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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?


12. Chapter 12 Cygnus

Rating 5/5   Word Count 3278   Review this Chapter

Edward

I leaned forward and let my breath wash across her face, hoping it would mesmerize her enough to soften the blow that she was sure to feel. “Oh, no, Isabella, I am no angel.”

I could see her mind working furiously and I wondered what question she would have for me first. Again, I silently cursed the abyss of silence that separated us. This would be so much easier if I had a way of gauging her true thoughts and reactions.

This was a risky but necessary first step in gradually acclimating her to me. I’d brought her out here to a deserted location in the name of stargazing, knowing that if she screamed or ran, I’d have some chance of explaining things to her, or at least tempering the blow. I’d been surprised she came so willingly; obviously the girl had very little self-preservation instincts.

I’d decided to take things a small step at a time, and while she understood that I was not human, it was imperative before we went any further that we cleared up this ridiculous misconception. It worked well enough to get her out here, now I just needed to show her that it was me—Edward—who was worthy of her trust. A full disclosure would have to be made at some point, but not tonight.

I hoped that I was indeed worthy of her trust. I hadn’t felt trustworthy at all on the ride up here. As we had passed through the dark countryside, she had gradually relaxed against my back and I became acutely aware of her soft breasts pressed against my back and the way her knees were spread around my hips. The skirt she had on had danced around her thighs in the wind, promising to shift up higher with turn we took. Her hands had gradually crept around my torso until we were as close as lovers and her hands were spread flat on me. I had felt my body respond to her and it was only after we pulled off the highway at the off ramp that I realized her actions had been that of her subconscious and not an open invitation because I would have been ready right then to take her by the side of the road.

I was reveling in the newfound feelings of sexual desire, and anxious to act on them. After so many years of feeling asexual, to have this link to my humanity re-established was heartening. Maybe I could pull myself back from the brink of despair; perhaps I could find a way back to myself.

“Well, then what are you?” she asked, her brows furrowing.

“In many ways, just like you.” The darkness gave me the advantage; it hid my face but my sharper eyes could see hers.

“You’re not human.” She stated this without doubt.

“No.”

“Speed, strength, healing...” She was trying to fit the pieces together.

“Well, not healing, really. More like just the ability to staunch blood.” Blood. Like your blood. Like your deliciously sublime, entrancing blood. The bloodlust rattled the bars of its cage, but it was firmly locked away tonight. It was definitely playing second fiddle to a different kind of lust. I couldn't count on that for longer than a few days.

She fell silent, thinking.

“What I am,” I said, raising her hand to my lips, “is enthralled by you.” I pressed my lips to the back of her hand, feeling the delicious warmth that suffused it and letting the smell fill my nostrils. How pathetically old-fashioned I castigated myself, wondering if I was totally alienating her.

But I was rewarded by the sudden increase in her heart rate. Her eyes were already hugely dilated and her breath hitched in her throat. I turned her palm over and kissed it as well, feeling the rough scrapes under my lips. I let my free hand trace up the side of her arm, pushing the fabric away. Her soft gasp thrilled me to the core.

Was I desperate enough to play dirty? I brought my face close to hers, letting my scent lure her into that half awake suggestive state that I knew humans were vulnerable to. “Lay back, Isabella,” I urged, letting the vampire glamour work on her.

Almost trancelike, she lied back on the blanket and stretched her legs out straight. Her eyes never left mine as I dropped to my elbow next to her. I touched her throat with my fingertip and let my finger trail down past the collar of her shirt. The tension between us increased a thousand fold and I felt a shiver run through her.

“You are so beautiful, Isabella,” I crooned to her. “Yet your mind is such a mystery.”

I laid my hand flat on her belly, just under the swell of her breasts. Her pheromones kicked in and I could smell the start of her arousal. It was as sweet as the rest of her. She was tempting, so tempting, staring at me with her wide eyes, unknowingly ready to submit to me, if I willed it. I could claim her here and now. I let my eyes travel the length of her from the pale, sweet flesh of the neck where kisses could be laid when she threw her head back with pleasure to the small, delicate ankles that I could encircle easily with my hand.

But in the scent of her arousal was a wrong note, a dissonance within the rest of the song of her perfume. There was a trace of fear, tainting the harmony like an untuned instrument. I could entice her into submitting to me, but she’d know it was never fully her will, and it would poison things between us. I took one last look down the length of her body, and sighing, rolled to my back.

“So what constellations are you familiar with?” I asked.

“I…uh…”

I heard the momentary confusion in her voice as she came back to full awareness. Yes, it was in my power to glamour her into obedience, but it wasn’t her obedience, or even her submission that I wanted. I wanted her complete and utter surrender, and I would pursue her until it and she were mine. There was a huge difference in what I could take and what she could freely give and I would have it all.

“Well, there’s Ursa Minor and Ursa Major of course,” she said, pointing out the constellations to me, as we both lay looking up at the shimmering sky. “There’s Lyra and the Pleides. What about you?”

“I’d rather hear what you know. What’s that one up there?” I said, pointing almost straight up.

“That’s Cygnus, my favorite, of course.”

“Your favorite? Why?”

“Because it’s the swan. Isabella Swan, my name. When I was a child, I’d wish that it was me up there, sailing the night skies.”

“Well, I’m glad you stuck to the earth. It would be too lonely up there, stuck in the sky for all eternity, flying alone.”

“But look at her, she’s not alone." She pointed to other constellations. "There’s Delphinus, the dolphin, Aquarius, Pegasus. She’s surrounded by friends.”

“But none of her own kind.”

"No, there are no other swans."

"It would be very hard to go through eternity all by oneself, with no one to share it with." I studied her face, while she gazed up at the luminous sky. She was peaceful and serene, and I realized that there was extraordinary beauty there of a very subtle kind.

"Why, yes I guess it would." She turned to me, half-smiling until she took in my somber expression. 'Yes, it would, “she whispered.

I heard her heart thump unexpectedly as I broke our gaze and returned mine to the sky.

She sighed. "It's nights like these when I can feel the presence of God the most."

‘You feel God?”

"Don’t you? Look at this beauty. You can’t see God’s hand in that?"

"It is beautiful," I admitted.

"I think God made us so we could enjoy the beauty He created."

“So we’re God’s cheering section? His applause?"

She giggled. "Yeah, God!" she cheered, raising her fist into the air.

I rolled to my stomach, turning my head so I could watch her. "The problem I have with God is that he gets credit for all the good stuff and none of the blame for the bad."

She rolled to her side to face me. "The bad?"

"There's so much cruelty and hate out there. I can't believe that a just God would allow that to happen."

"Are you trying to judge God?" she asked softly.

"Well, somebody has to. He sets us up in a world full of sin and temptation and then bids us have at it? Would you do that to your child? Would you leave a toddler alone in a room full of knives and matches and then abandon them to see what happened?"

"But he hasn't abandoned us, don't you see? He's just—"

I jumped up, unable to keep still while my anger and bitterness ate at me. I took a few steps away from the blanket to stare at the dark trees in the distance. "He has abandoned us. Or me, at least. Perhaps it's different for you. But I'll never see the face of God."

I heard her take a sharp intake of breath. "How can you say that? There's nothing He can't forgive if you come to Him with a repentant heart."

"Really, Isabella?" I turned to her; she was kneeling on the blanket. "There are some things even God can't forgive," I said, remembering my conversation with Carlisle.

I heard the breath catch in her throat as she froze in place. "No, there aren't," she said, her voice trembling. “He can forgive anything. He has to."

I was stunned by the emotion with which she spoke and the suddenly strident note in her voice. I took in her clenched fists held by her sides, and I realized I didn’t know if she was talking about my crimes or her own. Did she conceal her own secrets, and what might she have done that she would imagine was unforgivable? I looked at her sweet, vulnerable face as she peered into the darkness, unable to see the horror that stood right in front of her.

The doubts I had came rushing back to me. Could I really ask this girl to give up her human life to spend millennia with me in the life of a vampire? I would be taking God from her, surely the worst theft that could be conceived. Perhaps I should just end her here, send her on to God and be done with the whole ugly mess.

But as soon as I thought it, my whole being cried out No!She must live, she will live. If she would not accept me as a mate, then I would leave her and let her live her life as it was meant to be before she had stumbled on me in a church.

But I would do whatever I could to persuade her, because as much as I craved her blood and her body, and the cravings were indeed considerable, I needed her to bring me back to what was human in myself. With her, I could see doors opening up into a life lived with love and harmony, the kind of life that my family had achieved. Without her, endless years of blood, death and brutality stretched before me into an inexorable descent into the mindless feeding of the truly ancient vampires.

A thought struck me out of the blue. Flowers-I should have brought her flowers. I wasn’t much of a suitor.

I came to her and sat on the blanket beside her. “I know so little about you, will you tell me about yourself?”

She relaxed minimally and I saw her fists unclench. “What would you like to know?”

“Where were you born?”

“Forks. I lived there until I was four. Then my parents got divorced and my mom and I moved away. I moved back to live with my dad in high school. How about you?”

“Chicago.”

She looked at me, her head cocked to one side. “You were born in Chicago.”

"Yes," I said smiling, at the tone of disbelief in her voice.

"And what do you do when you're not rescuing girls on dark city streets?"

"I guess you could say I'm in crime prevention."

"Really? My dad is a cop."

"Well, I'm more like an undercover investigator. Or I should say I was. I'm leaving that line of work." I saw she was thinking again, and I was sure she was about to question my nature, so I rushed in to fill the void. "So you're a waitress?" This was so interesting, bizarre and maddening at the same time—to have to talk with someone to know what they were thinking. It was like trying to open a Christmas present by peeling away the gift wrap one tiny strip at a time when you just wanted to tear into it and rush the discovery.

'Just for now. I'll be going to Shoreline come the winter semester."

"Shoreline?"

"The community college. I'll start there, and then if I can get some scholarships, transfer to a four year school."

"What do you want to study?"

"Psychology. I'm interested in the human mind, how it works, what makes people behave the way they do."

"Good luck with that. I haven't been able to figure them out," I said, shaking my head.

"So what about you? Did you go to school?"

"Yes, but it's been a long time. I've been thinking of going back."

'A long time. How old are you anyway?" She was looking at me with a glint of determination in her eye. It occurred to me that I was going to be unable to let my guard down around her or let myself get lulled into underestimating her.

"Actually, I am considered quite young," I said, temporizing.

"And the Cullens are your family," she said, trying to fit the pieces together. "But you haven't been living in Forks?"

"That's right. But I'm hoping to join them for a while at least."

"There's a certain family resemblance. Are they like you?"

I had already told her as I much as I dared to. Small bits, I reminded myself. Feed her the truth in small bits. Actually, the mystery could work to my advantage. It would keep her involved, wanting to solve the puzzle of my nature until I could reveal the truth. "Isabella, I've told you as much as I can tonight. Please, let us enjoy the beauty that God has so thoughtfully provided for us, and let our differences lie for a while."

I could see the consideration she gave this request, and I almost jumped up and shouted with the strength of my frustration in not being able to read her. But she gracefully consented, and we returned to our positions to watch the far flung stars above us. I told her of the Greek Mythology of the various constellations, and she told me of some of the Navaho tales that involved the stars that she had learned while living in the Southwest.

"So you must know all of the myths of Cygnus since it’s your favorite." We were still on the blanket and I rolled to my side, supporting my head with my hand.

"Well, there's the one where Zeus turned himself into a swan to seduce Leda. So then she laid an egg, and that is something I have particular trouble imagining.” She glanced over and smiled. “And out of that came Helen of Troy and some other person."

"Yes, Polydeuces. Are you familiar with the Yeats poem?"

"No, Yeats wrote a poem about Leda?"

"Yes." I took a breath and drudged it up.

"A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast.

"How can those terrified vague fingers push
The feathered glory from her loosening thighs?
And how can body, laid in that white rush,
But feel the strange heart beating where it lies
?"

"There's more, but you get the idea."

She crossed her hands in her belly. "That's rather more...sensual that I would have expected from Yeats."

"I know. Rather surprising for an Irish Protestant."

She turned to look at me. "Do you know the rest?"

I continued.

"A shudder in the loins engenders there
The broken wall, the burning roof and tower

And Agamemnon dead. Being so caught up,
So mastered by the brute blood of the air,
Did she put on his knowledge with his power
Before the indifferent beak could let her drop?"

She was silent, digesting this. I could tell it struck a chord with her, but why I couldn't fathom.

She sighed. "Sounds like he was just another player."

I laughed at her rather unexpected assessment. "Yes, I suppose so."

“'Did she put on his knowledge with his power?' What do you suppose he meant by that?”

I rose to a sitting position and put my arms around my knees. “Perhaps that as they lay together, she saw the swan for what it really was.”

“So she knew she’d been duped before he let her drop?”

“Well, I suppose that’s one interpretation.”

She rose beside me and echoed my position. “What else could it be?’

“That she took on his power before he could let her go and so saved herself.”

“Could she take on his power?’

I looked over at her; she was watching me solemnly. “If he gave it to her.”

“Can power like that be given?”

I looked back into her eyes, even in this low light I could see how clear and warm the shining brown of her eyes was. Why I had ever thought brown could only be a muddy color, I couldn’t say. “Yes, it can. But there is a price, a huge price.” It seemed like we had stopped talking about the poem. I didn’t know what else I could add to that and some part of me was relieved when I heard her stomach rumble. “You’re hungry,” I said.

Her eyes widened and she put her hand on her stomach. “You heard that?”

“Yes,” I said, smiling as that entrancing blush crept up her neck and cheeks. I looked away to the trees and stopped breathing for a moment, trying to stabilize my own racing emotions. That blush was like waving a red flag in front of a bull. It made me want her in all kinds of ways. “We should get some food.”

“Okay,” she agreed. I rose and offered my hand to her as she rose off the blanket. Her hand felt so small and vulnerable in mine, like having a small bird trapped there.

She brushed at her skirt as I folded and stashed the blanket. I climbed on the bike, started it and then offered my hand as she swung her leg over the saddle. She settled onto the bike behind me, tucking her skirt modestly around her legs. As I turned the bike and slowly drove out of the field toward the road, I felt her arms slip around me and her chest and cheek settle against my back. The sweet warmth from that contact suffused into me like a ripples on a pond and I knew that I would never again be able to ride this or any other motorcycle without the memory of that tender warmth haunting me.