After spending hours on the hard ground in the cold field, it felt good to be sitting on something soft. I think I actually moaned a little when I dropped my aching body onto Edward's bed. It felt good to be home.
And that's really what the Cullen house was starting to feel like. It signified safety, and warmth, and love, and acceptance. I felt a sense of inclusion, like I had always been a member of this family. Even Rosalie's dislike of me was starting to feel perfectly natural, not that I was happy about it, or any closer to understanding why she did.
But it seemed we all had effortlessly slipped into these roles. Dr. and Mrs. Cullen were like my surrogate parents. Protective, loving, guiding. Alice and I were like the two siblings who were also best friends. Emmett was the sometimes annoying and mischievous big brother, but you just knew he would take a bullet for you if it came down to it. Jasper was like a brother-in-law who feels awkward in your presence, but deep down loves and respects you.
I smiled back at him as he watched me from his bedroom doorway.
He was everything. Every breath. Every beat of my heart. Every reason I was even born.
"What are you thinking?"
"Good thoughts," I answered. Then I patted the space beside me in an invitation for him to join me. He did.
"Physically. I'm not sleepy, though."
"My causing you to fall is mostly to blame. I promised to make it up to you."
I rolled my eyes. "I told you, you don't have to make anything up to me. It was an accident."
"Please, Bella, allow me this. Anything you want, it's yours."
An evil little thought jumped into my brain. "Anything? You promise?"
It took me a moment to gather my courage. Finally, I leaned in and pressed my lips to his. He seemed surprised at first, but then he started responding. I braved forward.
I started brushing a path to his neck, but I didn't get very far. He pushed away from me, creating several inches of space between us.
So much for his promise. But I wasn't mad at him. It was a blind promise, and I had tried to take advantage of that. I was disappointed, though.
"It's fine if you don't want to," I muttered. I looked away and sighed.
"Believe me, I want to."
My eyes were back on him in an instant, searching his.
"But we can't," he added.
I had to try. I didn't care how pathetic my desperate pleading sounded. "Just try. I know you're worried, but you can do this. I know you can."
He sighed. "I appreciate your faith in me, but I won't take chances with your safety."
"If I promise not to bite?"
"No. I know you have needs, and I want to please you…" He sighed again as he trailed off.
"It's fine," I repeated, "but there's nothing else that I want."
Ridiculous, maybe, but true. I had already been given a taste of what intimacy with him could be like, and I was hungry for more. It was like giving that starving man on the brink of death one little bite of the barbequed steak, and then yanking it away from him.
"You're so stubborn."
The amusement in his tone annoyed me. I huffed in response. "So are you," I grumbled.
He wrapped his arms around me, resting his chin on my shoulder. I continued to scowl, though it was more for show than for any other reason. My anger had dissolved, but I didn't want him to know that.
"Is there anything I can do to earn your forgiveness?"
"You know there is. You're just unwilling."
Five years passed.
"I'm sorry, Bella."
He sounded it. The remorse in his tone was almost enough to make me cry. My façade crumbled. I threw my arms around him and clung to him.
"I know. I'm sorry for behaving like a wanton slut."
It was weird. My behavior. I never would have thought it possible. Sex was always at the bottom of my list of interests. Maybe not the very last entry, but close to it. Yet there I was, acting like a fiend for it. Shame washed over me like a tidal wave.
I pulled away from him, turned, and then curled up on the bed. Seconds later, I felt him spoon me.
"I don't think that, Bella." He started nuzzling my hair. "You deserve more than I can give you." His lips brushed against my ear. "I only want for your happiness." A soft kiss to my jaw.
Oh, God. Please. He was so close. Please.
My silent pleas were answered. My body exploded.
His kisses were tentative at first. Careful. But then he deepened them. His tongue left icy wet trails. His lips melded to my flesh. I forced myself not to pass out by sheer will alone. I was only vaguely aware that I was panting. My heart was aching from the adrenalin. My blood was near boiling. I still wanted more. I craned my neck, offering myself to him.
I couldn't wrap my brain around what had happened. I just knew I felt a sense of loss and confusion. Then I felt him press his forehead against my shoulder.
It took forever and three days for me to calm myself after that. And during the whole of that time, Edward continued to hold me.
"Acclimation," I finally whispered. "I didn't pass out this time."
He tightened his arms around me but said nothing in response. He seemed bothered by something. I could just sense it. But I wasn't brave enough to ask him about it. My inner voice told me not to. And since I vowed to listen to it more often…
"When will dinner be ready? It smells good."
Okay, yeah, that was lame, given the intensity we had just shared, but it was a truthful statement. One cannot live by snack foods alone, and since I had lost most of my sandwich in the outfield when I had gone kersplat…
"Soon. Would you like to freshen up first?"
Maybe he was upset because I had essentially manipulated him into giving me what I wanted. Guilt stabbed at me.
"Um, yeah. Okay. Good idea."
I awkwardly disentangled myself from his arms and moved to leave the bed. But before I could get to my feet, he reached out and slid his hand into my hair.
"I love you, Bella."
All my worries melted. I leaned into his touch. "I love you, too."
His lips brushed against mine in a gentle but brief kiss. And then I guess I stood and gathered up my crap, because the next thing I knew, I was walking down the hall towards the bathroom.
The shower felt good. Really good. I was starting to feel a little stiff and sore from my embarrassing moment of severe clumsiness out at the field.
I smiled at the memory of six concerned faces hovering over me. The only Cullen who hadn't whooshed to my side was Rosalie. I shook that thought from my brain. Dwelling on it wasn't going to change anything, anyway.
It wasn't hard to find something else to contemplate. My guilt had returned. I had agreed to his compromise the night before, but then at the first opportunity, I pressured him into testing his self-control and abandoning his morals.
The words 'manipulative bitch' came to mind. Because, really, that's what I was. Or, at least, that's how I had behaved. He deserved better than that.
I vowed, right there and then, under the warm spray of the shower, that I would never pressure him again. Even if that meant I would die a virgin.
I cringed a little at the thought of that, but my resolve held firm. My mind was made up. My inner seductress had caused enough trouble. She had to be stopped.
I literally startled when I entered Edward's bedroom. I wasn't expecting to see anyone in there but Edward.
Alice's pixie face cracked a smile. "Edward's just… off thinking somewhere. He'll be back."
I shook off my surprise and threw my crap down on the floor by the bed. "Is that code for hunting?"
She laughed. "No. I thought we should have another chat, and he didn't want to make you uncomfortable by being within earshot."
Fantastic. Another part of my soul was about to be murdered, I just knew it.
"I'm not so sure I'm strong enough to survive this," I muttered. I plopped down on the edge of the bed beside her.
"You will. I've seen it."
I rolled my eyes. "I meant figuratively."
"I know." She laughed again, and then she got serious. "I just want to help. You can tell me to butt out, though, if you don't want me to."
I sighed. Suddenly, confiding in Alice didn't seem like such a bad idea. "He deserves better than the crap I pulled on him today."
"You didn't do anything wrong."
Had she not been in the house when I copped a hissy fit and essentially forced Edward to be affectionate with me?
"I broke my promise to him less than twenty-four hours after making it. I told him I was accepting of his… conditions. And then I go and pressure him to give me more than he was comfortable giving me."
"Trust me, he wanted to. He's just feeling conflicted because he did. He thinks he's encouraging you to be something you're not. Something he thinks you'll regret being later."
I was already regretting it. Being a horny teenager sucked. It was also very unbecoming. And Edward thought he was driven by instincts.
"He doesn't have to worry about that," I said. Alice raised her eyebrows at me. I assumed she wanted me to elaborate. "I'm done being that person. I'm done acting foolish, throwing myself at him. If he never wants to touch me again… that's fine."
"His misplaced propriety isn't the problem. Well, it isn't the only problem."
"I know. He's also worried about his self-control. And I get that! But I think he's stronger than he thinks he is. He's just so protective of me, because he sees me as this frail little human, that he isn't willing to put any faith in himself."
She sighed as she put her arm around me. "I think you should have a chat with Edward about some stuff."
"I have talked with him about it."
"You should have another one."
I honestly didn't see the point. We would just end up going around in circles. But she was just trying to be helpful, so I left all of that unsaid.
"Thanks," is what I said instead.
She gave my shoulders a gentle squeeze, and then she was back to her bubbly self.
"Your dinner is ready! And then after that, I want to play dress-up with you again!" She stood, grabbed my hands, pulled me up to join her, and then she dragged me out of the room. "I hear you're going to prom!"
I groaned. "If I go, it will be as a spectator."
"Spectators need to look nice, too! I have the perfect dress for you! And I'll do your hair and makeup and—"
We were halfway down the stairs when I heard his voice.
She didn't even hesitate in her strides as we passed him. She just huffed and continued to pull me along with her. "You've monopolized all of her time since she's been here, Edward. This is her last weekend here. I get her tonight! Go chase grizzlies with Emmett."
I startled hard at that. My feet struggled to keep up with her momentum.
"Don't worry," she said – she obviously caught the meaning behind my concerned stumble, "it would be like you chasing after a kitten."
I glanced behind me. Edward was following. He was both scowling and smirking.
Dinner, of course, was perfect. Edward and Alice joined me – not in eating, naturally – while Esme puttered about the kitchen. She wore a slight smile the entire time.
I only gave Alice my partial attention as she chattered on about makeup and clothes. I picked up enough to feel dread about the evening, though. Apparently, the last time she had 'played' with me, she had scaled her talents back considerably. Tonight, I wasn't going to fair so lucky.
Edward protested a few times on my behalf, but Alice just blew him off. Their bantering seemed to make Esme's smile grow a little wider.
As soon as I was done eating – and I mean as soon as – Alice jumped from her seat and announced, "Say goodbye, Edward! She's mine for the next three hours!"
Edward let out a little growl in response. Alice just laughed.
"Can I have a moment to say goodbye to him properly, at least?" I asked.
She smiled back at me. "Yeah, sure. I'll be up in my room waiting." Then she turned and faced Edward. "But I'm watching your decisions! Don't try anything! I won't give up so easily this time."
When she left the room, so did Esme.
"I'll take you to Canada, if need be. Just say the word."
I laughed as I shook my head. "No, it's fine. Alice is fun." I heard a delighted squeal from upstairs. "You're welcome," I said to the ceiling.
"I won't be gone long," he whispered as he gathered me into his arms. "I'm not going with Emmett. Rosalie is. I'm staying nearby with Jasper." He added seconds later, in a slightly louder volume of voice, "Behave, Alice."
He sighed a moment after that. I assumed it was in response to whatever Alice had said. Then he pulled back and raked his hand into my hair. "I will make this up to you, I promise."
My heart shuddered into a faster rhythm. It was that kind of promise that had triggered my inexcusable behavior earlier.
"What's wrong?" he asked. His expression turned into a worried scowl.
"Nothing," I lied. "It's just, you don't need to make anything up to me. Alice and I get along. We'll be fine. Go. Have fun."
He quirked an eyebrow at me. He didn't seem to be disbelieving of what I had said, but instead was amused. Inside my head, I replayed what I had just babbled.
"Is that not the right term? Isn't hunting a fun activity?"
"It can be. As much as eating is for you." He smiled briefly, but it dropped almost as quickly as it had shown itself. "Thank you. I shall."
And then he leaned in and kissed me.
It was perfect. Too perfect. How was I supposed to control my teenage hormones when he lured me like that?
It took me years to open my eyes again after I felt his lips leave mine. When I finally did, he was smiling at me.
"Three hours." I could tell that he was speaking to Alice, even though his attention remained on me. His tone was a little curt.
He rolled his eyes towards the ceiling, then he dropped his hand from my face and left. I just stood there, stuck on stupid… until Alice grabbed me by the arm and started dragging me towards the stairs.
"C'mon!" she chirped. "We don't have much time!"
I looked ridiculous. Like I was trying to be a fashion model but had failed miserably in the attempt.
But Alice was happy, at least. Mercifully, she avoided the subject of Edward and sex for the entire time she tortured me. Instead, she regaled me with story after story of her high school days.
She could not have been more obvious. Every tale ended with: That is a great memory. Or: I am so glad I did that.
She wanted me to go to prom. Not with her, but just, in general, she didn't want me to miss out on it.
"Alice," I sighed, "dances to the uncoordinated are like heights to the Acrophobic."
She grinned back at me. "Edward is a great dancer."
That didn't surprise me. He was great at everything. He also had the grace of a dancer. But, then again, so did all the Cullens. It was probably a vampire thing.
"That's because he's not uncoordinated," I said in response.
She laughed at that. She knew we were now both playing the game she had started.
"Being uncoordinated doesn't matter so much, when you have a good partner."
"Nobody wants to partner up with the uncoordinated."
"Except for the partners that are hoping to teach the uncoordinated."
Her smile grew huge when my heart stuttered. Was she saying what it sounded like she was saying? Edward wanted to take me to the prom? I mean, I knew she wanted Edward to take me, but did he want to take me?
"Sometimes, uncoordinated people can't be taught."
She scoffed a little. Her smile remained. "Maybe some teachers aren't as good as others."
"Maybe the uncoordinated aren't very good learners."
She laughed again. "Or, maybe, the uncoordinated are just being stubborn."
That got a chuckle out of me. "Maybe," I said.
I think she thought that she'd won our game. She nodded once, absolutely. Then her eyes sort of glazed over for a moment. I was just about to become concerned when she snapped out of it and smiled at me.
"Edward will be back soon. You should go change. It's bad luck for the man to see his date in her prom dress before the dance."
"I think you're thinking of brides and grooms and weddings."
The smile took over her face. I turned a thousand shades of red in response. And then I turned a thousand more.
"We have a little while before we have to worry about that one."
Wait. Shit. Had Alice seen something in a vision? Or was she just messing with me?
"Hurry up," she said. She helped me to my feet – yanked me to them, more accurately – and then she nudged me towards the door.
No. Wait. I wanted to know.
No, I didn't.
Yes, I did.
I spun around three times in my confusion. Alice laughed hard at that.
"The bathroom's that way." She pointed for emphasis.
I didn't think there would be enough time, so I resigned myself to the fact that I wasn't going to know for sure if she was messing with me or not. I grabbed my clothes from her outstretched hand and ran to the bathroom.
Alice wasn't in her room when I went to go return the dress, so I placed it gently on her bed. Then I headed for Edward's room.
That was why she wasn't in her room. She was in his. And so was he. She grinned at me when I entered. He looked serious.
"I can… go away… if you guys want to have a private conversation… or something." I stammered over my words because it seemed like I was interrupting something.
"We're done," Alice said. She started humming quietly to herself as she danced out of the room.
Edward softened a little. "I'm sorry if she made you uncomfortable."
"She didn't. We had a good time." His eyes narrowed. "What? I'm telling the truth."
He smirked as he shook his head. Then he lowered himself onto the edge of the bed. I joined him.
"Did you have a good time?" I asked.
"Yes. Jasper and I had a… good conversation."
He hesitated. But I didn't have any time to decipher why. He pulled me up against his side, and then, suddenly, he was kissing me.
Oh, God, was he kissing me. And then we were reclining. He was still careful where his hands wandered, but he seemed to be risking a little advancement. A little further here. A little closer there.
My body exploded. I was engulfed in flames. His cool skin felt perfect against the heat.
Whatever the hell Jasper had said to him, I was thankful for it.
I grabbed at him desperately. Encouragingly. I was not going to push him. I would let him take it as far as felt he could.
Which turned out to be farther than we had ever taken things before.
He tilted his head, offering himself to me. My lips were on his neck within a second.
I kissed, nibbled, licked, sucked. Eagerly. Frantically. And then I bit.
He growled, low in his throat, pulling me tighter to him as he did.
I could… feel him. My head spun. But it came crashing back to reality when all contact was suddenly removed.
Edward had pushed away from me. His eyes were… angry.
"I have no control!"
What happened? I was fine. He was nowhere near my neck. Nowhere near killing me.
The ability to articulate words was lost. I said the first ones that came into my head. "What's wrong?"
He just scoffed, then he pulled himself into a sitting position, to the edge of the bed. I clamored up behind him and wrapped my arms around his neck.
"I'm sorry. I thought you wanted me to."
He was silent for several long seconds.
"There is something I need to tend to. Please excuse me."
He gently removed my arms from around him, stood, marched over to his closet, and then ripped a pair of slacks from off a hanger. He did this with such force, the plastic shattered, raining the pieces of it onto the floor.
He ignored it as he stormed out the door and down the hall.
I dropped my face into my hands for a few moments, frustrated, then I moved to pick up the mess. Just as I was finishing, Edward walked back into the room.
"Bella, you don't have to do that. Please…" His tone was calmer. Sweeter. I didn't care.
"Fine! You want to do it? Here!" I threw the pieces up into the air. Before they could even hit the floor, I spun around and stomped over to the window wall.
I dropped myself down near the edge, cross-legged. Then I just fumed as I stared out at the dark forest.
He joined me less than a minute later.
"You have every right to be angry with me."
"Thanks for your permission," I snapped. "But here's the problem… I'm not angry with you for the reason you think I should be angry with for!"
Emmett laughed from somewhere downstairs. Great.
"Emmett, I swear, don't start," I said into the air. Then I asked Edward, "When did he get back?"
"A few minutes ago," he answered.
I threw the subject away. "I'm not exactly angry with you. I'm frustrated. That was… good. Really good. And then you go and make me feel guilty for thinking that."
Why did he have to be so damn moral?
"I'm sorry, Bella. It wasn't my intention to make you feel guilty."
"If you're going to torture yourself every time you— that happens, then we may as well not do it at all! I don't want to be the reason why that look is on your face."
"You're not the reason. I am."
Ugh! Frustrating! Man!
"Okay, then, answer me this… why? Exactly why are you torturing yourself? Is it because you think you've wronged me somehow?"
He sounded miserable. It softened me a little.
"You didn't wrong me, Edward. I liked it. Or I did until you bolted from the room."
"This was not supposed to be about me."
Wait. What? That was his problem? He wanted to be there for me, but ignore his own wants and needs?
"To you. To me, it's very much about you. It's about us. I can wait until you acclimate. I can accept that we'll have limitations on how far we take things. But I refuse to compromise on that. If I get to… feel good, then so do you!"
His response was nonverbal. Apparently, we were done talking.
He moved slowly – not just slow for him, but slow – as he scooped me up and took me back to his bed. His eyes remained on mine the entire time… until he leaned in and kissed me. It was the same as before – that same level of intensity – except for when his hands started roaming.
They were everywhere. Everywhere. They didn't stop at invisible, morally determined boundary lines this time.
I didn't care that my heart was pounding erratically. I didn't care that I couldn't breathe. I didn't care that every inch of my body was on fire.
Okay, I cared, but because I liked that it was.
If I had ever doubted Edward's love for me, I didn't in that moment.
Every touch was perfect. Every caress took me to new heights.
Clothes were never removed. His hands never even went inside them. It was the most indecent level of propriety ever exhibited.
I think it made him nervous when I arched my back and gasped, because his movements slowed, but he caught on quick enough. And then I collapsed in an extinguished puddle of liquid mess.
We were silent for three eternities as we held each other. I was way too content to speak.
"Did I please you?"
Yeah, still couldn't talk. "Hmmm."
He chuckled, and it made me smile. Goofily. It stayed with me for centuries.
"Sleep now, my love. I know you're tired."
I hummed again, then did as he suggested.
To be continued…
Again, thank you for the wonderful reviews.
Brooke: It would be hard for me to pick a favorite chapter. Every chapter has scenes I adore. But if I had to choose, I'd say, probably, eleven, twenty-eight, twenty-nine, and thirty-five (the epilogue). Chapter eleven because I felt it was an important aspect that had not truly been explored in the books/movies. Twenty-eight for a rather large scene that is just beyond sweet; I thoroughly enjoyed writing it. Twenty-nine for its angst. And thirty-five for… well, the emotions involved, for one, and because I got to write a few scenes I very much wanted to tackle.
You know what's fun? Having a theater all to yourself when watching a movie you love and have memorized. You can quote your fave lines and sing along with the songs without annoying people. The theater people don't even look at my tickets anymore. They just point down the hall and say: Eclipse is still in theater fifteen.
This movie cannot come out on DVD fast enough.
Okay, I'm done babbling. Please review, and MTLBYAKY