Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight and all character names. This plot belongs to the author, IReen H.

No copyright infringement is intended or expected. Respect.



*The role of POV change will be played by oO%Oo during sexy times to minimize distraction.*




Hold on, stay inside this holy reality, this holy experience. Choosing to be here in
This body.

This body holding me. It's my reminder here that I am not alone in.
This body.

This body holding me, we are eternal.
All this pain is an illusion.

~Parabola, Tool


Bella is already awake when my eyes open. I pull her close and press my face into her neck.


She snuggles into me and I drink her in. Focusing on the feel of her in my arms, her face sleepy and serene, the scent of her hair - wild around her ears. I let my fingers idle around her temples, bringing the strands from her face, tucking them back; repeating the motion again and again. Watching her eyes as I barely kiss her mouth.

The gloom is settled around us, darkening the room, the bay outside barely visible through the big picture window by the bed. The fog gathers against the water, seeming to sequester us here with its foreboding opacity.

"Did you dream?"

I shake my head, our noses rubbing. "Nothing. You?"

"I sort of feel like I'm in a dream now. Like I should pinch myself to be sure we're really here. Together."

"We are."

There's a dare in her eyes when she says, "Show me."

I groan and kiss her, full and open mouthed. She kisses me back. Gentle at first, then fierce, as her hands come into the hair at the back of my neck. Our mouths slide together and apart as our limbs tangle. I go to an elbow, seeking, finding more of her.

I can breathe. I can breathe.

All I'm breathing is her. The taste of her fills me, the scent of her fells me. My hands can't wrap around all the parts of her I need to hold. My mind can't even register the completion inherent in what I can touch.

Bella. My Bella.

I drag a thumb over her cheek, she presses her face into my hand. Silken skin, pink under the thick wings of her lashes. I kiss her there, at the vibrant heart of her blush, and then take her mouth again.


I can't breathe.

All my air has turned to fire. I burn with each breath. I burn under his touch. His broad palm on my jaw, his thumb running over my cheekbone, the tips of his fingers persistent at the back of my neck. I want to lift my eyes to his but it seems so difficult. To see the world would be to tip right off of it. Like standing at the stern of a boat rocked in a storm. As long as I just hold on, don't look, I won't get flung into the ocean.

My lungs shiver as I force my eyes open. Edward is right there, heavy lidded and half smiling at me. The upward curve taking just half his mouth. Showing me just a few of his beautiful teeth. Showing me every bit of his languorous intent.

I'm breathing his air, our lips finding each other through a wall of shared breath, hot. It makes my heart hammer in my chest. It makes my blood simmer in my veins. It frees the far reaches of my body and sends them farther.

Does he feel like this? Like his blood has turned to radioactive plasma?


I inhale her. I consume her. She hums under my touch, my mouth at her throat, her fingers embedding into my shoulders. God, she tastes divine. Like ocean and spice and Bella. I sketch kisses behind her ear, the scent of her hair is intoxicating. I'm breathing it. I'm breathing her.

The skin is not enough. The air we share is not enough. I need more. More. She's all around me, yet I can't get close enough.

She turns her face, nipping at my ear, sucking, lingering over the frenzied pulse under my jaw.

Can she taste my heart beating?

I trail my fingers down, slipping them under her shirt to find the soft skin of her stomach. Her hands reach to cover mine.


It's been so long. It's been forever. Since I've held a woman that pulls the different apexes of my soul into one twisting mandate. It's never happened. I've never felt this. This maddening siren call that makes demands on every part of me.

My nerves, my pulse, myself – tethered and owned.

"I don't know if I can … not this time. "

"I'm nervous."

"Bella. My love. Mine. Don't be."

"What if … you don't-"

I turn my hand to grip hers, guiding it to the ache in my jeans, pressing against her.

"You own me, Bella. Don't doubt it."

She flexes her fingers and I groan, coming upright and yanking the thermal over my head. My t-shirt goes with it. Her body responds in kind, slender shoulders rising from the bed as though connected to me, as though pulled by my distance, compelled close.

She goes to her knees, rubbing her face against my navel, like a kitten, purring, running her nose against the hair above the slide of my belt as her fingers curl around my hipbones.

I watch her.

She bends to brush lower, finding the ridge of my cock, working her face over it. The air in my lungs gone thin, the blood in my brain just gone. Light head, swimming.

I can't watch anymore. Can't think.

My eyes find the ceiling, it sways over me.

I push her gently back, finding the hem of her t-shirt, pulling it up over her head.

Her bra is lopsided. One side swelling with a small pert breast. The other empty. Flat. Deflated with nothing to fill it.

I seek out the hooks at her back, unclasping them, bringing the straps slow down her arms. She trembles, and I kiss her neck, her ear, whispering into it. Hushing noises to calm her fear, to reassure.

"Relax, Bella-Bella-Marie, relax. You're fucking … exquisite."

I pull her bra away, dropping it to the floor as her hands clasp under her chin. My heart finds its bottom, tumbling inside me, brutally knocking against my ribs.

I hate this posture. I hate her arms crossed over her breast and her scar.

The power in me, like the worn cogs of a wheel, chokes against itself. Slips.

Gentle, my mind commands.

And I think I am. But the strength of my body is exponential to hers. I force her arms down.

"Don't hide from me. Not ever."


My cheeks flood with incandescent heat.

He towers over me. With the easy assured grace given to powerful men. A man vibrating in his most animal state, every muscle taut in some sort of defiance. Defying another's will, their resistance, or their attempt to chain him. He is explosive, barely contained.

He is virile, a predator.

I try to ignore my self-doubt. I try to silence the small voice that whispers about all his other lovers, that my appeal will evaporate, that his vigor will wane to look at me.

His body, scarred, but still incredibly beautiful, speaks in contrast to mine.

I've seen him shirtless before. I've seen him shuck his mortality before. I've seen his eyes blaze, black like they are now. This man is master. This domain is his.

This domain is a place of adulation, and as is found in all places of worship, I find the feeling that my offering is too humble.

The feeling that the god before you deserves a goddess.


The feeling that the goddess underneath you deserves a better man than you will ever be.

I can see it all over her face. Her fear, her hesitancy, even shame.

Though I loom over her, her hands clasped in mine, I'm still looking up. She needs to know it.

She needs to know who rules this place.

"I'm the one on my knees, Bella. Remember that."

I push her down to the pillows and bow to her nipple, sucking it in, squeezing the soft breast into my mouth, my fingers tracing twisted skin on the other side. I drag my mouth against the sharp rise and fall of her chest, my own breath coming short. I reach for her mouth with mine, to breathe her soft moans, to taste them, before kissing down the branches of her apple tree, leaving a path of heat over flowers and fruit and scars. And words.

Finding beauty in the dissonance

She whimpers.

I look down on her, her flushed face beautiful, her hair wild about the pillows, her tattoos glowing against the white comforter … her arms creeping inward.

"Tsk, tsk."

I trap her hands in one of mine, stretching them up over her head. Pulling them long, finding the delicate flesh of her underarm, her ribs, her breast, her clavicle, her scar. Her neck, her mouth.



The flame of his kiss and the scratch of his beard have me burning, atop my skin and under it.

My thighs rub against each other, trying to bring the friction higher, into myself. To quell the manic aching as he speaks. As he speaks in poetry against my skin. Some of it is incoherent. Some of it is obvious.

"Mine. I should have known it. From the fucking start."

His free hand slides under me, lifting me to him. "First your smile. That was first … and then here." His hand skims my shoulder blade. "Taunting me from afar. I had no idea the capable body I wanted was simply beckoning me with its ownership. Like semaphore. Like a smoke signal. Writhe into me, Bella. I want to feel it."

I do, pressing the pinnacle of all my pliable yearning into the steel of him.

He said he would brand me. Under my skin.

And he is.

He straightens, lifting his body impossibly far from me. I reach for his belt buckle and pull it free. I've unbuttoned his fly before, slipping buttons from holes, but this time is different. He can't keep his eyes open. They fall closed as my hand finds him through the soft material of his boxers, thick and rigid. Heat. He is heat. My hand is full of his heat.

Feather light touches, then I slide my hand under the waistband and stroke him. His intake of breath is audible. He clutches my wrist, pressing himself into my palm. His hips churn, filling my hand with the weight of his cock.

I watch him, his broad shoulders tense, bronze hair spilling into his eyes, a slight smear of pink stretching from his temples to his cheekbones. His chest surging with each abrupt breath.

His lashes flutter open. Beautiful dark-to-light lashes, wild. Like fire. His upper lip stiffens, baring his canine teeth, a dark lustful sneer, and then his hands are on me, fisting my hair, yoking my head back, devouring at my neck. I can feel his lips and his teeth.

Fervent, psychopathic blurring of two into one. Consume me.

Everything I am is for him. He is for me.

His hands are mine. His breath is mine. His lust is mine.

I let myself fall back down to the bed, reaching for my own buttons, but he brushes my hands away making quick work of my zipper, not stopping, sliding my jeans from me as I tug his down low on his hips.

We tangle and laugh—shaky, breathless—parting to divest ourselves of our pants. I climb back to the bed, clad only in my underwear. I'm on my knees, my arms crossed over my chest when he shakes his head at me. I have a moment of steep insecurity that douses the flame of my ardor.

There is no way I can do this. I tell him so.

His voice is hoarse, insistent. "You're doing it, Bella. You're already doing it."

He's on his knees before me, tugging my hands from my chest again, kissing me, kissing the fear from my blood, burning it out. Backing me against the wall with the ferocity of his lust, pillows pushed to the floor.

"I want you. I've wanted you for so fucking long. I have to have you."

The sharp set of his features tell me he's making an effort to go slow. "This… is my church." He kisses my shoulder. "This is a holy place. A shrine." He kisses my ribcage, dragging his thumbs over nipple and scar, singing softly against my skin. "I try to be good, to do my time, but suggestions of what's underneath will undo me, I think." His thumbs hook my panties and pull them down.


I carefully sweep her from her arch against the wall to lie flat against the bed. A turn of my wrist and I bind her ankles in her panties, dragging her off the pillows towards me. I move to look at her, stretched long and lean, ready for me. I hold the evidence, hot and damp in my palm.

I can smell her. It's a brazen scent that pricks at the feral part of my brain with impulses I hold at bay with short shallow breaths. I need to taste her.

I place my mouth against her small thatch of curls, needing only the smallest moment to find her clit, teasing it with persistent delicate attention. Swirling my tongue around it, across it, sucking gently. She's sweet-tart, the taste driving me out of my right mind, the impulse of my body to bite and plunge and thrust and take.

Taste and thrive, take. Smite. Touch, conquer, fuck.

I reach down and untangle her feet so I can spread her legs wide, bracing her open with my knee while I return to suck her mouth, her neck, her nipple, her navel and then back to her pussy. I lick it and pluck at her, play her with my tongue as I push a finger inside her.

"Edward. Please."

Her breathy voice wraps itself around me, tugging. Easy.


My neck is growing hot, taut, connected to a tightening coil inside me. My mind blurs, as I use two fingers, slowly beckoning to her from the inside. She rolls against my hands and my stomach swims, churns in tandem with the blaze spreading across my shoulders and down my back.


The glow inside me burns from yellow to red and I pull myself away, tucking my cheek into the grind of my teeth as I try to breathe some air that won't have me spilling inside my boxers. I need to just calm down a minute.

She squirms against the bed as I rake my mind for anything. Anything that isn't the taste of her. Anything. I have nothing but her. She is all that I am. And I'm too fucking close.

"I'm going to fuck this up."



My heart is pounding. My mind races. He makes his mistakes in running. In fleeing. He looks scattered, frayed around the edges. His hair stays standing after he drags his hand through it. A spike of fear revolves in my chest. "Are you leaving?"

He laughs, short and sharp. "Not going to leave. The opposite." He smiles deprecatingly and shakes his head, giving me his chastised look. "I'm … a little. Overwhelmed. Right now. I just need a minute." His breathing is ragged.

I spin onto my knees and climb onto his lap, wrapping my arms about his neck.


Seeing him so disarmed – gives me courage. Gives me words. "I've thought of it … so many times. I want to see it."

He groans.


She's trying to kill me.

"I just … don't care to humiliate myself."

"Awww. You could use a little humility, though. Don't you think?" Her voice is breath down my spine as she whispers into my ear. "Do you know what your arousal feels like to me? It's … just. I've never felt anything like it." She lays her hand over my heart.

"I can't. You … first."

She tugs my ear into her mouth. "Maybe you should go first."


"Just let go, Edward."

"I can't believe we're arguing about this."

"It's in our nature."

We laugh and I relax. "I love you, Bella."

I can feel exactly how much she means it, just by the way she looks at me. The way she runs her hand over my cheek, her thumb grazing the corner of my mouth. "I love you, Edward."

Something inside me breaks under the weight of those words. Within the intensity of her gaze. Her absolute devotion to me, even from the very beginning. This woman. Loves me.


I can do fucking anything. I can be whatever she needs. I know it, in this moment. I can prove it with this body. By giving. By taking.

She wants me to let go? Fine.


We're back to the start. Kissing, groping. Frantic. Holding on to each other. Writhing into each other. Breathing each other, speaking each other with every movement.

Desire has me in its inferno, has turned my limbs to mere extensions of my will. And my will is to have him. To touch him. To find all of him. And I do. I run my fingers down the length of him, watching his eyelashes flutter and his chest heave as I coax his boxers down. He breathes, and I envy the air. It gets to touch him from the inside. My mouth finds the breath from his lungs and pulls it in. My hand finds his cock, grips it, strokes, watching concentration bind the muscles of his face.


He reaches to grab the box of condoms from where he tossed it earlier, when he aimed for the bedside table but hit floor instead. He tears the box in half attempting to open it, foil packages rain down on me and he tosses the cardboard aside. My hands close around his and he laughs under his breath.

"I'm shaking."

I swipe the pouches to the floor, keeping one, tearing it open and rolling it over his cock. His eyes darkly burning, watch me. He twitches under my touch.

"You have to … let me know … if I hurt you."

"You won't."


Holy fuck.

I ease into her, fighting the urge to buck my hips. Fighting the white-hot blare of light burning in my depths.

"Oh, God." Her voice is small, barely there.


She just nods, her splint inching to cover her scar. I move it, pin it to the bed, and thrust.

And back.

The suck of her pussy is so fucking hot, clamping down on me, pulling me in. I can only pull out because of intense fucking will and the in-stroke is all resistance. I consider fingering her clit, but I know there's not one chance in hell I'm going to last long enough to make her come. Those are things I will have to learn. But not now. Not when I'm a breath away from losing it.

Thrust. Jesus Fucking Christ.

She moans, arching towards me, arching up to press the crown of her head into the pillows, the angle of her body increasing the pressure squeezing my cock.

Fuck. I say it out loud and roll her over me. She rises in slow motion, in a fluid laden brushstroke, up and then rocking. Painting me in the long undulation of her body.

Stroke. Her body moving. Her eyes closed.

Fuck. Ride me.

I grip at her hips and thrust off the bed into her.

Stroke. Her arms cross over her chest. I don't have the presence of mind to move them.

Stroke. Her hips trace a figure of eight against me, a soft gasp escaping her parted lips, bruised rosy from my kiss.

My vision blurs as I try to hold back. But I can't.

Time built it, her body fed it. I can't control it.

I'm coming.


Edward tips his head back, his Adam's apple bobbing as he swallows nothing, as his hands clamp down on my waist and hold me still. He groans, low, from his chest like a growl.

I press my hands to his heart. He tops mine with his, pressing it against his sternum and the speeding thuds underneath.

He breathes.

I try to breathe.

His eyes open, finding mine. He pulls me down with a tug at my arm. Kissing, rolling atop me.

"I can finish that now."

With that he's back laving at my clitoris, teasing it, the fingers of one hand toying with my nipple while the other rubs a folded knuckle against my sex. He kisses and sucks and pinches and whispers, until I'm bent backwards, finding my own momentary oblivion.

By the time I settle back into my body he's rewrapped himself, ready, pushing into me again.


Her waxing orgasm blew the blood from my body to my hardening cock. Now her waning orgasm ripples through it, her muscles doing a dance of suck and give, suck and give, and I press in slowly. Holding still as she quivers around me.

Her hand grips my ass, pulling me in, and my restraint crumbles.

I spread her legs wide so I can pump full and hard into her heat. Her face is flushed, her coffee stain eyes wide and imploring me to really fuck her. And then her mouth says it.

"Fuck me."

Fucking yes.

She isn't loud, but she isn't quiet either, and all her moans, pushed out of her lungs by the deep plunge of my cock, condense my need into one glowing burn of imperative thrust. I grip her by her hips and lift her up onto my knees, pulsing her up as I hammer down.

I paw through her slippery flesh to find her clit and rub at it, she mews. I bend to suck her breast into my mouth and she whimpers, straining into me. I snake a hand under her and hold her against me.

I barely hear it when she shivers, "Oh my God."

But I can feel the quake of the cavern gripping me.

"Fuck. Fuck."

I'm done.




I watch Bella sleep.

The blankets are twisted around her naked body, her hair twisted around me, the bulk of it flowing over my chest, exposing her nape to my fingers. Tucked into her side is her splinted hand, the posture makes me think of a broken wing held protectively close to the body.

I brush my hand over the curling wisps of hair, soft, so incredibly soft, down to the delicate protrusion of her spine under her skin, and along her shoulder blade. Then back up.

In this moment, I'm sure I've never been happy. Not like this. Not at peace. Nowhere, like when I'm with Bella.

Following swiftly after that feeling is fear. Fear. Never far from my heart.

I can't lose her.

And I can't fight her battles for her.

I can only love her.

I push a lock of hair back behind her ear and she hums in her sleep.

I still can't believe she's alone. How can someone like her have been overlooked in love for so long? I feel the answer in my blood, in the heart that sends it out to my extremities and calls it back.

Because she's mine. Because she was meant for me. I should've known it long ago. I wasted so much time. The thought cuts my blood with acid. Time.

I want her again, but I don't want to wake her. I tell myself it can wait.

But it can't.

I bend and kiss the shell of her ear, right over her sapphire, trailing down to her neck, my hand gliding over the curve of her hip. She sighs in her sleep and says my name.


"Yes, my love?" My love. My love. My words echo my heart.

"What …? Oh." I close my mouth around her nipple and suck it gently as it pearls hard in my mouth. I squeeze her breast with one hand as the other finds her back, bringing her to arch, bringing her closer.

I kiss her ear again and speak softly into it. I feel the flush of her skin against mine as I ask her to show me how she likes it best.

"I don't know if I can, again."

"Show me anyway. I've thought of it so many times, I want to see it."

Fearless Bella, her hand cramped in her splint, finds mine and guides it over her navel and into her soft flesh. She operates my fingers, using them to draw small circles around her clit.

Cradled close, I kiss her mouth as my right hand grazes her breast, lazily brushing the puckered nipple and caressing the mound around it, trailing my fingers up to her collarbone and back down. Her hand leaves mine to its devices, her own fingers gliding up my arm, to my shoulder, to my neck.

My mind is whirling, not unlike my fingers, surging, not unlike her chest, lifting and falling with her breath. I curl my hand about her shoulder and bring her closer as her body pulses in my arms. I want to hold it. Just savor the crescendo of her whimpers, but my body moves without my permission. I'm sliding a condom on and pushing into her, the residual aftershocks engulfing me.

Clench and release.

My hands find the bones of her hips and hoist her into me as I press her back. My cock pushes her breath out, draws it in, makes it tremble. Makes me tremble.

My world capsizes to the reactions in her body. The exquisite torture of trying to hold out as long as I can. But I can't.

I didn't know sex could be like this.


The cottage is still when I wake up. I can feel the bed is empty next to me. Night is claiming the light outside the window, and the room is haunted with unfamiliar shadows.



Cold dread creeps through me. He wouldn't leave. Would he? Not now. I roll to a sitting position and swing my legs over the side of the mattress. In the murky twilight I can make out a small card with my name on it next to the honor bar.

My heart somersaults.

He wouldn't leave me here.

I stand, pulling my t-shirt on just as the door to the cottage opens. Jake comes bounding in. I hadn't even realized he was gone. He comes straight for me, rubbing against my legs like an overgrown cat. His fur is chilled and slightly damp.

Edward comes in behind him, his arms laddered with glinting silver containers, foil to-go boxes. A bag is slung over one arm and I hear bottles clank inside it. He eases the door into its frame and turns to the small table to unburden himself.

His back is so broad, it's a shelter. When he stretched himself over me, when his eyes rolled as his lashes closed out the world. He bites the inside of his cheek when he comes, his chest purring out the noise I heard long ago on the phone. The quiet growl of his soul. I love it.


His hands stop unpacking napkins and plasticware from the bag. He turns to me and we look at each other. I smile but he doesn't smile back. He just looks at me.

Can he feel my abating fear? Fear that he ran again. Can he see it in my face? Why is he just staring? I pull my hair forward. It's a self-conscious gesture I can't seem to stop.

"Is something wrong?"

"Remember … Christmas Eve … when you told me that I let my mouth run awful things?"


"And that I must think good things about you?"

I feel the heat move from my back to my face. I nod.

"I'm working up the nerve to let my mouth run all the things I'm thinking about you right now."

"Good things?"

He closes his eyes. "Oh, Bella."

I smile. The look of wonder on his face makes my heart float in my chest.

"Why is it so much harder … to say the good things? The super cheesy things? Do you think?"

His brows wrinkle. "Hmmm. I think. Anger. It's a defense mechanism. Maybe. It keeps you, safe. Unexposed."


He crosses the room and pushes my hair back over my shoulder, letting his fingers caress my neck, up to my ear. I think his eyes are on the sapphire when he says, "While good things just open you up to rejection. It's a vulnerability, to show your love. It feels like showing your weakness."

His gaze leaves my ear and works over my face.

I nod. "That makes a lot of sense."

"I feel very, very vulnerable right now."

Our eyes meet and lock. "Good."

He chuckles. "Are you hungry?"

"Famished. What did you get?"

"All kinds of stuff." He leads me to the table by my fingers, flipping on the light that dangles low over the table. Cartons of food cover the surface. Scalloped potatoes and crab legs and rare steak in au jus. I don't really eat any of this stuff, but I smile at him anyway. He laughs.

He opens another carton. Roasted chicken. And another. Mixed veggies. And one more. A winter salad with nuts and baked squash. He makes a face at that one.

"That was the grossest looking thing on the menu so I figured you would love it."

I feel a wave of tender appreciation crash inside me. The table—full of what I now understand to be his and hers cartons of food—blurs out of focus.

"I can go back out, Bella. I-"

I shake my head and turn into him. He gathers me up. This is what love feels like. Like a man who cares enough to feed you the things you want to eat. A man who pays attention to you. A man who sees you and likes to. Likes to look at you, even though you aren't perfect.

I convinced myself, long ago, that I was fine on my own. That I could kill my own spiders. I could fix my own anything. But it's not the doing of those things that matters. It's having someone who wants to do those things for you. Who waits for your smile, who hates your tears and your self-doubt.

Edward loves me. He knows me. He knows. And he still wants me.


Bella is so quiet when she cries. Soft and delicate into my shirt, her hands over her face. Like she doesn't want anyone to know. My jaw clenches with her pain, with the unknown cause of it. With the doubt and vulnerability racking me.

All at once I understand.

Returning from war, I found myself awed by the stupidest things. I recognized liberty in every moment, every little thing underscoring the contrast between civilian and military life. Small things. Using a bathroom instead of a bucket, drinking when I want, eating what I want. Sleeping without a gun. Speaking whenever and however I choose. Sometimes those things were more than what they are. They were freedom, they were home. They were being alive.

The dinner on the table isn't just food. I get that. It's being loved. It's not being alone anymore.

What that means to me is her trust. She trusts me.

That is being free. Being alive.

Being loved.


I wash my face and put on fresh jeans and a hoodie before joining Edward at the little table for dinner. He's scooping potatoes onto a paper plate and he looks up at me with a smile.

The smile. My favorite. The smile of a carefree boy. Easy. Happy.

I return it and grab a plate and a fork. We sit across from each other. Edward pours some wine into a real wine glass, sliding it over the table to me.

"Was the tattoo over your scar the first?"

It occurs to me that there is nothing false in Edward's question. There is nothing reaching or guiding.

It just IS this way.

I nod. He puts a bite of steak into his mouth, chewing it while I watch. Then he smiles at me. "I like it. I like asymmetry. I always-" His face falls, some sudden realization draining the mirth from it. He shakes his head. "The apple. Fuck."

He drains his glass of its Scotch before looking at me and smiling again. It's not a warm smile, not this time. It's full of self-recrimination. "More things to apologize for."

"Edward. No. I'm the one who should apologize for that. I … I almost told you that day. Right then, at the market. I should have. Then-"

"No, Bella. I'm glad you didn't."

He gives me a sheepish look, tilting his chair back and placing his palm against his neck. "I wasn't ready."

I consider that, pushing salad around on my plate. "When do you think you were ready?"

He exhales sharply, the chair thunking back to the floor. "I don't know … Christmas … maybe."

I swallow a bite of salad, rinsing it down with wine. I'm about to agree with him, to say I'm sorry … although god knows there have been enough of those levied between the two of us, when he speaks.

"No. No … I needed to find out … the way that I did. It sucks to say that, I know. But Mike—his attitude—solidified something in me. Something that I needed to understand to be with you."


"It isn't just one thing, or one feeling, actually. It's more like … this understanding of what you've been up against. I saw it a lot in Afghanistan. This derogatory attitude towards women, I've even shared in it. I've judged or … I don't know … just. Mike helped me see how and why you hid it from me. Does that make sense?"

I am not going to cry again.

Everything happens for a reason. I've told myself that a million times. Especially in my struggle to deal with this body, this loneliness. And now I can say it about Mike. Edward is mine, because Mike helped point him at me.

I smile. "I think I'm going to send Mike the mother of all thank you cards."

Holy moly. I will never get tired of watching Edward smile. "I'll sign it."

I try my best to imitate Edward, mimicking his left handed scrawl against the air. "Sorry I knocked your lights out. Nothing personal. Love – Edward."

"Take out the mush and you've got it about right."

Our laughter fills the room and he pushes back from the table, moving to the desk to refill his glass. Instead he comes back to the table with his glass and the bottle.

He retakes his seat, generously pouring scotch into his glass as he scratches above his eyebrow with a hooked finger.

"Phil asked me … if you've relapsed."

"I haven't. But at some point-"

"I don't understand. Didn't the doctors advise you to have a double mastectomy?"

I chew and swallow before answering. "One did."

"Why didn't you?"

I set my fork down, my heart skittering in my chest. "I thought it would be easier … for me."

Edward nods. "Okay."

He looks expectant. It's time for hard explanations, past time.

"My body, my reliable body had become, I don't know. Not me. Foreign. I was so angry with it. I felt like all the ways I understood myself had to be redefined. I am not this body, to some extent, I just live here. Separated … from my flesh. I saw myself in parts. And the healthy breast … was like hope. I don't know how to explain. I was young and … my own health wasn't the only thing occupying me."

"What happened … with your mom?"

"My mom caught her cancer late. Stage Four. It had spread to her lymph nodes and lungs. Really, it was a weird coincidence that I was diagnosed while my mom was in treatment."

"A coincidence?"

I toy with the plastic knife next to my paper plate. "I went to the doctor for something unrelated. My boyfriend and I were … talking about sex. I went for-"


"How do you know that?"

The light shining down from over the table etches his face in planes of light and shadow. "More things for me to apologize for. I saw pictures of him … in your photo albums."

"Oh. Yes. Dmitri is Phil's nephew. We grew up together."

"I saw." He pauses before asking, "He was first?"

I nod.

"And then Mike?"


"Guy number two," he mimics. "How long ago was that?"

"Couple years ago." I try to say it casually, but Edward grins. I'm pretty sure he's remembering, as I am, the conversation we had at Bella Italia where he concluded that I didn't currently have another lover based on my scent.

"How did you meet him?"

"He came into Olympian to see the broker. Looking for a site for Newton's Two. He was kind of quiet. Actually—I don't know if you noticed, but, he almost stutters. Anyway. He seemed really nice. And he was, but he was also annoyingly passive-aggressive. One of the reasons I decided to go out with you is because… you're so different from Mike."

"Good. That guy is slime."

"Well, at the time, he didn't seem to be. He was very understanding. He sort of … ignored that part of my body, and that was fine. I wanted to like him. He had good taste in music and-"

He waves his hand. "Yeah, yeah. But how did he smell?"

I laugh. "Acceptable."

"Psh. I smell way better than that."

"You do. Galactically better."

"Ooooh galactically. Is that even a word?" His eyes are teasing.

"It is now."

"So. What happened?"

"It just didn't … work out."

"Tell me, Bella."

"Mike. Mike ... said ... it didn't bother him. But it did. Maybe because he doesn't know what he wants. But certainly … I mean no man wants… a girl with one-"

"I do."

"You say that now. But in a year … will you be ready for me to get reconstruction?"

"Is that what happened with Mike?"

"He started suggesting it. And it started rubbing me the wrong way."

Edward pushes the remnants of his meal out of the way and leans forward, his fingers splayed over the rim of his glass. "Okay. Let's get this out of the way right now. Why didn't you get reconstruction?"

I push my own food out of the way and pull my wine glass in front of me, swirling it against the tapletop, watching it move under my fingers. "Well first - it might mess up my tattoo."

"Good reason."


I smile at her but she doesn't look up. Her eyes follow the swish of the wine in her glass. It's almost empty so I reach for the bottle to top her off. She covers the top of her glass with her hand and shakes her head.

I set the bottle down and wait for her to speak, but she just shifts in her chair.

"Bella. Look—I know maybe you don't want to talk about this right now. But I need to know."

She runs her tongue over her lip and then bites it. "It's just hard to find the right words. Explaining a feeling, my reasoning, to some extent, it probably won't make sense."

"I don't want to get psycho-analytical, but if it's how you feel, even if you can't explain it. It's valid. You don't have to make me understand, exactly."

She clears her throat. "I lost this breast when I was 17. I was sort of … a late bloomer. I didn't really have any girlfriends, a couple casual ones. I had only had sex once when I got the call that they wanted to do a biopsy. It sounds stupid, but … at the time, I didn't know myself sexually at all. I didn't understand men at all. Not at all. And my mom was dying."

I abandon my chair and move to the one directly next to her, taking her hand from where it fidgets at the stem of her glass and weaving my fingers through hers.

Her eyes cut to mine, velvety and deep, emphatic.

"I was an athlete. In water—I'm fast. I was prouder of my athleticism than my figure. That didn't change when I got cancer. I used it to identify who I was. Who I am. I am not dollparts. My parents … well Mom and Phil, are very earthy people. Even my dad has this deep connection with nature. I couldn't reconcile myself with an implant. And, because I had already chosen to keep the healthy breast …" She shrugs a shoulder before going on. "The doctors told me they wouldn't match. So—what was the point? I already didn't match. Without the pain and trial of reconstruction. I just … didn't have the energy for it. At the time."

She looks away, at our hands folded together.

"And then later, when I started to realize … I don't know."

"What men are really like?"

Her eyes go round, shining in the dim light.

I smile at her and squeeze her hand. "Pigs, remember. Fiends. You said so yourself."

"Just you."

I laugh. She cracks a small smile.

"Anyway. I got stubborn about it. What men want was not a good enough reason for me to do it. I was fine with me. For a long time, I was just trying to find my path in the wake of the disease. In the aftermath of my mom dying. Whether or not I had two breasts—when they didn't matter all that much to me—was, I don't know. It just wasn't a priority, not for a while. I envied other women. But I envied them their unblemished lives, more than their bodies. An implant doesn't fix that. All it does is help me forget that I need to be vigilant against cancer. So ... I got the tattoo."

"You sound like you regret that."

"I don't. I just ... I began to feel trapped in my own body. Decorated or not. I couldn't get past my reflection. Or the way men react to it. And then Mike, Mike just—don't get tense Edward. To his credit, he wasn't half as difficult as you are. Just ... a worm. Wormy and spineless. You aren't that. But you haven't been a picnic either."

I bring her knuckles to my kiss. "Should I apologize again?"

"Maybe once more."

"I'm sorry Mike was a spineless worm."

"Are you?"

I laugh and shake my head. "I guess not, actually."

"You're laughing a lot today."

"Relief, Bella."

"So this isn't the norm?"

"I think you know the answer to that."

She looks at me slantwise. "Yeah. I think I do."

I smile into my scotch, drink, and set the glass on the table, pulling Bella to her feet.

"Are you done?"

Her eyebrows go up.

"Eating. Not … talking."


"Let's go out on the deck."


He pulls the folded blanket from the back of the leather sofa and gestures to the sliding glass door. I pour an inch of wine in my glass and follow him out. It's beyond brisk outside, the ocean air blowing fierce into the bay, the small waves lapping the shore several feet below us. I sit on the padded wooden bench and he throws the blanket over us.

Edward tips his glass back, draining it, setting it to the side.

"I'm going to run my mouth now, Bella. You ready?"

I laugh softly. "This should be interesting."

"Yeah. I'm sure it will be."

His eyes are glossy and bright, reflecting the light shining through the window behind us.

"I'm not … really, an eloquent man-"

I scoff. He shrugs.

"The word love gets thrown around a lot."

"How do you mean?"

"Just what I said. I love scotch. I love my car. It's not a sacred enough word. People love ice cream. Or bacon. It isn't … a big enough word. For how I feel. About you."

Both hands get raked through his hair.

"I know how hard it is … to talk about things you don't want to remember, or think about." He shakes his head. "I love you, Bella Swan. I love that you match me. But …"

I have thorns in my chest, poking and popping my lungs, deflating them. Ready for it, or trying to be.

"I wish you had two scars. I'll be a lot saner when you do."

I open my mouth to speak but nothing comes out.

"My love for you has nothing to do with your body, your package. This decorated envelope you inhabit. Sure. I will use it to show my love…"

He's blushing. Even in the darkness I can see it.

"You can get the reconstruction … or not get it. It doesn't make a difference to me. That's not going to change. And … that's not a promise I don't know if I can keep. I do know it. I just. I love you."



"Look, Bella. I know what you mean about—trying to explain your reasoning—I feel like I'm doing a piss-poor job of it right now. My words feel flat in my own ears. I wish I could do this moment a little more justice."

He lets his breath out and I feel it on my hands.

"I wish you could see yourself—the way that I see you."

"How do you see me?"

He turns his face towards the railing, smiling, shaking his head.

While we are discussing the hard stuff, I need to come clean about something else. I take a deep breath.

"Alice gave me your dog tags. Did you know?"


I clear my throat. "I didn't."

Bella looks at her wine glass. "Early on. Right after you left for Costa Rica."

My heart itches inside my chest. Fucking Alice.

"I gave them back to her. But … that was something else I lied about. I knew you were a Marine. Almost that whole time. I knew. And I didn't tell you that I knew. Our relationship, or whatever you want to call it, has been really lopsided, up until now."

I reach for some kind of feeling that Bella betrayed my confidence, but it doesn't come. I don't feel anything except irritated with my meddling sister.

"I have things to be sorry for, too. She shouldn't have given them to me. I know why she did it, but I was pretty irked with her about it."

"Why do you think she did it?"

"She wanted me to love you."

I can't help it. I laugh. "Add her to the list of people who get a thank you card."

Bella doesn't laugh. "I think she probably regrets it, now."

"She and Jasper can just eat their hearts out."

She laughs, a derisive little chuckle. "Yeah, he's no fan of yours."

"I know. Speaking of. Leah helped me find you."

Her mouth falls open. Her surprise is almost comical. "She did not."

I nod. "She did."

"Our thank-you card list is getting longer and longer."

"That sounds like something you should handle."

She holds up her splinted hand. "Can't. Crippled, remember?"

"How could I forget?"

She leans her head against my shoulder and I pull her tight to me.

"Why do you have a peacock tattooed on your ass?"

She smiles into her wine glass, talking into it, her voice dimmed by the bowl. "Long story."

"I'm not going anywhere."

"Peacocks are a funny bird. Their plumage … only really serves one purpose. To attract a peahen."

Bella shifts on the bench, turning to face me, reaching to set her glass down so she can talk with her hands. It reminds me of that first ride in my car, how she squared up with her knee over the console, explaining the inner workings of her engine.

"It's interesting because, theoretically their long tails are a disadvantage. It burdens them with extra weight, makes them slower. Easier prey—you know?"

I nod. I think I understand. Symbolism of her trying to adjust to life without plumage. Even though breasts do serve a purpose.

"Peacocks are a great example of sexual selection. Peahens aren't necessarily choosing the fittest partner. Just the prettiest. And why? Why would they do that? They only burden their offspring with heavy, unnecessary tails."

I tilt my head and look at her.

"They do it … because they want their sons to have the best chance at mating, too. A son with a short tail would be shunned by peahens. The genetic legacy would end there. With the short tailed peacock."

"What does this mean … to you, Bella?"

She clears her throat, animated explanation over, her shoulders slump. Just a little. "My genetic legacy ends here. I probably have the breast cancer gene. I'm not going to give that to my children. I know it sounds silly. But that's why I got my peacock. That's what it means to me. Although there are a lot of other meanings, too."

I know this. I remember Riley and I coming across a white peacock in Peshawar. I had asked him what the fuck it was and he had laughed. "You've never seen an albino peacock, Cat?"

"Is that what that thing is?"

"Divine bird. Revered by Muslims and Christians alike. Symbols of resurrection and fidelity. Faith, Corporal. Faith."

Totally different from what they mean to Bella. "Did you want kids, Bella?"

She turns away from me and shrugs.

I look at her profile. Her genetics are beautiful. Like the peacock. Is it beauty that should be passed on, or is it survival? Is it health? Is a short uncertain life worse than none at all?

She turns her face to me. "This is just another reason why we're meant for each other, Edward. We aren't parent material."

My thoughts turn to Umar. How he would climb into my lap and fall asleep there while I read to him. We read an English-Pashtun-Farsi translation dictionary. He would read the word in his languages, and I would read it in mine. We butchered each other's words, laughing. He was lucky that he could read. I was lucky that I got to know him.

Bella's studying my face and I wonder how much the darkness hides. "Do you … want children, Edward?"

I shake my head. "I was thinking of Umar."

She nods.

"I heard that it's really hard to adopt children from Afghanistan."

"It is. Impossible for non-Muslims."

"So stupid. So many kids over there-"

"Bella. Let's change the subject. Okay?"

Her hand is on my cheek, her thumb running under my eye. She smiles. "Do you know … the first time I dreamed about you?"

I cover her hand with mine.

"Right after the wedding. I was so mortified to face you at the office. Do you remember when I came to get the check for Jane?"

I groan.

"Could you tell? I so thought it was all over my face."

"I couldn't." I try to remember that morning. How Bella looked like she was leaving when I came out of my office. She was already pink when she turned around.

I smile.

"You could tell!"

"I couldn't. I just thought you were flustered to be around me. Especially after-"

"I was!"

I pull her into me and kiss her hairline. She moves and I kiss her mouth. "You got over it."

Her hair swishes back and forth. "No. I never did."

"I never did, either."

"You were never flustered."

"Not flustered. More. Intrigued."

"Oh, well that will definitely wear off. Just give it time."

"Not likely." I kiss her again. Her mouth is warm, sliding against mine, spreading her heat to me, protecting me from the ocean air. "What did you dream, Bella?"

She sighs. "Dreams. There is no way I can tell you about it… and have it feel the way it felt… for me."

"Sounds like a theme for the evening. Poor Communication 101 with Edward and Bella. So, tell me how it felt."

Her laughter is light, bubbling out of her. "It felt awful."

"Oh God. What did I do?"

She covers her mouth with her splint, palm out, as if she can stop me hearing the words by blocking their exit. "You offered me your soul. In a cup. It was gold. Like … liquid sunshine. It tasted like … ambrosia or something. And you were smiling."

"That doesn't sound so bad."

"No. Until you consider that you didn't smile then. At least, not genuinely. And you took my parking spot at work. AND, you bullied me at the wedding."

"I didn't bully you."

She huffs.

"That was me flirting."

Her laugh is huge and abrupt. It makes me laugh.

"Exactly how do you get all this tail you're so proud of?"

My laughter quiets. "Girls usually eat it up with a spoon. You know, you're the only one who didn't."

"Apparently, I did."

"Thank fuck for that."

"Anyway. It sucked. I had this dream where you were sweet to me—more than that—and then I had to face you and your prickish ways."

"Bella. Just so you know. I'm not… proud of all the women I've been with. They were just… distractions."

She kisses me, her hands coming together behind my neck. Her fingers curling in and around my short hairs. We slide back against the bench, our mouths moving slowly together, the heat of her cheeks radiant against my face. I cup her jaw and pull back, watching her face as her eyes come languidly open. She smiles at me, her full-bloom smile. Her just for me smile.

My heart answers it.

I love her. I love her so much.





I tip my head back and look at the Milky Way. So prominent. All the stars, turning the canopy of night a glowing swirly white.

So many stars. It feels like every last one of them is sparkling up there.

I wonder if it's me. If stars burn hotter because I do.

I think they do.

The wine tastes better. The ocean smells impossibly fresher and more alive. Because I am more alive.

It occurs to me that this feeling, this glorious glow in me … this has to be healthy.

Because it feels so good.

I've traveled so far since this morning. Since I slumped from my Isuzu to take a long walk on the beach of my youth. But I'm not tired. Not like I was then.

I feel Edward's heat at my back and lean in to it. He whispers in my ear. "Come with me."

And I do.

He guides me inside. I can hear water running, steam humidifying the room, making the air thick and balmy, especially so after the crispy ocean night I was breathing out on the little deck.

"What are we doing?"

I think I know, but I like asking all the same. He doesn't answer, just turns to me, his fingers brushing mine at my side. His other hand reaches up and tucks my hair behind my ear. He's been doing that a lot. I like it.

"You make me want things I've never considered before. You make me feel…"

His eyes hold mine as his words fall away. He shakes his head. A tiny little shake. I shake mine back at him and we both smile. "Everything?"

"You make me want to be specific. To put a fine point to everything. I'm new, Bella. I feel new."

His fingers squeeze mine and he raises my hand to kiss my knuckles. He smiles, his Cullen teeth grazing the folded joints of my hand. "I want to make love to you. Take your clothes off."

I can't help the brow that springs up. I know it mocks him. His grin gets bigger.

"Shouldn't you take my clothes off?"

He doesn't say anything, just sighs melodramatically and moves his hands to the zipper of my hoodie. I can tell he's trying to get his grin under control, his cheek's pinched in. It's adorable. I stick my tongue out at him. He laughs.

"You're so relaxed. I love it."

"Being away from Seattle will do that to me."

"Then let's never go back."

He chides me with a cluck of his tongue as he pulls the sweater from my arms, carefully lifting my hair and letting it fall against my t-shirt. "We have to go back."

"Maybe it will be better—when we do."

He nods, nudging me, and I lift my arms so he can pull off my shirt. His lids are heavy and lustful as his hand trails over the seam of my bra, from one side, down the V and back up to the other. His cheeks are just the tiniest bit pink, right under the outer corner of each eye.

"Your face is red." My voice is little more than a whisper. He doesn't look at me, just pulls his lip in with his teeth, his upper lip spreading over his canines, half smile—full intent. "You're blushing yourself there, Swan. My favorite of all your blushes. The one that lights your skin—and mine—on fire."

"Well, now … when you say things like that-" I'm trying to continue the playful mood. But he's done with it. He's changed gears.

"Are you wet, too? I used to imagine that the flame touching your face heated your body and readied it for me."

I can't get my breath. "I don't know. Why don't you check?"

Hand to my navel, he pushes me back against the wall. He slips the button atop my jeans from its hole and brings the zipper down, working the denim over my hips. My flesh prickles as he goes to his knees before me.

He looks up at me from the floor, and, holding me steady to the wall with one big hand, presses his mouth against the cotton of my panties. He breathes and rubs his face into me, speaking as he does. "Oh yes. Very."

Without looking up, he reaches, finds my arms crossed over my chest and pulls them down. "No hiding," he murmurs, nipping gently at me through the fabric.

He keeps talking, kissing, playing, slipping a finger inside the seam at my thigh to brush his knuckles directly against flesh. Then he pulls the fabric to the side and flattens his tongue against me.

This is more than touch. This is engulfment.

He hums too. I run my hands through his hair. I'm not holding him to me, I'm just making it clear he shouldn't stop yet.

His fervency increases and the scratch of his face is a little rough. "Gentle."

He pulls back, plucking the sides of my underwear and pulling them down. I move to step out of them but he stops me. "Not yet. I like looking at you with them around your ankles."

And he does look, for a long minute. I close my eyes and breathe, feeling the power of being a sexual creature. His lust for me undiminished by my imperfect body, to the point where I can almost forget and just be tangled in this moment with him. This moment where he can own me, he can command me. Whatever he wants is what I want. It's a high. It's a high like no other.

His tongue is on me again. Flat and persistent. Stroking, making circles, laving, until my knees are knocking and my shoulder blades are pressed to the wall. His hands on each of my hips, pulling me against his face as I come.

Through the veil of my lashes I can see him, looking up at me. My body is suddenly too heavy and one knee quivers out of joint. Edward growls and lifts me easily, tossing me back onto the unmade bed as he pries a condom from its wrapper and rolls it on.

He's braced on an arm above me, leaving kisses over my face as he positions himself, as he smiles against my skin. He whispers things to me, Edward in his heat, a poet, a lover. Inside, I am bigger than this body. I am universal. I am love. These are the thoughts fed into my mind by his words. Fed into my heart which flickers and burns and sends the flame dancing to him.

I can hold all of him inside me. Not just his cock. More.

So much more than these separate bodies. As he wraps his arms around me, pulling me flush to him as he moves, his hand at the small of my back and another tangled in my hair. It's more—so much more—than I can take. I cling to him. I touch all the parts of him that own me. I become their master, with my hands. My exploring hands seeking and finding him.

I have no maps for this. But I know exactly where I'm going. The landscape of his body with its scars, its ridges of bone and muscle, the forest of hair curling over his collarbone, the hollow notch there. The anatomy of his bite, his taste, his scent. Our scent. The two of us a harmony stretched long.

More than that.

Infinite. Finite.

I hear his breath catch in his throat, and I press my hand to the sound, feeling the vibration as his cheek pinches in, his head goes slack on its stem, falling forward until his forehead touches to mine. He slows, fully encased in me and I watch, as he did. I watch the world leave him far behind. I feel. I feel his pulse, his lips find mine in his darkness and he growls his orgasm into my mouth.

His sweltering weight atop me is relief from every other moment. He goes to his back, rolling me, keeping me close, holding me to him. I lounge long against him, losing the contours of my body, my awareness sharpening to the rise and fall of his chest and the firm press of his fingers in my hair.

And then something else.



"Is there water running?"

"It's the bathtub filling."

"Has that been going this whole time?"

He chuckles. "Yeah."

I get up on an arm and look down at him. His eyes creak open and smile up at me while his fingers twirl and tug at my hair. "You're so… beautiful, Bella. You really. Are. A Bella."

"Edward, what about the tub?"

"It fills really slowly. It's a big tub. Should be fine."

"I'm going to go check it."

He gestures with his fingers for me to do so.

The tub looks like a foam snowcone, melting in the summer. Iridescent bubbles piled high and spilling in clumps to the tile floor where they slowly burst and turn back to soap.

The tap squeaks as I swivel it closed. I'm reaching for the bubble bath container when Edward strides naked and purposeful into the room and starts laughing.

I love the sound.

"Did you pour this whole bottle in there?"

His answer is broken up by giggles. "Is that not… what you're supposed to do?"

I give him a look.

"I put those in there, too." He points to an empty sack of English Rose bath crystals.

"It's like … a big porcelain perfume cauldron."

"Oh well," he says, gripping the curled edges of the tub, hoisting himself in. "Yeah, it's definitely oily."

"You are going to need a shower after you get out of there. I'm going to go get you some Irish Spring or something so you can wash all that girl smell-"

"No way. I ran this for you. Get in here."

"I'm not getting in there. I'll never get clean."

His face loses all humor, except his eyes which dance with mirth. "Don't make me come get you."

"Hah. You couldn't catch me if you tried. I could slam that door and you won't be able to turn the knob."

"I'll use a towel."

"Good point."

"Do you concede?"

I sigh. Really… I just don't want to take my bra off.

No hiding.

I undo the clasp and toss it, remove my splint, drop it to the floor, and get in the tub.

We don't wash, what's the point? We lounge. Edward against the sloped back of the tub and me against him. We stay in until the water is uncomfortable. Tepid and slick. I pull the plug and try to stand, gripping the side of the tub and Edward's sturdy knee. My hair is a wet mess, pulled long by the weight of the soaped water and I wring it out over Edward's chest. He smiles.

"Are you sore yet?"

"Not yet."


And then we're on the bathroom rug. A slippery tangle of arms and legs.

I've never seen Edward smile this much.

When his hand hits the slick floor and slides out from under him, he comes down hard on me, the bulk of him pressing me into the floorboards, the vibration of his laughter resonating from within me. I wrap my legs around him and we laugh, together, wound up and covered in quickly drying soap.

He rolls me atop him, his hands clutching my waist. I tuck my arm and he clucks at me. "Give me your hand. No, the other one."

"Be careful with it. Remember it's broken."

He kisses the knuckle of my ring finger, before grasping me by the wrist and holding my arm straight as he nudges upwards with his hips. Before long our pace has become fevered and the hard floor under the mat hurts my knees.

But I don't stop. I can't stop.


I can't see her face, just her neck, stretched long and beautiful, her decorated chest and arms, her chin, her hair losing drops that hit my legs and roll to the floor. I hold her arm away from her chest, away from her tree and her scar. Held long and aloft because I want there never to be shame here. I never want the sexual space we own to be ruled by insecurity or self-doubt.

We're free here. With each other. I'm free—I want to bring her with me. I want her to find more than pleasure here, but comfort, too. I want it for her. I want it for me.

I'm better at showing ... than telling.

She makes me feel vulnerable. But that's only part of it. She also makes me strong. It makes me brave. Not her love for me or mine for her. But ours together. It's one thing.

This is our place. It belongs to her and me alone. It can't be conquered or compromised.

Her face falls forward, her cheeks are pink, her lip between her teeth, the roll of her hips against me is steady and languid.

Her hand—pressed to my heart—reminds me of my first dream of her.

Don't think you're so broken that I can't break you more. To fix you.

I push my hand into her hair, curling my fingers and bringing her down to me. I need more of me to be touching more of her. I need to feel the contact of her body. I need her close to me.

I need her.

It will never be over. It will never wane. It will never dim or fade.


In my life there have been moments of happiness, but there has never been rightness. There has never been completion. Being close to her, I feel the iron melt from my bones.

I feel like I'm home.

I feel like myself.

(((High Fidelity)))