Chapter Seven: Changes

“So, are you sure you don’t want to come with us?” Kate asked, looking at Bella with hopeful eyes, “We won’t be back for about three days and I’m going to miss you. I really wish you would come.”

Bella smiled but shook her head. “You need some time with your sisters and I would just be in the way. Besides, I could use some time on my own to figure some things out.”

At those words Kate flicked a glance at me, and her thoughts rolled around the idea of Bella and I as a couple. She smiled slyly at me and sent a wink in my direction. “I’ll miss you, but you may be right. I think some time alone is just what the doctor ordered.”

“I wish you luck,” Bella said with a smile, “take down a couple of bears for me, alright?” Kate just laughed and hugged Bella tight.

I was looking forward to having the house just to ourselves. I was hoping that Bella would finally talk to me about the events of a week before. Not just the hunter she almost killed, but the words she had almost said. When I had brought it up later that day, she had brushed it off, saying that it hadn’t been important. That brush off had made me decide not to play her song for her. I wasn’t sure how she would take it. I didn’t have that hesitancy anymore though; I was planning to whisk her off to the music room the minute our cousins were out the door. I was hoping that having a mostly empty house would make Bella more receptive to my romantic overtures.

Kate came over and gave me a tight hug. “Treat her good, okay? I want to keep her around for awhile.”

“Me too,” I whispered in her ear, squeezing her tight before releasing her. She beamed at me and squeezed my hand before bounding out the door.

Irina didn’t stop in front of me, she just followed her sister out the door, her thoughts haughty. I just shook my head. Irina had followed Tanya’s lead in her dislike of Bella and in her anger with me. Irina felt that I had mistreated Tanya by leading her on and then parading Bella in front of her face. I had tried to explain the truth to her, but I had long since given up. Tanya of course, had to share a parting shot before leaving the house.

“Do watch out for Bella,” she said, with a look of mock concern in Bella’s direction, “we wouldn’t want to lose any members of the neighboring towns, would we?”

“That was uncalled for, hija,” Carmen said sharply, coming up behind Tanya. “You should apologize to Bella. We were all young once and made mistakes. At least she was able to stop herself before she hurt someone.”

Tanya threw Bella a smirk. “I’m sorry, Bella. Would that we could all learn from your self-control. After all, loss of self-control is why you are here with us, isn’t it?”

Before Carmen could say anything else, Tanya flew out of the house, chasing after her sisters. “I’m sorry for her hurtful words,” Carmen said sadly to Bella, “she doesn’t like competition, and you are such a pretty girl.” She shook her head and then left the house, following the others out.

“You all have a good time,” Eleazar said, smiling at us, “It will do you good to have some time alone.” He kissed Bella’s cheek, smiled at me, and then headed out after his wife and adopted children.

Bella turned on me, her eyebrows knitted in confusion. “Why does everyone keep mentioning us having time alone? Are Alice and Jasper going somewhere too?”

I shook my head and laughed, sliding my arm around her shoulders. “No. I think they all mean time without Tanya. I think everyone knows how difficult things have been for you lately. Carmen came up with this long hunting trip to give you a break.”

She beamed up at me. “That was really nice of them. So, do you have any plans for us?”

Us. That one word made my heart soar with anticipation. I looked down into her ruddy red-orange eyes and felt my breath catch in my throat at the promises in their depths. She looked so beautiful that if my heart had still beat, it would have stopped. “Well, I do have a few ideas,” I admitted, leading her toward the music room.

“Oh? Anything special?” she asked eagerly.

“A few things, but one very special surprise to start with,” I said mysteriously.

Bella laughed, “Oh, really? A surprise? Will I like it?”

“I genuinely hope so,” I said, opening the door to my favorite room in the house. “Now, come sit in this window seat and listen. Do you think you can do that?”

Her eyes were curious, but she nodded. “You know, I seem to remember Alice saying something about you playing the piano. I guess I’ve just discovered where you disappear to everyday.”

“You may have heard me playing lately and not even realized it was me,” I teased, “but I have been working on something special and I want you to be the first to hear it.”

Bella settled against the window, her posture expectant as she leaned toward me, her eyes filled with excitement. When I was sure that I had her full attention, I turned to the piano and began to play. The music began soft and sweet, like a lullaby. Slowly, very slowly, it transformed into something much more rich. As I played, I could see Bella the way she had been on the mountain during our first afternoon together, all shimmery and smiles. I saw her beam as she let me pull her into my arms. I saw her hair spread about her as we made love on a feather bed. The last, of course, was a daydream and not a memory, but that didn’t change how real it felt. The music just took me away, into all of my dreams and fantasies, hopes and desires. It was easily the best piece I had ever written.

“You wrote this?” she asked breathlessly the moment the last notes faded from the room.

I turned toward her, my chest tight with anxiety. I wanted her to like the song. No. To love it. I had written the song for her, inspired by her and with dreams of her playing in my head. If she didn’t like it... I would be heartbroken. “Yes,” I said simply, thinking that I would tell her of her role in it after she told me what she thought.

“Edward... it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard. How did you come up with it?” she asked, leaving the window seat and coming to sit beside me as though she couldn’t bear to be away from me for a moment longer. Of course, that was what I wanted to think so it most likely wasn’t the truth.

“Honestly?” I said with a soft smile, “It was all you.”

Her eyes grew wide and she brought a hand to her mouth, covering a gasp of surprise. “Me? How could I inspire such a... a...” she paused, trying to find the right word, “such a masterpiece?”

I laughed lightly and leaned forward, brushing my fingers against her alabaster face. “Because you, my dear, are a masterpiece,” I told her honestly. “Every moment I have spent with you has inspired that song. My heart just couldn’t hold the beauty and it spilled out into that composition.”

She flicked her eyes up to mine, a stronger, deeper emotion shining in them. Her hand shook as she dropped it into her lap, but her eyes didn’t leave mine. “What are you saying, Edward?”

She was pushing me for the words that I had been holding in, and I knew that I couldn’t hold them in much longer. Instead of blurting it out and embarrassing both of us, I held out my hands to her, and she willingly placed hers in mine. “Let’s go somewhere more private,” I suggested, “I don’t really want this conversation overheard by prying ears.”

Bella rolled her eyes. “Alice has already seen how it plays out anyway. What’s the point?”

I laughed and pulled her to her feet, bringing her just inches away from my body. “She is kind of meddlesome. If she thinks things aren’t going exactly right, she will interfere,” I warned her. “If we can get some distance between us, she might have a more difficult time interfering.”

Bella smiled at me, a perfect trust in her red-orange eyes. “Okay, you lead and I’ll follow.”

Half an hour later, Bella and I reached the summit of the mountain and I led her into the little snow covered meadow where we had spent our first afternoon together. It felt like a good place to be, the right place to be to have this conversation. I didn’t really know if Bella was emotionally stable enough yet to discuss a possible future together, but I couldn’t wait another six to eight months. I wanted to be with her now, and I would take it as slowly as I needed to. I had three days, after all, and nowhere in the world I would rather be.

“So, do you think this is far enough away from the house?” Bella teased as soon as we walked into the clearing, “because I think another half hour run would be more beneficial.”

I laughed, pulling her into my arms once again. I buried my face in her soft and fragrant hair. It was so beautiful, the color of mahogany. I absolutely loved touching it. “This should be fine,” I whispered in her ear, “besides, I have you right where I want you.”

“Oh?” she asked saucily, pulling back and looking me in the eye, “and exactly where would that be? Alaska? You’ve had me here for months, remember?”

“No, Bella,” I said seriously, “I meant here in my arms.”

Her eyes grew soft and so did her body. She practically melted in my arms at my words. It was a good sign that she returned my feelings. “So, you have me here, what do you plan to do with me now?” she asked, all traces of playfulness gone and replaced with something tender.

I moved a hand to her face, cupping her cheek in my palm. “For starters, I want to know what you are thinking at this very moment, because I don’t think I’ve ever been happier and I need to know if we are on the same page.”

A small smile played over her lips as she spoke. “Edward, I never thought I would find happiness in this new life, especially with you. The thing is, I don’t think I could be happier. I’m just so worried that it’s all going to disappear and you will have been a dream.”

“I’m not a dream,” I promised, stroking her cheek with my thumb, “and I’m not going anywhere.”

Her perfect pink lips parted, a look of wonder in her eyes. “I’ve been hoping for this for so long. Ever since that first day that we came up here to the mountain. I just never thought that you would feel the same way about me. I couldn’t even let myself dream it.”

“Bella,” I whispered, my fingers brushing her lips, “I want to try something. Will you stay very still and let me try?” Her mouth formed a curious ‘o’ but she nodded. “Good, now just stay perfectly still.”

“Edward, you look so hungry,” she whispered, caressing the hollows under my eyes eyes and my cheekbones, as though checking for the normal signs of hunger and not finding them.

“What?” I asked, unsure of what she meant.

“Your eyes... it looks like you want to swallow me up. I don’t understand,” she said and leaned slightly away from me, the first stirrings of confusion clouding her pretty face.

I had a sudden realization that she could see my desire, could sense it. It was with that realization that another one came hot on its heels. “Bella, have you ever been in a relationship before?” I asked curiously, holding her at arms length so that I could look into her eyes.

She shook her head. “I’ve never even been on a date,” she said seriously, “why?”

That was it. She didn’t recognize desire because she had never had the opportunity to see it in anyone before. I decided to go with a truth that would be easier to explain. “Bella, the hunger that you see? It means that I’m attracted to you, that I desire you. Do you understand?”

A flicker of unease passed through her eyes, and I could sense that she was going to flee at any moment. Instead of holding her still, I dropped my arms, allowing her to move away if that was what she needed. I wasn’t going to rush this, no matter how long it took.

“Edward, I...” she began, her voice as shaky as her hands, “I don’t know if I can do this. I just feel... I feel like I’m going to fly apart at the seams. I don’t understand all these feelings.”

“I’m not going to push you,” I said gently, holding my hands in front of me so that she could see them. I knew how difficult this must be for her, especially since her newborn senses were still a little out of control. “I can wait for however long you need me to. When you feel ready, you can come back to me, okay?”

Bella nodded and I watched her take a deep breath, trying to ground herself and her emotions. I could tell that she wanted this, to have a physical relationship with me as well as an emotional one. The problem was that her emotions were so out of control that it was hard for her to focus on her wants when her body was so certain of its needs. I knew that I would wait if I had to, but I really believed that she could pull herself together enough to give herself what she wanted. I was just glad that what she wanted was me.

I watched as she took deep even breaths, closing her eyes in an attempt to shut out everything else and focus on what was at hand. It seemed like I watched her for hours, but I’m certain that it was not even fifteen minutes before her eyes opened again and focused on me. She took one step toward me and then another, her smile growing with every step. By the time she was back in my arms, a full blown grin spread across her face. “That wasn’t so hard,” she said, obviously proud of herself, “I think I can do this.”

“Good,” I said seriously, “because I’m going to try to kiss you now and I’d like it if you could stay still for a moment.”

Her body shuddered in my arms, and she dropped her eyes from mine in her nervousness. “Why would you want to do that?” she asked, her voice shaky again.

I chucked her under the chin, forcing her to look back up into my eyes. “I want to do it, because I think we will both enjoy it,” I told her with a small smile, “and because I’ve been wanting to kiss you for months.”

Bella wet her lips nervously, her pale pink tongue sliding over the satin perfection of her lips. I couldn’t stop what happened next. A groan rolled through my chest at the sight of her tongue and I slid one hand to the back of her neck holding her in place. “Bella...” I groaned, all of the desire I felt spilling into my voice.

Her body tensed, but she didn’t move away. She just uttered one word: “Please.”

“Yes,” I breathed, my mouth now just inches away from her lips, “yes...”

I couldn’t wait a moment longer. My lips descended on hers, touching as gently as I could manage. I was terrified of scaring her away, so I had to make the moment as perfect as possible. I moved my lips tenderly over hers, slow and filled with all the love inside of me. I wanted more, wanted to give her more, but I forced myself to keep my kiss tender and loving, saving the passion for when she was more comfortable.

I was about to pull away when I felt her hands unlatch themselves from around my waist and make their way tentatively up my chest. They locked around my neck and pulled her body tighter and closer to mine. I bit back a groan, but clutched her waist tightly. I was sure she could feel the evidence of my desire, but when she didn’t pull away, I figured she didn’t care.

Finally, regretfully, I pulled away. It was gratifying to see the way she swayed toward me, as though she wasn’t ready to relinquish the feeling of the kiss. I could feel inside of me the burning need to just back her up against a tree and take her. In less than a second I could have us both naked and moaning in each other's arms. I realized how badly I wanted that, how badly I wanted her. It was as though all of my careful plans for courtship and marriage were just a buffer I had concocted against Tanya’s advances. I wanted nothing more than to feel Bella’s silky skin against my own. Marriage be damned.

Bella looked up into my eyes and gasped. “You still want me?” she asked, as though this surprised her.

I pulled her tight against me again, letting her feel how badly I wanted her. “You say that like it’s a shock,” I teased, pressing kisses along her throat.

“But... that kiss...” she murmured, his voice a soft sigh as I continued kissing every bit of her that I could reach.

“What about it?” I asked, running my tongue along the shape of her ear.

“It was so restrained, so soft. I just thought you were giving me what I wanted,” she admitted.

I paused in the act of running my fingers up under the hem of her shirt. “What is it that you want?” I asked, more curious about that than I had ever been about anything else.

She paused and I felt as though my entire world was silent, still, waiting for the words that I needed to hear so desperately. “You, Edward. All I want is you,” she whispered, dropping her head into my shoulder. “For months you have been all I’ve wanted. Even when I felt I was supposed to be angry with you for taking me away from the life I knew. Even then I took notice of how beautiful you were and how much I wanted to be around you.”

“Why didn’t you say anything?” I whispered hoarsely, bringing her back against my chest, but this time so that I could hold her and nothing more. “I was going crazy thinking that you blamed me, that you hated me. Why didn’t you say something?”

I heard tears in her voice when she was finally able to speak again, but I felt they were tears of joy and longing, not to sadness. “I couldn’t say anything. You were such a beautiful dream that I couldn’t imagine it actually coming true.”

I dropped my forehead to hers. “I felt exactly the same way. I’ve been so scared that if I told you how I felt, I might scare you off. I couldn’t bare to lose the closeness we were gaining by telling you how desperately I wanted to be with you in every way,” I said, my voice thick and hoarse with an emotion more overwhelming than I had ever felt. If I had thought I loved her before, it was nothing to how I was feeling now.

“You don’t have to be scared,” she whispered, bringing a hand up to stroke the side of my face with gentle fingers, “I want you as badly as you want me... maybe more.”

I doubted that, but I wasn’t going to say anything. If she thought that her wants and desires exceeded my own, I would let her believe it. Knowing how badly I loved, wanted and desired her... well, it was just impossible. “I’m just afraid of taking advantage of you. Your actions are still governed by your emotions and I don’t want to make you do something that you will regret,” I whispered, pressing a soft kiss to her lips.

Bella pulled back, a focused look in her eyes. “I want to be with you. You aren’t taking advantage of me, I promise,” she said. She then leaned up on her tip toes and pressed her lips forcefully against mine.

This wasn’t the same kind of kiss as the first one: it was as different as day and night. She was in control this time, and it was her desires that drove the pace. I groaned into her mouth and moved my hand to the back of her neck, crushing her silky hair between my hand and her skin. Her lips moved over mine, searching, hungry. I decided to give her what she wanted. I parted her lips and slipped my tongue inside her mouth. Damn, she tasted good. Like honey and wildflowers and sunshine. The best part was that she was all mine, totally and completely mine.

She fisted her hands in my shirt, almost tearing the soft fabric of the tee-shirt in her need to get closer to me. I obliged eagerly, grinding my body against hers with a need that I couldn’t deny. She moaned, a delicious sound that sent shivers through my body. It meant she was enjoying this as much as I was. I took it as a good sign and decided to take it a step further. I needed to touch her bare skin, to feel the satin texture under my fingers.

Slowly, I moved my free hand from her back down to her waist. The soft blue wool sweater she was wearing was thin and it offered no resistance to my searching fingers. I quickly found the hemline and moved my fingers up and under, splaying my hand against the small of her back. It was as I knew it would be, smooth and perfect skin. I moved my fingers around in tiny circles, mimicking the movements my tongue was tracing around her own.

It was too much for her, she gasped and pulled away from me, her eyes wild with so many emotions that I couldn’t name them all. “Wait,” she whispered, putting her hands on my shoulders to keep me away.

I was breathing hard, so aroused that I was nearly out of my mind. “Bella? Did I do something wrong?” I asked, forcibly bringing myself back down to earth. It was hard with a girl as perfect as Bella in my arms.

“I can’t... it’s just too much,” she whispered hoarsely, her breathing just as hard as mine.

I stopped breathing entirely at those words. She couldn’t possibly meant what I thought she did. “I’m sorry if I moved too fast,” I said softly, stepping back away from her to give her space, “I didn’t mean to upset you.”

Bella stepped toward me, refusing to let me walk away. “You don’t understand,” she said, a light laugh in her breathy voice. “If we keep going I’m not going to want to stop.”

I laughed, pulling her back into my arms, her head resting against my chest. “I do understand,” I said softly, “These emotions are so strong that they are hard to contain.”

“I’ve never been kissed before, I didn’t realize the emotions could be so overwhelming,” she sighed, burying her face in my shoulder. I smiled down at her, my love for her growing with her admission.

“It was my first kiss as well,” I admitted.

Bella brought her head up, her eyes accusing. “I’ve seen Tanya kiss you. You don’t have to lie to me.”

I chuckled. “Tanya may kiss me, but did you see me kiss her back? Have you ever seen me seek her out for a kiss?”

Bella thought about that. “I’m not sure what the difference is,” she admitted.

I put a hand to her cheek, my thumb stroking her bottom lip with slow and sensuous movements. “I’m not interested in Tanya. I’ve never shared, nor have I ever wanted to share, an afternoon of this sort with anyone but you.” I leaned down and pressed the softest of all soft kisses to her lips, letting mine linger for just a moment on hers. When I pulled away I saw that her face had crumpled, and her lips were quivering.

“Edward...” she whispered tearfully, her voice full of so much emotion that it speared my long dormant heart.

“I’m sorry, I upset you again, didn’t I?” I cursed myself, frustrated that I couldn’t do anything right by Bella. If I were smart I would leave her and let her be happy, but I didn’t think I was strong enough to do that. I loved her, but I needed her, too.

Bella dropped her head, her forehead resting on my shoulder yet again. Not for the first time, I thought about how perfect she fit me in every way. Her head just nestled so perfectly against me. “You didn’t upset me,” she whispered, her voice muffled by my shoulder.

“What about the tears? You look upset,” I said softly, stroking her back in what I hoped was a soothing and calming manner.

“I’m just overwhelmed,” she told me, turning her head slightly so that she could look up at me and still lean on me.

“We can go back to the house, we don’t have to talk about all of this now...” I began, but Bella’s head shot up, her eyes wide with fear.

“No! If we go back now I’ll never get my courage up again,” she said desperately, her hands grasping my shirt again, as if scared that I would walk away from her.

“Get your courage up for what?” I asked, confused by her words. I didn’t think she and I were quite on the same page, yet again. I wondered if it would always be this way between us, that I would never really understand her because I couldn’t hear her thoughts. I hated that; I wanted us to be close and to be able to share everything. I was worried that maybe I had pushed things too far too fast, thereby ruining everything. Of course, Bella surprised me yet again.

“Just stop talking,” she muttered, throwing herself at me again.

In that action I knew exactly where her thoughts had been going. Earlier, when she said that she wouldn’t be able to stop, I had assumed she wanted to stop to preserve her chastity. I hadn’t realized that she was just taking the time to mentally prepare herself to actually follow up on her feelings of desire. She wanted all of me and I wanted to give it to her.

Her lips were firm and strong, desperate for everything I could give her and more. I traced her mouth with the tip of my tongue, teasing and tempting her. Her growl of need and frustration was my reward. Smiling I pulled her closer, slipping my tongue into her mouth. It was obviously what she had wanted because she practically purred with satisfaction. Suddenly, I felt the need to be closer to her, to feel her against and around me. I pulled away from her, long enough to whisper: “Forgive me,” and then I slipped my hands down her back to her bottom, hitching her legs up off the ground and wrapping them around my waist. Bella gasped, but when she tightened her legs and brought me even closer, I knew this was going to happen and I didn’t have the strength to stop it.

I strode across the clearing, carrying her to a specific destination. When we crashed into the tree, we both laughed breathily into each others mouths. I pressed her into the tree, grinding my arousal into her welcoming softness. Bella’s hands dug into my hair as my mouth left hers, moving down her neck with soft kisses and careful scrapings of my teeth against her sensitive skin. “Edward...” she moaned, her head falling to the side to give me better access.

I didn’t respond, I was much too busy lavishing attention to every inch of her exposed skin. When my lips reached the neck of her sweater, I thanked Alice for putting Bella in a soft and stretchy wool. Ever so gently, I drew the material down, exposing the top of her left breast. I dropped a kiss to the skin and felt Bella shudder in my arms. Leaning against a tree wasn’t enough. I picked her up again and moved us to the ground. I didn’t care about the snow and from the way Bella was kissing me again, I didn’t think she cared much either.

It was so much more dangerous having her in a supine position. She wrapped her arms around my waist, pulling me against her so that she could grind herself against me. I groaned into her mouth and rolled us over, letting her be on top so that she could have better access and give her a better opportunity to get what she wanted from me.

“I want you,” she whispered against my lips, “I want this...”

I was about to respond when I heard a noise nearby. I quickly rolled us to our sides and sat up, my ears practically twitching as I listened to the sound of someone approaching.“Bella, get up,” I said quickly, the sensual mood of the afternoon quickly dissipating.

“But what...?” she asked, her eyes growing fearful at my forceful tone. I stood up, grabbed her hand and pulled her to her feet. She didn’t have to wait long to discover what I already knew. We had company and they didn’t exactly have good news for us.

“Edward, Bella!” Alice cried as she came flying into our view. It was obvious from the distressed look in her eyes that she hadn’t wasted a moment in coming after us once she had had her vision. “I’m so sorry. I know how much you wanted time alone, but this can’t wait!”

“Alice, what is it?” Bella asked, concern for her friend overriding any irritation that she might have felt at having our time together interrupted.

“It’s Charlie...” Alice said, looking at me with wide and frightened eyes, “He’s in trouble.”

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