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Edward's Eclipse

Summary:
For True Edward Fans. An in-depth, accurate portrayal of the heart,
mind, and soul of the beloved Edward Cullen as he deals with the complex
themes and events taking place during Eclipse. Canon. Rated T for intimacy. Eddie's and Bellie's Twilight Fiction Award winner for "Canon that's better than Canon", TwiFic Indie Award Nominee for "Best Indie Story by and Established Author We Know and Love".


Notes:
Eclipse: Edward's Story I do not own Twilight, nor do I own any of Twilight's characters. All characters and themes referenced in Eclipse: Edward's Story belong to Stephenie Meyer. Any quotations from Eclipse are purely for reference and are in no way an attempt at any copyright infringement. For me, Edward Cullen is one of the most fascinating fictional characters in postmodern literature. In my imagination, Edward's existence is a constant existential crisis. The elements of conflict, duality, and desperation embodied by his character are all so fascinating. I hope I've done him justice. Feedback is appreciated. I love critics. Enjoy.


9. Theme from Chapter 20 - Compromise - Part One

Rating 5/5   Word Count 7162   Review this Chapter

Despite the achingly slow pace of Bella’s truck, we were now no more than ten minutes away from my home. And yet, although our travels could have been completed much faster if I were driving, I simply could not seem to feel the slightest bit of impatience.

Still, she was driving too carefully, too slowly, and too cautiously, but it seemed now as if her overly diligent driving techniques were a blessing. With her at the helm, distracted and yet focused on the task of careening her giant, rumbling vehicle down the slick road toward my home, I sat back and quite simply, enjoyed the view.

And what a view it was.

Perhaps it was my high mood, or the way her light shirt contrasted against the soft shine of her dark hair, or the sunset, which was creeping low and soft against the skyline, adding to the illumination of her face…but, regardless of the reason…Bella was heartbreakingly lovely. And I couldn’t help but wonder how often my impatience had robbed me of these priceless observations.

For instance, I’d never quite noticed that Bella looked so adorably beautiful when she looked both ways more times than necessary while entering an intersection. Even though it was obvious, even to a human, that there were no approaching vehicles. And, it seemed as if anytime she took any turn, regardless of the degree, she would bite her pretty, soft lip slightly and frown her lovely face into a slight scowl as she concentrated. She was beautiful and so…serious. Yes, how many times had I missed this?

I wasn't sure. But, I wasn't going to deny myself the opportunity to make up for lost moments. So, I casually leaned back and openly watched her in veiled amusement as she prepared to take another turn. This time, it was a right turn, one that she could not gauge as well from her position. She straightened her back and parted her lips a little as if she was watching the front of her truck to be sure it could clear the angle. Serious, indeed. A low chuckle escaped my lips, but she hadn’t heard it.

Her animated expressions were so incredibly endearing. I fought against the urge to distract her simply to see her flustered. Would she chastise me if I slid across the seat to tell her how beautiful she looked, particularly when she squinted her eyes in an effort to be sure she was stopping just behind the yellow line? The idea was tempting.

No, no. I could and would…restrain myself. I was patient in this moment, true, but I was also just barely suppressing my thinly disguised delight. Delight, or perhaps even unbridled joy. Yes, that was it. This strange emotion…

Indeed it was so all encompassing that I was sure that nothing could dampen my mood. The battle with the newborns would be won quickly, Bella would be safe, tonight we would have our time together, and this evening...she would accept my gift.

Oh yes. The very reminder of my joyful triggers sent a burst of elation through me. I felt as if this feeling was very close to consuming me entirely. This elation or joy as it were, seemed to be brimming at the surface of my composure with absolute desperation; struggling to break free at every turn, at the slightest provocation.

My mind felt muddled by its presence and my body hummed with swollen, pulsating cheer. For the first time, I could truly appreciate the creatively beautiful masterpiece, Ode to Joy. I could learn a thing or two from that miser, Beethoven. Joy was surely as absolutely fulfilling as any other emotion. Elusive and yet satisfying. Yes, strange, indeed.

Of course, I’d felt it before in small increments and in various circumstances, almost exclusively with Bella, but nothing was quite comparable to this joy, which was wholly unique. The brand of joy that was overwhelming my more sensible instincts on this particular evening was connected entirely to possibilities I'd scarcely allowed myself to entertain with any seriousness: the joy of hope and the incredible joy of loving Bella. While there was plenty to celebrate, it was undeniably so that the prospect of our evening alone together only magnified this magnificent feeling. Well, that and Alice’s vision, which stubbornly refused to disappear.

Not that I was exerting every possible effort to push it away. It was too wonderful.

Apparently, from the moment I’d decided to give Bella her gift, which was a beautiful, heart-shaped diamond I’d inherited from my long deceased mother, Alice had seen the exchange, but she’d kept it from me until…last night.

She’d approached me as I’d been sifting through my CD collection, looking for a distraction of any kind. Absorbed, I had barely heard her approach at first, but then, rather quickly, she had thrown the vision at me before bouncing away in an uproar of giggles.

Slightly amused and partially curious, I had humored her and began to sort through the vision.

And there it was.

Bella was smiling and holding my mother’s diamond heart against her wrist. The gem was glistening in the low light of my room, and it was obvious that she’d not only accepted the gift, but appeared minimally happy about it. It was charming, sure, but my plans had been set already and I had no inclination that Bella would reject my gift. It was not arrogance, but justifiable assertion that encouraged my confidence, because, I’d already felt as if I had her quite cornered.

The gift from the wolf had been accepted, and even cherished, therefore how could she logically deny me? Of course, I wouldn’t disclose the value of the diamond. She would surely refuse if she knew that, besides Bella, that diamond was my most valuable possession. No. Those details would best be divulged at a later date, when she was more practiced at receiving gifts.

So, I’d cast the vision off as another one of Alice’s overzealous displays until I had heard her thoughts…Watch it again, Edward…

I did. As I carefully catalogued the details of the image once more, I’d noticed then what she had been so delighted to show me. I focused on myself for once. I was next to Bella on my bed. She was examining the gift and my expression was…absolutely ridiculous. I, apparently, was delighted beyond measure and this completely outrageous smile completely lit up my face. It seemed as if my ecstatic expression would have been accompanied by my own blush, if that were possible.

I had looked jubilantly crazed.

I’d thanked Alice then for the vision, and of course, she’d responded that she’d known I’d need it. Of course, she did.

And now, as I sat back in Bella’s truck, I could only feel encouraged by her vision. Because that delight I’d seen on my face - that same, rare brand of thrilling excitement - was definitely present. Alive and well. Right now. And threatening with each moment to transform me into a complete fool.

Yes, tonight held a lot of promise.

At the very reminder of the whole affair, I felt as if my silent heart was threatening resurrection. If it could beat, it would surely rival Bella’s erratic pulse. My nerves were flittering in anticipation. Could I possibly be more consumed by this overwhelming sense of joy? No, surely that was not possible.

Then, without my acquiescence, I realized that the smile had returned without my conscious realization. I looked at Bella, but she was still driving so carefully. She’d noticed nothing. So, I let it fill my face, momentarily helpless to remove it. A glutton for my new sense of gladness, I just continued to think of the vision. The small smile on her face, her wide eyes, her flawless skin...she seemed to glow from the image as she appreciated the gem. The prospect of my future triumph was breathtakingly satisfying. And I a little grinned wider.

This wasn’t helping…

I had to remove this smile. Most definitely, if she saw it, I would probably scare her, or worse - she would probably become justifiably suspicious. I leaned back a little further and propped my elbow against the window. Quickly, I covered my mouth casually with the back of my hand and turned to gaze aimlessly out the window. I concentrated…hard, willing it to subside. Carefully, I straightened my mouth. It wasn’t gone entirely, but I settled for a smirk. That would do for now.

Why was that so difficult, I wondered.

Surely anger and frustration were more intense emotions than this glee? I had successfully conquered both repeatedly by sheer will and discipline. And yet, I had less dominion over this ridiculous, exuberant, outrageous joy! It was an interesting consideration. One that I would have to explore fully later. Perhaps my anger was a more practiced emotion in comparison?

It was possible, but focusing on such considerations seemed to taint my cheer. I resigned myself to exploring that concept later and focused, instead, on Bella. I shot her a sideways glance and she met my eyes in a slight smile. She had been lost in her own thoughts, as well. And for once, she’d noticed nothing yet again. She screwed her eyes back to the road, resuming her careful driving.

I felt a little excitable as she entered the narrow passage toward my home. It definitely wouldn’t be long now. It occurred to me that I had very little strategy in place. Should I wait until we settled in for the night before I gave it to her? Or, perhaps I could make her dinner and give it to her then? I searched the vision again, looking for clues. Bella was fully dressed, as was I, and we were on my bed, so perhaps that was the best place to start? Yes, that would be best.

My nerves began to dance as we rounded the long path. I fought the urge to snatch her from the truck and just run to the house. I giggled to myself childishly, immediately awed by this new sense of glee. This whole joy sensation really was irrational if nothing else.

Too slowly, we entered the drive and Bella parked carefully. I watched her cut the engine and could no longer bare the anticipation. In less than a half of a second, I was at her door, she was in my arms, kissing me so sweetly…and we were entering my doorway.

She was so soft and sweet. I took the final step into the entryway and stopped, but I didn’t part from her soft lips. Exhilarated, I continued to kiss her deeply, happily. Her heart was beating wildly and her scent, so full and delicious swam around her, creating an intoxicating aura around her. She began to kiss back a little forcefully and, despite my desperate desire to reciprocate, I pulled away and set her down carefully. I was nearly bursting with anticipation.

As I held her, I took in her expression. She was so flushed and beautiful. Her long hair was a little flustered from my sprint. And it was so nice to have her here, with me, alone, for once.

“Welcome home,” I said, smiling at the blustery expression on her face. She’d still not recovered from our kiss.

“That sounds nice,” she added as she blushed a little. She ran her hand through her long hair, straightening it and another wave of her scent hit me. One part of my mind victoriously noted the faint trickle of venom that was easily conquered. I cast the very acknowledgement of my nature from my mind. There were far greater things at work here. I set her gently on her feet and immediately missed her. Apparently Bella felt the same way. Quicker than I expected, she wrapped her little warms around me and pulled herself close. My deepest affection ignited, finding its place in my hands. I held her close to me and hugged her back gently.

Shamelessly, I buried my nose in her hair, relishing the feel of her warmth and the decadence of her scent.

The quiet moment was so peaceful. But, my own internal war began to rage. Despite my enthusiasm, I knew she would be averse to accepting anything from me. Tact would be essential. But, how long should I wait before giving her the gift? Should I make her comfortable first? I saw the vision again and automatically felt the return of my grin. No, I couldn’t wait long.

I couldn’t wait...at all.

Before I even had the opportunity to exercise any restraint, my words flew from me, “I have something for you.” I blurted.

She looked up at me with polite suspicion, “Oh?”

I smirked back, albeit with complete restraint. “Your hand-me-down, remember? You said that was allowable.” Her eyes narrowed as she realized I’d caught her in her own agreement.

“Oh, that’s right. I guess I did say that,” She bit her lip and frowned. I chuckled at her. Of course she would accept my gift, but not without reluctance. And then, in fit of energy, I felt that uncontainable excitement return. I wanted to whisk her to my room and hand it to her before she could change her mind. It would be best to let her become comfortable first, and then spring it on her.

“It’s in my room. Shall I got get it?” I asked.

Her eyes brightened strangely. “Sure.” She said, taking my hands into hers, “Let’s go.”

Overjoyed, I scooped her up in one motion and headed for the stairs. She giggled a little at my haste. I was running before I knew it; my elation was apparent in my overzealous steps. I skidded to a stop at my door and set Bella down. Beaming, I exhaled a whoosh of air. She tilted her head in surprise.

And I didn’t want to waste one moment; darting for my closet, I grabbed the little jewel only to return to her side before a full second had passed. That damn grin was really making a show, apparently. She smiled back at me and blushed while moving slowly towards my bed. I stood by the door, perplexed. Where was she going? In a few little steps, she’d hopped on my bed with her adorable little legs curled underneath her. She was bracing herself.

“Okay,” She grumbled with an indifferent expression. “Let me have it.”

Ha! I barked a laugh at her. She could be just as melodramatic as Alice. In two bounds, I was at her side. Her little heart skipped unevenly and I took a steadying breath. The vision that was my companion came to life before my eyes.

“A hand-me-down,” I clarified. And then, in a flick of my hand, I pulled her wrist towards me and gently clipped the charm to her bracelet. It snapped smoothly into place, opposite the charm the dog had given her. The tinkle of the bracelet filled my ears as the weight of my token of affection slid the bracelet downward, bringing the wolf charm to the top of her wrist. The symbolism did not elude me. I stared at that inanimate object with a smug satisfaction. His intention to mark her had been clear, but I could play that game just as well.

I shook my head to clear that negativity as Bella’s hand slowly reached for the diamond. She examined it and her eyes grew wide as she assessed the colorful cuts and facets. It was so beautiful on her dainty, small wrist. I braced for her reaction, hoping desperately that she would not ask the cost or the value. She inhaled a low gasp and I seized my opportunity.

“It was my mother’s,” I shrugged nonchalantly. “I inherited quite a few baubles like this. I’ve given some to Esme and Alice both. So, clearly, this is not a big deal in any way.”

She looked up at me with the smile I’d seen a hundred times. She liked it, so I continued. Relishing in the moment. “But I thought it was a good representation. It’s hard and cold.” I laughed a little shakily. “And it throws rainbows in the sunlight.”

She smiled sheepishly and looked up at me with a sweet expression, “You forgot the most important similarity. It’s beautiful.”

“My heart is just as silent. And it, too, is yours.” I cooed.

Her eyes fluttered in acknowledgement, processing my words. I watched her intently, calculating her reaction. She seemed…touched. And, naturally, this only increased my soaring cheer.

“Thank you. For both,” She muttered.

Yes, she liked it. The joy was bubbling under the surface, soaring with her acceptance, but I still didn’t want to frighten her with my enthusiasm.

Composed, I continued. “No, thank you. It’s a relief to have you accept a gift so easily. Good practice for you, too.” I let my simper break a little as my imagination ran wild with the prospects of all of the wonderful things I could give her. I would start with reliable transportation, surely. I quickly became absorbed in the dozens of possibilities when she moved towards me, sufficiently distracting me from my musing. Musings which were sure to become fantastic obsessions.

Slowly, her little warm body moved into my arm. A colorful cloud of her scent preceded her, but the inconsequential venom met its match in my glee. As soon as she crawled against me, her face hidden from mine, I let the suppressed smile spread out just a little further.

Closing my eyes, I imaged what it would be like to give her the beautiful necklace my mother had left behind. It would look fantastic against the cream of her skin. She could wear it for a special occasion of some sort, but one that would not be too presumptuous…nor too formal…perhaps for her Christmas? Or, even her birthday?

“Can we discuss something?” She murmured into my chest, breaking me from my revelry. The effect of her warm breath against my chest sent another wave of affection through me. Somehow, it seemed to have a calming affect. I snuggled her shoulder closer to mine carefully. “I’d appreciate it if you could begin by being open-minded.” She continued.

She snuggled in once more and then stopped. Open minded? Alertly, I looked down to her, assessing her behavior. What a strange, uncharacteristic request. The fog of my happiness cleared a little as I watched her. I felt a little uncertain as I considered that she might want to give it back.

“I’ll give it my best effort.” I ventured. What did she want? If she wanted to give it back, I would take the return, but I would do my best to persuade her. I acknowledged that shamelessly.

“I’m not breaking any rules here,” She promised. “This is strictly about you and me. So … I was impressed by how well we were able to compromise the other night. I was thinking I would like to apply the same principle to a different situation.”

Bella wanted to compromise? Hm. The possibilities seemed quite entertaining. My infectious joy still permeated my thoughts. My mood was far too high to deny her. But, what did she want?

“What would you like to negotiate?” I inquired casually, doing my best to veil my curiosity, which would surely discourage her. And then, her little heart sped up, and I leaned back to assess her. I couldn’t see her face. It was entirely hidden. What was wrong with her? A hot flush permeated her cheeks. I could feel it against my skin, through my shirt.

I placed my hand against the other side of her face, feeling the hot skin. “Listen to your heart fly.” I murmured. “It’s fluttering like a hummingbird’s wings. Are you all right?”

“I’m great,” she replied shakily, bringing her face upwards. Her face was so red, and her eyes were wide, but determined. I reeled a little at this new expression, but I steeled my resolve.

“Please go on then.” What could she want that would cause such a reaction? Well, truly, anything. I tried to think clearly as a little taint of familiar fear and suspicion darkened my mood slightly – would she dare to ask me to allow her to be in the clearing? No. She was more sensible than that…

“Well, I guess, first, I wanted to talk to you about that whole ridiculous marriage condition thing.” Ah, marriage. That dirty, terrible, timeless, ancient institution. Comforted with the knowledge that Alice had confirmed Bella's dormant intentions to marry me, I proceeded. And I was a little relieved. If this was about marriage, I could handle it. But...a part of me still had the suspicion that this would concern her change. I would not bend on that condition, so I decided to allow her to proceed.

“It’s only ridiculous to you,” I clarified, eyeing her expression, which revealed nothing. “What about it?”

“I was wondering …” She began, breaking for a second. “Is that open to negotiation?” Her brow rose into a hopeful expression.

I knew it. I frowned in disapproval. Surely she was going to ask me to bend. And, there was no amount of persuasion that would accomplish such a goal. However, I did not want to ruin our pleasant mood. So, I proceeded on my best behavior. “I’ve already made the largest concession by far and away – I’ve agreed to take your life away against my better judgment. And that ought to entitle me to a few compromises on your part.”

“No,” she disagreed, shaking her head. “That part’s a done deal. We’re not discussing my … renovations right now. I want to hammer out some other details.”

Hm. Where was she headed with this? I couldn’t help but speculate with my eyes, “Which details do you mean exactly?”

She hesitated for a moment, sighed and straightened the set of her mouth, “Let’s clarify your prerequisites first.”

“You know what I want.” I said absolutely.

Matrimony,” She mocked. Her little head tilted as she spoke. It was quite charming. This was going to be quite interesting, for sure, especially since she had no idea that I had every intention of proposing soon, as soon as this whole ordeal was over, in fact.

“Yes,” I smiled back, feeling a little bit of my previous glee return with restraint, “To start with…”

“There’s more?” She cried, her little mouth forming a shocked expression. I suddenly felt a little guilty. I was going to make the most of this…“Well. If you’re my wife, then what’s mine is yours … like tuition money. So there would be no problem with Dartmouth.”

She frowned and cringed. “Anything else? While you’re being absurd?”

Yes. Now was the time for my list. “I wouldn’t mind some time.”

Her heart sped and she shook her head. “No. No time. That’s a deal breaker right there.”

“Just a year or two?” I begged dramatically. She narrowed her eyes.

“Move along to the next one.”

Ha! What would she say if I recited my list? I straightened my mouth. She was a little miffed, already. It would do no good to exasperate her sensitive condition. It seemed, based on her careful scowl, that this negotiation wasn’t quite going as she’d planned. Although, I still wasn’t sure what her original request had been.

“That’s it. Unless you’d like to talk cars …” My words trailed off, but I smirked at her incorrigible cringe.

The vision of her driving my Vanquish with such careful consideration filled my imagination. I was helpless against the charm of that idea. She would surely be overwhelmed by the sheer force of the power that automobile offered. I would have to customize the steering wheel for her, something small and more manageable…I took her hand in mine, humoring myself with tracing her fingers.

She huffed a little, but said nothing.

But, that’s not what she wanted. What did she want? The curiousity began to surge. Could she possibly want me to change her now?

“I didn’t realize there was anything you wanted besides being transformed into a monster yourself. I’m extremely curious.” I admitted, hoping she would divulge what it was the she wanted. I waited for her to respond, but as I came out of my own internal questions, I noticed the steady tempo of her heart picking up its pace again. Her eyes caught mine for a second before she steadfastly refused to meet my gaze again. I angled my head at her again, completely confused. She was blinking furiously and her warm cheeks were gradually turning a little more pink with the passing of each second. The blood pooled and I reached out to touch the heat. As I ran my fingers along her cheeks, but she did not look up.

“You’re blushing?” I whispered in curiosity. What was happening to her? Abruptly, I felt a little panicked. Would this request be something that I could not give her, something she would be frightened to ask me? Her expression was almost…scared. A hundred possibilities began to throw themselves into my line of thought. Did this concern the newborns? Jacob, even?

And she still was silent. I had to know. Desperation began to sink in as I realized that whatever she was going to request was something she was entirely uncomfortable with.

“Please, Bella, the suspense is painful.” I pleaded, gracing her cheek again, feeling the heat intensify again. A feat I had been sure was impossible.

She bit her lip in hesitation and cast her reluctant eyes to mine.

“Bella.” I chided.

“Well, I’m a little worried … about after,” she finally said.

I stiffened. Was she finally going to see? A strange mixture of uncertainty, fear, and…relief hit me at once. Would she finally see now the risks involved? For someone so fearless, had she finally come to her senses? Would I be able to sooth her concerns? Would she worry about my ability to care for her? The pain? I had to know. I braced myself for her response.

“What has you worried?” I asked quietly.

“All of you just seem so convinced that the only thing I’m going to be interested in, afterward, is slaughtering everyone in town.” I winced and she stopped, frowning with me. The memory of Emmett and Jasper’s bet regarding Bella’s temper taunted me. I composed my face, however. She steadied herself and cautiously continued, “And I’m afraid I’ll be so preoccupied with the mayhem that I won’t be me anymore … and that I won’t … I won’t want you the same way I do now.”

Oh, Bella. It clicked then that she understood enough of newborn nature to grasp that she would be consumed by her quest for blood, but she obviously didn’t understand vampiric nature. Once she was changed, our connection would be unchangeable. We would still want one another the way we did now, and even more so. We weren’t changeable like humans. Should I explain to that her now?

I hesitated and erred on the side of caution, speaking softly. Perhaps she just needed reassurance, “Bella, that part doesn’t last forever.”

Her eyes grew wide at my consolation.

“Edward,” Her voice shook strangely, with restrained emotion. My silent heart throbbed for her. Was this it? Was she finally going to see now that her pursuit of immortality was reckless? She took a deep breath and I braced myself again for the words that would surely, finally, express her valid fears, “There’s something I want to do before I’m not human anymore.”

I blinked unnecessarily as I processed her words. What? What could she want? She was blushing furiously still. What could she possibly want that would be so difficult of a request? Surely this was all blown out of proportion. She really was so vulnerable and delicate. I smirked at her softly and then composed my face once again. She'd never asked for anything before, even things she needed, and this was probably difficult for her.

“Whatever you want.” I encouraged, nearly pleading with her to tell me.

She met my eyes quickly and then looked down at her hands as she moved them to her lap. I pressed my eyes on her, searching. I couldn’t fight the intrigue. My mind raced, calculating a dozen possibilities. Patience, Edward…

“Do you promise?” she muttered.

“Yes.” I promised, still waiting. What was she thinking? The suspense was excruciating!

She looked up at me with her wide, hesitant eyes. I had the desire to reach out and cup her face. I would give her anything she wanted. Surely she knew that. Her heart began to speed up and my confusion grew.

“Tell me what you want, and you can have it.” I encouraged with sincerity.

And then, I considered something else entirely. Excitement coursed through me and my mind raced with possibilities. Perhaps she would allow me to give her something that she did want, but was just unable to articulate. Was it Dartmouth that she would finally agree to? Perhaps if I guessed? There as a very long list of things I wanted to give her. But, what would she want? I would start with a car first, and then, Dartmouth second. My mind began to calculate a list. But before I could speak, she looked up at me for a second and then withdrew her eyes from mine again.

Suddenly, she breathed. “You.”

I was confused. How could I possibly not be hers? She possessed me in every possible way. Silly girl. Could she doubt that?

“I am yours.” I told her earnestly, touching her cheek again, trying to bring her eyes back to mine. It would do no good, but I would at least be able to attempt to read her eyes. I pulled her face slightly to mine and met her nervous eyes. As soon as our gaze met, she widened her eyes and looked away once more. What was happening to her? Her heart began to fly. I tilted my head, imploring her eyes to meet mine, but she refused to look at me.

Suddenly, strangely, she snapped her gaze back to mine as she shifted onto her knees. I leaned back from her, confused. A very different expression crossed her eyes, one I’d surely not seen before. Was it her personal brand of fear? I searched her face, but she only blushed further. She leaned into me wrapping her arms around my neck and pressed her full lips to mine.

Her heart stuttered quickly, but it was very difficult to concentrate. She was so warm and her scent was so full and fragrant. I kissed her back, partially confused but definitely willing. She angled her face to mine again and kissed me a little harder. Helpless to refuse her, I wrapped my arms around her face, reveling in the soft texture of her skin. Beautiful…

Her kissing became more enthusiastic and I felt a little lightheaded. My body began to respond to her warmth and I had the fleeting, irrational desire to wrap my arms around her waist and pull her closer, but I resisted. I just wanted to feel her next to me, but that surely wouldn’t be helpful. As if she read my mind, slowly, her small little hands moved from the back of my neck towards my shirt. A tingling trail of heat sent a wave of desire through me; the heat resounded around my neck and through my shoulders. But...what was she doing?

Shakily, her small fingers began to unbutton my shirt…

No. It hit me then in blinding clarity. Our words …“Yes. Tell me what you want, and you can have it.”…… “You.”…

Distress pervaded. She wanted me? In that way? While she was…human? Impossible. Anxiety flooded me and I panicked. Torturously, the image Bella’s pale, broken body lying limp and destroyed in my arms flashed forward and I froze in horror. Surely not…surely she would not ask me to take such a risk…

In disgust with myself, I broke away from her and gently pushed her shoulders back. She rocked onto her heels and shirked away from me, staring at me in disbelief. Under any other circumstances, I would comfort her, but I could not shake the realization that she’d been serious. Of all the things. This was so…so…unreasonable.

Yes, that is exactly what it was. Was she trying to torture me? I had to stay calm. She was only human, after all.

I began to rebutton my shirt immediately. “Be reasonable, Bella.” I frowned at her in consternation. Did she not understand fully how terrible it felt to not be able to be with her in that way? To bring this up in such a manner…

Her deep sigh broke me from my anguish and I watched her with minimally veiled frustration as she straightened her head, ready to challenge me.

“You promised – whatever I wanted,” she said.

I gave her the sternest expression I could conjure. How could she possibly…“We are not having this discussion.” I tried to look at her eyes, willing her to understand, but, I couldn’t seem to focus on anything other than that image…if only I could show her what I could do to her…to make her understand. But, she didn’t understand. And I had no way to show her what could, or surely would, possibly happen.

She shifted again, and tilted her head into the air as if to demand otherwise.

“I say we are,” she growled. Under any other circumstances, her attempt at anger would have been adorable. And then, she leaned back from my glare as her heart sped and her cheeks gained color once more. She drew her hands to her shirt and popped the top button open. Oh…my imagination liked that a little too much, I saw myself kissing her, tangling one hand in her hair while my other hand worked to help her with the rest of her buttons as I prepared to take her as mine...

But this was simply not negotiable. I growled again, at both myself and her provocation. She was dangerous. In a full second, I had her wrists pinned to her sides. I avoided the expanse of skin that she’d exposed and focused on her eyes.

“I say we’re not,” I growled back, leaning forward towards her with my personal brand of intensity.

She glared at me and then softened her eyes.

“You wanted to know,” she admitted reluctantly.

“I thought it would be something faintly realistic.” Something faintly possible! She didn’t like that. Her heart began to hammer and she squirmed forward towards me again, leaning in. Her scent was heightened by her anger and it floated towards me, sending a trickle of venom in my mouth. I swallowed it, but the irony did not escape me, either.

“So you can ask for any stupid, ridiculous thing you want – like getting married – but I’m not allowed to even discuss what I – ” In a swift, frustrated move, I restrained her hands in one of mine and covered her mouth. She was angry. Surely she would say something she did not mean. She scowled and I leaned in to her, speaking softly.

“No.” I whispered, pleading with her to stop with my hardened expression. Her face fell from its angered strength, but I didn’t move my hand. She sighed heavily through her nose and let her shoulders shrink. I watched her curiously, but selfishly kept my hand in place. I wasn’t sure I could handle any further acknowledgements of my inability to make her happy.

But, she didn’t even attempt to speak again. She drew her eyes to the bed and her heart slowed. What was she thinking? And there was something familiar about her posture, something I couldn’t place…

Oh…

Abruptly, I made the connection. As Bella's eyes sunk to the bed, I recognized her demeanor from my memory. The first day I’d seen her in the Forks cafeteria, her posture had been the same. Reluctant, nervous and shy. Why was she feeling this now? To my mortification, Bella’s eyes began to tear. She was hurt? No…sadness washed over me. Our perfect night, our wonderful plans, everything was surely soured now. What had I done?

“What now?” I pleaded.

“Nothing,” She breathed. Had I really hurt her by protecting her? Did she really not understand? Remorsefully, I chastised myself. It wasn’t her fault that I was a monster, incapable of conveying my love for her physically. I shouldn’t have been so harsh with her.

“Did I hurt your feelings?” I asked, unable to mask my sadness.

“No.” She whispered.

“You know why I have to say no. You know that I want you, too.” I said, agonized.

She avoided my gaze and whispered hesitantly, “Do you?”

Was she serious? Did she truly think that I did not want her? She glanced at me reluctantly and I caught the hesitation and uncertainty in her eyes. Just like that first day of school…Oh, Bella. Would she ever see?

“Of course I do, you silly, beautiful, oversensitive girl.” I chuckled. “Doesn’t everyone? I feel like there’s a line behind me, jockeying for position, waiting for me to make a big enough mistake…you’re too desirable for your own good.”

“Who’s being silly now?” She mocked scornfully. She still wouldn’t look at me.

“Do I have to send a petition around to get you to believe? Shall I tell you whose names would be on the top of the list? You know a few of them, but some might surprise you.” She looked at me disbelievingly and I fought the urge to tick off the list with my fingers.

“You’re just trying to distract me. Let’s get back to the subject.” She replied in disbelief, recovering slightly from her bashful display.

“Tell me if I have anything wrong,” She began carefully. She began to tick off her own list with her tiny hand. “Your demands are marriage, paying my tuition, more time, and you wouldn’t mind if my vehicle went a little faster...” she tilted her head and raised her brows, provoking me to disagree. “Did I get everything? That’s a hefty list.”

“Only the first is a demand. The others are merely requests.” I conceded carefully. It was a hefty list. One that I fully intended to complete…in due time.

“And my lone, solitary little demand is – ”

“Demand?” I spat. This cannot go on.

“Yes, demand,” She confirmed seriously with her eyes straight and serious. “Getting married is a stretch for me. I’m not giving in unless I get something in return.”

The image that taunted me returned. No, it wasn’t possible. How to explain? I did not want to go into detail, but yet this would become even more of an issue eventually if I did not clarify the dangerous situation we would both be placing ourselves in. One part of me wished to detail the potential repercussions so that she would understand how absolutely irresponsible such an adventure would surely be – despite my desires, it was enough to steal her soul. I could not risk her in such a way simply because she was suffering from overactive hormones which would not even be an issue in a year’s time…if she succeeded in getting her wish to be changed. And yet…the other part of me restrained from detailing that long list of fears because of my own selfishness. It was if, as far as we’d come, I truly did not want to say anything, or do anything that might force her to question her love for me. I was a coward.

So, I sadly explained as best I could, “No. It’s not possible now. Later, when you’re less breakable. Be patient, Bella.”

“But that’s the problem,” She said, completely unaffected. “It won’t be the same when I’m less breakable. I won’t be the same! I don’t know who I’ll be then.” She cried. Her expression was tortured.

“You’ll still be Bella,” I said gently, feeling saddened again by her truthful acknowledgement. If only I could read her thoughts! Was this her fear all along? Was there something more?

“If I’m so far gone that I’d want to kill Charlie – that I’d drink Jacob’s blood or Angela’s if I got the chance – how can that be true?”

For some reason, despite her chagrin, I could not help but think of another of Alice’s images. It was Bella as a newborn. She was laughing with Emmett, somehow breaking a rock in between her fists. He was not happy. He’d been beaten by a girl. Bella would surely be changed at some point, in some way, and she would still be Bella.

I tried not to smirk as I secretly found humor in the image of Emmett’s frustrated face. “It will pass. And I doubt you’ll want to drink the dog’s blood.” I shuddered in exaggeration, desperately hoping to lighten her mood. “Even as a newborn, you’ll have better taste than that.”

“But that will always be what I want most, won’t it?” She focused in on my nonchalant expression, seeing right through my attempts to lighten the mood. “Blood, blood, and more blood!”

I grimaced at her truthful acknowledgement and then utilized the only defense I had, “The fact that you are still alive is proof that that is not true.”

“Over eighty years later,” She whined, “What I meant was physically, though. Intellectually, I know I’ll be able to be myself … after a while. But just purely physically – I will always be thirsty, more than anything else.”

My retorts faded as I imagined her blood red eyes. My own change was hazy, but I knew it was true. My face fell in resignation.

Pouncing on my hesitance, she continued, “So I will be different. Because right now, physically, there’s nothing I want more than you. More than food or water or oxygen. Intellectually, I have my priorities in a slightly more sensible order. But physically …”

She grasped my hand and held it to her warm mouth. I shuddered slightly as she pressed her soft lips to my cold skin, awakening the nerves through the length of my arm. She closed her eyes in an intimate expression that was delicately profound. She tightened her eyes and strengthened the grasp on my hand. I shook my head at her, willing my needs, my urges as a man to recede. She was awakening them and that was the last thing I needed. I took a deep breath, steadying myself, and desperately clinging to my resolve as her lips moved against my skin again. She exhaled against my skin and her scent and the feel of her softness sent a rage of desire through me.

In response to my need, my imagination conjured the image of broken Bella, again. So frail and lifeless. I wanted her so badly, but I could not give in to this…to her need. Selfishly, I pushed my hand slightly into her mouth, trying to convince myself to be satisfied with that intimacy. I leaned into her, whispering with intention. “Bella, I could kill you.”

As if she'd never heard my words, she kissed my hand again, this time with her mouth slightly opened. The warmth of the inside of her mouth sent a wave of desperate desire through me. Why was she doing this to me?

Looking at me through soft, sensual eyes, she continued to kiss my hand slowly. “I don’t think you could,” She murmured against my skin.

I scoffed at that and stared at her momentarily in disbelief. Perhaps she did not understand. “I don’t think you could…” Her ridiculous, naivety rang around repeatedly, triggering my frustrations with each reverberation.

Oh no? Well, I could surely dispel that notion…easily