He pulled me closer, and then his hand was in my hair. His fingertips caressed my scalp. His thumb brushed my cheek. I could feel his soft breath on my face.
He had said it with his eyes alone, but it had been loud and clear. Monday, after school, up against his car, in front of my house… I tried to kiss him, but he conveyed with the sweetest of smiles and the kindest of expressions: Not yet.
I didn't question it then, and I wasn't about to question it now. It seemed whatever he had been waiting for, he wasn't any longer.
Time seemed to be suspended in a dreamlike limbo. We were inches from each other – a fraction of space the only thing separating my lips from his – but neither of us made any kind of move to bridge the gap.
I wanted to. I wanted to move into him. Bridge the gap. I just wasn't sure if I should. It was as if he was working himself up to it.
He didn't need to breathe, yet he was. It matched the shaky quality of my own.
His eyes were barely open. His lips parted, then twitched a little. The anticipation was unreal.
When his nose brushed against mine, I inched closer. Instinctually.
That was bad. He created distance between us. Just a little, but it felt harsh.
"Just stay very still," he whispered.
And then the dance started over again.
Centuries passed, one slow, agonizing second after the other. I could almost feel myself aging.
And then I felt his nose brush mine again. I didn't move a muscle. The anticipation climbed from unreal to something bordering on catastrophic.
Just when I thought I couldn't take the extreme of it for another second, his lips finally touched mine. It was brief, but it felt like my heart and my brain exploded simultaneously. Pleasantly.
A new dose of Drug Edward coursed through me. Every part of my body warmed instantly.
Then his lips were back on mine, and something snapped. Not moving wasn't an option anymore. I was on some kind of autopilot.
I kissed him back. I wrapped my arms around his neck and pulled myself into him. I pushed my hands into his hair and fisted the tufts beneath them. Everything intensified. Everything.
My reactions. His reactions. It was almost frenzied.
Suddenly, the forest floor was at my back, and Edward was on top of me. I welcomed it. Encouraged whatever was about to happen by snaking my legs around his waist.
And then there was emptiness. Edward was gone. It happened so abruptly, it took my brain a second to wrap around the idea of it.
I sat up, pulled my knees to my chest, and scanned the darkness. I felt very small.
"Edward?" I sounded very small.
"I can't ever lose control with you."
If that was what losing control felt like, he could lose it all he wanted, as far as I was concerned.
"Did I do something wrong?" I asked. It felt like I had. I should have just stayed very still, like he had asked me to.
"No. The fault is mine. I got… carried away."
"I liked it," I admitted. I felt the flush of embarrassment soon after, but I didn't have time to suffer the effects of it.
I felt Edward settle in behind me. Felt his knees on either side of me, his legs tucked under himself. I instantly relaxed against him, my back to his front, as his arms wrapped protectively around me.
Time started to make sense again.
My arms rested on his legs as my hands played with his knees. I drew little circles, patterns, indistinct swirls and drawings. Don't ask me how I knew, but he seemed to like that.
"Do you have a super sense of touch, too?"
"Is what I'm doing bothering you?"
I knew it wasn't, but I thought it might be weird to ask: Do you like what I'm doing?
"No. It feels nice. Your hands are very warm."
They were? He could feel that through his slacks? With as cold as his skin was, maybe mine felt like fire in comparison. A pleasant fire, though, since he had said that it feels nice. Interesting.
"Will Alice hate me for staying away this long? It feels like we've been out here for hours."
Just the kiss alone seemed to take hundreds of years, not to mention the trip itself and the conversations before and after.
Thinking of the kiss made my heart pick up pace just a little. It was so much better than that dream I'd had on Monday night, after he had denied me the first time.
"No. We haven't been out here very long. She knows we needed this time alone."
Time had definitely been distorted before. Or maybe time to a vampire spent differently.
"How long is not very long?" I asked.
I almost jumped from the surprise of that. Being generous, I would have guessed at least an hour.
"We have a few more minutes then? I don't want to head back just yet."
"Yes. Don't worry, Carlisle warned Alice not to overwhelm you."
"I'm not worried about Alice." Well, I was, but that wasn't the reason I didn't want to go back to the house yet. "I just wanted to spend some more private time with you."
That sweet hum of his would never get old, I was sure of it. It made me warm all over. Melt a little, even. I hummed right back, acknowledging it, though it sounded nothing like his melodic purr.
"If I promised to stay very still this time…?"
I dangled the question purposefully, hoping he would catch the implication. He did, but the response wasn't what I was hoping for.
"Soon. I need a little more time to… acclimate."
He hesitated again, but my brain was still too fuzzy to wrap it around the hidden meaning. Drug Edward had lingering effects.
I turned my head a little and nuzzled into the crook of his neck, breathing him in, attempting to hang on to the sensation for as long as I possibly could.
And then that weird possessed feeling came over me again, like when I had felt as if I was on autopilot earlier. I started kissing his jaw line, his chin… anywhere my lips could reach. When I kissed his Adam's apple, I could hear and feel him moan. It just spurred me on.
"Easy, love," he whispered. There was a hint of desperation in it. Slight, but it was enough for me to gather my wits.
"Sorry." It came out quieter than a whisper, almost inaudible, but of course he heard it.
He tightened his hold on me a little, reassuringly, and I instantly felt better. I felt forgiven. I felt loved. I felt protected.
And then I felt myself being brought up off the ground. He stood effortlessly – not an easy task to do from the position he was in – and then he turned me to face him. In the darkness, I could just make out that he was staring at me.
It was probably a good thing I couldn't see well. That I couldn't see his expression and intense eyes. With how my body was behaving, I just knew my knees would have collapsed from under me.
My breathing turned shallow and unsteady when his hand cupped my cheek. I leaned into it, increasing the contact.
"My dearest Bella…" He said this with that inflection of reverence I had come to love. And with the tiniest inkling of… amusement? Yeah, let's go with 'amusement'. "You needn't apologize. The problem is mine."
"I don't suppose you'd tell me what that problem is?" He didn't answer. He just continued to stare at me, his hand cupping my cheek. So I reminded him of something. "You said before that you were willing to share all except the one subject."
I had him there. I could almost feel him yielding, though it did take a while for him to actually answer.
He had said that before, but I had been too stuck on stupid to puzzle through it. He even hesitated on the word. I forced my head to clear enough so I could think properly.
He had said the same thing on Tuesday, when I mentioned that it seemed easier for him to be around me while in my condition.
Oh! Oh, God. It hurt him to kiss me! That was why it seemed that he was working himself up to kissing me in the first place!
I couldn't think of what to say. What could I possibly say? It was like he was the starving man at the brink of death, only this time, the instruction that came along with the barbequed steak was that he had to kiss it but not eat it.
"Shhh, love…" He pulled me to him, cradling my head as I pressed my cheek against his chest. "This is my burden to bear. I do not wish it to be yours."
Always protective. But how could I not worry about this? How would I be able to experience any kind of enjoyment, knowing he was in agony? It seemed like the cards were stacked against us, in every way they could be.
And even still, I had no desire to walk away. Tragic love story or not, it was alove story, and I wanted it. Even if I couldn't ever kiss him, or do anything else intimate with him in the traditional sense, what I had with Edward was special. I didn't need to have a string of failed relationships behind me to realize that. Or any relationships behind me.
Edward was my first love. If I could have my wish, he would be my last and only love, too. Whenever Edward did decide to leave me, whether that be at age thirty, fifty, or eighty… how would I ever find someone else to fill his shoes? It would be impossible to.
He said he was mine forever. He said he wouldn't leave until I ordered him away. But, realistically, once I started looking like a grandmother…
I couldn't think of it. It was a lifetime away, anyway. I would have a lot of years with Edward before I had to worry about that.
The inevitable pain I would be faced with in the future was a small price to pay for time – any amount of time – with him now.
"We should probably head back." I didn't necessarily want to, but I knew we needed to. Alice and the others were waiting. Maybe even worrying.
He kissed the top of my head, lingering there for a moment as he inhaled deeply, and then we shifted so I could climb onto his back. I didn't watch the run that time. I just hid my face against his shoulder.
All of the Cullens, minus Edward, of course, were waiting for us in the living room when we returned. There were balloons, and candles, and flowers, and a table full of food no one would eat but me. It hadn't looked like that before we left.
Vampires sure were fast and efficient. They had clearly decorated during the less than an hour Edward and I had been gone.
Alice was absolutely bursting. Even Rosalie seemed relaxed. Not happy, but she wasn't glaring at me or the floor, either.
"Right on time!" Alice chirped as she danced over to me. I stifled a laugh. With her abilities, any time would be considered that, since she would know it in advance.
She threw her arms around me, and it was only then that Edward let go of my hand, though he seemed reluctant to do so.
"That's from Jasper, too!" she said. I assumed she meant the hug. "Welcome home!"
She then took my hands and pulled me into the center of the room. It was the first time she had touched me without gloves on. Her hands were every bit as cold as Edward's. I don't know what I had been expecting. It was obviously a vampire thing, and since she was one, too…
"Thanks, Alice." I tried to sound grateful, but really, I was just uncomfortable. "You really didn't need to go to all this trouble."
She scoffed, and then Dr. Cullen added, "We tried to rein her in."
They failed. Or maybe this was considered moderate to a vampire.
Alice laughed. "As if you could."
Esme insisted I eat first, which was perfectly fine by me since I felt starving by that point, but to be honest, I wasn't even sure where to begin. There was no way I could have eaten just a little of everything, like I had been doing before. I would have exploded, there were that many varieties on the table. And there was a cake I was obviously expected to partake in after I was finished.
I ended up selecting three of the dozen choices. A pasta and vegetable dish with a rich tomato alfredo sauce, some kind of bread that was more savory than it was sweet, though the word 'bread' wasn't exactly the right definition for it. It was almost cake-like. And lastly, a simple salad. Well, as simple as Esme was capable of. The dressing was homemade. I suspected the croutons were, too.
And while I ate, they all watched. I was getting used to Edward watching me eat, but the rest of them…
Especially Rosalie. She seemed almost annoyed that I was eating at all.
After, Esme sliced me off a piece of cake that was way too large to finish, served with a cup of coffee that had a hint of chocolate and raspberry to it. It complemented the cake, which was also chocolate, with a raspberry filling and a rich butter cream frosting.
I was full to the point of uncomfortable. But the evening didn't end there.
Apparently, vampires like trivia games, although to call it 'trivia' implies pointless facts. The game we all then played was far from that.
No game board, just a stack of cards with questions on them. The categories were: Science, History, Literature, Music, Geography, and Religion.
I was asked to read Edward his questions, since he couldn't read my mind and therefore couldn't cheat. Emmett specifically enjoyed teasing him about that. I got the feeling that they played this game a lot, and that Edward always won because of his ability to pluck the answers out of the others' minds. At least that was the accusation.
He still won. And, of course, I lost. Really, how was I supposed to compete with vastly more intelligent vampires? Edward kept trying to give me hints, nudging me towards the right answers, which the others didn't seem to mind at all, but I still got far more incorrect than correct.
All things considered, it was fun. Rosalie actually smiled! It was slight, and it dropped quickly, but still.
And, weirdly enough, I actually did feel like I was home. Charlie, Renee, and I never had evenings like that. Well, when I was very little, we played games on occasion, but as I got older, not so much. We spent more time apart within our average-sized house than we did together.
The Cullens weren't like that. They seemed a very close-knit group. They were a family. Something that I had never truly been a part of.
I loved my parents, and I knew they loved me, but we coexisted under the same roof more than anything else. I was more like my dad, but my relationship with him consisted of very few words and even less socialization. Mom and I were almost exact opposites, but we had a better level of communication. The two of them rarely spoke, unless it was about me or bills. They yelled a lot, though, and usually over stupid shit.
Lids left off of toothpaste containers. Beard hair remnants in the sink. Cleaning firearms at the kitchen table.
Come to think of it, Mom started the fights more often than not. Charlie just yelled back to get a word in edgeways.
I thanked everyone for a fun evening, and then Edward and I went up to his room. It was still his room, even though I was staying in it for one more week, but it was starting to feel like our room.
I liked that.
"I'm like an idiot compared to the rest of you. I felt like I should have been hanging out in the corner, peeling bananas with my feet."
Edward laughed. "Bella, you are far more intelligent than you realize. Those questions were very hard, created by us for us. You answered several of them correctly. Everyone was very impressed. Even Rosalie."
I just shrugged as I plopped myself down on his bed. Our bed.
That was a jarring thought. Back at my house, he had taken to sleeping with me at night. Well, I slept, he just lied there, probably bored out of his skull. But still. I had to wonder if he would join me again, now that we were at his house.
He sat beside me and took my hand, but there was a slight scowl on his face.
"You don't believe me?"
"It's not that," I answered. "My thoughts went in an entirely different direction."
"Will you share them with me?"
My heart sputtered as it picked up pace. "I was just curious about the sleeping arrangements tonight."
His scowl left. A smile replaced it. "What would you like them to be?"
He was amused again.
"I like it when you stay with me," I admitted. I was sure I had turned ten shades of red.
"There is something I must do tonight, but I will stay with you until you fall asleep, and will return to you before you wake up."
Curiosity got the better of me. You know how they say 'curiosity killed the cat'? Yeah.
"What do you have to do?"
He scowled again, deeper than before. "It's been a while since I have hunted."
Oh. The taboo subject. I changed it fast.
"It doesn't bore you? You know, hanging around me while I'm unconscious?"
His smile returned. "No. I like watching you sleep. It's fascinating to me."
Fascinating? Watching me just lie there like a rock and drool? Although, if Edward could sleep, I'd probably want to watch him, too.
"Well, then, you enjoy that," I teased.
He smirked, and then he went into all the reasons why he did actually enjoy watching me as I slept.
When my eyelids would flutter, he would entertain himself by guessing what my dreams were about. I talked in my sleep, which I knew, but apparently, I said his name a lot. He liked that. He also liked how relaxed I became. My face was free from worry or questions. My body was free from tension, and in no danger of injury.
He was in awe of how I would unconsciously gravitate towards him. He would try to give me a little space so that he wouldn't chill me too much, but after a few minutes, I was searching him out again.
I held uncommon positions as I slept, according to him, which he would then attempt to correct with gentle touches here and there.
Maybe I should have been unnerved by that, but I wasn't. I knew he wasn't touching me in a lewd manner, and to be honest, even if he was, I probably still wouldn't have cared. I wanted him to touch me. I wanted to be conscious for it, but if he felt more comfortable doing it while I was asleep – to acclimate himself – then I wouldn't begrudge him that.
As far as I was concerned, my body, like my heart and soul, were his.
I dropped myself back on the bed and stared up at the ceiling, sighing contentedly. It had been a weird, long day, but it was ending on a good note, it seemed.
"That cake was amazing. Maybe your mom should open a bakery, like Angela suggested. Muffins and cakes. I bet she would rock at cookies, too."
Edward settled beside me and smiled over at me, amused. "She would rock?"
I could tell by his inflection that he knew what I meant, but there was still a hint of curiosity in his tone.
"I really need to update you on slang," I said. Then I grinned. If he hadn't really been out mingling with humans since the sixties…
I could imagine him saying stuff like 'groovy', and 'far out'. But, no, Edward wouldn't have. He was too prim and proper, and it wasn't just because he was out of the human loop. I suspected he had been like that even before he was changed.
"She would excel beyond all expectations, at making cookies," I said, defining the word 'rock'. Then I remembered. "Oh, and chat-speak…" I turned my head only to face him. "Abbreviations used when texting and talking on the computer. I don't use them too often, but I'll teach you what they are if or when I do."
He hummed in response, and my eyes drifted closed at the sound.
"I really love it when you do that," I whispered. Then I instantly regretted doing so. Not only did I say the love word, but I had once again tipped my hand. He was already too aware of what he could do to me. It was embarrassing how he affected me.
My cheeks flushed bright red, so I turned onto my right side, my back to him, and faced the window wall. I was almost in the fetal position.
Then I felt him shift his weight. He scooted up behind me and spooned me, which effectively turned me into a liquefied mess again. I tried to open my eyes, but I could see his reflection in the glass – which meant he could see mine – so I quick and closed them again.
"I love it when you share your thoughts with me so freely."
He whispered this, inches from my ear, and the liquid that I had become ignited. Like gasoline.
I wanted to turn in his arms and kiss him. I wanted to tell him I was in love with him. I wanted to do a lot of things, but I couldn't. Literally. The ability to function in any way beyond shaking and struggling to breathe closed down.
It was the luring thing. I knew he would never hurt me, but he could have at any time. I felt completely helpless, and yet I still wasn't afraid. It should have been unnerving, and in a way it kind of was, but only because my body was reacting in a manner that was foreign to me.
"You're safe," he whispered, and somehow, I found a way to nod.
And then I felt his lips on my neck. My existence swirled into darkness.
I must have blacked out. It was the only logical explanation. When I came to, I was on my left side instead of my right, gathered against Edward, him on his back and staring up at the ceiling.
"I'm sorry, Bella."
I propped myself up on my elbow. His eyes were firm but remorseful.
"Why are you sorry?"
"I wasn't trying to overwhelm you."
"I know. Are you under the impression that I'm upset with you?"
He closed his eyes. Tight. And then his expression crossed into agony.
"You should be."
I sighed, then started to lightly trace the line of his jaw. "You didn't do anything wrong. These feelings… they're just new to me. Intense. My body reacts in weird ways, is all. I guess I need time to acclimate, too."
His pain seemed to ease, but his eyes remained closed. "Were you afraid? You were trembling."
"No. And I know."
His eyes opened then, but he didn't look at me. He seemed surprised. "Then why were you trembling?"
He deserved the truth, embarrassing as it would be to admit. "I was… excited."
Yeah, that did it. I turned every shade of red ever cataloged, and several that had yet to be. In an attempt to hide it, I buried my face in his chest.
He didn't question me further. He just stroked my hair and hummed my lullaby.
I fought sleep for as long as I could – I wanted to stay awake, to enjoy his gentle affection and flawless voice – but it was soon a losing battle.
To be continued…
To answer to a few questions…
I don't feel I can post the entire story all at once, because it is quite long, and I need time to go through each chapter, so that I can (hopefully) catch any mistakes and clean it up best I can. Also, every time I post an update, it brings the story back to the front page, which gives new readers who have not found it yet a chance to.
The metaphor about the fork in the road is actually a pretty old and well known one. Basically, Bella feels that she is facing a life changing decision. She is standing on a road that has a split in it (sometimes called a fork in the road), with two paths to choose from. One path (or prong on the fork) signifies a life with Edward, the other signifies a life without him. She doesn't see Edward nearby, but she can sense his presence. She thinks this is because he doesn't want to sway her decision on which path to take. All of this is just inside her head. She's not actually standing on a deserted road, facing the split in it, with Edward lurking just out of sight. It's just how she's feeling about the situation at that time. – Hope that's clearer.
Brooke (Brookieo): Your reviews make me smile! Yes, I wrote this in seven weeks. One day shy of seven weeks, actually. I received a review, where the reviewer very rudely insulted my interest in the TV show 'Friends' (calling me an obsessed stalker), and then told me to stop with the shameless plugs. So I did. And, um, yeah, I'm a pretty angsty person, LOL.
My beta did not care for the final bit of the epilogue, so I may or may not rework it. I thought it was kinda artistic, but she said it seemed 'summary-ish' to her. I'll give it a few days and reread it, and see how I feel then.
It seems people want me to post the entire epilogue at once. Totally not a problem. Just didn't want to overwhelm anyone. Guess you could always just… I don't know… take a snack break half way through, if it gets to be too much. (smile)
To those who have said that they plan to purchase my novel… thank you! I sincerely hope you enjoy it!
And thank you to everyone who has reviewed. I very much appreciate it! Please, keep the love coming, and let me know what you thought of this chapter.