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A Litany at Dusk

Summary:
Thanks to hellacullen for the awesome banner! Edward’s rebellious period wasn't just a few years; it lasted seventy. Having spent his years hunting on the edges of society, he rejoins his family in Forks ready to abstain when he runs acorss a young woman praying. Can a choice be made between one's desires, one's heart and one's soul? Will Edward be willing to fight for her instead of fighting against her? A/U a bit OOC, rated for lemons and adult content, some violence


Notes:
Thanks to PTB for their assistance and to hellacullen, who is the wind beneath my wings! Her consistent and intelligent commentary, suggestions and cheerleading were incredible and I wish everyone a beta like hellacullen. I own nothing of Twilight. Let's see who could be the owner? Possibly SM?


11. Chapter 11 Chariot Ride

Rating 5/5   Word Count 3247   Review this Chapter

Bella

I sat on the edge of the sofa, my leg jiggling with nervous energy. I heard a sound outside and jumped to the window, but it was just from across the street. In the deepening evening, I could barely make him out as he set his trashcans out on the curb. The neighborhood was settling in for the night, and the streetlamps were beginning to glimmer one by one. I sat back on the sofa, trying to smooth out the wrinkles in my skirt.

I took a deep breath, trying to calm my nerves. This was nerve-wracking in the extreme. I had no idea what was going to happen, and already I felt like I was in the middle of a Bible story. I prayed briefly, asking for peace in the face of whatever was coming to claim me and guidance in following God’s wishes.

Picking out what to wear for this occasion had been its only particular challenge. I had stocked up on skirts after the hospital because they were easiest on my scar, so I went with one long enough to cover the scrapes on my knees and a gauzy long sleeve shirt to cover the harsh, ugly bruises on my arms.

I had finally risen in the early afternoon after a broken sleep filled with nightmares. I’d been physically sick as the memories of the fear of last night came rushing back to me. When I’d finally pulled myself together, I had spent the rest of the afternoon at my favorite place, praying and letting the peace seep into my soul. Despite the trauma of last night, I had so much to be thankful for, that God had seen fit to save me from the predators and sent Edward to me. I had desperately wanted to talk with Father Brian, but Mrs. Perkins had said he wouldn’t be back until the morning.

I was new to my faith, and I had discussed the nature of doubt with Father Bryan. It was a dilemma that all the faithful wrestled with, and I was certainly no exception. As much as I wanted to believe in the miracles of last night, the skeptic in me refused to be hushed. My faith had seemed stronger when the divine had been a bit more removed. My mind was reeling with all that had happened to me, now more so than ever. I wanted the tragedies surrounding me to make sense, and to be relieved of the awesome burden of guilt I was under. Sharing that with God was making my life bearable. But the appearance of an angel baffled and unsettled me in ways I hadn’t expected. Especially this angel. Especially the way he made me feel. I had seen nothing in theology to make sense of that.

There was another sound of a car door slamming, and I jumped up again to check the window. Edward had said he’d come after sunset, and I was trying not to get too worked up about it; after all he hadn’t said what sunset. But I was as expectant as a kid on Christmas morning, and the tension made me feel like I was about to explode. This time it was the Hansons down the street; Terry, the mom, was yelling at the kids to get their Big Wheels out of the driveway.

I sighed, pulling away from the window, and turned around. Edward was standing in the middle of my living room, and I jumped at his unexpected appearance. “Oh!” I exclaimed, clutching my chest.

He held his hand out like he was trying to calm a horse. “Please, don’t be scared.” He was dressed in a tan pullover and jeans, looking remarkably human. He stood in my living room, this ethereal, beautific young man, as incongruent as a rose on a city sidewalk. He appeared young, I realized, seemingly at that cusp where a boy has just crossed the threshold of becoming a man. His body was lean and narrow, as young men’s bodies are before they thicken with age. But his face is what drew me in, a haunting mixture of old eyes in a young face. At Our Lady of The Waters, there was a crucifix which held a Jesus with that same mixture of wisdom, sadness and pain. Last night I'd seen tenderness on that face, but I had also seen cold rage. I wasn't sure which feeling was more at home there.

I shook my head. “I’m not scared, just startled.” That was not entirely true. Suddenly, the room seemed small and airless. Barely contained power seemed to seep from his pores. He moved with such deliberateness, as if he were holding himself back from moving faster, constantly checking himself. The aura of barely contained violence, age, and potency just confirmed my belief that he was not human.

He focused on me, and the concentration on his face gave me the same kind of uneasiness that gazelles show when a lion wanders onto the savannah to watch the herd. Yet his face was absolutely magnetic in its allure. He had pale, flawless skin with just a hint of a shadow on the sharply-defined jaw line where his beard would be. Dark, elegant eyebrows led up to a wide, noble forehead and prominent cheekbones framed his thickly-lashed eyes. It came together as a face of unearthly perfection.

I blurted out what had immediately crossed my mind; self-editing was not my strong point. “Your eyes,” I said. “They’re brown today.” They were an unusual shade of brown, like green on top of red, a kind of reddish ochre that I’d never seen on anyone else.

“Yes,” he said, looking down. “Contacts,” he offered in explanation.

“Contacts?” I asked incredulously. Why would an angel wear contacts?

"How are you?" he asked seriously.

"Well, I'm okay, I guess..." I trailed off as he reached for my hand and turned it over in his own. His skin was cold, but his fingers were long and slender, and he very gently traced the scrape on my palm. I had to hold back a gasp when his fingers slowly and tenderly rose on the sensitive inner edge of my arm as he pushed the wide sleeve of my blouse up to my elbow. His fingertips raised goose bumps that raced up my arm, sending a delicate thrill of sensation across me. His beautiful eyebrows drew together at the bruises he saw there.

Still holding my arm, he looked at me solemnly and intently as if begging forgiveness. “I am so sorry I wasn't there earlier."

I felt like I was losing the ability to think coherently. My arm seemed electrified under his cool, tender fingertips and the way they were paused in the slightly ticklish crease of my inner elbow. I pulled myself together enough to say, “I’m grateful that you came at all. If you hadn't come then, well..." I didn't even want to think about that particular scenario. I searched his face. "I suppose we should report this to the police."

"No!" he shouted loudly enough to make me jump and take back my arm from his gentle grip.

I was a cop's daughter; reporting a crime seemed the natural thing to do. "Those guys should be off the street."

"I've taken care of that." His tone said he was absolutely sure, and something made me believe him.

I looked at him, torn in conflict. The policeman's daughter in me knew it was the responsible, civic thing to do, but another part of me had no desire to repeat the story again and again in what I was sure would be a lengthy interrogation process. Also, it had been a while so much of the physical evidence was lost. And what would I tell the police? My angel saved me? Policemen did not like people with crazy stories.

"How is your hip?" he asked, taking a step towards me, and gesturing with his hand.

"Ah, fine," I said, taking a step back and placing my hands flat on my skirt. I was afraid he'd hike it up to check. I felt the blush start as I remembered what he'd done last night and the incredibly sensuous experience of his tongue sliding up my thigh. My leg and hip started to tingle with the memory.

He looked at my skirt, as if he did indeed want to check. Then his eyes moved upwards. "You're blushing," he said as if I'd just done something magical.

"Y..yeah, I do it all the time," I managed to stutter out, embarrassment only increasing the heat I felt in my face. Keeping my eyes on the floor, I waved my hand, trying to downplay the whole thing. "Just pay no attention to it."

"It's beautiful," he whispered, taking another step forward. The feeling of danger, like being locked in a cage with a large, beautiful yet predatory animal increased, causing the hairs on the back of my neck to stand up.

My eyes rose to his face. He was looking at me with such concentration that I was stunned. He raised his hand to my face and gently dragged his cool forefinger down the length of my cheek. I caught the scent of him then. It was that same exquisite fragrance I had smelled in the church, a transcendent aroma that made my knees tremble and beckoned to me to get closer.

We stood locked on each other's eyes for a moment while I fought with what I was sure were impulses sent straight from hell. Were all angels so incredibly erotic? If he asked me to lie with him right at that moment, on the floor of my living room, I don't know that I would have been able to refuse.

The silence seemed to stretch interminably. "Would you like to take a ride?" he asked, pulling me out of my trance.

Grateful for some action that I could use to fight these feelings, I nodded. "Yes, I think I would."

I grabbed my key, and he waited for me on the front stoop as I locked the door. We both relaxed a little once we were out of the tight confines of my apartment, and I felt like my head was actually beginning to clear from the seduction of his close presence. The night was warm and, as the sky faded to dark purple, the windows and porch lights of the neighboring houses flickered warmly.

It suddenly occurred to me, as I looked around, to wonder what kind of ride I had agreed to. There wasn't any car in my driveway or parked nearby on the street. Were we going to fly?

"This way," he indicated as he led me around to the far side of the duplex. I followed him around the corner, incredibly curious. In the narrow side yard, a motorcycle was parked.

I laughed with relief at this seemingly mundane mode of transportation. "A motorcycle."

He turned to me, asking solicitously, "Will this be all right?"

Jake had introduced me to motorcycles, so even if I had never driven one, I'd had some experience as a rider. "Sure. Looks like fun." This was all so strange and yet somewhat mundane at the same time, a mixture of the ordinary and miraculous that was making my head spin.

"Fun...." he repeated like it was a foreign concept. Gracefully, he swung his long leg over the bike and straddled it.

It occurred to me there weren't any helmets in sight. "Don't we need helmets?" I asked as he set the key in the ignition.

He looked at me with a surprised expression. "You won't need a helmet with me," he said, grinning, somewhat cocky. "I promise you there’ll be no accidents." He smiled widely.

It was the first time I had seen him smile, and it changed his face like the sun had been released from a cloud. In the dim light from the streetlamps and the fading day, he looked younger, less dangerous, and it brought out a boyishness I hadn't seen before. His tousled hair glinted in the low lights, and his eyes shone with anticipation. It made him seem real and approachable, and my heart leapt within me. Some of the fear I had of him started to melt away, and my body started to sing in anticipation.

He hit the starter on the bike, and it rumbled to life. He held his hand out to me, and I held onto his slender hand as I threw my leg over the saddle. My knees brushed against the sides of his legs, and I tucked my skirt around my legs, glad I had chosen this one with a generous cut rather than the pencil skirt I had considered as an alternative. His body was absolutely hard against mine; there was no fleshiness or softness that I could tell. I set my hands lightly on his waist that was as hard and unyielding as a tree trunk. From this vantage point, as my portion of the seat rose slightly higher than his, it made the difference in our heights seem less, and I could see the juncture where his neck met his shoulder and the smooth skin that disappeared into the flat collar of his sweater. With an effortless twist of the throttle, we were off.

We started toward the highway that led east out of the city toward Snoqualmie Pass. In many ways, it was the most erotic ride of my life. The streetlamps and city lights flashed by us as we passed through the deepening night, and the warm air rushing by us caressed my naked legs. My skirt fluttered around my thighs while beneath me I felt the powerful thrumming of the motorcycle. The sweater he was wearing must have been cashmere, and it was soft beneath my cheek as I tucked my head behind his back to shield my face from the wind.

The thought briefly crossed my mind to wonder if I was being foolish letting a stranger take me towards a destination I didn’t even know. But if Edward wished me harm, he’d had a dozen opportunities. He had healed me; I still couldn't believe it. The cut had been gushing in the shower, and it looked like I was going to have to get stitches. But then he had pinned me with his strong hands, and before I realized what was happening, he healed me with a kiss whose memory still smoldered in my mind, a coal waiting for the rush of air to burst into flames. The cut had closed like a door, and this morning, it was just a narrow red line.

"Where are we headed?" I asked over the roar of the bike.

"The weather is clearing. Do you like star-gazing?" he yelled over his shoulder.

"Love it," I shouted. When I lived in Phoenix, I had done a lot of it and had even been in the astronomy club in high school. Renee had gotten me a telescope one Christmas, and often we would drive out to the desert to spend an evening watching the sky.

We eventually turned off the highway by North Bend and paused at the end of the exit ramp. I realized then I had my arms tightly wrapped around his solid torso, my thighs clenched against him while my nose pressed into his back, inhaling his scent. I straightened up, vowing to get myself under control, glad he couldn’t see the heat that was making my heart pound and my face burn with shame.

We followed some back roads and came to a dirt trail. It snaked through the black trees, and we bumped along the curvy track until we came to a dark clearing. He eased the bike into it, wading among the tall grasses, and then brought it to a stop, setting his feet down. The headlight of the bike switched off, letting the shadows surround us.

The silence of the night was stunning in the absence of the engine noise. This was the kind of moonless night I loved best, deep and dark. The edges of the clearing were an inky black, populated by ponderous trees that whispered among each other, moving sensuously with the warm breeze. Above us, the vault of the sky lay wide open, a luminous ceiling rich with stars.

I swung my leg off the cycle and stumbled backwards, the inactivity of my muscles while riding and the dizzying effects of Edward’s fragrance combining to throw me off balance. Instantly, he was there beside me, a strong hand under my elbow, preventing me from careening to the ground.

“Are you alright?” In the darkness, I couldn’t make out his face, only the immense sense of his presence.

“I’m fine, I just need someplace to sit for a moment,” I answered, peering ineffectually around the dark clearing.

“I can provide that,” he said, removing his hand from my elbow once I was stable. He reached into the motorcycle seat and pulled out a picnic blanket, spreading it on the grass.

As my eyes adjusted, I realized he was holding his hand out to me. “Come, Isabella, sit down,” he said courteously.

I gingerly placed my hand in his and we sat down, the grass providing a deep cushioning for the ground.

“You don’t have to call me Isabella, you know,” I said. “Most people call me Bella.”

“I like calling you Isabella,” he said. In the darkness I couldn’t make out the expression on his face. “I’m not most people.”

No, that you certainly are not.

“My father tells me you know my family,” he said conversationally.

My mind flew into high gear. Who did he mean by his family? “Your Father?” I squeaked out.

“Dr. Cullen. He says you went to school with my sister Alice.”

“Alice? Alice Cullen?” I was so shocked I was surprised I was even able to think.

“Yes, she’s my sister. And Jasper, my brother, of course.”

If I’d been thrown into a brick wall, my world couldn’t have stopped more abruptly. “The Cullens are your family? The Cullens from Forks?”

In the dim starlight, I could just make out his nodding. “Yes, that’s correct. You may even know Rosalie or Emmett.”

I knew Dr. Cullen from the hospital emergency room. He was really a wonderful doctor and had a bedside manner that inspired hope and confidence in him. He was young and compassionate; he and his wife took in foster kids too. I knew Alice Cullen, she had been in a couple of classes with me, and I’d at least been able to recognize the other Cullens. For all that they were unrelated, they each had that same, pale otherworldliness. We’d never really talked a lot; all of the Cullens kept to themselves.

“And you’re…not an angel?”

He laughed softly. I could feel him lean towards me so that our faces were just inches apart. His sweet breath filled my face, sending the world spinning again. “Oh, no, Isabella. I am no angel.”

In the darkness, his eyes were black pools in his face and his cheeks were deeply shadowed, giving him a skeletal aspect. His pale skin gleamed faintly and I realized I was alone here in the dark with someone or something insanely appealing and yet vastly inhuman. If he wasn’t an angel, then what in the world was he?