Bella sighed deeply, not caring for once how hard her smell must make it for Edward; if he was going to be difficult, so was she.

"I really don't understand how you have so little regard for your own life. You're only human once." He sounded exasperated. A touch of melancholy colored the sigh that followed as he leaned his head softly against her chest, listening to her heartbeat quicken. It was unusual for Edward to show vulnerability and Bella's anger dissolved at the gesture. She moved her hand slowly to the back of Edward's neck, stroking his soft, copper-colored hair.

"I'm sorry for upsetting you." She was going to let the current stalemate continue. "But isn't it ultimately my decision anyway? I want to be with you forever…."

"You have no idea what you're asking."

"How can you say that? I've been practically living with you and your family for weeks now!"

Edward glared ocher into her eyes, overpowering her sudden temper with his own, causing her to flinch and look down at her hands in her lap.

"You don't know the… thirst. The monster inside…." He looked past her, through her, deep into his memories. Suddenly, his eyes softened and focused on her face. "I'm sorry. This was supposed to be a romantic night."

Bella leaned forward to kiss his temple, starting to get accustomed to his random mood swings. She felt him breathe in her scent as she gently rested her arms on his muscled shoulders. He kissed the hollow at the base of her throat and gently licked up with the tip of his tongue, ending below her chin. He smiled as he sensed the heat from Bella's blush, catching a glimpse of her full lips, slightly parted in a quiet gasp. She shivered uncontrollably and released the breath that had caught in her chest. Edward reached up and gently angled her face down, meeting her lips with his in a soft, sweet kiss. Bella decided to experiment and try to give Edward a taste of what he did to her and let her tongue brush across Edward's bottom lip. He was stone instantly, his eyes open wide in shock, jet black as the thirst impulse took momentary hold.

"God damn, girl! You really do have a death wish, don't you! You DO NOT stick body parts in a vampire's mouth! Where are your survival instincts?" Bella smiled, despite his tirade and leaned in slowly for another kiss, but he held her firmly, his brow furrowed in anger. "No. You really must listen to me when I tell you how dangerous this is." He softened as her playful smile faded, and allowed her to gently trace the lines of his jaw and the contours of his perfectly formed ears, following them down to his neck. After what seemed like a tense forever, Edward sighed and leaned forward to kiss the slopes of her breasts exposed by the designer dress. He then simultaneously stood and cradled her in his arms in one graceful motion, silently carrying her to his car. He slid her into the passenger seat and flashed his gorgeous crooked smile. Bella flushed scarlet and stared at her hands, while Edward chuckled to himself, sliding behind the wheel and starting the engine to take her home.

I'll bet I would purr too under that angelic touch, Bella mused. The mental pictures that accompanied the thought sent waves of fresh blood soaring to her skin's surface and she was instantly grateful that her mind was impermeable to her companion.

"Tell me what you're thinking." She looked over to see Edward staring at her in puzzlement and frustration.

"Uh…. I don't know what you're talking about." She quickly stared out the window to resist the power his eyes had over her. Edward reached over and took her hand, gently rubbing it with his thumb. She refused his attempts to divine her thoughts until they reached her home, when she finally turned to say goodbye. Edward leaned over and kissed her softly, placing his hand casually on her leg to "balance." Bella inhaled sharply and he pulled back, alarmed that he had hurt her. But at one glance at her face, and she knew she had told him that he had caused pleasure rather than pain. He grinned and slid his hand across her body, circling her waist. She tried to turn away, but he held her tightly, brushing a stray curl back from her face.

"Why, your reaction now is the same as it was when we left the dance… you weren't thinking dirty thoughts, now were you?" Her eyes shifted from his so she could protest this not-quite-baseless accusation, but her rosy cheeks told him the truth. "Hmm… I see. Well, shall we make some of those real?"

"What about Charlie!" Bella used the only excuse she could think of. She saw her boyfriend pause and sigh, but a smile quickly spread across his lips.

"You know I couldn't force you into anything. But you are so fun to tease," Edward added as he unlocked and opened her door, still leaning close to her over the center console of the Vanquish. Before she could blink twice, Edward had stolen a soft kiss and was next to her outside the car, offering his arms to help disentangle her from the car. He half carried her to the front door and paused there with his arms resting lightly on her hips. Bella giggled and wiped a stray bit of lipstick from the corner of his mouth to make sure they were both presentable for her father.

"You know, you really do look absolutely gorgeous tonight."

"You're one to talk," she replied, still amazed that he wasn't a dream. When she opened the door, she found that Charlie was sitting in front of the TV waiting for them to return, ever the watchful parent after her little incident in Phoenix. He allowed Edward to help her up the stairs and then walked him to the front door. Alice appeared not 10 minutes afterwards to help Bella out of the getup she forced her into, and kissed Bella on the cheek before heading out to some late-night partying with Jasper, Rosalie, and Emmett. As soon as she was alone and in bed, Edward was next to her, already out of his tux and into some more comfortable clothes.

"I had… a good night," Bella admitted with a smile once she was comfortably positionedin his cool, strong arms.

"Oh hush, you know you loved it." He chuckled softly, resting his face in her still-curly hair.

"…. Love is a strong word," she retorted. He laughed, though he kept his voice around whisper-level.

"I love you, Bella."

"I love you too, Edward," she breathed after a slight pause. "Always be with me?"

"Always. Now get some sleep. I'll still be here when you wake up."

She snuggled up against his chest and within minutes was sound asleep.