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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?


13. Chapter 13 The Caged Tiger

Rating 5/5   Word Count 3670   Review this Chapter

Bella

We rode back to the city in the dark velvet of the night, the roar of the motorcycle droning a song of speed and wind. I laid my cheek against the soft cashmere of his sweater, marveling at the rock hardness of him. Silk over steel or satin over granite; the startling combination of opposites that seemed to characterize my new friend.

He wasn’t an angel—that much he'd told me. That was a relief in one aspect because the desires he was creating in me were hardly appropriate for an angel. I found him endlessly seductive; the desire to lie back and let myself drift away wherever he would take me was almost overwhelming. This time that I was spending with him was passing in what seemed a dream state, every sense heightened, every sensation magnified, while at the same time the logical and skeptical side of me fell farther and farther away. The spell that he was casting was dragging me under as surely as an undertow.

At the same time a part of me very definitely was trying to wake me up to the sense of danger. It was like being locked in a cage with a tiger, mesmerized by their feral beauty, the sense of coiled power, and the desire to feel the silken fur under your fingers. The immediate beauty and sensations would be almost intoxicating enough-almost but not quite-to ignore the canine teeth as long as your finger or the scimitar claws.

What other kind of being would God have made and sent to me? For if I accepted that he wasn’t an angel of heaven, I still had to believe he’d been sent by God. Only an agent of God would have been able to subdue my attackers so quickly and completely. What had happened to them? And what of the healing? Surely that would be called miraculous.

And the resemblance he had with the Cullens, foster children or not. I had never paid that much attention to them in school. But with Edward here, it was lifting the veil from my eyes. I still couldn't make out the puzzle, but the pieces were clicking into place. The Cullens were all strangely and ethereally beautiful, friendly but aloof. Even Dr. Cullen, whom I admired, I now realized had the same uncanny, pale allure. They had always been outsiders, but now, knowing that Edward was something beyond my experience, I was beginning to question everything about the Cullens that I had taken for granted. However, I found myself unwilling to question too far. Within Edward, I was finding that same kind of spirituality, of connectedness, I only associated with my religious life. Sometimes the mystery is more compelling than the answer.

Gradually the streetlights grew closer together as the traffic around us picked up, announcing our re-entry into Seattle. We got off the highway and rumbled towards the central District. He pulled over to a lighted corner and told me to wait while he parked the bike.

I looked at the dark streets around us as the memories of last night came rushing back. The night traffic was sparse, and the city loomed forbiddingly. I got off the bike and hugged myself, trying to stay calm. I would only feel safe with him beside me. "Please, I’m uncomfortable being here alone,” I pleaded. “Promise me you’ll be right back.”

“I’ll be back before you know I’m gone,” he assured me, smiling before disappearing around a corner. The noise from the bike cut out almost immediately, and he was beside me before I even had time to wonder where he’d gone.

I jumped at his sudden re-appearance. “You’re nothing if not quick,” I said lightly.

“I'm the fastest in my family,” he said, grinning like a child.

I guessed that it must be after 2:00 am, and besides Ray’s Diner, I didn’t know many places that were open all night. We headed down the mostly deserted city sidewalks, passing the darkened shop windows and closed businesses.

He thrust his hands in his pockets as we walked. “There’s a place up here that I know serves food.”

“Oh, that’d be great.” I was quite hungry; I had been too nervous to eat before he picked me up. "May I ask you something?"

His eyes became guarded, but he nodded and said, "Sure."

"Do you always drive that slowly?" On the ride back from stargazing, we'd meandered along quite lazily. I thought guys on motorcycles were speed-obsessed.

"Ah, no, not always," he said abashedly, looking at the ground as we strode down the sidewalk. "I took my time because I was enjoying myself."

"Enjoying yourself?" I asked.

He looked at me with those intense, mesmerizing eyes and smiled. "You're awfully warm."

I had nothing to say to that and kept walking.

"There's that blush again," he said softly.

I kept my eyes on the sidewalk. "Well, I told you it happens all the time."

"And each time it is lovelier than the time before."

I stopped to check his face, but there was no mockery in it. Instead, he stopped beside me as well and turned to me. The difference in our heights was enough that I just came to his shoulder and he dropped his head to gaze at me. My heart skipped a beat as I studied his perfect features looking solemnly back at me. My thoughts came crashing down on me again, jumbling my coherency, so I put my head down and continued walking.

We went a few more paces in silence when I realized he was no longer beside me. He'd stopped at the lounge we had just passed and was holding the door open, as if he expected me to walk inside.

"They have food here," he offered.

I looked at the window of the lounge next to the door he was holding open. The thumping from the bass of a loud sound system drifted out the open door. Suddenly, my heart dropped into my feet. Maybe I had badly misjudged him, if he thought I would go into that kind of place. "No," I said, shaking my head and backing up a few paces.

His eyebrows pulled together in an expression of confusion. "They have food?" he repeated.

I had no doubt they had food; they also very prominently advertised exotic dancers with posters of women in various stages of undress. I turned on my heels and started striding down the street while I felt tears of embarrassment and anger start to collect in my throat. What kind of woman did he think I was if he thought I would visit a place like that?

He was beside me instantly, pacing me, as I strode down the street and wondered if I could find a cab at this hour. "Isabella, what's wrong?"

I couldn't trust myself to talk, so he addressed me again. "I've upset you, and I don't know why. Please, Isabella, tell me."

"I don't know if this is such a good idea," I said, trying hard to sound normal and in control of myself, even as I pounded along the pavement.

"Please, Isabella." His voice was near to pleading, soft and insistent in my ear.

I turned to face him. "Why would you think I would go in there?" I confronted him, hurt and confused.

He looked at me in bewilderment, and then glanced over his shoulder at the place we had just left, back and forth several times before I finally saw understanding cross his face. "Oh, I'm sorry," he said softly and sincerely. "I've offended you. Please believe me, that was not my intention."

"Do you go into places like that often?" I asked, wondering how he could have made an error like that.

"Please, you must forgive me," he said, taking my hand into his cool ones and looking intently into my eyes. "In my line of work, it is often where I find the kind of people I hunt, er, I search for. I should have known better."

I looked at him, trying to stay adamant, but the beseeching in his face seemed to have a line right into my hypothalamus that urged me to give him whatever it was he wanted. Whenever he let his guard down, so much pain and longing shone from his face. That such transcendent features could be etched with such suffering was so terribly ironic. His was a face that should be tranquil with ecstasy, and yet to see him torn in conflict was heartrending.

I'd known the kind of men that frequented those kinds of clubs; you couldn’t be a cop's daughter without some street smarts rubbing off. Very often, it was the men that disliked women as people that spent a lot of time in places like that. I didn't get any kind of that vibe at all from Edward. Instead, in his face, I saw genuine concern and such tenderness that it made it hard to speak.

He pulled my hand he was holding to his heart. It was tingling with the excitement of his touch. "You must believe me when I say I would never—never—intentionally distress you. I wouldn't want to hurt you, Isabella, ever..."

"Your line of work, the one you are leaving, yes?" I asked, trying to reassure myself of his good intentions.

He nodded, his eyes never leaving mine. "I'm not very good at this, I know. I want you to like me, but it's been a long time since I've had...a friend, and I seem to have forgotten some of the social conventions. Please, you must accept my apology."

His words tore at me. It had been a long time since he'd had a friend? The miles of loneliness I could hear behind that simple statement tugged at me. And where had he been that he'd forgotten social conventions? For every one thing I learned from him, it brought up two more questions.

"I guess I can," I said, feeling totally disarmed by the beauty and pain on his face. But still, the questions nagged at me. "Perhaps you can answer some of my questions?" I asked, wondering if a deal could be struck to ease my curiosity.

He thought this over. "Alright," he agreed, nodding. "But not tonight."

"Soon?"

He smiled at my persistence. "Soon."

I gently withdrew my hand from his grip. "Alright, then, you can buy me breakfast."

"A deal. Where shall we go?"

I glanced around. "This is Seattle, there has to be a Starbucks somewhere around here."

He gestured with his chin, indicating in front of us. "Up two blocks and on the left."

We started walking again in the direction he'd indicated. "I do, you know," I said, looking at the ground passing beneath my feet.

I glanced over at him; he was looking at me expectantly.

"I do like you," I said softly.

We took another few steps, and I chanced another peek. He was smiling broadly, with that wide boyish smile I had seen once before, and it made my heart jump in my chest. Whatever he was, he made me feel confused, intoxicated and more alive than I had ever remembered.

We entered the door beside the welcoming lights of the Starbucks and I ordered a latte and a blueberry muffin, a bit taken aback when he ordered only coffee. "You're not hungry?" I asked.

"Not right now," he said and left it at that.

The seating area was nearly deserted, except for a single man pouring over a newspaper and a very tired-looking couple who nursed their drinks in silence. The bright fluorescent lights washed everyone out, giving them a ghastly hue, but as pale as Edward was, it only made him seem like he was on the brink of glowing. We took seats at a small table near a window, and I sipped at my drink. "You seem to know Seattle well," I commented, wondering if I could draw him out.

"Yes. I pass through here quite frequently."

"Where else have you been?"

He sighed and tilted his chair to lean back against the window. "Oh, so many places. It would be easier to list the places I haven't been than to list those that I have."

"Okay, so where haven't you been?" I asked, looking at him over the edge of my cup.

He looked over and smiled; the sheer flawlessness of his features seemed to slice right through me. "Antarctica. I've never been to Antarctica."

"Well, that makes two of us," I said, trying not to let the transcendence of his features dumbfound me. The young Latina barista brought my muffin over, and I thanked her, noting that she seemed as taken by Edward's looks as I was. It was gratifying that he never even noticed her.

"So what's your favorite place been?" I said, picking at my muffin.

"I think I would have to say the Serengeti at dawn. I'd never seen anything quite like it."

"What did you like most?"

"The herds of animals co-existing, together. Even the lions were part of it." His face became reflective, and for the first time, some of the pain he held in his face relaxed. "Somehow the prey animals can tell when the lions are fed and not hunting. To watch the sun rise over the savannah, as the animals greet the day; that was breathtaking." He rolled the edge of his cup around the table in a small circle, and his eyebrows drew together. "I'm sure things have changed since I was there, but to be alone with that..." He sighed. "I get so tired of listening to people."

"Listening to people?"

He stopped, and his face became guarded again. It seemed I would just get him talking and opening up before I would unknowingly trigger the walls he armed himself with. He leaned forward in his chair. “So where have you been?"

“Well, I’ve been to Mexico, but that’s as international as I’ve gotten,” I said, knowing how incredibly small-town sounding my life experience had been so far.

We talked more about places we'd been, my pitiful few lined up against his impressive list. He kept asking me questions about the movies that I liked and the books I was reading, but when I tried to ask about him, he kept the answers to my questions short and perfunctory.

He left the coffeehouse to go get the motorcycle while I picked up the trash at our table. His coffee cup felt heavy, and when I opened it, I noticed it was full; he hadn't touched it at all. I stared at the glistening liquid, trying to put the clues together but unable to come up with even a coherent guess.

I heard the thrumming of the motorcycle as it idled outside the store, and I went out to meet him by the curb of the sidewalk. He held his hand out to steady me as I climbed aboard and settled in behind him. This was rapidly becoming my favorite way to travel. The wind slid past us like a warm caress while his solid body in front of me, and the accompaniment of the thrumming of the engine beneath us, added to the sensuousness and dream-like quality of the experience.

It was a brief ride back to my duplex, and I couldn't help wonder how the night would end. We pulled up in the driveway to my house; all the windows were dark, except for one by my entry hall, where I normally kept a light on. Darcy's outline in the window as she waited for my return made me smile. I guessed that dawn was not far away.

He turned the bike off, and we sat for a moment listening to the night noises. In the distance, a siren wailed, and I could hear the occasional car go by at the cross street. I pushed myself up and off the bike. He set the kickstand and slowly swung his leg over and stood next to me.

I looked up at his face, again taken aback by the solemn expression there. He was watching me as one might watch a frightened animal, careful not to make any sudden movements or loud noises. I could feel the urge to step closer to him, to smell that incredible fragrance and to run my hand on that sweater. But something was holding me back. Whether it was my fear of the unknown or my commitment to a life within the guidance of Christ, I couldn't say. But I knew I had to say goodnight here, to ask him inside would be more than I could handle.

He took a step closer. "Thank you for coming with me tonight," he said huskily.

"Thank you. I enjoyed myself very much." That sounded so formal; his manner of speaking seemed to be rubbing off on me. Awkwardly, I gestured towards the house. "I should... go inside now."

"May I see you again?" he asked softly.

My heart sang within me. "I'd like that."

He smiled as well. "Later today?"

"Well, I need to go Mass, and I was hoping to get to Forks to visit my father..."

"I’ll escort you," he said immediately.

I didn't know if I was ready to explain bringing home a man with me to my father's house. "Well..."

"Please allow me," he urged. "You need a ride to Forks. I'll drop you off at your father's and come get you later. I'll visit with my family while you visit yours. Then we can ride back together."

That would solve how I would get to Forks. Tentatively, I nodded. "Alright."

"What time will you go to church?"

"Mass is at four."

"I'll be here at three-thirty."

I shook my head in disbelief. After our conversation in the field, I was surprised by his eagerness to come to church with me. But if I could bring him to God, or maybe even back to God, then I really might have accomplished something. "You really want to come to Mass?"

He nodded. "If you'll be there, then yes."

I backed up a step. "I'll see you at three-thirty."

He took a step closer. "Good night, Isabella," he said gently.

"Good night, Edward," I said, ducking my head shyly, and turning towards the house. I knew my shyness didn't make any sense as he'd seen almost all of me there was to see, but healing was one thing and kissing was another. I didn’t know if our relationship was platonic or romantic, or even what he wanted in that respect, but my heart had been battered enough that I had to give it some time.

I stopped when I got to the door and turned back to see him watching me. I could just make out his silhouette in the night as he leaned against the motorcycle, the streetlamp down the corner providing just barely enough illumination. His hair and the skin over his high cheekbones glinted dully in the low light, and he raised his hand in a gentle gesture of goodbye. So unearthly beautiful, I thought, waving back and then turning my key in the door.

The mystery of his nature engaged my mind, while his beauty and exquisite aroma engaged my senses. He was soft-spoken and seductively gentle around me, yet the sense of deep power and strength emanating from him was unmistakable. If he wasn’t an angel of God, per se, perhaps he was my angel. He had said he’d been born of parents in Chicago; that reassured me because I knew then that he at least had been born as a child of God.

Was I wrong to be so trusting of him? There was a rightness I felt in being with him that resonated deeply in me. I’d had so much pain in my life, and I felt like I’d been wrestling with matters too great for me for way too long. I was ready for something good to happen to me. I could harbor hope that perhaps things were turning around for me, perhaps heaven could smile even on her greatest sinners.

I prepared for bed, creating a list of questions in my mind that I would try to ask him, if even the most obvious one—what are you?—couldn’t be answered. It took me a while to feel calm enough to feel sleepy, and I watched as the world hidden mostly by my window shade slowly lightened with the coming of dawn.

Gradually, I fell asleep, only to be wakened soon after by a vivid nightmare. In it, I’d been in a meadow, resting, when an ominous breeze rustled the surrounding trees. I’d known something terrible and dangerous was coming through the trees towards me. Jumping to my feet, I’d started to run away into the dark forest, becoming more and more frightened, as I’d fled past the gnarled and twisted trees. Behind me, I had heard the crashing through the brush as the dark and faceless monster pursued me relentlessly. I’d heard my mother’s voice yelling in my ear, the fear in her voice evident-“Run, Bella, run!”

Almost crying with fear and frustration, I’d yelled back, “I’m trying, Mom, I’m trying!” Tripping on a branch root, I’d fallen hard to the ground. Turning to my back, my heart pounding and chest heaving with exertion, I’d watched horrified as the bushes in front of me rattled with the monster’s approach. Any moment I’d known I would see his face and it had terrified me.

I’d woken with a violent start, my pulse racing, damp at the neck with the heat and emotion. I almost never dreamed of my mother; to have her in such a nightmare, and to have heard her fear was heart-rending. I pulled the pillow closer to me, and let it soak up the tears, haunted by an uneasy sense of impending danger coming from an unforeseen corner of my world.