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Îngerul Morții (one-shot)

Summary:
He's roamed the world, protecting the innocent from the evil who prowl among them, an Angel of Death on Earth. It is his sole purpose in life since he lost his other half and became immortal, until he finds her again. She's young and innocent, studying the criminal mind and how to combat it. She's glimpsed the darker side of humanity and is ready to join him in his crusade.


Notes:
This one shot was donated to Fandom Against Domestic Violence. I eventually intend to extend it into a longer story, but until that happens, I hope you enjoy what I've written so far. This is the first lemon I've written, and I hope it doesn't disappoint. I wish to thank my beta, bexie25, and my pre-readers: LorraineBubbleybear, Sherryola, & Team Edward Rules All. They were all invaluable throughout the writing of this story. Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.


1. Îngerul Morții

Rating 5/5   Word Count 12937   Review this Chapter

The internet is a wonderfully amazing tool in this modern world. There are many luxuries of the current time I now enjoyed, but the internet was the tool which would lead me to reconnect with my lost brother after more than a century of separation. I double-checked the GPS—another useful invention—to ensure I was still on the correct route, and also to gauge how much longer I would be traveling before arrival.

I reminisced about my younger brother, Carlisle, as I drove my car toward his current place of residence. He'd been changed a few years after me. While my "disappearance" caused our father to become a crazed zealot in his preaching against "the forces of darkness," the loss of Carlisle really threw him over the edge. He didn't survive too many more years after that.

I'd actually sought death, or at least an escape from the pain that my life had become, when I was changed. It took me a while to get past the seeming injustice of it, but I'd since made my peace with my fate. While not exactly happy with my existence, I was accepting of it now, and had found what I believed to be my purpose in this second life.

Due to my upbringing, I realized quickly what had happened to me and retreated deep into the forest as soon as I was able, not returning to the city again until I'd learned some control over my baser instincts. I stayed there, despite the danger, slim though it was, that my father represented. The only other person in this world that I truly cared about anymore was my brother, and I felt it was my duty to watch over him to the best of my capabilities.

When I'd heard of the hunt against vampires that our father had orchestrated, which Carlisle was to lead, I was deeply worried for his welfare. Thanks to my telepathy, not to mention what had happened to me only a couple years previous, I only knew too well that there were a few vampires, other than me, in the city. I would have driven them off or killed them myself if I could, but I was still too young and inexperienced yet. Even though my opponents were most likely weaker than me, they had the benefit of experience and numbers. While I'd longed for the oblivion of death before I was changed, my survival instinct—heightened even more now after my metamorphosis—would not allow me to risk myself against poor odds.

Most of the hunts Carlisle led followed false trails and weren't dangerous, but my instincts told me that time was different; Carlisle's search was too near where I heard the voices of the other vampires. Over the past few years as a vampire myself, I'd learned to trust my instincts, so I did something I'd refrained from doing once I'd learned to control my telepathic powers: I opened my mind to the influx of thoughts and listened for my brother's voice.

Sure enough, Carlisle was soon overtaken by one of the vampires he and his mob were hunting; I rushed to his aid as quickly as I could. The fiend heard me coming and released him, fleeing the scene, followed by the remaining humans in the hunting party. Unfortunately, I was too late to save Carlisle from being bitten, and the subsequent change into a vampire, but at least I was able to make his transition into his new existence a little easier.

I picked him up and carried him deep into the forest, where sufficient wildlife was plentiful. I'm proud to say that I have never fed on an innocent, but the thirst is nigh unbearable when we first awaken after the metamorphosis. I wasn't sure if Carlisle would have the control to refrain from killing anyone nearby. He was such a gentle, compassionate soul, I knew it would devastate his spirit if he were to attack an innocent human while in the throes of a newborn's thirst. When he woke, he could feed on as many deer as his body demanded without it affecting his conscience.

So many of the myths told about our kind were entirely incorrect, but the thirst—the bloodlust—we felt was one thing (probably the only thing, besides the proverbial immortality) that the stories were right about. The sun did not adversely affect us, nor holy items. The latter, especially, enforced my belief that we were not damned after all, despite my father's preaching on the subject. I was sure that it was yet one more thing that the stories were wrong about. Add to that the fact I still cared about humanity in general, and my own human family in particular, I'm positive my soul was not lost during my transformation from mortal to immortal.

With the change, our upbringing strongly affected our choices as vampires, though in different ways. Our father had been a pastor; as such, we'd been taught about God, the Bible, and most importantly, the constant battle against evil we must fight—quite literally in our time—every day of our lives. Our father became even stricter after the death of our mother.

As a result, even as vampires, we both valued human life and chose to use our supernatural abilities to improve the quality of life for humans whenever possible. We just differed in our methods. I'd been more enthusiastic than Carlisle in the fight against evil when we were human—even taking a position in law enforcement, rather than simply following my father into the clergy as he wished—but I was more careful than our father. I demanded evidence, and a lot of it, before I would condemn someone who was accused of something nefarious. Of course, my power (which was latent and not nearly as powerful when I was human) assisted me in locating the truly guilty and releasing the innocent.

This mindset bled through into my vampire existence, leading me to hunt the wicked who walked this earth and aid the (relatively) innocent where I could. I say relatively innocent because, other than young children, no human is entirely innocent; most, however, are not truly evil. I seek to dispatch only the truly evil humans—those who would cause harm or murder to those weaker than themselves—from troubling this world whenever possible. I can only believe that this is what I was created for.

Why else would God allow me to become a vampire and then also gift me with unique powers to detect these evildoers? He took everything that mattered from my human life and then took that life away, giving me this life instead. I do not wish to be presumptuous and think too much of myself, but I consider myself a kind of Angel of Death (or Îngerul Morții as the Romanians named me) here on Earth. God may consider all sins to be equally abhorrent, but to my limited perceptions, there were specific sins that definitely felt worse than others, and I felt called to help the humans afflicted by them.

While I fed on animals when necessary, I preferred a diet of murderers, rapists, pedophiles, and similar ilk. It soothed my soul to know I was alleviating the world of just one such man, let alone all the men (and even a few women) whom I have slain over the centuries of my existence in this second life of mine.

Carlisle took a different approach in his desire to help humans and had chosen to abstain from feeding on them altogether, subsisting entirely on the blood of animals. He'd also devoted his eternity in learning to become a human physician, to heal them from ailments and injuries whenever he could. He had more than one unique power that facilitated him in his new venture as well. I greatly admired his decisions and only hoped he respected mine as well. I refused to invade his privacy merely to satisfy my curiosity and ease my mind, so I did not know what he truly thought of me and the choices I had made.

Despite what I felt was my calling, I had never killed indiscriminately. I always gave the sinners I found an opportunity to repent, to make better choices. If I could see even a glimmer of remorse in them, I would let them live, give them the opportunity to change, and I would subsist on animal blood until I encountered the next evildoer. I could read their souls and knew if they truly repented. There was no guarantee that they would not relapse back into their former habits, but I still did not wish to condemn a soul to Hell if they had any possibility of redemption.

I also didn't limit myself to only hunting evil humans; I had destroyed a fair number of truly evil vampires as well. Most vampires I left alone; even if they hunted the innocent, most were merely following their instincts, much the same as a lion hunts a gazelle. No, the ones I hunted didn't simply feed from humans, but thrived on causing pain, whether from physical or mental torture, or even both in some cases.

That thought led me to the reason Carlisle and I parted ways. We had spent several decades in each other's company, though our hunting patterns varied. However, when Carlisle decided he wanted to spend time among the Romanians—a large group of genteel vampires we had come across—taking advantage of the knowledge they could impart, I could no longer stay in his company, although it pained me greatly to part ways with the only family and friend I had left. The Romanian vampires were "civilized" and educated, but brutal to humans. I tried to talk him out of staying with them, explaining to him how truly monstrous most of them were, especially two of the self-appointed "kings"—Stefan and Vladimir they called themselves—but he refused to listen.

I truly did not understand how my brother managed to stomach being around them, no matter what kind of knowledge they'd accumulated over the eons of their existence. I suppose it helped that he did not share my powers; he was unable to hear their vicious thoughts, unable to see the images of the humans who suffered beneath their hands and teeth. His thirst for knowledge was greater than his disdain for their lifestyle and I hadn't seen him since we parted ways.

I was still contemplating ways to destroy the evil among that coven. Unfortunately, they were well protected and powerful, not to mention having vastly superior numbers. I had met many vampires in the intervening century since, many with formidable powers of their own, and if I could convince them to band together—to formulate an army of sorts—then we should have a chance, a good chance at defeating them. If we did, though, a void would be left and I had no desire to rule in their stead.

The petite vampire in the seat next to me shifted her position, interrupting my recollections. I raised my eyebrow questioningly as my gaze locked with Alice's violescent eyes. As vampires, we do not have to move, ever, so she obviously shifted her posture for a specific reason. We were alone in the car, no humans to see us, so I wondered why she wanted my attention.

Alice was not my mate, nor had I ever viewed her in any such capacity. She did keep the circling vultures, otherwise known as female vampires—or succubi—at bay though. They assumed we were a mated pair and kept their distance, and I had no desire to disabuse them from that notion. If I thought of Alice in any familial way whatsoever, I would most likely consider her as the much younger sister I never had, but no more than that. Most importantly, she was a dear friend and had been my sole companion for nearly century, ever since I found and changed her.

At this moment, however, I was becoming a bit vexed with her, just as I probably would if she were my biological sister. I think it was in the unwritten rules of being siblings—whether pseudo or biological—that you find ways to irritate each other. She continued to sit in her seat, meeting my eyes with a serene expression upon her features. I knew what she wanted—for me to break first and ask her why she wanted my attention—but feeling a bit petulant, I decided to ignore her. Facing forward once again, I allowed the larger part of my consciousness that was not focused on driving to drift down memory lane once again, only this time the memories were focused on how I discovered my mostly wonderful, yet also sometimes aggravating, companion.

~IM~

I was traveling in the deep southern United States—southern Mississippi, to be exact—when my telepathy honed in on an evil mind. I had trained my ability over the past couple hundred years, and my level of control and power had evolved and grown, giving me this unique feature to my power. I was rarely ever inundated by the thoughts of everyone in my vicinity anymore. I focused only on certain kinds of minds, certain kinds of thoughts, and those were the only ones I heard, unless I chose otherwise.

"Has that interfering brat been taken care of?" I heard a woman—one Mrs. Viola Brandon I gleaned from her mind—demand.

I saw the face of a beautiful teenage girl in the woman's thoughts. The girl had long ebony hair and vibrant blue eyes set in a slim face with small, delicate features. Alice—Mary Alice Brandon, to be precise—was the name attached to the memory and the woman hoped she was dead. Despite the last name, the two were not biologically related.

"She's gone," the man across from her—Mr. George Brandon—agreed. I was appalled to hear that he was the girl's father. It wasn't the first time I'd heard a parent wish or cause harm to a child, unfortunately, but each time I encountered the like it horrified me anew. Children were a precious gift from God, meant to be cherished, not cast aside and reviled. "I sent her to an asylum."

"Why didn't you have her killed like her mother?" Viola, who was apparently his new wife and couldn't have been more than ten years older than young Alice at the most, whined. "What if someone believes her tales?"

In her mind, I saw a plot to kill George Brandon's former wife, which had been continually thwarted by Alice, his eldest daughter who seemed to possess a gift of foresight. Most of the townsfolk believed the girl to be insane, but her mother had believed her and heeded her warnings. At first, anyway. Eventually, her mother had relaxed and left the house alone, which is when the assassin hired by her husband struck.

I listened carefully for any morsel of regret for what they had done to Cora Brandon, the former Mrs. Brandon, and to young Mary Alice. Try as I might, though, I sensed no remorse from Mr. Brandon or his new wife.

Apparently, Alice discovered that her father and his new bride were the perpetrators of her mother's murder and she fled to her aunt's house, only to be believed insane. Rather than arranging her death as he had for her mother, George had her sent to the Mississippi State Hospital in Jackson instead.

"Who would believe her?" George replied. "Everyone in town believes she's either a witch or crazy, including her aunt and uncle—especially them. Besides, if she'd been killed it just would have given credence to her stories."

If my plan works, he mused silently, the little witch will be dead soon anyhow, and no one will be able to point fingers at us.

"I suppose you're right," Viola huffed. "What about the other one? Will she become a problem as well?"

"Cynthia? There's no reason to believe we'll have any trouble with her. She's never exhibited any kind of abnormalities like her sister has. We shouldn't have any problems with her."

I decided that I had heard enough. Both of these humans were despicable, so caught up in their greed that they would stoop to eliminate a young woman and her mother—although it seemed the mother was the primary target and that Alice wasn't chosen for disposal until she discovered them as the perpetrators of the crime. And humans referred to my kind as monsters in their stories? Mayhap some of my kind were, but no more or worse than there were among humankind.

I honed all of my senses in on the two humans, locating them easily. I stealthily approached the house and determined the pair were currently alone. I wondered where the other child—Cynthia—was. I would need to find out her whereabouts and ensure her wellbeing before executing them.

By the time I arrived at the home, their discussion had ceased and the man and woman had separated to different rooms in the house. The woman was in the kitchen preparing their night's repast, which they would never have the opportunity to enjoy, and the man appeared to be in a kind of den, examining some jewels. Apparently he was a jeweler and pearl trader, which is how he met his new young wife, which then led him down the path where he chose to have his previous wife killed.

Focusing again on the humans, I took a few seconds decide how I wanted to proceed first. From the discussion and thoughts I'd overheard, I'd learned that George Brandon was the girls' biological father, so I chose to save him for last. I'd be content enough from feeding off the woman that I should have no difficulty getting my questions answered by him.

Silently entering the house, I moved into the kitchen and seized the woman, covering her mouth to muffle her screams. I pulled her from the house, still without making any sound human ears could detect, and swiftly retreated to the nearby forest. There, I turned her to face me, giving her one final opportunity to atone for her sins. She did exactly as I believed she would: she repented with her words, but not with her thoughts, so I bit into her jugular, gulping down her crimson life force, careful not to spill a drop.

Once her body went limp and the flow of her blood ceased, I dropped the corpse to the ground. There were black bears and panthers roaming the forests, so I disguised the cadaver to look as if it was the casualty of an attack by a large predator. I would do the same with her husband once I was finished with him. As far as I knew, maybe a predator would actually find them and make a feast of the meat provided.

When I was satisfied with my efforts, I returned to the home I had just left. George Brandon was still in the den, oblivious to his wife's—and soon his—fate. Whereas his wife's death was relatively quick, I would take my time with him, though. I needed answers that only he could give me. I needed to confirm that his youngest daughter was safe and well-cared for, and I needed to know the details of the nefarious scheme he had put in motion to kill his eldest child.

Mr. Brandon didn't have any nearby neighbors, so I didn't feel a need to remain silent this time, although I was still careful not to break anything. There mustn't be any signs of an intruder or foul play in this house, after all. Entering the den, George Brandon looked up from his desk at me in shock.

"Who are you?" he demanded boisterously. "How did you get in here?"

I smirked at him, ignoring his questions. The answers would not matter to him for long. I flashed over to him and grasped him by the throat, careful not to cause any lasting damage or obstruct his breathing, throwing him up against the wall. Anger, with a strong dose of fear (no doubt from observing my speed and strength), filled his eyes.

"I'll be asking the questions, Mr. Brandon, and don't try to lie," I warned him. "I'll know if you do."

"How do you know my name? I'm sure I've never met you before."

"Assume I know everything," I hissed.

He noticed my eyes then, specifically the red hue circling the pupil. It was larger and brighter now after having just recently fed. The anger left his eyes completely, replaced entirely by terror as he acknowledged that I was not a human man.

"W-W-What d-d-do y-y-you want t-t-to know?" he stammered. "I'll tell you anything! Just don't kill me," he pleaded desperately.

I shook my head, ignoring his plea. I would make his death swift and painless if I received the answers I wanted, but he would die regardless.

"Tell me about Cynthia," I challenged. "Where is she?"

"Cynthia, my daughter?" he inquired, confused, before becoming consumed by terror once again. "Please don't hurt her."

"I'm not going to hurt your daughters," I soothed the quaking man, emphasizing the plural. "I just want to know they're safe. Now tell me what I want to know." My grip on his neck tightened infinitesimally in warning and he swallowed convulsively as he made a useless attempt to pry my hands away from him.

After giving up at loosening my hold on him, I saw the answer in his mind, but he told me anyway. "She's with her aunt," he replied tremulously.

"She's well cared for there?" I verified.

Mr. Brandon just nodded, but I heard everything he didn't say. While their aunt and uncle had treated young Alice badly, blaming her for the death of their son that she'd predicted and warned them about—a prediction they had ignored—they doted on Cynthia. She would be cared for by them.

"Now let's discuss Alice, your other daughter. What are you planning against her?"

Once again, no words were needed; I heard everything. George Brandon had paid an orderly to mix up Alice's medications. He intended for her to die by an overdose of the drugs, an amount that would be considered acceptable for a large man perhaps, but would kill a thin, petite girl like her. It would be written off as an accidental death, just like his wife's was. Even now, frozen in terror, I heard no regret from him for what he'd both done and planned, only regret that he'd been found out be me.

I had my answers and was ready to leave and try to save young Alice if I could, so I ended my interrogation and delivered the sentence for his crimes. Unlike Viola Brandon, I took a little more time with him. Cora and Alice were his family; he should have loved and protected them no matter what. Instead, he chose to destroy, to cause pain. I let him see what was imminent, and I decided to give him a preview of what was coming for him—of Hell—and let him feel the pain of the venom in his veins, even as it paralyzed his body.

Once Mr. Brandon's heart had stopped, I left his body near his wife's, in a similar condition, before I began running as fast as I could toward Jackson and the asylum there. When I arrived, I was relieved to find that the orderly in question did not do as instructed. He had thankfully had a change of heart about the matter. While he needed the money, his conscience would not allow him to knowingly condemn the innocent girl to death, even if she was a witch, as her father claimed, or insane as everyone else believed.

With the knowledge that she was safe, I waited until full dark before entering the facility, as it would be easier to navigate undetected. I quickly found the patient records and located Alice's room. Entering the room, I was surprised to find the girl wide awake and waiting for me. I knew, of course, from her father's thoughts that she was clairvoyant, but this was my first experience with her power and it was rather shocking.

"I'm ready," she said in way of greeting, standing up and walking over to me. She did not hesitate in her approach or shy away from me, something humans rarely ever did. Instead, she placed a tiny hand on mine once she was close. "Please take me away from here and make me like you."

At first I tried to feign ignorance—I should have known better—and then I tried arguing against changing her. She was young and still had a full life ahead of her, even if she could not readily return to her home and sister. She knew what she wanted, though, and most importantly, she knew her destiny and where—what—she was supposed to be.

~IM~

"Edward?" Alice nudged me to get my attention. I smirked internally; I knew she wouldn't be able to handle me ignoring her for long. "What's with you today?" she asked once she noticed my eyes were focused on her once again.

"Sorry, Alice. I guess this trip has me nostalgic and I've been reminiscing, first about Carlisle and then about when I first met you."

She grinned playfully at me. "I guess that's part of getting old, huh?" she quipped.

"Hey!" I protested. "I'm not that old. I'm still considered quite young for our kind."

"Yeah, keep telling yourself that," she teased.

I cleared my throat unnecessarily. "So, what was it you wanted to speak to me about?"

"Oh, I, uh, just thought we should stop and hunt soon," Alice said evasively. "You know, get ourselves fully refreshed and sated before arriving at your brother's home. That way we won't have to leave for a while."

"Uh huh," I responded noncommittally, not buying it, although the reasoning was sound. I was so tempted to change to frequency of my power so I could discover the real reason she wanted us to stop. I let it go, though.

I'd gotten to know Alice very well over the past century we'd spent together. I knew that she would only make this request if she had a very good reason for it. I also knew she'd only hold back any visions she may've had for an equally good reason. I would find out eventually and I was content with that.

I agreed to Alice's proposal and we separated when we reached Tacoma, which is where Alice decided was the best place to stop before concluding our journey. We would meet back at the car in a half hour, then continue our trek to Carlisle's residence, which was in the rural outskirts near Auburn, about 15-20 minutes away. She used her power of foresight to target her prey and I used my power to hear thoughts and see auras. I scanned the minds in the vicinity of my power, looking for the appropriate villainous mind, and stopped on one.

After I finished feeding and had disposed of the body, I began wandering, passing the time until I needed to meet back with Alice. I found myself nearing the University of Washington's Tacoma branch and slowed, intending to turn back—it was the end of the school year and the place was filled with students packing up to leave for the summer, or permanently if they were graduates—but a mind at the far edge of my power's reach caught my attention and I stopped to listen.

The thoughts themselves weren't particularly evil (at the moment, anyway), but there was a dark aura to the man's mind and I honed in on him. I felt drawn in the direction I believed he was and listened to my instincts, walking at a casual human pace in the general direction they drew me, which happened to be deep within Court 17 Apartments, the on-campus housing utilized by this branch of the university. The thoughts grew louder as I got closer.

"Why not, Bella?" the man demanded, focusing on the face of the young woman he spoke to.

My breath—unnecessary though it was—caught at the sight of her. I recognized her eyes! As my gaze met hers, even just through this other man's eyes, I felt a powerful tug, pulling me inexorably to her. I recognized the feeling, although I had not felt it in a long time and not quite as strong, not since I was human.

Many of my human memories had faded and were difficult to recall, but not this. I vividly remembered everything to do with my wife—how I felt when we first met (which was actually the day we were married) and every kiss, every touch, since then. Worst of all, I remember ever tortuous minute of the day she died in childbirth. Our child died, too, and my will to live along with them. How ironic that I was changed into a virtually immortal creature not long after.

This young woman did not look exactly the same as the woman I remembered—not that I would expect her to—but the sensation of our souls connecting felt so similar to what I remembered. I began moving faster. I had to see her in person; I had to talk to her and find out if it was possible. I had to touch her! Could she truly be my beloved wife—my soul mate—brought back to me?

If it was true, if this entrancing young woman—Bella—was truly my wife reincarnated, perhaps there was truth to the lore of vampire mates after all. I had had occasion to meet a few couples who professed that they were more than just two individuals who had fallen in love, and there were several special traits specific to them that other vampires lacked which supported their claim. "Mates" was the common term used by all I'd come across. They maintained that their love was forever and that they were bound for eternity. If one were to die, they said, it would only be a matter of time until he or she was reborn and they would be reunited once again.

I turned my focus back to Bella, studying her features as well as I could through this other man's lackluster vision. She had long lustrous dark-brown hair—whereas Elisa had been flaxen-haired—a heart-shaped face, and arresting hazel eyes. Once again, I was astounded by the extreme similarities between Bella's eyes and those of my late wife's. I couldn't wait to see her with my own eyes rather than through this man's limited perceptions. I'm sure she was even lovelier than he perceived.

I imagined what her unique eyes would look like as a vampire, especially if she joined me in my diet—not that they still wouldn't be lovely and unique if she chose the "vegetarian" diet. The red hue that would appear around her pupils after she was changed, coupled with an intensification of the colors already present, would no doubt give her eyes a beautiful rainbow effect, however, like when the sunlight reflects off water.

I reached my mind out to join with hers, wanting to hear her, and frowned. Her thoughts were incredibly difficult to hear. I barely heard a dim echo. What I could hear of her internal voice was lovely, though. I pulled back and focused on the man again. My instincts told me something wasn't right about him.

"What are you waiting for," the man continued irately, "marriage or something?" He scoffed internally at that thought.

"It doesn't matter," Bella replied, a moue distorting her lovely features as she argued with him. "All you need to know is that I will not have sex with you, not ever."

"If you're waiting for marriage," he said, ignoring her, "then let's do it. We can go to the courthouse and get married ASAP."

Bella frowned at the man. "No, Jacob," she said firmly, "I will not marry you. I only began dating you because you and your father were pressuring me to, just because your father and mine were once best friends, almost like family. I thought if we dated, you'd see how incompatible we are romantically and we could go our separate ways." She sighed and shook her head. "I see I was wrong. I don't want to be your girlfriend anymore. I hope we can part as friends, like we used to be, but there will never be any more than that between us."

The man's thoughts darkened dangerously in response to her words. I ran as fast as I could toward the direction I believed the thoughts originated, internally cursing the crowds of humans in the area who prevented me from running at my full speed, panicking internally and worried about what was going to happen, fearful I wouldn't be in time to save her from whatever the man was going to do. I didn't know if I could survive her loss a second time, even with the knowledge she may be reborn again. This place was a maze of buildings and people, but I vowed that Iwould get there in time. There were no other options for me.

Suddenly, Jacob lunged at Bella, his meaty fists grabbing her forcefully around her arms. "I tried to be nice," he growled aggressively. "I've been very patient over the past few years, waiting for you to come around, but you're so damn stubborn! You're mine and I'll get you to finally accept that one way or another!"

I snarled in rage as he forced his mouth on her. My mate was a fierce woman, though, and bit his lip hard enough to draw blood. Unfortunately, that enraged him even further—his mind was a red haze of incoherent thoughts—and he raised a hand and struck her brutally across the face.

She didn't let that stop her, though, and fought back as hard as she could. After kneeing him in the balls with all her strength, she managed to get loose from his grip, but he was between her and the door, blocking her escape route. He charged at her again, surprisingly fast for his size, and struck continuously at her in his rage at being denied. I could tell she'd had some training in how to fight as she dodged, blocked, and returned hits, and I was proud of her strength.

Despite her valiant fight, and she had certainly managed to rain her fair share of blows on the man, she was of small stature, especially next to the monster taking out his aggression on her, and she eventually succumbed to his blows, collapsing on the floor. He stepped toward her, his intentions clear as he began unbuckling his pants. Scooting back away from him, Bella's spirit remained fierce and strong; she wasn't allowing him to break her.

"Don't you dare!" she resolutely warned him, fury saturating her eyes and voice. "If you force yourself on me, I won't rest until I'm sure your life is over—whether you're dead or someone's bitch in prison, I don't care which—but if you walk away now, I'll let you. I will get a restraining order against you, but you can go unscathed."

It was like he hadn't heard a word that was spoken. The rage was a little less in him, but now he felt high off the power he believed he had over her. I was all too familiar with the state his mind was in; his was the mind of most of my chosen prey. I had no doubt that once he was finished with Bella (not that I would allow him to get that far), he would want to repeat the experience—the high he felt—like any other junkie, and find some other girls to prey upon.

Yet, I could always be wrong in my assumption, I admitted to myself. Despite my knowledge of minds similar to this man's, and my telepathy, I was not omnipotent; I could and have made mistakes. It was possible that there was still some shred of decency within him that would feel remorse and cause him to mend whatever it was that had fractured within him, but considering his current state, I doubted it.

He continued his advancement toward Bella and that's when it happened. I saw something—an invisible something, at least through this Jacob's eyes—push the deplorable man away from my mate. No, it didn't just push; it threw him away from her, hard, as if he were no more than a ragdoll.

His back slammed up against the wall, powerful enough to cause him significant pain and bring him crashing to the floor, but not enough for him to lose consciousness unfortunately. His haze of fury seemed to be lifted after his collision with the wall, though, and he realized exactly what he had done—and what he was about to do. Fear filled his mind, temporarily overriding the high he was on—fear of meeting the consequences of his actions and fear of the inexplicable force that stopped him. However, there was no guilt in his mind that I could detect.

He unsteadily rose to his feet and fled the apartment. A part of me wanted nothing more than to follow after him, to reap vengeance upon him for attacking my mate, the woman he claimed to love—I snorted; the man wouldn't be able to tell the difference between lust and love if it smacked him in the face. A larger part, though, knew he would have to wait for a more opportune time. My mate needed me; she took priority now, as she always would. I knew we would track him down eventually. He wouldn't get away with this forever. I only hoped no innocents would suffer due to his escape.

I still felt the pull to Bella, thankfully, so I knew she was still alive, but I didn't know how damaged her body was until I could examine her with my own eyes. If she was badly injured—worse than it seemed she was from what I'd seen—I needed to do whatever was necessary to ensure her survival. Arriving at the studio apartment I felt pulled to, I sped inside and raced over to where Bella was collapsed on the floor.

I breathed a sigh of relief when my gaze fell upon her. She was obviously hurt—bruises were already forming on the exposed skin of her arms and face—and she was currently unconscious (drained from whatever it was she had done perhaps), but her heartbeat was strong. I took a quick look around the apartment to ensure that we would not be interrupted anytime soon and was reassured.

Half of the apartment—the half belonging to her roommate—was empty, and the other was three-quarters packed into boxes. I assumed this meant that Bella was a new graduate and was packing up to leave and begin her life beyond college. How fortuitous for us! While the deeds leading up this moment were horrible, I hoped Bella would reciprocate what I felt and would be willing to change her future, quite literally, for me—for us.

I moved forward toward her, eager to assess her condition and coax her awake. She began to stir as I approached, though, fluttering her eyelids as she started to wake up. Silently crouching beside her, I waited for her to become fully cognizant once again. I desired her complete awareness before our skin made contact for the first time, knowing that action would only amplify our bond ten-fold. I did not have to wait long.

I took the time, while waiting for her to fully awaken, to peruse her features with my own eyes, rather than through the eyes and mind of the beast who had assaulted her. In studying her countenance, I noted that there were many more similarities to my deceased wife in her face than I'd first thought. How, though?

I wondered if she could be descended from a relative or if this was just another aspect of reincarnation. How many of the differences I perceived were due to the changes caused by maturity, the changes I'd never been able to witness? Although she was still considered quite young in this age, she's much older than Elisa was.

As was custom at the time, girls were married at a younger age then—too young, I acknowledged. At the time, I hadn't thought anything wrong about it—it was accepted, common—but now, with the wisdom I'd gained over my years on this earth, I only wish we could have waited longer until we were married. She may not have died then. Our parents wouldn't have stood for it, though. Our marriage was arranged by them when Elisa was born. We were just lucky that we were actually a good match, more than good.

Bella groaned as she pushed herself up into a sitting position, interrupting my study of her. Her gaze met mine and she looked curious yet unafraid—I felt a bit melancholy when I saw that there was no recognition in her eyes when she looked upon me, but the melancholy was soon overridden by the knowledge I'd found my soul mate, whether she remembered me or not—then her gaze darkened with unadulterated fury as her eyes swept the room. Ignoring my presence, she began muttering furiously to herself.

"You just wait until I'm through with you, Jacob Black," she growled under her breath. "You'll regret the day you born!"

Calming somewhat, she turned her attention back to me and extended her hand out in a standard greeting. "Hi, I'm Bella," she introduced herself. "I guess I have you to thank for chasing my ex off before he could do something worse than hitting me?"

"Ah, no," I replied regretfully, reaching my hand out to grasp hers. "I'm afraid the bastard had already fled by the time I arrived."

Our hands touched and we both gasped at the sensation, the powerful magnetism between mates, enhanced even more now than when I was human with Elisa. I felt a powerful bolt of energy race from my hand, up my arm, and straight to my heart. Impossibly, I felt it give a single beat and released Bella's hand in shock, causing it to return once again to its dormant state.

I knew of this from when I'd been in the presence of true vampire mates previously, but it was still such a shock after having my heart still for so long. I'd been told that when true mates first touched, their hearts would begin beating again, so long as they maintained contact. Or the vampire partner's heart would in cases like this with a human mate. Supposedly, once the bond was consummated, my heart would continue beating as long as she was alive. It would only stop again if she were to die.

Bella reached out and grasped my hand again, causing my heart to start up anew. I looked into her eyes and saw something that lifted my spirit to new heights. Along with this incredible gift—knowing I'd found my true mate and the restarting of my heart—knowledge flooded Bella's eyes and her grip tightened on mine as she locked her beautiful hazel orbs to my (mostly) green ones.

"E-Ed-Edward?" she gasped out haltingly.

Nodding slowly, I remained speechless. I truly had no idea what to say right now. I had not told her my name yet, not in this incarnation anyway. Coupled with everything I'd felt so far, there seemed to be only one logical explanation. Bella was the reincarnation of my young wife, a beautiful soul whom I'd loved with all my heart, a woman who had been gone from me for over three-hundred years.

"You remember me?" I verified once I was able to gather my wits and speak a cohesive sentence.

"Yeeessss," she said, drawing the single word out, her brow furrowed in concentration.

Desperate to know her thoughts now, I focused my power on her once again. Her mind was still more difficult to hear than was usual, but her internal voice was louder now with our close proximity. I watched as pictures cycled through her mind quickly, probably too quickly for her to process them all right now. The pictures were memories: memories of me when I was human, of us together, even some memories of Carlisle when he was human.

"You don't seem too sure," I prompted, hoping that I could somehow assist with the deluge of memories.

"No, I do remember you, it's just really..." she paused, searching for the right word to use as she tried to sort through the new memories that had come to her with our first skin to skin contact, "...muddled, I guess. It's there, I'm just having trouble remembering everything, and I didn't recognize you until we touched. And your eyes are different. Am I remembering a past life or something?"

Her confused hazel orbs searched mine for the answer, so I nodded, keeping my features impassive despite the surprise I felt at her accurate assumption. "Yes," I confirmed, "you're remembering a past life. My eyes are different now than what you would remember and I'll be happy to explain why later. Suffice to say that I am not wearing contacts and I'll explain in more detail about them another time. Do you want me to tell you more?"

She shook her head. "I'd like to try and remember on my own first. You'll answer questions, though?"

I nodded. She recalled one of the earliest memories she could access—my wedding to Elisa, to her—and took a deep breath. She squared her shoulders, as if she were bracing herself for a difficult task, yet she never loosened her grip on my hand. In fact, her other hand sneaked forward and touched my other hand. That was both bad and good—or good yet difficult, and better—because it magnified the bond between us even more, trying to drive us to consummate our bond and truly become one, which caused Bella's concentration to falter momentarily. It also caused Bella's memories of Elisa's life to become clearer and more easily accessible.

Keep it together, Bella, she admonished herself internally. Oh God, this day has been so strange! First, my childhood friend attacks me and now I'm with a man who I think was my husband in a past life, and I feel this overwhelming desire to have sex with him immediately! Just relax, calm down, you can do this. You really need to talk to this guy for a few minutes and find out what's going on before attacking him like an animal!

After her internal pep talk, which I took to heart as well to help maintain my own control, Bella managed to curtail her need to get closer to me before speaking aloud again. "I remember we were married. It was arranged?" She looked to me for confirmation and I nodded. She looked at me then, a little unsure. "Who do you see me as? I'm so confused right now. I am her—Elisa—I have her memories and I remember them as if they're my own, but I'm also me with my own memories. I can't remember everything about her—my past life—yet, but I'm sure I'm probably different now than I was then..."

I pulled one hand away from hers and held a finger up to her lips to halt her rambling. "I'm as new to this as you are, Bella. I agree it is a little confusing, but we'll work it out, I'm sure. Honestly, I see you as both. You're you, but you're also her." I cupped her cheek and caressed her gently. "You look so much like her, it's remarkable. I know you have your own memories and personality, yet I can't help but think of you as her, too, either. The memories are so new to you right now, but hopefully given time you can reconcile all of the memories, past and present."

She nodded and smiled up at me. "I'm sure you're right," she agreed. "Well, the sooner I can fully remember everything, the sooner I can adjust to this." Turning her mind back to the memories of Elisa's life, determined to sort them out even more now, she spoke up again, speaking haltingly as new memories came to her. "Despite it being an arranged marriage, I remember that we fell in love quickly. Your name was Edward Cullen," she said finally, stopping to look at me once again.

"It still is," I whispered, confirming that I was the same man she remembered, not a reincarnation as she was.

"How can that be? I don't remember exactly when I'm remembering, except that it must have been a very long time ago since I seem to have been several years younger than I am now—not to mention the clothing!—but no matter how long it's been, how can you be the same man I remember?"

I remained silent for a minute while deciding how to broach the subject of what I'd become with her. "A few years after you..." I paused, not liking to refer to her current incarnation in this context, especially with her memories in the state they were, and amended what I started to say. "AfterElisa died," I began again, "something happened to me, something that changed me, made me virtually immortal."

"Immortal?" She smirked, clearly amused, although there was a part of her that wanted to believe me. "What are you, some kind of vampire or something?"

I smiled. She was spot on, of course, but it was obviously a quip, something she didn't really believe was true, which was unsurprising for a woman in the 21st century. Very few humans believed in the supernatural now, and many of those who did were shunned by their peers.

"Forget everything you know, or think you know, about supernatural beings," I advised. "Many of them actually do exist, despite modern beliefs to the contrary. Nearly all supernatural creatures keep a low profile, so that they can survive in the human world undetected, but most bear very few similarities to any stories or myths that you may be familiar with.

"I am what would be referred to as a vampire now. It's why my eyes look the way they do now. However, the truth of vampires is quite different from the myths. Frankly, the only similarities between the truth and myths are the required diet, the immortality, and the physical enhancements, but even then there are variances."

Oh, wow! I heard her think excitedly, releasing her doubt when she saw that I was being honest with her. I've always been fascinated with the supernatural, and now to find out it's all real? This is a dream come true! Even if it's not like most of the stories I've read before, this is amazing!

"Hmm..." she said aloud, feigning nonchalance, "so you're stronger, faster, more athletic; can see, smell, and hear better; don't age and are difficult to kill; and you drink blood?"

"Yes," I affirmed, pretending I didn't hear the excitement in her thoughts and addressing her spoken words only. "All of those things are true in the myths. However, I'm not adversely affected by Holy items, garlic, or the sun."

"Would you mind giving a demonstration?" she asked with a smile.

I shook my head. "What do you have in mind?"

Bella looked around her room and stood, releasing my hands as she did so. The results were almost unbearable. My heart ceased beating once again and the instinct to mate with her—to consummate our bond so that our souls could truly unite once again—became nearly all-consuming and I kept control over myself by a hairsbreadth. While that happened to me, Bella's heart stuttered and the need to be with me consumed her as well. Luckily, she realized the cause and pressed her hands to my cheeks, which immediately calmed both of our bodies down.

I took a deep, calming breath—even though my body did not specifically require the oxygen, the action still helped—and took one of her hands in mine as I rose to my feet and stood next to her. Her mind was chaotic as it cycled between memories of her past life with me, the knowledge that vampires and other supernatural creatures were real, and, of course, what was happening to her now and in the future. To pull her away from her thoughts so she could focus on one issue at a time, I gently squeezed the hand I held and murmured, "What did you want me to show you?"

"Uh..." she hesitated as she regained focus, "I was going to ask you to lift my bookcase, but..." She trailed off and lifted our entwined hands, seeming to believe I'd need both of my hands for this task and realizing that we needed to maintain constant contact.

I smiled at her nodded. "I can do that." I walked over to the aforementioned bookcase, which was about five feet tall and was fully packed with books, both hardbound and paperbacks. I'm sure it weighed several hundred pounds, but no matter the weight it would not be a problem for me to lift, even single-handed. I reached out to a sturdy shelf in the middle of the case and lifted it effortlessly, careful not break it before I set it back in its place.

Bella smiled in glee as her mind filled with more questions, these centered more on what true vampires were really like as opposed to the fictional ones she knew of. Wanting to relax somewhat, but not wanting to return to our earlier spot on the floor, she pulled me over to a small sofa that was little more than a loveseat. We sat down and faced each other, Bella taking my other hand into hers once again, clarifying her past life memories and magnifying our attraction.

Now for the tough question: his diet, she thought seriously. The Edward I remember wouldn't kill people for food. No, wait... Her active thoughts paused as she filtered through the memories of her past life with me. I guess he would kill people, for food or otherwise, but only the worst of the worst. My Edward wouldn't kill good people.

"You drink the blood of humans, I assume," she stated bluntly, arching an eyebrow. She didn't elaborate or ask any specific questions, but she didn't really need to do so either.

I nodded before addressing her unasked questions and unspoken thoughts. "I do drink the blood of humans most of the time. Occasionally I will drink the blood of animals if I can't find the type of human I'm looking for."

"What type of human? If you can drink the blood of animals, then why don't you do that all the time?"

I answered her second question first. I could tell from the scent of her blood that Bella was not a vegetarian—she enjoyed a healthy portion of meat in her diet—so she should hopefully relate to this analogy. "I can survive on animals if necessary, but the choice between a constant diet of animal blood or human blood would be like the choice between a vegan diet and having a juicy hamburger or steak."

Her thoughts roiled in disgust. She didn't mind having her servings of vegetables, but couldn't imagine living the vegan diet all the time, which is pretty much what I thought about drinking the blood of animals. Once in a while was fine, but I couldn't keep up a constant diet of them like my brother could.

"Ugh. I get your point. No wonder you choose the human blood over animals most of the time."

"As for your other question," I continued, "I will only drink blood from certain kinds of humans. I only hunt the worst kinds of criminals, those who spread pain and misery and show no remorse for their actions. Humans like your ex-boyfriend, actually."

"What?" Her face and voice betrayed the surprise she felt at my words. Despite what he'd done to her not that long ago, I heard in her mind that she'd hoped it was just a fluke, that once he'd calmed down and realized what happened, he'd make amends and try to fix his life. However, she had just graduated from the university with a degree in Criminal Justice, so she knew that he was just as likely to become a predator, maybe even more so, than he was to seek help.

Now to let her know that I could read minds. I hoped I wasn't dumping too much information on her too quickly, but by her thoughts, she seemed to be taking everything in and adjusting well so far. I thought over the best way to inform her of this new facet of my supernatural life and thought I'd start with her new memories and the latent ability I had when I was human.

"Do you remember when we were married before, how I had an uncanny knack for guessing what people wanted before they said anything, or knowing if a person was innocent or guilty even before I could locate the evidence to exonerate or condemn them?" She went over her new (old) memories and dredged up a few that showed her my latent aptitude for telepathy. She nodded after reviewing them and I continued.

"That ability was enhanced in me when I was changed, just like all the physical aspects were enhanced. I now have the power of telepathy: I can read minds. This power has strengthened over the years, as well as my control over it. When I was first changed, I heard all minds in my vicinity, whether I wanted to or not. Now, I guess it's kind of like a radio or a television. I can tune it into a particular frequency, so now I only hear or see evil thoughts, or those on the edge of violence, unless I change the frequency.

"That's how I ended up here tonight. My power detected Jacob, even before he attacked you. It caught the violence in his thoughts that he was barely restraining. Before he left, he didn't feel any remorse for what he'd done to you, or what he was planning to do, only fear that he would be caught. That could always change, I suppose, but right now there wasn't even a sliver of guilt in his mind."

Her mind was all over, going back and forth like a Ping-Pong ball between my revelation about Jacob—a boy she'd grown up with and thought she knew, only to find out she didn't really know him at all—and my power, including all the ramifications of it. She eventually looked into my eyes and seemed to realize something: that I was reading her mind. I expected her to be angry with me, or embarrassed at the very least, but just like when she was Elisa, she did the unexpected.

I'm not sure what kind of reaction I expected from Bella when she realized I had been listening in on her thoughts, but it wasn't what happened. Rather than being angry or embarrassed, she seemed to be... aroused by the idea that I was hearing her innermost thoughts. "You changed the frequency, didn't you," she stated more than asked, her voice laced with a suggestive amatory tone as the electricity between us ramped up to an almost unbearable level.

She slowly moved closer to me—giving me plenty of time to move back if I chose, but I was a slave to the pull between us just as much as she was now, retaining rational thought by a thread. She moved one of her hands up my arm, then my neck, and she began running it through my hair, her eyes filled with desire. "Did you want the intimacy that only hearing my thoughts could give you?" The only regret I heard from her mind was thatshe was unable to hear my thoughts.

I nodded in answer to her spoken question before I addressed her internal concern. "Only for now, my dear Bella. Once we are fully mated and you have been changed, we will share powers and you'll be able to hear my mind just as well, perhaps even better, than I can hear yours."

Unable to maintain the control to continue our earlier discussion, she gave herself completely over to the magnetism between us that we'd both felt ever since we first made physical contact. Reacting entirely on instinct, she pushed forward aggressively, taking me completely by surprise, and pressed her lips against mine. Feeling Bella's lips on mine was like a glimpse of heaven. The only thing better would be if we were joined intimately, becoming one body. I felt myself harden even more at the thought. As closely pressed as Bella had become to me, she felt it and began moving against me.

While I wanted nothing more than to continue, I wanted her to be fully aware of what was happening to her, and what would happen if we continued further. I didn't want her to have any doubts about our relationship or to believe I had manipulated her into something she didn't want, so I dived into her mind once again, ferreting out what she truly felt about our relationship and how much she instinctually understood.

I also felt a moment of doubt. I had learned the basics of mates, but never stayed around long enough to learn the many intricacies of the mating bond. Could we even truly call what we had a relationship yet? Other than my memories of Elisa, and her memories of me when I was human, we didn't really know each other enough to have a real relationship.

On the other hand, I'm a vampire now, and from what I had learned from mated couples previously, the bond between mates was formed almost instantaneously, even when one half of the pair was still human. The drive to consummate the bond was strong, and it would only become stronger and stronger the longer we put it off.

As contrary as it seemed to a modern human way of thinking, a vampire mating bond was almost like an arranged marriage, except that we already knew there was no lacking in attraction to our partner. According to the mated couples I'd met before, learning about each other and truly falling in love almost always came after the consummation of the bond. The drive to complete the union was always too powerful to be ignored for long, too powerful to allow for traditional human courtship.

I still had enough control for now, however. I could pull away if necessary.

I opened my mouth to explain what was happening, to allow us to forestall the completion of the bond (which I knew would most likely include biting and changing her), but my mate preempted my words. As if she were the one to read minds—which was theoretically possible, I supposed, although I had only heard of the sharing of powers once the bond had been consummated—Bella pulled away slightly and looked into my eyes.

"You're thinking too much, Edward. I remember that about you; I'd always have to pull you out of your thoughts before you became overwhelmed by them. Our minds can get us into trouble if we let them. Right now, I just want to feel. I want to let my heart lead for once. This pull I feel to you... it's so much stronger than I remember; it's all consuming. I know it's impossibly soon by most standards, but I know you. I already know that I love you with all my heart, and I want you to claim me as yours again, in every way. Do you understand?"

"Do you mean...?"

I mean I want everything with you, she thought toward me. I want you to make love to me, I want to be your wife again, and most importantly, I want you to make me a vampire like you. I don't want us to ever be separated again.

Her words awakened the beast within me, and the thin tether of control I had held over the instinct to claim my mate snapped. I crashed my lips forcefully against hers and ran my tongue over her bottom lip until she opened her mouth, inviting me in. I eagerly accepted the invitation and thoroughly tasted her mouth, intertwining my tongue with hers. She tasted absolutely divine and this small taste of her only made me want her more.

Pulling her into my arms, I stood and whisked her away to the bed in what was apparently her side of the apartment, my mouth never leaving her exposed flesh. I paused in my kisses when I caught sight of a photo on Bella's nightstand. The photo portrayed a younger Bella with two older individuals who could only be her parents. She looked so happy in the photo—they all did—and my mind filled with uncertainty once again. Bella noted my distraction, as well as the cause of it.

Edward. She waited until I turned my head and met her eyes before continuing. She placed a hand on my cheek as she addressed my concerns that she had correctly deduced. You're not taking me away from anything. I'm not losing anything. My parents are both dead. I'll tell you the particulars later if you wish, but just know that I don't have any family to worry about. I don't even have any close friends, just casual study buddies.

"Now," she said aloud, "I want you to claim me as yours. I want you to teach me how to hunt criminals like you do, so I can hunt down Jacob." She practically growled his name, her eyes flashing with fury. "I promised him that if he didn't stop I would see him suffer for it, and I fully intend to keep that promise. If you're right, and I have a feeling you are, he'll be out there soon, attacking someone else." Quickly switching topics, she leaned up to me and placed her mouth at my ear. She licked the shell, causing me to shudder in pleasure. "Now fuck me," she whispered, "the rest will come later."

Groaning, I turned my head and captured her lips with mine once again. Kicking my shoes off, I laid her back onto the bed and began to carefully remove her clothing, piece by piece, kissing each fragment of skin as it was revealed to me, each bruise that Jacob had given her. I took a moment to admire her body clad only in her underwear—appreciating Bella's mature and curvy form, something that Elisa had never had the opportunity to fully develop—before I reached out and slid her panties down her smooth toned legs. I knew how to remove a modern bra in theory, but I fumbled a bit with it in practice. Bella noticed, of course, and raised an eyebrow questioningly as she sat up and began unbuttoning my shirt.

"I have not had sex with anyone since I was last with you," I explained, answering her unspoken questions. Bella's mouth gaped open in shock, so I hastened to explain another aspect of vampire nature to her. "I was still deeply grieving the loss of you—of Elisa—when I became a vampire. Vampires tend to tenaciously cling to the beliefs and habits they had when they were human, only they are enhanced even more after the metamorphosis, just like everything else.

"I was monogamous and faithful to you since I was a boy, when I first learned you would be my wife when you came of age. That loyalty to your memory was only made stronger when I became a vampire. It could only be broken by the bond of true soul mates, and my soul mate just happens to be you: Elisa's soul reincarnated," I concluded, holding Bella's face as I looked reverently upon her, allowing her to see every emotion I was feeling, holding nothing back.

Thank you for explaining, and thank you for allowing me to see you.

By the end of my speech, Bella had completely removed my shirt and started on my jeans. I assisted her by standing as she slid them down and I stepped out of them. With only one final piece of clothing separating us, Bella stood before me, her hands on the waistband of my boxers, and she looked up into my eyes.

"You should know, Edward," she said softly, "that I'm a virgin." I saw the truth in her eyes and was surprised—due to her age and the loose morals of most humans since the latter half of the twentieth century, not to mention peer pressure—yet gratified. I loved the fact that I was the only man she would know intimately, and she was the only woman—albeit in two incarnations—that I would know.

"I never wanted this with someone I didn't truly love, but now you've found me and I'm eager for it," she added in a barely discernible whisper.

"I'll do my best to make this as good as possible for you," I vowed, gently caressing her shoulders. "The first time with Elisa wasn't ideal, so now it's my chance to make up for it," I said with a grin, lightening the mood from the previous serious one.

Bella laughed. "I remember. Neither one of us really knew what we were doing, just that we both desired each other, and that we were married and sex was expected." She gazed up at me, her humor shifting to lust. "I remember we both got better, much better."

On the last word, she yanked down my underwear before running her gaze over my body, taking in my nude form. The change would have modified my appearance some, but I should still mostly look like the man in her memories. I studied her naked body as well; Bella was well-groomed, but I was glad to see she wasn't completely bare. Many men of this age seemed to prefer smooth hairless skin, but I was from a different era, and the concept was abnormal to me.

Moving back to the bed, we both lay down upon it and I began running my hands over Bella's skin, mindful of her bruises, constantly checking that she was comfortable with my touch. It was an unusual situation that we were in. She was technically a virgin, unused to being naked with someone of the opposite sex, let alone submitting to a man's touch, yet she was now in possession of memories from a woman who had already crossed this hurdle of life. By surrendering herself to those memories, she was completely relaxed and comfortable with me and everything that I was doing with her.

I massaged every part of her body, starting with her neck and shoulders, then moving my way down to her breasts, her stomach, hips, thighs, calves, and feet, arousing her senses to new levels she hadn't felt before in this lifetime. Despite the knowledge I'd gained throughout my brief marriage to her as Elisa, I wasn't sure how pleasant I would be able to make Bella's first time—at least until I bit her—so I endeavored to bring her to climax at least once beforehand. My lips and tongue followed wherever my hands led until Bella was writhing and moaning in unadulterated desire, but I stayed away from where she wanted me most. She wrapped her legs around me and tried to pull me closer to her, but I wouldn't yield until I saw her utterly give into the pleasure she felt.

Please, Edward!

I finally reached down to her lower lips and caressed the folds, feeling the moisture that had accumulated there. Leaning forward, I captured a nipple from one breast in my mouth, laving it with my tongue. My unoccupied hand found her other breast and began massaging it while my other hand pleasured her and brought her to the pinnacle of pleasure. Bella shuddered in ecstasy and I gradually slowed the movement of my hands and mouth as she came down and regained coherency.

"That was amazing, Edward," she gasped, "so much better than I remember." She wrapped her arms around my neck and tugged me down to her body. I followed willingly and hovered over her, separated from her skin by mere millimeters.

I moved my mouth next to her ear and whispered, "Are you sure you want to continue, my Bella?"

I pulled back enough to look into her eyes and saw her determination there, yet it was also mixed with a minute amount of hesitation. "Yes, Edward. The girl I was a few hours ago—the girl who had no memories of you and our previous life together—says this is happening too fast, but I trust you, I trust this—" she moved her hand in such a way as to illustrate our inexplicable connection "—and I want it all with you. Yes, I have some uncertainty, but it's the uncertainty of the unknown. I have faith that you'll help me acclimate to my new life." Her tone became lighter, teasing. "And once we've full consummated our bond, we'll be able to function normally without staying in physical contact all the time, right?"

"Yes," I confirmed, "but that shouldn't be the reason we do."

"It's not," she argued with a laugh, "although I won't lie: it is definitely a contributing factor. I love you, and I want it all. I don't want to wait, and even though I love you, I want the freedom to be able to move around without constantly holding your hand all the time." Her eyes glinted with mirth and I leaned forward, caressing her lips with my own.

"I love you, too, Bella," I murmured against her lips. I knew it was true. I didn't fully know everything but her yet, but I knew enough to know that. I made sure she was looking into my eyes so that she could see the truth of my words. "I know I don't know everything about you yet, but I know I love you every bit as much as I did before, when you were Elisa."

I pulled her legs around my hips, which opened her up even more to me. I buried my mind deep within hers as we joined our bodies as one. Reading her body and thoughts, I held my body still while hers acclimated to the foreign intrusion. Once her body relaxed and the tinge of pain faded from her thoughts, I began to thrust gently, growling at the pleasure I felt for the first time in over three-hundred years. Like every sensation and emotion, it was so much more than I remembered feeling as a human, and I remember it was ineffably enjoyable then.

Bella immersed herself in the memories of her past life, using that knowledge to her advantage now as she began to move with me. She ran her hands over my body, touching everywhere she could reach. Despite the advantages gained by her memories, I thought it unlikely that she would climax again without additional assistance. Thankfully, I had another advantage over mortal men.

Nearing my peak, I leaned down and ran my tongue down her throat, tasting a hint of her unique flavor. I pushed back far enough to meet her eyes, silently asking her if she was ready and she nodded. Returning to the site along her throat, I penetrated the fragile skin and gulped down a mouthful of fragrant, decadent blood, distributing my venom into her system. For the first time, a special component was released into my venom, an aphrodisiac that was reserved for our mates.

As the aphrodisiac entered her system, Bella reached her second climax, triggering my own. I slowly pulled my teeth from her neck, licking the wound as I did, sealing the blood and venom inside her flesh. I kissed the wound, silently thanking her for the gift she so willingly gave me, before I separated my body from hers and rolled to my side next to her.

"You're mine forever now," I whispered into her ear.

"Thank you, Edward," Bella whispered, giving me a loving smile as she turned her head to face me. The paralytic effects of the venom took over her system then, pulling her into a deep sleep, but the aphrodisiac would make her change pleasant, unlike the normal process.

I pulled Bella into my arms, content to just hold her for a while as I immersed myself in her dreams. I had time before she would need to be moved to a private location. I idly wondered if Alice had rented a moving truck for us so we could finish packing and relocate Bella's belongings. I had no doubt in my mind that Alice knew what happened with me, and that was why she suggested our stop in Tacoma.

Another part of my mind contemplated this amazing day. I was content when the day started, happy that I had finally located my brother, but there was something missing. There had always been something missing, ever since Elisa died. Now, though, I was reunited with my other half and, despite being human still, she didn't shy away from me or try to change me. I imagined our future together as we combined her degree, whatever her latent power or powers developed into, and my powers into a powerful tool to track down criminals who escaped mainstream justice. I smiled at the thought.