Things you should know before reading this story:
Bella is 21 in this fic. Edward, who cannot read minds, is frozen at 19 years and ten months. They have been dating for 3 years in this alternate universe. Also, Carlisle is Edward's chosen brother as opposed to a father figure. He is frozen at 23.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
"Are you certain you want to do this?" Carlisle's nervous murmur floated in the dimly-lit space between them.
Indeed, night had just fallen, and the air beyond the open window was neither hot nor cool. Holding a faint hint of salt, it swirled past the curtains in soft gusts, reaching the pair as they stood in the bedroom of their seaside cottage—a very upscale and secluded rental just outside Acadia National Park.
As waves crashed outside, Bella swallowed hard, and studied the man in front of her. A man whose kindness and compassion rivalled that of a saint. A dear friend who, for all intents and purposes, would be her brother-in-law before long.
"No," she admitted on an anxious and breathy laugh. "Are you?" Confused and conflicted, Bella dropped her gaze to the buttons of his gray sweater. Teeth gnawing on her lower lip, she closed her eyes, and willed her pounding heart to slow.
A part of her still couldn't believe that he was willing to do this, and that Edward of all people had urged them to follow through.
"Hey." A mere whisper, spoken as his fingers grazed the underside of her chin, raising her eyes back to his. Unsurprisingly, the sincerity in his voice matched the earnestness in his golden eyes. "You're under no obligation to do this, Bella. You need but say the word and we'll head on home."
When she failed to say anything, Carlisle pressed ahead.
"Would you prefer if I took you home?" His query was like an anchor to her racing thoughts. Suddenly reminded of the reason they were both here, Bella shook her head. "No. I don't want to leave."
As Carlisle searched her face, she managed to straighten her spine and say, "I know this isn't ideal. For either of us. And in some ways, it'd be far easier to forget about all this and leave right now. But Carlisle…" Her throat bobbed. She lowered her eyes again. "Edward won't budge on this. He's made his decision. He can't do this for me. He won't." Making love to her while she was human…
The two of them had gone over it so many times, the same argument over and over again, until one night, out of sheer exasperation, Bella had thrown up her hands and blurted out, "So that's it. There's no compromise. You're saying that, unless I find someone willing to help me, I'll never experience physical intimacy while I'm a living breathing woman?"
She had meant it as a ludicrous retort, a bitter expression the frustrations in her heart, body, and mind. Only Edward had latched on to her words, his frown easing into a stoic yet thoughtful expression.
"Wait…" he had started, as though Bella had somehow found the key. "Maybe that's the answer, the solution to all this."
"Wha…" Her brain cells had misfired for a moment. Mouth open, her eyes blinking rapidly, she had gathered herself enough to ask, "Excuse me, say again?"
Edward had held out his hands in a placating gesture. "I know it sounds crazy, but hear me out on this."
Much to her dismay, she had. It had been the most ridiculous and heated quarrel of her life.
When Bella had feigned surrender, saying, "Fine. Let's have it your way," she had hoped that Edward would have come to his senses, that he would have backtracked, admitting that this whole thing was, in fact, a terrible idea.
Instead, he had wasted no time going to Carlisle, asking the most unreasonable favor in the history of mankind—er… vampire-kind. Whatever.
So now here they stood, thrown together as it were.
When travel arrangements had been made, Bella had gone along mostly out of spite. For days, a part of her had clung to the hope that Edward would step in and beg to cancel the whole thing. He hadn't. He wouldn't. And when that became clear, her anger had lessened to resignation, which in turn had yielded to careful consideration about her life and the upcoming end of it.
Crazy as it seemed, maybe Edward was right.
Unless she went through with his idea, she would never get to experience this… sleeping with someone while she was alive and human. As a result, her being here was no longer a spiteful chess move. Instead, Bella had surrendered to her bizarre reality, and the impossible corner Edward had painted her into. It was either this or nothing. Perhaps she should just think of herself this time, of her desires, her needs. Because, truth be told, she was sexually frustrated and discouraged, had been for a long time.
Though what about Carlisle? How did he feel about all this?
"You have a say in this as well," she told him. "If you can't do this, I won't hold it against you. In fact, I would totally understand if you changed your mind and wanted to leave right now."
His Adam's apple moved as he swallowed, his lowered features showing the same trepidation she felt. But then he, too, found his courage. "Unless you ask it of me, I'm not going anywhere, Bella. You're giving up so much to become one of us. If you wish to experience this as a human, I will help you."
With these words, Carlisle squeezed her hand, and stepped closer. When the backs of his fingers grazed the side of her cheek, Bella swallowed her nervousness, and leaned into his touch.
Nearly ready to commit, she blew out a breath and weighed her decision one last time.
Perhaps the easiest route would have been to acquiesce to Edward's initial request—that she be changed prior to their wedding. But the thought evaporated just as soon. No. Bella wanted to be alive and breathing on her wedding day. She wanted her mother and father and all of her friends to be there. And as for her wedding night, she had hoped to experience that, too. As a human woman would. But that wasn't going to happen. Out of fear for her life, Edward refused to touch her before she was changed.
So it was settled.
Before they went any further, Bella looked down. "Just so you know… if Edward had asked anyone but you, I wouldn't even be standing here. But he trusts you, and so do I." Wholly and completely.
Because this was a surreal situation, Bella debated how to approach this. Being a virgin, she could follow Carlisle's lead, it was true, but a part of her wanted to take the reins as well, setting part of her shyness aside to experience physical intimacy in a slightly more proactive way.
After all, Bella wasn't a teenager anymore. Three years she had waited. Three years of yearning, wanting, and needing. To say that her body was starved would have been an understatement. As sexually frustrated as she was, could she give in and truly let go in the arms of another? With Carlisle whom she admired. Carlisle, her future brother-in-law. Trying not to dwell on that uncomfortable fact, Bella covered his hand at her cheek and focused on the reason she was here. With a swarm of butterflies in her abdomen, she closed her eyes, and turned her face to bestow a lingering kiss in the middle of his palm. A thanks and an anchoring, she thought and kissed his palm for a second time.
Bathed in the soothing glow of the bedside lamps, Bella felt his other hand on her hair, a slow downward glide that migrated from the crown of her head to the nape of her neck. Finding strength in his cradling touch, she summoned her courage once again, and sought his gaze at last.
Though a hint of nervousness remained, Carlisle's gentle expression was morphing into something else. A note of fascination, she realized, twinned with curiosity. Bella understood just then, that he was allowing himself to see her in a different light. If they were going to do this, he couldn't think of her as Edward's fiancée, but rather as a woman in her own right. A human whose natural life would soon come to a voluntary end.
Heartened by his reaction, Bella chewed her lip and mimicked his approach by mapping his face like she was seeing it for the very first time. Carlisle was a vampire, yes, but he was a man, too. Given the line they were about to cross, his nervousness surely mirrored her own. But because he was adept at hiding the bulk of it, he wasn't trembling like she was. Bella couldn't help but envy him for that.
Carlisle was standing much closer now, his nose a scant few inches from her own. In a moment suspended in time, the two of them breathed the same air, their eyes slipping closed as he leaned in to press his lips to her cheek. The kiss was soft and cool, lasting a full second or two. When it was over, Carlisle didn't pull away. Instead, he smoothed a hand down her back, turned his face slightly and spoke against her cheek. "If you wish to stop, at any time—"
"I know," Bella whispered in turn, easing back to give a small but heartfelt smile. "And same for you. Agreed?"
With warmth and kindness, he consented with a nod. Her hand had found its way to his chest at this point, her fingertips resting over his silent heart.
Their smiles faded to mutual wonder. In the relative stillness of the room, Carlisle swept the pad of his thumb across her lower lip. A ghost of a touch that was soon replaced by his mouth, firm yet gentle against her own.
Hand fisting into his sweater, Bella gasped at the sensation. Carlisle was kissing her. Before her mind could fully catch up, he severed the connection to peer into her eyes, to make sure she was okay with this, and hadn't changed her mind.
Robbed of the ability to speak, Bella responded in a way he was sure to understand. Her fingers sinking into his golden hair, she rose on her toes and guided his mouth back to hers, kissing him with a sureness she hadn't planned or foreseen.
Carlisle grunted. Then his arm was at her waist, pulling her closer with gentle intent.
Holy crow. This was really happening. As strange as it felt, Bella gave herself to the moment by sighing and holding on. When their lips parted on a quiet smack, Carlisle beheld her with a remarkable expression, one she couldn't define. His irises had darkened, she noted. Not quite black, but definitely getting there.
A heartbeat or two later, they were kissing again. Owing to the uniqueness of their situation, there was patience in this kiss, a mutual desire to adapt and learn. But in the midst of this careful discovery, the mood gradually changed, darkening and warming at the same time.
When Carlisle's tongue swept the seam of her mouth for the first time, the newness of it sent a jolt of electricity all throughout her body, making her weak in the knees. Edward was always so fearful and careful when he was with her that he had never once dared to kiss her in such a bold fashion.
Carlisle, on the other hand, didn't seem to have that problem. In fact, there was a startling easiness to the way he now claimed her mouth. Suddenly yearning to reciprocate, to fully experience this new dimension, Bella held back a whimper, and opened to him.
The amazing headiness of his taste, the languid and loving strokes of his tongue… She hadn't known it would feel this good. Molten heat gathered in her core. Then guilt arose, for the man who had roused a small fire in her was not Edward.
Somehow sensing a change in her, Carlisle ended their kiss and loosened his hold. "Are you okay?" Vampires didn't need to breathe, yet he was breathless all the same.
"Yeah. Just dizzy," Bella answered. Not the whole truth, but not a lie either. He'd made her head spin just now. Stunned by the strength of her reaction, Bella held to his sweater, swallowed thickly, and made her confession. "You're really good at this."
But then, he wasn't in uncharted waters like she was. When they had first arrived, Bella had asked if he had ever done this. With a shy expression on his face, he'd confided in her that he had. Once. A long time ago, when he'd lived with the Volturi.
"Um… thank you?" His chuckle was endearing. But then, as her friend and sometimes doctor, Carlisle guided her closer to the foot of the bed. "Perhaps you should sit. We can take things slow." A small crease had formed between his brows, the same look he wore whenever he was concerned about something or someone.
Once he was sitting beside her, his hand moving to tuck a lock of hair behind her ear, Bella shifted to face him. With subdued honesty, she said, "I've been taking it slow for three years. If I take it any slower..." She couldn't bring herself to say the rest, that she was growing increasingly uncomfortable with the widening age gap between herself and Edward. Even if he had been on this Earth for far longer than her, the fact remained that he had been turned a week prior to what would have been his twentieth birthday. And she was twenty-one.
Although Edward had said he would love her forever, that he would stay with her even if she chose to remain human all her life, Bella didn't want to age while her fiancée stayed frozen at nineteen. If they kept postponing their wedding, she would continue to age. Edward would not. There was no doubt in her mind, it would get weird at one point. If she was honest, it was already starting to be.
Endless seconds went by. With watchful compassion, Carlisle nodded in quiet understanding, his whispered "okay" reigniting her hopes and soothing her nerves.
Moments later, their lips touched in another kiss, then he was guiding her down, his hand holding the nape of her neck as her back and shoulders met the bed.