Disclaimer: All things Twilight belong to Stephenie Meyer. No copyright infringement is intended.
My eyes opened slowly, just a gentle crack, as sleep gave way to hazy consciousness. Brilliant sunshine spilled over the quilt of an unfamiliar bed, in an unfamiliar room. A magnificent room. Like something in a palace. For a moment I wondered where I…
"Oh no." I groaned and sat up. Across the room, sitting on a velvet sofa with his bare feet propped on the Regency-style coffee table, Edward was staring at me. There was surprise on his face, and a laptop on his thighs.
"Are you alright?" he asked, his surprise shifting to concern. "Bella?"
"What time is it?"
"Just before noon."
"Did I fall asleep last night?" Edward smiled as I mumbled through a yawn. "After you went into the bathroom? Because I can't remember you coming back out." And I was pretty sure I would remember that. Edward's lips twitched, trying not to laugh. "Oh, I did, didn't I?" I groaned again and flopped back on the pillows. "I did. I fell asleep." How was that possible? On the night Edward takes off his shirt and tells me he's not 17 anymore? How?
Edward chuckled softly and set the laptop aside. "I heard the snoring while I was in the shower."
"Oh! I didn't snore!" I grabbed the pillow next to me and threw it at him, hard. It didn't even make it to the end of the bed.
"No, you didn't snore," he said, still smiling. "You didn't even talk. Not a word. I was almost disappointed." Then his smile slipped. He cocked his head and suddenly I was caught in his gaze – his amber eyes intense as they held mine. "How are you today?"
How was I? What a loaded question. And there was a sudden flurry of butterflies in my stomach as Edward watched me, a deeper meaning in his eyes, and I wondered if we were about to pick up where we left off last night. Or if there was something else on his mind. In the hours since I'd fallen asleep, with the first heady rush of reunion behind us, had he started overthinking, and fallen back into his old frame of mind? Was that why he was on the sofa instead of sharing my pillow?
"If you're wondering if I feel differently about things we said last night, now that we're in the cold light of day…I don't." His expression didn't change as he still kept watch. "My feelings are the same. But…" I took a deep slow breath and stretched my arms above my head, "if you're asking about how I feel after finding you again, and having a deep sleep…I feel good." I smiled and stretched some more, arching my back now, hoping I looked vaguely seductive. "Really good." The effect though, was spoilt a little when I let out another yawn. Even so, I still saw Edward's eyes darken, even from across the room. The butterflies in my stomach went into overdrive.
Edward set the laptop aside, stood up and came towards the bed. In a white t-shirt and very faded blue jeans, he looked gorgeous, and I realised it was probably the most casual I'd ever seen him. Especially with his hair all over the place.
He placed one knee on the foot of the bed and leant forward, his hands sinking into the quilt, and then slowly prowled his way up to me, his dazzling amber eyes holding mine all the time. The way he moved, the graceful roll and rhythm of his body, was like nothing I'd seen from him before. There was a new confidence. There was also something other worldly about him. But that other-worldliness evaporated when he reached the pillows, because he flipped over and flopped heavily onto his back, almost bouncing me out of the bed.
He laughed, and rolled towards me. "Are you properly awake now?" he asked.
"Very." I grinned back at him. "Sorry I fell asleep."
"Don't be. You were exhausted," he said. "It had been a long day. And a long night."
"So, we're good, then? You and me? What we said last night…"
"I meant every word." He took my hand and pressed his lips to my knuckles, and then my palm. "Every. Single. Word." He trailed his kiss over the inside of my wrist as he looked up at me through his lashes. "And right now, all I want is to move forward, begin a new life with you, starting today, and everything else will fall into place – whether I move hospitals to be with you, or you transfer colleges to be with me, it'll all work out."
He ran his nose lightly along my jaw. "Starting now."
I didn't hesitate. I took his face in my hands and kissed him. Kissed him hard. And he didn't pull back. He came to me, hungry and eager as he kissed me back, and though he was still careful with me, he wasn't as careful as he used to be. I thought my heart might explode when he moaned, and his lips parted mine.
From somewhere, came the vague sound of a phone ringing. I ignored it. So did Edward. He kept right on kissing me like there was no tomorrow, his body pressed the length of mine, as close as he could get. The feel of him, hard against my hip, made me gasp. He groaned my name, and that he loved me.
The phone kept ringing. And ringing. Until Edward finally pulled back with a different sort of groan.
"You need to get that?" I asked, hoping he'd say no, but guessing he'd say yes. My ardour started to cool, just slightly.
Edward rubbed his hand over his face. "It's the hospital," he sighed. "I spent a lot of last night emailing back and forth about a patient. Mr Arnstein. His case is complicated but the issue should have been sorted out by now."
So that explained why he was on the sofa last night.
"But you should still answer it?"
"I should, yes."
"Then go. Go and help Mr Arnstein." I gave him a gentle push.
"It'll only take a minute," he said. "And then I'll let them know I'm out of contact for the next couple of days."
He moved from the bed to the sofa and resumed the position he'd been in when I'd woken up – feet on coffee table, computer on lap, but now he also had his phone at his ear. I sat up and hugged my knees.
This was different. Very different.
I wasn't used to seeing Edward with other, outside demands for his attention. Back in Forks it had just been him and me in our own little bubble. Seeing him like this, with a real life established outside of me and our relationship, was strange. I studied him as he spoke quietly into the phone. He was confident and sure; a man in charge as he gave instructions in detailed medical terms. I recognised some of them. Things I'd heard in TV shows and from my own experience in numerous ERs. At the same time he was tapping something out on the laptop. I realised, as I watched him, that this might be a common occurrence in the future, with his job interrupting our personal time. But I didn't feel bothered by the thought. In fact, I liked it.
He ended his call after a moment, but continued working on the laptop. "Just give me another minute," he murmured as he typed. "I'll just send this new treatment plan through to them, and then I'm all yours. I promise."
"Mm?" He looked up.
"We're going to have a real place in the world, aren't we? Real lives, doing real things, not living in shadows and pretending."
He smirked a little. "I think living in the shadows will still be necessary. If we're in sunny places anyway."
"You know what I mean," I said, rolling my eyes. "I won't have to hide away, or repeat highschool over and over. If you and Carlisle are doctors, I can teach, right? Or maybe do social work, because I've considered that too." Especially since being involved with Bradley and the program at his school.
"I don't see why not," Edward said, smiling. "There'll be limitations, of course, it would take careful planning. And it could take some time before you're ready to be around humans, but time is something you'll have plenty of. We'd have to look at schools in the right sort of locations, or you could even teach night classes. And Esme's been involved with social work over the years. Sometimes through charities, other times working at shelters."
"Really? I didn't know that."
Edward glanced away. "It's something close to her heart," he said quietly and I got the idea there was more to Esme's story he wasn't telling me. And curious though I was, I didn't push him to say more.
"So, yes, you're right," Edward said, looking back to me. "About having a place in the world. And the sky's the limit, as long as it's cloudy. In fact, none of my family are in highschool anymore." He smiled at my surprise.
"What are they all doing? Are they in Chicago with you?"
"No, Rochester," he said. "Would you like the quick run down?" When I nodded he started ticking things off on his fingers. "Carlisle is at the local hospital. Esme and Alice have started an online interior design business together. Rose and Emmett buy, restore, and sell vintage cars."
"Wow, everyone really has moved on. I'd thought…actually I don't know what I though. What about Jasper?"
"He's writing a book about the Civil War, though right now he's helping me sort out the mystery of your Hummer."
Edward nodded. His eyes narrowed slightly and his tone hardened. "That car shouldn't have been stolen so I've got my suspicions about the anti-theft software that was installed. Jenks arranged it at my instructions, so I wasn't there when it was actually fitted."
It took me a moment to realise what he was getting at. "You think they ripped you off? Installed something less than what you paid for?"
He shrugged, a little too casually. "It's a possibility. I've been on the phone overnight with Jasper and with Jenks. The two of them are looking into it now."
"But if the car's gone, how will you be able to know what was installed?"
"There are ways." Edward flashed me a wide smile, using all his teeth. It was the sort of smile that would send shivers down spines, and make liars tell the truth.
"Oh. I get it. You'll get Jasper to go vamp on them."
"Jasper or me. And only if it gets that far. I'm hoping Jenks will report back with a story of human error and similar product codes and the offer of a full refund. But we'll see."
Edward was quiet while I let all this new information sink in – the Cullens with careers, and my missing Hummer. And then, something else occurred to me.
"So your family knows we're back together?"
He looked a little sheepish. "I was going to wait until we were back home, so we could tell them together, but I was anxious to get to the bottom of things with the car and that meant a call to Jasper. He's usually the contact between the family and Jenks and as I don't want to spend too much of our time in Paris playing Sherlock Holmes…" He smiled when I chuckled. "I'll leave it to him, for now. So, yeah, they all know. I'm sorry, I hope you don't mind…"
"Oh no, I don't mind," I said quickly. "What did they say?"
Edward's face broke into a grin. "They're ecstatic," he said.
"Alice didn't already know?"
He shook his head. "Not judging by the squeal that came down the phone when she heard." He chuckled and rubbed at his ear. "Good thing I'm not human, or I'd have a burst ear drum about now." He dropped his hand. "She didn't know. And it's driving her crazy."
"Do you think she'll start seeing things now we're back together?"
"Maybe." He shrugged, then cocked his head to his shoulder, his eyes speculative. "What is it?" he asked. "You're frowning."
"I was just wondering, why don't you live with your family anymore?"
Edward looked away towards the windows, his face quickly becoming a mask and suddenly I had my answer. The memory of him telling me once that it was sometimes hard living in a house full of happy couples, came rushing back. My heart clenched as I realised how much worse that would have felt, after I left him.
"It's just the way it worked out. I've lived apart from them before." And he gave me a small smile before putting the laptop aside. "But I don't really want to talk about my family, Bella."
He stood up and came towards me, climbing onto the bed like he did before, but this time he didn't bounce me around. Instead he pulled me into his arms. "Do you remember where we were, before we were interrupted?"
"Oh, I think so." I touched the smoothness of his bottom lip with the tip of my finger. "We were right around here." This time it was Edward who didn't hesitate. He cupped my face in his hands and kissed me slowly, tenderly, while I tangled my fingers in his hair. His bare feet tangled with mine, the length of him pressed hard against me, I was getting lost in the kiss, in him. His hands moved to my back, slipping beneath my t-shirt and roaming over my bare skin, his fingers exploring the curve of my hip. Suddenly, he pulled back.
"Too much," I asked, breathless. Edward shook his head, and closed his eyes as he pressed his forehead to mine.
"Bella," he whispered, his voice strained in just that one word. "Tell me, how far do you want this to go?"
Now I pulled back. "What?"
Edward opened his eyes – dark pools of desire and need. He licked his lips as he tried to catch his breath. "This, us, together like this…how far do you want to go?"
Now I understood and my heart skidded to a halt, before it started up again at triple pace. My answer came quickly and simply.
"As far as you'll take me."
He smiled a small smile, then he laughed softly, almost apologetically, and shook his head before pulling away a little further. He wanted me too, there was no doubt about that, and we'd gone farther than we ever had before, but it was obviously far enough. Disappointment burned through me, but I understood. I pulled back too, and waited for him to tell me that we should slow down, pace ourselves, and probably wait until I was like him. His eyes were earnest and wary as he watched me. "I think…" He hesitated.
"This is too much right now?"
He swallowed hard, his eyes burning into mine. "No. I was going to say that I think we should use condoms."
I almost fell off the bed. Edward's hand snapped out, catching me quickly. "I'm sorry," he said. "Have I gone too far?"
"No, no." I resettled myself on the bed. "It's just…that definitely wasn't what I was expecting you to say." I took a deep breath. "Um, so…"
"I know they're not romantic," Edward's words came quickly. "But I really think we should, for your safety, just in case…my venom…I don't know…you're exposed to a very small amount when I kiss you but, this is different. Very different." He stopped and sighed, frowning as he pulled his hand through his hair. "Am I making sense?"
He was. And the realisation of what he was saying, hit me, and I smiled as I felt a delicious swooping in my stomach. "This is really going to happen?"
He smiled too. Softly, shyly. "I love you too. And I want to show you that love in every way that I can." He paused. "I don't believe I'm a risk to you. My instinct to protect you is stronger than the call of your blood."
"I know. I believe that."
He sighed. "But is it too soon? We've been back together less than a day, but it feels…"
"Yes," he sighed, still smiling. "It feels very right, being with you this way."
I touched his face. "That's your answer, right there."
He kissed my palm, and then climbed gracefully off the bed. "So, I'll go and take care of things. I won't be long." Suddenly he seemed awkward, and I realised what he was getting at.
"Wait, you can't!" I shot a look out the windows. "Not now. It's bright sunlight outside. We can wait until later. When it's dark. It's only a few hours."
Edward smirked. "Are you telling me, to wait?"
I resisted the urge to roll my eyes. "Yes, yes, very funny. But you know you can't go now."
"The stores will be closed when it's dark. But there's a pharmacy further down the block, and lots of awnings. If I stay close to the buildings I'll be fine." He pulled a hoodie from his backpack and shrugged into it.
"It's too risky." I climbed off the bed. "I'll go."
"What?" The shock on Edward's face was priceless. "No. No." He gave a very definite and dismissive wave of his hand. "You are not going to buy condoms for me. That's just…not happening. No, this is my responsibility."
He was so serious, like I'd just suggested we commit a crime. It was hard trying to keep a straight face. "Then I'll come with you. We'll buy them together."
"Please, Bella. Please, leave this to me. Yes?"
"Okay. I'll leave it to you."
I nodded, and watched him take his wallet from his bag and slide it into his back pocket. Everything felt so awkward now. I didn't know what to do, or even where to look. When I did glance at Edward, he was looking anywhere, except at me.
"Um, so I'll…" I pointed vaguely at the bed. "Wait."
Edward nodded as he flipped his hood over his head. As he did so, he caught my eye. There was a beat of hesitation, and then the ridiculousness of the situation had me smiling. The corner of Edward's mouth twitched, and then we were both laughing out loud.
"Oh God," he groaned and pulled me into his arms, his chest vibrating with his laughs. "This really kills the mood, doesn't it?" I felt his lips against my hair.
"I'm sure we'll get the mood back."
"Oh I'm sure we will," he chuckled. "Is it like this for everyone, do you think?"
"You'd know better than me." I tapped my finger to his temple and he scrunched up his nose.
"I tend to zone out when people's thoughts go down that track."
He let me go, and went back to his bag. When he dug out his glasses, I was engulfed in a fresh round of giggles. Edward smirked. "Anything to make me look less like a desperate teenager." Then his face became serious again. Another whiplash mood change. "I wish I was buying them for the regular reason," he said. "You know, we've never really talked about me not being able to give you children. We haven't properly had that conversation." There was a flash of uncertainty on his features.
"Edward," I closed the few steps between us, and took his hand. "You think I haven't factored that into my decision? Lots of couples can't have kids, we're not unique in that. And what we have together is enough for me. It's everything. I don't need anything more." I kept my gaze on him, letting him see the sincerity in my eyes. "You believe me, don't you?"
A tender smile graced his lips. "I do," he whispered, and leant down to kiss me sweetly on the lips. I reached up, my hands tangling in his hair. He pulled me closer, and then jerked back quickly, holding me at arms length. "If I don't go now…"
"Then go," I giggled. "I'll be here. Waiting."
His chest rose as he inhaled deeply, and then he flipped his hood over his head. "I'll be back." But at the door he stopped and pulled his wallet from his pocket. From inside the leather he took his gold ring and slipped it on his finger. "For appearance sake," he said, shrugging. "I'm an old-fashioned kind of guy."
"No, not old fashioned." The gold band flashed on his finger and now that I understood the reason for it, my heart swelled. And with surprise, I realised that I found that small symbol of commitment very attractive. An even bigger surprise, was that I wished it was for real. "I like it on you," I said. "I like it a lot."
There was a flash of something in Edward's eyes, but then it was gone and he smiled. "I'll be back," he said. "Do you want to order breakfast? Or lunch? The menu is on the side table." And then he was gone, and I was smiling. His sudden reference to something so mundane and everyday as ordering breakfast might seem out of place, but I got why. He was trying to shift the focus and lighten the sudden and surprising intensity of the past few minutes. But the truth was, I didn't think I could eat. There was a gnawing in my stomach, but it wasn't for food.
I hugged myself as I walked around the suite, wondering what to do. Should I get dressed in something sexier? Not that I had anything, but the matching purple bra and undies set might work. Or should I undress completely and climb back into the bed? I had no frame of reference and suddenly I was shaking and my palms were sweaty.
"Calm down, Bella. Clammy isn't a good look."
Shower. I'd have a shower. Yes. And then I'd decide what to do next.
The hot water felt fantastic, running over my body, loosening tense muscles. But it didn't ease my excitement, or anticipation. As I wrapped the towel around myself I decided I'd wear the matching purple underwear, and the complimentary hotel bathrobe.
I stepped into the bedroom, just as Edward walked through the door. He stopped, as if frozen, and stared at me in my towel, with my skin still glistening from the shower, water drops glinting off my shoulders and chest.
The raw desire blazing in Edward's eyes, sent my confidence soaring. And I dropped the towel.
His lips parted as his eyes began a slow, appreciative journey over my naked body. "Oh, Bella," he whispered. "I'm speechless." Then suddenly I was in his arms and being carried to the bed.
He laid me down as if I was the most precious thing in the world, his eyes never leaving mine as he pulled his t-shirt over his head, and removed his jeans. Now it was my turn to appreciate him.
He laid beside me, very still, while I trailed my fingers over his chest and followed the lines and ridges of hard muscle, down to his abdomen and beyond. He closed his eyes and moaned as I took him in my hand. "You have no idea how that feels," he murmured. The muscles quivered beneath his skin and my heart was beating so hard, it hurt. When I told him I loved him, he moaned again, and pulled me to his chest. "I don't think I'm a danger, but if I do anything wrong, if I hurt you, or you're afraid, you must tell me."
I pressed my finger to his lips. "I'll let you know."
He gently rolled me onto my back, kissing my neck and throat. Then his lips, and hands, began a journey of discovery that had me gasping and moaning. I watched the wonder in his eyes as he learned what his touch could do to me, the pleasure he could bring. I closed my eyes, pressing my head back into the pillows as I gave myself up to the sensation…and then…
I felt him. A gentle nudging. There.
My eyes flew open. Braced above me, Edward's eyes were on fire, his breathing ragged as he whispered. "Can you feel me, Bella?"
My yes came out on a sigh, and Edward kissed me. "I love you," he murmured, then he wrapped one hand in the sheets. The other hand trembled as he cupped my cheek and pressed his forehead to mine. "I will always love you." Then with a slow, burning thrust, he made me his.
The world disappeared with my gasp. And then it was just Edward and me, and this perfect, perfect moment that would never come again. He was perfectly still, his head nuzzled into my neck as his chest heaved with shuddering breaths.
"Oh, God, Bella…I didn't know…" His voice caught and I clutched his shoulders and savoured the exquisite feel of him deep within me. "I never knew it would feel…like this."
I was lost to him then as his body began a slow dance of sensation. My hips met his, the two of us setting a rhythm that burned and swelled and soon had me crying out his name until I shook and shattered, engulfed by wave after wave of mind-blowing pleasure. Edward followed me into the waves, his body trembling, the muscles of his back coiled tight beneath my fingers as he threw back his head and roared my name, before shuddering hard, and falling to pieces in my arms.
I floated back to earth slowly. Like a feather caught on a breeze. Edward curled himself around me, cocooning me, his sweet breath tickling my skin. I nestled into him, breathless and blissed out, and wondered if he felt like I did.
His fingers were stroking my back; a slow, tender caress down my spine, and back up again. I opened my eyes. His were closed, but the sweet, secret smile on his lips told me the story.
Afternoon sun spilled over the bed. Beyond us were the French doors, with their stunning views over Paris, but the sunlit glory paled against the man with the beautiful soul who shared my pillow. I kissed his shoulder and heard the contented hum from deep within his chest.
It was hard to believe that this time yesterday, I was on a train, planning to head home, with no thoughts of ever seeing Edward again. And this time yesterday he had been…
My stomach tightened and dropped as I thought of what he'd told me. That battle with Victoria, in view of Volterra. If something had happened to him…oh dear God, I couldn't even begin to think about that. And he'd done it to save me, to keep me safe, even though I was out of his life. Even though he'd believed my lie, that I didn't want him anymore.
That sudden realisation caught me off guard. It hadn't occurred to me last night when he'd told me, but it hit me now.
He'd believed my lie, but he still would have died for me.
Edward's point of view…
There were no words to describe what Edward was feeling. Euphoria probably came closest, but even so, it barely touched the surface.
His body tingled and hummed as he collapsed on the bed beside Bella. He curled around her, basking in her embrace as his soul sang. His heart was still, yet somehow it felt too big for his chest, almost like his feelings couldn't be contained. He'd made love to Bella, shown her with body what he felt in his heart, and he'd kept her safe. The urge to bite had been strong, but the need to keep her safe had been stronger. The sheets were slashed, the pillow torn, but she was safe. And the feeling of being inside her?
There would never be a better feeling.
But despite his joy, there was a practical matter he needed to take care of. In a swift, smooth, one-handed move, Edward removed the protective barrier he'd insisted on wearing, tied it off and wrapped it in a tissue from the mirrored box on the bedside table. Then he dropped the little parcel on the floor before returning his complete attention to Bella, and running his hand gently down her spine.
Edward couldn't believe the turn his life had taken in less than 48 hours. From the ER, to the hillside of Volterra, to the best suite of the George Cinq and the arms of the woman he loved more than his own life. He breathed in her scent, letting it burn him, letting it tell him she was here with him and this was real.
He felt her lips press softly against his shoulder, and he sighed softly. There was so much he wanted to tell her. And something big he wanted to ask. But right now he couldn't find the words, and apart from that, he was slowly becoming aware that all might not be well on the other side of the bed. When he smelt the faint scent of brimming tears, his eyes flew open.
She was crying.
"Oh my God, did I…did I hurt you?" His heart plummeted and anguish flooded his veins as he sat up and threw back the sheets. His eyes ran over her naked body, not with desire or lust, but a thinly veiled panic that was almost crippling.
"No," Bella sniffed and sat up, pulling the sheet over her again. "I'm not hurt," she said. "Not at all. I promise."
"Then what?" Edward was going crazy, waiting for her to tell him. He tried to keep his breathing even, but his fists were clenched tight. "What is it?"
"I think…" The sight of her trembling bottom lip tore at Edward's heart. "I think I'm just..."
"Just what?" Were they happy tears on her cheeks? Edward pulled a desperate hand through his hair. "Bella, please…"
"I love you so much, and I just want you to be happy."
It still wasn't making sense. "I love you too, and I am happy," he said. "Blissfully ecstatic, in fact. At least, I was up until a few minutes ago."
Bella sniffed. "I'm sorry. I'm killing your buzz, aren't I?"
Edward nodded. "A little. I'm just worried." He pulled her into his arms, cradling her against his chest. "I don't know what brought this on…" But a sudden thought sent his heart, and ego, crashing. He closed his eyes and grimaced. "I am happy," he said quietly. "What we just shared was incredible. For me, I don't think life can get any better than that. But I realise now it might not have been the same for you." He took a slow, steady breath. "If I disappointed you…"
"What? No! Oh, God no!" Bella pulled away quickly and stared at him, her face alight with shock. "No. It was perfect. Amazing. It was…" She waved her arms around. "Being with you, I can't even find the words. It's like…Edward, this is the best day of my life."
"Really?" A small smile tugged at Edward's lips and his chest swelled. "The best?"
"Without a doubt. I'm sorry if you thought something different."
"Then why the tears?" He reached out and stroked his thumb across her cheek, wiping them away. As he did, her lip quivered again. When she spoke, her voice was small.
"I hurt you, but you still loved me enough to go and risk your life fighting Victoria to protect me. Even though you thought I'd moved on. You were still protecting me." She sniffed and wiped at her eyes. "I can't believe I did what I did, and that you still…I guess I'm a bit overwhelmed at how much…" Her voice trailed off and Edward pulled her back against his chest again.
"At how much I love you?"
She nodded against him. "And I love you the same, I do, but I don't know how to show you. Or show you how grateful I am for what you did. Or how amazing I think you are." But she didn't need to. Her warm brown eyes shone with endless love that was meant for him. Just him.
"You already have," Edward said. "Bella, you've overwhelmed me. The gift you've just given me is beyond anything I ever imagined. Or dared to wish for." He lowered his face and kissed her softly, tenderly, before pulling back and gently nudging her cheek. "And that thing you can't believe you did, you did out of love. I know that. And it brought us to here, and now." His fingers stroked her jaw, running down her neck to her collarbone. "Making love with me was a risk. You didn't just give me your body or your heart today, you gave me your trust, and you don't know what that means to me." He kissed her again, whispering against her lips. "It means everything."
He sighed and laid down again, pulling her with him. "You've trusted me from the start. You accept me as I am. My touch is cold but you've never shied away. You've looked beyond my past and the dark things I've done, and you're willing to give up so much to be with me." He pushed some hair back from her face. "Every second you're with me, trusting me, that tells me how much you love me. It's more than I deserve, but I'll take it." He smiled, and winked, and when Bella giggled it was like music to Edward. He trailed his hand down her side, over her hip and across her belly. "You sure you're okay?"
"Perfect. Totally blissed out." She sighed. "I'm sorry for killing your buzz before."
"You didn't really," he said. "I don't think anything could kill it right now."
Bella giggled again. "Me too. It's been quite a day."
"It has." Edward beamed at her. The mood was light and playful now and brought with it something Edward hadn't anticipated, but was every bit as wonderful as the love he'd just made. It was the quiet joy and precious intimacy in lying naked with his lover, touching and whispering and giggling with her amongst disheveled sheets.
Bella was right. Life didn't get better than this.
She lifted her head and looked around. "Did you turn up the heat in here?"
"When I came back from the store. Just before you blew my mind with the towel thing." Bella smiled, and pressed a kiss to Edward's shoulder.
"How did that go?" she asked. "Was it awkward?"
"Not really. Hardest part was deciding which ones to buy."
"Too much selection?"
He nodded and sighed as Bella nibbled on his ear. His eyes fluttered closed as he murmured, "Ribbed. Form-fit. Regular. Durable. Studded. Coloured. Glow-in-the dark."
Bella laughed. "Oh, glowing condoms! That sounds like fun."
"Not so much in the daytime," Edward smirked as he opened his eyes and glanced at the sunlight playing over the bed. "The sales assistant was on the verge of asking if I needed help and that made me choose pretty quickly because there was no way I was having that conversation."
Bella put on a very bad French accent. "Can I 'elp you, Monsieur?"
Edward rolled his eyes and she laughed again. "But I've just realised," she said, puzzled now. "I didn't even notice when you…I mean…I thought we'd do that together, you know…the..."
"You were distracted, and I was fast," he said, pre-empting the rest of her sentence.
"Oh." She seemed almost disappointed. Edward was suddenly shy.
"Actually, the truth is, I was fairly sure the sight and feel of you doing that would have brought me undone. And I didn't want things to be over before they started."
"Oh," she said again, but differently this time, with a smile. "I see." She gently kissed Edward's throat, and the sensation made him shiver. "What did we use?" she whispered.
"Ultra-thin," he whispered back.
"I like ultra-thin."
"I have more."
"Mm…" Bella threaded her fingers through his. "You kept your ring on."
The plain gold band flashed on Edward's finger. "I didn't think about it," he murmured and went to take it off, but Bella stopped him.
"Don't," she said. "I…I like it."
Those words were some of the sweetest Edward had ever heard.
Bella's cheeks flushed and she lowered her head and started a slow trail of kisses over Edward's chest. He was sure that if his heart could beat it would have been pounding like a freight train. He sighed, and smiled, tangled his fingers in her hair, and simply let himself be loved.
An hour later, Edward felt like he was floating. With a soft, satisfied smile on his face, and Bella lying across his chest, he wondered if he would ever come back to earth.
He had his answer when Bella's stomach growled.
"Damn it." He sat up quickly, but carefully, so as not to jostle her too much. She blinked at him, surprised.
"You haven't eaten, I'm so sorry." Her stomach grumbled again. "How long since you last ate?"
"Last night in the airport cafeteria. Oh, wait, no…there was that packet of nuts from the vending machine afterwards."
Edward swore under his breath and pulled his hand through hair. "You didn't order room service when I went out earlier."
"I had other things on my mind." Bella smiled and stretched and Edward tried not to notice how her breasts moved as she arched her back, or the way the sheet moved and rumpled around her waist, hinting at what was beneath. But his body betrayed him, and Bella noticed. She ran her fingers down his chest, to the soft trail of hair that disappeared beneath the linen that tented over his hips. "I wasn't hungry." She raked her nails over his skin, just beneath his navel. Edward hissed and growled softly before reaching down to still her hand.
"You need to eat," he said. When her stomach complained again, she agreed. Reluctantly.
"Yeah. You're right. I really am hungry now."
While they waited for room service to deliver her penne with mushrooms and tarragon, Bella went to take a bath and Edward put in place the plans that he'd been mulling over the last few hours. With a towel wrapped around his hips, he made a few quiet calls and hoped this wasn't going to backfire. He was going with his instincts, like he did when he saw her standing there in the airport terminal, and again when he told her he wanted to make love to her. So far, his instincts hadn't let him down.
With his calls done, and arrangements in place, Edward followed the smell of bubble bath. He leant, smiling, in the ensuite doorway. Bella was up to her chin in bubbles and she blew some towards him from the palm of her hand.
"How's the water?" he asked.
"Amazing." But Edward felt the slightest moment of apprehension when she slowly slid beneath the surface. She came up again, blinking hard and sniffing. "I don't usually do the bubble bath thing and that's probably why – they go up my nose."
Edward laughed and when Bella extended her hand and suggested he join her, he didn't have to be asked twice. He shed the towel and climbed into the bath, facing her. She wound her legs around his and splashed him a little. He splashed back. She laughed.
"Will it always be like this?" she asked.
"Like what? Bubble baths in the George Cinq?"
"No." She blew more bubbles at him, and he blew some back at her. "I mean, being so happy it hurts."
"I hope so."
"You have bubbles in your hair, Edward."
He grinned and splashed her. "I'm not surprised."
Bella sighed and ran her foot along his calf. "I'll come to Chicago," she said. "You're needed at the hospital and I don't have any real ties where I am. I'll put in for a transfer when we get home."
"Are you sure? You don't have to decide right now."
"I know, but it's what I want."
Edward reached out and gently clasped her wrist. He pulled her to him, spinning her around until her back was pressed against his chest and she was nestled between his thighs. She gave a contented hum, and rested her head back against his shoulder. He could feel his body stirring, and he wondered what it would be like to make love to Bella in the bath, but his fantasy was interrupted by some thoughts out in the hall. He shifted Bella gently, kissed her forehead and stepped out of the bath.
"Your lunch is here," he said.
It was closer to dinner, actually. By the time Bella had had her full of mushroom penne, the long shadows of dusk were streaming through the windows. She smiled as Edward pulled on a clean pair of jeans.
"So we're going out?"
"In a while," he said. "I'm taking you to see my Paris. By moonlight. Like I promised."
Hand in hand, they strolled along the Seine and wandered through some twilight markets. Then Edward led the way through a labyrinth of narrow laneways, until they reached a small jazz club, tucked away and dimly lit.
"This club has been here for almost a hundred years," Edward said. He opened the door set with an elaborate metal grill, and they were met with music and smoke haze.
"Oh," Bella said quietly. "Oh."
The place was small and lamp-lit. Etched mirrors and pochoir prints on the walls. On a slightly raised platform in the corner, two men were playing guitar while a woman sang. Maybe a dozen people sat scattered at the well-worn tables, or the long dark-wood bar.
"What do you think?" Edward asked.
"It's like I've gone back in time," Bella said. "Not like they've tried to reproduce the 1920s, more like it's never left."
It was a fair assessment, Edward thought. "Salvador Dali used to come here," he said. "And F Scott Fitzgerald. Separately, not together. But you won't find this place on the list of their haunts that tourists like to follow."
"I can just imagine," she said. "How do you know they came here?"
Edward lowered his head and whispered in her ear. "Because I saw them."
Bella's mouth fell open. "I guess…um…okay I know it's possible for you but…wow..."
Edward chuckled and pulled her into his side. "I'd come for the music and stay for the conversation."
"You talked to them?"
"No. I listened to them talk to others. I was just a vaguely mysterious loner who sat in the corner."
Bella's eyes were huge. "That must have been incredible."
"It was interesting."
"What did they talk about?"
"Random things. Art. Life. The escalating cost of white bait."
"They talked about the price of fish?"
"Dali did. Would you like to stay for a while?"
When Bella nodded, Edward guided her to a table in the corner and they held hands as they listened to the music and soaked up the atmosphere. This club had always been one of his favourite places, and he was ridiculously happy he could share it with her.
"She has an amazing voice," Bella murmured in Edward's ear. "I don't speak French, but I don't think I need to, to understand what she's singing about. They're all love songs, right?"
Edward nodded, and smiled as Bella nestled closer into his side.
There were things carved into the table top – initials, patterns…and Bella traced them with her finger. "Looks like lots of people have left their mark over the years," she said. "The management musn't be too worried about it."
"I think management like it," Edward said. He took her hand and moved her finger over two initials near her elbow.
Bella looked at him, puzzled. He shrugged, smiling shyly, and Bella gasped softly as she realised.
"It's you?" she whispered. "Edward Masen? Isn't it?"
He nodded and Bella looked back at the tiny carving. "When?"
He shrugged again. "Small homage to my life before. I suppose I wanted my human mark left somewhere in the world. And I liked this place; the music has always been good and here I didn't feel quite so much an outcast."
Bella traced the initials again, and Edward noticed the small tremor in her hand that hadn't been there before. Then she opened her bag, rummaged around until she pulled out a nail file and Edward watched on as she awkwardly etched her initials beside his.
"There," she said when she was done, cocking her head as she studied her work. "Now we're immortalized together. Not quite as smooth and neat as yours, but…"
She didn't get to finish her sentence because suddenly Edward was kissing her, his hands holding her cheeks, his lips telling her exactly what her handiwork meant to him. But their kiss was interrupted by a waiter asking if they wanted to order anything.
"Are you still hungry?" Edward asked.
She nibbled on the best garlic bread she'd ever had, and sipped a white wine while Edward's glass sat untouched, and declared she could sit there and listen all night. But time was getting on and Edward had other plans.
They left the club and wandered slowly across the city. Edward's arm curled protectively around Bella's waist, his heart singing with every step. They strolled along the Champs Elysees, past the Arc de Trimophe, to the Champs de Mars and…
"The Eiffel Tower?" Bella asked.
"Wanna go to the top?"
"It's nearly midnight. The last tour ends at eleven."
"Not for me."
There was a spark in Edward's eye as understanding dawned across Bella's face. "You can't," she whispered, looking around. "That's trespassing. It's illegal. And getting to the elevator, that would mean break and enter."
"I wasn't thinking of using the elevator."
Bella's eyes shot open wide. "No. No no no no no. No way."
"You'd be very safe."
"I know you'd let nothing happen to me, but…" She looked towards the top of the tower. "It's still trespassing. It's against the law. And you're a doctor!"
He leaned in close, his cool breath washing over her skin as he whispered in her ear. "I'm a vampire, Bella." Her heart picked up, and Edward pressed a soft kiss to her cheek. "We won't get caught, I promise. And there's something up there I'd like to show you."
A smile tugged at Bella's lips, and she rose up on her toes and kissed him. "Then show me."
He climbed with her on his back, her legs tucked tight around him, arms around his neck. Edward kept careful note of her breathing and heart rate, alert for signs of stress or fatigue, as he expertly scaled the inside of the tower.
"You've done this before, haven't you?" Bella said when they were halfway there.
"Yes," he said. "But not with you."
It took less than a minute for Edward to reach the top and work his way through the security fence to the observation deck. He set Bella down and watched her face light up as she took in the view.
"Oh my…" she whispered. "Edward, this is…I'm speechless…."
Edward stood at the top of the world with the woman he loved, holding her close, with the spectacular City of Lights spread below like it was on display just for them.
And it was there that Edward proposed.
He took Bella's hand and got down on one knee, his heart open and his love shining on his face. He hoped the surprise on Bella's was a good sign. It was soon, he knew that. It was barely 24 hours since they'd found each other again, but he was going with that instinct deep inside him that told him this was right. With a deep, steadying breath, he began.
"Bella, will you…"
"Yes! Oh my God, yes!"
Edward gasped. Bella's hand flew to her mouth. "Oh, I didn't let you finish. I'm sorry…"
"No, it's…it's alright…" Shock and joy burned through Edward's veins. She'd said yes!
"Please, go on…"
But Edward didn't know if he could. His heart was too full and he was smiling so wide he didn't know if he could talk. But he took a deep breath and tried again to ask the most important question of his long life.
"Bella, will you do me the extraordinary honour of marrying me?"
"Yes," she whispered, smiling just as wide. "I will."
He pressed his lips tenderly, reverently, to her hand, and then he stood up and pulled her into his arms and held her like he'd never let her go. "I'd tell you that I love you, but it doesn't seem enough, by any measure, but right now it's all I've got, so I'll tell you…" His voice broke. "I love you."
Bella nestled into him, like she couldn't get close enough. "I love you too," she said. "So much. And this has been the most amazing day, and night, of my life."
"There'll be more amazing days and nights," Edward whispered. "I promise you."
They stood there, wrapped in each other, taking in the view of Paris at it's best, and savouring.
"You had this planned?" Bella asked.
"For a few hours," Edward answered. "But there's more to come."
"More?" The surprise on Bella's face brought a new smile to Edward's. "What more?"
He pointed into the distance. "About two kilometres away, on the Champs Elysees, is Cartier's Paris store."
"Cartier? The jewellers?"
Edward nodded. "They've opened the store for us."
Bella's jaw dropped. "Just us? At midnight?"
Edward gently stroked his fingers over the third finger of her left hand. "I thought, maybe…" For a moment he wondered if he'd gone too far and this was too much. Suddenly it did seem rather over-the-top, but he had his reasons. "Bella, I know you're not a grand gesture kind of girl," he said. "But in all of eternity, I'm only ever going to do this once, and I wanted it to be…"
Bella put her finger to his lips. "Do you think they have garnets?" She smiled, and now Edward did too.
"I'm sure they do."
She took his hand. "Then lets go."
He kissed her hard, and swung her onto his back, and descended carefully back to earth. With their feet on solid ground again, Bella cuddled into Edward's side and no man had ever felt happier. Or prouder.
"Which way do we go?" Bella asked.
"This way," Edward said.
He turned them towards the Champs Elysees, and with the moon and stars shining bright above them, they began the walk towards their new future.
A/N: So sorry this took so long, thank you for your patience.
And yes, I know this ending is probably a bit corny, maybe a little cliché, but my FF proposals are usually subdued quiet affairs and this time Edward wanted to go out with a bang, just for once. A truly grand gesture. So what better than a midnight proposal at the top of the Eiffel Tower followed by a specially arranged trip to Cartier's.
Huge hugs and thank you's to everyone who's followed this story, and to those who have left reviews and messages. I have the best readers and appreciate all your support and comments more than you know. Thank you all : )
If you're interested in finding out about my original work, you can find me at suzannecarroll dot com
My dear friend Melanie Moreland has just published her second novel. It's called Beneath The Scars and it's a beautiful story of love and hope and second chances. Check it out if you can : )
Thanks again, Sue xx