Author: anais mark PM
Edward & Bella are graduate students in London 'coincidentally' researching the same poets. More than 300 years after the fact, Carlisle & Edward must find out why Carlisle's past won't stay there - before Bella digs it up researching her thesis.Rated: Fiction M - English - Drama/Romance - Bella & Edward - Chapters: 29 - Words: 190,381 - Reviews: 1,878 - Favs: 1,307 - Follows: 1,298 - Updated: 09-23-11 - Published: 02-08-10 - id: 5728755
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Disclaimer: The Twilight Saga and its characters belong to Stephenie Meyer. No billowing curtains here. Just saying.
When last we left our lovebirds, they were departing the States to elope in Gretna Green:
Leaving Renee was less difficult than leaving Charlie. Her life seemed so full, her support system so readily available. We hugged and kissed and cried and promised to stay in better contact. She and Alice had already conspired about the real wedding and I loved Alice all the more for it.
I boarded our private plane and something clicked into place, a final pin fell unlocking my entire life. I'd been waiting these last weeks, searching, wondering. Now my real life could begin.
Whatever thought had caused such an alignment, the echo of it clattering into place was heard in Alice's vision of my future. Of our futures.
"Get out of my head, Edward Cullen, or you'll spoil everything." She clasped me tightly around the middle. "I love you. You two should do this trip alone."
Jasper smiled broadly. "Are you asking me to take you to the beach?" As his wife nodded enthusiastically, he leaned over to kiss me on the cheek. "You will be the prettiest bride Scotland has ever seen."
Our plane changed altitude. I could feel us closing in on solid ground. I'd fallen asleep after lunch and dreamt of Edward walking with me along some rocky shoreline in Scotland, waves crashing all around us while we kissed in a grotto. In my dream I could look down and with my near-perfect vision see our bodies intertwined, the spray on our skin catching every bit of the scant sunlight.
This landing placed us one step closer to sealing that reality. Before we disembarked, Edward offered me a coat and I braced myself for the wet cold I'd fled in such haste but a few weeks before.
He paused awkwardly in front of the cabin door and half-turned—to speak to me I assumed. I couldn't be sure because he wouldn't turn his body completely or raise his face to me at first. Nervousness seemed unlikely for my husband-to-be even though all indicators were pointing that direction. "I've arranged for a short detour, if that's alright with you…." His voice trailed off, almost but not quite a question.
Continued hesitation from him only intrigued me all the more. "Well, here. But there's…still a bit of a surprise, if you don't mind humoring me for a minute more. We are well south of Scotland, I will say that much."
Why so nervous, Mr. Cullen? "I love your surprises. Can I have a clue?"
He considered my request for a moment. "We'll need a helicopter."
I pushed back my usual discomfort with the showy display of the Cullens' wealth. "'We' or me?"
Having rediscovered his self-possession now that our respective roles were back to the status quo, he chuckled, smug once again in the most exasperating way.
The chopper was already waiting and we slid right in. Edward promptly blindfolded me.
I whispered, certain only he could hear me over all the noise. "You really meant the secret part, didn't you?" Fingers teasing the nape of my neck were his idea of a response.
The conversation between Edward and the pilot was lost to me as I mulled over this surprise for our entire trip. Our entire very short trip, I should say. Before I could come up with anything better than my husband-to-be showing me a potential honeymoon location, we'd landed.
Edward handled me like an egg when lifting me down and left the blindfold in place until I could no longer feel the windstorm of helicopter blades.
"It's overcast here but bright enough that you won't want to open your eyes all at once."
I parted my lids until I could see some faint light filtering through my still-tangled lashes. I'd slept soundly on the flight and then landed somewhere other than where I expected; to say that I was disoriented was a serious understatement. South of Scotland? That described most of the globe. Weak sunlight and clouds made it possible for the time to be dusk or dawn…somewhere between the two evenings. The unfamiliar smells, the warm air without a hint of humidity, the sound of a bird I didn't recognize—everything about my location would require further investigation. Why were we even here?
I floated in a surreal haze, someplace not quite dreaming though not yet awake.
"I'm going to carry you somewhere nearby, Bella. It will save us some time so I don't lose the light. You usually close your eyes…I was hoping you could do the same this time so you don't spoil your surprise."
My cheeks already burned and ached from smiling yet my grin broadened. "In for a penny…."
He chuckled and backed up to me. I wrapped my arms around him tightly before he lifted me up and took off. The wind felt exhilarating. I'd never enjoyed him running with me but I reveled in this trip.
We slowed to a stop. "Are we here?"
"Yes. You can open your eyes all the way now, love."
I could tell that we were in shadow and blinked my eyes wide open as if I were clearing away years of dust.
When my vision cleared, there was Edward on one knee in front of me. My heart clenched and stuttered, knowing immediately what this was, though my head couldn't yet put words to it. Hot tears distorted his silhouette.
"Isabella Marie Swan, will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?"
My thought-hearing man, he knew the answer. Our nuptials were planned; I was a sure thing. He'd seen something from Alice to indicate our future, if not our actual wedding day.
Even knowing he didn't need to ask me to get the answer, in the face of such a proposal, I barely managed a whispered reply. My throat felt as if it wasn't up to the task. "You know I will."
"Not until you say so. I love you, Bella. Will you marry me?"
And still the words wouldn't come.
"I will get down on both knees, if you need me to…."
I grabbed both his hands to prevent him. "Of course I will."
I noticed the telltale velvet box as he stood. In all our rushing and supernatural espionage, formalities like a proposal and a ring seemed trivial. Afterthoughts, even.
He slid the ring on my hand only just before he brought his lips to mine, a kiss that held all the weight of the contract he'd obsessed over back in London. And wasn't this what it was all about? Just the two of us, a ring, a promise? My head was still spinning when I opened my eyes again.
I remembered to ask only after he kissed me. "Why did you have to propose here? And where is 'here' for that matter?"
A broad grin lit his features. "I knew you'd ask soon enough. 'Here' is a tiny piece of the Canary Islands. I wanted to bring you here now because as excited as I am about giving you your wedding present, I didn't want to interrupt our honeymoon for it."
"You're my wedding present, Edward."
He narrowed his eyes and smirked before handing me a rolled up piece of what felt like parchment paper tied by navy ribbon. "Consider this a means of having me all to yourself anytime you want." A map of what I assumed was the island we were standing on took up the entire surface. I could only assume because it could've been any island. It had no name.
"This is all yours. The nearest island is almost twenty kilometers away. The ruined fortress is the only structure and I was hoping we could build a place here when this mess settles out."
I could hear the sea behind me and turned to look at it, to let the scene soak in. Years of this view stretched out before me and I was suddenly overcome by a feeling of belonging, of finally having permanence and family tradition. Building something together seemed like just the start.
We had a picnic dinner in our crumbling pile—well, one of us picnicked—and then flew on to Scotland. I might have interested my fiance in just a nibble of dessert.
More than a quarter of a millenium ago, England passed a law requiring all married couples under the age of twenty-one to have parental consent to be married. Their wild neighbor to the north, Scotland, had no such legal red tape standing between two lusty teens and a marriage bed. In fact they wanted little more than being able to say, "marry us." Boys (and I do mean boys) had to be fourteen, whilst their ladies could be as young as twelve. They were under no obligation to even leave their dolls at home, just to put the toys down long enough for the ceremony.
I couldn't even think about it in current social contexts. I just kept telling myself that it was a different era and life expectancy was drastically lower than now. The age of consent now was practically middle-aged then.
No banns had to be read, no marriage license needed to be acquired. A clergyman didn't have to do the deed for it to be binding. A blacksmith would work, and many times did, marrying couples over his no-doubt still hot and dirty anvil. Hot and dirty—the irony.
In more ways than one, I felt that Edward and I had to run off and get married away from prying eyes. We were under seemingly constant scrutiny. The more I learned about Gen and Sophie and Alistair and Aro, the more I believed that instinct, my first instinct, to be accurate. Getting married alone didn't actually guarantee our privacy, nor did I actually care for it to be guaranteed. Just the separation from our usual life was enough for me. What it did accomplish was to allow my focus to be where it should on that day, not on the periphery.
Each day the past seemed less and less like something in my rearview mirror. My present deserved my undivided attention for a short while.
We arrived at our little house and Edward allowed me to touch nothing. He promised that it was just for expedience and would not be a habit. The first part was certainly true. Our luggage was in the house and appropriated with a haste that surprised me, even though I'd seen his speed in action before.
He drew me a bath overflowing with bubbles and actually sat with me while I soaked, his eyes carefully averted from any bared skin.
"Have you thought about tomorrow?" Maybe some conversation would help him relax.
"Only every single moment since Alice saw us getting married here."
"Do you know anything that I should be warned about? Will there be a mountain of objections from jilted red-eyed girls? Although I'm sure Alice would've taken care of the security if that were going to be the case…."
Chuckling, he reached down to splash me. The bubbles obscured just enough that he saw my hand reach for him just a moment too late to withdraw. I saw it, the fear, and knew that taking him by surprise would be something he would at best, not be able to enjoy and at worst…well, I needed to be alive for tomorrow to be my wedding day.
I handed him my washcloth. "Can you wash my back? I don't want to miss anything before such a big day…."
He tucked me in and helped me fall asleep despite myself. The familiar scent of dessert and Earl Grey teased me from sleep and I turned to reach for my husband. It was my wedding day—calling him that wasn't premature anymore and the thought warmed me from the inside out.
My hand met thick paper on an empty mattress. The room, however, was not empty.
I had expected someone to organize the day's affair, perhaps a bespoke gentleman with a clipboard or a chipper little woman with a headset. Instead, my eyelids fluttered open on my wedding day—"my wedding day," I wanted to say it over and again—and my breath caught in my throat at the sight of my wedding planner. All my wondering about how Alice could guarantee the day went off without a hitch, keep Edward away long enough to allow me to get ready (she'd been through so much trouble to keep the dress a secret) and keep me safe enough to satisfy him, all of it evaporated. The answer to all of those worries, swathed in dark silk, stood at the foot of my bed. Her hair was arranged intricately, but more about it I couldn't say in the dim light. Her skin—her bare arms and collarbone, her face—seemed to be lit from within. The night crowned a star this time, caressed her skin like midnight gossamer, spun and coiffed only to frame her perfect face.
"Good morning, Sophie."
"Good morning, Bella. Happy wedding day."
My mouth stalled out, all the questions rushing towards the same place flooding my motor. It was early and I wasn't warmed up yet. I tried to blink my eyes open and when I was finally successful, I found Sophie kneeling by my shoulder.
She laid a hand on my arm. "Today is not about me…or Aro or Gen or Alistair for that matter. This day is about your union. I will answer any question, talk about any topic you so choose, but at a later date. You may consider it a wedding present. But I won't delve into my sordid past unnecessarily on this day and take away from its real meaning, another wedding present. Does that sound fair to you? It's what you want, yes?"
"More than fair—and exactly what I want...so what has Alice planned for me today?" It occurred to me to read the note, the one still on my bed that I hoped was from Edward.
I will wait until the sun is high in the sky if I have to.
"Alice has considerately left us with a very detailed itinerary. You are more than welcome to look it over…."
The time for my brain to ponder details with any success was hours away yet. "I'll just get the highlights from you, if that's alright."
Sophie nodded and gave me the pared-down version. "She has a 'Getting Ready' playlist. Your tea is made. I will do your hair and makeup. You have a small pile of wedding-day-appropriate lingerie to choose from. You are required to eat. The dress does not go on until we are ready to walk out the door." She smiled broadly.
"That's not too over-the-top."
"Given the source, it shows remarkable restraint. There are plenty of technical details: the part of your hair, the angle of your chin in photos, how many mimosas I may allow you…that sort of thing."
I chuckled. Was she joking?
"I'm stretching the truth just a bit. Let me get your tea; you're still practically asleep."
"I can get it." I began to pull the covers back.
"No. Alice was very specific about waiting on you hand-and-foot. Take your time, wake up, sip your tea and I'll get everything ready."
And she did.
She buffed and polished my toes and fingers while my hair sat arranged precariously atop my head, wound around giant rollers, and my face soaked in some candy-scented concoction. We chatted about Charlie and Renee and Edward and school and my wedding present, steering clear of too much discussion about her life, or any other too-serious topic.
"That ring, Bella, is just beautiful. It looks as if it were made with you in mind."
I smiled fondly at my newest appendage as if it had adorned my finger for decades already. "I love that it belonged to his mother. He has so little of his old life. I would wear it even if it were awful." But it wasn't awful. The center oval diamond was surrounded by a lacework of platinum that seemed to hold the stone up like a tiny offering. The diamond itself wasn't perfectly white—it had a faint cast of pink, as if it might be blushing.
Sophie smiled sweetly. "You know he'd never do that to you."
"I think I want to do it for just that reason: he'd never ask. He'd never have to."
Sophie slid the silk column up my body and buttoned every button in a flash. She wrapped my shoulders in navy and purple tartan. I stepped into my Cinderella shoes, if Cinderella had developed a modern fondness for plum Louboutins. Sapphires dangled from my ears and sparkled in my hair, gifts from my new in-laws and my parents, respectively, though only the Cullens were aware I'd been given their present. My parents would think I received them when I had a ceremony that involved them later.
By six in the morning, I was tucked into a car chasing the dawn and my groom.
We didn't have to drive far before I realized our destination, or more precisely, spotted our destination. From the crest of the first hill I could see most of the surrounding countryside—the fields still veiled in wispy fog, parting occasionally to reveal the facades presiding over them. As we topped another, there were no longer multiple homes to see, just one ancient edifice. The old castle sat behind what must have been a moat but the haze rising from the water hid it from view. Buttresses merely caressed the old stone faces, in some places only just kissing the ancient walls they had once supported.
Our path led us around and I could see that much of the eastern side of the structure had been gone for decades. Since I could make out the warm glow in the exposed rooms from this far away, I could only imagine how many hundreds of candles Alice had deemed necessary for this day.
"Alice is correct, of course. Your skin and that dress will simply glow in this light. You are a lovely woman, Bella. All of this pomp is unnecessary to make you more beautiful but there are so few reasons for these old monsters to celebrate that we've enjoyed doing it. You do know that, yes?"
"Thank you, Sophie." I squeezed her cold fingers as the car came to a halt on the grass.
I stood just out of Edward's line of sight, behind an aged stony arch, looking out into the room I'd seen glowing as we approached. How had Alice found this pile? It was perfect. Every crumbling window and unstable pediment made me love it more.
Every time I stole a glance at Edward standing in the midst of all this gorgeous decay I had to catch my breath. I hoped that feeling would never go away and remembered Sophie—human Sophie—writing on just that subject. When I turned to ask her about it she was watching me. How much of myself had I left in my room for her to get to know? She'd been watching me long enough that even the residue of my thoughts in Forks and Seattle and London had exposed themselves to her. She'd been studying me longer than I'd been studying her! I chuckled and turned to ask something that we hadn't agreed to ignore for the day.
"Do you remember how it felt to look at an immortal when you were human?"
"Just barely. I've revisited the memories of other humans who've done it quite a few times. I think I get the gist of it but I don't have an unclouded memory of my human reaction to other vampires. My memories of the way I felt about Tristan are singularly distinct but I cannot imagine them to be typical…or unaided."
"I wonder if I'll ever look at Edward and not be a little overcome by how easy he is on the eyes. It's especially overwhelming when I haven't seen him for a while."
"Of course I have the inside track on some things and I can say with the utmost confidence that you are the most devastatingly beautiful creature he's ever come into contact with. You are perfectly suited."
There was plenty to distract me as we waited for Alistair to arrive and round out our wedding party. Walking the aisle unescorted was bad luck on this side of the world and he was just the charm to ward it off.
His tardiness clearly tried her patience. "I'm certain Alistair will be here momentarily."
"I'm not a big believer in luck, Sophie. We can do this without him if you think he might be a while."
Her irritation at Alistair vanished, replaced by amusement at my own impatience. Or what might prompt it. "No cold feet for you, I see. In a hurry to get through the formalities, dear?"
I could feel the color creeping up my neck and face. "I—um, well, maybe a little."
"That's the spirit. This is the first day of many more with this man. Don't start it as a shrinking violet. If you want something, tell him. He might be a mind-reader but sometimes he needs more than that."
"I am learning that lesson."
She arched a brow and her eyes darted to the side in concentration. "Finally. I hear him."
I heard nothing. Sophie turned towards what I assumed was Alistair's general direction, a maternal laugh bubbling from her beautiful lips and her fingers flying to cover the fount. I could hear Edward's soft chuckles echoing through the cavernous room beside us.
"What am I missing?"
"Alistair has borrowed something to make sure you are missing nothing on this blessed day, my darling friend." She grinned, one side of her mouth upturned wryly.
At a disadvantage in the scant predawn twilight, I could just see him loping through the shadowed hall, carrying something roughly the size and shape of a suitcase. The closer he got, the less it looked like a suitcase. In fact, he held it around the middle like a trophy. A gift?
He approached and bowed with economy—did he just click his heels?—a silent acknowledgement that he knew we were holding up the big show for him. "M'lady, I've come bearing a gift of sorts. It will await you at the altar."
After kissing my hand delicately and Sophie on the cheek less so—as if he'd like to go back for more—he hurried up the aisle. He was only out of my sight for a moment before returning and offering me an arm. "'Tis bad luck to walk the aisle alone, Miss Swan."
"So I've been told. I've pushed my luck enough recently that I don't think I believe in it anymore. But I would be honored for you to escort me down the aisle. In fact, as much as you've had to do with getting me here, I think it's perfectly fitting." I stood on my tiptoes and kissed him on the cheek.
"I like the way you see things, Miss Swan."
I smiled and nodded at the wedding planner.
"Of course." She nodded at the cellist and the music changed to Bach's Cello Suite Number One. "You are a stunning bride. May happiness follow you like a flea-ridden mongrel."
Her gaze traveled briefly from my face to Alistair's as if he might be her very own "flea-ridden mongrel" and I couldn't help but smile as she walked away.
"Don't let me fall, Alistair. These shoes are beautiful deathtraps."
"I can certainly keep you upright that long. Are you ready?"
The cellist stilled her instrument momentarily and I knew this was it.
I never thought about my feet or tripping over my hem or the cold once we took that first step, gliding across the stones to "The Swan." I made eye contact with Edward and didn't look away as Alistair guided me through what seemed like a thousand paces to get to him. Because of that, I didn't notice the hunk of metal until I was practically on top of it.
When I looked back up from examining the thing, Edward and Alistair were grinning proudly. I couldn't help but laugh a little. "Of course you brought an anvil. What Gretna Green elopement is complete without one?"
Edward took my hand and we stood facing an amber-eyed officiant across the anvil. Why wouldn't I be married by a vampire?
As he began to speak, I noticed that he seemed very young—too young to be performing weddings—and suppressed my amusement at the bizarre combination of people this union created.
In what seemed like seconds he was already asking me if I took this man for all of my existence. There was no hesitation, no line of spurned lovers looking to consume me and, disappointingly, no pause button.
The vows were spoken, the rings exchanged, in a dreamlike haze of candlelight and fog. It would be over so quickly.
Edward didn't release my fingers once the rings were exchanged. From the moment he slid on the band, I have this memory of him playing with the fingers on my left hand, watching me as if I were the most precious commodity to be had in all the world, only to be finished with, "Mister Cullen, you may now kiss your bride."
Edward whispered his lips over mine before kissing me properly. Our audience clapped and smiled fondly, their enthusiasm more than enough to make up for their small number.
I paced like a caged animal in the bedroom above my waiting husband, a man possessed of saint-like patience. That the room itself seemed like something out of a fairytale hadn't surprised me but took my breath away nonetheless. Tendrils of bergamot-scented steam lazed along the surface of the petal-strewn water. Candles played with the light, their flickering caressing the surface with shadows.
Even in this lushly perfect setting, my fears were taking hold.
Nervous wasn't the word for this moment but it kept popping to mind like an insistent little vermin, gnawing at every scrap of attention it could scavenge. I wanted nothing more than becoming Edward's wife in every sense of the word, nor had I for some time, so why couldn't I brush my worries aside and do that?
Try as I might, I couldn't make myself choose an end to world hunger or Aro's destruction over immediately consummating my most unusual union. Let those polar bear cubs fend for themselves—not that I couldn't see a certain symmetry in our predicaments. Yet I remained in my dressing room, recounting the reasons doing so could be a mistake.
I'd pushed for so long. What if he pushed himself too far simply because he felt obligated to give me a stereotypical wedding night (morning, in our case) and bit me? What if sex with a human wasn't all it was cracked up to be? Or what if it turned out to be the greatest thing ever and he wouldn't want to consider turning me? I might not even have a clue what to do once I got his clothes off…okay that option I could probably rule out.
Alone with my fears, I was dying a slow death—a number of them in fact. I'd already imagined a few colorful ends to my own life, scarlet being the primary hue. I knew I had to stop myself from freaking out but couldn't figure out how to do it.
My thoughts were racing, circling the drain, when I felt the tug of something familiar. Or rather, heard something familiar that caused a pull I'd felt dozens of times. I'd yet to begin unbuttoning my dress or even unpinning my hair, but I opened the door anyway to follow the strains of my lullaby down the massive stairs. My nerves skittered off to the corners.
Edward didn't look up as I approached but he had to know I was watching. He always knew. His tux jacket had been placed carefully across a chair, a contrast to the bowtie and recently disheveled hair left in roguish disarray. A little sunlight peeked in from between the thick curtains and danced along the surface of his profile, playing in the almost-red locks like the corona of an eclipsed sun.
His fingers slowed to silence as I grew nearer. "You should be unwrapped like the present that you are...sooner rather than later. It took all my willpower to let you walk away once, Mrs. Cullen. I'm sorry to say that I'll finally learn how to tell you no if you try to walk up those stairs alone another time. I won't wait to be summoned."
It took a moment for me to find my voice. What was there to say to that anyway?
And why the hell had I wanted a moment alone in the first place?
"I couldn't do it again…the shoes, you know." I raised my leg, letting my heel rest briefly on his thigh.
"Yes. Of course."
He held my calf and stood, no care for my personal space evident as he skimmed his nose and lips from my collarbone to my temple. The hand supporting my leg made its way beneath my thigh, a finger playing with the garter strap there. This Edward was new to me. That wasn't a complaint, but it was an adjustment. He needed no coaxing. I had to recalibrate, a silent adjustment I made with no little glee.
My hands slid from his arms to his neck and pulled his mouth to mine. We passed the point where he would usually pull away, passed it and then some, when he picked me up gently. "I'd like to take a peek at my wedding present now, if that's okay."
He carried me to our room, my legs to one side of his waist and my torso almost flush with his, not taking his mouth away from mine. Even after he put my feet on the ground, I had a hard time orienting myself, distracted by the cool lips teasing my neck and spine. I felt his fingers move to the buttons on the back of my dress. Each inch of skin exposed by a button undone he immediately covered with his mouth, an adoration he repeated for each tiny pearl unleashed from its silken noose. At the base of my spine the buttons, and his mouth, came to a halt. He carefully skimmed his hands inside the silk and up my sides, peeling the layer away delicately and then sliding the entire garment to the floor in a pool of cream. I wanted to turn around and put my hands on him but in the heels and with the dress obscuring the floor, I didn't dare budge.
Edward's hands seemed to float over my stomach and hipbones, content to leave the straps and lace of my corset and garter belt in place. Content? That certainly didn't seem like the Edward who'd carried me up the stairs. Each brush of a mouth or finger left me less and less content to remain in place.
His fingers teased my nipples through the boning and lace until I could stand no more. Quite literally, in fact. Done standing still, I tried to turn around despite the obvious reasons not to.
Before my stumble could really even be classified as such, Edward scooped me up and transplanted me just a few feet away. In front of a bed, our bed, conveniently enough.
A laugh, low and velvety against the skin of my neck, made me smile. I could feel him shaking his head. "You weren't nervous at all, were you?"
"No...well yes. Nervous about falling, not about anything else. I was stuck like an insect in sap. I couldn't get my feet out of that dress—which was about to turn into a funeral pyre if I spontaneously combusted."
"I was doing that well, huh?"
"Except for leaving me upright, I'd say you were doing pretty damned well."
"Why would you complain about being upright?"
In a flash he'd crouched in front of me, his fingers stroking the indentation of my waist, his lips kissing my bellybutton. I laughed. "No complaints. No complaints. Stand up here and let me unwrap my wedding present, Mr. Cullen." I pulled his collar with both hands and he rose, slowly, only just rubbing against me as he crept upright. The tease.
Free of the purple stilettos, I had to stand on my tip-toes to liplock Edward—no mean feat when you factor in unbuttoning his shirt—so the unbuttoning was tortuously slow. He began prying his feet out of his shoes while I navigated the clothing on his torso, making no pretense of avoiding the not-so-subtle curve beneath his fly. I let my hand graze it more than once. Untucked and unbuttoned, suspenders cast aside, it was time to tug his arms out of his sleeves.
We remembered his cufflinks only after the sleeves of his shirt were inside-out like Chinese handcuffs.
"I'm really not trying to rush." I giggled.
"I really have taken off my shirt before." As he went to work on the cufflinks, first bending up one arm and then the other before shrugging the whole shirt off, I kept thinking that I'd put it back on him a dozen times just to watch him take it off again.
Mr. Cullen will be getting cufflinks for his anniversary.
There was something that said "business" about the practiced way he unclasped and put away the little pieces of metal. Business time Edward was deliciously hot.
I dragged him forward, reeling him in by the waist of his tuxedo pants and set about removing them while he kissed me. His mouth had always been a distraction but never so thoroughly. My neck arched into his lips, making these noises slide from my throat unbidden and bogging down my efforts to simply lower his damn zipper. It didn't take the eternity that it seemed to, it couldn't. By the time I was successful, I wanted to pull off his trousers and boxers in one trip.
The boxers, they found themselves, um, hung up.
From my crouch I was eye level with the one thing keeping those boxers from sliding to the floor. I freed Edward from the last garment separating him from me and found us once again eye-to-eye, as it were.
Curling my fingers very gently around Edward's shaft, I brought the tip to my mouth and erased the tiny pearl of liquid I found by running my tongue over it. Of course even his taste would be a means of drawing me in like prey. I was caught anyway, why stop with such a tiny taste? In the now densely-quiet room I heard an inhale and a more measured exhale, so I looked up to see if we were okay.
We are so much better than okay.
He watched devoutly, his faith in us not seeming to waver. I closed my eyes and took a little more of him in my mouth, all heat and satin over the hardness.
Before I could settle into a rhythm he pulled at my arm and whispered. "You're not even properly undressed. Come here."
I wanted to drink him up, pull him in, absorb him. Drawing my mouth away wasn't what I wanted and I wasn't quick about it. All of my actions had slowed, as if we were swimming in amber, immortalized by the very nectar we feasted on.
Seated on the edge of the bed, he pulled me into his lap to unsnap my garters and the hook-and-eye closures on my back. I was acutely aware of my bare backside against his skin.
Holding the silk and lace over my chest, I stood. Without dropping it, I offered him a leg. He didn't need more of an invitation and slid the stocking down my thigh, my calf, my ankle. When I extended a second foot, he brought his hands to the top of my leg and not-so-accidentally grazed the scrap of silk there. I realized that I was throbbing, dying to be touched more. Coy was about to be thrown out the window.
Taking a step back, I smiled my last shy smile. My modesty martyred herself along with it.
Edward responded with a new crooked grin—one the looked as if it might have a secret or two—and opened his beautiful mouth to speak. Whatever reassurance he was about to offer stopped short when I pulled my arms away from my body just a hair and the garment they held fell. I slid the straps of the itty, bitty baby panties down my legs, a tiny gossamer thread of moisture breaking against the skin as I pulled them away. There were probably oceans that could be described as less wet than this.
I was entirely naked and not pressed up against him, finally not afraid of him examining me. Why was I still so far away from him? While I should've been self-conscious, I was nothing of the sort, emboldened by the insistent throbbing that continued to beg for my attention…for his attention. It coincided with the meter of my heart but I knew better than to place the blame there.
I'd never placed my knees on either side of Edward's lap without denim, silk, cotton, nearly impenetrable layers of fabric separating us. So when I put my uncovered legs over his and the smooth hardness of his erection slid against me, I gasped at the contact. And then rubbed against it again. My mouth crashed desperately into Edward's while he moved us farther into the bed.
Vampire strength wasn't all bad. We could make the more difficult entries in the Kama Sutra look like napping. Well, I sure as hell wouldn't be sleeping.
Edward's mouth ventured from my mine, a leisurely meandering south. As much as I loved the sensations he created, I was just dying for him to touch me there. He seemed to be doing anything but putting his mouth where I wanted it, kissing the fleshy white of my breast but not the rosier nipple, nibbling just inside my hipbone but never more than grazing the folds between my legs. On another occasion, I might've blamed it on waffling. He wasn't uncertain today.
This was an assault, deliberate in its planning and execution. With his perfect memory and years of sleepless nights, how long had he been planning this moment? I quivered at the thought.
When his tongue finally made contact with my puckered nipple, my eyelids shot open and I arched into his mouth. If the feeling of his tongue going to work on my overly-sensitized nerves there wasn't enough, the sight of his mouth on my breasts was. A whimpering little moan made him aware of my approval and he looked up at me through his lashes.
What a wicked, wicked smile.
The pad of his thumb replaced his tongue and he began kissing his way down the inside of my arm, lingering in the crook of my elbow and at my wrist. He placed my hand gently on the bed and I realized why almost immediately. He brought his mouth down a few inches below my bellybutton and began kissing lower and lower and to the left…I wanted to scream. Or beg. I fisted the sheets.
When his hands abandoned my breasts, I must have whimpered a little protest because I felt him chuckle just a little.
Right before he slid his hands under my bottom and lifted my throbbing center to his mouth as if he were desperately bringing a double handful of water to his parched mouth. His tongue dipped into the cleft there and my hips arched into his face, overtaken by a sensation so agonizingly sweet that it almost hurt.
How could he know to do that?
As he lingered, I felt the bed beneath me, the floor it sat on, my world on its meager axis, shifting. As if it all might spin off into oblivion at any moment. I cast my hands for something, anything, to grip as my hips rocked into Edward.
I squeezed his hands even as they bit into my own bottom, something solid to center me in all of the slower-than-honey rolling that the world seemed to do around me. A quickening of sensation traveled the unseen thread that connected my nipples to that now-sacred space Edward's mouth occupied, and the muscles at the base of my stomach began to tighten.
It all unfurled and it seemed that every bit of feeling on the surface of my skin originated from that firebrand. My grip on Edward's hands seemed to be the only thing that kept me tethered. They were the first thing I felt when I began to settle down.
He crawled on his elbows toward me, eyes now like molasses, and rolled us so that I rested atop him. He kissed my mouth and then spoke into my hair as he kissed the crown of my head. "I think you might have bruised my fingers."
"Proud of yourself, sailor?"
He stopped and I looked down at him, afraid he wasn't up to joking about this yet, only to find him grinning like the cat that ate…well. Grinning. And oh so proud of himself. I brought my mouth down to his again and tried to roll us over.
"You should set the pace for this, Bella. I've been thinking about it for a while."
"Me too. Sometimes I'm on top. Sometimes we're in the bathtub. Sometimes—"
He cut me off with a velvet laugh. "I mean now, you little vixen. Putting me on top of you is an unnecessary risk."
I rubbed against his hard length and pushed myself up to straddle him. "I think I can muddle through."
"I hoped you might…just this once." His hands went to my breasts but as I began moving to slide him inside me they fell to the mattress, gripping a pillow.
"Look at me."
He showed some nervousness for the first time as he relinquished control to me, but he did as asked and kept his eyes on mine as I pushed onto him. I began slowly, testing the waters for both of us, sheathing his cold hardness in my wet heat. My own control seemed to waver where Edward's did not. Slow didn't last long and my thighs, unaccustomed to such effort, began to burn. I leaned forward to put my weight on his chest and just heard him murmur.
"God, you're beautiful."
I felt another orgasm building and just when I thought that my legs wouldn't make it, Edward put his hands at my hips to help me through. (The resulting thumb-shaped bruises on my hipbones made me smile every time I spotted them.)
He shuddered and arched his neck back with my name on his lips.
We stayed there for a while, my head on his chest, one leg hitched over his hip.
"I never wanted to hurt you. The thought never entered my mind. Your face when you were on top of me—I wouldn't have been able to do anything to ruin that."
"I love you."
"I love you, too. I'm sor—"
I put my fingers over his lips to stop his unnecessary apology. "Nope. You're not ruining my buzz here. It was everything I'd hoped for and I won't let you even talk about anything else."
"Of course. You know, I could watch you like that, all red-cheeked and disheveled with me inside you, for a very long time."
"My legs aren't up to it."
He chuckled and the lazy curlicues I couldn't sleep without began in a new spot, on the back of my thigh.
When I woke from my nap, Edward scooped me up and carried me back to the piano.
I took in the room at large, now complete with a full spread on the table nearest the instrument. "I think you lied to me."
He looked cut to the heart. "Never."
"You couldn't have watched me the entire time I slept." I eyed the spread of lunch near the piano bench significantly.
He chuckled, clearly relieved. "You always catch me. But I couldn't listen to your poor stomach rumble all that time and do nothing about it."
Lunch was a lovely idea. Really. I forgot my gurgling stomach at the sight of him in just a pair of pajama bottoms. That was more my idea of delicious. I kissed him hungrily, thinking of all the ways I could devour him, and put my hand on his waistband. No buttons, thank goodness.
Just a tug and the drawstring loosened its hold.
I stood while he took them off. "I can wait to eat my lunch."
"It's a damn good thing. You'll have to wait now." He slid a silken strap off one shoulder and kissed his way across to the other via my collarbones. When his teeth closed around the opposite strap, I liquefied.
He lowered the nightgown, sliding his hands down from my ribs to my knees before letting it fall to the floor on its own.
"You put a nightgown on me but nothing else?" I looked down my body as if a pair of panties were hidden somewhere.
"So no gown at all next time?" He pulled me back down to his lap.
In its defense, I should say that the piano bench groaned in protest when I lowered myself onto Edward. And then again multiple times as I did it over and over again. There were other moans and groans that drowned out those beneath us so we didn't pay them much mind until the wood split and ceased to support us.
Another solid endorsement for making love to vampires, because Edward simply stood up.
Rosy-cheeked and post-coital, I giggled. "That worked out after all."
"And here I was, hoping that was maybe a secret this little bench could keep."
"His existence has probably been outrageously uneventful for years. He could use a secret or two to liven it up, no doubt."
"No doubt. But now he'll spill the beans as soon as the proprietors walk in and see the imprints of my fingers above the splintered legs."
"Only if they line them up with the ones on my bottom, and I for one can keep a few secrets. At least where you and my bottom are concerned."
He kissed my nose delicately. "I should be more careful with you, no matter how much you insist."
"You really shouldn't." I took his bottom lip between my front teeth, pulling his face to mine, and returned his delicate kiss with something with a little more bite.
The package arrived three days into my blissful honeymoon, addressed to Mrs. Edward Cullen. Enclosed was an ornate, medieval-looking necklace of gold and various gems. It probably was medieval, given its source.
Included in the standard well wishes was an invitation to visit Aro in Volterra.
No one save the Cullens and our group of rebels knew about my wedding, much less the location of our honeymoon. Or so we thought. Without regard for the intended threat, I donned the little taunt—the necklace and nothing else—and hoped that my husband's memory of it could show Aro the lack of fear my own thoughts could not.
I replaced it on the velvet, still hot from my skin and damp with my sweat.
Author's Note: After all the "research" to get that lemon *just right*, I'm exhausted.
Thank for for all the reviews, emails, tweets, DM's, PM's and general harassment to get it in gear. Real life is doggedly persistent; I can't tell you how thankful I am that you all are even moreso.
Please drop me a line and let me know what you think. Posting is still terrifying, even after ALL this time. In about half a second I'll have a glass of something not appropriate for work in my hot little hand, helping me get rid of my nerves.
Clementine, every damn time I accept your insertion I'm reminded why I love you so.
xoEMC was my prereader and should be thanked my all for the details I would've glossed over. Em, thanks for clearing some time for me, love.