Volturi. To have Bella back." I said. son. We anticipate three more chapters after this one." "It's been years since our family was known to comprise a cohesive coven. We've been waiting for this day a long time. though. They track these things. The walls were lined with vampire fiction including Goethe. stories passed around. and sitting there across from him. The Volturi don't know about your relationship." "They must have recognized the descriptions of our coven. Thanks so much for your patience as we try our best to get every chapter right." "Ah." "I hated to pull you away. of course. Carlisle settled into the leather wing-backed chair and I assumed my usual seat opposite his desk. In the interim we wrote our first FGB piece and I (M) wrote a little HG one-shot for LolaShoes' birthday (and of course we both read Mockingjay. They know of Bella. We all had our part to play in this. I am just glad to have you back." "Yes. Me too. . "It's for the best. son. recalling the one and only time I'd been in the vampire's personal quarters." "No." "I felt it best to get this over with. nodding." "It explains Caius' library. knowing that was my doing. legends retold." "I understand.) Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. is that Bella's book hits closer to reality than the others. As far as the Volturi is concerned. Huge thanks to our beta Annanabanana who never fails to give this story her love and attention. Your commitment to this story amazes us. Edward. I've missed my family. it felt like we were slipping comfortably back into the easy familiarity of roles that had since suffered strain." I smirked. Our prereaders and beta own us. We love you ladies. The human.) so thanks for bearing with us. "I know." I said. "They don't know about us?" I asked for verbal confirmation of what his mind already revealed." I met his eyes. His study looked the same as it had the day we'd left. He was waiting for me to begin the conversation. "I know.*Chapter 25*: Chapter 24 A/N: I realize this was our longest gap yet between updates. even Anne Rice." No apologies. I nodded. following the marbling of the antique woodgrain with my eyes. Chapter 24 EPOV Of course I knew what Carlisle had wanted to discuss before the door to his office was closed. and he looked relaxed but expectant. depending how wordy we get . "I'm so sorry for all I've put the family through. But vampire fiction isn't something they care about particularly. "About you and Bella. Stoker. but you know why I wanted to talk alone. "I suppose. But all vampire legends stem from real human experiences." I glanced down at the desk. "The concern. Thanks to our prereaders Nelsonsmandela and LolaShoes." Carlisle shrugged.. relegating vampirism to the world of the fantastic is actually one of the favors humans do for our kind." I shifted uncomfortably. you mean?" "Yes. "And our most recent stint in Forks was so attenuated — I doubt it even registered on the Volturi's radar — unlike the more lengthy stay that inspired the treaty with the Quileutes.

" "I cannot pretend to predict with any certainty the Volturi's opinion on the matter." "Exactly. I know Aro well. It is impossible to sustain an existence over centuries without some level of detection by humanity. "But this isn't really the issue is it?" I said. You must remember that none of us were given the choice." "Are you saying there's no concern?" "No. I suspect that the idea is not merely frightening. "I wanted to fight in the war — I wanted to die with honor if it came to that. and any promises by her to keep our secret will not likely be sufficient.. for this family. "If she changes. I'd shared those same prejudices. and in all honesty. But you were a teenager. A career. Her love for you. will that placate them?" "Edward. happy human existence. Until I met Bella. "No. " I smiled. as the thought of Bella." He was right." "That's true. Carlisle. And I don't think any of us — with the exception of Alice — would have purposefully entered into this life given the opportunity for a normal. but I can tell she's frightened by the idea of forever.. Even in her story it was not us who divulged the secret." "You think they believe she learned of the legend of our coven from the Quileutes. She's grown up now. driven by impulse and lacking the judgment that comes with experience. in fact. "Of course she is. He might even encourage her to continue writing. Nonetheless." Carlisle nodded. I believe so." "Can't you see the similarities? When you were seventeen. understanding his point. son. It won't be long before they put two and two together. of course." Carlisle said. barring any future media appearances. as a rule. "I'm saying there's no immediate danger. Humans are hard-wired to resist belief in our kind. fame. It doesn't always mean never having to say goodbye. typing away on her Macbook was a tempting fantasy. because the Volturi." "Did a single one of them harbor any belief that Bella's book was based on real life events? That it was." . nonfiction?" I shook my head. folding his hands. Edward. "Remember that even Jacob — a direct descendant of the original tribe members who shifted — didn't believe the history until he lived it. She clung to the romantic idea of life as an immortal." I nodded. Their instinct to relegate the lore surrounding us to 'fiction' is something that has been happening for centuries. unbreakable and immortal." "Of course. probably did not have the capacity to appreciate the consequences. I suppose." "They'll consider her a threat. Bella begged for this existence — begged you to change her. "She's got so much more to lose now." I shook my head. consider human relationships to be fleeting. friends. He fancies himself a 'collector' of talents. but probably incomprehensible. I daresay he would consider it something of a novelty to have Bella among our ranks. Had to face the tough realization that love isn't always easy. the Volturi will soon discover that Bella is not an oblivious human unwittingly hitting close to reality." "I cannot guarantee anything. I suspect that they will feel threatened only so long as Bella is human." He leaned back in his chair." "But doesn't that endanger our secret? Won't they still consider our family — or Bella herself — responsible for breaking the law?" "Think of the fans you saw clutching their copies of Dusk in Seattle."Consider how Jacob told Bella what we are — both in life and in her book." "So he would allow it. But yes. The more we are entrenched in the human consciousness as mythological creatures. "We've only barely broached the subject. you thought going to war and dying a hero was a glamorous idea. the safer the secret of our existence becomes. human feelings to be fickle. No doubt the Volturi believe — just as she wrote — that she learned of the legend from the Quileutes and so wove a tale that bears a striking resemblance to our family. But what do you mean by similarities?" "Six years ago. But now that you two are together. You doubtless rifled through their minds. You see why the Volturi tolerate vampire fiction. The story was firmly embedded in their consciousness as 'fantasy'.

" "Thank you. You've been gone six years and back barely a week." I inhaled." I'd considered a life with Bella as she lived out her human days on many occasions when we'd been together six years ago. "Then I trust that you would choose to continue your existence. I hope you would at least consider living on for her. I would have known." "I know. "I promise I will consider alternatives." Even if his mind hadn't been an open book. She has to give up part of who she is to be with me." He nodded. "It would kill her if she knew I planned to end my life when she died. private life together in either case. She'd choose to change just to prevent it." My body felt like it was burning to ash at the mere mention of living a day longer than Bella." "I hate that. I didn't mention to Carlisle that those imagined futures always ended with me gruesomely biting Bella's wasted neck minutes before she died of old age. "I don't think those are the same question. You must know that I have my own selfish motives for wanting Bella to change. Edward. But the weight of what her staying human could mean for us was starting to settle around me. red and gold. Maybe a year. How long before they piece this together?" "Maybe a few months. With Alice's help." I felt trapped between Scylla and Charybdis. how could I tell her I would not? I rested my elbows on my knees and dropped my head into my hands. Could I let her die? Could I trust myself to abide by her wishes if that's what she wanted? Yes." The sentiment was unnecessary as his mind displayed an image that made me ache with want: Bella. You are looking at a quiet." he said softly. "I hope you have come to learn that your life has intrinsic value on its own. pinching the bridge of my nose. I would have to. Carlisle. "I said consider. Choosing immortality as a blood-drinking inhuman creature is not a rational choice for any human. unable to restrain myself. But Edward." "We can evade them. "I couldn't lie to her." I balled my fist. for Bella's sake as well as mine. "We need to be ready for them. Ten years from now your age difference will be apparent." "So there is no way for her to have it all. Thinking of Charlie. You are right. not to mention your location. It didn't make these choices any more palatable. at risk. "Oh God. I hate asking her to do that. Once the Volturi learn who she is — and who she is to you — any publicity linking the two of you will put their secret. How could I live without Bella? And yet. "But son. frustrated." "I know you do. If she doesn't choose to change." "And you think she'll choose to change. but she is not giving up who she is by being with you. angry at the universe for making the change to immortality a one-way street. son. we'll deal with the Volturi then. But that was not a choice I was offered. "I do. I would." I rubbed at my face. "You fear I will end my life in time with hers. "You think she's afraid I'll leave again. her human peach. I need her. you know that it is not just the Volturi who will take issue with your being in the public eye after a while." I suddenly felt the need to emphasize the caveat." Carlisle shrugged equivocally. But she has a sense of self-preservation she hadn't developed as a teenager. couldn't keep it from her.I swallowed hard. "But it will be the end of any public career for Bella. I would eagerly give up forever to wither and die in her arms. if by 'all' you mean continuing to operate in the public eye. what I think is pretty irrelevant here. I think she trusts you." I sighed. I know she loves you. There is no other way." Carlisle nodded once. I don't know how to . pink and brown coloring transformed into tantalizing white. "Edward." Carlisle smiled sadly. thinking of the day I left. but you're worth the sacrifice. Let her come to her own decision naturally. "That's something you'd have to ask Bella.

" I said. . knowing what he meant. "I will tell her soon." I looked down at my fingers. "I know." "You know I have moved past it. The sliver of light that sliced into the darkness traveled over her body." ~X~ When I finally made my way upstairs to my bedroom. recalling my own first days. it is not an easy thing for anyone." "Are you afraid she will leave?" I shook my head. Edward. something deep in my past before I knew her. This life is not without sacrifice. Bella was here with me now. "Soon. You need to tell her and leave the decision in her hands." "Edward. not trying consciously to wake her but selfishly pleased when she stirred. "Was I? Wasn't I acting perfectly in accord with my nature? Carlisle. Edward." "And now?" "Now she will have no illusions about what we are. "The human. "Late. "She will see the monster. I sat down next to her. Edward. "Tell me. if thirst prevailed over self-control. She always trusted me — believed we were different." "Yes." "I know. . the outright terror at being told what you needed was forbidden you. But you were devastated. But love holds no power without choice. And you need to be honest with her — about everything. curled up with one arm outstretched. What are you afraid of?" Carlisle took the chair next to me. I know you fear the unknown. but would not break us. She'll see what I'm capable of. It's time to tell her. standing. But you need to give her time to sort through this on her own." "I know." "Only because I know that's not you. she never believed it. As I reached for the doorknob." She blinked her eyes a few times and scooted up on her without her again. Of what I've done. resting a hand on my shoulder. "What were you and Carlisle talking about for so long?" . "And. Then I looked back at Carlisle. brushing a hair from her face. I saw in his mind the same vision I saw in Alice's memory the day I'd learned of Bella's book: me. "I know. knotted together between my knees. the eventual agony and shame of failure." I sighed. my chest was tight. That I was different. and those of my family I'd witnessed." I raised an eyebrow. Until now it's been abstract. "No. "What time is it?" She whispered in a husky voice." I said again. And for her if she needs us. The thrashing. she shouldn't. Forever or for a season. It's just — for all my attempts to make her realize what a monster I felt I was years ago. my eyes glittering a sinister ruby red." I swallowed thickly. my hands stretched and relaxed of their own accord in their desperate need to touch her. But Carlisle was right. Of what I want her to become. It was time to tell her everything." Carlisle raised his eyebrows. And. We're here for you now. I needed to reassure myself that the decisions that lay ahead would affect us." I nodded." He walked to where I sat. "I'm afraid of seeing the same expression on her face that I saw on yours. Siring a newborn vampire while denying them the one thing their body craves . then. I'm afraid she'll be horrified. Only because I knew you were acting against your true nature.

"I want to watch you come. and her eyes clamped as she fought to catch the wave. pulling my mouth to hers. Bella. "God. She reached for the button of my jeans. then sat up and bent to suck me into her mouth. my voice strained. looking up at me softly. my mind split between the sweet taste of her tongue and . I watched my soaked fingers circle her lips." she murmured. "Fuck." "I'm not afraid. She tugged my belt loop and I settled between her legs. I flicked my tongue over her fingers. She held her hand out and led me to the sliding glass doors of my bedroom. what are you—?" "Come outside with me. Bella. "Are you sure everything is okay?" "It will be. My hands were on her hips. "Always so hard for me. "Okay." She undid my belt as I straddled her thighs. mortal. Bella. But mostly. "Jesus Christ. her eyebrows scrunching together in concern. breakable. followed the faint pink lines that appeared as she glided her nails over her skin. the reminder of her warm humanity. I watched my hand moving in and out. Her mouth was like fire. I watched the way her torso would twist with different pulses and strokes. bracing her not for sex. curling my fingers inside. and I felt desperate to soak her in. I watched her hands knead her breasts. I twisted my wrist for her again and she relaxed into a grateful groan. pulling it over my head."Nothing that can't wait until the morning." I said. She pushed my jeans and boxers just down my hips. her neck. "I like that. kneeling over her. She slid her tongue deliberately along the underside of my length. I would never tire of this feeling — the first feel of her wet flesh on my skin. "Mmmmh. The feel of her hot breath skating across my skin shot straight to my groin. And it made me ache with a insatiable want. She whimpered and lifted her hips slightly as I undressed her and then continued to stroke her. "Mmmmh. Her hand cupped the hard bulge in my jeans." she smiled. I mean." I cried. "Bella. I could hear the rush of blood speed up as I gently coaxed her body with my hands. to test her tolerance of each new movement. The jerk she gave when I made a slight twist of my wrist." she hummed. to watch my fingers slide in and out of her. hopping up onto the stone railing." she said. you're so beautiful." I punctuated my meaning by sliding another finger inside her. sliding her arms around my neck and pressing her cheek to mine." I threaded my hands in her hair. sucked at her nipples. She sighed into my mouth. Her eyes widened in surprise and then narrowed in anticipation as she spread her legs wider for me and began to roll her nipple between her thumb and forefinger. her clitoris." "No. There was something so intimate about her allowing me to do this — to study her." "But I'm awake now. I watched them slip inside her again. a fluttering of her lids. her breath held." She slid her arms around my neck. I steadied a hand on her back." She nodded. And I watched her face. Let go. When she was curved in a convex arch. the heat on the razor's edge of ecstasy and agony. sliding her tongue across my lips as she fingered my ribs. you're wound so tight tonight. She was ephemeral. "I know it will. her thighs shaking. I kissed her lips. keeping me from thrusting too hard. You can't just do that." I said. knowing full well what I was doing — postponing this conversation. Let it go. It grounded me." She slid the door open and walked onto the terrace. I watched. I'm not letting go of you up here. the way her warm brown eyes reflected each different sensation with a subtle dilation of her pupils. pulling me down on to her and then sliding her hands to the hem of my shirt. She released me from her mouth and stood off the bed. wrapping my fingers around hers and guiding them to her left breast." "You're out of your mind. I focused on the searing heat. and I gently brushed her hand away." "God. "I just — I need you. and I shamelessly slid my lips down to meet hers. I could sense the concern in her eyes." I sucked on her neck. "Be careful. reaching my hand to her underwear and sliding my hand beneath the fabric. Edward. holding her securely on the ledge. but to prevent her from falling backwards and breaking her neck. I felt a pang of guilt as I slid my tongue past her lips.

"It's one thing I do know how to make. "I'll never stop wanting you. you're going to make me ruin pancakes-for-dummies. massaging her hips as I pulled the last traces of her taste into my mouth. I fought against it. Is there coffee?" I gestured toward the chrome machine with my spatula." I groaned into her flesh. her mouth twisted in a taunting smile." My words were whispers buried into her hair." she said." I protested. the knowledge that she was safe as long as I held her to my mouth. She tilted her neck back so our cheeks were pressed together and reached her hand back to slide through my hair. her smile changing a little." she murmured." I repeated. I found myself bending to kiss and suck at the crease where her thigh met her hip. softly around her lips." she hummed as she tipped the cup. I walked us back inside and laid her on the bed. She nodded." She scooted forward and grabbed my cock. But I was unwilling to loosen my hold on her hips. "Playing it safe?" she quipped. please. her hands gripping the ledge. "Make love to me. I didn't feel abandoned. floating up into the delirium of her taste. She rested her heels on my shoulders and arched her back. draping her arms around me as she peeked over my shoulder. "Hi. it's perfect. . I'll sit at the counter. but the prospect of Bella plummeting to her death rattled my insides. The scent of her bare sex hit me in a heady rush." I said. to coax her to climax inside and out. So. I turned her on her side and spooned her." she babbled. . Her thighs closed tight around my face as she lurched and gasped her release. "Not here. and I smiled into her flesh at the sound. I'll never stop. "You need it. I hope you didn't feel abandoned." she begged. She was sweaty and loose-limbed as I stood between her legs and kissed her deeply. But I was also desperate for her. I pushed into her. "Let me come. I licked slowly. my hands still anchoring her in place as I lapped greedily at her wet flesh. grabbing fistfuls of my hair. "Plus. I was no longer afraid that I would hurt her.the fragility of her spine. Rosalie paid me a visit. God. hoisting her legs around me and lifting her from the balcony." She giggled and kissed the back of my neck as I ladled a spoonful of batter onto the griddle. alternating between flat tongue strokes and hungrily swallowing her lust." I smiled. complying with her need. "Okay. "You don't get through a surgical internship without learning how to make coffee. I wanted to slip a finger into her. twisting them tightly in her fingers as she firmly pressed me exactly where I wanted to be. rubbing herself against me. "I'm so addicted to you." "I'm sorry I was talking to Carlisle for so long. kissing up the back of her neck as I reached a hand between her legs. shaking my head." "Oh really?" she quipped. and she sighed." ~X~ I was adding blueberries to the Bisquick batter when she walked into the the kitchen wearing one of my dress shirts. "How did I ever resist you?" I breathed into her ear. hooking my hand beneath her knee and pulling her bent leg back over my hip. "Bisquick?" I shrugged. "I need to feel you. "Never." "Mmmm. "If you keep that up. she was beautiful. She uncrossed her legs and hooked a leg around my waist. "Tonight I just need you here. Edward." I turned so that I was half-facing her and half-facing the daunting dollops of batter. "It's a little strong. I felt myself start to lose my bearings. When she'd finished writhing around me." ." She smiled. Ed— you— your tongue. So I sucked a little harder." she insisted. too. "I'm working on admitting my weaknesses. Her smell was potent there and I dropped to my knees. "Not here." I said. forcing myself to focus on the feel of her flesh in my hands. "Oh. "God. "You more than made up for it last night. Her hands were wild.

" "Try. It took me a moment to realize she was recalling the last time I'd asked her to take a walk. but it didn't feel terribly convincing." "Hmm?" She turned to me. I swallowed. I'm curious. I wished I could guarantee her that everything was okay. I don't know how to explain it. I also knew there would never be a time I wanted to have this conversation. "Pretty sure she looks the same as always. like you've seen too much. her response barely above a whisper. eyes smiling as she chewed her last bite of pancakes." "She has." She laughed. I attempted to remain impassive as I listened. it breaks their law?" she asked.and your relative position . "God. "She has changed. on the other hand. "These pancakes are delicious. have only gotten more edible with age." . . "Take a walk with me?" Her eyes grew wide and her smile disappeared. "Well. . . but I could sense her apprehension. you're a terrible liar. "I'm also officially too old for a hickey. Now I at least had the courage. young. sucking and licking at her skin until she laughingly pushed me away. ." she said." "Huh. The law requires us to keep our existence a secret from humans. smiling a little I watched her eat. Bella nodded as I plated four. non-burned blueberry pancakes and slid them on the counter in front of Bella. "I guess that's true. "But you've changed even more. they're not terrible. interesting. there is no concern. "So my book . . But the truth was. but it was clear I could put this off no longer. . you." "I suppose it's your expression . and I wanted nothing more in that moment than to lift her onto the counter top and make love to her in the kitchen. . She listened attentively when I reminded her about the very different now. "Weird. She told me about her conversation with Rose." Her words reminded me of the conversation I needed to somehow find a way to begin." She thought for a moment as she chewed." I chuckled. I think. "Bella. that depends. if not the desire. . I was desperate for her to reassure me. She recalled their existence but was unfamiliar with the particulars. "How did that go?" "It was . that nothing I was about to say was going to change anything between us. I kept wondering if she'd always looked so . How even when you're happy you look a little sad. "Well." She chewed as she considered this. my thumb rubbing her wrist reassuringly. taking a long sip of coffee. . Carlisle believes that as long as your book is clearly understood as fiction ." "Whereas you. . ." Bella gushed. please." I bent to kiss her neck. She was quiet. "So when you first saw me last week did you find yourself wondering if I had always looked so young?" She tipped her head in thought.the way you take in a room. The way your eyebrows are always a little furrowed. As much as I hated to tear her out of this moment. "No. I was dismayed at my sister's never-failing utter lack of tact but also touched by the sentiments she'd shared with Bella. . ." I agreed." We walked along the river's edge. Your perspective . She swallowed and nodded. I turned and raised an eyebrow at her. looking away. I smiled at her in an attempt to soften the effect of my words. "Sure."Rose?" I quirked an eyebrow at her." She forked another bite-full of pancake and I crossed my arms." I smiled. We walked a short distance from the house to a low outcropping of rocks when she suddenly dropped my hand and sat down. You just look like .

." . they have not intervened because they are not concerned about that. But you're telling me we can handle this. . . "So what will they do? What do we do?" "We don't know yet." I said." she said after we pulled apart. Aro is a 'collector' of sorts. the last thing I want to do is pressure you into making a decision. or what the consequences would be." she said again. I'm kind of sick of vampires anyway.. Having a writer of your caliber among the ranks of our kind would most certainly be irresistible to him. "I will make certain of that. and he assures me that Aro will see reason." She met my eyes. . . fidgeting with her ear. Bella. . "Oh?" "You were so serious last night. The publicity — it's simply not possible for me to be a public presence along with you. If they find out about you and me . "Certain aspects of your career will have to change. you must understand that Carlisle — who spent a fair amount of time in Volterra — believes it a distinct possibility that the continued existence of a human who knows the secrets of our kind poses a threat that the Volturi will be unwilling to endure." she said. and the reality is we need to have a plan in place if and when the Volturi approach us. "So they'll want me to be changed." she prompted. . Bella. and presumably don't really believe. pulling her close and kissing her. I think I can handle that. "But eventually they will put it together." "Oh. Bella. don't change?" She stared at her hands as she fingered the hem of her shirt." "And my career .. For now." "What?" "You will need to choose new subject matter. But the Volturi are relatively hands-off until or unless they see their existence threatened. we will be just fine. I care about writing. With my family's combined gifts. "Okay." "What do you mean?" "Bella. Aro is an old friend of Carlisle's. Believe me. In any event. They know of our coven — they will come to know we inspired the legend that led you to write your book. but they have an incongruous appreciation for the arts and literature." "They will consider the law broken. "I have to say. isn't there?" "Yes. Although ." "Oh." I nodded. "Is there a danger that they would just . For now. frustrated that I couldn't offer her a better answer. the Volturi have no reason to suspect that your book is based on anything other than a legend you heard. Edward. But you deserve to know what we're up against. "There's more. . "Look at me." "But. The Volturi are true 'practicing' vampires." "I don't care about the publicity." "It's what Carlisle conjectures. Carlisle believes it's extremely unlikely they would be so inclined." "It is. sensing the catch was coming. "Whatever you decide. But Bella. . we can evade them until they lose interest in this. . Bella. smiling in relief. that's a relief." I chuckled." But I didn't meet her eyes. Together we can get through this. "It should be possible for you to continue to write. They have no respect for human life itself. " I sighed. I knew something was bothering you. kill me? To punish you for sharing your secret?" "We would never let that happen." Bella laughed. I'm a little relieved. We're not aware of a precedent for anything like this."Well." "And what if I ." I nodded. Bella." "Yes.

A. About my time away. I was at Charlie's gravesite." She looked up at the treetops for a moment before meeting my eyes." She crossed her arms and looked not at me but at the rushing water behind me. He asked me out a few — more than a few times. "I killed him. he used to watch me in class. he went overboard — ran a background check on him that came up clean. "Why do you know his name? Why are you asking me about this? I haven't thought about him since—" She stopped short as if a thought just occurred to her. I remember him." I cleared my throat. . my clothes. threatened to move down there. ." It was time to spit it out. Looking back." Her chest was heaving. . "Bella."Out with it. "There's something else you need to know." She looked at me then and tilted her head. "But then one day the guy just disappeared. I assumed he transferred to another school or dropped out. "How did — who told you about him?" "You remember him." "Bella. Her pupils dilated briefly the way they do when afraid before her breathing quickly regulated and she regained her composure." "Okay . then. They were confused." ~X~ Thanks for reading! xoxo M&V . For a moment she looked seventeen again. it was more than that. "I was a T. He . worrying her lip with her teeth. for his Freshman Sociology class. I mean. . refreshed my mace supply. . "No. he began asking me out again. showing up at my dorm. ." Her eyes met mine then. "What is it?" "I hadn't thought of him in over a year until the other day . and I always brushed him off. "I thought he was harmless at first. He'd always make a comment about my hair. . He would wait for me outside of class . . Following me around. I think he was probably just lonely. . bordering on hurt though I'd hardly even begun. do you remember a fellow student at UCLA named Glenn Robins?" Her mouth fell open. I killed Glenn Robins." She gave me a wry smile. told him I wouldn't date one of my students. he was creepy. . ." She shook her head as she conjured the memory. I can't stand this. but after the semester was over. "Just say it. "Yes. And something triggered the memory . and of course. I mentioned it to Charlie once." She ran her fingers through her hair. I felt a little guilty for assuming the worst.

settling me onto a large tree stump. "Edward. "It was after the worst of my bouts of starvation. I was pretty sure the rape whistle and self-defense videos he'd sent were still stashed in my L. She saw him attack you. Thanks for being patient as we try to balance real life and fic life." Edward's voice was calm. tweet and PM. and then to twenty. I swallowed hard and brought my hands to my temples." BPOV I stared at his mouth. but barely. We are so grateful for every reader. feeling my arms cross involuntarily across my chest. Plan is two more chapters after this." I insisted. He didn't know about that name. The world where the Edward of my past lived in a hazy blue memory as opposed to the sharp.*Chapter 26*: Chapter 25 A/N: Thanks to our beta Annanabanana and our prereaders. . "It was about two years ago. I'd mentioned Glenn to him once in passing and of course he'd overreacted." He reached for me and hesitated. remembering how my dad had always needed to protect me — even a thousand miles away. his expression unreadable.A. and I counted to ten. of Glenn and Edward. "You couldn't have known about that. I kept my word. bracing his hands on either side of him on the rotting wood." He gave a slight nod. Bella. I shook my head. "Bella. "Alice. stretching his long legs in front of him. slightly creepy guy from UCLA? I hadn't thought of him for years until just days ago. My mind was flipping through images of Glenn. I killed Glenn Robins. "But — you don't know about that." His fists curled at his sides." He was looking down at his lap. and he bared his teeth on the word "attack". but I'm sure you know by now. of Edward. brightly colored recollections of my recent college days." I blurted. LolaShoes and NelsonSmandela. We love this story and are thrilled our readers have stuck with us. Glenn Robins? The geeky. "I know. she was unable to abide by that request. running a criminal background check that came up clean. steadying myself on the trunk of a tall pine. review. And then it hit me." I nodded. These two worlds did not exist together." I finally rasped. "I ordered Alice not to look for you after we left Forks." "She saw him. Just stared at me. apartment somewhere." He kept staring. his eyes pained. "I need to know. his demeanor almost eerily patient. "I just — I can't — No. I stood and walked a few paces away. My world after him. after I'd promised Esme I would hunt on my own. He'd said the words but they didn't make sense. "You what?" He didn't say anything. when I'd knelt at Charlie's grave. choosing instead to run his hand through his hair. That name did not belong on his lips. I felt myself grow dizzy and Edward's hands were soon bracing me. I still only hunted enough to stave off the hallucinations. I killed him. as I struggled fruitlessly to formulate a coherent sentence. I —" "Tell me what happened." Edward settled on a felled tree several feet away. swallowing. That world. For a moment I wondered if he was speaking English. xoxoxo MV Chapter 25 "Bella. his hands now pressed together between his knees. My mind and heart were racing.

Alice and Jasper visited me one weekend every month." Edward's voice maintained its steady calm as he began to explain the killing the way Charlie would explain how to cast a reel. beaten. "She eventually cracked. It was all starting to fall into place. After the way I'd lost control when I learned of Victoria. locked in horror. that Glenn would have experienced in his last breaths. I nodded. though I wasn't sure I wanted to know." His eyes were flat on mine. but when it comes to you ." "So you . At some point during this exchange." he said. for Carlisle. "He said 'no'. begged me to wait for my brothers."I wasn't good company for anyone. To his repeated mantra over the past few days that there was "much to say". she knew the risk. But in the end. . His mind was obsessed with you. horrified. I thought back to Alice's words that first night when I'd tricked Ryan into dropping me off at the Cullen's: He's not a killer. always on a schedule. my stomach rolling. I was at the airport in a matter of minutes. A vision of Edward's face filled the space behind my eyes." I thought back to the morning he'd told me about his time away. killed." "What did you see?" I asked. But his smile was not the gentle smirk he wore now. of course. . Then one day. "Because I wanted to watch his face. "I knew there was something wrong. He was surfing the internet. carefully studying his face as I asked the next question. the horror." Edward gave me a pointed look. Booked on a flight to L. his voice flat. I had made the assumption that Edward had snapped Glenn's neck or disposed of him in some equally humane never-knew-what-hit-him kind of way. It was . I held him against the wall. I had only seen her nervous once before — when we were running from James." He sat down and I leaned into him slightly as he continued. I tried to imagine Edward biting a human and the pain. I knew his plans were solid. "Finish the story. did it then?" "I pinned him against the wall by the neck." A cold jolt shot through me and I rose to my feet." "Jesus. She was nervous. Even as he denied it. "Yes." I whispered. I found his apartment and followed his scent to the campus library. before glazing over. I knew enough now to understand his reaction to any of the above would have been beyond the reach of reason." "You bit him?" I said. sadistic images. drank?" Edward could have killed Glenn Robins in a hundred different ways. But that's not why I asked the question. Bella. she showed up unannounced. . I still moved around but I kept in touch with my family. I supposed I didn't need to know if Edward had seen me being raped. I remembered the night in Port Angeles — how he'd vowed he wouldn't have taken any part of the men who'd cornered me into his own body. Alice was normally the very essence of confidence. looking at vile. "I grabbed his arm with my free hand and bit his wrist. "Enough. "Why his wrist?" I asked. rubbing my own scar. I was unpredictable. The vision was obviously too much for her to bear alone." "What did he say?" Edward laughed darkly. Asked him if he planned to hurt you." I winced." "The fantasies alone nearly caused me to end his life right there. That she had come to tell me of one of her visions but that she was also intentionally blocking me from seeing it. she knew I couldn't be stopped.A. His eyes blinked up at me. In public. I knew he'd do it. "His body too. flashing my eyes to his. his mind replayed the very same image I'd seen from Alice. "So you . . "Alice pleaded with me not to go. The thoughts made my gut wrench. I cornered him in a dark alley behind the store." I scooted over on the tree stump and patted the space beside me. "I didn't realize. as if replaying a terrible scene behind the lenses. I turned toward him. . . "I followed him to a small convenience store in Santa Monica.

" "What happened after you left?" "I became more and more isolated. "Okay. Trust me when I tell you she was distraught by my condition. It makes sense." I gave him a sad smile. ." He turned to face me. I meant it. It always will." He looked out toward the river. as if questioning for a moment whether I really wanted to know the answer. enjoy it?" He held my gaze. But I could read his mind." He smirked. . "I see. bloody red." He shook his head. you should know that taking that vile creature's blood into my body is the only aspect of his death I regret." "I know. and though he never said it aloud." I nodded. I know my sister's mind. Shaken as I was." . unsure how to respond. that was a failed exercise." "As much as I wish it were true. his face spreading into a grateful half-smile. squeezing his hand reassuringly and wiping at my eye with the back of my free hand. I do regret the way I did it. if you'll excuse the phrase. with sharp teeth gleaming between parted lips. his support never wavered. . Alice helped make sure I wouldn't cross your path." I shifted uncomfortably. I left immediately. rubbing the back of his hand with my thumb and taking a deep breath." I nodded. "No. "Bella.sinister. My reaction to her vision had been beyond her control. He felt I had the inner strength to spare the life — to let the justice system handle him. ." "The day Jasper and Emmett took you hunting. . If I had been properly feeding. . "He was disappointed in me. "That must have been awful for you." "Carlisle was upset. He nodded. despite eighty years of deprivation. But Carlisle never gave up on me. I took up a permanent residence in Yellowknife. That was the hardest to bear. Bella." I squeezed his hand." He shook his head. "It was soon after that he pleaded with me to do some "soul-searching". knowing letting Carlisle down would have been the worst part of it for Edward. while I don't regret ending that putrid life. "I know what you must be thinking. ." I flinched. "The combination was just too much. I didn't know what to make of this information. "Emmett and Jasper took care of the aftermath. I'm glad you told me. my rage . And then. I mean . but." I looked down at our joined hands. His eyes were not the shiny caramel of every day but a glittering. "As you know. I'm glad you trust me to handle this. "Did you . "You didn't see me. I went over to him. I just needed to touch him." "As I told you. Then he nodded once. . for just a flicker of a moment. . . Though I knew I'd disappointed him." Edward shrugged. I would have been able to resist — to think clearly enough to kill him another way." "But even so. I knew he thought he'd failed me. I regret failing at the one commitment I had managed to keep for nearly ninety years. "I know. my body still thirsts for human blood." "Still. Carlisle and I don't always see eye-to-eye. sharing the log and lacing my fingers in his. his pain drew me like a magnet. but I didn't see Alice again until the day I learned of your book. the bloody eyes I imagined belonged not to him — but to me. . She was terrified of what would happen if you had encountered me in that state. I told you in my letter that I was done hiding what I am. his body relaxing into a resigned slouch." "So you didn't . "I did. But my thirst .

not on my own anyway. Maybe I was on my own this time. my inner turmoil wasn't about Edward. The last time I'd seen him he'd made his feelings about my being with Edward — much less the possibility of me becoming a vampire — perfectly clear. I came to the realization that I wasn't very good at thinking things through. well. Edward sucking at his wrist. The choice that needed to be made. . though she cannot see past your arrival. images assaulted my mind in a rapid-fire slideshow. and I began to retch. Our family friends were in the area and found out where I was staying. "I won't be far. It is taking every ounce of restraint I possess not to try and stop you. I closed my eyes and just breathed in his essence." I stood and he stood with me. I rose to my feet and walked toward the house. but as much as I longed to be with him. No." He smiled at me and squeezed my hand. His lips were on my mouth. you know the rest. I guessed. my composure dissolved. His fingers were in my hair. any time I was in crisis. I wondered what he was doing right now. I hadn't seen them in years and they were not prepared to handle the sight of me in my altered state. ~X~ I spent the next hour staring at the river. I loved this man. . I knew Edward was in pain. I lifted it and unfolded the single crease. I knew the best thing I could do for both of us right now was to think things through without the distraction of his presence." "But I just . . need some time. or needed advice. I wanted to reassure him that this was no big deal. A fresh crop of tears spilled down my cheeks as I remembered how we'd left things — how furious he was. He was always the only person I could ever be truly honest with. even carried it out — himself. Alice told me where you're heading. Probably the latter. And then he was gone. . it was about me. he would have sanction it — or hell. body and soul." I nodded and ran my palm up his arm to the collar of his shirt. I had begged him for honesty and he had given it to me. I wasn't sure if I could handle another shouting match with my oldest friend in my current state. The Volturi. giving him a weak smile. I turned to Jake. but I knew I wanted to go for a drive." I nodded. His hands were at my hips. With a shaky breath. And he was the only person in my life who knew the truth about Edward. for the last several years. As much as I wanted to confide in someone. I wanted to tell him everything was okay. The nausea that I'd tamped down for the last several minutes washed over me again. I climbed inside the cab and found the keys in the ignition. I never had been. to breathe in the familiar scent of worn vinyl and to feel the comforting rumble of the old engine in my belly. "Edward. Irina contacted Emmett and ." "I love you. The only one who knew just how broken I was and seemed to understand how to put the pieces back together. too. . Glenn Robins' weak smile. Was the truth something I could handle? Was he right to protect me from his nature all those years ago? I was suddenly unsure of the answer. As soon as I was alone."Right. and whether he'd let me lean on him again or would slam the door in my face." he said. If Charlie had known what Edward knew. I pulled him forward so that my forehead rested on his. I didn't yet have a destination. But inside my blood was cold in my veins. No. my eyes glazing over as I grappled with the weight of all the information Edward had relayed to me this morning. What that choice might turn me into. but I trust you. Now it was up to me. hard ground. I fell to my knees. My own eyes red with the human blood newborn vampires were born to crave. I wasn't angry." "Bella. "I know. "Carlisle said you might. As I sat on the cold. A small piece of paper lay on the dashboard." "I love you.

And yours." I sighed. . even. "Ok. He looked surprised. "This sucks. "Did you mean it?" I asked. unsure of what to say. His hair stood on end as if he'd been tugging at it for days. maybe relieved." I nodded." "I know. you know. Startled. . and me. his back turned to me as he fiddled with an engine. huh? You and me ." I offered." He eyed me for an uncomfortable moment before his eyes softened." "It definitely does. rubbing his calloused thumb over my knuckles. that's not gonna change regardless of who you spend your time with. Bella. "Then I'll just tell you I hope you're thinking what your father would have wanted for you." "Ok. "I don't suppose I have to tell you that I don't approve of what you're doing with the Cullen kid. I'm listening. rapping lightly on the door jamb. "Okay. afraid of giving him the wrong impression of why I was here but at the same time wanting more than anything to make things right between us again. my mind battered with memories of all of us together — Charlie. He shrugged." He squeezed my hand in response and tilted his head toward the garage. and his t-shirt was on inside out." I said. and whether or not my son will admit it." he nodded. "Yeah. Bella. "You know." He shrugged. . But we sure do wish you'd change your mind. I walked toward the garage and lingered in the doorway." I agreed. my voice cracking. ~X~ Billy opened the door before I had a chance to knock. aren't I?" "What does that mean?" "It means I'm here. well. I tried to smile a greeting. Jake. watching him perched at the work bench.Please be safe. "You look like hell." He raised his eyebrows but remained silent. ." "Yeah. "He's in there. Call when you're ready for me again. His eyes were bloodshot. about the ultimatum. he spun around on his stool. But it's worth a shot. You don't. "It's good to see you. "even if. He was quiet for a long moment before he sighed. I wish they weren't. "Hey. "No. Still mad as hell. so do you. but please respect my choice. Beyond that . I don't know." I shook my head. finally about to launch into an explanation of my visit when he spoke up instead." Billy gave me an appraising look before nodding slowly. I fumbled with the zipper pull on my jacket and gnawed at my lip. being like this. "Hey. Thanks for trying. "Been a rough few days. Billy. the circles underneath them a bluish grey." "And now?" "I'm here. Billy." he said. I guess I'd made my mind up after all." . things are weird. Edward." I whispered. I don't expect you to understand." I stared at him." "I am. "I meant it at the time. I chuckled as I turned the key. Jake. feeling calmer already. Whatever you decide. before his eyes flattened and his expression became unreadable. I reckon. "And thank you. you know I will love you for the rest of my life. but I felt my chest tighten and tears spring to my eyes as I looked him over." "You're welcome. "We love you." It was true. For me too. He gave me a sad smile and reached for my hand. Bells." I scoffed and rolled my eyes.

" I emphasized. A human. "Just cut to the chase. God. "He couldn't even let you lead your life. remembering that day well. "Maybe on a downhill." I replied. "I didn't even know you still had this!" I laughed. "So. it wasn't so bad. and then I simply watched him. I quirked an eyebrow at him. always had to fucking inter—" "Jake. "A guy named Glenn Robins." he said quietly. I came in here to think and ended up working on it. It wasn't a jealousy thing on Edward's part. "It wasn't like that. You've always been that person. "Alright." I laughed again." I said. When he met my eyes again." "Did you know him?" he asked sharply. "You're killing me here. We got up to." I clarified. ." I protested. labored breaths as his chest and shoulders heaved with the effort to remain composed. Anticipating his next question. "Where?" he hissed. then?" he sighed. "Hey." "I remember. the mayhem that would certainly ensue if Edward's lapse had occurred in Forks. . well where." I shook my head in disbelief. "I just need someone to talk to." he said. "I didn't figure. Jake. "Yes." "Maybe. ." "What about Edward? I guess he's not technically a person. You totally cramped my style." He looked away for a moment. I shuffled a few steps backward until I bumped into his bike with a soft thud. we couldn't even get it to start. "I didn't really plan on it." he muttered as he rested his head in his hands. Right now I need you. Why are you here?" I felt my eyes well with tears. "Not here. surprised at how tiny my voice sounded. . And well . you're my person. "Edward killed someone. Finally. ." I took a deep breath. what are you working on?" He turned halfway around on his stool and leaned out of the way. I dropped my head so I could look him in the eye. and took deep. I just . "So . "And you should know upfront that I'm not here because I've changed my mind about him or —" He cut me off." He let the word hang and the comfortable banter was soon replaced again by an awkward stiffness. "Last time we tried to take them out. not understanding at first why he zeroed in on the location. Not hurt. his arms folded tightly across his chest as he bobbed his knee impatiently and waited for me to continue. I'd insisted we ride anyway. We weren't friends. His movement revealed a familiar old motorcycle with a tattered purple peace sign sticker on the fender. . He was a student at UCLA. "Are you fixing it?" He shrugged." "Jesus. "Okay. "I'm ok. "I had to ride around with you on my bike.I walked over to where he sat and leaned back against the workbench. shaking my head. . Jake. "I love Edward. what are you doing here? I would've expected you and your bloodsucker to be in the honeymoon period still. but can't you talk to him?" I ignored his dig. Then I remembered the treaty — the consequences that Jake must have been considering." Jake jumped to his feet and stormed to the far side of the garage." "Maybe we can take them out again sometime. waiting to gauge his reaction once his human nature overcame his primal instinct. as the tears began to streak down my face. thirty miles an hour?" Jake smirked. of all things. And I love his family. "Something happened. But right now I need my best friend. Jake exhaled hard and clasped his hands over his forehead." he muttered. and I tilted my head back to stare at the mismatched ceiling tiles. his forehead on the door jamb. I dunno . Hearts and flowers and all that stuff. He planted his palms on the wall. Bella. He was silent. Just get to the point already so I . he straightened and turned to face me." "It's not that. which meant sharing Jake's equally rickety motorcycle and slowing our maximum speed to a pathetic crawl. "And who?" "LA. snorting. Go ahead. he —" "That sonofabitch. his gaze had softened. what." I explained. It's really not worth the money or energy to fix. .

" Jake said matter-of-factly. raising his hands in a conciliatory gesture before folding his arms squarely across his chest. I nodded vigorously and blinked away the tears that had sprung to my eyes. Bella —" He stopped and shoved his hands in his pockets. "I just can't get the image out of my head ." "Oh." . you know? It's." he whispered." "Fuck. "I thought he was a strange guy. "How do you — how did Edward know?" "Alice had a vision." "You're right. "Bella. my voice cracking." he said. . but I blew him off. Seriously. I don't get a kick out of defending Edward." "Seriously?" "Seriously. . Edward pinning the guy against a brick wall. "You had no idea?" he asked. She was one of their kind. He asked me out a few times. or if you and the pack had attacked him. And Edward killed him. shaking his head as he began to pace around the room. That's totally fucked! But Jesus Christ. bringing my fingers up to knead away the pain that hammered in my temples." Jake finished. "But that was different." he continued. . "But why? You didn't care when we — when he — killed Victoria. I knew that he'd disappeared. "You're still upset. you would have heard about it by now if I had." he said. when he was a freshman." "Sure. but the cold. shaking his head slightly as he looked at the floor." he cried. but this is . Jake. he saved your life. monotone. "You have a vampire for a boyfriend. unwilling to vocalize what I'd so narrowly avoided. Lots of them. He raised his hands in the air and began to gesture wildly as he paced around the room. "Thank God. Your face is all splotchy and you look like you could crumble at any second. "That's the only difference. His eyes were pained when they finally met mine again. like. my voice was detached." I reasoned." I let the thought hang in the air unfinished. but for once." Jake repeated. more somehow." "Yeah. I stared at him slackjawed. stunned that he'd been able to so clearly articulate the realization that had been evading me all afternoon. for God's sake. But I don't really get why." I admitted." he accused. Bells. . I guess." "Fuck. but he's a vampire." he said. . "Glenn was human. not to mention the fact that you're here in the first place. But I had no reason to put two and two together. Creepy. for obvious reasons. When I spoke again. And if I'd had those crazy powers — seeing the future and mind-reading and all that shit — I'd have done the same thing. "Look." I agreed lamely." I said. I swallowed hard and squeezed my eyes shut. but not that . What the hell do you expect?" "You're not bothered by this?" I asked. draining the blood out of him. . Bella?" Jake asked softly.A. "Look. "And you didn't know that Edward had been there? That he killed the guy?" "Hah." I scoffed. Completely defenseless. incredulous. "Of course I'm bothered. He was a weird kid. "I certainly didn't know that Edward had been anywhere near me. I felt my shoulders slump as I nodded my agreement." "I know. Bella. I was his T. I think he did the right thing. snapping his bones. "It's just a lot to process. like a — like a . . sure. Wanted to hurt me. hard expression that had first inhabited his face was now replaced by one of genuine concern. "We weren't friends." "Like a vampire.can figure out if I need to kick his bloodsucking ass. Worse. I get that you're upset. And as for the guy. "I'll get to the point a lot faster if you'd stop interrupting me. I know it's been awhile." I paused a moment before adding under my breath. He was staring at me intently. "Edward's killed humans before. Drank from him." I started again." "What happened. . And I can't put my finger on it. "He became obsessed with me." I rolled my eyes. So Edward tracked the guy down near campus and read his mind." "Because he enjoyed it. I think about how I would feel if Charlie had gunned the guy down. "Anyway.

He's a predator. I had never seen you so . or something. and as refined as he claims to be. You want me to tell you I think you're rational to run headlong into it?" "I don't want you to tell me that." "I'm scared." "You know?" He nodded. "I always knew he was different. you sure as shit wouldn't be soulmates with a fucking vampire. " He waved his hand. I closed my eyes and began to breathe in and out. there's no way to completely bottle up the bloodsucker in him. I know you better than you know yourself. . " I trailed off and bowed my head. Because it's more real." Jake agreed. . the bloodlust. Like a little bird. "Edward is my soulmate." I continued." "Thanks a lot. am I right?" "Yeah. I'm not trying to be a dick. "Wasn't the guy he killed some psycho? Were you really that distraught to find out he bit it? No pun intended. "I'm freaking out." "And he's killed people before. "What I don't get is that you said when you came in that you and Edward were fine. "Look. or my advice . and looked at me expectantly. I've gathered. "If I'm honest. . so broken. "Yeah." I was shocked speechless by this admission from Jake. Mercifully." I said softly. "It means more. Jake. swallowing around the lump in my throat. Jake brought me back to the present. "You know." He shrugged." "Well." Jake sighed." "I know. Understanding settled into his features. but not upset enough to break things off with him?" "I guess so?" "But you knew this was a risk. That you hadn't changed your mind about being with him. ." Jake tipped his head. The blood dripping down Edward's chin. Bella. piling it on top of my head before letting it fall to my shoulders again. Bella. I returned the gesture. He divulged it all — the mind-reading. knotting his fingers together as he spoke. I just . He started to interject. palms up." I admitted. And I'm not sorry I said it. and he sighed. alive. "I know. He doesn't think like a human." "That. "Even before I really knew what he was. . Right. If I had any say in this." I took a deep breath and twisted my hair around my fingers. "What do you want me to tell you? I've had to come to terms with being a fairytale monster through no choice of my own. the way he stalked his prey — and I never once was bothered. . and I gave a slight shake of my head. . eyeing me appraisingly before smiling sadly." "That's right. Why did you take it so personally?" "Because it was someone I know." "Why?" Jake prodded. Plenty of people. . Because it was just a couple of years ago." Jake's face took on a wistful look. "In all the time I've known you. . trying to center myself but instead only provoking the troubling images to flicker faster through my mind. The horrified expression on Glenn's face before he resigned himself to death." He looked at the floor before lifting his head and giving me a thoughtful look. But I'm assuming you came here because you wanted my help. personal. colored the same crimson that shone in his eyes. I guess I didn't want to admit it to myself. It's more . I knew the day you came to the Hangout it was all over. . you should be. "Oh. . desperately needing to know his secret and hopelessly intrigued when I finally learned it. trailing off and giving him a pointed look."It's grisly. I can only be his. Jacob. "You were so fragile. You saw what you're going to be capable of if you . propping his elbows on his knees. Because it means that I-" I sighed. " I sighed. But now . I was in awe of him. He held out his hands. . "You saw that? But you were so angry — you said —" "I know what I said." . I only got to know you after he'd left." "So you're shaken up now about him being a vampire.

by standing in your way. Then. Bells." "You don't have to say anything." "Wow. "I was honest with her about everything. "Don't expect me to be friends with him." I nodded. Jake." "That's wonderful. ah . . I was making sure you didn't. But I also felt sort of ." I reached for his hand. Even when it was clear you didn't have feelings for me. she didn't even seem surprised." "Sam had given me permission to tell her weeks ago. you know. I wasn't helping you heal. "I don't know what to say. "You know. . Then he looked me dead in the eyes. I'm not saying I like this." I blinked a few times. And I still think you're making a huge mistake. but this seems a pretty radical shift. "How did she— ah. I had had a feeling. waving his hand. I'm happy for you. . "And she was okay?" "Yeah. That realization made me ashamed of myself. really. free. Bella. I won't stand in your way anymore." "What's going on Jake? What do you mean?" He laced his fingers behind his head and blew out a breath. Too well. How I'd been willing to look past all of it. Bella. Jake. But there's nothing I can do here." I said. you're stubborn as hell and never would've listened to me no matter what I had to say. Jake. But I guess what I'm saying is that I realized that. his forgiveness — whatever it was that he was giving me. "Because it didn't seem like you'd ever —" "Don't push your luck. the crazy thing was." I thought back to the night Edward had confessed what he was. How." "What does that mean?" He shook his head. because I don't. . "I guess I didn't realize I'd been holding her at arm's length until that night at the bar. she was." "Oh. I mean. Wiser. without my control. "About the wolf thing?" He nodded.. squeezing his hand. "I told Corrie. It took me a moment to even place the name of Jake's girlfriend. I wanted to let her in. after our fight that morning ." He shook his head. I do. his acceptance. "It's. "Not at all. even before Jake told me about the "Cold Ones". Because I won't. "Ok. ."I was so used to seeing myself as your protector. I realized then how much older he suddenly looked." He reached up to scratch the back of his neck. after I saw you with him . completely caught off guard. How I'd already known. it's like I couldn't let go of that need to keep you safe. I also ." I hugged him hard and he smiled at me. Wanted her to know me that way. swallowing hard. I told her it all. . I was so angry. "I think that's incredible. ." "Yeah?" "Yeah. take it?" "She took it well. "Really?" I asked. That sounds crazy doesn't it?" I smiled. .." I whispered. "I am so grateful." I whispered." I nodded. "Do you think she's ." "Oh. She knows I haven't. the one?" Jake smiled and his eyes crinkled the way I loved. I nodded. but it wasn't until that day that I realized I wanted to tell her. I told her it could happen to me. it's been an interesting couple of days. somehow." The words were so flat. But in the end. "Thank you. She knows about imprinting." he interrupted. "I can't explain it." "She knows what happened with Leah and Sam. . so inadequate to convey the relief I felt at his understanding. "But I just have to ask — why the sudden change of heart? I know we haven't talked in a few days. taking a seat on an old milk crate a few feet away from him. Really happy. plopping down on his stool. Ever." His smile faded a bit. Bella. .

That it meant committing to moving ahead through life together. I thought about Leah — how Sam had been powerless to abandon the pull of the supernatural bond. "Oh. sucking in a stilted breath." The weight of Jake's dilemma settled around us. even if you were afraid of what it could cost. I shut my eyes tight." "Yeah.told her it may never happen for me. leaving her a broken casualty. . "Bella?" Jake's voice seemed a million miles away as Corrie's words echoed in my inner ear." "And she was willing to accept that?" "Yeah. Jake." My throat closed as Jake finished his thought. are you okay?" I sank to my knees. his voice faltering somewhat. "Bella. She said loving someone meant taking risks that you could lose it all. and cried. buried my head in my hands.

" I let the thought fall flat. . . her head on my shoulder as we sat silently together on the front steps. I know. She loves you. her unabashed acceptance of all my faults. the son says to his dad — "Why's she taking so long?" I blurted. "And I realize that you're probably beating yourself up right now about the human. . The traits that she would overlook in me — the predatory nature. I tried to put myself in Bella's shoes — to understand what must have been going through her mind when I'd laid all of this on her. the thirst — were the same ones she would wage an internal war against once she was changed. Rosalie remained the member of my family who was most bothered by the brutal nature of our existence. This morning I'd told her about the Volturi and the need to make a decision about changing. Emmett was. You can't change it. It's been a while. The question was really whether she would be able to live with herself. Jasper had internalized my worry. And then I'd confessed to killing — to drinking — a human. Bella's absence was maddening. I knew Alice heard me but I didn't care. normally a calming metronome. As I again replayed our conversation from hours earlier. there is only one chapter left." she said out loud. you know. For all the compassion Bella bestowed on others. there is only one chapter left. to keep me company. Despite her recent change of heart where Bella was concerned. "You didn't see the revulsion she attempted to mask when I confessed that I drank from him. "I know. Alice stayed with me. as she attempted to lighten the mood by reciting in her head a seemingly endless litany of off-color jokes. Alice. . his body surging with an anxious energy that could only be tamed by a fresh kill. I suppose. and Alice was next to me now. I admit her presence was mostly comforting. She couldn't see anything. Alice was right. . but what's done is done. and whose departure for which I was most grateful. the inhumanity. And then. Thanks to you all for reading 3 M&V Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. to make peace with it. Reliving her reaction to my lapse with the human was not helping my state of mind. something about a father and son eating breakfast together." "Bella's always known who you are. What is she . . of course. I know it's not easy to wait for updates. I focused this time on her warmth. You can only hope to learn from your past." True. She'd been gone just over three hours. and in that time. She loved me.*Chapter 27*: Chapter 26 A/N: Well hello again. Anna. Carlisle and Esme had left me to stew. she was commensurately hard on herself. The bad news is." I sighed. . unfinished. thundered in my ears. She would forgive me. Chapter 26 EPOV "Fuck. My brothers and Rosalie had left the house to hunt shortly after Bella departed for the reservation. "You did the right thing by telling her. although slightly annoying. well ." I muttered under my breath. It was Rosalie whose thoughts troubled me the most. But even I was shocked at that. Thanks. Lo. Emmett. The good news is. on the casual touches and gestures that continued unabated after my confession and signaled what I already knew." "You didn't see her face. but God. It was for the best. The second hand on my wristwatch. "I know it hasn't been that long. The things you've done." I said softly. I'd ignored Bella's strength. The current one was a long one . my composure had nearly unraveled. :) Thanks. what with Bella being on the reservation." "Yeah. But this wasn't about me. In all my worry. Of course she would forgive me. because there was no easy way to finish it. What you're — what we're — capable of. Last night Rosalie had confronted her about becoming like us. we know and we cannot express how grateful we are to those of you who are still on board with our story. Of course it stood to reason she was thinking less about what I'd done and more about what it meant for her.

"Thank you. For everything. "Anyway." "Ok. Now my eyes were red but dry as I weakly offered to return the handkerchief he'd given me. well. She's struggling with the decision. you should want her to consider all the angles before making it. "Just remember that you'll have her." BPOV "Be careful. uh-huh." "She does." "Yeah. Bells. "I think you're right. "You sure you're okay?" "I'm fine. "You're on. and I don't know what I would do without you." I insisted." she insisted. feeling more at ease. as hard as it is for me to admit it. I smiled and squeezed her tight. For everything."She's afraid of becoming like me. Edward." No problem." "Oh." I sighed." I said to Alice. "And Jake?" "Hmm?" "Promise me we'll take the bikes out again soon?" He smiled." Alice knelt in front of me. He didn't ask a lot of questions. Bella will always love you. "This is important." he shrugged. . placing her hands on my knees. and if you love her." Alice sighed. "Yeah." He gave me a knowing smirk. "you can move forward without any second-guessing. I drove for ." He laughed softly. You're my best friend." she said pointedly." He looked down for a moment before returning my gaze. when she stopped me. "Jake?" "Yeah?" "Thanks again. I know how —" "Bella —" "Let me finish." Alice rose to her feet and messed with my hair. "But I know the change has been weighing heavily on her mind. one way or the other. . It's just . ok?" I nodded vigorously." I slammed the heavy metal door and pulled off the Black's property. "Thank you. "Of doing to someone else — someone innocent — what I did to that vile human. "Look. "That was a one-time lapse in judgment. when she does decide to change. Significant ones. Plus. Whether for a lifetime or for an eternity. We'd spent the past thirty minutes huddled together on the floor of his garage. my tires crunching noisily on the gravel. There are repercussions." I repeated. Jake." "Yeah. Really. holding his hands up. To be honest. shaking her head. brother. please. scrubbing at my face in frustration." I agreed. but seemed to understand my need to just let the tears fall. I started to walk away from the house." "It makes you nervous. None of us have any idea what Bella is thinking. . I know you want to be alone now. I mean that. Let's hug it out. And learning about my savage killing has no doubt reminded her that eternal life is more than just a romantic concept. "Hey Edward." Jake said the phrase a third time since I'd climbed in the cab of my truck. "Keep it. the bright toothy grin I hadn't seen in weeks. It's not that I don't want her to think about those things. if she is thinking about the negative repercussions." He raised his eyes expectantly and motioned for me to continue." I nodded. into the woods. turns out that feeling is mutual. which she probably will. "Seriously. Bella knows that. So I guess we're stuck with each other for the time being. I'll let you know when I can see her again." she called. "The decision is literally a matter of life and death for her. Jake. I just wanted to say that I'm really glad I came out here today. "Call me soon. Stand up. Edward. that's not altogether a bad thing.

It was a ribbon. Now that he was back. I didn't need to read the lettering stenciled on the white balsa wood to know what name I would find: 'Chief Charles "Charlie" Swan'. Inhuman. Even in the darkest of days. . He couldn't. There wasn't just one ribbon. But I had built up years of defenses that were not so easily overcome. months. Yet I also knew that somewhere deep inside. But most of all. convinced that I'd never be truly whole so long as he was gone. and there was a white wooden cross staked in the soggy earth. I knew it when Matt Brody had taken my virginity unceremoniously in his dorm room. I was afraid. I had known it all those years. taking in the scene. It was beautiful and utterly serene. Chief. No. "We'll miss you. Afraid of transforming into a predator capable of drinking human blood — of killing brutally the way Edward had killed Glenn Robins. Was some part of me still afraid? Still scared of what admitting to myself. For eternity. I'd felt broken beyond repair. scanning the columns of trees as if expecting them to come to life to explain the complexities of this decision to me. I moved the layers of paper away to reveal the letter that had caught my eye. shouldn't my love for Edward triumph over any fears I had about him changing me? I looked out towards the dense woods. Jake's recounting of Corrie's words had burned me like the vilest accusation: Loving someone meant taking risks that you could lose it all. It was suddenly very clear. Doubt." I picked up the photo. surrounded by cellophane-wrapped flowers which had long since whithered and died. of insecurity and doubt. defeated by the revelation and scared of what it meant. In my heart. Forever. I smiled. the figure had been Edward — the image conjured in response to his expressed fears of living out his remaining days without me by his side. And I knew it on our third date when we'd made love in his bed. surrounded by an ever-expanding ring of trees. But the figure in my mind's eye now was not Edward. and he would leave. When he'd left me. tied around a tree about 10 yards from the roadside up ahead. I knew it the first night Thomas had asked me out. my heart speeding and pounding heavy in my ears as I drew closer. Then. He loved me. I knew in the depths of my heart that I could only ever truly love Edward. yellow. I knew it when Jake had kissed me the night of graduation. I wrenched open the door of the truck and walked toward the tree. but had become so practiced at denying the truth. Below the photo was written in careful script. I knew it was true. Afraid of immortality. It had become second-nature — a necessity of survival. if not an eternity. I slunk in my seat behind the wheel of the old truck. my chest heaving as I struggled to catch my breath. If what Corrie said was true. my throat closing around my voice even as I tried to read his name aloud. but many: white. I ran my finger along the damp wood.several minutes. It was me. blue. seeing a laminated photo of my dad standing in front of Ms. Alone. Gosowski's fourth grade class. I knew now that he had left me years ago only for my own protection. My eye caught on a spot of red peeking from underneath the pile. and I stopped to focus my vision. I pulled the truck over near a stand of trees. lost in thoughts that wouldn't solidify. Edward wouldn't leave me again. before placing it atop the haphazard pile of photos and notecards that surrounded the little cross. I would be alone. I knew in my head that he loved me. even if you were afraid of what it could cost. I was afraid that I would change. My eye caught on something white. running my finger along the glossy front. there was a seed that had been planted six long years ago. a part of me worried whether the damage could ever be undone. That it meant committing to moving ahead through life together. what truly loving Edward could mean — and what it could cost? My mind flashed for the briefest of moments to a vision I'd had the morning after Edward and I had left Seattle to see his family: A figure alone in the woods. Loving Edward was never in question. I knelt on the ground. years after his absence. It was almost impossible to believe this beautiful pine could have caused such destruction. or whether I was doomed to a lifetime.

She was red-eyed and clutching some sort of crumpled paper in the hand that gripped the wheel. I stared at the pages and then lifted my eyes to the whitewashed wooden cross marking the place where my father's human life had ended. I also know that you may be the only person capable of fully understanding why I did it. I will take every ounce of strength I possess. But unlike me. If Bella chooses to live out her life as a human. "Take me there. I will love her with all of my heart. You know better than anyone the consuming need to keep Bella safe. was scared of losing it all. ~X~ EPOV Alice alerted me the moment Bella had crossed out of Quileute territory. I slung her around to my back and began to run. She lies sleeping beside me as I write. Indeed. I lifted the linen envelope from the pile and flipped it over. Edward My hand trembled and tears streamed hot down my cheeks as I read and reread Edward's words to my father. and your love for her. Without a word. You understand how that need. my soul. he was powerless to make the decision that would keep us together forever." she whispered. So while it is too late for apologies. I will give her a happy life with a family that adores her. I know you never forgave me in life for what I did six years ago. Charlie. her truck was rumbling toward me. It will contradict every instinct of my being. then pulling off to the side of the road. I can keep her from sickness. She still clutched the paper. it will be the hardest thing I ever have to do. I would give anything to be able to wake her. I flung the passenger door open. Dear Charlie. I moved to the driver's side as she unbuckled herself with a shaky hand. While I am powerless to change what has passed. I had hardly stopped to consider what Edward was thinking. from death. embrace it even. But nor would I have to fear losing him in life. he was mine. It was brown and crinkled from being repeatedly soaked and dried in the elements. I slid a finger beneath the seam and unfolded the creamy paper. Though I do not deserve her forgiveness." Whatever had happened. I remembered again the pain of burying him and felt a small surge of relief at the knowledge that I would never in life know the pain of losing Edward. I cannot help but beg for yours. Enduring life beyond Bella is an unfathomable prospect — but if I must. refusing to let me set her on the ground. I stood in the middle of the road. I will abide by her wishes. She didn't speak. but the name "Charlie" was discernable in Edward's perfect hand. my relief at seeing her overwhelmed my trepidation. just looked at me with wild. "Bella. she left me alone to receive Bella and whatever news she had to share without her involvement. It was slightly faded. In that moment. No. it is not too late to give Bella the future she deserves. I will endure it. the anxiety I'd been feeling over the last several days. to tell her your death was all a bad dream — to reverse the path of yet another round of her tears. fists at my sides. she has given it. I will keep her safe in every way that I can. like me. prepared to take the impact of whatever lay ahead. but I will hold her hand as she slips from my world into yours. I hope to God she chooses to let me — for yet another lesson I've learned the hard way is that the choice must be hers. too. but the red wax seal was unmistakable. imprinted with the Cullen crest. that when the time comes to let her go. He. She looked as if she were really seeing me for the first time. can overwhelm reason. And even though I know it is too late. especially as belated as it comes. ~X~ . within the bounds of her choice. the uncertainty. For a lifetime or for eternity.I gasped. I confess to this blank page that considering the alternative incites in me an agony that seems to burn me from the inside out. And I promise. I lifted her and she grabbed at me with her fingers. is sure to be inadequate. I would never have to fear Edward's death. She didn't need to explain further. As we'd agreed. In the wake of my own conflicting emotions. I felt the clouds of six long years disperse and lift from my mind. It has taken me a long time to realize that I didn't have to leave her to keep her safe. This apology. I can leave you with a solemn promise. in honor of her. A moment later. inquisitive eyes.

But I didn't even realize I wasn't trusting you." She smiled up at me. "if you decided to leave me again. without you. ." she said. . though I suspected her question was rhetorical. I know that. "Edward?" "Yes?" "I don't care about Glenn Robins." She smiled. ceremoniously." I said. I was so blind. love. Edward. "I knew I had forgiven you. but it was hard to hear her say it out loud. "Until today. This was where Laurent had tried to take her life. "And?" "And I think he's going to be okay. I had last been to the meadow with Bella in the lush green of late summer. and the late day sun streamed through the burgundygold maple leaves to the blanket of pine needles at our feet. letting her know I understood." "Something changed today. Edward." Her words landed in the pit of my stomach. confused. I don't care what you did. Of course." God. Where she'd nearly died trying to simply feel my presence. "I would have understood. I resisted the urge to ask her about everything that had happened in the hours since she'd left my side." she hummed. "Yes." I said." She was quiet for several long moments. I'm finally letting it all go. "Yeah. "What I meant was that I couldn't stand the thought of living forever . I moved to set her down on her feet but momentarily thought better of it. deep down I was scared that being changed and spending forever with you wouldn't be the same thing." I looked down at my hand where it lay in her palm. "Thank you. into the open grassy space surrounded by a ring of trees. "Do you want to stay?" I felt her nod behind me. Several minutes later she spoke. "Is this okay?" I asked gently. Your leaving." I gave her hand a gentle squeeze. though her words left me wondering with what exactly Jake was going to be okay.When we neared the meadow. "It was about me. " I smiled thoughtfully as she spoke. "Mmmmm. pulling me down in the grass beside her. "I realized I wanted forever with you. "Of course. my body tensed to stone as I tried to mask my impatience at having to wait for her thoughts." I said." she continued. Together we began to walk to the middle of the sunlit ring. We sat silent for a moment. We sat in silence." I admitted. "Being changed is forever. "Do you remember the first time we came here?" Her voice was wistful." She slipped from my back and immediately grabbed my hand. She pulled my arm into her lap. I knew this place no longer held the bright and happy memories that had once been exclusively ours. only our knees touching as Bella twirled a pine needle between her thumb and forefinger. rolling my shirt sleeve up and twisting my arm. I worried that too. "I'm sorry I reacted the way I did. It was nearly sunset now." I said softly. I slowed my pace gradually until we were walking slowly. "But. Today I realized I need to let go of the past. That I never stopped loving you." "Bella. . but I had never seen it look more beautiful. She continued. . Or him. and Laurent finding me here . . She looked at me and our eyes met. "I worried that you may never want to visit this place again. her grip loosening. "I visited Jake." Her voice grew soft when she added. I had anticipated earning Bella's trust would be a process — not something resolved overnight. I spent a lot of years learning how to simply survive without you. She sat. My skin glittered warmly in the late afternoon sunlight. And even though I forgave you." "Yes." "That's good. You know that. stating what we both already knew. It really wasn't about you. happy she was finding her way forward.

" She shook her head." she said." I wanted to hug her tight and tell her for the umpteenth time how selfless. That's not who you are. She squeezed my hand. Knowing I stood to face forever missing the only thing that had ever mattered to me ." She shook her head. Desperate. After I left. I knew I didn't want to die. "I don't believe in coincidences." I sighed. but it was bearable. Of course I understood this better than anyone." I swallowed." "No. "Bella. do you remember when we were discussing Romeo & Juliet?" I smiled a little. "I'm just sorry I didn't see it myself. how strong she was. only I didn't have to constantly fight the instinct to kill humans and drink their blood. my life before you was meaningless and aimless. I just couldn't believe I hadn't anticipated her fear. I'm ok now. without me to ground her. her eyes lifting to the sky. "I didn't even know it. you and Charlie." "Oh?" "It was you. is that the thought of spending an eternity without you. I said all I could manage and all that really mattered." She pressed a finger to my lips." I shook my head. "I will never leave you as long as you live. "Well. "It's ok. "How could you know what I didn't even know myself? It wasn't until today that I really put the pieces together. But in the end it wasn't really Jake who helped the most." "I'm so sorry." "I'm not sure I understand. Edward. And the situation with Glenn —" She winced as if remembering." . is scary. having to control all those urges." "Bella." "How did you —" "I found it on my way back from Jake's. but I was afraid of facing the same thing. The envy had persisted and only grown stronger in my years away. the worn copy of the play I'd found in her bedroom mere days ago — Bella's handwritten margin notes abruptly stopping in precisely the scene we'd been studying when I disappeared. this was a memory I had revisited many times." "You remember you said you envied Romeo the ease of suicide. pinching the bridge of my nose." She smiled a little." She sighed and began to twist a lock of her hair around her fingers.. "I can't imagine what I would want to do to anyone who even thought about hurting you. "Jake was wonderful. and loved. Basically you were all the things that I was after you left." "Edward. In the end. . it sounds less like heaven and more like hell. Not thinking straight. When I think about what you did in L. As she smoothed it on her thigh. I tried the best I could to make a life for myself after you left. What I'm trying to say." She nodded. it's almost impossible." "I'm grateful that talking to Jake helped you sort through this. I don't have a death wish Edward. Done with doubt. Edward. really." "Then you understand. or try to imagine you with red eyes. meaning it. But eternity . Because you're not a killer. Indeed. Edward.A."Oh." "Ah. She was afraid of being all alone." "I know. I don't know where my father is. too. . each day was hell. "Before you left. "But you were lonely. I took her face in my hands. remembering those last sweet days before Bella's birthday. I remembered. . to keep her safe." She reached into her front pocket and pulled out the paper she'd been clutching in her truck. searching her eyes for understanding as I spoke. It's a hell of a lot scarier than spending a human lifetime alone. but I believe he had a hand in it. Bella. "I do. And I could tell that she did. Even when Laurent found me here. "I love you. unable to complete the thought." I blew out a low breath. "It's hard to explain. How perfect. "I should have known —" "Shhhh." Of course she was scared. "I remember. I recognized the envelope I'd left for Chief Swan. . "Without you. not sure where she was going with this. Edward. I —" "I'm done with questions." I said." I said slowly.

not ever. pressing my palms against her inner thighs as I licked the length of her sex slowly over and over. I had to ask for confirmation but I was utterly terrified that this might not be real. slding it off. I picked my shirt from the ground and wrapped it around her shoulders. "I said. I was grateful to Jake. She reached to unbutton my jeans and then looked up at me while I shoved them down off of my hips. She placed a soft kiss on my mouth." "Yeah?" "Yeah. I didn't know all that had happened in the hours since she had left. "Remind me of what this place means. She arched beneath me. wrapping her arms around her. pulling me closer. I want you forever. Giving me a wink. She shivered beneath me. pulling me down over her. For that. I took her hands and pressed them to my cheeks. Instead. I pushed two fingers inside her and rested my cheek on her thigh. "I love watching you." she said. and I trust you not to leave." "But I know where. We can wait as long as you want. Not yet. But for now." Her words washed over me as I sat there." I said." She gave me a knowing look as she laid back on the blanket of pine needles. I wanted to cry with relief. laying her back on the soft ground. moaning my name. I savored the sweet fragility I knew would one day be only a memory. "Thank you." "Okay." she murmured. crawling up her body. but I knew that it had been exactly what she needed." I whispered when she'd calmed. "This place is ours. thank you. She sat up too. I kissed my way across her cheek. When I could let myself go wild against her wetness." I skimmed my nose down her cheek." I whispered against her neck. "Oh God. Knowing she was telling me that she wanted me to change her here. burying my face against her palms. nodding." I repeated the phrase over and over until Bella lifted my face to her own. slowing my pace as I recognized the telltale signs of her approaching climax. I curled my fingers and she tightened beautifully around me. in our meadow. yet. I know that you'll take care of me. she reached behind her and unclasped her bra. I lingered there." She propped herself up on her elbows. And to whatever power had seen the wisdom in allowing Bella to come to this decision on her own. My still heart sang in my chest as I kissed her slow and deep. moving in time with my tongue strokes. letting me watch as she unbuttoned her blouse. I spread her legs. smelling the sweet essence of her blood humming beneath her skin. "There are some things I want to do first. I wasn't expecting this. I love the way you blush when I talk to you like this." she whispered. "I love watching you. enjoying the delicate warmth and yet anticipating the day when I could truly taste her with abandon. I had never been so hungry for her." I kissed her ear. stunned. "I will. "Edward?" "Yes?" She sat up. "Hmm?" She moaned the question. "You're sure?" I whispered. "Thank you. help me through it all. imagining the taking." I murmured. imagining how she would be different once I had turned her. and I sat up to look at her. my tongue curving along the shell. I removed my fingers from her and kissed her hip. I wished it were possible. "Edward. nibbling lightly at her jaw and down the delicate skin of her throat. "I don't know when." I made quick work of her jeans and our shoes. "Will you miss this?" . To Charlie." My eyes shamelessly raked over her body. along her jaw. my lips brushing her soft skin. Maybe. and I realized then that she must be cold. I slipped it from her shoulders. "I've never been more sure of anything in my life. my voice a wisp. I realized. "That's okay. taking in her perfect shape and. breathing hard and fast against her skin. sucking. I hummed against her flesh. sucking and pulling while she thrashed and moaned against me. I teased her."Hmm?" "I want you to change me. "I love watching you squirm. knowing what she was saying." she said gently.

" I said. but you will still be you. "I'll be able to do things for you — with you — that I've only been able to fantasize about. by far. Things you don't even know exist. Your senses will be capable of hearing. "For your back." Her eyes widened. I was constantly worried I would squeeze you too hard. I want a new memory to eclipse everything else in this place. . . tasting. I pulled her to her feet. "That one. "Do you know how long it took me to be able to do this?" "What?" I gestured toward our joined hands. like fucking you against a tree until it cracks in half and falls. "Every way. you know I cherish your humanity. . I glanced around the meadow until my eyes landed on the perfect sturdy hemlock. I know it won't fall over. I know it won't be the same. "This. pressing my mouth to her ear. I just mean . physically." "I just mean that your body will change in ways other than the obvious." "Like what?" I leaned into her. I walked her backward until she bumped up against it. feeling sensations you don't even register now." I took her hand in mine." "Hmm?" "I want you to fuck me against a tree. it still takes every ounce of concentration and restraint I possess. the greatest sensation I have known in my entire existence. "Oh really?" "Really. Nothing else." "And I don't mean to trivialize what you feel for me now." "Edward. . "Just hold on." I instructed. yes." She cocked her head. Are you worried you will miss the way I am now?" "No. We'll be matched in every way. You'll be my equal." Standing. "What a way to begin a sentence. "No. Smell the same." "What?" "Here. laughing. You will become more attuned to everything around you." I nodded." She stopped and nodded. I want to come here and think only of your body inside mine." I murmured."What do you mean? You're not planning on depriving me of this anytime soon are you?" I smiled." She smiled and I brushed her hair from her face." I didn't hesitate. ." Bella whimpered. I won't feel the same. "Grab that branch. leave it. You know I will not take it from you lightly." "Hold my hand? I guess I never thought about it. "No. And you will still feel like you. She began to slip the shirt from her shoulders." She hummed in response as if considering this. crush your hand or a rib. physically." "I know. wild and willing." I nodded toward the tree." "Even after I became fairly certain I would not kill you. her eyes shut tight. stopping her. holding her thighs as I stood between them. Now. Look the same. smelling. I agonized over learning to touch you. casting her a quizzical look. "But I want to be wild with you here." I hoisted her up. "But aren't you worried I won't feel like . And though making love to you is. but —" "Wow. like me?" "No." she interrupted. "You will feel different. lifting her arms to clutch a limb several feet above her head." I squeezed her hand gently. taking a moment to simply appreciate the sight of her. "Like feeling you grip every inch of me while you ride me as hard as you can. "Like spanking that beautiful ass. "Bella. Hard. "I can't believe you're mine.

She gripped the branch tightly. "Oh. unbreakable. She smirked and I knew she had felt it. and though I was supporting all of her weight. I began to thrust." She was loud and uninhibited in this open space. I moved one hand to gather her hair and move it around to fall over her opposite shoulder. Edward. crushing the wood to a pulp in my fist as I came inside her. I pinned my eyes on the spot — the small dip where her neck met shoulder. I felt her orgasm grip and release me as she screamed my name into the approaching night. Forever. The word caused my cock to twitch against her backside. a finger's width to the left of my favorite freckle. circling my hips gently as she grew accustomed to the feeling. using the leverage to lift herself slightly up and down in time with my thrusts. "You feel so good. I looked forward to the day when I would finally be free to truly let go in return. "Fuck. I wondered how much more of a force she would be in her new skin. my mind flickering between mortal and immortal visions." She was flushed. our voices mingling in shouts and gasps as we each reveled in the pleasure and feeling in this place. her breasts bouncing beautifully as her arms flexed." she said. It always took just a minute. I kept a steady hand on her hip as I continued my pulsing rhythm." She dropped her hands from the branch. baby. her mouth. back and forth in the path of the crescent shaped scar which would one day mark her. I knew just where I would do it — had mapped it out years ago. Bella. I focused on the delicate skin there — the jugular vein which pulsed visibly in her aroused state. Her eyes were closed. God. tightening her legs around my waist and locking her ankles together. As I lifted her slightly and then pushed into her. Our place. ~X~ . that is so fucking sexy. powerful. Yes. So good. Then the tension drained from her. I let go then. bracing her forearms on my shoulders as she fought to keep the rhythm precise." She gave me a naughty smile. I ran my tongue along the skin there. her legs slackened just a bit and I knew she could handle more. yes. "Fuck. I felt my release building as I watched her writhing. clutching my hair and clawing at my scalp. "Do you like the way I look like this?" "God. Her body was more womanly than it had been years ago — stronger and indisputably sexier. the position gave me unfettered access to her breasts. Her arms were still above her head." I breathed into her neck. her neck. I started slow. bracing one hand against the tree to absorb the impact."Forever. her skin wet with sweat as she continued moving. My cock grew harder inside her.

it has. "Oh my god. to cross the bridge into actual fiction without exposing myself as an ordinary writer who just so happened to have an extraordinary life. "Hi. You've given me a reason to get these decorations out of storage! Our family will be together for the holidays again. there is a long and indulgent author's note at the bottom (two actually ." Edward leaned down to me. talking and laughing as we tore open our packages and carelessly discarded the wrapping paper and bows throughout the room. filled the room. and silver candlesticks stood tall on the lid of Edward's piano." "Psshh. and of falling asleep on his shoulder. dropped my laptop bag. the kitchen counter. "Bella. "I think she likes it. I thought of sipping hot apple cider as I snuggled up to Edward on the couch. The mantle. Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. Thank you to all of our prereaders along the way and especially to LolaShoes for reasons to numerous to name here. draped in garland and twinkling lights. and. jolting me to attention. "I had no idea you were so talented. hunched over my old desk. "Hello?" I called again. I wrote later and later into the evening. and the house was quiet as I kicked off my shoes." I gushed. and the next one. no one but Edward was ever at the Cullen house — or within earshot — when I got there." I breathed. For now. In the end. Today. countless holidays and traditions to share. The last chapter. consequently. I knew that he missed me more than he let on. suffice it to say this has been a life-changing experience and thanks to each of you who has read and/or reviewed for being a part of it. Making love with Edward the moment I returned almost made the time apart from him worth it. Almost. or to peel my clothes off and carry me to the piano. and I could always count on him meeting me at the Cullens' front door to whisk me to his bed. She's the mastermind. "Esme had all the stuff here. me too. and in the far corner was an enormous Christmas tree." Esme waved her hand dismissively. my eyes widening in surprise as I clapped my hand over my mouth. "I love it!" I exclaimed. I stopped suddenly. my cheeks. Camped out in my old room. pine cones dotted the tables." " from M and one from V). here it is. I'd been spending my days at Charlie's in relative solitude in an effort to complete the sequel to Dusk. the couch. I imagined this Christmas. undecorated except for the rich blue velvet tree skirt embroidered with the Cullen crest. my jaw. the entryway was empty." Alice explained. Chapter 27 BPOV "I'm home. and my heart swelled when I realized that there would be countless Christmases." Rose quipped. "Edward? Alice? Is anybody home?" There was no answer. ." Edward agreed as he walked toward me and reached for my hand. his lips traveling lightly over my eyelids. and trust me when I say it's been way too long since that's happened. When I looked in her direction. I noticed that the entire family was waiting expectantly in the kitchen doorway. Streamers of ivory silk hung loosely from the chandelier. For those of you interested." "Yes. Though I initially chose the location simply to avoid distraction. "When did you guys do this? And where did you get all this?" "Today. and made my way up the stairs. grinning." "Mmmm." As I approached the final chapters. and of making love to him after he carried me to his room. It was breathtaking. Alice could always see me coming.*Chapter 28*: Chapter 27 A/N: Well. while you were working. though. I followed the advice that Thomas gave the first day of creative writing class: "Write what you know. "I missed you today. held eight identical stockings. When I reached the doorway to the living room. chuckling. He pulled me close." he murmured between kisses. it's the least I could do. Thank you to annanabana for being the best beta in the world and an even better friend. I closed my eyes for a beat and saw myself with Edward's family. I quickly realized what an inspired choice it was. it's amazing. Bouquets of red roses. I was able to recount with perfect clarity the bliss of spending nights in Edward's arms and the agony of sleepless nights that followed his departure. as I slammed the door to my truck. peppered with holly and lush evergreen." I called. cradling my face and brushing his lips against mine. The announcement of my arrival had become a running joke in the last few months. I'd worried at first that I wouldn't be able to end the story.

"God. And Bella. just give us a minute. with more conviction this time." "Okay. and Edward and Bella. "Because I realized after I brought the box here that maybe I'd overstepped. get a room. like the pine cone I spray painted in third grade art class and stuffed in Charlie's Christmas stocking. with chipping paint or loose hooks. blowing . Edward and I sat on the floor as he unwrapped the ornaments and handed them to me. somewhat battered and vaguely familiar. but it was the only one with a Christmas label." He nodded and led me to the center of his room. "Just show me." Alice insisted." Edward finished." scribbled in my father's handwriting. you and me both." I interrupted. I blushed and backed away. "What is this?" I asked. "Should we get a room?" Edward asked me. "Now. Some were pretty plain — red and green balls. a dog dressed in a Mariners uniform."Okay. rolling his eyes. "Oh. not exactly. . you cannot get a room. Emmett." he said. threading popcorn onto a string." I said. . In black Sharpie was the giant word "XMAS. if that's okay." He picked up the box. grabbing my hand. where Alice and Jasper were sitting crosslegged on the floor. Edward was careful not to pry. Laughing. stopping at the doorway to his room when he turned around to face me. because my present to him wouldn't be anywhere close to ready for several more days. Some were quintessential Charlie — a police car with flashing lights and blaring sirens. "Yes. "No." I whispered. what with Charlie and . peeling at the frayed duct tape that kept it closed. "That stuff smells like ass. "We are decorating the tree right now. and I'm sorry if you think it's off the mark. "Bella's ornaments. I ran my hand along its top. you two." Edward said. "Yeah? You sure?" he asked. Edward. why don't you and Emmett string the lights. stifling a smile. . wiping my lips awkwardly and tucking my hair behind my ear. "Let me tell the others that we'll be out in a little while. " He sighed and raked his fingers through his hair." "Is it a Christmas gift?" I hoped not. Really." Esme chided. "Okay. Rose. so . Without a word. I think the more the merrier for this. "Now there's something I never thought I'd see in the Cullen house. "I have something for you. don't do that. where there was an oversized cardboard box." "Of course. "No. you can help me unwrap the ornaments that were in storage." I laughed." I nodded. "I didn't open it." I raised an eyebrow and followed him." Emmett scoffed. He handled the ornaments like they were priceless antiques. "Our box of ornaments?" "Presumably. The tree can wait. my voice uncertain. sweeping his thumbs over my cheeks to collect the tears that had started to fall. a half smile playing at his lips. "But I know this may be a difficult Christmas for you." Emmett interrupted." "No. Edward spun the box around and pointed to the side. a gift to me from Jake. rubbing my knee when my eyes grew blurry with unshed tears." "Perfect. let me say up front that I'm not fully confident that you'll like this. Some inspired a wave of nostalgia. and I followed him into the living room." Esme nodded. that wasn't my intention and —" "Thank you. a singing catfish. rubbing at the back of his neck. or the one of a wolf howling at the moon." he said." "Now." "Would you like to open it? Or would you like some time?" "I want to open it. "It's perfect. simply listening eagerly when I recounted an old story. . you can —" "We're going to unwrap some ornaments of our own. Are you okay? Is this okay?" I nodded. Carlisle. smiling when I smiled. He led me toward his bedroom.

" Alice said matter-of-factly. "Agreed. and Edward and I smiled at each other. "This. "What's it say." He let go of me and. his shoulders shaking as he clutched at his stomach." "Goodnight. We were silent for a moment as we stared approvingly at the tree. "Okay." promised Esme. When we reached the bottom of the box. I took a few steps backward to stand with the rest of the family. "Open it. As I removed its packaging. I got that for him when I was a little kid — maybe five or six. rubbing my arm. "Obviously!" "Well. "It says 'Cops Like a Big Bust. and finally. Slowly. our bodies still as we stood together in the warm glow of the holiday lights. "What? What's so funny?" I asked." "Now. I think it's fair to say that should have an honored place on our tree. I soon realized that it was a figurine of some sort. are you coming. "Thank you so much for including me in all this. We were almost to the bottom of the box when he doubled over. began to rummage through the box of Esme's decorations. The rest of the family began hanging Esme's ornaments. completely covered in bubble wrap. and of course. his laugh bellowing through the room. or are you going to wait until Bella falls asleep?" "I'll wait. "Hah." I said. And it did.the dust off them and polishing them with his thumb before gingerly setting them in my palm. nearly finished and adorned with handmade garland strung by Alice and Jasper. a few of the sentimental ones. "There will be room for all of them. I chose a small collection of ornaments to place on the tree — a few of the funny ones. the mishmash of decorations from Charlie. "You know. and at Edward's insistence. By the . the Cullens began to clap and cheer. nodding once. preschool me. I didn't understand at the time why he got such a kick out of it. "I didn't know what it meant!" I protested. but also to avoid pricking my fingers on the spindly pine. "Dude. "It looks perfect." I smiled.'" "And I liked this one." Carlisle held up his hands as if to disagree. Edward. Bella. with a determined look on his face. "There's really no comparison. Edward's laugh turned into an honest-to-God giggle. valuable crystal and glassblown antiques from Esme's collection. leaning over him." With that. thank you. everybody. taking great care not only to find the perfect spot. buoyed at the realization that we were completely." he gasped. You got that for your dad?" Jasper raised an eyebrow at me. As if on command. then. "Bella." Carlisle carefully unwrapped a large gold star and climbed the ladder to place it atop the tree. his mouth turned up at the corners. several "Our First Christmas" ornaments given as wedding gifts over the years to Emmett and Rose." Esme said. my lips pursed in thought as I carefully studied the branches. leading me to the sofa before handing me a small velvet pouch." I untied the drawstring and pulled out an odd-sized object." Esme said as the laughs calmed into wheezes and sighs. "We're all going to hunt." She and the others began to file down the stairs. "Here." he said. that was one of his favorites. pointing to a large silver ball with blue letters that he'd started to unwrap. now. I want to show you something. "Well.'" Raucous laughter filled the room as Edward displayed the ornament so the others could get a better look. When I was finished." Edward said. pointing to a laminated star crafted from red construction paper and emblazoned with a picture of a pig-tailed. bro?" Emmett called from the ladder at the side of the tree." said Esme crisply. I gathered them in my arms and approached the tree. and he motioned for me to continue. I hung each ornament. I wrapped my arms around his waist and rested my head on his chest. that's my cue. I raised an eyebrow at him. the Waterford and Limoges keepsakes a stark contrast to the hodgepodge collection of heirlooms that Edward and I had unwrapped." Rose nodded. That's the best one by far. "I personally liked 'Tased and Confused. "Now get some rest. and I threw my head back in laughter as Carlisle raised his fists in the air as a sign of victory." "Honey. anything that I'd made as a child. alone.

the paint of its red uniform chipping away to show the weathered tin underneath." I glanced to the tree. I swallowed around the knot in my throat. his lips brushing against my collarbone and then my neck. and when I was finished. Bella. A few heirlooms of my mother's. inconsequential flickers that mean little to me now . I remember feeling loved. you know. both to provide his family members with privacy as they exchanged gifts and intimate moments with their mates." I rubbed his knee. I smiled wider still at the realization that this Christmas was just one of countless more we would all spend together. . "It's hard to explain. a very old one. Edward. you mean?" "Yeah. "My human memories have dimmed. "You can keep him. stilling it on his chest while he gazed into my eyes. held it up for examination. I kept unwrapping. and that you held it almost a hundred years ago." I studied the toy more carefully now.looks of it. "I've mentioned before that. But I remember Christmas. . the smell of furniture polish. Content. But more than anything." I smiled." "It's amazing. a shopkeeper's sign." His brow furrowed as he began to speak. even — to a family whose happiness was already complete. And this. running my fingers along its edges. the soldier began to kick in my hand." "I've wanted to show it to you for ages. A gift here and there. but we hadn't celebrated together since the day we left Forks. bars of a song. before kissing my mouth. ." "Why didn't you?" I asked. It was a child's toy — a soldier. and he grabbed my hand. "It seems impossible that I ever belonged somewhere before I belonged with you. my brothers and sisters. Christmas had always been observed in my family. before?" "Aside from the fact that it's a Christmas toy." "Oh. . I felt I was the odd one out in a family of perfect mates. "It was a Christmas gift from my father when I was a boy — seven or eight. rosy cheeked with scraped knees. "To think that I'm holding this right now. "I love you. despite my love for Carlisle and Esme. The smell of nutmeg and cinnamon. seeing my memories of Charlie — my past — intermingled perfectly with those of my new family — my future. But now that I have you here. there were times when their presence made my loneliness more acute. picturing Edward as a boy. thank you so much for showing this to me. Knowing unequivocally that I was exactly where I was supposed to be." "I love you. several times. Like I was an observer — an intruder. Edward. we all settled into the living room to watch It's a Wonderful Life. My father's pocketwatch. "My mother in the kitchen. inspecting the painted feather on its hat. I dreamt of being a soldier and I grew quite attached to it." he finally said. "How did you keep this?" "I was able to retrieve a handful of material possessions from my human life. marching his treasured toy around his human family home. "Edward. I smiled thinking of all the ways that Bella had integrated fully into my family's life over the past three months. "Some of them are flashes." I breathed. A thick metal key protruded from its back. Bella." I imagined Edward leaving the house each year on Christmas night. and when I twisted it. slow and soft. He set the soldier on the table and turned to me." He gave me a meaningful look. smiling wistfully." We continued to kiss. But they aren't erased." he continued." "What do you remember?" I asked softly. "For so long. and to distract himself from the dull ache of emptiness that I knew all too well. where he sucked lightly. I —" He shook his head and swallowed hard." ~X~ EPOV One week later On Christmas Eve. "That feeling was rarely so pronounced as it was at Christmastime. and he sighed. I reached up to unbutton his shirt. "Human memories fade. his boots crunching through the snow as he headed toward the woods to hunt alone. "And why do you keep it stowed away all year when it's one of the only things you have from . and then stopped. ." He took the soldier from my hand and curled his fingers around it before adding.

She slipped a little as her knees bent. She complied wordlessly. as I pushed her under the hot spray. and I would occasionally assist her in the kitchen. where she hissed a little as the coolness reached her back. If she had made a decision when to change." . I had taken to hunting every few days. My body's reaction to Bella's scent was no longer something I feared. Though I always longed for her. nudging her legs farther apart with my foot." she admitted." I ordered. I picked her up and carried her to our room. Esme had recently committed to working her way through The Joy of Cooking for Bella's sake. that was enough. Mostly. smiled. I had only seen Jake once since our confrontation in front of Bella's house. she had not shared it with me. . Partly to pass the time. but I knew it would happen someday. For me. Bella had spent several hours in Carlisle's study. though. but nor was I immune. droplets matting her eyelashes and traveling across her parted lips. "A little. squirming in my arms. knowing I often lacked the control to wait even the few seconds it would take to whisk her to my bedroom. "Mmm. There had been no news from Alice regarding the Volturi and without any urgency surrounding the timing. thinking about our evening ritual made the ache even more acute. the newborn thirst and strength. then touching her face." she murmured. nor had Alice thought of it in my presence. I felt her skin flash with goosebumps. but her eyes struggled to stay focused as she writhed. For her sake. the landing at the top of the stairs — even the front porch. I turned on the shower while she tugged my clothes off." I said. my lips skimming lightly across her inner thigh. I grabbed her hand and pulled her into the bathroom. She gasped. the pain. Bella spent some time every day at Charlie's house. Bella stretched and yawned as my family retreated to their corners of the house. "Wider. "You're so fucking sexy when you come. my breaths rushed. She looked a little paler than normal but the moment I'd caught her eye she'd straightened. I think I like this idea. When we got to my room I tore her clothes off. I didn't know whether it would be days or years. She'd emerged from his office clutching a black and white composition notebook and a fountain pen. The hours of separation were important for her. opening my mouth and licking her slowly from back to front. She was only ever gone a few hours at a time. suddenly frantic. licking my lips exaggeratedly. She moaned a little. grinning. On the days I didn't hunt. kissed her neck. and then she shivered. She was watching me now. But as always her taste drove me to delirium. I released her from my mouth. I walked her backwards until her skin touched the tile. Upon her return. lips parted as the water sprayed down on us. the staircase. "But I don't want you to stop. "I want my mouth . and I couldn't get enough. it became my habit to spend those longest of hours on my piano bench." "Believe me. She occasionally saw Jacob — sometimes alone and sometimes with Corrie. My hands were in her hair. hesitating. my family made valiant attempts to distract me. my tongue in her mouth. . chess with Carlisle. licked my way down her sternum. With every one of her moans. I didn't pry into the private details of their one-on-one conversation but I knew from unavoidable glimpses into Carlisle's mind afterward that he had been answering Bella's detailed questions about the change — the venom. now just sucking her into my mouth. I knew. "I could suck on you forever. his thoughts told me. I was going to have to learn to trust her. too. everywhere. my family would graciously disperse. her head thumping softly. Rivulets of water streamed into my line of vision but I couldn't bear to blink. But I have an idea. repeatedly against the tile as she came. I have no intention of stopping.They all knew of Bella's decision." I promised. I pressed her back gently against the wall." I growled softly into her ear. my tongue working faster. we had christened the foyer. She wrote. her back slid further down the tile and she slipped deeper into my mouth. and I sank to my knees. directly and purposefully: I'm trying. A few nights ago. and nodded reassuringly. But don't push me. reaching for my buttons. more roughly than I intended. Though we'd shaken hands. She bucked and I tightened my grip." I murmured. I would give Bella whatever space and time she needed. and I looked up as I swept my tongue in and around her. I'd play sports with my brothers. Bella and I had only spoken about the change in the vaguest terms. In the past three months. Her eyes were closed. I was grateful when Carlisle finally flipped of the television as the movie credits rolled. And here I knew that just as she was learning to trust me again. unwilling to take my eyes off her even for a second. I groaned against her. I grabbed her hips and tugged her forward. but I was always desperate for her return. and partly to alleviate the mild discomfort. "Are you cold?" I asked. "I've got you. and she clutched at my shoulders for support.

Thank you. "I want to watch you. Santa doesn't bring presents to naughty boys. pliable material that felt smooth and blissfully familiar between my fingertips. swatting away my hands that had begun to fondle her breasts. "Edward. Bella grew quiet." she said. from our . I was getting close. "Yes. Edward. and then strode across the room. I held the scrap of fabric to my mouth and inhaled deeply. "Give me one more. my cum streaming onto her flat belly before washing away with the shower spray." she reasoned. The one you tore from me when we made love for the first time." . "It's from my dress. wrapped in silver paper and tied with a wide indigo ribbon." I encouraged. ?" The words would not come. speeding up my jerks. stop that so you can open your gift." I added. "I'm confident that Bella prefers me naughty. "Yes." She was relaxed and panting now. reaching between our bodies to curl her fist around my own. I paused upon grabbing the blue bow. In fact." she hissed." I groaned. groaning when my cock met her slick flesh." I agreed. as I had initially expected.. "Okay." I choked. taking the package from her." Reluctantly."I want to watch you come." "What's that?" I brought my hand between her legs. "I want you to open it now." she said. and I knew she could sense it. She gripped me harder and pumped faster. the blood pulsing rapidly at her throat. watching her eyes dart to my groin. her eyes flashing with lust and determination. It was not made from matte satin. gasping when her bare feet hit the cold floor. . then enjoying the predictable blush that spread across her skin. . Thank you. I stared." She laughed. smiling. As she turned to face me again. I pulled her close to me and hitched her leg around my waist. "No. gripping my length. . I bent down to suck on her nipple as I moved my fingers inside her. "Here.. "This is ." I said. "Come on me. "Fuck. lost in the memory of her. "Already?" she laughed." I moaned in understanding and took a step backward. but rather a soft. fuck Bella. Bella. Our hands worked in unison at first. . "On one condition. reaching out to pull her back to bed. "Isn't it against the rules not to wait until Christmas morning?" "It will be Christmas in a few minutes. shaking my head. pumping my fist around my cock in time with my strokes." she offered." she murmured. I complied. as she curled her knees to her chest." "Thank you. her body slackening in the shower spray as she came apart again." I nodded. "Now. until the sensations became so overwhelming that I could no longer keep a steady rhythm. "Okay." she said. Skimming my hands over the box. and her pulse sped as the atmosphere in the room shifted from playful anticipation to a nervous energy the source of which I couldn't yet identify. now. palming my length as she bent to retrieve something from the bottom dresser drawer. presenting a medium-sized box." she said." I repeated myself over and over again. "Open it. I gripped myself more tightly. Yes. Then I simply watched her watching me — her bicep flexing with every stroke." "Oh. pressing hard against her g-spot. closing my eyes. "But that's not your real present. of us." she confirmed in a whisper. "So keep going. urging. tugging on my hair and motioning for me to stand. nestled in my bed." "Now?" I asked. "You're welcome. and her eyes followed my hand as it moved up and down my length. curling two fingers inside. "The one I wore for you at the restaurant. "I have your gift. ~X~ Ten minutes later we were wrapped in Egyptian cotton towels." It didn't take long. "Bella. "But I think that Bella does." She dropped her towel and rose from the bed." "Maybe not.

and not the book. she lay beside me. with jealousy. her presence calming as I opened the book and began to read. "I want you to change me. experiencing through Claire's eyes all the pain of Luke's unexplained disappearance." Stunned. I felt it all. it's okay. there was a handwritten note on the inside back cover as I turned the last page: "Merry Christmas. The story ended a page later. It was an attempt to understand her. . My grip on Bella tightened as I relished the certainty of her body in my arms even as I recalled the excruciating torture of our separation. resting my arm across her chest and stroking her hair until her breathing grew deep and steady." she started again." I breathed. I wanted you to be the first. that Bella was mine now. "Oh.I swallowed hard and slung the makeshift ribbon over my shoulder. She patted the space beside her and I lay down. My awareness of that fact had never been so marked as it was at this moment. how each expression of Claire's love for Luke sliced through my marble skin and slashed my heart to shreds. Bella had told me at various times what my leaving had done to her. though." "You haven't read it yet. for it was with striking clarity that I recalled lying in this bed alone. to feel close to her again. it means what you think it means. I wanted to wake her." "It's happy. I flipped onto my stomach and reached for the manuscript. of course. to know her. bending down to kiss her softly on the lips. "It's okay. "Edward. so lost in my thoughts that I forgot for a moment that I hadn't yet finished the book. placed delicately on a nest of ivory tissue.S." "Your birthday. but the good stuff. serious now as she clasped my hands in hers. I was lost in the story as she slept by my side. Your Bella. God. yet monumental passage which lay in wait for me on page 387." "Thank you. But I willed my body to submit. "Bella. A mutual gift." I whispered." she laughed. "How could it not be?" "Of course. Luke." I admitted." My gut tightened as I processed what she was saying. I want to be changed on your birthday. kissing her forehead. Love. the bad stuff . Claire. it's wonderful. As if reading my mind." I sucked in a breath. My own birthday was a mere six months away in June. "There is a first time for everything. it's all in there. to crush my lips against hers and thank her the only way I could think to do in this moment. "Anxious for me to fall asleep?" she quipped. "It's real. Now. . devouring every word of Dusk and clinging to the scent of her that lingered on my unwashed clothes. It was everything she promised it would be. I knew from reading Dusk what a powerful writer she was. I want you to know that. her true gift to me? I contemplated the possibilities for several minutes. and I mentally chided myself for reading between the lines. with regret. Yes. "No one else has seen it. in black and white. pausing a moment to reflect on the last time I read Bella's work. Happy Birthday. I read then with longing." I hugged her close to me and then leaned her back on the mattress. Some details are changed. by Isabella Swan. I will give you anything." I murmured." she promised. . But then why would she want me to read this as she slept? Was she hoping I would put this together? Was this. resting her head on the pillow before covering her with the blanket. so caught up in the reunion of Luke and his Claire that I was totally unprepared for the short. I laid the manuscript on the bedside table. Was Bella telling me she wanted me to change her then? This year? My body tensed at the possibility. I also knew. P. Edward. In the box. We had come a long way. I peeled the tape away from the package and lifted the box top to reveal what was inside." "Tell me when. was a manuscript. I love you. And that no matter how visceral her description of the pain I'd caused. "So long as the ending is happy. It was Daybreak. but now I would see the damage on the page. enjoying the feel of her sleeping still and peaceful in the crook of my arm in the early hours of this — the most perfect Christmas morning in my century of existence. she had forgiven me.

Edward. the living room was a mess of shiny foil paper and ribbon. From: Edward" in calligraphy which was a cute contrast with the bubbly text of Ziggy and Garfield. The reason for my gasp was not the music itself." "No. "I don't believe in those. "It is. "If you don't like this one. The twinkle in her eye told me she knew but that she would leave it to me to tell the family when I was ready." "This year?" "This year. "June twentieth. my leg shaking in excitement until the light of dawn signaled it was okay to get out of bed. only one package remained. I could tell the score was exceedingly complex. "A very big day. My eyes welled with tears as I opened mine." I agreed. There were pages and pages and pages — the stack several inches thick. smiling shyly at me. "I've given it a lot of thought. I had a vague familiar sense of recalling this feeling — the feeling of thrilling anticipation of Christmas mornings from my human childhood. Something told me he had purposefully saved this one for last. Carlisle had been playing Santa all morning and lifted it with a twinkle in his eye. You don't need to claw it out with your fingernails. It was Edward's favorite midnight blue. "I didn't know. brushing her hair away from her face. "How did you —" "I didn't. Not all human traditions have to be forgotten. tearing the paper only slightly as I pulled it open. and was a rectangular box slightly bigger than a large book. He tugged at my hips and ran his hands through my hair before a loud cough from Emmett led us to break apart. stirred. I'll fulfill my professional obligations. of course I knew Alice had seen it. The work was entitled "Daybreak" by Edward Cullen. Six months is what I need. Emmett and Rosalie got me yet another stereo for the truck. but the single word printed at the top of the first page. When Bella finally. each note scrawled by hand." By the end of the morning. A small sticker on the corner of the box read "To: Bella." I promised. mercifully." She smiled. "You will." ~X~ BPOV An hour after Alice dragged us downstairs. I swallowed. I ripped the paper from the box. his eyes serious. Piles of gifts were strewn about the room." I let out a shaky breath of relief. laughing but not embarrassed. Though I was not musically inclined." He handed me the package. It was wrapped in old newspaper comics. "I'll make sure you will. "You wrapped it in the Sunday Funnies?" I laughed. Alice had handmade each of us scarves embroidered with the family crest. meeting her eyes. It was sheet music." She nodded. I gently lifted the seal. visit my mother. wondering suddenly how much she had guessed about my gift to her." ." I cradled her face in my hands. I didn't know how amazing it would feel — knowing when. I gasped. just tell me. tugging my hips as I slid inside her." I said. It seemed so un-Edward. He shrugged. Emmett smirked as I opened the empty box. she reached across my chest. I don't want to wait any longer. kissing her softly.As I watched the snow falling. Although I hadn't told anyone but Edward my decision about the change. smiling at me. lifting its cover to find a sheet of tissue paper sealed with wax." "I hope I always remember it. "I don't either." she said." she said. "June twentieth. biting her lip. remember?" I reached around his neck and kissed him. accidentals and key changes dotting the pages and intricate patterns of notes flowing throughout the ledgers. "Bella. the small crest embroidered in gold. Bella." "Today is a big day. "It's a coincidence. blanketing the railing of the balcony visible from the bed. "It's what we used when I was little. leaving the box where it lay. kissing me there as I twisted my hands in her hair." "Deal. I would lie awake then." he said.

building. my hands. I know now that I had to go through hell to fully embrace heaven. his hallucinations. Painful. my ability to love — to be loved in return. It had only been a few months ago. The suspense of the unresolved chord rang throughout the room. Happy." he began. The monotony was tedious but comfortable. moving. sniffling. Then. but it felt like ten lifetimes since he reentered my life unannounced.. He took a hold of my hand and turned it over so that it rested palm up on my thigh. the key major and full. I'd only seen him like this once before — that fateful morning when I awoke to find him in my bedroom. At first I thought it was hatred.I stood. My mate. his hands stilled. Bella. "Before I met you. "Please. It was trembling. a love so fierce I didn't trust myself to contain it. My love. my head lying against his shoulder as he played the notes which would so perfectly accompany my second book. Lonely. Then. his hands at his sides. shaking my head. "Yes. It seems almost too indulgent to ask for anything more. Then. pulling him to his feet and dragging him to the piano bench.. moving in melancholy tones. No. He patted the space beside him and I sat. I snapped my neck to look at him and found that he was staring straight at me." "Okay. his eyes were trained on the keys. in the middle of what should have been the pinnacle of the movement. I found meaning in the small things — time with my family. I smiled. He squeezed my hand softly and I noted that his trembling had stilled. Bella. the music sweeter than any I'd ever heard. his despair. "It's not finished. frustrated. But the melody is here. I didn't know it was possible. . perfectly. And still it went on. The score opened sad. "You've already given me more than I could have ever hoped for in this life. "Edward. in time with the give and take of Edward's body. His lips moved wordlessly for a moment before finally settling on a soft smile." He grabbed my hand and tapped his chest over his heart. then very still. He looked nervous." He uncurled his fist and held a ring between his thumb and forefinger. content. The stone was an oval of the deepest blue. Edward brushed them away with this thumb.. but not miserable. The platinum band was thin and delicate." I could feel the tears cresting in my eyes." I said. simmering with intensity. "I let my fear get the better of me. that doesn't cover it." I grabbed his hand. but suddenly he was kneeling beside me as I sat on the piano bench. the passion and relief of finally. My sun. His jaw tensed in emotion. his eyes alight with excitement. Hopeful. I had given up any hope of being mated. His forearms flexed and his brow was furrowed in concentration. coming together. helping Carlisle with patients. you crashed into my life.." His eyes were dark gold. attempting to assemble the pages on the music stand but struggling to make them fit without slipping. The family took their cue and dispersed. Edward gave me an amused smile. "The notes are for you. nearly catatonic in its monotony. my commitment to our way of life. I understood the notes which described his leaving. occasionally darting to land on my neck.. My moon. "Edward. cleaning the avalanche of paper in mere seconds. I was bored. whether I would accept him. that was beautiful." I didn't see him move. surrounded by pave diamonds. "It doesn't sound finished. the thrill of hope. Be my wife. the serenity of moving forward. leaving Edward and me alone." I nodded." His eyes were roaming my face." he shook his head. And though the years away from you were torturous beyond description. "Everything you made me feel. smiling. realizing that these past three months we had been writing the same story. "But it isn't finished?" I asked. "It was all new." He lifted his eyes to mine then. his voice earnest. The joy you brought into my life was always tempered by the growing fear that I wouldn't be able to stop myself from taking the very thing you were offering." The tears spilled over onto my cheeks. His music brought to life the ache of jealousy." "Bella. "You're my everything. You cracked open the foundation beneath my feet — you made me question everything I ever believed about myself. I had never felt him shake like this. "It was incredible. He'd been nervous then — unsure of how I would react. then turned angry.." I felt a lump start to form in my throat as he continued. too. I closed my eyes and sank against him.

I watched his fingers. I leaned back against him and he placed his hands on the keys and began to play." He grinned. And this ring. :) Thank you. my eyes mesmerized by the precious stone that sparkled as my hands moved. and he let out an audible breath. And then he was in me. it was a way for us to do something fun outside of work and escape the stresses of every day life. but." he said." I said.. I didn't know what type of stone it was. bending to suck on a nipple. "Six?" He nodded once. I hope someday I look back on this story as "where it all began. but it glittered radiantly even in the dim candlelight." "Daybreak." "You were wearing my mother's wedding dress. bringing my legs around his waist. so much for sticking with our story and for all of your support along the way. The music seemed to fill me up until my ribs ached with emotion that my heart seemed unable to contain. "I'm afraid I can't agree with that statement. Bella. And though it is so hard to say goodbye. They weren't stable and were constantly flipping between happy and tragic endings.." "I don't think I want to know what it cost. He stood and turned the bench longways in front of the piano. Minutes later his hands stilled. He pushed my shirt up over my breasts. With one pull of his hand. My panties disappeared with a tug and a rip. When we finally started to move it was slow and sporadic — the lazy and indulgent lovemaking of two souls who had no concern for time. "In the weeks and months after you entered my life." . When we finally came.. The perfect notes coursed through his arms and his chest. readers. Alice had many visions. When V and I first started writing StF. It was the most beautiful piece of jewelry I had ever seen. Edward. stop HERE." He lifted the ring between us. I couldn't bear the thought of anyone else owning it.. It was my first creative writing endeavor and I can think of no better starting point. "But there was this one. then settled behind me so that I was sitting between his legs. I couldn't let it go.this was always where we planned to leave them." he said.." "No." Edward tipped his head as he looked at me. it is exquisite. but I could never predict when it would be. I nodded. yes." "Tell me. "Daybreak. against the ivory and onyx. but has also become so much more. his hands cradling my face. Be my wife. we came together. it's time." I breathed." He turned me around. "The first day I saw the vision." He looked down at the ring and then back up at me." He took hold of my hand and slipped the ring onto my finger. Together we shoved Edward's pants to the floor. I threaded my hands in his hair. it has been that. Over the past year of writing. "That. "I would have paid twice its worth." He smirked. He hugged me close and I wrapped my arms around him as tightly as I could. "That's how it begins. "She saw it several times. "I've been carrying this with me for six years. even though we will miss them and writing this story so much. "The other bidders seriously underestimated my determination. long and certain. holding tight only to each other and whispering words of the forever that stretched out before us. tilting my head up to face him. I began searching for the ring that would match it. then his serious expression. He kissed me sweet and slow." I swallowed. Even after I'd given up hope of placing it on your finger. His face broke into a wide smile. the satin sash released and my robe fell open. My eyes widened as I looked at the ring. The End M: You've been warned that this A/N will be self-indulgent and sappy so if you just came for the story. A couple months later. this blue diamond went up for auction in Naples. pressed flush against my back." he said."Oh.. "is how it ends. It's unlocked an entire community of amazing friends that I would have never otherwise met." "It's the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. There are no plans for an Epilogue or a sequel .

patience. there are no words. bb. I feel so grateful that you came into my life in this crazy. for sprinkling us with kind words and for asking the tough questions. . Thank you for everything. ilsuocantante. strongest. I sent LolaShoes an email out of nowhere. To V. We love you. here are the thank yous: To our lovely beta annanabanana. it's all that I have to offer. and continued interest in this story. She didn't know who the hell we were. for your enthusiasm. To LolaShoes. but read the chapters and went out of her way to support us at every turn. I'm so lucky to have you in my life. and WindyCityWonder. and for introducing me to the world of Twific and letting me tag along on this journey. . reviewer. There aren't many people like that in the world so when you find one. for being the first to recommend our little story. V: Thank you will never be enough. reviewed. Thank you. has been with us since we posted those first six chapters and has been unfailingly reliable and invaluable. unlikeliest of all ways. thank you for sticking with us. annnabanana. Thank you for being delightfully pervy and brutally honest. You are the bravest. for shepherding newbies like us through the world of Twific and for never tiring (at least visibly) of our ridiculous. So. To everyone who's read. I will treasure this experience forever and love that it will always be ours. To our illustrious team of prereaders over the course of this story. cling. thank you. I love you. Our beta. and all around wonderful woman. moronic questions. separately and together over the past 18 months and all I can say is I love you and I am so glad we did this together. Lo. begging her to take a look at our first 6 chapters. A little over a year ago. to M . You are my best friend and the only person in the free world I could imagine collaborating with on something like this. or rec'd StF. well.To those of you who I've come to know over the past year. I'm tearing up. bb. I've been staring at my screen and literally can't come up with the words to express what this experience has meant to me. . NelsonSmandela. God. most amazing woman I know. and an amazing writer. Seriously. but until I win the lottery or have the power to make Rob follow my every command (my next project now that StF is over). I don't know what else to say except I'm so happy to call you my friend. When I think about all we've been through. And finally. our biggest cheerleader over the last year.