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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?


19. Chapter 19 The Falls

Rating 5/5   Word Count 4490   Review this Chapter

Bella

Ethan brushed by me with a full bus bucket, headed for the dish room. It was another night at the diner, and I was sitting at the mostly empty counter, working on cleaning and refilling the ketchups. The after bar rush was mostly over; it hadn’t been a big night.

My mind kept returning to the night before. Edward had done such a brave thing, going into the house after Crystal and then shunning any kind of recognition. What an incredible creature he was. Then there was the way he’d looked at me, his fascinating scent, his cool lips on mine—the sensations were ghosting within me, and I was remembering and polishing them in my heart like a miser with a secret hoard.

“You’ve been smiling for no reason all night,” Arlene said saucily as she reached for the sugars on the other side of the counter. “What’s going on with you?”

I shook my head. “Nothing,” I said, reluctant to share any part of the seeming fairy tale or bible story I was part of. Not the least because of Edward’s warnings but also because of the desire to keep this otherworldly experience to myself. The most powerful secrets were the well-kept ones.

“Nothing,” Arlene snorted skeptically. “Yeah, right.” She grabbed a handful of empty creamers and sashayed towards the dish room. “Ethan, you got those sugar bowls done yet?”

Somehow, I knew without raising my head when Edward arrived. The bell on the front door of the diner tinkled, and suddenly, I felt my whole body wake up. I looked over to see Edward pulling open the door and walking in. His dark hair glinted redly in the lights of the diner, and his eyes were dark and grave until they met mine and then both of us broke out into grins. He must walk around in a natural state of smoldering, I thought. How could someone look so good, so seductive all the time?

His lips were burnt rose sienna against the paleness of his skin, skin as pale and flawless as that of an English choirboy. He wore jeans that hung low and tight on his narrow hips and a tan leather jacket covering a dark tee shirt that pulled tightly across his chest. He looked charming and dangerous, innocent and edgy. There was a term nibbling at the edges of my mind that made me smile as I recognized it. Oh yes, droolworthy; definitely droolworthy.

I jumped to my feet and took a last swipe with my cloth at the ketchup bottle while he walked over to an empty booth near the door. I couldn’t help the wide, goofy grin on my face as I walked over to him; it was ridiculous how happy I was to see him, even here in the diner where he looked as out of place as a crystal wineglass in a cabinet full of plastic cups.

“Hi,” I said softly as I approached his booth.

“Hello,” he said back, his eyes softening. “You look great.”

“You look better,” I said back, certain of it. My uniform was yellow polyester, the fabric of queens. “I’m going to be a few more minutes. Can I get you anything?” I still hadn’t seen him eat anything. Was he on a special diet or something?

“Cup of coffee?” he asked.

“You got it.” I went behind the counter to the cups and coffee. Arlene came up beside me and leaned back against the counter, looking at me and then to where Edward sat. “You have an odd idea of what nothing is,” she said, nodding her head in Edward’s direction.

“Oh, yeah, well…” I trailed off, unable to keep the smile off my face. This was embarrassing—how just his presence was making my heart pound.

“That nothing got a name?” Arlene asked, arching an eyebrow.

“Edward,” I said, feeling the blush starting to creep upwards.

Arlene saw my blush and drew her head back, assessing me like I was crazy. “Damn, girl, he’s prettier than an armful of roses. Why are you embarrassed?”

I turned the coffee spigot, trying to focus on my work. I was going to have to set up a new urn before I left for the night.

“So, where’d you meet him?” Arlene asked.

“At church.”

“Holy cow,” Arlene said, putting her hands on her hips. “I’m gonna have to get some religion.”

I brushed past her, smiling. I brought the coffee over to Edward’s table and set it in front of him. “I shouldn’t be too long.”

“No problem.”

Arlene came up behind me. “Maybe he’d like the paper while he waits,” she said, slipping the diner’s copy of the Times on the table.

“Thanks,” Edward and I said in unison.

She stuck out her hand. “You must be Edward. I’m Arlene.”

Edward shook her hand. “Nice to meet you,” he said, smiling.

“Bella here’s been telling me all about you,” she said, causing me to look incredulously at her. I wouldn’t categorize that brief conversation as exactly spilling the beans.

“Has she?” he asked, smiling and glancing between the two of us.

“Well, not nearly enough.” Arlene threw a glance at me over her shoulder. She slid past me to sit in the booth opposite of Edward. “You don’t mind if I take a load off, do you?”

I was speechless at Arlene’s nerve; however, Edward rose slightly in his seat and gestured invitingly to the seat. “Please, join me. It’s a pleasure to meet Isabella’s co-workers.”

Arlene raised her eyebrows at me. “Shit, and he’s a gentleman, too.” She leaned across the booth table toward Edward. “You don’t have any older brothers at home, do you?’

I heard the front door bell tinkle, announcing a customer’s entrance at the same time that Frank dinged the pick-up bell and yelled through the pass-through. “Arlene! Pick up!”

Arlene rolled her eyes and sighed. “Unfortunately, that is the only time a man has been yelling for my attention lately.”

Father Brian came up behind us and leaned on the booth behind Arlene. “Arlene, what’s this? Sitting down on the job?”

Arlene grimaced. “Well, if my fanny could hit the cushion for longer than a half-second, yeah, maybe.” She slid out of the booth. “You might as well take my place, Father, the slave driver in the kitchen is cracking his whip.”

“Good evening, Bella,” the father greeted me as he slid into Arlene’s vacated spot. He had on a plaid shirt with his priest’s collar. He stuck his large, workman-like hand out. “Edward, isn’t it? Nice to see you again.”

Edward shook his hand. “Nice to see you.” His own hands were long, the fingers tapering, musician’s hands. He must play an instrument, I thought idly.

“Coffee, Father?” I asked, watching Edward. I loved watching him with other people; it gave me a chance to see him through other people’s eyes and to watch his face as he smiled and talked. I still couldn’t understand why people didn’t gasp when they saw him; was I the only one who could truly see him?

“Thank you, Bella. That would be great,” he said. Reluctant to leave Edward, I walked slowly away as Father Brian asked Edward, “So, are you here to pick up Bella?”

I looked over my shoulder and caught Edward looking at me. “Yes,” he said to the Father, but smiling for me.

I got a cup of coffee from the urn and brought it over. “Thank you, Bella,” Father Bryan said, reaching for the cup. “Edward was telling me you two had met in church.”

“That’s right,” I answered as Edward’s and my eyes met again. We were drawn to each other, I realized—drawn like magnets.

“I should get my sidework done, but then I’ll be ready to go,” I promised.

“I will wait for you,” Edward said. Somehow I knew he would. If it took all night, he would wait for me.

I ran through the rest of my duties, occasionally peaking at the booth where Edward and Father Brian were seated. Edward sat casually, sideways, his arm along the back of the booth, his other hand fiddling with the coffee cup. I knew Father Brian enough to see that he was enjoying the conversation; he only used his hands that much when he was passionate on what he was talking about.

Finally done, I was putting on my cardigan as I walked over to the booth behind the Father, who was unaware of my approach. Edward was leaning over the table, speaking with intensity. “But what if the sin committed is to prevent a bigger sin?”

“Well, I’m not sure what you mean,” Father Brian said slowly, his eyebrows drawn together.

“Like a policeman, for example,” he said, staring at the spoon in his hands. “If he shoots a man, to prevent that man from killing others.”

“The fifth commandment does not prohibit lawful self-defense, even if that means lethal action,” the father said, warming to his subject. “Actions taken by legal authority to protect the public good are allowed, as long as the force necessary to prevent evil is used at the appropriate level. It’s premeditated killing or the killing of innocents that is the mortal sin.”

I froze. The killing of innocents. That was my sin. That’s why I went to church so often, that’s why I’d been so sick, that’s why I knew there could be no absolution for me, because my sin was the worst there was. My knees started to tremble; this was going to be bad.

Edward took one look at me over the Father’s shoulder, and sprang from the booth, slapping a bill on the table as he rose quickly in one smooth motion. “Good night, Father,” he said. “I’m sure we’ll see each other soon.”

Father Brian looked around as Edward put his arm around my shoulders and pulled me away towards the door. “Oh…” I heard him say. In a subdued voice, he called goodnight to us, but by then Edward was guiding me out the door.

“It’s okay, Isabella,” he murmured in my hair as he led us over to his motorcycle parked at the curb. “It’s going to be okay.”

I pulled from his grasp and turned to face him. “Edward, you don’t know me. I’m not who you think I am.” My voice was starting to shake as I could feel tears collecting. Once Edward knew the kind of girl I was, he’d be leaving too, I was sure. I would be alone, just like always.

He grabbed me by the shoulders and bent his knees so our faces were nearly level. “I know who you are, Isabella. And what I don’t know doesn’t matter. Don’t let them shake you.”

I started protesting. “There is so much…”

He wouldn’t let me finish. “There is strength in you. Don’t let them beat you down. Find the courage.”

That stopped me—that was an unexpected thing to say. I looked into his eyes; they were fierce in their intensity. Nobody had ever called me strong before, no one had told me to stand up for myself. It was always about getting along, being a good girl, helping others. “I…I don’t know…” I said, letting my eyes slide to the ground.

“Come on,” he said. “I would like to take you somewhere. Please, come with me?”

Oh, sweet Jesus, when he asked me anything while he looked at me that way, his eyes burning, his lips slightly parted, his hair mussed in the most inviting way, the only answer I was able to give would be yes. So I pushed all the emotions, guilt, fear and everything that had come gushing out back into its box and whispered, “Yes.”

I settled in behind him on the bike, yanking at my uniform hem in an effort to be modest, but it was too close fitting to provide me the kind of coverage I’d like. I laid my hands gently at his waist, beneath his open soft leather jacket, and we rode off into the dark city streets. I knew I had to tell him about myself and soon. I wondered if this would be the last ride I’d be getting.

These motorcycle rides were so sensual. The air rushing by, the drone of the powerful engine between our legs, the city at night flying past—it all combined to make me feel weightless and free in a way I couldn’t remember ever feeling before. I let myself relax against his back, and laid my head against him, letting the wind flay away the fears and shame from me. I could stay forever on the back of this bike, surreptitiously letting myself smell Edward’s scent, feeling his torso against mine and his narrow hips between my knees. His presence was becoming like a drug to me. Nothing mattered more than being here with him now as the world slipped away.

Slowly, like glaciers creeping, my hands began to move of their own accord. They snuck around his waist until he was wrapped in my arms, and I was pressed against him, feeling the long lean muscles of his back against me and the smooth shoulder blades beneath my cheek. I closed my eyes and let the intermittent brightness of the passing streetlamps bounce against my eyelids as my hands moved so slowly up his chest, tentatively exploring the large planes of his pectorals, my fingers ghosting over the dip between them, up to the collarbones and slowly down again.

He was so firm, and yet I could feel the muscles bunching and stretching beneath his skin as he drove the bike. I couldn’t say why I was allowing myself these intimacies and if he had turned to me or acknowledged me in any way, I would have been mortified and stopped immediately.

Yet I couldn’t stop the flat palms of my hands from gliding millimeters at a time across his chest, moving slowly over the nubs of his nipples and making my way down to the hollow that announced his sternum.

We’d gotten through the city and were on a long stretch of Route 90 East. That’s when his hand left the handlebar to rest lightly on my knee. My hands froze and we rode like that for a few miles. Haltingly, I let my hands move again, and gasped when, in response, his fingers slowly circled their place on my knee.

That’s how the ride to Snoqualmie Falls passed. I had no idea where we were headed. It didn’t matter. The only thing in the world was the achingly slow exploration of his chest beneath my hands and the small tender movements of his fingers on my knee and thigh. They traced patterns on my knee, never venturing more than a hands-breadth up my thigh, and yet, somehow, I felt his hands all over me. I shivered against him when his hand slowly dipped to the underside of my knee to the crease there, gently stroking the sensitive skin. My hands gradually traversed over the hard ridges of his abdominals and then up again to the fanlike muscles of his pectorals, inch by inch.

Was it possible to make love on a moving motorcycle? Was it making love when your lover never ventured beyond a six inch square of skin? The answer had to be yes because I was in an erotic trance that flooded my senses with his smell, his touch, the coolness of his back as my breasts pressed against him, the feeling of his rough jeans against my inner thighs. Even the wind became an extension of his caress, the drone of the motorcycle a substitute for his murmur.

His hand left my knee when we turned into the park entrance. We weaved through the ‘Park is Closed’ signs and up the road to the falls. Even over the roar of the motorcycle, I could hear the thundering water as we approached. We bypassed the dark and empty parking lot, and he drove the motorcycle right up the path that began the approach to the overlook of the falls, stopping a bit off where the walkway began.

He turned off the motorcycle, and I reluctantly dismounted, again nearly falling backwards as I did. His hand was right there on my elbow steadying me.

“Sorry,” I murmured. “These rides…” Embarrassed, I trailed off. A different girl emerged from me during them, but with my feet back on the ground, my inhibitions sprang back.

“I know, these rides,” he agreed softly, causing me to glance up at him. He was looking at me, the passion I’d been feeling reflected in his eyes, and I knew if I made the smallest sign of acquiescence that he would gather me in his arms and we would begin something tonight that would end in passion, right here in this park. As much as my body demanded that, my mind disagreed, not here, not in the park, like fumbling high school kids.

I took a step back, breaking the tension. “I’ve never been here before.”

“These falls are great,” he grinned, his teeth flashing in the darkness. He turned and removed the blanket from the storage beneath the motorcycle seat. “You’ll like them.”

The walkway was slick and damp with humidity, even though the night was clear. The moon was a sliver, hanging low in the sky above the dark tree line, providing just enough light for my eyes to make out the outlines of objects. We came to the observation deck that overlooked the falls and walked to the railing.

We were about the same height as the top of the falls, which were off to our left. The water fell in a thundering, silver curtain almost three hundred feet to the lake below. Away from the churning water at the bottom of the falls, the lake was black and smooth and the crescent moon’s reflection hung there, suspended.

“It’s beautiful,” I sighed. The whitewater roared as it cascaded over the granite cliffs. “It reminds me of you.”

“How so?” he asked, smiling.

Leaning my elbows on the railing, I stared at the water below. “Beautiful and powerful.”

He came up behind me. “Isabella,” he whispered, his voice thick and rough.

“Please, please call me Bella. Isabella sounds so…” The way he said Isabella made the name sound like someone good and pure, innocent even, things I was not.

“I need to ask you something. It’s getting harder and harder for me to be with you. I need to know.”

I turned slowly to see him in the moonlight, his face bleached in the pale ghostly moonlight. “What is it?” I whispered. Harder for him? The more he learned about me, the harder it was?

“Do you think you could ever come to love me? I—I have to know what you’re thinking.”

I turned back to the falls. “Edward, you’d be so easy to love. But there’s things I haven’t told you.”

“I told you before, it doesn’t matter.”

“I’m not who you think I am. You see me as a nice church-going girl, but I am not, I am so not.”

“If you think this matters—“

“Let me say it. You have to let me say it.” My face was burning with the shame I was feeling. Now was when I wished he could read my mind, so I wouldn’t have to say these things aloud.

I looked out over the lake, dark and calm, wishing I could feel the same calmness, but my stomach was churning. “I was with a boy, we’d known each other for a long time. I got pregnant. Stupid, I know. We were being careful, or so I thought. When I told him I was pregnant, he freaked out. He didn’t want the child, was afraid it would have some kind of genetic mutation that ran in his family, or so he said.” I took a deep breath. I kept my voice flat and emotionless. “I had an abortion.”

His voice floated behind me. “He was a fool. How could anyone not want a child of yours?”

“But that’s it, don’t you see? I didn’t want it. I was still in school, still a kid myself. I didn’t want to be the redneck trailer trash girl that gets pregnant in high school. If I had wanted the baby, Jake wouldn’t have been able to talk me out of it, but I was scared. I wasn’t ready to be a mother. ” I turned around.

“Now I’ll never be. There were problems.” I placed my hands on my scar. W WW “What Father Brian was talking about, the murder of innocents?” My voice turned harsh and sharp. “That’s me, Edward, and I can’t ever undo it or take it back, and God is punishing me.”

“Is—Bella, that makes no sense. Women have abortions all the time. Why would He single you out?”

I threw my hands up in the air. “It doesn’t make sense?” I laughed harshly. “Tell me, what does? Did it make sense that Jake left me like that? Does it make sense that I’m here with you? And I don’t even know what you are!”

He started to protest, but I overrode him. I could hear the bitterness and sarcasm creep into my voice. “I know, I know, don’t ask, don’t tell. Yeah, that’s real fair. But I’m not who you think I am. I’m not.”

Hot tears began to burn in my eyes. Here you go, Bella, fuck it up good. “I mean, just look at us, the differences...” I waved my hand at his unearthly perfection and then at me in my yellow polyester, as if he couldn’t see. He probably had super eyes as well as super everything else.

I walked back across the observation deck. The night was silent except for the rushing of the water. Nice going, Bella. It wouldn’t be surprising if he took off right now. How would I get home? Maybe Arlene would come get me after work.

His voice startled me when he began speaking. He was right behind me. “We’re more alike than you realize. I know what it means to sin and to hate yourself for doing so.”

His cool hand came to rest on my shoulder. ”If I have you wrong, please let me discover that. You thought I was an angel. You don’t know how far from the truth you were. So maybe I have you wrong, but we can discover each other. Let that happen.”

I closed my eyes. I wanted so much for that to happen. Was I ready for this? I couldn’t take another trampling of my heart.

“I will never be a father, Bella. My kind can’t be parents. If it’s children you are concerned about, that has never been an option for me. And as for this Jake,” Edward’s voice got low and rumbly, “the thought that someone would hurt you makes me want to destroy him.”

I shook my head. Yes, Jake had hurt me, but I was beyond him now. “Edward, he’s just a boy. Promise me you’d do nothing like that.”

“If it’s what you wish.” He paused and gently pushed on my shoulder until I was facing him.

“I know what it is to feel alone in this world. I can see you know it too. There is so much about you that draws me in, tell me you feel it too. We are meant to be together. If nothing else makes sense, that does.”

There it was again, the feeling that we clicked together like magnets. If it wasn’t destiny then I didn’t know what it could be. I looked up at his face, barely illuminated by the silver moonlight. His skin was so pale, so perfect, and his dark, elegant eyebrows were like raven’s wings, framing eyes that were looking into the depths of my soul.

“Yes, oh yes,” I breathed, barely getting the words out before his lips covered mine. When separate waters mix, can you tell which one is which? We were mixed together until I couldn’t tell where he began and I left off. He was indeed my drug, and every time he kissed me, I got higher.

He drew back from me slowly, but I couldn’t make myself let go of my arms around his neck. He was shivering again. “There is a trail. Would you like to hike down to the lake?”

Reluctantly, I withdrew my arms. “I am not really dressed for hiking. I think I’d just like to go back to my apartment.”

“Alright then,” he said, smiling. He took my hand as we headed back to the bike.

Another motorcycle ride, but this time I kept my hands still, knowing I wouldn’t have too long to wait before I could explore him the way I wanted to, completely and at leisure. When we arrived back at my house, it was still deep night, the neighborhood still and quiet.

We entered the door as I saw Darcy streak away under the bed. I hung up my cardigan on the coat hook as Edward entered the living room in front of me. I took off my apron and threw it on the table, watching him as he turned around, looking somewhat lost in my living room even as he seemed to fill it up. These walls would always seem a bit too small to contain his otherworldly, powerful presence.

I saw he was still trembling. His face looked tense, like he was warring with himself, barely breathing. I came up in front of him and asked softly, “You’re shivering. Are you cold?”

“No,” he said, his voice rough. I came up in front of him and stood on my tiptoes, gingerly putting an arm around him and kissing his lips. He returned the kiss fiercely, almost bruising me and smothering me with his lips before I had to gasp for air. My heart began to pound with excitement. He bent me backwards, letting his lips trail down my neck to the side of my exposed throat. I waited, but he had frozen us into position, my feet almost off the floor and at an angle where I could get no purchase. Slowly, his lips pulled back, and I could feel his closed teeth against the sensitive skin of my neck. His shivering turned into something more, almost like spasms that rippled through him. I grew alarmed; what was happening?

Suddenly, I was out of his arms. I crumpled to the floor, my support gone, landing on my ass with a resounding thud. In the space of a second, he had seemingly flown across the room, hiding in the shadows of the corner, pressed against the wall, like he’d been pinned there.

“I—I’m sorry. I can’t…” he whispered and then he vanished.