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Bridging The Gap

Summary:
The story of Isabella Swan and Edward Cullen is very well known. However, what about that of the heart and soul of the Cullen family?
The vague outline of Esme's human life, put forward by Stephanie Meyer, leaves a lot to the imagination.
What happens between each of these guidelines? What is the attraction between the eternally youthful pair, the glue that holds them together?

When Esme Platt jumped from the cliff in 1921, she thought she had nothing left to live for. As she goes through the fiery transformation, and comes out the other side she finds two men who will forever change her outlook on the life she lost.

When the worlds of the preternatural and humans collide what are the aftereffects? A continuing story of pain, love and learning to trust the world once again. Continues through the Pre-Twilight life of the Cullen "parents."
Canon, EsmexCarlisle,


Notes:


9. The One I Love

Rating 5/5   Word Count 5456   Review this Chapter

"When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible."
Harry Burns, When Harry Met Sally

*****

Esme POV

The last pale rays of the yellow late-August sun had just begun to rise above the Ashland skyline, turning the cloudy sky a pastel orange as Edward and I commenced our journey home. It had been just under half a day ago when we first set out for the last hunt before I became a true Cullen. Running all the way to the forest on the Michigan border for, as Edward had put it, variety, we had spent hours chasing the native black bear, and Edward a mountain lion or two, all the while bonding over the small, material subjects that we picked from the air.

After years of finding companionship in the leaky faucet of my one room apartment, or the rustle of the trees that bordered the paths that I scurried down in southern Wisconsin it was still hard for me to accept that I had been given this life. Not only did I now have the companionship of two men, I also had the love of my beloved Carlisle.

After the floodgates had opened all those months ago I had come to let my child go. I had reached the point where I knew that I should no longer mourn the loss of him, he would always have that special place in my heart, yet now he was in a much better place. Although Edward had lost his mother hours before his transformation and me, my son just two meager days before mine there was no misunderstanding the bond that had grew between the pair of us. While the similarities between us, namely our unusual hair color and atypical beauty, could exhibit a sibling bond I could not think of Edward as anything but my adopted son. While I knew that I could not replace Edward's birth mother in his mind, just as he could not with my son, there was still the leeway that I could become the surrogate for the young boy; so knowledgeable yet so naïve with age he was.

With the knowledge of who awaited me at home, and what awaited me in a small numbers of hours I could not help but skip in front of the young boy who had accompanied me hunting. I could not help but check the sky as we both ran through the forest homewards. While there was still the option of the sun coming out, it remained very much hidden. Her hazy rays the only, and much loved companion that crept into Ashland. It used to be something I wished for, the sun. Now, even though I could sit for an unspecified amount of time and watch Carlisle in the sun, clouds were the one thing that made me feel human. The majestic white of a blank canvas across the painted sky were the one thing that meant we could lead a normal human life, to a certain degree.

"Isn't it a beautiful day?" I trilled, turning to inquire Edward. Though the characteristic, lopsided grin was present on his face, his eyes regarded me like I had clearly lost my mind.

"Yes, Esme, it's glorious," he audaciously answered, letting out a healthy chuckle.

Turning, once again, to reprimand him about his frequent adolescent mockery I found his company absent. My brow crinkled in incomprehension, as I turned quickly in the direction of home. Noticing an untidy mop of reddish-brown, that I hoped he would neaten before the wedding, on the horizon I set off in chase, catching up easily to the tall young boy.

"Don't mock my hair," he murmured, feigning hurt, with a palm against his quiet heart. Whilst, in reality, feeling guilty that I may have hurt his feelings the only response I got was another bellowing laugh. Running his hand through my disarrayed curls he ran again, his lanky legs covering the ground much quicker than mine.

"Catch me mother," he teased, leaping, without difficulty, over the log that lay in his path. His words warmed a path through my heart as I set off after him.

The gangly youngster had been, consistently, the fastest out of us. Even though, I could match his strength at present, there was little that could be done once he began to sprint.

The warm waters of Lake Superior lapping against the muddy banks could be heard while it bathed the shoreline as soon as we entered into Ashland. The forest became achingly familiar, as memorable scents drifted in the breeze. Edward's form came closer as we neared our home, signifying either my increased speed when thinking about Carlisle at home, or his tempo decreasing.

As I neared Edward I extended a hand to swat at him on my way past, his gift once again assisting him to dodge my attempts.

Cheat, I childishly thought towards the telepathic boy.

"I love seeing you this happy, Esme," he uttered appreciatively, whilst draping an arm around my shoulder. "You should have seen Carlisle going to work last night," he snickered, drawing my attention to his face. His golden eyes were wide with humor, an impish smirk pulled at his cherry colored lips. "He skipped out of the house, giddy as a schoolgirl," he offered, with a lighthearted wink.

As we rounded the last tree, the gleaming jet black paint of the automobile came into view. "One minute Esme," Edward whispered, near to my ear. "I can hear my father. You know the traditions, right?"

My eyes widened in confusion, and he smiled again. "Excuse me," he laughed, before running through the last yards of the forest. There was a muffled thud, and the unmistakable, resonating laugh of my fiancé.

"Well, hello to you too, son," Carlisle chuckled.

Walking around into our front yard I found the two men in question upon the ground, Edward sat upon his father's back as Carlisle lay face down in the rich, green grass.

"You know the rules, dad, you can't see the bride-to-be before the wedding," Edward said, explaining his abrupt attack. I smiled at the younger of the two men. Having only one car and not being within walking distance of the nearest church was a pain when Edward wished to consider the tradition he so rightfully expressed.

"Thank you for that delightful reminder," my husband-to-be retorted calmly. "Now may I ask why you are sitting on me?"

"I've just informed you, I will let you up once she goes past," his butterscotch eyes met mine, as he playfully gestured for me to return to the house. Although I did so often enjoy the good-humored repartee that both men often had with one another, I feared Edward was right. I would need to hurry if I were to look perfect for Carlisle.

"Hello, sweetheart," Carlisle called, as my feet touched the stairs to the front door.

Turning to acknowledge the greeting, I was met by the sight of Edward's back. "Hello, Carlisle's shoes," I giggled in response, finding that it was all that I could see of him.

Both men snickered in time with one another, their respective, individual laughs representing tenor and baritone. "I love you, future Mrs. Cullen," Carlisle whispered adoringly as I opened the door.

My lips pulled up into a fond smile as I climbed the stairs, I whistled a happy tune as Edward indignant whine came from the front lawn.

"Carlisle, I did not want to see that."

Hanging on the back of the bathroom door was the dream wedding dress that I had envisioned, and Edward had thoughtfully bought for me. As I slipped into the hot water filling the tub, nervous butterflies fluttered in my stomach reminding me of the first time I was wed.

*****

"Esme, sweetheart, it is time," my father had called from outside the door.

Smoothing the plain ivory of my wedding dress that day I had opened the door to present my father, a joyful smile pulled up his mouth and bristled, black moustache. Dressed, in an all black suit my father had stood proudly awaiting "his little girl" to take his arm, and to lead me contentedly into wedlock.

As I had walked the aisle that afternoon, my young cousin sprinkling flower petals on the floor over which I maneuvered with a fake grace, both sets of family looked at me with different emotions splayed on the many different relatives' faces.

My husband-to-be, at that time, Charles stood with clasped hands looking at me satisfied, as he had bounced helplessly on the balls of his feet. I could not help but smile back then, it was all I had dreamed about to have a wedding of my own where everyone could watch me give my time to the man I loved, in some way.

*****

Stepping out of the scalding water I could not help but think about how this day would be different from the last.

Where my mother, father, aunts and uncles had watched me walk the aisle the last time, this time it would be only Edward. However, I would not have wished for it to be another way. I wanted to get married to the man I love with the people closest to me present, to witness that I was giving my life to Carlisle.

At the bottom of the aisle that day had stood the minister from the small chapel in Reynoldsburg, this time however would be stood the minister from a nearby church. Over the past months, since the day of our engagement, this had been the only disagreement we had experienced. The guilt from the kill of that lone man in the forest a few months ago was still fresh in my mind; the horror on his face as I sucked from his neck still haunted me at times. Yet, I could not help but desire a "proper" wedding, in the presence of God and a man who could do God's bidding. Where Edward had kindly offered to officiate repeatedly; his worry matching Carlisle's when thinking about my resolve around human blood, I was incredibly adamant and soon the whole argument was brushed aside.

I had ensured to drink as much as I could possibly last night, even drinking from the bigger bears for the first time in this existence hoping to quell the bloodlust. I still had qualms about what was going to happen. I wished for the ceremony to be short, for myself, but appropriate, for Carlisle, at the same time. I still harbored reservations about my vows and whether I would be able to get them out with my thirst. I repeated my mantra helplessly to myself.

Just look at Carlisle and all will be fine.

I had been apprehensive about marrying Charles from the start, my nervousness had peaked when I considered the night subsequent to the wedding. Yet, this time, I bathed in a delicious exhilaration about marrying the man of my dreams, I wanted the night to happen, I wished to be his in every way possible.

As I placed the headdress of orange blossoms atop my ornate curls, there was a knock on the door. "Esme, it's time," Edward called from behind the oak barrier. Running my hands over the smooth silk and the sumptuous lace, I answered the door.

Edward stood before me, running hands through his tousled locks, as if trying to pacify his untidy mane. His necktie lay undone around his neck as his lips lifted into a gentle grin while he looked at me.

"You look beautiful," he whispered, tugging at the lower edge of his black suited jacket.

"Thank you," I responded, gratefully. "You look handsome, too, son."

His smile turned warm; lifting one of my gloved hands to his mouth he planted a quick kiss to it. "I could not do anything about my hair," he said, tentatively, once again running agitated fingers through it.

I smiled, and started to fix his tie into a respectable knot as I could remember doing with my father before he went to work each morning.

Once Edward had brushed down the front of his suit, his fingers nervously picked a blue velvet box from his jacket pocket. Holding it towards me, he pinched the lid between his lean forefinger and thumb, lifting the lid to reveal a beautifully engraved locket. The floral decoration etched into the silver of the door, was surrounded an ivory circle, it shimmered in the light of the hallway.

"It belonged to my mother," Edward explained, touching the cold metal with his fingers. "I want you to have it," he said, lifting the necklace from its resting place.

"Edward, I couldn't possibly," I murmured in disbelief, my eyes stinging with the tears that would never fall.

"Please. You are my mother now, and I'm sure she would be happy to know it was going to you," he smiled, fastening the clip behind my hair. The metal was warm against cold skin as it settled in between my bosom. "There," he said softly, "it fits."

"Edward-" I whispered, touching the place where it now lay. I love you, I added internally.

"I love you, too, Mom," he responded, tugging on my hand so I stumbled inelegantly forwards. "Now, come on," he laughed, tucking my arm over his, "you have a fiancé awaiting you."

"He's been a nervous wreck," Edward whispered as he opened the front door. Carlisle stood at the car, wringing his hands together anxiously. The crisp white of his shirt and sharp black wool of his suit set of his angelic colored hair and pale complexion, he truly did look perfect.

As Edward closed the door behind us, Carlisle looked up. His eyes seemed to melt as he looked into my eyes; a level of adoration far surpassing anything I had knowledge of slackened his jaw, as with unsteady footsteps he walked over to me.

"Esme," he whispered, touching my cheek with reverent fingertips. "My darling, you look... unbelievable," his forefinger ran over my lower lip and it still seemed bizarre that I was desired as much as I was by Carlisle.

"I cannot believe I found you," he murmured, seemingly in awe, intertwining our fingers together he leant down for a chaste kiss. That, despite its speed portrayed everything Carlisle was unable to say while it set those delicate butterflies to once again fly in my stomach. "I love you," he said, brushing one last kiss against my forehead, "God, I love you."

~*~*~*~

Edward gracefully pulled the car into the parking space under the churches overhanging awning. The church was bright white sat against the off white of the clouds above it. We walked respectably to the front door of the church; all the while I tried to maintain a sense of composure as I inhaled my last few untainted breaths of the clean air.

The preacher and his female receptionist met us at the front door, both sets of their eyes widening as they took in the abnormal beauty the three of us possessed. The portly man's white cloak swung around his legs wafting a delicious wave of his scent in my direction. My throat cried in protest as I clamped my mouth shut. Swallowing the rapidly pooling venom that now coated the inside of my mouth I leant back into Carlisle's chest, gripping his hand almost painfully tight as Edward stepped forward to shake his hand.

"Good Afternoon, sir," Edward started amiably. "I am Edward Masen; you are marrying my uncle Carlisle Cullen and his fiancée Esme Platt."

The elder man looked over to the pair of us and smiled kindly before turning and walking into the main hall of the chapel.

"That is my cue," Carlisle whispered gently into my hair. I buried my face in the wool of his suit breathing in his distinctive scent of sandalwood one last time. "I will be there if you need me. Just look at me," he uttered, looking deep into my eyes, "think of no one else and all will be alright. I love you."

Carlisle left, clapping his son on the back as passed. Edward came over and took my arm in his; his grip on my hand was tight, but not overly painful. "You can do this, Esme," he whispered encouragingly while I gasped the last breath of clean air when the door swung shut behind us. "We will get you out if the need comes, remember."

Edward opened the large, varnished wooden doors at the entry point of the room. As we slowly walked in I noticed Carlisle and the reverend standing before a large stain glass window. Carlisle never dropped his gaze from mine, and Edward chuckled silently beside me.

"I am so happy he found you, Esme," he said, too low for the minister to hear. "I wish you could see the changes in my father that you have bestowed upon him."

The closer I got to the reverend, the worse the burning in my raw throat became. My control wavered, as over Edward's constant stream of distracting words the reverend's heart beat prominently in my ears.

Just think of Carlisle, I advised myself looking up to the man I was here to marry. My amber eyes met his golden ones and I remembered why I was here.

I will not ruin our wedding, I chanted to myself with every step I got closer to the preacher.

As Edward and I reached the end of the carpeted aisle, he handed me off to Carlisle; placing my gloved hand within Carlisle's grasp I felt like I was home. His eyes shone a bright gold filled with love as he looked down on me. I refocused my thoughts as I looked up into his face, while we linked our hands together as one, the minister began the address.

"Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking.
It is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.
Love never fails.

"In presenting yourselves here today to be joined in marriage, you perform an act of faith. This faith can grow and develop and last, but only if you both decide to make it so."

Carlisle's eyes flashed with belief as the minister started to talk about the love of God that I knew Carlisle shared. It was one of the things that I loved most of all about Carlisle. While his son would often criticize and negate Carlisle's views about a higher being, Carlisle remained resolute in his conviction that we were not all damned, regardless of the actions we carried out on the earth.

"Dedication, love and joy can grow only when you nourish them together," the minister continued. "Stand fast in that hope and confidence, having faith in your shared destiny just as strongly as you have faith in yourselves and in one another today. Only with this spirit can you forge a union that will strengthen and endure with all the days of your lives.

"Forever is not a word, rather a place where two loves go when true love takes them there. Today, Carlisle Cullen and Esme Anne Platt have asked the two of us," he looked to Edward who nodded accordingly, "to witness the joining of two lives, the entanglement of their two hearts."

His eyes met mine then quickly left to Carlisle's. "Who would like to go first?" he asked.

Carlisle squeezed my hand lightly in his own before turning his body to face me fully, his eyes regarded me with passion while he recited the vows he had written.

"Esme, I do not know how long I have loved you for, but I cannot remember a time in my life when I did not love you. Simple words cannot express, today nor ever, the love I have for you. When you smile," Carlisle's smile lit up his face as his warm fingers touched my cheek. "You have my undivided attention. When you laugh you urge me to laugh with you. When you cry, I have the urge to hold you, and when you say you love me, you have my heart forever. There is a place within me where your fingerprints will always rest, where I can still feel your kisses and where your whispers softly echo. This is the place where we will remain, together as one for all eternity."

I felt the appropriate need to cry as Carlisle lifted my hand to his mouth, kissing my palm he whispered in Latin, "Semper te amabo."

I could not talk for a few moments as I fought to control the emotions that were pulling me under. Carlisle's eyes glistened with the tears that could not fall, as I knew mine were, as he brushed his fingertips lightly over my trembling lower lip.

No words could express how much I loved him at this one point. I had written my vows for Carlisle from the bottom of my heart, and yet I could not help but feel that they were still pale in comparison to what I wanted to express, and what Carlisle had already articulated in regards to me.

I took a deep breath, instantly regretting it when my throat burned and Carlisle stiffened, leaning hesitantly towards me.

"Many people spend their lives searching for their soul mate, their one true love. Some people are lucky to find the one person they can truly call the better half of themselves, while others spend the rest of their lives searching and never finding. I am happy to count myself among the lucky ones, because I certainly found you.

"I love you, Carlisle. Now that I have found you, I shall never let you go. I promise you, that I shall hold you and cherish you and give you my heart, that I shall support you and care for you. I promise to encourage you, to laugh with you and to comfort you in times of sorrow. I promise to love you in good times and bad. I promise to cherish and respect you.

"Because of you, I laugh, I smile, and I dare to dream again. I look forward to spending the rest of my life with you, caring, loving and being there for you in all life may have for us. I promise to keep myself open to you, to let you see through the window of my personal world into my innermost fears and feelings, secrets and dreams. I will always be the person that you can trust, talk to and the person that will always understand. I will make my home in your heart. These promises I give you today and all of the days of our life together. Our love has given us wings and our journey begins now."

Carlisle blinked hesitantly as if willing for the tears to fall from his eyes. I pressed the soft tips of my fingers to his cheek catching the invisible tears that I knew would have fallen from his eyes had they had the ability to.

The minister spread his hands wide in front of him; his voice took on an awed tone as he finished the ceremony.

"May this day shine eternally in your lives.
May it add brilliance to every achievement and cast a divine light over any misfortune
May you care for each other in sadness
May you give cheer to each other.
May you give vitality to each other in all undertakings.
May all that is virtuous, beautiful and honest, remain with you always.

"You have asked us today to witness these vows, and we all herein bear witness to your words, and confessions of love. May your love now be bound by the earth and forest, so to the water and sea. Bound in the air we breathe and the fire within. You are now connected to the stones of the old in a perfect circle; two becoming one, together forever in love.

"With this statement made of love and trust that your witness and I have just heard in the presence of God, I now pronounce Carlisle Cullen and Esme Anne Platt as husband and wife."

He looked between both of us as he respectively said our names, announcing the thing I had waited ten years to hear.

Looking back to Carlisle he concluded the ceremony. "You may now kiss your bride."

Carlisle smiled as he framed my face within his warm, soft hands, his thumbs stroked gently against my cheeks as he leant in capturing my mouth in a soul searing kiss, igniting the simmering embers in my stomach.

He broke off rather quickly looking as though he would like nothing more than to continue, as would I. He leant his forehead against mine, clasping my hands in his own, and his lip quirked with a gentle smile as he looked lovingly down at me.

"I love you," I whispered, rubbing small circles onto his palm.

"Ad Infinitum."

~*~*~*~

Once the ceremony was over we retreated quickly to the car, the burning furnace in my throat quickly dulled to be replaced with a different thirst as Carlisle murmured his pride over and over in my hair. Once Edward set off on our slow journey home we presented each other with our gifts and promises of an eternity of love.

Carlisle's long, lean finger ran in a loop around the circular golden band present on my ring finger. The words he spoke in the church, Semper Te Amabo, were etched into the delicate gold that lay against my cold skin. The band, a similar ring of Carlisle's finger that Edward had purchased for me, stood for my love for him, which above all else would never end.

My head, still adorned with the wreath of orange blossoms, lay snuggly upon my new husband's shoulder, covered by his crisp white shirt. His suit jacket hung over the passenger side seat next to where Edward sat at the wheel of the LaFeyette we had just recently required. Carlisle let out a sigh into my hair; I could feel a smile pulling up his lips as they pressed to the crown of my head.

The wheels of the car started to jerk around on the loose gravel of our driveway, the body of the car swaying independently on the chassis underneath. The house, just visible past the mop of Edward's hair, seemed to glow on the horizon from about a mile, drawing us forwards with promises of what would happen under its wooden roof tonight.

The leaves fluttered down from the trees gently blowing in the slight breeze, the warm oranges and crisp greens looked like wedding confetti. The thrum of the car slowed slightly as Edward depressed the break, the crackle of loose stones the only sound except our quiet breathing as Edward pulled the car under the improved makeshift shelter Edward had built upon acquiring what they explained to me as a "miraculous machine."

The driver's side door shut and my door opened revealing a white hand. Taking the hand, Edward helped me from the car. His hefty arm lay across my shoulder as he walked me to the door, Carlisle walked redundant, for the time being, at the opposing side.

Upon reaching the front door, Edward pulled me into a brief one armed hug. Kissing my cheek quickly, he whispered next to my ear, "Congratulations, Mom." He really was fast as I turned just in time to see his copper hair and the pure white of his shirt disappear into the forest on the horizon, presenting us with his wedding gift of time alone.

"Mrs. Cullen," Carlisle whispered softly onto the sensitive skin hidden behind my ear, he placed an open mouthed kiss to the soft skin sending shivers of desire through my body.

Deftly, Carlisle lifted me up at the threshold. Holding me to his chest like I was priceless, he carried me easily to the top of the stairs. Pushing open the door to the bedroom we had shared for a couple of months, Carlisle set me on shaky legs.

I just had the time to notice how dark Carlisle's usually bright eyes had become before he attacked my lips with a hunger that I managed to reciprocate. Dancing backwards, I felt my legs press against the expensive cotton of the unnecessary bed linen.

Lying above me his weight balanced on his taut arms, we shared passionate kisses on the bed, fervently crossing the boundary we had set ourselves earlier in our relationship. I was his now in every way possible, which meant that everything I was belonged to him. I wanted him just as much as he did me, and as his lips slipped onto my jaw, nibbling along the expanse of my skin, I began to unfasten his white shirt with trembling fingers.

Carlisle stared down at me, his long hair brushing softly against my forehead, as I slowly pulled off the three layers covering his torso. I bit my lip as I looked upon the Greek God that hovered above me. He was magnificent, my own Adonis, a David that not even Michelangelo could have carved.

"Je t'aime, ma chérie," he whispered, nibbling on the lobe of my ear as he reached behind my head, covering us in the fragrant curls of my hair that ran free of their bindings.

Dropping his shoes to the ground beside the bed, Carlisle systematically started to work on the buttons at the back of my dress. His tongue moved into the confines of my mouth, working in synchronicity with my own as they playfully rubbed against each other.

As Carlisle's nimble fingers exposed further inches of my flesh his soothing touch ran over each, sending ticklish waves to pulsate through me. Throwing my wedding dress off to the side, Carlisle began to lie back over me. The hardness in his pants pressed urgently against my bare thigh through the woolen blend of his trousers.

In a thoroughly out of character way, I boldly winked at my husband. Demurely whispering, "You are wearing far too many clothes, Mr. Cullen."

Chuckling, he playfully rubbed his nose against mine. "I could not agree more," he answered, removing his trousers in a second.

His body greedily covered mine once again as he started to brush his hands higher and higher up my legs as our kisses became that bit more animalistic. His fingers stroking the edge of my underwear as mine trailed through the fine, flaxen hair of his chest.

Slowly reaching down, to the hem of my chemise Carlisle lifted it off me, never removing his eyes away from mine. As I lay there in the bare scraps of my underwear I felt totally exposed and ridiculously outside my comfort zone. My hands automatically shot to my bosom to cover the exposed skin.

Carlisle looked down at me affectionately as he brushed tender kisses across the skin of my face. "My darling, you are so beautiful," he whispered, tucking a loose strand of hair behind my ear.

Moving to lay down on the bed, Carlisle cradled me to his chest, stroking small hearts on the exposed skin of my back. "You don't know how long I have waited for you," he murmured, brushing a kiss against my brow. "I will wait forever for you, Esme."

My fingers moved shyly across the contours of Carlisle's chest, following the trail of darkening hair as he brushed my hair softly with his fingers. He sighed in bliss as he relaxed further onto the bed, closing his eyes our bodies melted together as we shared virtuous caresses on the pure bed sheets.

"Carlisle," I whispered as I brushed my fingers along the edge of his white underwear.

"Love?"

I took a deep breath, filling myself with the honey and sandalwood aroma of Carlisle. "Make love to me," I whispered, quietly, uncertainly.

He smiled slightly, brushing my mouth with a devastatingly slow kiss and as we joined that night in the light of the dying sun, I suddenly did not feel out of place. As we rocked together to the labored sounds of our panting breaths, it felt natural. It felt like after all this time I had finally found my place in the world, in Carlisle's arms. My carnal need for my new husband increased as his lips met my neck while we journeyed into the unknown territory together.