I hesitated in the doorway, but the pressure of his fingers on my lower back urged me forward without compromise. My eyes were trained on the large, four-poster bed that occupied most of the living space in this room of his. I would have been less shocked at seeing a shiny coffin and billowy cobwebs decorating the space. The faded, soft-looking quilt and stacked pillows looked somehow out of place and even more ominous in comparison.

Edward saw what had captured my attention, and sighed loudly as he pushed the door shut behind us. The mechanical click of the lock made me jump, and I felt his hands cup my shoulders from behind.

"You're wound up as tight as a clock," his voice hummed near my ear. His fingers started to apply light pressure, stroking back and forth from the base of my neck to the top of my arms. "While I can certainly understand your anxiety… most human minds would have buckled under the games my siblings have played with you… I do hope that you'll be comfortable enough here, in my room, to try to relax."

I sensed the underlying tone of an order as he stated his wish. I knew I should appreciate his generosity. Edward had been true to his word, and had begun the motions to take me away from his place. A little gratitude shown in trusting him would not be out of order.

"I'm sorry," I whispered. My throat was so dry that I felt I was swallowing past sandpaper. I looked at the floor in front of me, dutifully willing my nerves to calm.

"You need water," Edward stated knowingly. "And perhaps something to eat?"

I nodded and kept my eyes trained downward. My attention came to my hands, illuminated as completely filthy here, in this pristine upper-room. I used the fingernail of my right forefinger to scratch at the dried spittle on my opposite wrist. My brows lowered as the crusty spot flaked away from me.

"Venom," Edward murmured, stepping in front of me. It brought my eyes up to

his for the first time since we entered the room. I looked at his face questioningly. He gripped my wrist lightly and brought it up toward his face, inspecting it more closely. "Venom," he repeated again. "We are venomous. The secretion numbs the immediate area to dull the pain and partially paralyze the victim. Jasper was obviously over-excited. His venom is on your skin."

Edward's thumb-nail caressed the side of my hand. With a frown, he flicked away a dried spatter of the fluid he had just explained. "You need to bathe," he said.

I cringed, remembering his harsh assessment of me in the basement. I dirtied his private quarters with my very presence. I was filthy, and bruised, and covered with substances I didn't even want to contemplate. Edward dropped my hand as though he noticed how disgusting it was, at the same time I did. And then with a breeze-like motion, he disappeared.

I turned my eyes toward an open door in the corner of the room, when I heard bathwater being drawn into a tub. My knees started to shake. Edward reappeared in what I now knew to be the bathroom door, and crooked his finger to indicate that I should join him. I was afraid that if I moved even one leg in that direction, I might fall. I stood rooted to the spot I had been in since entering the room. Edward rolled his eyes slightly, and looked annoyed for a brief moment before walking over to me and deliberately taking my hand in his.

"You can do this on your own, or I'll carry you," Edward warned quietly. "But my family will never believe that you've occupied my attention for long in the state that you are in. They know my preferences for order, and for cleanliness." His lip curled a little as he let his eyes travel down my body. "Where is your other shoe?"

I looked down at my feet as I walked. He was right. I still, wore only one.

"I don't know." My voice shook. But I was moving forward under his direction. His gentle grip on my elbow helped give me the strength to remain upright.

"You'll feel better after a bath," Edward sighed. "And you are going to have to try harder, if you want to help me convince my family that you are tempting me."

"Are you… tempted?" I asked, with my feet pausing in front of the bathtub. I don't know what made me bold enough to ask. But I felt so much of my nervousness hinged on his answer. A look of understanding flashed across Edward's eyes, and he smiled sadly. With the back of his hand, he swept my tangled hair behind my shoulder.

"You tempt me in ways I do not quite understand," he murmured. A shiver ran down my spine to accompany his words. But I felt no threat in his simple statement. "You intrigue me. I want to understand what is going on in your mind." He let his fingers dance lightly in an arc across my forehead before dropping his hand to his side. "But right now, there is no denying… I could find something in the woods to eat that would be a cleaner meal than you."

His lips curved up in a soft smile, and his features relaxed in an expression I could define as teasing. I licked my lips, and winced when my dry tongue scratched against the inside of my mouth.

"I'll leave you to your privacy," Edward nodded toward the tub. "I'll be back in a moment with something for you to eat, and drink." The immediate relief I felt at his words was quickly replaced by alarm. Leaving me alone also meant leaving me vulnerable. Edward trailed his hand from my elbow to my wrist reassuringly. "I'll be back by the time you are settled in. You are safe here. But don't think of trying to leave," he frowned. "If you stepped outside the door, I could not hope to offer you protection."

"Okay," I promised. He looked satisfied by my response, and turned to leave.

Carefully and robotically, I went through the motions of undressing. I didn't bother folding my clothes. I knew they were ruined. Hell, they probably needed to be burned. I wasn't sure what Edward expected me to wear, but I knew that after my bath, I would not be allowed to step back into these filthy bits of material. So I tossed them in the small trash can under the sink, and then gripped the edge of the tub while I stepped into the hot, sudsy water.

I hissed in absolute pleasure as a sweet, florally aroma washed over me in the steam. The scented oil that Edward had obviously poured into the bath stung my abrasions while the heat of the water went to work soothing my muscles right away. I turned the faucet handles to stop the flow of water, and then slid downward until the thick bubbles reached my chin. I couldn't help the response of my body, however, when Edward's voice startled me and water slopped loudly over the side of the tub onto the floor.

"I'm sorry for scaring you," he spoke quietly. I pulled myself into my familiar curled position, and tucked my legs in close to my chest. "I told you I'd return quickly."

"I know," I shook my head and tried to smile in apology while I rested my cheek against my bent knee. "I'm sorry."

"There's no need," Edward insisted, pulling a folded wash cloth from a silver ring on the wall. I closed my eyes as he knelt beside the tub. Carefully, so as not to startle me again, his hand began pulling the material through the water and up across my back. I concentrated on breathing slowly and trying to relax as Edward methodically cleaned my shoulders and the tops of my arms. He made no move to touch me inappropriately, and I relaxed under his capable fingers.

"You are incredibly fast, and strong," I whispered. "Venomous and hypnotic." I was listing, out-loud, the knowledge I had collected about the man beside me. "Your family members spoke like…" I bit my lip and he remained silent, waiting for me to continue. "Can you read minds?"

"Not all of us have the ability. But I can," Edward moved to the front of the tub and pushed his sleeves up his strong forearms. I stared at the chorded muscle there, and watched as he shoved his arms into the water to retrieve one of my legs. He held my ankle above the water, and moved to lightly wash my foot and my calf. His hands didn't stray farther than the water line at my thigh. He simply lowered my leg and repeated the process with the next. "I can't read your mind," he added.

"You can't?" My brows lifted in surprise, and he frowned while drawing the washcloth over the top of my foot.

"No." Irritation settled on his forehead, and I felt the need to return his honesty with some of my own.

"I'm scared," I told him. His eyes moved up to meet my gaze, and he placed my leg back under the bubbles. "But if you could read my mind, you would know how… grateful I am. Grateful that you are helping me. Grateful to be out of that…" A sob caught in the back of my throat, and I was unable to continue.

"May I wash your hair?" Edward stood, and I nodded, unable to deny him his simple request. I submerged my body in the water and let my hair become saturated. When I pulled myself back into a sitting position, Edward carefully massaged my hair into a luxurious lather. His fingers on my scalp actually caused me to sigh out loud with pleasure. His hands stilled for a moment at the sound, and then he resumed his efforts.

"Rinse," he instructed. I did as I was told. When my hair was clean and suds free, I pushed the heavy curtain of it away from my face and looked up at the man who had so kindly ministered to my bath.

"What will you have me wear?" I asked. He frowned slightly, as though he hadn't considered it. And then, with deft fingers he began to unbutton his own shirt. I stared, in awe as his bare torso was revealed to me. Pale to the point of oddity, his chest and abdomen were impossibly defined. Hard, and smooth, and strangely perfect in form.

"Beauty is another of your weapons, isn't it?" I asked with sudden insight. Edward shrugged.

"We are meant to be attractive to our prey."

"Obviously," I breathed. Edward smiled a little, and I felt an honest grin tug the corner of my lips upward in response.

He laid his shirt across the sink, and looked down at me for a moment. He seemed as though he wanted to say something. But then he shook his head and moved toward the door.

"Please dry yourself and get dressed. I have brought something for you to eat and drink, when you are finished."

He left the room and closed the door. Something about his consideration of my privacy felt like a gift that I added to the pile of things that I was indebted to him for. Every move he made seemed to purposefully exaggerate that he wanted me to feel safe with him. He wanted to help me trust him. After all I had been through… after all I had seen… how could I not cling to the comfort he provided? To the hope he offered? I had to believe in his good intentions. There were no other options.

Trying to ignore that I was dressed much as Rosalie was, the last time I saw her animated and alive, I walked quietly back into the bedroom. Edward was sitting stoically on the edge of the bed. I could see he had laid out a picnic of sorts, for me. My stomach rumbled, and I had to physically restrain myself from throwing myself at the food. My steps carried me forward quickly, and I made no effort to hide my enthusiasm as I nimbly climbed onto the bed and tucked my feet beneath me.

I paused only long enough for Edward to tilt his head toward the food in silent invitation. It was hardly an extravagant feast. More peaches, a turkey sandwich wrapped in cellophane, three cookies that were left in an open travel-sized bag, and a bottle of water. It wasn't until I was swallowing the last bite that it even occurred to me to wonder where the food had come from. The last gulp of water forced the food down as guilt threatened to bring it back up. I could imagine it was packed away in the car of the girl that had become Jasper's plaything. I didn't want to ask. I didn't want to know for sure. Instead, I twisted the cap back onto the bottle and laid it across my now empty plate.

"Thank you," I whispered. Edward had largely ignored me while I ate. His head had been turned to look away while I had tore and crammed pieces of stolen bread between my lips. Perhaps my eating habits were as disgusting to him, as his were to me. When he heard my whispered gratitude, he turned back toward me and removed the dishes from the bed. He only moved so far as to place them on the dresser in the room. And then he turned and leaned against the piece of furniture while he crossed his arms over his chest.

"You certainly look better," Edward murmured. "Do you feel better, also?" "Yes," I nodded quietly.

"Good," he smiled. "Because we need to talk. And you'll need your strength."

"Okay," I answered. My fingers strayed to the worn fabric beneath me, and I brushed my knuckles back and forth against its soft surface. It was soothing. Edward's eyes watched the motion for a moment, before he spoke again.

"I called your father."

"WHAT?" My hands froze in their dragging motion, and Edward was before me in an instant. His palm pressed against my mouth to stifle the loud squeak of surprise that had come from my lips. His face was inches from my own, and his eyes were wide with an understood warning. I breathed through my nose, fast and hot against his cold fingers. Edward cursed lightly and tilted his head to the side before launching himself over me and onto the bed. I was so surprised I didn't have another chance to make a sound. I was lying flat on my back, and his knee was bent so that his heavy thigh pressed across my hipbones and trapped me partially beneath him. My fingers clutched at his arm and I kept my eyes trained on his, afraid of this sudden change. But then the bedroom door opened.

Edward and I both turned to look at the person who entered the room. My heart picked up pace immediately in fear. And then I realized that Edward and I, for all intents and purposes, looked to have been caught in a very compromising position. His body nearly covered my smaller form on the bed. His hand had slipped from my mouth, and was clutching the comforter beside my head. My fingers dug into his arm and I knew my cheeks were stained pink from the rapid motions that had just brought us here. I stared with wide eyes up to where Emmett stood in the doorway.

"Did you think of knocking?" Edward snapped. I flinched at the acid in his tone, but continued to press my fingers into the hard muscle under my hand. I wasn't sure if I was supposed to actually want his body to be pressing so tightly against mine. But he felt like a wall of protection between me and the monster in the doorway. I wanted to bury myself beneath him, crawl under his strength and hide there.

Emmett chuckled while his eyes traveled over us. I shivered when Edward lowered his hand to my bare thigh. His fingers curled around my leg possessively, and effectively blocked Emmett from staring at my exposed skin. "Get out," he ordered.

"I can see you kids are busy," Emmett chuckled. "Carlisle wanted me to tell you that we are leaving for the city before dawn. He wants to clean up the area a little so we won't have a problem coming back up here sometime. It's a pretty nice location for hunting, wouldn't you say?"

Edward growled lowly in his chest, and I felt his fingers tighten on my skin. I closed my eyes and concentrated on the steady weight of the man above me. He had told me that his family would be leaving soon for a meeting. Once again, his words were proven to be true.

"I'm not going," Edward said with a rough sounding voice.

"What do you mean?" Emmett asked. I kept my eyes closed and bit my lip while I listened to Edward's plan play out.

"I mean… I'm. Not. Going," Edward enunciated each word slowly. His hand deliberately rubbed up and down my leg and I froze in place when I felt his icy breath under my ear. Gently, he placed a kiss on the delicate skin there before raising his head to speak again. "Tell Carlisle. I'll join you all later. I'm… having some fun first."

"Well, hell yeah!" Emmett said, with a clearly congratulatory laugh in his voice. "Good for you, man!"

"Yes," Edward murmured with his nose skimming my jaw. "Now get out. I don't want to be disturbed."

My body trembled as his breath sent the words skipping across my throat. I heard Emmett's deep bass chuckle again before the door closed behind him. Edward froze then, but did not take his body from mine. I slowly opened my eyes, and was drawn immediately into his scorching gaze. We stared at each other for an indeterminable amount of time before Edward slowly shifted his body to lie beside me.

His fingers wrapped around my waist as he lifted my body and turned it away from him. It was amazing, how strong he was. With the easy twisting of his hands, he had moved me to lie on my side in front of him, and he curled his body behind mine. I relaxed into the bed beneath me, even as his hard form pressed into me from behind.

"They shouldn't interrupt again," Edward whispered near my ear. "But in case they do… it would be beneficial for us to remain close."

"Whatever you think is best," I whispered back to him. His arm crossed over my chest protectively, and I raised my hands to lightly hold the iron bar that kept me safe.

"You must stay quiet," Edward whispered again. "No more loud noises."

"I'm sorry," I breathed. "I was surprised when you told me that you called my father." Tears rushed to my eyes when I said the words that I wanted so desperately to be true.

"Charlie Swan," Edward whispered, adding weight to the truth of his claim.

"His phone number was written across a map in the window of your car." "Tell me," I insisted.

"I made the call anonymously. There is a search party already in the area," Edward explained. "I've been watching their progress, and I know the path they are cutting through the forest. They are looking for you."

"Will they come here?" I felt a surge of fear, thinking of my father

inadvertently stumbling across the men that held me captive. I couldn't bear the thought of him being hurt while trying to find me.

"No," Edward stated. "But there is a small hunting shack several miles from here. If I am correct, their search party will be there by tomorrow morning. As soon as my family leaves tonight, I will take you there for your father to find."

The tears escaped my eyes and ran down the side of my cheek onto the bed below me. I sniffled, and allowed my hands to caress Edward's arm in a gesture meant to show my gratitude.

"You have to understand, Bella," Edward continued. "I do want to take you away from here. But I need it to be far enough away, so that my family will not be found, or implicated in any way." I nodded against him. Who would believe me? I would be locked away if I tried to explain what had really gone on here. The best I could hope for, would be that I might lead the authorities to find this place after Edward's family had gone. They might find evidence of the people whose lives had been taken. Maybe they would assume it was the work of serial killers. I wouldn't add to their investigation with the truth that would only lend them reason to doubt my sanity.

"You should try to sleep," he finally said. "I'll wake you when it's time to leave."

"I don't want to sleep," I shook my head. "If I do… I'll wake up and I'll be back in that basement. Back in the cage. And all of this will have been a dream." "That won't happen, Bella," Edward sighed.

"Will you stay here, and hold me?" I asked, tentatively. His arm tightened around me again, and I heard him take a shaky breath.

"If I do… you'll only be waking, wrapped in a different nightmare."

"You are no nightmare," I said strongly. "You are an angel."

"Sleep," Edward said, not arguing with my disturbed description of him. "I'll hold you. Just… sleep."

With a full stomach, a hopeful heart, and the strength of my angel curled around me, I slept. Groggily, I woke when Edward's gentle fingers pushed at my shoulder and his smooth voice danced in my ear.

"Bella? It's time to go."

I sat up and pushed my hair away from my face. Edward pulled his fingers through his own messy hair, while I blushed and pulled his shirt down to cover my legs.

"I'll be right back," he announced. I took a minute to use the bathroom, and when I returned, he held a bundle of clothing on his outstretched arms. He looked apologetic and anxious. But I soon determined why. The clothes he held, belonged to Rosalie.

I swallowed back the pain of her memory, and tried to focus on the necessity of his offering. It wasn't like he could run out and buy me some clothes at the mall. Rosalie wouldn't need them again. And if she knew that her clothing would somehow be a part of my escaping this place, she would thrust the items into my hands herself.

"Thank you," I mumbled. I started to pull her jeans up my legs, and Edward politely turned his back. I unbuttoned his shirt and tossed it across the bed, before pulling her black turtle neck over my head. I was rolling the hem of her jeans up to fit my much shorter legs when Edward turned back toward me. He picked up the shirt I had left for him, and buttoned it around his chest once more.

"I found your other shoe," Edward stated. He had retrieved the one I had left in the bathroom, and both of my flats rested on the floor by the dresser. I stared at them with a wave of appreciation. I wasn't sure if I could have forced myself to wear Rosalie's red heels. Their luck had obviously run out.

"Are you ready?" Edward asked. I nodded and followed him as he turned to walk from the room. Down the stairs, I noticed the absolute quiet around us.

Everything was clean and in place. It was as though no one had visited at all. His family was gone.

There was a definite chill in the air as I walked behind Edward out to the porch. The sun had not yet risen, and so I had no concept at all, of what time it was. I took deep breaths of the clean air, and cried at the sheer joy I felt to no longer be in that stifling cabin. It had seemed so cheerful when I first saw it. Now, it only looked like death. I was so happy to be leaving it behind, that I could have danced.

Edward slowed his walk, and stepped beside me. Ever careful, he held aside branches and offered his arm to help me step over things that might have tripped me in the darkness. His silence was comforting. With each step, he led me closer to my father, and closer to my freedom. After a while, he finally sighed.

"Bella? Do you trust me?" He paused and waited for me to answer.

"I… do," I allowed after only a brief moment of hesitation.

"We could get there a lot faster if you'd let me carry you," Edward told me.

"I'm fast. I won't drop you. And it will take hours for us to get there at the speed you are walking."

"I'm sorry," I apologized. He just grabbed my hand and put it on his shoulder as he turned in front of me. I understood the silent directive, and jumped up to let him hold me on his back.

"Close your eyes," he instructed. So I did. And it felt like we were flying.

I had no way to tell how far we traveled, or how fast. His body was fluid beneath mine as he ran through the forest, carrying me to the shack he promised was on the trail of the search party. Soon, he lowered my feet to the porch of the building he had told me about. And I clutched at his arm to remain upright until my equilibrium returned.

"I'm dizzy," I explained breathlessly. Edward laughed lightly and I heard the loud crunch of wood when he forced the locked door open.

"Let's get you inside," he said. "I'll start a fire. You are freezing."

I realized then, that I was shaking. I had become accustomed to trembling in fear. My chattering teeth this time, had everything to do with the frigid night air that we had just torn through.

There was no electricity in this small shack. But in no time, Edward had coerced a small fire to burn brightly in the fireplace that was built into the wall.

"I brought you this," he quietly offered. Edward pulled a foil-juice pack from his pocket. I was amazed, once again, by his thoughtfulness. I refused to consider which random victim of his family had not been allowed to drink this sugary treat. Instead, I pushed the cheery yellow straw through the perforated notch on top, and drank Edward's gift appreciatively.

"Will you be comfortable here?" He was still thinking only of me. I sighed and sat beside him, on the floor by the fire. He had placed a faded flannel hunting blanket across the rough wood to ward off the chill, and the fire was warming me considerably.

"Yes," I smiled. It was easy to be generous in attitude, when I knew that he had gone out of his way to treat me with kindness. I still wished I knew why. And my sigh alerted him to my confused thoughts.

"What is it?" He asked. I turned my face, and watched as the firelight danced across his perfect cheekbones and his mess of like-colored hair.

"I wish I could understand why you have been so kind to me," I finally stated, truthfully. Edward's eyes darted away from my own, and he picked at the blanket beneath us.

"I don't want to frighten you," he said softly. "What you consider kindness, is selfishness on my part."

"You don't frighten me," I replied. His eyes came back up to mine. His gaze held me captive as he tried to read my inner thoughts. I smiled, trying to clue him in. I wasn't afraid anymore.

"I haven't felt… truly alive…in longer than I can remember," Edward said then. "But with you, I feel this… pull. It draws me to you. I'm sure it's as close to the emotion that you call 'love' as I will ever be allowed to know. I enjoy speaking the truth to you, and seeing that you believe me. And… you allow me to touch you like I'm not the deplorable creature that I am. For the first time in so long… I feel like the man I wish I was."

My breath caught in my chest at his tender admission. He bared his soul to me. And suddenly, I knew how I could repay him. In the early morning hours, before he would release me to my father's arms, I could make sure he knew that I saw him as that man he wanted to be. I could make him feel as close to 'love' as he craved. I didn't take my eyes from his, as I sat up on my bent knees. He watched me, with clear fascination as I leaned forward. And there, before the fireplace in that deserted hunting shack, I willingly brought my lips to his, and I kissed a vampire that wanted to be a man.

His hesitation was brief, until he understood my intentions. And then his lips parted with a sweet sigh and I pushed out my tongue to taste him. His lips were cool and smooth against my own, and the sweetness that was carried on his breath was wet and delicious under my mouth. I was left with a faint tingling sensation against my teeth and my gums, but I didn't care. Because something in his touch ignited a fire in me that burned hotter than the flames that lit the room beside us.

His hands went to my ribcage, and I let him lean me back. I gripped his hair tight in my fists, and brought his mouth to mine over and over again. I could feel his eager weight above me, and I parted my legs to help him find the position in which we should naturally align. He moaned with pleasure, and lowered himself to press against me. I couldn't explain my reaction to him. Maybe I really had lost my mind in that cabin. I had no other excuse for the way I rocked against him and pulled to get him closer.

This was the man who had cared for me in my darkest hours. And this was the only moment in which I would be allowed to let him know just how much it meant to me.

When he pulled his mouth from mine, I gasped and looked up at him. He rested with his forearms on either side of me and his eyes swirled with amazing sparks of red and gold, like lava… like heat and like need and like desire. I was dizzy with a passion that matched his. And I cupped his face in my hands and told him so.

"I want you," I whispered. Though I could barely recognize my own voice, and I couldn't feel the way my numb lips formed the words. I heard them clearly in my own ears and saw the way they affected the man above me. He smiled and raised himself up far enough to grip my borrowed shirt in both hands and lift it up over my head.

As if out of my control, my hands flew up to tug at the buttons of his shirt. I pushed the material away from his glorious chest, as his eyes and fingers discovered my body. And then he moved back down, and pushed our naked skin together while he kissed me.

Hot and cold. Soft, and hard. His hands and his tongue explored my skin and I thought I might faint from the delirious pleasure of it all. I couldn't question my own need for him. I just felt it. My mind and my body were no longer my own. If I even considered the fact that I shouldn't be acting this way, I had only to gaze into his burning eyes again, and lose the reasoning behind my worry.

"Bella," he groaned into my mouth. "Beautiful… beautiful…"

I was lost in his touch and his eyes and his taste. I didn't even notice when he had removed the rest of our clothing. But I felt him, sure and hard, pressed against my thigh. And I trembled against the magnitude of what this might lead to. Edward licked at my lips, and then tugged my bottom one lightly between his before leaning up and cupping my face. He stared deeply into my eyes once more.

"Trust me," he whispered. I nodded, and kissed at his fingers when he pushed them against my lips. I licked them while he stared at me, and then he took his hand away and slid it down my body between us.

Slowly, and deliciously, he used his moistened fingers to touch me between my legs. And my eyes popped open at the surprising feeling of his cold fingers that entered my body tenderly.

"Edward," I gasped. And he slowly moved his hips to rub himself against my leg.

"Just… feel," he urged. I bit my lip and writhed underneath him. His lips traced along my neck, my collar bones, my breasts. His hand continued its rhythmic motion against me, and he moved his own hips in time with my movements. I felt a pressure building within me… an urge for something I couldn't quite understand. I pressed myself against him harder, and Edward increased the friction of his touch. He moaned and moved against me at the same time, obviously rising to the same fevered place where I was. And finally I could take it no longer. I clutched at his wrist, and I begged him not to stop. My back arched as he twisted his fingers and curled them inside me. I cried out loudly and he grunted in his own release while the world broke into fragments around me, shaded by flames and lust and the color of his eyes.

I laid there, dazed and disoriented. While my breathing slowed, I began to feel the hardness of the floor under my protesting muscles, and the chill of the cabin air as it finally began to cool my flushed skin.

Edward rolled away from me, and I watched as he pulled his pants back up to cover his body. In silence, I reached for my clothing to do the same. I noticed, as he moved to sit in a chair in the corner of the room, that dawn had finally joined us and was lighting the sky through the window. I stared at it, and wondered how I could have lost so much time once more. Had it been hours, or merely minutes since I had given myself, here on the floor, to Edward? And now that he was removed from my immediate presence, doubt began to creep to my mind about what had inspired me to behave as I had. I wasn't myself. I would have given him anything he desired. That wasn't like me.

I wanted to touch him. I wanted to thank him for saving me. How had it escalated to be so much more? I knew, without a doubt, that if he had wanted to take my virginity, he could have.

"Did you… hypnotize me?" I couldn't keep myself from asking the question that had forced itself into my mind.

"Yes," Edward answered coolly. I bit my lip and lowered my eyebrows as I worried about what he said.

"But… I wanted to," I shook my head. "It was my idea."

"You aren't as easily brought under as most are," Edward explained. "You were willing. I only assisted in making you more so."

"But… why?" I asked, shaking my head. "I am mean… why stop there? If I was under your influence… why didn't you accept everything that I clearly offered?" Edward chuckled and left his chair to join me where I stood.

"I thought I explained all of this before," he murmured. With his beautiful angel's face inches from my own, he brought his hand, the one he had used to touch me so intimately, up to his nose. I watched as he closed his eyes and smiled while he inhaled deeply. My stomach tightened while I watched him, breathing me in. "Virgin blood tastes sweetest," he said softly. "Why in the world do you think I'd spoil my prize by fucking you before I could taste it?"

Pain ripped through me, and I took a step away from Edward, clutching at the hole his words slammed through my chest.

"You… lied!" I forced through my clenched teeth. "You… said…you brought me here for my father to find me!"

"You've never heard a single lie pass my lips," Edward shook his head and smiled, though the expression had lost its warmth. "Your father will find you here. In fact, the search party is entering the north end of the clearing right now. Just beyond that window."

My eyes darted to the dirty glass behind him. My heart pounded ferociously inside my ribcage and I felt like I might hyperventilate as my breathing became erratic. Tears flowed freely down my face.

"Why?" I sobbed. "Why?"

"Because," Edward hissed. He was standing with his chest pressed to my own. His hand tangled into the back of my hair painfully and he wrenched my neck to the side so I could feel his words against my ear. "Vampires like to play with their food, Bella. Some of us… just enjoy prolonging the game longer than others."

I cried out again in rage and despair as he spun me away from him. Fear made my limbs useless, and he pushed me toward the window. With my last bit of strength, I raised my arms and stretched them out toward the glass. I could see the men entering the clearing. The familiar flannel coat my father always favored was easy to pick out at the head of the group. He raised his arm to point at the shack ahead of them. They were too far away for me to hear their voices. But my fingers stretched out and my hands were rigid claws as I tried to touch the glass between us. Edward held my hair, keeping me at just such a distance that window remained centimeters out of reach.

I sucked in a deep breath then, with the intention of screaming to alert the men outside of the danger that awaited them. But the sound came out in a gurgle. I recognized the searing burn at the side of my neck at the same time that I began to drown on the blood that poured from the wound down my throat. I felt a pulling… a pulling…and I heard Edward laugh under the tight lips that clamped around the gnashing teeth on my neck.

My last thoughts were of relief, believing that the men outside would be allowed to live. Edward would leave me there, on the floor of the cabin. His game would be in watching their reactions as they found me.

His broken, and discarded toy.

The End.

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