Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight. It belongs to Stephenie Meyer
Hey, everyone. This is my entry for The Red-Eyed Edward contest and I'm so happy people liked it enough that it took first place in the public vote. Thank you to my beta, ChayaSara, for helping me with the language. I learn so much from you every time we talk! Thank you to my pre-readers, Diane, Dawn, Veronica and Melanie for all of the encouragement! And last but not least, thank you to everyone who voted. Winning an anonymous contest is something really special because you're judged solely on your writing. Thank you.
Hope you enjoy my first Vampward!
"How's it going in school, honey?" my mother asks.
I sigh into the receiver, staring at my window and beyond at the heavy rain falling once again. Everything is cold and wet here. My room feels dank and muggy, and even the candles I've lit can't chase away the oppressive darkness in the corners. I'm not sure what happened. I really was doing fine when I first moved here a few weeks ago. Charlie and I get along fine, and I hung out with his friend's son, Jacob, when I first arrived. I wasn't exactly thrilled about having to start at a new school, but it actually went pretty well – except for that weird incident in the cafeteria at lunchtime the first day.
"Who are they?" I'd asked Jessica and Angela, referring to the group of beautiful kids who strode in.
Then, they proceeded to tell the sordid tale of the foster kids who were all "like, together, together" as Jessica put it. And then he walked in: the most beautiful boy I'd ever seen. I couldn't help but stare.
"Who's he?" I'd whispered.
"That's Edward Cullen. He's totally gorgeous, obviously, but apparently no one here's good enough f-"
Jessica didn't get any further. He glanced in our direction, and then his eyes locked with mine. I felt as though my diaphragm was pushed down into my stomach while my heart jumped into my throat. Impossibly, his golden eyes turned black in an instant and the beautiful grin washed off his face.
The little dark-haired Cullen girl was already on her feet, making her way toward him. My nausea and dizziness made her movements look blurry.
The sound of his voice sent chills up my spine and I shivered violently, trying to draw breath. I felt trapped in his gaze, unable to move or speak. Then, things happened very fast; the other Cullen kids were on their feet. The dark-haired girl launched herself at the beautiful boy, looking like she was trying to push him backward, unsuccessfully. A fight broke out – all of them against him. The largest one of the group, the one who looked like a football player, grabbed the boy from behind, dragging him backward toward the doors to the outside. All the while, the boy thrashed around, his arms and legs slicing through the air at an impossible speed while the rest of them tried to restrain him. The whole thing lasted less than thirty seconds, but it felt like hours. He never once looked away from me, not even as they hauled him through the doors, and he started screaming at the top of his lungs – a deep, violent, and desperate roar that I doubted I'd ever be able to forget.
He never came back to school, and neither did his male siblings. The school said it was a massive epileptic seizure that caused him to spasm and for his pupils to dilate so that they looked black. I heard that he was being treated at a hospital in Seattle, that his foster mom and his brothers had gone with him. That he wasn't coming back. The incident was the talk of the school for two days until a girl called Lauren was caught in the boys' locker room with two football players, doing all sorts of stuff, apparently. Then everyone seemed to forget about the Cullen boy's seizure, and soon it was like he'd never gone to the school at all. His two sisters are still here, though. They sit by themselves at the table by the window at lunch, but I feel like I see them everywhere. They're in all my classes, and last week when I went to the diner with Charlie, they were parked outside the whole time. Whenever I make eye contact with the little one, Alice, she smiles at me, and even though her expression is nothing but friendly, it's still creepy somehow. Why are they watching me? If I were braver, I'd walk right up to them and ask what they want.
"Bella? Are you still there?"
My mother's voice brings me out of my thoughts.
"I'm here. Just tired, sorry."
"You're always tired lately," she says, concern lacing her voice.
I can't even find the energy to fib.
"Well, all right. I'll let you get some sleep. Call me soon, okay?"
"I will. Love you."
"Love you, hon."
I hang up, staring at the window again. What's wrong with me? I've never felt this way before, so despondent and weary, yet frustrated and restless at the same time. I need something, I need –
I hear his voice in my dreams at night, see those eyes staring at me, and I wake up drenched in sweat with a pounding heart. I don't know if they'd lie, his family, but it didn't seem like an epileptic seizure to me. It seemed like . . . like he wanted to get to me. But why would he want that? To hurt me? It doesn't make any sense. And why can't I stop thinking about him? He's long gone, and ever since that day, I've been in a funk. I find it hard to smile anymore. I long to feel . . . something – anything but this strange, hollow emptiness inside of me, this profound sense of sadness that I don't understand at all.
Sighing once again, I manage to roll myself off the bed, fatigue making my movements slow and lethargic. I feel closer to 70 than 17 these days, and even though it's only 8:30 on a Friday night, I take a shower and change into my sleepwear, knowing I'm not going anywhere. Mike Newton is having a party and I was invited, but I have no desire to go. I have no desire to do much of anything, and my apparent depression is worrying Charlie so much that he's asked if it might be better for me to go back to live with my mom. I'll admit I've thought about it. This all started when I moved here. Back in Phoenix I was happy most of the time. I cared about stuff, I went places and talked to people. Drawing a deep breath, I make my decision: if I still feel this way on Monday, I'll talk to Charlie about moving back. It's not like he'll miss me all that much anyway. He works a lot and likes to spend his weekends fishing, which really isn't my thing, so I don't see him that much. My mom isn't around much, either, but I was used to it and I never felt lonely back in Phoenix. Not the way I do now.
Climbing back into bed, I curl up and close my eyes, listening to the sounds of the rain falling steadily outside. I drift, floating in between wakefulness and sleep.
Drip, drip, drip.
The sound rouses me, and irritation sparks within me, knowing I'll have to get up and put out buckets now that the roof of Charlie's old house has apparently succumbed to the constant downpour.
Drip, drip, drip.
I throw the covers off me, sitting up abruptly.
"Oh, for – "
My voice dies. Everything stills. He's here.
Standing at the end of my bed is the Cullen boy. He's wearing jeans and a t-shirt, its drenched grey fabric accentuating his broad chest and lean waist. Droplets of water slide down his bare forearms to his clenched fists. They darken his hair and cling to his long eyelashes. He breathes in deeply through his nose, his body visibly shuddering. Then, his eyes open and lock with mine.
They're black, but this time he's decidedly not seizing. He's still as a statue, save for the rapid rise and fall of his chest as he watches me. He's gorgeous and completely terrifying.
Is this what suicidal people feel? Attracted, yet repelled by their impending doom?
What startles me the most, though, is how I'm not at all surprised to see him here, late at night in the privacy of my bedroom. He shouldn't be here. He can't be here. The doors are locked and so are the windows. But he is.
I realize that on some unconscious level, I must have been waiting for this. Some part of me has always known that this would happen; that we'd end up alone together so he could finish what started in the cafeteria. He's here to do what he wanted that day, and now there's no one to stop him: not his siblings, not Charlie, who's working nights at the station this week, and certainly not me, the girl with zero muscles or fighting skills.
Finally, my survival instinct seems to kick in, and a wave of icy terror washes over me at the understanding that he's here to hurt me. Never taking my eyes off him, I scramble backward until my back is pressed up against the headboard of my bed. His eyes flash, darting down to my legs, naked and startlingly pale against the dark purple sheets. I remember how little I'm wearing, just a tank top and a pair of underwear, and despite the severity of the situation, I feel self-conscious of my body being on display for this perfect, beautiful boy. Slowly, his upper body bows forward as he places his hands on top of my rumpled comforter, and then his right knee follows. Even though he's perfectly still again, I can sense the tension vibrating through him as he cocks his head to the side, observing me closely. He's poised to strike, to attack, and I'm his prey. I inhale sharply as his right hand shoots forward, and he wraps his long fingers around my ankle. He's startlingly cold against my sleep-warm skin and I can't suppress a shiver as he tightens his grip, suddenly pulling me towards him. I don't even have time to yell or struggle; before I can register what's happening, I'm flat on my back and he's crouched above me, caging me in.
I gasp as icy cold water drips from his shirt onto my naked stomach where my tank top has ridden up. He cocks his head to the side again, as though he's trying to solve a puzzle, his eyes drifting from my face and down my body. A second passes. I blink, and then his shirt is gone. It's gone!
I'm losing my mind. I have to be. It just vanished off his body!
His body . . . oh sweet mercy. I can't describe him in any sort of satisfying way; words fall short. He's not merely beautiful. He's breathtaking. His strong, lean arms hold him above me, his abdominal muscles ripple as he breathes, and his broad chest has a sprinkling of hair across it, making him look older than a junior in high school. He's a man.
Is he, though?
His face hovers inches above mine, his black eyes burning. He's already won, I realize. He'll do whatever he wants now; I can't stop him. And he knows it.
My heart rate spikes as he leans down, and I squeeze my eyes shut in a childish attempt to hide from him.
The sound emerges from somewhere deep in his chest the moment we touch, and he rubs his cheek against mine, his slight stubble making my skin prickle. Inhaling deeply, he makes the sound again – a sort of satisfied purr – and switches to the other side, exhaling his cool, sweet breath across my face in the process. I lie as still as humanly possible, fisting my sheets until my knuckles must be turning white, my chest rising and falling as I hyperventilate underneath him. This is the part where I'm supposed to scream and yell, fight and kick. But I don't. I feel. For the first time in weeks, I feel truly alive, my mind and body no longer sluggish and apathetic, and even though I'm afraid, I stay still, letting him invade my personal space in a way that no one has ever done before.
My body jerks in surprise as he changes his position slightly, and then his hand is on my naked thigh, dangerously close to the hem of my shorts.
"Mmm . . . warm." He breathes against my ear.
My eyes snap open when suddenly his right hand is in my hair, forcing my head back, as his left hand travels from my thigh to my breast. He pants against my neck, the cool sensation making me shiver again, and I feel my nipple pebble underneath his large palm. He must feel it too, because the next thing I know, he's up on his knees, pulling down on the straps of my tank top. He can only get it to my elbows, and after tugging on the fabric for a few seconds, he rips it open down the middle, as easily as if it were made of tissue paper, leaving my upper body completely exposed to him.
His gaze travels up and down my body, and I watch as he palms himself through his jeans, almost as if he's unaware of it, but I can tell he's straining against the button fly. Then, he leans over me again, and this time I don't shut my eyes.
There's no question. It's a statement.
Oh, God. He wants to . . .
He's not here to hurt me. He's here to have sex with me. I feel faint. I feel scared. I feel . . . awed. He wants me.
"M-mate?" I squeak, hearing how frightened my voice sounds.
He regards me for a few seconds, his brow furrowing. I imagine what I must look like to him: pinned to the mattress underneath him, my shirt torn, with eyes probably the size of saucers. He whimpers softly, leaning down to rub his face against mine again.
"Mate." This time it sounds like a plea.
He looks at me, frustration painting his beautiful features. He reaches for me, hesitates for a second, then takes a hold of my hand and lifts it up to his face. As he leans into my touch, I become mesmerized by the sudden appearance of gold flecks in between the black in his irises. It's like magic.
I really am going crazy. Or is this all just a very vivid dream?
His eyes lock with mine, the gold burning brightly amongst the onyx. He swallows, and I sense him struggle with something before he places his hand on my chest, right above my heart.
"Bella," he whispers.
My heart stutters beneath his palm. He knows my name!
"E-Edward," I manage to get out.
His eyes dart down to my mouth, then back up to my eyes again. He's so close I can feel his breath on my skin, and then he leans in, gently pressing his lips against mine in a sweet kiss that makes my skin flush and my heart go into overdrive. Much too soon he pulls back, staring at me.
"Forgive . . . me," he says in a strangled voice, his hands scrambling to cover me up as he pulls my torn top back in place.
I watch as he lifts himself off me and turns, facing the window. He makes it to the edge of the bed before his body jerks and trembles. Then, in a blur of movements, he's suddenly on top of me again. His eyes are black all the way through, and his lips have curled into into a feral-looking sneer.
"Mate!" he growls, pressing me into the mattress.
His lips are on mine, but this time it's not gentle and sweet. His kiss is insistent, his cool tongue invading my mouth as I yield, putting up no resistance to his advances. Moving down to my neck, he licks across my pulse point, shuddering lightly before kissing me there too. For a fraction of a second I think I feel pain, but then it's gone again, replaced by pleasure. His hands travel over my body, gently touching and caressing my thighs, my stomach, my arms and my breasts.
"Mate," he purrs as he licks my neck, lifting and opening my legs to press himself against me.
He's seducing me, and it's working. I've never been with a boy before, but I've touched myself and I know what's happening to my body although the things I'm feeling now put my quiet self-exploration to shame.
"Mmm, mate," he hums, pushing the remaining fabric of my top to the sides, palming my breasts and lifting them upward before his mouth descends there.
"Oh, God," I moan, arching up as he licks my nipples, teasing them into hard peaks.
I can't believe this is happening!
His teeth scrape, making me hiss, before he starts sucking. My eyes roll back and I feel my hips lift off the bed, seeking friction. He stops after a few seconds, lifting his head to look at me as his tongue swipes across his lower lip. I don't know what he sees but he must like it, because one side of his mouth lifts up in a grin. He inhales deeply through his nose, lifts himself up on his hands and knees, and then his eyes drift down to my parted thighs.
Oh, my God, oh, my God.
The next thing I know, he's farther down, pressing his mouth against the wet fabric of my underwear, moaning against me as he starts licking it. I'm mortified and so turned on I can hardly stand it. I'm not sure how he manages it, but suddenly I feel his breath on my naked, overheated skin, and I know my underwear is gone. At the first swipe of his tongue I cry out, almost bowing off the bed. His warning growl sends tingles of fear up my spine, but somehow, it only serves to make me more wanting, surrendering completely as he holds me still with his strong hands, his mouth descending once more. Time loses meaning, and I'm no longer aware of anything besides what he is doing to me. His hands glide over my torso, massaging my breasts, and then slide underneath me to knead my buttocks. I cry out as I come, panting and gasping when he moves his mouth down to my entrance, gently lapping up my wetness before he returns to my clitoris, and it all starts over again. At some point I feel his finger gently pushing inside me, and another soon follows, touching me on the inside as though he's done it a million times before, knowing exactly where to stroke to make me see stars.
I tangle my hands in his hair, truly touching him for the first time and gasp at the sharp, brief sting on my inner thigh where his mouth is fused to my tender skin. His fingers move faster, and then I feel pressure a few inches lower as he also penetrates me in a place, which, in my naiveté, I'd never considered sexual.
Oh, not there!
I come again, clenching around his fingers as I scream out in abandon, clawing at his hair. When I resurface, I notice him licking my inner thigh and then between my legs again. He crawls up my body until we're nose to nose, and leans down to kiss me, moaning into my mouth as I reciprocate, stroking his tongue with mine.
"Mate," he groans, sitting up abruptly.
I try to make sense of the blur in front of my eyes, blinking to bring them to focus, and then he's there, kneeling between my parted legs, completely naked.
He's beautiful; his eyes are wild, his hair in perfect disarray, and his body is practically vibrating with lust. I stare at him, trying to catch my breath, as he touches himself to me, gliding through my wetness with ease. If he pushes inside, that's it; I won't be a virgin anymore. It's not like I've been saving myself for marriage or anything like that, but I never imagined it'd happen like this, with a strange, almost savage boy, who doesn't really talk.
"I've . . . I've never . . . " I admit. "And I'm . . . scared."
Unexpectedly, my eyes water at my confession. He leans over me, whimpering as he rubs his nose against mine before licking my temple where a single tear has escaped.
"Mate," he whispers, gathering me in his strong embrace. "L-love."
His lips brush mine, and I lift my head to deepen the kiss, putting my arms around him. He's hard and cool to the touch, but I don't mind. I'm warm enough for the both of us.
"Love?" I whisper against his mouth before he kisses me again.
I know practically nothing about him: He's beautiful and strong; his father is a doctor, and he has four siblings. He's obviously very good at sex. He's undoubtedly the strangest boy I've ever met and . . . he might love me. I yelp as I suddenly find myself on my front, the remains of my torn shirt gone. How does he do that? He presses himself against me, and I tremble with nerves as I feel him position himself between my legs.
"Need," he growls, fisting my hair in his left hand as his right slips down my front between my thighs.
He ruts against me in a sensual rhythm, using his fingers to stroke me until I'm dizzy with desire, pushing back my ass like a cat in heat.
I can hardly recognize my voice – so filled with lust and desperation. He brings me right to the brink of orgasm and then moves his hand away for a few seconds before starting up again.
"Claim. Fuck," he groans, pushing my leg up as far as it will go, opening me up for him completely.
"Yes, God yes."
He stills, breathing heavily on top of me. Brushing my hair to the side, he nuzzles my neck and the purring sound he made when we first touched starts up again from somewhere in his chest. I brace myself for him to push inside, but instead, he turns me over onto my back again.
I watch him as he lifts his head, blinking a few times as the color in his eyes seems to swirl until several golden flecks appear again, only now they're darker than before with a reddish tint. He stares at me, naked underneath him, and caresses my cheek.
"Oh, Bella," he says softly, his voice filled with reverence.
I lift my hands up, noticing that they're trembling a little, before I place them on his shoulders and touch his cool, smooth skin. He watches me with hooded eyes as I explore his upper body and outline the planes of his muscles with my fingertips.
"You're so beautiful," I whisper. "Everything . . ."
My eyes and hands drift down his abdomen. At my first touch, he inhales sharply until I grow bolder and wrap my inexperienced fingers around him, marveling at the size and shape of him, the soft skin covering hard as steel flesh.
Dropping down to his elbows, he positions himself, seeking my eyes and then my lips. The taste of him distracts me so much, I'm hardly aware of it until he begins moving forward, slowly, but steadily, until he pushes inside me with very little resistance. The moment his hips touch my inner thighs he jerks upward, throwing back his head in a fierce roar, not unlike the one he uttered in the cafeteria. But that one was filled with despair and this one triumph. It echoes off the walls of my tiny bedroom and shakes me to my core. Who is this creature? I cower underneath him, trapped and pinned by his much larger body, by the feeling of him buried deep inside of me. The noise stops, and he turns his attention to me again. His eyes are completely black; his muscles are tense, and he has never been more magnificent to behold. Seeing him so feral makes me react, but not with fear as I would have thought. I clench around him as a drawn-out moan escapes my throat. He bares his teeth at me and grabs my wrists to lift my arms above my head, pressing them into the mattress before running his hands down my limp arms and over my bare breasts in a display of complete and total possession. I'm his now. He knows it and I know it.
Glancing down to where we're joined, he moves backward slowly until he almost slips from me. Then, he looks at me, pinning me with his gaze alone, and pushes back inside me with a smooth, unhurried thrust of his hips. I gasp softly as he fills me again, surprised at how good it feels. I'd expected actual pain, but there's very little; I feel somewhat tender around my entrance and a slight discomfort at being stretched. Soon, though, I forget it completely as he begins to thrust, looking between my face and where he's taking me. His body undulates above with graceful movements as though this is as natural to him as breathing. His brow is furrowed in concentration, and I realize how much effort it takes for him to go slow with me. Dipping his head, I gasp as he teases and licks my nipples, gently nipping at them with his teeth. He suckles me, groaning against my breasts, and I feel him twitch inside me as his rhythm falters for a few seconds.
"Harder," I hear myself begging, arching up into him.
The world shifts, and then I'm on my stomach, my legs being spread open before he pushes inside me again, covering my body with his.
"Oh, please, yes . . ." I moan, loving the feeling of him so deep, so hard.
His hand goes into my hair, pulling my head to the side before his mouth is on my neck. He growls and groans against my skin, taking me with even more strength and speed. He rears upward, grabbing my hips to lift my lower half up on my knees. The sound of the rain and thunder outside mixes with the sounds of our skin slapping together as he fucks me. That's what this is: fucking. Edward Cullen is fucking me, and I love it. One hand tangles in my hair again while the other one slips between my legs teasing my already swollen, throbbing clitoris until I come, crying out in a hoarse voice that I can't recognize as my own. Edward brings us together, using my hair to pull me backward until my back is arched to the point of near pain and my arms and legs are trembling from exertion. He stills, letting out an ear-splitting roar as he comes while his hands grasps my hips again to move me slowly up and down the length of him. As soon as he lets go, my arms and legs give out, and I do my best to draw much-needed air into my lungs, feeling light-headed and dizzy. I feel him moving to my side and rolling me over to mold his front to my back.
With a gentle touch, he caresses my body, lifting my hair up to lick the perspiration off my neck before his mouth settles beneath my ear, sucking on my skin. I'm vaguely aware of his hand on my abdomen, slipping in between my legs and then his fingers stroking me. Purring, he presses himself against my ass.
Again? So soon? That's impossible!
He groans against my neck, and my vision becomes blurred around the edges before the feeling of his fingers rouses me, and incredibly, I find myself already wanting him agai-
"EMMETT, GRAB HIM!"
I scream as Edward is yanked off the bed and the room is filled with activity too fast for my tired eyes to register. Suddenly, everything stops and a blond man appears next to me, grasping my naked shoulders. I struggle futilely as he leans in and drags his cold tongue up my neck a few times, my stomach threatening to expel its contents. The second he releases me, I scramble backwards and try to cover my nakedness with my duvet, all the while taking in the impossible sight before me: All of the Cullen kids are in my bedroom. The large one is holding Edward in a vise grip from behind while his other brother, the one with the curly blond hair, stands in front of Edward, blocking him partly from my view. The sisters are there, too, as well as a slightly older woman with caramel-colored waves.
The blond man stands up, reaches into his pocket and produces a handkerchief, which he uses to wipe his mouth with. Edward lets out a pained cry, lunging forward, but is restrained from getting to me again.
"Easy, lover boy," the large one chuckles.
"I apologize for that, Isabella," the blond man says. "I wouldn't have touched you if it wasn't absolutely necessary."
"She prefers Bella, " the little one, Alice, chirps.
"You be quiet," he admonishes her with a stern look.
"You don't understand, Carlisle. All of us would've been exposed. She was going to go back to Arizona! She made the decision earlier tonight, and it would have been awful."
How the hell does she know that?
"Be that as it may, you shouldn't have interfered. Staying away was Edward's decision."
"Edward is too noble for his own damn good," she mutters petulantly. "I saw it clear as day the second he ran here. They were going to be so happy together."
"Carlisle," the older woman interjects, glancing at me, "are we too late? Has it already happened?"
"I don't think so. But he's tasted her. He won't be able to stay away for long now."
He turns to me, inhaling through his nose.
"Are you hurt anywhere else?" he asks.
"W-what are you talking about?" I stutter. "Get out of my house!"
He looks at the others.
"I still smell traces of blood."
"Well, duh," the beautiful blonde girl, Rosalie, says. "They're both naked, Carlisle. What do you think they've been doing? She was probably a virgin."
"Oh, sweetheart," the older woman says to me, wringing her hands, "are you all right?"
"I'm – I'm fine," I manage, feeling mortified. "Will you please just leave?"
All of them look to the man called Carlisle. He must be their foster dad, and I'm guessing the concerned woman is his wife, their foster mom.
"We don't know if she actually suspects . . . " he trails off. "We could just go. Leave tonight."
"Oh, come on!" Rosalie huffs. "She just gave him her virginity. She should know the truth!"
"We agreed," Carlisle says.
"I didn't agree on anything. I'm with Alice on this one. We're the ones who know Bella. We've been watching and listening to her conversations for weeks. She's smart and kind, mature and selfless – an old soul. She's perfect for Edward, and he's perfect for her. She gets to decide what kind of life she wants!"
Giving Carlisle a defiant stare, she walks past him before kneeling down next to the bed and looking straight at me.
"Bella. I'm not going to beat around the bush with you. I'll tell you the truth – even if the others don't want me to."
I nod, feeling apprehensive.
"Edward's a vampire. We all are."
I stare at her, waiting for the punch line. It doesn't come. They all look deadly serious, except for Edward who's once again fighting to get out of his larger brother's hold.
"You're crazy," I whisper. "You're all crazy."
"Just Alice, sometimes," Rosalie responds, grinning at her sister who lets out a small laugh.
"Guilty," she says before nudging the curly-haired boy out of the way to get to Edward. "Look at him, Bella."
He twists and turns, snarling and panting as he tries to get free, but Alice doesn't seem scared of him at all. She lifts her hand, swiping a finger through a dark smear on his chest that I couldn't see before.
"Watch," she whispers to me before bringing her finger up to Edward's mouth, dragging it across his lips.
Edward howls, lunging forward again, his eyes trained on me. Carefully, Alice grasps his chin to hold his face still and pulls back his upper lip.
No. It can't be.
Edward's canine teeth are . . . they're . . .
"Oh, God," I whisper.
His skin is even paler than mine, but there are smears and streaks on his chest, on his chin – even on his . . .
I remember his mouth on my neck, on my breasts, on my inner thigh. The brief sting. With trembling hands I lift up the duvet, staring at my body. I feel as though I might throw up. My left breast and part of my stomach is smeared rusty-red. There are small wounds on either sides of my areolas where Edward . . . where he bit me. Matching marks are on my inner thigh as well.
He bit me. He drank my blood. He's a vampire.
"I'm going to be sick."
I barely have time to get the words out before Rosalie is next to me, holding back my hair as I vomit into the trash can that's usually next to my desk.
"It's okay," she soothes in an angelic-sounding voice. "I know it looks bad. That's why Carlisle had to lick you, to close the wound on your neck. It's not, though. You're fine. You're just fine."
Shaking, I pull the duvet up to my chin and move away from her to the other side of my bed where I draw my knees up to my chest. All of them are staring at me, but I only look at Edward.
"Why is he like this?" I whisper. "You all seem . . . normal."
A hysterical-sounding laugh bursts from my lips, turning into a sob. Edward lets out a low whine, stretching his arms and hands, even his fingers to reach for me.
"Do you want me to let him go?" his brother asks, referring to Edward, who's still trying to get free.
"No!" I cry, immediately feeling a pang of longing for him, regardless of my answer.
"He'll understand, Bella," Carlisle says calmly. "We'll explain all of this to him. Later."
"H-how? He's . . . "
"I know. He's not like this all the time, though. Only when he's with you."
"I don't know what you're saying."
"Edward is in heat, so to speak."
"Mate," I whisper.
"Exactly," Carlisle says, raising his eyebrows.
"But we already . . . "
The two boys, vampires, chuckle. Carlisle hides away a roguish grin quickly.
"Ah, yes, I gathered. That's not all of it, though. You didn't drink his blood, correct?"
"Then you're not fully mated, and you're still human. Edward will react to you the same way he did tonight for as long as the mating is incomplete, I'm afraid."
"So he'll be like this forever?"
Carlisle grimaces as though in pain.
"I certainly hope not."
"Look, Bella," Rosalie interrupts. "What Carlisle is trying to tell you is that Edward will keep trying to complete the mating, just like he did tonight. He'll never stop trying to get to you."
"To do what?"
"To drink your blood until you're dying and then give you his."
I shiver with fear even though I appreciate her no-nonsense explanation.
"So he'll never stop trying to kill me?" I whisper.
"That's not how it is for him."
"How is it for him?"
"It's his happily ever after. You and him together. Forever."
"And it will be wonderful, Bella. I promise," Alice chimes in. "I've seen it. You'll travel the world together. You'll be each other's best friend, lover, and soul mate."
I stare at her open-mouthed.
"Oh, I have psychic abilities," she explains with a grin.
"This is insane," I whisper. "What are you asking of me here?"
"Nothing," Carlisle says firmly. "Edward didn't want this to happen. He made us promise to keep him away from you."
I glance at him, seeing the longing for me in his eyes, his outstretched hands, his body straining to move toward me.
"'Cause he's a damned fool," the curly-haired blond vampire says, speaking for the first time.
"Yup," the big one holding Edward agrees, looking at Carlisle.
"Sorry, but Jas and me, we agree with the girls. He's waited so long and then his morals, or whatever, they make him say no to the greatest thing that will ever happen to him. It's stupid, Carlisle. It's just stupid."
"This is what Edward wants-"
"Obviously not all of him," the big one continues. "This part of him wants her more than anything. Why does the other one get to decide just because he can talk? I mean look at this."
It happens so fast, I don't have time to register it, but the large vampire must have let go of Edward because suddenly he's underneath the duvet wrapped around me. I tremble as he licks away my partially dried tears before tucking my head underneath his chin, holding me tighter still.
I should be terrified. I'm being held captive by a naked vampire who has already taken blood from me, but I'm not. His touch is like a balm to my nerves, and I feel myself calming down immediately.
"You can't tell me that's not real," the big vampire says, motioning to me and Edward with his hand. "He loves her. She might not feel it as strongly now, but she will once she becomes like us. I should know."
"You were a human once?" I ask.
"We were all humans once," he answers with a dimpled smile. "And, yeah, I met Rosalie when she was already a vampire. She changed me. Best night of my life. Up until that point, at least."
Rosalie looks at him with adoration.
"I couldn't not change him. I knew he was for me just like Edward knows you're for him. I'm amazed that he's managed to stay away for so long."
"Edward's will is very strong," their foster mom says softly, looking at me and her son, who's now purring contentedly. "But I'm glad to see his heart is soft."
Carlisle's head snaps in her direction, and he gives her an incredulous look.
"I want our youngest to know love, my darling. Would you really condemn him to an eternity alone?"
"It's not just his choice," Carlisle says sounding weary. "It's Bella's choice, too, now that she knows."
All of them stare at me.
They want me to decide now?
"I-I don't know," I whisper.
What are they asking me? If I'll willingly become a vampire and tie myself to a boy I've never even talked to? It's insane! I haven't even wrapped my mind around the fact that vampires exist! This can't be happening. This has to be a dream! I'd have to die? To kill people for food?
"I . . . can't. I'm sorry."
Slowly, I begin to extract myself from Edward's embrace before he pulls me back, clinging to me.
"No," I whisper, seeking his eyes. "No."
The expression on his face is so devastating that I have to look away. His arms go limp and I scramble off the bed, doing my best to stay covered by the duvet. Edward sits stunned on my bed.
"Carlisle, you can't let this happen!" the one called Jas insists.
"Bella has made her choice," he responds stoically. "And Edward wouldn't want an unwilling mate."
"That's not how it works," Rosalie growls. "She loves him! She just doesn't know it yet. Bella, please, don't do this. You don't know what this will mean for Edward!"
"I'm sorry," I whimper as I start to cry. "I don't . . . I don't want to die."
"Jasper, Emmett. Let's get Edward home, all right? You'll see, he will agree with Bella's decision."
The two of them look at me, and I expect to see hatred and disgust on their faces for having rejected their brother, but all I see is sympathy and sadness as they haul Edward to his feet and drag him to the window, still stark naked. Emmett opens the window and climbs out first, somehow hanging onto the side of the house as he reaches for Edward who has lost all reason to struggle. Before Emmett pulls him outside, he turns his head and stares at me with those black, now empty-looking eyes.
"Mate," he whispers, before dropping his head down in a show of defeat.
The second he's out of view, I miss him so much it takes my breath away for a few seconds. The rest of the Cullens gather Edward's clothes while I cry, trying to make as little noise as possible. Carlisle addresses me quietly.
"Bella, I am so very sorry that this happened. Please, for your sake and ours, will you keep our secret? You are human and not supposed to know such things."
I nod my head, sniffing loudly. Who would believe me anyway? I'd likely get thrown into a padded cell.
They file to the window in a solemn procession and exit one by one. Outside I hear Edward howling in pain, the sound making my heart ache in my chest. As the last one to leave, Alice suddenly stops, and her eyes become vacant, staring into nothing.
"Oh!" she says, her face lighting up with a smile.
She turns to me.
"It will all be all right."
And with that cryptic message, she leaps out the window head first, as though diving into a pool of water, leaving me alone in my bedroom to deal with the aftermath of what just happened. I collapse onto my floor and wail, the sound so very similar to the one Edward made as his siblings dragged him off in the cafeteria that day.
A few days pass. My wounds heal. Alice and Rosalie don't return to school on Monday, and I overhear someone say that they've left town for good. Life goes on, and on the outside, everything seems normal. But I'm even worse off than before. My appetite is gone, and I only eat to appease Charlie. I distance myself even further from the few friends I've made here. Every night I lie awake, staring at the window, equally terrified and desperate for Edward to return. I wonder what he's doing, what he's thinking and feeling. Carlisle said they'd explain my decision to him and that he'd agree. Will he, though? Can his wants and desires really be so different from those of the black-eyed Edward who broke into my house to make love to me? I replay every moment we spent together, sometimes imagining what would have happened if I'd said yes. Would we really have lived happily ever after, just like Alice said? I can't imagine myself as a vampire, but I don't fit into this life anymore either.
On Friday night, two weeks after my life was turned upside down, I receive a Skype invitation from Alice Cullen. I don't hesitate but accept immediately.
'Hi, Bella,' she types. 'These are for you.'
I watch as she begins uploading a series of video messages, and drawing a deep breath, I click on the first one.
It's Edward. My heart flutters in my chest as I watch him shifting in his seat before lifting his gaze to the screen. His eyes are golden now, and there are faint bruise-like shadows underneath them, like he hasn't slept in days.
"Hi, Bella," he says hesitantly. "Um, this was Alice's idea. I'd prefer talking to you in person or calling you up on the phone, but . . . well, you know, I decided to embrace this newfangled technology instead."
"No one uses the phone for calling anymore anyway, grandpa," I hear Alice chirp. "And who says 'newfangled'?"
The screen tilts and Alice's face appears.
"I swear, he's not always this old-fashioned, Bella. We'll get him up to speed."
Edward is back in focus.
"I apologize. Alice insisted on being my cameraman."
"Camera person," she interjects. "Women can operate them just as well as men. You don't want Bella to think you're sexist, right?"
"Okay, that's enough help, Alice."
The camera moves back and forth until I hear a door slamming shut, and Edward appears again.
"I'm sorry about that," he says, giving me a bashful smile.
He's so beautiful.
"We don't really get a lot of privacy around here."
"Privacy, schmivacy," I hear Alice yelling from outside the door. "Get to the good stuff like we rehearsed."
Edward looks like he'd be blushing if vampires were able to do that, which I'm guessing they aren't.
"Anyway," he says, walking while talking. "We're in Alaska right now. We have a house here."
He slowly turns the screen in a circle, letting me see where he is: a good-sized room with warm beige-colored walls, dark sturdy-looking furniture including a king-sized bed with a golden bedspread, and a panoramic view of mountains outside the large bay windows. It all looks so . . . normal. And a bed? Seriously? I mean, isn't he supposed to sleep in a coffin? How are they even able to come outside during the day? Granted, Forks isn't exactly the sunniest of places, but still. They went to school just like ordinary kids.
"Yeah, so, this is my room," Edward says, coming into view again.
The video ends there, and I quickly click the next one, leaning closer to the screen of my computer, desperate to learn more about this boy who seems entirely different from the feral creature who took my body and my blood, giving me the greatest pleasure of my young life, all the while terrifying me in the process.
"Alice and Jasper are across the hall from me," Edward says, opening the door to his room.
He walks inside their room, just as beautifully furnished as Edward's, and I watch his two siblings smiling at the camera. At me.
"Hey, Bella," Jasper says.
He's casually seated on their bed, strumming a guitar. At a desk, Alice is bent over a sewing machine.
"Hi again," she says to me. "I'm making your wedding dress. Just in case you change your mind."
Jasper laughs in the background while Edward groans.
"Just kidding," she says, holding up her hands. "I'll of course let you pick your own."
"Alice, you are so not helping," Edward complains.
"Yes, I am. You don't know this, Bella, but vampires mate for life. You will be madly in love forever and ever. As a child of divorce, I'm sure you'll appreciate that," she says matter-of-factly.
I do appreciate that. In love forever? I've never even been in love, but I've read about it, and I've seen some of my friends fall in love. It seems wonderful at first. Would it really be like that for Edward and me all the time?
"Alice and I have been together for decades," Jasper says, getting off the bed to stand by her, his hand gently caressing her neck. "The love, the passion. It only gets stronger, I promise." Alice tilts her head back to look up at him, her face painted with adoration.
Both of them turn to the screen, smiling at me. They're so friendly-looking, it's hard to believe they're freaking vampires, but I can't deny the love they obviously share. It's very strong.
Edward clears his throat, obviously uncomfortable.
"I'm gonna go see what the others are doing," he says, shifting the focus of the camera as he leaves the room.
"Come play Grand Theft Auto with us after you're done, okay?" I hear Jasper call out.
Vampires play video games?
The camera tilts and then Edward is giving me that bashful smile again, making my heart leap.
"Was that as weird for you as it was for me?" he asks.
The next videos are all of Edward walking through the obviously huge house, showing me what everyone is doing. There's Carlisle in his study, working on research as well as writing articles for various medical publications. He tells me that there isn't a hospital in this remote area, so he's taking some time off from work. I feel a pang of guilt, knowing I'm the reason he had to leave Forks and a job that he probably liked. He doesn't seem to mind, though.
"We'll go back there someday in the future," he says. "When no one remembers us. We always do."
I shiver at the thought of them returning to Forks in, say, seventy years, just as young and beautiful as they are now and starting over at the school and the hospital. Where will I be by then? Buried in the cemetery? Edward can visit me there and place flowers on my grave.
I have to pause the video and breathe through the sudden panic I feel. After a couple of minutes, I'm able to resume watching as he introduces me to Rosalie and Emmett who are in the garage, working on their cars, side by side.
"Let me know if you ever want me to take a look at that old truck of yours, Bella," Rosalie says. "I bet I can get it running perfectly again."
"And I'll help you install a new sound system," Emmett offers with a smile.
They're so nice.
After a quick tour of the downstairs, which includes a pristine kitchen, a living room with a huge home theater, and a deck with a hot tub, Edward walks outside, showing me the garden as well as Esme's greenhouse.
"We donate all of this to the shelter in the nearest city," she says. "I just like growing it."
"Esme is my mother, for all intents and purposes," Edward says. "She's very nurturing."
"Right on both counts," she says, giving him a warm smile. "Now, have you shown Bella your piano yet?"
"You should play something for her."
"Girls today don't like classical music," he mumbles behind the camera.
"No, I do!" I say, having become so engrossed that I've forgotten this is a video and not a Skype call.
"Edward," Esme cajoles, "music is important to you. You should show Bella what sorts of things you like if she's to get to know you."
"He's just shy, Bella," she says to me. "He's an excellent musician and composer."
"You have to say that 'cause you're my mother."
"Yes." She laughs. "But it's a lot easier when it's actually true. Now, off you go. I have tomatoes to tend to."
Edward walks through the garden and turns the camera for me to look out over the vast wilderness of dense forests and mountains surrounding the property.
"That's where we hunt," he says, bringing himself back into focus. "My family never told you about our . . . diet."
My heart starts beating faster.
"I prefer mountain lions," he says softly, "but there aren't very many of them around, so I mostly go for lynxes or bears. They're good too."
They eat animals?
"Sometimes we hunt caribou, deer, or elk. But that's all. Truly, Bella. That's all we eat. That's all we kill."
He looks down.
"I don't know if that . . . changes anything . . . for you. But now you know, at least. I'm not a monster."
It does change things.
I click on the next video and watch, completely enraptured as Edward carefully leans the camera on the top of the piano before sitting down. Then, he starts playing, and before I know it, tears are streaming down my face. I don't know the song, but it's obvious that it's sad, both from the melody itself and also from the look on his face as he plays it. There's so much longing and pain in both, that witnessing it makes my chest feel too small for my heart. After he's done, he doesn't say anything. He just turns off the camera.
He's back in his room again, showing me his books, movies, and music. I can tell from the way he talks about them, that these are things that matter to him, that he's passionate about. We have that in common. I've never had many friends, and even before moving here, I would often spend my time alone reading or watching something, or listening to my favorite bands while driving around. After the tour of his room is over, he takes a seat, facing the camera. His face is somber.
"I wanted to tell you about that night," he says, "how it was for me."
I move my laptop to my bed to sit comfortably while he talks.
"I do remember, although some of it . . . it feels a bit like a dream to me, like I was looking at myself doing those things."
He looks away for a second, hesitating, before turning his face toward the screen again.
"But it was me who . . . who did it, who took your virginity. I was myself in that moment," he admits. "I knew I shouldn't, but I wanted you so much, Bella."
I remember the reddish gold in his eyes shining among the black, and I know he's telling me the truth; he was in control at that moment.
"Alice assures me that was I was gentle with you . . . well, gentle enough, at least. That I didn't h-hurt you and that you liked it – even when my baser side took over."
He draws a deep, probably unnecessary breath, looking directly at me.
"It was my first time too."
What? But I thought . . . He seemed so experienced.
I can't deny that knowing this makes me happy even though I do find the notion improbable. I also can't help but wonder what Edward's sexual prowess would become with experience, seeing how good he was for his first time.
"I . . . I hate that our first time happened like that," he whispers, his face anguished. "I should have told you that I . . . that I love you."
"But you did," I say softly, even though he can't hear me. "I knew."
"I don't even know if you're watching this," he says, running his hand through his hair, "if you're at all interested in hearing anything I have to say, but Alice said that this was the best way. If I call you up on Skype or the phone . . . if I see your face or hear your voice . . . I'll lose control, and I'll want to run to you. I'll want to make you mine."
He leans closer, the signs of fatigue clear on his angelic face.
"I'm trying, Bella," he whispers. "I'm committed to giving you the space you need. You said 'no' to me. I remember that very clearly, and the last thing I want is to scare you. But you have to know."
Placing his palm on his chest, his long elegant fingers grip the fabric tightly.
"It's tearing at me," he says in low voice. "Everything I am, every instinct I possess. It's all screaming at me to run to you, to possess you, to change you."
He pleads me with his eyes.
"You have to choose, my love. For a vampire, there is no going back. It was never a choice for me at all. You are my one mate."
I clutch my own chest, watching him being so sincere with me.
"Please, you have to choose. Alice said that you haven't yet, that there's still a chance, and that's why I should make you these videos, to show you this side of me. The other side, he's my baser self, the one who acts purely on instinct and he'll always be a part of me. If you choose me, you also choose him. And you'll get both. I'll make love to you, and he'll . . . fuck you. I'll walk down the street with you holding your hand, and he'll run with you when you hunt and kill together. We both love you, Bella. Can you love us in return?"
"I know you don't feel it yet, but they all tell me that you will, that we're meant to be together. That day, after I saw you in the cafeteria, I decided that I would stay away, that I wouldn't condemn you to this life I'm living. But after being with you, kissing your lips, making love to you . . . I know I can't live without you by my side. So I'll be selfish this once and ask you to join me in eternal life, to be my mate, my partner, my lover, and wife."
"There are things you'll have to give up: food, your human family and friends, and . . . and children. I want you to know this, even if it is the reason you say no. No one asked me if I wanted to be a vampire. I was dying, and Carlisle changed me. I'm grateful to him for that. But you have the chance for a normal life, and if you say no to me, I swear you'll . . . never hear from me again."
He leans back, closing his eyes for a second.
"That's all I wanted to say, I guess. I'm sure you're tired by now. I know I am."
He smiles faintly.
"We don't sleep in coffins, by the way. Well, not anymore. Blackout curtains work just fine, and we only need a few hours every day, so we usually sleep in the afternoon. That's how we're able to attend school. As you've seen, the sun doesn't hurt us. It just makes us weaker, and we like to sleep after having been outside all day. Kind of like a nap after work, I guess."
He lifts up the camera, staring into my eyes.
"I'll ask Alice to send these to you tonight. If I haven't heard from you in a week, then I'll know. I hope that's enough time."
His voice cracks a little as he delivers his parting words, the sound of his voice making my eyes water again.
"G-good bye, Bella. If I don't hear from you, I want you to know that I sincerely wish you a long and h-happy life, and it was an honor loving you, however briefly."
The screen goes dark.
Hours later, the laptop battery has died, and I'm still seated on my bed in stunned silence.
The rest of the weekend is spent in limbo. I watch the videos over and over again, the little checkmark next to Alice's name taunting me, daring me to make contact, knowing she's online. Knowing that Edward is waiting. The longing I feel for him grows stronger with each passing hour as well as the desire to know more about his family. The videos have shown me that they're like a normal family in many ways, and I find myself desperately wanting to be a part of it. I imagine myself helping Esme in the greenhouse, playing video games with Alice and Jasper, hanging out with Emmett and Rosalie in the garage, and spending time with Carlisle in his study. Mostly though, I imagine myself with Edward: running through the forest with him, closing the blinds in his room and falling asleep in his arms, making love with him, watching movies and listening to music together. I can see it all.
I think about going back to Arizona, about forgetting all of this and moving on with my life, going to college and meeting someone else. I can't imagine it. I can't see myself in that life at all.
Sunday night, I cook for Charlie and myself before receiving a text from him, saying that he has to pull an all-nighter at the station again. It's the third time this week that I haven't seen him all day. I'm an intruder in his life, I realize, just as I was in my mother's. They don't really want me around. Not the way the Cullens do.
Calmly, I go upstairs and turn on my laptop. Alice's name pops up with a message:
You're making the right choice. I've seen it. You'll be happier than you ever imagined.
Underneath is a phone number. I find my phone and dial it. It only rings once before it's answered.
For the first time in weeks, I smile.
The responding growl sends a thrill through me.
"Yes," I whisper. "Come and get me."
Hope you liked that. I will probably add one more chapter to this one, since my pre-readers insisted (very strongly!) :)
Thank you for reading.