Like I said in my summary, this is my first attempt at a lemon. It won Judges Choice, so I hope you enjoy.
Thanks to my betas, BookGeek80 and Brandy_D.
I do not own any of these characters, or the original plot to the Twilight Series. Everything publicly recognizable belongs to their owners. I am doing this only for the pleasure I gain from writing and I am not associated with anyone or anything to do with the Twilight Series. There is no financial benefit, whatsoever, though I may wish there were.
Thanks to MyVampFiction for voting this Judge's Choice. And thanks to RobMusement for rec'ing this little one shot.
Trapped in my own personal hell, I sat in the cavernous room with the weight of everyone's eyes on me. It was the most uncomfortable feeling; I'd never liked being the center of attention. I knew it was part and parcel of this whole engagement party thing, but that didn't mean I had to like it.
My mom, Renee, stood a few feet to my left. Her husband of six years, Phil, was sitting to her left, his bulky frame awkward on the feminine slip-covered chair. He appeared comical in the petite seat.
Charlie, my dad, sat among the crowd, with his new wife, Sue, and her daughter, Leah. I'd known Sue and Leah since I'd first come to live with my dad five years ago. Sue's previous husband, Harry, died from a heart attack in March of my senior year. His son, Seth, followed only a few short months later—his life cut short like so many of the La Push boys on that dreadful day, all trying to defend me. I shook my head, trying to rid those thoughts and focus on the present, at the overwhelming situation at hand.
I scanned the crowd looking for my fiancé—that word still felt weird, spoken or not. Sure we had been together a few years, but the idea of me getting married was still a little odd. On my first scan, he was nowhere to be seen, but after a second look, I spotted him sitting in the center of the room, a huge grin plastered on his face.
Craig was my exact opposite, my real life foil; he loved this sort of thing. I tried to get his attention, tried to get him to join me in my gift-opening extravaganza, but he was engrossed in conversation with his petite blonde receptionist, Brittany—she was giggling and twirling her hair just a little too much.
As usual, he was paying too much attention to a woman that was obviously throwing herself at him. He didn't seem oblivious. In fact, he was clearly enjoying the attention and returning it... at a party celebrating our engagement. His blonde head bobbed in affirmation to a question I couldn't hear. The crinkles around the corners of his blue eyes were apparent even from this distance. Pain ripped through me. The red of her too low-cut, too short dress engulfed my entire vision until the color was all I could see. My mind clouded with rage that was almost impossible to repress or ignore.
I wasn't sure why I was surprised. It wasn't as if I was unaware of his extracurricular activities. I knew he'd had some girls on the side; I'd actually started as one. But foolishly, I'd thought all that behavior had stopped over the last few months; I'd foolishly allowed myself to think that I had been the one to tame him. Watching his actions from across the room, the sly glances, the gentle touches, indicated that this wasn't true. My anger welled up, threatening to boil over and overpower me.
Then rejection washed over me. I'd expected it, always known that I wasn't good enough for anyone. The life-changing, life-wrecking events five years prior had convinced me thoroughly that I was not good for anyone. The only man I'd ever loved had left me alone, scarred and broken, weeping in the middle of a forest.
That had been the true end of my life; I had never recovered. In college, when Craig had given me the slightest amount of attention, I threw myself into the relationship - he wasn't Edward, but he also wasn't someone I worried about losing, at least at first. In the beginning the relationship was purely physical, nothing more than a fling. After a little while, though, I gave him everything I had left, gathering the shattered parts of me together and offering them willingly. I hoped he could help reconstruct the broken down shell I had become.
"Bells, open this one next," Renee called out to me, breaking me from my reverie. "It's from Sue and Charlie."
Phil placed a large package covered in silver paper on the floor before me.
Upon ripping the bow and paper from the top of gift, I saw the brand name Kitchen-Aid written atop the cardboard box. I tore off the rest of the wrapping to display the item to the crowd and looked up, wearing a fake smile for the inevitable pictures.
While lights flashed and stars twinkled before my eyes, I searched the room in vain, trying to seek out Craig. He was nowhere to be seen, neither was Blondie. I was sure they had skulked off to some place private, maybe even the hotel room Craig and I were supposed to share tonight.
I turned my attention to my father.
"Um, thanks, Dad. Thanks, Sue. I love it. I'm sure Craig will, too. It'll be great for our house." I looked to my mom stiffly. "Mom?" I asked beckoning her closer with my finger. She obliged and I whispered to her. "I need to use the bathroom. I'll be right back."
"Okay, sweetheart," she said and turned to the crowd. "Bella's going to step away for a minute. She'll be right back."
As I excused myself to the bathroom and away from the family and friends who surrounded me, I wondered into what trouble I had gotten myself. Craig obviously didn't want to start a life with me. Well, not just me at least.
Making my way from the room, I felt someone pass by me and caught a scent which I had not smelled in more than five years. When my eyes met the man's beautiful golden ones, he breathed in, a nervous smile on his slightly ashamed face—it didn't detract from his beauty. I wasn't sure why he was there and in that moment, I didn't care; all that mattered was that he was near me. In order not to make a scene, I walked by without turning my head.
I wondered why neither of my parent's had noticed him but saw that they were engrossed in their significant others. Not even the Quileutes seemed to have noticed; I guessed his scent hadn't permeated the room yet.
"Meet me outside," I whispered as I looked away from his gaze. "I'll be by the gazebo in the back."
I knew he'd heard me and that he'd follow. He didn't love me—that had been made clear so long ago—but he had to feel something, some vestige of emotion had made him return at this moment.
I pulled the heels off my feet once I reached the grass, allowing the cool temperature to soothe away the day spent in painful stilettos. The Indian summer had left the air warm and unusually dry, and I wanted to enjoy what was left of it, especially in the dying sunlight. Twilight. I sat at a nearby wooden table, remembering a conversation that had happened under similar circumstances, looking toward the sky as the bittersweet memory engulfed me.
With my back to the pathway, I didn't notice his approach.
"Twilight," he said, his voice much more beautiful than my memories could have ever recreated. "An ending to another day."
Clearly, his thoughts had been in the same location as mine.
"Some things don't have to end," I sighed, echoing the words from that night. "Edward..." My voice sounded like I'd been crying, though I had already shed all of my tears over him.
"Bella," he said, and I felt an icy hand rest against the exposed skin of my neck. "I had to come tonight. I had to..." he trailed off, the backs of his fingers tracing a path to my cheek.
"What, Edward?" I asked, my breathe hitching slightly. "Had to what?"
He closed his eyes, removing his hand to pinch the bridge of his nose, a sure sign of his frustration at something. A few seconds into our conversation, and I'd already annoyed him. It must've been a new world record.
"Don't... Don't worry. I understand. You came to give an old… friend a goodbye."
"No," he said, his velvet voice sounding almost rough. "I didn't come to say goodbye. I came to say something that I've needed to say for years. I came to give you something that I've been meaning to give for years."
He pulled a clear heart-shaped crystal from his pocket. Its beauty reminded me of Edward in so many ways.
"Would you mind putting it on that silver bracelet you're wearing?" he asked sounding nervous.
"No, of course not. I'd love to wear it. It's absolutely beautiful." I held out my hand, and he gently placed it on the bracelet. Attaching the crystal was effortless for him, like so many things had been. Something on the bracelet caught his eye, a small carving of a wolf.
"What's this?" he asked, his eyes narrowing.
"Do you remember Jacob Black?" I replied. I fought back the deeply buried emotions that normally overwhelmed me whenever I thought his name.
"Well, he gave it to me when I graduated high school," I said. "He held a small party for me at First Beach and he gave it to me that night." I felt uncomfortable telling Edward the rest but it was necessary. "A few days later, Victoria attacked with some... new friends." His eyes grew wide. "Jacob and some of the other boys were killed trying to defend me."
"Oh, Bella," he breathed. "I'm so sorry. Do you know why she came after you?" He turned away. "How did Alice not see that?" he uttered quietly, more to himself than me.
"Yes," I answered. "Laurent had come to… check up on me... to see how easy it would be to get me. I was alone… in the meadow. He was going to… you know but, um, something stopped him. Right before he was killed, Laurent said that she was coming after me because she thought I was your mate. You took James from her and she wanted to reciprocate."
He was in front of me in an instant. "You will never know how sorry I am. How sorry I'll always be for having caused you such pain, and bringing these dangers into your life. My own weakness sickens me."
"Stop it, Edward," I said through gritted teeth. "You didn't do anything. These things just happen to me. It wasn't your fault, and you shouldn't shoulder the burden... Besides, it's over. James is gone. Laurent's gone. Victoria's gone. There's no one else to worry about."
"There's always something to worry about." The sorrow on his features was obvious. I wished I could reach up and smooth the lines from his face.
"So, what were you saying about this?" I asked holding my arm up to view the charm.
He smiled slightly, grabbing my arm and pulling it toward his face. He put my hand across his icy cheek. I shuddered from the contact; I'd dreamed of touching him since he'd left me. He placed his hand on the outside of mine and held me close to him as he spoke. "Well, since I can't give you-"
"Bella?" my mom's voice reverberated throughout the open grassy field. "Bella, where are you?"
I looked at Edward, willing him to continue. Nodding my head and raising my eyes, gesturing for him to continue. He just looked back at me, his eyes filled with the emotion that only a hundred years could give.
"There you are," my mom gasped. "I've been looking all over for you. You really need to get back inside." She turned to look at Edward. "Hello. Do you know Bella?" she asked.
I sighed, glad for once that my mother's flighty nature caused her to forget a face almost as soon as she saw it. Though given the intense circumstances under which she had met him, I would've thought she'd have remembered Edward.
"Yes, mom," I said, smiling at her. "He's an old friend from school."
Her eyebrows rose. Surely, she couldn't notice how young he looked in the dimming light.
"I know you," she said, her tone filling with acid. "You're that boy. That... Edward, right? The boy I met in Phoenix. The boy who broke Bella's heart and left her alone in the woods back in Forks."
"Mom-" I tried to interrupt her but she continued.
"You left her alone, suffering, almost catatonic and you have the nerve to show up here. Now?" She was practically screaming.
"I'll go now," Edward whispered. "It was wrong to come."
"You're damn right…"
"Mom," I said stopping her before she went too far. "It's fine. I'm glad he came; glad I got to say goodbye. Goodbye, Edward." I smiled, though I was sure it didn't reach my eyes.
He pulled his lips into a very thin line, nodded and said, "Goodbye, Bella. Congratulations." He walked further before calling out one last tidbit. "You are everything. You should be the light in a man's life; when you're gone, he shouldn't be able to see through the dark. Never allow anyone to treat you as second best."
Well, that was cryptic.
"Let's get you inside." My mom grabbed my shoulder and led me towards the hall once again. On the walk in, she muttered several expletives under her breath. All were about Edward; most were threats about how this would affect me.
As I waited for Craig, I packed my belongings into my case. I had thought about leaving him on more than one occasion, but being with him, being engaged to him, allowed me to fit. It gave me a purpose that I hadn't had since Edward left all those years ago.
Edward's re-appearance this evening had forced a hasty yet overdue re-evaluation. I had never felt for anyone as I had for Edward. Craig hadn't even come close. While I knew Edward didn't love me, I was no longer prepared to pretend to be in love with Craig.
I seethed at my own inability to be alone. It was that fact that had trapped me in a loveless relationship, but I was ready to remedy that situation.
By the time Craig turned up more than an hour later I was angry, but nowhere near as livid as I should have been. I had taken strength from Edward's words. That strength had allowed me to see the woman I could be, rather than the woman I'd become.
"Craig," I began, "we need to talk." I was standing in the doorway to the bedroom, looking at him sitting in one of the nondescript chairs.
"Okay." He stood and walked to me. "What's up?"
I snorted quietly. "If you don't know 'what's up,' then you seriously need to pay more attention. I'm not stupid. I know all about your indiscretions." He opened his mouth to talk. I shook my head and narrowed my eyes, effectively ending his attempt. I didn't care if he was going to distract me or flat out lie, I'd had enough. I was about to do something I never thought I'd have the strength to do.
"No, Craig. I've had enough. It's over." Did I really just say that?
"Over?" he asked. "What's over?"
"Us. We're over. I've had enough of standing around trying to be the perfect girlfriend, the perfect hostess, while I watch you go off with other women. I thought you'd stopped, but you haven't. You went somewhere with Cindy... or Tiffany… or whatever your flavor of the week's name is."
"Bells, it's not like that," he whined.
That's really masculine.
"Isn't it?" I countered.
"No, we were... um, discussing some upcoming projects at work."
"Really?" I asked incredulously. "You really expect me to believe that? C'mon, Craig, we both know that's not the truth."
"No, it really is."
"Enough," I said, my voice cold and calm. "I'm done. Craig, I don't love you anymore. I'm not sure I ever did. I'm pretty sure you never loved-"
"No, Bells, I love-"
"Give it up," I said. "Let's stop the bullshit right now. It's better in the long run. You get your whores; I get to keep my self-respect."
I walked to the phone in the living room of our suite. After picking up the receiver and placing it to my ear, I hit the main desk button. The concierge picked after the first ring.
"How may I help you?" a pleasant female voice rang over the line.
"I was wondering if you have any other rooms available. Preferably far from this one. I'd like a nicer one, too. Maybe one with a balcony."
"Is there a problem with your room, Miss Swan?" There was a note of concern in her words.
"Other than the man who is staying here being a complete ass? No, not at all." I allowed the venom to seep out in my voice. "I want your most expensive room. And, please charge it to Mr. Kimmel's card. It should be on file; it's the same that paid for this room."
"Uh... Okay, ma'am." I heard typing on the other end as I watched Craig saunter over to me. The swagger in his step annoyed me further; he obviously didn't care about our break-up, or he thought this wasn't real. It was. I'd finally woken up to reality. "Actually, ma'am, is Mr. Kimmel there? I need to speak with him before I can make the charge."
I held out the phone. "Give her the information."
He grasped the phone and pulled it up to his ear. After several affirmations, he read off his card information and handed the phone back to me. I didn't waste my breath thanking him.
"Hello? I'm back. Are we all settled?"
"Not yet," she answered. "You still have to decide what room you're going to stay in. We have a Penthouse suite on the eighteenth floor. There are only two rooms on that floor. The other's taken, but this should be nice for you."
"I'll take it. Just charge to the card. That'll be fine. Won't it, Mr. Kimmel?" I held up the phone so she could hear his reaction.
"Yes," he grumbled. I shot him a dirty look.
"Is that everything?" I asked the front desk clerk.
"Yes." Her voice was cool, clipped.
"Oh, and can you have a bellhop come and get my luggage for me? I will more than likely stay more than just tonight." I strived to sound pleasant.
"Of course, ma'am. He's on his way up right now."
I hung up the phone and turned to Craig.
"It's done. I'll move myself out of our place within the week."
The suite was enormous, overkill for ten people, let alone just me. Nevertheless, I had never experienced such luxury, so I was going to enjoy it.
After I had taken a hot bath, I dressed in the only pajamas I had brought with me. They were somewhat wasted on a night spent alone, and I felt sad and desperate dressed in the sheer sleepwear, as if I was waiting for something that would never come. As I was dozing off, a sharp rap came at my door.
I grabbed a complimentary robe and wrapped it around myself, trying to cover up my skimpy sleepwear, before sprinting to the door. I glanced through the peephole to see a pair of golden eyes looking back, his lips turned up in an apologetic smile.
What in the hell was he doing here?
I hesitated, dithering over whether I should open the door and let him in to my room. I was confused as to why he was here, though the how was obvious... Alice and her visions.
"Bella, please let me in," he gently said after I had been standing there a few seconds. "I know you're just on the other side of the door." The sound of something resting against the door piqued my interest. Upon checking peephole again, I found the view was obscured.
I sighed, and spoke. "Edward, I'm going to open the door now. Please stop leaning on it."
I watched his head pull back, and then opened the door. His perfection hit me just as it had at the hall. The only thing marring his loveliness was the anxious look plastered on his gorgeous face.
"Why are you here?" I asked. Then I noticed that my tone could have misconstrued as annoyance rather than confusion. "Not that I mind," I tacked on, though the hesitation did not sound convincing.
"Alice told me about you and your fiancé," he said. He sounded repentant, like a man asking for penance from a priest. "I fear I may have had something to do with that. Bella, if anything I said changed your mind about him... I'm sure you love him; you were engaged. I'd hate to be the catalyst to end a happy relationship, especially for you. I'm... I'm a terrible person for having—"
"Edward, what are you talking about?" I asked. "Yes, you made me see the light tonight. I didn't deserve the way he treated me, so the break-up was for the best. I don't think I ever loved him." I looked away, turning toward the dining table in the suite. Walking to the nearest chair I whispered, "I've only ever loved one man." I knew he would hear me. Part of me hoped for a reaction, but a much larger part was terrified that he would.
"Bella," he sighed. His cold hand rested on my shoulder, and I could feel the chill through the thin fabric. Moreover, the electricity that pulsed through the cotton as if it was a conductor was wonderful, familiar, home. "Stop, please."
And here came the inevitable reaction I had been dreading. Tears flowed down my cheeks, leaving salty trails at the corners of my mouth.
"No, Bella, no," he breathed, wiping the wet tracks from my cheeks. "You don't understand."
"What? What don't I understand?"
He sighed and looked away. "I lied to you, Bella."
I tensed, waiting for the rest of the words that would shatter my already fractured heart.
He grabbed me and pulled me into his chest.
"In the woods, I mean. When I said I didn't love you." I gasped, and he pulled me slightly closer. "I lied. I have always loved you, and that will never change."
"W-What d-do you mean?" I stuttered. "I'm... confused."
"Bella, love, I'm not quite sure how to explain. I'm not quite sure I can explain what you've always meant to me." He pulled me back, and lifted my face until my eyes met his.
The emotions swirling through their fiery depths shocked me. They weren't the hard, cold, frozen eyes that I remembered from that afternoon in the forest.
"You brought light into my world, a life I never knew," he said. "I saw the beauty inherent in the objects around me. I had never truly seen anything until I loved you. Over a hundred years walking this planet, and I never lived until you came along."
"Yes, but you didn't want me anymore." The pain that had never eased throbbed along the ragged edges of the hole. "You were bored of me."
He placed a hand on each of my cheeks, capturing my face, as he looked deeper into my eyes.
"Never," he sighed, his sweet breath flowing over me. "I've never been bored with you. I could never be bored with you. Remember what I said after that first night? You're my life. I've always wanted you. How could I not?"
I had many reasons how he could not, five years worth of reasons, eighteen hundred if I took only one a day. His absence, his distance before he left, the hole he created, all of these of these added up to the fact that he hadn't wanted me. My heart willed me to believe his passionate words; my head shrank from the hurt that could be caused by believing his lie.
"What will it take for you to believe me?" His voice was quiet, muted due to the tense atmosphere surrounding us.
"Edward, I don't know how to say this," I said, attempting to keep my voice calm and even. "A lot of things have changed since we were together. I've changed. My life has changed. I'm not eighteen anymore. I've got-"
"I know, Bella," he whispered, releasing me from his grip. He walked across the room running his hands through his hair. I longed to do the same thing, to feel the silky strands as they passed between my fingers. After a few minutes, he turned around to face me.
"I don't know how I can even begin to make any of this up to you," he said. "You must believe me. You are the only person I've ever loved, the only person I will ever love. You're it for me. There can never be anyone else. It's not in our nature to change. But when change happens, it's permanent." He appeared in front of me again. "When you came into my life, when I realized I loved you, I knew at that moment that there was no way that could ever change."
"But, why..." My voice faltered and finally failed me. "Why? The forest?" I mouthed.
"I had to try to save you," he said as if it was the simplest idea in the world.
"Huh?" I eloquently choked.
"Bella," he sighed. "I thought that being around me was the most dangerous thing for you... I was obviously wrong about that." He shook his head. "I had to do what I could to prevent you from getting hurt or killed or worse."
I briefly wondered what could possibly have been worse, but pushed that thought to the back of my mind, not wanting to dredge up the feelings I knew would surface if I answered that question.
"So, you left me for... me?" I asked.
"Yes," he answered. "I couldn't have left you for me. I need to be with you. These last years have been the hardest of my long life. Every second I've fought the urge to come back to you, to check on you, to tell you how I feel. I can't fight it anymore."
His eyes were swimming with a million emotions, the most prominent fear and love. They burned with an intensity I'd never have been able to recreate from my weak memories.
"I love you, Bella. I will always love you." I hadn't noticed the movement, but all of a sudden he had something small and slightly rectangular in shape in his hands. "I hadn't planned on asking this. But Alice placed this in my hand before I left our room." So Alice was here. "I told myself that if I ever saw you again, I would ask. I need to ask."
He laughed uncomfortably.
"I meant to do this under much different circumstances. I wanted it to be romantic, in a better place than a hotel room. Maybe after a dinner… well, a dinner for you. Of course, there really isn't a time or a place to ask something like this." He chuckled again, the sound tight, slightly off. "Anyway, this isn't how I'd hoped to ask you. In fact, I never thought I'd get to ask you, so I refused to allow myself the opportunity to hope."
He was rambling now. I couldn't ever remember him being so awkward, so unsure of himself. I reached out my hand and gently stroked from his clothed shoulder, down his upper arm, over his elbow, to the bare skin of his forearm. He gasped at the skin to skin contact.
"Say whatever you need," I prodded. "It's okay."
"It is just that I love you so much, Bella," he said, his eyes probing, looking in mine for some emotion.
I was oblivious to his intentions—though looking back I shouldn't have been—so there was no way I would have been able to fake the right emotion. Besides, even though faking emotions had become the norm for me, I didn't want to do that with Edward. He was much too important.
I looked away, wanting to confess my heart to him, but terrified that doing so would give away the one piece of sanity I had held onto for so long.
In the back of my mind, a voice screamed that I should be enraged that he thought I would be so easily won. After all this time apart, he thought we could just pick up where we had left. Of course, I suppressed that voice, wanting nothing more than to continue at the point we had left. My time with him had been the most enjoyable of my life.
Plus, I knew that if I gave into either emotion, I would lose myself completely. I would rage or retreat depending on whichever sentiment I chose. So instead of voicing my fears or doubts or anger, I simply looked away and said the words that had lurked inside me for so long.
"Edward… I love you."
"I know." His chilled fingers came to rest against my cheek and he slowly pulled my face to his. "Please look at me. This is very important."
I closed my eyes, pulling in a slow lungful of air. I released the breath, allowing it to puff my cheeks as it passed through my mouth.
"Isabella Marie Swan," he began. I wondered why he was using my full name; my stomach did frightened little flips. "I've waited too long for you. Before you came into my existence, I didn't live. You've brought passion, color, light into my world. I didn't know why I was in this unchangeable pattern, this cycle that seemed never ending. That is, I didn't know until I met you." He switched the little box from one hand into the other. The movement caught my eye—I suddenly hit me; I knew what was coming.
No, Bella, I scolded. Do not allow yourself to go there.
He resituated himself slightly. It was an odd movement as Edward never needed to readjust his stance. He quickly glided down to kneel on one knee.
"Please make me the happiest man on earth, love. Say you'll love me forever, and allow me to love you in return."
My head filled with so many things I wanted to say. Mixed in with the need to embrace him, to hug and kiss him and never let go, was also the desire to hit him, to smack him with all my strength for the years of torment he'd inflicted. There were also many things I wanted to say. Some would have been considered glib, others sappy. I didn't say any of them. I didn't say anything, in fact, my jumbled thoughts and the lump that had lodged itself in my throat prevented even the possibility of a coherent sound.
Then I second-guessed his unspoken question.
"Wha…" I cleared my throat as my word had been garbled. "I'm not sure what you're asking."
He trailed off, piquing my curiosity. I looked back up, trying to read the emotions in his eyes. They appeared conflicted, almost confused, angry, expectant. I wondered what could make him appear this way.
"What, Edward?" I had recovered my voice, just as he had seemed to lose his. I smiled at him, trying to ease him into continuing; he didn't.
"I just don't know where to begin. I can't believe I'm going to ask you this, after all I've always said, after all my protestations."
"Spit it out," I demanded.
"Bella, love," he started, "Do you still want… forever with me?"
My eyes grew wide.
"What are you asking exactly?" I questioned quietly, not wanting to add pressure to an already volatile situation.
"What am I asking?" he said, almost to himself. He pulled his hand up to the bridge of his nose, pinching between his eyes. The other hand ran through his hair.
From his reaction, I knew he wasn't just talking about being together for the rest of my human life, he was asking for much more.
"You … want me to…"
"I am so selfish, Bella," he stated, running the hand that was not covering his eyes through his hair. Quickly he pulled his hands down and looked me in the eyes. "But I can't live without you. Honestly, I don't know how to live without you. You're everything to me. Everything. I can't lose you. I hate myself for asking this of you, but—"
"Edward," I breathed. "I asked for this so many times before. How can you think you're selfish. All I want is to be with you… forever. It's all I've asked for. You know the answer. Yes." I shook my head. "It's always has been and always will be yes."
I nodded, the gesture reminiscent of my first affirmation on that day when he had asked to drive me to Seattle so long ago.
"Yes?" he asked, still exuding an aura of insecurity.
"Of course, Edward," I gasped. "Of course. You're all I've ever wanted."
His answering smile filled the dim room with the light of the sun. He stood up and pulled me tightly though tenderly against his body. His marble body felt cold, and my own heated in response.
"I do have something I'd like you to have." He held his hand out, the little box balancing on his fingertips.
Inside was a small pendant on a delicate necklace. I examined the pendant. It appeared to be a shield of sorts. "What's this?" I asked, looking up into his face.
"Every member of our family has one. It's our crest, a symbol of our bond." He plucked the box from my hand, and gently removed the delicate chain from the box. "Will you accept it?"
"Of course," I breathed. "I'd be honored to wear it."
"Wonderful!" He beamed at me, his face alight like a child on Christmas morning. "Turn around, I want to put it on you."
I turned and held my hair up to allow him to put the necklace on me. After he fastened the clasp, his icy hands began massaging the tension from my shoulders. Each pass of his fingers along my skin felt amazing.
I relished the pleasure his touch brought for a few moments before he whirled me around and pulled me into a tight embrace. After loosening his hold on me, he leaned down and brushed his nose along my jaw line, inhaling as he swept back and forth—enjoying the bouquet, as he had once called it,.
When he reached my ear, he spoke, his cool breath washing against my skin, causing a chill to pass through my entire body. "I love you," he whispered. The slight movement of cold air against my face filled me with a burn that was rapidly becoming uncontrollable.
"I love you, too, Edward." My voice was barely a breath as he trailed his nose against my cheek.
His icy hand caressed the opposite side of my face, preventing me from turning away—as if that had ever been an option. When his nose brushed against mine, his slow pace became painful. He must have felt the same because he groaned and caught my lips in our first kiss since my eighteenth birthday.
All the hurt and loss of the years melted away as the heat of our kiss burned with increasing intensity. In that moment, the true reason for his departure hit me fully. He had always loved me. He had left out of consideration for my safety. That epiphany, that he had and would always love me, made me bold.
The hand that wasn't holding my face snaked around my waist, pulling me closer still. Without the fear of rejection, my hands instinctually moved up his chest, dancing over the hard muscles as they passed. Eventually they found what they had been searching for and wrapped around his neck, my fingers intertwining in his hair.
The passion of this kiss was far stronger than any of our other chaste kisses. This kiss was just as virtuous, but the sheer emotion involved caused it to evolve into much more than I could ever have expected.
I began to feel lightheaded from the lack of oxygen, and he pulled away. The wild look in his eyes did not frighten me; I knew it was not lust for my blood that caused it.
He led me to the sofa, sat down and then pulled me onto his lap. His strong arms wrapped around me and drew me into a hug. Without the blanket he had always kept between us for my body temperature, I could feel every ridge of his hard body. My body reacted to the close contact, my heart beating faster, and desire flooding through me. I knew he'd be able to read the signs, and rather than embarrassment, I felt confidence.
I twisted in his arms to face him. I could feel the hardness against my soft stomach. I ached to touch him but refrained, nervous as to how he would handle such a forward gesture. Instead, I opted to push myself up farther so that I could press my lips to his more easily.
When my face neared his, he grabbed it. The action was less gentle than he usually was, but no less tender—I enjoyed the fervor, reciprocating the gesture with a moan.
My modesty about what I was wearing beneath my robe had completely slipped my mind and in my haste to be closer to him, the robe had loosened greatly. I didn't even notice the chill of his skin against mine, as the robe fell from my shoulders.
His low, guttural, shaky intake of breath alerted me to the fact that my breasts were practically exposed in the sheer fabric of my night gown. He closed his eyes and moaned quietly, trailing his hand from my shoulder, down my clavicle and along to my left breast. I felt, rather than heard a moan start in his chest, and he lifted his hooded eyes to mine, the desire evident in his gaze.
I leaned down to his face, tracing my tongue against his lips.
"You know," I breathed, hating to intrude the perfect nature of this wonderful reunion scene. "A bed might be better suited for this."
He quickly stood, holding me tightly as he moved over to the king size bed in the adjoining room. He laid me down in the middle of the bed, and then crawled up the mattress to hover over me, keeping his weight off my body.
"I never dreamed it would get this far," he whispered; then kissed the hollow at the base of my neck. He traced a path diagonally up and down my chest, extending the track a few kisses at a time, until he finally reached the apex of my breast.
My body reacted, involuntarily arching my back into his kiss, a low moan escaping my lips.
He replied with a similar sound of his own, his mouth trailing kisses all over my breast as his hand massaged the other.
"Oh, Bella," he murmured against my skin. "You are so beautiful."
The sound of his voice caused an ache to travel though my body. I wanted, no, I needed to feel more of his skin against my own. I ran my hands down his sides, grabbing his shirt tails at the bottom. As I pulled up, he reacted, raising his arms, and pulling himself free from the constraints of his shirt.
I gasped. It was the first time I had ever seen his completely unclothed torso. Sure, I had seen his chest in the meadow a long ago, but he had still had the shirt over his shoulders, even if it had been completely unbuttoned. Now… now he was fully exposed, his beautiful alabaster skin on display for me. I placed my hand on his shoulder; the temperature of my skin feeling overheated against his. Slowly, I ran my fingertips down his chest, across the rigid muscles of his stomach, feeling them flex as I made my way down his body. He shivered when I reached his navel, my body matching his in reaction.
In a moment of brazenness, I traced a line from his navel to the button on his jeans with the tip of my index finger. I sat up slightly, nuzzling my lips into the crook of his neck. Nudging against his shoulder, I wordlessly asked him to roll to his side. He moved, pulling me with him.
Once again I placed my hand on his skin and watched as it ghosted across the smooth, white skin of his torso, continuing on to the button of his pants. To my dismay, it was still clasped. I circled the button with my finger, informing him of my intentions. I looked into his eyes. I still found them filled with desire, but there was no sign of worry or concern, so I continued.
My fingers fumbled with the button, nervous and unsure—I had never been the one to remove the clothing in any previous encounters, and I had never attempted with one hand. After a few unsuccessful efforts, I was finally able to unbutton the offending little obstacle.
He slid his hand along my upper arm, causing the ever-present electricity to intensify. I closed my eyes, breathing deeply, willing him to move his hand across my body and back to my breast. On his third iteration of teasing touches, he did just that, grasping my left breast in his hand, his long fingertips pressing gently against my soft skin. Then he pulled his hand back, tracing the curve of my breast with his index finger.
His breathing began to increase as every circle he made became smaller and smaller in diameter. Finally, he brushed his icy finger against my nipple. The pleasure that shot from that tiny touch was beyond intense. I gasped, pulling in air in short breaths.
"I need that robe off," he growled at me.
I sat up on my knees and faced him. I raised an eyebrow at him, silently asking him to remove the article of clothing. He mirrored my position, before leaning his head down and kissing my neck. My eyes fluttered closed as I felt his tongue push against the side of my neck. He trailed his mouth to my ear and kissed the hollow just beneath it.
His cool hands swiftly removed the robe before making swift work of the negligee. I heard the soft fabric tear, as he groaned quietly into my ear. When the shreds of my baby doll had been removed, he pulled me against his bare chest, our skin now touching completely, and kissed me fervently. His hands ghosted over my shoulders and back as his breathing picked up pace to match my own.
"Your pants," I puffed. "off... now" Grasping on the waistband, I began trying to pull them down—but my actions were futile.
He released a breath, in what sounded suspiciously like a chuckle, and removed the pants himself.
In my wildest dreams I could have never imagined that he would be so beautiful, so perfect. The passion in his eyes, the pure love evident caused my already overheated skin to burn hotter. I momentarily wondered if it was possible to spontaneously combust.
Only twenty-four hours ago, our current situation had been an impossibility, a dream. Yet here he was, completely exposed in more ways than I would have imagined. His strength, his love, his beauty—it was all too much to take. I felt the tears gather in my eyes and was helpless to prevent them from spilling over and running down my cheeks.
He reached out his hand, gently removing the moisture from cheeks. "Are you all right, love?"
"Of course," I breathed. "You're with me. Everything's the way it should be. I just can't believe you're here."
I pulled away and rolled onto my back again, beckoning him with my hand as I did so. As I had hoped, he easily complied, bringing his body to hover over mine, his cool skin barely touching mine. Closing my eyes, I moaned at the slight contact, having never felt so intimate with anyone before now. Even though I was no longer a virgin, this contact, this understanding felt so different than any other.
The chill of his thumb brushing against my nipple shocked me, and when I opened my eyes, I found him gazing at my body, apparently enraptured. I lifted my hand to caress his cheek, wondering at the smooth texture against the pads of my fingers.
He looked up and slowly bent down, pressing his lips against mine. I lost myself in the kiss, reveling in the sensation. The joy and elation of being surrounded by his love for the first time in five years was beyond my comprehension.
The intensity of the situation augmented with my passion, made it impossible for me to muffle the sounds that began leaving my mouth as he kissed his way down my neck. I moved my head to the side, allowing access to all of my neck I could give. He moved his lips slowly down, then across my collarbone and to my chest.
The nearness of his mouth to such a sensitive spot charged my body with electricity, and I arched into his mouth.
"Edward," I breathed, calling his attention to my face again. "I want you, right now. Please make love to me… I've waited so long to feel you."
"Are you sure, Bella?" he asked, his smoldering eyes wreaking havoc with my heart, just like they always had. "You want this?"
"Edward, I have never wanted anything more in my entire life. Don't you want this?" The familiar feelings of inadequacy rose within me.
He leaned on his left arm, laying his right hand on my cheek.
"How could you ever think that?" he asked. "I have wanted you more than you will ever know. I'm just so… so frightened of hurting you. You're too breakable. If something happens, I'll never be able to forgive myself."
"Nothing will happen." I tried to infuse my words with confidence.
"How can you be sure? I'm not." He looked away, and suddenly I feared having lost the moment. Trying to recapture the fervor, I ran my hand from his shoulder down his side and to his hips, watching the movement.
"I am one hundred percent sure of you," I stated boldly. "I understand now. Edward, you'd do everything in your power not to hurt me."
"I don't know, Bella." I sensed his resolve to resist wavering. I moved my hand to the center of his chest, tracing my fingers lightly across his skin. He moaned in response.
"Listen to me," I coaxed. "I'm not going to give you an ultimatum but I need to know that you can give me all of you. How can I promise to give myself, if I'm unsure of that? I know you love me. But I need to know you're willing to give everything. I am."
He closed his eyes and began kissing the join of my neck and shoulder. I worried that he was pulling away from me.
"Please, Edward," I whispered. "Love me and let me love you in return. Don't make me beg."
His eyes snapped up to mine. "Never. You never have to beg for anything, love."
A look of intensity flashed across his face, and he moved my legs to either side of his hips, gently positioning himself.
"Oh, Bella," he moaned. "You feel so good, so warm. I don't have words."
My desire for him flared again as he readied himself. I had not felt the flood of emotions that he was evoking in me since the day he left.
I felt him press into me, his pace painstakingly slow so as not to hurt me. With each inch his moans became throatier, their sound surrounding me as I arched up to meet him. The sensation was much more than I could have ever imagined. No one had filled me so completely, both physically and emotionally; he was the whole package, everything I could ever need or want.
He paused to meet my gaze as he filled me, his eyes searching for any sign of pain. He would find none. Our connection completed me.
I smiled and nodded in response to his unasked question, lifting my head to capture his mouth with mine. I wrapped my arms around him, pulling my body closer to his, my legs wrapping around his waist instinctively.
He began to draw back, more quickly than he had entered but still painfully slow. When I thought he was about to withdraw completely, he thrust deeply into me again.
I moaned, unable to form a coherent thought at that moment. His moan echoed mine, the sound deeper, throatier.
He pulled back and drove into me again, this time the pace was quicker. With a breathy sigh, his hand traveled down my left thigh and to my knee. Grabbing behind my knee, he lifted my leg up as far as it would easily go, resting it against his shoulder. He repeated the action with my other leg before continuing with his rhythmic movements inside of me.
The angle at which he now entered and retreated was so much more sensitive, so much deeper than before, and I felt each plunge push me closer to my release. The pressure built and I fought to hold on to my control.
Unable to control the sound of my voice, I screamed, "Oh god. Yes."
His responding wordless grunt pushed me even farther—I hadn't thought that was possible.
"Love…so close…so close," he chanted quietly in my ear.
I had completely lost the ability to speak. "Mmmmm."
He lifted my hips from the bed slightly, and with one last thrust, I fell apart.
As with every other moment tonight, this feeling was a first for me. I wasn't shocked; he had always known what I needed.
As I came down from my release, I felt him tense above me, his body beginning to shudder as he growled in his. The wood of the hotel's head board groaned, but I was too lost to care why.
When he stopped trembling, he looked in my eyes. "I didn't hurt you at all, did I?"
"Hurt me?" I asked. "That was the best experience of my life. How could you have hurt me? I've never felt anything so… right, Edward. We belong together."
He rolled onto his back and pulled my head to rest on his chest. "You're right, love. We do belong together."
Lying in bed, cuddled up to the man I wouldn't have been able to dream up, I was certain that he was my destiny. Though his body was hard, the security I felt in that moment lulled me into one of the best night's sleep I'd ever had.
I awoke the next morning, draped across his bare chest; The world seemed right, perfect. I had never had an experience like last night. It was all I ever could have desired.
"Edward?" I asked, raising myself on my arm so I could look at him. I was greeted by the most beautiful golden-hued eyes I had ever seen, the love practically etched in every striation and speckle of color.
"Yes, love," he replied, sweeping my hair behind my ear. "Did you sleep well?"
"It was the best night I've had in years," I said honestly.
"Mine, too." He smiled sweetly, the corners of his eyes creasing. "I've missed you so much."
"Me, too," I added. "You're not… upset about last night, are you? I mean, I know that you were raised when—"
"Upset?" he asked, almost laughing. "How could I ever be upset?"
"Well, I know how you feel about… um, pre-marital sex," I answered. "I feel like I took advantage of you."
"Advantage?" This time he laughed fully. "Advantage of your all too willing… boyfriend" He smiled broadly on the last word. "I don't see how that's possible."
"So you were… willing? I mean, you're okay with what happened?" I looked away, oddly shy after last night.
He ran his finger along my cheek.
"Look at me, love."
I turned to face him again. He pulled the lip that I hadn't even realized was trapped from between my teeth.
"I've wanted to do that since I first fell in love with you," he said softly, his eyes smoldering. "Since I started having these feelings. That night in Port Angeles, when I took you from those horrible creatures who wanted to harm you, I could barely keep my eyes from your body. That blue blouse was so thin and it clung to every supple curve." He lightly brushed his finger along the outline of my breast. "It was so difficult to ignore the cravings I felt looking at you. Why do you think I gave you my jacket?"
I shrugged, and he laughed.
"Of course part of it was because you were cold, shivering from... the Coke, I believe the excuse was." He laughed again. "But a larger part was because I needed to distract myself from the perfection of your form."
It was my turn to laugh. His eyes narrowed, almost angrily.
"Really?" I asked incredulously.
"Why would I lie about something like that, Bella? I was hardly able to keep myself from ravaging you every time we kissed. Why did you think I was so rigid with my rules?"
I couldn't answer that. I had always thought that I just wasn't desirable to him; that was why he hadn't wanted to take our relationship further. After the night before, though, that was obviously not true. I couldn't let him know how overwhelming my insecurities had been. Yet again, I found it next to impossible to look him in the eye.
"You thought I didn't want you." He grabbed my arm, rubbing up and down slowly, his light touch tickling slightly. "Didn't you?" He let that sit for a while, waiting for an answer I would never give. "Silly girl, I can't believe you thought that. Though I guess I never explained it fully. Bella, I want every part of you. I've always wanted every part of you. And, I will always want all of you." He swallowed loudly.
At that moment, I knew what I needed to do. Edward had given so much of himself to me, it was time for me to reciprocate. Besides, I really wanted to follow through on what I was going to ask him.
He'd always wanted to give me "human" experiences. Maybe I could give him this one.
"Edward," I began, my nerves causing my body to shudder. "There's something I have to ask you."
"What's wrong, love? You're shaking like a leaf."
"Well, I was wondering if… if maybe…" I stammered, hoping he would understand before I actually said the words. I hadn't been raised as traditionally as he had, but I still felt awkward in this moment.
"Spit it out," he said, repeating my words from the night before.
I did my best to glare at him playfully, which was kind of funny given the situation. I was a human, naked in the bed, with my vampire boyfriend—quite the script for a bad porno or a horror movie.
"Well, Edward, I would like you to marry me before anything changes." I looked up at him. "I would like to at least give that to my family. They'll know I'm happy with you, that I chose you. Will you marry me?"
"I thought you'd be difficult about marriage," he said. "You never seemed that interested before."
"Things change," I answered quickly. "I think that at eighteen the idea of marriage probably would've scared the hell out of me. But I'm not eighteen anymore. Besides, five years without you has been hell. A constant reminder of what I had. What I lost. I love you, and I'm willing to make that permanent."
"Bella, marrying you would make me ecstatic. I've fantasized about that so many times. Yes, I'll marry you."
"Yes!" he exclaimed.
"And then forever?" I asked.
His eyes looked like if they could fill with tears, this would have been the moment for that to happen. He pulled me close to his chest.
"Yes. Forever, love," he said and kissed the top of my hair.
"That's all I'm asking," I retorted and pressed my lips into his shoulder. The realization that he was my future was still fresh in my mind, and I knew that everything would be just as it was meant to be.
Chapter End Notes:
Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed.