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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?


3. Chapter 3 Innocence and Ecstasy

Rating 5/5   Word Count 5067   Review this Chapter

Edward

“Oh God, Emmett, did you smell her?” I cried, my hands clenched. Emmett and I stood in the alley behind the church. Emmett had nearly dragged me here from the inside of the church. I couldn’t have made my feet comply with walking away from that smell.

I turned around and kicked the dumpster in frustration. The loud clang reverberated against the brick walls and the dumpster jumped a few feet, its corner completely crushed in.

I leaned forward against the brick wall, my arm covering my eyes. “How am I supposed to walk away from that?”

Knowing the source of that smell was just yards away was making me crazy. It was the smell of everything and anything that was good in this world. It was innocence and ecstasy together; it was the smell of life and joy, peace and desire, all topped with delicate floral overtones. I had no idea that a person could smell like that. If I had, I would have hunted them down long ago. I swallowed again. The venom was flowing as freely as if I were a starving dog looking at a T-bone steak.

But I was faced with something so much more tempting. The idea that one girl could smell that way was boggling my mind. Why would someone smell like that? How?

Emmett put his hand on my shoulder. “Bro, we can walk if you want. But I’m fine if you can’t. I’ve been there. I’d understand.”

Was that what I wanted to hear? I couldn’t decide. This had to be some kind of sick, cosmic joke. As soon I as swore off feeding on humans forever, the single most seductive smelling human I’d ever met was placed in my path.

I had come with Emmett to Seattle; he was getting some custom parts for Rose—they were restoring a 1959 Thunderbird. I’d gone along for the ride to keep him company and use the chance to get reacquainted. He’d been filling me in on the last fourteen years and I'd been reminded of how much I missed him. Emmett was so straight up—he didn’t have a thought in his head that he wouldn’t say out loud—unlike many whose minds were layers of half-truths and self-deceit.

We’d had to wait for a while and as dusk approached, I looked for an appropriate place where I could go through my ritual of names. That’s when the church caught my eye. It was empty; all the minds I could hear were distant. I’d told Emmett I’d catch up with him and then went inside. Though there were the small creaks and groans of a human habitat and I’d heard the officials milling about in the back, it had seemed empty. I’d lied down on a pew, content that I would hear anybody's thoughts if they were to enter the church, and had begun my recitation.

She’d snuck up on me, which was what amazed me most of all. I’d heard the small sounds, but I had been focusing on myself, and had been sure of my telepathy. It wouldn’t have surprised me to have opened my eyes and seen a mouse, or a rat, but to see a human staring at me?

And a human girl. I could see every detail about her in my mind’s eyes. She had looked up at me with huge brown eyes, trembling with fear. She’d been dressed in a white dress that seemed to float around her hips. Her brown hair had tumbled in gentle waves down her back. Her face was fair and heart-shaped and she had on white gloves. I hadn’t seen those on a woman in forty years. It made her look fresh and virginal, untouched and young. Yet the body beneath the dress was very obviously that of a woman. High breasts and a narrow waist were accentuated by the generous cut of the dress through the hips.

Emmett was waiting for an answer from me. He was thinking about a time in Tuscany when he had run across a woman whose blood had called to him in a way that he hadn't been able to refuse. But that was Emmett; he had felt regret, but then had forgiven himself and moved on. He wasn’t like me, tortured with self-recriminations and guilt.

“She asked me if I had come to take her.” I turned around and faced Emmett. “She thought I was an angel.”

Emmett looked at me, then his chest convulsed once. I saw the struggle on his face. I knew what was coming the moment I heard the words leave my lips. “Go ahead,” I told him, resigned.

With that, he threw his head back and started laughing hysterically. “An angel?” he asked, barely able to speak. “Oh, that’s rich.” His laughter rang throughout the alley.

I smiled sarcastically as the image of me playing a lute with wings and a halo crossed his mind. "Yeah, it's a riot." I turned away and ran my hands through my hair, waiting for him to get a hold of himself.

Emmett stumbled back a step against the wall, holding onto his stomach, guffawing. I could feel the wrestle for control in him; he wanted to be serious and helpful for me. He really was trying to regain composure, but he lost it again, and another wave of laughter burst from him. I tried not to see the image of me and feathers floating around in his mind

“Great. Big fucking help,” I snapped, losing my patience, as I started walking away while his hilarity felt like it was stabbing me in the back. I turned the corner of the alley and started walking down the street away from the church.

He ran to catch up with me. “I’m sorry, man. I’m sorry, but an angel?”

I shot him a warning glance out of the side of my eye.

“What did she think about me?” He looked eagerly at me, still grinning widely.

I stopped in my tracks. “I don’t know. I couldn’t hear her.” I hadn’t been able to read her thoughts at all, not a whisper, not a whimper. I didn’t know what to make of that.

“What do you mean?” he asked. He was thinking I heard everyone.

I started walking again, furious. “I mean I couldn’t read her at all. Nada. Zip. Zilch.”

He frowned. “But you can read everybody.”

A car passed us, its headlights on in the deepening dusk. A startled face looked at us through the passenger window. I forced myself into a more human pace. “Well, apparently not.”

“So what are you going to do?” he asked, slowing his pace to match mine.

“I don’t know.” Every step away from the church felt wrong, utterly wrong. My body wanted to fly back to her, to look into her eyes again. Still, I kept striding in rhythm as though every step was a way of saying no, no, no.

He thought this over. “So where are we headed? The jeep’s the other way.”

That stopped me again. It was probably best if I left town, never came back here again. Best if I just forgot this ever happened, but I knew I wouldn’t ever be able to. The memory of that fragrance would eventually drive me to some kind of action.

I ran my hand through my hair and turned around. Two blocks away, I saw her coming out of the front of the church, descending the stone steps gracefully, her white dress brushing about her legs. Thankfully, the wind was behind us. Or unthankfully because there was a hole in my chest that ran right down into my groin and I wanted nothing more than to run up to her, thrust my nose into her hair and start inhaling her aroma in huge gulps. To see those brown eyes looking up trustingly at me and to feel that warm soft skin in my hands. To see the pulse point at the base of her jaw and to kiss it while the sweet nectar raced just below the shivering, fragile skin. To feel her breath on my face as I nuzzled into her neck.

I turned away again, horrified at my own thoughts. Feeding on humans was an erotic and sensual process, but I had always tempered it by the careful selection of my victims. I had always remained in control and given them a clean, painless and swift death.

Isabella Swan I wanted to drain slowly, to lick at the blood as it seeped from her, to feel the frailness and fragility of her body under my hands, to literally feast on her. I could feel my cock hardening in my pants, imagining her naked body in my arms, and this only confused me further. I never felt aroused sexually by humans. Blood lust, yes, but imagining a human as a sexual partner? Never.

Or so I thought. I was torn in utter confusion. I couldn’t make myself move farther away, and I wouldn’t let myself go nearer. Here I was, barely days into my new choice of lifestyle and the most serious temptation of my life rose above me like a Goliath. The desire to have her, to drink her blood was rocking me and my new sensibility. I’d killed hundreds and hundreds, but never an innocent, never someone as pure as Isabella Swan.

Emmett was looking at me, wondering what I was going to do. His phone started to ring in his pocket. It was Iran’s “I Can See The Future”.

I rolled my eyes. “That has to be a ring tone for Alice.”

“You are so right,” he said, smiling as he flipped the phone out of his pocket. He listened for a moment and then held it out to me. “She wants to talk with you.”

I put the phone to my ear. “Tell me something that will help me.” It was as close to pleading as I'd allow myself.

“Seismic shift. I’ve never seen anything like it.” She sounded awed.

“Uh, something that will help?”

“Destiny has arrived. Run if you like, but you’ll be back.”

“Does she have any chance?”

“Chance of what?”

It hurt me to say it. “Of surviving me...”

“Not as a human.”

“Well, then what..?” I didn’t understand. I was used to being able to hear people’s thoughts. With the phone, I was dependent on their words.

“Every future that has you alive in ten years has her by your side.”

“By my side? I can ignore that smell for ten years? I don’t think so.”

“I didn’t say ignore it,” she said softly.

“So what are you saying?”

“In every future in which you don’t kill her, she is one of us.”

“NO!” I roared. I threw the phone in my hand at the ground and it exploded into pieces.

Emmett rolled his eyes. “Thanks.”

I was seething. I would no more condemn an innocent to this half-life than I would kick them down a slide to hell. Because that’s what it was, the constant torment of blood lust, the endless and useless struggle to find some meaning in a life that existed only by the means of the deaths of others; that was hell. Like I would bring that immaculate girl into a life of death and violence, into the shadowy existence of the undead. That would surely be the greatest sin I could commit. Greater than any of the deaths of the guilty I had caused. It would be better if I just snuffed her out completely. There was a part of me that leaped at that possibility. Yes, to taste her and the sweetness of her blood.

I was trapped. The instincts of years rose up in me. I didn't care what Alice said, damn it. Run. Run from what tempted me most. Or run toward what my heart craved. I looked down the street to see Isabella's back. She trotted across the main avenue and started down a side street, her white dress and hair tousled by the breeze. I sat down on the curb at the side of the street, unable to decide whether I should run nearer or farther away. Behind me, Emmett picked up the pieces of his cell phone, smiling when he found the memory card intact.

I was near to crying as I watched Isabella vanish from sight down the street. Her beauty and her chaste purity had suddenly been overshadowed by something monstrous—me. "Emmett," I said my head bowed.

Watching me, Emmett grew serious. He recognized the set of my shoulders.

"Go. I'll see you back at the house." I couldn't ask him to witness my shame.

Instead, he came and sat by me on the curb, mimicking my position of arms around widespread knees. "I don't think so."

I looked over at him, cocking an eyebrow.

He was peering across the street, his strong profile darkening with the approach of night. "You've been alone too long, Edward. You have family." He turned to me, his face somber. "I'm here for you. I'll help you get through this."

His thoughts were full of his own human family and the brothers he had left behind when he had been turned. They were now old men with grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The Cullens were his family now, and he counted me as one of them.

Suddenly, my heart expanded. I raised an arm and brought our heads together in a man hug. "I don't deserve you."

"Nah, probably not," he smiled. "Be that as it may, I believe we have a dilemma before us."

"Ah, yes." I picked up a pebble at my feet and flicked it across the street where it pinged against a mailbox. "Emmett, what keeps you going?"

"Say what?" He hadn't followed the left turn my thoughts had taken.

"What keeps you going? How do you manage to face each dawn? What is there that makes you want to face another year, another decade?"

"Oh, we're going philosophical now?' he asked, a smile tiptoeing across his face.

"Yeah, I want to know."

He pursed his lips. "Well, there's Rose, of course. There's the family." He picked up another pebble, and followed my example, creating another ping as the pebble bounced off the mailbox. He shook his head. "You know, it's got to come down to the people. The people you love." He clasped his hands in front of him and looked at me. "Edward, we're all just slobs on the bus, trying to find our way home. The only thing we can do is keep each other company."

I didn't think I knew how to do that. I had been a solitary creature for so long. I wasn’t used to having people around to talk to or having to explain my actions. But I had come to realize that my narrow, deluded life wasn’t going to change without some kind of help. I would stop carrying the weight of the torch of justice which no one had forced on me. I had taken on that burden myself. And now I wanted to lay it down. I wanted to shuck off the cynicism and memories of violence like pulling off a winter coat on a spring day. I wanted to live and let live, like the rest of my family. I wanted peace. As sappy and sentimental as it sounded, I wanted companionship. I wanted to belong.

Down the street, headlights were approaching. I got back on my feet and stepped back on the curb, Emmett following my example.

It was Carlisle's face in my mind that made my decision. How could I face him if I fed on this girl? When I had been out feeding on society's dregs, I knew he at least understood. He knew I was trying in some way to take the life he had given me and find a meaning in it. If I gave in to the desire to take this girl, I wouldn't be any better than those I had so ruthlessly condemned. I wanted no more of death and brutality.

I felt the surrender before I knew what had happened to me. "Emmett, would you go get the jeep? I don't want to walk into that scent again," I said, waving my hand in the direction of the church where I was sure that incredible aroma still lingered.

"Sure," he said, nodding and then sped off on foot.

I waited on the curb for him, determined to put the whole matter out of my mind. But her face continued to haunt me. Those incredible, warm umber eyes, the delicate flush of her cheeks, the way her chest swelled with the intake of breath, every subtle expression she had during our exchange filled my mind—I wouldn't be able to forget any of them.

Emmett picked me up moments later and together we headed out of Seattle, soon riding along Route 101, winding our way home. He was worried for me; despite his chatter and attempts to draw me into conversation, I found myself becoming more and more obsessed with the idea of going back there and finding her. The further I got, the worse the need became. Find her, find her, find her… It became an incessant chant in my mind. To do what still wasn't clear, to kill her, to kiss her, to turn her, to… I couldn’t even crystallize the need in my mind. The only thing I couldn't do was walk away from her. We passed Sappho and were just ten minutes from home when it became unbearable.

I cut Emmett off in mid-sentence. I didn't even know what he had been saying. "Thanks, Emmett, for trying to help. Tell Carlisle I'm sorry."

He looked at me startled, but I threw open the moving jeep's door and jumped out. I rolled onto the shoulder of the highway and, in one swift motion, rose to my feet and started running back to Seattle under the cover of the night.

I cut through the national park, passing through the dark forest like a knife thrown to a target. I swam twice, once across Dabob Bay and then across Puget Sound, and I was back in Seattle in two hours. The leather I was wearing was a bad choice for such an amphibious journey as it shrank and hardened as it dried. But I was beyond caring and my constant movements kept it supple at the joints.

At the church, I reconnected with her scent. It was even more incredible than I remembered. Like an addict following a line of coke across a mirror, I inhaled that fragrance, sucking it all in as it I followed it. After a half mile, I came to her home; it was a duplex apartment on the ground floor. In the darkness, I prowled around but she was gone. There were too many scent trails for me to track her accurately. But from the windows, the concentration of her scent was heady. I stood, shielded by the bushes, next to the bedroom window and just let myself revel in the fragrance. It was intoxicating.

I waited for hours. Eventually, I withdrew from my position and moved further back to a rooftop where I could see down the street to wait for her return. I tried not to think about what it was that I was doing, tried to keep my thoughts on the Now. I kept having to pull my thoughts away from Alice’s forecast. A life with the undead or death—both terrible options. I hated myself for being the catalyst that had forced these paths on her.

She lived in a mixed residential neighborhood; there were small businesses mixed between the mostly single family homes and occasional duplexes. I watched the minimal activity in her neighborhood from my perch— fathers returning to families from work, a young couple coming home from a night out, teenagers visiting each other. Very human, very ordinary. And then there was me, the monster, lurking like a dark stain on the fabric of this humanity.

It was in the early hours of the morning when a car finally pulled into her driveway. Isabella got out of the car and said a few words of thanks to the woman behind the wheel. From my stance on the rooftop, I watched her enter the apartment. I watched as the car drove off, its headlights illuminating the road as it passed. I jumped from the roof to land soundlessly on the ground.

I skirted around to the open window, watching from the shadows. She was dressed in a yellow polyester waitress uniform with a white cotton apron. Her name tag read “Welcome to Ray's Dinner. My name is Bella.” In the tiny living room, a tabby cat was winding around her legs. She picked up the cat and murmured to it in her arms, "How's my Darcy tonight?"

She seemed so much more real, more human in the cheap synthetic uniform. Her hair was pinned up behind her head, revealing her white slender neck. I could see the bluish pulse point as it jumped slightly with each rush of blood through her veins. She looked vulnerable and fragile, and altogether delicious. I had to close my eyes for a moment, fighting the urge to break through the window. Her natural aroma was enticing beyond compare. I could almost feel the warm thick blood on my tongue and how it would feel to gently sink my teeth into that white virginal flesh and suck the dark, complex liquid from her. I edged a step closer to the window, seduced by the nearness of her.

No, I gritted my teeth with determination. I wouldn't take her when she was awake; I had no desire to cause her pain. I pushed the bloodlust down. I would wait until she was asleep and avoid causing her fear.

She passed by the window where I was lurking, the cat on her shoulder. The cat caught my smell and hissed from its perch. I shrank back into the bushes as she came to the window and gave a cursory glance out while calming her cat. "It's okay, Darcy. Nothing's out there. Come on, do you need food?"

She passed into the kitchen as I followed soundlessly to peer into that window. She poured kibbles into the bowl for the cat and got herself a soft drink from the refrigerator. She thumbed through mail, then put some dishes in the dishwasher, all of the small human actions of a woman in her home. I followed her from window to window as she passed into the bedroom. She took the clip from her hair and shook her hair free. I nearly gasped as a wave of that perfume swept over me. Again, I was hit with incongruous emotions. Even as it made me hard with need, it made me weak with desire. My knees felt as if they would give out while at the same time I could feel the rushing of heaviness to my groin.

She emptied the contents of the pockets of her apron onto the dresser top. The apron was untied and tossed into a hamper in the closet. I drew a breath as I watched her hands rise to the front of the uniform and lower the zipper from the neckline to well past her waist. The small cross she wore on a slender chain around her neck flashed once as the sides of her uniform parted and I caught a glimpse of the chaste white nylon and lace of her slip. I swallowed hard. The venom was flowing freely now as my eyes traveled the new bits of skin available to see. She bent over to remove her shoes and I caught the swell of her breasts and the dark shadow between them. Oh, this was a sublime bit of torture. I reached into my pants and shifted my aching erection into a less confining position.

She padded into the windowless bathroom and closed the door behind her. I turned and leaned against the brick wall of the house as I heard the shower start. The pause away from the fascination of watching her gave me a moment to think.

What the hell was I doing? I had sunk to a new low, even for me. As if being a murderer wasn't enough, now I could add Peeping Tom to my resume. The shame I felt would have driven a lesser creature away, but I was as rooted to the ground as the evergreen bush I stood beside. I rested my head back against the wall while my imagination ran wild with thoughts of water streaming down her body.

There were times in my life when I had looked forward to killing. There were the times when I felt the symmetry of justice as I took a life for a life taken. I had held the fearful and often outraged criminals in my hands and exalted as I gave them the payback they had so richly deserved. Never had I been seduced by their smell, their body or their blood. I had never desired the taste of a person as much as this innocent. Yet the thought of her dead and drained body made me feel like weeping.

When she exited the bathroom, she was dressed in a simple cotton camisole and a pair of shorts with the waistband rolled down. I could see the shadow of her nipples under the absurdly thin material of her shirt. It had lace and tiny white buttons down the front of it with a small bow at the neckline where thin satin ribbons laced together. The image of my fingers pulling at the tie of that bow so it gently came undone, and the top slowly falling open created a depth of desire in me I had never felt before. There was a thin slice where her top didn't meet the low line of her shorts, which sat well beneath her narrow waist. The belly beneath it was rounded and tender before widening to feminine hips.

I pulled away from the window again. I couldn't tell where the bloodlust ended and the sexual lust began. It was all mixed together in a crazy-making package that seemed to have been sent special delivery to my brain. I couldn't take this torture anymore. I pulled away from the house and sat across the street for another hour, trying to convince myself to go home with no avail. Then I saw the lights of her apartment go out. Pulled like a magnet to iron ore, once again I crept up to her window.

She was lying on the bed, her limbs spread out, obviously bothered by the heat. A wet tendril of hair stuck to her forehead and the hair beneath her neck was dark with sweat. I thought perhaps she had fallen asleep; her breaths were slow and regular. Then, in the dark, I saw her hand slip under her shirt and gently rub across her ivory belly. Her delicate fingertips moved languidly across her torso, mesmerizing me. My hands itched to feel the sensation; I knew it would be warm and silky, soft and tender. Transfixed, I watched as she pulled her shirt up above her breasts, exposing her torso with its feminine curves. The round creamy breasts, the shadow of her navel, the gentle curve between her hip bones were laid bare for me to see. Her hands rose slowly to cup her breasts. With her eyes closed, she brought her hands to her nipples and started to roll the beautiful pink tips between her thumbs and forefingers. A deep sigh escaped from her lips. She pushed her head to one side and started to breathe through her mouth. I actually held my breath as she slipped a hand beneath the elastic waistband of her shorts.

I was the worst sort of pervert, catching a young woman as she satisfied her own innocent urges. The shame I felt was boundless, but I could have no more torn myself away than have torn myself to pieces. Yet I felt linked to her in some incredible way and as her pleasure started to mount, I felt like I was there beside her, that it was my hands that searched for the spot that would give her release.

Her hand beneath the flimsy cotton of the shorts started to move rhythmically in circles around the apex of her legs while her other hand continued to pull and tug at her nipples. A beautifully delicate flush started to creep up her chest, suffusing her neck and face. Her breath came faster; she was panting now. Her head started to thrash back and forth; she was straining to reach her climax. Her hips started to move in counterpoint to her hand and her movements became more aggressive as I watched in total fascination.

Her brows furrowed and her face, in its concentration, was beautiful. It was that exquisite expression that seems to lie somewhere between pain and pleasure. Her eyelashes pressed against the milky softness of her cheeks and her full lips were parted. I longed to stroke her cheek and to put my hand on tops of hers as she caressed herself. Her back arched, and she sighed one word.

“Edward.”

If I had been hit by lightning, I could not have felt more electrified. It was my name— my name she cried as she pleasured herself. I fell back against the wall of the house, my mind reeling. The churning pot of emotions I was experiencing boiled over. There was too much lust, bloodlust, guilt, shame, desire, fascination with her, disgust for myself to be contained in one creature. Damn Alice and her predictions, I would fight destiny, if that’s what she was calling it.

Inside, I heard Bella slip out of bed. Curiosity drove me back to the window. She had fallen to her knees beside the bed. I could barely hear her whispering as she made the sign of the cross over herself. “Holy Father, please forgive me…”

I did what my instincts demanded—I ran. I bolted like the devil at the trumpeting of Gabriel's horn, not daring to look back.